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Orders or no orders, no brass
hats were going to keep Janice away from
her husband—even though he was missing in action



A HALF-EMPTY bottle of Scotch stood in the center of the table. There were a number of bottles of charged water with the caps off, and glasses. Four men sat leisurely behind the glasses: a young sandy-haired lieutenant of infantry, two artillery captains and an air force major. The major was pushing his half-filled glass around the inside edge of a plastic coaster. Drops of moisture followed the path of the glass and smeared over red lettering in the center of the coaster. The letters said: Miami Rehabilitation Center Officers Club.

“There’s only one thing I know for sure: this is a man’s war.” The young infantry officer spoke with slow deliberation and raised his glass. It was empty when he put it down.

“You’ve got the wrong idea, Lieutenant. Women have given their share in this fight.” The major smiled, raising his eyes.

“Hah, that’s where I’ve got you, sir. Sure they push pencils a lot better than a man. Some of them do a good job of bandage rolling—like those nurses over there.” He turned his head toward another table across the room around which five army nurses sat talking. “But when it comes to fighting and danger—what the hell!”

One of the artillery captains scowled. “I’ll bet you were damned glad to have a nurse working over you when you stopped that mortar shell with your legs.”

The lieutenant sighed, refilling his glass. “That’s a different story. I was wounded risking my life. How many women can say as much?”

The major straightened. “Some of them can.”

“Well I’ll buy drinks for everyone if you can prove I’m wrong!”

“I think I can.” The major said slowly.

The lieutenant laughed. “My offer stands. Go ahead and try!”

The Major looked off across the room for a moment and then fixed steady grey eyes on the lieutenant. “Very well. I’ll have to go back to a spring day in ’45. There was a flight nurse stationed at Fort Benning...."

"THERE? isn’t that better now?”

Lieutenant Janice Moeller eased the blankets around the knees of the soldier and stepped back from the wheel chair. The patient’s thin drawn face broke into a smile. “Guess so, ma’m it’s pretty hot out' here in the sun. Georgia sure isn’t like the Aleutians.”

Janice looked around the sprawling green expanse of lawn with the afternoon sun beating down on it. “That’s exactly why you’ve got to keep this blanket around you.” She laughed. “Fort Benning is a long way from Kiska, and you’ve been a very sick man. We can’t let a draft on your legs start a pneumonia relapse!”

The grin on his youthful features widened. “I like the way you said that, ma’m—calling me a man—I’m not even twenty-one yet. But I guess you grow up fast in war. Seems like I’ve lived a lifetime in the past couple years. If it hadn’t been for Mary I’d think it was almost like a bad dream.”

Janice looked down at him. “Mary? Your girl? Where does she live?”

His chin thrust out proudly. “Mary’s my wife, ma’m. She’s in the WAC; we met up in Whitehorse, Alaska. She’s a swell girl—the best. It was just like heaven being up there together. If it hadn’t been for this lousy pneumonia, we’d still be together. Guess I won’t see her for a long time now. The Doc says I won’t be sent back, says I’m too run down and can’t stand the cold anymore. Maybe he’s right but I’d give anything to be back there with her. If you have anybody overseas you’ll know what I mean.”

Janice looked away. The green lawn the hot sun and the warm whisper of the breeze vanished. Something else took their place. A laughing face with steel-grey eyes and curly brown hair. The months rolled back before her and she could see him just as plain as if he were standing beside her in his flashy flying jacket with the silver wings and twin silver bars. “I take thee, Janice ...” The ten days leave they had spent together in Atlanta before his orders came. That last moment when he had held her close and whispered: “I’ll be thinking of you darling, every minute, every second. It won’t be so long; we’ll be together again, maybe sooner than you think. You may be joining me overseas yourself...”

The lawn was back again and with it the Georgia sun. Janice looked into the eyes of the soldier. He was frowning.

‘Ts there anything wrong, ma’m?”

She smiled. “I was just thinking. You see, I do know how you feel, because I have someone overseas—Dick, my husband. He’s flying somewhere over Italy in a Liberator. I’ve been hoping that my orders would come through for the European theatre. I’ve been waiting for months...."

The soldier nodded understandingly. “I hope they come through for you, ma’m.”

Janice smiled at him again and then turned away. “I’ll be back in a little while, after—” She broke off suddenly, her eyes watching a figure hurrying toward them across the grass. It was Sergeant Janssen, chief clerk in the commandant’s office. She watched him approach and returned his salute.

“Lieutenant, Colonel Marble sent me. He wants to see you right away.” Janice felt her pulse quicken. “Sergeant, is it—”

Sergeant Janssen shook his head. “All I know is that the Colonel wants to see you, right away, Lieutenant.”

She nodded and turned back to the soldier in the wheel chair. “I’ll come back later—and don’t you take that blanket off!”

He smiled wistfully up at her.

COLONEL MARBLE was shuffling through a pile of papers trying to appear oblivious of the group of nervously waiting nurses to the right of his desk. Janice took i;. the situation at a glance as she walked into the room. She saw the bald shining pate of the colonel with his eyes lowered on his papers, and the seven other nurses standing silently by his desk. She walked up.

“Sir, Lieutenant Moeller reporting as directed.”

Colonel Marble looked up. He had sharp black eyes that were as steady as a knife poised in surgery. He nodded.

“At ease, Lieutenant.” He turned his gaze to the other women. “Well, you’re all here, so I may as well make it brief. I suppose you have an idea why I sent for you. Each of you has applied for overseas service.” He paused and Janice felt a rising beat in her pulse. “Your orders have come through today. You will be ready to, leave by 0600 tomorrow. I have already assigned nurses to take over your duties. You will pack and clear through Captain Thomas in Personnel. There will be jeeps waiting to take you to Lawson Field at 0530 in the morning. I’m going to hand you your orders now and I need not impress upon you the necessity for strict silence on your part.”

This his hands were separating sheets and his voice was rolling out the words: “Lieutenants Smith, Pawelcik, Burns, Carlson, Brown, and Moeller—San Francisco. Lieutenants Devans and Brent—New York. That’s it, girls; good luck.”

Janice became aware of a chorus of voices all talking at once around her. Through a haze she saw the girls reach out with eager fingers and pick up their papers. And the words kept pounding through her in a dazed monologue: “Lieutenant Moeller, San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco...” A laughing face with curly brown hair loomed before her. Dick. Dick with his smiling grey eyes and whispering voice. “We’ll be together again, darling ... you may be joining me overseas..."

“Lieutenant Moeller, is there anything wrong?”

Janice started. Colonel Marble was sitting back in his chair with his arms folded, his eyes fixed steadily upon her. The others had already left. A slow flush turned Janice’s face red. “I—I’m sorry, sir, I was thinking..."

“Thinking? What’s the matter, have you changed your mind?”

Janice stepped forward. “Colonel, you remember when I put in my request for overseas service I asked to be sent to the European theatre. And now..."

Colonel Marble ran a slender hand across his forehead. “I see. You’re on orders for the Pacific. I’m sorry, really sorry. We always try to arrange requests for such duty as much as possible. When I sent your name to Birmingham I stipulated European service, but...” His voice trailed off and Janice felt a hollow aching spot in her throat.

“I wanted to be with Dick—my husband...”

Colonel Marble leaned forward across the desk. “Lieutenant, please try to understand. I know just how you feel. I myself have a boy fighting in the ranks in France. I’d give anything to be able to be over there with him, just to be near him. I can’t. In your case I did everything I could, but the final decision was up to GHQ in Birmingham. After all, our first consideration must be service and devotion to duty. And in your case as a nurse, this holds especially true.”

Janice lowered her eyes and bit her lips tightly. When she left the office she held the sheet of official orders tightly clenched in her fingers.

“GEE, that’s a tough break, kid.” Becky Devans sat on bed beside Janice, staring at the scrubbed and spotless pine flooring. Her dark hair set in a ratted upsweep was a vivid contrast to Janice’s own honey-colored hair. Her eyes were dark and friendly and dry. In Janice’s there was some of the color of the sea and a little bit of the sea was threatening to spill over.

