Blood On Her Wings can be found in






A sacrifice for love is not unusual; when it's
done for hate is when confusion creeps in

BLOOD ON HER WINGS

By LEROY YERXA

THE air-field outside Manila was muddy and the rain still slanted down, flooding the walk in front of the operations building. Jan Bartell slammed the door of the station wagon and ran quickly for the protection of the office. Not that she was worried about the water that soaked her tan blouse and slacks; she was still thinking of the curt message Doctor Warren had given her as he went into Surgery.

“They need a couple of light kits at the air-field. Not over ten pounds each. Bandages, sulpha, and other first aid necessities. It’s a rush job. There’s a station wagon parked out front. I haven’t the time. Will you handle it?” He had been too busy to explain. Doctor Warren had wounded men waiting for his services. Jan had gathered the materials and packed them hurriedly into two duffle bags.

It’s a rush job.”

She kept repeating those words over and over as she drove out across the rutted road that led up toward the landing strip. The station wagon protested, jumping from rut to rut, and she had to fight the wheel all the way out. She pushed the door of the operations office open and went in, tossing her soaked hair back from her face with a graceful flip of her head.

There were a dozen uniformed men hurrying about. Captain Walter Patrick looked up from his desk and smiled at her gravely. His shirt was open at the neck and his hair, gray at the temples, was wet with perspiration.

“You didn’t lose any time, Nurse,” he said. “You have the kits made up?”

She nodded, wiping rain from her forehead. The office was hot and damp. No one seemed to pay any attention to her coming, save the Captain. Something big was in the air. She sensed it.

“I packed everything in a hurry,” she said. “About twenty pounds. Two knapsacks.”

She wondered what was happening. Nothing flew on a night like this. You couldn’t see ten feet ahead of you, and it would be next to impossible to take off with the field so muddy. Jan B artel 1 knew. She had flown plenty of stuff, big and small, before the WASP broke up back in ’44.

“Good.” Patrick was leaning over the radio set. Johnny Stevens, the radio man, discarded his head-phones and looked up at Jan.

“Hi, Angel,” he said. His usually grinning, freckled face was sober. “Say, you must have duck feet, coming out on a night like this.”

ACROSS the strip, toward the hangars, a light blinked on and off again. Jan turned toward the window, because they were busy now, Johnny and Captain Patrick, talking in low voices. She knew they were talking about some message that had just come over the set.

A fighter was being wheeled out She could just see the rakish outline of it against the gray hangar.

“P-40,” she whispered to herself. “New model. No, Jan, they couldn’t. Not on a night like this.”

Still, she could hear the sound of the motor warming up. She turned slowly, regarding Patrick with a puzzled look. So many unanswered questions were in her mind. Questions which she had no right even to ask. She knew those fine gray eyes that expressed so many of the worries Patrick felt for his boys.

“They—aren’t going to fly?”

She had to ask.

Before he could answer, the door opened abruptly and a young man came in. He wore a flying suit. His goggles were pushed up to uncover a wealth of freckles spread across a straight nose. Jan had never seen him before, but when he smiled at her, she smiled back. He ducked his head a little as a silent hello.

He saluted Patrick smartly.

“All set, sir. Is the stuff ready?”

Patrick said yes, and turned to Jan.

“Drive him across the field, will you? There isn’t much room in his plane. The kits will fit behind him. He isn’t carrying a bag.”

She knew that she mustn’t say anything else. This pilot, this someone, was going somewhere, to deliver medical supplies at the possible cost of his own life. Still, it was none of her business. She had never seen him before, and, she’d probably never see— “Well?”

Captain Patrick’s voice snapped her out of the spell.

“Sorry,” she said mechanically and went out. The rain had stopped. The sky was still overcast and the ceiling was way down. The pilot was waiting in the station wagon, its engine running, his foot on the clutch.

She jumped in and the car leaped forward across the field. The surface, mostly gravel and cinders, was still fairly firm. Above the sound of the motor, she shouted: “Where you going?”

He turned for a second and grinned at her.

“Straight to hell,” he said, “one of these days.”

She felt a chill creep up her spine.

“No fooling.” She tried to speak lightly, as though it were of no great importance. “I know most of the boys with this command. Have some of them been shot down—stranded?”

She was thinking of Bill. Remembering, with a strange heartache, how he had been reported shot down in action.

“No,” the pilot said. “Not exactly. I’m not supposed to talk. Don’t tempt me.”

He had to talk. The grin wasn’t a reflection of how he really felt inside. He was scared—clean through. He was trying to cover up the fear inside him.

“Trying to get in a landing on Latu,” he said. “Company of infantry and some flyers stranded there. Japs captured the landing strip and most of the island. Our boys are holed up on the southern tip of the place. They need first aid supplies in a hurry. Radioed for help, and then their sending outfit went dead.”

He hesitated, then said quietly:

“There’s something deeper than that, I think. Something really big, but I don’t know what; Patrick wouldn’t tell me. He’s plenty worried.”

She said nothing. She knew he wouldn’t talk any more. It wouldn’t do any good to tell her, she knew all about Latu. That Bill had died there. There was a lot you didn’t say to a stranger.

THEY were half-way across the field. Suddenly she looked back, only to find that the lights in the office had gone out. She hitched herself half-way around in the seat, staring back, puzzled.

“What’s wrong?” asked the kid.

She frowned. “I’m—not—sure..."

WHAM! WHAM!

Something hit the mud just ahead of them, busting wide open in a terrific blast of sound and flame. The kid shouted something she didn’t hear and yanked hard on the wheel.

WHAM!

She knew that Japs were overhead. Recognized the condensed hell of the cannon shells as they exploded around the station wagon.

"Drive faster!” she cried loudly. "Keep zig-zagging! Turn out the lights!”

He was ’way ahead of her. The lights were already out and the car twisted crazily across the open field.

WHAM-WHAM-WHAM!

The shells were smashing all around them. In a few minutes there would be flares. A line of tracer bullets traced a sinister trail along the hood of the car. The engine coughed and stopped running.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” Jan was badly frightened. She could hear her own breathing, jerky—panting. “We’ve got to run.”

Her words stopped coming. Words choked in her throat. The kid was leaning forward over the wheel, that grin frozen on his face. Two slugs had ripped into the top of his head and one of them had come out under his chin. She stared upward wildly. A line of jagged holes had ripped the entire length of the station wagon.

Panic-stricken, she listened to the faint whine of the siren, coming too late.

A flare lighted the sky over the operations office. It threw brilliant light over the row of bombers near the south end of the strip.

“Jan," she said aloud, “they’ll get you if you stay here.” That plane is ready to fly. There’s stuff for the boys and they need it.”

She was shivering crazily, trying to keep her teeth from chattering. She had the chills. Swiftly she removed the packs from the car and ran across the field toward the plane. It was a P-40, crouching in the mud, deserted by the mechanics, its motor still roaring defiance to the Japs above it.

Suddenly new courage entered her. Something about the touch of her hand on the sturdy fighter. Confidence she had in the sturdy bird. They seemed welded together in a fighting team.

It almost surprised her that the ship was exactly like a hundred or more she had ferried while with the WASP. As she settled down into the cockpit and pushed the kits into the compartment behind her, it was like coming home again.

THERE was no time for hesitation. A couple of mechanics had seen her climb into the fighter. They were outside the hangar now, waving at her wildly. She smiled gravely. A glance at the instruments told her everything was in order. She wondered if she could pull the big bird out of the mud and get free of the strip before they shot her down.

She pulled more inches than the motor would normally need. The plane stra...

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