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´╗┐Title: Dave Dawson with the R.A.F
Author: Bowen, R. Sidney
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dave Dawson with the R.A.F" ***

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                     DAVE DAWSON WITH THE R.A.F.

                        _by_ R. SIDNEY BOWEN

              _Author of_ "DAVE DAWSON AT DUNKIRK"

                      THE WAR ADVENTURE SERIES

    [Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
    that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
    AKRON, OHIO     NEW YORK

    COPYRIGHT, 1941, BY CROWN PUBLISHERS
    PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

       *       *       *       *       *

                     _THE WAR ADVENTURE BOOKS_

     Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer are the youngest licensed pilots of
     the R.A.F. Thrills aplenty are in store for them as they bag German
     plane after German plane in a series of dare-devil maneuvers.
     Dropped by parachute into Belgium, deep in Nazi-occupied territory,
     on a dangerous spy mission, they escape at the risk of their lives
     with the secret information which enables England to foil the
     planned German invasion. A fast-moving, pulse-quickening narrative!



CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

        I TWO JUNKERS LESS!                                9

       II MYSTERIOUS ORDERS                               24

      III NIGHT RAID                                      34

       IV NAZI WINGS OVER LONDON                          47

        V AIR VICE-MARSHAL SAUNDERS                       68

       VI ENGLAND MUST NEVER DIE                          84

      VII BRAVE WINGS FLY EASTWARD                       101

     VIII TERROR RIDES THE NIGHT SKY                     115

       IX IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY                         128

        X TRAPPED!                                       141

       XI FLIGHT FROM NAZI GUNS                          157

      XII QUICK THINKING                                 175

     XIII SIXTEEN RUE CHARTRES                           194

      XIV PIERRE DESCHAUD SPEAKS                         210

       XV DANGER IN THE DARK                             223

      XVI WINGS OF THE R.A.F.                            237



CHAPTER ONE

_Two Junkers Less!_


Dave Dawson lay on his back, fingers laced behind his head for a pillow,
and lazily watched white patches of cloud play tag with each other at
some eighteen thousand feet over England. It was the tenth day of
September, 1940, and the most glorious summer the British had
experienced in forty years was still very much in evidence. The sun was
a brassy ball in the heavens that flooded the earth with a warm
comforting glow. The birds, the bees, and the butterflies were all
around. And the emerald green of the surrounding landscape gave him the
feeling that the snow and the cold of winter were two things that would
never be experienced in England again.

A perfect summer day! The warm sun, the singing birds, the flowers in
bloom--and the war! Twenty miles across the English Channel, less than
three minutes by air, Nazi hordes were working day and night toward that
great moment when their leader, Adolf Hitler, would give them the order
to begin their attempted invasion of England. And on this side of that
Channel some forty odd millions of people were also working day and
night so that when the order was given, not a single German booted foot
would succeed in touching English soil. A beautiful summer day, and the
people of the greatest empire on earth were waiting, ready to fight and
die to the last man that their empire might continue to survive.

"Well, Pilot Officer Dave Dawson, of His Majesty's Royal Air Force," a
voice suddenly spoke in Dave's ear, "I'll give you a penny for your
thoughts. No, wait, let me guess. You were thinking about your home in
Boston, Massachusetts, back in the States?"

Dave sat up and grinned down at the good-looking, sun-bronzed youth
sprawled out on the grass at his side. He shook his head and held out
his hand.

"Wrong, Pilot Officer Freddy Farmer, of the same Royal Air Force," he
said. "So pay me the penny. I was thinking that it sure is one swell
day. And I was wondering if we were going to get a little action, or if
Hitler had found out we were now regular active service pilots, and had
decided to call off the war."

"Hardly," the English youth said with a chuckle. "True, he's probably
scared stiff now that you and I are in the R.A.F. I fancy, though, he
isn't that scared. But it's pretty wonderful, isn't it? I mean, to be in
the R.A.F."

Dave didn't answer. He let his gaze wander over to the line of
Supermarine Spitfires powered with 1030 hp. Rolls Royce "Merlin"
engines. Just looking at those swift, man-made metal birds of war made
his heart start pounding and the blood surge through his body. An honest
to goodness Spitfire pilot in the Royal Air Force! It was like living a
wonderful dream, and it was doubly wonderful because it was true. The
training and the concentrated study were all behind Freddy and himself,
now. Each wore the highly prized wings above the upper left pocket of
his tunic. But perhaps even more important was the fact that they had
already received their baptism under fire. Each had got himself a German
plane, the first payment in return for the training and instruction
England had given them. For a month, now, they had been stationed with
No. 207 Squadron, located on the east coast of England, just a few miles
north of Chelmsford. Only a month so far on active duty--the "Babies" of
the Squadron--but because of the speed with which wars are being fought
these days, with each day filled with twenty-four hours of service and
activity, they were just as much veterans as most of the older pilots.

"Stop daydreaming," Freddy cut into Dave's thoughts. "You are glad to be
in the R.A.F., aren't you?"

Dave looked at him and raised both his eyebrows.

"Glad?" he echoed. "Boy, I'm tickled pink! Right now I wouldn't swap
places with anybody else in all the world. Glad? Holy smokes! Is that a
dumb question! And say, come across with that penny. Pay up, pal!"

Freddy made a face, fished a penny from his pocket and tossed it over.

"Right you are, there," he said. "I'll have you know an Englishman
always pays his debts. What do you think, Dave?"

"About what?"

"About the blighters across the Channel," Freddy said. "Think they'll be
fools enough to try and invade us? I mean, seriously."

"I don't know," Dave said with a shrug. He plucked a blade of grass and
started chewing on it thoughtfully. "No, I don't know if Hitler's that
crazy, or not," he continued after a moment. "All I can say is I sure
hope he tries it. We'll give him a beating he won't forget in a hurry.
Gee! That makes me feel good!"

"What makes you feel good?" Freddy wanted to know.

"Saying that," Dave grunted. "Saying _we'll_ give him a beating. Gosh, a
few months ago I was an American citizen, standing on the sidelines
watching things. Now, though, I'm a part of it. When I speak of England
doing this or that, I'm including me, because I'm really a little part
of it, now. It sure gives me a kick to feel that way, and to know it's
true."

"And England is grateful, Dave," Freddy said solemnly. "I guess you
might say that England's fighting to save the world, and--"

The young Englishman didn't finish the rest. At that moment the phone
bell in the Dispersal Office not far away rang harshly. In a flash they
were both on their feet, because the ringing of that phone bell always
meant just one thing. It meant that German planes had been sighted
approaching 207's patrol area. The voice at the other end of that phone
would state where the planes were, how many in number, the types, the
altitude, direction, and so forth. To pilots on stand-to duty the
ringing of that bell meant action coming up. And so, as their flight
leader answered the call, Dave and Freddy started pulling on their
helmets and zipping up their flying suits, for although it was summer on
the ground it was cold up around twenty thousand feet where they usually
did battle.

A moment later Flight Lieutenant Barton-Woods, leader of their flight,
known as Green Flight, came dashing out of the Dispersal Office.

"Right-o, chaps!" he called out to them, and hurried toward his plane.
"A couple of Junkers 88s cutting across Zone H at twenty-two thousand.
Let's go up and chase the beggars down into the sea."

In less than a minute the three Spitfires streaked off the field and
went wind screaming up for altitude. As soon as they were clear, Flight
Lieutenant Barton-Woods checked his radio with the field's station, and
then checked with the two members of his flight.

"Radio check, chaps!" came the words in Dave's helmet phones.

"Check, sir," he spoke into the disc-shaped mike in front of his mouth.

"Check, also, sir," he heard Freddy sing out.

"Right you are, lads," the flight lieutenant replied. "Don't forget to
turn on your oxygen at five thousand, so's you won't forget it at
twenty."

Dave reached forward and turned the little valve knob that would feed
him oxygen through a mouthpiece. He didn't need it yet, of course, but
it was a practice to turn the thing on at low altitudes so that it would
be ready for instant use at higher altitudes. If you waited until you
needed oxygen, you might be too busy at that moment fighting for your
life to have time to turn the knob. And then it would be just too
bad--for you.

And so Dave made sure ahead of time, then concentrated on keeping his
place in the V-shaped formation, and following his flight leader high up
into the cloud-dotted blue. In less time than it takes to tell about it,
England was just a blur of browns and greens far down under their wings;
just a tiny island completely surrounded by water and almost within
broad jumping distance of Nazi-conquered Europe. Dave, however, didn't
bother about admiring the sight. He had seen it countless times before.
And besides, he needed his eyes now for things above, not under him.
Somewhere up in that vast expanse of white-dotted blue two German
Junkers were trying to sneak in to drop their bomb loads on English
soil. Two of Air Marshal Goering's winged vultures were hoping to--

"There they are, chaps!" Flight Lieutenant Barton-Woods' voice came
through the earphones. "Turn right a quarter, and a thousand feet above
us. Tally-ho, lads! The blighters! They spotted us and are turning back!
After them, Green Flight!"

Dave and Freddy had already spotted the two would-be raiders off to
their right front and a thousand feet or so higher. The huge twin-engine
craft were halfway around in a bank back toward the east, and the rays
of the sun on their metal wings and sides made them look like
prehistoric birds of glistening silver cutting through the air.

Keeping his eyes glued to them, Dave hunched forward slightly in his
seat and slid one thumb up to rest on the trigger button on his control
stick. One jab at that button and the eight Vickers high speed machine
guns cowled into the Spitfire's wings, four on each side, would spew out
a shower of destruction at the rate of over nine thousand bullets a
minute. All eight guns were sighted to converge at a point some two
hundred yards in front of the ship. And anything that crossed that spot
when those eight guns were hammering out their song was doomed to a lot
of trouble--and nine times out of ten just plain, naturally doomed.

For a split second Dave took his eyes off the Junkers trying to scoot
back home and shot a quick glance at Freddy Farmer. His lips twisted
back in a happy smile, and a warm comforting glow drifted through him.
Good old Freddy. Always there just off his wingtip. A pilot in a
million, as far as Dave was concerned. They flew like a team that had
been working together for years instead of only a few months. Each
seemed to sense instantly, whether on a routine practice patrol or in
the middle of a bullet-barking dog fight, just what the other was going
to do. And as a result of the perfect coordination between them, more
times than not they got exactly what they went after. As Squadron Leader
Trenton, 207's commanding officer, had once remarked:

"They're the babies of the Squadron, but I jolly well wish I had a whole
squadron of babies!"

At that moment a short, savage burst from Flight Lieutenant
Barton-Woods' guns snapped Dave's eyes back to the Junkers. They were
still quite a ways off but the Green Flight leader had let go with a
challenging burst hoping that the Germans would give up thoughts of
escape and turn back to give battle. However, it was instantly obvious
that the Junkers pilots and their crews didn't want any truck with three
Spitfire pilots. The nose of each ship was pushed down a bit to add
speed to the get away attempt. And a moment later Dave saw the flash of
sunlight on bombs dropping harmlessly down into the rolling grey-green
swells where the Channel blends in with the North Sea.

"Not this day, my little Jerries!" Flight Lieutenant Barton-Woods' voice
boomed over the radio. "Let's make the beggars pay for dropping bombs in
our Channel, Green Flight! Give it to them!"

The last was more or less the signal that each pilot was on his own.
Dave waited until he saw his flight leader swerve off to slam in at the
Junkers to the right. Then he touched rudder, and with Freddy sticking
right with him, swerved off after the other German raider. They were
real close now, well within gun range, and as the pair slid out to take
up attack positions the Junkers' gunners started throwing nickel
jacketed lead. The wavy smoke of tracers whipped and zipped by a few
feet over Dave's head. He laughed into his mike and dropped his nose and
cut sharply off to the right. Freddy did the same, only off to the left.

No sooner had they started the cutting away maneuver than they cut right
back in again. The German gunners saw them coming and fired their guns
savagely, but those two R.A.F. lads tore in like a couple of man-made
birds gone completely crazy. It was as though they both intended to fly
right straight into the Junkers. Then when there were no less than a
couple of split seconds left before just that would happen, Freddy
Farmer's voice sang out in Dave's earphones.

"Right-o, Dave!" he shouted. "This one for us!"

They both jabbed their trigger button and sixteen Vickers machine guns
poured a withering blast of destruction into that Junkers 88. For a few
seconds the German raider continued to roar eastward. Then suddenly its
port engine belched out a cloud of red flame and oily black smoke. Then
as though the craft had hooked its left wing on some invisible wall in
the sky, the Junkers staggered to the left and down. Its tail gunner
kept up his fire as Dave and Freddy skipped past and zoomed up to dive
attack again. But that German might just as well have tried to shoot at
a couple of lightning bolts flashing by.

Cutting short their zoom Dave and Freddy rolled their Spitfires over and
let them drop by the nose. Down they came again, holding their fire
until the last few seconds. The Junkers now was more like a moving cloud
of smoke than an airplane flying through the air. And when Dave and
Freddy jabbed their trigger buttons again it was the death blow for that
German raider. The right wing broke off clean at the stub, and carried
the starboard engine along with it. From nose to tail the Junkers became
no more than a moving ball of fire. Then suddenly the gas tanks let go.
The whole sky was filled with barbs of darting flame and billowing
clouds of black smoke. The sky trembled and shook ... and then the
Junkers 88 just wasn't there any more. It was a shower of smoking and
flaming debris slithering down into the North Sea.

"Good lad, Dave!" Freddy sang out. "Your bursts did it!"

"My bursts, nothing!" Dave called back to him. "I didn't even come close
to the guy. That was your plane, Freddy. Congratulations!"

"Rot!" Freddy snorted into his disc mike, also known as the "flap" mike.
"We'll split the beggar and each take half, eh? Oh, oh, Dave! The flight
lieutenant's in trouble!"

It was true. Perhaps there was a better pilot in the other Junkers, or
perhaps gunners with a better aim, or it was even possible Flight
Lieutenant Barton-Woods had become careless for a moment or so. Anyway,
he had not nailed his man, and the Junkers gunners were giving him quite
an uncomfortable time as he zoomed up into the clear. Dave and Freddy
didn't speak a single word between them. They simply wheeled across the
sky in perfect attack formation, and then roared down on the Junkers.

Its rear gunner was no novice, and he had courage. He stuck to his guns
and returned their own savage fire. Dave felt his plane quiver slightly,
and knew that German bullets were hitting his ship. But he didn't swerve
an inch. His wing howled down at the German and he held his fire until
the right moment. This time he shouted the signal.

"Smack it, Freddy!"

Their guns hammered and yammered out their song, and Dave could clearly
see their tracers zinging down into the German plane. No man-made
airplane on earth could have withstood that blasting fire from the
sixteen guns between the two youths. And that Junkers 88 was no
exception to prove the rule. It burst into flame and went careening
crazily off on one wing. Then it dropped by the nose, and started
howling seaward in a vertical power dive. After it had dropped three or
four hundred feet, five black dots popped out from it like peas out of a
pod. They instantly became men in Dave's vision, and they slowly turned
over and over as they fell down through the air. At the end of almost
thirty seconds a puff of white shot up from each man's back. They spread
out into parachute envelopes, and five German airmen drifted slowly down
toward the surface of the North Sea where British motorboats waited to
pull them in as captured prisoners.

Dave and Freddy didn't bother watching the five German airmen float
downward. Instead they pulled up out of the dives, closed in on Flight
Lieutenant Barton-Woods and took up formation positions. Their leader
grinned at them, and they heard his voice coming over the radio.

"Stout work, you two," he said. "Made an awful mess of it, myself. But
you two were along, so I knew everything would be fine. Well, let's toot
on back home and report to the O.C."



CHAPTER TWO

_Mysterious Orders_


Less than half an hour later, the three pilots of 207 were reporting all
details of the patrol to Squadron Leader Trenton, and the R.A.F.
Intelligence officer who sat at his side. No matter how trivial a patrol
may be, R.A.F. pilots always make a complete report upon their return to
the home field. That way the ranking powers are always able to have a
complete picture of the war in the air before them. In other words,
every single scrap of information about a patrol is important, because
you never can tell what it might mean in the whole scheme of things. For
that reason the pilots not only made out their reports in writing, but
made them by word of mouth, too.

"Good work, you two," the Squadron Leader said, and smiled at Freddy and
Dave. "It's not such an easy job getting a Junkers 88. Those planes have
a pretty fair amount of fire power. So getting _two_ of them is a mighty
good piece of work. And, oh yes, stay a bit, will you? I want to have a
talk with you."

A few minutes later Flight Lieutenant Barton-Woods and the Intelligence
officer headed off for the mess. As the door closed on them, Squadron
Leader Trenton swung around in his chair and gave the two boys a long
piercing stare. Then he suddenly clasped his hands on the desk and
leaned forward.

"I say, you two," he spoke up, "have you gotten yourselves into a bit of
trouble that might have been reported to the Air Ministry in London?"

Dave and Freddy looked blankly at each other for a brief moment, then
returned their gaze to the squadron leader.

"Trouble, sir?" Dave echoed faintly.

"When, sir?" Freddy added. "And where?"

The squadron commander shrugged and looked completely at sea.

"I haven't the faintest idea," he said. "I was only asking you. Nothing
happened when you two popped up to London for a day's leave last week?"

"Why, no, sir," Freddy answered promptly for them both. "We just nosed
around and saw a couple of shows, that's all. We were both back here at
the squadron by midnight."

"Why?" Dave put the question. "Has anything happened, sir?"

"I can't say," Squadron Leader Trenton murmured, and stared at them with
a troubled look in his eyes. "Just after you took off on this last show,
I received a phone call from Air Ministry. You two are ordered to report
to Air Vice-Marshal Saunders bright and early tomorrow morning. You'd
better go up to London tonight so's you'll be sure and be at Adastral
House (R.A.F. name for the Air Ministry) bright and early."

"Air Vice-Marshal Saunders?" Freddy Farmer repeated in an awed tone.
"But why would he want to see us, sir?"

Squadron Leader Trenton smiled thinly as he gestured with his two hands
on the desk.

"In this case, I still haven't any idea," he said. "Usually, though,
it's for one of two reasons: to give you a very hot going over for
breaking some rule and getting into trouble; or else to give you his
personal congratulations as he tells you you've been recommended for a
medal."

"Well, it surely can't be for either of those reasons," Dave said with a
frown. "We certainly haven't bumped into any trouble, and we certainly
haven't done anything to rate a medal. And--My gosh! Holy smokes! Do you
suppose--?"

Dave gulped and didn't finish the rest. Squadron Leader Trenton gave him
a keen glance.

"Do I suppose what, Dawson?" he prompted.

Dave had to swallow again before he could speak. A crazy thought had
suddenly flashed through his brain, but just the same it had given him a
cold chill.

"Do you suppose there's some new law?" he began. "I mean, could there be
some new ruling that might force us to resign our commissions because
we're both only seventeen, a year under the regulation age?"

A look of relief flooded the senior officer's face. He laughed and shook
his head.

"Not even likely!" he said in firm conviction. "After the way you two
chaps have stood up, it doesn't matter in the slightest how old you
are--seventeen or seventy. No, Dawson, I think I can assure you
positively that the R.A.F. will never make any new ruling or law that
would rid it of you two. No, you can let that worry bail out of your
mind, and forget it forever. No, that wasn't the reason for my phone
call."

"And you really haven't _any_ idea, sir?" Freddy asked. "I mean, could
this possibly mean that Dawson and I are being transferred someplace
else?"

"By gad, I hope not!" the squadron leader exclaimed sharply, and sat up
in his chair. "No, it couldn't be that, either. I would be informed. The
transfer papers would be sent along to me. Besides, I'd raise the roof
at any suggestion like that."

"Boy, I wish we were reporting today," Dave grunted. "I know doggone
well I won't sleep a wink tonight!"

"Which may be the exact truth!" Squadron Leader Trenton said with a dry
smile. "The Jerries are starting to bomb London at night, now, you
know. And by the way, if they do while you two are there, just see to it
that you keep out from under, won't you? It cost the R.A.F. a fair penny
to make Spitfire pilots out of you. We want a return on the investment,
you know."

The two boys laughed, but inside they glowed and felt very happy indeed.
That was simply Squadron Leader Trenton's way of saying that he valued
their aid to 207, and didn't want anything to happen that would rob 207
Squadron of their flying and combat ability.

"Don't worry, we'll sure watch our step, sir," Dave said. Then, with a
quick side glance at Freddy: "I'll see that he doesn't stumble over any
bombs. I'll keep hold of his hand all the time."

The squadron leader laughed, and Freddy Farmer blushed to the ears.

"When anybody has to hold my hand, I'll jolly well let you know!" the
young Englishman said scornfully. "Like as not, it'll be the other way
'round. Don't you think his face is getting a bit pale already, sir?"

Freddy addressed the last to Squadron Leader Trenton, who laughed again.

"Can't say for sure, Farmer," the O.C. said gravely. "The light's bad in
here, you know. Well, anyway, pop along, you two, and pack a bag. The
adjutant will give you railroad vouchers, and your passes. Get back here
soon. And no matter what--good luck to both of you."

The two youths thanked him, saluted and retreated outside. As they
started toward their living quarters, Dave slyly stuck out his foot, and
when Freddy tripped over it and started to fall headlong, Dave grabbed
him quickly.

"See?" Dave chided, as he helped Freddy to keep his balance. "Just as I
thought! You need somebody to hold your hand. Oh, well, I'll be glad to
do it, because I like you, little boy. _Hey!_"

Freddy caused the exclamation, because as he straightened up he stepped
hard on Dave's foot, then broke into a sprint for their living quarters.
The English youth won by a good three yards. He was inside and hauling
out his suitcase as Dave came bursting in. He glanced up with a look of
mock concern on his face.

"Something wrong, Dave?" he murmured. "Is a Jerry chasing you?"

"Just a pal!" Dave growled, and limped toward his own bunk. "I stop the
guy from falling down and breaking his neck, and what does he do? He
practically cripples me for life. A fine screw-ball I've got for a pal.
Say, Freddy?"

"Yes?"

Dave sank down on his bunk with a frown and made no effort to haul out
his suitcase.

"This business at Adastral House tomorrow," he grunted. "Jeepers! I sure
hope it isn't bad news. I don't know why, but I've got a funny feeling."

Freddy stopped packing and looked up.

"What kind of a funny feeling?" he wanted to know.

Dave scratched the back of his neck and sighed.

"Just a funny feeling, that's all," he said. "I can't put it into words.
I've just got a hunch that plenty is going to happen."

"Good, or bad?" Freddy asked.

Dave shook his head and got off the bunk.

"Boy, do I wish I knew!" he breathed. "Well, we can only wait and hope,
I guess. Where do you want to stay in London? Your family's house on
Baker Street is closed up, isn't it?"

"Yes," Freddy said. "But, if you like, we can open it for the night.
There'd be no objections."

"No, let's bunk at a hotel," Dave said. "How about the Savoy? That's
close to the Air Ministry."

"So the lad's a blinking millionaire!" Freddy commented with a chuckle.
"He must stay at the very best of places. Too bad they don't rent room
and bath at Buckingham Palace."

"Okay, okay!" Dave growled. "Then where do we park?"

"Why, at the Savoy, of course," Freddy said with a sly grin. "I fancy
our pilot officer's pay can stand it for one night. And that makes me
wonder a bit, you know?"

"What does?" Dave asked absently, as he started studying a London
timetable. "What are you wondering about now, my little man?"

"I was wondering where we'll be _tomorrow_ night," Freddy replied.

"Somehow I don't even dare guess," Dave said. "And--Hey, get a move on,
fellow! There's a train leaving Chelmsford in forty minutes. Let's grab
that. It gets us in London just about in time to put on the feed bag.
Gee! I wonder if they've got strawberry shortcake at the Savoy. Boy,
can I go for that dish!"

"Good grief!" Freddy groaned. Then, in mock gravity: "Why, certainly, my
dear fellow. Anything for a weary R.A.F. pilot, you know. After all, who
else is fighting the blinking war?"

Dave heaved a book at him, but Freddy dodged it neatly, and then the
pair set to packing in earnest. As they expected to be away only a day
and a night at the most, they didn't put many "spares" into their bags.
As a matter of fact, though, had the two of them been able to look into
the future at that moment, they wouldn't have bothered about packing
anything! Clean shirts, spare socks and handkerchiefs, and all that sort
of stuff, were items they wouldn't be even thinking about in the hectic
days that lay just ahead.

"Okay, I'm set, are you?" Dave presently announced, and clicked his bag
shut.

"Right you are," Freddy called out, and shut his own bag. "Off we go!"

Dave caught up his bag and started for the door. When he reached it, he
suddenly paused and turned around.

"Doggone that hunch!" he grunted. "Wonder what it means, anyway?"



CHAPTER THREE

_Night Raid_


The shrill whistle of the locomotive echoed across the twilight-steeped
English countryside. The train lurched and trembled for a moment or so,
and then started gliding smoothly along the tracks. Dave and Freddy took
a last glance out the compartment window at the Chelmsford station and
then settled back comfortably on the cushioned seats. They had the
compartment to themselves, and for that they were truly grateful. They
were headed for London for half leave and half military reasons, but
that didn't mean they weren't tired. The last few weeks had been crowded
with more aerial warfare than had taken place in a whole year in World
War Number One. The Royal Air Force had almost single-handed held back
the Nazis from crossing the Channel. Still outnumbered, but not so much
as at Dunkirk, the R.A.F. boys from the squadron leaders right down to
the lowest grade mechanics had gained mastery of the air over the
Channel and over England. And, what was more important, they had held
that mastery regardless of the German fleets of planes Goering had
hurled against them.

Stretching out, Dave leaned his head back, and cocked his feet up on the
opposite seat.

"If I could only get Air Vice-Marshal Saunders off my mind," he sighed,
"I might catch me a bit of shut-eye. Boy, we've been hitting that old
ball lately, you know?"

"Hitting what?" Freddy murmured, and closed his eyes. "What in the world
does that mean?"

"Sure, hitting the old ball," Dave said lazily. "Smacking that apple.
Hitting on all six. Right on the beam every minute. Catch on?"

"Oh, of course!" Freddy groaned, and gave a shake of his head. "A chap
who spoke English would certainly be at a loss in the States, wouldn't
he?"

"That's right," Dave said sleepily. "Just like an American being in
England. Lift, for elevator! Treacle, when it's syrup! Queue-up, when
you mean standing in line. Boy, what a language! And, am I all in!
Jeepers! Am I tired! Am I--"

The sudden and abrupt slackening of the train's speed woke both boys up
in a flash. In fact, it woke them up in the dark, for it was late
evening outside, and while they had dozed the conductor had come in and
pulled down the compartment window curtains. A very pale blue light in
the corridor outside was of no more good than no light at all.

Freddy groaned aloud, flexed his stiff muscles, and peered around a
corner of the window curtain.

"Now what?" he murmured. "Dark as pitch outside, but I'm sure we're not
even close to London yet. I say, hear those anti-aircraft guns?"

"With both ears," Dave said, and took a squint out himself.

By pressing close to the glass and trying to look in the direction of
the engine, he could just barely see the long pencil-thin beams of
searchlights raking the heavens far ahead. And every now and then the
dark sky was stabbed by blotches of flaming red and crimson.

"The Jerries are over again, trying to hit some more women and
children," he said grimly. "I hope our night boys get every darn one of
them."

"They'll get some, I fancy," Freddy said quietly. "But why are we
running so slow? That raid is miles and miles ahead of us. Besides, I
always thought a moving target was much harder to hit. This blasted
train might just as well go sixty miles as six, as it must be doing
now."

"Stay after school, Pilot Officer Farmer!" Dave snorted. "And here I
thought you knew all the answers! My, my!"

"Oh, come off it!" Freddy snapped. "I suppose you know the reason?"

"Sure," Dave said.

"Well, what is it?"

