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Seconds later a taxicab eased into the circle and halted alongside the girl. She entered and the cab went on. A moment later another vehicle which Bolan had not seen earlier swung into view and circled around to fall in behind the taxi. No, she had not spoken. They'd made an identity pass, pulled the make, and were now following her. They were missing no bets. Nor was Bolan. His quiet surveillance had gained him a rather valid impression of the terrain out there, and of the forces arrayed against him. It was a mighty hard set, too hard for any ideas of a frontal assault.

So, once again, Bolan's time had come. He went back through the shop and let himself out through the rear entrance. The alleyway was narrow, smelly, and densely dark, running along the side of the shop and dead-ending a few feet to the rear. Bolan took the only way out, moving cautiously toward the square, and rounded the corner in a casual stroll. The big man he had noted earlier outside the shop was now standing just downrange, leaning against a building about halfway between the shop and the Lincoln, arms folded across his chest in a stance of tired boredom.

He did not see Bolan until they were in an almost direct confrontation, then he started visibly and whispered, "Shit, don't come up like that. You scared the—". Bolan told him, "Relax. I don't think the guy's over there. I think it's a bum stand. His mind was clicking out the name.

Danno Giliamo? Could be. A lieutenant in a New Jersey mob. Bolan probed. He was showing an interest in Bolan's face and having a bad time at identification in the London blackness. Probably, Bolan guessed, wondering about rank. People in the mob were very rank conscious. Bolan pushed his advantage. The man sighed, mumbled something disparaging about "English coffee," and dug in his pocket for a cigarette.

Bolan slapped the pack out of his hand, snarling, "Whatta you, nuts? You don't go lighting no fires out here! He retrieved the cigarettes and dropped them into a pocket. I want a shot at that hundred thou. Now if the guy ain't here, then I say let's go find out where he's at. A contract man , Bolan thought. Bounty hunter, twentieth century style. Not even in the mob, but a freelancer. This intelligence opened interesting possibilities. Bolan pushed a step further. You get over there and have yourself some coffee. And you tell Danno that Frankie says you get a spot up front. Where the action is.

The man was grinning. He said, "Sure, Frankie. You won't be sorry. What I hit stays hit, you'll see. Bolan immediately glided down to the Lincoln which was idling at the curb just downrange, lights out, engine running. A stir of interest inside the vehicle greeted his approach. He bent down to speak through the driver's window and snapped, "You boys get out there and cover Dunlap.

He's spotted something. Three doors opened instantly and quiet feet began moving off into the darkness. The driver remained in his seat. Bolan swung the door open and snarled, "You too, dammit, get out there! The man leapt out and ran quietly after the others. Bolan leaned inside and found the control lever for the spotlight.

An instant later a brilliant beam stabbed across the darkness of the square and picked up the sauntering figure of Jack Dunlap.

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Dunlap froze for an instant when the beam hit him, then he spun about with a large revolver in his hand and tried to dive out of the sudden brilliance. Others reacted quicker, and a hail of fire swept the spot, jerking the man about Eke a rag doll and punching him to the ground. Bolan was behind the wheel and easing the car forward. This one halted stockstill and thrust his hands high overhead. Bolan had the vehicle moving swiftly now, out into the traffic circle with all lights extinguished, and angling toward a broad exit. Sporadic bursts of gunfire continued to disrupt the stillness of the night and an excited voice over near the Museum de Sade was loudly demanding a ceasefire.

Bolan opened the big car up going into the turn. A gun crew at the corner gaped at him as he roared past, but no shots followed him. Apparently the confusion was complete. Allies, Bolan was thinking, should at least know each other. They should, also, know their enemy. This was an admonition which the executioner would have cause to remember later.

For the moment, he was free and running through the wet wild woods of Londontown. Danno Giliamo was a mighty unhappy man. Twice in one night he had set a flawless trap for that Bolan bastard, and twice in one night the bastard had skipped lightly away and left a pile of bleeding bodies behind him.

We're never going to nail that guy with this kind of talent.

