My new romantic spy novel Screaming Angels published!
To celebrate, I will be giving away one, signed copy of Screaming Angels to my Newsletter readers in a competition on 16 October at 5pm BST. To sign up for the Newsletter before then, click here or go to the menu at the top of this page.
Yulia let the rare intimacy hang in the air. It floated away on the evening’s love.
“The biggest twist was at the end – I really didn’t see that coming” – Eileen Thornton
How the Soviets stole the secret of Rolls Royce’s best jet engine and built the greatest fighter in the world.
Don, the only member of his Rolls Royce Nene team that called his boss Ed, was a working-class Yorkshireman, Edward, a graduate from Dorking. They were Surrey chalk and Yorkshire cheese, but when Don had yelled “Pass Ed!” during a company football match, Edward let the term of endearment go with a smile and they had been close ever since.
“Right! Let’s tidy away and get testing!”
The seven men tightened every bolt on the jet engine’s outer casing, checked the test stand bolts for tension once more and wiped everything clean. Edward left the test chamber through the partition door and took up station with the rest of the team, behind the control panel. Don checked the last few hose connectors and left the chamber, closing the thick door behind him, but struggled to slide in the heavy draw bolt for a moment, with his back turned. Edward couldn’t see what Don was doing.
“Don’t touch the master door lock!” Edward joked.
“I never would. There! Got it!”
Edward completed the test form, pushing his spectacles up on the bridge of his nose to focus better:
Monday 22 July, 1946
RB.41 Nene MK.3 throttle-up test. Attending: Nene team, headed by Donald Hill. Manager: Edward Torrens.
“Right. Fire her up Don!”
Edward’s affable smile belied the tension in the small control room. The cream, concrete partitions had been designed to muffle the sound of WWII piston engines, not stop exotic alloy jet turbine blades, turning three or four times as fast, from exploding. Only a few weeks previously another of Edward’s Nene engineers had been injured when a fragment penetrated the wall and ripped part of his cheek away. As Don pressed the starter button, Edward wondered why such an alchemist’s brew of wires, alloys and unearthly, screaming power amounted only to the placid sounding ‘Nene’ in the Rolls Royce executives’ minds. Everything went well until Edward yelled into Don’s ear at the top of his voice:
Edward realised he had actually crossed his fingers, just before he heard a high-pitched, metallic ‘ping.’ He lunged for the red cut-off button and smashed it down with his fist.
Don and the others stared at him with blank expressions, as if trapped in a slow-motion movie clip.
“Duck!” Edward yelled, before dropping to the floor and scrambling under the bench, dragging Don with him.
The turbine’s shriek had dropped in pitch about half an octave in those few seconds, but then the air ripped apart with a giant explosion. The sound or rending metal, mixed with the sound of concrete being ripped apart and debris hitting the walls made them shut their eyes and pray.
Eventually, silence returned, followed a moment later by the blaring of alarms and the sound of rushing feet.
“I didn’t hear owt!” Don said between coughs. “Bloody good job the engine revs dropped a few thousand! Or else I don’t think any of us would be here!”
Covered in white concrete dust and debris, the others scrambled to their feet while Edward looked for his spectacles in the debris. He found the metal frames, but the round lenses were both missing.
“I heard it!” he muttered. “A fan blade breaking loose. One of the advantages of managing four test teams and attending all tests – not that Sanderson approves. You learn what to listen for! I lost my spectacles and I think some of the glass went in my eye. I can’t see!”