Last time Bill travelled down to Cardiff to meet with an inspector about the suspicious helicopter activity.
The next morning, Bill set out in his car to the first airstrip on his list to do some investigations into the helicopters’ origins. He had got back from Cardiff late last night and had filled a worried Allie in with everything he had found out the day before. She had been disappointed that he hadn’t yet found the children but appreciated his progress. She let him go the next day looking brave but forlorn, hoping that he would have some luck today.
He drove down to Merthyr, already feeling fed up of what had seemed a quaint little town just the week before, and then took the road to the east, which ran somewhat parallel to the road to the Evans’ farm, but continued much further North on the other side of a ridge of mountains. This road took him up to Sennybridge in under an hour, the location of an RAF airfield in the later war years. Wales was dotted with these abandoned airfields, most of which only operated for two or three years at most. Several, according to the files he had read in Inspector Morgan’s office, had been taken over by various enterprising folk who were trying to make a living out of ferrying goods and passengers by light aircraft or helicopter, whilst a few others were now private and for the use of an individual or business.
The base at Sennybridge didn’t turn out to be anything to do with the mountain. The chaps there were simply flying cargo between Wales and Ireland. Posing as an inspector from the Air Registration Board, Bill checked their paper work and work practices. He allowed them an hour of his time to prove his legitimacy and make sure that he wasn’t dismissing the airstrip out of hand. He got back in his car and looked at his list of airstrips and chose to head north to Llandovery and search there.
Llandovery had reported one or two of the discrepancies which had been flagged up when the Cardiff police had been contacting airfields to ask about such things. They had kept meticulous records, detailing the air-planes and other aircraft which had used their airfield, most of which were not owned or employed by the business itself. As the owner, an older man with a shock of white hair, explained, anyone could request a ‘runway slot’ in advance and land there. Of course they checked licences and so on, and everything checked out, apart from one or two flight plans that didn’t match with the times the helicopters had been gone for. As they weren’t paying the pilots or hiring the equipment they hadn’t thought anything of it. The beauty of helicopters, after all, was you could land them just about anywhere as long as it was a wide open space. If someone was behaving criminally, they’d hardly be likely to file flight plans and land at an established airfield.
Bill wasn’t so sure he agreed. The airfields were a good way to make an operation look legitimate, plus you could hardly refuel a helicopter at a roadside petrol station. Helicopters taking off and landing in fields would be highly noticeable to anyone within a mile or two.
He made some notes anyway, and thanked the owner for his time. After that he decided to head back south. There were other airfields further north and east but none had reported anything amiss, and most were at the farther edges of what was likely for a helicopter return trip. He couldn’t rule them out entirely but he liked his plan of starting in the centre and working out in increasing circles. That took him back towards Cardiff, but near enough to Merthyr to be able to head home whenever he was ready. He realised fairly quickly that he was unlikely to have any luck in the Cardiff area. The two airfields there, private ones this time, were much more professional affairs, and had been established businesses before the Second World War.
Still, he went through the motions of his false role and spent some time chatting with employees of both businesses. As the afternoon shadows grew long Bill decided that it was time to call it quits for the day and inform Allie of what little progress he has made. He knew she wouldn’t be happy but there was only so much one man could do on his own. Yawning he drove back to the Evans farm, hoping that there would be a decent meal to be had when he got in.
Mrs Evans began fussing around him as soon as he walked in the door. “You’ve been out all day, look you,” she said, ushering him into a chair at the well-scrubbed kitchen table. “And you didn’t even take the lunch I made up for you!”
“Oh… I got some lunch from a little place near Llandovery,” he said. “You needn’t worry about me. I’m sorry about forgetting your lunch, though. I hope it didn’t go to waste.”
Mrs Evans sniffed, putting a pot of something onto the top of the range to heat up. “No, that it didn’t. I made sure we ate it with our lunch, not that poor Mrs Mannering really touched anything I put in front of her. It was a fine ham, too, and the bread was baked fresh yesterday evening. The raspberries were picked this morning, and the cream made fresh, too.”
Bill let her chatter wash over him as she expounded the fresh quality of all the things she had tried to tempt Allie with at lunch time and again for dinner. He would need to speak to Allie again, before he turned in.
To be continued…