Lie Down with the Devil

Nick Trigger, a powerfully built man about forty-five, thoughtfully chewed the end of an unlighted cigar, and studied the troubled caporegime from Jersey. Known earlier by various names—Endante, Fumerri, Woods, to list only the most recent—Nick had been a trigger man with various eastern mobs since the late forties. He had come to England less than a year earlier, with false papers and under the name Nicholas Woods, and with a singular mission to perform for the council of bosses back home in the U. In coded communications travelling between the two countries, this veteran triggerman was identified as Nick Trigger, and the code name had stuck.

Nick's mission in England was true to his trade. He had been commissioned to discourage organized competition with the mob's British arm during their entrenchment there. A better man for the task could hardly have been chosen. Tough, tenacious, highly intelligent and coldly merciless, he is thought to have figured directly or indirectly in more than a hundred Mafia executions during his criminal career. Many of these victims had formerly been close associates. Now, as Nick Trigger, this same assassin was chief British enforcer for the Council of Capo's, reporting directly to the Commissione —and he was not entirely happy with the untidy bundle being edged into his lap by the man from Jersey.

He pulled the cigar from his mouth and quietly asked his visitor, "How many boys you running with, Danno? Nervously, Giliamo replied, "I brought a dozen of my personal crew, and now two of them are hurt. I got about twenty freelancers left, ones I brought with me. Local talent I never know about, it keeps varying. For every one that gets shot, I lose ten to the trembling shakes. Now I got some pretty damn good boys with me, Nick, but I ain't got any in that bastard's league.

As for these tagalong rodmen, it's almost criminal neglect to even put them on the firing line. This Bolan just whacks 'em down and sends for some more. You ought to see what he did to us on this last hit, and I bet he didn't fire a shot hisself. He had my boys shootin' each other up. Nick Trigger chewed his cigar for another thoughtful moment, then asked, "Just what is it you want from me, Danno? I was there. I saw it. Not just the brothers got put down. The whole place was a disaster area. He scares the living shit outta my boys, I gotta be honest about that.

They're so jittery and keyed-up they start shooting holes in each other if anything moves. I gotta be honest about this. I don't know anybody could take this boy except maybe you. The veteran triggerman smiled grimly. I don't take jobs on butter. I mean, a lot's at stake and we don't have things nailed down too good. I have a hell of a big job without all this other trouble. Hell we got movie companies and theatres, clubs, casinos— hell, we got a lot of money strung out around here, Danno.

We even have musical groups and records and that kind of stuff. And it's tight—the competish is tight. Nobody's on the make in this town, neither. I mean the cops, the government people—they don't have any handle to grab hold of. I never saw such an honest damn country as this one.

If you can't buy security then you got to take it—right? I mean, hell, if the local biggies won't cooperate then you have to carve out a territory the best way you can. And that means I'm busier'n hell, Danno. And it would be a real feather in your cap. I mean, you know, it'd show everybody once and for all that you're two heads bigger than the Talifero boys. Nick Trigger let out a tired sigh.

He plucked at his tie and pushed a coffee cup in little circles about the table. I'd appreciate it, though, if you'd put it in a way that wouldn't make me look like an ass. You know. Just tell 'em I don't know the town or something, and you'd like to take over and get this Bolan out of your hair real quick.

Don't make it look like I'm flat on my ass. I don't need the CLD swarming around my operation. Those boys are bad news all the way. They're worse news than the feds back home. Let me think about it," the British enforcer said quietly. But he had already thought about it.

Assault on Soho (Executioner Series #6)

Bolan would be a real plum, and at just about the right time. Nick Trigger had the British territory in much better shape than he'd let on to Danno Giliamo. Pretty soon he'd be needing to move onward and upward. And it wouldn't hurt a thing to come home looking two heads bigger than the Talifero brothers.

