by Captain W. E. Johns


6.     CHAPTER 6 – (UNTITLED)  (Pages 72 – 86) (57 – 67)



“How seriously Biggles had entertained the thought, that the men who had shot their recent visitor would return, we don’t know; but he certainly looked surprised when, within a few minutes, Minnie came back, bursting through the bushes in his haste, with the announcement “They’re coming now!”  Ginger has gone to get the registration numbers of the car, whilst Minnie has come back to warn Biggles, Algy and Bertie.  Biggles is willing to wait for the men to arrive.  Minnie says “Remembering they’ve already shot one man aren’t you taking a big risk?”  “Listen, laddie,” returned Biggles evenly.  “On this job we take risks all the time.  We have to if we’re to get anywhere.  If you object to sticking your neck out you know what you can do.  You’re still only on trial”.  “I didn’t say that,” protested Minnie, looking hurt.  Biggles relented.  He smiled.  “Sorry.  You were right.  By playing this game my way we may be taking a chance, but in dealing with small-time crooks I’m always ready to gamble my experience on how they’re most likely to behave.  They may talk tough, but when it comes to a showdown they get cold feet”.  Shortly after the two men arrive.  To ease the tension Biggles said cheerfully: “Nice day for a stroll in the country”.  One of the men is a small, thin-faced youngish man with the alert, nervous manner of a sparrow that has once been caught.  He wears a shabby blue serge suit and a felt hat.  The other is older, with no hat.  Sideboards extended some way down the sides of his face.  His nose had a kink in it and a ‘cauliflower’ ear suggested he might have been a professional boxer.  He is in grey flannel trousers and an old tweed sports jacket.  The little man points at the bag on which Biggles is seated and in a pronounced cockney accent demands “Where the hell did you get that?”  Biggles says he is the second man today to ask that.  The man demands the bag is given to him and says it is his.  Biggles asks for proof and suggests he tells him what was inside it.  Biggles shows the man the bag and the little man asks what he has done with the letters in it.  The big man spoke for the first time.  “Looks like Bert might have been telling the truth,” he remarked in a deep gruff voice.  The little man demands the letters.  “I haven’t seen any letters and you’ll have to take my word for it,” stated Biggles.  “Push off.  I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you”.  The man pulls out an automatic (pistol).  The big man cut in.  “Come off it, Joe.  I’ve told you before, you’re too damned handy with that thing.  Get rid of it, or I’m not coming out with you again”.  The man puts the gun away and instead the big man says to Biggles “I’ll show you”.  The big man threw off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and bunched his knuckles.  Biggles realised what this implied.  “You’d better think again,” he warned.  “Do you want to bring the policeman along?  You’ll be in trouble if I tell him you’re carrying guns”.  “What policeman?” the big man asks.  “How would I know?” replies Biggles.  “I can only tell you there was one here when we arrived”.  Luckily the policeman does return and saves what could have been a very difficult situation.  On seeing the policemen, the two strangers leave.  Algy looks at Biggles seriously and says “He arrived just in time to save you being well and truly beaten up”.  Biggles said he wouldn’t have allowed that.  He would have told them who they were.  Biggles sends Minnie after the two men to see if Ginger bumps into them.  “I’ve never seen a nastier-looking pair of villains” he adds.  Minnie returns shortly to say the two men have driven away.  Whilst waiting for Ginger to return, Biggles says it wasn’t the moment to grab the two men.  There had been a robbery but the stolen goods were recovered.  More importantly, a man was coshed during the robbery.  He is in hospital critically ill and if he dies the case will be one of murder.  Ginger eventually returns to report that he not only saw the men get in the car, he was able to follow it but getting a lift from a guy on a motorcycle.  Ginger had explained he was a police officer.  The car had turned in the drive at Lotton Hall and Ginger has had to walk back.  Biggles is really pleased with Ginger’s efforts.  Minnie asks if they will go and look at the house.  Biggles says they have done enough for the day.  “We’ll get along home.  I could do with a nice cup of tea”.