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Serial M for Mossie

Discussion in 'Scribblings' started by tirial, March 1, 2018.

  1. Threadmarks: Prologue

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    RAF base, North Yorkshire

    “Sir, if you are ready, do you think you can avoid losing your temper this time?” Station Commander Wilkins nodded as the nurse looked at him severely.

    “Yes. I’ll be fine.” He took a breath, straightened his jacket and walked back into the room. Sitting down as the nurse entered behind him and closed the door, he looked at the room’s other occupant and sighed.

    “Kelly, we would like to help you but we can’t unless you tell us what happened,” he began. The teenager stared at him sullenly and said nothing. One booted foot pushed against the table edge and baggy black combat trousers clinked as she rocked the chair back and forth. The row of empty piercings, save for one silver stud at the base of each ear, completed the picture of a drop out but he knew she was smarter than that.

    “Kelly, we’d just like to know where the plane came from? Can you help us with that?” Wilkins strived to keep his voice level. His own daughter was eleven, he reflected and in a few years he would be going through this with her. Eyeing the bomber jacket and scarf flung over the back of the chair he reflected that fortunately, the chances of him ending up in this precise situation with his daughter were very slim.

    “Kelly, you are an unlicensed pilot flying an uncertified aircraft over the Yorkshire dales. You could be in a lot of trouble.”

    “I’m not unlicensed!” she protested, stung, in her thick Manchester accent. ”Got a student licence and everything. Says here. Look.” She thrust the licence she had pulled out towards him. “Seven hours in a Cessna 172. And I clocked over one hundred in the simulator.” Her glare was indignant, and Wilkins fought the urge to rub his forehead feeling a headache coming on. If the situation had not been so delicate he would have shouted. He wished she was over sixteen and he could have got away with it. Instead a glowering nurse prevented him from really putting pressure on the kid.

    “Kelly, that licence does not allow you to fly solo.”

    “So? Who else knows how to fly that plane?” He nearly snapped back that that was what he was trying to find out, but he knew where that line of questioning went. She would insist she had flown it, he would argue, tempers would fray, and the nurse would pull him outside for another little chat. The base nurse was inconvenient but she was here as much for his protection as Kelly’s. It was not often he had to interview fourteen-year-old girls who had been flying in restricted airspace. Particularly not in planes like that.

    “Kelly, the plane was not registered. They can pull your licence for that.”

    “Yeah, and then I turn sixteen, the records get locked and I’ll just get it back.” She was entirely too smug, he considered.

    “Actually if this goes to court you could be banned from flying for years and loose your licence permanently. Do you want that?” he snapped. The smirk vanished from her face and she leaned forward, throwing each word at him.

    “I. Flew. The. Plane. That it? You’ve got a confession. Can I go now?” Wilkins' headache was back full force and he welcomed the knock on the door.

    “Come in.”

    “Excuse me sir, but Miss Chandler’s parents are here. They’ve brought legal representation. Wilcott, Fox and Ledger.”

    “Oh. Which partner?” Wilkins asked. He knew Geoff Fox quite well.

    “Err. All of them sir.” As Wilkins glanced back across the table, Kelly smirked at him. He wondered, not for the first time, how many people had been in on this.

    “Fine. Just don’t leave the area,” he said, giving up. As the crewman escorted her out, he gave in and put his head in his hands. Fourteen or not, she had become a hit on base once word of what she was accused of had filtered out, and his chances of tracking down which one of his personnel had phoned her parents was slim. The nurse coughed, drawing him back to the present.

    “Oh, sorry. Thank you Amy. You can go back to the medical bay.” The civilian nodded and left, and Wilkins picked himself up and headed back to his office, trying not to show how tired he was. When he got back there was a junior officer waiting outside the office.

    “Sir. You said you wanted to see me as soon as I got back?” The younger officer saluted, and Wilkins returned the gesture before unlocking the door and gesturing him in. Once they were both sat down he began.

    “Any news?”

    “Yes sir. The airport says they are considering dropping all charges. They say that given the age of the pilot…” Wilkins did not really listen to the rest.

    “And this has nothing to do with the fact they currently have possession of the aircraft? Have you managed to get a look at it yet?”

    “Sir, to be honest, only with the airport engineers hovering over me. They say they are in the middle of their own investigation and don’t want us to disturb anything. Frankly sir, I think they’re worried we will hurt it.” As the junior officer finished sardonically, Wilkins shook his head.

