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´╗┐Title: Dave Dawson with the Pacific Fleet
Author: Bowen, Robert 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 Pacific Fleet" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                  DAVE DAWSON WITH THE PACIFIC FLEET

                         _by_ R. SIDNEY BOWEN


                 _Author of_: "DAVE DAWSON AT DUNKIRK"
                    "DAVE DAWSON WITH THE R. A. F."
                        "DAVE DAWSON IN LIBYA"
                    "DAVE DAWSON ON CONVOY PATROL"
                   "DAVE DAWSON, FLIGHT LIEUTENANT"
                      "DAVE DAWSON AT SINGAPORE"


                           CROWN PUBLISHERS

                               New York


                 COPYRIGHT, 1942,  BY CROWN PUBLISHERS
                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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



                               CONTENTS


       I ORDER FOR EAGLES                  9

      II CENTER OF THE WORLD              21

     III SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT               32

      IV DEATH IN THE PACIFIC             47

       V SILENT WINGS                     58

      VI MIDNIGHT MENACE                  69

     VII PILOT'S LUCK                     81

    VIII NOBODY'S AIRPORT                 94

      IX RESCUE WINGS                    108

       X VULTURE'S NEST                  121

      XI A LITTLE BIT OF ENGLAND!        131

     XII WESTWARD TO WAR                 149

    XIII DEATH STRIKES OFTEN             161

     XIV INVISIBLE WALLS                 174

      XV BATTLE STATIONS                 187

     XVI WATER RATS                      201

    XVII EAGLE MADNESS                   219

   XVIII DEATH HATES TO LOSE             233



DAVE DAWSON WITH THE PACIFIC FLEET



CHAPTER ONE

_Order For Eagles_


Very much like a little boy who is seeing his first Christmas tree,
Freddy Farmer stared pop-eyed out the Clipper's lounge window and down
at the man-made magic that was New York City. For a full five minutes
he had been gaping at the sight, not moving a muscle, not making a
sound, and practically holding his breath all of the time. At his side
and with an arm thrown across the English-born R.A.F. ace's shoulders
was Dave Dawson, grinning from ear to ear, and getting the kick of his
life out of the spell that a first look at Gotham had cast upon his
bosom pal, and hard-hitting flying partner.

Finally he couldn't wait any longer to hear what Freddy had to say.

"Well?" he encouraged.

"Well, what?" Freddy murmured in little more than a whisper.

"What do you think of the old town, huh?" Dave asked with a happy
chuckle.

The English youth blinked, swallowed hard, and gave a little uncertain
shake of his head.

"Unbelievable, incredible!" he finally got out. "Are--are those really
buildings down there? The New York skyscrapers I've heard so much
about?"

By way of making his question clear, Freddy pointed at the towering
heaps of stone that formed the Wall Street and midtown sections of the
city. Dave squinted down and grunted.

"Those little shacks?" he echoed. "Why, those are just the little huts
where the poor people live. Wait until you see the real buildings. How
high are we, anyway? Hope the pilot of this thing stays over three
thousand feet. Be tough to smack into a skyscraper, you know."

Freddy Farmer snorted and dug an elbow into Dawson's ribs.

"Oh, come off it, funny lad!" he snapped. "That one wasn't even worth
a quiet smile. Point out some of the buildings, will you? The Empire
State Building. Where is it, anyway?"

Dawson pointed it out to his friend, and then went on to point out many
of the other buildings of Manhattan that were famous the world around.

"But the Empire State tops them all," he said at the end of his little
tourist guide speech. "Funny thing about it, though. The Empire State
is the tallest building in the world, but it's not the highest. Ever
realize that?"

Freddy took his eyes off the view just long enough to give him a
quizzical stare.

"The tallest, but not the highest?" he said. "What kind of rubbish is
that?"

"It's a fact," Dawson said gravely. "Didn't you know you've got
buildings in England higher than the Empire State?"

The English youth sighed and gave a little shrug of his shoulders.

"I always felt there was something funny about America," he grunted.
"But I never knew that seeing your homeland affected you Yanks this
way. We have buildings in England taller than your Empire State? What
utter rubbish!"

"I didn't say taller, I said _higher_!" Dawson chuckled. "Take the city
hall out in Denver, Colorado. Denver's a mile above sea level, but New
York is just about sea level. Catch on? The Denver City Hall is over
four thousand feet _higher_ than the Empire State. Try that on your
friends when you get back to England."

"Blasted likely I will!" Freddy snorted. "They'd have me locked up sure
for a balmy one. But don't talk about getting back to England. Good
grief! I've only just arrived in America. And speaking of coming to
America, I'd certainly like to know--"

"Yeah, me too," Dave cut in, and suddenly leaned closer to the window
glass. "Hello, Sweetheart!" he cried, and threw a kiss. "Have you been
lonesome for me, Sweet? Well, here I am, Precious. And am I tickled
pink to see you!"

As Dawson talked and went through the motions of throwing kisses,
Freddy Farmer paled slightly and glanced anxious-eyed about the
Clipper's lounge to see if any of the other passengers were watching.
They weren't, however. They were all too busy filling their own eyes
with New York. Finally Freddy turned back to Dave.

"Are you all right, Dave?" he asked. "Not air sick, or anything? Then
for pity's sake, stop all this rot! Where in the world do you think you
are? On the stage? And what in heaven's name are you acting out?"

"Acting nothing!" Dawson snapped. "The real thing, pal! I'm just saying
hello to my girl, my sweetheart. I haven't seen her for a couple of
years, you know. There she is down there. See her?"

The English youth looked eagerly out the window again, but his
eagerness disappeared at once, and he groaned softly.

"As though you could see anybody from this height!" he growled. "You've
just gone plain balmy with joy at being back in your own country. But
I'm telling you right now that if you keep it up, I'm going to quit you
and go back to England even if I have to swim it. Frankly, I think I
must have been a little balmy myself to have come over here with you in
the first place. See your girl waiting for you? Rot! Matter of fact, I
recall your telling me that you didn't have any girl."

"I haven't," Dawson said with a grin. "Only this lady is very special.
She's the sweetheart of every returning American. Always waits in the
same place, holding up a torch so you can find your way in. There she
is, down there. See her? Over two million Yanks threw goodbye and hello
kisses at her in the last war. She was born in France, but she's been
Yank ever since the day she came over. Freddy, meet my very special
sweetheart. Isn't she something, though?"

Pulling the English youth closer to the window, Dave Dawson pointed a
finger down at the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Freddy stared
at it long and silently. Then presently he nodded and smiled at Dawson.

"No, I guess you're not so balmy as I thought," he said. "I see what
you mean and I quite agree. She is, indeed, the sweetheart of all you
Yank chaps. She stands for the most cherished thing in all of your
great country: Liberty!"

"Yes," Dave said gravely. "And I hope and pray that before long what
she stands for will extend around the world and to each of the Poles."

"Amen!" Freddy Farmer breathed softly. Then, as his young face grew
hard and grim: "It will come, Dave. Maybe you, and I, and thousands of
chaps like us, may not live to see it. But it will come, just as sure
as there is a sun in the heavens by day, and stars by night. I'm not
one of those heavy-thinking blokes who can spill out wonderful words
by the yard, but ever since this blasted mess started I haven't once
had even the tiniest feeling that Hitler and his murderers would win in
the end. And now that the United States is in it, I simply feel that
victory will be ours just that much sooner."

"Feel the same way," Dave murmured, and stared unseeing out the window.
"But it's going to be a scrap, and a tough one. Those dirty Japs got
the jump on us. And they're in high gear right now, while Uncle Sam is
still shifting into first. But it won't be long before the old guy with
the whiskers gets rolling. And when he does, Mr. Jap, and Adolf, and
Muzzy the Fuzzy, you're going to catch it from all sides--and plenty!
And--Hold everything! I sound like a Congressman dedicating a post
office, or something. Let's change the subject. Gosh, Freddy, but you
look funny in civilian clothes."

"Oh, do I?" the English youth flared up and flushed. "Well, let me tell
you, my little man, you'd never take any prizes at a fashion show for
men. You'd--"

"Get down off your ear, pal!" Dave stopped him with a chuckle. "I
didn't mean that the way you took it. I mean that I've been so used
to seeing you in uniform that it seems sort of cockeyed to see you in
civies. They're a swell fit, and you'll knock the ladies of Broadway
and Fifth Avenue for a loop. So don't get hot under the collar."

"Well, that's a little better!" Freddy growled. Then, with a sheepish
grin: "To tell the truth, I feel just as strange as I must look. It's
really a very nice suit of clothes, but I feel all out of place wearing
it. That is--"

"I know what you mean," Dave chuckled. "Feel that way, too. As if a
Wing Commander, or somebody, were liable to pop up out of nowhere and
bawl the pants off me for not being dressed for a rush take-off and a
scramble. Well, anyway, never a dull moment for us, hey, Freddy?"

The English youth laughed and shook his head, then ran a fingertip
along the bottom of the window and furrowed his brows in a puzzled
scowl.

"No, never a dull moment," he said. "But I wish that some of those
moments could be explained to us now and then. I--well, I don't mean
anything against America, Dave. And I'm certainly willing and anxious
to go wherever I'm ordered. But--well, you've got oodles and oodles of
pukka pilots over here. Why should we be sent over here to instruct?
After the Singapore business, why were we recalled to England and then
sent out here? Why not to some other Front? Russia, or Libya, or right
where we were in the Far East?"[1]

[Footnote 1: _Dave Dawson At Singapore._]

"_Instruct?_" Dave echoed sharply, and gave his pal a keen look. "What
do you mean, instruct? Were you told something I wasn't told? Holy
tripe! If they make a darned instructor out of me, I'll wreck every
ship until they realize I'm no good at that sort of thing. Instruct?
Why, doggone it, I--"

"I say, don't go sailing off your topper!" Freddy cried in alarm.
"Nobody told me anything. I simply said instruct, because I'm blessed
if I can think of any other reason why the Air Ministry should send us
over here."

"Instruct!" Dave groaned and made a face. "Gosh! Have you spoiled my
homecoming by bringing that up. But, heck, Freddy! You must be all
wet on that idea. Why ship us halfway around the world to teach Yank
fledglings how to fly? That doesn't make sense. Why not at least send
us straight to Canada?"

Freddy Farmer pursed his lips and looked thoughtful. But there was a
very impish look in his eyes that Dave missed completely.

"Well, of course you're very famous," Farmer murmured. "You have quite
a record for bringing down Nazi planes. British ones, too. Crashes,
and rotten landings, you know. Come to think of it, perhaps it's
because of those crashes."

"Crashes!" Dawson cried as his eyes flashed. "Listen, you little wing
crumpler! For every crate I've busted up, you've--"

"No doubt Churchill got in touch with your President," the English
youth went on as though he hadn't been interrupted. "They often
talk with each other by trans-oceanic phone, I understand. Perhaps
right after Pearl Harbor, Churchill called up and said, 'I say, Mr.
President! That chap, Dave Dawson--he's one of you Yanks, you know.'
And your President said, 'Oh, yes, Dawson. Has that blighter crashed
again, Mr. Prime Minister?' To which Churchill replied, 'Can't say, Mr.
President. Haven't looked over the R.A.F. flight reports for the day
yet. It's quite likely, though. But what I called about, Mr. President:
Now that you're in this war, do you think you could take the little
beggar off our hands? Our aircraft production is on the rise, but--'"

Freddy Farmer cut off the last as he suddenly realized that he was only
talking to the Clipper's window. He swung around on his heel, gulped,
and blushed to the roots of his hair. Dave Dawson and some dozen other
passengers of the Clipper were standing there in a group smiling at him.

"It's the altitude, ladies and gentlemen," Dave said loudly. "On the
ground he's really quite a nice guy. But go on, Freddy. I didn't mean
to interrupt. Sorry."

His whole face on fire, Freddy Farmer took a step forward, fists
bunched. Then he quickly relaxed, and grinned.

"Fancy I asked for it," he said. Then, with a grave bow at the other
passengers, he added, "It's undoubtedly the truth, though. He has
crashed more than any other pilot in the R.A.F. Just look at his face.
Nothing but countless crashes could make it look like that. I ask you!"

"Okay, that evens up!" Dave cried, as everybody joined in the laugh.
"But you sounded as if you were set for hours."

At that moment the steward came into the lounge and requested the
passengers to take their seats while the landing was being made. As
Dave dropped into his seat next to Freddy, a tingle of excitement
quivered through his body, and his heart started whanging around in his
chest like a broken piston rod. Back home! Back home to the good old
U.S.A. He still could hardly believe that it was true. It was more like
living out a dream--a wonderful, joy-filled dream. He was afraid that
almost any second he would wake up and find himself back in his hut at
some Royal Air Force Fighter Squadron in England, or Egypt, or India,
or the Far East.

"But it's not a dream, it's true!" he heard his own voice mutter
softly. "And that's just _why_ it doesn't make sense! Why _should_ it
be true? Why _did_ the Air Ministry send Freddy and me over here?"



CHAPTER TWO

_Center Of The World_


As the giant Pan-American Clipper went sliding down toward the landing
basin off LaGuardia Field, that question sounded again and again in
Dave's brain like a tolling bell. But each time he could think of no
answer that seemed reasonable or logical. And each time he groped for
the answer, he mentally kicked himself for not having taken the bull by
the horns and found out a few things when he had the chance.

That chance had come just a few days ago; two days after he and Freddy
had returned from their special assignment in the Singapore area of
the war. They hadn't been appointed to any squadron upon their arrival
in London. Fact was, they had been given a week's leave to enjoy
themselves in the war-torn but still very much chin-up city. They did
have fun for two days. Then came the order to report to a certain
room at the Air Ministry. It turned out to be the office of Air
Vice-Marshal Stoneham, in charge of Active Service Personnel.

For the first few minutes the high ranking Air Ministry official had
inquired about their health, how they liked being back in London, and a
lot of other things that were of equal "value" in waging a winning war.
Then suddenly he had informed them that they were leaving the next day
for the United States. It was with great difficulty that they kept from
toppling right out of their chairs. And while each struggled to catch
his breath and gain control of his tongue, the Air Vice-Marshal had
gone on to say that they would fly to Lisbon by British Airways, and
from Lisbon to New York by Pan-American Clipper. Upon arriving at New
York they would be met by a member of the British Embassy at Washington
who would escort them to the Nation's Capital.

"So there you are, Flight Lieutenants," the Air Vice-Marshal had
finished up with a smile while they still tried to get their feet back
on the ground. "You can pick up traveling vouchers and what-not on the
way out. Good luck, and happy landings, and all that sort of thing.
Certainly wish I were going along with you. Wonderful country, America.
Of course it isn't England, but it's still quite all right, no end."

Perhaps fifteen seconds after that, Dave and Freddy found themselves
accepting travel vouchers and other papers from a junior officer. And
another couple of minutes after that they found themselves out on
the street and headed back toward their hotel. Gosh, yes! He should
have asked a few questions of that Air Vice-Marshal when he had the
chance. But that had been the trouble. He hadn't had the chance. Things
had happened with such startling suddenness and rapidity that--well,
_bingo_, he and Freddy were on the Clipper flying west.

"I wish I hadn't even said it!"

Dave snapped out of his old thought trance and glanced at Freddy Farmer.

"Wish you hadn't said what?" he demanded.

The English youth sighed, made a face, and gestured with one hand.

"That bit about us coming over here to instruct American fledglings,"
he said. "The more I think of it, the more I'm afraid that it just
might be true. That would be terrible, Dave. Not that I don't want to
do everything possible to help, you understand. But instruct? I'd be
perfectly rotten at that game. I'm sure of it!"

"Me too!" Dawson groaned as his heart started sinking again. "And it
would just be my luck to get some student who didn't know a flat spin
from a three dollar hat. But I'm sure it can't be that. Heck! Let's
look at the bright side. Maybe they've sent us over here to take charge
of American war flying."

"Hardly!" Freddy said with a chuckle. "After all, the United Nations
really are very keen to _win_ the war, you know. And with you--"

"Skip it!" Dave cut in. "I was only trying to make conversation."

"Don't bother," Freddy murmured, and looked out the window. "It's quite
interesting enough to watch one of these big ladies come down and land.
Phew! That LaGuardia Field is certainly a big place, isn't it?"

"Fair, just fair," Dave grunted. "It's really just one of our emergency
fields, you know. Why, we've got airports over here that are so big
that they serve breakfast at the start of the take-off and lunch when
the transport passes over the far end of the field. And--"

"And glide from there to a landing on the next airport, eh?" Freddy
Farmer grunted.

"You're learning too fast," Dave said with a grin. "I wonder who'll
meet us."

"_I_ wonder if he'll be able to tell us anything!" Freddy added. "For
two pennies I'd refuse to budge an inch until I'm told what this is all
about."

"Do that and you'll _be told_!" Dave said with a chuckle. "But not the
way you think, sweetheart. Ah, nice! A sweet landing, that one. These
Clipper captains sure know their onions when it comes to over-water
flying. Well, there's the dock, and customs shed. And I wonder who
in that crowd is our welcoming committee. Gee! I hope we can spend a
little while in New York so I can show you off to the natives."

"Never mind the natives," Freddy said as the huge Clipper was mushed
through the water toward the landing dock. "I'll be perfectly content
to see the sights."

"And I'm just the guy who can show them to you," Dave said. "Right from
the Battery up to the Bronx Zoo. No. Nix on the Bronx Zoo. Can't take
chances."

"Chances on what?" Freddy said as he walked into it with both eyes shut.

"The chances of coming out with the wrong baboon," Dave replied
instantly.

Freddy Farmer swung but missed by a mile. Dave had caught up his
bag and was out of his seat and heading forward. Five minutes later
they had cleared customs and were standing on American soil. They
stood there for a minute wondering if the party who was supposed to
meet them had missed connections, and if they should go on into the
Administration Building waiting room and kill time until he showed up.
However, they had hardly started wondering when a neatly dressed man
approached them with a smile. One look and you practically saw the map
of England stamped on his ruddy face. He wore civilian clothes, but it
was easy to see that he was more accustomed to a uniform.

"Flight Lieutenants Dawson and Farmer, eh?" he said, and extended
his hand. Then, before they could do no more than nod: "I'm Captain
Smith-Standers, attached to the military mission at Washington. The
welcoming committee, and all that sort of thing. Have a nice trip,
what?"

"A swell one, thanks, Captain," Dave said. "Sure seems good to get
back. Of course, Farmer, here, was a little worried coming across. Not
used to flying, you know. But we've got a million questions to ask you,
Captain. And the first is--"

Dave stopped as the British officer shook his head and raised a
restraining hand.

"Don't even bother to ask the first one, you chaps," he said with a
laugh. "I'm blessed if I know what the answer is. I was simply ordered
to pop up here and pop you two back to Washington. But I say, you mean
you don't know why you're here, eh?"

"Quite!" Freddy spoke up. "We haven't the faintest idea. And I can
tell you it's been driving us balmy wondering on the way across. Air
Vice-Marshal Stoneham simply gave us our traveling vouchers and shooed
us out of Air Ministry."

"Well, that's the way they do things these days," the Captain said with
a shrug. "Very hush-hush, you know. But you'll find out everything
presently, I fancy. I say, do you want something to eat before we push
along? We've forty minutes or so before the plane leaves."

"Hey!" Dave yelped. "What do you mean, push along? Farmer, here, isn't
going to have a look at New York?"

"Only from the air," the other said with a smile. "I'm to take you to
Washington on the very next plane. Perhaps some other time, though.
Let's get along, shall we?"

Dave looked at Freddy and shook his head sadly.

"We're either a couple of very important guys," he grunted, "or else
somebody doesn't trust you on Fifth Avenue, even under my watchful eye."

"Or else it's to be a court martial, and I'm here as a witness
_against_ you!" Freddy snapped. "Which I sincerely hope!"

"Well, you two can carry on with that rot aboard the plane," the
Captain said. "Come along. But tell me, how are things in London?
Marvelous place, America, but how I wish I were back there. Feel
just like I'd run away from the home chaps. Have the Jerries really
been letting London alone? The War Office communiques are so blasted
uninforming, you know."

That started the two R.A.F. youths off, and by the time they woke up
to realize they hadn't asked Captain Smith-Standers a single other
question about their status, they had landed at Washington, and
were on their way by car to the British Embassy. There they met the
Ambassador, and even had lunch with him and his subordinates. It was a
very wonderful luncheon, and the conversation was highly interesting
to them both. They were treated almost like returning heroes--rather,
visiting ones. However, not one word was dropped that gave them so much
as an inkling as to why they were in Washington. And although they were
both fairly exploding inside with questions, they had sense enough to
keep their mouths shut, and wait.

They had to wait until late in the afternoon. Then Captain
Smith-Standers escorted them out of the Embassy and into a waiting
car. It whizzed them halfway across Washington to a building that was
perhaps the most unimposing of all the heaps of Government marble and
stone in the whole city. He got out of the car with them, and walked
with them up the flight of stone steps as far as the door. There he
stopped, and extended his hand.

"Well, I fancy we part for good now, chaps," he said, and smiled at
them out of eyes that held just a trace of awe and admiration. "Been
wonderful meeting you, and all that sort of thing. Good luck, and
worlds of it to you both."

"Sure, thanks," Dave gulped. "And the same to you. But look--what's
this place, anyway? And what do we do now? I've seen better jails than
this."

"Quite!" Freddy Farmer breathed. "Did we do something wrong at the
Embassy? I say, can't you tell us anything?"

"Sorry," the British captain said with a smile and a shake of his head.
"Fact is, there isn't anything I could tell you. I've been here before,
though, and it's no jail. Wish the devil I was in your shoes. Well, I
must trot. Go inside. You're expected. And--and good luck!"

Captain Smith-Standers shook hands with them again, saluted, though he
still wore civies, turned on his heel and went down the steps to the
car. Dave and Freddy watched the car drive away, then turned and stared
at each other.

"Have you ever been cockeyed drunk, Freddy?" Dave suddenly blurted out.

"No, never," the English youth replied. "Have you?"

"No," Dave grunted.

"Then why do you ask?" Freddy demanded.

"Just wondering," Dave murmured, and reached for the handle of the
door. "Just wondering if it makes you feel the way I do now. In sixteen
million pieces, and every doggone thing upside down. Well, I suppose
this is our next move, eh?"

"Fancy it is," Freddy replied with a shrug and a frown. "So open the
blasted door, and let's go in."



CHAPTER THREE

_Special Assignment_


The first thing the two R.A.F. aces saw as they opened the door and
stepped inside was a long badly lighted corridor. It was more of a
lobby; the lobby of an office building that hadn't been used for
quite some time. The second thing they saw was the figure of a man in
civilian clothes who seemed to pop out of nowhere and advance toward
them. He was a nice enough looking man, about middle age, and with just
the faintest hint of the military about him. He fixed them both with a
keen searching stare, then seemed to relax a bit, and smiled.

"Dawson and Farmer?" he murmured. And without waiting for either of
them to so much as nod: "Come along with me."

They followed him over to an elevator bank, and into the nearest car.
Without speaking a word, or even so much as looking at them, the man
took them up six floors. Dave studied the man hard, and the result of
his study netted him just one thing. The man wore a shoulder holster,
and there was a gun in it.

At the sixth floor he stopped the car, opened the doors, and stepped
out, crooking his finger. They went down a hall halfway to the rear
wall of the building, and stopped before a door. The man pressed a
button three times, then twice more, and then looked at them as the
latch made a clicking sound.

"Go on in," he said. "They're waiting for you. Good luck!"

"Same to you," Dave grunted. "What is it, a new slogan for the war?
Everybody's been wishing us good luck. But for what, for cat's sake? Do
you--?"

"Inside," the man cut him off, but grinned. "I only work here.
Good--No, make it 'happy landings,' for you two."

For a brief instant Dave had the wild impulse to stand his ground and
get a few explanations before he took another step in this seemingly
screwball journey that had begun outside Air Vice-Marshal Stoneham's
Air Ministry Office. However, he killed the desire even as it was born,
and after a quick side glance at Freddy, twisted the door handle and
stepped inside.

He had no idea what he expected to find inside, and what he did find
had all the effect of a bucket of ice water dumped down over jangling
nerves. In short, inside was just a rather dusty room, a desk, a chair,
and another man in civilian clothes sitting in the chair. Oh yes, there
were some cleaning mops, and a couple of pails in one corner. And on
the left wall was a calendar of the year before, torn off only as far
as the month of April. There was a door on the right, and the man
behind the desk pointed at it.

"Through there, Gentlemen," he said, and immediately returned to a book
he was reading.

Dave hesitated, clenched his fists, and groaned inwardly.

"Am I getting tired of doors!" he grated. "What in thunder gives around
here, anyway?"

The man reading the book looked up and pointed again.

"Through there," he said, and went back to his book.

Dave and Freddy walked over to the door, but when he reached it, Dave
stepped to one side.

"Your turn," he said, and stabbed a thumb at the knob. "Maybe you'll
have better luck."

Freddy shrugged, cast a quick apprehensive look back over his shoulder
at the man reading the book, and then turned the knob and pushed open
the door. And he did have better luck. The room they entered was huge
in size, and it contained so much stuff, and so many things, that it
was impossible for either Dave or Freddy to concentrate on anything
for several seconds. But by that time a tall, thin-faced man in shirt
sleeves had risen from a desk and come over.

"Glad to meet you, Dawson and Farmer," he said in a quiet but warm
voice. "I'm Colonel Welsh. Come in. We've been waiting for you."

If the man had introduced himself as Santa Claus Dave couldn't have
been more dumbfounded. Colonel Welsh was the man who made U. S. Army
and Navy Intelligence click. He was in charge of the intelligence work
of both services, and--in a vastly different way, of course--he had as
much power in the United States as Himmler had in Nazi Germany. Perhaps
no more than a dozen people knew what he was, for he acted as a colonel
of infantry as well. But that job was simply a cover for his real work.
He was seen and known as Colonel Welsh, of infantry, but few people
knew that he was the same mysterious Colonel Welsh who was in charge
of all U. S. Intelligence.

But it wasn't so much meeting the man that caused Dave to gasp and
stare hard as it was the man's looks. His thin face had a nice smile,
but beyond that you somehow didn't expect him even to know the time of
day. The eyes had a dreamy, almost vacant look in their depths, the
lips of the mouth had a dopey downward droop, and the chin was too
pointed, and sort of too country parson looking.

"That's all right," the man suddenly said with a chuckle. "I've had
this face all my life, so I'm used to it. Don't worry, I won't bite
you."

Dave flushed to the roots of his hair and heartily wished there were a
hole in the floor into which he could jump.

"I'm sorry, sir," he managed to stammer. "You see--well, Farmer and
I have been going around in circles ever since we left England.
And--well, it's sort of caught us off balance, if you know what I mean."

"I understand perfectly," the U. S. Intelligence chief said kindly.
"Coming here must make a fellow feel he is acting out one of those
crazy pulp paper thrillers. You know: secret doors, and special
code-words. Well, we're not as bad as that. However, we find it
does help to play just a little on the mysterious side. These are
the offices we use when we have work to do. Those over in the War
Department Building are just for show. Fact is, I personally would go
crazy with all the silly trimmings they have over there. But pardon me.
I want you to meet my comrades in this daffy business."

Colonel Welsh turned and led them over to a desk so big that it could
have easily been cut up into five desks of the usual size. Three men
were seated at the desk, and they pushed up from their chairs as the
Colonel and the two youths approached.

"Captain Lamb," the Colonel said, pointing to a chunky redhead.
"Next to him, Captain Stacey. And that chap who's as thin as I am is
Lieutenant Caldwell, our coding expert. Gentlemen, Flight Lieutenants
Dawson and Farmer."

Dave and Freddy shook hands with the other officers, and then dropped
into chairs the Colonel pulled up. It was not until then that Dave
had an opportunity to take a good look about him, and what he saw set
his blood to tingling through his veins, and his heart to pounding
against his ribs. He had often been inside the inner offices of
British Intelligence, and on each occasion he had been stunned by the
number of gadgets of all sorts, and the vast array of equipment they
were used to operate. But the stuff he stared at now put the British
equipment in the shade. There was every conceivable piece of equipment
from ultra-ray flashlights to giant X-ray machines. One whole wall
was lined with telephones and short wave radios for both sending and
receiving. And along another wall was a row of file cabinets that
operated electrically. One had only to push a file button, and the
correct drawer slid open and the exact file folder shot up out of
its clamps. In truth, Dave believed that Colonel Welsh had at his
fingertips complete information of everyone of importance in the war,
and that within a matter of seconds he could establish contact with any
one of his agents, no matter in what part of the globe he might be.
And those two items were but two of the many, many things that could
be made possible with the equipment in that huge room. It was like the
mechanical wizardry of Scotland Yard and the F.B.I. all set up in the
same room.

