by James M Thomas, 2012

— The Thrilling Adventures of Jack and Giles is presented here in association with our glorious sponsors for 2016:
Penny Awful Press

— This story contains some strong language and innuendo. Parental Guidance is advised.

***

The Mystery of the Star Liner Pirates

I

It was a beautiful day and the breeze was just right to carry away the pungent odor of the swamp below. The Mare Tidal Plains just north of San Francisco was the location of the city’s zeppelin port. The large amount of unwanted land made it possible for it to service some of the largest airships. The Star of Dublin, unfortunately emblazoned with its named city’s heraldic symbols of three burning castles, at just over 2,800 feet long was certainly not the largest Star Liner Zeppelin, but it was one of the fastest at over 110 mph. The twin pocket thorium transmuters that powered and provided lift heat to the long haul airship were flushing their tertiary steam loops in great billowing clouds and throaty roar as if the airship were an enormous locomotive.

Giles duLapel sipped his tea as he watched the spectacle from his hilltop perch. This was the perfect spot for viewing the great airships loading and unloading their cargoes. The Star of Dublin would be moored nose and tail between its tall tethering towers throughout the night. He and his assistant would have plenty of time to board if she ever got here. It seemed that over the last 4 years she had made it a habit of being late to these meet ups.

The GRE racing cycle of Jack (AKA Jaclyn Elster) spat gravel on a turn and fishtailed into a recovery. The unimproved roads in the hills north of the city were treacherous to twin heeled vehicles; especially to a racing cycle that had only two gears… fast and oh-my-god! The sidecar didn’t help at all. She could see Giles on the next hill as a little bump of black and gray wearing a derby.

She had known the man for eleven years. He had saved her from the hell of being a Victorian orphan and made her his indentured apprentice detective. She had remained with him as an associate detective for the last four. He was her mentor, but she thought of him more as a friend than anything else. She feed a bolus of water into the bike’s flash steam generator and kicked it screaming into high gear. She liked to make a spectacular entrance for him.

Giles sipped his tea from the fragile porcelain cup as Jack skidded her racing cycle to a stop past him in a cloud of gravel and purged steam. He deliberately presented a stoic unshakable air because he knew it vexed his young associate so.

Jack vaulted off her cycle like a circus performer. She was beaming with clear satisfaction of her entrance as she pulled off her leather cap and goggles to reveal her dark crew cut and flashing gray eyes. Giles’ “put on” made her grin all the more as she pulled the extractor-tool from her backpack. In an almost nonchalant fashion, she pulled the white-hot cylinder of iron that was the Goldschmidt Reaction Engine’s core and tossed it into a ditch. It caused an unintended grass fire that she had to stamp out in a less than elegant dance.

Giles had pulled from his basket another beautiful cup and saucer. He poured her a cup from a matching pot and had it waiting for her as she swaggered up to take a seat at his portable piecrust table.

“I see you’ve invested your salary into a new toy,” said Giles smiling gently at the tomboy’s tomboy taking a seat on a folding stool. She twirled the silver server and snatched a watercress sandwich. She munched it noisily, her sparkling gray eyes looking for a reaction.

Giles pulled at his goatee square cut in the style of a professional man. “Is that the machine you used to come in third at the Sacramento Brickyard?”

“Naa, I got a first place in the dirt track competitions in Dixon,” she grinned and shook her head in the acknowledgment. “So what’s up… another security job or is it going to be real work?”

Real work to Jack had to have a component of adventure seasoned by a little danger to qualify. This was something Giles knew too well and worked hard on finding the right dose of danger and the mundane to keep his young assistant both focused and alive. “Real work… Star Liner Pirates!”

“Pirates, huh!” the girl’s svelte, sturdy physique seemed to expand under her racing leathers.

“And that,” Giles touched the brim of his black derby and then pointed to the Star of Dublin, “will likely be their next target. It will be flying through the pirates hunting ground and we will be on it.”

“I take it that its full of wealthy, beautiful people that will fetch a high ransom, rich opulent cargo, not to mention all the diplomatic pouches with state secrets.” Jack’s beautiful Norwegian eyes seemed to grow as large as the saucer she held, “I smell a boarding in force!”

“Jack, our job is to find out how they are doing it. It is almost magical to intercept a Star Liner Zeppelin, but they’re doing it. Pinkerton’s International Detective Agency, has contracted out this rather lucrative job to us with a 30% share for the Agency.”

“How generous of them,” sneered Jack then immediately rebounded with a happy thought. “But we do get to fight pirates!”

***

They disembarked from the passenger gondola onto the reception deck of the Star of Dublin. Jack, dressed in her Jaclyn Elster clothing and wig, looked like an icon of the upper middle class debutante. Her silk shirtwaist blouse and matching jacket made from the most colorful and expensive creations of Japanese looms marked her as a young woman of means. The fine, dark-blue skirt to her ankles showed her conservative values. It also hid her engineer’s britches and knee high lace up boots that were far from the refined, feminine image she was trying to project. She almost pulled it off, but insisted on wearing a pompadour styled wig more typical of the gentry’s wild third daughters. The straw boater with flamboyant ribbons, the newest rage in young daring women’s chapeau, strengthened the “adventurous girl” impression.

The young, uniformed greeting officer welcoming the airship’s passengers aboard beamed at Jack while giving Detective duLapel’s traveling persona of an American psychoanalyst a limp welcome. It was all too obvious to the detective that his young associate had been effective in attracting the right kind of bee. Junior officers were always too loose in the tongue when it came to impressing a possible conquest.

“It looks like you’ve made a new friend. Are you going to show him your motorcycle boots,” winked Giles.

“Why Master Giles, I’m a lady of purity: my white spats are a reflection of my innocence. Besides, that was a know-nothing wireless telegraph operator,” she twitched her mouth to the side. “I don’t know why he was greeting passengers. I was hoping to meet the Purser, much more information there.”

Suddenly there came an unexpected sharp barking as a young black terrier jumped from a tall, thirty-ish, long-faced woman dressed as fashionably as Jack. The excited dog ran straight into Jack’s long skirt, whined, spun, and peed as excited puppies do. Jack lifted the wriggling dog and it licked her face as if it was reacquainted with a long lost friend.

“I’m so sorry,” exclaimed the long-faced woman as she took with gloved hands the puppy from Jack’s arms. She cuddled the terrier, ignoring the possible damage to her white silk blouse. The scene was a postcard of two-woman in the newest of fashion, small-busted elegant lines with a cute sharp eared black puppy between them.

“Mac, is usually so well-behaved, but you must be a kindred spirit.” Apologized the much taller woman with a simpering smile and nodded her head as a noble would to a commoner that did them great service. She ignored Giles’ best hat tip and hurried off to her traveling companion, veiled and encased in brocade.

