Episode 74: A Terrible Blow
They searched the wreckage of the car, but there was no sign of Iverson's
body. Apparently it had been swept into the river, where the crocodiles
would make short work of it. They might never find his remains.
Recognizing the search was hopeless -- this was hardly the first time they’d
had to accept the loss of a comrade -- Everett and Davies made their way
back to where the others were waiting. They found Sarah staring at the
water. She wore the same dress she’d been wearing when they first met her
back on the island, but every last trace of civilization was gone from her
"I will find the men who did this," she said in a cold flat voice. "Then I
will kill them. Then I will cut away their flesh
and leave their bones to bleach in the sun. When these are dry, my people
will work them into musical instruments upon which we will play the Songs Of
Pain so that their souls may suffer for all eternity."
If anyone felt that her reaction was excessive, they didn't dare reply.
"I don’t think we can do anything more here," Everett said at last. "Miss
Sarah, would you like us to leave you alone for a moment before we head back
to the ship?"
The girl nodded silently, eyes squeezed shut against the tears.
Wangetti Beach had no telephones, but one of the villagers was an amateur
radio enthusiast who’d been quite ready to help when Sarah knocked on his
door. Forewarned, the lodge at Port Douglas had produced an amazing
assortment of weapons to drive off the German nationalists when they arrived.
Meanwhile, Captain Everett had commandeered a car and dashed north from
Cairns with Abercrombie and Davies to bring back Sarah. On their return to
the Royal Air Station, they found Michaelson waiting. For once, the senior
captain didn’t crow at Everett’s misfortune.
"Did you find any trace of your officer?" he asked quietly.
Everett shook his head. "We’ll follow the usual procedure and declare him
missing for now," he said with a sigh, "but I think it would be a mercy to
his family if we didn’t drag out their hopes any longer than necessary."
Michaelson nodded in understanding. "Quite. I sent a launch to Port
Douglas to bring back this Italian singer. You’re sure he’s the fellow the
Germans were after?"
"Lieutenant Iverson is no longer available to explain his reasoning, and I’m
afraid Miss Sarah is too distraught to answer questions, but it’s difficult
to imagine what else could have brought them to such an insignificant
"My men will have conducted him to the school by now. Let’s see what the
fellow has to say."
Antonio Notariello sat at ease in one of the classrooms -- quite possibly
the same room where the Admiralty Court had questioned Everett and his crew
after their original adventures in New Caledonia. He was a short
dark-haired man with a golden voice and impeccable taste in clothes.
Everett remembered seeing him aboard the R-67 during the storm. Then, the
Italian had seemed on verge of panic. Now his self-assurance seemed
impenetrable. But then, he was from a race known for dramatic changes in
"I understand that you are an opera singer," said Michaelson.
"Yes," said the man. "I am a tenor. You will have heard of me."
"Do you have any idea why the Germans were chasing you?"
The Italian shrugged. "They were envious of my talents." He said this with
such enormous confidence that Everett found it hard to take offence.
Michaleson seemed less patient.
"I will leave this man to you," he announced curtly. "I have some
administrative affairs to attend to. Let me know if you discover anything
Notariello watched with a bemused expression as the senior captain left.
"It is always this way," he observed. "Some people do not understand
matters of Art. The Russians were much the same."
"Russians?" asked Everett, glancing over his shoulder to make sure
Michaelson really was gone.
"Yes," said the Italian dismissively. "They asked many questions about my
friend Yakov, but it was obvious the fools knew nothing of opera."
"Yakov?" murmured Jenkins. "Oh dear!"
"This Yakov was another singer?" asked Everett, pretending he’d never heard
"A man of little talent," said the Italian, "but we must respect him for his
courage. He sought employment with an anthropologist in an effort to
restore his fortunes. Even in poverty, he had the heart of a musician! He
hoped to discover the Instruments of Joy!"
For once, even Jenkins looked startled. Everett struggled to keep his
"What are these Instruments of Joy?" he asked
The singer’s eyes came alight, as if he was transfixed by some vision.
"Matter... energy... everything in the universe is composed of waves! The
Instruments of Joy use these waves to play a music that reaches to the very
heart of reality! It is the very music of the spheres!"
"Would you pardon us for a moment?" said Everett. He drew Jenkins aside.
"What do you think?" he whispered.
"It sounds like so much nonsense," the signalman whispered back. "I suspect
this fellow has misinterpreted some popular description of the theories of
"Such was my impression as well. But it’s the only new lead we have." He
turned back to Notariello. "Does anyone else know of these Instruments?"
The Italian shrugged again. "That police chief in Darwin had some
questions, but the fellow was such a boor that I didn't deign to reply. A
man of his caliber could never hope to grasp such a sublime concept."
"We found the nationalist’s car abandoned next to a cove some distance north
of Port Douglas," said Michaelson the next day. "It was a late-model Adler,
with a number of shells from an MP-18 submachine gun scattered about the
tonneau. But there was no sign of the gunmen, and no clue how a German
motorcar might have ended up in Queensland."
Everett decided to part with some information and see how the senior captain
reacted. "I may have discovered a lead," he said. "I took the liberty of
tracking down that shipment of power saws. According to the manager at
White Star Air Services, the order was placed by some gentlemen who drove a
large foreign motorcar. I imagine this was the same vehicle. The consignee
was a party in Darwin."
"Darwin again," mused Michaelson. "I wonder if their chief of police might
be involved. Miss Perkins has managed to decipher some of his
"How?" asked Jenkins. His manner gave nothing away, but Everett sensed an
element of professional jealousy.
"She’s a secretary," said Michaelson. "They’re good at deciphering
things. This one was of particular interest." He unlocked a drawer,
withdrew a sheet of paper, and passed it across the desk. It was
covered with calculations in a neat feminine hand, with a line of
plaintext at the bottom.
Y REPORTS DEVICE INCOMPLETE L137 SIGHTED HERE FM SEEKS TRAPEZOHEDRON
"We haven’t identified this ‘Y’," continued Michaelson, "but from the
context, this would seem to be some agent in Cairns. I imagine ‘FM’ is
this ‘Fat Man’ and the Device is whatever was in the vault."
"What’s a ‘trapezohedron’?" whispered MacKiernan.
"It’s a geometric solid," answered Abercrombie, "a dual polyhedron of an
"Oh yes. Right."
Michaelson ignored this exchange. "I believe," he told Everett, "that
it’s time to put Mister Channel to the question. We might not be able to
take the man into custody without evidence of malfeasance, but are
certainly in a position to apply some pressure. How soon can your ship be
ready to leave?"
"We took her out of the shed this morning. She’s on the mast now, fueled,
gassed, and ready to fly."
"Very good." The senior captain scribbled out an order and passed it across
the desk. "You have proved extraordinarily skilled at verbal fencing,
Captain Everett. It’s time you applied this skill to someone other than me.
Take this and use it to confront the man. If you can extract some useful
information, I may overlook some of your behavior here."
Next week: It's Time for Some Answers...
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