"Interesting stuff, isn't it, Dawson?"

Dave turned his head to see Colonel Welsh grinning at him. He blushed
slightly, and nodded.

"It certainly is, sir," he said politely. "A fellow could have some fun
in this place."

"Depends on what you call fun," the Intelligence officer said with a
grimace. "There's been more than one death warrant issued from this
place. However, you're not here to be taught how to handle this stuff.
Matter of fact, though, I suppose you're wondering just why you are
here, eh?"

"Decidedly, sir!" Freddy Farmer fairly exploded the words.

"And how!" Dave echoed. "If I don't find out something, and soon, I'm
going to dive right out a window, and end it all. For three days, sir,
Farmer and I have been living a crazy, cockeyed dream. Maybe it's a
nightmare, I don't know. But if you can possibly give us an inkling
what it's all about, then consider me down on my knees and begging you
to do just that! Honest! I don't know whether I'm coming or going."

The Colonel and the others joined in a loud laugh, and then presently
the senior officer's face grew serious.

"You're here at my request, frankly," he said. "Here because I feel
that you're just the men we need to help us crack a few tough nuts.
Among those who came over with Prime Minister Churchill last December
was General Sir John Gately, chief of all British Intelligence. Perhaps
you know him?"

"Only of him, sir," Dave replied. "I never had the pleasure of meeting
him. A wonderful man, though."

"The very best England has," Freddy Farmer added. "I've never had the
chance to meet him, either."

"Yes, Sir John is just about the best in England," Colonel Welsh said
with a firm nod. "We had several talks together, and he struck me as
being just about the most brilliant man I ever met. He has certainly
made it hot more than once for Herr Himmler's Gestapo boys. Well, to
get to the point, I talked over with him a plan I had in mind. After
a moment's thought he stated that you two were the type of men that
I need. Fact is, he said you were _the_ two I needed. So there's a
mighty fine compliment for you. And let me hasten to add that it's a
compliment well deserved, in my opinion. This is the first time I've
met you, but your accomplishments in England and Libya and in the Far
East are no secrets to this office."

Dave laughed embarrassedly and glanced at Freddy Farmer.

"It was mostly Farmer, sir!" he said. "I usually went along just for
the ride."

"Rot!" Freddy snorted, red-faced. "More often than not it was I who
blundered us right up a tree, and you got us out of the mess. Stop
being modest, my lad. You're in your own country, you know."

"I'm pretty sure it was fifty-fifty," Colonel Welsh settled the
argument with a chuckle. "Anyway, you're the two lads I need, and here
you are. When Sir John and I reached an agreement about you, he simply
started the ball rolling, and without your knowing it you were released
from the R.A.F., and sent over to me. Right now you haven't any rank,
and you don't belong to any branch of service of any country. What do
you think of that?"

Dave gulped and gave a little confused shake of his head.

"What do I think of it?" he echoed. "I--well--well, it sounds as if we
were headed for a firing squad, or something."

"Good grief, yes!" Freddy Farmer said in a hushed tone. "At least
that!"

"Well, you can relax; there's no firing squad," Colonel Welsh chuckled.
Then as his chuckle died, and his face became grim: "At least not a
United Nations firing squad. But let's not think of it as even a remote
possibility. I mean, some Axis crowd putting you against a wall. Now,
here's the reason I had you sent over to me, and the plan I have in
mind."

The chief of all U. S. Intelligence paused, and frowned off into space
for a moment as though deliberately choosing the words he would speak
next. Finally he brought his gaze back to Dave's and Freddy's faces.

"There are over one hundred and thirty million people in this country,"
he began slowly. "Over one hundred and thirty million men, women, and
children, who have the Constitutional right to be regarded as loyal
Americans--until proved otherwise. That for the moment is my biggest,
and toughest task: to find out who in our Army and Navy _isn't_ a loyal
American. In short, to find out who is working for Berlin, and Rome,
and Tokio, instead of for Washington and Uncle Sam."

The Colonel paused, clenched one fist, and a hard agate look came into
his dreamy eyes.

"And we're starting off by not kidding ourselves about a single thing,"
he said. "We know perfectly well that Hitler has some of his spies
planted right in our armed forces. Some are buck privates; some are
seamen, third class; and others hold commissions. It's not been made
known, and I hope it never will be, but only the other day we nailed
a Nazi spy who had actually graduated from West Point. So we're not
starting off on this gigantic spy hunt by kidding ourselves that the
Axis rats are all civilians living near munitions factories, or camps,
and that they only go slinking around corners, and down dark alleys.
No, none of that! We're going after this job just as though some of
them were in the White House, and in the Army and Navy Departments!"

The Colonel paused again for breath and to make a little explanatory
gesture with his hands.

"Don't misunderstand me," he continued presently. "Our idea isn't to
pull any of this Himmler stuff. I mean, fill the service branches with
Gestapo spies ready to cut some poor devil's throat because he gripes
at the way Hitler runs things. That isn't our idea at all. We're simply
going to try and ferret out the rats Hitler put in our Army and our
Navy. Now before you throw a fit wondering how just the two of you
could possibly handle a job that size, let me say that you're only
going to be given part of the job to do, a little at a time. And your
first assignment will be with the Pacific Fleet."

The chief of U. S. Intelligence emphasized the last with a nod, and
then fell silent. Dave looked at the man, chewed his lower lip for a
moment, then started to speak, but thought better of it and closed his
mouth.

"Go ahead, say it, Dawson," the Colonel encouraged. "I'm not through
yet, just pausing for breath. Go ahead. What's on your mind?"

"I guess my mind's sort of spinning, but hard, if you want the truth,"
Dave said. "Things are coming at me sort of in bunches. Naturally,
Farmer and I are eager and willing to take a good crack at any job
handed out to us. But--well, maybe Sir John blew us up to you too much.
I mean, we've done some Intelligence work on the other side, sure. And
we were lucky. But I don't rate us as experts. At least, I certainly
don't rate myself as an expert. I should think you'd have dozens of men
right in your own command who could do that sort of a job a darn sight
better than we could."

"Quite! And definitely so!" Freddy Farmer echoed, and shifted nervously
in his chair.

"Maybe," Colonel Welsh grunted. "Maybe not. The point is, I think not.
Certainly I've got some good men under my command. Mighty fine agents,
as far as that goes. But you two have something that unfortunately they
all lack. That's youth. Then there is another item, and it's probably
the most important item of all: the matter of whether or not Axis
agents _know who they are_. One of the inside stories of Pearl Harbor,
that may come out some day, is that Jap agents and Fifth Columnists
knew several of our Intelligence agents stationed in the Islands.
That's no reflection on our agents. The Japs just knew who they were,
that's all--and walked easy.

"But your youth is important, too. Don't get sore, but looking at
you two, no one would suspect you were connected with Intelligence.
Frankly, you look like a couple of red-blooded kids who skipped away
and joined up before your parents could stop you. Holy smoke! Just
sitting here looking at you for the first time, it's mighty hard to
realize that you two youngsters pulled off all those wonderful stunts
on the other side. No, you can stop right there with that kind of
an argument. You're _just_ the two I need for a job with the Pacific
Fleet. I'm completely convinced, and satisfied."

Dave gave a little laugh and shrug.

"Then I guess that's that," he said. "We're all for it, if you really
want us. What next? What exactly do you want us to do?"

"I could say, the impossible, and I don't think I'd be very far wrong,"
Colonel Welsh said gravely. "However, I'm going to hope for the
best--even believe in miracles, if I have to. And if there ever was a
miracle pulled off, it was that little stunt of yours in Belgium just
after the Dunkirk business."[2]

[Footnote 2: _Dave Dawson With the R.A.F._]

The Intelligence chief paused to nod for emphasis. Then he looked
across the huge desk at Captain Lamb.

"Fish out that X-Four-Six-B case photo, will you?" he said. "I think as
a starter it would be good for Dawson and Farmer to have a good look at
it."



CHAPTER FOUR

_Death In The Pacific_


The redheaded Captain nodded, and got up and walked over to the row of
files. Dave watched him and got a big kick as the officer jabbed one
of a row of buttons and then went back a step. There was a series of
clicks, then the file drawer slid noiselessly open, and a folder inside
popped up to Captain Lamb's outstretched hand. The instant he pulled it
out there were more clicks and the door slid silently shut again.

"Good grief, magic!" Freddy Farmer gasped. "Just as though there were a
bloke inside waiting to hand it to him."

"Just about that, yes," Colonel Welsh chuckled. "Now if we can only
work out some way for the file folders simply to _tell_ us what they
contain, then we'll have something. That would save a lot of time."

"But what would you do with all the time you saved?" Freddy asked
innocently.

Colonel Welsh looked at Dave and winked.

"Figure up something that would save us more time, I guess," he said.
"We Americans are all crazy, you know. Ah, thanks, Lamb."

The Intelligence chief took the folder the redheaded captain handed
him, and thumbed through it for a moment. Then he pulled out a
photograph and placed it face up on the desk between Dave and Freddy.

"Take a good look at it," he said in a grim voice. "That picture was
taken ten days ago."

Dave and Freddy bent forward eagerly, but what they saw sobered them
instantly. It was a picture of the flight hangar aboard an aircraft
carrier. It showed several folded-wing Vought-Sikorsky "Corsair"
fighter planes parked so that they could be trundled onto the elevator
and raised to the flight deck in fast time. Right in front, though,
was a Corsair that was blackened and charred by fire. And on the floor
were the figures of two men in flying gear. They, too, were blackened
by flames, and it didn't take a second look to see that they were dead.
To the left and right was portable fire equipment that had been used to
put out the fire.

"Poor devils," Dave murmured, and looked up at Colonel Welsh.

"How in the world did they get so close to the flames?" Freddy Farmer
murmured as though talking to himself.

"They were murdered!" Colonel Welsh said bluntly. "We didn't know it
when this picture was taken. We found that out later. They had both
been shot through the head. And it's quite definite that the murderer
tried to burn up the plane so that it would look like an accident.
Fortunately the fire squad got to it and put the flames out before
everything was destroyed. Thank God, everything wasn't destroyed. If it
had been, we should never have learned the real truth."

"You mean that the two pilots had been murdered, sir?" Dave asked as
the senior paused.

Colonel Welsh shook his head.

"No," he said. Then, reaching out, he almost reverently touched the
picture of the two dead men with a fingertip. "One of those officers
was Commander Jackson, executive Flight Officer of the Aircraft Carrier
Indian. The other was Lieutenant Commander Pollard, senior Section
Leader, and one of the best air tactical men in Naval Aviation. They
were murdered and then robbed. Had they been burned to a crisp we would
not know the killer had stolen the operation plans of the part the
Carrier Indian is to play in a Navy attack on the Jap-mandated islands
of the Marshall group."

Dave whistled softly, then stared hard at the Intelligence chief.

"But is that such a big loss, sir?" he asked. "Those plans, I mean.
Can't they be changed, so that even if the Japs have them it won't make
any difference?"

Colonel Welsh sighed heavily and shook his head.

"I certainly wish they could be changed," he said presently. "I wish it
were as easy as that. But, unfortunately, it isn't. The Indian's plans
are just part of a huge plan to knock a good big hole in the Jap naval
and air forces in that part of the Southwest Pacific. And an attack on
that scale can't be thought up overnight, and put into execution the
next morning. It's not simply a question of rushing ships and planes to
a certain spot and banging away until you're out of shells and bombs.
There's much, much more than that. Your forces must be split up. Your
operation timetable must be worked out so that the slower ships will
arrive at the same time as the fast ones. Worked out so that certain
groups will have mine sweeping and destroyer protection. Worked out
so that there will be a covering force in case parts of any unit are
forced out of action and must retire. No, Dawson, it's not that simple.
There are a hundred and one things to be worked out, so that you stand
the maximum chance of the entire operation being carried out like
clockwork. So it follows that if one unit is off whack, other units are
bound to suffer. The effectiveness of the striking force is reduced.
For that matter, effectiveness is reduced all down the line. And at the
snap of the fingers you can barge bow-on straight into serious trouble.
No, to change the Indian's plans would mean that we'd have to change
and alter the entire plan as a whole. And there is the chance that in
doing that we would discover that it would be best to give up the whole
project."

"Phew, I never dreamed a navy show was that complicated!" Freddy
Farmer breathed. "But I say, sir! If the blasted Japs know the part
the Indian's unit is to play, what can you do about it _but_ change
everything, or else give it up entirely."

"I didn't say the Japs had the plans for the Indian's unit," the
Intelligence chief said. "Maybe I misled you. I said that the plans
are lost. They were stolen from Commander Jackson and Lieutenant
Commander Pollard. They had the only copies of the plans, as they were
to be in complete charge of the Indian's fighters and bombers in this
action. Those plans they carried on their person at all times. And when
they were last seen they were on their way below to the hangar deck to
check a new gun sight that is to be tried in this coming engagement.
They were seen to reach the hangar deck by the Watch Officer. The next
time they were seen, they were dead and about to be burned beyond
recognition by flaming high test gasoline. But for a machinist's mate
who happened to pass that part of the hangar deck, they would have been
burned beyond recognition. And we would never have known that their
copies of the plans were stolen. True, we would have discovered that
they were murdered, shot, just as we did discover. And we might have
suspected that the killer had stolen the plans. But now we know that
somebody aboard the Indian has those plans."

"Huh?" Dave gulped. "Somebody aboard her? You mean, right now?"

"I mean right now," the chief of U. S. Intelligence said grimly. "The
Indian was at anchor in San Diego Harbor. She's still there. However,
the instant it was realized what had happened, the Indian became an
isolated ship. Not a man, not even her captain, was allowed to go
ashore. I radioed those orders myself. And not a boat of any type was
permitted to come so much as within hailing distance. An order was
issued to shoot anybody who attempted to leave the Indian, and to shoot
anybody who attempted to approach the Indian. That order still stands.
Mighty hard on the chaps who were due shore leave--she hadn't been in
port more than a day. But we're not taking chances."

Colonel Welsh paused for breath, and Dave nodded his head slowly.

"I get it," he said. "So far no darn Jap has got his hands on those
plans. No real Jap, I mean."

"What's that?" Freddy Farmer spoke up. "What do you mean, no real Jap?"

"A Nazi can pass for an Englishman, or a Yank, or 'most any nationality
under the sun," Dave said. "But that's barring the yellow races, of
course. And that's just what I mean. A Jap aboard an American ship
can't pass for a Yank. He's out and out of the yellow race. And you
haven't any Americanized Japs on the Indian, have you, sir?"

Dave directed the last at Colonel Welsh, who instantly shook his head.

"None," the senior officer said. "Not a one. And you've got the
right idea, Dawson. It couldn't have been a Jap who killed Jackson
and Pollard. So it must have been one of Hitler's men, or maybe one
of Mussolini's. I doubt that, though. Italians just haven't got the
brains to be that clever. So a Hitlerite is our man. Naturally he's
cooperating with the Japs, and will pass on what he has the first
instant he can. That's our job, though: to nail him, and nail him good,
before he has that chance."

"I suppose you've checked the Indian's list of officers and lesser
ratings, haven't you, sir?" Dave asked.

"Backwards and forwards!" the Colonel said savagely. "And up and down
as well. We've dug into every man's life with pick and shovel, you
might say, and didn't come up with so much as a single suspicion.
That's the devilish part of this kind of a thing. It's quite possible
that this particular rat, or rats, has served in our navy for years.
The whole civilized world is learning more and more each new day, to
its sorrow, how thoroughly Germany and Japan planned for this thing
long, long ago. When Hitler was somebody we just laughed at and made
jokes about, he was sending his confounded spies to the four ends of
the earth, and getting them all set to do their part when _Der Tag_
arrived. But I don't have to tell this to you. You two have no doubt
seen countless examples of that sort of thing."

The chief of Intelligence paused for a moment and slowly closed his
long tapering fingers into rock hard fists.

"I'm a spy myself," he said eventually, "so I think I have a good
idea of both sides of the picture in this kind of business. A spy is
regarded as the lowest form of worm in wartime, and he's usually shot
five minutes after he is caught. But there have been a lot of spies
who were brave and gallant men, and they took the job of going behind
the enemy lines because that was the best way they could serve their
country. But the type of spy such as we're dealing with now--the
slinking rat who in peace-time becomes the citizen of another country,
enjoys all of its advantages, and then turns on that country when his
former country goes to war--well--he is in my opinion the rottenest
form of vermin that ever existed. He doesn't rate the privilege of
being shot when caught. He should be strung up by the thumbs, and
skinned alive."

"And even that's too good for him!" Captain Lamb echoed viciously.
"Those who bite the hand that's feeding them deserve the worst of the
worst. And man! Would I give my life just to get my hands on that skunk
aboard the Indian, whoever he is!"

Dave was slightly startled by the almost berserk rage in the redheaded
Captain's voice. He glanced at Colonel Welsh and saw a look of pity and
sympathy flit across the chief of U. S. Intelligence officer's face.
That expression told much to Dave, and he glanced at Captain Lamb again.

"You knew Jackson and Pollard, Captain?" he asked quietly.

The Captain nodded and licked his lower lip.

"I knew them both well," he said in a low voice. "Pollard was my
dearest friend. We came from the same town. Played football together at
Dartmouth before he changed over to the Naval Academy. They don't make
them better than Jake Pollard was."

"If it helps any," Dave said quietly, "I'll be thinking of you,
Captain, _if_ and _when_ Farmer and I catch up with that dirty rat
aboard the Indian."

"Thanks," the redhead mumbled, and lapsed into brooding silence.

Dave started to say something else to him, changed his mind, and turned
back to Colonel Welsh.

"I suppose you've got a plan of operation you want Farmer and me to
follow, sir?" he asked.

"I have the _start_ of a plan of operation," the senior officer replied
gravely. Then with a helpless shrug: "But from there on you two will be
on your own."



CHAPTER FIVE

_Silent Wings_


Dave waited for the man to continue, and when he didn't he put another
question to him.

"We start from scratch, sir, you mean?" he asked. "There isn't any kind
of a clue for us to work on? You're stationing us aboard the Indian, of
course?"

"That's right," the chief of U. S. Intelligence replied with a nod.
"The Indian is shy two flying lieutenants, and you two are going
to fill the vacancies. Matter of fact, the Indian is also shy two
machinists' mates, and they'll be put aboard too before she weighs
anchor sometime the day after tomorrow."

"Two of your men, sir?" Freddy Farmer spoke up, giving the Colonel a
keen stare.

"Right," the senior officer said briskly. "But, I'm not going to tell
you who they are, any more than I'm going to tell them who you are.
That may sound strange, but it's been my experience that agents working
in pairs accomplish more than agents working in a group. As officers
you two will have the run of the ship, you might say. At the same
time, though, you might tip your hand if you went poking around in the
non-com and enlisted men's quarters. It works the other way around,
too. So I'm planting men in both departments of the ship. You won't
know who the other two are, and they won't know who you two are. But
here's a very important point to remember. This Intelligence work I'm
counting on your doing is, in a way, over and above the call of duty.

"I mean by that that you two will be aboard ship as flying lieutenants.
That will be your main job, and you'll take orders from your Section
Leader, or higher ranks, just as though we'd never had this talk at
all. You'll have no special privileges any more than anybody else
aboard ship will have. You won't because not a living soul aboard will
know the real reason why you are there. Not even the Indian's captain
will know. As they say in England, this is going to be a strictly
hush-hush job. Yes, you'll be starting from scratch. All I can arrange
is for you to be assigned to the Indian to fill the two flying officer
vacancies. What happens after that is up to you. A tough one, eh?"

"The odds aren't so good," Dave said with a faint grin. "But I see your
point, sir, and its advantage. If nobody knows why we're there, then
there's no chance of the truth leaking out."

"I say, one point, though," Freddy Farmer spoke up with a worried
expression on his face. "What about me? My accent, I mean. Won't it
seem a bit odd for me to be put aboard an American aircraft carrier?"

"Not a bit, so stop worrying about that," Colonel Welsh said with a
smile. "A month or two ago, yes, but not now. You have only to pick
up the papers to see that both American and British airmen are being
trained in this country. We're not keeping things separate any more.
Take Java, for example. There are Yanks, British, and Dutch over there
all fighting together, and under the Dutch Command. We're the United
Nations now. And we'll become more so before this thing is over. No,
Farmer, it won't seem odd at all for an English youth to have been
trained in this country and be assigned aboard a U. S. Navy aircraft
carrier for sea duty. True, you may get a bit of ribbing--about your
English accent, and stuff. But I guess you can take that, eh?"

"Farmer has learned fast, sir," Dave said with a chuckle. "He can dish
it right back with the best of them. Snappy come-backs are apple pie
for him. I even have to bear down myself at times. Fact is, I wouldn't
be surprised but that in six months or so you won't be able to tell him
from a Yank."

"Goodness, no, if the Yank is you!" Freddy said with a groan.

Dave laughed and cocked an eye at Colonel Welsh.

"See what I mean, sir?" he grunted. "Right on top of the ball all the
time. He's good!"

"Well, I don't think any of us have anything to worry about on that
score," the Colonel said. "And I've a hunch, Farmer, that once your
shipmates see you in the air they'll realize that how a chap speaks is
pretty small potatoes, considering. Well, I guess that's all. You leave
tonight for San Diego. There's a Navy plane out at Alexandria Field.
You can take that. And there'll be a passenger on your trip west, if
you don't mind."

"Glad to have company," Dave said. "Who is he, sir?"

"Me," Colonel Welsh said with a grin. "I've got some business out on
the Coast. So I might as well hitch-hike on your plane. Oh! In case
you're wondering, you'll be fitted with uniforms and gear before we
leave. For this job you'll have the rank of lieutenants. That's below
your R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant's rank. Our Navy Lieutenant is equal to
your rank of Flying Officer. An R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant is equal to
our Lieutenant Commander, or an Air Corps Captain. But I don't think it
wise to put you aboard the Indian as Lieutenant Commanders. Fact is,
too, the vacancies are for lieutenants. So I hope you don't mind, eh?"

"Not a bit, sir," Dave replied instantly, and laughed. "As a matter of
fact, just a few minutes ago you told us that we weren't even R.A.F.
any more, so any rank you give us is bound to be okay. But, speaking
for both of us, what rank we hold doesn't mean a thing. If we can pull
this thing off, it's okay by us if we go aboard the Indian as a couple
of seamen, third class. But--well, there are a couple of questions I'd
like to ask. Or are you in a hurry, sir?"

"No hurry except to nail that rat aboard the Indian before she gets
into the Marshall Island attack," Colonel Welsh said bluntly. "No. For
heaven's sake, go ahead and ask all the questions you want. I certainly
don't want you to go into this thing not knowing everything you
should, or at least everything I can possibly tell you. What's your
first question?"

"Something I hope won't happen, but might," Dave said with a frown.
"Supposing Farmer and I catch onto something--get a line on this rat,
or rats--but really need help. Is there anyway we can contact the two
mechanics you're putting aboard to help us?"

Colonel Welsh glanced at his three junior officers and smiled before he
looked back at Dave.

"A good question, Dawson," he said. "I was going to tell you about that
as we flew west tonight, but now that you've brought up the point, I
might just as well do it now."

The chief of U. S. Intelligence paused long enough to pull open one of
the countless drawers of the huge desk. When he took his hand out of
the drawer, he held two pins. They were common ordinary looking pins
save that the top was painted a bright orange. He gave a pin to each of
the former R.A.F. aces.

"Many, many times my agents have worked on a case and didn't know who
else was working with them," the Colonel began presently. "And often
they got in tight corners and needed help badly. So--But hold it a
minute. Let me mention something else right here. When I say tight
corner, I don't mean that the agent is about to be caught, or about to
be killed. I mean _more than that_! I mean when he gets in a spot where
_valuable_ information he has collected may be lost unless he gets
help. Or when something is about to happen that will seriously harm his
country unless he gets help. That sort of thing. _Not_ the present or
future welfare of the individual agent. You see what I mean?"

"Yes, sir," Dave replied, as his stomach suddenly felt a little hollow
and empty, and his mouth went just a little bit dry. "Help to save your
country, but not to save your own life, eh?"

"Exactly," the senior officer said, and nodded at the two orange-headed
pins. "That pin is an agent's SOS sign when _all else has failed_. Keep
that hidden on your person at all times. If the occasion ever does
arise when you need help in the way I described, take that pin out and
stick it in the right side of your shirt collar. If you're not wearing
a shirt, then in the right side of the top of whatever garment you're
wearing. In short, so that the orange head of this pin is nearest the
right side of your face. If there is another agent near by, he will
immediately make himself known by placing his pin in the exact place
where you have put yours.

"Remember that. Don't forget it for an instant! If you need help, place
this pin at the top of whatever garment you're wearing where it will be
nearest the right side of your face. Even if you've only got a pair of
pants on, put the pin in the right side of the pants at the very top.
That clear?"

The two youths nodded. Then Freddy Farmer leaned forward a bit, and
stared questioningly at the Colonel.

"Supposing, sir, you see the SOS pin on another chap," he said. "In the
right place, of course. But supposing it may interrupt your own work to
make yourself known to him. What then?"

"Establish your identity, regardless," Colonel Welsh replied bluntly.
"That is a fixed rule in this department. And here is why. Because of
what the SOS pin stands for: a last appeal for help when the welfare of
the U. S. is in serious peril. I know what you're thinking. Your own
case may be just as important as the agent's who is appealing for help.
That is the chance we have to take, though. That is why the SOS pin can
only be shown as a desperate last resort to forestall a great military
and naval calamity. And to give you an idea of what I mean, I know of
only two cases when the SOS pin was shown during the fifteen years I
have been in this department. True, the coming of war will increase
the possibility of the SOS pin being shown. But--well, that's for the
future to bring to light. Now, let's have another question."

The Colonel glanced at Dawson, but it was Freddy Farmer who asked the
question.

"If this skunk chap is still aboard the Indian, sir," he said slowly,
"and if the aircraft carrier is to put to sea the day after tomorrow,
what harm _can_ be done by that chap? Do you believe that while at sea
he will make some effort to get in touch with Japanese forces? And is
our job to stop him from doing that?"

The senior officer thought over the answer to that for a moment, and
scowled hard at the opposite wall.

"The best answer to that," he finally said, "is what I told you a
moment ago. I mean that I can see that you are put aboard the Indian,
but from then on you are absolutely on your own. Frankly, you will be
doing no more than punching in the dark. I feel certain that the spy
is still aboard, but _I don't know for sure_. If he is aboard, and
the Indian puts to sea, the information he has collected may be just
a beautiful white elephant on his hands. He may not be able to do a
single thing about it until it is too late, and his information not be
worth a darn. But the point is, we can't take chances on anything.

"You see, we have no idea whether our man is a seaman, a mechanic, or a
flying officer. Suppose for a minute that he is a flying officer. Think
of the opportunities he'd have to contact the Japs. On patrol he could
sneak a message over the side that would drop down to be picked up by
a Jap submarine. He might even break formation and scoot off to some
point where he knows Japs naval vessels are on patrol, and contact them
that way. He might not even return. No, Farmer, the fact that he goes
to sea with the Indian doesn't make anything certain for us."

The senior officer paused, looked very unhappy, and sighed heavily.

"That is the rotten part of Intelligence work," he grunted presently.
"Nine cases out of ten you have absolutely nothing to work on. You've
just got to make blind stabs in the dark, and trust that you'll connect
with something that will get you somewhere. The only suggestion I
can give you is to keep your eyes and ears open every minute of the
time--particularly your eyes. It seems certain that the murderer
isn't going to keep his secret any longer than he has to. It's plain
dynamite, and he knows it. He's going to try somehow to get that
knowledge to the Japanese Fleet. If you can spot him and nail him, you
will be everlastingly blessed by the Navy, from the President on down."

"Well, we'll do our best," Dave said grimly. "And I hope and pray it
will be good enough."

"Amen, to that," Colonel Welsh said softly. Then, pushing up onto his
feet, he said, "Well, we can start now by finding you two uniforms that
don't look as if they were picked out in the dark. Then we'll go on out
to Alexandria Field--and head west."



