“It’s hard to believe one man could do all this.” Paul Bonelli was fit to be tied. His narrowed eyes scanned the compound, lingering over various points of particular carnage.
“Well, one did,” Hinshaw replied, a defensive tone edging his weary voice.
The two men stood on the porch of Hinshaw’s field headquarters. A handful of Hinshaw’s men flanked their leader, remaining aloof from the forty or so Tucson hardmen milling around their crew wagons in the yard. Bonelli’s gunmen were taking in the incredible scene as well, commenting on the site’s condition In hushed tones.
There was much for comment. The walls of the main building were riddled with symmetrical holes, the window frames splintered and empty except for jagged shards of glass. The ruined hulk of a limousine slouched beside the house, its pock-marked body sagging to starboard on two shredded tires. Behind the ventilated structure, two mounds of blackened lumber memorialized the former existence of other buildings.
The younger Bonelli shook his head in bewilderment and turned toward the door. Hinshaw got there first, holding it wide for the Tucson underboss. Bonelli accepted the courtesy as his due and stepped inside, pausing briefly in the doorway to finger the jagged splinters left by heavy-caliber slugs which had punched through the panel. He took in the interior damage at a glance — bullet gouges, furniture overturned and shattered.
“How many did you lose this time?” he asked Hinshaw.
“Four dead, two wounded. It’s a wonder we didn’t lose more.”
“Any rumbles from the cops?”
“None. Neighbors are scarce around here. And they mind their own business.”
Bonelli nodded his satisfaction with the answer, allowing his eyes to sweep the room again. His gaze settled on a large weapon which sat atop a dusty tripod In one corner of the room. Two short tubes made of plastic or cardboard or something were propped against the big gun, completing the sinister little tableau. The mafioso gestured toward the pile of weaponry with one hand as he turned toward Hinshaw.
“That’s it. A .50-caliber machine gun and a couple of LAW rocket tubes.”
Hinshaw’s tone was brisk, matter-of-fact.
“What’s that LAW?”
“Light anti-tank weapon,” Hinshaw explained to the “civilian.”
“Think of it as a throw-away bazooka. We found them on a rise overlooking the compound, about a hundred yards out. He did this with the .50.” Hinshaw’s hand swept the room, indicating the hundreds of bullet holes. “It has an automatic trigger lock, set for continuous fire. That left his hands free to handle the LAWS.”
“The chopper shoots by itself?” Paul Bonelli was skeptical.
Hinshaw nodded. “It’s a relatively simple mechanism. He probably-“
“Simple?” Bonelli interrupted, scarcely able to believe his ears. “It was simple for one man to kick hell out of your entire force? What were your boys doing, Jimmy?”
“Dying,” Hinshaw answered flatly. “Or trying like hell not to.”
Bonelli was boiling. “It looks bad, Jimmy. One guy dumping all over — how many men is it now?” The Tucson sub-capo knew very well how many men had been lost before Hinshaw answered “twenty-three” in a tired voice. Bonelli nodded solemnly as he repeated the number aloud. Then his tone softened and he took a different tack with the beleaguered field commander. “Okay, I can see what you’ve been up against here. I understand. But my papa, now …” Paul left the sentence hanging, letting Hinshaw know that Don Niccolo Bonelli was not apt to share his son’s understanding of the situation. He let Hinshaw think about that for a moment then added, “I hate to bring home news like this so soon after your other troubles.” Another pause, then, “Maybe I don’t have to tell him right now. I guess we can wait until after we have this thing in the bag.” Bonelli smiled at the scowling soldier. “We are going to bag it, aren’t we?”
The telephone rang, breaking the tension building there. Hinshaw seemed frozen for a long moment, then reluctantly scooped up the receiver.
“Hello? Yes, hang on.” He held out the instrument to Bonelli. “For you.”
Paul accepted the receiver and growled into the mouthpiece. “Yeah?”
The voice at the other end of that connection was taut, breathless. “Paul? Jake Lucania here.”
