Sketch by Jack Chalker

Chapter Eight

RONINSHI

Masterless Men

 

Itu said his good-byes to his friend and comrade Namura, after explaining about his new assignment and the promotion which went with it, then after collecting his rations and bed roll he strolled off into the jungle in the direction from which they had just emerged, his thoughts continually returning to Fujiko his wife and wondering what her thoughts would be should she know of his promotion and if she was missing him as much as he was missing her. He worried occasionally when he could not immediately bring out a clear picture of her in his mind, without having to take out the picture of her which he kept inside his wallet. So much had taken place, so much had filled his mind, hate, killing, murder, lust and all the other beastly deeds he had witnessed, all executed in the name of the Emperor and Japan. He blamed his shortage of memory on these things as he followed the track which took him to headquarters.

One of the scouts guarding HQ shouted to him, requesting the days pass word and just for a few seconds he could not remember. Finally he made his way to where there were several wooden huts, each being guarded by a soldier. In the foreground was a section where the cooks were preparing the rice, and to the rear of the huts, several fires were burning,  cremating the dead from the days battles. Fortunately the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, away from the camp.

He had been ordered to report to gunso Yashio’s accommodation. The gunso was in charge of headquarters staff, a big built man with large arms, biceps and shoulders, and with big hands to match. I would not like to make an enemy of him, thought Itu when they first met. 

After formal introductions had been completed, the gunso had informed him of the duties which he was expected to undertake now that he was a first class soldier attached to divisional HQ. These included carrying messages to various destinations, being responsible for the cleanliness of the gunso’s quarters and equipment, as well as being a general dogs body to all those of senior rank. In return he would receive an increase in pay the best food available at the time and the privilege of sleeping inside the gunso’s accommodation.

Nothing so far caused to Itu to rejoice. Being a first class soldier it would seem was like being promoted to general servitude, and being a little wiser than some, he decided to let things develop for a while, then when events warranted it, he would seek a change.   

A number of soldiers were seated round a fire, and Itu sauntered over to join them and make their acquaintance, He felt the need of someone to talk to now that Namura was not around. As he approached, the soldiers stood to attention, a greeting he had not anticipated and he waved to them to remain seated, knowing that it was his promotion and the stars on his chest which they were saluting and not himself.

Sitting with them, he was immediately rewarded with a cup of saki and a cigarette. Soon the tongues were wagging and it was not long before Itu was listening to stories of various deeds both brave and stupid, honourable and barbaric in which some of these men had been involved

On the 7/8th December, some had apparently landed further down the coast from where Itu had landed and had formed the first general headquarters from where Yamashita had started to conduct the course of the war. Most of their comrades had moved forward with the first assault, leaving many individuals without any form of command. This had been rectified by attaching them all to the divisional headquarters which was now Itu’s unit. Several of those sitting around were involved in the attack on Alor Star, where they had expected some stiff resistance, but the only resistance they met was the barbed wire round the airport. They remembered the Indian soldiers coming forward to offer their services to Nippon .

“The British are all cowards” said one young warrior “I know what they mean when they say that they all look alike, they all looked like pigs, all I could see though was hundreds of backsides bobbing up and down as they made their retreat” Itu looked directly at the man . “How many battles have you been involved in so far?” he asked. The young warrior hesitated and put up one finger. “One” he said and was about to give a commentary when the others chimed in with “Why, you shit yourself as soon as we hit the beach” or “I can understand the Brits running away, they could smell you coming “ The young warrior stood as if to defend his honour and Itu waved to him to be seated. The conversation had took an aggressive turn as one or two began to air their views about the manhood of others and their capability to even f— never mind fight, and Itu decided that he had heard enough and walked away. The sound of the arguing men had caused the gunso to intervene and he went about slapping faces, and telling them to go to their beds

As Itu went to arrange his bedroll, he passed gunso Yoshio with a group of senior officers and other NCO’s about to celebrate something or other and he knew that he would not get very much sleep that night so he made his way toward a food store, which had at one time been a Malay dwelling house. Just as he put his foot inside the door, the gunso shouted ordering Itu to follow him. Itu had only known the gunso for a short time, but he had been made fully aware of his drunken escapades.

Itu gave his customary kiri (bow) as he entered the quarters. “Private Nakahama began the gunso blusteringly “I want you to go back to Ipoh. Take two men and a covered vehicle and report to gunso Okada at the Army supply depot. I will give you the necessary authority and a note for my friend Okada” He clicked his tongue between his teeth as if in some doubt concerning Itu’s integrity, then continued “I have arranged with Okada for a supply of food, seishu, nihonshu, sukiyaki and saki. You will also bring back with you three Aka chochin girls for the generals entertainment (meat vegetables wine and three comfort girls for the commandant) I must stress that you do not bring Nippon girls or prostItutes”  He passed Itu an envelope addressed to gunso Okada, and a pass signed by the general,  which would enable him to obtain any requirement he wished, it was said that the generals signature would acceptable in paradise.

Itu was wondering why he had been called up to serve the Emperor and to fight for his country, yet here he was acting as an errand boy and procurer of women. He was about to complain to the Gunso but the appearance of a senior officer stopped him in his tracks. Reasoning that it might be possible to discuss a point with the Gunso,  but an officer was a different kettle of fish, and could result in a severe beating and a spell in the kennels. He sprung to attention, saluted and asked  “Where shall I obtain the transport”. The gunso looked at Itu sternly, “Janero Bagero Haiti” (Stupid bastard soldier or words to that effect) The officer, and everyone around turned their eyes in Itu’s direction, and he felt that he could detect a smirk here and there as Yoshio passed him an envelope and his papers. “Here “ said Yashio,  “steal whatever you require from the dregs of soldiers you see around you, ask and they will most likely tell you where to obtain a truck” He paused momentarily “You will proceed to the headquarters of Colonel Saiki where you will obtain your supplies, then you will go along to the Honden and ask for gunso Okada, you will give him my salutations and request that he supply you with the girls, but insist that they are neither Nippon or prostItutes”. Itu took the proffered papers, placing them in his pocket he walked to where the motor vehicles were parked 

With no difficulty at all he was assigned a four ton covered vehicle complete with driver and two junior soldiers to assist. He felt a glow of pride, this was his first assignment since his promotion, and he glanced down at the stars on his shirt, further pride was to come when an orderly arrived with a pennant and an arm band, indicating that he was working for the staff of General Watanabe. These would see him through all check points.

With the two junior soldiers in the back of the truck, Itu took his place in the passenger seat alongside the driver, and when he had made himself comfortable, he instructed the driver to make for Ipoh. The driver gave a casual nod in Itu’s direction then asked “Where is Ipoh?”. It had never dawned on Itu that the driver had probably been one of those who had only recently arrived further down the coast. He scratched his head, then muttering to himself he got down out of the truck and walked to where a group of men were rearranging equipment. As he asked the nearest one for directions, the whole squad jumped smartly to attention. One who seemed to be the eldest among them, turned toward Itu and asked permission to speak, Itu nodded his head and the man walked over to Itu’s side and began to draw an outline on the ground, and at the same time give verbal instructions to the driver, which were after all basically simple, go out of the camp gate, turn right, go to the main road, turn right again then just keep going.

