The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 23

A month later the day drew to a close as thick, ominous clouds blew down from the north and spilled lashings of heavy rain over Dover and the surrounding countryside. In the manor house up on Westcliff, Lady Miranda Barker had just made herself a mug of coffee to help keep her awake, as she was due at the ambulance station later to start her night shift. She was just walking out of the kitchen when she heard a key turn in the front door’s lock, which opened, and her brother Anthony rushed in out of breath. Peeling off his wet RAF greatcoat he tossed it aside and without greeting asked her irritably where their father was as Miranda rushed down the hall towards him

‘In his study. Anthony, what on earth’s the matter?’

Ignoring her, Anthony turned on his heels and hurried past the main staircase towards his father’s study.

Miranda stood looking after him, both shocked and hurt by his mood and that he had not greeted her, as he always gave her a kiss on the few occasions that they now met. It must be something very important, she thought to herself as she picked up the rain sodden greatcoat and hung it on the hat stand by the front door. Not one to eavesdrop, but concerned for her brother, she tiptoed to the study door and listened carefully to the raised voices coming from behind.

‘What’s the matter, Anthony?’ she heard her father say.

‘It’s Dennis Long, my squadron leader at the station. This morning he told me he didn’t believe a word of what I said in the statement I’d made for Johnny Faulkner’s forthcoming court martial. He accused me of lying and said he has new evidence to present to the court and even called me a traitor and threatened to have me arrested. Father, you’ve got…’

‘Don’t panic Anthony, get a grip on yourself!’ ordered his father.

Miranda, fearful for her brother’s wellbeing, put her ear closer to the door.

‘But we mustn’t let him find out any more. I know he will be at the Cat and Custard tonight as he goes there most evenings taking his blasted dog for a walk. We must get rid of him!’

‘Out of the question, my boy.’

At that moment, Miranda heard footsteps coming down the staircase from upstairs and moved away from the study as the Barker’s housekeeper entered the hall.

‘Ah, there you are madam. I thought you ought to know that Mr. Jenkins is feeling unwell and has taken to his bed. He sends his sincere apologies and wonders if someone else could run you to work tonight in Dover?’

’Don’t worry, I will make my own arrangements Mrs. Winters, tell Jenkins I hope he is better in the morning.

‘I will that, ma’am.’ replied the housekeeper and went back through the door.

Miranda was not stupid as she realised that her father and brother were involved in the secret, nationalist society she had heard them talking about recently. She would do all in her power to help Anthony and prevent his arrest, as she loved him dearly. A plan began to form in her head.

In the study, Lord Barker had calmed his son down and told him that there was no need for drastic measures as his contacts in the Air Ministry had already arranged for a sympathetic judge to chair the court martial. Anthony calmed down and reassured by his father, left shortly afterwards.

Miranda, still upset over the part of the conversation she had heard, asked her father to lend her the Rolls to go to work. She had not heard the end of the conversation in the study and was about to take matters into her own hands, not realising it would condemn her to a life of regret and misery.

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