The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 491: It Should Be A Simple Matter To Outwit Them

Missing the boat

The sun was sinking in the west as the Flying Cloud began her descent to Singapore's Royal Air Station. By the time the ship was on the mast, twilight had spread across the sky, painting the clouds with color. Below this, lights were coming on in the streets of the city.

Captain Everett gave the spectacle an appreciative glance, then nodded to his bridge crew. "Good work, gentlemen, and lady," he told them. "Loris, ring Finished With Engines. Mister Iverson, order the crew to mooring watches. Jenkins, if you'd inform Aunt Prodigia that we've arrived and summon Davies, Abercrombie, Rashid, and Pierre to the bow station, we'll go down and discover what Miss Blaine and Miss Wilcox have been about."

Jenkins reflected on the composition of the shore party. "I take it you're expecting trouble, sir," he observed.

"We will trust it doesn't come to that," said Everett. "But given the two young ladies' record, we'd do well to be prepared."

A short time later, the party was descending the lift to begin their investigation. A brief inquiry sufficed to determine that neither woman had been seen at the air station. The next place to check was the commercial wireless office near the waterfront. They reached the air station's south gate to find a constable interrogating the guards. Everett suppressed a sigh. It was too much to hope for that this might be unrelated to their quest.

"I'm Captain Roland P. Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service," he told the officer. "May I ask what happened here?"

"It's a strange affair, sir," said the constable. "It appears that two women might have been abducted from this vicinity. We're trying to determine if this was actually the case."

"This would have been a young blond and brunette with English features, dressed in the modern fashion," said Everett.

"Yes," the man said in surprise. "Are they acquaintances of yours?"

Everett was careful not to let any sign of his annoyance cross his face. "What was the sequence of events?"

"Shortly after the start of the forenoon watch, the guards were distracted by the arrival of a service lorry. While they were inspecting the driver's papers, he glanced across the street to see the women in question being spirited away aboard a motor."

Jenkins caught his captain's eye. "The timing is suggestive," he observed. "Could the lorry driver have been a confederate of the kidnappers?"

Everett shook his head. "I suspect not, given that he was the one who drew the guards' attention to the proceedings. We need to discover where the two young ladies were taken. We will also need to find the Make a Good Fist before her people can pass the vacuum tubes on to the Warfields."

Beside him, Aunt Prodigia cleared her throat. Everett glanced at her expression and decided that a quick bit of diplomacy was in order. "The Warfields can't bring their airship to the rendezvous while we're at the station," he said. "It also seems safe to assume the yacht's officers were involved with the abduction. If we can apprehend them, the vessel will be immobilized. These considerations suggest that we should make finding Miss Blaine and Miss Wilcox our first priority."

"Bob's your uncle!" said the matron.

Everett instructed the constable to summon some of his associates, then led his party to the motor pool to secure transport. A familiar figure was waiting for them -- a slender woman with blond hair and Eastern European features. Everett's expression hardened as he recognized her.

"Miss Natasha," he said sharply. "I assume that you and your mysterious adversary are responsible for some of the coincidences we've encountered. Karlov may not be available at the moment, but you are here at hand. Tell me why I shouldn't have you held for questioning."

"Because I know where your friends are," the woman replied. "The British Union took them to their safe house."

It might have been ungentlemanly to stare, but there were exceptions to this rule. The exercise taught Everett nothing, Natasha's face gave nothing away. At last he gestured for her to board the motor. "Very well," he conceded. "If you would provide us with directions."

Clarice and Emily had been bundled into a lorry and driven to a mansion in the posh section of town. Once there, they'd been escorted upstairs, where a butler apologized and inspected their handbags to remove Clarice's pipe wrench, Emily's automatic pistol, and an assortment of hand tools. He provided them with a receipt, then left them in the hands of their guard.

The guard watched as the two women inspected their new quarters. These were a guest room on the third floor that the British Union of Fascists had been adapted to serve as a prison by nailing the windows shut, blocking the other doors, and removing anything that could plausibly be used as a tool.

"We've heard about you two ladies," he admonished them. "You're not getting away this time. You will remain in this chamber until the Baron and Baroness arrive."

"What if we need to visit the loo?" said Emily. "This could become a matter of some urgency."

It seemed that their captors had prepared for this circumstance. "I will escort you to the facility one at a time, securing the door behind me," the guard replied smugly. "Which one of you wishes to go first?"

Clarice could recognize her cue. "Me!" she said brightly.

"Then let us proceed."

