Dave Dawson at Casablanca
by Robert Sydney Bowen
CHAPTER ONE. The Man in Gray
Just in Case
Eagles Can Take
Death Takes Wing
CHAPTER ONE. The Man in Gray
The four-faced clock over the information booth on the Upper Level
of the Grand Central Station in New York City showed exactly
twenty-five minutes after three. Dave Dawson paused in his restless
pacing up and down to look at it for the hundredth time in the last
half hour. He glared at it, sighed heavily, and made noises deep in his
Where is that Freddy Farmer guy, anyway? he grated to himself.
For half an hour I've been pounding shoe leather here waiting for him.
Darned if he isn't worse than a woman, not being at a place on time.
But he's probably lost. And if he is, he can stay lost for all I care.
With a sharp nod for emphasis, he walked over to the newsstand and
bought a bar of candy. The Union News lad back of the counter glanced
at the row of decoration ribbons under Dawson's wings, and gave him a
smile and the kind of look that said he'd like to hear about some of
Dawson's experiences. Dave ignored the look, however, and turned away.
He didn't want to talk about the war. In fact, he didn't even want to
think about it. Freddy and he were enjoying a much-deserved leave, and
they still had four days to go. And until those four days had come and
gone, the war could be on another world as far as he was concerned.
Right! The heck with it for four more days!
For the hundred-and-first time Dawson looked at the
information-booth clock. The hands said twenty-seven minutes of four
now, and Dave made noises in his throat once again. He pulled two
hockey-game tickets out of his tunic pocket and looked at them.
For two cents I'd leave him flat and get somebody else to go with
me! he muttered. I should have drawn the bum a map so he could use it
to get over here from Times Square. He
He let the rest trail off as he saw Freddy Farmer hurrying toward
him from the direction of the IRT shuttle train to Times Square. He
fixed the English-born air ace with a disgusted eye and watched him
approach. Freddy came up to him all smiles and slightly flushed.
Waiting for somebody, old thing? he greeted Dave.
No! Dawson snapped. And my mother taught me never to speak to
strangers. So scram, before I call a cop.
Speaking of your New York cops, Freddy Farmer chuckled, I
wouldn't be here now, if it hadn't been for a bobby in the Bronx.
Bronx? Dawson exploded. What the heck were you doing up there?
This morning you said you were going to hear Benny Goodman's band over
at the Paramount Theatre.
And so I did, Freddy replied with a nod. And it was absolutely
Topping, he says! Dawson snorted. You should show your passport
when you use words like that. You mean keen, or in the groove, or on
the beam, or strictly the nuts. But what about the Bronx? Did Goodman
lead a parade?
If you'll be so kind as to shut that big mouth of yours, I'll
explain! Freddy snapped. After the show I had something to eat,
As if I couldn't guess that! Dawson grunted. And so?
And so when I came out of the restaurant it was snowing, the
English youth said. And
Snowing, in January? Dawson mock-gasped and widened his
eyes. Well, what do you know about that? So you just stood there and
watched it snowing in January, of all times, while I cooled my heels
here waiting for you!
Do you want to listen, or would you rather give that tongue of
yours exercise? Freddy Farmer bit off.
Okay, okay, but make it good! Dawson sighed. I've got two tickets
for the Ranger-Chicago Hawks hockey game tonight. Make your story good,
or somebody else goes with me!
What? Freddy cried. You've gotGood grief! Now we've got four!
Four what? Dawson demanded. Or am I supposed to guess?
Four tickets to the hockey game, Freddy Farmer said, and produced
two from his own pocket. I couldn't remember who was to get the
tickets. So after I came out of the restaurant, I walked up to Madison
Square Garden and got two tickets just to be sure. AndWhat's the
matter, Dave? You suddenly sick, or something?
The last was because Dawson had made a face, groaned, and clapped
one hand to his forehead. With the other he reached out and grabbed
Freddy's hand that held the hockey-game tickets, and jerked it up until
the tickets were about an inch from the end of the English youth's
Boy, are you something! he groaned. Take a look, Bright Eyes!
Take a good look! You went to the wrong window. Those tickets are for
the Ranger-Boston Bruin game next Wednesday!
Oh, good grief, no! Freddy cried. I didn't know there was any
special window. I just went to one and asked the chap for two good
tickets to the next game. And he gave me these. I'll take them back
No, you won't, sweetheart! Dawson interrupted, and shook his head.
You'll just be out that dough, and maybe it will teach you to use your
head next time. We'll give the tickets to the first two soldiers we
meet. But let's get back to the Bronx. Did the ticket fellow send you
No, it was one of your blasted tube trains! Freddy Farmer growled.
I asked the chap what tube I should take to get to Grand Central. He
didn't understand me until I remembered that you call the tube
the subway. So
You mean you English guys call the subway the tube, Dawson
cut in again. How many times have I got to tell you that when in Rome
shoot Roman candles! So you went to the subway, and? Now what?
Freddy Farmer didn't reply. He stood staring at something behind
Dawson. Dave turned impulsively, but all he saw was a lot of people
hurrying toward their respective destinations. He turned back and
looked at Freddy.
Okay, come up for air! he growled. What's eating you, anyway?
That chap over there by the ticket window, the English-born air
ace finally said. The chap in gray. I've seen him half-a-dozen times
So what? Dawson grunted. It's a free country and a small world.
What of it?
Nothing, except that the first time was in the lobby of the hotel
as you and I were leaving, Freddy said. And the next time he was
three seats away from me in the Paramount. And the next time was in the
restaurant; then at Madison Square Garden; and up in the Bronx, too.
No kidding? Dawson echoed, half expecting his pal to pull some
kind of a gag.
No kidding at all, Freddy replied promptly. I'm certain that the
chap has been following me around.
Could be, Dawson murmured, and casually turned around so that he
could get a look at the man in gray. Frankly, though, you do
look like a guy with itchy fingers, and we've got a lot of expensive
things in this town. He's probably a plain-clothes detective from
Then I'm definitely in a mess now! Freddy Farmer snapped right
back at him. I'm sure it's a crime in any country to be caught talking
to the likes of you! See him, Dave?
Yeah, Dawson grunted, turning back. A nice-looking guy. And he
didn't get that overcoat with cigarette coupons. We'll check up in a
couple of minutes and see if he continues to trail you. Right now,
though, I can hardly wait. What about the Bronx, anyway?
I took the wrong tube train, that's all, Freddy said. And I went
right to the end of the line, which was in the Bronx, but not a single
station said Grand Central. I got off and asked a bobby how to get
there. He was a very fine chap, and straightened me out. But, good
grief, I've certainly seen a lot of New York today!
Well, don't ever take a subway to Brooklyn! Dawson advised. You
wouldn't be back for a week. What shall we do now? Where'll we go, I
mean. Want to take a subway ride?
Deliver me! Freddy Farmer groaned. Definitely, no! Personally,
I'm hungry. Let's go find a nice restaurant and fuel up, what?
Okay, Dawson sighed. I suppose you've got to have a nine-course
snack to keep you from fainting until supper. Okay. But let's go to the
dining room in the Biltmore Hotel next door. If your friend in gray
follows you there, we'll know he's up to something. Ten to one, though,
you've been having a pipe dream.
Perhaps, Freddy Farmer admitted as he dropped into step with
Dawson. But that's definitely the same chap I've been seeing all day
long. I wonder why the blighter is following me around? No, no,
my little man! Just keep your opinion to yourself. II say, wait a
Freddy Farmer left Dawson's side and went over to two Yank soldiers
who were obviously going no place, but just taking in the sights. They
saluted him as he came up and stopped in front of them.
I say, you two on leave, what? he asked with a grin.
Yes, sir, they replied together, and gave him a funny look.
Will you be in town come next Wednesday? Freddy asked again.
Yes, sir, they replied in the same breath.
Good! Freddy beamed, and held out the hockey tickets. Use these,
if you like. And half a minute! Here, buy yourselves some little thing,
what? And good luck.
Freddy Farmer added two one-dollar bills to the hockey tickets and
walked away. The two soldiers gaped down at the two tickets and the two
What's the matter with that guy; is he touched? one of them
mumbled. And did you hear him, Fuzzy? He didn't even speak English!
Who cares? Fuzzy asked as he came out of his trance. Two
four-buck-forty hockey tickets, and two bucks in cash! Who cares if the
guy is touched? He's okay by me!
Well, well! Dawson chuckled when Freddy joined him. Darned if the
kid didn't at that! And even let go of two bucks.
All I had on me, Freddy said with a smile. So that makes you the
one to pay for our meal, see?
Oh, yeah? Dawson jeered. Well, don't look right now, but standing
in your shoes is a guy who's heading for a lot of dish washing in the
CHAPTER TWO. Just in Case
Well? Freddy Farmer demanded as he leaned across the dining table
toward Dawson. Did I have a pipe dream, or not? Did you see who just
came in and sat down?
Yeah, Dawson grunted, and buttered a roll. Your pal in gray. I
wonder what's the big idea?
So do I! Freddy echoed instantly. And I've half a mind to go over
right now and ask him. The beggar is beginning to give me the creeps.
He doesn't look foreign, though.
Hey, come out of your spin, pal! Dawson chuckled. What do you
think this is, Gestapo stuff?
Freddy Farmer looked at Dawson and smiled slowly.
I wouldn't know, old thing, he said. You see, this isn't England,
so I wouldn't know for sure what kind of funny business was
Ouch! Dawson yipped softly, and flung up an arm in front of his
face. Right in the eye, that time. You're improving each day with your
snappy come-back, my young friend. Keep it up, and you'll be the life
of the party some day. Well, I guess that's all the fodder I want right
now. How's for a stroll around in the beautiful January snow, huh? But
it's probably slush by now, andHey! I almost forgot! You think I'm
paying for your meal, don't you? Well
Of course not! Freddy Farmer cut in quickly. And just to show my
heart's in the right place, I'll even pay for both of us.
I wonder if there's a doctor in the house? Dawson murmured, and
stared hard at the English youth. Sure you feel all right, Freddy?
Never felt better, the other replied. Wait just a moment, will
you, old thing? I'll be right back.
Before Dawson could ask questions, Freddy got up from his chair and
walked quickly across the dining room and down the broad flight of
carpeted steps to the lobby. Dawson blinked, then took a sip of water,
and glanced over at the man in gray. The mysterious stranger was
looking toward the lobby, and was in the act of pushing himself up out
of his chair. He seemed to change his mind, however. He shot a quick
look over Dawson's way, then settled back in his chair and went to work
on a piece of pie the waiter had placed in front of him.
That bird sure is plenty interested in Freddy, Dawson muttered to
himself, and frowned. I wonder what the heck's cooking around here,
He played with that thought for two or three minutes, but was unable
to get any place. And then as he happened to glance toward the
dining-room lobby entrance, he saw Freddy Farmer standing there and
beckoning to him urgently. Dawson raised questioning eyebrows, took a
look toward the man in gray, got up from his chair, and started to
leave the table. He had taken but two steps when the waiter appeared at
The check, Captain, the waiter said politely.
Oh, yeah, Dawson murmured absently, and glanced at the total. He
pulled some money from his pocket and gave it to the waiter. There you
are, he murmured again, and hurried over to the lobby entrance to the
dining room where Freddy was waiting.
The English-born air ace greeted him with a grin like a Cheshire
And let that be a lesson to you, my good fellow, Freddy said with
an emphatic nod of his head.
Says which? Dawson grunted, and gave him a blank look.
Freddy Farmer patted his stomach and licked his lips.
A delicious meal, quite! he breathed. I hope you gave the waiter
a decent tip. But, knowing you, I doubt it.
Dawson started violently, and his jaw dropped.
Well, you little I-don't-know-what! he eventually exploded. Stuck
me for the meal, didn't you? I knew darn well you must have had
something in mind when you gave your last two bucks to those soldiers.
You play the big-hearted big shot to them, and I get stuck for
your two bucks' worth of food!
Oh, I wouldn't say that, Freddy Farmer chuckled. Just say it's
your share in the lease-lend agreement between America and England.
I'll pay you back some day, too.
Yeah! Dawson sneered. When I'm a hundred and six and have lost
all my teeth. When I can eat only soup instead of a thick steak like I
just bought for you. But you just wait, my little bowlegged pet!
I'llOh-oh! The man in gray, eh? Dawson added the last because of the
flinty look that had suddenly leaped into Farmer's eyes.
Quite! Freddy murmured. And I'm jolly well sick of this
hide-and-seek business. I'm going to find out what the blighter's up
to. I detest shadows, excepting my own.
With a grim nod Freddy Farmer stepped past Dawson and walked over
toward the man in gray who was just leaving the dining room. Dawson
impulsively swung around and followed him. The man in gray acted as
though he did not see Freddy, but the English youth stopped in front of
him, barring his way.
Have you been wishing to speak to me, sir? Freddy asked quietly.
Is that why you've been following me all over town all day?
The man in gray looked blank for a moment. Then he shrugged and gave
Freddy a friendly smile.
It has been rather obvious, hasn't it, Captain Farmer? he
said as both Freddy and Dawson stared at him, dumbfounded. But you
went to a lot of places where I couldn't help but show myself. I guess
you've had enough experience to guess when you're being trailed. The
name is Carter, Captain.
As the man in gray introduced himself, he slipped something out of
his pocket and held it cupped in his hand so both youths could see it.
They took a good look at the gold F.B.I. badge and quickly raised their
eyes to the man's face.
The F.B.I. no less! Dawson breathed. What's up? Is Farmer wanted
by the F.B.I.I hope?
The man chuckled and shook his head.
No, he said. Neither of you are, in fact. The two of us just had
orders to keep an eye on you both.
'Two of us'? Dave echoed sharply. You mean He let the
rest go as the F.B.I. agent nodded.
That's right, Captain Dawson, he said quietly, and made a faint
gesture toward the other side of the lobby. My partner has been
looking after you, while I tried to keep up with Captain Farmer here.
If Captain Farmer hadn't returned to the dining room, I'd have taken on
the job of sticking with you, and my partner would have tackled Captain
Farmer. Frankly, I would have enjoyed the change. But now
The F.B.I. agent grinned and shrugged.
But now that the cat's out of the bag, he said, suppose we stop
playing cops and robbers and make it a foursome? My partner got tickets
right behind your seats for the hockey game tonight. We're also staying
at your hotel. Or would you rather be alone? Now don't be afraid that
you'll hurt my feelings. I'll understand. After all, a couple of
fellows on leave have their rights, you know.
Yeah, sure, of course, Dawson mumbled absently, not quite sure if
he was in the middle of a dream or not. Sure, sure it's okay by Freddy
and me. Butbut look, sir. I mean, what's all the big idea? Why should
the F.B.I. want to follow us around? I don't get it.
To be perfectly frank, neither do I, Agent Carter made the amazing
reply. All I know is that two days ago we were given orders to come up
from Washington, register at your hotel, and keep an eye on you two.
But for what? Freddy Farmer asked. You mean you were to guard us
from harm, or some such silly rot?
I wouldn't exactly call it silly rot, Captain, the F.B.I. man said
gravely. After all, you two are marked men, in a way. I mean by that,
you've been thorns in the side of Axis Intelligence more than once
since this Second World War started. Not that personal revenge by enemy
agents in this country is to be expected. Yet, on the other hand,
there's no sense in regarding it as impossible.
Well, I'll be darned! Dawson gulped. But that's just plain
screwy. Why, I can name several dozen famous soldiers in this war that
the Axis would love to get a million times more than they'd want to get
us. Do you mean that everybody who's got in a few pokes at the Axis has
an F.B.I. escort when he goes on leave?
Hardly, Agent Carter said with a smile. Let's say that you two
happen to be special cases. Why, you can search me. Lots of times we're
given orders, and we have no idea what's behind them. Let's go over and
meet my partner. Or is my suggestion of a moment ago out?
No, Dawson replied. I told you it was okay by us. Besides, maybe
your partner can tell us things.
If he can, he won't, Agent Carter said. You can count on that,
I'm afraid. His name is Hickson, and it so happens that he's a rabid
Ranger fan. He comes from this town. Let's go over.
Still not quite sure that he wasn't being made the goat of some
crazy gag, Dawson walked with Agent Carter and Freddy Farmer across the
lobby to where a thin, almost sickly-looking man of uncertain years was
seated in a chair reading a newspaper. He put down his paper and smiled
as the trio approached. It was then Dawson had a vague feeling he had
seen that thin face somewhere quite recently. Then as Agent Carter made
the introductions, it came to Dawson. Agent Hickson had been the man
next in line behind him when he had bought tickets for the hockey game.
As he shook hands and mumbled some pleasantry, Dave realized he had
seen that thin face other places, too, during the day.
Did I give you as much trouble, Agent Hickson, he asked, as
Farmer seems to have given Agent Carter?
No, Captain, the other replied with a twinkle in his eye. And
don't ever go in for crime. You'd be a cinch.
With those big flat feet, it would be obvious! Freddy Farmer
chuckled, as the red climbed into Dawson's face.
Okay, okay! Dave growled and grinned at the same time. I'm not
like you, with things on your conscience! So naturally I wouldn't even
give it a thought that anybody was following me. But look, Agent
Hickson, can you add anything to what Agent Carter has told us? Which
was absolutely nothing.
I'm afraid I can't, Captain. Hickson smiled, and shook his head.
Carter and I are just a couple of slaves who do what we're told and
ask no questions.
But you do know something, only you won't tell us, what?
Freddy Farmer pressed the issue.
The F.B.I. man shook his head again and made a little cross mark
over his heart.
I honestly don't know a thing, he said, except that I like this
particular job. I'm from New York, you know. And I'm a hockey fan, in
case Carter hasn't told you.
He has, Dawson grinned, and glanced at his wrist watch. And I
sort of go for the game, myself. It's hours, though, before game time.
Anybody have any suggestions what to do until then? Listen, Freddy!
Eating is strictly out, at least for a couple of hours!
You don't have to shout, old thing; I hear you, the English youth
replied. Yes, I have a suggestion. I've been meaning to see that
United Nations display they have at Radio City. What say we go back to
the hotel and clean up a bit? These blasted American shoes I bought
yesterday are killing me.
Dawson started to shake his head, but instantly checked the
movement. A gleam leaped into his eyes.
Fair enough, he said. I could do with a clean shirt myself. Come
on. We'll take a cab.
During the cab ride across town to the hotel, they talked of this
and that and nothing in particular. When the cab pulled up in front of
the hotel, Dawson opened the door, let the two F.B.I. men get out ahead
of him, and got out quickly himself, leaving Freddy Farmer the last to
alight. Without so much as a look over his shoulder, Dawson linked arms
with the two F.B.I. men and hurried them up the steps into the hotel.
Dave! he heard Freddy Farmer call out. Oh, I say, Dave!
The two F.B.I. men wanted to stop, but Dawson practically pushed
them through the doors.
It's okay, he chuckled. Just his turn to be left holding the bag.
He'll be right in. You'll see.
That was exactly the case. A moment later Freddy came hurrying
inside, flush-faced, with a very hard-eyed taxicab driver right at his
I say, Dave! the English youth panted. You know I haven't a bean
on me. Let me have
We're all broke! Dawson said coldly. You were last out, anyway.
Go over to the desk, borrow the fare, and have it put on your bill.
I'll see if there's any mail for us. Meet you upstairs in our room.
Freddy Farmer glared and pursed his lips as though he were striving
to hold back the blistering words that rose in his throat.
The cab driver looked at him and scowled darkly. How's about it,
General? he growled. I can't keep my hack out front all afternoon!
Oh yes, quite, Freddy said. Come along!
After giving a look that should have raised third-degree burns on
the Yank pilot's face, Freddy went over to the lobby desk and spoke to
the clerk. Bursting with inner laughter, Dawson watched Freddy's face
grow redder and redder as the desk clerk gave him the fishy eye. Then
the clerk went into the manager's office. He came right out, though,
yanked open a desk drawer, and handed a bill to Freddy.
Now I have got to watch my step, and how! Dawson chuckled,
and walked over to the mail window.
There was something in the box. It was a telegram addressed to them
both. Dave ripped it open and was reading the message just as Freddy
Farmer came over. The wire read:
Take seven P.M. plane for Washington La Guardia Airport.
office War Department on arrival.
And so what? Dave asked, looking at Freddy Farmer.
So leave it over, I fancy, the English youth murmured with a
frown. I wonder what now?
You do the guessing; I'm stumped, Dawson said, glancing up quickly
as Agents Carter and Hickson came over.
There was a telegram in Agent Carter's hand. Agent Hickson looked as
though he had just lost his last friend.
So we all take an airplane ride instead, eh? Agent Carter said,
and nodded at the wire in Dawson's hand.
You too? Dave questioned.
Right, Agent Carter replied. There are four reservations waiting
for us at La Guardia.
Wouldn't you know! Agent Hickson groaned and shook his head sadly.
Wouldn't you know I was nuts to think I could mix pleasure with
CHAPTER THREE. Silent Lips
Well, I guess this is the parting of the ways, Captain, Agent
Carter of the F.B.I. said as the taxicab rolled to a stop on front of a
War Department Building in Washington. Hickson and I will keep the cab
for the ride over to the Bureau. Sorry we all missed an evening in New
York together, but there'll come another day, I hope. Best of luck, you
two. It's been nice knowing you.
Same thing, the other way around, sir, Dawson said as he shook
hands and climbed out of the cab. And thanks for the protectionor
whatever it was supposed to be.
Agent Carter laughed and raised a protesting hand.
Now let's not go into that again! he said. The answer is still
that I don't know. Maybe Colonel Welsh will tell you. We can't, because
we simply don't know. What's the matter, Captain Farmer?
Freddy was just straightening up after sticking his head back in
through the cab door opening. He shrugged and grinned.
Just looking to see if you had your fingers crossed, sir, while you
said that, he replied. But I see you didn't, and so that's that.
Well, cheerio, and good hunting, and all that sort of thing. Sorry I
didn't speak to you sooner.
That's the kind of tough break we get in our kind of job, Agent
Carter said, and made a flip wave with his hand. So long, until we
And let's hope that'll be soon! Dawson called out as the cab
The two air aces stood on the curb until the taxi turned the corner
toward Pennsylvania Avenue and was lost to view. Then they impulsively
turned and looked at each other.
Swell fellows, those two, Dawson said. Wish we could have had
more time together. I've always wanted to ask a real honest-to-goodness
F.B.I. man a few questions.
Then those two will never know how lucky they are, Freddy Farmer
came right back. But speaking of questions
Check, and double-check! Dawson echoed, and started across the
sidewalk to the main entrance of the War Department Building. The
sooner we ask them, the sooner we may get an idea as to what the
heck is going on.
The door guard stopped them and requested identification papers.
They complied by producing their leave papers and the wire from Colonel
Welsh. The guard referred to a book on his table desk, and nodded.
Third floor, Captain, he said, and gave them each a building pass
that had to be turned in when they left. Room Three Twenty-Nine.
The two youths nodded, returned the guard's salute, and headed for
the stairway. The door of Room 329 was just like all the other doors on
that floor except that it had Colonel Welsh, Private painted on the
glass. Dawson rapped his knuckles on the glass, and immediately
received the summons to enter. Colonel Welsh, Chief of U. S. Armed
Forces Intelligence, was seated behind a huge desk that seemed to take
up most of the office. He was practically hidden behind a mass of
papers, bound reports, and such, piled up all over the desk top.
He glanced up, smiled, pushed back his chair, and rose to come
around the end of the desk.
Welcome to Washington again, you two, he said, and shook hands. A
nice flight down?
Fine, sir, Dawson replied. We had a couple of swell air
companions, too. You in charge of the F.B.I. now, Colonel?
F.B.I.? Me? Colonel Welsh echoed. Hardly! Not as long as J. Edgar
Hoover continues to run it so perfectly. But what do you mean?
Dawson stared hard at the senior officer, and then gave a little
Oh, so it's like that, eh? he murmured. I thought that maybe you
might have had something to do with the two F.B.I. agents who trailed
Freddy and me all over New York. I suppose you didn't?
Colonel Welsh didn't reply at once. He motioned them to chairs and
then reseated himself at his desk.
No, not directly, he said in reply to Dawson's question. But of
course I knew all about it. So you spotted them, eh?
Freddy did, Dawson replied. I didn't, because I have a
clear conscience. Weor Freddy, I meancalled the turn on one of
them. He 'fessed up and introduced us to his partner. Naturally, we
asked questions, but they didn't, or wouldn't, admit they knew what it
was all about.
If you'll only explain, sir, Freddy Farmer chimed in, maybe I'll
be able to sleep tonight.
Of course I'll explain, Farmer, the Colonel said with a smile. As
for sleeping tonight, I wouldn't count on it, if I were you. Those
F.B.I. men were following you around simply to see if anybody else
was following you around, that's all.
That's all? Dawson echoed. Who else would be following us
around? And why, for cat's sake? Don't tell me, Colonel, that you
really believe some Axis agent might try to get in a bit of personal
revenge just because Freddy and I have been lucky on a couple of
things! Why, that's
No, that wasn't the idea, the Chief of Intelligence interrupted
quietly. Though I have had that fear more than once. Your being lucky
a couple of times, as you so wrongly call it, was most disheartening to
certain Japs and certain Nazis, who have long memories. But this recent
F.B.I. business was a bit different. I'm not going to give you details,
because I'm pledged to utmost secrecy. So don't waste breath asking
questions. This much, though, I can tell you. A list of names, compiled
by the War Department, was recently turned over to the F.B.I. Your
names were on that list, and you've been watched over by F.B.I. men
ever since. The reason, as I said, was to see if anybody was following
You mean, sir Dawson frowned and hesitated. You meanbecause
if they were, it would indicate that the mysterious list of names
wasn't as secret as it was supposed to be? That it, sir?
That's it exactly, Dawson, the Colonel said. Nice work to have
figured that out, too. That's rightthat list is most secret. It has
the President's approval, the Secret Service's approval, as well as the
okay of the Army, Navy, and Air Forces. It is most secret, and it was
the F.B.I.'s job to make absolutely sure by maintaining a constant
check on every man on that list. Now does that satisfy you?
No, sir, Dawson said with a grin. Then with a shrug: But you said
something about not wasting breath asking for details. However, I could
do with a hint, if that's in order.