"An official secret," Dave said in a hoarse whisper. "I'd tell you, but
how do I know there isn't a Nazi agent under the seat?"

"_You'll_ be under the seat, if you don't cut it out!" Freddy whispered
back at him. "Now, what's the great reason?"

"Okay, if you've got to know," Dave said in a patient, resigned voice.
"This is how it is, my little man. German planes carry bombs, and when
they get over here they drop those bombs, see? Well, one might drop on
the track way ahead of a train going sixty miles an hour, see? Well,
maybe the engineer couldn't stop in time, and the train would pile up.
But if the train crawls along until the all-clear is sounded, then the
engineer can stop it on a dime if he should go around a curve and
suddenly see a nice big bomb crater where the tracks should be. Now,
right or wrong?"

Freddy made clucking sounds with his tongue in the darkness.

"Why, I believe the chap is right," he said, as though talking to
himself. "Yes, I fancy he has a little bit of something useful between
those big ears of his. You are right, of course, Dave."

"Ever see me when I was wrong?" Dave taunted. Then quickly: "No, let's
not bring that up! Hey! Those planes are headed this way!"

Dave could have saved his breath on the last. As though a huge invisible
door in the sky had been opened, the thunder of the guns tripled in
sound. The compartment was suddenly bathed in the pale reflection of a
battery of searchlight beams that suddenly sprang into action less than
fifty yards from the tracks. The train had come to a full halt now, with
its headlight turned off. A moment later came the familiar drone of
night-bombing Heinkels and Benz-Daimler powered Focke-Wulf 187s above
the roar of the batteries of anti-aircraft guns.

For a moment Dave and Freddy watched the approach of the raiding planes.
Then common sense got the best of curiosity. They stretched out on the
compartment floor beside each other to protect themselves as much as
possible in case any of those eggs of death should happen to land near
the train. Perhaps they looked funny huddling down on the compartment
floor in their best Sunday-go-to-meeting uniforms. However, in England
it is not a sign of being afraid or of cowardice to fling yourself flat
when the bombers come over. It is a sign of good sense. Perhaps it is
true that the bomb or bullet that gets you has your name on it, and you
can't escape it no matter where you are. At the same time, though, only
a fool or a madman deliberately dares a bomb to do him harm.

And so Freddy and Dave hugged the floor while the raiders roared over
and plastered the countryside with their loads of death and destruction.
At least fifty times an earth-shaking roar, and a towering sheet of
flame, made them think that was the last bomb they'd ever hear in this
war, or in this world. Each time invisible hands seemed to reach down
out of that roaring, flame-filled night sky and lift the train clear up
off the tracks, and then let it drop back with a jarring crash. After
each outburst, however, they continued to remain alive. And presently
the throbbing drone died away in the distance, the roaring and barking
of the guns ceased, and the searchlight beams winked out one by one.
Night returned again to that section of England--night painted here and
there with the glow of fires set by the bombs.

"The big bums!" Dave growled, and got up off the floor. "As if you and I
haven't got enough to worry about without them buzzing over to make
things worse. Were you scared, Freddy?"

"Stiff," the English youth promptly replied.

"Me, too," Dave said with half a chuckle. "That's my knees you hear,
still knocking together. And they say you get used to air raids. Oh
boy!"

"You probably do," Freddy said. "But I have no desire to prove it to
myself. I hope the blighters didn't hit the track. It's a long walk from
here to London. I say, what's that?"

At that moment a burst of shots had shattered the comparative silence
outside. Regardless of regulations, the boys threw up their compartment
window and leaned out. They saw a figure stumbling through the shadows
alongside the train. He was bent over double as though in pain, and his
footsteps faltered. Just as he came abreast of their compartment some
more shots rang out. The stumbling figure stumbled for the last time. He
fell forward, flat on his face, and lay still. In a few seconds half a
dozen men in uniform came rushing up. One of them flashed a light on the
still figure, then bent down and rolled him over.

"Well, that's one blighter they won't be able to count on from now on!"
a voice growled. "A jolly good thing he's finished, too!"

"Right!" a second voice said. "If we hadn't been a patrol, it might have
turned out a mess for this train. Fancy the beggar trying to let them
know where it was!"

"I say there!" Freddy called, and leaned farther out the window. "What's
all this?"

"Keep back in that train, and--!" a voice started to say, but stopped as
the flashlight beam caught Dave and Freddy for a second in its glow.
"Oh, sorry, sir," the same voice spoke again. "Thought you were just
nosy civilians, not R.A.F. Well, sir, we caught another one of them
Fifth Column beggars trying to do us harm."

"Yes, sir; that's right, sir," another voice broke in. "We were on our
usual patrol along the track when suddenly we saw some bloke slinking
along ahead of us. The raiders weren't even close, then, so we just
followed this beggar and didn't challenge him. Well, strike me pink,
sir, if he didn't drop down on the tracks, and whip one of them red
flare things from his pocket and start to light it."

"But he didn't get away with it, I can tell you, sir," the first voice
spoke up. "Me and Harry, here, right ups and jumps on him before he's
even got the match to it. But he's a strong one, and he gives us a bit
of a fight, and--"

"A bit of a fight?" the other voice interrupted again. "The blighter
tosses us around like we're a couple of rag dolls, and starts scooting
down the track. By then the bombers are right over us, and--Well, I
guess you heard the things they dropped. Anyway, we lose this blighter
for a bit during the mess-up. Then we spot him trying to get on the
train. We don't bother to challenge, now. We just let him have what he
deserves. And here he is. A good thing, too!"

"A _very_ good thing," Freddy added. "Congratulations. You're air raid
wardens, aren't you?"

"That's right, sir," one of them replied. "Too old for any regular
military work, but we're jolly well glad to do what we can to help."

Dave looked down at the still figure on the ground. But for the
watchfulness and constant vigilance of those "old" men, that dead Nazi
spy might have lighted the signal flare on the track and made it
possible for the German bombers overhead to see the slow moving train.
But for those "old" men a bomb might have come screaming down to strike
the train and blow one Dave Dawson and one Freddy Farmer straight into
the next world. Dave glanced up at the men, and his eyes glowed with
frank and open admiration.

"And without your help," he said, "England would be in a pretty tough
spot. She can thank you fellows for a lot--and how!"

The air raid wardens chuckled in an embarrassed sort of way.

"Well, thank you, sir," one of them said. "It's mighty nice of you to
put it that way. We're glad to do our bit, though. You sound like a
Yank, sir."

"Oh, don't mind that," Freddy spoke up with a laugh before Dave could
say a word. "You'd be surprised how he mangled the language at first.
But he's really doing awfully well--for a little fellow. The squadron
commander's going to let him taste his first cup of tea next week.
And--_Ouch!_"

Dave had eased off the window catch so that it slid down on Freddy's
neck. He held it there with his hands and grinned at the air raid
wardens through the glass. They roared with laughter. Then as the train
started to move, Dave released Freddy's neck and pushed the window up.

"Good luck!" he shouted, and leaned out. "Thumbs up, mates!"

"The same to you, sir!" they shouted back. "Thumbs up, R.A.F.!"

The train picked up speed, and another little incident in the war
careers of Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer became history. They closed the
window, pulled the curtain down, and sank back on the seats. Freddy
rubbed the back of his neck and glared at Dave's grinning face.

"Go ahead and grin, you queer-looking ape," he muttered. "But I'll get
back at you, no fear. And when I do, you'll jolly well know it, too."

"Let that be a lesson to you to speak of your superiors in the future
with more respect," Dave chuckled. "You're lucky, my little man, I
didn't make you keep your head hanging out there all the way to London.
But, gee, you English are certainly swell people!"

"Naturally," Freddy said in mock gravity. "Look who we are, my dear
fellow. And just think how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to
observe and learn."

"No kidding, though," Dave said, "Hitler just hasn't a chance. It gave
me a great kick to meet those air raid wardens back there."

"I know what you mean," Freddy said, and nodded. "It isn't just the
Army, and the Navy, and the Air Force fighting Hitler, now. It's
England--all of England from the oldest right down to the youngest."

"What a dope Hitler was even to think he could get away with it!" Dave
murmured. "Boy, oh boy! Is that guy riding for one big fall!"

"And I jolly well hope it will be soon!" Freddy echoed. "And that
reminds me. I certainly wish I knew what Air Vice-Marshal Saunders wants
of us!"

Dave groaned and slid down on the seat.

"My pal!" he sighed unhappily. "Just when I was all nice and relaxed,
you'd have to go and bring _that_ up!"



CHAPTER FOUR

_Nazi Wings Over London_


Dave gave the bell-hop a shilling and waited for the boy to step out
into the hall and close the door. Then he took three running steps,
jumped, and landed flat on his back on the bed. The springs squeaked in
protest but didn't give way. Dave flung out his arms and sighed loudly.

"Boy, a real bed!" he exclaimed. "Look, Freddy, this is a bed. Springs,
mattress, sheets, blankets, and everything. And it's all mine until
tomorrow. Of course those things we have out at the squadron aren't too
tough. But this! This is a real bed. Turn out that light, pal. I'm
practically asleep right now. Gosh! That train took a million years,
didn't it?"

Freddy didn't reply at once. He slung his suitcase onto the other bed,
then came over and grabbed Dave by the feet. A good yank and Dave was on
the floor.

"You're not using that bed, yet," Freddy grinned down into his startled
face. "There's plenty of time for your beauty sleep. First we're going
out to have a look at the black-out."

"Going out?" Dave groaned and got slowly to his feet. "Me go out and
crack my shins against things in the dark? Nit, nat, no, my little man.
Mrs. Dawson's pride and joy is going to bed. And I'm not kidding."

Freddy grinned wickedly and dropped into a wrestler's crouch.

"You think so?" he murmured. "Right you are! Just try and get into that
bed."

"So that's it, huh?" Dave grunted and took a cautious step forward.
"I've got to tie and gag you first? Or maybe you didn't hear me. _I'm_
going to bed. You take London and the black-out. Me, I'm taking the bed.
I--"

Dave cut the last off short and leaped forward, but Freddy was too quick
for him. The English youth darted to the side, then turned in a flash
and caught Dave's arms and pinned them behind his back.

"Do you go quietly with me, my little American chap?" he said. "Or shall
I phone down for the Savoy Hotel manager to come up here and give me a
hand?"

Dave struggled for a second or two, but was unable to break his friend's
hold.

"Darned if the youngster hasn't a little bit of strength, at that!" he
said in mocking surprise. "I'd better not be so easy with him after
this. Okay, you win. Stop breaking my arms."

"We go for a walk?" Freddy asked, still keeping his hold.

"Okay, we walk," Dave said, and groaned wearily. "But if you fall down a
man-hole--and you know what I hope--don't go yelling at me for help."

Freddy released his grip and stepped quickly backward. Dave rubbed his
arms and scowled at him.

"Yeah, you do know a couple of tricks, don't you," he grunted. "But
look. Why can't we see London in the daytime, when it's light? I'm dead
on my feet, no kidding. You'd--"

Dave didn't finish. At that moment the familiar but always
nerve-rasping wail of the air raid siren filled the night air outside.
Freddy jumped across the room, and flipped off the light switch. Then
the two went over to the window and pulled aside the black-out curtains.
Far to the east the black sky was being stabbed by long pencils of white
light that slowly swung back and forth from horizon to horizon. In a
moment there came the dull pounding of distant anti-aircraft batteries.
The sound grew louder and sharper as it drew near. Suddenly both boys
jumped as a battery nearby went into savage, furious action. It was so
close it seemed practically under their feet.

"Holy smokes!" Dave gulped, and backed away from the window. "I swear I
saw those shells going right up past the end of my nose. Get back from
that window, Freddy. Concussion might blow in that glass and do plenty
to your face. Let's--"

_Br-r-rump!_

The sound of an exploding bomb a few blocks away cut Dave's words off
short. He looked at Freddy, and they both grinned sheepishly.

"I guess you're right!" Dave exclaimed. "I'm not going to bed. Let's go
borrow a couple of tin helmets from the manager, if he has any, and go
up on the roof."

"The roof?" Freddy echoed, and his eyes widened suddenly. "What in the
world?"

_Wha-a-ang! Br-r-rump!_

Two bombs let go in rapid succession. They seemed to explode almost
right outside the window. Dave and Freddy threw themselves flat on the
floor between the twin beds, and held their breath. The hotel rocked and
shook violently, and there was the tinkle of glass as the shattered
window spilled into the room. They waited until the echo of the
explosions had died away, and then got slowly to their feet. There was
just a hole now where the window had been--a hole that looked out on a
world gone suddenly mad with roaring sound and flashing red, orange and
yellow flame. Freddy groped for Dave's hand and shook it warmly.

"Thanks, very much," he said in a tight voice.

"Thanks?" Dave murmured. "For what?"

"For reminding me to keep away from windows during a bombing raid,"
Freddy said. "But just before that blighter scared ten years off my
life, what were you saying? Oh, yes. You want to go up on the roof?"

"Sure," Dave said with a nod. "For a look. We'll be as safe there as any
place. If one's coming, it'll come. Just standing here waiting gives me
the creeps, anyway."

"Me, too," Freddy agreed. "Let's go, then. Bet the manager's in the raid
shelter, though, and won't dig up tin helmets for us for love nor
money."

"Well, we can try," Dave said. "And--Drop, Freddy! Here comes another!"

Dave's words of warning were just a waste of breath. The screaming
whistle of that bomb hurtling downward cut through all sound. As Dave
flung himself flat again, he had the crazy feeling of listening to some
huge invisible giant tearing off the top of the world. Even the
anti-aircraft battery close to the hotel was drowned out by the
unearthly sound of that falling bomb. Then it struck, and the hotel
seemed to rise right straight up in the air. Dave was sure he could feel
the floor heave under him. He closed his eyes tight, and held his
breath. For a long moment everything seemed to stop dead. Then the hotel
settled back like something alive but so very, very tired. A second
later there was a short series of sharp cracking sounds, and ceiling
plaster fell down on the two R.A.F. pilots.

"That baby was trying to mean business!" Dave said, and got to his feet
again. "Hitler must know we're in town, the way so many of them are
coming close. Hey, that _did_ hit close. The building next door!"

The hole where the window had been was now like the entrance to a long
blazing tunnel. Thirty feet away the three upper floors of a building
were blazing fiercely. And when the two boys leaped over to the window
hole, they saw that the entire front of the building had been torn away
by the terrific blast. In the glow of the flames they could see right
into rooms full of broken and mangled furniture and apartment
furnishings. On the rear wall of one room was a framed picture of King
George and Queen Elizabeth. Everything else in the room was wrecked
beyond possible recognition by its owners, but the picture of the King
and Queen was untouched. It hung on the blast-scorched wall as straight
as could be.

Something about that picture hanging there touched a note deep in Dave
Dawson. He stared at it for a moment in almost reverent awe. Then,
clicking his heels, he brought his hand up in smart salute.

"There'll always be an England," he murmured softly.

Freddy Farmer caught the direction of his gaze, looked himself and
saluted in turn.

"Always!" he said with deep tenderness in his voice.

At that moment a shrill cry of pain came to them from out of the burning
building. There was a second cry, and a third. They could see nothing
but the fierce glow of the flames, but the cries seemed to come from the
rear of the fourth floor.

"There are wounded people in that building!" Freddy cried.

"Trapped, and probably can't get out!" Dave added. "And it's a cinch
their cries can't be heard by the fire wardens down there in the street.
What say, Freddy?"

"Of course!" the English youth shouted, and went bounding for the door.

The elevators had stopped running, so they went down the stairs three
and four at a time. They dashed through the vacant lobby, out the front
door, and along the short court that led out onto the Strand. There
they turned left and headed for a fire lieutenant directing his men at
work trying to put out the fire in the bomb-hit building. Dave grabbed
him by the arm, and pointed up.

"There are some people trapped on the fourth floor, sir!" he shouted.
"We heard their screams from our hotel room. Fourth floor, rear."

The fire lieutenant looked at them, saw their uniforms, and wiped an
annoyed look from his tired face.

"Fourth floor, rear?" he shouted above the noise of his fire fighting
apparatus. "Thought everybody in that place would be in the shelters.
How many, do you figure? Can't spare any of my boys, here, so I'll have
to go it alone."

"Don't know how many!" Dave shouted back. "But you're not tackling it
alone. We're coming with you. Let's go."

The fire lieutenant grinned.

"The good old R.A.F. every time!" he cried. "Right-o! But wait a bit. No
sense risking things bashing you on the head, you know."

The fire lieutenant jumped over to his car in the street and pulled out
a couple of tin helmets. He tossed them to the boys.

"Put those on!" he shouted. "Right-o! Fourth floor, rear, eh?"

Sticking close to the fire lieutenant's heels, the two boys followed him
into the burning building. It was like rushing through the open door of
a furnace, and for a second or so the heat seemed almost to knock them
off balance. Thick smoke swirled about them like a fog, and the smell of
things burning filled their noses and mouths and made them choke and gag
for breath.

As though the fire lieutenant had lived in the building all his life, he
went straight to the stairs completely hidden by the smoke, and started
up. He paused for a second, half turned and stretched out one hand to
Dave.

"Give me your hand," he said. "And you take your pal's hand. That way
we'll stick together and not get lost. Right you are, now. Up we go!"

There was less smoke on the second floor of the building, and still less
on the third. On the third floor, however, they ran straight into
trouble. The stair wall had been knocked loose by the exploding bombs,
and the stairs were covered by a ton or so of split beams, plaster,
brick, and other kinds of debris. The Fire Lieutenant stared at it with
a scowl.

"Like climbing the blooming Alps to get over that stuff," he said
dubiously. "It might give way under our weight and bury the three of
us."

"Look!" Dave suddenly cried, and pointed up toward the fourth floor.
"See there on that hall wall? A fire bucket, and a coil of rope. Look,
I'll go up and sling down the other end of that rope, after making my
end fast. Then you two can work your way up along the rope."

"No, I'll go up!" the fire lieutenant said. "I say--"

Dave was already scrambling spider-like up the debris-piled stairway.
With each step forward he seemed to slide back two steps. He'd grab the
shattered end of a beam for support, and it would start to pull out and
dislodge chunks of plaster and brick. Plaster dust filled his eyes and
his throat so that his breath came in rasping gasps. When he was halfway
up he heard the fire lieutenant cry out in alarm.

"Watch it, lad!" the man shouted. "That section of wall to your left is
starting to go!"

Dave had just time enough to dart a quick glance to his left. A section
of wall left standing was bulging out as though a giant were pushing
against it from the other side. He took that one quick glance and then
scrambled upward for dear life. There was a crash of sound in back of
him, and the air was thick with plaster dust. He had flung himself flat
on the debris and was clinging to a post of the well railing on the
fourth floor by no more than the tips of his fingers.

"Are you all right, Dave?" he heard Freddy's voice from below.

He didn't answer for a couple of seconds. He was too busy pulling
himself up onto the solid fourth floor landing. There he turned and
looked down through the cloud of plaster dust.

"Made it okay!" he shouted down. "Stand by to receive the line!"

He went over to the fire bucket and took it down off the hook, along
with the coil of stout rope. Then, returning to the head of the stairs,
he splashed some water down into the cloud of plaster dust.

"Trying to lay that stuff a bit!" he shouted. "Okay! Here comes your end
of the rope."

He sent the free end of the coil spinning downward, then knelt down and
fastened his end tight about the base of the railing post.

"Got it!" he heard the fire lieutenant's voice, and felt a jerk on the
rope at the same time.

At the end of three or four minutes Freddy and the fire lieutenant were
on the floor landing with him. The fire lieutenant reached out and
squeezed his arm.

"Stout fellow," the man said. "But you're R.A.F., so of course you'd do
it. Right-o. This is the fourth floor. The rear, you said? Don't hear a
sound. And there doesn't seem to be much fire up here. Guess just the
front of this place is burning. Try the doors, lads, but be careful as
you push them open. Do it easy like, you know. If the room's burning and
the windows are closed, opening the door will be like opening a stove
flue. Hold your breath until you're sure. Let's go."

The three of them started down the hall toward the rear, carefully
opening doors and glancing into rooms as they went along. Not a light
was burning in the building, but the glow of the flames seemed to bounce
back from the walls of nearby buildings and light up all the rooms. Dave
and Freddy had tried some six or seven rooms when suddenly they looked
into a room that made them stop short and catch their breath.

The room was a complete wreck. It was as though that one spot had
received the full impact of the exploding bomb. All four walls were
completely knocked down. Ribbons of plaster hung from the ceiling, and
there weren't any windows, just gaping holes through which streamed the
crimson reflection of the flames of another burning building a good two
blocks away.

It was not the sight of all that, however, that gave them such a start.
It was the sight of the four figures trapped under the pile of debris.
Three were men, and one was a woman. Two of the men, and the woman, lay
limp and motionless. The fourth man, white with plaster from head to
foot, was struggling furiously to wiggle out from under an overturned
desk that pinned him to the floor. And all the time he was muttering
hoarsely under his breath. He saw Dave and Freddy about the same instant
they saw him. He stopped struggling instantly.

"Come in, chaps, and get this blasted thing off my back, will you?" he
called out.

Dave waited just long enough to shout to the fire lieutenant and then
dashed forward. It took every bit of their combined strength for Freddy
and him to lift the desk clear. They succeeded, however, and the pinned
man was able to crawl free. He got to his feet and swayed drunkenly.
Dave gave him a hand.

"Steady does it, sir," he said. "I'll lead you out into the hall."

The trapped man looked at him out of dazed eyes, mumbled something, and
nodded. Dave led him out into the hall and then went back into the room
again. Freddy and the fire lieutenant were lifting ceiling and wall
beams off the woman. He pitched in and gave them a hand. The woman had
an ugly cut on the side of her head, and one arm was obviously broken.
She was breathing evenly, however. They placed her in the hall, then
went back in for the other two men. Both of them were still alive but
badly hurt.

No sooner had they carried the last man out into the hall than there was
a rumbling sound like a New York subway train coming along the tunnel to
a station. The fire lieutenant let out a yell and grabbed wildly for
Dave, who was the last to step out of the room.

"Feared this!" he shouted. "Jump!"

Dave jumped instinctively. Then he started to speak, but didn't. It was
not necessary for him to ask the fire lieutenant what it was all about.
As he turned, he saw the floor of the room he had just left split
straight through the middle from hall door to outer wall. The floor
cracked open, and then the two halves dropped downward like the two
halves of a hinged trap door. Broken furniture, plaster, brick, and
everything else went crashing down into a room on the third floor. The
rumbling roar ceased abruptly, and a great column of smoke and plaster
dust fountained up from the floor below.

Dave gulped and wiped sweat from his face.

"Gosh, I don't like it that close!" he breathed.

"Great guns!" a voice gasped in his ear. "If you chaps hadn't arrived
when you did--Good heavens!"

It was the trapped man they had rescued who spoke. He stood peering
through the door opening with eyes that were like dinner plates. Plaster
dust still covered him from head to foot, and the red reflection of the
flames gave him a weird and eerie appearance.

"Yes, plenty close, sir," Dave said, and then turned to the fire
lieutenant. "We'd better get these people down," he said. "Wonder if
there are some back stairs here. Have you got stretchers outside?"

"Yes," the fire lieutenant replied. "And there are back stairs, too. I
spotted them a minute ago. These people need hospitalization at once.
That woman is hurt bad. I'll go down and get help, and take this one
chap who can walk along with me. He's had a nasty shock, and I'd better
get him out of here. Might go off his topper, or something. You two lads
mind watching over the others?"

"No, go ahead," Freddy said for both of them.

The fire lieutenant nodded, then stepped over and took the arm of the
plaster-covered man, who still stared glassy-eyed in through the doorway
at the collapsed floor. The fire lieutenant spoke, and the man turned
and stared at him vacantly. Then his wide eyes wandered over to Freddy
and Dave. A strange light glowed in them for a brief instant. He started
to open his mouth as though to speak, but closed it slowly, instead. The
fire lieutenant tugged on his arm, and then led him along the smoky
hallway as he might lead a little child.

"He must have caught a good smack," Dave grunted. "He sure doesn't know
what the score is right now. He--My gosh!"

"What's the matter?" Freddy asked quickly. "What's up?"

Dave pointed a finger upward and grinned.

"No guns any more," he said. "The raid's over. Guess you can't hear the
All-Clear up here. Gee, do our uniforms look like a couple of wrecks!
Wonder if we can get them cleaned at the hotel. Air Vice-Marshal
Saunders will heave us out for a couple of bums if we report to him
looking like this."

Freddy looked back into the room and gulped.

"And he'll never know how close we came to never reporting to him at
all!" he breathed. "Say, I wish that fire lieutenant would hurry up with
those stretchers. This woman's coming around a bit. Must be in pretty
bad pain. Blast Hitler, anyway!"

"Check!" Dave said grimly. "And if I ever get the chance to _blast_ him,
how I'll do it, and how I'll love it!"

At that moment the fire lieutenant returned with several of his men. And
some fifteen minutes after that the three injury cases were safely in
an ambulance that had arrived in the meantime, and on their way to a
nearby hospital receiving station. The fire was practically out, and the
heroic soot and grime-smeared firemen were getting ready to go elsewhere
in the city and continue their valiant work. Guns were silent, and the
long probing beams of the searchlights no longer pierced the sky. There
was not even the drone of planes in the distance. Death had come to
strike at London, and was now gone. Behind, it had left more wrecked
buildings, more smouldering ruins, and more dead and dying. But it had
also left behind something that Adolf Hitler and all of his followers
would never be able to understand, and never be able to defeat. That was
British courage, the superb fighting courage of the high and the low who
now were fighting on a common ground shoulder to shoulder. London had
once again been hurt, and she was bleeding. But London would never die,
just as England would never die.

Those thoughts trickled through Dave Dawson's brain as he stared up at
the flame-tinted heavens. And once again he was thrilled to the very
depths of his soul to be able to be a part of all this; to do his
share, and fight and fight and fight until the war-thirsty dictators
were no more--until they were nothing but an evil and ugly memory.

"I say, you chaps! Blessed if I even know your names. You certainly
deserve recognition for tonight's bit. Tell me your names, and I'll see
that the Air Ministry hears of what you did."

Dave lowered his gaze to see the fire lieutenant standing at his elbow.
He looked at Freddy, and they both shook their heads.

"We're glad we were able to help," Dave said. "Let's let it go at that.
You and your men are the real heroes of London, sir. Freddy and I just
happened along."

"But that's silly!" the fire lieutenant protested, and wiped his smoke
and soot-blackened face with a handkerchief that was just about as
black. "This isn't your regular job, you know. And for you two to pitch
in and give us a hand, why--"

"Rot!" Freddy grunted. "I was scared pink every second, and know
perfectly well I was only in your way."

"Me, too," Dave nodded. "Let's just leave it that way. Where did that
chap go--that man you led out?"

"My word, lad!" the fire lieutenant gasped, and looked wildly about.
"I'd plain forgotten all about him. Told him to wait and go along to the
hospital with the others. Guess he must have wandered off. Well, I must
be toddling along. More fires, you know. Good luck, you two. By George,
you R.A.F. chaps are certainly right as rain, I say! Well, cheerio!"

"Thumbs up!" the two boys chorused, and watched the fire lieutenant
drive off up the street.

When the car had turned the corner of a block, Dave grinned at Freddy.

"Well, shall we make that black-out inspection tour you were yipping
about?" he asked.

"The one we've made is enough for tonight!" Freddy grunted. "Besides,
we've got to do something about these uniforms, because tomorrow we have
to--"

"Yeah, I know," Dave cut in with a worried sigh. "We have to report to
Air Vice-Marshal Saunders. Okay, let's see what we can do about these
duds, and then hit the hay."

"If Goering's little boys will let us," Freddy murmured as he dropped
into step. "And I doubt it very much."



