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The Hawk and the Hunter

Chapter Text

At half past seven that same evening, Harry surveyed himself in the mirror. He had combed his unruly hair into submission, but wished that the R.F.C. uniform was a little smarter. There it was: khaki was not remotely smart, but it was at least respectable.

He left the Blue Room, and found Richthofen on his way down the corridor, looking, of course, positively dashing. Well, there was no help for it – and of course Richthofen, as guest of honour, should also be the best-dressed.

The Anstruthers joined them a moment later. Mrs Anstruther, a middle-aged woman with a motherly air, claimed Richthofen's arm as they reached the head of the stairs – which he offered readily, perhaps because Lady Alicia had just reached the landing from the opposite corridor. So it was Harry who took Alicia's arm, feeling as though he had a big cat padding by his side, or perhaps a bird of prey.

“A penny for them,” she said, eyes meanwhile appreciating Richthofen's trim form as he descended the stairs in front of her.

He thought fast. She was wearing tawny silk - yes - “You look like a hunting-cat, Lady Alicia. One of the dangerous ones, like a leopard or cheetah.”

“Oh, I say, Captain Hawkes.” He had her attention now, for all that she was laughing. “I wouldn't have guessed you had it in you. Thank-you for the compliment!”

“We had an Indian regiment stationed near us once,” he said, desperately trying to continue the conversation. “They had a cheetah as one of their mascots.” Best not to mention the elephant. “They'd take it for walks on a leash now and then. It was trained – but definitely not tame.”

They reached the half-landing, and turned the newel.

“Well, well. Do you think I'm not tame?”

“Certainly not. I don't believe I've met anyone less tame!”

“Not even him?” She nodded at the Baron, who had now reached the ground floor in front of them.

“Not even him.”

It was a conventional enough compliment, but she terrified him utterly by murmuring as they in their turn reached the bottom step, “I had not thought of a leash, you know.”

The party had begun to filter through into the dining-room; he took advantage of its Brownian motion to drop her arm and make his escape, as disconcerted as he had ever been in a dogfight. He took refuge next to Richthofen, who had perhaps overheard the conversation, giving him a rather wild look; but Aunt Deb claimed the Baron to take her into the dining-room. Harry found himself face-to-face with Brent, and greeted her with relief.

“I almost didn't recognise you! I don't believe I've seen you in a gown before.”

“Hawkes. That could have been better phrased,” she pointed out. “But I take your meaning. Do you like it?”

“Yes. That colour suits you. What would you call it?”

“Cherry. Well, I'm glad it meets with your approval.” With her dark hair, still in the short bob familiar from her time at the squadron, she looked rather like a robin. But he had seen robins fight a time or two, and refrained from pointing out the resemblance.

They gained the dining-room, and found their places. By mutual consent, hunting was barely mentioned, apart from conventional congratulations to Frazer who, with his superlative guns, had gained the biggest bag. Currently the only real potential for conflict was between Brent and Frazer, seated next to each other, and he knew well enough who he would back in that particular fight. Sure enough, between the soup and the main course, Brent opened fire.

“I was looking at your share prices in the Financial Times this morning, Mr Frazer. I see they are drifting slowly downwards. Do you have plans for new ventures, new acquisitions, once the war is over?”

Frazer set down his knife and gave her a disbelieving look. “Miss Brent, that's hardly a suitable subject for a young lady, especially at the dinner-table.”

“And yet I asked the question. When the war is over,” she nodded politely to the representative of the enemy sitting across from her, “there will be tens of thousands of men returning from the Front and needing work. Do you have plans to employ them?

“Indeed, Mr Frazer,” said Mrs Anstruther. “You could make such a difference to their lives and their families' lives, especially in the manufacturing North. Surely you have a responsibility to them.”

“I don't expect ladies to understand the issues involved.”

“We understand them very well, Mr Frazer, have no fear! The world is changing. It seems to me that it's you who do not understand.”

“Then, ma'am, I would say we have a different understanding of the matter. I'm far more likely to lay off workers than take them on – being in my line of business. I have my shareholders to think of, and times will be hard.”

“I don't think much of that -” began Brent.