It isn't, the Colonel told him instantly. For once it's my job to
assign you to a certain mission without the right to tell you a thing
about it. You'll learn soon enough, and when you do, you'll realize why
I have to keep my lips silent. This I can and will tell you, though.
It'll be a most pleasant mission, and you'll both get a tremendous
thrill out of it.
Well, that's something, anyway, Dawson said. I'm all for it,
whatever it is.
Quite, Freddy Farmer echoed. Then, with an almost sly look at the
Colonel, he asked, A mission in this country, sir?
A mission that will take in several countries, Farmer, the
Intelligence Chief replied. And that is the very last bit of
information I'm going to give you. Now just excuse me a couple of
minutes while I tend to some of this stuff. Then we'll get along out to
Bolling Field, sir? Dave cried, and leaned forward.
For all the good it did him, he might just as well have yelled at
the man in the moon. Colonel Welsh seemed to forget that either Dawson
or Farmer existed as he gave all his attention to the paper work on his
It was almost ten minutes later when he signed his name to the last
of the papers, collected them, and slipped them into one of the desk
drawers which he locked with one of many keys he took from his pocket.
Sorry it took so long, boys, he said, and reached for his service
cap. All done now, though. So let's go.
The colonel led the way outside, locked his office door, and touched
Dawson on the arm as the Yank air ace started along the corridor toward
the main stairway.
No, not that way, Dawson, he said, and pointed a finger the other
way. We're still not taking any chances. Follow me, you two.
Dawson and Farmer did just that. They came out into the Washington
night by a small rear door on the ground floor of the War Department
Building. There was no guard there, and Colonel Welsh used another key
from his bunch to unlock the door. From the door they followed him
through a shadow-filled alley, down another one that crossed the first
at right angles, and finally out onto a narrow, poorly lighted street,
where a car was parked in the deep shadows of some overhanging tree
Jump in, you two, Colonel Welsh said, and opened the door. I
think we can all sit in front. I'll be your pilot this time. But on
four rubber tires, instead of wings.
What about our building passes, sir? Freddy Farmer asked. Won't
I'll take care of that, the colonel said. You can explain to him,
if you want, when you come back.
Come back from where, sir? Dawson asked before he could choke off
From a lot of places, Dawson, Colonel Welsh said with a chuckle.
From a lot of places. Now, hop in, and enjoy the ride.
CHAPTER FOUR. Orders for Eagles
The usually active, buzzing Bolling Field was shrouded in darkness
and looked almost completely deserted as Colonel Welsh wheeled the car
up toward the main gates. When he came within twenty yards of those
gates, however, there was instant proof that not everybody was asleep.
Two small-sized searchlight beams cut the darkness and focused square
on the moving car. Dawson, from past experience, knew that up in the
little towers that housed the searchlights were a couple of machine
guns that were also trained dead on the car. In addition, the captain
on duty and two armed guards suddenly appeared and closed in on the car
in nothing flat. And as if the twin searchlight beams were not enough,
the captain snapped on a flashlight and played it straight into Colonel
Welsh's face, then into Dawson's, and then into Freddy Farmer's. Just
to make sure, the captain turned the light on the colonel's face once
more, and then snapped it out.
Your pass, please, sir, he said quietly.
The colonel produced it, and the captain was completely satisfied.
He stepped back, saluted, and gave an order. As the heavy gates swung
open, Colonel Welsh slipped the car into gear and rolled on through.
Looking back, Dawson noted that the guns of the guards, and the
searchlight beams, too, followed the car well inside the field. The
idea seemed silly to him for a moment. Then he realized that it would
be quite easy for somebody who wasn't wanted to hook a ride on the rear
bumper, and thus get inside where he didn't belong.
Yes, sir! he murmured as he turned front again. This is one place
that would stop even Superman cold.
I hope that's true, and I believe it is, Colonel Welsh stated.
Dawson turned his head and glanced sharply at the Intelligence
Chief. An undernote in the officer's voice had a queer ring. Before he
could ask questions, however, Colonel Welsh turned the car in through
the wide-open doors of one of the hangars, braked it to a stop just
inside, and switched off the engine. A single rafter-light threw a pale
glow about the interior, and in one sweeping glance Dave saw that the
hangar was empty of planes except for a single Army-Air-Forces, Wright
Cyclone-powered, Vultee V-12C, attack bomber. A couple of mechanics and
a technical sergeant were standing by the wing. They came over to the
car at once, and gave the colonel a snappy salute.
All set and ready, as you ordered, sir, the technical sergeant
Colonel Welsh climbed out of the car, and nodded.
Very good, Sergeant, he said. Roll her out and start her up, will
you? We're going to use Captain Billings' office for a few minutes. If
anybody happens to wander in, no matter who, you have my authority to
send him right along on his way.
Right, sir, the technical sergeant answered, and grinned as though
he could name two or three high rankers he would just love to toss out
on their ears, now that he had the permission to do so.
However, he didn't mention that little item. Instead, he snapped
orders to the two mechanics, and all three of them began rolling the
attack bomber out onto the hangar apron. Meanwhile Colonel Welsh led
Dawson and Farmer into Captain Billings' office in a rear corner of the
hangar. He snapped on the light, closed the door, waved them to a
couple of chairs, and sat down at a desk. He drew six envelopes from an
inside pocket of his tunic. Each envelope was heavily sealed with wax,
and each was made of a peculiar-looking paper. At first glance it
struck Dawson that it was oil paper, or shark's skin. At any rate, he
had a sudden thought that each envelope was absolutely waterproof.
The colonel placed them in a pile on the desk in front of him, and
then rested a hand on top of the pile, almost as though he expected a
non-existent wind or an invisible force to snatch them away.
You two are headed for Natal, Brazil, he began, speaking quietly.
With stops on the way at Miami, Puerto Rico, San Fernando in British
Trinidad, Paramaribo in Dutch Guiana, Belem in Brazil, and Natal. You
will land on the government airport at each of those points.
Officially, you are making a survey flight for the Army Air Transport
Command. At Miami and Puerto Rico you will contact the American
commanding officer, and deliver to him in the presence of no one
else the envelope that bears his name. On the authority of a letter
which I shall give you to take along, you are to instruct him to guard
his envelope with his life, and not to open it until the
sixteenth of this month. At San Fernando, Paramaribo, Belem, and Natal,
of course you will contact the officer in command of the American
staff, and not the commanding officer of the airport.
The colonel paused for a moment as though permitting time for his
instructions to sink in. Then he tapped the pile of heavily sealed,
waterproof envelopes with his fingers.
These contain information on perhaps the most important secret of
this war! he continued, speaking in a grave tone. The Axis would
gladly give up half a dozen divisions of troops for the possession of
any one of these envelopes. And that doesn't even begin to describe how
important they are. I am the only man in the world who knows of the
flight you two are to begin in a few minutes. At least, I pray to God
that I'm the only one. However, in view of the fact that absolutely
nothing is sure in this war, I must give you this order: Under
no circumstances, not even under the threat of the most horrible kind
of death, is either of you to permit a single one of these letters to
get into the hands of anybody but the American officer whose name is
typed on the front of each envelope. Do I make myself clear?
Yes, sir, Dawson said with a nod.
Definitely, sir, Freddy Farmer echoed.
And I'm sure you do, the colonel said. I can't help, though, but
stress that point. Don't let any of these envelopes out of your
sight until each has been delivered to the proper person. Make
doubly sure that each of those proper persons understands what he is to
do. Naturally, you'll be asked questions by those officers as to what
the envelopes contain. That is one reason why I'm not even telling you,
so that you can truthfully reply that you do not know. Just remember,
this is the most secret mission you have ever undertaken. Guard these
envelopes with your lives and see that they are delivered to the proper
parties. If the commanding officer does not happen to be there when you
arrive, do not give the envelope to the next in command. Stay
there until the commanding officer does arrive. If you have a forced
landing, play up the fact you are on a survey flight. If your plane is
damaged, a wire sent to me in Washington will get an immediate reply
ordering the commandant of the airfield nearest the scene of your crash
to turn over a plane to you. If one of you happens to be injured in the
crash, the other will carry on alone as soon as possible, without
creating suspicion that the flight is not for survey purposes.
The colonel suddenly stopped talking and drew from his pocket two
small vials containing a brownish liquid. He placed them beside the
pile of envelopes, and looked at the two air aces again.
If both of you are hurt badly, he said, or ifand I pray God it
will not happenyou should fall into the hands of enemy agents, or
force-land on the water and be approached by a lurking U-boat, you are
to take the caps from these vials and pour the contents over the
envelopes. The powerful acid they contain will completely destroy the
envelopes and their contents in a matter of seconds. In short, it is
your sacred trust to destroy these envelopes before you dieor are
captured. Now, to make sure, repeat to me the instructions I've just
Dawson spoke for the pair and repeated almost word for word
everything the colonel had told them.
Well, that's all I've got to say, the Intelligence Chief said with
a nod. Here, Dawson. Three of these and a vial are for you. And the
other three and a vial are for you, Farmer. Naturally, my prayers go
with you for a safe and very uneventful flight. If it helps any, I
personally chose you two for this flight, becausewell, you've come
through for me several times in the past, and I know you will again.
One thing, though. If any of the envelopes fall into Axis hands, I
might just as well put a bullet through my brain, because I wouldn't
want to go on living. Have either of you any questions?
Yes, sir, I have one, Freddy Farmer spoke up.
Then let's have it, Colonel Welsh said with a nod.
The English-born air ace hesitated a moment, and a slight flush
crept up into his sun-and-wind-bronzed face.
These chaps to whom we deliver the envelopes, sir, he said with a
frown. What if theyWell, what I'm trying to say, sir, is supposing
they don't follow the orders we give them? What if they should lose
their envelopes orwell, you know.
They won't, Farmer, Colonel Welsh said with a grim shake of his
head. Each of the six officers that you will contact is not only an
officer in our Armed Forces, but a carefully selected member of
Intelligence as well. In short, each is one of my own men. And after
you show them this letter of authority, you need not worry that they
won't follow orders right to the letter.
As he spoke, the colonel drew a seventh, but unsealed, envelope from
his pocket and handed it to Freddy Farmer. Then he turned his head and
looked at Dawson's frown.
Yes, Dawson? he asked. You've a question, too?
A couple, Colonel, Dave replied. Then with a shrug, The first may
strike you as stupid.
How can I say, until you ask it? the Intelligence officer demanded
as the Yank air ace didn't go on.
These officers we're to contact Dawson said presentlyis there
any way we can make sure that each is the one we believe him to
be? In other words, we've just got six names, Colonel. I haven't read
them yet, but it's possible that neither Freddy nor I know the men from
Adam as far as looks are concerned.
A mighty good question, Dawson, Colonel Welsh said with an
emphatic nod. Just shows you've got your eye on the ball right at the
start. Contact the officer, show him my letter of authority, and demand
his identification. It will be a copper disc with some numbers stamped
on it. Every set of numbers will add up to forty-onethe year,
incidentally, of Pearl Harbor. If the numbers don't add up to
forty-one, then he is not your man.
And if they don't add up to forty-one, sir? Freddy Farmer
asked, and leaned forward.
Colonel Welsh's lips stiffened, and an agate-hard glint came into
his eyes. He pointed to the letter of authority Freddy held in his
Use that to have the man placed under close arrest at once! he
said harshly. And get in radiophone communication with me as soon as
possible. If the man tries to evade arrest, tries to
escapeshoot him dead on the spot! Yes, that's an unusual order, but
this is an unusual mission. Now, the other question, Dawson? What is
When we reach Natal, sir, Dave said, what do we do? Fly back and
report to you?
No, the senior officer said with a shake of his head. I'm
allowing three days for you to make this stop-over flight to Brazil.
That should get you in Natal by the fourteenth, the fifteenth at the
latest. Put up at the Pan-Am Hotel. I will join you there on the
fifteenth. I'll have another little mission for you when I get there.
Well, any other questions?
Dawson and Farmer looked at each other. Then they looked at Colonel
Welsh, and each shook his head. The senior officer stood up, and as
though the gods had waited for that exact instant, the Vultee's
Wright-Cyclone outside broke forth with its song of mighty power.
Then that's that, Colonel Welsh said. There's some flying gear
over there on the wall. Select what you want, and then let's get
outside to the plane. I'll stake my life that not a soul has heard what
we've been talking about, but four walls always get on my nerves. I
like it better out in the open where I can see in all directions, and
for some distance, too. But don't pay any attention to me. I'm under a
slight strain, and it's trying its darnedest to get me. Stupid, of
course. So select your stuff, and let's get out to the plane. God bless
you, and all kinds of happy landings until we meet again in Natal,
If they happened to be listening to the colonel's parting words, the
gods of war, and death, and doom, must have had quite a laugh for
CHAPTER FIVE. Whispering Death
Shifting to a slightly more comfortable position in the Vultee's
cockpit seat, Dave Dawson absently drummed the fingers of one hand on
the side of the cockpit and stared down at the sky-blue Caribbean Sea
rolling far beneath his wings. Behind him was Puerto Rico, and a
considerable way ahead of him was the British-owned island of Trinidad.
Several miles off the Vultee's left wing tip were the Leeward and
Windward islands of the West Indies jutting up out of the blue water.
High above him was a cloudless sky with a shimmering ball of gold in
All in all, it was a scene that would have made poets rave, and the
hardest of hearts melt. However, if the truth must be known, it left
Dawson cold. Not because he did not possess an eye for Nature's beauty;
it was rather because, though he was looking at it, he wasn't actually
seeing it. His mind was too filled with other and more personal
The previous night he and Freddy Farmer had taken off from Bolling
Field and had flown directly to the Army Air Forces base at Miami.
There, after making sure, they had delivered the first of the sealed
envelopes. Later they had flown on to the base at San Juan, on Puerto
Rico, and delivered the second envelope. Now they were winging their
way farther south to the Air Transport Command base at San Fernando on
After Trinidad, Paramaribo, and Belem, and Natal, Dawson said, and
scowled down at the beautiful Caribbean. That's just the point, too. A
couple of air-mail pilots, that's all we are!
What's that, Dave? he heard Freddy Farmer's voice in the inter-com
phones. What are you mumbling about?
Mumbling? Dawson snorted. I was shouting with joy! I'm so excited
that I can hardly keep from jumping overboard. And now that I think of
it, maybe that would be a good idea!
Then go right ahead, old thing, the English youth in the rear pit
chuckled. Nothing I want more than for you to have your own way, you
Don't look right now, but you can go fly a kite to the moon, pal!
Dawson growled. I suppose you're enjoying this here-to-there hop in
Well, I have seen better piloting, Freddy came right back.
But, considering one thing and all, I'm not too fed upyet. On the
other hand, it is a bit boring. I mean
You mean what? Dave asked as Freddy let the rest hang in mid-air.
Don't know just how to put it in words, young Farmer replied.
Butwell, after that little talk with the colonel last night, I was
quite steamed up, as you would say. Very mysterious, and exciting, and
possibly dangerous, if you get what I mean.
I do, Dawson grunted. But all it is to me now is mysterious. You
can have my share of the excitement and danger, if any. I'm just full
of beans, though, I guess. After some of the close shaves you and I
have had, routine stuff just gets me down, but quickly! But there have
been two bright spots in this thing so far, thank goodness.
Bright spots? Freddy Farmer echoed. Then I must have been looking
the other way at the time. What do you mean?
At Miami and San Juan, Dawson replied. The way those two
commanding officers tried to pump us as to what the sealed envelopes
contained. It was nice to look very wise and not tell them a darn
thing. It was fun to see somebody else floundering around in the dark.
Misery loves company. Say! Know what I hope, Freddy?
I wouldn't even dare guess! the English-born air ace replied.
What do you hope?
That the lad we contact at San Fernando has a copper disc with
numbers that add up to forty-five! Dawson told him.
What? young Farmer gasped. Forty-five? But, Dave, the number
Sure, forty-one! Dawson cut in. But don't you catch on, pal? If
the number is forty-five, it means that the lad is a phoney. And that
means that maybe we'll get some excitement out of this aerial messenger
Rot, and very much so! Freddy snapped angrily. Come off it, Dave!
This is very serious business, and you are absolutely balmy to even
hope that things will go wrong. Just remember what Colonel Welsh said,
Dave. If one of these sealed envelopes should fall into Axis hands,
he'd rather put a bullet in his brain than go on living. Stop being a
blasted fool, old thing! It's not a bit like you at all!
Okay, okay, papa! Dawson chuckled. Consider that you have
up-ended me and given me the shingle where it counts most. Just the
same, I hate to think of going stark, raving mad in the cockpit of a
Well, if that's all that's bothering you, you can put it out of
your mind at once, Freddy snapped, because you were that way a long,
long time ago!
Oh, yeah? Dawson shouted.
Yeah! Freddy Farmer replied. But definitely!
They left it that way for the next fifteen minutes or so. At the end
of that time the Vultee was well out of sight of all land, and Dawson
was keeping it on course with instruments. At the end of that time,
too, the southern part of the heavens began to mist and fog up and
gradually change to a copperish gray. The straight line that marked
where the blue of the sky ended and the copperish gray began told
Dawson that a line squall was moving across the Caribbean. But five
minutes later the little twinge of uneasiness that had come to him
melted away, because the copperish gray moved westward and not up
northward toward the Vultee. However, because of the silly mood that
had gripped him since leaving Puerto Rico, he had to voice a crazy
Wouldn't you know, not even a storm to give us something extra to
Eh, Dave? he heard Freddy Farmer say. Then a second later, he felt
Farmer's hand tapping him on the shoulder, and heard his pal's excited
voice crackling in his inter-com phones. Bear ten degrees eastward,
Dave! There's something down there on the water. Can't see it clearly
yet. Looks like a bit of rag being waved about by somebody.
Dawson changed the Vultee's course, and at the same time twisted
around in the seat and glanced back at Freddy. Then he turned front and
peered ahead and down in the direction of the English youth's pointed
finger. He squinted his eyes slightly and even shielded them against
the golden sun with his free hand. But for all he could see, he might
just as well have kept both eyes shut. There was just blue Caribbean,
turned golden here and there by shafts of sunlight dancing off the
surfaces of the rolling swells.
I know you can see through a brick wall, Freddy, he said, but if
you can see anything down there, then I'll eat it!
It will be quite a meal! Freddy Farmer cried. Because it happens
to be a life raft! And there are chaps on it. Yes, four chaps! And one
is waving his shirt, or something. Blast those dirty U-boat blighters!
Never mind the U-boats! Dawson growled. Just stick to the raft.
Where the heck is it? I think you're seeing things. IHold it,
everybody; hold it! I see it now, Freddy! I wasn't looking far enough
out. Yeah! That's a raft sure enough. Boy! I bet this sun is doing
plenty to those birds!
As Dawson spoke, he watched the small raft riding the rolling swells
of the blue Caribbean, as helpless as a leaf. As he stared at the four
figures in the raft, his anger boiled and the blood throbbed in his
temples. Dirty U-boat blighters, and how, as Freddy had said. Of all
the fighting forces to come out of Nazi Germany, the U-boat commanders
and crews were the worst. Human life, and particularly the lives of
women and children, meant even less to them than it did to the Gestapo.
Steel sharks of the sea, they were called. To call them that was an
insult to a real man-eating shark. There just wasn't any name to call
those who manned Nazi U-boats, because there is no name in any language
that adequately describes them.
Yes, the dirty U-boat blighters! Down there on the bobbing raft were
four who were no doubt victims of a terrible life-and-ship-destroying
explosion that had probably come in the dark of night. As those and
other bitter thoughts raced through Dawson's mind, he impulsively eased
back the Wright-Cyclone's throttle and slanted the nose of the Vultee
How I wish this was a flying boat, and we could pick up those poor
beggars! he heard Freddy Farmer groan.
You and me both! Dave agreed. We have a radio, thank goodness. So
we can get help sent out before those fellows have to spend another
night at sea. I wonder how long they've been floating around?
Quite some time, I fancy, Freddy Farmer said. The chap waving his
shirt seems to be the only one with any life in him. The three huddled
down in the raft might as well be dead. Sights like that one make me
thank my lucky stars I'm in the air end of this blasted war.
You can say that again for me! Dawson echoed. At least in the air
you get it clean and fast. Mostly, anyway. Check and double-check! The
boys that really deserve the medals and the praise in this scrap are
the merchant marine fellows. They have nothing to fight back with
except a pea-shooter at the stern, and maybe one on the bow. They're
perfect floating targets twenty-four hours a day. If their engines
break down, heaven help them! Yes, my hat is off to those fellows, and
I don't mean maybe. IHey, Freddy! See that? He's trying to send us a
message with his shirt, isn't he? He seems to be waving it down to the
right more than down to the left.
That's right! Freddy Farmer cried. That's the old International
Morse code done with a flag. To the right is a dot, and to the left is
a dash. And straight down in front means the end of a word. Now,
where's my blasted pencil, and I'll put it down. There he put it down
in front three times! That means the end of the message. If he'll only
repeat it, I think I can get it.
The man standing on the tiny raft seemed to wait a moment or two, as
though he were striving to rally his waning strength for another
effort. Then he started waving his shirt again. It was a short message,
and both boys got it without bothering to jot down each letter. The
message signaled was:
FLY OVER LOW PLEASE, IMPORTANT
What do you make of that, Freddy? Dawson asked, and dipped the
Vultee's nose even more. Does he think we're a rescue plane that's
come to drop food and water, poor devil?
I don't know, the English youth replied. Possibly. Or maybe
there's something on the raft he wants us to see. The only thing to do
is to go down and find out. I say! I've just remembered! I have some
chocolate, Dave. I'll tie it up in my handkerchief and try to drop it
right onto the raft, if you get us down low enough. But, for heaven's
sake, don't hit the raft, or the water!
Aw gee! Dawson grated at him. And that's just what I was planning
to do, too! You spoil all my fun, you dope! Act your age, will you?
Just don't take us down too low, Freddy Farmer reminded him
Dawson opened his mouth to make a fitting retort. Instead he
shrugged, let Freddy's remark slide, and concentrated on getting the
Vultee down as low as he possibly could. When he had reached an
altitude of some ten or fifteen feet, he throttled the Wright Cyclone
until it was just a shade on the good side of stalling. He guided it
toward the tiny life raft. The shirt-waver had ceased his signaling and
was crouching down on the raft as though he were afraid Dawson was
going to bounce the Vultee's belly off the top of his hatless head.
So you're also silly enough to think I'll come too close? Dawson
growled, as he experienced a moment of annoyance. Well, relax, fellow!
Just relax, and let's have a look at the meaning of that message. Okay,
Freddy! Get set to drop that chocolate!
As he spoke, he impulsively started to jerk his head around. Some
inner warning cut short his effort, and it was that inner warning that
unquestionably saved his life, and Freddy Farmer's life, too. In other
words, just as he was about to turn his head for a look at Young
Farmer, all four men on the raft sprang to crouching positions. Each
gripped a sub-machine gun in his hands and blazed away at the coasting
True, Dawson's sudden inner warning had helped, but it was his
instinctive reaction to sudden danger that actually saved his life and
Freddy's. In less time than it takes to bat an eyelash, he had smashed
the throttle wide open with one hand and was hauling the Vultee around
in a wing tip water-kissing turn with the other. Had he started to
climb at that same time, the Grim Reaper still might have claimed them
both, because the four crouching figures on the raft had automatically
pointed their machine guns skyward.
As it happened, though, Dawson held the Vultee in a tight turn until
its tail was toward the raft. Then he quickly flattened out, shot
forward for a split second, and banked the Vultee over on its left wing
tip. He banked it to the right wing tip and hauled the craft up in a
twisting power zoom toward the sun-filled heavens. Only when he was
well out of range and had leveled off did he let the clamped air out of
his lungs and shake the cold beads of sweat from his forehead.
Suffering rattlesnakes, Freddy! he choked out. Was that a
nightmare, or did it happen? Those bums let fly at us, Freddy! All four
There was no answer from young Farmer, and in the length of time it
took Dawson to twist around in the seat, he seemed to die a thousand
deaths. His fears were unfounded, however. Freddy Farmer was very much
alive. No bullet had snuffed out his life, though the left side of his
glass hatch was covered with a million tiny cracks. Amazement and utter
bewilderment were all that was wrong with the British-born air ace. He
sat rigid in his seat, staring at Dawson as though he had never seen
him before in his life. His face was white under his sun-and-wind
bronze, and his mouth hung open as though he had intended to yell, but
had been shocked into forgetting all about it.
Hey, Freddy, snap out of it! Dawson shouted, and rocked the Vultee
The English youth stared blankly for a second longer. Suddenly he
blinked, and his whole body shook like a leaf. The breath came from
between his lips in a whistle that Dawson could almost hear above the
roar of the Vultee's Cyclone.
The blighters! The low-down dirty beggars! They shot at us;
Theythey Young Farmer choked on his words, and his eyes opened
still wider in amazement.
It took a half second or so for Dawson to realize that Freddy was
looking at something forward and downward. Automatically, he twisted
around front and looked down. He let out a bellow of surprise. Down on
the Caribbean was a Nazi U-boat breaking surface not over fifty yards
from the floating life raft. Unable to move a muscle, he stared as the
conning-tower hatch opened and a couple of men spilled out onto the wet
deck and hurried toward the bow. The undersea killer veered over toward
the floating raft.
What he saw made Dave fighting mad. He shook with anger, and a red
film seemed to slide over his eyes.
So? he bellowed at the top of his lungs. So it's like that, huh?
It was just like that. No sooner had the words left Dawson's lips
than the U-boat's bow gun belched flame, and the sky a hundred yards or
so off the Vultee's right wing tip seemed to explode in a roar of sound
and a great puff of oily black smoke. An instant later, another bit of
sky seemed to explode. This time the puff of oily black smoke was high
above the Vultee. This was because Dawson had turned the nose of the
plane downward and was thundering straight at the U-boat at almost
So you want to play, do you? He shouted the crazy words. Well, so
do we! And how! Here, catch, you tramps!
The Vultee's wing guns punctuated his words with a chattering blast
of sound that made the aircraft tremble violently. Straight lines of
silver tracers cut down at the two men crouched behind the guard of the
U-boat's bow gun. They would have done better had they dived overboard
and down under the U-boat's keel. The bullets from the Vultee's wing
guns found them and smashed them to the steel deck. Tapping rudder a
bit, Dawson veered the plane's nose a shade to the right and blazed
away at the open conning tower hatch. A man crawling up out of it was
flung head over heels clear of the U-boat's side and down into the
water as though by some invisible giant.