CHAPTER FIVE

_Air Vice-Marshal Saunders_


Though Freddy Farmer had his doubts about Goering's "little boys," it so
happened that they did not come back to London again that night. Bright
and early next morning the two boys were up and inspecting what the
hotel's valet service had been able to do about their uniforms. It
wasn't a bad job of cleaning, but it wasn't a good job either. True,
they would pass muster out at their own squadron, but the Air Ministry,
where the Royal Air Force "brass hats" prowl about, was something else
again.

"If Air Vice-Marshal Saunders is one of those fussy chaps," Freddy said,
and fingered a fire-scorched cuff of his tunic, "he'll probably bleat
all over the place."

"Well, what the heck?" Dave cried. "We'll just tell him what happened,
and add that we didn't have time to get new uniforms."

"Didn't have the cash, you mean," Freddy said with a grin.

"Same thing, isn't it?" Dave shrugged. "Well, we've got to take our
chances, that's all, and hope that he is an okay guy. How do you feel?"

"Stiff as a board," Freddy said, and moved his shoulders. "I feel as if
I'd been holding up that building all night."

"Know just what you mean," Dave chuckled. "But you're mistaken."

"Mistaken?" Freddy echoed, and glanced up with a puzzled frown on his
good-looking face.

"Sure," Dave said with a nod. "About holding up that building. You only
held up half of it. My aching joints tell me I must have been holding up
the other half. Well, let's go hunt up some chow. Boy! It's a swell day,
anyway--for whatever is going to happen."

Dave moved over to the bomb-shattered window and looked out. There was
still a thin pall of smoke hovering over London like a grim reminder of
what had happened during the dark hours. On high, however, there was not
a cloud to be seen. The sky was a soft blue bathed in the golden rays of
the rising sun. When you looked up into that sky, it was hard to believe
that death had struck just a few hours before, and that right now it was
poised and waiting to strike again when darkness returned.

"What a pip of a day for flying!" Dave breathed softly. "I sure hope Air
Vice-Marshal Saunders doesn't keep us hanging around for very long. Me,
I want to get back to the squadron and get to work. The Jerries are sure
to take a crack at us on a day like this. Boy! This is almost as good as
the kind of weather we have back home."

"You mean twice as good," Freddy snorted in his ear. "But hurry up and
button your tunic, or you'll be spouting poetry in another couple of
minutes. I'm hungry."

Dave sighed and shook his head.

"There's a man for you!" he groaned. "Beauty, war, fire, famine, or
flood--they don't mean a thing to him! Only his stomach. Well, you're in
for a big surprise, my young fellow. There's one thing they don't allow
in the R.A.F."

"What?" Freddy demanded as they walked out of their room.

"I won't tell you," Dave grunted, and headed for the elevators. "I think
I'll let you find out for yourself. But no, you are a pal of mine,
aren't you?"

"Oh, come off it!" Freddy growled. "I'll bite. What is this wonderful
ruling I don't know about?"

Dave jabbed him in the stomach with his thumb.

"They don't let you wear a corset in the R.A.F., my friend," he said.
"So watch how much you eat. Also, you might get stuck the next time some
Messerschmitt pilot makes you bail out. A Spitfire's cockpit isn't any
too big, you know."

"Indeed I do know," Freddy grunted, and watched the elevator slide up
and come to a stop. "And that's something I've been wanting to ask you,
Dave."

"Well, then, shoot," Dave said. "I'll always help a pal out with the
correct answer."

Freddy didn't speak directly. He waited until they were in the
elevator. It contained two men in civilian clothes and two women. Looks
of frank admiration were cast their way, but Freddy pretended not to
notice. He stared at Dave, and there was a look of baby innocence and
curiosity in his eyes.

"You'll really tell me, Dave?" he asked in a voice just a trifle loud.
"You'll really give me the answer?"

"Sure," Dave said without thinking. "Just ask me the question. I'll give
you the answer. What?"

"It's your legs, Dave," Freddy said. "I've often wondered. They're so
confoundedly long and skinny, just what do you do with them in the
cockpit of your Hurricane? Is it true that the mechanics have cut holes
in the fuselage so's you can let them hang out over the leading edge of
the wing? But what about when you're landing? What touches the ground
first, your feet or the wheels?"

When Freddy stopped, Dave's ears, neck and face were a bright red, and
there was a look of murder in his eyes. Everybody in the elevator was
roaring with laughter. It was all he could do to keep from taking Freddy
by the throat and throttling him right then and there. However, he
could take kidding as well as dish it out, and by the time the elevator
had reached the lobby level he was laughing as loud as anybody.

"Okay, pick up the marbles for that one, sonny boy," he said to Freddy
as they headed for the breakfast room. "But next time it's my turn. And,
boy, look out, what I mean!"

"Don't worry!" Freddy chuckled, and squeezed his arm. "With you around,
a chap has to watch out constantly."

All through breakfast they maintained a steady stream of kidding
chit-chat talk. Of course each knew what was really uppermost in the
other's mind: one Air Vice-Marshal Saunders. Neither of them mentioned
it, though, until the meal was over and it was time to go and report at
the Air Ministry located but a few blocks from their hotel.

It was Dave who brought the subject up. He slid a tip beside his empty
coffee cup, looked at Freddy, and pushed back his chair.

"Well, let's quit stalling and go see what it's all about," he said.
"I'm going nuts with worry and wonder, aren't you?"

"Am I!" Freddy breathed, and gave a little shake of his head. "To tell
you the truth, I feel exactly like a criminal waiting for the jury to
come in with the news of his fate. What do you suppose--?"

"Don't ask!" Dave cut in. "I've been slowly going nuts asking myself the
same question over and over again. Oh, heck, let's go. They can't do any
more than shoot us!"

They walked the short distance to the Air Ministry in mutual thoughtful
silence. Just inside the wide front doors of the building, they gave
their names, ranks, and squadron numbers to an officer seated at a desk
that was practically covered with rows of bell buttons. When they added
that they were reporting on orders to Air Vice-Marshal Saunders, the
officer shot a scowling glance at their uniforms. He didn't say
anything, however. He simply nodded, wrote something on a card and then
jabbed a button and picked up a Husho-Phone. A moment later he hung up
and stabbed another button. An R.A.F. staff sergeant seemed to pop down
out of the air. The non-commissioned officer saluted smartly. The
officer at the desk handed him the card.

"Take these two officers to Air Vice-Marshal Saunders," he said in a
crisp voice.

The staff sergeant took the card with his left hand, saluted smartly
again with his right, and looked at Dave and Freddy. They nodded. The
sergeant clicked his heels, executed a smart about-face and went off
down the hall. Dave and Freddy followed.

"Holy smoke!" Dave breathed out of the corner of his mouth. "Did you get
a load of all the bell buttons on that desk, Freddy? I wonder if he's
got one that'll do it? There sure are enough."

"Do what?" Freddy whispered back. "What are you talking about?"

"A button he can jab to make Hitler pop out of a secret door in the
wall," Dave chuckled. "Boy, wouldn't it be something if all those
connecting wires should get mixed up! I think I could enjoy myself at
that officer's desk some quiet night with nobody around."

"I can just imagine!" Freddy grunted. "And what a madhouse this place
would be the next morning! Well, forget it, my lad. There's a chap at
that desk twenty-four hours a day, I fancy."

Dave glanced back over his shoulder just in time to see the officer
reaching out to punch another button. He sighed heavily.

"It's still a swell idea," he murmured. "Well, we're getting close."

The office of Air Vice-Marshal Saunders was at the rear of the third
floor. The sergeant turned the two boys over to a smartly uniformed
flight lieutenant in the outer office. A moment or two later the flight
lieutenant ushered them into the presence of the high ranking Air Force
official. As Dave saluted and looked at the tall, well built figure, a
strange sense of relief flooded through him. There wasn't any worry in
him any more, only wonder. Air Vice-Marshal Saunders had not reached his
position of high responsibility through political pull, nor by knowing
the right sort of people. You had only to glance at the rows of
decoration ribbons under his pilot's wings over the left upper pocket of
his tunic to know that. There was the red, blue, and red ribbon of the
Distinguished Service Order (the D.S.O.). There was the blue and white
ribbon of the Distinguished Flying Cross (the D.F.C.). And on that
ribbon was the small silver rosette, or bar, which meant that its wearer
had performed a feat of air valor for which he had been granted the
D.F.C. a second time. There was also the Air Force Cross, and the Mons
ribbon, denoting that Saunders had been with that valiant British army
that had met the Germans at Mons in 1914, in the First World War. And,
of course, there were ribbons to show that he had been decorated by many
other governments. No, one look at Air Vice-Marshal Saunders' row of
ribbons, and Dave knew that here was a real soldier, a real pilot, and a
man who had won and deserved the high position he now held.

The vice-marshal smiled and nodded acceptance of their salute.

"At ease, gentlemen," he said, and pointed to some chairs. "Sit down.
We'll have to wait a bit. The colonel is delayed, but he'll be here
shortly. Ah! You were in London last night, eh?"

Both boys looked blank for a moment. Then Freddy found his tongue.

"Why--why, yes, sir," he stammered. "But how did you guess, sir?"

"And I'll bet five pounds," the senior officer said with a laugh, "that
you two have been worrying yourselves sick that I would hit the
ceiling, and rant and rave all over the place, eh?"

"Why, yes--sure--I mean--" Dave stumbled and stopped. "I don't think I
understand, sir."

The vice-marshal laughed again and pointed a finger.

"Your uniforms," he said. "Souvenirs from Hitler, I fancy. Did a bomb
fall on you, or did you go out hunting for one? Knowing you fighter
command lads, I'm guessing it was the latter."

The words banished the last of any fears that might have been lingering
in the boys' minds. They relaxed completely and laughed.

"It was about halfway between, sir," Freddy explained. "I mean, a couple
of them landed close to the hotel, so--well, we went out and took a
look, you might say."

"We didn't bring extra uniforms, sir," Dave added. "And this was the
best the hotel could do. I'm sorry, sir."

"Sorry?" the air vice-marshal echoed. "About a little bit of
water-soaked and fire-scorched cloth? Rot! It's not the looks of a
uniform that really counts; it's what's inside that matters. I won't
push you for information, but I fancy you did more than just take a
look. I--Ah! There's the colonel now."

The boys heard the door open in back of them. They both got quickly to
their feet, turned around, and stopped dead with their eyes popping in
sheer amazement. A big man in civilian clothes was walking into the
room. He had a strip of surgeon plaster over his left eye, and his left
hand was completely hidden by a bandage. He walked with a slight limp.
The two boys watched him, speechless. They stared at him as though he
were a ghost, because it was the man who had been trapped under the desk
in that bomb-blasted building the night before.

"Ah, good morning, Colonel," they heard Air Vice-Marshal Saunders say.
"Had a bit of an accident, eh? Or is this just another of Intelligence's
disguises?"

"Not this time, sir," the colonel said with a tight smile. "Caught a bit
of trouble during that mess last night, and--Well, bless my stars!"

The injured man had looked at Dave and Freddy for the first time. His
eyes grew wide with amazement, and he gave a little shake of his head as
though to clear his vision.

"Great guns, you two?" he gasped. Then, turning to Air Vice-Marshal
Saunders: "Are these two Pilot Officers Dawson and Farmer--the two I'm
supposed to meet?"

"That's right, Colonel Fraser," the air vice-marshal replied. "Why?
You've already met them?"

"And jolly well right I have!" the colonel exclaimed. "But for these two
chaps, and a fire lieutenant, I wouldn't be here now. I was in my secret
office last night with two of my agents, and my secretary, when a bomb
caught the place fair and square. We were all trapped under the
wreckage. These two lads got us out a split second before the floor gave
way and dropped everything down onto the next floor. Great guns, this is
a small world. And say, you two, I'm deucedly sorry about last night."

"Sorry, sir?" Dave echoed, and gave him a questioning look.

The man reached up his good hand and touched the strip of plaster over
his eye.

"Got a bit of a crack, and it put me off my napper for a spell," he
said. "I was pretty much in a daze while you lads were saving our lives.
When I came around, I found myself in my regular office in the War
Office building. Must have walked all the way there. Everything came
back to me clear as day, but you and those fire fighting chaps had left
the spot by the time I got back there. But I certainly want to express
my heartfelt thanks to you two, now. I certainly owe my life to you."

"We're glad we were of service," Freddy said, as embarrassed crimson
seeped up into his cheeks. "How about the others, sir? Are they getting
along all right?"

"Coming along fine," the other said. "Miss Trumble, my secretary, will
be out of things for a bit, and I'll certainly miss her. Smartest woman
in the service. But that's a jolly sight better than losing her
completely. By Jove, this is like a cinema thriller, isn't it! My word!"

Dave and Freddy moved their feet uncomfortably and glanced at Air
Vice-Marshal Saunders. The high ranking officer was grinning broadly and
slowly nodding his head up and down.

"So you simply just went to _take a look_, eh?" he murmured. "Knew
perfectly well that it was much more than that. You two certainly have
the reputation for chasing after trouble, _and_ whipping it."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Dave Dawson at Dunkirk._]

The air vice-marshal suddenly stopped short. The smile faded from his
face, and he stared gravely at the two young R.A.F. pilots for a moment
or two.

"And that is just why you are here," he said presently. "This officer,
as you probably have guessed already, is Colonel Fraser, of British
Intelligence. He is the one who wishes to speak with you. I only
suggested to him that you two should have first chance to listen to what
he has to say. Shall we all sit down? Colonel, are you ready to start?"

The Intelligence officer seemed to have difficulty in tearing his eyes
from the two boys. He finally succeeded, and nodded. And as though a
curtain had been drawn across his face, he too became grave and
unsmiling.

"Yes, of course, sir," he said in a flat voice. "Let's get on with it at
once."

As Dave sat down on his chair again, his heart was pounding so hard he
feared it would push right out through his chest. His throat was dry
with excitement, and there was that familiar tingling at the back of his
neck. The tingling was a sure sign that danger and action were waiting
for him just ahead. He glanced at Freddy and saw the look in his pal's
eyes. That look said that Freddy was thinking and wondering the same
things.



CHAPTER SIX

_England Must Never Die_


It was a few moments before Colonel Fraser of British Intelligence began
talking. He sat staring unseeingly down at his bandaged left hand as
though he were choosing the words he would speak. Presently, though, he
lifted his head and looked at Dave and Freddy.

"Adolf Hitler's greatest goal in life is to crush the British Empire
completely," the Colonel began speaking. "No matter what other battles
or minor engagements his troops and his air force may win, they are but
steps toward his great goal--the defeat of England. However, in order to
defeat England, Hitler must invade and conquer these British Isles. He
cannot bring us to our knees from across the Channel. He has got to
come over here and beat us into submission. Invasion of England! Those
words are on the tongue of every German today."

The colonel paused and pulled a battered pipe from his pocket and a
pouch of tobacco. He started to fill the pipe, then stopped and glanced
questioningly at Air Vice-Marshal Saunders. The high ranking R.A.F.
officer smiled and nodded his head.

"Certainly, Colonel," he said. "Go right ahead and smoke."

The Intelligence officer smiled his thanks for permission and lighted up
his pipe.

"Yes, invasion of England is the German password today," he said when
the pipe was going. "And ever since Dunkirk and the fall of France the
Germans have been preparing for the great attempt. We have been
preparing, too--preparing to meet that invasion and throw it back into
the Channel. I do not have to tell you of the preparations we have made.
You've seen them countless times from the air, and you have no doubt
seen them on the ground. Also, like every other man in uniform in
England, you both have been constantly on the alert and ready to answer
an invasion attempt alarm. Well, the attempt was not made right after
Dunkirk. It was not made in the month of July. Nor was it made during
the month of August. Why?"

Colonel Fraser paused to tamp down the tobacco in his pipe with a
fingertip.

"Why?" he repeated. He shrugged and made a little gesture with his pipe.
"I do not know," he said. "No one in England knows. As a matter of fact,
I'm quite sure that only Hitler knows. Of course we can guess at a
thousand reasons why the attempt has not been made, yet. But it is
possible that they might all be wrong. This much we _do_ know. It has
not been made, yet. And this is something we can also be equally
positive is true. The desire to invade and conquer England _has not left
Hitler's mind for a single second_. The instant he believes that all is
ready, he will give his generals the order to invade us. I mean, by
that, to _attempt_ to invade us!"

The colonel gave some more attention to his pipe and then continued.

"Naturally, we haven't been so foolish as simply to prepare in every
possible way we can, and then sit back and wait for him to strike. The
R.A.F. Bombing Command has been blasting away at Nazi invasion bases on
the French, Belgian, and Netherlands coasts night after night, as you
both well know. The Navy has been on constant patrol seeking for signs
of invasion. It is not known by many people, but we have even done a
little invading of our own. Small detachments of sapper troops have
slipped ashore in France under the cover of darkness, and made short
raids as far inland as Lille. And as you two well know, the R.A.F. has
made countless photo and reconnaissance patrols over the occupied
countries. And lastly, but by no means least, British Intelligence
agents have been sent into the occupied countries, and they have been
working day and night, too, in an effort to ferret out scraps of
information regarding Hitler's invasion plans. Now!"

The Intelligence officer paused for breath, or perhaps for emphasis.

"Now, this is what I'm leading up to," he said. "The raids we've made,
the pictures we've taken, the reports of pilots, and the reports of my
own Intelligence agents indicate very strongly that the invasion attempt
will be made soon. Perhaps in a couple of weeks, and perhaps in a
couple of days. This month, September, the tides and the weather will
all be in Hitler's favor. Frankly, I would be willing to stake my life
that the attempt will be made sometime this month, but I have no idea
whether it will be near the first of the month, or near the last, or
even in the middle. That date, however, is something we have absolutely
_got to find out_. And that is why I am now speaking to you two chaps."

A quivering sensation like a charge of high voltage electricity shot
through Dave. A thousand questions hovered on the tip of his tongue, but
he held them in check.

"If there is anything I can do, sir," he said quietly, "I most certainly
want to do it."

"And so do I!" Freddy exclaimed with deep feeling. "No matter what it
is, sir."

"I told you, Colonel," Air Vice-Marshal Saunders spoke up. "I told you
you could count on Dawson and Farmer."

The Intelligence officer seemed not to hear. He sat staring at the two
youths. Dave had the strange feeling that the man was staring right into
his brain and reading the thoughts there. A moment or so later the
Colonel gave a short nod of his head and continued.

"No matter what Hitler tries, we'll beat him at it," he said. "If the
invasion attempt comes tonight, we're ready, and we'll beat him. That,
however, is not the way we want to beat him. We want to beat him
_before_ he's hardly got started; to smash him _before_ he's even come
within sight of our shores. In order to do that, though, _we must know
the exact date set for the attempt_. That date can be learned. In fact,
I almost learned it one day last week. I didn't because a German
Messerschmitt pilot shot down and killed the man who was bringing that
information back here to me in England!"

The colonel suddenly stopped and seemed to have trouble with his throat.
He swallowed a couple of times, then half turned and shot a faint
frowning glance at Air Vice-Marshal Saunders. Dave looked at the R.A.F.
officer just in time to catch the glint of deep sympathy and feeling
that flickered through his eyes. Then Colonel Fraser went on speaking
again.

"I spoke of sending my Intelligence agents to the occupied countries.
Well, some of them have been there since the war started. A few of them
have been there all their lives--were born there, in fact. Intelligence
and Secret Service agents are not always recognized citizens of the
country they serve, you know. The agent of whom I speak now is a
Belgian. All during the last war he fought side by side with British
soldiers to free his country from Germany's grip. He is too old to fight
as a soldier in this war, but he is fighting again to free his country
from Germany's iron grip--Hitler's iron grip. He is doing his fighting
in the dark and under cover, but more often than not that kind of
fighting is more dangerous than fighting in the open. Every second of
the day and night his life is in danger. He never knows when the hand of
the German Gestapo may drop on his shoulder. He does not even expect the
courtesy of being captured as a spy, in fact. He fully expects to be
shot in the back the moment the Nazis realize who he is. But that
constant danger does not stop him fighting for one single instant. He
loves Belgium, the real Belgium, and he will gladly give his life to
help England free Belgium of the Nazi chains of indescribable tyranny. I
could talk all day of the things that man has already done for England's
cause, but I won't. Just let me say that he has done enough to win the
Victoria Cross a dozen times over."

The colonel took a moment to light his pipe, which had gone out. He
puffed smoke toward the ceiling, and smiled faintly.

"That man has gathered more valuable information for me," he said, "than
the whole British Intelligence Service put together. And, strange as it
may sound, I have never met him personally. I hope some day to have that
great honor, but somehow I rather doubt that I will. Anyway, he is the
one man who can tell us when the invasion attempt will be made. Now,
wait! I can tell from the expression that just this instant came into
your faces, that you're wondering why he hasn't sent the information
along to me. Well, he has tried to, several times. The last time was
only last week. However, though I hate the very thought of the Nazis, I
do not consider them as blind, stupid fools. They are ruthless and
barbaric, but they are also very brainy, and are cunning and fiendishly
clever beyond words. Naturally, they wish to keep their invasion attempt
date a secret just as much as we wish to find it out. And so they are
leaving no stone unturned to see that it remains a secret. To give it to
you straight from the shoulder, five of my best agents have contacted
this Belgian, but not one of them has returned to England alive. Every
one has been caught in the invisible web the Nazis have thrown about
Europe."

A cold lump suddenly formed in Dave's stomach, but he sat perfectly
motionless and kept his eyes on Colonel Fraser's face. After a moment
the cold lump gradually disappeared. He could guess now why he and
Freddy had been summoned to Air Vice-Marshal Saunders' office. There was
a job to be done--a job with danger and death constantly hovering about.
But after the first start the truth had given him, he no longer felt
fright or even slight uneasiness. He felt only the desire to serve
humanity and civilization to the last ounce of his strength, and to the
last drop of his blood. If the world and civilization went down under
Hitler's heel, then life would not be worth the living. He felt that way
as he returned the colonel's steady gaze. And the quiet rigidity of
Freddy sitting in the chair next to his told him that his English pal
felt exactly the same way.

"I can see you two are getting the point," Colonel Fraser suddenly shot
at them. "I want to be fair with you, so I ask you this question. Do
you want me to continue, or would you rather return to active duty at
your squadron?"

"We want you to continue, sir," Dave said, speaking for himself and
Freddy.

"Yes, quite," Freddy added. "What can we do to serve, sir?"

The Intelligence officer smiled briefly; then his face became hard and
stern, and there was a ringing note in his voice as he spoke.

"There is only one way in and out of Europe, today," he said. "That's by
air. This Belgian I spoke of lives in Antwerp. The address is Sixteen
Rue Chartres. That street is down by the docks on the right bank of the
Scheldt River. He was a marine engineer in his day, and the last I knew
he was working for the Germans occupying the city, doing the odd jobs
his age would permit. He is close to seventy. He is blind in one eye,
and he is not over five feet six inches tall. His hair is grey, of
course, and he has a beard. All this I'm saying I'll repeat in detail
later. I'm just running over it briefly, now, to give you some picture
of the man I hope you can find. Not only hope, but _pray_ you will find.

"But to get on with this: I am convinced that it is sheer suicide for
any of my agents to try and contact this Belgian. Antwerp, like every
other occupied city of importance, is policed day and night by the
Gestapo and German counter-espionage agents. Therefore a man would
create suspicion no matter how well he might be established in the city.
And remember, I said the only way in _and_ out is by air. This highly
important job has got to be tackled by one or more pilots. Now--and
don't take offense, you chaps--a couple of _Belgian peasant boys_ would
be less likely to be noticed by the Germans than grown men. And if those
two Belgian peasant boys could _fly a plane_, then so much the better.
You follow me, eh?"

"Right with you, sir!" Dave blurted out enthusiastically. "And Freddy
and I both happen to speak the languages, too."

Colonel Fraser laughed.

"Don't worry," he chuckled, "I had checked on _that_ little detail
before I asked the air vice-marshal, here, to send for you. Yes, you
both are boys--though doing the job of men, believe me--and you both are
pilots, and you both speak the languages that will be necessary. And,
perhaps the most important thing, you have the courage and the spirit
that will keep you going until the job is done. Let me say right here,
though, I can't spread the danger angle too thick. It _is_ a mighty
dangerous job. To give it to you from the shoulder again, everything
will be in the Germans' favor, not in yours. If either of you is
caught--well, no power on earth will be able to save you. The Nazis will
shoot too quickly for that."

The Intelligence officer stopped speaking in order to let the true
meaning of his words sink home.

"We know how to shoot a bit ourselves, sir," Freddy spoke up in a steady
voice. "So I guess you might say that evens things up some, you know."

"We'll take our chances against any Nazi with itching trigger fingers,"
Dave said grimly. "But I suppose you've got a definite plan of action
for us, sir? I mean--"

Dave cut himself off as the Intelligence officer nodded his head
abruptly.

"Certainly," he said. "As you know, the Bomber Command is making raids
deep into Germany night after night. Well, tonight you two will go along
in one of our bombers, as passengers, you might say. It will be in a
bomber of a formation heading for Berlin. They will head for Berlin on a
flight route that will take them close to Antwerp. At a certain point
you and Farmer will bail out. You'll be dressed as refugee peasant lads,
of course, but as the plane will pass over high, you'll have oxygen
masks and chest tanks for the parachute drop. When you land you will
bury your parachutes and masks, and make your way to Sixteen Rue
Chartres."

Colonel Fraser shrugged and gestured with his pipe, which had long since
gone out again.

"That ends the first part of the plan," he continued. "The instant you
bail out, you will be on your own. You may even lose touch with each
other coming down in the darkness. But _Sixteen Rue Chartres_ is your
goal. And the man you are to get in touch with is known as Pierre
Deschaud. He will give you the information we must have. He knows the
date, I'll--I'll stake my life on that. He will give you the
information, and he will do what he can to help you get back to England.
There are several air fields at Antwerp. That we know, of course, from
daily photos we have taken. We also know that two or three squadrons of
the German _Luftwaffe_ are stationed there. Pierre Deschaud will help
you steal one of the planes for your flight back to England."

Colonel Fraser stopped abruptly, got out of his chair and began to pace
the room. Suddenly he stopped in front of them.

"Any questions?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," Freddy spoke up before Dave could open his mouth. "There was
one thing you didn't mention. We may know who Pierre Deschaud is when we
meet him, but how is he to know who _we_ are? Isn't there some code word
or sign he would recognize? After all, we could be anybody, as far as
he's concerned, perhaps even Nazis trying to smoke him out."

The stern look suddenly left Colonel Fraser's face. Beaming, he leaned
over and patted Freddy's back.

"Good lad!" he said with sincere feeling. "That's just the question I
wanted you to ask. Didn't tell you because I wanted to see if you'd
think of bringing it up. Yes, there is a code word. It is Houyet.
Remember that. _Houyet!_ That's the name of the little village in which
Deschaud was born almost seventy years ago. When he hears you say that,
he'll know that you come from me. And now, I've said enough for a while.
We'll meet again before tonight and go over every little item in detail.
I do, however, want to say this. I am a colonel, and chief of British
Intelligence, but it is chaps like you, chaps with your courage, and
your will to fight against no matter what odds, who will win this war
for England and the rest of the decent part of the world. I salute you
for accepting this dangerous mission, and I also salute you because I
know in my heart that you will win through. And so, until later in the
day, gentlemen."

A minute more and Colonel Fraser had taken his departure. Dave and
Freddy stood silently staring at each other; grimly reading each other's
thoughts--two separate thoughts that really blended into one. Here was a
real chance to serve, and they would not flinch or falter for a single
instant.

"Well, Dawson and Farmer," Air Vice-Marshal Saunders suddenly broke the
few moments of silence, "England is counting on you again. And like
Colonel Fraser, I, too, know that you will come through. I, too, salute
you."

