by Captain W. E. Johns



XI.           BACK TO THE WALL  (Pages 214 – 232)


“Biggles must have dozed, for he was suddenly aware that dawn had broken”.  He wakes Algy as he can hear something going on beneath them.  Eighty feet below in a walled courtyard, a firing squad of ten or a dozen of the green clad guards have assembled and opposite them is Ginger with a bandage bound over his eyes.  “They’re not going to shoot him,” gasped Algy in a strangled voice.  “They are,” replied Biggles coldly.  “And quickly, unless we do something about it,” he added grimly.  Biggles shouts down to von Stalhein and tells him he can’t commit cold blooded murder.  A guard fires at Biggles but von Stalhein tells him to put his weapon down.  Biggles says if they go through with this, he will see to it that every newspaper in Europe prints the story on the front page.  Biggles adds “I’m not given to threatening; but go your own way and you sign your death-warrant.  I’ll see to that; I’ll hunt you down and kill you like a mangy wolf, if I have to spend the rest of my life doing it”.  Biggles agrees to go down and talk to von Stalhein about the situation.  Biggles goes back down the roof top trap-door and towards the staircase where he is quickly met by two green guards who escort him to von Stalhein’s study.  Ginger is there.  Von Stalhein dismisses the guards but takes his Mauser revolver out of his drawer and lays it down in front of him.  “Please be very careful.  It is hardly necessary for me to say that I am in no mood to tolerate nonsense”.  Von Stalhein asks Biggles who he is working for.  Biggles tells him, “Cronfelt”.  Biggles confirms that Cronfelt gave him the package alleged to contain the diamonds.  Biggles is surprised to learn that Algy stole the other package of jewels from von Stalhein’s desk when he escaped.  “I suppose it is possible that in the excitement he forgot to tell you” says von Stalhein.  Biggles notices something behind von Stalhein; soot falling down into the great fireplace.  Von Stalhein is saying that the stolen jewels “were the real reason for the little drama I staged this morning”.  “You don’t suppose I really intended shooting that boy, do you?” smiled the German.  Algy appears in the fireplace behind von Stalhein.  Suddenly a car horn sounds and von Stalhein says he will have to postpone this interview as “I have an important visitor”.  Algy grabs von Stalhein with a hand over his mouth.  Biggles grabs the revolver.  “It was no time to be squeamish.  His arm flew up, and he brought the butt down sideways on the German’s closely cropped head.  (His arm flew up, and he brought the butt down sideways on the German’s closely cropped head - is the illustration on page 227).  He hated doing it, but it was a matter of life or death now, and he had no alternative”.  Biggles, Algy and Ginger then climb out of the window and by threatening the chauffeur of the newly arrived car with von Stalhein’s gun, they steal the car, crash through some rapidly closing gates and escape.  Driving to the field where Ginger, left the Falcon, a small gathered crowd make no attempt to stop them getting in and taking off.  Algy asks about his machine, the Bulldog.  “Biggles shook his head.  “It looks as if we shall have to write it off as a dead loss,” he declared, “unless you feel like going back to look for it,” he added with a smile.  “No, I don’t think it matters,” answered Algy quickly.  “I can buy another “Bulldog”, but I can’t buy another life”.