Cook had provided her usual fine selection for breakfast. So much so, that they could all forget the roles they had to play later, and tucked in.
Eileen had changed into her uniform, and was a member of staff once more. Lucy, despite earlier protestations of tiredness, had chosen to be present to serve food as well. Both of these developments confused Annette, who had expected to be lumbered with serving the meal all by herself. More cheekily, and far less formally, than normal, the three maids had picked up sausages and rashers of bacon for themselves, eating them from their fingers.
The freedom had to end when Melissa arrived for breakfast. Lady Carstairs would never stand for such cheek. She gave Eileen a suspicious assessment as her tea was poured, but seemed to decide that everything was back to the way it should be.
Donald arrived a couple of minutes later, dressed in a tweed hunting outfit. He looked like he would be far too uncomfortable tramping across fields to ever indulge in any grouse shooting, though. Perhaps if the birds could be persuaded to fly close enough whilst he stood in front of the house, he might participate.
Godfrey waited until Donald had a full plate of food in front of him before making his planned announcement. Holding up an envelope, he announced. “Melissa, you will be pleased to know that we have found a vital piece of evidence this morning.”
Melissa didn’t look at all pleased. She barely appeared interested, but went through the motions, nonetheless. “Really? And what is this evidence?”
Godfrey reached into the envelope, and carefully pulled the half playing card from it. “This matches the half of a card that we found where Maude was murdered. It was to be used by a conspirator to identify themselves to her. This man was plotting to defraud the Carstairs family of a large sum of money, I believe. He was working with Maude’s lover, and she was their willing, but I believe, naive, pawn in the plan they had hatched.”
Melissa’s eyes twitched toward Donald, the most obvious, if not only, suspect present. He froze with his fork full of food halfway to his mouth, and looked around Did he seem suspicious to her? Her gaze just as quickly returned to Godfrey. “And you found this in someone’s room? Whose room was it?”
“Unfortunately, it was found on one of the landings, so we cannot narrow it down to a specific room. However, I have called the local Police, and Constable and Sergeant Miller are on their way with a fingerprint kit. Once I have transferred some prints from the card, we will be able to take them from everyone in the house, and find our suspect.” Godfrey sounded matter of fact about the whole thing, as if he didn’t expect any sort of reaction from anyone around the table.
Donald moved surprisingly quickly. He had laid his knife and fork down, and appeared to be reaching inside his suit for a handkerchief. However, when his hand reappeared, he held a small revolver. He pointed the gun at Godfrey, who didn’t even blink. Everyone else flinched, not so much surprised by this development as by its speed. Melissa cut short a cry of shock, slapping a hand over her mouth.
“Very clever Hardwicke. But I’ll save you the time, shall I?” Donald stood quickly, knocking his chair over backwards. “I should have known to leave the plan be after the old lord has his heart attack. I should have known better than to let my plans be screwed up by a stupid skivvy!” Fast strides took him to Eileen. He grabbed her with his left arm, wrapping it around her shoulders to hold her tight. She swore at him, and struggled, until he turned the pistol to press the barrel against her temple.
“I didn’t kill her. But you wouldn’t care about that. You would just use your precious evidence to see I hang. Well, none of that. A stupid skivvy got me into this, and another one is going to get me out. She’s coming with me until I’m safely away from here!” Donald forced Eileen to walk with him, moving sideways to the nearest door. At his urging, she opened it. She was scared, as anyone with a gun to their head had a right to be, but there was anger in her expression as well. Her gaze was concentrated on Toby, telling him she would get away from Donald as soon as she was able, and asking for any help toward that end.
Everyone but Melissa stood slowly. Lucy, standing by the buffet bar, looked for a weapon of her own, her fingers closing over the handle of a carving knife whilst Donald’s attention was elsewhere.
“What do you think you are doing? Stay right where you are.” Donald said, voice lacking the authority he wanted.
“We are going to follow you. If you do anything to harm Eileen, the rest of us will be on you in a flash.” Toby told him.
Donald was over the threshold of the room now. “Close the door.” he demanded of Eileen. She stretched out a foot, and pushed it open instead. “Bitch.” he muttered. He dragged her toward the stairs.
They followed Donald down the stairs, then toward the rear of the house, heading toward the stables and garage. “If he gets in one of the cars, we have others to follow him in, but the chance of losing him will be greater.” Toby whispered to Godfrey.
At the back of the group following Donald, Jiggles, Ally and Ginge exchanged looks. With quiet nods, they agreed on what they should do. Ginge and Jiggles quietly slipped away, to exit by the front door.
