Having finally been persuaded that
infant crocodilians of any variety didn't tend to travel well, Murdock was
finishing up a list of instructions to Wally as to where to send postcards.
BA had returned to the inflatable and was waiting impatiently when
Hannibal and Face joined them.
"Time to go, Captain."
Hannibal called across the beach.
Murdock stood up from here he'd been
crouched in the sand for his lecture and gave a final wave before bounding over
to the boat. He leapt in and struck
a pose pointing dramatically out to sea. "Onwards!"
BA yanked at the boat almost toppling
Murdock with the sudden jerk. "Get
out, fool! We gotta get in the
Murdock bunny-hopped back on to the
sand, clicking his heels behind him as he jumped.
BA grabbed his arm. "Help
me carry this thing."
They deposited the dingy in the water,
Murdock kicking up sprays of water with his feet as they waded in deep enough.
Face followed fastidiously high-stepping through the shallow waves and
somehow getting no more than his ankles wet.
"Bear right, BA," Hannibal
called as they paddled out. "Head
for the landing stage, we're meeting the ferry there."
Murdock half-turned from his perch up
front. "Uh, Hannibal?
Haven't we got something else to do first--a lady waiting out at the reef
Hannibal and Face cast each other a
quick glance which Murdock didn't seem to spot.
Instead he continued, "We've got to take the aah..." He looked
at BA's glare. "Uhh...
other... boat... back."
Face intervened quickly.
"Oh that, oh don't worry about that.
It's been taken care of we're going to leave that here for the owner to
come pick up, it's all arranged. No
Murdock started to protest but BA beat
him to it. "Ain't no boat,
man," he declared. "I
know you guys brought me here in an airplane.
And it's stayin' here too." He finished firmly.
"No, no no nonono," Murdock
insisted. "We gotta take her
home, that's someone's lady, Face, she can't stay out here all on her lonesome
all night with the wind and the rain and the cold..."
Face looked pointedly at the cloudless blue sky but Murdock ignored him.
"... and the lions and tigers and bears!"
Face rolled his eyes.
"He's got a point,
Lieutenant." Hannibal grinned,
to all appearances enjoying the show immensely.
"Left for the reef, BA!"
Face moved closer to Hannibal and
dropped his voice to a vehement whisper he hoped was low enough to not be heard
at Murdock's end of the boat where the pilot was now contentedly staring out at
the sea ahead.
"Hannibal, that airplane's never
going to get out of the water. In
case you've forgotten the battery is entirely flat.
Someone ripped it off to start a tank!"
Hannibal beamed. "I'm sure you'll think of something."
Face shook his head in resignation. "Fantastic. Your confidence is inspiring."
He wondered at what point this had
become his problem. Using
the aircraft battery to get the tank started had been Hannibal's idea, but
somehow it had ended up being Face who trudged the length of the island to fetch
it and then to sneak it back again afterwards.
He hoped that they could have been gone before Murdock had a chance to
notice and that the seaplane's genuine owner would just put it down to a damp
night when he collected it the following morning.
Really he supposed he should have
predicted Murdock would want to fly back. He'd
spent as much time enthusing about the aircraft as the tank.
Face hadn't bothered to note the type but Murdock had eagerly explained
it was just as old as the tank and apparently had decided that they were some
kind of long lost war buddies.
They tied up the boat at the reef where
the red and white seaplane bobbed beside a jetty.
BA stayed resolutely sat in the dingy.
Hannibal didnít stir either. Instead
he gave Face a wicked grin and waved a cigar at him.
"I think I'll keep BA company on the ferry.
You can Murdock can catch us up after you drop the plane back."
Face all but wailed as they pushed off.
He looked back to where Murdock was leaning out across the tail, checking
some detail and wondered whether you could row a seaplane.
Murdock finished his external checks and
beckoned. "Come on Face, let's
go let's go. I want to wave bye bye
to Wally and the Old Lady before we go."
Face slowly climbed aboard, wondering
whether it would work better to affect complete surprise or earnest apology when
Murdock discovered they were going nowhere fast.
Murdock muttered to himself as he went
through the cockpit checks and fired up the starter. Or more to the point, failed to fire up the starter.
He shrugged, pumped the primer a few more times, tried again, then
pronounced a loud, "Hmmm."
"What's the matter?"
Face had decided on the 'complete surprise' option.
"No zap in the old zapper!"
Murdock jumped out of the cockpit leaving the craft rocking in the water.
He unlatched the cowling and peered into the engine compartment, tweaking
connectors and blowing on plugs.
He jumped back inside, primed it again
and held the starter down for long moments.
Nothing happened except that the rocking motion from Murdock's jumping
around began to make Face feel vaguely queasy.
"I think we have a dead
Really?" That sounded
pretty natural, Face thought hopefully.
"Yep." Murdock grinned unexpectedly.
"Guess we'll do this the old-fashioned way."
He jumped outside again.
Face clutched the edge of his seat as the rocking steepened.
"Murdock! What do you
mean, the old fashioned way?" He
did feel decidedly sick now, and more than a little concerned by this unexpected
enthusiasm of Murdock's for their situation.
Murdock climbed halfway back in, grabbed
Face's hand and placed it firmly on a lever.
pointed at a dial on the instrument panel.
"Watch this needle here and close
the throttle if it gets higher than there."
"What? Higher than where?"
Face's eyes widened at he stared at the instrument.
"What are you going to do?"
Murdock tapped the instrument again and
didn't answer. "Just watch
"Which way's closed?" Face
yelled. Murdock grinned and
gestured before disappearing.
Face craned his neck and could just
about see him stood beside and almost beneath one of the propellers.
He reached up, turned towards the window and jabbed a finger in Face's
direction, clearly indicating for him to get his eyes back on the numbers.
Face hastily looked back down at the panel.
From the corner of his eye he got a
fleeting glimpse of Murdock giving an almighty heave to the heavy blade and had
time for a panicked thought of *Dear God, he'll have his head off!*
Then the engine roared into life, the needle he'd been glued to jumped,
trembling, to well higher than the indicated target and the whole aircraft
surged forward against its moorings. Face
hastily closed the throttle as Murdock sprinted to the tail to loose the rope
there, then ran back to the cockpit and jumped aboard.
He scanned swiftly across the panel and brought the throttle back further
until the engine purred smoothly and the lunging, struggling aircraft settled to
a steady tugging on the on remaining tether.
Murdock gave Face a satisfied grin.
"Not bad. Not bad."
Face could only stare at him as he
leaned out to release the remaining mooring rope and they started to accelerate
smoothly through the water.
"Uh Murdock, you do know you've
only started one engine right?"
"Well I won't say I'm not good, but
I can hardly tread water and swing the prop at the same time now can I?"
Murdock shrugged as they slid smoothly up from water to air.
"The battery'll charge off of this one and I'll be able to use the
starter again." He looked at
Face, all innocence. "Besides,
I haven't done any asymmetrical flying since the last time we had a crash.
Practice makes perfect they say--currency is everything."
Without warning he banked hard until
they seemed to be dangling from their one turning engine and the beach and the
houses and the big old tank swung past below them "Wave bye bye!"
Face stared down at the suddenly very close looking ground, then back at the glint in Murdock's eye and wondered just who had been conned here anyway.
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