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Sky Fighters, Fall (October), 1946
Yank airmen on an isolated isle begin dining in style—and
wind up in an hilarious private war with their own allies!
E WAS standing at the window of
his office in the combined
Operations-Headquarters shack,
staring out over the ocean that stretched
sixteen hundred invisible, impossible and
unattainable miles toward the mainland,
trying to figure it out.
They were playing some little game
with him again, his staff was. It was like the
time they turned up those few cases of
Canadian Club unexpectedly—or had that
Simmons Beautyrest smuggled in for him—
or came up with a staff sergeant who played
a bang-up game of chess.
He could tell. He could tell by the slight
grin with which his young adjutant studied
him, when he thought the Old Man wasn’t
looking. He could tell by the way the
executive officer now and again looked at
the adjutant, winked, smiled and shoved the
papers around on his desk some more.
He didn’t rush them about it. When you
were stationed on The Stone, you didn’t
rush any pleasant surprises. You wondered
about whatever it was, turning things over
in your mind as if they were shells in a
shell-game. You hoped you didn’t guess the
right shell, because failure prolonged the
Suspense was the really big thing about
The Stone.
The Stone was a vital link in our late,
great war. The Stone was a dab of volcanic
rock that broke the monotony of the ocean
not quite sixteen hundred miles out on the
perilous—for aircraft—water-jump on the
way to the war front.
Conveniently, it was owned by our
British allies. Magically, it was converted
by America into a fueling spot,
distinguished by a mile-long landing-strip
hacked out of the volcanic rock.
Here birds of war with parched tanks
rumbled in out of the overcast that was the
rule by day—rumbled in, shaved the cliff on
the northwest approach and burped their
tires down the runway that was flanked
right and left by leaning peaks that stretched
five hundred feet overhead—a narrow
canyon with a runway bottom.
By night, The Stone was tabu for
aircraft because of the swarms of gooneybirds that appeared at some unfathomable
summons with the dipping of the sun into
the westward waters. They circled in
uncountable swarms, sobbing their weird
cries like restless and lost souls, never
alighting, never quieting—and vanished
somewhere into the water-girt distances
with the re-appearing of the sun out of the
waters to the east.
“The Wideawake Birds,” they were
called by some, because if they rested or
slept, none ever saw it.
By day, gusty winds lifted whorls of
lava-sand and eddied the gritty, stinging
stuff intermittently and irritatingly about for
the crews that stopped to slake fuel tanks
and take off again with the dawn. For the
luckless personnel that manned the base to
service the visiting planes and crews, it was
just another step down the ladder that led to
their personal hades.
Not that things hadn’t improved after
the arrival of “Rusty” Farson, Lt.-Col.,
Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command,
Army Air Forces, A. U. S.—they had, and
plenty, despite the fact that the aging but
young-in-heart Rusty Farson was not Big
Boss of The Stone. He was merely
Commanding Officer of the AAF
detachment sentenced in—or based, as you
The Big Boss was one Colonel the
Honourable Geoffrey L. M. N. Jones-Smith,
K.C.M.G., M. C. and what-have-you. What
Colonel the Honourable Jones-Smith had, in
addition to top-rank authority on this
infinitesimal, imperial pinhead of British
domain, was a beef-red complexion,
blondish-yellow handlebar mustaches and
an all-white, Colonial military rig of
clothing that could have come from a fancydress costumer, it was that typical.
White pith-helmet—white, polo-type,
half-sleeved shirt—white shorts—white,
long stockings that stopped just below the
knees—white shoes—white swaggerstick—even the ribbon that anchored his
monocle to his shirt was white. Military
ribbons formed an island of color on the
polo shirt, as his rheumy blue eyes provided
isolated blobs of half-color in his beefycomplected, lean face.
He had all that, Colonel the Honourable
Jones-Smith did—and the power of veto
over improvements on the sea-going
pinhead of earth that was The Stone. And it
was not a neglected power.
THE water for drinking purposes was formerly flown in, brought by C-47
transports with tanks built in. Rusty Farson
had demanded a distilling plant so that
unlimited water could be redeemed from the
sea. Colonel the Honourable Jones-Smith
had demurred, at first, because this newfangled machine seemed a contradiction of
the old order.
