California Hit
muttered, "Crazy Franco."
    "That's the one. They called this man Ralph the Pretender. He was one of those cold, silent ones that stand around, see all, and say nothing."
    Bolan pulled the girl to her feet and led her to the couch. She was sort of shook up. He guided her down, lit a cigarette, glared at her silently for a moment, then he told her, "Okay, it's time for a talk. What is Crazy Franco's interest in Mary Ching?"
    She said, "I... I believe the interest is in Mr. Wo Fan. Obviously he was followed here."
    "Then why didn't the tail stick with him? Why hang around here?"
    "I don't know why."
    "Maybe Ralph the Pretender came with Wo Fan, not behind him. Maybe he hung around outside until the boss left and sent him on up."
    "That's ridiculous!"
    "What makes you so sure of that?"
    "It just is. Besides, I..."
    "You what?"
    "Nothing," she said sullenly. "You can leave now."
    "Not yet. What were you doing at the China Gardens tonight?"
    "I work there."
    "Yeah?"
    "Yeah." She dropped her eyes. "Well... actually I work for Mr. Wo Fan. We've had the China Gardens under surveillance. For some time."
    "Why?"
    "They — well you know what they do there."
    "Sure. But why should Wo Fan care?"
    "He cares about many things."
    "Such as."
    The dark eyes blazed defiantly. "Such as the dangerous way our government has started leaning toward an accommodation of mainland China."
    "Try again," Bolan told her. "That's no reason to be watching Joe Fasco's operation. Is it?"
    "There's more reason than you might think," she declared angrily. "The American underworld has been dealing with Red China for some time. Things have been bad enough around here, even with the official embargo on mainland cargoes. What do you think it's going to be like when the legitimate trade routes are opened?"
    "I don't know," Bolan admitted. "Educate me."
    "There isn't time for a cram course on political science and social economics." Her eyes flashed to the bundle on the floor. "What are we going to do about this dead man?"
    Bolan said, "I'll worry about that. What is Wo Fan's immediate problem?"
    "All the problems are immediate," she replied coldly. "At the moment, he is trying to assure the survival of the legitimate Chinese business community."
    "And things are looking grim?"
    The girl was beginning to thaw again. The hint of smile returned to her voice as she told him, "That's about the softest way of putting it."
    It was time to twang her again.
    He asked, "What were you doing at the China Gardens an hour after the doors closed this morning?"
    "I was gathering intelligence."
    "Uh huh. Of what nature?"
    She glared at him for a moment, then she shrugged and said, "What's the difference? It's all in the fire now."
    He said, "Give, dammit!"
    "I was tracking a shipment."
    "A shipment of what?"
    "Counterfeit art treasures. Ming period, supposedly. They are arriving sometime this week."
    Bolan did not necessarily believe her, but he went along. "By what route?"
    She smiled wryly. "That's what I was about to discover when you blew the place up, Mr. Bolan. Why all the sudden interest? I was getting the idea that..."
    "I'm trying to protect your lovely hide, lady. A hired assassin was standing just outside your door a couple of minutes ago. So listen to me now and think carefully before you answer. Can you think of any reason why Franco Laurentis would send a hit man to your door?"
    "I... I guess not."
    "When I first spotted you this morning, you were in a hell of a hurry. Almost as though someone was chasing you. Was there?"
    She shook her head. "No. I'm sure I hadn't been seen. I was... just..."
    "So you've convinced yourself that these two goons were tailing Wo Fan?"
    "Yes I... what two goons?"
    "There was another one waiting across the street," he explained.
    "Did you?.."
    He nodded. "Clean."
    The girl sighed tremulously and showed him a pair of eyes that had taken in one bloody sight too many. She bit her lip and said, "Well I don't know what to think. I'm just about

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