“I wanted to be near him—maybe even get to see him once or twice. That’s why I volunteered, Becky. It isn’t fair..."

“Of course it isn’t, kid. I’ll bet those brass hats got a big kick out of doing this. If you had asked for the Pacific you would probably be going over with me and Doris?—Have you cleared the Post yet?”

Janice nodded dully and glanced at her wrist watch. It was a quarter past seven. “Yes, I signed out through Personnel at six.”

“I’m all set too. You know, it really is a shame. I pulled a little of the old woo on Ted Jones over at Lawson Field. When I reach New York there’ll be a C-47 waiting with Italy as its destination. Oh, I’m sorry, Janice, I shouldn’t have said it, you feel bad enough already.”

Janice tried to smile. “It’s all right, Becky. I’m glad for you anyway. Jack is over in the Mediterranean area, isn’t he?”

Becky nodded and got to her feet. “I feel like a heel, Janice. This makes it all the worse now. I wish there was something I could do...”

Janice sat silently for a moment on the edge of the bed. Then she looked up with a wistful smile. “If by some chance you do get to see Dick—will you tell him I—”

"Sure thing, kid. I’ll make a point of it.” She leaned over and kissed Janice lightly on the foreheads “I’ll tell him you sent one along just like it.”

Janice got up with a sigh and walked toward the door with Becky. A knock sounded from outside.

“Janice, it’s me—Doris.”

The door opened and Doris Brent came in. There was a troubled frown on her face and her lips were parted with a piece of red tongue held in one corner like a small puppy about to be whipped and not knowing whether to whimper or run.

Becky laughed. “What’s the matter with you, kid? You look like somebody stole your best pair of stockings!”

Doris Brent was looking at Janice. The tongue disappeared from between her lips and words slipped out slowly. “Janice, I—somebody wants to see you in the day room...”

“See me? Who?”

“Sergeant Janssen.”

“Oh!” Janice looked hopefully over at Becky as a sudden rush of hope swept through her. “Maybe Colonel Marble has managed to put my request through after all!”

Becky nodded happily. “Come on, kid; let’s go and see.”

Doris Brent stopped Becky with her arm. “You better not go, Becky. Janice will want to get it alone.”

“It? What are you talking about? Say, is anything wrong?”

Doris remained silent and started biting her lip. Janice frowned and hurried from the room.

THE day room was a little affair with two sofas, a large bookcase filled with well-thumbed novels, a few magazine racks, and five cane-backed arm chairs. Janice slipped through the curtained doorway that led to the nurses’ quarters and saw Sergeant Janssen standing inside the entrance with his hat in one hand and a yellow sheet of paper in the other. There was a sober expression on his face and he turned his eyes away from her as she stopped before him.

"You wished to see me, Sergeant?” Janice asked.

He nodded.

“Well, what is it, Sergeant? Did Colonel Marble send you?”

He looked at her then. And as his eyes centered on her, Janice felt a tremor sweep through her.

“Not exactly, Lieutenant, it wasn’t the Colonel himself... Damn it ma’m, I hate to have to do this--”

“Do what?” Janice asked slowly and her eyes traveled down to the sheet of paper he was holding at his side.

Silently he handed her the sheet. She took it frowning.

“It’s a telegram, Lieutenant... War department...."

She didn’t need his words to tell her. She had seen the familiar form enough times before. But his last words—War department... She didn’t want to read it. For there was only one thing that a war department wire would say. But she read.

The War Department regrets to inform you that your husband, Captain Richard Moeller is missing in action over Italy

There were some more words. But they were meaningless. They were all meaningless. She stared at them. She read them again. They were still the same—missing in action--no, that couldn’t be right. She must have read them wrong... MISSING IN ACTION....

"Lieutenant, I can’t tell you how sorrly I am. I hated to have to bring this mu, especially tonight, I—”

A laughing face with curly brown hair and smiling grey eyes. It was reeling before her, arms that wanted to gather her her in, lips that tried to whisper a message... "It won't be so long, we’ll be together again... maybe you’ll be joining me overseas..."

“Lieutenant! Here—you’d better sit down!”

Janice shook her head suddenly. Stark reality closed in about her. The day room, the empty sofas, Sergeant Janssen—his face grim and white, the wire. She became aware that she was trembling, that her knees were like two pieces of rubber.

“I—I’ll be all right...”

“You better sit down. Maybe I better call someone.”

“No, please.”

Sergeant Janssen looked helplessly at her. Then he moved forward and led her to one of the sofas. She didn’t feel herself sitting down on it. She didn’t feel anything.

“Is there anything I can do, ma’m?”

From somewhere she heard his voice. It was almost like a dim echo from a dream. The kind you get when you are coming out of ether and people in white stand over you talking. Slowly she shook her head.

...It might have been years that passed instead of minutes. Time didn’t mean very much somehow. There was only one thing that mattered. Dick was missing in action. Somewhere over Italy. Even now he might be lying wounded, helpless, maybe even— No! Not that!

Her hand bent forward and her arms folded over her eyes, with the yellow sheet still clenched between white trembling fingers. Wracking sobs shook her then. Like a deluge that had been straining behind misty gray clouds.

BECKY DEVANS slipped quietly up beside Janice and sat on the sofa, one arm pulling Janice close beside her. Janice looked up slowly, and the sobs became stifled shudders.

“Doris told me—Sergeant Janssen spoke to her when he first came in. Gee, this is an awful break, Janice. Go ahead and cry—maybe you’d rather be alone...”

Janice straightened. “No, I’m glad you came in, Becky—crying isn’t going to help. He’s missing—Dick’s missing in Europe and I’m going to the Pacific!” Her voice broke tremulously.

Becky looked away. “I’d gladly trade places on the shipping list with you, kid, if I could.”

“Thanks, Becky.” Janice felt the tears coming again. “Oh, it isn’t fair! I asked for the European theatre—why couldn’t they give it to me!”

“Maybe if you went to Colonel Marble he might be able to do something yet.” Becky spoke dejectedly.

For a long moment Janice stared off into space. Then her voice sounded hollowly as if it was an echo of fleeting thoughts. “Yes, maybe there is a way. I couldn’t stand going to the Pacific now. If I could only be near him—where he was. There has to be a way . . .”

Becky sighed. “You can’t lose anything by trying, kid. Maybe the Colonel can pull a few strings.”

“I have nothing to lose...” Janice said slowly, and her voice was lifeless. Beside her, Becky Devans shook her head and rose.

“I’ve got to straighten up a few things, Janice. But if there’s anything I can do, just call.”

Janice didn’t answer. She wasn’t even aware that Becky had left the day room. She sat there, on the edge of the sofa, the yellow sheet of paper still clutched in her fingers, her eyes wet and misty and staring.

“There is a way,” she breathed. “Oh, Dick, Dick my darling, I have to try it...”

It was a long time though before she found the courage to walk out of the barracks.

JANICE paused in the hall outside the entrance to Personnel. The hall itself was deserted, the Administration center having closed at six. But there was a single light showing from outside the Personnel office, and Janice felt a tremor of fear. If someone should find her before she finished; or worse still, if someone were on duty inside, then it would be impossible to carry out her plan.

Even as she stood there, pausing, undecided, the light went out. There was the rapid approach of footsteps, and then, before she could move, the door swung open.

“What—Oh, it’s you Lieutenant.”

Janice stared up at Sergeant Janssen.

“Were you looking for me, Lieutenant? Is there anything—”

Janice shook her head and managed to keep her voice even. “No, Sergeant. I—I just wanted to use a typewriter to write some letters before leaving.”

A half-hearted smile crossed his face. “Of course, ma’m. Anything you want. Just turn off the light when you leave.”

He saluted and Janice watched him walk off down the corridor.

