"I missed it, plain and simple," said Parker. "From what I know now it was a good thing I did. I've since found out there were Jap agents watching the docks. I probably would have been turned into fish food if I'd showed up."
"Did you ever find out what happened to the guy that was supposed to have verified the rings for you?"
"All I know is he died," said Parker. "The heat was on me and I had to get the hell out ot Dodge. I couldn't wait around to sort out the details if you know what I mean."
She peeked out the window and noted the shadows were getting very long. "It's going to be dark soon. Mel and I have to find a place to stay."
"Well, you could stay here...," he conveniently let his words trail off.
"I don't think so," said Janice.
"There's a hotel just down the street," said Parker, jerking his thumb to indicate the direction.
Janice picked up her bags and said, "Mel and I will get a room and check back with you after it gets dark. Bill, I don't think you ought to be showing yourself outside anymore. Not til we're ready to make our move anyway. We can't take a chance on you being spotted."
"You think I should just hole up here?" Parker asked.
"Okay but, I gotta eat you know."
"We'll take care of that," said Janice. "In the meantime don't let anybody in here. When I come back I'll give three quick raps, then three slower raps, then three more quick raps."
"That's Morse code for SOS," said Parker. "Don't you think that's a little dubious?"
Janice cracked open the door and peeked out. Turning back to Parker she said, "It's all the Morse code I know. I'll be back about...," she looked at her watch, "...oh say, nine o' clock?"
Parker nodded and Janice peeked out the door once more before opening it. "Let's go, Mel."
Mel smiled faintly at Parker and followed Janice out. He closed the door and watched the two women through the cracked window shade until they were out of his line of vision. As might be expected this first encounter with the women left him feeling very uneasy. As a product of the time he really did not know how to take someone like Janice Covington. Women just were not supposed to be that forceful. Like most men he was a firm believer in the old line, "A woman's place is in the home," and the idea of this smart, confident, assertive, woman more or less telling what to do was rather unnerving for him. What particularly galled him was this Covington woman's implication that she had come to rescue him. "Hah, that will be the day," he snorted.
He went to door and undid the latch. He swung the door open and was about to go outside when he remembered his old pals Fuchida and Shidehara were skulking around out there somewhere. Muttering an oath of resignation under his breath, he slowly closed the door and pushed the bolt back in place. Covington's right, he thought. I can't go out there. He knew he was doing the right thing by following her advice but somehow he didn't feel very good about it.
That Janice on the bed in her room turning over day's events in her mind. After some deliberation she had decided it would be best if she and Mel took separate rooms. She figured the less attention drawn to the two of them the better. She had already returned to Parker and then seen to it Melinda was squared away before saying good night and returning to her own room. Now she opened a window but it did not do much to relieve the stuffiness in her room. The evening temperature had not cooled things down very much and the humidity was no less stifling. She found herself wishing for a drink.
Almost without thinking she ambled over to the radio and began to play with the dial. She was gratified to see the radio was capable of receiving short wave transmissions. After a few twists of the dial and she had tuned in Manila, Honolulu, Brisbane, and Singapore. Hoping to get a bit of news she finally decided on the Australian station. To her frustration she learned they read the news at the top of the hour and it was now just a quarter past. She started to turn the dial but the music they were playing was especially good so she left the dial where it was and stretched out on the bed.
She couldn't take her mind off Mel. Yes, she had told the woman they would have to wait but that had been an easy thing to say while they were bouncing along in the back of a beat up old truck. Now, with the air of the steamy tropical night clinging to her a like tight sweater, she found herself not only wanting Mel but aching for her.
She lay there fidgeting for a few minutes before finally deciding to try to get some sleep. First though, she thought she would check in on Mel once more to make sure all was well. Still in her sock feet, she opened her door and padded her way two doors down to Mel's room. Once, twice, three times she knocked. No answer.
"Mel? You in there? Come on, answer the door." She knocked again, this time much more forcefully. No answer. "Mel?" With a mounting sense of apprehension she simultaneously whacked the door hard with the palm of her right hand while vigorously jiggling the door knob with her left. "Mel!" Still no answer.
She the rammed her shoulder against the door but the construction was too solid. Begining to feel desperate now, she ran to the stairs and bounded down to the lobby. She was almost to the night desk when there, standing at a table in the corner of the lobby idly thumbing through a magazine was Mel!
Janice's stocking feet stopped dead and she felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over her. She ran a hand across her damp brow and whispered a heart felt, "Thank God." However, now that she knew Mel was all right she felt herself becoming very angry. Pressing her lips tightly together, she stomped over to her AWOL companion.
"Oh hi, Janice," Mel said innocently.
Her teeth almost gnashing, Janice glared at her and took her by the arm. "Just what the fuck do you think you're doin' down here anyway?"
Taken aback by Janice's vehemence, Mel gulped hard and answered, "Golly, Janice, I got bored so I came down to find something tuh read, that's all."
Janice's tightened her grip and she hissed, "God damn it, Mel. We're not in Charleston, South Carolina here! You're not safe down here alone. If those Japs see they'll know something is up! Don't you ever pull a stunt like this again, you hear?"
"I didn't mean to make you upset." Mel pulled the corners of her mouth up in that endearing tight-lipped smile Janice adored and all the anger in her just drained away.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "God, Mel," she said quietly, "you scared the bejeebers out of me, that's all." She relaxed her grip on Mel's arm. "It's my fault. I should have warned you beforehand."
