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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

Siddons spoke from the doorway


"We

haven't had a chance, sir," Larkin answered. "There is no tailor around here, so I chinned Robinson out of this enlisted man's issue. Perhaps," he offered, smiling, "the Major will give us a pass to Paris to have uniforms made."

"The Major will not! We've some real work ahead. But--"

The door opened and Siddons entered.

"But don't put that thing back on in the morning," Cowan completed. "Your British uniform is at least presentable."

"You sent for me, sir?" Siddons spoke from the doorway, his voice having the quality of one who is extremely bored--especially bored with being sent for.

"I did." Cowan's voice was crisp. The ends of his moustache began twitching jerkily. "I suppose you wonder why I have said nothing to you about your failure to rejoin the squadron the other day after you cut out at Vitry?"

"Why, no sir," Siddons responded, perfectly at ease. "You said that if any of us developed trouble that delayed us, to come on here at the earliest possible moment. I was here when you arrived."

"So you were." Cowan was making a stern effort to control his temper. "And it is true that I gave you orders to come on here should delaying trouble develop. But," he shot a quick, silencing look at McGee, "I conducted a little investigation into

your landing at Vitry, Lieutenant, and I discovered that you took off again within an hour."

Siddons started, almost imperceptibly. His face colored, for a moment, but he quickly assumed his habitual nonchalance. It goaded Cowan to an inward fury, but he controlled himself well.

"I suppose you can think of some reason why I shouldn't ground you," Cowan said.

"Why, no sir. No reason at all."

"Then I can!" the Major snapped. "You like joy-riding, eh? Like to tour France, eh? Very well, I'm going to give you a bit of it to do."

He turned and walked over to a large wall map. "Take a look at this--all three of you," he said. "This is a detailed map of our sector. G 2 believes that the Germans are planning to strike north of here, perhaps just south of Soissons. One of their reasons for this suspicion is that information has reached G 2 to the effect that Count von Herzmann's Circus has pulled out from Roncheres. Where is he now? That's the question! The Intelligence sharks at Great Headquarters believe that if we can locate his new base we will know something more about the plans of the enemy. As a result, every squadron along this front has been ordered to make an effort to locate his new position. Personally, I am of the opinion that Larkin winged him the other morning, and as a result his Circus has been withdrawn, pending his recovery."

Larkin shook his head regretfully. "I wish I could think so, Major. I'd like to boast that I had given von Herzmann a little lead poisoning. But I don't think so. The tracers showed that my burst was going into his motor. I winged that, all right, but he didn't fly like a wounded man."

"Modest enough," Cowan approved. "It seems that G 2 thinks the same thing. They have reason to believe that he is in the neighborhood of this point here,"--he put a finger on the map--"where the railroad between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry crosses the Ourcq."


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