"Trouble," Brognola said, frowning. "Big trouble."
Bolan laughed. "Is there any other kind?"
"Not for us, I guess. Sort of comes with the territory."
The big Fed popped an antacid tablet into his mouth and chewed. He had a pained expression at first, but after a few minutes, he began to look better. Bolan led him silently to a far corner of the compound courtyard, on a patch of brown grass desperate for water. Bolan gestured at the pack of tablets.
"When did you start with those?"
"These?" Brognola shrugged, looked a little embarrassed and slipped them into his jacket pocket. "Something I ate."
Bolan gave him a patient look.
"Okay, okay. I've been having a little stomach problem for a couple months now."
"About the same time Stony Man Farm was destroyed. And April killed." Bolan looked sympathetically at his friend. Yeah, things had been tough on the Executioner, but he could see where they might even be tougher on Hal, who was left to deal with the stress of working within the system, yet still helping Bolan underground.
At least when Bolan got mad, he could get even directly. Grab the AutoMag and blast the bad guys to hell. But Brognola couldn't. He had to keep it all bottled up.
"I didn't come here to talk about my stomach," Brognola said gruffly. "We have a small matter of assassination to discuss."
"He's here. Zavlin."
Bolan's jaw clenched. "Here where? In the prison?"
"Maybe. He was spotted in Atlanta five hours ago."
Bolan looked around the courtyard at the other prisoners, scrutinizing each face.
"That won't help," Brognola said. "He could be any of them, male or female."
"Yeah, you're right. I know about all that master-of-disguise crap. Expert with makeup and forged documents." Bolan kept scanning the compound. "There are a few things that usually aren't disguised because most people don't pay close enough attention, but...." Bolan saw Lyle Carrew over by a wooden picnic table, talking to a woman.
They were both staring at Bolan.
The Executioner felt a strange chill at the nape of his neck. The woman was looking at him with a hard intensity, studying him, not flinching from his gaze. At the same time there was something familiar about her. He didn't recognize her exactly; she had the kind of looks you didn't easily forget.
Her hair was long and raven black, dipping to a sharp widow's peak on her forehead. She was wearing oversize sunglasses despite a cloudy sky.
Her mouth was straight, the lips full. The combination produced a pouty smirk that was exceptionally attractive.
Her body was even more exceptional, not just slim and shapely. What was revealed by her short sleeves and shorts proved to be tanned and toned, with sinewy muscles outlined like a relief map of rough terrain. They looked like long smooth sand dunes along a wet beach. She was perhaps the most striking woman Bolan had ever seen. And she was still staring at him, saying something to Carrew, who was digging into her picnic basket, biting into some corn bread, shrugging or replying to her.
"You know her?" Brognola said, a hint of admiration creeping into his voice.
"I know the guy with her. My cellmate."
"Looks like he knows how to handle himself."
Bolan nodded. "In more ways than one."
"Behind us about fifty yards. Talking with his girlfriend."
"How's he holding up?"
Bolan told him about Rodeo. The fight. The threats.
"Hell!" Brognola popped another antacid tablet. "...in here one day and you've already got the meanest mother in the place after you. I know you work fast, but..."
"Couldn't be helped. Put a fresh-faced kid like Dodge Reed in here and something was bound to happen. Besides, it was a good way to get him to trust me."
"Fine. Only how are you going to bust out of here? I could still pull a few strings, get some official cooperation..."
Bolan held up his hand. "Won't work, guy. Zavlin could sniff that out in a second. It's got to be real. Don't worry about me. I've got a couple ideas. We should be out by tomorrow."
"What about Rodeo and his bunch?"
"I'll try to keep away from them."
Brognola looked skeptical. "Try hard. As much as I'd like to see that scum scraped away, that kid is our first priority." They both looked over at Dodge Reed, whose hands waved animatedly, his face aged with fear, as he obviously was describing his harrowing adventures. He even pointed at Bolan, and the pretty petite girl turned and looked at him, meeting his eyes and smiling a shy thanks.
Bolan smiled back.
Brognola and Bolan discussed a few more details until the buzzer blared the end of visitation. Prisoners and visitors alike were herded through metal detectors, then prisoners were led aside to be bodysearched for drugs or weapons.
Some couples clung to each other, wringing the most from their last kiss for another week. Reed and his girlfriend were one of those couples. Bolan could see the tears tracking along her cheeks and felt sorry for both of them. To his credit, Reed gave her an encouraging smile and assured her he'd be fine. Lyle Carrew and his female companion had already gone through the doors, but Bolan could still see her lingering with the crowd, watching him, making up her mind about something. By the time he and Brognola went through the door she was gone.
"Take care," the Fed said sincerely. "And remember. He could be inside already."
"Yeah," Bolan said. "I'll be looking for him."