The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 315: Nothing (Much) Ever Happens in Port Moresby

Fist with lead pipe

The AT-38, now registered as the Aida, out of Milan, called at Port Moresby to moor at one of the masts set aside for itinerant contract carriers -- a polite euphemism for tramp shipping. No one gave the vessel a second glance. In a station this large, an obsolete ship built to a twelve-year-old design attracted little notice.

As before, they'd taken on passengers and cargo as cover. Now Marty and his boys stood atop the mast, watching as handlers swung out pallets of cloth, native artwork, and high speed propellers bound for some destination in German New Guinea. The passengers were an equally eclectic lot: tourists, missionaries, minor government officials, and a tennis racket salesman.

"We should turn a tidy profit on this flight," Books remarked.

The others turned to glare at him.

"Don't make a big deal out of it," growled Marty. "We're mobsters, not shippers."

"Yes, Boss," Books said meekly.

"Whadda we do now?" Jake asked.

Marty gestured to the west, where the southern districts of Port Moresby sprawled along the shores of Walter Bay. "We'll ask around this joint to see if anyone knows some undefended resorts filled with rich tourists. But don't be obvious about it. We don't wanna give spill the beans on this caper."

"Don't worry, Boss," Jake assured him. "We'll be diskreet."

"You can't blame Books for wanting to make money," Al told Marty as they were making their way through town.

"Yeah, I know," said Marty, "but you gotta do these things with style. It's all right to act like a flying bus driver when you need a bit of spending money, but if you wanna make it big, ya gotta act like a gangster."

"Where we going to act now?" asked the skipper.

Marty chuckled. "We're looking for an old pal: a fence I knew who had to leave the States when things got too hot. I heard he was running a gin joint here in New Guinea. This should be the place."

The two men pushed through the door and paused to look around. As bars in the islands went, this one was better than most. A pair of ceiling fans made headway against the omnipresent humidity, and a row of windows let in something that almost resembled a breeze. The walls were cluttered with cheap ornaments, photos of movie starlets, and fading advertisements for swimsuits that left little to the imagination, but none of the patrons seemed about to complain.

Marty spotted a corner table, where a chubby man in a tropical suit sat nursing a drink. He crossed the room, hauled out a chair, and took a seat across from him.

"Larry!" he announced. "Good to see you!"

"Marty!" said the man. "I'd heard youse was in the Banda Sea. How ya been doing?"

"Ain't much pickings around Timor," Marty admitted. "We was wondering if you knew someplace better."

The fence leaned back and rubbed his chin for a moment. "There's supposed to be plenty of shipping in French Polynesia," he suggested. "Word is some Italians are working that angle, but I'm sure you can handle a few Wops."

Marty shook his head. "Shipping's for small time operators. We're looking for something bigger."

"I'll ask around," said Larry. "And whatever you got, I can find you a buyer. You come across anything special in the Dutch East Indies?"

"Like what?" Marty asked lightly.

"Nothin'," said Larry. "I was just askin' is all."

Marty smiled and patted the fence on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Larry. We find anything good, I'll keep you in mind."

"What was that all about?" Al asked when the two were back outside.

"I dunno," said Marty, "but it sounds like something's going down. We'll wanna play our cards close to our chest 'til we learn what it is."

The proprietor looked like a fish, with a narrow skull, coarse scaly skin, and barely a trace of chin. In the dim light of his shop, those wrinkles on his neck might almost have been gills. He put down the tiara he'd been cleaning and stared at the gangsters with wide unblinking eyes.

"What type of resort are you gentlemen looking for?" he asked, in a precise English accent entirely at odds with his appearance.

"Wese planning to take a vacation," said Jake, "But we was worried about... uh... cannibals, so we wanna to know which ones is safest."

"Good thinking, Jake," whispered Craig.

"Yeah," Jake whispered back. "The Boss'll be proud of us."

The proprietor scratched his hairless head as he thought this over. "If you're interested in sport I can recommend some good bathing beaches, and I've heard that an American couple is trying to open a tennis camp in Samoa."

The two gangsters glanced at each other. Due to the restrictions imposed by their apparel, neither bathers or tennis players could be expected to carry much money. "We was looking fer something a bit more classy and expensive," said Craig.

"I'm afraid I can't be of much help there," the proprietor told them. "I move in... somewhat different circles. Would you be interested in this statue of an ancient squid god?"

"Not today," said Jake," but thanks fer your help."

"Where we gonna ask next?" Craig asked Jake as they left the shop.

"I dunno," said Jake. "I was hoping these island traders could point us to some targets, but they ain't been much help."

"Why don't we try those guys standing over by that tree -- the ones with the big wooden clubs. They look like the kinda guys who might know a good place to hit."

"Good idea, Craig."

The thugs looked up as the two gangsters approached. "You!" cried one. "You're the ones with the Key!"

"Whaddya talking about?" Jake asked with a frown. "What key?"

"The Key!" the thug announced, as if this constituted an explanation. "Give to us or we'll beat it out of you!"

Jake's frown was replaced by a smile. He reached inside the brightly colored shirt he'd picked up in Bali, pulled out a length of lead pipe, and hefted it in one meaty fist. "You can try."

"You guys find anything?" Marty asked Jake when they were all back at the ship.

"No, Boss, but we did roll some guys who tried to jump us." He tossed a few wallets on the table and grinned.

Marty emptied the contents and counted out the bills. "That's small change," he told his henchman. "We're looking for the big time."

"Sorry, Boss. That was the best we could do. What did you an' Al learn?"

"Nothing," grumbled the mobster. "These Moresby boys don't seem to pay much attention to the world outside this dump. We need a different angle."

"How about these?" said Books, producing a collection of glossy advertising fliers.

Marty glanced through the brochures and smiled. "Good work, Books! Where'd ya find 'em?"

"I picked them up at Station when I was checking freight rates."

Next week: What Are The Girls Up To Now?...

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