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All of them wore the uniforms of the Allies;
but any cut of cloth may conceal a swatstika!


by Berkley Livingston

THERE were three of us who got on the bus. I took a last look at the fog-drenched heather beyond the railroad ties and an odd thought entered my mind. That somehow all journeys began and ended in a grey welling of fog.

The driver asked: "Coming, sir?” in a soft, Scotch slurring of words, and I stepped into the bus. I was too wrapped in my own thoughts to notice the other passengers, or even to care who they were. I was going home!

It had been a long time. Three years in fact. Three years of horror-filled days watching shells land and hearing the whine and scream of bullets winging their way toward human flesh. I didn’t think of the rest. I wrapped myself into a cocoon of remembrance of other days and other places. The places and days from which I’d been wrenched.

“I beg your pardon,” a voice asked. “But aren’t you Willet Johns?”

I turned and looked blankly at my seatmate, a British officer, a Major. He was holding his uniform cap in his lap and his crisply curling grey hair spilled around his ears. He hadn’t had a hair cut in a long time. The fog had curtained the windows with mist and we were in a dimly lighted container that rumbled and swished through a grey dawn. I couldn’t see his face very well. There was only a single bulb for illumination, and his head was outlined in its light.

“That’s right, Major,” I admitted. “I thought you looked familiar,” he said. “Met you in Cairo.”


“Yes. At Shepherd’s. Just before the big push.”

The bus hit a rut in the road and we swayed heavily against each other. I became aware of two things: he used perfume and he had the sharpest elbow I had ever felt. Then we swayed back to normal and he said:

“Bit like riding a jeep, eh?”

I grinned at the comparison. It had jolted me into the present. He answered my grin and we were suddenly on friendly terms.

“Mind if I tell you I’ve always admired you, Johns?”

“No. Go right ahead. I promise it won’t turn my head.”

He half-closed his eyes reflectively and said:

“We-ll, rather difficult to say, on second thought. Mostly, I guess, because you managed to keep your perspective. Those news stories of yours had the common touch for human be-things which we have so easily forgotten.”

My skin warmed in a flush of embarrassment. I hadn’t been concerned, one way or the other, what people thought of my war stories. I had been too busy living them. Well, it was over for a while. The paper for which I worked had granted the leave I had requested. The war was going to have to get along without me for a while. I was going back to the States for a rest.

I said: “Thanks. Guess we all did our part in our own way. I see you’re with the air corps. Going over on a mission? Or is that answerable?”

“Oh, I don’t think I’d be giving anything away if I said yes.” He smiled as he said it—a warm, friendly smile. “And frankly,” he continued, “I’m looking forward to it. Been over once before, number of years back, and liked it immensely.”

THE bus made a turn in the road and we drew up before the A.T.C. transient office. The fog had lifted to let the rain through. I shivered as I stepped from the bus and waited for the Major to follow. It was then I really became aware of the other passenger. He was an officer also, of the Free French Forces. He passed us without a second glance and hurried into the A.T.C. office ahead of us.

The driver brought our luggage in and set it at our feet. The three of us stood around, the Frenchman off to one side and the Major and I together, and waited for someone to notice us. Suddenly, I didn’t want to fly! Suddenly I hoped the flight would be called off. Once, in Paris, I had waited two days for a flight. Certainly this pea-soup was too thick, too dangerous for flying.

A young, pleasant voice said: “This way, please.”

It proved to be our guide, a sergeant attached to the Air Transport Command Office. He led us into a narrow room, bare of furniture except for some benches placed along one of the walls. There were some six or eight people already there. I didn’t notice exactly how many. A Flight Officer faced us and told us how to use the Mae West jackets we were to have and what the accessories they contained were for. Also the raft the plane had. I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention.

The Frenchman had taken a seat directly in front of me and when he stooped to sit, I saw the unmistakable bulge of a pistol in his back pocket. The Major, who seemed to have taken a liking for company, made remarks to which I paid little attention.

“I say. Aren’t you coming?” a voice asked, breaking into my revery.

I looked up into the Major’s smiling face. We were the only ones in the room-

“Sure,” I said. “Where?”

“Immigration and medical examination, I suppose,” he said.

They proved to be superficial affairs: a taking of the temperature and a glance at our orders. Although we had come in later than the rest, the Frenchman, I noticed, had awaited for our arrival before he stepped into line. The immigration man stamped his okay on my papers and I moved away to let the Frenchman up. I stood there for a few seconds, fumbling with my papers, and saw the man at the desk glance up at the Frenchman with a suddenly sharp look.

“These orders—they are not..."

The Frenchman’s lips creased in a quick smile that went only as far as his lips. His eyes narrowed sharply and he reached quickly into the inner pocket of his tunic and pulled another paper from it. There was something furtive in his manner as he bent over the desk and whispered to the man behind it. A change came over the examining officer’s face. The suspicion was wiped clean from it. Everything, in fact, was wiped clean from it.