    “So in short, after screaming at us for weeks about the ghost on their radar, now it’s parked in their hanger they suddenly want to drop all charges?”

    “Yes sir. They claim that our engineers aren’t certified on type and might damage their property.”

    “Their property?” Suddenly things became clearer. “Did someone sign the rights over in exchange for them dropping charges?”

    “I don’t know sir. They claim that ownership is business confidential and does not concern us. Sorry sir.” Wilkins waved off the apology. It seemed for the right inducement anything was possible.

    “Any luck with tracing the other pilot?”

    “No sir. Everyone involves swears blind that she flew it. They might be telling the truth.”

    “No. Seven hours in a Cessna does not let you pull off a perfect Split-S to evade a police helicopter.” Wilkins did not mention the radar evasion, low flying, aerobatics, or night flights. He did not need to.

    “Sir, she did spend every night for months visiting a veteran bomber pilot. He could have taught her.”

    “With no way to practice? She’d have killed herself before she got that good. No, there was another pilot. Keep investigating. Dismissed.” As the officer left, Wilkins flipped his notes open. He had to add the results of today’s unsuccessful chat with Kelly, and the odd actions at the airport. The folder was slightly loose and as always the photographs, stills taken from a gun camera and blown up, fell out. He picked them up, staring blankly at them. There were definitely two people in the cockpit but the blur made it hard to see details, and with the number of accomplices emerging as he dug into the case it could be almost anyone.

    He paused for a moment, admiring the picture. Snapped at night, it had come out beautifully, the dark shape of the aircraft stark against the fields. It had been a full moon, as most of the flights had been, and the edges of the straight blunt wings were rimmed in silver. The radar wires extending from the nose could be made out, although the cannon he would expect below them were missing. At the front the rounded nose and two propellers on the wings could be made out as, one wingtip raised, the aircraft banked to follow the line of the hills. He grinned slightly, admitting to himself that he could not blame the airport for their overly possessive attitude. If it had fallen into his hands it would be going straight to a specialist arm of the RAF, and the civilians hushed up, much as they were trying to do to him. He flicked through the other photographs quickly before he put them back to write his report. They all showed the same thing.

    The hills of Yorkshire wreathed in the last of the spring frost and above them, a perfect de Havilland Mosquito Night Fighter Mark II, skimming the dales at less than two hundred feet.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter1.1

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    Chapter 1.1
    Manchester, 2014

    “F****** b*stard.” Trev spat. Ram agreed.

    “Could’ve negotiated. If the company says ten percent pay cut or we close, what twerp demands a rise? If Mike’d done his job, we’d have jobs.”

    “S’al right for ‘im,” Steve chimed in. “E’s off t’ the Birmingham plant.”

    “Twenty years of dues, and this is what he f****** leaves us with.” Trev kicked the nearest crate.

    “What are we going to do?” Ram asked.

    “God knows.” Trev replied, disconsolately. Two kids, a wife, a house they could just afford and him only ten years off retirement.

    “Think these locker thingys 'r worth anything?" Steve asked hopefully. "Me ticket says I got a set of tools'n'car models."

    “Better ‘n nothing.” Trev shrugged philosophically. “You never know. Someone might have left their loot in there.”

    “Yeah, but then you have to report it,” Steve objected. There were a few sniggers.

    “Right? Who’d do that round ‘ere? You telling me that if you opened that storage locker and found a whopping great pile of cash you’d tell the coppers?” Trev looked round at Ram, who seemed to agree with him. Steve looked at his feet.

    “Prolly not,” he admitted.

    "Good lad. You're learning." Trev clapped him on the shoulder, with a grin. He had no idea what to do with the lockers he'd been offered: Number 36, a large locker towards the back that hadn’t been opened in lord knows how long and locker 226, a set of ladies' clothes from the 50's. The hell use were those to anyone? Maybe a museum might want them. So much for a retirement bonus. Thank god he didn't have to pay delivery.

    “Bit of a risk,” Ram said, elbowing Trev as they shuffled off the bus. “What if there’s drugs or something in there?”

    “Nah. They’re too choosy about their clients. ‘Sides anyone with something that valuable in there would’ve emptied the locker when they were told to.”

    “True. So they want us to handle a boatload of old junk for them.”

    "You can always say no."

    "To free stuff?" Ram sounded scandalised, and Trev laughed.

