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The Real O'Leary (fiction)

Old Guy

Jr. Member
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Deceiving Creatures

“Pardon me, sir.  Can you tell me where Allied Recon Group H might be located?” 

A large man stood in the doorway.  Filled the doorway, in fact.  Monk eyed the intruder warily.  “Well, lad, you’re bloody well standing in it.  Who might you be?”

“Sir, I -- I think there’s been a mistake.”  The big man twisted his hat into a shapeless mass.

“This is the bleedin’ Army, soldier.  Mistakes are our stock in trade.  You, for instance, are making a tragic mistake right this very minute.”  Monk assumed a stern visage.

“Ah . . . what . . . what might that be, sir?”

Monk shook his head sadly.  “There you go again.  Sitting before you is a bleedin’ RCAF Flight Sergeant!  Sergeant Monkhouse to you.  I'm not a bloody farking officer!”

“Oh -- sorry.  You was sitting in the Colonel’s office and at his desk, so I . . .”  Indeed, Monk was in Colonel Muskrat’s office and at that same officer’s desk.  Monk figured that all military property belonged to the public and, being part of the public, he was free to appropriate any such property as was not in use.

Monk elected not to explain all this to the man mountain.  “I’m borrowing the office, large person.  Now tell me about this other mistake.”  He motioned for the lad to sit down.

“Well, I’ve been sent to this here ARGH outfit . . .”  The big fellow stopped speaking; his mouth formed into an “O”.  “Hey -- ARGH -- that’s funny.  Just like in the cartoons!”  He laughed in a deep, rumbling way.  Monk decided to hate him.

“Which isn’t the only funny thing about this outfit,” said Monk with bland certainty.

“So, here I am.  And it seems to me that there’s been a mistake, sir -- er, sergeant.”

The conversation was making Monk tired.  “Tell me why is you’re being here such a bloody mistake.  Have you any orders?”

Orders were handed over and Monk learned that one Dumas Treacle, PFC, US Army Ranger, was assigned to ARGH.  “An interesting name -- I assume you go by a nickname?”

“Yeah.  I was named after a rich uncle -- who went broke in '29.  My friends call me Duey.  Mom said nobody ever called me later for dinner either.”  Again with the earthquake laugh.

“Enough levity, Duey!  You have been assigned to this unit for a special assignment involving very dangerous activity, possibly in France.  How do you feel about that?”

“Oh, man,” said Duey.  “France!  That would be fantastic!  What kind of weapons would I be using?  Not a BAR, I hope.”

“You don’t like the BAR?”  Frankly, Monk thought a light machine gun with a 20-round clip was stupid, not to mention morally repugnant.

“It’s a piece of crap!” exclaimed Duey.  Monk’s estimation of the lad went up a notch.

“What would you like to carry?”

“Well, since it’s in France, how about an MG-42?”

“A German machine gun?  Why?”

“It’s the best light machine gun in the world, for one thing.  For another, ammo wouldn’t be a problem.  We just knock over a few krauts and there’s our ammo.”  Duey looked more intelligent by the minute.

“How about the MP-40?”

“Sure.  Good backup to the MG-42.”

“You’ll carry both?  You’ll want a Luger, as well, I suppose?”

“I’ll carry the MG-42 for shock value, the MP-40 for close-in stuff, and no, I don’t want a Luger.  I’ll take a Colt automatic.  Regular 1911A1.”

“I like the Colt myself,” agreed Monk. 

“Damn right,” said Duey, warming to the subject.  “Drop that hand cannon in the mud and it’ll still shoot.  Run out of bullets and it makes a dandy club.”

Monk automatically figured anyone who agreed with him was intelligent.  Duey was smarter than he looked.  “I don’t suppose you speak any French?”

“Some.  A lady back home taught me quite a bit.  Got along okay during the Dieppe raid.”

“You were in that bloody mess?”

Duey nodded.  “Yeah, that’s where I first used the MG-42 and MP-40.  Took ‘em off dead krauts.  Captain made me turn ‘em in when we got back.”  The memory of losing the German weapons seemed to make him genuinely sad.   

“Too bad.  We’ll get you some new toys.  So you learned French at home?”

Duey seemed reluctant.  Monk grinned.  “This lady -- she teach you anything besides French?”

Red faced and chuckling, the big man nodded.  “Yeah.  I was nearly sixteen when she moved to town.  Her husband traveled a lot.  Gone for weeks at a time.  I guess she was lonely.”

“I’m sure she was.  How old was the lady?”

“Late twenties.  Not over thirty.  I mowed her lawn and did other chores around the house.”

“I’ll bet you bloody well did!  How long did this go on?”

“Until I graduated from high school and left for the Army.”  Duey grinned.  “Told my little brother to go over and offer to help out after I was gone.”

Monk exploded with laughter.  “Bloody good show!  Have you heard from him?”

“Yeah, a couple months later I got a letter from him.  He said the lady had given him something special for his sixteenth birthday.  The word special was heavily underlined.  He’s probably screwing himself half to death.  I know I did.”  They both laughed again.

“Damn, Duey, I think you’ll fit right in at this bloody lunatic asylum.  I don’t suppose you learned any German.  Maybe from another friendly lady?”

“Nah.  All I know is what they’ve been teaching us in the Army.  You know, all that ‘surrender’ and ‘throw down your weapon’ crap.”

“You don’t think those phrases will come in handy?  Some jerries may want to surrender.”

“Well,” said Duey, “they better learn to say ‘I surrender’ in English.  If they say anything in kraut I’m just gonna put bullet holes in ‘em.  Safer that way.”

“Right,” agreed Monk.  “It’s good to have another bleedin’ philosopher around.”  He stood up and stretched.  “Come on.  I’ll show you where to put your gear.  Then we’ll get some dinner.”

“I’m for that,” said Duey. “It’s been a couple hours since I ate.”

Monk spotted Leftenant Slim entering the mess and waved him over to the table.  Duey was shoveling away at his second helping of everything -- near as Monk could figure.  The lad could eat, no doubt about it.  With shoulders that barely fit through doorways and a build that would have been appropriate on a medium size truck, Duey looked like he could be very useful if you had to, say, take out a pillbox -- by hand. 

Slim sat down, eyeing Monk’s companion with interest.  “Who might this be?”

Monk grinned. “This bloody portable mountain is Duey.  He appears to belong to us, sir.  Had we requested battalion-sized reinforcements?”

Slim laughed.  Duey managed a sheepish grin and shook hands.  Then he dug in afresh.  Monk drained his coffee and stood.  “I’m going down to the flightline, sir.  I’ll check at Ops for any messages.”  Slim nodded and Monk went on his way.

Slim sipped his coffee as Duey ate.  He marveled at the lad’s endurance and capacity.  “You joined the Army for the food, I take it?”

Duey gave him a perplexed look.  “Yes, sir.  Sort of.  Pa said he couldn’t feed me any more.  Not after my brother started getting his full growth.”  He shrugged.  “There weren’t no jobs and I could see the war coming.  So, here I am.”  He waved at the meager remains on the table.  “This stuff ain’t much like Ma’s cooking, but there’s plenty of it.”

“Not any more there isn’t,” chuckled Slim.

Duey frowned.  “I don’t want to be out of line, sir.  But, that Monk character is a little strange looking.  Sorta like something out of a horror story.”

“Don’t tell him that,” warned Slim.  “He’s a bit sensitive.  Especially about the fangs.”

“I noticed those right off, but didn’t say nothing.  Is it some sorta birth thingy?”

“No, no, it’s not a birth defect.”  Slim paused. “The thing is, Duey, we don’t know a hell of a lot about Monk.  He just showed up one day with an A-20 of his own, a phony British accent, and a set of orders assigning him to this unit.”

“His own plane?”  Duey’s forehead wrinkled.  “How’s a flight sergeant rate a personal plane?  And he ain’t a birth defective then what is he?”

Slim was silent for a moment.  “He says he’s half one thing.”  He smiled slightly.  “And half something else.  We assume he’s at least half human, but the issue is open to question.”

Duey held his hands up. “Say no more, sir.  I don’t have a problem with weird people.  You should of seen my last platoon sergeant!”

Slim nodded.  “I can well imagine!  I’m afraid that isn’t all.  Monk brought along a crew chief-gunner who -- ah -- well, he claims to be a small dragon.”  Duey studied Slim’s face, but said nothing.  “His name is Che.  Every week or so he disappears.  Claims to go someplace mysterious where he can turn back into a dragon.”

“So he can eat?”

“Yes,” said Slim in an astonished tone.  “That’s what he says.  How did you know?”

Shaking his head, Duey said, “I don’t know.  It just figures. Wow!  I can’t believe I was lucky enough to land this assignment!”

“Assignment?  Oh, you mean being attached to this unit?”

“No,” answered Duey.  “Well, that too.  But I’m really glad to go on this next mission!”

“What mission?” asked Slim.  Now it was his turn to be perplexed.

“The mission to save some guy named O'Leary.”

Slim eyed Duey with trepidation.  “Did you bring along some orders or something?”

Shaking his head, Duey pointed at the mess hall entrance.  “Nope.  Monk just got them.  See.  He’s bringing ‘em now.”

Monk was, indeed, walking quickly toward them -- as quickly as his odd, bowlegged stride would carry him.  He was waving a set of papers.  Slim looked back at Duey.  “How the hell did you know that?”

“Search me, sir,” answered the big man, “Sometimes I just know.”

Monk plunked down in a chair.  “Orders!  We’ve got orders to go find a lunk named O'Leary and spring him form Nazi custody.”

“I know,” said Slim, pondering the implications, “Duey just told me.” 

Dr. O'Leary’s Secret

“Let me get this straight,” said Slim.  “The Germans think they have this -- scientific fellow -- Dr. O'Leary.  And we want them to keep on thinking they have him.”  The briefing officer nodded in agreement.  “Okay,” Slim went on, “now tell me again how rescuing our O'Leary, fits into this grand scheme of yours.”

“Um,” the briefing officer thought for a minute.  “We -- uh, I mean -- the authorities in the US have lost track of the real Dr. O'Leary.”

“Lost track of him?” asked Monk.  “Lost his current address, lost him in a park, or -- what?”

The officer avoided looking directly at Monk.  “Ah -- you see -- Dr. O'Leary had been complaining of too much work and not enough booze.  He’s Irish, you know.”

“Well,” said Slim sarcastically, “I guess that explains everything!  An Irish scientist wanders off to spend a little quiet time with his whiskey, so we have to waltz over to France and convince the Jerries that they’re holding that Irish drunk and not our O'Leary, another Irish drunk.  Does that sum it all up?”

Duey looked confused.  “I’m really confused,” he mumbled.

Captain Franko, ARGH’s other American, patted him on the back.  “Welcome to the Central Confusion Society, lad.  I’m sure it will get worse in a minute.”

The briefing officer eased toward the door.  “We -- um, that is, your lot just needs to keep the Germans guessing for a few days.  Let them think they have Dr. O'Leary long enough for the -- ah, real O'Leary to be located.”  He started through the door.

“Not so fast!” Monk dragged the officer back into the room and slammed the door.  “What does this bloody Dr. O'Leary do that’s so damned important?  Why would the Germans want him in the first place?  Is he one of them ‘atomic scientists’ none of us is supposed to know about?”

The officer was appalled.  “Where did you hear about atomic stuff?  That’s Triple Top Secret!”  Tears spilled down his face.  “You have to have a secret decoder ring to be part of the Triple Top Secret Club.  I -- I don’t even have one.”  He broke into sobs.

Franko leaned over to Duey.  “What are atomics anyway?”

Duey shrugged.  “Microscopic thingmies -- sorta like your . . .”  He broke off laughing.  Franko essayed a thin smile and shook his head.

Slim consoled the distraught briefing officer.  “It’s okay.  Monk was just kidding.  We don’t know anything about atom bombs or stealth planes or any of that high tech junk.  So tell us what Dr. O'Leary does.  Even if it involves some sort of wonder weapon or alien creatures.  We can keep a secret.  Scout’s honor.  Cross my heart and hope to die.”

Controlling himself, the officer pulled some pictures from his valise.  “It’s better to show you, I guess.”  He spread the photos out on a table.  The men gazed at them in stunned silence.

Franko let out a low whistle.  Duey swallowed hard.  Monk cleared his throat and tugged at his collar.  Slim touched the pictures gingerly, as if afraid to mar them.  “These are fantastic!” he breathed.  “But, what does Dr. O'Leary have to do with these -- ah -- scantily clad women?” 

The officer gazed at the pictures reverently, “Look at the -- um . . .”

“Yes,” said Franko in a strained voice,  “look at them.  Not just generous -- but . . .”

Gathering the photos, the briefing officer explained, “Dr. O'Leary has invented a device.  A non-surgical device that combines anti-gravity waves and atomic restructuring.  It gives any woman a pair of youthful -- ah . . .”

