Jet Plane Mystery
ROY J. SNELL
WILCOX & FOLLETT CO.
COPYRIGHT, 1944, BY
WILCOX & FOLLETT CO.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- I Whistling Mystery 1
- II Contact 10
- III Friendly Enemies 20
- IV A Glorious Fight 27
- V A Good Show 34
- VI Plane Wrecked 40
- VII A Night’s Adventures 49
- VIII A Look at a Mystery Plane 60
- IX The Tagged Monkey 70
- X “Hist There! You!” 78
- XI Night Fighters 86
- XII Up at Dawn 96
- XIII The Jet Plane 105
- XIV Ted’s Gony 115
- XV The Secret Book 125
- XVI Mostly Memories 134
- XVII Voices in the Night 143
- XVIII Luck, Pals and Providence 152
- XIX Mysteries Deepen 158
- XX A Ship from Some Other World 165
- XXI Mary Brown from the U. S. A. 175
- XXII Star of the Mist 183
- XXIII Hot Cannibal Rivets 192
- XXIV Twilight Battle 200
- XXV Jack’s New Gunner 207
- XXVI Jack’s Jet Plane Wins Its Way 217
- XXVII Stratosphere Tactics 225
- XXVIII The Jet Plane’s Last Battle 234
JET PLANE MYSTERY
Ensign Jack Steel sat on the edge of a life raftwhittling a stick. A strange place to whittle,one might say, on the deck of a great U. S. aircraftcarrier in mid-Pacific. But Jack loved to whittle.
“What do you make when you whittle?” someoneonce asked him. “Shavings—just shavings—that’sall,” had been his prompt reply. Then, feeling thatthis was not a real answer, he went on to say, “Iwhittle and think. Thinking is what really counts.”
Jack was thinking now, not thinking hard—justletting thoughts drift in and out of his mind. Therewas enough to think about, too; they were in Japwaters right now. Something was bound to happensoon, perhaps at dawn. Jack would be away beforedawn, for his was a scout plane. Back at the farawaytraining base at Kingsville he had put in his bid fora dive bomber.
“Ah! A dive bomber!” he had said to Stew, hisbuddy. “There’s the plane for me! You climb totwelve thousand feet, you get near the target, youcome zooming down at four hundred an hour, youlet go your bomb, and—”
“Wham!” Stew had exclaimed.
“Yes,” Jack had agreed. “Then you get out ofthere fast, as if Old Nick himself was after you.”
In the Navy you don’t talk back; so when thepowers that be read off Jack, or “Jackknife Johnny,”as some of the boys called him, for a scout ship, ascout ship it had been—and still was.
And now, Jack thought, I wouldn’t trade my littleold scout plane for any ship that flies. To go skimmingaway before dawn, to watch the “dawn comeup like thunder” in those tropical waters, then toskip from cloud to cloud, eyes ever on the sea, lookingfor the enemy—ah, that was the life!
“Nothing like it!” he whispered as he carved offa long shaving and allowed it to drop silently onthe deck.
A moving shadow loomed up before him. Heknew that shadow—“Old Ironsides,” as the boyscalled him—Lieutenant Commander Donald Stone,boss of the carrier Black Bee, Jack’s ship, was onhis way to the bridge.
“Must get a swell view of our task force from upthere, eh, Commander?” Jack spoke before hethought. He’d always been that way.
“Eh? What? Oh, it’s you, Jackknife Johnny.” TheCommander gave a low laugh. “Well now, on anight like this you don’t see much—a bit of whitefoam after each ship, and a blink of light now andthen—that’s all.”
“It’s enough, sir,” said Jack. “You know what’sthere—cruisers, destroyers, and maybe a tanker.Your mind must fill in the picture.”
“Oh! It does! It really does!” the Commanderagreed. “Want to come up and see for yourself?”he invited.
“That would be keen, sir!” said Jack, droppingto his feet.
“Come on up then,” the Commander urged.
