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´╗┐Title: Dave Dawson at Singapore
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 at Singapore" ***

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                              DAVE DAWSON
                             AT SINGAPORE

                         _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"

                       THE WAR ADVENTURE SERIES

                           CROWN PUBLISHERS
                               NEW YORK

                 COPYRIGHT, 1942, BY CROWN PUBLISHERS

                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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



               CONTENTS


        CHAPTER                    PAGE

      I EASTWARD TO WAR               9

     II STRANGE ORDERS               17

    III THE VOICE OF DOOM            30

     IV SATAN OVER SINGAPORE         41

      V OFFICIAL EXPLANATIONS        54

     VI THE DEVIL'S DEN              68

    VII THE JAWS OF DEATH            84

   VIII THE SECRET MESSAGE           96

     IX THE GODS SMILE              114

      X THE TOUCH OF DEATH          127

     XI FLIGHT TO THE NORTH         137

    XII WINGS OF CHAOS              156

   XIII BLUE WATER RATTLESNAKE      170

    XIV RAJA, THE INVISIBLE         185

     XV SONS OF NIPPON              199

    XVI WINGS OF VALOR              216

   XVII EAGLES NEVER DIE            231



DAVE DAWSON AT SINGAPORE



CHAPTER ONE

_Eastward to War_


Freddy Farmer leaned against the bow rail of the British Cruiser
Harkness and stared intently at the greenish brown line that was
landfall low down on the distant horizon.

"Singapore!" he breathed presently in almost a tone of awe. "Singapore!
The place of ten thousand mysteries."

Dave Dawson standing at his elbow chuckled softly and gave a half nod
of his head.

"Right, my little man," he said. "And the place of ten thousand smells,
too, according to what fellows have told me who've been there."

Young Farmer groaned and gave his American pal a scornful look.

"You would say something like that," he grunted. "Hard hearted to the
core, that's you. No wonder you're the terror of the Nazi pilots.
You've no romance in your soul, Dave. Absolutely none at all. Now,
take Singapore. It's...."

"You take it," Dawson interrupted. "Matter of fact, it was your idea in
the first place. There we were, nicely settled in good old England, and
what do you do but up and get itchy wings. And so here we are, three
weeks later, practically over on the other side of the world. You sure
do like to get around, I'll say!"

The English youth's eyes snapped fire as he faced Dawson straddle
legged and arms akimbo.

"Well, bless my sainted aunt!" he exploded. "Listen to who's talking!
I simply told you there was a rumor going around that Fighter pilots
could put in requests for transfer to other theatres of war, now that
Jerry wasn't sending so many wings over England. It was _you_, my good
man, who went to the Group Commander and checked the rumor. And it was
_you_ who put in a request that we _both_ go to the Far East Fleet Air
Arm. Deny that, Dave Dawson, and over the side you go! And in case you
don't know it, there are a lot of man-eating sharks in these waters!"

"Okay, okay!" Dawson cried and threw up both hands in a token of
surrender. "But I only did it because I thought you'd enjoy the trip
and the new scenery. Anyway, there's your mysterious Singapore ...
unless the navigation officer aboard this battle wagon has got his
calculations all messed up."

"I accept your humble apology," Farmer said and grinned. "So, we'll say
no more about it. There's one thing, though, Dave. Why did you pick the
Far East for us? There's no action out here, save hunting down a U-boat
and a surface raider now and then."

"No?" Dawson grunted scornfully and pointed a hand toward the north.
"Well, a couple of thousand miles up that way there's a group of
islands that are called Japan. It's full of a mess of little brown rats
that even their bucktoothed Emperor Hirohito wouldn't trust any farther
than he could throw an aircraft carrier. And in case you haven't been
reading the newspapers for the last two or three years, Japan is a
member of the Axis. The other two members are Germany and Italy. No
charge for the information, my little man."

"Well, thank goodness you've told me!" Freddy Farmer snapped. "It would
be terrible to go on being so ignorant for the rest of my life. All
right, so Japan is up north. What of it? Do you think they'd be mad
enough to attempt to attack the British Naval Base at Singapore? It
would be sheer madness. Suicide for the whole blasted lot of them."

"Sweet tripe!" Dawson groaned. "So you've been believing that junk,
too?"

"What junk?" the English youth demanded.

"The stuff the so called military experts put in the papers, and blat
out over the radio," Dawson said. "Look, as war veterans go, I'm just
as wet behind the ears as the next fellow. But there is one thing that
my war experiences, such as they've been, have taught me."

"Ah, more wisdom!" Farmer breathed. "Tell me. I can hardly wait,
Professor!"

"Okay, funny boy," Dawson said gravely. "It is simply this, and you
can take it or leave it, for all I care. But ever since Hitler's bums
marched into Poland the thing that everybody believed was impossible
to do was just what the enemy went out _and did_! Well, am I right or
wrong?"

The English youth didn't reply for a moment or so. He turned forward
and stared at the distant horizon. The Harkness was cutting through
the sun flooded waters of the China Sea at a fast clip, and the
greenish-brown coastline was now well up above the level of the sea.
The peaks of Malay mountains could be seen against the clear blue sky,
and a little to the south was another mark on the horizon that was the
Dutch owned island of Sumatra. The approaches to Singapore! A sight
that one could view a million times and still be eager for another
look. The Far East! Mystery, romance, treachery, and death. It all
depended upon what you wanted ... and upon how you went about finding
it!

Freddy Farmer shook his head as though to break the spell that gripped
his thoughts and his imagination. He turned back to Dawson, and his
face was grave, and his clear eyes serious.

"Yes, you're quite right, Dave," he said quietly. "The blasted enemy
really has beaten us to it every time, and done the very thing we
didn't even dream he would try. Then you mean...? You look for Japan
to declare war against us here in the Far East, and have a go at
Singapore?"

"Hey, hold everything, pal!" Dawson said with a laugh. "I'm no crystal
ball gazer, and I haven't got a single secret agent in the Jap
Emperor's palace. I don't know a thing. I've just got a hunch that...."

"Good Lord, Dawson, hunches again!" Farmer groaned. "I might have known
it would work up to that."

"So it's a hunch!" Dave growled as his ears got red. "But my hunches
haven't all been strike-outs in the past, I might remind you. Take that
time in Libya...."

"Spare me!" Farmer cried. "Didn't I have to live through it with you?
Wasn't that punishment enough for my sin of knowing you? But go on with
what you meant to say."

"Why do I waste breath on dumb bunnies!" Dawson sighed. "Well, anyway,
I figure the picture this way. Hitler got England's front door slammed
hard on his fingers when he tried to push it open last year. In Russia
the Jerries are right now receiving the biggest surprise of this war.
They're getting the pants shot off them just when they thought they
were going to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Kremlin, in
Moscow. And in Libya the Wops and the Jerries are setting all kinds
of new Olympic distance records trying to get away from our boys out
there. So, what's left? The Far East. That means Japan. I've a hunch
that the Japs are only waiting for the right moment to jump. Sure, I
may be all wet, and the Japs may stay in their holes. But, I've got the
hunch that they won't. So.... Hey! What am I doing all this talking
for, anyway!"

"The old American custom of letting off steam, I fancy," Freddy Farmer
said with a chuckle. "However, I'd not be too surprised if you were
right. The blasted Japs are...."

The English youth cut himself off short as a young pink cheeked naval
lieutenant came up to them and saluted smartly.

"Captain Standers' compliments," he said. "He wishes to see you in his
quarters at once."

Both Dawson and Farmer nodded, then looked questioningly at each other
as the junior naval rating did a snappy about face and walked away.

"The Old Man wants us?" Freddy murmured. "What for, I wonder?"

"Search me," Dawson said with a shrug. Then with a quick side glance at
his pal, "Unless it's for the usual thing."

"Usual thing?" Freddy Farmer echoed sharply. "Just what do you mean?"

Dawson jerked his head at the swiftly approaching shoreline.

"We're getting close to port, and will be going ashore soon," he said.
"I suppose the Skipper wants to lay down the law to you, as usual. And
get me to promise to keep an eye on you ... as usual. Well, there's one
way to find out. That's to go see him. Come along, my little man."

Dawson turned, took one step, tripped over a foot that shot out
suddenly, and went flat on his face.

"Sorry, old thing," Freddy murmured, innocent eyed. "Was my foot in
your way, by any chance?"

Dave got slowly to his feet, brushed off his uniform and glanced down
over the side of the cruiser. He sighed and shook his head.

"What's the sense?" he growled. "The sharks would probably throw you
right back aboard!"



CHAPTER TWO

_Strange Orders_


Captain Standers, commander of the Harkness, was a true type of British
sea dog in both stature and looks. His legs were as sturdy and stubby
as fire hydrants. His body was like a barrel, and two muscle bulging
arms hung from a pair of shoulders as broad as the back of a taxi cab.
His face was lined and wrinkled from countless hours on the bridge
in fair weather and bad. And it was the color of well tanned saddle
leather, save a spot on each cheek that was apple red. The eyes were
small and set wide apart, but in their depths was a glint that gave you
the feeling the man could see right through six inch steel armor. All
in all, Captain Standers looked quite capable of leaping overboard and
shoving his cruiser back into deep water should it ever run aground.

He swept the two R.A.F. youths with his gimlet eyes as they entered
his quarters and saluted.

"At ease, Gentlemen," he said in a voice that could double for a
foghorn. "Be seated. It seems that news of your coming to Singapore has
traveled ahead of you. I have a wireless, here, from Air Vice Marshal
Bostworth, of Singapore Air Base. He has made a request regarding you
two."

"Air Vice Marshal Bostworth, of Singapore Base!" Dawson gasped as the
Cruiser's captain paused for breath. "But there must be some mistake,
sir. I mean, we saw Air Vice Marshal Bostworth just before we left
England. It was he who okayed our request for transfer to duty with the
Far East Fleet Air Arm."

Captain Standers snorted softly and gave Dawson a look as though he
were some school kid who had fumbled his homework.

"Quite, Flight Lieutenant," he said. "But we've been at sea close to
three weeks. It's quite possible to _fly_ from London to Singapore, via
Egypt, in less than half that time."

"Yes, sir, of course," Dave murmured as his face burned. "I.... Well,
it sort of startled me, sir."

"Quite so," the Harkness' commander grunted. "That is neither here nor
there, however. The wireless is from Air Vice Marshal Bostworth, and
it was sent from R.A.F. Base at Singapore. The request is for you two
pilots to take one of the Harkness' planes aloft and cruise over the
Singapore Strait for two hours and then proceed to the R.A.F. Base on
the Island. Air Vice Marshal Bostworth will meet you there. You've got
that all clear?"

Freddy and Dave looked at each other, and their thoughts were
identical. Was somebody trying to kid somebody, or something? Why in
the world were they to take one of the Harkness' Bristol powered Fairey
"Swordfishes" aloft and use up gas and oil for an hour or two? Why not
go right on into the Johore Strait Naval Anchorage aboard the Harkness,
and then step ashore to meet the Air Vice Marshal? It certainly didn't
make sense, and the bewildered look that spread over each youth's face
said as much to Captain Standers. He shrugged and made a little gesture
with his hand.

"Don't bother asking me questions," he said. "I haven't the faintest
idea what the answers should be. Sounds like so much R.A.F. rubbish,
I fancy. However, the request has the approval of the Base Admiral,
so there's only one thing I can do about it. Assign you to one of our
planes, and let you go your way."

"Begging your pardon, sir," Freddy Farmer spoke up, his face slightly
crimson, "but was that all to the message? Just that we go aloft and
spend two hours in the air before landing at Singapore R.A.F. Base?"

"That was all, definitely," the Cruiser's captain replied. "As a matter
of fact, I didn't believe it myself and had the first message checked.
The repeat was the same, however. Also, both messages were in a new
emergency code. You say you saw Air Vice Marshal Bostworth just before
you left England?"

"Yes, sir," the boys replied in one voice.

"I see," the senior officer murmured. Then flinging them a keen look,
"He didn't mention anything about coming out to Singapore himself?
Didn't say he might have a job for you two to do out here? The three
of us know that Air Vice Marshal Bostworth is connected with Air
Intelligence. And, naturally, your service records are not exactly deep
dark secrets. You aren't, perhaps, as ignorant of what all this crazy
business means as you appear to be, eh?"

The two R.A.F. pilots grinned, but they both shook their heads.

"Sorry, sir, but it's as much of a mystery to us," Freddy Farmer spoke
for them. "Air Vice Marshal Bostworth didn't even give us an inkling
that he might be coming out here. It really is surprising news to us,
sir."

Captain Standers hesitated as though about to speak, then thought
better of it and pushed up onto his feet.

"Well, one can't know about everything in this blasted war, I fancy,"
he grunted. "You two had better get on with it. Use the plane on
Catapult Number Three. I've already told the signal officer to make
ready. Good luck. And, by the way!"

"Yes, sir?" the two pilots murmured as the Cruiser's commander paused
and scowled at his gnarled hands.

"When you finally land at Singapore R.A.F. Base," he finally said,
"please mention to Air Vice Marshal Bostworth that I'd jolly well like
to have the plane back before we put to sea again. Planes are hard
enough to get as it is. Well, luck to you anyway."

Some twenty minutes later Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer were seated in
a pontoon fitted, Bristol Pegasus engined Fairey "Swordfish" mounted
on the starboard launching arm of Number Three catapult. The engine
was ticking over and the Signal Officer standing on the flight bridge
was ready to "shoot" the plane off into the air as soon as Dave at the
controls gave him the signal.

Checking his engine instruments for the last time, the Yank R.A.F. ace
turned in the seat and looked back at his English pal.

"All set for the mystery ride, Freddy?" he called out.

Young Farmer made a face and nodded.

"Let her go, Dave," he replied. "But I certainly hope these two hours
whizz by, so's we can land at Singapore Base and find out what in the
world this all means!"

"You and me both!" Dave grunted. "I've been given a lot of screwy
orders in my time, but this one is certainly tops. Oh, well, we'll get
a nice look at this neck of the Far East, anyway. Okay! Hold your hat.
The balloon's going up!"

Turning front, Dave nodded to the waiting signal officer, and
automatically braced his body and put his head firmly against the back
rest, so that it wouldn't be snapped back when the launching "trigger"
was pulled. A couple of seconds later the Swordfish's engine was
roaring out its mighty song of power and straining at the locking-dogs
that held it on the catapult arm. Another second and it was as though
an invisible giant had slammed the rear end of the plane with the side
of a barn door, or something. The Swordfish leaped forward like a
scared cat. It shot off the end of the catapult arm, sank toward the
water for a brief instant, then rose upward as the whirling prop bit
into the air and produced flying speed.

Once clear and curving upward, Dave throttled slightly and held the
nose on a gentle climb toward Heaven. He turned and grinned at Freddy
and then glanced down back at the Harkness cutting through the sun
flooded waters of the China Sea like a perfectly streamlined battle
grey fish. For a moment signal flags that spelled out G-O-O-D L-U-C-K
fluttered in the wind, then they were hauled down and the Harkness
began falling far astern of the climbing plane. Dave looked front
again, leveled off at a comfortable six thousand feet and relaxed
comfortably in the seat.

"Ladies and Gentlemen!" came Freddy Farmer's voice to his ears. "On the
far left you have the British owned island of Singapore. Just above
it is the Malay Peninsula where they produce about eighty per cent of
all the rubber in the world. And tin, also. A bit more to the north is
French Indo-China. Far to the right are the Philippines. And way in
back of you are the Dutch East Indies, including Borneo and Sumatra. If
you smoke cigars, Ladies and Gentlemen, you should be doubly interested
in Sumatra because the famous Sumatra leaf used as an outside wrapper
for many, many brands of cigars comes from Sumatra. Personally, I'm not
very interested because I do not smoke cigars. However...."

"However, shut up, Professor!" Dave interrupted with a laugh. "We
can see it all, and we studied all about these parts when we were in
school. But ... there is one question I would like to ask the learned
Professor."

"Certainly, my child, certainly," Freddy Farmer replied. "Go right
ahead. What do you want to know?"

"Boy, are you sticking your chin out!" Dave chuckled. "Okay! Why _are_
we flying around up here, Professor?"

"Good Lord, I should have suspected that!" Freddy Farmer groaned.
"Well, it's a secret. A very deep dark secret. Only one man knows. And
so far he hasn't told anybody. He.... Hey, Dave!"

"Don't shout, I haven't jumped out, yet," Dave cried and turned quickly
around. "What...?"

Dave stopped short and stared hard at his pal. Freddy Farmer was
leaning way forward to the right and gaping puzzle eyed down at the
rolling surface of the China Sea far ahead. He didn't switch his gaze
to Dave's face. He simply made a little movement with one hand and kept
his eyes riveted on something ahead.

"Take a look way out there, Dave!" he shouted. "I thought I saw some
flashes of light."

"Light?" Dawson echoed sharply. "This time of day? Are you nuts, or
just seeing things?"

"I saw something!" the English youth said. "At least I'd be willing to
swear to it. Sort of flashes of light, as though some surface ship were
signaling by mirror. You know, by heliograph."

Dave didn't make any comment to that for a moment or two. He had turned
front and was sweeping the waters ahead and below with his eyes.
However, that was all he saw. Just a limitless expanse of robin's egg
blue water that was streaked and smeared with the gold of the blazing
sun. True, the rays of the sun bouncing off the rolling blue swells
seemed to shower up clusters of golden specks in all directions that
dazzled his eyes. But no matter how hard he strained his eyes he could
see not the slightest sign of a surface ship, to say nothing of the
telltale ribbon of smoke trailing back from her stacks. Eventually he
gave it up and turned to look at his pal again.

"Is this some kind of a gag?" he demanded. "Or did you really see
something? Maybe it was just sunbeams dancing off the water, huh?"

Freddy Farmer wiped a hand across his eyes, sighed and shrugged.

"Maybe," he said in a puzzled voice. "But, if so, it's the first time I
ever saw sunbeams send out dots and dashes."

"Dots and dashes?" Dave echoed. "Did you catch any of them? The
letters, I mean?"

"Too fast," Freddy said with a shake of his head. "And what little I
did catch didn't mean any letters in the Morse Code. But ... maybe I
was just seeing things. Sorry."

Dave grinned and winked, and turned front once more.

"Think nothing of it, my little pal," he said. "Even the best of us
make mistakes now and...."

Dave clamped his lips shut on the last, sat up straight in the seat and
stared hard down at the water to his right and some four or five miles
away. Perhaps it actually was a sunbeam dancing back up at him, but for
a brief instant he was certain he had seen four or five rapid flashes
of light down on the surface of the water. Another moment and he was
positive beyond all shadow of a doubt. There was a light flashing down
there on the water. Rather it was the reflection of the sun's rays on a
heliograph mirror. However, the flashes were both long and short, and
Dave didn't have to look twice to realize perfectly well that some kind
of a message was being flashed from down there on the water.

"But how, and who's doing it?" Dave gulped out the question aloud.
"Unless I'm completely nuts, or stone blind, there's nothing but water
down there. Hey, Freddy!"

"Yes, I see it, too," the English youth spoke up. "Thought I'd let you
see it for yourself this time. What do you make of it, Dave? A bit
weird, isn't it?"

"And a lot more than that!" Dave grunted and was uncomfortably
conscious of an eerie tingling at the back of his neck. "I don't see a
darn thing else but water and that flashing light. Hey! Do you suppose
it could be a sheet of metal, or something, that's being caught by the
sun as it rides those swells?"

"It could be, but I'm sure it isn't!" Freddy Farmer replied in a tight
voice. "Dave, those are real dot and dash signals. Three dots--two
dashes, then one dot and four dashes. Neither of those are Morse Code
letters. Or International Morse, either. But, I'll eat my parachute
pack if those aren't some kind of signals."

"Check and double check!" Dave grunted and scowled.

On impulse he took his eyes off the strange flashing signals far below
and ahead, and twisting all the way around in the seat he took a good
look at the surrounding heavens. Finally, he lowered his eyes to meet
Freddy Farmer's puzzled gaze.

"Notice something else, Freddy, that seems to be a little out of
whack?" he asked.

The English born R.A.F. ace took a quick look around, and shook his
head.

"Can't say I do," he said. "Unless you mean us tooting around up here
for no apparent reason ... at least, not to us. Why? What do you mean?"

Dave made a little gesture with one hand that included a sweep of the
surrounding air.

"Just that," he said. "Full of nothing but sky and air. How come? How
come we're the only plane that's burning gas and oil in these parts?
Why isn't there a sign of any Singapore Base planes out on patrol?
Particularly the U-boat patrol planes. Don't they care any more if
supply ships heading for Singapore get torpedoed? In short, where is
everybody?"

"By jove, that's right, Dave!" Freddy Farmer breathed with a catch in
his voice. "Of course, they may have scared U-boats and surface raiders
away from here for good, yet.... Yet you'd think they'd still maintain
some kind of daylight patrol just in case."

"Took the words right out of my mouth," Dawson said with a grave nod.
"Of course, it is the month of December, and maybe they've declared
a truce out here until Xmas comes and goes. But it's darn queer. No
planes in the air. No ships on the water. Even the Harkness is out of
sight, now. Just us."

"And those queer light flashes down there," Freddy Farmer added. "Dave!
I think we should...."

"Doggone right!" Dave cut in and shoved the stick forward. "We'll
take us a better look anyway. Hang on, pal! These Swordfish jobs lose
altitude in plenty hurry!"



CHAPTER THREE

_The Voice of Doom_


Dave wasn't kidding when he said that an aerial torpedo carrying Fairey
Swordfish can go down in a hurry. The plane streaked seaward like a
meteor in high gear. Dave held it in its steep dive until the rolling
blue swells of the China sea came rushing up a little too close for
comfort. Skillfully working the controls, he leveled off and shot the
plane forward toward the spot where they had first noticed the weird
flashes of light.

There were no flashes of light to be seen now, however. There was
nothing but sun flooded rolling water. Dave stared hard, and so did
Freddy Farmer, too. But it was just a waste of eyesight for all the
good it did them.

"That makes us nuts, Freddy!" Dave sang out. "I don't see a thing, do
you?"

"Not a thing!" Freddy called to him. "I fancy it must have been the
sun's rays playing tricks on the water."

"Well, some trick, is all I've got to say," Dave grunted and climbed
the Swordfish slightly for a better look. "The same combinations of
dots and dashes were repeated over and over again."

"I know," Freddy said. "Like a blasted call signal on the short-wave
radio. If they'd been different and jumbled up then you could put
it down to sunlight bouncing off the water, but ... _Dave!_ To the
left! To the left! See that spot of white water? Foam? Dave! There's
something there!"

Dave had already snapped his eyes to the left and was staring at a
patch of foamy white water on the surface of the seemingly limitless
stretch of rolling blue. The white foamy patch was there for a very
good reason. It was the telltale wake left by a diving submarine. And
even as Dave realized that he caught sight of a long cigar shaped
shadow sliding forward just under the surface of the water.

"That's a submarine, Dave!" Freddy Farmer's excited voice confirmed
Dawson's belief at practically the same instant. "It was on the surface
and signalling us, but we couldn't see anything but the flash signals."

"Sure, so what?" Dave growled and veered the Swordfish around toward
the shadow of the undersea craft. "But why signal _us_? And, also, why
signal us and then dive when we start to come down? Our markings are
plain enough."

"Maybe it's a German U-boat!" Freddy cried excitedly.

"Maybe," Dave said with a shrug. "But it still doesn't make sense.
_Why_ was the guy signalling to us?"

"Maybe he wasn't signalling to us," Freddy Farmer ventured.

Dave snorted and made a little gesture with his free hand.

"Then who was he signalling to?" he demanded. "The man in the moon
above us? I took a good look, Freddy. I'll swear on a ten foot stack
of bibles that we're the only plane aloft in these parts. No, that
underwater boat was signalling to us, and...."

He left the rest hanging in midair as he suddenly saw the moving shadow
of the submarine grow clearer and clearer as it rose to the surface. A
moment later the surface of the blue water boiled white and the conning
tower mast and hatch rose up into view. Another moment and the whole
bridge and decks were awash. Like a man in a dream Dave blinked his
eyes at the strange sight. It was a submarine sure enough, but it
was of a type he had never seen in his life. And what was even more
astonishing, it was painted a dull greenish blue to make it blend in
well nigh perfectly with the surrounding waters.

"Good Lord!" Freddy Farmer gasped. "What is it? Nazi, or one of our
new types? And look at those two bow guns, Dave. And.... Dave! Look
at those seamen spill out of that opened conning tower hatch! They're
coming out like blasted rabbits. Get closer to the thing. It's like
something out of a fairy story book."

Dave Dawson only half heard his friend's exclamations, for all of his
attention and his eyes were fixed on the strange craft just off and
below the left wings. Just as Freddy Farmer had said, the figures of
seamen were popping out of the opened conning tower hatch like rabbits
out of a hat. They looked neither German nor English. They were all
short and stocky, and they moved about as though operated by strings
held by invisible hands.

Wide eyed, Dave stared at them; watched them pop out and go scrambling
down the bridge ladder and forward toward the bow. And then things
happened so fast that both Dave and Freddy were too stunned and
paralyzed to even think, let alone move. The two forward guns were
swung around toward them, covers were ripped off, and in the next
instant the muzzle of each gun belched out smoke and flame, and the
Swordfish heeled over drunkenly on the opposite wings as though it had
crashed full out into an invisible brick wall suspended in the sky.

A thousand steel fists hammered against Dave's body and his brain
became filled with flashing white light. As though from a million miles
away he heard the wild, excited yells from Freddy Farmer's lips. He
heard also the scream of the Bristol Pegasus engine over-revving. And,
although he was not conscious of doing so, he reached out and cut the
ignition and hauled back the throttle with a single movement of his
hand.

Then, just as suddenly as the flashing white light had filled his
brain, the light disappeared, and he realized that the plane was
cutting crazily down sidewise toward the rolling blue swells that were
now perilously close. The engine cowling looked as though it had been
hit by a twenty-ton tank. The metal was hanging in gleaming ribbons.
And as for the engine itself, one whole side of the powerful radial
engine was just so much mangled junk.

Sight and action became one for Dave. Even as he saw what the exploding
shell from the mysterious submarine's gun had done, he slammed on
opposite control hard and slowly got the Swordfish back onto even keel.
But shell fragments had parted a couple of the cables and no sooner
was the plane on even keel than it struggled to slump down by the wing
again. As a matter of fact, had the water not been but inches from the
bottom of the pontoon, and Dave able to sit down quickly, the plane
would have cartwheeled over and gone in wingtips first to really crack
up. As it was, the hasty emergency landing made Dave's teeth click, and
his backbone to feel as though it had been snapped off in half a dozen
places. However, the plane stayed put on its pontoon, and in a couple
of seconds the stars and comets ceased dancing around inside Dave's
head.

The first thing he did was to twist his head around and look for the
strange submarine. But it wasn't anywhere to be seen. It had obviously
crash-dived once the Swordfish had been hit. There wasn't even the
froth of its wake to be seen. Dave took a good look in all directions,
and then looked at Freddy Farmer's wide eyed and slightly pale face. He
grinned and touched a finger to his flying helmet.

"Weren't in a hurry to get any place, were you, boss?" he called out.
"I think we've had an accident. In fact, I'm cockeyed sure of it,
boss."

The kidding words snapped the strain that was gripping the English
youth. Freddy slowly relaxed, swallowed a couple of times, and then
matched Dave's grin.

"It doesn't matter, driver," he said. Then with a wave of his hand,
"Welcome to Singapore. Nice place, isn't it?"

"Oh, jolly, as the beef eating English say," Dave mimicked with a
chuckle. "A trifle on the wet side, though. You okay, Freddy?"

"My heart's stuck fast against my back teeth," the other said. "I
fancy, though, it'll drop back into place in a moment. But that was the
damnedest ever, Dave. What in the world do you think?"

Dave gave a shake of his head and heaved a long puzzled sigh.

"I can't even try to guess, much less think," he finally grunted.
"Thank the gods that only one shell hit us ... and it on the nose.
About ten feet farther back and you and I would be going places right
now full of slivers of steel. What do you think?"

"Less than that, I'm afraid," Freddy said, and cast anxious eyes about
the surface of the surrounding water. "To tell the truth, I feel like
I've just awakened from a horrible nightmare."

"Take a look at our engine!" Dave growled. "It was no nightmare, son.
Say, Freddy. You won't laugh, will you?"

"Lord knows I could do with a good laugh right now," the English youth
said and unbuckled his uncomfortable parachute harness. "But what's on
your mind? I promise not to laugh."

"Those guys who came popping out on that sub's deck like rabbits," Dave
said after a long frowning pause. "Know what they looked like to me?"

"What?"

"Like Japs," Dave said, straight faced.

Freddy Farmer gulped and blinked. It was a couple of seconds before he
could get his tongue to form the word.

"Japs?" he gasped.

"Sure, Japs," Dave repeated. "You know, short for Japanese. I'll bet
you that was a Jap submarine, and those guys who let fly at us were
Japs."

The English youth pondered over that a moment, and meanwhile kept up
his nervous-eyed search of the surrounding rolling swells.

"They did have the Japanese build, I'll admit," he finally said.
"But.... Lord! It's fantastic, Dave! Why in the world would a Jap
submarine come to the surface and blast away at us? We're not even
carrying a torpedo, to say nothing of bombs."

"But we are carrying a two-way radio," Dave pointed out gravely. "It
could be that they didn't want anybody to know they were this close to
Singapore. They didn't hear us use the radio, so decided to surprise
us and blast us before we could use it. I only hope they don't surface
again and make sure with those bow guns. Say! What are you hunting for
anyway?"

"What do you think?" Freddy Farmer snapped. "I'm hoping they _don't_
come back to the surface, either. That they'll believe they got us with
that one blast. But, Dave, it's still fantastic. England's not at war
with Japan. Standers of the Harkness would have been informed if war
was declared while we were at sea. And he certainly would have told his
officers."