And the Old Order was Bible,
Regulations and Law to the doughty
When the Cinema—movies to you—
was installed in the west lee of the 1500foot peak that boasted the island’s only spot
of green vegetation, and when a U. S.
Military Road was extended from the Tent
Area to service it, the colonel harrumph-ed
and haw-ed and blew noisily through his
mustaches. But he finally consented to let
the British garrison attend.
He even, it was said, viewed with
disfavor the engineering marvel that was the
runway, and from which British fighters
took off to patrol the sea-lanes in guard
against “Louie the Louse,” a playful
German submarine commander who
managed, in diverse ways, to make a
nuisance of himself. For the runway was
what attracted Louie.
Things had improved on The Stone, for
the British as well as for the Yank Gl’s and
the ferrying crews, with the arrival of Rusty
Farson. Rusty had been a U. S. Army pilot
in World War One, and he had the true
pioneer spirit. Where others asked, Rusty
But the improvements had been despite,
and not because of, Colonel the Honourable
Jones-Smith. And improving The Stone was
much like trying to cool hell—there was
always room for so much more.
Rusty stood at his window, thinking
about everything and nothing, when a sharp
bark came from the Operations Room down
the hall from his office.
“Ten-n . . . HUT!”
He twisted his graying head, his brown
eyes squinting. No Vipers—Very Important
Personages-had been announced by the
ever-watchful Tower.
An answering bark told him what the
“Attention!” had been inspired by.
“Keddy on, keddy on! Harrumph! Haw!
Visiting the colonel, doncher know? Keddy
on, men!”
Rusty groaned.
“Carry on” was British for” As you
were.” Harrumph and Haw meant
something was cooking. Rusty Farson was
turning to his desk when a sporadic burst of
gunfire sounded from the near beach. He
looked questioningly at Swanson, the
“Some of the crews or base personnel
target-practicing. With forty-fives or
“Oh, well. Show the colonel in.”
When the colonel visited, something
was impending. But Rusty’s mind was only
half on this fact. For again he detected the
secret communication that flashed between
his aides, Swanson and Hall.
“What are they up to now?” he
wondered as he dropped into his chair. He
kept his feet under him ready to spring to
when the white clad British commander
stalked in. His eyes brightened as he worked
on the puzzle.
“A swank USO show? Or maybe some
old pals of mine flying in? Or—a transfer!
Well, anyway, something. . . .”
He jumped to his feet when the colonel
loomed in the doorway.
“Well, Colonel! A pleasant surprise!
Come in, come in!”
“Hello, old boy,” Colonel Jones-Smith
said through his nose, his over-large teeth
showing in an intended grin. “Nothing
special, doncher know. Merely dropped in
to chat.”
“We’re both accomplished liars,” Rusty
thought, as he wheeled a chair up for the
man. “Isn’t the .major with you, sir?”
The major was Major Pliny Jangstraw,
Jones-Smith’s aide. He was a stocky man,
beefy-complexioned like his C. O., but wore
a clipped, tooth-brush mustache of
nondescript color and sported khaki gear in
contrast to Jones-Smith’s bleached glory.
“Er, don’t know, doncher know. Here
and about.” The man waved a manicured
hand negligently. “On some routine, no
“No doubt,” Rusty thought darkly. Pliny
Jangstraw was the colonel’s gestapo.
Jangstraw gum-shoed about with all the
subtlety of an elephant crashing through a
canebrake. He was eternally and forever on
the prowl, scanning, examining, regarding,
watching, observing. “No doubt!”
“Anything new, old chap?”
“I should be asking you!” Rusty mused,
wondering what was behind the visit. He
became official. “You got our report on
Louie the Louse? He’s taken to lying about
a hundred miles west, and he is getting to be
a nuisance with his radio.
“He operates on The Stone’s frequency,
sending a beam when static is making ours
fuzzy. He flashed cones-of-silence—blotouts, as if they were over The Stone’s
station—to four planes several days ago.
They let down out of the overcast and
blooey! He’s going to hit one of our boys,
some day.”
