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´╗┐Title: Dave Dawson with the Flying Tigers
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 Flying Tigers" ***

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
                             FLYING TIGERS

                         _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"
                 "DAVE DAWSON WITH THE PACIFIC FLEET"
                   "DAVE DAWSON WITH THE AIR CORPS"
                   "DAVE DAWSON WITH THE COMMANDOS"
                  "DAVE DAWSON ON THE RUSSIAN FRONT"

                       THE WAR ADVENTURE SERIES

                   THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY

                      AKRON, OHIO       NEW YORK

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

                 COPYRIGHT, 1943, BY CROWN PUBLISHERS
                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                 CONTENTS

    CHAPTER                      PAGE

        I EAGLES' REWARD           11
       II CLOCKS WON'T WAIT        22
      III SIMMERING DOOM           33
       IV ATLANTIC MIRAGE          43
        V ICE COLD COURAGE         55
       VI ACTION C.O.D.            66
      VII YANKEE BLUFF             80
     VIII HOME AGAIN               95
       IX WHITE TNT               109
        X WINGS WESTWARD          125
       XI INVISIBLE, CHAOS        141
      XII EAGLES CAN'T DIE        154
     XIII BLOOD IN THE SKY        168
      XIV BEWARE THE SHARKS!      180
       XV ACES THINK FAST         191
      XVI WARRIORS' DUTY          204
     XVII LIGHTNING WINGS         223
    XVIII SATAN'S LAST GASP       236



CHAPTER ONE

_Eagles' Reward_


With all the appearance of a man striving to solve one of the world's
weightier problems, Freddy Farmer studied the Hotel Savoy menu card
line by line from top to bottom. Across the table Dave Dawson sat
looking at his closest pal, and grinning from ear to ear. Eventually,
though, when the English-born air ace continued to take the menu apart
bit by bit with his eyes, Dawson decided that enough was enough. He
reached over and whisked the card out of Freddy's hand.

"Okay, little man," he chuckled. "I'll tell you what the big words
mean, if you like. Now, this one, here--water. That's stuff that comes
in a glass. You drink it. It also comes down out of the sky in what we
call rain. It flows under bridges, and--"

"And please stop, I beg you!" Freddy snapped. "My sides ache with
laughter. I couldn't possibly stand another of your hilarious remarks.
And hand back that menu before I take measures that will get us both
thrown out of this hotel!"

"But why hand it back?" Dawson laughed. "Holy smoke! Don't you know
it by heart yet? For fifteen solid minutes you've been looking at the
thing."

"Quite," the other replied gravely. "And thoroughly enjoying myself
making believe. Hand it back, please, young fellow!"

"How's that?" Dave echoed, and passed the menu. "Making believe? I
don't get you."

"Knowing the limits of your so-called flashes of brilliance, I can
well imagine!" Freddy shot at him. "However, the fact of the matter is
that here in London food is rationed. And there are many, many savory
dishes that don't even appear on menus any more. So, to make myself
feel good, every time I pick up a menu I simply imagine that all the
pre-war dishes are there. And I have a lot of fun deciding just what
I'll order. Do I make myself clear?"

Dawson sighed heavily, and shook his head.

"Too clear," he said sadly. "Lately I've been suspecting that you were
going just a little bit screwy. Now I know! And me waiting here, polite
like, while you fumbled around! What a guy!"

Dave snorted, sighed again, and crooked his finger at the waiter. The
man came over to their table, and the two air aces gave their orders in
accordance with the short list of items on the menu.

"It will be wonderful when this war is over!" Freddy Farmer murmured as
the waiter walked away. "Just think, Dave! Just think of being able to
step into a restaurant and ordering anything that strikes your fancy."

"Which would be everything in the place, as far as you're concerned!"
Dawson laughed at him. "For a skinny guy, I never saw the beat of how
you can store food away. It scares me at times, too. I have dreams
that you've eaten so much that you can't even fit into one of the new
Lancaster bombers. But skip it, pal. For two long months you and I can
do any darn thing we want. And back in the little old U. S. A. there
are plenty of things for us to do. I'll really show you the States this
time! And how!"

The English youth half smiled, and nodded.

"Yes, quite," he grunted. "But _next_ leave we get we're going to spend
here in England. And another thing, my boy! Not that I actually believe
you are crooked, you know. However--well, I'm jolly well going to get a
little practice tossing coins before I have another go at it with you.
And that's a fact, too!"

"So help me, pal, it was strictly on the up and up," Dave said as he
made a little cross with his finger over his heart. "And it was the
best of two out of three, too. I was just lucky, kid. But look, Freddy.
If you really and truly want to--"

"Not at all, Dave!" the English youth cut in quickly. "Don't mind me,
old thing. I always feel a little bad when I leave England, if only for
a day or two. No. You won the coin toss, and so we'll spend our leave
in the U. S. Besides, we're supposed to make some speeches to help sell
War Bonds, you know. And speaking of that, do you know something, Dave?"

"What? But I think I can guess, Freddy. As a speech maker _I'm_ a swell
coal truck driver."

"Me, too!" Freddy echoed with a grimace. "Good grief! I'd rather face
a flight of Messerschmitts than a speaker's audience. I know I'll be a
terrible flip, as you call it."

"It's flop, pal," Dawson chuckled. "And that'll be two of us. Between
you, me, and the gate post, I'll be tickled silly if something happens
to make this lecture tour in the States fall through. I don't feel
happy about it, at all. Just the same, though, if it will sell some War
Bonds, then we sure can't let them down. And it will give you a swell
look at Uncle Sam's home grounds."

"Yes, there's that part of it," Freddy Farmer murmured with a nod.
"It's little enough for us to do, and--"

The English youth suddenly stopped dead with his mouth hanging open.
Dave, looking at him, saw his eyes come out like marbles on the ends
of sticks. And for a split second he thought his pal had been stricken
ill. Then as he turned his head and looked in the direction of Farmer's
stare, his own jaw sagged, and his own eyes popped out in dumbfounded
amazement.

The reason was the approach of the waiter with their orders. However,
what the man set before them wasn't even close to what they had
ordered. In fact, it was almost as though the Good Fairy had waved her
magic wand and changed the Hotel Savoy dining-room into a little bit
of another world. In short, each of them was served with a generous
helping of red, juicy roast beef! There were also mashed potatoes, and
creamed corn, and peas. And, yes, thick brown gravy, too!

For a long moment both of them sat speechless for fear that a single
sound would break the spell, and that all that was set before them
would disappear in thin air. Eventually, though, Dawson summoned the
courage to look up into the waiter's grinning face, and speak.

"My heart is bleeding, but I'm afraid you've made a mistake," he said
with a gigantic effort. "We didn't order this. Is there some rich
Indian Rajah staying at the hotel? And he brought along his own supply
of food, huh?"

The waiter laughed, and shook his head.

"Hardly, sir," he said. "The officials would have taken it from the
blighter before he left the ship, I fancy. Only them that has the
ration meat coupons can get it. And that goes for Royalty as well as
the likes of me."

"But--but, I say!" Freddy Farmer stammered out, and made a helpless
gesture with his hands. "We used up our last meat ration coupons
yesterday, you know."

"This is a gift, sir," the waiter said. "From the gentleman at the next
table. He gave me all of his meat coupons, he did, and told me to serve
you the best. And the best it is, I guarantee, too!"

If Dave and Freddy had kept their eyes on the waiter's face, they
would have seen him unconsciously lick his lips, and an envious look
creep into his eyes. However, they had both turned as one man and
were staring at the next table. There, dressed in a quiet but Bond
Street-tailored business suit, sat a short and slightly rotund Chinese
gentleman. He met their collective stare, smiled broadly, and bobbed
his head up and down. And then, when neither of the air aces were able
to speak, he got up from his table, came over to theirs and bowed
gravely.

"Would you do me the honor, Gentlemen?" he said in perfect English. "I
confess that my ears overheard a bit of your conversation, and as I
had several unused meat ration coupons, I thought that perhaps you two
would accept. But permit me to introduce myself. I am Mr. Soo Wong Kai."

Still not quite sure that they had not been dumped down into a little
corner of fairyland, Dave and Freddy pushed back their chairs and stood
up.

"There aren't the words to thank you, Mr. Kai." Dave smiled, and
extended his hand. "I am Captain Dawson, and my friend, here, is
Captain Farmer."

"Your introductions were unnecessary, Captain," the Chinese said with a
smile, and shook hands with them both. "You two famous men of the air
are known to millions, you know. When I return to China, this thrusting
of myself into your acquaintance will be one of my happiest memories.
But if I might make a suggestion--the roast beef is not half so savory
when it is cold. I beg of you, please seat yourselves, Captains, and
give me the great happiness of eating my humble offering."

"On condition that you have the waiter bring your meal over here, sir,
and join us," Freddy Farmer said politely. "And may I ask, sir? You are
the Mr. Kai of the Chinese Embassy here, are you not?"

"You are absolutely correct," the other smiled, and signalled to the
waiter to transfer his meal to their table. "Quite correct and, indeed,
kind. We of China do not like to take our meals alone. And it is the
same when we are in foreign lands, too. So I must thank you from the
bottom of my heart for your generous hospitality."

"Well, to be truthful, sir," Dawson chuckled, "the pleasure really is
all ours. You'd be surprised how sick Freddy and I get of hearing each
other sound off."

"Eh?" the English youth grunted, and shot Dave a hostile look. "Sound
off, you say?"

Soo Wong Kai laughed softly and leaned toward Freddy.

"The American way of saying, throwing the bull, Captain Farmer," he
said. "Or, as you English would have it, swinging the gate. In China we
have an expression which, when translated, means, counting the locusts.
There are billions and billions of locusts in China, you see. So to say
that one is counting the locusts is to mean that one is simply talking
to hear oneself. Or sounding off. Or throwing the bull. Or swinging the
gate. You see?"

"I've got a hunch you've kind of been around here and there, eh, Mr.
Kai?" Dave grinned at him. "And--oh, my gosh! Pardon me, sir!"

The Chinese looked at Dave and raised his thin brows in innocent
puzzlement.

"For what, may I ask, Captain Dawson?" he said. "For what reason should
you exclaim and ask my pardon? I fear I do not quite understand."

Dawson swallowed, and licked his lower lip quickly.

"I suddenly remembered seeing your picture in the London _Times_, and
reading about you, sir," Dave presently said. "You're Generalissimo
Chiang Kai-shek's new Minister of War, aren't you? And the head of the
Military Mission that recently arrived in England?"

"That's true." The Chinese nodded and smiled. "But I still fail to see
why you must beg my pardon."

"Well, for being sort of flip with my talk, sir," Dave said. "You're a
high government official, and--well, after all--"

"After all, are we not both men, Captain?" the other interrupted
quietly. "And are we not fighting the same foe, each in his own way?
Believe me, Captain, it is I who look up to you, because of the great
and fine things you have accomplished in the name of liberty and world
happiness. You, and your true friend, here. And millions of other brave
soldiers, too. Yes, I am a high government official, as you say, but
the higher a man gets the more he respects and admires those who do the
fighting, and shed the blood. They are the ones who are winning this
war, not we aged ones who are serving our respective countries in some
official capacity. _Youth_ will win this struggle, Captain. And youth
will win the peace, too. But--"

Soo Wong Kai paused. His face remained grave, but as he leaned slightly
toward Dawson there was a merry twinkle in his eyes.

"But what do you say we skip it, eh?" he chuckled. "Out the window with
who's who, and why. Until we must part, let's just be three guys named
Joe, huh?"

Both Dave and Freddy gulped hard, and then burst out laughing.

"Fair enough, it's a deal!" Dawson cried. "But I repeat what I said
just now. You've sure been around, Mr. Kai. But plenty!"



CHAPTER TWO

_Clocks Won't Wait_


For the next hour the English air ace, the Yank air ace, and the new
Chinese Minister of War would hardly have noticed a German Luftwaffe
bomb coming down through the dining-room ceiling. None came down, of
course, because the good old R.A.F. patroled the night skies outside,
and German night fliers had long since realized that the R.A.F. boys
could beat them to the punch any day in the week, and twice on Sundays.
Under pressure from the Chinese official, Freddy and Dave recounted
some of the experiences they'd had during the war. And under polite
pressure from them, Soo Wong Kai told them many interesting stories of
China.

"That's one country I sure want to visit before I die," Dave said after
a short silence. "It must be very wonderful in China. I've read quite a
bit about it, but I guess if you piled all the books about China one
on top of the other you wouldn't even begin to scratch the surface, eh?
If you get what I mean, sir?"

"Yes, I do, Captain," the other replied. "And I'm afraid you're quite
right. There has been a great deal written about China, but it would
take ten times as much to tell the story of the real China--the China
of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his people."

"There's a soldier!" Freddy Farmer spoke up with a vigorous nod. "What
a splendid leader, and what splendid troops he now commands. I quite
agree with Dave, sir. I, too, hope to visit China some day."

"And may that day come soon," Soo Wong Kai said gravely. "Soon, because
of the things you will see in China. And soon, because of the honor
such a visit would be to my country. China has come a long way, and she
still has a long, long road to travel. But we shall travel that road,
and we shall attain the goal at the end of that road. But there I go
sounding off, when I can easily see that you two gentlemen are doing me
the great honor of being polite. So--"

"No, you're wrong, sir!" Dawson spoke up quickly. "I'm enjoying every
second of this talk. And I know Freddy is, too. Believe me, sir, and
this is the truth: If I'm given the chance--which you can bet on that I
won't be--of picking the next front to fight on, I'll pick China right
off the bat."

"Hear, hear!" Freddy Farmer added his bit quickly. "Quite, sir. We were
almost there, when we were in Burma just before the States came into
the war. However, as Dawson says, if we have our choice next time, it
will most certainly be China."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Dave Dawson at Singapore._]

"And a happy day that will be for my struggling countrymen," Soo Wong
Kai said softly. "We have there, now, the Flying Tigers. True and
brave airmen they are. And China will never be able to repay her debt
to those gallant boys. What they have done for China is something no
nation and no people could ever hope to repay in full. And to have you
two fight on the China front would be much the same thing. Do not look
at me so, for it is the truth when I say that I have heard your names,
and your deeds, mentioned deep in my country. So, should your orders
ever carry you to China, all that China has to offer is yours for the
asking. And--Ah! But the truth embarrasses you, eh?"

Dawson grinned, and wished that some of the redness would go out of his
face. He liked praise just as much as the next fellow, but Soo Wong Kai
was sure hitting on all sixteen cylinders.

"Well, there's a couple of other fellows or so fighting in this war,
too, sir," he said with a little laugh. "But thanks just the same, sir."

"And thank you, Captains, for a most pleasant meeting," the Minister of
War said as he rose to his feet. "I shall always remember this happy
event. And it will be my perpetual wish that some day we will meet
again in my country. Again, thank you. And I bid you a heartfelt good
evening, Captains."

Both Dawson and Freddy leaped to their feet, stammered out their
thanks, shook hands with the Chinese, and remained at attention as he
walked away and out of the dining-room.

"Well, quite an event, what?" the English youth breathed after they had
reseated themselves. "Quite a splendid chap, eh? A very decent sort."

"Tops, and how!" Dave grunted, and pointed at their empty plates. "Go
on and say it, pal. I can read it in your eyes."

"Say what?" Freddy demanded. "And just what can you read in my eyes,
I'd like to know?"

"What you're thinking, and wishing," Dave said with a straight face.
"That he'd brought along one of his official buddies."

"You still aren't making sense!" Freddy snapped. "Speak up! Get it off
your blasted chest, whatever it is."

"As if you didn't know!" Dawson snorted. "If he'd brought along one of
his official buddies, why then there would have been more meat ration
coupons, of course. And you could have worked them for a second helping
of roast beef. Don't try to kid a pal, pal! You were kind of thinking
that, weren't you?"

"No, my little man," Freddy replied softly, and slowly reached for a
dish of pudding he hadn't touched yet. "But would you care to have me
_show_ you what I'm thinking _now_?"

"Do, sweetheart!" Dave growled, and reached for his own pudding. "And
you'll be combing pudding out of your hair, too. So--Sweet tripe,
Freddy! Let's dive in and finish this. We're due out at Croydon Airport
in a little over an hour. And we haven't packed, or paid the bill yet.
And you can bet your sweet life that that Newfoundland-bound bomber
isn't going to wait for us."

"Right as rain!" Freddy echoed behind a heaping spoon of pudding.
"Darned decent of the Air Ministry to give us a ride by air, instead
of having us make the crossing by water. A magic world, isn't it, Dave!
By this time tomorrow night we'll be dining in New York City. Magic
isn't the word."

"No, it's speed!" Dawson snapped. "Can the chatter, pal, and just
shovel it in. And I'll match you for the check."

"No, Dave, I'll pay it."

"What?" Dawson gasped. "Am I hearing things?"

"I said that I would pay the check," Freddy replied. "No! Not because
I am big-hearted, either. Simply to save the trouble of tossing coins
with you--and losing _as usual_."

"Oh, well, don't feel too bad, pal," Dave grinned at him. "You'll catch
on to how it's done, some day. Then you can make up for lost time.
However, just to prove that I'm a nice guy, I'll pay the check myself."

That last caused Freddy Farmer to go speechless. And he remained
speechless while Dawson took the check from the waiter and paid it in
full, plus tip.

"Wonderful!" the English youth breathed softly. "I have just witnessed
the miracle of miracles, and I don't believe I have the strength to
get out to Croydon Airport."

"Oh, Big-Hearted Dawson, they call me," Dave grinned. "Besides, I feel
pretty swell right now. And who wouldn't when he was about to head back
to the good old U.S.A.! Well, let's go, youngster. That bomber won't
wait."

A few minutes over an hour later the two youths climbed out of the
taxi in front of the Croydon Airport Administration Building, parked
their suitcases outside and went inside to report to Group Captain
Bainsworth, R.A.F. Commandant of the field. The senior officer smiled,
and nodded as they came to attention and saluted.

"Knew you chaps would be along presently," he said. "Squadron Leader
Hixon, your pilot, was in here a moment ago fretting that you wouldn't
show up in time. I assured him that chaps going on leave are never
late. You've proved that truth again. Well, Dawson, I fancy you're a
bit bucked up to be going back to the States, what?"

"Right on top of the world, sir," the Yank air ace informed him. "Not
that I don't like England, you understand, sir, but--"

"Quite," the senior officer broke in with a smile. "Any chap wants to
see his native land. And you, Farmer? Glad to be going along?"

Freddy half shrugged, and let a little sigh slide off his lips.

"It's quite wonderful out in the States, sir," he said. "But--well,
I try to be a good soldier and go where I have to. And this time,
it happens to be the States. Of course, I could do with a bit more
interesting company, but--"

The English youth shrugged again and made a little gesture with
his hands. The group captain chuckled, and Dave shot Freddy a
you-wait-until-we're-outside look. Then he grinned broadly.

"Well," the group captain presently said, "I guess the aircraft is
about ready. I'll go along out to it with you. Good luck, both of
you. And--well, have a marvelous time. Yes, quite! Be sure and have a
marvelous time. And the very best of luck."

The way the senior officer seemed to hesitate in saying the last couple
of sentences had a queer effect on Dawson. He gave the man's face a
keen look, but could read nothing there. Then, with Freddy, he thanked
him for his good wishes, and walked with him out of the Administration
Building, and over to where a revved up Lockheed "Hudson" bomber was
waiting at the far end of the field. They walked almost three quarters
of the way in silence, but when they got close to the waiting bomber
Group Captain Bainsworth slowed up to a halt and faced them.

"I say, a moment, you two," he said quietly. "A favor I want you to do
for me. After you reach New York, you'll be going on down to Washington
to say hello to Colonel Welsh, of U. S. Intelligence, no doubt. Well,
I have a letter I'd like you to deliver for me. It was sent out here
about half an hour ago. Better stick it away out of sight. Best not to
let anyone know you're carrying it, you know. Here."

Dawson happened to be standing closest, so he took the sealed envelope
that Group Captain Bainsworth slipped out of his pocket and handed
over. Dave didn't look at it, though. He looked at the group captain,
licked his lips, and frowned slightly.

"Yes, glad to, sir," he said. "But--well, there's the matter of the
censors, sir. On the American side, I mean. I may have to turn it over
to them for inspection. That be all right, sir?"

"Decidedly not, Dawson!" the senior officer replied gravely. "Let no
one see it. But don't worry. Take a look at the name and address, and
you'll understand why there's no need to show it to anybody but the
right party."

Dave held up the envelope and glanced at what was written on the
outside. Freddy Farmer took a look, too. And they both stiffened and
caught their breath. The envelope was addressed to--

    The Hon. Cordell Hull
    Secretary of State
    Washington, D. C.

"Jumping catfish!" Dawson choked out before he could check his tongue.
"But--but why doesn't this go by diplomatic pouch, sir?"

"I don't know myself, Dawson," the group captain told him. "For a good
reason, no doubt. I simply know that it arrived here half an hour ago,
along with instructions to turn it over to you two chaps for delivery.
Perhaps you'll learn the reasons in Washington. Perhaps not, too. No
matter, though. Just take it along, and don't let anybody get so much
as a look at it. Well, let's get on over to the aircraft."

"Yes, sure," Dave mumbled, and slid the sealed envelope into an inside
pocket. "It will be delivered, sir, without anybody else getting a look
at it--not even the censors."

"Splendid, splendid!" murmured the senior officer almost absently.
"That's the thing to do. Quite!"

A few moments later Dave and Freddy were in the bomber and Squadron
Leader Hixon was slowly opening up the engines to move the aircraft
forward toward the take-off runway.

"All aboard, pal!" Dave called out cheerfully to Freddy Farmer. "A
late breakfast in Newfoundland, lunch in the air on the way down the
Canadian coast, and dinner in little old Manhattan! Boy, oh boy! And
then sixty days of having fun!"

"Except when we have to make those blasted speeches for War Bonds!"
Freddy Farmer growled out as a tag line.



CHAPTER THREE

_Simmering Doom_


At almost the exact moment the Lockheed Hudson bomber cleared the
runway at Croydon Airport, and went nosing up into the night-shrouded
sky, a man entered the lobby door of a certain hotel in the West End
section of London, and took the elevator to the fourteenth floor. There
he got off, turned to the right, and walked along the corridor until
he reached the sixth door on the left. He faced it, and hesitated a
moment while he shot a sharp piercing glance back along the corridor.
Satisfied that he was alone, he reached out a bony forefinger and
stabbed the hotel suite button four times in rapid succession.

Thirty seconds ticked by, and then the door was opened a scant inch.
There was no light to be seen through the door opening, only pitch
darkness. And then a voice inside grunted, and the door was swung open
wider.

"Come in quickly, please!" a soft, hissing voice commanded out of the
darkness.

The man passed through into the darkness, and moved a little to the
side so that the door could be closed. He heard the latch click. And
then at a second click light flooded the suite sitting-room in which he
stood. He turned his head and met the eyes of the man who had opened
the door. He smiled coldly, and the corners of his mouth were a little
drawn and tight.

"You are nervous tonight, _Herr_ Kyoto?" he muttered thickly.

The one addressed as _Herr_ Kyoto smiled broadly, but only with his
lips.

"It is better to be nervous than to be a fool, my friend," he said in
his soft hissing voice. "A fool dies soon. And a dead fool is of no use
to his country, be he Japanese or German. You agree, yes?"

The man who had entered the hotel suite shrugged his massive shoulders,
slipped out of his heavy coat and threw it over a chair as he let his
big frame drop into another one.

"Perhaps yes, and perhaps no," he grunted, and watched the other glide
across the rug and settle like a butterfly in a chair that would
comfortably have held three of his half-pint size. "I cannot speak
for you Japanese, only for Nazis. And a man who can be a fool cannot
be a Nazi. At least, he can merely be one in name only. But I speak
just words. You may have a reason for your seeming nervousness? It
is possible that you are not so safe in London as you would like to
believe, eh?"

The Japanese smiled again, and once again it was only with his lips.
His eyes were still like those of a cobra on ice. He reached out his
thin right hand and rubbed the ball of his thumb back and forth across
the ends of his other four fingers.

"During my stay of twelve years here in England, my true German
friend," he said, "I have spent much money so that all would be well
when the day arrived. My money, my lips, and my hands have done all
that was necessary to prove that I am Japanese only by birth. It is
known, and believed, by all those of importance in England that instant
death awaits me should I ever return to Japan. That is as I wished,
and planned it to be. True, yes, I am often stopped on the street. I
am often politely conducted to the nearest police station by some fool
English official. But my papers are all in order. They have been so for
years. And so it is always an apology and my continued freedom in less
than five minutes. However, perhaps being nervous yourself causes you
to think that I am? Perhaps that is what you mean?"

The German's face became hard and brutal. He thrust out his right arm
to its full length, with his fingers extended.

"So!" he said harshly. "You don't see any trembling or quivering
of the fingers, do you? No, and naturally so. I have no time to be
nervous--about anything. I have time only to serve _Der Fuehrer_, and
the Fatherland."

"As in like manner I serve my Heaven-born Emperor, and Japan!" the
half-pint breathed out. "However, you and I need have no worry about
the other. Nor was this meeting arranged so that we might discuss such
impossible things. It was arranged for you to make a report to me, yes?
And you have a report to make, please?"

The Nazi lowered his head for a moment, and a look of angry contempt
glowed in his eyes. However, when he raised his head again his
twinkling eyes matched the smile on his lips.

"Yes, and a most interesting report, _Herr_ Kyoto," he said. Then,
after a quick glance at his wrist watch, he went on, "At this moment
the airplane is in the air and flying westward. They are both aboard.
And one of them must carry the document that was delivered to the
commandant of the Croydon Airport. My agent also told me over the
telephone that this commandant walked out to the airplane with them.
He saw the commandant hand something to one of them, to the one named
Dawson, so he believes. But because of the distance, and the bad light,
my agent could not tell which of them received what the commandant
gave. However, that is unimportant. We know, now, that one of them
carries a certain document."

"It would seem so, yes, _Herr_ Miller," the Jap murmured, and gave a
short nod of his head. "Forgive me, please, but we do not _know_ if
this be _truth_. Your agent saw something change hands, but he did not
see _what_ changed hands."

"Perhaps I should have instructed him to run out to them and ask?" the
Nazi sneered.

"It would have been foolish to do so," Kyoto replied, as though the
remark had sailed right over his head. "But I was only pointing out a
possibility, my friend. Like you, I am sure that the one called Dawson,
or the one called Farmer, carries the document. Had they not dined with
Soo Wong Kai I would wonder. But they did, and so I do not wonder."

The Japanese emphasized his words with a faint nod of his billiard
ball-shaped head. And for a moment or two the suite sitting-room was
filled with silence. Presently, though, the little brown rat of the
Rising Sun made chuckling sounds in his throat, and gave a little twist
of his head.

"These enemies we must fight and crush are strange people, indeed!" he
grunted. "They let two mere children, two young boys, perform a task
that belongs to grown men. It is difficult not to laugh in their faces
when I hear of them doing such things. No wonder they prove so weak,
and so stupid!"

"And lucky!" the German echoed savagely. "Those two, I mean. I had two
brothers, two of our greatest aces. This Dawson, and this Farmer, shot
them down. One over France. The other in Libya. It was over a year
ago. My brothers were killed. That American and that English swine
have probably forgotten all about those two air battles. They probably
do not know to this day the names of those they killed. But I know of
_them_. And I will never forget. It will be the greatest joy of my
life to let them know the truth--just before I destroy them as they
destroyed my two brothers."

"When _all_ is accomplished, may that joy be yours threefold,
my friend," the Japanese said softly. "But _not_ until _all_ is
accomplished. Personal desires must wait. There is something else a
thousand times more important. You agree with me, of course?"

The Nazi's face tightened, and he locked eyes with the Japanese. Being
of the "Master Race," he was filled with the sudden animal urge to curl
his thick fingers about the little brown man's neck and snap it as one
might snap a toothpick. His sense of treacherous cunning refused to
permit him the joy of doing that, however. These monkey men of the Far
East were of some use to _Der Fuehrer_ in carrying out his great and
wonderful plan for the world. So it was better to soothe and salve them
along until they, too, should be made slaves to serve the Fatherland.

And so _Herr_ Miller presently relaxed, smiled and nodded his
bullet-shaped head.

"But of course, _Herr_ Kyoto!" he exclaimed. "You need not have any
fears. We Germans win the battle first, and enjoy ourselves afterward.
No, have no fear. A certain document will never reach Washington D.
C. That is my promise. With my own hands I will turn it over to you.
_Der Fuehrer_ himself has so ordered. Nothing, then, shall stop me from
obeying that order."

The Japanese nodded politely, but a glint of worry came into his
slanted brown eyes.