Mel drew herself up to her full height and looked down her nose at Janice. "I don't know if I should accept your apology," she said solemnly.
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Jes' what I said," retorted Mel. "You come stormin' in here like a tornado rippin' my ass when all I was doing was trying tuh find something to read."
"Yeah. And furthermore, I think anyone that runs around hotel lobbies in their stocking feet with the fly of their pants open hain't got much right to be beratin' other people anyway."
Janice's eyes grew wide and her hand shot down. Mel wasn't kidding! Janice had on a pair of men's pants and not the side-zippered style slacks women of the day usually wore. As leisurely as she could manage she looked down at the gaping hole in her pants. While this sort of thing is usually merely good for a snicker or two, Janice had real cause for alarm because she was not wearing any underwear! How did I... Then she remembered. When she used the toilet earlier she still had her pants down when she pulled the chain to flush it. To her consternation the accursed thing began to back up and she had to reach for the plumber's helper. She remembered frantically buttoning her pants to keep from tripping...but not zipping them up.
Janice looked at her friend with a sheepish grin on her face. "Damn, Mel, why didn't you tell me?" she gasped, pulling up the zipper.
Mel grinned puckishly and said, "I jes' did."
Janice had to smile. "Okay, okay. You win. I deserved that. Now do you think you could select one of these fine periodicals and come back to your room?"
"I reckon I could do that," said Mel airily. It was not often she got the best of Janice so she was eating this up with both hands. She picked up a month old copy of "Life" magazine and sighed, "I 'spose this one will have to do."
Janice shook her head in mock dispair and started for the stairs. "You know, that's the first time I ever heard you say 'ass.'"
"It's your fault," sniffed Mel. "You're corruptin' me. The last time I was home Momma heard me say the word 'damn' and I swear I thought she was gonna have an apoplexy."
"By the time I'm through with you you'll be lucky if Momma doesn't disown you completely," laughed Janice.
A minute later they stood in front of the door to Mel's room. She looked at Janice and smiled nervously. "I am sorry I scared you, Janice." She stuck her key in the lock and was about to say good night when Janice shot out her hand and stopped her from turning the key. "Whats wrong?" she asked.
"Mel? Stay with...me tonight?"
Mel looked at her and, without a word, stuck the key back in her pocket.
Janice led her back to her room and the lock on her door had no sooner clicked shut before she began to unbutton Mel's blouse.
"I thought you said...,"
"I was an idiot," said Janice.
The bra soon joined Mel's blouse on the floor and, soon enough, both of them were out of their clothes and standing facing each other just a little nervously. Janice then took off Mel's glasses and led her to the bed. They sat down on the edge and for a moment just looked at each other.
"I jes' want you to know I've never, you know, done this before," said Mel quietly.
"Shhhh." Janice laid a finger across Mel's lips and whispered, "It's all right. Don't be scared."
Janice moved closer and Mel closed her eyes. Their lips met and this time Janice drove her tongue deep. To her delight Mel responded and for several exquisite moments the two of them remained locked in their first real embrace. Finally Janice pulled away, smiled wantonly at her, and pushed her down onto the bed. She then spread Mel's long legs and placed herself on top of the taller woman. She began to kiss Mel's shoulder ever so softly and then slowly worked her way over to her neck. As she alternated between caressing Mel's neck with her tongue and ever so gently nipping at it with her teeth, she did not have to ask her if she liked it. Mel's moans were proof enough.
Janice pushed Mel's legs wider apart and began to slowly work her hips in a circular fashion, grinding her crotch against Mel's. Every so often she would thrust forward much as a man would do and grunt softly. This was a selfish sort of thing for her because she knew it really wasn't doing much for her lover...but she loved to do it. After a time she worked her way back up and they again kissed.
"Ohh, Jan," Mel whispered breathlessly, "I love youuuu."
Janice smiled and kissed her again and then began to kiss her way south. She stopped at Mel's breasts cupped her hand around one of the perfect mounds of flesh. After teasing the nipple hard with her tongue she began to slowly, ever so gently, suck her breast. Mel groaned and placed her hand on the back of Janice's head, pushing her closer.
After giving her attention to first one breast, then the other Janice allowed it was time for the main event. She would have liked to have taken the time to explore Mel's body further but she too impatient to wait any longer. She wanted this beautiful Southern belle now. She pushed a pillow under Mel's buttocks and snaked her arms around her legs. She began to gently lick the inside of Mel's thighs and then ran her tongue along the entire length of her thigh and stopped just short of home.
Finally she pulled the lips of her crotch apart with her middle fingers and at first just touched the tip of her tongue around the edges. Excited by Mel's soft moans, Janice's tongue began to work its magic in earnest. Mel bucked and pressed her hips hard against Janice's face.
"Ohhhhhhhh Gahhd! Ohhhhhhhh Gahhhhhd! Oh Gahhhhhhhhhhhhd!"
After a few minutes of delicious exploration Janice's tongue began to pound away at the Magic Button.
Melinda Pappas was no stranger to orgasms. Though still a virgin, like most people her age she had ignored the ominous warnings and ventured into the world of masturbation. Her first attempts had been pleasurable enough to make her want to do it again and she became quite adept at pleasing herself. But she was not prepared for the fury Janice's gifted tongue wrought when her body erupted. It was as if something had blown up inside her and was emitted pulsating shock waves of pleasure.
All she could manage was a gutteral, "ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!"