"You and your English rules of war!" Dave groaned. "Look, little man,
they don't _declare_ war any more these days. You only find out you're
at war when you feel the pain of the knife going into your back. But I
only said they _looked_ like Japs. Maybe they weren't. Maybe they grow
them that way in Hitlerland, now. Who can tell?"

"Well, I guess it doesn't make much difference who they were," Freddy
said with a shrug. "The point is, _here_ we are, and _what_ are we
going to do about it."

"We could swim," Dave grunted, "but I never was very good at making
friends with man-eating sharks. If you must know the truth, I figure
we've got to sit here and wait."

"But that might be forever!" Freddy cried in a startled voice.

"Yeah, a long time," Dave said, and tapped a finger to his head. "Stop
wondering about the Japs, pal, and relax and use your brains. Or did
you leave them in England?"

"Very funny!" Freddy growled. "But just what are you being so long
winded about? Come on, spit it out!"

"What would you do without me always around to hold your hand, and dry
your tears," Dave taunted with a grin. "We sit here until they come out
and pick us up, of course."

"Until _they_ come out?" Freddy echoed sharply. "Who knows where we...?"

He stopped short and made a face as though he had bitten his tongue.
Then he grinned sheepishly as the flush came into his cheeks.

"Sorry, old thing," he mumbled. "Stupid of me, wasn't it? I see what
you mean, of course. When Air Vice Marshal Bostworth doesn't see us
return from a two hour mystery patrol over this area, he'll jolly well
send out search planes, eh?"

"He'd jolly well better!" Dave grunted and fished for the chocolate
bars he always carried. "Or I'll punch him right on the nose if I ever
meet up with him again. He got us into this, and he can get us out!
Here, have a hunk of chocolate. And don't chew with your mouth open.
It's not nice, and it makes me nervous."

Freddy Farmer shrugged when he could think of no fitting retort to that
one. However, he accepted one of the bars of chocolate, and both boys
fell to eating and silently staring out over the expanse of rolling
blue water that seemed to touch no land in any direction.



CHAPTER FOUR

_Satan Over Singapore_


Exactly five hours later the two boys were still staring out across
the rolling blue swells, and in between times they had searched and
researched the blazing China Sea skies with their tired eyes. But from
then until now they had seen nothing to bring joy or alarm to their
hearts. No planes or ships had appeared, and although they had kidded
and horsed around to keep each other's spirits at a high level, tiny
fears, and dreads, and doubts, were little by little boring deeper
into their thoughts. For five hours neither had seen the slightest
sign of anything that might mean rescue. And for five solid hours each
had expected the mysterious submarine to rise to the surface again
and really finish them off. After all, they had been shot down by the
undersea boat's guns for reasons they still couldn't figure out. But
just to be shot down and left floating alive was something else again.
That is, unless the crew and officers of that strange submarine were of
the belief that they had died.

Licking his dry lips, Dave half turned in the seat and shot a quick
glance back at Freddy Farmer. There was a set smile on the English
youth's lips, but the tightness at the corners of his eyes, and a
faint line of worry that creased his forehead told that the youth was
struggling inwardly to keep control of his jangled nerves and not go
haywire.

"I think I forgot to ask you," Dave said. "Just how did you like your
visit to Singapore, anyway?"

"Top-hole!" Freddy said with a forced smile. "So ... so stimulating,
and educational, you know. Fact is, I don't believe I'll ever forget
it. One of the milestones in my life."

"Speaking of things educational," Dawson said to keep the conversation
alive, "what do you know about Singapore, anyway?"

"Ask me, and find out, my little man," Freddy said with a little wave
of his hand.

Dave dragged down the corners of his mouth, and squinted at his pal.

"A smart guy, huh?" he grunted. "Okay, I will ask you a few things.
First, what does Singapore mean?"

"Don't you know?" Freddy retorted.

"Come on, none of that stuff!" Dave cried. "Stop crawling, young man.
Tell teacher, or else admit you're dumb. What does Singapore mean?"

"Singapore means nothing!" Freddy shot at him. "It is the modern
spelling of the city's real name centuries ago. Then it was Singhapura.
That is a Sanskrit word that means City of the Lion."

Dave made a mock bow and went through the motions of tipping his hat.

"Well, knock me over with a Flying Fortress!" he exclaimed. "I guess
the guy did spend two or three years in school. Okay, tell me some
more, sonny."

"It's rather a nice sort of place, if you go in for that sort of
place," Freddy said gravely. "It is an island, of course. It was picked
as a British navy outpost by a Sir Stafford Raffles many, many years
ago. It covers about two hundred and sixteen square miles and it guards
the trade routes to the Indian Ocean. It is very well fortified, and
any nation who tries to take it away from us is going to have a battle
on his hands, I can tell you. The city is built...."

"Okay, okay!" Dave laughed and threw up his hands. "I guess you've
read books. Spare me the rest of the details. I read a book once,
myself."

"Right-o," Freddy Farmer said. "Now it's my turn to ask questions. No,
not about Singapore. Here's a question that oddly enough not one man in
fifty could answer correctly."

"Then shoot!" Dawson said with a chuckle. "Me, I'm that one man."

"Here goes then," the English born R.A.F. ace said. "Is there a type of
Nazi dive bomber called the Stuka?"

Dave Dawson sat up a little straighter in the cockpit seat and gave his
friend a keen look.

"What was that last one?" he demanded. "You wouldn't be kidding a pal,
would you, pal?"

"Certainly not!" Freddy retorted. "And _you_ stop crawling. Answer the
question. Is there a type of Nazi dive bomber called the Stuka?"

"I hope to kiss a Messerschmitt there is!" Dave replied. "And I wish
I had a dime for every time one of them has come piling down in my
direction. What is this, anyway? You didn't drop your brains over the
side, did you?"

"No, but you must have!" the English youth snapped back. "My poor
misinformed little friend, Stuka is a name for _all_ kinds of dive
bombers. Not just one type, as is commonly believed. It comes
from the German word _Sturzkampfflugzeug_. And that word means,
plunge-battle-fight-apparatus. And so, I would suggest that you go back
and make your solo flight all over again."

"My, my!" Dave breathed and gave a shake of his head in mock
admiration. "After all this time and I didn't once dream that you had
that big word inside of you. I must really get to know you one of these
days. You'd be quite something to have along at one of those radio quiz
programs. I just bet you got sore fingers from tearing off box tops,
and sending into the corner drugstore. But hold it! You don't have
advertising on your English radio programs, do you?"

"No, we don't," Freddy said with a frown. "And what do you mean, tear
off a box top?"

"It's a radio stunt used back home to build up sales," Dave explained.
"A manufacturer may be offering a booklet, or some kind of prize free,
see? You can get it for nothing. All you do is buy say five or ten
boxes of his product, tear off the tops and send them in with your
name and address. And they send you whatever it is they are offering
special, see? The catch is to get you to buy more of his product so's
you can tear off the box tops. I once tried to get a book of old
American songs that was being offered, but the folks wouldn't let me.
It would have cost my Dad close to six thousand dollars to get the top
of the boxes their product came in."

Freddy Farmer's eyes popped, and his mouth fell open.

"Six thousand dollars?" he gasped. "Good Lord! Why that much money?"

"The company sold pianos!" Dave said and ducked as Freddy flushed and
swung his opened hand.

"When will I learn not to believe a thing that falls out of your big
mouth!" Freddy groaned. Then after a moment's silence, he said, "This
is a bit of foolishness, isn't it? Why don't we talk about what's
really on our minds?"

"Okay," Dave said with a shrug. "Let's talk about it, then. Go ahead."

"Well, right at this moment I'm not feeling too kindly toward Air Vice
Marshal Bostworth," Freddy said. "It's over three hours since we were
to meet him at Singapore R.A.F. Base. I should think he would have sent
planes out hunting for us by now. What do you think?"

Dave didn't answer for a moment. He slowly twisted around in the seat
and took a good look at the sky and at the four horizons. He saw
nothing in the air, and only far to the south did he see the thin dark
line low down that marked land of some sort. It could be any one of
the several islands that dotted the Strait.

"The same as you think, I guess, Freddy," he said presently, turning to
his friend. "I frankly thought that we might have to wait for a spell
or so. But not so long as this. If help's coming I hope it comes soon.
That sun is getting closer and closer to the western horizon. Maybe
when we didn't show up Air Vice Marshal Bostworth decided that Captain
Standers wouldn't let us take a plane. And speaking of Standers,
he's sure going to tear out his hair when he doesn't get this Fairey
Swordfish back. He struck me as a lad who doesn't like folks to keep
things they borrow."

"Oh, bother to Standers!" Freddy grunted and shook a hand impatiently.
"What do we do when darkness falls, Dave?"

"Let it fall," the Yank replied. "What else?"

"Lord, what a help you are to a chap!" the English youth groaned. "We
can't stay here forever. In case you don't realize it, my funny man, a
seam has split in the pontoon, and we've been taking in water for an
hour now. We're going to go under eventually."

"Yes, I've known we were taking in water, Freddy," Dave said quietly.
"It isn't our combined weight that's making this job list a few
degrees. But.... Well, Freddy, if it happens, I guess we've just got
to take it, that's all. To tell the truth I've been beating my brains
all over the place trying to figure some way to get in touch with the
nearest shore. But the only way I can figure, wouldn't help us at all.
Not unless help came out quicker than greased lightning."

"Well, as you've often said, anything's worth a try!" Freddy exclaimed.
"What's your idea?"

"A bum one, and definitely out," Dave replied with a vigorous shake of
his head. "The only way we could attract attention on shore is to set
the plane on fire. If we did, it would only be a case of who got us
first, the flames, or the sharks. Nope! I shouldn't even have brought
it up."

"I'll say you shouldn't have!" Freddy growled and glared at the radio
panel. "Look at that thing, there! Perfectly good when we're in the air
but not worth a hoot down here on the water. Runs off the engine. Why
don't they fit the things with hand driven generators so a chap can
still work the radio when he's forced down?"

"They do on the big ships," Dave said. "But every extra pound of weight
counts on this type of plane. Besides, Air Ministry expects you to be a
good pilot and not get forced down."

"Blast Air Ministry!" Freddy snarled. "I wish some of those precious
Brass Hats were here with us now. Perhaps they'd get a better idea of
what a flying johnnie has to go through. It's all wrong, I tell you,
Dave. The blokes at Air Ministry think that...."

"Tell me tomorrow, pal!" Dave suddenly broke in excitedly and flung
up a hand toward the southwest. "Take a good look up there. Is that a
plane, or have they got birds that big in this neck of the world?"

Freddy Farmer snapped his opened mouth shut and swiveled eagerly around
in his seat, and peered intently in the direction of Dave's pointed
finger. After a long minute he let clamped air out of his lungs in a
great sigh of unbelievable relief.

"It's not a bird, Dave, it's a plane!" he cried. "A flying boat. It's
one of our American built patrol Catalinas. Can't you recognize it?
Lord knows you had enough experience on one!"[1]

[Footnote 1: _Dave Dawson On Convoy Patrol._]

"Old Freddy Farmer, the lad with telescopic eyes!" Dave cried as the
prospect of immediate rescue drove all the little gnawing fears away.
"They should get you to censor mail. You wouldn't have to take the
letters out of the envelopes. But.... I hope you're right, sweetheart.
I can see something headed this way, but it's too doggone small for a
good look."

"Don't fret, it's a Catalina!" the English youth cried out happily.
"I'm sure of it now. See? They've sighted us. They're coming down."

"They could be going out for lunch, for all I could tell," Dave grunted
as he strained his eyes at the faint blackish blur high up in the China
Sea sky. "But I'll take your word for it. Tell me, how many aboard? And
has the pilot got a mustache or not?"

"He has not, but he's got a gold tooth!" Freddy snapped at him. "Stop
pulling my leg. You must be able to see it clearly, now. Just because
you're being rescued from a possible watery grave, my good man, don't
be so blasted funny."

"Funny?" Dave echoed with a snort. "Look at me! I could weep with joy.
Now that things look okay for us, I can admit that I was plenty worried
awhile back. And no kidding, either!"

"Hardly the word to express how I felt," Freddy murmured and took a
deep breath. "But perhaps we were really born under a lucky star, Dave.
We always manage to skin through, somehow."

"Skin through, he says?" Dave echoed. "You mean, I walk through and
pull you through after me. But let it go. Boy! What I'm going to tell
Air Vice Marshal Bostworth when I see him!"

"Well, don't do it unless I'm outside the building," Freddy said.

"Outside the building?" Dave echoed and gave him a puzzled look. "Why?"

"To catch you when you come out," the English youth replied with a
grin. "Air Vice Marshal Bostworth is six foot, three, as you know. And
he is a holy terror about insubordination, as you _also_ know."

"Yeah, that's true," Dave murmured, and watched the Catalina slide
down lower and lower. "Well, at least I'll be thinking plenty when,
and if, I meet him. Five hours on this sea of liquid fire is enough to
make anybody sore. Okay, Freddy, give the pilot a wave. He's waving at
us. Man, oh man! Doesn't it make you feel good to see that old R.A.F.
insignia on the wings and hull?"

Freddy simply nodded. For the moment he was unable to speak. He was
too choked up with emotion to dare trust his tongue. So he simply
nodded, waved his hand and smiled all over the place as the Catalina
sank lower, then cut around into the wind and made a feather-duster
landing not over thirty yards to the lee of the slowly foundering
Fairey Swordfish. Some clever sea rudder and engine throttling by the
pilot soon brought the Catalina close enough for the boys to catch the
line that came singing out through the hull door. Another couple of
moments and they were both way out on the Swordfish's left lower wing
and scrambling aboard the Catalina.

"Dawson and Farmer, of course?" asked the sergeant gunner who helped
them aboard.

"Check!" Dave gulped. "And were we glad to see this job. We were
getting the feeling that we'd soon be food for those sharks that were
gathering around."

"Nasty devils, those man eaters in these waters, sir," the Sergeant
said, and stepped around Dave. "Stand clear, sir. I'm tossing a little
time bomb into the Fairey. No sense having it float around for some
johnny to run into. There! There we are."

A pang of sadness touched Dave's heart as he watched the small time
bomb arc from the Sergeant's hand and plop down into the cockpit of
the Fairey Swordfish. True, the seaplane was a total loss. The engine
was a tangled mass of junk, and not worth salvage efforts. Besides,
the pontoon was filling fast, and it wouldn't be long before the craft
would be three quarters submerged and a menace to navigation in those
waters. Yes, it was best to blow it up and sink it below the surface
of the China Sea. Yet a plane had always been to Dave something that
was almost alive, and human. It always hurt a little bit to see one of
man's air creations destroyed. Yes, even when destruction was necessary.

And so as the time bomb plopped down into the cockpit Dave swallowed
hard, gave the doomed plane a quick little salute of honor, and then
faced the Sergeant again.

"Say, is Air Vice Marshal Bostworth at Singapore, Sergeant?" he asked.
"Boy, I've got the yen to tear a mile wide strip off him when we meet.
We've been floating around for over five hours. Did you know that? He
said that.... What's the matter?"

Dave stopped short and asked the last because the Sergeant had suddenly
stiffened and gone pale under the heavy tan on his face.

"Fancy you can speak to the Air Vice Marshal personally, sir," the
Sergeant said in a hoarse whisper. "He's just behind you, waiting in
the navigation compartment."

"He's _what_?" Dave gasped and felt his knees go rubbery and weak.



CHAPTER FIVE

_Official Explanations_


It was only the matter of a couple of seconds, but it seemed to Dave
Dawson that it was a hundred years before he could dig up strength
enough to turn around. When he did he saw the tall, thin faced figure
of Air Vice Marshal Bostworth seated in the navigator's chair not ten
feet from where he stood. The high ranking officer's eyes were slightly
narrowed, and there was a glittering chill in their depths that made
Dave wonder if he hadn't better just push open the Catalina's hull door
and jump out to the sharks. Maybe they would be easier on him.

"Come in, you two, and shut the door!" the senior officer suddenly
snapped. Then looking past the two rescued pilots, he added, "That's
all, Sergeant. Tell Flight Lieutenant Baker to take off and go to
maximum ceiling and cruise about until further orders. Hop to it, man!"

The Sergeant sprang into action, and so did Dave and Freddy. They
stepped quickly into the navigation room and closed the door behind
them. Dave gulped a couple of times and took the plunge.

"Sorry, sir, I guess I spoke out of turn," he said lamely. "It was
dumb."

Air Vice Marshal Bostworth gave him a look that could cut right through
steel.

"Very dumb, Flight Lieutenant, to use your native tongue!" he snapped.
Then wiping the anger from his face, and grinning, he said, "But, I
can't say I blame you. Would have been a bit put out, myself, if I'd
been in your place. However, it was something that couldn't be helped.
But sit down, sit down, you two. A spot of coffee, or tea, or rum, or
something? It must have been a bit of an ordeal for you."

"Nothing for me, sir," Freddy spoke up. "I'm quite all right, sir."

"Me, too," Dave said with a nod. "But, holy.... I mean, it was
certainly a surprise to learn that you were out here, sir. I thought
the Harkness' captain was kidding me at first. And as for what's
happened since he told us, well.... Well, we're both in a sweet flat
spin."

The senior officer started to speak but checked himself as there came
the faint _crump_ of the exploding time bomb above the roar of the
Catalina's engines as the pilot up forward took her off the water and
aloft. As though by mutual agreement all three in the navigation room
glanced down out of the porthole at the disc of frothy white water that
marked where the Fairey Swordfish had met her end.

"Well, that's one less plane England has," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth
said with a sad note in his voice.

"And I'd rather not meet up with Captain Standers for a while," Dave
grunted. "Darn that submarine! It...."

He cut himself off short as the Air Vice Marshal whirled around and
stared at him wide eyed.

"Submarine?" the senior officer echoed sharply. "What the devil are
you talking about? Weren't you shot down by plane? A plane with R.A.F.
markings? That's what I imagined."

"Plane?" Dave himself echoed. "Gosh, no! We saw some signals, and
wondered what...."

"Wait a minute," the Air Vice Marshal stopped him. "Perhaps you'd
better begin at the beginning, and tell me everything. Every little
detail, and don't leave out a thing. Start with when Captain Standers,
of the Harkness, summoned you to his quarters to give you my orders
for a two hour patrol."

Dave glanced at Freddy, but the English youth shook his head.

"You tell it, Dave," he said.

Dave shrugged, stared at his two hands for a moment to get things
arranged in his own mind, and then told detail for detail of their
movements and actions from the time they were summoned by the commander
of the Harkness, right up to when they scrambled aboard the patrol
Catalina. Air Vice Marshal Bostworth listened in silence, but the frown
on his face deepened as Dave talked along. And by the time the Yank
born R.A.F. ace had finished his little speech there was both anger
and worry glowing in the senior officer's eyes. Even when Dave finally
stopped talking he didn't say a thing for several long moments. He sat
puffing hard on a thin stemmed pipe he clutched between his teeth and
scowled darkly at the clouds of blue smoke that curled upward.

"Damnedest thing ever!" he finally muttered. "A Jap sub, eh? Of course
it was a Jap, right enough. We've suspected that they've been sneaking
close into these waters whenever they got the chance. But to come to
the surface and blast away at you chaps! Well.... Well, I'll be blessed
if that isn't a new one. Quite sure you couldn't make head nor tail
out of their heliograph signals, eh?"

"Quite, sir," Freddy said quietly.

"Not a single blink meant a thing," Dave said with a curt shake of his
head. "They certainly weren't any Morse letters or numbers that I ever
learned."

"A code of their own, no doubt," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth grunted.
"Well, before I start my little tale let me explain why you had to
float around so long. Only I and the Admiral commanding knew that I'd
radioed those orders to the Harkness, you see? I had expected to be
at the Air Base to meet you but I got tied up on an inspection tour
of some emergency fields on the Johore side, and didn't get back
until long after I expected to. It gave me a bit of a start, I can
tell you, not to find you waiting, and to see the Harkness riding at
anchor in the Strait. Went aboard at once and received another start
when I learned you had taken off. So I hurried ashore, routed out this
Catalina crew, and came hunting for you. Thank God, we got to you in
time!"

"We were beginning to feel less happy by the second, sir," Dave said
with an apologetic grin. "But one thing I can't figure is, why weren't
there patrol planes out? Why didn't some other plane pick us up long
before then? But we didn't see a single plane or surface ship during
the whole time. We.... Hey! England's not at war with Japan, is she?"

"Not a declared war by either side, anyway," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth
replied gravely. "However, we are watching each other like a couple of
strange cats. And if you want my opinion on the matter I think the Japs
are going to have a go at us inside of ten days at the most."

Dave stiffened slightly and glanced at the calendar hanging on the
compartment wall. It told him that today was the sixth of December,
Nineteen Hundred and Forty-One. He looked at Freddy and gave him a sly
wink, and then turned to the Air Vice Marshal.

"Then that's why you came out from England in a hurry, eh?" he
murmured. "The Japs are actually going to be saps, huh?"

The Air Intelligence officer smiled faintly at Dawson's remark, but
shook his head and raised a cautioning finger.

"That is the spirit, Dawson," he said, "but don't be carried away by
the belief that the Japs would ... would be push-overs, as they say in
your country. As a matter of fact, the one mistake we have made most in
this blasted war, and during the years leading up to it, too, has been
to underestimate the strength and ability of the enemy. The Japs may be
saps, as you say, but that won't stop them from attacking if they think
they hold the winning hand. And I'm afraid they do believe they hold
it."

"But they would be bashing their crazy heads against a stone wall!"
Freddy Farmer protested. "I mean if they dared to have a go at
Singapore. I've always been told that Singapore is every bit as
impregnable as Gibraltar."

"From sea attack, yes," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth said. "But from
the air? That is something else again. And as far as Singapore is
concerned, the greatest weakness in its defense is not on the Island at
all."

"Not on the Island, sir?" Dave Dawson echoed. "I don't think I get you."

"The water supply," the senior officer said. "It comes from Johore
on the mainland side of the Strait, and is piped over the causeway.
Blast Singapore's water supply and the lads on the Island would have a
pretty bad time of it. However, that's neither here nor there for the
moment. Dawson, you asked just a moment ago why didn't some other plane
pick you up before this one. I'll tell you. Because there weren't any
other planes in the air. I recalled all patrols early this morning, and
grounded all planes."

The Air Vice Marshal paused for a moment, and although a thousand
questions hovered on the boys' lips, they knew enough to hold their
tongues.

"It's hard to tell the story," Bostworth continued presently with a
frown, "because there are so many parts of it that we don't know a
thing about. In a nutshell, it's this. Everything we do out here is
known in detail in Berlin, Rome, and Tokio within a few hours. The
blighters couldn't be better informed if we broadcast every move we
make over the radio. They are finding out everything, worse luck. That
was why I was sent out here. To find the leak, or leaks, and plug
'em up. As you both know, the population of Singapore is as mixed in
nationalities as any other spot in the whole world. I'll wager that you
could find a man from every country in the world within the limits of
Singapore. Not only is it a great naval base of England's, it is also
one of the great trading ports of the world. And you can be very sure
that the city, itself, and the waterfront, is a thriving place for
spies, right now more than ever before."

The senior officer paused for breath and stared thoughtfully out one of
the portholes. The Catalina was still climbing steadily, but it had
not reached an altitude where it was necessary to reach for the small
portable oxygen kits fitted to the wall.

"I've been out here almost a week," the Air Intelligence officer
suddenly went on, "and what little I've discovered leads me to believe
that all information about our military preparations is leaving
Singapore by air. No, not radio. I mean by plane. By British plane."

"A dirty rat in the R.A.F., sir?" Dave gasped as though the very
thought of such a thing were a sacrilege.

"We've caught the type several times in the past," Air Vice Marshal
Bostworth said grimly. "Yes, to be perfectly frank with you. I've
checked and rechecked the service history of every single member of
Singapore R.A.F. personnel, from the Brass Hats right down to the
lowest grade aircraftsman, but a fine lot of good it's done me. I can't
find a single thing that even begins to look suspicious. Yet I'm sure
there are one or more Axis secret agents out here wearing the R.A.F.
uniform."

The senior officer stopped to raise a silencing hand as Dave started to
interrupt.

"I know that sounds crazy," he said. "I mean, that the spy is in the
R.A.F. out here. But here is my reason for thinking so. Rather, my
reasons for thinking so. I've made a few tests. I've let certain
bits of information become known, and then used a secret gadget
we've perfected that can pick up any kind of radio broadcast on any
wave-length within a radius of two hundred miles. And can do it while
nearby powerful stations are operating. But we didn't hear a single
broadcast of which we didn't know the code and couldn't decipher
easily. I've checked all ship movements, and all movements of troops
going over the causeway. And all civilians, too. However, all the
information I had purposely let slip reached the Berlin Government
in a very short time. That was reported to me by my own agents. So
I was sure all of the information left here by plane. It must have.
But.... But I must confess I didn't even dream they did it the way your
experience seems to prove they do it."

"Then that two hour patrol we were supposed to have made, and did
make?" Dave said with a puzzled frown. "You expected us to spot the spy
in his plane tearing off to pass on the information to somebody else?
But maybe we might not have given him a single glance. At least, not a
second glance."

Air Vice Marshal Bostworth shook his head and struck a match to fire up
his dead pipe.

"No, not exactly that," he said presently. "I let out a rather
valuable bit of information concerning coming reenforcements out here,
and then grounded all planes. Used the excuse of general overhaul and
inspection. At the same time I arranged for you chaps to buzz around
over the Strait. First, I wanted to see if our little spy friend would
risk it to fly off with his bit of information in the face of my
grounding order. If he did, we could jolly well radio you chaps his
direction and orders to head him off at all cost. Secondly, if the
blighter didn't try to sneak off ... which he didn't, blast him ... I
wanted you chaps out there to spot any plane of _any_ type that might
attempt to contact you in the air. In other words I was counting on
you chaps to help me get a line on the _other_ plane that I believed
was flying out each day from Japanese controlled Indo-China to contact
their man in our forces. I was hoping for a description of the plane,
what direction it came from, and so forth. I had thought up a little
stunt to pull.... But that's out, now. Our friend isn't contacting
another plane. He is, of course, contacting a submarine. A Jap sub, no
doubt, but I'll wager a thousand pounds it's commanded by a trained
Nazi. So you see, when you didn't show up, and I found you floating on
the water, I thought that you'd had a bit of a go with this supposedly
other plane, and come off second best. Good lord, though, that
submarine was bold as brass to surface and actually blaze away at you!
To me that means they're getting very cocky. And of course I'm speaking
of the Jap johnnies."

"Contacts a Jap tin can, huh, and probably drops his information by
signal buoy?" Dave murmured more to himself. "The sub slips on to sea
and radioes the stuff to its nearest base."

"Correct," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth said with a curt nod. "And from
that particular base it is relayed on to Tokio. And from Tokio it goes
to Berlin. And Hitler knows all about the very latest things we've
accomplished out here. And Tokio has another bit of information on what
she'll be up against when she attacks us."

"And she will, you feel sure, sir?" Freddy Farmer spoke for the first
time in many minutes.

"Unfortunately, there isn't the slightest doubt of it," the Air
Intelligence officer replied. "Yes, we expect war, rather, we expect an
attack, and very soon. We're getting ready for it just as fast as we
can. However, our forces are not strong, particularly in the air, and
what we've got to find out ... and it'll probably require a miracle to
find it out ... is just where, when, and how the Japs plan to strike.
I don't think it will be by sea. And I don't think it will be by land
down the Malay Peninsula _unless_ they are forced to. I have a feeling
they will attempt a quick knockout by air. That perhaps they'll have a
go at Hongkong and Singapore at the same time. I don't know. If only
I could catch the sly beggar who's getting out all the information, I
could put a plan to work that might get very good results that will tip
the Japs' hand as to just what they will try once they get the go-ahead
word from Berlin. But...."

The Air Vice Marshal sighed heavily and gave an angry shake of his head.

"But so long as the leak remains," he grated through clenched teeth,
"we're definitely in the soup. And heaven only knows what may come of
it. We haven't the fighting strength we need to beat off an all out
attack. And I'm very much afraid we're not going to get reenforcements
in time."

The Air Vice Marshal fell silent for a few moments, stared unseeing off
into space, and absently tapped the stem of his pipe against his strong
teeth. Eventually he grunted as though he had reached some kind of a
decision, and switched his gaze to the two R.A.F. youths.

"We've got to find out what the Japs, coached by the Nazis of course,
are planning," he said slowly. "I think there's a way we can do it.
True, it's about one chance in a thousand of succeeding. And.... Well,
the attempt could well possibly cost the lives of a couple of brave
chaps."

The Intelligence Officer emphasized the last with a faint gesture of
his hand, and for the next minute or so there was no sound in the
navigation compartment save the muffled roar of the engines outside.
Dave looked at Freddy, caught his grim nod, and turned to the Air Vice
Marshal.

"Well, I know a couple of fellows who would like to take a crack at it,
sir," he said in a quiet, steady voice.



CHAPTER SIX

_The Devil's Den_


The Air Ministry official looked at them, smiled and seemed to let
clamped air out of his lungs.

"I knew, of course, that you'd say that," he said. "But I was not
exaggerating when I said you might pay for your efforts with your
lives. Strictly speaking, it is not an Air Force job. I mean, there may
or may not be any flying attached to it. The task is very definitely
Intelligence work. Lord knows any one of us Intelligence chaps out here
in the Far East would be only too glad to have a go at it. However,
every British Intelligence Johnnie in these parts is well known to Axis
agents here. Just as we have a pretty good idea who is working against
us ... though we haven't yet laid them all by the heels."

The Air Vice Marshal paused and gave an angry shake of his head as
though he were getting himself all mixed up.

"I'd better tell what little I know," he said, "and perhaps between us
we can fill some of the holes with close guesses. Well, here goes. In
the city of Singapore, near the waterfront, there is a street called
Bukum Street. It is actually little more than an alley crowded on both
sides with rickety two story frame buildings with open store fronts
on the lower floors. They say that when you want to find Bukum Street
you don't bother to ask a native policeman. You simply stand still and
sniff. Then follow the most terrible smell of them all, and at its
source you will find Bukum Street.

