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Rogue's War - an abominable work of fiction

Old Guy

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WW2, in the back waters of the Caribbean.  A story that should probably remain untold . . . .



Ch 1 -- Near Sainte Poutine, French Guadeloupe:

It was past midnight and black as sin.  Majoor stood in the little flat-bottom boat and gazed downstream at the U-boat tied next to a low-slung barge.  Under the dim glow of work lights men wrestled crates down into the undersea marauder.  He glimpsed a second party further aft doing something with what appeared to be a small crane.  As he watched, a glistening, slender shape rose up from the barge deck.  Torpedo!  No doubt about it.  Not only were the Germans using the tiny river base near Sainte Poutine to re-victual their subs and rest the crews, they were able to provide torpedo reloads as well.  He shivered, in spite of the oppressive heat.

Someone -- probably someone by the name of Majoor -- was going to have to put a stop to the Nazi operation.

And what a miserable place to conduct a war!  Guadeloupe had only two seasons: wet and dry.  In the wet season it rained.  A lot.  So far as he could tell, it was hot all the time.  Even now, in the middle of the night, between the rain and the tropic heat, he was soaked to the skin.  Water sloshed around his feet as he shifted position.  His guide muttered a warning -- something about not upsetting the boat.  Majoor froze, envisioning the various toothed and fanged creatures inhabiting the river.  He turned carefully and sat down on the plank seat.  "Let's go back," he murmured.  "I've seen enough."

Enough, indeed.  Nearly a month earlier a small freighter had anchored in the river a mile upstream of the tiny port of Sainte Poutine and spent two nights off-loading cargo onto a barge.  Majoor now knew the nature of that cargo, but he didn't know how or when the barge had been pushed into position, nor did he know when the two large, round fuel tanks had been built in the jungle a few hundred feet north of the barge.  Large cables secured the barge under the spreading branches of mangrove trees.  He doubted it could be seen at all from the air.

Likewise, the fuel tanks were built on a relatively dry hummock in the mangrove swamp.  A single steel fuel pipe ran from the tanks to the barge, suspended under a wooden walkway supported by poles driven into the mud.

Alerted by conversations overheard in a local bar, Majoor had hired a guide and boat.  Going into the swamp on foot would have been an efficient way to commit suicide and the idea of floating alone through the trackless mangroves scared the snot out of him.  In any event, the guide was vastly amused that he knew nothing of the jungle installations.  Every local within fifty miles was apparently fully informed on the German effort -- just as they all seemed to know he was an OSS agent, exiled to this Caribbean backwater for unspecified crimes.

So far as he knew, no one had betrayed him to the enemy, though the locals also seemed to know every German agent in the area, of which there were at least two.  He didn't know if this was because the natives were sympathetic to the Allied cause or if they were just interested in watching the two sides stumble around blind.  Other than drinking and wenching, Poutine offered little in the way of entertainment.

As his guide poled the boat toward a primitive landing a half mile upstream, Majoor pondered the situation.  Based on the sketchy information he'd pulled together, he figured the U-boat he had just seen alongside the barge was the third to use the river base to fuel and re-arm.  Canvas was stretched over piles of crates on the barge deck.  Submarines needed torpedoes, lubricating oil and probably a hundred other things he'd never heard of.  Apparently, all or most of those needs were available on the barge.  He knew that fresh produce was carried down from the town and he had observed a few wounded sailors transported to the small hospital built on a bluff overlooking Sainte Poutine's tiny harbor.

The second U-boat had also unloaded a half-dozen US Army nurses who were now being held at the only hotel in town, guarded by Vichy colonial police.  Majoor had seen one of the nurses at the hospital, evidently drafted into service to treat injured sailors.  Three times in the last month he had noticed a few pale, nervous men drinking themselves into oblivion in dark corners of local bars.  Submarine crewmen, he figured, taking a break during their boat's re-supply.

Three times in as many weeks, Majoor had rented a battered Model A from a local garage and driven up the island to the closest cable station.  From there he dispatched coded messages describing his suspicions about a possible U-boat supply base and alerting his contacts to the presence of the captured nurses.  He'd have to make another trip tomorrow.

Hope flared momentarily.  Maybe his superiors could prevail on the Air Corps to bomb the barge and its cargo into oblivion.  Cruel reality mocked his already soggy spirits.  Bombers blasting chunks off Guadeloupe would undoubtedly trigger unpleasant political complications.  Besides, the barge was almost certainly invisible from above -- even if it should stop raining long enough to mount a mission.  And in the unlikely event that he could somehow mark the target for the birdmen, the chances of their actually hitting it were roughly zero.

He needed help.  Professional help.  Majoor sighed.  What he'd probably get would be Marines.     

For the present, his position seemed secure enough.  Locals grinned and nodded knowingly when he mentioned his cover story -- that he was an American draft dodger.  Probably only the German agents didn't know he was a spy.  He wasn't sure about Inspector Infidel, the Vichy police commander in Poutine.  If the man knew Majoor was an agent, he'd given no sign.

Majoor, OSS agent, trudged up the muddy trail toward his favorite bar, the Dead Horse Bar and Grill.  It was time for a beer.  He wondered, idly, if the presence of the nurses might cause his superiors to send in a real commando squad to rescue the ladies and eliminate the submarine supply base.  But no -- he knew better than that.  Any time the brass feared an op would result in dead Americans, they always relied on out-of-favor agents and Marines.

Since he was a Marine seconded to the OSS and because his name occupied top spot on the Director's shit list, Majoor decided not to make any long range plans.  Like beyond next week.

It was definitely time for a beer.     

Ch 2 -- British Military Police Headquarters, Cairo, Egypt

Colonel Wanker-Smythe decided to walk through the main processing area instead of taking the more direct route through the gardens.  All too often in crossing the garden area one stumbled across officers sampling the delights of the secretarial pool.  Such encounters depressed the colonel.  As he approached the processing area, he slowed to a manly walk, eschewing his usual mincing step.  The MPs were, to a man, strapping individuals with a crude, but enticing manner.  He'd discovered a couple who liked some of Wanker-Smythe's favorite sports.

He stopped to allow passage of two burly MPs, a private and a corporal.  Each man dragged another, evidently unconscious soldier.

"Had to use the baton, eh, Corporal," sighed the colonel.

"No, sir."  The corporal let his prisoner slump to the floor.  The man's head bounced with a sound quite like that made by a dried gourd.  "Plain drunks, sir.  That and they got into a scrap with a squad of Royal Marines."

The colonel sighed again.  He loved batons and he positively adored Royal Marines.  "They look to have gotten the worst of it, eh?"

"Aye, sir.  Bloody colonials.  Always talkin' a first rate fight -- 'til someone throws a punch."

"Colonials."  The colonel shook his head and stepped to where he could see the two drunks.  Both were heavily bruised.  Blood covered the front of their jumpers.  "Flight crew?"

"Yes, sir."  The corporal flipped his notebook open.  "F/O Wanker and Flt/Sgt Dooright.  Airfield Officer says they're waiting for a couple new Mosquitos.  We're to hold them until they sober up, then assign them to the bloody work detail until their aircraft arrive."

The colonel laughed and nudged a battered victim with the toe of a highly polished boot.  "I know one of these lads.  Inch Wanker.  My wife's cousin -- and a no-account bounder -- though that's a redundancy when referring to Canadians."  He laughed again.  The two MPs winced.  The colonel's high pitched voice was bad enough, but his cackling laughter brought to mind images of skulls and gibbets and things that go squish in the night.

"I think we can come up with something better than the usual work detail," murmured Wanker-Smythe.  "A secret mission.  Canadians love that sort of thing."  He smiled at the corporal.  "I'm sure cousin Inch would volunteer for it -- were he conscious."

The corporal glanced at his partner.  "Well -- if you say so, sir."

"Put these sodding fools in the drunk tank, Corporal.  And don't be gentle about it.  I'll see to their orders."  Colonel Wanker-Smythe minced off, so excited he quite forgot the manly stride.

"Sergeant Blither!" he called, upon entering his own workplace, the 4033rd Combat Requisition Detachment, wherein brooded stacks of triplicate forms intended for the use of supply officers and their NCOs in obtaining needed vehicles, weapons and other material for their units.  Alas, the lovely buff colored forms remained unused.  Supply officers, in Wanker-Smythe's estimation, operated in wanton disregard for established rules and procedures.  And every supply sergeant he'd had the misfortune to meet belonged in prison, if not in front of a firing squad.

Sergeant Blither jerked awake and eyed his commanding officer with mild discontent.

"Sergeant, I've found a couple -- um, volunteers for that mission the Yanks tasked us with.  Do you have an aircraft lined up?"

"Volunteers, sir?  Who'd be dumb enough to do that?"

"Colonial gutter sweepings, Sergeant.  Canadians, to be exact."

"Jesus wept," muttered Blither.  "Another bunch drunk in a ditch, sir?  Like the last ones?"

"Drunk, yes, and out cold -- but in the hands of the MPs.  They should be sober enough to fly by tomorrow.  What have you got for an aircraft?"

"Well, sir.  That's a problem.  The blokes in Bomb Group won't let loose of anything that ain't on it's last legs.  They offered a Stirling, sir.  And a bloody clapped out old maid it is."

"Clapped out, eh?"  The colonel smiled.  "Just the thing.  Cut the orders, Sergeant.  F/O Wanker and another drunken sot named Dooright.  Transfer them, along with that fine old Stirling to the Yanks.  They'll be a perfect fit for Operation Nut Buster."

"Nut Buster?  The Americans always come up with bloody awful code names, sir."

"They do, Sergeant.  They do.  But in this case, I think Nut Buster is entirely appropriate.  With any luck my wife's cousin will wind up feeding fishes in the Atlantic.  The sod."

"Some bad blood there, eh, sir?"

"Bad blood, aye.  More alcohol than blood -- like all colonials."

Ch 3 -- Office of Special Services, Washington, DC

Milo Pinchbeck, Assistant Director for Orphan Operations (ASSDOO) stopped by the desk of Reggie Lackwitte, Sub-director, Analysis Department, Latin American Division (SADLAD), which department had nothing whatever to do with analysis of any kind.  Milo handed over a yellow message form.

"Operation Nut Job is beginning to take shape, Reggie.  "Who is SADLAD's man in the sunny island of Guadeloupe?"

Lackwitte snorted with laughter.  "It's the wet season down there.  Majoor says it hasn't stopped raining in nearly a month."  He hesitated.  "That's Operation Nut Buster, boss."