Itu climbed back in his seat gave the instructions to the driver and then instructed him to drive off. They drove for several miles in complete silence,  but occasionally they would pass a group of soldiers, who would spring smartly to attention and kiri toward the truck. Itu’s head was beginning to swell with pride, finally conversing with the driver he found that they were both from the same village in Japan. They were so engrossed in conversation, that neither noticed the approach of night, it was only after the driver had needed to swerve to miss a large pot hole in the road, that he remembered to switch on his headlights. Instantly swarms of insects began to be attracted to the lights, occasionally a bird or a bat, while from the jungle small eyes glittered as some small animal or reptile momentarily allowed its curiosity to dull its sense of security. The hum of the tyres on the metallic road lulled the men to sleep, even the driver also began to nod off and it was fortunate that occasionally a bump in the road or a tree jutting out from the jungle hitting the driving cab would jolt him awake.

Suddenly the sharp sound of a rifle shot followed by an order to stop awakened everyone instantly. The driver applied the brakes and brought the truck to a squealing halt.  

Without realising, they had driven through the headquarters of the Imperial guards, who had set up camp straddling the main road. This detachment had been sent to clean up the area and eliminate any potential enemies of the Japanese.

Itu alighted from the truck, then making a cursory kiri in the soldiers direction he offered his note authorising the journey. However on seeing Itu’s arm band, the soldier sprang to attention and yelled at the top of his voice for the sergeant of the guard, who came running out of the jungle still putting on his shirt.

After the usual introductions, Itu proffered his authority, which the sergeant of the guard glanced at by the light of the trucks headlights. He stood up made a slight kiri before speaking “My men have been in the jungle for three weeks continually scavenging for food and disposing of the enemies of Japan. Yet it would appear that your officers wish to live in the lap of luxury, drinking and enjoying themselves”. Itu was surprised at the outburst and was about to offer some form of apology in defence of general Wattanabe. Then he suddenly realised that he had never met general Watanabe and there was no way that he could say anything. Maybe the sergeant is right he thought, After all I am repulsed at the idea of being a pimp no matter who it is for. He began to explain to the sergeant his feelings, but the sergeant was in no mood to listen. He yelled something about criminal haiti’s and walked away.

“Does that mean that we can go on” Itu asked the guard who had stopped them. “Permission to speak” asked the guard, and as Itu nodded his head to affirm, the soldier walked under the tree’s and indicated to Itu to follow. “Don’t take what sergeant Mitsui has said to be meant for you personally,  in the last seven days, he has been responsible for examining over a thousand suspects, and single handed he has executed more than half that number while our officers are enjoying themselves in the nearest kampong, our officers are conveniently called to HQ during the day time and then at night they just vanish”. The guard stopped speaking and placed a hand on Itu’s arm. “Come with me” he asked. The guard led the way to a large compound measuring about thirty or forty square yards, lying down, sitting up, standing, or in some instances in a state of trance, were several hundred men women and children. “Tomorrow” emphasised the guard,  Sergeant Mitsui will have to examine each and every one of these people and will in all probability need to execute a half of them himself.

Itu noticed that most of the prisoners were bleeding, their clothing was torn, he also noticed that there were several Indian and British soldiers, among them, most of whom had been wounded,  they seemed to show no interest in anything about them. He followed the guard along past the compound, to a clearing around which the engineers had erected light bulbs, the light from them exposed a number of trees and posts from which hung chains and ropes.  It was obvious what they were being used for, by the odd bodies still lying there, evidence of the days trials and executions performed by the one and only judge, jury and executioner.

Itu felt a pang of pity as he viewed the remains and at the same time felt an urge to be sick, hurrying back to the truck he ordered the driver to get under way in an effort to rid his mind of what he had seen.  He had been told that it was always going to be difficult to bring peace and freedom to the people of Asia,  but he had not realised just how high a price must be paid. His understanding being that the Japanese were ridding the Asian continent of white supremacy, but from his observations, it was as if Japan was at war with the Asian countries to whom it had promised freedom. His mind was in turmoil, and because of this he had not noticed time slipping by until the driver came to a halt at the Gata Pajah checkpoint.

After having his papers checked and passing through the check point he was assured that it was just a few more kilo to Ipoh. It did not require an expert to realise that there had been several bloody battles in this area. The stench of rotting flesh and pungent cordite hung on the jungle mist, and as they reached the approach to Ipoh, the evidence of carnage was even more prominent. Each lamp post and tree was festooned with the heads and bodies of the victims of Japans greater east Asia co prosperity sphere. Gas blown cattle, cats and dogs, humans carcasses, shoved unceremoniously into the jungle to rot away, and above it all the buzz of thousands of flies and insects as they dissected and devoured the putrid flesh.

Down at the far end of town, fires burned brightly, but they were not the fires of victory as one would have imagined, they were the funeral pyre’s of the thousands who had been the victims in the fighting for Ipoh and the surrounding area’s. The ashes of the Japanese heroes would be sent back to Japan to be remembered at the Yasakuni shrine. The bodies of the British and allied soldiers were being incinerated on a fire in the jungle, their ashes either thrown into the river or left where they were.

Looking along the street, Itu observed a compound surrounded by barbed wire, behind which were many allied soldiers. They did not resemble the warriors which had been described to him, and he sauntered across so that he could see properly for himself what the mighty men of the western hemisphere looked like. It was obvious to him immediately, that these men had seen some hard fighting. Not one of them appeared to be free of some injury or other, and Itu smiled in smug satisfaction as he continued his journey to the headquarters he had been looking for.

HQ was a very large old building overlooking the railway station on Iskander road, to the rear was the quartermasters store and office where Gunso Okada ruled supreme. As Itu approached he was challenged by a sentry who demanded to know his business.  Then having satisfied himself that Itu’s papers were in order he called for one of his associates to escort Itu to Okada’s quarters. On the way they passed through a type of courtyard, where there were several local females standing or sitting in groups.

Itu saluted and then introduced himself to the Gunso and presented the papers which Yoshio had given to him.  As the Gunso read the papers,  his character and attItude seemed to change. He suddenly sprung to attention as if an officer had entered,  he then started bellowing out orders to all and sundry, with the result that Itu’s truck had quickly been loaded with several containers, of expensive food,  alcohol, fresh vegetables and fish and other luxuries.

While the men were loading the vehicle, the Gunso took Itu on a guided tour of his little empire. They entered one room where the air was heavy with the smell of josticks permeating the atmosphere. In the middle of the ceiling a dim light flickered, beneath which several Japanese soldiers were sat playing a card game. Immediately the Gunso entered, the senior soldier shouted chioski! and they all jumped smartly to attention. One of the men offered Itu a drink which Itu declined, preferring to keep a clear head. As he looked deeper into the shadows he could make out the shapes of young boys and girls in an obvious state of drink or drugs.  

