The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eight

Episode 350: A Somewhat Enchanted Evening

Hip flask and camera

Nighttime at Tutuila Naval Air Station, American Samoa, was a time of mystery and romance. A gentle breeze, heavy with the scent of the tropics, rustled through the palms. In the distance, surf whispered against some offshore reef. The waxing moon, high in the eastern sky, cast faint shadows across the field.

In the control car of the Wilmington, ZRN-17, Bernie Carson glanced at the moon and smiled. This was much better than their last station, back in the States. The weather was warmer, the beaches were nicer, and the attitude toward discipline somewhat more relaxed. It also offered more interesting social opportunities.

He straightened his uniform and turned to the figure beside him. "What'cha think of our ship, babe?" he asked.

His companion, a young island woman with dusky skin, long black curls, and a sultry smile, was most decidedly not in uniform. She brushed back a lock of her hair, rested a hand on one shapely hip, and looked around in wonder.

"It... how you say, very much large!"

"You bet!" boasted the airman. "She's a Los Angeles Class, almost three million cubic feet, longer than two football fields, with five big Packard diesels that can push her fifty five knots."

The girl seemed impressed. She swayed a step closer and rested a hand on his chest. "What else you have show me?" she murmured.

Gosh, this is going even better than I hoped! thought Bernie. He snuck a glance at the thin fabric of the girl's somewhat inadequate wrap. It seemed ready to fall off -- a process he hoped to expedite. "Come have a look at my radio shack," he said, doing his best to sound suave.

Taking his companion by the hand, he led the way to a small compartment in the rear of the car. While she toyed with his sleeve, he fumbled with a set of keys, unlocked the door, and drew her inside. She reached up to give him a kiss, then turned to stare at their surroundings.

"What all this?" she asked.

Bernie gestured at the ship's wireless station. This was a marvel of modern electronics -- a compact assembly of coils, resistors, capacitors, and vacuum tubes packed into a space not much larger than an upright piano.

"That's our radio set," he said proudly. "With a touch of that key, I can send a radio signal halfway across the globe."

The girl giggled. "Mother always says I should be on radio."

"You should be in pictures, babe!" Bernie exclaimed.

The woman giggled again, somewhat more cryptically. "We'll see."

Bernie eased the door shut and urged his guest toward the radioman's cot. "Sit down and make yourself comfortable," he suggested.

"What if someone see us?" she protested.

"Don't worry, babe," he assured her. "The ship's moored to one of the low masts, so there's no need for regular watches. The only ones aboard are you, me, and Joe back in the tail section. We's got complete privacy. I also brought some of the good stuff."

He took two coffee mugs down from the shelf, then pulled a hip flask out of his pocket. She watched the process with open eyes.

"Where you get that?" she marveled. "This place is dry."

"I got friends on Aunu'u," he said smugly.

"You very smart!" she murmured, reaching for his collar to draw him closer. One hand went around his neck. The other passed over the mugs. It took him several seconds to recover his breath after the kiss.

"Have a drink, babe," he suggested. He might be sure of his conquest by now, but it never hurt to take precautions.

"Cheers," she replied with a smile. She downed a swallow, then waited for him to do the same.

"Gosh!" mumbled Bernie. "Thish shtuff ish stronger than I thought. It..." his voice trailed off as he slumped to the deck.

The woman crouched next to the prone airman, checked his pulse, then lifted an eyelid. Satisfied the man was unconscious, she slipped from the compartment, made her way to the bridge, and slid open a window. A dark-clad figure clambered aboard.

"Is he out?" whispered the man.

"Sleeping like a lamb," answered the woman. "He'll be unconscious for at least an hour."

"Well done, fraulein. Let's get to work."

Back to radio shack, the man took Bernie's keys, and searched through the lockers until he located a flat volume. Satisfied, he reached into a pocket of his jacket to produce an object the size of a cigarette carton.

"Is that a camera?" she asked. "I didn't know they could make them that small."

"It's the latest from the factory in Wesslar. I shall require a flash. Close the door, wait outside, and warn if anyone approaches."

Captain Ritter sat at his desk, gazing at the clock. Frames creaked as the ancient freighter swung at her anchor. Outside, the moon had passed its zenith and was sinking toward the west. At last he rose, crossed to a cabinet, and removed a bottle of schnapps. He contemplated this for a moment, then frowned and set it back on the shelf. The solution it offered was unlikely to be productive.

He'd just returned to his seat when he heard a soft knock on the door. "Entreiten," he said.

The door eased open and a dark-clad figure stepped into the room. "Kapitän Ritter," said the newcomer.

"Herr Jahnke," said Ritter. "Was there any trouble?"

The other man grinned and produced a roll of film. "The American was easy to deceive. He'll sleep soundly until the drug wears off."

Ritter shook his head inwardly. He might not have much sympathy for someone who'd failed so soundly in his duty, but it was hardly the airman's fault he'd been chosen as a target for this operation, and he'd had little chance against such a fearsome adversary.

"Won't he become suspicious and report to his superiors?" he asked.

The agent shook his head. "The girl will remain with him until he awakes, and tell him they what a wonderful time they had. Pride will make him believe her. You will deliver the cargo?"

"As we planned," said Ritter. "Our registration withstood scrutiny, and your hosts can have no idea what a schlange they have clasped to their breasts."

Jahnke smiled at the compliment and passed the film to Ritter.

"Here it is. The Fat Man will be happy to receive it."

Next week: That Was Fun, But Who's Going To Clean Up The Mess?...

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