Last time Bill and Allie woke up in the same bed (the scandal!) and Bill set off for another day of investigating.
Bill had studied his map well, and without fault managed to get to his first airbase of the day, outside of Abergavenny, Gwent and Powys. He arrived mid morning and stopped just short of the base to get the right identification out for inspecting the base.
With the little card ready and his gun snugly in its holster hidden under his jacket he proceeded on to Cwrt-y-gollen. He was glad he had checked the pronunciation with Effans that morning, as it turned out to be Court-y-gothlan, which was nothing like what he’d had in his head.
The owner of the airfield – a slightly larger one than some of the others he had visited – was just as polite and helpful as any of the previous ones, despite his incongruous accent, and at first Bill felt like yet again he had nothing to show for his efforts. But as he looked around he began to feel like something was ever so slightly amiss. At least two of the men there had deliberately, if discretely, avoided him as he had passed by. Now why could that be? He made noises about thinking of returning to flying, just to see what that idea shook loose.
“I’ve got no space for extra workers at the moment,” the owner said, cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth. “I got some good men with me at the moment, but my competition is fierce, gotta keep me overheads down. I’ll take a name and address off you though, in case something comes up? What experience have you had with flying freight?”
Ready for this, Bill spun a smooth set of lies about his flying experience. He could fly – both helicopters and planes – but he had never done it commercially. “This inspecting business isn’t really my thing,” he confided, though he didn’t lower his voice as he hoped that others would be listening. “A lot of driving, a lot of paperwork… the pay’s not bad, and it’s steady work, but I think I’d rather get back up in the air. I thought I could pick up the odd job here and there and see where it took me.”
“Things are tight, we have too much competition to run a big staff of pilots,” the owner confided. A few of the pilots were nearby, smoking and looking daggers at Bill, who they saw as trying to muscle in on their pitch. But two looked genuinely interested as the owner took Bill’s details and promised to let him know if he had a spot on staff come up.
Two of the men wandered over to pick up the conversation when the owner had sloped off to get a plane loaded. “You new round here?” asked one of the men, offering Bill a cigarette.
“Passing through, more or less,” Bill said, accepting a cigarette with a nod of thanks. “They send me all over, usually, but I’ll be here for a bit what with all the funny business that’s supposed to be going on.” He took a drag on the cigarette and shook his head. “Waste of my time, if you ask me. So a few helicopters have taken longer flights than they were supposed to, so what, it’s hardly a crime.”
The men shared a look through then haze of the cigarette smoke. “They send you to check up on us?” one asked with a raised eyebrow. “But I thought you said you were a pilot?”
Bill gave a casual shrug. “The Air Registration Board likes to stick its nose into every airfield’s business these days. I’ll tell you, though, I’ve just about had enough of it. When I went for the job I thought I’d be working with planes, see, not looking over flight manifestos in every airfield from Cardiff to Liverpool. I should never have given up the flying,” he said, and stubbed his almost finished cigarette against the wall in an angry gesture.
“Those guys suck,” grumbled the first man. “Sticking their noses into things where they don’t belong.” And so began a lengthy session of the three men ranting about the ARB, the police, and anyone else who tried to regulate their ability to fly freely.
“So why don’t you jack it all in with the ARB?” asked the second man after a while.
Accepting another cigarette Bill lit it and took a few drags before he spoke. “If I can get another job, you can be sure I’ll be telling them where to stick it.”
“Any job? Even under the radar?” asked the second man with sly interest.
Bill’s grin was, if he said so himself, quite wicked. “You mean get one over on the ARB before I go? Now that would be something.”
“You’d be interested then?” the first pilot asked with a slight smile. “Pay isn’t bad either!”
“How about you meet me for a pint at the pub down the road when you knock off?” Bill said, thinking it might be easier to find out what he wanted to know once the men were well-lubricated and away from the eyes and ears of the management.
The men agreed, the offer of a free pint was always welcome. “I’m Alan, by the way,” said the pilot with the scar down one cheek, just as Bill turned towards his car. “And this here’s Mike.” Bill nodded at Alan and the swarthy-looking Mike, and then walked to his car. He got in slowly and took his time to start the engine and drive off, even though he was suddenly desperate to reach a telephone.
‘This might be nothing to do with anything’, he said to himself as he drove towards Abergavenny. ‘They might be ferrying counterfeit cheese for all I know.’
He parked in the town centre and walked back to where he had seen a telephone box, as he felt he needed to phone the Cardiff police and make some enquiries about the men he had just met. After that he knew that he needed to eat some of the massive lunch that Mrs Evans had provided.
He called Inspector Morgan and briefly appraised him of the situation, careful to assert that this could well be a red herring. He wasn’t sure he believed that himself, he now had that indescribable and inexplicable feeling that he was on to something. After Morgan a description of Alan and Mike he promised to update him as soon as he knew anything, and ended the call.
To be continued…