by Captain W. E. Johns



II. THE VELVET GLOVE (Pages 22 - 35)


The man introduces himself as John Robinson, in a tone that makes everyone realise that is an assumed name. He says he is the British representative of a newly forming company "Let us for the sake of argument call it Universal Airlines Limited". He has come to offer Biggles a job at the astonishingly high salary of 10,000 a year. He would act in an advisory capacity, the salary would be in the nature of a retaining fee. That would stop him working for anyone else. Biggles turns the offer down and is then asked to name his price but he declines that invitation as well. Biggles is then given an envelope containing a thousand pound banknote and told that he can do what he likes with it. Biggles sets fire to it to light his cigerette. Robinson says "Maybe you've lit a bigger fire with it than you know. Watch out you don't get burnt". Robinson laughs and says there are no hard feelings and then offers Biggles a cigar. Biggles takes it but declines to smoke it immediately. The man leaves and is taken away by an expensive chauffeur driven limousine. Ginger is sent down to get the car registration number but is prevented from doing so by a rough workman with a cast in his eye. Biggles says big crooks have a spy system of their own and already they have seen a nice example of it. "He offered us the velvet glove but the iron fist was inside it". Getting a razor blade, Biggles cuts open the cigar and discovers a minute glass tube. Had he lit the cigar it would have blown his head off. Biggles says that before burning the note he memorised the number and he would put in a claim to the Bank of England. After the statutory period of time had elapsed without the note turning up the money could then be given to St. Dunstan's (presumably a charity). Biggles suspects they are now under surveillance and notices that a new paper seller has taken up a pitch some fifty yards along from their front door. Biggles mentions that he has recently spoken to his old 666 Squadron member, Tug Carrington, and has fixed him up with a taxi "a sort of temporary loan". Tug is in training for the middleweight championships and they could use his boxing skills now. Ginger recognises the newspaper vendor, out of the window, as the man who blocked his way. The vendor is sitting on a box and Biggles suspects he had a radio in it. Biggles goes to call Tug.