by Captain W. E. Johns



III.                   A DANGEROUS MISSION  (Pages 31 – 40)


A barman is leaning on the bar listening to “a popular opera” on the radio.  There is only one other customer present, a man reclining on a bench, reading a newspaper.  Biggles orders three hot chocolates.  They sit down to wait and “a repulsive-looking hunchback” comes in and tries to sell them lottery tickets.  Biggles waves him away “but the man persisted in his unwelcome attention until the situation became embarrassing”.  The bar-keeper returns with the drinks and drives the hunchback away.  The hunchback, who breathes noisily as if he has asthma, transfers his attentions to the other customer.  Biggles, Ginger and Algy drink their drinks and are about to call for the bill when another customer arrives.  “From the unmistakable London cut of his clothes he appeared to be English”.  Biggles recognises him as Dicky Frazer from Head-Quarters Intelligence staff during the war.  Biggles goes over to ask him if he is Frazer, saying “Remember me – Bigglesworth?  I met you, I believe, with Major Raymond”.  The man says Biggles is making a mistake and his name is not Frazer.  Biggles returns to his comrades and under his breath says that man is liar, he recognised his voice the moment he opened his mouth”.  The wireless concert concludes and the bar-keeper switches the radio off.  In the silence that follows all that can be heard is a wheezing asthmatical cough outside the main door and a soft dripping sound.  Biggles looks at Frazer and sees he is staring at the feet of the other man who was in the bar. They are in a pool of blood and the dripping is coming from his body.  Frazer gets up and moves the newspaper to look at the man’s face then sits down again.  Frazer calls out to “Bigglesworth” and tells him not to move or react but just to listen to what he has to say.  He confirms he is Frazer and he is “still on the same job”.  Frazer has in his pocket a paper that has got to reach the Foreign Office.  He was due to meet a messenger but that is the dead man.  Frazer says the hunchback is called Goudini and is after him and will get him.  Frazer wants to pass the paper to Biggles as there is just a chance they won’t associate him with Frazer and he may get it through by leaving via the back.  “It may mean life or death to the Empire”.  Biggles agrees to take it and Frazer passes it by dropping his cigarette case and kicking a small manilla-coloured envelope across the floor, whilst picking it up.  Biggles drops a hundred-peseta note on the floor and picks it up with the envelope.  He then gets up and pays his bill and with Algy and Ginger close behind, he leaves via a door marked “lavabo”.  (I thought this was the Spanish work for lavatory or toilet, but it is, in fact, the Spanish word for “sink”).