Token Anarchist : A Charlie Bellman Story
Daring & skilled maneuvers in the air; daring & skilled maneuvers on Casino Island.
Antonia T. Tiger
Big Girl Key was one of the larger keys in the 1000 Keys region, which helped make it visble from the air. but it was only from sea level that the two small hills explained the name. They were, in fact, quite impressive. Keith Lawton was to say, after the race, that he wished he'd found a press photographer to join the Pylon Party, but nobody wanted to miss what Crane was hiring for.
Still, it wouldn't have got the pylon up any faster, and everything was ready, the radio link was netted in, the genset was chugging away, and Imperial 12 was about two miles behind Lufthansa Sechs Neun, both on track to make a nice, sedate, passenger-friendly turn.
"Big Girl, this is Shoshone Skypaths One Seven Spontoon Mirror. Do you read. Over."
"One Seven, Big Girl reads you five and five. Over."
The Lufthansa plane started its slow, gentle turn.
"Roger, Big Girl. Visual on the pylon Passage in three minutes. One Seven Over."
Somebody was watching with binoculars. And sounding rather surprised.
"Roger that. One Seven, be aware that two aircraft are already turning, and you must not interfere with their flight. Over."
"I see them," said Lady Helen, seeing in her mind the time and space unfolded for her turn. She flicked a switch. "Cabin, I hope you're not serving the coffee. Please secure for manoeuvering."
Mottled Deer, a badger, said, "Very sedate... We can turn inside easy."
"Cabin secure. Will Mr Crane start screaming again?"
"Try to hit three four eight for the exit."
One of the simplest tricks of pylon racing is to start your turn before the pylon is abeam.
One of the fancy tricks is to remember that you are flying in three dimensions.
Shoshone One Seven crossed the passage line—the radial from the pylon that you had to cross—flying straight and level at two hundred and forty-seven knots indicated, keel about six feet above the beach, on a collision course with Imperial Twelve. And then it went up, rocket like, into what looked like a vertical zoom climb. You don't expect to get a hammerhead out of a four-engine flying boat, and it looked sloppy, turning a vertical climb into a vertical dive, and a vertical dive in a plane that size doesn't look good.
But Lady Helen pulled out and started the climb away.
"One Seven departing Big Bird for Central. Have a nice day. Over."
"One Seven, your passage is logged. Clear skies."
And, in the cabin, "Coffee with be served shortly."
The Albatross was a cafe-bar on Casino island, a little way up the hill, with a fine view of the lagoon. The outside tables were crowded, but Herr Stauffen had arrived early. He had binoculars, and wore Aviator glasses, And his drink was firmly non-alcoholic.
Sunglasses didn't disguise him, his targets knew him too well, but they hid just where he was looking. His bill was paid up to date. Bellman called it "Berlin Rules", and Herr Stauffen knew he was working with the best, not thugs such as Bradfisch and Hirt. No, not even thugs. You put them with Kurtin, the vampire of Dusseldorf, or Karl Grossman, the sausage maker of Berlin.
And these were the people the Nazi's used. There were SS Officers he actually liked, or at least respected, but not these two.
Bellman had brothers in the British Police. He had spoken with quiet authority on Jack the Ripper, and with derision of the claims of mad royalty. "Royalty can't hide," he said. "Prince Albert Victor wasn't even in London. But a couple of Ripper murders while this Prince Albert is still here—just like his Uncle..."
The plan was surprisingly simple. Bait their prey, separate them, and strike. Still, when he first saw Freya, across the street, his first horrified thought was that Honoured Mother Kaimi wasn't on the plane. It was such a perfect performance.
Hirt was standing. Hirt saw him, waved, and called, "Stauffen. I hope you placed your bets before the odds changed."
Stauffen laughed. "I expect to get better odds on Lufthansa. Will you be passing the Embassy?"