I turned away and bumped into the Major. He, too, had been an interested spectator to what had happened. We walked away together. Behind me, I could feel the Frenchman’s eyes burning into our backs. We had not turned quickly enough. He had seen us. I shrugged mental shoulders and thought: what the hell, it’s no affair of mine. But I knew I was lying. I was curious. Damned curious.

We stood around for a spell just waiting for something to happen. I looked through the windows and saw the grey of dawn had changed to a lighter grayness. The rain still pelted down in an unceasing stream. It was going to be a hell of a day for flying.

AN OFFICER approached us. He carried a board chart in his arms. At his approach, the scattered groups of people were attracted to him. He waited until we were gathered in a narrow semicircle around him, then he began to read names from the list he carried. But after the first, which happened to be the one of my British friend, Allerton, he was interrupted by a call from the man at the desk. There was a conversation between the two and then the officer returned to announce, “There will be a delay of a few moments.”

We looked at him with blank expressions but since he didn’t enlarge on his statement, once more the passengers scattered to where they had been before he called.

“Bit nervous, aren’t you?” Allerton asked.

“The question startled me.

“Why—” I began. Then, “You mean it’s so palpable?”

“Oh, quite. If it’s about the flight, quite understandable. Affects many that way. But...”

I was about to say, “Go on, when I saw that his glance was directed to someone behind us. And when he did speak, it was to that someone:

“I guess we’re all affected that way, eh, Captain?”

I turned my head and saw that the Frenchman was standing behind us. I hadn’t heard him approach.

“Yes,” the Frenchman replied. “It is a natural thing to be frightened of an element to which we are strangers.”

He spoke English with only the faintest accent.

“Well put,” Allerton said. “Our friend, Johns, here, seems to be out of his element. Yet I’ll wager he’s seen more action than any of us.”

The Frenchman pursed his lips with a slight smacking sound.

“It is always easier to be brave in the face of something with which we are familiar,” the Frenchman went on. “I am familiar with the work of Mr. Johns. And I don’t think he can be easily frightened. There are such men. They are easy to identify.”

I’d seen too much of heroes not to know that they don’t carry identifying labels. I said as much. The Frenchman nodded politely and resumed:

“Forgive me my clumsy way of putting it. I did not mean it to be taken in that way. I meant to say there are some men who have that inner something which to the discerning is as an open page.”

“Really,” Allerton said. “How interesting. Mean to say that you, for instance, can tell when you’ve met one?”

“Yes. You, for example. I would say that you are the sort of man who is afraid of nothing. More, that you would take risks that, to another, would be foolhardy.”

“Oh, come now,” the Major said in a diffident tone. “That’s decent of you, I must say. But I’m afraid that you have me wrong. A desk is the closest I’ve been to the front lines. Not much danger in that. But I’ll wager that you’ve seen some rough going.”

“A trifle,” the other answered shortly. And suddenly his eyes narrowed in a set stare at something past my left shoulder.

I FOLLOWED his glance and saw that it was directed at two American officers who had just come through the door and were hurrying to the desk. They had rank. One was a Captain and the other... I whistled soundlessly when I saw that granite-hard chin, out-thrust as only General Moody could thrust it. It was old “Four-Star” himself. The Mister Big of the Army air forces.

I wondered at the Frenchman’s interest. I was quite sure he’d seen generals before.

“H’mm,” observed Allerton. “We are carrying high priority on this trip, aren’t we?”

The General’s arrival seemed to be the signal for our departure. For the A.T.C. man came hurrying over and followed through with the reading of his list. We all answered “here” to our names—the Frenchman’s was Laumont—and in a moment we were walking single file through the door and around the shed to where an immense four-motored plane, its tail lifted and its four motors idling, stood gleaming like silver in the early morning haze. The rain had lifted, although the sky had not brightened.

One by one we walked up the ladder and through the door. Steel benches ran the length of the ship. Above them, metal stretchers served as reminders that the wounded also fly. We faced each other across a dirty wooden floor. I sat between Allerton and Laumont. The slamming of the big door startled me. Then the motors roared loudly, a flight officer walked to the center of the cabin and announced in a toneless voice, “The next stop will be a base in the Azores, eight hours away. Please fasten your safety belts. Smoking is forbidden; we are heavily loaded with high-octane gasoline.”

The roar of the motors increased until I thought the vibration would tear the ship apart. I looked through the port and saw the landscape flash by at incredible speed. Hastily I turned my glance to the front. Across from me an elderly man turned pale as the roar transferred itself to the inside of the plane. Then there was a lifting and we were air-borne.

I let my breath out in a loud gasp. Allerton grinned sympathetically. Laumont seemed to be asleep. I shook him. He opened his eyes, blinked sleepily and asked:

“Anything wrong?”

