Episode 43: Catfight at the Oa Ki Coral Island
Sarah cut the motor as they approached the shore. The motorboat slowed,
coasting, until it ran up the beach with a grate of sand. The setting was
idyllic -- clear blue waters, peaceful shore, and bright green palms
waving in the breeze -- but Sarah’s mood was dark.
"Come along," she snapped.
Helga shrugged and gathered her equipment. Whatever was bothering the island
girl, it was no concern of hers. They tugged the launch farther onto the
beach, secured its painter to a convenient tree, then made their way along
the shore, looking for signs of a trail.
The sand was clean and white, scored by the tracks of birds. From time to
time they came upon a balk of timber or the remains of some crate that might
have washed ashore after a storm, but otherwise there was no sign of man.
Helga began to wonder about their mission. Had they come to the right
island? Had there ever been anything here, or was the story they’d heard
in Kupang false, planted to lead people astray? This small coral island
seemed an unlikely place for a phosphate mine.
"Stop," ordered Sarah. "We’ve come far enough."
"Why stop?" said Helga. "What we looking for?"
"It’s time for us to talk!"
"About what?" asked Helga.
"You!" said Sarah, gesturing with her spear. "You’re so selfish! You want to
have every man on this ship!"
Helga laughed. "It good game! Boys chase after Helga. Not realize Helga is
chasing after them until it too late."
Sarah leveled her weapon at the Swede. "Well, you’ve played it long enough.
If you want to chase after Iverson, you’ll have to fight me!"
Helga lifted her eyebrows in surprise. Then she raised her axe, assumed a
guard, and studied her adversary. The island girl might have been shorter,
lighter, and weaker, but she held the spear like she knew how to use it --
pointed like a rifle, using her left arm to aim with her right arm and hips
poised to deliver a thrust. When this came, Helga would have to block with
the haft of her own weapon, then try to close before the girl could circle
A bout like this would be quick, deadly, decided by spirit as much as
skill. As Helga stared at Sarah’s face, trying to read the girl's spirit,
she saw the sparkle of tears. Stepping back, she lowered her weapon.
"What are you doing?" cried Sarah. "Pick up your axe! Fight!"
"No," said Helga quietly. "Helga not realize."
"Not realize what!"
"Ha! You not realize either! But Helga promise to leave cute blond boy
alone. He too young anyway."
Sarah hesitated. "How do I know I can trust you?"
Helga met Sarah’s gaze. "Helga give her word. Helga do many naughty things,
but she never break her word."
They continued along the beach in silence. Sarah glanced surreptitiously at
her companion. Could she trust the Swede? The woman seemed as insouciant as
ever. And she seemed to have a flexible morality when it came to
relationships. Did this ‘flexibility’ extend to promises as well?
"Lookie," said Helga. "Somebody landed the boats here. What you think?"
The signs were obvious: marks where some sizable craft had been run ashore
and tracks leading up the sand to a break in the undergrowth. Sarah brushed
the leaves aside with her spear.
"There’s an old trail here. Shall we investigate?"
"That what we came for!"
The undergrowth grew thicker as they moved away from the beach. The path was
narrow, draped with spiderwebs and vines. In places, they had to clamber
over fallen trees.
"Quiet," whispered Helga. "What that?"
Twigs snapped, branches rustled ahead of them, and a massive beast burst
onto the trail. Its great dark body rippled with muscle. Beady red eyes
glared at them above a row of tusks. The thing snorted, pawed the ground,
and prepared to charge.
"A wild boar," warned Sarah, raising her spear. "Beware, they can be
dangerous. They killed several men from our village."
"Ha!" yelled Helga, lifting her axe. "Run, piggie, or Helga chop you and
The creature squealed and fled. Sarah watched it vanish into the brush.
"Good," announced Helga. "We fighted together. Now we sisters in arms.
Shake the hands?"
Sarah hesitated, unsure what to say. She stifled a giggle. Then the two
women were laughing in each other's arms.
Some time later, they came to a clearing where trees had been cut down to
make room for several modern Western-style buildings. Their tin roofs and
cinderblock walls looked quite out of place in this tropical setting. The
site showed clear signs of violence, with broken windows, shattered
doorways, and bullet holes in the walls. The ground was littered with the
familiar cartridges of Mauser rifles and some other caliber they didn’t
recognize, but there was no sign of any inhabitants.
The two women paused in front of one of the buildings to examine a sign on
the wall. "That Russian," said Helga. "Let’s look inside."
The interior had been looted, but some of the heavier equipment remained:
empty steel cabinets, a washbasin, and several long stone tables.
"What this place?" asked Helga. "It not mining camp."
"It looks almost like a chemistry laboratory," said Sarah. "But what would
such a thing be doing here?"
"Let's look more."
Other buildings were much the same. And in the center of the clearing, they
came upon a crater surrounded by the twisted remains of girders. "That look
like radio mast," said Helga. "Someone drop the bomb to stopping the signal.
When you think this happen?"
Sarah studied the wreckage, noting the way new vines had begun to crawl
across the rubble. "Slightly more than a month ago. Around the time the
Wolkenflieger left Kupang."
"Ja," said Helga. "Numbers work out. Germans at Kupang, learn of
this place. Attack here, learn of geologist, fly to Darwin. Learn of rocks
there, attack Helga’s ship, then Wolkenflieger and Duck
meet at your island. When Navy men capture Wolkenflieger, airship
crew sail to Kupang on Duck and steal L-137. Then they attack
"They must be surprised see us," she added maliciously. "I hope they shorts
"But what are they after?" asked Sarah. "What is this all about?"
"We catch them and ask them," said Helga.
"What if they won’t answer?"
"Then," the Swedish woman gave an evil smile, "Helga make them talk."
Next week: A Meeting with Michaelson...