by Captain W. E. Johns


8.     CHAPTER 8 – (UNTITLED)  (Pages 100 – 110)  (77 – 83)



“With the exception of Biggles who, having no need for haste went to the Air Police office at the usual time, after an early breakfast everyone else departed to begin the task that had been assigned to him”.  Bertie had given Ginger and Minnie a lift in his private Jaguar to within easy reach of Lotton Hall.  The question of recovering the stolen mail did not arise because it had already been found.  “In this respect the case was an unusual one in that it was not a matter of preventing a crime or of recovering stolen property.  By a pure accident the stolen mail had been found.  But a man had been murdered and that was a much more serious offence.  Which particular member of the gang involved had struck the fatal blow was not of first importance because according to law, when a number of persons have conspired together to commit a crime resulting in the death of someone the guilt rests on all those taking part”.  Biggles wanted the whole gang in the bag, including the “brains” behind the organisation.  Bertie, having dropped off Ginger and Minnie, makes his way to the spinney, where “in his heart he doubted if he would see any of the men they had previously encountered there”.  Bertie gets as near as possible to the side facing the estate of Lotton Hall, thinking that if he were to have visitors, it would most likely be from that direction.  He climbs on a half-fallen windblown fir tree, which gives him a good view.  In due course he hears voices.  To Bertie’s surprise, he sees the man who wore the R.A.F. tie, although this time he has a bandage around his forehead.  “So the man had not been killed when he had been shot at the roadside when he went back to his car.  He had only been wounded, and obviously not seriously, since although he looked pale and ill he was already on his feet again”.  This man is being held by the arm by the heavy-weight type who had also been in the spinney the day before.  The big man’s little partner was also there.  There was a fourth member of the party.  “He was a well dressed, olive-skinned, paunchy little man who carried, and in fact walked with the aid of a shooting stick: that is, a stick with double handles at the top which could be opened when necessary to provide a seat.  He now used it for the purpose for which it had been designed.  He looked angry, tired and impatient.  To some extent this applied to every member of the party”.  Bertie suspects this is Zolton, the owner of Lotton Hall.  Zolton says to the ex-R.A.F. man “Come on, where is it?  How much longer are you going to keep this up.  I’ve had about enough of this foolery”.  The man insists he doesn’t know.  He says he dropped it there as he didn’t want to land on an aerodrome with that stuff on board.  The little man produces a gun and threatens the ex-R.A.F. man.  Suddenly, Bertie’s previously partially fallen tree gives way and he comes crashing to the ground.  The four men below “made a dash for safety, scattering like sparks from a blacksmith’s anvil”.  They then stare at Bertie “with such expressions as would be expected in the circumstances”.  Bertie is unhurt and says “What cheer!  Sorry to barge in on you like this.  Hope I didn’t give you too much of a fright”.  Zolton asks him what he was doing in the tree.  “I was looking for a warga-warga bird,” informed Bertie, with a straight face.  “You know the little chappie that flies backwards to keep the sun out of his eyes”.  The little gunman recognises Bertie from yesterday.  Suddenly the gunman realises the ex-R.A.F. man has gone and asks “Where’s Crane”?  (There is an uncorrected mistake here when the gunman asks this because Johns changes the name of the ex-R.A.F. man to “Varley” for the rest of the novel).  Bertie had seen the man fade into the bushes, but he points the other way.