RESCUE

Allison and O’Malley sat across the desk from Stan. He regarded them
with an amused grin. They treated him with the respect due his rank
only when they were in the presence of other Flying Tigers. In barracks
or when they were reporting to him in his office they liked to ruffle
him if they could. Either of them would have tackled a squadron of Japs
at his order, but when the heat of battle was over they kidded him.

“It’s our duty to report you to the general,” Allison said with a
wicked gleam in his eye.

“Faith, an’ you’ll get busted for sure,” O’Malley added. “I’ll be after
havin’ a word with Chiang Kai-shek himself.”

Stan laughed. “I have to get something out of being in command of a
lot of lunatics. This time I aim to do as I please. I merely mention
my plans to you fellows because I am forced to put Allison in command
while I am away. I have called Major O’Malley in simply as a witness.”

Allison leaned back. “It’s a three-man job, Colonel. Put Kirby or Texas
in command and we’ll go along.”

“You boys are on regular patrol and combat duty. I’m just an extra
around here,” Stan said. “The full strength of the squadron is needed
right here. We are likely to get shoved back into China as it is. The
full force stays here on the job.”

“Meanin’ the force can afford to lose a colonel but not a combat
major?” O’Malley asked sourly.

“That’s about it,” Stan agreed.

“As flying leader I will patrol certain areas beyond the Salween River
during your absence,” Allison drawled.

“You’ll patrol and protect the Rangoon area, unless you get orders to
shift base,” Stan snapped.

“Sure, an’ you wouldn’t be after bringin’ Nick Munson back? You spoke
only of this colleen,” O’Malley teased.

“I may not have to bring him back,” Stan said grimly.

Allison shook his head and his smile vanished. He leaned forward. “I
say, old man, isn’t it just a bit foolish and risky?”

“If it is then I’m a foolish nut,” Stan answered. “We owe that girl a
great deal.”

“When you put it that way, all I can do is give you my blessing,”
Allison said, the old-time flicker of a derisive twinkle gleaming in
his eye.

“The Japs may well take Rangoon. They have to get it out of the way in
order to slow up the flow of supplies to China. They can put ten planes
into the air for every one we can send up. But as long as Rangoon
stands, it will not be blasted from the air. That’s our record so far
and that record is going to stand. It’s up to you fellows to make it
stick.” Stan stared hard at his pals. “Now don’t let me catch you
running out on the job to start looking for me.”

“If yer in that mood, I guess we may as well start plannin’ a
celebration for the colleen,” O’Malley conceded.

“Now get out and keep still. I’m going up on routine patrol flight.
Just to check up on what you fellows are doing. Regulations call for a
man in command while I’m out.” Stan grinned as he got to his feet. “And
I’m itching to be on my way.”

Allison and O’Malley went out and Stan got into his flying outfit. He
had done a bit of work on his P–40. He had fixed a seat in the crowded
bird cage for an extra passenger. He walked out and examined the ship.
The ground men stepped back and stood watching him admiringly. Stan
Wilson was very popular with all of the crews.

Stan climbed in and opened up the motor. He roared off the field and
spiraled up to ten thousand feet, then headed south and east. His
flight was hardly that of a commander checking his patrols. He flew
in a line and kept the ship knifing along well above cruising speed.
Sweeping over the Salween, he headed out over the jungle. He checked
the rice plantations in the clearings below.

The sky was clear of all planes. He saw no Flying Tigers and no Japs.
Easing down in a steep dive he floated over the edge of the jungle. He
had sighted the clearing where he and Allison had set the Martin down.
Skimming low over the grass he set down and rolled up to the edge of
the timber.

He moved along slowly until he located a spot where there was an
opening, a little avenue between big trees. Stan spent the next
half-hour backing the P–40 into the avenue and covering her with vines
and creepers. If his calculations were right, he should find a road
leading into the jungle. That road should take him to the temple with
the red roof. The Jap general had driven a car over a road in getting
to this spot, so there must be at least a trail.

With the P–40 well hidden he started moving along the edge of the
jungle. After a short time he found a dim trail leading into the
jungle. Stan patted the automatic pistol snuggled against his hip and
started down the road.

He had not gone far when he came to the wreckage of the general’s car.
It lay where it had tumbled when he riddled it that day. Already vines
were beginning to shoot out over it. He trudged on for an hour, being
careful to pause every few hundred yards to listen. Once he heard
voices. Fading back into the jungle he watched four natives trudge
past. They were pulling a cart loaded with fruit. After they had passed
on Stan emerged from the jungle and hurried on.

