* * *
Lt. Olmstead picked up the clipboard. Japanese characters filled the piece of paper there.
â€œJohn, before you play with the sword, look around the tower first,â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œYou can play with the sword later.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
They searched through the debris in the room, opening the desk drawers and looking into the filing cabinet, which was mostly empty and bereft of anything helpful. They found the remains of the shortwave radio set. It had been smashed to pieces.
The smell in the room seemed to get worse and worse the longer they were there. Lt. Olmstead almost turned green and felt terribly ill. Lt. Conner noticed and, even as he told Lt. Olmstead to take the clipboard down to Albright, the man fled the room. He vomited when he got to the bottom of the stairs. There was not much more in his stomach besides bile as they had not eaten anything in almost 24 hours.
Lt. Neisemier opened up the metal shutters and propped them up with sticks next to each. The air started to smell better. He suggested they head out after grabbing the Japanese pistol but Lt. Conner wanted him to stay up in there and keep a lookout and stand guard. Lt. Neisemier looked out over the tarmac and realized that he didnâ€™t see Lt. Albright.
â€œIrvâ€™s missing!â€ he said. â€œAnd so is the Japanese student!â€
â€œAw ****!â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œDid it look like he went into the hanger? Or â€¦?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know!â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œHeâ€™s not there where he was. Irvâ€™s gone!â€
Lt. Neisemier ran to the ladder, slid down and headed down the stairs.
â€œStay where you are, Iâ€™ll check it out,â€ Lt. Conner said.
It was too late. Lt. Neisemier was already down the steps.
â€œFor Christâ€™s sake!â€ Lt. Conner said.
He looked around outside again, looking towards the jungle. He realized the building theyâ€™d seen that was partially stone had some kind of open water tank on top of it.
* * *
Lt. Neisemier ran by Lt. Olmstead, still recovering at the bottom of the steps.
â€œIrv!â€ he yelled. â€œIrv!â€
* * *
When Lt. Albright heard someone calling his name, he told Shinko to go back out of the building and he followed the Japanese man. They spotted Lt. Neisemier and Lt. Olmstead at the bottom of the stairs to the tower. Neisemier seemed pleased to see him and jogged over, Olmstead following close behind. Lt. Albright told them he went with Shinko to get the professorâ€™s notes. He also told him what Shinko had told them when they had first talked to the man.
â€œI know itâ€™s crazy, but â€¦â€ Lt. Albright said.
â€œMonsters?â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œAt first, I thought the kid was crazy. But heâ€™s actually more afraid of this place than us, and thatâ€™s weird to me.â€
â€œWhat are you talking about - monsters?â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œThatâ€™s crazy.â€
â€œNo, no, it was real,â€ Shinko said. â€œI saw it!â€
â€œOkay,â€ Lt. Neisemier said sarcastically.
â€œWell, we just found a guy who killed himself with a sword,â€ Lt. Olmstead said, still feeling a little groggy. â€œSo â€¦â€
Shinko looked disturbed by that fact.
â€œLt. Yamasaki?â€ Shinko said, pointing up at the tower.
â€œStraight in the gut,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œGive him the clipboard,â€ Lt. Neisemier said to him.
â€œStraight in the gut,â€ Lt. Olmstead said again.
â€œBut heâ€™s â€¦ why did he not call for help?â€ Shinko said.
He seemed shocked.
â€œGive him the clipboard,â€ Lt. Neisemier said again.
â€œWait!â€ Shinko said. â€œThereâ€™s a radio! Thereâ€™s a radio in the tower!â€
â€œItâ€™s broken,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œNo!â€ Shinko said.
â€œKid,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œKid. Kid. Kid. It smells gross, but can you read this?â€
He handed the young man the bloodstained clipboard. Shinko looked over it carefully. Then he began to read.
â€œâ€˜In the tradition of the samurai, I will transcribe my final words before taking my life. I have dishonored myself and my family through cowardice. I have failed my men and my country.â€™
â€œâ€˜The thing in the pit that those damned archaeologists released is kyonshi, at least that was what Professor Akari screamed at us even as he attacked and killed my men. I have heard of such terrible spirits that are bound to a corpse and have terrible powers to kill and to bring others back from the dead.â€™
â€œâ€˜I watched my men gun down the terrible creature that lurked in the shadows of the room, only to see its broken form stand up once more, whole again. It continued to kill them, and from what I remember from childhood, it tears the living ki from the bodies of those it kills and feeds upon them, replenishing itself from them.â€™
â€œâ€˜It cannot be killed.â€™
â€œâ€˜It can be defeated, but I cannot remember the stories of how. There is a way to destroy it.â€™
â€œâ€˜If anyone comes to this terrible Ghost Isle, flee at once. Your souls are in jeopardy. I take the only way I can think of.â€™â€
He dropped the clipboard to the ground and wiped his hands on his shirt.
