|Angelina Hawthorne, a New York socialite and expert pilot. (Image of Jean Harlow; played by Karen Gilham.)|
|Kohana (aka Lilian Roberts), a half-Lakota tracker using her gifts in the urban wilderness. (Image of Patricia Velasquez; played by Owen Smith.)|
|James (Jack) Snabell, a native of Brooklyn who maintains strong connections with the shady side of life. (Image of Humphrey Bogart; played by Phil Masters.)|
|Bruce Starling, a former cop from Australia who's now pursuing a new career in New York. (Image of Paul Hogan; played by Bug.)|
|Togo Watanabe, a Japanese former cop from San Francisco who got fed up with always being assigned to cases in Chinatown. (Image of Toshiro Mifune; played by John Dallman.)|
|Pietro Donati, a legitimate Italian businessman. (Image of Mike Mazurki.)|
|Eileen Clancy (aka Mary Houlihan, aka Barbara O'Malley, aka Kathleen McCoy), a small-time con-woman and thief. (Image of Gene Tierney.)|
|New Moon||First Quarter||Full Moon||Last Quarter|
|Jan 4 14:22|
|Jan 12 16:46||Jan 19 20:01||Jan 26 17:14||Feb 3 12:05|
|Feb 11 07:34||Feb 18 03:49||Feb 25 07:42||Mar 5 09:18|
|Mar 12 19:31||Mar 19 11:45||Mar 26 23:11||Apr 4 03:53|
|Apr 11 05:10||Apr 17 20:33||Apr 25 15:23||May 3 18:37|
|May 10 13:18||May 17 06:49||May 25 07:37 n||Jun 2 05:23|
|Jun 8 20:43 T||Jun 15 19:02||Jun 23 23:00||Jul 1 13:02|
|Jul 8 04:13||Jul 15 09:36||Jul 23 12:46||Jul 30 18:47|
|Aug 6 12:37||Aug 14 02:28||Aug 22 00:48||Aug 28 23:55|
|Sep 4 22:53||Sep 12 20:56||Sep 20 11:33||Sep 27 05:44|
|Oct 4 11:57||Oct 12 15:46||Oct 19 21:48||Oct 26 13:27|
|Nov 3 04:15||Nov 11 09:33||Nov 18 08:10 p||Nov 25 00:05|
|Dec 2 23:11 A||Dec 11 01:12||Dec 17 18:52||Dec 24 14:21|
It's a cold and rainy morning in Manhattan; the Christmas spirit has worn off with a vengeance, and now is the time to keep hats pulled low and collars turned high. Lilian, Jack, Bruce and Togo arrive for their first day of work for Teal-Saunders Investigation, a small but expanding private detective and bodyguard agency. Their first case concerns Maria Passeri, a night-club singer, who seems to be being stalked by an over-enthusiastic fan.
The team rides the bus up to Little Italy, where Maria lives and currently works; Togo splits off to keep an eye on her apartment building from a coffee shop across the road, while the other three go to the apartment. The building is fairly run-down - the elevator clearly hasn't worked for a long time - but kept decently clean. Even at eleven in the morning, Maria is stunning, though how much of this is artifice cannot easily be guessed; she looks somewhat on edge, and explains that, starting just after Christmas, first flowers then notes have been being left in her apartment. On Friday, when she got up, she saw a face dimly in her bedroom window (on the fifth floor), though it whipped out of sight before she could get a good look. She's spoken to the police, but there's no sign of forced entry and they can't act. Bruce and Lilian examine the notes, and detect a faint smell of expensive cologne (not one that either of them recognises); Jack has a thorough look around the apartment, but doesn't find anything of note. The window where Maria saw the face has a very narrow ledge outside, and someone with little fear of heights could move between there and the fire escape.
Maria's been singing at Inferno for the last two months, but was planning to take up a new engagement at Fei Lung, a club that opened recently in Chinatown. On the other hand, if this goes on she's thinking of leaving town for a couple of months instead.
The team gets back together, and decides that Lilian and Bruce will visit Inferno that evening; meanwhile Jack and Togo will lurk in her apartment in the hope of catching anyone who comes in. Jack talks with the building's superintendent, who is helpful but doesn't know much. During the afternoon, he asks around his friends; Inferno's a fairly hot club (on the edge of Little Italy), which has a bit of a reputation for having famous names before they become famous. Fei Lung is down in Chinatown, and has only been open a couple of months; it's one of the few Chinese establishments that actively encourages non-Chinese business, and it's been quite fashionable of late. Maria hasn't been associated with anyone in particular, but she does have quite a few admirers; one in particular, who went out with her a few times but hasn't been seen with her since a few weeks before Christmas, is Pietro Donati, a legitimate businessman about whom very few people have anything bad to say.
Inferno is jumping; a combination of the bad weather and the acts performing tonight has brought in a serious crowd. Lilian and Bruce are discovered to be old customers, who had of course reserved a stock of liquor in the cellar before Prohibition was imposed (there's nothing illegal about consuming liquor, just making or selling it). A poster on the wall says "POLICE RAID: Thursday, 7.30". The pair of investigators scan the crowd while Maria sings (which she does very well), but while she has quite a few enthusiastic fans there doesn't seem to be anyone "creepy" enough to be worth following.
Meanwhile, shortly after Jack and Togo have settled in to wait, someone picks the lock of Maria's apartment and walks in, fairly stealthily. Togo confronts him (from behind), and he swears volubly in Italian. He admits that he was trying to scare Maria out of town, but explains that this was because he didn't want her to go and sing at Fei Lung. People disappear from that place...
More specifically, since it opened last October, two singers who were working there have vanished: Christine Mason, early in November, and Joanna Forrest, early in December. (Specifically, November 12 and December 7.)
Jack and Togo talk with the man, and establish that he's a former boyfriend of Maria's, who reckons that trying to warn her off directly would have been futile - "have you ever tried to tell her to do something? Be ready to dodge." Togo suggests that he might like to hire Teal-Saunders to look into the disappearances, and he agrees that this might well be a good idea. It turns out that he is Pietro Donati, in person.
Meanwhile, at Inferno, Angelina joins Lilian and Bruce, having been delayed by financial investigations. Lilian notices Alexander Forrest (the leader of the five-piece band that's alternating sets with Maria) talking in a friendly way with a somewhat overweight man in his sixties. Both of them seem very pleased with themselves.
After Maria's second set, the three detectives escort her home, where Togo carefully explains the situation. Maria starts off by saying she's damned if she'll let anyone dictate her career to her, and gets angrier; when Lilian points out that Maria's determination is playing right into the hands of whoever's kidnapping girls, she has to dodge a thrown vase. Other crockery follows, less well-aimed, and the group leaves in some haste.
Togo and Angelina return to Inferno to see if it's still going strong (it is); Jack and Bruce trade shifts staking out the apartment; Lilian goes home and gets a good night's sleep.
She is unsurprisingly the first person into the office in the morning. When everyone has arrived, Lydia Teal explains that Maria Passeri has cancelled her contract with Teal-Saunders (but is prepared to pay for services rendered), and that she is rather surprised but does not in principle object to the group taking a job from a well-known businessman, son of the very successful coffee importer Tomaso Donati.
The group splits up and looks for information. While the two girls Pietro named do indeed seem not to have been seen lately, they haven't been missed enough for anyone to undertake a concerted search - it's a big city, and sometimes people want to drop out of sight for a bit. Unlike Maria, they haven't been seen out with Pietro.
Bruce and Lilian check out Chinatown, a fairly small area at this date. Bruce seems to favour approaching the management of Fei Lung and asking for their cooperation; Lilian reckons this is not a great idea.
Togo decides that if he's going to visit Fei Lung he needs a decent suit for that evening, and tracks down Zephaniah Golder, a tailor working in the Ghetto area. Zephaniah makes no remark at either his unusual build or the pistol under his shoulder; indeed, when he goes back to pick up the suit that afternoon, not only is it a masterpiece but the pistol hardly shows at all.
Togo, Lilian and Angelina go to Fei Lung to get a feel for the place; it's a bit awkward, as if a normal club and a Chinese establishment had collided (some of the Western ladies present are wearing Chinese dresses, though they don't really seem to carry them well), but it seems to be popular even so; The Hot Six are providing music at the moment, with Maria expected to start alternating sets with them on Thursday. The street in front of the club is cordoned off to provide a landing and takeoff area for autogyro taxis.
Bruce and Jack go back to Inferno to fish for information. Jack gets talking with Steve Hensie, the piano player in Forrest's group, and establishes that the group's just signed a deal with Imperial Records - it'll keep them out of circulation for a while, but it should make them a decent amount of money. It turns out that Joanna Forrest is Alexander's niece ("or something"); Steve thinks she's moved to New Jersey, and certainly hasn't seen her recently.
Lilian and Jack spend the afternoon and evening trolling the nightclubs and speakeasies in Jersey City in the hope of tracking down Joanna Forrest; nobody there's seen her or heard of her working in New Jersey at all.
Angelina works on the finances of Fei Lung, and discovers that most of the threads seem to lead back to one Lo Feng. Whether that's because he's taking a direct interest or simply because he's one of the main investors in Chinatown is less clear.
Jack and Bruce spend the evening at Fei Lung, keeping an eye on the crowd and secondarily on Maria, who doesn't notice them. All seems to go well.
Togo wakes up with a note on his pillow: "She didn't get home this morning". As the investigators travel to work, they hear that a body's been fished out of the East River; it's been identified as that of Christine Mason. It's hard to be sure, but it looks as though she's been dead for about a week.
Togo, Angelina and Lilian go to Fei Lung; Lilian reads the footprints in last night's snow, and realises that Maria - or at least someone with her shoe size and stride length - walked out of the back door, round the side, and into the street. At that time of night, around 2.30am, she wouldn't have been able to rely on buses being available, and in those high heels she wouldn't have wanted to walk far in the snow, so there's a fair chance she got a taxi from the temporary rank in front of the club.
They proceed to Checker headquarters, where after a bit of persuasion they learn that none of their drivers picked up a lone woman passenger last night. The dispatcher says he'll ask his drivers about it as they come on duty; Checker has the taxi concession at Fei Lung, so someone ought to have seen something.
Meanwhile Togo, Angelina and Lilian take a gyro taxi up to Maria's apartment in Little Italy. The caretaker didn't hear her come in, and there's no answer at her door. They verify that nothing has landed on the roof, either - though as the caretaker says, it can only just support the weight of the snow.
Bruce, trading on his reputation as a good cop, goes and talks with the police about Christine Mason's body. They aren't giving out much information to the public, but to him they're willing to admit that the cause of death seems to have been a drug overdose of some sort - though not a drug they recognise instantly.
Jack has been visiting Imperial Records' studio, and talking with Alexander Forrest (particularly mentioning Christine Mason). He leaves Forrest rather more nervous than he found him, and preparing to ask around his relatives to see if anyone knows where Joanna is.
When everyone gathers back at the office, it's mid-afternoon; it occurs to Angelina and to Togo that all the girls who've vanished have done so a few days before the new moon. On the other hand, Christine lived through at least one new moon after her disappearance... maybe it's something that requires a zeppelin to come in undetected, though the way the skies have been recently that could happen at just about any time.
The Checker dispatcher calls in. He's spoken to quite a few of his drivers, who tend to have an eye for registration numbers (they're the best way to spot a friend while one's waiting for passengers). The Empire State registration 11479 was a Metroliner in Checker livery, but isn't one of their cabs.
At City Hall, Angelina bats her eyelids at a registration clerk, who reveals that ES11479 was written off in October - collision with the Park Avenue Bridge up in Harlem. It's registered to an Henri LeBlanc. Jack has heard of him; he's from Louisiana, he's been in town about six months, and he's something of a major figure in the African side of organised crime.
Angelina contacts her cousin in the Broadway Bombers, Raymond "Boxcars" Hawthorne, and asks about recent illegal aerial activity. There hasn't been much - most of the smugglers have switched to hiding their cargos among conventional freight, possibly because their notoriously poor maintenance has a way of coming back to bite them in this cold weather.
Togo and Lilian take a look at LeBlanc's place in Harlem. It definitely stands out as the best-maintained building around, and even has a rooftop hangar. They ask some salvage companies near the Park Avenue Bridge (just a few blocks from LeBlanc's) about the gyro crash, but are met with blank looks - they would certainly have been bidding if anything like that had happened...
Jack asks his contacts about respray work on gyros. It happens all the time - there are plenty of places that can disguise a vehicle's identity. Slightly oddly, they don't usually change the registration numbers - New York aerial cops carry thick books of current registrations and models, and while they may not always be perfectly up to date, a registration that's missing or doesn't match the model number will be cause for being pulled over at the very least. (They don't even bother to try to keep up to date with stolen vehicles...)
Togo, who's been feeding regular reports back to Pietro Donati via Pietro's father's coffee shop, goes there and talks briefly with Donati, who suggests that he might go "clubbing" that night.
The morning papers report a fire in Harlem, at LeBlanc's place. The photographs are very impressive - apparently it was the only building that burned, with the more ramshackle buildings on either side practically undamaged.
Donati's sent a note to Teal-Saunders' headquarters: "The gyro you're after fled to a warehouse near the West Washington Market". It gives an address.
Togo goes to visit the warehouse, which appears to belong to Reynard Exports. It seems to be a fairly standard warehouse building, with a large rolling door at the front and an office section at the back with its own door.
The team members decide that they're definitely more scared of Mr Donati than of Mr LeBlanc, on the grounds that the former knows who they are and where they live. So it would definitely not be a good idea to leave it too long before taking a look inside...
They keep watch on the warehouse during the day, and see two figures, one of whom leaves for about an hour and returns with two large travelling bags. After dark, while Lilian keeps watch on the front, Togo forces the back door and goes in with Bruce and Jack. (Angelina stays at home, on the basis that she's not really well-equipped for violent situations.)
Inside the warehouse is the autogyro (still in checker colours) and a large dump of aviation fuel. In the office space is a manhole with a ladder leading down, from which some dim light is emerging - it looks as though it would normally be hidden under a rug. A quick search reveals a scrap of cloth which is likely to have come from a woman's dress.
Togo leads the descent, into a concrete tunnel. As soon as he leaves the immediate area of the ladder, he finds the tunnel is painted black, with various strange symbols - Jack reckons they might be voodoo or something of that nature.
The tunnel opens out into a larger room, which has been decorated with more symbols, some of them drawn with variously-coloured powders, and the naked body of a man who appears to have been ritually murdered. On the far side of the room is a doorway, which is the source of the light; there would normally be a curtain covering it, but this has been drawn back.
After the three investigators have made their way to that doorway, Togo takes a look in. He sees another man, the one who left earlier, taking bundles of money from the boxes that are stacked high in here and stuffing them into his bags. He attempts to sneak up on the man, but is heard; the man pulls a gun, and after a brief exchange of fire is mortally wounded, falling down in a flurry of banknotes. (Togo is rather glad of his protective vest, even if it is going to be uncomfortable when the weather warms up a bit.) The man's wallet identifies him as one Charles Dupre.
The tunnel continues from this room and ends in three cells, two of which contain the two missing girls, who appear to be in near-catatonic states. Each cell also contains a wardrobe, which turns out to be full of expensive women's clothing and accessories.
Togo searches the main room, mostly looking for the cell keys. There are several hundred thousand Empire State dollars, mostly in small bills, in the boxes (some of them now have bullet holes in them where Togo's shots overpenetrated; he recovers the bullets and takes a few bills as samples). There's also an assortment of powders, some of which were presumably used for drawing the symbols outside. At the bottom of one of the bags, partly concealed by bundles of cash, is a leather document case which contains several pages written in cipher.
Bruce manages to coax Maria and Joanna into a slightly responsive state, and everyone leaves. They collect Lilian (who hasn't overheard any of the gunfire), and arrange for Angelina to pick them up and take them to Lilian's apartment in Queen's; the girls are still barely responsive, having clearly been doped with something, and Lilian reckons that some of her herbal knowledge may help fix them up.
This turns out to be the case. While she's working on that, Togo gives the police an anonymous tip to look at Reynard Exports. He then gives Jack custody of the document case, and heads off to report to Pietro.
Pietro is happy. He remarks on what a pleasure it is to deal with professionals, and mentions that if he ever has any further need for discreet services he'll definitely turn to this team. Togo gives him one of the banknotes, and he remarks that it's a really excellent forgery job; none of the local forgers is producing good work in that sort of quantity, and he might have some jobs for this guy... but dumping that much currency into circulation at once would have been seriously bad for the economy.
Meanwhile at Lilian's, both Maria and Joanna have regained something like normal consciousness. They seem to be amnesiac; the last things they remember are leaving the club and getting into a taxi. Lilian and Angelina stay to keep an eye on them overnight, while the gentlemen depart.
Maria's going to stay with an aunt in upstate New York. Angelina visits Alexander Forrest, who's just getting back from church; he's almost pathetically grateful to hear that his niece is safe, and suggests that she could stay with his other brother, who keeps a small farm in rural New Jersey. Angelina suggests that he try to keep the news quiet, in case whoever snatched them wants to find out what anyone else knows; he says he'll keep it within the band.
Angelina borrows an autogyro and drops off the two girls, with Jack along in case of trouble.
The morning papers mention a gang fight at the Reynard warehouse, but don't go into much detail. (They certainly don't mention a massive amount of money found at the scene.)
After a couple of months of routine work - mostly divorce cases and general information-gathering - Miss Saunders introduces our heroes to their latest client. She says that his bona fides are good, then retires, to leave the investigators facing a boy of about 15, well-dressed but ill-at-ease in his clothes - giving the impression of someone just too old to be a numbers runner, feeling his way into major-league thughood. This is not in fact accurate; he introduces himself as Charley Astor, of those Astors, and a friend of his is missing.
This friend is Nikola Tesla, whom many of those present have heard of - thirty-odd years ago he was a pioneer in radio and electrical work, but he's rather faded from sight since then. Charley's reported it to the police, but apparently he's sometimes vanished before, so they're not taking it seriously; and when he claimed the lab was ransacked, they asked how he could tell. "You'd better come and see for yourselves."
After a short gyro flight to Long Island, Charley shows them a warehouse; it resembles most closely a wireless set that's been hit by a bullet that's bounced around inside for a while. There's a massive motor-driven van de Graaff generator at one end of the room, near the curtained-off area that apparently serves as a sleeping room when Tesla's working on something big.
Charley makes a list of what's missing, while explaining that he last saw Tesla on Sunday evening around 9pm. He came back to see him yesterday (Tuesday) morning, but found the lock forced (he produces it; it's been broken with a crowbar). It becomes apparent that he's been feeding quite a lot of his allowance towards Tesla's work, mostly by being in charge of going out and procuring food and equipment.