"Yes, the true soldier always obeys," he purred. "But, speaking of the
little arrangement just between us two, the money is even now waiting
for the moment when you place that document in my hands. No one else
will know. However, I do not think that it can be earned with words,
words that we speak to each other here and now. There is an airplane
carrying that document westward at this moment--while you are here,
honoring me with your company. Time is short, and the distance from you
to that airplane grows longer and longer. But then, it may be that you
are a master of magic, yes?"

_Herr_ Miller laughed, and there was both amusement and scorn in the
tone.

"So you _are_ the nervous one, eh?" he echoed. "You worry that I let
those two little swine and their precious document slip through my
fingers? Ah! I am afraid that you do not truly understand us Nazis,
_Herr_ Kyoto. We plan for everything. We make sure that there will be
no failure, even before we start. _Mein Gott!_ You have only to look
at all that we have accomplished in two short years to believe for
the truth what I say. Yes, time grows short, and the distance grows
longer. But that matters little to me."

The German paused to puff out his chest, and set his jaw at an arrogant
angle. These stupid little brown men of the Far East! What swine to
think they could suggest things to Germans! But aloud, he said:

"In a few moments I will leave you, _Herr_ Kyoto. I will go to a
certain spot not many miles from here. Yes! Close to the shadow of
London itself. A German plane and a German pilot will be waiting for
me. He will take me far out to sea. The plane is very fast; so much
faster than this airplane that has the document aboard. Also, certain
of our U-boats well posted about the North Atlantic are keeping track
of that British airplane's journey. I will contact them by radio, and
will meet the one nearest to that airplane's course. By parachute I
will go down to the water's surface. The U-boat I select will pick me
up. A short time later it will be light. Then we will go to the surface
and watch for this aircraft. And when we sight this airplane?"

The German paused again, rubbed his hands together, and shook with
silent laughter.

"Then, _Herr_ Kyoto," he continued, "will be the beginning of a most
enjoyable little experience. And by the following day, at the latest,
you can expect me here in this room--with your precious document! It
will all be so very simple."

As the Nazi finished the Japanese rose from his chair, clasped his two
hands in front of him and bowed low from the waist.

"I salute you and bid you good fortune, _Herr_ Miller," he said in
his soft hissing tone. "I will await with joy and confidence for your
return. When the document of which we speak is in my hands, it will be
the same as the winning of a score of major battles. May good fortune
go with you, and the deep joy of your personal revenge be yours _after_
you have accomplished the main part of your mission."

The Nazi smiled and turned toward the door, but there was a look of icy
contempt in his eyes that the Japanese did not see. However, perhaps it
was not necessary for the Japanese to see that look of cold contempt,
for when the door had closed behind the Nazi the little brown rat from
the Far East curled his lips back in a snarl, lifted one hand and
sliced it edgewise through the air.

"When you return with the document," he hissed out in his native
tongue, "_then_ we shall see who is of the master race!"



CHAPTER FOUR

_Atlantic Mirage_


With its twin engines thundering out a mighty song of power, the R.A.F.
Lockheed Hudson bomber cut a straight and true path westward at some
eight thousand feet above the long rolling grey-green swells of the
North Atlantic. Higher up, a billion twinkling stars looked down on
a crazy world at war out of a cloudless night sky, and served as a
billion guiding beacons to that lone aircraft pointed dead on for the
Newfoundland coast.

Stretched out comfortably in the empty bomb compartment of the
Lockheed, Dave Dawson absently lifted a hand and pressed it against the
upper left part of his tunic. Underneath the cloth he could feel the
sealed envelope tucked safely away in the inside pocket. A moment later
he let his hand drop down into his lap and sat scowling faintly at
the rack of signal flares on the port side of the compartment. Then,
suddenly, as though he could actually feel it, he turned his head to
meet Freddy Farmer's curious stare. The English-born air ace nodded and
grinned.

"I've been combing my brains, too, old thing," Freddy said, "wondering
what in the world that envelope contains. Blasted odd that it should
be turned over to us for delivery. And to your Secretary of State, no
less."

"Yeah, screwy, all right," Dawson grunted. "Funny thing, though. The
way it was handed to us, it makes me feel as though I were smuggling
something into the States. You haven't got enough fingers on your two
hands to count the number of aircraft that are flying back and forth
across the Atlantic these days. And not a few of them are strictly
courier planes, too. So why wasn't this sent by one of the usual
courier planes, I ask you?"

Freddy Farmer sighed and shook his head.

"You can ask me," he grunted, "but I haven't the faintest idea what's
the correct answer."

"And you can say that again for me!" Dawson muttered. "Unless it's
because--Oh nuts! I'm just letting the old brain go for a stroll."

"Unless what, Dave?" the English youth prompted. "I know, I know! It's
probably another one of those crazy hunches of yours. But some of them
have come pretty close to the real thing in the past. So what's this
one about?"

"Come _close_, huh?" Dawson snorted, and gave Freddy a hard look.
"Plenty of them have smacked the nail right on the head. And you know
it, pal. But anyway, the only reason I can see why they handed this to
us is because they didn't want it to go by the usual method."

"Obvious!" Freddy Farmer snapped. "A ten year old child could reason
that out, silly! I thought you had a hunch on _why_ they didn't want it
to go the usual way. And while you're on the subject, just who do you
mean by _they_?"

"For a little guy you can sure ask plenty of big questions!" Dawson
growled. "Sweet tripe! How do I know? They could be most anybody. Maybe
the Yank Embassy in London. Maybe Yank G.H.Q. in London. And maybe the
Queen of Sheba, too! How do I know? I had lots of questions I wanted to
ask the group captain back there at Croydon, but after taking a look at
his face, I could tell it wouldn't get me to first base. Maybe he knew,
but it was my hunch he wasn't going to tell us."

Dawson paused a moment to lick his lips and shrugged.

"So who sent it is anybody's guess, and I'm not even bothering to
guess," he continued. "But about it not going through the usual
channels, here's what I think. The powers that be were afraid it would
be spotted, maybe even swiped, or lost. Maybe they knew that somebody
was wise to the fact that this was headed for Secretary Hull. So to
throw whoever it was off the beam, they sneaked it out to Croydon to
be taken across and delivered by us. Who would guess that a couple of
guys going to the States on leave would be carrying a letter to the
Secretary of State? See what I mean?"

"Yes, that's a possibility," Freddy Farmer grunted with a frown. "But
here's a funny thing, Dave. I didn't exactly _plan_ to pop on down to
Washington to say hello to Colonel Welsh. Did you?"

"To tell the truth, I hadn't even thought of it yet," Dawson replied.
"Of course, if we should be passing through D. C. I sure would drop in
to see the colonel. But it was just one of those things I'd probably do
while on leave."

"But Group Captain Bainsworth seemed to think that was just what we
were _going_ to do," Freddy argued. "And right after we reached New
York."

"Yeah," Dawson grunted, and looked at his English pal. "Or else it was
a left-handed order, and we're just catching on now."

"And that's a possibility, too," Freddy Farmer said with a grave nod.
"But--blast it!--we're supposed to be going on leave, and to forget the
confounded war for a spell--if we can. Which we won't, of course. But
there should be a law against filling up a chap going on leave with
mystery. There really should!"

Dave opened his mouth to speak. Instead, though, he bent his head and
faked a cough while he wiped the grin from his face. When next he
looked at Freddy, his eyes were bright and eager.

"Know what, Freddy?" he said. "I just thought up a way to find out all
the answers. Yes sir! And it's foolproof. We can't miss!"

"Really, Dave?" the English youth echoed excitedly, and leaned forward
a little. "How?"

Dawson winked very confidentially, and started to slip a hand inside
his tunic.

"A cinch way!" he said in a stage whisper. "And are we dumb not to
have thought of it until now! Tell you what, pal! We'll rip open the
envelope and see for ourselves. I bet you all the stored up coffee in
Brazil that it will be mighty interesting, too!"

Freddy Farmer sat up straight. The blood drained from his face, his jaw
sagged, and a look of utter horrified amazement came into his eyes.

"Good grief, Dave!" he gasped out. "Are you mad? Are you absolutely
balmy? Open that envelope? When it's addressed to Secretary of State
Cordell Hull? Good grief, Dave! Why--why--why, they could shoot you for
a thing like that. And besides, it was entrusted to us. For Heaven's
sake, Dave, don't you dare open--"

The English youth broke off short and choked and sputtered over his own
words as he saw the broad grin spread over Dawson's face.

"Boy! Do I get a kick out of the way you can change expressions on that
mug of yours!" Dave laughed. "Okay, sweetheart. Just for you I'll let
the envelope stay right where it is. But, pal, did you rise in a hurry
to the bait that time! Boy, oh boy!"

Deep red flooded Freddy's face, and he could only go on sputtering for
a moment or two longer.

"You no-good blighter!" he finally got out. "You almost had me
believing you for a moment. Blast you! For sixpence I'd take that
envelope away from you, and make sure that nothing happened to it!"

"Well, of course you could _try_, pal!" Dave grinned at him.
"But maybe they wouldn't like us to make a wreck out of this bomb
compartment. So let's skip it, huh? Besides, I think I'll go forward
and ride with Squadron Leader Hixon for a while."

"Do that, by all means!" Freddy Farmer snapped at him. "And observe him
closely. Perhaps he can teach you something about flying. Nobody else
has been able to, though, Lord knows, they tried hard enough and long
enough!"

"Smacko!" Dave chuckled, and pushed up onto his feet. "I walked right
into that one. So that evens us up. See you later, pal."

"Much later, if I get my wish!" Freddy snorted, and squirmed around to
a more comfortable position. "Now, run along, my little man. I've got
important things to think about."

Dawson let the conversation hang on a nail right there, and went
forward and into the pilots' compartment. The co-pilot's seat was
empty, and he caught Squadron Leader Hixon's eye in the rear view
mirror, and cocked a brow.

"Mind if I ride with you for a bit, sir?" he asked.

The pilot grinned, nodded, and jerked his head at the empty seat.

"Do that, Dawson, please," he said. "Been on the point of calling
somebody up here to help me keep awake. Blasted uninteresting flights,
these. Too much water, and too little anything else. But I fancy you're
just as keen to get it done with as I am, what?"

"It will be swell to get back home, and how!" Dave grunted, and slid
into the empty co-pilot's seat. "I've got a million things I want to
do, but I probably won't have the time to do even half of them. Time
flies too darn fast when you're on leave."

"How right you are!" the Squadron Leader echoed. "A chap no sooner
settles down to have a bit of sport and fun than it's time to pack up
and catch a train or bus back to the drome. But war's like that, of
course. Good times go by in a hurry. And--well, flights like this one
seem to take years and years."

"Well, dawn's busting over the horizon, anyway," Dawson consoled him.
"And it looks like we'll have sunshine and blue sky for the rest of the
trip. That--"

The Yank air ace cut himself off short, leaned forward and peered out
through the window glass on his side.

"See something?" Squadron Leader Hixon inquired casually.

Dawson didn't reply for a moment. He thought he saw something on the
surface of the water a few miles ahead and a couple toward the north.
It seemed to disappear from view, however, when he strained his eyes.
Then, suddenly, he saw it again, and his heart leaped up in his throat
to hit hard against his back teeth. Without taking his eyes off the
distant object, he reached and rapped Squadron Leader Hixon on the arm.

"Take a look up ahead there, and a couple of degrees to the north,
sir!" he cried out. "That looks to me like a submarine on the surface.
Yes, it is. But I can't tell from here whether it's one of theirs or
one of ours."

"By Jove, you're right, Dawson!" the Squadron Leader's voice boomed
close to Dave's ear. "A sub, right enough. And not making headway,
either. It's--Oh, blast our luck!"

"What do you mean?" Dawson shot at him.

"Not a U-boat," the pilot said with heavy disappointment in his voice.
"Can tell from the shape of the conning tower. It's one of our undersea
boats. Should know I'd never have the luck to come across one of
Hitler's U-boats on the surface like that. I'm--I say! Seems to be a
bit of trouble, what? They've sighted us and sent up a signal."

Dawson didn't make any comment for the moment. His gaze was fixed on
the submarine awash on the surface, and he saw the red distress flare
arc up into the air from the conning tower bridge. Squadron Leader
Hixon had changed course and was drilling the Lockheed Hudson down
across the sky straight toward the motionless submarine. In a matter
of seconds Dave was able to see the groups of men on the bow and stern
decks. And as a second and a third red distress flare arced upward, he
saw the men on deck start waving their hands wildly. And a split second
later he saw a thin column of smoke come up out of the conning tower
hatch.

"Trouble is right!" he grunted. "Must be a fire inside, which forced
them all up top-side. Nothing we can do for them, though, is there,
sir? This Hudson can't land in the water to pick them up."

"Certainly can't!" the pilot grunted with a frown. "Too many of them,
anyway, even if we could. The chaps are just out of luck, too. My
orders are for radio silence, regardless. I can't even send out a flash
to any of our navy boats that may be close by."

"That is tough!" Dave groaned, and watched the trickle of smoke come up
out of the conning tower hatch. "But we could change course, sir. I
mean circle around a bit and perhaps spot one of our patrol destroyers,
or something. Then we could drop a note giving them the location of
these poor devils."

"Yes, of course we can do that, and will," the pilot said. "A good
suggestion, Dawson. First, though, we'll slide down over them for a
closer look. There's just the chance that it isn't as bad as we think.
Maybe they just want to give us some kind of a message, and that fire
aboard is really under control."

"Well, here's hoping, and how!" Dawson breathed as the Lockheed went
sliding down lower and lower. "There's only one thing worse in my book
than fire in the air, and that's fire on the water."

"And aren't you right!" the Squadron Leader echoed, tight-lipped.
"Well, here goes for a better look at the chaps."

"What a sweet spot to be in, I don't think!" Dawson grunted. "A fire
right under their feet, and about four miles of ocean under the fire. I
hope--Hey! What gives?"

Dawson hardly realized that he had choked out the last. As a matter of
fact, the words he spoke were simply automatic, for in the next split
second his brain was in a mad whirl. The forward gun of the submarine
had suddenly spat red and orange flame upward. And in practically
the same instant the starboard engine of the Lockheed exploded in a
thunderous roar of sound, and a sheet of vivid red flame went sweeping
back over the wing!



CHAPTER FIVE

_Ice Cold Courage_


For a seemingly year long split second it was absolutely impossible for
Dawson to get control of his whirling brain. And it was obviously the
same with Squadron Leader Hixon, for the pilot just sat motionless in
the seat, gaping wide-eyed out at the flame and smoke pouring out of
all that was left of the starboard engine.

"They nailed us!" Dawson suddenly found his tongue. "Their bow gun.
A bull's-eye on the starboard engine. Better level off, sir! We're
heading down too fast!"

As a matter of fact, Dawson's wild yell of alarm wasn't necessary.
The squadron leader had snapped out of his trance, and was battling
furiously with the controls. But like a wild horse with the bit in its
teeth, the Lockheed Hudson went screaming downward toward the rolling
grey-green swells of the North Atlantic. What was left of the blasted
starboard engine started flying off in small pieces. One chunk of metal
smashed straight into the window close to Dawson's head. He ducked just
in time as a shower of slivered glass came spilling in on him.

Then terror seemed to explode in his chest as he saw the squadron
leader slump over against the control wheel. The flying chunk of metal
had carried on past Dawson to glance off the pilot's helmet. Its force
was not enough to rip through the helmet and snuff out the man's life.
But it had been enough to knock him cold and send him slumping forward
over the control wheel. Even as Dave glanced at the man, he was in
action himself. With one outflung hand he forced Hixon back in the
seat. And with the other he swung the control wheel over to a position
in front of him. Then he grasped it with both hands and took up the
struggle that Squadron Leader Hixon had left unfinished.

However, it was almost as though the Lockheed had become something
human, and gone just a little mad. It was as though the aircraft
actually realized that it was master of its own fate, and were savagely
hurtling downward to smash itself to bits, as well as the bodies of the
men it had aboard. Face grim and strained, and lips pressed tight,
Dawson battled the crippled plane with every ounce of his strength.
Twice he succeeded in getting the nose up and the craft back onto even
keel. However, a good portion of the damaged starboard wing had been
ripped away by the furious slip-stream of the plunging bomber, and no
sooner would it get on even keel than it would flop over on the damaged
wing, and struggle to wham right down to the vertical.

Whether more shots were fired from the guns of the mysterious submarine
below, Dawson didn't know. Nor did he dare take his attention off
the bomber for one split second to take a flash look. If noise meant
shooting, then the submarine was hurling up everything it had aboard,
for there was a continuous thunder in his ears. However, the sound
could well have been caused by the violent vibration of the diving
plane, plus sections of the starboard wing breaking free. But what
caused the continuous thunder was the least of his worries. In fact,
he didn't even give that item a second's thought. If the Lockheed hit
those grey-green swells nose on it would be curtains for fair. Not
even a Heaven-sent miracle could save a man's life from that kind of a
crash. That kind of thing just didn't happen.

"Up, baby; up, pal! Come on! Up with it, and take it steady. Come on!
Up--up--_up_!"

From a long way off Dawson heard his own pleading, commanding voice.
A day of doom thunder was in his brain, now, and there was a terrific
pounding in his chest as though his heart would burst out through his
ribs at 'most any second. And down there before his eyes the grey-green
water came surging, lunging upward. And then, suddenly, the nose of the
Lockheed came upward for the third time. How, or just why, he didn't
have the faintest idea. Maybe Lady Luck or the gods of good fortune had
reached down and given invisible help. The fact was that the bomber
seemed to realize that it did have a master, and was grudgingly obeying
that master's commands.

At any rate, the nose came up until the aircraft was on an even keel.
On an even keel, with the belly of the fuselage not fifteen feet over
the grey-green swells. Dawson had long since killed the port engine,
and so there was but one thing to do in the few split seconds of time
allowed. Before the plane could flop over on its damaged wing again, he
hauled the nose even higher. That killed off flying speed and brought
the bomber to a stall. For a century long instant it seemed to hang
dead motionless in the air, with its nose slanted up several degrees
toward the clear dawn sky. Then it quivered violently and dropped belly
first toward the water like ten ton of loose brick. A split second
before it hit, Dawson spun half around in the seat and flung both arms
about Squadron Leader Hixon, and braced hard with both feet.

The crash landing gave him the crazy thought of an express train
ripping through a stalled freight loaded with empty tin cans. The roar
of sound was deafening, and a wave of darkness surged up out of nowhere
and tried to engulf him. And to make it all quite complete, a hundred
or so little unseen demons stepped up and sledge-hammered every square
inch of his body. When his brain stopped spinning long enough for him
to take stock, he found that the force of the crash had flung him clear
across the pilots' compartment, so that he was completely shielding
Squadron Leader Hixon with his body. He also was able to realize that
the pilot had regained consciousness, and was gaping up at him out of
wide and still slightly dazed eyes. Dave grinned, tight-lipped, and
heaved himself off the man.

"You hurt bad, sir?" he choked out. "Can you move? We're down in the
water now. Got to get out of here before the nose goes under."

For answer the squadron leader straightened up in the seat and shook
his head. Then he spoke.

"Quite fit," he said. "Thanks to you, of course. Something must have
cracked me one on the head. Right-o! Let's get aft and see if the
others are all right."

Dawson didn't hear the last because he was already ducking through
the door and back toward amidships. After a couple of steps his eyes
focussed on the scene, and his heart leaped with relief. The crew,
and Freddy Farmer, were none the worse for wear and tear. They had
obviously realized that a crash landing was inevitable and had braced
themselves for the jolt. But even at that the force of the crash had
spilled them around like peas in a can. They were slowly picking
themselves up off the belly floor as Dawson came down the catwalk.

"Anybody hurt?" he shouted.

A general mumble in the negative assured him that the worst could be
no more than a few bruises here and there. And then Freddy Farmer was
standing beside him, eyes flashing.

"You and Squadron Leader Hixon gone completely balmy?" the English
youth barked. "What in the world did you mean by sliding down so close
to a U-boat? Why in thunder didn't you stay high? There're no depth
bombs aboard. Or didn't Squadron Leader Hixon know?"

"_U-boat?_" Dawson choked out. "You're nuts, pal! It was one of ours!
And is the fur going to fly because those blind men took a pot shot at
us! They fired distress flares, and Hixon--Ye gods! Look, will you!
Look!"

Dawson practically gagged out the last as in that moment he had
unconsciously turned his head and looked out through one of the bomb
compartment ports. There, not seventy yards away, was a German U-boat
nosing slowly through the water toward the crashed Lockheed. Its
superstructure wasn't even close to that of British design. And what
was even more convincing was the black cross edged in white that was
painted on the sides of the conning tower.

"The blighters! The low-down tricky blighters. They had her rigged up
to look British. But now they've tossed the camouflage overboard and
are showing their own dirty colors. And what about me? Good grief! I
should be thrown right out of the R.A.F. for this stupid bit!"

It was Squadron Leader Hixon who had gasped and groaned out the
words. He had come aft to join Dawson, and seen for himself through
the compartment port. His face was drawn and haggard, and he wore
the utterly bitter expression of a man who wants nothing but the
opportunity to crawl away and cut his own throat.

"My mistake as well as yours, sir," Dawson spoke to him quickly. "She
certainly looked English when we started down. The dirty rats! Waited
until we were so close they couldn't miss with that bow gun. What a
sweet mess this has turned out!"

"Well, it won't get any better if we just stand here," Freddy Farmer
said quietly, and pointed at the two inches of sea water that already
covered the compartment floor. "I suggest that we go top-side, and at
least not give them the satisfaction of seeing us drown like so many
rats!"

"That's showing the old brains, pal," Dawson grunted. "You're dead
right! Up we go, everybody. That she's heading over here must mean that
she plans to take survivors prisoners. So--well, it could be worse. And
more than one fellow has escaped from a German prison camp."

Dawson grinned cheerfully as he spoke the words, but in truth his heart
was heavy as lead. And then, suddenly, as he caught Freddy Farmer's
eyes on him, his heart seemed to stop beating altogether and freeze up
in a solid ball of ice. The English youth's eyes were not fixed on his
face. On the contrary they were fixed on that part of his tunic that
covered his inside pocket. And although Freddy didn't move his lips
to say anything, he didn't have to. In a flash Dawson remembered the
envelope addressed to Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Could--could that envelope be the reason for all this? Was there any
connection between that envelope addressed to Cordell Hull and the
mangy trick the U-boat had played in shooting down the Lockheed?

The two questions stumbled a burning path through his brain. And
although he tried to thrust them aside as utterly fantastic, they
remained fixed and fast to taunt and torment him as he climbed top-side
with Squadron Leader Hixon, Freddy Farmer, and the four members of the
bomber's crew. And as if that weren't bad enough, the envelope tucked
away in his inside pocket began to feel like a plate of white hot steel
burning away the skin of his chest.

By the time all had reached top-side, and were staring at the U-boat
creeping closer and closer, the Lockheed was well down by the nose, and
the damaged starboard wing was completely under water. For one crazy
instant Dawson wondered why those Hitler-mesmerized killers aboard
the U-boat didn't head off in the opposite direction and leave them to
a watery fate, which would come in a very short time. But even as he
wondered about that, the burning sensation of the sealed envelope in
his inside tunic pocket seemed to give him the answer.

"Well, if it's true," he whispered to himself, and started to slide his
fingers inside his tunic, "then they're going to have fun trying to get
it!"

He gave a faint nod of his head for emphasis, and then reached up with
the others to grab hold of the rope that came curling through the
air from the bow of the U-boat. They all caught it, and one of the
Lockheed's crew quickly made it fast about the opened fuselage hatch.

"Pull yourselves over!" a harsh voice came from the conning tower
bridge of the U-boat. "And if you swine try any tricks, you will all be
dead men. Hurry! Pull yourselves over. I do not wish to remain here all
day! Hurry!"

A fitting remark rose to Dawson's lips, but he choked it back and took
his hold on the rope. Slowly the half submerged bomber was pulled
over until it was bumping against the hull of the U-boat. A couple of
square-headed Nazis caught hold of it with boat hooks, and held on hard
while the voice on the conning tower bridge snarled out the next order.

"Jump aboard, you fools! Be quick about it. Fall overboard and you can
save yourselves. We won't! So be quick about it!"

It was no time for those on the top of the Lockheed to put up any
argument. And so one by one they leaped across the three feet of open
water, caught hold of German hands outstretched and clambered up onto
the sea water-dripping deck of the U-boat. Dave was the last to leave
the doomed Lockheed Hudson. And when his feet touched the wet deck, he
ignored the hands reached out to help him, and turned around to stare
back at the bomber.

"Happy landings, old girl!" he said softly. "And don't worry. You've
got thousands of sisters and brothers that will carry on for you. So
long!"



CHAPTER SIX

_Action C.O.D._


Steel claws slammed down on Dawson's shoulder, and spun him around.
Close-set pig-like eyes blazed into his, and thick lips twisted back in
a snarl.

"What are you trying to do?" the owner's voice roared in his ears.
"What kind of a trick is this? You think you can still escape, eh?"

Dawson stared steadily at the huge man, who wore a seaman's jacket over
civilian clothes. He stared steadily, then grinned, tight-lipped, and
shrugged a little.

"You'd never guess, Nazi," he said evenly. "And even if you did, you
wouldn't understand. Only white men would!"

The German bunched one huge fist, and it looked as though he were going
to smash it straight to the Yank's face. As a matter of fact, Dawson
expected just that, but he did not regret his words. He was too filled
with boiling rage to care what he said to these Naziland-born butchers.
However, the German seemed to think better of his first intentions. His
face remained puffed and red with rage, but he relaxed slightly and was
content to stab Dawson with his pig-like eyes.

"We will see about that tongue of yours later, Captain Dawson!" he
rasped out in a voice that shook and trembled. "Yes, later, we will see
about many things. Now, go aft with these other swine. And if you wish
a bullet in your swine skull, then just try another trick on me! So!
Move along, you dogs!"

With their hearts and hopes down in their boots, but with their heads
high and their jaws squared, the little group from the doomed Lockheed
permitted themselves to be herded to the conning tower and down into
the bowels of the U-boat. And from the central control room they were
shoved and cuffed forward to an empty torpedo storing chamber. The air
was thick and foul, and it was difficult to breathe. However, not one
of them so much as made a face. They were ordered to sit down on a
steel bench, and they did so without a word of comment, and with a look
of calm defiance on every man's face.

When they were seated, the man in civilian clothes and the commander
of the U-boat stood in front of them and swept them with leering,
triumphant eyes. Then the commander spoke to the other in German.

"My congratulations, _Herr_ Miller," he said. "It was as simple as you
promised it would be. Too bad we were forced to cast all that clever
superstructure camouflage adrift. We might have been able to use it
again before we return to the St. Nazaire base."

"Yes, it was very simple," the one addressed as _Herr_ Miller grunted
back, and toyed with a small but deadly Luger he held in his big hands.
"But it is perfect planning, and thoroughly knowing your swine enemies,
that makes things so simple. Do not forget that, _Herr Kommandant_.
But I think we had better submerge at once. There are many British
patrols in these waters. I can do what I came to do under water as
easily as on the surface. But send one of your men in here to assist
me in keeping an eye on these dogs. Two of them have the reputation of
being reckless, stupid fools. And I do not wish to deal with them until
another little matter is settled. So send one of your men in here, at
once."

"_Ja, ja!_" the U-boat commander replied, parrot-like, and turned and
ducked out through the compartment door.

Hardly had he disappeared when his place in the compartment was taken
by a hefty Nazi sailor wearing the familiar look of meek obedience and
Teutonic dumbness from the neck up. At a word from _Herr_ Miller, he
took up a position where the Luger in his hands could be trained dead
on any man in the bat of an eyelash. _Herr_ Miller glanced over at him,
nodded his approval, then let his leering gaze slide back over the row
of prisoners. He gave a jerk of his head, and a jerk of his Luger.

"Empty your pockets, at once!" he rasped out, and let his leering gaze
rest for a full second on Dawson's face. "Empty your pockets and toss
everything on the deck here at my feet. The swine who does not empty
out everything will be shot instantly!"

For a couple of seconds not one of the prisoners moved. Then Dawson
chuckled softly and began tossing his personal belongings down onto the
compartment's steel deck.

"Might as well give him his selection, fellows," he grinned at the
others. "He's holding the gun, he and his brother rat."

"Silence, swine!" the German thundered, and practically waved the
barrel of his Luger in the Yank's face. "And let me remind you, you
American dog, if you do not empty out _everything_, I will shoot you on
the spot!"

Dawson looked up at the man, and although he kept a thin grin on his
lips, there was nothing but a chip of ice in his chest.

"Okay, _Herr_ Miller," he replied in the man's own tongue. "I'm tossing
out everything I've got. And you can strip me, and search my clothes
if you want to. But I just want to ask one question. It's important to
_both_ of us, _Herr_ Miller!"