“My God!” I burst out. “How can you be so nonchalant, so...”

He smiled at my words. “It is simple, when one is tired as I am. I've had little sleep in the past few days, plane trip is not new to me. After a while the throb of the motors will have the same effect on you and you will a so feel yourself nodding.”

With that, he let his head sink to ms chest once more. I gave a sour look. Except for the noise, which was like the rumbling sound of a train m the subway, I couldn't have told we were flying. I became aware of the sympathetic regard of the old man across the way. And a moment later I recognized him to be Thaddeus Benton, confidential adviser to the President of the United States.

That reminded me about the General and his aid. They were sitting in the fore part of the plane. The General had his head bowed against his chest but the Major was wide awake. I shifted my gaze toward the rear and looked over the rest of our group. There were only three others, two men and a woman. The steward was asleep on some mail sacks in the back.

I TURNED and saw Allerton look up from his wrist watch. He caught my eye and said:

“Eight hours to the Azores. Might as well catch a nap, eh?”

I was too excited for that. My first time over the Atlantic on a plane. It reminded me of my first time under fire. There was that same feeling of expectancy—of things about to happen. I looked out the port once more. We were tunneling our way through a grey murk and I could see nothing. It was rather disappointing. The motors throbbed in regular rhythm and I found my head nodding. Laumont had been right. I slept.

I was awakened by someone s hand shoving at my shoulder. I looked up and saw it was the flight officer, who was acting as steward. He had a paper box in his hand.

“Lunch,” he announced.

I realized, suddenly, that I was terribly hungry. And that I was cold. I reached for the box and halted my hand half-way to it. The nails were blue. He saw my startled glance and smilingly said:

“Don’t worry. We’re up pretty high —over twelve thousand feet. Flying over a storm. They’ll get back to normal.”

I hoped so. The box contained an orange, several hard-boiled eggs, candy sandwiches and coffee. They were more than welcome. I hadn’t seen an orange since the African campaign. I guess we all ate heartily.

Allerton yawned. He brought his hand up to cover it and my eyes caught something that held them for the barest instant. He had a metal band for his wrist watch and when he brought his hand up to stifle the yawn, the band slid back a fraction of an inch. In so doing, it exposed an odd symbol tattooed on bis skin. The symbol of a dagger.

It was familiar, that symbol. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember where I’d seen it. Then I forgot about it when one of the men in the party toward the rear of the plane came forward and said:

“How’s for a little poker?”

I noticed, then, that the other two had spread a dirty blanket on the floor and were eyeing us expectantly. I looked to Allerton who smiled and said:

“It’s all right with me, Johns.”

WE SQUATTED on our hams on the dirty blanket, our knees almost touching, and watched the woman shuffle the deck of cards. I had looked around to see if we find find a sixth, but Benton was still asleep, the Major and General were in a conversation, and Captain Laumont was evidently going to catch up on the sleep he had told me he had missed.

We played five- and ten-cent poker; and as the woman dealt out the cards, I found myself giving the three civilians a sort of clinical attention.

The woman, for example.

She was so plain, so simple in dress and manner, that it was as if she were assuming a role. Her dark-brown hair was worn back into a tight bun at the back of her neck. She was completely devoid of paint and powder. She was wearing a pair of horn-rimmed glasses; and when she turned to me, I saw that the lens were of plain glass.

Perhaps it was that which made me wonder about them.

She dealt acey-deucy. I picked up the cards and made a pretense of studying them. In reality my eyes covertly studied her two male companions. The more I looked, the more I wondered.

Allerton opened the pot, and as I threw a nickel onto the blanket, I said.

“Seems to be funny, playing poker up here.”

The man sitting to my left threw a dime into the pot and said:


The other two said nothing.

Allerton called and I followed suit. The woman dealt out the cards after we had discarded. I had filled an inside straight. Once more I threw a remark, searching for information.

“With all the military on board, I don’t imagine our little 3 priority will hold up.”

I got a ride on that one. The man sitting almost opposite to me, said: “Oh. We were fortunate. We managed a 2 priority, although in a strict sense, the O.W.I. isn’t considered military.”

So they were with the Office Of War Information. I had had dealings with some of the personnel before and I looked at them now with a greater interest. As though in answer, he went on:

“We’ve been with the office in the Paris district. Since its occupation, in fact. Going back to the states to prepare a report. And by the way, I don’t think we know each other. Miss Halted, Mr. Abel, and my name is White.”

I acknowledged the introduction and introduced the Major.

The ice had been broken and the game went on. White seemed to be the spokesman for them. At least he was the one who did most of the talking. The woman gave most of her attention to the game. It was Abel who interested me most, however. He was the one to my left.

LIKE the woman, he had the appearance of one who was playing a role. He resembled Hollywood’s conception of a reporter—complete with straight-stemmed briar and a tweed jacket.

