A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 15

For the next five weeks, the rest of Klein’s ’plane was slowly dissolved in Clark’s furnace and made into moulds for the false floors in both the farmers and Iain Menzies vans. They had developed quite an efficient production line, and had aimed to get the metal melted down in the shortest possible time. Clark was concerned that the constant smoke rising from his foundry may attract unwanted attention from the mainland as any suspicious minds may wonder how it was able to operate! Iain had made sure, that there was plenty of wood and combustible material for him with every trip he made. In addition to the false floors being moulded, they made smaller parts from the copper, brass and steel to resemble engine parts, coal pans, and anything else that would disguise the source of the metal. The engine was fairly easy to get rid of, as the parts could be from any old engine to the untrained eye – only the engine block, the cylinder head and the fuel injection equipment would have to be cut up. The large van of Iain Menzies, and Andy’s little Austin made the regular trip over to the mainland and down into the seaside resort town of Ayr, where Iain piled up the false floors in a discreet part of his scrapyard. Unknown to them, however, a sharp eyed, local Policeman had been on duty on many of the occasions that they had been crossing. Jake MacFarlane knew McCulloch from years back and they had met up again during the Police training. When McCulloch decided that he would prefer to run the pub on Arran, he decided he could get the best of both worlds by becoming a part-time Policeman for the island, much to Jake’s disapproval! Jake was a ‘career’ Policeman, whose badge was worth more to him than anything in life and he could never understand why anyone would not think the same way. For McCulloch, Jake was a source of ridicule, as he strutted about as if he owned the place!

Neither McCulloch nor Menzies had thought to change their times or routine, never thinking that they could be the subject of suspicion just by travelling so often. The Policeman was intrigued by the regular trips that these two vans made every day and wondered what they could possibly be doing. His curiosity got the better of him one day when he saw the same little convoy heading back over to the island, and as they waited to drive off the ferry, he decided to investigate . . .

Klein and Andy had managed to get the rest of the cockpit section and had most of it dismantled in the barn. The wreck site was now completely clear and the rake had been used again to cover up the furrow, left by the ’plane as it skidded into the ground. Most of the aircraft’s aluminium panels and parts had gone and Clark was now busy melting down more copper, brass and cast iron parts into various small shapes for easier transportation in the vans. Clark shaped the metal into bits that would fit into the inside of the spare wheel, and would sit easily in the engine bay, and anywhere else that wouldn’t be easily seen. The cast iron from the engine block was made into ornamental railings and ‘weathered’ to make it look like they were heading for the scrap heap ‘naturally’!

By now, they were still making trips with false floors of aluminium and only had a few more to do before it was all gone.

McCulloch and Menzies had just come off the ferry when they noticed the officious looking Police constable suddenly walk out in front of them and beckon them to stop.

“Oh, shite!” McCulloch said loudly to himself, through gritted teeth, in the Austin van that was leading Menzies in his.

“Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit!” he said repeatedly as the Policeman slowly approached, and McCulloch wound the window down.

“Bloody hell! Gordon McCulloch!” the Policeman said, in mock surprise.

“Still not one of us for real, then?” he said laughing.

McCulloch just grinned in a very forced and false manner.

“Oh, aye, eh . . . how are you, then, Jake?”

“I’m fine, Gordon, just fine,” said the Policeman.

“Just on the look-out, you know, bootleggers, dodgy goods, that kind of thing,” Jake said, then asked,

“What brings you to the mainland, then? Isn’t that Andy MacLaren’s van?” the Policeman asked.

“Eh, oh, aye, I’m just helping Iain, here. The van has had it, I think, so Andy wants rid of it.” McCulloch said, cursing himself for such a lousy, improvised excuse.

The Policeman quickly replied, looking at the van up and down,

“What, every day now, for god knows how long? Can’t you bring yourself to scrap it and keep trying every day until it hopefully falls apart itself by the roadside?”

McCulloch clenched his lips together and smiled lamely.

“What have you got in the back?” Jake asked.

“Eh? Nothing. It’s empty,” McCulloch said.

“O.k, open her up!” Jake replied.

McCulloch warily got out the van and gave Menzies a worried look as he got in front of Jake and went around to open up the back door. Jake looked at the state of the pellet-riddled back door and the broken window and said,

“Christ! What happened there? Here, you haven’t stolen it and Andy took a shot at you as you raced off in it, did he?” Jake said, mockingly and laughing out loud at the ridiculous thought of this clapped out van ‘racing off’ anywhere!

McCulloch opened up the back doors slowly and held his breath as Jake took a look inside the empty van. He gazed inside for no more than a few seconds, but never noticed the extra thick floor and then turned to face Iain, still sitting in his van, who was wondering if their luck was about to run out,

“Right. O.k – yours next!” he said, walking over to Iain as he slowly got out and opened up the back of the van. Again, Jake only looked for a few seconds, missing the odd coloured floor and then said,

“Right, well you can be on your way, then! You can’t be too careful, these days.”