The Nazi narrowed his eyes, and gave Dawson a hard, searching stare.
Then he grunted and nodded.

"And what is the question?" he demanded in German.

"Has the Lockheed gone under yet?" Dawson asked with forced calmness.

The Nazi blinked, and looked just a trifle startled.

"But of course!" he finally rasped out. "It was sinking when you fools
came aboard. By now it is halfway to the bottom."

"Yeah?" Dawson echoed softly. Then with a head shake of mock pity,
"That's tough--for _you_, _Herr_ Miller. You should have made the
Lockheed empty _its_ pockets--if you get what I mean?"

The Nazi started to speak, but checked himself and slid his narrow-eyed
stare along to Freddy Farmer's face. The English youth was taking
a bunch of keys from his tunic pocket. He stopped the motion for a
moment, stared innocently back at the Nazi, then flipped out his hand.

"Here, catch, old bean!" he grunted. "The key to the situation, you
know, what?"

The German's brain was much too slow for his reflexes. He automatically
caught the bunch of keys as they came sailing through the air, and
stared down stupidly at them. Then he bellowed out an oath and flung
them down onto the steel deck.

"So!" he bellowed. "You swine dogs dare me to shoot, eh?"

"Why not?" Dawson cut right back at him in a flash. "It might as well
be now as later. But you're still out of luck, _Herr_ Miller. _We
haven't got it!_ I left it aboard, and you'll have to do some diving,
what I mean."

As Dawson clipped out the words, he held his breath, and kept his gaze
riveted on the German's face. But it wasn't more than a split second or
two before he knew beyond all doubt that the fantastic, and the utterly
incredible was indeed the truth. A Nazi U-boat, cleverly camouflaged
as a British submarine in distress, had shot down an R.A.F. Lockheed
Hudson for just one purpose: to capture its crew alive and secure a
sealed envelope that this _Herr_ Miller _knew_ was carried by someone
aboard. Moreover, he knew that that someone was either Freddy Farmer or
himself.

The conglomeration of inner emotions that swept across the Nazi's face
told Dawson the truth. And if he needed any further confirmation, he
received it right after he spoke again.

"That's right, _Herr_ Miller," he said evenly. "There's our stuff on
the floor. Strip us and search our clothes, if it will make you feel
any better. But you won't find a certain sealed envelope. No, not
unless you do some fancy diving and reach that bomber. You see, stupid,
we had _our_ orders, too. And you can guess what _they_ were!"

Wild, angry dismay flooded the Nazi's face. Not yet accustomed to
dumbfounding defeat, he was unable to maintain rigid control over his
emotions. His eyes popped out, and then popped back in again. His jaw
sagged, and his lips moved, though he didn't utter a sound. His hands
shook, and the beet red came surging up into his flat, moon-shaped
face. Dawson knew that the danger point was close, very close. The
German had been flung far off balance, and in the next second or so the
animal training in him would get the upper hand. Cold, common sense
would go flying out the window, and all that would be left would be the
savage lust to butcher and slaughter.

And so Dawson half stood up, and tore off his tunic.

"It's the truth, _Herr_ Miller!" he shouted, and started to rip open
the seams. "Take a look, stupid! You see anything hidden in the lining?
Take a look and weep, you fathead. See any sealed envelope? See
anything that interests you? I told you that I left it aboard. Okay!
See for yourself. Here! Take a darned good look!"

As Dawson spoke the last he held out his ripped tunic with his hands.
He practically shoved it right under the Nazi's nose. And then, as the
German automatically looked down at it, the Yank air ace practically
exploded in a whirlwind of action. He flung the tunic straight into the
Nazi's face. He slapped down his right hand, caught the Luger by the
barrel and twisted it free. His other fist he smashed to the German's
jaw, and one knee he brought up hard into the Nazi's belly. And then,
in what was practically a continuation of the original movement, he
reversed the Luger in his hand, half turned, and drilled a single shot
at the pop-eyed Nazi sailor. The bullet hit the steel plate right
behind the sailor's left ear. And that was close enough. His own gun
dropped from his fingers, as he flung both hands high in terrified
surrender. And the Luger had hardly struck the deck before Freddy
Farmer had dived from a sitting position on the metal bench and scooped
it up. But Dawson didn't see that fast bit of action. He didn't because
he was busy clipping _Herr_ Miller one for good measure on the back of
the skull as the man fell down. That done with, he shot a look over at
Freddy Farmer and grinned broadly.

"Nice going, pal!" he chuckled. "But I'll give you a kiss later. We've
got things to do, right now. Okay, you fellows. Get behind Farmer and
me. Maybe that shot of mine was heard, and we haven't got time to lose."

"But, good grief, Dawson!" Squadron Leader Hixon gasped out. "What in
the world can you do? There must be thirty Nazis, at least, aboard this
thing, man!"

"That's right!" Dawson shot back at him. "And I'll bet not one of them
has any hankering to drown! Catch on? Okay. Stick close while Freddy
and I rush the central control room. Okay, sailor! Step along ahead of
me!"

As Dawson spoke the last he whipped out his free hand and caught the
scared stiff sailor by the arm, and yanked him over and shoved him
through the compartment door leading to amidships. He and Freddy Farmer
kept right at the German's heels. Like blockers running interference
for a ball carrier, they went charging into the central control room.
Dawson saw the U-boat commander turn from his post at the periscope
sight. He saw the anger that flooded the Nazi's face as he recognized
the sailor, and right after that the look of dumbfounded fear that
glazed the man's eyes as he caught sight of Dawson and Freddy Farmer
right behind.

Perhaps it was just a nervous twitch of the U-boat commander's hand. Or
perhaps he actually did start to reach up for his holstered Luger. At
any rate, Dawson didn't wait to find out which. He squeezed the trigger
of the Luger he held in his own hand, and the bullet snipped a button
off the German's jacket before it smacked into the radio panel on the
far side of the control room.

"Don't move, anybody!" Dawson thundered in German. "Get stupid, any one
of you square-heads, and we'll all go to the bottom, to stay for good.
I--"

The Yank choked off the rest, half turned, and fired the Luger. A
thin-faced, hawk-nosed junior officer had tried to snatch up a gun and
shoot across his chest at Dawson. His gun didn't even have a chance to
go off. Dawson's bullet caught him in the chest, spun him like a top,
and dumped him flat on his face, to stay there motionless.

"Anybody else want to play?" the Yank grated, and swept his eyes over
the four or five other Germans in the control room. "Suits me swell, if
you want to. So just start something. Go ahead, you Nazi slobs!"

There was a moment of silence, save for the whine of the electric
motors driving the U-boat down below the surface. Then its commander
made sounds in his throat and licked his lips.

"What do you want?" he choked out. "You are prisoners. Not one of you
will live to tell of this madness."

At that moment, and for reasons that Dawson couldn't even understand,
a flood of war memories swept across the screen of his brain. He
remembered scenes of Nazi-slaughtered men, women, and children. He
remembered scenes in which houses, villages, and mighty cities had
been laid flat in smoking, stinking ruins by the Nazi hordes. He
recalled the floating dead bodies of Yank, British, and other United
Nations seamen from ship upon ship sent diving to the bottom by
Hitler's ruthless U-boat commanders. A hundred scenes of horror and
death that made the rage seem to freeze like lumps of ice within him.
Lips tight and eyes hard, he stepped over to the U-boat commander and
gun-whipped him with the Luger across each cheek.

"Dry up, rat!" he grated as the Nazi reeled back, moaning with pain.
"Just get this steel fish up on the surface, or I'll put one right
between your fishy eyes. Come on! Snap out your orders! And don't get
the idea I don't understand German. You get us top-side, and pronto,
or we'll wreck this tub, and all go down together. Step on it, you.
Top-side we go, and in a hurry!"

The German shook and shivered, and tried desperately to summon what
little courage he had left. But true to the German type, when he no
longer held the whip hand there was nothing but cowardly yellowness to
him. And he almost fainted with fright as Dawson suddenly drew a bead
on a point square between his eyes.

"Don't! Don't shoot!" he sobbed out. "I will do as you ask. I will
give the order to surface the U-boat."

"And tell everybody to stay right where they are at their posts, too!"
Dawson barked at him. "The first Jerry to stick his face inside this
control room will get you a slug right in your fat face. Get it? Okay!
Do your stuff!"

The U-boat commander trembled some more, then picked up the inter-com
phone and gave the necessary orders. Dawson watched him like a hawk,
and with ears tuned to every German word the man spoke into the
inter-com. Then, when the U-boat trembled and started up by the bow,
a great sense of joyous relief flooded through him. But he didn't let
any of it show for an instant on his face, or in the agate hard eyes
he kept fixed on the U-boat commander. He didn't worry about the other
Germans in the central control room, because he knew that Freddy Farmer
was keeping an eye on them. As a matter of fact, at just about that
same moment he felt rather than saw his English pal at his elbow. And
then he heard Freddy's quiet voice.

"What a shame you've already received all the medals they give out in
this war, Dave," the English youth chuckled. "Certainly deserve one for
this little bit. Though, of course, it didn't actually happen, you
know. Just a mad dream!"

"You telling me, sweetheart?" Dave shot out of the corner of his mouth.
"I won't even ever believe this, myself. But keep your eye on those
other birds. They might dive for their--"

"Hardly!" Freddy Farmer interrupted. "I've collected all their guns.
I'll show them to you sometime when you're not so busy."

"Do that, pal," Dave chuckled. "And get set to crank open that conning
tower hatch just as soon as we hit surface. There might be a plane or
two up there cruising around. Or maybe a British destroyer."

"What a cheerful chap!" Freddy groaned. "And do I hope you're all wrong
about _that_!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

_Yankee Bluff_


The next few moments seemed to Dawson to be year upon year stretching
slowly out to their fullest extent of time. During every ticking second
he kept his gaze fixed steadfastly on the U-boat commander, and held
the Luger in his hand steady and ready for instant action, if need
be. However, there was no need for that kind of action. Perhaps the
German read the truth in the Yank's agate eyes, and realized beyond
all possible doubt that Dawson would squeeze the trigger of the Luger,
if he was forced to, just as sure as the Lord made little apples. Or
perhaps the Nazi was still so paralyzed with fear that he couldn't have
moved a single muscle, if he'd wanted to, but could only stand there at
the periscope's base sight, and stare with glazed eyes back at the man
who had him covered.

And then suddenly, the German seaman at the depth gauge board grunted
out the fact that the U-boat was awash on the surface. Dawson didn't
turn his head to glance over at him. He still kept his eyes fixed on
the commander, and spoke out of the corner of his mouth.

"Okay, Freddy," he said. "You, and Squadron Leader Hixon, and a couple
of the others go top-side, pronto. Yell back down if you see anything.
Better take along a couple of those flares, even if it is daylight. The
two who don't go up with you can park down here and help me keep these
rats in line. Give them each one of the guns from your collection."

"Right-o, Dave!" the English youth replied. "I'll go top-side and take
a look. But if I don't see anything, I think we'd better make use of
their radio, what?"

"Bright lad," Dawson grunted. "Okay, get set."

As the Yank spoke the last he leaned forward slightly so that the
muzzle of his Luger was just a few inches closer to the spot square
between the U-boat commander's eyes.

"Up conning tower hatch, you!" he grated out. "And if we _aren't_ on
the surface, it's going to be just as tough for you as for the rest of
us. So--"

Dave chopped off the rest, swung his Luger in a short arc and squeezed
the trigger. A bull-necked Nazi sailor charging through a door behind
the commander took the bullet smack in the chest and fell down in a
heap. A gun he had half raised bounced when it hit the steel deck, and
went skidding away. Dawson swung his eyes back to the senior officer,
who was now having all kinds of difficulty keeping his knees from
buckling.

"Catch on?" Dawson snapped. "I never kid, stupid, when I make a
promise. And I made one to you. Remember? Okay! Up with that conning
tower hatch!"

The Nazi could only bob his head up and down violently. Then the words
poured off his lips like raging flood waters going over a broken dam.

"I do not lie, _Herr_ Captain!" he gasped out. "We are on the surface.
Yes, yes! It is so. I would be a fool to drown us all by ordering the
hatch to be opened while we are still below the surface. I would be mad
to do that. I do not wish to die--that way!"

"Well, there are other ways, if you don't snap it up!" the Yank
reminded him with a significant gesture of the Luger. "So step on it,
my little Nazi tramp. Step on it!"

The U-boat commander did just that, but during the few seconds it took
to issue orders and get the hatch open Dawson's heart stood still, and
he held his breath clamped in his lungs. After all, there was just
a wild chance that the commander did have a little stiffness in his
backbone! However, the man had had more than enough. And like all of
his type, when it came to the matter of his own life, he could change
from a blustering, arrogant hireling of Hitler to a cringing, sniveling
whimperer in practically nothing flat.

And so he did just as he was ordered, and presently the conning tower
hatch was opened, and clean, fresh ocean air was pouring down inside to
cut the thick, heavy U-boat stench.

"Stop daydreaming, pal!" Dawson snapped, as Freddy Farmer made no move
toward the companion ladder. "Get up there and do your stuff, in case
somebody has already sighted us. I sure don't want to be kissed now by
any made-in-England depth bomb. Scram!"

"You go, Dave," the English youth argued. "You've earned a smell of
fresh air. I'll watch these blasted Jerries."

"Nothing doing!" the Yank snapped. "Up with you. This is more fun, see?
Maybe some other dope will stick his head through a door. I can do
with a little side-arms practice. Get going!"

Freddy didn't bother arguing after that. With Squadron Leader Hixon,
and a couple of the Lockheed's crew, he went scrambling up the
companion ladder, and out onto the conning tower bridge. Down below,
Dawson and the remaining two of the Lockheed's crew kept their eyes
and their captured Lugers fixed on the Germans in the central control
room. Seconds ticked by to add up to a minute. And the minutes added
up to total three, then four. Tension began to tell on Dawson, and a
whole flock of little worries and doubts began to play about in his
brain. True, he was standing guard over the "nerve center" of the
U-boat. And true, his prisoners were the commander and his junior
officers. Just the same, he couldn't hope to keep the situation just
as it was indefinitely. Maybe the commander and his officers were
cringing cowards, but that didn't guarantee that it was the same with
every member of the U-boat's crew. Maybe there was a hero or two among
them who would rather take death than capture and imprisonment. Or, at
least, perhaps there was one among them who might crack easily. One
who might go clean off his nut, and do anything, such as open the sea
valves, to break the terrific, tormenting strain. And whether a brave
hero or a man gone mad opened the sea valves and let the ocean come
pouring in, the _result_ would be the same!

And so, as each new second ticked by, another little bead of cold,
clammy sweat formed on Dawson's forehead. And with each passing instant
of time he had to battle harder to keep from showing his nervousness by
yelling up to Freddy Farmer to find out if anything had been sighted.
Finally, when his nerves were so tightly drawn that they threatened
to snap and fly off in small pieces at almost any second, he suddenly
heard the welcoming sound of the English youth's voice.

"Cheerio, Dave, old thing!" Freddy shouted down the hatch. "Luck of the
Devil for us, for fair. The King's Navy, no less, Dave, my lad. What a
beautiful sight to see, and--"

"Save it!" Dawson roared back at him. "What in thunder _do_ you see?"

"A British cruiser, of course!" the English youth told him. "Didn't I
say the King's Navy? Well, there she is, and coming right for us. Happy
days are here again, what?"

Dawson gave a little shake of his head, and dropped the crazy
conversation. He realized that Farmer's joy at sighting a British
cruiser, which had come up out of nowhere, had sent him just a little
joyously haywire for the moment. As a matter of fact, Dawson's own head
felt a little light, and he almost smiled at the U-boat commander as he
jerked his head upward and gave the order.

"Top-side for you!" he said in German. "A British cruiser is bearing
down toward us. Get up there and get an eyeful. Hey, Freddy! Stupid is
coming up! Keep your eye on him. I'll be up in a minute."

Right after he had shouted the last in English to Freddy Farmer up
on the conning tower bridge, Dave turned to the two members of the
Lockheed's crew who had remained below decks with him, and gave them a
happy grin and a nod.

"Okay, up you go, too," he said. "And thanks for giving me a hand down
here. Too bad we didn't get some--"

"Watch it, sir!" screamed one of the R.A.F. men. "Down with you!"

Dawson had already dropped low and twisted around. He saw the blurred
figure of _Herr_ Miller charging toward him, and saw the Nazi's
outstretched hand spit flame and smoke. Something plucked at his tunic
sleeve, and almost spun him around. His feet were too well braced,
however. And in the next split second the sound of his own gun blended
with the crack of the guns held by the two R.A.F. men. All three
bullets hit _Herr_ Miller, and the man was stone dead before his feet
left the deck as he went toppling over backwards, and down. Dawson
swallowed hard and glanced down at the bullet hole in his tunic sleeve.

"Thanks for the yell," he said to the man who had given the alarm. "And
thank God he was a rotten shot. Tough that he's dead, though. I've had
the hunch that he was Gestapo. I'd hoped to take him alive and learn a
thing or two. But maybe it's just as well that he's that way. One less
rat to worry about. Well, let's go."

Dawson motioned the other two up the companion ladder, and then,
after barking a cautioning word or two to the live Germans still in
the central control room, he backed slowly up the companion ladder
and then quickly scrambled out of the hatch and onto the bridge. In a
flash Freddy Farmer was by his side and pointing excitedly at a British
cruiser standing off about a quarter of a mile to starboard while it
launched one of its motorboats.

And a little over fifteen minutes later another of Hitler's U-boats had
made its last trip, a trip that took it straight down to the bottom of
the North Atlantic. Its officers and crew were prisoners of war aboard
the cruiser. And in the cruiser captain's quarters, Squadron Leader
Hixon was giving a glowing account of all that had happened.

"It was Captain Dawson all the way, I fancy, sir," he finished up with
a grin. "The rest of us were simply the audience. But an audience that
will never forget his performance, you can be sure. Fact is, when I
return to England I'm certainly going to recommend that he be mentioned
in Orders, and be cited for a decoration. Truth to tell, sir, it was
all so incredibly wonderful that I'm still wondering a little if it
actually did happen."

"Well, if it's all right with you, sir," Dawson spoke up, his face
flaming red with embarrassment, "let's just say that it didn't, and
forget the whole thing. Frankly, it was just bluff, and a barrel of
luck. Those two things, plus Jerry brains that can't turn over very
fast in the clinches. So if it's all the same to you, sir, I'd--"

Dawson let the rest hang in the air as there came an urgent knock on
the door, and the senior radio officer came in with a yellow slip of
paper in his hand.

"An answer from your report to the Admiralty, sir," he said, and handed
the yellow slip of paper to the senior officer. "But it's from the Air
Ministry, sir."

Dawson and Farmer unconsciously stiffened, and exchanged glances. Then
they looked at the cruiser's captain. The officer scowled at the yellow
slip for a moment, then looked up quickly to meet their gaze.

"Seems that you two chaps were in a bit of a hurry, what?" he said with
a faint smile, and tapped the paper with the fingers of his other hand.
"This is a special radio request from the Air Ministry--a request to
launch you two chaps off in one of our planes, and let you finish your
journey by air. A bit of courier work, eh?"

Dawson almost shook his head, but just in time he recalled his little
bluff scene with _Herr_ Miller in that empty torpedo store chamber
aboard the U-boat. At that time Squadron Leader Hixon and the others
had of course tumbled to the fact that he and Freddy were supposed to
be carrying something of importance--something that _Herr_ Miller had
been ready to kill to obtain. So it would be silly to deny it now.

"Yes, sir," he said instead. "Yes, you might call it that, sir. But how
did the Air Ministry--"

"Find out about your rescue?" the cruiser's captain interrupted with
a chuckle. "Routine, I fancy. Any reports on our aircraft, and flying
personnel, we radio to the Admiralty are immediately telephoned over to
the Air Ministry. Obviously the Air Ministry wants you to get on with
the job at once, and can't wait for us to get to the States. Hence,
this request."

"And--and are you granting it, sir?" Dawson asked as casually as his
inner eagerness would permit.

The cruiser's captain looked stern, and scowled darkly. And then,
perhaps because of the fading hope he saw in Dawson's eyes, he smiled
broadly, and nodded.

"I fancy so," he said. "After all, you two chaps have got just so much
_leave_ coming, you know. Haven't the heart to make you spend any more
of it than you have to aboard my ship. Probably never hear the end of
it from the R.A.F. chaps. Get enough ragging from them as it is. So
right you are, then. You can take one of my planes. But see that you
deliver it in New York in good shape, mind you! We'll pick it up in a
week or so. Not that a cruiser really needs aircraft, you understand.
However, the blasted things do have their uses now and then."

"Yes, of course, sir," Dawson replied, refusing to rise to the bait.
"And thank you, sir, for granting the request."

"Quite, sir," Freddy Farmer echoed politely. "At any other time both
Dawson and I should love to--"

"Not likely, you would!" the senior officer growled. "You flying chaps
hate blue water. Much prefer blue sky. But you're all a little balmy,
of course. Give me a good solid deck under my feet, and--But never
mind. Birds of different feathers, and all that. Hop along below, and
clean up. I'll have flying gear routed out, and one of the seaplanes
made ready. Good luck, and all that sort of thing."

A few minutes later Dawson and Freddy Farmer were washing off U-boat
dirt and filth in a cabin turned over to them by one of the cruiser's
officers. They had set to work on the cleaning job in silence, but
presently Freddy Farmer couldn't hold back the words any longer.

"What rotten luck, eh, Dave?" he said with a heavy sigh.

Dawson wiped soapsuds from his eyes and squinted over at him.

"Huh?" he ejaculated. "Rotten luck? You mean to do it in a few hours
instead of days aboard this tub? You gone nuts?"

"Of course I don't mean that!" the English youth snapped back at him.
"I don't fancy cruisers any more than you do. I'm speaking about
that confounded business aboard the U-boat. About that envelope for
Secretary Hull. Of course you did the right thing to get rid of it in
the bomber. But it would have been wonderful if we could have managed
to save it."

"That's what I figured," Dawson grunted through the towel on his face.
"So I decided to take the chance, pal."

In a flash Freddy Farmer was across the cabin and had him by both arms.

"What?" he cried. "What did you say, Dave? You don't mean--?"

Dawson shook himself free, and chuckled.

"What else?" he demanded, and picked up his ripped and torn tunic off
the bunk. "Sure thing, kid. I took the chance of tossing _Herr_ Miller
for a loss with a couple of loads of good old Yankee bluff. So I called
the turn right on him before he could get set. I told him I'd ditched
the thing, and held out my tunic and started ripping open the lining
to get him all mixed up. And--well, he was a nice guy and _did_ get
all mixed up--and dropped his guard, you might say. Gosh, Freddy, just
think! That darn letter was right there in the pocket of the tunic I
shoved in his face. Maybe he even heard the paper crackle. See? Here
'tis, Freddy. A bit wrinkled, but maybe the Secretary of State will
forgive us for its appearance."

Dawson had pulled the wrinkled envelope from the inner pocket of his
tunic and was holding it out to Freddy Farmer. However, the English
youth didn't touch it. In fact, he backed away slowly and sat down hard
on the edge of the bunk. And his face was one great picture of absolute
dumbfounded amazement.

"Good grief, good grief!" he gasped over and over again. "Good grief,
you actually _did_ do it, Dave! Will miracles never cease! Why, I never
would believe that--"

"See?" Dawson cut in with a sad shake of his head. "You save the bum's
life, and you pull rabbits out of a hat, and the guy has the nerve to
tell you he doesn't believe you. He--"

"I didn't say any such thing!" Freddy cried. "I simply said that I--"

"Now, don't try to get out from under!" Dave shut him off and waggled a
finger. "I know perfectly well that you--_Blub_!"

The last was as the wet towel came into his face. And for the next
couple of minutes the cruiser's captain would have had sixteen
epileptic fits if he had stuck his head inside that cabin and seen
those "flying chaps" roughhousing it out with wet towels and gobs of
soapsuds!



CHAPTER EIGHT

_Home Again_


The dimout hour for the eastern seaboard of the United States was
not many minutes away as Dawson slid the cruiser's seaplane down to
a perfect landing in the La Guardia Airport basin. As soon as he had
settled, he taxied over to the mooring ramp where attendants took over
and tied up. Then Freddy and he stepped ashore and started for the
Customs Office.

"Fine lot we've got to declare!" Freddy Farmer spoke for the first
time in quite a while. "What with our bags still aboard that Lockheed,
and down at the bottom of the Atlantic. I'll never forgive the Jerry
beggars for that dirty trick."

"Nuts to baggage!" Dawson cried cheerily, and sucked air deep into
his lungs. "We're home, pal! That's what counts. Hot dog! Get a load
of this Yankee air, Freddy. It'll do wonders for that flat chest of
yours. It--Hey! What are you grabbing my arm for?"

The English youth didn't answer. He simply grabbed Dawson's arm with
one hand, and pointed the other at the door of the airport's Customs
Office. The Yank air ace took a good look, and stopped dead in his
tracks.

"Holy smoke!" he gasped. "Boy! Do they keep tabs on the comings and
goings of you and me, pal! That's Colonel Welsh, of U. S. Intelligence.
How in thunder did he know we were landing here?"

"Perhaps that cruiser's radio," Freddy grunted. "Or maybe direct from
the Air Ministry. But he's here, right enough. And here he comes. Funny
thing, though, Dave."

"What's funny?" Dawson prompted when Freddy didn't continue.

"The feeling I've got," the English youth replied in a low tone. "I
suppose it's a bit rotten of me to feel this way, but--well, to be
perfectly frank, Dave, I don't think I'm greatly overjoyed that Colonel
Welsh is here to meet us."

"Huh? Not glad that--?" Dawson began, and stopped short with a gulp.
"Oh-oh! I get you, pal. And check and double check. I've got that same
feeling. Colonel Welsh isn't the one to take time out to greet a
couple of guys going on leave."

"Of course, he could be just making sure that we carried right on down
to Washington," Freddy Farmer murmured.

"Oh, sure, sure!" Dawson grunted. "And maybe, too, he just wants to
know how the weather was when we left England. Nope. No soap, Freddy.
Much as I like the colonel, and he _is_ one swell person, whenever
he pops into the picture you can bet your bottom dollar that there's
something cooked up for you to do."

"Yes, quite," Freddy sighed unhappily. "But it was a wonderful leave we
spent--at sea."

"Couldn't have been better, unless we'd spent it on dry land," Dave
shot out of the corner of his mouth. Then, as the Chief of U. S.
Intelligence came within earshot, he said, "Well, well, hello, sir! We
certainly didn't expect to see you."

"No, Dawson?" the senior officer chuckled as he returned their salute,
and then shook hands with them both. "Not disappointed, I hope? Got the
flash you'd been launched from that cruiser, and so I flew right up to
meet you. Well, you two have been mixing up in it again, as usual, eh?"

"Wasn't any of our doing, sir," Freddy Farmer grinned. "Sort of forced
on us, you might say. Forced on Dawson, rather. He's quite a hero.
Better than a story book hero, and all that. Why, Colonel, if it had
not been for Captain Dave Dawson, we'd--"

"Okay, okay!" Dave interrupted. "The colonel is an old friend, Freddy.
He knows us both. Skip it, pal. But, Colonel, is it all right to ask
what brings you here?"

For a split second the Intelligence Chief stiffened. His thin face even
paled slightly, and he shot a quick glance back over his shoulder.

"You didn't bring it?" he asked sharply. "You lost it, or were forced
to destroy it?"

"We have it, sir," Dawson told him quietly, and started to reach for
his tunic pocket. "We're to turn it over to you?"

"No, no, don't!" the colonel said quickly. "Not here. Just wanted to
know that you have it, so I won't have to make other plans. Well, it's
time to eat, I'd say. I've arranged with Customs, and the Military, so
come along with me. I've got my car. You're putting up for the night at
the Astor. Suite of rooms all reserved for you. So we might as well eat
there. And I want to hear of your latest venture, with all the details,
of course. But let's get going and--Well, what do you know! I haven't
yet said that I'm glad to see you. However, I certainly am--much more
than either of you may realize."

Some three hours later, Dawson leaned back in his chair in the Astor
main dining-room, and vaguely wondered if his tunic buttons were going
to stay on, or pop and go sailing across the room. It was his first
made-in-America meal in many, many months, and without any prompting
from Colonel Welsh he had started at the top of the menu card and gone
right down the list. Freddy Farmer was still eating, but then, he was
starting down the list for the second time.

"Well, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at anything you two pull
off," Colonel Welsh suddenly broke the moment or two of silence. "But
this latest is certainly tops for sheer nerve."

"And bluff," Dawson interrupted with a chuckle. "Just plain bluff,
and one hundred per cent good luck. And if you want the honest truth,
Colonel, if anybody had ever told me I'd try for a crazy long shot like
that, I'd have told them they were nuts from away back. And that's a
fact."

