Air Bridge (14)
May 30, 2015
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Hammond Innes’s 1951 espionage thriller/Robinsonade Air Bridge. Set in England during the Berlin blockade and airlift of 1948–49 (during which time the British RAF and other aircrews frustrated the Soviet Union’s attempt to gain practical control of that city), the novel’s protagonist is a mercenary pilot… but is he a traitor? Hammond Innes wrote over 30 adventures, many of them set in hostile natural environments. Enjoy!
Several times I tried to thumb a lift. But each time the heavy, long-nosed German trucks ignored me, thundering by in a shower of snow that spattered icily on my face. However the fourth truck I waved to stopped and a voice called out, “Wohin, Freund?”
“Berlin,” I shouted.
There was a pause and then a Red Army soldier clambered down from the cabin. He was sleepy and he’d left his rifle in the truck. That was the only thing that saved me. He asked me in vile German for my papers. Fortunately the edge of the road was wooded. I dived into the dark shelter of the pines, ignoring the branches that lashed at my face, running until I was exhausted.
Dawn found me trudging through powdery snow along a narrow side road flanked with trees, following blindly the drone of the airlift planes. It was a blood-red dawn, wild and violent and full of cold. The sun was a misty red disc above the pines. I staggered into the shelter of the woods, ate Frau Kleffmann’s chicken and bread, wrapped myself in pine needles and slept.
All that day I slept, if you can call it sleep. It was more like a bone-chilled coma. I suppose I was suffering from mental as well as physical exhaustion. At all events I found the present and the past inextricably mixed in my mind, so that the urge to reach Berlin became confused with the urge to get out of Germany and I was back on those cold, wretched starved weeks of escape.
Night came at last, cold and black. There were no stars. I stumbled to the road and headed south-east, the drone of the planes my only guide. I passed through a small town, not bothering to note its name, joined a broader road where the snow had been churned up by traffic, and the first truck that came along stopped beside me. In the headlights I saw that the country bordering the road was flat. If there had been woods I should almost certainly have dived into them. But it was bare, open plain. “Wo wollen Sie hin, mein Lieber?” the driver called.
“Berlin,” I heard myself answer in a cracked, trembling voice. Any moment I expected the brown, tunic-clad figure of a Red Army man to jump out and face me. But all that happened was that the driver called, “Kommen Sie rauf, Kamerad. Ich fahre auch nach Berlin.”
It was almost too good to be true. I hauled myself up into the cabin. The driver was alone. There was no mate with him. The gears ground and the old vehicle lurched forward, wheels spinning in the snow. The cabin was hot and stuffy and smelled comfortingly of exhaust fumes. “Was wolten Sie in Berlin?” the driver asked.
“Work,” I answered him gruffly in German.
“Out of Russia into the Western Sectors, eh?” He grinned at me. He was a small, hard-bitten little man with ferrety eyes. “Well, I don’t blame you. If I thought there was a trucking job for me in the Western Sectors I’d be across the border in no time. But I have a wife and family up in Lübeck. Every night I come down this same road. Sometimes I wish I was up there flying the air bridge. I was in the Luftwaffe, you know. Radio operator. Had a little radio business before the war. But now, of course, it is finished. There are so few radio sets. It is better to drive a truck. But those bastards up there get to Berlin a lot quicker than I do. My wife always tells me…”
He went on and on about himself and the drone of his voice merged with the engine and the eternal distant hum of aircraft throbbing through the clouds. My head nodded, sleepy with the sudden, unaccustomed warmth of the cabin. His voice lost itself in the engine. I slept fitfully, conscious of the lights of a town, of a signboard caught in the headlights that said Berlin 27 km., of the unending dirty yellow of hard-packed snow slipping away beneath us.
And then finally he was shaking me. “Aufwachen! Aufwachen! Berlin!”
