By Captain W. E. Johns



VI.       TRAGIC EVENTS  (Pages 98 - 109)


The following morning, Biggles is alarmed to hear and see his aircraft taking off.  (First Round to Deutch - is the illustration on page 99).  Beating on the cell door until it is opened, Biggles runs out from where they are being held down to the Pan-American hanger on the harbour where he is able to speak to some friendly Americans, including a Pan American mechanic.  He finds out their plane has been fuelled up the night before.  Biggles asks who took it and is told it is a fellow named Deutch, who arrived about a week ago with a pilot named Harvey.  They have been seen in town with Mallichore, who is the Chief of Police.  “Do you mean a cadaverous looking fellow with a yellow skin?” ask Biggles.  “That’s the boy.  You wanna keep clear o’him.  He’s bad medicine.” says the American mechanic.  Biggles asks how many people got into his aircraft and he is told by another mechanic it was four.  Deutch, Harvey, a mobster named Frisco Jack and Pedro Martinez.  Frisco Jack is “one of Slick Ferrara’s boys in New York” who has bolted there “when the cops put him on the spot for plugging one of them”.  As for Martinez, "He's a n****r” (This is the sixth Biggles book to feature the use of the very offensive “N” word by W. E. Johns.  The word appears three times in this book, once in this chapter and once in Chapter XI, “The Rescue” and once in Chapter XII, “A Lucky Fall”.  Of course, in its day, the word was in regular use and not considered offensive at all, otherwise it would not have appeared in a children’s book, where even mild expletives are watered down.  The word remained in all Oxford editions of this book and also in the 1974 Knight paperback version.  In the 1996 Red Fox edition, this is changed to “He’s a black guy”) “Besides which I guess he's just about the slimiest thug who walks on two legs.  He is Mallichore's bumper-off – does all his dirty work for him”.  He cuts people's throats with the razors he keeps in each pocket.  Biggles tells Superintendent Timms at Pan-American his aircraft has been stolen.  The Superintendent made a grimace. “Well, say!” he ejaculated.  Biggles says that he bought the aircraft off his people at Floyd Bennet Field last week.  Biggles ask if they have radio equipment and when told they do eh says they can check on what he is saying.  There are fifty thousand dollars standing to his credit in the bank on which he drew the cheque.  He wants another machine and he'll buy the one they have there outright or take it on charter if they prefer.  He'll go and get his cheque book back from the police, if Timms can fill the craft with fuel and put some food in, he'll pay for it shortly as he suspects he will be leaving in a hurry.  A party of police or soldiers arrive to take Biggles back to the police station.  Biggles goes back to confront Mallichore, the Chief of Police.  He strides into his office.  “Listen, you,” snapped Biggles harshly, in English.  “I’ve stood for about as much as I’m going to stand from you”.  Biggles says his friends (meaning those at Pan-American) are sending a radio message to the British Foreign Office and he wants his things.  Mallichore is now full of apologies and returns their things.  However, the map, a hundred dollar bill from Biggles’ note-case and Dick's gold doubloon are all missing.  Biggles initially says “I don’t think it’s any use fighting about it.  The sooner we are out of this the better” but when Dick sees the doubloon half hidden on Mallichore’s desk, Biggles jumps over his desk to get at the thief.  One of the guards shoots at Biggles, but misses and kills Mallichore instead.  Grabbing the gold coin, Biggles snaps “Come on, they’ll blame us for this”.  Algy throws one officer aside and Biggles punches another on the jaw as he throws up his weapon.  Then they all run for their lives.  Back at the Pan-American office, Biggles is offered the plane for "ten thousand bucks, or you can take her on charter at two hundred and fifty a day, you to pay insurance and leave five thousand deposit".  “Biggles writes out a cheque with his fountain-pen faster than he has ever written one before, for a full score of police were pelting down the hill”.  They all run and jump in the plane and fly off as bullets whistle around them.  (Interestingly, we are not told in the book if Biggles has bought the plane or just hired it.  However, in the serialisation in "The Modern Boy" (as 'Biggles' Treasure Island') there is an extra paragraph giving the answer to this.  "I'll buy her outright" he panted.  “It'll probably be cheaper in the long run.  I've no idea how long I shall require her, and it seems to me there's precious little chance of getting our own machine back if the authorities here are a good example of what we're up against in this part of the world").