"Bluff, or luck, you did get away with it, Dawson," the colonel said
with a smile. "And that's the important thing. But let's get off the
war for a little while. Tell me, how does it feel to be back in the
United States, you two? Of course, Dawson, I've got a pretty good idea
how you feel about it. What about you, Farmer?"

The English youth smiled and gave a shrug.

"I fancy it's all right, sir," he said. "I've always been very fond of
America, and there's no reason why I should change now. Of course, I'd
have much rather spent our leave in England, but Dave, here, pulled one
of your American tricks on me, and I had to come along."

"He's just a hard-headed guy, sir," Dawson explained as Colonel Welsh
looked puzzled. "We tossed for it, two out of three, and I won. He
still can't get it out of his head that it wasn't crooked."

"But you see, Dave," Freddy spoke up gravely, "I've known you so long,
and so well."

"Ouch!" Dawson cried, and clapped a hand to his jaw. "And to think
he's the ungrateful cuss whose life I saved a few hours back. But you
can bet your life, Colonel, he wasn't making any of his smart cracks
_then_! You should have seen the way he gazed at me. Such dumb appeal,
and befuddlement, and helplessness in his eyes. Reminded me of a little
kitten I once found lost in a snow bank. Only difference was the kitten
didn't give me the high-hat afterward. Okay, my little man! Next time
we're stuck aboard a U-boat _you_ can get us out of it!"

"Not a chance!" Freddy said quickly. "Because if I've got anything to
say about it, and I hope I'll have, I'm never going to step inside one
of those things again."

"Amen to that!" Colonel Welsh breathed.

The trio lapsed into silence for a few minutes after that. Freddy
Farmer was content to go on eating, Colonel Welsh seemed to be mulling
over some serious thoughts, and Dave was wondering whether or not this
was the right place or time to bring up a most important subject. A
most important subject, and one that had been worrying him not a little
ever since they'd landed at the La Guardia Airport basin. In short,
the envelope addressed to Secretary of State Cordell Hull that he
still carried in his inside tunic pocket. Rather, the envelope he had
transferred from his ripped and torn tunic to the fresh and clean one
that had been sent up to the hotel suite.

Apart from Colonel Welsh asking that single question as to whether or
not they had brought the envelope, not a word had been mentioned about
it. And that fact had Dawson worried, plenty. No, not exactly worried.
It had him more bewildered and befuddled. He was sure that the
Intelligence Chief had come up to New York to accompany them down to
Washington and present them to the Secretary of State. But the senior
officer hadn't even said he was going to do that. In fact, he hadn't
spoken about anything that he was going to do. He'd simply rushed
them over here to the Astor, seen that they were comfortable, that
clean uniforms and so forth were sent up, and then had gone away to
return in an hour and take them down to dinner. And all during dinner
the conversation hadn't once touched on the sealed envelope still in
Dawson's pocket.

Was it possible that this _was_ just a friendly meeting? Was it
possible that Colonel Welsh didn't know anything about the sealed
envelope? Was it possible that the Chief of U. S. Intelligence didn't
have a darned thing cooked up for Freddy Farmer and himself? Those and
hundreds of other questions whirled and spun around in Dave's brain, as
he relaxed comfortably in his chair and let his eyes roam absently over
the well filled dining-room. He wondered plenty about those thought
questions, but there was one thing he _wanted_, not wondered. That was
to get rid of the confounded envelope. It had come much, much too close
for comfort to spelling curtains for Freddy and himself. He would
be glad when he was rid of it, and the sooner that time arrived, the
happier he would be.

"That envelope you're carrying for Secretary Hull, Dawson--" The
Colonel's words seemed suddenly to explode in his ears. "You've got it
with you? Or are you carrying it, Farmer?"

Dave jerked his head around, gulped, and nodded.

"Yes, yes, sir, I've got it," he said.

The colonel reached out his hand as though he were asking for the salt
and pepper.

"I'll take it," he said. "Give it to me. You're probably pretty sick of
carrying it around by now."

Dawson hesitated a moment, completely at sea as to just what to do. The
orders at Croydon Airport had been to deliver it in person to no one
but the Secretary of State. Of course, Colonel Welsh was different. If
he couldn't be trusted, then--

"It's all right, Dawson," the other's quiet voice broke into his
scrambled thoughts. "I realize just what you're thinking. And I don't
blame you. However, the Secretary is out of Washington for a few days,
so you can give it to me."

"Yes, sure, sir," Dawson gulped. "But--but right _here_?"

"It's all right, don't worry," the colonel said quietly.

Dawson didn't hesitate any more after that. He had been given an order
by a superior officer, and there wasn't anything he could do but obey.
So he reached inside his tunic, took out the wrinkled and slightly
dirtied envelope and handed it over.

"The mailman fell in a mud puddle, sir," he said in a half-hearted
attempt at humor. "Sorry."

Colonel Welsh looked at him and grinned. Then as both Freddy Farmer and
Dawson stared pop-eyed, he ripped open the flap of the envelope and
took a quick look inside. He smiled again, and nodded, and stuck the
envelope in his own inside tunic pocket.

"Fine, boys, fine!" he grunted. "This may mean a lot of changes in
this war. But let's forget the war. I guess you haven't heard that
story that's going the rounds about the private and the sergeant of the
guard? It's very funny."

The Chief of U. S. Intelligence made a little gesture with one hand and
hitched his chair closer to the table. Then he casually took a cigar
from his pocket, and took his own sweet time about lighting it up. And
then, just as Dawson was about to explode in confusion, he heard the
colonel's low voice carry to him through the cloud of cigar smoke.

"Act as though this one were a howl," he said. "But keep your ears
open, and listen carefully. You, Dawson! When I pick up my dessert
spoon, let your napkin fall down under the table. Go down after it, and
when you get down you'll see another envelope held between my knees.
Snake it into your napkin and sit up again. And when you get the chance
slip that envelope into your pocket. All right. Here goes with the
story. Show lots of interest, and grin and chuckle!"

With that the colonel paused a moment, and then started in on a long
drawn out story about a private and a sergeant of the guard. But Dave
only heard every other word, if that many. His brain was spinning
like a top, and a crazy, cockeyed jumble of thoughts were having a
wonderful time playing leap frog. And all the time he watched to see
when Colonel Welsh would pick up his dessert spoon. What in thunder
was all this about? What other envelope? And why was the Colonel being
so cagey about how he was to get it? Holy smoke! Hadn't he just handed
Secretary Hull's envelope across the table? Why should the colonel get
fancy and make him do tricks to get another envelope he held between
his knees? Or was it that something very heavy had dropped down on the
Intelligence Chief's head since their last meeting, and the man had
gone just a little screwy?

Dawson had no idea, and it was utterly useless even to try to guess.
His war experience had taught him to try to take things in stride, and
expect 'most anything, and 'most everything. The minute you stopped
to figure out the whys and wherefores of things that happened in this
crazy war, you were sunk. And so Dawson half listened to the long drawn
out story, grinned or chuckled in what he hoped were the right places,
and kept half an eye on Colonel Welsh's dessert spoon.

And then, suddenly, the senior officer picked it up and dipped it into
the untouched dish of ice cream that was before him. A split second
later Dawson gave his napkin a shove so that it dropped off his knees
and down under the table onto the floor.

"Excuse me a second, sir," he said, and pushed back his chair a little.

He ducked his head down, and reached for the napkin on the floor. It
was there, of course, and so was a letter sticking out from between
Colonel Welsh's knees. In one lightning-like motion Dawson scooped
up the napkin, flipped it over the extended letter, and sat up in his
chair again with the napkin back in his lap, and the envelope safely
hidden under it.

"... And so that's why Private Jones swore he'd never be a sergeant of
the guard," Colonel Welsh said, and grinned broadly as Freddy Farmer
burst into laughter.

"That's top-hole, sir!" the English youth cried. "Very, very funny,
really!"

"Sure is a pip, sir," Dawson said as he forced his own lips to grin
broadly. "I must remember that one. I sure must."

"I thought it was pretty good, myself," Colonel Welsh nodded. Then,
as he seemingly decided against the ice cream, he went on, "Well,
how about a walk around New York in the dimout? It's like high noon
compared to London and the other cities across the Pond. But maybe
you'll get a kick out of it."

"Well, it's New York," Dawson grinned, and pushed back his chair. "So
that makes it okay with me. Okay with you, Freddy?"

The English youth cast a fond parting glance at the menu, and shrugged.

"Right you are, then," he said. "Perhaps on the way back we can pop in
some place for a midnight bite, what?"

"Not a chance, pal," Dave said, and threw a quick wink at Colonel
Welsh. "Wartime rules and regulations. I read about them in England. No
male or female over fifteen years of age can have more than seven meals
per day."

"_Seven_ meals per day?" Freddy Farmer echoed, and looked puzzled.

Dawson nodded at the collection of empty dishes in front of where the
English youth had been sitting.

"And if that lay-out didn't total up to _eight_ full meals, then I
don't know my groceries," he said. "So come along, before the head
waiter hails a cop to haul you in for busting the law so soon!"

"Blast if I wouldn't stay here and wait for him," Freddy said with a
long sigh, "if I only knew that the food in your American jails was as
good as this!"



CHAPTER NINE

_White TNT_


After the blaze of lights, the countless intricate neon signs, and the
thousand and one other things that made New York night life famous
the world around, the dimout condition was a strange thing indeed to
witness. Strange, and interesting, and so utterly unreal to a native
Yank who had seen the city so many times before Hitler drew his bloody
butcher's sword.

Yes, strange, and interesting, and quite unreal. But not to Dave
Dawson. Nor to Freddy Farmer, for that matter. For the very simple
reason that they were two youths with a great big absorbing problem on
their minds. Rather, it was a great big question mark, that neither
of them could begin to figure out. And so they could very easily have
strolled through the streets of the New York World Fair and not paid
much attention to what they saw.

And as they walked up Broadway, and over to Fifth Avenue, and on down
around the Grand Central section, it was all Dawson could do to refrain
from blurting out the one and obvious question in his mind. In short,
what in thunderation was this second sealed envelope all about? Just as
the first one had done, this second envelope was practically burning
holes in his tunic pocket. It was the same overall size as the other
one, but it was considerably fatter than the first. By fingering it he
could guess that there were several folded sheets of paper inside. And
stiff paper, too, he imagined. This second envelope didn't "give" so
much with the movements of his body. Fact was, whenever he bent over
quickly a corner of it would stick into his ribs.

And, as had happened once before, his thoughts were all on a certain
sealed envelope in his inside tunic pocket when suddenly Colonel
Welsh's voice broke right through his train of thought.

"Relax about that thing in your pocket, Dawson," the senior officer
said in a low voice. "You'll both get full explanations in a little
while. First, though, I want to make sure of something. Take it easy,
and let's walk back to the hotel along Forty-Second Street. Good old
New York. I'm not a native here, but I always loved this town."

"Me, too," Dawson said with a grin and a nod. "They say that if you
hunt long enough and hard enough in New York you can find a touch of
every other country in the world in it."

"True as the day you were born," Colonel Welsh agreed instantly.
"Including Hitler's Gestapo."

"Eh?" Freddy Farmer gasped out. "What was that you said, sir?"

"The Gestapo," the Colonel repeated in a low voice. "At least, I'm
willing to bet my shirt on it. Spotted him in the Astor dining-room,
and he's been tagging along after us ever since."

A wild urge to turn around and look back swept through Dawson. However,
he killed the urge and kept his eyes front.

"Then he must have seen you take that envelope, sir," he said quietly,
"In the dining-room."

"That's what I hope," Colonel Welsh replied quietly. "And the way he's
tagging around after us now seems to indicate as much."

"The dirty blighter!" Freddy Farmer muttered. "What's the chap look
like, sir? Let's duck around the next corner, and give the beggar
something to think about when he comes around. Matter of fact, sir,
why have you been letting him tag us around?"

The Chief of U. S. Intelligence didn't answer that question at once.
Instead he came to a stop and nodded his head toward a small all-night
restaurant on the other side of the street.

"Not that we're hungry," he said, "but let's go in there for a small
bite or two."

"A splendid idea!" Freddy Farmer replied enthusiastically.

"It always is, with you!" Dawson growled. "Me, I won't be able to look
food in the face again for hours."

"Full up, myself," Colonel Welsh grunted. "But that's a good place
to talk. It's half empty now. We can get a corner table where we can
keep an eye on the door. Then, if our little Gestapo friend--and, of
course, I could be wrong--comes inside, you can get a good look at him.
But let's go in and rest the feet, anyway. And I'll try to give you a
little bit of the picture."

A few minutes later the trio was seated at a corner table in the
all-night restaurant, and the waiter had taken their orders. Coffee and
sinkers for Dawson and the colonel, and a three-decker sandwich for
"starving" Freddy Farmer.

"First, I'll answer your question, Farmer," Colonel Welsh began in a
low voice. "I'll answer it by saying that sometimes it's better to let
a spy go free than to throw him into jail, or put him in front of a
firing squad. The reason, I think, is fairly obvious. Throw a spy in
jail, or shoot him, and he is no longer useful to anybody. But, on the
other hand, let him go free, and keep your eye on him, and oftentimes
he'll lead you to bigger fish. But in the case of this chap we think is
following us around, I'm not dead sure that he is Gestapo. True, I'm
just about as sure as I can be, but we haven't as yet learned exactly
where he fits into the Axis picture of espionage in this country.
So we've been giving him plenty of rope, in the hope that he'll
unknowingly add to our knowledge of Axis activities in this country."

The senior officer paused for a moment to grin, and give a little shrug
of his shoulders.

"He's following us around," he said presently, "but one of my men is
also following him around. So, as you might say, we're keeping tabs on
him both coming and going."

"I had a hunch that was so," Dawson grunted. "Didn't figure you'd carry
that envelope around and present your unprotected back to any trailing
Nazi. But I still don't get the idea why you had me hand it over in
plain view of anybody who was there to take a look."

"Yes, I know," the colonel said with a chuckle. "I've been watching
both of you go quietly screwy wondering what it was all about.
And--well, what I'm about to say will give you both quite a jolt,
considering your little experience out there on the North Atlantic.
But before you both hit the roof, give me a chance to explain. The
sealed envelope you two escorted across the ocean contains nothing but
a few sheets of blank paper. And not blank paper with invisible writing
either. Just plain blank paper you could pick up in any ten-cent store."

Both Dawson and Farmer stiffened as though they had been shot in the
back. For a long minute both held their breath clamped in their lungs
as they stared at Colonel Welsh out of wide, disbelieving eyes. Then,
finally, Dawson managed to regain control of his tongue.

"Maybe you'd better repeat that, sir," he said with an effort. "That
envelope addressed to Secretary of State Cordell Hull was nothing but a
lot of blank paper? And Freddy, and I--?"

"That's right," the other replied quietly. "Just blank paper. And you
and Farmer darned near lost your lives over a sealed envelope of blank
paper. But--well, it was something like the stunt you pulled on that
_Herr_ Miller, Dawson. The very fact that you were so eager to have him
search you convinced him that you _didn't_ have what he wanted. And
that conviction baffled him so, that you were able to catch him off
guard, and get away with your colossal bluff. In other words, by doing
the one thing he didn't expect you to do, you made him believe that you
had done the exact opposite."

The Chief of U.S. Intelligence took time out for a moment to light up a
cigar.

"Well, we did something the same way, you might say," he continued
presently. "But I'll have to give you a bit of history by way of
explanation. At a recent meeting between Prime Minister Churchill and
President Roosevelt, and their respective staffs, a detailed agreement
was reached regarding the vitally important matter of military and
economic aid to China. The entire program was mapped out in detail.
And after the meeting a pledge was drawn up--a secret pledge to
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the Chinese peoples. It was perhaps
one of the most secret documents drawn up in this war thus far. It
contained everything. Amounts of guns, tanks, planes, ammunition, and
so forth to be delivered by England and the United States to China.
The supply routes to be followed. Dates of arrival. Troop strength,
flying strength, and ground crew strength, and so forth. Plus locations
of air bases selected by an Air Forces commission recently returned
from China. In short, everything that China wants, needs, and wishes to
know."

The senior officer paused again to take care of his cigar that had gone
out.

"Well," he continued as blue cigar smoke drifted ceilingward, "all that
was drawn up here in the States, and signed by the necessary parties.
Then it was sent to England for English signatures. Right there we
threw Axis rats, who had got wind of the document, off the track for
a short time. It seems that they expected it all to be drawn up in
England, and sent over here for signatures. So they kept watchful eyes
on all our courier planes, diplomatic pouches, and such, ready to leap
and strike the instant that document was on its way back to the States.
Naturally, for the Axis boys to get their hands on that agreement would
be worth a dozen victories in the field. Not only would they learn
what we could, and could not, do for China, but they could use it as a
powerful propaganda weapon against China. Particularly, the Japs could
use it. Imagine how the brave Chinese would feel to find out first
from their enemies what their allies were going to do for them! It
would put the war in the Far East back a full year, at least. So it was
absolutely essential to keep this agreement a perfect secret, get it
to Chiang Kai-shek's hands by a fast route the Axis spies would least
suspect, and then let Chiang Kai-shek decide what parts of it he would
let be made public, and what parts would continue to remain a secret."

"Which, of course, ruled out the usual diplomatic channels," Dawson
grunted as the senior officer paused for breath. "Or even a special
courier. The Axis rats would probably smell out both angles."

"Exactly as we figured it," Colonel Welsh grunted, with a nod for
emphasis. "_But_, to make doubly sure of everything, it was decided to
cross up the Axis agents in England. In other words, to actually slip
it into a diplomatic pouch bound for Washington by plane, _but_ make
it appear that we were trying to sneak it out of the country by secret
courier. By the way, did you two enjoy meeting Mr. Soo Wong Kai?"

Dawson and Farmer sat bolt upright again.

"And how, particularly Freddy, here!" Dawson gasped. "But--? Oh, so
that wasn't just one of those things, eh? He was part of the picture,
too?"

"Very much so," Colonel Welsh replied. "And it worked out just as we
hoped it would. Axis eyes saw him meet with you. They saw him hurry
back to the Air Ministry. They naturally figured that he was giving
his okay on you two taking the document out of the country. They were
unquestionably dead sure when they saw an Air Ministry courier later
tear out to Croydon Airport. And it's ten to one they actually saw the
Croydon commandant turn an envelope over to you. What they _didn't_
know was that the real envelope had actually left England by air twelve
hours before!"

As the senior officer paused, Dawson gulped and wiped a hand across his
forehead.

"Boy! Am I glad I was in the dark all the time!" he breathed. "For a
bunch of blank paper I don't think I'd have been so keen to stick my
neck out."

"Quite!" Freddy Farmer echoed. "Though, of course, I wouldn't have
remained the blasted Nazi's prisoner any longer than I could have
helped."

"I know just how both of you feel," Colonel Welsh said softly. "In
a way, it was a low-down dirty trick to play on you two. A trick
that might have cost two lives the United Nations can ill afford to
lose. But if and when you get to thinking about it being a raw deal,
try and remember this. You never would have been chosen for that red
herring mission if we hadn't had absolute faith that you two would put
it across. And that you did simply confirms the faith that the High
Command has in you two."

"Well, thanks, sir," Dawson mumbled. "But don't worry about me thinking
it over. I want to forget it, and how. From now on every time I see a
batch of blank paper I know doggone well that I'll break out in a cold
sweat. But just the same, it does make me feel good to know that Freddy
and I have that degree of the High Command's confidence, whether we
deserve it or not."

"Yes, quite!" was all that Freddy Farmer could add to his pal's
statement.

"Well, it's certainly deserved!" Colonel Welsh told them gravely.
"No doubt about that. But to get on with the story. While you two
were still at sea--and I do mean at sea--the document was received in
Washington, and turned over to me. When you arrived on this side we
knew that attempts would be made to get to you, if they had not already
been made. Which, of course, they were. So I came up to meet you,
knowing full well that Axis agents would follow me sooner or later.
So I took you to that hotel, and to dinner, with the express idea of
taking Axis agents off you. In other words, with the express idea of
making it appear to watching Axis rats that you had completed your part
of the mission, and were now definitely out of the picture. To make
them forget you, and concentrate _on me_. So I had you turn over that
envelope right there in the dining-room. I took a chance, yes. But what
I hope I gained counts most. In short, they know now that I have it.
And they will soon learn, by keeping tabs on me, that I'm returning
to Washington tonight. They saw it handed to me. They haven't got to
wonder if, or if you didn't, slip it to me when we were alone in your
suite before dinner."

As the senior officer paused, Dawson licked his lips, and found it
terribly difficult to ask aloud the question that was uppermost in his
mind.

"And--and that second envelope, sir?" he finally managed to get out.

Colonel Welsh nodded slowly.

"Yes, Dawson," he said quietly. "It is. And while I am knocking the
pins out from under you two, I might as well give you the bad news
now. Your two months leave has been postponed--until after you've
arrived in Chungking, China, and have seen Generalissimo Chiang
Kai-shek."

Dawson looked at him for a moment, then turned his head and met Freddy
Farmer's eyes. A moment later they both started to chuckle.

"What goes on here?" Colonel Welsh demanded with a frown. "What strikes
you so funny?"

"Well, to be headed for Chungking is sort of a surprise, sir," Dawson
explained. "But--well, to have our leave tossed overboard isn't. You
see, sir, when we first spotted you at La Guardia Airport, we had a
hunch that you weren't there just to say hello to us. We were pretty
sure that--Well--I mean, that is--"

"That seeing me meant trouble, eh?" Colonel Welsh groaned. "Yes, I
understand. It happens all the time. I guess I'm the most unpopular man
in the armed forces. And that's one reason why I told you long ago,
when we first met, never to let yourself get promoted to a high rank in
Intelligence. You either get shot, or avoided by friend and foe alike."

"Well, it's okay by us, sir," Dawson put in quickly. "The truth of the
matter is that both Freddy and I would go nuts by the time two months
were up. Also, we both do want to see China. We said so to Soo Wong
Kai. But gosh! Little did we know what _he_ knew then."

"Aren't you right!" Freddy Farmer grunted. "And I certainly hope we
have the good fortune to meet him again."

"Yeah!" Dawson shot at him with a grin. "Provided, of course, he has
a good stock of meat ration coupons! But you say you're heading for
Washington tonight, sir?"

"In a little over an hour," the senior officer replied after a glance
at his wrist-watch. "But about you two. It will appear as though you're
going to carry on with the regular program. The War Bond speeches, I
mean. Your first stop is scheduled to be made in San Francisco the
day after tomorrow. There's even a piece in tonight's New York papers
to that effect. So tomorrow at nine you will go to La Guardia Airport
and board a TAT transport plane for San Francisco. Reservations have
already been made for you. In Frisco you'll be met by the military
commandant out there, Major General Hawks. Ostensibly, you'll be
staying at his quarters. But actually you won't be there long. You'll
be loaned a plane for a courtesy flight about the city and Bay. But
you'll go on down the Coast to an emergency field that General Hawks
will tell you about. There a Fortress will be awaiting you. It will
take you to Honolulu, and from there to Darwin, Australia. And from
Darwin you'll fly to Calcutta, India. And from Calcutta to Chungking,
China. If all goes well you should be in Chungking by the end of the
week. So, strictly speaking, you'll be simply postponing your leave one
week."

"And I bet we'll want to spend it all sitting in rocking chairs, after
that bit of cloud hopping!" Dawson said with a chuckle. "Just a little
fifteen thousand mile joy-ride."

"And my prayers are that it'll be just that!" Colonel Welsh said
grimly. Then, "Well, we'd better get on back to your hotel. I guess you
two can do with some sleep. Any changes, or additional instructions,
will be flashed to you en route. And--well, what can I say but the same
old thing I've said to you countless times? Good luck, and Godspeed, to
both of you. The prayers of the civilized world will be for you."

"Thank you, sir," Dawson said quietly, as they all stood up. "And we'll
get to Chungking. You can count on it. But one thing, sir?"

"Yes, Dawson?"

Dave gave the slightest of nods toward the street outside.

"Our little rat pal, if he's still around, sir," he said. "I mean, I
hope you'll watch your step going back to Washington tonight. I hope he
doesn't try to pull anything on you, sir."

Colonel Welsh grinned, but only with his lips. His eyes held the glint
of polished cold steel.

"On the contrary, I hope he does!" he said softly. "I sure do hope so.
It's been quite a spell since I've had the chance to chalk up a Nazi
rat. Yes, I hope he tries to shoot the works. I could do with a little
workout on him, or them!"



CHAPTER TEN

_Wings Westward_


The sun was a solid red ball of flame balanced perfectly on the western
lip of the world, as the Army Air Forces Flying Fortress eased down
to a perfect landing at Hickam Field, on the island of Oahu, in the
Hawaiians. On the way down, both Dawson and Freddy Farmer took a good
look at Pearl Harbor, where on December Seventh of the year before
treacherous Jap wings had left their mark of death and destruction. By
now, however, practically every visual reminder of that terrible day
had disappeared. Sunken and half sunken ships were once again on the
surface, or in dry dock, receiving last-minute repairs before steaming
out to join the Pacific Fleet and pay back ten times over what they
had suffered. And the shambles that had been made of Hickam Field that
day was also just a blood-boiling memory. New shops, new hangars, new
barracks, and so forth, had sprung up like mushrooms almost overnight.
In fact, even to Dawson and Farmer, who had seen that airfield at its
worst, it seemed well nigh incredible that it was actually one and the
same place. And it was Freddy Farmer who made the first comment.

"Our navigator didn't get us off course, did he, by any chance?" he
grunted at Dave, with a gesture of his hand earthward. "I mean, that
really is Hickam Field down there, isn't it?"

"It is," Dave grinned back at him. "And some miracle, too, hey, pal?
Boy! When they roll up their sleeves around here and get to work,
they sure get to work. Last time we saw it a fly couldn't have landed
without running into a bomb crater, or a section of blasted hangar, or
something. Yup! The Navy and Army boys have sure done a wonderful job
here at Oahu. And how!"

"Quite!" the English-born air ace echoed the compliment, and
unconsciously braced himself as the Flying Fortress touched ground and
trundled forward to a full stop.

A few moments later it had taxied up to in front of the Administration
Building, and one of the crew had opened the fuselage door. Dawson
winked at Freddy, and grinned.

"Well, so far so good, kid," he said, and pushed up out of his seat.
"Just another eight or nine thousand miles, and we'll be there."

"Hardly worth thinking about, what?" Freddy groaned. "Gosh, but the
Pacific is a big ocean."

"Yeah, and we've been looking at only the _top_ of it!" Dave chuckled.
"Anyway, there's one thing we can be thankful for. We didn't have to
make any War Bond speeches in Frisco. Major General Hawks was a good
guy, and got us out of there fast."

"And if we can get away from here just as fast, it'll suit me fine!"
Freddy Farmer grunted. "Not that I don't like flying, you understand.
But being a blasted passenger really isn't much fun."

"Check with me, too," Dawson said, and groaned softly as he thought of
the countless over-water miles they still had to travel before they'd
reach Australia, and the countless miles from Darwin to Calcutta,
India. "Oh, well, this trip can't last forever."

"For me, it's jolly well lasted that long already!" Freddy sighed, and
climbed down out of the Fortress.

Hardly had both of them reached the ground before a headquarters
captain came up to them and saluted courteously.

"Captains Dawson and Farmer?" he asked with a smile. "I'm Captain
Drake. General Stickney wants to see you right away, please. I've a
jeep right over here."

"Fair enough, Captain," Dawson said with a grin and a nod. "Lead the
way, sir."

A few minutes later the captain ushered them into the office of the
Commandant of the Hawaiian Area. He was a big man, and looked every
inch his rank, did General Stickney. As a matter of fact, as the
general's coal black eyes bored into his, Dawson had the sudden, crazy
sensation that he had done some wrong, and was being dragged up "on the
carpet" for punishment. It was just a crazy thought, of course, and was
gone almost as it was in his mind.

"Sit down, Captains," the general said, and waved them to chairs. "I've
been waiting for you. Received a message from the War Department at
Washington. Had it decoded for you, and--well, here it is. It probably
makes sense to you two."

The senior officer held out a slip of paper. Dawson took it and leaned
over so that Freddy could read it, too. It was from Colonel Welsh, and
read:

    "Boy friend disappeared. Possible he is wise. Suggest utmost
    caution. Suggest you alter plans of route. Suggest you keep on
    constant alert. All Army, Navy, and Air Forces units instructed to
    give you any help requested. Good luck to destination. Secrecy
    absolutely essential."

