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Ties

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"One more thing," Uncle Erich said as Fritz put the money and documents into his pocket. He crossed the room to a chest of drawers and opened one, then carefully sifted down to something neatly wrapped in paper at the bottom. Fritz watched curiously as Uncle Erich unfolded the little packet. It was just a tie, a little different from his uncle's usual style, black but with a geometric pattern of red dots on it. He handed it to Fritz as solemnly as a commander awarding a medal.

"Put that one on. Perhaps it will bring you good luck. It certainly did for its last wearer."

It was of good quality, Fritz noted as he took the silk in his hand. Turning it over, he saw it bore the mark of a London outfitter. He looked his question at Uncle Erich, but it went unanswered: Uncle Erich was gazing out the window, lost in thought. Fritz took off his own old grey tie, coiled it up and put it on the table, then turned up his collar and tied the new one. Uncle Erich looked back when he was done, then came close and adjusted it for him, turning it so that the knot was perfectly straight and smooth under his chin. Fritz had fidgeted and complained a thousand times while his mother or Uncle Erich straightened his tie for him, protesting that he wasn't a child and could dress himself and they should just leave him alone. Now he stood very still and let Uncle Erich take his time, and swallowed something in his throat.

"There. Very nice. Now go. By the time they come for me you must be over the frontier."


There was something familiar about the lad who entered the sitting room at Mount Street. Accustomed to weighing up men in a moment, Biggles studied his fine, intelligent features and his stance, nervous but resolute and hopeful. An unusual lad with that combination of courage and thought, the sort of man Biggles would have been pleased to see amongst the young pilots. But it was more than that. There was something he recognised in his proud straight carriage, in the line of his jaw and his bright alert blue eyes, a face he hadn't seen for many years. El Shareef, he thought, then shook himself. Ridiculous.

The lad's clothes he studied too. The suit was not English in cut or fit, nor was it new, though a tear in the sleeve had been mended with care and it was spotlessly clean. Then he saw the tie the lad was wearing, and a jolt went through his body like an electric current. He told himself not to be absurd. Black with red markings was quite a normal pattern for ties--but those precise size and shape of spots, that distribution? He looked again at the face and before the lad opened his mouth, Biggles was completely, impossibly certain whose relative he was and who had sent him.