Mel gasped for breath and drove her shoulders into the bed. She lifted her buttocks completely off the bed, taking the still busy Janice with her. She sank back to the bed, whimpering loudly. Janice did not follow her back down but sat back on her knees. She was still throbbing when Janice again snaked her way back on top of her. Once more she sucked Mel's breasts, this time much more forcefully, and then rolled off and nestled her head on her lover's shoulder.
"God, Jan," Mel whispered hoarsely, "how did you do that?"
Janice kissed her again in the sweet, simple fashion of their first kiss. "Oh," she smiled, "I've been around, remember?"
"Could you...teach me how to do that?
Janice playfully trailed a finger along the lips of Mel's soaking wet crotch. She then plopped down on her back and spread her legs invitingly wide. "Honey, she cooed, "lesson one is about to begin."
The next afternoon Janice and Melinda made love once more but this time Janice could not keep her mind off Parker and the rings. When Mel sensed Janice was not quite as passionate this time around, she was still insecure enough to wonder if it was something she had done. Maybe I didn't do it right, she thought.
However Mel had to admit that, whatever her lover's level of intensity, Janice had no problem bringing forth her long pent up passions. Two orgasms, one long and volcanic, the other shorter but no less rapturous were induced in the Southern belle's hungry body that afternoon by the enigmatic woman with the tough talk and the tender caress. After the pulsating ripples of Mel's second explosion died away Janice once again returned to Mel's breasts and toyed with them for quite some time. It pleased Mel to know Janice liked her breasts so very much.
As for the rest of that evening and the entire following day they passed in the very manner Janice hoped they would--quietly. During this time the two of them left their room only sparingly. She knew well enough that if they were seen by Fuchida and Shidehara the two men would no doubt put two and two together and they would not come up with five. Not since that first day had they seen any trace of either of the two men, or any other suspected Japanese agents for that matter but she was sure they were still around. For her part Janice wasn't trusting anybody. She knew any one of the hotel staff could be a Japanese plant.
Late in the evening on the second day Janice returned from her visit to Parker. The navy officer was not taking to his confinement very well and was becoming very antsy.
"Just hang for a little while longer," she had told him.
She knocked the three short, three long, three short, signal on the door and checked the hallway while she waited for Mel to open the door.
"Did everything go all right?" asked Melinda as she bolted the door to her room closed. They had spent the last two nights together in Janice's room and as an added precaution the archaeologist decided they would stay in Mel's room this night.
"Yeah," replied Janice. "I think Parker's starting to get a touch of cabin fever though."
"He's not the only one," sighed Mel.
Janice glanced up at the clock and read 10:45. "Just think," she said. "By this time tomorrow we will be off this island and on our way to Guam."
"I wish we were goin' to Australia instead," said Mel wistfully.
"Because down there we could get some decent food and take a real bath instead of jes' washing off with a damp rag."
Janice had to admit that did sound pretty good. Tarakan was a fair sized place but on the whole the conditions there were still not very modern. For a while the two of them sat quietly listening to the radio Janice had lugged over from her room. To their initial dismay they had found the one in Mel's room to be broken but had soon remedied that.
Just before midnight Mel yawned and stretched out her arms. "I think I'm going to turn in."
"Good idea," said Janice. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."
Mel walked over to the bed and took off her glasses. She laid them on the night stand and then started to undress. The past two nights both women had slept totally in the buff, both to help beat the sweltering heat and to facilitate some middle of the night petting. Tonight however, would be different.
"Don't take off anything but your shoes."
She looked at the smaller woman quizzically but got no explanation. "Okay, Jan," she said quietly, "whatever you say." She took off her shoes and carefully placed them under the bed. "You coming?" she asked Janice hopefully.
"Not right now. In a little bit," said Janice.
"Oh." Mel's face fell a little and she turned away, not wanting to show her disappointment. She stretched out on the bed and rolled over on her side so as to turn her face away. She knew she had not done anything wrong nor was Janice angry at her but this first, albeit very gentle, rejection by her new lover was a hard thing for her. Mel understood they could make love every night but that made her no less disconsolate.
So she lay there feeling sorry for herself and taking some small solace in the notion that she would sooner or later gain her revenge. Just wait til she wants to do it again, she told herself. Then we'll see who gets the cold shoulder. Yeah, Mel, sure, she thought ruefully. Sure. Before long her eyelids began to get heavy and just before she fell asleep she became aware of footsteps crossing the room toward her. As the light snapped off a set of warm lips kissed her on the cheek and a husky voice whispered, "Good night, Kid. I love you."
Janice returned to her dark seat and with Johnny Mercer's "Love of My Life" flowing from the radio, Mel smiled dreamily and murmured, "Good night." Her last thought before falling asleep was she finally said it!
"You are certain this is the place?" Shidehara checked his pistol in the dull yellow light of the truck's map light.
"This is the place," parrotted Fuchida. He too checked his pistol before returning it to the shoulder under his jacket. The two men had no intention of using these weapons if they did not have to but, careful men that they were, they nevertheless had to make sure they were ready.
Fuchida and Shidehara had spent every waking moment over the last two days relentlessly searching for any clue as to the whereabouts of the man they knew as Garnett. Unless he had been foolish enough to try escape through the jungle they had been quite sure he was still in Tarakan.
