Vengeance in the Ashes [Ashes: 16]
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by William W. Johnstone
Category: Historical Fiction
Description: While ending the rule of slavers, thugs, and cannibalistic Night People on the Hawaiian Islands, Ben Raines and his rebel army learn of a new threat to America. A grim spectra from the past--an army of Nazis led by the maniacal Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman--is marching through South America toward the vulnerable heartland of America. Not content enough to crush America, Hoffman has singled out Ben Raines for a hideous fate. Now, with the famed warrior a prisoner, his life hanging in the balance, only the outnumbered but undefeated Rebels stand in the way of the terrorist trained Death's Head battalions who are bent on the destruction of the once proud land of liberty and freedom!
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1993
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [381 KB]
Reading time: 247-346 min.
After suffering defeats from the Rebels that came very swift and very hard, the pirates and outlaws and thugs on the islands began beefing up their positions and smartening up. They were, to a person, stunned when they realized that the Rebels now controlled much of the island of Molokai, including the main port and the airport. None of them could understand exactly how the Rebels had managed to land so many troops and go undetected.
"Because we got lax," Jerry James said. Jerry was the leader of one of the largest gangs in the island chain. Jerry James was not his real name, but then, most of the outlaws had long since dropped their real names. "Me and Books here has been talking."
Books Houseman, so called because of his love of reading, stood up. Like Jerry, he ramrodded a large gang and was looked upon for guidance because of his extremely high intelligence. Books was also one of the most vicious gang leaders operating anywhere in the islands. His ruthlessness more than made up for his small size. "What it comes down to is this," Books said. "And you all better realize it. We are in a fight for survival. Unlike our counterparts on the mainland, we have no place to run. We either win, or we die. There is no middle ground. So, we've got to be smarter than Ben Raines. There is no way we can stand and slug it out with the Rebels. While we have many more personnel, they've got us outgunned. They're organized, well-trained, and very highly motivated. We, sadly enough, are no more than rabble. But rabble helped defeat Burgundy in France, and we can do the same here. But we've got to plan carefully, and we've got to have one overall commander of all forces. You leaders think about that for a few minutes; talk it over. Then we'll continue this meeting."
Rabble was an apt choice of words. But it wasn't quite strong enough. Slick Bowers looked across the large room at Susie Loo, who was sitting next to Vic Keeler. Susie ran a gang that was very nearly as large as his own and about twice as vicious. Vic was a pirate who enjoyed torturing his captives. He was very inventive. Mac Mackenzie sat alone, his back to a wall. Mac was stone crazy and just about as predictable as a Tasmanian devil. But his gang was large and he ran it with an iron fist. Leo Jones sat quietly smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. Leo was just about as smart as Books, but with a lot more common sense. Larry Perkins stood, leaning against a wall. He had a strange expression on his face, and Slick thought he knew what it was all about. Larry was facing reality. They all knew that the Rebels had never been whipped. The gangs had the finest of radio equipment and had spent years monitoring the movement of the Rebels.
John Dodge said, "So let's talk. Hell, we're wasting time." John ran a cattle ranch on Kauai and had about two hundred men working for him, not counting the slaves. Every gang leader and most of those in the various gangs had slaves. They were worked until they could no longer work, then they were given to the Believers, the cannibalistic Night People, those whom the Rebels called Creepies.
Kip Burdette said, "I'm with Books. I think he's our man. Me and my boys will take orders from Books." Kip was a slaver whose ships roamed all over the Pacific, buying and selling human beings.
Rye Billings nodded his shaggy head. A huge bear of a man, the former mainland outlaw biker was known for his brutality. "I'll take orders from Books. I don't much like the bastard, but he's smart, I got to give him that. We're up against the wall, boys and girls. He's right when he says we got no place to run. This is it."
"The plane we sent out never come back," Dean Sherman said glumly. "The last transmission we had was that it was hit and goin' down."
"And that the pilot was looking' at the biggest damn armada he'd ever seen," Polly Polyanna said. No one knew what her real name might have been. Nobody really cared. "My people will back Books. No problem there."
"Same here," a gang leader who called himself Wee Willie said. "We got too good of a thing goin' here. I ain't givin' none of it up just 'cause some overage Boy Scout says to do it."
