Episode 371: Can We Have Samoa Again?
They'd taken the Flying Cloud east toward American Samoa, staying
south of the direct route to avoid shipping lanes and the regular airship
flights from Pago Pago to the Solomons and Australia. Now Everett had
summoned MacKiernan and Jenkins to review what they'd discovered on Vanua
Lava and plan their next move. The atmosphere in the captain's stateroom
was a mixture of exasperation and calculation.
"Did you and Miss Perkins find anything of note when you explored the
island?" Everett asked his exec.
MacKiernan frowned. "No, captain. Neither did Iverson and Miss Sarah. The
air station manager in Sola went out of his way to mislead us. He pretended
to dissuade us from investigating the interior, knowing this would draw our
attention away from the town itself."
"He must have been working for the Japanese nationalists," mused Everett.
"If it hadn't been for Mister Murdock, we'd never have discovered the
"Do you believe the lieutenant's information is accurate?" asked Jenkins.
Everett couldn't quite suppress a smile. "A young lady sulphur smuggler,
apparently smitten by his charms, told him that the mysterious cruiser was a
regular visitor to Sola? This seems too unlikely to be an invention."
"Quite," Jenkins admitted. "Where does that leave us?"
"We've learned that the Fat Man plans to take an `American ship'," said
Everett. "We assume this is the USN Sunnyvale. To intercept the
vessel, he would need some way to anticipate its movements. Michaelson has
speculated that he's receiving intelligence from some agent in Pago Pago. We
will wish to track down this hypothetical agent. We've also learned that
smugglers are running sulphur from Vaua Lava to Tutuila. It might be
profitable to locate these entrepreneurs and determine what they know of the
"I assume we'll be sending a party ashore in the launch," said MacKiernan.
"Who do you have in mind for the investigating team?"
"I may have to go myself in case we need someone of command rank to deal with
any officials," said Everett. "I'll want Jenkins along to handle
communications and any situations that might require subterfuge. I'll also
take Mister Murdock, to take advantage of any knowledge he may have acquired
during his previous visit to Tutuila. The experience should be good for his
As a child, Murdock had read about small boat operations -- landing parties,
infiltration missions, assaults, and cutting out expeditions. If the reality
was somewhat less comfortable than fiction, he was too thrilled to notice.
Two hours of stomach-churning motoring with the swell on their starboard
quarter brought them to Pago Pago, where they tied up next to an anonymous
wharf. He leapt ashore burning with excitement.
"Stay close, Mister Murdock," said Everett with what might have been a smile.
"We wouldn't want to lose you in the crowd."
"Yes sir!" said Murdock.
It was quite the crowd. The men were a varied lot: smartly-unformed naval
personnel, sun-tanned islanders in breechclouts and sarongs, weather-beaten
sailors in salt-stained seamen's garb, and strangely-dressed merchants from
the far corners of the Earth. The women's clothing, such as it was, was
appropriate to the tropics. Murdock did his best not to stare, but this
forbearance did not seem to be reciprocated.
Why are they looking at me like that? he wondered.
And why are they all smiling at me?
"Where will we visit first, sir?" he asked Everett, uncomfortable with all
"I believe the Admiralty maintains an attaché here," said the captain.
"We'll pay the fellow a visit."
American Samoa was not large enough to warrant a full-fledged embassy from
a major Power. The British Foreign Office presence took the form of a
legal office, trading exchange, and tourist bureau. The attaché -- a
retired captain who might well have served in Nelson's day -- doubled as
the Lloyd's representative. He seemed unsurprised to see them.
"Good day, Captain Everett," he said politely. "I received a coded message
from Cairns to the effect that you might pay a visit. I take it from the
absence of your airship that your arrival was not intended to become
"We saw no need to advertise our presence," said Everett. "It concerns a
matter of some sensitivity. We have reason to believe someone at the naval
air station is leaking information to a German nationalist group."
"I can understand why you might not want to bring this up with the
station's commander," said the attaché. "Some of these Colonials
can be martinets, who don't take well to criticism. It may have something to
do with their Puritan ancestors. We did well to kick the fellows out of
England after Cromwell's day. But I digress."
"Do you have any idea who the information leak might be?"
Their host sighed. "There are too many possibilities," he observed
ruefully. "The station commander is not the sort of fellow who inspires
great loyalty among his enlisted personnel. American pay scales are not
particularly extravagant, so it would be natural for someone to seize a
chance to supplement them. There is also the lure of... social
opportunities. But I'll make some inquiries."
Murdock did his best to hide his disappointment as they left the
attaché's office. This business of espionage was not turning out to
be as exciting as the radio dramas suggested. Where were the secret
messages, the desperate struggles, the clock ticking away as the hero raced
to disarm the hidden bomb? He'd trailed slightly behind his companions when
he noticed two women beckoning to him from an alley. This was more like it!
Perhaps these were contacts! Though he'd imagined contacts would wear
somewhat more clothing.
"Good day, ladies," he said, as casually as he could. "How may I help you?"
"Sir!" said one of the girls, tugging at his arm. "We came to warn you!
Someone's going to attack the British airmen!"
"What a remarkable coincidence!" Murdock remarked. "We're British airmen
The girls stared at him with a mixture of exasperation and amazement. "No,
you don't understand!" said the other. "You're the ones they're going to
Murdock thought this over, then looked around. "I suppose I really
should inform the others," he observed. "Did you happen to see where
they got to?"
"Well, that was invigorating," Everett remarked as he and Jenkins disposed
of the last of their assailants.
Jenkins produced a clothes brush and began to see to his captain's attire.
"Quite," he replied. "If you'll allow me. I believe this collar may need
to be pressed."
"We can see to it when we... I say, do you see any sign of Mister Murdock?"
"He was lagging behind as we turned the last corner," said Jenkins. "I
was about to call this to your attention when these miscreants interrupted
Everett walked back to the intersection they'd just left, looked both ways,
and shook his head.
"Bother!" he exclaimed. "We appear to have misplaced another lieutenant.
Fortunately, I know just the man to help us find him."
Next week: The Big Sheep, Part II...
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