Episode 522: A Few More Barons Than We Expected
MacKiernan studied the American airship that rode from the mast next to
them. It resembled their own Wollesely, but subtle changes to the design
showed it was a product of the Goodyear yard. There were other differences
as well. Where the R-83 was a scarred and aging veteran, her envelope
marked with patches and engine cars streaked with soot from the exhausts,
the stranger was trim as a yacht. Her name was invisible in the fading
light, but there was no doubt regarding her identity.
"That will be the Warfields' Coup de Grace," said MacKiernan.
Miss Perkins nodded. "Do you think they've recognized us?"
"This seems unlikely," MacKiernan decided. "They'll have no reason to
connect this ship with Cairns, and even if they do, her antiquity should
protect us from suspicion. As long as they don't spot anyone they know
among our people, we'll just be another anonymous patrol vessel."
"One wonders what they're doing here," said the secretary. "Their
presence at a place we expected the Drachen can hardly be a
coincidence. Perhaps they intended a rendezvous?"
"But we know them to be allied with the Japanese," MacKiernan objected.
"Do you think they plan some betrayal?"
Miss Perkins shrugged. "It's what they do. We'll want to learn who they
visit while they're here. Can we dispatch Wilcox and Smade to shadow them?"
MacKiernan reflected on the lieutenant's particular talents. Wilcox could
be counted on to call attention to himself while Smade seemed entirely
capable of overlooking the people he'd been instructed to follow. "They
might not be the best choice for such an assignment," he observed. "We'll
have to handle this ourselves. I will require your assistance with the
languages and we'll bring Abercrombie in case of an altercation."
The air station's lighting could best have been described as `meager' and
MacKiernan, Miss Perkins, and Abercrombie had no trouble reaching the
perimeter without being challenged. From there, they made their through the
village to a point from which they could keep the entrance under
observation. To avoid being recognized, they'd dressed as wealthy
planters. This proved fortunate.
"Lord and Lady Warfield, may I congratulate you on your disguise," came a
voice from their left. "I would not have recognized you were it not for
your servant. His physique is... distinctive."
They turned to see a man in a tropical suit gesturing in Abercrombie's
direction. While MacKiernan was fumbling for a reply, Miss Perkins gave a
"You would be the contact we were told to expect," she said.
"Ja," said the man. "Wolfram and his companions wait at the
command post. I will conduct you there."
Bless you, Alice, that was quick thinking! MacKiernan said to
himself. But what have we gotten ourselves into?
The `command post' was located at the edge of the village. It proved to be
a one-room bungalow tucked beneath the palms -- a guest-house, perhaps, or a
hunting lodge for whatever game the island might have offered. Inside,
three men sat at a table lit by a single oil lamp. In its flickering
light, they might have been the very model of modern evil minions.
The leader -- as tall man in his 30s with aristocratic German features --
rose when they entered. "Guten abend, Freiherr und Freifau
Warfield," he announced crisply. "I know you by reputation. Welcome to
Neumecklenburg. I am Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen."
MacKiernan recognized the German word for 'baron'. By now he'd decided
how to exploit their hosts' misapprehension regarding their identity.
"That is good," he replied dismissively. "Tell us of this other airship.
Who are they and what are they doing here?"
"This is a Royal Navy ship, the R-83, that called shortly before your
arrival," said the German. "According to the Naval Register, it is a
fisheries protection vessel from Queensland. We have it under the closest
observation. If they deploy a party, we will know."
MacKiernan and Miss Perkins exchanged glances. It seems they'd both
reached the same conclusion regarding the watchers' competence. "What
about the Drachen?" MacKiernan asked.
This proved to be the right question. "My cousin was called away to
deal with the Englishers," Wolfram told them. "Their Kapitan
Everett has stumbled upon our base on Celebes."
Cousin? thought MacKiernan. How many these barons are
Beside him, Miss Perkins did a good job of pretending disgust.
"Everett," she swore. "How did he find the place?"
"It appears to have been a matter of chance," Wolfram assured them.
"Fortunately Himmler has already moved his force to the advance base.
You will have information about your supposed allies. What do they
MacKiernan thought quickly. He had to assume the `supposed allies'
were the Japanese nationalists -- the alternatives were too numerous to
consider -- but what knowledge was their host concerned about? He'd have
to take a chance.
"They have intercepted an attempt by the Administrator in Rabaul to land
agents on the island they took from you,' he replied. "Did you know of
"Nein!" the German replied in surprise. "When did this occur?"
"Less than two weeks ago," MacKiernan told him. "They will assume that the
Administrator was acting on your behalf in preparation for some move to
retake the place."
The other man smiled. "And so we intend... but not today. This is good
"What is good news?" came a voice from behind them. MacKiernan turned to
see the Lord and Lady Warfield, accompanied by Bludge. The Baron held a
Webley pocket revolver. The Baroness held a poniard. Budge held the
remains of the door.
"Who are you?" Wolfram asked in surprise.
"I am Baron Warfield and this is my Baroness," Warfield replied, in a way
that suggested this should have been obvious to anyone of even moderate
"That is not possible," sputtered the German. "Those are the Baron and
Baroness seated before me."
Lady Warfield's chuckle was far from comforting. "You are mistaken, Baron
von Ricthofen," she told him. "Those are Lieutenant-Commander MacKiernan
of the Royal Naval Airship Service and his companions, Miss Perkins and
Miss Perkins' shoulders slumped. "It's a fair cop," she admitted.
"What do you propose to do with us?"
"That remains to be decided," gloated Baron Warfield. "And since we are
armed, while you are not, the decision is ours to make."
"There is truth to some your observation," Miss Perkins admitted. While the
Warfields puzzled over her meaning, she swept her handbag across the table.
It sent the lamp flying to shatter against the wall, plunging the room into
Baron Warfield laughed from his position by the door. "That was a
clever move, Miss Perkins, but it has gained you nothing. You are still
our prisoners, for we still hold the only exit from this place."
"This may also be a mattter for debate," MacKiernan observed.
"Abercrombie, could you find us another way out?"
"Aye!" said the Scotsman as he demolished the wall behind them. "
Next week: I Suppose We'll Have To Determine Where They Came From...
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