CHAPTER SIX

_Midnight Menace_


With her twin engines roaring full out, the Navy Lockheed R40-1, a
"cousin" of the famous Lockheed Hudson bomber, shook the dust of the
airport runway at Albuquerque, New Mexico, from her wheels, and went
climbing up into the night sky on the last leg of the trans-continental
flight to San Diego. At the controls was Dave Dawson. In the co-pilot's
seat was Freddy Farmer, and between them and just aft in the
navigator's seat was Colonel Welsh.

For quite some time now conversation between them had been at a very
definite stand-still. At the start of the trip they had talked on this
and that to help pass the time, but long before Albuquerque was reached
all three of them had run down like clocks. There wasn't anything more
to talk about, and each was quite content to sit with his own thoughts
and hope for a speedy arrival at San Diego.

However, when Dave had lifted the Lockheed high enough to clear the
mountains ahead by a good margin, he got fed up with the silence, and
nudged Freddy in the ribs.

"Say something, pal," he said. "Tell me the story of your life, before
the silence puts me to sleep. Don't be bashful. Colonel Welsh won't
mind. Will you, Colonel?"

"Certainly not," the senior officer said with a chuckle. "Fact is, I'll
bet it's mighty interesting, and well worth listening to."

"There you are, Freddy!" Dave cried. "Both the Colonel and I are all
ears, and eager to hear about it."

"Very well," the English youth said. "If you insist. There isn't very
much to tell, though. Up to May, Nineteen Forty, I led the usual
English boy's life. You know, school, play, and all that sort of thing.
But in May, Nineteen Forty--it was May Tenth to be exact--I met an
American chap named Dave Dawson. Well, that was the turning point in my
life. _Downwards_, you know. I've rued the day ever since. And there
you are!"

"Ouch!" Dave cried. "A bull's-eye for the young man. And he has the
nerve to say that after all I've done for him. He's--Hey! What's that?"

"What's what?" Freddy demanded as Dave spoke the last sharply.

The Yank born war ace took a hand off the controls and pointed off to
the right.

"Over there," he said. "Thought I saw a flash of light. Guess it was a
falling star."

"Probably was an airways beacon," Colonel Welsh spoke up. "There's one
up that way a bit, I believe. That was all right, Farmer. Now it's your
turn, Dawson. See if you can match it."

"Fat chance, but I can try," Dave said with a grin. "Well, up to that
never to be forgotten May Tenth, when Hitler really started to try
and drown the world in human blood, I too had led pretty much the
average boy's kind of life. But May Tenth changed everything for me,
too. In a different way, though. Up to then I had all kinds of ideas
about fighting my way through life and maybe up to the top in whatever
profession I chose to follow. No soap, though. That meeting with Farmer
on May Tenth changed everything. Since then I've had to carry him on my
back, and try to make the grade for _two_ people instead of just for
myself. However--"

"That _is_ some kind of a light over there!" Colonel Welsh interrupted
sharply. "And it isn't the flash from any beacon. Sort of a blue kind
of light. Saw it for a second, just now, and it was slanting upwards."

"Could be another plane," Freddy Farmer opined. "Engine exhausts show
blue in the dark, you know. Might be one of your transport planes."

Colonel Welsh glanced at his wrist watch in the glow of the cabin
light, and shook his head.

"No," he said. "At least, not one of the scheduled planes. Besides,
we'd see the red and green navigation lights."

On impulse Dave reached out his hand and switched off all of his own
lights, save the wing-tip navigation lights. Then all three of them
stared hard off to the right. For a full two minutes nobody spoke. The
three of them simply strained their eyes at the vast array of night
shadows in the heavens. But all that it got them was aching eyes.

"Nothing there evidently," Colonel Welsh eventually broke the silence.
"Perhaps it was just a falling star, but I never saw a star fall _up_."

"Maybe it was some of that Saint Elmo's Fire," Dave said with a
chuckle. "I never heard of it being seen in this part of the country,
though."

"Saint _what_?" Freddy Farmer echoed. "What in the world are you
talking about? And what is it?"

"Saint Elmo's Fire," Dave said. "Didn't you ever hear of it, Freddy?"

"Would I be asking, if I had?" the English youth snapped. "Go on. Stop
waiting to be encouraged to show all your knowledge. Just what is Saint
Elmo's Fire?"

"Well, I can't give you a scientific answer to that one," Dave said.
"But Saint Elmo's Fire is the name given to globular electric light
often seen on the spars and rigging of ships at sea during a storm.
And of recent years it has been seen on the wing tips of airplanes
flying through electrically charged air. Frankly, I've never seen any
of the stuff in my life. But I knew a pilot once who used to fly over
the Andes in South America, and he said they used to see it often.
Little bright balls of fire that seemed to roll right along the leading
edges of the wing, and then disappear just when you thought they were
going to bump into the gas tanks, or something. The first few times he
witnessed such a display he lost a dozen years off his life. He said,
though, that after a while he got used to it--even looked forward to
it every time he took off."

"You're pulling my leg!" Freddy snorted.

"No, Farmer, that's true," Colonel Welsh said. "I've seen some Saint
Elmo's Fire myself. And I can tell you that it scares the pants off you
the first time you see it. Ever fly through a thunder storm, and see
lightning playing around your wing tips?"

"Yes, I've seen that," Freddy admitted. "And I was sure I'd never live
to land safely on the ground again."

"Well, then, you know how it feels to see Saint Elmo's Fire," the
Colonel chuckled. "Only I think the Saint Elmo stuff gives you a worse
scare when you see it actually come rolling along the wing toward you.
But that light I saw just now wasn't shaped like a ball. More like a
streak, or like the powdered tail of a comet. It was strung out in a--"

If Colonel Welsh finished the sentence, nobody heard it. At that moment
the night skies shook and trembled with the savage yammer of aerial
machine gun fire. And the cabin window not eighteen inches in front of
Dave's eyes seemed to crack in a trillion places and then melt away
into oblivion.

"My word!" Colonel Welsh cried. "What was that?"

Dave didn't bother to answer for a second or so. His heart had zoomed
up his throat to jam hard against his back teeth, and his eyes had
bulged out of their sockets like marbles on sticks. Instinct took split
second charge of his movements, however, and almost before he realized
what he was doing he had booted the Lockheed up over on left wing tip
and was slicing down through the air. At practically the same instant
he whipped out his free hand and switched off the navigation lights.
Then as the craft went slicing down through the night sky, he dragged
air into his aching lungs.

"Those were aerial machine guns!" he cried. "And whoever was working
them was in earnest. Look at that window! Just a shade improvement on
his aim and it would have been curtains for the three of us."

As the last left Dave's lips, he pulled the plane out of its wild
sideslip and went curving up and around to the left.

"Aerial machine guns?" Colonel Welsh echoed in blank amazement. "You're
crazy, Dawson!"

"Could be, and maybe!" Dave snapped. "But I've heard those sky
choppers often enough to recognize them every time. And do you think an
eagle or something flew into that window, sir?"

"No, of course not," the Intelligence chief grunted. "Sorry I sounded
off. You're right, of course. But it doesn't make sense. Who the devil
would want to take a crack at us?"

Dave shrugged in the darkness, and for a moment or so as the plane
roared heavenward he strained his eyes for a glimpse of some other
shadow cutting about in the air. He saw nothing, however, and then
turned his head and spoke back over his shoulder.

"Maybe not _us_, sir," he said, "but I guess the Axis would be pretty
tickled to see _you_ put out of circulation. If you want my guess, some
rat saw you take off with us. Maybe he used a hidden radio and sent
word ahead. This mountainous country is a swell place to hide a plane,
you know, sir."

"And those _were_ exhaust plumes you saw!" Freddy Farmer cried. "The
lad was probably climbing up to get around in back when you saw his
exhaust plumes. Well, let the beggar come again. We'll--Good grief!
This plane isn't armed!"

"No," Colonel Welsh said in a slightly hollow voice. "Guess they never
figured it was necessary to arm these utility planes used to transport
personnel about the country."

"If only the chaps in high places would stop _figuring_ so much in this
war!" Dave groaned.

"Quite!" Freddy Farmer echoed the truth bitterly. "But bemoaning the
lack of common sense in the average High Command won't help us now. If
the blighter comes back for another fling, Dave, you'll just have to--"

"Don't bother telling me!" Dave shouted. "Here he comes--from the left
and up! Hang onto your seats!"

The last had hardly left Dave's lips before he was hauling the Lockheed
straight up on its tail. Before the plane reached stalling speed,
however, he kicked it over on wing and then sent it dropping nose first
toward the black carpet below that was the ground. No sooner had he
kicked the plane over on wing than he switched off both engines, and
shoved the compensator throttle open wide, so that no carbon sparks or
exhaust light of any kind would etch their path downward through the
night.

Meanwhile the mysterious attacker had opened fire again, but Dave's
quick action at the controls caused the unknown killer to miss by a
wide margin. The flickering ribbon of tracers didn't even come close.
And at the end of another three or four seconds the Lockheed was well
on its way earthward and out of sight.

"See that bird as he banged on by us?" Dave cried, when he was able to
talk again. "It looked to me like a small Beechcraft. Or maybe it was a
Waco. But he's carrying two guns--and he wants us mighty badly. Heck,
if there were only guns aboard this crate. I had a beautiful broadside
bead on him."

"Yes, I saw his silhouette as he tore by," Freddy said through clenched
teeth. "But I didn't recognize his type. I don't know the Yank planes
very well, though. But I say, Dave! Watch our altitude, you know!"

"You're telling me!" Dave grunted. "I'm watching it plenty, and
praying, too. There must be some of those mountains under us by now.
I think we've got a couple of thousand feet to play around in, but no
more than that. I'm flat gliding her as much as I can, but keep those
eagle X-ray eyes of yours on the job, Freddy. And yell if you see a
mountain peak looming up."

"Mountain peak!" Colonel Welsh cried excitedly. "For pity's sake, keep
above them, Dawson. Start those engines and get us some altitude!"

"That would be risking more than this glide, sir," Dave told him.
"That bird up there has been spotting us by our exhaust plumes, and
aiming blindly. So long as we show no light at all he stands to lose us
completely. But if we open up the engines and show exhaust light he's
going to be able to take another crack. And--well, third time never
fails, you know, and stuff. Our best bet is to try and lose him before
we get too low. He has a ship that can travel, but if we get a little
lead on him we'll be all right."

"But remember all those mountain peaks down there!" the Intelligence
chief persisted. "One thing this plane has got is parachutes. Perhaps
we'd better bail out and let the blasted ship crash. At least we'd save
our own necks."

"Not me!" Dave barked without thinking. "Go ahead and bail out if
you want to. You, too, Freddy. But I'm sticking with this ship if
I possibly can. I don't want to see her bust up, if I can help it.
Anyway, I'm going to give her all the breaks she's got coming."

"And of course I'm staying with you," Freddy Farmer said quietly. "I'm
a blasted fool to put my precious neck in your hands. But there you
are, anyway."

"No wonder you two are famous for pulling miracles out of a hat!"
Colonel Welsh growled. Then after a short pause: "Very well! If Farmer
trusts you that much, I suppose I might as well. But if you have to hit
a mountain, for pity's sake try and pick out a soft one. I bruise very
easily!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

_Pilot's Luck_


Dave chuckled as the Colonel's remark came to his ears, but his heart
pounded a little harder and the warm glow of pride rippled through his
veins.

"Thanks, sir," he said. "And sorry that I exploded that way. But don't
worry, I'll get us out of this little jam if it's the last thing I do."

"Well, see that it _isn't_, my good man!" Freddy Farmer grunted.

For the next few moments nobody said a word. All three of them leaned
forward in their seats and strained their eyes at the darkness ahead
and below. Dave's hands felt cold and clammy, and he could feel the
little drops of sweat ooze out on his forehead and trickle down his
face. For the last fifteen seconds or so he had spotted what he
believed to be a mountain peak just ahead, and not more than a hundred
feet below. He didn't say a word to the others. He kept his mouth shut
and eased the plane a little to the left so as to be able to pass on
by the peak with enough free air to spare between his right wing tip
and the unseen trees or jagged rocks he knew must dot all sides of
that peak. Once past it, he could start the engines again and climb
for altitude. It was a cinch that the unknown attacker was cutting
about in the black sky somewhere far behind him. But once he got beyond
that peak he felt that his lead would be great enough for him to risk
showing his exhaust plumes. As a matter of fact, though, it was quite
possible that the unknown attacker was miles and miles behind. It was
possible that the man had cut around to the east, believing that Dave
wouldn't dare chance holding his westerly course with the mountains so
close.

"Yeah, maybe!" he murmured. "But I'm going to make sure just the same!"

"What did you say, Dave?" Freddy Farmer cried out in a voice of alarm.

"I didn't say a thing," Dave grunted, and tightened his hold on the
controls. "Just thinking a little out loud. Shut up, little man, or
you'll make me rock the boat."

Freddy Farmer caught his breath as though he were about to speak.
Instead, though, he said nothing. He simply leaned farther forward
in his seat. Dave caught the movement out the corner of his eye,
and grinned, tight-lipped. Freddy had sighted the mountain peak, but
realized that he had seen it and was trying to slide by on the left. So
the English youth had snapped his lips shut so as not to give Colonel
Welsh a slight case of heart failure. Good old Freddy. Always knew when
to open his mouth, and when to keep mum.

Perhaps it was six seconds, but it seemed like six thousand years to
Dave before the slightly darker shadow that was the mountain peak slid
past the tip of the right wing and disappeared behind. The instant it
was gone from view he whipped on the switches, caught both engines,
and fed them high test gas at full throttle. The roar of the engines
breaking into life was a sound akin to worlds crashing into each other.
Yet at the same time it was a welcome sound to Dave's ears, and to
Freddy Farmer's too. But what filled their hearts with an even greater
happiness was the Lockheed climbing upward to a safe altitude above the
mountain range. The instant he was well clear, Dave swung the plane
onto its westerly course again, and relaxed in the seat.

"Top-hole, Dave," Freddy Farmer said quietly. "A very pukka bit of
flying, that."

"Thanks," Dave replied. "We got away with it okay. But I'd hate like
heck to have to do it every day. You spotted that mountain peak, didn't
you?"

"Quite," the English youth murmured. "But I thought it best to keep my
mouth shut. Realized that you knew what you were doing. And besides, no
sense in--"

"No sense in giving this old dodo grey hairs, eh?" Colonel Welsh spoke
up with a chuckle. "Well, it was nice of both of you, but I saw it,
too. The only reason _I_ didn't speak, though, was because my tongue
was frozen stiff. As you say, Dawson, I'd hate to have that sort of
thing for a daily diet. Very sweet flying, though, very sweet."

"We could have made it sweeter if this plane had been armed," Dave
grunted, and stared at the black sky ahead. "That tramp certainly had
his nerve jumping on us. Wonder who the heck he could be. Sure you
haven't any ideas, Colonel?"

There was a long minute of silence while the senior officer seemed to
make up his mind.

"No, I'm afraid I haven't," he finally said slowly. "As you mentioned
awhile back, there are probably plenty of birds who would like to see
me out of the way. Somehow, though, I can't see them going about it in
this manner. Their style is more along the line of pot shots from dark
doorways. Or a bomb in my car, or tossed through my window. Frankly, I
can't make head nor tail of this business tonight."

"Many chaps know you were headed west, sir?" Freddy Farmer asked
quietly.

"What do you mean, many?" the Colonel replied sharply. "Did I broadcast
it, you mean?"

"Hardly that, sir," Freddy chuckled. "I mean, did you tell many people
that you were making this trip? Not that any of them are in the pay
of Tokio or Berlin, sir, but it's possible that one of them might
innocently enough mention the fact to somebody who was. You understand
what I mean, sir?"

There was another moment of silence while the chief of U. S.
Intelligence thought things over.

"I see what you mean, Farmer," he grunted presently. "No, I didn't tell
anybody who didn't have the right to know. Fact is, the only ones I
told were those three officers you met in my office. And if those three
aren't one hundred per cent Americans, then I'm Adolf Hitler in the
flesh."

"What about the other end?" Dawson asked.

"What other end?"

"San Diego," Dave said. "Is your man in charge there expecting you? Or
are you just dropping in on a surprise visit?"

"No wonder you chaps always come out on top," Colonel Welsh said in a
frank tone. "Once you get your teeth in something you keep at it until
there's nothing left. Yes, I did wire my head agent in San Diego that I
was coming west tonight. And--"

"And my first month's pay as a U. S. Naval Aviation Lieutenant says
somebody read that wire!" Dawson cut in quickly.

"Hold it!" Colonel Welsh cried, and laughed shortly. "You're flying one
wing low this time. I said in the wire that I was coming out, but I
didn't say _how_, or _what_ time I'd arrive. Afraid you're off on the
wrong scent there, Dawson."

"Maybe, maybe not," Dave said doggedly. "But that chap didn't have a
crack at us tonight just for gunnery practice. He was shooting for
keeps. He knew darn well who was in this plane--and he was out to get
us. He--"

Dave didn't finish. At that moment the right outboard engine of the
Lockheed lost revs fast and began to sputter and clatter. Dave snapped
his eyes at the dash dials, and sucked in his breath sharply as he saw
the oil pressure needle sliding around the face of the dial toward
the zero peg. However, even as he glanced at the needle, it stopped
swinging back and promptly climbed upward again. The engine stopped
sputtering and clattering, and once again sang its full throated song
of power.

The tiny lump of ice remained in Dave's chest, however. He glanced
sidewise at Freddy Farmer and saw the corners of the English youth's
mouth tighten a bit.

"What the devil was that?" Colonel Welsh demanded in a sharp tone.
"Something wrong with the engine?"

"Not now," Dave said with an easiness he didn't feel. "Guess it picked
up a bit of ice but got rid of it in time. Anyway, she's back where
she should be. As I was saying, that lad tonight was out for blood. So
it must follow that somebody knew where you were going, when, and how.
Don't you think so, sir?"

Dave spoke the words, but it was really just an effort to keep the
conversation going. The lump of ice in his chest was hurting him
again, and he was feeling far from calm and collected. The way the
oil pressure of the right outboard engine had dropped told him that
there was trouble ahead. Many people claim that the carburetor is the
heart of an engine, and probably it is, if you want to look at it that
way. However, countless hours in the air had proved to Dave that your
real danger signal is when oil pressure starts dancing around. Engines
can run, often for a long, long time, when the carburetor is out of
whack and the engine is getting a bad feed. But let oil pressure go
screwy and you'll have real trouble on your hands. There are no halfway
measures about oil. It has to be right or your engine is worth no more
than its weight in junk. Gasoline is food for an engine, but oil is its
life blood. If it hasn't got the proper amount it dies, but definitely!

And so Dave spoke the words just to keep the conversation going and
fixed his eyes on the instruments pertaining to the functioning of the
right outboard engine. He hoped and prayed that the skipping had simply
been just one of those things. But in his heart there was gnawing
fear and dread. He feared that bullets from the guns of that unknown
attacker had nicked one of the oil feed lines, and that continued
vibration of the engine was slowly but surely shaking the feed line
connection loose, or at least causing it to crack and buckle slowly, so
that eventually the pressure set up in the line would be reduced to nil.

If it had been daylight, or if he had been sure of the terrain below,
he would have landed and made sure what had happened. But a landing was
too great a risk right now. His best bet was to keep going, nursing the
right outboard engine as much as he could, and hoping and praying that
it would continue to tick over and produce power.

"Yes, I guess your reasoning is sound enough," he heard the Colonel
say. "It's rather hard to believe, though. I mean, why go about it in
such a--well, in such a story book thriller style, you might say? I'm
not going to San Diego on any vital mission. Fact is, I could make this
trip tonight or next week, and it wouldn't make much difference. That's
what makes it seem so--so utterly crazy."

There was a moment of silence, and then Dave laughed a trifle
flat-toned.

"I don't mean to be conceited," he said. "But what you've just said,
sir, doesn't make me feel so good. Or maybe it should make me feel
important as heck. How about you, Freddy? Catch on?"

"I think so," the English youth replied. "But it's a bit--er,
fantastic, you know. However, I would feel a bit better if we had been
able to shoot the beggar down. Always did say night attacks weren't
quite the sporting thing, you know."

"Not the sporting thing, huh?" Dave echoed with a snort. "Pal, that's
only putting it by half. In my book they're plain murder."

"Of course, I'm only the passenger," Colonel Welsh spoke up sharply.
"So don't mind me. However, I would like very much to know what the
devil you two are jabbering about. What's it all about, anyway?"

"You tell him, Freddy," Dave said. "I--I feel too modest."

"Rubbish!" the English youth snapped. "You couldn't be if you tried.
Besides, you brought it up."

"Listen, you lads!" the chief of U. S. Intelligence boomed in
exasperation. "Have I got to use my authority as a Colonel? What in
blue blazes are you two talking about?"

"The fantastic, sir," Dave said with a chuckle. "Yet, on the other
hand, possibly the truth. Maybe the pilot of that plane didn't want
_Farmer and me to go aboard the Carrier Indian_."

Colonel Welsh made a hissing sound as he sucked in his breath sharply.

"Great guns!" he gasped. And then in the same breath: "But that _is_
impossible. Not even my three closest assistants knew that was to
happen until I informed you. And we went from my office straight to
Alexandria Field. No, you must be wrong, Dawson. Captains Lamb and
Stacey, and Lieutenant Caldwell, wouldn't breath a word of that even
though a gun were held at their hearts. That _is_ fantastic!"

The two boys looked crestfallen.

"See, Freddy?" Dave cried, and jabbed an elbow in his pal's ribs. "You
get the screwiest ideas. I never--!"

"None of that, funny boy!" the English youth barked back at him. "No,
you don't, not by a jugful. You brought it up. I simply agreed with
you, to be polite. You're quite right, Colonel. It's ridiculous. But
when you get to know Dawson better, you'll understand how he's--"

The rest of what Freddy Farmer would have said to the Colonel stuck
fast when only halfway up his throat. The right outboard engine
had started kicking up again, but this time it was really doing it
in earnest. The oil pressure needle went around to the zero peg in
a single jump. And even as Dave grabbed for the throttle, the right
outboard engine let out a grinding scream as though it were actually
something human, and in mortal pain. It had run dry and was seizing
up. Almost at the same instant, and as though in sympathy for its
mechanical brother, the left outboard engine started falling off in
revs at an alarming rate. Dave killed the right engine completely,
shoved hard on the left rudder to check the plane yawing, and
concentrated on keeping the left outboard engines alive as long as
possible.

"That tears it!" he said between clenched teeth. "I was afraid that
right engine had been nicked. Getting ready to drop a couple of those
landing flares, Freddy. At least we can take a look at what it's like
below."

"Take a look?" Colonel Welsh cried sharply. "You don't have to, boy!
There are mountains down there. Get us as high as you can, and then
we'll all bail out."

A hot wave of anger swept through Dawson, but he was able to choke the
words back in time. Instead he turned to Freddy Farmer and nodded.

"Let a couple go, Freddy," he said quietly. "We're only losing a foot
or two of altitude. We'll take a look _first_!"



CHAPTER EIGHT

_Nobody's Airport_


Freddy Farmer didn't bother acknowledging the request by word of mouth.
He simply nodded, and reached out his hand and jerked the little handle
that released landing flares fitted into the wing tips. There were a
few seconds more of silence; then a great silver-white light came into
being below, and spread swiftly outward toward the four points of the
compass.

Fighting the tendency of the Lockheed to yaw toward the dead engine
side, and struggling to keep the left outboard engine turning over,
Dave leaned over close to the shattered window and peered down into the
sea of silver-white light below. For a couple of seconds he couldn't
see anything but eye-dazzling light. Then as the flares dropped astern,
he was able to get a good look at the type of terrain below.

What he saw didn't exactly cause his chilled heart to warm up and loop
over with joy. True, they had safely crossed over the highest peaks of
that part of the mountain range. Below, though, were the tree-covered
foothills, cut by deep jagged stone sided ravines, and narrow plateau
formations of ground that would be hard for even a crow to alight on.

"It's no go, Dawson!" Colonel Welsh's voice suddenly broke the tingling
silence that had settled over the trio. "I know what's in your mind,
but our safest bet is for all three of us to jump. We've still got
three or four thousand feet of clearance. I think we should jump."

"I don't, not yet," Dave said bluntly, and raked the terrain below with
his eyes. "I think we should hang on a bit longer, and try to pick out
some spot big enough to slip into. This is wild country here, Colonel.
If we bail out we'll lose contact with each other, and all three of us
get lost. Let's look hard, first. I can keep her up a big longer. That
left outboard hasn't quit cold yet. And we're not losing altitude too
fast."

"All right," Colonel Welsh said grimly, and leaned forward the better
to study the flare-lighted ground below. "Confound that rat! I'd give a
lot to have his neck between my two hands right now!"

"I can think of things to do to him, myself," Dave grunted. Then, out
of the corner of his mouth: "Work those eagle eyes hard, Freddy. This
is where you should star. You always do see things first. Hurry up and
find Papa a place big enough to set us down in."

"Shut up and tend to your flying!" the English youth growled. "You
dropped our nose two feet while you were talking. Want to power dive
us in, or something? You--hold it, Dave! Bear right a bit. What's that
down there? It looks like--oh, blast it! They would, wouldn't they!"

The last was caused by the two flares finally touching ground and being
snuffed out. Quick as a flash Freddy Farmer shot out his hand and
released two more flares. The instant his eyes were again accustomed
to the bright light, Dave looked in the direction of the English
youth's pointed finger. His heart did loop with joy this time, and
he gulped with relief. What at first looked like the rock studded
side of a foothill was actually a strip of barren and seemingly level
ground between two foothills. It wasn't very big, but it seemed big
enough--unless Lady Luck deliberately turned her face the other way.

"Yeah, check, Freddy!" Dave murmured, and eased the laboring Lockheed
around and down. "That's us, that spot. Just hang on, everybody. It
won't be long now!"

"I don't like the way you say that!" Colonel Welsh said with a
mirthless laugh. "But I guess you don't mean it. Go ahead, though. I
was wrong again. We'll keep the parachutes in their packs. What a fine
night this has turned out to be!"

"Me, I'm thinking of tomorrow and next week," Dave muttered grimly as
he eased the Lockheed lower and lower, and around toward the near end
of the narrow landing space. "This is wild country here. It's plenty
wild. Right in the middle of nowhere. And this baby isn't going to do
any more flying until she has a couple of new engines stuck in her. Oh
well--"

Dave let the rest go with a shrug and hunched forward slightly over the
controls. The time for talking had passed. Now was the time for action,
and prayer. The Lockheed was down low now, too low to correct any
mistakes. The first swipe at that narrow landing space had to be good.
It had to be perfect. The jagged rocks and trees on all four sides
would make a second try impossible.

Dave's whole body felt dry as a chip, yet at the same time sweat poured
off his forehead, and the palms of his hands were clammy and cold. He
could almost feel Freddy Farmer and Colonel Welsh hold their breath.
As far as that went, he could almost feel the whole world stand still
and hold its breath. The dropped flares were throwing off less and less
light, but he refrained from telling Freddy to drop a couple of new
ones. Their first moment of brilliance might blind him just enough to
misjudge things by a hair. And misjudging by a hair would be more than
enough to pile them up in a heap among the trees and jagged rocks.

"Now!" he whispered softly. "Now, baby! Easy does it, now. Down you go.
Down you go. Ah-h-h...! That's the stuff!"

The Lockheed's wheels touched, touched hard, and the plane tried to
push itself off and up into the air again. But Dave had killed the
forward speed as much as he could. And after a short run forward,
and gentle but firm application of the wheel brakes by Dawson, the
twin-engined craft finally bumped to a halt not ten feet from the lip
of a sharp drop-off in the ground.

"Now I've seen everything!" Colonel Welsh fairly exploded the words.
"I've seen two miracles come to pass in the same night. It couldn't
be done, but you did it, Dawson. Congratulations from the bottom of my
heart. Good work! We really are on the ground, aren't we?"

Dave didn't bother to answer. As a matter of fact he couldn't have
said a single word at that moment even though it would have gained him
a million dollars. His heart was stuck halfway between his chest and
his throat, and refused to go up or down. It was the same with Freddy
Farmer, too. The English youth sat stiff and straight in his seat,
working his lips but making no sound. Eventually, though, he did manage
to get control of his tongue and of his frozen muscles. He reached
across and pressed Dave's arm.

"Top-hole, Dave!" he got out in a husky voice. "A bit of the very, very
best, and I mean it, really. As a pilot bloke myself, I know how good
you have to be to get away with that sort of thing. It was absolutely
perfect."