“Boobs,” said Duey.  “Why are we waltzing around here!  Boobs.  Damn nice ones, too.”

“A single treatment with Dr. O'Leary’s device is sufficient for about six months.  I assume you gentlemen are familiar with the Nazi’s fascination with well endowed women?”  Still in shock, the men nodded.  “Well,” the officer continued, “what do you suppose they would do for the secret of this machine?”

“The question is,” said Slim, “What wouldn’t they do for it?”

“What’s this thing -- this device called?” asked Monk.

“Dr. O'Leary called it the MEM -- Mammary Enhancement Machine.  We -- uh -- we refer to it as the boobilyzer.”  He grinned in embarrassment.  “Sort of an inside joke.”

“So,” said Slim, recovering a bit, “we have to distract the Germans from trying to locate this Dr. O'Leary.  And we do that by attempting a rescue of our old pal, O'Leary.”  He thought for a moment.  “What if he just tells them who he is?”

“Would you believe him?” asked the officer.  “If you were a Nazi, I mean?”  The men all shook their heads with a chorus of ‘no way’, ‘hell no’, and ‘I’d beat it out of him’.

Duey looked puzzled.  “Why do we care if the Germans get hold of this O'Leary and his boobilyzer thing?  So what if all the women in Kraut land get rejuvenated boobs?”

“Morale,” said the briefing officer, “Morale.”  He held up one of the more fantastic photos.  “If you were German -- and all the young and not so young women in Germany were equipped like this -- wouldn’t your fight damned hard to keep Russian, British, and -- most of all -- Canadian troops away from the old homestead?”

They all nodded, speechless. 

“Okay,” said Slim after a reverent pause, “I guess Operation Deny Boobs is on.”

Loading for Bear

Slim raised his head over the parapet.  The target vehicle, an old five-ton lorry, was reduced to a heap of twisted steel.  The rubber remaining on the shredded tires was burning, adding to the towering smoke cloud.  Bits of metal, wood, and canvas covered the ground.  Some pieces were still fluttering down.  “Goddamn, lad!  What was that?”

Duey patted the bazooka tube affectionately, “Gets your attention, don’t it?”

Slim turned to meet the range officer.  “What the bloody hell are you lot doing?”  The officer was covered with dirt and splinters.  He stood at the edge of the pit and surveyed the damage to his target lorry.  “Look at my target!” he shouted. “You’ve blown it to bloody fragments!”

Slim led the furious officer away, speaking soothingly.  “An experimental round, I’m afraid.  The chaps at the factory didn’t mention it being this powerful.  Dreadfully sorry, old man.”  The others climbed out of the pit, dusting dirt off clothing and shaking out caps.  Small scraps of canvas continued to drift down. 

“Well,” said Slim, upon his return, “this range is off-limits to us for the duration.”  He gazed around at the group.  “Anyone care to tell me what sort of projectile that was?”

“Um -- the round was standard HE, sir,” said Duey.  “Except we added a little something to boost it -- just a bit.”

Monk and Che developed a sudden interest in getting back into the truck they’d brought to the range.  “Get back here, you two!” snapped Slim.  “And explain to me, in simple terms, what was added to that explosive charge what nearly blew our bloody heads off!”

Monk didn’t say anything.  Che shrugged and said, “It was only a little something the lads over at Technical Developments came up with -- uh -- sir.  Just a few drops.”

“Technical Developments,” repeated Slim carefully.  “An experimental explosive.  Right!  I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.  Back in the truck!  We’ll just run along back to base now.”  He caught Duey as everyone scrambled aboard.  “How many drops did you use, lad?”

“Three, sir.  Just three.”

Slim clapped him on the back.  “No more than one drop from now on, lad.  No more than one.  It’s considered good form to survive the application of your own weapons.”

Franko groaned as he hefted his gear.  “I don’t know why we have to take this damn bazooka.  I can’t carry all this crap!”

In the evening twilight five men were loading gear aboard a Lysander.  They were in no hurry.  The mission couldn’t begin until full dark.   

“Jeez, maybe I can carry some of it,” offered Duey.

Slim shook his head emphatically.  “No you won’t.  You’re already carrying enough for a pack mule.  He can handle it.”

“Yeah, Franko,” chided Monk.  “Carry your own stuff, you big crybaby.”

“Monk,” retorted Franko, “All you’re carrying around is an empty head.  Buzz off!”

“Careful,” said Che, elbowing Monk, “Franko just came back from survival school.  He’s a bonafide commando now.”  They all roared with laughter -- except Franko.  Red-faced, he began examining his boots.

Duey looked around in puzzlement.  Monk told the story:

After being dropped in the highlands, along with nine other survival students, Franko made his way straight to the nearest road, hitched a ride into town, and spent the next two nights at a local brothel.  The town constable delivered his sodden remains to the school commander’s office on the morning of the third day, having found him lying in a ditch -- blind drunk and clad only in his dogtags and one sock.  The commander, a heavy-set British major, was not amused.

“Well,” Franko explained, “they just told us to survive.  It was implied, but not actually stated, that we should stay out in the damp woods and eat small innocent animals.  I didn’t know it was required.”  He grinned crookedly.  “It was much warmer and drier with the tarts.”

“Too bloody right!” agreed Monk, chuckling.  “I think you were quite resourceful.  Selling your equipment to finance your -- ah -- romantic endeavors was a stroke of genius.”  He paused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.  “Although it was one of the sticky points raised by that rather straight-laced British major.  We had a terrible time convincing him to release you.  He was obsessed with a courts martial, to be followed immediately by a firing squad.”

Franko looked bleak.  “I don’t remember any of this.  How’d you get him to let me go?”

“Sergeant Bossi showed up with paperwork proving that you had turned all that stuff in through the proper channels,” explained Slim.  “He even had a chit for the fifty pounds he loaned you.”

“Fifty pounds!” yelled Franko.  “What fifty pounds?”

“Why, the fifty pounds you spent at the -- um -- sporting establishment.” Slim extended a slip of paper.  “Here’s the chit -- what did he call it -- ah, yes -- the IOU.”

Franko spluttered.  “Why that -- that rotten, no-good . . .  It’s robbery!  Extortion.  I won’t pay it!  Not a penny of it!”  He crumpled the paper and tossed it away.

“Monk,” said Slim, “What were the various penalties the major intended to invoke for our lad here?  Excluding the firing squad, of course.  I think the major was merely over-excited when he threatened him with that.”

Monk scratched his head.  “Well, leaving out the firing squad, I think it was hard labor, sir.  Yes, that’s it!  Hard bloody labor for up to ten years.”  He held up a hand.  “Providing, of course, they was to recover his rifle.  With the rifle it was more like twenty years, if I recalls correctly.”

“I hear,” said Slim benevolently, “that the climate at Leavenworth isn’t bad, except for most of the year.”

The color drained from Franko’s face.  He swallowed.  “I -- ah . . .”  He patted his pockets.  “What happened to that IOU?  I’ll have to get my good buddy, Bossi, to write me a new one.”

Che handed him a crumpled paper.  “You better keep this one.  Who knows how much he might put on another one?”  He grinned.  “Why worry?  Either one of you might be dead in a few days.  Can’t collect money from the dead -- or owe it too them.”

Franko tucked the paper away.  “You don’t know Bossi,” he muttered.  “He’d try to collect it from my own dear mother.”

“Your mother?” said Slim, “The last I knew your insurance was payable to some doxie in the Colonies.  South Carolina, if I remember correctly.”

“She’s not a ‘doxie’, as you so eloquently put it,” retorted Franko.  “She’s my sister.”

Slim was stunned.  He looked around at the others.  “My God!  The lad has a sister?”

Monk shook his head sadly.  “A sister!  Jeez, you know a guy for -- oh, what? -- ten days or so now -- and he never says a bleedin’ word about a sister.  Is she good looking?”

“I wouldn’t introduce you guys to my dog,” grumped Franko, “not to mention my sister.”

“Such distrust of your teammates is unbecoming of a junior officer,” scolded Slim.  “The lady could be of great value to us, you know, should we ever visit the Colonies.”

“Right,” snorted Franko.  “She’s a nice girl and wouldn’t have anything to do with guys like you!”

“Hmm,” mused Che.  “Does she write letters to her dear brother?”

Franko nodded.  “Of course she does!”

“Well,” said Che, grinning, “she obviously has to do with one bloke like us.”  Even Franko laughed. 

“South Carolina,” said Duey.  “Don’t they raise tobacco and make whiskey there?”

The others nodded.  Each wore a thoughtful expression.  “The lad gets right to the heart of the matter,” said Slim, “Once we get to France -- I mean when the actual invasion takes place -- then a steady supply of cigarettes, whiskey, and maybe candy bars would be invaluable.”

“Forget Franko’s sister,” said Monk, “We can steal booze and cigarettes right here.”

“Candy bars we can get at the PX, no problem,” added Duey.

“Nylons, now,” said Che.  “Nylons are another matter.  We need a source for those.”

“Franko, old boy,” said Slim genially, “check with your sister about black market nylons.”

“Forget it!  My sister is in a convent.  She’s going to become a nun.”

“A nun!”  Monk clapped his hands together.  “A bloody nun!  Perfect!  No one would ever suspect one of those.”

(to be continued)
Wrecking Crew

“Well,” said Slim in a low tone, “Looks like we’re on our own.”  The engine noise from the departing Lysander had faded away completely.  “Let’s go, before a curious kraut shows up.”

The three men faded into the night.

Fifteen miles away, a lone A-20 droned through the night.  Monk was driving.  There was no moon and he had the cockpit lighting turned to minimum.  Che occupied a seat aft, forward of the gun turret.  He watched the lights and dials built into a very special panel.  One of the lights blinked at slow intervals.  He keyed the intercom.  “Search radar.  Three o’clock.  It’s a low powered set.  Probably less than 30 miles away.”

“Roger, I’ll turn left for a bit.  Shall we go lower?”

“Negative.  We may need the room if a night fighter latches onto us.”

“Okay.  Here we go.”

Che’s headphones chirped twice, followed by a series of beeps.  He responded with a quick triple click.  He reported to Monk.  “They’re on the ground.”

“Right.  Better call it in.”

Shortly thereafter a listening post in England copied the coded message from Che.  The operator handed the message flimsy to a waiting sergeant.  He carried it into a small office off the main area.  Two officers sat at a table drinking coffee and playing cards.  The sergeant handed it to a colonel.  After glancing at the message, the colonel passed it to the other officer.  “Flakbait reports ‘Pajama Party' on the ground.  No disasters so far."

The other officer nodded.  “It’s early going.  Either Flakbait or the party goers have plenty of time to bollix things up.”

The colonel nodded.  “No sense hanging around here.  Let’s go to the club.”

In the message center the sergeant, in clear violation of security, picked up a telephone and dialed.  Someone answered.  “Bingham,” said the sergeant, “the party is on, with no gate crashers so far.  The brass have gone off to have a toot.  If there’s a problem, I’ll be in touch.”  He listened for a moment.  “Right.  Cheer-o.” 

The civilian radio operator at the next console caught his eye.  “Our lads gone off to flummox Hitler again, eh, Neville?” she asked.

“Now, Gertie,” said Neville, rather stiffly, “You oughtn’t be listening to trivial phone conversations.  Besides, you don’t have a Need to Know.”

“Don’t give me that, Sergeant bloody Neville Smith!  You pull that crap on me and you’ll find my door securely locked tomorrow evening.”

Neville gulped.  “Ah -- ha ha -- Gertie, dear.  You know I was only teasing.”  Pulling himself up a bit, he said, “Indeed, as you say, the lads have gone off to France.  Rescue mission, I gather.  That bloody thieving sergeant of theirs isn’t along.”  He scowled.  “Probably off nicking the crown jewels.”  Gertie snickered and bent back to her work.  Neville returned to his position.

Duey looked back and waved the others forward.  Slim slid into position on his left, Franko on the right.  “Bloody good show,” whispered Slim.  Duey had led them past the outlying German sentry posts and up a small rise.  From their position they could see most of the compound.  The buildings were just vague shapes in the dim light.

“It’s pretty damned dark,” said Franko.  “Do we need to get closer?”

“No,” replied Slim.  “The first few bazooka rounds will get something alight.  Then we’ll be able to see better.”  He motioned off to the left.  “Franko, you shoot from over there.  Duey, set up your gun a bit to the left.  Ten feet or so.  I’ll help Franko with the first few rounds, then move back down the slope to catch anyone coming from that way.”  The two men nodded.

“It’s just the way we planned it,” said Duey.

“I know,” said Franko.  “Kinda scary ain’t it?”

“After the first round goes out we continue until the bazooka rounds are all gone.  Duey, you keep on with the machine gun for another sixty seconds.  Then fall back down the hill to me.  We’ll probably have to shoot our way out.”

