Super-spy Gertrude Eisenstein in...

The City of Ul Chalan

A 10-Chapter Adventure in exotic Tibet!

by Richard K. Lyon
About the author

Previously: A mysterious disaster destroys a division of the Red Chinese army in Tibet.   Sent to investigate CIA masterspy Gertrude Eisenstein reaches her local contact, a monk in a Buddhist monastery.  Having long suspected that the monk is a freedom fighter Major Tong of the Red Chinese Army enters the monastery and confronts the monk.

Chapter Four - Dogs and Whistling Arrows

THE MAJOR GLANCED AT GERTRUDE and turned to Jar Quinan. "Now, abbot, we shall have a reckoning. Who is this woman and what is she doing in your monastery?"

The monk bowed politely and replied, "Most worthy Major Tong, I am not sure but I think she is my wife."

"What! Explain yourself, dog. Monks have no wives."

"My order is of the Red Hats, not the Yellow Hats. Though few do marry, it is permitted. In my case when I was three, I and my five brothers were wed to a woman in order that an inheritance might not be divided. Only my elder three brothers actually lived with the woman, I and the other two went our own ways. Recently word came that the last of my elder brothers was dead, so I was not unduly surprised when this woman, who appears to be my wife, arrived at the monastery."

Gertrude had to admire Jar's technique. The lie was skillful. Since the major with his obvious contempt for Tibetan culture wished to remain ignorant of their peculiar way. Jar's story fit the facts and took advantage of this weakness.

Now, Gertrude decided, was the opportune moment. In the midst of her mumbling she said in a barely intelligible voice, "Sothatalos, Sothatalos."

The major leapt to Gertrude's bedside. "I was right!" he shouted. "This woman is from Ul Chalan. I suspected something like this when I was informed that she came here from the north. There is nothing to the north except Ul Chalan."

Jar Quinan started to deny this, but Gertrude mumbled, "Magic bottle, escape, magic bottle." Her hand fumbled toward something hidden in the bedding. Major Tong grabbed and pulled it forth. His eyes bugged when he saw the object, a U.S. Air Force oxygen cylinder.

"I knew the Americans were behind this deviltry, and now I have proof. No doubt this 'wife' of yours went to Ul Chalan to rob the dead, was captured, and somehow escaped. She knows the secret of that dread place."

"Believe what you like," replied the monk, "the only certainty is that the woman is dying. If you wish to stay here and listen to her ravings, we shall make you comfortable."

The major glared at the monk. He wanted to angrily reject this offer but could think of no alternative. Gertrude moaned, "Trail, hidden trail southwest side of Ul Chalan, way through the burning grass." After this she mumbled the names of several Tibetan devils then lay silent and apparently unconscious. The major's wide face split from ear to ear with a grin of triumph.

"This woman can guide me safely to Ul Chalan. Pick her up, we leave at once."

"Of course, this unworthy abbot is honored to accompany the estimable major wherever he wishes, but may I point out, if you wish to kill my wife there are more convenient ways than carrying her up a mountain. She is dying of pneumonia. Sacred herbs have greatly reduced her fever, but the demon which paralyzes her breathing will not yield to my exorcism. Thin air will certainly kill her."

The major disdained to reply, instead he took a walkie-talkie from one of his men and gave crisp orders. "This is Major Tong. Load all available oxygen cylinders into the ambulance and come to the monastery at once."

Gertrude lay in her bed, well satisfied with the ways she had managed events. Now she would go to Ul Chalan riding in a comfortable ambulance instead of on a mule. Major Tong would supply the needed oxygen and his men would carry her up the trail. Gertrude thought it was generally better practice to accept favors from one's enemies rather than one's friends. The former, after all, are seldom in a position to ask for return of the favor.

The trip to Ul Chalan started with a disaster. Major Tong had brought forty men with him to the monastery, while another ten arrived with the ambulance. Gertrude was resting in the ambulance, while Major Tong checked the oxygen cylinders and other equipment. There was a strange whistling sound from the sky and suddenly the guard in the ambulance door screamed and fell writhing beside Gertrude. An arrow projected from his back.

Gertrude could not see what was happening outside the ambulance but she could hear. The sky was filled by a whistling chorus; all around the ambulance savage snarling growls resounded. Men screamed in anguish and death and machine guns barked in their staccato voices. Gertrude lay motionless until the second guard left the ambulance. Only then did she risk looking out of the window.

The scene outside could have been an artist's vision of hell. The Chinese soldiers were being overwhelmed by furious canine monsters. Gertrude had heard of the Tibetan mastiff but she was astounded at the sight of the beasts, large as Shetland ponies, tearing men to shreds with their huge jaws.

Gertrude saw one man picked up and shaken by a mastiff, as a terrier shakes a rat. There was a crisp snap as the man's neck broke. In this close quarter combat the soldiers could not use their machine guns effectively; still if one of them could stand in a good vantage point he could wreak havoc on the attacking dogs. Many tried to do this but as soon as they exposed themselves, arrows whistled from the sky turning them into pincushions.

Gertrude seldom saw an archer; it appeared that much of the time they were firing blind, guided only by sound. The accuracy was disturbingly good, and a dog was never hit. In a flash of insight Gertrude realized that this was a coordinated attack: the dogs' barking guided the hidden archers, the whistling warned the dogs to avoid the arrows.

At her side Jar Quinan purred, "The chief still prefers the traditional weapons, especially dogs and whistling arrows. There are occasions when they can be effective."