“Miss Brent is, of course, concerned for her former comrades at the front,” remarked Aunt Deb, with the air of a referee. “You must expect nothing less of her; she was there, after all, as an officer and it was her duty to be concerned for the men.”

“For a couple of weeks!” sneered Frazer.

“That was enough,” said Brent. “Don't you agree, gentlemen?”

Colonel Williams rumbled assent at Aunt Deb's right hand.

“Indeed,” said Richthofen.

“Most certainly,” said Harry.

“You are all in such accord,” remarked Frazer, “that I wonder why we're fighting at all!”

“We can certainly agree with you on that, Mr Frazer,” said Lady Alicia, unexpectedly making a contribution. “So, when it's all over, or even before, you surely have a plan. A captain of industry such as you no doubt has something up his sleeve.” She smiled at him, and Frazer blinked. “Though not even Miss Brent would expect to know the finer details.”

“Oh, I've plans of my own!” said Brent, cheerfully, and with the insouciance of one born rich. “My brother and I have been discussing them since he came home from France. Perhaps, Mr Frazer, I should not have asked you your plans, since I have no intention of revealing ours!”

“It sounds to me as though they do not involve a husband and children, Miss Brent.” That was Aunt Deb, feeding her another line.

“Not at present, Lady Jermyn. There is far too much else to do. The vote, for instance.”

“Will you go into Parliament when you have it?” asked the Minister, regarding her with interest.

“Not I. I became accustomed to making my arguments at the point of a gun, not across the debating chamber. But there are plenty of women who can make a better job of it than the men.”

Harry concentrated on his meal, and out of the corner of his eye, saw Richthofen doing the same. This was a dogfight as confusing as any he had been in. But they made it to the end of the meal without any casualties, right through coffee in the drawing-room next to the conservatory. Perhaps the civilised surroundings were exerting their influence as they had been designed to do.


At ten the party broke up, and the guests climbed to the first floor. The ladies bade them good night and turned down the corridor to their own rooms, Brent giving the gentlemen a casual half-wave. Harry and Richthofen started down their own corridor. Harry stopped outside his own door and was about to wish Richthofen a good night's sleep.

“No, come to my room. There are things we must discuss.”

Some plan for their departure, assumed Harry, and nodded. They went on to the end of the east wing, and turned, and there was the door of the guest suite, giving on to the corner of the house with its views in two directions. In fine weather it would have a magnificent outlook. In snow, it would be rather cold: but as he went in, he was glad to note that there was a small fire burning in the grate. The old-fashioned four-poster bed had embroidered curtains, and in contrast to this magnificence, Richthofen's valise lay open on an ottoman. He had not even allowed his things to be unpacked.

“Do you wish a drink?” enquired Richthofen, frowning at the chest of drawers on which stood a silver tray with decanters and glasses.

“Not I, thank-you. If we have to fly at short notice I don't want even a trace of alcohol in me.”

Richthofen paced over to the window. “That man, Frazer...”

“I'm with you there. He's got at least two M.P.s in his pocket, Aunt Deb said. She's got more, she thinks. But he's got shareholders too...” Harry felt depressed; the mission that had begun in such hope was turning to sordid reality. “You don't know how much I itched to punch him tonight.”

“We can get away with such things on the battlefield. Not around the dinner-table, however.”

Harry laughed. “I swear my jaw still aches from when you knocked me out last month – no, I'm joking! I was not expecting it, that's all.”

A pause. Richthofen leaned back to the window, lifted a corner of the curtain, and looked out. Harry was oddly sure that he saw nothing of what lay beyond. “Nor was I expecting this.” He came back into the room, and faced Harry. “It is your turn to punch me, if you wish,” and he drew a deep breath, reached up, and set his hands on Harry's shoulders.

Harry's whole body jolted with surprise. Good Lord.

Shock, and recognition, and yes, this is what I've been wanting. His hands twisted up, and caught Richthofen's and brought them down, and they stood staring, hands clasped between them. The ice-blue eyes – no, they were the colour of stars, of Sirius at its brightest, thought Harry dazedly – were not a foot from his own.

