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Chapter One:
The Best Laid Plans

Chapter Two:
Facing The Music

Chapter Three:
From Bad To Worse

Chapter Four:
Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Chapter Five:
Scene of the Crime

Chapter Six:
Dancing with the Devil

Chapter Seven:
Turn of an Unfriendly Card

Chapter Eight:
The Cold Hand of Death

Chapter Nine:
So Close...

Chapter Ten:
Hunting Season

Chapter Eleven:
Leap of Faith

Chapter Twelve:
Incriminating Evidence

Chapter Thirteen:
Unhappy Homecomings


Stripped of Honor!

- A Tale of the Broadway Bombers -

By Geoff Skellams


Chapter Three: From Bad To Worse

Loyle awoke to the stench of bourbon and the piercing agony of a pounding headache. "Oh my God," he muttered, rubbing his temples. "Did anyone see the train that just hit me?"

For more information see:
Loyle Crawford

He was seated in the cockpit of a plane. The lights were out in the hangar and Loyle could barely see anything. It took him a few seconds to realize he was sitting in the Madison Dawn. "How did I wind up in here?"

Stretching his legs, he heard the rattle of an empty bottle on the floor of the cockpit. Who the hell put that in here?

Loyle peered at his watch, trying in vain to make out the time. He attempted to stand, but the pounding in his temples increased dramatically. "Damn, that hurts," he said as he slumped back down in the seat. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples again, trying to get the pain to subside.

The lights in the hangar suddenly snapped on.

"Freeze!"

Glancing over the edge of the cockpit, Loyle spotted two uniformed policemen, pointing their revolvers at him. "What—what's the matter, officers?" he stammered.

"Put your hands in the air and climb out of the aircraft, sir," the taller of the two police ordered, visibly struggling to rein in his temper.

"I beg your pardon?" said Loyle.

"Get out of that damned plane now, sir!" the officer snarled through clenched teeth.

Loyle climbed gingerly out of the cockpit as more uniformed police came running into the hangar.

As he stepped off the trailing edge of the wing, one of the policemen grabbed him and spun him to face the rear fuselage of the plane, slamming him unceremoniously against the Avenger. As he was frisked for weapons, Loyle suddenly realized that the Maddy was facing into the hangar, not out of the hangar as it should have been.

For more information see:
Grumman Avenger

"What's all this about, officers? I haven't done anything!"

"Don't give us that, Crawford," said a voice from behind him. "This time there's not going to be an easy way out for you."

Loyle glanced over his shoulder to see a plain-clothes detective, his shield hanging from his coat pocket. The detective's shirt was wrinkled and his tie was stained with coffee.

A uniformed policeman was checking the weapons in the nose of Avenger. "These are still warm, sir," he said. "This must be the plane that fired on the zeppelin."

A plainclothes cop opened the ammunition hoppers on the wings. "Magnesium rounds, Lieutenant," the plainclothes cop said. "Just like we suspected. Two belts of ammo are missing too."

For more information see:
Specialty Ammo

"I demand to know the meaning of this outrage!" said Loyle, as the uniformed police snapped a pair of handcuffs on him, before turning him around.

The detective's face broke into a scowl. "You know precisely what this about. Loyle Crawford, you are under arrest for the murder of Lieutenant Siobhan Fitzgibbon of the Broadway Bombers and the unprovoked attack on the Empire State zeppelin, the Lady Liberty."

For more information see:
The Broadway Bombers; The Empire State

The detective moved closer to Loyle, bringing his face within inches of Crawford's. "You have the right to remain silent, flyboy. So shut up."

Loyle was sick of looking at the inside of the interrogation room. Several hours of staring at peeling white paint hadn't done anything to improve his mood. The handcuffs that were chafing his wrists were not helping either.

"I'm only gonna say this once," Crawford growled. "You've got the wrong guy."

Detective Jake Alvarez leaned back in his seat and blew smoke at the ceiling. "Listen chum," he said. "We've got more than a dozen witnesses who will testify that they saw your aircraft attack the Lady Liberty as it was approaching the landing field."

Loyle sighed with exasperation. "Look, you idiot, I didn't attack the zeppelin! I mean, do you think I would be stupid enough to attack the damn thing while it was under the floodlights of the field?"

Alvarez leaned forward and stared Loyle in the eye. "Well, hot shot, if it wasn't you, then who the hell was it?"

Loyle shrugged his shoulders. "You're the cop. You tell me."

When he saw the angry glare in the detective's eyes, Crawford said, "Look, I have no idea. The last thing I remember is walking into the hangar and the lights going out. Someone grabbed me from behind and knocked me out. Whoever decked me is probably the same person who took my plane up, attacked the zeppelin and then landed...leaving me in the cockpit to take the rap."

"That's the biggest load of garbage I've ever heard, Crawford," Alvarez scoffed. "You reeked of bourbon when we pulled you out of that plane, and there was an empty bottle on the floor of the plane. I'd say you'd been hitting the booze pretty hard and took your plane up for a spin.