    His mood got worse on the way home as he mulled the situation over in his head. He turned briefly towards the pub, then carried on home. Putting it off wouldn't help any. Sal would be waiting and they needed to decide what to do. Maybe he could get benefit or something, but another job seemed unlikely in this climate.

    God knows what he’d tell the kids.

    Fumbling the key in the lock he stepped inside. Sal was finishing the washing up and there was something already in the oven for dinner. He stopped for a moment uncertain of what to say. She and the kids depended on him and he had a crushing feeling he had let them down. Thirty years of work and not even a pension to show for it.

    “You OK? You look dreadful.” Sal asked as she caught sight of him.

    “Lost me job.” He hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that. “They’ve closed the warehouse.” He collapsed into a seat at the table as Sal hastily poured two coffees and sat down next to him. Slowly he ran through what had happened this morning.

    “I don’t know.” He concluded. “I feel like such a prat. I’d been telling people their jobs were safe, cos I listened to Mike, and now this.”

    “We’ll get through it.” Sal said, gripping his hand. “We always do.”

    “Not this time. It’s all gone. Even me pension.”

    “We’ve enough in the bank for a few months. Something’ll come along.” Sal tried to hide her own nerves. Manchester was a bad place to be unemployed.

    “Doubt it. Not a lot of work for an unemployed foreman.”

    “Well look. On Monday you get down to the job centre and sign on.” Sal said, and Trev grinned wryly.

    “Picked up the paperwork that on me way home. But we can’t afford the house on what they’ll pay, and your job don't cover it.”

    “Then if you can’t find a job we sell up," she said quietly, putting a hand on his arm. “but after all we went through to buy it.”

    “Yes, but if we keep it, it’ll drag us down with it. The market’s bad but if we can sell now we get a tidy little lump of cash. If we wait three months and can’t sell, the bank’ll take it and we get nothing,” Trev said. He was trying not to think of Ram and his wife in their recently purchased house. “We can’t take everything so we need to decide what to sell.”

    “Better to move now," she agreed. "Kelly’s starting her GCSEs and Greg, well Greg’s just finished his.” It was a small white lie, but neither of them wanted to say that the change of scenery would be good for their son. Falling in with a bad crowd he’d gone off the rails in the last few years, racking up convictions for car crime, and nothing they had done had stopped him. Now he was sixteen, he could face jail for some of the things he had done. "Know anyone we can rent from?”

    “Hardly. My parents are in Marbella and they can only afford their own bills. Not a lot of work out there either.”

    “Maybe me Dad.” Sal grimaced. “I’ll have a word. The house is huge. Dad only uses a few of the rooms. He could open the rest up for us.”

    "Means quitting your job," Trev said, and she shrugged practically.

    "It won't pay the bills, and they can't give me more hours. I can look for something better, but there's no chance round here."

    "So it's move to Yorkshire at our time of life." Trev sighed. He could stick it out until he got a job. Then they'd rebuild. He promised himself that.
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 1.2

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    Chapter 1.2
    North Yorkshire, 2014

    Eight weeks had passed. Eight weeks of packing up, setting up a fast sale for the house through an agency, selling anything they didn't need. Eight weeks, two angry kids, and one long drive to their new home in a farmhouse on the hillside that was decried with cries of "There's no broadband!" and the discovery next morning that Grandad had a rooster, and it was loud. Eight weeks of no luck finding jobs, of settling reluctant and sulky children in, and waiting.

    Even after eight weeks, farmers' hours were longer than he was used to. Trev got up early, only to find Grandpa had already been up several hours as usual. Kelly was sitting at the breakfast table nursing several scratches as Sal applied anti-septic.

    “What time’s the delivery then?” Sal asked, putting the bottle away and taking her own seatat the table. He was trying not to think about the delivery, but a treacherous part of his mind kept whispering about the possible value of a piano, as if it were a valuable antique that might sell for enough to get his family back on their feet. Scowling he pushed the thoughts away, telling himself that with his luck it would be trainee-made, plywood and have woodworm.

    “This morning.” Trev growled unhelpfully. “Before twelve o’clock.” He looked at the clock and was surprised to see it was already half-eight.

    “I’m actually looking forward to it.” Sal continued, oblivious to his mood. “Didn’t think I ever thought I’d own a grand piano.” Trev ignored her, attacking the toast and wishing she would shut up. Twenty years work and all he had to show for it was a bloody grand piano and two useless lathes. He could not even let his feelings out by taking an axe to the blasted things in case they were worth something.

    "You ok, Kel?" he asked, trying to change the subject.