“God. Oh, god. I don't know what to do,” Harry whispered. He stopped, and realised how this sounded. “I know what I want to do - ”

“This, perhaps.” Richthofen took half a step closer, the heat from his body coming over Harry like a wave, and they kissed, and Harry's heart was thumping as if he were diving into battle. He half expected to be consumed by the fire. But no. He was not a pile of ash. He could still breathe, still see: fair hair, and fair eyelashes, and those eyes, glinting under half-closed lids...

“My God.” He closed the gap at last, loosed their hands, and set his own, carefully, on Richthofen's waist. “What - ?" He hardly knew what he was saying. "You, of all people...”

“Me of all people – for what?”

“My first kiss. Anyone's first kiss.”

“Ah.” Richthofen drew back the slightest fraction, looking a little worried. “Is it acceptable? I am not exactly proficient myself.”

“Oh god, yes, don't be an idiot! Just come here again...” Harry was immobile, shaking, for a moment; then he felt strong arms close around his back. He made an inarticulate noise, hauled and held in his turn, and bent his head for another impossible kiss.

He had glimpsed this kind of embrace at school, behind this shed or that, and thought nothing of it. It happened, but not to him. And since the war began, there had been no time for such goings-on, either with boys or girls – or truth to tell, he was scared. But scared or not, this was what he wanted. There was an authentic spice of danger about it: he might as well have a young lion in his arms, or – no - an eagle.

He caught his breath. “I should have guessed – when I ran straight to that Triplane of yours. I couldn't just take cover - ”

“Nor could I leave that stubborn Englishman in No Man's Land last month. It was unthinkable that I should.”

Harry gave a breath of a laugh. He had come to being hauled to safety, the Crown Prince carrying the weight of his legs, and his head jammed against Richthofen's midriff. It was hardly surprising that his first reaction had been to grin.

“This is the most ridiculous situation. How many times have we tried to shoot each other down? And now I just want to -” He sobered, gazing at Richthofen. “We can't. Not now.”

“No. It would be impolite. This is enough. But – Harry – stay with me tonight. To sleep. Nothing more.”

Harry glanced at the bed, and away again. Big enough to take them both comfortably. “Very well, then. I don't know what to call you,” he added inconsequentially. “Manfred seems just wrong.”

“You may call me that - or what you will. And doubtless have, many times, in the air.”

Harry could not help giving a crack of laughter. “Perhaps I have!”

They had reached the bed now, and sat on opposite edges to pull their boots off. Tunics and breeches remained chastely on. Harry swung his feet up; gosh, they were going to be cold, socks or no.

“Here. We may lie under the – what do you call this?” Richthofen shook a handful of fabric in his hand.

“The counterpane.”

“Under the counterpane, then.”

They rolled, and pulled it up over themselves. That was better. Not quite in bed together, but not frozen either. Harry turned his head, and there was Richthofen regarding him. That was – a great deal - to take in.

“Good night. Manfred.” The name felt beyond strange in his mouth.

“Good night, Harry.”

Manfred turned the lamp off. Harry lay still for a few moments, feeling completely tense and awkward. Then, nerving himself, he put a hand on Richthofen's – Manfred's - shoulder, and leaned across the gulf between them. His eyes had adjusted to the near-darkness of the firelit room now; there was the fair head turning towards him.

Harry's heart thumped, but he would not draw back. He leaned slowly across. One kiss, all heat clamped down: just a goodnight kiss. He felt Richthofen's smile, smiled in his turn, and retreated to his own side of the bed, his trembling subsiding: feeling that he could probably sleep now.


An unknown time later, there was a soft, urgent tapping. It drilled down into Harry's unconscious brain, It would not let him sleep.

“Baron!” A voice outside the door. A woman's voice. Harry raised himself on one elbow, and peered, as Manfred swung his feet to the floor and padded across the room. Harry had subconsciously recognised it as Aunt Deb's voice, which was perhaps why he did not think to hide himself.

Manfred opened the door a crack. A gleam of an electric torch shone through.

“Finally. And you're dressed; good. I must talk to you. Let me in, please.”

Manfred snatched a glance behind him; Harry whispered, “Yes.” The door opened wider, and Aunt Deb came in, and swung it shut behind her. The gleam of the torch fell on Harry, who was swinging his legs out from under the counterpane.