Moments later she opened the door of the Personnel office and then closed it after her. She switched on the lights and stared around. There were the filing cabinets, the rows of desks, the mimeograph machines, the rows of benches where patients and visitors waited for interviews, and at the far end, the door leading into the Personnel Officer’s office.

She walked over to one of the desks, took the cover off the typewriter, pulled an unused stencil from a drawer, spread out a copy of her orders on the desk, and sat down.

...She worked the mimeograph machine by hand. After ten sheets had been run off she removed the stencil and tore it into bits. She threw the pieces in a waste-basket, gathered up the freshly inked sheets and returned to the desk. She sat down and picked up a fountain pen. She bit her lips and looked at it for a moment. Her fingers were trembling.

“I’ve got to—for you, Dick. I’ve got to....”

She studied the signatures closely, waited for her fingers to stop shaking. Then she started writing....

DAWN was a cold crawling sky that slowly lifted from Lawson Field like a dirty blanket. On the tarmac two twin-engined C-47 Transports, Douglas Skytrains, purred into life like sleepy birds. The engines revved up slowly in a staccato thunder, straightened out, and then throttled down into a deep even rumble of sound.

Major Ted Jones stood waiting before Clearance Office as the jeeps pulled up.

“Morning, girls. You’re right on time.”

The nurses piled from the jeeps and lined up. Janice waited and came up at the end of the line. Becky Devans stood beside her, and next to her, Dons Brent. Becky winked at the major and a grin crossed his face. He walked to the head of the line and started checking.

“Lieutenant Burns, Special Order 197, Frisco, check. Carlson, check. Pawelcik, check.”

His voice droned on down the line and Janice felt a fear rising inside her. It was a slow tremulous feeling, like the first time she had watched the knife of a surgeon poised and ready to cut. “Lieutenant Brent, Special Order 198, New York, check. Devans—hello Becky—check.' Janice Moeller—say there’s something wrong here...”

It was now. It had to be now. Hesitate and he’ll know for sure! Janice steeled herself.

The major was glancing at the sheet of orders Janice had handed him and was checking against his clip-board. “I’ve got you down for Frisco under SO 197. I didn’t get any 199.”

Janice took a deep breath. “I know it, sir. It just came through late last night from Birmingham. I had requested the European Theater through Colonel Marble and 197 was run off before they caught it. They issued the special order covering my transfer.”

Beside Janice, Becky Devans squealed delightedly. “Janice, you didn’t tell me! This is wonderful!”

Janice was watching Major Jones. The Major was frowning and reading the restricted order in a low mumble: “Paragraph 1: So much of Paragraph 2, SO 197, HQ Birmingham, is amended to read: ‘Lieutenant Janice Moeller, European Theater, POE New York...'”

He looked up with troubled eyes. “They should have at least telephoned about this. I don’t know—?”

Janice felt the inner reserve of courage she had built up slipping away. She was so close to success, but much closer to defeat and after that—

Becky Devans laughed suddenly. “Ted, I’m surprised at you. Janice has her orders—sure they are a surprise, as much to me as you. But there are extenuating circumstances in her case.” Her voice suddenly sobered. “Janice received word that her husband, is missing in action somewhere in Italy. She bad requested European duty, and...”

Major Jones’ face cleared. “Oh, I see. Well I guess ours is but to do or—” He paused. “I’m sorry Lieutenant, I was only going to say that GHQ pulls some fast ones on us at times. This is one of them. I guess everything is all right.” He turned his gaze on the rest of the nurses. “You girls have your gear ready for stowing. I’ll have some of my men take care of it for you. Take-off is in fifteen minutes. That’s all.”

Janice moved away as Becky slipped up beside the major and drew him aside. To Janice it was all like a dream from which she expected to awake at any moment. Only if she wakened now, there would be no relief. She started walking toward the ships purring away into the rising dawn....

THE first edges of Italian clouds knifed along beneath the Douglas Skytrain. Its twin Pratt & Whitney engines droned a muffled thunder in the quiet early morning air. The sun was still low on the eastern horizon, popping up over the still distant Adriatic Sea.

“Pilot to navigator. Shouldn’t be much longer, Finch, what say?”

Sergeant Archibald Finch winked across at Janice from where she sat staring out of the single window in the small cubby that served as a navigation room. He checked his map and spoke over the IC.

“Navigator to pilot. Right on course, sir. Should hit home in about thirty minutes. Three and a half hours out of London is right on schedule.”


Finch sat back and looked across at Janice. She turned her gaze from the window.

“Pretty dull trip, eh, Lieutenant?”

Janice smiled. “There isn’t much for a nurse to do on a deadhead trip like this.” The smile continued around her lips as her eyes slipped down to the heavy slatted floor. But inside she wasn’t smiling. A tension pulsed in her throat. A tension that had been building up ever since she took over her duties a week ago as Flight Nurse on a C-47 out of Rome. That part of it seemed almost like a dream. The trip over the Atlantic. The stopover in London while GHQ assigned the new batch of nurses. Doris Brent had stayed on in London. Becky Devans and herself had been assigned as flight nurses on hospital ships that shuttled between Rome and London and then by Skymasters to the States.

At every minute Janice expected someone to question the orders she had arrived under. But they hadn’t, and now she was on her regular run.

The first few days in Rome her hopes had been high. It should have been simple to trace Dick from his base. It should have been the easiest thing in the world to at least find out what had happened. But it hadn’t been. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant, there isn’t anything we can tell you right now. Your husband was on an important mission—more important than you can realize. You must understand our position..." That’s what she had been told and she had taken it bitterly. Now, thinking back on it, it seemed all the worse. What had happened to Dick? What was the important mission—so important that not a word of it could be spoken?

She had even thought of going directly to General Mark Clark. But here again the door was closed. “Sorry, Lieutenant, you can’t see the General, he isn’t here right now.”

It was the same old story. Army red tape. What did they care how people felt about someone they loved? What did they know about a person’s feelings inside? Feelings that had made her forge military orders just to be near him. Oh, Dick—Dick!

“Won’t be long now, Lieutenant. You’ll have a 24 hour pass when you get in from this trip, won’t you?”

Janice raised her eyes from the floor of the ship. Sergeant Finch was smiling at her.

She nodded. “Yes, I guess so."

“Sure wish I had a pass like that after a couple of ferry jobs. You know, I kind of got a liking for that Dago wine since I’ve been over here.... Hey!”

Janice followed the Sergeant’s gaze out the tiny window that looked off into the Eastern sky. Her heart chilled.

“Navigator to pilot! Two ME 109’s at nine o’clock! Coming in fast!”

“I see them, Finch, hold on to your seat—warn Lieutenant Moeller. We’ll have to run for it!”

JANICE heard the swift exchange of words as her eyes glued themselves to the lancing enemy aircraft that came out of the morning sun. This was her first glimpse of an enemy ship and she sat frozen to her seat.

“Take it easy, ma’m!” she heard Finch saying. “We don’t carry guns but Lieutenant Ganns knows a few tricks!”

As if in answer to his words the clumsy Douglas banked sharply to the left. Simultaneously Janice heard an abrupt staccato sound. Almost in the same instant there was a shatter of glass from somewhere up front and then a ripping of sound over her head.

She looked upward. A mottled pattern of holes had appeared in the side of the ship and the wind was whistling through them. Beside her she heard Finch swearing.

“That was close—damn them!”

The ship veered sharply downward. Janice grabbed on to the navigation table and held her breath. Through her mind one thought kept buzzing: “Dick, was it like this before...”

A blast of sound seemed to come from inside the ship. There was a pungent odor of burnt carbide or something like it, Janice couldn’t tell. The ship pitched in a steep dive.

The seconds seemed to pass like rears. Her ears were humming, there was something heavy pressing against her. From somewhere far away the staccato buzzing came again. Then it faded.

The ship straightened. And for the first time Janice became aware that her eyes were tightly closed. She opened them. She was staring into a thick mist out the little broken window beside her. Mist that curled and swept by the ship like pieces of cloud—clouds!

“Pilot to navigator. I think we’ve shaken them. Finch. How’s everything back there? We caught a few up here.

