Episode 394: Truk Parking Only
It was still night as the Flying Cloud approached the vicinity of
Truk. Since they couldn't call at the station without giving the game away,
Everett ordered MacKiernan to maintain position to the east while they sent
a party ashore by launch. In view of its delicacy -- and also its danger
-- he'd decided to lead this mission himself.
Deployment was unusually challenging, for the sea was running high, the moon
had waned to little more than a sliver, and they couldn't use lights lest
they attract notice. Waves swept past below them, unseen in the dark,
threatening to swamp their craft if they hit the water wrong. Even with
Wallace on the elevator wheel and Abercrombie on the winch controls matters
were touch and go, and Everett didn't relax until they were down and Loris
released the falls.
The run to the west was almost an anticlimax. The 8-cylinder Liberty engine
hammered out miles in a testimony American engineering as their craft rose
to the swells. They raised land as the sun was climbing above the horizon,
threaded a passage to the lagoon, and set a course for Weno.
Their destination was the archetypical tropical island, complete with
volcano, palm trees, and maidens, but their previous visit had been
anything but idyllic. Everett couldn't help but remember how one of those
maidens had betrayed Notariello to the Fat Man's people. Still, the lady
had proved loyal at the end. He smiled and shook his head. Would that he
could say this of another.
No one paid any attention to their launch when they reached the
eponymously-named village of Weno. It might not have made a convincing
merchant vessel, but it was entirely in keeping with their disguise as tourists.
As tourists they had every excuse to visit the Government House, where a
bit of subterfuge on Jenkins's part got them to the Administrator's office.
The Administrator seemed delighted to see them again. "Kapitan Everett!" he
exclaimed. "Welcome back to Truk. I assume from your civilian attire that
you are here on some secret mission."
"Quite," said Everett. "We've discovered that the Fat Man's people plan to
hijack an American cruiser, the USN Sunnyvale. We took liberty of inviting
the vessel here under the assumption you'd be willing to help arrange a
trap for these fellows."
The German beamed. "Of course! I've been waiting for what you English
would call a `rematch' with those scwheinehunde."
It was late afternoon when the Sunnyvale reached Truk. This was their first
visit to the lagoon, and Rosendahl was impressed by its size. "It's a lot
more impressive than it looked on the chart," he remarked to his exec.
The other man nodded. "This could be an important anchorage if there was
ever a war in the Pacific."
"I suppose so," said Rosendahl, "but who would be the combatants? The
English are our allies, none of the other European powers has a major
presence here, and Japan is a peaceful nation."
"What about those nationalists Captain Everett spoke of?" asked the exec.
"That's why we're here," Rosendahl replied. "We want to discredit them and
their cause to make sure they never come to power."
By now the village of Weno was in sight. Rosendahl scanned the harbor
through binoculars until he spotted the Flying Cloud's launch alongside a
wharf. He nodded in satisfaction.
"It looks like Everett got here on schedule," he observed. "Signal the air
station to request a handling party."
A vessel of the Sunnyvale's size presented a challenge even to the best
ground crew, but the locals seemed to regard the mooring as a matter of
honor, and they finished their work in a remarkably short time. When
Rosendahl and his aide rode the lift down to the surface a short time
later, a car was already waiting to take them to the Government House.
They found the Administrator studying a map of the island. "Welcome to
Truk. Kapitan Rosendahl," he said cheerfully. "We had word of
your approach." He nodded to a chair where Everett was leafing through an
advertisement for some opera
Rosendahl nodded. "I take it our trap is ready?"
The Administrator smiled. "I've stationed native police in the jungle
around the station, and guards will be hidden at strategic locations on the
grounds themselves. These men will wait until the hijackers have started
climbing the mast. Then they'll close in to cut off the hijackers' retreat
while your men take them by surprise."
"This will require careful timing," Rosendahl remarked. "Are we sure they
can handle it?"
"Ja," said the German. "The nationalists embarrassed them last
year. They're hungry for revenge.
"I take it you don't mean that literally," quipped Rosendahl's aide.
The Administrator considered this question for a moment. "Perhaps," he
observed thoughtfully. "I suppose this depends on their tribe."
Night came swiftly, as it does in the tropics. Lights still shone in
Government House, but the village fell silent as soon as the sun was down --
for all of their undoubted allure, tropical islands tended not to have a
scintillating night life. At the air station, all was quiet. A token
contingent of sentries paced the field on widely separated and easily
predicted rounds. The Number One Mast stood unguarded as the rest, for
what need was there for vigilance in such a peaceful setting?
Atop the handling platform, the Sunnyvale's accommodation ladder
Inside, Everett and Rosendahl peered from the darkness of the bow station.
A squad of marines waited behind them with weapons at ready.
"I trust your men are ready?" whispered Everett.
"Of course," said Rosendahl. "They train for things like this."
Everett wondered what circumstance in the Americas could have inspired such
a practice. Perhaps the Colonials were more unruly than he'd been led to
believe. He discarded the question as irrelevant and returned his attention
to the field below.
Hours passed uneventfully. From time to time, rigging creaked as the ship
swung at her mooring, but otherwise the night was silent. Hijackers
remained conspicuous by their absence.
As light brightened the eastern horizon, Rosendahl glanced at his watch.
"Where are they?" he asked. "They should have attacked by now."
"They would have if they had any sense of drama," said Everett.. "An attack
at dawn is one thing. An attack at mid-morning is something else. I wonder
what this could mean."
"The Sunnyvale has called at Truk," said the radioman. "Our man on
Weno reports that Everett is there as well."
The Fat Man's chuckle was dark with malice. "The fools," he gloated.
"They've fallen for our trap."
"What if they realize what we mean to do?" asked the radioman.
The Fat Man made a dismissive gesture -- a carnivore brushing aside some
petty annoyance. "It's too late for them to intervene. Still, we'll
instruct our agents to disable the wireless station in Rabaul. That should
keep from guessing our plans."
Next week: There's No Right Time To Make The Wrong Choice...
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