Episode 313: Shiver Me Diesels!
The landlady stood at the entrance to the lodging house like the guardian
of some medieval dungeon. In another era, she would undoubtedly have been
wearing a leather hood and carried an axe.
"Good evening Miss Grendal," Miss Perkins said politely.
"Miss Peal, you were out late."
Miss Perkins replied with an innocent smile. "I stopped at my church to
speak with my pastor about Sunday's lesson."
The matron scowled, annoyed at being outflanked in this battle for the moral
high ground. "There's a letter for you," she growled. "You will find it on
your dresser." Her expression suggested that she didn't approve of
unmarried women receiving mail, or any other form of attention.
Miss Perkins thanked her and made her way upstairs to her room. The
envelope lay on her dressing table, as the landlady had said. It had been
opened, but the code would have foiled far more sophisticated foes than
Miss Grendal. Miss Perkins counted off the letters, applied the key, and
deciphered the message in her head.
She didn't need to consult a map to locate the street. It lay near the
financial district -- an excellent choice for a rendezvous. It would be
a natural place for a secretary to meet a friend for lunch, and the
crowds would provide anonymity.
The next day found Miss Perkins studying a menu, watching the door to the
café out of the corner of her eye. She recognized her contact
when he entered, for she'd taken the precaution of studying files on most
of the Admiral's staff. He was a middle-aged clerk named Anders who'd
been at Hawkesbury since before the War -- sufficiently long that he was
unlikely to be a sleeper. She had no fear he might recognize her as
Michaelson's secretary. A woman's fashions and makeup offered plenty of
scope for disguise.
He glanced around the diner as if consulting some mental map, then
approached her table. "Are you Karen?" he asked.
"You must be Laura's brother," she replied. "She told me about the
kangaroos and the castor oil."
"Oh," he recited woodenly, "that was just a childhood prank."
"I brought her book back," Miss Perkins said, passing him a copy of
The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle. He opened it, glanced at the
banknote wedged near the description of the landing on Spidermonkey Island,
"The order to call off the investigation came from the Admiralty. It
seemed an ordinary complaint about the waste of public funds -- we get any
number of these from the Exchequer -- but you're not the only ones who've
taken an interest in the matter." The clerk glanced over shoulder, then
leaned closer. "Janis has been asking questions."
Who the devil is `Janis'? wondered Miss Perkins. Could this be
some alias for Lady Warfield? "When did she become involved?" she
The man's eyes narrowed. "Janis isn't a `she', it's a `he'."
Miss Perkins knew better than to draw more attention to her lapse by trying
to cover it up. "Very well," she replied. "I'll watch my step. Do you
have the other information I wanted?"
The man handed her a box of chocolates. "You'll find a copy of the original
report inside. Good day.... Karen."
She watched him leave, then returned to her menu. Long practice made it
easy for her to act as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, but
something about the encounter left her uneasy. The clerk had seemed
The AT-38 called at Kupang disguised as a commercial packet, the
Evita, LV-AIE, out of Buenos Aires. Her lines might be French, but
this was not implausible for an airship from Argentina, and her design was
so generic that no one gave the vessel a second glance. A load of
passengers -- bitumen prospectors from Buton -- completed the masquerade.
Leaving Al and Books to oversee resupply, Marty and Jake made their way a
bar near the waterfront to meet the Resident's agent. The place was stark,
plain, and entirely lacking in atmosphere -- little more than a facility to
dispense alcohol -- which made it an excellent choice for a rendezvous. The
other clients would be too busy drinking to notice what was going on at the
The agent was a hard-faced product of one of the world's less altruistic
colonial administrations. He brushed through the door, glanced around, and
made his way to their table like a bailiff delivering a summons. "You're
late," he announced.
Marty shrugged. "Pickings was good, so we stayed out a little longer.
Here's your man's cut." He pushed a newspaper across the table. The agent
counted the bills folded inside the sports section and gave a curt nod.
"It seems you're profiting from our association," he said. "This is good.
Here is the new registration you wanted. It cost a bit more than we
expected." He produced an envelope, set it on the table, and named a
Jake swore. "That's twice what we agreed."
The agent smiled the smile of a man who held a monopoly. "Times are hard."
"Yeah, we can see that," Marty said sarcastically. "Here's your dough.
Don't spend it all on booze."
"Why didn't you let me punch that guy's lights out?" Jake asked when they
were back at the ship.
"That wouldn't have solved our problem. We'd still have to pay off the
heat," said Marty, gesturing in the general direction of the Government
House. "Best to let these guys think they got us where they want us. Al,
you learn anything at the Station?"
"Someone from the Royal Navy's been asking questions about
`acts of piracy'," said the skipper. "They showed up on a modern ship, two
and half million cubic feet enclosed volume, with three engines. Sound
"It's our buddy Everett," Marty said in delight. "Sounds like he's sending
us a message. It's time for us to clear out, boys."
Books recognized the look on his boss's face. "Whatcha got in mind, Marty?"
The gangster grinned. "I been reading some books about pirates. If we're
gonna make this gig work, I figured we could use some tips from the pros.
It seems that the major players -- guys like Drake, le Clerc, and Roberts --
didn't waste their time going after shipping. They hit the towns. That's
where the big money was."
His men's faces lit up as they considered the possibilities. "That sounds
sweet, Boss," said Craig. "You got any places picked out?"
"Not yet," said Marty, "but I got some ideas where to look. We'll blow this
joint, get a new place to resupply, and line up fences to buy our loot.
Then we'll find ourselves some nice juicy targets."
Next week: Escape Can Work Both Ways...
Comments about Episode 313? Start a new topic on the