I opened my eyes blearily and surveyed unlit, slush-filled streets flanked by the empty, blasted shells of buildings which had not been touched since we’d smashed them to rubble five years ago. So this was Berlin! “Where are you making for?” I asked him.
“Potsdam.” He peered at me out of the corners of his eyes. “That’s in the Russian Zone. Don’t imagine you’ll be wanting to go there.” He laughed mirthlessly, his breath whistling through broken front teeth.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Oranienburg.” He was still looking at me out of the corners of his eyes. “You are a Pole, no? You are not German. Not with that accent.”
I didn’t say anything and he shrugged his shoulders. “Na was, schadet es schon?” He eased his foot on the accelerator pedal. “Well, where do you wish to go, eh? In a few moments I turn right. I have to keep inside the Russian Zone. But if you follow this road it will lead you to Frohnau. Frohnau is in the French Sector.”
Frohnau! Frohnau beacon! Frohnau meant Berlin to every airlift pilot. But the warmth of the truck held me tight in my seat. Frohnau was many miles from Gatow. I should have to walk right across Berlin, more than twenty kilometers. “Where do you go when you turn right?” I asked.
“Velten, Schonewald Airfield, Falkensee, Staaken Airfield, past Gatow and then into Potsdam. Choose which you like. It’s all the same to me.”
“You’re going near Gatow?” I asked him.
His eyes narrowed. “What do you want Gatow for, eh?” His voice was harsher. He braked violently and the lorry skidded as he swung right off the main Oranienburg-Berlin road. “Why Gatow?” he repeated. And when I didn’t say anything, he added slowly, “Gatow is in the British Sector. It’s owned by Die verdammten Tommies. Night after night they come. Die verfluchten Kerle! I have send my family to my parents in Hamburg. Night after night the English come. They flatten Hamburg and the Schweinehunde kill both the kids — the boy was nine and the girl five. They were crushed when the building they shelter in collapses.” He stopped talking and stared at me. “Why do you want Gatow, eh?”
“I have a job to go to in the British Sector,” I answered.
“What sort of a job?”
I thought desperately. Remembering the crowded Nissen huts at the edge of the off-loading apron at Gatow, I said, “Labor corps. I have a friend who is a checker at Gatow, unloading the airlift planes.”
His lips tightened. “You say airlift, when we always say air bridge. Why do you say airlift?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Only Die verdammten English and Americans call it airlift.” For a long time there was a tense silence in the cabin. We were entering Falkensee now. Staaken airdrome lay ahead, and then Gatow. “Please, your papers. I wish to see your papers.”
I hesitated. “I have no papers,” I said. I felt empty and cold inside.
“So! No papers, eh?” He peered through the windshield, searching the road ahead with his eyes. There were few lights. Falkensee was asleep. Then, far ahead in the gleam of the headlights, I saw two figures in the gray of the German police. The driver’s foot checked on the accelerator and his eyes swung nervously to me. I knew what he was going to do then. I could see him working it out in his mind. There was only one thing for me to do. I felt with my hand for the handle of the door and pushed. It swung back violently and a stream of bitter air struck my face. I heard the door clang against the tin of the cabin, saw the rutted, slushy snow spraying up from the wheels, heard the driver shout as he leaned across to grip my arm — and I jumped.
I hit the snow with my feet and was flung down, striking the side of the lorry with my head. A sudden blackness enveloped me as the snow closed over rny face. I could not have been out for more than a few seconds, for the lorry was still screeching to a halt, its horn blaring excitedly, as I lifted my head from the cold, gritty filth of the snow. I pressed myself upwards with my hands, feeling suddenly sick at the sight of my blood scarlet against the yellow, gravel-cpvered surface of the snow. Then I was on my feet and running for the shelter of a side-street, shouts echoing after me.