"Ben Raines ain't no Boy Scout," Tucker said. "Don't none of you ever think that. I fought that bastard from New York City to California. Or rather, I run from him all that way. Now I got no place left to run. If any of you people come out of this alive, and you find my body when Raines's Rebels is done kickin' our asses, bury me up in the mountains if you can. Mighty pretty country up there."
"Aw, man!" a thug called Spit shouted. "Hell, you act like he's done won this fight. We can whip the Rebels."
"Maybe, just maybe," Tucker said. "But we're gonna have to be awful lucky. You folks don't know Ben Raines. He hates punks and thieves and the likes of us. And in his own way, he's just as mean as we are. Look at who the Rebels has whipped: Hartline, Khamsin, Sister Voleta, the Believers, all the L.A. street gangs, ever army that's ever had the nerve to take them on ... has lost. Been wiped clean off the map. And I don't know how to fight Ben Raines and his Rebels."
"I do," Books said from the open doorway. "Oh, my, yes. I certainly do."
"Get the general up here," a Rebel sergeant radioed back to Ben's CP. "Fast!"
"What's the problem?" Ben asked, as he was stepping out of the vehicle Cooper had procured for him.
"The enemy is gone, sir. They started disappearing about five minutes ago. There isn't a sign of them down the road."
"Well, it's about time," Ben said, lifting his binoculars.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" the sergeant asked.
"I spoke at length with a local name of Jim Peters. He told me that probably the man who would be chosen to lead the thugs and crud would be a man called Books. Last name of Houseman. Highly intelligent fellow. He was an officer in the American service, a graduate of some military academy; Jim didn't know which branch. Books was court-martialed after he was caught selling secrets to some East European country. Before he could be sentenced, the world blew up. He surfaced over here about five years ago. He's respected if not liked by the other gang leaders. I think that this Books fellow has done something no other group we've ever faced had managed to do." He smiled, noting the puzzled look on the sergeant's face. "He's figured out the only way they might stand a chance of beating us. Bet on it."
A group of Rebels had gathered around, listening.
"If I'm right," Ben said, "and I think I am, we're in for some down-and-dirty guerrilla fighting. This campaign is going to be messy, people. Corrie, bump all batt comms. I want a meeting five minutes ago." He looked at the Rebels gathered around him. "Heads up, people. We're about to engage in a lot of hit-and-run fighting."
"I think you're right, Ben," Georgi Striganov said. "This failure to attack, now that they have hundreds of new troops on this island, is ... baffling. Or was."
Ben looked at his son. The young man was so ruggedly handsome, half the women in the Rebel army were in love with the muscular young man ... or thought they were. "I think the crud is breaking up into small teams, son. Take your Rat teams and start head-hunting. Each team take a local with them. Get moving."
His son tossed him a sloppy salute and left the CP, hollering for his team.
Ben looked at the map of the island. "I can't break up the battalions on a hunch. But on the other hand, I can't wait for them to infiltrate us."
Ben turned to stare out the window. "I can't order attack helicopters in to rocket and strafe suspected punk positions on the islands because of the civilian population. I can't order the ships closer in to shell for the same reason. We've got to take the chain island by island. But by doing it that way, it gives the enemy time to beef up and make plans and get set." He turned and thumped the table a couple of good whacks with his fist. "All right, folks. Each of you will pick one full company to be broken up into small groups and start them head-hunting. We've got plenty of local volunteers to act as guides. It's going to be slow and bloody, with the terrain as it is. And if this island is going to be bad, the big island of Hawaii is going to be a bloody son of a bitch!"
Books Houseman, the newly elected supreme commander of all the slime, crap, crud, and those with unhappy childhoods that drove them to a life of crime, read the report and tossed it on the desk. "It didn't take him long to figure it out," he said, with grudging admiration in his tone. "About five minutes. But it's going to take him precious days to clean out Molokai. By that time, we'll be set up all over the place."
"But the citizens will be free," one of his men mentioned.
"It can't be helped. There is no other way to fight Ben and his Rebels. Believe me when I say that all others have been tried. They failed."
"You really think we have a chance, Books?"
"Yes, I do. Albeit a very slim one. This type of warfare is slow and bloody. Both sides are going to take tremendous losses. And that's where we have the advantage. We have thousands more men than the Rebels."
"Are you a general now?"
Books threw back his head and laughed. "That's a good one, Pete. Me, a general. No, I think not. But for a time I did make a lot of money as a lieutenant ... by selling secrets to the Russians."
"Did you ever get any of that Russian pussy, Books?"