Okada noticed Itu looking at them, and he asked politely, “would you like to have the service of one of our comfort girls to relieve the stress of your journey?”  Itu shook his head,  he had heard many tales about the comfort girls, and the prostItutes, but he had never seen such wanton debauchery. Okada appeared a little nervous. “Your orders state that you are to select three comfort girls for the generals, how can you possibly select without trying each one in turn?”.  Although he felt like puking, Itu managed to smile as he replied  “I doubt if I have the requisite stamina which you seem to possess, and as I am not familiar with this type of transaction I would appreciate your assistance in selecting which girls to take.  Okada’s eyes glistened, as he asked Itu to follow him to another room  where there were a number of women of all ages wearing western and traditional dress. These are the finest girls to be found in Malaya, I was saving them for the big celebration next week,  but you may select any you wish for general Watanabe.

Itu had no wish to be the person who would say which woman or girl should become the chattel of anyone, and he hesitated for just a moment too long. The Gunso quickly selected three at random and shouted for soldiers to come along and bind them . Several women began to cry and scream, others tried to run through the open door, but they were pushed back by willing soldiers.

As the women were being assisted onto the truck, the two soldiers who had come along with Itu, started to grope them, until Itu for the first time in his life, lost his temper and shouted to the men to stop what they were doing and get off the truck, he then gave his finest verbal attack on their minds. The three women meanwhile were screaming and crying to be released, One of Okada’s men jumped onto the back of the truck and proceeded to lash out at them with a piece of rope which had been shredded, but was still capable

Itu pointed to one of his men, “You will travel in front with the driver and you” he said pointing to the other, will ride in the back with me”. The return journey was uneventful, but took two hours longer due a slight detour caused by the driver having taken the wrong turning out of Ipoh and was heading for Butterworth before he noticed the error.

On arrival back at headquarters, it appeared that everyone was celebrating a further withdrawal of the allied forces at Slim, so very little notice was taken of their arrival until Itu reported to the gunso. Itu looked at the Gunso’s face anticipating a further promotion,  but as the tail gate was lowered and the three women jumped to the ground, there was a gigantic yell from one of the senior officers standing by. “You fools” he shouted. “Idiots, these are not white girls (Ichigen kishigai) they are old women also (Obassan Ni) he raved, these are dried up prostItutes” he continued to rant and rave, his temper gradually building up to explosive point. Striding over to the gunso he brought a smarting slap across his face followed by another and another, the gunso could only stand and accept this punishment,  until the officer had vented his temper and walked away in disgust. By this time Yoshio was very near to tears, his eyes were watering slightly but fixed on the ground as he tried to gain some composure. Finally when he felt that he had the necessary control, he marched smartly over to Itu and brought his fist under Itu’s chin, followed by a series of crashing blows to Itu’s head and body.

Not being used to this kind of punishment, Itu fell to the ground, adding further insult to the gunso, who immediately started to kick at Itu’s face and upper body. Itu had always been taught that it is unmanly to fall to the ground when being chastised and he tried to rise, but yashio’s feet pounding his stomach did nothing to help.  After the fusillade of blows and kicks, Yashio resorted to a torrent of abuse. Telling Itu that his mother was a prostItute among pigs and that his father was a faggot. Practically every member of Itu’s family was cursed until out of utter exhaustion, the gunso walked away to his bunk, where he flopped down and allowed the tears of rage to stream down his face.

Itu, covered in blood and bruises in varying colours, from straw to blue and black, staggered to the area set aside for bathing and commenced to throw water over his aching pain ridden body.  Every movement causing him to wince in pain, then he developed a nervous tremble and he collapsed onto the floor.  It seemed ages for the overall pain to subside, and as it did so, he began to ponder his sItuation. He had completed the task he had been set, collected the food and stores from Ipoh, selected three girls who although not exceedingly pretty,  never the less had some good qualities. They did not seem to have been used or abused, they appeared clean and well dressed. He fell asleep and that night his dreams were disturbed by the images of Yoshio carrying his huge sword.

He woke with an acute pain in his left side and he walked to where the cooks were preparing a meal and collected two cups of tea, one for himself and one for Yashio. He was after all the Gunso’s dogs body, and he placed the tea at the side of Yashio’s sleeping mat, and walked over to the medical station for something to ease the pain in his head and neck, plus the throbbing pain in his ribs. While he was waiting for the medic, Itu wondered why the Gunso had gone so berserk. As a true Japanese warrior he was not allowed to question any punishment handed out by a senior, but he would have appreciated knowing why, and decided to try to improve his ways and keep well out of the gunso’s way .

He collected his meal from the kitchen, and sat eating it in the open. He looked down at his bentoo full of rice topped with maku and oyakodon, and began picking and eating small portions, just eating caused pain.

Sartu one of the men who had been with him on the previous nights errand, sat down beside him without asking permission, but Itu was in no mood to reprimand him. Sartu looked at the bruises and scars from the beating . “I am sorry to have been witness to such chastisement which gunso Yashio gave you, it was undeserved” he said 

“I am at a loss to understand the reasons for the gunso’s punishment” said Itu, “It would make the pain more bearable if I knew”

Sartu looked at him sympathetically “Apparently, you brought three prostitutes for the generals comfort, when he had expressly ordered the gunso to provide three white women from the jail at Ipoh, preferably as near to virgins as possible”

Itu pondered in his mind, he was sure that the notes indicated that three women should be supplied, there was no mention of them being white blue or otherwise, and he wondered how he could avenge himself on the gunso, who had called his mother a prostItute. “What has happened to the women?” he asked.

Saru went into lurid details as he told how the women had been passed on to the men’s quarters and how they had been passed round and round until the early hours of the morning, when screaming and pleading for release from their pain and humiliation, they ran into the jungle where they were shot and left.

Itu reported to gunso Yashio as if nothing had occurred the previous night and asked for instructions. Yashio also acted as if nothing had happened and curtly instructed that he place himself under the orders of captain Mitzutani at signals headquarters. Itu gave a sigh of relief as he realised that he would no longer be required to kow tow to the bullying lying gunso.

Taking time off before reporting, so that he could have his wounds once more attended to, he tried to think back on his past, and the hopes for his future. The last few days he would remember all his life. Having been brought up to respect other people and their property. As he walked along the perimeter of the camp he could not help but notice the remains of last nights debauchery. Articles of female clothing was scattered along the ground or was hanging from the branches of trees, with here and there a piece of imitation jewellery. Following the trail of discarded attire he came across the first of the women,  just a few yards from a house, she was now unrecognisable as a human. The beatings and treatment inflicted by her tormentors, the blow flies, and small rodents which had also been at work. The whole area stank of death, and he staggered away from the scene gagging and gasping for breath.  How much longer must this continue, he asked himself. This was one more instance of Japanese chivalry and he wondered having seen so much, would he also become a callous uncaring killer.

He presented himself to captain Mitzutani, standing rigidly to attention answering each question smartly and without hesitation apart from the pain in his mouth when he spoke, and when he gave his kiri (cursory bow).

“You appear to have been in a one man war” said the captain, Itu felt the colour rising to his cheeks, with his eyes fixed firmly on the ground he chose to remain silent. “There’s no need to be embarrassed” said the captain “ I have heard all the details, which was one of the reasons why I suggested that you should be assigned to my section”

“I don’t understand” replied Itu

“You will eventually” said the captain and continued “we came out here to this filthy country to fight the British Imperialists not to bed them”

His remarks caused Itu to smarten up a little, he had been under the impression that he had been the only one who objected to fighting a war against women and children. The captain who was married with two small girls,  he had been drafted into the army because of his technical skills with radio and electric’s, plus the fact that his father and grandfather had been of the Samurai.

