BIGGLES AND THE PIRATE TREASURE
by Captain W. E. Johns
II. THE CASE OF THE OBLIGING TOURIST (Pages 40 – 54)
This story was unique to this book and never published elsewhere.
“It began with one of those chance meetings which so often occur in the affairs of men”. “Dressing, Biggles broke his sock suspender. He went out to buy a new one. Ginger went with him”. Stopping to look in a shop window, Ginger recognises a girl and nudges Biggles. “You were one of the WAAFs in my Orderly Room during the war, weren’t you? Your name – let me see – Alice Hall?” says Biggles. The girl smiled delightedly “Right. And you’re Biggles – sorry, I mean Squadron Leader Bigglesworth”. They get chatting and Alice mentions she has only got back last night from a holiday to “the south of France with a Cook’s tour. Ten days in Nice”. Biggles comments on Alice’s French handbag and she explains it was a present. She was given it for doing a man a favour. All she had to do was post a packet for him when she got to England. “The smile remained on Biggles’s face but the humour went out of his eyes”. “What was in the packet?” he asked. Alice says she didn’t know and she didn’t ask. She had been told there was no need to show it to the Customs Officials. Alice says she met the man whilst having tea on the terrace of the Ruhl Hotel in Nice when she was chatting with some of the other girls in her party about going home. Alice is able to describe the man. “He was a dark, fat little man of about sixty, with a squint in one eye. Black handlebar moustaches that some of the boys in the RAF would have envied”. She also remembers well the name and address on the package. “Miss Mary Jones, care of a Mr. Cermak, in the Tottenham Court Road – number a hundred and one A”. The girl asks if she has done anything wrong. “Well, you should have declared the package at Customs,” chided Biggles gently. They part and Biggles and Ginger take a taxi to Tottenham Court Road. The address is a newspaper and tobacco shop but also an accommodation address for post as there is a letter rack inside the door. Biggles is hoping the package, posted last night, is yet to be delivered. They go to a nearby café and wait for the postman. When he arrives, Biggles goes and buys a packet of Players (cigarettes) so he is able to see a small brown-paper package secured with gummed tape delivered. Biggles suspects that it won’t be long before the package is collected. In due course a nearly new Austin car arrives, registration CYR 199. “A dark, attractive-looking woman of middle age, simply but expensively dressed” got out, collects the package and drives off. Biggles and Ginger don’t follow the car, they just get a taxi back to Scotland Yard. (A new paragraph starts after a break). Biggles and Ginger go and see Inspector Gaskin of ‘C’ Department and tell him what they have learnt. Enquiries are put in hand about the registration number. Gaskin explains his concerns about smuggling. “Dope and diamonds are the big stuff”. The car is registered to Contessa di Malliori, a well-known Italian society hostess in London. Biggles says to Gaskin “As an alien you’ll have a docket on her?” and he asks to see it. He also asks to see the rogue’s gallery photos, “the Italian division” and soon finds a “fleshy, elderly man, with a swarthy face, handlebar moustaches and a cast in one eye. Below was the name and particulars. Carlo Antonio Barrosa. Born Sicily 1895”. Biggles is interested to learn that the Contessa was born in Sicily as well. (A new paragraph starts after a break). Biggles and Ginger return home. “Reaching the apartment Biggles tossed his hat aside and dropped into an easy chair”. Biggles says “I think it’s monstrous that a dupe should be made of a nice girl like Alice Hall. We know she acted in good faith. But the Customs people are tough. They have to be. Had that packet been found on Alice she would have probably have gone to gaol”. Biggles thinks the Contessa will sell the jewels received “privately through her connections in high society” as she wouldn’t risk selling them to a jeweller. The buyer won’t suspect anything illegal in the deal. Ginger says it beats him that the goods would be entrusted to an unknown girl. Biggles declares “the average person is honest and reliable in such matters” and says Alice would have gone to untold trouble to fulfil her obligation. Biggles says the people need to be caught red-handed, so they will need to bring Marcel Brissac of the French Surete into the investigation. Biggles thinks of a plan and then suggests they go to Paris to speak with Marcel. (A new paragraph starts after a break). Three days later a rather prim-looking Englishwoman strolls on to the terrace of the Ruhl Hotel in Nice and sits at a table next to Carlo Barrosa. The woman is a police-woman from “they Yard’s special squad”. They get talking and in due course Barrosa hands over a package to the woman and is immediately arrested. In the package is a magnificent diamond necklace. “Still cursing Barrosa was led away”. The package is carefully re-wrapped and the police woman then takes the boat train to England and posts the package in Victoria. The next morning at the newsagent’s shop two window cleaners are at work near the door and a burly figure in a dark suit, smoking a pipe, was sorting some magazines. The postman delivers some letters and a small package. A few minutes later an Austin Ten draws up and a woman gets out asking “Have you anything for Miss Mary Jones?” The shop keeper asks if she is Miss Jones and if the package is hers, which she confirms curtly. “Excuse me, madam,” said Inspector Gaskin. “I am an officer from Scotland Yard and I must see the contents of that packet. Four witnesses have heard you say that you are Miss Mary Jones and that the package is yours”. “The Contessa di Malliori did not answer. She had fainted. (A new paragraph starts after a break). Biggles is going through his own morning mail when the phone rings and Gaskin confirms they are both in the bag. The diamond necklace is identified as being from a big jewel raid recently in one of the “swagger villas in the South of France”. “It’ll be some time, I fancy, before the Countess gives any more of her famous parties. And all because I happened to bust a suspender! Queer how things work out, isn’t it?”