As I turned out of the main street, I looked over my shoulder and saw that the two German policemen were level with the stationary truck now and running towards me. Whistles shrilled. The side-street was narrow and flanked with the rubble ruins of shattered buildings. I scrambled over a pile of bricks and mortar and half staggered, half fell into a cleared space that had been the cellars of houses in the next street. An open doorway gaped black and I slid into the welcoming darkness and leaned panting against the wall almost oblivious in my fear of the nauseating smell of human excreta.
More whistles shrilled and voices shouted in the darkness outside. Boots climbed the mound of rubble up which I had scrambled. Mortar dust streamed down in a choking cloud in the open doorway. “Hier, Kurt. Hierlang ist er gelaufen.” The voice was heavy and menacing. The man was standing right above my hide-out. There was a clatter of dislodged bricks higher up the crumbling rubble and a voice answered faintly, “Nein. Komm hierlang. Hier kann er zur Friedrichstrasse durenkommen.” The chase went thudding and slithering over iny head and gradually faded into the distance.
All the time I had been standing there rigid. Now my muscles relaxed. I wiped the sweat from my forehead. My hand was gritty and I winced with the pain of the grit on raw flesh. It was the old cut in my forehead that had opened up. My hand came away, wet and sticky with my own blood. The moon was shining opaquely through low cloud and the faint, ghostly light of the doorless gap showed- my hand all red and dripping. The blood was trickling down my face, getting into my eyes and into the corner of my mouth the way it had done that first time I’d come to Membury. Only there was grit in my mouth now, sharp and hard, setting my teeth on edge as I clenched them.
I wiped my hands on the inside of my clothes and then tied my handkerchief over the cut. For a long time I just stood there, trying to stop the trembling of my limbs. It was very cold. It seemed as though my body had no warmth and the wind cut like a knife through the gaping doorway — nervous reaction and the shock of my fall from the moving lorry! I wished to God I had some liquor with me, something to warm the frozen guts of my belly.
I moved at last and went out of the nauseous cell. I was facing a cleared strip where demolition gangs had been working. There was a railway and a line of loaded tip trucks. The snow was a thin layer of powder that had deepened into windy little drifts in the corners of still-standing masonry. Behind rose a hill of brick and rubble over which the gaunt finger of a building pointed a broken chimney at the pale, luminous clouds. There was no sound except the distant rumble of the airlift rolling into Gatow. The pursuit had moved on and lost me.
I stood for a moment, getting my bearings. This was Falkensee, a western suburb of Berlin. The sound of the planes landing and taking off from Gatow drew me as something familiar, friendly and homelike. I could almost smell the coffee and cakes in the Malcolm Club. But if I went direct to Gatow I should all the time be in the Russian Zone. To the east lay the British Sector and I knew it couldn’t be far away. I faced into the wind and began to walk.
My left leg was very stiff and painful when I moved. I had grazed my knee-cap when I fell and had strained a muscle somewhere in the groin. But I didn’t care about that. My one thought was to get out of the Russian Zone and into the British Sector. The sight of another human being sent me scuttling into the doorway or into the shadows of the broken buildings that flanked the streets. And yet, not more than two or three miles away in the same sort of streets I should be able, to stop the first person I met and demand his help.
I twisted and turned through narrow, broken streets, always keeping the sound of Gatow over my right shoulder. At length I came out on to a broad highway that led almost due east. It was Falkenhagener Chaussee and it ran straight like a ruled line towards Spandau — and Spandau I knew was in the British Sector.
It was three o’clock in the morning and the Falkenhagener Chaussee seemed dead. Nothing stirred. The snow-powdered thoroughfare was deserted. The crumbling masses of the buildings were white mounds in the darkness marked occasionally by a still-standing wall, tottering skyward like some two thousand-year-old tomb seen along the Appian Way. Somewhere in Berlin a train whistled like an owl in a forest of dead oaks. There were no lights, no people — no suggestion even that anything lived here. It was all devastation and slow, timeless ruin.
