Having taken on the Serbian mob (The First Rule, 2010), soldier of fortune Joe Pike is ready for a slickly plotted encounter with drug-dealing Bolivians and their strongmen.
Stopping at a service station to top off one of his Jeep’s tires, Pike spots two suspicious men entering a sandwich shop. Moments later, he follows and finds them beating and kicking the owner, Wilson Smith. Attacked by Pike, one assailant flees and the other is swiftly subdued and waiting for the police. But Smith doesn’t want the police, and he doesn’t want the medical care he obviously needs; all he wants is for everybody to leave him alone. When his niece Dru Rayne calls Pike the following morning to tell him that someone’s returned to vandalize the shop, Pike realizes that keeping predators off Smith’s back could amount to full-time work. Working his connections in L.A.’s Ghost Town, he arranges a meeting with up-and-coming gang lord Miguel Azzara, who assures him that Smith’s attackers, Reuben Mendoza and Alberto Gomer, won’t be back. So Pike relaxes enough to take warm, appealing Dru out for a beer and wonder whether she could become the special lady in his life. But the point becomes moot when another call tells him that Smith and his niece have vanished, and not simply because they left for Oregon until things cooled down, as Smith maintained in a phone call. Have they been kidnapped or killed? Why didn’t Azzara protect them? Are the culprits Mendoza and Gomer, or other players in the shadowy game Pike’s walked into? The high-profile involvement of Pike’s ex-colleague Det. Jerry Button of the LAPD and Jack Straw of the FBI alerts Pike and his partner, Elvis Cole, that this case has always been about more than assault and battery. But they aren’t prepared for a series of revelations that make every player’s story suspect.
“War is what I do,” Pike tells Azzara when they first square off. Roger that, and prepare the body bags.