Hell no, it wouldn't hurt a thing. In an imposing building beside the Thames a group of grim faced men were sitting down to a new day with a rather large sized new problem confronting them. They were solemn, some sleepy and obviously newly awake. There was a minimum of conversation. The time was barely four o'clock. Their leader stood stiffly in front of a wall chart of the city of London, his arms folded against his chest, and waited until all had been seated and the subdued greetings quietly exchanged. Then he dropped his arms to his side, advanced a couple of steps to a small rostrum, fiddled with a paper lying there, and said, "Well, it's a brisk hour to be starting the day, isn't it?

I can see that we're all fired up and anxious to be cracking along, so I'll make this as brief as possible. He paused, as though expecting some reaction to his dry humor. Receiving none, he plunged right in. We have good reason to believe that he entered this country at Dover late last night. He received his reaction then. Sleepy eyes suddenly became wide-awake, a fellow at the rear closed his mouth in mid-yawn, others exchanged significant glances which meant that a rumor had just been confirmed.

There's much to be done and not nearly enough time, we fear, to get it all in. Please listen alertly, take notes, question anything that isn't crystal clear to you. Very quickly now, here are the facts as known at this…". The meeting took forty minutes and revealed the full scope of Scotland Yard's reaction to the Bolan presence in England. All routine police business had been temporarily suspended, all furloughs indefinitely cancelled, shift rotations halted, and the full force of the most impressive police establishment in existence brought to bear directly upon the problem of Mack Bolan.

It was an extraordinary reaction, but a carefully considered one. Bolan's presence in France, and the resulting uproar there, had been closely noted by the men this side of the channel. The chance that Bolan would come to England had been weighed as a fifty-fifty question, and a rather thin security screen had been set up at all likely points of entry. Bolan had slipped in and in the space of a few hours two explosive and widely separated gun battles had erupted. Contingency plans had been drawn up at Scotland Yard some days earlier, ready to be put into operation at a moment's notice.

Already the machinery was in motion, the inexorable gears of British crime control meshing into the problem. Special squads were activated, undercover contacts alerted, and hot lines opened to underworld informers all about the city. All public transportation terminals were placed under close surveillance, car rental and taxicab companies were alerted, and a watch was established on all persons known or suspected to have connections with organized crime.

Bolan had definitely not desired a hot war in London. He knew neither the land nor the people, and his intelligence concerning local Mafia activities was practically nil. There were several names in his target book, and that was all: he had no addresses, no rundown of activities, no feel whatever about the enemy. The only logical course of action that presented itself to him was to get the hell away from there, and with as little lost motion as possible.

His intention upon his departure from France, had been to skim through England and quickly out again, U. This initiative had been taken away from him, though, with the appearance of Ann Franklin into his life. For the moment, he had felt it best to run with the tide—and he had done so. The brief skirmish outside the Museum de Sade was now more than an hour behind him. He had been running loose since that time with no particular objective in mind except to keep moving.

Mack Bolan

He had driven aimlessly, winding and circling through the maze-like metropolis while considering alternate plans of action. Ann Franklin and old Charles kept crowding into his mind, along with the cocky little rooster who'd stood unarmed in his path in that upstairs clubroom and the anonymous men who had helped him out of Dover and through the police lines into London. Why all of it? Why any of it? The lengths they had gone to, all the planning and intrigue and personal danger… what manner of peril had prompted them into such a hazardous undertaking?

Bolan was feeling guilty about his treatment of the people of the de Sade. He recognized this, and attempted to combat the feeling with logic. Regardless of their motives, he argued, few things could be more perilous than an alignment with Mack Bolan. Recent history substantiated this conclusion. Everyone who had held out a hand of friendship to the Executioner had gotten that hand promptly chopped off, in one way or another. The Mafia did not take kindly to active sympathy for their enemies. Bolan's list of beloved dead stretched all the way back to the California battles, and hovered on his conscience like an open wound.

And in France he had damn near…. He wrenched off the thought and flung it away. The Executioner could not afford the luxury of mourning. Following that heart-rending action in France, Bolan had sworn to never again allow himself any involvements with friendly units. And now he was reaffirming that position; he would not involve the Sades. Next problem, get out of London. This could be no easy chore in a "hot" vehicle, especially a big foreign job that stood out like a neon sign. As an additional complication, Bolan was lost.

