Uncut Terror, page 1
Diamonds Aren’t Forever
A legendary Kremlin assassin slaughters an American defector before he can be repatriated. Not about to let the murder go unpunished, Mack Bolan sets out to even the score.
His first target is a Russian businessman with ties to organized crime, a man who was unexpectedly released from a Siberian prison. Bolan tracks him to the World Diamond Council meeting in New York City, where the Russians reveal their deadly endgame. Only one man can stop their scheme to crash the Western economy and kill hundreds of innocent people—the Executioner.
“Our only chance is to get up this ladder to the street. Think you can make it?”
Framer shook his head. “Leave me here. I’m too weak.”
The man’s face was grayish. He needed medical attention soon, very soon. Bolan motioned for Grimaldi to go up first. Without another word he began scaling the iron rungs. Seconds later Grimaldi called down, “Clear up here so far.”
Holstering the Beretta, the Executioner turned back to Framer. “Listen,” Bolan said. “I’m going to climb up the ladder. You hold on to me with all you’ve got. Ready?”
Framer grunted a yes.
Bolan waited for the man to secure his grip, then began climbing. The extra weight made every movement difficult, but the soldier continued the rigorous assent. When they were halfway up, Bolan tried to count the number of rungs to the top. Perhaps fifteen more.
Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen—
The iron rung under his left hand popped loose from its cement socket.
Bolan managed to tighten his grip on the other rung he was still holding, avoiding the deadly plunge. Thirteen had always been his lucky number.
#368 Crisis Nation
#369 Dangerous Tides
#370 Dark Alliance
#371 Fire Zone
#372 Lethal Compound
#373 Code of Honor
#374 System Corruption
#375 Salvador Strike
#376 Frontier Fury
#377 Desperate Cargo
#378 Death Run
#379 Deep Recon
#380 Silent Threat
#381 Killing Ground
#382 Threat Factor
#383 Raw Fury
#384 Cartel Clash
#385 Recovery Force
#386 Crucial Intercept
#387 Powder Burn
#388 Final Coup
#389 Deadly Command
#390 Toxic Terrain
#391 Enemy Agents
#392 Shadow Hunt
#393 Stand Down
#394 Trial by Fire
#395 Hazard Zone
#396 Fatal Combat
#397 Damage Radius
#398 Battle Cry
#399 Nuclear Storm
#400 Blind Justice
#401 Jungle Hunt
#402 Rebel Trade
#403 Line of Honor
#404 Final Judgment
#405 Lethal Diversion
#406 Survival Mission
#407 Throw Down
#408 Border Offensive
#409 Blood Vendetta
#410 Hostile Force
#411 Cold Fusion
#412 Night’s Reckoning
#413 Double Cross
#414 Prison Code
#415 Ivory Wave
#417 Rogue Assault
#418 Viral Siege
#419 Sleeping Dragons
#420 Rebel Blast
#421 Hard Targets
#422 Nigeria Meltdown
#424 Amazon Impunity
#425 Patriot Strike
#426 Pirate Offensive
#427 Pacific Creed
#428 Desert Impact
#429 Arctic Kill
#430 Deadly Salvage
#431 Maximum Chaos
#433 Point Blank
#434 Savage Deadlock
#435 Dragon Key
#436 Perilous Cargo
#437 Assassin’s Tripwire
#438 The Cartel Hit
#439 Blood Rites
#441 Murder Island
#442 Syrian Rescue
#443 Uncut Terror
Wit must be foiled by wit; cut a diamond with a diamond.
You can’t reason with terrorists. The men and women who deal in violence and fear can only be stopped by action. That’s where I come in.
Nothing less than a war could have fashioned the destiny of the man called Mack Bolan. Bolan earned the Executioner title in the jungle hell of Vietnam.
But this soldier also wore another name—Sergeant Mercy. He was so tagged because of the compassion he showed to wounded comrades-in-arms and Vietnamese civilians.
Mack Bolan’s second tour of duty ended prematurely when he was given emergency leave to return home and bury his family, victims of the Mob. Then he declared a one-man war against the Mafia.
He confronted the Families head-on from coast to coast, and soon a hope of victory began to appear. But Bolan had broken society’s every rule. That same society started gunning for this elusive warrior—to no avail.
So Bolan was offered amnesty to work within the system against terrorism. This time, as an employee of Uncle Sam, Bolan became Colonel John Phoenix. With a command center at Stony Man Farm in Virginia, he and his new allies—Able Team and Phoenix Force—waged relentless war on a new adversary: the KGB.
But when his one true love, April Rose, died at the hands of the Soviet terror machine, Bolan severed all ties with Establishment authority.
