by W. E. Johns



XII. A SOUND EXCUSE  (Pages 206 - 220)

(On original publication this instalment was called "A Perfect Landing")


As the machine roars earthwards there is the harsh sound of machine-guns.  The fuselage is lashed with bullets.  Worrals pulls the machine out of its dive.  "At the finish she was so low that she saw the grass lie flat under the rush of air."  Looking in the reflector she sees only the German pilot bleeding.  Looking out she sees a Spitfire with the letter E painted on it and she recognises Bill Ashton's machine.  Bill, seeing the German markings, has tried to shoot the machine down, not knowing that Worrals and Frecks are onboard.  Worrals also sees that the Rectory is a blazing ruin.  Clearly the bomb has done its work.  Three more Spitfires approach and Worrals lands the plane on the golf course, with her port engine on fire.  "All three men had been hit by bullets, and Frecks must have owed her escape to the fact that she was lower than the others, who were holding her down.  Corton lay in a crumpled heap on the floor.  Carl had sagged into a seat, either dead or unconscious; his automatic lay at this feet.  The German officer appeared to have been struck only in the arm; deathly pale, he was conscious, but too weak from loss of blood to have any fight left in him".  Both girls get out on the grass.  Frecks thinks she is going to faint.  "Oh, no you're not," Worrals told her emphatically.  "There's no time for that now."  However, "Suddenly, without warning, the scene became blurred, then dark.  Her legs seemed to go weak.  "Heavens," she thought, "it's me that's going to faint."  She sat down abruptly and let her head hang forward between her knees, fighting a deadly nausea.  After a minute she began to feel better, and became aware that someone was shouting".  A Spitfire has landed and Bill Ashton has got out.  "You don't happen to have a cup of tea on you, Bill, I suppose?" asks Worrals.  Another Spitfire lands and it is Squadron Leader McNavish who gets out this time.  He says that she has had the temerity to overstay her leave.  "I never offer excuses, sir," Worrals says stiffly.  "But if you'll take a look in the cabin of that Rockheed you'll find an explanation.  In the pocket of the man on the floor you'll find a chart showing certain bridges in this country which have been mined."  The girls are taken back to their aerodrome and tell their tale to senior officers, including Lady Thornton-Bates, the Commandant-in-Chief of the Women's Service.  Bill explains he had the telephone call traced and all local post boxes checked and so got the important letter containing the colour marked map.  The girls are offered promotion but chose to remain where they are currently based.  Squadron Leader McNavish says "There you are - there's loyalty for you.  No officer of mine has ever willingly left me," he boasted.  Then he asks Worrals and Frecks to join them for lunch.