Milo ignored the correction.  He frowned.  "Majoor?  I know that name."

"I should hope so.  He was the one who got tanked up and drove a jeep right through the middle of the evening retreat ceremony at Marine HQ."

"God, yes.  Now I remember.  Wasn't he the one who also managed to obtain alcohol when he was out at the Farm?  There was a range accident, I think."

Reggie hooted.  "Sure was!  Couple of our Marines were wounded in that little fracas.  He shot one in the leg and the other one in the ass.  Both of 'em refused to serve in the OSS in any capacity after that."

"You're right.  The Director was livid over that one.  And I think this Majoor fellow was implicated in that contretemps surrounding the deflowering of a Senator's underage daughter, wasn't he?"

"Well -- not for sure.  The girl wasn't talking and the Senator didn't want a scandal.  That's why Agent Majoor is in Guadeloupe.  I figured he might be able to stay out of trouble down there."

ASSDOO shrugged and emitted a theatrical sigh.  "Well -- the best laid plans -- eh?  But, I'm sure you have full confidence in his ability to handle our end of operation Nut Job."

Sub-director Lackwitte gulped.  Pinchbeck was clearly washing his hands of any responsibility.  "That's Nut Buster, boss.  I dunno.  It's too late to replace him now."

"I was afraid of that."  The AD frowned.  Something more direct was needed.  "Send Majoor a telegram.  I will tolerate no screw ups.  If I have to explain his conduct to Donovan or the President, he'll spend the rest of the war counting snowflakes in Alaska."

"Okay, boss.  I'll send it right away."  SADLAD paused.  "I hope he gets it before the commando group arrives.  Communications are a little slow down there."

"It doesn't matter," said ASSDOO, dismissing his subordinate's weak excuse with a sniff.  "Just sending the message covers my derriere."  He looked at his watch.  "I think I'll take the rest of the afternoon off -- maybe hit a few balls on the practice range."

Lackwitte waited an invitation to join his boss, but the AD left without uttering another word. 

"Damn him," whined SADLAD.  "Golf, hell.  He's going to spend the afternoon with that blonde bimbo from the Triplicate Forms Obfuscation Group."  He made a rude gesture toward the closed door then began composing a careful telegram to Majoor.  It was most important that any blame for failure should fall on the agent while credit for success should accrue to SADLAD and ASSDOO.

After an hour of scribbling and erasures, Lackwitte handed the text to his secretary.  "Fix that up, please, Ginger, and send it off to the Message Center.  If anyone calls -- I'm in conference and can't be disturbed." 

Two minutes later he was headed for happy hour at his favorite watering hole, the Faceless Bureaucrat Wine and Cheese Parlor.


Old Guy

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Ch 4 -- Dead Horse Bar & Grill, Sainte Poutine, Guadeloupe

OSS agent Majoor paused, cigarette in one hand, burning match in the other.  The background buzz of conversation faded away.  Someone uttered a soft curse and scurried out the back way.

Inspector Infidel stood inside the front door and surveyed the room.  He wore an immaculate tan uniform and matching kepi.  Though rain still fell outside, his uniform showed nary a drop of water.  The Inspector was not one to use an umbrella.  Majoor shivered in spite of the heat.

"Ouch!" he cried.  The match had burned down to his fingers.  "Damn, that hurts."  He sat back, wringing his hand.  Inspector Infidel smiled and strolled across the room.

"May I please to join you?" 

It was not a request.  Majoor nodded, voiceless, sucking on his seared fingers.

"I have here something for you," murmured the Inspector.  He produced a sheet of paper and slid it across the table.  The bartender hustled over with a glass and a bottle of cognac.  Everyone else sat frozen, considering their inner guilt, afraid to flee. 

Majoor eyed the paper with suspicion.  Other than a few polite words on the day he first arrived in Poutine, he'd not exchanged so much as a syllable with the Inspector.  If local rumor was to be believed, the man had the morals of a snake.

Inspector Infidel usually occupied an office at the back of the Colonial Police building.  He also lived there, in an upstairs apartment.  Always smartly clad, Infidel exuded an air of brooding menace, made all the more intense by the contrast between his cold blue, killer eyes and a body more suited to a fat banker.  His face looked to have been dipped in acid after someone flattened his nose with a two-by-four.  The glittering eyes and perfect teeth only served to highlight a nightmare visage. 

Infidel lit a slim black cigarillo and offered his lighter to Majoor.  "Please to try this.  It is much more safe than match."

Cigarette properly alight, Majoor picked up the paper.  It was obviously a handwritten copy of a telegram.  All his communications from OSS headquarters were coded.  The message before him was in plain language.  That boded ill for the encryption scheme he had been using.

Agent Majoor scanned the note.  It was obviously in response to his message confirming the presence of a German U-boat base.  A commando team would be arriving at a time to be determined later.  He was to find a landing site suitable for a four-engine plane.  There were the usual trite warnings and dumb suggestions from some chair-borne commando at HQ.  He read the Alaska snowflake counting threat with what he hoped was a brave smile.

The Inspector produced a surprisingly mellow laugh.  "Your bureaucrats and mine appear to have much to be in common."  He took a long drag on his cigarillo.  "Tomorrow a messenger will arrive, as is usual, with printed telegram.  That copy was arrive by phone."

"So . . ."  Majoor's heart smashed into his ribs.  "You -- you've been reading my --, ah, my mail?"

"Of course."  Infidel held up a hand.  "But, not to worry.  I read Boche messages also."

"Then -- they don't know about me?"

"Oh, to be sure they know you are American agent.  They think you are State Department spy.  Or FBI agent.  American intelligence bureaus confuse them -- and me also."

"Me also," admitted Majoor.  "So -- whose side are you on?"

"Me?  I am on my side."  The Inspector displayed his perfect teeth.  "Boche paid to be allowed barge and fuel tanks.  People here work to build U-boat base.  Now maybe Americans blow up barge, tanks.  Maybe part of town.  People need money to fix town."

Majoor suspected some portion of any money involved would stick to Infidel's hands.  "Ah -- I think you have the general picture.  Any idea where a four-engine plane can land?"

"Of course," said the Inspector.  "I have workers clearing cane field now.  You have dollars?"

Two people entered the bar and stood shaking water off their umbrellas.  Agent Majoor glanced at the newcomers.  "Damn!  It's a German."

Infidel watched the officer lead a pretty brunette to a side table.  "It is U-boat officer, Schmerkle.  The woman is quite nice to look at."

The woman in question was obviously one of the captured US Army nurses.  Majoor tried to make himself less obtrusive.  "Yes, she is damn nice looking.  She was also on duty during my last visit to the Fort Benning VD ward."

The Inspector emitted a low laugh.  "But does she know your face?"  He watched with amusement as the American agent slunk along the wall and vanished out the back.

Ch 5 -- Navy Brig, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Lieutenant Commander Blunt eyed the five marines with distaste.  He shook his head and looked at the paper in his hand.  "Which one of you is Sergeant Infanteer?"

A short, balding man clad only in a bright red woman's blouse and torn skivvy shorts lurched forward a step.  "Me, sir," he croaked.  "I'm Staff Sergeant Infanteer."

Blunt handed the paper to the skinny wretch.  "You don't look much like a Recon marine, or any kind of marine for that matter.  And you don't pay attention very well either.  I don't have time for more formal punishment, so you're reduced in rank -- Sergeant Infanteer."

"Aye, aye, sir."  Infanteer tried to focus bleary eyes on the orders Blunt had given him.  The letters slithered and slid as if alive.  "Sir, I -- ah . . ."  He waved the paper helplessly.

Blunt snatched the orders.  "God looks after fools and marines, Sergeant.  Instead of spending the next few months painting rocks and digging holes around my brig, you're being sent off on some kind of secret mission."  He tossed the paper back toward Infanteer and turned away.

"Corporal Slag!  Get these vermin out of my sight!  Haul them over to the Quartermaster so they can buy some uniforms.  Then take them to the airfield.  Some staff moron from Washington will meet them there."

The corporal led his charges downstairs and out of the building.  He pointed to a weapons carrier.  "Get in the back.  I don't want nobody pukin' or bleedin' on my seat."

A pudgy PFC dropped the truck tailgate and helped the marines climb aboard.  "What in hell did you guys do?  I ain't never seen ole Blunt so pissed."

"Damfino," said a red-haired lout clad in torn utility trousers and a stained t-shirt.  "I don't remember nothin' except drinkin' with a bunch of swabbies off a destroyer."

"Jesus, Monk.  You was the one started singin' that song when them two B-17 crews came in."  The speaker was a thin-faced, ill-looking sod with a serious shiner and a multitude of livid bruises.  Since his wardrobe consisted of skivvies and a bandanna, the wounds were obvious.

"Shut up, Danjanou!" snapped Infanteer.  "Get in the fucking truck.  I don't wanna hear about no damn singing."  He winced.  "Jesus!  I need a handful of aspirin and a gallon of coffee."

"Sure, man," said Danjanou.  "Help me with Bobbit.  He ain't done nothin' but meow like a kitten ever since them guards drug us outta the cells."

"Zoomie!" snarled Infanteer.  "Bear a hand!  Dammit!  Are you with us?  Help Danjanou."

"Help?" babbled the target of Infanteer's wrath, a dough-faced man wearing a striped bed sheet and a vacuous expression.  Several blue-black lumps adorned his face.  "Help?"

Somehow, with the pudgy PFCs assistance, the marginally mobile marines clambered into the truck.  Bobbit had to be dragged over the tailgate.  He accumulated several new scrapes in the process, since his only garment was a dirty cotton sock dangling from his left foot.

"Where we goin'?" asked Danjanou.  "What do the orders say?"

Infanteer stared glumly at the paper.  "The goddamn orders say I've lost a stripe.  We're assigned to some task force called Baker Twelve."

"I never heard of no Baker Twelve," said Monk.

Danjanou laughed, then whimpered in pain.  It hurt to laugh.  "It's some moron's idea of a code name.  Don't mean nothin'."

"He's right," said Infanteer.  "We'll be met at the airfield.  After that, I don't know."

Monk nodded and squinted in the bright morning sun.  "Can I go back an' paint rocks for that there Blunt guy?"

"No."  Infanteer worked himself into a seating position in one corner.  "If it were up to me, we'd all stay.  Wherever we're going, I got a hunch it won't be as pleasant as that brig."

The PFC slammed and latched the tailgate.  He climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine.  The weapons carrier lurched into motion.  Small cries of pain drifted out of the back, along with a single, high-pitched howl, like a cat hit by a steam roller.

