[Tuesday, June 13, 1944]
“What’s that noise?” Sharon stepped out of the hangar and away from the mélange of oil, grease, petrol, and paint. She inhaled the fresh air, felt thesun on her face, shaded her eyes, and looked east. It sounds like an airplane, but different, she thought as she used her free hand to pull her non-regulation ponytail out over the collar of her blue battledress jacket.
Edgar Washington joined her. He was a bronze mountain of a man. The shovel looked like a child’s beach toy in his hands. He leaned it against the wall of the hangar and looked in the direction of the noise.
They stood in the mouth of the White Waltham hangar to get a better look.
About ten feet in front of her, a wrench skidded along the concrete. “Goddamned British spanners are as useless as tits on a boar!”
“Can you hear that?” Sharon looked inside at Ernie.
“What the hell is it?” Ernie Shane stepped out of the hangar. He wore the sleeves of his dusty coveralls rolled up to reveal his Popeye arms. Ernie had a long, powerful body, short legs, and brown eyes that faced Edgar’s chest whenever he looked straight ahead.
“There!” Sharon pointed south and east. The aircraft was grey, flying at a bit over two thousand feet.
“It’s fast.” Edgar looked over his shoulder toward London.
“Sounds like someone with the green apple quick step shitting into a forty-five-gallon drum,” Ernie said.
“It’s got an odd silhouette. It looks like the engine is mounted near the tail.” Sharon shaded her blue eyes with her right hand.
“It looks awfully small for an airplane,” Ernie said.
“It must be some kind of jet propulsion engine,” Edgar said.
Ernie nodded. “I’ve heard of that. Never seen one, though.”
They walked around the other side of the hangar to keep their eyes on the aircraft. Sharon stood in between Edgar and Ernie. She was shorter than either of the men, but their posture revealed that they deferred to her.
The aircraft’s engine stopped and it nosed down.
“Get down!” Edgar grabbed them both, pushed them to the ground, then covered their bodies with his.
“What in Christ’s name are you doing?” Ernie huffed.
The answer was an explosion. The ground heaved. There was a whistling sound. When they got up and brushed themselves off, there was a piece of shrapnel the size of a dinner plate stuck in the hangar wall. It sizzled in the wood about four feet from ground level.
Ernie looked at the ragged chunk of metal, then at Edgar. “How did you know?”
Edgar shrugged. “It was coming from the direction of France, headed toward London, and it wasn’t one of ours. A reasonable conclusion.”
Sharon looked at the piece of shrapnel and checked to see if any of them had been wounded. “Thank you very much, Edgar.” She picked dry grass from her disheveled brown hair.
Ernie slapped Edgar on the back. “I owe you one.”