Episode 318: We Will Avoid The Obvious Pun
They'd headed west along the coast, stopping where they could to inquire
about the freighter with the unwieldy name. Miss Perkins had identified
the language as Japanese, and translated it to mean something like
`Maiden of the Islands' Circle --
the last word seemed to be some Japanese
convention for merchant ship names. Several of their informants remembered
seeing a vessel that could have been their quarry pass offshore, but the
they still had no clue where it was headed or who might want a such large
cargo of diesel fuel.
Not many people lived in this part of Western Australia. The climate
was arid, the countryside barren, the soil noteworthy for its lack of
fertility. A few small towns had sprung up along the coast during the
Kimberly Gold Rush, flourished for a few years, then just as quickly
dwindled, but there was little to attract settlers now that the dreams of
wealth were gone. Somewhere among the maze of estuaries and swamps they'd
passed lay the secret laboratory where the White Russian exiles had built
their infamous Device, but Clarice and Emily had no idea where this was
hidden, or any reason to believe it might be their quarry's destination.
At last, after a week of motoring, they trio arrived at Broome. This
was a small coastal fishing village -- like Darwin only less so -- that
occupied a narrow peninsula at the west end of Roebuck Bay. Unlike most
settlements in the Kimberley region, Broome did not owe its existence to
gold. Instead, it had been established in 1883 by the Surveyor-General
of Western Australia, as a center to support the pearling industry. For
some unremembered reason, the developers had named it after Sir Frederick
Broome, then Governor. It was not known whether His Honour appreciated
Since then, Broome had enjoyed modest prosperity. The telegraph station
near Cable Beach had catapulted the town into the 19th Century. Now, an
air station and resorts were attempting to drag it into the 20th.
Clarice, Emily, and Miss Perkins docked the Drudge alongside a
pier in Roebuck Bay, then went ashore to make their inquiries. It didn't
take them long to determine that their quarry had not called here to
unload her cargo. In a community this small, people would have noticed
if someone transshipped several hundred tons of diesel fuel. Lacking any
better alternatives, they split up to see what they could find -- this
might have been a formula for trouble in radio dramas, but in a place as
nonthreatening as Broome, the procedure seemed quite reasonable.
Some time later, Clarice was standing in a shop, ringing the bell to attract
the attention of the proprietor. At last, an old island trader emerged
from behind the counter, where he'd been polishing some unprepossessing
piece of bric-a-brac. "How can I help you Miss..." he began, as he took in
the age and gender of his customer.
"Blaine," said Clarice, "Clarice Blaine. I was wondering if you knew
anything about a freigter called the..." she paused to consult the notes
Miss Perkins had given her on the correct pronunciation, "...
Shima No Shōjo Maru."
The shipper glanced around nervously, as if concerned they might be
overheard. "Are you from the Kaninchen?" he asked in a low voice.
What's a `Kaninchen'? wondered Clarice. The word sounded vaguely
"No," she replied, "I'm from Darwin."
This revelation did not seem to reassure her informant. "I can't tell you
anything," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll have other business to
Clarice watched the man leave, then shrugged and headed out the door. The
inhabitants of these Western Australian fishing villages did not seem
remarkable for their courtesy. She emerged to see Emily approaching down
"Did you learn anything useful?" the brunette asked as she drew near.
"No," Clarice said in disappointment. "How about you?"
Emily held up a small poster she'd torn from some wall. "I found this,"
she replied. "I'm not sure what it's all about, but I've never seen
anything like this writing. Do you think Miss Perkins would be interested?"
Clarice studied her companion's discovery. It appeared to be an
advertisement for a jar filled with some disturbing reddish substance.
"No," she decided. "It doesn't seem to have anything to do with fuel
or freighters. Let's leave it here and get back to the Drudge."
They reached the boat to find Miss Perkins waiting. "I've tracked down our
quarry," the secretary announced breathlessly. "A pearl fisher recognized
them from my description. It appears they've been making deliveries to a
secret harbor some distance to the west."
The flight from Kupang to Buton had proceeded without incident. In
particular, there had been no additional reports of the Americans. It
seemed that Marty and his `Boys' had indeed departed for New Guinea, where
Everett hoped they'd abandon their unprofitable raids on shipping for some
more honest endeavor.
Bau Bau seemed unchanged from their previous visit. The only other airship
at the station was an Armstrong Whitworth, the R-67. Everett recognized
Captain Sanders's City of Brisbane en route back to Australia after
a charter. A brief search of the town turned up more posters in Hangul --
these ones advertising some tea-like substance brewed from barley. No one
seemed to know precisely who was responsible for them, but there seemed to
be some general agreement that they came from Cia-Cia territory, on the
eastern side of the island. After overcoming their amazement at the
juxtaposition of the concepts of 'barely' and 'tea', Captain Everett and his
crew decided to fly across the island to pay a visit to their old acquaintance,
Fall did not seem happy to see them.
"What brings you back to my station?" he asked defiantly.
Everett glanced at the man. "I imagine you assume we're here about your
dealings with some fellows back in America," he observed.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" the man replied.
"Perhaps," said Everett, "but this is not our concern today. We want to
know where these advertising flyers came from."
Fall studied at the posters with a mixture of surprise and relief. "Oh,
those," he said. "They're put up by the Hunminj...
the Himumnj..." he gave up trying to pronounce the name and shrugged,
"...some society in Korea that's trying to spread their alphabet to unwritten
languages of the world."
"Why ever would anyone do such a thing?" asked Iverson.
The American shrugged. "Some people collect stamps. Others build model
railroads. Or It might be part of some secret plan for world conquest."
"Do you think the man's information was reliable, sir?" asked Iverson as
they rode the Transporter back up to the ship.
"I believe so," said Everett. "The man would have no reason to mislead us
about so obscure and mundane a matter."
"Do you think this has anything to do with our Korean guest?"
"One cannot help but wonder if this society with the unpronounceable name
was the agency by which she found her way to the Pacific, but it is
dangerous to speculate with so little information. We'll see if Jenkins
might have any light to shed on the matter."
They reached the Transporter Room to find the signalman waiting.
"Captain," said Jenkins, "I have some disturbing news. It appears that our
American friends just attacked the resort on Thursday Island."
Next week: Thursday's Child Has Far To Go...
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