The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 415: Interview Strategies

MacKiernan and Miss Perkins question Miss Kim

Back at the R-46, MacKiernan and Miss Perkins met to discuss the attacks. Of particular concern was the possible allegiance of the attackers, for this could have profound implications.

"We need to determine if these fellows were working for the nationalists," said MacKiernen. "If they were, that would mean our `cover has been blown', as they would say in the radio dramas."

"I've spoken with the constabulary here in Rabaul," said Miss Perkins. "As far as they know, none of these fellows had any connection with the Fat Man. Abercrombie and Wilcox's assailants had a record as petty thieves, and the chap Smade dealt with was of a similar stamp. This suggests these were ordinary criminal assaults."

"What about other nationalist groups?" asked MacKiernan.

"It's unlikely those could operate freely in a German possession," Miss Perkins observed. "His Imperial Highness' gendarmerie takes a dim view of such things. Did you learn anything new from the Administrator?"

MacKiernan gestured at the chart spread out before him, which he'd marked with a collection of overlapping circles. "German Naval Intelligence believes the Fat Man's people maintained a base in the Northern Pacific prior to their falling out with the Japanese. They weren't able to determine its location, but they did record sightings of agents known to have visited the place. By plotting when and where these occurred and estimating travel times, I've been able to identify several possibilities. It seems those hours I spent making inventories of old navigational records back in Cairns didn't entirely go to waste."

"Perhaps that was why Michaelson sent you to the archives."

MacKiernan's eyes widened. "You think he arranged all this deliberately?"

"The Captain works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform," Miss Perkins said dryly. "What are these possibilities you've identified?"

"The most promising candidates are the Northern Mariana Islands, the Okinawas, the Volcano Island chain, and the Bonin Islands. The first belong to Germany, the others belong to Japan, and all are remarkable for their obscurity."

His companion frowned. "They're also spread over a sizeable area," she observed. "We can't possibly examine them all with this ship."

MacKiernan began to protest in defense of his command, then reconsidered. It seemed more strategic to save his resources for a contest he could win. "Then it may be time to talk with our guest and see if she can shed more light on the physical geography of the place," he said. "Unfortunately, she's been rather close with her knowledge."

"She's keeping it for bargaining purposes," said Miss Perkins. "In a land of strangers, it's the only coin she has. We need to prompt a revelation. Do we have one of the cufflinks she was carrying?"

"Why?" MacKiernan asked in bewilderment.

Miss Perkins glanced at the Irishman as if amused by his naivety. "There are only a limited number of reasons a woman would have one of a man's personal belongings in her possession," she observed.

"You think there's some association between her and Lieutenant Commander Forsythe?"

"It might explain some of her reserve," said Miss Perkins. "It's been said that Koreans are the Irish of Asia, but even so, theirs is not a demonstrative culture. If you introduce the matter into conversation, it might throw her off balance."

MacKiernan did his best to hide his thoughts. Has she always been this Machiavellian? he wondered. That time on the Viking Girl II, did she actually have feelings for me or was that just an act?

He sighed, unsure he would ever know the answer. "We'll give this a try," he replied.

MacKiernan decided to conduct the interview in the R-46's mess hall. Its austere functionality would establish the atmosphere he wanted. If Miss Kim was intimidated by his choice of venue, she gave no sign of this. She seated herself across from him and Miss Perkins as if she was taking a seat on a bus. MacKiernan couldn't help but admire her sang-froid.

This was the first chance he'd had to take a close look at their passenger. She was short and reserved, with pronounced East Asian features, and dark hair done up in the oddly-placed pony-tail that seemed de rigueur for women from her part of the world. Her expression was more than usually enigmatic. If Koreans were the Irish of Asia, she didn't seem a particularly demonstrative one.

"Good afternoon, Miss Kim," he said politely. "I trust you're finding your quarters comfortable."

"I have no complaints," she replied, with only a slight trace of an accent on the last word.

MacKiernan nodded to himself. This would be a tough nut to crack. "We've made some progress in determining the location of the German nationalists base where you were held, but we need more information."

"I will tell you what I can," she said. Once again, her accent was barely perceptible.

"Thank you," MacKiernan replied. "Before we begin, I have an unrelated question. Where did you obtain this cufflink?"

The woman stared at the item in his hand. Was it his imagination, or did he sense a flicker of emotion? "From man name Forsythe," she replied hesitantly. "He held at Japan base. He give them as proof I there." Her expression remained unchanged, but her accent, vocabulary, and grammar seemed to have deteriorated markedly.

"What was your association with him?" asked MacKiernan.

"He friend."

MacKiernan tapped the cufflink against the table, then put it back in his pocket. The woman watched the movement like a castaway watching a ship steam toward the horizon.

Beside him, Miss Perkins cleared her throat. "He's our friend too," the secretary said with a gentleness MacKiernan could have sworn was genuine. "If you can help us, we might be able to rescue him. What can you tell us about the landscape surrounding the German base?"

"It was jungle. We not have jungle Korea. It much unfamiliar..."

"That seemed fairly productive," Miss Perkins remarked to MacKiernan after they'd sent Miss Kim back to her quarters. "I trust you'll be able to make something of this material."

The Irishman glanced down at their notes and reflected on the means that had been used to collect them. Was it right to pry into someone's personal life and take advantage of their vulnerability in this way? He supposed that all might be fair in love and war, but why did he feel such a cad?

Miss Perkins touched his shoulder. He looked up to see concern in her eyes. "I know what you're thinking, Fergus," she said softly. "Your scruples do you credit, but I'm afraid that's the way the game is played. And remember, our adversaries have no scruples at all."

The man touched his forelock before he delivered his report. "Baroness, we have news from our agent in Borneo. It seems inspector Scott was asking questions at the oil company offices."

Lady Warfield's chuckle was not the sort one used to reassure young children. "Then I believe we can conclude who sent him," she remarked lightly. "He won't learn anything in Kuching. The Baron was careful to take care of that connection. What has Everett been up to?"

"He doesn't appear to have left the ship, but our agent reports that our new associates made an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap one of his officers."

"Interesting," said the baroness. "I see Michaelson's hand in this. He will be using Everett as a stalking horse to make our Japanese friends reveal themselves. Do we have any idea where they took the professor?"

"Not yet."

"We'll let Michaelson find the man for us. Then we'll take him for ourselves."

Next week: ...Find An Archaeologist...

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