"Halfway along the waterfront side of Bukum Street there is a little
spice and coffee shop very appropriately called the Devil's Den. It
is owned and operated by a man named Serrangi who looks as old as the
city itself. He is a Sumatran, as far as we can find out, but I fancy
he has a little of all the bloods of the Far East in his veins. He is a
hideous looking creature. Face terribly scarred, and he has a cast in
his right eye. But he is more diabolically clever than Satan, himself.
We know that he is a thief, that he would murder any one for you for
the price of a few pennies, and, that there is no intrigue brewing
in which he hasn't got at least the tip of his finger. But, to our
discredit, if you wish, the British Singapore authorities haven't been
able to catch him redhanded in a single thing. Personally, I think we
should throw the beggar in prison, and be done with it. Unfortunately,
though, the white man's laws do not operate that way. Also, Serrangi
has a tremendous influence with the native population. To punish
Serrangi without proof of guilt might stir up a beautiful native riot.
And so, we've only been able to watch and wait ... and hope. And to
date we're no better off than we were two years ago."

"Serrangi and his Devil's Den is the leak, sir?" murmured Freddy Farmer
as the senior officer paused for breath.

"We don't know," was the blunt reply. "You see, this business is so
confoundedly twisted up that anything might be possible. It might even
be possible that Serrangi is loyal to the Crown, though I'm sure I
would drop dead from the shock if such proof even came to my attention.
But I'm only telling you what we suspect, not what we know. And the
first item on our long list of suspicions is that all Axis spies
entering or leaving Singapore do so through the Devil's Den. In short
that Serrangi's place is ... you might say ... the clearing house for
information. A couple of months ago a known Nazi spy ... one high up in
the Gestapo by the way ... was picked up as he left the Devil's Den.
We found nothing of interest on his person, however. And we could not
prove that he had gone to Serrangi's for any other reason than to make
a few purchases. Also, not over two weeks ago one of our agents was
last seen entering Serrangi's. We never saw him again. We haven't even
found his body yet. And an authorized search of the Devil's Den brought
to light absolutely nothing!"

The Air Vice Marshal paused and clenched both fists in a helpless
gesture.

"Working in the East is so utterly different from working in the West!"
he said bitterly. "In England we could close up a place like the
Devil's Den, and burn it to the ground, if we thought it was necessary.
And toss the lot of them in prison, to boot. But you can't do that
sort of thing out here. Not unless you want to have native trouble on
your hands. Anyway, we feel certain that if we could learn even a few
of the secrets of Serrangi's place we would be able to profit as much
as though we had an extra dozen divisions of trained troops, together
with aircraft, and the like. Now, here is the part that concerns you.
And...."

The Intelligence Officer stopped talking abruptly and stared hard at
the two youths.

"This is entirely outside your line of duty," he said almost harshly.
"Just because I am telling you all this does not mean in the slightest
that you must agree to go through with the thing. You two are R.A.F.
pilots, and there's still plenty for you to do as such. I mean....
Well, that is...."

"Why not just tell us, sir?" Dave interrupted with an encouraging grin
as the senior officer fumbled for words. "If we get cold feet, or think
we'd flop the thing, we promise to tell you."

"Thanks, Dawson," the Air Vice Marshal said gravely. "Very well, then.
I want to get you two into Serrangi's place, by hook or by crook. No
one knows you have come to Singapore. I mean, the Harkness has arrived
but you weren't aboard. Of course, by now those damn Axis agents, that
have been virtually living in my pockets without my knowing it, must
know that two pilots took off from the Harkness before she reached
port; that their arrival at Singapore is long over-due, and that this
Catalina has gone out to try and find them. Well, this Catalina is
going to return to Singapore R.A.F. Base, her flight a failure. Yes, we
found the half submerged wreckage of the Harkness' plane. But, _no_
sign of the two who were in it. Examination of the wreckage showed that
the craft had obviously been shot down. How, we don't know. We are only
certain that the two pilots in her are dead. The sharks must have got
them."

Dave Dawson licked his lower lip and glanced sidewise at Freddy Farmer.

"Imagine how the shark that got you feels!" he chuckled.

"Is that so!" the English youth snapped. "Well, it's always been
difficult to tell from the look on your face whether you were dead or
alive. So you fit the part perfectly, my lad."

"Ouch!" Dave cried and winced. Then grinning at the Intelligence
officer he said, "Go ahead, sir. Don't mind us. It's the way we let off
steam, I guess."

"More should adopt the method," the Air Vice Marshal said firmly. "But
this business is far from a joke. It is far more serious than I can
tell you. To be very brutal about it, by this time tomorrow it's quite
possible that you and Farmer _may be_...."

The senior officer didn't finish. Instead he stuck out a clenched fist
and then extended the thumb downward toward the compartment floor. The
gesture was more explanatory than words. Dave felt a tingling chill
ripple through his heart but he kept the grin on his face. After a
moment the Air Intelligence officer continued.

"You two will be reported as definitely dead," he said. "I'll make no
bones about being certain of that. I fancy we'll even drink a silent
toast to you at evening mess. You know, do the thing up right for the
benefit of listening ears or watching eyes. Meantime, you two will
proceed to Bukum Street and go into the Devil's Den. Both of you speak
German, and French, and, of course, English. You will have to decide
for yourselves what language you want to use. You'll be.... Well,
you'll be wharf rats to all appearances. Or you can be a couple of
French merchant sailors stranded in Singapore after jumping ship. You
can be a couple of Germans rescued from a China boat sunk off shore.
Fact is, you can be anything you like. It will be frankly up to you to
decide each move as you go along."

"Aren't you just a bit ahead of things, sir?" Freddy Farmer said as the
flush mounted in his cheeks. "I mean, how do we get ashore from this
Catalina? And what about clothes?"

"That's the easiest part of the whole thing," the other replied. "We'll
talk about that later. Now, the moment you enter the Devil's Den your
lives will be in your own hands. I cannot tell you what you will find.
I cannot tell you what will happen. I'd be a blasted miracle maker, if
I could. But, I can tell you this. We know the identification code word
of Nazi agents out here in the Far East. It's three words, as a matter
of fact. _Der Fuehrer's Tag._ Meaning, of course, The Leader's Day. How
and when you use it, I do not know. And...."

The Air Vice Marshal paused and groaned softly.

"And I have got to tell you this," he said presently. "The British
Intelligence agent who entered the Devil's Den two weeks ago, never to
be seen again, was _also_ armed with the code word, or words. I am as
certain, though, as I am that I'm sitting here, that the Nazi agent
identification signal has not been changed. They still use it, and you
two will have to decide the proper time, and place, to mention it."

"A salute when you take a sip of your coffee might be a good idea,"
Dave said, looking at Freddy. "Sort of say it under your breath, but
loud enough for anyone sitting close to hear."

Dave turned his head and looked at Air Vice Marshal Bostworth.

"Your plan is for us to be a couple of Axis agents reporting, isn't it,
Sir?" he asked.

The Air Intelligence officer gave Dawson a look of frank admiration,
and nodded instantly.

"Exactly that," he said. "I'm sure new agents sent out go straight to
Serrangi's place. Of course, there may be some one to whom they report.
I don't know. That's the risk you've got to take. But here's a plan to
cover that part. You can be a couple of Axis agents shipping from China
to ... say Australia. Your boat was sunk.... I can give you the names
of several ships sunk in the South China Sea recently ... and you were
put ashore in Singapore. You, of course, have known of the Devil's Den,
and you know the code words for identification."

"That's a splendid arrangement, sir!" Freddy Farmer spoke up excitedly.
"That way we won't have to show any papers. We can say we lost
everything at sea. But...."

The English youth stopped short and scowled.

"But what, Farmer?" Air Vice Marshal Bostworth prompted.

It was a few seconds before Freddy acted as though he had heard.

"I was thinking, sir," he said slowly, "what if nobody pays any
attention to us? What if we just go into this Devil's Den, and nothing
happens?"

"We've got to hope hard that something will," the Air Intelligence
officer said grimly. "And I don't think you need worry about nobody
paying any attention to you. You'll be strangers, and you'll look the
part of seamen put ashore from a lost ship. I'm quite certain that
Serrangi keeps a very close watch on everybody who comes into his
place. However, that's the blasted sticker about this thing. It's no
more and no less than a blind stab in the dark. It may gain us nothing,
and then again, it may gain us a lot. And ... it may get you both a
knife in your back before you've been in the place five minutes. I
pray to God not, but that's the chance you'll be taking. To sum it up
bluntly, you'll simply be grabbing at possible straws, and...."

"And there may not be any to grab," Dave grunted as the other hesitated.

"Precisely!" the senior officer said and made a wry face. "You'll be
taking a wild, blind shot in the dark to connect with something that
will lead you to the top rankers in the Axis espionage system working
in Singapore."

"It would certainly be a break if the spy you're gunning for at
Singapore R.A.F. Base uses Serrangi's as a contact place," Dave said.
"I think I could spot an R.A.F. lad with my eyes shut."

"Not this one, I fancy," the Air Vice Marshal said. "He may be R.A.F.
on the surface when he's on duty, but the blighter is Nazi at heart.
He'll be clever, and twice as cruel, too. But, if you should be lucky
enough to contact him ... rather, spot him ... a lot of my worries
would be over. Once I find out that beggar's identity I've got a very
neat little plan already to be put into operation. That, however, would
be like asking for a miracle on a silver platter."

"But, supposing we do tag him," Dave persisted. "How do you plan for us
to get word to you, sir?"

"I've arranged for that," the senior officer said. "In front of the
Raffles Hotel, which is perhaps the easiest thing to find in all
Singapore, there's always a gathering of peddlers and hawkers who will
sell anything to soldiers and civilians alike. In peace times they made
quite a good thing out of it from the tourist trade, but they are not
doing so well now that half the world is at war. However they still
cluster about in front of the Raffles hoping to make a few pennies.
Anyway, one of them is a horrible looking creature. He is not more than
five feet tall, and bent over at that. He wears a dirty white patch
over his right eye, and the thumb on the left hand is missing. He is
always there, and you couldn't possibly miss him. Put any message you
have for me in Air Intelligence Code Six-X-Seven, walk past the man
with the patch over his right eye, and toss the wadded message into
the gutter, as though it were a bit of paper you were throwing away.
And.... By the by, you know the Air Intelligence Code Six-X-Seven, of
course?"

"Yes, sir," Freddy spoke for both of them. "By heart, sir."

"Good," Air Vice Marshal Bostworth said and gave them a pleased nod.
"Well, do as I say, if you have any message you want transmitted to me.
However, be sure and just walk by the beggar, and toss the bit of paper
into the gutter. Do not turn to him or look at him. And for heaven's
sake don't speak to him. You'll probably lose the man his life if you
speak to him. And I hasten to tell you that he is one of the best
British counter espionage agents in Singapore. Well, so much for that.
Now, any other questions?"

Dave looked at Freddy Farmer and nodded.

"Go ahead with that question you asked awhile back," he said. "I guess
that's the important one, now."

The English youth looked blank for a moment, then his face brightened
as he realized what Dave was talking about.

"Oh, yes, quite," he said and turned to Air Vice Marshal Bostworth.
"It's that question I asked about getting ashore from this Catalina,
and clothes, sir."

"Simple, quite simple," the senior officer replied with a faint wave
of his hand. "I only hope the rest of this blasted business will be
equally as simple. Well...."

The man paused, looked at his watch, and then glanced out the porthole
at the blood red sun that was balancing like a ball on the western
horizon line. Its flaming red rays fanned out across the sky to bathe
everything in a pinkish glow. Even the wings of the Catalina were
touched by the glow that bounced off their glossy surfaces and seeped
in through the ports to the interior of the compartment. The dying sun
was a beautiful, breath catching sight ... but not right at the moment
for Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer. Their thoughts were not on beautiful
things, now, but on many other things, not the least of which was
possible death by tomorrow's setting sun.

"Well, in an hour it will be darkish, sort of," the Air Vice Marshal
continued speaking. "When it is we're going to head back toward
Singapore. I will have the radio operator send word that our search
failed, and that I'm having this flyingboat land in Keppel Harbor as
I wish to go direct to the Government buildings in the city. We will
land in the harbor and the crew will break out two of the collapsible
boats we carry aboard. I will go ashore in one. You two will use the
other. Under cover of darkness you can easily reach some section of
Singapore's waterfront undetected. Simply go ashore and release the
air valve in your boat. It will fill up and sink at once. As for
clothes...."

The senior officer paused and smiled faintly.

"This is not the first time I have used this Catalina for Intelligence
work," he said. "In fact, it is used almost exclusively for such jobs.
You'd be surprised the stuff we have aboard this craft. We carry all
kinds of clothes, from a German soldier's uniform on up to almost
anything you could mention. Don't worry, before you leave this Catalina
you'll look so much like a couple of rescued sailors from a China to
Australia boat your own families wouldn't recognize you. Later I'll
give you facts of an actual sinking to make your story ring true. Now,
what else, eh?"

Dave started to speak, but thought better of it after an instant's
hesitation, and closed his mouth. Air Vice Marshal Bostworth gave him a
sharp quizzical glance.

"Yes, Dawson?" he encouraged. "What is it? Ask anything you like.
After all, this is not going to be any tea party that you two are
setting out on. If you've got something to ask me, go right ahead.
Later on, you might regret not having asked it."

Dave hesitated a couple of more seconds, then shrugged.

"Well, maybe it's a crazy question, sir," he said slowly, "but somehow
I always like to be on the safe side. I mean, I like to be sure about a
couple of things in advance, when I stick my neck out, if you get what
I mean?"

"I think I understand, a little," the other said. "But perhaps you'd
better make yourself a bit clearer, eh?"

The American born R.A.F. ace took a deep breath as though he were about
to dive off into icy waters. Then he blurted it out.

"The crew of this Catalina, sir," he said. "You admit that there is
some Nazi agent at the Singapore R.A.F. Base. A lad you haven't been
able to lay by the heels yet. Well, what I mean is this. Those aboard
this flyingboat know who we are. The sergeant gunner asked us if we
were Dawson and Farmer when we came aboard. Well.... That is to say....
I mean...."

Dave stumbled to a halt and flushed a deep red.

"You mean, how about the loyalty of the crew of this Catalina?" the Air
Vice Marshal helped him out.

"Yes, sir," Dave said with a nod.

"A perfectly fair question," the other replied. "I'll describe their
loyalty in this way, then. _I_ would reveal your true identity to the
Nazi agents in Singapore before any one of them would."

"That's all I want to know," Dave said. "Fair enough. Any better
wouldn't do. How about you, Freddy?"

"Quite," the English youth said. "Oh, very definitely and absolutely!"

"Then what are we waiting for?" Dave said, turning back to Air Vice
Marshal Bostworth with a grin. "Let's get going and not keep old
Serrangi waiting any longer than we have to!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

_The Jaws Of Death_


Night had come again to Singapore. From one end of the Island to the
other all was cloaked in velvety darkness save where light made by
man thrust aside the shadows. At Raffles Hotel they still danced, and
at the famous city cafes they still drank and watched worn out floor
shows, even though the nearness of war in the Far East seemed to hang
in the very air like a shroud. Even in the poorer sections, and in the
slums, there were sounds of merry-making. It was almost as though rich
man and beggar alike were enjoying themselves as much as they could
before the sword of Mars came slashing down on that section of the
earth.

In the unspeakably smelly alley that is known as Bukum Street two
figures slouched along as though they didn't have an idea in the world
where they were going, and cared even less when they got there. At
every little opened front shop they paused and gaped vacant eyed at the
collection of wares on display. Sometimes they muttered things to each
other in low tones. Sometimes they said nothing, and just stared. And
more times than not the storekeepers instantly sized them up as very
poor prospects for a sale and waved them on their way.

Presently they both halted in their tracks as though by unspoken signal
and stared half a block ahead at a two story wooden building on the
other side of the street. It was much the same as all the others save
there was no shop on the lower floor of this building, and therefore it
had no open front. On the contrary, it had a front door and windows,
and hanging from a bracket that protruded from the door was a sign with
somebody's idea of His Satanic Majesty painted on it in red.

"That's us, Freddy!" muttered the taller of the pair. "A crummy looking
joint, isn't it?"

"Much worse!" came the half muffled reply. "And good Lord, this awful
smell does come from there! So blasted thick and heavy, I can almost
see it coming out the front door."

"Yeah," Dave Dawson murmured. "And if it's from the brand of coffee
they serve in there I'm afraid I'm going to be an awful flop before I
even get started. I couldn't keep anything down that smells like that
for longer than one millionth of one split second. Holy catfish! Do you
suppose this Serrangi runs a slaughter house on the side? Boy! That
stench almost bounces when it hits you."

"That's right," Freddy Farmer agreed. "We should have remembered to
bring clothespins. Well, worse luck for us, we didn't. But what do you
say, Dave? Shall we get on with it?"

"Why not, we've come this far," Dave grunted, and started slouching
forward again. "But, look, Freddy."

"At what?"

"No, I mean, listen!" Dave hissed out the corner of his mouth.
"Bostworth handed us a pip this time. Like trying to win a ball game
in the last of the ninth with your team a couple of hundred runs
behind. What I mean is, that anything can happen from here on. Just
like Bostworth said, when we go through that door we're on our own. We
may strike out on three pitched balls, and then again we may run into
something mighty valuable to him. But there's two guys we've got to
look out for all the time. You and me. Now, if by any chance things do
get rough, keep close to me. We make it or don't, together. Okay?"

"Absolutely," Freddy Farmer replied quietly. "Shoulder to shoulder all
the time, Dave, of course."

"Maybe in Serrangi's place we'd better make it back to back," Dave
said. "They're experts with knives in this part of the world, so I've
been told. So if we get back to back when things break bad, we'll at
least see who's doing what."

"I'd feel happier if we were armed," Freddy Farmer said. "I suppose
Bostworth was right when he said that carrying arms might get us into
trouble if we were searched. Just the same, though, I'd feel a lot
happier if we were armed."

"You and me each, brother!" Dave breathed softly as they neared the
front door of the smelly place. "You and me each! However, maybe we'll
live to bless him for that word of caution."

"Just so's we live will please me enough!" Freddy muttered. Then as
they came almost abreast of the door, he added softly, "I think it
would be best to speak bad French in this place. Much better than
English or German, don't you think?"

"Check, it'll be French," Dave said and gave Freddy's arm a quick
squeeze. "Well, luck to us both. And do I hope I can keep that coffee
down! Okay, follow me, my little man."

Dave hesitated a moment, took a deep breath, and then pushed in
through the front door of the Devil's Den. He was instantly smacked in
the face by a babble of sound, and a stench that almost made his nose
drop off. For a second he could see only blurred yellow shadows, the
place was so heavy with cheap cigarette, and water-pipe smoke. Then as
he spotted an empty table to his left he gave a jerk of his head to
Freddy, and shuffled across the filthy floor and sat down. Leaning back
he lazily surveyed the place with his eyes. He had seen an awful lot of
terrible places since the first day of war, but the Devil's Den topped
them all, and then some. It was half store and half coffee shop. Along
one wall of the room, that was some forty feet deep and three quarters
as wide, was a series of shelves filled with bins that contained
everything from spices, tea, and native coffee to pith helmets and old
army uniforms. On the opposite side was a row of battered tables so
badly stained it was impossible to tell the original color of the wood.
The sirupy coffee of the hot countries was spilled all over the table,
and it was quite probable that no efforts had been made to mop up the
sticky drippings in the last six months. And where there wasn't coffee
there was dirt or cigarette ash.

Seated at the tables was a mixture of all races from Suez to Saigon,
and from Hongkong to Borneo. There were Malays and Chinese, Sumatrans
and Tamils from India, Filipinos and Punjabis, Arabs and Siamese,
Persians, and a smattering that had once claimed kinship with the white
races but had sunk so low they were no longer any part of a white man.

Dave's heart looped over and his stomach churned as he let his sleepy,
seemingly uninterested gaze travel slowly about the room. Many of those
there looked at him in return, but only for the smallest part of a
second. It seemed to be sort of an unwritten law that you didn't stare
too hard or too long at your fellow coffee drinkers in the Devil's Den.
Some of them didn't so much as lift their heads when Dave and Freddy
entered. Either they weren't interested in newcomers or else they were
too full of the poison of the Far East to get up the strength.

There was one, however, who took real interest in the arrival of the
two slouching ones in dirty sea water stained clothes. He was standing
near the steaming coffee urns at the far end of the room near a door.
As Dave's eyes passed over the scarred face with the cast in the right
eye it was all the young American could do to check himself from
starting violently. Serrangi's face would certainly scare even Satan,
himself. The man was not very tall, and he seemed not to have much
flesh on his bones. Yet somehow he gave you the impression of coiled
steel springs ready to lash out in any and all directions. A scarecrow,
perhaps, but with the strength of a killer in his thin arms, legs, and
body. But it was the eyes. Particularly the one with the cast. That one
was a dirty grey white; a dirty grey white beam of light that seemed to
go right through you and read your innermost thoughts on the way. For
perhaps a split second Dave had a look at the mysterious Serrangi, but
in that brief period of time he saw all he ever wanted to see of the
man.

He let his lazy gaze travel on and then brought it to rest on an evil
faced native waiter sliding toward them. The man came to a halt at
Dave's elbow and hissed something in a tongue Dave couldn't catch.

"Bring coffee," Dave growled in heavily accented French. Then as an
afterthought, "And cigarettes, too!"

"So?" the native snarled right back in the same tongue. "Here one sees
the color of a man's money first."

Dave glared and reluctantly pulled a small silver coin from his pocket
and slapped it on the table.

"The color of a silver knife, eh?" he grunted and jerked his head
toward the urns. "Go bring us some!"

The native waiter half bowed, flicked out a grimy paw and the silver
coin wasn't there anymore. At the same time he slithered around and
glided away. Dave had the feeling as though a snake had just wiggled
across his chest, and it was all he could do to stop the shiver that
welled up inside of him. Instead he slumped over the table and rubbed a
hand tentatively up and down the side of his face. He did it to cover
up the movement of his lips as he whispered to Freddy.

"Nice joint!" he breathed. "I wonder if the floorshow's as good. Gives
you the creeps, doesn't it?"

"Goose pimples all over!" Freddy replied. "Am jolly well sure they'll
be permanent. Notice how our little friend gave us the eye? And is
still doing it? Rotten looking chap, for fair. Should jail him because
of his face alone. Horrible fellow. He.... Heads up, Dave!"

The last just barely carried to Dave's ears but there was a tremor in
Freddy's voice that was just as good as a wild yell of alarm. He cut
short what he might have said to the English youth, made a final pass
at the side of his face then cupped his chin in his hand and stared
moodily off into space. Every part of him, though, was on the alert,
and in less than no time he realized why Freddy Farmer had breathed the
warning. A filthy native who had been seated by the front door when
they entered was slowly edging toward the table next to theirs, but not
noticeably so, unless you were on your guard, which good old Freddy
Farmer was proving he was!

Still staring off into space Dave watched the native out of the corner
of his eye. The man finally reached the table, muttered what sounded
like an apology to two half cast Malays seated at the table, slid into
a chair and promptly to all intent and purposes rested his forehead on
his folded arms on the table and went sound asleep. Even the sound of
his breathing was like that of a half doped man, but Dave Dawson was
not fooled one single bit. And neither was Freddy Farmer. One of the
dirty native's ears showed and they both felt certain that every sound
they made was being registered by that ear.

Shifting his position to a more comfortable one Dave let his eyes
meet Freddy's for the fraction of a second. In that swift period of
time a world of understanding passed between them. That native who
faked sleeping off the effects of some drug at the next table was
unquestionably one of Serrangi's men. He was there to eavesdrop on
their talk. To listen to every word they said, and perhaps send a
signal to Serrangi that could well be their death warrant. However,
that thought cheered them rather than caused icy fingers to clutch at
their hearts. If the man _was_ one of Serrangi's spies he was playing
right into their hands. What better opportunity could they ask for
than this one to give the code signal revealing them as Nazi agents in
Singapore?

It was perfect. It was made to order. Yet, on the other hand, it seemed
so perfect that Dave caught his brain swaying way over the other way.
To the side of extra, extra caution. Was this in reality a trap? Would
it be wise to mention the code word when a total stranger was sitting
so close? Had Bostworth's agent made that mistake when he entered the
Devil's Den, and it had proved to be a fatal one? Would it not be
better to wait, to spend a while over their first cup of coffee before
trying to contact possible Nazi agents in the room? It was perhaps best
to....

Dave cut off the rest of the thought as the shadow of the filthy native
waiter suddenly appeared at his elbow as though by magic. Two dirty
cracked cups the size of thumb thimbles were placed in front of him
and Freddy. In the cups was a smudgy brown liquid that no white man
would even use to paint the side of a cow-barn. An acrid stench drifted
up from each cup. It made Dave think of burning sulphur and kerosene,
only not so sweet smelling. As a matter of fact, for one crazy instant
he wondered if it was some deadly chemical that was going to explode in
his face in the next second and blind him. He killed off that thought,
however, and whipped out his hand to grab the native's arm as the man
started to glide away.

"The cigarettes!" he growled. "I gave you enough to feed your filthy
family for years. Bring us the cigarettes!"

The native waiter's eyes glowed up for a moment in a look of deadly
hatred. But his gaze soon fell before Dave's steely one. He bobbed
his head, mumbled something, and hurried away. Dave turned back to
the table and picked up his cup and looked at Freddy Farmer. Suddenly
he was convinced that it was do or die now, or never. He held the cup
native style between his two hands, and leaned forward toward Freddy
Farmer and opened his mouth to speak. But what he was about to say died
in his throat. It died because in that same instant the front door of
the Devil's Den was suddenly slammed open and two Singapore policemen
came bursting into the room.

"_Brenti!_" one of them screamed.

It was the Malay word for "Halt!" and every man in the room, including
Serrangi, himself, froze stiff in whatever position he happened to be.



CHAPTER EIGHT

_The Secret Message_


Like a pair of killers who would love nothing better than to blast
away in all directions with the police pistols they clutched, the two
Singapore policemen stood straddle legged, their black eyes seeming
to focus on every face at the same time. The Devil's Den was suddenly
filled with pin-dropping silence. It was more the silence of sudden
death. Dave's heart slammed like a trip-hammer against his ribs, and he
was sure that the sound carried throughout the room like a booming drum.

Here was something that Air Vice Marshal Bostworth hadn't so much as
mentioned as a bare possibility. A raid on Serrangi's place by the
native police. Supposing they were all dragged in? What would he and
Freddy do? How would they be able to get out of the clutches of the
local law? True, they could establish their true identities in short
order. Sure, and probably be released with a thousand heart felt
apologies! But a fine lot of good that would do them! Their opportunity
would then be gone forever. Be gone because there were certain to be
listening ears at police headquarters. Ears that would hear what they
said. And a tongue or two that would take a warning back to Serrangi's.
No, if they left the Devil's Den with the native police for questioning
they would never enter Serrangi's again. They both would be dead before
they could get both feet inside.

Yet the alternative was just as bad. Perhaps worse. If they posed as
coming from a torpedoed boat headed for Australia their stories would
be checked within the hour by police officials ... and be found as full
of holes as a rusted sieve. As a result they would be thrown into a
jail cell in nothing flat, and be kept there until they rotted before
they could convince their jailers of the truth. Yes, it was something
that Air Vice Marshal Bostworth hadn't even dreamed of, to say nothing
of themselves. A choice of two things ... and both evil and spelling
bad luck, or worse.

And so Dave's heart pounded even more furiously against his ribs as the
two policemen seemed to focus their attention on Freddy and him. Was
this the moment? Was this the end of something that had hardly had a
beginning? Those questions and others burned through Dave's brain like
liquid fire. He wanted to look at Freddy to see how his pal was taking
it, but he didn't dare take his eyes off the two policemen.

Then suddenly the pair started walking slowly down the length of the
room. Whenever they came to a man who was dead to the world, and had
not lifted his head at their arrival, one of them would grab him by
the hair, jerk up his head and glare at the man's face. One swift
scrutinizing stare and then the man's head would flop down on his
folded arms again, or sag chin down on his chest and roll from side to
side like a toy balloon in a gentle breeze.

Eventually the two Singapore policemen came abreast of Dawson's table.
For one horrible moment he lived and died a thousand times over. Then
the policemen passed on to the next table to the rear. In time they
reached Serrangi standing by the coffee urns. Dave heard the soft sound
as the pair spoke, and the harsh nerve-grating replies from Serrangi's
lips. But he didn't understand the tongue. And then, finally, when
Dave's nerves were almost ready to fly apart in all directions,
the two policemen wheeled about, stalked back to the front door and
disappeared.

Dave held his breath waiting for the babble of sound to come from the
many tongues in the place. But he was doomed to disappointment if he
expected the coffee shop customers to show any excitement over the
visit. They simply relaxed in their chairs, shrugged slightly at their
next table neighbors, and continued on doing whatever it was they had
been doing when the policemen burst into the room.

To cover his own almost overwhelming sense of relief Dave slumped over
the table edge and cupped his chin in both hands and stared down at the
still untouched cup of smudgey brown coffee. It was then he suddenly
realized that the dirty native was no longer seated at the adjoining
table. The man had disappeared as though by magic. Dave blinked at the
empty chair and then quickly lowered his eyes.

"Our pal has scrammed," he breathed just loud enough for Freddy to
hear. "Did he go through the floor or just evaporate in the smokey air?"

"Neither," came the hushed reply. "He slid along in back of the two
bobbies. Talking with Serrangi, now. Steady! Here he comes back again."

"Don't ever miss a trick, do you!" Dave murmured and reached for his
coffee cup. "Well, I'm going to pull the code words this time. I'll go
plain bats if this suspense keeps up much longer. Luck to us, pal."

"And we'll probably need it, Dave. Right-o. Fire away!"

Dave waited until the shadow of the passing native fell directly across
the table. Then he started the coffee cup to his lips and looked at
Freddy.

