Authors: Don Pendleton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #det_action, #Espionage, #Non-Classifiable, #Men's Adventure
The KGB makes an offer to the European Mafia that it cannot refuse: create a single worldwide syndicate in return for an unlimited arms supply.
The Russians believe that such a crime force would destabilize the West, paving the way for a Soviet takeover.
Mack Bolan poses as a German hit man to smash the evil alliance before it takes root.
The water-skier’s curving white wake mirrored a vapor trail in the azure sky above the Riviera. The bronzed man on a single ski swept into a final slalom before the speedboat towing him slowed down between the line of buoys leading to the jetty. The skier leaned back against the pull of the rope and the roar of the engine faded to a hum three markers out from the jetty. Two... one...
Suddenly an explosion lifted the surface of the sea.
When the tower of white water collapsed into the ocean, the speedboat, the two young men crewing it and the skier had all vanished.
There was pandemonium among sunbathers lying on the hot sand. A crowd had gathered along the railing of the palm-fringed promenade, excited voices rising above the chaos on the beach.
Farther along the promenade a man in a white sharkskin suit sat alone in a parked Mercedes. He slid a small detonating device into the glove compartment, then started the car. As he pulled out into traffic and headed for Cannes, he was smiling.
* * *
One hour later, a red and silver executive Jet began its descent toward the auxiliary runway on the seaward side of Nice International Airport. Circling over the blue crescent of the Baie des Anges, the pilot saw what seemed to be some kind of disturbance on one of the beaches. He could make out the red cross on an ambulance roof, and flashing amber roof lights of patrol cars. Traffic on the promenade was jammed as far as the Airport entrance.
The pilot dismissed it and concentrated on his descent. He turned to the expensively dressed man behind him. “Fasten your seatbelt, Mr. Ralfini. We’re ready to touch down.”
The owner of the jet nodded and snapped the belt’s safety clasp together. “Make it a smooth one, Joe,” he said.
The controller’s voice in the pilot’s earphones crackled last minute approach instructions. The pilot checked out the battery of lights on the instrument panel. Satisfied, he banked the aircraft and pointed the nose down. The long streak of runway rushed toward them.
The duty officer behind the green glass windows of the control tower watched the small jet come in. The sun was low and on the macadam surface of the runway, the aircraft’s shadow lagged behind the speeding jet.
“Oh, no!” the officer shouted. “He’s flying her into the ground... the landing gear isn’t even down!” He grabbed the microphone from its cradle on the counter in front of him.
Too late. The racing shadow and the plane above drew closer. There was a puff of smoke as the two leaped together, then a livid flash momentarily dimmed the waning sunlight.
The shattering thump of the impact reached to the control tower, and the officer and his Number Two were on their feet, yelling into intercom mikes for fire trucks and the ambulance. By the time the salvage crews got to the field, the smoldering bodies of the pilot and his passenger were scarcely distinguishable from the charred wreckage around them.
* * *
Five thousand miles away on a hotel balcony overlooking Montego Bay in Jamaica, Alvaro Scotto buttered the two halves of a breakfast roll and spread them thickly with mango jam.
“Better than Marseilles, huh?” he said, addressing the attractive redhead on the far side of the table.
She looked out over the shimmering sweep of blue water. Half a dozen brightly colored fishing boats, back from the early trawl, were rounding the densely wooded point. “At least it smells better,” she replied.
Scotto grinned. He stuffed the remainder of the roll into his mouth and then drained his coffee. He belched loudly and licked his fingers. “That’s what I like about you, babe — you’re so romantic,” he said sarcastically.
The redhead tried to conceal her dislike of the man as she returned her gaze back to him. He was a squat, balding man, with black hair curling on his arms and along the backs of his fingers. The silk robe that he wore had parted over the pale paunch bulging above his thighs. “Who could be anything else, Al, with you around?” she said.
The boats were nearing the shore. Beyond a trio of early windsurfers, light flashed suddenly as the sun reflected off some polished surface.
Scotto picked up a glass of orange juice.
Splinters of crystal erupted from his fingers and fountained across the white clothed table. The girl started to her feet as the juice soaked the front of her green kimono. “You clumsy ape!” she yelled, pulling at the damp material.