And not more than an hour ago their diligence and tenacity had caused them to strike pay dirt. While canvassing a smoky tavern down by the docks earlier that evening, Fuchida had overheard a conversation between two of the locals about how the inconsiderate the American had been. This had set off all kinds of alarm bells in Fuchida's nimble mind. After plying the two men with a few more rounds he learned the man named Garnett had rushed passed them a couple of days ago and not even said hello. They had found this odd because always before he had seemed so friendly, even sometimes offering to buy them a drink at their favorite watering hole.
Fuchida had feigned indignance at their slight and said it was just another case of the arrogant whites pissing on we Asians. In fact, he had told them, he had a mind to take this fellow to task himself. Now...just where was it he was staying again...?
That night the two men waited patiently until the town's activity died down and the streets were clear. They parked their truck and quickly walked the hundred yards up the street to Parker's bungalow. They then very carefully worked their way around to the back door. They stood there for a few moments listening intently for signs of life inside. They were none. Privately Fuchida hoped this was not a wild goose chase. It would be very dishonorable to him to have to admit to Shidehara he was wrong. At last he nodded to Shidehara and within thirty seconds his colleague had the back door lock picked and, with a toothy grin, was easing the door open.
Parker was having trouble sleeping. The worries of the past few days were beginning to take their toll on him. Holing up inside an oven for a house was not his idea of adventure. He had volunteered for the ONI with visions of doing daring things in exotic lands like India or China--not hiding like a scared rabbit in some sweltering hell hole on the equator.
And those two women. What the hell sense did it make for the goverment to send them down here. Parker wondered what genius dreamed that one up. Did those two have any idea what could happen down here? Can they be counted on to keep their heads if trouble came? Can they even lead me to the fucking PBY? He raised his arm up and checked the luminous dial on his watch. 11:45 Thank God this is my last night here, he thought.
He closed his eyes for a moment and when he reopened them he became filled with the horrifying sensation that he was not alone. He shot upright in the bed and reached for the .38 under his pillow but he was too late. White streaks of light flashed in his brain as he felt something hard strike him across the face.
A cold, decidedly Asian voice said, "That would be most inhospitable of you, Mister Garnett."
Melinda Pappas had a sense of standing near the water. Wherever she was it was a beautiful place but something about it frightened her. The water was an odd black color. She looked out over the broiling water and, in the distance, saw huge columns of black smoke billowing high up to the sky. Every now and then she saw great orange and red flashes erupt on the surface of the water. Oddly enough she had no sense of sound. Above the columns of smoke she saw what looked to be great swarms of huge birds circling overhead. She was fascinated by the birds and yet fearful of them. As she stood there watching the birds circle and dive over the columns of smoke she became aware of something floating in the water. She walked down to the water's edge to get a better look and saw it was a man. She tried to scream but, again, there was no sound.
Now as if magically transported she found she was now in the water herself. There was smoke and fire all around her. Even the water was on fire. For some reason she could now hear the roar of the fires broiling all around her. Through the choking smoke she could hear the screams of others but was powerless to help.
What is this place?
What is happening here?
Suddenly out of the smoke a man swan over to her. His face and arms were covered with a black substance and was screaming at her to get away. Mel heard a horrible screeching sound and looked up and again saw the great birds swooping down. Only now they seemed to be making directly for her! She turned back to the screaming man but he was gone.
The screeching birds were now all around her. They were green and black and had big red circles under their wings. She had never been so afraid. She felt something erupt as if the whole world had been shaken apart and she was pulled down...down...down. After what seemed an eternity she burst forth from the depths of the black water and was again on the surface. The horrid birds were gone. Something bumped her hard from behind and she wheeled around to see what it was. It was same man that had screamed at her before. To her horror Mel saw he now had no face. She felt the hand of Death all around her.
A tattered piece of cloth floated by her. Mel realized she ought to recognize it but for some reason she just could not remember. Red and white stripes. White stars on a blue field. God! What is this thing? Why is it so sad to see it this way?
Another body bumped into her. She dared not look this one in the face. He rolled over in water and inadvertently flopped one arm into Mel's face. As she pushed the arm away she saw that something seemed to be written on his forearm. She lifted the arm up out of the water and saw the writing was a tattoo. A wound had obliterated part of the tattoo but the part she could make out read... "Arizona."
Mel awoke and bolted upright in the bed gasping for air. Frantically she looked about the dark room. There were no dead men. There was no fire, no great birds. She wiped her forehead with the back of her shaking hand. She was covered with sweat. God, it was only a dream! she thought thankfully. But it had seemed to real. She looked over to her left and lying there beside her was Janice, softly snoring. Quietly she got up and poured herself a glass of water. As she walked back to the bed she happened to notice the clock. It read 2:28. She sat there on the side of the bed for a few minutes while her hands stopped shaking and her heart beat returned to normal. She remembered the ragged cloth. An American flag? And "Arizona,"...why did that word make her shudder? She lay back down on the bed and stared up at the spot of light filtering through the window and dancing on the ceiling. It was a very long time before sleep came again to Melinda Pappas.
"Mel. Mel, wake up."
Janice smiled faintly and shook her friend again. "Come on, get up."
"Mel rolled over and peered up at the cloudy apparation looming over her. "What time is it?" she asked.
"It's time to get up," replied Janice, simply.
Mel groaned and sat up in the bed. She yawned and rubbed her eyes and finally just sat there. But not for long. Janice picked up Mel's shoes and tossed them into her lap.
"Come on, Sister," she said. "Get the lead out."
"Okay okay." Her eyes still closed Mel began to fumble with the shoes.
