Tag Archives: Robin Enos

At Government House

29 Oct

Istana Palace, Singapore, Late February 1942 

Government House had taken quite a lot of damage in the recent Japanese bombardment. Von Lederhosen, standing at the bar in the banquet room, noted with admiration the blast holes left by artillery shells in the walls. He could see burn marks where windows had blown out and curtains had caught fire. The room was filled with Japanese Imperial Army officers, most in parade dress.

Every remnant of British rule had been removed from the room. White tablecloths were spread over long tables filled with fresh fruit. Ice water pitchers streamed condensation. The afternoon sun shone through the blast holes, making the banquet silver glow. An Imperial war flag flew from scorched rafters at the head table.

It was eight days since the British Governor-General had left Government House, just before the surrendering the city to the Japanese.

Von Lederhosen, nursing his champagne cocktail, found his Wehrmacht uniform stiff. He felt uncomfortable in uniform, but not so much that he would allow Tanaka any sense of it. Rigidly upright at the bar, Lederhosen took another drink. The early evening breeze cooled the room. But Lederhosen, crisply starched, noticed how Tanaka sweated. There is something about this man Tanaka, Lederhosen thought, that is not entirely comfortable in such surroundings.

They spoke English.

“Major Tanaka, the Imperial Army’s achievements in taking Singapore so quickly are impressive.”

Tanaka preened. “Yes, Lieutenant. Our forces advance inexorably toward victory.”

Lederhosen’s eyes closed halfway at the tone Tanaka had used when saying “Lieutenant.” As if Tanaka’s superior rank meant something in the larger scheme of their business together. This was an insult to remember, not one to redress immediately. Still, Lederhosen could feel his eyelids burning, as he forced himself calmly to take another sip from his drink.

“As do German forces in North Africa, I am told.”

“Quite so, Lieutenant von Lederhosen. Perhaps our countries’ forces can meet somewhere in the Near East, when the British have been routed.” Tanaka smiled without humor.

More unease in this man, von Lederhosen thought. As he stood watching the Japanese military guards saluting visitors at the door, von Lederhosen reminded himself he was far from home, and without any confirmation of these Japanese forces’ good intentions.

Perhaps there is a way to exploit Tanaka’s lack of grace in social situations, he thought.

As Lederhosen stood there at the bar, looking down at Tanaka, a hush fell over the large banquet room. One hundred male heads turned, as epaulets swung and eyes focused on the main stairway. When he glimpsed the focus of attention, von Lederhosen too stared.

Princess Pupuli descended the stairs one at a time. Pupuli turned as she reached the bottom of the stairs and looked straight at von Lederhosen. Smiling, she crossed the room at a natural pace. Every eye followed her. There was dead silence.

And then she was standing next to von Lederhosen. Surprised and delighted, he turned toward her, clicked his heels, bowed and kissed the air above the offered hand.

Leutnant Manfred von Lederhosen, Princess. May I have the honor of addressing you by your name?”

“Of course, Herr Leutnant. Call me Pupuli. I hope we can be friends.”

“May I present Major Tanaka of the Imperial Japanese Army? He is our host this afternoon.”

Lederhosen thought Tanaka may have grunted, but said nothing.

Pupuli, who had been meeting soldiers all her life, offered her hand to Tanaka. He shook it without ceremony, in the American style. Pupuli’s smile widened. Lederhosen would have called it a grin.

“Major, is there a table where we three can talk? I would prefer to be out of the sight and sound of all this.” With a wave, Pupuli’s hand dismissed every other man in the room.

“Yes, Princess, please follow me.” With a clear objective, Tanaka became suddenly confident. He escorted Lederhosen and Pupuli to a table next to a window, where they could sit in relative privacy while looking out on the gardens surrounding Government House.

An orderly brought Pupuli a tall cool drink. Tanaka and Lederhosen positioned themselves one on each side of her. They passed several minutes talking about the flowers and weather. Eventually, the eyes around the room lost interest, and a general din of conversation rose in the banquet room again.

When she was sure the room had generally lost interest in the three of them sitting there, Pupuli dropped her voice.

Leutnant von Lederhosen, I have been given to understand you have obtained a map that may lead to a treasured object. Am I right to have been so informed?”

Von Lederhosen concealed his shock, but betrayed nothing.

“I know of no such map, Princess. Whatever you may have heard.”

“My source of information, Leutnant, has been extremely reliable in the past. I am told you have obtained a map leading to a certain Buddhist palace in Rangoon. Have I been misinformed?”

Pupuli leaned forward, her lips making a small pursed expression. Then her look changed completely, and the poise became steeled resolve.

“Perhaps I can refresh your memory, Herr Leutnant. Your men and Tanaka’s dock patrol raided a bar on the docks in this city three days ago. The bar is named the Forbidden Island Social Club. Tanaka’s men have made it a . . . comfort station.” Pupuli’s lips curled with distaste.

Tanaka, immediately aware that Pupuli had insulted him by neglecting to refer to his rank, sat bolt upright.

Von Lederhosen smiled. This woman would be easy to handle after all. Predictable.

“Regrettably, Princess, you are misinformed. Major Tanaka’s shore patrol raided that club, it is true. But they found nothing, and the club has been allowed to continue operations.”

“I care nothing for the Japanese soldiers’ patronage of a house of ill-repute, Herr Leutnant. What I care about is that your agents have obtained a map woven into a tapestry. A map that shows the location of the Rangoon Ruby.”

Lederhosen smiled and said nothing.

A tense silence hung over the meeting for a long moment. Finally, Tanaka spoke.

“What is this Rangoon Ruby? Some trinket promised you by your father?”

Lederhosen watched amused, as Pupuli’s eyes flashed with anger.

“What would you know of my family, Tanaka?”

“If you persist in disrespecting me, Princess, I will have you removed.”

“You would not dare.”

Lederhosen was enjoying the spectacle, but broke in.

“Please, this is getting us nowhere. I have no such map, Princess. Your source has told you something that is not true.”

Pupuli, her chest heaving with anger and a kind of asexual lust, looked Lederhosen straight in the eye.

Herr Leutnant, my source has told me quite a lot about you and your men. Perhaps Major Tanaka here would like to hear more about your black market activities.”

Lederhosen’s voice lashed out like a whip. “You will watch what you say, Princess. You may be royalty from a small island, but there are limits to my patience. And your small island is not so important that you can depend upon my good intentions in all matters.”

Pupuli took a moment, calmed herself, and smiled. She took a drink and looked out the window at the orchids. Suddenly Lederhosen noticed her perfume, a soft hint of jasmine which had not been noticeable before.

Now Pupuli spoke in flawless German. “Herr Leutnant, wir werden eine Vereinbarung treffen. We will make an agreement. I will not expose your gold-smuggling operations from Mindanao to Singapore, if you will take me along on your pursuit of the Rangoon Ruby.”

Tanaka, who spoke no German, stared at Pupuli. His face betrayed his concern. Lederhosen took notice, just as he was careful to conceal his surprise.

In English, he replied. “I am sure we can come to some agreement, Princess. I will need to discuss this matter with Major Tanaka. Shall we meet tomorrow at my office to discuss this further?”