“Haw Harrumph. Ow, yes! Louie . . .
the Nazi submersible. The patrols are
watching him, you know. Beastly annoying.
Anything else?”
“We’ve had a new shipment of Spam.
Or what they pass off as Spam,” Rusty said,
with a grimace. “What we need is a new
cook-book to tell us some new ways to fix
it. Fried for breakfast with powdered eggs—
cold for lunch—chopped up for supper with
some stringy corned-beef trying to hide in
it. How’s it with you?”
USTY knew how it was with the
British personnel. Argentine beef was
carried to The Stone by British transportArgentine mutton, Argentine lamb,
Argentine veal. In a far-off corner of
Patagonia, in Argentina, some zealous and
shrewd-thinking Western senators had
found evidence of hoof-and-mouth disease
in a cattle herd, and laws were passed by
Right Thinking Americans to keep Right
Eating Americans from the mistake of
enjoying prime Argentinian beef. Even unto
The Stone. . . .
Jones-Smith screwed his monocle into
his eye, single-focused Swanson and Hall,
and deftly popped the monocle out of his
eye and caught it in his hand again.
“Tolerable, doncher know,” he
murmured. “There’s a war on, old boy.”
“I seem to have heard rumors of it,”
Rusty Farson said drily. “About your recent
complaint of the runway being out of
order—one of our lads came in flying a
Baker-Two-Six, a Marauder, with one fan
feathered. He landed pretty well down the
runway—you know how it is? One third upgrade; one-third level; one-third downgrade?
“Well, he purposely shot high, to miss
the cliff on approach, and landed well along
the runway. When he went to his brakes, he
collapsed the nose-wheel and scuffed the
sun-hot surface a little.”
“Unfortunate, doncher know,” JonesSmith drawled. “My lads find it deuced
rough. It will be smoothed out, eh?”
“Has been already,” Rusty said, getting
a nod of confirmation from Swanson. “Are
your lads enjoying the movies, sir? Er—the
“Quite, quite,” the colonel said, not
altogether enthusiastically. “Raw-ther!
But—how about a few British films, eh, old
“The films we have are courtesy of the
American producers,” Rusty observed. “I’ll
inquire if they own any British companies
so we can get a few free of charge. Er—are
the showers working out all right with the
new pipe-line we laid to your Area?”
“Quite pleasant.” The colonel paused,
stared around him. Then, “Would you care
for a bit of sport, old boy? Fishing for some
of His Majesty’s creatures, perhaps?
Barracuda, horse mackerel or sailfish?”
Rusty blinked.
“His Majesty’s creatures?” he echoed.
“You mean—fish?”
“Exactly, old boy. The waters
surrounding the island are His Majesty’s
waters, doncher know? The creatures
abounding in His Majesty’s waters are His
Majesty’s creatures.” He fell silent as a
burst of small-arms fire spattered the
“Be glad to have you join me in sporting
for His Majesty’s creatures. Any time, old
chap. Just say the word, eh?”
“I’d much rather have the sport of
tackling a choice cut of His Majesty’s
Argentinian beef,” Rusty thought. But he
managed to beam his thanks to the
“Very nice of you, Colonel. I’m busy
now. Details. Planning a new parking area,
and two new roads. And we are going to
enlarge the movie seating. Laying some
more pipe-lines, too—for when the watercapacity is increased. I’ll be glad to join you
after that, though.”
Colonel the Honourable Jones-Smith
untangled his gaunt length and towered to
his feet. He returned Rusty’s salute with a
heel-clicking, half-bowing, open-handed
salute of his own and paused at the door.
“Delighted to have you join me in some
sport awfter His Majesty’s creatures any
time, old chap. Toodle-oo!”
“Ten-n-HUT!” the Ops sergeant
squawled, as the colonel went along the way
to the open.
“Keddy on, keddy on, men.”
Rusty blinked and stared at Swanson.
“What’s the deal? What is our noble ally
laying the groundwork for now? I think I’ll
set up a counter-espionage system and have
Major Jangstraw watched while he watches
us. The old boy has something up his
“Could be,” Hall said, rubbing his chin.