The list contains a number of standard items of equipment, but also has several high-density capacitors, a couple of flasks of mercury, and a "teleforce projector"; this is apparently one of Tesla's older projects that he's never managed to get working, though he goes back to it now and again. It's some sort of "death ray", apparently, and sucks up lots of power - they've been driving the generator off city current for tests.
"The flying machine has completely demoralized the world, so much that in some cities, as London and Paris, people are in mortal fear from aerial bombing. The new means I have perfected afford absolute protection against this and other forms of attack." (1934)
A sweep of sensible places for fingerprints - a full dusting would take weeks - shows two sets that aren't Tesla's or Charley's by the terminals of the van de Graaff generator, one of which is probably female.
Angelina looks at the noteboards, and sees that Tesla's recent work has mostly been on building smaller radio antennae for aircraft. Some of the other stuff is stranger, and more interesting...
Lilian checks outside for tracks; apart from those of their own gyro, and a police van, she finds sign of two Metroliners in the last few days. Bruce and Togo ask around, and find a night-shift worker in a nearby warehouse who's about to go home. He saw the gyros land on Monday night, and about half an hour later heard them take off again. They had a symbol which he describes roughly: a woman's hand, open, above an airship. Jack recognises this as the sign of the Yoyos, a sky pirate gang.
The investigators head to Tesla's hotel and long-term residence, the New Yorker, back on Manhattan; it's seen better days. He was last seen on Saturday; there don't seem to be any other clues here.
Jack talks to his contacts - the Yoyos are a medium-sized gang based in Columbia, the area surrounding the capital of the former USA. This state makes most of its foreign exchange from offering a neutral venue for diplomacy and a convenient transfer port. The Yoyos have been working more up into the Empire State recently; the supposition is that they're growing greedy. They do have an airship to support...
Angelina talks with her cousin Raymond, who can confirm this; they have a fair idea of where the Yoyos' base is, but can't attack it as Columbia won't allow foreign militias into its territory (and doesn't have sufficient resources to take action itself - its air assets are mostly used for border patrols, to make sure any incoming goods are properly taxed.)
Angelina, Jack and Lilian cram into a fast gyro and head over to Columbia - as tourists - to see if they can spot the Yoyos' base from the air and thus pinpoint it for a follow-up attack overland. This is easier than expected; the column of smoke from the burning zeppelin does rather give it away. The place has clearly been shot up from the air; there's no sign of life, but plenty of recently-dead bodies. They land, and Jack and Lilian look around the hangars and other buildings, most of which have been on fire but are now only smouldering.
In one of the buildings they find a man pinned under a roof-beam. He's clearly in very bad shape, but under Lilian's medical attentions and Jack' careful rigging to lever the beam off him, he manages to say a few words. The Yoyos had apparently kidnapped "the scientist guy" for a group of Unionists, who turned on them after they'd paid them, shot most of the Yoyos on the ground, then strafed the buildings - all of this on Tuesday night. The Unionists' base was "somewhere near Jenkins Landing".
An inspection of the aerial charts, on the way back, reveals that this is a small town in Columbia, with quite a few private airfields around it...
The team arranges for floats to be added to a 6-seater autogyro, and retires for the night.
After Lilian has stocked up with food and medical supplies, just in case, the investigators fly (low and subtly) down to Jenkins' Landing. Lilian spots a decent place to land, and ties swamp foliage over the gyro to conceal it from search. The team spends much of the day checking the various landing fields: two, belonging to the Tea Party and the Sons of Hamilton, show signs of new construction. On closer observation of the latter, it seems to have rather more generating capacity than is standard for an airfield supplied with mains currency; there's also quite a bit of equipment being carried to one of the anti-aircraft gun pits, as well as a large power cable being laid from the generator house.
The investigators wait until sunset, then Angelina and Lilian lurk near the front gate while Bruce, Togo and Jack cut the wire fence and sneak in. As they're doing so, they are somewhat startled to see a bolt of lightning stretch from the gun-pit, pass over their heads, and vanish into the distance to the north-west. The chicken-wire fence drips sparks for a few seconds, and their hair stands on end. Clearly, the teleforce projector is working...
Bruce, Togo and Jack head for the generator house; Jack sneaks in and gets the drop on the man who's working on the generator, then invites the others in. The lights dim again, as they did before the last bolt; Jack takes the opportunity to throw the main breaker, then commit some minor sabotage in the few seconds before they dash out again.
Angelina and Lilian notice a small explosion from the gun-pit, just before all the lights go out. The others stay outside in the dark until they see what's going on (most of the people on the base head for the hangars; some go to the generator house and start to restore power, though the outside lights don't come back on), then head for the other lit building. This turns out to be half barracks and half laboratory, and a figure who looks very like Nikola Tesla is asleep on a cot in the latter.
Bruce, Togo and Jack ambush and shoot the guards, and unbolt the door to the lab. Tesla is somewhat surprised to see them, and explains that these nice gentlemen have been assisting his work, since they share his dream of cities safe from aerial bombardment. Bruce attempts to convince him of the invalidity of this opinion of Unionists; meanwhile, Togo and Jack start to exchange gunfire with the group of ten or so who are advancing on the barracks. Thanks to accurate shooting, including some careful sniping by Lilian from outside the base, they're persuaded to stop shooting and start talking; Togo convinces them that letting the investigators take Tesla away, then coming back and hiring him legitimately, is by far the best option all round.
Note: A critical Diplomacy check certainly didn't hurt.
With a certain amount of shuffling for position - on the basis that these guys are known to be scum, but they presumably don't want to hurt Tesla, so he makes a useful shield against potential violence - the inside team leaves, and they all make their way back to the gyro, with Tesla still protesting faintly. Although the gyro gets a Sons of Hamilton escort, the flight back to New York is otherwise uneventful.
As soon as the investigators land, they call Charley Astor to the airfield, in the hope that he can talk some sense into Tesla. Charley's very excited to hear that the teleforce projector has actually been made to work, and arranges for a private interview with President LaGuardia the next day: now that someone else has taken the major risk, the Empire State's government can almost certainly be persuaded to take on Tesla as a contractor.
The papers describe the mysterious bolt of lightning that struck a landing cargo airship in Washington DC last night...
The team is asked to take three small packages to Frank Morgan, in room 902, Parsons Hotel, Clarksburg, Appalachia, and to expect possible further work from him when they get there. Those who don't already have their own aircraft are lent company Avengers; Angelina takes Lilian as a passenger, Bruce takes Togo, and Jack flies solo.
Bruce seems to be having trouble with the northern hemisphere: twice he turns north when he means to head south, and he catches a piece of boundary fence on his plane's landing gear on takeoff (but shakes it off over the Hudson River). The flight is generally uneventful, though Lilian spots unusually heavy patrols over the Empire State border with Appalachia; they're Black Swan members, which suggests that they're expecting trouble.
On landing at Clarksburg, the most obvious thing is the smell of distillery fumes. Appalachia is a wet state surrounded by states that either are dry or have heavy taxation on liquor; there's a big production and export business, legal and otherwise. As the investigators leave the airport, they see the bottom end of this market: "Best Hooch, $1/Bottle".
After a short taxi ride into town, the group goes to the Parsons Hotel, the second-biggest hotel in town. As they approach Morgan's room on the 9th floor, they hear a thump from behind the door. Togo kicks it down to see a body lying on the floor and hear the sound of footsteps descending the fire escape. Togo gives chase, followed by Bruce and Jack.
Togo heads down quickly, relying on his climbing ability to make rapid progress; he makes out a figure below, carrying a large briefcase. As this man sees Togo following, he turns and lets off a few shots with a silenced gun; his aim isn't great, but he gets in one good hit and slows Togo slightly. He hits bottom and starts to dive into a waiting car; Togo jumps down the last twenty feet, breaking the man's arm but rolling to avoid damage to himself; the man's friends pull him into the car, but the briefcase is dropped. As Togo takes a few shots at the departing car, someone inside it opens up with a tommy-gun, and he quickly rolls behind the fire escape. Jack and Bruce have also taken a few shots at the car, without immediately apparent effect.
In the room, Lilian checks the body: he's been shot through the heart at close range, and is very recently dead. His wallet claims that he's Frank Morgan. Angelina looks through the room: apart from the usual suitcases (with a surprising number of Appalachian dollars sewn into the linings) and clothes, there's an expensive-looking camera with a range of long lenses. The back's open, and the film canister is missing.
That would be, as Togo discovers, because the briefcase that was being taken away is full of film canisters, notebooks (in a personal cipher of some sort) and a few developed prints. While Jack is patching him up, the group looks at these: they show a group of men clustered round a scale model of part of a city, measuring with threads between various tall buildings and some sort of central square. Angelina thinks it looks a bit like the centre of Lexington, capital of Appalachia.
Clearly there's something strange going on here; opening one of the cases they were delivering (assisted by Angelina's new clockwork lock-picker) reveals a long .303 gun barrel. Jack re-locks it, and by quiet consensus the briefcase is put with the courier load before the police (called by Angelina) arrive.
The police take a while, and are surprisingly uninterested, or perhaps just uncommunicative. Thanks to Angelina's diplomacy, they are persuaded not to keep the packages the group was delivering (including the briefcase) as material evidence (something they showed every inclination of doing before). They ask the group not to leave town for a few days; one of them stays to keep an eye on the room while the others leave. It's hard to be sure, but Angelina thinks the one with the notebook is taking rather more interest in the group than in the room or the body.
The group retires across the road to the Anderson Hotel, and has lunch. (Jack rejoices at finding himself somewhere where alcohol is sold openly and legally again, and starts to work his way down the whiskey list.) They try to call Teal-Saunders, but the phone lines are down. ("Probably the ISA bombing them again. Or Dixie.") Instead, they send a letter, containing the same version of the story they gave the police.
Togo picks up a map of Lexington and some local newspapers. The only face that's in both the prints and the papers is that of Vernon Roberts, who seems to be the head hatchet-man of Jasper Stevens, the "moonshine king" who runs Clarksburg.
Combining the papers with Angelina's and Togo's knowledge of North American politics, it seems that President McCullough is holding Appalachia together through force of personality, popularity and high political skill, and has recently allied it with the Empire State; Jasper Stevens is his main rival and rather less popular, but might be able to get a coalition together in his absence. His foreign politics are unknown. And McCullough is due to make a public speech at Cheapside, in downtown Lexington, on Friday...
Angelina and Lilian work on breaking the cipher in the notebooks, and get the names of the other people in the photographs, as well as an understanding that the sniper ("A") who shoots the president is himself set up to be shot by another sniper ("B") on the other side of the square. (Presumably neither of these was Morgan.)
The team decides to get back to New York and call in the experts. Their taxi is followed on the way to the airport, but a few swift corners throws off the tail, and they saddle up and start to fly homeward... at least until they get near the border, when they start to pick up radio traffic indicating that it's been closed. Angelina attempts to blandish the lead of the flight that intercepts them, but while he'd clearly like to let her through he has his orders - the border's been sealed for "national security reasons".
As the team turns away, the two Appalachian planes that had been behind them turn with them; the investigators decide to throw them off by navigating through mountain passes. Angelina takes an opportunity to drop back unseen and get a position of advantage on the Appalachian flight; one of them loops to mix it up with her, while the other follows Jack' and Bruce's planes as they extend away, taking advantage of their clean configuration for greater speed and turning ability.
Jack and Bruce coordinate their flight (under Jack' direction) to keep the attention of their attacker switching back and forth, and after he fires a rocket at Jack the latter returns fire with machine guns and hits an engine. Angelina's furball is cut short when she spots this, and ends in a head-to-head confrontation with a fuel tank hit on the attacker (thanks to Lilian) and cosmetic damage to cockpit glass and fuselage on Angelina's plane.
The investigators head directly to Lexington, since they're running out of other directions to go in, and returning to Clarksburg seems likely to be unhealthy; they book into the Hilton. Their current plan involves surprising both snipers with socks full of sand...
Angelina takes in some of the local high life, and picks up the prevalent rumour that the border closure is in response to warnings of an imminent invasion by the ISA - it's happened before with no long-term results, but it's still cause to worry. While most people support McCullough's policy of friendship with the Empire State, there's a strong undercurrent of "wouldn't it be better if we were friendly to, and slightly predatory on, everyone" with a soupcon of "and Jasper Stevens is the man to do it".
Bruce visits the local cops around shift change time. They've heard of him, and the evening becomes very convivial. Among other things, he learns that the Clarksburg force is widely regarded as being in Stevens' pocket, and that while the Lexington force seems mostly clean it's still a small-town police department at heart; it's not the sort of big-city force with groups of experts that New York has. The presidential security detail is their current favourite gripe.
Lilian hangs around with some of the reporters who've come to town to cover Friday's speech, some from as far away as Arixo and Pacifica. She spends most of the evening with a writer for the Chicago Herald-Examiner, who's very eager to impress her; but even he doesn't know just what McCullough's speech on Friday is going to be about.
Jack, having been shot at rather too much for his peace of mind, stays in the hotel room to guard the films, prints and notebooks, and takes advantage of the room-service bourbon.
The next day, the team heads out to take a subtle look at the two sniping sites. Cheapside is clearly a recent ex-slum, with reconstruction due to start soon. The A site is on the fifth floor of an abandoned hotel, which looks as if it's been going to pot for some time - most of the windows on the lower floors are broken, but the roof is still intact. The B site is on the roof of a warehouse across the square. There's no solid structure where the president is expected to give his speech; presumably he'll have a car to duck into if the first shot misses.
Bruce reckons that the police cordon will go into place on Thursday evening, and that it would be easier to smuggle in a rifle beforehand and hide out during the searches than to try to sneak in once the cordon has been set up. Possibly the team will do the same.
The plan continues to evolve: gunplay is to be avoided if at all possible. Given that the team members don't know Morgan's plan, but do at least outnumber the likely shooters, they decide that Togo, Bruce and Angelina will cover site A, while Jack and Lilian cover site B - thus giving each time some hand-to-hand capability, while if things go entirely wrong on site A Lilian can at least try to countersnipe.
Jack spends most of the day going over the area, looking for good hiding places for guns (the obvious ones are garbage cans, but while these clearly don't get emptied very often it seems plausible that they will be cleaned out before Friday). By chatting to some of the workers at the warehouse, he establishes that it belongs to the "Bluegrass Country" tobacco company; they've all been given the day off on Friday, but the boss has told them to come in on Saturday instead. They've been told to clear their loading dock, as no vehicles can be left on the streets during the event.
Jack also takes a look round the hotel; there's a fire escape at the back, but he wouldn't want to trust his weight to it except in a real emergency. There are plenty of windows in various states (intact, broken, boarded up) and it doesn't look as though it will be difficult to effect an entry - many other people have clearly done so.
Angelina continues to make acquaintances in what passes for a local upper crust, and by talking to various people and putting snippets of information together comes up with a fairly detailed description of the plan: it's to be a three-car procession to a folding podium, with the president and the mayor as the main speakers. Various local bigwigs and those who want to be seen with the mayor are going to be present on the platform, as is Jasper Stevens...
Bruce spends the day with the local police, getting to know some of the individual officers on the force. They don't think much of the Clarksburg and other forces who are sending people over to help with crowd control.
In the evening, Bruce is somewhat startled when a female voice squeals "David!" and he finds himself being hugged by a young woman. When he explains that he's actually Bruce, not David, she says "oh, right, of course, you're doing some sort of secret work... 'Bruce'. So am I!" She turns out to be Claudia Kemp, from the small town of Black Gnat a hundred or so miles southwest, and she's convinced that Bruce is a childhood friend; nothing he says dissuades her. She's apparently working as a secretary at police headquarters... which doesn't explain the two men in suits who are keeping an eye on her, and who make sure she leaves the party by midnight rather than going off anywhere (or with anyone) else.
Note: Mistaken Identity and Weirdness Magnet cutting in at the same time...
Lilian gets a decent night's sleep, in case she's camping out tomorrow. Togo is suffering from some sort of bad reaction to the local food, and attempts to sleep. Jack takes further advantage of the legal and affordable supply of alcohol, this time in Angelina's company; a few hours into the evening, she makes an improper suggestion, to which he replies explaining just what a very bad idea that would be. Prolonged negotiation ensues.
Some time in the small hours, Jack fails to be stealthy while moving back to his own bedroom, but nobody's awake to hear it.
Jack drinks coffee to try to catch up on lost sleep, then goes to hide guns in the places he spotted yesterday - including the rifle, in the warehouse, and himself, also in the warehouse. With hip-flask and thermos, he's prepared for a long night. He manages to avoid the police search, as does Bruce, who's hidden among the few remaining hoboes in the derelict hotel.
The other three have no particular trouble in getting through the police lines - they're not armed, after all. Togo and Lilian recover the guns hidden yesterday; Lilian goes into the warehouse, picks up the rifle and makes contact with Jack. They scope out the layout of the place, and decide to lay an ambush near the ladder that leads to the roof.
Meanwhile, Bruce, Togo and Angelina check the rooms that they think shooter A might be planning to use. There's no sign of activity yet...
Jack and Lilian get the first bite, around 9.30, as someone comes up the stairs and along the corridor to the roof access. Jack jumps out and grabs him, while Lilian covers him; in spite of this, their victim is inclined to struggle, until Jack forces him to his knees. He seems to be the man who shot at Togo in Clarksburg.
He attempts bribery and bluster, but eventually settles on threats. When even these don't work, he turns sullen, except for sarcastic comments when Jack repeatedly fails to tie him up. Jack recovers his rifle from the roof; Lilian keeps a lookout over the square from the window.
Meanwhile, Bruce, Togo and Angelina have been hiding in rooms in the old hotel. Around 11am, they hear footsteps coming along the corridor, and Bruce and Togo leap out to grab...
...Claudia Kemp, who's happy to see "Dav... Bruce" again. "I just knew you were going to be on the same secret mission as me!" The rifle-case on her back suggests that she's the shooter, and she gladly confirms this to her "old friend". She then remembers something, and comments "oh, right, I think I'm supposed to try to intimidate you now... but they didn't really cover this bit". Togo handcuffs her.
Her motivation is somewhat fuzzy, but it seems that some "big businessmen" from back home reckon a more neutral policy would be good for the export trade. She suggests that they let her go and complete the shot, then they can go off somewhere else and talk about things. Oddly, this doesn't meet with a positive reception.
When asked what she was planning to do next, she explains that there's meant to be a car waiting downstairs for her, after which she'll go home. "After all, I can type sixty words a minute and I'm a dead shot with a rifle. How much work is there for someone like that? Oh, and I know a lot about cows, but I don't want to work on a farm again..."