“Oh! So that's where you are!”

Manfred turned on the bedside lamp.

“I wasted a minute at your door, Harry. Didn't want to burst in on you. Looks as though I have done anyway. Still, gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and all that.”

Harry, by now putting his boots on, hid his flaming face by bending down to the task; otherwise he was sure it would have lit up the whole room. It was not a matter of rosebuds so much as pæonies. He replied with a grunt, and straightened up.

“There are cars coming down the avenue. And the drive, as well.”

The two airmen were across the room in a moment, and peering cautiously around the edges of the curtains. It was dark, except for the radiance that heralded moon-rise.

“You won't see 'em; they put their lights out as they turned past the lodge. But I can hear them from my room. I was awake anyway; happens often enough at my age. I think I know who's responsible, too.”

“Frazer,” snapped Harry. “I knew I should have -”

“I think so too. Mrs Gates told me that his man was absent for the whole afternoon while we were shooting, and she doesn't know where he went. My guess is King's Lynn. But there's no time for that now. They're still a little way off. We have to get you out of the house, Baron.”

“The Bristol. No, it's almost out of benzene.” Richthofen was shrugging on his flying-jacket.

“I've already woken Daisy. She said you're to take her machine. She'll take the Bristol as a diversion. She said you're to get going as soon as your hear her engine, and not to stop for anything – not until you're in Germany.”

“Would he -”

“Of course he would. He's an arms manufacturer. He wants the war to last as long as possible.”

Richthofen loosed an imprecation in German, and snatched up his valise.

“I quite agree, young man, but we've no time for that now. Have you got those pistols, Harry?”

He mentally kicked himself; what had he been thinking of? Other things. “In my room. And I'll need to get my flying-gear, or I'll freeze.”

“Quickly, then.”

They sped down the corridor, and Harry dived into his room; grabbed knapsack, satchel and flying-gear, and was out again in moments. Close by, a door that Harry had not noticed before was open a hand's-breadth, and Aunt Deb, from within, beckoned urgently to him.

“Straight down, Baron. You'll see wainscotting – er, wood panelling – at the bottom. Go quietly there. It runs alongside the kitchens.”

“Miss Brent -”

“Knows her way around well enough.”

“How will she get the carriage-house doors open alone?” asked Harry. They were heavy and difficult to manage, especially in the snow.

“I woke Alicia too – and I'll help them, for goodness' sake!”

That silenced both men, and they concentrated on descending in safety. Their feet scuffled on the wooden treads. The torch sent their shadows scrambling around the walls of the staircase.

“Yes, that's it. Here, let me through.” She pushed past Richthofen, and cast about, looking for some particular spot on the rough inner face of the wainscotting. “Got it. This leads to the laundry. Straight across it there's a door to the yard. Once you're there you can see the Deer-cote beyond the wall. All the keys are on a board next to the door; just in case.” She opened the door, and they spilled out into the laundry.

A voice came out of the darkest shadows, beyond the reach of the snow-light coming in through the high windows. “Stop where you are. Put your hands up. Big bad Baron, airboy and – oh, the lady of the house. Nice.”

Yorkshire tones. It must be Frazer's man. Harry's hand stole to his pocket, but the sound of a safety-catch being released came out of the darkness. “Leave it alone, son.”

“My good fellow. Put that gun down immediately. I have alerted my staff -”

“Oh aye, that's why you used the back-stairs. Frighten me, lady.”

“Easy. We have lawyers in the family.”

That gave him a moment's pause – into which came the din of the carriage-house doors being flung open. Dogs began to bark. “What the ---- is that?”

For a second, the Yorkshireman was distracted.

Harry's hand flashed out and swept up something from the bench beside him. He leapt forward, and struck with all his strength. The man fell without making a sound.

The torch clicked back on. He dropped the laundry-stick. Aunt Deb was already at the outer door.

“The door key's gone.”

Harry pounced on the prone body. He found the iron key in one of the man's pockets, and had the door open in a moment. They piled out into the laundry yard. Now they could see better, and Harry flung himself at the bolts of the gate. There were outbuildings, the lawn beyond, and a hundred yards further on, the Deer-cote.