"I don't see why you're so tired," said Janice. "You got to bed way before I did."
It was then Mel remembered her dream. She wondered it she should tell Janice about it but, in the end, decided against it. "I didn't sleep very well." was all she said.
At last she managed to wrestle the shoes onto her feet. "When are we leaving?"
"That Piloto fella said we would rendezvous at the same spot he dropped us off at 1600 hours today, that's 4:00 PM. By the time we round up Parker and secure transportation we'll only have a couple of hours or so to wait." She set their bags by the door. 'Mel, I'm going down to settle our bill. I'll be right back."
"Anything you want me to do?" asked Melinda.
"Well you could take that radio back to my room," replied Janice. "I'll unlock the door on my way down to the desk. Ya might also just kind of look around to make sure we're not leavin' anything."
Janice went out the door and Mel then began to inspect the room. "Well, Jan, looks like you got everything," she sighed.
She ambled over to the radio. Though known as a "portable" and in fact considerably smaller than the large floor model radios common to the period it nevertheless weighed several pounds and was quite bulky. It made her smile to remember how much trouble Janice had experienced bringing it over from her room. Mel had offered to help but, true to her nature, Janice had stubbornly insisted on doing it herself. Now she wrapped her long arms around the apparatus and hefted it up with ease. As she moved to the door, however, she stumbled over the electrical cord she had forgotten to unplug and and banged the radio hard against the door facing.
"Oh my!" she gasped. She returned the radio to its former resting place and, with not a little trepidation, switched it on. At first she heard nothing but static. With trembling fingers she quickly twisted the dial first to the left, then to the right, praying she had not done any damage. For a brief moment she felt much relieved when she heard a voice speaking clearly over the air waves...that is, until she realized what the voice was saying.
"...number of casualties is unknown at this time but it is believed to be very high. The White House has announced the President Roosevelt will speak before a joint session of congress tomorrow at 1:00 PM, Washington time. It is expected he will ask congress for a declaration of war against Japan..."
"Okay, Mel let's--" Janice was stopped cold by the look on Mel's face. There was not a hint of color anywhere to be seen there. The look of sheer horror she exhibited was enough to make Janice wonder if she had somehow injured herself. "What's wrong?"
Mel pointed weakly to the radio.
"Once again, just before 8:00 AM, their time, Japanese war planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Details are sketchy at this moment but it is certain their target was the main battle fleet in mooring there. There are also reports of Japanese attacks on Hong Kong, Formosa, and Singapore. The War Department says the number of casualties is unknown at..."
"It's started." Janice switched off the radio and threw her field pack on the bed. She took out her ,45 automatic and tucked it into her pants. She then took out the combat knife and stuck it, sheath and all, into her boot. She then opened up Mel's suitcase and took out the beautiful white blouse Mel had worn to the hotel in Washingon. Janice turned the pack upside down and dumped its remaining contents, ten pistol clips and the two grenades, onto the blouse. She then quickly tied the blouse up into a bundle.
"Mel, we have got to get out of here. All bets are off now and it's gonna be every man for himself."
Melinda nodded and picked up Janice's suitcase.
"Leave it," said Janice. "The only thing we're takin' with us are our passports...," she picked up the bundle by its knot, ... and this."
Now Mel understood the meaning of her dream. A quick mental calculation told her she had been dreaming of it at the exact moment the attack was occuring. My god! she thought.
As she followed Janice out of the hotel and out into the street a strange feeling came over her. From somewhere down deep within her a small voice rose up. "It is up to you to protect the Little One, whatever the price. So it has always been and so it will ever be. The Ancient One's warrior blood flows strong within you. Harken unto it and you will not fail."
"What do I do?" Mel whispered.
"Trust in the Ancient One," the voice said. "She will protect you and guide you--always."
Janice rapped the SOS code once, twice, three times on the door of Parker's bungalow but there was no answer. "I've got a bad feeling about this," she whispered.
Her bad feeling got even worse when she turned the door latch and found it unlocked. Janice drew her .45 and slowly pushed the door open. "Parker?" she hissed. "Parker!"
She turned to Mel and laid her index finger across her lips as a warning for her to remain silent and Mel nodded she understood. The two women carefully entered the bungalow and Janice eased the door closed behind them. The bungalow had only two rooms so Janice stealthily made her way to the thick curtain that served to partition the two rooms. Turning to Mel she nodded toward the window and said, "Keep an eye out. We don't want any unexpected guests."
Mel nodded and went to the window while Janice carefully pulled back the curtain.
Oh my God!
The sheet on Parker's bed was covered in blood. His blood. Janice ducked through the curtain and rushed to the bed. He lay naked on the bed, his spread-eagled hands and feet bound to the bed posts. His face had been beaten almost to mush and there were numerous deep cuts all over his body. His neck was encircled with thick red welts as if something, she guessed a belt, had been used to repeatedly choke him. She saw at least of his fingers were broken.
"Jesus Christ," she whispered. Certain he was dead, she turned to leave when she heard a soft gurgle. "Parker?"
She knelt down beside the bed and murmured in his ear. "Parker, who did this?"
The navy man was unable to open his swollen eyes but he turned his face toward the voice nonetheless. "Fu--" He gagged loudly and blood trickled slowly out of his mouth.
Parker gasped and the air slowly, hoarsely, seeped from his lungs.
Without thinking she whispered, "Good bye, Iolaus."
