The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 17

At the agreed time, Valjean parked his car in her driveway. he could just about make out her house from the greenery that surrounded it. ‘Fine, if you want to commune with nature,’ He thought, but I am forever a city lover. She seemed to live something of a reclusive existence, was there a reason for that, had she something to hide?

He walked on through the wood until he could see the house clearly. There was a large man in the yard chopping wood, no doubt for the fire, from Fouchet’s description Valjean felt sure this was Bruno, the handyman.

The moment he saw Valjean, he put down the axe and balled his fists, ‘This is private property, do you have business here?’ He bellowed in a surly fashion.

‘I do, but with your mistress, not the hired help, so be a good boy and tell her I am here,’ Valjean had deliberately talked down to him, he wanted to see how far he could push him before he lost his temper completely.

As Valjean had expected, the goading produced results, Bruno bellowed with rage and charged at him like an angry bull. Valjean stood his ground, everything was going to plan. Bruno was head and shoulders taller and heavily built, Valjean waited until the last second, then side-stepped and gave Bruno a right hook to his jaw. Bruno never saw it coming, but it stopped him in his tracks, Bruno grabbed Valjean in a bear hug, but it was a predictable move, Valjean head-butted Bruno on the bridge of his nose.

Bruno’s nose split and poured with blood which enraged him even more, he moved to pick up the axe, the look in his eyes was murderous. He had just hefted the axe into his hands when a woman walked around the side of the house and immediately grasped the situation.

‘Bruno, put down the axe and go and clean yourself up, you had better have a good excuse for your behaviour, I have warned you before you are not indispensable,’ She threatened. Bruno lurched off, but not before giving Valjean a look of pure malevolence. Valjean knew from now on he would have to watch his back.

The woman was all apologies, but in her position, she had to be. She needed a plug for her forthcoming book much more than she needed to back up Bruno.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Leutnant Franz Buchner – German Ace -1898 / 1920

Buchner was born in Leipzig, in the Kingdom of Saxony, the son of a businessman. He volunteered for the Army in 1914, aged 16. He served in the Royal Saxon 7th Infantry Regiment No.106. After surviving a bout of typhoid fever, he fought on both the Western and Eastern fronts. He was subsequently commissioned in 1916, shortly after his 18th birthday. He was wounded in combat in France on the 3rd of April 1916. After his recovery he transferred to the German Army Air Service, or Luftstreitkrafte, and was assigned as an observation pilot with Feldflieger Abtielung 270.

In March 1917, Buchner became a fighter pilot, joining the Prussian Jagdstaffel, where he scored his first and only victory with them on the 17th of August. Upon his transfer to Jagdstaffel 13, he found his niche serving under Rudolph Berthold, one of Germany’s most dedicated fliers. However it was several months before he scored again, on the 15th of October. With the introduction of the Fokker D.VII in 1918, Buchner came in to his own; He flew at least three different machines during his career, he scored three victories in June and became Commanding Officer of the Squadron on June the 15th. It was after his fifth victory that he landed and announced to his colleagues that he had now learned how to win in aerial combat. It was a prescient statement.

On the 2nd of July, he shot down and killed the ‘Mad Major’ the Irish ace Major Joseph Callahan, the Commander of No.87 Squadron R.A.F. who was flying a Sopwith Dolphin on a solo attack on Jagdstaffel 13. Five days later he followed up with Canadian ace Lieutenant Merrill Taylor killed in a Sopwith Camel of No. 209 Squadron R.A.F. On the 29th of July, Buchner shot down an American Sopwith Camel down in flames with just 14 rounds. His wingman, Leutnant Werner Niethammer, cited this combat as an illustration of Buchner’s prowess as a marksman; according to Niethammer’s account, Buchner had no sooner spotted the American than he had set the enemy aircraft on fire. This would be the last of his seven victories in July.

On the 10th of August, Buchner’s career nearly ended. While attacking and shooting down a two-seater in bad flying weather, his planes fuel tank was hit. Drenched in gasoline he landed in no man’s land and tagged along with two retreating German machine- gunners. The incident does not seem to have slowed him down, it was the second of his eight victories in August.