â€œSo, youâ€™re going to tell me angry spirits are roaming around on this island, killing people?â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œIâ€™ve heard a couple ghost stories where I was from,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œApparently the White House was haunted.â€
â€œYes, they are!â€ Shinko said to Lt. Neisemier. â€œIt is true. We should leave! You have an airplane! We could go! We could just go, back to Japan!â€
â€œThereâ€™s no more fuel, kid,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œThatâ€™s why we landed,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œNo!â€ Shinko said. â€œBut you do not know where the fuel is! Itâ€™s in the jungle somewhere.â€
â€œIsnâ€™t that the jungle where all the dead guys are?â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œYes!â€ Shinko said. â€œThatâ€™s why â€¦ oh â€¦â€
He sat down on the tarmac and wrapped his arms around his knees, rocking quietly back and forth, obviously terrified.
â€œThis is a **** show,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œIt is,â€ Lt. Albright said.
â€œNo!â€ Shinko suddenly said. â€œThe supply plane! It will come tomorrow morning!â€
â€œSupply plane?â€ Lt. Olmstead asked.
â€œIt will bring men!â€ Shinko said. â€œAnd they will save us!â€
â€œSave you!â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œNo, they will save us all,â€ Shinko said. â€œThis is worse than anything that â€¦â€
â€œKid, I understand,â€ Lt. Olmstead said, patting the young Japanese man on the back. â€œBut let me tell you a couple of not-so-good truths here. You are Japanese. Theyâ€™ll care about you. They wonâ€™t care about us. Probably shoot us because theyâ€™ll think we killed everyone in your camp.â€
â€œNo, no!â€ Shinko said. â€œThey will not think that. Not when â€¦ not when â€¦â€
He looked between the soldiers towards the kitchen and then pointed that way, terrified.
â€œThe sergeant!â€ he screamed. â€œItâ€™s the sergeant!â€
â€œThe sergeant â€¦ I thought â€¦â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
They all looked towards the building and spotted a Japanese man in uniform skulking there. He turned and disappeared around the back of the structure.
â€œWell ****,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œHeâ€™s â€¦ but heâ€™s dead!â€ Shinko said, standing back up and looking around, terrified.
â€œSo, that was the sergeant from the tower?â€ Lt. Albright asked.
â€œIt was â€¦â€ Shinko said.
â€œNo, that was a lieutenant,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œIt was Sergeant Ijiri!â€ Shinko said. â€œI saw him but he was dead! They killed him!â€
They looked up at the tower and saw that Lt. Conner on the east side of the building, looking out over the runway, away from where the sergeant had disappeared.
Lt. Albright told the other two officers everything that heâ€™d learned from Shinko.
â€œSay for one second I believe you, guy,â€ Lt. Neisemier said to Shinko. â€œYouâ€™re going to tell me that I canâ€™t shoot this guy. How am I supposed to kill him?â€
â€œYou could burn the body,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œI do not â€¦ I do not know,â€ Shinko said. â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s in the manila folder,â€ Lt. Neisemier asked Lt. Albright.
â€œThis is all the research notes from the professor heâ€™s talking about,â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œSo, everything that they know is in this folder. Now, I would hate to stick around to find out if this stuff is actually true, but I would like to research this after we leave because this could be important to the war. If theyâ€™ve got some sort of chemical weapon or even if it is supernatural, whatever it is that brings people back or makes them invulnerable to bullets, I donâ€™t know. But this seems really important.â€
â€œHeâ€™s got a point,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œIâ€™m not going to believe in any angry spirits just yet,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œWell, you know what?â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œIâ€™m a bit open to â€¦ letâ€™s just have the kid read the notes.â€
â€œLetâ€™s stick to the priority at hand,â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œThereâ€™s obviously a Japanese sergeant running around and he wants to kill us.â€
â€œThat too,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
Lt. Conner joined them, gun in hand.
â€œI donâ€™t like that you ran away,â€ he said to Lt. Neisemier. â€œBut what did he have to say?â€
â€œI couldnâ€™t find Irving,â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œHe just went missing. Am I supposed to just let him die?â€
â€œNo, but Irving can take care of himself,â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œHeâ€™s a well-trained American airman.â€
â€œLook Captain, I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on here, but I trust your word, all right?â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œAll right, what is going on here?â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œReport.â€
They told him what theyâ€™d learned.
â€œYouâ€™re going to tell me that â€¦ itâ€™s some kind of zombie?â€ Lt. Conner asked.
Heâ€™d seen zombie movies as a kid: White Zombie, Revolt of the Zombies, and even King of the Zombies that had been out just the year before. He noted they had one live soldier left, skulking around, which worried him. He suggested they take a look around to make sure he didnâ€™t start taking potshots at them. He was certain there was one live person left. He said the fuel was in the jungle and there was a group of Japanese coming. He asked Lt. Albright to take the prisoner back to the hanger.
Lt. Conner noted so long as the wind was coming from the west, the aircraft would land into the wind. He suggested as soon as the soldiers came out of the transport they bushwhack them, take the plane, and get the hell out. They talked about where to put their two machineguns and where people would be placed to get the arriving Japanese in a crossfire. He was open to suggestions on where to put the machineguns, though he thought using the building at the end of the tarmac none of them had looked in yet for one of them. Lt. Neisemier suggested putting the machineguns at the closest vantage points and then having Lt. Olmstead and himself in the tower with the rifles. He also asked about defense and Lt. Conner pointed out the building partially made of stone with the water tank on top, though he noted it was too far from the runway.