"What else?" Dave cracked back with a shaky laugh. "Look who did it!
But skip it. Is my hair grey, Freddy? Do I look very much older? I know
doggone well I gained forty years in those last couple of seconds.
Jeepers! Take a look at that drop-off ahead. Another ten feet and you
_wouldn't_ be thinking I was so hot. And I'm not, really. If Lady Luck
ever landed a plane, she did it that time, and I'm not kidding."

"Well, we're down, anyway," said Freddy. Then, getting practical: "What
do we do now? Do you know this area very well, sir? Have we got far to
go to the next village?"

Both Dave and the Colonel laughed in spite of the seriousness of the
situation. And Freddy made angry sounds in his throat.

"What's so blasted funny about that?" he demanded. "Do you plan to stay
here all night?"

"Sorry, Freddy," Dave said, and patted his pal's knee. "But this isn't
England, where you can throw a rock from one town and have it land in
the next one. This is our wild and woolly west. I don't know exactly
where we are, but I'd make a rough guess that we're a good two hundred
miles from the nearest town. And that's as the crow flies. Going over
and down these mountains and hills, you could add another two hundred
miles. What do you think, Colonel?"

"Well, not quite that far, Dawson," the senior officer said with a
laugh that was just a little too tight. "You're stretching it a little,
I'd say. Call it a hundred by air and two-fifty by foot, I guess.
We're just over the Arizona line and south of Holbrook. I'm afraid,
though, Farmer, that we will have to sit here for the rest of the
night, worse luck. To try and get out of here in the dark is just about
like deciding to step off some cliff and smash yourself to bits on the
bottom of a ravine. No. We've got to sit here until they find us."

"Hey!" Dave cried. "Aren't you forgetting something, Colonel? I mean,
who knows we're on our way? We--Oh, I see! You planned to send word
back to your office, eh? When they don't hear, they'll send planes
hunting for us, huh?"

The Colonel groaned heavily and clapped a hand to his forehead.

"You spoiled it that time, Dawson!" he muttered. "But you hit the
nail on the head. I did forget. I mean, I didn't say anything about
letting Lamb or Stacey know when I arrived at San Diego. They simply
expect to hear from me, when they hear. And my man at San Diego doesn't
actually know when I expect to arrive. This _is_ a sweet mess. I should
be demoted and kicked back into the ranks for not thinking of this
possibility. We're stuck, and no two ways about it."

"But we took this plane from the Alexandria Field," Dave said. "What
about their flight board there? Don't they list every take-off, the
pilot, and where he's heading?"

"Usually, but not in a case like this," the Colonel replied unhappily.
"When I borrow a plane, I don't tell them where I'm going. And
naturally, they don't ask me. But do we have to sit here in this
darkness, Dawson? The lights don't run off the engine, do they? How
about some light, eh?"

"Sure, sir," Dave said, and flipped up a couple of switches.

The interior of the compartment glowed with light, and the three looked
at each other. They grinned in a friendly sort of way, but neither of
them was particularly happy looking. Freddy Farmer twisted around in
his seat and looked at the Colonel.

"Then we might be here for some time, sir?" he asked.

"For several hours, at least, Farmer," the senior officer replied
gravely. "Nothing to worry about, though. As soon as it's light, we'll
build a fire and get a smoke signal in the air. A passing transport
plane may see it and come down to investigate. We're a bit south of
their regular run, though. Still, one of them may see it and get some
rescue parties sent out. Nothing to worry about."

"Not even your constant worry, pal," Dave laughed, and stuck a hand in
his tunic pocket. "Your constant worry about starving, I mean. Here's a
flock of chocolate bars I picked up at Alexandria Field before we left.
One thing I didn't tell you about Farmer, Colonel. If he can't eat
forty times a day he gets as weak as a kitten. And where he puts it,
I'll never know. Doesn't weigh more than a hundred and fifty soaking
wet. He's--"

"Some other time, my funny little man!" Freddy cut in harshly. "I
wasn't thinking about eating, if you must know the truth. Something
more serious. Or at least it will be serious if we're stuck here for a
considerable length of time."

Dave's smile faded immediately. He stared at the English youth. Colonel
Welsh also regarded him keenly.

"Okay, what?" Dave finally asked.

"The Carrier Indian," Freddy replied. Then, looking at the Colonel,
he asked, "Didn't you say that she weighs anchor sometime tomorrow
afternoon--this afternoon, really? If we're stuck here, will she sail
without us? Or has her skipper orders to wait for word from you?"

The chief of U. S. Intelligence swallowed hard and made a wry face.

"That close-shave landing!" he muttered savagely. "It still has my
brains all scrambled up. You're quite right, Farmer. What you say makes
it more of a mess than ever. The Indian is to sail whether her skipper
hears from me or not. Those two men of mine serving as machinists'
mates are already aboard. At least they were to go aboard last evening.
But she won't wait for you two. The skipper has his sailing orders, and
he'll sail whether he's shy two pilot lieutenants or not. Blast and
double blast it all! What you say, Farmer, gives me a very disquieting
thought. Perhaps I _wasn't_ the one that unknown killer was interested
in. It's quite possible that it _was_ you two. The attempt was made
to stop you from reaching the Indian before she sailed. Confound it!
If I've fumbled this thing all up, I'll go out somewhere and cut my
throat. But--but I still can't see how anybody else could possibly have
found out about this flight, let alone the real reason!"

Dave didn't say anything, but he was thinking of a case he had heard
about in England not so long ago. A bad leak had been found in the Air
Ministry Intelligence, and when it was eventually tracked to its source
it was discovered that a high official's own secretary--a supposedly
loyal Englishman who had held his post since long before the outbreak
of war--was actually in the pay of the Nazis.

"I'm wondering something, myself," he said presently. "Not to toss more
cold water on things, Colonel, but--well, you don't know for sure if
your two men went aboard the Indian last evening, do you?"

"No, not for sure," the senior officer replied with a shake of his
head. "But it's--Oh, I see what you mean. Maybe they were--er--delayed,
too, eh? You think of the nicest things, Dawson! But keep on thinking.
Don't stop. Maybe you'll think of a way to get us out of this jam in a
hurry."

"I sure wish I could!" Dave said fervently. Then, reaching out and
taking a flashlight from the instrument panel clamps, he said,
"Meantime I'm going to have a look at the engines. I could be wrong
about an oil line being nicked. It wouldn't be the first time. Maybe
it's something that we can patch up with some gum and a piece of our
shirts, and we can get ourselves out of here come daylight. That's a
hope, anyway."

Half an hour later, though, it wasn't a hope. The oil feed lines of the
right outboard engine were split and parted in three different spots.
Besides that, she was seized up tighter than a drum, and couldn't be
made to move short of using dynamite. The left outboard engine wasn't
in a much better condition. Bullets from the unknown attacker's guns
had started a bad leak in the gas line that couldn't be repaired
without the proper tools. And so at the end of the half hour Dave wiped
oil and grease from his hands and climbed down off the wing onto the
ground where Freddy Farmer and the chief of Intelligence waited.

"No soap," he said bitterly. "If that bird's job was to delay us, he
did it up brown. The only way you'll get this plane out of here is to
fly in a couple of new engines. Nothing to do but wait for daylight."

"Why wait?" Freddy Farmer protested. "Let's get a fire going now. No
telling but what it might be seen by somebody. It--I say, though! What
about your Indians? They'd give us a bit of trouble, wouldn't they?
I've heard--"

"Hold everything, pal!" Dave chuckled, while Colonel Welsh struggled
to keep a straight face. "Nowadays you only find that kind of Indians
in books, or in the movies. Let's get the fire started. It's a good
idea. And if Indians do show up I'll welcome them as the flowers in
May."

Freddy Farmer hesitated and looked hard at Dawson. After a moment or so
he shrugged.

"Very well, then," he murmured. "But I swear I don't know when to
believe you, and when not to. If I get scalped--"

"You won't!" Dave stopped him, and backed away. "Head's too hard!"

Freddy took a quick half step forward, but gave it up. Then the three
of them started collecting deadwood, and stuff from the plane that
could be used to make a good fire.



CHAPTER NINE

_Rescue Wings_


Dawn came roaring up over the mountains to the east to touch off
their peaks with fire, and send rainbows of color arcing off in all
directions. It was a sight to make a man catch his breath and stand in
awe of the glorious majesty of nature. But for Dave Dawson and Freddy
Farmer and Colonel Welsh, the coming of the new day was more than just
something beautiful to watch and admire. It was like being released
from a prison of darkness.

As soon as there was enough light to allow vision at any great
distance, they eagerly and hopefully scrutinized their immediate
surroundings. But what they saw dashed their hopes even lower.
Heart-chilling wilderness met their gaze on all sides. It was as though
they had landed at the very end of the world; landed in a little pocket
of level ground completely lost in the depths of jagged rock sided
hills and towering snow-capped mountains.

For several minutes they looked about them in silence. Then, as though
at an unspoken signal, they turned and looked at each other, each man
reading the message of utter helplessness reflected in the next man's
eyes. It was Dave who finally broke the silence, and spoke the thought
that was in the minds of the other two.

"Our smoke signal won't be seen by any plane unless it passes directly
over this spot," he said. "These hills and mountains are such that
it's as if we were at the bottom of a well. And it's going to be even
tougher getting out of here on foot."

Neither Freddy Farmer or Colonel Welsh said anything. There wasn't
anything they could say. Dave had spoken the truth. And that was that.
Eventually Colonel Welsh knocked the ashes from his dead pipe and stuck
it back in his pocket.

"We'd better not try going out on foot for a while," he said, "at least
not until tomorrow. Better to stick here today and see if anything
happens. I'm mighty sorry this happened, you fellows. It's all my
fault, and I could kick myself right up the side of that mountain."

"I wouldn't say that, sir," Freddy Farmer said with a smile. "You had
no idea that chap was going to attack us last night."

"No," the chief of U. S. Intelligence growled. "Just the same,
ignorance is no excuse. I should have made sure, just in case the
unexpected did happen. I certainly should have taken a plane fitted
with a radio, instead of this one that hasn't got any. At least we
could have let the world know that we were going down for a forced
landing. But as it turned out--"

The Colonel sighed heavily and let the rest slide. Dave and Freddy
looked at each other and shrugged. It was no use crying over spilled
milk, but as a matter of cold hard fact both of them had been just
a little surprised when they had boarded the plane and seen that it
carried no radio. Neither, though, had said anything about it.

"Why wasn't it fitted with a radio, sir?" Dave finally blurted out the
question. "I mean--well, a radio is standard equipment on any ship. Is
there no radio on this for some particular reason?"

"Yes," the senior officer replied with a wry smile, and tapped his
chest. "I'm the reason. On a couple of occasions when the plane I
was in did have a radio, I was contacted about this and that every
half hour or so. Once I even turned back because of a message I had
received, only to find I'd wasted my time. Ever since then I've flown
without a radio. Been able to get more done, too. But I certainly
struck out this time. I'm sorry."

"Well, those things happen," Dave said politely, and let the subject
drop. "How about a short scouting trip about here? Or better yet, what
say I to make the top of that mountain, there? I guess I could do it in
a couple of hours. Maybe we're not buried as deep as we think we are.
Maybe I'll see a town, or a Ranger camp from there. Also, I may find
some berries and stuff, and a spring. The chocolate we have aboard, and
the drinking water, isn't going to last us for very long. What do you
think, Colonel? Think you can keep Freddy cheered up while I'm gone?
See that the Indians don't get him?"

The Colonel grinned and opened his mouth to speak, but what he was
about to say never left his lips. At that moment all three of them
heard the faint drone of a plane somewhere up in the sky, but out of
sight behind the towering mountains north of them. As one man they spun
around and stared hard at the dawn light bouncing off the snow-capped
peaks. Nobody said a word. Nobody could. They were all too busy
holding their breath, and praying as they had never prayed before.

After a few seconds Dave snapped out of his trance, ran over to the
pile of deadwood they had collected, grabbed up an armful, ran back to
the fire and dumped his load. Then he picked up a can of oil drained
from the engine and poured it on the licking flames. A second more and
a column of oily black smoke went towering up into the dawn sky.

"He can't miss that, unless he's blind!" Dave muttered through clenched
teeth as the black smoke mounted higher and higher. "Come on, whoever
you are, take a look, take a look!"

"Steady, Dawson," Colonel Welsh cautioned gently as Dave's voice rose
to a wild shout. "We've got to steel ourselves in case he doesn't see
it. Then it won't be so tough. This thing might happen several times,
you know. No telling. Save your strength, son. Take it easy."

Dave hardly heard the words of wisdom. His eyes were glued to the
north, his ears strained to catch every beat of the plane's engine
which was still out of sight, and his two fists clenched tight as
though he were actually pulling the unseen plane closer and closer.
Then, suddenly, the drone of the engine grew louder. It rose to a
mighty roar. And then the plane came sailing into view above the
mountain peaks. It was a five-place Stinson cabin plane, a commercial
plane probably owned by some rancher. There were no markings on the
craft other than the usual Bureau of Aeronautics license letter and
number. A wild cry of joyous relief struggled up Dave's throat but was
unable to pass his lips. A riot of emotions boiled up within him, and
his lips and his tongue were suddenly too dry to form sounds. So he
simply stood stock still and grinned from ear to ear as the cabin plane
cleared the peak and then came nosing down toward them; circling down
like some giant bird seeking a spot to light on.

When it was less than five hundred feet over their heads, the three men
shook themselves loose from their paralytic spell and started jumping
around and waving their arms wildly as though the pilot of the plane
hadn't seen them yet. The pilot waggled his wings as a signal that he
had, and then leveled off and went coasting toward the eastern end
of the landing strip. There he circled back, suddenly fed hop to his
engine and started to climb. For one horrible moment Dave was afraid
the pilot had decided that he couldn't put his plane down on the small
strip. But he was wrong. The pilot had simply goosed his engine to add
enough to his speed to clear the tops of some tall trees. He slipped
over them, went up on left wing a bit, and slid down to level off in a
perfect landing.

Even as the plane was braking to a stop, Dave, Freddy, and the Colonel
rushed back to it. They pulled up to a halt, waited for the plane to
roll the last few feet, then ducked under the left wing and around to
the cabin door. They had already seen that there were two men aboard
the plane, the pilot and a passenger. As Dave watched them come back
from the pilot's nook to the cabin door, he was faintly surprised by
their looks. Why, he didn't know, but somehow he had expected to see
a couple of youngsters climb down from the plane. But they weren't
young. They were both well along in years. They had hard, rugged faces,
covered by at least a two week's growth of whiskers. They wore rough
clothing, and each man carried a gun slung at his hip. The guns were
not pistols, though. They were automatics, and Dave suddenly had the
hunch that their rescuers were a couple of fire rangers, or at least
some kind of government men. The way they leaped cat-like out the cabin
door and down onto the ground seemed somehow to suggest the military
to Dave. But what they were didn't matter in the slightest. They had
arrived to rescue them, and that was all that counted.

"Stuck, huh?" the older one of the pair grunted, and grinned. "Lucky we
happened to see your smoke signal. You might have camped here for quite
a spell. Army and Navy, huh?"

"And in a hurry," Colonel Welsh said. Then, after introducing himself:
"We had a forced landing. Er--engine trouble. Can you fly us to the
nearest Air Corps Base where we can pick up another plane? I'll see
that you're paid for it, of course."

"Guess so," the man grunted after a look at his partner. "But where're
you headed? Maybe we could hop you all the way, and save time, if
you're in such a hurry."

"San Diego," Colonel Welsh said. "I have to get there as soon as
possible. But maybe you haven't the gas."

"San Diego, huh?" the older one, who was the pilot, murmured, and
arched his brows. "Yeah. I guess we can make it there from here. Had
engine trouble, huh? Not much fun in this neck of the woods. Okay. Get
aboard."

A hidden thought was tugging at Dave's brain, but he couldn't seem to
get it out in the open. Something was just a wee bit wrong with the
picture, but after a moment of deep thought he decided it was worry
about a take-off from the narrow space of level ground.

"Think you've got a long enough run?" he asked, and jerked a thumb at
the crippled Lockheed. "Maybe the five of us should haul that out of
the way. But even then you wouldn't have much extra. There's a sharp
drop-off just ahead of it."

"Don't get in a sweat, kid," the man mouthed, and gave him a hard
stare. "I wouldn't have come down if I'd thought I couldn't get off
again. Just get aboard and keep your seat. We'll get you places, and
with no trouble at all. Okay, Colonel, let's get going."

With a curt nod the pilot and his passenger turned and climbed back
into the plane. Colonel Welsh followed at their heels, but for an
instant Dave and Freddy hung back. They looked at each other and
frowned slightly.

"Queer couple of blokes, aren't they?" the English youth murmured.
"Can't say I like their looks much."

"I've seen better," Dave replied with a nod. "But so long as they
get us out of here, I don't care what they look like. But--is there
something on your mind?"

"Not a thing," Freddy replied. Then, with a puzzled scowl: "Just sort
of feel funny, though. One of your confounded hunches, I guess. Oh
well! No doubt it's your American climate. I'm sure I should have
stayed in England."

"Hop in, or do you two kids want to stay and play boy scout?"

The Stinson's passenger stood framed in the cabin doorway. His blue
green eyes stabbed down at Dave and Freddy, and the mop of coarse red
hair on his head actually did look like fire in the glow of the dawn
sun. Dave stared at him, felt that elusive thought tug at his brain for
the last time, and then climbed into the plane with Freddy right behind.

The pilot at the controls glanced back just long enough to see that
everybody was aboard, and then he goosed the engine and taxied around
on one wheel, and went trundling back toward the far end of the landing
strip. His friend, the redhead, sat in the co-pilot's seat, but he was
twisted around so that he faced Dave, Freddy, and the Colonel, who
were sitting in the three passenger seats. A grin parted his lips, but
he seemed to be grinning over their heads rather than at them.

For a brief instant a clammy chill rippled through Dave. He shook it
off, angrily told himself that he was letting his imagination run wild,
and concentrated on watching the pilot take the plane off. It was a
beautiful bit of flying, and Dave nodded his head in silent approval
and admiration as the pilot held the Stinson on the ground until he had
plenty of forward speed, then gently eased it off and up as nice as
could be.

Holding the nose up, the pilot circled the Stinson upwards until the
mountain peaks were almost on a level with the wings. Flattening off
the climb, he banked around for the last time and went roaring between
two mountain peaks to the north. For a couple of minutes Dave was too
thrilled by the wild, heart stopping beauty of the mountain scenery
below to pay much attention to the course of the plane. Eventually,
though, when the sun continued to stay on the right wing side, he
stopped gaping at the terrain below, and glanced sharply ahead. The
redhead was still grinning, very comfortably relaxed in his seat. And
the pilot was still holding the nose pointed north as though he planned
to keep going in that direction for quite some time to come.

Dave held his peace for a moment or so longer. Then curiosity and an
eerie tingling sensation at the back of his neck forced the words off
his lips.

"We're heading north!" he called out. "San Diego isn't north of us!"

Both Colonel Welsh and Freddy Farmer jumped as though they had been
shot. They turned and stared at him, wide-eyed. The redhead stared at
him, too. But his eyes were slightly narrowed, and his perpetual grin
stiffened slightly. He didn't say anything.

"Well, what is the idea, anyway?" Colonel Welsh finally boomed angrily.
"San Diego is west and south of here!"

The redhead shrugged and nodded, but the pilot didn't even turn his
head.

"That's right, isn't it?" he called out. "Well, what do you know about
that? I guess we ain't heading for San Diego, Colonel. Kind of looks
that way, don't it, huh?"

Colonel Welsh blinked and looked blank for a moment. Then his face
reddened and he started up out of his seat.

"See here!" he thundered. "What in--?"

The redhead made a quick motion, and the chief of U. S. Intelligence
choked off the rest. But it was the automatic that suddenly seemed to
jump right into the redhead's hand that really stopped him. He froze
motionless half up out of his seat. The redhead waved the gun a little.

"Relax, and sit, Colonel!" he said in a voice that sounded like small
stones on a tin roof. "I couldn't let you have it down there, but up
here it's easy. Relax and get smart. And that goes for you two kids,
too!"



CHAPTER TEN

_Vulture's Nest_


For a long minute there was no sound inside the cabin save the faint
drone of the plane's engine. Like three men suddenly struck dumb, Dave,
Freddy, and the Colonel stared at the redhead. Rather, they stared at
the automatic he held in his right hand; held so that at the bat of
an eyelash he could send a bullet into either of them, or into all
three of them, for that matter. Then, finally, Colonel Welsh broke the
silence.

"What in thunder _is_ this?" he demanded. "Who are you two? What's the
idea?"

The redhead hunched his shoulders and half nodded his head toward the
pilot.

"That's Ike, and I'm Mike," he said with a chuckle. "But it isn't any
act. We're just keeping you on ice for a while, Colonel. Be nice and
you'll get back into circulation again in time. Be dumb, and you'll be
dead."

As the Colonel struggled for words, Dave leaned forward a little, arms
resting on his knees.

"This isn't the plane you flew last night," he said.

The redhead grinned all the more and shook his head.

"Nope," he said. "And that makes you a bright little boy--Flight
Lieutenant Dawson. And that was nice flying last night. I thought that
second time I had you cold. I guess you're as good at the controls as
I've heard tell you were. Or was this English kid, Farmer, doing the
flying?"

Dave didn't reply. He suddenly felt as though his seat had been
jerked out from under him, and as if his brain were tumbling down
through space. This redhead knew his name, and Freddy's, too? An eerie
chill swept through him, and he impulsively looked at Colonel Welsh.
The chief of U. S. Intelligence's face was bright with dumfounded
amazement. He in turn was staring speechlessly at the redhead. The man
with the gun dragged down a corner of his mouth in a scornful gesture.

"Why so surprised, Colonel?" he asked. "Did you think you were the only
smart one in this war?"

"You won't feel so smart when you're facing a firing squad!" the
Colonel clipped out. "And that's where you're headed. Both of you!"

"Well, what do you know!" the pilot cried out, and turned around just
long enough to give the Colonel a horse laugh. "Maybe you ain't got it
yet, Colonel, who's holding the gun. Snap out of it. I know it's tough,
but there's nothing you can do about it. Don't be a sap and make us let
you have it. We just want to keep you on ice for a while. That's all."

The Colonel seemed to swallow his wrath, because when he spoke again
his voice was normal, and almost friendly.

"All right, we'll be smart," he said. "But where are we heading? And
why are you keeping us on ice, as you call it? What good is it going to
do you?"

"What good?" the redhead echoed with a laugh. "Well, about ten thousand
dollars' worth, for one thing. For another--well, I guess we just don't
like you."

A hard, glittering look leaped into the Colonel's eyes, and Dave could
tell that the man was employing every ounce of his will power to stop
from leaping from his seat and hurling himself at the redhead, gun or
no gun.

"A couple of bought and paid for American traitors, eh?" the chief of
U. S. Intelligence suddenly grated. "American by birth only. Actually
lower than the rats in Berlin and Tokio are--the ones who are paying
you your blood money. Well, paste this in your hats. You'll never live
to spend that money. And that's a promise!"

The redhead simply continued to grin. Then suddenly the gun in his hand
spat flame and sound, and Dave saw the Colonel's left shoulder strap
fly off as though cut by a knife. The bullet tore on out through the
side of the cabin. Colonel Welsh didn't so much as flinch, or even bat
an eye. He held the redhead with a steady agate-eyed stare.

"Put the next right between my eyes!" he grated. "You'll still not
be able to spend that blood money. You'll be run to earth like the
anti-American vermin you are. And you'll be wiped out, along with the
rest of your fifth column brood."

The redhead didn't say anything. Dave wasn't sure, but he thought he
saw a look of fear flash across the man's unshaven face. However, it
came and went in a flash. The pilot turned from his controls again, and
gave the Colonel a long look.

"Maybe!" he finally said harshly. "That's the chance we take. But let's
not kid each other, Colonel. The point is that the Carrier Indian won't
be sailing with these two little heroes of yours aboard. Yeah! So don't
look like you're going to faint. We know all about it. The boys we work
for are smart. And your whole country is going to find that out in
short order, too.

"You guys in Washington have got a New Deal. Well, another guy has a
_New Deal_, too. I like his better. So don't waste breath trying to
unsell me. It can't be done. I've been kicked around too much by your
cops and F.B.I.

"I'm looking out for my own good, see? I found out how my pal and me
can make dough easy, and we're making it. No more working my life away
for nothing. I'm sold on _my_ New Deal.

"Now shut up, and relax. My pal and me have dough to earn."

"Aw, let 'em talk!" the redhead said with a hoarse laugh. "Maybe
they'll try selling us some of them Defense Bonds."

"And you shut up, too!" the pilot snarled. "I don't feel like hearing
anybody talk, see?"

The redhead looked both surprised and angry.

"Okay, okay!" he said. "So nobody talks."

Silence once more settled over the interior of the cabin, but it was
the kind of a silence that feels charged with high voltage electricity,
and apt to strike all over the place at an instant's notice. Turning
his head, Dave snapped a quick glance out the window, but what he saw
didn't help his spirits any. The plane was grinding northward over wild
mountainous country that looked every bit as uninviting as that narrow
strip of ground where they had force landed. Whether or not they had
reached the Utah line, or were still in Arizona, Dave couldn't tell
with that one quick glance. And he didn't bother taking a second look.

Fact was, it didn't matter where they were. Through a crazy twist of
fate they were helpless prisoners in the hands of two men who would
shoot them dead at the slightest provocation. The single warning shot
that the redhead had snapped across Colonel Welsh's shoulder had been
proof enough that he wasn't afraid to use his gun.

Yes, they were helpless prisoners. And their captors knew all about
them: who they were, where they had been heading, and why. As those
three truths came home to Dave, again he swallowed hard and shivered
slightly. It was like a crazy nightmare, only it wasn't. It was stark
reality; nothing out of a story book. The pilot and his redheaded
companion had received orders to make sure that Freddy Farmer and he
did not sail on the Aircraft Carrier Indian. They had tried the first
time last night by attacking them with machine guns in a plane.

They had failed, yet in a way they had succeeded. They had drilled the
Lockheed's engines and forced Dave to sit down on that narrow strip
of smooth ground deep in a valley. Not knowing the exact results of
their efforts, the two men had cruised about over the area as soon as
it became light, and--by another crazy twist of fate--they had seen
the smoke signal that had been sent up to attract _help_. Seeing that
the plane had not crashed, the two men had done the logical thing,
from their point of view. They had landed and picked up their prey.
Kidnapped them, yes, but for a very good reason. Some other plane
passing over might have landed and given them a quick lift to their
destination. So the redhead and the pilot had picked them up to make
sure somebody else wouldn't do it.

And the reason they hadn't been killed on the spot was simple to
figure. Death in the dark during that air attack last night would
have been different. The plane would have crashed and burned up, and
when its charred ruins were found no one would ever had dreamed that
bullets had sent it hurtling down to its doom. But three dead men lying
beside a force landed plane was something else again. A scene like
that naturally screamed murder all over the place. And so the redhead
and his pilot had kidnapped them so that if another plane landed to
investigate, it would look as though the occupants of the Lockheed had
tried to find their way back to civilization on foot, and had become
hopelessly lost in the mountains.

"But they know all about us! How?"

Dave didn't speak the words aloud. He spoke them only in his brain,
but as he glanced at Colonel Welsh and met the man's eyes he knew that
the senior officer understood what was in his mind, just as though he
had heard the words spoken. Even as Dave met his eyes, Colonel Welsh
bit his lower lip and gave a sharp little puzzled shake of his head. A
hundred and one answers to the question leaped into Dave's brain, but
every one of them seemed too fantastic even to bother considering.

However, fantastic or not, one thought kept hammering away until he was
forced to admit that it at least must be true. It was that somebody
close to Colonel Welsh--very close--was unquestionably in the pay of
Berlin, or Tokio. Somebody in the drab, unpretentious building where
Colonel Welsh maintained his real head-quarters was a traitor to the
American flag, a paid rat of the lowest form who gnawed at the very
heart of America.

But who? Dave thought of Captain Lamb, and Captain Stacey, and
Lieutenant Caldwell--and shook his head vigorously. He thought of the
man who had taken them up in the elevator--and wondered. He thought
of the man reading the book in that room with the mops and pails--and
wondered some more. In fact, he wondered until his head ached and his
brain rang. It just didn't seem possible that any spy could get close
enough to learn all that somebody had learned. That, however, was one
of the many cockeyed things about war. The impossible was constantly
popping up to prove to be a cinch. There were over two years of proof
of that. Poland for one. The Maginot Line for another. And Crete, and
Malaya, and Singapore--and Pearl Harbor, too, for that matter. All that
had happened at those various places just couldn't happen. Only it
_had_!