    “I’m not good with hens,” Kelly grumbled, and Grandpa laughed.

    “Just remember next time to drop the seed and run if they mob ye,” he advised. She made a face at him. Trev ignored the byplay, helping himself to toast. He had another phone interview at twelve, and if the delivery wasn't done by then the disruption would be a bugger. He didn't need the stress.

    “Hey, there’s a lorry in the yard!” Greg’s shout from upstairs brought Trev to his feet. Dropping his toast, he headed for the yard where the huge lorry was carefully reversing between the stone walls. He looked at Grandpa.

    "You expecting something?"

    "Not this size. Must be yours."

    The driver shut down the engine and jumped down from the cab, pulling out a sheet of paper and looked up.

    “Hey Trev!”

    “Ram! How you doing?”

    “OK. Managed to get a job with the delivery firm. Pay’s not great but it’s better than nothin’.” Ram looked rather guilty and glanced round the farmyard. “This where you livin’ now?”

    “Yeah, beautiful area of the country.” Trev replied defensively, trying to sound casual. He pushed down a sudden rush of jealousy that his old friend had a job and he had not, but then with a wife, new house and a child on the way, Ram needed it. “I’m taking a break.”

    “Then you’ve chosen a great place for it. Nice place!” Ram enthused. “By the way, did you hear about Mike?”

    “No, what happened?”

    “Fingers in the till. He got laid off.” As Trev laughed, Ram leaned closer. “Steve’s got ‘is job now.” Trev suppressed a pang, wondering if he was the only one of the old crew still unemployed.

    "You got the entire warehouse in there?" he asked looking it over.

    "No, just your stuff. Had to hire in the lorry specially. Anyway, times wasting, so if you’ll just sign here?” Ram handed across the manifest, which detailed four our crates.

    “A grand piano and two petrol driven lathes.” Trev read. "You opened it?"

    "Sorry mate." Ram said, sincerely. "Shipping regs. We had to have a peek." Trev walked round to the back and peered in, as Ram got the controls for the taillift. There were a couple of guys he didn't know loitering around there in uniforms, and four boxes. "Where do you want 'em?"

    "We cleared the outhouse." Trev said, looking at the boxes, as Grandpa took one look and opened the wide double doors to the outhouse-turned-tractor garage. Between the tailgate lift, and the power lofter they had brought, the three smaller boxes were quickly unloaded, leaving them looking at the last problem.

    “Guess the large one is the piano,” Grandpa said, mildly, looking at the thing that filled the lorry from side-to-side.

    “Nah, there’s no way there’s a piano in there.” Trev said, still looking at it. The box was huge, but it was the wrong shape, too narrow and too long to have a piano in it.

    “Yep, there’s a piano in there. In bits,” Ram said. ”Hope you’re good at jigsaws."

    "You're kidding." Treva said, and Ram shook his head. Then he brightened up.

    "Hey, two lathes and the bits of a grand piano. The vault owner must’ve been a carpenter!”

    “Or Stradivarius.” Greg added, and Trev shook his head.

    “That’s violins, ya muppet!”

    "Bit of a problem." Ram continued, and shuffled. "Weighs about four tons so the lifter won't do it. You can rent the trailer for the day until you can get it clear."

    "Nay lad, we'll just be using me tractor then." Grandpa suggested. "Get them boxes clear in the outhouse n' see if it's still on the pallet."

    It was, and the unloading went surprising smoothly with a lot of swearing, sweating, and struggling. As the lorry pulled away, Trev looked into the barn at the three crates. Some parting gift for twenty years.

    “Well lad, afore we tackle these crates, I’m finishing me breakfast.”

    “But the crates?” Greg protested, obviously curious. Grandpa laughed.

    “They’ll still be there after breakfast lad. Why are you young ‘uns always in such a rush?” Trev thought about it, and then his curiosity was overruled as his stomach grumbled as well.

    “Come on Greg, they’re a bit big for someone to walk off with ‘em.”

    The crates were still there after breakfast and Greg was waiting impatiently as his father pulled out the crowbar.

    “Let’s start with a small one. Easier to manage.”

    “Aye. It’s like Christmas lad. Leave the big ‘un ‘til last.” Grandpa rubbed his hands together. “Let’s get crackin’ then.”

