Episode 66: Wild Sheilas of the Outback
The train chugged off into the distance, vanishing toward the south. As
its sound faded, Everett, Jenkins, and Abercrombie glanced around what
passed for the platform. A faint breeze stirred up the dust and rattled the
tin roof of the depot. Below this, a neatly-lettered sign proclaimed
'Overland Telegraph and North Australia Rail: Enterprise Creek, North
"There don't seem to be many people about," observed Jenkins. This was an
understatement. The only sign of life was a bored-looking horse hitched to
a buckboard in front of the building. The animal gave them a single
disinterested glance, then went back to swatting flies with its tail.
Everett nodded. "I had hoped to engage a jitney. I believe we shall have
to abandon this plan. Still, the walk will do us good."
"D'ye ken the way?" asked Abercrombie.
"We will ask this gentleman," said Everett as a burly character emerged from
the shack and made his way toward the wagon. The man looked up as they
"G'day mates!" he said. "'Ow ya goin'?"
"Good day, sir," replied Everett. "I am Captain Roland P. Everett of the
Royal Naval Airship Service and these are my companions: Ensign Jenkins and
Chief Rigger Abercrombie. I was wondering if you could direct us to the
cattle station at Enterprise Creek."
The man scratched his head as if puzzling out a foreign language, then
laughed. "I can do better 'n that. I'm Drew McIntyre, the owner. Hop
aboard! We'll run out to the homestead and boil up a billy."
A bone-jarring ride along something that bore only an imperfect resemblance
to a road brought them to a rambling stone building of substantial
proportions. Soon they were sitting on a verandah while Drew and his wife
Loretta plied them with tea. Satisfied that their hosts possessed the
rudiments of civilization, Everett explained their mission.
"I remember that Russian chappie," said Drew when the captain was done.
"Did some fossicking, then paid big bickies for a load of ore from our
quarry. Understand he went missing on his way back to the big smoke."
"I believe he means `back to town'", whispered Jenkins, whose translation
skills were being severely challenged.
"Indeed he did," said Everett. "This gentleman seems to have attracted the
interest of several foreign governments. Have any strangers appeared to
inquire about him?"
The rancher rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "We 'ave had our share 'o wogs.
There was his wife, wanting to see where he'd been. She was a grouse sheila!
Then her German friends showed up to give her a ride back to the depot.
They must have picked her up while we were out 'cos we never saw them again."
The three airmen exchanged glances. It didn't take much imagination to guess
how this encounter had played out.
"There was also that opera singer," continued the rancher.
"Opera singer?" asked Everett, recalling the Italian they'd met on the R-67.
Could this be the same person? Whatever could have prompted such a man to
visit the outback?
"Bob's your uncle! Said he was looking for some special kind 'o mineral he
needed to make..." Drew paused and yelled over his shoulder, "...Abigail,
what'd he call that whomajigger?"
A girl's voice replied from the house. "The `Strewmenty Dee Geeyoya'."
"'Strumenti Di Gioia'," guessed Jenkins. "That would translate to
something like 'The Instruments of Joy'. Didn't Miss Sarah mention
some articles by that name?"
"I believe so," said Everett. "Could we examine this quarry?"
Drew thought this over. "Gotta help a mate. He's got trouble with some
jumbucks what think they're birds. But my daughter can run you out for a
Captain Cook. Abby!"
The girl looked shy -- a fragile desert flower, barely past adolescence.
A light summer dress clung to her slender waist, the swell of her breasts,
the curve of her thighs. It appeared to have been intended for someone
younger, but Everett was too much a gentleman to take advantage of the
view this offered. This must be the woman Fleming mentioned, he
thought, wondering why his crewman had spoken of her with such
"You can call me... Amber," said the girl as she led a horse from the
"And this is Dobbie. She likes her apples! She had an inflammation of the
rectum, but we cleared this up with a dose of Loathebalm's Ointment. Father
asked me to smear it on because his arms are too big. I had to reach in
all the way up to my elbow!" She hitched up the wagon, then held out a hand
for them to shake. Everett accepted it gracefully, Jenkins professionally,
and Abercrombie with a barely-suppressed shudder.
The girl's monologue continued throughout the long ride to the quarry. By
the time they arrived, the airmen had learned more than they wanted to know
about fungal rot, bovine intestinal disorders, and the history of the
"What shall we do, sir?" whispered Jenkins in
desperation. As a signalman, he'd been taught to value economy of
expression. It was clear that the girl had profoundly different values.
"We are representatives of the Crown," whispered Everett in reply. "We
must respect local customs."
The quarry was a sizable depression in the side of a hill. It was larger
than they'd expected, and Abigail launched into a long explanation of how
the site had been here when the station was established. It was difficult
to be sure, for the girl tended to ramble, but they gathered this was the
work of some earlier landowner of whom no record remained.
Jenkins stooped to examine some of the rocks.
"Uraninite," he announced. "We'd need Pierre to confirm this, but I believe
it resembles the ore we recovered from Helga's ship."
"Captain," said Abercrombie. "Ye might want tae have a look at this." The
Scotsman indicated several long scrapes in the gravel, aligned with the
prevailing wind. "It looks like someone set down a Transporter here. I'd
ken 'twas aboot a week ago."
"A Transporter?" said Jenkins. "Surely our hosts would have informed us if
they'd seen an airship."
Everett was not so certain of this. The rancher had seemed somewhat vague,
and his daughter had shown a remarkable ability to talk at length without
offering a single piece of useful information. "Miss Abigail," he asked.
"Have you by any chance noticed an airship in the vicinity sometime during
the past week?"
The girl paused, as if unprepared for a question that did not involve animal
husbandry. "No," she replied. "Except for that medium-sized German
packet, approximately two million cubic feet enclosed volume with four engines
mounted in three engine cars and an external control car in a pusher
configuration, that flew overhead last Tuesday."
"Oh dear," said Jenkins, "that sounds like our friends aboard the L-137."
"I'm afraid you're right," said Everett. "We'd better send a message to the
Flying Cloud. Miss Abigail, you have been of considerable
assistance. Might I ask you for another favor?"
Next week: Mostly Welcome Reunions...