Dave's heart looped over with pride as the vice-marshal clicked his
heels and saluted smartly. Dave and Freddy solemnly returned the salute,
and their hearts were close to bursting with the thrilling joy of that
moment.

"And now," the air vice-marshal said as he lowered his hand, "I want to
tell you something that may help if the going should get hard. It's
something that proves the trust and belief that Colonel Fraser has in
you--something that will make you come through, if only for his sake.
You recall he spoke of almost receiving that information last week? Of
how the man flying it back to England was trapped and shot down by a
Messerschmitt pilot?"

"Yes, sir," Freddy said as Dave nodded.

"That man was only twenty years old," Air Vice-Marshal Saunders said,
"just a few years older than you chaps. He could fly a plane, but he
couldn't serve in the R.A.F., or in any of the active fighting branches
of the service, because of physical reasons. He was part cripple. He
tried to serve England as an Intelligence agent. He did valuable work
for which his memory will long be honored. He gave all he had, his life,
for England. His name was Richard Fraser. He was Colonel Fraser's only
son. For his sake, as well as for England, you must succeed."

Dave had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could speak.

"Dick Fraser," he murmured more to himself. "That's a swell name, and I
bet he was a swell fellow, too. You bet we'll succeed, sir. If it's the
last thing we do, we'll find this Pierre Deschaud and come back with the
information England needs."

Freddy Farmer cleared his own throat and nodded vigorously.

"You have our word on that, sir," he said evenly. "We won't let you
down. We won't let England down!"

"Amen!" Air Vice-Marshal Saunders whispered softly.



CHAPTER SEVEN

_Brave Wings Fly Eastward_


Night had come again to England--black night and the throbbing drone of
Nazi planes winging inland from the shoreline of the Channel; swarm
after swarm of Goering's vultures who would blast helpless men, women,
and children with their deadly loads of bombs, and then return to their
bases and report the great number of hits they had scored upon strictly
military objectives.

Standing on the edge of a night-shadowed field several miles north of
London, Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer watched the play of searchlight
beams, and the glow of burning buildings in the distance. The sound of
the bursting bombs was like the dull rumble of thunder far away. But
every now and then when the wind changed slightly, they caught the faint
chatter of the machine guns of night-flying Spitfires and Hurricane
pilots hunting out the raiders high up in the sky.

For several minutes they had been standing there watching the sight and
not speaking. There wasn't anything to say except express the desire to
be up there doing their bit along with their R.A.F. comrades. And to
express such a wish would have been just a waste of breath. Even though
it had suddenly been granted, neither of them would have accepted. They
had their own job to do. They had pledged themselves to carry it through
to a successful end, and neither of them would turn back now even though
he were given the opportunity.

One hour ago they had reported to the squadron leader of this Bombing
Command unit. He had of course been informed of the flight they were to
make, but only up to the point where they would bail out somewhere close
to Antwerp. He had welcomed them gravely, but they had not missed the
gleam of quiet admiration in his eye. The squadron leader had
introduced them to the pilot and crew of the Wellington bomber in which
they would make the flight. Flight arrangements had been quietly
discussed, and they had been supplied with parachute packs, and oxygen
masks and tanks. That done with, the pilots and crews scheduled to make
the raid had retired to the Ready-Room for last minute instructions,
leaving Freddy and Dave to discuss last minute items between themselves.

There had been nothing for them to discuss, however. Every possible
angle of their coming venture had been hashed over and over during a
second meeting with Colonel Fraser and Air Vice-Marshal Saunders. A
detailed picture of Pierre Deschaud was stamped in their brains. They
had poured over a detailed map of the Scheldt River waterfront until
they knew it by heart. Every little thing that might help, Colonel
Fraser had told them. Ten times, no, a hundred times, they had gone
carefully over the whole thing from beginning to end. There was nothing
for them to discuss between themselves, now. There was nothing to do but
wait until the four plane flight of Wellington bombers, powered by twin
1000 horsepower Bristol "Pegasus" engines, was ready to take off.

"I bet those guys are busting to ask us a million questions," Dave
eventually broke the silence between them. "You could see it in their
eyes when we were introduced."

"Well, you certainly can't blame them," Freddy replied with a chuckle.
"Just look at these duds we're wearing. And by the by, you certainly
won't break any girl's heart as a Belgian peasant boy, my pal. Frankly,
you look a sight."

"Listen to who's talking!" Dave snorted. "That dizzy-looking get-up of
yours is the one thing that has me worried about this flight."

"Ah, so the chap _is_ worried!" Freddy murmured. "I thought so!"

"Darn tooting!" Dave said. "One look at you and both of the Pegasus
engines on the bus are liable to up and stop working just like that. And
then where'll we be? See what I mean?"

"I doubt if they'll even get us off the ground if you get close to
them!" Freddy scoffed. "So be sure and stay well back out of sight. But
to be serious, Dave, what do you really think of our chances? Oh, I know
we'll go the limit, but what do you really think?"

Dave didn't answer for a moment. He turned his back to the scene of
night aerial warfare to the south and stared unseeingly at the four
"Wellies" with their propellers slowly ticking over.

"That's a tough question, Freddy," he finally said. "To tell you the
truth, I really don't know just what I _do_ think. As a matter of
fact--No, skip that."

"Skip what, Dave?" Freddy prodded earnestly. "What were you going to
say? I really want to know."

Dave looked at him and smiled a trifle wryly.

"Maybe I'm getting old too fast, Freddy," he said. "Or maybe I'm just
getting too many cockeyed ideas for my age. But from what I've already
seen of this war, nothing is absolutely certain. I mean, you can plot
and plan how you're going to do a thing until you're blue in the face;
get every little thing all set so that it's--well, so that it's in the
bag, as we say back home. Then, _zingo_! Something pops up that knocks
all your plans completely haywire. And--Oh, nuts! I guess I'm like a kid
whistling in the dark."

"And I feel exactly the same," Freddy said quietly. "But go on. What
else, Dave?"

"Oh, skip it!" Dave grunted. "Maybe I'm just getting cold feet at the
last minute."

Freddy stepped close to him.

"Would you like me to bash you one, my American pal?" he asked sharply.
"Well, just stop talking that way about yourself. Cold feet? What rot!
After what I saw you do at the Dunkirk show? Rubbish! No, Dave, don't
talk that way to _me_. Now, what else were you going to say?"

Dave grinned and playfully rasped his knuckles across Freddy's jutting
chin.

"One in a million, that's you," he said softly. "One in five million, or
name any figure. Well, it's the old hunch business working again, if you
must know, Freddy. I mean, everything seems too pat, too cut and dried.
I've got the hunch that something we couldn't even dream of is going to
pop up and dump us into a mess of trouble before we're back in England
again."

"And right you are!" Freddy breathed softly. "I have a feeling just like
that, myself. Got it first this afternoon, but I didn't say a word for
fear the colonel might take it the wrong way. He might have thought I
was hedging and trying to back out. You know, make excuses?"

"Nobody would ever think you were trying to back out of anything!" Dave
said loyally. "But what was it that popped into your mind, anyway?"

"Pierre Deschaud," Freddy said.

Dave shot him a puzzled look.

"Huh?" he echoed. "Pierre Deschaud? So what?"

Freddy hesitated a moment and fumbled with the hem of his coarse peasant
jacket.

"Sheer rot, probably," he said after a moment. "But a chap is bound to
think of things, you know. Colonel Fraser admits that word from Deschaud
cannot get through to him except by one of the colonel's agents. He also
admits that the last five agents who have gotten in touch with Deschaud
have failed to return. They have either disappeared or died, or both.
Well, that makes me wonder a lot."

"Well, he said the Nazis were smart and clever guys," Dave pointed out.

"Sure he did," Freddy nodded. "But don't you get the idea, Dave?"

"The old brain has swallowed up so much today, it's a blank," Dave
confessed. "What are you driving at, anyway?"

"What proof is there that Pierre Deschaud _is still alive_?" Freddy
asked suddenly.

Dave gasped and went back a step as the real significance of the words
came home to him.

"Holy catfish!" he eventually breathed. "That _is_ a thought, isn't it!"

"And one worth a lot of consideration, too," Freddy nodded. "As I said,
it may all be a lot of rot, but chew on this a bit, Dave. It is possible
that the Nazis have trapped and caught this Pierre Deschaud, but aren't
saying anything about it. Maybe they are using him, or somebody exactly
like him, as bait for the colonel's agents. Don't forget, the last five
agents were caught!"

Dave swallowed hard and wiped a hand across his forehead, which had
become just a wee bit moist--and not from the warmth of the night air,
either!

"Gee, you think of the nicest things!" he muttered. "But you could be
right as rain, Freddy, and no fooling. We've got to watch our step. And
_how_ we've got to watch it! Pick up the marbles, Freddy. You've got the
old brain, and no fooling! Any other ideas?"

"No, that one's enough," Freddy said grimly. "Yes, we've got to watch
our step, but--well--that is--I mean, it doesn't make any difference,
Dave, does it?"

"Any what?" Dave echoed, and stared at him. "You mean, should we call it
off? Hey! One more crack like that, and--Oh, just the old kidder, huh?"

Freddy was chuckling as he grabbed Dave's arms.

"I'm sorry, Dave," he said. "I just couldn't pass the opening. Your face
looks so funny when you suddenly get mad. Of course I didn't mean a
thing, and I apologize."

"Well, that's better!" Dave growled. Then, grinning slowly: "You did
have me going for a second, there. I really thought you were serious,
you old tease, you! I must be slipping, not to have got wise at once.
I--Uh-uh! I guess this is it, pal!"

The last was caused by the approaching figure of the pilot of the
Wellington in which they were to fly. The pilot was Flight Lieutenant
Wiggins, and though he wore a heavy flying kit, they knew that the
D.F.C. ribbon for air gallantry was under the R.A.F. wings on his tunic.
He came up, stopped, grinned, and jerked a thumb in the direction of
the waiting Wellington bombers.

"Hitler just called," he announced. "Says the weather is perfect over
Berlin, and will we please get it over with? So I guess we'd better get
along and please the little fellow, what? You ready?"

"And raring," Dave said with a grin.

"Absolutely fed up with standing on the ground," Freddy added.

The flight lieutenant chuckled and gave them both a keen look.

"I say, drop me a line after it's all over, will you?" he suddenly asked
as they started walking toward the planes. "You know my name and
squadron address. It should reach me right enough."

"A line about what?" Dave asked in an innocent voice.

"Come off it, my lad!" Flight Lieutenant Wiggins snorted. "You know what
I mean. The show you two are scheduled to pull off. We've been pulling
out our hair wondering what it's all about. That goes for the squadron
leader, too. He swears he doesn't know a thing."

"But that's rot!" Freddy exclaimed, and buckled his helmet strap tight.
"Didn't Hitler say he phoned, just now?"

"The blighter didn't say a word, except that the weather was wonderful
and would we please get on with it?" Wiggins chuckled.

"Well, there you are!" Freddy cried. "He's just a shy sort of chap, you
know. Probably was afraid that you'd pull his leg about it."

"Oh, quite," the flight lieutenant said with a gesture. "But just what
would I pull his leg about? Of course, if it's a deep secret, and you've
sworn to Winston Churchill not to breathe a word, why then--"

"But we thought _everybody_ knew!" Dave said in mock surprise. "Hitler's
become fed up. And he's mad at Goering, besides. Goering won't lend him
any of his medals any more. So Hitler's mad. He wants to come over here
and fight in the British army. Well, you could have knocked me down with
a feather when King George asked my pal and me to go over there and
bring him back."

"So there you are!" Freddy said. "All very simple. Nothing to it,
really."

"Sure!" Dave chuckled. "Get a copy of the London Times tomorrow. There
may even be pictures."

"Say, I'll jolly well do that!" Flight Lieutenant Wiggins said with mock
excitement. "And some day I'll tell my grandchildren that I shook hands
with the two chaps who nurse-maided Adolf Hitler back to England. So I
guess I'd better do that, now."

They had reached the side of the nearest Wellington. Flight Lieutenant
Wiggins stopped and in turn shook each boy warmly by the hand.

"Happy landings, lads," he said quietly. "Tally-ho, and all that sort of
thing, you know. Well, up into her."

A warm and exhilarating glow tingled through Dave and Freddy as they
climbed up through the belly door of the Wellington bomber and made
their way forward toward the navigator's cubbyhole just in back of the
pilot. The kidding with Flight Lieutenant Wiggins had removed a lot of
ugly thoughts. That was the old R.A.F. spirit. Perhaps not one of these
Wellingtons would return from their dangerous night raids over Germany,
but the pilots and the crews didn't talk about that. They didn't even
think about it. They were R.A.F., and there was a job to do. And that
was that. No fuss and feathers. No back slapping and brass bands.
Battling death and beating it at its own game was routine with them, and
they took it as such, with a smile and a joke on their lips.

When they were seated on the two small canvas stools, Dave reached over,
pressed Freddy's knee and winked at him in the pale glow of the single
light bulb fitted to a fuselage bracing strip. Freddy winked back and
smiled. A moment later the fuselage light winked out, and there was no
light save the pencil beam of the navigator's bulb, and the fused glow
of the instrument panel up forward. Flight Lieutenant Wiggins ran up his
engines, checked the radio, and then trundled his bomb-loaded ship to
the far end of the field and swung it around into the wind.

There he waited with idling engines for the three other planes in the
patrol to take up line-astern position. When they were in place and
ready, radio orders came from the field's Operations Office for the
take-off. Wiggins pushed throttles forward, and the two Pegasus engines
roared up in a mighty song of power. The Wellington quivered and
trembled for a moment as though it were reluctant to leave the safety
of English soil. Then slowly it moved forward down a long line of flares
set out on the field. With every revolution of its twin propellers the
plane picked up speed. Presently it was bouncing down that line of
flares on its wheels with the tail up. A moment or so more and Flight
Lieutenant Wiggins pulled back on the controls. The bouncing stopped,
and the Wellington went curving up toward the star-dotted night sky.

The instant the wheels were clear and the bomber was mounting up toward
Heaven, Dave twisted slightly so that he could peek out the navigator's
port and down at the shadowy mass that was England falling away from the
plane. For one brief instant stark fright streaked through his heart. It
passed, and a tight grin came to his lips. He turned his head and looked
past Flight Lieutenant Wiggins and through the reinforced glass nose of
the plane--and on into the future.

"Pierre Deschaud, here we come!" he whispered softly to himself.



CHAPTER EIGHT

_Terror Rides The Night Sky_


England was far behind in the darkness. The altimeter on the instrument
board in front of Flight Lieutenant Wiggins said twenty thousand feet.
Both Dave and Freddy had long since stuck the oxygen tubes in their
mouths, as had also Wiggins and the members of his crew. And whenever
their heads felt a bit light they took a suck of the energy-restoring
air and instantly felt normal again. Dave had to grin whenever he looked
at Freddy and the others. In their helmets and oxygen masks, they looked
like a group of crazy creatures from Mars.

Presently they ran into a bit of weather. The plane heaved slightly, but
Wiggins kept it dead on its course. After another bit of time they ran
into high clouds. Dave saw Flight Lieutenant Wiggins speaking into his
radio mike and knew that the pilot was ordering the other planes of the
patrol to spread out so as to avoid collision while flying blind. The
nodding of Wiggins' head indicated that the other pilots were
acknowledging the order and obeying it.

For some fifteen minutes the plane flew blind through the clouds, then
came out into clear air again. Wiggins and the navigator checked their
position. Then Wiggins scribbled something on a piece of paper and
handed it back to the two boys. They glanced at the short message, which
read:

     "Tired of looking at your funny faces. Time to make sure your
     'chute packs are strapped on tight. You will probably need them on
     the way down!! Cheeri-o!"

Dave and Freddy grinned at each other, then impulsively they clasped
hands warmly. No words were spoken. No words needed to be spoken. They
would have been empty and meaningless. The firm pressure of the other's
hand had told each far, far more than mere words. The first part of
their venture was quickly drawing to a close. In a short time they would
dive away from the droning Wellington into the black night that shrouded
German-occupied Belgium. In a few minutes--

But fate, perhaps, had suddenly decided not to let it be that way. Above
the drone of the twin Pegasus engines came a sharp staccato yammer that
made fingers of ice clutch at Dave's heartstrings. An instant later he
heard the loud voice of the gunner in the tail.

"A couple of the beggers have picked us out!" he cried. "There go the
blinking Paul Prys!"

At that moment the Wellington flew straight into a world of brilliant
white light. Nazi searchlights on the ground, or Paul Prys, as the boys
of the R.A.F. called them, had picked up the Wellington formation in
their revealing glare. Instinctively Dave and Freddy grabbed hold of
fuselage girders for support. And not a moment too soon, either. Flight
Lieutenant Wiggins had shoved the control stick forward and was dropping
the Wellington down into a roaring power dive. A couple of split seconds
after he started the dive, he sent the plane careening crazily off to
the left. The craft roared out of the searchlight beams and plowed away
through black night.

"Sweet going!" Dave heard his own voice shout in praise. "That's showing
the guys how good their Paul Prys are. Oh-oh! I had forgotten about
those birds!"

The last exclamation was caused by the staccato yammer of aerial machine
gun fire coming to his ears once again. And almost instantly the sound
of the guns in the tail of the Wellington was added to the chatter. Dave
and Freddy hugged their seats and felt very helpless and useless. They
were really passengers aboard the plane, and there was nothing they
could do but sit tight. Sit tight--and think.

That was the hard part. Thinking! Because their thoughts were far from
joyous ones. Dave's hunch had started to come true. In another few
moments they should have been floating down toward Belgium soil. But all
that was changed, now. Fate had guided night flying German planes to
their position in the sky, and those Nazi pilots were doing their utmost
to finish them off right then and there.

"Just as though they knew we were coming, and were hiding in the
bushes!" Dave muttered to himself as British and German aerial machine
guns hammered away at each other. "Just as though--Ye Gods! Could that
be true? Do the Nazis know that Freddy and I are--"

He cut off the startling thought short and gulped. Then suddenly the
whole night sky seemed to explode right on the tip of the Wellington's
nose. Colored light and sound raced back to crash against Dave and
Freddy as though they were things actually made of solid substances.
Dave braced himself and squinted forward. What he saw brought a sharp
cry to his lips, and he came up off his stool as though a coiled spring
had been released under him.

"We're hit, Freddy!" he shouted over his shoulder. "Wiggins and the
other chap caught some of that anti-aircraft shell."

Twisting past the navigator's cubbyhole, Dave went forward to where
Flight Lieutenant Wiggins sat slumped over against the controls. His
weight had forced the Dep control stick forward, and the Wellington was
now tearing down in a thundering dive. The second pilot had been knocked
clean off his canvas seat and was stretched out motionless on the
cockpit flooring. Bracing himself, Dave reached out and pulled the
unconscious Wiggins back in the seat with one hand. Holding the man
there, he reached down and grabbed hold of the Dep wheel and gave it all
of his strength. The nose tried to drag itself down to the vertical, but
Dave's pull on the stick was too much. Inch by inch the plane's nose
came up, and after what seemed like years the craft was climbing upward
at a slightly flat angle.

"Help me get Wiggins out of the seat!" Dave shouted to Freddy at his
elbow. "I'll take over while you fellows see if they're badly hurt."

"Right you are!" Freddy called out in a clear steady voice. "Here, I'll
give you a hand with Wiggins and this other chap."

Together the boys lifted and dragged Flight Lieutenant Wiggins and his
second pilot out of the cockpit and back toward the navigator's
cubbyhole. The navigator seemed too amazed to lend a hand at first.

"But who'll fly the bus, now?" he gasped when he finally found his
tongue.

"If she handles something like a Hurricane, don't worry!" Dave shouted,
and vaulted into the seat vacated by Wiggins.

The searchlights had once again picked up the Wellington, and Dave had
the crazy impression of flying right straight through the sun as he
hunched himself over the controls. A world of brilliant, blinding light
smote his eyes, and it was filled with the thundering roar of exploding
anti-aircraft shells, and the snarling yammer of death-spitting aerial
machine guns. Instinct and instinct alone guided Dave's movements as he
struggled to wheel and dive that Wellington out of the dazzling white
glare. He couldn't even see the instrument panel in front of him, the
light was so blinding. However, you don't need eyes to shove the control
stick this way and that. Nor do you need eyes to jump on left or right
rudder pedal.

Perhaps the designers of the Wellington bomber would have torn out their
hair in anguish at the way Dave Dawson booted their brainchild about the
searchlight-stabbed sky over Belgium. But Dave didn't give a thought to
that. Perhaps he didn't fly it real pretty like. But a twin-engined
Wellington loaded with bombs isn't exactly like a swift sleek Hurricane,
so what the heck? The idea was to cut away from those fingers of light
that pinned them against the heavens, and that was the only idea. How
the heck he brought it about didn't matter. That he could do it was
what counted.

And he did succeed. Without warning the Wellington sliced right into a
wall of darkness. Dave instinctively reached for the throttles to take
strain off the howling engines, but he checked his hand, and let the
plane roar deeper and deeper into that blessed sea of darkness. Then
presently, when he saw the searchlight beams being frantically swung
back and forth across the sky far in back of him, he put the ship in a
steady climb and twisted around in the seat.

That is, he started to twist around in the seat, but such movement
seemed to make the top of his head fly off. In a flash he realized what
was wrong. In the excitement his oxygen mask had slipped down off his
face and he could not reach the tube with his lips. Night air was
pouring through the shattered section of cockpit glass cowling where
fragments of shrapnel had struck, and the sensation was akin to a
million icy needles pricking the skin of his face and hands. He let go
of the controls, adjusted his oxygen mask and sucked the life giving gas
into his lungs. In a second or so he was a new man. He set the controls
for level flight, then twisted around in the seat and looked back.

Freddy and the navigator were bending over Wiggins and the second pilot.
Even as Dave looked, the flight lieutenant slowly sat up, made a wry
face, and put a hand to his head. Dave sighed thankfully.

"Well, he's pretty much okay!" he breathed. "So that's one of them to
handle this bus."

He turned forward for a moment to check the instruments, then scrambled
out of the seat and went back. Flight Lieutenant Wiggins saw him and
smiled thinly.

"Much obliged, old chap," he said, and slowly stood up. "Had a hunch you
two knew something about planes. R.A.F., of course."

The flight lieutenant paused and winked.

"But we won't say a word about what we know," he whispered. "Must keep
it very hush-hush, what? And, oh yes, I haven't thanked you for saving
our blinking hides, have I? Well, I thank you sincerely, and all that
sort of thing."

"Forget it," Dave said, and grinned at him. "I was only thinking of my
own hide. By the way, how's your pal?"

Dave pointed down at the second pilot, who was also sitting up and
holding his head in his hands.

"Who, Chubby, there?" Wiggins echoed. "Oh, never worry about Chubby when
he gets hit on the head. There's nothing inside to hurt, you see. On
your feet, Chubby. We've got to coast about a bit, and find out just
where the devil we are, and what happened to the rest of the patrol,
too. Then we'll let these two gentlemen off at their stop. Come along,
lad. After we've landed, I'll let you look at the cut on _my_ head."

Wiggins tapped his second pilot playfully on the shoulder, and then went
forward and took over the controls. The second pilot got to his feet,
looked at Dave and Freddy and shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of
despair.

"And to think I could have flown with dozens of other Wellington
pilots," he groaned. "But I had to go and pick a heartless beggar like
him. Ah me! Such is life in the R.A.F., lads. All work, and not the
slightest bit of appreciation from your superiors. Good luck!"

Dave and Freddy laughed as the second pilot slouched wearily forward to
his canvas seat. Five minutes later Wiggins had made contact with the
rest of his patrol, and had relocated his position. Another ten minutes
and Flight Commander Wiggins turned the controls over to his second
pilot and came aft to Dave and Freddy. He replied to their questioning
glances with a nod.

"Right-o, chaps," he said. "We're at seventeen thousand and about six
miles south of Antwerp. Chubby will cut the engines and take her down
another couple of thousand. A free fall will take you out of the Paul
Prys in case they hear us and start poking around. And many thanks again
for saving the ship. Chubby and I will always think kindly of you, very
much so. Well, good luck again."

"Don't thank us," Dave said, and jerked his head toward the tail. "Thank
your tail gunner for driving off those night flying planes that were
potting at you. What about the rest of the patrol? Did you contact them
by radio?"

"Oh, sure," Wiggins nodded. "One reports getting a Messerschmitt, too.
They've gone on. We'll catch up with them after you chaps have stepped
off into space."

"You're continuing the patrol?" Freddy gasped, and looked forward at
the shattered glass of the cockpit cowling.

Flight Lieutenant Wiggins followed his gaze and chuckled.

"Oh, quite," he said. "That hole's nothing. Besides, the night air will
keep Chubby awake, you know. The blighter's always falling asleep and
making me do all the flying. And also, I couldn't use up gas lugging
these bombs all this distance without dropping them where they'll do the
most good."

"And I hope every one is a direct hit!" Dave said grimly, making sure
that his parachute harness was properly buckled.

"Me too!" Freddy chimed in. "And I'll give you one guess who I hope you
hit right on top of the old bean, too!"

"My, my! What a cold-blooded chap!" Flight Lieutenant Wiggins said in
pretended horror. "I don't believe he likes the nasty Nazis a single
bit. Well, neither do I, for that matter. Right-o, Chubby! Dig the sleep
out of your baby blue eyes, and slide us down three thousand. Our guests
are leaving us."

The last was shouted forward. Chubby nodded that he had heard and eased
back the throttles until the Pegasus engines were just a rumbling
murmur. The nose of the Wellington dipped gracefully and the bomber slid
gently down through the night sky. Dave and Freddy moved forward to the
belly door that the navigator had opened up. There they waited until
Chubby had pulled the bomber up out of its glide and was prop plowing
along on an even keel. Dave looked at Freddy, and grinned.

"See you, you know where, pal!" he called out. "Watch out you don't
float down on a church steeple. Those things are doggone sharp, you
know."

"And you watch out, too!" Freddy cried as Dave got down and let his legs
hang down through the opening. "And if you get lost, just send me a
postcard. I'll come get you. Happy landings!"

"Ditto to you, Freddy!" Dave shouted, and let his body drop down through
the belly door.



CHAPTER NINE

_In The Enemy's Country_


The instant Dave Dawson dropped away from the belly of the Wellington
black night engulfed him from all sides. He let his whole body go limp
and relaxed save for the fingers of his right hand, which he kept
tightly curled about the rip-cord ring. For a brief moment or so, as his
body turned over and over in that sea of darkness, it seemed as though a
million invisible hands were grabbing at the Belgian peasant clothes he
wore and trying to rip them from his body. Wind whistled shrilling in
his ears, and had he not been wearing goggles he knew that his eyelids
would be fluttering like loose blinds in a gale of wind.

Then suddenly his falling body reached its maximum rate of falling
speed, and the sensation became one of floating on a huge soft black
cloud. He knew he was on his back because he could see the stars
straight above him. He raced his eyes across the sky to the east and
thought he saw the faint flicker of the Wellington's exhaust plumes, but
he couldn't tell for sure. He wondered just where in that star-studded
sky above him Freddy might be. Had Freddy already jumped? A sudden
thought came to him, and a stifled gasp of alarm rose up to his lips.
Supposing something had happened so Freddy couldn't quit the bomber?
Supposing his parachute harness had caught on something, and propeller
wash had wrenched him free, and he was now spinning headlong downward
with a damaged and useless parachute flapping out behind? Supposing--?

He groaned aloud at the torturing thoughts and wished with all his heart
and soul that he had waited and watched Freddy jump first. Then he would
know for sure that Freddy had bailed out all right. But as it was now,
perhaps--

"Watch your own step, sap! Are you going to free-fall forever? Pull the
rip-cord ring, dope!"