“What assurance do I have that anything will be resolved at that time?”

“Because you have no options, Prinzessin. You want something that we do not possess. You have no cards to play in this game. Because it pleases me to make you wait.”

Von Lederhosen smiled. “It will be my pleasure, Prinzessin.

And then the three of them stood, von Lederhosen helping Pupuli up from her chair.

Prinzessin. May I call you a car?”

“That will not be necessary, Herr Leutnant. My men will drive me back to my hotel.” And with that Pupuli turned, crossed the room as decorously as she had entered it, and left by the front door. The hundred heads followed her out the door.

Tanaka looked up at von Lederhosen for a moment, then spoke. “How could she possibly know about our pursuit of the Rangoon Ruby?”

Von Lederhosen spoke slowly and carefully. “I do not know. But there is a security leak. We need to find it, and rid ourselves of it.”

“Yes. Immediately and with finality.”

“You will investigate the American and his whorehouse?”

“Yes, yes. And you will tell me what she said to you in German?”

Von Lederhosen just laughed. But the laughter was forced, and he could feel it choking him. The woman was dangerous, and needed to be watched. And, eventually, managed. With finality.

Von Lederhosen said a brief goodbye to Tanaka, and left.

Back at his desk, his uniform off, Lederhosen sat down and looked out at the harbor. The lights of the hundreds of junks anchored in the harbor glittered on the water. He thought about this woman Pupuli. And Tanaka. And the heroin shipments already spoken for in Rangoon. The war raged in Europe and North Africa. But here there was only money to be made. No clear path to glory.

The Rangoon Ruby? Every instinct told Lederhosen the Rangoon Ruby would be of incalculable value. His only orders had been to establish a black market. He had been given free rein, and OKW had never even sent word of a case officer responsible for reviewing his reports. He had stopped writing them a year ago. There had been no response from OKW. They were too busy winning the war, apparently.

Lederhosen drank little, but he sat there contemplating a glass of whiskey. It had been sitting in front of him since he had arrived back from the reception at Government House.

And then there was this Prinzessin, Pupuli. Not a beauty like the blonde Aryan girls Lederhosen had admired as a school lad. An exotic type, a riddle. A woman who was more than she seemed. Where had she learned such German? He knew that German missionaries had traveled to the Marshall Islands. There were still German schools there. In school, he had heard the islands called German New Guinea. Perhaps this Pupuli had attended schools in Hong Kong?

And Lederhosen had not met a woman of quality in some time. The British were too arrogant, and now they were gone. The Japanese had not brought any women with them. Perhaps Prinzessin Pupuli could serve more than one purpose in this war.

This Ruby. What of that? Every instinct told him to grab it, to play politics and intrigue in any way possible to possess it. Every inference told him it was a way to turn a war that had become banal into something he could bring home, something he could use to get respect. Something that might even impress his father.

And von Lederhosen sat there looking at the drink and the harbor lights for hours, his various lusts consuming his thoughts.


Created by Robin Enos

Von Leiderhosen’s ‘Graduation Day’

22 Aug

How Manfred von Lederhosen’s
Wehrmacht Commissioning Ceremony
Went Wrong for the Third Reich

“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates,

there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” (Carl Jung)

Offizier Inbetriebnahme Zeremonie, Neues Schloss Oberstein, Deutschland (15. Juni, 1938)

The day Manfred von Lederhosen received his commission in the Wehrmacht Heer (land army) should have been the best day of his life. But when Manfred’s mother fell in tears of joy onto older brother Wulf’s shoulders at the post-ceremony reception, Manfred realized he would need to find his own glory elsewhere in the Reich.

Wulf had missed the swearing-in. Wulf was always missing important family moments. The reason was always the same – duty to the Reich. Wulf, four years Manfred’s senior, had graduated from university at Heidelberg, then enlisted in the newly-formed Kriegsmarine. Wulf’s brilliance became evident immediately. In January 1938, Oberleutnant Wulf von Lederhosen was assigned to Admiral Dönitz’ staff, with rumors of new promotions circulating amongst the senior officer staff at OKM, the Oberkommando der Marine or Naval High Command.

At the reception, Wulf burst in, tall, uniformed, fresh from his motorcycle. Tearing off his goggles, Wulf rushed to their mother, who had been standing next to Manfred, fussing over the new Leutnant’s bars on his new grey Wehrmacht uniform.

Hannah von Lederhosen turned away from her second son, squared her shoulders to face her eldest son full on, and looked up at him. “So, mein erste Sohn. What news have you brought your mother to make her happy?”

Wulf smiled broadly. “Mama, I have been posted to OKM, to work as special liaison between Admiral Dönitz and Gross-Admiral Raeder’s general staff!”

The young officers’ father, Kapitän Albrecht Phillip Karl Julius von Lederhosen, wearing his old Imperial German Navy dress uniform, put down his drink and clapped his hands. “Outstanding, my first son. Just outstanding.” Men of Kapitän von Lederhosen’s rank and age did not demonstrate their emotions outwardly.

Hannah von Lederhosen was more effusive. She fell onto Wulf’s epaulets, throwing her arms around him and kissing him hard on the cheek, right above the dueling scar Wulf had obtained fencing at Heidelberg. “My son, my son, my son. I am so proud! You have brought such honor onto the family. And to the Reich!” Wulf leaned forward, wiped his cheek, and grinned. “Ja, a beer, I must now drink a beer. From the road, you understand.”

Captain-at-Sea Albrecht von Lederhosen excused himself to converse with another retired World War I officer, as Wulf lunged off to find a stein of lager. Manfred stood stiffly there in the garden with his mother for a long moment.

“So, Manfred. Now you will join the ranks of the Wehrmacht, and bring honor to the family and to the Fatherland?

“Ja, Mother. Perhaps.”

The tension broke when a student cadet marched up to Manfred, saluted and announced “Heil Hitler!” Manfred snapped to attention, clicked heels, and said “Sieg Heil.” Only his mother, had she paid attention, would have noticed the sullen undertone.

Leutnant von Lederhosen, you are commanded to report to Oberst Himmelberger at once!”

Jawohl, Unteroffizier-Anwärte (Yes, officer-candidate).”

Von Lederhosen bent forward to give him mother an obligatory kiss on the cheek. Hannah von Lederhosen turned her cheek firmly toward her second son, accepted his kiss, and turned back toward her now-returned husband.

“Father, I will advise you if I am ordered beyond the borders of the Reich.”

Danke, Sohn. Now go to your duty.”

Von Lederhosen turned on his heel and left his parents standing next to the flowers, red roses set on white lace, over a black velvet drape. Centered, of course, under the wall-mounted red, white and black Nazi flag.

At the headmaster’s inner office, after von Lederhosen had heiled his way past the secretary, Oberst Himmelberger looked up briefly. Then Himmelberger returned his attention to the thick file in front of him. Von Lederhosen’s student file.

“Sit down, Leutnant.”

“Yes, Colonel.” Von Lederhosen sat down in the hard oak chair in front of Himmelberger’s desk.

“I see you have graduated today, despite your record. Your family was here?” Himmelberger did not wait for an answer. “Kapitän von Lederhosen is your father, correct?”