Itu became apprehensive as the captain explained what the mission entailed, he had never visualised himself operating behind enemy lines. The captain had been assigned three other men who each had their own qualifications, yet Itu had no such experience to offer, his anxiety returned slightly, as the captain explained that they were going to infiltrate the enemy lines, and set up a listening and directional post in an old mine workings on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. They had just one hour in which to collect their equipment and stores, and have a meal before reporting back to the captain. In Itu’s case it would take ten minutes, he was so keen to see the last of gunso Yashio. His mind was in turmoil trying to discover why he was so elated to leave, yet so apprehensive about the future. The assignment was going to be a tough one, but at the same time it was his only avenue of escape from the bullying gunso.

At one o’clock precisely, along with privates Kojima, Sodi and Okada he reported to the captain before climbing into the back of a captured British fifteen hundred weight army truck. Although the captain was heavily loaded, the men carried just their bare essentials. None had any clear idea of where they were heading , except that they had taken the Ipoh road going south heading in the general direction of Kuala Lumpur.

The road occasionally ran alongside the railway line but throughout the journey they saw no trains. Itu settled down with his new found comrades and listened to their discussions concerning battles past and present in which they had been involved.  No one mentioned the scars and bruises on Itu’s face and he assumed that they probably thought that he had obtained them in battle. After a while the conversation trickled to a stop and each man was left with his own thoughts as they travelled into an unknown destination. The humming of the tyres and the swish of the trees as the truck passed close by them created a relaxing sensation,  so much so that one by one they dozed off to sleep.

Four hours later, the driver pulled the truck under the shade of a tree. Just a few hundred yards away was the remains of a bridge which had been destroyed by either the British or the Chinese communists guerillas . The men sat surveying the surrounding jungle, hoping that someone would soon instruct them to climb down from their positions on the truck. All around the sound of battle with the occasional swish of a shell as it passed over head. Just as the captain shouted the order to dismount,  a heavy shell passed over their heads and exploded further along the road.  No one needed telling, they scrambled for cover behind a large clump of trees.

After a short while the captain shouted to the driver,  telling him that his services would no longer be required and that he should return to camp as soon as he was ready.  Then spreading a map out on the ground, he called to Itu and the others to join him.  Pointing to a small circle drawn on the map, the captain briefly explained “This is Kuala Lumpur, and we are going to make our way to this point here” he said pointing an area on the outer side of the circle. They all acknowledged in their own way. Having all received some basic training in map reading,  but having no idea of the territory they were going to. “The journey will probably take about four days,  less if we have providence with us” He stood up and folded the map, then pointing south,  he ordered “Follow me in single file”. No one wished to be the first and it fell to Itu to walk close behind the captain. Crossing the river bridge they then headed east. The sound of battle increased and shells fell in the forward position of their approach.  It was as if the gunners were shooting at them. Occasionally they would all instinctively dive for cover as a stray shell dropped close by,  but soon as the trail began to veer to the south the sound of battle began to diminish,  and soon they were once more walking and able to adopt a more casual upright walk.

They had followed the river as it flowed south until they came to a point where the river widened and also became shallow. The lallang and shadow grass swept down to the banks of the river creating a pleasing scene which would have caused many an artist to sigh and admire. The captain halted and consulted his map before calling the others to gather round so that he could further explain the sItuation. 

“We are now on the side of the Slim river, the main railway line to Kuala Lumpur is about fifteen kilo to our left. South from our present position is Tanjong Malim our next stopping point, which is about thirty five kilo away. I am telling you these things so that should any of you become detached, you know where and which way we are heading”. He replaced the map in its case “The Allied armies are concentrated around Kubu Baharu and Bentong. So it is my intention to swing wide of Bentong and approach Kuala Lumpur from the east through Ullu Angat, and from there on to Tanjong Malim.  It is going to be all up hill and through virgin jungle, so keep close together and an eye on each other, because it is known that the local people and the Chinese communists are active in this area”. He paused “If for any reason you should become detached and you are lost,  remember to try to follow the flow of the river which will lead you to Tanjong, or back track and it will take you to the railway and on to Bidor,  but I must stress that any man going missing will place the whole project in jeopardy”

As he spoke a man appeared on the opposite bank of the river then disappeared. The captain walked toward him shouting for the others to follow. Itu could feel the relief and coolness to his feet as they waded across the river. It had been obvious that the captain was carrying something heavy in his shoulder pack. The sweat was running down the captains face, even though the water was having a cooling effect on the others, they carried what personal equipment they had above their heads. Each searching for a secure foothold with their feet. Occasionally there would be a gasp or a yell as one of them found a deep spot and they would stumble into slightly deeper water, still holding on to his particular parcel and rifle.

As each man made it across safe but slightly wet, they followed the example of Captain Mitzutani and stripped of all their clothing except for the fondoza, and stretched the wet clothing along the grassy bank, then bathing themselves in a clear running subsidiary stream. It was time to open their bentoos containing cold cooked rice and chicken. There were no facilities for cooking, so each man had to drink either from his water bottle or direct from the stream.

After resting for about an hour,  the captain ordered them all to dress and be ready to move. As the first man was about to enter the cover of the jungle, the captain noticed a slight movement coming from one of the bushes and he whispered an order for them to be to be on their guard, then  he dropped to the ground, the others following his example, not knowing why.  The captain had dropped so they had followed without reason . They each froze expecting to hear the rattle of a machine gun. Then the bush moved again, but this time Okada had seen the movement, taking aim he fired.   His shot was the catalyst which caused everyone to open fire on the unseen unknown enemy. 

A small white piece of cloth attached to a piece of stick waved from behind the bush. Ordering the men to stop firing, the captain shouted first in Japanese, then in Malay,  for whoever it was to come out. The stillness seemed endless as each man watched for further movement. Then slowly behind the white cloth, appeared a brown face, hesitant at first then gradually emerging, a man walked out, stammering and stuttering in a language which no one could understand . From all the gibbering could be heard in pigeon English” Don’t shoot Sahib, no shot, I come”.

The captain shouted back in broken English “Who are you?”.

The Indian had no idea how to approach, should he crawl along the ground, kiss it or remain where he was. He was dressed in khaki dress similar to that worn by most service men, but he carried no weapon. He began saying over and over in broken Indian, “teki sahib, teki”. The captain was beginning to lose his temper as he asked “who are you, what are you doing here?” It was as if the man had only just realised that the captain was speaking to him in English and he began to gesticulate as he continued with his garbled words. By now everyone was becoming agitated. Okada walked over and was about to thrust his rifle butt into the mans solar plexus,  when a shout from the jungle halted his action. A young Malay immaculately dressed walked toward the captain speaking perfect Japanese. “Are you having trouble captain?” he asked,   “None that we can not take care of” replied the captain. The young Malay was all apologies,  “I am Rami your guide”. He bowed from the waist until his face was practically below his naval. The captain acknowledged his bow and asked “Do you know this man”. The Malay shook his head,  “He is probably one of the hundreds of displaced persons roaming the jungle abandoned by their British masters. The Indian was aware that they were talking about him and he stared sheepishly at the ground . It was not however that the British had deserted him, quite the opposite, he was a deserter from the British army. As they spoke he backed slowly toward the jungle. “Two of you men keep an eye on him” instructed the captain as he took hold of the arm of the Rami and ushered him away from the group. Sitting under the shade of the trees, the captain and Rami began to discuss their requirements.