"_Der Fuehrer's Tag!_" he grunted and put his lips to the vile smelling
cup.

"_Ja, ja!_" Freddy Farmer grunted in reply. "_Der Fuehrer's Tag._ It
cannot come soon enough to please me!"

Both spoke in pure German, and both held their breath as the shadow
of the passing native seemed to linger a second on the table. Then it
passed on by, and it was all either of them could do to refrain from
turning around and staring directly at the man. With an effort though,
they remained seated as they were. And with a thousand times greater
effort they forced themselves to sip a little of the most horrible
liquid they had ever tasted in their lives. It took every ounce of
Dave's will power not to spit it out. Instead, though, he forced it
down and had the sensation of a couple of red hot coals dropping clear
down to the pit of his stomach. He waited a full minute before he dared
to speak.

"Are you still alive, Freddy?" he whispered. "I'm not sure just how I
feel."

"I think, so," the English youth whispered back. "At any rate, I can
still talk, and see and hear. But I think we'd better not talk much,
Dave. Serrangi is taking interest in us again. It's possible that he
might be a lip reader."

"Or has eyes in the back of his head like you seem to have," Dave
murmured. "How you can look two ways at the same time, I'll never be
able to.... What's up?"

Dave cut himself off and asked the last as he saw Freddy's hand resting
on the table suddenly stiffen. The English youth didn't reply for a
moment. Then he spoke loudly in bad French.

"Those cigarettes!" he exclaimed. "Do we get them, or must we go
someplace where they don't steal a poor man's money?"

As the English youth spoke he glared at the native waiter who was busy
about something over on the other side of the room. Then as he slouched
back in his chair again he flashed Dave a warning look.

"Serrangi just nodded to somebody in back of us!" he breathed behind a
hand that pawed at his mouth. "To some one in back of us! Our little
friend, of course. I wonder what it means?"

"I wouldn't know," Dave grunted. "But I sure am hoping like blazes. For
the best, I mean. Oh-oh!"

The native had suddenly appeared at Dave's elbow. But the man didn't
stop. He glided on by toward the rear of the room. As he passed,
though, Dave caught the quick motion of one hand, and saw the tiny
pellet pop from the man's fingers, and roll across the table to come to
a stop not three inches from Dave's cup of coffee. Freddy saw it, too,
and sucked in his breath in a soft hiss of excitement. Dave didn't look
at him, or at the little pellet resting on the table. Instead he stared
unconcernedly at the front door, and absently dropped one hand down
over the pellet.

For a couple of minutes he seemingly took no interest at all in
anything, but as a matter of fact his heart was thumping, and the
pellet, which was a wadded up bit of paper, seemed to burn like a hot
coal under his hand. At the end of two minutes, which passed like an
eternity of taunting suspense, Dave drew his hand off the table, and
brought the little pellet of paper along with it. Another couple of
seconds and he had both hands in his lap, shielded from all eyes by
the edge of the table, and was feverishly smoothing out the wadded
paper with his fingers. He knew that Freddy Farmer was watching him out
the corner of his eye every instant of the time, but to all appearances
the English youth was taking a cat nap.

Finally Dave had the paper smoothed out. He didn't glance down at it
right away, though. It was as though he were almost afraid to read
whatever was written on the paper. It was as though he would read there
his death warrant, or something. As a matter of fact, a million wild,
crazy thoughts surged through his brain, and he could feel the little
beads of cold sweat that broke out on his forehead. With an effort he
shrugged the maddening thoughts aside, took a deep breath and glanced
down at the paper in his hands. The scrawl was in French, and almost
impossible to read. Dave had to study it hard for a few seconds before
he could make out the words. When he finally did read the message his
heart did nip-ups in his chest. The message was short and right to the
point.

It read,

_In five minutes' walk through rear door._

The message was unsigned. Just those seven words, but at the moment
they constituted the most exciting seven words Dave Dawson had ever
read in his life. He swallowed hard as a means of pushing his looping
heart back down into place. Then he leaned one elbow on the table, and
reached out under the table with the other hand that held the message.

"A little love note," he murmured to Freddy. "Take a look. We're
getting action, pal ... maybe!"

Three minutes later Freddy Farmer had the message in his hands and
had read it. His face didn't change a hair save for a tiny white spot
that appeared in each cheek. Many, many times had Dave seen that sign
in his friend. It meant that Freddy Farmer was well nigh on fire with
curiosity and excitement.

"It worked, Dave, it worked!" finally came the faint whisper to
Dawson's ears. "It's going along just as we hoped it would."

"As far as that door, anyway," Dave grunted, as a familiar eerie
tingling sensation came to the back of his neck. "But what happens on
the other side of that door is in the lap of the gods, if you get what
I mean. I.... Hey! Serrangi isn't around any more!"

"No, I know it," Freddy said. "While you were reading the note his nibs
went through the door we're supposed to go through."

"Yeah?" Dave echoed and scowled down into his coffee cup. "I sure hope
he didn't go out to sharpen up his knife. I think I would have liked it
better if Serrangi had acted as postman instead of that throat slitting
customer. I never did like a middle man in things; a go-between.
However, there's nothing that can be done about it, now. We follow
through, of course?"

"Of course!" came the English youth's quick reply. "I wouldn't miss
this for the world!"

Dave smiled in spite of himself. The remark was typical of Freddy
Farmer. He was the kind who might jump ten feet if a mouse should
suddenly pop out of its hole at him, but he would step right up and
paste Death right on the nose without giving it a second thought.
Yes, indeed, Freddy Farmer was a man in a million to have around when
you got into a tight corner. He was better than a whole regiment of
soldiers on occasion.

"You would!" Dave chuckled. "Well, if a knife comes singing along,
don't forget to step in front of me, mate. Or maybe you'd better step
in back of me. It might come that way. Well, I guess it's five minutes.
Let's go take a look at what's on the other side of that door. Luck,
kid!"

"I've got my fingers crossed," the English born R.A.F. ace murmured and
pushed his cup of coffee to one side with a dissatisfied motion, and
got up onto his feet. "Here we go."

Slouching and weaving along so as to attract the minimum of attention,
Dave and Freddy made their way past the other coffee drinkers to
the rear door. In front of it Dave paused and glanced back over his
shoulder at Freddy. The English youth acted as though he were more
or less walking in his sleep. That is, save for a tiny spark of wild
excitement that burned deep in each eye. Dave winked, half grinned, and
then turned front and pushed open the door.

He stepped into a room that was pitch dark save for the faint shaft of
light that cut through from the coffee shop. But in a split second or
even less it really was pitch dark. Dave sensed swift movement, and the
door was closed quickly in back of Freddy Farmer. Almost at the same
time Dave felt a tiny prick of pain in the left side of his neck. And a
voice hissed softly in his ear.

"You will stand still while you are searched! Move one muscle and my
knife will plunge in deep. Do not move!"

The instructions were quite unnecessary as far as Dave was concerned.
The instant he had felt the pin prick of pain in his neck he had frozen
stiff. Even his heart seemed to stop beating. Like a man carved out of
stone he stood there in the darkness while fingers seemed to ripple
all over his body from head to toe. And not for a single instant did
the needle point tip of the knife leave the side of his neck. He sensed
rather than saw or heard the second figure there in the pitch darkness
who was searching Freddy Farmer.

Then suddenly the pin prick of the knife point was gone and steel
fingers closed over his right arm at the elbow.

"Come with me!" the hissing French voice said. "It is but a short
distance."

It was at that. Dave didn't take more than a dozen steps before his
"guide" halted him, turned him to face the right, and pushed open a
door. Before Dave could blink, and focus his eyes to the sudden change
of light, he found himself in a dimly lit room that at least smelled a
little less obnoxious than the coffee room up front. It was furnished
as a sort of combination sleeping quarters and business office. There
was a bed in the corner, a table, a desk and a few chairs. Posters
quoting market spices and coffee prices hung on the wall. And scattered
about here and there were empty packing boxes and cartons that had the
names of shipping ports on them from all over the world.

Dave gave all the trimmings but a fleeting glance. What caught and
riveted his attention was Serrangi seated in a grease-smeared
over-stuffed chair. The Sumatran looked more hideous than ever in the
pale light, and the brown paper wrapped cigarette he was smoking was
all of five inches long. He stared at the youths out of eyes that were
expressionless as those of a dead fish. He made no move, nor sign, nor
said anything. He seemed not to hear the rapid jumble of a Far Eastern
tongue that hissed over Dave's shoulder. Nor did his eyes follow two
figures as they glided out of the room, and softly closed the door.

He simply stared unseeing at Dave and Freddy, and Dave could feel the
cold sweat begin to form in his armpits and trickle down his ribs. It
was as though he and Freddy had been left standing like a couple of
wooden Indians staring unspeaking at a dead man with a live cigarette
in his long claw-like fingers. It was an awful feeling. Dave wanted to
yell, or jump up and down. Anything to shake the evil looking Serrangi
out of his trance, or whatever it was.

Suddenly an idea came to Dave. For a moment he was afraid to try it,
but when Serrangi continued to stare at them out of almost sightless
eyes he did so out of sheer desperation. He clicked his heels together,
stiffened rigid, and flung up his right arm to the horizontal, and
shouted,

"_Heil Hitler!_"

He heard the gasp of startled amazement from Freddy Farmer's lips, but
he didn't waste time looking at his friend. He kept his eyes riveted
on Serrangi's face, and in the next second he received his reward. The
owner of the Devil's Den relaxed outwardly. Most of the fishy look left
his eyes. He nodded his head slightly, and what probably was meant for
a smile caused one corner of his mouth to twitch.

"You took long enough, comrade," he said in a voice that sounded like
ashes sliding down a tin roof. "_Heil Hitler!_ And what brings you two
here to the Devil's Den? I have received no word that you were to be
expected!"

The man spoke perfect German, and Dave had the sudden feeling that
Serrangi had spent a long time in Berlin, as well as in a lot of other
places. The Sumatran was hideous to behold, and his clothes looked not
one bit cleaner nor more costly than those of any one of his coffee
shop's customers. Yet, somehow, the certain something that lurked
deep in the one good eye gave one the impression that the shaven, sun
blackened, egg shaped head contained a brain that was as quick as a
steel trap. And as deadly, too. Yes, Serrangi, of the Devil's Den,
might look like the dope filled fool, but he was undoubtedly the
direct opposite.

"Well?" he suddenly snarled like a Prussian officer when neither of the
boys spoke. "Have you tongues? Or is it perhaps the look of my face you
do not like, _hein_?"

"The fortunes of war, is the answer to your question, _mein Herr_,"
Freddy Farmer spoke up. "We were traveling by boat for service to _Der
Fuehrer_ in Australia. However, the boat was torpedoed and sunk. We
were two of the few saved. By a fishing boat. It put us ashore here at
Singapore. We had no choice in the matter. Our first task was to avoid
the police. We...."

"You fools!" Serrangi rasped and thumped one clenched fist on the arm
of his chair. "So you came here, to the Devil's Den? To the place the
swine police inspect nightly, and raid at least twice a week! Have you
no brains in your heads? What brand of stupid swine is _Herr Himmler_
enlisting in his precious Gestapo these days. _Gott!_"

"We are sorry, _Herr_ Serrangi," Dave began.

"You mean you are _lucky_!" Serrangi cut in. "Lucky that those
policemen tonight were searching for a pair of petty thieves. Had it
been one of their regular raids you would now be behind bars, and your
hides not worth a Reich mark!"

The Devil's Den owner made a savage little gesture with one hand for
emphasis. Then he leaned forward slightly and the dead fish look
virtually leaped back into his eyes.

"So you came to the Devil's Den?" he murmured in a soft yet deadly
tone. "And how did two on their way to Australia know of the Devil's
Den? Perhaps somebody told you here in Singapore, eh? Told you that old
Serrangi would look out for you, so?"

"So, there appear to be three, not two, fools in this room!"

Freddy Farmer's voice was like a machine gun going off. Dave started
violently inwardly, and he watched for the look of blind rage to rush
over Serrangi's ugly face. But no rage appeared. Instead the Devil's
Den owner glanced at Freddy with a new interest. A new interest, and
just the slightest touch of respect in his eyes.

"With a tongue like that, you must have been close to death many times
in your life, my friend!" the Sumatran grunted. "But perhaps I do not
understand the meaning of your words, eh?"

"The meaning was plain enough!" Freddy Farmer snapped as he thrust
his chin out. "We of the Gestapo who serve the Fuehrer, and the
Fatherland, unto the death, do not go about revealing who we are by
stupid questions. _Mein Gott!_ Do you think the Devil's Den is not
known beyond the borders of Singapore? Do you think that in Berlin
the name, Serrangi, has no meaning? Do you think we do not plan ahead
for all eventualities? _Himmel!_ We were put ashore with our money,
our forged papers, and everything we carried, lost! Would you have us
sit on the beach and cry great tears, and hope for the miracle of a
boat coming along to pick us up and take us southward to Australia? Of
course not! There was but one thing to do. We did it. We came here and
identified ourselves so that we could talk with you."

"I see, I see," Serrangi murmured in an almost apologetic tone. "But
more than one poor fool has thrown away his life out here because of
his tongue. However, you convince me that you are not of that type.
Torpedoed, eh? And going to Australia? What was to be the nature of
your work in Australia?"

The Sumatran looked at Dave as he asked the question, but the Yank born
R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant was not to be caught off guard that easily. He
dragged down one corner of his mouth and gave Serrangi a hard stare.

"In Berlin there is one _Herr Himmler_," he said. "If you communicate
with him perhaps he will be good enough to tell you of the work we were
to do in Australia."

The Devil's Den owner grunted, and then his thin body shook with silent
laughter.

"So!" he finally exclaimed. "So much for my curiosity, eh? It would
seem that there are _no_ fools in this room. And at least two who are
well trained members of the Gestapo. But I am still interested about
your unfortunate affair at sea. Tell me about it. Perhaps I have sailed
on the same ship. Perhaps I even know her captain. Tell me about it."



CHAPTER NINE

_The Gods Smile_


Serrangi of the Devil's Den made the request in a very matter of fact,
friend to friend tone. But it sounded alarm bells inside Dave. He
suddenly knew that the next few moments could well mean life or death
for Freddy and him. Their faked story had to be good. It had to be
better than that. It had to be perfect. One little slip-up, one tiny
flaw, and Serrangi would pounce on it like a striking vulture. It was
obvious that the man was going to check and double-check every little
detail with what he himself knew. And because of the high position
that Serrangi undoubtedly held in the shadier circles of Singapore,
he probably was well informed on everything about everything. Yes,
here was the test. Here was the test of presenting the ship torpedoing
knowledge with which Air Vice Marshal Bostworth had acquainted them.

Dave shrugged, made a little gesture, and without asking Serrangi
permission he casually dropped into a vacant chair.

"It was not something one likes to remember," he grunted. "However, if
you like to hear of such things, I see no reason why we should not tell
you."

Dave shrugged again and swiveled around to look at Freddy who had
followed his lead and also dropped comfortably into a chair.

"Do you wish to tell him, my friend?" Dave asked. "I was unconscious
for a bit, you know. From the explosion. Perhaps something happened
during that time that I miss."

"If it did, I do not remember," the English youth replied in a bored
voice. "No, go ahead and tell him all about it. Then, perhaps, we can
get on with more important things."

Dave made a face, hunched a shoulder, and swiveled back to face
Serrangi. He scowled for a moment as though collecting his memory
thoughts, then he launched into a detailed torpedoing at sea. It was
really a masterpiece of description. In fact, it was almost as though
Dave and Freddy had actually lived through it! Serrangi listened
eagerly, and every now and then he interrupted with a pointed question.
However, through the grace of God, and Dave's quick wits, the Yank was
able to give a satisfactory answer to each and every question. Finally,
when he was sweating inwardly from pent up nervousness, he came to the
end of his bogus tale.

"And so we are here," he grunted. "And next time I hope we can go
by airplane. I am not one who is happy on the sea. Any sea! So, now
you know all about it. Consider yourself fortunate that you were not
aboard. It was not pleasant, and we were not saved through any efforts
of our own. I shall always believe that it was the great invisible hand
of _Der Fuehrer_ that reached out and protected us. It is not the first
time in my life that I have felt that way, either."

"It was at least the will of our leader, that you should be saved,"
Serrangi said with almost a reverent note in his ashy voice. "But just
the same it was unfortunate."

The Devil's Den owner stopped and scowled at the ash of his cigarette.
For a long time he didn't say anything. Dave and Freddy, believing
that silence was their best bet, didn't so much as utter a peep. They
sat perfectly still looking at Serrangi with their fingers mentally
crossed, and a prayer in their hearts. They had driven in the opening
wedge. It was now up to Serrangi to make the next move ... if any. And
that was the point! That was the thought that so completely filled
their heads they felt ready to explode from the pressure.

Would Serrangi take them into his crowd? Would he assign them to some
espionage work here in Singapore and give them the stepping stone they
needed to attain their real objective? Or would he simply express
sorrow at their plight, but state that it was not up to him to take
care of two stranded Gestapo agents? But, perhaps more important than
anything else, _did Serrangi believe their story_? He acted as though
he did, but that could mean most anything. And, likewise, nothing. What
thoughts were passing through that brain of his behind the hideous
face? Was he sealing their doom ... or what?

As the silence continued it was all Dave could do to refrain from
encouraging the Sumatran to speak. It was almost as though he had sunk
back into the weird trance he'd been in when they first entered the
room. His face was a blank, save for the frown. And the fishy look was
creeping back into his eyes again. Then, suddenly, Freddy Farmer took
the bull by the horns.

"Well, I can see we were mistaken!" he said harshly. "There is no help
to be had here. I believe I'll remember that fact when I do return to
Berlin!"

"Sit down, or there'll be a knife in your heart!"

Serrangi's voice was like the hiss of a deadly snake coiled to strike.
His eyes seemed to flash sparks as he fixed them on Freddy Farmer.
And one hand darted under his dirty jacket like a little shaft of
lightning. Freddy managed to glare but he sat down very quickly.

"That is better," Serrangi said in a softer voice. "Listen to me, you
of the quick tongue! In Germany you may be lord and master over many
slaves, but here in Singapore _Serrangi_ holds a man's life or his
death in his hands. Remember that! Your Fuehrer may be the greatest man
ever born. I truly believe he is. But it is not my love for Germany, or
your Fuehrer's cause that makes me work for you Nazis. It is the price
you _pay me_. I am only interested in wealth, and my own power. So do
not speak your sharp Nazi tongue to me. I will not crawl. Instead I
will slit your throat and throw you to the street dogs, and forget all
about you by the morrow."

The owner of the Devil's Den nodded curtly for emphasis, and made a
little motion with one hand as though brushing something aside.

"And now that we understand each other," he continued after the pause.
"We can talk of things to do. First, it will be impossible for me to
arrange for you to continue your journey to Australia. There is not
a boat leaving Singapore these days that you could possibly hide on.
And...."

"But as passengers?" Dave grunted to add to the impression that they
really were Australia bound.

"Even more impossible!" the Sumatran grated at him. "The British would
unmask you in five minutes. No, I cannot help you at all to continue to
Australia."

"Then, perhaps, here in Singapore?" Freddy Farmer murmured with a world
of genuine hopefulness in his voice. "Perhaps you have work for us? It
does not matter where one serves, so long as one serves the Fatherland."

Serrangi shook his head and took a fresh cigarette from a carved ivory
box on the desk.

"There are too many of you Nazi agents in Singapore, as it is," he
grunted. "The dog British are not stupid all day _and_ night. They feel
war in the Far East is not far off, and their Intelligence Service is
on the alert. No, I could not give you anything to do in Singapore
that would make you even worth your food and drink. It was indeed most
unfortunate that you were torpedoed at sea."

Serrangi nodded and sighed as though that ended everything. Dave's
heart dropped down into his paper thin soled shoes, and so did Freddy
Farmer's. It was as though the gods had kidded them along this far just
for the added pleasure of slapping them down just a hair's breadth
short of the mark. If Serrangi tossed them out, there would be nothing
to do but go back to Air Vice Marshal Bostworth and report complete
failure. And the suspected deadly menace that was creeping slowly but
surely around the British in the Far East would remain as much of a
mystery as ever.

"Well, that is the way with war!" Dave said in a bitter voice that was
far from all sham.

"True words you speak," Serrangi said almost kindly. "Who are we to
pick and choose, and say when and how we will accomplish a task? But
there is no room for you here in Singapore. If only you were Luftwaffe
pilots, then that would be a different matter."

Both Dave and Freddy came close to falling off their chairs in stunned
amazement at the man's words. They stared wide eyed at him as though
they could not, or did not dare, trust their ears. It was Dave who
found his tongue first.

"If _we_ were Luftwaffe pilots?" he cried. "Why do you say that?"

"There is a task," Serrangi said with a shrug. "But the men must be
able to fly airplanes. True there is one here in Singapore who could do
the task. But he cannot leave his post. Rather he would undo much that
has been prepared, if he were to do so."

"It is the will of _Der Fuehrer_ again!" Freddy Farmer cried wildly and
sprang to his feet. "_Heil Hitler!_ His thoughts are always with one
and all. You are always in the Leader's heart. Serrangi! Look at us.
Your wish has been granted. Your desire has been fulfilled!"

The Sumatran looked, but the expression on his face was like that of a
man waiting for the rabbits to come popping out of the high silk hat.

"More words!" he finally snapped. "What do you mean, my loud mouthed
friend?"

"_Der Fuehrer's_ solution of your problem!" Freddy cried and pointed
to Dave and then at himself. "My friend and I are seasoned veterans
of the great and glorious Luftwaffe. Not until after Crete were we
assigned full time duty under _Herr_ Himmler. _Gott!_ Fly airplanes? My
new found friend, we can do that in our sleep. So you see? It is the
Leader's will that we be given work to do for him, though we cannot
continue our journey to Australia!"

"But absolutely!" Dave shouted, taking the cue from Freddy Farmer. "Fly
airplanes? The joy of my life. And after all, it is not an impossible
flight from here to Australia, given the correct plane."

A happy look that had gradually spread over Serrangi's face as the two
boys "raved" was suddenly banished by a look of sharp annoyance.

"Impossible!" he grated. "The flight that must be made is in the
opposite direction. To the north. Besides, there is more than _Herr_
Hitler's desires connected with the matter. But this is true? You two
are airplane pilots?"

"But of course!" Dave shouted right back at him. "And my comrade here
is one of Germany's greatest. He has been decorated by _Der Fuehrer's_
own hand. It was for unbelievable gallantry in the Norway campaign.
But, a flight to the north, you say? Why to the north? And what is the
task that is to be undertaken?"

"You suggested I communicate with Berlin!" Serrangi snarled with heavy
sarcasm. "Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to communicate with
Tokio!"

Dave felt as though he had suddenly been slapped across the face with a
bolt of lightning. In spite of his efforts his eyes flew open wide with
amazement. In a flash, though, he realized his mistake and hastened to
cover it up.

"Tokio?" he breathed eagerly. "So it is to come _soon_, eh? So perhaps
it will not be a complete loss if my friend and I do not reach
Australia. After all, it seems that the tasks are connected."

A bright light shot through Serrangi's eyes, and he gave Dave a
searching look that seemed to probe right into his brain.

"So that was the kind of work you would do in Australia, eh?" he
murmured. "But, of course. Berlin and Tokio are working together.
And the fat fool in Rome thumps his chest, and shouts stupid things
to his stupid soldiers. Well, this is all very different. Much, much
different."

Serrangi paused and nodded his head, and came as close to beaming with
pleasure as it was possible for a man with his face to do so. Dave and
Freddy practically hung on the edges of their chairs waiting for the
Sumatran to say more. But when the words finally did come they dashed
high hopes back down again on the cold, cold ground.

"I do not know the details of the task," the Devil's Den owner said.
"I only know that there is a task to be accomplished. That there is a
flight to be made to the north. And I also know this!"

The man stopped abruptly and fastened the two youths with a steady
stare.

"I know that it may mean death even before the flight is begun!" he
snapped.

"We are not dead, yet," Dave said with true Nazi bravado, and airily
waved a hand. "And for that matter, neither of us expects to be
dead for a long, long time to come. But if you know nothing of the
details...?"

Dawson let the rest trail off significantly, and waited.

"No, I know nothing of the details," Serrangi said. "But I do know
where the details are to be obtained. Two streets north of where we
are, now, there is a small rug merchant's shop on the corner. The name
on the hanging sign is Agiz Ammarir. I will give you a coin presently.
You will go to the rug merchant's shop, ask for Agiz Ammarir. There
will be a native girl who greets you at the door. Tell her that you
have a bill to settle. She will summon Agiz Ammarir. When he appears
give him the coin. The coin will tell him all he wants to know. From
him you will learn more of what is to be done. What _must_ be done ...
and soon!"

The man almost shouted the last. His face clouded with fury and he
smashed both clenched fists down on the arms of the chair. The cold
anger in his eyes caused a tiny shiver to ripple up and down Dave's
spine. Here indeed was the real Serrangi coming to the surface.
The savage beast within him breaking through the thin veneer of
civilization in which he cloaked his true self. Dave thought of being
a helpless prisoner in the hands of a man like Serrangi, and the very
thought made his blood run cold.

"Have no doubts about us, Serrangi," Dave heard Freddy Farmer speak up.
"If it can be done, we will do it."

The Devil's Den owner snorted through his thin hawk-beak nose and flung
the English youth a withering glance.

"I know all about your Nazi boasts!" he snapped. "But the Far East is
not Germany. And Singapore is not your Berlin where you can demand the
help of any man on the street, whether it costs his life or not. But it
is I who talks too much, now. Enough! Here is the coin you will give to
Agiz Ammarir. Leave here within the next fifteen minutes and go to his
rug shop. Perhaps we shall meet again. But, whether we do or not ...
_Heil Hitler!_"

Both youths sprang to their feet and returned the Nazi Party cry and
salute. Serrangi shrugged and then waved them away as though they
were two pieces of merchandise in which he was no longer interested.
As they stepped outside the door into the hall of pitch darkness,
two shapes materialized at their side, took them each by the arm and
silently led them to the door of the coffee shop. When they passed
through into the dim, smoke filled room their two escorts melted back
into the darkness. Ignoring a few questioning glances that were cast
their way, Dave led the way to their vacated table, started to slump
down in his chair, but checked himself and gave Freddy a meaning look.

"Why drink more of this poison?" he growled in thick French. "Let us go
somewhere else, eh?"

The English youth nodded glumly, and the pair slouched nonchalantly
toward the front door.



CHAPTER TEN

_The Touch Of Death_


In the matter of a few seconds Dave and Freddy were once more out in
Bukum Street. The street of a million different smells and all bad.
Nevertheless, after the inside of the Devil's Den both boys stopped and
dragged night air deep into their lungs.

"Sweet tripe, I know my nose will never be the same again!" Dave
muttered. "Imagine spending a whole evening in that place. I wouldn't
be surprised but what that's the answer to the mysterious disappearance
of Bostworth's agent."

"What do you mean by that?" Freddy asked as the pair started moving
slowly up the street.

"The poor devil probably had to spend four or five hours in that stink
hole, and just naturally passed out cold," Dave said. "They got scared
and threw his body in the harbor, and he drowned. No fooling! I feel
like I'd been drugged for a year."

"Well, we're out of the horrible place, anyway," Freddy said. Then
after a short silence, he said, "Darnedest thing ever, wasn't it, Dave?"

The American youth grunted, and shrugged, but didn't reply directly. He
walked along in brooding silence.

"Well, was it anything like you expected?" Freddy demanded when no
comment by his friend seemed forthcoming. "Was it, I ask?"

"Yes, and no," Dave said. "I mean, I went into that place expecting
anything. Fact is, Freddy, if you must know, I'm just a wee bit worried
about these last couple of hours. They passed off smooth as silk. Too
smooth, I'm thinking."

"Good Lord!" the English youth gasped. "Do you think Serrangi is wise
to us? But.... But that doesn't make sense, Dave!"

"You tell me one thing about our war experiences that _did_ make sense
_at_ the time!" Dave said. "Now don't get me wrong. I don't mean that
we fell flat on our faces as far as convincing Serrangi that we're Nazi
agents. If he had suspected us at all, found any flaw in our story, you
and I would have sharp steel in us right now. No, I honestly think we
put our story over okay. But I don't think scar faced Serrangi took
it hook, line and sinker. After all, Freddy, that bird has to play a
very slick game or his name will be mud in nothing flat. I.... Darn
it, Freddy, I have a feeling that the test isn't over by any manner or
means."

"You mean Serrangi is passing us along to this Agiz Ammarir for his
inspection and approval?" Freddy suggested.

Dave hunched his shoulders and made a clucking sound with his tongue.

"Could be," he said. "Something like that, I think. There's one thing,
and it's this. Serrangi is pretty much burned up about not getting
action on something big. Something that has to do with a mysterious
plane flight to the north. And does the guy mean a flight to Tokio, I
wonder? Anyway, he wasn't play acting at the last. He was plenty sore.
And, brother, I wouldn't want any guy like that to get sore at me.
Slicing your ears and nose off would be just a warm-up for his type.
And there's another thing that struck me as queer, too."

"Such as?" Freddy Farmer encouraged when Dave lapsed into another spell
of brooding silence.

"His not knowing anything of the details of this mysterious flight,"
Dave murmured after a long pause. "If he's the paid Nazi agent big
shot in this part of the world, you'd think he'd know everything about
what's planned as well as what's taking place. Don't you figure it that
way, too?"

"Yes, I guess I do," Freddy Farmer replied slowly. "But I got the
impression, Dave, that this flight to the north in a plane is not
all Nazi. I have a very good feeling there's more Tokio to it than
Berlin. And, by the way, you carried off that secret work in Australia
top-hole, Dave, old fellow."

"Thanks, and I sure hope so," Dave said in a fervent voice. "But I hope
this Agiz Ammarir doesn't get too curious about it. And.... Holy smoke!"

"What, Dave?" Freddy gasped in alarm as Dawson stopped short and gulped.