Dawson read the decoded message through twice, and experienced the very
familiar, and very unpleasant sensation of cold lumps of lead beginning
to bounce around in the pit of his stomach. It was easy enough to read
between the lines. The Nazi agent had not trailed the colonel back
to Washington. And he had obviously shaken off the man trailing him.
In short, he had disappeared in thin air. That could mean one of two
things. One, that he had given up. And two, that he had not been fooled
by the bluff trick, and was somewhere close to Freddy's and his heels.

Yet somehow that last didn't quite seem to check. Nothing had happened
during their short stay in San Francisco. Nor had anything happened
during the flight down the coast to the emergency field, or during the
flight to Pearl Harbor. It seemed just a little crazy to think that
the enemy would let Freddy and him get this far without showing their
hands. It must be that the colonel had been mistaken about a Nazi agent
sticking close to them in New York.

"Maybe, and maybe not!" Dawson grunted softly. "But the colonel's not
one to yell wolf unless he feels he has darn good cause."

"Then it is bad news, eh?"

It was General Stickney who asked the question. Dawson looked at him,
smiled, and shrugged.

"Not too bad, sir," he said. "But we certainly weren't exactly
expecting it."

"Well, I've received those orders mentioned," the senior officer said
with a faint frown. "So if you've any requests to make, go ahead and
make them. It's obvious that you're on some kind of an important
mission, so we'll do all we can to cooperate."

"Thank you, sir," Dawson said. "Right now, though, I can't think of a
thing to request. Fact is, sir, I guess the first thing is for Farmer
and myself to go into a huddle. To talk things over, I mean."

General Stickney nodded and stood up.

"My office is yours, Captains," he said with a wave of his hand. "Go
ahead and talk. And when you've reached some kind of a decision, I'll
be waiting in the mess lounge. All right, Captains. I'll leave you to
your huddle. Good luck, on whatever it is."

The two air aces saluted smartly and waited for the senior officer to
leave. Then they relaxed and looked at each other.

"And what do you make of it?" Dave asked, and tapped the paper still in
his hand.

"Don't just know for sure," Freddy Farmer replied with a frown. "But it
certainly doesn't make me happy. The colonel's not the one to scare a
chap, so I take it that the business is more than just serious. I mean,
that that bloke wasn't fooled, and that he's got his eye on us. Yet--"

The English youth came to a halt and gestured helplessly.

"Just what I think, too," Dawson grunted. "If that's true, why did he
let us get away out here?"

"Maybe he was forced to," Freddy Farmer murmured, and stared absently
out the office window. "Maybe we were a bit too fast for the blighter.
_And_ maybe his job was turned over to some other chap!"

"Huh?" Dave blinked at him. "How's that?"

Freddy pointed a finger at the message.

"The colonel suggests we alter our route," he said. "There are still
such things as secret radios, you know, Dave. But--well, it does seem
a little fantastic and story-bookish, doesn't it? After all, the only
thing the colonel knows is that the beggar has disappeared."

"Sure," Dawson grunted. "He could have been clipped by a New York
taxi, and be in some hospital right now. I wouldn't want to bet on it,
though. For my money, I think we'd better take the colonel's warning as
real, and act accordingly. Frankly, it would suit me to take off from
here and fly non-stop to Chungking, and get it over with."

"In what?" Farmer asked bluntly. "It's only about sixty-five hundred
miles from here to the Jap-occupied coast, you know. And several more
inland to Chungking!"

"I know, I know!" Dawson growled. "I was only saying what I'd like to
do, not what we can do. That's out, of course. Too far, and too many
Japs in the way, of course. But we've got to get there somehow, and not
by the route we've planned. I--Hold everything!"

"What now?" Freddy Farmer wanted to know.

"The Navy is our best bet, Freddy!" Dawson said as excitement mounted
in his voice. "There's a chance that maybe the Navy can make things
easy as pie for us. Let's go!"

"Go where?" the English youth demanded. "And what's on your mind,
anyway?"

"Later," Dawson snapped, and turned toward the door. "If you should put
up an argument, it might convince me that the idea really is dizzy.
Besides, I want to mull it over a bit. Come on. Let's get General
Stickney to take us to the Navy commandant's office here. He's the one
who can make it possible, or impossible. Let's go!"

Freddy Farmer scowled and hesitated, but finally decided that any
questions would only fall on deaf ears, and went tagging along after
Dawson as the Yank barged out through the office door. And a half-hour
later they had the ears and the attention of Admiral Wallace, Naval
Commandant for the Area.

"I'm sorry that secret orders forbid us from revealing our destination,
or intentions, sir," Dawson spoke for both of them, "but it is
essential that we get to the Far East as quickly as possible. And not
by way of Australia. Naturally, the trip must be made by air. Can
you tell me, sir, if any of your carrier task forces are located at
present between here and the China coast?"

The senior naval officer didn't answer directly. He pursed his lips,
and quietly eyed the two youths. Then, perhaps, he remembered that
he also had received cooperation orders from the Navy Department at
Washington. At any rate, he presently sighed, and nodded.

"Yes, two task forces," he said, and pointed at the huge pinpointed map
of the Pacific that covered one whole side of the room. "There is one
now operating three hundred miles north of Wake Island. And there is
another, of lighter strength, west of Jap-held Marcus Island, and just
about on the One Hundred and Fiftieth Meridian."

"Perfect!" Dawson cried, and snapped his fingers. "That would be apple
pie for one of the Army's North American B-Twenty-Fives. They can land
and take off from a carrier."

"What's that?" General Stickney spoke up. "You plan to reach the China
coast by hopping from carrier to carrier in a B-Twenty-Five?"

"Not the China coast, sir," Dave told him quickly. "Our hop from
the last carrier will be to some spot in the Philippines. There are
still spots there that the Japs haven't taken yet. I mean, a couple
of our secret emergency fields. We can sit down there for our final
refueling."

"Well, I was about to say you'd not have the gas to reach the China
coast from that last carrier," Admiral Wallace spoke up. "And you're
right, there are still one or two of our emergency fields in the
Philippines that the Japs haven't found yet."

"Correct," General Stickney said with a nod. "Received the latest on
that matter from MacArthur only this morning. The best one still held
by us is just south of Legaspi."

"Fine, sir, fine!" Dawson beamed. "Now, if you'll be good enough to
loan us a B-Twenty-Five from Air Forces here? And if you, Admiral,
will be kind enough to advise your task force commanders to be on the
look-out for us, and to give us fuel, Farmer and I will be getting
under way."

"Under way?" General Stickney gasped. "You mean tonight, now? But what
about your crew?"

"No crew, sir," Dawson said quietly. "Farmer and I will handle it
alone. Don't worry, sir. We'll manage okay."

"Well, you two certainly have the reputation for such things," Admiral
Stickney said, and gave them both a hard stare. "But, personally, I'd
feel better about this crazy flight, if I knew a little more about
what you hope to do."

"Sorry, sir," Dawson said, and smiled.

"Don't worry, didn't expect you to say anything," the other growled.
"Orders are orders, and we've both received them. Very well, then. I'll
do my part. And you, General, can take care of the rest of it. When do
you want to leave, Dawson?"

Dave turned his head and stared out at the shadows of night that had
closed down on the Hawaiians.

"Within the hour, if it's possible, sir," he replied, and gave each of
the senior officers a questioning look.

They scowled, and seemed not to like it at all, but they finally nodded.

"In an hour, then," General Stickney grunted, and put on his service
cap. "I'll go tell Air Forces command to make ready a plane. But you
two had better have something at our mess before you take off. You've
at least got time for that, haven't you?"

"Oh, quite, sir, and thank you!" Freddy Farmer spoke up before Dawson
could open his mouth.

"Then, come along in my car," the Army commandant ordered, and headed
for the door.

And it was just five minutes later when it happened!

Just five minutes later when General Stickney was driving them along a
dirt road that curved about a dense palm grove. As a matter of fact,
the dim shadow of a figure streaked up off the side of the road so fast
that Dawson saw the flash of the gun, heard its roar of sound, and felt
the white hot spear of pain cut across the top of his left shoulder
before his brain could grasp what had taken place. Then, as the gun
barked the second time, and the car swerved violently and went hurtling
off the road into the ditch, Freddy Farmer, sitting next to Dave,
seemed to rise right straight in the air and turn completely over, and
his outflung right hand stabbed the darkness with red flame and sharp
sound three times in rapid succession. And then the car was in the
ditch and flopping over onto its side, as the engine roared in protest,
and the rear wheels spun furiously.

A sharp crack on the head had filled Dawson's brain with colored stars
and comets. And then the next thing he realized he was sitting on soft
ground, and Freddy Farmer was shaking him by the shoulders.

"Are you all right, Dave?" Freddy was demanding. "Did you get hit by
that blighter?"

Dawson didn't answer. Reaction brought him up onto his feet fast, and
had him reaching for the small automatic he always carried in his tunic
pocket. He almost had it out before Freddy Farmer grabbed his arm.

"Years late, old thing," the English youth said quietly. "The dirty
beggar is stone dead. Almost got the general, though. You sure you're
all right, General?"

"As good as could be expected!" a voice growled close by in the
darkness. "Felt the wind of his bullet, though. Confound it! What goes
on here, anyway? That would-be killer was one of the Jap farmers from
one of the other islands. How the devil did he get over here? And why
in thunder was he trying to kill us off?"

Freddy didn't offer an answer, and neither did Dawson. Instead, Dawson
walked up out of the ditch, and across the road to where General
Stickney, flashlight and gun in hand, was bending over the crumpled and
motionless figure of a Hawaiianized Japanese farmer. And three tiny
blue holes in his forehead were silent and perfect tribute to Freddy
Farmer's deadly marksmanship. Dawson took a good look, was conscious
of the slight burning sensation at the top of his left shoulder, and
shivered unconsciously.

"Pick out your prize, pal," he grunted at Freddy, as the English youth
joined him. "The best is none too good for that kind of shooting. Me, I
sure was asleep at the switch."

"Well, it had to be done, so I did it, that's all," Freddy grunted. "A
nasty-looking beggar, isn't he, what? Very glad he's dead."

"Well, I've got to look into this right away!" General Stickney
snapped. "The man must have gone mad, and escaped, and was running
amuck. Darn good shooting, Farmer. Thank God, you got him in time. But
why in thunder he came after us--?"

The senior officer finished the rest with just unintelligible sounds in
his throat.

"We can walk the rest of the way," he said. "It isn't far to Air Forces
H.Q. I'll leave you there, and get right on with this confounded
business."

Dawson and Farmer simply nodded, and said nothing as they dropped into
step. Perhaps it was all a cockeyed mystery to General Stickney, but it
was the handwriting on the wall to them. The confirmation of Colonel
Welsh's message, and warning to be on the alert. How that Jap killer
had received his orders, and who had given them to him, were two
little items that even history would never reveal. But the hows, and
the whys didn't matter. The hand of death had reached halfway around
the world to get them both by the throat. And only Freddy Farmer's
lightning-like action, and perhaps too hasty a trigger finger on the
killer's part, had prevented it. But out of the darkness of night the
enemy had struck again. Struck to wipe them out, and gain possession of
that precious document Chungking-bound.

"And the sooner Freddy and I are air-borne, the better I'll like it!"
Dawson echoed the thought softly to himself. "And how! Upstairs, a
fellow can at least see what's cooking."



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_Invisible Chaos_


Night was again closing down on the vast stretches of the Pacific
Ocean, but this time it found Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer standing on
the flight deck of the Yank Aircraft Carrier Tempest cutting into the
wind through the long rolling swells some two hundred miles south-west
of the Jap-held Marcus Island. The two air aces were waiting for the
twin Wright Cyclones of their North American B-Twenty-Five to get well
warmed up, and were stretching their legs a bit before taking off on
the long flight through the night to a dawn landing on that secret
airfield at Legaspi in the central Philippines. Yes, waiting for the
B-Twenty-Five's engines to get clicking, stretching their legs, and
trying to remember if it had been a few days ago, or a few years
ago, when one Soo Wong Kai had given them a gourmet's treat in the
dining-room of the Savoy Hotel in London.

"One more landing at Legaspi, Freddy," Dawson broke the five-minute
silence. "Then we gas and hop along non-stop to Chungking. Just two
more flying laps, kid, and we're in."

"And may that be true!" the English youth breathed fervently. "I'm so
sick of water, and carrier decks, I could almost drown myself. Not that
your Navy chaps haven't been wonderful to us. But--well, I never was
one for long drawn out jobs."

"Nor me, either!" Dawson echoed the words. "Dance in and smack them,
and dance right out again. That's the kind of thing I go for. Praise
be, there's no scrapping at the North or South Poles, or we'd probably
get sent there."

"I fancy this is the longest courier job on record, no doubt," Freddy
Farmer muttered. "And--well, _it's_ safe, isn't it, Dave? You know what
I mean?"

"Could I miss catching on?" Dawson replied with a grim chuckle. "Yup!
We've still got it along. But maybe you'd like to nursemaid it for the
rest of the trip, kid?"

"No, by all means!" the English youth said sharply. "I want no part of
it. Wouldn't sleep a wink. No, you're the hero, old thing. You carry
it, and you deliver it. As a matter of fact, it really is much better
that way."

"Huh?" Dawson grunted absently.

"For me, in case we should get captured," Freddy Farmer said, and edged
along the flight deck toward the B-Twenty-Five. "In that event I can
simply tell them that _you've_ got it, and they'll cut you up in pieces
and no doubt leave me alone. At the most, keep me a prisoner for the
duration. You see?"

"Just a dear sweet pal!" Dawson growled. "Do that, my little man, and I
promise to return to haunt you in your dreams. No fooling!"

"Better think up something worse than that, old bean!" Freddy Farmer
shot right back at him. "Right now you haunt me when I'm awake! But
let's get on with it, what? The aircraft seems about ready."

"What a tough break I need a navigator!" Dawson growled as they went
down deck to the B-Twenty-Five. "If I didn't, I could toss you over the
side for that crack, and finish this thing in peace."

"And a jolly, rotten break we're in such a hurry, too!" the English
youth got in the parting shot. "It would be amusing to pretend we were
lost just to see you sweat--and beg me to locate us."

"That'll be the day!" Dave added one bit more. "And you know what I
mean, pal! Beg _you_, even for the time of day? Nuts!"

Some ten minutes later there was no longer any kidding around between
the two air aces. Their North American B-Twenty-Five was clear of
the flight deck of the Carrier Tempest, and up in the night-shrouded
heavens. As a matter of fact, they could no longer even see the
carrier. Just as soon as they had left, with the heartfelt good wishes
of every officer and man aboard, the carrier had heeled way over and
gone pounding around at full speed and onto a new course that would see
her well away from that spot, come dawn.

Yes, the Tempest was far behind them, and Dawson and Farmer were just
two steel-hearted eagles winging southwestward through night-shadowed
skies, with its canopy of a billion or more twinkling stars high
overhead. However, those twinkling stars meant far more than just
night diamonds of beauty to Dawson and Farmer. To them they were the
sign posts to their objective at Legaspi. They pointed the way along
the skyway of the gods that they were to travel. To them they were
understandable and tangible things. All else about them and below was
darkness; the darkness of the unknown.

Relaxing comfortably in the pilot's seat, but with mind and body ready
to spring to the alert at an instant's notice, Dawson fed the twin
engines a minimum of high test to maintain desired cruising speed, and
held the aircraft dead on the course Freddy Farmer had plotted out.
With luck they should sight their objective at the very first sign of
dawn light. And even then, it wouldn't be any too soon. This was the
longest hop of them all to be made in the B-Twenty-Five. And no matter
how careful and frugal Dave was with the fuel aboard, it was going to
be close. So close, in fact, that they hadn't even considered a direct
flight to China, though the coast line was not much farther away than
the Legaspi airfield. But that was exactly the point. A landing on the
China coast wouldn't do them any good at all. And it could well do
them all kinds of harm. At Legaspi there was a field where they could
sit down. There was fuel there, and Yanks to help them with the plane.
But on the China coast? No such thing! Even though they managed to
land still in one piece, it would be dollars to doughnuts that they'd
probably land right smack in the laps of the occupying Japs. So it had
to be Legaspi next. Legaspi, or bust.

"You mean drown, kid!" Dawson corrected his own thought. "If you run
out of fuel, or overshoot your mark, or Freddy gets us lost, some
sharks are going to have a swell meal. And no kidding, either!"

And with that not too pleasant thought he lapsed into silence again,
a silence broken only every so often when Freddy gave him a change
in course. In between times the seconds piled up to form minutes,
and the minutes added up to total one hour, two hours, three hours,
and four hours. And then, at the end of four hours, the gods of war
seemed suddenly to decide that those two daring young sky eagles had
been receiving too many good breaks. At any rate, one of those sudden
and unexpected Pacific storms swept down on them. And swept down
so fast that the B-Twenty-Five was almost stood up straight on her
twin-ruddered tail before Dawson realized what was happening.

True, he did receive a slight warning in advance. An invisible hand
seemed to sweep away the stars, and leave a roof of pitch darkness.
But it was done in a flash, and as a warning of what was to come it
was just about as helpful as seeing the flash of a lightning bolt
headed your way. In short, one instant the B-Twenty-Five was rolling
along through calm air as nice as you please. And in the next instant
invisible forces were trying to tear it apart and throw the pieces all
over that section of the Pacific.

Dawson thought he heard Freddy Farmer shout something from his
navigator's nook, but he had no time to turn around and yell for a
repeat of whatever it was. All the rain in the world seemed to be
flooding down on the B-Twenty-Five. And terrific blasts of air were
thundering in on it from every conceivable direction. Twice he would
have sworn that the aircraft whipped through a full roll. And twice he
was as sure as he was that he was over a foot high that the bomber was
completely upside down and whanging along on its back. Aches and pains
were shooting through every cubic inch of his body, and hanging onto
the control wheel, that was whip-sawing back and forth, was just about
as easy as trying to hang onto the broken stub of a spinning propeller.
In fact, it was all he could do to stop the control wheel from driving
back and caving in his chest. It took every ounce of his strength to
hold it forward so that the wind-rocketed plane wouldn't go whanging up
into a stall. And he was just about spent when Freddy Farmer scrambled
forward to lend his strength to the job.

Neither of them spoke a word. In the combined roar of the engines and
the raging storm it was all they could do to hear themselves think.
Besides, there was no use for words now. Nothing that either of them
could say would help any. It was just a question as to whether their
strength would outlast the storm, _and_ whether the strength of the
plane itself would last through the terrific beating it was taking
from the storm. A question of man, and man-made things, against the
raging fury of the storm gods. And while the great struggle went on,
time stood still. For Dawson and Farmer time ceased to exist. They were
conscious of nothing else save the use of their combined strength to
hold the aircraft as steady as they could. Conscious of that, and of
their prayers that this night might _not_ be the end of everything for
them.

And so it is quite possible that the gods of misfortune looked down
from their high places, and were forced to admire the do or die efforts
of those two air aces, and were willing to slacken off their fury. Then
again, perhaps it was just one of those things that happen to every
airman sooner or later. Just one of those freak storms out of nowhere
that can not be predicted, or explained after they hit. At any rate,
the raging storm was gone just as quickly as it had arrived. Dawson's
lungs were burning, his head was pounding, and spots were milling
around in a red haze over his eyes. And then suddenly the B-Twenty-Five
had shot out into calm air, and there overhead was the canopy of
twinkling stars again.

"Take a look, Freddy!" Dawson managed to squeak out past his lips.
"Those are stars, aren't they? And we're still right side up, huh?"

"Don't ask me!" the English youth gurgled, as he slumped back in the
co-pilot's seat. "If they aren't stars, and we're not right side
up, then it doesn't matter. Doesn't, because I haven't one ounce of
strength left to do anything about it. Good grief! That was all the
storms I ever saw rolled into one!"

"You're telling me!" Dave gulped. "Boy! What rain! And what a breeze.
But haul it out of here, Freddy. Get back and check on our position,
will you? Heavens knows where that storm tossed us. And--Sweet tripe!
Look at that dash clock, will you! That thing lasted an hour and forty
minutes!"

"Forty years!" Freddy shouted as he went aft to take their position
from the stars. "And I know blasted well that I've got a grey hair for
every one of them. Be right back, Dave."

Dawson held the plane at low cruising throttle, and on a general
southwesterly compass course for the next ten minutes. Then Freddy
Farmer came back with his findings.

"Not too bad, Dave," he announced. "It might have been a whole lot
worse, considering. The blasted thing blew us about sixty-five miles
east of our true course. Here's your new course."

Dave took Freddy's new course instructions with a heavy heart. True,
he was glad that they had survived the terrible storm, and that that
howling wind hadn't driven them even farther off course. However,
it was bad enough as it was. They were still a good two hours' calm
weather flying from their objective, and as close as he could figure
it, they had just about an hour and three quarters supply of fuel left
in the tanks. Perhaps if they eased up gently for altitude they might
make that last fifteen minutes with gliding. But it certainly wasn't a
chance for even a fool to bet on.

"Oke, and thanks, pal," he said aloud in a cheerful voice. "Be there
presently, I figure. We'd both better keep our eyes skinned, now that
it's starting to get light. We're in a Jap-infested part of the world
now. And if those rats that have taken the northern sections of the
Philippines have got any air patrols out, we may have to do a wee bit
of detouring."

"That's quite all right, Dave, old thing," Freddy Farmer said quietly.
"Don't try to be a liar, old chap, just to make me feel good. I've done
a little figuring myself, Dave. Unless we have the good fortune to pick
up a tail wind, we're going to have a very touch and go fifteen minutes
at the end of this trip."

"But we'll make it, kid," Dave said grimly. "And that's a promise from
me to you. Count on it. Sure wish we had a load of bombs along, though."

"A load of bombs?" the English youth echoed. "Why in the world bombs?
You plan to blast out a spot to land? Say in the water, if our gas
doesn't last?"

"I was thinking of MacArthur's boys on Bataan, and Corregidor!" Dawson
said grimly. "I'd certainly give plenty to lay some eggs on the little
brown rats pestering those fellows. What a scrap they've put up.
History that will never die. And even if the darn Japs do finally push
them out, it'll be a mighty hollow victory. I bet it's one big surprise
to those pint-sized butchers that the Philippines are no push-over."

"No place would be a push-over with General MacArthur in command, I
fancy," Freddy murmured. "He's one of the finest generals of all time."

"Check and double check!" Dawson echoed instantly. "And could we do
with a dozen like him. But--Hold it! Hold everything, Freddy! Dead
ahead, there. Is that landfall, or just a trick of my eyes?"

"It's land, Dave!" Freddy replied in an excited voice. "Land, just as
sure as you're alive. And if these charts and maps they gave us at
Pearl Harbor are correct, we've hit it right on the nose. That land is
the Catanduanes Islands just north of Legaspi. We'll know for sure in
another ten minutes!"

Another ten minutes? In ten minutes nations have fallen into the dust.
In ten minutes half the world has changed face. In ten minutes a
million and one things can happen which normally should take months or
years to come to pass. And so, at the end of ten minutes, Dawson and
Farmer were suddenly "treated" to a sight that chilled their blood, and
sent their hearts dropping down into their boots.

In the pale light of early dawn they saw a flock of birds come
sweeping up from that bit of the Philippines known as Legaspi. Only it
wasn't a flock of birds. It was a flock of war birds. A flock of Jap
Zeros up on early dawn patrol. True, they had half expected to see at
least a Jap plane or two, but to see them come up from the ground on
Legaspi was like a mule's kick in the stomach. There was no need to
wonder, or to ask each other unanswerable questions. There was only to
observe, and realize the terrible truth. The truth that Legaspi had
fallen to the Japs during the last forty-eight hours, and that the Yank
emergency airfield was unquestionably in enemy hands.

And, as though to add a final touch to horrible reality, the port
outboard engine of the B-Twenty-Five began to cough and sputter from
the lack of fuel in the tanks. And a couple of seconds later the
starboard engine took up that soul-chilling song that no pilot ever
wants to hear.

"Would you care to get out and walk the rest of the way, sir?" Dawson
asked in a strained voice that belied the crooked grin on his lips.

"No thanks," Freddy Farmer came right back at him, with an equal
attempt to crack wise. "Just turn about and take me back to Honolulu,
please!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

_Eagles Can't Die_


As a sort of signal to confirm the fast approaching end of the
B-Twenty-Five's flight, the starboard engine coughed its rasping note
for the last time, and joined the port engine in silence. Dave had
already eased the nose down a hair or two to prevent a stall, and like
a statue of stone he sat there hunched over the control wheel with his
worried eyes fixed first on the Jap Zeros mounting higher into the sky,
and then on the stretches of ground below.

The gods had at least been a little kind. The B-Twenty-Five had the
necessary height to reach land in a long flat glide. However, there
would be little picking and choosing of a suitable place to land. And
if the Zeros came tearing in, it would be decidedly a one-sided combat.
True, Freddy could work the top turret guns, and he could smack away
with the nose guns. But with so much of the bomber left unguarded, it
wouldn't be long before Jap bullets and air cannon shells would rip
home and pull down the curtain.

"I don't think they've spotted us yet, Dave!" Freddy Farmer suddenly
spoke in a low voice, as though he feared the Jap pilots would overhear
him. "They seem to be going higher up, and swinging westward toward
Bataan."

"I know," Dawson replied in a low voice, too. "Looks that way to me.
And here's hoping we're both right. If those tramps only keep out
of the way, maybe we'll have a chance. But if they spot us and come
a-running, Freddy, it isn't going to be funny."

"Well, if I can get one or two of the beggars," the English youth
muttered, tight-lipped, "it won't be so bad. Think I'll go aft and man
the turret guns right now."

"No, stick around until you have to," Dave stopped him. "If we're going
to crash land, we'd better be up here together. Then one of us can help
the other get out, if one of us is--well, you know what I mean."

"Quite," Freddy murmured. "But we haven't crashed yet, so why talk
about it?"

"Suits me swell," Dawson said with a dry chuckle. "My error, pal. And,
heck, this wouldn't be our first crash. But what we want is for those
little brown rats to keep right on going the way they are."

Freddy Farmer echoed the hope with a grunt, and let it go at that.
Both boys lapsed into silence, and sat very still as the B-Twenty-Five
slid down lower and lower, and the distant flock of Jap Zeros mounted
higher and higher into the Southwest Pacific dawn sky. And then when
it seemed almost certain that the Japs were completely unaware of the
B-Twenty-Five's existence, one of the formation suddenly cut around in
a dime turn and came hurtling back down like a red disc-marked bolt of
lightning. One look at that fighter plane cutting down across the dawn
sky was all that Dawson needed to realize the bitter truth. And all
that Freddy Farmer needed, too. The little game of hide-and-seek was
all over. The B-Twenty-Five had been sighted. And not only one Zero,
but two others, had cut out of formation and were wing screaming down
in a power dive.

"The dirty beggars!" Freddy Farmer grated, and started to push up out
of his seat. "See you later, Dave."

But Dawson flung out a hand, caught the English youth's arm, and
hauled him back down into the seat.

"Waste of bullets, Freddy!" he barked. "We'll be touching ground any
second now. Our only hope is to beat them down to the ground. Stick
right here. The crash might buckle the fuselage and cut that turret in
two. Stick here--and get set, kid!"

As Dave spoke he kept his eyes fixed on the stretch of lush green
ground almost directly below. At the very instant he had sighted
the first Zero breaking away from formation he had dropped the
B-Twenty-Five's nose to increase her glide speed to the limit. And now
it was but the matter of a few seconds as to what would happen first.
Whether Dawson could get the bomber down onto the ground, or whether
the Japs could reach the aircraft with their murderous blasts and send
it to earth a raging ball of flame.

From a point that seemed but a couple of feet from his head, Dawson
heard the snarl of Jap machine gun fire, and the deeper and louder note
of enemy aircraft cannon. But he didn't waste time to jerk up his head
for a look. It wouldn't do any good to _see_ the Japs shooting. His
ears told him that they were; that at almost any instant death might
chop right through to nail him. Just the matter of a few seconds, that
was all. A few seconds in which to fight for his life, and Freddy's,
and win--or lose.

"This is it, Freddy!" he suddenly yelled, and hauled back on the
control wheel column. "Hang on, hard!"

Maybe he yelled the warning aloud, or maybe he simply spoke it in his
brain. But either way, there was no time to repeat. The B-Twenty-Five
was dangerously low now, and taking up the last bit of its gliding
speed to reach a narrow clearing thickly bordered by tropical growth.
Maybe the surface of that corridor-shaped clearing was hard and firm.
Or maybe it was a narrow strip of swamp ground. There was no way to
tell from the air, and no time to do anything about it, anyway. The few
seconds had run their course. Time had run out. The B-Twenty-Five had
won its race with those diving Jap Zeros, but a crash landing on an
unknown strip of Philippine ground was a certainty.

Dawson hung hard to the control wheel to the very last split second. He
saw the nose come up, felt the bomber mush forward and start to falter
in the air, and he saw that strip of clearing come zooming up toward
the belly of the fuselage. And then the B-Twenty-Five touched ground.

