The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 50

After an early start from Windsor, Charlie and Samantha missed the worst of the rush hour traffic around London and arrived back mid-morning at the Mercury’s office in Dover. Samantha, feeling tired, made them both some coffee while Charlie switched on his computer sitting on the desk in front of him. He stared back at his reflection in the monitor screen, pondering the next move in the story about the minister’s death. It had to wound up soon to meet the paper’s print deadline for the next issue. Charlie took the buff coloured envelopes James had given him out of his pocket.

The computer whirred and hummed and the display danced into life as Charlie took the photo of the young Jihadi out and studied it again. The hard lined features of the terrorists face stared back and Charlie vowed what he would do if he ever met him. He slotted the print back in its envelope and put it in one drawer of the desk. Opening the second envelope and pulling out a sheath of papers, he saw stamped across the top in large red print: Reclassified Most Secret 21 April 2015, and examining the page, saw another stamp in black, faded ink dated: Most Secret 15 September 1940 underneath. Charlie flipped through the pages, mindful that he still had to finish the story on Michael Dodds.

‘Sam, have you got your gran’s diary with you?’

‘Yes, it’s here.’ she replied, pulling open a drawer in her desk.

Charlie got up and passed the copies of the court martial to her.

‘See what you can make of this and how it tallies with the entries in your gran’s diary. I’ll get on with the Dodds story and make some calls.’

Charlie got on his mobile and rang a reliable source of his in the Metropolitan Police in his hunt to find any new information about what had happened. He drew a blank, only receiving a guarded replied that Michael Dodds death was being regarded as a heart attack, as the results of the autopsy had not been made public.

Samantha began to read the court martial record, making notes. Flight Lieutenant John Faulkner’s court martial had been held in camera at Fighter Command’s Bentley Priory headquarters in north west London. The court, presided over by an Air Vice-Marshall Henderson, had been convened to prosecute Faulkner on the charge of dereliction of duty, which carried a maximum penalty of nine months in prison and dismissal from the Royal Air Force.

She now read the transcript of the prosecution case, delivered by a Squadron Leader Roger Symes, who stated that the defendant, Flight Lieutenant John Faulkner was guilty of shooting down Pilot Officer Paul Sadoskwi over Hythe in Kent on Sunday 15 September 1940. Jones stated that Faulkner had been irresponsible and impetuous in shooting down his squadron colleague and that he had concocted a cock and bull story to cover his actions.

Samantha gave a small start of surprise as she read the name of the first prosecution witness, Pilot Officer Lord Anthony Barker. The photo of the two smiling pilots she had seen came straight to mind. Not only did they appear to be friends but were relations to. She continued reading with renewed interest.

Anthony Barker denied in his testimony shooting down Faulkner, a close friend who he had known most of his life. He stated that he had seen Faulkner attack the Hurricane Sadoskwi was flying, which crashed into the sea after its pilot bailed out. Faulkner had also bailed out of his Hurricane, which he presumed had been damaged in the same fight and stated that he had seen it power dive into the ground. Statements from Observation Corps volunteers in a lookout post who had seen the action supported Barker’s testimony.

Flight Lieutenant Faulkner’s sworn evidence statement stated that Pilot Officer Sadoskwi, a Czech pilot in his squadron, was a traitor and had deliberately taken Squadron Leader Long’s Hurricane fitted with a secret radar installation, in an attempt to fly it over to the enemy in France. Faulkner confirmed shooting the pilot down and told the court he had then been attacked himself by another Hurricane, resulting in him bailing out of his own stricken aircraft. He had no further recollection of the incident as he had been severely concussed after making a heavy landing by parachute. Samantha realised that this account tallied with what she had read so far in her grandmother’s diary.

In cross-examination John Faulkner’s counsel, Sir Patrick Somers, had argued vigorously in the young pilot’s defence and even called Lord Anthony Barker a barefaced liar, but Faulkner’s defence was greeted with scorn by the prosecution.

The prosecution put forward that there was no evidence of the Czech pilot being a spy and in the chaos created by the enemy attack that morning it had been a case of the pilots getting up what aircraft they could. Further damning confirmation was that Sadoskwi’s own aircraft had been one of the first casualties, receiving serious damage in the Luftwaffe’s primary attack on the airfield, which was why the Czech pilot had taken the nearest Hurricane. That it was the squadron leader’s aircraft fitted with the secret radar was deemed irrelevant.

The board had retired to consider the findings and the verdict of the court was that Faulkner was guilty of shooting down Pilot Officer Sadoskwi in the Hurricane and causing his death by drowning in the sea. Stating extenuating circumstances, the presiding officer ruled it was an unfortunate accident brought about by an exhausted pilot, who had flown many operations, resulting in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Faulkner had been reprimanded and reduced in rank to sergeant pilot. The court did however order that he could resume flying duties, providing the medical officers found him fit after attending a strict medical examination.

Charlie meanwhile had been trolling through various reports online when he had come across a YouTube video showing the final minutes of Michael Dodd’s life. The video was a mobile phone recording of footage taken discreetly inside the debating chamber, including the collapse of the deputy prime minister. However, the quality of the video had been so bad Charlie had given up and did not watch it to the end. He had found nothing about why the minister had been taken to the mortuary in London and there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances to the minister’ death.

‘OK Sam, I’ve finished. It should get the interest of the readers. Maybe I can screw more out of James and do a follow up story if I can find any skulduggery, to keep Frank happy,’ said Charlie. ‘I’ll keep working on him,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘How are you doing?’

‘It certainly makes interesting reading, Boss! The account in the diary completely contradicts the findings of the court martial.’

’Maybe Dave at the museum can help us with it.

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