After walking another hour he came to a small clearing with several
huts clustered at one end. This called for a detour. Heading into the
jungle, Stan fought his way along. He had no brush knife and the going
was slow and painful. Thorns raked his arms and face and scratched his
hands. Grass blades cut like knives. A dog barked furiously and he
heard natives shouting. There was one safe thing to do and that was to
stand perfectly still. For ten minutes Stan stood close to a tree trunk
and listened.

No one came into the jungle and the dog ceased howling. Stan pushed
on and after a while came back to the road well away from the huts.
He found the trail wider and showing more signs of use, so he stayed
close to the leafy wall which formed a hedge on each side of the road.

By five o’clock in the evening he was close to the village. The jungle
cover thinned out and he decided to wait for darkness. Hiding in a
thicket he lay down.

Dusk fell slowly and darkness followed even more slowly. When night
came Stan emerged from the thicket. He headed toward the village from
which a few lights gleamed. Before he had gone far he came to the
sentry line the Japs had thrown around their post.

Stan bent low so as to get the sentry against the sky. On hands and
knees he worked his way up to the sentry line. The guard was out in
the open where he had a chance to see anyone approaching, even in the
starlight. Lying flat Stan checked the ground.

He did not wish to pick off a sentry. The man could be ambushed easily
but his absence from the post would be discovered within a few minutes
by his companions who met him on either end of his beat. There was one
distinct advantage. The lines were blacked out. There were no lights
at all, due very likely to the smashing raid the Flying Tigers had made
a short time before.

Stan edged forward. He had discovered a shallow depression running
across the guard line. This low ground was deep in shadows. The sentry
paced back and forth, his rifle over his shoulder. He met his fellow
guards and they exchanged gruff words but never halted to talk.

Using Indian tactics Stan wormed his way along the hollow. He moved a
few feet, then lay still for a space, then wiggled ahead a little more.
When the sentry had his back turned, Stan slithered across his path
and on as far as he could get. When the sentry faced about, Stan lay
flattened against the ground. He was able to time his movements by the
voices of the Japs when they met and challenged each other.

The guard moved toward Stan and halted. He seemed to be peering into
the night. Stan held his breath. He suddenly appreciated the danger
a scout faced in filtering through enemy lines. The sentry lowered
his rifle and leaned on it. With a low grunt he lifted the rifle and
moved on across the hollow, passing less than ten feet from Stan. A
bush loomed ahead and Stan wiggled toward it. He slipped behind the low
clump of brush and sat up.

Crouching in the shadows he listened. The sentry was standing still.
Suddenly a slim pencil of light poked toward the bush. Stan did not
move. To dive flat would have caused a movement the sentry would have
seen. The light poked into the dense foliage, revealing red flowers and
green leaves. Then the light snapped off and the sentry moved on.

Stan crawled away as fast as he could. His objective was two big trees
with low-hanging branches. Reaching the trees he seated himself against
the trunk of one of them. Ahead, the ground was fairly open. He could
see the temple and the grounds through the trees. The road had led him
directly to the spot where he had been made prisoner by the little
yellow men on his first visit to the village.

His map was in his pocket but he did not dare flash a light to look at
it. He would have to work from memory. What he could see of the temple
showed that the bombs from the Hudsons had done considerable damage. A
pile of rocks and debris lay to the left of the building and he could
make out two big craters where the parking space had been.

Rising to his feet he walked to the left. By going around the temple
grounds he should reach a grove of trees. He hoped there would be
underbrush in the grove, but he did not remember Kirby having shown
anything of the sort on his map.

Skirting the shattered wall of the temple Stan located the trees. They
were on a gentle slope at least a quarter of a mile away. Stan moved
down the slope and into the grove. Beyond the trees he could see a glow
of light. Working his way through the trees, he discovered a stream and
beyond that a stockade made of bamboo set upright in the ground and
laced together. Two powerful searchlights played over the stockade.

Stan studied the layout carefully. The Japs were not worried about
marking the stockade with light. A bomb dropped on their prisoners
would relieve them of the trouble of caring for them. He surmised,
also, that Kirby’s escape had caused the Japs to take extra measures to
guard the prisoners.

There was little undergrowth in the grove and Stan had to be very
careful. The reflected light from the searchlights made a glow that
penetrated the shadows under the trees. Reaching the tree nearest the
stream Stan halted behind it. The light was coming from two mobile
searchlights standing well up on the far bank of the stream. The stream
was wide but appeared to be shallow.