Lucania’s words came In a breathless rush. “We been hit! You never saw such-it’s-I-I mean-“
Bonelli shushed the excited flow. “Jake! Relax now and take it from the top one time.”
Lucania was still breathing heavily, but more slowly now as he answered. “Okay, right. I’m sorry. We been hit. The house is mostly gone, and we lost more’n a dozen boys.”
“How is he?” Bonelli asked, knowing it was unnecessary to speak his father’s name.
“Oh, he’s okay. Shook up some, mad as hell. He told me to call you right away.”
“Who hit you?”
“It was Bolan for damn sure.”
Bonelli’s eyes floated toward Hinshaw. “For sure, eh?”
“As sure as can be. Half a dozen boys got a look at him. A big stud, all in black, guns and shit hangin’ all over him. It was Bolan all right, or else he’s got a twin.”
“There’s no twins,” Bonelli said grimly.
“Yeah, well …”
“When was this, again?” Bonelli asked worriedly, still looking at Hinshaw.
“It was exactly, uh, twenty-five minutes ago.”
“That’s very interesting.”
“Listen. He wants you back here. Right now.”
“Tell him I said he should button up tight. We got a situation here, too. I’ll get back as soon as I can. But I gotta … I’ll call you back, Jake.” Bonelli broke the connection and turned to face Hinshaw with a hard look.
“When did you say you got hit?” he asked quietly.
“Hell, I told you. It was just before you arrived.”
“I been here about ten minutes.”
“Yeah. Well …” Hinshaw stretched to his toes and gripped the back of his neck. “So I’m Surprised you didn’t run into the guy on your way in. The attack lasted, uh, say three to four minutes. It Was hit and run. Time we got unglued and started a reaction, the guy was gone. Go put a hand on that M2. It’s probably still hot.”
“You got hit about half an hour ago, then.”
“Give or take a minute or two, yeah.”
“Bullshit.” The soldier’s eyes flared.
“Bolan was hitting our ranch about half an hour ago, give or take a minute.”
“That’s impossible,” Hinshaw replied softly.
“Tell papa it’s impossible. The guy leveled the place.”
“Then Bolan didn’t do It. He w-“
“I said bullshit,” Bonelli cut in coolly. “They saw the guy. It was him. He was 200 miles from here at the time you say you got hit.”
Hinshaw’s face darkened. “What d’you mean I say I got hit!” His hand made a dramatic pass of the room. “What the hell do you call this?”
“I can see what it looks like,” Bonelli said curtly. “Now I’m asking you what really happened.”
The scowling Hinshaw quickly replied, “Are you calling me a liar, Mr. Bonelli?”
The Tucson underboss did not miss the sudden formality. “Simmer down,” he said. “Nobody’s calling names. I’m just saying you got it wrong. You read it wrong. Now, I’m saying, you need to read it again.”
The military chief lit a cigarette and turned toward a shattered window. Presently he turned a musing gaze toward Bonelli and said, “Okay. I’m reading it again. I told you the M2 was rigged for autofire. Even had a sweeper on it. I think we been had by some fancy footwork. I think the guy was in both places at the same time.”
Bonelli shook his head. “Try again, Jimmy.”
“It could be done. I don’t know how those LAWS could have been programmed for … but — well hell, come to think of it, how do we know he even used LAWS. He could have …”
“You’re trying too hard,” Bonelli said coldly.
“The guy got inside somehow. He came in here and set it up.”
“Save it!” Bonelli snarled.
“I don’t like your insinuation!” the soldier yelled.
“Fuck what you don’t like,” Bonelli growled. “Your problem now is to give me something that I might like!”
“Dammit, it’s a Bolan hit,” Hinshaw fumed. “It has his signature all over it. The guy came in here and set us up. Then he zipped down to Tucson and timed it for a simultaneous one-two. He’s trying to drive a wedge between us, trying to fragment us. We used that tactic all the time in-“
“I said save it!” Bonelli cried angrily. “Don’t serve me that kind of shit!”
