Episode 431: I'm Sure They Won't Notice Us
Fletcher and Peters studied the Japanese air station from the control car of
the Salgari. It was a modest facility, with only two masts and a
single shed. The fuel depot and hydrogen plant seemed somewhat larger than
necessary, but it was common for contractors to enrich themselves by
inflating the size of contracts in out-of-the-way places such as these.
The vessel riding from the Number One mast was more difficult to explain.
"I do believe that's the R-46," said Fletcher. "Whatever are they doing on
"I imagine we'll be in a position to ask, provided we can find some reason
to call here," Peters observed.
"This should not be un problema," Vincenzo said cheerfully. "Mario
has provided us with an excuse. We are delivering an illicit supply of
"What would they need that for?" asked Peters.
"It is a corrosion inhibitor for diesel fuel," the Italian explained. "It's
also used as a food additive, though I imagine the first application is more
"Quite," said Peters.
With only 700,000 cubic feet of enclosed volume, the Salgari did
not present any particular difficulties to the local handling parties. The
station might not have had mechanized handling equipment, but the Imperial
Japanese Navy was notorious for its discipline, and soon the ship had been
walked to the mast. A supply officer was waiting when they emerged from
the lift. He studied their cargo manifest with a smile.
"Arigato!" he told Vincenzo. "This is much useful! Are you
"Marat has a list of our requirements," Vincenzo replied, gesturing at his
sergeant. "Now my men and I must pay a courtesy call on that English
"Hai," said the officer, who like most members of his culture had
been trained to respond in the affirmative to the imperative form of the
A short time later, Fletcher, Peters, and Vincenzo were seated in the R-46's
mess hall, across from MacKiernan and Miss Perkins. The Irishman and
secretary seemed somewhat breathless, as if they'd just been summoned back
to the ship.
"Welcome aboard, Captain Vincenzo," said MacKiernan. "I remember you from
"Si," said the Italian. "I have brought two of your countrymen."
"Fletcher and Peters!" MacKiernan said in surprise. "Whatever are you doing
"It's a long story, sir," said Fletcher.
This observation proved to contain some truth. By the time the signalman
had summarized the chain of events that had led him and Peters to Iwojima,
several cups of tea had been consumed. MacKiernan's experiences accounted
for several more.
"It seems we've both traced Miss Kim's movements back to this island,"
MacKiernan mused after they'd finished exchanging stories.
"We gathered that she escaped from this island," said Fletcher.
"So it would seem," said MacKiernan. "Let us see what the lady has to say
about the matter. I'll send Abercrombie to fetch her."
The rigger arrived a few minutes later with Miss Kim. Vincenzo stood as
they entered. "Anyonghaseo, Signorina Kim," he said with a bow.
"I see you made it to Cairns."
A trace of a smile seemed to flicker across the woman's face.
"Anyonghasimnika, Seonjang Vincenzo," she replied quietly.
"These people have helped me."
"You could help us in return," MacKiernan told her. "Can you describe
the place where the German nationalists were holding you?"
The woman gazed out the window at the weathered bulk of Mount Suribachi, as
if she expected it to provide an answer. At last she turned back to the
Irishman. "It is below mountain," she said, pointing to the spot she'd
indicated as they approached the island. "I can take you there."
"That should serve," said MacKiernan. "It seems the mysterious cruiser was
making flights between this island and the Japanese nationalist's secret
base. The Germans will have kept records of these flights while they were
here -- that's the sort of thing Germans do. If we can find them, they
might give us some idea where the base is."
"Surely the Japanese will have destroyed them after their alliance with the
Germans ended," Peters objected.
"Not necessarily," said Miss Perkins. "Leaving things alone unless given
specific orders to act is the sort of thing Japanese do. But we'll need
some way to draw their attention away from the place if we mean to search it."
"This also should not be un problema," Vincenzo announced. "I
shall host a party. Everyone will come!"
The crew of the air station welcomed the idea of a party with some
enthusiasm. The Imperial Japanese Navy might have been notorious for its
discipline, but remote Pacific islands were equally notorious for leaving
their garrisons desperate for novelty -- particularly if that novelty
involved copious quantities of chianti. No one noticed Fletcher and Miss
Kim leave the station disguised as common laborers, and soon they were
making their way through the brush.
Fletcher had mixed feelings about the expedition. Sneaking about a strange
island at night to burglarize some office for which they didn't have a floor
plan while trying to elude hostile guards seemed like asking for trouble.
On the other hand, it also seemed rather sporting. He kept the latter
thought in mind as they crept along the slopes of Mount Suribachi to
approach their destination from above. The moon was little more than a
sliver in the western sky, but tropical nights were bright, and Miss Kim
had no trouble picking out some half remembered trail. At last she called
a halt. On the other side of a fence, two buildings bulked in the
"Here is where I sneaked out," she whispered. "Barracks is to left.
Office is to right."
Fletcher studied the right-hand building. It would have been easy enough
to approach, were it not for the sentry who stood by the door. Fletcher
supposed he should commend the man for his diligence, but he would have
preferred some less substantial indication that the building contained
something worth guarding.
"We'll have to find some way to get past that fellow," he mused.
"I could distract him while you sneak up behind and knock him out," Miss
"That would rather give the game away," Fletcher observed. "We need some
strategy that doesn't leave unconscious bodies strewn about the premises."
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of voices raised in song.
Glancing to their left, Fletcher and Miss Kim saw a trio of workers
approaching from the direction of the station, bottles in hand. As the
workers neared the sentry a pantomime ensued, with the former acting out
the role of, "Why don't you join us for a drink?" and the latter one of,
"Can't you see I'm on duty!" The former played their parts with more
conviction, and soon four figures were striding off into the night.
Fletcher watched this development with some approval. "I must say," the
signalman remarked. "That Vincenzo fellow is a genius."
Next week: Not Quite The Encounters We Were Hoping For...
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