The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 439: Tally Ho, Odin Old Chap!

Axe and desk

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 centrifuges recently."

"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 Oil'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 Oil'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 too!"

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 Oil 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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