The Bristol's engine, at the other end of the house, roared into life. Brent was on her way. And they had not even reached the Fee yet.

“Go on!” shouted Aunt Deb. She had the Yorkshireman's shotgun in her hands. No, Frazer's shotgun - he recognised the silver chasing on the stock. But there was no time to do more than notice that. Harry and Richthofen raced across the lawn, leapt across the ha-ha, and hurled themselves onwards, in showers of snow, to the Deer-cote. It loomed closer and closer ahead. There was the door in the cote itself. Harry, reaching it first, tugged at it. If they had to climb the wall -

But it scraped back over the snow. They were through. There was the Fee waiting for them. He tossed his knapsack up, and scanned the Deer-cote.

Empty. Behind them, noises from the house indicated that people were waking up. And the Bristol was in the air, banking low, turning above the house to face the avenue from the lodge.

“Quickly.” Harry flung the rug from the engine, climbed into the pilot's cockpit and switched on. Where was Richthofen? Ah. Behind, swinging the propeller. The engine caught, and he was back and scrambling into the front cockpit. Harry assessed their run. No deer in sight. He tossed one of the pistols at Richthofen, who caught it left-handed, and opened the throttle. The Beardmore engine roared. Harry's eyes were fixed on the place where the opposite wall formed a final end to their run.

Out of the cote and across its enclosure with increasing speed. His heart lifted. The Fee had a light load, and she raced across the cote, as eager for flight as Harry himself. She leapt into the air yards away from the wall, and instantly he was pulling the stick back and nudging the rudder-bar to follow Brent.

And his heart fell again. Her aircraft, following the line of the avenue, was losing height. Engine trouble? Was she running out of benzene already? As the Bristol dropped, the avenue rose beneath it, so her course converged with the ground much faster than would normally happen. He stared past Richthofen, aghast. Brent was just feet above the ground now.

The lead car slewed in panic, and was off the road. Figures dashed from it: apart from one which stood its ground, arms raised in an attitude which Harry knew well. Aiming a rifle. He could see the greenish flashes as it fired.

The Bristol dropped lower. The figure turned to run – too late. The big machine swept on; then a wing-tip dragged on the ground, it slewed, and crashed between two of the trees of the avenue. And then the Fee was beyond the ensuing ant's-nest and Harry could see no more.

He threw them into a tight turn, to circle a couple of hundred feet above. Richthofen was leaning out of his cockpit, pistol gripped in his left hand, looking for a target. There was none. The three cars were off the road, men were running to avoid them – and the Bristol was in flames.

Harry stared at the scene in horror. But the Baron looked back at him suddenly, and made a savage gesture to the east.

“Trick flyer, remember?” he shouted. “This was her plan. We have to do our part now.”

Don't stop until you get to Germany, she had said.

Harry shut his mouth tight. Then he banked the Fee towards the newly-risen moon, and climbed for height.


All through that couple of hours' flight across the sea, he fretted. Was she all right? Had she engineered the whole catastrophe which had wrecked Frazer's plans? Had she escaped the fire that engulfed the Bristol? Had she set fire to the machine herself? Was she armed? Was she all right?

And then he'd shake himself, and look round. The night was all clear, bright stars with a moon-path along the tops of the clouds over which they flew, until the moon climbed too high to cast it. In front of him, Richthofen kept watch. Occasionally, in gaps between the clouds, they could see a trawler, looking like a child's toy on the sea far below; once they passed over a cruiser, steaming to an unknown destination in the dark. Doubtless there were submarines in the cold depths too. But the night sky seemed empty.

Harry's face grew stiff with the cold; he was beyond glad that he'd picked up his flying-gear in the mad dash to escape. He could not have piloted the machine otherwise. He at least had the engine right behind him, throwing out some heat for all its thunder. Richthofen, in the front cockpit, had none of that to warm him. He was hunkered right down now, keeping up that ceaseless watch and getting up occasionally to crane his neck where Harry could not see.

They flew on. Harry had half an eye on the fuel-gauge, but they were making good progress, and after another hour, Richthofen suddenly stood and peered forward. He glanced back, and pointed. “Friesian Islands!” he shouted.

