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Don Pendleton

Death Squad

But wherefore them alone?

Wherefore with thee Came

not all hell broke loose?

John Milton, Paradise Lost

We'll hit the Mafia so fast, so

often, and from so many directions

they'll think hell fell on them. We

steal, we kill, we terrorize, and we

take every Goddamned thing they

have. Then we'll see how powerful

and well organized they are.

Mack Bolan, THE EXECUTIONER

Prologue

Of all the grim specialties developed by U.S. fighting men in Vietnam, Mack Bolan had fallen heir to the most ruthless and cold-blooded job of all. Sergeant Bolan was a sharpshooter, a nerveless perfectionist, and a man who could certainly command himself. He quickly became the most renowned sniper of the combat zones. His many kills and daring methodology had earned for him the unofficial title of The Executioner. And then Mack Bolan had been summoned home on an emergency furlough to bury his father, his mother, and his teenage sister—victims of violent death. Bolan learned that the international crime syndicate known as the Mafia had indirectly figured into the tragedies.

Bolan's grief turned to white-hot fury, and he declared all-out warfare on the local Mafia entrenchments of his hometown, the Eastern city of Pittsfield. Unhampered by the usual restrictions imposed on legal authorities, Bolan carried jungle-warfare concepts directly to the enemy, and The Executioner's Battle of Pittsfield became an American legend overnight. Single handedly he smoked out the gangland principals and executed them in a daring series of encounters. 'I am not their judge,' Bolan declared. 'I am their judgment—I am their executioner!'

But he was definitely outside the law. Though many officials secretly applauded the executioner's actions, he was officially charged with multiple counts of murder, arson, intimidation, and miscellaneous mayhem. And to the executioner's certain knowledge, he had found no victory at Pittsfield. He had become a man marked for death, sought by every law-enforcement agency in the nation and with every resource of the worldwide Mafia organization geared to his destruction. Bolan left Pittsfield with the feeling that he was setting out on his last mile—but he was determined to stretch that final mile to its highest yield, to fight the war to its last gasp. Mack Bolan's last mile was going to be a bloody one. The Executioner would live life to the very end.

Chapter One

The game

The Executioner arrived in Los Angeles on the evening of September 20 without fanfare or prior announcement. Approaching from Las Vegas, he followed the freeways across the city, exited into Santa Monica, and angled southward along the coastal highway. Several minutes later he pulled alongside a telephone booth at a service station, consulted the directory, then thumbed a dime into the coinbox and dialed the number of an ex army buddy, Vietnam veteran George Zitka. A cautious voice answered the ring. Bolan grinned and spoke crisply into the mouthpiece. 'Early Bird, this is Fireman. What is your situation there?'

A startled gasp, then momentary silence. Then a voice of quiet emotion replied, 'Situation normal, Fireman. Suggest you bypass and proceed direct to Kwang Tri.'

'Negative,' Bolan replied, his voice stiffening somewhat. 'It's time for R and R, and I'm coming in.'

'Suggest Kwang Tri for R and R,' the voice responded in controlled urgency.

'Negative, I'm coming in,' Bolan clipped. He hung up, stared thoughtfully at the dial for a moment, then returned to the car, drove to the rear of the service station, and again descended to the pavement. He removed his coat, reached into the glove compartment and produced a snub-nosed .32 revolver and shoulder holster, slipped it on, tested the breakaway several times, then loaded the revolver and snapped it into place. 'Kwang Tri, my ass!' he muttered as he drew on the coat.

Twenty minutes later a hot little sports car eased through the arched gateway and along the parking ramp of a flashy apartment complex and came to rest in an open spot opposite the oval-shaped swimming pool. A tall man wearing dark glasses unwound from the small vehicle and stepped out onto the multicolored flagstones, coolly surveyed the swimming scene at poolside, then set off across the patio and through the near-nude swarm of life encamped there. Blazing lights provided glaring illumination in the darkness. Several hi-fis were going full blast in a cacaphony of mod sounds, but not even the electronic amplifications could overcome the noise level of scores of energetic voices raised in breathless chatter and excited revelry.

A large blonde in a minibikini was go-going from atop the shoulders of two bronzed youths out at pool center; a shriekingly amused girl was trying to hand a tall glass up to her. Bolan grinned to himself and shook his head against the frantic din, halting momentarily to consult a building directory at the base of the outside stairway. A dazzling beauty in a flesh-colored bikini came down the stairs, carefully balancing a tray of drinks. Bolan stood aside to let her pass; instead, she pushed the tray toward him. His right hand jerked instinctively towards the opening in his coat, then froze in relaxed constraint as the near nudie giggled and said, 'Name your numbness, baby.'

Bolan smiled. 'I'm not in the party,' he told her. 'Thanks just the same.'

This's no party. This's a way of life.' Her voice was slurred in alcoholic realization. 'Get into something revealing and come on down.' She giggled again and went on her way, hips swaying in the certain knowledge that her departure was being appreciatively watched.

Bolan went on up the stairs, paused at the first landing to gaze down on the swinging scene below, then continued slowly to the third level. Each apartment opened onto the courtyard; the level-three porch was deserted. Doors along Bolan's route of travel stood open, as though the entire building housed one big, swinging family. It seemed probable that most of the tenants were at poolside. The noise from below seemed to amplify as it rose toward the higher levels. Bolan wondered vaguely how anybody could live in such a racket.

He found the door he sought, conspicuously closed, and pressed the announcer. A peephole opened almost immediately, and an eye glared out at him. 'Yeah?' a muffled voice said.

'George Zitka,' the tall man replied. 'He live here?'

'That's the name on the door, isn't it?'

'I don't believe everything I read.' Bolan removed his sunglasses and dropped them into a coat pocket, the hand remaining to hover near the opening in the coat. 'Is that you, Zitter?'

'Yeah.' The peephole closed quickly, and the door cracked open. Bolan cast a quick glance right and left, then launched his 200-plus pounds into a vicious kick against the partially open door, following through with a rolling tumble into the darkened apartment.

Explosive reports and sizzling projectiles provided the welcome as several handguns unloaded in rapid fire, the muzzle flashes triangulating along his route of entry. Bolan's own weapon found his hand even as he was twisting across the floor, and a new sound was added to the gunfire symphony. A grunt and a thud near the open

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