They discussed tying up Shinko and putting him in the aircraft for safe keeping so they didnâ€™t have to waste anyone on guarding him. Lt. Conner told Lt. Albright to take him into the aircraft and tie the man up.
When Lt. Albright took Shinko to the plane, the student seemed excited at the prospect that they were leaving. When the man tied him up and left him there, he seemed shocked and terrified once again. He asked the officer why they werenâ€™t leaving. Lt. Albright also put the file heâ€™d found in a safe place in the navigatorâ€™s compartment of the aircraft. He got back to find Lt. Olmstead asking where they kept the food. Lt. Albright went back to the plane and asked Shinko where the food was. The young man told him the kitchen and mess hall were in the building at the end of the runway. It turned out to be where Lt. Conner had first suggested they set up one of the machineguns.
â€œI say we discuss this over dinner,â€ Lt. Neisemier said when Lt. Albright told him.
They were all very hungry. It had been almost 24 hours since theyâ€™d eaten anything.
There was some discussion of the fuel barrels near the generator room. When Lt. Albright examined them, he found the words â€œDiesel Fuelâ€ written on them in Japanese. He returned to tell them the bad news.
They discussed ambushing the transport plane the next morning - killing the Japanese and taking the plane on to China. They knew they would also have to set the charges in the B-25 to destroy it. When Lt. Conner asked them for their opinions, Lt. Olmstead told him heâ€™d rather just stick with the B-25. Lt. Conner warned him there were probably soldiers waiting in ambush for them in the jungle. Lt. Olmstead wondered about using Shinko as hostage for safe passage but Lt. Conner doubted it would work.
â€œRemember Nanking, people,â€ he said.
They had all heard of some of the terrible things that had happened in mainland China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Lt. Conner noted he was going to assume the worst about the Japanese, calling them fanatical, and noted he was worried about that sergeant. He wanted to post guards around. Lt. Olmstead was worried about not going after the sergeant yet and wondered if he might get any other men who were alive. He was worried if they waited for the Japanese transport, they might be hit from the airfield and from the jungle at once: a two-pronged attack. Lt. Albright suggested they might want to dig some trenches, especially under some of the buildings that were up and off the ground. He noted it would give them excellent cover and they were hidden.
â€œNo matter where theyâ€™re coming, even if they come from both ways, they wonâ€™t know weâ€™re underneath the house,â€ he said.
Lt. Olmstead noted they knew the sergeant was alive and guessed the others might be as well, assuming the worse. Lt. Neisemier said they needed the plane to get out of there. He liked the idea of digging hidden trenches and shooting from the tower as well. He also noted it was getting close to dark. They discussed which was the most defensible building and Lt. Neisemier suggested the small building made of stone.
They walked over to the building. It appeared to be a set of showers. The floor was stone as was a wall about three feet high around the edge of the building. The upper part of the building was open and the showers were manually operated. Pulling chords released water over said chord from the tank above. It looked like there was a pipe that led to the well. When they investigated the well, they saw there was a pump that could be used to pump water back into the reservoir atop the showers. A half-dozen tin buckets were scattered around the well.
Lt. Neisemier removed the well cover and shined his flashlight down into the darkness below but saw nothing.
They went into the larger building that Shinko had pointed out. It stood up off the ground as the barracks and the quarters had. It likewise had shutters over the windows that were all down. Inside, the building was divided into a large room dominated by two long tables and a smaller kitchen. The kitchen stank due to some fresh fish on the counter that had gone bad. They found a good supply of food, including dried meat and fish, pickled vegetables, bean paste, umeboshi (pickled ume fruit), miso (a spice), bottles of shoyu sauce, dried seaweed, and green tea, as well as several bags of rice and barley. There was electricity in the building, allowing for an electric refrigerator which still had a few fresh, though wilted vegetables within including cabbage, bean sprouts, and peaches. The stove ran on kerosene. They found enough food to fill their bellies without worrying about cooking anything. They took food to the showers and ate there while keeping a lookout for the sergeant.
Lt. Albright took some food to Sgt. Quackenbush and Shinko. He untied the Japanese youth and the boy graciously ate.
â€œGonna need some fuel there,â€ Quackenbush said when he saw the officer. â€œGonna need some fuel.â€
When Lt. Albright returned to the others with Shinko, Lt. Conner told them they had a decision to make: did they dare go into the jungle to get the fuel or wait for the transport and fight for the ship. Both he and Lt. Neisemier were of the opinion they should wait for the transport. Lt. Olmstead thought they were going to get hit by whomever was still in the jungle if they didnâ€™t do something about it. Lt. Conner was of the opinion they should stick together, but Lt. Olmstead noted he guessed whomever was in the jungle would attack by them in the dark. Lt. Conner agreed with that but asked where they were and said he thought they should make them come to them. Lt. Albright thought if the lieutenant who killed himself in the tower was the one who hid the fuel, he might have a map or something on his person that would lead them to it.
He said he was willing to go look and Lt. Conner told Lt. Olmstead to go with him.
