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Murphy's Five (work in progress)

Murphy's Five (work in progress)

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Published by Jim LaVigne
Historical fiction revenge tale, currently Under Construction
Historical fiction revenge tale, currently Under Construction

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Published by: Jim LaVigne on Jan 05, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/02/2014

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Singapore, February 2
nd
, 1942Rising and handing the sniper scope back to Jin Li, the wiry, shave-headed little Englishmannamed Reggie Scott blinked hard and wiped sweat from his forehead. Looking around at theimmense sprawl of the city laid out before him, giving his vision a break, he was drawn to anairborne object, a speck on the green jungle horizon that seemed to be coming their way. Usinghis hand for a shade, he waited, watching it approach, and wished absently that he was back inLondon. Or, for that matter, just about anywhere else.They were on the roof of an apartment building overlooking Orchard Road, the local red-light district, and directly across from the Malay Palace, a sort of all-in-one den of iniquity that provided gambling, prostitution, liquor, drugs, and, according to rumor, practically anything else.The man they were after was inside.The speck had grown now and Reggie could see and hear that it was an airplane, as he’dassumed, but it was still too far away to tell whether it was RAF or Japanese. Then a nearby air-raid siren began to wail, starting low and winding up to a scream, and decided the matter.Japanese it was. In confirmation, the ack-ack guns down along the front lines opened fire. Dullthumps came to him through the thick air and the enemy plane was soon flying through small black clouds of exploding metal. None of these seemed to do it the least damage, though, letalone impede its progress, and the plane came buzzing along, steady and level.Finally it came to the city itself, past the hills and forests and mainly residential outlyingareas, and then, over what looked like an industrial part of town, maybe a train yard, let loose itsload. Six bombs came tumbling out and slowly--absurdly so, it seemed to Reggie--fell to earth.Down, down, until he lost sight of them and then a great cloud of earth, dust, smoke, and chunksof debris suddenly flew up and into the air. A moment later, there was a series of deep, window-rattling booms and then the building beneath their feet shook, very slightly, but certainly enoughto be noticed.“What was
that 
?” asked Jin, glancing up.“Never you mind, love,” said Reggie. “And keep your eyes on that door.”Jin scowled, glancing again at the plume of smoke, dust and debris left by the retreating bomber, and then went back to the scope.“Good girl,” Reggie said. “And for the record, it was a Nip bomber. Just the one, for some reason. Must’ve got separated from his mates. Anyway, he dropped off a little birthday present for the boys over in that train yard, looks like…”Jin swore, something in Mandarin that Reggie didn’t recognize, but kept her eye to thescope.“Aw, don’t worry, love,” said Reggie, stretching his arms and back. “The Japs will never take this place. Not Singapore. Might mess it up a bit, but they’ll never take it. Not the Gibraltar of the East!”“What makes you so sure?”“Why, just look around!” Reggie said, sweeping an arm at the hundreds and hundreds of  buildings, large and small, and the rolling hills and fields of the rest of the island beyond. “Thereare over 70,000 soldiers stationed here, just waitin’ for the chance to get at them Jap bastards, andthat don’t even take into account the Air Force! Hell, there are batteries of fifteen inch guns downthere! Do you have any idea how bleedin’
huge
a fifteen inch gun is? And there’s the AA guns,more artillery, machine guns and landmines and line after line of barbed wire and bunkers,trenches… Naw, them rotten Japs are in for a damn good thrashing if they try it!”“I notice,” said Jin tersely, “that you do not mention the vaunted British Navy. Or therecent, shall we say, reversals of the Army.”Reggie scowled and kicked a stray pebble across the roof. She was right, of course. Justa week earlier the Japanese had sunk some of the Royal Navy’s finest big ships. En route to protect Singapore and its garrison, the Repulse and the Hood, full-blown battleships, plus a
 