By then the Vultee's prop was about ready to chew into the conning
tower itself, and Dawson had to haul the nose up and go curving around
and away. That maneuver permitted Freddy Farmer to go into action with
his rear guns. As Dave jerked his head around for a split second, he
saw the four men on the raft trying to scramble up to the U-boat's wet
deck, only to go toppling over backwards like tenpins and disappear
beneath the surface of the water.
There, you rotten beggars, you'll not do that again! the English
youth's voice rang loud in Dawson's inter-com phones. Not by half, you
The sub's crash diving, Freddy! Dawson yelled as he saw the hatch
close and the nose of the U-boat slip down under water. Oh, gosh! If
we only had a depth charge or two! Oh, how I hate to let that snake get
As the wishful words spilled off his lips, he was in the act of
doing what little he could. That was wheeling around and down for
another run over the crash-diving U-boat, and letting fly with all his
guns at the top half of the submerging craft. He might possibly hit
some part that would check the dive and force the U-boat back to the
surface. That was a slim, slim hope, and it died completely as the
entire craft slid out of sight, leaving behind an empty life raft and
With a groan Dave cut his fire, and hauled the Vultee up out of its
dive and onto even keel. He stared down at the floating bodies, gulped,
shuddered slightly, and drew a hand across his goggles, as though that
would wipe away the scene below and make everything as it had been
before. It didn't, of course, but when he took another look downward he
found it hard to believe that Death had been whispering so close. Then
he snapped out of his trance.
Get the nearest patrol base on the radio, Freddy, and report that
U-boat's position! he spoke into his inter-com mike. There's just a
chance that it may have to surface soon, and somebody else can nail
Right-o! Freddy Farmer called back. But, gosh, I would love to be
that somebody else! Oror has this just been a crazy dream, Dave? It
doesn't make sense! Those were blasted Nazis on the life raft.
Likelike a confounded decoy, or something. I
Decoy? Dave Dawson gasped, and sat up straight in the pit.
Holy smoke! Do you suppose so? Sure, you must be right. Look, Freddy!
Report that U-boat's last position. Then we'll get out of here, but
fast! Something is kind of screwy, and I don't like it, but plenty I
As Dawson nosed the Vultee around and onto its course for San
Fernando on British-owned Trinidad, he impulsively lifted his free hand
to his chest and pressed it against the two sealed envelopes and the
little vial of acid that were in his inside tunic pocket.
CHAPTER SIX. Changed Orders
The U. S. Army Air Transport Command at San Fernando comprised the
entire south side of the Trinidad air base. Dawson spotted the American
flag atop the Administration Building from the air. After his recent
experience, a great sense of relief and joy flooded through him at the
sight of Old Glory waving proudly in the breeze. And not only that, but
the sight of Old Glory meant also that this crazy aerial messenger-boy
mission was one-half completed. Three more stops and they would be at
Natal. There they would meet Colonel Welsh and, please, please, God,
find out what in thunder this secret sealed-envelope business was all
And if he doesn't tell me, Dawson muttered as he let down the
Vultee's wheels and nosed the craft earthward, it's going to be the
end of a beautiful friendship as far as I'm concerned. Right! He's got
to give us a tiny inkling, at least ororWell, I sure hope he does,
So do I, old chap! he heard Freddy Farmer echo his hope. I also
want to see his face when we tell him what we have to tell. You haven't
any new ideas, have you, Dave?
Dawson shook his head. During the remainder of the flight to this
next stop, both had taken the U-boat experience apart and had carefully
examined it piece by piece. It was all to no avail, in regard to
reaching any definite conclusion. True, the logical conclusion was that
the life raft had served as a decoy to bring them down so low that its
occupants could shoot them into the water. When that had failed, the
lurking U-boat had surfaced to try its luck with its bow anti-aircraft
gun. If that was the correct conclusion, it made everything even more
screwy. Colonel Welsh was the only man living who knew why they were
making this crazy flight. He had told them so. How could a Nazi U-boat
at sea learn the secret they shared with Colonel Welsh? And
Gosh! Dawson gasped. But no! Heck, no! That would be even
What, Dave? Freddy asked. You do have a new idea?
Not exactly, Dawson replied. Just a chilling thought. Do you
suppose those birds on that raft were really torpedo survivors,
and in their crazed state took us for a Nazi plane and
What utter rot, Dave! Freddy Farmer interrupted. Don't be silly,
old thing! Of course not! Would four torpedo survivors bother to take
four sub-machine guns onto a life raft with them? Certainly not! Come
out of it, Dave! They were Nazis, sure enough. They were from that
U-boat, too, and set adrift to have a go at us.
But how Dawson began and cut himself off short. Oh, skip it! If
I let myself think any more about the crazy business, I'll forget what
I'm doing and crack us up.
Then for goodness' sakes don't think of it! Freddy Farmer cried in
alarm. I fancy I've had excitement enough for the rest of this day! So
forget things and keep your eye on that field down there.
Dawson did just that, and a couple of minutes later he set the
Vultee down light as a feather and taxied it over toward the
Administration Building. He braked to a stop eventually, unsnapped his
safety and parachute harness, and climbed stiff-legged down onto the
ground. Freddy Farmer joined him, and they were just starting to get
some of the flight stiffness out of their legs when a major came out of
the Administration Building and walked over to them.
Captains Dawson and Farmer? he asked with a smile.
Yes, sir. Dave replied with a salute. I'm Dawson. And you are
Major Parker, Yank commandant here, sir?
That's right, the senior officer replied. Welcome to Trinidad.
Word came through that you were making a survey flight along our South
American bases. I think you'll find we're not doing so badly here at
San Fernando. Here, this came through about half an hour ago. It's
addressed to you both. Needless to say, we didn't try to decode it. I
don't believe we have that code in the base book, anyway.
The major held out a small yellow envelope. Dawson took it, ripped
it open, and withdrew a single sheet of paper. His heart did a loop in
his chest when he saw that the coded message was signed, Tiger. That
was the signature Colonel Welsh used whenever he contacted the boys in
secret. The major had been quite correct, too. The code used by Colonel
Welsh was not to be found in the regular base code book, because it was
a special one that the colonel had made up himself. This code was not
known by more than half a dozen men, two of them being Dawson and
Farmer. The value of such a code was that it was so made up that a
decoding book, or decoding wheel, was not needed. Once you knew the
code, you could read messages from the memory of what the various
letters and numbers and symbols meant.
Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer looked at it together, while Major
Parker politely stared off across the base field. The true meaning of
the message became instantly apparent to them. Translated in their
minds, it read:
Halt flight San Fernando. Arriving by air midnight. Serious
emergency developed. Maintain constant alert. Destroy evidence
Dawson read the coded message three times, absently pulled off his
helmet and goggles, ran his fingers through his hair, and glanced
sidewise at Freddy Farmer.
And that is strictly that, he said. But I wonder what?
I don't know, the English-born air ace replied with a shrug of his
shoulders. Frankly, though, I don't think I'm annoyed by this message.
Fact is, I'm just a bit glad. Much rather see him tonight, instead of
waiting until we get to Natal.
Dawson grinned faintly, and nodded.
Yeah, I get what you mean, he murmured. Maybe there's a
connection between this and what happened a while ago, eh?
If not, I'll be very much surprised, Freddy Farmer said slowly.
And yet I may be a bit balmy to say that. How could there possibly be
Dawson shrugged, but made no reply. He stuffed the coded message
into his pocket, and turned to where Major Parker was inspecting the
Thanks for giving us the message, sir, he said. Then he added with
a grin, It sort of looks as though we've been fired, you might say.
Our superior officer is joining us here at midnight. Would it be all
right for us to eat in the Officers' Club and sort of kill time until
he gets here?
Certainly, Dawson, the major replied at once. The place is yours.
Help yourself to anything you like. So your survey flight is called
Well, temporarily, anyway, Dave replied. But don't ask me why,
because I wouldn't know, Major.
Okay, I won't, the other smiled. I'll ask you this, instead. What
kind of trouble did you run into on the way down here?
Trouble, Major? Dawson echoed, and stared at him hard.
These holes, the senior officer replied, and pointed to a cluster
of four bullet holes six inches in from the Vultee's left wing tip.
Somebody been sticking a pencil through the wing skin, eh?
No; Nazi slugs, Dawson told him. Wewe came across a surfacing
U-boat about eighty miles out. It crash dived right after it sighted
us, but it threw up a few slugs in the meantime. We got a couple of its
crew, though. We radioed Puerto Rico patrol base and gave them the
U-boat's position. Have you heard any report that she was caught and
None, the major said, and then pointed across the field. We
wouldn't get that sort of thing, anyway. This is a British-owned base,
you know. That we're here is a sort of lend-lease in reverse, you might
say. And radio stuff such as your call would be picked up by them over
there. Too bad, though, you didn't have a couple of depth charges
You're telling me, sir? Dawson echoed with a grim laugh. I'd have
given my right eye for just one! I don't think I hate anything so much
as I hate the U-boats.
You're not alone in that pet hate, the major added. The U-boat is
the one thing we've got to lick, and lick fast, if we hope to win this
war. Of course, we are flying a lot of stuff across these days.
But it still takes ships to get oil, and gas, and the heavy stuff over
where it's needed. Hold everything! Where are my manners? You two could
do with a wash-up and something to eat right now, couldn't you?
Oh, quite, sir, Freddy Farmer said eagerly.
And for once Dawson had to agree with the perpetually hungry English
youth that a little food wouldn't be a bad idea at all. And so, after a
quick check of the Vultee to make sure that no stray bullets had
damaged anything seriously, they walked over to the Officers' Club with
Major Parker. The commanding officer introduced them to a couple of Air
Transport Command pilots and then took them into the mess, where a good
meal was waiting for them. Major Parker had a cup of coffee while they
ate, and conversation was at a dead end for a bit.
Finally, Dawson refused a second cup of coffee and sighed in
I guess I was rather starved, sir, he said to the major with a
guilty laugh. Must be that Caribbean air.
Or the excitement, the major remarked quietly. A little
excitement always makes me hungry enough to eat a horse. You and Farmer
are a couple of lucky fellows, you know.
How do you mean, sir? Dawson questioned, and gave him a searching
The other smiled faintly and appeared to be very interested in
something he could see out of the mess window. Then suddenly he turned
his head and fixed his calm blue eyes on them both.
Tiger hasn't given me anything to do for a couple of
months, he said, except this job here and orders to keep my eyes and
ears open for sabotage, and all that sort of stuff. I think a little
real action would just about save my life.
Dawson tried hard to control the start that the unexpected words
gave him, but he didn't succeed very well.
Tiger, Major? he echoed, as a little note of caution
sounded deep within him.
Major Parker smiled, and a little bit of red seeped up into his
I couldn't help but see the signature, Dawson, he said. But you
have my word of honor that I didn't read it. Because I saw that it was
addressed to you two. Colonel Welsh taught me that secret code of his
just before he sent me down to this place. I haven't been lucky enough,
yet, to have had the chance to use it.
Since their messenger-boy mission had been washed out, at least
until Colonel Welsh's arrival at midnight, there was no reason to check
Major Parker's connection with Intelligence, but Dave somehow couldn't
pass it by.
I see, sir, he said quietly. Well, Farmer and I were taught
something, too, before we left. We were taught to take an interest in
copper discs. Are you interested in copper discs, sir?
Slightly, the other said with a chuckle. At least I'm interested
in one copper disc. It has numbers on it.
Numbers? Dawson murmured, and tried to look a little surprised.
Major Parker smiled, and slipped a hand into his pocket.
That's right, he said as he withdrew his hand. Numbers. The
numbers on the copper disc I'm interested in add up to forty-three. Would you like to see it?
A cold chill shot through Dawson's chest, and a strange dryness came
into his throat. Forty-three? But if Major Parker really was
Colonel Welsh's agent down here at San Fernando, the numbers on his
copper disc should add up to forty-one.
Why, yes, yes, he finally got out with an effort. I'd like to see
it very much.
Then have a look, by all means, Dawson, the major said, and with a
slight movement of his hand he tossed a brightly polished copper disc
down on the table top.
Dawson picked it up with fingers that were trying desperately hard
to stop trembling. He could hear Freddy Farmer's heavy breathing, as
the English youth leaned over to take a look. Dave had picked up the
disc with the smooth side showing, so he had to turn it over. On the
other side stamped into the metal were the numbers 9 1 2 7 8 6 8. He
stared at them, and suddenly the truth came to him. The numbers did not
add up to forty-three. They added up to forty-one, just
as they should have.
The major's soft chuckle made Dawson jerk up his head.
Sorry I couldn't resist the temptation, Dawson, the officer said.
You just added them up, didn't you? And reached the Pearl Harbor
Yes, Dawson said, and handed back the copper disc with a grin.
But you sure had my heart fluttering for a moment there.
Frankly, I was just about to reach for my service automatic,
Freddy Farmer added.
Well, forgive me my rather flat little joke, and let's skip it,
eh? Major Parker said with a little wave of his hand. I noticed that
Tiger stuff gave you a little start, so I thought I'd kid a bit. Maybe
that's what this darn sun down here does to a fellow. To be serious
thoughand out of order, I guessanything in Tiger's message that I
Just what we told you, Dave replied pleasantly. Our survey job is
held up until Colonel Welsh arrives. Which will be midnight tonight.
Major Parker looked disappointed. Then he sighed, and grinned.
Okay, he said, we'll let it go at that. If he had wanted me to
know anything, he'd have sent me a message, too. Well, as I said, the
place is yours. I've got some paper work to do, so I'll have to leave
you for a spell. Don't hesitate to make yourselves at home. If there is
anything you want, just yell. See you later.
Yes, sir, and thanks for everything, Dawson said. He and Farmer
also rose as the senior officer got to his feet.
Think nothing of it, the major said with a wave of his hand. And
have fun, if you can find any fun around this place. With a smile and
a nod, he went through the mess door.
Freddy looked at Dawson, and Dawson looked right back at him.
Nice enough chap, isn't he? the English youth finally broke the
Yes, he's okay, Dawson agreed. I guess he is going bats down here
with nothing to do. That is, nothing in his own line of work. Say,
How about walking down some of this swell meal, huh? Dave
suggested. I could do with a walk around. And like Colonel Welsh, I'm
not so keen about four walls.
A top-hole idea, Freddy Farmer said gravely, and brushed a couple
of crumbs off the skirt of his tunic. I know just what you mean, old
thing. I've been thinking about it myself. Yes, definitely a top-hole
idea. Let's get along, shall we?
Yeah, let's, Dawson murmured, and led the way toward the mess
CHAPTER SEVEN. Blackout
The setting sun was turning the waters of Paria Gulf between
Trinidad and Venezuela to blood red as Dawson and Farmer strolled along
a footpath that skirted a huge sugar plantation close to the San
Fernando field. As neither had ever set foot on Trinidad before, the
many and strange sights that met their wandering gaze took up all of
their attention, and the thought that was in the back of each youth's
mind was not given utterance for quite some time.
Presently, though, Dawson came to a full stop, took a deep breath,
and squatted down on the ground.
Let's rest and watch the sunset, he said. It looks like it's
going to be something. Besides, that's plenty enough walking for these
I was wondering if you were going to keep it up forever, Freddy
Farmer grunted, and sank down beside him. Good grief! It does get your
legs when you're not used to it.
Think of the poor infantry, and realize how lucky you are, Dawson
chuckled. After all, pal, you and I were flying last night, not
And don't I know it! the other youth replied. Can hardly keep my
eyes open now. As a matter of fact, when we get back, I'm going to
borrow a place from Major Parker to sleep until Colonel Welsh shows up.
Blast it, Dave! I don't think I feel very friendly toward the colonel,
just now. Heaven knows he's kept us in the dark once or twice in the
past, but certainly nothing like this. I'm just about ready to explode
Me, I'm almost beginning not to give a darn, Dawson said, and
lazily stretched his arms over his head. Too doggone much mystery and
not an answer to a single question. Speaking of questions, Freddycall
me nuts, but I've got an awful funny feeling.
About what, Dave? the English youth asked quickly, and gave him a
These darned sealed envelopes we're still carrying around, Dave
replied. The four we've still got, counting Major Parker's. In the
colonel's message, he ordered us to destroy them if necessary.
Wellwell, outside of that dizzy U-boat thing, it's been just an
airplane flight. Yetdarn it, Freddyhaving these envelopes in my
pocket is giving me the jim-jams!
Yes, I know what you mean, young Farmer admitted, and frowned.
I'm getting rather fed up with carrying them around, too. Silly, of
course, but a couple of times I've felt as though somebody were
watching every move I made.
Dawson started slightly and took a quick glance in all four
directions, but he didn't see anyone, except some people near the San
Fernando base over half a mile away. He looked at Freddy and grinned a
You have, kid? he echoed. Well, me too. I've been having exactly
that kind of feeling, too. You know what I think about hunches!
Yes, the other replied. And I also know that sometimes your
hunches are worth giving serious consideration.
Sometimes, he says Dawson snorted. Look, palOh, skip it! Now
about the four envelopes, Freddy, if you want my opinion on the matter,
it'slet's dump the acid on them and be rid of the darn things. Maybe
Colonel Welsh won't like it, but what the heck? He said, if
necessary, and the funny feeling I've got right now, and have had
ever since we got his message, makes me think it is necessary!
What do you think? Or am I going off half-cocked?
Freddy Farmer didn't reply for a moment. He sat staring out over the
Gulf of Paria that was now changing from blood red to midnight blue
since the sun had gone down behind the headlands of Venezuela. Finally
he reached a hand up inside his tunic and nodded abruptly.
If you're going off half-cocked, then we both are, Dave, he said
quietly. I'm all for getting rid of them. If you alone had the funny
feeling, I'd say no. But I've got a queer feeling, too. Sowell, here
go my two, anyway.
As young Farmer spoke, he took out his two sealed envelopes and
dropped them on the ground. Then, moving back a bit, he unscrewed the
cap of his little vial and poured the brownish-colored contents over
the envelopes. There was a small flash of flame as the stuff came in
contact with the envelopes which seemed to melt away into the ground,
leaving nothing but a black smudge where they had been.
Boy, does that do the trick! Dawson breathed, and dropped his two
sealed envelopes on the spot where Freddy's two had been. Drop that
vial, Freddy, and kick dirt over it. Just a smell of that stuff would
most likely take the soles off your shoes. Okay, here go mine, too.
A few seconds later there was another dark smudge on the ground, and
not so much as a shred of any of the sealed envelopes, or their
contents. Both Dawson and Freddy dropped their empty vials, kicked dirt
over them, and stamped the little mounds flat. Then, as if by mutual
agreement, they relaxed and heaved deep sighs of relief.
Maybe I was wrong, Dawson said thoughtfully. Maybe Colonel Welsh
will hit the roof when we tell him. Just the same, though, I feel a
hundred per cent better.
Quite! Freddy Farmer murmured, but with emphasis. I feel as
though a terrific weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I swear,
Dave, I haven't got a strong enough heart to stand much of this sort of
thing. Frankly, this is the first contented breath I've taken since we
Yeah, I know, Dawson agreed. The colonel certainly did pour on
the old caution stuff this time. So I guess it wasor still
issomething pretty doggone important. But there I go again, wondering
what it's all about. I sure wish the colonel would hurry up and get
Know something, Dave? Freddy asked after a couple of moments of
silence between them.
Know something? Dave groaned, and rolled over on his
stomach. Maybe you haven't been listening to me, pal. I don't
know from nothing. Do you?
Not exactly, Freddy replied. Just the old guessing game again. I
am guessing, though, that somebody found out about those sealed
envelopes. Also, they found out that you and I were acting as the
messenger boys. Also, they arranged that balmy life-raft and U-boat
business this afternoon. And also, Colonel Welsh is a very worried man,
right at the moment.
All of which means nothing, Dawson added, and will continue to
mean nothing until the colonel gets here, and explains. If he
Most naturally! Freddy said with a slight edge to his voice. I've
been doing some extra thinking about this thing, in case you don't
Well, go right ahead and think yourself black, blue, and sky-pink
in the face, if it makes you happy, little man, Dawson said with a
laugh, but you still won't know from beans until the colonel gets
here. And if he
I know, I know! Freddy interrupted with an impatient
gesture of his hand. Save your breath, old thing. However, you might
give this a bit of thought, if your brain can stand the strain. We've
been flying part of the air transport route to North Africa.
No kidding? Dawson said with a mock gasp. Why, I always thought
the air transport route to North Africa was by way of Salt Lake City
Very, very funny! Freddy snapped. If I'm not boring you,
Major Parker said he was sent down here to keep an eye out for
sabotage. He also said nothing has happened in all the time he's been
here. Colonel Welsh admitted that his special agents were acting as
C.O. of the points where we've stopped and were going to stop. Why,
Dave? Why should Intelligence have a sudden interest in this air
route to North Africa?
Dawson started to make another wisecrack, but the deadly serious
look on young Farmer's face stopped him. He gave the question a moment
or two of thought and then shook his head.
I don't know, Freddy, he replied. I really don't know. You can
search me. If it isn't because of possible sabotage, then what?
I guess I've asked myself that question a thousand times, the
English-born air ace said slowly. I can think up but one answer that
might make sense. This is it. All these arrangements are being made to
make absolutely sure nothing will happen to something very special that
is soon to be flown to North Africa.
Such as? Dawson prompted.
Freddy seemed to hesitate for a long time. Then he shrugged, and
made a little gesture with his hands, palms upward.
Blessed if I know, or can guess, he said. However, I feel
absolutely sure that all this business is taking place because
something highly important is to be flown to North Africa.
I don't think I agree with you there, Freddy, Dawson stated with a
frown. This is one of the Air Transport Command routes to North
Africa, but if something special was to be flown across, the plane
carrying it certainly wouldn't land at all these points. Heck, Freddy!
Air Transport Command has lots of planes that could make the run down
here to Trinidad non-stop, and hop from here to Natal the same way.
Oh, quite, Freddy Farmer agreed, and waved his hand as though
brushing aside the undisputed point. Non-stop all the way to Natal, if
you want to make an issue of it. However, the points in between are
being given just as much attention. Presumably this is being done in
the event of trouble and a forced landing; emergency fields, so to
speak, all along the route the plane, or planes, will fly.
Okay, okay, Master Mind! Dawson laughed, and threw up his hands.
Maybe you've got something there. And if you have, it means that what
we've been delivering, and what we just destroyed, are instructions in
case your mysterious cavalcade of the air happens to sit down on one of
the fields. Okay, that's that, then. Now all you have left to figure
out is why this mysterious flight?
Freddy Farmer nodded but made no reply. He sat watching the swiftly
approaching shadows of night. Glancing at his face, Dawson saw that the
English youth had something very absorbing on his mind. When young
Farmer continued to maintain silence, Dawson's curiosity got the best
Okay, out with it, he said. What's the heavy thought that's
weighing down your brain at the moment?
A very definitely insane one, Freddy Farmer replied, with a little
apologetic smile. But taking it all and all, I'm blessed if I can
think of anything better.
Thanks, Dawson said sarcastically, and rolled over on his side.
That makes everything clear as mud. What do you want me to doget up
on my hind legs and beg?
If Freddy Farmer heard the remark, he ignored it. He turned to
Dawson and held up one hand with the fingers stiff and extended upward.
Then he started counting them off with the forefinger of the other
One: Two F.B.I. chaps followed us all over New York, he
said. Two: Colonel Welsh told us that a list of names compiled
by the War Department had been turned over to the F.B.I., and that it
had the approval of the President, the Secret Service, the Army, Navy,
and Air Forces. Three: The colonel refused to give us so much as
a hint as to what's behind this flight of ours. Four: He told us
to guard those sealed envelopes with our lives. Five: He said
that one of his agents was in secret command of every point where we
were to stop. Six: The route is the Air Transport route to North
Africa. Seven: The colonel said that the sealed envelopes
contained the most important secret of the war so far. And eight
: He said that he would have another special mission for us when we met
And nine? Dawson queried when young Farmer stopped talking
and lapsed into brooding silence.
The English youth hesitated, chewed on his lower lip for a moment,
and then leaned over toward Dave and whispered, Nine, is that
all these arrangements are being made becausebecause President
Roosevelt and the Yank High Command are being flown to North Africa,
and perhaps beyond, for a war conference with Prime Minister Churchill,
Premier Joseph Stalin, and their High Command Staffs. And there you
have what I think!
Dawson whistled softly, sat up straight, and stared hard at his
flying mate and dearest friend.
And I think you are strictly nuts, Freddy! he said. But
scarcely had he spoken the words when he frowned and gave a little
twist of his head. Jeepers, I wonder! he mumbled.
Yes, no doubt I am quite nuts, Freddy agreed, and got up on his
feet. Personally, I can't think up a better guess. It's started my
brain swimming, though. So what say we start on back, eh? Don't want to
miss evening mess, you know.
What a guy! What a guy! Dawson groaned, and stood up. Here
in one breath he has perhaps figured out the biggest secret in the war
so far, and in the next breath he's sounding off about that stomach of
his. Did I mention a moment ago that I think you are nuts? If I
didn't, then consider it said right now!
The difference between us, old thing! Freddy Farmer explained with
an airy wave of his hand as he started back along the path. The food
you eat helps your body. The food I eat helps my body and my
brain. If you'd only eat more, maybe some of the nourishment would have
a chance to get up that high! I say! I didn't half realize that it was
Yeah, Dawson agreed as he stumbled over a root. A good thing that
talking box of yours ran out of words, or Major Parker would have to
send out a searching party. IHey, Freddy! What's the matter?
Dawson shouted the last because young Farmer, some ten or fifteen
feet ahead of him in the gloom, had suddenly buckled at the knees and
had fallen slowly to the ground. Dave leaped forward toward his
prostrate pal and had started to kneel down beside him when suddenly
there was a rustling sound in the sugar cane to his right. He turned
his head and caught a fleeting glimpse of bare feet and trousers. Then
the Trinidad sky seemed to fall on top of his head with a thunderous
roar of sound, and a great shower of red, yellow, orange and purple
From a million miles away he heard the hoarse whisper of his own
voice. Then the hands of an invisible giant seemed to grab hold of him,
lift him high, and fling him spinning head over heels out across a
world composed of booming sound and flashing light.
