Mark gathered his demolition team. 'How much time do you need before we open up?'
'We'll have to circle upstream,' the sergeant whispered. 'Looks like most of the Japanese are close to the bridge. It's pretty dark now. The moon just passed behind those clouds. Hope it stays there. Give us fifteen minutes to get to the river and another fifteen to float downstream and set the charges, and get out of there.'
'Okay. In thirty minutes we'll fire the flares and open up. Put your charges in the middle of the bridge. We'll take care of this end with mortars.'
The demolition team left as Mark checked his watch. He positioned his men, giving each particular instructions, praying his demolition group wouldn't be discovered. Thank goodness there wasn't a full moon. He watched the spot-light swing back and forth across the bridge, and whispered to Randy and Norman. 'Do you think you can hit that light?'
'No problem, 'Randy answered. 'Shot deer farther away than that.'
'If you hear a lot of fast Japanese talk, and that light concentrates on one spot, shoot the damn thing out,' Mark instructed.
'Major, you forgot something,' Norman said. 'I can understand Japanese. I'll know if they spot our men.'
Mark smiled and patted him on the shoulder. 'You're right, Norman. I don't know what I'd do without you.'
He looked at his watch again. Fifteen minutes. They must be in the river by now. Twenty minutes. They should be setting their charges. The spot-light is still scanning, a low chatter of soldiers talking. Okay so far. Twenty-five minutes, twenty-six, twenty-seven.
'Pass the word,' Mark whispered. 'When I fire the flare, start shooting.' Twenty-eight, twenty-nine. Mark fired the flare that lit up the east end of the bridge. The excited soldiers jumped to their feet as a fusillade of machine gun, grenades, mortars, and rifle fire followed. Over half the soldiers fell with the first onslaught. The remainder quickly took cover, shooting blindly towards the source of the fire.
Suddenly the bridge blew up, scattering debris and pontoon supports into the swift current. The demolition team should be down stream near the shore, Mark thought. As soon as they reach the horses I'll signal the men back, and ride up the trail.
From several locations along the river bank, deadly Japanese machine gun fire sprayed the area from where the firing was coming. The guerrillas lay close to the ground behind rocks, logs, or anything that would give cover. Two rebels were hit. Mark heard a whistle coming from where the horses were tied. It was time to move back. He yelled at his men, 'Back boys! To the horses!'
As Randy and Norman finished firing, they crawled back to the trees. Norman stood up too soon and a burst from a Japanese machine gun brought him down. Randy saw him fall and rushed to his aid. 'Norm! Get up! Please get up!' He rolled his friend over. Bullets had entered his back and his chest was a mass of blood and flesh. A hand grabbed Randy by the arm.
'He's dead, Randy,' Gene said. 'You stay here and you're dead, too.'
'I can't leave him, Gene. He's my friend.' Randy pulled his arm free to return to Norman's side. That was the last he remembered. Unconsciousness came suddenly.