In September, scored 17 victories, the highest scoring German pilot for the month. On the 10th of October, Buchner survived a mid-air collision with one of his squadron mates, both of them parachuted to safety. He bought his tally to 40 victories by the 22nd of October 1918. Three days later he was awarded the Pour le Merite on the 25th of October 1918, one of the last awards before the Kaiser’s abdication. Having downed 38 of his 40 victories whilst flying the Fokker DVII in a span of five months, he was the most successful flier of this aircraft.

As well as the Pour le Merite, ( The Blue Max ) Buchner received the highest miliary honour of his home state, Saxony’s Military Order of St. Henry on the 7th of October 1918. Buchner’s other decorations included the Prussian Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, The Knight’s Cross with Swords of Prussia’s Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, the Knight’s Cross with Swords of Saxony’s Merit Order and the Knight’s Cross with Swords of Saxony’s Albert Order.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Except 16

‘ She arrived yesterday evening, Bruno was in the bar whining that she was on his case.’

‘That is indeed good news, it appears that all the premier participants are now on the scene, now events may begin to unfold.’ Stated Valjean

‘Is that good or bad? enquired Fouchet.

‘Time alone will tell, my friend, I still feel that there are many things about this case that we have yet to learn, It is all down to time and patience.’

After Fouchet had left, Valjean decided that tomorrow he would call the woman and employ the same technique that had worked so well with de Peysac. After all celebrities whatever their calling were all slaves to the media, without publicity they were nothing.

He had no idea whether in the meantime de Peysac had mentioned him to the woman. But it was of no consequence , de Peysac knew him as a Journalist, not as the Inspector of Police that he really was.

The following morning, he arose early and after breakfast and his ablutions. He re-read the woman’s file, looking for anything that he could question her on. But he found nothing, which surprisingly disturbed him, maybe he was mistaken and she was not involved.

Her number was on file, so he rang her, the phone rang several times before she answered, she sounded a little breathless ‘Marie Deschamps, may I be of assistance.’

‘I do apologise if I have caught you at an awkward moment, my name is Alain Garnier, I am a journalist from Paris who just happens to find himself in Carcassone. When I heard that you were here, I thought that I would like to take the opportunity to interview you, maybe we could talk about your forthcoming book. If I am not being to presumptuous of course?’

‘Not at all, it is always a pleasure to talk to a journalist, especially one with connections in Paris, I can make myself available from say 3.30 this afternoon. I live a little off the beaten track, you can drive up to my gateway then walk through the woods to my house, I will look out for you.’

‘Thank you, I look forward to meeting you with some anticipation,’ Valjean thought that on the phone she had a very husky sensual voice. He would be interested in meeting her in the flesh.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Capitaine Armand Pinsard – French Ace – 1887 / 1953

Armand Pinsard was born in Nercillac, department of Charente, in the cognac country of France. He joined the military in 1906 and fought as a cavalryman in Morocco, in the 2nd Regiment of Spahis. He was decorated there with the Moroccan Medal. He transferred to aviation in 1912, becoming one of the rare professional military men to become a pre-war pilot. He trained as a pilot at Chateau Fort on a Borel pusher two-seater aircraft and proved himself as natural flier. He was awarded the Medaille Militaire for his performance flying a Morane in the French Army manoeuvres of 1913. He was assigned to M.S. 23 at the outbreak of World War One.

At the outbreak of war, Pinsard was ranked as a Sergeant Major. In September 1914, he was promoted to Adjutant and received his first citation. In October, he participated in a bombing raid that attempted to kill the German Kaiser. He was commissioned in November 1914 because of this bombing raid. It was around this time that he pioneered the use of aircraft to place an espionage agent behind enemy lines.

On the 8th of February 1915, Pinsard fell into enemy hands and was held prisoner of war when his plane was forced down behind German lines. It took him a month to recover from injuries received in the accident. Thirteen months and several attempts later, Pinsard tunnelled under a 12 foot high prison wall to freedom on the 26th of March 1916. It took him another two weeks to cross the lines into neutral Switzerland and to repatriate himself on the 10th of April.