Both were phonies. And with that thought—and I had no reason other than intuition—I found my suspicions aroused.

The French officer and the gun he carried. Why? Perhaps there was a logical reason and one other than what I suspected. Then the full import of what I was thinking came to me and I almost laughed aloud. I had been too long overseas. I was seeing the Nazi bogey everywhere. Why, I might just as well suspect Major Allerton because he used perfume. And I sobered instantly. Something had been knocking at the back of my mind and now I knew what it was. The bus had gone into the rut in the road and we had swayed against each other. The Major’s elbow had dug sharply into my side—but it hadn’t been the man’s elbow. I remembered now that his hands had rested on the back of the seat in front of us. Then what was it that had dug into my side? I gave him a surreptitious glance. I could find nothing, either in his manner or his appearance, to justify my suspicion.

A voice broke through the fog of my thoughts:

“If you please, sir. I think a full house beats two pair.”

I looked down at the cards spread before me. They were mine. I saw that I had a pair of jacks and a pair of nines. But the last remembrance I had of my hand was that I had just filled a straight. I wondered, even as I answered Abel, who was the one who had spoken, how many hands I had played without being conscious of them.

“Sorry,” I said. “Guess I tried to bluff. Didn’t work, I see.”

He smiled shallowly and raked in the change scattered around the blanket. A quarter had rolled under one of my legs and I retrieved it for him. He reached for it and as I handed it to him, I found myself looking spellbound at his wrist. There was the tiniest of marks there on it. A little blue dagger had been tattooed into the skin. Just like the one Allerton had.

I looked up, startled, at Allerton and found him looking at me. There was something enigmatic in the look. I couldn’t guess what it meant. I was a little afraid to try. For I had an idea —and I was sure that I was right— what the dagger represented.

I HAD been with the force that had entered the first German town. Our objective had been the city hall. It had proved to be the local Gestapo headquarters also. Either our advance had been far more rapid than they had thought possible, or they had thought to defend the town longer than they did. At any rate, we arrived in time to prevent the local Gestapo head from destroying the files. Those files held information, not having only to do with the civil administration, but with the Gestapo as well. And not alone with the Gestapo we had all known of but with that part which had sworn allegiance only to Himmler. There were signs by which the members of the secret group could identify themselves: secret words, and visible identification. A tiny dagger tattooed into the skin just where the hand melts into the wrist!

This Abel was a Gestapo man! And by the same token, so was Allerton. My senses reeled as I realized the full extent of my discovery. My eyes went searching in mute anguish for the other members. The Frenchman was another, I was sure. He was engaged in talk with the General’s aide at that very moment.

Through the fog of my bleak thoughts a voice, oily with pretended worry, asked:

“Is something wrong, Johns?”

I shook my head in negation. Suddenly all my senses were alive. We were in some sort of danger. These men were on board for some reason. And I knew, whatever the reason, it wasn’t good. I focused my attention on Allerton.

“Excuse me,” I said in apology. “Guess I was thinking of something. Whose deal?”

Then I knew, with a certainty I couldn’t explain, that he had seen my wayward glance. And had read aright that I had recognized what the symbol stood for. Slowly his glance went around the narrow circle and paused to look deeply into each pair of eyes. Nothing was said. Yet I knew, as if he said the words aloud, that in his glance there had been a warning. And something besides. It was as though he had said, “So what! He knows. But what can he do?”

Each face bore the same kind of smile, hidden deep beyond the surface of the flesh. It was in their eyes. It was in the very air. A great sound of laughter, as if my discovery somehow pleased them. As if they wanted to see my reaction to it.

Well, damn them! I wasn’t going to give the show away. Not yet.

“Y’know,” I said, as I picked up the deck and began to shuffle, “I’ve seen many things in my jaunts around the various fronts. But in all the things I’ve seen, only a few impressed me very much.”

I BEGAN to deal the cards. They fixed me with bright, inquiring looks.

“The thoroughness of the Gestapo mind,” I went on. “Now we in America have a Secret Service. So have all the countries. But the German is unique.”

“Really,” Allerton drawled. His gaze was fixed on the cards. He didn’t look at me.

“Yes,” I went on. I forced myself to speak in an objective manner, as if I was giving an abstract discourse. “It reminds me of an intricate and highly complex machine. A machine which, when once started, does its work in the manner of a machine, efficiently and completely.”

“I don’t quite follow,” the one called White said.

“Maybe I’m putting it badly,” I said. “I’ll admit that I haven’t seen too much of the Gestapo. But what little I’ve seen has led me to think that the individual members are like the parts of a machine. They cannot have any personal thoughts or ideas. An order is given them and they simply follow through unquestioningly. Now you people in the O.W.I. have a certain latitude in your choice of action. The Gestapo hasn’t.”

The one called Abel spoke. And I noticed how guttural his voice was.