The moving stand off made its way to the back of the house. Conveniently for Donald, the door to the stable yard was open. He pushed through it, and did a quick look around. Clive was standing by the garage doors. He looked around at the new arrivals, then did a double take.
“You, open the garage and get a car started!” Donald commanded.
Clive had been privy to Godfrey’s plans for a big reveal. But there had been no good reason for him to be in the dining room, so he had resigned himself to doing his usual duties instead. He hadn’t expected the ruse to end with a guest holding a gun to Eileen’s head. He looked to Toby, who had just entered the yard as well, for guidance, and got a nod.
Eileen was past the point where she was scared, and was getting ever more angry. Her face said that she wanted to punch Donald, just as soon as he got the chance. Whilst he had the gun on her, however, she wasn’t going to take the risk. Her mouth set into a thin, tight line of determination.
Donald followed Clive into the garage. Everyone else, stood in the yard, heard him order, “The other doors. We’re going that way. I know you can drive. Get in and start it up.”
Clive started the motor of the the big Rolls Royce nearest the double doors out onto the driveway. As the large car purred, Donald had Eileen open one of the back doors, and manhandled her inside. “Go!” he demanded, “Go!”
The Rolls left the garage at a sedate pace, appropriate to its looks. Then Donald must have commanded more speed, because the sound of the engine rose in pitch, and gravel was thrown up as the rear wheels started to spin. They found grip, and the extra power was translated into acceleration. The stately car leant heavily as it turned toward the drive.
“Right, we’ll take the Ford. Lucy, get on the telephone to the Police station. If they’re not already on the way, get them roused and tell them what just happened.” Toby commanded. He rushed over to a board just inside the garage, and lifted a set of keys from it.
The Ford was an American model, a coupé with only two seats in the cabin. Erin went to the back of the car, and pulled open the rumble seat. She and Ally climbed in, as Godfrey joined Toby inside the vehicle. Leaning out, before he closed the door, Toby asked, “Where are Jiggles and Ginge?”
“They sneaked out earlier. I think they’ve gone to get Bendy ready, so they can follow from the air.” Ally told him.
“Good plan.” Toby slammed the door, and started the engine.
After the refined hum of the Rolls, this was much more of a roar, but with a strange whistling accompanying it. “Supercharged flathead V8.” Erin told Ally. “Daddy shipped it over to Toby’s Papa as a wedding present. They’ll have a hard time losing us whilst we’re in this.”
The Ford leapt forwards with a squeal of rubber on stone. Toby backed off the throttle a little as he threaded out of the doors, then gouged another set of lines in the gravel as he pressed his foot down, and followed the trail left by the Rolls.
The big car hadn’t got far. Whether deliberately, or through nerves, Clive had slid it sideways around the corner of the house, and had to straighten up and slow some as he headed for the drive proper. They could see it, near the end of the runway. As Ally and Erin leant out either side of the rumble seat for a better view, they watched the car turn sharply off the gravel of the driveway, and onto the grass.
The mystery of the sudden movement was answered a moment later, when the Ford reached the end of the driveway. Coming in the opposite direction was Doctor Todd’s little Austin 7. It was obvious from the way the small car sat that the occupants had been surprised by the way the Rolls had turned to race up the runway.
The front of the Ford dipped as Toby braked hard, then the rear began to swing out as he turned onto the grass. His hands and feet must have been dancing jigs, because he managed to turn the swerve into a sweeping turn, and they were pointed up the runway to the aeroplanes.
Clive stood beside the Rolls, with his hands in the air, whilst Donald was walking backwards toward the Fokker, still dragging Eileen with him. “You people just don’t give up, do you? Well, we shall see how well this goes for you once I’m in the air!”
Donald pushed Eileen up against the nearest section of wing, and forced her to climb up onto it. She grasped a strut, and stretched herself out on the middle of the three wings. Keeping his gun pointed at her at all times, Donald kicked the chock out from under the nearest wheel. He crouched, and reached under the belly of the Fokker to find the rope for the other chock. With both of the blocks removed, the triplane began to roll slowly down the slight incline of the runway. Donald climbed up into the cockpit with surprising agility. He was briefly distracted by his search for the starter after he sat down, but not long enough for anyone to make a move toward him.
There was a low buzz from inside the aeroplane, then the engine coughed, and the propeller did a half rotation. Another three such barks, close together, and a cloud of oily black smoke, and the engine was running. The slow roll down the runway sped up, as the propeller started pushing air. Donald turned the machine to point at the ramp at the bottom of the strip, and pushed the throttle forwards.
“What is Eileen doing?” Toby asked, straining to watch her movements on the wing.