"Wouldn't it be just too, too ducky if that's what Serrangi is checking
up!" Dave groaned. "Supposing this Ammarir knows all about Nazi work
in Australia, and is going to pass on us for Scar Face! Freddy, don't
look right now, but I think you and I are walking the rim of a volcano
that's liable to ring the gong on us at any moment. Yeah! I don't think
I ever wanted to see tomorrow's sun as much as I do tonight. But....
Oh, what the heck! A fellow can't live forever, so why worry?"

"You mean by that that we should of course carry on, don't you?" Freddy
asked.

"Heck, yes!" Dawson snorted. "It's a mess all around, but there's only
one thing to be done about it. Stay in there and keep pitching. To use
that Nazi boast I pulled on Serrangi, we're not dead men, yet. But it
certainly would have helped a lot if Bostworth had known just what he
was shooting at. After all, he just about gave us zero-minus to work
on. True, the Devil's Den tip looks like it might get us some results.
But that's just the idea. What _kind_ of results?"

"Quite," Freddy murmured. Then as though in justified defense of one
of his countrymen, he said, "If Bostworth had known a lot, Dave, he
wouldn't have needed us at all. I really take it as an honor that he
selected us to help him in this mess."

"Oh, sure, sure, me too," Dave hastened to soothe his friend's
feelings. "Don't mind me. You should know me better than that. I'm just
the beefing kind. Heck! I wouldn't quit now even if Air Vice Marshal
Bostworth should suddenly pop out of one of these shacks and order me
off the job. And you know it, pal. So stop ribbing me."

"Then use that big mouth for talking sense only," the English youth
growled. Then after giving Dave's arm a quick squeeze of friendship,
he said, "I think there's one thing we should do, Dave. I've got a
feeling. Sort of one of your famous hunches, you might say."

"Let's have it, my little man," Dave said. "I'm all ears."

"Yes, I know, and big ones at that," Freddy Farmer came right back at
him. "Seriously speaking, though, Dave. If we're to pose as a couple
of Nazi agents, let's try to actually feel that we are. I mean, when
you do a thing by halfway measures you sometimes bump into more trouble
than if you made no effort at all to act a part."

"Okay, by me, Herr Fritz von Farmer," Dave whispered with a chuckle as
they reached the first of the cross streets. "From here in we're more
German than old Uncle Goering."

"I mean it, Dave!" Freddy said grimly. "We don't know what kind of a
trap we're walking into. One slip of the tongue, when either of us is
not thinking, and it might be curtains for both of us. _Think_ that
you're a German, Dave. Make yourself _feel_ it! I can't put it into
words, but.... Well, blast it, I simply sort of sense something in the
air. Like a coming storm, or something."

"Okay!" Dave said gently. "I'll be as dumb as any Hun you ever saw, my
boy. But lay off this hunch stuff. That's my racket, pal!"

Freddy didn't make any reply to that crack and the two youths walked
along Bukum Street in silence. Every now and then a native or two
glided past, and every so often they passed an open shop out of which
poured the babble of high keyed voices. As they neared the corner of
the second street on which they would find Agiz Ammarir's rug shop the
lights became less and less until they were walking along in more or
less murky darkness.

And when they were but fifty yards from the single electric lighted
sign of the rug merchant ... it happened!

Dave sensed rather than saw movement on Freddy's right. But he did hear
the sound of swift movement, and as he automatically half spun and
grabbed for his friend he saw the dull gleam of a long bladed knife
that seemed to hang poised directly over the English youth's head.

A wild cry of alarm rose up to Dave's lips, but for some reason he
didn't spill it off. Perhaps it was because by then he was in the
middle of wild furious action. In what was really one continuous
movement he thrust one hand against Freddy's shoulder, kicked out a
foot to trip his friend and send him spilling to the sidewalk, and
lashed out blindly with his other clenched fist. White pain streaking
from his knuckles clear up to his shoulder socket gave him the wild
satisfaction of knowing he had hit human bone and flesh.

Then in the next instant he had leaped over Freddy's squirming body
on the sidewalk and was slamming out with both fists, and connecting
with a shadowy figure that screamed with alarm and pain. That there
was still a knife some place didn't even occur to Dave. That his pal,
Freddy Farmer, had come within a few short inches of being killed was
the one and only thing uppermost in his mind. And for that reason alone
he fought with the fury of a cornered jungle tiger.

But it was all over almost as soon as it had started. Dave was in the
act of closing his fingers about a greasy wrist when the shadowy figure
let out one last cry of pain and virtually vanished away in thin air.
Hardly realizing what he was doing, Dave bent over, scooped up a steel
bladed knife that lay at his feet on the sidewalk, and hurled it after
the shadow in the darkness. And, then suddenly, as he stood there
trembling with rage, he realized that his lips were spitting curses
at the fleeing shadow in perfect Hamburg German. The realization was
so startling that he cut himself off in the middle of a word and stood
motionless. Reaction took that moment to set in and he began trembling
like a leaf. He was unable to stop himself until Freddy Farmer managed
to scramble up and grip him hard on the arm.

"Are you all right?" Freddy Farmer muttered in German.

"Fit as can be," Dave grunted and gave a little shake of his head. "Did
you hear me, Freddy. Boy! Was I pouring out the old German, and not
even realizing it. Talk about taking you at your word!"

"As you would say, they don't make them any more perfect than you,"
Freddy whispered and pressed Dave's arm again. "I fancy that's about
the umpteenth time you've saved my life since we first met."

"Nuts!" Dave growled good naturedly. "Save _your_ life? Where do you
get that stuff? I let fly because I thought the guy's knife was headed
for _my_ throat. A fine lot of money that hold-up lug would have found
on us, huh?"

"_If_ he was looking for money!" Freddy Farmer grunted and scowled
around at the darkness. "It could be for a very different reason, you
know."

"Nuts again!" Dave snapped. "You're cutting out paper dolls, Freddy.
Serrangi, you mean? He wouldn't have waited this long, pal. Forget it!
That lad was just hoping to pick up a little small change. The knife
was just to help him do it quicker. Come on, let's get going. Maybe
he's got a pal hanging around. I'm just One Punch Dawson, you know.
Next time I'd probably be the one that got clouted. Come on."

Freddy Farmer mumbled something and dropped into step. They walked the
last fifty yards a little faster and finally came to a halt before Agiz
Ammarir's door. There was light inside but the glass was so dirty and
covered with rugs hung up for display they couldn't see inside. Dave
hesitated, took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and jerked the bell
cord. The echo of a pleasing tingling came to them through the door.
Presently a shadow appeared on the other side, and a moment later the
door was pulled open.

Dave opened his mouth to speak to the girl, but not a sound left his
lips because it was not a native girl who stood holding the door open.
It was Serrangi, instead, and Dave's eyes bugged out as he and Freddy
Farmer both stared in speechless amazement.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_Flight to the North_


"Serrangi!" Dave finally gulped out. "_Mein Gott!_ What kind of trick
is this you play?"

The owner of the Devil's Den smiled crookedly, opened the door wider
and nodded them in.

"Come inside, my friends," he said. "It is sometimes necessary to be
more than one person. I believed this was one of them. But come inside
before the whole waterfront sees us chattering here. Seat yourselves in
those chairs and be comfortable."

Very much like two awed kids being led through Toyland for the first
time, Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer stepped into the room, and slowly
seated themselves in a couple of chairs. The shop was filled with rugs
of all sizes, and makes, and all colors. They were on the floor in
piles, hung four and five deep on the walls, and suspended on rollers
from the ceiling. Agiz Ammarir's rug shop looked as though it could
supply the whole world, alone, for the next couple of years. It did
not, however, give either Dave or Freddy that impression, for the
simple reason that their entire attention was riveted on Serrangi.
Silent and wide eyed, they watched him close the door, bolt and lock
it, and then move over to a chair for himself. In return, though, he
didn't give them so much as a single glance. Once seated, he set about
lighting one of his long brown paper wrapped cigarettes, with both his
good and bad eye fixed expressionlessly on space.

Not until he was spewing smoke ceilingward did he lower his gaze and
take further notice of their presence.

"You are entitled to an explanation, so I will give you one," he said
in his sifting ashes voice. "In these days, the man who takes anything
on face value is a fool. And the man who trusts even his own brother
may well be dead tomorrow. For that reason I told you to come here to
speak with one Agiz Ammarir. For that reason I had one of my men make a
show of waylaying you and killing you en route. I...."

"So that was a fake?" Dave gasped out in German. "But that knife was
inches from my friend's throat!"

"It would never have descended all the way to his throat," Serrangi
said placidly. "The attack was to learn what you would say on the
impulse of the moment. _And in what language!_ There was once a man who
came to see me with a promise of great wealth for me ... if I would
reveal a little of the many things I know. He, too, presented himself
as a German and a loyal follower of Herr Hitler. But I am not the one
to be taken in that easy. I sent him, also, to visit Agiz Ammarir. He
too, was attacked on the way. He opened his mouth, and in so doing
sealed his doom, for he _cried out in English_. He was, of course, a
British Secret Service agent. I have never seen him since. I suppose
the poor fellow died from the shock of the attack."

The Devil's Den owner gave a little shrug and wave of his hand. Dave
stared at him with admiration in his eyes, but the look was forced, for
in his heart Dave felt only loathing, disgust, and cold anger for the
man. So that was how Air Vice Marshal Bostworth's agent disappeared?
God bless Freddy Farmer for his sudden hunch about thinking as well as
acting as a German. If it hadn't been for Freddy he might have let go
a few choice words in English, himself. And then he and Freddy would
have mysteriously disappeared. A deadly snake if one ever crawled.
That indeed was Serrangi, of the Devil's Den. Deadly, and clever, too.
He knew what had happened to Bostworth's agent all right. Ten to one
he had killed the man with his own hand when the attacker had reported
that English had been cried out. But Serrangi was clever enough not to
admit as much. No, not even to a pair who seemingly had proved they
were a couple of Adolf Hitler's own paid killers.

"And so, it was only good sense for me to test you two in the same
manner," Serrangi's voice broke into Dave's thoughts. "Of course I felt
certain of you, but it was best to make sure. So, enough of this kind
of talk. Let us speak of other things. The flight that must be made to
the north for one thing. But first, have you two flown in this part of
the world?"

Dave was tempted to lie, but on second thought decided that for once
the truth might serve them better.

"No," he said just as Freddy started shaking his head. "We have done
all our flying in Europe. But why is it important we have experience
flying here in the Far East?"

"It is not important," Serrangi said. "It might perhaps be a bit
helpful if you knew some of the country out here. That, however, is
only a matter of opinion. I do not fly, but I suppose that flying is
much the same in any part of the world?"

"Depends on the pilot," Freddy Farmer spoke up, and let it go at that.

"Of course," Serrangi grunted, and drew a roll of paper from inside his
jacket. "Here," he continued, "is a map of this part of the world. As
you will see it is well marked, and contains much data that one would
not find on other maps of the same section of the world. Here, have a
good look at it."

Serrangi unrolled a fair sized map and handed it to Dave. The American
R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant took it in hands difficult to keep from
trembling. Then he swiveled around a bit in his chair, and held it
so that Freddy could look at it too. They did that little thing
together and within two split seconds their hearts were hammering
with suppressed excitement, to say nothing of amazement. The map
was of the entire Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Burma, and a part of
China as far north as Chungking. It was indeed a fine map. It was a
perfect map for a pilot, because it contained countless little bits
of information a pilot would like to know when flying over any of the
territory. In fact, the information had been jotted down by some one
who was obviously a pilot. And when Dave peered hard at the countless
little margin notes and signs a cold lump of lead seemed to form in
his stomach, and there was a great sickness in his brain. Beyond all
question the person who had made the notes and signs was expertly
acquainted with the way in which R.A.F. navigation maps are marked. In
short, no less than an R.A.F. pilot had prepared this map he and Freddy
Farmer stared at.

"It was a pilot who made this map, was it not?" Freddy Farmer suddenly
shot out the question.

Serrangi beamed and looked very pleased.

"So you _are_ pilots, so?" he murmured. "That was not just Nazi
boasting to get you to give me work? Fine! Yes, it was made by a pilot.
One of your own kind in England's flying service, it may interest you
to know. He has been of great value to your Fuehrer out here. He will
be a great hero when he returns to your homeland."

"Perhaps we know him," Dave murmured in a half interested sort of way.

The lead didn't draw Serrangi out any, however. The Devil's Den owner
shrugged and made a little gesture with his half smoked cigarette.

"It is possible," he grunted. "But we do not speak names out here. Have
you not noticed I have not even asked your names? I do not care to know
them. Then nothing can make me reveal them to anybody else, you see?
Who a man is, is nothing. What he can do, and does, is everything. A
name is but another unnecessary detail you have to keep alive in your
brain. Too many details is a bad thing. But, yes, that is a pilot's
map. You think you could fly by it?"

"Why not?" Dave echoed.

"It is clear enough for a blind man to read," Freddy Farmer added.
"Where do you want us to fly?"

Serrangi smiled and lifted both hands palms showing outward in a slow
down and stop gesture.

"Let us obtain the plane first," he said.

The words fell like thunderbolts on Dave and Freddy. They stared at him
out of incredulous eyes.

"You mean, you have no plane?" Dave eventually demanded.

"And where would I keep a plane here on Singapore Island!" the other
snarled at him. "Of course I have no plane! Did I not say that there
was more than a little risk attached to this highly important task?"

"But if we are to fly a plane?" Freddy Farmer said, and then let a
perfect expression of Teutonic dumbness of his face say the rest.

"Steal one from the British!" Serrangi snapped at him. "It has been
done before, and it can be done again. And, of course, you would steal
one that is fully armed and contains sufficient fuel for a long flight."

Dave tapped the map with a finger.

"To Chungking?" he asked.

Serrangi thought that was very funny, and laughed shrilly.

"No, not to Chungking!" he finally cried and wiped his eyes with the
back of his hand. "It is the Japanese with whom we work, not the
Chinese. No, the end of the flight will be to the point that is marked
there on the map near Lashio, in Burma."

Dave and Freddy glanced down quickly at the map. A little Burmese
mountain village called Raja, just east of Lashio, was marked with a
red circled black cross. Dave heard Freddy catch his breath, and he
started inwardly with excitement, himself, because at Lashio was the
beginning of the famous Burma Road, fighting China's lifeline. Her one
remaining supply route contact with the outside world. And the whole
world knew that the one thing the little brown rats of the bucktoothed
Jap emperor on his white horse wanted to do most was cut the Burma
Road. Once they did that they could starve the gallant Chinese into an
armistice in short order. And once China had fallen, hordes upon hordes
of Japanese lice could be sent elsewhere for more conquests.

For two long minutes Dave stared down at the map, then he slowly raised
his eyes to Serrangi's face and smiled slyly.

"So, the Burma Road, ja?" he muttered. "_Herr_ Hitler will be most
pleased. It will open a way into India, perhaps."

The Devil's Den owner snorted and waved the statement aside as though
it were small time stuff.

"The small beginning of many things," he said. "When the guns and air
bombs of Nippon start thundering on the given day half the Eastern
world will not live to learn what happened! But, at Raja is the
beginning of everything. At Raja the signal will be given. I have
arranged everything here at Singapore. We cannot possibly fail if those
at Raja do their part. The British! They are so sure of themselves.
Such great confidence in their mighty navy! Well, the time has come to
teach the British Lion that others have learned the trick of gaining
power. But I do not need to tell you about England. Your Fuehrer knows
all about England, and how to handle her."

Dave was sorely tempted to shout, "Sure! Like his cockeyed Luftwaffe
tried to handle her last September, hey?" but of course he breathed
not a word. Instead he nodded his head and looked very wise and self
satisfied ... and waited, seething inside with anger.

"For weeks," Serrangi went on, "I have been maintaining contact with
the secret Japanese headquarters at Raja, by airplane, and radio. No,
the plane has not been mine. My friend serving with the Royal Air
Force here at Singapore, but with a prayer for England's complete
defeat in his heart. He has taken the information I have given him and
flown with it far out to sea when on what you call, solo patrol. At a
certain rendezvous he has contacted a Japanese submarine and dropped
the information to the water. From the submarine the information has
been radioed to Tokio, and from there southward to Raja. But I dare not
trust that method any longer."

"You don't trust this ... this R.A.F. pilot?" Dave asked as the other
paused.

"No, not him," Serrangi said with a laugh. "He would not dare! I hold
his life between my thumb and forefinger as I might hold a wingless
fly. It is the British I do not trust. They know that trouble is coming
from Japan. They don't know when, and I do not believe there is an
Englishman in all Singapore who so much as dreams _how close_ that time
is! Nevertheless they have become very much more on the alert. From
one hour to the next I am not sure if my flying friend will be caught,
or continue to work unhindered. And the British are watching the seas
with eyes of eagles, these days. They might sink the very submarine to
which my flying friend had dropped the vital information. And there is
but one more set of information figures to send to Raja. They cover
everything here in the Far East. I cannot run the risk that they might
become lost."

"So we are to steal a plane and fly them to Raja?" Freddy Farmer spoke
up as the Sumatran fell silent. "Is that what we are to do?"

"That is what you are to do!" Serrangi said with a short nod. "You will
steal a plane and escape to Raja. When you arrive you will be treated
as great heroes. I can assure you of that. Any honor you desire will be
yours. And I ... I will have triple the wealth of any man in Singapore
for my reward."

"It can be done," Dave grunted. Then giving the Devil's Den owner a
keen look. "One thing, though. My Fuehrer's teaching compels me to make
sure of all things. You say you cannot run the risk of the information
becoming lost. Supposing we fail to steal a plane? Supposing we are
caught? What then, eh?"

Serrangi smiled, and indeed it was the smile of Satan's own son.

"I should have added, _and not know it_," the Sumatran said. "If you
fail and are caught, I shall know it almost at the same instant. Then I
shall have to find another way."

"But the information!" Freddy Farmer cried in true German bewilderment.
"What if it falls into the hands of the British?"

"The very least of my worries, for it is no worry at all," Serrangi
replied promptly. "It would do them no good. It would give them
headaches, and it would probably drive them mad in the end. But they
would never be able to decipher what it meant. That, my two friends, is
why Serrangi holds the position he does. No man alive can read my code
without the key. And only _one_ other man knows the key at a time!"

Dave frowned, started to ask what that meant, and then the truth of the
statement hit him right between the eyes. To be given Serrangi's code
key was to be handed your death warrant. When you had served his evil
purpose, no matter what it might be, you died ... and the next man in
Serrangi's death and blood dealings was given the key.

"The one who knows the key now is at Raja?" Dave grunted.

"That is so," the Sumatran said. "And one of the Japanese Emperor's
most trusted generals. To him I gave it personally. And I know the
thoughts that fill your mind, now. When I have closed my work, my
business, with him? Perhaps, and perhaps not. When the Japanese take
Singapore there must be some one to govern and rule. Perhaps I will
tire of operating the Devil's Den. Who knows ... but myself? But enough
of this talk. Our work is not yet done."

Serrangi gave a wave of his hand to dismiss the loose talk, and for a
moment frowned at the thread of grey smoke that spiralled upward from
his cigarette. Then suddenly he nodded as though he had made up his
mind on something.

"There are many Royal Air Force fields here in Singapore," he grunted.
"Perhaps, though, it would be best to steal your plane from the
Municipal Airport which the Government has taken over. I happen to know
that it is not so well guarded as the others."

"What about the planes there?" Dave asked in a voice he had to fight to
keep steady. "We would want nothing bigger than a two seater. To steal
a bomber would be impossible. Too much to do before taking it off."

"There is no need to worry!" Serrangi said a bit sharply. "There are
planes of all types at the Municipal Airport. And the fools ... they
keep them all lined up in rows, as though they had them on display for
sale. I do not feel that you will have much difficulty. True, there
are armed guards about the field. But you two have heard the sound of
rifles and machine guns shooting at you before now, eh?"

"More often than not," Dave said as the cold lumps of lead started
rolling around in his stomach. "But when do we steal this plane? When
do we make the flight? And...?"

Dave stopped as Serrangi whipped up one hand in a curt signal to shut
up.

"If you will stop that chatter of the jungle monkeys, I will give you
complete instructions!" the Sumatran grated. "First, the attempt should
be made just before dawn, during the darkest hour of the night. Second,
you will receive a certain amount of assistance from my men. They will
do what they can to attract the attention of the field guards while you
steal the plane. Third, be sure you steal an airplane that is well
marked with R.A.F. insignia."

"Why not any plane?" Freddy Farmer wanted to know as Serrangi paused
for breath.

"For very good reasons!" came the curt reply. "All civilian flying has
been stopped between here and Burma. If you stole a civilian plane your
position would be immediately reported by any official who sighted you.
Also, you would get into trouble if you came upon British Air Force
planes on patrol. Flying an R.A.F. plane, however, would not attract
their attention. Now, of course, when you once get into the air you
are to head in the _opposite_ direction to your real objective. You
will fly south toward Java until you have reached an altitude where you
cannot be seen from below. You will then double back and fly up the
middle of the South China Sea until you have reached the southern tip
of French Indo-China. Then follow the coast northwest to Thailand, and
then north to your destination."

The Sumatran stopped short, leaned forward and touched a bony finger to
the map Dave and Freddy held between them.

"Study that map, and learn it well," he said. "The course is well
marked on it. A course that should take you safely past all spots of
possible trouble. Study also the markings of the terrain about Raja.
If you have never been to Raja, it is a village of perhaps twenty
bamboo huts. It is completely surrounded by wild country where no white
man could survive for long. I have been told that from an airplane you
cannot see a patch of ground level enough for a man to lie down on.
High mountains, deep valleys, and jungle filled gorges. But there _is_
flat ground there. An area big enough for five hundred airplanes to
use. The Japanese have made it so, in secret. But you would never be
able to find the place in a hundred years ... without this map. See
where the mountain range coming down from the north meets the one that
extends straight across Burma? See the blue mark made on the map? That
is the spot where you will land when you have given your signal, and
have received a signal in return."

"Signals?" Dave prompted as Serrangi paused again.

"Certainly," the Sumatran replied and flung him a scornful look. "You
will circle the spot five times ... no more and no less ... to let
General Kashomia know that you come from me. You will circle around
at six thousand feet exactly. A red flare will be your order to come
lower. Other flares will be fired to show you where to land on the
hidden field. You will be escorted straight to General Kashomia when
you have landed, and your plane has stopped. But, mark you well! Do
just as I am directing you; do not make any mistakes when you reach
this spot. Guns will be trained on you, and at General Kashomia's
orders they could shoot you and your plane into small pieces in the
matter of split seconds. Now, you have further questions before we get
under way?"

"Get under way?" Freddy Farmer echoed sharply. "You mean now, this
night?"

"And why not?" Serrangi demanded suspiciously. "The sooner you deliver
my report to General Kashomia, the sooner the blow can be struck. Yes,
tonight! Within two hours I shall see that you are taken as close to
the Municipal Airport as is possible. It will then be the darkest hour,
and the risk of being caught will be less. But, you object?"

"Of course not!" Dave spoke up quickly before Freddy could say
anything. "But there is one thing that makes me very curious. This
friend of yours who is a pilot and wears the uniform of the Royal Air
Force. It is a great honor for whoever makes this flight. I am curious
why your friend ... who has obviously spent so much time making this
map ... does not desire the honor."

"He does," Serrangi replied with a sly grin. "He would give most
anything for me to send him to Raja. But I cannot do that. His place is
here. There is a great work for him to do. He...."

The Sumatran paused to chuckle, and then leaned forward in a
confidential attitude.

"I will suggest a request you make to General Kashomia as part of your
reward," he said. "Ask that you be allowed to fly in one of his bombing
planes on the day the blow falls. When you come over Singapore you
will see a sight no man may ever see again. The approach of the first
Japanese bomber will be the signal for my R.A.F. friend. Everything
is planned. His hand will push a cleverly hidden detonating plunger
and the buried fuel stores here on Singapore Island, the ammunition
stores, the hidden water reservoirs, and many other things will explode
in one blinding flash that will make Singapore shake from one end of
the Island to the other. Yes, from the very hangars of R.A.F. Base my
friend will push the plunger that will.... But why try to describe the
sight it will be? There are not enough words. However, I suggest that
you request General Kashomia to let you view the sight from a Japanese
bomber in the air. It will be something you will never forget.
Something to tell your Fuehrer when you return to Germany in triumph.
And now, get what rest you can, and study well that map. Meanwhile
I will fetch you food and drink to sustain your strength during the
journey ahead."

Dave just nodded as the Sumatran glanced questioningly at him and rose
to his feet. Words he might say gagged in his throat. His head whirled
in an invisible mass of white flame, and every ounce of blood seemed
to drain from his body. The words that had passed from Serrangi's lips
during the last half hour, or so, were so stunning, so brain numbing
that he could hardly force thoughts to register. It was like something
he might be reading out of a book thriller. Not something that was to
happen in real life. It couldn't be ... but it was. Doom, terrible
certain doom, hovered over Britain's mighty armed outpost of Singapore.
Hovered above it to come crashing down when a certain Japanese general
at Raja, in Burma, gave the signal.

"It can't happen!" Dave said fiercely to himself as Serrangi glided
past him toward the rear of the rug shop. "Dear God, please, it mustn't
happen!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

_Wings of Chaos_


Dave pressed himself flat to the ground, and dug his fingers into the
soft earth as though to prevent some invisible force from catching him
up and tossing him off into space. All about was pitch darkness save
for a few hangar lights on the far side of Singapore's R.A.F. Base.
High overhead billions and billions of stars winked solemnly down on a
world seemingly gone stark raving mad with war. In the distance there
was sound, but it was so jumbled and so indistinct that it had no
meaning for listening ears. For a brief instant Dave closed his eyes
tight and pressed his face hard against the warm ground. Then he raised
his head and turned it toward Freddy Farmer who hugged the ground right
at his side.

"You're fully awake, aren't you, Freddy?" he whispered. "This wouldn't
be any cockeyed nightmare I'm going through, would it?"

"A blasted fine chance of that!" the English youth replied with a
groan. "I'm trying to make up my mind whether we're completely balmy,
or just off our toppers. This is a mad business, Dave! Insane!"

"You're not telling me a thing!" Dawson breathed and squinted across
the night blackened R.A.F. Base at the faint hangar lights. "But the
heck of it is, we walked right into it, and we can't walk right out
again!"

"If we could only get to the Raffles Hotel, and contact that agent
of Bostworth's, and get some word to him!" Freddy Farmer said with a
bitter sigh.

"I know," Dave grunted. "But Serrangi is no dummy no matter how you
look at it. We haven't been out of his sight since we walked into
the rug shop almost three hours ago. I had hoped he was going to let
us come out here on our own. Maybe then we could have slipped by the
Raffles and gotten some word to Bostworth. Nix, though! Serrangi came
out with us in that Nineteen-Six jallopy, and showed us the path
through the brush up to the edge of the field, here. And a funny
sensation in the middle of my back tells me that he's back there a ways
_still_ keeping an eye on us. We sure picked something this time, pal.
We picked a pip, and I ain't kidding."

"But if only Bostworth knew...!" Freddy began and let the rest trail
off.

"Knew what?" Dave murmured. "That's the point! What could we really
tell him that would make sense? Darn little, pal. Less than that, in
fact. Serrangi tells us that at a given signal some rat at R.A.F.
Base is going to blow lots of things sky high. He tells us that a Jap
General has a hidden field with plenty planes up near Raja, in Burma.
At the right time the Jap is going to blow the whistle, and things are
supposed to pop in lots of places. And in my pocket I've got what looks
like a pencil, only it's rolled up code data Serrangi gave us to give
to General Kashomia. There you are."

"Well?" Freddy Farmer grunted. "Isn't that a lot?"

"It's nothing when you pick it apart," Dave said. "Figure it out. We
don't know who the R.A.F. rat is, and Bostworth doesn't. Maybe there is
a Jap general up at Raja with flocks of planes. So what? Is Bostworth
going to send R.A.F. planes up there on our say-so to blast them out?
Declare war on Japan, just like that? Fat chance! The British don't do
things that way. Also, we don't know where the hidden field really is
until we see the flare signals the Japs are to send up. Yeah! Burmese
would get kind of sore if the British flew all over their country
dumping bombs, trying to blast somebody they _think_ is there. And
here's a point, too. We don't know the striking date. It may be right
after we get there ... and whether we get there, or not! Chances are,
by the time Bostworth could induce Far East High Command to swing into
action the Japs might be swinging their sneak haymaker. And this code
data I've got in my pocket. Think Serrangi would have trusted us with
it _if_ there was even the slimmest chance that British Intelligence
could break the code in time. Nuts! So what have we got?"

"You're right!" Freddy Farmer groaned. "Blasted little. Really nothing,
when you come to look at it. But I hate to think of turning over that
code data to General Kashomia! No doubt it's complete information of
our strength, and such, here in the Far East. Probably high military
secrets we've guarded for years."

"At least," Dave grunted. "And it puts us right behind the eight ball.
We've _got_ to turn it over to General Kashomia. Nothing happens until
we do. And _we_ can't do anything until something _does_ happen. We've
sort of got to pay out more rope, and pray we can take up the slack
fast when we have to. If you get what I mean?"

"Yes, but what a chance we've got to take!" Freddy said in a voice that
trembled slightly. "If we fail, Dave.... I mean, if things go through
as the blasted Japs seem to be planning, the blood of Singapore will be
on our hands. It will be because we failed. It...!"

Dave stuck out an elbow and jabbed the English youth in the side.

"Cut it!" he hissed. "That's not Freddy Farmer talking! Let's beat
our brains out after we've failed. And, pal, that's something you and
I just ain't going to up and do. Not while we can stand up and keep
punching. So, heave that kind of talk in the river, Mister!"

Dave felt pressure on his arm, and heard Freddy's emotion choked voice.

"Thanks, Dave. I'm all right, now. I wish you'd kick me, and hard."

