Authors: Don Pendleton
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Fiction, #det_action, #Non-Classifiable, #Men's Adventure, #Drug traffic, #Bolan; Mack (Fictitious character), #Opium trade
And Bolan guessed right. Two rockets later the Apache flew toward them. It came in low and slow, obviously figuring it had nothing to fear from the men below. After all, they were only armed with rifles, and an Apache was built to withstand even a .50-caliber machine gun.
The sky filled with the
whap, whap, whap
of blades. This is how the enemy must have felt in Vietnam, thought Bolan. To an American the sound of chopping blades was always good news in that war — extract, Medevac, fire support, reinforcements — but to the VC and the NVA it meant something completely different. Death riding the sky.
As the gunship approached, the long barrel of the 30mm chain gun protruding from its belly moved, the gunner trying out the controls. Then the muzzle began winking and the sky growled.
Bolan and Nark threw themselves to the ground as a small storm swept the woods. High explosive rounds. Behind them they could hear the horses neighing in fear.
"You'd better go and keep an eye on the horses," Bolan said to Nark.
The other ran back while Bolan crouched behind a yang tree. As the helicopter drew nearer, it changed course slightly. Bolan rose and moved through the trees, adjusting his position to the new trajectory.
A hundred yards from the woods the gunship paused, its gun moving from side to side. The muzzle winked as the gunner sprayed the trees with a long lateral burst. The trees around Bolan thudded from the impact of the exploding rounds. A second burst followed.
The gunship flew nearer. But when it reached the edge of the forest it stopped again as if afraid to proceed, as if some instinct of self-preservation told the pilot a hunter was waiting below. Orders are orders, however, and the helicopter moved over the trees, the wash from its blades flattening the canopy.
Bolan watched from behind a tree as the Apache inched its way overhead, visible through the leaves, the chain gun winking, hosing the woods with its hail of death. The noise was tremendous: the whining engines, the chopping blades, the growling gun, the exploding rounds.
As the machine passed, Bolan ran to place himself under its tail. He cocked the rifle and withdrew the safety pin on the launcher. Eyes tearing from the dust and bits of wood stirred up by the churning air, ears deafened by the constant din, Bolan followed his prey, waiting for an opening.
It came an instant later when the helicopter began turning. Perhaps the gunner had seen something and wanted a better angle of fire. The rotorwash blew some of the treetops apart to create a hole in the canopy. Bolan raised his rifle and fired.
The metal sphere hanging under the M-16's muzzle spun and flew to meet the green gray shape above. It punched a hole in the belly, there was a flash, and a ball of fire enveloped the helicopter. It fell through the treetops amid the sound of breaking tree limbs and shearing metal.
A blast of hot air knocked Bolan off his feet as the helicopter blew up. More explosions followed as the rockets and ammunition went. Bolan lay with his arms over his head while the earth heaved, metal and wood rained down.
Finally there was silence, broken only by the crackle of flames. Around him things were burning — wreckage, trees, leaves, bark, even himself. He jumped to his feet and beat out his smoking clothes.
Bolan heard the sound of running feet. "Are you all right?" shouted Nark.
"So far," said Bolan. He picked up his weapon and stared pensively at the destruction around him. A minute ago the forest was filled with the noise of a sleek killer machine at whose command sat two men. Now that was history, the men vaporized, the machine so much junk.
"We've lost the packhorse and the radio," said Nark. "The other horses are okay."
On the way back to the horses Bolan said, "Tiger must be rich to afford helicopters like that. They come fifteen million dollars apiece."
"There's no shortage of money in that business," Nark replied. "In the States alone, illicit drugs is a ninety-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Ninety
Can you imagine? Only Exxon is bigger."
"Yeah, well," said Bolan, coming to his horse, "let's see what we can do to change that.''
From atop a ridge, hidden by bushes, Bolan and Nark surveyed the Tiger hardsite. The place reminded Bolan of one of those company towns that grow up in the middle of nowhere around a source of raw material. At one end was the industrial section with the heroin refinery, a long, three-story brick building with chimneys. Next to it were opium warehouses, a water tower, a power plant, tool sheds, and administration offices. At the other end was a residential section of neat villas with flowers, tree-lined alleys, shops and a park. But it was a militarized company town. The center was a parade ground with a flagpole, and there were barracks, lots of soldiers, an LZ with helicopters, and mortar facing the jungle.
The entrance to the town was a pair of heavy iron gates over which was a flag-bedecked arch. Written on the arch in Chinese characters was the name of Tiger's parent company, 93rd Kuomintang Division.
"They still use the old name," Bolan observed.
"Very proud of it," said Nark.
"Yeah, I guess from their point of view they're a real success story."
"At least someone got something out of the Vietnam War," Nark remarked.
It was the Vietnam War, or more precisely its outcome, that launched the 93rd into the heroin business. Prior to the war the division was basically a military organization dealing in opium on the side as a means of amassing money for the reconquest of the homeland.
