by Captain W. E. Johns



III.                   THE SECOND ROUND  (Pages 60 – 90)


I   -   At half past eight the following morning, Biggles is going over the Cormorant aircraft when Assistant Commissioner of Police, Colonel Raymond rings.  Biggles says “Hello, sir, you’re an early bird this morning”.  “It’s the early bird that catches the worm, you know”, was the cheerful reply.  “Not always.  Sometimes he catches a slug – in the back of the neck,” contradicted Biggles.  Raymond wants Biggles to meet somebody and Biggles agrees to go to Raymond’s office.  “He steered his Bentley out of Whitehall into the courtyard of the famous police headquarters”.  Biggles is introduced by Raymond to Sir Guy Brunswick, the head of the General Transportation Insurance Corporation.  That is the insurance company for the firm Biggles is working for.  Sir Guy says he suggested that Carstairs should consult Colonel Raymond with a view to introducing Carstairs and Cronfelt to Biggles.  Biggles says to Sir Guy “I hope you are not going to suggest that I act in any way detrimental to the interests of my employers, or put over what is aptly called in the United States a “doublecross” by divulging to you, or any one else, the inside activities of our business”.  “Either I work for them, or I don’t,” went on Biggles bluntly.  “If I do, then nobody else comes into the picture”.  Sir Guy tells Biggles that he thinks the robberies are not just for personal gain but part of a scheme of far greater magnitude “for gold is king, and a nation without gold in its cellars to-day is in a sorry plight”.  Sir Guy says if Biggles can run this gang of crooks to earth, he personally, will pay Biggles ten thousand pounds and Sir Guy’s firm will add another five thousand.  Algy rings to say that Biggles is needed.  Sir Guy knows that Parkinson’s Bank have asked Cronfelt & Carstairs to move a shipment for them.  Biggles is unaware that his employers have circulated the leading London bankers and bullion brokers telling them they are open to accept charters of gold and precious stones.  Raymond warns Biggles not to underestimate this gang.  “Remember, you don’t know who you are up against”.  Biggles threw him a curious smile.  “Perhaps you’re right” he said quietly as he went out of the door, “but I have an idea”.


II   -   Biggles arrives back at the aerodrome just as the private van that had delivered the latest shipment of gold is leaving.  Algy says the bank has rung up in a panic as one of the bullion boxes has been left behind by accident and they are rushing it down by special car.  The extra gold arrives and is loaded and then Biggles and Ginger take off, escorted by Algy again.  Biggles flies the direct route to the French capital.  As they reach the French coast, they smell smoke and Ginger checks and informs Biggles they are on fire!  Biggles does an emergency landing on the beach (He had flung the Cormorant into a steep side-slip, and was dropping like a stone - is the frontispiece illustration taken from a line on page 70).  They land and get out.  Biggles discovers the pungent reek of smoke is stannic chloride and not a real fire.  With no sign of Algy, Biggles and Ginger see an approaching big, open touring car and are fired upon by machine-gun.  (Racing down the hard, sandy beach at terrific speed was a big, open touring car - is the illustration on page 73).  “You can’t fight a machine-gun with a pistol” Biggles says as he and Ginger flee for the cliffs.  The car pulls up at the plane and the gold is stolen by men in gas-masks.  When Biggles and Ginger return they find a smoking bullion box on the sand.  The loaded bullion boxes are still in place but the floor has been ripped up and the hidden compartment emptied.  Biggles says the last box sent down was a smoke bomb timed to go off as they reached the French coast.  The villains may have had a number of cars stationed along the coast to get the gold.  Algy arrives and lands.  “Where the dickens have you been?” asks Biggles.  Algy says he went to get help when he saw them going down in flames.  He got the coastguard to send a patrol boat.  Biggles tells Algy to get back in the air and follow the open top touring car that has just left with the gold.  “Hang on until you run out of petrol if necessary”.  Algy is given instructions to find out where they go and then land to get the information and then either ring Biggles at the bank in Paris or Detective Boulanger at the French Police Headquarters.  Biggles and Ginger fly to Le Bourget and in due course again deliver the gold to the bank.  At the bank, Cronfelt rings Biggles.  Biggles explains that this time they left the lead in the boxes in the hidden compartment and the real gold in the aeroplane.  The thieves stole the wrong boxes.  Biggles tells Police Detective Boulanger that “it looks as if we’ve won the second round”.  Biggles waits until the bank closes but there is no word from Algy.  Enquiries with the French police again draw a blank.  Biggles tells Ginger they might as well go back to their own aerodrome.