"I'll take a rain check on that invite," Dave said with a chuckle. "But
forget it, Freddy. Heck! You'd up and leave me flat, if you knew some
of the thoughts that have been breezing around in _my_ head. So skip
it. I guess it's this waiting that's getting us. I wish Serrangi's boys
would hurry up and start the fireworks so's we can get started. You
know, this sort of thing is darn near getting to be a habit."

"What is?" Freddy wanted to know.

"Posing as Axis agents, and swiping a British plane," Dave said.
"Remember that time when we were on convoy patrol, and had to waltz off
with that Catalina? We were plenty lucky then, and I've got a hunch
we're going to have to be twice as lucky this time."[2]

[Footnote 2: _Dave Dawson On Convoy Patrol._]

"Lucky to get off without British bullets in our backs," Freddy Farmer
murmured. "And lucky if _all_ the gas tanks are filled. It will
certainly be a blasted mess if our gas gives out and we have to force
land somewhere in Thailand, or Burma."

Dave didn't make any reply to that for the simple reason there wasn't
anything to be said. Perhaps the most pronounced fear of all regarding
the wild, crazy venture into which they were plunging blindly was
the fear of their fuel running out on them before they had reached
the hidden airdrome in the wild Burmese mountains. If it was to be a
Wellington or Whitley bomber they were to take aloft there wouldn't be
any worry at all. But stealing a bomber was definitely out. It took
time to get those babies off the ground, and possible British fighter
planes giving chase could catch a bomber in short order. So it had to
be the fastest two seater type at the Base. And as luck would have it
they had spotted the six Bristol "Taurus" powered Fairey "Albacores"
on the tarmac but a few seconds after they had reached the place
where they now hugged the ground. They could make the distance in an
Albacore. It might be close, but everything would be in their favor.
They could get one off fast, they could gain altitude in the night sky
fast, and an Albacore had a level flight speed that wasn't too much
under the speed of a single seater fighter plane. Yes, it might be
close, but an Albacore was their best bet. So they had picked the one
they would rush for just as soon as Serrangi's men created the planned
"disturbance" on the far side of the field.

But it was the body tingling waiting that dragged you down. It was like
rats inside of you gnawing and gnawing at your nerves until you had to
sink your teeth deep into your lips to stop from screaming and mentally
flying apart in small pieces. Waiting! Waiting for what? A chance to
rush out across the night shadowed drome, and smack into the withering
fire of British guards? To steal a plane and race madly up into the
night sky ... and be caught by British planes and sent hurtling
earthward a ball of raging fire? To reach Raja and turn over the
secret code data, and then stand by helpless as a gigantic, treacherous
blow by the Nazi backed Japanese was struck at England in the Far East?
To....

Dave shook his head savagely to blast the taunting thoughts from his
brain. Many, many times in the past had he and Freddy tackled a problem
that seemed hopeless, but never anything so seemingly utterly hopeless
as this. It wasn't a case of just ferreting out the enemy's secret,
and then smashing him. On the contrary, it was actually the direct
opposite. Freddy and he were going to _give the enemy what he needed_,
and then attempt to smash him _before he could make use of it_! Pure
and simple, it was no more than handing a killer a loaded gun, and then
taking it away from him before he could shoot you between the eyes. It
was crazy, it was ridiculous, it was absurd, and it was insane. Yet it
was the only thing they could do. They had to play it this way. There
was no other loophole, and no chance to dive through it if one should
suddenly present itself. It....

The rest of Dave's whirling thoughts spun off into oblivion as gun fire
and wild shouting suddenly broke out on the far side of the field. It
was like high voltage cutting through both of them, and they came
up on their toes and fingertips as one man. For a brief instant they
poised motionless eyes fixed on the tongue of flame that suddenly shot
up from some building way over beyond the hangars. Then a silent signal
passed between them and they went tearing bent well over out across one
corner of the field toward the nearest Fairey Albacore some seventy
yards away.

Seventy yards? It seemed seventy miles to Dave as he and Freddy Farmer
fairly flew over the ground like a couple of frightened deer. With
each racing step he took he half expected to see a British soldier
rise right up out of the ground and level a rifle at him. No British
soldier appeared, however, and hope zoomed in Dave as he saw the tarmac
guards start running in the direction of the shouts, the shots, and the
flames. The thought of death was not something that held him in fear
and trembling. But to be mowed down by one of your own kind was a death
no man would desire, if death it must be.

Seventy yards, thirty yards, ten yards, one yard! And then Dave and
Freddy virtually vaulted into the pit of the Albacore. No plans had
been made by them in advance about who would take what seat. It just
happened to work out that Dave popped into the pilot's seat, and
Freddy Farmer popped into the navigator-gunner's seat in back. Heart
jammed up hard against his back teeth, and nervous sweat pouring
off his body in rivers, Dave's fingers flew over the gas cocks, and
starter, and ignition switches on the instrument panel. At the same
time ... it was as though he had twenty hands instead of two ... he
fastened the harness buckles of the seat parachute pack, hooked the
safety belt clamp, opened up the throttle, and booted off the wheel
brakes. The last operation was to jab the starter button ... and pray
as he had never before prayed in all of his young years!

An eternity of heart crushing agony was Dave's, and then the Bristol
Taurus in the nose roared up in its full throated song of power. The
Albacore trembled and quivered for a brief instant and then shot
forward as though ropes holding it back had been slashed through.
Braced for the shock, Dave bent more forward over the stick and grimly
waited for the craft to pick up sufficient take-off speed. With every
revolution of the three-bladed steel propeller the plane tore faster
and faster across the hard sun baked surface of the Base field. A
thousand and one weird, crazy images seemed to pop up out of the ground
just in front of the thundering plane. Dave's imagination went on a
holiday during those few awful moments. He saw squads of British India
troops loom up and blast away at the plane with rifle and machine gun
fire, he saw armored cars rushing toward him from all angles, with guns
blazing, and he saw a half division of tanks move like lightning into
position to bar his way. He saw everything that an excitement quivering
brain could conjure up. But all the plane actually crashed into was the
air of night faintly tinted by the glow of the flames somewhere in back
of the hangars.

And then the wheels lifted and Dave sent the Albacore curving up and
around in the night sky. As he held the craft at its maximum climbing
angle he twisted around in the seat and shot a quick glance down at the
R.A.F. Base. Lights had sprung up all over the place, and he could just
barely see the figures running toward the lines of planes. Some quarter
of a mile in back of the row of hangars red flames were gutting an
equipment stores building. The thing, however, that made Dave's heart
slide down to its normal position in his chest was the utter absence
of gun fire spitting up toward them. They had caught the field guards
flat footed, and they would be well out of sight before British single
seaters could come tearing up after them.

Taking his gaze off the scene below, Dave twisted all the way around
and looked back at Freddy. In the pale light of the cockpit bulb the
English youth's face was tense and set. And there was just a faint
sadness in the eyes that stared down at the R.A.F. Base falling away
from the Albacore's belly at a fast rate of speed.

"What's the matter, pal?" Dave called out. "Sad they didn't pepper away
at us?"

"Don't talk rot!" Freddy snappily flinging him a scornful glance. "I'm
jolly well tickled pink they didn't. I was just thinking that the Japs
must never get Singapore, Dave. It means a lot to England, Singapore
does. Like Gibraltar, and Malta."

"Oh, so that's all that's worrying you, huh?" Dave echoed. "I thought
it was something serious. Well, go on back to sleep. I'll take care of
everything for you, see?"

"That's splendid!" Freddy cracked and nodded downward. "As a starter,
then, you can climb us a little faster. A couple of planes down there
are taking off. And from here they look like Hawker Hurricanes!"

"Huh?" Dave yelled and shoved his head over the side. "My gosh, that's
right. Hang on! I'm going to stick this baby right on her tail and go
right up the pole!"

"Do that, and shut up!" Freddy said as the Bristol Taurus roared out in
maximum power.

Holding the plane up as steeply as possible and toward the south
Dave gave it his undivided attention until top service ceiling had
been reached and the Island of Singapore was just another one of the
blurred shadows thousands and thousands of feet below his wings. At
top ceiling he leveled off and took a suck now and then on the oxygen
tube he had stuck in his mouth to prevent sudden blacking out. Then on
sudden impulse he killed the Albacore's engine and glided southward at
a very flat angle while he spent the next five minutes scrutinizing the
limitless expanse of night air behind and below. At the end of five
minutes he started the engine again and heaved a little sigh of relief.
They were clear of Singapore, and had succeeded in shaking off the two
R.A.F. planes sent up to intercept them. Now, all that remained was
to fly south for a spell, then double back up the middle of the South
China Sea toward the southern tip of French Indo-China, and so on.

"Simple, in the bag!" Dave suddenly grated savagely as reaction set in.
"All we have to do is the impossible. It should be a cinch!"

"What did you say, Dave?" came Freddy's voice.

"I said, I hope it'll be a nice day for something!" Dave grunted and
shrugged his shoulders. "And do I _hope_!"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Blue Water Rattlesnake_


Without warning the dawn sun came flaming up over the eastern lip of
the wall, and as though the gods had thrown up millions and millions
of invisible blinds, the shadows of night fled away into eternity and
all was bathed in flashing gold light. For some time now, the Bristol
powered Fairey Albacore had been prop clawing northward high above the
endless rolling blue swells of the South China Sea. With the coming
of the sun there had been a few seconds of wonder and nerve tingling
strain for both Freddy and Dave. Although Freddy had plugged the radio
into the Singapore wave length, and heard searching aircraft report
they had lost all contact with the "stolen" plane, there was always the
possibility that the "thieves" might find a flight or two of British
aircraft right smack-dab in front of them when the new sun drove the
night westward and out of sight.

However, as luck would have it, the exploding dawn light had found them
completely alone in that section of the world's heavens. Both of them
spent minutes staring hard in all directions. But there was nothing to
see but the brassy blue sky above, and the brassy blue water below.
Breathing a silent prayer in thanks of that small kindness, Dave turned
around to Freddy.

"What's our position, Navigator?" he asked. "My rough figuring of wind,
speed, and direction puts us almost within sight of land. Am I right or
wrong, and what do those navigation gadgets back there tell you, huh?"

Freddy Farmer, in the act of bending over the plane's navigation
instruments, lifted a hand for Dave not to bother him. Almost
immediately he jerked up his head, though, pressed his fingertips to
the built-in headphones of the helmet he wore, and stared straight
ahead like a man suddenly sent into a trance. Dave opened his mouth
to speak, but thought better of it. Obviously the English youth was
getting something over the radio. And it was also obvious that he
wasn't going to say anything about it until he had heard it all. And so
instead of speaking, Dave bent down and began fiddling with the radio
panel fitted to his own instrument panel. However, before he could
shove in the radio-jack and tune the set Freddy Farmer was pounding him
on the shoulder with one clenched fist, and yelling words in his ears.

"That was an SOS call to Singapore Base, Dave!" Freddy yelled. "It's
a courier plane coming up from Australia. It's run into some kind of
trouble. I couldn't tell what, because the message is all garbled up.
But the operator says they are going down, and need help. I got their
position signals just before they faded out. I figure that the spot is
not over fifty miles to our east, Dave!"

"That's tough!" Dawson said and gave his pal a questioning look. "But
what can we do about it, Freddy? This isn't a flyingboat. We couldn't
sit down on the water and rescue them, even if we did find them."

"I know, I know!" Freddy said and gave a little shake of his head.
"But, Dave.... But, Dave, it's possible that we're the only ones who
got their signals. They were mighty weak. I almost missed them, myself.
We could at least find the plane, and radio Singapore for them, and
then get away before any R.A.F. Catalinas showed up."

Dave nodded slowly, but screwed up his face in a grimace of doubt and
hesitation as he did so. True it was only fifty miles off their course.
But that meant fifty miles off, and fifty miles back on again. A total
of one hundred air miles. And they would be playing things close enough
with the gas and oil supply, as it was. And, too....

"It's a British courier plane, and needs help, Dave!" Freddy Farmer's
voice cut into his thoughts. "Blast it, we just can't let the lads
down, Dave! We'd never be able to look each other in the face again, if
we did."

Dave was forced to grin in spite of the seriousness of the situation.
Good old Freddy Farmer. He was running true to form. His own neck was
very, very far from being safe, and maybe he wouldn't even have a neck
by this time tomorrow. Yet he wasn't giving that little item a single
thought. Somebody else's life was in jeopardy, and that's all that
concerned him at the moment. Help the other fellow, and then give a
thought to himself ... maybe.

"Okay, okay!" Dave finally shouted and heeled the plane around on
wingtip. "Did I say, no? Can't a guy argue, huh? But if we find out
that they just thought they were being forced down then you're getting
out and walking home, my little man. So here we go. And let's see you
give those cat's eyes of yours a really good workout this time!"

A little over an hour later Dave dug knuckles into his tired, aching
eyes, and once more looked down over the side of the Bristol Taurus
powered Fairey Albacore, of the Singapore Fighter Command, at the
seemingly endless expanse of the South China Sea. The burning rays
of the brass ball, that was the sun hanging in the sky above, beat
downward to turn the rolling swells into one great sheet of shimmering
blue-green glass. To spot anything down there was like trying to spot a
fly walking across the face of the sun, itself.

"Any luck, pal?" he called back over his shoulder to Freddy Farmer in
the gunner's pit.

"No! And I think I'm going blind!" the English youth groaned. "That
courier plane must have crashed in and sunk like a rock at once. This
is the exact spot where they reported going down, but I swear there's
nothing down there but water."

"And you're only looking at the _top_ of it!" Dave grunted. "I wonder
if we should chance calling Singapore Base, and...."

Dave cut himself off short and jerked his head around to the east.
Perhaps it was just his imagination playing him tricks, but he could
have sworn that he'd caught a strange flash of light out the corner of
his eye that was more than just the rays of the burning sun bouncing
up off the water. For a full minute, though, he peered intently at a
point on the shimmering blue surface a good fifteen miles off his right
wings. Then as he made a grimace of disappointment, and was about to
turn his head front, he spotted it again. It was the sun's reflection
on something that rose up out of the water and promptly fell back out
of sight again.

"Hey, Eagle Eyes!" he called to Freddy Farmer and pointed a finger.
"Take a look over there and down. Do you see what I see? And, if so,
what in heck is it?"

It was several seconds before the English youth spoke, but when he did
his voice trembled with excitement.

"That's the wing of a wrecked plane, Dave!" he cried. "Most of it's
submerged ... maybe it's still attached to the plane ... but the swells
are making it poke up out of water. It.... Dave! It has the R.A.F.
bullseye on it. Must be the courier plane we've been hunting. Get us
over there fast, Dave!"

The last was quite unnecessary. Dawson had already heeled the Albacore
around on wingtip and was tearing full out in the direction of the
strange looking object. And then, when they were still a few miles
short of the spot, something else happened. Something that caused both
youths to let out a simultaneous cry of wild excitement. The bow of a
dull painted blue-green submarine came poking up through to the surface
of the water not over a hundred yards from the bobbing wing.

In the matter of a few seconds the top half of the undersea craft was
above water, and riding on an even keel. And once again Dave and Freddy
saw the conning tower hatch open up, and squat little figures pop out
and go scampering forward to the bow gun. It was the sight of that
little bit of action that helped Freddy Farmer to find his tongue.

"That's the same boat as yesterday, Dave!" he cried. "Or an identical
sister ship, anyway. Look out for the beggars. For heaven's sake don't
let them shoot us down two days in a row. Better not get too close to
the blighters."

Dave didn't say anything. The eyes he held fixed on the submarine were
brittle with anger, and memory caused a lump of cold rage to swell up
bigger and bigger inside of him. However, he made no effort to climb
for altitude. As a matter of fact, he reached out his free hand and
deliberately throttled the Bristol Taurus down to a whisper. Freddy
reached forward and rapped him sharply on the shoulder.

"You in your right mind, Dave?" he cried. "What in the world's the
idea? You're making us a perfect target for them. Have you gone balmy?"

"Not yet!" Dave barked and nosed the Albacore down into a long flat
glide. "Shake up the old brains, pal. They don't see us, and can't.
We're right in the sun to them. No! They're breaking out that bow gun
for another purpose. And I've got a pretty good idea what it is, too."

"What?" Freddy demanded.

Dave nodded his head forward and down.

"To get rid of that plane wreckage that's bobbing around," he said.
"Ask me and I'll tell you that the wreckage is all that's left of the
courier plane that sent out that SOS. Remember our little unpleasant
experience yesterday?"

"I'm jolly well not likely to forget it!" the English youth growled.
"What about it?"

"I could be wrong, but I've got a hunch I'm not," Dave said with a deep
scowl. "I mean it this way. This spot isn't far from where we spotted
that strange sub yesterday throwing light signals at us. Well, we went
down for a better look, and what happened? We got clipped before we
had time to take a deep breath. Well, what happens to one guy can
happen to somebody else. No law against it. See?"

"So far," Freddy grunted.

"Well, it's simple," Dave continued. "The courier plane was spotted by
the sub. The sub, thinking it was Serrangi's R.A.F. boy friend, started
flashing signals. Well, the courier plane boys went down to see what it
was all about ... just like we did. And they caught just what we
did ... only worse and more of it ... when the sub commander realized
his mistake. The courier plane had time just to send the word to
Singapore Base it was going down, and give its position, before it
crashed in. Well, the sub heard those signals and after ducking away,
came back to remove all traces of their dirty work. And.... And that's
what they're doing right now!"

Dave shouted the last as the two bow guns aboard the submarine belched
out flame and smoke and hurled a couple of shells at the bobbing wing
at almost blank range. At practically the same instant there were two
white splashes of water not a yard from the bobbing wing. And then a
great column of frothy foam and billowing smoke towered upward into the
air. And for a brief instant the sun drenched blue water seemed to
split apart and spew up a mess of tangled water-logged wreckage. Just
a split second look at the shattered wreckage was all that the boys
were allowed before froth and boiling foam sucked the mess down out of
sight forever. But that split second was long enough for them both to
see that the wreckage had once been an R.A.F. long range Consolidated
Catalina flyingboat. The type that is used all over the world by the
British for courier plane work.

"That was the courier plane, right enough!" Freddy Farmer said in a
choked voice. "Blast their dirty souls. They shot the poor devils down
in cold blood, like they tried to do to us. And, now ... and now,
they...."

The English youth couldn't go on, he was so choked up with blind rage.
A split instant later Dave opened up his engine wide and stuck the
Albacore's nose down in a wing screaming dive.

"Man those rear guns, Freddy!" he thundered at the top of his voice.
"Maybe England hasn't declared war on Japan, but you and I are
declaring war on that stinking Jap pig-boat down there ... and right
now!"

"But we've no depth bombs, or torpedo!" Freddy cried, but nevertheless
swiveling around and unlocked his rear guns.

"Who cares?" Dave roared and hunched forward over the stick. "There's
a few of those brown rats on deck. We can at least cook their goose.
We.... Hold your hat! They've sighted us, and are trying to bring their
guns to bear. No, you don't ... you dime a dozen, slant eye bums!"

As Dave snarled the last he flipped off the guard cap of the electric
trigger button of his forward guns, and jabbed the button home. His
guns yammered out a savage song of death and the group of little brown
figures clustered about the forward guns seem to melt to the deck and
roll off into the water, before either of the two guns could spew its
load of destructive shrapnel upward.

However, no sooner did the bow gunners take their dose of death and
spill into the water than a new crew popped up out of the conning tower
hatch and scurried forward to replace them. Others also popped up into
view, each armed with a portable machine gun. They dropped in back of
the conning tower bridge for what protection it would afford them and
began blazing away. Dave felt the Albacore shake and tremble a little
as a well placed burst went tearing up through the right wings. But he
didn't swerve from his straight downward plunge a hair. He and Freddy
would have to risk the machine gun fire. It was the bow guns he had to
put out of action. Rather, he had to send the second crew spilling off
after the first. Let those two guns get in their licks and the Albacore
would be a mess of metal toothpicks flying about in the air.

And so Dave held the plane steady and tore down until it looked as
though he were going to dive right into the bow mounted guns. In the
last instant allowed he let fly with his guns, practically tore the new
gun crews to bleeding shreds with his deadly fire, and went curving
upward and around to give Freddy Farmer a point blank shot at the
half crouching machine gunners. And the English youth didn't waste a
split second, or a single shot from his twin guns. His fire was every
bit as deadly as Dave's, and it knocked over the crouching machine
gunners like a shotgun would knock over frozen birds perched on an icy
telephone wire. The little Japs went down like ten pins. And what's
more, they stayed down!

Then, suddenly, as Freddy Farmer let drive with a parting burst, a
column of orange red flame came shooting up out of the open conning
tower. It leaped three hundred feet straight up into the air and then
blossomed out on all sides like a gigantic flower of fire. At almost
the same instant invisible giants down in the depths of the shimmering
blue water seemed to push upward against the keel of the submarine. The
whole craft rose clear out of water, seemed to hover motionless for a
split second, and then buckle in the middle and fall back in again.
White spray, red flame, and boiling smoke spread out in all directions.
And then presently there was nothing but an ever widening oil slick on
the water to indicate the spot where the submarine had gone down for
good.

Struck speechless by the weird, horrible sight, both boys stared frozen
eyed for a long moment. Then Dave shook himself out of his trance and
hauled the Albacore off the top of its zoom. Once the plane was level
he twisted around and grinned at Freddy.

"What was that about not having depth bombs, or aerial torpedoes?" he
echoed. "Boy! With you around to shoot right down the open conning
tower and touch off something in her innards, we don't need anything
else. Nice going, pal! That gets you a kewpie doll, or something."

"Think _what_ it gets me, if British High Command ever finds out!"
Freddy Farmer said in a tight voice. "Good Lord, Dave! I've just sunk a
Japanese submarine, and...."

"Yeah, I know!" Dave cut in sharply. "England's not even at war with
Japan ... yet! The big shots in London and Tokio haven't made it
official, yet. Lot of good that did _us_ yesterday, didn't it! And a
lot of good it did those poor devils aboard the courier plane! Nuts!
You and your traditional rules of war give me a pain in the neck. Wake
up, little man. That sort of thing is all changed these days. Nowadays
you hit first, you hit hard, and you hit for keeps! If you don't you're
going to find yourselves waking up in a hospital ... if you _do_ wake
up!"

"Yes," Freddy Farmer mumbled and swallowed hard. "Yes, of course you're
dead right. But, it gives a chap a queer feeling just the same. I mean,
if that had been a Nazi U-boat, why...."

"Who says a Nazi wasn't her commander?" Dave snapped. "Jap, Nazi, or
one of Mussolini's funny looking things! Who cares? It's down where
it belongs, now. And down to stay. And I still say that was sweet
shooting, sonny boy. Sinks a sub with a couple of machine guns. No, I
guess we'd better not ever report it. Nobody would ever believe us.
We'd be called a couple of first class.... _Omigosh!_"

"What's the matter?" Freddy Farmer cried in alarm as Dave stiffened and
jerked his head front. "Another one?"

"No such luck!" Dave cried and heeled the Albacore around toward
the northwest. "I'll have to wait until next time for my chance to
duplicate your neat little trick. No. I just took a look at the gas
gauges? Did you ever do much camping out, Freddy? I mean, just go out
and live off the land, and all that sort of thing?"

"I have a little," Freddy replied. Then sharply, "But what the blasted
blazes are you raving about, now? What _is_ the matter?"

"Not a thing, not a thing!" Dave chanted and stuck the nose down
slightly to pick up all the extra speed he could. "Only we've been
using up fuel like there was a filling station out here every other
mile. Unless Lady Luck gives us one awful big break we may have to do
some camping out tonight somewhere maybe in the wilds of Thailand or
Burma."

"But we can't, Dave!" Freddy cried before he could check his tongue.
"We've got to get to Raja, or ... or Lord knows what may happen."

Dave turned around and squinted an eye at his pal.

"Brother, are you kidding?" he muttered. "Or didn't you think I knew
that?"



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Raja, the Invisible_


For the ten millionth time in the last five minutes Dave Dawson let
his eyes come to rest on the main and emergency gas tank gauges on
the instrument board. Both needles were pressed hard against the zero
peg, and they had been that way for the last five minutes. It was as
though the powerful engine in the nose was now simply running on its
reputation. Of course, that wasn't true. Even when the gauge shows you
have no gas there is always a certain amount left in the feed lines
that will permit the power plant to function for a bit longer. But the
Bristol Taurus had been turning over for five full minutes on seemingly
dry tanks, and as far as Dave was concerned that was most certainly
some kind of a record for aircraft engines.

And so as he stared at the gauges again there was bewildered amazement
in his eyes ... and a cold lump of fear in his stomach. If Freddy's
navigation had been accurate, and if the land marks they had been able
to sight from their high altitude really were those that were marked on
the flight map Serrangi had given them, they were still a good fifty or
sixty miles short of their destination!

If they were flying over England, or the States, or eastern Canada,
or places like that, there would be no cause for worry and the cold
lump of fear. But, they were flying over the godawful region of the
world cut by the Thailand-Burma border. And they had only to glance
down over the side to realize full well what would happen when their
engine finally gave up and they were forced down. True, they might live
through it; they stood a chance. Perhaps it was only a million to one
chance. However, if they could sit down in the tree tops, or on the
side of the rocky jagged peaked mountains, or on the bottom of some
jungle choked gorge ... and not break every bone in their bodies ...
everything would be fine. At least for the time being. What happened
tomorrow, the next week, and the next year, were things best not to
think about.

"We've got to make it, Dave! We've got to make it! Get all the altitude
you can. It will give us a longer glide."

Dave clenched his teeth hard, and fought back the savage impulse to
spin around and let fly with a barrage of verbal abuse at Freddy
Farmer. Only the cold realization that his own pal's nerves were every
bit as frayed as his prevented him from doing so. And after all, for
the last hour it had been Freddy Farmer who had kept the conversation
going to take their thoughts off the approaching inevitable, and ease
the torturing strain somewhat. Yes, they had to make it. But would
they? If the engine should cut out now would they be able to make the
rest of the distance in a glide? True, they had almost top ceiling
under their wings, but it would still be a long glide. And to reach the
spot indicated on the map and then circle it five times at the exact
altitude of six thousand feet was something that was strictly up to the
gods. In his heart, Dave had the quaking feeling that they wouldn't be
able to circle the spot once at even six feet.

"Or even reach it!" he spoke the thought harshly. "We got us a Jap sub,
but heaven knows what wasting that time is going to cost us."

"And it was my fault, Dave!" Freddy Farmer's voice suddenly spoke in
Dave's ear. "I'm sorry as can be. I shouldn't have suggested that we
go look for the courier plane. After all, we were on a mighty important
mission."

Dave swung around and fixed him with a scornful eye.

"Eavesdropping on what a guy even says to himself, huh?" he growled.
Then softening his words with a grin, "You stick to your knitting, son,
and leave us grown-ups alone. And don't start grabbing off credit for
going on that courier plane hunt. I had my mind all made up to do it
before you so much as opened your yap. I was just waiting to hear what
you thought of the idea. And besides, this little old engine hasn't
stopped _yet_, has it?"

The last word hadn't even started to become an echo before the Bristol
Taurus in the nose uttered a few rusty metallic gasps and then became
silent as a tomb, save for the soft swish of the propeller as momentum
turned it over in the wind. Freddy Farmer gulped and forced a smile to
his lips.

"Yes, I'm afraid it has, Dave," he said. "But it's certainly been a
blasted wonder up to now. Well, we've got lots and lots of altitude for
gliding. And now that the engine's stopped, it is a bit peaceful up
here, don't you think?"

"Very," Dave said with a nod. Then chuckling, "I'd like to stay up
here awhile. Boy! _How_ I'd like to stay up here awhile! But I always
was a selfish cuss. Any particular altitude at which you'd like to get
out, Mister? We're making all stops on the way down, you know."

"Just let me out at the ground floor!" Freddy replied with a slight
grin on his stiff lips. "And I mean the ground floor, not the basement,
my good man!"

Dave gave a little wave of his hand to acknowledge the wisecrack and
then concentrated every ounce of his attention on keeping the Fairey
Albacore just a hair below the stalling point. Every inch of altitude
he saved was at least five inches farther forward the plane would be
able to travel. It wasn't a question of precious feet, or yards, or
miles, now. It was a matter of inches. And every additional inch was
just another little bit in their favor.

But as Dave held the controls in a steel fingered grip and peered
narrow eyed ahead at the heart chilling terrain, the little hammers
of dread and doubt began to pound away in his brain. His mouth and
throat became dry, and the cold lump of lead formed once more in the
pit of his stomach. He had flown over a lot of terrible country in his
time, but nothing like this. As far as he could see in any direction
there wasn't a piece of flat ground big enough to place your foot on.
Nothing but jagged rock sided mountains, and deep ravines choked with
jungle growth. A plane force-landing would be ripped to ribbons before
it touched the ground. And even though its occupants did live through
the crash it would really be only postponing death. Death in a thousand
different forms would be waiting for them down there in the jungle when
they tried to fight their way out to civilization. It was an airman's
graveyard, that's what it was. It....

Dave cut short the rest of his disagreeable thoughts as he felt Freddy
Farmer's hand pound down on his shoulder, and heard the English youth's
excited voice in his ears.

"Bear a few degrees to port, Dave!" Freddy cried. "I guess our compass
must have gone a bit balmy, or my last calculation of position was
wrong. Look way over there to the left and ahead! There's the sharp
S bend in the Salween River that's marked on this map. Dave! If I'm
right, we're not in the soup at all. We should make that easily in a
glide. And not get down below six thousand feet, either!"

Dave leaned forward, wiped the back of his hand across his stinging
eyes, and squinted hard. But the hope that had zoomed up within him at
Freddy Farmer's words took a nose dive when he couldn't see anything
on the ground that looked like the S turn in a river. As far as he
could see the few square miles indicated by Freddy's pointed finger
weren't one bit different from the hundreds of other square miles of
treacherous terrain he could see. However, hope didn't die completely
within him because this was not the first time Freddy's eagle sharp
eyes had spotted things long before he had. Just the same after nosing
the plane to port a bit and slushing forward at the flat gliding angle,
the tiny flame of hope burned lower and lower.

