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Bolan cleared the service area and made his way in the direction of the large casino proper, moving cautiously, scanning the corridors to either side of him. He held the Mini-Uzi ready, waiting to respond to any hostile challenge, knowing that the savages were all around him now. The problem would be finding them, rooting them out and destroying them without walking into an ambush.

And he found them thirty feet along the corridor as he was passing by an office doorway with the legend Private painted on it. As he passed the door it swung open and a startled face confronted him, mouth working silently for several seconds as the brain attempted to translate its silent warning into sound.

The guy recovered instantly at sight of Bolan's rising Uzi. He leaped backward, slamming the door behind him and fumbling with the locking mechanism. And he had his voice back now, alerting anyone in earshot to the danger of an armed intruder in their midst. Bolan stitched a burst across the flimsy door, then hit it with a flying kick that tore the lock apart, following through into a diving shoulder roll. He caught a glimpse of hardman number one slumped back against a filing cabinet, clutching at the bloody ruin of his punctured abdomen. Others were unloading on him now with handguns, and he let the dying take care of themselves.

Two of them were crouched behind a massive metal desk, taking turns at popping up to fire in his direction. A third was holed up in a tiny back room that appeared to serve as combination lounge and storeroom. Bolan pinned the two desk gunners down with probing fire and scuttled backward to the cover of another unattended desk that faced their sanctuary from across the room.

It was a weak position, right, with space beneath the desk for ricochets to find him if they started thinking straight instead of firing out of reflex. Worse, they had the chance to pin him down until sufficient reinforcements could arrive to rush him.

The Executioner would have to move swiftly if he meant to stay alive. Another moment might be all the time he had.

Bolan sprang a frag grenade from his combat harness, pulled the pin and let it fly, already counting down. The pitch was perfect, even under fire, deflecting off metal filing cabinets to drop down behind the desk, between the hostile gunners in their little foxhole.

"What the..." And that was all before the blast eclipsed their screaming voices, toppling the desk and spreading both of them across the walls like lumpy red wallpaper. A piece of shrapnel clipped the wounded gunner where he stood transfixed for a moment.

Then he slid into the graceless sprawl of death.

Three down and number four was screaming in his little pantry hideaway, half-blinded by the smoke and deafened by the harsh concussion of the blast. He lost it, lurching up and out of cover, firing blindly as he cleared the narrow doorway with no more idea of where his target was than if he had been shooting at the moon.

Bolan tracked him through the doorway, stroking off a three-round burst that picked the gunner off his feet and twisted him around, a human corkscrew, airborne, sprawling back across the smoking desk.

Before the body finished twitching, the Executioner was up and out of there, already moving back along the corridor to the casino, searching for the action. And it was just ahead of him, the Executioner could hear it now, the jangle of the play replaced now by the pop and crackle of small-arms fire.

Someone had engaged the enemy in there, and they were not firing at him — at least not yet.

Mack Bolan dropped the Uzi's magazine and snapped a fresh one into place, no longer walking now, but jogging toward the sounds of battle.

They had started the bloodfeast without him but the Executioner was coming. Better late than never, right.

He was one of the invited guests whether the hosts were currently aware of it or not.

The Executioner had been invited by the Universe.

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