CHAPTER EIGHT. Eagles Can Take It
A death-like stillness was everywhere. In that total absence of
sound, Dawson was aware of a throbbing, pounding pain in his head that
made him feel as though somebody were chopping it apart. Silence,
darkness, and somebody chopping his head to pieces. These three things
Dawson's sluggish brain could grasp, or at least grasp for a moment at
a time. All else, though, was just a great big blank. He didn't know
where he was, or what had happened. He scarcely remembered who he was.
Suddenly a prickly pain all over his face seemed to speed up the
functioning of his brain. That, and the dull realization that he could
barely breathe because something was clamped hard against his nose and
mouth. Realization, yes; but there was not yet enough strength in his
body to do anything about it. For that matter, he felt as if he had no
body. He was aware of nothing but the pain in his head. Maybe his body
was gone, and only his head was living on. Did such things happen? Was
it possible for
Dave! Dave, old man! OhDave!
Sound? Yes, that was the sound of a voice! But whose voice? Dave
couldn't see anything because of the darkness, shattered every now and
then by pin-points of glittering light, like falling stars in the night
heavens. HeThe thought dribbled away as a sense feeling returned to
his absent body. He suddenly realized that he was being picked up, or
rolled over on his back. The prickly pain left his face at once. In the
next instant he knew that his eyes were open, because he was conscious
of many shadows. The shadows moved, but no objects were clearly
Dave! Dave, old thing! Can you hear me?
An arm was about his shoulders, and a hand was brushing his face.
The brushing seemed to remove every trace of the prickly pain. It also
seemed to cause the shadows to stop moving and gradually take on shape
and outline. He know he was looking at treetops outlined against a pale
grey sky that grew darker and darker as he looked at it. A head came
into view. He saw wide, fear-filled eyes and lips that moved but made
no sound, save dry sobs. Suddenly, as though a button had been pressed
inside his head, his sluggish brain started to speed up, and in a flash
complete consciousness returned. Memory too, came flooding back like
waters pouring through a broken dam.
Freddy! he heard himself gasp. Youyou okay, Freddy?
The arm about his shoulders tightened, and Freddy's choking voice
answered, Thank goodness, Dave! I thoughtI could hardly feel your
heart beat. You can thank God for your helmet, and I for mine, too. Our
heads would have been caved in but for them. No, Dave! Don't try to sit
up. You got it worse than I, or maybe my head is harder.
I'll feel better sitting up, Freddy, Dawson mumbled, and sat up in
spite of Farmer's plea for him to lie still.
For the first couple of seconds, though, it didn't help at all. The
throbbing pain doubled in intensity, and he thought his head was going
to fly off his shoulders. After the first couple of seconds the
throbbing pain died down, and he could feel new strength surging
through his body. It was then that he took a good look at Freddy
Farmer, let out a little startled cry, and impulsively reached out a
Jeepers, Freddy! he gasped. You look like you've been through a
meat grinder, andHoly smokes! Look at me, will you? I look even
worse. My tunic's in ribbons, and
Dawson stopped talking and stared wide-eyed at young Farmer. The
English-born air ace returned his look and nodded slowly as he wet his
lips with his tongue.
Quite, Dave, he said in a strained voice. Some dirty beggar
chopped us down and searched us from head to foot for something he
An icy chill swept through Dawson, and he swallowed hard. It was a
second or two before he could speak.
Those sealed envelopes, I bet! he whispered. We got rid of them
just in time. But, my gosh, Freddy! Who
Dawson let the thought go unspoken because it seemed so utterly
Yes, who? Freddy Farmer echoed, and gave a little shrug of his
shoulders. Somebody, that's certain. Gosh, he came close to killing
us. When I came to and saw you with your ripped tunic pulled up over
your head and your face pushed down into the dirt, I thought sure you
were a goner. Look, Dave, take off your helmet, if it doesn't hurt too
much. I want to see if it's more than just a bump. If your scalp's been
cut, I can patch it from this pocket Red Cross kit I carry.
But Dawson had already explored under his helmet with very gentle
fingertips. He had two bumps side by side, not over an inch above a
point where two such blows would undoubtedly have paralyzed him for
life, if not killed him instantly. As it was, there were just the two
bumps and no wet or caked blood.
Just bumps, Freddy, he said, and forced a chuckle. A couple of
pips, but you know me, Old Iron Head. How about you, though?
I'm lucky, Freddy said, and tried to match Dawson's forced gaiety.
Just one lump, but I'm sure the old noggin will ache for months. We'd
better bear this in mind, Dave. We can't stand another of these
Says which? Dawson mumbled.
We couldn't possibly be that lucky twice, the English youth
explained. Blast this whole business, though! I don't like things I
don't understand. I definitely don't!
Dave Dawson didn't make any comment on that. He got slowly to his
feet, steeled himself while a dizziness swept through his head, and
then began a methodical search of his uniform pockets. Watching him,
Freddy Farmer waited until he had inspected their contents and had put
Anything missing, Dave? he asked.
Nothing, not even my money, Dawson replied with a note of grimness
in his voice. So that proves it. Proves it wasn't a stick-up and plain
robbery. That we're both still alive and more or less kicking proves
murder wasn't the big idea, either. They were after something that we
didn't have any more. AndSweet tripe, Freddy! That was over a couple
of hours ago. Look at the time, will you?
As Dawson spoke he thrust out his wrist watch. Ferry Farmer didn't
glance at the radium-painted dial. He simply nodded.
I know, he said. I didn't enjoy our little nap at all. If you
really do feel up to it, Dave, what say we get on along back, what?
Major Parker may be wondering about us.
Yeah, Dawson said, and stopped short. Major Parker, Freddy? he
said after a long pause. He knows that code of the colonel's. He
delivered that message to us, but swears he read only the signature.
And he is the only one, outside of those two Air Transport Command
pilots, that we've spoken to here. But heck! I'm just plain nuts. It
just couldn't be!
And I don't think it is, Dave, Freddy Farmer murmured. I'd bet my
life it wasn't Major Parker. HeHalf a minute, Dave! Here comes
somebody along the path! I can see two flashlights!
Me, too! Dawson answered quickly. I can He stopped as the
silence of night was suddenly broken with a loud hail.
Hello-o-o-o-o! Dawson and Farmer! Where are you? Hello-o-o-o!
Dawson and Farmer-r-r-r!
That's Parker! Dawson cried. Out looking for us. Let's go,
Dawson took a couple of steps, then stopped and cupped his two hands
to his mouth.
Hello-o-o there, Major! he bellowed. We're coming!
As his call died away, he could tell by the movement of the beams of
light far back along the path that whoever held the flashlights was
coming on the run. He and Freddy walked toward the approaching lights,
and after a couple of minutes one of them was playing over him at close
quarters. Major Parker's dumbfounded comments were splitting the night
Good grief, what happened to you two? I waited mess for you, but
when you didn't show up I got worried for fear you'd got lost. Somebody
said they saw you heading up this path, so we came after you. Good
grief! What happened? Are you badly hurt?
By we, Major Parker meant himself and one of the field pilots, who
was carrying the other flashlight. On impulse Dawson gave the man,
whose name was Tracey, a searching look, but he saw only bewildered
amazement and sympathy in the sun-and-wind bronzed face.
We don't exactly know, sir, Dawson answered the major. We were
heading back to the base when suddenly the lights went out. Somebody
jumped us from the sugar cane. When we woke up, we were as you see us,
but nothing was missing.
Nothing? Major Parker asked sharply.
Not a darn thing, sir! Dawson replied truthfully. I don't get it.
And I don't like it, either. Thanks, though, for coming after us.
Major Parker dismissed the last with a wave of his hand, and opened
his mouth as though to say something important. He seemed to change his
mind as he shot a quick glance at Tracey, because he gave a little
shrug and remarked, Well, standing around here isn't helping anything.
I'd better get you two back so you can clean up. We've got some spare
uniforms, and it won't be hard to find your fit. Slugged, and not a
thing missing, huh? Well, that's a new one on me. Okay, let's get
backif you two really aren't hurt badly?
Just a bump or two, sir, Dawson assured him. Nothing to write
home about, at all.
Quite, Freddy Farmer murmured. Received worse than this in a
crash or two. We're quite all right, sir.
Major Parker paused, scowled, and shot them both a keen, searching
look. He said nothing, though; he just shrugged, turned around, and
started leading the way back along the path that skirted the sugar cane
CHAPTER NINE. Death Strikes
Brows furrowed in deep thought, Major Parker slowly packed tobacco
into his pipe, put the stem between his teeth, and struck a match. As
he applied the flame to the bowl, he raised his eyes and watched Dave
Dawson and Freddy Farmer putting away their second meal as his guests.
This time, however, it was not in the Officers' Mess. The trio were in
the major's own quarters, and Dawson and Farmer looked none the worse
for their recent experience. Uniforms that fitted them perfectly had
been found, and it had been a matter of a couple of minutes to transfer
their insignia and incidentals from their torn and dirt-smeared
uniforms. As a matter of fact, anybody stepping inside the major's
quarters at the moment wouldn't have thought anything amiss. That is,
unless he noticed the fixed scowl on the major's face.
The major kept scowling until Dave and Freddy had fully satisfied
their craving stomachs. Then he poured coffee for the three of them and
offered cream and sugar. That done, he slipped a hand into his tunic
pocket, pulled out his copper disc and tossed it on the table.
What else do I have to do to convince you two? he asked quietly.
Dawson lowered his coffee cup and looked at the major in mild
What's that, sir? he asked.
Major Parker jabbed his pipe stem at the copper disc.
That, he said, is the only identification I can produce until
Colonel Welsh arrives at midnight. That isn't far off, of course, but
you two ran into some trouble tonight. Bad trouble, I'd say, andWell,
I'm supposed to be in charge down here, which automatically makes me
responsible for your safety. I fell down on the job, it seems. In other
words, I'd like all the details so that I can start the wheels turning
to round up this mysterious trouble-maker.
Dawson smiled, gave a little twist of his head, and gestured with
That's just the trouble, sir, he said pleasantly. There aren't
any details, except the unpleasant ones that we've already told you. We
were heading back here when we were suddenly jumped and knocked cold.
Whoever did the job tore our uniforms to ribbons searching us.
And what do you suppose he was searching for? Major Parker asked
I don't know, sir, Dawson said quietly, and looked straight at
him. Whatever it was, he didn't find it, because neither of us lost a
That's quite right, sir, Freddy Farmer spoke up. I just had a
thought, though. Perhaps robbery was the main idea, but something or
somebody scared the beggar off.
Major Parker made a face as though he suddenly had a bad taste in
his mouth, and sighed sadly.
Look, Farmer, I'm all of thirty-three! he said sarcastically,
I've been around a little. Don't give me that kind of an explanation.
It's silly. Whoever it was had time to tear your uniforms to shreds,
but no time to grab your money. That is, if it was
Well, it was just a thought, sir, Freddy replied with a weak grin.
Then let's skip it, the major suggested laughingly. Becoming
serious, he said, Don't think I'm trying to bust in on secret stuff.
What isn't my business isn't my business. I've been attached to
Intelligence long enough to learn that. I ask for details simply
because a couple of funny things have happened around here lately.
About ten days ago one of the field laborers, hired by the British, was
found dead with a bullet in his brain. It turned out to be a Luger
bullet. Three days ago somebody broke into my office and tried to go
through my private files. At least, that's the way it looked to
methough my hunch might be all wet. Tell me this, if you can: Did
either of you get a look at whoever slugged you?
I didn't see a thing, or feel a thing, for that matter, Freddy
Farmer said with a shake of his head. I was just walking along, and
the next instant I was out cold.
Dawson started to shake his head, when suddenly he remembered. I
saw his feet and legs up to his knees! As a matter of fact, he was
barefooted, but he wore pants. That's all I saw. Just his bare feet and
his trouser legs up to his knees.
Barefooted, eh? Major Parker murmured. That could well mean one
of the natives. There are certainly enough of them around here. Well,
that just makes this confounded business much more mysterious. I'll
certainly be mighty glad when Colonel Welsh arrives.
I guess that goes for the three of us, sir, Dawson added with a
Yes, very much so, Freddy Farmer chimed in.
Then followed a few minutes of silence, while each was engrossed
with his own thoughts. Presently Major Parker sighed faintly, knocked
the coals from his pipe bowl into an ash tray, and got to his feet.
I have to make a little nightly inspection tour about the place,
he said. So, if you two will excuse me, I'll get on with the job.
Don't go away, though. I won't be long. I'll be back for another cup of
coffee with you. They certainly know how to make it down in this part
of the world.
All right, sir, we'll wait, Dawson answered for Farmer and
himself. Unless there's something we can do to help? Doesn't seem
quite fair for us to eat your food, take up your time, and not do
Forget it, Dawson, Parker interrupted. I'm glad to have you here.
Well, be seeing you shortly.
With a nod and another wave of his hand, Major Parker went outside
and left the two youths looking at each other.
I like Major Parker plenty, Dawson said after a while. And it
sure makes me feel like a heel.
What does? the English-born air ace wanted to know. The fact that
you like him?
Cut it out! Dawson urged. Of course not. I feel like a heel
because I can't come clean and tell him all that we know.
It isn't very much, if you ask me, Freddy said with a shrug and a
I know, but just the same I wish I could tell him what little we do
know. I'm sure he knows that we're holding out on him. And like I said,
he's such a swell fellow. And not the least bit dumb, what I mean.
Well, you can't be dumb and work for Colonel Welsh, I fancy,
Dawson started to agree with him, but suddenly checked his words and
shot a quick glance at Freddy. The English-born air ace was toying with
his cup of coffee and didn't see the grin that tugged down the corners
of Dawson's mouth.
Well, there is one exception, Dave said. I could give you his
name with one hand tied behind my back.
And so could I! Freddy said without so much as glancing up from
his cup of coffee. His name is Dawson! Thought you were being very
smart, little man, didn't you, what?
Okay, pass the cream! Dave ordered. I know when I'm licked.
IHey! You hear that?
Hear what? young Farmer asked, and looked up quickly.
I thought I heard a shout and a couple of shots from outside, Dave
told him. You didn't hear anything at all, Freddy?
Not a blessed thing, except your confounded voice, Freddy told
That was all the English youth did say, because at that instant they
both clearly heard wild shouting and the savage yammer of machine-gun
fire. For about half a second they sat perfectly still. Then as one
they leaped to their feet, whirled, and raced out the door of Major
Parker's quarters. Outside, it was dark, and the sudden change blinded
them both. But only for a moment, and at the end of that moment they
saw two or three moving lights over at the southwest corner of the
base, and several figures running across the field toward those moving
lights. Impulsively, Dawson reached for his holstered service automatic
and broke into a run.
Let's go, kid, he called back over his shoulder.
The last was unnecessary, because young Farmer was in motion, too,
and right there at his elbow. Together they ran across the field and
reached the small group gathered about three figures holding powerful
flashlights. The beams were being played on something on the ground,
and as Dawson took a look he gasped and instantly pushed his way
forward. On the ground, and just being helped up by a guard corporal,
was Major Parker. The officer, in spite of his leathery tan, looked
very pale. And there was a trickle of blood running down from a cut on
his forehead just over the left eye.
Take it easy, sir; I'll get the ambulance, the guard corporal was
saying as Dawson reached the injured man. And we'll get the guy that
did it, too.
Don't bother about that, Corp, a voice said. I saw him running
after the major fired, and me and little Betsy, here, knocked him out.
He's over there and not talking to anybody. He'll never talk again, not
Dawson had raised his head at the sound of the voice, and saw a
square-jawed American soldier not ten feet away. The soldier was
holding a sub-machine gun in the crook of one arm, and patting it
affectionately with his hand. He paused in his patting long enough to
jerk a thumb to his left. Dawson looked in that direction and started
inwardly as he made out the huddled figure of a dead man on the ground.
The thing that made him start was the fact that the dead man was
barefooted. One glance, and Dawson turned his attention to Major
Parker, who was now on his feet, gently pushing aside the guard
corporal's efforts to keep holding him.
It's all right, Corporal, thanks, Major Parker said. And I don't
want any ambulance. Somebody loan me a handkerchief until I can get a
real patch for this thing.
I've a First Aid patch right here, sir, Freddy Farmer spoke up
quickly. Here, let me put it on. There! I say, sir, what happened?
The major tested the First Aid patch with his fingers and grinned a
trifle stiff-lipped at Dawson and Farmer.
He seems to have gone in for numbers tonight, he said. I was just
coming around the corner of the Non-Coms' mess over there, when I
thought I heard a sound behind me. I turned, but it was quite dark at
that spot, so I didn't see anything clearly. Justwell, just somebody
diving at me. I didn't bother to ask questions. I dropped and went for
my gun. That's what saved me a really nasty crack, I guess. It messed
up his aim, because he had to reach out farther. But I missed, too,
when I shot at him as we both fell to the ground. Singed him, though,
because he cried out. The crack he gave me made me see a few stars, so
I missed again as he jumped to his feet and started running. Private
Marvin, here, arrived on the scene just in time, and Private Marvin is
the kind who doesn't miss. Let's go take a look.
The whole group moved over to the dead man on the ground. The
flashlight beams were played on him. Somebody leaned down and turned
the corpse over on its back. The dead man was dressed in cheap native
clothing, and his skin was burned almost as black as the night sky.
There was something about the features, particularly the wide forehead,
that arrested Dawson's attention. As he leaned closer for a better
look, he caught sight of a corner of white showing beneath a tear in
the dead man's shirt. On impulse, Dawson reached down and pulled. Out
came a white envelope, and Dave's heart leaped up into his throat. He
didn't have to look inside the envelope to know what was there.
Instantly he recognized it as the letter of authority Colonel Welsh had
given Farmer and him to carry.
Holy smokes! he whispered to himself. So he did get
something off us. This! I'd forgotten all about this thing.
What thing? Major Parker asked sharply, and stepped close.
Dawson hesitated, but when he saw that the major and he were
standing a little apart from the others, he removed the letter of
authority and smoothed it out so the senior officer could read it.
Major Parker did just that.
But you didn't give me any he began, and stopped short as Dawson
nudged him quickly.
I know, sir, Dave said in a low voice. We decided it best to
destroy them, after the message we got from Tiger. We did just that
about five minutes before your corpse there jumped us. He didn't find
what he wanted, but he did find this letter. No doubt he figured that
we'd given them to you, or, at least, that you had been given yours. He
went after you, and Dawson came to a halt and gave a little angry
shake of his head. I seem to be doing fine, I don't think! he grated
after a moment. I guess you could almost say, sir, that I gave you
that crack on the head. I was responsible for it, anyway.
No, that's not true, Dave! Freddy Farmer spoke in his ear at that
moment. I'm the thoughtless blighter. Don't you remember? I began
carrying that letter at Puerto Rico. I confess I had forgotten all
about the blasted thing.
Dawson looked hard at his pal and then shrugged.
Okay, you or me, what does it matter? he sighed. The major should
be plenty sore at both of us.
You can skip that, both of you, Major Parker spoke up instantly.
After all, maybe it's a break in a way. The rat is dead, and that
makes one less of his breed to bother us. Ten to one he killed that
field laborer and searched my office. If so
The major let the rest slide, for at that moment all heard the roar
of an approaching aircraft. It was coming in fast from the north, and
as Dawson stared in that direction, he caught sight of the winking
green and red running lights. A couple of moments later, the field
lights were turned on to light the long runway. Shortly after that an
American B-25 slid down to a nice landing, and went trundling over
toward the Administration Building. Dawson, glancing at his watch, saw
that it was exactly midnight.
CHAPTER TEN. Invisible Eyes
No sooner had the North American B-25 bomber braked to a full stop
in front of the Administration Building than the fuselage door swung
open and Colonel Welsh disembarked. The Intelligence officer's thin
face was deeply lined from worry and loss of sleep, but his eyes were
sharp and clear as he swept them over the group that had sprung to
attention. When his eyes came to Dawson and Farmer, a light of relief
seeped into them, and he gave a little nod of his head as a sign of
recognition, and perhaps approval.
Get inside, you two, at once! the colonel ordered. And then, as
his eyes picked out Major Parker, he added, You, too, Parker.
Everybody else, back to your posts!
With a million and one speculative thoughts dancing and racing about
inside their heads, Dawson and Farmer climbed up into the bomber, with
Major Parker at their heels. Once inside, they saw that the bomb
compartment had been fitted out as an aerial office. Instinctively they
headed that way. By the time they reached that compartment, Major
Parker had joined them. The senior officer wigwagged a finger to check
any questions that might be asked and waved the three of them to the
little seats fitted to either side of the fuselage. He seated himself
behind a small table bolted to the bomb compartment flooring and stared
into space as the B-25's engines were revved up a little, and the
bomber started to trundle forward.
Automatically, Dawson braced himself for a take-off, but the ship
did not leave the ground. The pilot trundled the bomber over toward one
of the hangars, braked it to a stop, and cut his engines. A moment
later, the field's ground crew was busy filling the aircraft's tanks.
Still Colonel Welsh sat staring into space without speaking a word. The
suspense, and the mystery of it all, were like butterflies in Dawson's
chest. Again and again he glanced at the colonel, hoping to catch the
senior officer's eyes, believing that if he did so the colonel might
give him some kind of a sign that would at least relieve the tension.
He had no luck, though. The colonel sat like a man of stone while
the B-25's fuel tanks were being filled to the brim. When they were
filled, the engines were started, and the bomber was trundled out to
the take-off end of the runway.
A take-off sure, this time! Dawson thought to himself. I wonder
where we're headed? In fact, I'm wondering a whole lot of things right
now. Something has certainly happened, because the colonel looks in a
bad way. He looks about as bad as I felt a few hours ago.
But there was no take-off. When the bomber was swung around into the
wind, the engines were throttled to idling speed. Then and then only
did Colonel Welsh come out of his trance. He looked at Dawson and
Farmer, and reached out his hand.
Give me the rest of those envelopes, he said.
Dawson shook his head and spoke quickly as a look of utter horror
spread over Colonel Welsh's face.
We haven't got them, sir, he said. Right after receiving your
code message, we decided it was best to destroy them, so we did.
Horror vanished from the Intelligence Chief's face and thankful
relief took its place.
Good lads! he said. Now give me a detailed report of your flight
Dave Dawson glanced impulsively at Freddy Farmer, but the
English-born air ace shook his head and made a sign for Dave to do the
talking. Dave turned to Colonel Welsh and began to relate everything
that had happened from the Washington take-off to the moment of the
colonel's arrival. He didn't leave out a thing. However, in the event
he might have missed something, he shot a questioning look at Freddy
Farmer when he had finished.
No, I can't think of a thing to add, the English youth said.
You've covered everything, I'm sure.
During all the time Dawson was talking, Colonel Welsh sat leaning
forward slightly and listening as though his life depended upon every
word. Eventually he straightened up and looked at Major Parker.
Have you anything to add? he asked.
Nothing, sir, the major replied. Dawson covered my end of it all
in complete detail.
You had never seen the dead man before, Parker? the colonel then
No, sir, Major Parker replied. Then, with a faint gesture, he
added, I may have seen him, sir, in the course of my work, but the
natives here all look more or less alike.
Colonel Welsh grunted, scowled down at the little table in front of
him, and suddenly shot a sharp look at Dawson.
Yes? he asked. You've got something on your mind, Dawson?
Dave started slightly, because he did have something on his mind and
was debating if he should mention it. He could feel the red seeping up
into his face as he looked at Colonel Welsh.
Just a hunch, sir, he said. I'm probably all wrong. The dead man
is undoubtedly a native, as Major Parker says, but
But what? Colonel Welsh pressed as Dawson let the rest go
Well, his skin was dark like that of a native's, sir, Dave replied
after a quick apologetic look at Major Parker, but there was something
about his features that sort of struck me as queer. The forehead looked
a little too wide for a native's, and I was suddenly struck by the
hunch that he wasNo, I must have been wrong!
Never mind what you must have been! Colonel Welsh said sharply.
Finish what you were going to say! You had the hunch that he was
Dawson hesitated a second and then took the plunge. That he was a
A moment of tingling silence settled over the made-over bomb
compartment. Then Colonel Welsh broke it with an order to Major Parker.
Come with me and show me this dead man, Parker, he said. Dawson,
you and Farmer wait right here for me.
Three seconds later the colonel and the major had climbed out of the
bomber, leaving Dawson and Farmer to twiddle their fingers.
I am going stark, raving mad! young Farmer suddenly exploded in a
low, vibrant voice. If I don't find out something soon, I don't know
what I'll do!
I'll join you in a throat-cutting act, pal! Dawson said, and
sighed heavily. If this isn't the most mixed-up business we ever got
into, then I don't know what! The colonel's been here half an hour, and
we don't even know why he came down here in the first place. We can
thank the gods for one thing, anyway.
That Colonel Welsh was relieved and not burnt up when I told him we
had destroyed those envelopes, Dawson replied. Envelopes! Phew! I'll
be seeing those darn things in my dreams for the rest of my life. Gosh!
One would think they contained the complete plans of Allied High
Command for the invasion of the European Continent, or something!
Maybe they did, Freddy Farmer said with a shrug and a sigh. Maybe
With that the pair lapsed into brooding silence. Each was perfectly
content to remain silent, because words were just a waste of breath
now. They had talked themselves black and blue in the face as to the
what and the why of this crazy business. For all their talking, they
were right back where they had started in regard to anything concrete
and definite. Why talk about it any more? It was far, far better to go
quietly nuts waiting for Colonel Welsh to return and throw a little
light on the subject.
They sat and waited for a good fifteen minutes, mulling over their
own thoughts and listening absently to the even murmur of the idling
Wright-Cyclone engines that powered the North American B-25.
At the end of that fifteen minutes, however, the colonel returned.
To Dawson's relief and pleasure, he saw that a lot of the worry had
left the Intelligence officer's face. In fact, there was an almost
happy look in his eyes. He came straight into the bomb compartment,
seated himself at his little table, and took the inter-com phone mike
off the wall hook at his side.
Take off, Captain, he spoke into it. Fly north for twenty minutes
and then take up the course I gave you. Eh? Right!
The colonel put the inter-com mike back on the hook, looked at
Dawson, and smiled faintly.
Thank heaven for your hunch, he said. You were absolutely right.
He was a German.
A spy, sir? Dave blurted out before he could check himself.
