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Don Pendleton

Twisted Path

The central task and the highest form of a revolution is to seize political power by armed force, to settle problems by war.

Mao Tse-tung
Problems of War and Strategy

It's human nature to cut corners, look for easy answers especially if it means a better way of life. But I take exception to someone promoting "social change" from the barrel of a gun. Wanting more from life is one thing. Terrorism is another.

Mack Bolan

1

Cameron McIntyre barged into Jake Sharp's office, flinging the door back hard against the wall.

He wore a Burberry topcoat and a deerstalker hat, affecting the manner of a Scottish laird from the moors of the old country.

"Get your coat, Sharp. We're taking a wee trip." He turned on his heel and started down the hall, leaving the young man scrambling to catch up with him.

Sharp was accustomed to the brusque demands of his employer. During the past six months as director of Internal Audit he had often been summoned abruptly for a spurof-the-moment meeting with managers and suppliers. Sharp always delivered perfect satisfaction. The FBI had worked hard to get him this position, and it would never do to be fired for incompetence.

The past few months had passed in silent, covert action as Sharp battled account books and computer files to force their secrets from them. On the surface the McIntyre Arms Corporation was perfectly legitimate. It manufactured assemblies for the M-16 and M-60 as well as acting as a certified arms dealer to foreign customers.

The FBI was convinced that below the veneer of corporate respectability, McIntyre was delving into the murky but profitable business of selling weapons to insurgents and terrorists worldwide.

Sharp had been following paper trails that led along twisted paths from one dummy company to another offshore subsidiary, then to yet more numbered fronts in a dozen countries. Every bit of corporate lair in existence was being used to cloak sordid, cutthroat deals as legitimate business.

Months of digging had brought Sharp to the point where he was almost ready to tie the loose ends of a thousand unraveled deals together. Then he could truss McIntyre like a Christmas turkey and deliver him squawking to a grand ury.

It was early evening and the executive floor was deserted. Sharp would have left long before if McIntyre hadn't asked him to stay late to assist him at an important meeting. They took a private elevator thirty-six stories down to the reserved section of the garage that held McIntyre's armored limousine.

Kovack, a hard-looking bruiser who doubled as a bodyguard, held the rear door open. Sharp suspected that he was mute since he had never heard the man utter a single sound.

Sharp and his employer rode in silence in the back of the stretch limo, traveling eastward from the gleaming downtown Los Angeles office tower.

McIntyre stared into the distance through the window, his chin propped on his hand. Sharp fidgeted, twisting his fingers together, forcing them apart by an act of will, only to have them join again almost of their own volition. The pressure of leading a double life was getting to him.

Normally a talkative, outgoing man, he was uncomfortable with McIntyre's ability to remain endlessly silent.

Clearing his throat, he ventured a question. "Where are we going?"

McIntyre regarded him closely, but maintained his silence.

Sharp felt like a bug under a microscope. He had always been intimidated by his superior's reticence, which was combined with a ruthless and explosive temper locked behind a seemingly granite exterior. Employees who screwed up didn't last long before McIntyre fired them in a withering blast of sarcastic ire.

"I know you've been anxious to learn more about the business, so I'm taking you to see one of my best customers. It'll be quite a meeting." McIntyre's flat brown eyes held a hint of an unfathomable emotion, which left Sharp puzzled.

McIntyre reached for the built-in bar and spilled an inch of Scotch into two crystal glasses, passing one to Sharp. "Have a nip to ward off the chill and protect us from evil." He turned again to the window.

The limo angled into a decrepit industrial park, where weeds had enveloped the rusting remnants of railway spurs. Hunks of formless metal lay abandoned to the elements. As the black car pulled up to the third warehouse, twelve-foothigh doors slid back with a rumble. The big vehicle passed through, and came to a halt as the doors closed behind it.

A twin of McIntyre's car was parked twenty yards away. A pair of fourteen-foot Ryder trucks stood end on to the left. Two burly workmen leaned against the rear bumper of one truck, two more lounging by the warehouse doors. The old storehouse stretched the length of a football field, the far corners nearly invisible in the gloom. Supports for an overhead crane long since removed ran eighteen feet above. Shards of glass and scraps of wood and metal cluttered the floor, glittering in the headlights of the two stretch Lincolns.

McIntyre climbed out of the vehicle, motioning Sharp to follow. At the same time, four men in immaculate business suits poured from the other limo.

The shortest and roundest of the group advanced, his right hand outstretched, his left swinging a briefcase.

"Ah, Senor McIntyre, a pleasure to do business with you again." The soft accent and the dark features placed the visitor from somewhere south of the Rio Grande.

"Good to see you, Mr. Carrillo," McIntyre responded, taking the proffered hand. "This is Mr. Sharp. I thought he might help convince you of the value of your purchase." Carrillo looked blank for a moment and then roared with laughter.

"You are a good man to do business with, Senor McIntyre. You have such a wonderful sense of humor."

"I'm afraid that not everyone here will share it," McIntyre said, sending Carrillo into a fit once more.

Sharp wasn't sure what was going on.

Obviously there was some joke at his expense, but he couldn't see what the point was. All he knew was that a sense of impending disaster was creeping down his spine, chilling his insides.

McIntyre gestured to the men by the truck, who promptly rolled up the tailgate. One reached inside to grab a coil of thick nylon rope before they advanced leisurely toward McIntyre and Sharp.

"Did you really think I was such a fool as to not notice what you were doing?" McIntyre remarked casually to Sharp. "You were poking your nose into things that were no business of yours. I keep track of who looks at my confidential files, you see."

Sharp stood openmouthed, shocked into inaction. He had known that there was a chance he'd be discovered, but now that it had actually happened, coping was beyond his power.

His legs felt too weak to run.

"I can explain..." was he began, but broke off when McIntyre held up a hand.

By now the two thugs had reached him. One produced a set of handcuffs and clipped the agent's hands together behind his back. The second tied a neat bowline around the cuffs and threw the other end over a support beam fifteen feet off the floor.

"When I started to suspect that you weren't what you appeared to be, I had you followed. I had your phone tapped. You were watched all the time. I knew who you met with and who you spoke to. I knew every time you went to the bathroom. And I found out that you were passing my secrets to the FBI." McIntyre shook his head several times, as though he found what he was saying hard to believe. "I can never forgive an injury and certainly not treason against me. You took my money and sold my secrets."

"I'm an agent with the FBI. You will be in very serious trouble if any harm comes to me," Sharp retorted with more bravado than he felt. A sense of desperation washed over him, and his throat filled with bile. His boss at the Bureau had warned that he was pushing too hard, trying to crack the case too quickly.

McIntyre, stung by the opposition, exploded.

     

 

2011 - 2018