_Touched_ ground? The last ounce of its flying and gliding speed spent,
the bomber dropped the rest of the way like ten ton of loose brick.
Braced as he was for the jolting contact with the ground, Dawson had
the crazy sensation that invisible hands grabbed hold of him and
started bouncing him around inside the pilots' compartment like a
human rubber ball. Freddy, the instrument panel, the control wheel
column, and the compartment's windows seemed to parade past his eyes.
And then suddenly the roof fell down on top of him, and the next thing
his spinning brain realized his head was resting on one of the rudder
pedals, and his legs were up in the pilot's seat. And the figure of
Freddy Farmer was sitting astride his stomach like a horseback rider.

For perhaps a full three seconds the two youths blinked stupidly into
each other's eyes. Then Freddy Farmer choked out a gasp, scrambled off
Dawson's middle, and reached down to twist his legs around and his head
up.

"You hurt, Dave?" he managed to gasp.

"Don't know, yet!" Dawson replied hoarsely, and kicked open the
compartment door with his foot. "Tell you later. We've got to get out
of here, kid. This is a swell target for those rats. Here they come
down, now!"

There was no need to inform the English youth of that little truth.
The ungodly scream of Jap wings in the wind, and the blood-chilling
snarl and yammer of their aerial machine gun and aerial cannon fire
was enough to make the very ground shake and tremble. Instinctively
Dawson reached up, hooked an arm about Freddy and hauled him down onto
the floorboards of the compartment. And there they both crouched,
breath locked in their lungs, as the Zeros piled down and raked the
crashed bomber from twin rudder to nose. Bullets cut through into the
compartment, and made a shambles of what was left of the instrument
panel. But it was as though the hand of Lady Luck touched each bullet,
because neither Dawson nor Freddy Farmer was hit.

And then when there came a lull in the shooting, and the only sound was
that of the Zero's engines pounding the planes upward for altitude,
Dawson gave the English youth a push and nodded toward the compartment
door.

"Wiggle out of here fast!" he shouted. "Then snake across to that
jungle growth. Do it fast, kid, before they come down. I'll join you
right after their next attack. _Snap it up!_"

Another and a harder shove closed Freddy's mouth, which was half
opened to ask questions. He quickly nodded and went out through the
compartment door like a shell from the mouth of a gun. Still hugging
the compartment floor, Dave watched his pal streak across the bit of
open ground and practically dive head first into the thick border of
jungle growth. At that instant Dawson was almost tempted to follow
Farmer. But at that instant, also, he heard the change in the sound of
the Jap aircraft engines aloft. A sound that told him the Zeros had
gained their altitude, and were wheeling over and down for a second
strafe on the helpless American bomber.

"Stick around some more, please, Lady Luck!" he breathed, and
practically pushed his face through the floorboards.

For the next few seconds the full wrath of war snapped, and barked,
and howled, and screamed all about him. But once again Lady Luck, or
somebody, guided every one of the Jap bullets and air cannon shells
clear of Dawson's body. And then once again he heard the pounding howl
of the Zeros power-zooming upward. And in that instant he became a
whirlwind of action. He shot his body toward the door opening, and at
the same time flung out one hand and grabbed up a Very-Light pistol and
fired the flare back over his shoulder. He heard the hiss and sputter
as he went out through the door and down into the tall grass. And it
seemed he had no more than regained his feet and was plunging for the
jungle growth when a part of the world in back of him exploded in a
roar of sound.

Hardly realizing what he was doing, he jerked his head around and took
a flash glance back over his shoulder. The nose of the B-Twenty-Five
was spouting livid red flame and smoke high into the air. The back of
the aircraft had broken and buckled right at the gun turret, so that
the whole thing looked like some weird prehistoric bird of gigantic
size flopped down on the ground in mortal agony. One quick look at that
heap of aero-nautical destruction, and then Dawson turned his head
front, gasped out a sob of pity and sorrow, and plunged head first into
the shelter of the jungle growth just as the three Jap Zeros wheeled
off their zoom and started down again.

"Good gosh, Dave!" Freddy Farmer was panting in his ear. "Did they hit
the gas fume-filled tanks that last time? I almost passed out in fear
that you were a goner."

"Not those rotten Jap shots!" Dawson gasped, and rolled off his
stomach. "I smacked a Very-Light flare at one of the split fuel feed
lines. Just enough gas in the line to start a blaze. Hope it'll call
them off, the bums!"

"_Fired_ the plane?" Freddy Farmer echoed with a frown. "But why? The
thing's a total wreck. The Japs could never make any use of it, Dave!"

"And how they can't!" Dawson grated, and stared sad-eyed at the blazing
heap of wreckage. "That wasn't the idea, though. There must be Jap
troops close to here. They'll be coming on the run. It won't hurt any
for them to think that we burned up inside. See what I mean?"

"Of course!" the English youth replied. "And am I stupid. Smart work,
Dave. And by the way, thanks from the bottom of my heart, old thing."

Dawson glanced at him and blinked.

"For what?" he wanted to know.

Before answering, Freddy pointed a finger at the crash landing broken
back of the aircraft.

"For not letting me go aft to the guns and take a crack at those
Zeros," he said. "It was just as you warned. The thing broke right at
the gun turret. But for you, Dave, I'd be in two or more pieces right
now."

"Skip it," Dawson grunted, and got up onto his feet. "The thing for us
to do is to make tracks away from here, before we both get carved up
into small pieces. Now, let's see, which way, I wonder?"

"I suggest south, Dave," Freddy Farmer spoke up quietly. "I think that
Zero field is in that direction. Fact is, while I've been here I think
I've heard air engines toward the south. So?"

Dawson grinned at him, and winked.

"So we think alike, pal," he grunted. "We haven't got anything to fly
now. And it's a long swim, and a long walk, to Chungking from here.
Right, Freddy. The least we can do is take a look to see if the Japs
can help us out any--without knowing it."

"Yes, it's a hope, though a blasted small one, I fancy," the English
youth murmured. "First, though, there's this jungle. Dash it all! I
never saw stuff grow so close together. Looks like it would take us
days to go a mile."

"Then let's get started," Dawson said, and took one last look back at
the burning plane. "Remind me, Freddy, to send Air Forces Command at
Hickam Field a letter of apology for washing out their ship."

"Right you are," the English youth promised. Then, with a half-chuckle,
he added, "And I'll be delighted to deliver it _in person_, if you know
what I mean?"

"Way ahead of you, kid," Dawson replied. "_You_ just remind me to write
it, _I'll_ take care of the delivery angle--I hope!"

With a grin, and a nod for emphasis, Dawson turned toward the south
and started to push and squirm and wiggle his way through the dense,
steaming jungle growth.

Two year-long hours later Dawson stumbled over a hidden root for the
umpty-umteenth millionth time, and let his weary body sink down onto
the soft ground. Freddy Farmer, right behind him, sank down too, and
for a couple of minutes neither said a word. As a matter of fact,
neither had the breath to spare for spoken words. Their uniforms were
ripped and torn in half a hundred different places. And there were just
about as many tiny cuts on their faces and hands. And to top it all
off, they were drenched with jungle swamp water, and plastered with
sticky yellow mud from head to foot.

"How about taking turns carrying each other piggy-back, pal?" Dawson
finally broke the silence. "And you carry me, first."

"Suits me," the English youth came right back at him, "if I don't have
to go more than two or three yards. But, gosh, I am tired. And if you
want to know my opinion, Dave, I've had the tiny little fear this last
half-hour or so that we've been traveling in a circle."

The half-grin on Dawson's dirty face faded, and a grave, somber light
stole into his eyes.

"I know, Freddy," he said quietly. "The sun has touched all four sides
of us at least once in the last half-hour. I don't think we made so
much as a quarter of a mile in a straight line south. In short, Freddy,
you and I are very definitely lost."

"Yes, definitely," the English youth echoed with a faint catch in his
voice. "However, there's no use crying over the fact, I fancy. The
only thing we can do is to rest up a bit, and then keep pushing on
southward. This is the Legaspi area, I'm positive. We're not on one of
the smaller islands. So if we keep at it long enough we're bound to--"

A lightning-like warning gesture of Dawson's hand stopped Freddy Farmer
cold. Both youths froze stiff, and locked eyes as they listened to the
sounds that came to them through the jungle growth to the right--sounds
that neither of them understood. But they didn't have to, because
the sounds were the sing-song rising and falling intonations of Japs
talking with one another.

"Close!" Dave breathed softly into Freddy's ear. "Too darn close for
my liking, pal. Got your gun ready?"

The English youth didn't answer. He simply nodded slightly and fixed
his eyes on the wall of jungle growth that separated them from the
little brown butchers of Nippon somewhere beyond.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Blood In The Sky_


As Dawson crouched there motionless at Freddy's side, and listened to
the Japanese speaking voices that seemed not to come closer, nor to
retreat, a crazy impulse caused him to glance down at his wrist-watch.
The crystal had been smashed in the crash, and the minute and hour
hands were gone. The second hand was still in place, however, and
ticking around its little graduated dial. Yet it seemed to stop and
wait after each tick as though that were the last, and there would be
no more. Then suddenly it would jump around to the next graduation
mark, and pause and wait again.

Of course, it was actually moving all the time, but because of the
terrible suspense that held him rigid, his eyes and his brain played
him crazy tricks. And then suddenly the grip of Freddy's hand on his
arm dragged his half hypnotized attention from the watch. The English
youth put a finger to his lips for absolute silence, and then pointed
ahead and to the left. Dave bent forward to sight along the pointed
finger, and caught his breath sharply. He was staring through a small
opening in the heavy growth, and there not more than twenty yards away
were five squat, chunky, slant-eyed Japs. Each was armed with one of
the deadly Jap sub-machine guns, and the expression on each face was
that of the lustful desire to kill, and maim, and torture, for the
sheer diabolic pleasure of so doing.

The little group had come to a halt and were all sharing something
that one of them portioned out from a bag he carried slung over one
shoulder. In a dull abstract sort of way, Dawson guessed it was the
daily handful of rice that keeps a Jap soldier going when on the march,
or on the hunt. However, it was no more than a half-hearted guess,
because his attention was not fixed on what they were doing, but on
what they looked like. The uniforms they wore, and the branch of
service insignia on their uniforms. And though the uniforms were dirty
and shabby, and much the worse for constant wear, he knew in a flash
that that little group of Japs were aircraft mechanics.

And an instant later when he twisted his head around to meet Freddy
Farmer's eyes, he knew that the English youth had recognized that fact,
too. Freddy was grinning, and there was the light of wild hope in his
eyes. He leaned forward quickly so that his lips were against Dawson's
ear.

"No doubt chaps sent out to inspect the crash, Dave!" he breathed
softly but with tingling excitement in every word. "And that they've
stopped to have a bit of their blasted rice must mean that they're _on
the way back_ to their field. Right?"

"Dead right!" Dawson breathed back with a grim nod. "Sure wish I knew
the Jap lingo. I'd give a lot to know if they think the B-Twenty-Five's
crew burned up in her. But we've just got to hope that's so, and trail
them back. Okay by you, Freddy?"

"Where they go, we go!" the English youth replied. "Only I hope it
isn't far."

"Something tells me that it isn't," Dawson said with a little gesture.
"Just a hunch. Okay, we tag along behind. But watch it! Those little
tramps have plenty sharp ears, and our guns can't outshoot what they're
carrying."

"You watch your big feet, and I'll watch mine!" Freddy assured him.
"Don't worry. And--There! They're moving off, Dave. And, say! I can see
it, now. The blighters are following a path. Praise the Lord for that.
Make it easier to keep up with them. Come along!"

As the English-born air ace spoke the last he got swiftly and silently
up onto his feet and began virtually to squeeze his way through the
heavy tropical growth. Dawson followed along right at his heels. And
just that, too, for it took all of his efforts to keep Freddy Farmer's
heels in sight. The English youth was like a shadow, and just about
twice as silent, as he melted forward. In fact, Dawson came within
a hair's breath of plowing right into his back when Freddy finally
reached the narrow beaten path and came to an abrupt halt. Crouching
down low with his pal, he strained his ears for sounds ahead. The
sing-song jabbering reached his ears in almost no time at all, and
after taking into consideration what heavy jungle growth does to the
travel of sound, he judged the enemy patrol to be a good hundred yards
ahead. Freddy Farmer figured the same distance and formed the words
silently with his lips as he looked inquiringly at Dave. The Yank air
ace nodded, and then started stealthily along the beaten path.

For almost an hour they followed the winding course of the path through
the dense jungle, pausing every so often to hug the soft damp ground
and listen to the incessant jabbering of the Jap patrol ahead. The last
time they paused they also heard other sounds. Sounds, however, that
were not distinct and clear. In fact, it was a sort of rumbling murmur
that made Dave think of storm waves pounding against a rock-bound
coast. He glanced back at Freddy, but the English youth was equally
puzzled by the sounds.

However, a few moments later when Dawson turned around and started
forward again, he suddenly felt Freddy's hand grip him by the arm and
jerk him down flat. He squirmed around with an angry questioning look
in his eyes. But Freddy's finger to his lips, and the brittle glint in
his own eyes, checked any words that might have spilled from Dawson's
lips. Then Freddy put his lips close and whispered softly.

"Just a little ahead, there's one of them, Dave!" he said. "Left to
stand guard, is my guess. So that means we must be near their field.
And--Hear that, Dave! That's what the sound is! Aircraft engines being
revved up. This darn jungle blankets sound until you're right on top of
it."

"Left one behind?" Dawson echoed, as little shivers began to ripple up
and down his backbone. "You spotted him, Freddy?"

Young Farmer didn't answer at once. He motioned Dawson up to a half
crouching position, and then pointed a stiff finger ahead, and nodded
for Dave to sight along his arm. Dawson did that, but for several
seconds he could see nothing but the greens, the browns, and the faded
orange of jungle foliage. But all the time he could hear the rumbling
murmur somewhere ahead. And he realized at once that Freddy's statement
was true. The sound came from revving aircraft engines, but it was
muffled and dulled in note by the thick jungle.

Suddenly, though, as he strained his eyes at the twisted mass of jungle
growth, he saw something move no more than thirty-five yards from where
he crouched. Had he not been peering intently he would automatically
have taken it for a tree branch or jungle plant leaf being stirred by a
puff of air. However, being on the alert both mentally and physically,
he told himself at once that there could be no puffs of air in the
thick of the jungle. Only heavy pungent smells that hung motionless
in space. And then an instant later his eyes picked out the head and
shoulders of a Jap. The little brown man was facing off to the left,
and his face was in only one quarter profile. But Dave could see the
man's jaws champing up and down on the dry rice he had stuffed into his
mouth. And by straightening up just a little, Dawson could make out the
butt of the deadly sub-machine gun that the Jap held in the crook of
his right arm, ready to whip it up and fire at an instant's notice.

For a long minute Dawson studied the "picture", as a hundred and one
conflicting thoughts raced through his brain. Was that Jap simply
manning his guard post located close to the field? Or had that Oriental
discovered that nobody was aboard the crashed B-Twenty-Five, and was
that Jap up ahead but one of many posted here and there to be on the
look-out for the survivors of the crash? Those two main questions
tormented Dawson's brain, for the simple reason that he could only
guess at the answers. But one thing was very certain, though. There
stood an armed Jap between them and an enemy flying field ahead. If
they were to get closer to the airfield ahead, that armed Jap had to be
put out of the war for keeps.

That fact uppermost in his mind, Dawson took his gaze off the munching
Jap and looked at Freddy. The English youth returned his look,
grinned, tight-lipped, and nodded.

"Remember that Commando show in Occupied France, Dave?" he whispered.
"Well, Jap or Jerry, it shouldn't make any difference, eh?"[2]

[Footnote 2: _Dave Dawson With The Commandos._]

"Same thing, pal!" Dawson chuckled softly, and slowly closed the
fingers of one hand into a rock hard fist. "Let's see if we've
forgotten any of that sweet technique. Okay, kid!"

With a grin and a nod for emphasis, Dawson twisted around and started
along the path again. Compared with their "travel" now, they had been
making a noise akin to that of a herd of elephants on the rampage. Like
blending shadows, and twice as silent, they eeled and snaked their
way forward. Each leaf, or twig, or plant stem was moved cautiously
to the side, and held there until they had slid their bodies past.
Then, another few inches forward, and another few. Bit by bit creeping
closer to the armed Jap, and with no more sound than that caused by the
pounding of their hearts.

However, though they advanced completely wrapped in a blanket of
silence, the Jap was perhaps possessed of that premonition of danger
that science has named the sixth sense. Or perhaps his Nipponese ears
were tuned to thumping human hearts. At any rate, when Dawson and
Freddy Farmer were but a scant two yards in back of him, the Jap spun
around and threw up his sub-machine gun. He was fast, lightning fast,
but those two air aces had been trained to throttle lightning on the
loose. They both moved even faster.

Dawson's outflung arm was like an iron rod with a ball of steel on the
end of it. And that "ball of steel" flew straight to the Jap's Adam's
apple to cut off his wind, and paralyze the nerve center at the base of
his brain. However, that one blow alone would not have been sufficient,
and neither Dave nor Freddy Farmer were counting on it to do the trick.
At the same time Dawson slashed down with his gun hand and knocked
the sub-machine gun downward. And while that was taking place, Freddy
Farmer's flying body caught the Jap across the knees. On the football
field that little bit of blocking would have caused the penalty of
plenty of yardage. But this wasn't the football field. It was a
jungle battle field. And the player to be "taken out" was a ruthless,
butchering little brown rat of Hirohito's brood.

And he was _taken out_, and very definitely so. When Dawson and Freddy
got quickly up onto their feet again, and Dave even had the sub-machine
gun in his own hands, there was no need to give the Jap more than a
passing glance. He was out! He was not only out of the war, but he
was out of his heathen world as well. A broken neck is a broken neck,
whether it belongs to a Jap or anybody else!

Dawson looked at Freddy, but didn't say anything. Whatever might be
said was said with their eyes. They simply exchanged looks, nodded
grimly, and then stared once more along the winding path with ears
tuned to the rumbling murmur ahead that grew louder and more pronounced
with every foot forward they advanced. And so it was that at the end
of ten or twelve minutes of cautious advancing, they finally reached a
point where the jungle stopped, and flat, sun-baked ground began.

The pair stopped just a few feet inside the jungle and peered silently
out at the sight ahead. It was one that caused wild hope to blossom
within them. But it was also a sight that weighed down their hearts
with bitterness and angry helplessness. Though Dawson had been
suspecting it all along, it was not until he stared out onto that
triangular-shaped patch of sun-baked ground that he knew definitely
that Freddy and he had finally reached what had no more than
forty-eight hours before been a Yank and Filipino-held emergency
airfield.

But it was all Jap now. And the only traces that it had once been
Yank-Filipino were the fire and bomb-marked wrecks of American planes
caught on the ground by overwhelming Jap bombers, and the gutted
hangars and buildings that lined one side of the field. And that it
was all Jap, now, was obvious from the Nipponese planes of all types
that were lined up on the other two sides. Planes, and Jap pilots and
mechanics, and ground troops strutting about. A sight to make any
Christian's heart weep blood. And the bitterest touch of all to Dawson
and Freddy Farmer was the way the planes were lined up. They were not
even dispersed about the field. And that could mean but one thing. That
there were no more Yank bombers left in the Philippines to roar back
and give those little slant-eyed brown men a taste of their own kind
of war. No, the bombers that would some day do that little thing were
thousands and thousands of miles away. And a great number of them were
still just working blueprints in American aircraft factories!

Yes, a sight to make Christians weep, but also a sight to fan the
flickering spark of hope and determination into a mounting flame!



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Beware The Sharks!_


"The dirty swine! Blast their rotten hearts! Gosh! What I'd give to
lead a patrol of bombers right now! Dash it all! I'd even be willing to
settle for Hawker Hurricanes!"

The words spilled softly and tonelessly off Freddy Farmer's lips. His
eyes fixed on the captured field were bright and brittle, and he was
unconsciously thumping one clenched fist into the palm of the other
hand. Dawson glanced sidewise at him, grinned, and nudged his arm.

"Check, and double check, pal!" he whispered. "But wishing for the
impossible won't help a bit. Besides, we haven't got time to jaw around
on such things. Take a look at that spread of Jap planes, Freddy. Which
one do you figure should be our baby, when we get it?"

"_If_ we get it!" the English youth muttered grimly. "Of course, I'd
much prefer one of those Zeros. But we couldn't both ride in the same
plane. Besides, they don't even carry enough gas to get us across the
China Sea, to say nothing of up to Chungking."

"Not a chance in a Zero," Dawson grunted with a shake of his head. "And
those Mitsubishi bombers over there are out, too. Take too long to get
one of them off. So that brings up the important fact, pal."

"Only _one_ important fact?" Freddy Farmer groaned.

"For the present, anyway," Dawson whispered with a grin. "In other
words, with what we manage to steal from these little rats, we wouldn't
be able to make Chungking non-stop. Our best bet, and the shortest hop
possible, is to skip across the northern part of Indo-China, and reach
Kunming."

"Suits me perfectly!" breathed Freddy Farmer, his eyes lighting up.
"Kunming is H.Q. for those Flying Tiger chaps. We may spot a few of
them on patrol to escort us in. Also, to send the Jap johnnies on their
way. The ones chasing us, or ones we're bound to run into, I mean."

"Sure, easy as pie!" Dawson snorted. "When we meet Flying Tigers on
patrol we simply yell at them that the Jap ship we're in doesn't
mean a thing, huh? And they'll catch on, quick? Listen, pal, those
Flying Tigers are hot stuff. They don't bother asking Jap pilots for
their names and addresses. They just sail in guns blazing. And, bingo!
Hirohito has a few less. See what I mean?"

"Well, what do _you_ plan, then, Master Mind?" Freddy growled.

"Nothing," Dave came right back at him. "Once we're in the air, all we
can do is hope that we can outfly the Japs chasing us. _And_ that we
don't bump into any of the Flying Tiger boys on the prowl. So I guess
that baby over there is the one for our money. It's the closest, and
those Jap mechanics wheeling that gas dollie away means that it's just
been fueled up. What do you think?"

Freddy Farmer peered in the direction of Dawson's pointing finger
and silently eyed the plane indicated on the near side of the
triangular-shaped field. It was a Mitsubishi "Karigane" MK-Eleven
two-place, low wing monoplane fighter. It was powered with an eight
hundred horsepower radial engine of copied American design. And it was
reputed to be one of the fastest, and longest ranged two-place planes
in the Far Eastern theatre of war. And so Freddy had only to take a
good look to be satisfied.

"We should just about make Kunming in it, with luck," he said to Dave.
"However, there's the small detail of stealing her, you know. There's
plenty of Nips standing around over there. And they all look armed to
me."

"They are," Dawson grunted. "But this isn't any walking stick I've got
in my hands, pal. Seriously, though, Freddy, I think we can _surprise_
those bums out of that plane without much trouble. Look at how cocky
they're acting, will you? Well, it's my guess a few well placed bursts
from this machine gun could throw the place into a panic. You fast on
your feet, kid?"

"Fast as you are if I have to be, I guess," Freddy replied gravely.
"But just what do you plan to do? Rush them from here? It's sixty
yards, if it's an inch."

"You think I'm that dumb?" Dawson growled, and shook his head
vigorously. "No, not rush them from here. Get _them_ to come rushing
_over_ here!"

"Eh, what's that?" the English youth gasped as his eyes popped and his
jaw sagged.

He started to say more, but Dawson stopped him by pointing at the
little path that turned sharp right and skirted that side of the
airfield, just inside the jungle growth. It had obviously been used
by soldiers on guard duty. In short, they had used it to reach their
posts, instead of crossing the field in the face of planes landing or
taking off. It could also be used during a bombing raid when it wasn't
good sense to show oneself out on the open field.

"There's where we run, Freddy," Dawson said. "_After_ I've blasted a
few bursts _back_ in the general direction of that Jap sentry we hauled
down. My guess, or my hope, is that those over there on the edge of the
field will come a-running, figuring his post has been attacked. Well,
when they start cutting across the field we'll start down that path,
but fast. The jungle growth will hide us, and we can get to a point
right behind that two-seater before we'll have to break out into the
open. And then--"

Dawson paused, and a tight, hard smile stretched his lips.

"Maybe even then we'll have to knock a few of them off," he said
grimly. "But so what? That'll make just less Japs, that's all. Well,
okay by you?"

Freddy Farmer shrugged, and gestured with his hands, palms upward.

"Why not?" he grunted. "It's just as insane and foolhardy as anything I
could think up. Right you are, then. But let's get on with it. I don't
fancy hanging around here any longer than I have to."

"You think I'm in love with the place?" Dawson snorted, and slipped the
safety catch off the machine gun's trigger. "Okay, kid. On your mark!
Here goes!"

Dawson's last whispered word hadn't even been swallowed up by the
jungle silence before he had pointed the sub-machine gun back along the
path in the direction of the dead Jap sentry, and pulled the trigger.
Three, four silence-shattering bursts leaped out from the gun's muzzle,
and a bit of the jungle growth in the line of fire promptly looked as
if it had been whizzed through a fine meat grinder. But Dave didn't
pause to admire the fire power effect on the jungle target. As the last
bullet sped clear, he spun around and snapped a quick gaze out across
the field. And for a crazy instant it was all he could do to stop from
laughing out loud. Every blessed Jap on the field had frozen stiff, and
some of them in the queerest, most unnatural positions.

However, they did not remain that way for long. A high-pitched
sing-song voice hit the air, and it was as though many invisible
strings had been jerked. The Japs snapped up straight, grabbed
for their side arms, or caught up their rifles or machine guns,
and came tearing across the field, screaming at the top of their
hideous-sounding voices. But by the time the first of them had taken
one step, Freddy and Dave had taken two steps along the hidden path.
And they kept right on adding more and more driving power to their legs.

In almost less time than it takes to relate it they had covered those
sixty odd yards of jungle path, and were directly behind the two-seater
Mitsubishi MK-Eleven that they figured on "borrowing." Yes, directly
behind it, but they still had some fifteen yards more of open ground
before they could reach the plane's cockpit. Just the same they didn't
hug the ground and waste time contemplating that final dash across open
ground. They simply waited long enough for Dave to sprint in front with
the sub-machine gun, and then off they went on the final lap.

Final lap? It was only fifteen yards to that MK-Eleven. Four good
running broad jumps would cover the distance easily. But to Dave
those fifteen yards seemed more like fifteen hundred. As he had half
expected, and half feared, not all the Japs in that corner of the field
had gone tearing over to investigate the mystery of the firing machine
gun. A half dozen or so of them, all mechanics, had remained where they
were. And it so happened that their sharp eyes caught sight of Dawson
the very instant he broke out into the open. Blood-curdling screams
of rage smote the air, and were instantly punctuated by rifle fire.
But also in the same instant Dawson had dropped to one knee and was
sweeping his bullet-spitting machine gun to left and right.

A couple of the Japs instantly went flat to the ground, and right out
of the war and the world forever. And the others spun around and leaped
for the protection of a nearby bomber's fuselage. That was okay by
Dawson. It was just what he wanted. He slammed a short burst under the
bomber's belly, and yelled to Freddy.

"Jump for it, Freddy!" he cried. "Into the rear cockpit, and be ready
to catch this gun and cover me as I pile in. Get going!"

The last two words were quite unnecessary. Freddy Farmer wasn't taking
precious split seconds out to do any arguing this time. As a matter
of fact, he had already leaped past Dave as the Yank ace shouted the
order. And in another couple of leaps he had reached the side of the
MK-Eleven and was virtually throwing himself into the rear cockpit.
Dawson saw Freddy make it out the corner of his eye, and slapped one
more burst to kick up dust under the bomber's belly. Then he sprang to
his feet, and dived for the MK-Eleven himself. As he reached its side
he threw the sub-machine gun straight at Freddy. The English youth
caught it in his hands, and was pumping bullets over at the bomber,
behind which the Japs were attempting to hide and fire, in the single
bat of an eyelid.

In what was practically a continuation of a wild leap into the
pilot's cockpit of that Jap MK-Eleven, Dawson whipped out one hand to
knock up the ignition switches, and stabbed the other thumb on the
starter button, and kicked off the wheel brakes with his foot. As the
Jap-copied American aircraft engine caught on the first time over,
and roared up in a full throated song of power, he blessed the odd
simplicity of Jap instrument panels and engine gadgets. There were not
more than six or seven of them, and though they were printed in Jap
sign writing, it was easy enough to guess their uses and functions. And
so as the MK-Eleven quivered and trembled for a brief instant and then
went rocketing out across the field like a comet gone haywire, he did
not jab or pull one wrong thing and put an end to their little bit of
war thievery right then and there.