The two men climbed back up into the stinking tower where the dead body still lay, though the smell made Olmstead feel sick when he smelled it again. Lt. Albright got into the room and ran out to the railing where he immediately puked over the side, emptying his stomach once again.
â€œI was not adequately warned!â€ he grumbled.
It was pretty light in the room as all of the shutters and the door were open. They searched the corpse but found nothing on the man. They searched the rest of the room for an hour and it was dark by the time they were done.
* * *
Lt. Conner told Lt. Neisemier to keep an eye on Shinko and then he walked over to the hanger where the B-25 was resting.
â€œHowâ€™s it coming?â€ he asked Sgt. Quackenbush.
â€œItâ€™s coming fine,â€ the man replied. â€œWhereâ€™s the gas?â€
â€œWhereâ€™s the gas?â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œDucky, I got some good news and some bad news. The good news is you provided - youâ€™re fixing the plane up.â€
â€œYeah, I know that!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said . â€œI knew that. Whereâ€™s the gas?â€
â€œDucky, trouble is, the gas is somewhere in the jungle, andâˆ’â€
â€œGet the gas! Letâ€™s get the gas!â€
â€œSorry, Ducky, you want to go in the jungle with crazed Japanese soldiers?â€
Sgt. Quackenbush picked up the Japanese machinegun theyâ€™d captured from the barracks.
â€œHell yeah!â€ he said.
â€œWell, Ducky, I think youâ€™re crazy,â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œUntil I say otherwiseâˆ’â€
â€œBe like huntinâ€™ coon!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
â€œBe like huntinâ€™ coon?â€ Lt. Conner said.
â€œâ€˜Cept weâ€™re huntinâ€™ nips.â€
â€œOkay, Ducky, if youâ€™re crazy â€¦ are you an old backwoods boy?â€
â€œWe find the Japs and we kill â€˜em. We get the fuel, fuel up, and fly away into the sunset!â€
â€œI seen them Lone Ranger movies.â€
â€œYou say we go out and kill Japs. The trouble is, I like specifics: how weâ€™re going to do it. Right now, they have the odds against us. Thereâ€™s fuel in the jungleâˆ’â€
â€œTheyâ€™re all dead! That kid said theyâ€™re dead!â€
â€œWe saw a sergeant running around, remember, Ducky?â€
â€œOkay, he got away. Letâ€™s kill â€˜im!â€
â€œThatâ€™s the trouble, where is the sarge? I want us to all live to tell our grandchildrenâˆ’â€
â€œThat is the trouble! If we ainâ€™t know where the sarge is, he could be, iunno, right behind you.â€
Lt. Conner looked nervous.
â€œCouldnâ€™t he?â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
* * *
â€œDo you have a morbid curiosity about this jungle?â€ Lt. Albright asked Lt. Olmstead as they stood in the tower. â€œBecause I do.â€
â€œA little bit,â€ he replied.
â€œLetâ€™s look around,â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œIf you want to go in the jungle â€¦ letâ€™s do it real quick.â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™d say we just do it quick,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
They crept down out of the tower and went to the showers where they found Lt. Neisemier and Shinko.
â€œAre you going to make Cap dig this trench alone while thereâ€™s a sergeant roaming around?â€ he asked them.
â€œWell, he looks like he ran back to the woods, didnâ€™t he?â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œWe donâ€™t know where he went,â€ Lt. Neisemier said. â€œHe just went behind that building. He could still be around.â€
â€œMake him be your lookout,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œMake who be the lookout? This guy?â€
He gestured at Shinko.
â€œYeah,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œMasamichi?â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œYeah,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œWell?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know if I trust him,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œYou can trust me!â€ Shinko said. â€œBut you take me when you leave.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œPlease,â€ Shinko said. â€œPlease.â€
â€œSee, he doesnâ€™t wanna die, we donâ€™t wanna die,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œSame goals here.â€
â€œYouâ€™re asking me to make the Jap lookout for Japs,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œHeâ€™s terrified of the soldiers,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œIsnâ€™t that right?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re dead,â€ Shinko said. â€œWhy are they walking around?â€
â€œSee?â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œLieutenant tried to kill me,â€ Shinko said.
He looked very scared.
â€œIf anything, you could have him help you dig,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
Lt. Neisemier nodded.
Lt. Albright and Lt. Olmstead left as Lt. Neisemier took Shinko to the two officerâ€™s quarters and got him to work on digging a trench underneath it.
As they followed the edge of the jungle, Lt. Olmstead found a trail leading into the undergrowth about 100 yards south of the station. They followed the trail into the jungle for maybe a half mile before the trees thinned out in a clearing ahead, even visible in the gathering darkness. In the center of the area was a raised place that seemed very flat and was covered with foliage. As they approached the clearing, they heard a soft, fleshy, and somewhat rhythmic â€œchunk chunk chunk.â€ The sounds continued as they crept closer.
For a moment, Lt. Albright remembered, as a child, his mother cutting meat with a cleaver. It had the same fleshy consistency and terrible connotation. To Lt. Olmstead, it reminded the man of when his wife would tenderize steaks before cooking them for dinner, though the noise continued on and on and on.
