The Executioner sat in the back of the squad car and stared through the wire-mesh screen at the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. The sun was barely tinting Atlanta's skyline with pink. A slight breeze whipped through Atlanta today, but it was still hot. His prison garb was stiff and scratchy. The handcuffs, clamped on too tight by an overzealous guard, chafed at his wrists.
"Be on our way soon," the driver said, scratching at his uniform as if it was as starchy and hot as Bolan's.
They were idling inside the jail entrance while the driver's partner chatted with one of the gate guards.
On the other side of the thick metal barrier, cars drifted slowly to work, to friends, to family, the occupants listening to their favorite deejay, planning their Sunday fun. Traffic was sparse, the city still sleepy.
They'd kept Bolan overnight at the precinct while the paperwork was shuffled from file folder to file cabinet. The fingerprints had finally been attached to a name and case history — Damon Blue. Their curiosity satisfied, the cops were anxious to kick him on to Fulton County Jail, where prisoners awaiting trial were held. Bolan knew that.
Counted on it. Because that's where Dodge Reed was.
And that's where Zavlin would have to kill him. But why?
The reasons still baffled Bolan. The KGB's top eliminator coming halfway around the world to kill a nobody who was already locked up in prison. It didn't make sense. Yet.
It didn't matter. Whatever Bolan could do to sabotage the KGB was enough of an excuse. Taking out Zavlin in the process would just be icing on the cake.
"Can't figure you, son," the driver continued.
"What do you mean?" Bolan asked.
"I been a cop for close to twenty-eight years now. Pretty much tell the bad ones with just a glance. Don't matter what kind of clothes they wear or how much money they make or who their friends are. I just look 'em in the eye and I can tell the bad ones."
Bolan stared at the sunburned skin at the back of the driver's neck. A thin white scar curved up from under the collar, climbed his neck like a vine and disappeared into the thick mat of gray hair. Looked like a knife cut.
"So, like I'm looking at you and thinking, 'He looks tough enough, all right. Real tough. But tough ain't exactly mean. Not the same thing at all. And most these bums got that mean look. Know what I'm sayin', son?"
"Uh-huh," Bolan said. "You think I'm pretty."
The driver sighed, shook his head sadly.
"Then again, I'll knew anything I wouldn't be driving this damn car spending all my morning with criminals, would..."
"Guess not," Bolan said. He hated to come on so rough with the old cop, but he didn't want anybody getting the idea he was anything other than what he was pretending to be: a hardened career criminal. But, yeah, he knew what the driver meant because Bolan had seen the same look himself in the scum he'd been dealing with these past years. That arrogance in the expression, as if nothing else in the world mattered but what they wanted. As if there was no greater good than satisfying their enormous appetites.
Yeah, he'd seen that look, even managed to blow it off a few choice faces. Now he had to wear it himself. The sneer, the swagger, the cruel talk.
The driver's overweight partner opened the car door and climbed in, a clipboard in one hand, two doughnuts in the other. "Here, Gus," he said, handing one to the driver. "Jelly, just the way you like."
"Thanks, Deke," Gus said, nodding, taking a big bite, licking the jelly from his lips. He gestured over his shoulder at Bolan. "What about him?"
"Hell, it was tough enough wrangling these two. Those guys are more interested in guarding their doughnuts than this gate." He fastened his seat belt. "Besides, Gus, you'd think that damn scar on your neck woulda taught you what happens when you care too much about these cons."
Gus shrugged, accelerated the squad car through the open gate.
Despite himself, Bolan felt a sense of relief as they passed through the gate. As if tight metal bands had been snipped from his chest. He took a deep breath. Better not get too used to that feeling, he warned himself. In case things go wrong.
"They did it again," Deke said, chuckling.
"Did what?" Gus asked.
"Last night, they hit Clip Demoines's bookie joint down in Augusta. Those guys at the gate were telling me about it. Broke in and trashed the place."
"No, them night riders. The ones the papers are calling Savannah Swingsaw."
"Yup. They chewed that place up with chain saws and axes, took the money and closed the joint down for good."
"Demoines," Bolan interrupted. "Isn't he the local Mafia kingpin?"
"As if you didn't know," Deke sneered, munching on his doughnut, crumbs powdering his chin.
"Maybe this guy's not local," Gus said, referring to Bolan. "Don't sound local, anyway." Gus caught a yellow light and gunned the car through it. "Yeah, Demoines is connected. Runs most of Georgia, from Atlanta to Savannah. But not for long, not if this Savannah Swingsaw keeps up the pressure."
"Just some other thugs muscling in," Deke said.
"Not likely," Gus said. "Don't act like no Mob I've ever seen. All dressed in black with hoods, like them Oriental ninjas."
"Kept these guys carry guns and axes and chain saws."
"Guns or not," his partner said, "I'd hate to be in their hoods when Demoines's hoods catch up with 'em. I've seen some bodies he's ordered extinct. Hardly qualify as human afterward." He gobbled down the last bite of doughnut.
"Well, the Swingsaw's hit him three times so far. Managed to get away each time without a scratch."
"Just a matter of time, Gus. Time and manpower, and Demoines has got plenty of both."
"That's true. Only this Swingsaw bunch seems to know its way around these Mob types. Kinda like that Mack Bolan fella used to."
At the mention of his name Bolan looked up, startled. He listened to the conversation for a moment, then settled back into his seat, unconcerned. The Executioner was a master of role camouflage. It had worked for him in Nam many times, dressed as a peasant in a paddy, while the enemy walked by a few feet away, none the wiser. But sometimes no disguise is the best. The brain doesn't register what the eyes see. Now, as Bolan listened to the good-natured bantering in the front seat, he realized this was one of those times.
"Hell, that guy was nuts, man. Taking on cops and the Mob."
"Maybe," Gus said. "And you know I don't condone no vigilante behavior. Only this Bolan, he was different. Seemed to know the difference between the law and justice. Wasn't afraid to do something about it, neither."
"Don't matter. He was then and this is now, Gus."
"Could be this Savannah Swingsaw is Mack Bolan. Same MO. And word's gotten around he ain't dead at all, like they was saying before."
Bolan rapped his handcuffs against the screen.
"Hey, just where is this Demoines guy located?"
"What's it to you?" Deke asked.
"Might want to look him up when I get out. Guy with that kind of dough might be looking for a few good men. If the price is right."
"He may not be around when you get out of jail, Blue. If you get out alive, that is."