    They lay the box down and Trev carefully prized the side off while Greg and Grandpa gripped the corners of the crate to steady it. As the side was lifted away dry straw packing went everywhere. Inside the box was partitioned, the smaller section holding rods, pipes and fittings. The other held something packed carefully, a large object showing a strange mix of dulled and gleaming metal. Greg pulled the straw away, revealing the v-shaped mechanism with a single gleaming spindle sticking out.

    “Dad, that’s not a lathe. Looks like an engine. Got lots of bolts in it.” Greg said, looking at the collar surrounding the end with the spindle. He went to poke it, only to have his hand slapped away by Grandpa.

    “Aye lad. That’s ‘ow they used t’build them. Sewed ‘em together with bolts.”

    “What is it? A tractor engine?” Trev asked, wondering if it might be worth something after all.

    “Won’t fit in my tractor lad. And you say you’ve got two of ‘em?” Grandpa shot him a shrewd glance.


    “Can ye just check?” There was something urgent in Grandpa’s tone. Carefully Greg and Trev opened the other crate and quickly confirmed that it was indeed the same. Grandpa looked between the two and chuckled gleefully.

    “You know the engines?” Greg asked.

    “Oh, takes me back years lad. Used for a lot of things. Reliable as anything. Might be worth a bob or three even now.” As Grandpa examined them, Trev perked up. Maybe his dreams of a find had not been so far off after all.

    “Shall we have a look at the piano then?” he said. If that turned out to be worth a bit as well he would have had a really good day.

    The piano crate proved to be trickier. Six feet deep, it was at least twenty five feet long, taller than any of them, and far too heavy for the three of them to manage. Grandpa ended up getting his tractor out, and with the help of straps threaded through the girders in the outhouse ceiling and the tractor to do the pulling, they managed to lower it gently onto its side. Once again Trev went to work with his crowbar, wishing he had not done such a good job of resealing it the first time. The size and weight of the wooden panel made lifting the side away a task in itself and they were all out of breath by the time it was leaning up against the wall of the barn. Eagerly they went back to examine what they had uncovered.

    Trev sighed, disappointed. What he had taken for dark varnish was actually black gloss paint, and if the curved surface he had revealed was the top, it was badly warped. He lifted gently, noticing the wires tucked inside it, and sighed as he examined the cut end.

    “Plywood.” he said in disgust and went to drop it. Grandpa’s tight grip on his wrist stopped him. The old man’s eyes were wide.

    “That’s not a piano, lad. That’s a Mozzie!”
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  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 2.1

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    Chapter 2.1
    Yorkshire, 2014

    “What’s a mossy?” Greg asked. From the way Grandpa was acting, he looked like he had seen a ghost, or possibly an old friend. Grandpa and Trev lowered the piece gently back into the box and then Grandpa stood up, the odd look still on his face.

    “A mozzie.” Grandpa’s voice was quiet. “A de Havilland Mosquito. The best fighter bomber of World War Two.”

    “It’s an aeroplane?” Trev asked incredulously. As his voice raised, Kelly and Sal ran outside to see what the fuss was about.

    “That’s what I said lad. Used t’build them round these parts. Match for everything when it flew. Even gave the early jets problems.”

    “Sounds cool.” Greg admitted. “Any chance of having a look at one?”

    “Lad, there aren’t any.” Grandpa’s words shocked Trev silent. He could not help but wonder how much this was worth. “Oh, there are a few in museums, but none that fly.”

    “Could this fly?” Greg asked, and Grandpa chuckled.

    “Not in pieces lad. Maybe if she was built. How old is she?”

    “The original manifest’s in the crate.” Trev fished it out as he spoke. ”It says 1942.”

    “So she’s brand new. Never been flown. Too bad we don’t know who had her first.”

    “Looks like she went into the crate and was stored with us. The company was running back then, but they couldn’t trace the owners when they closed, even though someone must’ve been paying the bills.”

    "Sounds like the government then. Someone's paying the bills and no one knows what for." Greg sniggered.

    "Right, so it’s all black." Practically Grandpa put aside the problem he could not solve and focused on the one in front of him. Gently he touched the surface. "Me Da used to fly these. He said if it felt like sandpaper it was an early 'un."

    "It's smooth." Trev ran his fingers down the wing. "Guess that means it’s a later one. Makes any difference?"

    "Aye. It goes faster." Grandpa grinned.

    “Sell it to a museum. We might get some cash off it.” Sal did not like the look in her husband’s eye, or the way her father was staring into space.

    “Now Sal, you said it was a present,” Grandpa began.

    “Dad…” she said warningly.

