Episode 489: This Time We'll Get It Right
Captain Ray seemed amused by his experience. It seemed that his career
as a merchant skipper in the South Pacific had taught him to take such
things in stride. "A funny thing happened on the way to Singapore," he
told Everett and Aunt Prodigia. "We were three days out, passing the cape
at Day Truong Son, when this bonzer armed yacht pulled alongside, fired a
warning shot, and ordered us to heave to. We reckoned it was more of those
cultists, like the chappies who attacked the old Emma back in `25,
so I told my mates to get ready for a blue. It turned out they were
just a bunch of toffs, after some shipment of electronic values we picked
up in Darwin. What do you make of that!"
Everett declined to answer what was obviously a rhetorical question. "What
happened after these gentlemen made their demand?" he asked.
Ray shrugged. "There didn't seem much point in fighting over a crate of
vacuum tubes when we were only getting paid for cartage, not when those
blokes had a deck gun," he replied cheerfully. "So we dug it out of the
holds, handed it over, and bid them on their way."
"Did you happen to get the name of their vessel," Everett asked, though
he'd already guessing the answer.
"Dink-di," said Ray. "It was the Make A Good Fist. Bewdy of a
name for a pirate ship, eh?"
Aunt Prodigia seemed unimpressed by this observation. "Did you spot two
young women being held aboard the yacht?" she demanded. "One would have
been blond, the other brunette."
The skipper consulted his memory. "I did see one blond sheila having a
chinwag with the officers, but she didn't look like a prisoner. They were
all acting like mates."
Another one of the Warfields' minions, thought Everett. He filed
this information away, bid the man adieu, and gestured for his companions to
follow him back to the lorry they'd hired for the trip to the harbor. Thety
clamberd aboard, waited for Aberctrombuie to crank the engine, then settled
down for the ride back to the air station.
"That wasn't very helpful," Aunt Prodigia grumbled.
"My nieces are still missing, and now that bloke's lost your vacuum tubes."
"Perhaps," mused Everett.
"I have begun to wonder about our Captain Ray.
He showed up at the White Russian's secret lab after the German nationalists
attacked to salvage that load of barbed wire, returned to make off with
their abandoned steam tractor, arrived at Serua just in time to pick up
Fleming, and has made several other appearances at places connected with
our elusive friend Karlov."
"Do you think he might be working for the fellow?" asked Iverson. "Could he
have surrendered the vacuum tubes deliberatly?"
"We must consider the possibility," said Everett. "According to Howard
Phillips, Karlov used to take passage with aboard his freighter. He would
have needed some other way of getting about after the Germans sank Phillip's
vessel off Timor, and the Tranquility has been in the right places
at the right times."
"Then why didn't you confront the bloke?" asked Aunt Prodigia.
"That would only reveal our suspicions," said Everett. "I believe it would
be better to pretend disinterest, provide him with a suitable length of
rope, and see what use he puts this to."
"And how will this help us find my nieces?" growled the matron.
"I don't believe they could be in any immediate danger," Everett replied,
quite truthfully. "They've shown considerable ability to look after
themselves. And we have a mission to locate those vacuum
tubes and retrieve them from the hands of the nationalists."
Aunt Prodiga seemed unimpressed by his arguments. "You Royal Navy blokes
also have a mission to protect subjects of the Crown. That's why we pay
taxes!" she snapped.
Everett had to admit that the matron had a point. Chivalry also demanded
they come to the rescue of two young ladies, though he suspected their
potential captors might be the ones in need of rescue. "There's little we
can do in pursuit of either mission until we know where Miss Wilcox, Miss
Blaine, and the vacuum tubes might be bound," he replied diplomatically.
"Fortunately, we are not without resources. There is reason to believe
your nieces took passage from Manila to French Indochina. We'll send
queries to British commercial agents the various ports to learn if
they've been sighted. We'll also ask Mister Fuller to forward any
communications he might receive regarding the
Make A Good Fist's destination."
"Are we sure we can trust the man?" asked Iverson.
"To some extent," said Everett. "It would be premature to take his claim to
be working for Naval Intelligence at face value, and he almost certainly has
some agenda of his own, but he had no reason to reveal himself to us here in
Danang when he could just as easily have slipped away when he got word of
our arrival. I will take this as evidence intends to cooperate with us, at
least for the moment."
The cooperation, if that's what Fuller intended, was not notably productive.
Three days passed with no word from his submarine other than routine
position reports. Then, on the evening of the fourth, Jenkins emerged from
the Flying Cloud's radio shack wearing a perplexed expression.
"Sir," he told Everett. "We've received a coded message from Miss Wilcox
and Miss Blaine, transmited from some unidentified station in Singapore."
"In Singapore?" marveled Everett. "However did they end up there?"
"They offer what I'd sure they imagine is an explanation," said the
signalman, "but this raises as many questions as it answers."
Everett studied the plain text and raised an eyebrow.
EMILY AND CLARICE ARRIVED SINGAPORE ON MAKE A GOOD FIST WITH VACUUM TUBES
"We're quite certain they're the ones who sent this?" he asked.
"It was in the cipher Miss Blaine and I arranged," said Jenkins. "Also,
this does seem to be the sort of exploit in which the two young ladies revel."
"So it does," sighed Everett. "I suppose we'd better take steps to rescue
them from the consequences of their initiative. Mister Iverson, prepare to
lift ship. Jenkins, send word to the Stalking Herring and inform
Aunt Prodigia of this development. I imagine she'll wish to accompany us."
Next week: More Fun In The Straits Settlements...
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