The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 552: And Meet Interesting People Along The Way

Steamer trunk

Clarice and Emily stood on the wharf, watching with interest as a Wollesley class ship lifted from Darwin's air station. "If I read her number right, that's the R-87," Clarice said in surprise.

"Isn't that the ship Michaelson uses for a courier?" asked Emily.

"Bob's your uncle," Clarice replied. "I wonder what they were doing here."

Her companion grinned. "Let's find out!"

The air station lay some distance east of the harbor, but miles mean little to Aussies with a mission, and a short time later, the two young women were talking with the station's commander, Reserve Lieutenant Dabney, in the shack that served as his office.

"Dinky di!" he told them. "It was Michaelson's ship, with Himself aboard. The chappy's a commodore now, with big gold stripes his sleeves."

"I suppose even the Royal Navy Airship Service suffers from the occasional lapse in judgment," Emily remarked dryly. "What was his bizzo in Darwin?"

Dabney made a pretense of glancing around to make sure they wouldn't be overheard -- this was hardly necessary in a building not much larger than police box, but it was important to do these things right -- then leaned closer. "He told me not to let on he was off for a chinwag with George Channel," he said with a grin.

Clarice and Emily brightened at this news. The town's police chief was notorious for his corruption. "Bewdie!" Clarice exclaimed. "I wonder how that drongo took it."

"Let's have a squiz and find out," Emily suggested.

"Wait a second..." Dabney began, but the two had already jumped onto their bicycles and were peddling toward town.

The trip to Darwin's police station took little more time than the trip to the air station. The two women reached the Esplanade in time to see a small lorry set out from the station toward the harbor. A familiar figure sat beside the driver.

"That's Channel," said Emily. "What's he up to with that ute?"

"Maybe he's planning a run with his loot. Let's follow him," said Clarice, getting into the spirit of the thing.

Following the lorry without being seen posed no particular challenge on the narrow lanes of the waterfront district. The vehicle turned north along Bennet Street, passed the church and a fish market, then turned right toward the wharves. It came to halt next to the pier where the police chief's yacht, the No Shortage of Oscar, was moored. Clarice Emily ducked behind a shop, then watched from hiding as two constables emerged and began to transfer what looked like luggage from the lorry to the vessel.

"It looks like he is planning to run!" whispered Emily. "I'd give a lot to know what's in those boxes."

"You aren't thinking of having a look?" said Clarice, all too familiar with how her companion's mind worked.

The blonde studied the vessel with a critical eye. "They don't have crew aboard or steam up, so they can't possibly leave today. We'll wait for dark, then sneak aboard. She'll be apples!"

Night lay deep on Darwin's harbor. The moon, well past full, had yet to rise, and no one noticed as two stealthy figures, clad in the latest fashions from America, emerged from the shadows to creep along the wharf. The lone watchman was enjoying a stubby, and didn't notice as they slipped behind him, picked the lock to the deckhouse, ducked through the door, and eased it shut behind them.

Emily produced a small hand lamp as Clarice pocketed her pick and torque bar. "Where d'you reckon we should look first?" she whispered.

Anywhere but here, thought Clarice, but this sentiment seemed mean-spirited. "Let's start with the owner's stateroom, " she whispered back.

This didn't prove too hard to find, the teak inlays and gold trim being something of a give-away. The lock was every it as unchallenging as the one for the deckhouse, and it was took but a few moments for the two young women to gain access. Once they were inside, the closed the door, pulled curtains across the portholes to prevent any light from escaping, and risked a gleam from Emily's torch.

"Strewth!" whispered the blonde. "Look at this lot!"

Clarice took in all the suitcases and carryalls that cluttered the compartment and nodded. "I rcckon we were right about the loot. Let' s have a Captain Cook at some of this dunnage."

The contents of the containers proved as varied as the containers themselves. One was packed with rocks -- more of the uraninite ore that had figures so prominently in the events of the previous two years. Another contained packets of cash. Clarice and Emily glanced at these, smiled, glanced at each other, and shook their heads. A ledger next to this held a record of transactions they were certain would be of interest to the authorities. They jotted down a copy in shorthand -- they're time spent as secretaries in the railway office hadn't been wasted -- then continued their search. A third case held a piece of scientific apparatus they recognized as Muller Counter, accompanied by several notebook filled what might have been equations in some unfamiliar symbols, a code, or both. A steamer trunk next to it was packed with field clothes sized to fit a man of moderate build, along with a cryptic device of watch-like intricacy. This was marked with geometric patterns and fitted with cord so it could be worn as a pendant. On impulse, Clarice put this on and slipped it inside her blouse. The final case held journals filled with Cyrillic characters arranged in what was obviously a cipher. Clarice studied one, then set it down.

"Some of this must be the swag Karlov left behind after he disappeared from that train to Darwin," she Clarice whispered.

"Dinki di," Emily whispered back. "It seems this is the lot. What should we do now?"

Clarice had been wondering this herself. "I don't reckon we can do more here," she replied. "Let's get back to shore and find some way to tell the Captain and Jenkins what we've found."

They turned to go, but as they did, they heard the tramp of feet on the gangway outside, accompanied by the voices of the crew filing aboard. They dashed from the cabin and rushed for the exit from the deckhouse, but before they could reach it, a key turned in the lock and the door swung open to reveal the figure they'd been dreading.

"Strewth!" Channel exclaimed. "It's Captain Everett's sheila and her mate. What are you doing here?"

Next week: One Step At A Time...

Comments about Episode 552? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit