The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Eleven

Episode 517: Kupang Up Appearances

Kupang Air Station, again

Emily spun on her heel to examine their cabin, then grinned. These were the same quarters they'd had the previous times they'd been aboard the Flying Cloud. She recalled those adventures with some glee.

"Bonzer!" she announced. "This trip is off to a good start!"

"Are you sure?" wondered Clarice. "The Captain didn't seem to happy to see us."

"No worries, Clare," the blond assured her. "That was just for show. I'm sure he's chuffed."

A lady might not have snorted in derision, but Clarice was an Aussie. "That's easy for you to say," she retorted. "You've been getting matey with Jenkins. He'll put in a good word for you."

Now it was Emily's turn to snort. "Don't give me the raw prawn! We both know who's sweet on you."

"Go on!"

This calm and measured discussion was interrupted by a knock on door. They opened to it see Sarah waiting.

"The Captain is holding meeting to discuss our plans," the island girl told them. "He knew you'd find a way to listen in, so he invited you to attend."

Everett stood at the window of the mess hall, gazing at the Andaman Sea. Somewhere to the west lay the island where MacKiernan had found Karlov's lab. What was the Russian up to? And what was the relationship between Karlov and his mysterious female adversary? Was this merely some competition for material advantage or did it have a personal element as well? This brought back memories of a face, a name, and a time when the future had seemed certain.

Michaelson and I thought her gone from our lives forever, he thought. What strange twist of fate binds the three of us together?

Footsteps sounded on the deck behind him. He turned as others entered the room. "Welcome gentlemen, and ladies," he said after they were seated. "As you've undoubtedly guessed, we're en route to Kupang to continue MacKiernan's investigation. This task is complicated by the fact that our ship and most of the people aboard, including our guests from Darwin, are known to the German nationalists."

Iverson nodded. Since their adversaries had been the ship's original owners, matters could hardly be otherwise. "Perhaps we could we send a party ashore in the launch," he suggested.

"We must assume they're familiar with it by now. They've encountered it often enough over the past two years. We'll need to try a different approach.

"I propose to use our vessel's notoriety to our advantage. We've given Darwin's police chief reason to believe we're on a secret mission to Western Australia. By now he must have forwarded this information to his confederates in Kupang. That should leave them entirely unprepared for our arrival. While they're off balance, we should have a chance to examine their confidential port records."

"There must be thousands of these," Iverson objected. "How will we find the ones we're interested in?"

Everett smiled. "This will involve a modest histrionic effort on our part while Jenkins employs the Cloak of Invisibility."

Mooring at Kupang was routine. The Administrator might have an understanding with the Germans, but he also understood the graft that could be extracted from a smoothly-running air station. Some agent must have sent a messenger to inform him of their arrival, but Everett had accounted for this in his plans.

"Post an anchor watch, but keep the crew at flight stations," he told Iverson. "I don't anticipate any difficulties here, but we will wish to be prepared for surprises. I'll take Davies with me while Jenkins practices his talents here. You and Mister Murdock are in charge while we're gone."

Kupang had been an important Dutch settlement ever since the 17th Century and its Government House reflected this. The Administrator received Everett and his captain of marines -- or marine, as the case may be -- in chamber suitable for visiting heads of state. If this was an attempt to over-awe them, it only betrayed the man's nervousness.

"Goede middag, herren," he said as they entered. "How may I help you?"

"The Admiralty has grown concerned about an increase in German nationalist activity in this region," said Everett. "They've sent us to track down the cause."

The Administrator's eyes narrowed. "Are you suggesting that members of my office might be involved?"

"Not at all," Everett replied lightly. "We're certain you're as concerned about the situation as we are, and are prepared to offer assistance."

"What form might this take?" the Dutchman asked suspiciously.

"We wish to examine all of your records, both official and private, pertaining to the nationalists hijacking of the L-137 two years ago, as well as any visits by a Pampas class liner named the Fantasima, which we believe might also have come under their control."

The Administrator seemed to relax, Everett could almost see him calculating how long it would take to substitute forgeries. "I'll instruct my people gather the relevant documents," he replied smoothly. "Perhaps you would care for some tea while we wait."

The Cloak of Invisibility was an idea rather than an object. If someone wears garb that's official-looking but unobtrusive, acts as if they belong, and above all, doesn't make eye contact, they can go almost anywhere without being seen.

Jenkins strolled along the halls of the Administration as if on business, taking not to run into any of its occupants, while he kept an eye on the records office. He was rewarded by the sight of a man a conservatively cut suit that simply screamed `government official trying to look inconspicuous' marching down the hall with a set of folders under his arm. The man entered the office and reemerged a few minutes later carrying a similar-looking set. Little tradecraft was required to follow him as he made his way to a door marked `Accounting Supplies: Surplus'. The man ducked through inside, reemerged without the folders, and headed back the way he'd come.

Jenkins waited until the man was gone, then eased his way into the room. As he'd expected, this proved to be a storeroom, whose dust-covered boxes testified to considerable neglect. He spotted the folders, shoved between a pair of ledgers, and smiled inwardly.

It was generous of the fellow to pick out the documents we were looking for and remove them to a place someone could photograph them without being observed, he thought. We must not his efforts go to waste.

Next week: Hunting the Dragon...

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