Jiggles and the Black Shaft

The new Jiggles story is going to be serialised here and on my Patreon. You can catch the story as it’s published for as little as $1 a month.

If you want to catch up with the previous adventures of Veronica Jiggleswick and her crew, I recommend the first Jiggles collection, available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other stores.

Autumn had rushed in, and all the colours had changed. The trees under the Hooligan’s wings all seemed to burn now, in multiple shades of red and gold. The low, afternoon sun lit their crowns so brightly that the pale aeroplane picked up the russet tints.

The sky was crisp and clear, perfect weather for flying, with excellent visibility, even as they came in low to land. Jiggles danced the graceful little passenger plane above trees, its slipstream dragging a few already dead leaves from the branches. The line of yellow foliage on the edge of the wood was abrupt. They crossed it, and were above a thin field dipping down a long incline toward the country house.

A wide path of darker, harder packed ground showed the line of the landing strip. It angled away from the house, flattening onto what had been a lawn, and pointing to the gardens and ornamental lake. They would come around and land uphill, but their passenger had insisted they come in from this direction for the reveal of the big house.

Part way down the slope was a wood and corrugated tin building. Built like a Dutch barn, but on a smaller scale, it had the nose of a small biplane poking out of its doors. The rounded tail sticking out of the other end couldn’t possible belong to the same plane. “What an interesting set up.” Ally commented as she spotted the two planes in their purpose built hangar.

“Oh yes, Toby’s father did enjoy flying. He trained for the Air Corps in the Great War. He created this strip and used to fly from it all over the place. I think Toby wants to get the planes working again and restart his pleasure flights.” Their passenger said. He was crouching behind and between the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats so that he, too, could look out of the windows.

“Well, we always bring Ginge along with us. And he can’t keep his hands off any broken down old crate he finds. I’m sure he will help out.” Jiggles said. “Now, go back into the passenger cabin and belt yourself in next to him.”

Godfrey Hardwicke did as he was told, heading back into the Hawker Hooligan’s passenger cabin. They had reached the bottom of the slope, and Jiggles pulled back on the stick. The Hooligan rose abruptly, and Godfrey dropped back into the seat beside Jiggleswick Air’s resident mechanic. Ally looked across at Jiggles, with a little smirk.

When she had been much younger, Veronica Jiggleswick had nursed a heavy crush on her big brother’s friend Godfrey. Godfrey had known all about it, and been a decent enough chap not to make fun of her or make her feel small. So, when she had been old enough, and had gained a fair amount of the relevant experience, Jiggles had acted upon the crush, bedding Godfrey one hot Summer night.

That had all been before Jiggleswick Major had disappeared whilst flying across the Mediterranean. Recently, Jiggles had discovered that her brother may have been working for the British intelligence services at the time, possibly as a favour to Godfrey. She wasn’t yet sure how she felt about that revelation, but, when the opportunity to do a weekend’s charter flying for her old crush had popped up, she had jumped at it. She would, if the chance arose, ask Godfrey all about her brother’s clandestine work.

Jiggles dropped the wings of the Hooligan, to make a low pass over the ornamental lake. Her recent experience piloting flying boats meant she could estimate the height easily, and knew the plane was raising an arrow of ripples across the water.

There were more trees, and a low rise, on the opposite bank of the lake. Jiggles pulled the plane up again, easily clearing them, then banked steeply for a return run over the water. She wiggled the wings just a little to align with the landing strip. The wheels, on their fixed struts under the Hooligan’s wings, touched grass gently, raising little trails of dust behind them.
Jiggles eased off the throttle, and the tail came down. The little wheel at the rear of the aeroplane bounced more readily than the larger main undercarriage, spoiling the clean landing a touch. A little less throttle, and it sat more firmly. The passenger plane rolled onto the uphill section of the strip, and slowed gently. With a dab on the brakes and a twist of the rudder, it turned toward the hangar, and came to a neat stop right in front of it.

Ginge had jumped up from his seat as soon as the aeroplane had hit the upwards section, and moved to the side door. As the Hooligan stopped, he opened the door, and picked up the chocks, which were stowed right beside it. He quickly had them wedged under the wheels of the landing gear, holding the plane firmly in place until it was decided where it would be berthed over night.

The engines coughed as Jiggles throttled them right back and they stopped. They ticked, hot metal cooling after the strains of flight. With the chocks in place, Ginge stepped up to the starboard nacelle and listened to it. His ear was dangerously close to the metal cowling around the engine. He reached up to it, testing its temperature. It was warm, but not painful to touch, so he stroked it lovingly.