Ch 6 -- Short Stirling "Dog Blue", westbound over the Atlantic

"Inch," called a small voice, barely audible over the drone of the Stirling's engines.  "Inch."

"What is it now?"  Inch touched the elevator trim wheel, then decided not to move it.  He glanced around.  Flt/Sgt "Duey" Dooright lay slumped on the navigator's table, moving feebly.  Even in the dim light Inch could make out dark circles under his friend's eyes.  A rectangular pattern of three-day-old bruises covered his face.  Sometime during that first night back in Egypt a Royal Marine had pitched Duey into a heavy wire mesh fence -- face first.

Inch scratched at the stubble on his own face.  Several spots were too tender to touch, much less shave.  Those had come via the business end of an MP's nightstick.  Various other parts of his body ached with an intensity that ranged from mild discomfort to savage agony.

Rain slashed at the cockpit windows.  Duey stirred.  "They're back."

Bloody hell.  "Who's back?" asked Inch, though he knew the answer full well.

"I dunno.  Slithery things.  One was red -- I think.  An' one was -- was somthin' else."

Three days, thought Inch.  Three sodding days since they'd staggered into that bar in Alex, staggered in to find the place occupied by a gaggle of Royal Marines.  And Duey already had a load on.  The lad tended to run off at the mouth even when sober, but his performance after imbibing a mixed load of alcoholic beverages was phenomenal, by any standards.  First, he drank off a clay mug of a local brandy known for inducing death and lesser punishments.  Thereafter he began, but did not finish, a critical appraisal of Royal Marines.

Duey was still drying out.  Healing would take somewhat longer.

"Need drink," moaned the semi-paralyzed victim.

"So do I," said Inch.  "There ain't no bleedin' booze.  Get back to pumping fuel -- unless you want to swim to Brazil."

"Can't swim."  Duey attempted a smile and managed a corpse-like grimace.  "Windy back in the back.  And things -- things hide behind the ex-extry gas tanks."

"It's all in your head, mate.  Now go on."

Flight Sergeant "Duey" Dooright, Battle of Britain veteran, survivor of a hundred sorties over the Western Desert, and instigator of bar fights innumerable, cranked himself more or less erect and shambled off into the stygian depths of the Stirling fuselage.  "Ain't nothin' in me head."

Inch stared into the sullen, cloud filled night.  "Too bloody right there ain't."  His own head seemed filled with tar, or something equally dense and slow.  He touched the trim wheel again, this time moving it a trifle, just to make sure it still worked.  Not much else did.  Empty holes in the instrument panel gaped back at him.  Disconnected wires peeked from every surface.  Artificers seemed to have stripped all useful items from the old bird.  He could only hope nothing required for the operation of the aircraft had been taken -- and that the remaining gizmos were working as intended.

The compass needle twitched, moved left, then right, before settling back to its original position.  Inch eyed the device with deep suspicion.  Another burst of rain streamed across the windows.  A fine mist filled the cockpit, evidence of a hundred tiny leaks.  Inch wiped at his face and peered into the dark.  Somewhere out there lay Brazil.  Toward morning, provided Duey could be kept at his pumping duties, the coast would appear.  Exactly where they might make landfall was unknown.  For that kind of precision, one needed charts and navigation equipment -- and a navigator.

Inch figured it would be good enough to make landfall, then turn north.  An airport would probably turn up before their fuel ran out.  He worried a little about the Brazilian air force.  The sodding Yanks had recently given them a batch of Mustangs.  God only knew if they could recognize a British aircraft.

He reached forward and tapped the compass.  It didn't move.


Old Guy

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Ch 7 -- Secret Airbase #9, Northern Brazil

Sergeant Infanteer was already soaked with sweat when he stepped out of the steaming interior of the converted B-18.  He blinked and shaded his eyes.  Heat radiated off the tarmac.  A fetid odor wafted across the airfield and mixed with the smell of hot engine oil and avgas.  He knew that stench.  It was a riotous melding of rotting vegetation, mold, dead animals, and fecal material from millions upon millions of creeping, crawling, biting snakes and bugs.

"Shit," he muttered.  "I hate the fucking jungle."

A jeep squealed to a stop a few feet away.  The driver wore well-washed khakis, aviator sunglasses and a battered Panama hat.  Captain's bars flashed on his collar points.  Infanteer braced up and started to salute.  The man laughed and handed over a cold beer.

"Forget that nonsense.  The rank is just for show."

Monk walked up behind Infanteer.  "Jeezus Jones!" he cried.  "It's Old Guy!  Now I know I want out of this chicken outfit."  The faux captain shook his head and handed over a beer.

"Good to see you, Monk.  Welcome to task force B-12."  Old Guy took off his sunglasses and squinted at the motley group clambering out of the bomber.  He handed Infanteer a bottle opener.  "Not really traveling incognito, eh?  Wouldn't plain utilities have attracted less attention?"

The marines were all dressed alike -- in blue coveralls decorated with a large "P" on the back.

"It was the only thing that damn quartermaster at Guantanamo would sell us," growled Infanteer.  "And the bastard charged us $7.15 each for the damned things."  He gulped down half his beer and laughed.  "This pays for part of that, but not all."

It was Old Guy's turn to laugh.  "I heard about your escapades in Cuba.  If I hadn't grabbed you for this mission, you'd be on your way to Portsmouth by now."  He shrugged.  "I have utilities and lots of other gear for you.  The locals aren't very fashion conscious.  We can probably sell the coveralls to them."

Bobbit arrived on the tarmac with a groan.  He slumped to his hands and knees.  "Christ, we made it."  Suddenly, he squealed with pain and scrambled to his feet.  "Hot!  It's hot!  The damn ground is hot!  And the fucking air is like an oven!"  Blinking owlishly, he fixed on Old Guy.  "Where in hell are we?"

Old Guy tossed him a beer.  "Not in Hell, but near enough -- near enough.  You're at Secret Airbase #9, somewhere in northern Brazil."

"Brazil?"  Danjanou looked thoughtful, like a man about to fart.  The others shuffled back.  But instead of venting gas, he asked:  "Ain't that where they make brazil nuts?"

"No," said Zoomie.  "Any moron knows them nuts is growed on trees."

"I ain't a moron!  I just meant that brazil nuts comes from here.  COMES FROM -- not necessarily put together in some factory or nothin'.  Jeez, Zoomie."

"Shut up, you two!" roared Infanteer.  He winged his empty bottle toward the nearby jungle.  "We ain't here to learn about goddamn nuts."  A sly smile touched his face.  "Besides, back in Alabama we grow peanuts.  And them babies grow in the ground."

"Sheeeit," muttered Danjanou.  "There ain't no call to shovel crap that deep."

A haggard lieutenant in sweat-stained khakis leaned out of the aircraft hatch.  "You done with us, Captain?  If you are, we got to fuel this thing and go."

"Take off," said Old Guy.  "We have our own transport for the next leg."

The disheveled officer gave a half-hearted salute and vanished inside the elderly bomber.

"Good God!" exclaimed Old Guy.  "I knew the Air Corps was graduating young pilots, but that clown looked to have got out of junior high last week.  I'll bet the B-18 is older than he is."

"You shoulda seen the co-pilot," said Infanteer.  "Looked like that one's baby brother."  He eyed Old Guy speculatively.  "I'd kill for a cigar."

"Let's go inside," suggested Old Guy.  He pointed to a low wooden building shrouded by tall trees.  "I have everything you need -- including cigars.  I got those black, crooked ones you like so much -- the kind that smell like burning dog shit."  He dodged Infanteer's fist.  "You can also change outta your prison clothes.  I think the ladies will like you better in jeans and shirts."

"Women?"  Zoomie's face began to glow red.  "Here in the jungle?"

"Yeah."  Old Guy gestured at a pair of monkeys in a nearby tree.  "There's a couple now."

"Goddamn it!" yelled Infanteer.  "Stop that crap!  You know how he is.  He believes you."

"Sorry, Zoomie."  The old bastard didn't look very contrite.  "There's a small town about ten miles away.  We'll eat in a cantina there.  The place does have women, but they mostly run to half-ton models with moustaches and bad tempers."

"Dang," muttered Danjanou.  "Sounds like home."

Monk nodded.  "Yeah.  It do, don't it?"

Conversation lapsed as the B-18 cranked up and began taxiing across the field toward a set of fuel tanks. 

"There goes our last chance to escape," lamented Bobbit.  "We can still catch a ride back to Guantanamo and whitewash rocks for Major Blunt."

"Forget Blunt," said Infanteer.  "He'd probably use you for bayonet practice."  He glanced at Old Guy.  "Why ain't you pretending to be a major or even a colonel?"

Old Guy shrugged.  "The Army has a million or so captains.  All I needed was a decent set of orders and enough brass to make people read 'em.  Besides, nobody pays any attention to a major and folks tend to remember a colonel."

Infanteer nodded.  "And a lieutenant's bar would be useless.  Every NCO knows your average lieutenant ain't smart enough to come in out of the rain."

"It's true," said Old Guy.  "That's why so many of 'em become paratroopers and marines."

Before anyone could object to his remark another plane droned across the airfield and began a wide left turn, apparently intent on landing.  One propeller stood motionless.  An engine on the opposite side was sputtering and popping.

"Christ," said Bobbit.  "What the hell is that thing?  Those guys are in trouble."

"I hope they make it," said Monk.

Old Guy shaded his eyes and studied the cripple.  "I don't know.  It might be better if they don't."

Infanteer looked around in surprise.  "What in hell do you mean by that?"

"That's a Stirling -- a British bomber.  An obsolete bomber, to be exact."  Old Guy watched as the plane lined up for landing.  The sputtering engine quit running.  "They belong to us."

The men gaped at the struggling bomber.

Zoomie gulped and stuttered.  "They -- they sent that wreck to take us -- take us wherever it is we're going?"

"That's your ride."

Ch 8 -- Office of Special Services, Washington, DC

Reggie Lackwitte, Sub-director, Analysis Department, Latin American Division (SADLAD), hesitated outside Assistant Director Milo Pinchbeck's office door.  He glanced down at his shirt.  No crumbs or coffee stains.  A brief touch told him his tie was properly centered.  From within the office a rasping voice sounded, freezing Reggie like a spotlighted deer.  His heart thumped and sweat beaded his brow.  Harsh laughter floated over the transom.  Ice congealed in his gut.

