The Sadie Saxon was turning straight into them; she would pass safely between a pair of them.
The aged skipper acted with an alacrity that surprised even him. He yelled for the searchlight and with his own hand pulled the whistle into a strident blast of warning. The searchlight came on and threw its beam straight ahead. There, in a line, were three gray conning towers—three submarines on the surface and in fairly close formation. The nearest destroyer saw them too and at once plunged towards them with its guns blazing. Geysers of white water shot up about the nearest one. A couple of seconds later a bright flash told of a six-inch hit squarely at the base of a conning tower. The other two subs were diving hard, but the one that was hit did not dive. Or did not dive the regular way. It rolled slowly over toward the Sadie Saxon, spilling frantic men from its torn superstructure, then settled to its grave.
The leading freighter of the middle column suddenly blew up with a bang, lighting up the sea like day. A moment later the second ship of the left-hand column burst into flames. At least two of the nine torpedoes fired had found a mark. But the subs that fired them had no opportunity to fire more. They had been ambushed in their own ambush, and already three destroyers were racing back and forth over the spots where they had last been seen and dropping depth-charges by the score. Similar activities were going on on the other side. Apparently there had been other subs waiting there as well.
The Sadie Saxon lay still where she was until the survivors of the two ships destroyed had been brought on board. Then she unaccountably turned due south and ran for an hour at full speed. There she stopped and refused to budge another yard. It was well past the dawn then and a destroyer could be seen on the horizon behind still searching for vestiges of their attackers.
"Signal that destroyer," the captain said, "and tell him to come over here. We've got one spotted."
The destroyer came up within hail, and its captain delivered a blistering message through what must have been an asbestos-lined megaphone. "Will the second on that ship kindly relieve that blithering idiot in command and put him under arrest? The—"
"The sub's right under me," Tolliver yelled back, "playing possum a hundred feet or so down." The ship started moving ahead. "Come in and drop your eggs. Then lock me up if you want."
He turned to Parker who was in a quandary as to what to do. The performances of the ship had shaken his nerve. He had begun to wonder whether he was the crazy man. Tolliver ignored him. Instead he walked out to the wing of the bridge and watched the destroyer do its work.
Huge seething hummocks of water rose as the ash-cans exploded under the surface. Four of them had gone off and the destroyer was coming back for a second run across the same spot. But there was no need. A half mile away a black nose appeared for a moment on the surface, stuck its beak up