Now, after a lengthy lone-wolf struggle and much soul-searching, the Executioner has agreed to enter an “arm’s-length” alliance with his government once more, reserving the right to pursue personal missions in his Everlasting War.
Krasnoyarsk Province, Siberia
VASSILI STIEGLITZ, DEPUTY MINISTER of economic affairs, watched the bleak countryside flash past the window of the state sedan that had been waiting for him at the airport. Snow-capped mountains loomed in the distance and, as they passed through the small village on the outskirts of the prison, Stieglitz noticed the furtive glances from those walking or pedaling along the road. This remote place was the land of peasants. Those who didn’t eke out their pathetic existence in the factories or shops worked at the detention facility. The huge walls of the prison were not yet visible, but Stieglitz was in no hurry to get there. His assignment was explicit, and failure was not an option.
His satellite phone jangled, startling him. He had assumed he’d be unreachable this far from civilization. But he knew the power of the Kremlin was limitless. He answered the phone and immediately felt a quiver run down
“Have you arrived yet?”
“No,” Stieglitz said, hesitating to add more. The driver, although doubtlessly handpicked, was still a set of ears Stieglitz didn’t need. “I am almost there.”
“Good. I have arranged for a little incentive.” The man on the other end of the line chuckled. “It is best to tenderize the meat before preparation.”
Another shiver went down Stieglitz’s spine. He replied with a banal agreement.
“Very well, comrade Stieglitz. Call me when your task has been completed.”
Stieglitz assured the man that he would but realized he was speaking to dead air. He replaced the phone in his pocket and looked out the window again. The landscape appeared even harsher than before. “Tenderize the meat before preparation.”
Seven months ago, once Stieglitz had been tasked with his part of the master plan, he had moved swiftly, having Grodovich transferred from Ariyskhe to the more stringent encampment of Krasnoyarsk. Although Grodovich’s crime, failure to report and pay the proper taxes on his business earnings, was considered a lesser, nonviolent offense, the transfer had hopefully served its purpose. Being in the midst of murderers, rapists, robbers and the like had surely softened up the highly successful, yet unscrupulous, businessman.
Grodovich was looking at ten more years in a place commonly referred to as “hell on earth.” Stieglitz wondered what kind of horrors the man had witnessed in the past seven months and shuddered at the thought. How could Grodovich not jump at the chance to be released? And not just a release...a presidential pardon, as well.
All for a nominal fee and his participation in the plan.
The sedan went by an old woman limping along, her filthy shawl drawn tightly around her lumpy body. Although it was only October, autumn for much of the world, the wind in this godforsaken place was like the encroaching tentacles of winter. Stieglitz had been told that the temperatures dropped to minus eleven degrees Celsius within the walls of Detention Center 6. The numbing cold would be enough to make the slick businessman amenable, even without his ties to the mafiya. How could it not?
Yes, he thought. The plan will work.
They sped past two more peasants huddling against the chilly mountain wind and Stieglitz told the driver to turn up the heat, even though he was already sweating under his heavy overcoat.
Yes, he told himself again. The plan will work. It has to.
Detention Center 6
ALEXANDER GRODOVICH SAT on his bunk and watched as the four men squirmed on the bed next to the door. The others huddled in a semicircle. Two of the burlier ones held the new prisoner facedown on the bed, the man’s pants bunched around his ankles, his buttocks exposed. Oleg, the chief tattoo artist of Krasnoyarsk, flashed a gap-toothed grin at Grodovich as he dipped the makeshift needle into the cup of ink and bent over the prone man. Oleg pinched the soft, flabby skin between his forefinger and thumb and began the quick piercing that would imbue the ink onto the man’s buttocks. The picture of a huge, open eye and partial nostril seemed to stare back at Grodovich.
He felt no pity for the restrained prisoner, who was being labeled as a provider of sexual gratification. After all, the man was a child molester.
The prisoner squealed as the pointed metal pricked his skin. Oleg laughed and gave the soft flesh a quick slap.
“Be still,” he said. “Or we’ll turn you into a eunuch, as well.”
The others laughed, too. One of them turned toward Grodovich with a knowing cackle, but the leering grin quickly faded as Mikhal stood up from his bunk.
Grodovich glanced at his hulking protector and smiled. Upon his unexpected transfer from Ariyskhe, Grodovich had immediately put his monetary resources to work, first bribing the guards to be kept in isolation, while scouring the prison for a suitable protector.
“You want Mikhal Markovich,” the head guard whispered to him through the cell door. “He’s serving a life sentence for murdering ten people, but he has a mother in Novosibirsk who comes to see him every month. She scrubs floors in the railway stations for a pittance and still brings us rubles each month so we’ll give him extra rations.” The guard grunted. “When you see him, you’ll know why she is concerned. He is a giant.”
