The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 70

Shortly after starting work for the Mercury, Charlie had moved from the bed and breakfast he had stayed in and now rented a small fisherman’s cottage in a terrace facing the harbour. In a good location with sea views, the low rent charged was because of the constant noise of the comings and goings of the ferries disgorging and loading their cargoes of vehicles. However, the bustle and sounds didn’t bother Charlie as it reminded him of London, a city he missed and vowed to return to one day. He was having a lay in as it was a Saturday morning and he contemplated the day ahead with mixed feelings, as he was still smarting about James and Samantha spending the weekend together. Deciding to climb out of bed, he took a shower, dressed and went downstairs. Walking through the narrow hall, his wide shoulders brushing the walls he ducked his head under the low doorframe of the tiny kitchen at the back of the house. A mountain of dirty plates and glasses greeted him, cluttering the kitchen sink and reminding him he would have to have a clear up. Opening the door of an old Electrolux fridge and reaching inside, he took out a carton of orange juice, unscrewed the top and suspiciously sniffed the contents. Satisfied all was well, he filled up the only glass left in a bare cupboard, a pint beer mug and put the carton back in the fridge, rummaged among the foodstuffs and found some thick slices of bacon just within their sell by date. Filling the kettle with water, he switched it on and reached for the frying pan on the stove.

Ten minutes later Charlie, clutching the pint glass, mug of coffee and a plate of greasy bacon sandwiches giving off a delicious aroma, walked back through the house and put them down on a desk in the front room. Pulling up an old high-backed, leather office chair, he sat down. Switching on his computer and waiting for it to fire up, he took a large bite from the sandwich and wiped a droplet of grease from the side of his mouth. Looking out of the casement window in front at a ferry leaving its berth bound for France, he took a bite from the greasy sandwich and washing it down with a gulp of orange, stared at another ferry arriving in the busy port, which prompted Charlie to make a start. Thinking about the court martial, he asked himself whether the hit and run had been an accident, or had someone murdered Squadron Leader Long, to prevent him giving evidence that the pilot, John Faulkner was innocent. Samantha had told him that according to grandmother’s diary the other pilot, Lord Anthony Barker, was in cahoots with the Czech spy and the recent evidence Dave Brocklehurst had unearthed in the crashed Hurricane seemed to confirm it. By all accounts, it looked like Barker, not Faulkner, had been the guilty one.

Charlie pulled a file out of his battered case and took out a copy of the statement made by the president of the court, one Air Vice-Marshall Phillip Henderson. He paused, wondering why an officer of such high rank had presided over the court martial, instead of knowing from his own time in the military, one of lower rank. Charlie wondered if there was a connection between Henderson and Anthony Barker, or more likely his father, Lord Barker. Had they conspired to get Anthony off the hook by perverting the course of justice, allowing him to escape prosecution, which had resulted in John Faulkner being found guilty of an offence he had not committed?

Leaning forward he tapped the keyboard in front and entered Henderson’s name in Google on the monitor screen. He found an entry in Wikipedia on the man and Charlie read it with interest. Apparently, Henderson had also been a member of the Clevedon Set, which Charlie already knew had been the aristocratic social network in favour of friendly relations with Nazi Germany before the war. There was a group photograph of some members that Charlie noted with interest included Air Vice-Marshall Henderson, and he ran a finger down the list of names under the photo.

‘Bingo!’ he exclaimed aloud, on seeing the name of Lord Thomas Barker.

Draining the dregs of coffee from the bottom of the mug, he put the file back into his case and cleared up, deciding to drive to work to do more checking on the Barker family by using the Mercury’s archives. Outside the cottage, he got in the Jag he had squeezed into a parking space the night before and drove off.

Arriving at the Mercury Charlie went up to his office and started checking the archives. He discovered that Lord Barker, together with his chauffeur, a man called Jenkins, were killed by a German bomb that had flattened their Rolls Royce in an attack on Swingate, a small village on the Kent coast. On impulse, Charlie picked up the phone and called Dave Brocklehurst at the museum.

‘Hello Dave. Charlie Britton here.’

‘Morning Charlie, what can I do for you?’

‘If you’ve got a minute, I wondered if you knew if there’s anything important about a place called Swingate. It’s near here and got attacked during the early part of the war.’

‘Swingate?’ That’s one of the Chain radar aerial mast sites that I told you about. Actually, it’s still standing to this day.′

‘Really?’ said Charlie. ‘Well, they may have missed the mast but they flattened a Roller in the process!’

‘A what?’

‘A Rolls Royce car.’ stated Charlie. ‘It killed Lord Barker, the father of Anthony Barker, the pilot I’ve been asking you about.’

‘Hang on a sec. Let me get something.’

Charlie heard Dave put down the handset and walk off. He soon came back.

‘I’ve got the air map I found in the Hurricane. Guess what?’

‘Tell me?’ replied Charlie.

‘The aerial mast at Swingate is marked on the map in black ink by the spy, but there’s another mark circled round the hamlet of Westcliffe just up the road. Isn’t that where Lady Miranda Barker lives?’ queried Dave.

‘Yes it is. Thanks Dave, this all sounds rather interesting. Is it all right if I pop up and see you later this morning?’

‘Be my guest.’ replied Dave.

Charlie put the phone down and leaned back in his chair. It seemed that the Barker family had been up to no good. Charlie went back to the computer to find that Anthony Barker had succeeded Lord Barker after his sudden death, but shortly after the war’s end had been arrested on a charge of indecency and hung himself in a police cell. He found no mention of other members of the Barker family, except Lady Miranda, Samantha’s great aunt, who was mentioned for her charitable work at the time. Charlie wondered if Barker had been prominently involved with the Link and the society had died out after his death. Charlie speculated if Samantha’s great aunt, Lady Miranda, would know of any connection with the present day Link that Michael Dodds, the deputy prime minister had mentioned shortly before his death. He tensed as his sixth sense kicked in, looked at the clock on the wall and packed up to drive to the museum for a chat with Dave. Walking outside, he was just about to get in the Jag when his mobile rang. It was the worst call he had ever taken.

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