Episode 388: Putting This Information to Use
Everett slid down the ladder to the Number Two engine car, then stepped
aside to make room for Rosendahl to follow. He'd spent the better part of
an hour giving his guest a tour of His Majesty's Airship the
Flying Cloud, beginning at the bow station and working aft. As
that hour passed, he'd sensed the American's skepticism beginning to wane.
Rosendahl reached the bottom of the ladder and turned to stare at the
massive 12-cylinder supercharged diesel that dominated the compartment.
At last he nodded. "That doesn't look much like a Beardmore product,"
"No," Everett said dryly, "I don't believe it does."
Rosendahl smiled. "I had some reservations about that story you gave," he
admitted, "but this tour has made me a believer. You have no clue where
these engines came from?"
"We've assumed they were built by the same fellows who built the vessel,"
said Everett. "They appear to be based on a German design, but this may not
mean much. Our mysterious yard seems happy to copy plans from other
countries as well."
"So it would seem," mused Rosendahl. He gave one of the rocker arm covers a
speculative tap. "This machinery must be somewhat more powerful than the
specification for a Junior Vickers."
"I suppose this is possible," Everett said cautiously. America and England
might be on friendly terms, but detailed performance figures for regular
naval units remained a closely guarded secret.
"Excuse me," said Rosendahl, "I didn't mean to pry. Still, it's an
impressive piece of engineering. I wonder where those nationalists got the
money to pay for it."
"I've wondered that myself, but this question may have to wait for the
future" said Everett. "At the moment, I'm more concerned about their
activities here on Palau."
"As am I," said Rosendahl. "Let's see if Commander Williamson has
learned anything new."
The two captains collected their aides, rode down to the surface, and set
off for the administration building. They found Williamson in his office,
making his way through stacks of paperwork like a cheerful but somewhat
frog-like version of Captain Michaelson. The commander seemed in good
spirits, as if satisfied by some coup. He offered his visitors a seat,
dug through his files, and pulled out a report.
"We've apprehended all of the men responsible for yesterday's attack," he
told them. "I have their confessions here."
"The investigation seems to have gone faster than you anticipated,"
The commander made a dismissive gesture. "Palau is a small island, where
everyone knows each other's business, and these people weren't very careful
about covering their tracks. There were six of them -- all German, as you'd
guessed. Two had set themselves up as island traders, another was posing as
a retired seaman, and the last three were working as waterfront laborers.
Those were the ones who attacked your crewwoman..."
"Crewwoman?" Rosendahl whispered to Everett.
"The Royal Navy Airship Service may have somewhat different traditions from
your Colonial equivalent," Everett whispered back.
Rosendahl nodded. "How long have these men been on Palau?" he asked
"The first three settled on this island shortly after the War. If we're
to believe their story, they didn't join the nationalist cause until they
were recruited in 1924. The other three arrived in 1925 on a small tramp
steamer named the Duck."
"We've encountered this vessel ourselves,' said Everett. "At the time she
belonged to one of the Fat Man's minions, but she has since changed
"Would there be any point in tracking down the current master?" asked
Everett tried to imagine an encounter between the American captain and
Helga, then abandoned the effort. The prospect was too unnerving. "I do
not believe this would provide us with useful information," he replied.
"Commander Williamson, did these agents reveal anything about their
"There wasn't much to reveal," said the commander. "Until yesterday,
their activities seems to have been limited to recording our naval
movements. When they reported your arrival, they received instructions
to kidnap you."
"Did these instructions make any mention of the Sunnyvale?"
"No, but this shouldn't be a surprise," said Williamson. "There's no way
they could have known she was coming now that Pago Pago has changed the
"There's also no way they could have hoped to hijack a major naval unit
using only six men," observed Rosendahl's aide.
Jenkins nodded. It seemed he'd been thinking along similar lines. "The
Fat Man must be planning to send an assault team if he can get sufficient
advance notice of your vessel's arrival. It's a pity that didn't happen
here so we'd have a chance to capture the fellows."
Williamson's eyes brightened. He leaned back in his chair, rubbed what
passed for his chin, and smiled like a batrachian realtor who senses a
killing in the lily-pad market. "Perhaps we can," he told his guests.
"We've apprehended all of this man's agents, taken possession of their
wireless equipment, and have a copy of their codes. We should take
advantage of this opportunity."
Everett raised an eyebrow. "Are you thinking what I think you're
The commander nodded. "Suppose we use their equipment to report that you
were injured during the kidnapping attempt and are heading back to Cairns.
We could follow this with a report that the Sunnyvale arrived for here
resupply en route to some destination where we can anticipate cooperation
from the authorities. That would give you a chance to get there first, go
ashore secretly, and arrange a trap."
"We'll need some place where the nationalists are known to be active but
we can find reliable allies," said Rosendahl.
Everett considered the possibilities. "Our best bet may be Truk," he
"Isn't that a German possession?" asked Rosendahl's aide.
"It is," said Everett, "but the Administrator is opposed to the
nationalists, and he's worked with us against them in the past."
Williamson set aside his papers and unrolled a chart of the Pacific.
"Timing will be important," he announced, "but I think we can make it
It was evening by the time Everett and Jenkins finally made their way back
to the Flying Cloud. At the foot of the mooring mask, Jenkins
turned to gaze at the Administration building. A light still gleamed in
the commander's window.
"That was a remarkable performance," he observed. "Why are air station
commanders such inveterate schemers?"
"It may be a hazard of the profession," mused Everett. "It leaves them
long periods with nothing else to do."
Jenkins thought this over. "I suppose that might explain some of
Michaelson's behavior. I wonder what the senior captain is up to now."
Next week: I Suppose We Should See If They Left Anything Behind...
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