Something pressed against her. Janice turned her head and a cry burst from her lips. Sergeant Finch was laying across the navigation table, one arm resting heavily against her side. There was a dark red stream flowing from it.

Janice released his arm gently and crawled to her feet. She staggered forward and stuck her head through the pilot’s cubby.

“Sergeant Finch was hit! I’ll take care of him!”

She didn’t wait for a reply. Her bag of medical supplies was on one of the three-tiered bunks that lined the fuselage. Bunks that luckily didn’t now hold badly wounded men. Tomorrow or the next day or the next they would.

Janice bit her lips grimly and opened her bag. She could hear Sergeant Finch groaning.

BECKY DEVANS was waiting when the C-47 pulled in. She stood beside the open hatch of another Sky train transport, her features drawn into a frown as she saw the mottled pattern of bullet holes. She ran. forward as the big ship taxied to a halt.

An ambulance was waiting. It shot out from between two hangars and spurred up alongside the hatch of the C-47. When Becky reached it the door was already open and two medical corps men were helping Sergeant Finch into the back of the ambulance. His left arm was tightly bandaged to his side and his features were drawn and pale. Janice followed him out of the ship.

“Janice!” Becky shouted. “Over here, kid!”

There was a tautness around Janice’s mouth when she joined Becky.

“Gee, Janice, we heard the report from the radio boys. That must have been terrible up there. Was Sergeant Finch hit bad?”

Janice ran a band wearily across her forehead. “Shoulder and upper arm. Both flesh wounds but pretty messy.”


Janice looked anxiously across at Becky. “Any messages for me, Becky—you know, from Dick’s C.O.?”

Becky shook her head and turned away. “Sorry, kid, nothing like that, but there is something..."

“Something?” Janice asked breathlessly. “What is it!”

“Don’t get your hopes up, kid, it isn’t much. You know I’m taking off in a few minutes. We’ve got a load of pretty badly shot up boys. Most of them Air Corps.' There’s one case, a Liberator waist gunner, who was sent back from a forward evacuation hospital around Bologna, and who is in a pretty bad way. He bailed out of a crippled Liberator and was shot up on the way down. He’s delirious most of the time and once or twice when I’ve tried to quiet him he’s mentioned a few names. Dick Moeller was one of them!”

“Becky!” Janice grabbed the other girl’s arm frenziedly. “I’ve got to see him—talk to him!”

Becky shook her head. “He’s too bad off, kid, for talking. That’s why we’re rushing him to London; he may stand a chance there. Besides, we’re taking off in a few minutes and—”

“I’ve got to see him! Don’t you understand? This may be my only chance before Headquarters finds out—”

Becky frowned. “Finds out what, kid? Gee, I’m sorry you’re not going along; if you were..."

Janice stepped back, a wild light covering her face. “I am going along! I’ve got a twenty-four hour pass due me effective this morning—I’ll deadhead back with you on your return trip!”

“I don’t know, kid, you’d have to get an okay from Operations on that.”

“I’ll get it, Becky, I’ll get it. I have to!”

THERE was the steady drone of the Skytrain’s twin engines. There was the smell of antiseptic and sick, wounded bodies. There was the odor of cigarette smoke and the low halting mumble of voices as some of the patients tried to talk.

Becky Devans was going from one bunk to the next, offering cigarettes to the men still able to smoke, and lighting them. A medical-aid man was adjusting a glucose bottle on a tripod and getting ready to insert the needle in the exposed forearm of a soldier whose head was a mass of bandages with a few holes in the cloth for seeing and breathing.

Janice was oblivious to everything going on around her. She knelt on the slatted flooring beside the lower bunk of a three-tier section, one hand resting on the edge of a blanket. Under the blanket lay a youth of possibly twenty years, a white bandage around his forehead covering his eyes, and the top of other bandages peeping out from beneath the covering. His lips were dry and cracked, his skin hot and feverish as she touched his cheek gently. He tossed.

“They’re coming—three o’clock—Focke-Wulfs!”

Janice kept her fingers against his cheek. “Easy soldier, it’s all right...”

“General, sir—are you hit?—Gunner to pilot—Milan below—more of them coming up at six o’clock—”

Janice frowned and took her fingers away from the hot cheek. The boy was raving in delirium. He needed morphine and needed it badly. Janice started to get to her feet.

“Gunner to pilot—Captain Moeller, sir—port motor afire—”

His voice trailed off into a low mumble and Janice froze on her knees. Captain Moeller! He had said Moeller! And what was it—yes, Milan! It had been over Milan!

“Bail out—We’re, going down—they’re coming in again—”

Janice got slowly to her feet as Becky Devans nudged her. “I’m going to have to give him a shot. Flight Surgeon’s orders in case he got too restless. Poor kid.”

Janice turned away as Becky leaned over the bunk. She walked slowly forward. When she looked up from the flooring she stared into the eyes of a pudgy little sergeant with earphones pushed up on his short red hair.

“Pretty bad cases this trip, huh, Lieutenant?”

Janice nodded dully. Then suddenly her eyes lighted. “Sergeant how close do we come to Milan on this route?"

“Milan? Why about fifty miles or so —why?”

“That’s enemy territory yet, isn’t it?” “Sure, but it won’t be for lopg the way our 5th and the Tommies’ 8th are rolling! You know somebody fighting in that sector?”

Janice looked away. “I—I’m not sure...”

The sergeant suddenly pulled the earphones down dose over his ears. His fingers began manipulating the radio set. “Pardon me, ma’m, there’s a message coming through.”

Janice turned and went back toward the hospital section of the ship. She could hear the even drone of the Skytrain’s motors and it seemed like a dirge somehow. Becky Devans caught her arm.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t find out more, kid. That’s about all he kept saying—the same things over and over. I had to quiet him.”

Janice sighed. “I guess I should be thankful for learning that much, Becky. Dick must have been on a mission over Milan when his ship was hit. But what did the gunner mean by ‘General’?”

“Lieutenant Moeller!”

Janice turned her head to see the radio operator beckoning. She left Becky and walked up to the sergeant.

“You wanted me, Sergeant?”

The sergeant was rubbing his jaw thoughtfully. There was a frown on his face.

“That message I just received, Lieutenant—it was from Base HQ in London. They had contacted Rome and found out you were on this flight. You are to report immediately to headquarters when we land. They said there would be a jeep waiting to pick you up.”

Janice's face paled. The sergeant watched her curiously.

“I hope there’s nothing wrong, ma’m."

Janice forced a smile. “I don’t think so, Sergeant. Thanks for the message.”

The smile faded when she turned away. Almost in a daze she groped her way back from the front of the ship. This was it. She knew it. She had known it had to happen sometime. And now it had. They had discovered the forged orders and the dream was over. They would send her back to the states. There would be a court martial. And Dick—

Down over Milan. So near, so very near Why couldn’t they wait? Couldn’t they understand? She only wanted to be near him, to fight where he had fought, even to die there. Just to be near

“Well, kid, we won’t be laying over long in London this trip.” Becky Devans spoke lightly beside Janice. Janice looked blankly up at her. Becky frowned. “Why the dead pan, kid? I was just going to say that the pilot, Captain Carse just told me we’re running a special shipment of penicillin back. We’ll probably only lay over for an hour or two. Hey, is something wrong—you look sick!”

Janice leaned against one of the bunk tiers and shook her head.

THE jeep was waiting. An ACA officer was waiting along with it. But Janice was hardly aware of him. It was only a short ride through a maze of GI and BOQ barracks and she wasn’t aware of that. It seemed like the beginning, or was it the end, of a fantastic nightmare when she finally entered the headquarters building. Down a long straight corridor and then through a door that read: Colonel Berendt Stokes, Executive Officer.

She stood before the desk, immobile. Her eyes gazed in fascination at the man seated behind it. He had a leathery tanned face with short crisp black hair. His eyebrows were thick and beetling and the eyes beneath them were studying a sheaf of papers. To all intents he might have been oblivious of her presence.