"So maybe Lamb, or Stacey, or--"

Dave cut short the unspoken thought. The pilot up forward had throttled
his engine and was nosing the Stinson downward. Leaning over close
to the window, Dave peered down and ahead. He saw a stretch of wild
wasteland that seemed to extend to the four horizons. Scrub growth,
a few patches of towering trees, and all the rocks in the world, it
seemed, met his scrutiny. The plane seemed to be nosing down toward an
area of tableland. And as Dave squinted his eyes he suddenly was able
to make out a couple of weatherbeaten shacks built close to a patch of
woods. He thought he saw something glistening just under the branches
of the trees, but he was too high and too far away to tell what it was.

"Okay!" the redhead suddenly called out. "We're getting near the end
of the line. Remember what I told you, you three. Be nice and nothing
will happen. Get funny and I'll drill you and think nothing of it, so
help me. I ain't a killer often, but when I am, I'm good. So watch your
step."



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_A Little Bit Of England!_


Dave didn't bother looking at the redhead as the man pushed words off
the tip of his tongue. He kept his nose pressed against the cabin
window and watched with beating heart as the area of tableland came
sweeping up closer and closer to the plane. The nearer the plane got to
the ground, the more weatherbeaten and deserted the two shacks looked.
In fact, Dave knew that if he should be flying over them at even a
thousand feet or so, he would instantly take them for a couple of
prospectors' shacks abandoned to the wind and the rain years and years
before.

Another couple of minutes and the Stinson went up on wing, cut around
in a dime turn, and then leveled off and settled to earth between two
rows of sun-bleached rocks. Hardly had the plane braked to a halt than
the redhead was at the cabin door, pushing it open with one hand behind
him, and backing out. Every second of the time, though, he kept his
blue green eyes fastened on his prisoners.

"I'll take them inside while you put the job away," he said to the
pilot. "Stick her way under the trees with that Waco, just in case some
nosy guys come flying over. Nuts to take chances, you know. We'll--"

"Can it!" the pilot snarled. "Who are you, giving orders? Take them
inside. I'll be along in a minute, and help tie them up. But keep that
gun ready, and use it if you have to. We can't risk anything, see?"

"I see, sure I see!" the redhead snarled back. "What's eating you,
anyway?"

"Nothing, and shut up!" the pilot said in a brittle voice.

The redhead nodded, and motioned with his gun to Dave and the other two.

"Out!" he snapped. "And watch it. And keep your hands in sight, too."

Dave obeyed to the letter, but his heart was thumping against his ribs.
He had a sneaky feeling that Colonel Welsh's words had had a profound
effect on the pilot. Sure, he had snarled, and boasted, and cursed the
United States, the land of his birth. But like all rats of his ilk,
deep down in his black heart he was scared stiff of the Old Man With
the Whiskers. Deep down in his heart he knew that he might get by with
this back stabbing for a little while--just like the Japs--but not for
long. In the end he would be caught in the wheels of right and justice
and be ground to a pulp.

With the pilot feeling as he obviously did, snapping and snarling at
his own partner in this dirty work, perhaps something could be made of
it. Perhaps--

Dave didn't finish the rest. Without realizing it he had sort of
stopped to mull things over as he climbed down from the plane. He had
unconsciously started to push one hand into his tunic pocket. He didn't
even realize he was making the movement, but the redhead saw it, took
it for the wrong thing, and moved with the speed of light. The barrel
of the automatic was slapped against the left side of Dave's jaw just
hard enough for him to see stars and stumble. He ended up by falling
the rest of the way out of the cabin doorway and landing flat on his
face on hard dirt.

"And stay there!" he heard the redhead growl. "I'll take that gun just
as soon as your two pals are down. Okay, you two. Out, and keep your
hands where I can see them. Okay! Now, flat on your bellies and hands
outstretched. Either of you move, and you get it."

A moment later Dave felt the muzzle of the automatic pressed against
the back of his head, and felt the redhead's other hand going through
his pockets. He didn't move a muscle, and presently an angry curse told
him that the redhead realized he was wrong. Then the gun tapped him
lightly on the head.

"Stay put, with your hands out!" the redhead said. "I'll just make sure
about your pals."

Dave kept his throbbing face buried in the dirt until he heard the
redhead's voice again.

"Okay, on your feet, and inside! And no more kidding moves like that
last one, Dawson. My trigger finger's getting plenty itchy. Okay, move!"

Dave got slowly to his feet, blinked from his eyes water caused by
smacking the ground with his face, and walked stiff-legged in through
the door of the nearest shack. He expected to step into a room heavy
with age, and dust, and dirt, and all the countless smells of the
years. But he didn't. He stepped into a large sized room that was
comfortably furnished and fitted out like a hunting lodge. No, not
exactly a hunting lodge. Rather, it looked more like an arsenal.
There were guns all over the place, of all types: pistols, automatics,
rifles, and machine guns. Along the entire right wall were heavy wood
boxes that obviously contained thousands and thousands of rounds of
ammunition.

But what caught Dave's eyes and held them was the powerful gas engine
operated short-wave radio receiving set and transmitter that took up
most of the space at the rear of the room. One glance told him that
every part of it was of the finest equipment, and that its operator
could contact points thousands and thousands of miles away. One look at
the set and he guessed instantly that one of its chief uses was to send
weather data to listening Axis ears. This was probably one of several
such stations hidden in the vastness of the United States. In time they
would be smoked out and destroyed. Meantime, though, they were serving
the Axis powers well, and, unquestionably, in a dozen different ways.

"Not bad, huh?" he heard the redhead's voice with its taunting note.
"We have lots of fun here, Mike and Ike. See what I mean, Colonel? We
got it all doped out. You Army and Navy guys are suckers. You don't
stand a chance, what I mean. When the time's right, we'll move in.
And that's all there'll be to it, see? Steady, Colonel! Steady, pal.
Rushing me will just get you a bullet in that belly of yours. Take it
easy, and relax. Back up, and sit down on that case. You two kids, too."

As the redhead grinned and made motions with the gun, Dave, Freddy,
and the Colonel slowly backed up until they were sitting on a couple
of gun cases. Once they were settled, with their hands carefully kept
in sight, the redhead hooked one leg over a nearby table and absently
stroked the palm of his other hand with the barrel of his automatic.
Dave heard Colonel Welsh's tight, rasping breathing beside him, but he
didn't look at the man. Nor did he glance at Freddy Farmer, who hadn't
spoken a word since they had entered the Stinson. Instead, Dave kept
his eyes fixed on the redhead--and waited, and hoped, and prayed.

"Yeah, we have us some fun here," the redhead went on, and looked
straight at Colonel Welsh. "But soon we're going to have some real fun.
See all these guns, Colonel? Lots of people are going to hear them pop
off, soon. People east in Washington, too. The boys running this show
have it all doped out. It'll be a cinch."

"Do you know what you are?" the Colonel suddenly asked with an effort.

"No, you tell me, Colonel," the redhead said with a chuckle. Then,
before Colonel Welsh could get a word in edgewise: "You know, I'd
never tab you for head of the Intelligence, Colonel. You don't look
the part to me at all. But maybe that's what's made you the great man
of mystery, eh? Well, the mystery is over as far as I'm concerned. And
to tell you the truth, I'm kind of disappointed. When we got the radio
flash that you were aboard a plane heading west with these two kids,
I got kind of all excited. I got kind of sorry, too, that I'd have to
shoot you down without having a look at you. But--well, I did get that
look after all. And I'm disappointed."

"And you are a complete and utter fool!" Colonel Welsh said,
tight-lipped. "I told you once, and I tell you again! You'll never get
away with this. You'll be caught and either strung up, or shot. You'll
get--"

"Didn't I tell you to shut up? Well, do it. We can't be bothered
listening to your junk. Shut up! _Do you hear me!_"

It was the voice of the pilot, who had suddenly appeared in the
doorway. He stood glaring at Colonel Welsh out of eyes that held a
wild, glassy glitter. Two white spots appeared on either cheek, and as
the last left his lips they came together to form a thin cruel line.
Then before Colonel Welsh, or Dave, or Freddy Farmer could so much as
move a muscle, the man leaped forward and slammed his upholstered gun
against the Colonel's left temple. The chief of U. S. Intelligence
slumped over, but caught himself and straightened up slowly. A trickle
of blood ran down from the cut on his temple, but he made no effort to
raise his hand to it. He looked at the pilot and smiled grimly. Dave
marveled silently at the man's courage and ability to take it. The blow
he had received was enough to knock over a horse.

"Swing again, you rat traitor!" the Colonel got out evenly. "You know
in your heart that you're sunk. And it's making you lose your grip."

For an instant Dave thought the pilot was going to go stark raving
mad with rage and hurl himself at the Colonel. But he didn't. With a
visibly tremendous effort he regained control of himself and forced a
harsh laugh off his lips.

"That's what you think!" he snapped. Then out of the corner of his
mouth to his partner: "Get that rope, and we'll tie them up. We'll gag
this big slob. I'm sick of hearing his yapping."

Less than five minutes later Dave and Freddy were bound hand and foot.
Colonel Welsh was bound hand and foot, too, but he was also gagged. The
pilot made sure that the ropes were tied right, then turned his back
on them and walked over to a table on the other side of the room. He
picked up a whiskey bottle there, took a long drink and choked on it.
He coughed so hard he almost dropped the bottle. He would have if the
redhead hadn't jumped quickly forward and grabbed it.

"Hey, what's the matter with you?" the redhead demanded angrily. "You
getting the jim-jams? This is no time to fall apart. Snap out of it.
Get hold of yourself. Boy! Wouldn't the big boss like to see you, now.
I knew he should have put me in charge of this station."

The pilot suddenly went white about the corners of his mouth, and there
was cold murder in the eyes he fixed on the redhead. He reached out and
tapped the redhead on the chest with the barrel of his automatic.

"Just say that again, lug," he grated. "Go on! Just say it again!"

The redhead seemed to wilt like a flower tossed into a blast furnace.
He gulped and swallowed hard, and backed away a couple of steps.

"Okay, okay!" he got out hastily. "I was only kidding. But I only
thought--"

"Nobody wants you to think!" the pilot snarled, and took a step
forward. "Get it? Cut out the thinking. Now, get on that key and
contact Frisco. Tell them we've got them on ice, and what do we do now?
Tell them this place is cooked, if either of these three should get
away. Find out where he wants them delivered, or what. He was nuts to
have us go hunting them, and bring them back here. They'd have been
stuck there a week, anyway. And that's more time than we need to fly
these guns and stuff to the other places. But skip that last. Don't
tell them that, understand. The big boy wouldn't like it."

"I'll say he wouldn't!" the redhead said with a tight laugh, and went
through the motions of slitting his throat from ear to ear. "Okay. I'll
find out what we do now. Fun, I hope."

The redhead flung the trio of prisoners a leering look, then went to
the back of the room and sat down at the radio equipment. A moment or
so later the crackling of the spark gap of a wireless set filled the
room. Dave closed his eyes and strained his ears. He caught the signal
being sent out. It was S-T. It was repeated a dozen times or more.
Then the man stopped sending, and there was silence as he listened to
whatever was coming through his earphones. After twenty seconds or so
he started sending again. Dave caught all the signals, but that's all
the good it did him. He glanced at Freddy Farmer and Colonel Welsh, and
knew that they were catching the signals, too, and that the code going
out over the air was just as meaningless to them as it was to him.

For five minutes the redhead "talked" with the man at the other end of
the wave length. Then he switched off his set, got up and turned around
with a grin on his face that stretched from ear to ear.

"He thinks we're great guys," he said to his partner. "He thinks we're
the nuts."

"Horses to what he thinks!" the pilot growled, and ran a nervous tongue
tip along his lower lip. "What do we do now? What are his orders?"

"To sit tight," the redhead said. Then, after flashing Colonel Welsh a
smirking look, he went on, "He's coming up here sometime tonight. He
didn't say, but I've got a hunch he wants to work on our three friends
here. But he's tickled silly about it all. What a break for us we were
bum shots last night. This little job puts us in good, I'm telling you.
Boy! You can't top the big boss, can you? He knows his onions right
down the line. Yeah! Old blabber mouth, there, is going to have plenty
of chance to work his yap. And I mean, but plenty! Maybe he won't want
to, but I've seen the big boss's way of getting guys to talk. He's got
a technique, he has!"

"Coming up tonight, huh?" the pilot echoed with a happy smile. "Swell!
That means you and me will be shifted to some other station. And
that'll suit me okay. This neck of the woods is giving me the creeps.
Thirty days here. It's been like thirty years. Let's have a drink on
getting out of here soon."

"Yeah!" the redhead said, and licked his lips. "Let's have a couple of
them. I'm dry as a bone."

With that moment began an hour and a half that was just about the
toughest ninety minutes Dave Dawson had ever spent in his life. The
two unshaven men went over to the table and dropped into chairs and
proceeded to ignore their prisoners. That didn't bother Dave in the
slightest, though. He was quite content to have the two ignore him,
for he was too busy with his thoughts--thoughts that tumbled and
spilled around in his brain like little red hot stones. A hundred times
at least he strained at the ropes that held his wrists bound behind
his back. And a hundred times circles of white pain about his wrists
convinced him that he didn't stand a chance in the world of freeing his
hands, to say nothing of his ankles. A hundred times he cursed himself
bitterly for not getting away from that attacker last night--and
without damage to the Lockheed's engines. A hundred times he thought of
the Aircraft Carrier Indian and the unknown doom that hovered over her;
the unknown doom that was aboard her in the form of some rat Axis spy
who had killed and obtained vital information that could easily spell
disaster for many of Uncle Sam's fighting men of the sea if it reached
Japanese hands soon enough.

A hundred times he thought of many things, and each time his utter
helplessness to do anything about them was like a hot knife twisting
in his heart. But the most torturing thing of all was the realization
that he and Freddy had been stopped cold before they had even been able
to get started. The Carrier Indian was over three hundred miles away,
riding at anchor in San Diego harbor. Who knew when they would see it?
Who knew if they would _ever_ see it? Caught cold before they had even
got started on the very first of the special assignments they were to
carry out for Uncle Sam. What a sweet beginning! Yes! What a sweet
beginning that could well be the end, too. And that end might come when
the man referred to as the big boss arrived.

Thoughts, thoughts, and more thoughts that walked, raced, cut and
slashed their way through Dave's brain. Seconds dragged on into
minutes, and the minutes seemed to drag on into an eternity of time.
Then suddenly sound forced its way through Dave's thoughts and brought
him back to the present. The sound was soft moaning and groaning. And
it came from Freddy Farmer's lips.

The English youth was sitting on a gun case just beyond where Colonel
Welsh sat, but out in front of him so that Dave could see his pal.
And the look on Freddy's face was one of great pain, and not a little
of terror, and fear. His eyes were half closed, and he seemed to be
staring at nothing at all as he rocked jerkily back and forth like some
African savage praying to his idol gods. For a brief instant Dave
could hardly believe his eyes or his ears. Then a wave of sympathy
mingled with just a little annoyance swept through him.

"Pull up your socks, Freddy!" he said in a low voice. "Show these rats
you can take it. Come on, Freddy. Chin up, pal!"

The English youth groaned louder and opened his eyes a little. The look
he flung Dave burned with scorn.

"Blast you and your chin-up rot!" he grated. "I've had enough of this.
Gangster stuff, this is, not war. I know now I should never have left
England. This is a madman's country. I tell you I've had enough of it!"

Freddy fairly screamed the last, and had Dave not been tied hand and
foot he would have leaped over and slapped his pal's jaw. Something had
happened to Freddy Farmer. Something had snapped inside of him. Dave
had seen his pal in a hundred tight corners, every bit as tight as this
one. He knew full well that Freddy was red-blooded courage from his
head to his feet. But something had happened, and the English youth was
ready to crack up like an hysterical old woman.

"Freddy, cut it out!" he snapped. "Buck up, old man. Show them. Come
on, Freddy. The old R.A.F. stuff. We're not licked yet, and we won't
be. You know that!"

The English youth didn't answer at once. He sat swaying and groaning,
and staring at Dave out of half closed eyes. Then suddenly he began to
laugh softly. The laugh grew and grew until it was almost a scream.
The pilot and the redhead had put down their whiskey glasses and were
staring at him in wide-eyed amazement.

"R.A.F., my hat!" Freddy suddenly shouted. "This isn't war. This is
gangster business, like I've seen in your American movies. Well, I've
had enough of it. I can't stand it, do you understand. _I can't stand
it!_ These ropes are killing me. I feel as if I were all on fire!"

Freddy stopped short, looked over at the unshaven pair and spoke again
before Dave had time to open his mouth.

"I say, a drink of water, please!" he gasped. "I must have a drink of
water. I'm dying, really. I can't stand the pain. A drink of water,
please!"

The pair stared for a moment longer; then the redhead burst out with
laughter.

"The tough English, huh?" he jeered aloud. "Look at the brave R.A.F.
pilot, I don't think! Well, what do you know? The English can't take
it. I always said they couldn't. Mama! Mama! Sonny boy wants a drink of
water. Here! Pour a slug of this whiskey down his throat and make a man
of him. Okay, I'll do it!"

The redhead laughed some more and splashed whiskey from the bottle into
his glass. He pushed up from the table and came swaggering over to
Freddy Farmer.

"Here you are, sonny boy," he said, and leaned over to put the glass to
the English youth's lips. "Be Papa's great big man. Have a drink. Go
on, take some!"

Freddy Farmer groaned just once more, then leaned forward as though he
were going to drink. But he didn't drink. He became an exploding ball
of chain lightning, instead. Almost before Dave Dawson's startled eyes
could register what was taking place, Freddy Farmer whipped his right
hand around from behind his back and plucked the redhead's automatic
from its holster. In what was practically the same motion, the English
youth stood up and clubbed the gun down on the redhead's ear. At the
same time Freddy brought up his left clenched fist and landed solidly
on the man's jaw. The man closed his eyes, and folded up like an old
army cot to the floor.

The English youth didn't so much as watch the redhead crumple. Instead
he brought the automatic down into line with the pilot sitting stunned
at the table on the other side of the room.

"Don't even wink an eye!" Freddy barked, and slowly sat down again. "I
can put a bullet in your rotten heart from here with my eyes closed.
Keep your hands just as they are on the table. Don't move them an inch,
you dirty blighter!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

_Westward To War_


As Freddy Farmer hurled the words at the pilot, he reached down with
his other hand and fumbled with the ropes tied about his ankles. In
less than a minute he had them free. Still keeping his eye on the
pilot, who now was practically green with terror, he went over and
around in back of the man. In less time than it takes to tell about it,
he had his gun. Then he jerked him from his chair and spun him around.

"Sorry, old thing," he said, tight-lipped. "But you shouldn't say
things like that about America. Next to England, it's the grandest
country on earth."

The pilot blinked stupidly. Then he closed his eyes for good. He did
so because Freddy Farmer slugged him on the jaw, putting every ounce
of his one hundred and fifty-five pounds behind the blow. The pilot
turned slowly around twice, then fell flat on his face alongside his
unconscious pal. And it was then Dave realized he was not dreaming, and
was able to find his tongue.

"Holy jumping jellyfish!" he gasped. "I--I thought you'd blown your
top, Freddy. But it was a gag, huh? Boy, oh boy! Me for you, pal, every
day in the week, and twice on Sundays. Gee, Freddy! I'm a no good bum
for thinking--"

"Quite!" the English youth said with a wide grin. "But I'll forgive you
this once. But speaking of gags. I'll free the Colonel, and then see
about you. Just cool your heels a bit, my little man."

Moving over to the Colonel, Freddy took the gag away and freed the
senior officer's hands and feet. It wasn't until he was completely free
that the Intelligence chief was able to speak.

"I'll never forget this, Farmer, never!" he exclaimed in a rush of
words. "One of the finest things I ever saw in my life. I can hardly
believe it even now. It--well, it was like magic. It must have been.
How in blue blazes did you manage to free your hands? Mine were tied so
tight they still feel broken in a dozen places."

As the Colonel spoke he rubbed his hands and wrists vigorously. Freddy
blushed to the roots of his hair, but there was a pleased grin on his
lips.

"They tied me pretty tight, too, sir," he said. "But a chap in England
once showed me a trick of holding your hands so that there's still a
little slack no matter how tight they're tied. It doesn't work with
most people. I mean you have to have thin hands, and be able to sort
of fold them up so's they're no thicker than your wrists. Then you can
slide the ropes off, if you work at it long enough. I--well, I was able
to do it. The moaning and the request for a drink was just to get one
of them close enough. I hope you don't think I meant the things I said,
sir."

"Don't worry," the Colonel said, and slapped Freddy on the shoulder.
"You can say anything you want, at any time, and it will always be
okay with me, after this. I mean it! You make me feel like an amateur,
Farmer. It was wonderful. But let's get these two tied up while they're
still listening to the birdies. What a sweet punch you've got, Farmer.
And at your weight, too! You'd keep Joe Louis busy any time. But let's
get at these two, and get going."

Freddy and the Colonel bent over the two prostrate forms and started
roping them up hand and foot. Dave watched for a moment, then made
sounds in his throat.

"Hey!" he shouted. "I'm here, you know!"

Freddy turned his head and looked at him. Bright lights danced in the
English youth's eyes.

"Why, so you are," he murmured, and gave the Colonel a quick wink.
"Just who are you? And when did you come in?"

"Cut the comedy!" Dawson howled. "Get these confounded ropes off me, or
I'll fan your breeches plenty next time I get my hands on you, young
fellow!"

Freddy shrugged, pursed his lips and cocked an eyebrow at the Colonel.

"Bit violent, isn't he?" he grunted. "Think we should let him loose, or
wait a bit until he cools down?"

"I don't know," the Colonel said with a chuckle. "You're the boss. Do
as you think best. Maybe, if he said 'pretty please,' or something."

"Quite," Freddy said, and turned to Dave. "Say 'pretty please,' and
I'll consider it," he grinned.

Dave looked daggers, and pressed his lips tightly together. Freddy
sighed, stood up and started brushing dust off his uniform.

"What do we do now, sir?" he asked, and deliberately turned his back
on Dawson. "Want me to fly you to San Diego, and have somebody come
back for these three? Or--"

"Okay, okay, you win, you sawed off made in England little runt!" Dave
roared. "Pretty please, confound you. Now untie me, for cat's sake."

Freddy walked over to him and leveled a reprimanding finger.

"Such a tone of voice!" he admonished sternly. "Say it nicely, just as
you were taught in school, now."

Dave turned forty different colors of the rainbow, but he finally
managed to swallow his wrath.

"Pretty please," he said. "I will remember this moment always. And I
mean _always_, you cluck!"

Freddy laughed, and in half a minute had Dave free. As he pulled the
last rope loose, he stepped quickly backward and set himself for the
expected rush. But Dave simply rubbed his hands and wrists and glared
at him.

"Relax!" he growled. "I'm going to save this one up, you betcha! And
when the right time comes, will you sing a song and dance a dance for
me! Kidding aside, though, Freddy, that was something. I really mean
it. Boy! Can you always come up with something new! But don't think
that means I'm going to forget, you little bum. My turn will come."

Freddy grinned at him impishly, and then both stopped their horse play
and turned serious eyes toward the Colonel.

"We can still make San Diego with time to spare, sir," Dave said with a
glance at his watch. "Are we going to take those two along with us?"

"We certainly are," the Colonel said, and pointed a finger at the
pilot. "That one is just ripe to be cracked wide open. He'll blab
everything he knows to save his own neck. I've met his type often. Hard
as nails on the surface, but completely yellow underneath."

"It's pretty hard to believe that a couple of Americans would stoop
this low," Dave said, tight-lipped. "But I suppose the Axis has a fifth
column working here in the States just as they had in every other
country they tackled."

"True enough," the Colonel replied with a nod. "And as the saying
goes, some men will sell their souls for gold. Those two are the type.
Country and flag don't mean a thing to them. Something twisted inside
of them. They weren't put together right in the first place. But this
is a big thing for my bureau, boys! And for the F.B.I., too. I have
a hunch I know who their big boss is--a man the F.B.I.'s been after
for weeks. There'll be a welcoming committee waiting for him tonight.
Have no fear of that. Before we get going, however, I want to have a
quick look around here. Give me a hand. Maybe we'll find something of
importance. We've got an hour or so, haven't we?"

"Easy," Dave replied. "Shall we hunt for something special?"

"Hunt for anything!" the Colonel said grimly. "And pray for a miracle
find."

Exactly one hour and six minutes later they had finished going over
the room with fine tooth comb thoroughness. The net result was a batch
of papers that the Colonel clutched in his hand. A couple of them had
lists of names and addresses. The others were covered with messages
that were all in code, and couldn't be broken down right at the moment.
The Colonel was pleased with the results, but there was just the
slightest gleam of disappointment in his eyes. Dave saw the gleam and
wondered.

"We didn't find the miracle, sir?" he asked. "What was it?"

The Colonel tapped the papers and shook his head.

"It could be in this stuff, but I doubt it," he said. "I mean a clue
that would help us with the Carrier Indian business. However, I don't
think--"

The chief of U. S. Intelligence suddenly stopped, and a cold hard
glint came into his eyes. He turned around and stared down at the two
trussed up men on the floor. Both had recovered consciousness and were
watching him out of eyes brimming with terror. The Colonel eyed them
for a moment, then stepped forward and deliberately picked up one of
the two automatics Freddy had placed on the table. Turning, he sighted
the gun and pulled the trigger. The gun roared sound and flame. A hole
appeared in the floor a half inch from the redhead's left ear, and the
man screamed like a stuck pig. Colonel Welsh leveled the gun again and
drilled a hole in the floor a half inch from the redhead's other ear.

"See?" he barked. "I know a little about trick shooting, myself. Okay.
How's this for a bull's-eye? Right between those two. Right on the end
of your nose!"

The man screamed and writhed about on the floor.

"Don't, don't!" he gasped. "Oh, please don't, Colonel! Don't let me
have it."

"Then what about your brother rat aboard the Carrier Indian?" Colonel
Welsh thundered. "Who is he? What name is he using? What's his rank?
Speak up, you! I've got an itchy trigger finger, too!"

The redhead gasped, and gurgled, and choked, and sobbed in a desperate
effort to get the words out of his mouth in a hurry.

"I don't know, I don't know!" he cried. "We don't know anything about
the Carrier Indian. Honestly, we don't, Colonel. We just got orders
to stop you and these two kids from getting to San Diego. We only got
orders to stop them from going aboard the Indian. We don't know nothing
about her, honest to Pete. We don't even know why our boss didn't want
them two kids to go aboard. That's the truth, on my word of honor."

"You have no honor!" the Colonel told him coldly. Then he slowly
sighted the gun on a point between the pilot's eyes. "Well?" he
demanded. "You tell me then!"

The pilot turned white as a sheet under his beard, and looked as if he
were going to faint. His eyes popped way out, and spittle drooled out
the corners of his mouth.

"I don't know either!" he cried hoarsely. "So help me, Colonel, I'm
willing to spill everything I know. But I don't know a thing about the
Indian business. Go on, shoot me right between the eyes if I'm telling
you any lie. We just manned this station. And like he said, we got
orders to stop those two from going aboard the Indian. So help me!
That's the truth!"

Colonel Welsh hesitated, then shrugged and stuck the gun in his pocket.

"It was too much to hope for, anyway," he muttered more to himself.
"Let's get going. You lads get the plane started while I lug these two
outside. A mighty big day for America so far. Now, if only you two
can--"

The senior officer sighed and let the rest hang in the air. Then he
bent over, caught each man by the heels, and hauled them out into the
brilliant sunshine like a couple of logs. They yelped and babbled with
pain, but the Colonel had deaf ears. Twenty minutes later the two fifth
column prisoners were stowed aboard the Stinson, and the plane's props
were ticking over. Dave and Freddy had refilled the tanks from tins of
gas they found in the second shack. The shiny thing that Dave had seen
under the trees from the air proved to be a high speed Waco fitted with
two machine guns. For a moment they debated whether or not one of them
should fly it back. On second thought, though, they decided it was best
for them all to stick together in the same ship, and let somebody else
pick up the Waco later.

"Okay, all aboard!" Dave finally announced, and gave Freddy a friendly
slap on the back. "Go on and fly her, pal. You've sure earned the
honor. And, heck, my nerves can stand anything, now."

"I knew the compliment would have a nasty ending to it!" the English
youth growled, and shook his head. "No, fly her yourself. I've done my
share of work today. Besides, you know this neck of the world. I don't."