"This is stupid," he snarled, careful to keep the words too low for Mavis to hear.  "I'm a Sub-director.  I should just stride in there and go directly to Milo's door.  And on the way I ought to order that old witch to fetch coffee for me and the Assistant Director."  Anger made him brave -- for three or four seconds, tops.  He slumped against the wall, trembling.  Thankfully, no one else walked by in the minute or two it took him to recover from his brush with courage.

Only a fool crossed Pinchbeck's secretary, Mavis Dour.  A hatchet-faced woman of indeterminate years, she guarded Milo's door as if it led directly into the gold repository at Fort Knox.  Even the Director himself went out of his way to be polite to the old termagant.

Reggie completed another critical self inspection and entered the outer office.  With terror in his heart and a smile pasted on his face, he approached the guardian within.

"Morning, Mavis.  Is Assistant Director Pinchbeck in?  I need a trifling few moments of his time to -- ah, to -- "  Under the harridan's malignant one-eyed gaze, Reggie's memory went AWOL.  He stammered for a long, long interval before a chance motion brought the file he was carrying into view.  Of course!  Operation Nut Buster!  " -- to report on the progress of an operation we have -- um, we have in progress."  Mercifully, at that point his tongue ceased to function.

Mavis had a habit of touching her eye patch as she spoke.  Strong men laughed at the rumor that the black patch covered a red-veined evil eye.  Reggie stood frozen, waiting for her to lift the thing and blast him in his tracks.  Instead, Mavis extended one spidery arm and flipped through her desk calendar.  She sneered and spoke.  "You don't have an appointment."

"Um . . ."  Naturally, Reggie had no appointment.  He tried to think of an excuse, a plausible reason for his presence in Mavis Dour's office.  For a wild moment he considered marching right into Milo's office, but elementary caution prevailed.  Though cadaverous in appearance, Mavis consistently slaughtered all opposition in hand-to-hand combat refresher training.  On the pistol range, she always ranked in the top 10% of all OSS staff shooters.  The Top Shooter trophy eluded her only because those rounds which did not impact in the silhouette target's cranium struck at crotch level -- which counted as a miss according to competition rules.

Mavis stroked the butt of a .45 automatic slung in a shoulder holster under her left arm and considered her quaking victim.  Finally, with a sigh and a regal nod of her iron gray head, she gave him permission to proceed.

"Mr. Pinchbeck is awaiting news an operation of yours that seems to be going seriously astray."  Her smile would have shamed a cobra.  "Go right in."

Milo Pinchbeck, Assistant Director, Orphan Operations (ASSDOO), frowned as Reggie entered his office.  He touched a file folder.

"I hoped to see you today, Reggie.  Reports have arrived which suggest that your Operation Nut Job has come apart."  He flipped the folder open.  "An air crash in Brazil.  A dearth of communication with your agent in Guadeloupe."  Milo sat back.  "And no one seems to know where your marines -- your assault force -- might have gotten to."

"Ah . . ."  Reggie sank into a chair  He opened his own folder and produced a single message form.  "Ah -- the air crash I knew about, sir.  Apparently the Brits sent an old bomber -- a Smerling or Spirling -- something like that.  It would appear the crew members were gutter scrapings and drunks, if not enemy agents.  The plane crashed on arrival in Brazil."

Milo shook his head.  "I really thought you'd handle this better, Reggie.  What about your agent in Guadeloupe?  According to the Message Center, we've heard nothing from him for a week."

Reggie's voice cracked as he tried to laugh.  "The weather, sir.  Rain.  Wind.  Cable stations out of service.  No phones."

"And apparently this Majoor person was sent down without a backup radio?"

"Well . . ."  Reggie had asked for radio equipment for agent Majoor and Milo himself had denied that request, but to bring that up now would be tantamount to professional suicide.

"Where are your marines?  Surely you haven't managed to lose a whole platoon?"

Reggie held up the message form.  "No, sir.  It's merely a squad and they're not lost.  The Air Corps pilot who flew them from Cuba reports that he delivered the men to the ramp at Secret Airbase #9."  He peered at the form.  "An Army captain took them in charge.  The pilot doesn't give the officer's name.  Some airbase staff officer, I suppose."

"No name?  That's odd.  Not even a code name?"

"Well -- none I'm aware of, sir.  The pilot says he left the marines with a captain he describes as an old guy."

Milo gasped and the color drained from his face.  Reggie glanced around in alarm.  "What is it, sir?  You didn't have the perch at lunch did you?  I knew that fish smelled bad."

"An old guy?"  Milo took out a handkerchief and mopped his suddenly damp forehead.  "Or maybe someone named Old Guy?"

"Old Guy?"  Reggie examined the message.  "Could be.  Do you know an Old Guy?"

"Do I know an Old Guy?"  ASSDOO laughed.  His voice cracked and he began to weep.  Reggie got up and began to ease his way out.  Milo stopped him with a raised hand.

"Find those marines!" he snarled.  "Try to get in contact with agent Majoor.  Cancel the mission."  Milo stood up.  "Cancel the mission!"

"What if I can't reach Majoor, sir?  What if -- what if the marines are already on their way?"

Assistant Director Pinchbeck sat down slowly, considering.  "I'll teach that bastard," he said finally.  "I'll teach him to meddle in my affairs."

"Who?  What bastard?"  Reggie was hopelessly at sea.

"Old Guy.  I've run into him before."  Milo nodded, as if he'd reached a decision.  "Let me know if you manage to call off Majoor and the marines, Reggie.  If not -- well, I'll have to send in our ultimate weapon."

"Ultimate weapon, sir?  I didn't know we had one."

"Of course.  Every decent spy agency has an ultimate weapon."  Milo nodded toward the door.  "Ours is in the outer office."

Reggie's guts turned to water.  "Mavis?"  He felt sick.  "You can't be serious, sir!  That has to be against the Geneva Convention.  It would be inhumane, sir!"

"Nevertheless . . ."  ASSDOO smiled.  "Besides -- Old Guy isn't human.  I have evidence . . ."

"But . . ."  Reggie sank back into a chair.  "Mavis?"


Ch 9 -- Secret Airbase #9

Infanteer finished his beer and tossed the empty bottle into a tin bucket sitting in a corner of the screened porch built onto the back of Old Guy's building.  The clattering noise touched off a ripple of bird calls, monkey screeches, other unidentifiable sounds.  Inch opened the screen door and peered out.

"Oh," he said.  "It's you, Sergeant.  I thought perhaps one of the bigger jungle creatures was trying to batter his way in."

"I was just about to start on a fresh beer, sir.  And you can call me Infanteer, unless that goes against some sort of piss-assed British regulation."

Inch chuckled and sat down.  "Most of the things I do seem to offend some British sod or tweak a bleeding regulation."

The scrawny marine fished two more beers out of a bucket.  One or two bits of ice still floated in the water.  The kitchen area of the building held two ice boxes.  Every morning Tito, an erect, slow moving old man, drove a well-used Ford pickup in under a towering tree and began to unload supplies and ice.  With him was Yolanda, a fussy woman of indeterminate age, apparently his wife.  While he plodded back and forth between truck and kitchen, she bustled about, starting breakfast, and all the while kept up a screeching commentary.  As far as Infanteer could tell, the old man never said a word.  But the food was excellent and the beer plentiful.

The leftover ice from the previous day was broken into chunks and used to cool beer.  So far Infanteer approved of Operation Nut Buster, though he expected events to become less comfortable once the marines actually started to do whatever it was they were to do.

Inch evidently felt likewise.  He accepted a beer.  "Old Guy has a slick operation going here.  Too bad we can't finish out the war with our feet up, drinking beer."

"I'll drink to that," said Infanteer, raising his bottle in mock salute.  "I plan to keep emptying bottles as long as possible, though I expect to finish with my feet level with my head."  He grinned at Inch's confused expression.  "The Marine Corps will probably make sure my casket is placed on even keel.  They're big on crap like that."

Inch laughed and drank off part of his beer.  "As to that, I expect the same, though I'll probably end up as fish food or bait for those big damn desert vultures."

"Here now," said Old Guy, stepping out of the main building.  He took a seat and paused to light a cigar.  "What's all this grave talk?"

The sergeant and I were discussing post-war plans," said Inch.  "So far, we've focused on small plots of ground."

Old Guy swatted at a stray mosquito.  Despite well maintained screening and an arsenal of bug bombs, an occasional biting insect managed to gain access to the interior.

"Damn it, Infanteer!  Light up one of those horrible cigars of yours."  Old Guy grinned at Inch.  "He thinks I keep him around for his soldierly skills -- but it's really because those vile Haitian cigars will kill most bugs at twenty paces.  I can't get anyone else to smoke 'em."

"Rave on, you bastard."  Infanteer produced a crooked, black cigar.  "As it happens, I was just about to light one up.  An evening in the jungle isn't complete without monkeys, screeching birds, hungry insects and a good smoke."

"Don't forget high explosives, whistling bullets, and mud up to your ass," said Old Guy.

"Ah."  Inch stared into the darkening jungle.  "Our stay at Camp Old Guy is about to end?"

"It is.  We move out tomorrow."  Old Guy looked at Inch.  "Duey has been wrapped around a bottle for the last three days.  Should we just leave him behind?"

"No.  Duey is always sucking up booze, but . . ."  Inch paused.  "No.  If there's going to be any action -- he'll want in on it."  He shook his head and produced a short, humorless laugh.  "Old Duey is no better than the rest of us.  Too stupid to stay back -- no matter what."

"Well, you better start drying him out.  Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Sainte Lucia, an island about a hundred miles south of Guadeloupe.  From there we'll go via ship, then small boat to the target."  He nodded toward Infanteer.  "Yes.  The target is on Basse-Terre, one of the main islands making up Guadeloupe."

Infanteer shrugged.  "The staff puke that met us at Guantanamo said something about Guadeloupe, but he didn't know anything about the mission itself."

Old Guy sighed.  "He shouldn't have known anything at all.  Our security sucks.  If I didn't have my own sources on Guadeloupe, I'd call this thing off."

"Since when do you work for OSS?" asked Infanteer.  "I thought you were hooked up with Army CID or something like that."

"I don't work for OSS.  In fact, those chuckle-heads are probably looking all over for you and your intrepid warriors.  I sort of hijacked you and the mission.  It's too important to leave it to Milo Pinchbeck and his chair-bound drones."

Infanteer eyed the graying old fart who'd gotten him and his marines into -- and out of -- a good many dire situations.  He decided not to ask who Old Guy really worked for.  For one thing, he had no Need to Know.  For another, he was certain the bastard would lie.