Various people watch and listen to the president's speech from high windows. The gist of it is not only a fuller alliance of Appalachia with the Empire State, but a massive programme of reconstruction and urban renewal backed by Empire State money. Several of the bigwigs who are due to speak after the president, including Jasper Stevens, seem caught remarkably short of prepared words... and Angelina and Lilian take note of just who they are.
There's a sound of footsteps on the stairs in the warehouse. Jack and Lilian leave their prisoner and bail out down the fire escape, hijacking the car that was waiting at the bottom. As they drive off (Jack trying to remember how these ground vehicles work), there's a minor hail of bullets from the top of the fire escape as those inside work out what happened. They drive round to the hotel, and Lilian heads up, meeting the others on the way down (who've decided to take Claudia with them, on the basis that turning her in to the police here is likely to be a death sentence).
They abandon their hotel rooms and head directly for the airfield, cuffing Claudia to the frame of Jack's plane to make sure she doesn't try anything silly. She keeps up a constant stream of trivial chatter all the way home, which Jack manages to grit his teeth and ignore.
The border has been reopened, and several cargo airships are coming through (presumably carefully staged to show off the bounty that comes with alliance). So are quite a lot of Empire State militia fighters, flying escort to the airships and patrolling Appalachia's borders. The border crossing itself is pretty easy; the only slightly sticky moment comes when the group lands back in New York, and Angelina's diplomacy and ready purse smooth over Claudia's lack of passport or other documentation.
The group returns to the Teal-Saunders office and explains what's been going on. Miss Teal and Miss Saunders don't give away much, though they mention that they'll pass the information on to "Mr Smith and Mr Smith", the original clients. As for Claudia, turning someone that naive loose in New York would be unreasonable cruelty; they'll try to arrange a new passport and to get her to the British Empire, where she'll at least be in someone else's hair, but for the moment Angelina will bring her into her household (at least until they find out what sort of investigation is being conducted in Appalachia, if any, and whether it would be desirable or safe for her to testify).
The next interesting case comes from a client who asks for the group by name: it's Pietro Donati, looking pretty rough at eleven in the morning. He explains that he was with a girl last night who seems to have slipped him a mickey; when he woke up, his cash, some jewellery and his watch were all gone. He's not too worried about the jewellery, but the watch was a present from his father - just last week - and he wants it back. (Quite apart from personal preferences, it's engraved with his name, and it would be severely embarrassing if it were to turn up not in his possession.)
The girl, or someone who sounded like her, called this morning and told him to be on the midnight Imperial Airlines flight to Chicago with twenty big ones, and to look for a yellow carnation. He expressed reservations about his safety; she replied "Send your men if you like, but bring the money".
(It seems like a lot of money for a watch, even a nice gold one; on the other hand it's not very much money for getting a well-connected man annoyed with one.)
Of course, while Donati does have a number of associates, they don't tend to excel in subtlety; and just at the moment they're quite busy with a number of businesses that are suddenly changing hands. Which is where the group comes in...
Donati hands over a briefcase full of twenty thousand Empire State dollars. Ideally he'd like both this and the watch back, but if it comes down to it it's the watch that matters. He gives a description of both the watch and the girl (a real looker, red haired and green eyed), and says that she gave her name as Eileen Clancy.
Togo telegraphs for five tickets on the midnight flight. Angelina and Lilian, and Togo and Jack, will travel in pairs as master and servant, with Bruce in a cabin on his own. As midnight approaches, they arrive separately at the Empire State Building, take the express elevator to the docking platform, and walk up the gangway to the Cleopatra.
The airship slips her moorings exactly on time, with the next stop planned to be a brief one at Pittsburgh around 4am, and arrival in Chicago expected at 8 (7 local). While Lilian guards the money and Jack stays in his cabin as a servant should, Bruce, Togo and Angelina head into the lounge where most of the other passengers are gathered. They fairly quickly spot one red-haired, green-eyed figure wearing a yellow carnation; it's male, but that wasn't specified, so Angelina goes over and makes contact. He seems a fairly affable person, and explains that once his sister arrives they can get down to business.
Meanwhile, Jack hears a familiar double-thump from outside his cabin. There's nothing quite like the sound of someone being blackjacked, and he cautiously heads out to investigate. He sees a suited figure bent over another on the deck, apparently going through his pockets; the standing figure runs away when he sees Jack coming, and Jack's pause to make sure the one on the deck will be OK allows him to get away into one of the cabins on the deck above. The man who was attacked is a servant, and has a strong Irish accent. Jack reports all this to the purser.
Joe Clancy introduces his sister Eileen, and they agree with Angelina to meet on the upper promenade deck in half an hour with money and watch so as to conduct their transaction out of public view. Until then, they socialise, exchanging small talk without giving anything away.
While Bruce and Angelina are on their way up with the money, they hear a female scream of rage, quickly cut off. They find Joe and Eileen unconscious on the deck, having been sapped. As soon as Eileen is awoken by Bruce's first aid, she checks her pockets and says "the watch is gone". Both her and Joe's wallets have been emptied too.
Bruce and Angelina return the money to Angelina's cabin, then keep watch in the lounge. Jack and Togo talk to the purser again, who's clearly more interested in rumour control than in actually stopping what's going on, but who is prepared to tell them who's in the bank of cabins above Togo's - where the first attacker fled earlier. Three are empty, four are booked by regular passengers, and the other three might be of interest.
It turns out that the servant who was attacked works for Charley Astor, who's on the airship; Jack and Togo visit him, but while he's somewhat concerned by the whole business he doesn't have any particular information. Togo heads back to the lounge to talk with the Clancys (there are three of them, now openly together, the other one being Patrick), but doesn't manage to find out anything he didn't already know or suspect.
While he's in the lounge, though, he notices irregular flashes reflected off a nearby cloud. They're too brief, and the intervals between them too long, to be any normal form of signalling. After wandering around the ship for a while, including checking the promenade deck, he establishes that they're coming from one of the cabins in the suspect block; when he and Jack check the corridor, one of the cabins shows flashes of light under the door of the cabin belonging to Garrett Pierce and David Johnson.
They get the purser, who while he's clearly mystified isn't prepared to barge in on paying passengers. Through the door, they explain that they've heard rumours of muggings and are staying in their cabin with the door locked; as for the flashes, that's a company secret (of the Electric Brush Company).
Jack, who's spent a fair amount of time on airships, gets into the crawlspace above the cabins and listens in for a little while. The talk is mostly meaningless, along the lines of "This one's finished, pass me another" and "How much more to do? Three more rolls".
Togo wants to get a look into the cabin, and in the face of all persuasion from people who know more about airships straps on a parachute and a rope harness and gets Jack and Bruce to lower him down the outside of the gondola from a maintenance hatch. He has a scarf over his nose and mouth, to help him breathe in the hundred-knot slipstream, but no goggles; while his climbing ability stands him in good stead, he has great trouble making out just what's going on inside the cabin. Eventually he manages to get the right angle and timing of blinks, and sees a small but complex photographic apparatus; the two men are winding it and taking flash pictures of something inside it. When they get to the end of a section, it's revealed to be a roll of microfilm. Togo heads back with this information.
Quote: (Togo) Now I think we know what's going on.
(Jack) Up to a point...
The group's theory is that the watch had microfilms concealed in it, for reasons unknown, perhaps by Pietro's father without his knowledge. Somehow these men have found out about them, and are copying them with the intent of returning the watch later...
Some discussion, up in the gas-bag gantries, ensues about what to do next. As the investigators head back into the public spaces, they hear a slap followed by loud invective along the lines of "what sort of girl do you think I am". Bruce goes ahead to be chivalrous if needed, and is brushed past by a man with a prominent red mark on his cheek; he looks quite like Pietro Donati, enough to be confused with him in poor light. Bruce finds Eileen, who is somewhat incensed and has run out of people to abuse since her victim took the hint and left...
A little later, a steward passes through the ship announcing "fifteen minutes to Pittsburgh". When he sees Angelina, he passes her a radiogram envelope; it's from Pietro, and reads VITAL ITEM BE RECOVERED INTACT REPEAT INTACT.
After some prodding from Lilian, Togo goes to talk to the Clancys to try to find out why they're asking so much for a watch which, while very good, isn't in that price range. They're polite, but their response comes down to "you have your lay and we have ours". They don't think they were pointed at Pietro by any third party.
The investigators take up positions near the cabin belonging to Pierce and Johnson, with Lilian in the lounge to observe anyone who leaves or comes aboard. Several people leave and more get on, but the cabin door remains closed.
Just as Lilian's commenting on how quiet it is, a burst of machine-gun fire is heard through the hull. The investigators head for a nearby porthole, where they see another airship with a prominent skull-and-crossbones as well as a playing card symbol (the Queen of Hearts, in black; Jack identifies them as the Black Hearts, a local group that usually takes valuables and sometimes kidnaps for ransom). Fixed-wing planes with the same insignia are busily finishing off the Blake Air Security escort fighters.
This precipitates action: Togo concentrates for a moment, then kicks the cabin door hard enough to send fragments flying across the room. The two men inside start to reach for guns; Togo charges in and takes the nearer one in an arm-lock, while the other exchanges fire with Bruce. Bruce takes a serious hit to the lower chest, and falls back while Angelina and Lilian return fire. Lilian gets a minor wound in, and Angelina takes one. Togo finishes the fight by throwing his enemy into the other one, which leaves the latter folded over a table gasping for breath and the former lying on the floor with Togo looming over him. There's also rather a lot of damage to the cabin from stray bullets.
With a bit of persuasion, one of the enemy reveals that he has the watch in his pocket, and indeed was about to try to return it. Togo takes it, checks that the microfilms are present, and passes it to Angelina; meanwhile Lilian searches the baggage and recovers what seem likely to be the filmed copies.
The enemy airship has now passed out of sight, and it seems likely that they're overhead and preparing to board. The investigators decide to bail out rather than risk losing what they've so painstakingly gained; they push past the stewards, who are trying to keep people calm, strap on emergency parachutes, and jump out. Jack tumbles a bit before his chute deploys and drifts off course a little way, losing his gun but retaining his grip on the money; the others try to spot their location, but between the darkness and the scattered clouds can't establish which side of the Empire State / ISA border they're on. As they drift down, they see figures rappelling down from the pirate ship to the Cleopatra.
On landing, Angelina twists her ankle and Bruce falls awkwardly, cracking some ribs that were already somewhat damaged. They're all in a large field, with a fence, ditch and road visible nearby. Togo goes to find Jack, then they all walk or hobble to the ditch to take cover and conduct bandaging and splinting operations. Lilian heads down the road to look for some sign of just where they are; after two miles she finds a fairly large farmhouse with outbuildings, but there's no national affiliation visible. She returns, and everyone gets a few hours' sleep until the sun comes up.
When they all go to the farm in the morning, a young man sitting on the fence runs inside with a cry of "Maw! Strangers!". They're greeted with closed doors and shotguns poking out through windows, until they make it plain that they're not "revenooers"... at which point they're invited inside and fed Country Breakfast without the option. It turns out that it's about ten miles to Steubenville, where they'll be happy to take the party in their truck, and seventy by bus from there across the border to Pittsburgh.
The border formalities go smoothly, with only a slight fee for "special entry permits", and by evening the investigators reach Pittsburgh again. The local paper reports the pirate attack, with a list of persons missing; they're on it, as well as Charley Astor, but not the Clancys or anybody named Donati...
An exchange of telegrams with Teal-Saunders in New York reveals that a negotiator is on his way to try to get Charley released. On the other hand, if the team were to arrange this, no doubt the Astors would be very grateful. It's not an official assignment, but...
The first order of business is to make up three identical parcels, one of which contains the watch and the money, and deposit them with three different banks. Once that's taken care of, Jack and Lilian go out looking for someone who might be in a position to negotiate a ransom, with the hope of tracking him back to the pirates.
At the same time, Togo checks the local paper to find the names of prominent citizens of Pittsburgh who are being held for ransom. Philip Vale is the most obvious, but when Togo goes round to offer his services he's told that "arrangements are in hand".
Jack tracks down one "Henry Morgan", who asks him for a question to be asked of Charley Astor to prove that he's in the possession of Morgan's principals. He then says "come back in an hour", and waits for Jack to leave. Jack sends Lilian to get Angelina, since Morgan won't have seen her yet, and manages to trail Morgan down the block to a radio repair shop; some time later, Lilian and Angelina return. Angelina finds that she has some miniature direction-finding equipment about her person, and Jack gets a solid bearing to the other end of the conversation. (It's in Morse, quite fast, and seems also to be coded in some way.)
When Jack meets Morgan again, the latter produces what does sound like an answer that would come from Charley, and explains that the ransom's five million.
The group gets together again, and decides to fly along the bearing line to see what can be found. They rent a Metroliner (unarmed six-seater autogyro); Togo flies, Bruce navigates, and the others peer over the side. Nothing's visible out to the theoretical range limit of the radio; on the way back, though, Jack and Lilian both spot that some shadows haven't moved as they should have since they first flew over them. There's no sign of runways, and minimal road access, but this is certainly interesting enough to warrant a landing nearby in a small cliff-top clearing.
The team camouflages the gyro and heads back on foot. The odd shadows are dyed patterns on a huge sheet of material, presumably airship skin or something similar, which covers the closed end of a blind valley. At its top edge it's anchored against a hillside; at the bottom it's tied to the valley floor; but at the sides there's enough of a gap that an aircraft could be flown in or out, with some difficulty.
Togo sneaks down for a closer look. There are five log buildings, one of which is a hangar and another a generator house, and a small airstrip; there's even a mooring tower and enough space underneath the fabric to conceal a zeppelin, though there isn't one here at the moment. He watches people coming and going for a while, and reckons there are probably about twenty people moving around. He also notices a camouflaged blockhouse on the top of the hill, which supports a large radio aerial.
Quote: (Togo) There are two sensible strategies. Well, neither of them is that sensible really...
The team lays up nearby to get some rest, including catching up on the interrupted sleep of the previous night, and gets ready to sneak in during the early hours.
At around 2.30am, Lilian takes up a position where she can cover the hidden base with her rifle, with Bruce and Angelina backing her up, and Togo and Jack sneak in. The hangar appears deserted; the first small building is clearly host to a large and rowdy party. In the second, Jack overhears what seem to be two of the hostages talking: they're hoping the ransom's sorted soon, and one mentions that "at least they haven't been too bad to us, not like those other poor bastards". That building is padlocked.
The third small building holds what can only be described as loot: jewellery and fine clothes, food and drink, and various other things that weren't nailed down. Since there don't seem to be any guards around at all, Jack and Togo get hold of a mallet, cold chisel and crowbar, and Jack proceeds to knock the padlock off the middle building (muffling the noise with a Balenciaga original, but never mind). Togo calls quietly inside "Is anyone there?". The answer comes "Who are you?" "Teal-Saunders Investigations", replies Togo.
It turns out that there are thirteen prisoners, of whom three aren't in any state to walk - "two Irishmen and their sister". Togo tries to explain that they were in league with the pirates, but isn't believed. Once Charley Astor's woken up, he refuses to get an autogyro ride to freedom if it means leaving his man behind; the new plan is for him and his man to fly out, while Lilian takes the others ten miles overland to the nearest town. Togo breaks the lock, and the bid for freedom begins...
The hostages are:
- Charley Astor and his man Fergus Laughlin
- Mary, Luke and Daniel Houlihan (aka Eileen, Patrick and Joe Clancy, who are barely conscious from the beatings they've taken)
- Anthony Addison (an Empire State industrialist, in his early 40s) and his wife Betsy
- Niccolo Cirone (the man who resembles Pietro Donati)
- Suzanne Drake (ISA socialite)
- Gerald King (Empire State socialite and militia pilot; Angelina's heard of him but not met him)
- Douglas McKenzie (aero engineer from the ISA)
- Lionel Webber (ISA industrialist)
- Hector Wheeler (ISA journalist)
Togo heads for the hangar, with the thought of sabotaging the pirates' planes. The main door is padlocked; he goes to the side door and sneaks in. It's dark, and he can hear somebody breathing, though apparently not reacting to his presence. He sneaks out again.
Togo, Jack and their new charges head for the spot where Lilian and the others are waiting. Togo and Lilian decide they'll stay behind to discourage pursuit, while Bruce, Jack and Angelina lead the hostages to safety (probably, in practice, to the autogyro).
As Lilian watches through her rifle's telescopic sight, two pirates leave the party and head for the loot room. On their way back, one of them pushes open the door of the prison hut, and they both start to run. Lilian puts one round over their heads, mostly as a signal to the others that things have gone wrong and they'd better start moving quickly.
The pirates launch flares out from under the canopy, and generally improve visibility for everyone.
As the pirates run to the hangar and start bringing out their aircraft, Lilian decides that a good hit to the one in the lead might clog up the hangar door. The first plane out is an autogyro, armoured (if lightly) for combat, and the three shots she's able to take before fire starts to be returned don't seem to do much visible damage, though it is slightly slower in the taxi. She changes position, and as the three gyros take off she shoots another one, catching it on the bottom armour.
She's been spotted now, and the gyros turn to attack her. Rather than dive for cover, she holds position long enough to shoot again, this time getting a precise hit on the fuel lines; hot fuel sprays over the engine just as power is most needed, and the gyro goes down in flames. The other two shoot back, and she's caught by a machine-gun bullet; her almost supernatural vitality allows her to keep going for a while, though she knows she'll be losing consciousness soon.
Togo took cover slightly earlier, and wasn't shot at. Lilian makes her way to him, and as they see two Firebrands taking off and a dog team coming their way they decide to leave as much of a blood and scent trail as possible, to try to distract attention from the main party. They head deeper into the mountains, until after about five minutes Lilian loses consciousness; when the dog finds them, they surrender.
Meanwhile, the main party has been making moderate time; most of its members aren't accustomed to rough ground, it's dark except for the flares that the pirates are dropping, and there are three mostly-unconscious bodies to carry. When one of the Firebrands drops a small bomb around two hundred yards ahead of the group, they decide to split up.
Bruce takes Charley and Fergus, as well as the journalist Wheeler who looks as if he can handle himself in a fight, and they make for the road down into town.
Angelina stays with the three unconscious Clancys, planning to surrender immediately the pirates arrive; Suzanne Drake volunteers to stick with her.
Jack takes the remaining six hostages and they start to disperse into the woods.
One of the Firebrands fires a sonic rocket into the ground; Bruce and his party are out of range, Jack is deafened but manages to stay conscious, and Angelina catches the fringes of the effect. Another autogyro passes over, dropping off four parachutists.
One of them, a pirate who's festooned with knives although he's also carrying a rifle, takes the surrender of Angelina and her group. "I told you escape wasn't possible... hang on, who are you?"