Perhaps he shouted those words aloud, or perhaps they were only spoken
in his brain. At any rate he cut off thinking about other things and
gave the rip-cord ring a smart jerk. His body dropped earthward for
another split second or so. Then suddenly giant hands reached down from
above and violently jerked him back up toward the stars. His body spun
around like a top and he was forced to gulp for air. Another few seconds
and he was dangling feet downward at the ends of the parachute shroud
lines and swaying gently back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. He
sucked more air into his lungs, cocked his head and looked downward.

All he could see at first was just one great expanse of utter darkness.
It was like gazing down into a coal mine at the hour of midnight. There
was nothing but darkness and more darkness. Then gradually, as his eyes
became better focussed, he saw not just one great expanse of darkness,
but more of a collection of shadows. Some shadows were darker than
others, and all of them were of different shapes and sizes. Suddenly he
spotted a long snake-shaped shadow. It was almost a dark grey, and he
knew at once that it was the Campine (or Kempen) Canal that extended
eastward from Antwerp.

Reaching up, he grasped hold of the shroud lines, twisted around and
glanced toward the north. He saw a faint cluster of lights that must
mark Antwerp. And he was pretty sure that he could make out the Scheldt
River that served as Antwerp's water outlet to the sea. He relaxed his
grip on the shroud lines, returned his gaze to the shadows directly
underneath him and silently praised Flight Lieutenant Wiggins' flying
and navigating ability. In exact accordance with orders, the British air
ace had dumped them out where they would float down to a point not too
far from Antwerp, and not too close so that they might be seen.

"Dumped _them_ out?" Dave echoed the thought aloud. "Boy, oh boy, do I
hope and pray it _is_ them! And not just him, meaning yours truly.
Freddy, pal, maybe you're right close to me, and perfectly okay, but I
sure wish I could see you and be sure. And how! We hit on all six when
we work as a team. Alone, I've got a hunch I'd be just a foul ball. So,
Freddy--"

He stopped short because his voice suddenly choked up so that he
couldn't speak. He swallowed and clenched his teeth hard.

"Cut the sob stuff, the sentimental junk, Dave!" he told himself
savagely. "There's a job to do whether Freddy's right there with you, or
not. And he'd feel the same way about it, too. So pull up your socks,
chappy, as Freddy would say, and tend strictly to your knitting."

A couple of moments later there was no more time in which to wonder
about this and speculate about that. A sudden change in the mess of
shadows directly beneath him told him that the ground was close, and
coming up fast. Impulsively he brushed one hand across the lenses of his
goggles, as though in so doing he might see objects better. Perhaps that
did help some. At any rate, a split second later he caught a flash
glimpse of a cluster of pointed shadows, shadows that pointed straight
up at him! They were the tops of a clump of trees, and he reacted
instantly to the realization that flashed through his brain.

He shot up both hands and grabbed hold of the shroud lines on the right
and pulled downward with every ounce of his strength. The action
"spilled" air from that side of the silk envelope over his head and
caused the parachute and his dangling body to slip off to the side. The
tree tops were practically touching the soles of his shoes, and he held
his breath for fear he had not side-slipped the 'chute in time. A brief
split second ticked past into time history, or perhaps it was an entire
year. To Dave it seemed an eternity before the tops of the trees moved
away from under him. He quickly jackknifed his knees slightly so that he
could absorb some of the "landing shock" with his legs, and
automatically threw up one arm across his face just in case there were
brambles and shrubs down there. And then the ground rose up and smacked
him.

White pain shot up through his left leg. Something cracked him in the
small of his back. Something else rammed itself against his right shin.
And then something entirely different darted out of the darkness and
rapped him on the jaw. He saw thousands upon thousands of colored stars
dancing around before his eyes. Then suddenly all was dark and peaceful,
and very silent....

When he next opened his eyes, he found himself staring straight up at a
vast expanse of smudgy grey. He had the sensation of looking up at a
poorly whitewashed ceiling. Only it wasn't a ceiling at all. It was the
sky, and it was a sort of dirty grey because the last of night still
lingered and the Goddess of Dawn had not yet wiped the heavens clean
with her veil dipped in sunlight.

For a few moments he continued to stare upward, vaguely conscious of the
fact that he was lying stretched out on dew-drenched ground, but not
caring much about it. Presently a dull pounding in his head awakened
memory. He sat up straight, groaned from the effort, and cradled his
head in his hands. That stopped the aching considerably. He took his
hands away and looked slowly around. It was then he saw what had
happened. Fifty yards away was the clump of trees he had missed by a
whisker, but two feet from him was a jagged stone wall he had not
missed. The silk of his parachute clung to it in shreds, and the shroud
lines were wrapped about jutting rocks like a spider's web. He unbuckled
the harness about him and got painfully to his feet. His left trousers
leg was ripped from the knee down, and there was a nasty scratch where a
point of rock had left its mark. The right shoulder of his coarse jacket
was also torn. And to top everything off, he was smeared with mud and
dirt from head to foot. He looked down at himself and shook his head.

"Gee, if I don't look like a refugee who's been wandering around plenty
long," he breathed, "then there just ain't no such animal!"

He straightened up and looked around again. It was rolling farm country
on all four sides, but one look told the pitiful story. War had
prevented the land from being worked, and acres and acres of ground were
simply going to seed. It was not that fact, however, that caused a look
of disgust to come into his face. It was the stone wall, which was no
more than a hundred yards long and seemed to serve no purpose
whatsoever. There was not another stone wall to be seen in any
direction.

"That's Dawson luck for you!" he grunted aloud. "The only stone wall for
miles around, but me, I'd hit it sure as shooting. Oh well, I could have
broken my neck, I suppose. And at least I don't have to dig a hole to
bury the stuff."

As he spoke the last, he started gathering up the tangle of parachute
harness, shroud lines, and silk. Then, together with the oxygen mask and
tank, that had somehow been twisted clear off his face and around so
that it hung down his back, he carefully stuffed everything under the
bottom of the wall where it undoubtedly would not be discovered for the
next hundred years or so. And probably by that time it would be turned
into dust, anyway, and be completely unrecognizable.

When Dave straightened up again, a very urgent and very familiar feeling
came to him. It struck him square in the stomach. In short, he suddenly
realized that he was as hungry as a wolf. For a brief second fright came
to him again. But when he stuck his hand inside his shirt he grinned and
sighed with relief. Before leaving England, he and Freddy had been
supplied with a small compact case of specially prepared emergency
rations that would last them several days in a crisis. To make sure he
wouldn't lose it, each had strapped the case about his waist under his
shirt. Dave's was still there.

He pulled it out, selected a bar of energy-building chocolate and ate it
hungrily. He was tempted to attack a second bar, but will-power refused
to permit him to do so. He put the case of emergency rations back in
place, fixed his direction from the rising sun and set out across the
fields toward a small hill a mile or two away. The lingering shadows of
night were completely gone when he finally reached the top of the hill
and paused to get his breath. A moment or so later he climbed part way
up a tree and stared hard and long at the surrounding countryside.

Some five miles to the north lay the southern outskirts of the city of
Antwerp, but for the moment he wasn't interested in Antwerp. The land to
the east, and west, and in the direction whence he had come, interested
him most. He hoped against hope that from his look-out post he might
spot a solitary figure making his way across country toward Antwerp, a
lone figure dressed in the clothes of a Belgian peasant refugee. In
other words, he prayed that the miracle might come to pass--that he
might see and recognize Freddy Farmer trudging toward Antwerp.

His prayer was not answered, however, and the miracle did not come to
pass. He saw miles and miles of Belgian countryside, but not the
slightest sign of anyone who might be Freddy Farmer. Oddly enough, he
did not see a single human being; not even a dog, nor a farm animal.
Save for the darkish blur to the north that was Antwerp, he might have
been staring across a completely deserted land. Presently he climbed
down to the ground and stood there fighting grimly with his thoughts.

His thoughts were like so many dancing demons that whirled around inside
his brain and continually jabbed him with the sharp pointed spears they
carried. Where was Freddy Farmer? Had he been able to bail out safely?
Had he landed safely? Was Freddy dead? Had he landed in some trees, by
any chance, and right now might he be lying helpless and crippled only a
short distance away?

The thoughts brought tears of helpless rage to Dave's eyes, and it was
hard to beat them back. He tried desperately to argue with himself. He
tried to point out to that other side of him that it was hours since he
and Freddy had stepped off from the Wellington, and that Freddy was
probably in Antwerp by now and making his cautious way to their meeting
place at Sixteen Rue Chartres. Certainly that was possible. That stone
wall had knocked him out for hours, and he was simply late getting
started. Sure, Freddy had landed safe as could be and was now in Antwerp
waiting for him. Thoughts and arguments! Thoughts and arguments! They
helped one minute, and drove him deeper into the depths of worried
despair the next.

"Well, just standing here won't get you any of the answers!" he finally
grated at himself. "Get the lead out of your pants and start going
places. Don't stand here all day and mope, you fathead!"

The words of self-abuse seemed to help a little. At least they made him
angry at his own momentary weakness. Fists clenched and jaw set, he
wheeled around and went down the north side of the hill and toward
Antwerp. At the end of half an hour he had reached the first of the
outskirt streets, and still hadn't met a living soul. Trudging wearily
along the street, striving hard to act like a peasant lad who was
completely lost and homeless, he kept shooting keen glances at the rows
of houses on either side of the street. A few of the houses bore the
marks of the Nazi air raids which had taken place before the city fell
into enemy hands, but most of them were in fairly good condition. Yet as
Dave peered at the fronts and saw the drawn curtains, and a boarded up
door here and there, he felt pretty sure that that section of the city
had been evacuated.

Street after street was the same. It was like looking at the same
picture over and over again. When he paused, he could hear the faint
rumble of sound from the direction of the city's center, and every now
and then a flight of German planes winged by high overhead. But in the
outskirts of the city all was quiet and still. With each step his wonder
grew, and with each step the fingers of vague worry clutched at him more
and more. For some crazy reason he was tempted a dozen times to wheel
around and retrace his steps in a hurry. But Sixteen Rue Chartres was
like a magnet that drew him toward it and refused to let him retreat.

Then suddenly, as he swung around another corner, a squad of field grey
German soldiers seemed to rise right up out of the sidewalk. A
non-commissioned officer was in charge of them. He was a big man with a
flat and cruel-looking face. In his right fist he clenched a Luger, and
the muzzle of that Luger was pointed straight at the pit of Dave's
stomach.

"Halt!" the German ordered in a savage snarl.



CHAPTER TEN

_Trapped!_


A moment of wild panic gripped Dave Dawson. His first impulse was to
spin around and flee for his life. In the nick of time, however, cold
logic made him realize the utter senselessness of such a move. He got a
quick hold on himself, threw both his hands above his head and faked a
display of mortal terror.

"Don't shoot!" he cried in a high shrill voice. "I have done nothing. I
am lost, and I am hungry. Please do not shoot, _Herr Kommandant_!"

To be addressed by such a title of high rank seemed obviously to please
the German, who held only a corporal's rank. He smiled and puffed out
his chest a bit, and holstered his Luger.

"So, another little vagrant swine, eh?" he leered. "Where do you come
from, boy? What are you doing in this area of the city where it is
forbidden for civilians to go?"

Inwardly Dave longed to lash out with both fists at the flat leering
face, but he had more sense than to ask for a bullet from the German
corporal's Luger. Instead he played his part to the limit. He blinked
and worked his mouth, and looked for all the world as though he were
going to burst out in tears.

"I come from the south, _Herr Kommandant_," he said in a whimpering
voice. "From Rotselner, near Louvain. Our farm, it was destroyed in the
bombardment. I was separated from my family during the evacuation to
Brussels. And when--and when--"

Dave purposely stumbled to a stop and gazed pleadingly at the German
corporal.

"May I please put my hands down, _Herr Kommandant_?" he whined. "I am
very tired. And I have hurt my leg, as you can see. Please?"

The German grunted and nodded his head.

"Put them down, then," he growled. "All you Belgians are babies about
pain, anyway. Well? You went to Brussels? Why did you not stay there
instead of coming up here to bother me, eh?"

Dave gestured miserably.

"The city was filled with refugees," he said. "They would not let any
more inside the city limits. They turned us away, and ordered us to go
elsewhere."

"So?" the German suddenly echoed as a sharp gleam leaped into his beady
eyes. "And when was this? Last week, perhaps?"

Dave was expecting some sort of a trap, so he was prepared, and did not
plunge headlong into it.

"No, _Herr Kommandant_," he said, and shook his head. "It was not just
last week. It was a long time ago, last June. Ever since then I have
been wandering around trying to find my father, and my mother, and my
two sisters."

"And probably stealing all the time, eh?" the German snarled at him.
"Yes, I know your kind. We come and save your country from the English
dogs, and you thank us by stealing everything you can lay your hands
on."

"No, no, I have not been stealing, _Herr Kommandant_!" Dave cried
wildly. "I have been looking for work--any kind of work so I could earn
money to pay for my bed and a little food. But there has not been much
work to find."

"You mean you are too lazy!" the German corporal interrupted harshly.
"You look big enough to work, but I know that you are simply lazy. All
of your kind are lazy. So you decided to come up here to Antwerp and beg
off us? You expected us to put food in your dirty mouth?"

"No, _Herr Kommandant_!" Dave protested with a whimper. "Only if I work
for it. Yes, I am strong. I am willing to work, but there is so little
work to be found these days. Farther south near Malines, I met a very
kind German officer. He was in command of a tank division. He told me
that his comrades in Antwerp would give me work to do. He said they
would be glad to give me work so that I could pay for my bed and my
food."

As soon as Dave stopped speaking, he realized that it had been a mistake
to add the little lie about meeting a German officer. The corners of the
corporal's mouth went down, and sneering disgust glittered in his eyes.
He made a movement with his lips as though to spit.

"So you were told that, eh?" he suddenly rasped out. "Well, that officer
should have tended to his tanks instead of giving foolish advice to
stupid swine. We have enough trouble here in Antwerp. Too many mouths to
feed as it is. You fool Belgians are so stupid. You have to be led
around like cows. Yes, you should have rings put in your noses.
_Himmel!_ I shall be a happy man when my company is ordered elsewhere."

A sudden thought came to Dave, and he tried a new way of getting on the
good side of the surly German corporal.

"You have been in many battles, _Herr Kommandant_?" he asked in a polite
voice. "You have seen much excitement, and fought in many battles?"

It was instantly evident that this was the one wrong thing to ask. One
of the soldiers tittered faintly, and the corporal's neck and face
flushed a beet red. Undoubtedly he had yet to hear a shot fired, and had
been sent to Antwerp for patrol duty long after the city had been taken
by the real fighting forces of Adolf Hitler. He stood glaring, and Dave
inwardly braced himself for the blow he expected to come. In a minute,
however, the German managed to get control of his anger. But the wrong
question by Dave had completely upset the apple cart. He had hoped that
by getting on the good side of the corporal he might persuade the man to
tell him some place to go and ask for work, and would be sent on his
way. Thus he would be able to slip on through the patrol area and
eventually lose himself in the city. But--

The apple cart had been tipped over.

"Fritz!" the corporal barked back over his shoulder. "Take him to the
Central Detention Station and throw him inside. Tell Sergeant Mueller
that I will be in later to make a report on him. Take him in the sidecar
and return at once."

"Very good, Corporal," a voice said.

Then a skinny soldier with bulging eyes stepped forward and rammed Dave
in the chest with the muzzle of his short but deadly field rifle. Dave
whimpered and shrank back and looked appealingly at the corporal.

"But I have done nothing, _Herr Kommandant_!" he whined.

The corporal snorted and made a curt gesture with his hand.

"You were born!" he snapped. "And that was too much, as I see things.
Take him away, Fritz!"

The soldier grinned and prodded Dave again with the barrel of his rifle.

"March in front of me!" he shouted. "Down the street. Try to run away
and I will shoot you for a wild pig. March!"

White anger blazed up in Dave, but he still had sense enough to hold
himself in check. He kept the frightened look on his dirt-smeared face,
let his shoulders droop in cringing defeat, and went trudging along the
sidewalk in front of the soldier. At the end of the block the soldier
stopped him and made him get into the bucket of a sidecar parked around
the corner. The soldier slung his rifle over his shoulder by the strap,
forked the seat saddle and leered sideways at Dave.

"You will be a wise little boy to keep your hands clasped in your lap!"
he barked. "Don't think that you'll have a chance to jump out and
escape. You'll be another dead Belgian, if you try that."

"I shall not try to escape," Dave murmured meekly, and kept his eyes on
his clasped hands.

"Then that will be good!" the soldier grunted, and kicked the engine of
his army motorcycle into life.

Even if Dave had secretly nursed the idea of attempting an escape, he
would promptly have abandoned any such idea once the soldier got the
motorcycle and sidecar rolling down the street. The German acted little
short of a madman. He streaked along like a bolt of lightning and took
corners on one wheel. A dozen times, had not Dave grabbed frantically
for support, he would have been bounced out on his head to meet with
serious injury. It was an even wilder ride than he and Freddy had taken
through the blazing bomb-blasted streets of Dunkirk just a few short
months before.[2]

[Footnote 2: _Dave Dawson at Dunkirk._]

After a two mile ride that brought them straight into the heart of the
city, the German braked to a screaming stop in front of a long
flat-roofed building. A glance at it indicated that it had probably been
used as a storehouse before the outbreak of war. In a way, as Dave
learned a few minutes later, it was still being used as a storehouse, a
storehouse for civilian prisoners taken by the Nazi troops occupying
the city!

The soldier marched him in through the front door and past two
giant-sized guards. The guards grinned at the soldier and raised their
eyebrows questioningly. The soldier laughed harshly and nodded.

"Caught him trying to sneak through the forbidden area," the soldier
said, and jerked his head at Dave. "Where is Sergeant Mueller? My
corporal says that he will be in later to make a report."

One of the guards pointed at a door on the left.

"In there, and probably sleeping," he said with a mirthless chuckle. "Go
and see him, and leave your little playmate with us. We will see that he
has the best of care, eh, Hans?"

The other guard laughed and nodded his head vigorously.

"The very best, of course!" he cried. "We shall let him go and talk with
some of his friends. Come along, you!"

A big hairy hand shot out and fingers of steel were curled around Dave's
arm. He was almost jerked off his feet as the guard yanked him forward.
He kept his balance, however, and was led to the far end of the short
corridor into which they had entered. There the guard stopped, gave Dave
a warning look, and took a ring of keys from his pocket. He selected a
key and opened the door in front of him. Then, faster than moving light,
he spun around and hit Dave across the back of the neck.

Stars flared up in Dave's brain, and he saw a sea of blurred faces as he
went stumbling through the open door. He fell down a short flight of
steps and landed hard on his hands and knees on a rough board floor. For
a moment he stayed where he was, waiting for his head to clear. Then the
hushed murmur of many voices and a cloying cloud of countless human
smells brought his head up and made him get to his feet. He found
himself in a huge, long room that contained at least a hundred others in
as pitiful looking state as himself.

"There's another one of your comrades!" he heard the guard shout just
before he slammed the door.

For a moment or two the hundred pairs of eyes searched Dave's face, and
his heart ached as he realized why they were doing so. Here was a
storehouse filled with war's driftwood, helpless refugees whose
families had been either crushed or broken up by the onward rushing
machine of war. Each man there was now searching his face and hoping in
his heart to recognize a long lost brother, or father, or some other
male relative.

Presently though, they dropped their eyes and went on with whatever they
had been doing before he had been hurled into their midst. Nobody made
any effort to speak to him, and he understood why. They were not
shunning him, or anything like that. They were simply letting him alone
with his own sorrows, as they wished to be let alone with theirs. What
could they speak about, anyway? Each man's story was the same. There was
no real difference. Each had been caught up in the toils of war--and
here he was.

Dave swallowed the bitterness that rose in his throat and went over and
sat down on a long row of hard wood benches that ran along one side of
the wall. An old man sitting there, staring unseeingly at the floor,
didn't so much as raise his eyes as Dave sat down. Save for the slight
movement of his chest, caused by his breathing, he could have been a man
dead. Perhaps in a way he was dead, too. His spirit had been killed by
the Germans. Only the physical side of his body remained alive.

Dave flashed him a sympathetic glance, started to speak, but thought
better of it. After all, what was there that even _he_ could say?
Certainly nothing that could give good cheer and heart to this poor old
man. Then he thought of the case of emergency food still strapped in
place about his waist, and his hand moved impulsively toward the inside
of his shirt. He checked the movement, however. The old man looked half
starved, but so did everybody else in the place. To take out his
specially prepared emergency rations would start a riot, at least.

Then, too--and he felt a little ashamed as he thought of it--there was
the matter of his own welfare. In a roundabout way he was fighting for
these poor helpless derelicts of war, and for that reason among others
he was forced to think of himself first. Right now he was in a tough
spot. He was locked up in a Nazi detention prison. Perhaps fate had
laughed in Freddy's face, too. Perhaps right now he also was eating his
heart out in some other prison nearby. Yes, Dave was a Nazi prisoner,
and he didn't dare even think of what would happen if he were
exposed--if, for example, he were searched and his secret supply of food
discovered, or the small compass, and pocket knife, and one or two other
little things he had brought along just in case.

Each little article could well mean a short and snappy trial, and then a
firing squad. He wasn't a civilian now, as he had been the last time he
and Freddy had fallen into German hands. He was a commissioned Pilot
Officer in the Royal Air Force. And what was even more important, right
now he was a spy, if ever there had been a spy.

And all of that added up to just one thing. He must get out of this
place at all costs, and as soon as possible. It was no use now ranting
at himself for not having thrown the incriminating articles away before
entering the outskirts of the city. Too late for that, now. The main and
important thing to concentrate his brain upon was how and when he was
going to escape from this place.

He lifted his head and stared about. There were plenty of windows, but
they were a good twelve feet from the floor. There were three doors at
the rear of the place, but he couldn't see them very well because of the
other refugees in the way. He was certain, however, that they must be
securely locked or barred. The thought added to his misery, and he
groaned aloud.

"It is of no use to complain, my son, even to oneself," a kindly yet sad
voice said at his elbow. "It only adds to one's misery."

Dave turned to see watery blue eyes fixed upon him. The old man who had
not moved a muscle as he sat down was now turned around and looking at
him out of watery blue eyes that held a wealth of sympathy and a world
of sorrow in their depths. Dave smiled and shrugged.

"I will try to get used to it," he said. Then, with a little wave of his
hand, he asked, "They have been here long? And why are they here?"

The old man sighed heavily and shook his head.

"Some a day," he said. "Some a week or two. And some, like myself, for
many months. Why are we here, you ask? For a thousand different reasons.
Yet all the same. We are of no use to the Germans who have captured our
beautiful city and driven us from our homes. We are only in their way.
My son, look at me."

"I am looking at you, sir," Dave said and felt uncomfortable.

"And what do you see?" the other asked with bitterness in his voice.
"An old man. An old, tired, and broken man. Yet, would you believe it,
just a year ago I owned one of the finest perfume businesses in Antwerp.
Yes, in all Belgium. I was a very rich man. And now, I am a broken old
man."

"But there must be some way of getting out of this place," Dave said,
and fought to keep the eagerness out of his voice. "There are only a few
guards. And--and you could hide out some place in the city."

The old man smiled as though Dave were a little child asking questions
about Santa Claus. He reached out a withered hand and patted Dave on the
knee.

"We stay here because there is no other place to go," he said in a
patient voice. "They at least give us a little food. No, it is not hard
to get out of here. Those doors at the rear are not very strong. They
could be knocked down without much trouble. But what then? All Antwerp
is watched by the Nazis. Could we go to a friend's house? No. He would
not dare let us in. Could we find food? No. The Germans have control
over everything. They claim they are protecting us, but they are really
breaking our spirits, and our bodies. It is all a part of their system.
Escape? Of course. But it would be only a matter of hours before one
would be caught--caught and shot down in the street like a mad dog. No,
my son, I stay here and try to make the best of it. They may kill me,
yes, but I shall not give them the satisfaction of my having them forced
to do it."

A lump rose in Dave's throat, and near tears were hot against the backs
of his eyeballs. He wanted to put his arm about the old man and do what
he could to comfort him. But he feared to attract attention. The old
man, and the other poor devils, were resigned to their fate. But not he.
He knew now that Lady Luck was still hovering close. Escape was
possible. Escape was easy, so it seemed. Escape would be his next bit of
action. And, please God, the chance to act would come soon.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_Flight From Nazi Guns_


How many hours had passed since he had been pitched headlong into this
storehouse of unspeakable human misery? Dave asked himself that question
for the umpteenth time as he stared at daylight fading beyond the row of
windows so far out of reach. In his saner moments he realized the hours
couldn't total more than ten or twelve, but the high tension ordeal of
living those hours seemed now to make them total a hundred at least.

Twelve hours of waiting, with every nerve and every muscle of his body
on fire. Each time the door had opened, and the face of one of those big
guards had appeared, his heart had turned to a chunk of ice in his
chest for fear that he was to be summoned for further examination. Right
after his short talk with the old man, he had wandered about the place,
and when no eye was turned his way he had one by one rid himself of the
emergency articles he had brought along. He had tossed them in a dark
corner, or stuffed them under a bench--any place, just so that he got
rid of them.

However, he had not parted with his little case of emergency rations.
That he had kept strapped in place inside his shirt. The knowledge that
it was there was a curse as well as a balm. If he was searched, the
discovery of those emergency rations might be as bad for him as the
Germans finding a couple of rifles and a machine gun stuffed down inside
his pants. As a matter of fact, a hundred times he had come within an
ace of definitely doing something about that ration case. Each time,
though, something had stayed his fingers; something had prevented him
from throwing his food supply away.

At any rate, he had hung onto it, and so each time a guard had opened
the door his heart had stood still and the sweat of fear had oozed out
on his forehead. By good luck, or otherwise, the visits of the guard
had meant nothing of importance. Once it had been to toss rank-smelling
loaves of bread at the starving throng, and to fill the huge water
buckets at one end of the room. The other visits had obviously been only
to see that the prisoners were still there, and were not rioting among
themselves.

During those long torturing hours Dave had spoken with a few of the
other imprisoned refugees. Their spirits had been no higher than that of
the old man. They were there for begging, for wandering about the
streets after dark, for not getting out of the way of some strutting
German officer in time, and for a hundred other utterly ridiculous
reasons. They were there because they were of no use and were in the way
of Nazi domination and oppression. What would happen to them they did
not know. And most of them did not care. Life for them was ended--and
they were spirit-whipped enough to let it go at that.

As Dave stopped staring at the fading twilight through the windows, and
lowered his gaze to the silent mass of broken men about him, he grimly
pledged anew to give his very all, if necessary, to rid the world once
and forever of such a system of living as Adolf Hitler and his
crackedbrained cohorts were striving to force upon all mankind. As long
as there was an ounce of strength in his body, or a drop of blood in his
veins, he would fight on to undo all the evil wrought and make the world
a better place for the millions yet unborn.

Presently he got slowly to his feet and started shuffling along the wall
as though he were going for a drink of water from one of the buckets. A
drink of water, however, was one thought not even in his mind. The water
buckets were near the three rear doors, and during the long hours of
waiting he had covertly examined those doors many times. The old man had
been indeed right. They were not at all strong. The locks were so rusted
and worn with age, and the hinges, too, that they would fall apart in
pieces from a single sharp blow.

But what lay beyond those doors? Bit by bit he had found that out, too,
by an innocent question here, and an innocent question there, spoken so
as not to arouse the slightest bit of curiosity. If his attempt to
escape was to be successful it depended upon no one even suspecting that
he was going to try. He had to surprise the refugees as well as the
guards. And so he had been very careful about the questions he asked.
He had learned that in back were low-roofed lumber sheds, though the
lumber had long since been carted away to Germany. Some one hundred
yards beyond the sheds was swamp ground that led down to the edge of the
Scheldt River. To the right and to the left of the sheds were the poorer
sections of the city, deserted now, blasted by bombs in the beginning,
and seldom patrolled by the Germans. That knowledge had boosted his
hopes high. It was almost as though Lady Luck, herself, had planned it
to be that way.