“Where the cows come from,” muttered Harry to himself. “Do we land?” he shouted.

“Not yet! They are Dutch! Fly along, then turn inland. I will tell you.”

Harry nodded, and banked the Fee to alter course; then began to climb for what little height they could still add. Island after island passed under them, elongated, edged with foam, and with a wide strait between them and the mainland. He checked the chronometer on the instrument board. Two hours ago they had watched Daisy's machine go up in flames, and had turned away rather than go to help. Half an hour before that he had been sleeping beside the Red Baron. It seemed like years ago, another reality. He began to check the sky; the moon had set, but dawn was only an hour away. The first patrols might be airborne soon, although the Germans were not as assiduous about dawn patrols as the R.F.C. The country was being starved of other things than food.

“Alter course here!” Richthofen's arm went out again. Harry pulled a face behind his goggles; Richthofen was reverting to type, once again a German observer, in command, giving orders to his chauffeur-pilot. Harry gave the machine slightly more stick than was strictly necessary, and the resulting jolt made Richthofen stagger just a little bit. An annoyed look was met with a bland stare; they settled on their new course.

“We may land here.” Another shout; Harry nodded, and cut the engine. Now all he could hear was the song of the wind passing over the planes and through the wires. It was something he loved, and it comforted him as he glided in over the hostile shoreline – desolate except for gun-emplacements here and there, he could recognise the signs – and descended towards the soil of Germany.

They were both searching for a field or pasture where they could land. “There!” and Richthofen's arm was out again; Harry nodded and began the approach to the field he had indicated. A couple of miles from the sea, pine trees on either side of it, a village close but not too close. It would do. He'd only be on the ground five minutes.

The Fee's undercarriage was famous for its soft landings. Its telescoping legs settled them as gently and softly as a mother setting down her child. They ran for a hundred yards, slowed, and stopped.

Four days, five hundred miles round-trip, and Harry flying all the way.

He was tired. He wanted to sleep forever.

No, not forever.

He was a Camel pilot. Being tired was something he was used to. “Brace up, man!” he admonished himself, and heaved himself out of the cockpit and joined Richthofen on the ground; who was listening carefully, helmet and goggles off and head up.

Harry did the same; for a full minute they stood thus.

“Safe,” said Richthofen. “We're home. I'm home. Harry, thank-you.”

“That's all right.” Manfred stuck in his throat, for some reason. “You'll be all right from now on, I take it.”

A pause. Richthofen turned his head and looked at him. “We will be all right.”

Harry sighed. “We go our separate ways. For now, at least. I have to go back to the squadron.”

Silence. They were both scanning the pine-woods in case a sentry had noticed their arrival.

“You can stay here. As a prisoner of war, like you were before. You will get the best treatment - ”

“The squadron. I can't leave them to it. The war might drag on for months. You must understand.”

Richthofen sighed. “Of course I understand. I had hoped, that is all.”

Harry had been ready to fight, but his stance lost its coiled rigidity. “Idiot.” It was said with an affection which astonished even himself. They both stepped forward simultaneously, and embraced. Their flying jackets were so thick that no warmth got through at all.

There was very little time left, now. “Harry. Be careful, on the way back. Without guns – If you can let me know, do so. If not - after the war.”


“What else did you expect?”

“I don't honestly know. Here.” There was one kiss, almost as awkward as the others, and they drew apart. He had been wrong about the lack of warmth, because now he felt cold, and alone. “You can get back all right?”

“Yes, I'll go along to the nearest farmhouse.”

“They won't mind you just – dropping in?”

Richthofen just looked at him. “No. They will recognise me.”

Postcards, portraits, the book, pictures in the newspapers. He could not escape the attention, and wanted none of it.

“It'll come in useful for once.”

“This time, yes.”

There was another short silence, then both said together, “Be careful.”

Harry turned away, scrambled up the fuselage side, and slid into the cockpit. Helmet on.

“Swing her, then.”

Richthofen, invisible behind him, swung the propeller, and reappeared; picked up his valise, and walked a dozen yards to one side. Then he stood and watched Harry, who gazed back for perhaps five seconds; then he pulled his goggles down.

