Leeds, December 5, 1916
The car slid quickly through the streets. Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper stared out of the window. Leeds was black, a wartime winter-darkness, barely a single thin sliver of light showing through the blackout. A quarter of an hour before, he’d been comfortably asleep in bed, until he was torn out of a dream by the telephone bell. As he hurried to answer, he wondered if it was finally happening: the Zeppelins had come to attack Leeds.
No. This was worse. Far worse.
He could see the fire from half a mile away. Flames licked high into the sky. A moment later he smelled the hard, overwhelming stink of cordite.
‘Duty sergeant, sir.’ He’d had to press the receiver against his good ear to make out the words. The man’s voice was flat, empty of expression. ‘Our officers at Filling Station Number One rang in. There’s been an explosion. A car is on its way for you.’
Filling Station Number One. Everyone around here knew it by a different name – Barnbow.
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