A seemingly genuine expression of new revelation crossed the soldier’s eyes. “The phone man,” he said, sighing.
“What phone man? Make it better than last time, Jimmy.” That was a threat, directly stated.
Hinshaw either did not hear or he let it pass. “The son of a bitch,” he said, the voice awed. “He waltzed right in here, drank our beer and …”
“You wouldn’t like this, Mr. Bonelli,” the guy said, very quietly. “It would scare the shit out of you. Let me handle it — just forget it and let me handle it.”
“You’re getting paid to handle it,” Bonelli said coldly. “Try cute games with us, though …” It was another threat, this time received and understood.
The soldier’s eyes flashed angrily, but there was no further reaction. Bonelli took a final look around, squared his shoulders, and walked quickly out of there.
That soldier could lose more than his face this time. He could, Yeah, lose his whole damn head.
Hinshaw watched Paul Bonelli go with mixed feelings of anger and apprehension. Tension coiled within him like a cold fist clutched around his heart. For the first time, he feared that he was really losing control In the Phoenix game, and he didn’t like that feeling. Not even a little bit.
Hinshaw had not been happy with the news that Bonelli junior was leading the reinforcements to Phoenix. Except for two things, he would have opposed the move. Number one, by the time he had learned about it, the troops were already on the road with Paul in command. And number two, it was distinctly unhealthy to buck Nick Bonelli when his mind was made up, even on small matters. On a matter as all-important as this one, such opposition would undoubtedly be fatal.
Well, Paul Bonelli was there now, and Hinshaw did not for one moment buy that business about the guy just being there to “keep an eye on the boys.”
Bonelli was there to keep an eye — and a tight rein — on Hinshaw. From the minute he stepped out of that shiny Detroit tank, Paul Bonelli was in command of the Phoenix game, and everybody concerned knew it. Whatever sugar coating Paul or his father tried to put on it, Hinshaw was being relieved of his command in all but name, and the idea rankled him. And yet, if that had been all there was to it, Hinshaw might have been content to roll with the punch, biding his time.
But there was more, much more going on in Phoenix than a Mafia warlord expressing dissatisfaction with a field commander. Hinshaw didn’t know for sure yet just what it was, or even who was pulling the strings, but he could feel his hackles rising as they had in “Nam, when some sixth sense had warned him of impending ambush by the Cong.
Jim Hinshaw was being set up. But for what? And by whom?
If Mack Bolan was pulling the strings, there was nothing Hinshaw could do except try to anticipate the next blow and brace himself for it when it fell.
Things might be different, though, if the setup was a Bonelli operation. There just might be something that Hinshaw could do to prepare for that eventuality. Something decisive, maybe.
Hinshaw picked up the phone, which had done so much to derail his schemes of late, and quickly dialed a local number. He recognized the answering voice and got down to business without wasting time on preliminaries.
“Get the men together on the double. I’ll expect them to be ready to move within twenty minutes. Can do?” He acknowledged the affirmative reply with a terse grunt and broke the connection. Hinshaw was calling up his reserves. He had not been green or foolish enough to enter the Phoenix campaign with only thirty men at his disposal, nor had he been inclined to place himself at the mercy of replacements from the south. Like any field commander worthy of the name, he had trained and positioned a secondary force in anticipation of unforeseen setbacks … from any faction. The “hole card,” as Angel called it.
Jim Hinshaw did not intend to lose face — or anything else — from this operation. It had been recognized from the start as his golden opportunity to establish himself as a man for the world to reckon with.
He would not, dammit, return to the obscurity that had held his manhood captive through all those drab years.
He was going to bag himself a bonus baby, all the damn Bonellis to hell. And he’d walk over anybody to get Mack Bolan’s head in a sack. He’d have it, dammit. The cute bastard. New face, eh? All faces looked the same inside a paper sack.