Scotto was staring at the blood leaking from a hole in the palm of his hand.
The second slug took away the top of his head and catapulted him against the French windows leading to the room. The girl opened her mouth to scream.
The third bullet smashed through her front teeth and punched a fist-sized exit in the back of her skull. She fell forward across the table, her gory hair drenched in lukewarm coffee.
* * *
Three hours later, on a long stretch of railway track in the center of France, a high-speed train was hitting something over 170 mph when three men stopped at the door of Compartment 9.
The tallest of the trio tapped on the maplewood panel. A voice from inside said something indistinguishable.
“Tickets, please,” the tall guy called.
The door opened a crack. The three men shouldered it wide and crowded into the compartment. The bed was made up, the blinds pulled down. The occupant of the sleeper was a spare, gray-haired man of about sixty.
“What the hell?.. Smiler! Wh-what do you guys want with me?” he blustered.
“I think you know, Frankie,” Smiler said. “The capo don’t go too strong on guys who welsh on a deal.”
One of the men was carrying a briefcase. He opened it and took out a length of solid steel about eighteen inches long.
Frankie’s face had blanched. Sweat dewed his forehead. “Look, you
Swivelling on his heel, he made a desperate leap for the alarm cord above the window.
Smiler hit him expertly in the belly. He folded forward, retching. The man with the steel bar raised it high and smashed it savagely across Frankie’s scalp.
Frankie went down. Blood gushed from his mouth, nose and ears, but Smiler was ready with a towel he had snatched from the rail beside the bunk.
“Dump him,” Smiler ordered his two companions.
The two killers snapped open the blind and rolled down the wide window. Lights streaked past as the high-speed express rocketed over a crossing and roared through a deserted station. Once it was dark again they pushed Frankie’s body through the gap and let it drop.
The man with the length of steel wiped it on the bloodstained towel and stowed both in his briefcase. Smiler closed the window and pulled down the blind.
Frankie’s body, still traveling at more than 100 mph, hit the cinders, bounced high into the air and finally came to rest, hanging like some obscene fruit from a sapling halfway down the embankment.
His dead eyes stared sightlessly at the red lantern on the last car as the train vanished into the night.
“Coincidence?” Mack Bolan said. “Uh-uh. There is a link between those killings.”
“Naturally, there is a link,
the Swiss Interpol chief agreed. “All four of them...”
Sure. But there is something more. I can’t see any connection between the four guys or the territories they worked, but those hits were put out by the same source.
Why were they killed within a few hours of one another!”
“We were hoping, Monsieur Bolan, that maybe
the superintendent from the French Counterintelligence Service put in. “You have a reputation as the most successful anti-Mafia fighter ever. That is why we asked you to come to this meeting.”
“I thought I was on the blacklist,” Bolan said.
The superintendent coughed. “The dossier has been... mislaid,” he said. The warrior raised his hand to save further explanation. He had no fight with these men. They saw fit to call him in on this problem and that was all he cared about right now.
The three of them were sitting around a mahogany table in a private room on the fourth floor of a Geneva Hotel. Outside, squalls of rain blew across the lake and obscured the mountains to the east.
Bolan looked from one to the other of the two law-enforcement officers. “Four unrelated mobsters. We have to figure out what they’d been planning, separately or together, that was such dynamite.”
The Frenchman, whose name was Chamson favored Bolan with a wintry smile. “It must have been a big deal.” He turned to the Interpol chief. “Could we have another rundown on those killings, Telder?”
Colonel Telder picked up a document case, opened the case and took out a folder. From this he removed a single sheet of typescript and began to read aloud.
“Nice, France, early afternoon on the eleventh. Jean-Miguel Balestre — thirty one years old, tough, good looking — blown to pieces by a floating mine while water-skiing. Detonation of the explosive is thought to have been by remote control. Probably a radio beam. Balestre was Corsican, a fast-rising Cosa Nostra boss on the island.
“Same town, same day, a couple of hours later. Jan Ralfini, a district chief working for the Camorra in Naples, killed when his private jet crash-lands at the airport. Preliminary investigations suggest that landing gear, altimeter and warning lights had all been sabotaged.