After talking for several minutes, the captain called the men together  informing them that Rami was to be their guide, who would take them to their destination.

As the party began to move toward the jungle, private Sodi sprung to attention and asked “What about the Indian?”.

“O kill him” said the captain as casually as one would ask for a glass of water. 

Three soldiers began to prod and push the Indian into the jungle . He needed no sixth sense to tell him what was about to happen and started to shout and blubber asking for mercy. Itu turned away, he wanted nothing to do with this. Sodi and Kojima placed the Indian against a tree just off the jungle track,  then joined by Okada each kneeling with their rifles pointing at the now weeping Indian.

“I claim first shot” shouted Okada, “I will shoot his balls off”

“And I will burst his fat belly” exclaimed Sodi.

Each man took careful aim and waited for Okada to take the first shot.

Suddenly there was the crack of a rifle and private Sodi went to join his ancestors with a bullet through his brain.

Pandemonium broke loose. First the two remaining executioners fell hugging the ground, then they jumped up and started to run toward where they had last seen the captain, but apart from the buzz of insects, the jungle resumed its usual silence.

Okada shouted for the captain, who came running followed by Mr Rami. “What happened?” asked the captain,  looking down at the body of Sodi. “You were asked to execute an unarmed Indian” he glared at the two standing soldiers. Itu who had been standing well away from the execution squad,  instantly realised that the shot was too heavy to have come from a Japanese Arisaka rifle, and he ran crouching in the direction from where he thought that the shot had come. But after having covered some short distance,  he realised that whoever had fired the shot would most likely be well way by now, and he returned to where the group were standing,  As he joined the others, a second shot rang out, the bullet embedding itself in the ground between Itu’s feet, causing him to throw himself sideways to the ground. Behind Okada and Ojima then wriggled to the cover of some bushes and waited. Looking round Itu saw that the captain and Rami were both lying flat on the ground

After what seemed an eternity the captain asked Itu if he had seen anything.

“I am not certain captain, but I think that he might well be behind the large tree in the foreground immediately to your left” The captain began to crawl forward, but a third shot hit the ground in front of him and he once more clung to mother earth. Itu remained behind the cover of the bushes. It was some considerable time later that the captain shouted for everyone to group around him. Each man surreptitiously crawled along the ground until within two or three feet of the captain, before standing upright. Forgetting his own actions in clinging to mother earth he called them the lowest form of cowards, then suddenly catching sight of Sodi’s body,  he changed his attItude “See that he is covered up”,  he said as he pointed with his foot to the inert body. There was silence as each waited for the other to speak. “What happened to the Indian prisoner?” asked the captain. During the confusion, no one had noticed him running away.

“We will go out and find him” volunteered Okada, who was about to run into the jungle, “What good will it do to catch the Indian?”, asked the captain “I would appreciate it more if someone could explain to me who the hell shot Sodi, and why my order to shoot the bastard .Indian was not carried out “. He continued to survey the area and in particular the direction from which the shooting had come.

Walking slowly he walked to the tree from which Itu had indicated that the shots had come. Stopping, he bent down . “This was the spot” he exclaimed as he stood upright, opening his palm and disclosing three . 303 shell casings  “It is obvious that whoever did the shooting, will be well away by now, and I feel sure that he will be informing his superiors of our presence,  so every one must be on the alert from now on, we don’t want a repetition of todays fiasco” After disposing of Sodi’s remains,  the captain ordered that Mr Rami would lead and that there should be at least fifteen feet between each man, and that he would take the rear position.

The party moved off passing through heavy jungle, then across exposed clearings, rivers and streams, eventually arriving at a small kampong. It had taken almost twelve hours and they were not yet a quarter of the way to their target..

Leaving the men to rest for a while, the captain accompanied by Rami  entered the kampong . It was only small compared to most others which they had passed . There was the usual communal hut set aside for village feasts, weddings etc., with several bamboo beds for visitors. The captain choosing the bed nearest to the door, called for the men to join him and to select a bed for the night.

The few remaining villagers provided hot water and towels, with food and a bottle of local rice wine. The meal consisted of fried pork and rice, with more than enough to go round. After the meal the village children came round to gaze curiously at the Japanese soldiers and as is usual with children,  familiarity created contempt and they began to make rude noises like pigs and imitate the captains walk which was not unlike a gorilla or an ape. and he requested Rami to send them away, or he would chop off their heads.  After discussing the days events for a while, each man retired to his allocated bed and was soon asleep.

Outside the distant sound of battle still raged , sometimes it seemed to be close by and the next it was miles away,  but being used to such sounds,  the men were undisturbed. On this particular night however, Itu woke,  something was troubling him.  It was as if he had heard people walking into the hut and out again.

They had all retired to bed, fully clothed as was usual and Itu slid off the bed and walked out of the hut. Outside the sound of battle was still continuing,  he could detect the sound of Japanese light machine guns and the metallic sound of the British two inch mortar,  but they seemed to be in the distance.  As he walked toward the back of the hut, he realised that what had disturbed him was the sound of someone running, and now the sound came again. The sound a long distance runner makes when nearing the end of a race,  a rasping and sucking sound,  only there was more than one runner. They were panting and thrashing at the tree branches which were impeding their movement. Itu bent double and moved to where the sound was coming . 

Several men were running, frightened men, bewildered men, moving as fast as the jungle would allow.  There were far too many for Itu to tackle alone and he moved back to where the captain lay sleeping. Quickly without thinking of any consequence, Itu began to shake the captain awake informing him that there were many enemy soldiers retreating through the jungle. Through whispered orders, the men collected their rifles and made their way to the rear of the hut and waited. Followed by Itu the captain moved to a position where they could see groups of soldiers, British and Indian making their way hurriedly through the jungle. A number had dispensed with their rifles and equipment,  some had no shirt or top covering, while others were seen assisting wounded friends and comrades.  It was apparent that they had been in some kind of engagement and were retreating as usual. The captain gripped Itu’s arm,  “keep an eye on what takes place, while I send a message back to HQ.

Itu sat at the base of a tree and watched in amazement as groups of anything from five to fifty struggled through the jungle.  In the distance from where they had obviously come, the sound of battle was moving gradually nearer. It was to him similar to watching a western movie about stampeding cattle, except that he occasionally needed to move round the tree so as not to be observed. The captain had given orders not to shoot,  otherwise it would have been like shooting ducks at the fair ground.

There had been a fall of rain earlier, and as well as the leaves glistening , whenever those with no top cover entered a clearing,  the moon glistened on their bodies. After about thirty or forty minutes the number of men gradually thinned out until eventually just groups of two or three appeared, but with a greater distance between them. Mostly these stragglers were wounded being assisted by their comrades, who did not seem to care about the noise they made or even if they might possibly be seen.