The ambulance door crashed open and a soldier fell through. His throat was torn out and his heart was pierced by an arrow. The corpse was followed by a huge dog. The beast was jet black with bright brown patches above the eyes. The bright eyes looked around the ambulance with clear intelligence. It sniffed Jar and appeared to decide he was a friend. Gertrude wondered if her CIA disguise would fool the dog's nose. It did not.

The dog bared its great fangs and lunged at Gertrude. The sheepskin robes interfered with her fast draw. The black monster slammed her down before her gun was half out. The powerful jaws shot at her throat and suddenly the dog was slammed aside. Jar Quinan and the dog were a tangled struggling mass on the floor. Gertrude pulled free and leveled her gun. She could not find a clear shot, could not be sure what was black dog, what black robed priest.

Suddenly Jar's hands made a rapid complex motion, and the dog went limp. He pushed the corpse aside and rose, scratched and bruised but not seriously injured. Smiling at Gertrude he said, "The world has learned the Japanese jujitsu and the Korean Karate but not the Tibetan art. Now it is best you get back to dying of pneumonia."

As Jar started to close the ambulance door, he was surprised to see two Chinese tanks approaching the battlefield. The tanks' cannons began lobbing shells into the archers' hiding places while their machine guns cut down men and dogs without discrimination. Major Tong and four soldiers came running toward the ambulance. Two soldiers raced to the driver's section; Tong and the other two leapt into the back.

The major had ordered all available oxygen cylinders and this included one large cylinder far too heavy to be useful to climbers. Tong grabbed the large cylinder, twisted the protective cap off so that the cylinder valve was exposed. With a surprising display of strength he whipped the cylinder above his bead and threw it at the nearer tank. It flew through the air, struck the ground, and rolled bouncing toward the tank. Close to the tank the valve snapped off and the high pressure gas jetted out. The cylinder spun about and slammed into the tank.

For a moment it appeared Major Tong might as well have thrown a large rock. Tong's eyes were focused on the tank's left tread. Something there was smoking due to overheating. In a pure oxygen atmosphere the smoldering was transformed into incandescent fire which spread rapidly. With a muffled roar the engine exploded. Blinding white light wrapped the tank as gasoline grease, rubber and even the steel itself burnt into furious combustion. The earth shook and the sky was shattered as the tank's shells exploded in a single thunderous blast.

While this happened, neither the ambulance driver nor the men in the other tank had been idle. The ambulance had shot forward and sped out of range of the tank's machine guns. Only a few bullets from the first burst had passed through the ambulance body. The cannon was a different problem. Gertrude was thrown from her bed as the ambulance swerved sharply right. A second later a concussion struck the left side of the ambulance like a giant fist. The second shell was a clean miss and the third shell fell short. A moment later Major Tong signaled the driver to stop zigzagging since they were beyond the accurate range of the cannon.

The tank gunner did not agree and fired several more shells, though none came close. There followed a deadly version of the tortoise and hare race. The tank could move at its maximum speed over the roughest ground. The ambulance, though far swifter, was in continual danger of being disabled by breaking an axle or blowing a tire. Several times the tank driver gained ground by taking short cuts the ambulance dare not use. It never came within accurate cannon range, but it came close enough to rain shells in the ambulance's vicinity.

The ambulance driver was prudent, never allowed this tactic to force him into blind flight. Each time he pulled slowly out of range, driving as fast as the terrain permitted. Gertrude was strapped in bed, being thrown back and forth as the ambulance jolted madly on. She listened to the thunderstorm of cannon shells outside and reflected. She had arranged this ride to avoid the discomforts of a mule back ride.

The ambulance shook as a shell exploded a few yards to the right. Possibly, thought Gertrude, the mule would have been better.

Major Tong growled at Jar Quinan, "Revive your wife anyway you can. I must have clear directions to the hidden trail to Ul Chalan or that tank will catch us."

Gertrude had no idea where they were or where they were going. Therefore she gave directions largely by mumbling unintelligibly. Jar Quinan knelt beside her occasionally asking questions. After a little he rose and gave Major Tong the desired directions.

By the time they reached the trail, they had gained perhaps half an hour on the tank. Major Tong barked crisp orders, equipment was quickly assembled, and the expedition started up the trail. Major Tong and Jar Quinan took the lead while the four soldiers carried Gertrude in a stretcher. All wore oxygen masks.

They were half a mile along the winding trail when they heard the familiar roar of the cannon. An instant later the ambulance erupted into flames and flying metal fragments. Jar Quinan turned to Major Tong, and measuring his words carefully asked, "May this unworthy one know the cause of these strange events?"

An angry snarl rose in Tong's throat, but fatigue and dispair smothered it. "Why not? After Chan Si Ree died, some of our leaders accused other leaders of his murder and China was plunged into civil War."

"This is heavy news," replied the monk; "it means we of Tibet will be denied Chinese guidance."

"You need no longer lie," snarled the major. "I know you're rebel. Now you've won."

The monk faced the major and spoke with clear disdain. "If you were worthy of your ancestors, you would know that victory can as heavy a burden as defeat."

Drawing his pistol, the major cursed and leveled it at Jar Quinan. He was about to shoot and the monk just stood there, not willing to do anything in his own defense.  To play the part of a sick woman Gertrude had hidden her gun.  Now, as she struggled to reach it, she knew she couldn't draw it in time.  There was absolutely nothing she could do.

Can these bitter enemies work together to solve the mystery of Ul Chalan?  Find out in the next Thrilling Episode, ROGUES' ALLIANCE!



Previous episode: Betrayed
Next episode: Rogues' Alliance

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The City of Ul Chalan was originally published in Analog Magazine, July 1973, copyright Richard K. Lyon.  It is reprinted here with the author's permission.