DID you find out anything?” Helen demanded, answering the guest-house’s phone.
“You’re supposed to say, ‘Hello, Andrew, I am missing you so much’,” he replied.
“Hello, Andrew, I am missing you so much. Did you find out anything?”
She could sense his grin.
“I checked,” he said. “No reports of thunderstorms on the north-east coast, but several reports of a fireball of some kind in the sky above Newcastle last night.”
“So?” she demanded.
“It either was a fireball, which our science bods can’t explain or I go with these neck hairs of yours. I trust them more than scientists. So there quite possibly is something rotten in the state of Denmark or Newcastle anyway.”
“Fine, but what do we do next, Andrew?” she asked.
A few heartbeats of thoughtful silence.
“We gamble. Where did you say the air circus was heading to?”
“Dundee, for two days, then over to Dumbarton on the Clyde. But the man who runs the air circus, the pilot, seems a decent chap.”
“The copper in me suspects all decent chaps,” Andrew said. “Can you persuade Jake Forbes to give you some extra time for research?”
“Can you persuade the King to give me a knighthood?”
“Dangle bait,” Andrew said. “Hint that you might get a scoop as big as the Eyemouth one.”
“Yes.” Helen sighed. “I can just see Jake accepting that.”
“Let’s meet at Dundee on Monday. I can maybe fiddle some accommodation on our MOD budget.”
Helen fought a smile.
“And we haunt the air circus to see what happens?”
“Especially at night,” he said. “We need to see that fireball again.”
“And hear that whisper in the wind?” she asked.
“That, too. Incidentally, I do miss you like mad. Why don’t you get a job down in London, like anybody sensible?”
“Why don’t you get a job up in Scotland?” she demanded.
“In all that rain?” he asked plaintively.
* * * *
Although pinned into her seat by the harness, Helen clung so tightly to the vibrating edges of the forward cockpit that her fingers almost dented the wood. Up in the sky, the noise of the engine, the blurred propeller and the wind streaming through between the biplane’s wings was disorientating. The oil-stained leather helmet that Bob Reynolds had insisted she should use held most of her hair in place, while her eyes would have been completely blinded by the wind but for the goggles he had also made her wear.
Beneath her, the biplane wobbled as a gust of crosswind buffeted them, then twitched again as Reynolds calmly corrected. Conversation of any kind was quite impossible. Fighting her fear of heights, she saw the flat plain of the earth tilt, but sensed that the tilt had a purpose and was somehow helping the plane to slide round and change its course. She glanced hurriedly over her shoulder and Reynolds caught her eye, to give her a thumbs-up sign.
Helen craned over to look down the other side of the plane. A wide blue-grey river estuary swept down in front of a miniature grey-roofed town. Dundee, with its docks and jute mills, was laid out in front of her. And another miracle of modern engineering, the new Tay Bridge with its high middle section and its strange almost lattice-work end sections, replacing the old bridge which had come down in a wild storm.
As they slowly crossed the estuary and flew over the western edges of the town, she began to relish this strange feeling of birdlike perspective. Her fear totally gone, she looked across first one side then the other of the cockpit, and only realised that they had been steadily descending when she saw green fields slipping quickly underneath the plane and some cows stop grazing to stare up at the noise in the sky. Helen smiled.
Flying was fun . . . but would she be able to say the same about landing?