The appropriated car had come complete with a street map of the city, but only principal thoroughfares and notable landmarks were shown. Since his discovery of the map, Bolan had found nothing to offer him an orientation to the lay of the city and his relative position in the sprawling confusion. After several minutes of travelling the maze, however, he came out on a broad avenue and shortly thereafter passed a planetarium and Madame Tussaud's wax-works. Now Bolan had his fix. He swung into the park and stopped the car to study the map and develop some logic of the London layout.

He was far north and a bit west of center. London Airport lay south and even further west. He quickly traced a street route between the two points; then, on impulse, he got out of the car and went back to inspect the trunk compartment. As soon as he looked in Bolan knew that he had gained far more than a set of wheels; he'd inherited an arsenal.

The trunk was crammed with weapons— among them a sawed-off shotgun, an efficient little Israeli Uzi submachinegun, and an impressive high-powered bolt action piece, a Weatherby Mark V with a sniperscope and about fifty rounds of. This last find evoked a low whistle from the arms expert. It came in a leather case vriaidi may have cost as much as the rifle itself; the gun was loaded and ready to roar, and it had been sighted-in with calibrations up to 1, yards.

In a pocket of the guncase Bolan found a trajectory graph and a ballistics chart. This drew another appreciative response.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

According to the graph, trajectory drop was less than five inches at maximum calibrated range, and the point-blank range no correction required was a little better than yards. The Weatherby was a precision piece, and it had been further refined by a real craftsman. Bolan was not only happy to have the gun—he was damned glad that an enemy no longer had it. Anyone who could work-in a rifle like that would certainly know how to make the proper use of it.

This item of knowledge also sharpened the Executioner's respect for the enemy.

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All were not clowns; some were masters of death, and the Weatherby served to remind him of this grim fact. Now he had cause for wonder about the big Lincoln and its proposed role in the British squeeze on Bolan. These gunners had obviously come loaded for bear, and it seemed unlikely that a couple of brief firefights would deter them from their hunt.

Bolan resecured the weapons in the trunk and sent the car along to his next point of reference, the intersection of Marylebone Road and Baker Street, then along Baker to Oxford and over to the broad Park Lane at the eastern edge of Hyde Park. His first port o' call would be the air express terminal to pick up the bag he had sent ahead from Paris.

It contained items he could use immediately—such as a change of suits and a pair of shoes with both heels intact. There were also some special cosmetics he'd picked up in a shop at Marseilles which might prove beneficial. As for the weapons now in the trunk of the Lincoln, Bolan had already written them off. If things worked out right he would not and could not make any use of them—Bolan was fading, not charging.

There was a twinge of regret over the Weatherby. As for the other stuff, general weapons could be picked up anywhere, when and as the need arose. For the moment, the Beretta was weapon enough. London Airport presented itself as a confusing sprawl. Overseas flights used one terminal, intra-European flights another. To complicate matters, the road signs directing traffic into the complex could have meant as much to Bolan if printed in Singhalese, and the fog was much worse in this area.

After some twenty minutes of trial and error, he found his way to the freight terminal. Then he devoted another ten minutes to a soft recon of that part of the airpark. When finally he went inside to claim the bag, Bolan knew all the ways in and out and the Lincoln was ready for an unobstructed departure. His business at the express office was conducted quickly and without difficulty. The customs formalities had been taken care of at the shipping point, and Bolan identified himself with a fake American passport he had purchased in Paris.

He returned to the car and deposited the bag on the rear seat, then set off for the overseas passenger area. Here he parked in a zone reserved for buses from the BOAC Air Terminal in London, grabbed the bag, and walked briskly toward the flight facility. When he was within a few yards of his goal, hurrying footsteps sounded at his side and a strained emotional voice advised him, "You musn't go in there, Mr. She was compellingly appealing in a London Fog minicoat, a jaunty little hat, and a very worried face.

Bolan's hand slipped inside his jacket, and he growled, "Why not? Here too. Charles says there will be an undercover man at each booking stall. Bolan's decision was typically quick. He took the girl by the arm and returned to the parked car, put her and the bag inside, then slid in behind the wheel and quietly departed. Charles rung me at just past four. I came straight out. Harry Parks, that's the large one who chauffeured us into London—Harry went to intercept you at the West London Terminal.

She ignored the sarcasm. Charles described it for me. We're all so very proud of you, you know. Bolan was feeling more the heel with every passing moment. Very solemnly, he asked the girl, "What do you people want from me, Ann? And we want you to allow us to help you accomplish just that. Bolan could not argue a jungle logic into the situation. He smiled faintly, a barely visible twisting of the lips, and said, "Okay, we'll play it that way. For now. But keep one thing in mind. As long as you are friendly to me, you have inherited all my enemies—and those people play very rough games.

On the other hand, if you turn out to be my enemy… well, I have my rough moments also. Bolan had no ready response, and they drove in silence for several minutes, heading back toward London via Cromwell Road. Then Ann told him, "Gloucester Road is just ahead. Take a left there. We'll go up Paddington and cross to the north. She leaned against him, resting her face on his arm. It will be just you and me. And we will… get to know one another far better.

Bolan greeted the prospect with mixed emotions. A vision of the torture cells at Museum de Sade flashed through his mind. He glanced down upon the lovely head at his shoulder and experienced a trickling little tightness in his guts. But Bolan did. Which way, he wondered, was the tide running now? Bolan dropped off to scout the area on foot while Ann Franklin circled about to put the car away in a garage at the rear of the building. Russell Square turned out to be an attractive little park in London's northeast section, close by the University of London and the British Museum.

Queen's House headed a row of neat Georgian town houses which angled away to the south of the square, in what appeared to be a neighborhood of family hotels, pleasant rooming houses, and old but probably expensive apartment buildings. Bolan's recon was thorough but swift, and revealed no evidence of enemy presence. He met Ann at the garage, picked up his bag, and they went into the house through the rear entrance. To Bolan's surprise, the girl's apartment was very plain. Somehow he had expected a continuation of the erotic motif at Museum de Sade.

Instead he found minimal furnishings, an almost masculine austerity of decor, and a library atmosphere. It's my run-away-to place when I feel the need of privacy.

Assault on Soho (Mack Bolan: the Executioner) - AbeBooks - Don Pendleton:

Bolan carried his bag on through the living room and paused at the windows to peer through a crack in the draperies. It was still dark out, thin fog haloing the street lamps in the park directly opposite. Bolan turned to her with a sigh and said, "I'm suddenly running out of steam. Guess I'm pretty beat. The girl was watching him—rather nervously, he thought—from the doorway.

He removed his jacket and asked her, "Okay if I put these things on some hangers? Her eyes were lingering on the gun harness at his chest. She pointed out the closet. The closet was totally bare except for a half-dozen wire hangers. Bolan put his jacket and his spare suit in there and said, "Ann's Retreat, eh? I live with Major Stone.

She came on into the room then and stood tensely by as Bolan continued unpacking. When I told you that we would… get to know each other. I did not mean… in bed. All men, not just you. He opened the false bottom of the suitcase and took out what remained of his "war chest. He placed the money on a bedside table and lay the Beretta atop it, then came out of the harness and began removing his shirt.

Ann Franklin was fingering a nylon nightsuit he'd placed on the bed. Bolan chuckled. But that's not why I wear it. The color gives me a nighttime invisibility, and the skintight fit helps me in and out of tight places. She nodded. The girl had unfolded the suit and was holding it to her body.

He was seated on the edge of the bed, removing shoes and socks. She colored visibly and dropped the suit to the bed. I suppose it's… the men I've known. He's raised me from the age of She seemed to have a need to explain. He's protected me from… all that. And he's always given me the best of everything. He was suddenly very tired. Bolan watched her out of sight, troubling thoughts nagging at him. None of this, he was thinking, made any sense at all. He was becoming too fatigued to care, however.