His reward for his daring escape was re-training as a fighter pilot and an assignment to France’s foremost fighter Squadron, Les Cicognes. By July 1916, he was flying a Nieuport with Squadron N.26. on the 7th of August, in a pioneering close air support role, he made no fewer than six firing passes on German Infantry attempting to counter-attack a French unit. Then he and his three wingmen went on to strafe a train loaded with German troops. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur for this action.

On the 1st of November 1916, Pinsard opened his victory roll in Air combat. After his winter’s lay off, he resumed his winning way on the 23rd of January 1917, flying as Commanding Officer of Squadron N.78. He became an Ace on the 6th of March 1917, and would continue to fly Nieuports into battle until his 16th victory on the 5th of June 1917.

Just a week later, Pinsard crashed and suffered serious injuries. He would be confined to hospital for several months. Once he had fully recovered he was appointed Commanding Officer of Squadron Spa.23. Pinsard was entrusted with the first Spad S.VII fighter to see combat on the 23rd of August 1917. He painted it black and entitled it Revanche IV ( Revenge IV ). He picked up his victory skein with his 17th victory on the 20th of February 1918. With his next win on the 4th of May, he began a string of that saw him down a string of nine observation balloons in his final decade of wins. Rather remarkably he had help downing only one of the heavily defended gasbags.

His 27th victory came on the 22nd of August 1918, this was to become Pinsard’s final victory. Just eight days later on the 30th of August 1918 he was appointed an Officer of the Legion d’Honneur. Pinsard ended the was as a highly decorated Capitaine.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

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The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 15

‘For what it is worth,’ said Valjean, ‘ I believe that you are an innocent man, but who gains by attempting to place these crimes at your door?’

‘I can honestly say that I have no idea who could despise me that much, I admit it frightens me a little ….. That much suppressed hatred.’

‘The only advice that I can offer is that you see only people that you trust implicitly, be wary of strangers and try not to place yourself in harm’s way.’

‘Thank you, Alain for your advice, I will endeavour do as you advise.’

‘My pleasure, now I will take my leave, I have already taken up far too much of your time, but at least we are parting amicably,’ stated Valjean as he shook de Peysac’s hand.

As Valjean walked to his car, he wondered who it was that wished to involve de Peysac in a series of murders, it was obviously someone with good reason to hate him, but who?

That evening when he met with his colleague, Fouchet, Valjean outlined all the information that he had gleaned from his interview with de Peysac. ‘First I am totally convinced of de Peysac’s innocence, against my own misgivings, I both liked and believed him. I have no idea how this all fits together, but my gut feeling tells me that de Peysac is not the perpetrator nor the accomplice, somehow I see him as the victim!’

‘So, we are back where we began?’ queried Fouchet.

‘Not entirely, we have now established that de Peysac is innocent, all we have to do is find the person or person’s who are trying to establish his guilt.’

‘So, what would you like me to do, broaden our investigation?’ asked Fouchet.

‘I would like you to begin with the victims, I have a feeling that somehow the answer lies with them. Check if any of them knew each other and if any of their relatives made threats of any kind to de Peysac. Also any information you can unearth on Raoul Dupin, his interest in de Peysac makes me wonder about his own motives.’

‘ You consider Dupin might be a suspect?’

‘Not at this stage, I just think he seems a little too eager to blame de Peysac.’

‘In the meantime, I plan to interview the woman, she is not a suspect, but in time she may well be, if what de Peysac tells me is true and I have no reason to doubt him, there are one or two little inconsistencies that I would like to clarify?’

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Captain George Edward Henry McElroy – British Ace – 1893 / 1918

McElroy was born in Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland to Samuel and Ellen McElroy. He enlisted promptly at the outbreak of World War One in August 1914 and was shipped out to France, two months later. He was serving as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers, when he was first commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 9th of May 1915. Whilst serving in the Royal Irish Regiment, he was severely affected by mustard gas and was sent home to recuperate. He was in Dublin in April 1916, during the Easter Rising and was ordered to help quell the insurrection. McElroy refused to fire on his fellow Irishmen, and was transferred to a southerly garrison away from home. On the 1st of June 1916, Mc Elroy relinquished his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment, when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich from which he graduated on the 28th of February 1917, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

McElroy was promptly seconded to the Royal Flying Corps where he was trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School at Upavon and appointed as Flying Officer on the 28th of June. On the 27th of July his commission was backdated to the 9th of February 1916, and he was promoted to Lieutenant on the 9th of August. On the 15th of August he joined No.40 Squadron RFC where he benefitted from the mentoring of fellow Irishman, Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but had no success with this aircraft. By the end of 1917, McElroy was flying an S.E.5 and scored his first victory on the 28th of December.