On the contrary, he was able to nurse the last ounce of maximum power
from the roaring engine, and Jap-fired bullets had hardly begun to
twang and whine past his ears before he had the wheels clear and was
hauling the speedy little craft straight up toward the sun-flooded
Philippine sky. And he kept it going right on upward until he had more
than enough altitude under him. Then he whipped over and around onto
even keel with the nose pointed diagonally across the northern reaches
of the Philippines toward the South China Sea beyond.

Then he turned around and grinned happily at Freddy Farmer.

"Just like robbing the cradle, hey, pal?" he bellowed.

The English youth made a wry face and flung a pointing hand toward the
south.

"Not quite over yet, old thing!" he shouted back. "Here come some
of the blighters, for a starter. Too bad we didn't also steal their
blasted radio station!"



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Aces Think Fast_


As Dawson swung his head around the other way and stared to the south,
he saw the swarm of Jap wings prop-clawing along on a line intended
to cut him off from in front. A second glance, however, told him that
his stolen MK-Eleven held a slight edge. Told him, also, that his path
and the flight path of those other Jap planes would cross at a point
several miles out over the South China Sea.

"But those bums are going to cross our path _behind_ us, if I've got
anything to say about it!" he told himself grimly. "I've got enough
worries about whether this crate will make Kunming, without having
those bums give me grey hairs!"

With a savage nod for emphasis, he shot another look toward the Jap
planes boiling up from the south, twisted around to give Freddy Farmer
a reassuring grin, and then turned front and concentrated every
effort on getting every ounce of speed out of the MK-Eleven. Some
fifteen minutes later, when he took another look at the Jap planes, a
tight grin stretched his lips, and he gave a little nod of approval.
He had managed to gain on them considerably, and it looked now as if
the little brown men of Nippon were just wasting gas and oil. And in
addition to that helpful fact, cloud banks were beginning to form in
the heavens ahead. Just let him reach them, and the whole darn Jap air
force could try to hunt him out, if it wanted to.

"And so that is just what we'll do!" he murmured softly to himself.
"We'll beat those little tramps to the clouds, and--"

A sharp rap of Freddy Farmer's fist on his shoulder cut the rest off
short. He jerked his head around and started to bark the obvious
question, but the English youth was already talking, and pointing.

"I fancy the Japs back on Legaspi have been using their blasted radio
some _more_, Dave!" Freddy shouted. "Look up there to the north! More
of the blighters. Guess they must come from Jap air bases on Hainan
Island. Up to you, old thing. Can we still make those clouds?"

Dawson didn't answer at once because at that moment he had impulsively
glanced to the south-west. And there in the distant sky he picked
out more Jap planes racing up to join the other two enemy forces. He
studied them for a moment longer, and then turned front, eyes hard and
lips pressed into a thin grim line.

"We not only can," he grated presently, "but we're _going_ to, if this
thing'll just hold together. They figure to pull the old three-way
squeeze on us, but the bums have got another think coming. Hang onto
your hat, Freddy! This air buggy is going to go places, but fast!"

And then began a sky race against overwhelming odds. With the heel of
one palm jammed hard against the already wide open throttle, Dawson
hunched forward and kept his eyes glued on the clouds ahead. To reach
them he had to sacrifice precious speed by gaining altitude. But there
wasn't anything else he could do about it. To out-race the Japs cutting
down from the north was just plain out of the question. If they didn't
pile down into him eventually, the Japs coming up from the south-west
would. So his only hope lay in reaching the safety of the clouds ahead,
in gaining altitude, and slicing into those clouds before any of the
enemy planes could get within range.

It was nip and tuck every foot of the way. And when the most optimistic
of the Jap pilots opened up with long range fire, every crack of
their guns was like a tiny little knife of frozen ice jabbing into
Dawson's heart. Not once, though, did he take time out to glance at
the diminishing distance between the planes. He kept every bit of his
attention riveted on his own aircraft. When the Japs got too close, the
yammer of Freddy Farmer's rear guns would tell him that it was time to
forget the race, and concentrate on fighting for their lives.

However, Freddy Farmer's rear guns did not speak once as Dawson sent
the MK-Eleven ripping through the air high above the South China Sea.
And then, when it seemed that at least ten years of his life had
come and gone, the plane reached the first of the clouds and went
prop-clawing into them, and out of sight.

"Cheers for you, old thing!" Freddy Farmer cried as the fleecy
whiteness closed in all about them. "We made it, for fair!"

"But only just!" Dawson called back to him. "And don't thank me. Thank
this Nip sky wagon. Okay, start navigating, pal. We stick right to our
original course. Ten to one they'll think we'll try to fool them by
doubling back. Kunming! Here we come!"

As Dave yelled the last there was a smile on his lips, and the warmth
of great happiness in his heart. The end of their journey halfway
around the world was almost in sight now. All that was left was the
small matter of sitting down at Kunming without getting shot down
for a surprise raiding Jap plane, gassing up there, and racing on to
Chungking. At Kunming he'd have word flashed ahead that they'd be
arriving in a Jap plane. Or perhaps it would be better to borrow a
Flying Tiger ship at Kunming and not run the risk of being taken for a
Jap. However, that was a minor point. Just one more landing, and then
Chungking next stop!

"And it won't make me mad to get a little rest from barging about the
sky!" he grunted with a nod. "Yeah! It will be all to the merry to feel
how it is to walk on the ground for a spell, and not crawl on hands and
knees, or wiggle around like some darn snake. Nope, I won't mind it a
bit."

And with those and other very pleasant thoughts rippling through his
brain, he sent the MK-Eleven charging dead ahead on course through
the clouds. Every so often they came to a hole in the stuff, and
they could look down through and see patches of Japanese-occupied
Indo-China. And on a couple of those occasions Freddy Farmer was able
to accurately determine their position from land marks below. And each
time it was proved that they were right smack on course.

Two, three, four hours dragged by, and then suddenly the Mitsubishi
MK-Eleven ripped out into clear blue air just as suddenly as it had
gone ripping into the clouds. The instant they were out in the clear
both Dawson and Freddy Farmer made a swift study of the rugged and most
uninviting terrain below. However, its ugliness did not beat down the
great satisfaction that swelled up in them. They were dead on course
still. Some fifty miles ahead was the China border, and about as many
miles to the left was the point where the borders of China, Indo-China,
and Burma met. A little under an hour, now, and Kunming would be under
their wings.

Yes, it was a very wonderful and soul-satisfying realization, but it
lasted just about long enough for them to stop looking at the terrain
below and make a searching sweep with their eyes of the surrounding
sky. It was then that the gods of war screamed with laughter and
the heart-stopping truth was revealed. In short, there was a swarm
of Jap planes to their right, another one to their left, and a third
one directly behind. True, all of the enemy aircraft were well out
of range, but it took only a flash study of their angle of approach
to realize that the enemy pilots would reach the China border long
before they did. Reach it and form a winged barrier of flame and
death-spitting aerial machine guns and cannon.

"Blast them!" Freddy Farmer's voice thundered in Dawson's ears. "Go
right through the blighters, Dave! We've got to. It's the only thing
we can do. Blast through them, Dave, and I'll keep the beggars at a
distance!"

Dawson heard the words, but he paid little attention to them. He was
studying the Jap planes closing in from three sides, and with heavy
heart he realized that these planes were new. That is, they were
not the ones that had taken up the chase originally. And that fact
confirmed what he already believed to be the truth. The Jap forces
in the Far Eastern theatre of war had practically gone nuts with the
radio, and summoned every Jap plane over an area of thousands of square
miles to hunt down the thieves of a single Jap MK-Eleven. But its
meaning held more than just that for Dawson. It seemed almost insane
to credit it as truth, but facts pointed to the obvious: that the
Japs here, halfway around the world from London, knew who Freddy and
he were, knew the object of their mission, and knew where they were
headed. Yes, it seemed incredible and utterly fantastic. But hadn't
that little adventure with one _Herr_ Miller in the middle of the North
Atlantic seemed equally so? And that close brush with death when they
had been ambushed on the way to Hickam Field with General Stickney?
It just went to prove for the umpty-umph millionth time that anything
can happen in war. And that the smart soldier should expect it, and be
ready.

Perhaps it took all of three seconds for those and other thoughts to
whip through Dawson's brain. And then in the fourth second he saw
something that made a decision for him. That "something" was a small
group of dots at a point in the air right smack over the Burma border.
They were several miles away, but Dawson's eyes were sharp enough to
pick them out for what they truly were, and an unconscious shout of joy
spilled from his lips.

"Lifesavers, Freddy!" he howled back at the English youth. "Over there!
See? That's a patrol of Flying Tigers! Those are shark's head-painted
Curtiss P-Forties, or I'll eat my shirt. Take a deep breath, Freddy!
Everything is going to be okay!"

"Yes, I see them!" the English youth shouted back. "But _they_ don't
know who _we_ are, you know. Head for them and they'll blow us to bits
before we can even flash them a sign. Good grief! What are you doing
now?"

The last was because Dawson had deliberately hurtled the MK-Eleven
around toward the south and was tearing full out straight for the
nearest of the Jap planes roaring up from that direction.

"Our best bet!" he yelled at Freddy. "Get set with those rear guns.
We'll give those Flying Tiger boys a sign that'll leave no doubts that
we're not Japs. We smack one of them down, Freddy. Make it two. That'll
tell the Flying Tiger boys as plain as writing them a letter. Okay,
pal! Make it perfect as I tear in and out. Here we go!"

To any unsuspecting observer, that lone MK-Eleven racing straight
toward a swarm of Jap Zeros must have looked like a sheer suicide
maneuver. At least, it must have looked that way to the Zero pilots
who knew who was in that MK-Eleven. At any rate, the suddenness of the
mad attack threw the slow thinking Japs off balance for a few split
seconds. And for two sky warriors such as Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer
a few split seconds is sometimes as good as a whole lifetime. And that
was so in this particular case.

While the brains of those slant-eyed sons of the Rising Sun groped for
the true meaning of this unexpected maneuver, Dawson cut the MK-Eleven
in at the leader at rocket speed. In the last second allowed he feinted
as though to bank around and retreat. And that little act was curtains
for the already befuddled brain in the leading Zero's cockpit. Its
pilot started to pull over, but Dawson cut right back in again and
jabbed the trigger button on his stick. The savage bursts from his guns
caught the Zero broadside, and the Jap probably never even knew that
he was dying for his so-called Heaven-born Emperor. At least he didn't
know it until he was dead, and was falling earthward in a ball of
raging flame.

Nor did a second Jap Zero pilot who happened to "get in the way" of
Freddy Farmer's rear guns. The only difference was that he didn't go
earthward in a ball of flame. Freddy's first burst caught his fuel
tank. There was a sheet of mounting flame, and great belching gobs of
black-smudged white smoke. And then there was just a shower of pieces
going downward.

The time it took for all that to happen was perhaps no longer than
the time it would take you to blink one eye. In fact, almost before
both planes started down out of the war, Dawson had sheered off at
lightning bolt speed, leaving the rest of the Japs still brain-groping
and automatically fanning their guns at thin air. As a matter of fact,
practically all of them had unconsciously swerved off in the opposite
direction, and so when Dawson finally straightened out they were no
longer to the south of him. They were behind, and well out of range.
And six Curtiss P-Forties with their shark-painted noses were less than
a mile dead ahead.

"Start waving, just to make sure, Freddy!" Dawson roared, as he booted
the MK-Eleven toward those gallant American eagles who had come
thousands of miles to fight and to die for China's great and worthy
cause. "Stand up, and start waving. They might think it was just some
dizzy Jap trick."

"Not a chance, I fancy!" the English-born air ace shouted back. "Those
Jap yellow beggars have seen _them_! Take a look for yourself!"

Dawson gulped, "Huh?" as he jerked around in the seat. But that's all
he said, because in the next second he was bursting with laughter.
He was, for the very funny fact that every Jap-flown plane in the
surrounding skies had about-faced and was making tracks for any place
that would be far away from those dead-aim pilots who flew those
terror ships of the Chinese Air Force. At least a hundred Jap pilots
were streaking for safety from six hard-eyed, steel trigger-fingered
knights of the air. Just one more proof that though Jap pilots fly in
bunches, they know they will die the same way if they make the mistake
of getting too close to the guns of the Flying Tigers!

"Boy, oh boy! Look at them scoot, will you!" Dawson chuckled. "Praise
be to Allah for the Flying Tigers. It's just about all over but the
shouting, Freddy. Better start brushing up on your Chinese, pal, if you
know any!"

The English-born air ace laughed at that remark. But so did the gods of
war up in their unseen high places. Not, however, for the same reason.
They laughed because they knew that Death was only taking a breathing
spell; that Death would return again, and soon, to claim its victims!



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Warriors' Duty_


With a grin on his lips, and a happy song in his heart, Dawson rocketed
the Jap MK-Eleven across the sky toward the six P-Forties. And Freddy
Farmer half stood up in the rear cockpit and waved a wild greeting to
the Flying Tigers. The pilot of the lead plane waggled his wings in
reply, and then he and his five buddies swept by the MK-Eleven and
came about fast to take up escort positions. Dawson glanced over at
the leader and grinned broadly. The Flying Tiger returned the grin,
and then made signs with his hands to inquire how much gas Dawson had
left in his tanks. The Yank air ace took a quick look at the gauge and
gulped. True, he had some gas left, but not nearly enough to get him
to Kunming. In fact, he had only fifteen minutes or so of flying time
left. Unless there was a field within fifteen minutes range, he and
Freddy were still going to have trouble on their hands.

Turning his head toward the Flying Tiger in the leading P-Forty, he
lifted up his free hand and opened it and closed it three times. The
Flying Tiger nodded acknowledgment, gave Dawson a reassuring wave with
his hand and then pointed ahead and to the north. And just twelve
minutes later the pilot waggled his wings once more, dropped the
shark's-head nose of his plane, and went sliding downward. Dawson took
a look downward and swallowed hard. As far as he could see there wasn't
the sign of a field below. There was nothing but lush green jungle and
cliff and crag-studded hills and mountains. He knew they were over the
Burmese border, but at just what point he could only guess.

"I hope that guy isn't kidding!" he grunted absently. "You could break
your neck without any trouble landing in that stuff down there. Oh,
well. Here's hoping, anyway."

There was no need for Dawson to be worried, however. A little under a
minute later, the leading P-Forty eased off the angle of its glide, and
slid around the corner of a hill range and settled down onto a small,
level field, that looked like anything else but from the air. The
other five Flying Tigers went down in rapid succession to show Dawson
where he should land. And then, just as the Jap M-Eleven's engine was
sputtering out the last of its song of power, Dawson whipped off the
ignition switch, and coasted down the rest of the way.

No sooner had he touched ground than a couple of Flying Tiger mechanics
rushed out and waved him over to the side of the field where heavy
tropical growth grew like a solid green wall. They grabbed his wing
tips, and helped him wheel-brake the plane in under the edge of the
stuff. And when Freddy and he finally legged down onto the sun-baked
ground, there wasn't a single plane left out in the open for prowling
Jap eyes to spot from above.

"Wonder what this place is?" Dawson grunted, as he and Freddy watched
a dozen or so youths in American Volunteer Group uniforms come running
over to them.

"I think it's near Menglien, in Burma," the English youth replied.
"Between the Indo-China border and the Salween River. But what does it
matter? We're in very safe hands, and praise the good Lord for that!"

"Check, and double check!" Dawson echoed the statement. "Now, just one
more hop, and this crazy messenger boy job will be all over."

Freddy Farmer started to comment on that but checked himself as the
group of Flying Tigers arrived. They were all American boys, and a
warm, satisfying feeling flooded through Dawson. One of them, a tall,
dark-haired man with a major's insignia on his shoulder straps, flipped
a hand up in friendly salute and acted as spokesman.

"Welcome to Burma, Captains Dawson and Farmer!" he said. "How's one of
those Jap crates fly? And did you really swipe it in the Philippines?
Oh, yeah. I'm Major Brown, Fifth Group Commander. I'll introduce you to
the boys later. But welcome, anyway."

"Thanks, Major," Dawson said with a faint frown. "How come you know who
we are, and that we swiped this MK-Eleven in the Philippines? We didn't
think anybody knew it, except maybe some Japs."

"That's just the point," the major replied with a chuckle. "Some Japs
_did_ know it, and now the whole world knows it, maybe. At least, if
they've been tuned in on the Jap radio in this neck of the world.
Darned near the whole Jap Air Force has been looking for you for hours.
I guess some of them must have got close, eh, to force you this far
south. According to the Jap radio, you two were supposed to be headed
for Chungking."

For a couple of seconds neither Dawson nor Freddy Farmer could say a
word. Their feet, figuratively speaking, had been knocked right out
from under them. The fact that their supposedly secret journey to
Chungking had been publicized just about as much as Santa Claus' yearly
trip on Christmas Eve left them speechless, and gaping at the Flying
Tiger C.O.

"Jap radio, sir?" Freddy Farmer finally found his voice. "You mean, the
Japs have been broadcasting this thing?"

"Well, mainly for Jap Air Force consumption, I guess," the major
replied. "But anybody who tuned in, and understood Jap, could have got
the story. Part of it, anyway. We've got a radio here, of course, and
one of the boys understands Jap. So we learned that Captains Dawson and
Farmer are wanted plenty bad by the Japs. It seems they are believed
to have stolen a plane near Legaspi, in the Philippines, and are
undoubtedly headed for Chungking. All available Jap pilots were ordered
into the air from Hong-kong to the Burma border to find these two
wanted lads, and force them down and take them prisoner. _Force_ them
down, not shoot them down. Maybe you know why. I don't. Anyway, we were
out on patrol when our ground station relayed to us that the Japs had
sighted you, and where. Seemed as if you might get into trouble, so we
busted out a ways to help if we could."

"And how you did, Major, how you did!" Dawson exclaimed. "And thanks
from the bottom of our hearts. Yes, we do know why the Japs want us
alive. We--well, we've got an important date in Chungking. I can tell
you that much, anyway. But it sure is a shock to learn that the Japs
over here knew all about us. We'd been thinking we were pretty slick to
have given them the run-around."

The Flying Tiger C.O. grinned and shrugged.

"Things like that happen, and often," he grunted. "It sure does beat
all how secrets get around in this darn war. But they sure do. And from
my experiences with the Japs I've learned that Hitler's trick Gestapo
hasn't got a thing on the little brown slant eyes when it comes to
espionage and stuff. But here, here! You two must be about dead on your
feet. We can compare notes later. You'll be wanting food, and rest.
Or--or are you really in a hurry to get to Chungking?"

"Frankly, we are, sir," Dawson told him. "We began this trip from
London four nights ago, and---well, there's just one more hop to make,
and we'd sure like to get it over with, if you get what I mean? So we
were wondering if you could spare us gas for this MK-Eleven to get us
to Chungking?"

Major Brown scowled and shot a worried look up toward the clear blue
sky.

"We've plenty of gas," he said presently. "It isn't a case of that.
But this MK is a marked ship, Dawson, and there are flocks of Japs on
patrol between here and Chungking. You'd never make it unless some of
us went along as escort. And--"

"Well, could we borrow a couple of your P-Forties, sir?" Freddy Farmer
interrupted politely. "Then the Jap beggars probably wouldn't suspect.
And we'd bring them right back. Not necessary for us to remain in
Chungking for any great length of time, you know."

The Flying Tiger C.O. sighed heavily, and looked very sad. He gestured
toward twelve Curtiss P-Forties well dispersed about the edges of the
small field.

"Those are all the ships we have," he said. "And just enough pilots to
fly them. At any other time, I'd say take a couple and luck to you. At
any other time, too, I'd radio Kunming for permission to have us all
escort you up there, and you could fly the MK. But both of those things
are out now. Maybe this mission of yours is plenty important, but--"

The senior officer paused and shrugged again.

"But we've got an important mission coming up 'most any minute, too,"
he continued presently. "A matter of some twenty thousand Chinese
soldiers caught in a trap, and about to be slaughtered by the Japs.
Sometime today every A.V.G. unit within reach is going to try and fix
it so's those Chinese soldiers can get out of the trap. If they don't
make it today, they're sunk--every one of them!"

"Good gosh!" Freddy Farmer breathed. "Twenty _thousand_, you say, sir?"

"And maybe more!" the other said grimly. "Northwest of here, about
sixty miles. At a bend in the Salween River. The Chinese are on one
side, and a much larger Jap force on the other. A surprise move that
caught the poor devil Chinese cold. The river is shallow there, but
right behind the Chinese is a five hundred foot cliff. They came down
it by small road and foot path. Just infantry units, with no artillery
support at all. Meantime, the Japs had closed in on the other side of
the river, _with_ plenty of artillery. So the Chinese are caught both
ways. If they try to retreat up the cliff roads the Japs can pick them
off like flies. And if they try to cross the river and get at the Japs
with their machine guns and rifles, the Jap artillery can drown them
like rats--by the thousands. We _hope_ to ground-strafe and light bomb
the Japs so much they won't have time to let the Chinese have anything
before the Chinese have been able to force the river crossing and
can come to close grips with them. If we don't do that today, Chiang
Kai-shek's boys are lost. The Jap artillery will have all been moved
into position by nightfall. So you see--"

Major Brown gestured, and left the rest hanging in mid-air. Both Dawson
and Freddy Farmer nodded, and showed their understanding and sympathy
with their eyes.

"Well, in that case, sir--" he began, and stopped.

He stopped because at that moment three things happened all at the same
time. First, an A.V.G. orderly came pounding up on the dead run.

"Word's just been flashed, Major!" he panted. "Group take off and
proceed as ordered!"

The second thing that happened was the ungodly wail of the air raid
siren mounted atop a small shack on the far side of the field. And the
third thing that happened was the sudden, lightning-like appearance of
a lone Jap Zero wing screaming around the corner of the hill range, and
straight down toward the field.

Dawson had hardly spotted it before he saw the jetting streams of
orange-yellow coming out from the leading edges of its wing. It swept
down low until its belly was almost touching the field, and it came
straight for the group near the MK-Eleven. Dawson heard Major Brown
roar out for everybody to duck for cover, but the order was quite
unnecessary. Everybody had done just that, and as Dawson tried to bury
his own body deep in the sun-baked ground, his ears were filled with
the savage snarl of the Zero's gunfire. It was as though the plane were
sitting right on top of his head, and its guns pumping bullets straight
into his brain. And mingled in with the chattering roar was the sound
of fire from ground guns posted about the field. Then suddenly there
was silence, to be shattered almost immediately by a terrific explosion
just overhead.

Impulsively Dawson twisted over and stared up to see what was left of
the Jap Zero about six or seven hundred feet up in the air. Ground
gunners had obviously caught it cold, and its gas tank had blown it
into all those flaming splinters that were now arcing out far and wide.
Its dead pilot, however, had seemingly fulfilled his suicide mission.
As Dawson twisted over he saw that the MK-Eleven was on fire and
blazing fiercely. That fact snapped him out of his trance and brought
him leaping up onto his feet with a cry of alarm struggling up his
throat.

It was then, though, that he realized there was no gas in the MK-Eleven
for those raging flames to explode. And it was then, also, that he
saw the terrible look on Major Brown's face. Wild, seething rage, and
bitter, heart-crushing agony flamed on the senior officer's face.
Dawson leaped over to him and grabbed his arm.

"You hit, sir?" he shouted. "Where? Take it easy, and--"

"I'm okay!" the other snapped. "But Stevens, and Gregg. They caught
one. They can't go. That leaves only ten of us to do a big job. I
wonder if--"

"Ten nothing!" Dawson roared as he saw the two wounded Flying Tigers
stretched out on the ground. "You've _still_ got twelve. What do you
think Farmer and I do for a living? Drive tanks?"

"But, but Chungking!" Major Brown sputtered. "I can't ask you two to--"

"And you can't stop us, either!" Dawson cut him off. "Chungking?
Listen! Twenty thousand trapped Chinese soldiers are worth making
Chungking wait! Heck! You think Freddy and I would sit here and cool
our heels while all those Chinese lads are trapped? And by dirt rotten
Japs? Nuts! What two planes, Major? Point them out, and let's go!"

"Over there, numbers six and ten!" the Flying Tiger leader cried. "And
good--!"

"Same to you!" Dawson snapped and started running. "Come on, Freddy.
Shift it! We've got some _real_ flying to do for a change!"

Not over two minutes later twelve shark head-painted Curtiss P-Forties
went roaring up off the surface of that field, slid in close in
formation, and went cutting around and up toward the northwest. Flying
at number three on the right, Dawson turned his head and grinned over
at Freddy Farmer flying the same formation position on the left. The
English youth seemed to feel his look, for he turned his head and
returned the grin. They both nodded silently and immediately returned
their attention to the business of flying.

"Tough on those two lads hit!" Dawson breathed to himself as the
formation went ripping along over the uninviting terrain of North
Burma. "But what a break for Freddy and me. Once again going into
action with the Flying Tigers. Hot dog! And here's hoping that this
time things will turn out even better than that other time, which was
plenty, what I mean!"[3]

[Footnote 3: _Dave Dawson at Singapore._]

With a grim nod for emphasis, Dawson twisted the little button on the
stick to "Fire" position, and made sure that everything was set to
release the cluster of twenty small strafing bombs fitted to the under
side of the wings. Everything was in order now, and all that was left
was the passing of time, and the arrival at the objective.

And that arrival seemed to become a fact almost before Dawson could
blink his eyes and take a deep breath. As though by magic, three more
Flying Tiger Groups materialized in the Burma sky. And just ahead at
a hair pin bend in the muddy Salween River, the ground on both sides
was beginning to belch up flame and smoke. But most of the flame and
smoke came from the north side of the bend, from the heavily fortified
Japanese positions. And it seemed to be no more than a couple of split
seconds later that Dawson was wing-screaming his Curtiss P-Forty
practically down at the vertical.

In his earphones he heard Major Brown bark orders for two of the Flying
Tigers to stay top-side to ride herd and watch out for Jap planes. But
he didn't turn his head to take a look at the two who were to remain
aloft. He kept his eyes fixed on the picture below, and his blood
boiled with anger. Trapped was right! And how! It was like a small
edition of the beach at Dunkirk, during the British evacuation of
France back in 1940. Thousands and thousands of brave Chinese troops
were huddled in the shore growth with the suicide cliff at their backs.
And across the river's bend in the low hill, thousands and thousands
of little slant-eyed rats of Nippon were hurling death and destruction
into the midst of those Chinese. The foothills seemed to explode shell
fire every three or four feet in any direction. And trailing backward
along the narrow roads were columns of supply trains moving upward
with more horror and more death for those helpless Chinese.

All that and more Dawson saw and absorbed with his eyes as he went
roaring downward. And then he was within range of the Jap forces, and
all thoughts of everything fled from his brain. That is, all thoughts
of everything save the constant thought of hammering those hordes of
slant-eyed rats into the ground as long as he and his plane and his
guns could hold out. Here was a chance to pay back for some of the
things he had seen and had suffered himself. Here was a chance to fight
for a gallant nation; a nation that had held its own against the Tokyo
vermin for so many years. Chungking? Sure! Freddy and he would get to
Chungking presently. Right now, though, the lives of twenty thousand
Chinese soldiers hung in the balance. The lives of twenty thousand
Chinese soldiers, and some thirty odd shark-painted Curtiss P-Forties
overhead to do something about it!

"Don't worry, pals, we'll blast them out for you! We'll blast the
rotten bums out even if we have to come down and do it with our bare
fists! And how, pals! And how!"

Silly, crazy words? Certainly! But Dave Dawson's brain was afire with
the excitement of battle. And besides, words shouted and screamed
aloud are simply a warrior's escape valve in the heat of conflict.
Sure! Crazy, silly, inane words! But there was nothing crazy or silly
about Dawson's guns, or the light strafing bombs fitted under his
wings. Nor was there anything silly about the way he and the others
tore right down until their props were practically flipping off the
helmets of the Jap troops. And nothing silly about the way they blasted
ammunition truck after ammunition truck on the roads, and knocked
scores and scores of the little brown devils out of the world at
practically every tick of their wrist-watches.

Before those Flying Tiger P-Forties had arrived, the Japs had been
turning the opposite bank of the river bend into a smoking, blazing
graveyard. But now it was all very different. The graveyard had been
moved to the other side of the Salween's bend, and the Japs were
getting the savage, relentless back-fire of something they had started.

"So? Think so? Well, think again, but good!"

The words automatically burst from Dawson's lips as he caught sight of
two heavily loaded ammunition trucks rocking down one of the roads
straight for the river's bend. Chinese troops relieved from the
terrific pounding of Jap fire were starting to swarm across the shallow
river and get at close quarters with the enemy. Some Jap officer had
spotted them, though. Or perhaps it was just a suicidal idea of the
drivers of those two ammunition trucks. At any rate, the two trucks
were hurtling down to the river's bank to plow into the water among
those swarms of Chinese troops, and blow them all to bloody pieces.

That was the mad Jap suicide idea. But two steel-eyed eagles spotted
what was taking place. Two steel-eyed eagles who had been feasting
on juicy roast beef in London just four nights before. And down they
streaked like two man-made birds of vengeance straight for those two
trucks hurtling toward the river's edge. And when he was little more
than a few feet over the leading truck, Dawson dumped the last of his
light strafing bombs, and instantly nosed upward for altitude. On that
load of exploding death he could practically have dropped a lighted
match!

Hardly had his P-Forty started to prop-scream for the sky before the
whole of Burma below him exploded in a world-shattering thunder of
sound. He had purposely dropped down low so that he would be sure not
to miss his target. And so his zooming plane was caught by a thousand
invisible hands, spun around like a top and flung high and far across
the sky. Instinctively he tried to battle the helpless plane, but he
might just as well have tried to jump out into thin air and hold it
back with his two hands.

Earth, sky, fire, smoke, and sections of airplane spun around in a
mad race before his eyes. He saw the Jap hordes retreating from their
positions in mad, frenzied flight. He saw wave after wave of Chinese
soldiers swarming across the river and lighting out after the heels
of the fleeing Japs. He saw a section of his left wing let go, and
go sailing off into space. He even saw Freddy Farmer's P-Forty come
tumbling down past him. And a split second later his own plane broke
in two right at the cockpit, and popped him out into thin air as a pea
pops out of a pod.

In a dazed, abstract sort of way he knew that he was falling through
space. He knew also that his right hand clutched the rip-cord ring
of his parachute. He thought, but he wasn't sure, that he had yanked
the ring, and that the lifesaving white parachute silk was billowing
upward. He had just a vague idea that the parachute had mushroomed out,
and that his fall had been checked. However, there was no time to get
control of his neck muscles and twist his head around and up to look.
There wasn't time because at that instant jet black night sky seemed to
drop straight down on him--and he knew no more!



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Lightning Wings_


The music was soft and soothing; like no other music ever heard on
earth before. And all about was beauty far beyond the reach of words,
or the brush of an artist. Everything was so wonderful, so perfect, and
so--

But into Dawson's throbbing, pounding head slipped a tiny inkling of
the stark naked truth. There was no soft, soothing music. And there
was no breathtaking beauty. In fact, nothing was wonderful, or even
approaching perfection. All was Death! Horrible, lingering, painful
death that comes to a man lost and unarmed in the steaming lush jungle
of northern Burma.

Yes, it was just his brain, and all of his senses playing him tricks
originated by the Devil. Tricks to make him let go, and just relax
peacefully--and die! But he wouldn't let go. And he wouldn't die. He
couldn't! There was too much to--

The roaring whine of aircraft engines pulled his head up out of the
jungle mud and slime. He rolled half over on his back, gritted his
teeth against the pain that movement caused, and peered up through
the canopy of jungle growth at four Jap Zeros cutting across the
blue-white sky toward the north. For a moment or so he blinked up at
them stupidly. And then, like flood waters storming over a broken dam,
memory came rushing back.

"Freddy!" he gasped, and pushed himself painfully up onto his feet.
"Freddy! I saw him bail out! Or did he?"

The thought seemed to catch hold of his brain and twist it savagely.
White hot fire shot across the backs of his eyeballs, and the mass of
lush green jungle all about began to swim around and become as so much
churned up pea soup. He grabbed hold of a hanging vine for support,
closed his eyes tight and fought grimly to drive back the wave of
black oblivion that tried to engulf him. After a few moments his brain
cleared a little, and his thumping heart eased off considerably.

"Easy does it, pal!" he told himself, tight-lipped. "Don't go off
half-cocked. It'll just get you that much more trouble."

The sound of his own voice seemed to soothe his jangled nerves. He
nodded, and slowly looked about him.

"One thing at a time is the way," he went on talking to himself.
"First, get out of this spot. Pick some high ground, and head for it.
You can't be so very far away from the Salween. Pick a hill and maybe
you'll spot the river. But take it easy, and don't break a leg getting
there. You--"

A thought suddenly cut into his head and froze his brain solid. And for
a long minute he just stood there hanging onto the vine as he mentally
died a thousand times over. Then, with an almost superhuman effort,
he reached his right hand inside his tunic. When his fingers touched
the stiff paper of the sealed envelope, tears of utter, inexpressible
relief sprang to his eyes, and a great big lump clogged up his throat.
Praise be to God! The sealed envelope for Chiang Kai-shek was still
safe! But for a moment--

He shook his head, refusing to finish the horrible thought. It did
little good, however, to brush that unfinished thought from his brain.
Another one popped right in that was equally heart-stopping. The
thought, the realization that he was completely lost in the North Burma
jungle with no telling what was lurking in wait for him. If he didn't
get out and complete his trip to Chungking, it would be just the same
as though Freddy and he had been killed in that German U-boat, or by
that Jap near Pearl Harbor, or by the little brown rats at Legaspi.
Yes, to fail now would be just as bad as failing right at the very
start. And he might--

"Cut it, cut it!" he rasped savagely at himself. "Words won't help a
darn bit. Action is what's needed! Snap out of it, you sniveling punk.
Get going! Stop crying for your Mama! Get going!"

The commands from his tongue put his muscles into action. He took a
quick glance at the position of the sun, and then headed north, and
slightly to the east. He had a hunch that the Salween River lay in that
direction, and until he was proved wrong the only thing he could do was
to play hunches.

An hour later, though, the soul-crushing torment that comes to men lost
in the jungle was closing in on him from all sides like an invisible
army of demons. With every step he had practically walked hand and hand
with Death. Every step? His travel through the thick jungle growth
could hardly be called steps. It was more falling forward, scrambling
forward, lurching, twisting, and virtually clawing and tearing his way
through the hanging vines. Hard ground would be beneath his feet at one
moment, and in the next he would be up to his knees in muck and mire.
Clouds of insects attacked him every inch of the way, and there was the
constant danger of the needle fangs of deadly snakes. He spotted at
least a dozen of them in the nick of time. But as the year long minutes
dragged on and on, he ceased to care about what might be in his path.
And there was so much pain in all parts of his body that he would have
been unable to feel any new pain from the fangs of a striking snake, or
any other jungle animal.

And then, when his brain as well as his body was hovering on the verge
of a complete breakdown, he stumbled out onto open ground. But for a
moment or two his befuddled brain was unable to grasp that truth, and
he continued lurching and reeling forward until his foot tripped over
a stone, and he fell flat on his face. It was the sharp, jarring pain
of meeting hard ground that shook the red cobwebs from his brain, and
pulled away the grey-green curtains from in front of his eyes. Yet even
then the brain was not quite ready to function as it should, and he
stared blankly up the bare slope of a hill without realizing what it
was.

Eventually, though, it registered on his brain. And he also took note
of the fact that a thin column of oily black smoke was mounting high
into the still air from around the left side of the hill. A little door
in his brain seemed to open up and tell him that that smoke must be
from a burning plane. His plane, or Freddy Farmer's? He didn't know.
The thin column of smoke was simply a welcoming beacon. Something
tangible between a lost man and a world he had once known. He only knew
that tears were streaming down his cheeks, that gagging sobs filled his
throat, and that a pair of legs that had been on the point of quitting
completely a moment or two before were carrying him at full speed
around the base of the hill.

The gleefully jeering gods of war refused to let him alone, however. As
he skirted the base of the hill, jungle growth leaped up in front of
him to block off what was at the ground end of that mounting column of
smoke. It forced him high and higher up the hill, and made him travel
a good two miles toward a spot that was actually a short six hundred
yards from his starting point. But eventually he reached a spot where
the heavy growth ceased abruptly, and he found himself staring down
the hill at the burning wreckage of a plane on the edge of a fair-sized
plot of barren level ground. It was as though Nature had taken a pair
of shears, started some three hundred yards back in the jungle, and cut
a perfect swath through the jungle and right up the side of the hill.

Yes, that's what it looked like, but Dawson didn't tarry one fleeting
instant to observe and marvel. He didn't for the simple reason that he
saw the figure of Freddy Farmer standing a little off from the burning
wreckage. Freddy Farmer spotted him at almost the same instant, and
started jumping up and down, waving his arms wildly, and shouting like
a maniac. But Dawson didn't wave or shout back in reply. He didn't wave
because he was using his arms to pump his body down the hill. And he
didn't shout because the air he sucked into his lungs was needed to
keep his piston rod legs going at full speed.

As a matter of fact, when he finally reached Freddy Farmer and
practically fell into the English youth's arms, there wasn't the air
in his lungs to permit him to say anything. Nor could Freddy speak,
either. The emotions of both of them had hit an all-time high, and they
could only cling to each other and struggle for control and sanity.

"Freddy, Freddy, boy!" Dawson finally managed to force out past his
lips. "Am I happy to see your ugly mug! Say, am I happy?"

"Not half so glad as I am to see you, Dave!" Freddy panted, and
pounded him on the back. "I thought it was all up for fair. And it
was a horrible thought I never want to have again, old thing. Another
five minutes and I'd have given you up for good, and tried to find my
way out of here. But--but you did see this smoke, and my prayers were
answered. Why, you old good-for-nothing blighter, I never dreamed I'd
taken such a fancy to you!"

"Me, too!" Dawson grinned at him. "It had to take something like this
to make me realize you're not such a bad guy at times. But hey! That
burned crate was the bus I was flying, wasn't it?"

"That's right," Freddy told him. "My aircraft didn't burn. And I bailed
out near this spot. I saw this smoke and headed for it, hoping that
you'd sight it, too, and we'd meet. And we did. But, good grief, Dave,
what took you so long? I've been here almost an hour!"

"What took me so long?" Dawson echoed. "Look, pal! I've been crawling
through stuff that you just can't crawl through, if you get what I
mean. Sweet tripe! After this little adventure a desert is sure going
to look wonderful to me! I'll be tearing vines aside in my dreams for
years to come. Holy smokes! Just look at me!"

"I am," Freddy Farmer said with a grin. "And not to be impolite, I'd
suggest a good bath for you, old thing!"

"It'll take a day of just soaking to get off the first layer!" Dawson
said as he stared down at his mud and slime-caked hands, and at his
uniform that just wasn't a uniform any more. "But let's cut the horsing
around. We're still in a spot, Freddy. I haven't any idea which way is
out, have you?"

"Just a half-belief that the Salween must be east of here," the English
youth said. "But goodness knows how many of the Japs may be in between.
And--"

"Plane engines!" Dawson barked, and grabbed Freddy's arm. "Probably the
Jap patrol I spotted when I woke up. This burning ship. They see the
smoke. Let's duck, Freddy! We'd be sweet targets for those rats out
here in the open!"

Freddy Farmer didn't reply. He simply nodded and started running with
Dawson for the bordering jungle. But when they were a few yards from
it some impulse caused Dawson to turn his head and glance back up over
his shoulder. A wild cry burst from his lips, and he skidded to such
an abrupt halt that he almost tripped over himself to go flat and haul
Freddy down with him.

"_P-Forties!_" he gagged out. "Hold everything. P-Forties! Not Zeros,
Freddy!"

The English youth had skidded to a halt, too, and both boys stood
gazing unbelieving up at three Flying Tiger P-Forties ripping into view
over the brow of the hill. And the next thing Dawson realized he was
racing back out onto the field again, jumping up and down and waving
both hands over his head. And right beside him Freddy Farmer was doing
the same thing, if not a little more violently.

But for one heart-shriveling instant the three Curtiss P-Forties, with
their shark-painted noses, went banging right on across the field, as
though their pilots hadn't sighted a thing of interest beneath their
wings. However, when they reached the far end, two of them came curving
around and down, while the third went up for a bit of altitude, and
started circling about.

"They're landing, Freddy, they're landing!" Dawson screamed crazily.

"I know, I see!" the English youth screamed back, and pulled on his
arm. "So get out of the way, you blasted idiot, before their props chop
your head off!"

That bit of sanity registered on Dawson's happy merry-go-round brain,
and he let Freddy Farmer pull him clear of the path of the two
landing P-Forties. But as soon as they had touched earth, and were
wheel-braking to a halt, he broke away from Freddy's grasp and went
pounding over. The pilot who leaped out of the first P-Forty was Major
Brown, and he let out a warwhoop of greeting.

"Chalk one up for Lady Luck!" he boomed, as the two youths came racing
up. "I would have bet my shirt that--But never mind. By luck we spotted
this smoke, and came for a look. Thank the Lord for small things, but
this isn't small. Heavens above, Dawson! What mud hole and bramble
patch did you fall into? But skip the answer. You two got the strength
to hang on for a piggy-ride back?"

"If we haven't, we'll find it somewhere!" Dawson grinned. Then,
sobering quickly, "But do you think you can get off here with the extra
load?"

"If we don't," the other Flying Tiger, a freckle-faced red head, spoke
up, "then there'll be four of us stuck here. And after what I saw you
two guys do today, you're swell company any place, in my book."

"And that feeling is mutual," Dawson grinned at him. "But tell me, how
did the scrap come out? Did the Japs--?"

"Still running, those that aren't dead!" Major Brown said grimly.
"Yeah! Another headache for Tokyo, and more coming up. But let's can
this chatter session. The Japs occupy this neck of the woods, and
they'd be very happy to catch us here with our pants down. So let's get
going. Sweeney! You take Farmer, and don't let him fall off, see? Come
along, Dawson. Nothing like an airplane ride in the open air!"

Just four minutes later Lieutenant Sweeney, of the American Volunteer
Group in China, sent his P-Forty rocketing down the length of the level
patch of Burmese ground. And standing on the left wing butt, with his
head and shoulders and arms inside the cockpit, Freddy Farmer went
along as passenger. The savage prop-wash caught at Freddy's legs and
tried to pull them out from under him, but he was well braced, and his
hands had an iron grip on the inside of the cockpit. So he stayed put,
and the veteran Flying Tiger lifted the fighter plane off the ground at
the right moment, and nursed it up over the rim of the jungle and on up
toward the blue-white sky.

And thirty seconds later Major Brown took off with Dave Dawson as
his "strap-hanging" passenger. When that plane was well clear of the
ground, the P-Forty that had been left top-side to ride cover slid
downward, and the three planes slid into formation with their noses
pointed for the home field at Menglien some eighty odd miles away.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

_Satan's Last Gasp_


A new day's sun was climbing up over the eastern rim of a whole world
embroiled in total war. A new day that would see small triumphs, and
big ones, at one front or another. And a new day that would see more
war miracles performed, and more fading life for some, and sudden
violent death for countless others.

A new day of war, but for Dave Dawson, and Freddy Farmer, it was not
the beginning of something new. Rather, it was the beginning of the end
of something old. Before that sun set in the west again they would be
in Chungking, the secret document would be delivered to Generalissimo
Chiang Kai-shek, and a mission that had carried them almost two-thirds
of the way around the world would be all over but the shouting--and the
great and deep sighs of utter relief.

"Don't say it, Dave!" Freddy Farmer spoke up as the pair stood on the
edge of the Flying Tiger field at Menglien while mechanics warmed up
the engines of six Curtiss P-Forties. "Don't say it, for Heaven's sake.
It's brought us too much bad luck already!"

"Okay, I won't say it," Dawson grunted, and gave him a side-long look.
"But off the record, just what in blue blazes are you yapping about?"

"Your favorite speech ever since we left Colonel Welsh!" the English
youth shot back at him. "Remember? Three more laps, Freddy, old kid.
Two more laps, Freddy, my boy. Just one more hop and we'll be there.
And so forth, and so on? And each time you've made that little speech
we've barged straight into bad business. So, for goodness sake, spare
us this time. In fact, my good man, shut up, will you, until _after_
we've landed at Chungking?"

"Okay, okay!" Dawson growled. "But just the same, it's practically in
the bag now, and so--"

"So shut up!" Freddy ordered him. "Will you please stop defying the
gods?"

"Sweet tripe!" Dawson snorted. "What a superstitious mug you turned out
to be. But okay. Maybe we won't ever reach Chungking! There! Does that
make you happy?"

"Makes me feel worse!" the English youth snapped. "Because there's no
telling but what you might be right, at that!"

"Oh my gosh!" Dawson groaned, and shook his head sadly. "I wonder what
kind of a bug did bite you there in the jungle anyway? My guess is that
the natives around these parts call it the Coo-Coo Bug. A variety of
the Screwy Family, probably!"

Freddy Farmer didn't make any retort to that, because he didn't have
time to. At that moment Major Brown, Lieutenant Sweeney, and two other
Flying Tigers came over to join them. The A.V.G. commander looked at
Dawson's hastily washed and mended uniform, and grinned.

"Sorry our home-made steam laundry couldn't do better, Dawson," he
chuckled. "But this is Burma, not China. Still, even at that, you'll be
one of the best dressed people in Chungking, I guess. Their wardrobes
have been Jap-bombed and blasted around plenty, too."

"I'm not fussy about my looks, Major," the young Yank air ace grinned
back at him. "Even if I get to Chungking in a barrel, it'll be okay by
me. Yeah! Just so long as I get there."

"Well, don't worry about that!" Major Brown said with a vigorous
shake of his head. "We're practically there now. Just one more hop,
and--Say! What's the matter, Farmer? You swallow something the wrong
way?"

"No, no, sir!" Freddy hastily assured him, as the blood started up his
neck. "Just had a bad memory for a moment. No, I'm quite all right.
Quite!"

"Okay, then," the Flying Tiger group leader grunted, and glanced over
at the warming up P-Forties. "Let's get this joy hop underway. We've
got about eight hundred miles to go, but it'll be a cinch with those
extra tanks fitted aboard. However, some Japs will be on the prowl, no
doubt. So we'd better get on with it, so that we can get it over with,
or something like that. Anyway, into your sky hacks, Gentlemen. See you
all on the Chungking field, eventually."

"Fair enough!" Dawson sang out happily. "Just one more--Oops! Sorry,
Freddy, old pal!"

"That's more like it!" the English youth muttered, and ran over toward
his plane.

If one could study the Japanese Air Force records for that particular
day, one would undoubtedly find that numerous Nippon planes were in
the air between Menglien, Burma, and Chungking, China. However, if one
could talk with the little slant-eyed pilots of those planes, and get
them to tell the truth--which, of course, would be an out and out
impossibility--one would unquestionably learn that although they were
in the air, the terrible fear of shark head-painted Curtiss P-Forties
was in their black hearts, as well as in their heathen-brained heads!

At any rate, no Jap plane came within radio distance of that tight
six-plane formation that roared up out of Burma and across the South
China border. And if they did, they spotted those Flying Tigers first,
and made tracks for more distant places. Twice Dawson thought he saw
a few dots or so hugging some scattered clouds high up in the brassy
sun-filled sky. But he couldn't tell for sure. And they might well just
have been tricks of his imagination.

So finally the six-plane formation reached the broad and much bombed
expanse of the Chungking Airport, circled it twice in salute, and then
slid down to a perfect landing. A few moments later the pilots had
taxied up to the tarmac line, and had legged out to stretch cramped and
aching muscles. As for Dawson, it was all he could do to refrain from
leaping out and kissing the ground, he was that joyously thankful that
all was at an end, definitely. Or so he _thought_!

However, he curbed his impulse. He climbed down with the others,
grinned happily at Freddy Farmer, and then turned to stare at the
small group of Chinese military officials walking out to meet them.
One, however, was in civilian clothes, and as Dawson spotted him the
Yank's heart executed a perfect outside loop in dumbfounded amazement.
The broadly smiling Chinese in civilian dress hurrying toward them was
none other than Minister of War Soo Wong Kai!

"Good gosh, it can't be!" Dave heard Freddy Farmer gasp at his elbow.
"Why--why, we left him in London!"

"Yeah, I know," Dave grunted. "But I just happened to think, pal.
R.A.F. planes make this hop by way of Gibraltar, Cairo, India, and
so on, you know. And _he_ didn't have any tough luck to hold him up
places, probably. But heck! _You_ should feel happy to see Soo Wong
Kai, kid!"

Dawson would have said more, but at that moment the little group
reached them, and the beaming Soo Wong Kai was wringing them both by
the hand.

"My blessings and those of all my countrymen upon you, my dear
Captains!" he said. "There are not the words in all the world to
express the overflowing happiness in my heart. Even death at this
moment would be but death for a man whose cup of joy is filled to the
brim. Again, Captains, the greetings and blessings of all China. You
two shall live among her heroes forever."

"Thank you, sir," Dawson said with an effort. "And I can assure you
that there are not the words either to express how glad Farmer and I
are to be here. Tell me, though, sir--just how much did you beat us by?"

"By only a few hours, Captain," the Chinese said with a laugh. "I was
delayed a short time in Calcutta. However, we meet again, and all is as
it should be."

"And how, sir!" Dawson replied fervently. "I--Say, I beg your pardon,
sir. Permit me to introduce--"

"Major Brown, and these other Flying Tiger heroes?" Soo Wong Kai
interrupted pleasantly. "But I already possess the high honor of
knowing them, Captain Dawson. In fact, all of the gallant Flying Tigers
are my friends. How are you, Major Brown? And you, Gentlemen?"

"Very well, thank you, sir," Major Brown replied for himself, and his
pilots. "And delighted to meet you again. But may I ask if your journey
to London was successful?"

For a moment Soo Wong Kai looked at Dawson and Farmer. Then he turned
to Major Brown and smiled.

"Successful countless million times over, my dear Major Brown," he
said. "But I, too, must beg pardons. Permit me to present these
military officials of my country. Then we will proceed to the
Generalissimo's headquarters. He and Madame Chiang Kai-shek are eagerly
and anxiously awaiting us at this moment."

It took a few minutes for the introductions to be made, and then all
walked over to where several Chinese Army cars stood waiting. Soo Wong
Kai, Dawson, Farmer, and Major Brown rode in the first car, while the
other Flying Tigers and the Chinese military officials rode in the
other cars. And then for the next half-hour Dawson and Freddy Farmer
forgot all about the hardships and nerve-racking trials through which
they had passed in the last five days, and lost themselves completely
in the many and varied sights of the Far East that greeted them as
the motor cavalcade made its way through the throng-packed streets of
Chungking.

And then finally they approached the building that housed Generalissimo
Chiang Kai-shek's headquarters. Suspended from poles above the broad
steps leading up to the main doors were all the flags of the United
Nations. And as Dawson caught sight of Old Glory among them something
swelled up in his heart, and his eyes grew bright with deep and
reverent pride.

"All for one, and one for all!" he said softly.

"Eh, what's that, Dave?" Freddy Farmer grunted in his ear.

He turned and grinned at his English pal.

"I said, this is it, kid!" he chuckled. "The last stop. The end of the
line, and--"

But Dawson never finished the rest of that sentence. At that exact
instant a fiendish scream of rage rose high above the general murmur
of the throngs gathered in front of the Generalissimo's headquarters.
A horrible unearthly scream of satanic madness that chilled Dawson's
blood, and made his flesh crawl. And in almost the same instant a human
body came hurtling through the air. The violent movement was so sudden
and so utterly unexpected that Dawson couldn't so much as move a muscle
as a berserk jungle beast in human form crashed down on top of him, and
drove him hard against the back of the car seat.

For one fleeting tick of a second his brain was a completely stunned
blank. And then his eye caught the flash of a thin, gleaming steel
blade held poised above him. But instinct was taking charge of him
even as his eyes were registering the terrible truth upon his brain.
Instinct that made him twist violently and crack up with one arm
with every ounce of his strength. And as his upflung arm caught that
screaming object under the chin, he brought up his clenched right fist
with terrific battering-ram force. Pain from the blow shot clear up his
arm to the elbow, but his was the fierce satisfaction of seeing that
poised steel blade go flying off into space. And of seeing, also, a
hideous face horribly distorted by excruciating pain.

Then in the next second he was not quite sure of just what he did see.
Rather, so many things happened, and so fast, that it was practically
impossible for one pair of human eyes to follow them in detail. But he
did see Freddy Farmer lunge upward and grab for the choking, squealing
figure still sprawled on him. And he did see the short, rotund Soo Wong
Kai transform himself into a veritable pin-wheel of stabbing lightning.
As though by magic, a similar steel-bladed knife appeared in Soo
Wong Kai's hand. And as though by magic, also, the blade disappeared
straight into the chest of the squealing, gasping figure on top of
Dawson. But in the next instant the squealing figure was lifted clear
by Soo Wong Kai, and hurled down onto the street beside the car. And
the third bit of magic was when Chinese headquarters guards virtually
materialized out of thin air and completely circled the car to protect
the occupants from the chattering crowds striving to press in close.

"Holy smoke!" Dawson was conscious of his own voice choking out. "What
was that? And where in thunder did it drop from? What gives, anyway?"

"A last gasping effort by Satan himself!" he heard Soo Wong Kai tell
him. "And praise to all the gods that he failed even in this his dying
effort. But his blade did not touch you, Captain?"

"Not--not quite!" Dawson gulped. "But I wouldn't want it any closer.
But--My gosh! A _Jap_!"

Dawson popped out the last as he saw the face of the limp figure
stretched out on the street beside the car.

"He is a Jap, isn't he?" he said to Soo Wong Kai. "I mean, he has the
face."

"He is," Soo Wong Kai told him gravely. "The face, the black heart, and
the mad brain of the hated enemy of my country. But cunning and great
cleverness was his, too. Knoye Kyoto served his Emperor long, and well.
But as to all such as he, failure and death can be his only rewards in
this life."

"I say, sir!" exclaimed Freddy Farmer. "You know him?"

Soo Wong Kai smiled as he nodded, but his smile was one of sadness, and
a little pity.

"For as many years as you have fingers on your two hands," he replied.
"But no, not personally. I have known only of him, and of the real
truth of his life in Europe, where he has resided for many years.
There are many devils like Knoye Kyoto. To you they seem outcasts,
men without a country. However, for every minute of their lives they
remain obedient slaves to their masters. Yes, many of us here in China
have known of Knoye Kyoto, but there was nothing we could do, and less
that we could say--because it would not have been believed. However,
the gods turned their smiles upon me. Quite by accident I saw Kyoto in
London. It was the day after you had left. It was the day I started my
journey home, with my heart bursting with prayers for your safekeeping,
and arrival."

The new Chinese Minister of War paused for a moment and turned reverent
eyes heavenward.

"I saw him, and then flew away in my plane," he went on presently.
"Then in Calcutta only yesterday I saw him again. No, that is an
untruth to say that. Rather, I thought I saw him. And a great worry
was mine. Could it be that he, too, was bound for Chungking? Had he
slipped out of England to the Germans in France, and had they provided
air passage to Calcutta? Was he bound for Chungking to strike his final
blow when you two did arrive? To kill you in your moment of great
glory? I asked myself that many times. And the answer was the same. It
could well be true, for to the Japanese brain defeat and revenge are
the same. I am as sure as I am that he is there dead in the street that
Knoye Kyoto gave the orders meant to doom your mission in failure. And
that he came here to get his own personal revenge in the form of your
lives in the face of his own defeat.

"Yes, I thought I saw him in Calcutta yesterday. So I remained there
overnight, and I sought the aid of many friends of China who could
accomplish in a few hours what I personally could not have accomplished
in weeks and months--a search of the city for this Knoye Kyoto. But he
was not found. I realized now that he had perhaps already left before
my friends started the search. But--Forgive me, I beg of you, my true
and dear friends; I did not dream that he would not strike his blow
until this late moment. At the airport? Yes. A possibility. But here,
at the very steps of the Generalissimo's headquarters? I am overwhelmed
with shame for what has happened. And I can but offer you the humble
apologies of my entire life for the thoughtlessness, the stupidity, and
the humiliation that I have--"

"Hold on a minute, sir!" Dawson stopped him, and grinned. "It wasn't
your fault at all. Not a bit. The truth of the matter is that I've got
you to thank for _my_ life for the _rest_ of my life. No fooling, sir.
If it hadn't been for you, why--well, believe me, I--"

"Quite, sir!" Freddy Farmer spoke up as Dawson stumbled over the words
to say. "But for your brilliant thinking and action, there would have
been terrible tragedy at the very last moment. Yes, quite!"

And then, staring hard at Dawson, the English youth added:

"Yes, tragedy for a blasted, balmy idiot who can't seem to get a bad
luck speech out of that lame brain of his. This was it, was it? Last
stop, eh? End of the line, was it? Why, you blithering--"

But Dave Dawson wasn't listening to Freddy Farmer. Instead he sat stiff
and straight with one hand impulsively pressed against that part of
his half washed and hastily mended tunic that covered the thick sealed
envelope in his inside pocket, and watched with shining eyes as two of
the world's most honored people, living or dead, came slowly down the
steps of Chinese Army headquarters at Chungking. The Generalissimo and
Madame Chiang Kai-shek!


THE END





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