Jawohl. To both questions.”

Himmelberger looked up sharply, as if he had sensed a faint whiff of insubordination. Seeing too little to bother, Himmelberger leaned back in his chair and looked out the window.

“The Reich has seen fit to extend to you a special duty, Leutnant.”

Von Lederhosen said nothing.

“You are being sent overseas, on a very important posting. This is a great honor, Leutnant. You have been chosen to serve the Reich in the Dutch East Indies and in Singapore.”

“But, Oberst, I do not understand. I speak no indigenous language. I had anticipated a posting to the Signal Corps. Or to Panzers.”

“Yes, I know this is not what you expected. But you speak English, correct?”

“Yes. I have traveled extensive during summer vacations in England.”

“There has been a note in your file that you have shown a talent for, as the Americans say, ‘wheeling and dealing.’” The informal terms spoken in clear English.

Ja, Herr Oberst. I was disciplined in my second year for making beer in the dormitory, and selling it to other cadets. But the file must make that clear.”

Ja. And the file also makes clear that you are insubordinate, sullen, disinclined to your studies, and held in poor esteem by your prominent Prussian Junker family. Who were particularly embarrassed last year, when you smuggled prostitutes into the men’s dormitory. Your father was most disgusted. It was your father who made known to us his preference that you be posted overseas.”

Von Lederhosen, surprised and seething, leaned forward. “And what, sir, shall I be doing in Singapore?”

“You will be organizing a black market, to undermine the British colonial rule in Singapore. We feel the proximity of the Dutch petroleum holdings in the East Indies may someday become important to the Reich and its allies.”

“And if I refuse?”

Himmelberger said nothing. He brusquely signed a one-page order and thrust it at von Lederhosen.

And now Himmelberger looked the young officer straight in the eyes.

“Take this order to the pay officer. Draw expenses for a sea voyage to Singapore by commercial steamer. You will be traveling as a German merchant, in the textile trades. We prefer you use a British merchant steamship for your passage. Your passport and travel visas have been prepared and will be waiting with the cashier. You may take your uniforms, but we expect you will not have much reason to wear them.

“Think of it this way, Leutnant. You are free to set up a black market on such terms as you may wish. You will be a long way from your father, which seems wise. You will be a young man with access to capital, and orders to set up a lucrative business.

“The Reich will expect reports to OKW every Monday by radiotelegraph. You will be assigned a control officer there. We do not yet know who that will be. Of course, if the war we all think is coming approaches your operation, you will do everything you can to help the Fatherland.

“You are not to contact your family or friends before you leave. And you will be expected to be on a ship in the next 48 hours. “Do you understand?”

Jawohl, Kommandant.

“Now leave me to my duty.”

Von Lederhosen stood up, made his stiff-armed salute, and left Himmelberger’s office.

Thirty-four hours later, Manfred von Lederhosen, dressed in an English businessman’s suit, sat on the observation deck of HMS Soho Square. His Wehrmacht uniforms, luger, a few books and a codebook were stored in a locked trunk in his cabin. As von Lederhosen watched, the ship cast off from its moorings at Bremerhaven, bound for Singapore.

Von Lederhosen would never hear of the identity of his control officer at OKW. Despite this unresolved point, his Reichsbank credit line remained solidly intact, and paid for many drinks at the Raffles Bar in Singapore.


Created by Robin Enos

Captain Jack and the Bloody Grognard

10 Oct

How Princess Pupuli Taught Marcos a New Cocktail,
Twan Rescued Jack Harris from Himself,
And Leilani Dispatched a Courier

Late February 1941, Forbidden Island Social Club, Singapore

Princess Pupuli leaned forward toward Jack, exposing much of her ample endowments as casually as if she had bent over to pick up a pencil. Jack simply stared.

“Jack Harris. Sit down and tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.”

Jack sat down at the bar next to Pupuli. Pupuli touched Jack’s arm. Jack’s other arm, which had been holding Jack’s head sideways in Pupuli’s direction collapsed under the weight, pitching Jack forward nearly onto the bar. Jack caught himself, sat up straight.

Pupuli’s tall, authoritative profile and finely-cut features told the world of generations of breeding, of only the most beautiful women and strongest men allowed to marry into the royal bloodline of Bikini, that small atoll surrounded by the great South Pacific. Her long black hair, tied back now in a simple ponytail, reached nearly to her belt. An accomplished horsewoman, in daytime Pupuli preferred the active freedom of her English riding habit, a mode of dress picked up at that Hong Kong finishing school her parents had insisted on. Yet with all the athletic trappings, Pupuli could not, had no intention, of concealing her allure. Pupuli knew she was attractive to men, nearly all men, and had learned very early in her life the art of recruiting men to do her will.

Jack Harris and Princess Pupuli’s acquaintance dated back to a long, infamous night in a gambling hell on Macau, where the great Tongs ran the clubs, the Portuguese served drinks free to players, and the world came to risk everything at the tables. That night Jack, bewitched by Pupuli from the very instant he caught site of her, drank rum and played Blackjack until the pile of chips in front of him swam before his eyes.

Pupuli had touched his arm that night too. Jack remembered how, Pupuli on his arm, he’d drawn wildly to an inside straight in hearts, improbably filled the straight and then dragged his chips off the table in his shirt. His memories of the next 72 hours were somehow fuzzy and wonderful at the same time.

The grubstake from that pot had started Jack’s trading company, and financed his first silk shipment back to San Francisco. That was in 1935. By 1940 Jack’s trading had made him a bundle, all now deposited safe and sound in an American bank in Hong Kong.

All that flashed through Jack’s brain in the blink of an eye, as Pupuli leaned forward again and spoke to Leilani’s brother Marcos, the barkeep.

“Kind sir, can you make us a Bloody Grognard?”

Marcos’ brow furrowed. “I am truly sorry, Princess. I do not know how to make that drink. Can you teach me to make it, so that I may offer it to the patrons of this establishment?”

In another context Pupuli might have thought the suggestion impertinent. With Jack sitting next to her at the bar, she gave Marcos clear instructions.

“Bring me a bottle of Philippine rum, a bottle of Russian vodka, two limes, a pint of freshly-squeezed tomato juice, a bucket of ice, a martini shaker, a small bottle of Angostura bitters, and a cup of French absinthe. Also a plate of salt and two wide champagne flutes.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Marcos turned, his hands flashed across the liquor shelves, and in just a moment he had returned.

Twan, Leilani, Marcos, and 20 Japanese soldiers watched, fascinated. The Forbidden Island bar was utterly silent, for once.

Pupuli, carelessly disregarding her expensive Chinese silk white blouse and tossing her red scarf over her shoulder, leaned forward again. This time, Jack and everybody else watched transfixed, as Pupuli poured first the rum, then the vodka, and then the tomato juice into the shaker.

“It must be done in this order, or the flavors will not blend correctly.”

Then, Pupuli whipped out her switchblade, flipped open the blade, and slit the limes in half as efficiently as a surgeon. As the halved limes sat on the bar, she took the ice, poured half of it into the shaker, and then put the top on the shaker. She shook it hard for ten seconds with both hands. When she lifted the top off the shaker, liquid frothed and frost condensed on the outside. Pupuli set the shaker down and turned to Marcos.