Naturally, the colonel replied. Just about the best in the Nazis'
gang. Colonel Baron Franz von Steuben is his name. Or was. Frankly,
we've been after him for a long time. The world is well rid of his
kind. What's the matter, Dawson?
Major Parker, sir, Dawson replied, and reddened slightly. I hope
he didn't think that I
Not a bit of it! the colonel interrupted quickly. The major
admires you for your hunch. He'd be the last one in the world who would
want you to keep it to yourself. As a matter of fact, he suspected that
you might feel embarrassed and asked me to give you his compliments and
to say he was sorry he couldn't go along with you.
To where, sir? Freddy Farmer fairly shouted. And then he blushed
so flamingly that both Dawson and the colonel had to laugh.
That's all right, Farmer, the Intelligence officer said, still
chuckling. Don't blame you at all. I can see it in both your faces
that you're practically ready to blow up with questions. Well, things
have happened that I didn't want to happen, so I guess it's time for me
to do a little explaining. Do you remember that technical sergeant in
the hangar at Bolling Field?
The two air aces nodded.
He's dead, Colonel Welsh stated grimly. He, too, was a Nazi spy.
And working right under my very nose, which doesn't make me feel
very proud. Shortly after your take-off, one of the mechanics who
helped to roll out your plane came to me with the information that the
technical sergeant had been standing right outside that office while I
was giving you your instructions. I can tell you that that was the
closest I ever came to having a case of heart failure. I got to work at
once checking up on that technical sergeant. I won't bother you with
the details, but we caught him cold. Complete with a powerful
short-wave sending set, and all the rest of it. That was after
he had had time to do his dirty work, if any. I know, now, what
that dirty work was, of course. Your experiences, and Major Parker's,
made the picture clear. He simply flashed word to other agents to get
you two by hook or by crook. He knew your course, and he knew what you
carried, though I'm still positive that he didn't know the contents of
those sealed envelopes.
Anyway, word was flashed along the network of Nazi spies on this
side of the Atlantic and to that U-boat lurking in the Caribbean.
Heavens! That was a daring stunt those devils tried.
I'm still shaking at how close it came to being successful! Dawson
spoke up in a strained voice as the colonel paused.
Amen, and let's not think of that any more, the Intelligence
officer added almost fervently. As soon as I learned the truth, I
flashed you a message to halt the flight and wait for me. I was too
late at Puerto Rico. I also took off in this plane at once to get down
here and contact you. I stopped at Puerto Rico, and Miami, too, and
collected the two sealed envelopes you had already delivered. Then I
came on here and found out that you two had used your heads. Just in
time, too, thank goodness. That you beat Colonel Baron Franz von
Steuben to the punch is something you can congratulate yourselves on
for the rest of your lives. If I had even dreamed that devil was down
here, I would have had nineteen different kinds of cat fits. But all's
well that ends well. And, although we've got to change our plans, we're
still a couple of jumps up on the Nazis.
Colonel Welsh paused for breath and to take out his handkerchief and
wipe imaginary beads of sweat from his forehead. Both Dawson and Farmer
sat on the edges of their seats waiting for him to continue, but after
a moment or two of silence Dawson couldn't stand it any longer.
Can't you tell us a little about all this, Colonel? Just a little
that might help uswell, in case we got into another jam? Or are we on
our way back to Washington now? Is the job finished as far as Freddy
and I are concerned?
No, we are not heading back to Washington, Colonel Welsh answered
quietly. As for you and Farmer, the job is just beginning. Well,
you've earned the right to know. Since I was going to explain at Natal
anyway, I might as well explain now. You recall all that F.B.I.
business in New York? Remember my telling you of that list of names
turned over to the F.B.I. for checking?
Could we forget, sir? Dawson chuckled. Freddy and I have been
going nuts trying to add two and two. We got a zero every time, and I
don't mean a Jap Zero, either.
Well, all that was simply a check and double-check, you might say,
Colonel Welsh said as his face became grave. Every name on that
approved list was to be connected in some way with
The colonel paused and ran his tongue across his lower lip.
Every man on that list, he began again, is to have something to
do with a proposed trip by President Roosevelt to a war conference with
Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Casablanca in Morocco, North
A moment of silence hung over the trio as the colonel finished
speaking. Then Dawson gave a little laugh and looked at Freddy Farmer.
Pick up the marbles, Master Mind! he said. Pick them all up. You
CHAPTER ELEVEN. Midnight Raider
What? Colonel Welsh exploded as he looked from Dawson to Farmer,
and back again. What's this?
Farmer, sir, Dave explained. We made about six million guesses
apiece as to what this was all about. One of his was that the President
was going to North Africa, or beyond, for a conference with Prime
Minister Churchill and Stalin.
Nobody heard you make that guess, did they? the colonel asked,
tight-lipped, as he fixed his eyes on young Farmer.
No, sir! the English youth replied. Nobody.
He's right, sir, Dawson spoke up quickly. I remember when he made
that guess he spoke so low I could hardly hear him, and I was lying
right next to him. In case you're wondering, Colonel, it wasn't until
we were on our way back to the base that Colonel Baron von Steuben
slugged us. So it's certain he didn't hear Freddy.
Yes, of course you're right, the colonel said, and smiled at
Farmer. So don't feel bad. It just gave me a start that you had hit
the nail on the head. You were partly wrong, though. Joseph Stalin will
not be among those present this time.
And those envelopes, sir? Dawson asked when the colonel fell
silent and stared out the compartment window at the darkness of night
sweeping by. They are still very hush-hush stuff, as far as we're
concerned? Could I ask if they contained information about the
The senior officer turned from the window and looked straight at
You can, and I'll tell you, he said. Each envelope contained the
route the President's plane is to fly, the exact time schedule, and the
codes to be used in case the aircraft runs into trouble, or danger, and
all that sort of thing. In short, as I told you in Washington, the
Nazis would give almost anything to get hold of one of those sealed
envelopes. With that information in their possession, they could have
delivered a terrible blow to the United Nations. Think of it! The death
of the President and members of the American High Command! It would be
like setting our war effort back to the day of Pearl Harbor!
The horrible thought made Dawson shiver in spite of himself, and he
thanked God that Freddy and he had destroyed their letters before von
Steuben had smashed them both to the ground. The President's death
would have been loss enough, but to have added the loss of the great
leaders of our military, naval, and air forces would have been world
And now, sir? Dawson asked after several moments of silence. Now
another plan is to be carried out?
Colonel Welsh didn't answer for a moment. He stared down at his two
hands folded on the edge of the little table, and the expression on his
thin face seemed to show a reluctance to answer that question.
Presently, though, he lifted his head and looked straight at the two
youthful air aces.
We are now headed for Casablanca, he began quietly. With the
extra tanks of fuel we have aboard, we can make it easily. If we reach
Casablanca without any trouble, I will be as sure as a man can be that
the enemy has not learned anything of the President's plan to fly there
himself. If we don't
The Chief of all U. S. Intelligence let the rest trail off into thin
air and made a little gesture with one hand. Dawson frowned and looked
at him earnestly.
I don't think I get what you mean, sir, he said slowly.
And neither do I, sir, Freddy Farmer spoke up.
For a moment the colonel held his lips pressed together in a thin,
grim line, and a hard light glittered in his eyes.
In a thing like this, he said presently, you can't afford to take
any chances. You've got to be dead sure; as dead sure of everything
as it is humanly possible to be, from start to finish. I had utmost
confidence in your making the complete flight to Natal. And the way you
two did handle yourselves, when the odds were actually all against you,
proves that the confidence I had in you was justified. But in
everything there is ever present the little item of fate. A tiny little
something that is beyond man's power to see in advance, or even to
counteract when it happens. For example, that technical sergeant at
Bolling Field. I would have staked my life on that man. But, as things
turned out, I was completely mistaken. And so with you two, or with
each of my agents at the stops you were to make. Because of something
you couldn't guard against, or prevent before death came to you, the
contents of one of those sealed envelopes might have fallen into enemy
hands. What I mean is, one of the envelopes might have been opened, the
contents read, and then the envelopes resealed.
But, Colonel, Dawson protested, one of us would
I know, I know, the colonel said, stopping him with a gesture of
his hand. But look at it this way. Suppose von Steuben had knocked you
both out while you still had the envelopes? Suppose he had opened one,
read its contents, and resealed it so that you'd never have guessed?
What then? When you came to and found you still had the envelopes,
you'd never dream that they had been touched.
But I'd be plenty suspicious, sir! Dawson interrupted. I'd
Would you? the colonel's quiet but firm voice stopped him again.
But von Steuben was no fool! What if he stole your money and Farmer's
money, too? What then?
I see what you mean, sir, Dawson said, and grinned sheepishly. We
would have thought we'd been victims of some holdup.
Exactly, the colonel agreed. A crazy little twist of fate over
which you had no control whatever. Yet the damage would have been done.
So I had to do what I could to find out if there had been any crazy
twist of fate. In other words, each of those sealed envelopes contained
the information, in code of course, that the next bombing plane
to pass through would carry the President, and members of his party.
Dawson blinked, and suddenly the truth hit him between the eyes.
What, sir? he gasped. Youyou mean this B-25 is supposed
to be carrying the President?
I mean just that! the colonel confirmed grimly. If enemy
agents have learned what was in those envelopes, they will believe that
this bomber is carrying the President as a passenger. The President has
already left Washington in secret, and it wouldn't take much checking
by enemy agents to find out that he isn't at the White House. Naturally
they'd believe he was aboard this plane.
Anything funny happen on your flight down, sir? Freddy Farmer
asked, as the senior officer paused for breath.
Nothing that I noticed, Colonel Welsh replied with a shake of his
head. But just because things don't happen doesn't mean that they
won't, in time. So, as I said, we won't know for sure until we
arrive at Casablanca.
And maybe not even then, Dawson mumbled to himself.
Colonel Welsh gave the Yank air ace a sharp look, and then nodded
That's right, he agreed. And maybe not even then. Just another
reason why an Intelligence man gets gray hair so early in life. You
never can tell about a job until it's all finished and you're working
on another. Then it's the same thing all over again.
The trio lapsed into silence, but not for long, because the question
that had been plaguing Dawson just had to come out.
Supposing we make it to Casablanca okay, he said, and you feel
sure that the enemy hasn't learned a thing about the President's trip,
what then? The sealed orders Farmer and I were to have delivered at the
rest of the stops are destroyed, and you say you collected the
envelopes we left at Miami and Puerto Rico. How will they know about
the President's plane when it does come through?
A good question, but I've got the answer, Dawson. The colonel
smiled and pointed to a brief-case on his little table. In there are
duplicates of the orders, without the part about the next bomber
through being the President's plane. If we reach Casablanca safely,
we'll turn around and head south for Liberia, cross the South Atlantic
to Natal, and deliver one of those sealed envelopes to each of the
stops as we fly north to Washington. I've allowed sufficient time for
us to do that, in case that's the way it works out.
Well, Dawson remarked, and shifted to a more comfortable position
on his chair, there's nothing like a two-way hop across
But he never finished his sentence, because at that moment the pilot
of the B-25 came back into the made-over bomb compartment and spoke to
A surface ship just ahead, sir, sending up distress flares, he
reported. Probably a merchantman with a torpedo in her plates. We're
about three hundred and fifty out, due east of Barbados. Do you want me
to radio the ship's position? You gave orders, you know, to maintain
Sending up distress flares? Colonel Welsh queried with a frown.
What good does she think flares will do? The captain of any other ship
near by would be a fool to come close to her. The U-boat might still be
I know, sir, the pilot said. Maybe she hears us and wants us to
send out her position because her radio shack is gone. Maybe she thinks
we're a flying boat on patrol.
For some unknown reason a sudden eerie chill rippled across the back
of Dawson's neck. He looked at Colonel Welsh and tried to convince
himself that this was none of his business, but that eerie chill forced
him to blurt out, And it could be something else, sir! I mean,
if we send out the ship's position, our radio will reveal our own
The pilot of the bomber glared quickly at Dawson, and the corners of
his mouth stiffened. It isn't fun to be torpedoed at night, he said
quietly. I lost a brother that way.
Dawson flushed slightly, but he didn't drop his eyes before the
other's stare. Before he could say anything, though, Colonel Welsh
addressed the pilot.
Circle her and continue to maintain radio silence, Captain, he
said. Just before you pass her to port, drop a flare so that we can
get a good look at her. If she seems in trouble, then maybe we'll do
something for her. Meantime, though, I want all members of the crew to
go to battle stations.
The bomber pilot's eyes widened in surprise, but he had sense enough
not to ask any questions. He nodded, glanced at Dawson, turned and went
forward to his compartment. Dawson waited until he was out of earshot,
and then gave Colonel Welsh an apologetic smile.
I'm sorry, speaking out of turn like that, sir, he said. I guess
the captain must think I'm a little cracked.
Let him think so, the colonel remarked quietly. All he knows is
that he's flying me to Casablanca for a meeting with my agents, and
that it's up to him and his crew to get me there. If he'd been through
what you have, he'd be the first to agree with you. Maybe the flare
will tell us something. If it is a torpedoed ship, I think I will take
a chance and have her position radioed. Poor dev
That was as far as the colonel got. The savage yammer of aerial
machine-gun fire interrupted him. An instant later they all heard a
yell of pain from the pilot's compartment. Even before the echo had
died away, the North American B-25 heeled over on one wing and started
to slide off and down with both engines wide open.
The pilot's hit! Dawson yelled, and lurched to his feet. Pilot
hit and his co-pilot, too, I guess. By what? How the heck
Dawson didn't finish, either. At that instant the night outside was
lighted with a brilliance like that of high noon. A terrific roar
seemed to slam into the B-25 from all sides and spin her around until
she was as helpless as a dried leaf in a gale.
CHAPTER TWELVE. Fighting Hearts
The crazy motion of the bomber knocked Dawson off balance and sent
him lurching heavily against the flare rack as he reached the
navigator's nook just aft of the pilot's compartment. The air whistled
out of his lungs, and balls of colored fire danced before his eyes.
Fortunately, though, his outflung hands caught hold of something, and
he was able to prevent himself from pitching headlong on his face.
The B-25 was still flooded by brilliant light, and above the
screaming roar of the over-revving Wright-Cyclones, Dawson could hear
the chatter of aerial machine guns. He gave no thought to the thing
that was happening. He had but one idea in his head, and that was to
fight his way forward to the pilot's compartment. As he dived past the
navigator's nook, a hand grabbed him by the arm, and he heard voices,
but he could not understand the words above the din of other noises.
With a savage wrench of his arm he freed himself, and piled forward
into the pilot's compartment.
One glance gave him a complete picture, and his racing heart seemed
to stand still. The glass of the pilot's compartment was shattered to
bits. The pilot was slumped over against the Dep wheel, and the weight
of his limp body was pushing the control forward so that the bomber
remained in its mad dive. Beside the limp pilot was the co-pilot,
flopped over against the side of the compartment and looking for all
the world like a man dead tired who had simply leaned over to brace
himself and catch a couple of minutes of sleep. That is, he looked like
such a man except for the crimson blood that gushed from a gaping wound
in his neck just below the left ear.
After one look at the hideous sight Dawson flew into action. Bracing
himself behind the pilot's seat, he grabbed the limp figure by the
shoulders and pulled him back on the seat. Holding him upright with one
hand, he reached around and opened the catch of the pilot's safety
harness. That done, he braced himself again and eased the man to the
floor boards. The pilot's eyes fluttered open, and his lips sprayed
drops of blood as he tried to speak. Dawson didn't have time to listen.
He leaped into the pilot's seat, grabbed the control wheel with one
hand, hauled back on it steadily, and eased off the throttles with his
Little by little the crazy downward plunge of the B-25 eased off.
The plane began to climb back into the sky. There was still brilliant
white light all about. It had a silverish tint to it, and Dawson had
the impression that he was flying straight through a phosphorescent
ocean. In an abstract way be realized the white light was caused by
flares that had been dropped from high above the bomber and were
bringing it out in clear relief for a mysterious aerial night raider.
Where is it, and what? Dawson gasped as he squinted his eyes in
the brilliant glare. It's just one ship. I can tell it from the guns.
He cut the rest off short and heeled the B-25 way over on its wing
and brought it around and up in a climbing turn with the engines wide
open. He did so because he had caught a glimpse of a shadow boring in
and up at him from the left. Just a shadow, but he knew instinctively
that it was another plane. At the top of its climb, he whipped the
bomber over and around in the opposite direction. The bomber was
neither a P-40 nor a Lockheed Lightning, and his heart seemed to stand
still in his throat as he waited for the big craft to come around. With
each passing second, he expected to hear the savage yammer of guns
blazing away at him.
As a matter of fact, a moment later he did hear guns, but they came
from the B-25, not from the other plane. They came from the port side,
and impulsively he jerked his head around in that direction. As he did
so, he saw a sight that brought a wild cry of joy from his lips.
Silhouetted against the brilliant background of light was a Nazi-marked
Arada AR-95 twin-pontoon seaplane. He could see the silverish disc
described by the spinning propeller, but the aircraft seemed to be
standing still. Rather, it seemed to be held motionless in the air by
twin streams of tracer smoke that reached out to it from the B-25.
It was motionless for only a moment, and then suddenly a sheet of
flame spewed out from under its engine cowling. Fire mushroomed out in
all directions, and in the wink of an eye, the Arada completely
disappeared, and there was just a great cloud of fire hanging in the
flare-lighted heavens. To Dawson the cloud seemed to hang not for
seconds, but for minutes. And then, as though an invisible cable had
been cut, the cloud of fire dropped straight downward.
Sweet shooting! Pretty! Dawson heard his own voice yell. And I've
got a hunch that it was good old Freddy who nailed her! If it
He stopped short, as he happened to glance ahead and to the left. By
now the flares were burning out, and were down close to the water.
Because of that he was able to see the seven-or eight-thousand-ton
tramp steamer that was leaving a broad, churning wake as it made off at
top speed toward the darkness to the north. The surface vessel flew no
flag, and there was little to distinguish her from any of the thousands
of tramp steamers.
She was no mystery to Dawson, however. One look at her racing away
from the light of the fading flares was all he needed to know the
truth. That ship was one of the few Nazi sea raiders left, and the
Arada seaplane had come from her decks. By looking carefully he could
see a cradle on the forward deck, and a huge hoisting crane that must
have lifted the seaplane over the side.
The dirty dogs! Dawson grated as he glared down at the fleeing
vessel. If only we had some bombs or depth charges aboard, what a
finish we could put to that sea murderer! We'd
Dawson! Thank God!
The words seemed to explode in his ears. He jerked his head around
and saw the strained features of Colonel Welsh. The Intelligence
Officer's eyes were wide with both anger and amazement. His lips moved
silently for a couple of seconds before he spoke again. That was
close! It would have been too close, but for you, Dawson! What's that
A Nazi raider that was carrying the seaplane, Dawson cut him off.
We can't do anything about her now, though. Even our radio is smashed,
so we can't send out her position. But the pilot and co-pilot, Colonel!
Get help and get them aft. The pilot is still alive, I think, but this
Dawson stopped as he turned and looked at the co-pilot in the seat
next to his. Cold rage filled his heart, and his bitter hatred of all
things Nazi flared up again. Too many times had his youthful eyes
looked upon death not to recognize it now. Nothing in the world could
help the co-pilot. He had passed on to join his buddies in the airmen's
Better get to work on the pilot behind me! Dawson said with a
sharpness he didn't realize was in his voice. There must be a medical
kit aboard this bomber. I'll stick here and keep us going. Or do you
want to turn back?
No, keep going! the colonel replied. It wouldn't do to turn back
now. Here, Corporal! Give me a hand with your pilot. Where's the
The last words were directed to one of the aircraft's crew who had
come forward into the compartment. Dawson paid no attention to him, for
at that moment the port engine started to kick up a bit, and he had to
give all his attention to getting it to run smoothly again. By then the
glow of the flares had faded out, and the B-25 was thundering on
through the darkness of the night. Dawson switched on the
small-instrument light so that he could keep a careful check on engine
performance and hold the aircraft to her course across the Atlantic.
Only once did he take his attention from his flying, and that was when
the dead co-pilot was lifted from his seat and taken aft. Once again
red rage burned within Dave, as it always did when one of his
countrymen was killed. He gripped the control wheel hard to prevent his
hands from shaking.
Presently somebody slid into the co-pilot's seat and touched him on
the arm. It was Freddy Farmer.
Well done, old thing! the English youth said in a voice that shook
with feeling. Fancy we've all got you to thank for saving our hides.
Personally, I was too scared to move for hours, and
Nuts! Dawson interrupted with gruff affection. Anybody can haul a
plane out of a dive. If it hadn't been for your sweet shooting, that
rat might have nailed us!
Good grief, how did you know? Freddy gasped. You couldn't see me
I didn't have to look back, Dawson chuckled. I simply saw the
kind of shooting it was and knew at once you were behind the guns.
How's the pilot making out, or don't you know?
Not too bad, for which he can thank his lucky stars, the English
youth replied. He'll pull through all right, but I guess the chap will
be out of the war for some time. What kind of blasted business was it,
anyway, Dave? That beggar was waiting for us right up on top, with his
confounded flares. We werewell, as you would say, a sitting duck.
Yeah, and we were darn near a dead pigeon, too! Dawson said
grimly. But how, and why? Don't ask me, pal! I just haven't got the
brains it would take to figure out this crazy mess. To me it looks like
one of those little items of fate the colonel was talking about.
Unless what, Dave? Freddy Farmer pressed as Dawson fell silent.
Unless there's no connection at all, the Yank air ace finally
I'm afraid that doesn't make much sense to me, young Farmer said.
What do you mean, no connection?
Well, figure it this way, Dawson replied. Say that the
President's forthcoming trip to Casablanca is as much of a perfect
secret as ever. That
But that's silly! Freddy Farmer cut in. The fact that this plane
was mysteriously attacked means that some blasted Nazi agent found out
what was in one of those sealed envelopes. I mean, that the next bomber
through would have the President aboard.
Are you all through sounding off? Dave snapped. Or don't you want
to hear the rest of what I have to say?
Sorry, and all that! the English youth snapped right back at him.
I'll be still. What were you going to say, Dave?
Figure the President's trip business out, Dawson went on
speaking again. Okay. So for what other reason should we be attacked
by a mysterious plane from a mysterious raider in the middle of the
Atlantic? I can think of only one, and this is it. Take it or leave it.
The Nazi U-boats aren't doing so hot for Hitler these days. We're
sinking his steel sharks left and right, and he's going to run out of
them before long. Okay. Where is a lot of our stuff going these days?
To North Africa. And a lot of it is being flown over. Okay. The
Nazis don't stand a chance of going after our transports with their
planes, like they can on the supply route to England. So what do they
do? They send a sea raider out, fitted with a scout seaplane. The sea
raider's detector picks out one of our planes crossing at night, and
the seaplane goes up to high altitude and waits. Maybe those distress
signals are part of the gag to get our plane to go down for a look.
Anyway, the seaplane pilot drops his flares. They light up the target
for him and also blind those aboard the transport plane long enough for
the Nazi rat to do his stuff with his guns. And there you are. Take it
or leave it!
Just the point, Dawson, Colonel Welsh suddenly broke in. I don't
know whether to take it or leave it. I certainly don't!
Oh, you there, sir? Dawson gulped as he turned his head around. I
I know, and I'm glad I heard what you said, the colonel
interrupted him. I was certain that they were laying for us because
they believed the President to be aboard. Yet I swear I don't see how
they could possibly have found out. I'd stake my life that only we
three know the contents of those sealed envelopes.
If I may say so, sir, Freddy Farmer spoke up, I have a feeling
that Dawson has come very close to the truth, if he hasn't hit it
exactly. Frankly, sir, it was just too perfect for the Nazis to have
planned it this way. Therethere just wasn't enough time, I'd say.
What do you mean by that last? the colonel asked him.
I mean that if we had been attacked by a land-based plane, we could
take it that the Nazis had got wind of the truth and had come after
us, the English youth started to explain. But that aircraft was from
a surface shipa surface ship that was directly in our path.
Tell me this, sir, if you will. On the way down, what did you plan to
do when you reached Trinidad?
Eh? the senior officer grunted. Why, see you two, of course, and
find out what had happened, if anything. After I had heard what you had
to say, I'd decide what to do next. Why?
Well, there you are, sir! young Farmer cried. That proves that
Dawson's idea must be right. Don't you see? Even you weren't
sure as to where this aircraft would go next. You didn't even give the
pilot his course instructions until the very start of the take-off. So
how could the Nazis possibly have found out and radioed that surface
vessel to sail to a point directly in our path in the time it
took us to fly out here from Trinidad? It'sit's silly, if you'll
forgive me, sir.
The colonel said nothing for a moment. Then he gave a long-drawn-out
Yes, I guess you're right, both of you, he said. The secret of
the President's trip must still be as safe as ever. Yes, it must be
that way. We just happened to bump into something that any plane flying
this route would have bumped into.
I sure hated to see that sea raider get away! Dawson grumbled.
Talk about lucky shots! That first blast got the radio set cold,
unless the radio man can fix it up, sir? I saw the shambles it was as I
dived by the navigator's nook.
No, no such luck, Colonel Welsh replied. I asked him quite a
while back, and he said it was hopeless. The navigator, of course, has
a record of the exact position at the time, so we can report it when we
How's the pilot, sir? Dawson asked. Were there any other
casualties besides that poor co-pilot?
The pilot will pull through, Colonel Welsh replied. The only
casualty was the co-pilot. Well, I'll go aft now to see if I can do
anything for the pilot. You two can get us through all right, eh? I
If the engines keep ticking over, we'll make it, sir, Dawson said
quietly. The tanks were spared, praise be! So I think it will be all
good flying from here in.
Then I'll leave you to it, the colonel said. Andand God bless
both of you!
Neither Dawson nor Farmer had a chance to say anything, because the
Intelligence officer quickly turned and went aft.
Well, you convinced even me with that swell sales talk of yours,
Freddy, Dawson eventually broke the silence between them. I guess
maybe I did hit on the right idea, at that.
I think you did, the English youth echoed. Then with a chuckle he
added, But I suppose I'll never hear the end of it from now on!
Now ain't that gratitude for you? Dawson groaned, and shook his
head sadly. So help me, why I keep getting that food-craving hide of
yours out of tight spots, I'll never understand. I must be nuts, I
And for once, Freddy Farmer laughed, I won't argue with you!