“Well, well! Surprises abound,” Muttered Giles under his breath. “This really is a treasure ship.”

Several older women, full bosomed, over-bustled, and strangled with a corset in out-of-fashion glory, were visibly appalled at the spectacle.

Jack nodded her head politely in their direction. One of the older women sneered, cracking her makeup and whispered something clearly nasty to her equally out-of-fashion companions.

“Impressions made all around,” mused Giles and tipped his hat to the wealthy crones. “No doubt they will be coming to me to complain about your outrageous behavior.”

Jack took Giles’ offered arm in proper ladylike behavior as she whispered back, “She’ll be a never ending fountain of information and gossip. We do make a good team.” She grinned up at her mentor with such radiance that every young man who saw it was made envious of her much older traveling companion.

“It’s time to see the captain, my dear,” said the detective, patting her hand more for show and they made there way across the great airship’s crowded reception deck. He flashed his badge to a porter.

***

The Star of Dublin had been underway for over 48 hours and was late in passing over the Aleutian Islands. Strong head winds and avoiding dangerous storm centers had set them back 20 hours, but the Popov lightning detector and pathfinder biplanes had found the most expeditious safe route. The cold, dense air allowed for high altitudes and the frigid Alaskan islands illuminated by a red morning sun provided a spectacular vista from the Captain’s Mess observation windows.

It was morning tea, and Captain Köinge and his senior staff were all in their formal day uniforms of dark blue and gold. The three-tiered service, gold plated to conserve weight, in the center of the table was loaded with delicate finger sandwiches filled with savories and deviled meats.

Across from the immaculately uniformed men sat a tall professional looking gentleman and a much shorter young woman wearing the junior mechanic officer’s casual dress uniform of the Star of Dublin’s Company—The Royal Galaxy Lines. The tall belted and gum-soled knee boots, brown striped engineer pants, and brown uniform jacket adorned with bronze insignia and rank, in combination with the petite young woman’s short cropped hair and flashing blue-gray eyes made her no less striking than the senior staff about her.

“Thank your, Captain, in allowing us to share morning tea privately with you and your most trusted staff,” said the professional man daintily dabbing his graying mustache with the white linen napkin. He handed the captain a set of documents he’d pulled from his inner jacket pocket.

The Captain Köinge received the documents directly much to the chagrin of Mister Green, the airship’s first officer, who normally reviewed the captain’s correspondence. Köinge carefully, and with a bit of theater, drew out of an inner pocket a pair of gold reading glasses and took his time reviewing the documents. He would occasionally look over his spectacles to pierce, with his age-faded pale eyes, the professional man and strange mechanic officer… woman… sitting across from him, only to purse his lips and read on.

“Detective duLapel,” the captain finally said and the professional man nodded. “So you are not here to provide security from an international pickpocket… You misrepresented yourself to me, sir!”

“Not at all,” gently smiled the detective. “Just underplayed the scale.”

The tomboyish uniformed woman snorted tea from her nose and covered her grin with her napkin.

The captain looked at her first with reprimand in his squint that quickly turned into wide-eyed realization. “Oh! Yes… quite serious! The directors are sure we are a target of these pirates?”

“The Star Liner Pirates operate over the Kamchatka peninsula which we will reach in less than thirty hours. They somehow know when and where their prey will arrive, as well as what is most valuable in cargo and hostages!”

“And then they use snare-line balloons to board with severe prejudice,” grinned the young mechanic as she snagged a watercress sandwich from the server as if demonstrating the violence of such a boarding and crunched on the morsel. The younger officers across from her flinched and she grinned wickedly.

“Ah, yes…” muttered the detective, he had known his impish assistant for over 11 years ever since he had rescued her from that Sussex workhouse to make her his apprentice. She had always had a very useful flair for drama. “The pattern always starts with small acts of sabotage to slow the Star Liner to a speed that a drag-line will not be suicidal.”

“You suspected an inside job,” piped up the first officer pulling the corner of his thick mustache at his own brilliant deduction. “And that’s why young Miss Elster was flirting with my junior officers!”

“Yes,” replied the detective, “Jack is quite the skilled casual interrogator.” He saw the question mark in the first officer’s eyes and he added with a hand gesture, “Jaclyn Elster, associate detective and my assistant in this case.”

The flight/weather officer’s eyes went suddenly wide in realization and began choking on the pâté he’d just bitten into. The rich, savory goose-liver paste speckled the tablecloth. “Edmonds, get a hold of yourself man,” reprimanded the first officer as the dashing officer’s back was pounded by helpful colleagues.

Detective Giles DuLapel waited patiently before continuing. “The passengers in first class have all past our first screening and the second class passengers have no opportunity to get to the machinery, so to speak.”

“That leaves the enlisted,” replied the captain turning a page on the sheaf of documents, “and we have had a recent and unfortunate turnover of half our crew. I take it that is why Miss Elster,” he dipped his head in deference to the young uniformed woman, “… Lieutenant Elster… Jack… is dressed as she is.” The captain looked straight into Jack’s eyes with a neutral look he would have given any officer in his command and had withered many a junior officer.

Jack answered without blinking, “that and to look for actual sabotage.”

“Captain, I must protest! This very young woman,” the first officer had verbally double-underscored woman, “isn’t qualified!”

“Apparently the President of the Royal Galaxy Lines disagrees with you, Mister Green,” replied the captain holding up a handwritten commissioning letter.

II

Jack carefully inserted the soft wax plugs into her ears as prophylactic proof to the deafening roar to come. In the insulated lock the noise was already unbearable; on the gangway to the engine pod it would rupture her eardrums. She secured the wool-fleece flight jacket, pulled the wool face sock over her head and secured her flight goggles. It was always cold, noisy duty attending to an airship engine pod, but at latitudes this high, parts of you tended to freeze off quickly.

The gangway like the other twenty-two she had just inspected was badly iced up… The watch chief was in dangerous dereliction of his duty. The tons of ice were requiring the thorium transmuters to work very hard for extra lift heat and the pods were already at 10% lift angle to compensate for the all the additional weight. “The operations officer should certainly be asking questions,” she exclaimed to herself as she mentally braced to cross the open gangway.

The front of her face sock iced up immediately with her first breath. The windscreen that ran the length of gangway only barely prevented personnel from being picked off by the winds of the Star of Dublin’s cruise speed. Setting a safety line was essential, even for her. She snapped the safety line hook on the guide rod and moved into the icy turbulence that spilled over the windscreen. Ice had filled in the steel mesh decking and stiffened her gum-soled boots making every moment a slippery terror.