Jack lies in wait with his brass knuckles in the hope of being able to knock out one of the pirates. Cirrone's lurking in the same bush, having produced a sap. Jack's still somewhat deafened by the rocket attack, and doesn't notice what's going on behind him until Cirrone slumps forward; Gerald King has sapped him, and explains that he was about to attack Jack. As the pirates round up the other members of Jack's group, he and King decide that the only way to help these people is to get away and fetch help. King knows there's a radio transmitter in the blockhouse on top of the mountain...
Bruce and his group manage to evade the searches, and eventually reach the road. They get to the town (Lockjaw) shortly after dawn. Bruce manages by some miracle of luck to get a live telephone connection all the way back to Teal-Saunders; they advise him to sit tight unless he can get worthwhile transport, while they try to get the local militias mobilised.
Climbing the mountain goes slowly and noisily, but Jack and King eventually make it to the top around dawn. Jack picks the locked blockhouse door, and sneaks up on the snoring pirate at the radio desk; the pirate's quite prepared to cooperate with a pistol pointed between his eyes. While King keeps an eye on him, Jack warms up the radio and contacts the nearest Empire State militia, giving them the location of the base and warning them that there are hostages. As he switches frequencies to alert the Appalachian militias too, he finds that another Empire State operator is already doing it. He and King bolt the door and settle in to wait. A few hours later, someone kicks at the door, but their prisoner (with a little persuasion) says "everything's fine".
In the prison hut, with the old locks replaced by heavy chain and padlocks, Togo, Lilian and Angelina wait with the remaining hostages. Cirrone's thrown in a few hours later, having been badly beaten.
Around noon, the sound of multiple zeppelin engines fills the valley. Massive loudspeakers call on the pirates to surrender, and with only a minor delay they do. One Firebrand is still missing, and the Black Hearts' airship wasn't anywhere nearby, but they've still been dealt a substantial blow.
Everyone's taken back to Pittsburgh, and Charley Astor, the investigators and the prisoners are taken back from there to New York. Pietro Donati's happy, and plans to employ the investigators again: he'll go to Pittsburgh to retrieve his watch and the microfilms, his money is intact, and with judicious friendly conversations with the police department he can get hold of the Clancys as well. It turns out that Cirrone is actually Enzo Donati, Pietro's younger brother... but that, as they say, is not the investigators' problem.
As soon as the wounded investigators are out of hospital, they have another job - Anthony and Betsy Addison, whom they rescued from the Black Hearts, were sufficiently impressed that they'd like to hire them for a new mission.
They were travelling to Chicago in order to employ a private investigator there, but given recent events they don't really fancy trying that trip again any time soon - and they don't want to wait. Their elder daughter Blanche (just under 21, studying at Vassar) has run off to join "some weird cult" that operates within the People's Collective. She hasn't answered their letters and they're very worried about her. They'd like her brought back ASAP.
They produce the one letter they have, which was sent from Poughkeepsie before she left. Apparently she met a missionary from the Church of the Living Word of God, and has decided to dedicate her life to the principles of the Church, going to live at their community in Pleasant Creek, Iowa, People's Collective. They also hand over photographs, and by request write both another letter to Blanche, imploring her to come home, and a public letter stating that the investigators are their authorised agents in the recovery of Blanche.
Some quick research in the newspaper archives on the Church of the Living Word of God (also known as Zephaniahns) suggests that they're a schismatic sect of the Plymouth Brethren who've taken on board many Pentecostal tendencies, of which snake-handling is only the most obvious, and who've gradually been migrating westwards across North America as they found themselves unwelcome. Mostly their newspaper appearances come from their missionaries, who have tended to get arrested for saying libellous things about major public figures.
The investigators travel by airship to Chicago, and there check the newspaper archives again and stock up on food and water.
They spend the night there, then rent a Metroliner to take them the remaining two hundred miles to Savanna, Illinois, ISA; it's a major militia base, just across the Mississippi from Pleasant Creek. As they approach, they check out the other side of the river; Pleasant Creek looks like a small town of perhaps two or three hundred, dominated by a large church.
Clearly Savanna is a small town at heart, that's grown up to accommodate the needs of visiting pilots; the card the investigators are handed with fuel and servicing rates carries an advertisement for Madam Sadie's House of Iniquity on the back. They book into a more conventional hotel; Jack goes to scout out the bars, figuring that a town like this in a wet state just across a river from a dry state probably has quite a bit of smuggling activity, and makes contact with a few boatmen who aren't prone to ask questions. (Pleasant Creek isn't one of their markets, though; they tend to trade up or down river.)
Togo, meanwhile, admires the town, eventually finding a bar with a balcony that overlooks the river, and trains his binoculars on Pleasant Creek. It's an unexceptional-looking town, consisting mostly of small houses with a few larger structures (perhaps dormitories). It has a very large and impressive church in the centre, and an anti-aircraft gun that's unmanned but kept in good order out on the edge of town. There's no airstrip. There are people working in the fields nearby, perhaps 150 all told, both men and women.
Since the ground for the mile or so between Pleasant Creek and the river is mostly flat and marshy, the investigators reckon that lying up any closer to observe isn't likely to be practicable; Jack goes in, getting one of the boatmen to drop him off during the night, intending to present himself as a hobo in the morning. If he's not back by Friday, it'll be time to panic...
Meanwhile, Angelina has flown over to Vassar to talk with Blanche's friends there. She gets in to see Dr Hopper, a thoroughly no-nonsense lady who is clearly unimpressed by Angelina's appearance and reputation, but who is willing to cooperate; Blanche was apparently slacking slightly in her studies, but generally a good student, and was pretty sociable, not lacking for company when she wanted it. Dr Hopper also gives a few names and descriptions of other people who know Blanche, though many of them are away for the short spring break. Angelina does track down a coffee-shop owner who knows Blanche, and comments that whatever naivete she'd had had been knocked off her by the time she got to Vassar - lots of rich kids have hangers-on and parasites, but Blanche didn't seem to have a problem of that sort. Blanche wasn't visibly religious, though it's quite unfashionable to be blatant about it and quite a few people conceal their affiliations.
Angelina also digs in library and newspaper archives for more about the Church of the Living Word of God. In addition to confirming the information previously gathered, she finds (reading between the lines) that the libellous statements of their missionaries have not been found to be false... the Church moved to the People's Collective about three years ago.
Jack turns up at Pleasant Creek shortly after dawn, and is directed to the Long House for breakfast. The server, doling out his porridge and coffee, advises him to talk to one of the elders once he's finished. There are about fifty people eating here, with no children visible.
While everyone is wearing what appear to be home-made clothes, the elders are noticeable for their darker-dyed outfits. The one whom Jack speaks to is happy to let him work in the fields in return for dinner; he does ask if Jack has been to this community before, since it's apparently a tenet of their faith that people only get one chance at salvation. Jack's welcome to stay as long as he likes, and they hope he'll decide to join them, but once he leaves he won't be welcome to come back.
The field-work is long and boring, as it tends to be. Jack gets a chance to chat briefly with Blanche, who's also out working; she tells the same story of how she met a missionary back in the Empire State and decided to come out here and find out more. The idea of telling the absolute truth at all times, which is one of the core principles of the Church, is something that appeals to her particularly. Jack is convinced, on the basis of gut instinct, that something is Not Right with her.
During the day the church bell is rung briefly; a few people run to the anti-aircraft gun, and others pick up rifles that they've kept to hand. A raid is coming over the river, and the people of Pleasant Creek account for one of the five planes before they pass on into the People's Collective. The man working next to Jack explains that, although they don't have an airstrip, they do their part in defending the Collective.
Before supper there's an hour of preaching, reasonably well-done. Supper itself is basic but nutritious, and Jack is shown to a bed in the men's dormitory.
Further conversation over breakfast reveals that there's been an occasional bomb dropped on the town - mostly they don't have anything that people would want to steal. When there's a raid going on, they take shelter in the church.
At the evening meal, one of the men offers Jack a belt from his flask of home-distilled spirit - he's quite open about this, and nobody seems to object. By the standards of home distillation, it's not bad... the man explains that, since the limited amounts of liquor they produce are consumed entirely within the community, they don't fall foul of Prohibition.
Jack leaves in the morning, but thanks to a communications foul-up ends up sitting around all day (and doing some work for a farm just down the road, in return for lunch and a rather more amateurish sermon) before Lilian arranges for a boat to come and pick him up that evening.
Lilian describes her basic plan: grab the girl in the fields or when she's asleep, bundle her into an autogyro, and fly away. Jack and Togo point out the flaws (both the anti-aircraft gun and the prevalence of rifles). The fact that there are about thirty people sleeping in the women's dormitory also makes life harder...
Plan B is for Angelina to go in with a bottle of chloroform, knock out Blanche, and sneak her out to the others who'll cross back in a boat. Knocking out the power and phone lines should also help.
Since they don't want to get involved in Sunday's routine - it seems likely to be rather different from that of the other days - the investigators collect equipment to disguise Angelina as a successful female hobo (who are rare, but not un-heard-of). On Sunday night, the same smuggler carries her across.
Angelina has no difficulty in being accepted as a visitor, and gets the chance for a longer talk with Blanche. The latter seems sincere: in particular she seems to value the idea of truth at all times, particularly as contrasted with the lying and not-quite-cheating to get the better of a deal that she's seen while growing up. She did send some letters back to New York, and doesn't seem to think her parents have any need to worry.
Angelina starts to think that, once Blanche has reached 21, they might offer her a return-kidnapping to get her back here if she still wants to come...
This doesn't stop her from chloroforming Blanche at around three in the morning.
Togo, Jack and Bruce sneak into the town to give assistance as needed, while Lilian waits in the boat (partly as a reserve, and partly to make sure the boatman doesn't get cold feet). A few dogs bark as they pass, but they don't have any serious trouble on the way in. Jack disables the anti-aircraft gun and cuts the phone line.
As they're heading back to meet Angelina, they make more noise. A dog gets out and seems to recognise Bruce as a friend; he makes something of a nuisance of himself. Once Angelina has made contact with her unconscious burden, Bruce manages to persuade the dog to go away.
On the way back across the flats to the boat, several more dogs start to bark, and a few more get out. Togo manages to block the attack of the one that comes after him, then flips it a fair distance away. Bruce, who seems to be the Friend of All Dogs tonight, manages to avoid the slobber of doom. As they continue, more dogs come out of town (as do a small number of people, though they're mostly casting about to see what's got the dogs excited rather than worrying about invaders), and Bruce eventually becomes the centre of a small pack.
As they approach the boat, Lilian decides that a mountain lion is something these dogs should recognise and be afraid of, and imitates the sound of one. Unfortunately, the twelve dogs surrounding Bruce decide that between them they're quite tough enough to take on something like that, and leap aboard the boat (which is designed for putting barrels and such like ashore, so doesn't present much difficulty to them). They then cast around, trying to find the lion.
The combined weight of seven people and twelve dogs jams the boat hard onto the gravel of the bank; Togo jumps out to push it off, gives a mighty heave and gets it loose. It promptly starts to take on water; he pulls it back and gets back in.
Bruce jumps off, and the dogs start follow him. Lilian attempts to persuade them to do it a bit faster. Once they've all left, Togo hauls in Bruce with a boathook and they finally depart. It's about a quarter to four when they get back to Savanna; they go straight to the airport, load into the gyro, strap parachutes onto everyone just in case and take off.
Night navigation is a bit of an arcane art, but they find their way to Chicago, then start to follow the air lane to Indianapolis (not really wanting to land at night if it's not absolutely necessary). On the way there, Blanche wakes up and is promptly very sick. When she's recovered a bit, she looks resigned. "Who are you, and how much do you want?"
The investigators explain that they were hired by Blanche's parents, and show her the letters. Blanche sighs and seems to go back to sleep; however, just as dawn is breaking, she makes a leap for the door and gets it open. Bruce, whom she's having to dive across to get out, manages to grab her; with help from Angelina, they get her back inside. The argument, which several investigators had been expecting to happen at some point and had been planning for, now takes place. Blanche eventually concedes that she has nothing to gain by further resistance - she's used up the element of surprise - and agrees to return with them to New York.
Since a gyro isn't particularly fast or long-ranged, and zeppelins are excessively large and public, the investigators decide that it's time to get hold of a fixed-wing aircraft that's a bit bigger than the fighters and light bombers that are most commonly available. They return to Chicago, and Angelina and Jack (the latter boggling slightly at the concept of buying an aircraft out of personal funds) head off to look at the used aircraft lots. The others remain in an airport hotel.
This search takes most of the day, since this sort of aircraft tends to be relegated to specialised use (smuggling being the major one). On several occasions Jack decides that he doesn't want to go near an aircraft that's up for sale, still less start the engines, and trying to take off is right out. As the sun's setting, they come across a Whittly and Douglas prototype transport that seems to fit: it's fairly beaten up and the engines sound very ragged, but Jack reckons he can fix that with some paint and spare parts. The salesman describes it as "a bit of a handful", though on her test flight Angelina manages to stay ahead (and manages to conceal her grin at the manoeuvreability).
They buy the aircraft and head back to the hotel; overnight, Jack works on it to bring it up to his standards. He hears someone trying to be sneaky around the outside of the hangar while he's doing this, but whoever it is doesn't come in.
The flight to Pittsburgh is uneventful; the team has prepared its story for dealing with the Empire State customs and immigration people, but they're rather more interested in looking over the aircraft (and searching it, thoroughly enough to impress even Jack). The weather's starting to close in, but Lilian reckons it's not going to be bad enough to make it worth the increased risks of delaying the trip further.
The team flies round the northern end of Appalachia, following the main air lane. The cloud gets low enough that they have to risk climbing through it rather than hugging the ground, but the Silver Angel handles this without complaint; indeed, its supercharged engines may well give it a higher ceiling than many other aircraft...
The trip back to Great Neck Landing goes without incident, and after securing the aircraft the investigators call the office and then catch a taxi back to Manhattan. To avoid possible questions, and since Blanche has been fairly calm about the whole business, they remove her cuffs before getting aboard.
Blanche's parents are waiting, and she runs to their arms. She tells them something of what's been going on recently - with emphasis on the investigators' rough tactics rather than simply talking with her - and while her parents are very glad to see her it's clear that they aren't happy with the methods employed. Togo attempts to smooth things over, suggesting that if Blanche had been brainwashed then showing her the letter would have meant putting the whole town on alert; the Addisons are unhappy, but grudgingly accepting.
Even so, Lydia Teal suggests that it would be a good idea for the team to get out of town for a few days. She has a courier job to Montreal in the Republique de Quebec, a briefcase full of legal documents; just hand it over to M. Mireault (when he supplies the recognition phrase), then hang around for a bit while she and Catherine Saunders smooth things over in the city.
They head out bright and early, taking the Silver Angel on a "calibration flight". It goes smoothly until they're hailed by a pair of pirate Avengers over Plattburg, as they're approaching the Empire State's border with Quebec. Jack takes a close look at the insignia - while they do roughly match the "Plattburg Neighbourhood Protective Association", there are substantial mistakes, and this looks like something of a rush job.
Angelina pushes the aircraft into a hard left turn and dive, worrying the Avenger pilot who was next to them and causing the one on their tail to miss with his hasty shot. As she continues to throw the Silver Angel around the sky, the lead Avenger tries to follow the manoeuvres and is rewarded by his wings folding up and breaking off; he bails successfully. The other Avenger, after a few more bursts, breaks off as the fight approaches the Quebecois border.
In the violent manoeuvres, the briefcase has burst open, and the "legal documents" turn out to be rather a lot of Confederate dollars, in large bundles. Togo and Jack search the plane and reckon they've found all of them; Jack fixes the burst lock.
M. Mireault is waiting at the airfield for the Customs agents to finish their business. He looks quite nervous, though that can be explained if he knows the contents of the case; he gives the recognition phrase correctly, signs the receipt, and the investigators hand it over. As he drives away, another car turns up with another gentleman who introduces himself as Mireault, and has the recognition phrase...
Angelina and Jack restart the aircraft, as Mireault-2, Bruce, Togo and Lilian pile into a taxi (as Mireault-2 explains his car isn't powerful enough for a chase). The taxi gets into the air more quickly, but Jack spots the car first from the stable platform of the Silver Angel and calls in the others. The car heads for the docks, turning into narrower and narrower streets to try to throw off the taxi pilot (who follows, with a degree of unconcern that would do credit to a New York cabbie); Angelina is forced to stay a bit higher. Eventually, the car smashes through the door of a warehouse; the taxi lands, and its passengers pile out when they see Mireault-1 heading through a side door on foot (with the briefcase).
Lilian streaks out ahead, easily catching up with Mireault-1, and trips him with her rifle-butt. She threatens him until the others arrive. Mireault-1 seems to take things quite calmly until Mireault-2 turns up, at which point he starts to look a lot more nervous
The investigators are somewhat concerned to make sure they've got the right Mireault, and question both of them. Mireault-2 remains calm (but doesn't produce any identification); Mireault-1 breaks, shows his papers (which say his name is Ferrier), and begs the investigators to transport him somewhere else - anywhere else...
They don't. Lilian asks Mireault-2 for a hotel recommendation; he says that he rates the Dauphin, run by his cousin. Various party members experience a sudden urge not to hang around in Quebec for longer then they have to. "I've always had a hankering to visit the British Empire..."
That evening, Jack spends some time working on the Silver Angel. Since there's already been some trouble, Togo and Angelina go out to the airfield to keep an eye on things, while Lilian and Bruce sample the delights of Quebecois cooking at the hotel - the Royal Quebec, not the Dauphin, just in case.
There's a noise of movement in the hangar, and Togo investigates. Someone saps Jack, though not with enough force to knock him out, and someone else sticks a gun in Angelina's ribs and tells her to keep quiet.
Jack, though somewhat groggy for a few seconds, turns round with a heavy wrench in hand and catches his assailant off-guard. Togo spots someone attempting to pick the Angel's lock, and breaks his leg with a carefully-placed kick. He curses in French. Jack's attacker starts to back off, only to be caught by Togo coming round the nose of the plane, and Angelina's manages to get away while the others are engaged.
The police are called, and seem to be familiar with the two burglars who've been caught (addressing them by name, though not politely). They take a statement; these people turn out to be a local family who turn their hands to most sorts of nefarious work.
Angelina and Jack head back to the hotel, where they are greeted by a waft of garlic from Bruce and Lilian; Togo sleeps in the plane, having set up a noise-maker inside the door.
Togo wakes up on the concrete of the hangar floor. The plane is where it should be, but he was expecting to be inside it. The padlock on the hangar door has been cut off, and there are tyre treads leading out onto the grass and back.
