WELL, what did you find out?” Helen asked.
Andrew ruefully rubbed the back of his neck.
“I found out that your nice chap has a grip of iron. I would hate to resist him in earnest.”
“He’s ruined your shirt.” Helen sniggered. “There’s a great oily hand-print on your collar at the back.”
Andrew wriggled his shoulders.
“I’m lucky that my shirt’s still in one piece,” he said mildly. “You did well. I had a quick shuftie round the mechanic’s workshop. A good flight engineer, well organised. But there was one thing out of place, half covered on his bench.”
Helen slipped her hand into his.
“You’re a clever devil, aren’t you?”
“I couldn’t get near enough to be certain,” he said. “Only part of it was visible under the cloth. When I asked the mechanic what it was, he pulled the cloth over it and said it was something he was patching up from the engine. I don’t think it had anything to do with engines. What I saw looked like one of the old box cameras used by observers in the war big and bulky, works in negatives film rather than the old plate glass, but its images are just as sharp.”
“Can you be one hundred percent sure?” Helen demanded.
“No, but everything is pointing in the same direction. Let’s take the other thing the one that got me thrown off the field. There was a whopping big engine on that Sopwith, far bigger than the usual Gnome.”
“Reynolds said this was one of the few to get a bigger and faster engine.”
“Did he? What really interested me was some sort of modification to the engine exhaust manifold . . . never seen anything like that before. That’s when the mechanic chap got really nasty, and your nice man bundled me off his field.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes.
“That exhaust thingie, what would it do, Andrew?” Helen asked.
“I’m guessing, but possibly some sort of silencer fitted to the exhaust. You can silence a car’s exhaust, so why not a plane’s?”
Helen drew him to an abrupt stop.
“The whisper in the wind?” she asked.
“Exactly. And when you add everything together, the final sum turns nasty. We have a plane which was used for photo reconnaissance in the war, and the crew who flew it there. Next, what might be a wartime aerial camera half-hidden in their workshop. Finally, a big engine, which could let some of its power be drained into a silencer to make it fly quietly.”
“But what are they photographing?” Helen asked.
Andrew scratched his chin.
“Guesswork,” he said finally. “But Newcastle is only a short hop away from Berwick-on-Tweed in a plane. And Rosyth or Leith in the Forth, likewise. And what do Newcastle and the Forth have in common?”
“Docks! Shipbuilding!” Helen exclaimed.
“Give that girl a coconut,” he said absently. “Exactly what an enemy power would want to have mapped, in the event of a war. And that’s what wartime reconnaissance photographs did, they gave us more accurate maps.”
“But the war is over,” Helen protested.
“The war is never over,” Andrew said bleakly. “Maybe some power out there is starting already, preparing for the next one. But it can’t just send a plane over docks and shipyards or the police would be waiting for it when it came back to land. So no daylight photography would be possible but, at night . . .”
“That strange lightning?” Helen asked.
“That very convenient lightning. And your whisper in the sky.” Andrew looked up quizzically. “I am not sure I like the thought of anybody, even a nice chap, flying over our docks and shipyards and taking photographs even less at night time. That sounds too much like spying.”
He caught Helen gently by her arms.
“If my guess is right, there could be another strange long flash of lightning tonight. And, if there is, I want us to be there to judge what it is, for ourselves.”
“Lead me to it!” Helen exclaimed. “What a story!”