ANOTHER tap on the shoulder: she turned to see Andrew gesture upwards and intuitively knew he was telling her that they were going to climb, now that they had the evidence of their own eyes. They had to get as far away from Reynolds and Ivan as possible, while still remaining in touch with the other aeroplane. She felt the floor of the cockpit tilt, sensed as much as heard the deeper throated roar from the fighter’s engine as the plane began to climb. Looking down and back, her night vision ruined by the brilliant flare, at first she could see no trace of the other plane.
Andrew finally levelled out the Bristol fighter and began to fly wide circles above the silver ribbon of the river. This time, he didn’t need to tap her shoulder; she saw for herself the tiny silhouette of the plane caught fleetingly against the lighter background of the water. It had clearly turned and was heading for home, wherever that might be.
For 15 nerve-tingling minutes, they held their height and kept in sight of the small biplane. It seemed that Reynolds was so confident of the silence of his plane that he was flying almost directly downriver, back towards Dumbarton and its Rock.
What next, Helen wondered, wishing that Andrew didn’t play his cards quite so close to his chest when it came to springing traps. In the rushing wind, she snorted: it didn’t matter, she would do what seemed right, when it happened. She was a free and independent woman, and the equal of any man. Even Andrew.
They almost overshot Reynolds’s plane. After they passed the dark lump of the Rock which looked nothing from the air above it Reynolds veered sharply to the right and headed inland. The sound of their own engine throttled back, and Helen gripped the cockpit edges when it seemed that Andrew was almost braking their plane by dropping it into a series of short, sharp descents, each flattening out almost as a bird would rear back and brake with its wings and tail before it landed.
Her eyes now fully adjusted to the dark, she saw Reynolds’s plane drop down to what could only be a field, where half a dozen oil drum fires outlined a rough landing strip. Almost before she realised it, the same small lights were rushing up towards them as Andrew eased down to land almost in the slipstream of the other plane.
They hit the field with a bump, bounced high, hit the ground again. The straps of her harness cut deeply into her as Andrew braked savagely and brought his plane slithering to a swerving stop on the grass.
As she recovered her balance, the noise of the engine stopped, and she saw Andrew throw off the straps of his harness and jump out of the cockpit to race towards the other plane. Helen feverishly searched for the release buckle on her harness, found it, slipped out of it, and somehow tumbled over the wing and on to the field.
Her ears still ringing from the noise of flight, she heard piercing whistles in the night, and saw a score of dark figures converge on the plane in front of her. The two running figures, who had only just realised that they had been followed down, hesitated briefly, then the smaller tucked what could only be the bulky aerial camera up under his arm and bolted off to the left.
Helen heard the warning shouts, then the sound of gunfire, as she ran with her skirts held high above her knees across the field. Panting, she became conscious that the taller figure had stopped, and was backing towards the plane, his hands held in the air. She reached him, just as two policemen came running towards him.
“Bob!” she cried.
In a second she was at his side, while the policemen slowly approached, both with pistols held out at eye level in front of them.
“Out of the way,” one of them growled.
“No.” Helen planted herself firmly between Reynolds and them.
She felt herself gently moved aside.
“I’m surrendering,” Reynolds said calmly. “Caught fair and square. Don’t harm the lady, she has nothing to do with this.”