by Captain W. E. Johns



IV.           SINISTER DEVELOPMENTS  (Pages 64 – 84)


“Biggles was the first to speak.  “Well, well,” he said in a quiet voice, while a curious smile spread slowly over his face.  It did not express humour so much as comical surprise.  “This is a development that I did not expect,” he added whimsically”.  Algy is relieved to hear Marton is alive.  Ginger wonders if he was kidnapped so somebody could steal his aircraft.  Biggles thinks it best not to tell Marton’s father as that may cause the boy’s death.  Biggles decides to try to get on friendly terms with Sarda and then pretend to leave and see what he gets up to.  They make a big play of all getting aboard the aircraft, but when Algy and Ginger take off, Biggles stays at the back of the hangar.  Sarda comes to investigate the hangar so Biggles has to hide under old sacking.  Sarda goes back to his bungalow and Biggles spends an anxious hour and a half not able to leave the hangar without revealing his presence.  A black-painted Puss Moth comes in to land and Biggles sees a short, stockily built man.  “That he was not English was revealed clearly by the way he waved his hands when talking”.  This pilot and Sarda go into the rest-house were Biggles and his friends are staying.  Biggles does not want his kit searched as it contains letters from Mr. Marton.  Biggles goes in after them and finds the pilot going through his log-book.  He also appears to have given Sarda something.  “Can I help you?” Biggles says quietly.  Sarda and the pilot jump with surprise.  (At the words, both Sarda and the stranger leapt round as it a gun had been fired - is the illustration on page 73).  The pilot says he was just interested to know who would come to this part of the world.  Biggles introduces himself as “Bigglesworth” and the pilot, who is French, says he is Leon Leroux and that he flies for Stampoulos of Cairo who have tobacco plantations nearby.  Leroux gets back into his aeroplane and flies off.  Sarda returns to his bungalow.  Twenty minutes later, Algy and Ginger return.  Biggles tells them about Leroux, but says he is really a pilot called Jean Lazarre.  Biggles recognised him from a newspaper report about him losing his job with Aeropostale for being drunk on duty.  Biggles says that under the black paint of the Puss Moth, it is …. “Red,” muttered Ginger succinctly.  “Biggles smiled.  “For one of such tender years your perspicacity approaches the abnormal,” he observed approvingly”.  When Leroux took off, Biggles saw him fly east, which probably means their base is to the west.  Biggles and Algy go to find the telephone wire leaving Ginger on guard.  In the darkness it takes then nearly two hours.  The wire runs due west.  Biggles and Algy then hear their Dragon aircraft start up.  They run back to Ginger only to find his rifle on the floor and him missing.  So is the aircraft.  It has taken off.