Episode 129: Mister MacKiernan's Wild Ride
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
"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 the countryside 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.
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
"They're still following us," Miss Perkins observed a few moments later.
MacKiernan swerved to miss an errant possum. "They'll have to break off
when we reach town," he announced confidently. Behind them, the possum
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.
A second vehicle had rounded the corner ahead of them. MacKiernan
recognized the angular lines of a late-model Adler, and the barrel of a
Parabellum. A street opened to their right. Tires screeched as he took
"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
Miss Perkins turned in her seat to look behind them. "No such luck," she
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
"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 Naval 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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