For an hour or more I limped along that arrow-straight road without seeing a living soul, with only the constant drone of Gatow to remind me I was still in a living world and to give me hope. Then at last, when I was tottering with weakness, I saw the distant gleam of lights shining on a road barrier. I was nearing the limits of the Russian Zone. That knowledge gave me fresh strength. I walked to within five hundred yards of the barrier and then turned down a side-street.
At a crossing a small truck slipped quietly eastward without lights. I followed it on to a quiet, rubble-packed track that ran close beside the railway. A goods train clanked noisily, a rattle of buffers that seemed to split the night it was so loud in the utter stillness.
For half an hour I walked eastward, searching the track ahead, trembling and scuttling into the shadows at every sign of movement. But always it was nothing but my eyes playing me tricks. And at the end of half an hour I knew I must have passed over into the British Sector. A blockade-running German lorry had shown me the way through the road checks.
I followed the railway right into Spandau and there a German railway worker going on duty at five in the morning directed me to a British Army M.T. Section. I must have looked a pretty sight, for all the time he was talking to me the German kept looking nervously about him and when he had given the directions I wanted he was almost running in his hurry to get away from me.
I found the place without difficulty. It was an R.A.O.C. Depot and a big board directed me into the sidings of what had once been a huge factory. I was trembling with fatigue and feeling sick with relief when I faced the German orderly who seemed to be the only person awake in the depot. At first he refused to do anything about me. His eyes were coldly contemptuous. I began to curse him in English, all the filthy words I could think of spewed off my tongue as I consigned the whole German race to perdition with tears of frustration hot on my eyeballs. Still he didn’t move, and then I saw hanging on a peg a web belt complete with holster and revolver. I dived towards it, pulled the revolver out and thumbed forward the safety catch with trembling fingers. “Now, get the duty officer,” I shouted. “Quick! Or I shoot.”
The man hesitated and then hurried out, returning a few minutes later with a tall, lanky youth who had an officer’s greatcoat wrapped over his pajamas, a solitary pip gleaming on its shoulder. “What’s the trouble?” he asked sleepily, rubbing at his eyes.
“My name’s Fraser,” I said. “Squadron Leader Fraser. I’ve just got out of the Russian Zone. I’ve got to get to Gatow at once.”
He was staring at the weapon in my hand. “Do you usually go about threatening people with revolvers.” He came across to me and took the revolver out of my hands. This is an Army revolver. Is it yours?”
No,” I said. “I got it there.” And I nodded to the belt hanging on the hook.
The lieutenant swung round on the orderly. “What’s that equipment doing there, Heinrich?”
They began a long discussion as to why an officer had left it in the orderly room. At length I shouted at him, “For Christ’s sake!”
He turned and stared at me blankly. “Heinrich here says you threatened him with this revolver,” he said accusingly.
“Look!” I couldn’t keep my hands still, I was so angry. “Can’t you understand what I’m trying to tell you? I’m an R.A.F. officer. I’m a pilot on the airlift and my plane crashed at Hollmind. I’ve just got out of the Russian Zone. I must get to Gatow quickly. I want transport. Do you understand? Some transport I’ve got to get to Gatow.” I was talking wildly. I knew that. I knew I must seem like a lunatic, but there was nothing I could do about it. My nerves were all to pieces.
“May I have a look at your papers, please?”
I fumbled for my wallet, dropping the papers on the floor in my nervous haste. The German orderly picked them up for me and handed them back with a click of the heels. His eyes were no longer contemptuous.
The lieutenant glanced through them. “You say you crashed at Hollmind?”
When? Was it the night before last or — no T mustn’t say that. It was the original night he wanted, the night when Tubby had gone out through the door. My mind searched desperately for a date, but I’d lost all sense of time. “Several days ago,” I mumbled. “What’s it matter when I crashed?”
“What’s your base?”
“You were flying a York?”
“No. A Tudor tanker.”