“I don’t know,” deadpanned Duey, “those guards were sleeping pretty soundly.  Maybe they won’t wake up.”  Franko snickered.

Slim tapped Franko on the shoulder.  “Let’s get set up.  Fire whenever you’re ready.”

“Hell,” replied Franko, “If it was up to me I’d call the whole damn war off.  Beer drinking is a lot more fun.” Nobody said anything.

Che sat up, dropping his foot back to the deck.  “Monk, we got us a looker!  Scans coming every five or six seconds.  Some hotshot is vectoring trouble our way.”

“Okay.  Shall we go pay him a visit?”

“Not until we get the signal.  Slim said we wouldn’t have any trouble seeing it.”

“There’s a night fighter out there trying to find our address!  We can’t wait too long!”

“Keep making random turns.  Maybe we’ll see him before he sees us.”

“Che, that doesn’t sound like much of a plan.”

Franko aimed the bazooka in the general direction of the buildings in the compound.  “I wonder,” he whispered, “you don’t suppose O'Leary is here, do you?”

Slim stuffed a round in the tube and rolled out of the path of the backblast.  “Nah.  This is an ammo and fuel dump.  Maybe a barracks or two.  Why would they bring him here?”

“Search me.  I was just wondering.”

“Well, cut it out!  It’s not doing a thing for your image.  Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Hey!” yelled Monk.  “Over to the left.  I’ll bet that’s the signal!”

“Good God Almighty!” hooted Che.  “I should hope to bloody shout!”

Monk turned away from the bright explosions just as the first sound reached them.  “Let’s go hunting for a radar van.”

“Fly a heading of 170,” called Che.  “I’ll get a couple of flares ready.”

Monk pulled the power back.  “Starting descent.  I’ll show ‘em a diversion.”

The A-20 popped into view with startling clarity.  Major Gunner cranked his Bf-110 hard left to avoid ramming it.  He swore savagely.  Feldwebel Bobbit, his radar operator, tried to keep the enemy aircraft in sight, but lost it.

“I can’t see it any more, sir,” he reported, voice quivering.

“You’re not much on that crappy radar set either!’ snapped Gunner.  “I would have hit the sonofabitch if those explosions hadn’t lit him up!”  He sagged in his seat.  “I’m too old for this.”

“Sorry, sir,” mumbled the radar man.  His hands shook as he adjusted the radar controls.  The enemy bomber had passed very, very close.  “I’ve wet my pants, sir.”

“Welcome to the club, Bobbit.  That just means you’re almost a veteran.  Call those morons and get another steer,” ordered Gunner.  “We may catch that bastard yet.”

Slim scrambled down the reverse slope.  Behind him the compound seemed to be coming apart.  Franko’s very first round had touched off something big.  When he left, the American was methodically loading and firing -- singing something.  Slim figured he was better off deaf.  He’d heard Franko sing before.  Dimly, he heard Duey’s machine gun firing in rhythmic bursts.

At the base of the hill he found a rock outcrop and hunkered down behind it.  Almost immediately, two Germans ran out of the trees.  Slim waited until they were within thirty feet, popped up, and shot them both down.  A ragged series of explosions shook the ground.  No more guards appeared.  Franko came down the hill in a rush, bazooka tube in one hand, rifle in the other.  He slid to a stop next to Slim.  Slim could see his mouth moving, but no sound came through.  Franko pointed to his watch.  Slim nodded, then peered back up the hill.  Duey’s gun was still going.  He was probably deaf as a post, too.

Bullets struck the outcrop.  Franko fired a burst in reply.  Slim dived back into cover and began shooting at muzzle flashes.  Duey was on his own.

Gunner stared into the night.  He couldn’t see a goddamn thing.  “Bobbit, can’t you get that piece of junk to work!” 

“Sorry, sir.  Ah -- control says to turn right to a heading of 180.”

“Sure.  Right.  Heading 180.  Do you suppose those idiots know what they’re doing?”  Gunner was angry and tired. 

“Uh -- well, sir.  We’re getting pretty low.  The target is probably hidden in the ground clutter.”  In fact they were below 1000 meters.  Bobbit could almost feel the ground under his puckered butt. His unit commander often reminded the operators not to second-guess or criticize the ground controllers, especially not to the fighter pilots.  The commander wasn’t sitting in the cockpit of a ME-110 blundering around in the dark.  “Ah -- sir, I think they’ve lost the target.  He’s too low.  And, I think our set is screwed up beyond hope.”

Gunner chuckled.  The kid would make a good radar operator.

Che warned Monk.  “Dumping a flare.  Now!”

The flare dropped free of the A-20, fell for a hundred feet or so, then ignited -- right in front of Gunner’s airplane.  One second the night was black as the pit.  The next instant a veritable sun exploded before them, blinding both crewmen.  The metal-cased flare crashed into the right engine.  Prop blades whined into the dark, fortunately without hitting the fuselage.  Gunner fumbled blindly for a few seconds and succeeded in shutting down the now burning powerplant.

“Sir!” screamed Bobbit.  “What do we do?”

“Do?” replied Gunner, “We kiss our butts goodbye.  Then we bail out of this pig.”  He repeated the bail-out command several times -- the last when his chute popped open.  He heard another chute open close by.  “Bobbit!” he yelled, “Now you’re a real veteran!”  He laughed all the way to the ground.

“What happened to the flare?” asked Che.

“You’re not gonna believe this!” Monk was laughing.  “I think another plane flew into it!  Jeez, look at that!”

Now Che saw the reason for his companion's mirth.  A violent explosion marked the end of whatever ran into the flare.  “I hope that wasn’t one of ours.”

“Crap!  It has to be a German nightfighter!  That damn radar site was vectoring one into us, just like you figured.”

“Well, he ain’t gonna do us no harm now.  I’ll get another flare ready.  That radar van has to be pretty close.”

“Okay, I’m turning back to the left.  Drop it close to the fire down there.”

“Roger that.”  Che pulled another flare from the rack.  “Hey!  I just got a kill!  How about that!”

“To hell with that noise!  I get half of it!”

Captain Klugg stepped out of the van.  “Hans!” he called back to the radar operator inside.  “That must be why Hammer doesn’t answer!”  He pointed at the huge fire.

“Damn, Captain!  That’s close!  I wonder what happened?”

A flare ignited almost directly over the antenna array.  Both men understood the implications of that event immediately.  Shouting to the other crewmen, they scrambled clear of the van and it’s attendant equipment, then sprinted into the dark.  Thirty seconds later Monk planted a pair of 250-pound bombs on the unit. 

Gunner, out in the dark, sat on a log and watched the attack.  The Feldwebel, guided by the fires and the pilot’s laughter, found him there a few minutes later.  “Look, Bobbit,” gasped the pilot, “the fools succeeded in vectoring someone to a target!” 

“A good night’s work,” said Che.

“Right,” replied Monk.  “And the lads did themselves up pretty well too.  That’s a dandy fire they’ve got going up there.”

“I just hope they don’t have any trouble getting away and finding a place to hide.”

“They’ll be fine,” Monk assured him.  “Slim probably knows a good whorehouse to hole up in.”  He snickered.

“Oh, man,” sighed Che.  “Don’t start that.  You know how I hate puns!”

Duey occupied the back of the kubelwagen they’d taken from an abandoned guard post.  Franko drove.  Slim was examining a map with a small flashlight.  “Turn right at the next crossroad,” he ordered.

“Okay, boss,” said Franko.  “Where we headed?”

“Out of Dodge, I hope,” said Duey. 

“Roger that,” agreed Franko.  “We’ve got to ditch these wheels, too.”

“I think the Maquis will be able to make use of it,” said Slim.  “There’s a village a few kilometers ahead.  Provided we don’t run into any German troops, we can hide there.”

Franko laughed aloud.  “You’re gonna love this, Duey.  Slim knows every professional lady in France!  We’ll spend the night in style!”

Slim sighed and shook his head.  “Don’t listen to him, Duey.  He raves like this all the time.  The contact I know in this village is a woman all right . . .”

Franko interrupted him.  “See.  What did I say?”

“Franko, the lady I know here isn’t that kind of professional!”

“Well, what the hell is she then?”

“A nun.”

Franko drove on in shocked silence.  “A nun?” he said finally.

“Yes,” said Slim, “a nun.  Like your sister is -- or will be.”

There was a long quiet period.  “Wow!” said Duey, “Is Franko usually this quiet?”

“Write it in your diary,” chuckled Slim.  “You’ll never see it again.”

(to be continued)

Franko stepped up on a chair in order to take a look out the only window in their lofty little room.  “I can’t see crap out this window!”  He jumped down.  “When the Germans waltz in we won’t know it until they kick the door down.”

Sister Marie, the nun of Slim’s acquaintance, had brought them to this room in the upper reaches of the church.  The room itself was out of sight behind a large storage area cluttered with several centuries of junk.  Marie assured them that very few people even knew it existed. 

She now showed them the small passage door leading outside to a narrow platform built into the rear of the church.  The platform made up the base of a triangle with the gable ends of the roof forming the other two sides.  A decorative façade stretched from the base of the platform right up to the apex of the roof.  The resulting walkway was airy (freezing cold in the winter, she said) and quite private.  “I think,” said Marie, “this was built as a meeting place, perhaps a hundred years ago.”  She met Slim’s questioning gaze steadily.  “Some priests, alas, are not too taken with the concept of abstinence.”

The men piled their gear in a corner and sat down to eat.  Even Duey couldn’t complain about the quantity and quality of the food. 

“Well, Slim,” said Franko.  He drank off a slug of wine.  “Where are we off to next?”

“I suppose we must try to find O'Leary,” replied Slim.  “On the way we should make as much of a fuss as possible.”

“Shall we ring up the Gestapo Lost & Found department?  Or do you have some more of those famous ‘contacts’ of yours to resort to?”

Slim grinned.  “I think we can leave the Nazis out of this for the moment.  The good sister will have someone from the local Resistance around later today.  They can find him for us.”

“Right,” agreed Franko.  “I’d hate to try and explain Duey to a German.  Especially using my limited kraut vocabulary.”

A knock sounded.  “Enter,” called Slim.  A young nun peered anxiously into the room.  Duey stood up, essayed a smooth bow and invited her in, asked her to convey their compliments to the cook, and inquired as to her name -- in perfectly understandable, if Midwestern American accented French.  Franko gaped at the performance.

The lady smiled and blushed fetchingly.  She answered in English.  “I am Dominique.  The Sister sent me to show you the way to the baths.  Water has been heated.”  She sniffed delicately.  “The Sister said you might wish to clean up a little?”

Slim chuckled.  “I’m certain we smell like stablehands,” he said.  Switching to French, he motioned for Dominique to proceed.  “Lead on mademoiselle.”

Franko brought up the rear.  “Slim, you’re going to have to teach me some French.  Otherwise I’m never gonna get laid in this country.”

Duey elbowed Slim. “When’s he going to figure out that US dollars are the universal language?”

“Advanced financial concepts are beyond Franko,” replied Slim.  “He still hasn’t figured out how nylons and cigarettes can be a medium of exchange.”

Franko frowned and muttered something filthy.  The little nun pretended not to notice.

Che and Monk stood atop the right wing of the A-20 examining several ragged holes in the engine cowling.  Monk stalked over to the portable work stand and climbed down.  Oil covered the lower engine nacelle and dripped into a pan, already half full.  “I can’t believe it!” snarled Monk.  “We drive all over France, engaging various elements of the Reich Defense forces, and emerge without a scratch.  On landing back at our own sodding airfield, some drunken triple-A bastard decides to shoot our wing off!”

Che patted him on the back.  “The antiaircraft commander called to apologize.  Said Lieutenant Forbes-Grubbly was merely giving the WAAF a tour of the weapon site.  How she managed to fire the gun hasn’t been determined.”

Monk sagged onto the lower step of the work platform.  “Tour!  Do I look like a bleedin’ idiot?”  He pointed a warning finger at Che.  “Don’t answer that!”  He gazed mournfully up at the hole in the lower nacelle.  “She probably had her skirt up over her head while old Forks-Grubby, or whatever his name is, toured around below!”

Che sighed.  “I’m sure it was something like that.”  He grinned suddenly.  “I’ll bet they got quite a start when the gun fired off!” 

Monk nodded and chuckled.  The mental image was pretty damn funny.  “Well, we can’t take this thing back over France tonight.  Let’s go see if we can scare up a replacement.”

Both men turned to watch a plane taxiing in from the airstrip.  “There,” said Monk, almost reverently.  “There’s the ticket.  Let’s just trade the old Havoc here in on one of those."

The black painted Mosquito had to be brand new or fresh from an overhaul depot.  It rolled into the parking area and pivoted neatly into an open spot.  Monk and Che started in that direction.  “Look!” said Che as the pilot climbed out.  “It’s Bossi!”