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. Lurking Wings
For the hundredth time Dawson dug knuckles into his tired eyes,
stifled the yawn that struggled to get up out of his throat, and took a
quick glance at Freddy Farmer seated in the co-pilot's seat. And for
the hundredth time he wondered how the English-born air ace could go
through so much and still look as fresh as a daisy.
Boy, oh boy! he finally blurted out. How do you do it, anyway,
The English youth glanced his way with arched eyebrows.
How do I do what? he wanted to know.
Look so doggone full of pep, Dawson told him. Here I feel like
the last rose of summer after a steam roller has run over it, and you
look like a million bucks, or more. How come? Are you taking some very
secret vitamin pills that I don't know anything about, huh?
Certainly not! young Farmer replied at once. I haven't got
that old, yet. But would you like to know the truth?
Well, if you insist on telling me, I suppose I've got to listen,
Dawson grunted. So shoot.
Well, don't let my looks fool you, Farmer replied. I may look
fresh, but I definitely am not that way inside. Fact is, I'm not quite
sure whether I am awake or asleep. And if you insist on knowing
everything, I'd be jolly glad if we would sight land.
Dawson started slightly and shot him a keen look.
Meaning? he asked.
Young Farmer made a faint motion of his hand toward the milky sort
of world through which the B-25 was flying. The sun had been up for a
long time, now, but haze blurred the sun's rays and turned both sea and
sky into a drifting milky-tinted mass that made instrument flying
Meaning that I'm wondering if my navigation has gone haywire,
Freddy said. We should have made landfall half an hour ago, Dave. But
there is nothing but blasted water down there. How's our fuel?
Okay, we've got plenty in the tanks, Dawson said. If your
navigation is all cockeyed, then I'll eat this ship. Of course, you are
a funny sort of gink in lots of ways, my little man. But when it comes
to navigating, I'll take you every time. So relax, pal. What's a half
hour on an ocean hop? We probably bumped into a head wind, that's all.
Thanks, old thing, Farmer smiled at him. And I certainly hope
that you're right. However, this whole blasted business has been so
balmy right from the start that I'm willing to expect almost anything.
And, in fact, I do.
Dawson ignored that remark. Freddy had certainly hit the nail on the
head. Of all the jobs they had tackled, this one was certainly the most
mixed up and involved. It seemed so for the very simple reason that not
one thing had gone along as planned. At every turn something had popped
up to toss a monkey wrench into the works and necessitate a complete
revision of plans. Realization of that caused little fingers of ice to
pluck at Dawson's heart. The object of all this business was a safe
journey by air to Casablanca for the President and the American High
Command. With everything going haywire from the start, what other blows
of Fate might be struck once the President was on his way?
But I'm just tired, and letting myself get off the beam! Dawson
mumbled. The colonel's secret is still his secret. Andand that
raider business was just one of those things. Darn it! Nazi agents just
couldn't have found out anything!
Just what I've been trying to convince myself of for hours, he
heard Freddy Farmer say. But I'm still finding it a bit of a difficult
job. As you say, though, we're both so blasted tired. I feel as though
I've been in this aircraft all my life.
Yeah, me, too! Dawson agreed. I
He stopped speaking, straightened up in the seat, and peered into
the milky-colored sky off to the left and a little bit ahead. He stared
until his eyes ached and smarted.
What's the matter, Dave? Freddy asked presently. Are we making
No, Dawson replied slowly, with a little shake of his head. I
guess I'm just seeing things. I could swear that I saw a group of
planes show off there for a split second or so.
Planes? young Farmer echoed excitedly. What type? Maybe it's an
escort come out to meet us, andBut no, that couldn't be. Nobody knows
we're coming. Did you recognize them, Dave?
That's just the point, Dawson complained as he continued to stare
into the milky mass that was the sky. I'm not dead sure, but I
thinkWell, if you want to know, they looked like Junkers Ju-88's to
me. Yeah, the big long-range babies the Nazis used against England and
shipping in the Atlantic. But maybe I was just seeing things.
You must have been, Dave! Freddy said sharply. It's my guess the
Nazis haven't any long-range bombers to spare against shipping in this
part of the Atlantic. We have far, far too much aerial cover for our
The English-born air ace didn't continue. He stared off to the left.
Dave sensed the sudden movement and impulsively turned his head to look
in that direction, too. As a result, they both saw the milky sky split
apart for a brief moment and reveal six Nazi Junkers Ju-88's winging
along on a course almost parallel with theirs. The haze and the milky
overcast parted just long enough for them to see the six-plane
formation, and then it promptly closed down and hid all from view. But
they had seen the ships and before Dawson took another breath he
piloted the B-25 down and away on a detour course toward the north.
You were right, Dave! Freddy Farmer spoke first. Absolutely
right! Those were Junkers, or I've never seen one in my life. And I've
seen plenty of them!
Junkers, right enough, Dawson repeated with a nod of his head.
And that bunch was the second group! In short, there must be a
whale of a big Yank convoy that they are hunting for, or else
Dawson stopped and shrugged, but Freddy Farmer wouldn't let it
remain that way.
Or else what? he demanded.
Or else they are hunting for all planes headed for
Casablanca, Dawson replied slowly. Go aft and get the colonel, will
you, Freddy? I think he should be told what's going on.
Definitely! young Farmer replied, and quickly slipped out of the
During the next couple of minutes Dawson virtually explored every
square inch of the milky air all about the B-25 but he didn't sight any
planes. Then Freddy returned with Colonel Welsh, and Dawson reported
what they had seen.
They seem to be all around our course, sir, Dawson added. Do you
want us to plow right on through, or continue to detour around this
area and come into Casablanca from the north? We've the fuel left to do
it, if that's what you want.
The colonel didn't reply at once. It was very plain from the
expression on his thin face that the news of sighting Nazi aircraft
disturbed him greatly.
It can't be a convoy they're after, he finally said, because
there isn't one this far south. And they can't be looking for any
plane, such as this one, because
The Chief of U. S. Intelligence paused a second, shook his head, and
ordered, Get on course for Casablanca, Dawson, and plow right on
through! With our radio gone, we're helpless to find out what's
whatif anybody happens to know. The sooner we get to Casablanca, the
better. So bang on through, but avoid action if it's possible.
Very good, sir, Dawson replied, and pulled the B-25 back onto her
original course. By the way, sir, how's the pilot?
Getting better by the minute, the colonel replied. Lost a lot of
blood, but we'll take care of that as soon as we get to Casablanca.
Push on through, and I'll order the crew to remain at battle stations.
This is the darnedest mess I ever bumped into!
If I've ever met up with anything more tantalizing, then I sure
don't remember it, Dawson remarked by way of agreement. Okay, sir!
Casablanca it is, and on the run!
Colonel Welsh murmured something that Dawson didn't catch and,
giving the Yank air ace a pat on the shoulder, he swung about and
returned to his battle station aft. For the next twenty-two minutes
Dawson and Farmer didn't speak as the twin-engined North American B-25
prop-clawed its way forward through the milky-hued heavens. Neither of
them spoke because anything they might have said would only have served
to increase their fears. Both feared they were lost, and not even
headed toward Casablanca. They feared that at any second a whole flock
of those mysterious Junkers might suddenly appear in the air before
them and open up with all guns. They feared that once more their plans
were about to be knocked into a cocked hat.
Jeeper, jeepers! Dawson finally muttered. I couldn't have a worse
case of jim-jams than I've got right now, even if I was actually
piloting the President's plane. I
Dave! Freddy Farmer broke in excitedly. I'll be blessed! Look!
The English youth's exclamation was quite unnecessary because Dawson
was already staring wide-eyed at one of the many so-called miracles of
weather. In other words, the milky air stopped abruptly, as though cut
off by a knife. One instant the B-25 was plowing on through the stuff,
and the next it was roaring out into clear air filled with brilliant
sunshine. Dead ahead was the coast of French Morocco, and the Port of
Casablanca glistening white in the sun!
So this guy Farmer is a punk navigator, huh? Dawson shouted
joyously. Like heck he is, what I mean!
Luck, blasted luck, I swear it! Freddy breathed, but there was a
happy smile on his face just the same. Man! I never was so glad in all
my life to see a place as I am to see that spot ahead. Luck, absolutely
nothing but luck!
Okay, have it your way, Dawson laughed. But just keep right on
having this kind of luck. That's all I've got to say. Boy, oh boy! Dry
land ahead, and something to eat, and a place to lay down my weary
head. Oh-oh! Here come some of the boys to give us a look-see. See
Of course, the English youth replied with a nod, and fixed his
gaze on the flight of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings that were sweeping
gracefully up off North African soil and streaking out to sea toward
In less time than it takes to tell about it, those high-speed
fighter aircraft were right on top of the B-25 and skipping and sliding
all about it as their pilots investigated. It took them but a couple of
moments to satisfy themselves. Then they throttled and dropped into
escort position. That is, all except one pilot. He slid out in front to
lead the way to the American-built air base on the north side of the
city. A few minutes later Dawson throttled his engines, and slid the
B-25 down to a feather-bed landing. At a signal from the Operations
Tower, he trundled the bomber in toward the small Administration
Building. There he killed his engines completely, took a deep breath,
and relaxed in the seat. A glance at the instrument clock showed that
he had been in the air for a little over twelve hours, but the way his
numbed body felt, it was as though he had been in the air for over
twelve hundred hours.
So this is Casablanca, he murmured, and absently unsnapped his
safety harness. Well, I sure want to give it a look, but not right
now. No, sir! For the next thirty-six hours, and maybe longer, all I
want is a nice soft bed!
Make that two, if you please! Freddy Farmer added, and put a hand
to his mouth to cover the yawn he could no longer hold back. Just
aOh-oh! Here comes a high-ranker in very much of a hurry. Now what, I
Dawson looked toward the Administration Building and saw a trim
major general of the Air Force running toward the B-25. By the time he
reached it, Colonel Welsh was out of the plane. The two officers
exchanged hasty salutes, and the major general started to take Colonel
Welsh by the arm and lead him away. The colonel held back, however,
nodded at the bomber and said something. The major general nodded in
reply and made a waving motion with one hand. Then the pair turned and
hurried over to the Administration Building and disappeared inside.
Well, how do you like that? Dawson gasped. What about that
wounded pilot aft?
That's why the colonel stopped, Freddy Farmer replied, and poked a
finger to the right. Here comes the ambulance now. Let's get back and
see if we can lend them a hand. After all, this is his aircraft.
Right; let's go, Dawson agreed, and pushed his stiff body out of
the seat. The least we can do is wish him all kinds of luck.
They made their way back to the compartment where the wounded pilot
was resting on blankets laid out on the floorboards. There was some
color in his face, now, and his neck and the upper part of his chest
was swathed in bandages. Gathered about him were the members of his
crew, each trying to keep from looking at the blanket-covered body of
the co-pilot that lay on the far side of the compartment.
Dawson crouched beside the wounded pilot and grinned cheerfully.
Lucky guy, Captain, he said. A nice hospital, pretty nurses, and
swell food for you. How's for changing places, huh?
I'll let you know after I've tried it for once, the other said,
and matched the grin. And, Dawson
Yes, fellow, Dave prompted.
I'm a dope, Dawson, the pilot said. I want to apologize for that
crack I made about losing a brother in a night torpedoing. It sure
turned out different. I didn't know the score, you see, so I thought
you were justWell, I mean
Skip it, fellow, skip it, Dawson smiled, and gently pressed the
other's arm. I didn't know the score myself, so I was just whistling
in the dark. But forget it, Skipper! You had a perfect right to think
as you did. Now here's the ambulance, so I'll stop talking. Good luck,
fellow. And if we can work it, we'll come say howdy to you in the
hospital. Good luck, anyway!
Yes, a million in luck, old thing! Freddy Farmer added as he stood
smiling down at the man.
I've already had the million in luck, thanks to you two, the pilot
said, as the ambulance medico came climbing into the B-25. Be sure and
come see me, if you can. I want to thank you for bringing the ship
through. I'm kind of fond of her, you see, andWell, you know how it
Both Dawson and Farmer nodded gravely. Being pilots, they knew
exactly how a fellow felt about his aircraft. Made of metal, and
plastics, and wood, and fabric, to be sure. But to its pilot, it was
something human and full of understanding. Something that couldn't be
put into words, because there are no words in any language that can
adequately describe the feeling a pilot holds in his heart for his
plane. Dawson and Farmer simply nodded gravely, and gave a hand in
lifting the wounded man out of the bomber and putting him in the
A nice guy, Dave murmured as the ambulance pulled away. I sure am
going to visit him if I get the chance.
Yes, and me too, if! Freddy Farmer murmured.
The remark caused Dawson to turn his head and glance sharply at his
And just what do you mean by that? he demanded.
Young Farmer shrugged and nodded toward the Administration Building.
That chap headed our way, he said. I've a bit of a hunch that
something is up.
Huh? Dawson gasped. What
He let the rest go as a field orderly came up on the run and saluted
smartly. Colonel Welsh's compliments, Captains Dawson and Farmer, the
orderly said. He asks that you report to him in the commanding
general's office in an hour.
An hour? Dawson choked out, and then caught himself. Very
good, Sergeant, he said hastily. We'll be there.
The orderly saluted and retreated toward the Administration
Building. Dawson groaned softly.
One hour, and off we go again! How much sleep can a fellow catch in
an hour, I'd like to know?
About sixty minutes' worth, Freddy Farmer murmured. Frankly, I
prefer to spend that time eating. Let's go hunt up the Officers' Mess.
Dawson started to speak, thought better of it, and dropped into step
with Freddy. One hour, huh? And then what? But he was much too tired
and hungry to bother guessing up some answers. What would happen, would
happen. And, after all, what was one more hour in this mysterious
What was one more hour? The gods of war on high could have told him.
They could have told him it was just one more hour in which the Grim
Reaper could steal closer and make ready to strike a blow that would
stun the entire civilized world!
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. Goering's
Anything else I can get you, sir?
Dawson glanced up at the mess orderly standing by the table, shook
his head, and smiled.
No thanks, Corporal, he said. I've had all I can hold. How about
I'm finished, too, the English youth said with a contented sigh.
That hit the spot, Corporal. My compliments.
Thank you, sir, the mess orderly said, and beamed his pleasure.
Tell me, where is everybody, Corporal? Dawson asked, and waved a
hand at the empty mess room. Out on patrol?
Oh, no, sir, the orderly explained. This is only a stop-over base
for pilots and equipment headed for the front. We don't fly any patrols
from here, sir, though a few of the pilots have been taking a whack at
Goering's Snoopers, whenever they get close enough.
Goering's Snoopers? Dawson echoed with a puzzled look. Do
you mean Nazi bombing raids on this place?
No, sir, the other replied promptly. And that's the funny part of
it, too. Not one of them has come within gun range of this place. Fact
is, only once since they started their funny business three days ago,
have we seen them. Then they were so high, they were no more than dots.
I heard one of the pilots say, though, that they were long-range
Junkers. Goering's Snoopers, we call them, because they seem to hang
around all the time, but do nothing. I wish we did have a regular
squadron of fighter planes here, though. Those Junkers get on my
nerves. A darn funny business, if you ask me, sir.
Neither Dawson nor Farmer made any comment for a moment. They simply
exchanged glances, and each knew what the other was thinking. Thinking
of the mysterious flock of Junkers Ju-88's they had seen a hundred
miles or so off the coast.
Phantom ships, eh, Corporal? Dawson finally spoke. Any of the
pilots who went up after them lucky enough to nail one?
Yes, I think so, sir, the orderly replied with a nod. Day before
yesterday they say a P-38 pilot got one of them. It was way inland near
Marrakech. I heard the pilot had just enough gas to get back. It's
pretty bad country in these parts for forced landing, you know, sir.
But doesn't the C.O. know where the bombers are based? Freddy
Farmer spoke up. They're not coming here all the way from Tunisia, are
I couldn't say, sir, the orderly replied with a shrug. All I know
is what I hear around the base. There aren't many of us here. The base
isn't in full swing yet. But it won't be long, and then maybe we'll
have a fighter squadron here, in case them Nazis try to really start
something. Funny about them Snoopers starting to show up three days
ago. It doesn't make sense. But what does in this screwy war?
Neither Dawson nor Farmer had an answer for that one, so they just
shrugged, and pushed back their chairs.
Well, thanks for the fine meal, Corporal, Dawson said, and tossed
a bill on the table. Here, have a time for yourself when you get a
pass to town.
I sure will, and thanks, Captain! the orderly gulped when he saw
the amount of Dawson's tip. Thanks a lot, sir. And I hope I'll be here
next time you pass through.
So do I, Corporal, Dawson smiled as he headed for the door. And
The same to you, sir! the other called after him. The same to you
Outside the mess, Dawson glanced at his wrist watch and saw that it
was just about time to report to Colonel Welsh in the field
Let's go, Freddy, he said. What do you think of Goering's
Snoopers? I guess we spotted some of them, huh?
No doubt, the English youth replied, and frowned. And a very
queer business, if you ask me. Do you suppose, Dave
I wouldn't know, Dawson said as Farmer paused and frowned all the
harder. But you may be right. I mean that the Nazis have got wind of
something, and Goering's Snoopers are sort of keeping an eye on things.
If so, that's not so good. Do you get what I mean?
I do, and I agree with you completely, Freddy replied at once.
But how in the worldOh, blast it! I'm tired of trying to figure out
They left it at that and walked in silence to the Administration
Building. A sentry met them just inside the door, learned their names,
and led them at once to the office of Major General Hawker, commanding
officer of the recently established U. S. Air Forces Base. The two
youths were admitted at once, and as Dawson looked at Colonel Welsh
seated to one side of the huge desk, his heart gave a nervous leap and
tried to slide up into his throat. The Intelligence Chief's face looked
like that of a ghost. Rather, it looked like the face of a man worried
sick; worried so sick he was seeing ghosts. However, with a tremendous
effort Colonel Welsh gravely presented the two air aces to Major
General Hawker who welcomed them with a smile and a few well chosen
words. His face, too, showed the nervous strain under which he was
suffering. Dawson, glancing from one to the other, felt the old
familiar eerie tingle at the back of his neck. The old eerie tingling
that had never in the past failed to serve as a warning of danger and
death in the immediate future.
Be seated, gentlemen, please, the major general was saying, and
gesturing a hand toward a couple of chairs. IWell, Colonel, I
believe you'd better begin the talking, anyway. These two officers have
been working with you since the start of things. So go right ahead,
Colonel Welsh nodded his thanks to the general and stared at Dawson
and Farmer with eyes haggard from worry and fear.
Bad news for us, he said bluntly. The thing we tried to prevent
has come to pass in spite of our efforts. Where the leak is, I don't
know. Maybe I'll never find out. But that is not important, now. What
is important is the fact that the Nazis have learned of the war
conference to be held in Casablanca. In short, the Nazis know that
President Roosevelt is coming to Casablanca!
You're sure, sir? Dawson blurted out as the colonel paused for
As sure as it's necessary to be, the Intelligence officer replied,
tight-lipped. Leaning forward, he tapped a map spread out on the top of
the desk. Take a look at this and tell me what it means to you.
Both Dawson and Farmer left their chairs to study the map. It was a
large-sized navigation map that included the eastern shores of the two
American continents and the western shores of the European and African
continents. The map was creased in many places, and there were many
smears of grease on its surface to indicate it had been used
considerably. What caught and instantly held Dawson's attention, and
Farmer's also, were the many penciled markings and notes on the map. At
first glance, they didn't mean much, but on second glance, their full
meaning was revealed. It was very startling, to say the least.
Dawson jerked up his head and stared in half-stunned amazement at
This is an air navigator's chart, sir! he exclaimed. With a dozen
different courses plotted out from the States, from South America, and
from England, to here. To Casablanca!
That's right, the Colonel said soberly. Every course plotted on
that chart ends at Casablanca! If you look closer, you will see
where the Nazi owner of that chart has penciled in the area off the
coast of Morocco that he patrolled.
Nazi owner, sir? Freddy Farmer choked out. You mean
The English-born air ace stumbled over his words, and before he
could start over again, Colonel Welsh answered him.
That's right, Farmer. That chart was taken from the body of a dead
Nazi pilot, whose bomber was shot down in the Atlas Mountains about two
hundred miles from here.
One of Goering's Snoopers, eh? Dawson murmured absently.
Major General Hawker stiffened and glanced at him sharply.
What's that, Dawson? the senior officer asked. Where'd you hear
about Goering's Snoopers?
The Officers' Mess orderly was telling us, sir, Dawson explained.
He said there has been a group of Nazi bombers hanging around this
base for the last three days, but not too close. He said that your
pilots had nicknamed them Goering's Snoopers.
Oh, I see, the major general said with a nod. That's right, they
certainly are Snoopers. But they'll be a whole lot more than
thatif they get their chance!
The senior office emphasized the last by rapping a clenched fist on
Then you know what they're up to, sir? Dawson asked quickly. I
suppose the colonel told you that we sighted them off shore? Is their
base near here, sir?
Dawson would have asked more questions, but the major general raised
a hand for silence and looked at Colonel Welsh.
Do you want me to do the talking, Colonel? he asked. Or would you
No, go right ahead, sir, Colonel Welsh replied with a shake of his
head. After all, you've been right here where it's all been going on.
Go right ahead, sir.
Major General Hawker grunted and stared down at the desk top for a
moment, as though taking time out to choose his words. Presently he
looked up at Dawson and Farmer. Both youths were a little startled by
the glitter of seething anger in his eyes.
The North African campaign has progressed so rapidly and so
successfully, he began, that we're way ahead of ourselves, you might
say. I mean that we've been so busy doing the big things that we've had
to let much detail work slide. For example, this base wasn't to be
ready for another month yet, but it is in operation right now. It has
been for the last three or four weeks. However, it is simply a port
through which equipment and personnel pass on the way to the battle
fronts. The working staff is very small, and we have no squadron, or
even a flight of planes and pilots of our own. I mean, based here for
our protection. That, of course, is because every plane and pilot is
needed at the front. Those of us who are behind the front must shift as
best we can, until there comes a lull in the main battle, and we've the
time to start tucking in the ends.
The major general paused for breath.
So far, I've only given you a picture of conditions here, he
continued presently. Well, about ten days ago I was secretly informed
through Colonel's Welsh's office that the President and Mr. Churchill
were going to hold a war conference here at Casablanca. Naturally, I
kept that secret. However, the Nazis must have got hold of that news
somehow, either here or in Washington. We'll probably never know which.
Three days ago those Junkers long-range bombers started putting in an
appearance. At first, I thought they were after convoys, but pilots who
sighted them off shore reported that they either kept at a safe
distance, or raced away to hide in the clouds before our planes could
reach them. In short, they did everything in their power to avoid air
battle. In addition, they went the limit to prevent any of our planes
from following them back to their base.
Just what do you mean by that, sir? Dawson asked with a puzzled
The major general reached out a hand and tapped a finger on the
navigator's chart on the desk.
That plane and its crew were deliberately sacrificed so that the
others could get away, he said. It happened yesterday morning. A
Lockheed Lightning pilot happened to be in the air, and he sighted the
Snoopers off shore. He requested permission by radio to give chase and
engage them. That permission was granted. The Snoopers had a good start
on him, however, and there were a lot of clouds, so the Lockheed pilot
was unable to catch up until the chase had gone a good two hundred
miles inland. When he started to close in, the pilot reported later,
one of the bombers dropped out of formation, turned back, and gave
battle. It put up a good fight, and by the time the Lockheed pilot had
downed it, the others had disappeared completely. Just before turning
back to fight, the German pilot dumped his full load of bombs, and they
exploded in the wilderness below. That didn't help him any. Well, the
bomber crashed, and no one bailed out! That struck the Lockheed
pilot as being queer and as there was some smooth ground close by, he
landed to take a look at his victim. He said it was not a pretty sight.
But there were only three aboard, whereas a Junkers Ju-88 usually
has a crew of at least six. Not one of those three had made any attempt
to leave the plane as it fell earthward. Do you know why?
The senior officer paused and seemed to wait.
No, sir, Freddy Farmer spoke up impulsively. Why, sir?
Because there were no parachute packs aboard the plane! the
other replied at once. In fact, the plane was stripped bare of
everything that was not absolutely essential to flying and fighting.
There were no identification papers on any of the crew, though the
Lockheed pilot could tell from decoration ribbons that all were veteran
airmen. There was nothing except this navigation chart. The Lockheed
pilot said that one of the men was holding it as though he had been
about to destroy it, but was stopped by the crash. By that I mean, in
one hand he clutched the chart and in the other a cigarette lighter.
Anyway, the Lockheed pilot brought the map back to me, and as soon as I
took one look at it I knew the reason for the constant patrolling of
those Nazi bombers. I know exactly what they are.
It sounds like a suicide outfit to me, Dawson murmured as the
major general paused. They must be waiting for the President and his
party to arrive. Then they'll let go with the whole works, to say
nothing of their own lives.
There's no doubt about it! Major General Hawker agreed grimly.
I'm as convinced of that as though they had come and told me so. If
they know when the President and Mr. Churchill will arrive, I
don't know. Perhaps they will receive that signal from somebody right
here in Casablanca. The way they have let convoys alone and have
avoided air battle, at the deliberate sacrifice of one of their own, is
proof positive that they are waiting for the one big opportunity. And
even though the President's life, and Mr. Churchill's life, were
spared, the loss of other lives would be almost as disastrous to the
Allied cause. In short, so long as that German suicide squadron remains
in existence, a terrible danger hangs over the entire civilized world.
No matter how many planes we have protecting the President and his
party, some of those bombers would be bound to get through.
But their base, sir, wherever it is? Dawson spoke up as the other
paused. If you could only find it, and
Exactly the point! the major general interrupted. If we could
only find it! The only thing I've got here that could out-fly
the Junkers Ju-88 is a Lightning. But the main difficulty is that I
have no pilots I can order out on such a mission. I mean, should they
find the base and radio its position, they wouldn't have fuel enough
left to return. They'd force land in the mountain wilderness and
eventually die of starvation or the heat. We've got to destroy
those planesand within the next thirty-six hours!
Thirty-six hours, sir? Dawson echoed, as his heart started to
pound against his ribs.
The major general looked at him gravely, and nodded.
Yes, he said. Just ten minutes before your plane landed I
received code word from Washington that the President and his party are
already on the way to Casablanca!
