loading
loading
The Rosario
Peter Sissons

The Rosario

Fiction

Voters Rating 12 / 1000

12

Synopsis

Imagine being flown to an isolated luxury estate belonging to a fabulously rich but obnoxious Englishman, high in the Catalonian mountains, for an extremely well-paid job. This man’s obsessions, his mania and his total domination of his estate are hard to handle, but he is paying you handsomely for your services, and you tolerate his rudeness and demands.

Then you discover that he is downright dangerous… and he knows… you know… and now you are trapped.

What would you do next?

This is the crisis facing Max, an architect, and Katie, an expert on 16th-century history. Packed with murder, robbery, romance, hidden documents and life-changing discoveries, Max and Katie are plunged into a race against time across Europe as a long-held secret that spans centuries is revealed.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing, but when wealth and power – and the ability to rewrite history – fall into the wrong hands, the total domination of a criminal mastermind becomes an ever-more frightening reality.

View a longer excerpt
Vote
12

This book will be published once it has 1000 VOTES

Extract

Late March, 1943


 


 


In the relentless freezing darkness of my bare small timber-boarded room, my frugal possessions career off my bare wooden cupboard. They scatter in different directions across the threadbare rug – their unscheduled flight caused by my shivering fully-uniformed body launching itself in the general direction of a near-invisible small tin bucket, close to my bed. I hope my aim is good. 


       I am so sick. I foresaw this was going to happen as soon as my head hit the pillow. I am sick so many times, my brutal vomiting effectively ridding my body of the rushed late evening's meal. 


       Sitting on the NAFFI's1 hard-wooden bench, I knew from the first bite into my greasy pork sausages and extremely lumpy and very chewy onion gravy I was pushing my wellbeing's luck – but I was absolutely starving. I needed a square meal after a long and stressful day ferrying three Supermarine Spitfires, two Hawker Hurricanes and an Avro Anson to four different and challenging frontline RAF airfields – one of which had just filled in crater holes from a Luftwaffe2 bombing raid. I'm glad I   hadn't appeared in amongst that mayhem!


       To date as an ATA3 girl, I've delivered 437 newly manufactured aircraft of various types, to active and frontline RAF airfields and repair bases.


       The thought of my next ferrying flight at 7.35 a.m. makes me retch even more, even though my stomach – surely – must be empty by now! My knees ache and my body broadcasts it's had enough. This stomach torture has to stop! I fly again in just over one hour.


       For some unfathomable reason, my aching brain is dreading this urgent delivery. Why? The process is always the same with any new type to fly: there’s a discipline sermon from the CO4, then you discover the aircraft to ferry that day. Next, we pick up a spirally-bound flip pad entitled Ferry Pilots Notes, listing the flying characteristics of all the aircraft needing to be flown – such as take-off, landing and never exceed speeds. If you disregard the facts in your little bible by thinking you're clever (stupid) enough to know what makes an unknown type tick and stay in the air, a swift introduction to the many ways of dying on the ground will be waiting for you – ignore them at your peril! 


       Penultimately, the CO tells you your take off base and your final destination, and then finally, with a cheery farewell, he, in no uncertain terms, kicks you out of the room to get on with it! No dual instruction, no help, no nothing.


       My mind reels in different directions – am I delirious? – am I fit to fly? I feel strangely detached from my surroundings. Is my retching caused by proper food poisoning? Have my body and mind reached their limit? I panic! I really panic! Is it my nerve evaporating before my eyes?


       I think of poor Georgy. She fell apart within a few minutes – right in front of us! We were all assing about in the briefing room, waiting for our CO to join us, when, in an instant, she turned into this shaking, babbling mess. Georgy was scheduled to deliver three Hurricanes that day. It just hit her – her brain couldn't take the stress anymore. It was awful to see a friend's mind implode and instantly because a wreck. We comforted her, but she was gone. Oh, it was so unsettling. My fellow pilots hadn't seen this happen to anyone before. We thought Georgy was stable and robust as a rock. To see her like that was shocking, and since then, we knew that our minds could suddenly burst, overwhelmed by the stress and responsibility of our fantastic job. Fantastic? Well, how else could a nearly-twenty-one-year-old petite girl fly new elegant-and-beautiful Spitfire fighters nearly every day? 


       For our wellbeing and sanity, we had to put Georgy's breakdown into one of those deep recesses of our minds. 


       I vigorously shake my head. No! It can't be! I know I am not doing a Georgy. It's firm in my mind – I know I won't let the RAF down – they need their new aircraft. The rubbish sausages are to blame!


       I pray they are. 


       I close my eyes and breath in deeply to stand up. I must see what I am doing. I feel the discomfort in my stomach as I move to the black curtains and pull them apart, hoping the window catch works – I need fresh air! My cold fingers drag the handle down. My hand pushes the window open – the hinges grate and squeal noticeably. My face floods with freezing fresh morning air – oh, God, that feels good! 


       I stare across the darkness of the base.


