Episode 316: What Are The Girls Up To?
The room where the North Australia Railroad kept its shipping records might
have been some Platonic ideal of record storage rooms, of which
all other archives were but imperfect shadows. The lighting seemed
strategically placed to provide an atmosphere of gloom. The furnishings gave
an impression of timeless age. The file cabinets, in particular, would not
have looked out of place in ancient Sumeria. Somehow, the place managed to
remain dusty even though it was near the harbor.
Clarice replaced the folder she'd been examining and slid the drawer shut
"This is crook," she announced. "These invoices only list shipping numbers.
They don't say anything about what was in those shipments."
"There must be some cross-reference between these numbers and the actual
cargos," Emily said optimistically.
Clarice snorted. "It's probably back at the home office in Alice Springs."
Her companion might have replied, but at that moment a key rattled in the
lock. The two women barely had time to hide behind a desk before the door
swung open. They peeked underneath to see two pairs of shoes walk across
the room. One was unremarkable, such as a clerk might wear. The other looked
A drawer slid open. This was followed by sound of someone flipping through
"You remember the number of the oil shipment," said a voice accustomed to
command. The accent was unmistakably German.
"DARC-310A," said a second more subservient voice.
"Do you remember the number of the oil shipment?" Emily whispered to
"A013-CRAD... backwards," Clarice whispered back.
"Oh, go on!"
Out in the room, the second voice gave a grunt of satisfaction. "I've
"Good," said the first voice. "The fuhrer will be pleased."
After the men had departed, Emily and Clarice emerged from
their hiding place and went to the file. It didn't take them long
to find the report the strangers had been examining.
"Two hundred tons!" whistled Clarice, "That's a lot of oil!"
"Can you tell what type it was?"
"From the declared value, I'd imagine either diesel or cod liver oil."
"Let's hope it was the former," Emily said with a shudder. "Where was
"To a freighter called the Shima No Shōjo Maru."
"It was nice of those chappies to give us her name," said Emily. "Do you
reckon we should find out where she went?"
Clarice grinned. "Dinki di!"
Abigail handled her mount with the solid competence one would expect from
the daughter of a rancher. Behind her, Fleming had been having a bit more
trouble -- for obvious reasons, service aboard one of His Majesty's Airships
didn't afford much opportunity to practice equestrian skills -- but it had
been several hours since he'd fallen off.
"Do you know where we are?" he asked as they reined in to study their
"Not exactly," Abigail admitted, "but we must be well west of the camp."
"Are you quite sure of the direction?" Fleming asked dubiously.
"Of course, " said Abigail. "The stars are an infallible guide to
navigation. At this time of year, the constellation of..."
"Right," Fleming said hastily, "Let's press on."
A few miles further, they came to a set of rails. They didn't need to
dismount to recognize this as the same line they thought they'd left
"We've come in circles," said Fleming.
"It would be more of a semicircle," Abigail corrected him, "or perhaps the
chord of an ellipse. It could also be a curtate cycloid if we assume
"We need a new plan of action," Fleming interrupted. "We can't keep
wandering around the outback. Let's follow these rails north. That should
lead us to the harbor where they landed the material they used to build
"Dinki di!" said Abigail.
Miss Perkins studied the document again. It was a handwritten
transcript of an original but there was no reason to believe it was
inaccurate. The content was as she expected: a report to the Admiral's
office that the air station in Cairns was conducting an investigation of
nationalist groups. It was marked confidential, restricted to the
Admiral's immediate staff. Had her contact been any less competent,
she'd never have discovered the author's name.
The implication was clear. The senior captain had deliberately sabotaged
his own investigation, and he'd kept this secret from his own people. Was
this a deliberate move to betray them, some subtle stratagem against their
foes, or both?
She held a match to the paper, watched it burn, then stirred the ashes --
this was not the sort of material one left lying around. Then she headed to
Michaelson's office to deliver her own report. When she reached it, she
paused. How should she handle this situation? Should she confront the
senior captain with her discovery or play dumb and see if he brought the
matter up himself? The latter course seemed safest... if she could pull
it off. She composed herself and knocked on the door.
"Enter," came the reply.
Michaelson sat at his desk, surrounded by the usual piles of paperwork.
Someone unfamiliar with the senior captain's machinations might have thought
he looked like an ordinary bureaucrat. Miss Perkins knew better.
"My contacts were able to trace the order terminating our investigation,"
she told him. "It came directly from the Admiralty. They were unable to
determine just who was responsible, but in view of the distance between here
and London, a local connection seems unlikely."
The senior captain made a marginal note on the document he was reading and
set it aside. "I would agree, were it not for Lady Warfield's presence in
the Pacific," he said. "We must assume she is in contact with her husband
back in England."
"You think the Baron is behind this?" asked Miss Perkins.
"Either that or he's acting as an agent for someone else. The man is
something of a mercenary."
Miss Perkins did her best to pretend disinterest. "How could they have
learned of our investigation?" she asked innocently.
Michaelson shrugged. "It would not have been too difficult for someone to
discover," he observed. "Our communications may have been encrypted, but
the ports of call of our various vessels are a matter of public record. An
interested party could have examined this list to put two and two together.
We will wish to learn who that party might be. I must consider how to
proceed. You may go."
Miss Perkins nodded and left, keeping her expression neutral. She'd hardly
expected an admission of responsibility from the senior captain, but his
latest strategy was too cynical for her to accept. It was time to take
matters into her own hands.
Michaelson listened to Miss Perkins's footsteps recede down the hall and
sighed. He'd known what he was doing - in a game like this, with stakes
this high, and opponents this dire, you moved your pieces any way you
could. You also tried not to count the cost, but that was much harder.
Next week: Fun With Fonetic Alfabets...
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