Halfway to those rear doors, Dave caught sight of the old man with the
watery blue eyes. The poor old fellow was trying to stretch out on one
of the benches rather than suffer the cold of the floor as most of the
others were doing, for there were no cots or anything like that. Seeing
that old man was like a knife stabbing Dave's heart. He knew that he was
foolish to do so, but he did it just the same. He slipped a hand, inside
his shirt, took one of the specially prepared chocolate bars from his
ration case, and palmed it in his hand.

Then he moved over close to the old man. Watery blue eyes stared up at
him, and thin lips made an effort to smile.

"It is not a comfortable bed, my son," the old fellow said in an
apologetic voice, "but you will find it less cold than trying to sleep
on the floor."

Dave smiled and leaned over so that his body hid his hand from the
others. Quickly he slipped the bar of chocolate into a pocket of the old
man's tattered coat. He frowned sharply as questions lighted up the
watery blue eyes.

"Don't move!" he said in a low whisper. "When you can see me no more,
put your hand in your pocket. But do not let the others see you do it.
Good luck, my old one."

Before the old man could speak, Dave had straightened up and moved away.
In another few seconds he was some ten feet in front of the center one
of the three doors. Fading twilight seeped through the cracks--the
fading twilight of freedom outside. Dave steeled himself and sucked air
into his lungs. For a sharp instant panic overcame him, and his whole
body trembled. He beat down his terror, took a quick look around, and
then lunged straight for the door. He crashed against it half bent over,
shoulders bunched, like an All-American halfback blocking out a
particularly dangerous tackler.

The aged door groaned and creaked in protest, and for one horrible
moment Dave feared that it would not give way. He had charged it with
battering ram force, however. The hinges snapped off, the door sagged,
and then it split straight down the middle and went crashing down onto
the ground outside. Dave tripped over something and fell sprawling, but
he bounced up like a rubber ball and pinned wings to his feet.

Behind him a bedlam of sound broke out. The startled cries of the
refugees seemed to pour out through the broken door like flood waters
pouring through a broken dam. Dave thought he heard a wild hoarse
challenge to halt hurled after him. A split second later the sharp bark
of a rifle shot cut above the babble of voices, and something whined
past just a little bit above his head. Still crouched over, he darted
quickly to the side and sped around the corner of the nearest lumber
shed. Halfway down its length, he saw a spot where some of the boards
had fallen away, leaving an opening. He swerved and ducked through
inside. Slowing his pace a trifle, he cut directly across the floor of
the shed and wriggled out through an opening on the other side.

He pulled up to a halt, hugged the shadow cast by the shed and strained
his ears. He heard angry voices on the other side of the shed, and the
unmistakable sound of pounding feet. He grinned and silently
congratulated himself. It had certainly been a bright idea to duck
inside the shed. The Germans chasing after him had missed the opening
completely and were racing down toward the swamp.

He didn't linger long, though, to congratulate himself on his
cleverness. As soon as he got his second wind, he started cutting across
lots, hugging the shadows until the lumber sheds were far behind him and
he was scurrying along the dark and smelly streets of the deserted poor
section of the city. He sneaked along for two or three blocks, then
ducked into the pitch dark entrance of a building and paused to rest.

His breath was like fire in his lungs, and every square inch of his body
was drenched with sweat. But he grinned happily and his heart sang a
song of joy.

"Score one for the good old R.A.F. over Hitler's lads!" he chuckled to
himself. "Right through the old line, and how. Boy, what a sensation I'd
be in a Rose Bowl game!"

He chuckled a bit more and then snorted at himself.

"Sure, you're a wonderful guy," he grunted derisively. "But you can
thank your lucky stars that door was weak. And--"

He cut the rest off short and pulled back deeper into the dark doorway.
From up the street came the familiar sound of hobnailed boots on the
cobblestones. A second later a harsh order in German hit the early night
air.

"Take both sides of the street! Search every house. If you see him,
shoot! Shoot on sight! Hurry up!"

Dave gulped and caught his breath. He didn't have to have anybody write
him a letter to explain that the Nazi patrols were making a house to
house search. Not a bit of it. Perhaps this section wasn't patrolled
regularly, but it was most certainly being patrolled now. A grim little
game of hide and seek, and one Dave Dawson was _it_!

He inched forward cautiously and peered around the corner of the
building entrance. Some sixty yards up the street were the dim shapes
of a dozen or so Nazi soldiers. Each man carried one of those deadly
short-barreled rifles which had proved so effective in skirmishing
operations. In the center of the street stood an officer. He had drawn
his Luger and was waving it around as he barked orders at his men.

One look was enough for Dave. He saw all he wanted to see. He ducked
back and slipped inside the house. It was dark as pitch inside, and he
was forced to move slowly, feeling the way with his hands and feet. He
reached the rear of the building and let himself into a small court. The
court connected with the court of a building on the other street. He
eased into that building, made his way to the front and peered out. Fate
laughed in his face. There were Nazi soldiers in that street, too.

He ducked back inside and grimly considered the situation. He hadn't
outsmarted the Germans as much as he had believed. When they hadn't
found him among the lumber sheds, they had instantly guessed he had
headed for this deserted section of town. In no time extra patrols had
been ordered out, and now they were combing the section, methodically
searching every house on every street. Even though he ducked from house
to house, sooner or later he was going to bump smack into one of those
patrols.

"This is what is known as a spot, brother!" he whispered to himself.
"Get the old brain working, and get it working fast! There must be some
way to fool them. I bet Freddy would think up an idea, just like that."

Freddy! The thought of his pal sent cold shivers of worry slithering
down his spine. It seemed ages since he had last heard Freddy's cheerful
voice. What he wouldn't give to have Freddy Farmer at his side right
now! Would he ever see Freddy again? Where _was_ his pal and fighting
comrade? What had happened to Freddy Farmer?

He angrily drove the tormenting thoughts from his brain. If he didn't
start doing something about himself real soon, he never would see Freddy
again--at least, not in this world. At that moment voices not more than
three houses away galvanized him into fast action. He spun around and
groped back to the rear of the building again and let himself out into
the court. There he crouched under some bushes and peered up and down
the two rows of buildings. Every now and then a light would flash in
some window, and disappear almost immediately. He watched those flashes
of light and listened to the echo of voices moving along the rows of
houses.

Suddenly he grinned broadly and hugged himself in delight. There was a
perfect way out, and he was a dope not to have realized it sooner. He
was sure Freddy would have thought of it right at the start. Sure! The
way out was via the courtyards in back of the houses. The German patrols
were so busy searching the rooms of the houses, they seemed to have
completely forgotten about the courtyards in back. By sneaking along the
courtyards, Dave could easily work his way to the rear of houses that
the Germans had already searched.

"So get going, before they think of the idea, too!" he ranted at
himself.

A little over half an hour later he was crouched in the dark doorway of
a house and peering stealthily up the street at the figures of a German
patrol moving _away from him_. He watched them until they were lost in
the growing darkness. Then he slipped out onto the sidewalk, turned his
back on the patrols and headed rapidly in the opposite direction. An
hour later he was clear over on the other side of the city and hiding
in a group of parked military cars. Tarpaulins had been pegged down over
the cars, and he could tell that they had been there for weeks. There
wasn't even a lone guard watching over them.

At any rate, it seemed a safe place to hide while he mapped out plans
for further action. He was thankful to have slipped safely through the
fingers of those patrols hunting him out, but at the same time he
regretted that he had been forced to do so. Unless his memory picture of
that part of Antwerp was all cockeyed, that detention prison hadn't been
more than four or five blocks from Rue Chartres. Had those patrols let
him alone, chances were that he would now be close to Number Sixteen Rue
Chartres. As things stood, though, he was way over on the other side of
the city.

"It's a cinch those patrols haven't given up yet," he pondered the
problem to himself. "And ten to one even more patrols have been put on
the job. Having a poor refugee give them the slip has probably burned
them up plenty. And they're just mad enough to take this whole town
apart for the satisfaction of finding me."

He nodded in silent emphasis, and then tackled the problem again. He had
the choice of two things, and both were bad. He could start stealing
back toward Rue Chartres right now and trust to luck that he would spot
Germans wandering about before they spotted him. Or he could wait until
daylight, when there would be other civilians on the streets, and take
his chances then. Neither idea sounded so hot, but he had to do
something.

Suddenly an idea hit him right between the eyes. He grinned, nodded, and
silently snapped his fingers.

"Maybe!" he whispered excitedly. "There's just a chance!"

The excitement caused by the sudden thought was so great that for a
moment he stood there trembling like a leaf. Then he got a firm grip on
his jangling nerves and started thoroughly searching the parked cars. He
had searched seven cars before Lady Luck cast her smile upon him. In the
eighth car he found what he wanted. It was a staff car and in back was
an officer's duffel bag. The bag was covered with dirt and smelled to
high heaven, it had been left there so long. Inside the duffel bag Dave
found his prize: a spare uniform of the owner, who was perhaps dead or
maybe hundreds of miles away. And Lady Luck smiled on him twice, because
he discovered with mounting joy that the uniform wasn't a bad fit at
all. The service cap was a perfect fit.

Some ten or fifteen minutes later the poor little Belgian peasant
refugee had disappeared from the face of the earth. In his place stood a
young sub-lieutenant of German infantry. True, his uniform was badly
creased, but the crease and the smell of age, Dave hoped, would come out
in time. He fumbled through the rest of the duffel bag in the hope of
finding the officer's Luger. However, Lady Luck wasn't letting him have
everything his own way. There was no Luger, nor anything else that would
be of any use.

He grinned and carefully folded his tattered peasant clothes and put
them in the duffel bag. Then he fastened the bag tight and put it back
exactly where he had found it. Finally he slipped out from under the
pegged down tarpaulin.

"Will you get the shock of your life if you ever come back for your
spare uniform!" he whispered to some unknown German. "And how, my Jerry
lad, _and how_!"

A moment or so later he started to move away from his hiding place, but
on second thought he checked himself. The uniform he wore would of
course serve as a certain amount of protection, but he would be foolish
to stretch his luck. After all, Antwerp was well patrolled at night.
There was a curfew law for the civilians, and there was a good chance
there was a curfew law for German soldiers and officers, too--for all
troops save those assigned to night patrol duty.

"Hold it, pal!" he told himself. "Daylight is your best bet. Then nobody
will give you a second look. The streets will be full of troops and
officers, then. Right! What's a few more hours of waiting? They might
mean the difference between success and a Luger bullet. No, fellow, hold
your horses. Play it absolutely safe from here in."

It was hard to slip back in among the parked cars and sit down on a
running board, but he forced himself to do it. He'd been receiving too
many lucky breaks lately, and he was afraid it would all come to an
abrupt end if he didn't watch his step. And so, while every part of him
screamed to get into action, he resolutely and doggedly stayed put and
waited for dawn.

Just a few hours to wait, but Dave lived his whole life over a hundred
times. He thought of everything he had ever done, and recalled hundreds
of minor incidents in his life that he was sure he had completely
forgotten. He thought of Freddy, and of the R.A.F., and of his friends
and relatives back in the States. He thought of everything possible, and
played a million games with himself to kill time. But when eventually
the light of dawn came oozing up out of the east and the shadows fled
westward, and the rooftops of Antwerp began to take definite shape and
meaning, his nerves were dangerously close to the breaking point. And it
was all he could do to stop himself from leaping to his feet and
screaming at the top of his voice, just to do something to let off pent
up emotional steam locked within him.

Finally he couldn't stand it any longer. It was still early dawn, but
the light was growing brighter all the time. And when he paused and
listened intently, he could hear the sounds of the Nazi-occupied city
coming to life. He got up off the running board and smoothed out his
uniform as best he could. Then he walked nonchalantly out of the parking
area and along a street that would lead him in the direction of the
river front.

"Here I come again, Pierre Deschaud!" he whispered softly. "And this
time I hope it counts!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

_Quick Thinking_


The city was wide awake and getting up steam for a new day of war when
Dave finally turned off the main waterfront drive into a winding,
shadow-filled lane that was marked Rue Chartres. He paused at the corner
and stared hard into the shadows, searching for Number Sixteen. His
heart was pounding with excitement, and the blood was throbbing through
his veins. Rue Chartres! The end of one trail, and the beginning of
another--the air trail that led back to England!

The trip across the occupied city had been absolutely uneventful. He had
met groups of Nazi soldiers and had not been stopped once. As a matter
of fact, every soldier he met had saluted smartly as Dave walked by.
Haughty-eyed, he had returned every salute but inwardly, he was nearly
bursting with laughter. It had given him quite a kick at first to
receive the salute of Hitler's troops, but after a while it had become
tiresome. From that point on he had played the stiff-necked German
officer to the limit. He had simply given passing soldiers a curt nod as
a reply to their salutes.

That was all ancient history now. Here he was at last at Rue Chartres,
and somewhere up that shadowy lane was Number Sixteen and Pierre
Deschaud. He took a step forward and then hesitated again as the words
of Freddy Farmer flashed by in memory. _Was Pierre Deschaud still
alive?_ It was for that reason that he stopped short and hesitated. Up
that street lay the success or the failure of his dangerous mission, and
for a moment he was almost too afraid to move forward and find out which
it was.

Thought of the possibility that failure might be the answer seemed to
hold him in an iron grip and refused to let him move his feet. Then
suddenly a voice cried out harshly off to his right and along the main
waterfront thoroughfare. He turned to see a German soldier leap out of a
doorway and pounce upon a Belgian slinking past. The Belgian tried to
break away, but the soldier tripped him up and then hit him with the
barrel of his rifle as the figure fell to the ground.

In that split second the whole world seemed to explode inside Dave's
head. A red film dropped down over his eyes, and his whole body trembled
with berserk rage. The sprawled figure whom the German now covered with
his rifle was none other than Freddy Farmer!

Dave's first impulse was to race forward and hurl himself at the
soldier, but he managed to check the crazy urge in the nick of time.
Though his heart was trying to crash right out through his ribs, he
slowly turned and sauntered calmly up the street. As he walked along, he
shot quick glances in all directions, and heaved a sigh of relief when
he saw that there was nobody else about. He quickened his pace slightly
and came to a stop a couple of feet from the soldier who was standing
straddle-legged with his back to him.

"What's all this?" Dave demanded in harsh German.

The soldier jumped as though he had been stuck with a pin, and wheeled
around. When he saw Dave's uniform he clicked his heels and saluted with
his rifle, then quickly brought the gun to bear again on the prostrate
Freddy Farmer.

"I have captured a missing prisoner, _Herr Leutnant_," the soldier said.
"He escaped from the Central Detention Prison. All night long patrols
have been searching the city."

Dave grunted and stared down at Freddy. The English youth opened his
eyes. They stared blankly back at Dave for a moment, then swift
recognition streaked through them. Dave frowned as Freddy unconsciously
started to open his mouth. Quickly Freddy closed it and let a look of
terror and fright spread across his dirty and sleepy-eyed face. Dave
grunted again, and looked at the soldier.

"The Central Detention Prison, eh?" he growled. "Why did he escape? Who
let him escape? There are guards there."

"That is true, _Herr Leutnant_," the soldier gulped. "But I had nothing
to do with it. I am stationed at the western barracks. I was called out
to help in the hunt. I do not know the details, _Herr Leutnant_, only
that he escaped."

"So?" Dave snapped and fixed the soldier with a scornful eye. "So the
first Belgian you meet, you decide he is the one, eh?"

The soldier swallowed hastily a couple of times, and a look of worry
crept into his eyes.

"We were given a complete description, _Herr Leutnant_!" he said. "This
boy wears the same clothes. I was sure that he was the one, the way he
was slinking along. And I clubbed him to the sidewalk, _Herr Leutnant_,
because he tried to run away from me."

"Yes, that is true," Dave said gravely, and nodded his head. "I saw him
try to run away. But these Belgian fools frighten easily, like rabbits.
You, there! Get up on your feet! What is your name?"

As Dave barked the last, he glared down at Freddy. The English youth got
tremblingly to his feet, clutching his cap between his fingers.

"My name is Henri Duval," Freddy said in hesitant French.

"So?" Dave growled. "And why did you try to escape? Did you want to be
shot? Why did you try to escape, eh?"

Dave put a lot of emphasis into his words and looked hard at Freddy. The
other R.A.F. pilot stared back blankly for a moment, then played up to
Dave's lead.

"I did not escape from any place, _Herr Leutnant_," he said.

"You live here in Antwerp, of course?" Dave demanded, and made just the
slightest sign of a nod with his head.

Freddy caught onto the tip instantly.

"But of course!" he cried. "I live on the other side of the city, on the
Rue Troyes. I was on my way home when the soldier stopped me. I came
down here early to see if I could buy a little fish. We have not much
food at our house."

While Freddy talked, Dave had been watching the German soldier out of
the corner of his eye. The man had scowled at first, but little by
little a puzzled look had come into his eyes. By the time Freddy had
finished, the soldier was wearing a worried look, and was obviously
afraid he had made a mistake. Dave turned and gave him a hard stare.

"It looks like your prisoner who escaped has yet to be found," Dave said
sternly.

"But perhaps he lies!" the soldier protested weakly. "Perhaps he does
not live on Rue Troyes at all."

Dave could have hugged the German for saying those words. They played
right into his hand.

"That is quite possible," he said. "Naturally I shall find out if he is
lying. I will take him in my own car and go to his house. Give me your
name, and the name of your company commander. If this boy tells the
truth, we will forget about this little incident. If he has lied, and is
the escaped prisoner, I will see that he is returned to the prison. And
I shall also see that your _Kommandant_ hears of the part you played in
recapturing him."

The soldier hesitated a brief instant, but the fear that he might be
wrong was too much for him. He didn't dare insist that he accompany this
officer.

"Very well, _Herr Leutnant_," he said, and gave Dave his name, and the
name of his commanding officer.

Dave nodded gravely, then repeated the names aloud to indicate that he
was making sure he would not forget them. Then he took hold of Freddy's
arm.

"Come along with me!" he said sharply. "My car is in the other block. We
shall soon find out if you lied to us or not!"

"On my word of honor, I did not lie, _Herr Leutnant_!" Freddy whimpered,
and let Dave pull him along.

As they walked along toward the next corner, it was all Dave could do to
stop from looking back to see if the soldier was following. He checked
the impulse to do so and walked stiff and straight, keeping a tight grip
on Freddy's arm.

"You're breaking the blinking thing in two!" he heard Freddy whisper
under his breath. "But God bless you, Dave Dawson! That was a jolly
close shave."

"Think nothing of it, my little man," Dave shot out of the corner of his
mouth. "Any time you get in a jam, just give me a buzz. I'll always be
glad to help out a pal. Now, around this corner. Then hold it while I
take a look to see if the boy friend is tagging along."

They wheeled around the corner and stopped dead. Dave flattened himself
against the building wall and gingerly stuck one eye around the corner
and looked back. The soldier had stopped looking after them, and was
turning around to head off in the other direction. Dave let out the air
in his lungs and turned to grin at Freddy.

"The boy friend is gone," he said. "Now, we've got to do something about
you, pal. We've got to find some place where we can hide out for a
spell."

"What do you mean, do something about me?" Freddy asked with a frown.
"I--"

"Use your bean!" Dave reprimanded him, and plucked at Freddy's peasant
clothes. "In that get-up you'd advertise yourself as much as though you
had a brass band following you around. A peasant did escape, see? It was
_me_. But we can't stand here and talk. We've got to duck in some place
and get you fixed up some how. Darn! I wish I knew this section."

"Oh, you just want a place to hide, eh?" Freddy said in a voice of
superior scorn. "Why didn't you say so? Come along. Follow me. And mind
those big feet of yours!"

Dave opened his mouth to ask questions, but Freddy had started moving
along the narrow street. He traveled half a block, then darted down
into an alley still untouched by the light of dawn. It was so dark that
Dave plowed straight into Freddy's back before he realized that his
friend had stopped.

"Clumsy ox, I must say you are!" Freddy grunted, and then softened it
with a chuckle. "Here, give me your hand. The going's a bit tricky from
here on."

"Hey!" Dave whispered. "Where in--"

"Shut up!" Freddy whispered. "Everything's all right. I know what I'm
doing."

Dave checked all other questions and grasped Freddy's hand in the dark.
After some ten minutes of climbing over things, and climbing down the
other side, and turning this way and that, Dave suddenly found himself
in the bare room of a house. Freddy let go of his hand, closed the door
through which they had entered, and made a little apologetic gesture
with his hands.

"Sorry, sir, there's no furniture," he said. "But I only took the place
night before last, you see. And I haven't had time to send a van for my
furniture. Now, if you'll just try the floor, sir."

"Cut the comedy!" Dave said gruffly, and squatted down on the dusty
floor. "How come, anyway? What happened to you? And what have you been
doing? And how the dickens did you find this place?"

Freddy raised his hand for silence.

"If you'll just close that big mouth of yours, I'll explain," he said.
"And though I don't think anybody can hear us here, as the whole place
is deserted, let's not shout, anyway."

"You've got something there," Dave said in a much lower tone of voice.
"My error. But, gee, it's good to see you again, Freddy! Boy, oh boy,
I'll say it is!"

"Rather pleasant meeting you, too," Freddy said, but his ear to ear grin
spoke far more than his tongue. "I can jolly well tell you I've been in
a fine funk worrying about what could have happened to you. In prison,
you say? Not that that isn't a good place for you sometimes. But what in
the world happened to you?"

Dave started to ask for Freddy's story first, but he checked himself. He
told of his experiences since the moment he had stepped out of the
Wellington right up to the present time. He skipped some of the details,
but gave a fairly complete account of his movements.

"And now, what about you?" he finished up. "You weren't stopped at all
coming through that forbidden area they've got around the city? That
sure was something I hadn't even guessed or dreamed about. A neat way to
keep a check on people going in and out of the city by land, anyway."

"Typical of German thoroughness," Freddy said dryly. "It didn't even
occur to me, either. Fortunately, though, I was luckier than you. I
spotted one of the patrols before they spotted me. Besides, it was dark.
I came down in a field about two miles from the outskirts of the city. I
hid my stuff and started out at once. I slipped through the forbidden
area under the cover of darkness. As I said, I spotted the roaming
patrol first, and hid under some house steps until they had gone by. It
was even more ticklish business getting over here to the waterfront. I
fancy I must have ducked in to hide while patrols passed by a couple of
hundred times at least. It was just after dawn when I reached the
entrance to Rue Chartres."

"And?" Dave questioned eagerly as Freddy paused for breath. "Then what?"

"Then I did some heavy thinking, as you would say," Freddy said calmly.
"Not knowing whether or not Number Sixteen was a trap, I decided to take
a good look around. Then, too, I wanted to wait and team up with you
before tackling the place. Well, I nosed around as much as I could. I
walked past Number Sixteen several times, but you can't see anything
through the windows or doors. I don't think they've been cleaned in
years."

"But is anybody living there?" Dave asked. "Could you tell? Could you
see anybody? Deschaud?"

"Yes, there's somebody there," Freddy nodded. "An old man who _looks_
like Pierre Deschaud, and an old woman. I suppose she's his wife. I've
seen them several times. Well, all day yesterday I nosed around as much
as I dared. Several times, when you still failed to show up, I was
almost tempted to go into Number Sixteen. I thought that perhaps you
were already there, and that I had missed you somehow. But I didn't go
in. There were quite a few troops about yesterday. They came across the
river in boats and were streaming through this section of the city all
day long. They were Bavarian troops, and there were thousands and
thousands of them. I tell you, Dave, something important must be afoot
for all those troops to be around. And they all had full war kit, too."

"Boy, my hat's off to you!" Dave grinned. "I get grabbed by the first
Germans I meet, but you wander around among thousands of them! You're
good, pal, you're good."

"Rot!" Freddy scoffed, but his face lighted up with pleasure. "I was
just lucky enough to slip through the forbidden section at the start.
Once you're inside the city, it isn't so hard."

"It's plenty hard, now, for guys in peasant clothes!" Dave said grimly.
"But go on. Then what?"

"Well, I hung around close to Number Sixteen as much as I dared, but it
was just no go trying to slip inside," Freddy said. "Then when they
turned the light out last night, and probably went to bed, I gave it up.
I came back here and decided that I'd go in there first thing this
morning and take my chances. I was on my way there when that blasted
beggar jumped on my neck. Man, was I glad when I opened my eyes to see
your homely mug glaring down at me!"

"For that crack I should have walked away and left you to your fate!"
Dave growled. Then, with a frown: "The old fellow looks like Pierre
Deschaud, huh? Did you see anybody else go in there?"

"Not a soul," Freddy said. "And that's what makes me think that we may
be in luck--I mean, that Pierre Deschaud is really alive. I didn't see a
single German, or Belgian, so much as glance at the place. Anyway, we've
got to take a chance, Dave. We've got to contact Deschaud as soon as we
can. I'm worried about seeing all those troops yesterday. And maybe you
didn't have the chance to notice, but I did. The harbor is filled with
all kinds of barges and strange-looking boats."

"For the invasion!" Dave breathed. "Ten to one they've been making them
here."

"That's my guess, too," Freddy nodded solemnly. "They could fill them
with those troops, and tugs could take them down the river in no time at
all. Of course, we may be all wrong. But I can tell you I'm more than a
little worried. We've got to get in touch with Pierre Deschaud as soon
as possible. Wait a minute."

Freddy suddenly got to his feet and went over to one of the windows. He
peered out a moment, and then turned and beckoned to Dave to come over.
Dave went over, and Freddy pointed a finger.

"See between those two buildings?" he said. "See the front of that
little shop on the opposite side of that street? The one that has a
window with a broken pane of glass?"

Dave pressed his face to the glass and stared in the direction Freddy
pointed. He looked across some courts at the rear of the buildings on
both blocks and down a short alley to the next street. On the opposite
side of the street he could see the doorway, and a part of the front of
a small shop that hadn't felt a paint brush in a long time. The windows
were so dirty from the weather that he couldn't see inside. Some paper
or a strip of canvas covered a space where the window glass was three
quarters missing.

"Sure, I see it," he said.

"That's Number Sixteen Rue Chartres," Freddy said. "Another bit of luck
for me. This place, I mean. When scrounging around early yesterday
morning, I noticed that this place was all tumbled down, and not a soul
living here. I decided to find a good place to hide in case I had to.
Imagine how good I felt when I discovered that if I wished, I could sit
here all day and keep an eye on Number Sixteen!"

"Luck, my eye!" Dave grinned, and patted Freddy on the back. "It was
using the old bean, and you know it. I bet you'd already spotted that
alley going off Rue Chartres and came around on this street to see what
was what."

"Well, I was lucky to find this place like it is, anyway," Freddy said
with a shrug. "And--Look, somebody has just put on a light over there!
He keeps it burning all day long. An oil lamp, I fancy. With the windows
that dirty, I fancy he jolly well has to have some sort of a light
inside. He's up and about now, Dave! Shall we--"

"Nix!" Dave cut him off short. "Not _we_! Just _me_!"

"I say, Dave--!"

Dave grinned and put up both hands for silence.

"Keep your shirt on, Freddy!" he said. "You're still forgetting about
those duds you're wearing. You might not get ten feet before they'd have
you by the scruff of the neck. I'll go and--No!"

Freddy blinked and looked startled.

"What's the matter, Dave?" he asked.

Dave didn't answer right away. He scowled and went through the pockets
of his uniform. Suddenly his face lighted up with a grin as he pulled
out a German one mark piece.

