Episode 491: It Should Be A Simple Matter To Outwit Them
The sun was sinking in the west as the Flying Cloud began her
descent to Singapore's Royal Air Station. By the time the ship was on the
mast, twilight had spread across the sky, painting the clouds with color.
Below this, lights were coming on in the streets of the city.
Captain Everett gave the spectacle an appreciative glance, then nodded to
his bridge crew. "Good work, gentlemen, and lady," he told them. "Loris,
ring Finished With Engines. Mister Iverson, order the crew to mooring
watches. Jenkins, if you'd inform Aunt Prodigia that we've arrived and
summon Davies, Abercrombie, Rashid, and Pierre to the bow station, we'll
go down and discover what Miss Blaine and Miss Wilcox have been about."
Jenkins reflected on the composition of the shore party. "I take it
you're expecting trouble, sir," he observed.
"We will trust it doesn't come to that," said Everett. "But given the two
young ladies' record, we'd do well to be prepared."
A short time later, the party was descending the lift to begin their
investigation. A brief inquiry sufficed to determine that neither woman had
been seen at the air station. The next place to check was the commercial
wireless office near the waterfront. They reached the air station's south
gate to find a constable interrogating the guards. Everett suppressed a
sigh. It was too much to hope for that this might be unrelated to their
"I'm Captain Roland P. Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service," he told the
officer. "May I ask what happened here?"
"It's a strange affair, sir," said the constable. "It appears that two
women might have been abducted from this vicinity. We're trying to
determine if this was actually the case."
"This would have been a young blond and brunette with English features,
dressed in the modern fashion," said Everett.
"Yes," the man said in surprise. "Are they acquaintances of yours?"
Everett was careful not to let any sign of his annoyance cross his
face. "What was the sequence of events?"
"Shortly after the start of the forenoon watch, the guards were distracted
by the arrival of a service lorry. While they were inspecting the driver's
papers, he glanced across the street to see the women in question being
spirited away aboard a motor."
Jenkins caught his captain's eye. "The timing is suggestive," he observed.
"Could the lorry driver have been a confederate of the kidnappers?"
Everett shook his head. "I suspect not, given that he was the one who drew
the guards' attention to the proceedings. We need to discover where the
two young ladies were taken. We will also need to find the
Make a Good Fist before her people can pass the vacuum tubes on to
Beside him, Aunt Prodigia cleared her throat. Everett glanced at her
expression and decided that a quick bit of diplomacy was in order. "The
Warfields can't bring their airship to the rendezvous while we're at the
station," he said. "It also seems safe to assume the yacht's officers were
involved with the abduction. If we can apprehend them, the vessel will be
immobilized. These considerations suggest that we should make finding Miss
Blaine and Miss Wilcox our first priority."
"Bob's your uncle!" said the matron.
Everett instructed the constable to summon some of his associates, then led
his party to the motor pool to secure transport. A familiar figure was
waiting for them -- a slender woman with blond hair and Eastern European
features. Everett's expression hardened as he recognized her.
"Miss Natasha," he said sharply. "I assume that you and your mysterious
adversary are responsible for some of the coincidences we've encountered.
Karlov may not be available at the moment, but you are here at hand. Tell
me why I shouldn't have you held for questioning."
"Because I know where your friends are," the woman replied. "The British
Union took them to their safe house."
It might have been ungentlemanly to stare, but there were exceptions to
this rule. The exercise taught Everett nothing, Natasha's face gave
nothing away. At last he gestured for her to board the motor. "Very
well," he conceded. "If you would provide us with directions."
Clarice and Emily had been bundled into a lorry and driven to a mansion in
the posh section of town. Once there, they'd been escorted upstairs, where
a butler apologized and inspected their handbags to remove Clarice's pipe
wrench, Emily's automatic pistol, and an assortment of hand tools. He
provided them with a receipt, then left them in the hands of their guard.
The guard watched as the two women inspected their new quarters. These were
a guest room on the third floor that the British Union of Fascists had been
adapted to serve as a prison by nailing the windows shut, blocking the other
doors, and removing anything that could plausibly be used as a tool.
"We've heard about you two ladies," he admonished them. "You're not getting
away this time. You will remain in this chamber until the Baron and
"What if we need to visit the loo?" said Emily. "This could become a matter
of some urgency."
It seemed that their captors had prepared for this circumstance. "I will
escort you to the facility one at a time, securing the door behind me,"
the guard replied smugly. "Which one of you wishes to go first?"
Clarice could recognize her cue. "Me!" she said brightly.
"Then let us proceed."