The clearing proved to be a relatively low spot in the jungle where they saw branches and leaves covered something that looked wide and flat. The noise was coming from around the side of the leaf-covered shelf. The smell of gasoline was in the air, as well as the stench of death and rot.
Lt. Albright thought it was an entrenchment of some sort or perhaps a dug-in pillbox. He found a rock on the ground and leaned back to throw it but Lt. Olmstead stopped him and put the machinegun down on the ground, opening up the bipod and settling himself behind it. When he nodded, Lt. Albright flung the rock across the clearing and it crashed into the jungle on the other side. The rhythmic noise stopped for a moment and they saw the silhouette of someone standing up on the other side of the flat area for a few moments. The person raised up one hand and they could see he held a large knife or perhaps a bayonet. Then the figure disappeared down behind the shelf again and the rhythmic noise continued.
Lt. Albright told Lt. Olmstead if he stayed there with the gun, he was going to attempt to sneak up on the man. The second it went bad, he was going to run and Olmstead could gun him down while he was being chased. Lt. Olmstead nodded and the other man crept into the clearing.
When Lt. Albright got to the raised area, the smell of gasoline was very strong. He put a hand on the side of it and realized it was metallic and curved. He realized the raised area was a dozen or more barrels, probably aviation fuel, set them there and covered with brush. The noise from the other side had not stopped.
What is he doing? Lt. Albright thought.
He crept around the side of the barrels until he could see a man hunched over another figure on the ground. He continually raised a bayonet over his head and brought it down into the body under him over and over again. The smell of rotten flesh was very strong. Just as Lt. Albright saw him, the man stopped what he was doing and looked directly at the navigator. The man pulled out the bayonet and stumbled to his feet. Lt. Albright was practically overcome with the horror of the scene. As the man approached, he dropped his pistol and drew out his own hunting knife.
The man stumbled towards Lt. Albright and raised up the bayonet. Just then there was a burst of machinegun fire from the edge of the clearing. The kick from the weapon sent the bullets up into the trees and the burst ended with a rude click as the gun jammed. Lt. Albright ignored it and cut at the man with his knife, tearing at his clothing. The man looked at where the gunfire had come from and then looked back at Lt. Albright and cut at him with his bayonet, hacking at him without penetrating his clothing.
Across the clearing, Lt. Olmstead struggled to clear the jam in the machinegun.
Lt. Albright stabbed at the man who slashed at him with the bayonet, flailing wildly, neither of them able to really harm the other. Lt. Albright flailed at the man in the same way and managed to cut him in the arm. The other man didnâ€™t make a sound. It was like he didnâ€™t even feel it. Then the man hacked at him with the bayonet, cutting him in the left hand.
Lt. Olmstead finally looked up and saw the weirdest knife fight heâ€™d ever seen. The two men were not dodging or moving around at all, they just seemed to be standing there and hacking at each other clumsily with their knives. He thought he knew which one was Lt. Albright. He aimed the machinegun but realized the two men were too close to each other. He drew his sidearm and leapt up, running across the clearing towards the flat, raised area.
Lt. Albright cut at the man again and the man cut at him, neither of them landing blows that hurt the other. Lt. Olmstead aimed and fired at the two but the bullet missed the assailant.
Lt. Albright cut at the man again and the man replied by slashing him with the bayonet, cutting him in the left shoulder as if he was working his way up to the neck. Lt. Olmstead ran towards them across the clearing, climbing up onto the raised, flattened area, and heading directly towards the two knife-fighters, his gun in hand. Lt. Albright cut at the other man again without seeming effect and the man hacked at him again, tearing at his clothes but not hurting him.
Lt. Olmstead ran up to within about five feet, aimed at the other man and fired, the bullet missing him completely. Then Lt. Albright cut into him again, but he still didnâ€™t fall. The other man cut at Lt. Albright clumsily and Lt. Olmstead shot the man in the left shoulder. The blast rocked the man but he didnâ€™t fall or even pay attention to it. The stink of rotten flesh got stronger. Lt. Albright slashed the man in the leg, but he still didnâ€™t fall. The man slashed at Lt. Albright again and Lt. Olmstead fired another wild shot that missed the man.
The knife fighters exchanged more ineffective blows and then Lt. Olmstead blasted the other man in the gut and he finally dropped without a sound, still flailing at Lt. Albright as he went down. Lt. Albright knelt over the body and stabbed it over and over and over again.
â€œIrv, what are you doinâ€™, man?â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
The other man continued to stab the body for a good 20 seconds.
â€œIrv?â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œIrv?â€
Lt. Albright finally stopped stabbing the body and then just laughed.
â€œIrv?â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œWhat happened?â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œJust getting stuff done. What are you doing?â€
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with you Irv?â€ Lt. Olmstead asked.
â€œNothinâ€™,â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œHe came at me with a knife.â€
â€œSo, you dropped your gun and went at him with a knife?â€
â€œYou know, in retrospect, that does seem a tad bit odd.â€
â€œIrv, you had a gun. Why did you drop your gun?â€
â€œIt seemed like the best decision at the time.â€
â€œIrv, I have to have some doubt about your cognitive processes now.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no time for that. Thereâ€™s gas right here!â€
â€œLetâ€™s get it and go.â€
They used their flashlights to examine the bodies which both proved to be Japanese soldiers. What was disturbing was that the man that Lt. Albright had just fought had obviously been dead for several days. The other man had also been dead for several days and was badly mauled.