"I guess I was getting a little selfish for a minute, Freddy," he said.
"After all, we're in this thing together. Tell you what. We'll toss this
coin. Heads you go, tails I go. This uniform will fit either of us."

"Wait a minute," Freddy cut in. "Perhaps we can find some other clothes
for me, and then we can both go. I think the two of us should go
together, Dave, in case there's trouble."

"Maybe you've got something there," Dave said with a frown. "But I don't
know. Maybe it would be best the other way. If the two of us should get
caught, that would be bad. The Nazis would darn well see that there
wasn't any more escaping. Now, if just one of us goes, then the other
fellow can watch from the window here. If something happens, he'll still
be free. See what I mean? No, I really think it's bad dope for both of
us to contact Deschaud the first time, don't you?"

Freddy pursed his lips in thoughtful silence for a moment, then nodded
abruptly.

"Yes, you're right, Dave," he said. "I'll stay here and watch. If you
get into trouble, I'll try and figure a way to get you out of it. No, no
arguments, now. You found that uniform, and you're already dressed in
it. Besides, you look and act just like a Nazi officer. You really do,
Dave."

Dave scowled and gave him a searching look. Freddy grinned impishly.

"Oh, I do, do I?" Dave growled. Then, grinning himself: "Okay, Mr.
Wise-cracker, I'll take a whirl at it, if you insist."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Sixteen Rue Chartres_


As Dave Dawson strutted German officer style along the sidewalk of Rue
Chartres, he had the crazy feeling that he was ten feet tall, twice as
wide, and was wearing a uniform made out of striped red and white silk,
with a lamp shade for a hat. There were several German soldiers and
civilians wandering along the same street, and to tell the truth, not a
single person glanced his way. True, the soldiers saluted him as he
passed, but they did so automatically with their thoughts obviously on
other things. But to Dave's pounding heart, and his tightly drawn
nerves, it was as though he were the most conspicuous thing in all
Belgium. It made him angry to think such silly thoughts, but that
didn't help him any. Every step he took was another moment of tingling
tension. And when finally he came abreast of Number Sixteen, his throat
was dry as a bone, and little beads of nervous sweat were trickling down
his spine.

He paused there and bent over, supposedly to adjust the lacings of his
German boots. Instead, though, he took advantage of the moment to glance
keen-eyed about to see if anybody was watching him, or if by chance
anybody was trailing along behind him. There was not a single sign of
anything like that, however. The military and civilian population of
that part of Antwerp was going about its business, and leaving one Dave
Dawson strictly alone.

Presently he straightened up, got a firm hold on his jumping nerves, and
boldly pushed in through the ancient door of Number Sixteen. A bell
tinkled somewhere as he stepped inside. Its sound was echoed by the
pounding of his heart, but he only clamped down harder on his nerves. He
closed the door behind him and looked around. A gasp of amazement almost
spilled off his lips. In all his life he had never seen such a mixed up
conglomeration of junk. There wasn't even a suggestion of order about
the room. Coils of rope, parts of marine engines, navigation charts,
books, boxes, dirty sea clothes, and goodness knows what were scattered
over the place. Shelves along the walls were broken and sagging, their
contents long since dumped down onto the floor.

A single oil lamp with a smoke-smudged shade was on a table with only
three legs. In a chair by the table sat an old man in the most
disreputable-looking clothes possible. His face was thin and the
features so pointed as to give the whole a hatchet appearance. Shaggy
white hair adorned his head, and a dirty grey beard reached down to the
second button of the torn shirt he wore. He held a length of rope in his
gnarled bony hands, and had obviously been working on it with a splicing
spike when Dave entered. Right now he was staring up at Dave out of the
brightest, most piercing set of eyes the young R.A.F. pilot had ever
looked into in all his life. They were like X-ray eyes that could look
right through your brain and count the hairs on the back of your head
from a distance of twenty feet.

For a brief instant the two of them locked glances. Then the old man
dropped his rope and splicing spike and got to his feet.

"Good morning, _Herr Leutnant_," he said in flawless German. "Is there
something I can do for you this morning?"

Before Dave could reply, a curtain over an opening at the rear of the
disordered room was pushed aside, and an old woman, perhaps even more
aged than the man, stepped through. Her eyes flew to Dave's uniform, and
the corners of her thin mouth tightened, and stark fear flickered in her
eyes.

That sudden look of stark fear in the old woman's eyes made Dave's heart
leap with hope. He felt sure that this old man was the real Pierre
Deschaud. He was sure of it because the old woman's flash of sudden
terror told him she was afraid that, as a Nazi officer, he had come
there to do them harm--perhaps to take her husband away. He did not jump
at that conclusion, however. He was still on mighty ticklish ground. He
had to be sure, _really_ sure. He took his eyes off the woman and looked
again at the man.

"I was with a friend," he said stiffly. "We became separated and I am
now hunting him. I was wondering if he came in here."

"No one ever comes in here," the old man said quietly, and kept his
burning gaze fixed on Dave's face. "Perhaps if you could describe your
friend, _Herr Leutnant_, I will recognize him if he should come in."

Dave shrugged as though he didn't think that very important, but it was
simply a movement to cover up the tremendous quiver of excitement that
rippled through his body. The moment of moments was now at hand!

"I will probably find him some place outside," he said, and started to
turn. "We are leaving soon for Houyet, and I would not like him to be
left behind."

Dave glanced at the old man as he spoke the secret code word, but there
was not so much as a flicker of the eyelids. Bitter disappointment and a
tingling sense of fear crept into Dave's heart. He hesitated a brief
instant and then continued turning toward the door. In fact, he had
taken a couple of steps when the old man's quiet voice stopped him.

"I am sorry you have lost your comrade, _Herr Leutnant_," he said. "It
is not likely that he will come into a place such as this. I have
nothing to sell but my humble services. I was a marine engineer in my
day, but that was long ago. You are interested in boats, _Herr
Leutnant_?"

Something caused Dave to stop and turn around.

"I have done a little sailing," he said.

"And so have I, but many years ago," the old man said with a sigh. "But
I did my design work on big boats. My masterpiece was the Fraser. She
was built right here in Antwerp for an American company. She was
beautiful."

Fraser! Colonel Fraser! The mention of that name wiped the last of
Dave's fears away. His eyes widened with joy, and he started to open his
mouth, but a sudden fierce warning look leaped into the eyes of the old
man.

"I have never heard of that boat," Dave said. "For me, the most
beautiful boats are built in Germany."

"Ah, yes, they build beautiful boats, indeed, in Germany," the aged one
said, and started fishing around in the drawer of the table next to him.
"The Fraser, of course, was not a big boat like the Bremen or the
Europa. But she was a lovely boat. I think I have a picture of her some
place. You would please me by looking at it, _Herr Leutnant_. You can
spare the time?"

As the old fellow spoke, he shot a quick meaningful glance at Dave. The
young R.A.F. ace caught the meaning and shrugged.

"I have a moment to spare," he grunted. "Show me the picture."

"Ah, here it is!" the old fellow said triumphantly, and pulled something
from out of the table drawer. "Here, you can see better under the light.
This is not a very good picture, but it will give you an idea of what
the Fraser looked like."

As the old man spoke, he beckoned Dave over to the table and blew some
dust from an old photograph he had taken from the drawer. Dave stepped
over and looked down at the picture. It was one of a single funnel cargo
steamer, and not a very trim-looking vessel, at that. It was quite short
and stubby-looking, and seemed to be riding exceeding high in the water.

"Is she not a beauty, _Herr Leutnant_?" the old man said eagerly, and
then suddenly slid a piece of paper over the lower half of the
photograph. "She was four thousand tons, and built sturdy as a rock. I
myself was aboard on her maiden cruise."

The old man continued talking about the maiden cruise of the
funny-looking ship, but Dave wasn't listening. Every ounce of his
attention was focussed on the old man's right hand. He held a stubby
pencil in his hand and was scribbling on the sheet of paper he had
placed over the lower half of the photo which he held in his left hand.
Dave's brain was on fire with excitement by the time the man finally
finished and he was able to read the message. The message read:

     "Take care! Their eyes and ears are all about. One mile west along
     the river, there is an old coaling wharf. Just beyond is an old
     river boat half under water. The bow is above water, and there is a
     hole on the port side. One can wade out to the hole. Meet me inside
     that hole at nine tonight. Now ask questions about this picture,
     and then leave this place."

Dave was forced to steel himself for a second or two to make sure he
would keep the wild excitement out of his voice. He reached out a
finger and pointed at the bow.

"That doesn't look right," he said. "It seems to ride too high. It does
not look to me like a comfortable boat in a heavy sea."

As Dave spoke, he quickly took the stubby pencil from the old man's
hand, and wrote, "There are two of us," on the slip of paper. The old
man nodded, glanced up at him and nodded again.

"Ah, that proves you know about boats, _Herr Leutnant_!" he cried, and
nodded some more. "You are quite right. She was not a very good sea boat
at first. We had to make some changes. Afterwards she could ride out any
kind of a gale. But perhaps this old man is boring you. So I will stop.
I hope you find your comrade, _Herr Leutnant_."

Dave straightened up and went through the motions of smoothing out his
uniform.

"He is probably about some place," he grunted, and turned toward the
door. Then, on sudden thought, he kicked aside a coil of greasy rope,
and turned his head toward the old man. "You have a dirty place here,
old man," he said. "You had better do something about it, or you may
get into trouble."

As the old man mumbled apologies and promises, Dave stepped outside and
slammed the door behind him. Hot and cold chills were taking turns
racing up and down his spine. His first impulse was to take to his heels
and race madly back to Freddy with the news. He curbed the impulse,
though, and started along the street at an even gait. So Pierre Deschaud
_was_ alive? He and Freddy were to meet him in secret at nine o'clock
that night! What would Deschaud tell them? Did he really have
information about a Nazi attempt to invade England? Colonel Fraser had
said that he was willing to stake his life that Deschaud knew, but that
wasn't proof that Deschaud actually did know. And it was strange, that
note Deschaud had written--and, by the way, had made disappear as if by
magic as Dave had left. Deschaud had warned him that Nazi ears and eyes
were all about. Where? There in Deschaud's place? But that was a crazy
thought. Yet he had had the feeling that Deschaud had been scared stiff
that he would say something that would be a tip-off to anybody listening
near. But could there be Nazi agents in that place?

Dave shivered at the thought and was forced to swallow hard a couple of
times. Before he could stop himself, he turned his head and took a quick
glance back over his shoulder. However, there still wasn't a single sign
of anybody following him. Just the same he increased his pace slightly.
A few minutes more and he had crawled and scrambled over the piles of
rubble in the alley next to the deserted house where Freddy was waiting,
and was walking into the room.

The grin on his face faded, and the words rising to his tongue clogged
in his throat. Freddy Farmer wasn't there. The room was completely
deserted. Panic gripped Dave, and his first thought was to spin around
and beat a quick retreat. Somebody had found out their hiding place.
Somebody had sneaked up and grabbed Freddy while he was talking with
Pierre Deschaud. And he had walked right back into the trap.

Cold sweat broke out all over his body. His heart became a chunk of ice
that slid down toward his boots. His mouth and throat went bone dry and
it was desperately hard to breath. Like a man struck dumb, he stood
there, unable to move, unable to decide whether to stay or flee. Then
suddenly sounds on the other side of the door he had just closed broke
the spell. They were the sounds of footsteps. He took one wild look at
the windows and saw that escape was impossible in that direction. The
room was rather high above the ground. He whirled around and crouched,
fists clenched, and his body tensed to spring forward. Come what may, he
wasn't going to be taken without a fight, even though he was unarmed.

An instant later the door was opened and Freddy Farmer stepped into the
room. He stopped short and gaped pop-eyed at Dave.

"Good grief, Dave!" he gasped. "Are you ill? What a face!"

Dave released air from his lungs in a whistling sound and straightened
up slowly. Reaction set in at once, and his legs felt so rubbery he had
to put a hand against the wall for support.

"Ill?" he choked out. "Man, oh, man! I'm practically dead from fright
right this minute. Gosh, Freddy, where've you been? Jeepers! Did I get a
belt when I came back here and found you gone! I thought the Nazis had
nabbed you."

Freddy started to laugh, then instantly cut it off short as he saw the
look on Dave's face.

"I say, I'm terribly sorry, Dave," he said. "I should have thought of
that, but it completely skipped my mind. To tell you the truth, I got to
thinking after you left, about my clothes. I can't go out in them, and I
certainly can't stay here in this place forever. So I got to thinking
about it. Well, you were lucky, so why shouldn't I be lucky, too?"

Freddy stopped and held out a suit of clothes he had flung over his arm.
The suit was covered with dust and even raised a cloud as Freddy moved
his arm. But it seemed to be in fairly good condition, even though it
wasn't exactly 1940 style.

"I stayed at the window until I saw you leave Number Sixteen," Freddy
said. "Then I did a bit of scrounging. The Kind Fairy must have been
right at my elbow, for in the third room I looked into I found these, in
an old box in a closet. Some other clothes were there, too. These looked
the best, though. So here we are. But never mind about me. What about
Deschaud? You saw him? You talked with him?"

Dave wiped sweat from his brow, heaved another long sigh of relief, and
nodded.

"Right," he said. "And it's Deschaud. I'm sure of that. We are to meet
him at nine o'clock tonight. Now, cut the questions, pal. Just give me a
chance and I'll tell you everything. And while I'm talking, change your
clothes. Just looking at that peasant get-up gives me the shivers. Take
it off, quick, and ditch it."

While Freddy changed into his new disguise, Dave told detail by detail
about his visit with Pierre Deschaud. Freddy didn't interrupt once, but
there was a worried look in his eyes by the time Dave had finished.

"I guess it was Deschaud, all right," he said. "But I certainly don't
like that 'eyes and ears about' stuff. Do you think he meant the old
woman with him?"

"No," Dave said, and shook his head. "She was scared stiff when I walked
in. She stood where she could see him writing. And when I left there was
a look of hope, not fear, in her eyes. No, I'm positive that she's his
wife, or his sister, anyway."

"Nine o'clock tonight, eh?" Freddy murmured as though to himself. "And
it isn't nine o'clock in the morning yet. What'll we do in the
meantime? Just wait?"

Dave gave him a scornful look.

"Well, we could go call on the Nazi Commandant at the City Hall, and see
how he's getting along," he grunted. "I've got two better ideas,
though."

"They'd better be!" Freddy said, and gave him a dark scowl. "What two
ideas?"

Dave slipped his hand under his German officer's tunic.

"First a bout with our emergency rations," he said. "My stomach's just
about decided my throat has been cut. After that, a few hours of
shut-eye. I've got a hunch that it won't hurt a bit to stock up on some
sleep."

Their glances met and stayed locked for a long minute. Neither spoke,
because each knew what was in the other's mind. Nine o'clock that night
was their Zero Hour. At nine that night they would learn what they had
come through a hundred lurking dangers to find out. Would it be the end,
or, as they both hoped and prayed, would it simply be a glorious
fulfillment of their mission?

Suddenly Dave grinned and broke the tensed silence.

"And there's another reason why I want some shut-eye, too," he said.

"I don't like that grin," Freddy said cautiously. "But I'll bite. What?"

"If my eyes are closed," Dave said, and backed away a couple of steps,
"I won't be able to see that trick suit of clothes you swiped. Boy!
Would your girl friend give you the gate if she saw you in that rig.
Hot-diggity! Ain't you something the cat dragged in!"

Freddy snorted, then leaned forward and sniffed loudly.

"Why not be honest?" he asked. "That staff car and duffel bag story was
just a fib, wasn't it? You really found that Nazi uniform in a garbage
can, didn't you?"



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Pierre Deschaud Speaks_


Black night had again settled down over Europe. Layers of cloud scud and
fog completely hit the stars, and to Dave and Freddy, crouched down on a
sandy strip of shore not twenty feet from the waters of the Scheldt
River, it seemed as though they were the only two people alive in the
whole world. All about them was darkness and utter silence. Antwerp was
just a darker blot a mile or so to their left. And although by staring
hard they could catch the flicker of pin point lights, the city was so
dark and still that the little points of light could well have been
their imagination playing them tricks.

It was now exactly eight minutes of nine by Dave's radium dial wrist
watch. A little over an hour ago, when the shadows of coming night had
begun to fall, they had slipped out of their hiding place and started a
roundabout trip to the spot where they now crouched. Death had walked
with them every step of the way, waiting and ready to pounce about them
both and gobble them up. But Lady Luck had also traveled with them. And
although on three occasions they had come very close to stumbling
headlong into Nazi black-out patrols, they had avoided them in the nick
of time, quickly changed their route and hastened onward. And now they
crouched down on the sandy strip of shore and stared hard at the
lopsided darker shadow out there in the water. It was the water-logged
and half sunk houseboat, and by straining their eyes hard they could
just barely make out the jagged hole stove in the bow on the port side.

Presently Dave turned his head and leaned toward Freddy.

"Deschaud said to meet us inside the thing," he whispered in the English
youth's ear, "so I guess we'd better get moving. If anybody is around,
he certainly is a darn sight quieter than the night. What do you
think?"

"Same as you," Freddy whispered back. "We'd better get out there. Only
thing we can do. Watch the noise you make wading."

"You're telling me?" Dave echoed with a silent chuckle. "You bet I'll
watch out. Sure could use a flashlight, though. Okay, let's go."

The two boys slowly stood up and crept down to the water's edge. For
mutual balance and guidance they clasped hands and started wading. The
water was cold and the bottom was very muddy, making it doubly hard to
keep their balance. Neither of them, however, met with an accident, and
eventually they were directly under the gaping hole in the boat's bow.
There the water wasn't more than a very few inches above their knees,
and it was not difficult to grab hold of the jagged ends of broken hull
planks and pull themselves in through the hole.

It was pitch black inside, and everything they touched was wet and
slimy. A thousand different kinds of smells struck them in waves. Inch
by inch they crawled forward until Dave found a sturdy cross beam that
was comparatively dry. He pulled Freddy to it, and together they sat
down and turned around so that they could look out the opening toward
the shore. For a moment or so it was like staring at a black curtain
hung in a room with all the lights out. Bit by bit, though, shadows
began to take shape and they were able to make out the exact shoreline
and the tree clumps and building rooftops beyond.

"Well, it's up to Deschaud, now," Dave whispered. "Gosh! I sure hope
nothing's happened to him! It's ten minutes after nine!"

"I'm thinking the same thoughts," Freddy whispered back. "But you can
bet I sure hope they're all wrong. I--_Dave!_"

Freddy had stopped short and gripped Dave's arm, and was pointing his
other hand toward the shore. Dave said nothing, for he had already
spotted the faint shadow moving slowly along the strip of sandy beach.
The shadow suddenly stopped, and then whirled as a second shadow seemed
virtually to leap right down out of the black sky. The two shadows
merged together and swayed back and forth. Then one of them fell back
and down onto the sand. Freddy's fingers were digging like steel barbs
into Dave's arm, but he hardly felt the pain. His breath was locked in
his lungs, and all the world seemed to stand still as he kept his eyes
riveted on the shadowy scene ashore.

After a moment or so, the shadowy figure remaining on its feet bent over
and gathered the fallen shadow in its arms and slung it across a
shoulder like a wet sack of meal. Then the shadow moved slowly out into
the water. Hardly daring to breathe, Dave and Freddy watched the shadow
come closer and closer. Presently it was at the opening in the bow. It
paused there motionless, and it was all Dave could do to choke back the
shout that struggled to rise up in his throat. Then suddenly a tiny
needle thin beam of light flashed across his face and went out almost
instantly. Then came a hoarse whisper.

"Give me a hand! Help me lift this traitor inside! Quick!"

The two boys moved forward at once, caught hold of the limp form and
pulled it inside the hull of the boat. A second or so later and Pierre
Deschaud came slithering in like a greased cat.

"Leave him there," he whispered, and touched them lightly on the arms.
"He will be a traitor to Belgium no more. Follow me, and be careful how
you step. This craft was not built yesterday."

Before either of them could ask a question, the old man snapped on the
needle point of light again and glided past them as silently as an eel
in a barrel of oil. They silently followed him deeper into the boat.
After a moment or so he pushed open a small bulkhead door and stepped
into a bare cabin that had eighteen inches of water on the deck floor.
He paused and waited for them to pass through, then stepped inside
himself and pulled the door shut. There were two empty bunks fitted to
the walls of the cabin well above the water line. Deschaud gestured with
his light for them to sit on one, while he sat down on the bunk facing
them. Then he held his light down at the water, which threw back a faint
glow that made it possible for them to see each other.

It was Freddy who spoke first.

"What about that one in the bow?" he asked.

"We can forget about him," Deschaud said, and looked at Dave. "He was
the reason I was so scared this morning. He was in the next room, and
listening, of course. The Nazis do not suspect me, but they do not
overlook anything, either. We have many traitors here in Antwerp, scum
who would send their mothers and fathers to the firing squad for a few
extra loaves of bread from the Nazi brutes. He was one of them. I have
known it for a long time, but I did not dare do anything about it.
Tonight, it was different, however. I knew that he would report this
boat to his Nazi pay-master. There is far more at stake than his rotten
life. And so, there is one less traitor in Antwerp."

As the old Belgian finished, he shrugged his shoulders in a gesture as
if dismissing the thought. Dave shivered inwardly, and there was a
pounding in his head. So it had been true! A traitor, who could have
bought about his death by a single word to his Nazi boss, had been
lurking in the next room all the time. Thank goodness he had not been
such a fool as to ask Deschaud questions right then and there. Thank
goodness the brave and courageous old Belgian patriot had warned him
before he'd made a damaging slip of the tongue!

"Tell me your story quickly," Pierre Deschaud's voice suddenly broke
into his thoughts. "How did you get here? Who sent you? What is it you
wish? Were you seen by the Nazis? Were you followed here? Did you meet
anybody on the way? Tell me everything quickly; then I will decide if it
is best to talk."

Both boys realized instantly that Pierre Deschaud was checking up on
them; making sure that it was safe to tell what he knew. After all, he
carried his life in his hands twenty-four hours of the day. And when you
do that, you have to be sure of everything, no matter how small or
trivial. And so the boys told him everything that had happened to them
from the time they had stepped in Air Vice-Marshal Saunders' office at
the Air Ministry right up to the present moment. Pierre Deschaud watched
them closely out of his X-ray eyes. By the time they had finished, the
old man had visibly relaxed, and there was an expression of profound
admiration on his face.

"The world will long remember the gallant men of the British Royal Air
Force," he said in a voice deep with sincere feeling. "And you two well
represent that splendid organization. In the air or on the ground, your
courage and your fighting spirit are no less. I salute you from the
bottom of my heart. All loyal Belgians salute you. Now!"

The old man paused and leaned forward on the edge of the bunk. As he did
so, he drew a folded sheet of dirty paper from under his torn and
oil-smeared shirt.

"I am convinced you come from the great Colonel Fraser," he said. "Ah,
how I admire that man! How I should like to meet him one day."

"And he feels the same way about you, sir," Freddy spoke up.

The old man smiled, and the warm light of great joy glowed in his eyes.

"I pray _Le Bon Dieu_ will bring that day to pass," he said softly.
"However, it is of the present we speak. Listen carefully, you two. The
Nazis are going to attempt to invade England. They are going to attempt
to set up a bridgehead on British soil. Not at Dover, or at Hastings, or
at Brighton on the south coast. It is to be made at a point, a nine mile
strip of shoreline, just north of Harwich on the east coast. And that
attempt will be made on the night of the sixteenth after a terrific
bombardment by the _Luftwaffe_ on the fifteenth."

"The sixteenth?" Dave gasped excitedly. "Three days from today?"

"That is correct," the Belgian said solemnly. "But the _Luftwaffe_ raids
on the fifteenth will be directed at the _south coast_. It is a trick
to make the British believe that an attack will be made there, while
actually the attack will be made much further north on the east coast.
Close to seventy-five thousand troops will be used in the first attack.
If they gain a foothold in England, three times that number will
follow."

Dave unconsciously tried to check the question, but it popped right out
of his mouth.

"How do you know this to be true?" he asked.

For an instant he expected to see anger flare up in the Belgian's eyes.
No such thing happened, however. Pierre Deschaud simply smiled and
slowly nodded his white head.

"Naturally, you ask that question," he said quietly. "It is of course
strange that I, an old man, should know the one thing the Nazis wish to
keep secret. I do know, nevertheless. I have known all about it for over
a month."

The old man paused, lifted a bony hand and pointed in the direction of
Antwerp harbor.

"The day they first set foot in Antwerp, they started taking charge of
every boat in the harbor, as well as every place where boats are made,"
he said. "Those of us who were not blind or stupid knew at once the
reason. They were starting to prepare even then for the coming invasion
of England. I have been a marine engineer all my life. I know how to
build boats as well as the next man. The Germans needed men to build
barges--long high-sided barges that could be powered by Diesel engines
taken from tanks and armored cars. They put hundreds of us to work
building those boats. I was one of those men, and the Germans soon
realized I knew how to build boats. I acted grateful and overjoyed that
they had come. I let them know my hatred toward England for starting the
war. I played right into their dirty hands at every turn. It is hard on
your heart to strike down a friend, a brave soldier, when you hear him
say something against the Germans. Many times, though, I was forced to
do that. It was hard, terribly hard, but there was nothing else but to
act as I did. There was more at stake than the love and affection of a
few dear friends. There was Belgium, and Europe, and England--and
perhaps the entire Christian world."

Pierre Deschaud stopped talking and brushed a hand across his eyes,
which glistened with tears. Dave wanted to reach out and touch him, and
so did Freddy. But they didn't move. They knew in their hearts that the
brave old man did not want sympathy. He had done his duty, and the
knowledge of that was far, far greater than all the sympathy in the
world.

"It was hard, yes," he continued after a moment, "but it was something I
had to do. I wormed my way into the good graces of my Nazi jailers. They
did not know that I spoke and understood German perfectly. Nor did they
know I can remember words spoken for the rest of my life. No, it was not
so easy as all that. The Germans did not discuss the invasion much. They
had received their orders from their superiors to keep their mouths
shut. However, a word was spoken here, a word was spoken there, and I
filed every word in my memory. All dates, all names of towns, all names
of boats, and a hundred other little items. Alone, not one of them means
a thing, but after weeks of collecting and remembering words spoken,
slips of the tongue, I was able to gain complete knowledge of what was
planned."

The old man paused again and held up the folded sheet of dirty paper.

"It is all here, written down in detail," he said as triumph rang in his
voice. "Every move they plan to make. When, where, and how. Their
complete plan. Get this paper back to England, and the Nazi murderers
can be given a smashing blow from which they will not recover for a long
time. Get this paper back to your superior officers, and Adolf Hitler
will think twice about sending his forces against the British Isles.
Mark you, smash this attempt, and Hitler will leave England alone and
look eastward for new nations to conquer, not westward toward England."

Pierre Deschaud stopped talking and held out the paper. Dave started to
reach out his hand for it, then quickly drew it back. He turned to
Freddy.

"We're both R.A.F., Freddy," he said. "But you're _England_, too. You
carry the paper, and I'll just tag along with you."

Freddy tried to speak, but his throat was too choked up. He pressed
Dave's knee hard with one hand, reached out the other and silently
accepted the paper.

"There can be no greater friendship than this!" Pierre Deschaud
whispered softly.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Danger In The Dark_


For a long moment tingling silence settled over the trio. Then Pierre
Deschaud made a little gesture with his hands, and broke it.

"And now, the most dangerous part of all," he said, "your safe return to
England with that very valuable paper. And you _must_ get back. Five
other brave men came for the information you now possess, and they died.
_You_ must not die. If you fail, all is lost. There will not be enough
time left for Colonel Fraser to send over another agent to contact me.
It is up to you two, now."

The two boys nodded grimly.