“Harry Hawkes!”

He glanced back again. Richthofen was grinning.

“See, I remember your name!”

“Red Baron!” His shout was joyous. He saluted, and opened the throttle.


The uproar when he landed the Fee at his squadron was immense; he climbed down from the cockpit and reeled under the barrage of back-slappings and questions. He did his best to formulate responses to those questions with an increasing sense of unreality. Less than twelve hours ago he had kissed an enemy of his nation; slept in the same bed; watched a friend fly into terrible danger for them. A front-line scout squadron seemed almost mundane by comparison.

He extracted himself from the scrum of well-wishers with a plea of writing his report, and almost dragged Entwhistle into the office. Then he stuck his head back outside, and requested tea. Then he glanced at the chair behind the desk, with an odd feeling that it wasn't his any more.

“How did you manage while I was gone?”

“Oh... “ Entwhistle waved a hand. “The paperwork! I thought I'd drown in a sea of it for the first few days, but after that I got used to it. It's very different from the flying, though. Sending people off, not knowing if they'll come back. But it's been quieter since Richthofen was downed. The Huns have been almost subdued. Can't say I blame them.”

The tea arrived, and Harry took a long swig.

“I'm glad it hasn't been too bad for you.” Richthofen. Had he really embraced him, just a couple of hours ago? Yes. The impress of his body against Harry's was almost tangible. He dragged his mind back to the present, to the morning sun slanting in through the dusty windows of the office, and Entwhistle's familiar face watching him with concern.

A flight of Camels took off with a roar. “Who are they?”

“They're “B” flight. Yours, then mine – and now they're Pootle's! He said he'd take this patrol for me, as a favour – I'm wondering what he'll ask in return. He's only lost one since you were here. Carver.” A name Harry barely knew; he'd been a recent addition.



There was short silence.

“It can't go on much longer.”

“I sincerely hope not. Look, here are the daily reports. Patrols, materiel, the lot.”

Harry leafed through them; Entwhistle's style was concise but missed nothing out. “You've done a good job, old thing.”

“Well, I just followed what you did...”

They began to relax back into each others' company; but Harry still hadn't taken the chair behind the C.O.'s desk. They were both on the visitor's side of it, passing the sheets of paper back and forth between them.

How were they all doing? When would he hear – about the Baron, about Brent, about the war? Trying to lose himself in the minutiae of the squadron was doing no good at all.

He took another sip of tea, which was stone cold.

“You need a rest, old chap.”

He looked up. Entwhistle was regarding him with some concern.

Harry laughed. “Yes. Yes, I do. I'll get my head down while Wing is getting used to the idea that I'm back. Gosh, I need to get used to the idea that I'm back!”

“When you've had a rest – tell me what happened. It was something big, I can see that.”

“Oh... you have no idea how big. Keep it under your hat. But it was important.”

Entwhistle looked at him again, then nodded once. “Off you go. Get some sleep. You look all in. I'll keep things under control here.”

“I knew you'd make a good job of it!” Harry regarded him affectionately, then took himself off to his quarters.


Dear Hawkes,

Lady Jermyn tells me you've been asking about me – thanks for that! I'm fine, though the broken leg is giving me some trouble. Broken in the exact same places as Dick's, too. Nobody is at all surprised about that.

The Chief Constable was absolutely charming about the crash, and says that with several bullets in the engine it's no wonder I was flying out of control and so low. He says it was just unfortunate that Mr. Frazer was struck by a wing-tip while I was trying to regain control. Mr. Frazer's body was released for burial almost immediately.

Dick and I have been talking over our plans for after the war. Have you got anything in mind? We think there will be an opening for civilian aircraft, and Dick says that the estate can support a small factory for a year or so to start with. There's plenty of skilled labour in the area and the old tithe-barn can be converted quite easily.

If we can get it to work, we'll need pilots. Do think about it! And if another of those pilots should happen to be a very famous ace, well, that wouldn't hurt, either.

Make sure you keep safe until it's all over, Hawkes!