“And now, a hen’s egg. It must be very cold.”

Marcos reached down into the icebox under the bar, produced a white egg.

Pupuli lined up the egg, the limes, the absinthe and the bitters. In what seemed like a single movement, she broke the egg, separated the white from the yolk, poured the white into the shaker, added three dashes of bitters, squeezed the limes thoroughly into the mix, and floated the absinthe on the surface.

The mix, which had been red from the tomato juice, turned bright orange and bubbled up nearly to the lip of the shaker.

“Ha!” Pupuli exclaimed triumphantly. The orange-filled shaker stood there on the bar, little beads of condensation streaming down its sides, as if it was perspiring after the physical act of love.

The crowd gasped.

Pupuli stuck out her tongue in Jack’s direction, licked the rim of one of the champagne flutes, dipped into the salt, and then poured the drink into the flute, careful to leave the salt ring intact.

“You first, Jack.”

Jack drank. The wet slid down his throat smooth like gossamer, slinky like silk, sweet like honey, fiery like Pupuli’s lips after the red was kissed off. He drank another sip, and another. Soon the flute was empty.


Jack waited a moment, wiped off his mouth, set down the champagne flute.

“Holy God in Heaven.”

The crowd burst into cheers.

Marcos looked up from the notes he’d been taking feverishly. Suddenly orders for a Bloody Grognard were being shouted in English, Japanese, Malay, Spanish, Tagalog.

Marcos looked both ways, panicked, and suddenly his sister Leilani was by his side, lining up wide champagne flutes. Leilani waved two of the girls watching from the top of the stairs down to help. In a couple of minutes, the shakers were shaking, the salt was rimmed and the orange essence was pouring out.

Shouts and laughter filled the Forbidden Island, as Leilani took in yen, Hong Kong dollars, Spanish pesetas, Yankee dollars, and the pile of money mounted next to the cash drawer behind the bar.

After the general hubbub had subsided a bit, Jack and Pupuli chatting meanwhile at the end of the bar, Twan wangled his way up to the barstool next to Jack, on the other side of Pupuli.

“So lover boy, do you think we can get going on our mission now?” Twan spoke with a sardonic tone, but with an undercurrent of urgency.

“Hell, yes, Twan. Sorry about that.” Jack took a last swallow of his third Bloody Grognard, set the champagne flute down on the bar, and looked at Leilani.

Leilani, having delegated the drinkmaking to her girls, was quietly looking directly at Jack from the other end of the bar.

Jack turned from Pupuli to Twan, with Leilani in his field of vision.

“Twan, shall we?” And Jack got up off his barstool to go.

“Jack, darling, so where are you going in such a hurry?”

“Oh, Pupuli, it’s hush hush. Strictly for the War Effort.”

“Jack darling, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Rangoon Ruby, does it?” Pupuli said it sweetly, but her emerald eyes flashed.

Jack stopped dead a moment, recovered. “Pupuli, you know I can’t tell you. We have to go. I’m sorry.”

Pupuli’s voice purred. “Oh, Jack, I was hoping to spend some time with you. When will I see you again.?”

“Can’t say. We’ll be back in Rangoon in a few –“

Twan looked darts at Jack, who cut off his sentence mid-word.

“Gotta go, honey. Stay out of drafts.”

Pupuli pouted for a moment, then whispered into Jack’s ear.

“Be careful, Jack.”

Jack and Twan turned and left the bar.

After Jack and Twan left in Twan’s jeep, in the general direction of the airfield, Leilani stood at the end of the bar. Expressionless, she watched Pupuli. Pupuli smiled broadly at Leilani, who smiled back somewhat less broadly. Leilani crossed the room and stood in front of Pupuli.

“Thank you for teaching Marcos the Bloody Grognard. It will be very popular. We are in your debt.”

“Oh, child, it was nothing.”

“We must thank you for anything that helps Captain Harris’ enterprise here.”

“Oh?” Pupuli tried to cover her surprise.


“Child, I really must go. I am expected in Rangoon.”

“As I had assumed, Princess.”

Pupuli ignored the undertone, turned on the heel of her leather riding boot and strode out of the bar.

In a moment, Leilani sat behind the desk in the office, writing on a small sheet of paper, in her neat convent hand. When she finished, she walked out of the office and across the bar to Marcos.

“Send for our youngest brother Philip.”

“Sure, Leilani. What’s going on?”

“I need Philip to carry a letter. To Jack.”

Marcos nodded. In a moment, Philip had left to deliver the message.


Created by Robin Enos

Captain Jack with the Flying Tigers

6 Oct

How Jack Harris Learned to Fly the Curtiss P-40B,
Why Twan Saw the Inside of a Powder Room, and
How They Found A Map

February 1941, Aerodrome Mingaladon, 12 km north of Rangoon

“Hand me that wrench, will you?” Jack gestured to the RAF flight mechanic.

“Do you mean the Spaniard?” asked the mechanic.

“What the hell?” Jack looked up from the 12-cylinder rotary 600 hp Curtiss engine he had nearly finished tuning up.

“Spaniard. You know, the bloody wrench,” asked the mechanic, annoyed.

“You mean spanner.”

“Spanner then, Yank. Whatever you say.”

“So the three-quarter inch ratchet, then?” Jack asked.

“Here ‘tis. Fresh from the box. Shiny as a new bride.” The mechanic handed over the wrench.

Jack peered up into the guts of the engine. All 12 cylinders needed fresh matching sparkplugs. Anything less, and the high compression aviation engine might just start to misfire in the middle of a dogfight. That could cost a man’s life. The margin between the P-40B and the Japanese Zero fighter was too thin for joking around, and the superior climbing rate of the Zero meant Jack’s P-40 needed every rpm it could muster.

Finally satisfied after fitting the last of the new spark plugs, Jack bolted down the engine cowling, jumped into the cockpit, and had the mechanic turn the propeller. The engine sputtered on the first try, then caught on the second and blazed to a throaty roar. Jack’s P-40 strained at its chocks, almost as if it wanted to jump into the air on its own.

Jack gestured thumbs up. The RAF mechanic pulled the chocks, and Jack’s P-40 shuddered forward onto the close-cropped grass runway. Jack turned her into the wind, got the go-ahead from the tower, and thundered off into the sun rising over the eastern mountains.

After adjusting to the sun low on the eastern horizon, Jack spoke to his trainer. “Okay, Tiger One, I’m airborne and heading due north climbing to 5,000 feet, bearing 210.”

The flight commander, radio ID Tiger One, responded immediately. “Tiger Four, you’re trailing white smoke. Abort flight, return to aerodrome.”

Jack looked into his rear view mirror. Blast! New spark plugs, and now an oil leak.

“Roger willco, Tiger One.”  Jack banked around carefully. In two minutes he would circle the aerodrome and set her down. Gently.

Jack set his course for a straight upwind landing. He was maybe 100 feet aloft, about to set down, when his radio crackled again. “If you don’t get those wheels down, Harris, I won’t even write your mother to explain how you ended up strawberry jam!”

