BIGGLES TAKES THE CASE
by Captain W. E. Johns
VI. ALL IN THE DAY’S WORK (Pages 125 – 135)
This story was originally published in THE CHILDREN’S JOLLY BOOK (1952) by Odhams Press Ltd, where it ran from pages 39 to 47. Odhams were going to publish the story in Autumn 1951 but delayed publication of this Biggles story until the summer of 1952, so it appeared after the April 1952 publication of Biggles Takes the Case. Strictly, Johns right to publish the story in a compilation Biggles book wasn’t until 1st September 1952, so it shouldn’t have really been in this book. I know it was written well before publication as Johns’ agent received the story from him on 8th February 1950. I believe it was written between 24th January 1950 and 8th February 1950. This summary also points out the changes between the “Jolly Book” version and the version in this first edition book. The Jolly Book version was subtitled “An incident from the records of Detective Air-Inspector Bigglesworth, C.I.D., and the Air Police”).
Biggles and Ginger are already in the air, flying the Air Police “Proctor” aircraft over Surrey when Ginger receives a message from Algy. Air Commodore Raymond is on the phone. They are given orders to arrest the pilot of an Auster Autocrat, registration G-KXRY. The machine belongs to Interavian Hire Service and it left Croydon five minutes ago. The pilot is Lester Wolfe, a cypher clerk at the War Office and he has “bolted with some vital documents” concerning Western Union defence plans. They must be recovered at any cost. Radar reports the Auster is approaching the coast between Brighton and Worthing. With their height and speed, Biggles and Ginger are soon after the aircraft and Ginger spots it first. “What’s his idea do you suppose?” asked Ginger. Biggles shrugged. “Unless he’s a fanatic, inspired by misguided patriotic motives, the answer probably is money. Those papers he’s grabbed would be worth a good deal to some people. I’d say he knows where he can sell them”. Flying above and behind the Auster Autocrat, in his blind spot, Biggles follows the aircraft all the way to Bron, the airport for Lyon in France. The Auster lands, as does Biggles and he sends Ginger to snatch the portfolio of papers back. “The Air Commodore can do the explaining to the French authorities afterwards”. Wolfe, having left his aircraft walks towards a French Bellatrix air liner where passengers are boarding. As Wolfe passes by, he hands the portfolio to “a stoutish pale-faced man wearing a black beret”. The man boards the air liner. Ginger is taken aback by this development. “Even so, he perceived that it was a perfect piece of timing, and obviously part of a carefully prearrange plan”. (That line from Biggles Takes the Case is not in the Jolly Book version of the story). Ginger, having to quickly decide what to do, follows the man on board. “Casually flipping his flying licence to the attendant, as if it were a travel ticket, he went into the machine”. Ginger sits behind the man in the beret, planning to grab the portfolio and bolt, but the cabin door is slammed and the aircraft moves to take off. (There is then a whole paragraph not in the Jolly Book version). “With a quick intake of breath Ginger sank back, trembling slightly from the excitement of the moment; but as there was obviously nothing more he could do for the time being he relaxed, trying to recover his equanimity. Looking through the side window, he saw the Proctor, with Biggles, still in the cockpit, looking at him. Biggles raised a hand in a signal which might have meant anything, but Ginger took it to mean simply that Biggles had seen what had happened”. The French plane takes off and Ginger hasn’t the faintest idea where it is going (and we then have the following passage not in the Jolly Book version). “True, the pilot was taking up a course for the south, but this meant little; he might be going to Marseilles, but he might equally well be going to the Balearic Islands, or even Algiers, five hundred miles away on the other side of the Mediterranean”. The Bellatrix eventually lands at Marignane, the land and marine airport of Marseilles. The man with the black beret and portfolio gets up to leave and his ticket is checked at the cabin door. Ginger’s heart sinks as he knows the same will happen to him and he doesn’t have a ticket. When it is his turn, Ginger produces his International Police Pass and tries to explain as quickly as possible why he is travelling without a ticket. A senior official appears and allows Ginger to pass, which he takes as a stroke of luck. Ginger runs after the man in the black beret who has now disappeared from sight. He finds the man just stepping into a taxi and Ginger charges at him. (This is the pen and ink illustration at the beginning of the story on page 126). (There is then a somewhat unnecessary passage here, not in the Jolly Book). “The man in the beret had his back to him, but the taxi driver saw him coming, and supposing, presumably, that he was seeking transport to the town, shouted that he was engaged. Still Ginger did not stop. He charged as if he had been on a football field”. Ginger hits the man and knocks him over. The portfolio flies out of his hand, Ginger snatched it up (“in a wild scoop” in Biggles Takes the Case but not in the Jolly Book) and runs towards the airfield. He hears a pistol crack behind him. Ginger sees Biggles’ Proctor coming in to land and he races after it. Ginger flings the portfolio into the aircraft and jumps in. “Get weaving!” he shouts to Biggles. Ginger comments on it being “a slice of cake”. (We then have some additional lines not in the Jolly Book). “You didn’t imagine that I was lying down at Bron having a nap, did you?” inquired Biggles. “I thought you might follow, but I couldn’t see you,” explained Ginger. Biggles explains that after Ginger boarded the French machine, he ascertained where the Bellatrix was flying to and then rang the airport superintendent at Marignane to tell him that Ginger was travelling without a ticket and why. Ginger said he thought it was a stroke of luck. “It doesn’t do to rely too much on luck” said Biggles, who adds “I’ll signal to the Air Commodore from Bron, to put his mind at rest. While we’re there we’ll have a bit of lunch”. (The line “to put his mind at rest” is not in the Jolly Book version).