"Don't you see it, Dave?" Freddy called out finally.

"Not yet!" Dave replied grimly. "And I hope it's not a mirage you're
seeing. But.... Hold everything! Yeah! see it now, Freddy. Gee! It
looks exactly like a curving shadow on the jungle trees. Yes, that's
the S bend. And we'll make it easy, Freddy, easy. Remind me to hang
another medal on you for sweet eyesight. Me, I would have glided right
on by and not known the difference. Okay, boy! Looks like we're coming
to the end of the line."

"And the beginning of the worst part, I fancy," Freddy Farmer muttered
through clenched teeth. "Lord, Dave! I hope that beggar, Serrangi, told
us the truth. I mean, that there really is a hidden drome down there."

"Me, too, and how!" Dave echoed almost reverently. "Between you, me,
and that dead engine in the nose, I'd be tickled pink to drop right
down into Uncle Goering's arms right about now. But, sweet tripe,
Freddy! How could there possibly be a secret drome down there? A hole
in one of the mountains, perhaps? And they shoot them off by catapult?
It just doesn't seem possible, so help me!"

"It's got to be, it's got to be!" the English youth repeated over and
over. "If we've come this far just to land in some blasted trees,
I'll ... I'll never forgive that black hearted blighter, Serrangi, as
long as I live!"

Freddy Farmer's crazy remark snapped the tension a little and caused
Dave to laugh out loud.

"That's telling him, Freddy, old sock!" he cried. "Boy! Would Serrangi
be sore if you never forgave him!"

"Go ahead and laugh!" Freddy snapped. "But we're not out of the woods,
yet!"

"Oh, yes, we are!" Dave corrected. "And what we want to do is _stay
out_ of them and not _get in_ them. Catch on?"

"Quite!" Freddy snapped again. Then thrusting his hand over Dave's
shoulder, he cried, "And there's something else very funny, my lad.
The altimeter. We've got not over four thousand feet left before we
reach the altitude when we start our circle signals."

"Sure, I know," Dave said good naturedly. "Keep your pants on. Little
Dave has everything under control ... he hopes. Yup! We make it easy.
Get your eyes skinned, Freddy, for signals. We're going to be over the
spot almost any instant, now."

It was, perhaps, four full minutes before Dave brought the Albacore
directly over the middle of the S bend in the river, and at an altitude
just a shade over six thousand feet. He had allowed an extra hundred
feet so that he would not go too far below the six thousand foot mark
by the time he had completed his five circles. After all, Serrangi had
been most particular about sticking at six thousand feet. And for that
reason he couldn't take chances. If there were Jap guns down there
trained on the Albacore....

Dave swallowed hard, shook himself as though to drive off the
unpleasant possibility, and hauled the Albacore around for the first
circle. He guided the plane by instinct, keeping the nose no higher
than the law of gravity would allow. He stuck his head out through the
opened cockpit hatch and stared intently downward. Freddy Farmer was
doing the same thing, and like two men of stone they sat rigid in the
pit, not speaking, and hardly daring to breathe.

Three, four, and five times Dave completed a circle, and by his expert
flying the plane didn't lose more than a hundred feet. The altimeter
needle quivered at the six thousand foot peg when he came out of
the final circle and glided straight northward. That also he did by
instinct for his eyes were still riveted to the ground below. Perhaps
ten seconds clicked by, or perhaps it was ten years. But, suddenly, a
red ball of fire seemed to zoom right up out of the lush green jungle
below them and come arcing up toward the belly of their plane. It
mounted upward no more than a couple of hundred feet, probably, then
curved over and down to wink out before it struck ground.

"The signal flare, Dave!" Freddy Farmer roared at the top of his voice.
"Serrangi didn't lie to us! There is somebody down there."

"I knew it all the time, I did!" Dave cracked back, as his heart looped
in his chest with joy. "But, I still want to know _where_ in heck a
field could be down there. It's.... Holy smoke! Am I seeing things,
or ... or what?"

Dave stuttered out the rest as he stared in dumbfounded amazement
down toward earth. An airplane had suddenly appeared before his very
eyes. It was a swift Japanese Nakajima 96 single seater. A Land of the
Rising Sun copy of the American Boeing F4B. But the cockeyed point
was that the craft, with its red and white rising sun markings and
all, had seemingly popped right out of a tree top. One instant Dave
had been staring at the top of the lush jungle stretch below him, and
in the next he was looking at a Jap plane zooming up toward him at
top climbing speed. It was incredible, it was nuts, and it was all
cockeyed. But, nevertheless, it was fact. The Jap plane was coming up
like a rocket off on a holiday.

"Dave! I'm not crazy, am I?" came Freddy Farmer's tight voice. "That is
a Jap plane, isn't it?"

"Unless we're both crazy!" Dave replied and watched the Jap pilot swing
out wide of them, and then curve back in toward their right wings.
"But where in thunder he came from, don't ask, pal, don't ask! Jumping
Messerschmitts! Will we have something to tell the boys ... if we ever
get back!"

"You could have left off that last bit," Freddy grunted. "I don't want
to even think about that. There! The lad is signalling, Dave! He's
motioning for us to swing in behind him, and follow him down."

"Yeah!" Dave said with a nod. "This time I see it with my own eyes.
That dirty brown rat! Boy, is it a temptation, Freddy!"

"What do you mean?" the English born R.A.F. ace demanded.

"That Jap," Dave said and went through the motion of depressing the
electric trigger button on the stick. "Could I shoot the buck teeth out
of him from here! And with both eyes shut, too! I...."

"Dave, don't be mad!" Freddy cried in alarm. "That would be a fine
mess."

"Don't be dumb!" Dave shut him up and chuckled. "Do you think I am? I
was only _thinking_ how good it would make me feel, that's all. Well,
here we really start down, and from now on it's going to be miracles,
as far as I'm concerned. They say a Jap is as good as a monkey in a
tree. Maybe they've got planes that cling to branches like monkeys too.
But, if so, it's going to be too bad for this baby _we're_ in!"

What happened in the next five minutes was actually not a series of
miracles being revealed for the benefit of the thumping hearted and
aching eyed R.A.F. aces in the Albacore. However, it might just as
well have been. The nearer they glided to the earth in the wake of the
Jap plane, the more and more they both became convinced that there
wasn't a spot big enough for a fly to sit down in down there. However,
when no more than eight hundred feet separated the belly of their plane
from the ground the big "miracle" came to pass.

Actually, it was simply the truth registering in their amazement filled
eyes. It was not all lush jungle down there. No, not all. They suddenly
saw a half mile long, and two hundred foot wide strip of jungle that
wasn't jungle at all. It only _looked_ like jungle. It was a cleared
off section of ground with camouflage covering so cleverly painted
that it all blended in perfectly with the surrounding lush green,
rock studded landscape. The "strip" ran straight along the lip of a
deep ravine, so that if there seemed to be any difference where the
camouflage met the real thing, it would be taken as a line where the
edge of the ravine dropped off.

Almost not daring to believe his eyes, Dave gingerly worked the
Albacore around and down toward the southern end of the camouflage
strip. The Jap plane was little more than a couple of hundred yards in
front of him. And even as Dave turned the Albacore around on a line
with the long side of the camouflage strip, the Jap plane touched earth
and quickly taxied ahead until it virtually disappeared under the heavy
jungle foliage at the far end.

Another fifteen seconds, or so, and Dave's wheels touched ground.
For reasons of personal safety, and also to impress eyes that were
unquestionably watching he made a sweet feather-on-velvet landing and
let the plane truddle slowly forward to finally come to a full stop.
But, no sooner had he stopped rolling than half a dozen Jap mechanics
dashed out, and grabbed the wing tips, and motioned for him to taxi
ahead. He shook his head, and pointed to the dead engine. One of the
mechanics, who seemed to be in charge, turned his head and shrilled
something toward the jungle growth in his native tongue. In practically
nothing flat a dolly crew came streaking out. And in just about the
same time the other mechanics hoisted up the tail of the Albacore,
and the dolly was run under it. Chattering like magpies they caught
hold of the dolly handle and dragged Dave and Freddy backwards off
the camouflage strip and in under the shelter of the jungle trees. To
Dave it was like being hauled backwards into the yawning entrance of a
tunnel. One moment the brassy sun was glaring down on him, and in the
next he was in semi-darkness and staring out through an opening at the
sun flooded world.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Sons of Nippon_


The faint jar as the Albacore's tail was lifted out of the dolly trough
and lowered none too gently to the ground, seemed to snap Dave out of
his trance. He licked his lips, swallowed hard and took a good look
around. For a few seconds he didn't see anything but blurs because
of the sudden change of light. But when they did focus and the blurs
took on definite shapes and outlines, he came within a hair's breadth
of letting out a wild yell of amazement. Even at that he did start
violently, and his eyes popped out of their sockets like marbles on
sticks.

What he saw was perhaps the most weird, grotesque, unbelievable sight
he had ever seen since the day of his birth. True, he had seen the
underground airdromes and hangars the Nazis had constructed along
the Franco-German border, and he had seen the expertly camouflaged
fields built by the German Luftwaffe on the burning sands of the Libyan
desert. But this hidden field and array of nature made hangars were
almost beyond the powers of even one's wildest imaginations. On three
sides of him were row after row of Japanese military planes. They were
of all types from the small Nakajima that had come up to lead him down
to the giant long range Mitsubishi bombers. They were parked wing to
wing, with a small plane between each two big ones, so that there
didn't have to be any reshifting around when the time came for them to
take off. One by one they would go shooting down the jungle tunnel to
flat open ground, and then up into the air ... like a string of beads
coming undone, or a row of stitches being pulled put.

But there was much more to the scene than just the row after row of
parked planes. Much more. Included also was all the mobile equipment
needed to service the craft, and keep them in constant perfect
condition. There were also great piles of bombs, and small mountains
of cans filled with high test gas and oil. There were jungle huts used
for living quarters. Huts where meals were obtained. In a few words,
that area of the Burma jungle covered an entire active service airdrome
complete from cook stoves to death dealing winged chariots of war.

"_Gott!_ Once I leave here I shall never believe that I have seen such
a thing!"

The voice was that of Freddy Farmer speaking in German. It was a tip
to Dave to remember the part he played, but it was also a truly felt
belief of the English youth. He had slipped out of his 'chute and
safety belt harness, and was standing up in his pit and looking around
out of eyes that had widened as large as dinner plates.

"And I agree with you, my comrade!" Dave exclaimed hastily in the same
tongue to let Freddy know he was on his guard. "I can hardly wait to
tell _Der Fuehrer_ what a wonderful thing we have seen with our own
eyes. It is indeed a great tribute to the cleverness of our brave and
loyal allies!"

As Dave spoke the words he looked down at the group of buck toothed,
wide grinning brown faces about the plane. Instinct told him that a
couple of them understood German, but he acted as though he believed it
an unknown foreign tongue to them.

"We come from Serrangi, of Singapore!" he boomed out. "It is to be
our great honor to report to General Kashomia. Does one of you speak
German, and can escort us to his exalted presence?"

A squat, chunky Jap, who make Dave think of a fire hydrant with a face,
pushed close to the side of the plane, beamed and bobbed his shaven
head up and down.

"Whoever comes from Serrangi, is always expected," the man said in
perfect German. "Permit me to introduce myself. I am Captain Kito. It
will be my honor to escort you to where General Kashomia waits. Will
you be so pleased as to descend from your plane?"

It wasn't until he had climbed down and was facing the Jap that Dave
realized the man carried a helmet and goggles in his hand. Undoubtedly
the man was the pilot of the pursuit plane that had come up to lead him
down. The little Jap stood stiff as a post, then bowed from the waist
at the two new arrivals like a mechanical doll. Then, whirling, he spat
out something at the others grouped about. They instantly split and
fell back to form a pathway. The Jap looked back at Dave and Freddy and
showed his buck teeth in a broad smile, then started forward rapidly
for all the world like a little brown terrier on the end of a leash.

The way led past the rows of planes, and stores of fuel and bombs, to
the jungle huts on the far side. There was a clearing in front of the
huts and several Japanese pilots were lounging about, taking things
easy. They flashed quick glances at Dave and Freddy, but what they saw
apparently didn't interest them much, for they all immediately resumed
whatever they were doing. Perhaps visitors to this secret airdrome were
common to them. Or perhaps it was part of their training to show no
interest in anything save the knifing of a man in the back. Preferably
one who had been their friend!

The squat Jap pilot finally came to a stop in front of the largest
of the huts. It was constructed mostly of bamboo, and on stilts that
allowed a three foot clearance between the floor and the soft spongy
ground. Evidently General Kashomia was taking no chances with crawling
jungle things, human or otherwise! The Jap paused before the hut, bowed
reverently before it, then turned to Dave and Freddy.

"If you will please be so good as to ascend," he said, and gestured
with his hand at the little bamboo ladder. "I will go and order that
food and drink be prepared for you when you have completed your
business with General Kashomia."

With a parting bob of his head the Jap pilot pivoted about and went
off at his restless gait. Dave grinned at Freddy, then shrugged and
started up the ladder. A few seconds later he was standing on solid
plank flooring and facing three men who sat cross legged Japanese
style about a table that wasn't over eighteen inches off the floor.
Three pairs of brownish-black eyes stared at him expressionlessly,
and unwaveringly. In an odd sort of way he was reminded of the nerve
rasping moments when he and Freddy had first entered Serrangi's room in
the Devil's Den. If there was any difference it was that the eyes of
these three dressed in the battle uniforms of high ranking Japanese air
force officers showed even less expression than had Serrangi's hypnotic
eyes. The same hunch came to Dave that had come to him in Serrangi's
place. He went ramrod stiff and flung up his right arm, fingers
extended stiff and close together.

"_Heil Hitler!_" he shouted.

"_Heil Hitler!_" Freddy Farmer at his side echoed, only louder.

The Jap officer seated in the middle inclined his head slightly and
made a little motion with one hand that was probably an acknowledgment
of the greeting. There was nothing particularly military about it,
however. Nor respectful, for that matter, and Dave had the sneaky
feeling that the name of Adolf Hitler didn't cut such a terrible lot
of ice with the Japs in this part of the world. They had business of
their own to attend to that was thousands of miles removed from Berlin.
Also, of late the Nazis were getting belted all over the place by the
hard hitting Russians. They had come within thirty miles of Moscow to
be stopped cold, and Hitler's boast to spend Christmas in the Kremlin
was fast going right out the window.

"We come from Serrangi in Singapore," Dave finally said when the three
Japs just continued to stare at them. "We come to give something to
General Kashomia. You are General Kashomia?"

Dave looked questioningly at the middle Jap, and the man inclined his
head again.

"I am General Kashomia," he said in flawless Berlin German, and
extended a bony hand. "Give to me what you bring from Serrangi in
Singapore."

A tiny almost indistinguishable spark of light had flickered up in the
son of Nippon's eyes. But apart from that he gave the impression that
he was no more interested in what Dave handed to him than he would be
in last week's newspaper. He took the tight roll of paper that looked
like a pencil and without a word handed it to the officer on his
right. That man took a knife from his belt and deftly slit the outer
wrapping its entire length and smoothed out flat the five or six sheets
contained inside. As though he had peeled and prepared an orange for
his master he handed the lot back to General Kashomia.

The high ranker accepted it just as blank faced and nonchalant as
before. Then with a quick stiffening of his legs he rose up onto his
feet.

"I will learn what Serrangi has to tell me," he said, and waved for
Dave and Freddy to squat down. "Be seated and rest yourselves after
your long journey. A _very_ long journey for the type of plane you
flew."

Brown black eyes bored into Dave's as General Kashomia spoke the last.
Then the Jap turned quickly and disappeared through a bamboo laced door
at the rear. Dave and Freddy squatted down, looked at each other for
a brief instant, and then gave their attention to the two remaining
Jap officers. It was like giving their attention to the stone lions in
front of the New York Public Library. The two Japs just squatted there
and stared off into space as though nothing else existed. Dave stood
the nerve racking silence for a moment, and then broke it.

"Doesn't your honored General Kashomia believe we come from Singapore?"
he asked harshly.

Brown black eyes pivoted around in heavy lidded sockets to focus
on him, but neither Jap uttered a sound. Presently one of them was
apparently struck with the bright idea of hand signals. He pointed at
Dave's mouth, then at his own ears, and shrugged to indicate he neither
spoke nor understood the German tongue. Dave relaxed, then almost
jumped up straight in the air as Freddy Farmer whispered hoarsely in
his ear.

"The swine probably lies!" he said. "I'm sure he speaks our German
tongue as well as we do. Yes! You and I will have much to report when
we return to Berlin."

For a brief instant Dave thought that Freddy had gone nuts, but when he
noticed that neither of the Japs so much as batted an eye, and caught
Freddy Farmer's faint sigh of relief, he realized that the words had
been spoken to catch the Japs off guard. To insult them and see whether
they did understand German or not. But evidently they didn't for
Freddy's swine insult sailed right over their shaven heads.

"Take it easy!" Dave breathed at Freddy. "The one in the next room
understands us, you know. I don't feel very much like having my throat
cut today. Don't get too smart with these fellows. They may be tough,
too."

"I won't," the English youth grunted. "But all that business out there.
It's unbelievable! It makes your blood run cold."

"Not mine," Dave murmured. "It was frozen stiff before we started.
But.... Oh-oh!"

The bamboo laced door swung open and General Kashomia reappeared.
He was as blank faced as ever save for two dull reddish spots of
excitement on his cheeks. His step was quicker, too, and there was a
ring in whatever he sing-songed at his two lesser ranks. They turned
to him at once, their eyes lighted up, and they both vigorously bobbed
their heads up and down and seemed to chant sounds of their native
tongue. General Kashomia answered them, and they shut up. Then the
senior officer squatted down in the middle and fixed his eyes on the
two R.A.F. aces.

"My humble apologies for even thinking you could have come from
elsewhere but Serrangi in Singapore," he said. "And the highest praise
from myself and all my countrymen for so spectacular a flight. It is
one I should not like to do in anything but a large plane. You are
indeed a credit to the Luftwaffe."

"It was a small undertaking," Dave said with a boastful shrug. "Most
any pilot and navigator in the Luftwaffe could have made it. I
understand, then, that we have brought you good news, yes?"

The Jap general's lids contracted slightly, and the tiny gleam leaped
into his eyes again.

"Serrangi always sends one good news," he said slowly. "That is why he
is a wealthy man. There is one part that is not clear, however. The new
location of Singapore Island's water supply. There has been a second
underground reservoir constructed near Mandai?"

If it was a trick question meant to trap the boys, it fell flatter than
yesterday's pancakes. Both Dave and Freddy shook their heads. And it
was Freddy who answered the question ... truthfully.

"We know almost nothing of Singapore, General Kashomia," he said. "We
have spent but one day and a night in the Singapore area. The good news
that Serrangi gives to you, he did not give to us. It was but by a bit
of good fortune that we were able to act as couriers."

If that news surprised General Kashomia he did not show it. However,
his next words indicated that he wasn't getting all of the picture,
yet.

"Strangers to Singapore?" he murmured. Then, "But not of course to
Serrangi?"

"Yes!" Dave shot right back at him and got a little comfort and
satisfaction out of the shadow of annoyed bewilderment that passed over
the Jap's face.

"That is interesting," the son of Nippon said presently. "You will be
good enough to explain, please? You are strangers to Singapore, and to
Serrangi, also? Yet you fly here to where I wait, and place the means
of a great military triumph in my hands? I have spent much time in
Berlin, but I am afraid I shall never fully understand you Germans. The
words you speak confuse me."

For a crazy second Dave was tempted to give the Jap a cockeyed story
that would practically set him on his ear with perplexity. On second
thought, though, he killed the urge. And for two very good reasons.
One was because the Jap might have some means of checking his words,
and, considering their immediate situation, it might not go so well for
Freddy and himself to be caught in a lie. The second reason was because
his eyes had become completely accustomed to the interior of the hut
on stilts, and he was able to see the array of military maps hung on
the walls. They included all sections of that part of the world, and
although the Japanese paint brush notations meant nothing to him, a
series of lines and arrows drawn on the maps had started his heart
thumping against his ribs with suppressed excitement. Unless he was all
wrong the maps definitely proved that here at Raja was the center of a
Japanese spider's web of death and intrigue that reached far out in all
directions.

And so Dave settled himself a bit more comfortably and told General
Kashomia the same story he had told Serrangi. The Jap listened in stony
faced silence right through to the end. When Dave finished he asked
a few pointed questions, and appeared satisfied with the answers the
two R.A.F. aces gave him. However, not because the blank expression on
his face altered any. Simply because he shrugged and stopped asking
questions.

"We Japanese have long admired your great Luftwaffe," the little brown
son of Nippon finally said. "As you probably know, there have been
Luftwaffe instructors in Japan for many years. They have taught us
much, and the hour fast approaches when we shall prove we were good
pupils. Yes, the news you bring me from Serrangi, in Singapore, makes
our great hour approach at great speed."

The blank, inscrutable face lighted up with a seething inner flame for
a brief instant, and the Jap's brown black eyes slid around to glance
quickly at the array of maps. A pointed question hovered on the tip of
Dave's lips, but before he could get it off Freddy Farmer spoke up.

"As we left Serrangi," the English youth said gravely, "there was
mention of a request you might be so good as to grant us."

"Request?" the Jap echoed in a hissing voice, as his eyes fairly
snapped around to Freddy's face. "Then you did make that wonderful
flight ... for a price?"

It was a wonderful opening for a bit of play acting by Freddy, and the
English youth was quick to take full advantage of the opportunity. He
puffed out his chest, pulled in his chin, and glared at the Jap general.

"Everything we do, we do only for the great love we have for our
Fuehrer, and our Fatherland!" he shouted. "The request that might be
made has to do only with further service we might give to our glorious
mutual cause."

"I humble myself before you," the Jap murmured and bowed low. "Your
first words watered the seed of a different thought within me. I was
mistaken. This request. What is it then?"

"Between his words," Freddy said slowly as the pounding of his own
heart kept time with Dave's, "Serrangi hinted of great disaster to
befall the British in Singapore. He whispered the suggestion that we
beg of you the honor of taking part in the delivery of this great blow.
His hints told us plainly that it would be a sight we would remember
to our graves. Our Fuehrer has taught us to always be a soldier, and
to always obey orders. We are here in Raja, so we are your soldiers,
and your orders are orders we would obey even as though they came
from the lips of our own Fuehrer. If you so order, we will not move
one step from Raja. But it is my dearest wish, and that of my famous
Luftwaffe comrade, here, that you do not give such an order. We pray
and hope that our eyes, our hands, and our bodies may help you avenge
at Singapore the Luftwaffe losses against the British Royal Air Force
last winter. We took part in that air battle against the English and
it would put joy in our hearts if you would permit us to help take
the lives of ten British at Singapore for every one of our Luftwaffe
friends we with our own eyes saw fall over Britain."

The speech was one of the best Dave had ever heard drop from Freddy
Farmer's lips, and it was all he could do to look pleadingly at General
Kashomia, and not leap to his feet and give his English pal a great
big hand. Nor was Dave the only one impressed. The Jap general stared
at Freddy with the faint light of pleased admiration in his eyes. He
presently nodded his head and showed his big teeth in a broad smile so
typical of the sly Japs.

"You have the power to move mountains with your voice," he said
eventually. "And heartless, indeed, would I be not to give utmost
consideration to your plea. I shall see that a few more pieces of
silver are placed in Serrangi's hand for selecting you two for the
great flight you have made. But Singapore is not everything of
importance to us. True, we shall strike at Singapore, and in such a
manner that its garrison of troops and pilots will have no opportunity
to resist. However, I shall strike at other points, also. It is not our
plan to take one place at a time. It is our plan to take all places
at the same time. It is the war technique of your own Fuehrer, and it
has as yet to be proved wrong. No, we shall not nibble at a spot until
it gives away and crumbles. We will strike at many places at the same
time."

"_Gott!_ Those are words to warm my heart!" Dave cried, and leaned
forward eagerly. "And you say, most honored General, that the hour fast
approaches?"

The Jap seemed to swell up to the exploding point with indescribable
pride and joy. He made some quick motions with his two hands, and
although he cried the words out in flawless German his voice had the
pitch of a buzz saw going through a sheet of tin.

"Tomorrow when the sun is in the east, the hour will have arrived!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Wings of Valor_


As the Japanese air force general's voice died away a tingling silence
seemed to hang over the jungle hut like a blanket. Not a man in the
place moved. Dave was sure that his own heart had stood still at the
sound of the words. Tomorrow morning? Tomorrow morning the Japs were
to unleash their dogs of war against an unsuspecting civilized world?
Tomorrow, when the civilized world was doing everything possible to
maintain the peace with the war lords of Nippon, the hordes and hordes
of little brown rats were going to spring savagely at white men's
throats? It seemed almost impossible to believe. It was like a dream.
Little Japan was going to strike. Little Japan? But there was just
another of the white man's mistakes down through the years. Looking
upon the Land of the Rising Sun as little Japan. Little in size, yes.
But the British Isles are little in size, too, from the standpoint of
land area in square miles. Little Japan! That was the trouble. Little
on the outside, and tremendously big on the inside. For years and years
the Sons of Nippon had been getting ready, and all the time the rest
of the world _knew it_ ... and _did nothing_. Japan would never strike
in the Pacific! No? Well, there had once been the day when, as Germany
prepared and prepared, government greybeards and has-beens scoffed at
the idea Adolf Hitler would ever take his 1918 beaten country into
war. No? Well, where was France today, and Poland, and Norway, and
Holland, and all the other "free" countries? Bleeding to death under
the crushing weight of the Nazi iron heel. _Little_ Japan? Nuts!

"Tomorrow at dawn?" Dave suddenly heard his own voice whispering
hoarsely. "It is almost too good to be true. In Germany tomorrow Der
Fuehrer will declare a national holiday in your honor, I am sure.
Forgive me, but I cannot help but repeat the plea that my comrade and I
be given a part, if only a small one."

"Your desire to fight with us, and perhaps die, makes you very eager,"
the Jap murmured. And an odd note in his voice caused little fingers
of ice to grab at Dave's heart. In that moment he had the sudden
throat drying conviction that he had displeased the Jap by his pressing
insistence. He had the feeling, and the narrow eyed look he received
indicated as much, that the Jap general was swaying just a little bit
over on the suspicious side. However, when the little brown son of
Nippon spoke again there was nothing in his words or in his voice to
justify such a thought.

"But brave soldiers should always be eager to fight and die for their
country, and their allies," he said. "And I would not be such a fool as
to deny such men their right. You, of course, have heard much of the
Burma Road. Through it our Chinese foes had been receiving supplies for
many months ... for almost the whole four years of our war of freedom
against them. The British did close the road for a few months, but it
was just a token gesture to maintain Japan's friendship. And we were
not fooled by their stupid gesture for a moment. So, if we smash the
Burma Road, China's war effort will starve to death. Her millions will
revolt against their war mongering leaders, and throw them to the
dogs ... and from then on live in peace and happiness under Japanese
rule. And so, it is...."

At that moment the entrance of the little Captain Kito who had come
aloft to lead Dave and Freddy down to the secret field snapped shut
the General's lips. The chunky pilot shot a swift look at the two
R.A.F. aces and then jabbered in lightning speed in his own tongue at
his superior officer. Watching the General, Dave saw the man's eyes
narrow, and the flaming spark to appear in their depths once more. He
saw also the man's claw-like fingers close slowly together as though
a human neck were between them. When the pilot had finished there was
a moment's silence. The Jap general looked at the two stone faced
officers seated at his side and seemed to reach an agreement with them
though neither of them uttered a sound. Then General Kashomia turned
back to the pilot and sing-songed away for a solid minute. Dave hadn't
any idea what it was all about, but he had the very strong hunch that
the Jap general was plenty burned up about something and was issuing
orders in no uncertain words.

A few seconds later the Jap pilot bowed from the waist and popped
outside and down the bamboo ladder. General Kashomia turned his
attention back to Dave and Freddy as though there had not been any
interruption at all.

"And so," he repeated, "it is of first importance that we cut China's
lifeline once and for all, but during the same hour that we strike
elsewhere. However, there is a serious problem to be solved between
now and our great hour tomorrow. For some weeks, now, a group of fools
has been giving aid to the Chinese armies. I speak of what is known
as the American Volunteer Group. The aid they are giving China is to
patrol the air of the southern end of the Burma Road and attempt to
prevent our bombers from reaching it. There are not many pilots in this
group of American fools, but they are good pilots, and they have not as
yet realized that their task is hopeless. Tomorrow at dawn they will
realize the truth at last, but it will be too late, for they will all
be dead."

General Kashomia paused and made a little sign of finality with his
hand.

"However," he continued a moment later, "word has reached me that the
Americans are being reenforced by British planes and pilots. I do not
know their strength, but I know it cannot be great because the British
have not many planes to spare out here in the Far East. They seem to be
more worried about Libya and their own British Isles. Just the same, I
do not wish to lose any more of my bombers than I can help tomorrow.
The blow I strike at the Lashio end of the Burma Road must be swift and
final so that those planes can leave and join the main aerial assault
against Singapore, and other points of our attack. Turn your eyes,
please, and look at that map, there."

The Jap general stopped talking and pointed a finger at the huge map of
Burma, Thailand, and South China, that hung on the wall to his right.
Dave and Freddy looked at it and struggled to still the booming of
their hearts. In the few moments of silence that lasted within the hut,
they heard the sound of aircraft engines being started up outside. Then
General Kashomia went on talking.

"To the north of Lashio, on the China border," he said, "is the little
village of Pidang. As the crow and the airplane fly it is not fifty
miles from here. There in a flat valley, that a blind man could find,
is located this squadron of American fools ... and the British who have
arrived to help them. For a Japanese plane to fly close to that spot in
the light of day would be but the pilot asking that he be sent to join
his ancestors. But in a British plane it would all be very different.
You would be able to see much, and learn much that I should like to
know. Three hours at the most it would take you. And the information
you bring me will count much in our success tomorrow."