    “Twenty years of f-ing work and this is what I get for it?” Trev erupted. “I’m not selling.”

    “Be practical. What are you going to do with it?”

    “Make it fly.” Her father’s quiet words let Sal know she was backing a losing proposition, but she tried one last time.

    “Dad, you don’t know anything about aircraft,” she protested.

    “Nay lass. But I know a man ‘o does.”


    Little Mr Patil had been living in the village for years. Overshadowed by his colourful wife, the owner of the post office, he could usually be seen pottering in his front garden or sitting with the other farmers in front of the pub, swapping stories. On this occasion they were shown into the back garden where the man was bent over tending his flowers.

    “Mr Patil, mind if ye come up to the farm later? Got somethin’ I need your advice on.” Grandpa’s suggestion was meet with a shake of the head from the garden. “Come on, it's engines. You know ‘em better ‘n I do.”

    “Ask Mr Donahue. He knows everything about engines.” The postmaster said, precisely smoothing the soil round the new plant.

    “Oh, come on. It’d take you an hour or so, and it’s Sunday. Post Office’s closed.”

    “That does not mean I do not have work to do.” The man’s speech was careful and precise, but lacked the accent that Trev was expecting. Used to Ram's blend of Mancunian and Mumbai, the public school tones threw him.

    “Yes, but this is, well, it’s kinda important,” Trev spoke a little awkwardly. “It’s pretty rare.”

    “Me son in law, Trev” Grandpa filled in helpfully.

    “I kinda inherited something and we’re not sure what it is. Thought it might be something you could help with.” The man put down his garden fork and walked towards them. As he did, Trev was surprised to realise the postmaster was tiny, maybe only five feet tall. Mr Patil looked between the two of them, the picture of innocent incomprehension.

    “It’s a plane.” Grandpa said. For a moment, there was a flicker in the man’s eyes.

    “I am sorry. I no longer work in that field. I was never very good. Out of date, you see.” Mr Patil went to step back, just as Grandpa leant forward and loudly whispered a single word in his ear. From the way his mouth moved, Trev could tell it had two syllables. Mr Patil’s eyes widened slightly, politely, and he coughed.

    “Are you quite sure?” he enquired.

    “Come and ‘av a look.” Mr Patil looked between them and grinned slightly.

    “Shall we say three, then?”


    Trev coughed politely, trying to attract Mr Patil’s attention as the small postmaster stood inside the barn. He had arrived sharply at four, with the faint disbelieving smile of a man who expects to be disappointed, and then to have to share that disappointment. Grandpa had said very little, just ushered him out to the barn and removed the tarpaulin they had covered the crate with. The postmaster’s eyes went wide and very quietly he muttered a simple “Oh.”

    Trev and Grandpa might as well not have been there. He took quick careful steps towards the crate, walking round it and casting an eye over the parts. He lifted a few out, admiring and examining them before replacing them exactly where they had come from. Silently he picked up the manifest and reviewed it.

    “These other crates?” he stated in his polite, quiet, fashion, and Grandpa gestured. The postmaster did not touch the engine they showed him, but looked it over carefully, clicking his tongue as a finger hovered clear of the surface, tracing the parts. Finally he stood up.

    “Can you build it?” Trev asked, coughing again to try and get his attention. The postmaster seemed to be miles away.

    “Oh yes, she can be built,” he answered, distracted, and Grandpa repeated the question insistantly.

    “Can ye build it?”

    “Not alone.” The postmaster shook his head and then smiled at them and the precise quiet little man Grandpa had introduced Trev to was back. “It will be quite a job. We shall need, at the least, a carpenter.”

    “That’d be Stokes then.” Grandpa muttered, chewing on his pipe. Mr Patil nodded and grinned broadly, apparently undaunted by the task ahead of them.

    “Stokes is very good. We shall also, of course, need a pilot. And someone who knows engines. And my wife will be furious if I am not back at the post office shortly.”

    “Engines eh?” Grandpa grinned. “I know the right chap for it. Come on, I’ll introduce you two while I’m at it.”

    “Sorry, I’m expecting a phone call from a man about a job.” Trev shrugged apologetically.