“What the hell is he doing with a Mosquito?”

Bossi spotted them approaching.  “Well, if it isn’t the Bobbsey Twins,” he called.

“I wish he wouldn’t call us that,” muttered Che.

“Shut up and smile,” ordered Monk.  “I think the old bastard has a present for us.”

Bossi finished tying the Mosquito down and strolled out to meet them.  He handed Monk a sheaf of papers and a Mosquito pilot’s manual.  “Here.  Study up.” 

Monk was amazed.  “It’s ours?  How did you know we needed a new plane?”

“Never mind the details,” said Bossi, “suffice it to say that Lieutenant Forbes-Grubbly’s little misadventure with the WAAF last night is being told and re-told among the various dens of iniquity just outside the gate.”

“I knew it!” cursed Monk.  “That worthless . . .”

“Now, now,” said Bossi, soothingly.  “If it weren’t for his ‘accident’ we wouldn’t have custody of this spanking new Mosquito.”

“Well,” said Monk, eyeing the Mossie with undisguised lust, “that being the case -- I suppose one has to show some tolerance to the lads and lasses in their play.”

Duey wandered back into the little room.  Franko was stretched out on a cot and Slim sat at the table, poring over map.  Duey eased into a cot.  It creaked dangerously, but held up.

“What took you so long?” asked Slim, grinning.  “Playing with Dominique?”

“Well . . .”  The big man was embarrassed.

Franko swung upright, slamming his feet on the floor.  “You’ve been messing with a nun!” 

Duey looked puzzled.  Slim regarded Franko with dismay.  “She wasn’t a nun.  Are you on the same planet with the rest of us?  The nuns are hiding her from the Nazis.”

Franko blinked owlishly.  “Wasn’t a nun?”  Slim shook his head.

“I wouldn’t have done nothing with no nun,” Duey assured him.  “That would’ve been a -- ah -- a something . . .”  He looked at Slim inquiringly.


“Yeah -- that’s what it would’ve been.”  Duey grinned.  “Them old wooden tubs are nice for sharing.”  He winked at Slim. 

Head in his hands, Franko moaned, “Not only can’t I speak the language, I can’t tell the sheep from the goats!”  His companions exchanged sad looks.


Late that afternoon Sister Marie knocked on their door, calling quietly, “Leftenant Slim, I have someone you need to meet.”

The three men were playing Old Maid, it being the only card game known to each.  Duey was unwilling to learn any games of chance from either of his companions. 

Slim stood, stretching, then opened the door.  “Come in, Marie.  What have you got?”

A lithe, dark-haired woman stepped inside.  “It’s me, you Irish oaf!”  The nun smiled and left.

“Fifi!” exclaimed Slim.  “I didn’t know you were in this area!”

The woman noticed his companions.  She strolled over to Duey and patted his shoulder.  “And who might this be, mon cheri?  Jack the Giant Killer?”

Slim laughed.  “A giant killer, perhaps.  His name is Duey and he’s an American.  The other oaf is also an American -- name of Franko.  Franko -- Duey, meet Fifi.”

Franko shook his head.  “I suppose this one’s a nun, too?”  He eyed Fifi with approval. 

“No, she’s not a nun,” laughed Slim.  “She’s with the Resistance.  She’ll help us find O'Leary.” 

Fifi gave him a perplexed look.  “How did you know about O'Leary?”

Now it was Slim’s turn to be confused.  “O'Leary is an RAF pilot.  We’re looking to rescue him.  Has the Resistance already picked him up?”

“The Resistance!”  Fifi sneered.  “I -- me -- Fifi found the great Dr. O'Leary!  I picked him up wandering on a road near that ammo dump that blew up last night.”  The ARGH team members exchanged shocked looks.  “I got him right out from under the noses of those fornicating Nazis!”  She grinned at them.

“Dr. O'Leary?”  asked Franko.  He didn't understand her words, but he recognized the name.  Does she think he’s . . .”  Slim waved him into silence.

Fifi looked around suspiciously.  “Did you come to rescue the good doctor?”

Slim nodded.  “Fifi, the man you have isn’t Dr. O'Leary.  He’s a different O'Leary, a pilot in the RAF.”  Fifi cursed luridly.  Slim raised his hands, in a placating manner.  “This is a long and involved story.”  He led her to the table.  “Have a little wine and I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

“Wine!  All I ever get is wine!  Don’t you have any whiskey?”  Fifi was not happy.

Duey pulled a canteen out of his pack and offered it to her.  “Try this, ma’am,” he rumbled.  Fifi took the canteen, leered at Duey, and addressed him in English.  “You are a big one, eh?  Are you big all over?”  He blushed.  Fifi giggled and took a pull on the canteen.  Reverting to French, she sighed, “That’s better.  Much better.”

In a few minutes Slim brought her up to date on the O'Leary/O'Leary saga.  When he finished everyone in the room was frowning.

“I don't understand this mess," said Franko.  "And I was there!”  Duey nodded in agreement.

Fifi shook her head mournfully.  “So my O'Leary isn’t the real O'Leary?”  She belched noisily.  “He’s not the tit O'Leary?”

“No,” agreed Slim.  “This O'Leary can’t do tit.”  He chortled and looked at the other two men.  “Can’t do tit.  You get it?” 

“God, Slim,” said Franko, rolling his eyes.  “Get off the tit . . .”  He folded over the table, shaking with laughter.  Duey looked from one to the other in confusion.

Fifi looked wounded.  “What’s so funny?  I wanted bigger ones.  That’s all.”

Duey reached across the table and took her hand.  “The -- uh, equipment you got looks fine to me, ma’am.”  He blushed again.

She got up and swayed over to the big man.  “I like you, Duey.  Why don’t you come with me down to the baths?”  Fifi headed for the door, still holding the canteen.

“But,” said Duey.  “I just had a bath.  A few hours ago.”  Franko and Slim collapsed completely.  Duey looked at them, then back to Fifi.  “Oh . . .” he murmured and followed her out the door.

“Wait!” yelled Slim, still gasping.  “Wait!  Fifi!  Where’s O'Leary?”

Fifi stepped back into the room.  “He’s down in the baths already.  With Dominique.”

Franko sobered immediately.  He sat stunned.  “O'Leary and Dominique?”  Tears came into his eyes.  “It’s not fair!  He just got here!  And already he’s in the tub with a hot dame!”

Slim patted his friend on the back.  “Cheer up, old boy.  When they find out all he can do with their boobs is play with them, he may not be so popular.”

“Oh, sure,” whined Franko.  “What good does that do me?  How the hell do to get laid?”

“Well, money is a sure fire way.  Go on downstairs waving a five dollar bill.  One of the ladies will sell you something, I’m sure.”

“You think so?  Shit!  Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Advanced economics, my friend.  Tarts sell services for cash -- a modification of the old barter system . . .”  Slim found himself speaking to the air.  Franko was gone, waving a five dollar bill.

"Poor slob," murmured Slim.  “They’ll probably sell him an ewe.”


Oberst Infanteer stood beside the twisted remnants of the compound’s main gate.  Beyond lay the smoldering ruins of his ammunition dump.  A ragged, sooty Leutnant leaned on a post which once supported half of a wire gate.  His face was bloody and one hand was heavily bandaged.

“Who blew up my fine ammunition dump?” asked Infanteer.  His tone was low and dangerous.

The Leutnant blinked tiredly.  At that moment he cared not a fig for Infanteer’s mood.  Being shot would at least allow him to get some rest.  He blinked again.  Still -- considering the other bit of bad news he had yet to pass on to the Oberst, it might behoove him to be a little cautious.  “It seems to have been a commando team, Herr Oberst.”

“British?”  The Leutnant nodded.  Infanteer eyed the wrecked buildings.  “What did they use?  The buildings look like they were hit by an artillery barrage!”

“This, sir.”  The Leutnant indicated a soot stained metal tube.  “We found it on the small hill, over there, across the camp.  It’s an American weapon.  A bazooka, they call it.  Similar to our panzerfaust.  One of the first rounds struck a fuel truck.  Bad luck.”

Infanteer nudged the weapon with the toe of his boot.  “Good luck for the British.  Bad for us.”

“Jawohl.  And during the confusion -- ah -- the prisoner disappeared.”

“My prisoner?  Dr. O'Leary?”  Infanteer grinned weakly. 

The Leutnant wondered at Infanteer’s lack of anger.  Yesterday the Oberst and his SS guests had been ecstatic at the capture of the great Dr. O'Leary.  He shrugged.  “O'Leary may have died in the fire.  We haven’t been able to search the whole area yet.  It’s still too hot in there.”

Infanteer laughed bitterly and shook his head.  “It no longer matters.  We have been made fools of, Leutnant.  The Allies made us believe we had Dr. O'Leary.”

“We -- what do you mean?”

“Our O'Leary is -- or was, an RAF pilot named O'Leary.  The real Dr. O'Leary has been seen in the US.  Why the Brits made us think we had him is not known.”

“You mean . . .”  The Leutnant’s chest ached as the horror dawned on him.

“Ja, I’m afraid so.”  Infanteer’s voice quivered slightly, his iron control slipping.  He sniffed.  “No boob machine.”

The Leutnant slumped into the dust, sniveling.  Oberst Infanteer glanced along the roadway.  The survivors of last night’s catastrophe had been standing around in soldierly groups, binding wounds, smoking cigarettes, and cooking rations.  Now, those same men sagged to the ground, mouths agape, eyes empty.  The word spread quickly.

He spoke to the Leutnant.  “Get up, man!  Organize a patrol to find those damned commandos!”  The only answer was a piteous moan.

“Gott!” moaned Infanteer.  “Our morale is kaput!”

(to be continued)
Exit Strategy

“You sodding bastards!” exclaimed O'Leary.  “I bloody well came close to dying in that camp!”  He had just discovered who had blown up the ammunition dump.

“You got out, didn’t you?” observed Franko.  “Seems like you should be thanking us.”

“Right!’ added Slim.  “Fat lot of thanks we get!  After coming all this way to rescue you.”

“Rescue, my aching ass!  If it wasn’t for the Germans thinking I was that bloody scientist, I’d be on my way to a Luft Stalag by now!  Picking me up wasn’t even in the plan, was it!”

“Well, now.”  Slim spoke soothingly.  “You know those staff types.  They always have their cold-blooded angles on everything.  But we always intended to take you back with us.”  He waved vaguely in the direction of the ARGH team members.  “Didn’t we, lads?”

“Of course,” agreed Duey.  “Assuming it didn’t rain or anything.”

“And always keeping in mind that we’re on a tight schedule,” added Franko.

O'Leary glared around, grumbling.  His eyebrows were gone and the hair on the left side of his head was crisped to white stubble.  All his clothes were scorched.  He still had to have help lighting a cigarette due to the palsied shaking of his hands.

The four men were sheltering in a patch of timber on the edge of a large open field.  Their pickup was scheduled for that night.  Sister Marie and her village lay ten kilometers to the east.  The Resistance had smuggled them out of town and across country to the rendezvous.

Duey sniffed the air.  “I don’t think traveling in amongst those dead cows was such a good idea.  We stink of rotting meat.”

“What’s the matter, Duey?” asked Franko.  “The smell make you homesick?”

Duey chuckled.  “No.  I didn’t live as close to the rendering plant as you did.”

“It was a nasty way to travel,” agreed Slim.  “Sort of like British railways.  Still, we made it with no trouble.  The Germans don’t care for the stench either.”

The men nodded gravely and tried to breathe shallow.  The smell was that bad.

“Get some rest,” ordered Slim.  “It’ll be dark in an hour.  The Lysander will be along at ten.”

Major Gunner and Feldwebel Bobbit, in a new Bf-110, were northbound at 3,000 meters, over the Channel, just off the French coast.  It was very dark.  Gunner had one foot propped on the panel.  Bobbit was dozing.  They would head back in an hour.  There had been no business for them this night.

“Hammer 21, Wulfen Control.  Target bearing 020, forty kilometers.  Altitude unknown.”

Both men were monitoring the control frequency.  Bobbit jerked awake.  Gunner sat up straight and began turning to the new heading.  The radar operator answered.  “Wulfen, Hammer 21 is on the way.”

“Verstanden, Hammer 21.  The target must be low.  It’s difficult to follow.  Slow moving.”

Gunner reduced power and started a slow descent.  The Feldwebel began warming up his intercept radar.  “What do you think it is, sir?”

“The Brits run a lot of small aircraft into France.  They use different types, but even money says it’s a Lysander.  They like to use those.”

Bobbit flipped through his aircraft identification charts until he found the card for the Lysander.  In the dark the visual aids wouldn’t be much use.  He was trying to get an idea of the radar return he might see.  “It’s a good sized plane, isn’t it, sir?  For a single engine type, I mean.”

“Ja.  Radial engine, too.  Should get a decent return, but he’ll be down in ground clutter.  We may not be able to follow him with the radar.”