“By the way, how about having evening
mess with us, Colonel? At the Permanent
Mess? Or are you going to give Transient
another try?”
“It’s a deal,” Rusty said, without relish.
“What is the big surprise? Something new
in Spam? Maybe Spam-on-Spam, instead of
just plain Spam?”
Hall was innocence itself.
“Would you perhaps like a Spam-andPowdered-Egg omelet, sir? Very tasty, I’m
told. Our new chef, straight from the Ritz, I
says that it is Spam Supreme. He says—I
Please, sir! Don’t throw the ink-well! I’m in
my best sun-tans!”
“Well, hold the comedy, then.” Rusty
grimaced. “I’ll eat with you with the
greatest of pleasure, gentlemen. Know why?
Because The Honourable Jones-Smith
didn’t invite me to eat his beef!” He
crooked his finger, dug it into his eyesocket, and made motions of screwing it
into place. “Keddy on, keddy on!”
USTY let the savory steam hit him
full in the face, and he said through a
gurgling intake of the liquid and through the
steam of it:
“More! For Pete’s sake, have another
ready. If you can spare it?”
Lieutenant Hall chuckled, his blue eyes
“Gallons of it, Colonel. But leave some
room! We do have a new cook, but he is
from Antoine’s, in New Orleans, which is
perhaps a few cuts better than the Ritz.
Something else follows this, sir.”
“More of this turtle soup,” Rusty
begged. “Nuts to what follows. This is
certainly my dish!”
He had two more of his dishes; and then
he went speechless at sight and taste of the
meaty fillets that were set before him. He
cut into one, tasted it experimentally, then
grinned and held his thumb and forefinger
in the “O” sign that means “Okay!” in the
“Where,” he asked, between mouthfuls,
“did it come from? Did the guy bring it with
him, the new cookie?”
Swanson chuckled.
“That’s the heck of it, sir. Or the
goshdanged beauty of it. These huge seaturtles have been here as long as The Stone,
I guess. But until this New Orleans lad got
assigned to us, nobody’d ever thought of
eating them. The boys are shooting plenty,
now. Some of them trap the eggs, but we
aren’t quite that hard-up yet—to try the
eggs. You like?”
“I’m recommending you both for the
DSM—and the cookie for the Medal of
Honor.” Rusty grinned. “You say we got
“The sea is full of them! You heard that
shooting going on today?”
“All turtles?”
“Mostly. They’re big and tough. They
run to over three hundred pounds apiece.
And large around as washtubs. It takes a
few shots to damage them.”
“Target practice should be compulsory,”
Rusty murmured to his Exec. “On a slow
moving target, especially. Make a note of
that, please.”
“Duly noted and will be so ordered,”
Hall laughed. “May I make a suggestion,
sir? For morning mess? Fried, thin slices of
turtle, in butter; with scrambled powderedeggs flavored with Worcestershire. Fit for a
king, sir.”
Swanson’s eyes crinkled in a laugh.
“Even fit for a Yank Looey-Colonel, if
it comes to that. How about it, Colonel?”
“It’s a deal. Now, boys, let’s hit my
bottle for a drink or so of Canadian Club;
and then we’ll take a short drive in the jeep
and see what’s at the movies.”
“Betty Grable,” Hall told him.
“Humphrey Bogart tomorrow. Martha Raye,
in person, night after that. And then Bob
“If I can spare time from the turtles, I’ll
see them all,” Rusty chuckled. “This is
almost too good to be true! Brother, The
Stone isn’t so bad, after all! Good old
Later they drove on a short inspection
trip through the parking area on the
southwest tip of The Stone, pausing
momentarily by the “gun crew” that
guarded the runway approach—a set-up of a
dummy gun, manned by a number of
wooden figures who were attired in British
tin-helmets and uniforms—a picture of On
the Alert.
It had been speculated that Louie the
Louse ran a big enough sub to carry a
dismantled observation airplane and that it
would be no tough trick for Louie to send
the Obs crate up with some small bombs
and wreck the runway some bad day. That
would put a lot of airplanes beyond the
Point of No Return behind an eight ball
large and black as death, unable to turn back
to the mainland and unable to land safely on
The Stone.
