Episode 487: All Roads Lead To Danang
Captain Everett studied the remains of the German import-export agency's
warehouse. It could not have been an appealing building to begin with,
and small arms fire had done little to enhance its aesthetic appeal.
Beside him, Abercrombie was toying with the ram the Japanese
nationalists had used to force the entrance. It was a substantial
object -- a length of piling with cast iron grips that must have required
four men to wield it. The Scotsman balanced it in one hand, hefted it
for a moment, then flipped it into the rubble.
"It looks like the nationalists hae aw shot a craw," he observed. "What
should we do now, Captain?"
"We'll wish to prevent the fellows from making contact with the
Tranquility to take delivery of that shipment of vacuum tubes,"
said Everett. "They may have removed each other from play here and in
Saigon, but that still leaves Danang."
"I suggest we combine our efforts to secure the place," said Fuller.
"I could take my submarine offshore to watch for the freighter while you
investigate the port in person."
Everett glanced at the other man. He still hadn't decided how much
faith he could place in the scholar's claim to be working for Naval
Intelligence. "That would require a measure of mutual trust," he
"This is true," Fuller admitted. "You cannot be certain of me, and I
cannot be certain of you, particularly since you're working for Captain
Michaelson. But what alternative do we have? If we dog each other's
tracks, the nationalists will be certain to take advantage of our
Everett hid his surprise at this mention of the senior captain. There'd
be time to consider its implications later. "Very well," he said. "Let's
shake hands on the matter and get to work."
Danang lay on the southern shore of a bay where the Han River emerged
from the narrow corridor of land between the Annamite mountains and the
South China Sea. To the north, a spur of hills formed a peninsula that
guarded one side of the entrance. To the east, the 2200' peak of Son
Tran mountain guarded the other, and served as home to a bewildering
collection of pagodas, monastaries, and temples.
Like many settlements in this part of the world, Danang was a place of
some antiquity, dating back to the Champa Kingdom in the Second Century.
The French had taken possession of the town during the reign of Napoleon
III, using the convenient excuse of protecting Roman Catholic missionaries.
Colonial administrators had attempted to change its name to Tourane, for
reasons that were never entirely clear, but this effort had not won
universal acceptance, and the old name still predominated, except on
public buildings, civic monuments, and sites such as the air station.
The latter was a thoroughly modern facility, with a dozen mooring masts
and their associated handling equipment spread along a field next to the
beach. To Everett's critical eye, it was exposed to artillery fire from
the neighboring heights, but he supposed this was unlikely to be a concern
except in the unlikely event of some nation-wide insurgency. Their arrival
was uneventful, and by time the Stalking Herring made port, they'd
determined that neither the Tranquility nor the nationalists were
"It seems that neither the Germans, Japanese, or British Union of
Fascists has a strong presence in this ville," Pierre reported when they
met in the Flying Cloud's mess hall to plan their next move.
"There are rumors that each maintains a safe house, but if these exist,
"So we need Captain Ray to rock up with the Tranquility and draw
these chappies into the open," Aunt Prodigia observed sourly.
"So it would seem," said Everett. "We will cultivate patience while we
They didn't have to wait for long. Sometime the next morning, Fuller
reported sighting the freighter on a course for the port. "It appears we
were right to trust the fellow," Everett observed. "We now have several
hours to prepare for the vessel's arrival."
"Who do you have in mind for the party?" asked MacKiernan.
Everett considered the matter. They would want to set out in force, given
the possibility of a confrontation with our adversaries. "Aunt Prodigia
must be represented, of course," he observed. "I will also take
Lieutenant Iverson, Miss Sarah, Abercrombie, Davies, Rashid, Loris, and
MacKiernan frowned. "Will this be sufficient if you encounter an armed
Across the table, Abercrombie snorted, "I'll bet ye a shilling we can take
No one paid any attention to the airmen as they crossed the Han River on
the bridge at the old French fort. From there, they worked their way
north along the Son Tra peninsula, identifying piers where the freighter
"Regarde," said Pierre, as they passed the mouth of an alley.
"Someone has struck down a party of stevedores and dragged them off into
"Whatever could have been the motive?" asked Iverson. "They can hardly
have been carrying anything worth stealing."
"That is true," said Everett. "Theirs is not a profession that lends
itself to affluence. Keep your eyes open for anything else out of the
A block later, they came to second group of unconscious figures. These
were quite obviously Japanese. Like their predecessors, they were dressed
"One suspects there was some connection between these fellows and the
first group we saw," Sarah remarked.
"I daresay you're correct," Everett observed. "I imagine these are
nationalist agents who ambushed the first party to assume their identity as
"Then who struck down these fellows?" asked Iverson.
"We still have two nationalist organizations unaccounted for," said
Everett. "They would seem to be the most likely candidates."
The next block brought evidence to support the captain's hypothesis. This
took the form of a party of unconscious Englishmen. Their disguise as
dockworkers was less convincing than their predecessors', for they'd been
unwilling to surrender their pith helmets, walking sticks, and neatly
tailored tropical suits.
"These must some of those British Union blokes," Davies said dryly.
"There seems to be a pattern developing here."
Everett nodded. "Their presence in this condition suggests that a group
of the Fat Man's people is somewhere ahead of us. I trust that you
gentlemen... and ladies... are all prepared to meet them."
Sarah hefted her spear, Rashid fit a stone to his sling, Abercrombie
flexed his muscles, and Aunt Prodigia rolled up her sleeves. "Bonzer!"
said the matron. "Time for another blue!"
They found the Germans making an unconvincing attempt to pretend they
were ordinary dockworkers as they watched the Tranquility back down
to the pier. The ensuing encounter was brief, one-sided, and undoubtedly
won Abercrombie a shilling. By the time Captain Ray strolled down the
gangway, events had reached a conclusion.
"What was that all about?" asked the skipper, gesturing at the
"It would take too long to explain," Everett told him. "I am Captain
Roland P. Everett of the Royal Navy Airship Service. We understand that
you've been carrying a shipment of vacuum tubes. This was destined for
enemies of the Crown. We wish to take possession of it on behalf of
His Majesty's Armed Forces. You will, of course, be compensated for
the value of the contract."
Ray didn't seem entirely surprised by this announcement. "Right, those
vacuum tubes," he said. "A funny thing happened on the way from
Next week: Well, Almost All Roads Lead To Danang...
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