Iolaus? Why did I call him that? she wondered. And what was that he started to call me? Gabrielle? How did he know that? She shook her head as if to clear the fog from her brain. She stood up, laid the palm of her hand on his forehead, and gently stroked back his blond hair. She looked down at his tortured body. Never in her life had she thought she would be glad to see a fellow as worthy as this dead.
Mel's soft voice startled her and she quickly walked to the door. She caught Mel just about to enter and she pushed her back away from the curtain. "Mel, get back," she said urgently.
"You don't want to go in there," said Janice.
Melinda Pappas was no fool. "Iolaus--I mean, Parker...he's dead, isn't he?"
Janice looked at her oddly. WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? "Yeah, he's dead."
"God, Jan, this is terrible."
"We'll mourn later," said Janice. "Right now we have work to do." She ran her hand into her pocket and pulled out the Swiss army knife she'd won in the poker game. Emulating Parker's example she switched off the ceiling fan and positioned a chair under it. She mounted the chair only to discover she was too short to reach the screws.
"Damn it. Here Mel," she said, handing the taller woman the knife, "you'll have to do it."
Mel stood up in the chair and removed the three screws holding the fan in place.
"Don't let it fall on you," Janice warned.
Mel eased the fan down and ran her hand up into the hole.
"Is it in there?" Janice asked anxiously.
"I don't...no wait! I got it!"
Mel tossed the black bag to Janice who quickly opened it up to check the contents. The rings were indeed there.
"Should I put it back?"
"The fan, should I put it back?" Mel asked.
"Forget the fan. We're blowing this joint."
As the two women emerged from the bungalow two pairs of almond shaped eyes observed their every move.
"You see, Fuchida, I was correct."
"I congratulate you on your insight, Shidehara. And for you suggestion we continue to monitor the house," said Fuchida, bowing his head slightly. "It would seem our tree huggers are not who they say they are after all."
"It is almost certain they have the rings, don't you agree?" asked Shidehara. "Or at least know their location."
"There is one certain way to find out," answered his colleague.
"Let us hope these two flowers are not as stubborn as Garnett--Parker was."
"He was most brave," Fuchida conceded.
The two men allowed Janice and Mel to continue on down the street for some distance before following. As they passed the hotel Shidehara stepped into the lobby and walked straight to the pay phone. There he placed a call to a Mister Kurito working in a dry goods store three blocks away. Kurito punctuated the terse conversation with a servile "Hai," hung up the phone and rushed to the shop door. There they were! A tall woman wearing glasses and a short woman wearing a black baseball cap. His orders being only to delay these two, Kurito frantically racked his brain over how to accomplish this. Then it came to him.
Kurito hid behind the door and waited for the two of them to pass. He then leaped out and snatched the bundle from Janice's hand.
"Hey!" Janice wheeled around and lashed out at the little man but he was too nimble. He darted back into the shop and ducked behind the counter.
Once inside the shop, Janice drew her .45 and carefully began advancing toward the counter. "Come out right now, fella," she said cautiously. "Come on now. I ain't got time to play games here."
She eased over and peeked behind the counter at the cowering man huddled in the corner. She stretched out her arm and wiggled her fingers. "There's nothing in there that would interest you so give that and you won't get hurt."
The man lay there like a rock clutching to the bundle. He was fully prepared to die obeying his orders. Not wanting to hurt Kurito and sensing no danger, Janice laid the .45 on the counter and walked up to the man. She tried to wrench the bundle away from him be he clung to it like a mother to her child.
"Give me that, damn it! Mel," she barked, "come and help me."
But Mel did not answer.
"Mel!" Janice turned to the door and saw they had company. It was their two benefactors from their first day on Borneo, Fuchida and Shidehara. Fuchida had a pistol pointed at her and his partner had his stuck under Mel's chin.
"Good morning, Miss," said Fuchida politely.
"What is all this?" growled Janice.
"Oh come now, Miss ah, Covington, isn't it. These silly charades are such a waste of time."
"I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about."
"We shall see," said Fuchida ominously. "Kurito!" The man scrambled to his feet and ran up to Fuchida. Fuchida spoke several sentences to him in Japanese and the man handed the bundle to him, bowed, and disappeared into the back room. Fuchida undid the knot and inspected the bundle's contents.
"Ah so. This is standard equipment for botanists now?" he smirked.
"So I'm a little unorthodox," snorted Janice. "Is that a crime?"
"Enough of this!" snapped Shidehara. "Let's get on with it."
"You see? It does not do to make my colleague upset," Fuchida said smoothly. He retied the bundle and waved his gun toward the door. "If you would be so kind."
Janice and Mel were pushed through the door and into the back of the same truck they had rode into town in. Only this time Shidehara and his pistol got in the back with them.
"You all right?" Janice asked.
"Quiet!" commanded Shidehara. "No talking!"
"Up yours, Tojo!" barked Janice.
"Janiiice," Mel whispered urgently.
"Fuck him. He's not gonna do anything...yet."
Fuchida wrestled the truck to a warehouse not far from the main pier and parked around in back. Shidehara stuck his pistol in Janice's belly and leered, "Out!" The two women piled out and were hustled inside. While Fuchida covered them Shidehara bound Mel's hands to an overhead beam.
"Now," said Fuchida, "we can, what is it you Americans say, get down to cases?"
"I don't know what you two boys want but whatever it is, you're barking up the wrong tree," said Janice.
"Liar!" roared Shidehara. He slapped Janice hard across the mouth.
