High King Of Brightland
King Anthony plowed knee deep through the new fallen snow. The darkness of the snowstorm had caught them all unawares. Both he and his Royal Companion had dismounted to break trail for their mounts through the building snowdrifts.
The sky was growing darker by the minute, though it wasn’t anywhere near nightfall. He pulled his woolen scarf more tightly about his head, hunkering deeper into his bearskin mantle, and struggled against the rising wind that buffeted and shrieked about them.
The horse behind him fought to follow him through the swirling blanket of icy snow. Anthony clenched the reins more tightly in his freezing grip, determined to lead his mount to safety.
Flurries of snow pelted men and beasts alike as they fought the building depth of the soft slush. Anthony blinked ice crystals from his lashes, squinting ahead to keep the trail they followed in sight. Somehow, in the raging of the sudden storm, he and Gallagher had gotten separated from their escort of huntsmen, squires, royal guardsmen and warriors. The two of them were alone. In the savage snow flurries, they were on their own.
The air had taken a definite colder chill. There was no question about that. They had to find shelter, and soon…not just for their own sakes, but for the horses as well.
When he turned to be sure Gallagher was still with him, he could just barely make him out in the blinding wind-driven snow that stung his eyes. Gallagher shouted, and pointed. Although Anthony couldn’t actually hear what Gallagher had called out to him, he nonetheless followed him in that direction. He supposed that Gallagher had sensed something that he had missed. Hopefully, some sort of temporary shelter.
The horse skidded and faltered, sinking up to its belly in the fresh powder. He and his steed floundered as he fought to break the animal free. Finally, they entered a stand of pines that appeared to baffle the shrieking wind. He spotted Gallagher breaking trail ahead of them, making the passage easier. Soon they came up against the base of a massive granite ledge, its overhanging formation creating a cave. Pulling their reluctant mounts into the curve of the overhang, both men struggled to ease their steeds into the protection from the storm’s wrath.
Edge Of Reason
Twenty minutes later, when the image of the front page of the third paper appeared, the breath was taken from Mohamed Rahman’s body. He sat frozen, his fingers clenched around the computer’s mouse, his mouth hanging loosely, a dribble of unnoticed saliva slithering from its corner. A bombshell had exploded in Mo’s head destroying all logical thought, the words in front of him engulfing the whole of his consciousness.
IDENTITY OF MAN FOUND IN DITCH REVEALED.
The identity of the man found in a water-filled ditch in a remote Norfolk lane on the outskirts of Reepham on Wednesday last was revealed by the police today. The dead man is believed to be Atif Dasti. At the moment the police are unable to reveal further details other than that Dasti is a British citizen of Pakistani descent. The police are treating his death as suspicious.
Mo stared at the report, his eyes drifting from the familiar name to the last sentence: the police are treating his death as suspicious. Finally, tearing his eyes away from the screen, he looked again at the note lying alongside the laptop, knowing now what it really meant.
Number 2 soon.
Guess who’s Number 3?
“If worse comes to worse, we can reach Belgrade with a few minutes of fuel left,” Max said. “Nevertheless, we’ll head for KEC.”
Max changed course while Fred set the gyro. For a few minutes, peace and tranquility ruled on the flight deck.
“I’ve bad news,” Aaron said.
“I’m sure I know,” Max said. “KEC is closed.”
“It is, Captain.”
“All right, we are heading for Szeged, and keeping our fingers crossed.”
He leaned the mixture to stretch their fuel and noticed the cylinder head temperatures rising a little, but they were still in the green. For a while tranquility ruled in the cockpit as Aaron did not come forward.
“We might be lucky,” Fred said. “If we land in Szeged, I will treat you to the best fish chowder you ever tasted. I know the place well, I was born there.”
Max was banking the plane to line up the runway, even though he did not see it when Aaron appeared.
“Don’t tell me that you’ve bad news again,” Max said.
“Yes. Ground fog rolled in at Szeged, visibility is zero.”
“Not really,” Max said. He pointed downward. “Look, the end of the runway is there.”
“You’re right,” Fred said.
“It is not the best, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Max said. He forced the Caproni into a tight spiral. “This is strictly for suckers. If this hole closed, we’d be screwed.”
“It could happen,” Fred mused.
Max kept the protesting plane in a tight spiral as if it were a small aerobatic aircraft. Although inside the cockpit, the thermostat maintained twenty-two degrees centigrade, he began sweating, but kept the plane in the spiral.
I feel as I am hurting her, Max thought. He apologized to the protesting plane thinking, I don’t like it any better than you do, darling, but if we want to live, it must be done.
The engine temperature kept dropping and the left engine backfired, stopped, caught again, but Max kept the plane going down.
“Don’t quit on me, darling,” he said to the plane.
Lining up the little tip of the runway, Max side-slipped the huge plane to lose altitude, and dropped the Caproni onto the runway of Szeged military airport.
They rolled to the makeshift terminal in the pea-soup fog. An official emerged from the impenetrable mist, stepped to the plane, looked up and shouted, “Where did you come from?”
“From up there,” Max replied. He pointed at the fog above.
They spent the night in Szeged and in the morning, Max flew the mail to Budapest. His report to Mr. Grossman was brief: We had weather problems.
The Purgatory Inn
Approximately thirty-one hours later saw LeAnn’s arrival. The weather conditions…clear, sunny and practically breezeless, were in stark contrast to the previous day, as was the level of difficulty involved in transporting her limp frame from the chopper’s cramped cab to the lobby. Wherein a two-man transport team had barely strained in hauling Jorgensen’s slim, muscular frame, this despite sloppy terrain and gusty winds, it had taken a herculean effort to relocate visitor two. The forty-to-fifty yard distance from landing pad to lobby had included numerous pauses to readjust their grips on the fold-out gurney. Once inside, they’d been forced to practically roll her atop the larger of two couches, their necks, arms and foreheads littered with pulsating veins from the effort.
Much like Jorgenson, the initial symptoms of her reawakening were a spastic flutter of the eyes and equally jerky movements of the limbs. Unlike Jorgensen, she didn’t as much rise to a sitting position as collapse into one, as in onto the tiled floor with a pained grunt, nearly flipping the massive couch end-over-end in the process.
Shaking her head vigorously from side to side, she ran splayed fingers through a comically puffy doo before depositing a wet cough into a curled palm.
Coming Next Month
Dreams and Bones by Dorothy Bodoin
My Name is Aphrodite by Vera Berry Burrows
The Diary of the Tenth Man by DB Dakota