The Fall of the Phoenix

Chapter Three

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)

Holmes heard the scream over the intercom seconds before the screen switched to show the two riders and their boards tumbling towards the sea. The crowd fell silent as the green figure of the Mosquito grabbed onto the black and orange rider just before they hit the surface of the water.

Deidre put a hand to her mouth. 'Oh, my God.'

In his chair Tennyson was rigid; he leaned as far forward as he could get, both bright, frightened blue eyes fixed on the large screen.

Deidre wrapped her arms around him. 'She’ll be all right, Tennyson. Look, the lifeguards are out there already.'

A sky car appeared on the screen, divers began jumping into the waters of the lake and disappeared under the surface. Wiggins laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder. 'Yeah, Tennyson, it’s no more than a quick dip in the Lake for them.'

Holmes got up and disappeared over to where the team coach was frantically stabbing at the buttons. 'Phoenix, Tessa, can you hear me?'

Holmes looked at the communicator board. 'You appear to have no signal, Mr Keynes.'

The man snarled, 'Of course we’ve got no poxy signal; the radio isn’t meant to be waterproof. The riders are meant to be able to stay above the water...Who the hell are you anyway?'

Holmes straightened. 'A friend of Miss Moriarty.'

Keynes glared at him. 'Then you’ll know she’s a certified hydrophobic; they couldn’t even brainwash the damn thing out of her.' He stared up at the screen. 'God knows what she’s going through under there.'

'Is there any reason that should have happened?'

'Not unless that damnable Mosquito crashed into her to take her out. Everybody knows she’s the best hope we’ve got of the cup. We’ll see, though, as soon as we get the tapes.'

'Ladies and gentlemen, a spectacular crash over the water track. Let’s just hope both the riders are OK. The yellow flag is flying and the safety board is leading the pack.'

The picture flipped and showed a yellow and black sky board and rider slowing the race down, before flipping back to the lake. Lestrade came over to join Holmes.

'Any news? Tennyson’s going out of his head over this.'

Holmes shook his head. 'We’ll just have to wait for the divers.'

Keynes growled, 'At least she’s got ten minutes worth of air in her helmet. Yhey’re taking their sweet time.'

It was another five minutes before a diver surfaced; a figure was being dragged behind him.

'Well, they got one of them,' said Keynes, jabbing at his control board 'Let’s just hope it’s the right one.'

As the camera closed in the group held their breath, and then caught a glimpse of the green suit, darkened by the water. Tennyson slumped back in his chair, oblivious to Deidre and Wiggins who were trying to comfort him. Over at the control board Keynes was hammering the wall. 'Those idiots better hurry up. She’s only got a minute of air left.'

It was ten minutes before the last diver surfaced and shook his head; no trace of the missing rider could be found anywhere. It was now the job of the trawler and its droids to search the lakebed for the body.

'Ladies and gentlemen, the red flag is up and the race is cancelled due to a fatality over the Lake. Tessa Moriarty has not resurfaced.'

Tennyson’s bandanna began to stain dark red as the tears fell from his eyes; she’d always hated water. Deidre wrapped her arms around him again and he sobbed into her shoulder until the tears wouldn’t come anymore.

Keynes, Holmes and Lestrade walked out onto the track to meet the lifeguards' sky car making its way back to the track to drop off Buzz and pick up more divers. It landed, Keynes strode up with the other two following him Holmes letting the team coach take the lead.

'What happened up there!' Keynes yelled as they were unloading the other rider. His helmet was off and wet mousy hair lay limp against a pinched, scrawny face; his eyes opened as Keynes spoke to him.

'Her board just stalled midair.' He put a hand to his forehead as they moved him down on the stretcher, 'I tried to avoid her but...I managed to grab her before the water but couldn’t hold on when we went under; she just disappeared.'

Holmes opened his mouth to say something; suddenly noise erupted from behind him.

'What did you do to her?' Ling came running over the track, throwing his helmet across the tarmac. He made a dive for the man on the stretcher but Holmes and Keynes both grab his arms. Ling stopped struggling for a minute as he caught a look at the man’s face.

'I might have known it was you, Jut. Only those idiots, the Mosquitoes, would be desperate enough to sign a washed-up loser who’s been done so many times for cheating he’s made it into the record books.'

The man on the stretcher stiffened, raising his head, and then fell back. 'I did nothing wrong; the tapes will show I was innocent.'

'We’ll see, you snake. If you did murder her you won’t get out of here alive -- that, I promise you.'

The man caught a look at Lestrade and pointed. 'See, Detective -- a direct threat on my life by our number one suspect.'

Lestrade groaned. 'He’s more than a little wound-up at the moment, Jut; taking that as evidence wouldn’t prove anything.'

Holmes raised a curious eyebrow and smiled coldly. 'You’ve been protecting this man, Lestrade.'

Lestrade rubbed her head as they carried the stretcher away. 'For two and a half days. So far he’s accused two old women of being Ling in disguise and an ice cream man of trying to poison him. It’s like babysitting an unexploded time bomb. Even one of the old ladies smacked him with her handbag after he tried to pull her hair off.' She clenched her fists. 'I must admit I felt like it more than once.'

Keynes was having a word with Ling as they took him back to the main buildings. 'Keep away from him, Ling.'

Ling glared at the floor in his temper. Lestrade could guess why they called him the Dragon. 'I’m not promising that, Harold. Tessa in all likelihood is at the bottom of the lake by now.' He stopped short. 'Tennyson...I completely forgot about Tennyson.'

Holmes grabbed the man’s arm again as he turned. 'We will go and talk to Tennyson when we have something to tell him. Right now, I’d like to have a look at those tapes....'

On to Part 4!

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