“I think she’s fastening her belt around the spar, so she won’t fall off.” Ally told him.
“I hope so. I have to get after her.” Toby was already striding toward the SE5.
There was a roar from the Hawker Hooligan, as its starboard engine started up. Before the port motor fired, and drowned him out, Ginge opened the side door and leaned out. “We can fly higher and faster than the Fokker. We’ll get up and spot for you, but we’ll need eyes.” he shouted.
The triplane had only just taken off, flinging itself into the air from the ramp at the end of the runway, and its pursuers were almost ready to take off. The Austin 7 pulled up behind the Ford and the Rolls, and Constable and Sergeant Miller climbed out. “Whatever is going on?” the Sergeant demanded.
“Hot pursuit.” was all Godfrey could say before the port engine of the Hooligan fired up and drowned him out. He pointed at the disappearing triplane, before heading towards Bendy. Sergeant Miller shook his head as Ally and Erin passed him and Constable Miller. There was no way he was getting into an aeroplane. Constable Miller, on the other hand, was eager to take flight, whatever the reason. He sprinted after them.
Ginge pulled away the chock nearest the SE5 on the Hooligan, then had Clive help him push the larger plane so that it wasn’t pointing at the old fighter. When he ran around and tugged the other chock clear, Bendy began to roll down the strip. He hammered the side of the aeroplane, urging Jiggles to take off.
As Jiggleswick Air’s plane started to gain speed, Ginge ran over to the SE5. Toby was already in the cockpit, and had pumped the fuel tank up to pressure. Ginge gestured for Clive to help him turn the propeller and prime the engine. When that was done, he called out, “Contact!”
“Contact!” Toby replied. Ginge pointed Clive to the ropes on the chocks, and the gardener grabbed them, ready to pull them free.
Ginge heaved on the propeller, and staggered back as the engine fired first go. He allowed himself a little smile, at the effectiveness of his fix on the motor, and signalled for Clive to get the chocks out from under the wheels.
The Hooligan was in the air, and the SE5 was already on the way down the strip to follow it. Ginge and Clive crawled away from the air being pushed back by the fighter’s propeller, joining Sergeant Miller behind the Rolls Royce.
The motor of the SE5 ramped up steadily, and it gained speed as it headed down the strip. Toby adjusted its direction, straightening, aiming it straight at the ramp and over the lake. As it lifted off, following the Hooligan and the Fokker, Ginge, Clive, and Sergeant Miller stood from behind the Rolls.
“What the blazes is going on here? Mister Hardwicke said there had been developments in the murder case, and said we should come to the house. But I wasn’t expecting this.” Sergeant Miller said.
“To be fair, I don’t think he was, either.” Ginge told him.
The Hooligan climbed as fast as Jiggles could make it, pressing everyone back into their seats. Erin, sitting beside Godfrey in the passenger cabin, was wide eyed and excited. Under different circumstances, she might have let out whoops and hollers at the ride. Behind her, Constable Miller was looking less and less certain that getting into the aeroplane had been a good idea.
The aeroplane levelled off, then banked, to start a long, sweeping turn. Ally came through from the pilots’ cabin. “Okay. We should be above them. We can outpace, and probably outmanoeuvre, the Fokker, so we’re going to stay up here until we spot it, then move in and circle above it when we do. Toby should use us as a guide to find it, if he can’t see it himself. So let’s get looking for it.
With two of them on either side, they strained to see the red cross of the Fokker below them. At the end of the first full turn, they hadn’t spotted it, so Jiggles flew them straight and level for a while, before doing a turn in the opposite direction.
“There! Is that it?” Constable Miller called out. Ally moved to lean over his shoulder, and looked at the patch of ground he indicated. At first she couldn’t see it, then the red plane showed up against the dark green of a field.
“Okay. We’ve found it. About your three o’clock, heading towards two.” Ally called through to Jiggles.
Jiggles let the Hooligan turn a little more, then flattened it out. Pushing the stick forwards, she dipped the nose, and let the plane start a shallow dive as she looked around ahead. Spotting the Fokker, she pulled up again, and adjusted direction to fly over it. A wiggle of the Hooligan’s wings would signal to Toby, if he was watching, that he should head toward them.
The Fokker disappeared under the belly of the Hooligan, and none of them could see it. “There!” called Erin when it came back into view. “About eleven o’clock, heading toward ten. I think. Is that right?”
“Perfect.” Ally assured her, spotting the Fokker herself. “Low and slow. And a bit unsteady. It can’t be easy, flying with an unwilling passenger on the wing.”
