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The burning scarecrow figure lurched along for half a dozen strides, then Bolan saw it toppled by a rifle shot. Inside the house the gunners were attempting to regroup their forces, and the flaming silhouette had been a target too inviting to resist.

He swung their way and sent a high-explosive doublepunch through the ruin of the twin front doors, following it up with a hissing can of smoke to add confusion. The house was burning fiercely now at several points, and Bolan knew that there were only moments left until he heard the wail of sirens on his flank, announcing the approach of riot squads responding to the din and smoke of combat.

It was a roaring hell in there, but Bolan had to get inside and seek out Seiji Kuwahara, close down this end of the pipeline before the Executioner took another step along the campaign trail in Vegas. He knew from grim experience in the jungles of the world that you exposed yourself to needless danger any time you left the serpent's head intact, still able to deliver lethal venom even with its dying spasm. Kuwahara was the Oriental viper's head in Vegas, and when Bolan had disposed of this one, there were others of an Occidental cast who called for his attention, right. But first things first. He was advancing on the house, prepared to answer fire with cleansing fire when Bolan heard a labored engine drawing closer on his flank. Almost before the sound had registered, a sleek white Caddy cleared the side of Kuwahara's mansion, running straight and fast along an offshoot of the drive and making for the gates.

There was just time for Bolan to react, half turning, catching just the barest glimpse of Eastern profile, then the limousine was past him, powering along the drive.

The soldier hit a crouch and braced the 40mm cannon tight against his hip, one finger on the trigger as he tracked his target, estimating range and elevation.

When he opened fire, the Executioner was dead on target at a range of fifty yards, the mushrooming explosions marching right across the driveway, setting up a barrier of smoke and flying shrapnel that the hurtling Caddy could not bridge. He saw the crew wagon swerve, lurch, stall, and he was moving out of there and in confrontation with the dragon long before the first door opened, spilling human targets into view.

Mack Bolan recognized the ninja at a range of thirty yards, and spent no time debating how to handle him. The XM-18 thundered and the guy was simply gone, evaporated in a storm of needlelike fl6chettes that hit with such intensity he doubtless never knew that he was dying. And they were packed inside the Cadillac, the ninja trying to get out and face the enemy, a little man wedged in among them with his hands raised, trying desperately to shield himself from the death he saw approaching.

Bolan knew that he had found the serpent's head.

A twitch of his trigger finger and the launcher roared to life, unloading its remaining cylinders in rapid fire; fl6chettes, shot and high-explosives all impacting on the Cadillac's interior like a draft from hell itself. The windows on the Caddy blew outward and the crew wagon seemed to bulge for a moment, inflating like some kind of cartoon vehicle before it simply burst apart. Bolan rode out the shock wave and went to ground beneath the flying shrapnel, feeling pieces of the vehicle and occupants as they rained down around him in a grizzly downpour.

And from the distance, drawing nearer-sirens.

He could hear the numbers falling in his mind, their echoes louder than the straggling gunfire that continued from inside the Kuwahara house. Some of the enemy were still engaged back there, but he no longer had an interest in them. Captain Reese and his commandos would be more than capable of dealing with the stragglers. And Bolan had more serpents left to kill this night before the desert sun came up and burned away the sheltering darkness.

He was far from finished in Las Vegas, right — if anything the major battle lay ahead, and he had only fought a skirmish here with Kuwahara's men and the advance guard from New York. If he had severed and destroyed one viper's head, the whole damned nest awaited him downtown, and he did not intend to keep the serpents waiting long. The Executioner was done in Paradise, the snakes were driven out — for now — and he was moving on.

To Glitter Gulch.

To the Gold Rush.

To Frank Spinoza and the good-old boys.

If they were waiting for him now... for someone — braced for trouble — then there would be killing in the Mafia's open city such as Captain Reese had never seen.


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