    “Fine, then I’ll take Greg up for engines, then you to the Stokes and we’ll all meet up in the pub at sevenish to discuss it. That a plan?” Grandpa looked satisfied as there was a general nod. “Come on then.”
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  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 2.2

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    Chapter 2.2
    Yorkshire, 2014​

    “What is that?” Greg asked, staring. He was leaning against a stone wall, with his grandfather's car parked safely in the layby, watching what he could only think was a dragon. The thing was twice the size of Grandpa’s tractor with a funnel at the front from which steam was billowing. A metal canopy covered the high crew seats and it put him in mind of nothing so much as a steam train. The huge solid roller at the front and two large metal wheels at the back countered that impression.

    “That is ‘er Highness, Countess Elizabeth III of Sussex and Downs.” Grandpa grinned. “Lizzie, for short. ‘Aven’t you ever seen a steam roller lad?”

    “They’re yellow and smaller than that.” Greg’s eyes were roaming over the range of polished brass valves standing out against the flawless dark green paint.

    “Aye, well she’s a proper ‘un. A. Traction. Engine. ” Grandpa said with some satisfaction, emphasising the words. “Runs off coal, but ‘e makes ‘is own charcoal for her now an’ again.”

    There was a certain stately inevitability about the traction engine’s progress down the small lane. At the narrowest points it barely fitted, but Greg could not imagine the stone walls stopping it. It appeared more manoeuvrable than he thought, following the curves of the lane exactly, although it was not moving very fast.

    “What’s he doing?”

    “Pot holes, lad. The council don’t fill the unmade roads, ‘specially not farm lanes with winter comin’. So we do it ourselves. Throw a couple a shovelfulls of dirt in the hole, have Lizzie roll it and it’s good as new.” They were almost drowned out as the engine rolled passed them. Greg noticed that the huge front roller was two parts, not one, fitted so tightly the join was hard to see. He pointed at it, mouthing the question over the noise of the engine.

    “Let’s ‘er go round corners lad. Hold on.” As Grandpa waved, the driver braked and the engine came to a majestic stop a little way down the lane.

    “How are ye, Carruthers? This is me grandson, Greg.” The driver nodded at them. He was covered in coal dust and his overalls were streaked, but Greg had the impression of a shock of grey hair under the cap and two bright eyes. He was more interested in the steam roller. Stealing cars was one thing, but this looked like a challenge. Not that it could outrun the police of course, but the idea of what that roller would do to a police car appealed.

    “Hi Greg.” The driver left him staring at the engine and turned back to Grandpa. “Lutterworth want’s me t’roll his lanes later, but if I’ve told ‘im once I’ve told him a thousand times, they’re too narrow.”

    “Ought ta roll ‘em anyway. Leave ‘im to rebuild ‘is walls a sensible distance out,” Grandpa suggested and the driver laughed.

    “He won’t do that. He wants to get as much from ‘is land as ‘e can. He’d be growing crops on top of the walls if ‘e could figure out a way.”

    “True, true.” Grandpa nodded. “By the way, since ye like old engines, I’ve a couple t’show you. Might need a hand with ‘em.”

    “Really?” Mr Carruthers’s interest was obviously peaked. “Let me finish ‘ere and put Lizzie away and I’ll be right along. Your house right?” He turned in the cab and did something to the engine. Abruptly it started to move again, advancing ponderously down the lane. Before it the dirt track was uneven, ground down where the cars usually drove. Behind it, the smooth ground down surface was flat, marked only by the crushed grass in the center beginning to pull itself back up from the surface.

    “How much does that thing weigh?” Greg asked.

    “’Bout ten tons on the roller. You’d ‘ave to ask ‘im about the rest,” Grandpa informed him and Greg whistled softly.

    “What does he do with it when he’s not rolling lanes?”

    “He shows ‘er. Goes all over the country. You should see her running with a steam organ hooked up, it’s somat!” Greg blinked and any idea of stealing the traction engine evaporated. He consoled himself that stealing a national treasure was not a good idea and that she could not out run the police anyway, while trying to ignore the quiet voice that insisted he really, really, wanted a go at driving it.

    “Guess you’re a bit old fashioned around here.” Greg laughed, trying to change the subject.

    “Aye lad. Ye might even see a good old fashion two horsepower unit round the place. Course, Daisy and Esme are apple powered.”


    That afternoon Grandpa was as good as his word and took the time to introduce Trev to their next-door neighbours. The carpenter's shop was actually the farmhouse down the road, and after a good fifteen-minute walk, they approached another forbidding stone building like Grandpa's own. The open barns near it, however, showed a range of projects in various states of completion.

    "Stokes?" Grandpa yelled, towards one of the barns where hammering could be heard from. "Are ye busy?"