“I open,” he began. And we threw our nickels automatically onto the blanket. “The Gestapo,” he went on, “is a Part of the German mind, efficient, thorough and it leaves nothing to chance. Yet it takes chance into account. Nothing is left as a loophole for a man to escape through.”

“You mean,” I said as I threw away my discards, “that they can envision every situation. And apply a remedy for it?”

This time it was Allerton who took the conversational ball and ran with it.

“Precisely! For in most instances they manufacture the situation. They know exactly what’s going to happen.”

“That’s ridiculous!” I said. I felt a burning at the pit of my stomach. I had led the talk around to this point deliberately. Then I let him have it. “Let us suppose an instance,” I said. “Let us suppose that on this very plane there are members of the Gestapo. More, let us say that their identity is known. How can they remedy a situation like that?”

“If that were the situation,” Allerton said, looking me full in the eyes and smiling, “I would say that they didn’t give a damn whether they were found out or not.”

I must have shown signs of bewilderment that, for he went on:

Since we are supposing, let us suppose further. That these people,” he pointed to the three, “are members of the Gestapo. It was a quite simple matter to have gotten on board, a matter of forged credentials. But now that they are here... what? This plane is not taking them to Germany. Espionage in the United States has not been the successful thing we hoped it would be. Therefore..."

He looked over to the one known as Abel. Abel had thrown his cards up with an expression of disgust on his rather dark-skinned face.

This is not a card game!” he grumbled suddenly. “Talk! Talk! Is that all?”

I was paying him only half attention. Allerton had slipped. He had said ‘we,’ and had betrayed himself.

“What time have you, Major?” the Halsted woman asked.

Allerton looked at his wrist watch.

“It won’t be long,” he said cryptically.

The words echoed in my brain, “it won’t be long.” What wouldn’t be long? What were they planning? And how could I warn the rest? I struggled erect and yawned elaborately.

“Jees,” I said, “I sure could do with a smoke.”

I TURNED and started toward the rear where the flight officer was still reclining on the mail sacks, his favorite spot and position. But before I had taken more than a few steps, Abel moved in front of me. I watched tensely as he talked to our steward. I saw the steward shake his head, then nod in agreement to what the other said. I watched Abel come toward us and as he passed, he said:

“Good idea, that. But only one of us can go, at a time.”

He walked to the door in the fore part of the plane and through it. And I watched him with my throat tied into knots for fear that it was a signal for whatever they intended doing. But after a few moments, he came out. Only he did not return. Instead, he leaned indolently against the jamb.

The plane bucked a bit as it hit a couple of rough spots and I weaved back and forth, trying to keep my balance.

“Might as well squat,” White said. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a command! He held his hands deep within the pockets of his coat and I could see the outline of his fist, clenched around something.

I felt so helpless I It reminded me of a situation I had endured on the Rapido River front. There were two of us in a slit trench. And the Germans lobbed mortar shells over with the consistency and frequency of raindrops. That trench in which we crouched seemed so like the grave. Now I had the same feeling.

And I was the only one aware of who these people were.

White and the woman resumed their seats at the rear. The Frenchman, seeing the game had broken up, slid toward me. But Allerton beat him to the seat at my side. The Frenchman was not to be balked, however. He stood up and moving around the seated man took the seat to my right.

He turned and started to say something and stopped, abruptly. He saw that something was wrong. I could see it in his eyes, the way they narrowed, and the way his lips drew tight against each other. I don’t know what was in his mind, but suddenly he twisted around in his seat and started to get up. And as abruptly changed his mind. There was a snarl on his mouth and I heard the sharp exhalation of his breath.

I could only guess what had happened. Allerton had shoved a gun into the Frenchman’s side and he looked ready to use it.

My eyes shifted to the man standing by the little door leading to the nose of the plane. I saw him look down at his watch. Then he looked up and nodded to the two at the rear of the plane. I divined that he was giving them some sort of signal. The time for speculation was over. Whatever was in their minds was now going to be put into action.

I slid from my seat and started for the steward. But in that moment, while I had busied myself watching the Frenchman and Abel, the other two had acted. The woman was facing me. Her glasses were no longer on her high-bridged nose. There was a gun in her left hand. It was pointing at a spot around the middle of my gut. Beyond her I saw White leaning over the steward I saw the flight officer look questioningly at him... saw him start to rise and saw White’s hand swoop downward, once.

I STOOD, frozen with horror. White had stepped aside and I saw what had happened. The steward was reclining on the mail sacks once more. He looked asleep. But the one glance I had before White’s bulk came between us, showed me it was the kind of sleep from which there is no awakening. For stuck in his throat, standing stiffly erect, was the hilt of a knife. And from the edge of the blade twin columns of dark crimson flowed in a pulsing flood. I had that one look, then a hand grabbed me roughly by a shoulder and jerked me around, and with the same motion threw me against the steel seat.

It was Allerton who had done the shoving. But an Allerton I didn’t recognize.

