The Falcon & the Viper

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On the drive up from Cornwall, Charlie felt a certain amount of solace from visiting his parent’s grave in the churchyard at Porthleven, and was amazed at what they had found out. It pleased Samantha that the visit had indeed turned the last page of the diary, a very satisfactory ending and finding out that they were both cousins.

As they drove up the M4 motorway towards London, she flicked idly through the pages of the Catherine’s diary and came across two stuck together. Peeling them carefully apart, she read the entry written in her gran’s fine script aloud to Charlie.

’9 November 1939.

Today is my first day back in Westcliffe from my enforced period in Cornwall. I will make every effort to rebuild my life and try to overcome the grief of my dear son being taken from me, who I will never see again. I know I have embarrassed my family and will make amends. Soon, I will start work as a trainee nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Dover and will see a lot more of Miranda, who is a volunteer driver in the ambulance service in the town. At least Miranda still speaks to me. I know at times she be an irritating snob, but she is proving to be a loyal and caring friend.

As I lie in bed writing this and drinking a hot mug of chocolate mother has just brought in, I can’t get over what an exciting the day I’ve just had. This morning I was standing in the garden drinking a cup of tea with Miranda, who had called round from next door as we had arranged to go down to the town shopping. Miranda was just telling me that my brother Johnny, who I am dying to see again, had been complaining of the lack of action during the Phoney war, when we heard the sound of aero engines. We searched the sky and spotted a slim, pencil like shape in the distance flying down the Channel.

‘That sounds like a German.’ I said to her.

‘How on earth can you know that? It’s more likely to be one of ours.’

‘No, I don’t think so. You can tell by the noise its engines are making.’ I explained.

‘Sounds like any other old aircraft to me.’ she argued.

‘Johnny told me before I went to Cornwall that the German pilots don’t synchronise their engines, to confuse our sound locator detectors positioned along the coast. If the engines are unsynchronised the operators find it more difficult to locate the direction the aircraft are coming from.’

At that moment, we heard other more powerful aircraft engines behind and three aircraft came racing towards us.

‘They look like Spitfires.’ chortled Miranda.

‘No, they’re Hurricanes. You can tell Spitfires by the shape of their wings.’

‘All right know all’ said Miranda, and she had playfully punched me lightly on my shoulder as the Hurricanes shot overhead and started attacking the bomber.

‘Look! They’ve got him!’ I shrieked as we watched the German bomber spinning down leaving a trail of smoke behind. A wing broke off and fluttered down behind as it hit the sea with a large splash and disappeared beneath the waves.

At that moment, one of the Hurricanes broke away and came roaring over the house doing a victory roll before flying away towards the airfield.

‘That must be Johnny!’ I shouted to Miranda.′

Samantha closed the diary.

‘He was a true a hero. We must try to clear his name.’

‘Do you want to visit him?’ asked Charlie.

‘What on earth do you mean, Charlie? He’s dead.’

‘His name will be commemorated in the Air Forces Memorial’ said Charlie, glancing at his watch. ‘We’re not meeting James in Windsor until five. The memorial’s on the way and we’ve got plenty of time.’

They came off the motorway at Windsor and drove alongside the River Thames, through Old Windsor and up the steep hill to the picturesque village of Englefield Green. Turning off on the small road leading to Coopers Hill, they arrived and parked in the car park.

They found the Air Forces Memorial in a beautiful setting overlooking the River Thames, as it flows past the fields of Runnymede where King John signed the Magna Carta. The memorial is dedicated to over twenty thousand men and women from the air forces of the British Empire, who were lost on air and other operations during World War II. Charlie and Samantha entered the magnificent building and walked round looking at the names inscribed on the stone tablets set in the walls until they found it. Both became very emotional to see John Faulkner’s name set among the thousands of others. Coming outside, an airliner in the distance broke the stillness of the peace, climbing into the skies out of Heathrow Airport nearby, as if in salute to the sacrifice made by so many.

Later in the afternoon, they met James in the Donkey House in Windsor, where Sally the barmaid greeted them. James ordered a round of London Pride and a gin and tonic for Samantha and sitting down around a table, Charlie broke the news to James.

‘We’ve got a new addition to the family, Jimbo!’

‘A what?’ queried James.

‘Samantha. She’s our cousin.’

