Episode 341: It Was A Useful Alias
The life of a mastermind involved certain necessary disappointments -- the
failure of a minion, the exposure of a secret lair, the thwarting of some
nefarious plan. Chief among these was the discovery that one had been
out-masterminded. This discovery did not make Captain Michaelson happy.
He glared at the man in front of him --- a modestly-dressed figure,
apparently in his early thirties, with a slender build, light hair, and a
"You were expecting someone else?" asked the Russian. "A particular woman,
Michaelson frowned. How could the other man possibly know his history? "I
take it you are the `Rabbit'," he replied, doing his best to keep his voice
Karlov smiled. "Also the Kanichen, Krolik, Lapin,
and Kani. The concept is more universal than you might imagine."
"You must be the one behind this business with the Rabbit-Proof Fence."
"You think so?" said Karlov. "Surely the name would suggest otherwise."
It didn't take Michaelson long to realize the implications. "So this is the
work of some adversary of yours? Who might this be?"
"That's what I've been trying to determine," said Karlov. "I didn't think
it was you -- the plot was too heavy-handed -- but I wanted to be certain.
You wouldn't have asked the questions you just did if you'd been behind it."
Michaelson thought this over. It had been a clever bit of work, luring him
and Fenwick to this isolated settlement with hints they might learn who was
behind what they'd assumed was a conspiracy by one of the renegade
nationalist groups. This too had implications.
"I assume you have prepared for the eventuality that this plotter might be
someone else," he observed.
"Very good," said Karlov. "I see I didn't underestimate you. My plans
will require that you and your new aide remain incommunicado for a time.
When this period is over, I suggest you contact your rival and instruct
him to evacuate his people. The stroke is not intended for them."
Before Michaelson could reply, Karlov had stepped back into the alley from
which he'd emerged. Fenwick moved to follow, but Michaelson signaled his
aide to halt. "You won't catch him," he growled. "The man has a way of
vanishing after confrontations of this sort."
"What did he mean by `incommunicado'?" asked Fenwick.
"He must believe we'll be unable to leave this village. Let us prove him
The two airmen hurried back to where they'd left their car. As they
approached, they heard a squeal of tires, followed by the sound of crumpling
metal. They rounded a corner to discover that a delivery truck had veered
across the road to strike their vehicle broadside. A cloud of steam rose
from the lorry's hood.
"I say!" the driver cried when he saw them. "What were you doing parking
your motor in my way?"
"What were you doing running into it?" asked Michaelson.
The driver shuffled his feet, then held up an envelope. "I was reading this
letter," he admitted.
Michaelson shook his head. "Let that be a lesson to you about text and
Both vehicles had been disabled by the crash. A quick search of the village
established that there was no other transportation to be found. The
telegraph station was out of commission as well due to some obscure fault
with the equipment.
"Did Karlov arrange all of this?" marveled Fenwich.
"Quite possibly," said Michaelson. "He's managed this sort of thing in the
"Whatever is he up to, and who are these enemies of his?"
The senior captain gazed at the wreckage of their car and sighed. "I dearly
wish I knew."
Miss Perkins gazed out the window, wondering what was happening on the
airfield. The confusion of engine noises suggested some sort of activity,
but gave no clue as to what this might be. Her thoughts were equally
confused. She'd left Cairns to prevent Michaelson from using Everett and
his people as pawns in one of his endless games, but the unlikely sequence
of events that had brought her and her companions to this secret air station
in the middle of the Outback could hardly have happened by chance. Who was
responsible, and what were they hoping to accomplish?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. She turned to see a
worried-looking Finn standing next to a hard-faced man with Asian features.
It was obvious, even before he spoke, that this man wasn't Chinese, but
came from a culture with a more martial tradition.
"Come with us," he ordered.
The three women followed the guards outside, where they discovered that Lady
Warfield's airship had departed on some errand. In its place, the
mysterious cruiser loomed overhead like a threatening storm. Sunlight
gleamed on its mighty hull, its towering fins, its eight powerful engines
cars. Where the Philadelphian had been elegant, and the
Flying Cloud graceful, this vessel seemed brutal -- an ominous
instrument of war. The guards escorted them to what seemed to be the
operations shack. Inside, several more hard-faced Asians were studying a
chart. They set this aside as the three women entered.
"You will answering questions," said one who was obviously their leader.
He indicated a slender blond-haired woman standing behind him. Miss Perkins
coughed to hide her surprise. Whatever is she doing here? she
wondered. She glanced at Clarice and Emily. One quick look showed that
they wouldn't need her warning to remain silent.
The man spoke to the woman in Japanese. Miss Perkins hardly needed a
translation, but she listened anyway to see if it was accurate.
"You are Captain Michaelson's secretary" the woman said. "What was your
"There is no mission," Miss Perkins replied. "If you know who I am, you
must have some spy in his office, so you must know that I left of my own
"So it was reported," the woman translated. "Why did you leave?"
Miss Perkins wracked her brain, trying to decide on the best answer, but
couldn't think of anything better than the truth. "He meant to sacrifice
some of his people to further his own ends. I couldn't accept this, so I
left to warn them."
The man listened to his translator, then scowled, as if unimpressed by Miss
Perkins's motives. His reply was curt.
"How did you find this place?" the woman translated. "Did the Russian
scientist tell you about it?"
Miss Perkins studied the translator, wondering if the woman knew she'd realize
the second question was an addition. "He had nothing to do with this," she
replied, being careful not to mention Karlov's name lest the Japanese
recognize it. "We haven't seen him since Gilolo. We stumbled on this place
quite by accident while looking for the site of a new resort."
The woman translated only the last sentence. The man listened, then gave a
"He says it was your duty to obey your superior," the woman told them.
"Since you failed in this, you are of no interest to him."
Clarice and Emily waited until they were back in their apartment, then
turned on Miss Perkins with questions.
"That was Natasha!" Clarice exclaimed. "What could she be up to
"And who could she be working for this time?" asked Emily.
"I don't have the slightest idea," Miss Perkins admitted, "but if we wait, I
believe we may learn soon."
As if on cue, the door opened and the subject of their discussion stepped
into the room. "Miss Perkins, Clarice, Emily," she said. "We need to talk."
Next week: You Don't Get An Opportunity Like This Every Day...
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