Whisper In The Wind – Episode 01

HELEN, the boss wants to see you.”

Helen straightened slowly from her typewriter or tripe-writer, as the reporters of the “Glasgow Tribune” called it amongst themselves and brushed aside the hair which had fallen over her face.

“Does he look happy?” she asked.

“Does Jake Forbes ever look happy?” The reporter grinned, peering over her shoulder. “What are you covering?”

“The High Court case that’s been running.”

“The bread knife one?”

“That’s it. I’ve just got to the bit where she gave evidence that she was cutting sangwidges for the weans when her husband started shouting at her, and she simply forgot she had the breadknife in her hand. So, when she turned and went to tap him on the chest and remonstrate . . . Whoops!”

The reporter grinned again.

“A moment’s absentmindedness. Will the jury wear it?”

“Who knows? Once an advocate picks up her story and runs with it, he’ll have the jury sobbing into their handkerchiefs for the poor woman.” Helen rose from her chair. “Well, I’d better obey Her Master’s Voice.”

Helen walked to the editor’s office, pausing en route to pull a felt hat down over its owner’s ears. The ex-office boy was now serving his apprenticeship on the oldest office typewriter, working his way up through Deaths and Obituaries, and yearning for the day when he might be promoted to the Sports Desk.

In the meantime he had started wearing his hat on the back of his head, because that’s what hotshot reporters did in American films.

“Hoy!” he complained. “Oh, it’s you, Helen . . .” His voice trailed off into silent adoration as her slim figure hurried away from him.

A rolled-up ball of paper hit him on the ear.

“Take your place in the queue, Jim,” another reporter told him. “There’s a dozen older and better men in front of you.”

Helen paused outside Forbes’s door, which was half-open, with tendrils of tobacco smoke escaping round its edge. She knocked.

“Jake. It’s Helen. You wanted to see me?” she called in.

“You took your time,” a voice growled back. “Come in and close the door behind you. It’s draughty in here.”

Taking a deep breath of office air to keep her going, Helen slipped into the kippering factory which was the boss’s office, and closed the door. Immediately she started coughing as layers of smoke wafted round her.

Forbes looked up irascibly.

“Got a cold?” he demanded, then returned to study the news cuttings he was shuffling round his scarred desktop.

Helen’s eyes streamed.

“What do you want to see me about?” she asked.

“All in good time.” Forbes knocked out the ashes from his pipe bowl into an ashtray. He hauled out his tobacco pouch, refilled his pipe and stuck it into his mouth. “What do you know about these new-fangled aeroplanes?” he asked indistinctly, searching for his matches. Striking one, he began to puff, disappearing behind new clouds of smoke.

“Not much. We saw them overhead in France, flying on recces.”

“Wreckies? What are you talking about?”

“Reconnaissance flights,” she said. “Our boys over the German lines, their boys over us. Taking photographs of each other’s trench deployment, while all the infantrymen took pot shots up at them. We VADs used to reckon it would have made more sense if they had photographed their own trenches and swapped pictures.”

Forbes scowled.

“Flying is only a craze, it will never last. If the Good Lord had meant us to fly, he would have given us wings.”

“So why your interest?” Helen asked, knowing that behind his gruffness, Jake Forbes was as soft as putty in the right hands.

“Nosiness,” he said. “That’s why I thought of you after all, you’re my nosiest reporter.”

“Thank you, kind sir.” Helen curtsied.

Forbes ignored her, tapping the stem of his pipe against the news cuttings.

“These are from the nationals,” he growled. “Sounds like some of these aeroplanes only take off to crash when they try to land. Flying circuses are the rage down south stuntmen walking along the wings, flights taking passengers up for a trip round the town, then finishing nose down in a field. Stupid risks, crazy accidents.”


“I want you to get to the bottom of it. Take a few days off to visit one of these air circuses. See what they’re doing observe, question, judge and report. Just how safe is this new summer’s craze? Should ‘Tribune’ readers take the risk of paying a shilling for a flight round the town? What are you working on right now?”

“The breadknife case.”

“How’s it shaping up?”

“Better than the husband . . . I’m nearly finished.”

Gathering the news cuttings, Jake tossed them over the desk.

“Here’s your homework,” he said. “Take three days and bring me two thousand words to show that aeroplanes should be banned from the skies now that the war is over.”

Helen’s spirits soared.

“Air circuses?” she said. “Down south? Near London?”

Her boyfriend Andrew Barclay lived down there, and it had been a while since she had paid him a visit.

Forbes raised a satirical eyebrow.

“London?” he asked. “On our features budget? Only if you walk there and back and sleep beneath a hedge. Berwick-upon-Tweed for you, my lady. An air circus is there and will be in Dundee next week. If they subtract a single reader from our circulation, I’ll have them in court. Two thousand words, and all of them working hard.”

“Yes, Jake.”

“See the Jyler. He’ll give you enough to cover travel and a place to bide. Two nights maximum and not the Ritz.”

“No, Jake.” Eyes streaming, Helen bolted for the fresh office air.

The Jyler, or jailor, was the office accountant, who also kept the petty cash, where every penny was a prisoner.

“Berwick-upon-Tweed?” he demanded. “Has Jake Forbes taken leave of his senses? And rail travel would you not be cheaper going there on a bus?”

“I checked,” Helen replied. “It would take three buses to get from here to Berwick, and one of the country buses only does single tickets. It would cost half as much again as going by train.”

The Jyler sniffed, then counted out the money as if he was pulling teeth.

“If you get any discounts, I want the money back,” he warned. “It’s early season for holidays, so you should be able to beat the bed and breakfast wifie down a bit. And I want receipts for everything.”

“Yes, Mr Smith,” Helen said.

As she walked past, Jim touched her arm.

“How did you know all that stuff about tickets?” he asked. “Research?”

Helen grinned.

“No,” she said. “I made it up.”


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.