The Fall of the Phoenix

Chapter Four

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

The crowd in the viewing room was limited to the onsite police, Holmes, Lestrade and the two teams involved. The tapes were being quickly viewed before handed over to the police. They ran their length showing the board stop, the midair collision and then the plunge to the water, Jut with his arms locked around Phoenix just before the landing. The team captain of the Mosquitoes, along with Mike Hedges, the Hornets' captain and sponsor, watched the screen with set expressions. Holmes and Keynes stood by Ling whose hands were clenched tight enough to draw blood.

When the tape finished, the captain of the Mosquitoes flicked on the lights. 'The tape clearly shows Jut was nowhere near your rider when she stalled, even that he tried to grab her as they went down.'

Mike shook his head. 'There is still the issue of the collision. There are rules for stall situations in the air, specifically to corkscrew up and out of the zone of the other rider. This is not something for us to decide here and now anyway; itís an issue for the police.'

Jut, who had been okayed by the medical team, was standing at the back of the room chewing on a toothpick. 'Least she didnít have any family left to inform. Thatíll save on paperwork.'

They werenít quick enough this time. Ling flew over the space between them and hammered his fist into Jutís nose before he was wrestled to the ground. Jut grabbed his face screaming blue murder as blood fell out between his fingers. Keynes pulled Ling up and with the help of some of the mechanics dragged him outside to cool off.

Lestrade groaned. 'Thatís going to cause problems later, Jut will be crying assault charges from dusk till dawn.'

Holmes was rewound the end of the video and playing it again on a smaller screen; the image before the two riders hit the water was interesting him. Lestrade watched for a minute. 'Whatíve you found?'

Holmes smiled. 'Some ashes, my friend, just some ashes. Are you up to a little experiment before the light fails?'

Lestrade nodded. 'Jut can baby-sit himself for awhile. Letís go.'

They found most of the Hornet team in their garage, watching Ling take some steam out on a punching bag at the back. Keynes was smoking some bacco and grimacing. 'Come on, Ling, kick it. You need to let off some steam; let it off.'

Ling executed a roundhouse kick to the bag and sent it flying off the hook and onto the floor.

'Mr Keynes, Mr Ling, a moment of your time please.'

Soon a sky board was skimming over the lake surface. This time three cars followed: one full of the Hornet team, one with lifeguards and the other with Holmes, Watson and the Irregulars. Tennyson had a window seat and was filled with cold numbing terror at the lake; he had insisted on coming, though. Holmes had a plan and he wanted to know what it was.

Tennyson turned to watch him as he spoke to the other cars through the radio. 'As you can see their speed and altitude is almost exactly the same as Tessaís; as we go near the spot where she fell, pay attention to the second part of the demonstration.'

When Holmes had said experiment, Lestrade had thought it was going to be on dry land. She had not expected to be given a second set of racing equipment and told to hold on tight. Ling kept the board near top speed and she held on round his waist to avoid being pulled off; though they hadnít adopted anywhere near the thirty-degree lean, her legs ached. When I get out of this, she thought, Iím going to kill Holmes.

Over the radio she could hear Ling talking to her.'You all right back there?'

She swallowed nervously. 'Fine.'

'Itís always hard the first time; bet your legs hurt.'

'Not a bit,' she said, wincing.

Inside his helmet Ling grinned. 'Liar. Weíre going to come up to the spot where we drop soon. When we stop the board will flip over and the suction will go, but the board wonít follow us down. Keep arms and legs tucked and then spread them when we go under; thatís what weíre all taught to do in the event of a water landing. Oh, and clench your buttocks together unless you fancy burst intestines.'

Lestrade groaned.

'Donít worry. Iím going to be holding on to you as soon as we flip...and I wonít let go until youíre on the life car.' The board sped on; glistening water vanished behind them and then stopped. 'Hang on.'

The board tipped and they both went tumbling towards the water. Lestrade tried not to scream inside the helmet as she tucked her limbs into her body. Arms snaked round her waist and shoulders, and then they hit.

In the car Tennyson pressed his face right against the glass; his breathing quickened and he scanned the surface. After what seemed like an age to everyone, both riders broke the surface.

Holmes chuckled and tapped the radio. 'Ling, Lestrade are you both all right?'

'Iím fine, Mr Holmes -- a little wet but otherwise unharmed.'

'Holmes, when I get my hands on you....'

'Now, Lestrade, you should be proud; youíve just proved a vital point to us all.'

'And whatís that?'

Holmes smiled. 'Ling, how easily could you hold on to Inspector Lestrade in the experiment?'

There was silence for a minute. 'I must admit it wasn't all that difficult once I got a grip on her...you mean, that lousy snake let her go on purpose.'

'Perhaps. We shall see as the investigation progresses. Right now I suggest we head back to dry land, and that Lestrade, Watson and myself have a word with Mr Jut.'

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