Janice felt a tremor sweep through her. But her hand was steady as she saluted: “Sir, Lieutenant Moeller reporting as directed.”

The eyes looked up slowly. They were cold and calculating, and had the look of an eagle observing the struggles of a mouse caught in a sprung trap.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” he said.

Janice relaxed from the stiff salute but the tremor continued inside her.

“Lieutenant, you know of course why you are here.”

It wasn’t a question, Janice knew. She nodded. “I think so, sir.”

Colonel Stokes furrowed his eyebrows closer together in an intense frown. “Lieutenant Moeller, I wonder if you realize the seriousness of the charges against you?”

Janice’s features were strained and white as she replied. “From the Army’s point of view, I suppose they are great, sir.”

“From the Army’s point of view? My dear girl do you realize that you not only forged official restricted government orders but in following up those orders you were subsequently absent without leave with only the barest fringement of a technicality from making it desertion? And you say it is serious from only the Army’s point of view!

Janice lifted her chin. A brief spark of fire stirred in her eyes. “I requested the European theatre, sir, and well—well after I received the news of my husband’s being missing in action, I, I just had to be near him. I couldn’t go to the Pacific! Sir, I’m on a steady flight assignment out of Rome. I'm performing my duties as a flight nurse to the best of my abilities. Isn’t there some way I can stay on here?”

The colonel’s mouth dropped open from sheer surprise. “Lieutenant, as an officer you should realize there is only one course to be followed. Do you think we can just laugh this off as a joke and say ‘Naughty, naughty!’ Do you know what would happen to the discipline of our armed forces? I’m surprised that you would even dare to make such a request after what has happened. True you have suffered a deep shock; that possibly can be used as an explanation for your actions. But I can only follow orders.

“You will confine yourself to barracks and await further orders. I need not tell you that you will be shipped back to the States and there undergo court-martial proceedings. That is all. Orderly!”

It had been but a matter of short crisp sentences. Words that were uttered with the cold deliberateness of cutting steel. They knifed through Janice and left her numb and shaken. She could only stare at the colonel.

“You called me, sir?”

Colonel Stokes looked past Janice and spoke gruffly. “You will escort Lieutenant Moeller to the Auxiliary Women’s barracks.”

“Yes sir.”

The colonel had his eyes back to the papers on his desk as Janice saluted and left the room.

"JANICE, kid, what’s happened? I’ve been looking all over, for you! We take off in a half hour!"

Becky Devans stood in the doorway of Janice’s room, her face screwed up in a troubled frown.

“I’m not going back, Becky.”

“What do you mean? You’ve only got a twenty-four hour pass! There's a storm coming up that may ground air traffic for a full day—you’ve got o come back with us!”

Janice walked over to a window and stared out into the clouding afternoon. With her face turned away from Becky a sudden excitement raced through her. Becky didn’t know! Nobody else did then either—yet!

“Janice, what did they want with you at headquarters? Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

Janice took a deep breath. Everything was suddenly clear to her. There was only one thing to do. If she went back to face a court-martial she might never see Dick again. And even now he might be lying wounded—seriously; and—

“It was nothing, Becky!” She turned, laughing. “Colonel Stokes merely told me I could be sent back to the States—and do something else..." It was not all exactly a lie, Janice knew.

“Are you serious? And you mean to say you’ve been thinking of accepting it? Why I thought—”

“Forget it, Becky. I’m going back with you. I’ve changed my mind. You say we leave in a half hour?”

Becky nodded, but there was a curious look on her face. “Are you sure that’s all there is, kid?”

Janice forced another laugh. “Of course! It was silly of me to even think of it! Especially now that I know where Dick went down.”

Becky sighed. “You had me worried for a minute, kid. Well, are you coming along? Captain Carse will have a fit if we’re late—I’ve got a jeep outside—borrowed it from WAC Lieuy at Operations. She traced you from headquarters to this barracks.”

“The sooner we leave, the better,” Janice said rapidly.

The jeep’s motor was purring softly outside the barracks.

"PILOT to crew. Entering storm area. May be a little rough. You nurses better see to your chutes.”

Becky Devans sat on the edge of one of the empty tier bunks and laughed. “That little loudspeaker is a waste of time, eh kid? It would take more than a storm to knock us down!”

Janice listened to a rolling crash of thunder that rocked the ship. She pulled a chute from beneath the bunk and began strapping it on. A prayer beat through her. The storm—if it will only continue! I can’t make it too obvious

“Janice, are you really scared?” Becky watched puzzedly.

“You heard the orders. Just in case.”

“I know, but—”

From ahead they heard the radio operator swear briefly.

Becky called out: “What’s wrong, Sergeant?”

Janice caught a glimpse of short red hair and a pudgy angry face. “I don’t know—there’s a message coming through from London but I can’t quite make it out. The storm is giving interference—something about you, Lieutenant Moeller—hell, I can’t get it!”

Janice grabbed the edge of the bunk and sat down hard. Her heart skipped a beat and she felt her features grow pale. “About me?”

The sergeant remained quiet for a moment and worked on the set. Then he shook his head.

“It’s no use. We’ll have to wait until we clear this area.”

Janice’s throat tightened. “How long will that be?”

“Can’t say exactly. Maybe half an hour, maybe less. By that time we’ll be hitting home base.”

“Sergeant,” Janice asked tensely, “how far are we from Milan?”

“Huh? Milan? Why—what difference does that make?”

Janice felt Becky Devans’ eyes staring at her. She went on quickly. “I’m just curious, you see, somebody I know may—may be down there..."

“Oh, yah, I remember now you asked me about Milan on the up trip. Hmmm. Pretty hard to be certain with this mark, but from my charts we should be within a couple minutes or so—hey!”

Janice had gotten up from the bunk with those words. In a few seconds she had reached the bolted hatch door in the side of the C-47. Her parachute swayed limply as she walked.

“Hey! What are you doing?” The sergeant shouted.

Janice didn’t turn. But she heard Becky suddenly cry out from behind her.

“Janice! Keep away from that door! Are you crazy, kid!”

The bolts snapped back under Janice’s hand. She heard a scurrying of footsteps behind her. Then Becky Devans’ hand was on her shoulder.

“Janice! Janice!”

Janice twisted around. Her features were drawn and set. Something in her eyes made Becky Devans take a step backward. In the same instant Janice shoved her arms forward with every bit of strength she had. Her hands met Becky’s body, and oft' balance, she staggered back.

“I’ve got to go, Becky! It’s my only chance—the only way! They want to send me back—away from Dick! He’s down there, Becky!”

Janice shouted the words out as Becky Devans started crawling to her feet across the plane. Then Janice turned and leaped against the loosened hatch.

“For God’s sake, Lieutenant—stop” the radio operator rushed forward from his cubby.

He was too late. There was a rush of wind, a howling sound of fury.

Janice leaped into the storm.

THERE were spinning garish lights and harsh sounds of human voices crawling up out of nowhere. They seemed to come in waves and then go spinning back. And from somewhere there was a series of dull painful aches.

After an eternity of time Janice opened her eyes.

Her first impression was that of coming out of one wild dream into another. Overhead there was a brilliant light flooding down on her. She could feel something hard and smooth and cold beneath her. And standing around, eyes intent upon her—eyes that were cold and flecked with steel—stood a group of men. But their uniforms were not American, nor even British! They were—

“So! Fraulein, you are finally conscious.”

With an effort Janice moved her head. A sharp pain brought a momentary blackness to her eyes. Then she was staring up into a thick lantern-jawed face. There was a monocle screwed into one eye and it looked down at her like a vulture contemplating its meal.

“I—I—What happened?”

Wie befinden Sie sich?”

Janice felt gingerly at the back of her head. “I—I guess I’m all right.”

The monocle turned to the other men. “She understands German. Perhaps I better handle this. Kann gehensie!”

There was slow movement toward a door as Janice tried to get up. She had been lying on a metal table and for the first time she noticed that her blouse was open. She heard a laugh as she buttoned it.