Jiggles had beaten Godfrey to the cabin door, as he assembled his briefcase, jacket, and hat. As he bent to get through the short portal, she turned to him and offered her hand, mimicking the gentlemanly gesture he would have made if the positions were reversed. Godfrey wasn’t the sort to be offended by such joshing, and he accepted the offered hand daintily as he stepped down.

The Hooligan had lined up perfectly to point into the hangar. Ally and Jiggles had already had a look inside, and knew that what they had thought were training aeroplanes were far more interesting. Ignoring their passenger, they walked around the end of the starboard wing and headed over for a closer look. Ginge had finished communing with Bendy- as they called their aeroplane- and spotted what was so interesting to them. He speed walked after them to catch up.

“Is that an SE5?” Jiggles asked.

“It certainly looks like one.” Ginge said. “But I think it has been modified a wee bit. I don’t see a gun on it.”

They had been mistaken by their first glance of the aeroplane. It wasn’t a trainer or hobby flyer, as they had thought, but a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 fighter from the Great War. Now that they were close, the flat, upright rectangle of the nose was recognisable, as were the lightly staggered wings. It had been painted a pale blue, rather than the much darker shade it would have sported in service.

“Papa bought it after the war. It is rather marvellous, isn’t it?” said a man from somewhere in the darkness of the hangar.

With the aeroplane sat back on its rear wheel, the nose was angled upwards, blocking their view of the cockpit. So it was a surprise when they spotted a dark figure clambering out of it. In the shadowed interior of the hangar, it was hard to tell who had just alighted from the SE5 at first. As they took steps forwards and around the wing, it became obvious that they were a short and slim young woman. Her deep brown hair was cut in a conservative bob, at odds with the daringly short culottes and short sleeved blouse. A becoming little streak of oil marked her right cheek where she had wiped her hand on it, or poked her head into some mechanical alcove.

The pretty young woman was obviously not the person who had spoken. She giggled as she came around the wing, then gave a little curtsy, and ran down the slope toward the house. They watched her go, appreciating her long legs and her lovely, rounded buttocks where the culottes clung to them.

“She is lovely, isn’t she?” the voice said again. When they looked around, there was another person climbing out of the vintage fighter. He was tall enough to be a little awkward as he unfolded himself. They thought he meant the young lady who had just sprinted off, but then he patted the side of the aeroplane. “Papa persuaded them to give him it, rather than scrap it. He even got them to repaint it. After I had learnt to fly, we would have dogfights over the lake. He flew this, and I would be in that.”

The foppish young man who had climbed from the aeroplane gestured behind it, to the hangar’s other occupant. Only now did they notice its distinct form, with a rounded nose and three tier wing.

“Is that a Fokker?” Ginge squeaked. He was imagining it in bright red, flying high above a battlefield.

“Ah, if only. It is a rather good replica, though, I’m sure you’ll agree when you see it in the light. Ah, Godfrey old chap, so good to see you. These would be the folks from Jiggleswick Air who you were telling me all about. Good day, ladies, gentleman.”

Godfrey walked around the wing to take the man’s hand. Jiggles, Ally and Ginge followed, and there were hands shaken all around. “Toby, old boy, I would like you to meet Veronica Jiggleswick. She’s every bit as keen a flyer as yourself. But you know that, as I have told you some of her adventures. And this is Ally, her co-pilot and business partner, and Ginge, the Jiggleswick Air master mechanic. I am told that he can fix anything, given enough oil and a hammer. I thought you would like to learn more about the joys and perils of commercial aviation, and slip Ginge a few guineas to get these old crates back in the air.”

“Oh yes, absolutely. Young Eileen- you may have just seen her leaving- is surprisingly talented with her hands when it comes to rooting out the problems. But she admits that she hasn’t the background, yet, to be my mechanic. Perhaps she can learn from Mister, er, Ginge. If he does not mind her staring over his shoulder as he works.”

“Not at all. The country need more air mechanics, I always say. And, please, just call me Ginge. Everyone has for so long, that I think I’ve forgotten my real name.” Ginge offered.
“Thank you, Ginge. You are too kind. It will be wonderful to get these birds back in the sky. It will be my limited tribute to Papa.”

Godfrey appeared uncomfortable for a moment. Pulling himself together, he said, “Very sorry to hear about your father. I would have made it to the funeral, but I was in Paris for work. I couldn’t get back in time.”

“But you are here now. And you have brought Miss Jiggleswick and her crew. If they are as good with mysteries as you say, then I am sure we can solve the riddle of the ghost that killed Papa.”