The stockade itself was about fifty feet wide by two hundred feet in
length. In the center there was a thatched sun shelter, while at the
far end was a hut with a thatched roof. A man’s scream rang out into
the night, then choked off suddenly. A few minutes later a squad of Jap
soldiers came out of the lower gate of the enclosure and marched away
with two ragged men tramping ahead of their bayonets. They moved toward
the temple.

Stan seated himself behind the tree and watched. His eyes followed
the guards as they paced back and forth. He decided the guards came
from the temple grounds. That meant the only men present now were
those walking in front of the stockade and along each side. But there
were plenty of them. There was also a machine-gun crew stationed on a
platform which gave them command of the inside of the stockade as well
as the ground around it.

Crossing the hundred yards of lighted ground, not to say anything about
the stream, would be no easy job. Stan had a feeling he would not get
far in such an attempt. He sat down to think it over.

The air was filled with many sounds. From the east came sounds of
machinery running at high speed and of hammers pounding upon metal.
The Japs probably were trying to repair some of the damage the Flying
Tigers had done. Above these sounds rose the put-put of a gasoline
motor close at hand. The noise was familiar, Stan had heard such a
sound many times. Suddenly he realized that the steady chugging came
from a portable light plant.

Edging around the tree Stan crawled toward the sound. He found a bush
close to the edge of the stream and sat there peering across the water.
The light plant was located close to the stream on the far side. It was
a type mounted on auto wheels and designed to be trailed behind a car
or truck. Stan looked for poles leading away from the plant but saw
none. As he bent forward one of the searchlights swung around, stabbing
its broad beam over the grove and down toward the stream.

Stan flattened himself against the wet ground behind the bush. The
light swept on, revealing a wide hedge beyond the grove, then the
trunks of the trees and the slope under them. It showed a yard back of
the grove. The yard was crowded with army trucks and canvass-covered
guns mounted on wheels. The band of light swung around, over the slope
he had just crossed. It was a white, revealing beam and Stan gripped
his automatic. The screen of bushes could hardly hide him from such an
intense light. Then the light swept upward, stabbed into the sky and
dropped again upon the stockade. Stan sucked in his breath and sat up.

He edged out into the stream and found it had a muddy bottom. The water
was only knee-deep and smelled very bad. From his position, crouching
above the water, Stan could see the portable light plant outlined
against the light from the stockade. A man sat on a box near the plant.
His head was resting on his arms which, in turn, rested on the top of
an oil barrel. Stan was sure the operator of the plant was taking a nap.

Crossing the stream he stepped out on the bank and into the shadow back
of the plant. Creeping forward he stood erect behind the sleeping man.
One hard rap with the barrel of his automatic made the Jap engineer
straighten, then slide soundlessly to the ground. Stan made a quick
examination of the fellow to be sure he was out cold. The Jap was
relaxed but breathing softly.

Turning to the light plant Stan bent over the small motor. His probing
fingers located a spark plug. With a swift blow from the barrel of his
pistol he smashed the porcelain plug. The engine coughed, backfired,
then went dead.

Instantly the blazing lights at the stockade went out. The stream and
the bank were plunged into darkness. Stan knew this was the moment for
action. The guards would be blinded until their eyes became accustomed
to the sudden darkness. He charged up the bank as fast as he could.
Shouts arose from the Japanese soldiers and a rifle shot rang out.

Stan headed for the rear of the stockade where the hut stood. The fence
was not very high and he could leap up and catch hold of the top. He
found one strand of barbed wire and caught hold of it. He was glad the
Japanese were short of metal and could not do a good job of wiring the
fence. With a jerk he yanked the wire down and was on top of the fence.

Down at the gate a smoky flare was waving back and forth and a Jap
officer was bellowing orders. Stan hit the ground inside the stockade.
He bumped into a man and felt clawlike fingers gripping at him. He
pushed the man aside and stumbled over another lying on the ground.
Then he reached the wall of the hut and felt for a door.

“Niva! Niva!” he cried.

Above the excited shouting of the prisoners he heard Niva’s voice,
coming from the hut.

“I am here, inside the hut!”

Stan plunged around the hut looking for a door or window. “Niva!
Where’s the door?” he shouted.

“Here is a window!” Niva called.

Stan located the window and saw her face, an oval of white against a
black background. His hand felt green bamboo bars. Gripping them he
planted a knee against the flimsy wall and yanked. The bars and a large
part of the wall pulled away. Stan tossed aside the section he had
pulled loose and caught the girl’s wrist.

