Episode 552: And Meet Interesting People Along The Way
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
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...
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