He finished undressing and removed his watch, noting the time at close to seven o'clock. It had been a long night. It was cold in the bedroom, but Bolan was too tired to shiver. He picked up the Beretta and the shaving case and went into the bathroom. Ten minutes later, Ann Franklin rapped lightly on the bathroom door and walked in. She carried a tray and was humming softly under her breath. Bolan was lying back in a tub of steaming water, seemingly utterly relaxed and half asleep in a sea of suds, but half-closed eyes were watching the girl's every movement.

She maneuvered a low stool alongside the tub and set the tray on it. Her eyes found the Beretta, jammed into a towel rack within Bolan's easy reach. Whimsically, she said, "I've heard of sleeping with one's pistol, Mr. Bolan, but isn't this a bit ridiculous? Her eyes fell and she said, "Of course you would know more about that than I. Well," she added, with a forced perkiness, "I have bere coffee and muffins, which are also a matter of survival. Shall we break bread over the tub? Bolan grinned and reached for the coffee.

She placed the cup in his hand and asked him, "How long since you've slept? He ate, realizing that it had also been some time since that event. She told him, "You are an unusual person, Mr. Are you still afraid of me? Bolan sighed. After a brief and almost embarrassed silence, Bolan said, "I know what you mean. Though Ann Franklin apparently could not, some thinker had long ago expressed her idea rather well: when love and trust are dead, then the man himself is dead and awaiting only official notification of the fact.

Yeah, Bolan had considered the idea. And rejected it. He told the girl, "I have a job to do. I live to do that job. That's what survival means to me. She gazed at him with sad eyes, then got to her feet with a loud sigh. I suggest that you simply slaughter the entire population straightaway, and leave as quickly as possible. Well hell, Bolan told himself. She'd been trying to get him to open himself up, to give her something to admire, perhaps something to pity. For what? Games of conscience. She was mixed up in something she did not like, and she wanted someone to tell her it was all worthwhile.

Well, she would not get it from Bolan. He had a hard enough time keeping himself convinced. Right now, for example, it would be so easy to simply slip beneath the warm water and give it all up. No more fear, no more pain, no more blood, just blissful euphoria and quiet oblivion in the soothing warmth of Ann Franklin's bath.

Why not? After all, who the hell was Mack Bolan to appoint himself physician to a sick society? So what if the Mafia cancer was spreading into vital tissues? Wasn't it sheer ego that kept him on the job? They'd called him a Quixote in the press. They should have called him a cockalorum—yeah, that would be more like it—Sergeant Self-importance, self-appointed Saviour of the Western World. Bolan had gone for more than sixty hours without sleep. During that period he had been under constant stress, harassed by lawmen and the underworld alike while effecting a "tactical retreat" covering hundreds of miles and many different modes of transport.

He had fought his way out of four death traps and eluded the police of three nations, yet he had failed to make his way back to "safe" territory. And now he was at the point of complete physical and mental exhaustion, his last bit of reserve strength fully gone, occupying a narrow ledge of questionable refuge in a world trying its best to swallow him. Lesser men would have succumbed to the pull of defeat far sooner than this. For Bolan, the moment of defeat had come as a reaction to a young woman's visible disgust, and the wave that inundated him was the cresting of his own mind and soul in a deep pool of self-doubt.

For one infinite and timeless moment he hung there in suspension between the instinct for life and the comfort of death as he let go and slid beneath the actual waters of the warm bath—and then he came threshing out of it, coughing and spluttering and lunging for the Beretta. Though his present danger was totally within himself, the depths of his exhaustion projected phantom enemies somewhere out there , and Bolan's response came from the very core of himself.

When Ann Franklin stepped back through the doorway, in response to the commotion, Bolan was sitting upright in the tub. His fist was full of Beretta, suds were clustered about his face, his eyes were straining for focus, and he was muttering, "It's okay, it's okay. The girl immediately understood the situation. She dropped to her knees at the tub, one arm going out to encircle his shoulders, the other hand gently and carefully working at the deathgrip on the pistol.