As Jack mounted the steps to the Commander’sbridge, twenty-five feet above the flight deck, hethought how strange life aboard a carrier wouldseem to those who had never put to sea as a navypilot. Routine was strictly adhered to. When a flightof planes came in from a practice flight, they camedown in perfect formation like a flock of wild geeselanding on a pond.
Strict discipline, yes, he told himself, yet here Iam following our Commander to his bridge, and itdoesn’t seem a bit strange; for he’s one of us. We’reall one, all dressed in khaki, all tanned, trained tothe last degree, ready to act as a unit to beat the Japs.
“Life on a carrier surely is grand, sir!” he saidaloud.
“Yes, son,” the hardy old Commander rumbled.“There’s never been anything like it before.”
“Never has, sir,” Jack agreed.
“And now,” said the Commander as they reachedthe bridge, “there’s your Navy task force on a moonlessnight. Have a seat. Take it all in. I’m going todo a little meditating on the reality of the Absolute.”He laughed, and Jack laughed with him. Jackdidn’t know who or what the Absolute might be,but he did know that the Commander was givinghim a real treat, and that was enough for him.
It was strange sitting up there feeling the throbof the ship’s mighty engines, looking away at theblacker-than-black sea, and knowing that they wereracing along at twenty knots an hour toward somesort of real trouble.
“Spooky,” he thought.
And indeed, it was just that, for they were definitelyin Jap waters. Everyone expected a fight atdawn. If some Jap snooper plane or submarinesighted them now, there would be a mighty battle.
To the right and a little ahead he caught a whitegleam on the water. “That’s the Black Knight,” hetold himself. The Black Knight was a fast and powerfulcruiser. Three other cruisers, always close tothe carrier but not too close, sped along with them.Six destroyers lay farther out.
“What a lot of power, sir!” Jack said aloud as theCommander strode past him.
“What? Yes, a lot of striking power,” the Commanderagreed. “We’re likely to need it, too. Theysay the Jap navy won’t come out and fight. Youcan’t count on that. They’re sly rascals, those Japs.They might pounce on us with double our strikingpower any time. They....”
“What’s that, sir?” Jack broke in.
“What’s what?” The Commander paused.
“Don’t you hear it, sir?” Jack asked. “It’s like thehowl of a dog, or a train whistle far away.”
“All I hear is that banjo on the after deck,” theCommander laughed low.
“It’s not that, nor anything like it.” Jack was indead earnest. “It’s nothing on this ship. It comesfrom far away, sir. Listen hard.”
“You have good ears,” said the Commander. “Radioears, perhaps. They say there are people whocan pick radio messages right out of the air withtheir unaided ears. I’ve never believed that, but—say!”His voice rose. “I think I do hear somethingout there!”
“Sure you do, sir!” Jack exclaimed. “It’s gettinglouder, closer!”
For a space of seconds the two of them, the agedCommander and the boy, stood there listening withbreathless attention.
“This may be serious!” the Commander exclaimedat last, as he dashed for the intership telephone.
Jack heard him barking words into the phone. Heat last exclaimed loud enough to be heard, “Goodboy, Steve! Keep a sharp watch!”
Jack wondered who Steve was, but more than thathe wanted to know what made that high-pitched,screaming whistle that had increased in volume untilit fairly filled the sky.
“It’s a bomb!” he exclaimed at last. “Sounds justlike the ones those Jap dive bombers threw at us!”He wanted to race down the companionway to seeka safer spot. And then again he did not, for was notthis a first-class mystery? And was not the Commanderstanding by? You had to be a real sailor.
“Could be a bomb from some stratosphere plane,”the Commander, who had returned to his post,agreed. “But I doubt it.”
“What is it then, sir?” Jack asked.
“Some Jap trick I’d say,” the Commander rumbled.“They may be closer than we think. The Germansclaim they’ve got planes loaded with TNTthat they guide by radio. It might be one of those.”
From below came the murmur of many voices.All over the ship men were calling, “What is it?”“What’s going on?” “Here it comes!” “Here shecomes!”
Jack wondered if they would be ordered to battlestations, but no order came.