“A Tudor.” His face suddenly cleared and he gave me a sheepish grin. “I say, I’m awfully sorry, sir. Of course, I know who you are now. You’re the chap who flew that Messerschmitt out of Germany during the war. I mean — well, there’s been a lot about it in the papers. Nobody could find any trace of the plane and you and Carter were missing.” He looked at me, hesitating awkwardly. “You look as though you’ve had a rough trip, sir. Are you all right? I mean, oughtn’t I to run you down to a first-aid post?”
“I must get to Gatow,” I said.
“Yes, of course. I’ll drive you myself. I just put some things on. Won’t be a jiffy.” He hesitated in the doorway. “Would you like a cup of char? And you’d probably like to get cleaned up a bit. That’s an awfully nasty cut you’ve got.”
He took me through to the washroom. The water was icy cold. However, I cleaned off some of the dirt and he produced a proper bandage from a first-aid kit. Then the German orderly appeared with a steaming tin mug of dark, sweet tea. Ten minutes later we were in an Army fifteen hundredweight roaring along the Wilhelmstrasse.
We turned left on to the Gatower Damm. I knew I was home then, for planes were thundering low overhead with their flaps down and the underbelly of the low cloud was illumined by the brilliant fire-glow of the sodium lights and high intensity cross bars that marked the approach to Gatow.
We were stopped at the barrier to Gatow Airport and a corporal of the R.A.F. Police came out and peered at the car, a gleam of white-blancoed webbing against the blue of his battledress. Then he asked for our papers. “Squadron Leader Fraser is just out of the Russian Zone,” my lieutenant explained quickly. “He’s the pilot of that Tudor that crashed.”
The corporal handed my papers back without looking at them. “Glad you’re safe, sir.” He drew himself up stiffly and saluted. The truck ground forward. “Where do you want to go?” the lieutenant asked. ‘Terminal building?”
All the time I’d been getting closer to Gatow I’d been wondering about what I should do when I got there. There was Diana. That was the first thing I had to do — tell Diana that Tubby was alive and safe. And I wanted to get hold of Saeton. Now that I was back in the organized life of Occupied Berlin I had a feeling that there might be difficulties raised about landing an R.A.F. plane in the Russian Zone. Officially it would be embarrassing. If the plane were captured by a Russian patrol the diplomatic repercussions would be endless and far-reaching. But if Saeton would land there unofficially… He had the nerve to do it. He wouldn’t be hide-bound by regulations and diplomatic dangers. Saeton was the person I had to see. “Will you take me straight to the Malcolm Club, please,” I said.
“Malcolm Club? That’s down by FASO, isn’t itr “That’s right.”
“Sure you don’t want to report in to Ops. first?” he asked.
“No. The Malcolm Club, please.”
The truck slipped down through the trees, past the lighted entrance of the mess and then suddenly there were the yellow and purple runway and perimeter lights of Gatow with the concrete square box of the terminal building to the right, rising to the tall, lighted windows of the control tower. The truck turned left through the white-painted boundary fence, skirted a B.E.A. Skymaster and hummed across the tarmac which was streaked with a white, wind-driven powder of snow. The hangars were dark, rectangular shadows to our left and ahead the lights of Piccadilly Circus shone yellow, showing the PLUME standing empty of aircraft. Planes moved along the perimeter track, engines roaring, drowning the thinner sound of planes streaming in along the runway. Everything was normal, familiar. I might never have been outside the organized bus-service of the airlift.
We skirted Piccadilly Circus, tires jolting rhythmically on the joints of the concrete, and then we were on the FASO apron where big arc lamps blazed and there was the bustle of planes and lorries and German off-loading teams. The control tower shack on its scaffold stilts stood high and dark above the line of Nissen huts.
“Shall I wait for you?” the lieutenant asked as he drew up at the roundel signboard of the Malcolm Club.
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’ll be all right now. And thank you very much for running me out.”
“Not at all.” He got down and opened the door for me, his hand steadying me as though he thought I were too weak to climb out on my own. “Good-bye, sir. And good luck!” He gave me a parade ground salute.
