by Captain W. E. Johns



XIII.         BIGGLES TELLS THE STORY  (Pages 244 – 256)


A car arrives and Carstairs and his daughter, Stella, get out.  They are shocked to see that Biggles is still alive.  Carstairs asks where Cronfelt is and Biggles tells him.  “He’s on his way to the mortuary, I expect”.  Biggles explains Cronfelt is dead.  Carstairs says that Cronfelt is a thief who had bolted with all their available funds.  Everyone goes to the office.  Biggles firstly goes to the safe and pulls out piles of bank and treasury notes.  He has taken them from Cronfelt’s case and left some books in exchange.  “I hope my friend von Stalhein will appreciate them when he finds them”.  Biggles takes out a morocco leather case and shows Carstairs the diamonds that should have gone to Amsterdam.  Biggles then produces the case of jewels that Algy has taken from von Stalhein’s desk the previous evening.  Sir Guy recognises them as the Devereux diamonds, stolen in transit between Paris and London some time ago.  “My firm paid a hundred thousand pounds insurance on them”.  Biggles explains the details to everyone.  Cronfelt was by no means his own boss”.  “His principals, whom I shall be able to tell you something about later on, wanted gold.  Whether they were working for themselves, or for some big syndicate, or for some national organization, I still do not know for certain, but I suspect the last.  We all know there is no gold in Germany, and certain interests there must be finding it difficult to get along without it”.  Cronfelt then insured the gold in order to score two ways.  His share of the stolen gold and the insurance money.  When von Stalhein found out Biggles was the pilot hired to run the British air-line he rang to put him off.  It was clear from the beginning that someone in a well-informed position was tipping off the enemy.  Biggles got his first clue it was Cronfelt when he knew about the first robbery.  He said the manager of the Bank of France told him, but Biggles checked and he hadn’t.  Cronfelt was also upset when told of the explosive charge in the dummy bullion boxes – but that was purely an imaginative effort on Biggles part.  Biggles then acted assuming Cronfelt would tell the enemy.  Hence the swapping of the gold in the false bottom of the machine.  By giving Biggles an empty package of jewels, the villains would assume that Biggles had made a dummy package to swap for Algy.  Cronfelt assumed Biggles would be killed in which case, Cronfelt would get the keep the real diamonds for himself.  When von Stalhein saw Biggles genuine astonishment that the jewels were not in the package, he would have guessed Cronfelt’s game.  He probably rang up to recall him to Germany which made Cronfelt decide it was high time to retire.  Biggles is sure it was von Stalhein who shot Cronfelt, having flown straight over to find him.  He rang the London office and was told Cronfelt was here because a call was made to say an old friend wanted to see him urgently.  Biggles had to delay Cronfelt’s departure so as to get Raymond down and von Stalhein was no doubt looking for the Biggles & Co. hangar when he met Cronfelt.  “And that’s all, eh? inquired Sir Guy.  Biggles smiled.  “Nearly, but not quite,” he said softly.  “There is a little matter of a cheque for fifteen thousand pounds which you promised –”.  The Baronet reaches for his cheque book.  “We may be airmen, but that doesn’t mean we can live on air,” he said softly.  “Do you mind making the cheque out to Biggles & Co.?”