It was close to 6 pm when the telegram was received form Bertie: the Lady Henrietta was just arriving at her moorings, and was engaged in the usual maritime activities associated with a quick turnaround in port.
The group met up outside a tavern, noting that Bertie was dressed in his Boater and white flannels-very much the young city gent slumming it around a variety of bars. Marko’s usually very smart and precise nautical garb had been exchanged for that of a working sailor enjoying a bit of shore time: compared to the others he would blend fairly inconspicuously into the dockside landscape.
As they finished their drinks and started to get up, Lady Glossop noticed a smartly dressed man in a long overcoat and bowler hat standing behind them. As Sebastian turned around he spoke.
“Captain Sebastian Shaw? I need to have a word with you and your colleagues, if you please”, he asked politely, though with an edge of authority in his voice. Lady Glossop noticed that positioned around the room, were several similarly dressed men. “Hmm” she thought to herself.
“What exactly is the meaning of this Sir?” rejoined Sebastian sharply, “Have we met before?”
“Not as such Captain Shaw” replied the stranger evenly, “Though I think you did catch a glimpse of me on Dartmoor the other night.”
“Dartmoor? That was you?!” replied Sebastian. “What D’you mean by it Sir?!”
“I’m surprised an old soldier didn’t spot one of my men or myself earlier” he replied, “In fact we’ve had you under observation ever since you left London.”
“What?!” exclaimed Sebastian. Henry again looked slightly embarrassed.
“There isn’t time for this,” the stranger cut in. “My Name’s Trombley, Clancy Trombley, British intelligence service. Look, I don’t care what you know -quite a bit I’ll judge from your break-in at the asylum the other night. Nice piece of work by the way” he said, looking at Marko and Lady Glossop. “We all enjoyed it.” Lady Glossop blushed slightly.
“Anyway, I’m damned well sure we’re here for the same reasons. British intelligence has been keeping an eye on a German spy ring for some time. We suspected the German military attaché was the ringleader and it seems we were right.”
“I’m sure you can brief me on how Lord Cotterill was murdered later and what part Doctor Muelhoffer played, but for now I want us to pool our resources. Whatever your motives for being here are, we want Cotterill’s blueprints returned, and no doubt Von Steinhagen has them. Now,are we on the same side or do I have to arrest you all for obstructing an agent of Her Majesty?”
“I….I……” blustered Sebastian, “Well of course, we are all loyal servants of the Empire here!”. He stood rigid, casting a sidelong look at Marko, who was lighting up a cigarette.
“I’m glad to hear it. We may need your backup” replied Trombley. “Now listen. There’s one thing, and it’s important, Herr Oberst von Steinhagen is aboard that yacht and he can’t be killed. The murder of an important German official on our soil would cause massive political backlash and we just can’t afford that right now. No accidental killing or anything — if he dies, you face the gallows-its that simple, as we’ll need a scapegoat to pacify the Germans. You’re playing in a Big Game now, and that’s just the way it is.”
“Feel free to beat him senseless, though, and his men are expendable — given what he’s done he’s very unlikely to go and report this to the Kaiser. Germany can’t afford bad press any more than we can.”
“We understand Sir” said Henry. They briefly made their plans.
Twenty minutes later Trombley and his agents walked towards the gangway of the Lady Henrietta, along with Sebastian and Henry. Lady Glossop and Bertie had positioned themselves behind some crates on the dockside, and Marko was lounging nearby, looking for all the world like a merchant seaman idling away a few moments of his time. An officer approached Trombley.
“Mr. Trombley, representing Her Majesty’s Government” said Trombley. “I have reason to believe one of your passengers has violated his diplomatic status and removed documents belonging to The Government. I need to board your ship.” There was crisp authority and a hint of menace in his voice.
Peeking from behind a crate Bertie wasn’t sure of this. He could see that the officer wore a holstered pistol, and there were half a dozen smartly uniformed marines positioned around the upper deck- and these all had rifles slung.
“I am afraid that will not be possible Herr Trombley,” responded the officer. “This ship constitutes German territory- not British. You have no right to be here.”
“We’ll see about that” said Trombley brusquely, and brushing the man aside he and his four agents marched on board. The officer shouted a warning and went for his holstered pistol, while Trombley and his men rushed the officer and the adjacent Seebataillon marines.
At the opposite end of the boat Marko leapt on board next to a surprised trooper and swung a punch at him. The blow had seemingly little effect but a moment later a bullet form Lady Glossop’s pistol hit the man in the chest and spun him to the ground. Chaos ensued as the others moved on board, and the Seebataillon started to unslung their carbines.
In the close quarters of the yacht however, it was pistols which had the advantage, and at the front end of the yacht a close quarters brawl developed. At the rear Marko charged another marine and knocked him overboard, before making his way along the port side to the fore end.
Lady Glossop meanwhile had entered the central dining room behind Marko, and managed to shoot another of the marines positioned inside. She did however see that two sets of stairs led into the area from below decks, and she could here commands being barked and heavily booted feet clattering up them. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour she retreated outside to reload, though not before shooting the officer running up the steps next to her.
At the front of the ship Trombley had finally managed to draw his pistol in the melee, and demonstrated that he was an accurate and able shot. Sebastian was engaged in a brawl with one of the Seebataillon, and seeing the crowded nature of the foredeck, Henry started to make his way down the starboard side, firing both barrels of his Le Mat at one unlucky German.
In the logjam precipitated by the close quarters and deck arrangements, Marko’s brutal approach to hand to hand combat proved highly effective. Few of the Seebataillon carbines managed to get into play, other than as clubs in hand to hand combat, and the pistols and fists of the boarders started to take control of the situation. Bertie was making good use of his sword cane at the rear of the yacht, the marines again hampered by the crowded conditions.
As he thrust two of his knuckles into the eyes of another screaming German, Marko shouted out “Von Steinhagen” as he managed to glimpse in through the dining area side door. Hearing the shout, and seeing an opportunity, Sebastian rushed in, as simultaneously Henry entered from one of the aft doors.
“Herr Oberst von Steinhagen!" shouted Sebastian, "Your plan has failed, you Bounder!” Quickly taking in the situation Henry levelled his pistol towards Von Steinhagen.
“Your death would serve no purpose Sir, so hand over the plans and be on your way.” said Henry quietly.
Von Steinhagen sighed and reached for the briefcase he was holding.
“All of you think you are so very clever” he sneered, "but you have been duped. Germany is not behind this.” He opened the case and reached inside, and instead of producing the documents pulled out what looked like a stick, with a metal case on the end and a pair of wires hanging from it.
“My death will cause trouble between your nations. It may not lead to war, but war is coming, and soon. The darkness shall win, gentlemen.” He laughed and reached toward the wires.
Henry’s shot was faster, and Von Steinhagen winced as his bullet took him in the shoulder. Sebastian raced forward and pulled the object from his hand.
The German’s look of pain and surprise turned to complete shock as Marko raced up close behind Sebastian, his instep swinging high between the German’s legs and deep into his groin, lifting him completely off his feet and knocking him backwards into the cabin wall, from whence he slumped to the floor in agony.
“Oooehhhh….” said Bertie, sucking his teeth and wincing slightly, “Are you sure that was quite sporting, Marco old chap?”