by Captain W. E. Johns



III.   BIGGLES GETS A SHOCK  (Pages 35 – 41)


Biggles returns to Zabala which is the headquarters of the German Intelligence Staff in this sector and also home to two German squadrons, one of single-seater Pfalz Scouts and the other of two-seater Halberstadts.  “But for Hauptmann von Stalhein he would have been almost at ease.  Of all the Germans he had met during his journey across Europe, and in Zabala, none filled him with the same indefinable dread as von Stalhein, who was Count von Faubourg’s chief of staff”.  (This is, of course, the first reference to Erich von Stalhein, Biggles long time enemy who was to appear in numerous future books).  “In appearance he was tall, slim and good-looking in a rather foppish way, but he had been a soldier for many years, and there was a grim relentlessness about his manner that quickly told Biggles that he was a man to be feared.  He had been wounded early in the war, and walked with a permanent limp”.  “Unlike most of his countrymen, he was dark, with cold brooding eyes that were hard to meet and held a steel-like quality that the monocle he habitually wore could not dispel”.  Biggles notices that all the Germans engaged in Intelligence work wear a signet ring like the one given to him.  “His own, when opened, displayed a tiny dagger suspended over a double-headed eagle, with a small number 117 engraved below”.  Biggles goes and changes into his German uniform and is requested to report to the Count.  Von Stalhein is also there when Biggles arrives.  The Count asks him where he has been and then asks him why he landed behind British lines and why he visited the Headquarters tent of the British Intelligence Service.  Biggles keeps calm and says he landed there to ensure he could land with impunity and he was called to the HQ because he had said he was a delivery pilot and they wanted to know if he was going to Heliopolis so he could deliver a personal message to someone there.  He is then asked “Who was the other officer with Major Raymond?”  Biggles, who is astonished at the knowledge of the German intelligence services, says he does not know, he saw someone and just assumed they were an assistant.  Von Stalhein merely watches Biggles with a puzzled smile.  Having got away with his explanation, Biggles steps outside where “his knees seemed to sag suddenly, and his hands turned ice-cold although they did not tremble”.