“Come on! We have to get out of here before they get another light.”
Half dragging, half carrying the girl he charged toward the wall. His
head was down and he smashed aside the natives who got in his way.

At the wall Niva held back. “We ought to help them escape,” she cried.

“We’ll be lucky to get out ourselves,” Stan said as he lifted her to
the top of the wall. “But I’ll have a try.”

Niva disappeared beyond the wall and Stan leaped up. He was poised for
a leap when a rifle flamed close to where Niva stood on the ground
below. A bullet screamed past Stan’s head. He dived toward the flash of
light from the gun.

His one hundred eighty pounds of hard body hit the guard like a bolt of
lightning. The Jap went down with a groan. Stan caught up his rifle and
set it against the wall. Picking up the little sentry Stan tossed him
over the wall into the enclosure.

Grabbing the rifle he began slashing at the lacing on the Stockade.
“Can you call to them? Make them understand?” he shouted to Niva.

“I’ll try,” she answered.

Stan cut through the lacings and jerked several poles loose. The Jap
sentry’s bayonet was as sharp as a razor and Stan was able to slash the
fiber bindings rapidly. In a short space he had an opening wide enough
for a man to slip through.

Niva was shouting to the milling prisoners near the opening. Her cry
was taken up and the prisoners surged toward the hole. Stan waited no
longer. He caught her arm.

“Come on!” he urged.

They could hear guards running toward the opening in the stockade and
behind them the prisoners were pouring out. Stan caught Niva up and
charged away, just as the guards smashed head-on into the prisoners
swarming out of the stockade. A furious battle began with the Japs
going down under the fists and claws of the escaping men.

Stan made for the wide hedge. Reaching it he set Niva down. They ran
along its sheltering wall for a hundred feet before they located a hole
to duck through to the jungle side of the hedge. They were halted by
an opening which had been cut across the thorny growth. Jap sentries
marched back and forth. They were unusually alert because of the
commotion at the stockade.

The pandemonium below was growing. From the platform the machine guns
had opened up and were blasting away. Lights, coming from the direction
of the temple, were stabbing into the night.

“This place will be swarming with soldiers in a few minutes,” Stan
whispered. “We have to break through the guard line. I’ll charge that
Jap. You keep close behind me. Can you use an automatic pistol?”

“You haven’t forgotten I am a spy, have you?” Niva asked with a low
laugh. “Give it to me.”

Stan thrust the gun into her hands. He caught her thumb and showed her
the safety catch.

“Ready,” she hissed.

Gripping the captured rifle Stan charged the sentry. His rush was
silent and carried him well out and upon the guard before the Jap
saw him coming. The sentry whirled and lowered his bayonet to meet
the attack. Stan was on him before he could lunge. He wasn’t sure he
had room for bayonet work so he brought the butt of the gun up in a
sweeping arc. The Jap seemed to lift. He went rolling end over end like
a rabbit, landing in a heap on the ground where he lay motionless.

Beside him Niva fired the automatic. Another guard was charging in. He
dived aside, however, when the girl opened up on him.

“I missed him.” Her voice was cool but tinged with disgust.

Stan laughed as he caught her hand and dragged her away. They raced
along the hedge, keeping close to the barrier of thorns. Soon their
flight was slowed to a walk as they came to heavy underbrush and vines.
But Stan refused to halt until they were deep in the jungle.

When they were well away from the village he stopped in a little
clearing. Niva stood panting beside him.

“Thanks, Stan Wilson, for coming back,” she said.

“Kirby told me you were in the stockade. He made a map of the grounds.”
Stan grinned at her. “I owed you a rescue. Now if we can get out of
here we’ll be even.”

“You Americans are remarkable people,” Niva said. “You do not hesitate
to stage a one-man invasion.” She laughed softly. “But you came just in
time. Von Ketch was just waiting for permission to have me shot.”

“You’re through with Axis spying, young lady. From now on you can help
your own people by giving the Chinese all the information you have on
the Jap spy system,” Stan said grimly.

“You do not like spies?” Niva asked.

“Frankly, no,” Stan answered. “I thought once that they all were rats.”
He grinned down at her.

“Now what do you think?” she asked.

“I think we’d better keep going or we may both be shot when the sun
comes up,” Stan answered.

They moved on into the jungle, Stan setting his course by his pocket
compass. He hoped his calculations would bring them out on the road
beyond the huts in the clearing. syringe

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