The radar operator shuddered, thinking of their low-level tour of France the previous night.  “Maybe we can catch him over the water.”

“Good thinking!  You’re catching on.  Call those communists at Control and see if we can get an intercept before the target reaches the coast.  Tell them we think it’s a Lysander.  I’ll monitor the tactical frequency.” 

Bobbit commenced a series of exchanges with Wulfen.  Finally, he keyed the intercom.  “Fly heading 030, sir.  Descend to 500 meters.  Wulfen will turn us directly behind the target in less than a minute.  They say the target speed is roughly 100 kilometers per hour and that it is at an altitude of 500 meters.”

Gunner throttled back.  As the Zerstorer slowed, he dropped the flaps, then shoved the nose down.  “When we turn in behind the target, I’m going to bring the speed down some more.”

“Jawohl.  Range to target, ten kilometers.  Turn right, heading 080.”  The radar operator was relaying Wulfen’s instructions.  His own radar wouldn’t be of any use until they were within a kilometer of the target.

“Is Wulfen’s altitude estimate any good?”

Bobbit thought for a moment.  He’d worked at a control station before becoming an airborne intercept crewman.  “Wulfen’s Wurzburg is sited about 5 kilometers inland, sir.  They have to be guessing.”

“Ja, that's what I thought.  I’m descending to 300 meters when we make the final turn.”

“Jawohl.”  Bobbit said a silent prayer as he peaked up his radar and took a final tug on his harness.  Wulfen called for a heading of 120.  He passed the new course to Gunner.

“Here we go," replied Gunner.  "Descending to 300 meters and slowing to 150.”

“Jawohl.  Wulfen has the target at less than 2 kilometers.”  Gunner didn’t respond.  This close to the target he simply carried out the radar operator’s instructions.  “Wulfen has lost the target in surface clutter.  I . . .”  Bobbit began to sweat.  “I think I’m beginning to paint the target!”  He told himself to breath deeply, to calm down.  His body wasn't paying attention.  “We have the target!  Turn to a heading of 115.  Range 800 meters!”

Colonel Muskrat normally didn’t fly pickup missions.  But HQ had recently transferred one of his pilots back to regular flying duties.  Muskrat was convinced that HQ neither knew nor cared a fig for his pilot requirements.  The good ones were only assigned on temporary status. 

He adjusted the trim slightly and began watching for the French coast.  His altitude was just under 1,000 feet and he would descend even further once he had identified a landmark or two.  He was aiming for an expanse of dunes cut by a river. 

“Range 500 meters.”  Bobbit was breathing hard now.  Gunner smiled.  The kid was beginning to smell the blood of his prey.  “Slow a bit more, if you can, sir.  We’re coming up quickly.  Range 400 meters.”  Gunner eased the throttles back slightly.  He couldn’t slow much more.

“Range 300 meters.”  The Feldwebel watched the target begin to slide upward in the display.  “He’s a little above us!”  Gunner applied a touch of back pressure and strained to see the target.  “200 meters!”  Bobbit was almost shouting.  “I’m losing contact!’

There!  Gunner shoved the throttles forward, started the flaps back up, and pulled the nose higher.  "I see him!  He’s about 50 meters above us and close!  Very close!”

The Zerstorer mushed slightly, warning of an impending stall.  They were too slow!  Gunner nudged the nose up a fraction, watching as the aiming reticle touched the target’s dark shape.  Smiling savagely, he triggered a burst.  Instantly, the 110 stalled, rolling off on one wing.  Gunner slammed the stick forward and let the plane gain speed, recovering quickly.

“You hit him!” screamed Bobbit.  “You hit him, sir!  Scheiss!”

“Keep an eye on him!  I’ll come around to the left!”

The crew of Schnitzel 95, a Condor returning from a long patrol over the North Sea, watched as a plume of flame plunged down toward the Channel.  The co-pilot turned slightly, intending to have the radio operator call Control and report the sighting.  Instead, he froze as a dark shape loomed out of the night and disappeared under the Condor’s nose before he could so much as twitch.  “Did you see that!”

“See what?” asked the pilot.  He was in the act of lighting a cigarette. 

The co-pilot slumped back in his seat, trembling.  “N -- nothing.  I think I’m seeing things.”

“It’s been a long day,” said the pilot.  “Have the radioman report that fire, would you?”

“What was that!” shouted Bobbit.

“A Condor!”  Hands shaking, Gunner reduced power.  “I’m too old for this scheiss.”

“Me too.  I don’t see the fire anymore.  Did the target hit the water?”

“Who knows?  I was too busy crapping my pants.  If we find scratch marks on the top of the canopy I won’t be surprised.”

“Me neither.  What now, sir?”

“We go home.  Call up those incompetent bastards and thank them for their help.  Tell them the target went down in flames.”  He glanced down at the Channel.  The water was barely visible.  “If the Tommy scheisskopf isn’t dead he’s working his butt off to stay alive.  We’ll call that a kill and paint another roundel on her.”

Five miles to the west Colonel Muskrat was, indeed, working his butt off.  Wind screamed through the shattered perspex on the right side of the cockpit.  The engine shook savagely.  He figured at least two cylinders had been shot out.  One wheel fairing was completely gone.  The wheel was invisible in the dark, but it had to be damaged.  Landing was going to be a chore -- always assuming he didn’t go swimming first.

“Bumpkin, this is Cadmus One.  Come in Bumpkin.”  There was no reply.  The radio seemed to have packed it in.

Every few seconds a burst of flame poured from the engine compartment.  Each time Muskrat was certain the engine was done for, but it kept on running -- after a fashion. 

“Bumpkin, Cadmus One, broadcasting in the blind.  Cadmus is damaged, returning to base.  I say again, Cadmus One is returning to base with engine and structural damage.”  His earphones were silent.  Not even a hiss of background noise.  Muskrat concentrated on flying the Lysander.  “Come on, old girl,” he coaxed.  “Take me home and I’ll spring for a fresh coat of paint and a new engine.”  Maybe she heard.  The big Bristol radial kept running.

“He don’t answer, luv,” said Gertie.  “Must have taken a packet in the receiver.  Transmitter works first rate.”

“Aye,” said Neville.  “Alert Search and Rescue, Gertie.  I’ll let the bleedin’ staff know what’s happened.”

“What about those lads in France?” asked Gertie.  “They’ll be looking for a ride home.”

“That they will -- that they will.”  Neville was silent for a moment.  “I’ll check with Bingham.”

“They can’t pick up the boys with their bloody fighters, Neville!”

“I know that!  But that’s who I call whenever something gets bollixed up.  Ring up the SAR folks, Gertie.  Cadmus may need a lift home.”

No one answered when Neville called the SOE command post.  He tried another number.  After at least ten rings a bored voice came on the line.  Neville reported the damage to Cadmus One. 

“Cadmus is returning without the team?” asked the voice.  “That’s not authorized!  It messes up the timetables!”

Neville stared at the desk top, trying to visualize the moron at the other end of the line.  “It may not be authorized, matey, but he’s on his way back.  The Jerries don’t seem to care much about your precious timetables!”

“Well -- well, I’ll have to report this to higher authority,” said the moron airily.

“You’d be better advised to crack on another aircraft!” shouted Neville.  “Send someone to pick up those lads stuck in France!”

“Oh.  Oh, I can’t.  That would play hob with the timetables, you know.”  Neville broke the connection as the idiot began explaining about scheduling and asset employment.  Hands shaking, he rang up Bingham.  The phone was answered on the second ring.

“Bingham.  Captain Tomahawk speaking.”

“Ah -- Tomahawk.  Sergeant Neville Smith here.  I was to call if Pajama Party ran into trouble.”

“Yes, Sergeant.  I hope the boys don’t need a fighter escort in the middle of the night.”

“It’s worse than that, Captain.  Their pickup bird is on the way back, shot full of holes.  May not make it.”

The line was quiet for a few seconds.  “All right, Sergeant, have you passed the word to the command post?”

“Aye, sir.  I received a lecture about authorized aircraft movements and scheduling.”

“Yes, that would be a usual command response.”  Neville could hear the Captain talking to someone in the background.  In a moment a different voice came on the line.  “Neville, this is Sergeant Bossi.  I’m going to try and round up an aircraft.  If we can get off in the next couple of hours we might make it.  I’ll need a frequency to use.  Our callsign will be -- ah -- Boomer.”

Neville gave Bossi a frequency not likely to be in use during the night.  Bossi rang off with a muttered, “Thanks.”

“Well,” said Gertie, “looks like that bloody thieving sergeant will have to get his hands dirty!”

“Bloody hell, Gertie!  You’re not supposed to listen in on the landlines!”

“Right.  And you aren’t in the business of coordinating illegal missions into occupied France, either!”  Gertie grinned.  “What do we do now?”

Neville sighed.  “We monitor our regular traffic and wait.  When Cadmus doesn’t show up at the rendezvous, Pajama Party will be moving.  When is the next communications window?”

“Just after midnight.”

“Well, we can at least tell them Cadmus ain’t bloody well coming.”

“Will Sergeant Bossi be able to find another plane?”

“Bossi?”  Neville snorted.  “I doubt it.  Short of stealing one.”  He rubbed his eyes.  “Although, if half what I’ve heard is true, that ain’t out of the question.”

Grand Theft -- Airplane

“It’s not bloody well possible!” shouted Che.  “The back of this thing is crammed with delicate electrical equipment.  There’s not enough room to carry even one man, let alone four!”

Che, Monk and Bossi stood on the ramp, peering up at their new Mosquito.  It had been nearly half an hour since Bossi’s discussion with Neville.  All his contacts had turned up empty.  No suitable aircraft were available.  Now Che had eliminated the Mossie from consideration as well.

“This is crap!” exclaimed Bossi.  “I can have a fighter squadron here in thirty minutes.  But there isn’t one goddamn light transport to be had!”

“What about that Wellington over at Test Developments?” asked Monk.

“Won’t work,” said Bossi sadly.  “Every time those bastards see me they take one of the engines off every airplane they own.”

Che nodded.  “Lock up all their fancy gadgets too.  The smarmy sods!”

Monk turned to watch an airplane touch down.  As it left the runway and moved along a taxiway he could see it was a Dakota.  “Hey, Bossi.  It’s a little big, but . . .”  He pointed at the transport. 

“Well . . .”  Bossi watched the Dakota taxi onto the transient ramp and stop.  “I wonder who it belongs to?  I’ll go have a chat with the pilot.”

The Dakota’s engines clattered to a stop as Bossi approached.  He walked around to the cargo door and waited for the pilot.  After a few minutes the front half of the split cargo door was flung open and a pair of wheel chocks plummeted to the tarmac.  An aluminum ladder slid down next and Bossi automatically stepped forward to position the ladder.  Finishing with that task, he reached for the wheel chocks, glancing momentarily up at the person standing in the doorway.

Later, he would swear that it was the wheel chocks and his fortuitous decision to assist the Dakota crew by chocking the wheels that saved him from disaster.  He was already walking toward the left main gear when he realized the person in the doorway was a woman.  Resisting the impulse to look back, he dropped a set of chocks and kicked them into position.  A covert glance told him the woman was descending the ladder.  Even the baggy RAF flight suit couldn’t hide the generous swell of her chest and the shape of her rear end.  Whistling tunelessly, Bossi headed for the right main gear.

Whatever he would have said, had he simply stood and stared at the woman -- the pilot, he now realized -- remained forever unsaid.  Placing the remaining set of chocks in place, he headed back, thinking quickly.

The pilot, a striking brunette, waited by the ladder.  Bossi noted the RCAF insignia and her rank badges.  She was a Flight Sergeant.  Immediately he deduced that she had to be one of the female ferry pilots he’d heard about.  Her expression was one of tolerant suspicion. 

“Good evening,” ventured Bossi.  He extended a hand.  “Staff Sergeant Bossi.”  He wasn’t sure of the pecking order of Flight Sergeant vs. US Army Sergeant ranks, but he was marginally certain she out-ranked him.

“Hello.”  The woman shook his hand gravely.  “Flight Sergeant Brin Cook, Ferry Command, as you no doubt figured out.”  She smiled slightly.

“Yes, ma’am.”  Bossi waved toward the cargo door.  “Where’s the rest of the crew?”

Now she flushed, just a little.  “I’m alone.  The co-pilot is in the brig over at Charming Downs and the crew chief is probably drunk at one of the local pubs near there.”

Bossi knew the Dakota could be flown by one person, but it was a lot easier with two.  He gazed at Brin with new respect.  “What happened with the co-pilot?”

She tossed her head.  “The bastard was all hands!  I couldn’t do much about it over the Atlantic, so I waited until we were on the ramp at Charming Downs.  I broke his jaw.”  Brin shook her hand ruefully.  “Hurt my hand doing it.”