"Oh, yes. That was part of the arrangement. I slept with several very lovely young Russian ladies. My last contact killed herself rather than be taken alive. Some agents of the CIA wanted her rather badly. They were working in the United States quite illegally, of course. The bastards."
"Ben Raines used to work for the CIA."
"Yes," Books said softly. "I know. That's why I want to take him alive. It would be very interesting to see just how much pain he can tolerate."
Buddy held up a hand and motioned his Rat team to the ground. He smiled and pointed straight ahead of him toward a tangled rise of land. The local who lay beside him grinned and whispered, "There is a ravine that runs to the east of that knoll. It curves and comes in right behind that rise."
Buddy nodded and said, "Lead the way, Pilipo."
The team silently made their way into the rocky ravine and worked around until they were behind the outlaws' position.
"Do we ask for their surrender?" Pilipo asked in a whisper.
Buddy smiled. "We did, last night. We only ask once." Buddy took a fire-frag from his harness and held it up for the others to see. Within seconds, all the team held fire-frags in their hands. "Now," Buddy said, releasing the spoon and chunking the grenade in a deadly arc.
"Grenades!" the shout sprang from the thickness of green.
The vegetation-thick knoll erupted in fire and shrapnel as the mini-Claymores blew. Wild screaming and howls of pain followed. One outlaw, apparently unhurt, ran from the carnage and was cut down, stopped in his tracks and flung backward from the many rounds that tore into him. The Rat team lay silent, waiting to see if the combat would draw others.
No one came to investigate. "Check it out," Buddy said.
The woman slipped to the blood-splattered rise and seconds later called, "Come on."
"Six-man teams," Buddy said, squatting down beside the torn body of an outlaw. A walkie-talkie lay beside the body. It was on, the volume turned down low. Buddy motioned his team to rest and he wiped the blood off the handy-talkie and wrapped a bandanna around the cupped mouthpiece to muffle his voice and waited.
"Jocko," the voice sprang out of the speaker. "What's happenin' over there?"
"Pinned down," Buddy replied, opening and closing the talk switch, deliberately breaking up the transmission. "Come help us."
"You're breakin' up bad. How many?"
"Looks like about ten."
"On the way. Stay loose. We'll come in from the north."
"Drag that dead man up here with the others," Buddy ordered. "Then get set."
Pilipo looked at Buddy and smiled. "You are a tricky one, Buddy."
"You have to be when you're always outnumbered. No noise now."
The outlaws walked into it. When they got within talking distance, the leader called, "Jocko? You okay?"
"I'm hit!" Buddy called. "Come on. They're gone."
Six more outlaws went down hard and kicking. One was only slightly wounded. He was taken prisoner. "Take all the weapons," Buddy ordered. He looked at the badly frightened outlaw. "Let's get this one back to base."
Teams of Rebel head-hunters came back jubilant, carrying dozens of weapons and bringing in a few prisoners. Some of the prisoners were openly defiant, sneering and cursing at the Rebels and expecting the worst. They got it. But most were frightened and willing to cooperate in exchange for their lives.
Even Ben was somewhat shaken when he read the reports after the interrogations.
"Works out to be about nine to one," Beth said, after doing some quick arithmetic.
"And very well armed," Thermopolis said, standing beside Tina Raines. "But the plan of this Books person may very well backfire as we re-arm the citizens."
"Yes," Ben agreed. "That's what I'm thinking. There is this, too: if he's breaking up his forces into teams on all the islands, the men and women who were being held as slaves will have to be freed. Therm, you and Tina take your battalions and move to the island of Lanai. It was sparsely populated before the war; only about two thousand residents. But it was the pineapple capital and I imagine the thugs have slaves working the old plantations. You're going to have to make the crossing in small boats."
Tina said, "I'll get on the transportation end right now."
The hippie-turned-warrior met the eyes of Ben. "You were right, Ben. This is going to be long and slow and bloody."
Ben held out his hand and Thermopolis shook it. "Good luck to you." He smiled. "Take care of Emil."
Therm rolled his eyes and left. Emil Hite had turned into a good soldier, but you just never knew what the little con artist might try to pull next. But like all Rebels, he was one hundred percent loyal to Ben.