It was close to dawn now, and the captain returned accompanied by Rami. “Gather the men together” he ordered “and follow me quickly,  unless you also wish to die” Itu and the others quickly collected what possessions they had and followed the captain, who led them to the west of the retreating soldiers. The sun was beginning to rise, and within minutes the sound of plane’s approaching caused them to stop and look up as each one flew over the jungle at just over tree top height. Then came the sound of bombs exploding, followed by machine gun fire, and Itu wondered as he imagined the horror in the minds of the men. Would the British have reacted in the same manner in the same circumstances.

As the bombing and strafing continued, the party moved away at an angle to where the bombs were falling. At first they were just a mile away,  then two miles, three, until finally the only noise they could hear was that of the jungle chorus.

Travelling for eight hours each day, they finally arrived at a spot in the hills where they could see Kuala Lumpur in the distance. Mr Rami suggested a halt so that he could go forward and make preparations. Leaving Itu and the others to fend for themselves, the captain followed Rami down the hillside and back into the jungle. After preparing a meal  three very tired soldiers settled down to doze.

Itu was later awakened by the warmth of the sun, and from the position where he had made himself a burrow, he could see the captain and Rami approaching as they broke free of the jungle and commenced the long walk up the hillside, each carrying a small parcel of food.

“Come on lets get moving” shouted the captain ,

“I want to be settled in our new quarters by noon and to have given you each enough training on what we are about to do” Without further murmur or comment they followed, as Rami followed by the captain led them down the hill.

What at first glance appeared to be a smallholding or farm, was to be their home for the next few days. It was in fact, the remains of a small mine. A group of tin huts now derelict, had been built away from the main building at a point close to the top of a hill, at the back of the mine proper, there was a wooden structure, and it was to this that the captain led them. Mr Rami seemed to be very knowledgeable, as he showed them round their new sleeping quarters and finally to a large room set out with tables and chairs similar to a dining room. Then he told them to wait while he arranged for food to be brought.  Within a very short time he re emerged followed by a Chinese boy, each carrying trays with steaming food on them. Apparently Mr Rami had been a chef at one of the larger hotels in Malaya and the aroma certainly gave hint of this. With dishes of Shirataki,  Sukiyaki, with Soba and Tempura,  followed by Saki and fresh fruit. Itu half expected a couple of Geisha to walk through the door at any moment. Apart from the occasional sounds of battle being wafted on the breeze,  everything was quiet enough to assume that the war was many many miles away 

The captain began to explain the reasons of their being there,  “starting tomorrow, I will be teaching each of you how to accommodate yourself in Kuala Lumpur. I will also be teaching you a simple method of operating a small radio transmitter, and you will be taught what to look for when you are walking through the town, where to place indication markers,  and how not to become so obvious”.

They each gasped and started to mutter to each other, and the captain put his hands in the air indicating silence. “There are a large number of Japanese agents already working in Kuala Lumpur, our job is to ensure that the correct markers are placed correctly so that our troops will not need to hesitate at any time, also to relay the information we collect to the proper channels”.  He paused to let his remarks sink in then continued “I know that this will come as a bit of a surprise to you, but think of it as a diversion from soldiering”.

For the next three or four days, the captain put each man through his paces individually, then as a team. Teaching them the mode of dress,  Malay words and phrases and finally how to operate a small transmitter,  how to carry it, and how to dismantle it. Then as soon as he felt that they were ready,  he arranged for either Rami or himself to take each one round the town,  showing them what to look for, where explosives were stored,  this was easy because the British painted large signs to indicate to strangers not to go near.. It took one hour to walk down to Kuala Lumpur and one and a half hours to complete the return journey, due to the steepness of the hill on which they were sItuated

As Itu commenced his first journey accompanied by Rami,  he could not help but notice how the children continued to play their games,  unaffected by the rumbling sounds of war in the distance. Even though the war was just over one hundred kilo away, everyone in town appeared to be quite casual. The larger shops were still opened and traffic was still moving in spite of the bombings,  The railway yard seemed deserted however with signs of obvious damage to the marshalling yard at the rear. As they were walking toward the market Itu noticed a beautiful looking girl,  she seemed different from the usual Chinese. She was dressed in a green and gold dress which reached won to her ankles, with a Mandarin style collar. Itu could not take his eyes off her, and seeing his obvious interest, she ran into one of the shops out of sight.  Being in the company of Rami,  there was nothing Itu could do and although he tried to put her from his mind, he could not do so.  As they approached the cross roads at the S Kalang river bridge, they were met by captain Mizutani and the others. The captain instructed him to go on his own by way of the railway station and make a note of the military signs, a note of where troops were congregated and anything else which would appear significant. 

Between them they were to try to estimate the number of defenders and their location. Mark out where the various important buildings occupied by the military were sItuated. The others all had their instructions, the final one being that they should be clear of Kuala Lumpur at least two hours before sun down.

The station was like a beehive, people were standing around waiting for trains to be made up while to the south of the station one or two trains were being steamed up . Without creating any interest, Itu walked onto the station and along the platform toward the marshalling section, no one seemed remotely interested. Several sections of track had been demolished, but it was not possible to distinguish if this was due to bombs or engineers cannibalising the track to repair other sections. Making notes of the various military signs and estimating the number of troops waiting around the station,  Itu returned to the street and decided to try to find the beautiful girl he had seen. He made his way back to where he had last seen her remembering that she had disappeared close to one of the larger shops . But after searching around for some thirty minutes, he decided to call it a day and make his way back to the camp. 

The others had already arrived by the time that he got back and similar to them, he lay back onto his makeshift bed and dozed.

After a disturbed nights sleep, in which he had become a Samurai warrior, whose main occupation in life was the beheading of other Samurai who had not honoured the code, he woke in a sweat to the sound of planes passing overhead. He took the sound for granted as being Japanese planes, until the swishing sound quickly indicated to him that they could possibly be Allied planes. These thoughts rushed to his head as he dived for shelter beneath the bamboo bed on which he had been sleeping. He had hardly drawn breath before the sound of explosions split the air. The volume of noise was so intense that he could sense his eardrums were about to burst. Although the raid had lasted all of one minute it seemed like fifty. After the explosions and the noise of the wind rushing through the building and leaves outside, there came a stillness which seemed to go on forever, until the first screams rang out from the servants quarters some distance away, and it was several minutes before Itu could concentrate his senses enough to remember that there was a war going on and that he was in the middle of it. He subconsciously dressed, grabbed his rifle and ran outside, to where the captain and the others were assisting in the removal of debris  deposited across the building which had been set aside for their training and where the radio and other equipment was stored.

“Was it a British plane” Itu put the question to anyone who would answer. It was the captain who’s face could not disguise his rage and temper who replied, “No it was not an enemy plane, it was one of our stupid bombers, apparently in trouble and releasing his bomb load anywhere” The bombs had fortunately been jettisoned over the jungle.     