A loose cable was whipping in front of her. The inch thick hemp cable was one of the control lines that trimmed the angle of the engine pod. She had seen the same sabotage on three other pods and repaired them. It wouldn’t cause a catastrophic failure, but it was necessary to eliminate vibrations caused by weight imbalances such as icing. She tacked down the line with hot tea from her thermos, freezing it to the deck while she retrieved the other end.

She fitted the splicing palm over her gloves and made quick work of a cunt-splice orcut-splice for the more genteel. She snicker as she worked as she recalled how American genteel high society had tried to bowdlerize Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew turning the wonderfully bawdy play into a quant courtship over tea. One of their clients had insisted taking Giles and her to a New York version of the abominable expurgation. She had laughed so hard at the absurdity that her wig had slipped sideways. Still chuckling, she tacked down the splice with more tea. She would reel it taunt from the engine pod to break the tacks after she finished inspecting the engine.

The pod’s front clamshell-door was nearly closed to prevent the engine radiator from getting too cold. The hydrogen gas diesel was thundering like a maniac having at a kettledrum. She warmed her hands on the mammoth engine as she inspected it; valve levers and heavy springs were in a blur of motion. There in the intake manifold for the supercharger was a glass bottle rigged with a blasting cap and a curious coil of wire. The clear liquid in the bottle was likely ether, just like the other ten similar devices she had discovered on some of the other engines. If even a small portion of the ether were to be ingested by the supercharger it would explosively disassemble. She carefully disengaged the device and made her way to the pod door.

Sparks flashed from the metal door jam as Jack slid it open. Then a finger-sized hole appeared in the aluminum door where her head would have been if she hadn’t instinctively pulled it back. A third shot broke the door’s view port. The droning roar of the engine and howling winds completely masked the report of the large caliber pistol, but Jack had all the evidence she needed that that was exactly what the bulky crewman was carrying as he slowly started to cross the gangway. There was no other way back, nor was there any place to hide and by his leisurely advance the sluggard was confident of these facts.

Jack took a quick inventory. She had a hurling line and her trusty large English Key, an adjustable spanner, that she could use in the styles of Japanese martial arts that Giles had forced her to take as his apprentice. Of the two, the spanner would be the most practical if the villain got close enough. That was unlikely by his cautious approach. She looked about to see if there was anything else to her advantage and saw the small winches that adjusted the tension of the trim control lines. She hadn’t reeled the line taunt yet!

Jack stood at the controls and looked around the open hatch. The great bear of a man was straddling the line that was frozen to the gangway deck, but there was more and Jack smiled evilly. “Silly bastard,” she shouted knowing he couldn’t hear a word, “not putting on your safety line is a Captain’s Mast offense!” She hit the switch to tauten the trim lines.

The man on the gangway stopped his slow pace and raised his large revolver to take careful aim. The trim line broke free of its first frozen deck welds and the man stepped back in apparent realization of his peril. The remaining line broke free of the frozen tea and shot up with what must have been a resounding crack, unheard in a sea of noise. It lifted him into the air and he would have plunged into the sea far below to a merciful end if his foot had not been caught in the eye of the line’s splice. The eye closed as the line drew taut and the would-be-killer was slammed to deck, his leg twisted backwards.

***

Giles duLapel straightened his waistcoat and finger curled his square cut goatee as he waited. The door of the starboard grand suite opened to reveal a tall, square butler who wore his clothes like a military uniform. His angular face had the darting eyes of heightened situational awareness; his body had the vibrating muscle tone of a coiled snake. The bulge under his jacket telegraphed to a trained observer that he was armed with something short of a cannon. His eyes rested on Giles like two leaden weights. “May I help you… sir,” he croaked out visibly restraining himself from yelling.

“Yes,” said Giles leaning forward and whispering with a small smile, “I’m here to see Toria and Maud…”

“What!” There was no restraint in the butler’s volume this time. He grabbed the detective nearly lifting him from his feet and pulled him in. “How did you know who’s here,” he demanded in the same tones as a high inquisitor readying the thumbscrews.

“Winston, who is it,” said a statuesque woman rounding a corner. A black terrier puppy, maybe a year old, came skidding and clicking on the deck until its claws found purchase on an area carpet. It barked at the intruder following the “butler’s” lead. “Oh, you are the psychoanalyst companion of Miss Elster.”

“Detective Giles duLapel, your highness,” said the bespectacled investigator trying to bow while still in the grips of the butler.

“Toria this is not the time. He might be dangerous!” commanded the butler in a too familiar fashion.

“Pasha cousin, Captain Köinge informed me of the detective and his colleague’s presence.” She folded her arms and her long face became stern. “Now if you please, Winston, unhand the good detective and fetch us a whiskey; I shall have a civil chat with our guest. Come Mac!” The dog and butler both snapped to!

***

The glass paneled wall of the sitting room afforded a religion-inspiring view of the setting sun. Deep reds filled the room as a swollen sun drowned in a dark-purple sea. Wispy cirrus clouds were painted on the fringed sky with a luminous dry-brush. A muffled roar of hydrogen heaters keeping the air warm and moist in spite of the acreage of glass to produce a comforting separation from the celestial scene.

Giles closed his eyes in enjoyment as he sipped the delicate tea just touched with bergamot rind.

“The tea is to your liking,” politely queried the long-faced woman simple dressed in a long gray skirt turned mauve in the setting sun light. Her extraordinarily expensive white silk shirtwaist blouse was shaded and highlighted in purple and Polish crimson by the swollen sun giving her royal presence a divine ambiance.

“It is delicious, ma’am,” replied the detective reaching to knuckle the brim of his derby and finding it not there, settled to adjust his small round spectacles. “I had not anticipated meeting your Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Wales when I first boarded.”

“It’s just the Princess Victoria since my grandmother, the Queen’s, passing,” she corrected without offense. “Now detective I take it that you are not risking my incognito travel for a mere social visit.”

Winston, now in a velvet smoking jacket, a whiskey in hand, and all pretenses of being a servant dropped, sat in a wingbacked chair glaring at the detective. It was much the same brown-eyed glare as Mac the dog gave from the safety of his mistress’ skirt.

Giles set aside the gold-filigreed cup and saucer, then spidered his fingers in dramatic thought. “No ma’am I have not. I think you and your sister’s secret has already been compromised… even before you boarded the Star of Dublin.”

“You must be mistaken,” she pressed her lips and flicked her heavy lidded eyes towards the door that lead to the interior of the suite, “I’m traveling alone, sir!” For her station, she was without a doubt an inept liar.

“I understand your reticence,” the detective tapped his nose twice as if to measure a precise unit of time, “considering Queen Maud’s delicate condition.”

Winston dropped his crystal tumbler perfuming the room with the peaty scent of a very old Islay Scotch.