He checks the plane; the Hobbs meters show that the right engine has been run for three hours, and the left engine for four. He wakes Angelina at the hotel, and continues to check. There are two bullet-holes in the right rudder/stabiliser, but otherwise the aircraft seems to be intact.
The rest of the investigators arrive at about the same time as the police. The night-watchman shrugs and doesn't admit that he was sleeping; the bullet-holes are measured, and prove to be .50-calibre; the police dust for prints, and find a few on the outside door handle, though there are no new ones inside (some smudges would indicate gloves). The tyres are clean, the radio's been tuned to a common traffic frequency, and there are some splinters in the cargo hold area which might indicate packing cases of some sort.
Lilian follows the tracks in the grass - fairly clearly, the aircraft was taxied to the runway, took off, and later landed and taxied back. Angelina heads back to the hotel, to catch up on the news - it's not in the papers yet, but the radio reports a "strange aircraft" being involved in a smuggling run to Albany last night.
Jack puts a temporary patch on the bullet-holes, but getting the rudder fixed properly will need access to the latest alloys and a machine-shop. After some discussion, the group decides to head for Toronto; they land at the Toronto Aerodrome, on the way in spotting Downsview Field and the testing grounds for de Havilland Canada. Jack, Angelina and Togo negotiate for some of the relevant alloys (getting more than they need, just in case this proves difficult later) and some workshop time, while Bruce and Lilian stay with the plane in case of further problems.
The papers when they arrive carry some rough gun-camera footage of the Silver Angel, noting that it had been stolen; the later editions note that it has since been recovered. Jack fabricates a new rudder component, being glad that only the skin (rather than the frame or control-runs) were damaged.
The investigators decide to remain overnight rather than fly over water after dark.
In the morning, Angelina takes the Angel up for a test flight, and has a little trouble with the new component; she recovers, though, and with a bit of control tuning it's fine. Togo does a familiarisation flight, in case he's called on to fly the Angel in an emergency.
As they're deciding where to go next, a telegram arrives from the Teal-Saunders office. It reads: CONTACT FORMER CLIENT PERSONAL MATTER, with a phone number.
Quote: (Lilian) How do they know where we are?
(Togo) They are a detective agency...
They fly to Pittsburgh so as to improve the chances of getting a connection. Togo calls, and reaches Pietro Donati. Pietro explains that the small packet trade in upstate New York is mostly run by a man named "Santiago", "who's not a friend of mine".
Angelina at least is out for revenge...
The group returns to New York, arriving in the early evening. Angelina uses her connections with the Broadway Bombers to have the Silver Angel kept in their hangar; if it's not safe there, the Empire State has bigger problems than one plane.
The investigators split up, deciding to meet again on Sunday evening to pool what they've managed to learn about Albany and Santiago beyond the basics (that it's the state capital of New York, but since the centre of government has definitely moved to the city it's undergoing something of a depression).
Angelina checks recent newspapers and generally catches up with her social circle. Santiago's certainly in charge of smuggling operations in most of upstate New York, and he has a gimmick: nobody ever sees his face, because he always wears a mask. His men occasionally steal aircraft, but it's not a major activity for them. Most of his liquor comes in through Quebec and Canada rather than the Atlantic Coalition.
Angelina also talks with her cousin Raymond, who confirms that Santiago's men don't usually operate far enough south to come to the attention of the Broadway Bombers - the Albany Sky Hounds would be the relevant militia to talk to.
Jack makes contact with his disreputable friends, and buys drinks on "expenses" (i.e. Angelina will be getting the bill). He finds several people who deal with Santiago's men: Santiago has a reputation for fair dealing, which is somewhat unusual. Most of his underlings, particularly the more important ones, are of Irish extraction. He doesn't seem to have any problems with the police in Albany, but the local air militias are another matter. He's in fairly direct competition with Donati's mob, who bring in their own liquor down the coast, even though their areas of operation don't overlap - after all, there are only so many thirsty people in New York. There's even a suggestion that Donati might be expanding his operations northwards. Jack also gets names and descriptions of Santiago's three lieutenants.
Bruce gets some maps of the area, and chats with the New York cops. They don't think much of their counterparts in Albany - it's a hotbed of Unionist sentiment, where instead of being locked up for graffittiing the Stars and Strips you just get a $5 fine. They confirm that Santiago doesn't have problems with the cops, and they're pretty sure they know why - though this might just be jealousy that nobody can afford to buy off the entire New York force.
Togo checks the newspapers in the library, both for stories from Albany (several in the form "mobster gunned down by unknown parties", over the last few years) and for stories about the place. It looks as though there are three major bosses, separated by their activities rather than geography - Santiago runs smuggling, Boyle runs vice and drugs and MacNaboe runs protection.
After the library closes, Togo walks around thinking for a bit, ending up at a certain coffee shop. Pietro Donati's also there, and they talk briefly. Togo lays out his thoughts on the situation - it seems that several attempts have been made to get hold of the Silver Angel, but he thinks that Santiago may actually want the group to do some other job for him. Pietro's apparently as puzzled as Togo: "I would have thought he'd make an offer if he wanted you to work for him. He knows how the game is played."
The investigators meet again for dinner, and try further to work out what might be going on. They eventually decide that the most plausible explanation of the theft is that someone doing a regular cargo shipment suddenly needed an aircraft, and had to take the first one that was available (and Montreal's is quite a small airfield). They're still puzzled as to the problems surrounding the money shipment, though...
First thing in the morning, they take Angelina's gyro to Albany, planning to stay in the airfield hotel rather than in town.
There are one or two Sky Hounds planes at the airfield, and perhaps ten others of various sorts. Bruce, Togo and Angelina head into town to check out the newspaper archive; Jack joins them to find out more about local drinking establishments; Lilian guards the gyro.
Angelina is looking specifically for some big social event on Friday or later that would have required alcohol to be shipped in; there's no sign of such. The local papers do carry the story of the Silver Angel's flight, though written along the lines of "the militia claim they saw a smuggler". Recent papers also carry a speech from the mayor, Daniel Houlihan, along the lines of "making this country great again" - Angelina in particular spots this as code for Unionist sympathies.
Jack hits the bars, finding a few open even at ten in the morning. There's a lot more Unionist talk than he's used to in most places, where it usually leads to a swift beating or an arrest.
Lilian wanders around the airfield; it's clearly been built for far more traffic than it sees now. Several hangars and warehouses have been disused for some time; others are in regular use, though not at this moment. She has lunch in the field's cafe, and gets chatting with some of the pilots who are passing through; it seems that, since the state government more or less packed up and left, people just don't tend to stop here any more unless they're on long-haul routes and need a break in a hurry. It's only thirty or sixty minutes to New York, after all. The fuel's cheap, but that's about the only thing that recommends Albany.
Jack gets chatting with some of the staff and patrons of his preferred "private club". The prevailing attitude seems to be that the town pretty much died when being the state capital stopped being meaningful. Some people are in favour of the Union because "after all, you can't believe they could ever have made Prohibition stick across the entire country". Others just regret that apart from barge traffic up the Hudson nobody really has a reason to come to town any more. The mayor, on the other hand, does his best, and his heart's definitely in the right place. Once in a while the City (i.e. New York) sends agents up to deal with all this Unionist sentiment, but they're easy to spot - they all go to the same tailor, and they won't buy a drink.
Bruce stays in town while Angelina and Togo head north of town to visit the Sky Hounds' airfield. George Baxter, who's in charge of the unit, is working on his plane when they arrive, but straightens up when he sees Angelina. He remembers the "weird-looking plane", and how well it handled (as well as how easy it was to spot at night). The fighters flying escort for it were Temple's Raiders, most of whom had been shot down the previous night (including their cargo plane); he reckons they must have had a serious contract to fill or they wouldn't have been up at all. At this point they probably only have three or four planes left.
He knows, as "everybody" does, that Santiago's base is the old state capitol building, but no more detail than that. Temple's Raiders operate out of a variety of small fields, but he thinks that their main base is probably a small farm airstrip - there are lots of them around these parts, and not all that many Sky Hounds to run patrols. (They do patrol every night, and that's how they caught the run on Thursday night; they hadn't had a tipoff.) As for the local police, he doesn't want to say anything bad about such a "well-known body of men".
As he's saying this, Bruce finally manages to find the bar where Jack's hanging about; he enters on the heels of a fat man in police uniform, who takes off his hat and orders a drink. (Neither Bruce nor Jack can work out the details of the uniform, but he's clearly high-ranking, not just a beat cop.) Once Bruce and Jack have caught up on each other's doings, Bruce decides to see what he can find out, and starts to introduce himself to the cop... who recognises him as "Dave", and starts to shake. "Heard you'd got shot down or something. Well, you know how hard it is to get news out of Mexico. How can we help you?"
Bruce expresses an interest in the odd plane that was used in a smuggling run on Thursday night, and the cop - Frank Clancy - says "you'll need to talk to the boss about that. I can set up a meeting... would it be all right to meet back here at six?" Almost without waiting for a reply, he backs away and leaves, leaving his drink unfinished on the bar.
Quote: (Bruce) Thank God he didn't lick me.
The investigators all meet back at the airfield at four o'clock. Angelina phones Claudia Kemp to try to get some more back-story on "Dave"; the short version is that he breezed into town a few years back, broke her heart, and left again. But he's certainly the one who inspired her to become a really competent sharpshooter (and, it's implied, assassin).
Bruce takes Togo and Jack as "bodyguards" to go to the meeting; Angelina and Lilian will follow in a hired car, giving the others a lift to the bar first. There's quite a bit more traffic in the early evening; Angelina, driving, thinks she sees Enzo Donati in another car, but can't be certain.
Frank Clancy's been steadying his nerves all afternoon, and is now very steady indeed. He drives Bruce and the others to the old capitol building, taking informal advantage of the wide roads. Angelina and Lilian follow; Angelina parks the car so that she can see the front of the capitol, while Lilian lurks near the back. Quite a lot of other people seem to be arriving at the capitol building too.
Clancy takes the three into an office and introduces Bruce to Peter Adams, one of Santiago's lieutenants (that's one of the names that Jack was given in New York, and he matches the description), then leaves the room. Adams explains that Richard Temple reported having stolen the plane - and for some bizarre reason having returned it... He'll gladly take "Dave" to see Temple, but he'd prefer him to be left intact. This evening's meeting is for the handing out of new assignments - "nothing on your level of course". (Bruce is possibly wishing he'd brought some nerve-steadiers of his own...)
The three are lead to what seems to be the old state senate chamber, which is gradually filling up with pillars of the local underground community. Peter Adams points out Temple, then leaves, explaining that he has other arrangements to make before Santiago's speech. Jack walks over to talk to Temple, with Bruce clearly in the background (and not deigning to talk personally to this low-level functionary).
Richard Temple is quite open about his activities - he needed a cargo plane to make a delivery, and his own had been shot down. It was either "borrow" a plane in a hurry, or make excuses to Santiago. It was too distinctive to keep, though his cargo pilot liked it so much that he brought it back rather than just dumping it in a bog somewhere.
Bruce has mostly been keeping an eye and ear on this conversation, while Togo has been looking around more generally. As Santiago, in a full-head mask, enters and starts to wish the assembled mobsters a good evening, it's therefore Togo who spots a figure at the back of the hall who looks remarkably like Bruce. That figure shoots a burst from a tommygun at Santiago, who falls; Togo fast-draws and shoots back, getting a hit as the figure ducks behind a pillar.
Lots of guns get drawn. Some of them are pointed at Togo, but most of them are being waved around in a nervous manner. Someone near the back calls "he's getting away" and gives chase; most of the other people present are backing away slowly and attempting to look nonchalant while covering each other. There's a quiet gurgle over on the far side of the hall as a long-standing score is settled.
The figures clustered around Santiago call "He's dead! And he was the Mayor!" As Bruce, Togo and Jack leave, they hear Enzo Donati's voice saying "hold on, we've got a good thing going here, and it doesn't have to fall apart..."
When Angelina heard the shooting, she started the car. She sees someone looking like Bruce, in a different set of clothes and clearly recently shot, come out of the building and straight towards her; she's somewhat startled when he points his tommygun at her and orders her out of the car, but obeys anyway. He drives away at speed.
As the others arrive, they explain the situation and leave on foot, eventually picking up a taxi and heading for the airfield. Angelina's thirst for revenge seems to have been sated for the moment. They fly to the militia field to bring them up to date on what's going on, then return to New York.
[At which point the campaign goes on hold for a while.]
Charley Astor comes to Teal-Saunders with a new job: Tesla's workshop has been broken into, and something is probably missing. The team heads to the workshop, and Lilian takes a look outside; there's evidence of a motorcycle and sidecar having departed in a hurry, probably with one person on board and a small load in the sidecar.
Tesla is somewhat distracted with a new idea, but talks briefly; what's gone is a generator, designed to produce electrical power from "cosmic radiation", though it isn't working yet. When asked if this could be considered by the uninitiated a form of perpetual motion machine, he grudgingly agrees that a fool could easily make such a mistake. Physically it's a wooden case, about the size of a large portable wireless, with a crank-hole on one side and two screw terminals on top. Tesla can't help with its power output: "In theory, as much as is wanted. In practice, usually nothing." But he's got the plans and is working on building another.
Lilian asks who else might have known about the generator, and Tesla explains that he'd only told Charley and the "government men" who provide his money; he isn't too clear on which bit of the government they are working for.
The two night guards supplied by the Empire State's government, a pair of off-duty New York cops, say they didn't see anything - they'd gone to investigate a sound of breaking glass at the back of the warehouse, but heard a screech of tyres, hurried back to the front, and found the broken padlock. Togo is unconvinced by their story, and leans on them a little, but they get somewhat huffy and depart.
Quote: (Cop #1) If you can't trust a New York policeman, who can you trust?
Jack and Lilian cast about for other evidence. Lilian thinks she sees faint footprints leading onto the roof, but gets nowhere trying to follow them; Jack looks at the warehouse across the street, and thinks it shows distinct signs of being used as a speakeasy. He and Togo take a closer look, and hear someone sweeping up inside; Togo knocks, and when the hatch in the door opens he offers money.
Inside is a basic bar arrangement made from trestle tables and packing cases.
Quote: (Jack) This is a better class of speakeasy than I'm used to.
(Togo) They're actually sweeping.
The man who's sweeping up is also the night barman, one Vincent Caffney. With a little monetary persuasion, he's happy to say that the two cops spent most of the night in the speakeasy, leaving only at about 6am when someone heard the sound of a motorcycle pulling away quickly. As for the fellow on the motorcycle, a powerfully-built man with short-cropped dark hair and wearing a long black coat, he was in for most of the night as well - arrived about ten or eleven, didn't drink a great deal, but seemed to be working up his nerve for something. He was muttering about "those damn Germans will get what's coming to them", which was weird because he had a kind of German-sounding accent himself... Caffney gives a receipt for "Miscellaneous", and pockets a fair wad of Togo's money.
Jack casts about for things going on that might be to do with Germany. There's the consulate, of course... but while there are a lot of people of German ancestry living in New York, they've been around long enough that there isn't a "Germantown" as there is in some other cities. There's no cultural festival going on or anything like that, and indeed President LaGuardia is something of a vocal critic of the Reich (Angelina is aware that his mother is of Jewish origin)... though come to think of it, the Hindenburg is due to arrive some time this evening on her first trip to North America this year.
Note: The characters are all well aware of various facts about the Hindenburg. She's the world's biggest airship in terms of passenger capacity (50), though some military airships are physically larger; she's very technologically advanced, and the pride of the Third Reich; she's filled with helium (in this world there is no American embargo on helium sales to Germany); and she'll be docking to the mooring mast at the top of the Empire State Building to let off her passengers, then heading to a hangar at Great Neck Landing to be refuelled before continuing her journey to Chicago in a couple of days.
With a lack of other options, the investigators head to the Empire State Building to have lunch and then get places on the 86th floor observation deck before it fills up. Lilian scans the skies, and thinks the weather will be mostly calm with occasional gusts, with light rain - not ideal for a docking, but certainly achievable. Togo scans the skies, looking for unusual traffic patterns, and is the first to make out the silver shape of the Hindenburg in the distance, surrounded by journalists' planes. As the ship approaches, Angelina picks up a whining sound from somewhere below their feet...
All the team heads down to the 85th floor restaurant, now almost empty, to search. It's a hard sound to pin down, but eventually Bruce and Angelina track it to one of the private dining rooms at a corner of the building. As they get in, they see a man who matches the description of the motorcyclist climbing in through a broken window. Bruce covers him - he seems happy to surrender, saying "you can't stop it now" - while Angelina looks out of the window. The generator is fixed to the side of the building, and seems to have been attached to the lightning conductor. It's whining loudly, and is covered in blue sparks. Angelina thinks about disconnecting it, but the conductor itself is very solid, and wouldn't be easy to break.
The others arrive. Togo immediately leaves to call the air traffic controllers, to get them to turn the Hindenburg away at least for a few minutes; he thinks he's getting somewhere, but they treat him as a crank. Jack shoots at the generator; it's surprisingly hard, leaning out of the window into the rain, but after several attempts he apparently hits something vital. The generator explodes with a bright flash - Jack will later find out that the half of his body not protected by the wall has been sunburned - and a loud bang. There are screams from above, and as Lilian looks out of the window she sees the Hindenburg drifting away with several small fires on her nose, where a spark has leaped across from the mooring mast. The crew works to put them under control.
The prisoner gives his name, Julius Straus, but while he's very happy to talk about the Hand of God smiting the Germans he isn't prepared to give away his contacts, or even anything about his organisation's long-term goals.
Julius Straus is now in prison - the new prison on Rikers Island, which opened recently.
The team members are heroes. They get newspaper and radio interviews, entry to all sorts of exclusive clubs (some of which they hadn't previously known existed), and there's even talk about making a film of their exploits - though nobody can quite decide who's going to play them. Teal and Saunders reluctantly agree to allow them not to work for a little while. Lilian even manages to parlay some of her fame into some modelling work, a new career in which she's taking some interest.
While they didn't think they were accepting clients, someone gets in to see them anyway: a familiar-looking redhead, Eileen Clancy. The more perceptive members of the group can see that she's been injured recently.
She explains that she was running the badger game on a mark, but when her brothers burst in the mark pulled a gun, shot Joseph, beat up Patrick, and got away. Obviously she can't go to the cops, or hire investigators to get revenge, but her professional pride is injured; she wants to know more about this Otto Schnabel, who didn't look like a fighting sort of man. He was a passenger on the Hindenburg; he's an architect's clerk from Germany; and he wears good suits and an expensive-looking gold ring. She met him in Fei Lung.
