The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 313: Shiver Me Diesels!

Marty's ship over the Banda Sea

The landlady stood at the entrance to the lodging house like the guardian of some medieval dungeon. In another era, she would undoubtedly have been wearing a leather hood and carried an axe.

"Good evening Miss Grendal," Miss Perkins said politely.

"Miss Peal, you were out late."

Miss Perkins replied with an innocent smile. "I stopped at my church to speak with my pastor about Sunday's lesson."

The matron scowled, annoyed at being outflanked in this battle for the moral high ground. "There's a letter for you," she growled. "You will find it on your dresser." Her expression suggested that she didn't approve of unmarried women receiving mail, or any other form of attention.

Miss Perkins thanked her and made her way upstairs to her room. The envelope lay on her dressing table, as the landlady had said. It had been opened, but the code would have foiled far more sophisticated foes than Miss Grendal. Miss Perkins counted off the letters, applied the key, and deciphered the message in her head.


She didn't need to consult a map to locate the street. It lay near the financial district -- an excellent choice for a rendezvous. It would be a natural place for a secretary to meet a friend for lunch, and the crowds would provide anonymity.

The next day found Miss Perkins studying a menu, watching the door to the café out of the corner of her eye. She recognized her contact when he entered, for she'd taken the precaution of studying files on most of the Admiral's staff. He was a middle-aged clerk named Anders who'd been at Hawkesbury since before the War -- sufficiently long that he was unlikely to be a sleeper. She had no fear he might recognize her as Michaelson's secretary. A woman's fashions and makeup offered plenty of scope for disguise.

He glanced around the diner as if consulting some mental map, then approached her table. "Are you Karen?" he asked.

"You must be Laura's brother," she replied. "She told me about the kangaroos and the castor oil."

"Oh," he recited woodenly, "that was just a childhood prank."

"I brought her book back," Miss Perkins said, passing him a copy of The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle. He opened it, glanced at the banknote wedged near the description of the landing on Spidermonkey Island, and nodded.

"The order to call off the investigation came from the Admiralty. It seemed an ordinary complaint about the waste of public funds -- we get any number of these from the Exchequer -- but you're not the only ones who've taken an interest in the matter." The clerk glanced over shoulder, then leaned closer. "Janis has been asking questions."

Who the devil is `Janis'? wondered Miss Perkins. Could this be some alias for Lady Warfield? "When did she become involved?" she asked.

The man's eyes narrowed. "Janis isn't a `she', it's a `he'."

Miss Perkins knew better than to draw more attention to her lapse by trying to cover it up. "Very well," she replied. "I'll watch my step. Do you have the other information I wanted?"

The man handed her a box of chocolates. "You'll find a copy of the original report inside. Good day.... Karen."

She watched him leave, then returned to her menu. Long practice made it easy for her to act as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, but something about the encounter left her uneasy. The clerk had seemed frightened. Why?

The AT-38 called at Kupang disguised as a commercial packet, the Evita, LV-AIE, out of Buenos Aires. Her lines might be French, but this was not implausible for an airship from Argentina, and her design was so generic that no one gave the vessel a second glance. A load of passengers -- bitumen prospectors from Buton -- completed the masquerade.

Leaving Al and Books to oversee resupply, Marty and Jake made their way a bar near the waterfront to meet the Resident's agent. The place was stark, plain, and entirely lacking in atmosphere -- little more than a facility to dispense alcohol -- which made it an excellent choice for a rendezvous. The other clients would be too busy drinking to notice what was going on at the next table.

The agent was a hard-faced product of one of the world's less altruistic colonial administrations. He brushed through the door, glanced around, and made his way to their table like a bailiff delivering a summons. "You're late," he announced.

Marty shrugged. "Pickings was good, so we stayed out a little longer. Here's your man's cut." He pushed a newspaper across the table. The agent counted the bills folded inside the sports section and gave a curt nod.

"It seems you're profiting from our association," he said. "This is good. Here is the new registration you wanted. It cost a bit more than we expected." He produced an envelope, set it on the table, and named a figure.

Jake swore. "That's twice what we agreed."

The agent smiled the smile of a man who held a monopoly. "Times are hard."

"Yeah, we can see that," Marty said sarcastically. "Here's your dough. Don't spend it all on booze."

"Why didn't you let me punch that guy's lights out?" Jake asked when they were back at the ship.

"That wouldn't have solved our problem. We'd still have to pay off the heat," said Marty, gesturing in the general direction of the Government House. "Best to let these guys think they got us where they want us. Al, you learn anything at the Station?"

"Someone from the Royal Navy's been asking questions about `acts of piracy'," said the skipper. "They showed up on a modern ship, two and half million cubic feet enclosed volume, with three engines. Sound familiar?"

"It's our buddy Everett," Marty said in delight. "Sounds like he's sending us a message. It's time for us to clear out, boys."

Books recognized the look on his boss's face. "Whatcha got in mind, Marty?"

The gangster grinned. "I been reading some books about pirates. If we're gonna make this gig work, I figured we could use some tips from the pros. It seems that the major players -- guys like Drake, le Clerc, and Roberts -- didn't waste their time going after shipping. They hit the towns. That's where the big money was."

His men's faces lit up as they considered the possibilities. "That sounds sweet, Boss," said Craig. "You got any places picked out?"

"Not yet," said Marty, "but I got some ideas where to look. We'll blow this joint, get a new place to resupply, and line up fences to buy our loot. Then we'll find ourselves some nice juicy targets."

Next week: Escape Can Work Both Ways...

Comments about Episode 313? Start a new topic on the Forum!

StumbleUpon        submit to reddit Reedit