Bolan was technically unconscious, and Ann Franklin knew it. She took control of the Beretta and carefully placed it on the floor, then pulled the plug from the drain and put a towel about Bolan's shoulders. He struggled out of the tub and steadied himself with a hand against the wall while Ann towelled him dry, then she moved inside the arm and helped him into the bedroom.

She returned to the bathroom for the pistol, showed it to him, and shoved it under the pillow. He was laboring to hold the focus. I live to win. When I die, they've won. Can't let them win, see. Show them… they're not God. Throw death… back in their teeth, see. Not ego… not cockalorum… it's tactics. That's the game. Beat them… at their own game, see. She removed her bra, waved it delicately over the bed, then dropped it to the floor.

Bolan lifted himself groggily to one elbow as she stepped out of the panties. She slid in beneath the covers and snuggled over to him. Borderline consciousness had surrendered to complete exhaustion. She pushed him onto his back and adjusted the pillow to his head, studied the strong face for a moment, then impulsively kissed his lips. For both of them, man and woman, a survival crisis had been reached and passed, each in their own way.

It was not to be the final one for either of them. The Executioner's long night had ended, but across the Atlantic, in an eastern U. The site of the conference was the suburban home of Augie Marinello, head of a powerful New York family: the subject was Mack Bolan, and what to do about him. Contrary to popular myth, there was no "boss of all the bosses," or Chief Capo. There had been none since the violent demise in of the first and final Capo di tutti Capi , Salvatore Maranzano. Instead, each Cosa Nostra "family" now had representation on La Commissione , or Council of Bosses, which ruled the sprawling crime syndicate.

The present meeting was not a full council, but considerable power was represented there. In attendance were Marinello and the bosses of two other New York families, plus the overlords of several neighboring territories. Only once since the embarrassingly aborted summit meeting at Appalachia had a new full conference been attempted. And that one, at Miami a short few weeks earlier, had become a fiasco to wipe Appalachia out of the mind forever, thanks to Mack The Bastard Bolan.

Now the eastern power clique sat in sullen thoughtfulness. Each of the men present had been present also at Miami; some bore visible wounds to remind them of the traumatic event; all bore wounds of the soul which would never heal, haunting their dreams and irritating their waking moments. Miami would never be foregotten. Nor would the man who had caused it all. Two burly men in tailored suits moved silently about the conference table, pouring wine from napkined magnums. With this chore completed, they quietly withdrew and closed the doors on the convention of royalty.

Augie Marinello, host of the occasion, broke the silence with a deep-throated growl. Arnesto "Arnie Farmer" Castiglione, chief of the lower Atlantic seaboard, shifted uncomfortably in his chair and explained, "So I guess we didn't get him in France. I got to apologize for the bum dope. But I would've sworn… I mean, I just don't see how the bastard could have got out alive. Arnie Farmer grimaced.

We're still counting the dead in France, and tryin' to get the rest out of jail. Marinello sighed loudly and sibilantly. That's what I mean bullshit. Arnie Farmer raised his eyebrows in respectful receipt of this news and replied, "Okay so I'm surprised you sent Danno. I take it back the bullshit remark. Nick tells me that he talked this over with Danno— and Danno says it's okay with him. Listen, this is no time for hurt feelings.

We've got to stop this boy, hard and fast. And the cost is getting out of hand, it's getting awful. That'd make the scramble for real, and we already lost more than that on account of this boy. Besides that he's making us look foolish. How long are we going to stay in business if…". The speech ended on the uncompleted question. Silence descended and reigned for a long moment, then the New Jersey boss grunted and suggested, "Contract money is not the answer. The latter statement had reference to an older and more painful period in the life of the boss from Jersey, who had served three successive prison sentences on "copped pleas"—pleading guilty to a lesser crime to avoid prosecution of graver ones.

He resented being reminded of these past indignities, and his angry face plainly showed it. Marinello hurried into the breech. It's just a matter of—". All eyes turned to Joe Staccio, the upstate New Yorker. Someone growled, "You nuts or something, Joe? I'm just saying it ain't all that far out an idea.