"Well, somebody fly it!" Colonel Welsh shouted from inside the cabin.
"We've still got to get to San Diego, you know. Come on, snap it up,
you two!"

"Okay!" Dave growled, and shouldered Freddy Farmer out of the way. "If
I must I must. Who was your slave last year, Mister?"

"Same chap," Freddy said with a chuckle. "And his good manners haven't
improved a bit. San Diego, my good man! And in a bit of a hurry,
please!"

"Very good, sir!" Dave grunted and made a face. "And you can guess what
I'm _thinking_!"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Death Strikes Often_


A huge ball of gold and red hung balanced on the western lip of
the world. Shafts of shimmering fire radiated out from it in all
directions. They filled the sky with a mixture of shades that ranged
from a delicate pink to blood red. They bathed the earth with the same
hues, and seemed actually to creep into every nook and corner. The line
of planes on the San Diego field looked like the work of an imaginative
artist on nature's canvas rather than the real thing. It was a sight
to hold the eye and catch the breath--but Dave Dawson stared at it and
wasn't even conscious of what he was looking at.

He and Freddy Farmer were in the field Commandant's office, waiting for
Colonel Welsh to show up. But that was just the trouble. They had been
waiting for three solid hours for the Intelligence chief to return from
wherever he had gone. Three hours before Dave had put the Stinson down
on the field. At Colonel Welsh's order he had taxied it straight into
an empty hangar and cut the engines. The Colonel had jumped out and
disappeared for five minutes. He had returned with the field's C.O. and
a half dozen mechanics, and a closed car. The two fifth columnists had
been dumped in the car, and driven away. After hasty introductions to
the field Commandant, the Colonel had led them over to the field office
and told them to wait for him to return.

That had been three hours ago, and they were still waiting.

"Stop worrying, and come finish this food they sent over," Freddy
Farmer presently broke the silence. "Good grief, Dave, it doesn't do
any good to wear out the floor like that. Come on and have some more to
eat. Eggs, mind you! I haven't had an egg since I don't know when."

"You and your stomach!" Dave grated, and half turned from the window.
"You should choke on them. Look out there. The Indian! If they're
not getting ready to weigh anchor, then I'm nuts! Where is that guy,
anyway? He should have told us that--Jeepers!"

Freddy stopped some egg halfway to his mouth and looked up.

"What?" he demanded. "What's the matter?"

"The Colonel," Dave said with an effort. "I mean--I sure hope nothing's
happened to him."

Freddy Farmer considered that for a moment, then shrugged and carried
the egg the rest of the way to his mouth.

"Not likely, I think," he finally said. "Probably got those two chaps
to talk. Maybe it's made a difference. I mean, maybe he's decided to
call off this Indian show. Wouldn't mind that at all. They might post
us here at this field. Wonderful food, you know."

"It certainly _sounds_ good!" Dave cracked. Then, glancing out the
window again: "I sure hope they don't call off the show. That Indian
looks pretty nice to me out there. I could go for a trip on her.
Besides, I'm itching to take a whack or six at those dirty Japs. I
think I hate them worse than the Nazis, Freddy."

"Me, too, if that's possible," the English youth replied. "But I was
really talking just to hear myself. I'd like a trip on the Indian,
too. She's the latest of her class, and should have everything. Also,
according to the Colonel, she's steaming out to do battle. I could
fancy a little combat work. Doesn't pay to get rusty. My, but that meal
was good!"

"What a man!" Dave sighed at the window. "On an empty stomach he's not
worth a dime. Fill him up and he's a one man air force, and raring to
go. He's--"

Dave stopped short and wheeled quickly as the door opened and Colonel
Welsh came inside. The man's face was grim, and there was the look of
angry defeat in his eyes.

"Sorry I took so long, fellows," he said, and dropped into a chair. "I
had to check up on a few things, and get a few things underway. Took
longer than I figured."

"Those rats told the truth, eh?" Dave grunted. "They still don't know a
thing about the Indian?"

The Colonel shook his head and clenched his two fists in a helpless
gesture.

"Not a thing!" he got out savagely. "But they seem to be the only two
who don't."

"What do you mean by that, sir?" Freddy asked.

"Well, I don't mean it exactly the way I put it," the Colonel said with
a shake of his head. "But it seems the entire Axis organization in this
country has found out that their agent aboard the Indian has stolen the
battle plans of the carrier, and that I was to put four men aboard to
try and trap him and nail him to the mast. Those two agents of mine,
and you two."

"Your two agents got aboard last night, sir?" Dave prompted as the
senior officer stopped talking abruptly.

"No," was the bitter reply. "They were shot and killed as they stepped
into the waiting tender at the Navy pier."

"Shot?" Dave gasped. "Gee! That was tough. I hope the killers were
caught."

"They were, and captured dead," the Colonel said bluntly. "Two
waterfront rats. Looked that, anyway. One a Jap, obviously. The other
looked like a German. No papers or anything on him, though. So he could
have been almost any nationality. But the important thing is, that I
found the leak in my own organization. I put through a call to Captain
Lamb and he told me. He'd sent word to our San Diego office last night
for me to contact him at once. I called him, and--"

"The bloke reading the book in your outer office!" Freddy Farmer cried.

"The man who ran the elevator!" Dave exclaimed.

Colonel Welsh caught his breath and shot a hard look at Dawson.

"How did you know?" he demanded.

"I didn't," Dave replied. "But I had a hunch it might be one of those
two. It had to be somebody close to you, and--well, Freddy had already
picked the one in the outer office."

"It was the one who brought you up in the elevator," Colonel Welsh
said with an effort. "It's--it's things like this that almost make me
lose faith. That man had been in the bureau for six years. For four
years before that he was connected with Secret Service. His record was
spotless. And the amazing part is that he had performed some valuable
services for me. But that goes to show you the finesse of the Gestapo
and Nazi agent technique. Shows you how long ago Hitler laid plans for
America. I would have staked my life on Babson, but--"

The officer paused and gestured despairingly.

"But of course I would have lost my life!" he suddenly bit off. "But
for an accident I'd never have found out, perhaps. And who knows what
else that would have cost us? He was taking Lamb down late last night.
As he opened the doors a slip of paper fell out of his pocket. Lamb
caught it in mid-air, and was starting to hand it back when he saw
what was on the paper. It was a bit of code, obviously jotted down in
a hurry. But it was a code that only Lamb and I knew, not another
soul in the world. For years he and I have been working on a code that
can't possibly be broken down by any of the experts. We thought we had
found it. Kept our papers on it in a safe. Only Lamb and I knew the
combination--we thought."

"What happened, sir?" Freddy asked eagerly as Colonel Welsh let his
voice trail off into silence. "Did Captain Lamb make the dirty beggar
confess?"

The chief of U. S. Intelligence shook his head.

"He didn't have time," he said. "Babson realized instantly that he'd
never in the world be able to explain his possession of that bit of
copied code. His only hope was quick action, and flight. He went for
his gun. Lamb didn't give me the details of the fight. He won, and
Babson is dead. Then Lamb got busy. He began with the little office
Babson used on the ground floor. He--It seems incredible! I thought
that Lamb was crazy, or blind drunk, and making it up. But he wasn't,
of course. Babson had actually installed a dictograph in our working
room. The other end was in his office. The wire led out behind the
files, under the corridor boards and down the elevator shaft, and
under the lobby floor to his office. He could hear every word we said
up there. How he learned that safe combination, we'll probably never
find out. In his Washington hotel room Lamb found enough stuff to hang
the man a dozen times over. Too bad we won't be able to do it. I feel
like going out and shooting myself. I'm the one responsible, of course.
One of my own trusted men! That's the worst of it!"

The Colonel gave a bewildered shake of his head, and groaned heavily.

"That's war, I guess," Dave murmured sympathetically. "And the same
thing has happened in other countries, sir. It isn't going to help any
to take it too hard, you know. Anyway, the rat is dead, and the leak is
plugged up. That's something, at least."

"But mighty little!" the Colonel said bitterly. Then, stabbing a
finger at the window facing the harbor, he grated, "There's the Indian
out there. In an hour she weighs anchor. Aboard her is the most
dangerous rat of all. He possesses information that could well mean the
difference between victory and defeat if it falls into Jap hands. We
can't hold the Indian. She's got to sail. Without her the whole battle
plan is mixed up. Yet if she sails and we don't catch that scoundrel,
who knows what will happen? I had hoped, but--well, now that's all
shot, too."

"What's all shot, sir?" Dave asked quickly.

"The job I had planned for you and Farmer aboard the Indian," the
Colonel replied. "It was a wild hope even at best, but now it isn't
even that. The rats know why I wanted you two aboard her. True, maybe
the man you're after doesn't know. I've a feeling, though, he does.
The way things have gone, I feel certain they got word to him somehow.
If they did, he'd know exactly why you were there the moment you came
over the side. And--well, to put it bluntly, he's killed twice already.
Twice more wouldn't bother him if he suspected you were getting close
to him. He'd--"

"We can watch our step," Dave cut in grimly.

"Too great a risk," the Colonel replied. "You see, it wouldn't be a
matter of your actually getting close, but the matter of his _thinking_
that you _were_ close. He'd know who you were, and why you were aboard.
The advantage would be all his. It would be unfair to ask any man to
tackle a job like that."

"I don't fancy so, sir," Freddy Farmer spoke up quietly. "After all,
rats usually do have all the advantage until you get them cornered.
Supposing he does know why we're there? Let him, I say. It's a job to
be done, and somebody's got to tackle it, sir. Good grief! If somebody
doesn't go after the blighter, it's like letting the Indian sail with a
lighted fuse leading to her powder magazine."

"I check on that, too, sir!" Dave cried eagerly. "Freddy and I aren't
trying to toot our horns, Colonel. Maybe we'll fall flat on our faces.
But maybe we won't. However, at least we'll be aboard in case something
does turn up that gives us a clue."

"Yes, of course," the Colonel grunted, and frowned. "That's quite true.
But you could be throwing your lives away--and uselessly, too. You two
helped accomplish something almost as big today, perhaps even bigger. I
can't say yet. But capturing those two American born rats was a mighty
big step toward smashing a lot of the Fifth Column business in this
country. I mean that, too. That place was one of their arsenals where
they've cached guns to be used when Berlin sends the order to strike
at the United States from within. It's one of several arsenals located
about the country. Those papers contained names and addresses of key
men in their organization. And right now some of my agents, and F.B.I.
agents, are waiting in that shack for the so-called big boss. His
capture alone will be something mighty big. Yes, you two played a major
part today in nipping something big in the bud. So it isn't fair to ask
you to--"

"Okay, okay!" Dave suddenly snapped. "If you don't think we rate a
crack at it, then have the Indian sail without us. I'm willing to take
the chance. So's Freddy. But if you think we'd mess up things, then
skip it. Let it slide."

The Colonel blinked and gave Dave a startled look. It wasn't every day
that a junior officer flung words into his teeth, and it caught him
completely off balance.

"But it's you I'm thinking of!" he blurted out. "I--"

"Oh, quite!" Freddy snapped him off. "We understand perfectly! We
bungled it last night, Dave and I, not getting away from that beggar in
the Waco. Shouldn't let him hit the engine. Yet, we'd probably make a
worse mess of things if you sent us aboard the Indian."

"Now, that's not true!" the Colonel shouted. Then, sucking in his
breath: "You two are making me mad. You're taking it the wrong way.
I--"

"And how do you think _we_ feel?" Dave stepped right in on him. "Last
night you had a job for us to tackle. We might click on it, or we might
muff it. You didn't have a thing for us to work on. But at least we
were going to have a crack at it, and be aboard a ship that's going
into action. Well, have you any more for us to work on, now, than you
had last night? No. Not a thing more. The only difference is that the
rat aboard knows we're coming aboard. At least we think he knows. But
we're not even sure of _that_! Yet--well, holy catfish! Now you want to
call everything off because the other guy holds more cards than we do;
because we might get hurt. Look, Colonel! What do you think Freddy and
I have been doing with the enemy ever since we got into the Royal Air
Force? Playing snowball with them? We run the risk of being blacked out
for keeps. So what? Doggone it! We've seen enough of this war to know
it's no tea party."

"Exactly, and absolutely!" Freddy Farmer echoed vigorously as Dave ran
out of breath.

Colonel Welsh glared at them for a full ten seconds. Then his stern
face slowly broke into a grin, and he gave a little baffled shake of
his head.

"Wild men!" he grunted. "I don't believe either of you knows even how
to spell common sense. But maybe that's been the secret of your war
success. That, and cold courage. All right, you win. You sail with the
Indian. I'll see that you're put aboard the tender and taken out to
her. The least I can do is spare your lives as long as I can."

"You mean because of what happened to your two agents last night?" Dave
asked with a grin.

Colonel Welsh stood up and shook his head.

"No," he said. "The tender will leave in secret from a point up the
shore, and the Indian's Captain will be informed of your coming. No,
I mean sparing your lives for a while by sending you out officially.
Otherwise, you two would probably try to swim out to her and be shot in
the water by the deck watch. So I'll send you officially, and--well,
God bless both of you--and keep you in His shadow. Amen!"



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Invisible Walls_


Her engines turning over at close to top speed, the Aircraft Carrier
Indian sliced her bow through the sky blue waters of the Pacific on a
southwesterly course. To port and to starboard her destroyer escort
scooted and twisted about like little smoke-belching water bugs having
a field day. High in the air and several miles out in front, the
advance scouting section winged along with all eyes on the watch for
the first sign of possible enemy interference.

For eight days, now, the Indian had been racing across the vast Pacific
for her rendezvous with the cruiser squadron and other navy craft that
were to make the surprise attack on the Jap-occupied Marshall Islands.
For eight days, and eight nights, racing westward and southward toward
a well planned blow, and victory. Yet it might not be victory but
disaster and death. For eight days and eight nights Freddy Farmer and
Dave Dawson had played an active part in the life aboard that mighty
ship of eagle's wings. They had made new friends, they had thrilled to
the thunder and the power of their Douglas Devastator torpedo bomber as
they went ripping off the carrier's flight deck and up into the blue
Pacific sky for their daily practice patrol trick. They had felt once
again the tingling excitement of the alert alarm, and the hunt for
possible enemy craft in adjacent waters.

It had been eight days and nights of new things, a new routine, new
orders, new faces, almost a new language in a new world. They were
a part of what would be in not so many months to come the mightiest
fighting force in all the world's history. It was perfect, it was
tops--but it was not enough. Not enough, because with each passing
hour, each passing day, their own personal defeat drew closer and
closer. Eight days, and eight nights, and they were no nearer to
accomplishing their special mission than they had been the very first
moment they heard details of it fall from Colonel Welsh's lips way back
in Washington, D. C.

"It really is an invisible wall this time, Dave," Freddy Farmer
muttered bitterly as he and Dawson sunned themselves in the flight
deck crash nets on the starboard side. "We might as well admit it. We
haven't the faintest idea who the blighter might be. For all we know,
he's already passed on his blasted information to the Japs; tossed it
over the side at night, with a delayed flare bomb, for some trailing
Jap submarine to sight and pick up. Blast it all! For all we know, the
blighter may not be aboard at all."

"You're telling me?" Dave groaned, and rolled over on his stomach.
"For all we know he's been watching us every minute, and laughing his
darned head off. When I let fly at Colonel Welsh back there in San
Diego--and it's a wonder he didn't knock me kicking for my lip--I felt
sort of cocky. I had a hunch that we'd be sure to trip over a break.
What, I had no idea. But we've gone into things before with our heads
down, and nothing else but a prayer. And somehow we managed to barge
or stumble into something that paid off. But this? We're just a couple
of guys without a prayer. Doggone it, Freddy! I haven't even met a guy
aboard this ship I didn't like at once. And that goes for the ratings,
as well as the officers. Nuts! I guess I must have expected to see some
ugly-faced bird with dark glasses and a fake mustache sneaking around
the flight deck at night. It's got me stopped cold."

"Me too!" Freddy said with a heavy sigh. "I heard a story once of
something that happened in the last war. It was in a camp in England,
an infantry training camp. A spy was sabotaging things, causing gun
accidents, and several chaps were hurt. Well, they hunted high and low
for the lad, but no go. Then one of the chaps working on the case got
an idea. One evening when all the men were in barracks, and lights were
out, he went from barracks to barracks, popped open the door, switched
on the lights and yelled, 'Attention!' in German. In the third barracks
a chap leaped out of his bed and sprang to attention. He was the
blighter they wanted. German Army training drilled into him, you know.
He reacted to the German command automatically."

"I get it!" Dave snorted. "So we should go all over the ship yelling
'Attention!' in German? Nice, but I've got a better idea. We dress up
to look like Hitler and cover the ship. The first bird who gives us the
Nazi salute we throw to the deck and nail him down. Then we search his
quarters and find the stolen plans. It would be a cinch, but I guess
there aren't any Hitler uniforms aboard. Too bad! We'll have to think
up something else."

"Well, I certainly didn't offer it as a suggestion!" Freddy Farmer
muttered. "Frankly, the best thing we could do would be to throw
ourselves overboard. It would at least put an end to _our_ worries."

"Nope, that's out," Dave grunted. "The darn thing would still haunt me
wherever I went. And no crack, now, about _where_ I'd go! Nope! We're
stuck. Our only hope is a break, some kind of a break--any kind. Heck!
I wonder if I'd be able to recognize a break even if it stepped up and
kicked me in the face. Oh-oh! Something's going to happen, maybe!"

As Dave spoke the last he sat up and watched the young watch officer
come striding across the deck toward him. The youth was about their
age, and held an ensign's rank. He grinned as he approached and jerked
a thumb aft.

"All pilots wanted in the Ready Room, Lieutenants," he announced.
"Executive Flight Officer's orders."

"Something up?" Dave asked eagerly.

"Could be," the Ensign said with a shrug. "But maybe the flying's been
sloppy, too. You never can tell when the Exec gets in the mood to
crack down. Luck, anyway."

Dave and Freddy thanked him and went scurrying aft and down the steps
to 'tween decks and the Ready Room. The place was already half filled,
and other pilots came hurrying in after them. There was an air of eager
expectancy about the room that seemed to charge it with high voltage
electricity. The Executive Flight Officer, and the Senior Section
Leader, stood waiting on the little raised platform at the far end of
the room. Behind them hung a huge detailed chart of that section of the
Pacific west and south of the Hawaiian Islands. Colored pins dotted
its surface, and the bright light hung above it made the little pins
glitter and sparkle like so many precious stones. Five minutes after
Dave and Freddy arrived the room was packed, the doors were closed, and
a hushed silence had settled down. The Executive Flight Officer cleared
his throat, stepped to the edge of the platform, and grinned faintly.

"Don't get in too much of a sweat," he said. "This doesn't mean that
Battle Stations is going to sound in the next hour or so. However,
we're getting close to the rendezvous point, and there's some work for
us to do. In short, we're steaming into Jap waters now, more or less,
and we don't want to be caught with our wings folded. In fact, if we
are to run into unexpected action, we want to be ready to throw the
first punch, and make it count."

The senior officer paused, walked back to the map and touched a little
gold-headed pin.

"That's the Indian," he said. "That's our position right now. We're a
day's run from the cruiser squadron we are to meet, but we're plenty
near some of the Pacific islands that the Japs may be using for
submarine fuel bases. In the air, or on deck, we've got to be on our
toes every minute from now on. A torpedo or two in us now, and the
whole operation would be in danger of complete collapse. Also, we've
got to watch out for any Jap surface ships that may be on the hunt
for us. That's where you fellows come in. You've got to find any such
ships, and give them the works, before they can get the chance to spot
the Indian and her escort. In short, you fellows have got to see to it
that _nothing_ gets near the Indian from here on in."

The Executive Flight Officer paused again, and shrugged.

"Of course it's quite possible that we won't run into any trouble
at all," he said presently. "Maybe we'll just waste gas and oil
maintaining a constant patrol. That's unimportant, though. The point
is, we can't run any risks of getting snarled up in any kind of an
engagement before we make the rendezvous. So from now on every one of
you is on constant twenty-four-hour duty. The section patrols are all
plotted. Your own Section Leader will give you your chart copy each
time you take the air. Stick to the course plotted for you, and don't
worry about what the other fellow is doing. Just tend to your own
knitting. Now, here's one thing to remember every second of the time
you're away from the carrier."

The Executive Flight Officer stopped talking again, and took time out
to rake the room full of pilots with his steel grey eyes.

"Keep your radios silent all the time!" he finally said. "If you are
shot down, or forced down on the water, then it'll be just too bad for
you. Somebody else will have to pick you up. Neither the Indian nor
any of its escorting destroyers are turning back for anybody. So don't
expect help if you go down. You won't get it. The chance of meeting
enemy ships in these waters, particularly submarines, is too great to
warrant risking any rescue work. So keep your radios silent, and--well,
keep your wings up out of the wet stuff. That's all, except that
Commander Brattle, here, has rearranged the sections, and made up a
new flight board. He'll give you all the dope on the patrol schedules.
Thumbs up, to all of you!"

Half an hour later Commander Brattle had had his say and the patrol
schedules were perfectly clear to all concerned. Dave and Freddy were
to fly the Number Two plane in Section Eight. Their first patrol trick
was due in three hours. They were to fly a patrol course due north
of the steaming carrier, cover an area of several hundred square
miles, and be back on the flight deck just before darkness. It was the
toughest patrol trick of any, for the simple reason that it was the
last one before darkness set in, and flying was washed-out until early
dawn. If by any chance they got lost and were forced to spend precious
time locating the Indian, they would be out of luck. They wouldn't be
able to land after dark. And if by any chance they went down in the
water, they would first have to survive many hours of darkness floating
about on the water before they could even begin to hope for rescue.

It was a tough patrol trick to fly, but the very fact that it was tough
set Dave's heart thumping in eager expectation. Luck alone had placed
them in that section, because the section members and patrol schedules
had been arranged by drawing lots. In that way every man stood an equal
chance to get a tough assignment or an easy one. And all possibility
of favoritism went completely out the porthole. Luck, yes, but it made
Dave and Freddy feel good just the same to be handed one of the tough
patrols.

As they trooped out of the Ready Room along with the others, they
winked happily at each other, and for the moment forgot the real reason
for their presence aboard the Indian. The Executive Flight Officer had
not said much about the possibility of meeting action, but he didn't
have to. Every pilot knew that the constant patrol schedule wouldn't
have been set up if it weren't pretty certain that enemy sea and air
forces were lurking about in the immediate vicinity of the Indian and
her destroyers, if not directly in her path ahead. Come nightfall and
at least some of Uncle Sam's Navy eagles would have gone into action.

"And I sure hope it means us!" Dave echoed the thought aloud, as he and
Freddy walked forward along the flight deck. "And how, I do!"

"Do what?" Freddy asked. "What's buzzing in that brain of yours now?"

"That we see some action," Dave replied, and jerked his thumb toward
the north. "You know, Freddy, I've got a hunch. I've got a hunch, sure
as shooting."

"You usually have," the English youth sighed. "What is it this time?"

Dave stopped walking, half turned, and faced his pal.

"The break we've been hoping for, praying for," he said in a low voice
that was tight and full of excitement. "I have a hunch we're going to
get that break. Wait, now! As the Exec said, we're in enemy waters now.
From now until tomorrow night when we make the rendezvous, that unknown
skunk aboard this Carrier is going to try and make contact with the
Japs. I feel dead certain that he hasn't made any effort yet. He's been
lying doggo until the Indian got into enemy waters. Beginning with now,
though, he's going to try and make that contact."

"Well," Freddy muttered with a scowl, "as you would say, so what? How's
he going to make contact? How are we going to know it? How are we going
to be able to spot him? We haven't the faintest idea who he is, one of
the officers, or one of the men. Maybe he's just an engine wiper buried
down deep below decks. Maybe--"

"No, you're wrong there," Dave interrupted. "I've figured it out
that he is either one of the pilots, or one of the mechanics. Nobody
but pilots and mechanics have access to the flight hangar, you know.
And that's where Commander Jackson and Lieutenant Commander Pollard
were killed. No, I've figured all along that the man we're after is
connected with the actual flying end aboard ship."

"Again, so what?" Freddy grunted. "Even suppose that he's one of the
pilots? And I personally have the feeling that he is. What help is
that? We're flying in only one section, one patrol trick. He could be
in one of the other sections. He could take off, make his contact when
out of sight of the Indian, and return on schedule, and neither you nor
I be one bit the wiser."

"You're such a help!" Dave growled. "I know. Heck! Maybe I'm talking
just to make myself feel good. I don't know. Just the same, I've got a
hunch that that break is going to pop for us, and soon. A mighty strong
hunch, too."

Freddy Farmer pursed his lips, and then let a little sigh slip between
them.

"Well, I'm certainly not pulling against you," he murmured. "You have
more hunches than a stray dog has fleas. But if I ever hoped and prayed
that one of them would come true, it's certainly this one. And I mean
that from the bottom of my heart."

"Then keep praying!" Dave said grimly as an eerie chill suddenly
rippled through him. "And meantime, it might be a good idea for us to
watch our step. I've got another hunch somebody's been watching _us_!"



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Battle Stations_


It lacked twenty minutes to take-off time, and Dave was hurrying
through the hangar deck to go top side and report to his Section
Leader, when suddenly a groan off to his left slowed him up. He heard
the groan again, and stopped in his tracks and stared hard into the
shadows beyond some parked bombers. An instant later he saw two feet
sticking out from under a wing. He bent over and scrambled under the
wing. A man lay stretched out on the deck. His eyes were closed,
there was a blood-smeared cut on the left side of his head, and he
was groaning as he struggled weakly to force himself up to a sitting
position.

Dave cried out in sharp alarm and gave the man a helping hand. The man
was Freddy Farmer, and he was acting as though a building had just
dropped down on top of him.

"Easy, Freddy, old pal!" Dave soothed, and put his arm about his chum.
"Take it easy. Lean on me. It's Dave. Gosh! What happened, Freddy? Are
you okay?"

The sound of Dawson's voice pried open the English youth's eyes. It was
a few seconds before he could focus his eyes on Dave's face, and even
then they held a blank, befuddled look.

"I don't know," he mumbled, and gingerly touched his fingers to the cut
on his head. "Ouch! My blasted head feels in six different pieces. I
don't know what happened, Dave. Some chap bashed me, but I don't know
who. I didn't see him. I--"

Freddy paused and glanced about as though to make sure where he was.
His eyes opened wide in surprise.

"But I was way over there on the port side!" he gasped. "Just about to
go up that companion ladder to the flight deck when suddenly I got a
terrific bash on the head. I didn't hear anything, or see--Wait, Dave!
I didn't see his face, but I remember seeing his legs as I fell down.
He was wearing pilot's jumpers, so it must have been one of the pilots.
It--Good grief, Dave!"

"Check!" Dave breathed excitedly. "Our rat friend has made himself
known. This is the break, Freddy! This is the break!"

"Break, my hat!" the English youth growled, and slowly got up onto his
feet. "You call having my head practically bushed in, a break? The
beggar probably thought he'd killed me, and didn't bother to make sure.
Just dragged me over here and left me to be found a corpse."

"And what a lucky corpse you turned out to be!" Dave said with a tight
chuckle. "Hold everything, pal. Don't take things too fast. You got a
nasty crack. A clean one, though. The ship's surgeon will fix you up in
no time. Here, hang on me, and we'll go hunt him up."

"I'm all right!" Freddy protested, and hung back. "Stick to the
subject. How do you figure my coming a cropper was a break? I certainly
don't follow you there!"

"Sure it's a break," Dave said excitedly. "The luckiest break you and I
ever bumped into. And it was certainly luck, all of it. Don't you see,
Freddy? Our little rat friend is worried. He's not sure whether we've
got him spotted or not. He's got a job to do, see? He wants to be sure
he'll be able to do the job, so he tries to remove us from the picture
by crowning you. Get it?"

"Of course I don't get it!" Freddy Farmer snapped. "You're talking in
blasted riddles, Dave. Make sense!"

"Look, pal!" Dave said slowly. "We know darn well now that he's a
pilot, don't we?"

"Well, the lad who bashed me was, and is, a pilot," the English youth
admitted with a nod that made him wince.

"Okay, he's a pilot," Dave continued. "That means he plans to make
contact with the Japs by air, when out on patrol. He doesn't know if
we are keeping an eye on him, so he slugs you so that we won't go on
patrol this trick. See?"

"But what if we don't make the patrol?" Freddy cried. "What's that--?"

