by Captain W. E. Johns



XI.                   A SOLDIER TAKES A HAND  (Pages 155 – 172)


“At Latonga a surprise awaited them.  Two light trucks were parked outside the rest-house.  About them a number of Askaris, soldiers of the King’s African Rifles.  Algy and Bertie are talking to a white officer, who is introduced as Lieutenant Haynes, who has come down from Juba to investigate a report that a white man has been murdered in the district.  Algy has told Haynes that the man was Simmonds, whom Haynes knew.  Haynes was going to make enquiries with the local villagers, but Biggles tells him he wouldn’t have got far as they are all mixed up in it.  Biggles says they know who killed Simmonds and where that person is.  Biggles asks Haynes how he heard about things.  Haynes says he has had word from Kampala as Algy had spoken to the Station Manager there when he got the photographs developed.  Biggles tells Haynes what he has discovered and his suspicions about what is going on.  When Biggles shows Haynes the photographs, Haynes says he knows of the white man in the photos.  He is a German spy, living in Addis Ababa, who goes by the name of Bronnou, but it’s unlikely he is German himself.  Biggles comes up with a plan.  “He would fly the Proctor, taking with him Haynes, Bertie and Ginger.  Algy was to watch events from the air in the Mosquito and keep track of Bronnou should he try to get away.  If necessary, he could use his guns.  Mishu was to go in the truck with ten Askaris under a sergeant.  The remaining troops would keep guard over the rest-house and the remaining truck, which was loaded chiefly with stores and spare equipment.  It was arranged that the truck carrying the troops should have an hour’s start, to enable it to get near the scene of action before the aircraft went down to make the arrests.  On no account was it to show itself until the aircraft landed.  Mishu said he knew the place where the tent was pitched, when Algy described it to him.  It was a well-known camping ground on account of the water supply.  The truck containing the coloured soldiers was soon on its way”.  After an hour, they fly to Bronnou’s camp and Biggles lands the Proctor.  They approach Bronnou and his men.  “Ginger could sense a stiffness in the atmosphere”.  Haynes tells Bronnou who he is and he wants Bronnou to get packed up as he has to come with him.  “I’m taking you in for questioning in connection with the death of Mr. Simmonds, of the British Game Department”.  Bronnou says he has never heard of him.  Ginger asks what he is doing with Simmonds’s rifle.  “That Rigby Express you’re holding belonged to him.  I’ll swear to it.  He showed it to me the other day”.  Bronnou attacks them, whirling the rifle around his head and then pulling out his revolver and shooting Haynes in the arm.  Biggles gets his automatic out and fires two shots but Bronnou appears to be unharmed.  Ginger shoots one of the natives when he raises his spear to throw at Biggles, two others run away and one remains and drops his spear.  Biggles, Bertie and Haynes then fight with Bronnou, who fights with the strength of ten men.  Ginger ties his legs with tent rope and secures them with a tent pole and soon Bronnou is bound helpless, “cursing them”.  Haynes’ wound is not serious and they dress it using the emergency kit from the Proctor.  The shot native is not mortally hurt, the bullet having grazed a rib.  In Bronnou’s tent, Haynes finds a wrist-watch and a petrol-lighter that Ginger identifies as Simmonds’s property as well.  He also finds a metal cash box.  Taking keys from Bronnou’s pockets, the box is opened to reveal a wad of notes.  The army truck arrives and Algy is signalled to fly home.  The tent is struck and loaded on the truck with the prisoners.  Haynes goes with it and Mishu stays to fly back in the Proctor.  “I’ll just have a quick draw at a cigarette before we start” says Biggles.  Biggles thinks it may be worth coming back here tomorrow as he feels sure the money is to pay for the Black Elephant’s cattle and it won’t be long before the Black Elephant arrives.  Mishu points out an area nearby and says it was here that Major Harvey was killed.  “If the Elephant used that as a halt on one occasion he may do so again.  It may be one of his regular stops” says Biggles.  “The ideal thing would be to catch him when he has to cross the open ground between the bamboo swamp and the elephant grass”.  Ginger says he thinks he will do that when it's dark and Biggles agrees.  As they walk to their machine, they hear a sound which Mishu says is a cow calling her calf.  Biggles thinks the Black Elephant is coming with his herd of stolen cattle.  The only way to be sure is for someone to stay and watch.  Mishu volunteers and Ginger and Bertie both offer to stay with him.  Biggles says they can take it in turns to get some sleep.  Biggles will fly back as he wants to speak to Haynes before he goes.  He tells Ginger and Bertie that as soon as they have got the “gen”, they are to start walking back towards Latonga until they find a place he can land.  He’ll be back soon after dawn.  Ginger and Bertie chose a place to hide up with a good view of the open ground between the bamboo swamp and the elephant grass.  “Before very long they were to wish they had chosen somewhere else”.