Virtues and Valor Book 7: Flight of Faith

v07-faithFlight of Faith is breathtaking and suspenseful conclusion of the Virtues and Valor series by selling inspirational novelist, Hallee Bridgeman. Pilot HELEN MULBERRY, code-named FAITH, flies between Britain and France transporting passengers, supplies, or performing reconnaissance. The Nazis guard their skies with vigor, and Helen learns to fly in combat, land in darkened fields with no lights, and how to evade the antiaircraft fire. Shot down over France during the mission to rescue her fellow agent from the clutches of the Nazis, Helen must make her way through enemy territory with no language skills and somehow come through with a means to get her team back to Britain.

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Flight of Faith can be purchased in e-book format at the following booksellers:

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Olivia Kimbrell Press
EBook ISBN: 978-1-939603-51-7

The Back Cover:

HELEN MULBERRY, the youngest child and only daughter of a wealthy Texas oil tycoon, has always had her every wish granted immediately. When the Germans march into France, no one denies her request to fly her plane to England and help free up a male pilot for combat. Her father’s influence opens doors, and 19 year old Helen joins the Virtues team.

Now under the code-name FAITH, she flies between Britain and France, transporting passengers, supplies, or performing reconnaissance.  The Nazis guard their skies with vigor, and Helen learns to fly in combat, land in a field with no lights, and evade the anti-aircraft fire. She masterfully takes on each mission, despite the perceptions and chauvinistic attitudes of many of the male pilots.

Shot down over France during the mission to rescue the agent code named TEMPERANCE from the clutches of the Gestapo, Helen must make her way through enemy territory with no language skills and somehow come through with a means to get her team back to Britain. Can she save them, or will they all find that they have no way out?

FLIGHT OF FAITH  is the final episode in seven serialized novellas entitled the Virtues and Valor series by Hallee Bridgeman. Seven serialized novellas, each inspired by real people and actual events, reveal the incredible story of amazing heroines facing the ultimate test of bravery.

Seven valorous women — different nationalities, ethnicities, and social backgrounds — come together as a team called the Virtues.

In 1941 Great Britain a special war department assembles an experimental and exclusively female cohort of combat operatives. Four willing spies, a wireless radio operator, an ingenious code breaker, and a fearless pilot are each hand-picked, recruited, and trained to initiate a daring mission in Occupied France. As plans are laid to engineer the largest prison break of Allied POWs in history, the Nazis capture the Virtues’ radio operator. It will take the cohesive teamwork of the rest of the women to save her life before Berlin breaks her and brings the force of the Third Reich to bear.

Some find love, some find vengeance, and some discover the kind of strength that lives in the human heart when all they can do is rely on each other and their shared belief. Courage, faith, and valor intersect but, in the end, one pays the ultimate price.

CONCLUDING the Virtues and Valor series by Hallee Bridgeman. Seven serialized novellas, each inspired by real people and actual events, reveal the incredible story of amazing heroines facing the ultimate test of bravery.

 

London, England, 1940

VIRGINIA Mulberry bit into a sweet roll as she read the newspaper article about the loss of pilots in the ongoing Battle of Britain. Absently licking the sugar from her fingers, she only half heard her sister-in-law, JoAnn.

“Seriously, Helen, use a napkin. And get your feet off the chair!”

It took a lot of self control not to stick her tongue out at the woman. Instead, she kept reading and just straightened, pulling her feet off the dining chair next to her. JoAnn was the only member of the family who called her Helen. Everyone else called her Troy, a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of her utter lack of femininity and a play on Helen of Troy.

She sat at the end of a table that would seat 18, next to her father who sat at the head of the table, his eyes scrutinizing the financial section.

JoAnn huffed at her brother Dwight. “She acts like a 12-year-old boy instead of an eighteen-year-old woman. You should really do something.”

Dwight, always her champion despite his wife’s preference to the contrary, joked, “Actually, our 12-year-old son has much more dignity and grace. You really oughtn’t compare him to Troy that’a way.”

Behind the paper, Helen snickered. “Why do you think that’s funny?” JoAnn inquired, popping the paper and breaking Helen’s line of reading. “You’ll never find a husband acting the way you do. You’re so unladylike and crass. Wearing pants to the  breakfast table!”

Helen threw down the paper and picked up her coffee cup, which the downstairs maid had just refilled, intentionally putting her elbows on the table just because JoAnn bristled every single time she did. Helen could not help but try and rile her sister-in-law once in a while. “Look-a here, JoAnn. First of all, I ain’t looking for no husband,” she said, blowing to cool the brew. “’Sides, Daddy gets at least one sincere offer per week for my hand. So, were I looking, which I ain’t, I’d have my pick of any one of those hundreds of gold diggers looking to marry into Daddy’s wealth. Know what I mean?”

