Episode 547: So That's Where They Are
MacKiernan and Miss Perkins discussed their findings as returned to the
ship. Ahead of afternoon sun gleamed on the slopes of Milman Hill.
Behind them the Tranquility was standing out to sea.
MacKiernan glanced at the freighter and shook his head.
"Captain Ray's news has complicated matters," he observed.
"How should we respond?" asked Miss Perkins.
As an Irishman, MacKiernan felt it was his duty to remain optimistic.
"We'll press on with our mission and hope the next news we receive
makes our lives simpler."
When they got back to the R-128, it seemed this hope had been
"We've received word of HL-62," the radioman informed them. "It seems
they've called at Port Vila for resupply."
MacKiernan considered what they knew of Port Vila. It was capital of the
New Hebrides, the condominium jointly administered by England and France.
To call it `obscure' would have suggested a level of fame that was
conspicuous by its absence. If the Dutch had chosen it to avoid notice,
why hadn't they also taken steps to hide their ship's identity? Not for
the first time, he wondered if they were aware of the kidnapping to which
they'd becoem a party.
"Mister Smade," he asked, "what is the status of our consumables?"
The lieutenant blinked as he'd only just noticed his surroundings.
"We've finished resupply and secured for flight."
"Very good," said MacKiernan. "Order the crew to flight stations and lift
Watching Smade manage the evolution was like watching a cow graze. He
didn't appear to move, but if you looked away for a moment, then looked
back, you find him in a different location. Somehow, this form of
management got the R-128 into the air and up to her cruising altitude
in a respectably short time..
"Heading and speed, sir?" Smade asked.
MacKiernan had already calculated their most efficient course, allowing for
the southeast trade wind. "Give us 115 degrees at 45 knots," he replied.
"115 degrees and 45 knots."
"When will we reach Port Vila?" Miss Perkins asked MacKiernan as the two
made their way back to the crew section at the end of the watch.
"With this headwind, we should arrive around 1600 hours the day after
tomorrow," MacKiernan replied.
"Will that be soon enough to intercept the Dutch?"
"We must be prepared for a long chase," the Irishman admitted. "But we
have twice their range, so even if they're gone, it's only a matter of
time before catch up with them."
""I wonder what those fellows are about?" said Miss Perkins. "Why would
anyone try to kidnap the Admiral?"
"It could only be to prevent him from doing something," said MacKiernan.
"One imagines this involves some intrigue, as Michaelson suggested. I
wonder about the Commodore's interest in this affair. It would seem to be
above his pay grade."
Miss Perkins was silent for a moment, as if weighing her loyalties to him
and her superior.
"He hides his motives well, but he cannot be without ambition," she
replied. "Perhaps he angles for Admiral's position himself."
MacKiernan might only have been a lowly Commander, but he knew how these
things worked. "He hardly has enough seniority," he observed. "Even if he
did, couldn't hope for advancement unless had an interest at the Admiralty
or in the government."
"The Warfields most certainly have some influence," said Miss Perkins.
"Otherwise they could never have avoided prosecution to made it back to the
Pacific and take over Baronet Moseley's organization."
MacKiernan stared at the secretary in surprise. "Surely you don't think
he's working with them!"
"Hardly," she assured him. "They seem the direst of foes. But it's clear
that Michaelson, Lady Warfield, and Captain Everett share a history. Do we
have any idea what this could be?"
MacKiernan shrugged helplessly. "I gather that Lady Warfield was the
Captain's fiancé during the War, but left him to marry the Baron.
That's as far as my knowledge extends. What do we know of the Warfields'
"I've looked into this," said Miss Perkins. "They're both listed in
Burke's Peerage. They've also attracted the attention of the
society tabloids. He's heir to a fairly respectable title and she's the
cousin of a viscount. If we are to believe Bludge, they knew each other
"However did she meet the Captain?" wondered MacKiernan. "He may be from a
respectable family, but its difficult to imagine them moving in the same
Miss Perkins smiled. "Your captain has led an unusual career. He began
his education at a public school rather than the Naval College and joined
the Service in connection with one of Lord Fisher's initiatives. He also
spent some time at the Admiralty before his posting to the
HMS Invincible as a gunnery officer. This might well have
allowed him to cross paths with Lady Warfield."
"What about Commodore Michaelson?" asked MacKiernan "What's his
"This remains a mystery," said Miss Perkins. "He appears on the Navy
List, like Athena springing from brow of Zeus, a few months before
Everett received his commission. I've been unable to find any record
of his family."
MacKiernan raised an eyebrow. "How is this possible?"
"It seems no one bothered to forward this to Australia," said Miss
Perkins. "This is hardly unusual. I've seen plenty of other examples,
but I begin to wonder if this particular one was an accident."
They reached Port Vila to find the HL-62 riding from one of the commercial
masts. MacKiernan studied the airship through binoculars to confirm her
identity, then signaled the air station for a handling party. And hour
later, the R-128 was on a mooring at the other end of the field while he
and Miss Perkins paid a visit to their quarry. Her captain,was the
archetypal Dutchman, needing only wooden shows to complete the image. He
received them in what passed for the vessel's salon.
"Goedenmiddag," he told them. "I am Kapitein Dijkman.
How may I help you?"
"I am Commander MacKiernan, Royal Navy Airship Service, and this is
my... communications specialist, Miss Perkins. We understand you were
chartered for a flight here from Sydney. We'd like to speak to the
"Alas, you only just missed them!" Dijkman said cheerfully. "They
disembarked after we arrived."
MacKiernan suppressed a frown. `Only just missed them' seemed to have
become a theme of this mission. "Do you recall anything about them?"
"The leader was a man named Wasserman."
"Wasserman!" MacKiernan and Miss Perkins exclaimed.
The Dutchman didn't seem to notice their reaction. "Yes," he replied.
"The others kept to themselves and spent their time drinking. One was
so beschon they had to carry him off the ship."
"Do you have any idea what became of therm?" Miss Perkins asked.
Dijkman seeme surpised by this question. "No. After they'd left the
ship, they were none of my bedrijf."
"Did any other vessels leave port before we arrived?" asked
"Let me think. No, there were none. Except for that yacht."
"A yacht," MacKiernan said in a flat voice.
"Ja!. She was a knap schip -- one of the American
copies of your Wollesley class."
MacKiernan sighed. "Her name wouldn't have happened to be the
Coup de Grace."
"Ja. Are they friends of yours?"
Next week: Perhaps Not The News We Were Hoping For...
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