"Colonel Fraser spoke of there being a few military air fields at
Antwerp," Dave spoke up. "What is the nearest and best one for us to
tackle and try to steal a plane?"

"I will take care of that little matter, too," Pierre Deschaud said.
"Were you to try such a thing alone, you would not live ten minutes.
That happened to two of those five. Two others were killed before they
even reached a field. And the fifth, a fine lad not much older than
either of you, was not fast enough. He was shot down to his death before
he was out of sight of Antwerp. But you--you _must_ get through!"

"Can we get started now?" Dave asked, and nervously clenched and
unclenched his fists. "The sooner the better is the way I see it."

"Right you are," Freddy echoed with a nod. Then, looking at Pierre
Deschaud: "There's no use wasting time unless we have to."

"But of course not," the Belgian patriot said, and rose to his feet. "We
will start at once. Come with me, and be careful how you step."

The old Belgian turned to a door on the side opposite to that through
which they had entered. The door stuck a bit, and he was forced to put
his shoulder to it hard before it gave way. Admiration for the aged man,
and something close to love, stirred in Dave Dawson. Pierre Deschaud
might be close to seventy, but he had the strength of two men, and the
courage of a brigade.

Deschaud flickered his light forward to reveal rotting bulkheads
amidships. The boat was well down by the stern and at a dangerous slant.
Halfway along the port side, Dave suddenly made out the shape of a small
shallow rowboat. An instant later he noted that the oars were joined and
fixed to swivel brackets so that one could row facing the bow instead of
facing the stern as is the usual case. The Belgian sloshed through a
foot of sluggish water, climbed into the boat, and motioned to them to
get in.

"Sit near the bow," he directed. "That makes her ride better for the one
who does the rowing. And I will be that one."

The man paused, chuckled softly and patted the side of the boat
affectionately with his hand.

"This is one boat in Antwerp that the Nazi pigs know nothing about," he
said in a purring voice. "I made her with my own hands years ago. Before
the Nazis arrived, I hid her here in this sunken hulk. She has been
worth many times her weight in gold to me. To lose her would be like
losing my dearest friend. Now, sit steady, for I am about to put out the
light. You will hear me moving, but do not be alarmed. I have a secret
way to get her into the Scheldt. I remove but two or three loose planks,
and we glide through as nice as can be."

"Where are we headed, sir?" Freddy whispered in the darkness.

"Directly across the river from this point," Pierre Deschaud said,
"there is one of their military air fields. A mile of the shore is
dangerous swamp ground, however; a man who did not know the way could
lose himself, and probably drown, before he even realized what had
happened. But I have lived in Antwerp almost all of my life. I know that
swamp as one knows the palm of his hand. I will lead you through it
safely. And when we reached the edge of the field--but we will attend to
that matter when we come to it. Now, silence, please. Not even a
whisper. They patrol the river all night long in their E-boats. And they
have keen ears and eyes, these Nazi sons of the devil. Now, we start."

Dave and Freddy, crouched near the bow of the small craft, could hear
Pierre Deschaud moving, and could hear soft grating sounds like boards
being rubbed together. A moment later they felt the boat move under
them, and a moment after that the darkness was a little less, and a
chilly wind blew against their faces. They had slid out of the half
sunken houseboat and were now out in the Scheldt River.

Dave's nerves danced and twitched around, and his head felt light from
excitement. He slowly turned and stared off into the blackness to his
left. He thought he saw a couple of dim lights far away, but he was not
sure. Then gradually his eyes became accustomed to the change of shadowy
darkness, and he could make out the sprawling dark hulk that was
Antwerp, crouching like some motionless monster on the banks of the
Scheldt River. He tilted his head and looked up to see that cloud scud
and fog still blotted out the stars. At that moment he heard the
throbbing drone of unsynchronized German aircraft engines far to the
east. He was not sure, but once or twice he thought he also heard the
faint _cr-rump_ of bursting anti-aircraft shells. However, though he
peered hard in that direction, he could not see any flashes of fire in
the dark sky.

Then suddenly there was a muffled roar of sound up the river in the
direction of the waterfront center of Antwerp, and a long beam of light
stabbed out across the water. Pierre Deschaud's command was like a
shrill whistle.

"Face down on the bottom of the boat, quickly! Don't move a single
muscle. Pray hard they do not catch us in that light!"

Dave and Freddy dropped flat and practically tried to press themselves
into the wooden bottom of the boat. Pierre Deschaud also crumpled down
instantly. And as the throbbing of a speed-boat drew closer and closer,
its sound was matched by the wild beating of three hearts in the bottom
of that rowboat. Dave clenched his teeth in an effort to ease the
terrible strain of just waiting there helplessly for the beam of light
to swerve and catch them in its brilliant glow. Each second was a
minute, and the fifteen that ticked by while they crouched there
motionless were as a lifetime in a world of unforgettable torment and
torture. At the end of that time, the German river craft had roared past
their position and was streaking farther on downstream. Each of them
realized it at the same time, for they all straightened up together.

"Bless _Le Bon Dieu_ for saving us that time!" Pierre Deschaud breathed
in a fervent whisper. "That is a trick of theirs. They slide along
without lights, and then suddenly switch on the searchlight, and race
forward at full speed, hoping to catch some poor devil where they have
forbidden him to be. A thousand curses on their souls. We will yet drive
the last of them from this part of the world!"

Pierre made a gurgling sound in his throat for emphasis, then fell to on
the oars again. He had greased them well, and had it not been for the
movement of the boat, Dave wouldn't have been able to tell if the man
was rowing or not. There was not so much as a whisper of sound from the
oarlocks.

Twice more they were forced to fall flat and hold their breath in fear
as a Nazi river patrol boat streaked by. The last time its savage wash
caught them amidships and rocked them about like a chip of wood in an
angry sea. But they hardly noticed the tossing they received, they were
so thankful that they had not been caught in the searchlight's beam.
Then suddenly dark shapes rose up on either side of the boat. They
glided along between the dark blurs for a few moments, and then the
nose of the boat nudged into a muddy bank and came to a stop.

"Don't move!" Pierre Deschaud whispered sharply. "That river was nothing
for its dangers. This is the beginning of the difficult business. Sit
still, and I will get out first. I know exactly where to step. And if
one does not step just so--"

The old Belgian left the rest hanging in mid-air as an additional
warning to the two boys. He moved forward past them and climbed out. A
tug or two brought the bow higher up on the mud. Then they heard his
whisper again.

"One of you give me your hand, and with your other hand take the hand of
your friend," he said. "Do not let go for a single instant. This is most
treacherous. Ah, yes, many men are buried here in this swamp. Now, we
move very slowly. Put your foot where the man ahead has put his. If you
slip and start to fall, do not cry out in alarm. Hold on tight to the
hand you grasp."

As Freddy was closer, he grasped Pierre Deschaud's hand and reached the
other hand back to grab Dave's. Then, Indian file style, they started to
move forward slowly foot by foot. In the distance Dave heard faint
sounds, and it was all he could do to keep from lifting his eyes and
peering ahead. He did not do so, however, for he would most certainly
miss his footing and go pitching off into the deep muddy pools that
lined the row of swamp hummocks along which they walked at a snail's
pace.

Time and time again Pierre Deschaud turned to the left or the right, but
always it was in the general direction whence came the sounds. Dave's
eyes smarted from peering down at Freddy's heels so constantly. But he
blinked away the pain and kept doggedly onward. Every now and then some
swamp animal would plop off a hummock into the water with a splash that
sounded like a cannon going off to Dave's strained nerves. And he could
tell from the sudden pressure of Freddy's hand gripping his that his pal
wasn't enjoying the journey, either.

For well over half an hour the old Belgian led them step by step through
the swamp. Then finally they heard him sigh with relief, and a moment
after that they felt firm hard ground under their feet. Dave raised his
aching head and looked around. He saw nothing but darkness, but he
plainly heard the throbbing purr of an aircraft engine in the distance.
He stared hard in that direction, only to realize that they were
standing at the bottom of a slight slope of ground. The Belgian pulled
them close to him.

"Keep hold of hands," he whispered. "And walk as though your shoes were
made of feathers. When I stop, you must stop at once. Remember that. If
you don't, you will die, my dear young friends."

"How come?" Dave whispered as the Belgian paused for breath. "What's
ahead?"

"These Nazis fear sabotage at their fields," Pierre Deschaud replied.
"So they have strung a wire fence about the entire area. The wire is
charged with high voltage electricity. If you should stumble against it
in the dark--you would never know it."

"But how can we get near the planes, then?" Freddy asked.

"Do not worry," the Belgian murmured. "I will take care of that fence.
Now, come. Bend over as you walk, so."

Hunched over forward, the trio crept stealthily up the slope and along
the flat for some fifty yards. Then suddenly Pierre Deschaud stopped.
Freddy and Dave froze in their tracks and peered ahead. Some three feet
in front of them, they could just make out a five strand wire fence
that was about six feet high. Beyond was a field of tall, waving,
sun-scorched grass. And beyond that was the level expanse of the
military flying field. They could see dark shapes that were the hangars
and other buildings. And far over on the other side they could see a
Heinkel night bomber in the faint glow of a single flare. Its prop was
ticking over, and shadows walking past in front of the light indicated
that mechanics were making night repairs. Then Pierre Deschaud
whispered.

"Get down flat on your stomachs," he directed, "one behind the other. Be
ready to crawl forward when I say so. Crawl as if you were swimming, but
do not lift your elbows. And keep your heads down. Now, wait just a
moment."

As the boys got down flat on the ground, Pierre Deschaud pulled a forked
stick some two feet long from under his shirt. Then, crouching down, he
hooked the bottom wire of the fence in the fork part and lifted it
upward as high as he could.

"Now, one at a time worm your way under," came his strained whisper.
"Keep as close to the ground as you can. Now, go ahead."

Dave hesitated a fraction of a second, and then started to inch his body
forward. He did so by digging his fists and his toes into the ground and
shoving. He kept his face so close to the ground that his nose was
rubbing along it. Inch by inch he crawled forward, with air locked in
his lungs and his heart hammering against his ribs. Just a few inches
above him was sudden and terrible death. If Pierre Deschaud's strength
should fail! Or if the forked stick should break and the deadly wire sap
downward! Or if--

"There, you are through!" he heard Pierre Deschaud's whisper. "Now, turn
around and grasp your friend's outstretched hands and pull him under."

Trembling like a leaf, and his body dripping from nervous tension, Dave
got up on his hands and knees and swiveled around. Freddy's head and
shoulders were already under the wire, and his hands were outstretched.
Dave bent down and grabbed them and slowly pulled his pal through to
safety. The instant Freddy's feet were clear of the wire, Pierre
Deschaud removed the forked stick and let the straining wire snap back
into place.

"And now you have only to hide in that grass and wait until it is
almost dawn," they heard him whisper through the wire. "Always just
before the dawn they start up all their engines to remove the chill of
the night. The nearest plane cannot be more than seventy yards from
where you are, now. Wait until the mechanics have started the planes and
walked away to let them warm up. Then dash for the nearest plane. The
swift fighters are hangared on this side of the field, so you need not
worry about having to steal a huge bomber. And so, I leave you now."

The old man's voice faltered for a moment; then he got control of his
emotions.

"May God fly with you, my brave friends," he whispered. "It rests with
you, now. I must return to my boat and get back across the river before
it is light."

"I wish you could go with us, sir," Dave whispered.

"No, although I thank you for the kind thought," Pierre Deschaud
whispered. "However, my place is here in Belgium. Here I must stay until
I die, fighting as best I can for the liberation of my country. And so,
farewell, my courageous friends. May God fly with you!"

Dave blinked to drive away the tears that filled his eyes. When he
opened his eyes again, there was nothing but darkness beyond the charged
wire. Pierre Deschaud had gone back to his boat. Dave felt Freddy's hand
groping for his. He gripped it and squeezed hard.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Wings Of The R.A.F._


When the new dawn was but a faint streak low down in the east, the sound
of a hundred airplane engines being kicked into life suddenly shattered
the stillness of the surrounding countryside. The two boys lying flat on
their stomachs side by side started violently, then looked at each other
and grinned.

"This is almost it!" Dave whispered. "Let's start worming closer. We've
got to grab a ship before anybody else gets in the air. Here in the
grass, we could easily be spotted from the air."

"You're right!" Freddy whispered back. "And I'm sure whoever saw your
uniform and my suit would jolly well land at once to find out what was
what. Right-o. Forward we go."

Like two human snakes, the boys wiggled forward through the tall grass
until they were but a few feet from the edge of the close cut, level
flying field. Through the grass ahead they could see the row of
Messerschmitt One-Nines, and One-Tens. And as luck would have it, a
Messerschmitt One-Ten was the ship nearest them. It was not more than
thirty yards away at the most. Dave nudged Freddy and pointed.

"Just what the doctor ordered!" he breathed. "A One-Ten with plenty of
room for two. Hot dog! Hoped I'd get a crack at flying a One-Ten some
day. Or do you want to do the flying?"

Freddy smiled and shook his head and touched the pocket of his jacket
where he kept Pierre Deschaud's detailed report of the Nazi invasion
plans.

"The least I can do in return," he said. "Besides, you spoke first.
Look! The mechanics have checked the instruments, and are walking away!"

It was true. Mechanics were climbing down out of cockpits and walking
along down the tarmac in groups. In a moment or so there wasn't a
single man within seventy-five yards of the first Messerschmitt in the
line. Dave gripped Freddy's arm, tried to speak, but couldn't get the
words out of his throat for a second. Then they came in a muted rush.

"Okay! Let's go! Luck to us both, fellow!"

Quick as a flash, they shot up out of the grass and started running with
every ounce of driving power in their legs. It was only some thirty
yards to that One-Ten, but Dave felt as though he weren't covering more
than a couple of inches of ground with every stride. A thousand
torturing thoughts whipped through his brain, and with every stride he
expected to hear the yammer and chatter of many machine guns blazing
away at him.

Not a single shot was fired, though. And not a single voice cried out in
wild alarm, as he reached the tail of the plane and dashed around it
toward the long three-man cockpit. Then suddenly a German mechanic
seemed to rise right up out of the ground. Obviously he had been making
some delayed check on the plane and was only just starting to join his
comrades down at the other end of the tarmac. As he saw Dave, blank
amazement flashed across his moon-shaped face. Then his eyes seemed to
crackle out fire, and his mouth flew open.

Decision and action were one with Dave Dawson. He dived forward the last
step and lashed out his right fist, putting every ounce of his strength
in the blow. Perhaps the mechanic tried to duck, but at any rate he
didn't do it in time. Dave's driving fist caught him flush on the jaw.
His head snapped back, his feet left the ground, and he did a beautiful
backward somersault to crash down on the tarmac in a heap. Before the
German had even hit, Dave was in the pilot's pit, reaching for the
control stick and throttles.

He kicked off the wheel brakes with his foot and jerked his head around.
Freddy was already in and grinning from ear to ear.

"The beggar will sleep for a week!" he cried. "Right-o! Give her the
gun!"

As though Freddy's voice was some kind of a signal to the Germans about
the field, shots suddenly rang out, and the air shivered with shouting
angry voices. Dave shoved the throttles forward and the twin 1,150 hp.
Daimler-Benz engines thundered up in a mighty song of power. The plane
quivered and bucked for an instant, and then charged straight out across
the dawn light-shadowed field. Machine guns and rifles were now
cracking and banging away on all sides, and countless metallic wasps of
death were hissing past the plane as it rocketed forward.

An instant later he heard the Messerschmitt's rear guns rattling away,
and Freddy's wild shouts and bellows as he sprayed the Germans swarming
across the field. Dave grinned, tight-lipped, eased back on the stick
and lifted the One-Ten clear of the ground and upward toward the dawn
sky.

"R.A.F. coming up!" he shouted, and jerked his head around for a second.

Freddy was still drilling away with his swivel gun in the rear cockpit
and yelling at the top of his voice. Dave turned front, leveled off the
climb and banked around toward the west and the English Channel. His
heart sang a wild song of joy as the swift Messerschmitt One-Ten ripped
along through the air. Victory was in sight, now. Death and danger had
been defeated. In half an hour they would be over the English Channel.
Another forty minutes or so and they would be well over English soil.
Back to England! Back to England with complete information about the
coming Nazi drive. Names, dates, places--everything that the Nazis
planned. The number of troops to be used, the list of ports where
invasion barges now waited to be sent out toward England under the cover
of darkness. Everything! The whole works! And now the British could--

Dave didn't finish the thought. At that moment Freddy's fist banged down
on his shoulder, and the English youth's voice shouted excitedly in his
ear.

"To the right and up, Dave!" Freddy yelled. "Take a look! A swarm of
Nazi planes trying to cut us off. The beggars back there must have
radioed to units already in the air, telling them about us swiping a
plane. Get everything you can out of this blasted bus!"

"And you get back to your guns!" Dave shouted, as he found the flock of
some twenty-five or thirty dots high up to his left. "We're going to
have trouble! Those birds have the altitude, and they can get the speed
to cut in front of us by diving. Get set, Freddy! The final lap!"

Even as the last left Dave's lips, he saw the group of dots wheel toward
the east and then go slanting downward. Impulsively he jammed his free
hand against the already wide open throttles, as though he might be
able to get additional revolutions of the thundering Daimler-Benz
engines. And although he didn't have more than three thousand feet under
his wings, he slanted his own nose down slightly to gain what extra
speed he could.

His prophecy came true, however, regardless of his frantic efforts to
skip away and out-fly that cluster of Nazi planes. Their diving speed
was plenty for them to outstrip the One-Ten in the mad race for the
Channel. And when Dave and Freddy roared out from the shore, the dots
had changed into deadly Messerschmitt single seater One-Nine fighter
planes. And they were now charging in at breakneck speed, their guns
chattering out a mad song of hate and destruction.

Body braced, Dave kept the One-Ten tearing straight at the leading
German plane, and pressed the gun button on the top of his joy stick.
The four 7.9-mm. machine guns mounted in the nose of the One-Ten spat
flame and sound. The plane rushing in seemed to crash up against an
invisible brick wall. It went cartwheeling crazily off to the side, and
then curved over and down into the Channel.

"Good lad!" came Freddy's voice faintly above the roar of the engines.

A split second later Freddy emphasized his words with the chatter of his
rear gun. Out of the corner of his eye Dave saw a One-Nine swerve
crazily and crash straight into another German ship before its pilot
could pull out of the way. The two ships fell downward, leaving behind a
long column of smoke and flame. Dave shouted words of praise, sliced
past yet another One-Nine charging in and then hauled back on the stick.
The One-Ten power zoomed wildly toward the sky.

The maneuver, however, was not so successful as Dave had hoped. There
were more Messerschmitts up there, and they opened up with a withering
fire. He kicked rudder and almost went into a complete "black-out" as
the terrific turning force seemed to roll his eyeballs back into his
brain. He straightened out slightly, slammed down in a quick dive and
caught a One-Nine cold in his sights. He pressed the gun button on the
stick, and German machine gun bullets put another German out of the war.

For every German those two boys dropped out of the sky, however, three
more seemed to come streaking out of nowhere. They were all around the
One-Ten, underneath it and above. Time ceased for Dave Dawson. Time
stood still. He became a part of the plane he flew--a sort of mechanical
pilot who had no time to think or consider the next move. Every touch of
the stick or rudder was both instinctive and automatic. There was smoke
and flame and hissing bullets all about him. White pain ripped into his
side, but he hardly felt it. His One-Ten shook and shivered as burst
after burst ripped into it. His heart was cold and his brain was frozen
with the realization that it could not go on forever. The One-Ten was
being constantly raked from prop to tail.

Then, suddenly, it happened!

A long burst crashed into his port engine. It coughed and sputtered and
then passed out completely. Smoke belched out for an instant but there
were no licking tongues of flame. It was the end, nevertheless. With
only one engine Dave couldn't possibly hope to get away from the swarm
of Messerschmitt One-Nines wheeling and darting about them. And in that
horrible moment of realization he realized also that neither he nor
Freddy wore parachutes.

He jerked his head around to yell at Freddy to hang on tight, but the
words never left his lips. Rather, a cry of wild alarm came out instead.
Freddy was slumped forward over his swivel gun. His eyes were closed,
and there was blood trickling down from an ugly bullet crease along the
left temple.

Dave took one quick glance, then jerked his head forward and shoved hard
on the stick. The nose dropped, and the single engine started to haul
the plane downward in a terrific dive. It took every ounce of Dave's
strength on the left rudder to compensate for the useless port engine.
With only one engine going, the plane fought savagely to veer off to the
right and into a spin. But Dave somehow held it steady and went
rocketing down through the swarm of One-Nines before their pilots
realized what was happening.

And then, as he suddenly cast his gaze downward and to the north, his
heart almost burst with joy. Cleaving the water southward was a British
destroyer. Black smoke lay back over her aft deck, indicating her speed.
And Dave could tell from the countless tongues of flame leaping up from
her decks that her anti-aircraft "Pom-Pom" guns were blasting away at
the sky full of German planes.

"Hold on, Freddy!" Dave got out through clenched teeth. "Don't die on
me, pal. Everything's going to be jake. They haven't licked us by a darn
sight. There's a destroyer down there, Freddy, a British destroyer. I'll
crash in her path and make her pick us up. Hang onto everything, Freddy,
old pal!"

Twenty seconds later Dave flopped the crippled One-Ten down into the
waters of the English Channel. The jar flung him hard against the
instrument panel, and for a brief moment all the stars in the heavens
swirled and spun around in his brain. The instant his vision cleared, he
stood up on the seat and waved both arms wildly at the destroyer rushing
toward him. The Messerschmitt One-Nines tried to drop down and machine
gun him murderously, but the destroyer's Pom-Poms kept them at a
respectful altitude.

The destroyer swerved slightly and cut her speed down. In a few moments
she had worked up close to the floating plane. Sailors on the low decks
threw Dave a line. He caught hold of it somehow and made the end fast to
the cowling brace. As the Pom-Poms continued to bark, the sailors
pulled the plane close. Dave motioned one of them to jump down, and
scrambled back to Freddy. Tears of joyful relief burned Dave's eyes when
he found out that Freddy was still breathing. Two sailors took charge
and hoisted Freddy aboard. White pain stabbed Dave's side as he
scrambled aboard in turn, and he would have toppled over backwards if a
sailor had not caught his arm.

"Easy does it, Fritz!" the sailor said.

"Fritz, nothing!" Dave gasped as the pain in his side started leaping up
into his chest. "R.A.F. Where's your commander? I've got to see the
commander at once! Get me the commander at once!"

A white blur appeared in front of Dave, and a voice said:

"I'm the commander of this craft! What's this all about?"

Dave clenched his teeth, staggered over to the two sailors who held
Freddy, and took the plan paper from out of Freddy's pocket. He reeled
back across the deck and grabbed hold of the railing for support. There
was a thunderous roaring in his head, and red hot knives were cutting
his body to pieces. He raised haze-filmed eyes to the destroyer
commander's face, and held out the folded sheet of dirty paper.

"Think I'm about to pass out, so listen plenty close!" he said with a
tremendous effort. "We're Pilot Officers Dawson and Farmer, R.A.F. Just
escaped from Antwerp. Put into the nearest port. Radio Colonel Fraser to
meet you. Reach Colonel Fraser at once. These are Nazi invasion plans.
The--the whole works! Put--into nearest--port. Radio--Colonel
Fraser--Chief--British Intelligence. Important--"

Dave knew that he was falling down into a great big black hole, but he
was too far gone to do anything about it.

When he next opened his eyes, he was in a hospital bed and all wrapped
around by three or four miles of bandages. At the foot of the bed stood
Air Vice-Marshal Saunders, Colonel Fraser, and a major in medical
uniform. He stared at their smiling faces for a moment, then turned and
looked at the next bed. Freddy Farmer had at least one mile of bandage
wrapped about his head, but he was sitting up and grinning from ear to
ear.

"Going to sleep out the rest of the war, Dave?" he asked with a happy
chuckle. "Man, is it good to see you come around! How do you feel?"

"I don't know, yet," Dave heard himself say. Then a little light seemed
to flash on in his head, and memory came racing back. He turned and
looked at Colonel Fraser. "The invasion attempt!" he gasped. "The plans
Pierre Deschaud gave us! What--"

The Intelligence chief stopped him with a gesture of his hand and
stepped around to the side of the bed.

"Everything's fine, my boy," he said in a soothing voice. "You just
relax, and take it easy. You stopped a couple of bullets, you know. Take
it easy and get your strength back."

"But the invasion attempt?" Dave insisted.

"Thanks to you two, there wasn't any," Colonel Fraser said with a smile.
"We beat them to it and blasted the tar out of their invasion bases. Too
bad you couldn't have seen it. Your pals shot down one hundred and
eighty-five planes on the fifteenth. That was two days ago, by the way.
It was a new R.A.F. record for a single day's bag of Goering's chaps.
And that night the bombers made a mess of the invasion attempt, but
before it was even attempted. So you see, there really wasn't any
invasion attempt."

"But Hitler has jolly well been taught a thing or two," Air Vice-Marshal
Saunders spoke up. "And it'll be a while before he thinks about trying
it a second time. As the Colonel said: Thanks to you two lads, we beat
them to it, and gave them a very bad trimming into the bargain, too. And
it will help you to get back to active duty sooner, let me say that
there'll be a decoration for you two for the wonderful job you've done."

Dave looked at Freddy, and as their eyes met an understanding passed
between them. The smile on Freddy's lips faded, and he shook his head.

"You tell them why not, Dave," Freddy said.

"Eh?" Air Vice-Marshal Saunders grunted. "What's that?"

"We'd rather not be given decorations, sir," Dave said quietly. "The man
who should get it, and really deserves it, is not here. He's Pierre
Deschaud. He was the man who did the tough job, and--well, Freddy and I
were just sort of messenger boys, you might say. Right, Freddy?"

"Absolutely!" Freddy said. "Satisfaction that we helped pull off the job
is decoration enough for us."

Air Vice-Marshal Saunders looked at Colonel Fraser and smiled.

"I ask you," he murmured, "what chance has old Adolf got when he's up
against chaps like these two?"


The End

       *       *       *       *       *

_DAVE DAWSON

WAR ADVENTURE BOOKS_

Here are some of the exciting, up-to-the-minute, true-to-fact adventures
of American Dave Dawson and his English friend Freddy Farmer.

In various volumes, the boys get into the war at Dunkirk! They are
dropped into Belgium by parachute! They scout the Libyan desert! They
foil an Axis submarine wolf-pack! They destroy a mysterious Nazi weapon!
They pose as Gestapo agents in Singapore! They ferret out Axis spies
operating in the Pacific! They balk a plot to blast the Panama Canal to
bits! They are Commandos and kidnap two German High Command officers!

READ about these high-flying, clean-living, hard-fighting boys!

    ASK your dealer for
    DAVE DAWSON
    WAR ADVENTURE BOOKS

    _THE
    SAALFIELD PUBLISHING
    COMPANY_

    _Akron, Ohio_

       *       *       *       *       *

THE AUTHOR


R. Sidney Bowen, the youngest member of the Royal Flying Corps and the
R.A.F. in World War I, was born in Boston and went to school there. He
left high school to drive an ambulance for the French Army, but was soon
sent home because he was under age. He lied about his age and enlisted
in the R. F. C. The famous Vernon Castle was his instructor. Back in
France as a scout pilot, he shot down a number of German planes and
balloons. During and after the War, he saw service in England, France,
Belgium, Germany, Italy, Egypt, India, and British Somaliland.

Then he became a newspaperman, test pilot, editor of an aviation
magazine, and finally a famous writer of flying, sport, and action
stories.

He holds the World's Schoolboy Record for the 1000-yard run.

He has 2675 flying hours in his logbook.

He is an expert in aviation, technical, and military matters.


_DAVE DAWSON WAR ADVENTURE BOOKS_





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