“You have nothing to fear, Liebchen. It was necessary for me to examine you for injuries. You have had no experience in jumping with a parachute.”

Parachute... jumping! Memory flooded back in one swift wave. The C-47, Becky Devans, the storm, Colonel Stokes—the court-martial, and—

Janice raised her eyes and stared into the monocle. “Where am I?”

The German folded his arms and smiled. There was something unpleasant about the way he smiled. Janice didn’t like it.

“You are a very fortunate young woman. I happened to be at a forward evacuation hospital at Pavia when you were brought in. I had you transferred here to my base headquarters in Milan. You should be in a prison camp..."

Janice remained silent for a moment. Then she slipped off the edge of the table and felt the sharp pain increase at the back of her head.

“You received a bad bruise on your head, Fraulein. I was worried for awhile that it might be a fracture."

Janice rubbed her head and tried to smile. “You speak very good English, Herr—”

“Oberst Karl von Kleit.” He bowed slightly and Janice got a full view of his close cropped skull. There didn’t seem to be any neck behind it. “You, Fraulein, understand German, nicht wahr?”

Janice nodded. “Yes I speak it. My name—”

Von Kleit adjusted his monocle with long slender fingers that somehow were out of keeping with the bulk of his body. “Your name is Leutnant Janice Moeller. You are a flight nurse. You jumped from an American transport plane late this afternoon. You are in trouble with your superiors. You were, in fact, awaiting court-martial.”

JANICE leaned against the edge of the table and stared up at Von Kleit in surprise. “You know that? But I don’t understand!”

Von Kleit motioned Janice to a chair. “Please to sit down. There are some things I must know yet.”

Janice sat down and Von Kleit straddled another chair before her. Janice looked at him tensely and repeated the question.

“How did you know about me?”

The Colonel shrugged. “Es war einfach. Our Luftwaffe listening posts intercepted a message from London to an American transport, at just about the time you were found. Tying the message and you together was merely a matter of logical thought.”

“There were of course, my dog tags,” Janice added.

Von Kleit reddened. “There were other things, true. What I am most interested in now is the reason for your appearance behind our lines.”

Janice straightened in her chair. “That is very easy to answer, Colonel. I came deliberately. As you already know, my name is Moeller, and—well, my sympathies were discovered to be not exactly patriotic.”

Von Kleit edged forward in his chair. The fingers of his right hand were adjusting the monocle again. “So? And just what may I ask are your sympathies?”

Janice looked at him steadily. “I have German blood in my veins. To see similar blood shed is almost the same as if I myself were being persecuted. My one desire since arriving overseas has been to join members of my own race—and serve!”

Her voice rose dramatically and broke off. Von Kleit took the monocle from his eye and studied it for a moment. Then he looked up at her.

“You are a very beautiful woman, Janice.”

Janice smiled. “I’m glad you think so—Oberst.”

Von Kleit got up from his chair and towered over her. His arms hung limply at his side but his fingers twitched. “You realize that in my hands lies the power to shape your life—from now on?”

She remained silent.

“In the eyes of your country you are a traitor. You know what military courts do with traitors?”

She nodded slowly, averting her eyes.

“And you also know the fate of prisoners of war? They are held in prison camps, and at best, the life is not pleasant.”

Slowly she raised her eyes. “But surely you cannot consider me as merely a prisoner of war—I came voluntarily!”

He moved closer. “I should much rather consider you as the beautiful woman you are. The fact that I believe you does not alter the situation, unless ..."

“Yes?” Janice rose slowly from her chair. Von Kleit’s square-jawed face was inches from her own.

“You could be of much use in our medical staff. We are short of trained nurses. But more important, you can be of great help to me—and I to you.”

Janice spoke slowly in fluent German: “I told you before—I want to serve. Das Vaterland wid dich biede ..."

Von Kleit’s fingers stopped twitching. His eyes swept over her in a single consuming glance. Then his arms swept around her and crushed her against him. She didn’t resist.

“Stick with me, liebchen, and you will have anything you want—power, money—anything!” Von Kleit’s breath was hot against her face. Janice pulled away.

Was ist hier?" he asked angrily. “A moment before—”

Janice shook her head. “It is simply that I am very tired. My head aches terribly yet.”

He laughed. “Jawohl! I had forgotten. Of course; come with me!”


“You need not fear. You shall have a comfortable bed—in the Commandant’s house itself! Mine, naturally.”

He laughed again and a shudder passed through Janice. But she followed.

IN THE murky twilight outside the hospital vague shadows loomed at intervals and challenged in harsh guttural voices. Janice could hear the dry click of rifle bolts until Von Kleit snapped acknowledgments into the twilight. She could feel the almost tangible tension that hovered over the area a feeling that must be hanging over the entire city. With the Allied forces at La Spezia to the south, and entering Ferrara to the east, she knew the German garrison would be jittery. Then there was the ever-present Italian partison infiltrations, striking out of the dead of night and vanishing before the surprise had worn off. She did not wonder that the German sentries started at the slightest sound.

Somewhere ahead loomed a tall wired fence. Behind it she could make out the hulking shadows of squat buildings. There were shadows with rifles walking incessantly around the fenced in area. Beside her, Von Kleit spoke quietly.

“That is our prison hospital stockade. But for me, you would be in there now!”

As they slowly passed it a shudder ran through Janice. Was it possible—

“Are there many prisoners there now?” she asked.

Von Kleit laughed. “Not many, but what we have in rank makes up for quantity! You would be surprised, liebchen!”

The stockade was passed now. The darkness was thickening and it was moody, ominous. Ahead lay a row of stone and brick houses that loomed like lonely sentinels from a once gay past.

Moments later the German had opened a door and led her inside. Light suddenly flooded around her.

She looked into a well-furnished living room, complete with a modern radio-phonograph and an oversize liquor cabinet beside a red leather lounge chair.

“You see that we do not lack for comforts. This house used to belong to the postmaster of Milan. He is now delivering letters in hell!” He threw back his head and laughed. Janice turned her head away to hide the panic that sprang into her eyes.

“What is wrong. You think that is funny, nicht wahr?"

Janice turned. “That stockade out there...”

Von Kleit moved the monocle around in his eye and moved closer to her. “I told you there was nothing for you to fear. I, Oberst von Kleit, say so. My word is law here. Now!”

Janice eluded his arm and moved over to the liquor cabinet. “Drink?”

He eyed her for a moment and then nodded. “Very well. You know, you are a peculiar woman, Janice. Perhaps that is why you fascinated me from the first moment I saw you back in Pavia.—I’ll have kummel.”

Janice prepared the drinks with slow deliberate movements. Her mind sped rapidly.

“You were saying—Karl—that you have some prisoners of high rank here?”

She handed him his tumbler and saw the frown that crossed his face.

“Why worry yourself about that? Yes, only a short time ago our Luftwaffe intercepted a staff ship and shot it down. The Amerikanner, General-leutnant Clark himself was captured! Only two men were left alive in the wreck. Both wounded...”

His voice trailed off suddenly and he set down his glass. “Verdammte, but this is strange!”

Janice slowly sipped her drink. “What is?”

Von Kleit removed the monocle from his eye and tapped it against a slender finger. “This other offizier, his name too is Moeller! Hauptmann Richard Moeller!”

JANICE turned away quickly and walked back to the liquor cabinet. A short laugh caught in her throat and then slipped out.

“You are thinking that is strange? Just because our two names are alike? Let us not talk about names, they mean little. There is so much more to talk about, nicht wahr, Karl?”

Von Kleit replaced the monocle in his eye and a wide smile split his lantern jaw in two halves. A cleaver on a meat block couldn’t have been more effective.

“Ah, so! You are right, liebschen, there are many other things to talk about—us!”

Janice took her glass and walked over to the lounge chair. She had barely reached it when Von Kleit grabbed her arm.

“We will be more comfortable over here!” he said, leading her to a low slung divan of brocaded silk. Janice sat down.