I hesitated at the entrance of the club and stood watching him get back into his truck, turn and drive off. The red taillight dwindled and was lost amongst the litter of lights. I stared at the planes coming in. They were Daks from Lübeck with coal. There was a line of them standing in the slush of the apron. I stared at them dully. A girl checker with the nearest German labor team looked up from her manifest and stared at me. She was big and fair-haired with high cheek bones. She reminded me of Else, except that she was covered in coal dust. I turned towards the entrance to the Malcolm Club, still hesitating, reluctant to go in. If Diana were there it would be all right. But if she weren’t… I’d have to explain myself and the filthy state I was in and I should be surrounded by a barrage of questions as air crew after air crew came in and wanted to know the story of the crash.
A group of R.A.F. boys tumbled out of the hut, laughing and talking, bringing with them through the open doorway that familiar smell of coffee and cakes. There was no point in putting it off any longer — besides, the smell of the place had made me realize how hungry I was. I brushed quickly at my filthy clothing and pushed open the door.
It was hot inside, the stove roaring red and the place full of smoke and cheerful chatter. I crossed the long room, pushing my way towards the counter, conscious of the gradual fall of conversation as eyes fastened on my scarecrow figure. “Is Mrs. Carter here?” I asked the girl behind the counter. I had spoken quietly, but even so my voice sounded loud in the silence that had developed.
The girl looked nervously to the mute groups behind me. “No,” she said. “She doesn’t come on until seven.”
I glanced at my watch. It was half-past six. “I’ll wait,” I said. “Can I have some coffee and a plate of sandwiches, please?”
The girl hesitated. “All right,” she said.
A hand touched my shoulder. I spun round and found myself facing a big blond man with a wide mustache. “Who are you?” he asked. The silent circle of eyes echoed his question.
“My name’s Fraser,” I answered.
“Fraser.” He turned the name over in his mouth as though searching for it in his memory. And then he suddenly boomed out. “Fraser! You mean the pilot of that Tudor?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“Fraser! Good Christ Almighty!” He seized hold of my hand. “Don’t know you from Adam, old man. But allow me to do the honors and welcome you back. You look about all in. Here, Joan — the coffee and sandwiches are on me. What happened? Come on, tell us all about it. We’ve got to go in a minute. What happened?” The circle of faces closed in like a pack of wolves, avid for news. Their eyes shone with excitement. Questions were hurled at me from all directions.
“There’s nothing to tell,” I murmured awkwardly. “The engines failed. The plane crashed near Hollmind.”
“And you’ve just got out of the Russian Zone?”
“Yes.” The girl thrust a cup of coffee and a plate of sandwiches into my hand. “If you don’t mind — I’d rather not talk about it.” The heat of the room was making my legs shake under me. “I’m very tired. You must excuse me. I must sit down.”
Hands gripped my arms at the elbows and half-lifted me to one of the easy-chairs by the stove. “You sit there and drink your coffee, old man. We’ll have you feed up in no time.”
“I must speak to Mrs. Carter,” I insisted.
“All right. Well get her for you.”
They left me then and I grasped the coffee cup in my hands, feeling the warmth of it spread up my arms, savoring the glorious, reviving smell of it. I could hear them talking about me in the background. Fresh air crews came in to replace others that went out to their planes. The word was passed on and they took up the story, talking about me in whispers.
Somebody came and squatted down on his haunches beside me. “Glad to know you’re back, Fraser,” he said. “You must be the greatest escape merchant alive. All the boys back at Wunstorf will be glad as hell to know you’re back. We thought you’d had it.”
“Wunstorf?” I stared at him. His face seemed vaguely familiar.
“That’s right. Remember me? Tm the guy that was sitting right next to you at dinner that night you crashed. You were growling at Westrop for talking too much about the Russians. Seems he had second sight or something. I’ll see that the station commander knows you’re back.”
