by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.         WHAT HAPPENED AT AIX  (Pages 132 – 149)


I   -   “When Biggles set out on his trip to Aix, with the sealed package that Cronfelt had given him in his pocket, he did not underestimate the risks he was running.  Indeed, he was well aware that he was about to embark upon what was likely to prove the most desperate adventure of his career, and one that might easily be his last”.  Biggles finds the relevant field south of the French town and sees a green monoplane almost in the centre with its propeller ticking over.  The aircraft has no markings but “people who had proved that they were prepared to commit murder were hardly likely to let a little matter like international regulations stand in their way”.  Biggles gets out and meets three men, one is the German with the American accent he had met when forced to land in northern France.  Biggles says “I want my partner; you want – what I’ve got in my pocket”.  With no Algy in sight, when the German goes for his cigarette case, Biggles pulls a gun.  Biggles is then told to look behind and turns to see “the most diabolical weapon ever conceived by human ingenuity – a sawn-off double barrelled shot-gun.  He did not need telling that if fired at such a range it would blow a hole straight through him the size of a tea-plate.  A bullet-wound will heal in time, but a charge of small shot, fired at point-blank range, never”.  Biggles is told to take a look inside the aeroplane and he’ll “see what happens to people who annoy the boss”.  Biggles sees a man in flying-kit, stone dead.  “It was the pilot of the single-seater who had forced him to land a few days previously”.  “What’s the idea of this beastliness?” he asked icily.  The body is placed in the pilot’s seat of Biggles’ Cormorant and the plane is then set on fire.  The man holding the shot-gun on Biggles is the pilot of the monoplane and with Biggles onboard, they take off.


II   -   “Biggles had flown many aeroplanes in many lands, but the flight that now commenced provided a new sensation.  For once he was flying as a passenger, with the control of the machine in the hands of a man whom he did not know.  Moreover, he was on a flight of unknown duration to a problematical destination.  He did not even know the name of the country to which he was flying, or, for that matter, over which he was flying, for without a compass to guide him he could only gather a very broad idea of direction from the angle of the sun’s rays across the cabin”.  After an hour or more, the plane lands and Biggles is blind-folded.  He is then taken by car to a building and up one hundred and eighty winding steps.  When the blind-fold is removed, he is in “a small circular room of cold grey stone, furnished with bare necessities as a bedroom, and lighted by a single window, about thirty inches square and some four feet from the ground”.  Left alone, Biggles looks out of the window and sees that he is in the turret of a magnificent castle.  Later, he is bought food, “a pot of tea, bread and butter, jam, and several slices of home-made cake”.  The door slams shut leaving him alone.