After some discussion, the investigators agree to take the job, with some reluctance to help Eileen - there's a feeling that she did get what was coming to her. On the Hindenburg's passenger list, Schnabel shared a cabin with Hermann Giesler, who seems to be his boss. Jack and Angelina head for the German embassy, hoping to find more information about Schnabel and Giesler; they get hold of a German business directory, and discover that Giesler works directly for Fritz Todt's Autobahn project, generally considered to be the Reich's favoured architecture and civil engineering organisation. Schnabel isn't apparently of sufficient rank to be mentioned.
That evening, Bruce, Togo and Lilian go to Fei Lung to try to spot Schnabel. Jack lurks outside in a car, while Angelina heads for the newspaper morgue to do more research. Schnabel is easy to spot from Eileen's description; he's chatting with one of the (Chinese) hostesses, while the Lower Manhattan Temperance Society plays on the stage. Lilian attempts to read his lips, and finds that the conversation is much as might be expected. Togo looks over a waiter's shoulder, and verifies that this is indeed Schnabel (or at least he gave his name as such when opening his "private reserve"); he's drinking white wine.
Angelina looks for organisations in New York that have something to do with Germany - there aren't many, since even though there's a substantial German immigrant population many people are uncomfortable about the policies of the Reich. The most promising seems to be the German American Bund, a friendship organisation and dinner society, led by one Fritz Kuhn (of whom she finds newspaper pictures).
Later in the evening, a new man with a high forehead and very prominent eyebrows enters Fei Lung and speaks briefly with Schnabel; they leave together. Lilian confirms that they were speaking German. While they are queueing for a gyro-taxi, Lilian and Togo queue behind them; once they've left, Jack joins them, and they follow in the next taxi to a hotel in Yorktown on the Upper East Side.
Bruce talks to the girl, who recognises him and is very happy to allow him to buy her a few drinks. He doesn't get a great deal out of her, though she says that Schnabel seemed a pleasant enough fellow.
Lilian takes a taxi back to Fei Lung to pick up Angelina's car (and Bruce), while Jack and Togo keep an eye on the hotel. They manage to find the right suite and observe Schnabel and the other man having a meeting, or at least a discussion, with a third man who looks somewhat familiar but whom they can't immediately place. From the body language, the second man (who might well be Giesler) is in charge. The third man leaves, and Schnabel and his colleague are obviously preparing for bed; Jack and Togo follow the third man, who walks a couple of blocks then hails a taxi. They do too, and find themselves in an upscale residential neighbourhood in Queens; there's nowhere good to lurk, and being around in the morning will be particularly blatant, so they head home.
Meanwhile Lilian has picked up Bruce and the car, and they've headed back to the Yorktown hotel, only to find Jack and Togo gone. They also retire for the night.
In the morning, the team regroups. Angelina thinks she recognises the third man from the description, and newspaper photos confirm it: he's Joseph McKee, former president of the Empire State, who lost his bid for re-election to Fiorello LaGuardia in 1933. He's now serving as a judge, but is considered a likely candidate to oppose LaGuardia again in next year's elections. He's a "reformist", as most successful candidates tend to be these days, but his credentials are a little more ambiguous than many.
The team heads out to keep an eye on the hotel, just in time to see Schnabel and colleague getting into a taxi. They head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art...
The team splits up to keep track of Giesler by turns. He spends much of the morning towing Schnabel around the museum, eventually ending at an exhibition of swords in which Schnabel seems a bit more interested. While they're looking, another man approaches, whom Angelina recognises at Fritz Kuhn; the investigators aren't close enough to overhear the conversation, and Lilian can't effectively lip-read German, but from the body language it's clear that Kuhn is asking for something and Giesler is dismissing him.
Giesler and Schnabel spend the afternoon in Central Park, and in the evening head for the Metropolitan Opera. Don Giovanni is playing, and with a little persuasion Angelina manages to get three seats in the stalls for herself, Lilian and Togo. Bruce keeps an eye on the alley at the back, and Jack heads into a coffee shop with a view of the entrance.
Giesler and Schnabel have a box to themselves, and no company - at least to start with. Bruce spots Joseph McKee sneaking in through the back door (with a bribe to the porter) as the performance is starting, and the others see him enter the box, though he stays fairly far back. He and Giesler have a conversation, though most of their attention is on the opera. Lilian lip-reads and picks up a few words; "election" seems to turn up quite often.
During the interval, Giesler and Schnabel adjourn to the bar (non-alcoholic refreshments only, of course). The investigators follow. Angelina is sure she's seen Giesler somewhere before, but can't place him. Lilian attempts to flirt with Schnabel, but while he's clearly interested he's also on duty. Outside in the coffee shop, Jack sees four obvious heavies come in, order coffee, and sit down to wait, checking their watches every few minutes.
McKee leaves shortly before the end of the second half, just as the Don is being dragged down to Hell. Bruce sees him sneak out, but decides not to follow. At about the same time, the four heavies leave the coffee shop.
Once the performance has ended, Lilian attempts to get ahead of Giesler and Schnabel to intercept them in the lobby, but misses them in the crush. She and Togo arrive on the street shortly after them, just as a Metroliner taxi drops out of the stream of traffic overhead, its side door slides open, and three men with tommyguns open up on the crowd. They only have time for a quick burst; even so, Togo manages to draw and put a round in the direction of the cockpit before they pile on the power and leave.
Togo, Lilian and Angelina render first aid; nobody's seriously injured, though a few people have caught bullets in non-vital locations. They're in time to see Schnabel getting up off Giesler, whom he obviously knocked to the ground when the attack started. The police arrive and take statements, but it's obvious they don't expect to be able to track down the shooters.
As things wind down, Giesler gets into a taxi and heads north to Yorktown, while Schnabel heads down Broadway on foot. Togo and Bruce stick with him; Jack heads off to talk to his contacts; Lilian heads home, and Angelina heads back to the newspaper morgue.
Schnabel goes briefly into one or two clubs, asking questions and then leaving again. These seem to have been directions; after a little while, he finds a speakeasy on the East Side and settles in with the local booze. There's a red-headed man ensconced in the corner, telling flying stories and keeping the crowd entertained; Schnabel looks fairly shaken from the events of earlier in the evening, and is glad to pay attention.
Bruce asks the barman about the red-headed guy - his name's Ron, apparently, and he's been in town for a few days, having been flying up on the border with the Atlantic Coalition. Togo finds Ron very impressive; Bruce is less enthused, as something strikes him as off-key. It seems that Schnabel is also under Ron's spell, as he works his way into the crowd surrounding him and apparently starts trying to recruit him, saying that the Reich has a proper appreciation for fine combat pilots and can use as many as it can get... Bruce missteps slightly by mentioning a flying experience of his own, and Ron doesn't appreciate the competition, but Togo defuses the situation by asking whether Ron's ever flown under the bridges on the St Lawrence. "Yes, but only inverted..."
Schnabel mistakes Bruce for a friend of his from Germany, but is soon laughing at his mistake.
Jack chats with his friends, trying to draw out information on the German-American Bund. The general feeling is that it's more of a dining society than anything else; it's occasionally thrown its weight behind candidates for low-level offices, but not much lately. People seem to be becoming very polarised about the new German régime, even within the German emigré community, and the Bund has been trying to keep its collective head down. There's even talk of a trade embargo between the Empire State and Germany.
As for the shooting, the feeling is that it's a very old-fashioned thing to do - five years ago, sure, but these days the top gangsters try to keep their fights out of the public eye. The Metroliner was found abandoned a few blocks away, and its owner had been knocked on the head and tied up in an alley. "Donati's gonna be pissed - it was one of his cabbies..."
Late at night, in the dimly-lit newspaper archives, Angelina finally locates the photograph she's been looking for. It's difficult to be certain, given the uniform and so on, but the features are distinctive and she's quite sure that the man in this photograph is the same one she's seen under the name of Giesler; this is the deputy leader of the Nazi Party, third in command of the Reich, Rudolf Hess.
The investigators meet back at the office the next morning to share information, and a spirited discussion ensues with Miss Saunders present. Although there's some suggestion that the whole mess of information might be sold to the New York Times, the eventual consensus is to fob off Eileen Clancy with the minimum they can get away with, and attempt to contact President LaGuardia via Charley Astor.
Bruce, Togo and Lilian talk to Eileen, and explain that Schnabel is the bodyguard to a political big-shot, travelling incognito - true as far as it goes. They also recommend that she back off. She points out that the Clancys never back down from a fight, and with extremes of tact the investigators refrain from asking "what about from a war with one of the most powerful nations on Earth?". She does just about manage to write out a cheque before she leaves in high dudgeon.
Bruce calls Tesla's lab and verifies that Charley is there, and the team heads over. While Bruce and Togo keep Tesla distracted with questions about his generator, Lilian and Angelina explain the situation to Charley, who gulps. He suggests that although he might well be able to work through his family, it might be quicker to deal directly with the Secret Service men who turn up every so often to talk to Tesla; he's got a phone number for them, and this sort of thing is in theory their business...
He makes the call, and half an hour later a gyro lands outside. Mr Winchester and Mr Colt, wearing very well-tailored suits, enter the lab and listen to the story. "And you have definite proof of this?" "No - but obtaining it seemed likely to tip them off." The Secret Service men confirm that they'll be having a little talk with Mr McKee, and taking steps to make sure the two Germans leave the country before they can cause more trouble. They'll be looking into the German-American Bund, and the possibility that Straus was specifically aiming his attack on the Hindenburg at Hess. When Togo mentions Hess having to drag his bodyguard out of a club, Mr Winchester says "I could tell you some stories... well, no, I couldn't". In any case, "top men" will be working on the matter.
For the rest of the weekend, Lilian and Angelina go shopping; Jack works on the Angel, and spends the rest of the time in a speakeasy; Bruce goes out walking in Central Park; Togo practices and trains in the dojo.
On Monday morning, Mr Winchester and Mr Colt are in the offices of Teal-Saunders. Miss Saunders explains that they've asked specifically for the investigators, to handle a secret assignment. It seems that the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, major producer of aircraft in the Empire State, has lost an experimental aircraft, and since some features of the case are distinctly odd, the Secret Service would like the team to liaise with Grumman's chief of security and see what they can find out.
Angelina flies the Silver Angel to Grumman's workshops in Bethpage, on Long Island. The trip's shorter than the gyro ride to the airfield at Great Neck Landing, but she attracts an appropriate amount of attention from this crew of seasoned professionals. Frank Tompkins, who's waiting for them when they land, comments that it's a nice plane, and looks like an ISA design.
The missing plane is the XP-4 interceptor, designed mostly for rapid climbing ability - it turns out to be basically a rocket-powered glider, with about ten minutes of fuel on board. Its secondary role is to conduct photographic reconnaissance, and that's the configuration it was in when it disappeared during its test flight last night.
Tompkins plays back the wire recording of the radio. It seems quite routine to start with; then the pilot, James "Iron Hand" Henderson, says he can see a cloud that seems to be following him. He pours on the power, but says he can't get away from it. After a while, there are crushing sounds, as of an aircraft coming apart under stress... then just static.
The test flight was over the Atlantic, and no wreckage has been found. The crew from Grumman have recovered the film capsule, which is designed to be ejected and parachute down; it does show several shots of a cloud-like object against various different backgrounds. The scale isn't clear, but it looks as though it's at least a quarter of a mile long, nearly twice as large as the Hindenburg. There are larger airships, but nothing that size has been reported, even in Texas where helium is cheap.
Henderson's always been reliable; he's been with this project since it started. Tompkins comments that he'll have to tell Henderson's wife...
Togo takes up the Angel, with everyone else keeping an eye out and Angelina ready to photograph anything that might be visible. They fly back and forth over the sea, but don't locate any wreckage. After a little while, they hear a radio call from the Pride of the Empire, a passenger airship heading out across the Atlantic: "We're under attack by a yellow cloud!"
The Pride is a few hundred miles out, and most aircraft don't have the range to reach her - her own escorts have already turned back. Togo points the Angel to her last position, and Jack uses the radio to fine down her location. The last audible call, very much degraded by static, is "it's opening up!". By the time the Angel gets to the location, some forty minutes after the first call, there's nothing to be seen.
The Angel heads back to Bethpage, and Togo gets the airship's passenger list sent over in case it might give some clue as to why she was attacked. There certainly aren't any immediately notable names on there.
After a certain amount of discussion, the investigators ask for an enlargement of the reconnaissance photographs. On looking at the massive sheets, Angelina gets the feeling that the "cloud" may be the result of trickery with the film; Lilian looks at the sea and stars, and works out that they're wrong for the location and time - the photographs were probably taken several days earlier. And of course airships can be hijacked... which seems a lot more plausible than an airship-swallowing cloud.
Jack heads back into town to talk with his contacts. Nobody's been hiring thugs recently, and while plenty of people would like to get a piece of the "yellow cloud" action it's not clear who's running it - certainly none of the usual suspects. Henderson's been seen in town from time to time, but doesn't appear to have got into debt to the wrong people or anything like that.
Bruce and Angelina visit Marian Henderson, James' widow (or wife). She seems appropriately distraught, and mentions that her sons are staying with her sister Julia upstate, but Bruce thinks she's hiding something; under pressure, she eventually reveals that her two sons have been kidnapped, and were going to be released when James turned over the X-Ship. Her only clue is "Mabel", who was a new hairdresser at her usual salon; Mabel told her about this on Friday while, as it turned out, James was being knocked on the head at home and the children were being taken. She was expecting to hear back from the kidnappers today, but hasn't been contacted.
Bruce and Togo go door to door in the Hendersons' suburb, asking whether anyone has seen some "con-men" who were operating in the area on Friday. They get several reports of two men and a big car, but no details. Jack, who's watching the gyro, notices that there's nobody moving around in the Henderson house; the door is locked and there's no sign of violence.
Angelina visits the hairdresser, and finds that Mabel isn't there any more - she didn't show up for work yesterday, and this morning a note arrived saying that she'd had to leave in a hurry to visit her sick father. Angelina establishes that Mabel had been working there for a couple of weeks, and didn't know the business particularly but seemed to have a knack for it.
In the early afternoon, there's a radio news story - Dorothy Macintosh, a local flier, was apparently attacked by the yellow cloud but managed to evade it by diving close to the sea. She's being interviewed at Great Neck Landing, and Jack and Togo proceed there. Jack is quite sure she's making up the story, and even Togo thinks she's being a bit evasive. There's a yellow stain on the tail of her Avenger, which Jack recognises as an obscure acid treatment. After a few hours, she has her plane refuelled and takes off; Togo and Jack take a company Avenger to follow her. She takes off to the north, but curves round to the south and heads out over the Atlantic; after a while she approaches the civilian cargo airship Jersey Girl and hooks onto it. Togo and Jack follow for as long as they can, as the airship heads down the Atlantic coast towards Dixie, but have to turn back for lack of fuel.
When they get back to town, Jack asks the Secret Service whether they can get into the Henderson house without raising a fuss with the local cops. The Jersey Girl is indeed an Empire State-registered airship, but is currently known to be hauling cargo back and forth near Lake Huron.
Meanwhile, Angelina, Bruce and Lilian have been in the Angel visiting Julia - who does exist, but who doesn't know anything about this business.
Mr Winchester reports that the Henderson house is empty - not completely stripped, but packed as for a long holiday.
Another Imperial Airlines ship, the City of Albany, is due to leave at noon - heavily escorted, and with a larger-than-usual security presence on board. The team decides to split for the escort: Angelina and Jack in the Silver Angel, keeping an eye and radio ear out at high altitude, and Togo and Lilian among the escorts in a company Avenger with long-range tanks. There are thirty or forty planes in the escort pack to start with, but soon they start to fall away. Togo and Lilian go back to refuel once, and get about five minutes in position the second time before they have to head back again. They're still in radio range, though, when Angelina and Jack spot another airship crossing the T of the Albany - it's the fake Jersey Girl. It starts to transmit a Mayday signal, describing the yellow cloud; Jack manages to pick up a transmission from the Albany asking what's going on, but it's mostly drowned out by the Jersey Girl's signal and won't be audible at any distance. Jack does describe the true situation to Togo and Lilian, who forward the information to planes further back along the chain to New York; then they turn back, to aid the Albany in case she really is attacked.
The Albany proceeds on her way unmolested, however, with the Jersey Girl holding position and transmitting a gradually-fading Mayday. She turns south, and Angelina turns the Silver Angel to follow. Togo and Lilian turn back to land, with Togo nursing the engines to get the most out of the now-inadequate fuel supply. They almost make it, making a pancake landing in shallow water off the coast; one wing comes loose, and the Avenger starts to sink almost at once, but they aren't injured and in a few minutes are picked up by an amphibious gyro-taxi. They head for Teal-Saunders' office for a change of clothes.
Meanwhile, Angelina and Jack warn the Albany to change course, since she's still at risk of attack; she does. They follow for a while, and even scout slightly ahead in case of possible ambush, but eventually turn to keep up with the Jersey Girl. As they approach, Jack spots a small object falling away from the airship; it appears to be about human-sized, with flailing limbs. Angelina pushes the Angel into a power-dive, and Jack leans out of the door with a pole; he snags the body, which turns out to be an unconscious Marian Henderson, and pulls her inside, while Angelina concentrates on pulling out of the dive - which she manages, though the props kick up spray from the surface of the sea. An Avenger drops free from the Jersey Girl, and Angelina goes into evasive flying. She manages to get the Avenger pilot to follow her through increasingly hard manoeuvres, until he pushes the plane too farm the wings fold up, and he bails out as the Avenger falls to the sea.
Jack wakes up Marian, who panics and says that her husband and children are on board (as well as the X-ship). Angelina gets a radio call from the Jersey Girl: "Turn back or the others get it." In spite of Marian's insults, Angelina does decide to turn back, on the basis that there's not much she can do to the airship, especially without guns. The Angel heads back to New York, and they meet the others.
On hearing that Imperial Airlines has changed hands after furious activity on the stock market, they head for the Securities and Exchange Commission, with their photographs of the Jersey Girl, accounts of the radio transmissions, and Marian as witness (as well as an extremely convincing Togo). That's enough to get a hold put on the share dealings while things are sorted out; the new "owners", Jersey Air Tours, will have to do without their asset for a while.
It soon turns out that Jersey Air Tours was recently acquired by Golden City Air, a company based in San Francisco (Nation of Hollywood). Mr Colt and Mr Winchester are particularly interested when this comes out, as the only other American power working on rocket-planes is Hollywood - they have a few scientists near Los Angeles who might be worth looking into. But, of course, the Secret Service isn't allowed to operate outside the borders of the Empire State... as an incentive, Mr Winchester writes a cheque to Teal-Saunders to cover the written-off Avenger and a generous allowance for expenses. Angelina looks into getting some guns fitted to the Silver Angel...