For his part, Old Guy had long ago forgotten much of his own legend.  Certain parties in State Department Intelligence thought he worked for them, as did their counterparts in various Army and Navy intelligence departments.  He had his own financial resources and knew who to contact for any needed equipment.  Someday, when the war was over, he'd have to do a little backtracking -- investigate himself, as it were -- and try to find out who he really was.  But that was for later.  Right now he had a submarine re-supply base to eradicate.

Inch stood up.  "I'd better go see about weaning Duey off his bloody bottle."

Old Guy held up a hand.  "Hang on a minute.  I'll get into details in the morning, but you two will be flying us to Sainte Lucia in a Lockheed 14 -- a Super Electra.  How much time will you need to get up to speed on the bird?"

"An hour or so.  No more than that.  The Brits bought model 14s for maritime patrol.  I flew one out of Halifax for six months before being exiled to the desert."

"How about Duey?"

Inch shook his head.  "He was a Hurricane driver in 40 and 41.  We've been crewing Mossies for over a year.  He'll have no problem with the Lockheed."

"Good."  Old Guy grinned.  "I had no control over the transport our reliable British allies sent out for this mission, since all that was arranged by OSS.  Now that we're sort of making up our tactics as we go, I'm glad you two showed up, even if it was to crash the air ship."

"That was a good thing," said Infanteer.  "From what Inch's told us, the plane was a lumbering deathtrap."  He patted Inch's arm.  "I'm damn glad you forgot to crank the gear down."

"Not getting the gear down was the least of our worries at the time."  Inch shuddered as he remembered the crash.  "I was flying and Duey was trying to switch fuel valves so we could keep at least two engines running.  He would have finished that in time to pump the wheels down if . . ."  The ugly little Canadian actually blushed.  ". . . if he hadn't seen a gremlin."

"A gremlin?"  Old Guy chuckled.  "Did he really see one?"

Inch lifted his shoulders.  "Who knows?  He said it was blue, with glaring red eyes.  Duey ended up under the nav table, screaming.  He hadn't had a drop of booze since Egypt, but sometimes the things that come out of whiskey bottles don't show up until after one is mostly sober."  He spoke as if from experience.

"Well . . ."  Old Guy pondered for a moment.  "They do have bluish sort of skin.  And the red eyes are common to ordinary gremlins."

"Shit," growled Infanteer.  He drained his beer and pitched it toward the corner.  "I'm outta here.  Next thing you know, this bastard will be telling us he's the personal friend of all sorts of devils and demons."

"Come on, man.  I've told you a hundred times -- I know a bunch of the Fallen -- but it's not like we're fishing buddies or anything like that."

Old Guy found himself speaking to empty air.  Evidently, neither Inch nor Infanteer wished to discuss demonic creatures and the physical characteristics thereof.

"Hell."  The ancient one finished his own beer and ground out his cigar, keeping the stub for later.  "Try to bring some enlightenment to the conversation and look what you get."

The jungle fell silent.  A heavy tread sounded, as if from all directions.  Up above, a monkey whimpered once.  Old Guy listened for a moment, then reached for the door.  He muttered a brief sentence in a tongue old when Adam left the Garden.

Unseen in the towering canopy, a parrot uttered an answering phrase.

"What was that?" asked Inch, as Old Guy walked toward the front of the building. 

"Nothing.  An old gray parrot.  Nothing to worry about."

Inch sat on the edge of his bunk and mechanically began arranging the mosquito netting.  He wanted to ask how Old Guy knew the parrot was gray.  The words stuck in his throat.

The parrot spoke once more, he thought, but it was hard to be sure.  The sound mixed in with all the renewed screeching of monkeys and various night creatures.

Inch shrugged.  Whatever it was, he probably didn't have the Need to Know.


Old Guy

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Ch 10 -- Vichy Police HQ, Sainte Poutine

A silent police corporal led agent Majoor past a dour-faced desk sergeant and into the bowels of Sainte Poutine Vichy Police HQ.  The corporal stopped at an open office door, rapped on the frame, and motioned Majoor inside, all without uttering a sound.

Inspector Infidel glanced up as Majoor eased into the office.

"Good afternoon, senor Majoor."  The Inspector indicated a chair.  "Please to have a seat.  You would like coffee?  Whiskey?  Cigar?"

"Coffee, please."  Majoor sat gingerly in the chair, unsure of the situation.  Infidel's summons had been cryptic, to say the least.  A uniformed soldier strode up to his table at the Dead Horse Bar & Grill and delivered what was obviously a memorized speech.  "Inspector say come."

Not knowing what else to do, Majoor got up and followed the man out of the bar.  And here he was, sitting in the Inspector's office, watching the silent corporal pour coffee. 

Not until the man left, closing the door as he went, did Infidel say anything further.  Then he simply pushed a sheet of paper toward Majoor and said, "Message comes."

Again, the text was in block letters, like a child might print.  It occurred to Majoor that whoever copied it down must have done so phonetically.  Few people in Sainte Poutine spoke English.

Under the usual address information it read:





Infidel smiled when Majoor looked up.  "Spy boss panic?  Run scared?"

"Spy boss panic.  When did this come in?"

"An hour.  Less maybe."  Infidel frowned.  "Message in clear.  No code."

Agent Majoor's heart performed it's slam-bang routine.  "Not in code?  But -- that means . . ."

"Everybody read."  The Inspector looked glum, as if he was disappointed -- or . . .

Majoor tossed the paper back on the desk.  "What's the matter?  You out some money?  Can't sell stuff anyone can read, eh?"

Infidel must have expected the remark.  "No.  I sell no messages."  He had trouble finding the right words.  "Sell messages both ways -- get throat cut.  Sell one way -- lose customer."  A grin creased his ugly face.  "No customer -- no dinero."

"Shit."  Majoor nodded in agreement.  He should have seen that for himself.  The Inspector made sure each party knew he was reading their mail, but never took sides.  He made his money in bigger ways.  A sudden thought struck the OSS man.  Where did Infidel obtain codes?  He sighed inwardly and sipped his coffee.  No way the Inspector was going to reveal his source.

"What happen now?"

Majoor shrugged.  "I'll try to find the missing marines.  Scrub the mission.  Hell, I don't know.  Those morons at headquarters never sent me enough information.  I don't know squat."

"Marines land far south.  Plane crash, but marines okay."  Infidel frowned and shook his head.  "You wait.  Eat, drink, have woman.  Things happen.  You wait."

Further questioning elicited no more information.  "You wait," was all Infidel would say.

Not far away, in a room over a local witch doctor's office, two uniformed men sat watching Vichy Police headquarters.

"Ach, Schultzie" said one, a Kreigsmarine leutnant by his uniform, but actually an Abwehr major named Edwin Quagmire.  "The Ami looks like his lunch didn't suit him.  Or maybe the Inspector fed him bad coffee?"

The other, a portly feldwebel, chuckled.  "Jawohl, herr major."

"Gott Verdamnt, Schultzie!  You must call me 'Leutnant'.  That fool Infidel may have figured out that I'm an intelligence officer, but he can't know I'm Abwehr.  Not yet."  Ostensibly a naval officer assigned to procure food supplies for U-boats, Quagmire delegated all that drudgery to Schultz and concentrated on what he saw as his primary job -- skulking around in a spy-like manner and flirting with the local females.

Schultz made a non-committal grunt.  In his experience, no leutnant ever swaggered about like Quagmire did -- except for Gestapo types, of course.  Luckily, none of those were around or their little operation would already be history.  Though an ugly bastard and a degenerate Frenchie to boot, Inspector Infidel didn't seem to be blind or stupid.

Quagmire stood up.  "The Ami have screwed their left foots off, Schultzie.  They have blown up.  We have their tomatoes in a vise."  The ersatz leutnant loved American gangster movies and persisted in mangling their already tattered syntax.  Schultz just nodded and repeated the mandatory, "Jawohl."

"Come on," said Quagmire, adjusting his monocle to just the right angle.  "Let's go down and toot our hornswoggle.  Agent Majoor will be drowning his flatfoots in beer.  We'll stroll in like duck soup.  He won't know what tickled his fancy."

"Jawohl, mein maj -- er, mein leutnant.  But I have to visit the market.  Another boat will be here tomorrow night."  Schultz did have marketing to do, but his real reason for abandoning the major was that all this talk of tomatoes, beer and duck soup had set his stomach to rumbling.

Quagmire was feeling magnanimous.  "Always duty first, eh, Schultzie?  Well, off with you then.  Now that we know our old friend Milo and that upstart Lackwitte are heebie-jeebie dancing, we can relax.  Their marines are lost and Milo is pulling up skirt.  It will be a month -- maybe two months before we have to worry about moving."

"Jawohl, herr maj -- leutnant."

Majoor was leaning on the bar drinking one of the not-bad local beers when Quagmire swaggered in.  Majoor turned away, but to no avail.  The little shit tucked his ridiculous high-crowned cap under one arm, adjusted his monocle, and waltzed on over.  Agent Majoor smiled, though he feared his face might crack under the strain.

"Mr. Majoor," cried Quagmire.  "How good to see you."

Majoor mumbled something insincere and barely audible.

"What's the matter?"  Quagmire gestured grandly.  "Bartender!  A fresh beer for my friend."  He beamed at three locals sitting nearby.  "My old pal is up a lazy river with no tomato."

The natives sat mute.  Majoor giggled.

Quagmire frowned.  Maybe further explanation was needed.  "He's taken to wooden pickles."

The natives turned back to their brandy and cigarettes.

Majoor seemed vastly amused. 

Quagmire dismissed the locals with a gesture.  "Jive hockeys."

Ch 11 -- Secret Airbase #9

"That guy really a colonel?"  Infanteer's question brought a smile to Old Guy's face.  The guy in question was Colonel Cristobal Ruxpin, a short, round character wearing the uniform of the Brazilian Air Force.  The colonel stood in the back of an immaculate Chevy pickup watching Infanteer's marines load gear aboard a tired looking Lockheed Super Electra.  Each vertical stabilizer sported a green palm tree over Carib Cargo lettering.

"My understanding is that the rank is honorary," said Old Guy.  "In recognition of his many services to the Brazilian state."

Ruxpin frowned when he heard the marine sergeant's sudden laughter.  He climbed carefully down from the truck, paused to straighten his tunic, then marched over to where Old Guy and Infanteer stood.  He acknowledged their salutes with the casual flick of his swagger stick.

