Prologue RAF base, North Yorkshire 2016 “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.