This ambition was encouraged by the U.S., which used the 93rd, and other Nationalist army units that escaped when the Communists conquered in 1949, for the forays into China to destabilize the Communist regime.
The Vietnam War changed that. The U.S. defeat, with the emergence of Vietnam as a pro-Moscow satellite, upset the balance of power in the region, and to offset it, Washington was forced to seek a rapprochement with China. In due course the Communist regime was given diplomatic recognition, the trade embargo was lifted, President Nixon toasted Chairman Mao, and the CIA washed its hands of the 93rd. A twenty-year dream died.
To the men of the 93rd this was a bitter blow, and the division began disintegrating. Some of its members turned to banditry, while others prepared to emigrate to Taiwan, now the seat of the Nationalist regime. But a group of young men managed to arrest the disintegration process by offering its members the prospect of another adventure, a much more profitable one this time.
Until that moment the 93rd merely bought the opium from Montagnards for resale to Bangkok merchants. Now it went into the actual production of heroin. Not only that, it expanded into the other facets of the trade: shipping, packaging, distribution — even retailing with the creation of a chain of smoking dens.
Finally it went international, creating subsidiaries on four continents. Tiger's huge money reserves — capital that it had accumulated over twenty years to buy the latest weapons when the big day came — gave the 93rd, now renamed Tiger Enterprises, a considerable edge over the competition. So did its military command structure. By the sixteenth year of operation, Tiger was the world's biggest heroin ring. In a business already noted for success stories, thanks mainly to a combination of liberal laws and public inertia, Tiger managed to outshine them all.
Now it was Bolan's intent to put an end to that success story. But he would do it his own way, fired by personal feelings. The site was surrounded by two wire fences, both electrified, separated by a mine strip. Behind the fences at regular intervals were sandbag emplacements with mortar, and turrets with arc lights and machine guns. And there was only one entrance: the iron gates.
Out of his haversack, Bolan brought a pad and pencil and began sketching the site. First he drew a general map, then proceeded to sketch the individual targets. With the Meo one had to be strictly visual. You could tell a GI his target would be a three-story building with chimneys, but not the Meo. Their language had no term for chimney — in Meo huts the smoke went out through a hole in the roof — and the Meo did not understand the concept of multistory building. Similarly, in marking distance between targets, Bolan marked them as so many hut lengths apart. The Meo did not know meters or yards, but counted length in huts for short distances, while long distances were counted by how many cigarettes one smoked en route.
The sketching over, Bolan designated the targets. There were three primary targets, one in the industrial sector and two in the residential area.
In the industrial sector the primary target was the administration building. Not
did it contain the communications center that Tiger could use to summon help, the basement housed Tiger Enterprises' worldwide files. As soon as the building was secured, a helicopter would come to transport the files to a ship in the Andaman Sea. There they would be sifted, and pertinent information would be passed on to Washington for immediate exploitation. On four continents, agents of the NSA and the Drug Enforcement Administration were standing by to strike against Tiger.
The two primary targets in the residential section were the home of Tiger's president, Colonel Liu Hsiao, and a two-story guest villa that was housing Tiger's fourteen directors while they attended the company's annual meeting. The strike had been planned to coincide with the meeting. All fifteen men were to be executed by Bolan. Personally. It was that kind of war. The enemy would understand no other.
"I think we're going to get some entertainment," said Nark.
On the parade ground soldiers were setting up chairs in a semicircle. Then from a nearby building came a group of men dressed in kendo uniforms. Each man carried a sword.
"The man with the bandanna is Liu," said Nark.
this is the man who has vowed to turn America into a nation of junkies....
Bolan focused his field glasses on the Tiger president. Bolan always found it interesting to compare a gangster with what he had read about him, and in most cases the real thing was a disappointment, imagination inevitably being more romantic than reality. But not in this case. This man, Bolan decided, was every inch the prince of darkness. Handsome, athletic, he had deliberate movements and a commanding presence.
What Bolan had read about Liu was this: The son of General Liu, commander of the 93rd, now dead, Liu was educated in Japan in honor of his Japanese mother who died in childbirth. The mother was the daughter of a samurai, and in keeping with tradition, Liu was sent to one of those select boarding schools that still taught
or pen-and-sword-in-accord, an ancient art that combined calligraphy with swordsmanship.
He continued his education at a university in England. After being graduated with an engineering degree, Liu served as a soldier, leading parachute missions sponsored by the CIA on reconnaissance and spoiling raids in China. His grudge against the U.S. was said to date from those days. Liu felt the U.S. had sold out the Nationalists and exploited his father with false promises of a return to the mainland.
Liu's dislike of America did not prevent him, however, from taking advantage of a CIA-sponsored grant to the Harvard Business School where he picked up the know-how for his subsequent successes.
At Harvard Liu was remembered for his demonstrations of savate boxing, and for the subject of his master's thesis — the financial prospects of the illicit drug trade, a thesis his professors found amusing in its originality, not realizing Liu was having a laugh at them.