“Thank you sir,” said the detective eyeing the royal guard with a touch of amusement, “for confirming my suspicions.”

Winston blanched, blushed, and growled nearly all at once, but had control of himself before a real servant had poured him a fresh drink. He waved his gentleman’s gentleman off and sighed. “We should trust this man,” he conceded.

“That is for me to decide, cousin… but I agree. Detective duLapel has seen through our charade.” The Princess narrowed her eyes at the detective. “Now that you have my attention…”

***

“The Queen of Norway,” whispered Jack loudly then wolf-whistled, “what a prize!” Jack set across from her senior partner, but in the tiny cabin their heads were quite close by just leaning a little forward. They were in first-class and had a two-room suite, but they were the size of waterclosets… in fact the watercloset folded down along with the sink. First-class had its own class structure, from grand suites for the gentry to tiny cabins for professionals. The Royal Galaxy Lines had looked out for their bottom line with Jack and Giles’ cabin assignment.

“…and Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria to boot,” added Giles.

“Didn’t she die last year?”

“Your thinking of her grandmother, Queen Victoria,” gently corrected the detective, “and she usually never leaves her mother, Her Majesty Queen Anne of England’s, side. Whatever mission they are undertaking in secrecy can only mean great profit to the nefarious who would take advantage.”

“Well that explains Chief Purcell’s attempt at murder; this airship has become amonkey trap!”

“…and the monkey has shown its teeth,” murmured the detective as her removed his spectacles to rub his fatigued eyes. “How is your assailant fairing?”

“We he will never be able to walk a straight-line again and he lost a few digits to frostbite,” reported Jack. The tomboyish associate detective looked small and fragile as she worried at the large in-and-out bullet holes in her leather flight jacket.

Giles knew that if the .455 Webley “manstoppers” had ever met flesh it would have been the end of her. He remained patient and let his silence ask the question.

“Bloody Hell,” she cursed, “this was the only one in my size!” She frowned at her taller and very much older mentor. She was uncomfortable about the level of concern that furrowed his brow. She pursed her lips and redirected her mind to business. “He smacked the deck face first, so he isn’t going to wake up anytime soon, and I was up for an interrogation.”

“So this is all you found on him,” confirmed Giles and nodded to the items beside him.

“Yes… the Webley was tethered to his coat in colonial style. I also found another of those engine-killing devices, and these letters. I was careful not to touch them with bare hands…”

Giles put on a pair of cotton gloves and picked up one of the papers. It was a hand-printed note on Star of Dublin letterhead typical of a personal wireless-telegraph message received and distributed to passengers onboard an airship. On the surface it was an announcement of the birth of Chief Purcell’s niece, but every fifth word was underscore in pencil… presumable by the chief. A normal happy letter until one read only the underscores: “plant-babies-slow-down-locate-queen.”

“This one is from Mr. Green to the chief telling him to give me his full cooperation…”

Giles looked at the note and softly cleared his throat. “‘…and give her the full treatment.” Interesting turn of phrase.”

***

It was dawn and another spectacular vista could be seen from the observation windows of the Captain’s Mess, that is, for those who looked. The mountains of the Kamchatka peninsula were thin redline on the far horizon a few hours away even with the great airship’s reduced speed. The talk had been all about Chief Purcell’s attempt on Lt. Elster’s life and what could have motivated him to such levels of betrayal to the ship.

Jack described in great detail the incident and showed off her bullet holed flight leathers. The junior officers hung on her every word. “What saved the blackguard from swimming the Bering Sea was when he stepped in the slacken eye of my splice as I reeled it tight.”

One of the junior engineering officers grinned widely with a sudden realization, “So big Chief ‘Kodiak’ Purcell was taken down by a wee cunt-splice!” The other junior officers reacted with snorts, stifled giggles, and blushes as the words left his lips.

“You mean cut-splice, do you not Mr. Frost,” corrected First Officer Green, not known as a stickler for genteel language, “we have a young woman present!”

Jack saw the cowed faces of the junior officer and saw the underling malicious intent of Mr. Green’s chastisement. It rankled her, but she wore a sanguine expression as she made unnerving direct eye contact with the first officer. “Have you ever looked at that splice, Mr. Green?” she asked rhetorically with honey in her voice. “You can not properly describe it without using an ‘N’ in cut-splice!”

The junior officers roared in laughter, many of the senior officers smiled, and Captain Köinge hid his lower face with his hand, but the crinkle in his eyes gave him away.

The servants had begun clearing away the dishes and the captain used it as an excuse to dismiss the junior officers to their duties. The senior staff of Mr. Green and the five division officers remained for the ad hoc meeting with the detective and his rough-and-tumble associate.

“Mr. Green,” Captain Köinge addressed his first officer, “What’s the status of Purcell’s… mischief.” Dropping the chief’s title by the captain was not only an indictment in the captain’s eyes, but a conviction.

“We had to slow down by two-thirds, but crews have been working on de-icing all night and will be done in another two hours.”

“Very well then,” sighed the captain as his attention shifted to his medical officer. “Doctor Blessure, what’s the status of your patient?”

“Chief Purcell is stable and mercifully unconscious,” spoke the French physician with the faintest of Parisian accents. It was almost as much an affectation as his pencil thin mustache and curled center-parted hair. “His right leg has been twisted backwards and broken in three places, his left shoulder is badly dislocated, his nose crushed, and he has a bad concussion. That is not to mention several toes and an index finger lost to frostbite. I’m afraid Miss Elster plays very rough!”

The captain frowned at Jack from under his brow and Jack smiled back sheepishly. Then to her surprise she heard a barely audible grunt of approval from him. The captain shifted his tired gaze to Giles, her boss. “What do you make of this, Detective?”

“Unfortunately Chief Purcell has accomplished part of his mission… to slow us down.” Giles produced the personal wireless-telegraph message of Chief Purcell’s niece’s birth and the underlined hidden mission. He handed it to the captain for inspection as he continued. “He apparently had several tasks: to slow down this airship and to plant these in a third of the engine manifolds,” Giles produce from his coat pocket one of the peculiar blasting cap rigged glass tube and coil devices. The ether had been replaced with water and a wire cut for safety. Several of the senior officers leaned in close to look at the odd device including the rakish looking weather/pathfinder officer and biplane pilot, Mr. Pie.

Giles carefully noted all their reactions to the odd device before adding, “It is intended to explosively inject ether into the supercharger.” The engineering and thorium transmuter officers immediately pulled back with shock on their faces.

“That would have blown them up,” exclaimed Mr. Murray the engineer in a painfully thick brogue.