Bossi laughed.  “Okay.  I’ll keep my hands to myself.  Wouldn’t want you to hurt your other hand.  But that doesn’t explain why you flew the Dakota down here all by yourself.”

Brin sighed.  “The CO of the Ferry Command detachment at the Downs is my co-pilot’s uncle.  I’m not sure if he was more angry at me or embarrassed for his nephew, but he told me to take my plane and disappear.”

Patting the aircraft, Bossi chuckled.  “And a lovely plane it is.  But where is it bound?  Who does it belong to?”

Brin plucked her clipboard from atop a canvas bag lying on the ground.  “The 213th Troop Transport Company.  I haven’t located them yet.  Didn’t have time at the Downs.”

“No, I imagine not.”  Bossi studied the Dakota, watching Brin out of the corner of his eye.

“So,” he said, “here you are at Secret Airbase.  With a nice new Dakota and temporarily at loose ends.  I -- that is my unit -- has a pressing need for just such an airplane.  This very night.”

Che and Monk ambled around the port wing and halted.  “Bloody hell,” whispered Che.  “The blighter seems to find women under every rock.”

“If that one climbed out from under a rock,” rumbled Monk, “I’m going to be less careless about kicking the odd stone out of my way.”

“Come on, lads!” boomed Bossi.  “Meet Brin!  She’s the pilot of this immaculate Dakota.  I’ve just mentioned our little problem to her.”

Brin cautiously shook hands with the grease-spattered duo.  “Exactly what is this problem?”

“Ah -- well.”  Bossi hesitated, then rushed ahead.  “We have a team on the ground in France.  Not very far from here -- um -- in France.”  He waved vaguely to the east.

“I know where France is.  What about this team of yours?”

“They have completed a mission and were scheduled for pickup,” Bossi glanced at his watch.  “About now, in fact.  Unfortunately, our CO -- who was piloting the plane -- somehow managed to get shot up.  Possibly even shot down.  So -- we need to round up another plane.  Quickly.”

Brin nodded.  To Bossi’s surprise she didn’t walk off laughing.  He couldn’t tell if she was considering the situation or just stalling until she could attract the attention of the MPs.

“And you were thinking my Dakota might be available?  Why not just have some other unit here on the base loan you a plane?”

“Ah -- ha-ha,”  Bossi tugged at his collar.  “Well -- our unit is sort of a stepchild around here.”

Now she did laugh.  “Meaning no one trusts you with their equipment.”

“Heh-heh.  Sort of.  We seldom are able to procure needed equipment through proper channels, so we often resort to sleight-of-hand and other methods.  The resentment shown by certain other units is driven by jealousy, I assure you.”

Brin rolled her eyes.  “Bossi, I’ve been in the service for nearly two years!  You sound like a used-car salesman!”

“Sorry.  We really do need a plane.”  The two greaseballs behind him nodded in agreement.

“God!” said Brin, shaking her head.  “You guys are pathetic!”  She made a come-on gesture.  “Okay, tell me the story.”

Bossi outlined the situation, adding every detail he could think of.  “And so, we need to pick them up tonight.  Within the next three or four hours.  Any later and we’ll be flying out of France in daylight.”

“I’m surprised you can’t arrange for a fighter escort.”

“Oh, that’s laid on,” he assured her.  “An American squadron flying Spitfires out of Bingham, a field north of here.  But we don’t want to tempt fate too much.  Even a dozen or so Spits isn’t much protection against the German fighter force.”

Brin pointed to Che and Monk.  “And what part do these two play?”

“Ah, I’m glad you asked.  They have a spanking new Mosquito, equipped as a night fighter.  Che and Monk will be our escort for this evening’s jaunt across the Channel.”

No one said anything for a few moments.  “Don’t worry about your Dakota,” Bossi assured Brin, “I’m checked out in it.  I have about fifty hours total time in the type.”

“I’m not worried,” said Brin with a slight smile.  “But, I am glad to hear about your experience.  You can be my co-pilot.”

Bossi stuttered.  “I -- ah -- that is -- you’re going along?”     

“I’m responsible for the airplane,” said Brin evenly.  “Any problem with that?”

Monk and Che shook their heads in unison with Bossi.  “No, ma’am,” they chorused.  “No problem at all.”


“What do you mean, they ain’t comin’!”  O'Leary glared at Slim as if it was his fault.

“Just that,” said Slim calmly.  “We’re to check back in an hour.  That usually means something went wrong with our pickup bird or the Germans shot it down.”  He shrugged.  “I hope it was just a mechanical problem.”

“So we just sit here like bleedin’ pigeons and wait for the Jerries to find us!”  O'Leary was clearly out of sorts.  All the hiding and dodging about had taken the edge off his spirit of adventure.

As Slim started to answer, Duey held up both hands, motioning for quiet.  “We gotta move.”

“What . . .” began O'Leary.  He broke off when Franko slid down from his position on the small embankment at the edge of the shallow gully they were sheltering in.  He too, motioned for silence.  “Germans!” he hissed.

Duey broke down the radio and repacked it.  Franko began gathering the rest of their gear.  Slim crawled up bank, O'Leary following.  There they peered out across the moonlit meadow.

“Damn!” breathed O'Leary.  “How many are there?”

“Not sure,” whispered Slim.  “A patrol.  Probably six or eight.”

“What do we do, Slim?”

“Get bloody well out of here, that’s what!  Come on!”

O'Leary grabbed Slim’s arm.  “How the hell did Duey know the Jerries were coming?”

Slim headed back to their camp, O'Leary in tow.  “He just does.  But it would have been better if he’d figured it out about thirty minutes ago.”

“Which way, boss?” asked Duey as everyone shouldered packs and settled their gear.

“There’s a rough track along the stream.  Go south toward the road.”  Duey moved out, Franko following.  Slim shoved O'Leary into line behind the American.  “Stick with Franko.  I’ll bring up the rear.”

Gefreiter Fonk moved forward to where his point man had halted.  “What’s wrong?”

“Smells like a dead animal down there,” whispered the man, pointing over the slight rise and down toward the tiny stream Fonk remembered from previous patrols.

“Scheiss!  It’s a cow or horse.  You’ve smelled plenty of them before.”

“I don’t like stepping on rotting animal carcasses,” replied the man, diffidently.  “In the dark I always seem to find them by tripping and falling into one.”

Fonk laughed quietly.  It was pitch black under the trees and they had never found any evidence of Resistance presence in this area anyway.  He, too, detested stumbling over dead things in the night -- animal or human.  He pointed to the right.  “Head off that way.  Toward the road.”

The tired soldiers realigned themselves with a minimum of fuss and noise, then trudged along the embankment, moving south.  At the road, Gefreiter Fonk planned to turn left and follow the road back to the little town where they were quartered.  He’d had enough for one night.

Duey halted under the little bridge and waited for Slim to make his way forward.  “Which way now?” he asked.  “Keep following the stream or get up on the road?”

Slim hesitated.  Keeping to cover along the stream was safest, but he could recall no large clearings in that direction.  They needed to make for a decent sized field.  Big enough for a Lysander, at least.  “Up onto the road and then east,” he whispered.  “There are several good sized farm fields not too far from here.”  Duey nodded and moved out.

Franko and O'Leary brushed by and Slim fell in behind.  Puffing with exertion and tension, the four men turned away from the gurgling watercourse and clambered up the slope, aiming for the roadway at the west end of the bridge.  Duey paused at the bottom of the steep grade leading up to the road, glanced around quickly, then went up the bank in a rush. 

Fonk’s point man was standing in the middle of the road, leaning on his Mauser when Duey lumbered out of dark.  The two men stared, mutually astonished.  Duey recovered first, swinging his MG-42 in a short arc, ending on the German’s chin.  The man fell backwards, rifle clattering to the roadway, just as Fonk and another man stepped out of the night.  Duey stepped back, swinging the machine gun to bear.  The two Germans shouted in surprise and tumbled back down the slope.  Duey triggered a burst, ripping into the gravel and bushes. 

Franko saw the German lying in a heap and caught a fleeting glimpse of movement across the roadway just as Duey fired.  Leaping forward, he emptied a clip into the night.

O'Leary staggered to one side and went to one knee.  Bullets zipped by his ear.  He could see flashes across the way.  Someone grabbed his arm.  “Come on!”  It was Slim.  Stumbling, nearly falling for the first few yards, O'Leary barely managed to keep up.  Duey ripped the night with another long burst.  Franko sprinted past the other two men, fumbling with a fresh clip. 

Slim shoved O'Leary into the bushes, shouting, “Stay down!”  Dimly, O'Leary realized they were across the bridge.  He crawled behind a small stump and clawed for the pistol he’d been given.  Franko fired again, then Slim.  Rifles cracked in return.  Duey loomed up out of the dark and crashed down next to O'Leary.  “Jeeeeesus!” he yelled, “Ain’t this fun!”  Then he was gone, leaping into position next to Slim.  Firing in short bursts, he beat down the opposing rifle fire.  Franko jerked O'Leary from the ground and dragged him along, heading away from the bridge along the edge of the road.  Behind them the shooting flared up, then died away.  O'Leary shook loose from Franko and ran as if the hounds of hell were on his scent.

Duey passed them both, running effortlessly, though carrying twice the weight of anyone else.  “Come on!” he yelled, grinning happily.  “This’s better’n the goddamned Fourth of Juuuuly!”

Fonk lay quiet behind the rail fence he had fallen over in the mad rush away from the road.  His arms and face were splattered with relatively fresh horse manure, judging from the smell. 

“Cease fire!” he yelled.  “Cease firing, you blockheads!”  Silence fell.  The other group had raked the area with a final burst then gone silent.  Fonk was certain they were running for their lives, somewhere out in the dark.

“Scheiss!” said a voice nearby.  “That was an MG-42!  And the others were MP-40s!”

“Ja,” agreed Fonk, climbing to his feet.  “It must have been one of our own patrols.”  He pulled some grass and began cleaning the crap off his face and tunic.  “Anyone hurt?”

No one was wounded, although several men had taken bruises in the mad rush away from the firing.  “I’d like talk to that madman with the machine gun,” said one.

“Not me,” said another.  “He was the size of a panzer!”

“Ja,” agreed Fonk.  “Come on.”  He led the way back to the road.  His pointman was sitting up, blood dripping off his jaw.  Two men helped him to his feet.

“What do you think?” asked Fonk.  “Was it one of our own patrols?”

The man shook his head blearily.  “Don’t know.”  He rubbed at his sore jaw and eyed the blood on his hand.  “That bastard nearly killed me!”

“You surprised him,” said Fonk helpfully.

“Surprised him?  He shocked the piss out of me!”  The man wrinkled his nose.  “Besides, he smelled awful!”

Fonk sniffed.  It was hard to tell, what with the horse manure still clinging to him, but there was a definite rotting meat odor lingering in the air.  “Scheiss!  No wonder they were mad!  They must have crawled through those dead animals we smelled back in the meadow.”

“Stop!” gasped O'Leary.  “Stop!  God, I can’t run another step!” 

“Into the trees on the left, Duey!” ordered Slim.  The four men staggered off the road and into the trees, collapsing into stinking, sweating heaps.

“They may be -- following,” puffed Franko.  He made no move to do anything except breathe.

“To -- hell with -- with them,” panted Slim.  “Killing me now -- would be a -- mercy.”

Even Duey was out of breath.  “We smell -- dead -- already,” he managed, between gulps of fresh air.  “The bastards could -- just toss -- dirt on us.”

O'Leary started laughing then.  That got everyone else going.  For the next ten minutes the woods echoed with painful laughter and labored breathing.  Duey managed to get them up and moving.  They disappeared into the trees, still chuckling.  Still sweating and stinking.

Fonk’s patrol trudged by a few minutes later.  Headed home.  As a group, they had decided to report exchanging gunfire with partisans, a common enough occurrence.  The Gefreiter hoped the other patrol leader had sense enough to do the same.

Party Time

Colonel Muskrat climbed out of the Lysander’s demolished fuselage and hoisted himself up onto the stubby remains of the left wing.  He hoped the tide wasn’t coming in.  His flight had ended in about 5 feet of water some fifty yards from a rocky beach.  Muskrat glumly surveyed the remains of his aircraft.  The Bristol radial had lasted almost long enough.  In the morning he’d try to attract the attention of someone on shore. 

A twin engine airplane roared overhead, going east, very low.  He couldn’t be sure of the type.  Who would be heading toward France this late at night?  Someone after Pajama Party?  It was possible, but not likely.  Muskrat settled himself comfortably on the wing and began composing his report.  A report which would exonerate him from any fault, naturally.

“They’re going to what?”  Brin kept her eyes on the Channel, dimly visible in the moonlight.

Bossi leaned over and repeated himself.  “Bumpkin says the boys are going to meet us on a German airfield.  It’s a small emergency strip.”

