Whisper In The Wind – Episode 07

HELEN rose from the lounge windows of the guest-house and crept through to the front door to let Andrew in. It was barely after dawn, and there was no sound of movement from the landlady’s quarters. After the scene triggered by her own return in the early hours of the morning, Helen was desperate to keep as low a profile as possible.

“Brrrr,” he muttered, slipping through the door. “That train had no heating. How do you Scots survive this climate?”

“Shhh,” Helen whispered. “Do you want a cup of tea?”

“And toast, please. I’m starving.”

Helen winced. The smell of toasting bread would have Mrs Brown through like a whippet after the neighbour’s cat.

“Does the bread have to be toasted?” she whispered.

“Yes. I’m English. Breakfast bread is always toasted. With marmalade.”

Helen sighed.

“We can do the marmalade. It was invented here.”

He was frowning and huddled deep into his coat when she brought through the sparse breakfast and their landlady was stirring in her quarters. Silently, she handed over the tray with tea and toast.

“How did it go then?” he asked. “Any lightning over the Dundee docks?”

Helen sat down opposite him.

“Nothing untoward happened last night. I walked round the bottom of the town until I was exhausted, but kept clear of the docks.” Helen shuddered: the downside of being an intrepid female journalist was that you had to go places where no sane woman would venture out of choice.

“And?” he prompted, through a mouthful of toast.

“Just ships’ lights from the docks. Drunken sailors going back to them. Dogs barking, once the last trams had gone. Nobody in the town but me. It was scary.”

“Indeed.” He smiled. “Meeting you in the dark would give anybody a fright.”

“Not funny,” Helen scolded. “And the landlady was waiting for me when I got back here, standing inside the door with her arms folded, and a frown that could have turned milk. She did all but sniff my breath for gin my reputation is in tatters, and it’s all your fault.”

Andrew paused, cup at his lips.

“Sorry about that,” he said awkwardly.

“So you should be. But there was one strange thing, long after midnight, when the moon had gone behind the clouds and the sky was pitch black.” Helen paused, hearing the sound again in her mind.

“What?” he prompted.

“The weirdest noise, like the sound of a skein of geese swooping in, or swans flying off a pond . . . just a rustle, a whisper in the wind. Couldn’t see a thing. And it was gone above the rooftops before I had a second chance to listen.”

“Can you give me an exact time?” he asked sharply.

The sudden edge on his voice startled Helen.

“About half an hour before I got in. Almost two-thirty in the morning.”

Andrew put down his cup and smacked his fist against his other palm.

“I knew it!” he exclaimed.

“Knew what?”

“Did you see anything in the sky to the south?” he asked urgently. “Before your whisper in the wind?”

“Not really,” Helen said. “The half moon made the estuary silver. That’s all.”

“That might hide it.” Andrew nodded. “Well, your funny lightning showed its hand again last night,” he said. “Twice within five minutes. Once over Rosyth, then again over the Firth of Forth down near Leith shipyards, and docks. The same brilliant flash, burning on for minutes. Lightning doesn’t do that.”

“What does?” Helen asked.

“Photographic flares. Fired or dropped from a plane and burning out as they float down to ground level, lighting up the countryside below like flashlight. And that first time, I thought I heard your whisper in the wind right overhead. What you heard, I’m willing to bet, was them coming home.”

He paused, chased the last few crumbs of toast across his plate, licked a finger and dabbed at them, then put the finger into his mouth.

His eyes came up bleakly.

“I think your nice man is up to his neck in trouble.”

“Photo reconnaissance again?”

“Spying. Taking photos by stealth, at night. Relying on everyone being in bed, and that those who aren’t put it down to a summer electric storm, where you get lots of silent flashes but no thunder. Only flashes don’t hang about for as long as a flare.”

Movement caught Andrew’s eye. He glanced up to find the landlady standing in the doorway.

“I see you’ve had yer toast,” she said, her voice like ice. “So you won’t be wanting kippers, then?”

“Lead me to them,” Andrew said cheerfully. “And, Mrs B, if you’re wondering what we’re up to, we’re here on police business. I am a chief inspector, and this is Constable Malcolmson. We are investigating a nationwide criminal network centred here in Dundee. They steal precious diamonds all over Britain, then smuggle them out of the country in jars of your local marmalade.”

The landlady’s chin dropped almost to her bosom.

“Nivver!” she exclaimed. “I have nivver heard the like! And in Dundee?”

“As I sit here,” Andrew assured her solemnly. “Last night we caught some of the ringleaders and confiscated most of the stolen jewels, but there must be a fortune still in diamonds hidden somewhere in the marmalade. We will check, of course, but we don’t know which jars and they’re not telling us. So somebody, somewhere, could think it’s Christmas when they open a jar to have their breakfast. All of that, of course, in strictest confidence. Now, about these kippers . . .”

“I’ll get them straight away, sir,” Mrs Brown said. “So that’s why you were out, last night, my dear?” she asked of Helen.

“Casing out the joint,” Helen agreed, borrowing from American detective stories.

“Oh, my!” Mrs Brown headed reluctantly to her kitchen. “What’s the world coming to these days?”


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