“I’ve seen this kind of coily thingumabob in the wireless…” noted Mr. Pie poking the device with his desert fork. “…and you Miss Elster discovered and disarmed them,” he said grinning up at her with such a wide puckish grin unmistakably given to what he considered a kindred spirit. “Do you know how to fly, Lieutenant?”

“We think it some sort of wireless activated device,” redirected the detective to a more pertinent conversation.

“What do you make of these,” asked the captain holding up the note and pointed to purplish black smudges around the edges and a few in the center.

“Those are my doing,” smiled Giles. “They are fingerprints of all those who handled the note with their bare hands and developed using Paul-Jean Coulier Iodine Fumes technique. Most are the chief’s and one assumes the wireless operator who printed it, but there prints of four different people on that note…” Before anybody could comment, the tall graying detective pulled out a huge pistol broke it open and let its cartages spill out on the white table linen. “This is the chief’s .455 caliber Mark IV Webley revolver he used to shoot at my young associate. Note the unfired cartage is a hollowpoint ‘manstopper’ prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1899. The weapon and the bullets were used by the colonial police during the last Boer Insurrection. I take it that this is not one of the issues from the ship’s weapons locker.”

“Certainly not!” exclaimed the captain indignantly and glared at the offending weapon.

“My young colleague noted that Chief Purcell was also muttering curses in Afrikaans which is in opposition to his records of never serving in any capacity in South Africa.”

“My orderly made mention that he was cursing in provincial Dutch in his delirium,” mused the doctor.

“Most of the fingerprints on the shells were also the chief’s,” noted the detective stroking his square cut goatee.

“But not all,” said the captain drawing the obvious conclusion. “Mr. Green, please take charge of the weapon and insure it’s properly stowed in the weapons locker.

Giles noted the nearly imperceptible smile flit across the first officer’s lips as he wrapped the pistol and cartridges in a linen napkin. “I’ll take care of this right away, sir.” He started to reach for the odd engine-sabotaging device as well, but the detective stayed his hand. The first officer glared at the effrontery!

“I will be needing that as part of my ongoing investigation, Mr. Green!”

Jack, quiet to this point, reached out with a small set of wire cutters and nipped off the coil bits from the blasting cap and bottle. “This is all we really need, Giles,” she grinned taking the useful piece. “We should let Mr. Green have the dangerous end.”

“Well then,” Giles nodded his acceptance to the compromise, “Mr. Pie, could you show us where you have seen thingums like this?”

***

Flight Captain Porthos Vallon Pie II, Porky to his friends because of his natural tendency towards hyperbole, was very tall and wiry. His thick curly blond hair had so many cowlicks that it was in perpetual state of fashionable unruliness. His interaction with Giles’ young associate, Jack, was one of a long lost identical twin. It didn’t matter that Jack was only two-thirds his height and the wrong gender, she had an identical soul. The same stick broken unevenly in half was still the same wood and so it was with Jack and Porky.

The Weather/Pathfinder suite was nestled between the first-class pressurized sections and cargo bay one. It consisted of a hanger in the middle with its associated traipse launch/recovery system for four pathfinder biplanes and triple engine VIP transport; a maintenance bay and enlisted quarters in the back; and in the front was the officer quarters, and the weather-room where the Popov Lightning Detector and flight wireless signaler were jointly located. Porky enthusiastically introduced Jack and Giles to his four junior officers. She produced the coiled wireless device and suddenly all were focused on its technical mysteries. They all poured into the weather-room and Giles followed completely unnoticed.

“It’s definitely a ‘tank circuit,’” decided Mr. Frost, the shortest and stoutest of the young officers. His Welsh heritage shown in his dark brown eyes that danced excitedly between the device and Jack. “It the same thing that allows our flight wireless to specifically signal our pathfinder planes individually.”

“Can you make it somehow indicate when it is activated,” asked Jack? It was something Giles wanted, but left it to her to wheedle out of the young engineers wanting to please. They reacted as if she were the girl of their dreams with her cropped haired and looking even more roguish than their flight captain in her smart engineer’s uniform.

“Oh yes,” said a near albino blond who dashed to a parts bin and returned with a neon peanut tube. The others grunted their agreement and somehow avoided being burned by the soldering iron that made it’s hot smoky appearance to solder neon light into the void that the blasting-cap once filled. They handed it to the avant-garde young woman, as dogs would present a choice bone to a potential mate.

Giles was ignoring the bit of suitors’ carnival, drawn to the curiosity of the Popov Lightning Detector. It detected the same phenomena that worked the wireless telegraph that naturally was associated with thunderstorms. The large cathode-ray tube would flash a lingering line in the screens phosphorescent salt coating that would indicate the direction and distance a lightening event occurred. It was flashing with disturbing frequency indicating a storm in the direction they were heading. There was something else, a ring close to the center that he had never read about. “Flight Captain Pie,” said Giles duLapel over the throng of conversation.

The tall blond disengaged himself to join the detective in front of the Popov. He was smiling and commenting on how smashing Lt. Elster was when he saw the detective pointing at the Popov. He immediately recognized the implications of the flashing phosphorescent lines and began shouting orders. “Lt. Frost, we have weather over Kamchatka.”

Jack moved over to Giles in an out of the way corner of the crowed room. Two of the junior officers had dashed out shouting to the hanger crew to start-up their pathfinder planes. In the pandemonium, Jack calmly showed her senior associate that the neon light had begun to flicker. “It looks like Purcell’s friends are expecting the engines to blow now,” said Jack under her breath thoroughly amused at the young men now acting as professionals, after the fact.

“What I find curious is that this device is keeping perfect time to that little ring appearing around the Popov screens center!” Giles touched the brim of his derby before directing her attention, as was his habit. And there it was, plan as the nose on her face, the two phenomena happening with perfect synchrony as if toggled to the same ætherial switch.

Jack was on the move and was quickly beside the stout brown-eyed Welshman’s side. “Frost what is causing that,” she demanded and jabbed a finger at the regularly appearing circle on the Popov’s screen.

“Night zenith glow… No, it’s morning…” he seemed confused. “Local interference maybe. It sometimes happens when the long-range wireless is sparking without its resonance “tank circuit” engaged,” he said trying to multitask.

“I know how they’re doing it,” shouted Jack as she ran for the door. “They are using our own wireless to home in on us using a Popov.”

“What!” shouted duLapel trying to hear over the cacophony of pathfinder biplanes being rushed to launch in the adjacent hanger.

“I’m going to the wireless compartment to shut it down,” she screamed and was out the door.

***

The long range wireless telegraph compartment, also known as the shack, was located all the way in the back next to the great hydraulics and gearing that moved the enormous tail veins of the half-mile long zeppelin. Jack sprinted down the starboard companionway. Even though the heated gasbags filled the upper three-quarters of the grand airship and the long companionway was vented with frigid air from the outside, it was unbearably hot and the air too thin. The respirator that covered her lower face was noisily supplementing her oxygen and barely keeping up with activity.