The Pride of the Empire sends word by telegraph that she has arrived safely in London.
Jack has been looking for guns for the Silver Angel, and has turned up a pair of 20mm Oerlikons that fit remarkably well into a space by the wing roots, almost as if they had been meant to be mounted there. Lilian has managed to get a good modelling contract, of the "every billboard in the Empire State" variety, and won't be able to come along.
Angelina's pretext for being in Los Angeles will be that she is star-struck and looking for work in films. (The fact that Hughes' plant in Los Angeles is in Culver City, as is MGM, may also have something to do with it.)
The first half of the flight out goes smoothly, with no pirate trouble, and the investigators spend the night in Omaha, People's Collective; there's no sign of night-life, and only a choice of three hotels in this town that feels small even though it's the capital, but it is at least all painfully clean.
Togo takes advantage of the local currency exchange services, clearly something of a major industry in a state placed between bitter enemies.
The investigators leave early the next morning (since the locals are evidently used to rising at dawn, and further sleep is impossible).
While passing along the Colorado/Oklahoma border - staying very carefully on the Oklahoma side - the Angel is paced by a flight of experimental aircraft from Colorado. The front half of each looks like a Devastator; the back half is harder to identify, but they seem to fly well enough. The black and white stripes and single skull and crossbones indicate to Jack that the design has only killed one test pilot so far.
There's a new radio beacon chain across northern Arixo, though it's not at all clear who's paid for it; certainly the Arixo government doesn't seem likely to be able to afford anything like this.
It's mid afternoon when the investigators arrive at Glendale's Grand Central Airport ("oldest paved runway west of the Rockies"). It's clear as they taxi in that the Angel doesn't stand out here anything like as much as it does in the Empire State; there are more models of plane here than anyone could hope to keep track of.
The investigators repair to an hotel, and rent an autogyro (a Northrop rip-off of the Metroliner, heavily chromed, rather than one of the one- or two-seat sporty jobs or the dual-rotor stretched model). Bruce and Jack head back to the airfield and see what's going on in the bar; Angelina, with Togo as "bodyguard", heads out to agents to see if she can get an in at one of the studios; she manages to score some stunt work for a film about Charlie Steele (who is not of course playing herself), but it'll be an early start.
In the bar, Jack and Bruce see two major groups of pilots: the Hollywood Knights, who get most of the attention and hangers-on, and the Hughes Air Guard, who mostly keep to themselves. Bruce strikes up a conversation with one of them, a Brian Goldberg, who's friendly enough but somewhat discouraging about the possibility of joining up: much better, he suggests, to get a job at the Hughes plant first and apply internally rather than trying to jump straight into the Air Guard. He chats with Jack about the intricacies of Bloodhawk (fast but fragile) vs Firebrand (slow but survivable), and mentions in passing that the Hollywood Knights complain a lot about no-fly zones over the Hughes plant when aircraft are being tested. He knows that various people are playing with rocket engines over at Cal Tech, but if he's aware of any rocket-powered aircraft he doesn't give it away. The evening passes convivially.
Filming starts early, and nobody asks Angelina for her union card. Industrial safety is something else that isn't much considered, but she manages to escape from a variety of burning and exploding aeroplanes, buildings and other more obscure sets. (Togo suggests that maybe they should film the fires and explosions separately, but "we've only got the one plane".) Meanwhile, Togo is asked to "wave this, run towards the camera and look menacing"; once the cameraman has calmed down a bit, they try it again. Since "Renee", apparently the main actress playing Charlie Steele, hasn't turned up, Angelina manages to shift slightly away from stunt work to dialogue. By the time filming ends for the day, with a shot spoiled by the arrival of Howard Hughes' zeppelin palace in the background, she and Togo are invited to a party up at Charlie's.
Over at Pasadena, Jack and Bruce are greeted by an explosion as they land the gyro. Two men stumble out of a cloud of smoke and round a blast screen that looks curiously corroded (as though by acid), arguing furiously - one says "I told you it would work, and it ran for three seconds before it exploded", and the other counters "why do you think they call us the Suicide Squad?". The argument is sufficiently furious that one of them walks into the unexpected gyro; Jack apologises and introduces himself. The enthusiast is Parsons, who insists that fluorine can work as an oxidiser if only it can be stopped from touching off too early; the slightly saner one is Forman. Bruce name-drops Nikola Tesla, and Parsons becomes much more enthusiastic; he invites them to observe the next test.
Setting this up takes a little while, as the thrust-measurement rig is rebuilt and the strangely-discoloured rocks are hosed down. (Jack sees, but does not recognise, various occult symbols on the test equipment; he does however notice that the engine is about the same size as the one mounted in the stolen Grumman rocket-plane, though producing rather more thrust.) This time the test is successful; the engine runs for ten seconds, and is shut down cleanly. Jack asks Parsons where he got the idea of using a hydrogen/fluorine mixture, and he replies that it came to him in a dream and he's been trying to get it to work ever since; he's managed to get money for these prototypes from Hughes, who came to his boss (Frank Malina) and asked for an engine of a particular size and shape as a rush job. Parsons enthuses about the possibilities for his engine over coffee ("Not your special coffee", warns Forman, "I don't care how quickly you can make it"), but even he blanches a bit when Bruce wonders innocently about the possibility of a personal flight pack. The surviving engine is disassembled, and the parts loaded into a Hughes Air Guard gyro.
At the party, things start off quietly enough, but Togo mistakes the strength of the drinks (he's got out of the habit of legal alcohol) and performs an impromptu tabletop demonstration of swordsmanship. While hiding under a table, Angelina finds herself face-to-face with Charlie Steele, who seems disconcerted at first but eventually resigns herself to the situation - and at least Togo's antics will ensure that the party gets talked about. She invites Angelina back for a chat away from the main party; when Angelina mentions she's from the Empire State, Charlie responds with "I dare say you're supposed to be my Great Enemy, but it's a bit late to re-write the script now". Indeed, she's much less concerned about the Empire State (Hollywood's main financial and entertainment rival) than about the ISA and its German connections... not to mention the more local pirate problem, with the disputed territories only a rather fuzzy border away.
Togo and Angelina return to filming; Angelina manages to swoon convincingly, and Togo learns how to fall over in such a way as to make it obvious to the audience that he's dead. During a lunch break, he visits his parents and brings them up to date on how he's getting on in New York; among other things, they deplore the rise in superstition of the younger generation, some of whom have been talking of dragons out to see. Togo asks some pointed questions, and indeed the reports do seem to be of a single flame and a loud roaring noise, starting a few days ago...
Jack goes on one of the public tours of the Hughes Aircraft plant; it's something of a tourist attraction. Before it starts, he sits in a coffee shop across the street reading newspapers; Howard Hughes has just returned from a record-breaking cross-country flight, and his name is being linked with various starlets (though some would point out that this is because his film studio employs them).
On the tour, Jack's professionally steered clear of anything sensitive, but does get a decent idea of the layout of the place. He gets a close-up look at the double stacked engine arrangement of the Bloodhawk, and regards it as over-complex even by contemporary aero engineering standards.
In the evening, the group meets agian. Jack and Bruce go out with the gyro to try to get sight of the "dragon", which sounds distinctly like the missing rocket-plane; some time around midnight, it does indeed show up, passing quite high overhead with a curious pale green exhaust flame that reminds Jack distinctly of the hydrogen-fluorine rocket he saw at Pasadena. The flight lasts only about twenty minutes, and Jack follows the plane at a distance as it heads back to the Hughes plant. Shortly after it lands, as the gyro is being warned off by Hughes Air Guard planes, Jack spots another gyro heading out of town to the north-west; he follows it, doing his best to look like innocuous traffic. It lands at an unlit farm somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, using its own floodlights; Jack and Bruce mark the place on the map, then head home.
Jack rents a car and drives up the valley, where a farmer is casually leaning on the gate... in the heat of the day. He finds a place to lay up and observe the buildings; it looks as though there are five outside guards, four of them patrolling. They seem fairly professional, though there are holes in their patrol pattern; the major problem is that the land surrounding the farm buildings is very flat and unbroken, in the usual Californian style, giving little by way of cover.
Jack heads back to town and checks the state land registry; the farm's owned by the First National Bank of California, and presumably leased out. Howard Hughes turns up briefly on the set at MGM, but Angelina and Togo don't get a chance to get close to him. The strain of the long days is starting to tell on them, too; they head back to the hotel and sleep as soon as filming stops for the day. Jack takes the car back that night, and watches the farm again. The gyro is rolled out of a barn just before sunset, and three people get in; one of them might be Henderson, and seems to be handcuffed. The gyro returns at about 1am, as before.
The team sends a cagey letter to Teal-Saunders as insurance, since they feel that an assault on the farm is unlikely to be effective. Angelina looks into local politics; Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, is the closest thing Hollywood has to an opposition, and he's not that far off the mainstream message. It seems that as long as Hughes keeps delivering aeronautical miracles, he's likely to be forgiven many other things. Even so, if he (or even his company) could be exposed as kidnappers...
Given Hughes' reputation, the team thinks it likely he'll be flying the rocket-plane himself.
Jack revisits Parsons, and mentions that he thinks Hughes is using his engine in a manned aircraft. Parsons is enthusiastic, and mentions that he's been using the left-over Hughes funding to build a larger engine, which he's planning to use in a "postal missile" with a range of a few hundred miles. Angelina decides to sound out Charlie Steele that evening, to see if she can get closer to Hughes...
In the evening, Bruce and Jack go and look at the farm by car. They find a decent observation point, and keep an eye on the place for a few hours. There seem to be three guards outside at night, who may be armed but certainly aren't carrying long guns. Bruce thinks they look bored, though still reasonably alert.
The gyro lands, still using its own landing lights rather than having anything lit on the ground; two people come out from the house, and as before two men plus Henderson get out of the gyro. (It's then wheeled into one of the barns.) The lights in the house go out within a few minutes.
Jack and Bruce decide to head in for a closer look; Bruce knows his way round this sort of terrain, and shows Jack how to sneak effectively through long grass. They get to the barn, and Jack smells the distinctive aroma of avgas; there's clearly at least a small fuel store here. There's also outside plumbing, and Bruce recognises the lantern-carrying woman who comes out to relieve herself as "Dorothy Macintosh", whom they last met in New York explaining how the yellow cloud had attacked her plane. They sneak out, and head home.
Meanwhile, Togo and Angelina are starting to wonder when they get paid for all this acting. "When the film opens."
On Friday evening, the team meets to make further plans. The frontage road seems most suitable for landing the Angel for a quick getaway, but it's a mile from the farm buildings; it would be possible to land closer, but potentially risky. As the plan comes together, it seems to involve knocking out at least one outside guard, setting fire to the fuel dump, the Angel strafing the buildings to cause confusion, and the other three team members heading in to rescue Henderson and his children. How they're going to get down the road is to be decided as circumstances dictate (i.e. no plan would survive contact anyway).
Jack and Bruce go shopping for rope, chloroform, cotton pads (not from the same shop), wire cutters, bolt cutters, flares and a flare pistol, lockpicks, and (a final request from Togo) a baseball bat (they end up with a signed Lou Gehrig from last season). A couple of the more dubious dealers with whom they meet seem to recognise Bruce, one of them going so far as to say "I thought you were in Japan"...
Angelina's been talking with Charlie Steele, and seems to have impressed on her her concerns with Henderson's situation (rather than offence about the theft of the prototype); Charlie agrees to introduce Angelina to Howard Hughes at the wrap party that evening. Togo is concerned about the possibility of a bad reaction from Hughes, and stays sober; Jack and Bruce are ready in the Angel.
The press are making the most of Charlie's and Angelina's resemblance. Eventually, Angelina gets to talk to Hughes, who claims that he at least knows nothing about test pilots acting under coercion - he's been flying the rocket-plane himself, as he wouldn't trust anyone else with it. "Far too much fun." He sounds concerned at Angelina's news, and says that he'll look into it. An aide brings him a telephone, and whatever's said it's clearly bad news; he makes his apologies and leaves at once. That might be connected with the commotion by the windows, as people ooh and ah at the flames rising from the Hughes Aviation plant...
Togo and Angelina go to see what's going on, though they hang back from the main mass of gawkers. It certainly seems as though the damage is concentrated in the area where the X-ship was being stored, and the firefighters are discovering some of the unfortunate properties of metal-fluorine fires. They rejoin Jack at the airport, hearing on the car radio that witnesses reported shots fired before the explosion and fire began.
A certain amount of discussion ensues; Angelina feels that it would be unfair to Hughes to go ahead with the rescue, but it's pointed out that the people holding Henderson may be desperate enough now to dispose of him as they did his wife. Angelina takes off, and they fly to the farm. There's no light activity visible from the air.
Angelina makes a power-off, dark landing on the road at the front of the farm, needing all her skill to avoid cracking up. The team pushes the Angel off the road, and then sets off, Angelina staying ready for a flare or multiple gunshots.
There's only one outside guard, and he's checking his watch repeatedly. Togo chloroforms him, and Bruce ties and gags him out of sight.
Someone walks from the house to the barn where the gyro's been kept, and calls for others to follow him; Togo chloroforms him too, though he kicks over a can of avgas while he's struggling. After a little while, two more men come out, and are subdued by Togo and Bruce. Jack sneaks up to the farmhouse door, which they've left open, and looks inside: Dorothy Macintosh is there, along with three tied captives (Henderson and his sons). After a while, she calls "Mark, see what's taking those guys so long"... but Togo is disappointed in his hopes for a complete piecemeal victory, as Mark doesn't leave the farmhouse, but turns on the outside lights and then stands in the doorway with his sub-machinegun, calling "what's the hold-up?". After a short pause, he slams the front door and bolts it. Jack heads for the back door in case it's still open; it is, and he gets inside just as Mark comes along the passage to secure it.
Jack shoots first and hits, but Mark returns fire with his sub-machinegun; Jack's hit and badly hurt, but manages to stay conscious long enough to squeeze off a few more shots. Mark's accuracy goes to hell after his first burst, and Jack ends up the winner, or at least the last man slumped against the wall rather than lying on the ground. Angelina hears the shots, and fires up the Angel.
Togo and Bruce join Jack, and they go into the main room, where Dorothy is holding her own sub-machinegun on Henderson. Togo points out that, if she shoots them, she'll die; she replies that until she does, she has a bargaining chip. Togo says that he's prepared to let her go as long as he gets the hostages back; she doesn't seem to believe him at first, but she, Togo and Bruce gradually stop pointing their guns at each other. She opens the front door and makes a bolt for the barn, just as Angelina comes over in the Angel and puts a burst of 20mm gunfire into the barn (igniting the spilled fuel). The gyro comes out, trailing flame and smoke, and rapidly takes off, staying low and dodging frantically; Angelina takes another couple of shots, but lets the gyro go when Togo fires a green flare in the direction of the road.
Around this point, Jack passes out; Bruce does his best to stop the bleeding. Togo drags the tied-up guards away from the burning barn, so that they'll be (relatively) safe, but decides to take the outside guard with the group for later interrogation. Togo and Bruce carry Jack and the guard back to the Angel, and Henderson and his children follow.
The group decides to head east, to get out of Hollywood into the neutral territory of Arixo as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, without Jack to tune in the radio beacons, they're thrown back on navigation by compass and stars, and eventually decide that they must be going somewhat astray (or they would have seen a major city by now). There's a field in sight with a green beacon, so they land to try to find out where they are. The skull and crossbones on the hangars suggest that they've strayed a bit far north, as do the various unshaven types who surround the aircraft as it taxis to a stop. Togo gets out, and they don't immediately jump him; he asks for navigational data, and is willing to pay, so while the pirate mechanics reckon they probably could take him they know they'd get hurt in the process... and he is after all giving them money anyway. They turn out to be near the small town of Las Vegas, and head south-east across the Arixo border towards Flagstaff.
They get an armed reception there, mostly because neither Angelina, Bruce nor Togo had managed to get the radio working, but when they produce the unconscious Jack he gets a lift to the hospital (with Togo riding along). Angelina and Bruce take the Hendersons and their unconscious prisoner to a hotel. The Angel will be under guard, and there will be police interviews... but they can wait until the morning.
Jack is patched up overnight - he's still not _healthy_, but he's feeling a little more himself, if still rather fragile. The local police interview the investigators and their guests individually; when Togo mentions the stolen XP-4, one of them leaves to make a phone call, and is soon joined by several men in suits who don't introduce themselves.
The team recounts the series of events that led them here, mostly accurately - though leaving out the name of their current employer. The police manage mostly to stay impassive. One of the suited men gets the investigators together and makes them an offer.
"It's clear that there's a lot going on here. The obvious thing to do would be just to hand you back to Hollywood - or we could hold on to you here for a while, get a trial sorted out for the illegal border-crossing. But that's a nice fast 'plane you have there, and if you could just do a small favour I'm sure all these problems could go away..."
He wants a package delivered to "north of here"; there was a problem with the original courier's loyalties (he had too many of them), and it's somewhat urgent. It's to be given to one Justine Perot; "just go to Denver and ask around for the Gorgon". Jack recognises that name; it's the airship of the Medusas, an all-female sky pirate gang, currently led by one "Battleaxe" Perot after their founder was captured a couple of months ago.
After a bit of discussion, the team agrees to take the mission. Angelina takes a moment to talk to Henderson, who'll be staying behind, to tell him his wife is alive; he breaks down when he hears the news. She also writes an apologetic and diplomatic letter to Howard Hughes.
The besuited men hand over a locked briefcase, and suggest staying clear of the Navajo Nation; one of them has a map, with what seems to be a remarkably accurate plot of the Angel's route from the previous night.
As the team sets off, Bruce notices they've picked up a shadow; he's staying low and is well-camouflaged. Jack reckons the pattern is from the Navajo. In any case, he breaks off once they get clear of the Navajo border. Over Colorado, there's no border patrol, though several other fliers take interested looks at the Angel.
Air traffic control in Denver is informal, mostly along the lines of "look out, here I come". Angelina and Togo head for the airfield bar, with Angelina drawing a great deal of attention; nobody's heard much from the Medusas lately, though. The barman explains that they usually take over one of the bars further into town; Angelina and Togo set off, looking to find a barman who cowers when she walks in...
Bruce and Jack stay in the plane, putting off the small children who offer to "keep an eye on it" and listening to the radio. The semimythical town of Sky Haven seems remarkably real, judging by the number of people who claim to be coming from or going there.