He eyed Infanteer with suspicion, but spoke to Old Guy.  "You will take good care of my aircraft?  I did not like the looks of your two pilots.  Perhaps I ought to lend you mine?"

"Not necessary, sir.  My men had a hard time getting here."  Old Guy indicated the Stirling wreck, barely visible just inside the edge of the jungle.  "It took exemplary airmanship to bring the aircraft in at all, much less to survive the crash."

The colonel twirled the ends of his formidable handlebar moustache and nodded.  "Still -- the offer stands, Renaldo.  I wouldn't wish to tax your pilots too much after such a severe affair."

The discussion went on in that vein for several minutes.  The Colonel kept insisting that his pilots knew the route, the weather, the airplane, even the configuration of the stars in the night sky better than Inch and Duey possibly could.  Old Guy refused to budge, though he kept his refusals polite and mildly worded.  Infanteer began to wonder what was going on.  Eventually, Ruxpin took his leave, promising further aid if needed.

"What was that all about," asked Infanteer as the Colonel's pickup left the airfield.  "Why didn't you want to use his pilots?"

"His men would naturally report all they observe while driving us around," said Old Guy.  "And one or two might be in bed with Brazilian Intelligence or even the FBI.  J. Edgar's lads are down here in force, you know, trying to win the war in South America."

"Okay.  I can see why you want to use our own pilots.  But who is this Ruxpin?  And why was he willing to help you?"

Inch approached in time to hear Infanteer's questions.  "The Sergeant speaks for me, as well.  Can we trust the Colonel?"

Old Guy shrugged.  "Trust him?  Probably -- provided our operation doesn't interfere with his business interests."  He paused to light a cigar.  "Carib Cargo is a working operation, consisting of half a dozen cargo ships and three or four planes.  Besides the Lockheed, I think he has a Boeing 247 and a couple other cargo aircraft.  His ships and planes haul cargo on various routes in the Caribbean."

"That can't be all," said Infanteer.  "You don't get to be an honorary colonel in anyone's army just carrying boxes and bales from point A to point B."

"Who says Marines are dumb?" asked Old Guy.  "Carib Cargo handles certain -- shall we say 'sensitive' cargos -- both for himself and for the Brazilian government."

"Sensitive cargo?" mused Inch.  "Whiskey, cigarettes, maybe guns?"

"Maybe guns," agreed Old Guy.  "Tax policies are more than a little confusing in this part of the world.  Goods free of tax in one place is heavily taxed in another -- sometimes just a short plane ride away.  It's a situation tailor made for smugglers."

"I get the picture," said Infanteer.  "I've been involved in operations in this area before.  Ruxpin pays off the local politicians.  That keeps them out of his smuggling business.  He makes room for arms and ammunition for the government -- probably stuff coming in from sources not friendly with Uncle Sam."

"Bloody hell!  I hate politics."  Inch groaned.  "Have we seen the last of the Colonel?"

"I hope so," said Old Guy.  "But the plane is his and so is the ship we'll use for the approach to Basse-Terre.  He's reliable, in his way, but I try not to trust him too far."

"That leaves just one question," said Infanteer.  "Why is he so eager to help you?  Do you have pals in Brazilian Intelligence?"

"I have lots of friends," said Old Guy, a trifle stiffly.  "But friendship doesn't enter into it."  He held up a business card.  It named one Renaldo Cruz as President of Chino Oil.  "This outfit buys oil from the Colonel.  Certain special arrangements create tax advantages for both parties."

Inch examined the card carefully.  "And this Renaldo guy is a pal of yours?"

Infanteer chuckled and tapped Old Guy on the chest.  "Just before you came up the Colonel called this old relic 'Renaldo'."

"The Colonel thinks you're Renaldo?"  Inch frowned and ran a hand through his hair.  "Or am I missing something?"

"Renaldo Cruz is Old Guy," said Infanteer.  He eyed the old fart.  "Is it an alias?  Or are you really the president of an oil company?"

Old Guy dropped his cigar and stepped on it.  "If you check the government records in a certain Central American country, you'll find that Chino Oil is properly established under the laws of that country.  Renaldo Cruz is president and chairman."  He nodded toward the Lockheed.  "Your lads have finished loading.  I think we should have a final dinner, conduct a mission brief and then get out of here."

Infanteer sighed.  Old Guy wasn't going to explain anything he didn't have to.

"I wish you wouldn't use words like that," said Inch.

"Like what?"

"Final.  It has such a -- a final ring to it."

Bobbit watched the three men approach.  "Your timing is perfect.  We just finished loading."

"You have a fine sense of the obvious," snarled Infanteer.

"Indeed he does," agreed Old Guy.  "In fact, I think we should make him a corporal."

"A corporal!" cried Infanteer.  "He hasn’t been in the Corps long enough to be a PFC.  Why, when I was a pup it took ten years to reach corporal."

"It's a new Corps," said Old Guy.  "You may have noticed that there's a war on.  You need a second in command and Bobbit can read and write."

Bobbit backed away, shaking his head.  "I don't wanna be a corporal."

"Too bad," said Infanteer, amused by Bobbit's plight.  "Your country calls."

"Dang!  What gave me away?"

"Yesterday," said Old Guy, "when you were reading those old 'G8' comics, you weren't moving your lips.  And you didn't use your finger to keep your place -- not even when the dialogue ran to a couple sentences."

"Hell," mourned Bobbit.  "I knew going beyond the fifth grade was a bad idea."

Ch 12 -- Aboard the Tramp Steamer, "Sans Culottes"

Inch stepped from his cabin and hurriedly closed the door.  He spotted Old Guy further aft, leaning on the rail. 

"Duey is no bleedin' sailor.  I had to clear out before I started puking."

"Neither is Infanteer.  I got out when he threatened to kill me if I lit up another cigar.  Funny.  I always thought marines were seagoing types.  How are you doing?"

Inch shrugged.  "Never been seasick.  I can't feature Duey turning green so fast.  The lad has ridden a Mosquito through air so rough we feared for the bloody wings an' he never had a problem.  We ain't clear of the harbor yet and he's spewing food he ate last week."

"It must be partly psychological," said Old Guy.  He nodded back toward the dock.  "Harbor's as smooth as glass.  Once we clear the breakwater it will get rougher.  This is a small ship."

"Aye, that it is.  But it ain't what I expected."  Inch glanced forward.  "I suppose that single 40mm mount is for protection from pirates?"

Old Guy chuckled.  "A suspicious sort, aren't you?  Did you also notice the mounts for machine guns just aft of that forty?  And I saw two more back beside the funnel."

"I saw 'em."  Inch paused to light a cigarette.  "Our cabins are comfortable.  These blighters must carry passengers fairly often."

"I'm sure they do.  The ship is maybe 250 tons -- twice the size I thought it might be.  Everything is clean and in good order.  You been down to the engineering spaces?"

"The engine room?  Yeah.  Reminded me of a destroyer I toured once.  Only this thing has newer equipment -- or that's how it looked to me."

"That's how it struck me, as well.  This thing is sort of a pocket destroyer."  Old Guy pointed aft, past the funnel, where a large boat lay under canvas.  "Have you had a look at the whaleboat?"

"Aye.  Raul, the sailor who'll operate it, gave me a bloody good briefing.  He spoke English better than Duey and he knows his business.  It's got a heavily muffled diesel engine and plenty of power for our little upriver trip."

"Can you run it if you have to?  I want you and Duey to stay with Raul all the time.  No way I want to finish the job and find him and the boat gone."

"We'll make sure the blighter doesn't take off."  Inch frowned.  "You don't really trust Ruxpin and his merry band, do you?"

"No."  Old Guy tossed his cigar butt overboard.  "This is too good a rig for mere smuggling.  It has holds fore and aft, but they're small.  I can't help but think that the Colonel is working for an outfit with more money than Brazilian Intelligence."

"Who would that be?  Do we care?"

"I don't care as long as whatever he's up to doesn't interfere with our mission."  Old Guy gazed out at the long swells.  "As to who Ruxpin's paymaster might be -- I'd put the FBI at the head of the list.  Office of Naval Intelligence, maybe.  Our guys have a bad habit of not telling anyone when they set up an operation."  He shrugged.  "The Brits -- possibly.  Could even be one of the German outfits, maybe in conjunction with Vichy."

"The French?  I thought their intelligence services would be out of business."

"No.  Co-opted by the Germans.  You'd be surprised."

The ship entered the open ocean and began to pitch and sway in a determined fashion.  Wails of dismay erupted from the cabins.

"Listen to that," said Old Guy.  "It's like a chorus.  A misery chorus."

"Are all the lads sick?"

"All but Bobbit.  I think he's down in the engine room, teaching the chief engineer how to play five-card draw."

"That could get bloody expensive.  I've never met a sailor who couldn't play every card game known to the human race."

"Me neither.  They all cheat, too.  It got so bad during the Great King's invasion of . . ."  Old Guy broke off and shook his head.  "Never mind.  Old memories."  He looked up at the smoke rolling aft and spreading across the sea, then checked his watch.  "We'll be in position to launch the boat in about nine hours.  Let's hope the poor wretches are in better shape by then."

"What's the plan for after?" asked Inch.  "After the mission?"

"We run the whaleboat back out of the river and hope Ruxpin's guys haven't gone off without us.  They're supposed to drop us off in Barbados.  You go back to -- to wherever you want.  I imagine North Africa isn't high on your travel destination list?"

"No."  Inch thought of his brother-in-law, Colonel Wanker-Smythe.  "There's a sod in Egypt I'd just as soon avoid, if possible."

"Maybe I can get you assigned to the States for awhile.  Or sent back to Canada.  I owe you for flying us to Sainte Lucia."

Inch snorted and shook his head.  "You owe us nothing for that jaunt.  The Super Electra was a vacation after flying that bloody Stirling across the Atlantic."

"Well, the offer stands."  Old Guy stared at the covered whaleboat.  "Of course, that's assuming I'm still around to keep my promises.  You may end up reporting my sad demise."  He grinned.  "At least, I think a few ladies might be sad.  Certain bureaucrats in the OSS and elsewhere will want to know just one thing -- if you're sure the old sonofabitch is really, really dead."

Inch held up a hand.  "Wait a bit, guv.  Let me find a pad and pencil."

"Why?  You want to take down my last will and testament?  Forget it.  I keep one on file in half a dozen locations.  Just in case."

"No.  To hell with your last will.  I want the names and addresses of the ladies you mentioned."


