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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Pendleton Don
 

«Beirut Payback», Don Pendleton

1

Mack Bolan melded with the violent shadows of war-torn midnight. A night of hellfire for Beirut. Golden-hued strobe flashes seared the dark Mediterranean sky like heat lightning, punctuating the steady rumble of impacting mortar and artillery shells inside the city not far to the north. The Executioner waited, togged in combat blacksuit. "Big Thunder," the stainless-steel .44 AutoMag, hung in quick-draw leather strapped low to his right hip. The silenced Beretta 93-R nestled snug in its speed rig beneath his left arm near a sheathed combat knife. Canvas pouches worn at his waist carried extra ammo for the handguns. A wire garrote, cigarette-pack-sized high-frequency radio transceiver and a lightweight array of hard punch munitions, plastique and grenades completed his gear, none of it cumbersome. Bolan crouched silently, restless for action, in a grove of jasmine and olive trees along an uninhabited stretch of road. He had been waiting there for the past thirty minutes. Too long, he decided abruptly.

He started to move out soundlessly on foot at a fast clip through the brush, parallel to but well in from the road, toward the city.

He would find his own transportation. Traffic past this rendezvous point had been sparse during the wait: a rumbling government tank on its way into the fray; two troop carriers hurriedly redeploying Lebanese soldiers into Beirut from the mountains; an occasional civilian vehicle daring to travel on a night like this to escape the holocaust Beirut had become after another fractured ceasefire in this country's ongoing civil strife. Tonight's hard punch into Lebanon held a very special meaning for Bolan. Too many American lives had been sacrificed for this raging hellground in the quest for an elusive peace. One U.S. serviceman lost would have been unacceptable to Bolan. The figures on the balance sheet were written in red the blood of U.S. Marines. And The Executioner had come to settle the account with the cannibals who ran wild in a country less than four-fifths the size of Connecticut. But even the gnawing gut urge to do something where his nation's military presence and diplomacy had failed took second priority to the mission's immediate objective.

He was ready and willing to risk it all on the line one more time.

And Bolan the realist did not kid himself for a single instant that this could not well be the last time, considering the odds.

But, yeah, call it personal. All the way.

A shabby five-year-old Fiat with one headlight approached Bolan's position. The car braked off to the side of the road five hundred feet away and across from the grove of jasmine and olive. The driver killed the engine and headlight and waited.

Bolan paused in his withdrawal, remaining in deep shadow, and unleathered the AutoMag. Man and weapon probed the night for danger.

In the near distance, the noisy bombardment of Beirut continued unabated, as it had for hours. The ground trembled with the fury of war, even out here beyond the suburbs.

Nothing moved. Bolan and the car had the stretch of country road to themselves. Or so it seemed.

The nightfighter approached the vehicle with all the noise of a specter.

The driver concentrated on a point several hundred yards up the road from the grove where Bolan had waited.

The nightblitzer had not intended to meet his contact as planned. Too much danger of a trap. While the man at the steering wheel watched the point where Bolan should have been, the specter reached the driver's side of the car and pressed the muzzle of the awesome AutoMag against the man's left temple.

"There are two ways to die," Bolan growled.

The man registered no outward reaction. He continued to stare straight ahead, beaded sweat pearled along his hairline, but it could have been the warm night. The guy looked like a seasoned pro.

"There is only one way to live," came the reply.

The code exchanged, Bolan holstered Big Thunder. He tugged open the driver's door.

"Glad you made it, Captain. Slide over, please. I'll take the wheel." The civvies-clad contact clambered into the passenger seat, not releasing the Uzi submachine gun cradled in his lap, his right finger resting on the trigger below the car's window level.

"My apologies for being late. I was slowed by a Lebanese checkpoint that had gone up since yesterday."

Bolan climbed in, kicked the Fiat to life and pulled a hard U-turn, gunning the vehicle back toward the city.

"Will the checkpoint give us trouble on the way in?"

"There are many ways into Beirut, and I know them all," grunted the Israeli. "We stand a fifty-fifty chance of getting in without trouble. Those are good odds on a night like this."

The guy's rough-hewn features reminded Bolan of someone he knew well.

This Mossad man, Chaim Herzi, was a nephew of Yakov Katzenelenbogen, the former Israeli intelligence boss who now headed a covert U.S. antiterrorist combat unit called Phoenix Force, which until recently had been under Bolan's command. Captain Herzi looked like the spitting image of a younger Katz.

The Fiat jolted along with less speed than Bolan would have liked, the single headlight pointing the way past occasional deserted-looking clay houses and nothing else. Scars of mortar shells pockmarked the road and countryside.

The two men encountered no military traffic and none of the sporadic fighting that peppered the night, only a few vehicles and pedestrians heading the other way, refugees from the holocaust. The thunder and lightning of war grew fierce as the Fiat drew closer to the city. Flares arced into the sky and cast night into surreal day two miles ahead.


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