Paving the New Road

Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill

Book: Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sulari Gentill
local brew that was both sweet and potent. To Rowland and his houseguests, who knew Hinkler as a hero, the passing was sad, but to the airmen he was a friend, a brother-in-arms. They mourned him truly. No one spoke of the fact that they were about to fly a route not unlike that which had brought Hinkler to his end.


May 1
The body of Squadron-Leader Bert Hinkler, the Australian airman, was found on Friday on a desolate plateau in the Apennine Mountains between Florence and Arezzo, in Italy. Hinkler disappeared on January 7th, the first day of an attempted flight from England to Australia. Apparently the plane had run out of fuel, smashed itself against a mountain side, 4,600 feet above sea level, and burst into flames. The tanks were empty. Hinkler must have died instantly, for he had terrible head injuries.
Portland Guardian, 1933
    T he Southern Cross made an unremarkable landing just outside Vienna. Nothing failed mechanically and the airfield, although small, was even, and adequate for a pilot of Kingsford Smith’s skill. The company was to part here.
    Kingsford Smith and his crew would take the Fokker F.VII on to London, where they would deliver several bags of mail, ostensibly proving the viability of a mail route between Britain and Australia.
    “Well, Sinclair, good luck.” Kingsford Smith shook Rowland’s hand as the Southern Cross was being prepared to fly again. Forthe first time Rowland sensed a curiosity in the airman as to their purpose in Europe. “I suppose you’ll be back in Sydney in a few months so we can teach you to fly that Gipsy of yours.”
    Rowland sighed. There was a beautiful de Havilland Gipsy Moth stored in a shed on Oaklea , the Sinclairs’ property at Yass. Since the moment the Gipsy had come into his possession Rowland had been determined to pilot her himself. He had signed on months before, to the flying school that Kingsford Smith would soon open. Of course, now he would have to delay the lessons till his return, but nothing so far had dampened his enthusiasm for the sport. “You’ll see me,” he said. “You can count on it.”
    “Senator Hardy didn’t really mention what you were doing here.” Kingsford Smith pressed a cigarette tightly between his lips.
    “We’re buying art.”
    Rowland tried to sound like he knew what he was talking about. “Yes … Good time to invest … the Depression, you see …”
    Kingsford Smith nodded slowly. “So why the hurry?”
    Rowland smiled. “A Rubens, actually … It’s been in a private collection for decades but the owner needs to liquidate quickly … debts or some such thing. We wanted to get here before other collectors got wind of it.”
    “What has the good Senator Hardy got to do with it? I wouldn’t have thought he was an art collector.”
    Rowland searched quickly for a plausible response. Kingsford Smith knew full well that the Senator had smoothed their way with passports and papers. The airman might also have noticed that his passengers were travelling, on record, under assumed names. Rowland decided to take a punt that Kingsford Smith was not himself a saint. “We are making purchases for a number of powerfulinvestors while we’re here,” he said carefully. “Senator Hardy is one of them. Sometimes there can be issues with Customs, foreign laws, that sort of thing.”
    Kingsford Smith grinned suddenly. He winked at Rowland and slapped him on the back. “I see. Well, never let it be said that Smithy hasn’t helped out the Australian entrepreneur. Had the odd stoush with Customs myself.”
    Rowland laughed, relieved. “You understand that our purpose here is something that needs to be treated with … discretion.”
    “Yes, of course … mum’s the word.”
    And so, with Kingsford Smith convinced that they were involved in some sort of minor smuggling operation, they said farewell. Edna kissed each airman for luck and Kingsford Smith added her scarf to the collection of charms

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