An extremely aggressive dog fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds. McElroy’s score soon grew rapidly. He shot down two German aircraft in January, and by the 18th of February had run his score up to 11. At this point he was appointed a Flight Commander with the temporary rank of Captain and a transfer to No.24 Squadron RFC. He continued to accrue victories in ones and twos. By the 26th of March when he was awarded the Military Cross, he was up to 18 ‘kills’

On the 1st of April 1918, The R.F.C. and the R.N.A.S. merged to become the Royal Air Force, and his Squadron became No.24 Squadron R.A.F. McElroy was injured in a flying accident on the 7th of April, he brushed a treetop while landing. By then he had run up his score to 27. Whilst he was side-lined with his injury, on the 22nd of April he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross. Following his convalescence, McElroy returned to No. 40 Squadron in June, scoring three times on the 26th, 28th and 30th. The latter two victories were over observation balloons. That ran is victory total up to 30.

In July he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon – busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month. His run of success was almost curtailed on the 20th by a vibrating engine that entailed him breaking off an attack on a German two-seater and a rough emergency landing that left him with cuts and bruises. There was a farewell luncheon that day for his friend, ‘Noisy’ Lewis; their mutual friend, ‘Mick’ Mannock took him to one side to warn him about the hazards of following a German victim down within range of ground fire. On the 26th of July, his mentor and friend ‘Mick’ Mannock was killed by ground fire, ironically on the same day McElroy received the second bar to his Military Cross. He was one of only ten airmen to receive the second bar.

McElroy’s apparent continued disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could only result in one end. On the 31st of July 1918, he reported destroying a Hannover ‘C’ for his 47th victory. He then set out again. He failed to return from this flight and was posted missing. Later it was learned that Mc Elroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old. McElroy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously on the 3rd of August. The bar to this award would arrive later on the 21st of September. The final reckoning for McElroy was 47 victories, this score included 3 observation balloons.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 14

As soon as I realised that things were happening between us, I laid my cards on the table, I wanted her to be under no illusions about my past.’

‘How did she react to your confession?’ asked Valjean, interested to know the answer.

‘She said that we all have secrets, she appreciated that I had shared mine.’

‘And was that the end of it, was it never mentioned again?’

‘Neither found any reason too, the past is best left that way!’ He stated honestly.

‘So, when she began mentoring you,’ if I may ask, ‘What advice did she give you?’

‘Basically, as I stated previously, she advised me to write about subjects that I knew and was comfortable with and to always thoroughly complete my research.’

‘Did she at any time, suggest that you write about the murders that were happening locally, did she ever attempt to push you in that direction?’

‘We discussed lots of ideas about local happenings, so I’d say it was highly likely.’

‘But you never felt she was pushing you in that direction?’

‘Not at all, but if she did, maybe I should thank her after all it made me a success.’

‘Just one final question, if you have no objections, have you at any time been acquainted with any of the missing girls?’ questioned Valjean.

‘I can answer that question in all sincerity, when the first girl went missing, I was serving the final months of my sentence. Even in prison I heard all about it, but that do’s not make me guilty.’

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Leutnant Wilhelm Frankl – German Ace – 1893 / 1917

Frankl was born, the son of a Jewish businessman in Hamburg on the 2oth of December 1893. He later moved to Frankfurt am Main and then later to Berlin. After he graduated from school, he pursued an interest in Aviation by attending Germany’s hotbed of pre-war aviation at Johannisthal. His instructor was Germany’s first female pilot, Melli Beese. On July the 20th 1913, Frankl earned pilot’s licence No.49.