       My mind begins to wander to past assignments. I begin to laugh, thinking of one aircraft delivery to an American base. The weather was awful – it was truly atrocious – on the absolute boundary of safety. However, I was told (or should I say 'ordered') before crashing out on my make-shift bed, to accompany another ATA girl delivering two repaired fighter planes to a Norfolk US base. As usual, just to make life interesting for us, we flew with no navigation aids – just a map, compass and stopwatch to find our way across the unfamiliar countryside.


       We took off alongside each other and battled through the low-lying killer cloud and astonishingly, we both arrived together at the American base. Two jeep loads of American techs came out to greet us. Their reactions at seeing my golden red hair and Jilly’s blond curls appear from underneath our leather headgear, were priceless. I think we became their new pin-ups, especially when they told us their American pilots had been banned from flying that day – the weather conditions had been assessed as being too dangerous for combat.


 


       I suck in more cool air. I rejoice when the peculiar feelings whirling   around my body begin to ebb away – I feel relief – I begin to feel normal.


       Time for light! I need to know the time and if my aim was spot-on and my – ugh! – rejected meal isn't decorating the painted wall.


       My finger fumbles in the dark for the light switch; a loud 'click' heralds a harsh, but weak light from the naked bulb in the middle of the peeling-varnished boarded ceiling. My eyes object and shut tight. 


       Immediately outside my open window, I'm bawled at by a patrolling MP5, 'Shut those bloody curtains, d'ya want t'get a bomb through that winda?'


       Oh bugger, you twat, Silvia! I tell myself as I rush to close the black-out curtains. Damn! Get a hold of yourself, girl, there's thirty minutes to the briefing.


 


The duty roster has me flying something different today. I look at my watch and sigh heavily as the CO marches in. I fidget my aching body on the khaki coloured canvas seat, and I wait with a mixture of intrigue and trepidation for my new type to be announced.


        'Flying Officer Sheldon, today you have the privilege of flying to the Broughton factory in North Wales to pick up a new Wellington bomber6 and take it to north Devon’s RAF Chivenor. This will be an overnighter, because the next morning, you will bring back a hush-hush Mossi7 to RAE8 at Farnborough.'


       I don't hear the next words.


       'It seems the Mossie is urgently needed for some boffin upgrade.'


I only hear my words thumping astonishment in my brain: Two new types? A bloody great Wimpy9 bomber and a Mossie? Surely not? Two engines on both. The possibility of an engine failure on take-off. An asymmetric power and trimmingnightmare!


       'Flying Officer Sheldon! Flying Officer Sheldon! Are you still with us?' My CO directs at me. 'Wakey, wakey lass, you've got to be on your toes with these new birds – 110% – for your own safety. Are you fit to fly?'


       Oh, God, I hear those words 'fit to fly'! I must look awful after my battle with the sausages. You don't want to be asked that question! 


       'Absolutely, Sir, no problems at all. I'm raring to go, Sir!' I lie through my dirty teeth – I had no time to brush them. 


       'Excellent, Flying Office Sheldon – that's the spirit! Right! Collect your appropriate kite10 specs.' He looks down at his notes. 'I believe you are all flying new types today, so have your wits about you! I don't want to scrape anyone off the tarmac.' He half-heartedly laughs. No one else does. We lost Hatti and Barbara last week to bad weather, getting way off their course and running out of juice11. Crash-landing in driving rain and low visibility is not recommended. 


       The CO finishes off in his inimitable way. 'And you have the luxury of twenty minutes to soak up the info. Take off at O7.35 hours. Good luck, God speed and as always, look out for jolly-old Jerry12.'


       Bastard! He's a great CO, but does he always have to end his briefing with 'as always, look out for jolly-old Jerry'? The planes are brand new – straight from the factory. They bristle with guns, and now thankfully, after several of our pilots were shot at, we have ammofor them! And yet, they still won't let us be fighter pilots! Idiots!


 


I pick up the blue-covered Ferry Pilots Notes, for the Wimpy and Mossie and I head for the dispersal room. 


       Like a forced march of prisoners along the rough concrete path, we Attagirls, as we have become known, exchange no words, with each of our minds trying to ensure we don't screw-up on take-off and more importantly, on landing our expensive and badly needed steeds. 


       I look up. I smile at a pretty red glow peeping through the low-lying clouds – I decide this March day is going to have some sun. It's going to be a fine day! 


       Boy! What a mistake to say that!


       By the end of the first flight, I will regret every word.


 


I push the wool cuff of my sheepskin leather jacket up my wrist to check the time – it's 7.38 a.m. I'm by no means religious, but today, being by myself in a vast and bloody freezing-cold Wellington bomber, I wonder if I should be. I take in a breath of courage, but breathe in too deeply and cough several times, waking up my stomach's still aching muscles from my early morning dodgy-sausage encounter. 


       I have to get on. 


       I get clearance to take off and begin my familiarisation with my Wimpy bomber.


