standing on the floor nearby. “Revive him and proceed with the


You know where to reach me when you’re through.”

“Yes, sir!”

Hsiao turned, his eyes meeting those of a man who stood in the shadows

outside the circle of light. The agent known as Sword had arrived only

moments earlier. “Come with me.”

“This is insane, General,” the man said as they walked away. “Kidnapping

American naval personnel was never part of the plan!” The stacked

crates rose like canyon walls around them, creating privacy, and Hsiao

allowed the challenge to pass without rebuke. Sword was tense, on edge

… and would have to be handled with great care.

“It would be better if we had officers for questioning as well,” Hsiao

said softly.

“Officers! No! Impossible!”

“Flight officers would be best,” Hsiao continued as though he’d not

heard Sword’s words. “They are certain to know the procedures we are

interested in.

These low-ranking seamen”–he jerked his head back over his shoulder to

indicate the prisoner—“may not be sufficiently trained for our


Behind him he heard Phreng’s voice questioning … demanding.

“You do not understand, General!” The man was almost frantic now. “It

is far more dangerous to kidnap officers.”

“I fail to see how.” He walked several more steps, then added, “There

will probably be a number of Jefferson’s pilots in Bangkok tonight.”

“Yes, sir.” Sword stopped.

Hsiao paused, waiting for him to go on. “You know where such officers

could be found, do you not? You are in a position to know, certainly.”

“I want no part of this, General Hsiao. I never anticipated this. My

position in the government could be-”

“Your position, Colonel, is with me!”

The words seemed to shock the other man.

Hsiao was aware that his entire plan could never have been carried off

without this man … senior aide to the That Army’s General Duong …

and liaison officer with the visiting American naval forces. Colonel

Kriangsak had been invaluable already, but his greatest service was yet

to be carried out.

“An American officer has been calling my office all day,” Kriangsak said

reluctantly. “One of their pilots. He’s talked to several of my

people, says he wishes to discuss the possibility of his helping out in

the search for the Americans who vanished the other day near U Feng.”

Hsiao nodded. “Excellent. Excellent! Call him. Set up a place and

time to discuss it with him. And you will take some of my people with


“Sir, I don’t-”

“This may be the best opportunity we have for capturing one of their

people. Two would be better if you can manage it. We can use one

against the other that way.”

“But General-”

He was interrupted by a long, shuddering, drawn-out scream from behind

them. The scream went on and on and on before lapsing into a throaty


Then Phreng’s voice could be heard once more, harsh and insistent.

Hsiao kept his face impassive. Perhaps Kriangsak simply needed to be

reminded of the stakes in this game.

“Yes, General,” Kriangsak said slowly. They reached the door, where a

guard saluted. “I will see what can be done.”

As the door closed behind them, the screaming started again.


1800 hours, 18 January

Near the That-Burmese Border

They’d left the camp in the late morning, traveling not on the road

which descended down the valley, but up the forest-clad slope to the

north, following a maze of nearly invisible paths which zigzagged among

the trees toward the crest. The girl, Phya Nin, had been put in charge

of the Americans. Two teenage boys under her command were detailed to

carry Malibu in a bamboo litter. This made for slow going, but it was

faster than if Malibu had tried to negotiate the climb on his crutch.

From time to time the way grew too steep for the litter bearers,

however, and Malibu had to get off and walk, helped along by Batman and

one of the Karen boys.

They walked for three hours, negotiating one forested ridge after

another. As nearly as Batman could tell, judging by the sun and his

compass, they kept heading north, deeper into Burma. His fears that the

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Categories: Keith Douglass