The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 475: We All Live On a Wolesley Class Dirigible!

Clarice and Emily inspect the Warfield's stateroom

Lady Warfield stood at the stateroom window, watching the sun slip below the horizon. Behind her, Lord Warfield sat at his desk, decoding the latest message intercepts. He glanced up and raised an eyebrow.

"What are you thinking, my dear?" he asked, in the same tone of voice one panther might have used to ask another about its prey.

She gestured at the twilight that was fading from the sky. "These tropical sunsets," she replied. "They're so swift, like the slash of a blade."

The Baron smiled, too polite to actually bare his teeth. "With luck, our coup will prove every bit as decisive."

"Luck," chuckled the Baroness. "That's rather the point of this venture, isn't it?"

"So it is," said the Baron. "These poor benighted fellows don't seem to realize what they have."

Their conversation was interrupted by a discreet knock. They turned to see Bludge standing in the door. His demeanor was as deferential as always. The effect was incongruous, like a buffalo attempting the measures of a dance. "Excuse me," he said. "A problem has arisen that I felt deserved your attention."

The Warfields hadn't gotten where they were by punishing bearers of bad news. "Show us," said the Baron.

Bludge led the way down the keel passage to the cabin they'd adapted for use as a cell. Captain Atherton -- a one-time White Star flight officer who'd been happy to find new employers after a career-ending disgrace -- stood outside, an expression of concern on his face. Lord Warfield glanced through the door and noted the room was empty.

"When did this happen?" he asked curtly.

"We're not entirely certain, milord," said Atherton. "Our... guests... were present to receive their meals at suppertime. Their absence wasn't noticed until Jacobs returned to collect the service two hours later."

"I take it the purser found the door locked," said the Baron.

"Yes, milord. It appears they managed to detach one of the wall panels."

Lady Warfield had entered the compartment to examine the panel in question. She tapped it with the hilt of her dagger, then crouched to retrieve a fastener from the floor.

"They must have secreted some hand tools among their personal effects," she said. "I suppose we should have expected this sort of behavior from Colonials. We'll have to search them more thoroughly after we recapture them. How is the hunt progressing?"

"I'm afraid that it's reached a conclusion, milady," the captain said unhappily. "If you wish, I will show you what we found."

They followed the captain to the cargo hold. At the far end, the great hatch in the floor had been rolled slightly open, revealing a swath of darkness below. A clutter of supplies lay strewn beside it. The Baron prodded these with his toe.

"I assume you've conducted an inventory to determine what is missing?" he asked.

The captain seemed to relax, as if he felt on firmer ground here. "Yes, milord: two parachutes, an inflatable raft, and a case of emergency supplies."

"They must have tossed out the raft and supplies and parachuted after them, hoping to be rescued by some surface vessel," mused the Baron. "We must admire their courage, inconvenient though this might be."

"Do you think they'll be found?" the Baroness asked Atherton.

"I'd imagine so," said the captain. "These waters see considerable traffic. Some passing ship is certain to spot them tomorrow. Unfortunately, we have little chance of finding them in the darkness tonight."

"This may not be necessary," Lord Warfield decided. "They're hardly in a position to betray our plans. They can have no idea what those are. We shall abandon them to their fate and press on."

The Baron left the hold, accompanied by the Baroness and Atherton. Bludge paused for a moment, glanced around the compartment, then followed.

Clarice looked up from the gap in the ceiling through which she'd been watching the proceedings and breathed a sigh of relief. "Strweth!" she whispered to Emily. "I was worried that bloke might have spotted us," she whispered.

"So was I," Emily admitted. "But I reckon we gave them the raw prawn. What gave you the idea of laying a false trail and hiding aboard ship?"

"Captain Everett told me how that Swedish woman stowed away aboard the Flying Cloud. I thought we could give that a go."

Emily chuckled. "You're really sweet on him, aren't you?"

Clarice elbowed her companion in the ribs. "Go on! The man's a big nark! And you're a fine one to talk, the way you're so matey with Jenkins."

"Right," Emily said hastily. "What do we do now?"

"We wait `til these chappies call for resupply, which they'll have to do soon on a Wolseley class, sneak past the anchor watch, which should be easy with a crew this small, go ashore, and see what we can find."

Emily grinned. "I like this plan."

The interior of the hull envelope offered plenty of scope for concealment. The two women found a perch on one of the longitudinals and settled down to wait. The next morning they woke to see the gas cells contracting as the ship began a descent. The thrum of the diesels dropped in pitch, then began to vary as her crew maneuvered to pick up a mooring. This took some time, for they weren't trained to naval standards, but at last there was a clunk as the bow fitting was connected and the engines came to a stop.

Emily and Clarice gave their hosts time to disembark, then edged over to a frame and climbed down to the keel passage. After looking both ways to make certain no one was in sight, they began to make their way forward. As they passed through the accommodation section, Emily noticed a door emblazoned with an ornate `W'.

"This must be the Warfields' stateroom," she whispered to Clarice. "Shall we have a look?"

"Do you think it's safe?" whispered the brunette..

"Dinki di," said Emily. "Even if there's a watchman about, he's hardly likely to come nosing around his masters' quarters."

Clarice jimmied the latch with a bobby pin and the two young women slipped through the door. The interior of the stateroom was richly appointed, with lightweight aluminum furnishings in the latest styles from London. The drawers held a wide assortment of objects. Some of these were alarming.

"I didn't know they could make these out of leather," whispered Clarice.

"I didn't know they could make these out of silk," Emily whispered back.

Clarice held up a small appliance. A power cord drooped from one end. "What could this possibly be?" she asked. "It looks almost like..."

"Best not to speculate," said Emily. "Let's see if we can find anything useful,"

"Like this set of messages?" asked Clarice, holding up a folder.

"Yes, those should do."

The blond produced a notebook and jotted down a transcription as her companion turned the pages. Once she was satisfied, she snapped the book shut.

"Bewdie!" she said cheerfully. "Now let's find out where we are."

Next week: Another Fine Day In The Dutch East Indies...

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