So far the British Fighter patrol and the
dummy gun-crew had proved an effective
Rusty flashed his headlights at Tower,
got the green light to cross the runway and
tooled over slowly, the nightly cool breeze
from the sea pleasant on his face, his eyes
vaguely aware of the circling Wideawake
birds swarming overhead like winged
There was deep contentment within him
when he rolled into his blankets in his tentbed and let the breeze fan him to sleep
while the hiss and rush of the breaking surf
deadened his ears, a contentment that spread
through him like a rising tide of well-being.
For seven days, turtle was a thrice-daily
treat—in various forms. On the seventh day,
Rusty’s appetite was almost ruined when, in
the rain-swept, smut-gray dawn, Louie the
Louse sneaked close in to lie in wait several
hundred yards off the end of the southeast
runway and unload some hate on a Mitchell
that was roaring up in a takeoff.
The Mitchell rocked in the violent
gunfire and shed eight feet of its port wing.
It dropped off sickeningly, then picked up
when the desperate pilot yanked the TwoStage Superchargers into high-blower and
poured the mercury to the stricken plane.
“X-Ray Nona Pete to Tower! X-Ray
Nona Pete to Tower! Emergency!
Emergency! Attacked by hostile surface
craft! Clear the runway, old man, I’m trying
to make it back in!”
OWER went into action. A Liberator
that was squatting for take-off blasted
down the runway to the first turn-off, then
screamed partway around in a wild turn,
braked and scuttled for safety. A Marauder
slammed across the runway from the
stacked-up line that was waiting to take off,
and crowded close to Ops. An A-26 Invader
turned on a dime and cleared the taxi-strip
to huddle in the lee of a Fortress.
The siren-alert moaned alive like a
tormented spirit, and the base personnel
jumped to arms under the alarm, taking up
positions for raid-defense.
And three Spitfires, loaded with light
bombs and depth-charges, appeared as if by
magic and howled down the runway in their
racing take-offs.
The choking cough of the garbage-cans
hitting the water was followed by
whooming geysers of water standing in
disordered rows as the aerial fighters strove
to bracket the now submerged Louie.
The British staff came on the double and
barked orders to ground the ferrying crews
who were waiting for take-off, as the
disabled Mitchell came in with good wing
low-cocked for a precarious landing. The
fire-trucks lined up at the runway head and
spurted after the stricken craft with sirens
moaning when it settled, gear up, for a
One of the sub’s shots had pierced the
rear compartment, narrowly missing the
radioman at his liaison set, and effectively
severing the hydraulic lines so that the gear
could not be re-extended.
But the crew walked out.
“Let the planes take off!” Rusty yelled
to the British staff.
“There’s a war on. The Spits can patrol
the island and stand guard while the crews
hit the air!”
Major Jangstraw pulled at his prowshaped jaw.
“Er—it’s almost an order—Colonel
Farson, sir, doncher know? The Stone is a
British possession; and the British
commawnder’s suggestion, sir. . . . Doncher
“No, I don’t know, sir,” Rusty bellowed.
“The runway is a U. S. runway, the planes
are U. S. planes, and they are going to help
U. S. troops win the U. S.’s war! And I’m
the U. S. commander. My planes take off on
my runway! NOW!”
He was so upset, he almost didn’t enjoy
his turtle the next two days.
Then on the ninth day, toward evening,
he did lose his appetite. Major Jangstraw
appeared, all punctilio and salutes, and left a
piece of paper with Lieutenant Hall. On the
piece of paper was an account, stated as
Due to His Majesty’s Government from U.S.A.
AAF Detachment, The Stone, for Sixty-two of His
Majesty’s Turtles at Five Pounds Sterling Each. . . .
Three hundred ten Pounds Sterling.
Rusty Farson sat in the emergency
meeting he had called, his eyes worried.
“How about it, Hall? What’ll we do?
You know how much of a chance we have
to pry—let’s see—three hundred ten
pounds—thirteen hundred dollars loose
from Mainland QM!”
“Don’t make me laugh,” Swanson said.