The outbreak of World War One sparked off Frankl’s volunteering to fly for his country. His flying ability and his personality both commended him to his superiors. While his professional life took off, so did his personal life. He fell in love with the daughter of Austrian Naval Kapitan zur See Edmund Stroll. Frankl forsake his Judaism, converted to Christianity, and married his love in early 1917.

Frankl began his career of aerial victories early in the war, before the advent of synchronised machine guns firing safely through the planes propeller became a practical reality. On the 10th of May, 1915 whilst flying as an observer with Feldflieger Abtielung 40 (FFA 40) He used a carbine to shoot down a French Voisin, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for this feat.

It took exactly eight months to gain his second victory. On the 10th of January 1916 while flying a Fokker Eindecker with KEK Vaux, He downed another Voisin, this one was armed with a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon. By the 1st of February 1917 his victory total had risen to four. Three months later on the 4th of May he became an ace, On the 16th of May he was promoted from Vizefeldwebel into the Officers ranks as a Leutnant. He scored once again on the 21st of May. He was awarded the Knights Cross with Swords of the Order of Hohenzollern during late may, followed by the Hanseatic Cross.

By this time Frankl was one of only eight aces in the German Flying Service. Frankl’s gallantry earned him the Pour le Merite after his eighth conformed victory; the Blue Max was awarded on the 16th of July 1916. His guns rested until the 2nd of August, when he tallied a Morane-Saulnier ‘L’. A double victory followed on the 10th of August. On the 1st of September 1916, Frankl then transferred to Prussian Jagdstaffel 4 ( Jasta 4 ) as it was formed from KEK Vaux, to fly Halberstadt D.V’s. On the 1st of January 1917 he took command of the squadron.

Four victories in September and two in October made him a triple ace. Then after a six month hiatus, he scored a quadruple victory on the 6th of April 1917. The following day he scored his twentieth victory. His death came the day after, while battling Bristol F2b Fighters of No.48 Squadron RFC on Easter Sunday the 8th of April 1917. Frankl’s Albatros D.III lost its lower wing due to the stress of combat manouvres and he and his collapsed aircraft fell 800 metres to his death near Vitry- Sailly, France.

Frankl was among the number of Jewish winners of the Pour le Merite, of which there were several who were struck off the Roll of Honour under the Third Reich later to be restored after the Second World War.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 13

‘Yes, apparently he was her tutor when she was at the University, it seems that she was overawed by his knowledge and confidence, and he by her youth and beauty. It worked well for several years, during which time they married. But then she started writing and became an overnight success, her husband became jealous and resentful because he feared that he was losing her.’

‘She tolerated this situation for another couple of years, trying to slowly distance herself from him, neither of them were happy with the situation and eventually he suggested a divorce, which she agreed to.’ ‘ So, you met her on the rebound?’

‘I suppose you could say that, but at the time I had only just been released from prison and a relationship was the very last thing on my mind.’ ‘ But you slipped in to one?’

‘I admit it, I have no idea how it happened, but yes!’

‘Who made all the running, she or you?’ asked Valjean.

‘ I would like to think it was mutual attraction, but she was the one with the money, god, that makes me sound like a gigolo, but on reflection and without sounding pompous, she did seem rather eager.’

‘Was there any reason that she selected you, anything that you recall?’

‘Nothing, I was just sat at the bar and she came over and struck up a conversation with me, I couldn’t believe my look.’

‘And to your knowledge you had never seen or met her before that day?’

‘No! she was a complete stranger to me, until she introduced herself, I knew the name I had read several of her books whilst in prison.’

‘I wouldn’t have thought that historical romance would have been your thing?’

‘Normally, I would agree, but they were about this area so I was interested.’

‘And, did you rate her as a writer, was she accomplished?’

‘I thought so, although her work is fiction, the historical aspect was very thoroughly researched, I think it could be said that I admired her work.’

‘So what was your reaction when she offered to mentor you?’ queried Valjean.

‘Naturally, I was both thrilled and grateful, that a writer of her stature would be interested in mentoring someone like me.’

‘And, was she aware of your criminal past, had you been totally open with her?’

(C) Damian Grange 2021