Episode 373: Meanwhile, On An Entirely Different Part Of The Island
Everett and Jenkins had retired to the launch to exchange their naval
uniforms for less obtrusive garb. Now they were discussing their
situation and deciding on a next move.
"That Mister Straight is a rather peculiar fellow," Jenkins remarked.
"Do you think he'll be able to find our missing lieutenant?"
"He has managed in the past," said Everett. "We will rely on him to repeat
this accomplishment while we continue our investigations. We have two
avenues of inquiry: the possible mole at the air station and the sulphur
"It might be best if I took over the first investigation in case our
adversaries have marked you," observed Jenkins.
"A sound precaution," Everett agreed. "I will pursue the second."
A short time later, the captain was sitting in a waterfront bar, drawing on
his experiences in the Dardanelles and the North Sea to pose as a retired
surface officer. It was easy to steer conversation in the direction of
treasure. Old Pacific hands were always ready to spin yarns about this
"There's not much gold around these days," a grizzled American trader told
him. "but we've got plenty of sulfur!"
"Sulphur?" Everett asked.
"Yeah," enthused the American. "That stuff's worth its weight in antimony.
They smuggle it in by airship. Rumor has it Old Man Doubleton's been
moving some through his warehouse."
Everett affected an expression of ignorance. "Who's this Doubleton fellow?"
Jenkins had no trouble passing himself off as a commercial airman looking
for a berth. As a member of the Signal Corps, he'd maintained far more
challenging deceptions in the past. He soon discovered that Pago Pago
offered several attractions that could have tempted their hypothetical
mole. In particular, there were somewhat more young women frequenting the
air station than its commander might have preferred. One name stood out.
This was Maybelle Doubleton, daughter of a wealthy real estate developer
who'd retired to American Samoa for reasons that were the subject of some
speculation. He decided to investigate.
The Doubleton mansion stood in the closest thing Pago Pago had to an upscale
neighborhood. Its architecture might have been an affront to the senses,
but members of the Royal Navy Airship Service were expected to make
allowances for local customs. Jenkins adjusted the uniform he'd resumed
for this visit and rang the bell. The door was opened by a singularly
The man looked him up and down and frowned. "Get lost, buster," he growled.
Jenkins drew upon centuries of British self-assurance and fixed the man with
a gaze that brooked no refusal. "You will take me to the master of the
house," he replied. "Be quick about it."
Mister Doubleton proved be away, but Jenkins was introduced to Viola: a
hard-looking woman who seemed to be an older daughter. She didn't seem
pleased to see him.
"I don't know who are, and I don't care," she announced. "If Straight sent
you to pry into my sister's affairs, you can clear out."
Jenkins switched his expression from `authoritarian' to `earnest'. "My
errand has nothing to do with your sister," he assured his hostess. "I'm
merely trying to locate an airman with whom she might have been acquainted."
Viola seemed distressed by this news. "A British airman?" she
Members of the Signal Corps were trained to recognize clues. "Perhaps,"
Viola's face fell. "So word's reached the British Navy," she said bitterly.
"It suppose we should have expected this. He was Ralph Pickman, a captain
in the White Star Line. He was also my husband, until he and Maybelle..."
her voice trailed off.
Jenkins made a show of sympathy. "I take it he was disgraced after his
company learned of the affair," he observed.
"Of course," snapped Viola. "They 'allowed' him to resign and Daddy paid
him to get lost. We did our best to cover things up, but someone found out
and is trying to blackmail my sister.
They won't get far!"
This may all be very interesting, thought Jenkins, but it has
absolutely nothing to do with a possible mole in the American fleet.
"Do you know what became of Mister Pickman?" he asked, doing his best to
The woman scowled.. "He used Daddy's money to buy a tramp airship he calls
the Black Sheep. Now he runs cheap cargoes out of Aunu'u."
The Doubleton warehouse was a substantial structure located near the harbor.
Everett had no trouble forcing the lock without being detected -- a
gentleman was expected to excel at anything he attempted. Most of the
ground floor was occupied by vats of fertilizer. From the smell, he guessed
the primary ingredient came from sheep, but there seemed no need to verify
this hypothesis. He supposed that the vats might also conceal submerged
containers of illicit sulphur, but decided to defer this particular line of
To his left as he entered, a staircase led upwards. Ascending this, Everett
came to a storage loft fitted with an elaborate set of hoists and trapdoors
for moving goods between floors. He studied the controls with some care, to
avoid the possibility of a noisome mishap, then set off to explore.
The loft proved to be as empty as the lower floor was full. Whatever it
held had been removed before his arrival. The only sign of its former
contents was a small crate labeled `Mighty-Bounce Handballs. Golden
Fleece Importers, Aunu'u'. Everett pried open the lid to uncover a
collection of unremarkable brown spheres. On impulse, he pulled one out and
dropped it. It landed with a dull plop.
Shaking his head, Everett returned the ball to its crate. Some colonial
powers made a practice of exporting inferior products to their possessions
for sale at inflated prices. It appeared this behavior was not limited to
Europeans. As he replaced the lid, he heard footsteps behind him. He
turned to see five brutish figures armed with an assortment of improvised
"Good afternoon," he said politely. "I don't believe we've been properly
"Mister Straight," said their leader. "We hear youse been nosing around in
the lady's business."
Everett frowned. American dialect had an unfortunate tendency toward
colloquialisms. Had he deciphered these correctly? "I'm not certain I know
to whom or what you refer," he replied.
The lout's face twisted in what might have been some form of smile "That's
real handy," he snorted. "We'll make sure things stay that way."
Everett studied the floor, noted the location of certain important features,
and adjusted his position accordingly. "Your attitude seems unduly
aggressive," he observed. "Surely we can find some way to resolve our
differences that doesn't involve violence."
"Naw," said the leader. "We like violence. Get him, boys!"
The louts charged. Everett waited until they were crossing the trapdoor,
then pulled the appropriate lever. There was a creak of hinges,
accompanied by several cries of dismay. This were followed by a peculiarly
Everett glanced down and nodded in satisfaction. If only all our
problems could be solved so easily, he thought to himself.
That afternoon, Everett and Jenkins sat in the launch, discussing
what they'd learned. Overhead, a Los Angeles Class airship, the
Wilmington, ZRN-17, was setting out on a routine patrol. Everett
watched for a moment, then took a sip of his tea.
"Our investigations have not been an unqualified success," he observed. "We
may have discovered a dissipated heiress, a blackmail attempt, and a shipment
of uniquely unsatisfying handballs, but we've found no sign of our
hypothetical mole or our sulphur smugglers."
"We did come across several references to Aunu'u," Jenkins said helpfully.
Everett thought this over. "In the absence of any other leads, I suppose
we should pay the place a visit," he decided. "We'll leave a note to
inform Mister Straight of our intentions."
Next week: The Big Sheep: Conclusion...
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