“And the Germans are just going to stand around and let us do that?” 

“Probably not.  That’s why the lads carry guns and knives, you know.”

“God!” exclaimed Brin.  “What have I gotten myself into?”

Bossi tried to assure her.  “Don’t worry.  We’ve pulled off stunts like this before.”  He grinned.  “Nearly all of us have survived.”

Brin didn’t smile back.  “Show me this airfield and the route we’re going to take.”

Flipping the chart open, Bossi used a flashlight to show her the course.  “We have to cross the coast where this river empties into the Channel.  Then we follow the river to a wrecked bridge.  From there it’s a short hop to the strip.”

“What if we miss the river?”

“Let’s not do that.  We’ll end up splattering into a hill.  Or make some flak battery commander’s evening complete by flying right into his gun barrels.”

“Right,” agreed Brin.  “Let’s not do that.  What heading for the river?”

Bossi gave her the new course.  “I’ll let the Flakbait know what we’re doing.”

“Flakbait,” mused Brin.  “Are those guys any good?”

“Sure.  Just don’t ever say so.  It’s bad enough when they shoot down a Nazi plane or blow up a radar site.  Can’t live with them for days.”

“What about those radar sites?  Will we be low enough to avoid detection?” 

“Dammit, woman!  You’re asking too many questions!  Worse than that, they’re all the right questions.”  Bossi pointed the flashlight at the area just inland of the Channel.  “We’re going to be in between two of the short range units.  With any luck they won’t see us.”

Brin nodded.  “Are you on intimate terms with Lady Luck?  Did you bring your rabbit’s foot?”

“Of course,” he replied.  “Along with a horseshoe and a four-leaf clover.  What did you bring?”

“Nothing.  Even my usual good sense is missing.  I’m completely in your hands.”

“Ah -- hmm . . .”  Bossi bit back a couple of responses.  “I’ll just make that call to Flakbait.”

Gunner and Bobbit had refueled and were back in the air, lazily cutting large circles in the night sky over France.  Both men were half asleep.  Suddenly, Gunner swore feelingly, ending with,  “Godless communists!”

Bobbit thought he was dreaming.  Gunner muttered another stream of filth.  Sitting up, Bobbit keyed the intercom.  “What is it, sir?”

“Wulfen Control, Bobbit.  A bunch of card-carrying communists!  Every one of the bastards!”

“Jawohl,” answered Bobbit uncertainly.  He had no idea what Gunner was going on about.

Gunner began a long litany about the bumbling incompetents known as Wulfen Control.  Bobbit listened for a moment then began to drift off again.  Through half-slitted eyes he stared at the right engine and the yellow-blue exhaust flames, barely visible around the flame dampers.  A quick burst of orange startled him.  Another flash followed.  Then another.  “Uh -- sir?”

The engine suddenly belched fire and clattered to a stop.  For a second neither man said anything.  Gunner’s hands moved automatically, shutting off the fuel flow to the burning engine and pulling the fire extinguisher.  “Scheiss!” he said quietly.

“It’s not supposed to do that is it, sir?” asked Bobbit, momentarily addled by the thought of another parachute ride.

“The mechanics have their own collective,” replied Gunner.  “Bolsheviks!  All of them!”

“Where -- ah, where to now?  Do we bail out?”

“Not yet, Bobbit.  Look.  The fire has gone out.  Play like you know what you’re doing back there and tell me where to find the closest airfield.”  Gunner reduced power on the other engine and finished trimming for single-engine flight.  “We’re not in much danger yet.  But it would be a good idea to land before anything else happens.”

“K32 is close, sir.  About twenty kilometers to the northwest -- I think.”

“Good.  You better call Wulfen and let them know what we’re doing.”

“Jawohl!  I’ll get us a steer to K32.”

“Nein!  We’ll find it ourselves, Bobbit.  Those red sympathizers would put us into the Channel!”

“See anything?” whispered Franko.

Slim tucked his binoculars away.  “No.  Nothing.  Just one small shack and two open hangars.  No aircraft in sight.”

“Probably a small detachment in the shack,” said Duey.  “Mechanics, fuel jockeys.”

Slim rubbed his eyes.  “I’m so tired I could have missed a Panzer division.”

Duey shook his head.  “Nah.  They’d never fit into that rickety little shack.”

Slim snickered and checked his watch.  “Boomer will be here in about forty minutes.  We’ll secure the shack, then make a quick check of the field.  There could be roving guards out.”

O'Leary stood up when the others did.  “What do you want me to do, Slim?”

“Stay with me.  Be careful with that pistol.  If you shoot anyone, make sure it’s not one of us.”

“No problem,” replied O'Leary.  “If it smells dead, I won’t shoot it.”

Chuckling, the four men fanned out and headed for the shack.

The buildings and the entire airfield was deserted.

“What was that!” yelled Brin.

More tracers curved out of the night and flashed by, above the cockpit.  “Someone’s shooting at us,” said Bossi.

“For God’s sake!  I can see that!  What do I do!”

“Nothing now.  We’re past them.” 

“Are there any more?”  Brin was still shouting.

“Easy.  Take a deep breath and concentrate on your flying.  Go a little lower.”

“Lower!”  Calming herself, Brin eased the Dakota down a few feet.  The river seemed to leap up at her.  “How high are we?” she asked.

“Oh -- maybe five-six hundred feet.  You’re doing fine.”

“Right,” she grated, “I’m doing just fine.  How many more guns?”

“How the hell should I know?  The Krauts don’t advertise the locations of their antiaircraft units.”

“I thought we were going to avoid flak batteries.”

“Flak batteries!  Those were machine guns and maybe a single cannon.”  Bossi shook his head.  “Jesus, Brin!  If they’d been flak guns we’d be dead.”

An angular structure flashed by, seemingly close enough to touch.  Brin managed not to cry out or flinch.  “Is that our bridge?”

“No.  It’s the next one.  A big steel and concrete bastard.” 

“How -- how tall is it?”  Brin visualized flying into a web of girders in the dark.

“Not tall at all,” replied Bossi.  “It used to be up there -- maybe 200 feet in the middle.”

“Used to be?”

“Yeah.  Me and Slim blew it up.  Two months ago.”  He paused.  “Blew it down, actually.  I doubt if there’s anything taller than fifty feet now.  You’ll have plenty of room.”

“What do you suppose this blighter wants?” asked O'Leary.  An airplane droned over the field and started a circle to the left.  As it crossed midfield the pilot flashed his navigation lights three times.  They couldn’t make out the type.

“It’s not Boomer, that’s sure,” said Slim.  “I think the bloody fool wants to land.”

“Why the flashing lights?” asked Duey.

“It’s almost like he wants some landing lights turned on,” observed Franko.

“Of course!” exclaimed Slim.  “There have to be flare pots!  Quick!  See if you can find any torches made up for lighting the pots.”

Within minutes the torches, bundles of oil-soaked rags on stout sticks, had been found.  Franko and O'Leary each took one and headed for the edges of the strip.  The pots were easy to find, as each was surrounded by bare ground.  Slim and Duey waited to greet the arriving plane.

“They’re lighting the flares,” said Bobbit.

“And about damn time!” muttered Gunner.  “I’ll have a word with the scheisskopfs when we get on the ground!  You can count on that!”

Bobbit relaxed.  Until the flares started showing up he was convinced they would have to land in the dark.  The strip could barely be seen.  Sometimes he wasn’t really sure he was seeing it at all.  The muscles in his butt relaxed.

“Here we go,” called Gunner.  “We’ll have to hitch a ride back to base, I’m afraid.”

“Jawohl,” replied Bobbit.  “Even a truck is preferable to this hunk of junk.”

“Bobbit, I’m shocked!  Such an attitude!  This particular airplane is one of the Reich’s finest!” 

“Gott save us!”

Gunner shut down the engine, unstrapped and climbed out on the wing.  No one was around.  “Come on.  Not only are the bastards incompetent, they’re shy.”  He jumped to the ground.

Bobbit slid down beside him.  “See anyone, sir?”

“Nein.  Let’s head for that little shack.”  The two men ambled slowly across the rough field.

Gunner kicked the door open and stepped inside.  A man sat at ease, feet on a table.  He rose, grinning and aimed a large handgun at Gunner.  “Hands up,” he ordered quietly.  Gunner stubbed a finger on a ceiling joist.  Bobbit couldn’t quite reach the ceiling.

Another man came in from behind.  He was the largest human being Gunner had ever seen.  An MG-42 was cradled in his arms.  “Welcome to France,” he said, in excellent French.

“I think our friend is familiar with France, Duey,” said the man with the handgun.  He motioned for the two Germans to sit down.  The big man took Gunner’s Luger.

“I speak English,” said Gunner.  “Fairly well.  French, too.”

“And I speak German, after a fashion,” said the other man.  “We’re all linguists together.”

Gunner grimaced.  His finger hurt.  The nail was split, he was sure of it.  “Ja, linguists.  Can we put our hands down now?”

“Yes.  Just take it easy.  Duey doesn’t like Germans.”

Aircraft engines interrupted the conversation.  The man toting the MG-42 went out.  A few minutes later an airplane trundled to a stop not far from the shack.  It sat there, engines idling.  Shortly thereafter, another man entered the shack.  He was dangling a pair of handcuffs in one hand.  “Understand you’ve got guests, Slim.”

“Cuff the blighters to something solid,” said Slim.  “It’s good to see you, Bossi.  Have any trouble finding an aircraft?”

Bossi secured the two Germans to an empty arms rack, which was bolted to one wall.  “There was a certain amount of frustration involved.  I think you’ll like our pilot.” 

Slim grinned at Gunner.  “Sorry for the cuffs.  Someone will be along by morning, I’m sure.”

“You’re not taking us prisoner?” asked Bobbit, a trace of disappointment in his voice.  Gunner scowled at the radar operator.

“No,” replied Slim.  “Prisoners are a bother.  Lots of paperwork and interrogations.  Mostly we just toss them in the Channel.”  With a sketchy salute, he left.

Duey met Slim at the rear of the idling Dakota.  “I rigged the ME-110 with demolitions.”  He shrugged.  “Don’t know if it was worthwhile, though.  One engine looked to be damaged.”

“Better safe than sorry, I suppose,” said Slim.  “Let’s get out of here!”

Inside the shack, Gunner relaxed on a handy chair.  They heard the airplane gun its engines and begin a takeoff roll.  “What will we do, sir?” asked Bobbit.

“Relax.  Wait for rescue.  Work on our stories.”  The departing plane noise began to fade away.  A heavy bang shook the shack, followed by the whoosh of igniting fuel.  A yellow glare lit up the dirty windows.

“They blew up our plane!” exclaimed Bobbit.

“Indeed.  I expected it.”  Gunner shook his head sadly.  With a quick movement, he struck Bobbit in the face.  The gunner sagged back against the wall, bleeding from the nose.

“What . . !  Owwww!  That hurts!”

Gunner stood up and began smashing his chair to pieces.  Bobbit lay where he had fallen, holding his bleeding nose and watching his pilot with growing horror.  Gunner broke off a chair leg and handed it to Bobbit.  “Here,” he said.  “Get up and whack me with it a few times.”

Bobbit scrambled to his feet but didn’t touch the implement.  “Are you mad, sir!  I can’t hit an officer!”

Still proffering the broken chair leg, Gunner grinned crookedly.  “When we are found in the morning, Bobbit, we’d better show some signs of battle.”  He waved in the general direction of their burning plane.  “Unless you’d rather face a firing squad?”

Comprehension dawned on Bobbit.  Smearing blood on his tunic, he reached for the club.  “I think we should rip up our clothes a little, sir.  And you’d better hit me a few more times after I’ve worked you over.”

Later, Gunner slumped against the arms rack.  His face was bruised and bloody, his clothes torn.  He managed a weak grin.  “One thing I regret, Bobbit.”

Bobbit turned a black eye toward his pilot.  “Landing here in the first place?”

“That too.”  Gunner shifted painfully.  “But I wish I hadn’t broken up my chair.  Should have used something else.”  Both men laughed, but not with any spirit.

Traveling Circus

Slim stuck his head into the cockpit.  He started to speak, then did a double take.  Brin flashed him a smile.  Bossi rescued him from any intolerant outbursts.  “I’ve got Bumpkin on the horn!” he shouted, over the noise of the engines.  “The Bingham boys will meet us at first light!  Callsign, Tomahawk!”

“Ah . . . yes.”  Slim glared at Bossi.  The bastard might have warned him!

“Flakbait is on station!” continued Bossi, innocently.  “You want to go out via the treetops?”

“No!”  Slim’s brain was beginning to work again.  “Grab some air.  I’m sure we’ve attracted someone’s attention by now.  We’ll have to depend on Flakbait to keep any stray Jerries off us!”