number of destroyers, had been sent to the bottom. Thousands of seamen had died, and all donefor by a few measly Jap planes. Needless to say, a disaster, and what was more, it had leftSingapore without its biggest, best weapons.On top of that, the Japanese had, over the past month or so, marched steadily down theMalay Peninsula, defeating one force of British and Colonial troops after another like aninexorable wave. And just a week ago, they were told, the last link from Singapore Island to themainland, a great causeway bridge, had been destroyed by the engineers to deny the Japanese acrossing.“No, I did not mention the… setbacks,” Reg finally said. “But that don’t change a thing.With or without them big guns of His Majesty’s Navy, no matter how the fighting has gone so far,there’s still no way the Japs will take this place.”“I hope you are right,” said Jin dubiously. “But then, I am sure that the Americans feltmuch the same way, before Pearl Harbor. What’s more, the enemy had not been stopped so far. Not in Manchuria, or the Philippines, Indonesia… But at any rate, we shall just have to wait andsee what happens, won’t we?”Reggie shrugged. “Maybe. Depends, don’t it?” He paused and glared up at the sun. “Is italways like this here? So bleedin’ hot?”“Yes,” said Jin. “And it also rains a lot. Even more in early winter, as that is the monsoonseason.”Just then there was a scraping noise behind them and Reggie turned to see someonecoming up from downstairs. First a head appeared, rectangular in shape, with closely-shorn brown hair that stuck out at odd angles on the top. Then the face, which was strong, with a long but pronouncedly crooked nose, a wide, dimpled jaw, and a thin, cruel mouth, all framed by ascruffy, three-day beard. Next came the shoulders, broad and set a bit forward, and then the barrelchest, narrow waist, and thick legs, about six feet tall, clad in a suit of anonymous gray coveralls.Reggie straightened to his full height--all five foot six of it--as his best friend and their undisputed leader approached“Hullo, Murph!” he said with a grin. “Warm enough?”Murphy smiled his slanted smile and shrugged. “Seen worse,” he said. Then he nodded atJin, who was still glued to the scope, and raised an eyebrow.Reggie slapped himself on the forehead. “That’s right, you’ve not met!” Going over tothe roof’s edge, he tapped Jin lightly on the leg with his toe and then, once she’d gotten to her feet, took her place with the scope.“Miss Jin Li,” he said, over his shoulder, “meet Mr. Thomas Murphy. Mr. Murphy, this isMiss Jin Li.”“Hullo,” said Murphy, avuncular as ever.“Yes, hello,” said Jin. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”Murphy grunted. Then: “Are you sure he’s in there?”“Yes,” said Jin. “If the man you seek is Corporal Bartholomew T. Sanderson, you needlook no further. I saw him enter the place myself, not an hour ago.”Murphy grunted again. “He’d better be.” he said sternly. “And it had better be him.Because if I don’t miss my guess, this whole place is about to become one bloody unpleasant place to be. Once the Japs get through the jungle, they’ll have artillery in range. And bombers,lots of ‘em. And after that, infantry, regular hordes. No, wouldn’t want to be one of these poor  bloody Tommies.”“Your friend here,” said Jin, “does not share your pessimism. He says that the Japanesewill never take Singapore.”“Huh, well,” Murphy said, “Reg has a lot higher opinion of British Arms than I do. Ask him, the Army’s somewhere close to the right hand of God. And the RAF is closer.”“And why not?’ asked Reggie, still over his shoulder. “If it weren’t for these bleedin’treacherous sneak attacks, the Japs wouldn’t have stood a chance! And just look what our boys
 
are doin’ to the Krauts in the skies over London!”“Eh, what’s it matter?” said Murphy peremptorily. “Soon as we’re done with what wecame for, we’re going to get the hell out of here, fast as we can. So keep your mind on your work and your eyes on that whorehouse. Hear me?”“Yeah. OK, Murph,” said Reggie. “Don’t worry: If he comes out, I’ll be on the radio before you can say Jack Robinson.”“Good,” Murphy said. “Me and Simon will take care of the rest.”“Still don’t know why you want Simon for that,” Reggie frowned. “He’s no good in afight.”“Maybe not. But he’s the best driver.”“I’m a good driver! Hell, I’m a
 great 
driver!”Murphy paused and Reggie could almost feel the glare he was being given. FinallyMurphy replied. “Simon does the driving,” he said flatly.“OK, OK,” Reggie conceded. “I got it. Should know better than to argue with youanyway…”“Just keep your eyes open. And then get to the airport. Like in the plan. Alright?”“Right-ho, mate,” said Reggie brightly. “And I’ll tell you plain: I will be more than happyto put this bloody awful heat behind us!”Murphy just grunted. Reggie heard the sound of the man walking away and then goingdown the stairs. When the last of his footfalls had died away, Jin, coming to his side, cleared her throat.“Yes?” said Reggie, blinking away a bit of dust. “Something on your mind, love?”“Well, er,” she said awkwardly. “No, I suppose not.”“Oh, come on now,” he cajoled. “You can tell old Reggie. Is it about him? Murphy?”“Yes.”“And you want to know
why
. Is that right? Why he does what he does?”“Well, yes. I have much curiosity. But then, if it is too personal a matter…”“No, I wouldn’t say that,” said Reggie. “More along the lines of common knowledge, bynow, I should think. Sort of a living legend he is, you might say, at least in some circles.”“And?” Jin prompted. “Why
does
he do the things he does? Why come all the way acrossthe world, and during a war, just to find one man?”“Well, let me ask you this, by way of an answer: What if that one man had raped andmurdered your kid sister? What would you do?”“Find him,” she said, at once. “And kill him. The world would not be a large enough place for him in which to hide.”“Precisely. And you’ve answered your own question.”“So this man, Sanderson,” she said. “He did this? To Murphy’s sister?”“Yup,” Reggie said. “He and four of his mates. See, Murph’s mum and dad used to run a pub, back in London. In Hammersmith. Nothin’ too fancy, just your average corner pub. And onenight this gang comes in. Started bustin’ up the place. Murph’s dad, he tried gettin’ ‘em to stop, but all he got for his efforts was a shiv in the ribs. Same for Murph’s mom. With his sister,though… Well, they took their time.”“What about Murphy?” asked Jin weakly. “They did not harm him?”“I didn’t say that,” Reggie replied. “And maybe, compared to his family, they didn’t hurthim so bad. Just slapped him around some. How he got that crooked nose. But what they did tohis family? I’d call that harming him alright.”Jin was quiet for a moment, thinking. Reggie squinted through the scope, the heat makingrippled waves on the baking street below. Far off, he could hear the tinny clang of the fire brigadewagons on their way to the train yard. And still no sign of Sanderson.“But…” Jin said and then trailed off.“But what, love?” said Reggie, blinking away sweat.

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