by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.                 BIGGLES NETS A FISH  (Pages 104 – 119)


This story was unique to this book and never published elsewhere.


“As soon as Biggles entered the office of his chief, Air Commodore Raymond of the Special Air Section at Scotland Yard, he knew that something serious was under discussion.  Major Charles, of Security Intelligence, whom he knew well, was there, and three other men, none of whom he recognised.  One was an army colonel; another wore the uniform of an American major, and the third, an elderly man in civilian clothes, he judged to be a senior civil servant”.  The men are introduced as Colonel Barclay, Major Booth and Professor Frail, who is head of the atomic sub-station at Heatherstone Moor.  Major Booth is from the Inter-Zonal Security Service Section, West Germany and he tells Biggles that a secret packet was dropped to two German youths, presumably mistaking their poacher’s torches for signal lights and bought to Booth.  It contained a micro-film of what seemed to be scientific plans and formulae, prefixed by a cypher written in ink on the film.  An attempt by an enemy agent to recover it was unsuccessful.  The plans have been identified as being the atomic sub-station at Heatherstone. Frail says no plans are missing and Colonel Barclay, an officer responsible for security at Heatherstone says the only conclusion is that someone who had access to the plans has copied them.  The public think that Heatherstone Moor is a salmon breeding research station, suggested by the fact that a stream passes close to the buildings.  Biggles asks “What actually goes on at Heatherstone Moor?”  “Purely theoretical calculations in connection with the synthetic production of certain radio-active elements.  Figures that cannot be discussed even in this office,” declared Professor Frail, who shows Biggles a photograph of the place.  Biggles establishes that Heatherstone is in the remote Highlands and the only person in the vicinity (apart from gamekeepers and forestry workers) is a man who owns the fishing rights on the river on the lower part of the moor.  He has an aircraft.  “He uses it to deliver salmon, and game in season, to the big London hotels.  Several people are doing that, cashing in on areas which by ordinary transport would be too far from the London markets.  His name was Felceman.  Since becoming naturalized he’s changed it to Felce.  He had a very good war record with the Free Czech Air Force”.  The American says he will be leaving for Berlin at noon and he says “I hope, Inspector Bigglesworth, that you catch your fish”.  “I’ll take a net,” answered Biggles, smiling as he shook hands.  (A new paragraph starts after a break).  “Before touching down inside the formidable man-proof fences of the Heatherstone Establishment Biggles added some mental pictures to the photograph Professor Frail had shown him.  He noted a little footbridge over the stream below the entrance gates.  Beyond it the moor stretched away to distant skylines, lonely and utterly deserted except for a group of isolated buildings which he assumed to those of commercial sportsman Felce, or Felceman”.  Biggles notices the concrete gatehouse screens the footbridge from the view of anyone in the main building.  People come out to meet Biggles, one of whom is Doctor Mills, the Deputy Director.  Biggles asks to stroll around and he does so, walking down the stream as far as the footbridge.  Mills then takes him on a tour of the establishment, where there is an uncomfortable atmosphere of suspicion.  Biggles is taken to the office where the plans must have been copied and asks to see everyone who has access during the period when they must have been copied.  Biggles is introduced as Inspector Bigglesworth and he addresses the assembly.  “In plain English, what has happened is, someone in this room has copied certain plans for transmission to a potential enemy”.  “Until the culprit is found, as he will be, you are all under suspicion, and that, for those of you who are innocent, is a horrible state of affairs.  But how can it be otherwise?  Now before I do anything else I am going to ask the guilty party to end this lamentable episode by coming forward.  Meanwhile, no one will leave the station.  It is now six o’clock.  The man responsible for this has four hours to think it over.  At ten o’clock we shall meet here again – unless, of course, my appeal is answered before then”.  Biggles was hoping that the guilty person would either strike at him or a make a move to give him a lead.  Not for a moment did he suppose seriously that the traitor would confess.  Colonel Barclay tells Bigglesworth that he has learned that the neighbour, Felceman has been working all day on his Moth, possibly fitting long-distance tanks.  Barclay shows Biggles a photo of Felceman.  Biggles goes to the footbridge and draws in a fine nylon net that he had set there some three hours earlier.  He also thinks about the photograph.  It was a man he has seen before.  He was trying to remember, and now he did.  A Spitfire pilot beset by half a dozen Messerschmitts.  He had gone to the rescue and the two of them had fought their way out, landing on his own squadron airfield.  The stranger had thanked him, his foreign accent thickened by emotion and excitement.  Biggles had never learned his name; he had forgotten all about the incident until the photo bought it back.  In the net, Biggles finds a cylinder the size and shape of a shaving stick.  Unscrewing the cap, he drew out a piece of paper.  He was expecting it to be in code but it was in clear English.  “Be careful.  A Scotland Yard man is here.  He may visit you.  If trouble, liquidate him and follow emergency routine.  Bring the last consignment.  Acknowledge receipt of this by switching lights as usual”.  Biggles read it, put it back and threw it back in the river.  Time dragged interminably, but in due course the hangar lights blinked off and on again.  Biggles goes over to Felceman’s hangar, where he can hear the staccato chatter of an electric riveter.  Biggles goes in and a man presses a hard object into the small of his back.  Biggles asks to turn around and when he does so, Felceman catches his breath.  “Remember me?” asked Biggles quietly.  “How could I forget you?” muttered Felceman awkwardly.  “You save my life that day.  But now you are not my friend.  Is it that you come for the radium?”  Felceman goes on to say the radium is not for him but for his friends who are still prisoners.  Radium means money, the money that buys freedom.  Biggles does not know what he is talking about.  Felceman says they make radium at the research station.  Biggles says the only thing they make there are figures on paper.  Biggles says the capsules that are delivered to Felceman do not contain radium.  “Some smart guy has taken you to the cleaners”.  Felceman opens a capsule and finds a micro-film and realises he has been duped.  Biggles asks for the gun which is handed over to him.  Biggles asks who is the spy at the research station but Felceman has never seen him and does not know his name.  His says his orders come from a hotel in London where he takes his salmon.  One salmon has the container in its throat.  Felceman offers to help catch the spy by using the emergency routine and he signals the relevant signal with his lights, then he takes the plane to land on the Research Station airstrip.  The man will then be there waiting to escape.  They fly to the research station and the landing lights on the airstrip come on.  A man is silhouetted against the lighted ground-floor windows of the Research Station and comes running up.  “Get going, you fool” he snarls.  Biggles flashes his light on him and there is Doctor Mills.  Mills comes at Biggles with a knife, but Biggles trips him.  Felceman becomes involved and stabs Mills.  Colonel Barclay arrives and Biggles explains that Felceman is no more than a dupe.  Mills was the spy.  Biggles tells Felceman that he is now going to go with Biggles to deliver a salmon in London.  “The Yard will handle the business at the hotel end”.   “It’s all over bar the enquiry”.