His face was no longer smooth with great good nature. The crisp, curling hair no longer looked charming; the gentle smile had been sheathed in a bloodless slit.

“Attention!” Allerton yelled.

It almost became, “Achtung!"

I fell back limply and found that I was once more an observer, a reporter watching news take place. Once more I was enacting the role of the detached, yet interested, onlooker.

“Keep your seats. There must be no interference from anyone. My men have orders to shoot—to kill!”

General Moody, his lined and tired-looking face with, that determined chin still out-thrust, turned and regarded Allerton with an oddly watchful expression.

“Who are you?” that expression seemed to say “What are you trying to do? What has this to do with me?”

And the Captain’s expression: “Spies! They’re after the General! Well, over my dead body!” He was rather young, and I could see that he was, frightened by this strange turn of events. But in spite of his fright he slid over closer to his commanding officer.

But the Frenchman’s manner was the oddest of the lot. All the tenseness had left his tired features. He sat with his eyes half-closed, he looked asleep, but I saw that his lower lip was held prisoner in his teeth: he seemed the least interested in what was going on. And it came to me then that he had known from the beginning. And he was on our side!

Then Allerton was giving orders.

“Willi! I You and Hans take over the controls. Frida and I will take charge here until you are ready for her."

The one he called Willi was White. He and Hans went through the little door leading to the pilot’s compartment, while Allerton took Hans’ place. The woman remained at the rear, and the gun she held was an unwavering warning not to move or resist. If that wasn't enough, we could all see, now that Willi had moved off, that murder was something they wouldn’t stop at. The body of the Flight Officer looked grotesque, lying there amidst the mail sacks.

IT WAS the Captain who gave voice first:

“Say! What is this?” Then, as though he realized how foolish his words sounded, he decided to put them into action. He half arose from his seat in a move toward Allerton. The gun in Allerton s hand barked loudly and the captain sank back in his seat. There was a look of surprise in his eyes. Then they closed tight in a gesture of unbearable pain. His head fell back hard against the steel-backed seat, his mouth sagged open and a flood of dark blood spewed out over the neat uniform. I could see his throat move in convulsive tremors, then still as death closed the drama.

I warned you!” Allerton shouted. He straightened from the crouch he had gone into when the Captain made his ill-fated move. His eyes were alight in triumph, and I noticed that his head was cocked, listening for something which was hidden from our ears. The little door suddenly opened and Allerton skipped to one side, the gun swiveling to cover whomever was coming through.

The first was a young lieutenant, bare-headed, hands held over his head. He walked through the door with a peculiar stiffness, as if his legs did not want to obey his mind’s urging. His eyes were wide-staring and in their depths was to be seen an anger so great it made insignificant any other emotion he might have had. Stiffly he marched, almost blindly, to one of the seats next to Benton.

The next through the door didn’t walk; he exploded through it! And fell in a heap at my feet. I helped him to a seat next to me. An older man than the Lieutenant, he was of higher rank. I saw, as he fell back, that he had not taken the intrusion lightly, and had been punished for his error. He sat with eyes closed, head resting against the back of the seat. His arms hung limply at his sides and a thin stream of blood seeped from a wicked-looking slash on his temple, where the gray melted into the darker balance.

I waited for the rest to follow. Surely there were more! But only the sullen-looking Hans came out to motion the woman into the control cabin.

I turned my gaze to the General. He had just said, in tones which although not louder than was necessary to be heard above the roar of the motors, seemed to ring in my ears:

“You, sir, are a damned fool. I don’t know what you have in your mind. But whatever it is, I assure you that murder will get you nowhere.”

“Then don’t make it imperative; Allerton said.

“What do you want of us?”

“The brief case the gallant Captain has at his side,” Allerton replied. “And one other thing. You!”

The General nodded, as though what Allerton had said only confirmed his owrn suspicions.

“So that’s it. What good will it do you? How—”

Allerton suddenly laughed. It was a short bark of sound, with no mirth in it.

“I know what you are thinking,” he said. “What good can it do us now? The war is over, to all intents and purposes. Once again Germany has lost. Now if we’d had this formula a few months ago, eh, General? Think of it! A fuel for our ro-bombs which would enable them to fly accurately for thousands of miles. Even to the United States! But then we know the war is over. That is why we are here. To ensure our having the proper materiel for the next war!”

“You’re crazy!”

ONCE more Allerton laughed. This time it was in genuine amusement. His voice assumed a comic tone of self-pity:

“We mad Germans. We want only to be at peace with the rest of the world. Hasn’t our heaven-sent Fuehrer said so? And always the rest of the world, or rather the part that matters, the part which falls for our propaganda, agrees.

“No! We are not crazy! Look how well we’ve planned., This little excursion, for example. We knew—or rather I did—that you had decided to bring back the formula personally. And on this ATC plane. It was so safe. Our Luftwaffe is dead. No one would dare to attack.

