by Capt. W. E. Johns



13.   TOUCH AND GO  (Pages 169 – 184)


Back at the oasis, the girls are bought before Cosmo, “a smile twisting his saturnine face when he saw the sheikh had been successful”.  With Cosmo is a man Frecks recognises as Markoff’s chauffeur.  “Cosmo took up a position in front of Worrals, and with arms folded across his chest regarded her with cold hostility.  “Two clever girls – but not quite clever enough,” he sneered (and this is the picture on the cover of the book).  Cosmo wants to know what information Worrals and Frecks have found out, but they are not talking.  Worrals is defiant.  “Your stooges have already laid hands on us, and that is something for which you will be required to give an explanation to the British Government, which still has some authority in this part of the world”.  He has them tied to palm trees and a man raises a camel whip to strike them.  Worrals continues in the same vein.  “The people who really matter in Egypt know where we are, and if we disappear they’ll come looking for us; make no mistake about that.  Unless you can produce us, safe and sound, you’ll be for the high-jump.  That’s all I have to say to you, Mr. Cosmo”.  The sheikh asks if he can buy the two girls, saying they are worth two hundred pounds in gold apiece.  “Call it vanity,” murmured Worrals.  “I should hate to think that my value in the slave market was a mere two hundred pounds.  I should be ashamed of that all my life”.  Markoff’s chauffeur wants Cosmo to kill Worrals and Frecks.  “Kill them!” burst out Markoff’s man.  “Give them to me, I’ll do it”.  “If you give us to that rascal he’ll probably sell us behind your back, anyway,” scoffed Worrals.  “These hashish wallahs would sell their dying mothers”.  “Markoff’s man made a rush at her, but Cosmo flung him back.  “You keep your mouth shut!” he rasped.  Shut up, all of you!  Before we settle the matter I’ll see what these women have to say.  You can do what you like with them when I’ve finished”.  He made a signal to the man with the camel wand.  The man stepped forward, raising the wand high with obvious relish”.  Suddenly, a hush falls and faces are raised skyward to the distant hum of an aircraft.  There is a rush to put out all of the lights in the camp.  An aircraft passes overhead without stopping.  The man with the cane comes forward again and there is a sudden crash in the palm fronds above.  All around, paratroops are landing.  The result was pandemonium.  “Markoff’s chauffeur spat a bitter oath, and whipping out a pistol pointed it at Worrals; but before he could pull the trigger an automatic weapon chattered.  He spun like a top before diving into the ground”.  Worrals shouts for someone to cut her free and both Worrals and Frecks are freed.  Cosmo and the sheikh try to bolt on horseback but Worrals points them out.  “Get those two!” she cried.  “They’re the leaders”.  Both Cosmo and the sheikh are shot dead in their attempts to escape.  Worrals sees Colin Pasha and Melinos and both she and Frecks go over to report.  Worrals tells them that “A general rising was timed for Monday.  Everything was all set for a nasty little war”.  Worrals gets some soldiers to dig and expose the hidden arms cache.  Colin Pasha explains how a plane was sent to pick the girls up after they were spotted, but when it landed they found tracks in the sand that led in a straight line towards the oasis.  The plane sent a signal and Colin Pasha got in touch with Higher Command to turn out the paratroops.  He then flew with Melinos to the road that was being built and followed up in an armoured car.  Worrals says “You rolled up – or rather, dropped down – just in time.  The king gun-runner was just about to get busy on us with a big stick – to make us talk.  It was all rather alarming”.  Colin Pasha offers to take the girls in his car the thirty miles to the road where the engineers have a mess, as both girls are starving hungry.  “They’ll be only too happy to share their rations” says Colin Pasha.  “They may not be so pleased when they see how much I can put away,” rejoined Frecks cheerfully, as they walked towards the waiting car.