“Those paddlefeet wouldn’t authorize you
two-bits worth of expenditure if you
captured Louie the Louse singlehanded and
intact!” He frowned. “So that’s the deal!
That’s what the old boy was driving at with
his ‘His Majesty’s creatures’ talk!”
Rusty nodded. He worried his closecropped, graying thatch with strong, square
“Old Jangstraw heard the shooting and
investigated, I suppose. He and Jones-Smith
probably sat up nights reading British law
about His Majesty’s creatures. At five
pounds the copy for the turtles. I wonder if
he can—omigosh, Hall!”
A burst of gunfire came from the
direction of the beach. Swanson winced and
got up.
“There go another twenty pounds
Sterling, sir. Brother, those aren’t guns, they
are cash-registers!”
“Stop them,” Farson ordered. “Not that
the British can make this stick. What do you
think, Hall?”
The executive officer blinked when
Swanson slammed out of the room.
“Well, from what I know of Colonel
Jones-Smith—look out!”
Farson nodded, his eyes troubled.
“That’s my only worry. I’d say that the
turtles belong to whoever wants them. But
the old boy is very careful about his
punctilio, precedents and all of that. If he
presents a bill for His Majesty’s
Government, he must have thrashed the
whole thing out thoroughly.”
Hall worried a knuckle with strong
“Look! The turtles we got came up on,
the beach, at our side of the Area. Right?
Okay, then. They are American turtles. I
don’t think Jones-Smith can make it stick,
either. But to avoid argument, we can claim
Farson thought about it.
“I wonder! The roads, the runways and
the movies are ours. Also the waterdistilling plant. But about the beach strip,
now, I don’t think so.” He made a wry face.
“I guess I’m back on my Spam diet again,
blast it!”
WANSON came dragging back into the
“Five more. And Jangstraw is acting as
official score-keeper. You’re not going to
let them get away with this, are you
Skipper? I mean, they get steak and roasts
and like that regularly. These turtles are not
important to them. Heck, I bet they never
even tasted any!”
“Telephone them and make an
appointment for zero-nine-hundred hours,
tomorrow. We’ll straighten this out.
Meantime, no more turtle hunting.”
“Roger, sir, will do,” Hall said. He
turned the crank vigorously on the field
telephone, which was lashed to the wall.
“. . . Colonel the Honourable Geoffrey
L. M. N. Jones-Smith would be delighted to
see Lieutenant-Colonel Russell D. Farson at
the suggested hour in the morning. A
pleasure. Thank you for calling, old chap.
Toodle-oo. . . .”
They ate turtle that meal only because
there was so much of it stacked up. But
Rusty hardly enjoyed Jack Benny in the
movies that night. Nor were Hall or
Swanson balls of fire at levity. They were
all suffering from too-rich food.
After all, fifteen hundred dollars worth
of turtle is apt to lie heavily on the stomach.
HE whole thing was as cut-and-dried
as a ration of GI corned-beef.
“Not my idea, doncher know, old chap,”
Jones-Smith murmured, his eyes carefully
on the account of the AAF detachment.
“British Law, what? ‘Any creature that
comes upon His Majesty’s shores is His
Majesty’s creature.’ “He pronounced it as if
it were spelled “creet-chaw.” “Thus the seaturtles are His Majesty’s creet-chaws. His
Majesty’s turtles, doncher know.”
“We have no appropriation for it,
Colonel, and no chance of getting one,”
Hall said. “You see, we didn’t know. To us,
turtles are turtles. We don’t admit them to
citizenship, in the United States.”
Jones-Smith’s pale eyes froze the
Executive Officer quite thoroughly.
Swanson flashed Farson’s other side a
warning look and cut in desperately. “Now
that we know about it, we can—er—take
steps to stop the turtle hunting. Can we let it
go at that, sir?”
“Several cases of wanton destruction of
His Majesty’s turtles have been reported by
Jangstraw. Indiscriminate shooting. . . .”
“The offenders shall be severely
punished,” Farson cut in. “But we’ll
probably find they were members of crews
ferrying through and can’t be identified
“I dare say,” Major Jangstraw said, not
moving even his thin lips. “Steps must be
taken. But about this accounting. . . .”
