“Well then, Canuck, if you’ve checked my guns I’ll pull down those credits,” Garret snarled.

“You said something about my lying,” Stan gritted as he swung around to face the flier. His six feet and two hundred pounds of muscular body made him look like a certain Colorado U. half-back who had once been picked as All-American. Stan wouldn’t have admitted it, he wouldn’t have dared, but he had once been a great blocking back.

Allison stepped forward. “You come with me, Wilson,” he said. “I want to tell you a few things you ought to know.”

The Squadron Leader nodded to Allison. He turned upon his heel without looking at Garret. Snarling, his lips twisted with anger, Garret made off to his cubicle.

In the mess Allison sank into a chair. He grinned across at Stan, who had seated himself. “Mind if I order tea? I’ve drunk a gallon of coffee just to be polite to you.”

Stan grunted, “You don’t have to be polite to me.”

“I don’t intend to from now on, old man.” Allison’s eyes were twinkling.

“What’s on your mind? Regulations and such rot, I suppose.” Stan was still hot under the collar.

“We don’t do it that way here,” Allison said. “A rotter like Garret is always taken care of.”

“You mean he’s out?”

“No, I can’t swing that, but we don’t have to have him in Red Flight.” He reached for the cup of tea the corporal had set in front of him. “You made an enemy who will go a long way to stymie you.”

“He’d better stay out of my way,” Stan growled.

Allison grinned. “Guess he had, at that,” he admitted.



Allison leaned back in his chair and laughed softly. Stan waited for the Flight Lieutenant to explain his sudden mirth. Allison had just come from the O.C.’s office. He turned to Stan.

“I put in a call for a new flier. After all, I can’t have a couple of prize fighters trailing me around. I got a very sweet fighting man. He doesn’t love the English so much, and he doesn’t hate the Jerries so much. He’s an Irish boy whose ancestors haven’t missed a war in a thousand years. He just couldn’t stay out of this one.” Allison chuckled and nodded his head.

Stan turned his gaze toward the door, which had swung inward revealing a tall youth.

“There,” said Allison, “comes Bill O’Malley.”

Bill O’Malley was long and lank, with an Adam’s apple that bobbed up and down his throat. His bony shoulders were stooped in a most unmilitary manner, and his head boasted a thatch of flaming red hair. He was about the last person in the world Stan would have picked as a daredevil flier. His homely face and his sloppy figure would not have inspired fear or confidence in anyone. Allison waved to him.

“Hi, old fellow, come over and meet a pal.”

Bill O’Malley grinned as he slouched across the room. As soon as his big mouth cracked into a smile Stan knew he was going to like this big Irisher.

Allison arose. He was acting with deliberate and mock politeness. “O’Malley, meet Wilson,” he said with a sweep of his arm. Then the derisive mask slipped over his face and he seated himself again.

“Sure, ’tis a quiet an’ homelike place ye have here, Commander,” O’Malley said. “Wilson, me boy, I’m right glad to meet up with ye.”

“Nothing ever happens around here,” Allison agreed. “It’s a peaceful place.”

“Snug as a clambake,” O’Malley agreed. “But much more dead. Now when I gave me word I’d come in with you boys the O.C. made quite a talk about how tough the job was. Here we sit like auld friends at a picnic.” He scowled bleakly at Allison.

“I’ll send over for a flight of Jerries,” Allison said with a grin.

“’Twill be a pleasure, me foine fellow,” O’Malley answered. “I came over here to see some action.”

Both Stan and Allison knew Bill O’Malley meant just what he said. He was wild as any crazy hare, but he had a name that was already on the tongues of ground men when spectacular stunts were talked about. Stan guessed that Allison had not had much trouble in getting the Irisher away from whatever flight he was with. Few Flight Lieutenants would have cared to be responsible for him.

The loud-speaker began to blare. “Red Flight, all out! Green Flight, all out! Yellow Flight, all out!”

“Sounds like the whole Jerry outfit is on the way,” O’Malley said as he unwound himself from a stool and made for the door.

There was no mistaking the fact that O’Malley was a first-class fighting man. Stan knew it by the way he got into his Spitfire and rammed the hatch cover home. By the time they had zoomed up and away, he was sure of it. Allison was chuckling over the radio.

“Cuddle in, Red Flight. We pick up Bristols and Blenheims at 10,000.”

“’Tis no wet nurse I’ll be,” came the Irish brogue of O’Malley. “I resign this minnit.”

“Headquarters says the Jerries have two dozen Messer One-Nines on a reception committee,” Allison droned back.

“The spalpeens! Why such a measly little bunch?” O’Malley demanded indignantly.

Stan gave his attention to flying. The squadron droned into a thick bank of clouds and was swallowed. Nine demons bored ahead to take a bombing flight through.

“Rose Raid, take position. Rose Raid, take position,” came a voice over the air from the tactics group gathered around a big map at headquarters.

Stan grinned. The British were odd in many ways. For no good reason, they called this raid Rose Raid instead of B-7 or some other businesslike tabulation. Then he sighted the bombers 1,000 feet below. Three heavily loaded Bristols and three Blenheims. Stan remembered the fast-flying Consolidateds and the B-19’s of the United States Army. Soon, if he was lucky enough to stay alive, he might be escorting B-19’s.

Up and up they went into the clouds, with the bombers droning steadily southeast and the Spitfires cruising above and below and around.

The radios were all strangely silent now. There was no talk and Stan let his ears fill with the pleasant roar of his Merlin. He bent forward and stared at his instrument panel. That gauge couldn’t be right, it must be jammed or something. If the needle was reading right he had less than a half tank of gas. He bent forward and rapped the panel. The needle did not change, except to surge a bit further toward the empty side. Stan’s mouth drew into a grim line. He could believe that gauge and turn tail—or he could figure it was wrong and go on.

If it was right, he was short of gas for the trip. A hard gleam shone in his eyes. Regardless of the gauge, his tank should have been filled full. If it hadn’t been filled there was dirty work somewhere. He thought of Garret. Allison had said Garret had been put on the ground. Stan wondered what job Garret had been given.

Then he snorted. He was letting himself go. Just because he was sore at Garret he was imagining things. He rapped the dial sharply and the needle jumped, then settled back. If he went on he would run out of gas over German territory and have to go down. In spite of himself, he couldn’t help muttering:

“That would be a nice way of getting rid of me.”

He shrugged his shoulders. Allison was dipping his wings in a signal. They were going down to have a look below. He couldn’t use his flap mike. If he cut and ran he would have to prove he hadn’t drained his tank to get out of a hot odds-on battle; he’d have to have proof that the tank wasn’t filled when he took off. But he had to decide at once.

A guarded voice spoke. It was Allison’s. “Peel off and dive by position. Come up after a check below clouds.”

The Flight Lieutenant’s Spitfire lanced over on its side and streaked down like a rocket. O’Malley followed. Stan’s lips pulled into a hard line. He flipped the Spitfire over on its side and went roaring down the chute. The air speed and altimeter were going insane. The shriek of the dive shook every nerve in Stan’s body, and set him back against the crash pad, holding him there with a powerful grip. The three Spitfires roared out of the clouds at the same instant. They streaked into the clear blue for a moment, then shot upward and ducked back into the cloud

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