“Aye, aye, sir!” replied Bossi, grinning like an idiot.  He leaned over to Brin.  “Climb to about 10,000 feet.  That’ll keep us above most of the flak.  The Germans don’t have any big stuff in this area.”  She nodded, but said nothing.

Slim watched for a few minutes, then retired to the main cabin.  Whoever the woman was, she seemed to know what she was doing.  Although getting mixed up with Bossi was a sure sign of bad luck.

“I say, Monk, I’m picking up strong radar signals from about eight o’clock.”  Che watched as the various lights on his panel blinked their warnings.  “Nothing serious so far.”

“Keep an eye on the blighters.  Boomer just lifted off.”

“Right.  I’m sure that will attract someone’s attention.”

“Think positive, Monk.  Maybe the Reich Defense Force blokes are all tucked in their beds.”

“I am being positive.  I’m positive the Dakota won’t go unnoticed.”

“Always the bleedin’ cynic, aren’t you?”  A light on Che’s panel began blinking rapidly.  “Too bad you’re usually right.  One of the local Wurzburg operators is tracking someone.  Us or Boomer.”

“Vacation’s over, then.  Shall we give him a dose of high explosive?”

“Negative.  They’ll be out of his range in a few minutes.  I’m more worried about the one further downriver.  You know which one I mean.  Up on the bluff.”

“Right.  I remember.  Sure they’re still there?”

“We’ll know in a minute.  The net will be alerted anytime now.”  Che pictured the German communications system as a lethargic beast, moving slowly into action as sleepy operators passed along word of the unknown aircraft contacts related to their Mossie and the Dakota.  He keyed the intercom.  “Right.  Our old friend on the bluff is powering up.  Let’s pay him a visit.”

Monk throttled back.  “What heading?”  Che gave him a new course and he began a slow turn.  “Aren’t there some hills to the north of the radar site?”

“Aye.  We’ll tuck in behind them and try to sneak up on the lads.”

“It’s starting to get light,” replied Monk.  “Keep a sharp watch for fighters.  The dawn patrol ought to be up and about soon.”

“Affirmative.  I’ll let Boomer know what we’re doing.”

“Flakbait is going deal with a radar site that is likely tracking us,” said Bossi.  With the Dakota at cruise power, relatively normal conversation was possible in the cockpit.

“Deal with?” Brin raised an eyebrow.

“Um -- probably drop a bomb on it.”

“People will be killed?”

“Probably.”  Bossi frowned.  “That’s what usually happens in a war, you know.”

Brin nodded.  “I know.  It’s just that -- that I’ve never had to be involved . . .”

Neither said anything further on the subject.  Slim stuck his head in the cockpit, wanting to know what was going on.  Bossi propped on foot on the instrument panel and grinned.  “Ask the pilot.  I’m just along to work the radios.”

Slim extended a hand to the woman.  “Leftenant Slim, ma’am.  We were very glad to see your Dakota.  Things were getting a bit tense back there.”

“Brin Cook, RCAF Flight Sergeant, sir.”  She nodded toward Bossi.  “I assume Sergeant Bossi belongs to you?”

“In a manner of speaking.  He seems to be assigned to our unit.  His specialty is procuring things like airplanes, fighter cover, booze -- that sort.”

“Women, too?” asked Brin.  Slim noticed she wasn’t smiling.

“No,” Slim lied.  “Most of us prefer to handle such matters on our own.”  Bossi was industriously peering out the window, on the lookout for enemy fighters.  Slim cleared his throat and changed the subject.  “Um -- have we heard from Flakbait?”

“Yes,” replied Brin.  “Apparently they’re going to bomb a radar site along our route.”  Slim didn’t miss the distaste in her voice. 

“Right.  They usually know what to do.  Any word from Tomahawk?”  There was not.  Slim went back into the cabin.

Monk shaved the top of the last hill and nosed down.  It took a few seconds to find the radar site.  He’d seen it before, so the camouflage netting didn’t deceive him for long.  “Got it!” he called.  “See any flak?”

“Negative,” replied Che.  “The gunners must still be napping.”

No one below appeared to notice the Mossie barreling down from above.  Monk could see a couple of people moving about.  He lined up on an untidy group of vans and squeezed the trigger.  A line of tracers lanced out, ending in a cluster of flashes, dust and smoke.  Releasing the trigger, Monk eased back on the controls and pickled a bomb.  Turning hard left, he continued a shallow descent, leveling off at nil feet over the river.  A belated burst of cannon shells arced over the canopy and fell away.  Out of gun range, he started a climbing left turn.

“Looks like they’re out of business!” he exclaimed.  A cloud of gray and black smoke billowed up from the damaged site.  He couldn’t see the antenna.  “Antenna’s down!  That’ll take them a bit to replace.”

“Nice work,” said Che.  “I’ll bet they have it working again in a couple of days.”

“Probably,” agreed Monk.  “Adolph seems to have plenty of cannon fodder and equipment.”

“Let’s go find Boomer.  The Luftwaffe has plenty of fighters, too.  Let’s hope they haven’t found our Dakota.”

“See if Tomahawk is anywhere about,” suggested Monk.  “I’d rather they handled the odd Focke Wulf or Gustav.”

“Too bloody right!  Although the Spitfire drivers don’t much like tangling with Focke Wulf types.”

“Well, that makes it unanimous.”

Brin reacted almost instantly.  Rolling hard right, she put the Dakota into a wing-creaking turn away from the stream of tracers.  “That bastard!” she screamed.  “He put holes in my brand new airplane!”

“Roll out heading west,” yelled Bossi.  “I’ll get Flakbait on the line!”

“You tell those morons . . .”  Brin fell silent as she wrestled the Dakota around, pushed the power to max, and began a shallow dive.  “Where did he go?”

Correctly assuming she meant their assailant, Bossi gestured toward the left rear.  “He went off to the left.  I think he misjudged our speed.  That was a pretty sloppy pass.”

“If that was sloppy,” observed Brin, glancing at the line of holes in the left wing, “then I don’t want to see a good one.”  Her voice was nearly back to normal. 

Bossi concentrated on the radio.  “Flakbait, this is Boomer.  Where are you guys!  We have company and they ain’t very friendly!”

“Boomer, roger.  Flakbait is headed your way.  What’s your position?”

Bossi eyed the countryside passing below and transmitted his best estimate of their position. 

Back in the cabin, Duey unlatched the small cargo door and yelled at Franko and Slim.  “Help me with this!  Maybe I can get a shot at him!”  The two men leaped to his aid.  Slim braced the door and held onto the big Ranger while Franko steadied him from the opposite side.  The door swung forward so just keeping it open was no small task.

“D’you see him?” yelled Franko.

Duey peered back along the fuselage.  He couldn’t see anything at first.  The wind whipping around the cargo door and the dim pre-dawn light made it difficult.  Bracing up against the rear door section, he held the gun under his right arm, aiming it generally aft.  The German plane was nowhere to be seen.

O'Leary stood behind Slim, trying to spot their attacker.  ‘There he is!”  He pointed out to the side.  Duey turned slightly as the plane came into view.  He glanced back at Slim.  “The tail’s in the way!  He’s coming from a little below us!” 

“O'Leary!” shouted Slim.  “Tell them to level off!  Or even climb a little!”  O'Leary dashed toward the cockpit.  Seconds later the Dakota bottomed out and began a slight climb.  From Duey’s viewpoint the horizontal stabilizer sank out of his way, leaving the German in plain sight, just below the reddening horizon.  Steadying the weapon against the rear door, Duey touched off a short burst.  The tracers arced away, nowhere near the target.  Triggering eight or ten rounds to a burst, Duey worked the tracers closer to the plane as it closed in slowly.  Suddenly, it rolled and plummeted out of sight.  He turned to the others.  “I think I scared him.”

“Sweet Jesus,” muttered O'Leary, now back with the others.  “Where’s our backup?”

Slim shrugged.  “They’ll be along.”  He waved O'Leary toward the opposite side of the cabin.  “Watch that side!  We may have to try and turn so we can get another shot at him!”

“What if he makes a head-on pass!” asked O'Leary.

Franko grinned.  “Then we’re dead!  What’s the matter, O'Leary?  You got a hot date?”

“Yes!” yelled the Irishman.  “I haven’t drunk my share of whiskey yet!’  He stepped across the cabin and knelt there, searching the sky for any sign of the German plane.

“What is it?” asked Monk.

“A bleedin’ DO-17,” replied Che.  “He’s swinging in to attack Boomer!  The sod!”

Monk had the Mossie at full power, still climbing, about a mile south and west of the Dakota. 

“Hello?”  Che was using a pair of binoculars.  “I see tracers coming from Boomer!  Someone’s blazing away from the cargo door!”

“That would be Duey,” said Monk.

“The Jerry’s broken off!” 

“Well, bless the bloody saints!  Which way did he go?”

Che pointed.  “Down and to the right!  Take it around in front of Boomer and we’ll be nose-to-nose with the bastard!”

“Ah -- I think a DO-17 carries a couple of cannon in the nose, Che.”

“Well, do whatever you think will work, but keep him away from Boomer!”

“Call Boomer and let them know we’re close.  Tell ‘em to keep Duey away from that door!”

“I’m on it.  Do you see the Dornier yet?”

“I’ve got him.  He’s not coming back at us, Che.  I think he’s going out for a head-on pass.”

Che nodded and turned to the radio.  “Boomer, Flakbait here.  We’re coming around your rear.  With any luck we’ll keep the Hun busy for you.”

“It’s about time, Flakbait.  We were preparing our last wills over here.”

“Don’t bother, Boomer.  Just leave everything to us.”

“That’s what I was afraid of, Flakbait.”

Monk cut inside and a little below the Dornier as it made a long climbing turn to get in front of the Dakota.  “I don’t think they see us,” he whispered on the intercom.

Che chuckled and whispered back.  “Careful!  He’ll hear that stamping mill whisper of yours.”

A thin stream of tracer fire erupted from the DO-17.  “Bloody hell,” snorted Monk.  “His gunner’s seen us!”  Ignoring the defensive fire, he rolled right, snapping into position behind and below the now alarmed Dornier.  Easily following the ex-bomber into a right turn, Monk began pumping cannon and machine gun shells into it.

“The gunner stopped shooting,” said Che.

“Poor blighter,” replied Monk, as he walked a stream of shells into the Dornier’s right engine.  A brilliant flash and a tumbling orange-black cloud marked the end of the threat to Boomer.

“Any chutes?” asked Monk.


“Poor blighters.”

In the Dakota’s cockpit, Brin shrieked with delight.  “He got him!  He got him!”

Bossi grinned across the cabin.  “Exciting ain’t it?”

“God,” she replied, settling into her seat.  “I think I wet my pants.”

A gaggle of Spitfires blew by about fifty yards off the left wing.  Brin swung around to watch.  “Wow!  Spitfires!  Is that Tomahawk?”

Bossi keyed the mike.  “Tomahawk, this is Boomer.  Too late to the party as usual, eh?”

“Boomer, Tomahawk.  Quiet boy, or we’ll not hang around to play nursemaid.”

“Understood, Tomahawk.  Would you please, please stay and play nurse?”

“God,” repeated Brin.  “You guys have all the fun!”

“Fun?  A little while ago you were upset because Flakbait was bombing of a Nazi radar site.  Now it’s fun?”

She nodded and smiled.  “Well, it is.  I’ve never had this much fun with my clothes on.”

“Ah . . .”  Bossi blushed.  Brin laughed again.  He swallowed and went on.  “People got killed.  This is no game for a woman.”

“To hell with that!  Could you have done any better at flying this thing?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head slowly.  “Probably not as well.”

She looked sad for a moment.  “Doesn’t matter, though, does it?  I’ll never get this opportunity again.  Women can’t fly combat.”

“I don’t know, Brin.”  Bossi glanced back into the main cabin.  “Our outfit is a little unusual.  Some would even say strange.  I can’t make any promises, but . . .”

“Right.”  She clearly didn’t believe him.  “In the meantime, how do I explain those bullet holes in my shiny new airship?”

“Oh, is that all?”  He pulled out a partially smoked cigar and lit it.  “Don’t worry about the damage.  I have a form for that.  The Army has a form for everything.”

that was riveting, did you write that?

yesterday you didn't have the 5th post up yet and I couldn't wait to read the rest of it, very good short story
I got sucked in reading it at work, I'll have to finish tomorrow. Very good well done.
As usual, OG, you've done it again. Great story! Thanks for the diversion. :salute:

Its about time! Glad to see you're back amoung us where you belong!

Fine piece BTW!

Leftenant Slim
Great story OG.
Loved it as always.  Hope you have more up your sleeve as I really look forward to reading them.

Well look who's back.

As always an entertaining read OG, look forward to more, we even have some new regular characters you can use now.
Thanks for the comments, folks.

Yes, there are more tales in the works.  I've been surveying the member lists seeking fresh sacrific -- er -- characters.