The pilot or bomb navigator or whoever had been responsible, had most probably assumed that there was no possibility of the bombs dropping on any residential area.. After working for some considerable time captain Mitzutani, covered in sweat and grime, walked away with tears streaming down his face. He had committed the unforgivable sin in leaving his equipment where it was possible to have it stolen or become damaged.

Itu joined the others and stood to attention, waiting for the captain to give some kind of order, but none was forthcoming. They watched as he walked into the jungle and minutes later heard the crack of a revolver. They each put on the pretence of being surprised, but they knew full well that the captain would not have been able to outlive the shame.

After burying him in a shallow grave they returned to the shambles that had once been their proposed headquarters and continued to remove the debris. It was for two things really, the first was that they were curious, the second that they had nothing better to do to take their minds off the event.

The radio was recovered, or what was left of it, plus the captains map case and papers which were covered in oil stains and mud. “What should we do now” asked Okada looking directly at Kojima and Itu. Itu shrugged his shoulders “I have had no experience or training in leadership, but if you want my honest opinion I would say that we should begin to pack our belongings and head for the caves, then wait there until our magnificent IJA arrive”. There didn’t seem to be an argument against Itu’s decision and they each collected their items of kit and rifles and commenced the journey toward the caves.

They found the jungle above Kuala Lumpur to be vastly different than those so far encountered and after travelling for two days they finally arrived at Haw Par tin mine, SItuated on top of one of the larger hills, but which was now completely deserted. Kuala Lumpur seemed many miles away. The mine the offices and living accommodation had not been used for some considerable time

Okada threw his pack down onto the ground and went in search of water, while Itu and Kojima scavenged around for anything at all which could be of any use. Approaching the entrance to the mine workings, Itu pulled at the large metal door and it fell from its hinges creating a dust cloud as it hit the ground. and as the sound of the falling door diminished there came the sound of gun fire from below.

It was Kojima who spotted them first, three puffs of smoke coming from the jungle about two miles away, followed seconds later by the sound of the explosion as the shells left the guns. Their eyes tried to follow the imagined trajectory of the shells, but without success.

It suddenly came to Itu’s mind, that the position they were now occupying, would make an ideal observation post, unfortunately without either binoculars or a radio to transmit the information, there was nothing they could do.   

Okada returned to say that he had found a small spring some few hundred yards distant. and collected the water bottles. “Don’t wander too far” advised Itu “The sun will be going down soon and I have no wish to come searching for you in the dark”. Further explosions caused him to turn round and watch the whole scene, the puffs of smoke, quickly followed by the sound of the shells being blasted from the muzzle of the guns. Although it had been several hours since they had last eaten, Itu was quite content to just sit and admire the scenery and watch the guns. Finally after a while he came to realise that he should set to and find some form of accommodation for the night, and then discuss their future moves with the others.

Kojima had discovered some old spring mattresses and bits of blankets and bedding which had seen better days, but when needs must anything worthwhile is acceptable. With a fire burning steadily, they waited for Okada’s return with fresh water. As the sun began to set, the nocturnal animals and insects began to wake, and soon the air was filled with the sound of crickets, bull frogs and similar of natures creatures equipped with the ability to be part of the jungle orchestra. Itu was becoming restless “where the hell has Okada got to?, I told him to make sure that he was back before sunset” he kicked out at a piece of kindling wood and sent it clattering into the jungle, then stood up, “come on lets go and look for the idiot”, he said to Kojima. The stars had now begun to put in an appearance , so not having lamps or torches they followed the direction Okada had taken, shouting out his name at intervals. The path led them to the rear of the mine head, with its long slag heap gradually disappearing into the jungle.  “We will split up” said Itu,” you walk about ten feet to my left and every fifty paces, shout out Okada’s name, I will keep pace with you. If we do not locate him within fifteen minutes, I will fire off one shot and we will both return here” Kojima had no wish to be walking through the jungle on his own, but he could not let Itu know that he was afraid, so he took just a few paces into the jungle where he was lost from Itu’s sight and sat down, forgetting completely that he was supposed to shout Okada’s name every fifty paces. Itu picked his way through the undergrowth, his ears trying to pick out any sound that might come from either of his comrades.

Not hearing any sound from Kojima after walking more than twice the number of paces he had indicated. he realised that they were on a fools errand and turned round and commenced retracing his steps, still listening for a shout from Kojima, firing off two shots, then calling out Okada’s name himself, and then returning to the spot where they had gone into the jungle, he called out the names of his two comrades, Each time he shouted, the jungle creatures became quiet, as if trying to assist. What little water they had, there was nothing for it but to try to sleep. The bedding was smelly and springs very uncomfortable and he finally lay down on the ground. It was cold and damp and as he s@∆earched for a more comfortable position the mosquito’s began to feed from his arms and neck and just as dawn was breaking, it started to rain.

To Itu, this was the lowest ebb his life had encountered so far, and he cursed the gunso for sending him out on this project. He cursed the army for not providing them with the means to fight a war, and finally he cursed the Emperor for having wanted a war in the first place. His thoughts and curses seemed to bring some warmth back into his aching body and he rose up and went in search of the two missing men once more. .He shouted out Kojima’s name two or three times before Kojima answered. He came staggering out of the jungle looking miserable. He was wet and shivering and as soon as he saw Itu, he once more began to cry unashamedly . Not crocodile tears, but the real down pour, and Itu could not find it in his heart to berate him for getting lost, or at least not doing as he was ordered to the previous night. “Come on “ said Itu, “we will try to find this fresh water and hopefully Okada as well”

The two returned to the same spot where the path merged into the jungle and in single file followed what appeared to be footsteps. It was not long before they came to a small pond. The water appeared clean and inviting. Both instinctively kneeling down and throwing water over themselves, occasionally allowing some to trickle down their now parched throats. On the far side of the pond, the grass had been worn out as if from  the wear of people using the place to collect water. On the ground there was a discarded bucket and Itu walked round with the intention of securing the bucket to boil water. It was then that he saw in the undergrowth the three water bottles which Okada had been carrying. As he picked them up the weight told him that the bottles were empty.

Itu wondered what had happened, for Okada to just dump the bottles and he called out to Kojima to join him, and as he did so, the tears began to flow again. “Come on” snapped Itu, “I need your support, we don’t have time for tears”. Kojima tried to stifle his tears as he asked “Where is Okada?”

“It appears that he has been abducted, or killed and his body thrown into the jungle” Itu looked around the foliage and bushes which surrounded the pond, then finally accepting that Okada was not lying there, Then filling the water bottles, he motioned to Kojima to follow and led the way into the jungle on the opposite side to the one they had entered.

 A narrow path led them to a small kampong, occupied by about twenty Malay women and children. Itu approached one of the older women and asked had she seen anything of Okada, but because of the usual language difficulty, he could not tell if she was saying no, or that she could not understand. Kojima who had by now had adopted his normal stance asked one of the younger women the same question, and although she gave a negative answer, she appeared nervous. “This one seems very unsure of herself” He shouted to Itu.