“Yes?” Von Kleit turned another smile on her.

“Karl—I just can’t help wondering about that General you mentioned. You know he is one of the most prominent military figures in Europe! Is he injured severely?”

Von Kleit scowled. “Nein! Severe shock, that is all. The other one, this Moeller, was cut severely over the eyes. I thought we would talk no more of them!”

Janice felt her blood pounding in triphammer knocks. “I cannot help but be interested in such a catch. After all, it was you who mentioned it.”

Von Kleit nodded gruffly. “That is so. If you are really interested in seeing what power I do have, I will show you these men tomorrow. Now—”

Janice dropped her glass suddenly to the floor and held her head. Von Kleit jumped to his feet.

"Was ist?”

Janice raised tired eyes. “I—I think I had better rest. My head...”

Von Kleit sighed. “Ich hatte vergessen! Kommen, I will show you your room—for tonight. By tomorrow you will feel better!”

Janice’s features were pale as she followed the German. But it wasn’t from pain.

“SO! LIEBCHEN, I am glad you are feeling better today. You look much better too in your new uniform. Tell me. how does it feel?”

Janice walked slowly beside Oberst Von Kleit. She felt stiff and uncomfortable in the starched kinderfrau garments. “It is the realization of a long cherished dream,” she told him. “You don’t really have to show me those prisoners—if you don’t want to.”

The German officer laughed and strutted up to the guarded entrance of the stockade. “Unfinn! I have a purpose in doing it! I myself have personal plans for the schweinhund! Auf Geloste ordnung!"

The guards inside the stockade snapped to stiff attention and saluted. The gates swung back.


Janice followed, every sense alert. Her lips were tightly compressed and there was a dull pounding in her throat. Dick was in here. A few feet away—somewhere, close. Dick—wounded—Dick!

“In here.” Von Kleit stopped before a squat ramshackle frame hut. There was a fetid odor about the place. An odor of sickness and decay.

The German shoved open the door of the hut and motioned Janice inside. He followed her.

There were two men. They were seated on the edge of a flimsy cot. Janice stopped short inside the door, staring. She tried to keep her features unshaken but it was a losing battle. Her lips twitched.

One of the men was smoking a cigarette. He looked up. Janice saw a lean hard face. She had seen it many times before. In countless newspapers, in newsreels and government photographs. He looked just like the pictures. The three silver stars gleamed dully on either side of his open collar.

“Herr General!” Von Kleit bowed brusquely.

General Clark fixed steady eyes on the German. “What is it now?”

The Oberst started speaking, but Janice was unaware of what he was saying. She was staring at the man seated beside the general. A man with a grayed bandage circling his forehead and covering his eyes. Curly brown hair and a frayed flying jacket with two silver bars on either shoulder. He was leaning back against the warped wall of the hut, his arms lying limply crossed over his legs.

Dick! Oh, Dick! It’s me, Janice!

The words screamed through her mind, sped to her lips, and were stilled as she bit them savagely back.

She became suddenly aware that a silence had fallen about her. She turned her gaze from Dick to find General Clark staring fixedly at her.

“Is that true, Lieutenant?” he asked coldly.

Janice looked blankly at him and felt her heart turn cold. “True? Is what true?”

Mark Clark snapped the words: “That you are an American deserter!"

The words cut into Janice like an icy wind. She glanced over at Von Kleit. The German was standing with a satisfied smirk covering his face. He was adjusting his monocle.

“I simply told him,” Von Kleit laughed, “how you decided to join members of your own race and serve against the bolshevists and capitalists!”

Janice turned her eyes to Dick, The captain was sitting straight forward on the bed now and there was a queer tightness around his mouth.

“I—yes, it is true!” The words snapped from her lips. She turned to von Kleit. “Do we have to stay here?”

The German smiled grimly. “Nein, Liebchen. I simply wanted the Herr General to see that a true German will always return to the Vaterland!”

Mark Clark rose angrily. “The day is coming soon when there will be no fatherland. The fact that you have me here will not stop my troops. Within a few days the story here will be different!” He turned to Janice. “And sex means nothing to a military court-martial!”

Von Kleit was laughing again as he guided Janice toward the door. Behind them, Richard Moeller rose shakily.

“That woman, General—who is she?”

Von Kleit was pausing. Janice felt a tremor of fear.

“Oddly enough, Herr Hauptmann, her name is the same as yours!” Von Kleit sneered. “As for you, Herr General, I would not be too confident about the future—yet!”

The door of the hut slammed shut behind them. Janice walked dazedly beside the German colonel. From afar off she heard a distant rumbling. She also heard Von Kleit swear.

Verdommte Schwein! That is their artillery! But they will not live to see it!”

A sickening despair caught Janice’s throat into a hard knot.

EVENING closed slowly over Milan. But it was not a quiet evening. Less than twenty miles away Allied forces were pouring through Pavia and with the thunder of supporting artillery, spearhead infantry units were driving down on Milan. The din of battle was like a pall of doom that rolled onward with the advent of night.

Janice sat tensely on the edge of the divan while Von Kleit poured drinks beside the liquor cabinet. His square-jawed face was set in a worried cast. Light from a nearby floor lamp reflected from the monocle he wore. To Janice he seemed to be a glass-eyed vulture down a half filled bottle.

“You are not frightened at the sound of battle?” Von Kleit twisted as he put towering at bay, worried, desperate.

Janice shook her head.

Das ist gut! There is nothing to fear anyway. The Wehrmacht will take care of the stupid pigs! But you and I—”

He broke off the sentence and picked up the glasses. He walked over and sat down beside Janice on the divan. He handed her one of the glasses. Each movement was deliberate. Janice waited for the next step. It came.

“I was so lonely last night, Liebchen. It was a pity you had to be tired. Tonight we will be happy—together..."

He was close to her now. His arm was slipping around her shoulders, pulling her toward him. She could feel the hotness of his breath burning against her. Her muscles tensed.

A loud staccato thumping echoed through the room. Von Kleit leaped to his feet angrily. The thumping came again. Janice’s eyes turned thankfully toward the door.

Von Kleit reached it in five long strides. She saw it thrown open.

Was ist? Dumkopf! Ich habe—” There was an excited bluster of sounds from outside the door. Then a low exchange of words. Finally Von Kleit closed it and turned back into the room.

Janice got to her feet. “What is wrong?”

The German’s, face was furious. He threw the glass he was holding against the far wall of the room where it showered in broken pieces to the floor. Blotches of liquid slid down the wall in staggered streaks.

Lieber Gott!” he shouted. “The enemy is advancing on the city—our defense lines have been broken!”

Janice took a step backward. Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh!” Excitement swept into her voice.

“You realize what will happen to you if they take the city before we leave?” Von Kleit thundered.

Janice turned her eyes from him. “I can guess.” Then she looked back at him. “Did you say, before we leave?”

“Of course! Do you think we are going to sit here and wait for them to come? We are leaving at once! There is a transport plane waiting to carry me to the rear. Once in the Bavarian Alps they will never find—”

“You mean you are taking me along?” Janice cut in on him.

He laughed brutally. “Did you think I would let you go now? You are going with me!”

Janice argued desperately. “But they will find us there eventually! Is there no way we can secure our safety?”

He stood watching her with a frown. “Ich verstahe Sie nicht!”

Janice grabbed his arm. “Those two prisoners-the general and his aideif we had them as hostages we could bargain for anything if the need arose!”

His mouth opened sharply and then clicked shut. His eyes pinched together thoughtfully as he pulled out the monocle. Then suddenly he laughed.

Wunderbar! I told you you were a fascinating woman! That is an excellent idea! Instead of shooting them we will take them along with us. The verdammten Englischen und Amerikanischen will pay heavily to get the Herr General back! Come, we must hurry!”

Janice had to bite her lips to keep them from trembling.