As Angelina and Togo approach a bar, Togo sees that a small Chinese woman is approaching them. She offers to take them to the Medusas, for "only" 200 Hollywood dollars. She leads them to the airfield, says "try to keep up with Katie or me", and gets into her own Fury (with Medusas logo on the tail). She and her wing take off, and lead the Angel through an increasingly tortuous sequence of canyons, overhangs and arches. Angelina not only manages to keep up, she avoids pushing the plane hard enough to open Jack's wounds... and the two rather grim Medusas look a lot happier when they eventually land, on a small patch of cleared ground near the town of Sky Haven. It doesn't appear on any maps; it's built onto the sides of several mountains, with zeppelin hangars slung between them and mooring points elsewhere. Most of the local planes seem to be kept in zeppelins rather than on the ground, though this isn't an option for something the size of the Angel.
The investigators are invited to wait in a "bar" that's more of a tin shack with a few bottles on a shelf. After about half an hour, Justine "Battleaxe" Perot arrives, and is clearly very glad to see the briefcase, which she unlocks; she reads through the contents, looking speculatively at the investigators as she does so. "Well, this is certainly in order. And it's so very kind of you to volunteer for the jailbreak! Most transport pilots are far too worried about their planes to do something dangerous like that." Indeed, their boss (Athena "Harpy" Jackson) is in jail in Utah, and they're planning to get her out...
Battleaxe Perot is happy to show them the letter; it's couched in careful diplomatic language, but it does make it clear that the Angel's crew is expected to help out with this rescue. With the Hendersons still in Flagstaff, the investigators see no alternative but to go along with it.
Harpy Jackson's been held in Provo for her trial, and that would be too tough a nut to crack... but she's being transferred to a jail in Millard County, by road (with decoy flights going in other directions). The plan is simple: to take out any escorting fighters, stop the convoy, pick up Jackson, and fade back into the hills.
Perot shows the investigators the charge sheet for Jackson - it's very impressive, and some of it is clearly physically impossible (attacking two airships in different places at the same time). Jackson's no angel, but she's clearly been set up for some reason - probably to make the government of Utah look as though it's doing something about the air piracy problem.
The flight will leave first thing in the morning; there's a fair bit of roistering going on overnight, along with the settling of old scores.
After a quick agreement of communications frequencies, the flight heads off: eight fighters and the Angel. The Medusas are leaving their airship behind at Sky Haven, for better speed. After a winding run through the mountains, they break out over open ground, keeping radio silence.
The first three pairs of Medusas dive onto the escort fighters as soon as the convoy's spotted; the final pair stays with the Angel in case of surprises. Bruce spots a high glint of reflected sunlight, two Brigands and two Devastators in Deseret Militia colours; they dive to attack the transport. Angelina tries to decoy them away from the fighters, and the Brigands follow the Angel - she deliberately keeps the turning light and the speed low so that they won't get discouraged.
The escort flight disposes of their two Devastators, and Angelina leads the Brigands back to them - Jack triggers some engine smoke after a near miss, and they follow the trail right into the guns of the Medusa escort.
Someone on the ground, with a Utahn accent, calls on the Medusas to surrender or die. When they refuse, he claims to have the prison van loaded with explosives - "if she isn't going to prison, she surely isn't getting out to plague our skies again." (Jack thinks he's telling the truth.) Perot responds that if that happens, "nobody goes home alive".
The aerial fight continues, with the Medusas getting the upper hand - though with two losses, Katie Callahan (picked off by an enemy Brigand) and "Owl" Carter (while attacking one of the pickup-mounted anti-aircraft guns); both of them bail out successfully. The two pickup trucks are burning, with the surviving gun crews running away from them. On the radio, the same voice starts: "I'll do it - I'll set them off... oh." Jack calls on the remaining militiamen and police to cut their losses and walk away; they surrender.
The prison van is locked, but "Long Shot" Longnecker lands and produces a "Texas lockpick" from her plane's cockpit - a five-foot crowbar, which makes fairly short work of the lock. The Angel lands on the road, and picks up the casualties - the crew perform basic first aid on the surviving militiamen, which the Medusas seem to regard with approval, and load up Harpy Jackson and the two downed Medusas. (Katie Callahan makes some pointed comments to Jack as he's loading her into the plane, clearly trying to be seductive; "Owl" sighs and says "Not again, Katie... get it out of your system..."
The plan for the return flight is to stay low and stay quiet. Jack spots more incoming planes, flying in a search pattern; he gestures at the Medusas, and they tuck in the formation. It doesn't help, though, as the newcomers dive to attack. The Medusa flight splits into all directions, with a Devastator and two Furies coming after the Angel; the Devastator breaks off as soon as Angelina puts the plane into the canyons, though the Furies follow. One of them doesn't make a turn and slams into a rock wall, but the other's better; he sticks on their tail for a bit longer, getting off a few shots that come close (Jack does the smoke trail trick again), but eventually gives up and climbs to clear air.
Angelina, who'd been watching the route carefully on the way out, heads back towards Sky Haven; Jack suggests that it might be polite to allow their guests to appear to give them directions, and Katie takes advantage of the opportunity to lean over Jack's shoulder. (Angelina comments that Jack's a bit fragile at the moment, and Katie retorts that she'll go easy.)
Back at Sky Haven, the Medusas hook up to the Gorgon - except for Long Shot, who manages to break her plane's already-damaged zeppelin hook and drops it to a fairly light crack-up on the runway. The investigators are invited aboard to debrief.
Harpy Jackson fills in what little she can add - she was warned when they set out from Provo that an attack was coming, and that it would be beaten off. "They wanted me to do something for them, but they hadn't made it clear just what. I hate government work." Battleaxe Perot asks for a lift to Flagstaff when the team heads back. They just about have time to agree before Jack gets dragged off by Katie Callahan.
Jack navigates back to Flagstaff via the radio beacon lane; Battleaxe parachutes out before they get within sight of the town. There's something of a reception committee, as they expect; quite a bit of the town's police force is in evidence, though they're not being so crass as to surround the Angel or actually point weapons.
The men in suits are clearly looking for an excuse to impound the Angel, but can't find one - not even a bullet-hole. They send for the Hendersons, which takes a while, but don't mention the other prisoner; Togo and the others decide not to push their luck.
Angelina flies back across the People's Collective to the ISA, and "civilisation"; she puts the Angel down at World's Fair Field in Chicago just as it's starting to get dark. The investigators decide to sleep in an airport hotel, for simplicity's sake. As they're enjoying dessert in the hotel's restaurant, they see a familiar face coming in - Eileen Clancy, and she looks worried about something...
She's carrying a carpet-bag, and explains that she's been selling shares in a Mexican silver-mine that might have been just a little bit salted... and now she wants to leave town, before the cops think of checking private flights as well as just putting a watch out at Chicago Municipal Field. Togo explains that they don't want to be wanted in any more countries, but a large bundle of genuine-looking ISA notes passed to Angelina under the table - combined with the reminder that they haven't been asked officially not to carry passengers - wins the group over.
They leave first thing; Eileen is waiting on the ramp. Just as Angelina's about to taxi for takeoff, two Chicago PD cars tear onto the field, and park in front of the Angel; the cop who gets out of the first makes throat-cutting gestures, and Angelina shuts down. Eileen walks out, holding her hands out to her sides to demonstrate that she's not armed, but whispers to Jack as she passes him "check the money". She's left her carpet-bag concealed behind a seat.
They don't open the bag until they're over the Empire State, just in case; in it, they find some women's clothing, a large layer of ISA currency, and concealed underneath that two copies of the Doc Empire comic book (for April and May). A pair of cardboard glasses falls out of one of them; when Togo looks through them at the celluloid covers, he sees schematics of some sort, and Jack recognises them as charts of the Empire State's defences at its western border (with the ISA).
Note: Doc Empire is much like our world's Doc Savage, though here he's considered more of a gritty hero; he's also much more aligned with the interests of the Empire State than Doc Savage was with those of the USA.
The group gets back to New York, and drops off the Hendersons at Bethpage. On contacting the office, the investigators discover that the Secret Service doesn't want to hear from them; Hollywood's after them (by description, not by name) and Arixo is apparently making unhappy diplomatic noises, though without much hope of success since they're not prepared to say exactly what the group is supposed to have done. Angelina asks Teal-Saunders to store the bag (with clothes and money) until they can locate Eileen's brothers. Togo buys another copy of Doc Empire from a newsstand, and confirms that it too has the hidden plans.
Togo picks up some chunks of fluorspar; it's enough to tell that there's something on the covers, but not enough to read the plans. (Bruce remembers Tesla talking about something to do with polarised light, but the details aren't too clear...)
Angelina contacts her cousin "Boxcars", who says he'll pass on information to the militias on the western border to get them to change their dispositions quickly. He reckons this will do more good than passing it up the official chain of command.
Jack checks around with his lowlife friends; the next issue's due to come out on Saturday, and is expected to have a cellophane cover. He gets Angelina to drive him over to the comic's printing plant (Garden Printing, in Newark); it looks like a fairly small operations, without a great deal of traffic, though some paper is delivered while he's watching. He tries to pick up a job, and the office manager seems genuinely regretful not to be able to give him one; he does establish that the special plates for cellophane printing come from the publisher.
The publisher, on Fourth Avenue, also looks quite small - perhaps twenty people in a single first-floor office section.
That night, Bruce and Togo break in to Garden Printing while Angelina keeps watch. They verify that the rolls of cellophane going in are free of maps, but that once they've come out of the press the maps are present.
Togo contacts the Secret Service by walking into their office, and tells them about the information the investigators have gathered so far. The Secret Service man (specifically today it's Mr Wesson) says that they'll set up a raid on the printers to stop the comic being distributed, and on the publishers to try to catch the spy, but they definitely want to know more about the ISA end. They can't easily extradite Eileen - there's no treaty in place at the moment - but they can probably manage to get an interview with her, if an Empire State citizen's prepared to make a formal complaint against her...
Togo and Angelina go to meet Pietro Donati and explain the situation to him; he certainly regards the prospect of more effective ISA raids, or even an invasion, as distinctly bad for business. He's prepared to swear out a complaint against Eileen.
The group sets off, though at Great Neck Landing Bruce gets a feel of crosshairs on the back of his neck. Dave steps out of a shadow, and explains: "Mum's very worried about you." Bruce wasn't previously aware that he had a brother, but Dave seems to know enough about Mum ("still fighting the Australian Civil War single-handed") that he has to be regarded as at least slightly convincing... they depart, while the other investigators fuel up and head back to Chicago.
There seem to be more armed aircraft than usual over the border with the ISA, though nobody's actually shooting yet. The Angel drops back in to World's Fair Field around 4.30 in the afternoon; Jack stays with the plane (still feeling somewhat delicate), while Angelina and Togo rent a gyro and head downtown to the central police station. The desk clerk says that he has "lots of Clancys" in lockup, but is eventually persuaded to look up Eileen and let them in even though visiting's about to be shut down for the weekend. The holding arrangements seem quite informal, and Togo and Angelina are left alone with Eileen (though the open bars of the cells suggest that there won't be much privacy, and Eileen looks meaningfully at the air vent).
Eileen greets them with "They got you too? Oh, they didn't! Great!". When Togo explains the matter of Donati's formal charge, she mentions that "oh, he remembered - how sweet". She seems to be making the best of her situation; she seems to think that she'll be able to talk her way out of the Mexican silver mine matter when she comes to trial.
Togo and Eileen pass a notebook back and forth while carrying on an innocent-sounding conversation; she writes the name "Haller", and draws an arrow pointing to it from "Galland" (whom Angelina recognises as surely the Adolf Galland who's over from Germany training ISA pilots). She mentions that the glasses were "just lying around", and makes a very bad sketch of a safe - and writes down an apartment address. As Togo and Angelina get up to leave, she borrows some cigarettes.
They book into a downtown hotel, and Togo looks at a selection of newspapers to see what local opinion of the visiting Germans is - they seem to be being feted quite heavily, and there's even talk of Goering himself coming over later in the year. There's a range of opinion, but it's broadly positive. Conversation in the hotel bar suggests that the "instructor pilots" are doing some good against raiders from the People's Collective, not too far to the west of Chicago.
The visiting Germans are flying from a private field a little to the west of town; the investigators take their gyro over for a closer look. Eight aircraft take off - ISA Tempests - and the radio chatter is a mixture of English and German. The investigators head back to World's Fair, and take the Angel up so that Jack can have a go at picking up radio transmissions from further away (though they don't go close to the PC border). He does so; though the signal's not good, it definitely sounds like aerial combat.
As they're heading back to the field, they notice a gyro-taxi following them; it lands after them at World's Fair, and the passenger (a man of average build, wearing a grey uniform) gets out and walks over to the plane as they're shutting down. He introduces himself as Leutnant Dietbold Haller, and he is interested in the aircraft, which reminds him of some designs he has seen at home in Germany...
Angelina is only too happy to talk about the 'plane and how she acquired it; Haller is polite and entertaining, and they make a date to meet that evening after Haller's taken out his afternoon training flight. (He explains that while he's not allowed to make any aggressive moves, all fliers are expected to defend themselves if attacked.)
During that afternoon flight, the investigators make more radio intercepts; the signal's worse, but someone is definitely giving lessons in strafing tactics - in a heavy German accent.
Angelina's evening with Haller is a pleasant one; he's clearly interested mostly in one thing, but he remains polite, and she accompanies him back to his apartment (noticing in passing the spot where a new safe has just been installed, but the painting that conceals it has not been properly closed).
Togo and Jack spend the evening in various bars, listening to conversation. There's a strong strand about the Empire State, and how "things will be much better once we've taken over" - though nobody's talking about dates, it's clear that some sort of military confrontation is expected soon.
Some time late at night or early in the morning, Angelina sneaks around Haller's apartment and makes an impression of the key in a bar of soap. During conversation, Haller has hinted about "secret channels" out of the Empire State, without going into much detail; he has given a couple of names which she memorises.
Haller has to leave early to lead a training flight; he ushers Angelina out of the apartment. She heads back to the others, where Jack uses the soap to cut a new key from some conveniently-shaped "spare metal stock" in his mechanical supplies. The investigators head over to Haller's apartment building, and manage to sneak in past the concierge (who takes rather a lot of coffee breaks). Jack's duplicate key works, and Togo steps in, to see Haller waiting in the room beyond. "I was hoping I was wrong", he says as he points a Luger at the investigators and drops a heavy paperweight from his other hand.
The room is a small one; Togo grabs for the gun, which goes off as they fight for it. Haller leaps backwards and grabs up a sword of some sort, flicking the scabbard off it and adopting a guard position. (Togo notices that Haller does not have cheek scars.)
Jack covers Haller with his own .38, but Haller attempts a slash at Togo anyway, which the latter parries; Jack shoots, but Haller's good at predicting just when he's going to fire and manages not to be where the bullet ends up.
Angelina, who was at the back of the group, looks round the corner of the lobby area into the corridor that leads to the elevator; there are three local lads approaching.
Jack shoots again; Togo attempts to throw Haller, but can't seem to get the leverage; Haller slashes again, and Togo deflects the blow. Angelina steps back into the apartment with the others, and shuts the door, bolting them (and Haller) in and the thugs out.
Jack shoots again, but Haller keeps moving around. Togo attempts to throw a handcuff around Haller's wrist, but Haller scores a cut on his chest; the body armour soaks up some of it, but it still hurts. Angelina shoots Haller and hits him, wounding him; Jack misses, and Togo's standing defensively while he recovers from the shock. Haller turns and runs, heading further into the apartment. Angelina and Togo follow; Jack stays a bit further behind as he's still not healed from the slugs he took back in Hollywood.
Haller grabs up a large knapsack as he runs; Angelina shoots him, but he manages to avoid being hit even though he's facing away from her. He crashes through the window, and Togo and Angelina see his parachute bloom below. The thugs have been bashing at the door; Togo tries to talk them out of it, explaining that their boss has decamped, but it seems a better idea all round to hot-foot it down the fire escape.
They make tracks back to World's Fair Field, but there's a police car blocking the runway; when they ask about it, they're told that the Empire State invaded the ISA this morning, and so the field is closed to traffic. They'll be interned as enemy aliens... "when City Hall gets around to it".
Using the excuse of "getting a few things from the plane", Jack tinkers with the engines to try to get out every drop of performance. Angelina produces from her handbag a small flask of nitromethane, which will certainly help. She starts the engines (setting a small fire in the hangar) and the Angel roars out along the tarmac, taking off from the short taxiway and running out over Lake Michigan.
Various voices on the radio order them to turn back; Togo answers them in apologetic-sounding Japanese, to try to cause some extra confusion. The only actual pursuing aircraft, though, are four Tempests and four Hellhounds, all apparently from the Luftwaffe training squadron.
Angelina goes for best climb speed and high altitude; the non-supercharged engines of the Tempests can't keep up, and they turn back. The Hellhounds, on the other hand, are using the same engines as the Angel - they also have two each, and while they're running heavy they are basically heavy fighters rather than transport aircraft. One of them fires a bracketing pair of flak rockets, and fragments cut through the fuel tanks of the port wing; the self-sealing seems to be working, but there's been a fair bit of fuel lost. Angelina pays a bit more attention to dodging, and gets out of the way of another rocket - that one looks like an armour-piercer.
The Angel turns hard, north towards Canada rather than heading over more of the ISA in a bid to get directly back to the Empire State. Two of the Hellhounds follow closely; the other two are left a little behind, but they're slowly catching up. The radio chatter is now talking about an "enemy bomber" answering the Angel's description, but they don't seem to have a consistent location.
Jack points out over the radio that "there's a war on - don't you guys have better things to be doing?". The German-accented voice from the lead Hellhound explains that they can't legally fight for the ISA anyway, but everyone's entitled to try to bring down a rogue bomber.
Angelina puts the Angel into a top-speed dive, pulling out only a few hundred feet above the surface of the water; the Hellhounds lose ground, and she's able to pull a snap reverse and gain a surprise firing opportunity. She takes it, and hits something vital on the Hellhound; it brews up immediately. The others are more cautious after that, and the Angel gets away across the Canadian border (with an RAF picket airship, and escorting fighters, making it very clear just where that border is). Togo explains that they're Empire State civilians, and the patrol leader comments that he can see the civilian powder streaks all along their wings. However, whiile the investigators will be held at a forward base at Sault Ste Marie for a few days, there's no love lost between the RAF and Germany (or the ISA). Jack's taken to the infirmary, while Angelina briefly becomes the toast of the base's fighter pilots for her Hellhound kill.
It appears that the Empire State did indeed invade the ISA, something that the investigators had considered most likely to be propaganda. Supposedly the Empire State had "absolute and unquestionable" evidence of an imminent invasion being massed near the border, in Ohio, and attacked those depots preemptively.
[This campaign is now on hiatus.]