The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 286: Perhaps It's Still Goodenough

Launch with fake deckhouse

Abercombie stood at attention as he delivered his report. The Scotsman might have been a bit more battle-scarred than usual, and his uniform looked suspiciously clean, but he seemed in good spirits.

"I ken ye wanted a distraction, Captain," he said with a smile.

"There may be some truth to this statement," Everett observed cautiously.

"We gave ye a good one! I have bills for the damages here."

Everett examined the invoices and nodded.. "Well done," he told the rigger. "I trust the rest of you gentlemen took proper advantage of this opportunity. Jenkins, what did you discover?"

"I investigated the movements of this industrialist from the Toyoda clan," said the signalman. "He appears to have been an ordinary vacationer. It's possible to account for every moment of his time in Cebu. Either the man was exactly what he seemed or he was a highly skilled agent. I would guess the former; I can't imagine why anyone should send such a valuable asset to such an out-of-the-way corner of the Pacific."

"I trust your judgement in this matter. Mister MacKiernan?"

"I spoke with the Japanese naval attaché ," said the exec. "According to him, the politician was a noted opponent of militarist parties such as the Kokuryūkai. The man had also spoken against Japanese activities in Korea and Manchuria. Figures of this sort have met with misadventure in recent years, but this has been limited to political pressure, public censure, and the occasional private assassination... nothing so public as bringing down a large commercial airship. I doubt he was the cruiser's target."

"That leaves the team of scientists," mused Everett. "Pierre, how did your inquires go?"

"I found them quite satisfactory," the Frenchmen replied smugly. "I believe my informant did too. The scholars were a group of biologists from the Tohoku University in Sendai. They were searching for some unusual animals that have been reported in this part of the Pacific. They circulated a sketch of the creatures. I have a copy here."

Pierre spread a flyer on the table while the others crowded around to look. It showed a finely-rendered drawing -- apparently executed from a photograph -- of some small froglike creature whose face was a mass of feelers, with a scaly, rubbery-looking body, pronounced claws on hind and fore feet, and long narrow wings behind.

"It's a squidbat!" Sarah exclaimed in delight. "I wonder who took the original photograph."

"My informant was too preoccupied to provide much detail on this particular matter," Pierre said modestly, "but she did repeat the word `Goodenough' several times during the course of my inquiry."

"That place again," said Iverson. The lieutenant was too well-bred to frown.

"It does seem to be a recurring theme," Everett observed, "and we do have reason to believe that our would-be puppet-master maintains agents there."

"Do you think this could be a red herring?" asked MacKiernan.

"I rather doubt it," said Everett. "Why would they plant clues to lead us there, lead us away, then lead us back there again? We will give the place another visit and see what we can find."

The flight to Goodenough took less than a day. Rather than announce their arrival, Everett decided to stand offshore, out of sight of the island, and send Iverson, Pierre, and Abercrombie in aboard the launch. With luck this would allow them to catch any agents on the island by surprise. A few hours of motoring brought the landing party to Mud Bay. This was as unappealing as ever -- a bight of stagnant water encircled by the row of mudflats that gave the place its name. The village of Bwaidoga perched above it as if wishing it were somewhere else.

They'd decided to pretend they were ordinary yachtsmen. Abercrombie had fashioned a fake coach-house and deckhouse out of lathing and hull fabric to alter the craft's lines. These would withstand close inspection as no one stood upon the former or leaned against the latter. A burgee from the yacht club in Port Moresby completed the disguise. They'd chosen Pierre to pose as the launch's master -- the French had a long fascination with the Pacific dating back to the time of Bougainville. Abercrombie and Iverson would play the role of deckhands.

A dockworker was waiting to take their painter as they pulled alongside the wharf.

"Lieutenant Iverson!" he exclaimed. "Welcome back to Goodenough Island!"

Iverson frowned. "How did you recognize us?"

The dockworker shrugged. "This is a small island, and we don't get many visitors, so we remember the ones we have. You were the fellows from that airship, the Sighing Cloud. "

Iverson's frown deepened. "Right. Please don't spread word of our arrival."


They decided to visit the local Anglican mission first. This seemed a good place to call for news. The head of the mission was waiting when they arrived.

"Lieutenant Iverson!" he announced cheerfully. "And this would be your crewmen, Pierre and Abercrombie. You were here two weeks ago on that airship, the Flying Loud."

"You remember our visit," said Iverson.

"Of course!" said the cleric. "There isn't much else to do in a place this small. You seem to be traveling incognito, so I imagine you're here on some secret mission. The fellows at the air station will be excited. I'll send one of our lay brothers to bring them the news."

By the time the three men reached the Station, its officers and men had turned out to great them. "Lieutenant Iverson," said the commander, "I remember your visit on that airship, the Flying Lout."

"Right," said Iverson, with such grace as he could muster. "We were hoping to keep our return from becoming common knowledge."

"Not much chance of that in a place this small," chuckled the commander. "You must be looking for those two agents in Vivigani who've been posing English geologists."

"You know about the fellows?"

"As I said, it's a small island. Everyone tends to know each other's business. It's only a matter of time before they learn of your presence."

"This could complicate matters," grumbled Iverson.

"Peut-ê tre," said Pierre. "But it could also work to our advantage..."

Devers reached the bungalow and flung open the door. "They're here in Vivigani!" he cried. "I spotted them on the road from the harbor. It's those fellows from that airship, the Flying..."

"Bloody hell!" replied Roth. "Do you think they're looking for us?"

"We can't take the chance they aren't," said Devers. "Remember Her orders. They could be here any minute."

"Then it's out the back door and down the trail to Wataluma," said Roth. "They can't possibly know about that. By the time they finish their searching this village, we can be off the island."

A moment later, the two men were ducking out the back of the hut, and dashing across the yard to the trees. No one seemed to notice their departure, for there was no sign of a hue and cry behind them. They were just congratulating themselves on their escape when a massive figure stepped in front of them and seized them by the collars.

"Swatch at this!" it cried in a thick northern brogue. "I thooght I might find something interesting on this path."

Next week: Guam With The Wind...

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