“I can see Lord Carstairs’ aircraft behind us.” Constable Miller announced. I think he’s heading straight for the red one.
“Right then. I’m going to take us lower.” Jiggles called back. “But not too low. I don’t want to make Donald crash, just show him he can’t get away.”
The Hooligan dropped again, then did some sinuous turns as it tried to stay behind the Fokker. The SE5 joined it in the pursuit, ahead, and slightly below it.
Ally went back to the co-pilot’s seat, and leant forwards to stare ahead and study the Fokker. “Eileen is still hanging on to the wing. And I think she has managed to jam one of the ailerons with something.”
“That would explain some of the bad flying. I hope she doesn’t knock herself out of the sky.” Jiggles replied.
There was a puff of white smoke from the Fokker’s exhausts, and it seemed to hang still in the sky for a long moment, before falling. It straightened, and started flying level again. But it was lower than it had been before, and showed little sign of regaining the lost altitude.
“Did you fuel the Fokker up?” Jiggles asked.
“I don’t think we did. We topped up the SE5, but the Fokker was left as it was.” Ally answered.
“Well, I think that is going to cut this pursuit short.”
There was a copse of trees right ahead of the Fokker, and, for a horrible moment, the aeroplane was too low to clear it. It jerked up, and the motor strained, and it just barely cleared the orange leaves, dragging a flurry behind in its wake.
Now the Fokker was over a large field of gold stubble. A few sheafs of corn stalks were dotted around, tied up, but not yet gathered in. At all the edges were yet more trees, that the red plane couldn’t hope to clear. Toby had brought the SE5 close to the triplane, and now placed himself above it.
Donald had no real choice but to land. The SE5 blocked him from making a rash attempt to clear the trees at the far side of the field, just in case. Then the engine puffed out white smoke again, and the propeller stopped spinning. The flight was over, the Fokker was gliding toward the ground.
The triplane’s slipstream stirred up chaff and dust as it drew closer to the ground. Toby pulled the SE 5 back, and followed the Fokker, just off to its right. They both touched down within a second of each other.
Up above them, Jiggles pulled the Hooligan around in a tight circle, losing altitude as she went. She had further to drop to the ground than either of the fighters, and took a steeper approach than usual. “I’m taking us down!” she called out, in case no-one had worked it out. “Hold tight.”
The two fighters were tracking arrows of dust across the field. They might have been slowing, but it was hard to tell from the Hooligan as it raced to the ground. Jiggles pulled back on the stick, scrubbing off speed just before they hit. The wheels still bounced hard off the ground as they touched down.
The Hooligan head across the field at an angle to the lines thrown up by the fighters. It pulled its own trail of chaff through them and, for a moment, nobody inside could see what they were heading toward. Back out of the dust, they spotted the smaller aeroplanes again. Jiggles played with the throttles, stick, and brakes to turn toward them, bringing Bendy around in a sweeping turn that would end ahead of the slowing fighters.
The Fokker hit one of the sheafs of corn stalks. It was the last bit of braking needed to bring it to a halt. The tail lifted off the ground, rearing up dangerously, then dropped, hard, back to the ground.
Toby brought the SE5 around behind the Fokker in a tight turn that saw the tailwheel skidding sideways and gouging the ground. The aeroplane did a near total rotation, and came to a halt close to the triplane. The Hooligan, at the end of its long turn, pulled up in front of the red plane. Almost immediately, Godfrey had the door open, and had tumbled out.
Erin swung out of the aeroplane, far more nimbly than Godfrey, and reached down to help him up. Jiggles and Ally were out next, making practiced exits. Last out of the cabin was Constable Miller, uncertain on his feet, and looking pale after the jostling of the flight.
Donald and Toby were both out of their planes, standing across from each other. Donald had his pistol out again, and waved it at everyone else when they arrived. “Don’t come any closer! I’m leaving here! You are going to let me go!” he shouted. On the wing behind him, Eileen was clinging toght to the wing spar, but appeared to be rousing from the shock and shaking of her flight.
“You’re going nowhere, and you know it. Just put the gun down, before it gets any worse for you.” Godfrey said, coming around the wing.
“No, I will never do that. You’ll just pin that damn skivvy’s death on me. I didn’t do that.” As everyone took steps toward him, Donald took matching ones back. “I’ve got enough bullets for each of you, if I have to. You won’t be telling me what to do when….”
Donald went cross-eyed, and made a strange gurgle, then toppled forwards onto the stubble. As he fell, Eileen was revealed. She was still on the middle wing, grasping the spar, but she had turned around so that she could kick her kidnapper. The solid, flat sole of her shoe had cracked against the back of his head, stunning him so hard that he had passed out. “Never tun your back on an angry skivvy, you horrible little man.” she told him, even if he couldn’t hear.