With best regards

Daisy Brent


Two days after receiving this, he was more or less back in the swim of things, sitting in his old chair again, and the events of the last few weeks had begun to seem almost dream-like. And then, without warning, he was summoned to Wing Headquarters. He handed the squadron back to Entwhistle, shook hands with him, and got into the car that had been sent with a sense that the wheels were turning at last. He was not left guessing for long.


Captain H. Hawkes, from Wing H.Q. to 324 Squadron. Effective immediately.

“I don't know this squadron, sir,” he said to the Colonel at Wing H.Q. “Is it new? Coming out from England?”

“No, it's being formed from experienced pilots like yourself. Some high-up decided we needed a special escort squadron, apparently. For top brass, I don't doubt.”

Harry didn't doubt it either. He nodded, folded the paper up and tucked it into his breast pocket, and went on his way.


Another week, and he was once again in the air, in broad daylight, at ceiling height over East Anglia, and leading a mixed formation: single-seaters, two-seaters, British – and German. His skin prickled slightly as a series of triple-winged shadows fell on a brilliantly-lit cloud beneath; he glanced up involuntarily, and then smiled at his reaction. Some instincts were hard to let go.

The Wash was a gleam on the north-west horizon, the wooded Sandringham estate stretching out before it. It had been hidden by darkness on their two previous flights, but now Harry cast a thoughtful eye over it as they angled down towards Slade Hall. Maybe Richthofen would get in some shooting there, who could tell?

But that was in the future; for now, he needed to concentrate on his landing; which would be a good deal easier, now the snow was long gone, than last time he had landed at Slade Hall.


He and Richthofen were chivvied into Lady Jermyn's lair by the housekeeper, and brought tea by a harried housemaid, and waited out the half-hour until the commotion of the arrivals had ceased. And then she swept in and sat down with a thump.

“Yes, yes, it's lovely to see you, dear.” She returned the kiss, and disengaged herself. “Baron!” She held up her hand to be shaken, but it was taken and kissed instead. “Well, that's very gentlemanly of you. It's good to see both of you again. Now, there's no time to spare. We've got a full house and the King is coming over from Sandringham tonight. So, once the accord is signed, there will be no time for chit-chat.”

“A cease-fire,” said Harry wonderingly. “I can still hardly believe it.”

“Believe it. There are men in the park setting up a wireless mast next to the Obelisk. You'll have checked over the tents for the aircraft and your men; the local training camp obliged. Your parents are at the Lord Nelson in the village, Harry. There are people in every corner of the house and even the stables will be full, two to each stall.”

Richthofen seemed to withdraw into himself.

“Yes, you've lost the Tudor suite, I'm afraid: the Crown Prince is going to sleep there! So I've put you two in the Temple of Aeolus. You're important guests, after all, and it seemed the right place for you. It's a little Spartan, but there's a wash-room at the end of the stable-block. It's not too far to walk. Are you agreeable?”

The Temple of Aeolus. Even in the snow it had been charming; now, in the May sunshine -

“I certainly am! We can make ourselves comfortable there easily enough – can't we, Baron?”

“I will be happy to sleep there.”

“Thought so. Well, you know the way. I'll leave you to it. Dinner-gong is at seven-thirty.” She left them, in a renewed flurry of business; the two pilots looked at each other and shouldered their bags.

The Temple, when reached, proved to be a good deal cleaner than when they had last visited it. Someone had been sent to sweep it out, and boards had been removed to reveal a small fireplace, set ready with kindling and the broken-up planks. The windows and, yes, the murals had been cleaned, carefully enough to bring up the colours without doing damage. There were a couple of camp-chairs, and a small table with a lamp on it.

Harry, investigating the upstairs room, found a painted cloud-scape and a circular skylight, which he suspected would leak in wet weather; but he was more interested in the beds set against the walls. Not even Aunt Deb had the sheer nerve to give them a bed to share, but these were sturdy enough to take two at need.

Richthofen followed Harry up the stairs. “This will do, I think,” he said, looking at the surrounding clouds with a slight smile.

Harry dropped his bag at the foot of one of the beds. “Yes,” he said. “This will do.” He turned and crossed the room in a few strides, straight into the Red Baron's embrace.