"For cat's sake, get it, Freddy!" Dave almost shouted. "It means that
_he is in our section_! It means that he is in our section and tried
to make sure that we wouldn't be aloft to keep our eye on what he did.
Don't you see? It _has_ to be that. If he were flying with some other
section, it wouldn't matter to him whether we flew our patrol trick
or not. But we're in the same section. So he lays you out just before
take-off time, figuring that before I can be assigned somebody else to
fly with me our section will be off and on its way. And I'll have to
wait over, or go off with the next section."

"Good grief, yes, of course!" Freddy Farmer breathed fiercely as his
eyes got as big as dinner plates. "For once, you're absolutely right,
Dave. The beggar is in our section. He has to be."

"Doggone right!" Dave echoed, and took hold of Freddy's arm. "Now
you come on aft to the sick bay, and get fixed up. I've got to work
fast and get the Exec to assign me somebody else to take your place.
Perhaps--"

"Somebody to take _my_ place!" Freddy Farmer cried angrily. "Over my
dead body! That's rot. I'm making the patrol with you. I--"

"But, Freddy, you got slammed pretty--"

"You can shut your trap, Dave Dawson!" the English youth snapped
viciously. "After all this waiting, if you think I'm going to go on
waiting while you make this patrol and perhaps get yourself into no end
of trouble, then you're completely balmy. Now, let go of my arm, and
stand aside, or you'll be the one to get bashed. And I mean it, Dave.
I'd still make this patrol even if the blighter had broken both my arms
and both my legs."

Dave hesitated a fraction of a second, then shrugged and sighed.

"You always were a hard-headed cuss," he grunted. "So I guess maybe he
didn't do so much damage as that. Okay, you old war horse. No sense
our breaking up the furniture. Come along. But let's both keep our eyes
skinned as we go topside. Look for a show of surprise on anybody's
face. Do you suppose he's two guys? The pilot and the rear gunner?"

"I don't care if he's a whole blasted squadron!" Freddy Farmer growled
as he pulled his helmet over his wounded head. "All I want is to see
the beggar make a slip, and be able to get at him. Nobody can bash my
head, and least of all some skunk Axis spy. Let's go."

Keeping step, the pair hurried across the hangar deck and went topside.
Six Douglas Devastator torpedo bombers had been rolled into take-off
position, and were waiting with props ticking over. There was a pilot
and gunner in each of five of the planes, and as Dave and Freddy
trotted toward their plane they cast keen glances at the flying members
of their section. But it didn't gain them a thing. As a matter of fact,
not a helmeted and goggled head was turned as they loped across the
flight deck and legged into their Devastator that was parked in number
four take-off position.

Two minutes later they were all set and ready to go. A minute after
that a flight officer came along the line of planes and handed each
pilot a copy of his patrol chart. And five minutes after that the
Flight Operations officer on the flight bridge pointed his finger at
the Number One plane, and nodded. The engine of that Devastator roared
up in full throated song, the deck mechanics stepped back from the
wing tips, and the plane rolled forward, picking up speed with every
revolution of its propeller. In less than nothing flat it was a moving
battle grey streak that finally let go of the deck and went curving
upward over the bow of the Indian toward the blue heavens above.

Hardly had the Number One plane cleared its wheels before the Flight
Operations officer stabbed his finger at the Number Two plane. It
streaked off in a thunderous roar, and the finger was pointed at the
Number Three plane. Then Four, then Five, and then Six, and the patrol
was in the air climbing for altitude before taking up formation for the
flight far out over the reaches of the Pacific.

Flying with the nonchalant ease, yet constant alertness, that comes
with experience, Dave held the Devastator steady and twisted around to
glance back at Freddy Farmer. The English youth was just a wee bit pale
about the gills, but there was a bright look in his eyes, and a tight
grin on his lips. Dave winked and nodded down at the Indian.

"Want to change your mind, pal?" he called out. "I can take you down
with no trouble at all. How do you feel?"

"Never better!" Freddy shouted. "Just take me down, and it'll be the
last landing you'll ever make. I'm up here to stay, my little man!"

Dave laughed, but there was just a little tightness to it.

"And do I hope that's the truth!" he cried. "Didn't see anything as we
went to the plane, did you?"

"Not a sign," Freddy replied. "I don't think any of them even looked at
us. Maybe he figured he'd done the job good on me, and that only five
planes would take the air."

"Well, the rat knows different now!" Dave grated, and turned front. "He
knows there are six ships up here, and that we're in one of them."

As Dave spoke the words he let his gaze wander from plane to plane in
the formation. Oddly enough, a lump formed in his chest, and there
was an empty feeling in his stomach. He had met and talked with every
member of that patrol in the air. Kidded with them, played cards, and
done all of the things one does with one's shipmates. It was hard,
terribly hard to believe that one of them, possibly two, were earning
blood money from Berlin or Tokio. Every one of them had struck him as
being a swell guy. A swell guy, or one of the best actors that ever
stepped on a stage. It didn't seem possible that savage hatred for
the United States, for the whole civilized world, was flying along in
the formation. It just didn't seem possible. Could he be wrong? Could
both Freddy and he be all wet in their deductions? Had Freddy actually
been slugged by accident, perhaps by a blundering mechanic carrying
something heavy? Had he got scared at what he'd done, and dragged
Freddy under that wing and taken to his heels? And had Freddy made a
mistake about his wearing pilot's garb? Could it have been simply that?

Those and countless other questions churned around in Dave's head as he
stared at the other planes in the formation droning northward over the
seemingly endless sky blue waters of the Pacific. Whether the answers
that came to mind were right or wrong, he had no way of telling. Only
time would tell that. In a short while the formation would spread out
so as to cover as great an area as possible. Then would be the time
for the murderer of Commander Jackson and Lieutenant Commander Pollard
to make his move, whatever it was going to be.

However, when the Indian and her destroyer escort disappeared from
view down over the lip of the southern horizon, and the patrol planes
were spread out in wide line formation, nothing happened. Each plane
continued droning along its prescribed course, its pilot and gunner
keeping a constant lookout for telltale shadows under the water below
them that might be Japanese submarines. And as the minutes piled up
on one another, nothing continued to happen. Fresh doubts and fresh
worries tugged at Dave's brain. Then, as a sudden thought came to him,
he turned his head and stared thoughtfully at Freddy Farmer.

The English youth grinned, opened his mouth to say something smart, but
checked himself as he saw the little lines of worry on Dave's forehead.

"What now?" he asked. "Did you forget something back on the ship? Or is
this another hunch? Know what I've been thinking?"

"I think I have an idea what it is," Dave said. "The same thing
I've been thinking, maybe. That he's suddenly called things off.
He realizes that he didn't stop us from making this patrol, so he's
decided not to take a chance yet. That it?"

"Something like that," the English youth replied with a grave nod.
Then with a puzzled twist of his head, he added, "But maybe a little
more than that. I mean that perhaps something else hasn't turned out
as he planned. Perhaps he was sure that we'd sight enemy craft, but we
haven't, so there isn't anything he can do but stay with the formation."

"Yeah, I get what you mean," Dave grunted. "If he should break
formation cold, now, and go tearing off on his own, it might make the
Section Leader go tearing after him to herd him back into place."

"Yes," Freddy said. Then, with a startled look: "Unless _he_ happens to
be the Section Leader!"

"Boy, the things you can think up!" Dave cried. Then, with a curt shake
of his head: "No, that's out, I'm positive. Our Section Leader wears
the Navy Cross and the Navy Medal of Valor. If he won those and then
turned Axis spy and killer, then I give up. That would be too much for
even me to believe. No, Freddy, our Section Leader is the one bird in
this bunch who's okay in my book."

"Quite, and in mine, too," Freddy said. "It was just a sudden thought
that hit me. I spoke it without thinking. No, it has to be somebody
else. But I wish the blighter would tip his hand and do something.
We're getting near the end of the patrol, and we haven't sighted a
thing. We'll soon be turning back, and then it will be too late for him
to try anything. He'll--I say!"

"What's up?" Dave cried as a look of horror flashed over the English
youth's face for an instant.

"Listen!" Freddy cried. "If the beggar has decided to pass it up this
time and try later, it'll be up to _you_ to get your head bashed, see?
I've had my share of it. Next time it's you."

"There's not going to be any next time!" Dave growled. "There just
can't be. Whatever's going to happen has got to happen on this patrol.
Any more of this nerve slicing waiting, and I'll go bats."

"You won't be alone, I fancy," Freddy murmured, and returned to
studying the rolling blue swells of the Pacific below.

Dave turned front and gave his attention to his flying. And for the
next twenty-five minutes the Devastator droned along on its job of
flying, with neither of the two youths saying a word. At the end of
that time the Section Leader fired a brace of very-light signals into
the air to signify that the patrol had reached its farthest point
north. Then he banked around toward the south again. The five other
planes banked around, and as the turn was made Dave glued his eyes on
the other planes and half held his breath in expectation. But he was
doomed to disappointment. No plane refused to turn and went streaking
away on its own. All of them swung about gracefully in formation and
started drilling back toward the south and the Carrier Indian far down
over the edge of the horizon.

"Well, so that's that!" Dave muttered bitterly. "I was either all wet,
or he decided not to take the chance this trip. Or maybe it was because
we didn't sight any--"

He didn't finish the rest. At that moment Freddy Farmer's fist came
down on his shoulder, and the English youth's voice cried out in wild
excitement.

"Look at Number Two plane way over there, Dave! It seems to be having
engine trouble. It's spouting smoke from the exhaust, and is nosing
down!"

"A forced landing!" Dave cried without thinking as he watched the
Number Two plane start to lose altitude. "What a tough break for those
two guys! They'll have to sit down and float until--Hey! What am I
talking about? I must be nuts! Freddy!"

"Absolutely!" the English youth cried, and nodded his head vigorously.
"It's easy to give your engine a bad mixture feed and make the exhaust
smoke. An easy trick when you want to break away from a formation, and
make it look as though you have to. Dave! I'll bet you anything you
want that that engine hasn't got anything more wrong with it than ours
has!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Water Rats_


"No bet, no bet!" Dave cried, and clenched and unclenched his free fist
in his excitement. "I think, too, that bird is pulling a trick. He's
going down, and he knows that none of us will follow him down, because
there's nothing we could do to help. We're land planes, not seaplanes.
It would be up to the rest of us to get back to the Indian in a hurry
and report that he had to sit down, and where."

"But I wonder, Dave," Freddy Farmer grunted as a sudden frown creased
his brows. "Look. It stands to reason that he couldn't _know_ he was to
make this exact patrol at this exact time. So it couldn't very well be
that he planned to land in the water and have a waiting Jap submarine
pick him up. That would be silly. He might float for days before a
submarine came along to pick him up. And--well, how in the world could
he plan to meet one at this spot? Maybe it is the real thing, Dave.
Maybe it is a forced landing that couldn't be helped. See what I mean?"

Dave didn't make any reply. He stared hard at the Number Two plane as
it spat smoke from its exhausts, and slowly lost altitude. Freddy was
quite right. It could be that what he was watching was very genuine;
that tough luck had dropped down out of the blue Pacific sky to smack
a couple of Uncle Sam's Navy eagles. Yet he couldn't believe that was
true. Something inside of him--he didn't know what--refused to let him
believe that it was all open and aboveboard.

"Could be, could be," he muttered over and over again to himself as the
patrol started leaving the crippled plane to its rear. "Could be, yes.
But, doggone it, we're going to make sure. We've got plenty of gas,
Freddy. We can find our way back to the Indian alone. I'm turning back
and going down to have a good look at those guys. I have a feeling that
maybe they won't actually land in the water. They may--Hey! They did!
Look at them, Freddy! That pilot is swinging around toward the north
and trying to put as much distance as possible between his plane and
the rest of us."

"Yes, he's doing just that!" Freddy shouted in return. "And if I were
force landing I'd try to glide as long as I could in the direction
of possible help. But he's banking around and gliding away from the
Indian's position."

"Gliding nothing!" Dave howled, and dropped the Devastator's wing and
started swinging it around. "That engine of his is not cooked. He's
using it just enough to keep him almost level. Hang on, Freddy! We're
going to take a look at that bird, and no kidding. A close look, too. I
think it will make him mad. So keep on your toes, pal. 'Most anything
can happen now. And maybe it will!"

Freddy didn't say anything to that. He simply hung on hard and sat
tight as Dave whipped the Devastator around and stuck the nose down.
The other plane was a good ten miles away by now, and fast becoming not
much more than a small smudge of black silhouetted against the blue
water. Holding the plane steady, Dave took time out to twist his head
around and stare back at the rest of the patrol. He wondered if the
Section Leader, seeing two planes dropping out of formation, would get
curious himself. But whether or not the Section Leader was curious, he
made no attempt to quit his other planes and turn back also. The patrol
kept on drilling southward.

Turning front again, Dave instantly picked up the other Devastator.
And as he did so his heart leaped in his chest, and the blood began
to pound through his veins. Smoke had stopped spewing from the engine
exhaust. The plane had even stopped gliding. As a matter of fact, it
was on even keel, and racing northward at full throttle not more than
three or four thousand feet above the surface of the Pacific. That
fact alone told Dave that after eight days and eight nights the gods
of war had decided to give Freddy and him a real break. He knew, just
as though a voice were shouting it in his ears, that the pilot of that
Devastator thundering northward was in the pay of the Axis. And for
some reason he felt equally sure that the Devastator's gunner was of
the same breed.

One thing that had puzzled him ever since Colonel Welsh had told of the
double murder aboard the Aircraft Carrier Indian was whether one man or
two had taken part in that gruesome affair. He had believed it was two
for the reason that if there had been just one man, he would have been
unable to kill both of the Indian's officers before one of them jumped
him, or tried to, at least. And both had been shot right between the
eyes. That fact, and other bits of reasoning, had led him to believe
all along--though he had not spoken of it to Freddy Farmer--that they
were after two Axis spies, not just one.

And as he sent the Devastator rocketing downward and to the north, he
felt more convinced than ever that such was the truth.

"I could be wrong," he grunted softly as he kept his eyes fixed
steadfastly on the other plane, "but I don't think so. Nope, I don't
think so."

"Dave!" Freddy's voice suddenly screamed in his ear again. "Look to
starboard and ahead, on the horizon line. I think I spot smoke from the
funnel of some surface ship. Can you see it, too?"

Dave tore his gaze from the plane ahead and stared hard in the
direction of the English youth's pointed finger. But all he could see
was an endless expanse of blue water across which the shadows of coming
night were beginning to steal. Where the water met the sky was little
more than a blurred line to him. If there was smoke from a surface
ship on that horizon line, he couldn't see it. However, many times had
Freddy Farmer's eagle, X-ray eyes picked up things before he did. And
so his heart began to dance about in his chest with wild excitement.
And for the umpty-umpth millionth time he experienced that familiar
eerie sensation at the back of his neck that seemed always to come to
him when trouble and danger were in the offing.

"You sure, Freddy?" he called out. "I can't see a darn thing. It's all
just horizon line to me."

"I'm not dead sure, but pretty sure," his pal replied. "It looks to
me like--Yes, I _am_ dead sure, Dave. That is smoke, a lot of it,
from some craft that's traveling at top speed. Eastward, I think. And
look at that Devastator, Dave! He's seen it, now. Look! He's banking
northeast to intercept it. Dave! If that's smoke from a Jap warship,
then we'll know we're right!"

"I know it now!" Dave cried. "Doggone well I do. Look at that rat tear!
His engine is hitting top revs. Ten to one he's spotted us and is
trying to give us the shake. Well, he won't. Not while we've got the
altitude and can gain extra speed in a dive. Hold your hat, Freddy.
I'm going to give this power plant all she can take. And be ready with
those rear guns. He may start to get tough."

As Dave shouted the last, he jerked his head around and took a quick
sweeping glance back toward the south. There was nothing there but
darkening blue sky. Not a sign of the rest of the patrol. It had passed
on out of sight on its journey back to the Indian. Dave swallowed
impulsively and turned front again. His heart had stopped bouncing
around. It had become a cold lump that hung suspended in his chest.

Any faint hope that he might have help with whatever was ahead had
passed out of the picture. Just Freddy and he were left. It was up to
them to finish the job they had started so long ago. How long ago,
anyway? A week, a month, or ten years? It seemed even longer than that
since that man reading the book in the room with the pails and mops had
told them to go on into Colonel Welsh's secret offices. But how long
ago it was didn't matter now. Freddy and he had come to the end of the
trail. Luck, blind luck mostly, had brought them to the end of their
manhunt. But blind luck, or very clever brainwork, what difference?
Down there and ahead was a Navy torpedo bomber streaking north and east
to cut across the bow of some surface vessel. An American vessel? Not a
chance. It had to be Jap. And Dave was ready to bet his life that it
was.

He could see the trail of smoke now. And Freddy had been right. It was
coming from a surface ship with engines turning over at top speed.
Perhaps it was a Jap destroyer, or a cruiser, or even possibly one of
Nippon's big battle wagons. He didn't know. The ship was still down
below the horizon line. But she was traveling, and traveling plenty
fast.

"There go his torpedo and bombs!" Freddy Farmer suddenly shouted. "That
means he has spotted us and dumped his load to pick up all the speed
he could. He's our man, Dave. He's our man. And I'll bet you all the
pounds Sterling in England that that's a Jap ship he's trying to reach.
Blast the dirty beggars. We can't let him get away with it, Dave. We
just can't. Not now."

"Shut up and sit tight!" Dave snapped, and jammed the palm of his
free hand against the already wide open throttle, as though in so
doing he might get even more speed out of the thundering engine in
the Devastator's nose. "He won't if we can possibly prevent it. We're
gaining on him, and I think he knows it. Look! See the pilot turning
around and looking back? And, Freddy, that bird in the rear pit is
unlimbering his guns! Get set, but be sure they fire the first shots.
We've got to make sure, Freddy, right up until there's no doubt about
it at all."

Even as Dave shouted the words, he slid his hand up the control
stick and snapped off the safety guard over the little red button
he pressed to fire his guns. The first tingling thrill and heart
chilling excitement was gone now. He felt perfectly cool, and calm,
and collected. No, it wasn't because he was any superman with nerves
of steel that no power on earth could break. It was simply that he
had flown straight into danger too many times to go all haywire and
jittery. This, you might say, was old stuff to Freddy and him. They had
been through it in France, and in England, and in Libya, and over the
broad Atlantic, and out in the Far East. A thousand times they had gone
hurtling into sky battle. And after that many times you get used to
taking it in stride.

And so with measured movements he prepared himself for battle, if
battle was to come. And that battle was to come seemed just as certain
as that night was to come. And soon.... Soon? Just about four split
seconds later he knew definitely that engines were going to whine
under strain of violent aerial combat maneuvers, and that machine
guns were going to crackle and yammer all over that Pacific sky. He
knew it because the plane ahead and still below his altitude suddenly
veered sharply to the left, and pulled its nose up and around in a wing
screaming power zoom. And almost at the same instant Freddy's shouting
voice told Dave that he, too, knew the battle was about to begin.

"The blighter knows he can't shake us off!" the English youth cried.
"Realizes we have the altitude, and can come down for a cold meat shot,
if we want to. And he knows we will if that ship turns out to be Jap.
And it is a cinch it is. Right-o, Dave! As I recall, that chap's a
pukka pilot. Name's Miller, isn't it?"

"That's what we called him!" Dave replied as he tried in vain to
remember the face of the Devastator's pilot. "And his gunner is named
Kaufman, I think. Miller and Kaufman! I wonder how they spell their
real German names. I--Here he comes. And shooting! That tears it,
Freddy! He's opened fire. So it's for keep, now."

"Get after him, Dave!" Freddy screamed. "Get in close and let me at the
beggar. Bash me, will he? I fancy not again he won't!"

Like a battle grey comet gone completely haywire, the other Devastator
came tearing up and around, guns blazing as its pilot tried to cut in
under Dave and drill the belly of his ship. But he didn't even come
close. Dave held his plane in its roaring dive just long enough to let
fly with a single withering blast at the zooming ship; then he flung
over hard on one wing, and went curving around and up himself to hold
the advantage of his altitude. As he swung around, he heard Freddy
Farmer's rear pit guns chatter. He jerked his head and took a quick
look, and laughed out loud. Freddy's burst had obviously been too close
for comfort, for the other pilot was kicking out of his zoom and off to
the other side in a hurry.

"Atta boy, Freddy!" Dave yelled, and hauled his Devastator about in the
opposite direction. "Shoot his pants off, but save the coat and vest
for me. Let him--"

Dave cut the rest off short as he happened to glance back at Freddy.
The English youth had dropped hold of his guns and was staring
wide-eyed toward the north. Dave checked the question on his lips and
shot a quick look in that direction himself. What he saw made his heart
zoom up to bang hard against his back teeth, and stick there!

The smoke belching surface craft had come up over the northern horizon
into full view. It was a man of war, a heavy cruiser, and Dave did not
need a second look to recognize it as a Japanese cruiser. But that was
not what caused his heart to zoom up his throat and lock the air in his
lungs. Right behind the cruiser was another of the same class. Both
ships were slamming along through the water, and even as Dave stared at
them they changed course and veered around to the south.

On they came at top speed, and for a crazy instant Dave thought they
had sighted his Devastator and were steaming southward to blast him out
of the air with anti-aircraft fire. It was, of course, an absolutely
crazy idea, and it was gone almost as it was born. And then an inkling
of the truth cut through his brain. Cold chills rippled down his spine,
and the inside of his mouth went bone dry. He impulsively glanced at
his radio panel, and gave a savage nod of his head.

"That must be it!" he grated through clenched teeth. "The rats in that
other Devastator _did_ use their radio! They must have sent out the
Indian's position, and those cruisers heard it. Now they're racing
south to get the Indian under cover of darkness. That's it, sure as
shooting. The rats figure that if they can't deliver the stolen plans
of the battle operation in time, they can at least do some damage.
Yeah! Give away the Indian's position and have her blown out of the
water with her planes helpless in the dark. Good grief! Why are such
vermin ever born?"

Dave didn't add anything to that. He didn't because there was even more
pressing business at hand. During the precious seconds he had gazed
pop-eyed at the two onrushing Japanese cruisers, the pilot of the other
Devastator had taken full advantage of the opportunity offered. He had
brought his plane wing screaming up and around, and was tearing in at
Dave and Freddy from the side. As a matter of fact, it was the savage
yammer of the English youth's guns that snapped Dave out of his trance.
He jerked his head around, felt a tiny sting on one cheek, and saw a
section of the right side of his glass hatch seem to melt away into
nothing. Had he not turned his face just at that moment, he probably
would have lost a good part of his jaw.

He didn't take time out to pat himself on the back for being so
fortunate. Fact is, he didn't take time out to do anything but
concentrate on slamming and booting the Devastator out of range of that
withering blast of fire. The instant he was in the clear he whipped out
his free hand to the release toggle that would drop the deadly torpedo
slung in the rack under the plane's belly. Even as his fingers touched
it he jerked his hand away and shook his head. No, he had to save
that steel fish until later. Freddy and he would have to risk having
it exploded by the fire from the other plane. And that went for the
Devastator's wing bombs, too. Freddy and he would need those in the big
battle to come, the battle against two heavy Jap cruisers.

"We've got to get the blighter in a hurry, Dave!" Freddy's voice of
confirmation suddenly cut his thoughts. "We've got to get him and not
let either of those cruisers pick him up--pick _them_ up. If they do,
everything is lost, Dave. They're bound to have those stolen plans of
battle operations with them, or at least stamped in their heads. If
they once get aboard either of those cruisers, everything will become a
terrible mess. It mustn't happen, Dave!"

"You're telling me?" Dave roared, and hauled the Devastator around in
a dime turn that virtually made the wings groan in protest, and the
threatening wave of a blackout rise up before his eyes. "You're doggone
right we can't let them make contact. Hang on, Freddy! And let go with
your guns the instant you get the chance. I'm going to charge them.
It's either them or us, Freddy!"

"All set!" the English youth howled back. "Let her rip, and blast their
dirty hearts!"

For a couple of split seconds Dave held the Devastator in its tight
turn, and kept his eyes glued on the other plane. It was banking around
to get underneath him and come thundering up for an all gun blast at
the belly of his plane. So he deliberately held his Devastator in the
tight turn until he saw the nose of the other ship start to come up.
The instant it started up, Dave slammed farther over on wing, kicked
rudder hard and dropped the nose down to the vertical.

Like a battle grey streak of lightning, Dave's plane rocketed downward.
He leaned far forward, straining against his safety harness, and kept
his mouth open to relieve the pressure in his pounding ears. It was
as though a thousand fingers of steel were curled about his insides
and striving to rip and tear in all directions at the same time. White
balls of fire leaped and bounced around in his brain as the Devastator
went down at a terrific rate of speed. It was agony to try to breathe,
for the walls of his lungs seemed pressed flat against each other.

For perhaps three seconds the agony lasted, or maybe it was three
years. Then he was practically right on top of the other Devastator, so
close that he could actually see the whites of the pilot's fear-glazed
eyes staring up at him. The pilot was trying desperately to kick off to
the side and cut out from under Dave's diving plane. But there wasn't
time, and the terror in his eyes seemed to indicate that he realized it.

Three seconds, and then Dave jabbed his electric firing trigger. His
guns hammered and pounded out nickel-jacketed destruction, and a hail
of doom tore into the other Devastator like red hot pokers slashing
into snow. The plane actually leaped off to one side like a bird nailed
in full flight. It rolled over twice, and its right wing started to
tear away in shreds. As Dave went thundering on past it he heard Freddy
Farmer's gun taking up where he had left off. A moment or so later he
was able to ease his plane out of its wing straining dive and circle up
and around and back.

Almost reluctantly he slid his finger off the trigger button. There
wasn't any need to continue drilling the crippled plane. It was shy
one wing, and was slip sliding about in the air like a dead leaf in a
raging gale. Its propeller was still spinning over, but even as Dave
looked at it black smoke belched out from under the engine cowling, and
licking tongues of flame went darting backward.

"Poor devils, just the same," Dave heard his own voice mutter. "But
they're probably stone dead now, anyway, so the fire won't add to
their--"

He never finished the rest. Rather, he finished it with a wild shout
of anger and maddening defeat. The pilot and gunner of the other
Devastator were not dead. By a miracle the withering fire from Dave's
guns and from Freddy's guns had passed them by. On the contrary, they
were very much alive. Out of anger-filmed eyes, Dave saw both of them
push up out of their bullet-shattered greenhouse and leap out into
space and down toward the rolling blue waters of the Pacific.

Both the pilot and gunner were alive! Both had bailed out with their
parachutes! Both would land in the water--and both could very easily be
picked up by either of the onrushing Japanese cruisers. The gods of war
were screaming with glee. A valiant effort by two valiant war eagles
serving Uncle Sam was going for a complete loss, would completely fail
in its purpose.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Eagle Madness_


A thousand little demons seemed to be screaming their mocking laughter
in Dave's ears as he watched the two parachute envelopes billow out and
catch in the wind. Seething white rage boiled up within him, and he
impulsively started to kick his Devastator around and down toward those
two flying garbed figures swaying like clock pendulums at the ends of
their parachute shroud lines. But even as he started to drop down, he
made strangling noises in his throat and pulled the Devastator up onto
even keel.

"I can't do it!" he cried hoarsely. "I can't shoot them like a couple
of helpless dogs. That's murder. That's the Nazi way. That's not our
way. I just can't do it."

"But we've got to do something, Dave!" Freddy Farmer screamed in his
ear. "Satan himself must have saved them. And look, Dave! That leading
cruiser! She's shot one of her scouting planes off the forward
catapult. A seaplane! They're going to land and try to pick them up,
sure as you're born. That means they know perfectly well who those two
beggars are, and what they've got."

Dave nodded grimly, but didn't bother to make any reply for the moment.
Icy fingers were once again coiling about his heart. He knew that
Freddy Farmer had spoken the truth, if the truth had ever been spoken
by anyone. Yes, it was certain that the commanders of those two Jap
cruisers knew that the two U. S. Naval Aviation clad figures floating
slowly down toward the water possessed the information that the entire
Jap Navy had been waiting to receive.