“So Hans and Willi in there were trained for months for this special mission. Oh, no. We are not supermen. But all possibilities of a situation are taken into account. We didn’t know about you. But we knew that somebody would make that training worthwhile.”

It was a good speech. He had figured out all the angles. I didn't know how they were going to make their escape good, but I didn’t doubt for one minute that they would. What this mysterious something they were talking about was, I didn’t know. Then I saw the General look down at his side and by craning my neck I saw that it was an ordinary, dark-brown leather brief case. Funny, but although I had seen them come aboard and had more or less kept my eye on them, it was the first I’d seen of it.

And that innocent-looking package had led to murder—and more murder. For I had no doubt that we were all doomed to die.

Well, I was going to be in good company. Thomas Benton, General Moody ... Wait a minute. Allerton had said that the General was not to be in our distinguished group. It made me curious as to the method they were to use.

“Okay, wise guy,” I said flippantly. “Suppose you give us the low-down on how all this is to be accomplished.”

“With pleasure, Mr. Johns,” he said, making a low bow in my direction. “I am only sorry that you will not be able to write it for your readers. It would certainly be the best thing you would ever have done. And a most fitting epitaph, besides.

“In about fifteen minutes Hans will sight the submarine that is our goal. He will give the signal and land the plane...”

“In the water?” I asked incredulously.

“But I told you they have practiced,” Allerton said, with a broad grin. “There is, as you know, an escape hatch from the cabin. Really, it will be quite simple.”

I got it. We all had our Mae West jackets. They'd keep them afloat until the sub picked them up. It was simple. Now how to stop them?

I made a try at grinning in return. But I don’t think it was the success I had hoped it to be. In my mind’s eye, I pictured the odds. Myself, the General, the Frenchman, Benton and the two pilots. That brought me back to the slugged pilot sitting to my right.

The blood had stopped its sluggish oozing. But his eyes were still closed and his face was a pale blot in the sunlight. I reached over and shook him, trying to break the shock he was in. His lids fluttered weakly open. He looked at me with eyes which weren’t quite in focus. Then he closed them again. I turned my attention to the other pilot.

He was looking at Allerton with slitted, wolfish gaze. There was something in his tense attitude that told me in more than one way that he was waiting the first opportunity to attack, no matter what the odds. But though Allerton appeared nonchalant, that pistol he waved had a habit of centering itself on each of us. I couldn’t see how we were to get past it. Unless someone went in blindly, thus hoping to get an opening for the rest even though it meant his own death....

1 was almost on him before he saw me. And even as I moved, I shouted, “Now! Get him!”

THERE was the barest pause before he fired. Not enough for me to quite reach him. I felt a hammer blow hit my shoulder, and I spun around. My arms went flailing about and I felt one of them strike someone. Then I spun crashing into the edge of a seat and fell to my knees. Through a haze of pain, I saw the door behind Allerton open and Hans dash into the cabin. His sallow face was ashen. I heard someone shout, “Get that guy!” It wasn’t until I repeated the words that I realized it was I who was shouting. There was a mad dance of close-knit figures at the door; then individuals came into focus. And all the time I was trying to forget the pain and blood and weakness that were part of me and was struggling erect although it was costing me every bit of will power I possessed.

There was someone lying at my feet. He was staring at me with accusing eyes, as if I had somehow done him wrong. My right arm hung limply and I watched my blood drip on the expressionless face and spatter into the sightless eyes. I staggered back choking in horror. For the eyes did not close to ward off the blood. They stared emptily, crazily.

Dimly, I heard the sound of shots, like cannons roaring in the narrow confines of the fuselage.

There was a shout in my ears, a shout louder than all the cannons in the world and someone shoved me away from the man at my feet.

“Ned!” a voice screamed. And again. And I saw the older pilot kneeling at the side of the dead man. He looked up, not at me but at those near the door. I followed his mad look.

Hans lay on the floor, rolling limply with every move of the plane. Allerton, his back to the door, looking like a gigantic wolf at bay, faced three men before him. The gun was still in his hand. His face was alive with cruelty and lust and hate, as if in his mad mind there was a hope they would attack. That hope was answered... but not in the way he expected.

For, with a scream that was the most inhuman sound I had ever heard, the older pilot leaped forward, straight as an arrow, for Allerton. Allerton saw him coming. I heard myself yell, “He’s going to shoot! Watch out!”

I saw the gun buck in his hand. Three times. Then it was empty. And a crazed animal, not a human being leaped for his throat. Allerton swung the gun down in a slashing blow. I saw it strike and felt my soul crawl. But only death could stop the man who wanted vengeance.

And all the time, as if they had been caught in a pose by a still camera, Benton and Laumont and the General stood unmoving, figures in a tableau.