Realizing he’d neglected to lower his landing gear, Jack, deeply embarrassed, tugged the lever and the wheels cooperated immediately. He brought his smoke-spewing P-40 to the ground, then taxied to a gentle stop in front of the maintenance hangar. Just as he was unhooking his safety belt, his radio crackled again.

“Report to the CO immediately, Harris.”

Well, there was always the saloon to fall back on, thought Jack as he made his way to the CO’s office.

Ex-RAF squadron chief trainer James L. “Jaimie” Harter, assistant to Col. Claire Chennault, commandant of the Flying Tigers, was standing behind his desk when Harris knocked, then entered the CO’s office.


“Sir. Jack Harris, CAMCO trainee 2nd class.”

“Harris, you nearly pranged your kite this morning. Didn’t they teach you to check the undercarriage before final approach?”

“Yes, sir. No excuse sir.” Jack ignored the sweat dripping off his nose.

Harter said nothing for long seconds, puffing on an unfiltered Player, looked out the window at the line of Flying Tiger P-40s next to the hangar.

At last. “You’re a bloody fine natural pilot, Harris. See to it you don’t end up cracking up one of our P-40’s next time, what?”

“Yes, sir. Is that all sir?”  Jack couldn’t believe his luck.

“No. There’s something else.” Harter buzzed his assistant. “Send him in, Corporal.”

Jack, still standing at attention, broke his stance to look over his shoulder as the door swung open. It was Twan!

Harter puffed once more on his cigarette, then stubbed it out.

“I understand you two know each other, Twan?”

Nonchalant response. “Yeah, boss, I know Harris.”

“So you two think you can find this map?”

Twan smiled. “Yeah, boss.”

“So take Harris with you and go find that damned map.”

“Yeah, boss.”

And Harris?  This is strictly top secret. You understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Jack responded automatically, despite being mystified.

“My assistant will fix up your travel arrangements. Dismissed, Harris.”

“Yes sir.” Jack turned mechanically and followed Twan out of Harter’s office.

They drove away in Twan’s jeep. Jack, sitting in the left passenger seat of the right-hand drive jeep, sat silently as long as he could stand.

“So what’s this damned map he’s talking about, Twan?”

“Map somewhere in Singapore, Boss. We fly there tonight.”

“What’s on the map, Twan?”

“Don’t know, Boss. Hush hush.”

Jack grimaced. “So how the hell are we supposed to know when we find it?”

“Yank Navy Intel thinks Leilani might know something. That’s why they hired me. Leilani told them about me. She told them about you too.”

Jack thought about Sweet Leilani. That girl seemed to think of everything.

“So how do we get around in Singapore?”

“Jeep flies with us, Jack. Just like coming here.”

Jack said nothing. He reached for the cigarettes in his breast pocket. Pack empty. Damn. Now he’d have to bum one from the pilot of the C-46 Commando.

Ten hours later, the Commando cargo plane’s engines still ringing in their ears, Twan and Jack watched as the C-46 ground crew deplaned Twan’s jeep onto the Singapore airport runway.

An hour later, they stood outside the bar. It had a new sign above the door, the one that had been repaired after the Japanese shore patrol broke it down. The “Forbidden Island.” Jack made a mental note to compliment Leilani on another good move.

Twan took a last drag on his Camel, stubbed it and grinned at Jack. “Okay, Boss. Let’s see if Leilani remembers you.”

Jack pushed open the door. Leilani’s brother labored behind the bar. The place was jammed with Japanese sailors, soldiers and airmen, chumming with the working girls and drinking like fish. Someone was plunking out “It Had to Be You” on the piano. Cigarette smoke and the combined reek of whiskey and cheap perfume cut the air.

Jack made his way through the crowd of laughing, drinking, sweating and swearing Japanese to the back table. Leilani sat there, suffused with calm, with her leather book of accounts. She was dressed in a new purple gown. Looking somehow more in charge, than in the old red one.

Leilani looked up at Jack, smiled, and closed her book. “Captain Jack, it’s so good to see you. I have so much to tell you.” Not a word about “Where the hell have you been.” This girl was definitely a keeper, thought Jack.

“Leilani, my girl, how HAVE you been?” Jack sat down across from Leilani, mustering his most charming smile. Leilani leaned forward and spoke quietly.

“Jack, the bar is a fine business for you. You have thousands of Hong Kong dollars in the safe. But I’m worried the Japanese might still be looking for you. And there’s the German. Lederhosen.”  Her mouth twisted downward when she uttered Lederhosen’s name.

“I told you not to let that bastard into this bar with his men. What’s happened?”

“You remember he was here with his men and beat up my brother. They went away and didn’t come back for three months. I heard the German was overseas. Then a week ago, they came back. They arrived with ten men, natives and Japanese, no shore patrol around. They held a gun on me and asked me for a map. There was an old map in a frame behind the bar. I tried to tell them that was the only map I knew about. Lederhosen struck me. Then they broke the frame and took the map. Then they left.”

Twan, standing behind Jack and watching the door, listened impassively. He looked up at the faded spot on the wall behind the bar, where the map had previously hung.

Jack said nothing, confused.

Twan broke the silence. “Was it the map of the Straits? The one with Krakatoa in the middle? That had been here for years?”

“Yes, Twan.”

Twan lit another cigarette. “Leilani, is there still a silk tapestry in the Powder Room on the second floor.”

Leilani’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Twan.

“How would you know about that, sir?”

“Never mind. Is it still there?”

“Yes. But I don’t see what that has to do with . . . .”

Twan turned and ran up the stairs. Jack watched as Twan burst through the door of the second floor powder room. Squeals of laughter and screams accompanied Twan’s disappearance into that female sanctum sanctorum.

Leilani stood up, said nothing, and marched up the stairs. Jack just watched.

Twan emerged with a piece of silk cloth under his arm, and a pair of white silk panties on his left shoulder. Taking a moment to brush off the panties, and oblivious to the flutter of female voices behind him, Twan strode down the stairs two at a time, and back to Jack’s side. Leilani had disappeared without a word into the powder room.

“Boss, we have to talk. Private. Now.” Twan’s voice was urgent. Jack looked around. Nobody in the bar had noticed anything.. More likely, the regulars were used to pretending not to notice.

Jack motioned Twan into the office, and closed the door behind them once inside.

“Twan, what the hell was that all about?”

“Boss, that map has been hanging behind the bar of this club for years. The story on the docks is that it was left here by a crazy Englishman 20 years ago. Something about he’d traded it in Rangoon for his houseboy. That it carried a secret. Something about a Rangoon Ruby. Boss, this silk tapestry is an embroidered copy of the map.”

Jack opened his mouth. He couldn’t think what to say. “But how did you know . . .”

Twan was dead earnest now. “Boss, I’ve been working out of this club for five years. I know who made this copy. It was my mother.”

“Damn, Twan, this is great. Do you think the embroidered map has anything to do with what we were sent here to find.”

“Jack, the embroidered map IS what we were sent here to find. I had to play like I didn’t know about it with boss man, to get you out of there and to get air transport back here.”

Jack thought fast. It all added up. The only thing that didn’t fit was . . . what the hell was on the map?

“Okay, Twan, let’s keep that thing in the safe.”