Ben returned to his studying of maps of the islands, talking to himself, even though his staff was sitting in the CP listening. Beth, the official keeper of things that Ben had to do. Cooper, the driver. Corrie, the radio operator. Jersey, Ben's bodyguard. "We'll take Maui next," Ben said. "Seven hundred and twenty nine square miles with a prewar population of eighty-five thousand." He looked up as another half-dozen prisoners were marched in, their hands tied behind their backs. So far, the Rebels had suffered only one wounded and no dead. But Ben knew that would soon change.
"General," Jersey called softly.
Ben turned. A Rebel had brought one of the prisoners to him. "Excuse me, General," the Rebel said. "This misbegotten soul says he was second-in-command of the punks on this island."
"I demand that I be untied and treated in accordance with the rules of the Geneva Convention," the thug said.
"There were several Geneva Conventions," Ben replied. "Which one are you referring to?"
"You know damn well which one I'm talking about."
Ben sat down behind the desk and picked up a 9mm pistol. He clicked it off safety. The prisoner was watching him closely. Ben said, "We don't have to abide by those rules. So far as I know, Geneva no longer exists. Besides, you're not in uniform. What's your name?"
"And you were second-in-command of the crud and crap who controlled this island?"
"I resent being called crud and crap!"
"I don't give a flying rat's ass what you resent, you goddamn sorry overage punk. Soldier, take this bastard out and shoot him."
"Now wait a minute!" Paul said, blood draining from his face. "For God's sake, General..."
"For God's sake?" Ben shouted, rising to his feet. The prisoner backed up, frightened at the look on Ben's face. The muzzle of the Rebel's M-16 stopped him. "God? You dare to mention God? You're just like every two-bit thug I've ever had the misfortune to come in contact with. Big tough boys until your hand is called and then you're pure shit clear through, calling on the Almighty to help you. Why should He help you? Why shouldn't I shoot you? Have you ever done one decent thing in your entire life? Answer me, you putrid bag of batshit."
"I ... uh ... It's my daddy's fault I turned out like I did. My daddy beat me when I was young."
"He didn't beat you enough," Ben told him. "Soldier, get this craphead out of here and over to interrogation before I personally shoot him."
"Oh, let me shoot him, General," Jersey said, winking at Ben and lifting her M-16.
"You people are crazy!" Paul hollered.
"I'll match you for the honor," Cooper said. "I got a coin here in my pocket."
"No, let me shoot him," Beth said, reaching for her M-16. "I haven't shot anyone all day."
"Fine," Ben said. "Go right ahead."
"Good leapin' Jesus Christ!" Paul screamed. "Get me out of this crazyhouse."
The Rebel winked at Ben and turned the prisoner toward the door.
"Look, man," Paul started babbling. "I'll wash dishes, I'll mop the floors, I'll clean out the toilets. I'll do anything. You can't just shoot me down like I was hog for slaughter, man. Give me a break. I ain't really a bad person. I'm tellin' you, man, I got information in my head. I..."
He was still babbling as the Rebel led him off.
"God," Ben snorted. "It's amazing how so many of these slimeballs can turn into a one-man revival when captured."
"Speaking of revivals," Beth said. "Here comes Emil Hite."
"General, my general!" Emil shouted, bouncing into the room. The man had more energy than a generator. "I have found my land of dreams on this beautiful island. Like George Fenimore Cooper and his Paradise Lost..."
"That's Milton, Emil," Ben corrected. "John Milton. And it's James not George."
"Whatever," Emil said. "This is where I wish to spend the rest of my days and like Admiral Byrd, let this be my final resting place."
"Byrd is buried on these islands?" Beth asked. "I didn't know that."
"Charles Lindbergh is," Ben said. "Over on Maui, I think."
"General, I heard the most beautiful singing this afternoon. It was so ... so inspirational, touching a part of me I thought would never be touched again. I thought it had died when my youth faded away. It moved me to tears of joy. It really did. I hadn't experienced anything quite like it since I got drunk one Saturday night and woke up the next morning on the back pew of the Mount Hollyoak MB Colored Church outside Jackson, Mississippi. That was spiritually uplifting too."
"I don't believe you," Cooper said.
"You got drunk and passed out in a church?" Corrie asked.
"I think Jim Nabors lived somewhere around here," Ben said. "Maybe you heard him singing to his macadamia nuts?"
Emil looked confused. "What kind of a nut?"
Ben had started to rise from his chair to physically throw Emil out of the CP when bullets started flying, knocking out windows and putting everybody on the floor.
"Even this is better than having to listen to Emil," Jersey muttered.