Good gosh! Dawson gasped before he could check himself. Only
thirty-six hours and then Goering's snooping suicides can do their
stuff? Or try to do it? But
Dawson suddenly checked himself and looked at Freddy Farmer. For a
long moment their eyes met, and then they nodded impulsively. Dawson
turned to Major General Hawker.
With your permission, sir, he said quietly, Farmer and I would
like to locate that base and radio its position so that our bombers
could go over and wipe it out.
As Dawson finished speaking, silence settled over the room. Colonel
Welsh broke it as he addressed his words to Major General Hawker.
Just what I told you, sir, he said. And by God, they'll find it,
tooBless them both!
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. Death Takes Wing
For the tenth time, Dave Dawson checked his position and made
absolutely sure that he was where he was supposed to be. For the tenth
time, countless fears shot through his brain to taunt and jeer at him.
He wasn't at the agreed rendezvous point. His navigation was all
cockeyed. He was a hundred miles north of the point. He was a hundred
miles south of it. He was
Cut it out, fellow! he ordered himself. This is a fine time for
you to go haywire! You're simply here ahead of time. Your watch tells
you that. Freddy was held up a bit, that's all. Maybe he ran into a bit
of weather, or something. Maybe
Or something? But what? That was the question! Freddy Farmer could
fly through the toughest weather made. He was that kind of pilot. It
was crazy to think that weather would hold up Freddy. But where was he?
Why wasn't he here?
These tantalizing questions pounded in Dawson's brain like the
booming of big guns. He clenched his teeth and gripped the controls of
the Lockheed Lightning so tightly that the knuckles of his hands showed
white through the skin. That this was perhaps the last flight he might
ever make didn't bother him much. What did was the fear that Freddy and
he might fail in the successful completion of this vitally important
mission. And that fear was doubled when he realized that the odds were
all against them. Yesterday when they had volunteered for the job Major
General Hawker had told them in no uncertain terms that their chances
of finding the secret Nazi bomber base were about one in a thousand,
and their chances of coming back alive were about one in a million.
Yes, the odds were all against them, but that didn't matter. They'd
had the odds against them before and had won out. So right after
leaving Major General Hawker's office they had selected two Lockheed
Lightnings on the field and flight tested them thoroughly. By then
darkness had settled, so they had gone to one of the field hutments and
tumbled into bed with their clothes on, so that there would be no waste
of time in case they had to make a night take-off in a hurry.
Good fortune was theirs, however. They each had twelve solid hours
of sleep before word came that Nazi bombers were sighted off the coast.
Five minutes later they were both in the air, but instead of flying out
to sea, they carried out a prearranged flight plan. Dawson had flown
northward to circle around to the east and then southward to a point
over the middle of the Atlas Mountains. And Farmer had flown south with
the idea of circling eastward, and then up north to rendezvous with
Dawson. One of them would be sure to cross the path of the Nazis
winging back to their secret base. The instant one of them spotted the
Nazis he would code call the other over his radio and give his position
and course. The other would head that way at once, join up, and
together they would trail the Nazis to their base, and then code call
Casablanca where a hastily assembled squadron of American bombers was
Yes, a very carefully thought out plan of action, except for one
flaw. And that one flaw was making itself known right now as Dawson
coasted the Lockheed about in the North African sky over the
prearranged rendezvous point. In short, he had not seen the Nazi
bombers, and he had not heard so much as a whisper over the radio,
though he had called Freddy Farmer several times for a check. No
bombers! Radio silence since Casablanca! So
So, Dave said to himself as he tried to still the fearful pounding
of his heart, So something has happened to Freddy! He's bumped into
trouble, and his radio went haywire on him. Or he's lost and has missed
the Nazis completely. Oror he's dead!
Dawson hardly realized that he had spoken the words until they were
out. Their echo in his ears caused his mouth and throat to go dry, and
fingers of ice to curl about his heart. He shook his head savagely and
pounded one clenched fist on his knee.
Stop it! he ranted at himself. Don't even let yourself think of
it, you dope! Freddy will show up, or call you. He's just got to.
He cut the rest off short and stiffened in his seat as he caught
sight of a plane ripping through the air toward him. As he opened his
mouth to let out a shout of joy at meeting up again with Freddy Farmer,
his breath stuck in his throat.
But that can't be Freddy! he mumbled as he squinted his eyes at
the oncoming plane. That plane is coming from the east, and Freddy
would be coming up from the south. AndHey! My gosh! Thatthat plane
is German! It's a Messerschmitt 109, a Nazi fighter plane, and
heading right my way!
He cut off the last with a vigorous shake of his head, as though to
clear his vision. However, when he took another look, the plane was
still a Nazi Messerschmitt 109, and it was still racing straight toward
him from out of the east. A moment later, though, just as Dawson
instinctively slid the guard off the electric trigger button of his
guns, the on-streaking Messerschmitt swerved southward, and its nose
went slanting up in a climb.
What the heck? Dawson cried, as a faint sensation of
disappointment rippled through him. Is he getting cold feet so soon?
Or didn't he see me?
A couple of moments later, his last thought seemed to be proven
true. The Messerschmitt pilot leveled off after he had climbed a couple
of thousand feet, and Dawson could tell by the decrease in the plane's
speed that the pilot has eased back to cruising throttle. No more than
a couple of miles separated the two aircraft now, and though the
Messerschmitt was perhaps three thousand feet higher than the Lockheed,
Dawson knew that he could close in on the Nazi in no time, if he wished
That was just the point. Where a few moments ago he had been ready
and eager for battle, he was now filled with a sense of caution. For
one thing, what was a Nazi ME 109 doing over the Atlas Mountains? Was
it close to its basethe same base used by the mysterious Junkers
bombersor was the pilot lost and wandering about in the North African
heavens hundreds and hundreds of miles from where he should be? And for
another thing, why hadn't the Nazi spotted him? Was the pilot dead, and
was the aircraft simply flying itself until it ran out of gas?
Or is this a smart trick, and I'm too dumb to catch on? Dawson
muttered the next thought aloud, and stared at the other plane that was
now circling slowly about in the air. Is he waiting for me to come
piling in, because he has some special surprise package waiting, or
As he mulled over the question in an effort to guess at an answer
that might be close to the truth, the Yank air ace searched the
surrounding skies. However, if he expected to see any other planes in
the heavens, he was doomed to disappointment. As far as he could see in
every direction there was nothing but sun-tinted blue North African sky
and a few mountains of clouds piled up here and there.
Maybe I'm nuts! he groaned, and gave a little shake of his
head. Maybe I'm just seeing things. Or maybe I'm asleep and dreaming,
but don't realize it. Well, one German less is one German less, I
always say. So here goes for that bird tooting around up there.
He'llWell, for cat's sake! Now what?
The last was because the Messerschmitt pilot had suddenly ceased his
coasting around and had swung onto a course due south at an increased
speed. And though Dawson gaped and stared in amazement, he let no sky
grass grow under his feet. He instantly swung south and opened up his
two Allison engines, but continued to maintain his altitude of some
three thousand feet below the other plane.
For a full five minutes, the Nazi rocketed south with Dawson some
two miles behind him and holding steadily to the pace. At the end of
that five minutes, though, the Messerschmitt reached the edges of one
of the towering mountains of clouds in the sky. Impulsively, Dave
opened his throttles so that he would not lose the Messerschmitt in the
clouds. The action was unnecessary for the German pilot swerved to the
east just before he came to the clouds. Once again his abrupt change of
speed showed that he had eased back to throttle cruising.
Anger took the place of amazement in Dawson, and he was on the point
of slamming up to give battle to the Messerschmitt, when suddenly
twelve Junkers 88 long-range bombers came sliding out from under the
mountain of cloud, looking for all the world as though they were
rolling their wheels across the peaks of the Atlas Mountains.
So suddenly and so weirdly did they appear that for a second or so
Dawson was unable to realize what they were. When truth came to him, he
sat up stiff and straight in the seat and let out a yell of excited
Goering's Snoopers! Dave cried. There they are, the bums, as sure
as shooting! And on their way back to their base. No doubt of it, and,
so help me, that Messerschmitt must be some kind of a lone escort come
out to meet them and lead them home. Sure! There he goes sliding down,
now. Butbut where is Freddy? Where is good old Freddy? He made his
flight south, so he must have crossed their path. He!
He cut his own words off abruptly as a squealing noise sounded in
his earphones. It rose and fell, and rose and fell again. Although he
worked furiously over the tuning knobs of his panel set, he could get
nothing but the squeal's. That is, nothing but squeals for the next
minute or two. Then, suddenly, the squealing sound stopped, and a
single spoken word came through as clear as a bell.
That single word made Dave's heart pound furiously, because it was
his own last name spelled backwards; because it was the signal call
Freddy Farmer was to use when getting in radio contact with him. No
sooner had he heard the code call spoken once, than the squealing sound
filled his ears again. Whether it was Freddy's set or his that had gone
haywire, he could not tell at the moment. He simply put his lips to his
own mike and shouted Freddy's code call at the top of his voice.
Remraf! Remraf! he shouted. Can you hear me, Remraf? Over!
The only reply that he received was the continued squeal in his
earphones. Once again he called Freddy, but the result was the same.
Impulsively, he checked his own set as best he could, but found nothing
wrong with it. As a matter of fact, to make definitely sure that his
own set was in perfect working order, he sent out a signal call to
Casablanca Base and instantly received a reply that came in loud and
So that settles that, he grunted. Freddy's set has gone haywire.
He probably picked up those Snoopers long ago and hasn't been able to
contact me up to now. He's around. I can't see him, but he must be
around somewhere doing his job of trailing those Snoopers back to their
base. With his eagle eyes, I'll bet a million bucks he can see
His heart overflowing with joy at the knowledge that Freddy Farmer
was alive and still flying, Dawson left his set tuned as fine as
possible and gave all of his attention to the Messerschmitt-led air
cavalcade of Junkers 88's that was sliding through the air over the
mountain peaks. They were all well below Dawson's altitude now, and all
he had to do was to throttle to their speed and hug the sides of the
cloud banks. True, there was a small chance that he might be sighted,
silhouetted against the clouds as he was, but that was the chance he
had to take. If he was sighted, he knew that it would be the
Messerschmitt 109 that would turn back to drive him off, and so he kept
his gaze on that plane and paid little or no attention to the bombers.
Eastward and then southward the Nazi planes flew, and then at the
end of some thirty-five minutes, they changed their course to the east
again, and then northward. Most of the Atlas Range was out of sight
now. Ahead lay barren country that looked as though nothing, not even a
blade of grass, had ever lived there. Farther ahead was the border line
between Morocco and French Algeria, but of course there was nothing to
mark it. Nothing, for as far as the eye could see there was only
wasteland. These barren lands of the western rim of the Sahara Desert
seemed to shimmer and tremble in the blistering heat of the sun. Even
the banks of clouds were gone now. They had been left over the Atlas
Mountains, and the sun blazing down made Dawson's throttles feel like
red hot pokers, despite the fact that he was some twelve thousand feet
in the air.
As a matter of fact, the constant glare of the sun, and the intense
concentration on the Nazi formation ahead and below him strained his
eyes to the utmost, and he began to see crazy objects and shapes that
were no longer there when he took a second look.
It was because of this that he paid little or no attention to a
gray-green blur that appeared on the barren earth just ahead of the
Nazi planes. That is, he gave it scant attention until he suddenly
realized that the Nazi pilots had cut their throttles, and in
follow-the-leader style were circling around and down toward that
gray-green blurr. Shoving up his goggles, he dug knuckles into his
smarting eyes, then impulsively leaned forward as though that bit of
movement would afford him a better look.
But whether or not it did, he certainly saw more than he had the
first time. The gray-green blur was a small group of shrub-covered
hills that rose right up out of the desert. That it was some kind of an
oasis was evident by the patches of pale green here and there.
One thing was definite, however. To Dawson it was the only thing
that mattered. That gray-green patch on the seemingly limitless expanse
of shimmering and quivering Sahara was the secret base of Goering's
Snoopers! He had found it! There it was! The first two of the bombers
were already on the ground on the eastern fringe of the gray-green
patch. They looked like beetles as they moved along over the ground.
A wild, fierce joy surged up in Dawson as he stared down at the
place, but when he happened to glance at his fuel gauges, a tiny icy
shiver went through him, and his joy was tempered by cold, hard
reality. He had fuel for about another half hour in the air. Fuel
enough to take him a fraction of the distance back to his Casablanca
base. What he had expected had happened, but only now did the full
significance of it descend upon him.
But we found it! he shouted wildly as he put his lips to his flap
mike and reached out to tune his set to the Casablanca Base wave
length. And that's what matters most. Now to tell Casablanca and
At that moment Dawson's ears were filled with the savage yammer of
aerial machine guns and air cannon, above and behind him!
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. Blazing Doom
One, two, three seconds slipped by before Dawson could move a single
muscle. It was as though invisible hands of steel held him powerless.
Only his eyes and brain seemed able to function in that short space of
time. His eyes saw the top left section of his glass hatch melt away as
if by magic. His brain told him the shambles that was suddenly made of
his instrument board and radio panel would never in all this world
permit him to contact his Casablanca base. The golden moment had
Keeping alive was his prime concern now. The Grim Reaper was
savagely striving to cut life short for one Yank air ace!
In three seconds Dave Dawson became a flying madman. Instinct, and
instinct alone, caused him to whirl the Lockheed up, over, and down in
a half roll. Hardly had he started the maneuver, than he kicked the
ship over on wing and came around back and straight up toward the
sun-filled sky. Not until he had reached the peak of his power zoom did
he take so much as a second for a look around. But now he did race his
eyes about the sky, and rage boiled up within him as he saw three
German Messerschmitt 109's pulling out of furious power dives, and prop
clawing around and up in an effort to box him in a perfect cross
Not today! he thundered wildly, and dropped the nose of his
Lockheed. You had one swell chance, because I was too dumb a sap to
think of keeping eyes in the back of my head. That's the only chance
you'll get. You didn't make good, and now it's my turn. Hey! You there
on the right! How do you like this for a tasty dish?
As he shouted the words, he touched right rudder a bit and slammed
down almost at the vertical, straight for one of the power-zooming
Messerschmitts. The German pilot must have thought that ramming was the
one idea Dawson had in mind, because the Nazi plane suddenly fell over
on its side and started to circle away to avoid a mid-air crash. But
ramming was not Dawson's idea. No, not while he had slugs for his
aerial machine guns and shells for his air cannon. However, he waited
until the last second before he gave the Nazi aircraft everything the
Lockheed had. The almost instantaneous result indicated that it was
much, much more than enough. One minute the Messerschmitt was curving
away, and the next it just wasn't there any more. That is to say, it
was just a shower of flaming and smoking embers falling away to the
sun-scorched Sahara far below.
One! Dawson bellowed, and cut his fire.
Yes, one! And that left two others in the sky. However, those two
were crafty veterans of the Luftwaffe, and they had not been
wasting time. Nor had their actions been with the idea of getting away
from the wild, mad flying Yank eagle. On the contrary, they had simply
maneuvered to await their time. And that time came as Dawson cut his
fire and started to wheel up out of his thunderous power dive.
As he started up, those two let fly at him. Maybe both hit the mark,
or maybe one of them missed completely. But what did it matter? The
mark was hit, and the mark was Dawson's plane. The air all about him
seemed suddenly alive with tracer smoke, and the Lockheed Lightning
acted as though it was about to fly right out from under Dave. He was
hurled back against the headrest with a force that filled his head with
winking stars. Then the Lockheed whipped up over on its back, dropped
its nose and headed straight down like a meteor gone berserk. Thunder
roared in his ears, and before his eyes exploded and flashed all the
color combinations in the world. In his nose was the acrid stench of
Your turn, this time, pal! he heard his own voice shout, as he
went hurtling downward. No! No, it isn't, darn it! You're not
hit. You're okay! Hit the silk, you dope! Bail out! Hit the
silk! If you
He choked off the rest, or rather fear choked off his words, as he
suddenly heard the renewed bursts of savage aerial machine-gun fire.
His ship shot to ribbons, and falling to earth in flames, yet those two
Nazi vultures were still pumping death at him.
But why not? he reasoned. They're Nazis, aren't they? What else
would you expect these killing rats to do?
Even as the thought slipped across his brain, a new one crowded
close on its heels. Rather, it was a realization. The realization that
there was not one bit of pain in his body as he struggled to free
himself from the burning Lockheed. And also that no ribbons of tracer
smoke were cutting past him. So what were the Nazis shooting at? At
each other, or
Before he could finish the question he had managed to fight his way
up out of the pit, and dived headlong into sun-filled thin air. But it
was not his own movements that stopped his unfinished thought. On the
contrary, it was the sight of a wingless Messerschmitt 109 hurtling
down to its doom about three hundred yards from where his own body
seemed to hang in mid air.
Hey! he gasped. Did I get another one? Did I get two, and I'm
just finding out? But how the
And he didn't finish that question either. He didn't, because at
that exact instant the gods of war, as though angered by the fact that
he still lived, tried one last time to finish him off. At any rate, at
that exact moment a piece of his riddled Lockheed Lightning flew off.
Straight and true as a ball pitcher's perfect strike it cut across the
air space toward him. He actually saw it coming out of the corner of
his eye, and he tried to duck as his body slowly tumbled end over end
downward. But he didn't succeed in ducking, or he didn't duck in time.
Something hit him a smashing blow on the side of his head, and the
entire North African sky blew up in a thunderous roar of sound!
When consciousness returned to Dawson his first hazy impression was
that he was floating about in the middle of a great sea of black ink.
But no, not everything was that black. At regular intervals a faint
yellowish orange glow appeared before his eyes. But before he could get
a good look at it the glow faded away out of sight. Instinctively he
tried to get his brain to function; to get it to figure out what
everything was all about. However, for a long time he somehow just
couldn't force his brain to make that effort. He simply lived in a
world of hazy snatches of thought, and inky darkness lighted now and
then by a yellowish orange glow.
Eventually, as though secret curtains had been pulled away inside
his head, memory came slipping back, and he began to discover and
realize things. The first realization was that he was hanging suspended
in mid-air and slowly swaying this way and that. The second realization
was that the darkness was the darkness of night. The third realization
was that there was a dull throbbing on the left side of his head. And
the fourth, and perhaps the most important realization of all, was that
he was dangling at the ends of the shroud lines of his parachute, which
was hopelessly fouled in the crooked and gnarled branches of a scrub
tree. By throwing his head way back he could look upward and see his
fouled 'chute and the tree branches silhouetted against the billions of
stars that twinkled at him from high overhead. And when he looked down
he saw that rocky ground was not over three feet from the soles of his
That realization filled him with great joy, but it also made him
gulp, and caused beads of cold sweat to break out on his forehead.
Never as long as he lived would he be able to remember that he actually
had pulled the rip-cord ring of his parachute whether or not that
flying bit of Lockheed wreckage caught him on the side of the head. But
he must have done that little thing, and by the grace of God and Lady
Luck he had not been allowed to strike ground while still unconscious.
To have done so, to have hit ground without being prepared for the
landing shock would unquestionably have resulted in a couple of broken
ankles, if not legs. Particularly because of the rocky soil under him.
However, one chance in a billion had come to pass, and his journey
earthward had been checked in the nick of time by the crooked and
gnarled branches of the scrub tree.
Or maybe it's just a dream! he whispered hoarsely as he fumbled at
the snaps of his parachute harness. Maybe it's just a cockeyed dream,
and I'm going to wake up stone dead!
The words he spoke, however, were just a means of letting off pent
up steam. He got the 'chute harness snaps undone, grabbed the straps
with both hands and slowly lowered himself until his feet touched solid
earth. However, his body had experienced so much swaying motion that
his sense of balance was all upset. And no sooner did his feet touch,
and had he let go of the harness straps, than he fell stumbling down
onto his hands and knees, and his brain started to spin furiously.
For the next few moments he was content to sit on the solid earth
and wait for his brain to stop spinning and for fresh strength to flow
back into his body. Then finally he slowly arose and peered about in
the darkness. Just where he had come to earth he hadn't the faintest
idea, but it seemed a good guess that he must be somewhere in the
region of that weird group of shrub-covered hills that marked the spot
where he had seen those Junkers 88's go down to land. That guess caused
countless little fears to start pecking at his brain. How close to that
secret base was he? How come he had been left hanging unconscious on
his parachute shroud lines for the rest of the day? Where was Freddy
Farmer? Had Freddy really been trailing those bombers, too? Had he
reported the location to Casablanca base? Or was his radio truly dead,
and did Casablanca base still not know the truth? What time was it,
anyway? Had he been unconscious for just a few hours? Or had it been
for a day and a night, and had Goering's Snoopers already roared out
from their hidden base to do their devilish dirty work?
Those and countless other soul-tantalizing questions whipped and
spun through his head as he searched about him in the gloom. Suddenly
he spotted the yellowish-orange glow once again. He judged it to be
perhaps a mile away, but he was unable to see the base of the glow
because of a rise in the ground. After one good look, though, he knew
that it was flame. Rather, a column of flame-tinted smoke that rose
upward into the night sky. Having seen that same sort of sight at night
in other parts of the world, he was pretty sure that the
yellowish-orange glow was from the burning wreckage of a plane.
Mine, or that Nazi I nailed? he asked himself the question aloud.
OrHey! I remember, now! Two Nazis went down, and I know darn
well that I only got one of them. I
He stopped short, caught his breath and held it as though not daring
to let himself speak.
Freddy? the whisper finally came out from between his stiff lips.
Was it Freddy who piled down and nailed that second Nazi? ButBut
what then? Where did he go? What did he do? I know he didn't have fuel
to get back to Casablanca, but if only his radio worked, and he
was able to tell them the story! Please, dear God, let Freddy have made
good where II failed.
For a long minute he stood there motionless as though waiting for
the answer to his question to come drifting down through the night air.
Suddenly his hand flew to his holstered service gun, and he whirled
around and down in a crouch. Behind him, he had heard the crackling
snap of dry twigs, followed by the rattle of loose stones hitting
together, and the faint thud of something falling to the ground.
With his finger crooked about the trigger, and his heart trying to
slam-bang its way out through his ribs, he waited for more sound. And
when it came to him, he didn't know whether to shout with insane joy,
or to break into crazy laughter. He didn't know which to do because the
sound he heard was a human voice; a hoarse whispering voice that was
filled with seething anger. A voice that said:
Blast, and eternally blast this confounded darkness!
For five full seconds Dawson was utterly unable to unhinge his
frozen tongue. The one-in-a-billion miracle left him completely
speechless. It seemed to knock everything out of his head and make all
so unreal and fantastic as to be absolutely impossible as an actuality.
Freddy! Freddy Farmer! the words finally forced their way past his
lips. Freddy! Can you hear me? Over here, Freddy! Over here!
As his voice died away to an echo, a tingling moment of silence
settled over everything. Then once again he heard Freddy Farmer's
voice, like a ghost voice from out out of the past.
Dave, Dave! Keep talking, old chap! I'll follow the sound of your
voice. Dave, old thing, are you all right? Don't move, Dave! Just keep
talking! I'll follow the sound of your voice!
I'm okay, Freddy! Dawson replied as hot tears of inexpressible joy
stung his eyes. And, pal, this is the biggest moment of all, past,
present, and future. I'm over this way, kid. I can hear you now. Over
here, Freddy! Gosh, oh gosh! Am I glad to
He never finished the sentence because at that moment a darker
shadow than the night suddenly materialized at his side, and in the
next instant the two air aces were hugging and thumping each other and
mumbling a lot of things that neither of them heard, much less paid
attention to. Finally, though, they ceased the greeting act and calmed
Man, Dave! Freddy Farmer panted. I thought I'd never reach you. A
thousand times I swore I was lost and heading in the wrong direction.
Phew! What absolutely unbelievable luck! I'll never forget this as long
as I live. Not ever, I swear it!
You and me both, Freddy! Dave echoed the statement. But look! You
were trailing those bombers? And it was you who nailed that
Messerschmitt right after I started down in a heap, andBut wait! Tell
me this, first. Your radio was okay, wasn't it? And you notified
Casablanca base, didn't you?
The air came out between young Farmer's lips in a whistling gasp,
and he grabbed hold of Dawson's arm.
Dave! he choked out. Dave! You mean you didn't let them
Dawson was unable to answer for a moment. His whole body seemed to
turn into a solid chunk of ice so that he could hardly breathe. It
required a tremendous effort to get the words off his lips.
No, Freddy, he said. Just as I started to tune in Casablanca,
that Messerschmitt bunch gave me the works and shot my set into
splinters. Thenthen your radio was out? I tried to raise you
several times, but couldn't.
The blasted thing went haywire after I'd been in the air only
fifteen minutes, the English youth replied. I had half a mind to turn
back to Casablanca, but I didn't dare for fear the Junkers might be
down my way. They were. I sighted them coming in over Magador. They
were hugging the clouds. I gave them a few miles and then tagged along.
I tried to raise you, but I didn't get any answer, so I just carried
on. About an hour later I spotted you trailing a Messerschmitt. I tried
to rise you again, but still no answer. Then when we got close to here
I saw those three Messerschmitts drop down on you. I was above the lot
of you, so I saw everything. Man! I thought I'd die when you did
nothing, and just let them come down!
Dumb ape that I am, Dawson said bitterly, I was so interested in
watching the Junkers that I didn't think to keep an eye on my tail. I
heard your call once, Freddy, though I couldn't spot you. You did get
one of them, huh?
I got both, with a bit of luck, young Farmer said quietly. But
not before one of the blighters had put a bullet through my port
engine's oil line. All I could do was force land. I saw your parachute
open, and saw your silk foul in a tree near here. I tried to land as
close as I could, but messed things up something terribly. A blasted
awful landing. I was lucky not to have broken my confounded neck. I
think I was knocked out for a spell. Fact is, I'm sure of it, because
it was late afternoon when I collected my senses. I could see this bit
of a hill where we are now, so I started out for here. Good grief, what
country! The Alps are easier to cross than this bit of ground. When it
got dark, it was just three times as bad. ButWell, thank the Lord I
finally reached you!
Dawson said nothing. He simply groped for Freddy Farmer's hand,
found it, and pressed it hard.