Old Guy

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Ch 13 -- Dead Horse Bar & Grill

OSS Agent Majoor stepped through the front door and froze.  He'd never seen the Dead Horse so filled with people.  Sailors, U-boat crewmen from the look of them, crowded the bar and congregated around most of the tables.  Save one.

Inspector Infidel raised a hand and motioned for Majoor to join him at that table.  Two German naval officers sat with the diminutive Vichy policeman.  One wore a monocle and an immaculate white uniform.  The other looked to have just crawled out of a train wreck.  Neither looked on the OSS man with approval.

Infidel stood as Majoor approached, forcing the Germans to do likewise.  He touched the monocled officer's arm.  "Mr. Majoor, have you met Leutnant Quagmire?  He handle local stuff for German navy."  The man in question gave a sharp nod and sat down.

"And here is Kapitan von Garvin, commander of U-201, undersea boat now visiting our neutral island."  Infidel emphasized the word 'neutral'.  The Kapitan offered his hand and smiled, though with obvious effort.

Majoor had barely settled into a chair when the waiter appeared.  "Beer for American pal," ordered Infidel.  "And more for me and Germans."  The drinks appeared with startling speed, considering the usual Sainte Poutine approach to customer service.

It's good to be the chief inspector, thought Majoor.  He raised his beer.  "Thank you, Inspector.  Peace be on the island of Guadeloupe -- "  He grinned at the two Germans.  " -- at least out to the three mile limit."

"Ach," muttered Quagmire.  "Must we tolerate the presence of a US State Department spy?  He'll nickel and dime us."

"I'm not a State Department spy!" cried Majoor.  "I'm an OSS spy!"  He frowned.  "Oops."

The submarine captain looked puzzled.  "OSS?  I have not heard of this agency."

"A recent addition to the Ami stable of intelligence bureaus," gloated Quagmire.  "As Herr Majoor has so obligingly pointed out.  He's a roscoe of the west."

"Well . . ."  Majoor cast about for a suitable comeback.  "Well, you're no naval officer, either, are you Captain Quagmire?"  He twisted his face into what he hoped was a credible sneer.  "Captain Quagmire of the Abwehr."

Now it was Quagmire's turn to sneer.  "Your information is out of date, Herr Majoor of the OSS.  I was promoted major two months ago!  Powder your glad rags, Joe. "

"Hah!"  Majoor wondered if Quagmire was speaking in code.  He gave up on his sneer and assumed a benevolent expression.  "Thank you.  My information is now current."

Quagmire's face sagged.  His monocle plunked to the table.  "Schweinhund!" he hissed.  "You're nothing but a miserable -- a rotten no-good chair pigeon!"

Infidel made dismissive gesture.  "Now boys.  You on neutral ground.  No calling names and bad talk."  He glared at Quagmire, then at Majoor.  "Shake hands.  We have more drink.  We all be friends -- for next few hours."

Grudgingly, the two verbal assailants shook hands and relaxed. 

"What's this about the next few hours?" asked Majoor.

"Oh, importance of nothing," said Infidel.  "U-201 has been in river a day and she must clear neutral waters 48 hours after arrival."  He lit a cigarette and puffed for a moment.  "That why crew here -- to drink and maybe have woman."

The OSS, thought Majoor, never thought to tell me practical crap like that.  A sudden inspiration struck him. 

"Are you all right, mein herr?" asked von Garvin.  "You look glassy-eyed.  Is it the beer?"

"No -- ah, I'm fine."  Agent Majoor smiled and turned toward Infidel.  "What about the German barge?  Why has it been here so long?"

The Chief Inspector shook his head.  "Ah, my friend, barge not belong German.  Belong old pal.  Brazil businessman.  Name Ruxpin."

Ch 14 -- "Sans Culottes" whaleboat, River Poutine

The boat shouldered its way through a large wave, sending a blast of warm water cascading over the huddled marines.  Raul stood up, in spite of the pitching and steered the boat in the direction he believed would take them to the entrance of the River Poutine.  A strangled misery chorus drifted back to where Old Guy and Inch crouched, rifles at the ready.  No one else, save Raul, seemed likely to be able to participate in an attack on the hostile force expected to be aboard their target, the anchored supply barge and any U-boat that might be present.  A light but steady rain fell.

"Bloody hell," whispered Inch.  "We'll have to beach this thing and make our approach through the jungle.  These lads need time to recover."

"I've been thinking the same thing," said Old Guy.  "It would be a good idea to scout the barge area anyway.  I'd planned on that -- but the condition of our attacking force seemed to indicate that an immediate assault was necessary.  If we delay for a miracle recovery, we'll have time to reconnoiter the approach to the barge, but one of us will have to do it."

"Not me," replied Inch.  "I'm okay in a plane and not bad on a boat, but I bloody well ain't an infantryman."  He snickered.  "Besides, I move like an elephant in the bush."

"What about Duey?  Assuming, of course, that he isn't already dead."

"No good.  The only thing Duey can sneak up on is a bottle."

Old Guy cursed quietly, but eloquently.  Inch wished again for a pad and pencil.  Some of the old bastard's vile characterizations were worth recording.

After awhile the stream of invective ceased.  "It's been a long time since I commanded patrols along a river.  That was back on the Ohio."  Old Guy hefted his carbine.  "At least I ain't carrying a muzzle loader for this little foray."  He nudged the nearest marine.  No response.  "Hell.  Some tactician I am.  My cannon fodder is kaput."

Inch concentrated on watching for obstructions.  Old Guy's comments always seemed to reside in that gray area between outfight falsehood and screaming nightmare.  It was better not to think too much about them.

Raul throttled back and pointed ahead and to the right.  "Point le Poutine.  The river is near."

"Okay," said Old Guy.  "Take it slow.  I want to put ashore before we get to the barge."

"Ashore?"  Raul shook his head emphatically.  "Big things in marsh.  Snake.  Poison snake.  All sort big tooth animal."

Old Guy glanced at Inch.  "Well -- take it slow.  We'll see."

A pale, haggard Infanteer crawled aft.  Inch reached out and halted the victim.

"This is the no-puking section.  Keep back."

"Nothing left to toss," croaked Infanteer.  "I think my toenails went last."  He swallowed hard and blinked several times, like a man becoming aware that one of the solid bits in that last spoonful of soup had wiggly legs.  "Where -- where are we?"

"At the entrance to River Poutine," said Old Guy.  "I'm going to land in a few minutes and let you guys recover somewhat before we take out the barge."

"Good idea."  The sergeant patted his pockets.  "Can't find -- cigar."

Old Guy shook his head.  "Not a good idea.  In your condition one of those things would probably be fatal.  You can't light up here anyhow.  The krauts might have lookouts posted."

Something large splashed near the left river bank.  Drifting tendrils of fog and a mist of rain hid whatever it was.

"Any sentries they put in the marsh would have been eaten by now," muttered Inch.

"I sense a defeatist attitude," said Old Guy.  "But we'll be careful."

The whaleboat cruised slowly up the river, keeping to the right bank.  On the smooth water, Infanteer and his marines began to regain a semblance of life.

Inch gripped Old Guy's arm and pointed forward.  "What's that up ahead?"

"Looks like an outcrop or sand bar."  Old Guy glanced back at Raul.  "How far have we come up the river?  This might be a good place to land our seasick marines."

Raul shrugged.  "I don't know, senor."  He made a vague gesture at the night and lighter patches of  fog.  "But we should not land.  Too much bad creatures in swamp."

The vague shape in the river loomed up far quicker than expected.  Raul suddenly killed the engine and shoved the tiller hard over.  "Senor!" he hissed.  "Is rock or . . ."

"Bloody hell!" cried Inch.  "Sheer off!  It's a fucking submarine!"

Too late!  The whaleboat struck the stern of the U-boat a glancing blow, then slid down the sub's right side.  If Raul hadn't shut the engine down and attempted to turn away, the boat would have flipped over.  As it was, the attacking force crashed to a stop in the narrow gap between submarine and barge.  Not a man remained standing.  The force of the impact pitched Inch, Raul and Old Guy into the semi-conscious heap of marines.

Inch staggered erect.  "Sweet bleedin' Jesus!  What now?"

Old Guy half-jumped, half-fell onto the aft deck of the U-boat.  "Shit!  Attack!  There's nothing else we can do!"  Suiting action to words, he dashed forward.  Inch scrambled up a rope dangling from the barge and stood panting on the deck.

Vague shapes lurked in the dark, but nothing moved.  Water gurgled around barge and sub.  Somewhere to Inch's left, Old Guy uttered a string of lurid curses.  A sleepy-sounding monkey chattered for a moment, then fell silent.  Birds called back and forth.  Rain pattered on canvas.  Ahead, lying atop an anonymous square shape, a vague bundle emitted fluent snores.

Infanteer crawled up from the boat, face pale and drawn.  "Where the hell are the krauts?"

"Not at home," whispered Inch.  "At least not here.  Except for this moron, doping off."  He indicated the snoring bundle.  "Keep an eye on him.  I'll check the rest of the barge."

"Gotcha.  Go ahead."  Infanteer leaned down over the low barge rail.  "Bobbit!  Get the rest of those idiots up and go help Old Guy.  He's in the sub."

"Old Guy can have that fucking sub," whined Bobbit.  "I can't even lift my rifle."

"I wanna go ashore," wheezed Monk.  "Show me some dry land.  I'll crawl on my belly.  Just get me off this damn boat."

Infanteer cursed and jumped wildly down from the barge.  One body, then another, smashed into the U-boat.  "Go help Old Guy, you malingerers!  You're marines!  Get up!  Get moving!"  With each shouted instruction came the sound of boot leather striking flesh.  Hunched shapes began staggering toward the submarine bridge.

Old Guy pushed a skivvy-clad, blubbering man out the after hatch.  "Tie this one up.  There's no one else on board.  He's the anchor watch, I guess."

"Nobody on the barge," called Inch.  "Except one sleeper.  He smells as if he's had a bottle or two of something alcoholic.  We can't wake him."

"Well, shit."  Old Guy laughed and took a moment to light a cigar.  "Looks like we achieved complete surprise.  My old tactics instructor would be pleased -- except he's dead."

Infanteer sagged to the barge deck.  "Christ on a crutch.  Let's blow this collection of Nazi junk and get out.  On foot, if possible."

"We'll do just that," said Old Guy.  He glanced around.  "Bobbit, take a couple of charges and rig the fuel tanks.  They're a couple hundred yards into the swamp."