       I chant my kite's bible of take-off data seared into my brain from my flip pad, as I push the plane's twin throttles to their maximum setting. My little feet push hard on the rudder pedals to counteract my back end from swinging around. My eyes flit rapidly from one instrument to another, checking temperatures and pressures – all AOK. I keep scanning the twin sets of dials for each engine, my stomach aches and churns in a body readying itself for engine failure and all the fun stuff associated with that possible fatal situation.


 


I reach the sunny blue sky above the low-lying clouds at three thousand feet, pointing towards Honington. Suddenly, my ears react to the unexpected and frightening staccato sound of bullets tearing through and out of the Wimpy's frail aluminium skin and structure.


       Before my brain can react, a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter shoots diagonally in front of me from below, its pilot instantly rolling and looping over to line up for a full-frontal shot at my plane. 


       Christ! I've had it! I'm a sitting duck! 


       I try not to panic. I do!


       For some unfathomable reason I visualize the third page of my delivery papers, stating that there are no operational armaments on board today. Thank you! But you idiot, Silvia, you can't fire them anyway – you're by yourself!


       I slam the control column fully forward, my simple delivery flight turning into a survive or die situation.


       Oh, why won't this plane move? I'm so used to having instant responses from a Spitfire or Hurricane – this Wimpy is deciding itself whether to go into a dive! Come on – move!


       I watch in horror as I follow the 109 completing its manoeuvres as I dive for the safety of the clouds beneath me. I have only seconds to make it. 


       My heart is racing. 


       Without knowing it, since it's a long way back to the tail, the 109 comes within firing range of me and sprays his bullets though my tail-end and rear gunner's turret.


       I can't see him. 


       I'm 15 seconds from the safety of the clouds.


       I'm 10 seconds from the clouds. And then I see him to my right, closing fast, lined up with my cockpit and my head


       I'm dead! I close my eyes. 


       I don't hear the swear words or see the utter frustration on the German pilot's face as he screams past me fifty feet above the Wimpy's cockpit glazing, his plane's guns silent – empty of ammunition. 


       I open my eyes and see white. Am I dead? Am I in heaven? What happened? I'm still alive?


       I fight the controls. I pull back hard on the control column and – thankfully – manage to stabilize my flight without tearing my wings off! 


I reluctantly emerge from the safety of the cloud, thoroughly scanning the sky for my killer – I see no fighter. My head slumps forward, my eyes close, I breathe in deeply.


       I thank someone for saving me.


 


I take another deep breath as I line up my Wimpy for its first landing – those Ferry Pilots Notes scrolling through my mind once more, with rudder and aileron for the slight cross-wind, and here we go. 


       The runway boundary marker passes beneath me, then I hear the squeal of the tyres. Reduce power, tell my trembling feet to push hard on the brakes. 


       I'm down!


 


I see three blue RAF vehicles race over in my direction as I climb down the spindly aluminium ladder to the moist and beautiful green grass. It's funny how I yearn to kiss the ground after every landing – especially this one!


      I duck under the fuselage and look back at my cockpit, walking backwards in disbelief. I feel my weak stomach welling up with nausea once more, as my eyes stare at a diagonal line of nine neat bullet holes climbing the aluminium skin from just below where I was sitting, and snaking up the fuselage a few inches from the back of my seat.


      I can't help it – my body feels weak. My knees give way, and I crumple on to the wet grass. I’m kneeling. My head shakes with disbelief. I manage a weak smile.


      I think, It was not the day to meet my maker!


      I kiss the wet grass.


 


NAFFI1 - the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. The British government formed the NAFFI company in 1920 to manage the provision of meals, recreation buildings and sale of everyday items in shops required by the British Armed Forces and their families anywhere in the world.


Luftwaffe2 was the name of the German air force – part of the Wehrmacht from 1933 to its disbanding in 1946.


ATA3 – the Air Transport Auxiliary. Founded in 1938 by British Airways Limited – a civilian organisation of men and women, including pilots that ferried more than 309,000 RAF and RN fighters and transport planes from their factories and maintenance units to frontline squadrons. Before the organisation was disbanded in September 1945, it had over 650 pilots. These brave men and women, chosen from over 22 nationalities, ferried back and forth new and damaged aircraft of 147 different types, with little training on each, in the foulest of weathers and from ‘anywhere to anywhere’.


CO4 – Commanding Officer.


MP5 – Military Police.


Wellington bomber6 – a twin-engine heavy RAF bomber designed by Barnes Wallis, featuring a unique geodetic structure which was hard to manufacture, but absorbed a huge amount of damage.


Mossi7 – a pilot's nickname for the de Havilland Mosquito.


RAE8 – Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.


'Wimpy'9 – a pilot's nickname for the Wellington Bomber, after the 1940's cartoon character Wellington Wimpy.


Kite10 – a pilot's nickname for any type of aircraft.


Juice11 – a pilot's nickname for aviation fuel.


Jerry12 – the British nickname for any German military personnel.

Other books by this author