Then the spell was broken and those three leaped as one on the two locked in a death struggle. Wearily, weakly, I staggered toward them. But it was as if I were blind. The blood haze had come before me again and I couldn’t see. Yet I made it. I came in at the death.

WE STOOD around the two on the floor and looked at them and I felt only a vast weariness that such things had to be. I thought I had left all that behind in the muck and blood of the battlefield. The pilot had tom Allerton’s throat open with his teeth and so he had died, taking the other with him.

It was then I knew why he had gone mad. For I saw the little leather strip on the battle jacket he wore. Thomas L. Darrow it said. And I remembered what the leather strip bore on the jacket of the younger man, Edward F. Darrow. They had been brothers.

It was the General who broke the spell.

“The rest of them, in there!” he panted.

We understood. The fight was not over yet. Not by a long way. Laumont whirled toward me and I saw his eyes go wide.

“You’re wounded!”

I looked down at my arm. A great red stain had appeared just below the right shoulder and had spread half-way down the body of the jacket. Then his hands were tearing at it and at my shirt. My head fell forward against my chest. He eased me into a seat.

“Lucky!” he said. “It’s only a flesh wound. But you’ve lost some blood. Just rest there.”

“What can we do?” Benton asked.

Laumont bit his lips in vexation. And the General only grew grimmer and his chin jutted out farther and his eyes showed foreboding. But none answered. Only I gave voice to the fear which held us:

“You’ve got to get to them. If they land near that sub we’re all dead ducks. They’ll machine-gun us to Kingdom Come.”

“Yes. We’ve got to get to them,” Moody said. It was as if he were speaking to himself. Then, “Can any of you navigate?”

“I—I think I can plot a course,” Laumont said.

The General nodded somberly. “Let’s go, then,” he said to Laumont.

And Benton said, “I too, General.”

We all looked at the old man. I knew he was in his seventies. The lined skin was pale with fatigue and his eyes held glimmers of the horror he had been through. But his mind was alive and his courage high.

There was nothing else said. But when Moody opened the door, there were three who went in. And myself with them.

ALLERTON and his collaborators had done their work only too well. Two more bodies, those of the radio man and navigator, sprawled in the bunks in the little room just beyond the one where the high-octane gas was stored. I gave their gory bodies a single glance—and saw that both had been killed in the same way: shot through the back of the head. I moved closer to the group of three at the last bulkhead. I was a little light-headed, for I felt a terrible desire to giggle as we stood pressed against the steel door.

A couple of old men, an ex-reporter and a Frenchman standing on the threshold of the last act of the greatest drama of their lives. And when I saw that the Genera] had that brief case which had been the cause of all this, under his arm, I did giggle.

The roar of the motors precluded any possibility of those in the cabin having heard of what had gone on in the cabin. General Moody put his hand out to open the door and the Frenchman shoved him gently aside. He said nothing, only nodded and opened the door.

I saw the startled face of the woman, saw General swing the brief case which caught her in the throat, not only silencing any scream that she might have voiced, but knocking her to the floor. I saw Laumont lift Willi bodily out of the pilot's seat, and as the German s body came free of it, Benton take his place. Through the plastic-plated front of the plane I saw that we were only a hundred feet or so from the water's crest. Directly below, the snakelike length of a submarine floated on the water.

Then Willi and Laumont were threshing on the floor at my feet. The plane was lurching madly as Benton fought with the controls. The Halsted woman was huddled in a corner, her frightened eyes watching the General at the radio as he worked the apparatus.

The two struggling on the floor rolled against my feet and I kicked at them. I just kicked blindly. I didn’t mean to kick Laumont in the head. His arms relaxed their convulsive grip on Willi for a second. Enough to enable the other to roll free.

Willi’s hand streaked to his side. I saw the gun come free. Saw it streak upward. And still giggling, I lurched into him. My arms went around him. I heard myself 3ay, “shall we waltz, Willi?” And I felt something tear into my body, felt life emptying from me, then felt nothing... nothing else.

BENTON turned a sweat-streaked face to Laumont in the co-pilot’s seat.

“Can you handle it from here on?” he asked.

“Yes. I was in the Air Force before being shifted to Intelligence,” Laumont replied.

Benton arose wearily and staggered over to the navigator’s desk. He gave the two Germans—the man and the woman, bound with ropes in the corner a cursory glance. Then his eyes shifted to the body of Willet Johns. Laumont had placed it in one of the two bunks with that of the radio man. Johns looked asleep.

“Well,” General Moody said wearily from the radio desk, “there should be a couple of patrol planes out here in a while. I’ve given our position and that of the submarine.”

He saw that Benton wasn’t paying any attention to his words. There was a moment’s silence. Laumont said:

“They always forget to take one thing into their calculations.”

The other two turned to him.

"...that they are dealing with humans, not machines. And humans have a habit of forgetting they’re human and become heroes once in a while. Like Johns, there.”

Johns would have liked that.