The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 521: Tanks For The Memories

Adler Standard 6

Everett, Jenkins, and Davies examined what was left of the Adler. The automobile had undergone a substantial transformation. Once a proud example of German engineering, now it lacked a third dimension.

"I take it the occupants escaped," Everett observed to Jenkins

"It appears that they'd disembarked prior to the collision," said the signalman. "This would have allowed them plenty of time to flee. It's not as though their nemesis was particularly fast."

The airmen looked over to where the Waltzing Matilda stood. The tank had careened across the street, demolishing a water trough and several fruit stalls before it came to halt. Clarice and Emily stood beside the hatch looking like the very pictures of innocence.

Everett suppressed a sigh. "I trust you have an explanation for this," he told them.

"Too right!" Emily replied indignantly. "Those nits tried to pinch us! What else would you expect a girl to do?"

Something that didn't involve tanks, mused Everett, but he kept this thought to himself. "How did you manage to get the engine running?" he asked. "In Darwin it took four of us to turn the crank."

"Someone installed a compressed air starter, like the one Aunt Tremenda has on her power shovel," said Clarice. "It's quite the bees knees!"

"I notice that they also refitted the cannons," Davies observed.

"Dinki di!" said Clarice. "But we never got a chance to use them."

Everett glanced the brunette. Was that a hint of smile? He allowed a smile to cross his face as well. "I must congratulate you on the way you acquitted yourselves," he said graciously. "Please allow Davies and me to escort you back to the air station while Jenkins determines who was responsible for this incident."

"I inquired about town," Jenkins sometime later. "No one would admit to knowing who owned the tanks or where they came from."

"Surely the customs office must have some record of the vessel on which they arrived," observed Everett.

"This was not particularly informative, for it didn't include a name," said the signalman. "One imagines this might have been our friend Captain Ritter and his Inselmädchen."

"He would have brought the machines here from Gilolo," mused Everett. "We may wish to look into this later. What about the motorcar and the property where they were parked?"

"These belonged to some visiting German agronomist," said Jenkins. "He also owns a copra plantation some distance to the east."

Everett thought this over. "We will send Iverson and Miss Sarah on the motorcycle to investigate the place," he decided. "Instruct them to be circumspect."

The road east from Manado was more in nature of adventure than actual thoroughfare. Rutted, potholed, with numerous wash-outs and several water crossings that might have been better tackled with oars than wheels, it required some resourcefulness to negotiate. Still, representatives of the Royal Naval Airship Service were expected to rise to these challenges, and Iverson and Sarah managed to journey without undue mishap.

They stopped short of the plantation to consider how best to approach it. Everett had advised them to be circumspect, but it wasn't clear how to accomplish this aboard a motorcycle. At last Iverson decided to amend the term to include such concepts as `loud' or `impossible to ignore' and forged on ahead.

He needn't have worried about their reception, for the place proved empty. Open doors and abandoned farm implements suggested that the inhabitants had left, apparently in haste. The only sign of life was a rustling in the trees overhead. Iverson looked up to see a colony of fruit bats -- one of the several species indigenous to this island -- nesting in the branches. As far as he could tell, none had an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly rubbery-looking body, or prodigious claws on its hind and fore feet.

"There's no one about," Sarah said in disappointment. "I was rather hoping we could find someone to question."

Iverson glanced at the island girl, wondering if her interest lay in the results of an interrogation or the process itself, then decided he didn't want to know. "Let's have a look at the grounds and see what they left behind," he said.

They'd halted in front of a modest bungalow that must have belonged to the owner. This was flanked by a dormitory for workers and an assortment of storage and drying sheds. The yard behind these had been adapted for use as a rifle range, with a line of targets standing front of an earthen embankment. Its users had taken some pains to collect spent brass, but Iverson spotted several of the 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridges the German nationalists seemed to favor scattered about the firing line. A nearby shed might have served as an armory, but the only trace of its contents was a row of empty gun racks.

"What is this?" asked Sarah, pointing to a field to their left.

Iverson looked to see that someone had staked out the grounds for tents. These lay where they'd been dropped, like a circus in the process of being dismantled. On the far side of these, three men were dismounting from a wagon. A sign on its side proclaimed `Van der Linden's Tent Rentals And Party Supplies. No job too big, no job to small!'

"Let's ask these gentlemen what they're about," said Iverson.

The men tipped their hats as Iverson and Sarah approached -- whether out of courtesy of respect for the island girl's spear was impossible to tell. "Goedmiddag," said one. "How may we help you?"

"We were wondering why all these tents were lying about," said Iverson. "Did the owner hold some celebration here?"

The man shrugged. "I would not know," he replied. "Meneer Himmler rented them from us a month ago. He was very specific about where and how they were to be placed, but we never learned why. The rent was over yesterday, so we've come to pick them up."

"Where is Mister Himmler now?"asked Iverson.

"He wasn't here when we arrived," said the man. "Perhaps he was called away to town. I don't see his automobile."

"This would be an Adler Standard 6?"

"Ja! A fine motorcar!"

You're unlikely to see it again, thought Iverson, but there seemed no reason to mention this. "Thank you for your information,' he replied politely. "Miss Sarah and I will leave you to go about your business."

Next week: A Few More Barons Than We Expected...

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