Episode 479: Surely They Couldn't Get Into Any More Trouble
The owner of Bishop's Island Trading Company was a stoop-shouldered New
Englander with a bald skull and oddly fish-like features. He studied Aunt
Prodigia with wide unblinking eyes, as if comparing her with some
description, then reached into a drawer to remove an envelope. His
fingers, Jenkins noted, were slightly webbed.
"Your nieces visited my store earlier this week," he told the matron.
"They told me how to recognize you and left this note in case you followed."
Aunt Prodigia accepted the envelope and gestured for Jenkins to accompany her
as she left the building. Outside, she opened the message and frowned at its
Dear Auntie, Clarice and I are having fun! I've gotten opportunities to
appreciate more adventures now I've left Australia! Emily.
"Caiahf I go ta Manila?" she grumbled in annoyance.
"That is my reading as well," said Jenkins. "One imagines that Miss Blaine
wrote this in haste, and couldn't think of a word that began with `O'. How
long will it take us to reach the Philippines?"
"It's a six day passage," said the matron. "With their airship, the
Warfields could be there long before us."
"Perhaps, but they'll be waiting to ambush the Tranquility,"
observed Jenkins. "They'll have no reason to expect your nieces to
reappear, and they most certainly won't be watching for us."
Aunt Prodigia thought this over. "I reckon you're right," she decided,
"but we'll use a crook registration, just to make sure."
No one paid any attention to the Stalking Herring as she arrived
at Manila under the name Red Horse. ("It's easy to remember,"
Aunt Prodigia offered by way of explanation.) There was no sign of the
Warfield's airship, but Jenkins' inquiries revealed that two young women
matching Clarice and Emily's descriptions had been seen boarding a
Japanese fishing boat. Further inquiries determined that this had come
from some village to the south. Two hours later, the tug was tying up to a
wharf at what must once have been a well-ordered fishing port. This had
been witness to some recent catastrophe. A field to the south was
blackened as if by fire, and piles of debris showed where buildings had
been flattened by a blast. A team of investigators from the American naval
base at Subic Bay was poking through the remains.
"What happened here?" Jenkins asked the officer in charge, a young
lieutenant with a clipboard and a puzzled expression.
"We're not sure," said the lieutenant. "None of the villagers will
admit to noticing anything unusual, but it appears that someone had a
secret air station here and their hydrogen plant blew up. We haven't
found any casualties, so the operators must have enough warning to
"Do you think your nieces could have been involved?" Jenkins whispered to
"Bob's your uncle!" said the matron, with what didn't seem to be
Jenkins shook his head inwardly. "Did anyone happen to notice two young
Australian woman here, one blonde, one brunette?" he asked the lieutenant.
"Not here," said the American, "but I heard that two foreign dolls showed
up at the German sugar plantation the other day."
Jenkins and Aunt Prodigia exchanged glances. "German sugar plantation?"
"I'll draw you a map," said the lieutenant.
The Aryan Supreme Sugar Gesellschaft was located near a station of the
Manila-Dagupan rail line. Like the village Jenkins and Aunt Prodigia had
just left, this seemed to have been the scene of some catastrophe. The
entrance was strewn with twisted railroad tracks and the remains of broken
machinery. Jenkins studied the scene thoughtfully.
"It would appear that these gentlemen maintained a railway system to
transport their produce, and two of their engines collided head on," he
concluded. "I wonder how that came about."
Aunt Prodigia snorted. "Is there any doubt?"
"No," sighed Jenkins, "I suppose there isn't. Let's see what these
gentlemen can tell us about the matter." He approached the laborers who
were clearing away the wreckage and caught the attention of their
"Excuse me," he asked. "Did you happen to notice two young Australian
women here recently?"
The supervisor -- a fierce-looking German with the bearing of a veteran --
glanced up as if about to offer a denial, then seemed to sag in defeat.
"Ja," he admitted. "Those two were nothing but trouble."
"That sounds like Clarice and Emily," muttered Aunt Prodigia.
"So it does," replied Jenkins. He turned back to the German. "I will not
ask how they happened to become your guests, or how events might have
progressed subsequent to their arrival, since I gather these may not be
matters upon which you wish to dwell, but can you tell me how you made
"We found them at Englishers' secret headquarters," grumbled the German.
"We should have left them there!"
"Would these `Englishers' happened to be the British Union of Facists?"
"Ja," said the German. "I'll draw you map."
The British Union's secret headquarters must once have been a substantial
building -- a masterpiece of colonial architecture, with grounds to match.
These had suffered from the explosion and subsequent blaze. The fire
department had arrived in time to prevent the latter from spreading, but
had been unable to save what remained of the building. A team of policemen
was removing what appeared to be rifles from the debris.
"What happened here?" Jenkins asked their sergeant.
"The Limeys who owned this place had an armory in their basement," said the
American. "We're not sure what it was for, but it might have been meant for
the Moro revolutionaries. Something set off all the ammo. No one was
seriously hurt, but we've jailed these guys until their government can
decide what to do with them."
"We're representatives of the Royal Navy Airship Service," said Jenkins.
"Would it be possible for us to visit the place they're being held and speak
with the fellows?"
The policeman seemed delighted by the prospect that someone might take this
problem off his hands. "Yeah," he said, "I'll draw you a map."
The leader of what had once been the British Union's safe house in Manila
was a middle-aged gentleman named Parkhurst. He had the air of a hobbyist,
who'd joined the Fascist organization more as a recreation than from any
real conviction. He seemed to be having second thoughts about this
"I have no idea what the weapons were for," he told them. "We received
orders to purchase them, and had just completed our inventory when those
two lady spies showed up. Were they yours?"
"Not exactly, no," said Jenkins. "I take it you captured them, but they
managed to escape."
"I believe so," said Parkhurst. "The circumstances were somewhat
confused. Forbes informed me that he'd apprehended two agents and
imprisoned them in a storeroom. I was making my way to the wireless room
to ask for instructions when Miles arrived to
announce that the armory had caught fire. After that, we were
preoccupied with other matters."
Jenkins sighed and turned to Aunt Prodigia. "Your nieces display a
remarkable talent for discovering and destroying secret nationalist
headquarters. They couldn't have done a better job if this had all been
"That sounds like Clarice and Emily!" the matron said proudly. "They
always did show a healthy curiosity about the world around them."
Next week: A Few Days Earlier...
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