Word of what had happened aboard the Indian in San Diego harbor a
few weeks before had of course leaked ashore. Axis Fifth Columnists
had gathered up that news and passed it on higher up. It was a dead
certainty that the instant the Indian had weighed anchor and sailed
out of San Diego harbor, word had been flashed to the Japanese Navy
command, and from there to all of the Nipponese sea units on patrol.
True, they probably didn't know where the Indian was bound, or what
she would do when she reached her destination. Dave felt very sure
that the secret of the surprise attack on the Marshall Island group
was something the Japs still didn't know, or even suspect. However, it
was equally certain that they knew that two of their spies were aboard
the Indian. And, also, that they possessed information that was worth
a major naval victory to the Japanese. For that reason every unit of
the Jap Navy was on the lookout for the Indian. And every one of its
brown-skinned rats, from the admirals down, had been waiting with
savage expectancy for the spies to make some kind of contact.

That contact was now close to being made. It was unquestionably luck
that had sent the bogus Miller and Kaufman off on this particular
patrol. And it was undoubtedly luck that had placed these two Jap
cruisers just a little north of the end of the plotted patrol course.
However, war without luck, and miracles happening left and right, just
isn't war. And now there were the two Axis spies floating down toward
the water, and there were the two Nipponese cruisers. And one of them
had already catapulted one of its scouting seaplanes to land and pick
up the two airmen.

All that, and more, whizzed through Dave's brain in nothing flat. Then
he tore his eyes off the two men going down by parachute and fastened
them on the Jap cruiser's seaplane skimming along the surface of the
water. One look, and then he went into action again.

"That's their mistake!" he shouted, and slammed the Devastator's nose
down. "Like picking off clay ducks in a shooting gallery. But those rat
Japs are asking for it. So they get it!"

Dave emphasized the last with a savage nod of his head and slid his
finger over the trigger button. By then the Jap seaplane pilot saw
what was going to happen. He hauled the nose of his plane up as though
to give battle. Almost immediately, though, he got cold feet and went
cartwheeling around toward the east. But it didn't do him any good. He
might just as well have tried to zoom up and hide behind the setting
sun. Dave had him cold in his sights, and the Jap was caught like a rat
in a trap.

One long burst from Dave's wing guns. Another long burst from Freddy
Farmer's guns, as Dave banked off and gave his pal an aim, and that was
that. The slow Jap seaplane came apart as though it had flown full tilt
into a brick wall. It seemed to explode all over the place and hit the
water in a shower of small pieces. Dave instantly nosed up and twisted
around for another look at the steaming cruisers still a considerable
distance away. Even as he spotted them, he saw tongues of flame stab
out from their forward decks, and the air about him was filled with a
roar akin to that of an express train racing into the yawning mouth of
a tunnel. A blood-chilling roar, and then the Pacific sky was splotched
with bursting anti-aircraft shells that glowed red and orange and
yellow all at the same time.

Dave grinned, tight-lipped, and instantly nosed down. It had been
a pretty rotten bit of shooting, even for Jap gunners. But maybe
they weren't to blame. Dave's Devastator was too low for their angle
of fire, and the shells exploded well above the Devastator. Just
the same it was no cause for great joy. On the contrary it was an
advanced warning of what the Jap cruiser commanders intended to do. A
ten-year-old child could guess what it was, too.

Realizing that it was useless to pick up the two parachutists by
seaplane, the Japs were going to hold Dave and Freddy at bay by the
sheer power of their concentrated fire, and steam alongside the two
spies, who were no longer floating down through the air, but had hit
the water and were floating around in their orange-colored life
jackets. Dave cast a quick glance down at those two gobs of orange in
the water, and groaned in bitter exasperation. How simple if Freddy and
he were fighting on Adolf Hitler's and Hirohito's side! All he would
have to do would be to stick the nose down at those two orange spots in
the water and no more than brush his finger across the trigger button
of his guns. Just a short burst and two rats would be dead, never to
reveal what they knew. How simple, how easy it would be to do it that
way!

But he couldn't. And he knew that deep in his heart, and in his soul.
No matter how much he hated the Nazis and the Japs, and all the
ruthless, rotten things they stood for, it wasn't a hate that could
make him murder in cold blood. He and Freddy would have to accomplish
their purpose some other way.

Some other way? Those three words exploded in his brain like bombs. As
more shells from the cruisers' guns exploded well overhead, he twisted
around in the seat and stared at Freddy Farmer. The English youth was
gripping his guns with white knuckles and staring down at the floating
spies. But stamped on Freddy's face was the very same thing that was
in Dave's brain. It would be so very, very simple. Yet it couldn't be
done. It wasn't the way of the civilized white man.

"We've got to try it, Freddy!" Dave shouted, and was conscious of the
dry tightness in his throat. "It's our only hope--our only one. If
either cruiser gets alongside those two rats in the water--"

Dave stopped and let a shrug speak the rest. Freddy turned his eyes
from the surface of the water, looked at him, and nodded grimly.

"Quite!" he said, tight-lipped. "Us against those two blasted cruisers.
We're mad even to try it. If a single one of their shells gets close
before we've got rid of our torpedo and bombs, why then--"

It was Freddy's turn to cut off his words, and let a gesture of his
hand finish the sentence.

"Yeah, we'd probably come down on the moon, or on a star!" Dave
shouted, and banked the Devastator around toward the north. "We can
get one with our torpedo, and go after the other with our bombs. Darn
it, anything to stop them from picking up those two rats, finding out
things, and getting busy on the radio. It's a job that can't be done,
Freddy. But, heck! We've got to _do_ it!"

"Then get on with it!" the English youth cried. "They may try to
catapult more planes, and we certainly can't do a million different
things at once."

"Here we go!" Dave roared, and pushed the Devastator's nose down. "Good
luck to us both, Freddy. And it's been nice knowing you, pal!"

If Freddy Farmer made any reply, Dave didn't hear it. The engine in the
nose was roaring out full blast, and the gunners aboard the two Jap
cruisers, realizing what was happening, were opening up with everything
they had. The din that hammered and pounded through that section of the
Pacific sky was akin to that of worlds colliding. Hunched tight-lipped
over the stick, Dave sent the torpedo bomber all the way down until
its belly was almost slapping the water. There he leveled off, banked
around to the left and headed directly for a broadside shot at the
leading Japanese cruiser.

Squinting ahead was like looking into the mouth of an exploding blast
furnace. Every gun, from small machine guns and pom-poms to the big
stuff, was hurling roaring steel in his direction. Everything else
seemed to fade out of his vision. He could see nothing but that moving
wall of spouting flame and smoke directly ahead. Split seconds seemed
to take years in passing. A hundred times he was tempted to release
the torpedo and zoom up for safe altitude. But each time he killed the
desire.

The Devastator carried one torpedo, and he had to make it good. He
couldn't take any chances of missing the sleek side of that steaming
cruiser. He had to get in close, real close, and then slam home the
steel fish. A bow hit or a stern hit wouldn't count. It had to be
square amidships, where the explosion would tear the heart out of the
Jap craft and sink it like a rock. He had to--

The Devastator suddenly seemed to half stop and lurch crazily to the
side as a furious blast of fire from the enemy cruiser's guns crashed
into it. Dave had the feeling that he had been slapped in the face with
a barn door. He went dumb and stiff from the top of his head to the
bottom of his feet. Everything turned into spinning red light before
his eyes. He knew that he was lashed to the seat, and that both hands
gripped the controls with fingers of steel. But he wasn't sure.

He wasn't sure of anything any more! Was Freddy Farmer still with him
in the Devastator? Was the plane still with him, for that matter? Or
had the withering blast of gunfire from the Japanese cruiser sent him
sailing off into thin air and death?

He mustn't die now. Not yet! The suicide mission had only begun. The
aerial torpedo was still in its rack under the Devastator's belly. Or
was it? Had the cruiser's gunfire touched it off--and had Freddy and he
failed?

"Freddy! Freddy Farmer! Are you with me, fellow? Are you still there,
pal?"

Was that his own voice he heard--that faint little squeak that sounded
in his ears? If only he could see something besides the darned dancing
balls of light. If only he could get his muscles to move. But they
wouldn't move. His whole body had been turned to stone, and he was
falling straight down through a world of blazing flame. He was--

Suddenly it was as though a gigantic invisible hand had reached out and
wiped away all the dancing colored light from in front of his eyes.
Like a man waking up from a heavy sleep, he found himself staring at
the instrument panel of the Douglas Devastator. He lifted his gaze,
stared through the bullet-shattered front of his glass hatch, at the
nose of the plane with its whirling prop--and at the shadow-filled
Pacific sky beyond!

"You're nuts, you're completely cockeyed. You should be falling down,
not zooming _up_!"

The sound of his own voice seemed to come to him from a great distance.
He tried to shake his head, and found that he could. The movement
dashed some of the cobwebs and the fog from his brain. He started to
turn around in the seat when something hit him a terrific clip on
the shoulder. It was Freddy Farmer's fist, and the English youth was
yelling his head off.

"Bull's-eye, Dave! A perfect bull's-eye! But I thought for fair you
were going to ram us straight into the cruiser's fighting top. Look
at her! Look at her! Goodbye, you dirty brown rats! I only wish your
big-toothed Emperor was with you. Make war on decent people, will you,
you rotten beggars!"

"Hey! What gives?" Dave cried, as his still slightly benumbed brain
refused to grasp the true meaning of Freddy Farmer's half screamed
words. "What in thunder are you raving about?"

"What's _that_?" Freddy cried, and peered at him in dumbfounded
amazement. "You don't--"

The English youth choked himself off, and the amazement in his eyes
changed to a look of alarm. At almost the same instant Dave began to
feel a dull ache on the left side of his head. He impulsively reached
up his hand and touched strips of his torn helmet. The strips were wet
and sticky, and when he lowered his hand it was to see his fingers
stained with his own blood.

"Well, knock me for a loop!" he gulped foolishly. "Somebody, or
something, must have slugged me!"

"I'll say!" Freddy cried. "A piece of shrapnel, I guess. A lot of it
hit us. But are you all right, Dave? Does it hurt much? Had I better
take over the controls? The other cruiser is--"

"_Cruiser?_" Dave boomed. And then like a curtain snapping up to flood
his brain with light, he suddenly remembered where he was, why, and
what had happened. He _had_ actually fired the torpedo at the cruiser.

Ignoring another question that spilled off Freddy's lips, he twisted
in the seat, automatically shoved the Devastator down onto even keel
and stared down over the side. What he saw made his breath catch in his
throat, and his heart stand still in awe and gruesome horror.

One of the cruisers was way over on its side and well down by the
stern--that is, what little he could see of her. Mostly it was a
boiling patch of red flame in the water that fountained upward and
outward to hurl licking tongues of fire out in all directions. In
a crazy sort of way he knew that the cruiser's powder magazine had
probably exploded. At any rate, the craft was being ripped to shreds as
though her steel plates were so much paper.

Then, suddenly, as he moved his gaze across the water, he saw a sight
that made him cry out in terror, and shudder violently. He saw two tiny
spots of orange almost directly in the path of the keeled over cruiser.
And then he didn't see them any more. A tongue of boiling flame,
perhaps an oil drum or something on fire, came slashing straight out
of the smoke-filled air and down on that spot. The flames splashed out
like drops of molten metal, and white spray rose up like a cloud. The
two spots of orange that were the life jackets worn by the two spies
disappeared from view as though by magic. When the flames and the spray
melted away, the two spots of orange weren't there any more. There was
nothing but a smoking slick of oil.

"Poor devils!" Dave muttered shakily. "What a horrible way to die. They
were rats, but--but that was a terrible way for even rats to die.
They--"

The last was cut off as though by a knife. A section of the sky seemed
to drop down and explode right on the nose of the Devastator. For a
brief instant Dave found himself in a world of utter darkness. Then
the plane went tearing out into clear light again. It was shuddering
and trembling like a spent race horse. He knew without looking that
the right wing had been blasted by bits of shrapnel, and that the tip
was beginning to flutter. Instinct and instinct alone caused him to
shove the nose down and lose altitude fast. But even as he went down he
knew that losing altitude wasn't going to help much. The second of the
Japanese cruisers was just ahead and below. And every gun aboard her
was thundering away at the Devastator at practically point blank range.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

_Death Hates To Lose_


"Our bombs, Dave! Can you get us down lower and right over the blasted
thing?"

Above the thundering roar of bursting anti-aircraft shells, Freddy
Farmer's voice came to Dave as little more than a whisper. He heard it
nevertheless, and nodded his head vigorously to let the English youth
know that he had heard. They were right in the middle of the cruiser's
fire now. It was just as safe to keep on going down on her as it was
to try and break away. So long as he was able to dive, the Devastator
presented a difficult target for the Jap gunners. But should he pull
out of the dive, and arc off to either side, the Devastator would then
instantly become a target tripled in size.

No, there was but one thing to do: to go on down on her and then let
go with their wing bombs in the last instant allowed. That their bombs
might put the cruiser out of action, to say nothing about sinking
her, was completely out of the question. It was plain silly even to
hope that such a miracle as that would come to pass. But it would be
possible to put some of her guns out of action. And it was just barely
possible, too, that the bombs might damage the craft enough to force
the Jap commander to reduce her speed. That at least would be something.

Yes, indeed. If the cruiser was forced to reduce speed, she would at
least have to give up the search for the Carrier Indian. And now that
the two spies were gone, it was only logical that the Jap commander
would go steaming southward in a desperate effort to find the Indian
and pounce upon her in the dark.

"Sure, give her all you can!" Dave muttered as he hunched forward over
the stick of the diving plane. "But don't kid yourself why. You know
why, and _how_ you do! Her fire has you bracketed. You'll catch it
cold no matter which way you turn. So there's only one thing you _can_
do. Slam down and give her all you've got left before your number and
Freddy's number go up. Down--and give her all you can, while you can."

A wild desire to twist his head around and see how Freddy Farmer was
taking it possessed Dave for a moment--but only for a moment. Just as
suddenly he didn't want to see Freddy's face. Because of the look of
certain death he felt sure he would see there? He didn't know. Because
he was afraid that Freddy might read the truth in his own eyes? He
didn't know. Only one thing seemed certain. Freddy Farmer and Dave
Dawson had at long last come to the end of the trail. Their luck, if
luck it was, had run out.

He wasn't afraid to die, though. Perhaps that was because he had faced
death so many, many other times and managed to skin through. Anyway, he
did not feel fear inside of him. Funny, but the sensation that rippled
through him was one of fierce satisfaction. Satisfaction at completing
a job that had seemed utterly impossible right from the very start.
Bull luck? Blind luck? Okay, call it anything you wanted to, but the
fact remained that two murdering Axis agents had failed to win through
at the very last moment. They were dead, and all they knew was dead
with them. Their corpses were but two of the hundreds the exploding
cruiser had scattered all over that section of the Pacific. Yes, they
were dead. Their information was lost to the Japs. And Freddy Farmer
and he had paid back a little bit on the Pearl Harbor account. They
had blasted a Jap cruiser out of the war and the world for keeps. That
was something, anyway--little something extra for the Old Man with the
whiskers, Uncle Sam.

Too bad the Devastator didn't carry a couple of torpedoes, so that they
could slam a death blow into the second cruiser as they went down the
long trail that has no end. Too bad, but no sense crying about it. The
plane had carried only one torpedo, and they had made full use of that
one. There were only the bombs left--bombs that might spill a lot of
Jap blood over the cruiser's decks, but would never go through her deck
plates to do real damage below. And so--

"So here goes!" Dave whispered softly as the gun-spitting cruiser
seemed to come sweeping up toward his spinning propeller. "Here goes
Freddy--and here I go. Something to remember us by!"

A sob rose up in Dave's throat and stuck. He winked his eyes that had
suddenly begun to sting. Then he grinned, and the grin grew into a
harsh, defiant laugh. The last split second had arrived. He had to
pull out and give Freddy a chance to release their wing bombs, or dive
on straight into the cruiser. He was tempted to do that last thing:
to slam straight in and go out in a roaring blaze of glory. But cold
fighting sense refused to permit him to do it.

He braced himself, hauled back on the stick, brought the nose up and
shot straight forward not twenty feet above the cruiser's fighting top.
One second more and he would streak right over the up-tilted muzzles of
the forward anti-aircraft guns. A target a blind man couldn't miss. A
target you could hit with rocks. One second more. Two at the most. Dump
the bombs, Freddy! Slam them down and blast some of those dirty brown
devils to the place where they and all their filthy back-stabbing breed
belong. Give it to them, Freddy. Give them all we've got left!

Dave didn't know whether he was roaring out the words, or whether
they were simply echoing around in his brain. He simply knew that the
Devastator was perched on the very brink of all eternity, and that he
was banging out the last of his bullets as a sort of final touch. He
only knew that--

But he didn't. He didn't know anything any more. He was completely lost
in a huge black cloud that pressed in on him from all sides. He was
right in the middle of it, and sailing away and away. The light of day
was gone, and night was all about him. Was it night, or was this what
death was like? Darkness. Thick darkness with a faint roaring in the
distance, and drifting to him from all sides.

"I can't be dead--my head hurts too darned much!"

The sound of his own voice in that cloud of darkness startled him so
that he cried out in fear. Then suddenly he felt himself sink down;
felt water in his mouth, his nose, his eyes, and in his ears. He
gasped, and water poured down his throat--salty, smoky tasting water.
And his lungs seemed to burst right out between his ribs. His brain
refused point blank to function, but the instinct of self-preservation
came to his rescue. Without realizing it, he kicked with his feet and
struck out blindly with his hands. He couldn't move his right hand,
though. There was something hanging onto it, a dead weight that made it
impossible for him to move his arm.

Then suddenly he was sucking and gurgling air into his lungs. Just
as suddenly the film over his eyes passed away, and he found himself
looking at a world of brilliant stars over his head. And just as
suddenly he realized that he was in the water, keeping himself afloat
with one hand, and clutching hold of Freddy Farmer's helmeted head with
the other, striving to keep the English youth's face out of water.

It was dark as pitch all about him. Yet when he winked the water from
his eyes a weird glow of light seemed to filter down from the stars. He
saw dark objects floating about him. There were pieces of wreckage, but
for the moment he could not summon the strength to swim toward them. In
a dulled sort of way he knew that something was wrong, that something
wasn't right. Then he knew what it was. His life jacket was gone, at
least half of it. The other half was in strips and wasn't of any use.
Freddy Farmer's life jacket was gone completely. In fact, he had on
nothing but his shirt. Dave could tell that when a swell lifted the
English youth's shoulder up out of the water.

Bit by bit Dave's brain began to click over at increased speed.
Presently it gave him the sense to take a good look at Freddy. He
pulled his pal closer, and as he did so held his breath in terror. But
God had been kind. Freddy Farmer was not dead. He was unconscious, but
he was breathing. A mighty sob of joy shook Dave's body. He clenched
his teeth, and summoned every ounce of strength in his half numb body.
He saw a large sized object floating by a few yards away. It looked
like the top side of a crate, or perhaps it was a bunk. He struck out
for it with one hand and two feet. Only a few yards away, but every
foot was a mile to Dave's straining efforts. His head pounded, and all
the colors of the rainbow flashed and whizzed around before his eyes.

Then finally his outstretched hand clutched hold of something. It felt
like a loop of rope, and it was fastened to the floating object. He
didn't bother to find out what the object was. He was quite content to
cling to the looped rope for several minutes and fight for his breath
and his strength. Eventually, though, he shifted his position in the
water, thrust up his hand and hooked it over the side of the object.
And it was then he made the joyful discovery. It was not a crate, or a
bunk. The object was a ship's raft--a life raft constructed something
like a rubber life raft. Airtight circular drums formed the sides, and
stout planks lashed together three thick formed the bottom of the raft.

Dave laughed and cried in the same breath, and then almost spent the
last of his strength in a mad effort to scramble onto the raft and
haul Freddy Farmer up with him. Three times he tried it, only to lose
his grip and slide back into the water, and under. He didn't try it
that way a fourth time. He forced himself to spend a good ten minutes
still clinging to the looped rope. Then, when renewed strength began
to seep slowly through his body, he worked Freddy Farmer's unconscious
body close to the raft, got one of the English youth's arms flung up
over the side, and then the other. Then inch by inch he worked the dead
weight up until Freddy went tumbling over and down onto the floor of
the raft.

It required another rest period of some ten minutes for Dave to dig
up some more strength. Then, grabbing hold with both of his hands, he
worked his body upward, muscles straining, strength ebbing away like a
punctured balloon spilling air, and all the firecrackers in the world
going off in his brain. It took years, it seemed, but he finally made
it. He got all the way in and fell sprawling down on top of Freddy
Farmer. He tried to push himself up and crawl off his pal, but that was
the moment when all the glittering stars in the heavens fell down and
hit him on top of the head.

His next sensation was that his whole body was on fire. He opened his
eyes, but it was like looking straight in through the opened door of a
blast furnace going full force. He closed his eyes, groaned, and tried
to move. It was then that water hit him smack in the face, and hands
took hold of him.

"Dave! Speak to me, Dave! It's Freddy. Dave! Please speak! Can you hear
me? Steady, lad, steady! Relax and let me hold you. Praise be to Allah!
I've been terrified for hours that you were a goner!"

With a tremendous effort Dave forced his eyes open. The glare of the
blast furnace was gone, but he could still feel the heat. For a few
seconds he didn't try to think. He didn't try to do anything except
relax, and let somebody hold him up, and keep the glare of that
blast furnace out of his eyes. He knew it must be Freddy Farmer. He
recognized the voice, and the voice had said so. Good old Freddy.
Always there at the right time. Never failed. One in a million. The
very best. The tops.

"Hold it, Dave!" Freddy's voice cried in his ears again. "Don't let go,
pal. Hold it. Buck up. Come on, now. There's a lad for you. Cheeri-o,
Dave!"

He found that his eyes were opened again, and that Freddy Farmer's
grinning face was but a foot from his own. He stared at it, grinned
himself, and suddenly strength and vitality began coursing through
his veins. He took his eyes off Freddy's face, looked about him, and
gulped. As far as he could see in any direction was nothing but a
limitless expanse of sky blue water--sky blue water filmed over with
golden light from the blazing sun hanging high in the heavens. He and
Freddy Farmer were alone in the life raft, completely alone. There
wasn't a drop of water, nor a package of food, or anything. The raft
was bare of all things that help to sustain life. Startling realization
brought sudden and violent hunger to his stomach, and a craving thirst
to his lips. He looked back to meet Freddy's eyes, and forced another
grin to his lips.

"Guess they don't want us up at the Pearly Gates yet, pal," he said
slowly. "But maybe this is all a dream, or something."

"It isn't!" Freddy said grimly. "I've been hoping so ever since
yesterday afternoon. But it's real, Dave. It's too blasted real, I say."

"Easy, Freddy!" Dave cried. "_Yesterday afternoon?_ Where do you get
that stuff? Why, it can't--!"

"It is!" Freddy interrupted. "I came to just before sundown. You were
sprawled over me. Phew! I thought you were stone dead. I managed to
wiggle out from under you, and prop you up. Bit too much for me,
though. I spent most of the night coming to and passing out again. I
felt better when dawn came. Took stock of things and saw there was
nothing to do but wait. Kept your face out of the sun, as much as
I could. And--well, I guess I prayed most of the time. Nothing has
happened, though. Nothing's passed by except some dead Japs, with some
sharks after them. They--"

The English youth paused and shuddered. Dave reached out a hand and
pressed his arm.

"Steady does it, Freddy," he said gently. "We're still alive. And we're
together. That's a lot in my book. And, heck! This is a whole lot
better than if that darned Jap cruiser had picked us up. I don't think
they'd have been very nice to us."

Freddy Farmer's jaw dropped, and his eyes went wide.

"Jap cruiser pick us up?" he gasped. "Are you balmy, Dave? It went down
like a rock. The blasted thing practically broke in two! You just
barely got us clear of the flying pieces before our wing came off and
we crashed in. Why--!"

"Whoa, hold her!" Dave shouted, and jerked himself up straight despite
the pain and aches it caused. "You mean we got that second cruiser?
You're nuts! Our bombs wouldn't even dent her plates. They--"

"They didn't!" Freddy cried. "A lucky hit. One went right down one of
her funnels. It must have, because I just had time to see the great
cloud of flame and smoke that belched up out of her funnel before
concussion was tossing us around like a leaf. It's the truth, Dave!
Didn't you see it? Worse than the one we'd torpedoed. She broke right
clean through. Then we crashed into the water. You yelled to me to
duck, and--well, that's the last I remember until I came to late
yesterday afternoon. How did you get us out of the wreck and aboard
this raft, anyway?"

"The first part of that we'll never know, Freddy," Dave said in an awed
voice. "Maybe it was two other guys, or something. I don't remember
a thing from the time I leveled out of the dive until I woke up in
the water, and had you by the helmet. It was night, and all sorts of
things were floating by. I saw this raft, but thought it was a crate,
and got us over to it. I got us both inside, and then went out like a
light. Sweet tripe, Freddy! We've been floating around in this thing
for at least two days and two nights. No wonder I could eat a horse,
whole, and drink a well dry. You've--you've seen nothing, Freddy? No
ship, no plane?"

Freddy shook his head.

"Nothing, Dave," the English youth said in a low voice. "The Pacific's
a pretty big place, you know. It's--_Dave_! What's the matter? You look
as if you'd seen a ghost!"

Dave shook his head, put out a hand and touched Freddy.

"Don't move, Freddy!" he said hoarsely. "Don't even look. It--it might
not be true. But--but, it is, _it is_! Look, Freddy! To the east. A
ship! It's a destroyer. She's heading this way. Look at her spill
smoke. She's heading this way. And it's Yank. I can tell from her
lines, and stacks. _Look_, Freddy! Lady Luck was just waiting until we
both woke up, that's all. She wanted us both to be surprised. She--"

Freddy's eyes turned to the east.

Dave raved on like a man gone delirious with joy, and he was. Words,
all kinds of crazy words babbled off his lips. And words, all kinds of
crazy words also spilled from Freddy Farmer's tongue as together they
watched one of Uncle Sam's destroyers come tearing down on them. She
swept up on them like a thing alive, slowed down just long enough to
cast off one of her boats, and then started circling about them. In
ten minutes grinning Navy gobs helped Dave and Freddy into the boat.
And about twenty minutes after that they were in sick bay aboard the
USS Paul Jones, and receiving the very best of medical treatment. It
was all they could do to keep awake, despite their gnawing hunger. The
wild excitement of rescue had been too much for either of them. It had
sapped their strength down to almost the last drop. But they managed
to keep awake long enough to ask questions, and receive astonishing
answers from the youthful lieutenant in command of the destroyer.

They learned that the attack on the Marshall Islands had been carried
out successfully. That a whole lot of what had happened at Pearl Harbor
had been paid back to the Sons of Nippon. They learned that they had
been afloat in the raft for three whole days and nights. They learned
that one Colonel Welsh had requested that special permission be given
Navy units in that section of the Pacific to search for them when it
was reported by scouting planes that cruiser wreckage had been seen
floating on the water. They learned that a searching plane had sighted
them from the air that very morning, although Freddy had not seen nor
heard it. The scouting plane had directed the Paul Jones to the spot.
They learned also that Jap sailors picked up from the area where the
cruisers had gone down had told of what they had done with one lone
Douglas Devastator.

"It was that report that set this Colonel Welsh to moving Heaven,
earth, and the Navy Department, to get a search going," the destroyer's
commander finished up. "He must have had the President with him,
because darned near the whole Pacific Fleet hopped right to it. Who is
this Colonel Welsh, anyway? Can't say I ever heard of him. He must be
quite a man when it comes to getting things done."

"Yeah," Dave mumbled drowsily. "Quite a man. Swell to work under. Got
a nice technique. Gets you so doggone mad you'd go out and fly without
wings, just to prove you could do it. Yeah, the Colonel knows his
stuff. Right, Freddy?"

Freddy Farmer didn't agree or disagree. He was already sound asleep!


--THE END--

       *       *       *       *       *

_A Page from_ DAVE DAWSON WITH THE AIR CORPS

Throttling the Wright powered Vultee V-12C attack bomber to cruising
speed, Dave licked his dry lips, twisted around in the seat, and winked
at Freddy Farmer in the gunner's pit.

"How's it going, pal?" he called out. "Not nervous, or anything like
that, are you?"

"Certainly not!" the English youth shouted back. "I stopped being
nervous hours ago. Now I'm only scared stiff! How do you feel?"

Dave shrugged and made a little gesture with his free hand.

"I'm not sure," he said, "but I think it's something like the way a
clay pigeon must feel. You know, hoping the guy with the trap gun will
miss? Oh well, this may be just a waste of time."

"Not any more!" Freddy shouted, and pointed to the left. "Look!"

Dave turned his head and felt his heart zoom up to crack against his
back teeth. About seven miles off his left wing and hugging the under
side of a towering cloud bank, he spotted no





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