“No, Boss. Too dangerous.”

“So what do you suggest we do with it?”

“First we make sure the place is calm and the girls get a bonus for keeping their mouths shut. Leilani can take care of that. Then we’ve got to get moving. That German is a week ahead of us, Boss.”

“What do you know about this map that you’re not telling, Twan?”

“Just that it had to be the map Harter was talking about, that we were sent to find. And that the German wanted it enough to come back for it. And that the crazy Englishman told wild stories about the Rangoon Ruby.”

The Rangoon Ruby. Captain Jack though a moment. This war stuff had made a big change in his life, but he was still Trader Jack, buyer and seller of anything of value. “Look, Twan, we’re supposed to be helping the war effort here. The US isn’t at war with Japan yet, but everybody thinks something’s going to happen to change that soon. And we know what the Germans are doing in Europe. We can’t mess around with chasing this Rangoon Ruby.”

“Doesn’t change anything, Boss. We’ve got to get moving and follow the map.”


“Boss, we were sent to find that map. The Flying Tigers can wait. If the German wants it, we need to beat him to it.”

Jack thought a moment. There could be lots of reasons why Harter had sent him after the map. With war coming, it could be crucial intelligence. “Okay, Twan, let’s move out.”

Just then Leilani appeared, unflappable as ever, standing behind Jack’s seat. Funny, Jack thought. I didn’t hear her come into the office.

“Captain Jack, the girls will be fine. They’re all getting double pay tonight. And they know how to keep silent.”

Jack looked straight at Leilani, again. “Okay, Leilani, we’ll need some of that operating capital.”  Leilani swiftly dialed the combination on the safe, and handed Jack a bundle of bills at least an inch thick.”

“Here, Captain. From your earnings. If you need more, just let me know.”

Jack’s eyes moved from the pile of money to Leilani’s face, then back to the pile of money.

“Leilani, I, uh . . .”

“Captain, there is no time. Take it and do what must be done.”

“Yes.” There seemed little else to be said.

Twan hissed with urgency. “Boss, let’s go! The shore patrol is coming down the dockside.”

Jack grabbed his hat and bag, and headed out into the bar, Twan right beside him.

And just as he reached the bar, Jack stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting at the bar, coolly sipping a Mai Tai, was an extremely familiar face. An extremely familiar female shape. Extremely familiar long black hair. Extremely familiar long legs, silk blouse, black jodhpurs, black leather riding boots, and red scarf. And those lips.

And, oh my God, thought Jack. That unforgettably-familiar jasmine perfume.

Pupuli looked Jack dead in the eyes, and smiled like the princess she was, had been all her life. Then she spoke in a low, languid voice.

“Hello, Jack. Long time no see.”

Twan and Leilani simply looked at each other.


Created by Robin Enos

Meet Michael Ahn, TWF’s Official Grognard!

2 Sep

In a bit of serendipitous collaboration, today saw two new developments in Tiki Wiki Fiki: the tapping of the official TWF Chief Grognard, Michael Ahn, and the creation of a drink named in his honor (The Bloody Grognard). There’s still some debate over the ingredients and proper method for serving the Grognard, but we’ll post it here when the details are finalized.

In the mean time, to learn what a grognard is and how the whole thing unfolded, here’s a snippet from Flint’s Facebook Wall (and once, again, welcome to TWF, Michael!):

“Captain Jack in Singapore”

24 Jul


How Jack Harris Escaped Cutthroats,

Convinced the Japanese Navy that He’d Drowned

In the Strait of Malacca

And Test-Drove a Jeep

December 1940, British Crown Colony, Singapore.

“So that’s the lot, then? Ye’ve got nothing more to bet?”

The one-eyed Aussie named Johnny looked sharply across the table at Jack Harris. Their right hands locked in a death grip, their elbows strained for advantage on the pitted tabletop. The veins on Harris’s throat throbbed. His face beet red, Harris gasped for breath.

Jack, drunk, spoke through clenched teeth. “That’s it, Johnny. Bottom of the damned barrel.”

The entwined fists writhed back and forth, like the head of a snake, first toward Harris, then toward Johnny.

Gasping again, Harris leaned back. “Well,” he grimaced. A pause for breath, then Harris leaned sharply forward. “There’s this.” His left hand held out a German Luger, which had been stuffed in his belt.

Johnny glanced at the Luger a moment, then back at the writhing fists. He took a moment’s pause at the increased stake. He’d won this stinking dive at dice in January ‘39. Leilani, the barwench, had come in the deal, together with the front door key. Business had been bloody good so far. And he could trade that Luger for notes he’d signed in Manila to Colonel Saito. Might just lift the price on his head at that.

“So you’ll chance the Luger?” Johnny cocked his head toward the barwench once.

Harris creased his brow and gulped air. “Mark it down, Leilani!”

Leilani twitched her left shoulder, then twirled a strand of her long black hair nervously around one finger. Turning her head slightly away from her employer, she made another mark on the chit of paper sitting at the bar.

She twitched her left shoulder again. Harris, distracted by the bare shoulder under the strap of Leilani’s red bordello gown, nearly let his straining arm fall to the table top.

A moment more of strain. Harris struggled to recover lost ground in the arm-wrestle. One-eyed Johnny, sensing weakness in Harris’s trembling hand and labored breath, leaned forward. Harris could smell the foul exhale across the table, and paled a little.

“So will you call the bet, Johnny? How about the club, against that Luger? Took it off a dead Nazi in Morocco.”

“So ye’ve really got no more, ‘ave ye?”

Harris, really straining now, grunted. “Bottom of the barrel. Dead broke.”

Johnny laughed. “Call the bleedin’ bet! The club, the girls upstairs, the whole stinkin’ mess, against your bloody Luger.” Johnny tossed the big iron front door key onto the bar in front of Leilani.

Jack’s eyes darted to the key, then back to Johnny. Johnny grinned, showing his black decayed teeth, and pressed with all his might to end the arm-wrestle with a quick thrust.

Just then the street-front window burst inward into the bar. Shore Patrol! A Japanese soldier scrambled over a drunk, blew his whistle and bellowed, in surprisingly good English. “You are all under Imperial arrest. Hands on heads, at once!”

Harris, taking this in at a glance, muttered something about Uncle Sam and the flag, and thrust the one-eyed man’s arm summarily to the table, winning the match.

“Leilani?” Harris exclaimed. The barwench, flashing a grateful smile at Captain Jack, tossed Harris the key to the front door. Harris scooped up the paper money sitting on the bar, then thrust the bills and the key inside his khaki overshirt. As the brawl erupted around him, Harris considered his options. The one-eyed Aussie had disappeared out the front door.

Suddenly Harris stood straight up. In a loud voice he boomed, “This club is under new ownership! We declare the bar open without charge to all Sons of Japan!”

The three Japanese soldiers stood behind their leader, blinking. The bar was suddenly empty. Harris could hear light footsteps padding down the upstairs bordello hallway. A wild thought— would Leilani remember to collect fares as the patrons fled?

A pregnant silence. Then the soldiers broke into smiles, lowered their rifles and stood up to the bar. Harris, as though he had been running the place all his life, snatched a bottle of Suntory and poured generous shots out along the bar.