THE night was alive with sound around the landing field. The roar of fleeing Luftwaffe ships filled the darkened skies. Off to the south brief flashes of flame could be seen. They were followed up by ominous rumbles that shook the ground. A sense of panic was spreading with only one thought rampant. To flee.

Janice stood beside the open hatch of a Junkers Ju-52. Its three motors were throbbing with life. Beside her, Oberst Karl von Kleit was adjusting a Luger holster around his waist. He was staring off to the south, and Janice could see his lips moving in mute rage. Moments before she had watched General Clark and Dick Moeller put on board, their arms securely lashed behind them.

Von Kleit suddenly whirled and grabbed her arm. He was shouting words but she couldn’t catch them. He pushed her toward the open hatch.

Inside, a single yellow bulb spread light over the long fuselage of the transport. The windows had been blackened on both sides. There was no cargo, except for the two men sitting against one wall of the ship. A number of portable chairs had been fastened to the flooring. Von Kleit motioned her to one of these as he fastened the door.

From up ahead a German pilot stuck his head through the control door, “Herr Oberst, everything is ready!” He spoke in rapid, nervous tones.

Von Kleit snapped: “Very well then. Take off! You know your course!”

The pilot disappeared and Von Kleit settled himself beside Janice. The ship trembled as it began to move. There was a loud roar as the motors swept it across the ground. Then finally an even purr of sound and a sense of motionlessness.

Against the opposite wall, General Clark stirred.

“Von Kleit, you are violating every rule of international law. By holding me as a hostage instead of a prisoner of war, you are putting yourself in front of a firing squad!”

Von Kleit hoisted the Luger around on his right hip. His eyes blazed. “Herr General, you are lucky that you are alive right now. It was the Leutnant Moeller who suggested the idea of taking you along. Had it not been for her you would be lying with a bullet in your head back in Milan!”

Janice flushed deeply as she felt the general fix his eyes on her. She moved closer to Von Kleit.

Against the wall Dick Moeller stirred. His arms twisted violently as he struggled with his bonds. There was a tightness around his mouth. The bonds held.

Von Kleit laughed harshly. “Hauptmann, I warn you to be very quiet. I would have no compunction about shooting you. I would, in fact, enjoy it."

Dick Moeller’s lips parted. “Take off these bandages! I’ve got to see! That woman—her voice...” He sank back against the wall. “No, it couldn’t be. It’s impossible...”

Von Kleit leaned forward. His eyes were suddenly suspicious. “What is impossible?”

Janice touched Von Kleit’s shoulder. “Karl. Must we talk to them? Have you forgotten about—me?”

Von Kleit twisted around in his seat. His eyes swept over Janice and the frown left his face. A vein began to throb over his right eye. Janice watched it tensely.

“You are right, Liebchen. We will forget about them. Just you and me..."

He twisted further in his seat and reached out. Janice let herself be drawn into his arms. His face was very close to hers. She could feel the hotness of his breath on her mouth. She waited.

His arms folded tightly about her shoulders. She shuddered as his lips fastened possessively against hers. Then her left hand found the Luger.

Something warned him. He stiffened and then suddenly pushed her away.

Was ist!"

Then he saw.

THE Luger was in Janice’s hand. It was pointed straight at his heart. A spasm of fear crossed his face, and then rage. He lashed out.

Gott verdammtes Schwe------”

Three loud reports followed in quick succession. A stifled cry burst from the German’s lips. He rose staggering to his feet, his arms flailing wildly at Janice as she leaped from her seat.

Then he fell to the floor of the plane and a stream of red welled out from beneath him.

Janice stood shaking against the side of the ship. The Luger was clenched tightly in her fingers. A tremulous cry of released tension sped from her lips. Then she hurried swiftly across the side of the ship.

“General—we must hurry! Turn around. The crew will—”

There was a loud cry from the front of the ship. One of the crew members had the control room door open and was standing staring at the body. He saw Janice with the gun in her hand kneeling beside the prisoners. He threw himself sideways and reached for his holster.

Janice’s gun blasted out again. The German continued sliding sideways. He slid all the way to the floor and lay there, still and dead.

Amazement was written on General Clark’s face as Janice worked desperately with his bonds. Beside him, Dick Moeller was turning his head blindly about.

“What’s happened! General—”

“Dick, oh Dick, darling, it’s me—Janice!”

General Clark was swearing as his arms came free. He twisted. “Lieutenant, I don’t even begin to understand—"

Janice pushed the gun into his hand. “Here, sir, get to the pilot while I free Dick!”

Then she was beside her husband, her hands raw and bleeding against the taut ropes.

“Janice! My God, Janice!”

“Be quiet, Dick. Just a little more and I’ll have you free.”

From ahead there came a shouting of voices and a series of sharp reports. The plane suddenly began to veer.

General Clark ran through the ship. “I had to shoot the pilot—he was going for his gun! The ship’s out of control!”

Dick Moeller staggered to his feet. His hands were free. He began tearing at the bandages over his eyes.

“I’ve got to see! I can fly the damn thing!...”

The ship pitched sharply forward. There was a rising whine as the motors bit into a sloping dive. The three of them were thrown violently to the floor.

Something hit the side of Janice’s head. Her senses spun and reeled. It seemed like years passed in the ensuing blackness. Then she opened her eyes.

The ship was droning steadily. She was propped in the control room of the transport. Dick, two livid scars across his forehead, was at the controls. General Clark sat grimly in the co-pilot’s chair watching her.

“How—how long have I been out?” she asked.

Dick Moeller turned amazed eyes on her. “Just a few minutes, honey. Everything’s all right. We’re heading back for Rome. But for the love of heaven, how did you get here? And in a German uniform!”

A great tiredness crept over Janice as she blurted out the whole story. A tiredness that seemed to come from years of misery, instead of days, claimed her. When she finished there was a momentary silence.

“Well I’ll be damned.” General Clark sighed. “Excuse me, Lieutenant, but this is the wildest story I’ve yet heard in this war! The mission your husband was flying was important. He was taking me to a rendezvous in France with Eisenhower. If I can get back to Rome in time I may be able to contact him. He probably thinks I am still a prisoner, if not dead! You don’t realize how important this rescue is!”

Dick Moeller looked down at Janice, his fingers steady on the controls. “Honey, you took an awful chance. My God, why didn’t you follow your orders!”

Janice leaned her head against his knee. “I—I had to be near you, Dick. I had to meet you, even if it meant disgrace. I know what’s going to happen once we get back. But I’m not sorry.”

General Clark smiled. “I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Lieutenant. Of course, I’ll have to pin something on you myself, but I guess you can stand the weight of a medal!”

The night whistled shrilly around the ship.

* * *

THE Air Corps major settled back in his chair and looked around the table. The two artillery officers were sitting with arms folded, their faces serious. The infantry lieutenant was busy refilling his glass. There was a dull flush on his face as he raised his eyes.

"That was a pretty good story, Major—if true. Understand I'm not doubting your word, but after all, sir, the news of General Clark's being captures never leaked out. Much less that he was rescued by a flight nurse!"

"For good reasons, Lieutenant." The major replied.

The lieutenant shrugged. "You say she got a medal for it?"

"The Distinguished Service Cross."

The Lieutenant laughed. "I've never heard of a woman getting that decoration, sir. I think I'd have to see it first!"

The major ran a hand lightly over his forehead. Two tine white lines creased the smoothness of the skin. "Seeing, is believing; right?"

The lieutenant nodded. "I'm pretty hard to convince, sir."

The major raised a hand and beckoned across the length of the Officer's Club. At the nurses table one of the five woman for up and walked over smiling.

The four men watched her approach. Finally, she stood before their table. One of the artillery officers whistled incredulously. "The DSC! She's wearing it!"

The major smiled and took the nurse's hand. He glanced across at the infantry officer.

"Lieutenant, I'd like to have you meet my wife, Flight Nurse Janice Moeller. I was only a captain at the time she rescued us. I've since been promoted." He paused, watching the red flush that crept over the Infantryman's face. He said:

"I believe, Lieutenant, that the drinks are on you."