"Janice!" screamed Mel.
Janice wiped the blood off her mouth and, glaring at Shidehara, said, "It's okay, Kid. This fucker has got a sissy punch."
Shidehara roared again and punched the archaeologist hard in the stomach. "Where are rings?" he demanded.
Janice groaned loudly and, with all the dignity she could manage, stood erect. "Where rings?" shouted Shidehara. The angrier he got the less fluent his English became. He again punched her in the stomach and the woman fell to her knees coughing, gagging, and gasping for air.
Fuchida took her by the hair and lifted her back to her feet. "I warned you not to make him angry, Covington," he cooed. "Now why don't you tell us where the rings are and we can dipense with this...unpleasantness."
Fuchida sighed and nodded to Shidehara. He took off his belt and looped it around Janice's neck. With a hard yank he snapped her head back.
"Stop it," shrieked Mel. "You're killing her!"
Protect the Little One. Mel pulled hard on the ropes that bound her. "Got to..."
Shidehara threw Janice down on her stomach on the floor and put his foot in her back. With a sadistic leer he again yanked on the belt.
"Fuck you," gagged Janice.
Fuchida kicked her in the ribs and felt something hard. "Roll the bitch over!"
Shidehara flipped her over and Fuchida ripped open her shirt. Out rolled the black bag. "Well well well." He knelt down beside the prostrate Janice and lifted her head up by her hair. "Now how do you suppose that got in there?" he asked in mock surprise.
He stood up and grinned at Shidehara. "Looks as if our work is finished here," he said in Japanese.
Shidehara nodded to Janice. "What about her?"
Fuchida broke in a wide grin. "Why, kill her, of course." He again knelt down beside Janice and lifted up her head. "You Americans are so soft with your cars and your refrigerators," he sneered. "Even your leader is a cripple. The great struggle to free Asia from your money grubbing grip has begun. We have already destroyed your navy. The destruction of your way of life is next. You and all who dare oppose us will learn the Bushido Code is unbeatable."
Janice turned her head toward him and with a great effort managed a weak grin, "If I were you I wouldn't sell my hara-kiri knife just yet, buster," she rasped.
"We're going to kill you," said Fuchida. "And we're going to take your friend with us. You see it gets lonely out here in the islands."
"You son of a bitch," Janice tried to get up but Fuchida slammed his fist hard between her shoulder blades and the woman groaned and collapsed back to the floor.
"Kill her," ordered Fuchida.
Shidehara raised his pistol when suddenly it went flying across the warehouse. Mel caught Fuchida by the arm and rammed the hammer of his own pistol into his forehead. There was a dull crack and he groaned loudly and melted to the floor. Shidehara roared and rushed her and she leaped up and wrapped her legs around his neck, pulling him to the floor. She then crushed his skull like a cantaloupe between her two beautiful, but deadly pincers.
Melinda Pappas shook her head stared down at the dead man between her legs.
Melinda gathered Janice up in her arms and rested her head upon her lap. "Jan," she whispered, fighting back her sobs. "Jan, I'm here."
The petite woman with the blonde hair grinned weakly up at her, "Next time, Kid, see if you can evoke that ancestor of yours a little sooner, huh?"
The tears burst forth from Mel like Niagra Falls. She laughed and cried at the same time and pulled Janice to her breasts. "God, Jan. I love you so."
That afternoon Mel loaded Janice into the truck and drove them to the rendezvous point. When Willams paddled in from the PBY he was appalled to see his fellow Yankee fan injured thus but took heart to see her spirit was just as good as ever. As ordered Lieutenant Merle Piloto flew Janice and Mel to Guam where they were transferred to the heavy cruiser "San Francisco" bound for Pearl Harbor. On the way the ship's pharmacist's mate patched Janice up as best he could. For all her pain, she wasn't hurt too badly, mostly just bruises.
On the trip the two were not allowed to leave their rooms except to use the head. The captain didn't want his crew distracted by a couple of very pretty women, especially now. Their meals were brought to them by a crusty chief petty officer named Frank Ryan. As a sixteen year old kid in the Great War he had battled German U-boats in the North Atlantic on the old four stack destroyer "Nathan Hale" and he thought he had seen everything. Until now.
"Dames on a warship," he'd marveled, scratching his head.
It was late in the evening when the "San Francisco" finally made Pearl Harbor. As they slowly worked their way down the channel Ryan sounded off the names of the ravaged ships. Nevada...Tennessee...Maryland...California...West Virginia. When they passed the Arizona the grizzled chief's voice finally cracked. He had pulled six years on the grand old lady and still knew a lot of the fellows that served on her. He stood there staring at the once proud ship-of-the-line and, try as he might, could not hold back any longer.
Janice saw the tears stream down his cheeks and she found herself welling up as well. All those boys!
Melinda moved to the railing and looked out over the water. The seeping oil and diesel fuel had turned it black--just like in her dream. Staring at the twisted, blackened hulks she set her jaw and, looking straight ahead, recited a line spoken by her family's mortal enemy of some eighty years before, "War is the remedy our enemies have chosen and I say let us give them all they want."
"Who said that?" asked Janice. "Grant?"
Mel shook her head ruefully, "Sherman."
"Don't worry, Miss," said Ryan. "When we get through with these bastards the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell. It won't be easy. There'll be a lot of dead Joes when it's over. But if I know Mister Roosevelt, we won't stop until we are marching down the streets of Tokyo itself."