“Is the Wunstorf wave coming in now?” I asked.
“Yes. Just started to come in.”
“Is a man called Saeton flying a Tudor tanker on the lift yet?”
“Is he flying the lift!” The kid laughed. I’ll say he is. Been flying for two days now and he’s got the development section puzzled as hell. Flies on his two inboard engines all the time, except on take-off, and his fuel consumption is knocking holes the size of a hangar door in all the air engine boys’ ideas. He said you worked on the motors with him at one time. Boy, he’s certainly got them guessing. Boffins from Farnborough are flying out tomorrow with the C.T.O. of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and a big pot from the Ministry of Supply. Saeton will be in shortly.”
“How soon?” I asked.
“About quarter of an hour. The Tudors aren’t far behind us.”
An R.A.F. corporal pushed forward. He had a big web satchel with a red cross on it. “I’ve got an ambulance outside, sir. Do you think you can walk to it or shall I get a stretcher in for you?”
“You can send your bloody ambulance away,” I said angrily. Why the devil couldn’t they leave me alone? “I’m not leaving here until I’ve seen Mrs. Carter.”
The fellow hesitated. “Very good, sir. I’ll be back in a minute and then we’ll get you patched up. Nasty cut you got there. Sure you’re all right, sir?”
“Of course I’m all right,” I snapped. “I’ve walked nearly twenty miles already tonight.”
“Very good, sir.” He went to the door and opened it, and at that moment Diana came in.
Her face, devoid of make-up, looked quite haggard. At sight of me she stopped as though she couldn’t believe that I was really sitting there in an easy-chair beside the stove. “So it is you.” She said it almost accusingly. Then she came slowly towards me. “What happened? What have you done with Tubby? Why didn’t you let him jump with the others?” Her voice trembled and there was a look of dull pain in her eyes.
“You needn’t worry,” I said. “He’s safe.”
She stared at me. “You’re lying.” Her voice was suddenly hard. “You know he’s dead.”
“Tubby’s all right,” I repeated. “He’s alive.”
“I don’t understand.” Her voice had faded to a whisper. “It can’t be true. If you’re alive, then it’s Tubby whose body —” Her words died away in a choking sob.
“Tubby’s alive,” I said again. I reached out and caught hold of her hand. Her fingers were cold and slack in mine. “Diana. I want your help. He’s alive, but he’s injured and we’ve got to get him out. You’ve got to persuade Saeton to fly there and get him out.”
“What are you saying?” Her voice was flat and toneless.
I didn’t understand her attitude. “I thought you’d be glad,” I said. “I came straight here to tell you.”
“Glad that you’re alive?” She turned away. “Of course I’m glad only… I loved him,” she suddenly burst out. “I loved him, I tell you.”
Somebody bent over me, an officer in R.A.F. uniform with dark, boot-button eyes and a thin, aquiline nose. “You’re Fraser, aren’t you?” he said. “They just told me.”
For God’s sake!” I pushed him away. “I’m trying to tell Mrs. Carter something.”
“Yes. I heard. I think you’d better listen to me first. I’m the I.O. here. We know all about your plane. It crashed two miles north of Hollmind Airfield, dived straight into the ground.”
I stared at him. “Who told you it crashed at Hollmind?” I demanded.
“Yes. After denying the whole thing for days, they came through with a report yesterday. They’ve found the wreckage in the woods north of Hollmind.” He leaned down and lowered his voice. “They also found the remains of one body. We didn’t know whether it was yours or Carter’s.” His glance slid to Diana whose face was buried in her hands. “Now you’re safe, of course, we know whose it was.” He straightened up. “Soon as you’re ready, well go up to my office and I’ll get a statement from you. I’ll have to have a report ready for the station commander.”
I stared at him. Why should the Russians make such a report? It didn’t make sense. I felt suddenly scared — scared that they wouldn’t believe what I had to tell them.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.
ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”