The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 479: Surely They Couldn't Get Into Any More Trouble

Trail of Chaos

The owner of Bishop's Island Trading Company was a stoop-shouldered New Englander with a bald skull and oddly fish-like features. He studied Aunt Prodigia with wide unblinking eyes, as if comparing her with some description, then reached into a drawer to remove an envelope. His fingers, Jenkins noted, were slightly webbed.

"Your nieces visited my store earlier this week," he told the matron. "They told me how to recognize you and left this note in case you followed."

Aunt Prodigia accepted the envelope and gestured for Jenkins to accompany her as she left the building. Outside, she opened the message and frowned at its contents.

Dear Auntie, Clarice and I are having fun! I've gotten opportunities to appreciate more adventures now I've left Australia! Emily.

"Caiahf I go ta Manila?" she grumbled in annoyance.

"That is my reading as well," said Jenkins. "One imagines that Miss Blaine wrote this in haste, and couldn't think of a word that began with `O'. How long will it take us to reach the Philippines?"

"It's a six day passage," said the matron. "With their airship, the Warfields could be there long before us."

"Perhaps, but they'll be waiting to ambush the Tranquility," observed Jenkins. "They'll have no reason to expect your nieces to reappear, and they most certainly won't be watching for us."

Aunt Prodigia thought this over. "I reckon you're right," she decided, "but we'll use a crook registration, just to make sure."

No one paid any attention to the Stalking Herring as she arrived at Manila under the name Red Horse. ("It's easy to remember," Aunt Prodigia offered by way of explanation.) There was no sign of the Warfield's airship, but Jenkins' inquiries revealed that two young women matching Clarice and Emily's descriptions had been seen boarding a Japanese fishing boat. Further inquiries determined that this had come from some village to the south. Two hours later, the tug was tying up to a wharf at what must once have been a well-ordered fishing port. This had been witness to some recent catastrophe. A field to the south was blackened as if by fire, and piles of debris showed where buildings had been flattened by a blast. A team of investigators from the American naval base at Subic Bay was poking through the remains.

"What happened here?" Jenkins asked the officer in charge, a young lieutenant with a clipboard and a puzzled expression.

"We're not sure," said the lieutenant. "None of the villagers will admit to noticing anything unusual, but it appears that someone had a secret air station here and their hydrogen plant blew up. We haven't found any casualties, so the operators must have enough warning to evacuate."

"Do you think your nieces could have been involved?" Jenkins whispered to Aunt Prodigia.

"Bob's your uncle!" said the matron, with what didn't seem to be resignation.

Jenkins shook his head inwardly. "Did anyone happen to notice two young Australian woman here, one blonde, one brunette?" he asked the lieutenant.

"Not here," said the American, "but I heard that two foreign dolls showed up at the German sugar plantation the other day."

Jenkins and Aunt Prodigia exchanged glances. "German sugar plantation?" asked Jenkins.

"I'll draw you a map," said the lieutenant.

The Aryan Supreme Sugar Gesellschaft was located near a station of the Manila-Dagupan rail line. Like the village Jenkins and Aunt Prodigia had just left, this seemed to have been the scene of some catastrophe. The entrance was strewn with twisted railroad tracks and the remains of broken machinery. Jenkins studied the scene thoughtfully.

"It would appear that these gentlemen maintained a railway system to transport their produce, and two of their engines collided head on," he concluded. "I wonder how that came about."

Aunt Prodigia snorted. "Is there any doubt?"

"No," sighed Jenkins, "I suppose there isn't. Let's see what these gentlemen can tell us about the matter." He approached the laborers who were clearing away the wreckage and caught the attention of their supervisor.

"Excuse me," he asked. "Did you happen to notice two young Australian women here recently?"

The supervisor -- a fierce-looking German with the bearing of a veteran -- glanced up as if about to offer a denial, then seemed to sag in defeat. "Ja," he admitted. "Those two were nothing but trouble."

"That sounds like Clarice and Emily," muttered Aunt Prodigia.

"So it does," replied Jenkins. He turned back to the German. "I will not ask how they happened to become your guests, or how events might have progressed subsequent to their arrival, since I gather these may not be matters upon which you wish to dwell, but can you tell me how you made their acquaintance?"

"We found them at Englishers' secret headquarters," grumbled the German. "We should have left them there!"

"Would these `Englishers' happened to be the British Union of Facists?" asked Jenkins.

"Ja," said the German. "I'll draw you map."

The British Union's secret headquarters must once have been a substantial building -- a masterpiece of colonial architecture, with grounds to match. These had suffered from the explosion and subsequent blaze. The fire department had arrived in time to prevent the latter from spreading, but had been unable to save what remained of the building. A team of policemen was removing what appeared to be rifles from the debris.

"What happened here?" Jenkins asked their sergeant.

"The Limeys who owned this place had an armory in their basement," said the American. "We're not sure what it was for, but it might have been meant for the Moro revolutionaries. Something set off all the ammo. No one was seriously hurt, but we've jailed these guys until their government can decide what to do with them."

"We're representatives of the Royal Navy Airship Service," said Jenkins. "Would it be possible for us to visit the place they're being held and speak with the fellows?"

The policeman seemed delighted by the prospect that someone might take this problem off his hands. "Yeah," he said, "I'll draw you a map."

The leader of what had once been the British Union's safe house in Manila was a middle-aged gentleman named Parkhurst. He had the air of a hobbyist, who'd joined the Fascist organization more as a recreation than from any real conviction. He seemed to be having second thoughts about this decision.

"I have no idea what the weapons were for," he told them. "We received orders to purchase them, and had just completed our inventory when those two lady spies showed up. Were they yours?"

"Not exactly, no," said Jenkins. "I take it you captured them, but they managed to escape."

"I believe so," said Parkhurst. "The circumstances were somewhat confused. Forbes informed me that he'd apprehended two agents and imprisoned them in a storeroom. I was making my way to the wireless room to ask for instructions when Miles arrived to announce that the armory had caught fire. After that, we were preoccupied with other matters."

Jenkins sighed and turned to Aunt Prodigia. "Your nieces display a remarkable talent for discovering and destroying secret nationalist headquarters. They couldn't have done a better job if this had all been engineered."

"That sounds like Clarice and Emily!" the matron said proudly. "They always did show a healthy curiosity about the world around them."

Next week: A Few Days Earlier...

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