Janice had to agree.
A week later the two women were back in the same Washington hotel room from whence their long and eventful journey had begun. They had not much more than checked in when Janice received a phone call from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau. He explained to her the president was, of course, much too busy now to see her but that he wished to express his heart felt gratitude for their service to the nation.
"Yes, I understand. We'll be ready."
"Who was that, Jan?" Mel asked, emerging from her bath.
The Secretary of the Treasury," replied Janice. "He says we are to come to Blair House this evening--wherever that is."
"That's the official residence of the vice-president," said Mel.
Janice shrugged and took off her well-worn boots. "Well, that's where we're to turn the rings over to them."
"Janice," said Mel thoughtfully, "there has to more to this than what we've been told. The govenment wouldn't put this much effort into something just to keep it out of the hands of somebody else if it was worthless, would they?"
Janice sighed and said, "I don't know. I just glad this is over."
Mel sat down beside her on the bed and put both hands in her lap. "Janice?"
"Have ya given any thought as to what we're, you know, gonna do now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Way-ul, what with the war and all I don't think there's gonna be much archaeological work goin' on--at least for the duration."
"I don't know," said Janice. "I hadn't really given it much thought. I guess I should though huh? Whatever it is it'll be something to help out with the war effort. What about you?"
Mel looked down at her feet. Her voice barely above a whisper she said, "Jan, you know I'll do whatever you do. Whether it's riveting in a shipyard or teaching college or sweeping floors in Minot, North Dakota. As long as we are together."
Janice smiled and kissed the wonderful, ever-surprising woman with the funny looking glasses. She had been going to wait and let Secretary Morgenthau make it official but she couldn't bear to see Melinda so apprehensive about their future. "Kid," she said, "I don't know how to tell you this but we've already got a job."
Mel's eyes lit up like a Chrismas tree. "Really?"
"Yeah. It seems Mister Roosevelt liked our work and he said we were to kind of stick around. He told Morgenthau the government might have future need of our ah, services."
"For sure, Jan?"
"Yep. You see, we're at war now. He's not asking anymore, he's telling us.
Janice leaned over and murmured, "And we're even gonna get paid from now on."
"Golly!" Mel repeated.
"Not as much as we're used to, you understand," cautioned Janice, "but with what we'll both make we'll be all right."
Mel beamed a smile and Janice playfully added, "I think we'll pull in enough to enable you to see Cary Grant every now and then."
Mel blushed and drawled, "Janice Covington, you are the most evil thing."
Janice grinned and pushed her down onto the bed. She leaped on top of her and pinned her arms to the bed. "Ain't I though?" she leered.
"Humph," snorted Mel.
"C'mon, Mel, you love the way I am."
"Ah guess ah do kinda find ya excitin'...in a vulgar sort of way," Mel answered nonchalantly.
Janice pretended to pout and the tender hearted Mel had to say, "Janice, you know good and well I think you're the most wonderful person there is."
"Why thank you, Mel."
Mel suppressed a laugh and added the qualifier, "I mean... for a Yankee, that is."
"Why you...! Janice laughed out loud and pulled open Mel's bath robe. She began to tickle the Southerner and, over her lover's joyous squeals, said, "Reb, I will accept nothing less than unconditional surrender."
These were superfluous words because both of them had already surrendered to the other the most precious gift of all--the heart.
Three days later in a top secret demonstration at the Federal Penitentiary in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a former army corporal convicted of killing another soldier in a fight over a crap game was marched to a secret location and stood up in front of a wall. In attendance was a bevy of army and navy brass including a major general and a rear admiral, upper half.
An army sharpshooter, selected by lots, First Sergeant Wallace Perry from Austin, Indiana positioned himself exactly twenty feet away from the condemned man and, at an officer's signal, fired eight rounds from one of the new M-1 Garand rifles directly at the man's heart. As the last round was expended the clip ejected from the breech and pinged on the floor.
When the resounding echo of the shots died away the silence was even more deafening. Not one round had touched the prisoner!
The army general took out a handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his lips. "God damn, John, what is that thing?"
The admiral smiled and turned to his aide, "Okay, Barney, you can put it away now."
The aide strode over to the prisoner and removed from his neck a leather strap strung with bits of coral and tied at each end to four interlocking rings of tarnished gold.
"Beats the hell out of me, Milt," said the admiral. "All I know is some of our people gained access to it over in Borneo."
The general shivered and said, "I don't know about you but this voodoo crap gives me the willies."
"If the Japs had gotten their hooks on it, you'd have gotten more than the willies," the admiral retorted.
"I guess you're right, John. So, do you think the president will let us use this thing?"
"There's not a snowball's chance in hell of that," said the admiral. "After all it is of vital importance that we maintain some semblance of taking the moral high ground in this fight. We sure as hell can't be seen as relying on some kind of tribal witchcraft or whatever." The admiral nodded toward the prisoner and asked, "What about him?"
"We stick with the deal," said the army man. "He gets a pardon from Roosevelt and is returned to his old unit on the condition he keeps his mouth shut. If he doesn't..."
The admiral didn't need the man to draw him a picture. "I see. I recommend everybody that witnessed this today be made to sign a sworn oath of secrecy."
The prisoner was marched out and the admiral's aide dropped the rings of Bugang back into the same battered black bag they had arrived in; leaving the still astonished Sergeant Perry gaping at his rifle and wondering just what the hell the world was coming to.
The Bard's Corner