"People do all kinds of crazy stuff when they hit the sauce," Alvarez continued, "though I have no idea why you decided to take a potshot at the zep. Or why you put one of your squadron-mates in the drink."

"If I was so drunk, how the hell did I manage to fly the plane? You said yourself I couldn't walk a straight line!"

"I've seen men drive automobiles despite bein' so pickled they couldn't stand up or remember their own names."

"You have no idea, do you?" snapped Loyle. "Driving a car is a lot different to flying a plane. I doubt whether anyone could fly drunk."

"Don't bet on it," said Alvarez. "My older brother flew SPADs in France during the Great War. He told me that he was soused just about every time he went up. It was the only way he could bring himself to shoot at the Huns."

"Flying in the open skies over the fields of France is a lot different to flying around the skyscrapers of Manhattan. I seriously doubt that even your brother could fly Manhattan after a drinking binge."

Alvarez's eyes narrowed. "I'm not here to fence with you, flyboy. Seven passengers are now lying in the hospital because of you. From what I hear, one of them is barely holding on to his life. The doctors don't give him more than a thirty-percent chance of survival. On top of that, one of your own people is lying dead at the bottom of the Hudson because you shot the hell out of her when she was defending the zep."

"Look," said Crawford. "You're just not listening to me! You've got the wrong man and that's all there is to it!"

Alvarez sighed and stood up. He walked across to the door and knocked on it twice. It was opened by a uniformed cop. "This guy's not saying anything new," said Alvarez, as he walked out of the room. "Put him back in his cell."

The policeman came and took Loyle by the arm. "Come on. This way."

Loyle paced back and forth across his cell. It was really only wide enough for three paces in each direction, but the mere action of doing something was enough to relieve the boredom. Barely.

He jumped when the door at the end of the cellblock opened. He was even more surprised when his injured wingman, Eugene "Money Man" Windthorpe III limped through the door, with the aid of his walking stick.

"Money Man!" cried Loyle. "A friendly face at last!"

Eugene paused and looked at Loyle. "Stopper, what's going on?" he said quietly. He hobbled over to the bench outside the door of Loyle's cell and sat down.

Loyle sighed and slumped down onto the bunk. "I don't know," he said. "I wish I could tell you, but I honestly don't know."

Eugene stared right into Loyle's eyes. "Is it true? Did you actually attack the Lady Liberty and shoot down Siobhan Fitzgibbon?"

"Of course its not true!" snapped Loyle. "You should know me better than that!"

"Thank you. I had to hear it from you. You wouldn't believe the rumors that are flying around the barracks. Some say you're in debt to some loan shark, others say you're trying for a pilot's slot with the Black Swan."

For more information see:
The Black Swan

"Natalia wouldn't need such an ostentatious initiation." Loyle turned and looked at Eugene. I'm glad that someone is still on my side. "What else are they saying?"

"They all think you're guilty, especially Ivy. She really looked up to you and she's feeling betrayed. She's even been in the press calling you a traitor to the country and the uniform. Carpetbagger's saying pretty much the same thing. I'm not sure about Iron Horse; he's keeping pretty quiet about the whole thing."

"Naturally," Crawford replied. "What about my uncle? Have you anything heard from him?" asked Loyle.

Eugene nodded bleakly. "I'm afraid I have." He reached inside his jacket and withdrew a sealed envelope, which he handed through the bars to Loyle. "He asked me to give you this."

Loyle tore open the envelope, took out the contents and stared with incredulity at the letter it contained:

Dear Mr. Crawford,
It is with much regret that I write this letter. Your behavior of recent days has been deplorable. The flagrant disregard of your orders during the attack on the pirate base upstate was bad enough, but this latest incident—which resulted in the death of one of your fellow flyers—is beyond the pale.
The people of this great nation are calling for your blood. If the press had their way, you would be crucified in Battery Park at dawn tomorrow. Even President La Guardia has publicly stated that you will be punished to the full extent of the law.
Your association with this company is drawing much criticism from the shareholders. Stock prices are plummeting and there have been threats made against me unless I take steps to rectify the situation.
It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that all monetary and other benefits afforded to you are hereby terminated immediately. As of this moment, you are no longer in the employment of this company.
I regret being forced to make this decision, but your actions have left me no choice.
Yours sincerely,
Bryce Crawford

Loyle looked up at Eugene. "Is he serious? He can't do this!"

Eugene just shook his head. "I'm afraid he can."

Loyle always knew the sway his uncle had with the military; the Broadway Bombers—while ostensibly an arm of the Empire State's defense apparatus—was still by and large a privately funded concern.

"I had my father look at the legality of it," Windthorpe continued. "Technically, you're an employee of your uncle's company. You can therefore be dismissed just like any other employee."

"So that's it? They're just going to throw me to the wolves?"

"I'm afraid so," said Eugene, despondently. "I'm so sorry, Loyle, I really am. I wish there was something more I could do."

Eugene paused, his face the picture of despair. With a sigh, he met Crawford's haunted gaze.

"Wraith cut the orders this morning, Loyle. You're no longer a member of the Broadway Bombers."

 


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