Godfrey and Erin rushed over to Donald. He knelt down, and pressed a firm hand Donald’s shoulders to hold him down, whilst she picked up the revolver, Opening it, she tapped the bullets out of the chamber.
Toby ignored Donald, and headed straight for Eileen. She fought with the buckle of her belt, and slid off the wing when she was released. Her left foot was bare. Somehow she had wedged the shoe into the aileron nearest her. In her current excited and wind numbed state, she barely noticed the prickle of the corn stubble on the sole of her foot. With the belt released, her long skirt dropped to the ground, revealing that, once again, she wore no underwear.
Eileen jumped into Toby’s arms, and they kissed passionately. His hands grasped her naked buttocks, and held her up as she wrapped her legs around him. They turned so that she rested against the side of the Fokker, and their kisses became even more determined. Eileen’s right hand came down and around, and she released Toby’s belt and the buttons. She soon had his erection out in the open, and the next move was obvious.
Godfrey, Erin, Jiggles, and Ally stood or knelt around Donald, who was beginning to come out of his daze. Seduce the lord, seduce the lady. Take their money. Simple plan.” he mumbled.
“I suppose we should arrest him.” Godfrey said. “Where has the Constable gone?”
“I am over here, sir.” said a voice from behind the SE5. “Once I knew we had him, I needed to go and, erm, be a little ill. I don’t think I am the flying type.”
Constable Miller came out from behind the SE5, still pale, but somehow looking happier for having thrown up. He stopped, and did a double take, at the sight of Toby and Eileen making love against the side of the Fokker. Deciding to let them celebrate their reunion, as everyone else was, he came over to look down at Donald. “Goodness, is he alright? How hard did Eileen hit him?”
“The soles of those shoes are very hard.” Ally said. “But I’m sure he will recover.”
“Shame.” Erin said, with an exaggerated sigh.
The cries and sighs from the side of the Fokker increased in volume and frequency as Toby and Eileen approached the peaks of their pleasure. Now, everyone stopped politely ignoring them, and turned to look at the action. Even Donald seemed to struggle onto his side to look in their direction, though his crossed eyes didn’t seem suited to focussing on them. “Take all their money.” he muttered.
Toby had his arms hooked under Eileen’s knees, trusting the support from the Fokker to hold her up. She held on to the edge of the cockpit with her left hand, and had her right arm wrapped around his shoulders. With her head thrown back, she was calling out her building climax as he kissed her neck and chin.
With a final thrust, Toby pressed Eileen hard against the Fokker, and they both called out as the climaxed. They stayed like that, panting and sighing as they came down from their excitement. Toby’s knees were shaking as he found it hard to hold Eileen up any more. Godfrey and Erin hustled over to help keep the two of them topple over.
Eileen and Toby leant against the side of the Fokker, still not quite able to stand up straight. I knew you would come for me.” she told him.
Well, I had to. I hadn’t asked you to marry me yet.” Toby told her, kissing the side of her forehead.
“Marry you?” Eileen’s voice was squeaky with surprise.
“Why, yes. Lucy was quite right this morning when she said you will be the next Lady Carstairs. If you want to marry me, of course.”
“Oh, I do want to marry you. Of course I do. I’d want to marry you even if you were a mechanic with a strange love for aeroplanes. And we are standing in a field with your spunk dribbling down my leg. I think that means I have to marry you.” Eileen declared.
“It’s true, sir. There are bye-laws about that sort of thing.” Constable Miller joked. Jiggles and Ally had tugged Donald up into a sitting position, and the Constable was kneeling before him, clicking handcuffs around his wrists.
“Well, in that case, I shall have to make a call to Reverend Willoughby when we get back to the house. How shall we get back to the house? I think I know where we are, at least.”
“Well, Bendy should get back into the air easily, even with two extra passengers. Three, if you don’t think your crate is up to taking off again.” Jiggles said.
“I think I should stay here, and guard the red plane. And the other one, if it’s left here.” Constable Miller announced. The thought of another flight had washed the colour from his cheeks again.
“The SE5 should be fine to fly back. I don’t think I pranged anything when I landed. Let me have a look before you head off without me.” Toby said. He turned to kiss Eileen. A peck on the lips became something longer and deeper. As his trousers were still down to his knees, it was obvious to everyone that his thoughts had drifted away from flying.
“Today, old chap. Let’s not get distracted again. At least, not until we are back at the house, and have bedrooms to go to.” Godfrey told him.