The Japanese writing on the barrels, according to Lt. Albright, labeled them as aviation fuel. They were 55-gallon drums and Lt. Albright guessed if they took back a half dozen or so of them, it would be enough to get them to China. Unfortunately, each of them was full and weighed at least 300 pounds. They discussed moving them back to the aircraft for a short while. They decided that the two of them could probably roll a single barrel back to camp.
* * *
Shinko had mostly finished the trench under the two officerâ€™s quarters when they heard gunfire out in the jungle somewhere. Lt. Neisemier headed for the aircraft and found Lt. Conner and Sgt. Quackenbush crossing the airfield.
â€œWhere did you put the weapons that you found?â€ Lt. Conner asked.
â€œItâ€™s mine,â€ lt. Neisemier said. â€œMe and Quack got â€˜em.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œThere was another gun.â€
â€œA machinegun and two rifles,â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œYeah, I got the machinegun, you got the rifle, and â€¦â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
He took the .22 rifle from his shoulder.
â€œHere,â€ he said. â€œYou can take mâ€™ .22.â€
Lt. Conner took the hunting rifle.
â€œLetâ€™s see whatâ€™s going on,â€ he said.
â€œLetâ€™s get some Nips!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
They headed off in the general direction of the gunfire, reaching the edge of the jungle and following it until Lt. Conner found a trail into the woods. He took point with Lt. Neisemier following him, the Japanese rifle on his shoulder and his pistol in his hand. Sgt. Quackenbush brought up the rear, the Japanese machinegun in his hand. They followed the trail into the dark woods.
They were moving through the dark jungle when a rifle shot rang out from their right and a bullet hit Lt. Neisemier in the right hip. Lt. Conner hit the dirt and looked for any sign of whomever had just fired the shot. Another rifle shot rang out and the trunk of a tree very close to Lt. Neisemier splintered as the bullet struck it. He spotted the muzzle flash so he dropped to the ground and started crawling towards it. Quackenbush also dropped to the ground and started fiddling with the machinegun.
Lt. Conner spotted a shadow near a tree that didnâ€™t look natural. He aimed the .22 rifle and fired a shot at the figure but didnâ€™t think heâ€™d hit the sniper. There was another flash in the darkness as the sniper fired another shot which struck the ground over by Sgt. Quackenbush who started cursing. Lt. Neisemier thought the shooter was only 15 or 20 yards away and fired at him but missed completely.
The night was sundered by machinegun fire as Sgt. Quackenbush opened up with the long burst from the Japanese Model 96. The figure by the tree was riddled with bullets and flung backwards, crashing to the ground and disappearing from sight.
Lt. Conner crawled over to Lt. Neisemier.
â€œDucky, keep going ahead,â€ he hissed at the sergeant.
Sgt. Quackenbush started to move into the bush. Lt. Conner found Lt. Neisemier binding the bloody wound in his hip to stop the bleed.
â€œDonâ€™t go after the guy!â€ Lt. Conner hissed at the sergeant. â€œKeep going up the trail!â€
â€œWhat aboutâˆ’?â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said pointing towards where the sniper had been. â€œWhat aboutâˆ’?â€
â€œIâ€™ll take care of John,â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œYou go ahead. Thatâ€™s my worry. Your worry is to go up ahead and see whatâ€™s going on with the other guys.â€
â€œAlright, alright, alright,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
He removed the tall, curved magazine from the top of the machinegun and pocketed it, replacing it with another one.
â€œYeah,â€ he said.
He headed up the trail as Lt. Conner slung the .22 rifle and took out his pistol.
â€œQuackenbush is coming,â€ the sergeant muttered to himself. â€œQuackenbush is coming for you.â€
* * *
Lt. Olmstead and Lt. Albright, pushing the barrel, heard the gunfire ahead. They kept rolling the barrel through the jungle even after they heard machinegun fire. Then they heard a voice.
â€œFriend or foe?â€ Sgt. Quackenbush asked.
It came from the right, not on the trail ahead.
â€œQuackenbush, is that you?â€ Lt. Olmstead hissed. â€œCrazy ass.â€
â€œMaybe,â€ came the reply.
Sgt. Quackenbush slipped out of the darkness.
â€œJust killed me a Nip,â€ he said. â€œDamned lieutenant wouldnâ€™t let me check the body.â€
â€œWell, we found the fuel,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œOoo - yeah!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œFuel! Yes! Fuel!â€
Lt. Olmstead shushed him.
â€œItâ€™s further back down that way and we had a kill a crazy guy to get it,â€ he said.
â€œAll right,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œThatâ€™s good.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right, but weâ€™re going to need six of these,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œGod damn,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œThatâ€™s a lot of fuel.â€
â€œAll right. Well, Cap is up there. Neisemier got shot.â€
â€œYou just say that like itâ€™s nothing! He got shot. What the hell, man?â€
â€œI took out the shooter!â€
â€œWell, thatâ€™s good.â€
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s good.â€
Sgt. Quackenbush patted the Japanese machinegun. They could see that the bipod was still deployed.
