Episode 439: Tally Ho, Odin Old Chap!
The Viking Girl II reached Rangoon harbor at the turn of the
morning tide. The roadstead was considerably more cosmopolitan than the
air station, with European freighters, Chinese lorchas, Arab dhows, and
Ceylonese oruwas, rubbing vessels that might well have hailed from the lost
continent of Mu. Helga conned her freighter through this medley with an
aplomb that would have done credit to her Viking ancestors, passing Hasting
Shoals and the ferry terminal to back down onto a wharf near China Street.
An hour later, the investigating party was making its way down the Old Road
toward the slaughterhouse district.
Squalor in this `Garden City of the East' was noteworthy by its absence,
but even so, the neighborhood to which their captives had directed them
had some pretensions toward becoming a slum. Scott strolled down its
alleys with every sign of self-assurance -- whether this was due to
arrogance or ignorance was impossible to tell. Helga had a battle axe,
which tended to discourage questions regarding her state of mind.
Murdock followed them, doing his best not to be noticed. Their
destination turned out to be an anonymous warehouse near the Pazundaung
railway station. The proprietor was every bit as unremarkable as his
establishment -- a conservatively-dressed Englishman reading a copy of
the Daily Express. He set this down and glanced with some trepidation
at the figures that barged through his door.
"What can I do for you gents... and lady?" he asked.
"Good day, my man," said Scott. "I understand you handled a load of
"I don't know nothing about it, mate," said the shipper.
Scott tsked in disapproval. "Your statement involves a double negative,"
he observed. "This is grammatically incorrect. It is also blatantly false,
for we have captain Harris in our custody, and he informed us of the
transaction. Where are these machines now?"
The shipper seemed cowed by Scott's arrogance, though Helga's obvious
readiness to split him knave to chops might also have explained his
change in attitude.
"Oh, yes, right, those centrifuges," he replied. "We shipped
them out a week ago on the train to Bhamo."
"Where did they go from there?"
The man glared at them. "How should I know?"
"From your contacts in the British Union of Fascists, who will have
provided you with a destination for the shipment."
"I don't know nothing about any British Union."
"We have already discussed grammar," Scott chided the shipper. "I
believe you have a business relationship with this organization. It
would be in your interest to elaborate on this. Miss Helga, would you
care to offer an argument on my behalf?"
Helga grinned, raised her axe, and brought it down on the man's desk.
The two halves toppled to the floor with a thump.
"It was to be transferred to a spur line for delivery to Burmah
Petroleum's agent in Myitkina," the shipper said hastily. "I have no
idea where it might have gone from there."
Helga studied the man for a moment, then nodded. "I think he saying
all he knows," she told Scott.
"Such was my impression as well," said the inspector. He turned to
the shipper and smiled. "That should suffice," he told the man.
"Thank you for your cooperation."
Word of Scott and Helga's presence seemed to have gone before them, for the
staff at Burmah Petroleum's office on Merchant Street had made some attempt
to bar the door. These efforts proved inadequate to deal with medieval
weaponry, and soon Helga was striding down the halls in much the same way
Ragnar Lodbrok might have strode down the streets of Paris in 845
during his famous sack of the city if he'd happened to have been accompanied
by two 20th Century Englishmen. The clerks were only too happy to direct
the invaders to the manager's office. Helga rapped on the door with her axe
and stepped over the debris, ignoring the ancient Enfield revolver their host
was holding in a quavering fist.
"Hello!" she announced cheerfully. "My friend has the questions! You give
the answers or I chop you into pieces!"
"I have a gun," stammered the manager.
Helga glanced at the weapon and grinned. "Ha! I chop that into pieces
The manager didn't seem encouraged by this observation, and Murdock didn't
blame him. He set down the pistol, straightened his jacket, and did his
best to assume a professional demeanor. "What information do you require?"
he asked Scott.
"We understand you've been shipping cargoes through Mytikina at the bequest
of the British Union of Fascists to some location farther on," said the
inspector. "It would be in your interest to tell us where this might be."
The manager glanced at Helga, who'd produced a whetstone and was touching up
the edge of her weapon, then turned back to Scott. "These threats of
physical violence can only go so far," he observed. "You can hardly expect
me to yield to something the courts would clearly recognize as extortion."
Scott seemed unimpressed by this assertion. "That may be so, but threats
can take other forms." He leaned forward to mutter something into the
manager's ear. Murdock couldn't make out what it was, but it quite clearly
had an effect on their host, for his face turned pale.
"You must understand that I am not a principal in the matter," the manager
told Scott. "I'm merely carrying on policies put in place by my predecessor.
He was the one who established the relationship with the British Union.
From time to time, they pay us to ship cargoes up a private line from
Myitkina to some village to the east."
"Do you know the name of this village?"
"No, but the line is said to run up the valley of the N'Mai river."
Helga studied the manager for somewhat longer than she'd studied the
shipper. "I think this man is knowing more," she told Scott.
"That is most certainly true," said the inspector, "but he's provided us
with enough information to proceed." He fixed the manager with a hard
stare. "You understand what will happen if you pass any word of what has
transpired here to your contacts?"
"Yes, sir," said the manager.
"Good," said Scott. "See that you don't forget."
After leaving the Burmah Petroleum office, Scott stopped by the air station
to make some inquiry. He emerged from the operations shack wearing a
satisfied expression. "Matters are as I expected," he observed in reply to
their implied questions. "Miss Helga, I intend to conduct some business in
Kachin Province. Could you spare a few of your crewmen to assist me?"
The Swedish woman smiled. "That no problem, if Helga gets to come too!"
Next week: Bridge Over The River N'Mai, Part I...
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