“I can’t authorize payment,” Farson
said. “Nor can I get anyone else to. It would
take an Act of Congress to reimburse me if I
paid it. Which I can’t, anyway. I have
family responsibilities.”
“And we have Empire responsibilities,
old chap,” Jones-Smith murmured. “Oh,
well, I s’pose it is another of those beastly
issues that must be taken up with your State
Farson groaned inwardly. He could see
the picture now. The British Ambassador in
Washington would submit a complaint to
the U. S. State Department. The State
Department would frown and turn it over to
the Chief of Staff, U. S. Army. Hap Arnold
would get it from them. And get it!
Then it would go to General George, of
the ATC. General George would refer it to
General Walsh, of the SAD, the division
which supervised The Stone. And Farson
would be called to the Mainland to explain.
If he could.
Besides the fact that he might have to
pay, Farson didn’t have the time. There was
a war on. And he was responsible for
getting planes fueled and serviced and
crews fed and rested and then re-briefed for
the further flight of 1200 miles from The
Stone onward. There just wasn’t time. And
he didn’t intend to have this deal hanging
over him eternally, worrying about who did
what to whose turtles and who got the
“I’d like to have a few days to think this
over, Colonel,” he hedged, as he sought for
a way out. “Agreeable?”
“Think what out, old chap—British
Law? The turtles are His Majesty’s turtles,
and that is that. Says so in the books,
doncher know. However, there are further
offenses in this matter to be added to the
complaint—more turtles.
“We’ll submit our count—Major
Jangstraw’s calculations—to you for
comment before we forward it through
proper channels. That will be tomorrow
awfternoon, let us say? Veddy well,
gentlemen! Sorry, you know, and all that.
But Law is Law. His Majesty’s creetchaws
are His Majesty’s creetchaws!”
Outside, Hall spoke darkly.
“I wonder if they vote, the turtles? Holy
cow, did you ever hear such a lot of
gumbeating? And a war on! Louie the
Louse? Okay! Crack-ups? Okay! Bum
food? Okay! Lose planes and crews in the
water? Okay! But just let us improve our
rations with His Majesty’s turtles and it
gives with Gehenna!”
“Here’s a good argument, Skipper,”
Swanson offered. “We will say these turtles
are identical with those we have off the
United States. In fact, they all are turtles
from the United States. They can’t prove
otherwise. How about it?”
“They get naturalized, or something,
when they land here,” Farson growled.
“They become British.”
“Why don’t we, then? We landed here.
We aren’t British!”
“Maybe the runway is British, too,” Hall
said. “And the roads and the movies. Heck,
this was Lend-Lease and it is ours on rental.
Now if the beach strip were ours on rental,
too, then it is U. S. property, and we can
grab the turtles and no questions asked.
How about that?”
Farson sighed.
“I looked that up already. The beach is
theirs. No question of it. Well, we’ve got
twenty-four hours to come up with a good
one. But it burns my Yankee pants off to
think this Old School Tie laddie is sticking
it to me and I can’t do anything about it—
“Huh? What do you mean, ‘maybe’?”
Hall asked.
“Well, I’ve still got one card up my
sleeve. I hate to play it unless I have to.
When I flash it, it is the desperation play.
The old college try. Meantime, issue an
order raising cain about the turtles. Another
one. Make it stiff as you can.”
“Roger, sir,” Hall said. “Er—maybe
we’d better add that all of His Majesty’s
turtles are to be saluted henceforth?”
“You’re not a bit funny,” Farson said.
But he was grinning when he went slowly
on his way, deep in thought.
compilation and nodded.
“Jangstraw estimated seventy-eight
turtles, old chap. At five pounds each. A
total of three hundred ninety pounds
Sterling. Fair, what?”
Farson shrugged.
“I suppose so. Incidentally, it is just
about the exact count we have on you. For
toll purposes.”
Jangstraw sat erect and blinked.
“Eh? Us? Toll? What are you driving at,
Hall and Swanson blinked and stared at
one another and then back at Farson. The U.
S. commander shrugged.
The runway is ours. The roads are ours.