â€œWhat do you want then?â€ he asked. â€œShould I go guard it? Or do you want me to push a barrel?â€
â€œGo get a barrel,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œI donâ€™t think I can push it by myself,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œNot if it gets stuck.â€
They sent him to get the other two.
* * *
Lt. Conner and Lt. Neisemier headed down the trail. They had not yet found the others when a voice addressed them from the shadows.
â€œCap,â€ it said.
Lt. Conner jumped.
â€œDonâ€™t do that, Ducky,â€ he muttered. â€œYou damned near gave me a heart attack.â€
Sgt. Quackenbush shushed him.
â€œThey found aviation fuel,â€ he said.
â€œYouâ€™re kidding me,â€ Lt. Conner said.
â€œWhy would I do that?â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œDid you find the body? You confirm the kill?â€
â€œIt was too damned dark and we have more important things to do,â€ Lt. Conner said.
â€œThey found the aviation fuel,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush snapped. â€œTheyâ€™re right up the trail. Theyâ€™re bringing a barrel.â€
They met with the others and discussed bringing back two barrels at the time. Lt. Conner told Lt. Neisemier heâ€™d have guard duty and watch out for the shooter.
â€œI donâ€™t know if you got him or not, but keep your eyes peeled,â€ he said.
â€œYeah, you donâ€™t know because nobody checked,â€ Quackenbush muttered.
â€œSorry,â€ Lt. Conner said.
â€œThereâ€™s going to be two dead bodies there,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œDonâ€™t look at them.â€
While Lt. Conner, Lt. Neisemier, and Sgt. Quackenbush headed for the fuel dump, the others pushed the first barrel back towards the station. When the three men reached the dump, they found the two dead bodies. It looked like theyâ€™d been dead for a while and had probably killed each other.
When Lt. Albright and Lt. Olmstead returned to the station, they realized it was very quiet. The generator was no longer running. It was very dark at the place and they saw no sign of Shinko, though they soon found him in the trench heâ€™d dug under the two buildings. When the second group returned with a barrel, they decided to stick together. Shinko asked if he could help and the youth seemed hopeful for the first time. He was very ready to help.
All six of them went back together the second time. With that many of them moving the aviation fuel, they could move three barrels on the second trip. Lt. Neisemier used his morphine and felt much better. They made that second trip without incident and all of them but Lt. Conner returned to the fuel dump for two more barrels, which Lt. Albright had calculated would give them enough fuel to get to mainland China and to one of the airstrips that was still held by the Chinese. Lt. Conner stayed behind to start fueling the aircraft and Lt. Neisemier told him about the pump in the generator.
On their way back with the last two barrels of fuel, they thought they saw some movement in the jungle. Some of the ground brush was moving as if someone was there. For just a moment, Lt. Neisemier thought he saw someone huddled on the spot but then the figure disappeared. He told the rest. Shinko dropped to the ground.
â€œOh yeah,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
Lt. Neisemier pointed to where heâ€™d seen it. They noticed there was a strange phosphorescent glowing, almost like foxfire, coming from the spot. Lt. Neisemier flashed his flashlight at the area but couldnâ€™t see anything.
â€œOh my God!â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œYou want to find it or not?â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
What heâ€™d seen in the brief light was a place where the brush was pressed down. It was about the size of a body. Lt. Olmstead said they should push the barrels and keep going.
â€œMaybe thatâ€™s the thing!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said excitedly.
â€œQuackenbush, if we can get out of hereâˆ’â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œWe can shoot it!â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
â€œWe want to get out of here,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œAll right, we need to go ahead and get these barrels,â€ Lt. Albright said.
â€œAll right,â€ Quackenbush replied, obviously disappointed.
As they started to walk away from the spot, Lt. Albright pushed into the brush by himself. Shinko kept looking over his shoulder at the officer.
â€œIs he going to be okay?â€ he asked quietly. â€œWill he be okay?â€
Lt. Albright got to the spot and found a corpse there. It wore civilian clothes and was lying face down.
â€œWe should check on him!â€ Shinko said in a panic.
He crept off the trail towards Lt. Albright.
â€œShinko!â€ Lt. Olmstead hissed. â€œGet back here!â€
â€œMasamichi, no!â€ Lt. Neisemier said.
â€œMasamichi!â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
Lt. Neisemier went after him.
Lt. Albright flipped the body over just as Shinko appeared above him. They both looked down at the body of Shinko Masamichi.
â€œWha â€¦ wait â€¦ no!â€ Shinko said, his voice rising. â€œNo. Wait. That â€¦ it canâ€™t. No! It canâ€™t be me! I canâ€™t be dead! Iâ€™m too young to be dead! Please. No! Save me! Save me!â€
â€œHang on,â€ Lt. Albright said.
â€œI canâ€™t be dead!â€ Shinko yelled. â€œI canâ€™t be dead!â€
Then he vanished. One moment he was there and the next, the young Japanese student was simply gone. Only Lt. Neisemier and Lt. Albright were there with the corpse.
Lt. Olmstead, a few yards away with the barrel, drew his sidearm.
