The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Three

Episode 129: Mister MacKiernan's Wild Ride

MacKiernan and Miss Perkins drivng the Vauxhall D-type

Captain Michaelson did not seem at all pleased with their report.

"What is this?" he growled. "You spend four weeks jaunting about the Pacific, wasting His Majesty’s fuel and hydrogen, and all you have to show for this are rumors and speculations?"

"Some of our discoveries were more substantial, as Miss Perkins had occasion to note," Everett replied calmly.

Michaelson glanced at his secretary and raised his eyebrows. "I suppose there were those two kidnapping attempts," she admitted. "There are also the papers we recovered from the safe."

Everett noted her use of the word ‘we’.

"Which are so incomplete as to be almost useless," Michaelson observed. "Fragmentary notes about some cryptic machine, unimportant communications between a group of amateur conspirators and some inept Communist spies, and the log of an inconsequential freighter that suggests -- merely suggests, I'll note -- that the White Russians might have built another one of these explosive devices and shipped it to Tonga."

"We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these British fascists, sir," said Jenkins. "It’s clear Mister Fuller was collaborating with the police chief, and we know that Channel is in communication with unknown parties here in Cairns. One cannot help but wonder if these are the same agents who infiltrated your offices."

Well-played, thought Everett. He searched Michaelson’s face for some reaction that might indicate whether the senior captain had made any progress tracking those agents down, but the man’s expression gave away nothing.

"That is an interesting observation," said Michaelson dryly. "I shall take it into consideration. But now I have work to do. You are dismissed."


MacKiernan strolled down Sheridan Street, whistling to himself. He had the rest of the day free, for Everett had given his crew liberty while the Flying Cloud was being refueled and regassed. Iverson and Sarah had already taken the motorcycle into town, but that suited him well, for it was a fine afternoon for a walk. To his left, past a narrow strip of fields, the waves of the Coral Sea whispered against the strand. Ahead, Cairns sprawled along the banks of Trinity Inlet. Somewhere in town he was sure he could find a pub.

As he considered the prospect, he heard the sound of a motor behind him. "May I offer you a ride?" asked a familiar voice.

He turned to see Miss Perkins sitting behind the wheel of Michaelson’s touring car -- one of the magnificent Vauxhall D-types favored by officers fortunate enough to be able to afford one. Sunlight shone from its gleaming bonnet, its elegantly curved fenders, its plush leather upholstery. Its powerful six-cylinder engine made a barely audible purr.

Was that a trace of a smile, he wondered?

"Won’t your captain be upset if he learns you’ve been consorting with the enemy?" he asked wryly.

"You’ve come to my assistance twice," she observed. "It seems only fair I return the favor." She slid aside to let him have the driver's seat as he hauled himself aboard. He studied the controls, reached for the lever, and engaged the transmission. Gears meshed smoothly, the engine gave a subdued rumble, then they were rolling towards town.

"Do you have any idea what it’s about," asked Miss Perkins after they were underway, "this ongoing hostility between our two captains?"

"I gather it’s an old feud," said MacKiernan. "Captain Everett never told me the details. Has Captain Michaelson said anything to you?"

The secretary shook her head. "No, but I gather it’s gone on for quite some time. It must be quite bitter to have lasted so long."

MacKiernan thought this over, then laughed. "Let’s put those worries aside," he said impulsively. "’Tis a fine day for an outing with a lovely colleen. What do you say for a drive into the hills? I hear we can get a fair view of town from Mount Sheridan."

This time it was a smile. He was certain of it.

"I’m game," she replied. "But be careful with the motor. It took forever to restore the finish after that incident with the ballast water."


A short time later, they had passed though town and were headed inland. The Vauxhall handled nimbly, taking the turns with ease as they wound their way up Mulgrave Road. The air smelled faintly of mint from the groves of eucalyptus, while flocks of parrots made bright splashes of color as they wheeled overhead. It seemed others were out for a drive as well, for MacKiernan spotted a shiny new Bentley Speed Six approaching from the other direction. He nodded approvingly, then shouted out a warning as a figure in the other car raised a pistol.

"Down!"

A shot rang out, missing wildly. Before the gunman could fire again, the Irishman had cranked the wheel to spin them around in a spray of gravel.

"Who are they?" asked Miss Perkins.

"That looked like a service revolver," said MacKiernan. "It must be our friends from the British Union. Let’s see if we can lose them." He gunned the engine, the Vauxhall leapt forward, and the chase was on.

The two vehicles were evenly matched -- race-proven thoroughbreds, tested at the Prince Henry Trials and the course at LeMans. The drivers were evenly matched as well. No matter how hard he tried, MacKiernan was unable to open the distance.

"They’re still following us," Miss Perkins observed a few moments later.

MacKiernan swerved to miss a wombat. "They’ll have to break off when we reach town," he announced confidently. Behind them, the wombat continued its stroll.

"Are you quite sure of this?" asked the secretary.

"Of course. They’d be fools to risk an encounter with the police." He glanced over his shoulder to see their pursuer avoid the marsupial, then swung his eyes forward as Miss Perkins cried out a warning.

"Watch out!"

A second vehicle had rounded the corner ahead of them. MacKiernan recognized the angular lines of a late-model Adler, the barrel of a Parabellum. A street opened to their right. Tires screeched as he took it.

"Germans too?" he exclaimed as he struggled to bring the Vauxhall back under control. "How many of these mhadraí are there?"

"Do you think they’re allied with the fascists?"

"I very much doubt it. Perhaps they’ll ignore us and start fighting each other."

Miss Perkins turned in her seat to look behind them. "No such luck," she reported.

MacKiernan risked another quick glance over his shoulder. The two vehicles were following them, with the Bentley slightly in the lead. Their occupants were trading shots, but the road was too rough to allow for effective marksmanship.

"This street seems to end at the river," said Miss Perkins.

"I’ve noticed this fact," said MacKiernan. It was impossible to miss, for the end was approaching with alarming speed.

"What will we do when we reach it?"

"Turn left on the waterfront road." He wasn’t at all sure there was such a thing, but officers in the Royal Navy Airship Service were taught to show confidence under any and all circumstances. He spotted it just as a large Holden sedan emerged to block their path. Its door swung open and a figure emerged bearing an automatic pistol of unfamiliar design.

"Na diabhal!" swore MacKiernan. Before the man could fire, the Irishman had jammed open the throttle, seized Miss Perkins in his arms, and leapt from the vehicle. They hit the ground rolling. Two engines thundered past, shaking the earth. Instants later, there was a cry of dismay, an ear-splitting crash, and a prolonged series of splashes. In the comparative quiet that followed, the two ex-motorists could hear a bubbling noise, as of one or more large objects settling to the bottom.

Miss Perkins rose, dusted off her skirt, and strode to the river bank. Below them, silt was clearing from the wreckage of four motorcars. To the east, several hapless figures were bobbing downstream, clutching cushions, spare tires, anything that would float.

"I don’t imagine Captain Michaelson will be very happy about this," she observed. Her expression remained neutral, but MacKiernan was learning to read the unreadable.

"No," he laughed. "I don’t imagine he will."

Next week: The Tongan Way...

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