Long before he went to Harvard Liu was already pushing for the transformation of the 93rd from a military to a commercial enterprise, arguing that fighting Communists was a waste of time and the U.S. would recognize the People's Republic of China sooner, or later. When subsequent events proved him right he automatically became head of Tiger Enterprises, and it was under his direction that the company had reached its heights.
On the parade ground, meanwhile, the kendo masters had reached the area where the chairs had been set up. They stood around, seemingly waiting. One pulled his sword from his scabbard, and Bolan caught the glint of sun on steel. That surprised him. Normally in a kendo demonstration wood
were used. There was also no evidence of the usual head guards, another indispensable item. Even a wood
could do considerable damage to a man.
"What sort of contest is this?" Bolan wondered aloud.
"The headman said they hold fights until first blood, "said Nark.
The waiting fighters turned toward the residential area, and Bolan looked in that direction. Coming out were Tiger's directors, middle-aged iron of various races dressed in sober suits, some with hats.
What a respectable-looking lot,
Bolan reflected. They could have been a group of United Nations diplomats. But he knew evil always wore a mask; in fact the bigger the evil, the more respectable the mask.
Bolan recognized one of the directors as Jack Fenster. He was a distinguished-looking man, impeccably dressed, the sort of man people admired. He was a Wall Street financier who lived in Summit, New Jersey, where he had a palatial home, nice wife and children, belonged to the right clubs, pumped iron at the YMCA twice a week and attended church every Sunday.
Fenster was Tiger's laundryman in New York; he invested the profits from the narcotics operation in North America. Operating by remote control, protected by a battery of highly paid lawyers, Fenster was untouchable. Nothing could be proved against him.
The reason Bolan knew of Fenster was that he was the subject of a hush-hush study by the Drug Enforcement Administration that Bolan had read. The study pointed out a dangerous trend in U.S. society. A growing number of rich, supposedly respectable people were becoming involved in the narcotics trade not for the money, but for the life-style it provided.
What organization could offer its members such unusual and varied experiences as group sex in Manhattan with ten-year-olds, boys or girls, a Black Mass in the heart of Rome, gladiatorial combat in central Africa between men and pythons, or pursuing headhunters in remote regions of Brazil? As the author of the study pointed out, for the man who has everything, Tiger offered the ultimate in escape from boredom.
The directors reached the parade ground and took seats. Two kendo masters stepped before them, Liu and a huge Chinese man with a shaved head. They bowed to the spectators, then bowed to each other. They drew swords and the contest began. Holding their weapons with both hands in an extended position, the men circled, feet moving sideways, watching each other across the tips of their blades,
flowing out, each man waiting for the other's concentration to waver, for his
to flag, so he could move in and fill the void.
"When are they going to start fighting?" said Nark, impatient for action.
"They are fighting," Bolan replied, his eyes glued to the field glasses. "They are fighting with their minds.''
The attack cry rose from the parade ground, and the bald giant charged, sword raised. Liu watched him come, immobile. Only at the last moment did he move, parrying with a hold-down-a-shadow sweep of the sword. The giant retreated and Liu followed him with a slash across the abdomen. A long tear appeared in the giant's shirt, but the cut must have been bloodless, or he was not admitting to it, because he resumed circling. But now, as he circled, he occasionally retreated, the last encounter having been a defeat for him.
In fact, to Bolan, the outcome of the contest was a foregone conclusion. From the sequence of events it was crystal clear that the giant's charge had not been the action of a man who senses a void in his opponent, but of a man who could not stand the pressure from the other man's
It was a common and often fatal mistake, trying to make up for a mental defeat with physical action. On the other hand Liu, in the way he disregarded the uplifted sword of his adversary, leaving his head and body open to an impending blow, had shown himself to be a man of courage with a superb sense of timing.
For the second time the giant charged, his feet raising dust. This time Liu did not wait for him, but moved to meet him. They clashed, locking blades, then the giant sprang back in what was an obvious prelude to another attack. But Liu never gave him a chance. He sprang after him, and the sword blurred as he struck him with an earth-to-sky cut. The giant fell to the sand, hand clutching his chest. Liu went up and helped him to his feet. Bolan could see the man's hand covered in blood. The two contestants bowed to the spectators, Liu signaled to two soldiers, and they helped the giant off the parade ground.
What a man,
thought Bolan. A millionaire, a warrior, and a poet to boot, according to what he had read. But he would have to die all the same. All the talents he might possess did not alter the fact that he was an unclean man who preyed upon the cleanliness and innocence of others. He was true vermin. Bolan put away his field glasses and turned to Nark.
"Okay, let's get the hell out of here."
On the way to the horses Nark said, "I think we should take another route back. Tiger might have discovered the wreckage and be following our trail."
They came to the horses and drank some water from their saddle canteens. They untied the animals and mounted.
From the undergrowth around them rose soldiers, pointing weapons. They were surrounded by at least thirty guns. Following Nark's example, Bolan raised his hands. He would not fight if it endangered an ally.