Maybe we been acting like old-time hoods about this thing. You know? And even the old-time hoods found out there was more than one way of getting out of a problem. You know what I mean? Augie Marinello was giving Staccio a thoughtful gaze. Castiglione's lips had curled into a snarl as the full implications of Staccio's suggestion registered. The man from Jersey was watching Marinello. So now that it's in the open, let's talk about it. Maybe he's right and maybe we're going about this thing all wrong.

He was referring to Salvatore Maranzano. I mean those wars got out of hand too, you know. If Charley Lucky hadn't made his peace, and forgave and forgot and patched things over, then none of us would be sitting here right now. The point is, there's more than one way to end a war. Nobody is going to deny that. We've got to get this thing over with, one way or another. Now if we understand anything at all then we just got to understand a debt of blood.

So I say let's agree that one debt cancels out the other. Let's be realistic and see if we can't end this damned war. Staccio shrugged his shoulders. But I think maybe Charley Lucky had the right idea, way back when. Staccio again shrugged. It worked before, it could work again. He'd be a hell of a good boy on our side of the fence. We could all respect him, right? Wouldn't that boy make one hell of an enforcer? Arnie Farmer rose jerkily to his feet and delicately fingered the fabric of his trousers.

Staccio said coldly, "You're not the only one. We all got our reasons for hating that boy's guts. But that's not the point. We got to be realistic. Our whole thing is going to fall apart around us if we don't start using our heads instead of our hots. Now we got a crisis, just like with the old wars. We got a crisis and we got to face up to that! Castiglione sat, but growled, "You try burying the hatchet with this Bolan, you're gonna tear our thing apart for sure.

There's too many scars, Augie, entirely too much to try forgiving and forgetting. I doubt if we could get him to listen even if we were a hundred percent sincere. Marinello said, "No harm in talking it over, huh Arnie? Let's think of it as flexibility, huh? Maybe we could have two things going at once.

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  • Like Appaloosas and stevedores… you catch? Suppose we set up two programs. We turn Joe loose at this end, turn you loose at yours, see who gets to the finish line first. The shrewd eyes moved to Staccio. You want to sit down with Leo the Pussy and discuss things? Trying to get next to Bolan, I mean. I sent him a nigger friend. He sent me back a planeload of dead soldiers. You'll have Nick Trigger as your number one boy, and you sure can't complain about that. You also got Danno and his crew.

    You add whatever else you think you need, and you go after Bolan's ass. Joe, you take whatever you need and go after his head. How about it? Does it make sense? I'm asking all of you, now. What do you think? But understand this. I take no responsibility for what happens to Joe or this Leo the Pussy. We'll just get in each other's way, and my boys are going to be shooting first and talking afterwards.

    That boy has a sixth sense about this stuff. I been studying him, ever since Miami. I keep thinking about the Talifero brothers. Also I just can't forget this fantastic stuff he pulled off at Palm Springs, against Deej and his boys. He's got something going for him, I don't know what. But you got to remember, every cop in the world is after this boy's ass, just like us. And he keeps dancing away from them just like he does us.

    It's a sixth sense, that's what, and he can smell a trap two days before he gets to it. The boss from New Jersey interrupted with quiet laughter. No tricks, no traps, straight all the way. The horse race ends the minute I make contact. We got to get that straight right now. And whatever I make with Bolan, I make with all the authority of the full council. It's got to be like a contract hit—all the families have got to honor it. That means everybody, not just us here now, but all of us, and that means also Arnie the Farmer Castiglione and the Virginia bluebloods. Marinello had been watching Castiglione during the speech.

    He nodded, his eyes still on the man from Virginia, and said, "Our word is our honor, Joe, like always. Otherwise, if I got doubts myself, then Bolan will tumble to it, and then Joe Staccio is in one bad spot. If we can come to an agreement here, between us, then we'll set up a telephone conference with the others and we'll get it all ironed out. So what do we say. Are we agreed to try it?