McCulloch, feeling more confident, now said,

“That’s rich, that is. Imagine suspecting a colleague, a comrade in arms, one of your own!”

Jake smiled at them as they got into the vans and started them up again. He was amused at the remark referring to ‘one of their own’ as he would never consider someone like McCulloch as ‘one of them’. He was in total contempt of McCulloch, and had little time for the part-time ‘amateurs’, as he always disparagingly referred to them. He could never accept their dedication or commitment to the job could ever match his.

“One of your own, my arse!” he shouted after them as they lurched off towards Ardrossan. Jake watched them head off on to the main road to Ayr and said to himself,

“They’re up to something. They just have to be up to something . . .”

McCulloch and Menzies got to the yard and manhandled the floors in to the yard among the rest and Iain said,

“I thought we were up shit street, there, for a minute!”

“Aye, by christ, so did I. He’s a suspicious bastard, is Jake. I bet he’s hanging around when we get back, too! We’ll need to be careful,” replied McCulloch.

“Do you think he suspects something?” Menzies asked.

“Aye, your damn right he suspects something. The fact that we’ve taken the same van over for scrapping about a hundred times and always returned with it ensures he suspects something!” McCulloch said, cursing himself for his off guard excuse.

“I hope he doesn’t come around here!” said Menzies.

“When are your ‘customers’ coming for their metal?” asked McCulloch.

“Next week – all being well,” replied Menzies.

“Well, the sooner they pick it up and pay us, then the happier I’ll be!” said McCulloch,

“Come on, let’s get to hell out of here.”

They locked up the yard and headed back for the ferry and sure, enough, as they waited in line to board the ferry back over to Arran, Jake was there! He slyly smiled at them and gave them a wave as they boarded the ferry and watched them all the way as it pulled away from the dock and turned out into the estuary.

When they got back to Whiting Bay, they headed straight for Clark’s foundry, where Klein and Andy were just unloading the last of the scrap.

Andy saw the serious look on their faces as they approached and, jokingly said,

“Aw, look. It’s Burke and Hare! What’s wrong with your faces?”

Clark added,

“You look as though you’ve lost a Pound and found a Sixpence!”

“They’re on to us!” Iain said without explanation.

“Who is?” replied Klein,

“What do you mean?”

McCulloch looked around him as though someone might be listening and said,

“We ran into Jake MacFarlane on the mainland. He’s been watching us all the time we’ve been going over and started poking around in the back of the vans.”

Andy sighed heavily and leant back with his hands on his hips,

“Jake the Snake, eh?”

Klein, again puzzled by some of the language, furrowed his eyes at the farmer, who explained,

“Jake is his name, and the snake bit . . .” he was cut off by McCulloch continuing,

“ . . . because his morals are lower than a snake’s belly!”

Andy asked,

“But, he didn’t see the false floors, right?”

McCulloch nodded.

“Well, then. What are you worried about? All he sees are two empty vans all the time. What’s so suspicious about that?”

McCulloch replied,

“Aye, I know, but it’s just the fact that he’s suspicious, you know?”

“Aw, christ, man!” said Andy,

“Jake suspects his own parents of being criminals. He would even suspect them of starting the war! He would have been an

asset to the Gestapo, that one!” He then quickly turned to Klein and said,

“No offence!” lapsing, unguarded into a stereotype of all Germans again for a second and carried on talking,

“He’s not clever enough for this. He’s looking for barrels of booze, or other items of contraband. It has to be obvious for him! You’re a publican, so he probably thinks your exporting hooch!”

McCulloch, although not entirely convinced, said,

“Aye maybe you’re right. But what will we do now. I just know he’ll be there tomorrow.”

Clark suggested,

“We’ll put another floor in tomorrow and put something else in, like the iron railings and you can say that you are recycling them. That might throw him off the scent a bit.”

Menzies replied,

“Aye, that’s an idea. Kind of divert his attention, like?”

Andy then offered,

“You’ll need to use your van, though. That’s quite a weight for the Austin to handle!”

McCulloch butted in,

“Aye, that thing won’t be long in making it’s last journey!”

He then turned to Clark and said,

“Jesus – you ought to drive that thing with a load in. It wallows all over the place! The Ardrossan ferry handles better in a rough sea than that thing!”

Andy jumped in to defend his little van’s honour as if it were one of his children,

“Hey, hey, hey –watch it! There’s nothing wrong with that wee van! Granted, it looks like a piece of shite, but it serves me well!”

McCulloch laughed,

“Well, there isn’t a lot right with it, however, we need it, but we’d better use Iain’s for the heavy stuff!”

Andy smiled and said,

“Aye, maybe you’re right. We won’t push it.”

Clark then set the plan for the next day,

“We’ll put another couple of floors in and stick the railings in Iain’s van. We should be able to get another couple of runs in like that and Jake won’t be any the wiser.”

He then added,

“The man’s head is so far up his own arse. He’s so busy looking for a promotion that he’s forgotten the basics of his job!”

After making the plans for the next day’s transport, they all bade each other good night and Klein and Andy headed back to the farm.

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