Soon the Japanese were jabbering among themselves, and Jack was sitting in the back room with Leilani. As he watched Leilani counting out bills to pay the girls upstairs, Harris could only wonder what on earth he would do with a bordello in Singapore. When, after what he’d heard about what the SS had done to the French, what he really craved was Lederhosen’s scalp, laid on a platter, sitting on the bar at the Raffles Hotel.

The memory of the French village burned Jack’s eyes. Uncle Sam and the flag. What the hell?

The next morning, Captain Jack surveyed the mess in the bar. An unholy reek of spilled whiskey, sweat and wet oak flooring wafted up.


Leilani appeared at the top of the stairs, dressed in a white nightgown. Sweet Leilani.

“Yes, Captain.”

At least she could speak English, Jack thought. Gibberish, what they spoke on the streets here.

“Leilani, do we have the receipts from last night?”

“Yes, Captain, I have them in my room.”

“Get dressed then, and I’ll speak to you down here in five minutes.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Captain Jack sat at the rear table, his table now. The reek of stale liquor, cigarette smoke and cheap perfume from upstairs made his stomach lurch. Oh, for some coffee, he thought.

Leilani appeared in a housedress, with a brown leather sack fat with bills. She turned the contents out onto the table.

“Holy . . . ” Captain Jack took a look at the pile of bills Leilani had spread out on the table. “How much, Leilani?”

“Oh, Captain, I think about the same as the night before.”

“So, how much to the, uh, girls?”

“They are paid before they leave for the night, Captain. They are not to be paid any more from this.”

“Mmm. Leilani, is there a safe somewhere?”

“Oh, yes, Captain. It is in the office.”

“I think we have enough here to keep operating. Don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes, Captain. The one-eyed man always took the money, every night. This is the first time I have seen so much in one place, the next day.”

“Why don’t you keep this in the bag for now, Leilani?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“And you can keep running things, and find a bartender?”

“Yes, Captain, I have a younger brother, very trustworthy. He is working now at the hotel across the street.”

“Bring him in this afternoon. You run things. Take half the money for yourself, and use the other half to run the place. If you need to pay for protection, do it. Do you have any coffee?”

“Yes, Captain. My brother will bring some from the hotel.”

“Great. Just crackerjack”

“Crackerjack? This is American expression?”

“Uh, yeah. Just bring coffee.”

Captain Jack swept the table mess away, then wiped off his mouth. The coffee appeared almost instantly. Leilani’s fingernails were clean, polished.

“Ahh! Yes. Honey, that’s great coffee.”

“Excuse me, Captain.”

“Thank you, Leilani.” Mental note not to use so much Stateside slang.

Three nights later, Leilani’s brother tended bar. Leilani sat in a ballgown at the table in the back, writing something in a new leather book. Jack, thoughts a little clouded from the Singapore Sling sitting next to its five empty brothers, looked down at Leilani’s book. The figures swam before his eyes. Blinking, Jack stumbled against the table. Leilani looked up.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Leilani, are we still making money?”

“Yes, Captain. More tonight than last night, and more last night than the night before.”

“And you’re paying the appropriate cumshaw to the Harbor Master?”

“But no. I pay something every day to Saito’s captain. The Japanese run the docks. It keeps us safe.”

“Good. Great job.”

Leilani hesitated for a moment, then spoke directly. “Captain, I sent one of the upstairs girls away last night.”


“She was the youngest daughter of a tribal lord from the back country. Saito’s men told me the tribe had sent armed men to fetch her. I was concerned your enterprise not be interrupted. I sent her home with Saito’s safe passage and a little money.”

Captain Jack looked at Leilani for a moment. “Good move.”

Leilani smiled and gazed downward.

“So, Leilani, are you keeping the money safe, and taking your half?”

“Yes, Captain. My brother gives me the money from the bar, and I store it in the safe in the office.” So she knew the combination. What a girl.

Captain Jack dimly remembered spinning the safe and opening it. Was it the night before? Or the night before that? Damned Singapore Slings.

“Aces, doll. Just keep my share separate, and . . .”

Just then an explosion was heard several blocks inland. Then another. Japanese soldiers raced pell-mell along the quay toward the sound, rifles ready. A ship’s bell rang and rang, alerting soldiers still aboard Yamato, the greatest battleship in the world.

Twenty minutes later Captain Jack Harris stood, stripped to the waist, in a long line of men, both Native and English. Iron shackles bit into Jack’s wrists and ankles. The prisoner standing behind Jack smelled like fish.

A Japanese soldier roared at the front of the line. “All prisoners are to march in step! You are prisoners with no honor! Left! Right! Left! Right!” The line began to shamble along, the clink of the irons tapping out a harsh rhythm on the dock.

The line moved in front of Jack. He tried to keep up with the cadence, but stumbled when the fish-stinking prisoner fell against Jack’s shoulder. Jack pitched forward on the salt-soaked dock timbers. The toe of a dull, sweat-stained Japanese boot twitched a few inches away.

“And what do we have here! Did you not hear my order to march!”

Jack thought of options, saw none, and spoke calmly. “No, no, sir, uh, Captain. Just a slip on the wet –“ Jack could not finish the word “dock” before the butt of the soldier’s rifle hit him on the side of his head.

Rather than knock Jack out, the blow seemed to bring him to his senses. He jumped up, wavering as he gained his footing, and stared.

“If you hit me again, you’ll regret it.”

The Japanese soldier kicked Jack cruelly in the crotch. When Jack was down, he struck Jack’s temple again with the rifle butt. Jack fell back on the stinking prisoner behind him.

A Japanese officer stepped up to the soldier who’d kicked, then struck Jack. A stream of incomprehensible Japanese directed itself at the soldier. The soldier snapped to attention, his rifle against his shoulder.

The officer, a short, sweating man with piercing dark eyes and a ruddy complexion, looked directly down at Jack.

“You are an American.” It was not a question.

“Yeah, what of it?”

“We are not presently at war with America. I have no orders to hold you.”

“So where did you learn such good English, Captain?”

“At Crenshaw High School. Before the Emperor called me to service.”

“But . . .”

“Silence, American. I grew up in your country. Then my country called me. Bushido called me. We will soon rule the Pacific. You keep prostitutes. You will go with the prisoners.”

Two hours later. The sun dipped ever toward the horizon, Jack stood just inside the Japanese harbor captain’s door. Jack could hardly stand up. The smell of the candle in front of the Japanese officer bit at Jack’s nostrils. Jack felt like he might hurl up whatever was left in his stomach.

Captain Suhiro Tanaka had served the Imperial Navy since the invasion of Manchukuo in 1931. Now, at 32, he was a hardened sea captain, with important business interests in opium and pearl trade between Manila and Rangoon. He finished what he was writing, signed his name and looked sharply up at Captain Jack.

“I understand you are educated. Name and reason for being in Singapore?”

“Captain Jack Harris. Born and raised in Oakland, California. Here in Singapore on, uh, business.”

“I thought you sounded like an American. We are not presently at war with America. That might change if your President Roosevelt interferes with our oil shipments from the Dutch East Indies.”

“Not my problem. I run a saloon.”