“It’s high up and coming fast.” There was a suggestionof huskiness in the Commander’s voice.
“It will pass over quickly, sir,” Jack declared.“Unless....”
“Yes,” the Commander agreed.
To Jack, whose mind often conjured up strangethings, all that lay about him—the night, the blacksea, the tiny lights blinking in from nowhere, andthe eerie scream from the night sky—seemed partof another world.
The Commander took a more practical view of it.“Maybe a meteor,” he grumbled.
“A meteor!” Jack was startled.
“Yes, a shooting star that’s burned its way throughthe earth’s atmosphere.”
“But I don’t see—”
Jack did not finish, for all of a sudden he realizedthat the thing, whatever it might be, had passeddirectly over their heads and was now speeding east.
“It—it’s gone by!” Jack exclaimed. “Danger’sover.” He experienced intense relief.
“I wonder,” was the Commander’s strange reply.
“Whew! that was fast, sir!”
“Fast?” the Commander added in a lower tone.“Faster than any plane you’ve ever flown, Jack myboy!”
“I wouldn’t doubt it, sir,” Jack laughed.
“Or ever will fly,” the Commander added.
In this last statement he was entirely wrong, asfuture events were to prove.
“Who’d want to ride a meteor, sir?” Jack askedwith another laugh.
“Meteor? Oh, yes. Quite a wild guess on my part,”said the Commander. “A meteor speeding throughthe air would glow with the heat created by friction.You didn’t see anything, did you?”
“Not a thing, sir. Whatever it might be, it’sblack as night itself.”
“Well, that’s that.” The Commander sighed amoment later when the last faint whistle had diedaway in the night.
“Just one of those things, sir,” Jack agreed. Atthat he wondered whether he had spoken the truth.Or will there be more of them, many more? he wondered.And will one of them at last make contactwith the broad side of the old Black Bee?
“Boy, oh boy!” he whispered to himself. “Thatwould be something!”
A moment more of vast, black silence, and he wasexcusing himself to go down the ladder to join hisbuddies.
“Got to turn in, sir,” he explained.
“That’s right,” the Commander agreed. “Tomorrowmay be a great day for us all. You never know.”
On the flight deck Jack joined a group of hisfighting pals. Sprawled about the deck, theywere still discussing the mysterious something thathad gone screaming over their heads.
“It’s a Jap trick,” said Dave Dunn, a torpedobomber pilot. “I tell you they’re closer than youthink!”
“They didn’t have to be too close at that,” Jackbroke in. “I was on the Commander’s bridge whenthe thing went over.”
“Oh, ho! Listen to Jackie!” Kentucky, a fighterpilot, exclaimed. “Been hobnobbin’ with the Commander!”
“Shut up, Ken!” Red Sands, another fighter pilot,gave him a push. “What does the Commander thinkabout it, Jack?”
“It’s a sign. That’s what it is!” a bombardier exclaimed.“Sign of trouble ahead!”
“The Commander thinks just what we all think.”Jack gave a low chuckle as he dropped to the deck.“Might be just anything—a meteor, a Jap nuisancetrick—just anything!”
“Nuisance trick! Say! If that thing had hit us I’llsay it would have been a nuisance!” Blackie, anotherfighter, exclaimed.
The talk went on, but Jack, who for the momenthad lost interest in the sky-screamer, was talkingwith his pal, Stew Sherman, radio gunner.
“The Commander thinks we’ll contact a Jap taskforce tomorrow,” he confided.
“I shouldn’t wonder,” Stew murmured softly.
Unlike Jack, who was tall, slim, blond, and quickas the snap of a jackknife blade, Stew was short,solid, and rather quiet.
“A message was picked up from a land-basedplane,” Jack continued. “He was reporting back tohis own base. That base is a long way from here, butthose big old land-snoopers cruise long distances.He was reporting a Jap task force headed south.Sounds like action ahead!”
“It’s our turn next,” Stew grumbled. “Last timeLouie and Dave spotted the Jappies. We’ll find ’emthis