Episode 490: More Fun In The Straits Settlement
Clarice and Emily watched from the porthole as the Tranquility fell
astern. Captain Ray's freighter didn't seem to have suffered any damage
from the Britisth Union of Fascists' attack. Soon, smoke was rising from her
stack as she got underway.
The door eased open and shut behind them. They turned to see Natasha
looking worried, as if she'd lost a move in some important game.
"What was that all about?" Clarice asked. "We couldn't see zilch from this
cabin." It seemed best to admit as little knowledge as possible to see what
their hostess might give away.
"Those were your friends on the Tranquility, en route to Danang,"
said Natasha. "Edmunds and Collins sent a party aboard to hijack the
shipment of vacuum tubes."
"Where are they taking us now?" asked Emily.
"I'm not in their confidence," Natasha admitted, "but I did overhear Collins
set a course for Singapore. I imagine he intends to rendezvous with the
Coup de Grace."
Clarice considered their hostess' statement. It offered more information
about her status, but left them with a problem. "Once the Warfields get
their hands on those vacuum tubes, there will be no chance of recovering
them," she said. "We need to send word to Captain Everett so that he can
arrive first. Is there any way we can get to this yacht's wireless?"
Nashasa shook her head. "It's too well guarded. They have an operator on
duty day and night."
"She'll be apples," said Emily. "All we have to do is wait until we make
port, sneak ashore, and find a station in Singapore."
Three days passed without incident. Morning of the fourth found the
Make A Good Fist at the entrance to Singapore Strait. The two
young women had a superb view of the coast as the yacht passed the
southern tip of Malaysia, crossed the entrance to the Straits of Johor, and
rounded St. John Island. By afternoon they were lying at a wharf in
Clarice listened to the tramp of feet outside as the yacht's crew went
about their business. This showed no sign of stopping. "How are we
going to get ashore?" she asked Emily. "We can hardly stroll out past
"Perhaps we can," Emily said brightly. "Natasha, do these blokes keep a
log of who's gone ashore?"
Their hostess seemed surprised by the question. "Not as far as I know.
Why do you ask?"
"They have no reason to believe we're aboard," Emily explained. "If we
disguise ourselves as you, then go ashore one at a time, during successive
watches, each watch will think it was you."
Natasha's eyes narrowed. Whether this represented an inability to come
up with an objection to Emily's plan or disbelief that anyone could think
of something so nonsensical was impossible to tell. At last she sighed.
"Khorosho. You will need suitable wigs and clothing. I have all of
Emily's plan wetn without a hitch. No one recognized her or Clarice as
they left the yacht. Men have little idea what a woman can accomplish by
the skillful application of makeup. Unfortunately, the schedule of
watches meant that Clarice couldn't depart until after the second dog
watch had begun. By the time the two women had made their rendezvous
and located the commercial wireless station near the Jurong River, the
office was closed.
"This is crook," muttered Clarice as she scowled at the sign.
"Strewth," agreed Emily. "Shall we try the air station?"
"That's on the other side of town," noted Clarice. "It will take us hours
to get there unless we find a cab."
Emily looked around for a jitney, tugged at her companion's arm and pointed
to an old island freighter that was moored at a nearby wharf. "We may be
circling Robin Hood's barn," she observed. "That chappy has a radio mast.
Let's knock on his door and ask to borrow his wireless."
She called to a deckhand who was dozing next to the gangway. His
nationality was difficult to determine, but his narrow skull, hairless
features, and the hint of webbing between his fingers suggested that he
hailed from one of the more obscure islands of the Pacific. He stirred,
looked up, and blinked at them with wide bulging eyes.
"Forgive me, I was fhtagn," he told them, in an odd mixture of BBC
English and some quaint island dialect. "How may I help you?"
"We would like to speak with your captain to ask if we can use his
wireless," said Emily.
"I don't imagine that will be a problem," said the man. "Wgha'nagl
here while I inquire."
The vessel's captain was a middle-aged Dutchman who introduced himself as
Jacob Wasserman. Something about this name nagged at Clarice, but the
memory slipped away before she could grasp it.
"You must be recent arrivals," he said courteously. "I am certain I would
have noticed someone so boeiend."
Clarice wasn't sure what a boeiend was, but something about the
man's mannerisms seemed less than sincere.
"Dinki-di," said Emily. "We're on the yacht that just came in. Our
wireless is out of order, and we were wondering if we might borrow yours to
send a message to a business associate."
"But of course," said the shipmaster. "If you'll follow me."
He led the way to the radio shack, switched on the power, then retired to
allow them some privacy. Emily had already coded the message, so
transmitting it took but a moment. A short time later, they were back on
"Thank you, Captain Wasserman, you've been very helpful," Emily told their
"Graag gedaan," said the Dutchman. "It was a pleasure to be of
"I'd say that went fairly well," Emily observed after they were back on
"I suppose," Clarice replied dubiously. Something about their erstwhile
host's name still bothered her. "Where should we go now?"
Emily yawned and rubbed her eyes. It had been a long day. "I reckon we've
done enough for now," she decided. "Let's find some lodging, then head to
the air station tomorrow to wait for the Captain."
"I reckon it's Jenkins you'll be waiting for," Clarice said archly.
"Go on!" Emily protested. "We both know you're sweet on the Captain."
"Right," chuckled Clarice. "Sure thing."
The two young women had little trouble finding a jitney the next morning. A
short ride took them to the air station's southern gate, where a notice
board listed the mooring mast assignments.
As they were crossing the street to examine it, a voice called out from
"Sir, it's them! The ones She Who Must Be Obeyed told us to watch out for!"
They turned to see one of the officers from the
Make A Good Fist, flanked by a party of crewmen. Even as they
watched, the latter were moving to cut off their escape.
"So it is," said the man. "Miss Wilcox, Miss Blaine, you've led us a merry
chase, but I fear your flight is over."
"Oops," Emily whispered. "We should have guessed these chappies would be
waiting at the air station too."
"Do you have any ideas?" Clarice whispered back.
"Not at the moment, no."
Next week: It Should Be A Simple Matter To Outwit Them...
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