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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Stivers Dick
 

«Into the Maze», Dick Stivers

1

Surrounded by death, the colonel lay in the dust, his hands tied behind his back, a rope around his neck. Flies found his open wounds and the blood clotting on his gray uniform. His North American and Yaqui captors stood in a circle around him, automatic rifles in their hands.

Black, choking smoke drifted from the wreckage of burning helicopter troopships. Here and there, the white fire of magnesium blazed in the hulks. Molten aluminum flowed from the wrecks. In the ashes, the aluminum puddled in shimmering iridescent mirrors.

A Mexican soldier dying of burns screamed until a single rifle shot silenced him. Only skeletons and charred meat remained of the other Mexican soldiers who had died in the explosions.

Minutes before, on this ridge in the desert wilderness of the Mexican state of Sonora, Able Team and a group of teenage Yaqui Indians had annihilated two squads of elite airborne commandos. Rosario Blancanales, the Puerto Rican ex-Green Beret, called The Politician by his fellow warriors, triggered set charges of explosives and kerosene to destroy the squads as they left their Bell UH-1 Huey troopships. On a hilltop to the east, ex-LAPD officer Carl Lyons faced a third Huey. Of the squad of soldiers in that troopship, only the colonel survived.

Carl Lyons asked the first question of the interrogation. "What's your name, Colonel?"

"Gunther. I'm Colonel Jon Gunther. I was assigned to help the Mexicans capture you."

"Who assigned you?"

"My commander, General Mendez."

"Where is your base?"

"To the west. There is a place called Rancho Cortez on the coast. It was used by Colonel Gonzalez as his base."

"Is General Mendez there?"

"No. The general issued his instructions by telephone."

"Where is General Mendez?"

"I don't know. He could have called from Culiacan."

"How many soldiers at the Rancho?"

"Hundreds. There are barracks. There is an airfield. There is..."

"Can you draw a map?"

"Yes."

Rotorthrob came from the east. Silhouetted against the rising sun, a Huey troopship flew in a slow circle over the ridges. The helicopter had been captured in an action the night before. Piloted by an agent from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, the helicopter would carry Able Team and their allies to the next fight.

The hand-radios carried by Lyons and Blancanales buzzed.

"Looks like you did it to them," the voice of Gadgets Schwarz commented.

As the electronics specialist of Able Team, Gadgets had stayed with the captured helicopter and monitored the radio frequencies of the Mexican army units during the fighting.

"It's time to move," Gadgets told them. "The action's picking up. A flight of goons..."

Lyons spoke into his hand-radio to interrupt his partner. "Tell me later. We got a prisoner listening. Any radio calls to out here?"

"Their base called for a report. But no one answered, and they think that's strange. I think it's time to get out."

"Ready to go. There's nothing left here."

Rotor wind threw dust and ashes as the helicopter descended to the ridge. Inside, Gadgets Schwarz and Miguel Coral — a Mexican gang pistolerocooperating with the DEA and Able Team — sat on the troop bench with several radios. Coral slipped off his headphones and reached out to help Lyons and Blancanales with the prisoner. Lyons motioned Coral back to the radios.

"Stay on those radio frequencies," Lyons commanded. "That's more important. We'll load up."

Coral nodded. Only days before, Coral — with his wife and three of his young children, escorted by a truckful of gunmen — had attempted to escape from the drug wars of Northern Mexico by crossing into the United States. Able Team had teargassed his bodyguards, then captured Coral. To gain his freedom from prison and sanctuary for his family, Coral agreed to lead Able Team against Los Guerreros Blancos, a new heroin syndicate using military weapons and Mexican army troops to eliminate the other drug gangs, including the syndicate Coral had served for decades, the Ochoa Family.

Yaquis helped Lyons and Blancanales push the six-foot-five, two-hundred-twenty-pound Colonel Gunther through the door. Blancanales lashed the prisoner into a safety harness to prevent a suicide dive from the airborne troopship. Yaquis loaded M-60 machine guns and steel cans of ammunition into the helicopter.

Pete Davis, the DEA pilot, shouted to them, "Now back to the camouflage?''

Lyons nodded. "Conference time."

In seconds, the helicopter — overloaded with men and weapons and equipment — left the ridge line. Lyons looked back to see a line of Yaquis jogging down the mountainside. The group would join them later.

The helicopter veered to the north. In three directions, the vast panorama of the Sierra Madre Occidental extended to the horizon. To the west, the direction of the Pacific Ocean and the coastal cities, the mountains became foothills and desert plains. Distance and haze denied any sight of the coast.


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