That was rotten luck for you, and just plain dumbness on my part,
he finally got out in a groan. Those are the two reasons for our
failure. Gosh! If I had a knife, I think I'd be tempted to cut my
throat. When I think how close we came to preventing those bombers from
raiding Casablanca, I
But they haven't taken off yet, Dave! Freddy cried excitedly.
It's still not too late, if that's what you're thinking!
Young Farmer's words seemed to make Dawson's heart swell up and
explode in his chest.
What? he gasped. Haven't left yet? But it's well over the time
limit, Freddy! According to schedule, the President's party should have
arrived at Casablanca early this evening, and
Maybe it did, but the bombers haven't taken off! young Farmer
interrupted. While making my way here, I saw their hidden field from
some high ground. That was about an hour ago. They had a few oil pot
flares burning, and I could see the planes. All props were dead. They
haven't left yet, Dave. My guess is that the President's party has been
delayed a bit, and they know it! And, Dave! There are more than
just Junkers there, too. At least half a dozen Messerschmitt
single-seaters, not counting the ones we got, and a two-seater
No kidding? Dawson breathed, and swallowed hard. Then that checks
with the thought I had. I mean, those bombers have a fighter escort to
protect their secret base in case a stray plane or two found itlike
what happened to us. But I think the big idea of their being here is to
sail out to give the bombers a better chance to get through when the
big moment comes. They must be 'Number Two Suicide Squad' because
they'd never get back here on the gas they carry!
Absolutely! Freddy Farmer replied at once. No doubt of it. When
the bombers were sure of their target, they'd radio the Messerschmitts
to come on the jump and lend a hand. Dave, old thing, we're not all
washed up yet! Don't you understand?
And how! I understand! the Yank air ace said grimly, and got up
onto his feet. Do you know the way to that secret field from here,
Yes, the other replied. But it's about two hours of blasted hard
going. We've got to be very careful. I think the blighters have patrols
out hunting for us. I heard a few Jerry voices while I was making my
way here. By the way, that glow over there is your aircraft still
burning. Never knew a plane to burn so long.
So that's what it is, huh? Dawson remarked absently. Then,
reaching out, he gripped Freddy Farmer's hand. Let's go, pal, he said
quietly. Don't ask me if I have any plans, because I haven't a one,
yet. But let's get to that field and decide when we get there. One
thing is in our favor, anyway. We're both still alive and kicking. If
you ask me, that's plenty for a starter!
Quite! Freddy Farmer echoed, tight-lipped. We're both still
alive, so we're jolly well not licked yet!
Check, and triple check! Dawson grunted. Let's go!
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. Vultures' Nest
Dawn was a faint gray line marking the point where the North African
sky met the North African Continent in the east. Just a faint gray line
heralding the coming of a new day, though the world was still shrouded
in the darkness of night. A new day. A new day of war. A new dayof
victory, or utter failure?
The question was like a pin-point white hot flame burning in Dave
Dawson's brain as he and Freddy Farmer hugged the hard-packed ground
behind a clump of withered desert brush. Just seventy yards beyond the
desert brush was a long level strip of desert, flanked on both sides by
scrub-covered hills. Hills? They were little more than mounds of rock
and sand. As though Nature throughout the ages had thrust them up from
the bowels of the earth and covered them with scrub growth for a crazy
prank. They looked just about as natural in the middle of the Sahara as
a part of the Sahara would have looked in the middle of New York City.
Nevertheless, there they were. Another bit of the mysterious Sahara's
phenomena for man to study and wonder about. A desert oasis completely
surrounded by hills! Yet there it was for mortal eyes to view.
However, the strange freak of Nature's handiwork held no interest
whatsoever for Dave Dawson or Freddy Farmer. What interested them
completely were the man-made things on that strip of desert valley. The
fifteen Junkers Ju-88's, the six Messerschmitt 109's and the single
two-seater Messerschmitt 110, that were pulled way back under perfect
camouflage covering on either side of the desert stripthe planes, and
the groups of shadowy figures that were walking about among them.
For fifteen minutes the two youths had hugged the ground behind the
scrub bush and peered out at the weird yet deadly-looking scene in
silence. For one thing there was nothing to say. However, the main
reason for silence was that each was close to the point of complete
exhaustion and collapse. Not two, but three hours ago they had started
toward the spot where they now were. Those three hours had been the
most torturing and grueling of their entire lives. Three hours used to
cover a distance of but a little over a mile! Simple enough to think
about, but how far different the actual execution of that
night-shrouded journey. Cuts and bruises on their bodies were
countless. Their uniforms were in shreds and tatters, and there was an
utter weariness within them such as few men have ever experienced. A
hundred times all that kept them going over the rock-studded ground,
with thorn-bush barriers every other foot of the way, were their
fighting hearts and savage determination to win through in spite of all
And they had won through, but were now forced to stretch out
on the ground and fight another battlethe battle for new strength and
new energy that would carry them forward to the most terrific struggle
of all. Yes, carry them forward to the struggleand the successful
completion of an almost impossible task.
Freddy, I'm wondering, Dawson suddenly whispered, and touched the
English youth's prone body with his hand.
Yes, Dave? came back the equally faint whisper. Wondering about
If Dave began, and paused. I mean, maybe we're all wet about
this business. There's not an engine out there ticking over, and it's
darn close to dawn. You'd think they'd be warming them up now, if they
expected to go out at a moment's notice. In other words, I'm wondering
if Major General Hawker was right. If this bunch really does
have any connection with the President's trip to Casablanca?
I'm sure it must have, Dave, Freddy Farmer replied after a few
seconds of silence. Everything absolutely adds up to that. In my mind,
there's no doubt about it. As for warming up the engines, the blighters
are up and about. No doubt they'll start them up any minute now. May be
waiting for a bit more light, you know. The point is, what are we
The English-born air ace never finished that question. He didn't
because at that moment a figure garbed in the uniform of the Nazi
Luftwaffe rushed out of a little camouflaged hut on the left side
of the desert strip and shouted orders at the top of his voice. He
spoke in German, of course, but both Dawson and Farmer knew the
language, and soand so absolute confirmation of the truth was given
All pilots and crews report to Herr Kommandant at once! the
voice bellowed in a note of wild, frenzied excitement. Der Tag
has come! The signal has just been received from Casablanca. Your
targets are approaching there now. The American Schweinehunds,
and the English ones, too. Der Tag has come! Heil
A brief moment of silence settled over everything. And then a
silence-shattering roar came from many throats.
Bombs were exploding in Dave Dawson's brain, and his heart was
pumping madly in his chest as he pushed up onto his hands and knees.
Freddy! he got out in a choking gasp. This is it! You hear what
that bird said? They've received word from some rat in Casablanca, just
as Major General Hawker thought they would. Freddy! It's up to us now,
or else! Those confounded bombers just can't take off! And
that's got to be that!
Absolutely! the English youth echoed in a hoarse whisper. And
just look at the blighters! Like blasted ants crawling all over those
planes, andDave! Do you see
Right! Dawson cut in, and gripped his arm. That Messerschmitt
110. They're not touching it yet. Must be the Kommandant's
plane. Probably going to tag along and watch the slaughter, but keep
out of the way.
Yes, yes! Freddy said excitedly. But we
My idea all along, pal! Dawson breathed fiercely. That's not the
rat Kommandant's baby, that's ours, Freddy! If we can
only get it off before they get us, we can pin the rest of those crates
on the ground like nobody's business. But, Freddy!
Yes, Dave, yes? the English youth asked impatiently. What now?
Just a thought, Dawson said in a quiet, steady voice that
surprised himself. We'll get that baby off, and we'll raise merry heck
with these birds, even if it's the last thing we do. That's the idea!
Maybe it will be the last. I have a funny feeling that we've had
more than our share of luck already. SoWell, if you'd rather we tried
to swipe a single-seater Messerschmitt apiece, so that
Rot! young Farmer snapped angrily. So that one of us might get
away? Meaning me? Not a bit of it, Dave! We started the balmy business
together, and by the Lord Harry we'll finish it together, one
way or the other. So stop your silly talk, and let's get on with
things. You have your gun, of course?
Right in my hand, kid, Dawson assured him. And you're a pretty
nice guy, Freddy, if I haven't ever mentioned it before. Okay, together
it is. Keep low, and run like the dickens. If somebody gets in our
waywell, it will be just too bad for him. They're going half nuts out
there, now, so maybe we'll get the breaks and not be seen. Set,
Set, old thing, the English youth replied, and pressed Dawson's
arm. Luck to us both!
We don't count, Dawson said, and pressed young Farmer's arm in
return. Luck to the Casablanca war conference, please God! Right! Here
Dawson pressed Freddy Farmer's arm once more, then wheeled around,
bent way over almost double, circled the scrub bush, and went streaking
out onto the desert strip at top speed toward the Messerschmitt 110
parked a good eighty yards away. Farmer bolted right after him.
Perhaps it was Dawson's spinning imagination, or perhaps it was an
actual fact, but it seemed that no sooner was he out from behind the
scrub bush than the amount of light thrown forward by the swiftly
approaching day was tripled in intensity. He had the sensation that he
and Farmer stood out as clear and as huge as a couple of runaway
horses, and that every German eye was fixed upon them. In fact, had a
hundred machine guns suddenly opened up on them, he would not have been
the least bit surprised. With every racing stride he took, with every
split second that skipped by, he expected just that.
However, there were no screams of alarm, and there were no blasts of
yammering machine-gun fire as the two youths covered forty yards in
their headlong dash and reached the first of the parked bombers. At
that point, Dawson swerved sharply to the left in order to avoid all
notice if possible. Then he swerved back to the right again without
checking his speed for a single instant. They had to pass four more
bombers with mechanics and pilots swarming all over before they reached
the Messerschmitt 110. They accomplished it in a matter of split
seconds, but to Dawson's high-pitched nerves and whirling brain, it
seemed a thousand years. It seemed as though he was only crawling over
the ground, and in slow motion at that.
But the crazy thoughts he had were far from the truth. He was
traveling so fast that he virtually ran into the side of the
Messerschmitt and was bounced back, to bump up against Freddy Farmer's
plunging body. They caught hold of each other in an effort to maintain
their balance. They succeeded, but no sooner had they regained their
balance and were turning to scramble up into the plane than two
uniformed Nazis came running around the tail of the aircraft.
The two Nazis saw Dawson and Farmer. Their jaws dropped, and they
skidded to a halt and reached for their holstered Lugers. But they
might just as well have tried to jump over the stars and drop straight
down on the two air aces. Dawson's gun barked once, so did Freddy
Farmer's, and there were two less Germans in the world.
Before either of the dead Germans had hit the ground the two air
aces had whirled and had thrown themselves into the Messerschmitt's
cockpit. Though nothing had been decided between them, Dawson
impulsively leaped into the pilot's pit, and Freddy Farmer piled into
the gunner's pit aft. It was one of those unspoken agreements, and as
Dawson landed in the seat, his hands shot out for the engine switches,
throttles, and starter buttons. Two seconds later, the grinding of the
starter gears sounded like the loudest noise in all the world, and
Dave's heart pounded in wild fear that their two shots were bringing a
horde of other Nazis on the run. However, he didn't waste time looking
about. He hunched forward in the pit and concentrated every bit of his
attention and all his prayers on getting the two Daimler-Benz engines
One second, one minute, one hour, or maybe a thousand years dragged
by before the two engines caught and roared in a mighty earth-shaking
duet of power. Dawson's heart leaped with wild joy, and for five
precious seconds he forced himself to let the engines run to warm up a
little before the take-off. At the end of five seconds, he eased off
the throttles, kicked off the wheel brakes, and let the Messerschmitt
trundle forward out of line with the other aircraft. No sooner was he
in the open and swerving left toward the long way of the field, than
the chattering yammer of a machine gun rose above the general roar, and
he heard the deathly whine of bullets passing overhead. He also heard a
wild yell from Freddy Farmer's lips, but he didn't dare twist around in
the seat and look back. He didn't because he was pointing the long way
of the desert strip now, and was ready to ram his throttles wide open.
In front of him was a milling mass of Germans. He was that a furious
attempt was being made by a Messerschmitt 109 pilot to trundle his
single-seater out of line and onto the desert strip to block the way!
Stark terror gripped Dave's heart as he saw the nose of that
single-seater moving out toward the line of his take-off. He had
impulsively rammed both of his throttles wide open, and his aircraft
was leaping forward like a shell leaving the mouth of a cannon. Whether
or not he would pass that moving 109 in time was something that was in
the lap of the gods.
Touch and go, and it was instinct more than sane thought that gave
him a new lease on life. As the Messerschmitt 110 rocketed forward
toward the milling mass of Nazis and the Messerschmitt 109 rolled out
into his path beyond, Dawson jabbed the electric trigger button of the
ME's guns and punched the air-cannon firing knob. Instantly the plane
bucked and jumped madly as the guns yammered and pounded, and it was
all Dawson could do to hold it on its straight take-off line.
Gangway, bums, or take it! he roared at the top of his voice.
Leap for your lives, or else!
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Eagles Come
Words, crazy, insane words poured from Dave Dawson's lips as he held
the Messerschmitt 110 as steady as a rock and guided it forward at full
throttle. Perhaps his actions were as crazy and insane as his words.
For every German his guns sent spinning to the ground, two more seemed
to come bounding out of nowhere with blazing sub-machine guns in their
hands. The Messerschmitt 109 that was being rolled out to block his
path loomed up larger and larger with every split second until it
seemed to fill the entire desert valley almost directly in front of his
Yes, perhaps crazy, perhaps insane, and perhaps totally and
hopelessly mad. Dawson didn't have time to wonder about that, or to
give it a single thought. The only thought he held in his swirling
brain was that he had to get the Messerschmitt off and into clear air.
If he didn't, all was doomed. And the point was that getting the
aircraft into the air was but the beginning of things!
Up, up with you! Come on! Get off, get off!
Shouting the commands at the plane, he hauled back on the controls,
held his breath, and shut his eyes, as though that would help a little.
An eternity of suspense dragged by. At the speed he was traveling now,
there wasn't a hope in the world that Freddy or he would survive a
crash with that other German plane. It was now, or never. All, or
nothing but instant death. With the fate of the entire civilized world
hanging in the balance, was it life, or was it
A mighty upward surge of the Messerschmitt caused Dawson's heart to
swell with joy. He opened his eyes and instinctively ducked because his
left wing and the nose of the Messerschmitt 109 seemed to be touching
one another. But not quite, thank God, and the 110 went prop-clawing up
close to the vertical. Prop-clawing upward as the withering fire of
enraged vultures below spewed up after it.
Made it, made it! Dawson choked out, and instantly kicked the
Messerschmitt over on wingtip and pulled it around in a screaming turn.
He cut short his words as sudden memory of Freddy Farmer's wild yell
came back to mind. It seemed as though he lived and died a hundred
deaths in the time it took to turn his head and glance back at the rear
cockpit. What he saw sent a flood of joy into his pounding heart.
Freddy Farmer was still alive and kicking. And very much so, too. He
had his rear guns swung around and down and was blazing away at the
ground. One of his bursts of bullets had already nailed one of the
Junkers 88's, and livid red flame was shooting upward from the giant
First blood for you, Freddy! Dawson screamed into the thunder of
his twin Daimler-Benz engines. First blood for you, and how! Let's go,
kid! They think they've got a date at Casablanca. The heck they have,
I'll say! Here, you, a kiss from Casablanca!
As Dawson roared out the last, he dropped the nose of the
Messerschmitt like a rock and went piling down toward the row of parked
planes. He saw two Messerschmitt 109's taking off, but they were past
his line of fire, so he couldn't do anything about them. Nor could he
do anything about the ocean of ground fire that swept up toward him.
Maybe their 110 would be drowned in that ocean of machine-gun and
rifle fire, but not before Freddy and he had made that secret desert
airdrome a shambles of burning aircraft that would block off all other
attempts to take off.
With every cubic inch of air seemingly filled with death-whining
bullets from the ground guns, Dave rocketed the 110 recklessly downward
and let go with all his guns and air cannon. One, two, three huge
Junkers 88's seemed to crab sideways and then break out into flame
before he was forced to pull up out of his mad dive, or go roaring in
to his doom. His heart was smashing against his ribs, and his face was
bathed in hot sweat as he pitted every ounce of his strength against
the downward momentum of the Messerschmitt. Then, with but half a
second to spare, he got the nose up and went engine-howling for the
dawn gray sky.
Dave! They are
Whatever Freddy Farmer had to say was drowned out in a tremendous
thunder of sound. Sound that billowed up from the ground directly under
the power zooming plane. Sound that seemed to envelop the
Messerschmitt, to grab it with many hands and fling it cartwheeling end
over end out across the North African dawn. All the fireworks in the
world popped and crackled in Dawson's head. A thousand steel fists hit
against his body from every conceivable angle. The nose of the
Messerschmitt and the instrument panel started spinning until all he
could see was a whirling blurr. The air that he sucked into his lungs
was as liquid fire, and it seemed to dry up every drop of blood in his
body. In a crazy, abstract sort of way he knew that some of the Junkers
bombs had let go before he had been able to zoom out of range, and
concussion had caught the Messerschmitt to make it as helpless as a
dried leaf in a cyclone.
Dave! Man your guns! Two planes got off! There they come down. From
in frontfrom in front!
Freddy Farmer's screaming voice seemed to tear away the blurred veil
that covered Dawson's eyes. His vision cleared, and he looked up to see
the two Messerschmitt 109's streaking down at him from in front. Freddy
Farmer's guns were already blazing away, but the angle was bad, and the
tracers were smoking well above the diving planes.
Even as Dawson looked up and spotted the two planes, he was pulling
up the nose and fumbling for the electric trigger button on his control
stick. He found it, only to have his fingers slide off. When he looked
down, he saw that his hand was red and glistening from his own blood.
The sight stunned him for a second because he felt no pain. That is, no
acute pain. From head to foot his entire body felt numb and weak, but
there was no sense of pain whatsoever. He was even more astonished when
he saw that the front of his ripped and torn tunic was stained with
One glance, however, was all he could takeone glance to see,
realize the truth, and be dumbfounded. Then he snapped his eyes upward,
tapped right rudder just a little to bring one of the diving planes
into his sightsand fired!
The result? He saw what happened with his two eyes, but he did not
know whether his bullets and air cannon shells, or Nazi panic, caused
it. It seemed that he had hardly jabbed the electric trigger button
when the plane in his sights swerved violently off to the right. Maybe
his burst hit it and kicked it that way, or perhaps the unthinking Nazi
pilot swerved purposely to throw Dawson off his aim. But whether no or
yes, the 109 swerved violently to its right, and went side-slashing
into the other diving 109. One second there were two planes hurtling
downward, and the next they had locked wings, crumpled about each other
like wet paper, and then completely disappeared in an exploding ball of
flame and oily black smoke.
Good gosh, no! Dawson gasped, and hurled the no over and around to
avoid the flaming inferno as it went plunging past. Did I get him, or
did the guy go haywire? Hey, Freddy! Did you see that?
Silence greeted his question, and terror was his again as he twisted
around in the seat. What he saw brought no yell of joy to his lips. On
the contrary, it brought a sob of alarm, because Freddy Farmer was
slumped over like a sack of wet meal against the side of the cockpit.
One upstretched hand still clung to the trigger guard of the rear guns,
but the English youth's face was deathly pale, save where it was
spattered with drops of blood. His eyes were closed.
Freddy! Dawson shrieked. Freddy! Speak to me, pal! Oh, dear God,
no! Please, oh, please! Freddy! Freddy, boy!
Dawson's voice faltered, and the only sounds he made were dry sobs
that struggled up out of his throat. He turned front, and hot, stinging
tears fell from his eyes. On the ground was a sight that should have
brought shouts of joy to his lips and filled him with wild, surging
happiness. The secret desert-oasis field was now completely covered by
clouds of dirty black smoke that were slashed every few seconds by the
bright red and orange flames of newly exploding bombs. Each time a
flash of flame slashed its way up through the clouds of dirty smoke,
bits of plane wreckage came hurtling up after it.
Yes, Goering's Snoopers were doomed. They would never fly to
Casablanca, or to any other place, for that matter. But that wonderful,
thrilling realization left Dawson untouched. Somehow, he was beyond all
feeling. His brain was numbed, his heart was dead, and there was hardly
the strength in him to go on living. His tattered tunic was now
drenched with blood. Drops of blood fell from his fingers curled about
the Messerschmitt's controls. A gray curtain seemed to hover before his
eyes, and it took every ounce of effort that he possessed to peer
through it and make out the instrument panel.
Can't be done, can't be done! He heard his own mumbled voice as
though from miles and miles away. We plastered them for keeps.
Butbut they got old Freddy. And maybe they got me, too. Oh, dear God,
I'm so tired, so darn tired. II can't fly this thing back to
Casablanca. I justI just want to quit now, and go to sleep. What does
it matter, anyway? Freddy's gone. And without old Freddy, I
His mumbling voice trailed off, and there was nothing but the
continued thunder of the Daimler-Benz engines in his ears. Suddenly he
heard another voice. A voice? Or was it something inside of him
Quitting, huh? Just like that! You get a couple of scratches, and
you want to let down and quit. Isn't that just dandy? So Freddy's gone,
huh? How do you know? You can't tell from here! But, no, you
don't even want to try to get back to Casablanca, where maybe he
could be saved if he's still alive. No! You just want to quit
and make sure that he dies. Okay, quitter! There's hard earth
down there. Dive in and make sure of death!
The little voice kindled a spark of anger within him, and it flared
up into a bright hot flame. Quitter, huh? The heck he was! Maybe Freddy
wasn't dead! Please, God, let that be true! He'd get Freddy back.
Honest he would. He'd get Freddy back, no matter what. This wasn't the
end for either of them. Remember how they had once kidded that the Nazi
was not yet born who could polish off either of them? Well, that was
true. Yes, doggone it, that was true! Casablanca? Okay! You bet!
It was hard to move, and that darn gray veil made things hard to see.
But he'd get through just the same. Casablanca, here we come! Here we
The wheels of the bullet-riddled Messerschmitt 110 touching hard
ground seemed to snap something inside Dawson's head, and drag him back
from another world. In a daze he looked about and saw that he was
rolling along the Casablanca field. Above him, the air was filled with
Allied aircraft. A sharp stab of fear passed through his heart when he
realized that this Nazi plane had been in the air with those other
aircraft. He vaguely remembered they had spotted him way out from
Casablanca, closed in, and then dropped into escort position.
And now he was down on Casablanca base! He'd made it, but he
hadn't realized it until just now! Could a pilot fly a course while
semi-conscious? Maybe he could, because Dave had very little
recollection of this flight except for the very start. AndWait!
As the thought flashed through his brain, he lurched upward out of
the seat and looked back. Fresh fear and terror gripped him. Freddy was
still slumped lifelessly against the side of the pit. His face seemed
even paler, and it was covered with more dots of blood. Dawson started
to call out, when he heard the pounding of many running feet. He turned
his head in that direction and saw a large group of figures, led by
Colonel Welsh, racing toward the plane. He waved frantically with one
hand and called out.
Ambulance! he shouted. Get the ambulance at
At that exact moment a dark cloud swooped down on top of him. A
great roaring started up inside his head. He knew that he was tumbling
headlong out of the pit and down onto the wing, but he was absolutely
helpless to do anything about it. Something, probably the wing stub,
hit him one last and final smash on the head, and there was nothing but
darkness, and utter silence.
Dave Dawson found himself suspended in a world of clear,
fresh-smelling and soothing white when he again opened his eyes. It did
not puzzle him that all should be white, because his brain was too
contented to bother figuring it out. His whole body felt contented,
too. A lulling warmth enveloped him, and he did not care whether
anything ever changed again. This lulling warmth and this soothing
contentment were all that he could desire.
However, that perfect spell of both mind and body was not
long-lasting. As complete consciousness finally returned, the aches and
pains took charge of his body, and his brain awakened fully with a
Freddy! Freddy Farmer!
Hardly realizing that his lips had gasped out his pal's name, he
struggled to push himself up. But even as he started the effort, other
hands were placed upon him and he was gently pressed down to his
original position. A position that he then realized was flat on his
back in a hospital bed. And then the face of the owner of those gently
pressing hands came into his vision, and he recognized Colonel Welsh.
Don't, son, the Intelligence Chief said softly. Just let yourself
go, boy, and relax completely. Farmer is all right. Shot up a little,
just as you were, but he'll pull through with flying colors.
You're sure, sir? Dawson choked out. You mean it? You wouldn't
My word of honor, Colonel Welsh stopped him. He's weak, yes, from
the loss of blood, just as you are. But he'll be all right, just as
you'll be all right after a period of mending and resting. And if
you'll promise to get another good sleep, I'll have you moved into
Farmer's room so that you can be together. And, son
Hey! Dawson blurted out, as the thought suddenly came to him. The
President's party, and
He would have said more, but Colonel Welsh put a hand to his lips.
Don't waste strength talking, son, he admonished with a smile.
Believe me, everything is perfect. The war conference is under way
right now. And never mind giving me a report, either. Both you and
Farmer have babbled it all in the two days since you've been here. I
don't know what to say, Dawson. Wonderful isn't half the word that's
needed. I can only say that it is another great debt that civilized man
owes to you two. But for what you did, just you two alone, there's no
telling what terrible changes there might have been in this war. We
caught the Nazi agent here who sent the signal of the President's
coming to that secret base. He was one of von Steuben's men my agents
had been watching, hoping he would lead them to bigger fish. But it
turned out he was the big fish here at Casablanca. We caught him
at his hidden radio, but the message had already gone through. He
admitted it, even boasted about it, saying that it was too late for us
to do anything. No matter how many planes we put in the air, some of
those Junkers would get through in time. That was no lie. Some of them,
and maybe all of them would have gotten through, because we had
no idea from which direction they would come to deliver their attack.
Or when, so that we would be ready. But you and Farmer
Colonel Welsh stopped talking, blinked his eyes, swallowed hard, and
All I can say, he finally got out, is that I thank God from the
bottom of my heart that you two are fighting on our side. And, son
The Chief of U. S. Intelligence was about to add that the President
of the United States had said that he wished to see Dave Dawson and
Freddy Farmer before he left Casablanca and personally decorate them
for their brave and gallant service above and beyond the call of duty.
But Colonel Welsh decided to wait until another time, because what use
is it to tell a fellow anything when he is fast asleep with a happy and
thoroughly contented smile on his face?