‘What? Bloody Hell!’ he exclaimed

‘How on earth did that come about?’

‘Well, it’s a quite a story.’ replied Charlie and brought James up to speed. When he had finished a surprised James raised his glass and welcomed Samantha to the family. James told them about the turn of events while they had been away.

’You were right, Bro. Lady Miranda Barker was the brains and driving force behind the Link for many years, and had been in control since the death of brother, Anthony Barker. When she became too old, she handed over the reins to her grandson, Thomas Westcliffe, who’s now banged up in Wandsworth Prison on charges of high treason.

‘Too right.’ interrupted Charlie.

‘The other member states of the European Union are insisting that Germany be banished from the community. They’ve already been kicked out of NATO and the council of the EU has been in session this week, suspending all German officials and politicians from the parliament, pending its expulsion from the Union. I understand there’s no mechanism in place for a state to be expelled from the European Union, although one of its Articles allows the council to suspend the representation and voting rights of any which violates the EU’s founding principles.’ stated James.

‘It’s just as well we’re coming out of it then with the Brexit vote.’ added Samantha.

‘Yes, Sam, it is, and our government is in talks with the governments of the other European countries. All have agreed to strengthen their defence budgets, expand their armed forces and join NATO if not already a member. Thanks to our stronger alliance with the United States, brought about by the successful talks between our prime minister and the American President, NATO will be a force to be reckoned with.’

‘Sounds like it will counter any delusions of grandeur that the German nationalists might have in the future.’ agreed Charlie.

‘And MI5 got to the bottom of the death of Michael Dodds. One of the Link’s rogue MI6 officers killed the deputy PM using an ELF beam.’ James told them.

‘A what?’ asked Charlie.

‘An extremely low frequency beam which is becoming increasingly used as a weapon. It’s a covert and untraceable means of killing someone, as the sound waves emitted at very low frequencies are undetectable to the human ear. A hand-held device, it’s just the ticket if you want to kill someone discreetly.’

‘And what happened to the bomb?’ enquired Samantha.

’Oh, specialists from the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston collected it for de-activation.

‘Was it very powerful, it looked so small?’ she asked.

‘Yes, it didn’t weigh very much but I’m told it packed quite a punch!’ answered James. ‘It was a two kiloton plutonium-239 nuclear device which if detonated would have destroyed most of the City. It would have killed thousands of people and our economy and way of life would have been destroyed for many years.’

‘Strewth!’ exclaimed Charlie.

‘Even if the thermonuclear explosion had failed, there would still have been a dirty bomb effect of radiation contamination of the immediate area, rendering it a no go area for some time.’

‘How did they get it into the country and up the Thames undetected, and so close to the city?’ asked Charlie.

‘Ah, that was quite clever of the terrorists. They shielded the bomb by surrounding lead acid batteries around it. The lead contained the radioactivity given off by the weapon and effectively screened it from any Cyclamen detectors.’ answered James.

‘Clever and simple.’ agreed Charlie.

‘And I’ve got good news for you, Samantha. I’ve just heard today that your uncle, Johnny Faulkner, is to be exonerated from the charges brought by the court martial, courtesy of HM Government. They will overturn the verdict and I have it on good authority that he will be posthumously awarded a medal for gallantry that he so rightly deserves.’ said James, smiling at Samantha.

‘That’s brilliant news, James. For me, that makes it a perfect ending.’

At that moment, Charlie’s phone buzzed and he took it out of his pocket. Looking at the screen, he read the message and turned to the others.

‘Blimey! The London Daily Herald’s just offered me my old job back.’

‘What?’ said Samantha. ‘Only if I can come too!’

They finished their drinks and Samantha turned to the twins.

‘So we’ve been very lucky. London could have been flattened, just as it nearly was in The Blitz in 1940.’

‘Notwithstanding the fact a lot of bloody Nazis could have taken over the country.’ grunted Charlie.

’Which reminds me, Sam, ‘We’d better get the Battle of Britain story published in the paper by Thursday’s deadline!’

‘Damn! I’ve just remembered I never had that game of squash I promised with Pat Harding from MI6.’ said James with a laugh.

‘I’d better give him a ring.’

The three of them went out of the pub into the magnificent sunshine outside. James paused and looked at the others.

‘Hang on a minute, you can marry your cousin, can’t you?’ he asked to Charlie’s dismay.

The End

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