The water-distilling plant is ours. The
movies are ours. Just as the turtles are
yours. It doesn’t say anything about your
using the runway for patrol planes.
“It does say, our agreement, that Allied
aircraft may use the strip for ferrying
purposes. Now, about the roads—they are
my work, without question—and the movies
and the water-distilling equipment. Have
you ever heard of a toll-gate, Colonel? Or
you, Major Jangstraw?”
ONES-SMITH was so wide-eyed his
eye couldn’t grip the monocle.
“But, of course, old chap! Where you
pay a fee to use a road or a bridge, eh? To
be sure! But I say, man, it is unthinkable
that you should bring this up! We are your
allies, old boy!”
Major Jangstraw sucked on his lower
lip. “He wouldn’t do it, you know,” he told
Jones-Smith. “It’s a bluff, what? Like that
bally game of poker! Raw-ther! Oh, no, a
bit too thick, what?”
“Think so, eh?” Farson drawled. “Well,
you’ve got just the same sort of fleas biting
on you that I have on me. Your superiors.
You don’t want them yelling at you and
asking for receipts and make five copies and
reply by indorsement any more than I do.
But you will have!
“I’m computing your tolls at five
pounds for each British plane that takes off
daily. Five pounds for each time your Jeeps
move down our roads. Five pounds toll for
parking the Jeeps at the movies, and like
that.” He grinned.
“You know how long your boots would
last if you short-cut across that sharp,
knifing lava-rock. Heck, a tractor couldn’t
even make it. About the water? Well, I’m
afraid the showers will be no more.
“I have no authority to use U. S. pipe to
supply British baths. Or drinking water.
Maybe I can’t make it stick. But it will
bring your superiors down on your necks if
I send in my bill.”
“I say, I say!” Jones-Smith murmured,
“Another thing,” Farson said, quietly.
“If you report that we are eating His
Majesty’s turtles, it will probably give your
superiors the idea that maybe you don’t
need that Argentine beef you are getting,
after all. Do I—er—make myself clear?”
Jangstraw sat with jaws slacked and
eyes glazed. Colonel the Honourable
Geoffrey L. M. N. Jones-Smith murmured,
“painfully, old chap. Painfully!”
Swanson and Hall gazed at their skipper
with admiration shining in their eyes. The
old goat had plenty of kick in him yet!
Farson sat with his brown eyes bland in his
weathered face. Then he moved.
“Well? I guess that is all you want, eh,
“Sit down, old boy, sit down!” JonesSmith barked. “Harrumph. Haw! I say,
deuced embarrassing, what? Blawst those
turtles anyway, coming ashore to create this
“They’re pretty good eating.” Farson
shrugged. “As you will no doubt find out.
Of course, nothing like mutton or roast beef.
Would you care to try some at our mess,
“No, no, no, no, NO!” Jones-Smith
clipped out. “I prefer to take your word, old
boy. Raw-ther! Hmmmmm. You know, old
chap, they depend on us, at home, to be—
er—diplomatic about this sort of thing. Still,
there is the duty of protecting His Majesty’s
creetchaws. His turtles, in this instance.
Jangstraw? Any suggestions?”
The major sighed.
“If we could perhaps have assurance
that the Yanks would cease machine-gun
practice on the creetchaws? And—perhaps
permit them one of His Majesty’s turtles
daily? How would that be, Colonel?”
Jones-Smith grimaced. He stared at
“Are they really palatable, old chap? I
mean really?”
“Well.” Farson shrugged. “I think you’d
find it much more to your taste to have
us”—he indicated Hall and Swanson—“to
dinner while we seal this secret agreement
with some Scotch, than to join us in some
turtle at our mess while we talk it over.
However, perhaps you’d prefer Spam and
“At six, then,” Jones-Smith barked,
banishing the idea. “Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Farson said, getting to his
feet. “I like my beef rare, if you don’t mind?
Ready, Hall? Swanson?”
The Britishers came to their feet with
them. They saluted one another with dignity
and decorum. Then Rusty Farson walked to
the window that faced out onto the beach
strip and came to another salute.
“To His Majesty’s turtles,” he

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