She jumped into the airlock to the rear compartment and slammed open the pressurizing valves. The aluminum walls pinged as they flexed. She yanked down her respirator and hollered in a wide mouthed attempt to equalize the pressure in her popping ears. The door sprung open and she scrambled into the shack.

The wireless room was empty, but the two four-foot spark tubes in their wire cages were crackling loudly in an unnaturally regular beat as they overloaded reset and overloaded again. Two other wire cage cabinets were left hung open with a heavy cable strung between them.

Jack took in the high voltage scene and then spotted the telegraph key at the operator’s desk tied closed with string. She quickly cut it and all stopped. “That was simple,” she muttered under her breath, “so where did the weasel go?” She let her senses open to the sudden quiet and she heard tapping and clanking of metal on metal from a doorway marked “STEERING GEAR.”

Jack looked at the penknife with which she had cut the string and sighed. She was in her “attending the Captain’s Mess” uniform and had no tools, nor weapons, of any kind save for the teeny-weeny folding knife in her hand. She quickly checked the lockers and found a coil of finger thick braided line used for rappelling in a locker labeled “Antenna Maintenance.” She pursed her lips in approval and quickly tied a monkey’s fist at its end and loaded it with a ceramic insulator. She whirled about to see how it moved, but it was more about limbering up for trouble to come.

The whole room shook as she entered the steering gear compartment throwing her painfully against the bulkhead. The hydraulic ram that actuated the rudder squealed as it tried to crush a high-grade steel spanner in its works. The same wireless operations officer she had met days ago when she had boarded the Star of Dublin turned with a satisfied grin on his baby faced mug. He was square and his considerable muscle mass was softened by a thick layer of adolescent fat. You could have easily mistaken him as a Dutch boy in his late teens, just big for his age, but his hard pale eyes and high heavily lined forehead betrayed a much older and deadlier man. He laid his eyes on Jack and his grin turned evil.

“So you think your little rope tricks are going to work on me?” The square man pulled out a huge locking knife that produced a resounding snap when he expertly thumbed it open. “Purcell was a pussy,” his grin nearly splitting his face, “but I like to getup close and personal,” his grin became lascivious,  “know what I mean, butch?”

Jack had readied herself in a well-centered stance, but so was he. She needed him to move and have momentum that she could use against him. She smiled in her most disarming fashion and appeared to relax. “Hmm… Who’s the bigger pussy: a guy crossing an iced causeway while we are fully underway or a lump of lard with a knife and in shirtsleeves facing a girl a quarter of his weight armed with a little rope. Should I make a cunt-splice for you as well?”

The grin was gone and he moved like a bear, a very fast bear! Jack was prepared for it and dodged under the knife thrust. The monkey’s fist spun about the big man’s knife holding hand. His own momentum and Jack’s quick jerks on the line yanked his arm behind his back. A loop already in the air lassoed his neck just as Jack slid between his legs. She was up front facing him and the bear of a man reached for her.

His rage had flushed his face and bulged his eyes. “I will crush the life from you, woman, and then…” He squeaked in surprise as she leaped into the air and planted both booted feet hard into his solar plexus and pulled hard on the binding line. Holding the line painfully taunt, she stood on his belly and rode him like a Polynesian surfer as he fell backward like a hinged plank.

***

The great airship was shuttering Giles duLapel and Flight Captain Pie ran down the companionway wheezing into ill-fitting respirators taken from the forward airlock’s locker. Far behind them they could her the shouts of Mr. Green organizing an armed party to follow.

They had just made it into the steerage airlock when they felt the shuddering stop and the whole airship listing and turning hard to port.

“We have the rudder again!” Porky shouted at the top of his lungs as the loud roar of repressurization began, “The captain can outmaneuver the pirates now… and we have the speed on them. My boys are harassing the bastards while the captain kicks this pig to flank… thanks to your partner!”

“I’m worried about Jack,” said Giles drawing his Steyr Mannlicher auto pistol from his shoulder holster. He had been carrying it ever since his associate had been attacked.

Porky drew his Royal Star Line issued Mauser C96 and patted its boxy body. “I’m ready…” he exhaled and ran his hand through his thick tousled mane. “Right, on a count of three then…”

They charged into the empty wireless room and rapidly progressed into the steering gear compartment only to meet a peculiar sight that stopped them dead. Hanging from an overhead winch was the beefy wireless operator hanging upside down as if a figure on a tarot card. His bindings were intricate and artful as well as painful if he dared to struggle. The airship righted itself as it completed its turn and the bound man swung like a carpenter’s plumb.

Flight Captain Pie was sure he’d seen this kind of rope bondage on a very naughty Japanese postcard, though this was a far better execution. It was kind of…  mesmerizing!

Giles knew it was Jack, getting her bit of revenge. “What did he do?”

“It was something he said,” came a voice from behind. The tall men turned to the diminutive lieutenant sitting cross-legged on the floor, her back against the bulkhead. Her uniform jacket was folded neatly beside her and the sleeves of her blouse rolled up. She was wearing greasy engineer gauntlets she had found somewhere and was examining a chewed and twisted adjustable wrench the length of her forearm. “This is a Bernt August Hjort & Company adjustable spanner. Old Johan can really make them! You little beauty, you held back those big old hydraulic rams all on your own…” she said to the spanner as if it were a child.

Porky was giving Giles a sideways look that made the detective smile.

“…and him,” continued Jack getting up and walking over to the villain. He visible squeezed his eyes closed and shivered at her approach. “He called me butch!”

III

It was one of those rare events where the captain condescends to visit a much lower class suite. Usually the captain calls on those of high station and peerage, but not today; not after what happened, betrayal from one of his officers. So now Captain Köinge sat with his flight captain on one side of the watercloset-sized cabin with Jack and Giles facing them.

“I take it, sir, that you find this clandestine meeting totally necessary,” grumble the captain in his most dubious sounding tone. He looked at the young woman that most likely saved his ship from piracy sitting primly before him with a twisted and chewed wrench across her lap. He sighed, “That’s twice I’m in your debt, Lieutenant Elster!”

“There are two reasons why you’re here captain. First, I believe there is at least one more conspirator hidden with the ranks of your senior officers.”

The old captain glared at the detective for making such a preposterous assertion, and then covered his eyes in resignation. “Please tell me it’s Mister Pie here!”

“Sir!?” said Pie with complete surprise.

“No, sir, Pie is probably your most loyal officer.” The detective raised his hand to keep the tousle haired blonde silent. “The other reason is…”

“Me,” said a soft voice as a sleeping compartment door slid open to reveal a modestly dressed woman whose regal bearing was unmistakable.