â€œQuackenbush?â€ he said.
Sgt. Quackenbush had dropped to the ground, machinegun ready.
â€œOkay, spider monkey, letâ€™s go,â€ Lt. Olmstead said.
â€œLetâ€™s get out of here,â€ Lt. Albright said as he returned to them.
He leaned down to push on one of the barrels.
â€œWhat happened to Masamichi?â€ Lt. Olmstead asked.
â€œYour guess is as good as mine,â€ Lt. Albright said.
â€œWait, wait,â€ Lt. Olmstead said. â€œWhere the hell is he?â€
â€œAll right, this is what happened,â€ Lt. Albright said. â€œWe went over there. The body was him. He was the dead body. Then he just vanished. Like he was dead the whole time or something.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what happened,â€ Neisemier said.
Lt. Olmstead just looked at the man, his mouth open. Sgt. Quackenbush looked equally stunned. Then the two of them leaned over one of the barrels and got to work pushing it.
They returned to the station with the last two barrels, giving them a total of seven which meant they had some 385 gallons of fuel for the aircraft. Lt. Conner was already hard at work fueling up the B-25. They pumped all of the fuel into the craft, Sgt. Quackenbush checking for leaks in the tanks as they did so. Everything seemed fine and they were able to empty all of the barrels without incident. Lt. Olmstead also took advantage of the time to reattach the .30 caliber machinegun to the front of the craft.
They pushed the aircraft out of the hanger and found that the prevailing wind was still from the west. Sgt. Quackenbush threw the Japanese machinegun into the plane before he climbed aboard. Everyone took their places and the engines roared to life. It was about 10 p.m.
They taxied to the east end of the field and turned to head back to take off into the wind. Then they noticed two men run onto the airstrip and start to fire at the plane. As Lt. Conner got the engines up to speed and started to head down the airstrip to take off, Sgt. Quackenbush screamed over the interphone as something struck the plane.
â€œSomethinâ€™s on the plane!â€ he cried.
The big twin .50 caliber machineguns of the dorsal turret roared to life.
â€œAâ€™right, itâ€™s gone!â€ he called over the interphone.
â€œWhat the hell!?!â€ Lt. Olmstead cried over the interphone before dropping the mike and grabbed his own machinegun.
The men on the strip fired as Lt. Olmstead opened fire with the gun on the front of the plane. The first burst chewed up the airstrip in front of the men, who didnâ€™t even flinch. A bullet came through the canopy next to him, shattering one of the glass panes and thudding into the hull beside him. The second burst tore one of the men to pieces. The other man struggled with his jammed gun.
Then they were in the air and heading west for mainland China.
Sgt. Quackenbush told them as they turned to take off, something came running from the jungle, leapt up and grabbed the side of the plane. Whoever is was climbed up onto the top of the aircraft before it was in a position where he could shoot it. Thatâ€™s when he told them heâ€™d gotten it.
â€œDucky, you been hitting the shine again?â€ Lt. Conner said over the interphone.
â€œYou wanna look at the holes in the side of the plane, Cap?â€ Lt. Quackenbush said.
â€œWell, Duckyâˆ’â€ Lt. Conner said.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you come back here?â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œLet that other boy fly and you can come back and look at these holes.â€
Lt. Conner did so, turning over the ship to Lt. Neisemier. He went back and saw the holes in the hull that were just far enough apart to have been caused by a human hand.
â€œWhat the hell kind of person could do that, Ducky?â€ he asked.
â€œIunno,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said.
â€œWell describe him,â€ Lt. Conner said. â€œDescribe him.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t really see much more than a shadow,â€ Sgt. Quackenbush said. â€œIt was awful dark out here. It was a Jap. Yeah, it was a Jap. Uh-huh. Yeah. Definitely a Jap. Not a ghost.â€
* * *
Lt. Albright could not get Shinko out of his head.
So, Masamichi thought he was alive the whole time, he thought. And he was dead.
He was worried that he was dead as well, that they were all dead. He wondered if they had all died when the aircraft slammed against the deck of the Brandywine when they first took off. He wondered if they ever even made it to the island.
* * *
They flew through the night, running into bad weather around midnight, but it did little more than delay them. They found one of the safe airstrips in Zhejiang Province in Eastern China through luck as much as the navigation skill of Lt. Albright. Lt. Conner brought them down hard. It was a rough landing. They were able to refuel as quickly as they could before taking off. It was a rough takeoff, the aircraft almost hitting the trees at the end of the runway.
They made it to Chongqin several hours later where Lt. Conner had Lt. Neisemier land the plane. There, they learned that theirs was the only B-25 to make it back from the mission.
Lt. Neisemier and Lt. Albright were treated for their wounds and both told theyâ€™d receive the purple heart. In the debriefing, they told of the strange things theyâ€™d seen, especially Lt. Albright and Lt. Olmstead. They were both given psychological evaluations and passed with flying colors, however. They talked to several doctors as well. Lt. Albright also handed over the file that heâ€™d gotten from Professor Akariâ€™s desk.
Over the next few weeks, other raiders returned or were found. A few were captured by the Japanese and executed for alleged war crimes though most of the raiders returned from the mission.