The guard was courteous but alert, and Clarice had no opportunity to escape as she went about her business. She drew this out as long as she could, then allowed herself to be escorted back to their room. When they reached the door, the man ordered her to face it with her hands clasped behind her while he reached past to undo the bolt. The portal swung open to reveal an empty chamber, with a lamp lying next the window where it had been used to knock out one of the panes.

The guard didn't seem impressed. "Come now, Miss Wilcox," he scolded. "We both listen to the same radio dramas. There is no way you could have escaped through that small opening and climbed down to the street. We both know you're hiding behind this door, hoping to slip out when I rush over to check the window."

No answer came from the other side of the panel. At last the guard sighed, gestured for Clarice to enter in front of him. As he turned to look in back of the door, Emily emerged from behind the sofa, stepped forward, and rapped him on the head with a coconut. He collapsed with a thump that was muffled by the elegant carpeting.

"That chappy was right," the blond said cheerfully. "We do listen to the same radio dramas."

"Where'd you get the coconut?" Clarice demanded.

Emily pointed to a dresser, where several more coconuts rested on an ornamental tray. "They are native to this land," she observed. "Do you know the way back to the air station?"

"Dinki di," said Clarice. "I once memorized a map of this town as part of a wager."


The two women expected to be spotted and challenged as they crept down the stairs, but the British Union's operations didn't seem to be marked by the same level of professionalism that characterized the other nationalist groups. They'd slipped out an unguarded door, and were halfway down the block before a hue and cry rose behind them. Clarice glanced back, then pointed down an alley. "This way," she told Emily. "I reckon I can find a shortcut."

Everett's motor sped down the street with Davies at the wheel and Natasha beside him calling out directions. A second motor packed with constables kept pace behind. They rounded a corner to see a party of smartly-dressed men racing toward them. Everett recognized several officers of Make a Good Fist from their encounter on Tahiti and ordered Davies to brake to a stop.

"Stand fast, gentlemen!" he announced. "You have been apprehended!'

The leader of the band glanced at the constables who were spreading out to surround them and slowed to a halt. His shoulders slumped in resignation. "It's a fair cop, " he said. "What happens now?"

"You tell us where to find my nieces!" growled Aunt Prodigia.

It took the captive a moment to make the connection between what must have seemed like different species. "They escaped and fled back to the air station," he told the matron. "I'm surprised you didn't pass them on your way here."

Aunt Prodigia glanced at Everett as if she held him responsible. "They must have taken some shortcut."

"Yes," sighed Everett, "that would be quite like them." Leaving the constables to deal with the captives, he ordered Davis to bring the motor about. The drive back to the field passed in silence. They found Clarice and Emily waiting at the foot of the mooring mast with innocent expressions on their faces. Emily gave Jenkins a cheerful wave. Clarice and Everett exchanged cautious glances.

"Captain Everett," Clarice said hesitantly.

"Miss Blaine," Everett replied, "you've led us on quite the chase."

"I hope it wasn't too much trouble."

"Not at all," Everett assured her. "We're grateful you were able to find the Warfields' yacht. It's fortunate you were also able to find a wireless."

"We got help from that Dutch fellow," said Clarice.

Everett frowned. "Dutch fellow?"

Clarice wondered at the captain's reaction. Then, with a sinking sensation, she remembered where she'd hard the name before. "He was a shipmaster named Jacob Wasserman. Would this be the fellow who..."

"...betrayed the Fat Man's people to the Governor of Sarah's Island? Yes. Quickly, where is the Warfield's yacht berthed?"

"At a wharf near the Jurong River. We'll show you the way."

The drive to the waterfront was every bit as wordless as the drive to the station had been. They reached the wharf to find the Make A Good Fist gone and her crew milling about the shore in confusion. Everett leapt from the car and strode past them until he found a man who appeared to be the bosun.

"What happened?" he demanded.

The crewman tugged his forelock and shuffled his feet uncertainly. "It was the strangest thing, sir. We were minding our own business when some Dutch pirates stormed aboard, forced us ashore at gunpoint, and made off with our vessel."

"Did these fellows have any identifying marks or insignia?"

"No, but they left us a message for someone named Captain Everett. Would that be you, sir?"

Everett took the note, unfolded the slip of paper, and read it in the light from a street lamp. It held no surprises.

Captain Everett. Last year you stole a ship from me. Now I return the favor. This ship may be smaller, but her cargo is more valuable. Wasserman.

"The fellow does not seem gracious in victory," Jenkins observed.

"No, he does not," said Everett. "Still, he is only a player. Who is he playing for, I wonder?"

Next week: Perhaps Not The Outcome We Hoped For...

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