Captain Köinge drew in a breath, “Queen Maud! Your Majesty, I had no idea.”

“Detective duLapel has kindly given up his cabin for my safety. I would consider it a boon to help him and my most loyal subject, Miss Elster, to resolve this matter!” She turned and returned to her cramped quarters with her attendant.

“So whom do you suspect,” whispered the captain glancing over his shoulder.

Raucous barking of a panicking terrier came down the hall beyond and Jack stood up as pounding came from the door. The flight captain drew his Mauser and carefully opened the suite door.

“Mr. Green’s taken Toria,” exclaimed a battered and bloody Winston, “he thinks she’s Queen Maud!” The bleeding gash on his scalp betrayed a severe concussion and he collapsed between them now that his reason for consciousness had ended. Mac the terrier was yanking at his trouser leg as if to get the unconscious man to follow.

Jack was on the move using Winston’s back and Porky’s empty seat to launch herself into the hallway. Mac’s claws skittered on the deck as he skidded into the lead happy to have a follower.

“You better go and supervise your energetic associate,” said the captain standing and straightening his immaculate uniform. “It looks like she’s about to do something heroic… again!”

But the old detective hadn’t need of the captain’s words as he drew an airship issue Mauser from his shoulder holster and leapt after his associate, hot on Jack’s trail at the repeated expense of Winston back.

“Flight Captain,” the airship captain grabbed the shoulder of his trusted and now vetted senior officer before he charged after Jack as well. “Porthos! I need you to personally guard Her Royal Majesty Queen Maud while I raise the alarm against my first officer!”

The flight captain was clearly torn between adventure and responsibility as he ran a hand through his tousled hair. “Aye, aye, Captain,” he snapped, and closed and secured the door after his commanding officer left.

***

Mac was like black lightning down the hall, kicking the wall with all fours to make turns, and taking great leaps up the three step rises, barking all the way. Jack was right behind him using the same wall kicking technique and barking, “Out of the way, out of the way!” The gentlefolk stuck their heads out of their cabins to see what was causing such unholy commotion to quickly retreat within to avoid the black and brown streak of dog, then woman. They flattened themselves against walls, cowered in corners, and those unfortunate enough to swoon became hurtles to be leapt. Behind them followed the detective encumbered by the gentry as he went.

Jack already knew that their was only one way off the Dublin Starr short of leaping head long into the wilds of Kamchatka… the hanger. She sped up and soon Mac and she were neck and neck. They hit the weather/pathfinder suite’s door with all six feet and the latch gave way. Both dog and girl rolled in and were up on their feet. Mac went barking ahead, but Jack quickly looked into the Popov room. Frost lay sprawled on the floor. The officer quarters on the other side was empty. Mac came back barking for her and she followed him in a dash.

Jack skidded to a halt at the mouth of the hanger. It was almost empty except one pathfinder biplane and the VIP transport. There in the middle stood First Officer Green, white gloved and in his dress uniform he would have worn to greet dignitaries. Clutched in front of him was the Princess Victoria, her heavy eyes looking a little relieved at seeing the arrival of Mac and Jack.

Mr. Green brandished an ugly looking gun. “Not any further, child! I’m a superior shot to my comrade…” he warned but he couldn’t help gloating.  “Besides the game is over and we’ll be ransoming Queen Maud here! We don’t want anything bad happening to Her Majesty now… especially sense she is with child of the King of Norway!” He wallowed in his triumph by giving his royal captive a hard squeeze.

Giles’ ruse had worked, Jack thought admiringly, and now the brave Toria has been mistaken by this peacock rogue for her more valuable pregnant sister, Queen Maud of Norway. She fell into a relaxed stance as she adjusted her hands on the twisted spanner she was still carrying. It had the perfect weight for the iron-fan technique ofTakenouchi Ryū. This style and the rope fighting were the portions of that Japanese martial art at which she had excelled and her muscle memory began excitedly to waken.

Mac seemed to sense the awakening predator within Jack and stood in total solidarity. The black terrier flattened his sharp ears and growled with bared white teeth at the captor of his mistress.

Behind Mr. Green a comrade was preparing the launch traipse for the VIP transport. He hopped into the aircraft and continued his preparations. Jack knew she did have much time; then she spotted it and grinned. It was Giles’ M1894 Steyr Mannlicher blow-forward, semi-automatic pistol, which had the most wicked recoil characteristics in all of modern armament history. Anyone novice to its evil ways instantly became the worst shot on the planet, so much so that it was safer in front of the target. It was exactly why Giles carried it… just in case he became disarmed by villains.  He must have lent it to Winston on some pretext, but she had to be sure of Mr. Green’s inexperience with it. “That’s a pretty evil looking firearm you have their First!” She called out taking a step forward.

“This,” grinned the first lifting the weapon so he could admire his prize. “I got it off her boob of a bodyguard. It saved me a trip to the weapons locker!” He lowered it taking careful aim.

The center engine of the transport popped loudly and began to turn over and Jack charged… and so did Mac.

Mr. Green turned the pistol quickly to the fast approaching black ball of teeth and fired. The bullet passed through Jack’s uniforms shoulder padding. Meanwhile the Mannlicher wrenched itself out of the very surprised first officer’s hand to sail in a leisurely arc towards the VIP transport only to be caught in its whirling propeller slung through the aircraft’s windscreen and into the chest of the First’s minion, where it discharged again. The engine began to sputter as he slumped.

The minion’s cry went unheard over the screams of First Officer Green as Mac found the meatiest part of the traitor’s calf to chomp. Toria scooped up Mac and dived very un-princess-like for the safety of a corner.

Mr. Green jumped back just in time to take only a glancing blow to the shoulder from Jack’s large spanner. Hopping on one foot he shouted back for the aid of his henchman. There was no answer as the over-choked engine came sputtering to a halt. He called again and realized that he was alone. “Very good Lieutenant. Providence is on your side.” He drew his ceremonial sword and swung it in a warm-up saber drill.

Jack immediately went into a defensive stance using her spanner as an iron-fan. Green’s face became grim and his affect suddenly turned deadly. She knew that look—a soldier ready to make his last stand.

She saw him begin to coil, “At least I can make it that Norway will remain without heir!” he shouted and charge Victoria. Jack batted down the saber with a strike to the wrist and bounced off the much heavier man landing on her feet. She hadn’t disarmed him but the strike had smarted such that he redirected his attack at her. She blocked his strike with a sliding riposte, her twisted spanner sparking as it slid the length of the blade to its hilt, and then, as she passed under his arm, cracking his ribs with the heavy spanner. She went to the floor as the blade arced over her and with her own fast sweep caught the side of his knee. It folded in the wrong direction and he went down screaming. The saber skidded across the floor and Mac, aching to get into the fight, broke from his mistress’s arms to ravage Mr. Green’s good leg.