Itu immediately came over and he also addressed the young woman.  As he was talking to her, a young boy ran over and clasped at her dress, wanting to pull her away. “Where is the Nippon soldier?” shouted Itu. The woman started to cry and shake her head. If Itu had understood her language, he would know that she was saying that she had no knowledge of any Japanese soldiers. Itu however took her tears to be an indication that she knew something and he started to shake her by the shoulders. The young boy cried even more, at the same time trying to pull his mother free. This angered Itu and he struck the boys head with the palm of his hand. Every one watching then started to cry and wail. Kojima lifted his rifle and fired a shot into the air, demanding to know where his comrade was.

Leaving the women and children Kojima began to search the dwellings, but with no success at all, until leaving the last house, when he noticed an area of ground at the rear. It looked as if it had recently been brushed thoroughly, and the bracken had been trampled down. Using his feet and rifle butt he began to clear a path into the jungle. About fifty meters along, he found the body of Okada. He had been beaten to death. Scattered about the jungle were his clothes and equipment, but there was no sign of his rifle. Kojima’s temper began to rise as he shouted for Itu.

“Come here quickly, Okada is dead” he shouted. Itu had a suspicion that Okada would not be far away, and as he joined Kojima, he came to a sudden halt as he saw the body of Okada covered in blood, minus his clothing.

He looked around the area close by, hoping to find some clue to whoever had murdered him, but there was nothing.

Itu was silent for a short while, then he called out to one of the young boys “Dini endor Nippon ?  The young boy looked at the ground sheepishly. “Nemu nuan”, (do you understand) the boy continued looking at the ground. Itu had not realised that the boy had not understood and took his silence for insolence, he lunged forward at the boy kicking him in the ribs. and the boy let out a yell. The remaining children and women shouted and screamed their disgust. “Sho me, hu kill haiti, sho me”. He yelled  resorting to pigeon English. He had made himself a true enemy by his brutal kick, looking round he saw that Kojima had walked toward the rear of the kampong. Several of the older women and children began to follow and as they walked closer, Itu felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and a cold shiver went the full length of his spine. Treading carefully, he knew that he must not show panic, after all they were only women. It seemed as they followed, that they were easing them both into the direction they wished them to go. Itu stopped suddenly, snapping a round into the breach of his rifle, he fired above their heads.  Screaming, they all ran back toward the kampong, Itu realised now that the women and children were not alone and he began to fear for his and Kojima’s safety. Moving quickly and quietly he retraced his steps back to the kampong in the hope that Kojima was following. Entering one of the huts, he picked up and placed in his pockets and elsewhere various bits of food, then clutching a stone bottle of water, Shouting to Kojima to follow, he made his way to the path which would lead back to Kuala Lumpur. Within minutes he could hear the sound of twigs snapping and the low swish of the lalang as someone’s feet pressed it hard to the ground and he knew that they were not alone. Releasing the safety catch, he listened as he walked along. As they approached a bend in the path, a young boy stood waiting and as he approached the boy was pointing his hand in the direction of the jungle to the right.” Satu Nippon haiti mati “ (here is a dead Japanese soldier) said the young boy pointing to a small clearing to the right. Itu hesitated wondering if it might be a trap, then throwing caution to the wind he walked in the direction the boy had indicated. The body of a Japanese soldier, partly stripped of his clothes was swinging by the feet from a tree. Itu could hear Kojima retching, but he could only stand transfixed to the spot, gazing up at what had once been a human, but now devoid of all its human features. Pushing the young Malay boy to the ground, he grabbed Kojima by the shoulder and started to run, following the path back to where they had buried the captain.

After putting what he assumed to be a safe distance away from the kampong, Itu started to ease down the pace, in order to be able to think .It seemed that for the last three or four days, they had experienced bad luck, even the so called accidental bombing did not seem to ring true, and where had Rami gone?, why wasn’t he there when they had buried the captain. He conveyed his thoughts to Kojima, but his companion was long past caring, his attItude was similar to that of a lost puppy, his mind had left his body and he just followed Itu.

After two more weary days they arrived back at the old mine. Everything was as it had been left when the bomb fell. finding a place in the shade for Kojima, Itu went in search of the radio and other bits and pieces which might be useful and storing them inside the opening to the mine. Once this had been accomplished and some food prepared, he decided to wait until it was dark, and then go down into Kuala Lumpur to try to supplement their supplies and if possible obtain a car battery in order to see if the radio was completely beyond repair.

Just before sunset, leaving Kojima sleeping beneath a tree, he set out for KL using the same route which the captain had proposed. The whole place was in darkness, with just the occasional flicker of light coming from people walking about their business or hurrying home before the next air raid. Itu made his way to Frasers, where he had watched the young Chinese girl go by. In his mind, hoping that she might live somewhere close by.

The shop was boarded up in places obviously the result of one of the air raids, but he was able to force an entry where one of the pieces of wood had not been secured properly. Once inside, he suddenly realised that he become a burglar without realising and without any prior training in house breaking. Although it was quite dark inside, he was able to pick out various items including jewellery, clothing and perfumery, but what he required was the electrical department, and he cursed himself for not having come in daylight. Without any sign of fear of being found, he casually went from one department to the next, until finally finding a small area containing electrical goods. 

Not being a professional thief, he took just what articles he needed, and was just about to leave by one of the rear doors just as the bombs started to fall. The sound of ambulance and fire engine bells, plus the sound of the falling bombs, covered any noise he might make forcing the rear door.

 Securing the stolen goods around his person, he quickly returned to the mine.

The following morning, after a good nights sleep, Itu collected what remained of the old radio set and with his knowledge limited only to radio receivers, set about the task of trying to repair the small radio transmitter.

Kojima although not completely recovered from his experience of yesterday, went out to collect early bamboo shoots and wood for the fire.

Itu had become so involved in repairing the radio set, that he did not notice the time, and the fact that Kojima had not returned from collecting bamboo shoots, until he heard voices coming from the main path to KL, he immediately ran to the mine entrance and hid, taking the radio and its pieces with him and waited listening. The voices came closer and he was sure that he could hear Kojima talking and being answered in Japanese. He risked peeping round the door posts and there was immediate relief and excitement as he watched the approach of Kojima accompanied by two Japanese soldiers. As he ran out to greet them, their apprehension was apparent as they each brought their rifle to the ready position.

“We have taken Kula Lumpur” shouted Kojima “we are to go to the YMCA building, and we will be given transport back to the 11th Infantry regiment”. Itu was not so sure that he wanted to return to his old regiment, but there was nothing which he could do about it. The feeling of relief however at being among his own kind overcame his anxiety and he collected the odd bits and pieces and joined the others for the journey.

After about an hour, but which seemed like three hours, Itu decided to return to where they had built the fire. With no water, it was not possible to have a drink, and since Okada had taken the water bottles which had held

Talking to himself rather than to Kojima as they began to research the hut again. The people of the kampong were now silent and were watching every movement, but search as they may, there was no sign of any clothes or the rifle. Itu remembered the ambush at the mine, when he had first arrived, when they had lost two or three good men, without knowing who or which group were responsible.

 

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[All The Madmen] [Chapter One] [Chapter Two] [Chapter Three] [Chapter Four] [Chapter Five] [Chapter Six] [Chapter Seven] [Chapter Eight] [Chapter Nine] [ChapterTen] [Chapter Eleven] [Chapter Twelve] [Chapter Thirteen]

 

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