by Captain W. E. Johns



VIII.                        THE CASE OF THE LUNATIC AT LARGE  (Pages 120 – 130)


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


“Biggles strode into the Operations Room at Air Police Headquarters, laid his portfolio on the desk and turned sombre eyes on his three police-pilot assistants who were having their ‘elevenses’.  “You can give me a cup of that,” he said wearily, “I need something”.  Biggles says that “Of all the crazy affairs that have come our way this one is the tops”.  “There are, in the R.A.F., two flying officers by the name of Glibb – Charles and John.  They are twins”.  Biggles explains that both are night-bomber pilots and survived two operational tours.  Charles, is, or was, Mess Secretary on his Station and a surprise inspection by an Air Ministry accountant revealed a sum of money missing from the safe.  Charles admitted taking it and is under close arrest.  John’s reaction to this “appears to have sent him off his rocker”.  “Three days ago he took off in a Halifax, with full tanks, and a load of bombs on board”.  He did this before the crew got on board.  Later he issued an ultimatum.  If his brother is not released forthwith, with a guarantee that the prosecution would be dropped, he will unload his bombs on the Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.  “Nuts!” murmured Algy.  “Absolutely nuts”.  No one has the remotest idea where Glibb has parked himself and the Halifax.  When he flies over on Saturday a green light will indicate that the ultimatum has been accepted.  Biggles has seen John Glibb’s medical history and it isn’t too good.  Twice his nerves have nearly cracked and he had to be laid off to rest.  Now, “his brain has cracked and he’s gone round the bend, poor chap”.  His aircraft, ‘V for Vixen’, has an endurance range of four thousand miles.  “Which means that it might be anywhere between Timbuctoo and the North Pole”.  Even if radar picks him up when he takes off, “the Air Ministry will think twice before it knocks down a machine loaded to capacity with high explosive.  Suppose it fell in the middle of a town?”  Biggles thinks they need to back track over Johns Glibb’s career to find a place he has visited, somewhere remote, where a big machine might be put down.  Biggles spends the rest of the day reading the relevant portfolio, ignoring lunch, but finds nothing.  (A new paragraph starts after a break).  “The following morning, Friday, the last clear day, found Biggles still sitting engrossed over the docket.  “It was late in the evening when he looked up and said to Algy “I’m afraid it’s clutching at a straw but you might as well do something as sit there twiddling your thumbs”.  He passed a slip of paper.  “I want you to take the car and go to this address in Knightsbridge.  Mrs. Glibb – that’s the mother, and next of kin – lives there.  Find out, discreetly, where John used to go wild-fowling”.  Algy sets off and returns in two hours with the answer “Aucherlocherbie(a fictional location).  “It’s in the north of Scotland”.   The name rings bells with Biggles and he makes enquiries.  “The place is in Sutherlandshire.  It was a hush-hush bomb experimental depot in the war.  The name caused so much trouble in signals that it was changed to Fargo.  The station was one of the first to be abandoned at the end of the war.  Biggles says they will go there now in the Proctor and he and Ginger will parachute down.  (A new paragraph starts after a break).  “It was the dark hour before dawn when the Proctor, having refuelled at Kinloss, arrived over its objective.  Biggles and Ginger step out into the void.  They land at the old base.  “It is doubtful if there is any picture more melancholy than that presented by the disintegrating hutments of an abandoned camp.  In this case, time and the weather had done their worst.  Doors hung awry on their hinges and empty window-frames stared blankly, like sightless eyes.  Roofs of felt and corrugated iron had been torn off by the wind and lay where they had fallen, giving the place an appearance of having been blitzed”.  Biggles and Ginger advance towards two large hangers.  One is empty but in the other they can hear the sound of a man crying.  Biggles advances on him and then flashes his torch at him.  The man sprang to his feet in surprise.  “All right, Glibb, take it easy,” said Biggles quietly.  “Who are you?  What d’you want?” came the reply, in a voice as taut as a banjo string.  “We just waffled along to see what you were doing, that’s all,” replied Biggles casually.  “Have a cigarette?”  He offered his case.  “I suppose you have come to arrest me” asks Glibb.  “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” returned Biggles carelessly.  “Of course, you’re behaving like a silly ass and your Station Commander is in a flap about it.  No wonder.  He’d liable to be torn off a strip for losing a machine”.  Glibb asks about his brother then says he had no intention of bombing anybody, really.  He has no bombs.  He dropped them in the sea on the way there.  Glibb explains that his brother took the money for him.  He lent it to a friend who had got into debt and didn’t pay it back.  Glibb would have put it back himself from his next month’s pay.  They agree to go back in the Halifax.  Glibb tells them “If I could face the flak up the Rhine for a couple of years I can take a little thing like this”.  “That’s the spirit,” commended Biggles.  “Little remains to be told.  The twin brothers, whose affection had led them into trouble, faced a court-martial, as was inevitable.  But in view of the circumstances, and the fact that the money was repaid, taken in conjunction with their war records, the court took a lenient view and they suffered nothing worse than a severe reprimand.  It was, as Biggles told the Air Commodore when they returned to the Yard, just one of those things”.