    "....Minute." The word came back at the end of a string of unintelligeable mumbles. The hammering stopped, and shortly afterwards a man in overalls and a leather apron strode out across the courtyard to meet them. As he reached them, Trev realised his initial impression that Stokes was a short man was mistaken when the carpenter looked him square in the eye. Only a few years younger than Grandpa, Stokes' boundless energy and quick precise movements made him seem almost Trev's age.

    "Ey Stokes. We might 'av sommat for you t'look at."

    "And what's that then?" Stokes replied, dusting his hands off on his apron and offering one to Trev. "So ye're the new neighbours. The wives 'av chatted but I don't think we've met."

    "Nah. I've been off places job hunting. Nice ta meetcha." Trev offered a hand. Stokes gave him a firm handshake and raised an eyebrow.

    "Manchester eh? Sal always did say she'd marry a foreigner." Stokes grinned, and Trev chuckled, sudden very aware of his accent. "So what's this about then?"

    "A plane," Trev replied. He did not see any point in beating around the bush.

    "Oh. Do ye want to borrow one? I've got block planes, flat planes..." Stokes gestured towards the barn.

    "Nay," Grandpa cut in quickly. "A flying plane. Look, would ye mind coming round and 'aving a look. Saves a lot of words."

    "Sure. Glue's setting. Mind if Baxley comes as well?"

    "Ney, we're goin' t'need 'im anyway," Grandpa commented, undisturbed, as what Trev had thought was a shadow walked out of the barn and resolved itself into one of the largest men Trev had ever seen. The giant nodded to him good naturedly as he walked up to them, and suddenly Trev realised why most people said Stokes was small. Next to Baxley, anyone would seem tiny. Grandpa handled the introductions.

    "Baxley, this is me son-in-law Trev. Trev, Baxley. 'E owns the timber yard."

    "These two say they've got a flyin' plane," Stokes added without preamble, and as one they both turned to Grandpa and Trev with the air of those expecting a good joke. "Well, ye can't leave us hanging. Show us this flying plane then."


    A slightly subdued and quietly enthusiastic group met in the corner of the pub that evening.

    "So, are ye all in?" Grandpa asked, and a chorus of 'Ayes' answered him.

    "Who'd a' thought it?" Baxley commented, shaking his head slowly in disbelief.

    "Aye. It's a marvel alright." Stokes picked up from him. "Eh, Sunny, you sure ye can build it right?"

    "Oh. Yes." Patil's eyes had not lost their misty look. "She is not - not what I used to work on, but with help she can fly." As he finished, Trev made a shushing gesture. The barman, Pete, had wandered across with a tray of drinks.

    "'Ere. For your little conspiracy." He grinned at Trev as he started handing out the pints. "Don't want me to know about the you-know-what eh?" As Trev looked suspicious, Grandpa laughed.

    "'E has t'know lad. Ye can't keep secrets from the barkeep - Well, not fer long."

    "He means just until someone gets drunk and tells me anyway." Pete added. Trev did not miss the quick flick of his eyes towards Baxley. "And if you want me to make sure you don't tell the whole bar it helps if I know when to shut people up. Don't worry, I can keep a secret. Specially for something like this. Back in a minute."

    "'E's right about that." Stokes added ruefully. "It's best 'e knows upfront."

    "Why, so 'e can shut you up when you've 'ad a few?" Carruthers chimed in with a laugh. "But back t'work. T'be honest I don't know how much use I'll be. 's not me usual kind of engine."

    "Proper tools would help." Patil agreed. "As would design notes." He shuffled across in his seat as Pete returned for the empties.

    "Have you talked to Matthers?" The barman suggested, as Trev fidgeted uneasily. What he had seen as a small project with a few friends seemed to be growing rapidly. "His Grandda used to build them."

    "His Grandda's been dead fer forty years!" Stokes chuckled incredulously.

    "Aye, but did ye ever know anyone at t'Grange t'throw anythin' away?" Grandpa replied, rolling his pipe in his mouth thoughtfully. There was a general shacking of heads, and Pete picked up the tray and looked round.

    "There ye go then." and he whisked back behind the bar to deal with some new arrivals.

    "So" Grandpa began "We've got a plane, people, and tools." There was a pause as the group at the table let it sink in, and then Trev lifted his glass. His toast was quickly echoed by the rest of the table, although equally quickly they all looked round to make sure no one else had overheard and repeated it more quietly.

    "To the mossie."
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