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10

Bolan did not move. Not an inch. Not a breath. He kept his hands in plain sight and studied Thomas Morganslicht's shouting, contorted face.

Nope, he'd never met this man before; a quick sortie through his photographic memory had revealed that much and no more.

So the big guy stayed cool, looked appropriately confused, waited for an explanation of why that 9mm Luger was waving menacingly in his face.

"Thomas!" Tanya snapped, stepping toward him. "Was ist loss hier?

"Yeah, buddy," Bolan asked. "What is the matter?"

Thomas Morganslicht looked at the two dozen or so of his faithful who had gathered around to investigate his hollering, and he could see the mixture of curiosity and doubt in their bovine expressions. He knew that the amount of their loyalty was based on the sum of their collective experiences of fear, and therefore he aimed to unsettle them all with a shrill threat or two in the direction of the American.

Thomas holstered his Luger and laughed. It sounded like a stick scraping cement. "Just a little test of courage, Sergeant Grendal," he said, wiping the chill sweat from his forehead. "Like you have in your American universities. Fraternity, uh." He turned to his sister. "Wie heist das?"

"Initiation."

"Ja. Initiation."

He smiled.

Tanya looked at her brother with concern, but forced a hearty laugh. Several of the gathered group chuckled amiably and began to disperse. Rudi the bear did neither. He had been staring at Bolan with something more than contempt, perhaps even more than hate.

Occasionally one of his thick cracked lips would curl up into a half-snarl, displaying his repulsive teeth and gums. He tapped the hunk of wood methodically against his leg. Bolan glanced around the hardsite as if he were taking in some charming scenery.

By the time his eyes had swung back to the front porch of Thomas's cabin, he had estimated the personnel strength at about thirty, mostly armed with East German copies of the Soviet Makarov pistol. He had also determined that the hostages were being held in the locked garage a few cabins down, where two armed men stood guard. He had also noted the dried blood on the end of Rudi's log.

"Perhaps we should step inside?" Tanya urged her brother. "We have much to discuss."

"Yes, of course. But first, Rudi must search you, Sergeant Grendal. It is merely a, uh."

"Formality?" Bolan offered.

"Right. A formality."

"This better be a hell of a fraternity." Bolan leaned up against the wall of the cabin as Rudi frisked him roughly, occasionally using the wood club to prod.

Bolan endured the search for concealed weapons silently. He had planted Gadgets's transmitter within the Saab, rather than on his person.

He would need that transmitter. It was Grimaldi's means for locating the scene of action in order to pick up the hostages.

Rudi finished up his search and gave Bolan one last prod with his log. "Just this," he growled, tossing, the Beretta to Thomas.

"Clean of heart, pure of spirit," Bolan laughed, turning around. He smiled at Thomas and Tanya in turn, but let his smile rest on Rudi for a few extra seconds.

In those seconds, although his expression did not change, Bolan conveyed a silent message, a promise of things to come.

The driver, Hans, came out of one of the cabins, a mug of steaming coffee cupped in both hands. "Was noch?" he asked Thomas.

"Unload the weapon and drive the car to Munich. Wait there for further instructions."

Thomas then opened the cabin door and waved Bolan in. "'Shall we, Sergeant Grendal?"

Bolan entered the cabin without looking back at the car. Within a few minutes the transmitter would be on its way to Munich, with Jack Grimaldi following close behind, pursuing a signal and waiting for a coded message. Well, yeah, the Executioner had been alone before. Maybe he preferred it that way.


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