“Half a world away in Montego Bay, Jamaica, morning of the eleventh. Alvaro Scotto and his mistress shot to death by a rifleman in a fishing boat. Scotto was one of several gang bosses who had agreed to a carve-up of the Marseilles territory.
“Three hours later, in central France, Frankie Secondini, a low-ranking
from Paris, apparently falls from a train on his way to Marseilles.” The colonel slipped the sheet of paper back into his case, then looked inquiringly at Bolan.
The Executioner watched the window rattling in its frame as wind scattered raindrops against the glass.
“Looks like typical Syndicate hits,” Bolan said. “The method in each case was different, but they have one thing in common: ruthless efficiency.” He turned to Chamson. “I believe you ran the four names through the Central Register computer in Paris. Come up with anything?”
“Nothing that looks like paydirt,” the Frenchman said. “All of them were small-time bosses and all were into prostitution, protection rackets of one kind or another, and each had gambling connections.”
“Only two — Ralfini and Balestre — are on the narcotics bureau files, and they didn’t work the same circuits. Scotto smuggled arms; the others didn’t.”
Bolan hoisted his muscled, six-three frame from the chair and walked to the window. The killings intrigued him. Through countless bloody campaigns, he had broken the Mafia stranglehold on society in his own country, flushed away a good part of the slime-bucket corruption that threatened to pollute America and made the world safer for innocent civilizers. More recently he had fought international terrorism, in particular the hydra-headed conspiracy masterminded by Soviet Russia’s infamous KGB. And it was because of a KGB plot, framing him for the murder of a European labor leader, that he was now an outlaw himself.
Lately, Bolan felt he had fought a successful containment action against the U.S. Mafia. Still, he considered it a minor victory, because he had no idea where the grim specter of the Mob would rise again! Well, now he knew.
“Any lead among the victims’ effects?” Bolan asked.
“One,” Chamson replied, taking a folded computer printout from an inside pocket. He smoothed it out on the table, before he spoke again. “Scotto was due to fly to Paris the day he was killed. He also had an onward booking to Marseilles. Secondini was headed for the same city. Ralfini was landing at Nice, but his pilot had already filed a second flight plan for later that evening. His destination was the Marseilles airport.”
“He was due to check out of his hotel that evening, too. I think he and Ralfini would have flown to Marseilles together. Why else would the plane have landed at Nice?”
Bolan nodded slowly. “So the four of them had a meet fixed in Marseilles. And someone didn’t want them to make it.”
“That’s the way we read it,” Chamson said. “But why?”
Bolan was thoughtful. “I’m all for
liquidating one another. But in this case, I am curious. I think those four guys were aiming to horn in on something, but somehow it doesn’t seem to stack up in this case. The details are vague at this point.”
“It may not be as difficult as you think,” Chamson said. “There was a fifth death, you see, that you don’t know about.”
“A fifth?” There was renewed interest in Bolan’s voice.
“Not a murder this time. A fatal road accident. The victim was a hit man from Hamburg. He was headed for Marseilles to work for one of the gang bosses there. Not Scotto. But the four guys we’re concerned with aren’t the only ones to get on the wrong side of the mobsters.”
“Go on,” Bolan said.
“None of the Riviera hoods have met this gorilla. They’ve only seen photos. Nobody knows about the car smash: we kept the news under wraps.”
Bolan said nothing.
“There’s a distinct resemblance,” Telder said. “With the minimum of disguise, you could pass for the German — you could get away with his ID.” He paused for effect, then added, “We think it might be a good idea if you went to Marseilles in his place.”
“Right,” Bolan said, wryly understanding that while these people needed his expertise, he would still be regarded as an outlaw.
Chamson said, “We understand from certain rumors that have been filtering in for some time that something big is brewing in the Riviera underworld. But we have no idea what. It may not be connected with the four killings, but we thought that here was a perfect opportunity to find out from the inside. What do you say,
“I say it’s a start,” Bolan replied.
And that’s all it was, nothing more, the big guy knew.
“But will you use it? Your feelings about the predators in our society are, as I said, no secret. We thought perhaps you would welcome the chance of striking another blow. We would stand by to give you any help we could.” In his turn, Chamson paused. “Monsieur Bolan,
“This Hamburg hit man — where did he die?” was all Bolan said.