"Ach, nein." Hirt had reverted to German, as he always did under pressure. Kaimi—the real Kaimi—had said it would be a while before he woud notice any danger spoken in English.
"Well, it's nothing urgent, but I'm so comfortable here, and if I go I'll not get as good a seat when I come back." Hirt was getting edgy, almost straining at the leash. "Ah, duty calls, I see. Fare well."
It didn't surprise Stauffen that Bradfisch had a Spontoonie waiter enquiring if his friend was expected to return. Bellman had avoided certain details that, had Stauffen known them would have been professionally embarrassing. Oh, he could work them out, but Bellman would never tell him.
He could hear the next step in the frustration of Untersturmführer Hirt. Wolf Baginski wasn't in disguise, unless you wished to consider a feigned hair-of-the-goat drunkenness, annoyed with clumsy tourists who almost break expensive cameras. And all the while Freya was walking away down the street, window shopping.
And Bradfisch was getting angry. He needed to get to his transport. Transport? On Casino Island during Speed Week? And Transport that could be trusted? Well, Bradfisch would be getting his transport, but Stauffen didn't need to be told that it wouldn't be quite as expected.
Wolf and Hirt were getting a little excited. And a constable had turned up, Untermensch, of course, in Hirt's eyes, and possibly totally outside Bellman's careful plan, but it all put the pressure on Hirt.
Hirt was away, angry, and the Constable was warning Wolf. Who was backing down, reluctantly. And just making it a little awkward for Bradfisch to get away. Stauffen was still uncertain of the Constable, but Bellman did have contacts, and respect.
Stauffen called out, "Waiter!"
"Somebody else can have this table now." Stauffen tipped generously. They might be Spontoonie intelligence agents, but they were also excellent waiters. His job was done, enough, he knew, to implicate him if things went wrong, but what had he really seen? Hirt chasing a native girl? Now it was time to go back to the Embassy, and a hopefully tedious afternoon as duty officer, as least until any bodies might turn up.
Whatever Bellman might do, Stauffen didn't expect there to be any bodies found.
"Fifteen minutes ahead of handicap."
Keith Lawton looked at the display board. It was a little better than most of the racers. "Damn showoff. The crowds must be loving it."
"Sounds like she's flying a race."
Lawton chuckled. "Poor Charlie Crane. He's getting quite a ride. Have a word with the fuel team. My guess is she'll come in for fuel after the next leg." He didn't mention the weather stations that Charles Foster Crane had set up.
The Airfield would be sending up a balloon soon, midnight Greenwich.
He had a feeling the winds would be interesting.
Hans Stumpfel said something else impolite. The Captain of the Lufthansa entry had always known that he wouldn't win. He couldn't bend the handicapping system so much. But this was going to be embarrassing.
"Ja," said his co-pilot.
"A woman," he said, "Flying like a fighter ace!" Hans Stumpfel had flown observation planes, twenty years before, and he had a pretty good idea of what was involved. She'd known the rules and her plane and used that knowledge. "I really shall have to buy her a drink. Such a beautiful move."
"Ja," said his co-pilot.
In the editorial offices of the Spontoon Mirror the Chief Editor was running his eye over the rather expensive front page. Better paper to take the ink, and some slightly hurried rearranging to take advantage of that. If they didn't get close to selling out the run, Mr. Crane would be grumpy.
But what a picture. No, not the front cover. Lady Helen Todd at the Shoshone Skypaths dock, last week. It was part of an entirely respectable sequence documenting the preparation work, and he hoped she was going to let him live.
The captions told the story, how the wing-tip float was being inspected, and it needed some furs to get wet. Lady Helen had jumped in with the mechanics, helped them lift the float.
She'd been wearing slightly baggy denim shorts and a white tank-top, plenty daring enough. Wetted, the white fabric almost wasn't there. She must have expected that. She must have.
So there she was, dripping wet, making notes on a clipboard. Well, he had his written instructions from Mr. Crane, and if she knew that, perhaps that explained the flight he was getting.