And so he was. Huge in body but simple in the head, as the guard had explained. But this lack of guile, this simplicity, made him among the most feared inmates in Krasnoyarsk. He was oblivious to pain and completely without compassion or fear. And he was serving a life sentence. Bother him and you could be assured he would strike back without concern for punishment or retaliation. Mikhal had already killed three men inside the walls. These deaths were the result of the secret prisoner fights the guards held periodically. With a few payments to the guards and a series of monetary gifts to Mikhal’s mother, that giant quickly assumed the role of Grodovich’s protector. Fiercely loyal, he made sure that the only tattoos Grodovich received were the eight-pointed stars on his chest and knees that assured he would not be bothered inside the walls of Krasnoyarsk.
The new prisoner squealed again, begging for them to stop, which elicited more laughter from the group.
“Soon you’ll be getting all the attention you can handle,” one of them said.
A whistle sounded from the hall and an electric current shot through the dormitory room.
The guards were approaching.
Oleg quickly stepped back and shoved the cup of ink and the “needle” under the mattress of an adjacent bunk. The two men holding the child molester released him and motioned for him to pull up his pants.
The door burst open as the prisoner was buckling his trousers. All the men stood at attention as the three uniformed guards, armed with heavy black batons, entered the room and looked around. The lead guard’s gaze settled on Grodovich.
“You,” the guard said. “Come with us.”
Mikhal turned his huge head toward the man, and the guard’s face registered a bit of alarm.
“What is this about?” Grodovich asked.
“You have a visitor,” the guard said. “An official one.”
Grodovich considered this. He wasn’t expecting anyone. His lawyer came once a month to attend to his needs, and deliver the bribes to his keepers, but he’d been here less than a week ago. Still, a visitor was always a welcome diversion. He stood and grabbed his cap from the post on his bed. Mikhal picked up his cap, as well.
“Not him,” the guard said, pointing at the giant. “Just you.”
Grodovich smiled and placed a hand on Mikhal’s massive shoulder.
“Wherever I go,” he said, “he goes.”
The guards looked at each other. One of them glanced at the urine stain on the bed, then to the impassive faces of the line of prisoners.
“Not this time,” the chief guard said. “Orders. Just you. The front office. Let’s go. Now.”
Grodovich felt the muscles of the giant’s arm tensing. Still, a confrontation with the guards would put him in solitary confinement. Grodovich smiled and patted Mikhal’s arm gently.
“It is all right, my friend,” he said. “I will see you when I return.”
Grodovich squared his hat on his head as they headed for the door. The three guards followed, ushering him down a long corridor flanked by dormitory rooms on the right and windows covered with heavy metal screening on the left. The light that managed to filter through the encrusted filth on the panes dappled the mustard yellow walls. A myriad of dust motes floated in the speckles of sunshine. They came to the end of the corridor and moved down the stairwell toward the third floor. At the second landing, the ranking guard told everyone to halt. He turned and looked at Grodovich, who noticed that the man’s face was now damp.
The hairs on the back of Grodovich’s neck ros
“What is going on?” Grodovich asked. “Didn’t you receive your monthly payment?”
The ranking guard said nothing. He pursed his lips and motioned toward the stairway.
“Go wait for us down there,” the guard said, pointing to the dimly lighted first-floor landing. “We have to attend to something on the second floor.”
“Attend to what?”
“An emergency,” the guard said. “Now go.” He and the others immediately opened the door and ran into the hallway.
Grodovich stood there, listening to the fading sound of their boots on the tiled floor.
Someone was waiting for him down there. Had he been marked for death, and if so, by whom? He began to creep back up the stairway, careful not to make too much noise. From the floor above he heard a low whisper and then a laugh. A swarthy face appeared around the corner, a gap-toothed smile stretched across it. Grodovich recognized the man as a fellow inmate, a Chechen.
The man held up his left hand and waggled his fingers, making a come-hither gesture. He stepped fully into the landing and Grodovich saw the man’s right hand held a long, metallic blade, probably fashioned from one of the soup cups.
Grodovich turned and ran down the stairs toward the second-floor landing. Should he try to summon the guards?
No, they had set him up. They would do nothing to help him now.
He rounded the corner and continued his descent toward the first floor. Suddenly three more Chechens appeared, blocking his path. Each one held a crude blade. Each one smiled.
Grodovich froze. He stooped and reached for his own shank, a thin strip of metal that he’d managed to liberate from the sole of a worn shoe, but he was inept at using it. Still, he would not go down without a fight. He backed into the corner of the landing as the four men approached from both above and below.
“What is this?” Grodovich asked. “I have done nothing to offend you.”
“We have our orders,” one of the Chechens said as he continued creeping up from the first floor. “It is nothing of a personal—”
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