The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 410: "If You've Lost A Scientist..."

Lab-coated silhouette with question mark

After the party returned to the Flying Cloud, Scott demanded that Everett fly him to Jakarta. Constrained by his orders to assist the Inspector, Everett had little choice but to agree. The flight gave him and Jenkins ample time to reflect on their guest and his mission.

"For someone who's supposedly investigating the kidnapping of a passenger from an ocean liner, this Scott of the Yard fellow has shown remarkably little interest in the victim," Everett noted.

"This may just be an illusion," said Jenkins. "I had a chance to examine Professor Koshino's stateroom after you and Scott departed, and he seems to have collected most of the most important evidence for himself. In particular, he made off with all of the professor's papers. This may just be due diligence on his part, but it does raise questions about the man. I also wonder why the Admiralty sent someone to investigate what should be the business of the Americans."

"We can't be sure who sent him," said Everett. "The man is a civilian. For all we know, he might have been forced upon the Admiralty by some party in Whitehall."

"That may be so," Jenkins admitted, "but it was the Admiral's office in Sydney that inflicted the man on us. Where does Wentworth fit in?"

"I'm reluctant to guess," said Everett. "But a man doesn't rise to Wentworth's position without being political. This suggests there are powerful factions at work. We'd do well to tread cautiously until we know who they are."

They reached Java without incident. Mooring was routine, and soon the Flying Cloud was riding from a mast at Jakarta's air station, surrounded by shipping from a dozen different nations. Scott departed as soon as the accommodation ladder was lowered, leaving his hosts to speculate regarding his intentions.

"Whyever does he want to visit the Ducth East Indies?" asked Iverson. "This is fifteen hundred miles from the site of the attack on the Grover Cleveland."

"Perhaps he has reason to believe Professor Koshino planned to come here," Jenkins suggested. "There's regular service passenger between here and Manila. Scott could well have found a ticket among the professor's belongings. If we can confirm that this was Koshino's destination, this might give us some insight into our guest's motives."

"Should we pay a visit to the Countess to ask what she might know?" Sarah asked brightly. The sparkle in the island girl's eyes suggested she remembered the visit she'd made with Iverson.

"I'm not sure this would be wise," said Jenkins. "We must assume that Scott was briefed regarding her career during the War and her friendship with the Captain. He may be watching for us to commit some indiscretion."

"If that's the case, he might also grow suspicious if we don't contact her."

Everett smiled. The long competition with Michaelson had taught him how this game was played. "We'll send her a letter saying that we have fond memories of our previous visit, but regret we can't enjoy her hospitality this time because we're carrying an inspector from England on business. She can put two and two together. Even if Scott intercepts the message, it will tell him nothing. In the meantime, you will visit the port office to look over their shipping records while Pierre and Rashid ask around town for word of the professor."

Visiting an office to check their records was all part of a day's work for members of the Signal Corps. So was spotting the watchers. There were two of these -- quite obviously German nationalists given their pronounced Teutonic features and the obvious disdain with which they regarded their surroudings. It would have been an easy matter for Jenkins to slip past them unobserved, but he decided against this. They must know the Flying Cloud had been sent to investigate the piracy. Best to let them see what they expected to see.

A bored-looking clerk looked up from his magazine as Jenkins entered. "Good day Mijnheer," he said politely. "How may can I help you?"

"I would like to examine your shipping records for the past several weeks. Here is my authorization from the Royal Navy."

The clerk seemed suitably impressed by Jenkins' credentials. "This seems to be in order," he replied. "Is there any other way I can help you?"

Jenkins made a show of thinking this over. "Have you happened to see my colleague Mister Scott? He gave me to understand that he might be pursuing some inquiries of his own here."

The clerk gestured at the empty office around them. "I don't recall anyone by that name. I'm sure I would have noticed if he'd been here. As you can see, this is not a very busy place."

This was hardly the first time Pierre and Rashid had investigated the seamy side of the waterfront. Pierre was at ease in these surroundings. He'd grown up in a harbor district that was seamier than most. Rashid might have preferred the desert in which he'd spent his own youth, but he supposed the South Pacific wasn't too terribly different. Palm trees and sand were the same everywhere.

Their inquiries brought them to a shop in the Old City. Inside, a man with the manner of a retired professor was comparing a blurry photograph of a dark rock in some Eastern European setting with an entry in an ancient leather-bound volume with a German title.

"Bonjour, monsieur Wilmarth," Pierre told him. "You're looking well."

The shopkeeper smiled. "This island climate is much better than those New England winters. What can I do for you today, Pierre? Are you buying or selling?"

Pierre slid a banknote across the counter. "What can you tell me about an American professor named Koshino?"

Wilmarth glanced at the bill, then pushed it back. "Not much, I'm afraid. The name is vaguely familiar. I believe he's a chemist at some university in Chicago, but that's all I know."

"What could bring a man of his specialty to this part of the world?"

The shopkeeper spread his hands helplessly. "I can't even begin to guess. Chemistry is not my field. But I've heard that a team of archaeologists from Illinois has recently arrived in the Pacific. Perhaps there's some connection."

Pierre pushed the note back. "Merci," he said. "Has anyone else from our ship been asking about this gentleman?"

"Not that I know of," said Wilmarth, "and I would hear of such things."

Back at the ship, Everett listened to his men's reports with interest. "This effort was not fruitless," he concluded after they were finished. "We've determined that Professor Koshino might be a chemist who might have been planning to meet these archaeologists Pierre's informant spoke of. Unfortunately, we still don't have any definite information about the man."

"We also don't know what Scott was up to," said Jenkins. "He doesn't seem to have made any inquiries here in Jakarta. Where could he have gone?"

The answer to this question arrived in the hands of a postal courier. Everett tipped the man, waited for him to leave, then opened the envelope to find a perfumed note in an elegant feminine hand.

Dear Roland,

I'm sorry you didn't have an opportunity to visit. It would have been wonderful to see old friends. I received a call from Mister Scott. He was a charming gentleman. We reminisced about a mutual acquaintance: a lady you may remember from before the War.

Your friend,

Jenkins must have noticed his captain's expression. "Sir?" he asked in a concerned voice.

Everett set down the letter and shook his head. "It's from the Countess," he told his aide. "Scott paid her a visit. We were right to wonder about the man. It seems he's looking for Lady Warfield."

Next week: Days of Thumper...

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