The Jap stopped short and fixed his folded lid eyes on the two R.A.F.
aces. Dave and Freddy returned the stare, and then Freddy broke the
silence.

"It is your order, and it will be our joy to obey it!" he cried. "We
will leave as soon as your men have fueled our plane, and it is again
in working order."

"That is being done now," General Kashomia said quietly. "I knew before
I made the request that it would be granted. Yes, at this very moment
your plane is being repaired and made ready for flight. But there is
time to rest and eat meanwhile. It will be best that you take-off so
that your return will be made just before the light of day fades from
the heavens. Come! I am sure that the food is waiting, as I am sure you
are most eager to fill your stomachs, and quench your thirst."

The Jap senior officer made a sign with his hand and rose quickly up
onto his feet. Dave and Freddy scrambled up onto their feet, and then
followed the Jap outside, and down the bamboo ladder.

By the middle of that afternoon Dave's nerves were ready to scream
aloud and fly off in little pieces. Ever since leaving General
Kashomia's hut on stilts he had burned with a great desire to go into
a huddle with Freddy Farmer. There was no longer any secret to the
Japanese menace, now. At least not to Freddy Farmer, and him. They
had heard the story of what was to happen tomorrow from Kashomia's
lips. And what the Jap hadn't said, they had been able to guess from
unnoticed looks at the maps hanging on the wall. It was to be an
all-out air blitz by the Japan air force planned to wipe out Hongkong,
Singapore, and the Burma Road all in one fell swoop. By the time
the last Jap bomb had hurtled earthward the defenders of Hongkong,
Singapore, and the Burma Road still wouldn't know what had hit them.

But the death dealing blow scheduled for tomorrow's sun was simply
Dave's biggest worry. He had smaller worries as well, and not the least
of them was General Kashomia's plan for them to scout the American
Volunteer Group field north of Lashio. That item didn't set well at
all, and little fingers of ice rippled up and down his spine whenever
he thought of it, which was almost constantly. He had sensed a change
in General Kashomia back there in the headquarters hut. It wasn't
anything that he could put his finger on, but he knew it was there. The
Jap had something up his sleeve, and Dave couldn't dispel the hunch
that it was aimed at the life-blood of one Freddy Farmer and Dave
Dawson. For Freddy and him to get aloft in the Fairey Albacore again
was just too good to be true. And knowing what they did, now, made it
seem even more improbable of ever coming to pass.

Yet, everything pointed to the fact that it was. With his own eyes
he saw the Jap mechanics refueling the Albacore. And, as a matter of
fact, he and Freddy made a minute examination of the plane to assure
themselves that it was in good order. The inspection suggestion had
been made by General Kashomia himself. But that was the point. That
was the one thing that played on Dave's nerves like a rusty file hour
after hour. Kashomia was with them every instant of the time. He ate
with them, showed them about the secret drome, inspected the rows of
Jap war planes with them, and helped them check over their own British
made ship. And that was the rub. The Jap never once left their side
so that either of them could so much as whisper a word to the other.
For all they were able to talk over events to come they might just as
well have been at opposite ends of the earth. Whether by accident, Jap
courtesy, or devil's purpose, General Kashomia was right there all the
time to hear every word that fell from their lips. And so, they had to
be constantly on their guard not to let the wrong words drop, and keep
them choked up within themselves until they felt that one more hour of
the nerve rasping suspense would find them both jibbering monkeys, and
stark raving mad.

However, they did not have to endure that one more hour. General
Kashomia finally decided that it was a good time for them to leave, and
escorted them over to where the Albacore waited with its nose pointed
down the tunnel toward the camouflage strip and the open air.

"May your wings have the speed of lightning," he said in farewell.
"Observe closely what is there at your objective, and let it be stamped
well on your memories. Now, I go to pray to my ancestors that they
grant your flight a successful one, and your return speedy."

With a half salute and a half queer little gesture that could mean
most anything, General Kashomia turned around and walked rapidly away.
Dave shot a thoughtful glance at his back, then shook himself out of
his trance, and nodded at the Jap mechanics holding the wheel chock
ropes. The little brown rats yanked the chocks clear and Dave fed Jap
gas to the Bristol Taurus in the nose, and sent the Fairey Albacore
roaring down the man made jungle tunnel. For perhaps two split seconds
jungle growth flashed by on all four sides, then the plane shot out
into almost blinding sunlight, cleared its wheel and went prop clawing
upward.

The instant he was clear and headed toward Heaven, Dave made sure
that his radio flap mike was disconnected, and then twisted around in
the seat to look back at Freddy. The English youth was sitting like
a figure of stone with a beet red face. A thousand million questions
seemed to stick right out of the English born R.A.F. ace's face. Dave
checked them by a warning gesture toward Freddy's flap mike and waited
until the English youth had disconnected it. Then he grinned, tight
lipped.

"I know all the questions you're bursting to pop, Freddy!" he shouted.
"And my answer to all of them is that we're getting too darn close to
being back of the eight ball. That runt sized Jap general is working
to pull something very smooth. And it all started when that runt pilot
busted in to spill the lingo at him. Check?"

"Of course!" Freddy cried as an agonized look flashed across his
excitement and tension flushed face. "I may be all wet, but I think I
know why. We pulled a terrible boner, Dave!"

"Gosh! Only one? What?"

"The fight with that Jap sub!" Freddy said with a groan. "I mean, not
mentioning shooting."

"The scrap with the Jap sub?" Dave echoed in amazement. "Are you nuts?
We'd have been dead ducks in nothing flat if we'd so much as breathed a
word about that, you dope!"

"Not the fight with the sub, you balmy idiot!" Freddy roared back. "But
we should have said that we were shot at getting away from Singapore.
Instead we said that _not a shot was fired at us_! Look out there on
the wing. They've even patched that sub's machine gun bullet holes.
Don't you suppose they wondered _how_ those holes got there? _Why_ we
didn't even mention being shot at?"

Dave looked out at the ten or twelve little grey fabric patches on the
right lower wing, and swallowed hard. So that was why the Jap pilot had
come busting in all steamed up. And that's why General Kashomia's face
had showed rage for an instant, and why he had obviously barked orders
to be carried out. That was the beginning of the change in Kashomia.
That was when Dave had felt his hunch that Freddy and he had stuck
their necks out just a little too far. That's when....

"That Jap Brass Hat beggar isn't sure of us at all, Dave!" Freddy's
voice cut in on his thoughts. "He really doesn't want to know a
blasted thing about that American Volunteer Group north of Lashio. This
is some kind of a trick, Dave. I'm sure of it. I feel certain that he's
sent us up to see if we'd head straight for Singapore. There can't be
any two ways about that."

"But what's to stop us?" Dave called back. "My gosh, Freddy, you don't
_want_ to fly toward this Pidang village, do you? The gas tanks are
full, and we can make Singapore easy, and give the alarm."

"Hold it, Dave!" Freddy shouted as Dawson started to level off the
climb and veer around toward the south. "Don't try it, yet. There's one
thing I guess you didn't notice, or did you? Four of those Nakajima
Ninety-Six single seater fighters took off awhile ago, and I don't see
them in the air any place."

"So what?" Dave grunted with a scowl. "They probably went someplace
else."

Angry annoyance flooded Freddy Farmer's face as he leaned well forward.

"Where's your brains, Dave?" he snapped. "Of course they did! And if
you want to know what I think, they went south quite a bit to hang in
the sky and wait to see if _we go south, too_. And if you don't think
that Kashomia has powerful glasses on us right now, and is in radio
contact with those Nakajimas, then you're completely out of your head.
So for heaven's sake, let's at least _start_ north toward Pidang!"

Dave gulped, blushed to the roots of his hair, and went through the
motions of tipping his hat.

"Hail to you, brilliant one!" he said. "Your humble servant is truly
one fat headed dope. Sure! You've got something there, and how, Freddy.
If we head for Singapore we tip our hand. Kashomia realizes that we're
phonies. He radioes his little boys, and the four of them drop down on
us to.... Omigosh, Freddy! You are doggone right! That darn Jap rat has
fixed us nice!"

"Done what?" the English youth echoed. "What are you talking about?"

Dave didn't reply. Instead he pointed at the empty ammunition boxes
that fed his forward guns. They were all empty!

"Good Lord!" came Freddy Farmer's hoarse exclamation a moment later.
"So are my guns back here, Dave. We haven't got a single bullet between
us!"

"So we darn well do head north!" Dave said grimly and swung the
Albacore around. "And maybe, please God, be able to slip around on
a detour and slide by those four Nakajimas that are sure as shooting
waiting for us between here and Singapore!"

"Amen!" Freddy Farmer murmured, stiff lipped.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Eagles Never Die_


The secret Jap drome hidden deep in the vast jungles of Burma was far
behind the Albacore's tail. Still some fifteen or twenty miles ahead
was the flat valley floor where the American Volunteer Group, helping
to fight China's battle, was squadroned. Dave stared ahead hard for a
moment but could see no sign of the flat valley yet. Turning around, he
searched the skies with his eyes, but all he could see was eye smarting
shimmering light of the burning brass ball in the heavens. Finally, he
lowered his eyes, and looked at Freddy Farmer.

"I guess this had better be far enough in this direction," he said
and jerked his head back toward the instrument board. "There's enough
gas to make it, according to the gauges, but not much more. Do we
swing to the east and cut down through Indo-China, or should we swing
west and then down south that way? Either way it's going to be close.
We.... Hey! Are we _both_ dumb this time? What's wrong with the radio?
How about contacting Air Vice Marshal Bostworth on the emergency
wave-length, and code? The Japs might tune in, but we could at least
get things started before they had time to all clear out of there,
and.... What's the matter?"

"I didn't think it worth while telling you, Dave," the English youth
said in a sorrowful voice. "But my tubes have been removed, and I fancy
so have yours. We can't radio anybody, old fellow."

Dave twisted, whipped out his hand, and unsnapped the front of the
instrument board radio panel and let it drop down. It was true! Every
tube in his set had been removed. For a million dollars he couldn't
have broadcast anything as far as the wing tips. For a long moment he
glared at the sabotaged set, then he slammed the panel front shut, and
squared his jaw.

"Okay!" he got out savagely and booted the Albacore around in a half
dime turn toward the east. "We still go back to Singapore, and just let
any bucktoothed, throat slitting sons of Nippon try and stop us!"

Brave, determined words ... and they were good for about two minutes
only! At the end of two minutes Freddy Farmer suddenly let out a bellow
of alarm and pounded a hand down on Dave's shoulder.

"Here they come!" he screamed. "The devils have been riding top ceiling
all the time and watching us. Turning off our course was just what they
were waiting for. Up there, Dave, to the left! And they're coming down
like the blasted devils that they are!"

Dave whipped his eyes around and up just long enough to see a row of
four darkish spots against the sun flooded heavens, then he turned his
head forward, and kicked the Albacore up, over, and down in a wing
screaming half roll. But even as the British plane started to drop the
savage yammer of aerial machine gun fire smashed against his eardrums,
and out the corners of his eyes he saw the wavy grey smoke of tracer
bullets zipping past his wingtips. His heart froze solid in his chest,
and the palms of his hands became filmed by a cold, clammy sweat, but
there were raging flames of anger in his brain. Anger at himself, at
Lady Luck, and at the little brown devils of Nippon.

He should have realized that things had been breaking too good to last.
From the very instant Freddy and he had been shot off the Harkness'
catapult, Lady Luck had favored them with her brightest smile at every
turn. True they had eased into some close and ticklish corners, but
they had managed with a bit of luck to ease right out of them again,
and continue on toward their big destination ... the secret Jap
airdrome, and knowledge of what the Japs planned to do tomorrow. Well,
they had reached that secret airdrome, and they had learned of the
Jap plans ... but, so what? Dead men can't talk. Dead men can't fly a
mile. Dead men would only be buried if they ever did by a miracle reach
Singapore. The breaks had stopped, and Lady Luck had turned her face
the other way. Death was after them, now, to put an end to all they had
accomplished thus far. Death in the form of four war inflamed, conquest
crazed Japanese pilots hurtling down out of the brassy sky.

"But not so long as we keep flying! Not so long as we keep flying!"

From as though a thousand miles away Dave heard the echo of his own
voice roaring above the yammering guns of the diving Japs. Let the
confounded Japs have the guns. Sure, spot them a few guns. Freddy and
he would beat them at their own game. There was but one hope. To outfly
the Japs and somehow cut away from the rattling death they were dealing
out. Given a fair lead the Albacore might be able to keep ahead of the
Nakajimas. And with just the tiniest bit of a break....

Dave let the rest slide. Rather, metal messengers of death twanging
down through the glass cockpit hatch to practically brush his left
cheek caused the rest to clog in his throat. Slamming his strength
against the controls he skidded the Albacore sharply off to the
opposite side, and then pulled the nose up in a power zoom. For one
brief instant wild hope flooded his heart. His trick maneuver had
outfoxed the Jap pilots. Too late they tried to haul out of their own
dives, but failed and were forced to go shooting on down by the zooming
Albacore.

But that hope lived only for an infinitesimal period of time. It died
almost as it was born, for not all four of the Nakajimas had piled all
the way down. One had remained aloft, just in case. And Dave realized
bitterly that its pilot had done exactly the right thing. His three
brown rat pals having over shot their mark, he was now blasting down
to nail the defenseless R.A.F. plane before it could scoot well off
into the clear and build up a lead that could be held all the way to
Singapore.

"Lord, if I only had guns!" came Freddy Farmer's rage filled cry above
the thunder of the Albacore's engine. "I'd pick that blasted beggar
off, even if I had to throw the guns at him. Outfly the rotter, Dave.
Outfly him! You're better than a dozen of those brown devils."

It was a nice compliment but Dave hardly heard it. His body was
drenched with nervous sweat, and his heart was a battering-ram trying
to force its way right out through his ribs. Every instinct of
self-preservation within him cried out to wheel away and dive again,
but he knew better than to yield to such an instinct. It might spare
his own life for a little bit longer, but it would surely spell doom
for Freddy Farmer. If he wheeled the plane around he would present
a perfect broadside target for the Jap, and Freddy wouldn't stand
a chance in the world of surviving the withering fire that would
instantly rake the Albacore.

And so, instead, Dave grimly held the Albacore in its power zoom. He
sent it thundering straight up into the spitting guns of the Nakajima,
until the Jap feared a head-on crash and lost his nerve and broke away.
No sooner did the Jap maneuver off than Dave whipped off the top of his
zoom, and banked around toward the north. The action brought a startled
cry from Freddy Farmer.

"The other way, Dave!" the English youth cried frantically. "We're
headed wrong. Singapore is the other way. It's to the south."

"I know our direction!" Dave snapped over his shoulder, and stuck the
nose down a shade to pick up all the extra speed he could. "But we'd
never make it to Singapore, Freddy. That last burst got the emergency
tank feed line, and it's leaking dry. Also those three others would be
up to cut us off. Pidang is our only hope, Freddy. We've got to reach
that American Volunteer Group, and get them to help."

"Help?" Freddy echoed. "How in Heaven's name? They've only got single
seaters in that crowd. Not bombers, Dave!"

"I know that, too!" Dave shouted. "But, they're Yanks. I've got a
feeling that'll be the difference. But we've got to get there, anyway,
and make a safe landing. Darn these Japs. Whoever said they didn't have
anything with speed? Look at them come! Duck, Freddy boy! Keep the old
head down!"

As Dave spoke the last he took one last look at the four Nakajimas
that were coming after him at comet speed, then turned front and
automatically hunched himself down low in the seat. The future was in
the lap of the gods, now. Or, perhaps it would be better to say that
the future lay in the thundering Bristol Taurus in the nose. If the
Japs ever got close again it would be curtains. They had been fooled
once, and it was mighty doubtful that they could be fooled again.
They were out for blood; out to crush two brave R.A.F. aces valiantly
fighting a desperate battle against almost insurmountable odds.

The future? Dave savagely closed his brain to the merest thought. It
wasn't the future. It was the present! This very second a lucky burst
from those guns yammering like sky wolves right behind the Albacore
might snuff out Freddy's life and his own. Might send them hurling
down in a ball of flame with the terrible secret of what was to happen
tomorrow locked in their brains forever.

"To the left, Dave! To the left and just ahead! There's the flat
valley. There's the A.V.G.s'. Base. Just a little bit longer, Dave.
Just a little bit longer, and we'll be there!"

Dave heard Freddy Farmer's screaming voice as a distant echo. He had
already spotted the small flat valley where nestled the little native
village of Pidang, and where the famous American Volunteer Group was
supposed to be located. But even as he stared at it hope seemed to die
within him. There was not the single sign of a plane, or a hangar on
the level floor between the rock studded mountains. Nothing but the
cluster of native huts that represented Pidang. Still there must be
something else there. There had to be the A.V.G. boys. There just had
to be!

Hardly conscious that he was doing so, Dave shouted aloud the words
over and over again. And he shoved the nose down to an even steeper
angle of dive in a desperate effort to gain an extra foot or so on the
gun snarling Nakajimas that were drawing closer and closer for a cold
meat kill. If he could only get down and land before they got close
enough, maybe Freddy and he could....

He never finished the rest of the thought. At that instant hissing
nickel jacketed lead sliced into the cockpit, and a white hot spear of
flame ran across the top of his left shoulder. Too late! The Japs had
caught up well within range. The next burst would be one that really
counted. But in that split second of time before the next burst left
the muzzles of Jap guns, Dave put every ounce of his flying skill
and daring into savage, furious action. Without so much as a yell
of warning to Freddy, he yanked the stick all the way back into his
belly and snapped the nose upward so fast that the fuselage seemed to
actually bend in the middle and groan in protest against the terrific
strain. But that aircraft was English built, and she stayed together.
Like a bolt of lightning the plane streaked upward on the first half
of a gigantic loop. But before Dave reached the top of the loop he
sent the Albacore corkscrewing over to a rightside up position. A half
roll off the up side of a loop that brought him out flying in the same
direction.

But for only the length of time it would take you to bat an eyelash.
Heaving the stick over and kicking rudder, Dave deliberately half
rolled again and went plunging down at the vertical. Not until that
instant did he release the air clamped in his lungs that seemed to have
been locked there for long, long minutes. And he did so with a wild,
roaring challenge at the cluster of four Nakajimas starting to zoom up
after him.

"Who gives air, you brown rats?" he bellowed. "You or us?"

To the credit of the Japs it must be said that they stuck it out for
perhaps one tenth of a second. Then in the face of the flying madman
hurtling straight down at them they broke and cut wildly off to the
side. One Jap, however, picked the wrong side. One of his own planes
was too close to permit room for the frantic maneuver. Two Nakajimas
crashed together, locked wings about each other, and exploded in a
great fountain of flame. In the nick of time Dave kicked rudder hard
and skidded out just barely enough to miss the mass of flaming debris
and plunge on down by.

"No guns, huh?" his echo roared back at him. "Brother! We don't need
guns!"

Curiosity fought with him to twist around and look back up at the
sky, but he held himself in an iron grip and kept right on plunging
downward. Two Japs were out of the picture, that was true. But two more
still remained. And to look back to see where they were would be only
wasting precious seconds. If they were close again, then that would be
that. Looking back up into their flame spitting guns would only do harm
and no good. It....

"We'll make it, Dave!" Freddy Farmer's joy sobbing voice came to his
ears. "We'll make it! You left the two other beggars fanning thin air.
They haven't even started down, yet. _We'll make it!_"

Dave didn't give a single sign that he had heard. He was too busy with
the diving plane. And the ground was rushing upward at terrific speed.
Bracing himself he eased up the nose a few degrees, and gently angled
around until he was headed toward the long side of the level floor of
the valley. He saw figures rush out into the open, but he had only
time for a quick glance, and could not tell whether they were natives
or not. Then suddenly he had the plane mushing forward not three feet
off the ground. Another moment and the wheels touched, and the Albacore
rolled forward to a full stop. Not until that moment did Dave hear the
bark of anti-aircraft guns. Not until that moment did he realize that
anti-aircraft batteries located in the jungle growth that bordered the
edge of the valley were hammering shrapnel up at two Jap pilots trying
to get up the nerve to come down and strafe the field. As a matter
of fact, even as he threw back his head and looked up he saw the two
Nakajimas wheel and go streaking off to the south.

He lowered his gaze to see suddenly the group of sun bronzed American
pilots at the side of his plane. One of them was tall and slightly
grey, and wore the rank of colonel on his sun bleached shirt. Dave took
one look at him, leaped to the ground, and rushed up to grab the man
by the arm. Like a man who expects to die in the next five seconds and
must get many words off his lips before he does, Dave babbled out the
story, all in practically one breath.

"So we've got to smash that hidden drome!" he finished. "Those two
Japs will give the alarm to Kashomia, and he may pull out with the
whole works for some other place before R.A.F. bombers can get up here.
Listen to me! I tell you we've got to do it ourselves. Your gang, and
Farmer, and me!"

The Colonel commanding the A.V.G. had continually blinked in amazement
as Dave poured out his story. But when Dave stopped talking the senior
officer's eye grew cautious, and he stared hard at the two youths.

"That's quite a story," he grunted. "Maybe it's true, but maybe it
isn't. You sound a little Yank, but how do I know, huh? And this
wouldn't be the first time those slimy Japs had tried to lure us into a
trap. About three hundred of their ships hidden down Raja way, you say?
Listen, Mister, that's a lot of ships. I...."

Something seemed to snap in Dave's brain, and all went red before his
eyes. He reached forward with his two hands, grabbed the Colonel by the
shoulders and shook him savagely.

"Listen, you dumb witted fathead!" he ranted. "I don't care what you
think I am, but what I told you is truth. _God's truth._ And by this
time tomorrow, if you don't do something about it, the whole world will
know that you shouldn't even be in charge of flying a kite. A Colonel,
huh? You don't seem to have the brains of a private in the rear rank.
For the love of God, believe me! But if you won't, you thick headed
ape, then for Heaven's sake loan Freddy and me some ammo, and we'll go
tackle it alone. Do you hear me?"

The Colonel had pushed Dave's hands free and had them pinned in his
own. There was fire in his eyes, but he was grinning from ear to ear.

"You're Yank, right enough!" he said. "Only a Yank would climb a
fellow's frame that way. Okay! We get going. There isn't a bomber
in the place. But we've got Curtiss P-Forties, and explosive, and
incendiary bullets, and.... Haul your crates out, gang! We're throwing
a party for those brown devils. And if there's all those crates there,
it's going to be some party. Come on! Shift it, you guys! _Everybody!_"

Just six minutes later by Dave's watch he was once more thundering
through the sky over Burma. But this time he wasn't in the pit of a
Fairey two seater Albacore. He was riding a lightning greased Curtiss
P-40. And just off his right wing was Freddy Farmer riding the same
kind of ship. Strung out behind were twenty-one pilots of the American
Volunteer Group; every one of them spoiling for a fight and cursing his
ship on to even greater speed.

Dave twisted his head around to look at them and his heart came near
the bursting point so filled was it with pride and joy. He still loved
the English boys of the R.A.F., and he always would, for he had lived
and died with them for over two years now. But.... But there were Yanks
back there, now. Fighting two fisted Yank eagles who didn't care how
many of the Axis foe they had to fight, just so long as they could get
into the fight.

"Yanks from the good old U.S.A.!" Dave whispered as he turned front.
"Gee! I wonder if I'll ever again get the thrill I'm getting now. Those
fellows are...."

He didn't finish. At that instant he saw the string of Jap fighters
that came darting out from the hidden drome tunnel just east of Raja.
They were all Nakajimas, and they started curving up and around the
instant they hit open air. Dave let out a war-whoop and fired a short
burst from his guns to attract the attention of the others. Then he
stuck his nose down and went thundering earthward toward the first of
those Nakajimas coming up to give battle. Two seconds later, just two
seconds later and the Japs had two Nakajimas less. Dave's guns and
Freddy's guns spoke at the same instant and two sons of Nippon went
sailing off to meet their illustrious ancestors in an awful, awful
hurry. And then, as though by magic, the whole sky over the hidden
drome at Raja became filled with twisting and turning man-made air
chariots of war. The heavens rocked and trembled with the chatter and
yammer of machine gun fire. And the air became a crazy pattern of
blazing Jap planes plunging down, and wavy ribbons of tracer smoke that
formed a lace curtain in the sky.

Yelling and shouting at the top of his voice, Dave belted and hauled
his ship all over the air. And when he wasn't pouring death into some
Jap plane, he was hurtling down on the jungle airdrome and raking it
from one end to the other with his explosive and incendiary bullets.
Perhaps bombers could have done the job sooner, but they couldn't
possibly have done it any more thoroughly. Jap after Jap tried to get
off to come up at them, but Dawson, and Farmer, and the boys of the
A.V.G. slammed them down into piles of raging flames almost before
their wheels had cleared.

And then suddenly, a blazing Jap plunging to earth, or a burst of
explosive, or incendiary bullets, found the fuel stores and bomb
stores of the hidden drome. The air quivered as a great sea of flame
came belching up out of the jungle floor. Then sound akin to that of
giants tearing off the top of the world closed in on human ears from
every side. Dave felt as though his head had been yanked clean off his
neck; as though invisible fists had reached down from, heaven to smash
sledge hammer blows against every square inch of his body. White fire
was in his chest, and his left arm hung numb and lifeless at his side.
He tried to cry out but he heard no sound from his lips. The roaring in
his brain increased, and a red haze shrouded everything before his eyes.

Seconds, minutes ... years dragged by. He knew that he was still flying
the Curtiss P-40. He knew that he was headed toward the north, and that
there were other P-40s all about him. He thought he saw Freddy Farmer's
anxious eyes staring across the air space that separated him from one
of the P-40s. But he couldn't tell for sure. He couldn't force his eyes
or his brain to function that well.

Then suddenly the A.V.G. field was below him. He had killed his
throttle and was gliding down toward it. He was leveling off and
mushing forward. The plane was sinking belly first, fast. It struck the
ground, and bounced high. It came down to strike again and bounce. And
then the gods slammed a door shut, and there was nothing but silence
and darkness all around....

When Dave next opened his eyes it was to find himself under the
blankets of an army cot. His chest was taped tight and wound around
and around with bandages. His head was also bandaged, and his left arm
was in a sling. But his brain was crystal clear, and the only pain he
felt was a dull ache in his chest. He stared upward at rough ceiling
beams made out of a kind of wood he had never seen before. Sort of
yellowish-green in color. Then he saw Freddy Farmer and the A.V.G.
Colonel standing at the right side of the cot.

"Just as I told you, Colonel Davis," Freddy Farmer's lips were saying.
"Too tough to get seriously injured, this lad. Particularly around the
head. Chances are he's been awake for hours, but has kept his eyes
closed hoping we'll go away. Always was the one to sleep late. Quite!
Lazy, shiftless. You know the type. Oh, greetings, Dave, old thing! You
awake?"

Dave glared, then looked at the Colonel.

"Brush that thing out of here, then tell me what's happened, will you,
sir?" Dave said. "I guess I crashed, didn't I? But we really finished
off those Japs, didn't we? And.... Hey! It's morning! And we went after
them just before night. Have I...?"

"Hold everything, Dawson!" Colonel Davis interrupted with a smile. "We
wiped out that nest of Japs two days ago. But you didn't crash. You
just passed out cold. And you're my sweetheart for bringing that ship
down okay. We need every one we have. And, by the by, we didn't lose
a plane on that little job. The Jap devils try hard, but they just
haven't got the stuff."

"Two days ago?" Dave mumbled as though he couldn't believe what he had
heard. "And Singapore?"

"Is still there, Dave," Freddy spoke up. "And by the by, I had a brain
wave and Bostworth was able to nab that mysterious spy at Singapore
R.A.F. Base. I remembered that Serrangi said ... 'From the very hangars
of R.A.F. Base my friend will push the plunger that will....' And he
didn't continue. Remember? So after that Jap show ... soon's I saw you
had only a couple of scratches ... I got on the radio to Bostworth.
He posted triple hangar guards and searched the hangars. Found the
detonator, and all the wires leading to buried H.E. Disconnected them
all and waited. Next day a young pilot officer was caught digging up
the detonator from its hiding place. Been at Singapore eighteen months,
mind you. Had even trained in England. Clever blighter, but he's
finished being clever."

"And you're kind of clever, too," Dave grinned. "But in a different
way. But tell me, have the Japs really gone to war, yet?"

A shadow passed over Freddy Farmer's face. He half turned and looked at
Colonel Davis.

"Yes," the A.V.G. commander said quietly. "The very next morning they
took several sneak punches at the civilized world. And one of the
places was Hawaii, Dawson. An air raid on Pearl Harbor. They did plenty
damage, but we'll weather it. But it's really a world war, now. Uncle
Sam's in it, now, Dawson."

Dave didn't say anything for a long moment. He stared off into space,
as though he were looking eastward across the thousands of miles of
land and water to the country of his birth.

"So it's come!" he said softly. "The U.S. is in it at last? Well....
Well, Uncle Sam did it once, and he can do it again, and how!"


THE END



_A Page from_ DAVE DAWSON WITH THE PACIFIC FLEET


The U.S. Navy dive bomber seemed to half stop and lurch crazily to the
side as the furious blast of fire from the enemy cruiser's guns crashed
into it. Dave Dawson had the feeling that he had been slapped in the
face with a barn door. Everything turned into spinning red light before
his eyes. He knew that he was lashed fast to the seat, that both hands
gripped the controls with fingers of steel. But he wasn't sure.

He wasn't sure of anything, any more. Was Freddy Farmer still with him?
Was the plane still with him? Or had the withering blast of gun fire
from the cruiser below sent him sailing off into thin air and death?

He mustn't die! Not now! The suicide mission had only begun. The aerial
torpedo was still in its rack under the Grumman's belly. Or was it? Had
the cruiser's gun fire touched it off ... and he and Freddy had failed?

"Freddy! Freddy Farmer! Are you with me, fellow? Are you still there,
pal?"

Was that his own voice he heard? That faint little squeak that came
back to his ears? If only he could see something besides the dancing
balls of red fire. If only he could get his muscles to





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