"The hell," objected the new corporal, made brave by his vast tactical knowledge.  "I ain't going anywhere in that damn swamp unless I go right on through it."

Old Guy ignored him.  "Set the charges for thirty minutes."

"Wait a damn minute!" cried Monk.  "That walkway leads toward the town.  If he blows it we got to wade through the swamp to get outta here."

"No we don't," said Old Guy reasonably.  "We have the boat.  Besides, the road beyond the fuel tanks is reported to be little more than a trail and under water during the wet season, which, as even marines ought to have noticed, is the season we're stuck with."   

Danjanou jumped in.  "No way!  I'll crawl through broken glass afore I get back in that hell boat!"

"Have it your way."  Old Guy remained calm.  "Inch and I will motor around Point Poutine and wait for you in the Dead Horse Bar & Grill.  The rest of you can attempt the swamp."  He glanced at the eastern sky.  "Now get the barge and sub rigged for demolition."

"I'll do the sub," offered Danjanou.  "There's bound to be explosive shit in that thing."

"Wait a minute," said Infanteer.  Levering himself erect, he glared at Old Guy.  "How do you know about this Dead Horse Bar & Grill?  And why are you so anxious to get there?"

"Anxious?  Moi?"  Old Guy grinned and puffed his cigar.  "I know about the bar because, unlike a bunch of marines I know, I studied the mission folder.  That's also how I know this is the rainy season.  That, and the fact that it's been raining ever since we got here."

The marines in question shuffled their feet and looked around innocently.  Infanteer still wasn't satisfied.  "If we ride that damn boat around the point we'll all be sick as dogs again.  No matter how bad this swamp might be, it's better than being seasick."

"Okay.  Have it your way."

"Just a second," said Bobbit.  He scratched at his jaw, trying to think.  "What about all the krauts off this U-boat?  They must be in town.  You and Inch gonna take 'em all by yourselves?"

"No.  The local authorities will already have them under restraint."

Monk leaned over to Danjanou.  "What's this here ree-strain?"

"Somethin' you catch from bein' outside without your jacket, I think," said Danjanou.  "Unless you get it from a . . ."  He swallowed and looked at his shoes.  ". . . a woman."

"None of this makes sense," growled Infanteer.  "But I ain't gonna get back in no boat.  Never!"

"Me neither," said Bobbit.  "Not no way.  No how."

Zoomie liked the sound of that.  "Me how.  No how.  Me -- uh -- me three."

Old Guy remained imperturbable.  "No problem.  Let's rig the charges and go.  Somebody wake Duey and see if he wants to take the swamp route or endure another nice boat ride."

"He's still out cold," said Bobbit.  "A boat trip ain't gonna hurt him none."

"Too bad he's under the weather," said Old Guy.  He winked at Inch.  "But maybe those nurses will be able to make him feel better."

"Nurses?"  Comprehension dawned on Inch's face.  "The American nurses?"

Old Guy nodded.  "The very same.  I'll bet they'll be damn glad to be freed from the Germans."

"Shit," groaned Infanteer.  "I forgot about the nurses."

"I didn't," said Old Guy.

A burst of enthusiasm gripped the marines.  Suddenly the prospect of a sea voyage didn't present any obstacle to their rescue of the damsels held by the vile Nazis.

"I'll take care of the U-boat!" yelled Danjanou.

"Who's got the damn charges?" screeched Monk.  "I need some for this here barge."

"Come on, guys!" cried Bobbit.  "Let's blow this kraut crap and get out of here!"

Zoomie looked around, puzzlement writ large on his face.  "Me too?"

Bobbit picked up a pair of timed charges.  "I'll go rig the fuel tanks."

Inch went down to inspect the boat and to help Raul slide it out from between the barge and U-boat.  Old Guy lowered the sodden German into the boat, then directed the weeping one down to lend a hand.

"I don't know why he's crying," said Inch.  "I'd kiss the guy that got me off one of them things."

"Be careful about that kissing nonsense," warned Old Guy.  "The kraut may be a kraut, but he's still a sailor."

Ch 15 -- Sainte Poutine

Kapitan von Garvin froze, his fork poised in midair, dribbling scrambled egg.  He looked across the table at the officer he now knew was an Abwehr major, not a naval leutnant charged with buying supplies for visiting submarines. 

"What was that?"

Major Quagmire frowned.  "An explosion?  But what is there to explode in Sainte Poutine?"

"My U-boat!" wailed von Garvin.  He and Quagmire raced outside, trailing cups, utensils and linen.

An ugly black cloud reared up from the jungle not more than two miles distant.  Quagmire dragged the submarine commander to a halt.  "The fuel tanks!  Not your U-boat!  There must have been an accident . . ."  His voice trailed off as a second blast split the morning air.

"The U-boat!" chorused the German officers.  Both men made strange, mewling sounds and skipped about on stiff legs, wringing their hands like paid mourners.

The third blast sounded hollow, gong-like.  Von Garvin sagged to the ground, weeping.  "No.  Oh no.  That was U-201.  My baby."  He lay there, sniveling.  "She was mine.  My precious."

"Get up, man," urged Quagmire.  "It's Chief Inspector Infidel.  He's sure to try and blame us."

von Garvin sat up in the dirt street and huddled there, like a lost little boy, staring at the rising clouds of black smoke.  Helpless tears streaked his face.  "My precious," he whispered over and over.

"Good morning, gentlemens," said Infidel, touching his cap.  He stared at the hovering black smoke and sighed.  "U-boat go boom?"

"U-boat.  Barge.  Fuel tanks."  Quagmire shook his head.  "All go boom."

"Too bad."  Infidel glanced at his watch.  "Time up soon.  U-201 must leave."

Kapitan von Garvin whimpered.  "My precious."

Quagmire looked around, hoping to find one of the Kapitan's men about.  None were in evidence.  "Ah -- Inspector, surely you understand that U-201 is -- has been sunk -- in the river."

Infidel reeled back, as if struck.  "You don't say it?  U-boat sink in River Poutine?  Disaster!"

"Well -- for Kapitan von Garvin it will surely be professional suicide, but hardly a disaster."

"But -- what of oil leak in river?  Battery sparking?  Fish slaughter by boom-boom-boom?"  The Inspector rubbed at his eyes, then slipped onion slices into his tunic pockets.  Tears sprang out and trickled down his fat, misshapen cheeks.  "No fish for dinner.  Little kids starve."

"I'm sure other fish . . ."  Quagmire sought in vain for words to assuage the Inspector's distress.

"All under arrest!" cried Infidel.  As if on cue, men poured from the police station.  In seconds, Quagmire and von Garvin were in custody.

"Wait!  Wait!" cried Quagmire as a burly police sergeant started to drag him away.  "You can't do this!  We have immunity!  And we didn't blow up the verdammt things!  It was the Ami!"

Infidel stroked his moustache.  "Is protective arrest only.  Keep fine Nazi officers from lynch crowd.  I send word to German consul."  The Inspector patted Quagmire's arm.  "Is nice jail.  Clean sheet every month.  Please to enjoy stay."

"What!?" raved Quagmire.  "What lynch crowd -- mob!  I demand to see . . . to see . . ."  He tried to decide who he should ask to see, but no possibilities came to mind.  "We'll crush you!  I'll get word to -- to Berlin!  They'll send fleets of ships, waves of planes, hordes of gunsels and palookas.  We'll crush you!"  The big sergeant cracked the raving man's skull, almost tender in his swing and bash.

"My precious," sobbed von Garvin as two policemen dragged him away.  "My precious."

"Are all the U-boat men in jail?" asked Infidel.

His second-in-command, a tall, bearded ascetic named Fidel, saluted gravely.  "As you ordered, my commandante."

"Good."  Infidel flicked a few stray grains of dirt off his uniform.  "I'll await Old Guy and his comrades in the bar.  He and I will figure out how to make OSS pay bills."

"I'll excuse myself from the meeting, if you approve, my commandante.  The Old Guy person does not like me.  I think he means me harm."

"As you wish, Fidel.  As you wish.  I don't understand your baseless paranoia.  Old Guy is a harmless person of a certain age.  I can't believe he bears you any ill will."

Fidel made a shoulder gesture that Americans interpret as a shrug, but which Infidel knew was more equivalent to saying, "I may be el stupido, but I like it that way.  Buzz off."

"Perhaps I indulge him too much," mused the Chief Inspector.  He brushed the thought away and sauntered toward the bar.

Ch 16 -- Dead Horse Bar & Grill

The gray-haired woman in safari togs collared Old Guy as he stood at the bar, waiting for a fresh beer.  He shrank back.  "Mav -- Mavis?  What are you doing -- ah, here?"

Mavis stroked the pearl handle of her long-barreled Colt and surveyed the room.  "None of your business.  Where's that idiot, Majoor?"

Old Guy relaxed.  Mavis wasn't after him.  He still had nightmares about that time in Algiers when she confused him with a French turncoat.  Once Mavis got on a man's trail, his life and virtue (if any) were worthless.  "Majoor?  That fine OSS agent?  He bugged out.  Said he had to send a report to old Milo.  How is the confirmed bureaucrat these days?"
"Shut up," snarled the cadaverous, but well armed woman.  "Milo is Milo.  And here I am in the Caribbean, chasing down rogue agents instead of keeping ASSDOO out of trouble."  She made a wry face, which may have indicated mild amusement.  "Looks like the operation went off with your usual aplomb."

"Yes, ma'am.  Everything worked out -- accidentally, as usual."

Mavis signaled the bartender.  "Whiskey, straight up.  Use the good bottle."  She waved Old Guy away.  "Go mingle with your low-life friends.  One drink and I'm outta here.  The war effort has probably gone clear off the rails since I've been gone."

Old Guy sidled away, relieved not to be Mavis' target.  He felt sorry for Majoor.

Infanteer waved him over.  "Who's the scarecrow?"

"Pray you never find out, my friend."  Old Guy shivered as if in the grip of an icy chill.  He shook his head.  "You really don't want to know."

"Okay.  I can take a hint.  Keep the old broad for yourself."  Infanteer wandered over to Inch's table.  Duey lay sprawled on the tabletop.

"The lad got an early start I see," said Infanteer.

"Duey is way past starting."  Inch eyed his sodden friend.  "He's well on his way to finishing."

"Aren't we all?"  Infanteer looked around.  "Even Old Guy's acting funny."

Inch sighed.  "Well, that's it then."

"That's what?"

"When Old Guy starts acting funny, it's the end."

"The end?"

"The end."

The End