“We have information you might be training with the Flying Tigers in Burma. That would make you an enemy of the Empire.”

“Flying Tigers? Never heard of them.”

Tanaka slapped Jack’s face, hard. A trickle of blood ran from a corner of Jack’s mouth.

“You will not toy with me, American. You deny the Flying Tigers are training flight crews outside Rangoon?”

“What the hell you are talking about? Why don’t you go beat up some poor peasant streetwalkers, and leave me alone?”

“You disrespect me! And you keep prostitutes. Your club is needed for comfort of Japanese soldiers. Guard!”

A Japanese soldier rousted Jack from the room, and down a stairway to a rattan cage filled with stinking men. As the soldiers dragged him off, Jack wondered whether joining up with the Tigers had been a good move. But that Tanaka—what a bastard.

Jack did not know how long he had been unconscious after being kicked into the rattan cage. He awoke in midday, judging by the heat. And the smell. Everywhere, fish, fish, fish.

A man with a suppurating angry gash on his left cheek threw Jack a fish. “So yer princess has awakened, Mates. Just look at the newest Jap prisoner sailor!. How long before this one throws up?” This last followed by general deep male laughter. The small room was filled with filthy men, most stripped to the waist.

“Don’t worry, Princess, we ain’t sailed yet. We still got time for fishin’.” Another guttural laugh broke out among the huddled men.”

“Come on, Princess, lunch break is over. Time for work.” Jack was pushed roughly to his feet. The men filed out of the small hold and into a larger one through a small hatch.

Fish. Everywhere, fish. Fish in large piles on the floor. Fish in baskets. And in the middle of the room, a pile of guts.

“Take a knife, Princess, and fillet the bloody stinkers from stem to stern. Then throw the guts onto the pile. The fish go into briny barrels. We eat the guts for dinner! Haha.”

The others hard at work, Jack grabbed a knife about a foot long from a chest next to the gut pile, then slit a slippery fish from tail to gills. Guts poured out onto the floor. He tossed the fish into the brine and took up another.

“Make lively now. We only get to eat what’s left over after the officers’ lot goes to market. I hear they pay Yank dollars for it up at the weighing dock.”

Jack grabbed another fish, slit it tail to gills, poured out the guts, threw it into the brine. And another. Over and over again.

Six hours later it was getting dark. Jack had nearly stopped smelling the acrid fish. Exhausted and nauseated by the smell of guts, sweat and diesel oil he slit another fish from tail to gills, poured out the guts, threw it into the brine. And another.

Jack thought if he ever got off this damned dock, he’d never eat fish again.

A Japanese sailor appeared, blew a whistle. Gash-face spoke. “Time for dinner, Princess.” The men dropped their fish and knives immediately and filed out into the smaller hold where they had spent their midday break.

Jack looked around for a chow line. Gash-face laughed. “After the Japanese have had their fill, Mate. Just enough to keep us’n from starvin’.”

Great, thought Jack.

A sailor threw down a barrel into the cage. The men struggled for handholds. Jack shouldered his way to the front, and stuck his hand into the barrel.

Fishguts. Jack groaned and threw the guts back into the barrel.

“Too good for the guts, are we?” Gash-face thrust his face within an inch of Jack’s. “Ye’ll not survive without some protein, Princess. Or is the guts too rank for yer delicate nose?” With that the man swung a meat hook straight at Jack’s head.

Jack jerked sideways like a linebacker. The meat hook lodged in a timber behind Jack’s head. He kicked Gash-face in the stomach. The man fell back, and suddenly there was a brawl everywhere in the small hold. Fists, feet, blood flying, flesh thudding into flesh.

The Japanese guard rushed down from the foredeck. “Stand fast! Stand fast!” Unwisely, he came down the companionway and opened the door, his bayonet drawn and pointing forward into the mass of brawling men.

Jack, slinking behind the guard, turned and darted up the steps to the dock, grabbed a barrel and used it to knock the guard cold. Three steps, dive. Then Jack swam as fast as his screaming lungs could take him.

Jack took a breath at the surface. Bullets streamed through the water around his head. Then he swam as deep as he could, under the hull of the trawler standing at dockside.

No sign of guards on this side of the ship. Great! Jack struck out across the harbor, swimming for the nearest junk as though his life depended on it. Shouts in Japanese rang out all across the harbor. No one thought to look Jack’s direction. He swam straight out toward a large junk riding anchor a short distance away.

Jack reached the hull of the junk, dove deep, surfaced, took a breath. Now the hull lay between him and the Japanese trawler.

About 3:00 a.m., Jack pulled himself out of the inky water and onto the quay. The trawler was gone. Soaked to the skin, blood ran from cuts in his face, scalp and hands. A tall, slender Asian man in a khaki shirt and shorts stood next to a strange, boxy-looking car with, what looked to Jack, no windshield. The man took a drag from an unfiltered cigarette, and looked both ways up and down the dockside.

Jack took a chance. “Do you speak English?”

“Yeah, man. What’s it to you?”

“I’m trying to get back to my club. Can you help me?”

“Why should I help you? The Japanese tore up the dock tonight looking for you. Maybe they’ll pay me to hand you over to them.”

“I’ll pay more. I just gotta get back to my club.”

“Okay, Boss. Fifty dollars, US.”

“I’ll double it if you can get me there safely.”

A thin smile. “You’ve just hired yourself a Chinese, Yankee.”

“I’m Jack. What’s your name?”


They shook hands. Twan motioned Jack to the boxy green car with no windshield.

“What the hell is this car, Twan?”

“New Yankee soldier car. Jeep.”

“Looks damned useful.”

“Four wheel drive, good Ford four-cylinder, good on rough road. You drive, Yankee.”

“Aces, Twan. Back to Singapore.”

Leilani sat at the bar in the same red ballgown. She paid no attention to Jack’s appearance.

“Captain Jack, you have been away. I have the receipts from last night and tonight. But there was trouble here two nights ago. A Japanese ship docked, and a German officer and his men came here. They were looking for their ex-captain, they said. They took all the whiskey, and beat my brother most brutally. He is home with my mother recovering from his wounds.”

Captain Jack thought a minute. Then he spoke quietly and urgently to Leilani.

“Leilani, I have to leave Singapore tonight. Keep the bar. Keep the money. If I ever come back, give me some of it. God knows you’ve earned it.”

“But Captain –”

“Hush, child. Keep good accounts and pay the cumshaw, and keep the Japanese and the tongs happy at all costs. And NEVER let that German and his men into this place. On your life! Do you swear?”

“Yes, Jack, of course.” Leilani looked at him a moment, full in the eyes. Jack was surprised to see regard and respect there.

“Now go back to work. You never saw me. You never heard me.”

“Yes, Jack.”

And then Captain Jack slipped out the back door.

Three months later, standing at the Raffles bar, his belly full of chop suey and Tsing Tao, Jack turned to Twan. “See that German?” Than’s eyes darted to Lederhosen, who stood with several uniformed Wehrmacht around the piano, swilling beer.

“Yeah, Boss.”

“I’ve never met the Nazi bastard. But he’s going to pay for what he did.”

“Yeah, Boss.”


Created by Robin Enos

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