The guard was courteous but alert, and Clarice had no opportunity to escape
as she went about her business. She drew this out as long as she could,
then allowed herself to be escorted back to their room. When they reached
the door, the man ordered her to face it with her hands clasped behind her
while he reached past to undo the bolt. The portal swung open to reveal an
empty chamber, with a lamp lying next the window where it had been used to
knock out one of the panes.
The guard didn't seem impressed. "Come now, Miss Wilcox," he scolded. "We
both listen to the same radio dramas. There is no way you could have escaped
through that small opening and climbed down to the street. We both know
you're hiding behind this door, hoping to slip out when I rush over to check
No answer came from the other side of the panel. At last the guard sighed,
gestured for Clarice to enter in front of him. As he turned to look in back
of the door, Emily emerged from behind the sofa, stepped forward, and rapped
him on the head with a coconut. He collapsed with a thump that was muffled
by the elegant carpeting.
"That chappy was right," the blond said cheerfully. "We do listen to the
same radio dramas."
"Where'd you get the coconut?" Clarice demanded.
Emily pointed to a dresser, where several more coconuts rested on an
ornamental tray. "They are native to this land," she observed. "Do you
know the way back to the air station?"
"Dinki di," said Clarice. "I once memorized a map of this town as part of
The two women expected to be spotted and challenged as they crept down the
stairs, but the British Union's operations didn't seem to be marked by the
same level of professionalism that characterized the other nationalist
groups. They'd slipped out an unguarded door, and were halfway down the
block before a hue and cry rose behind them. Clarice glanced back, then
pointed down an alley. "This way," she told Emily. "I reckon I can find
Everett's motor sped down the street with Davies at the wheel and Natasha
beside him calling out directions. A second motor packed with constables
kept pace behind. They rounded a corner to see a party of smartly-dressed
men racing toward them. Everett recognized several officers of
Make a Good Fist from their encounter on Tahiti and ordered Davies
to brake to a stop.
"Stand fast, gentlemen!" he announced. "You have been apprehended!'
The leader of the band glanced at the constables who were spreading out to
surround them and slowed to a halt. His shoulders slumped in resignation.
"It's a fair cop, " he said. "What happens now?"
"You tell us where to find my nieces!" growled Aunt Prodigia.
It took the captive a moment to make the connection between what must have
seemed like different species. "They escaped and fled back to the air
station," he told the matron. "I'm surprised you didn't pass them on your
Aunt Prodigia glanced at Everett as if she held him responsible. "They
must have taken some shortcut."
"Yes," sighed Everett, "that would be quite like them." Leaving the
constables to deal with the captives, he ordered Davis to bring the
motor about. The drive back to the field passed in silence. They found
Clarice and Emily waiting at the foot of the mooring mast with innocent
expressions on their faces. Emily gave Jenkins a cheerful wave.
Clarice and Everett exchanged cautious glances.
"Captain Everett," Clarice said hesitantly.
"Miss Blaine," Everett replied, "you've led us on quite the chase."
"I hope it wasn't too much trouble."
"Not at all," Everett assured her. "We're grateful you were able to
find the Warfields' yacht. It's fortunate you were also able to find a
"We got help from that Dutch fellow," said Clarice.
Everett frowned. "Dutch fellow?"
Clarice wondered at the captain's reaction. Then, with a sinking
sensation, she remembered where she'd hard the name before. "He was a
shipmaster named Jacob Wasserman. Would this be the fellow who..."
"...betrayed the Fat Man's people to the Governor of Sarah's Island?
Yes. Quickly, where is the Warfield's yacht berthed?"
"At a wharf near the Jurong River. We'll show you the way."
The drive to the waterfront was every bit as wordless as the drive to the
station had been. They reached the wharf to find the
Make A Good Fist gone and her crew milling about the shore in
confusion. Everett leapt from the car and strode past them until he found
a man who appeared to be the bosun.
"What happened?" he demanded.
The crewman tugged his forelock and shuffled his feet uncertainly. "It
was the strangest thing, sir. We were minding our own business when some
Dutch pirates stormed aboard, forced us ashore at gunpoint, and made off
with our vessel."
"Did these fellows have any identifying marks or insignia?"
"No, but they left us a message for someone named Captain Everett. Would
that be you, sir?"
Everett took the note, unfolded the slip of paper, and read it in the light
from a street lamp. It held no surprises.
Captain Everett. Last year you stole a ship from me. Now I return the
favor. This ship may be smaller, but her cargo is more valuable.
"The fellow does not seem gracious in victory," Jenkins observed.
"No, he does not," said Everett. "Still, he is only a player. Who is he
playing for, I wonder?"
Next week: Perhaps Not The Outcome We Hoped For...
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