“Is everybody… *puff* alright?” Giles gasped, leaning heavily on the hatchway frame, gun mostly at the ready.

“Your associate has everything well in hand, detective,” said the regal personage dusting herself off in a corner.

Jack flourished her wrench and tucked it into waistband as if demonstrating her finishing move to her sensei and grinned widely at Giles.

***

Le Café de L’Enfer, Hell’s Café, was located in the fashionable part of Paris’Montmartre neighborhood, the “red-light district.” It had been an unseasonable warm spring day, which meant it was a perfect Parisian evening. The sun low in the west turning the sparse clouds all shades of blood as Jack and Giles walked through the café’s doorway shaped like a demon’s fanged and gaping mouth.

They were seated in one of the private booths in the lower pits of Hell surrounded with plaster effigies of tormented souls and a shapely young woman dressed as a horned demon was soon on the spot to take their orders.

Giles was impeccable in his matching, black, three-piece suit, gold cufflinks and watch fob; and Jack in her brown airship-engineering officer uniform adorned with Norwegian Flight Lieutenant shoulder boards, and Norway’s Gold Medal for Heroic Deeds pinned to her left breast. Her crew cut had grown out to a fashionable bob and looked smart under the brown, short-billed and peaked cap.

Jack grinned up at the young waitress and ordered. “A seething bumper of molten sins, with a dash of brimstone intensifier… if you please,” she order in practiced French and then with a little less fluidity, “… and a Four Roses Bourbon for my distinguished colleague in Satan’s black!”

“I’m sorry madam, but we do not server ‘foreign’ spirits in this house,” informed the waitress with the level of haughtiness that only the French could pull off without being pummeled by their patrons.

“The maître d’ has made arrangements to fill this request, so if you would…” smiled Jack trying to keep her humor with the girl’s surliness.

“I shall do no such thing. I’m sure the gentleman would be perfectly happy with a fine glass of wine or maybe some absinthe if he wants something stronger,” suggested the waitress bullying the foreigners.

Jack would have none of it and gave the woman such a piercing glare with her gray eyes that the young waitress took two very slow steps back and made a made dash for it, her devil’s tail flapping in a nearly straight line behind her.

“Now you will never get your cognac spiked espresso,” mused Giles as he watched the waitress make a less than gracious turn with the help of a plaster sinner’s “parts.”

“Oh I think you will be surprised,” mused Jack.

“Surprised by what, Jack?” demanded a tall square man in expensive two-piece tweed and priceless silk tie. A sparkle in his dark eye betrayed the military bark as more puppy play.

“Winston!” beamed Jack and then took time to look the man up and down. “I hear that you retained your Oldham seat in parliament, but as a Liberal?” teased Jack. “And a big congratulations on the Victoria Cross nomination.”

A grin stretched across Winston’s angular face as he sat. “Is that a Hero’s Medal pinned to your chest, Jack,” he feigned surprise.

“Why yes it is kind Sir,” she said playing along and puffed out her modest chest.

He handed Giles a copy of The Daily Telegraph and Courier already folded to an article with only a glance to the man. “I thought you might appreciate an official account of what transpired!”

“Congratulations on your publication,” commented Giles seeing Winston’s byline as he popped open the popular London paper. He took a moment to scan the account headlined provocatively as “The Star of Dublin Affair.” Giles passed it to Jack “This account is nearly half a page with illustrations and a photograph! You’ll love the big illustration’s label, Jack, ‘Lt. Jaclyn Elster defends Her Royal Highness The Princess Victoria from a murderous Boer with only a star mangled spanner.’”

The detailed etching showed Toria on the floor barely restraining Mac, her beloved terrier looking more like an enraged wolverine showing all his teeth. Mr. Green was on the other side tall wide and menacing with saber high and ready to do the evil deed. For some reason, the illustrator had dressed the first officer in a Cossack’s fur coat making him look like a rearing grizzly bear with a sword. Jack was depicted as the small and defiant giant killer defending the princess with only a large wrench. The wrench strangely had teeth marks as if bitten by a large animal rather than caught in the airship’s gearing. “It looks more like a chewed BAHCO,” snorted Jack.

“It also has a nice halftone photograph of you and Toria holding the aforementioned implement,” commented the detective and then to Winston. “This must have been a most lucrative payoff for you.”

Winston flashed his eye with pride and then Giles added, “Of course my serialization in The Morning Post should run several pages.”

“Don’t try to pass off your Penny Awful as anything but pure fiction, Detective,” came a contralto from behind. The black terrier leaped from the tall woman’s arms and into Jack’s with such exuberance that it leaned Jack’s chair back into the sculpted wall. A tormented soul happily caught the pair.

“Mac, good to see you boy! Enough with the kisses, what will people think in a place like this!”

Victoria took the fourth seat, “Good to see you again, hero, and Mac I’m afraid feels the same way. The freedom of dogs,” she smiled demurely.

“Toria is traveling incognito to your knighting ceremony in Kristiania tomorrow,” informed Winston in quiet tones.

The maître d’ arrived carrying a silver tray with a piping hot satin mug of heavily spiked coffee and a bottle of Four Roses Bourbon with several glasses. On his lapel was a ribbon boutonniere in Norwegian colors. The original waitress was following behind, a bit cowed. “I’m so sorry, Lieutenant Jack; Francine was merely acting out her part as an imp,” he apologized and turned his gaze to the pretty waitress. “A part for which she is a natural talent,” he added.

“I knew you would handle it, Annas,” winked Jack as the headwaiter poured a finger of whiskey for Giles.

“And may I get Madam and her gentleman something,” said Annas, not recognizing or not carrying to acknowledge the royalty present.

Before Winston could speak the long faced woman held up a hand. “This will be fine,” she reveled in her deception and poured herself two-fingers. “You know, Detective, that father has developed a passion for this spirit ever since you gifted him with a bottle. So much so that he has given a royal charter to the American distillery.”

Giles nearly choked, “Well their goes the affordability…”

At that point, a loud party of voices came from the end of the twisted cave-like room. A tall tousle-haired blonde in a Royal Star Lines’ flight office uniform that would shame a peacock rounded a corner with five other similarly dressed men in high spirits. One, a short, dark man with a new scar decorating his youthful face, saw Jack at the table and shouted, “found her Porky!”

“Frost, Porky, and you brought the boys,” hollered back Jack. “Now it’s a party!”

FIN

— The Thrilling Adventures of Jack and Giles is presented here in association with Penny Awful Press.