And the type was set with the latest timings. He was glad he'd already made his bets. "OK, roll the presses and let's get this paper out on the road!" He heard the warning sirens, down in the press complex. And then the slowly growing rumble as they worked up to speed. Let 'em do this at the Daily 'Elele.
Rolling presses: this was what being a newsman was all about.
Freya, like everyone else, had seen the photographs. Bellman had been clear—this is what had been done to a girl in Berlin, and he had seen some of this with his own eyes. He had a copy of the pathologists report, and a translation, and spoke and read non-medical German, following the text well enough to be confident in the translation. He had, she knew, been backing this with his own reputation. This was not some dirty trick by some government to deal with a couple of diplomats. This was Charlie Bellman, precisely laying out the evidence.
And it went on: the names, how he had come by them, how he had assured himself that his source was correct, tracked down the murderers, and obtained their photographs. Two years of patient, clandestine, detection in Germany, picking up an ugly trail across the country, and matching it to the bureaucratic records of their Secret Police.
He didn't say, exactly, how he'd sourced those files. But there had been an accident which had looked real. He'd seen it. He was confident that there had been no suspicion. "But I got out of town."
Watching him, she had been sure that what he feared most was that he had killed another woman by his actions. Not, perhaps, an innocent, but a needless death.
And then more recent photographs. "They arrived in the Spontoons a month ago. Officially, nobody knows about this file. Unofficially..."
Kaimi had interrupted with a single Spontoonie word which had no exact English equivalent. It went back into legend. Not quite the walking dead, not quite outlawry, but all that was part of it. "I have seen them," she added. "What I see confirms all Bellman has said." There had been a sadness in her eyes as she had looked at him, but he was not alone. He was, in a way, a chosen man.
"What we know suggests something almost like an Act of War. We know they're hunting Lady Helen and Kaimi, and that's why some of you have been acting as bodyguards. You're here, now, being told why, because we have the chance to end things."
"Act of War?" Wolf looked at him. "So we can be at war with the Nazis?"
"Two grisly murders of very well-known women, during Speed Week. Panic the tourists. Ruin the reputation of the Police, make the place seem dangerous. Tourism is the cream on the economic cake. It would be like intercepting a Spanish treasure fleet. And there is damn little we could do about it."
Freya noticed that "we". It was all very rational, but she was Spontoonie. There were things Bellman either didn't know, or didn't believe.
"I want them to see that their targets are guarded. I want them to be frustrated, because this isn't just a job to them. What they did is an insanity, and they have been used by their state. Helen, Kaimi will be one of your passengers on the race-plane, safely out of their reach. And that is when we strike, baiting them with a miracle."
"A miracle, Charlie?" Kaimi seemed amused. "I thought that was my department."
"Freya, with a fur-dye job," said Charlie.
Well, it had worked. She didn't ask how Charlie knew what the Guides trained for, or whether he knew how much she had learned in Seathl, but she was sure: he had built the plan carefully and she fitted precisely into it.
Kaimi had even given her one of her special flowers, and she was certain that not even Charlie Bellman had considered that as an element. She was under thoroughly professional Spontoonie surveillance all the way down the street, but they thought it was a training exercise. Even the Tutor.
She had spotted three, and suspected that one of the three was the same person twice, with a deft costume change and some good acting. In the crowds, they had to keep close, so that was pretty good, and she was wondering if any of them had noticed Hirt. He was getting very easy to notice. "EndEx," murmured a Euro fur. "I don't like the look of that German." She blinked, it was the Tutor. Wearing a Euro clerical collar.
"Agreed," She bowed slightly to him. "Code Red Seventh Eagle. Not your problem."
That did surprise him. "Need anything?"
"There'll be a distraction, for the Euro crowd." She backed away. Louder, "And blessings on your house, sir." They say never piss off a Shaman. Politeness goes two ways.
And that drunken Euro seaman was Saunders, just helping make a slight break in the crowd. Whatever he was drinking was strong, and cheap, and aromatic. She doubted any went down his throat. Hirt was four yards behind, she could see him reflected in a glass door, and the Tutor, blessings on him, was doing an elegantly clumsy excuse-me side-step as she turned down the alley.
And Wolf, trying not to laugh, was a dozen yards behind.
A black-furred dog was kicking the wheel on a hand-cart, which bore a packing crate about six-feet long. He was cursing in fluent German, and you didn't have to understand a word. Freya walked forwards, there was so much more than fur colour that she could still recognise, and on the fifth pace a voice, behind her, said, "Herr Raum!"
The dog stood straight, and blocked her path with an outstretched arm. She didn't know how Charlie had done it, but Hirt thought him an accomplice. She took a last deep breath, felt Hirt slam into her back, and the chloroform pad coming over her muzzle, staggered against Bellman,, and heard him say to Hirt, in rather posh English, "The name's Bellman. Charlie Bellman."
You don't have to be a Guide to stick an elbow into a man's belly, but Freya had high marks in unarmed combat, and you could hardly call what happened to Hirt a fight. At the end of the alley, Saunders and Wolf were having a friendly, slightly drunken, argument. Hirt was Bellman's problem now as she moved towards the open end of the alley, tugging her sarong back into place. Nothing serious.
Bellman's voice was low. "Tell Arabella I sent you." There was a click that a savage little ancient voice in the back of Freya's mind told her not to ask about, but which she knew she would not forget. Kaimi had her reasons for Hirt to have a quick, clean, death. They were not quite Bellman's reasons, but she approved of his.
Some things, she hoped Bellman would never discover. She stepped into the light. "Easy boys, I hear Lady Helen's winning, so why fight?"
Wolf looked at her. "Honoured Mother!"
Freya looked at him with her best "Yeah, so what?" look. You learned some useful stuff in the movie business. And looked at her reflection in the glass of the door. The shadows in the alley were dark, Herr Raum had black fur, nothing looked wrong. She made a little show out of tweaking the orange flower in her hair.
Saunders staggered a yard or two down the alley and threw up.She wasn't sure how he managed it.
Bellman didn't sound German now, maybe American, grousing about drunken tourists and how he'd have to clean up before the boss came back.
Freya looked down the street. Don't overact, this is a close-up, and then called over her shoulder. "Hey, I think I see Momma Popaluma coming." She glanced at Wolf, "Hey, big boy, let's see if we can find a place to watch some real laditod flying. Before he gives you a mop as well."
Wolf, as the Euro tourists saw, was a bit worried. Momma Popaluma must be bad news. They decided to move somewhere else, a wave of suddenly redirected curiousity. Nothing to see here. No, just passing through.
"Latest winds. This doesn't make a lot on sense, but we seem to be able to get good tailwinds both ways." Bear pored over her calculations. "Somebody must have made a mistake."
Lady Helen wasn't the only one to touch her pilot's wings. "We have to trust what they tell us."
"You'd almost think a typhoon was dancing around the islands, but there's been nothing in the reports from shipping." She checked her notes again. "I recommend we fly for economy rather than speed. Our ground speed is going to look plenty good enough."
"Are we good to skip refuelling?"
"Very close, but not enough fuel to climb into those weird high-speed winds."
Lady Helen nodded. "I think our competition will be going for speed. Let them run out of gas." She grinned. "This time we have oxygen. There's one way to get the altitude without burning fuel, but if you guys start calling me 'Dances with Thunder', you'll have to buy the drinks."
"Wouldn't have thought of it," said Bear. "But now you mention it..." She grinned too. "They will be getting the meteor from Eastern Island."
"But can they get the tailwinds?"
"Twelve thousand feet and forty knots on the return leg. Won't they just wish they could. Start cruise climb at seven thousand on this leg."
"And let's try to bore Mr Crane..."