Her father peered over his paper. “Don’t antagonize your brother’s wife, Troy. No reason to make him suffer. And you know better than to say ‘ain’t.’ You know I detest that.”

To him, she did stick out her tongue, making him wink at her in return before he raised his paper back up.

“Every last one of you coddle that girl,” JoAnn announced, tossing her napkin onto her untouched breakfast and surging to her feet. “If just one of you would say ‘Boo’ to her, she might just surprise you and actually start improving.”

Knowing she’d pushed her long suffering sister-in-law to the edge, Helen waited until the older woman stormed out of the dining room before she looked at Dwight and said, “Boo!” before he could.

He did not laugh, but he smiled as he stood. “I’m fixin’ to collect the boys from Nanny and head out to the field, Daddy. You free to come along? Check out that rig we talked about last night?”

No one thought it odd that a man of his age stilled referred to his father as “Daddy.” Her father put down his paper and looked at his watch. “I have to head on into Dallas around noon, but I’m free right now.”

Despite the luxury of the formal dining room, her father and brothers wore denim jeans and blue cotton shirts. They wore leather moccasins on their feet, which would come off at the back door. There, they would don oil slick and very muddy boots with steel toes.

Dwight left the room to retrieve Helen’s nephews from their morning studies. Then he would head to the oil fields with them in tow. They would learn the family business this morning in a very hands-on way before reporting back to the tutor for afternoon studies. Her father and her brother both agreed that their education in the oil fields was just as important as the three R’s in the classroom.

She looked at her brother, Eddie, who stared at his plate of cold eggs with an absent look on his face. She could see the ever present darkness starting to settle on him like a mantle and thought how best to push it back. “Wanna take Diamond up after breakfast, Eddie?” He did not move, just sat perfectly still and stared. Helen glanced at her father, who frowned at his oldest son before he drained his coffee cup and left the room, pausing only to pat the top of her head.

Helen pushed her chair back and rushed around the table to pull out the seat next to her eldest brother. She flipped the chair around and straddled the chair back so that her arms crossed across the back and her legs were spread wide. The undisguised tomboyishness of this pose would have sent JoAnn into a fit. “Hey, Eddie,” she said, nudging his shoulder. “Wanna go fly Diamond today?”

He looked at her with a blank stare, then shook his head. “What?”

“Diamond. Let’s give her a breeze this morning. Just you and me.”

“Diamond? Sure. Yeah, sure, Troy. Let me, ah –” He ran his hands through his prematurely silver hair.

Knowing him better than she knew any person on earth, she put a hand on his shoulder. “Why don’t you go get your jacket and meet me in the hangar?”

He nodded, clarity finally returning to his eyes. “Absolutely. I’ll see you out there in fifteen minutes.”

Helen left the table and ran through the long dining room, out into the massive hall, and up the grand staircase. She went into her dressing room and found the wool lined lambskin leather jacket she’d tossed on the padded stool in front of the hanging dresses that JoAnn insisted on stocking there with each fashion season.

Other than a famously unsuccessful debut three years ago, the only time Helen ever put on a dress was when she went to church. Twice a week she exchanged her beloved denim dungarees for more feminine attire, forcing herself into a fashionable dress and those torture devices they considered shoes. Usually, when she came downstairs looking feminine and pretty, JoAnn would smile at her. That made pouring herself into what she considered “the contraption” worth it, because despite the constant bickering, she really did love her brother’s wife.

Five minutes later, she slid open the hangar door. Her Christmas gift from her father on the Christmas of her 16th year, her beautiful North American Na-16, bright and shiny and silver, greeted her. She looked shiny like a polished gemstone and so had been christened Texas Diamond almost immediately. On the side, near the cherry red nose, Eddie had painted a Texas flag in the shape of the state of Texas and added a huge diamond in the very middle of it. She ran her fingers over the painting and thought about the hand that had so painstakingly painted it there.

Back in the Great War, Eddie had volunteered in front of America’s involvement and flown in the Lafayette Escadrille, a mostly American unit which flew on the side of France. He earned the title “Ace” during his fifth month in the air, and by the time the war ended, he had over 20 confirmed kills. In 1917, he transferred to the American 103rd Aero Squadron, joining his younger brother, Manny. Manny had trained with the squadron on Kelly Field not far from their Texas home before they set sail as a  cohort to embattled France.

The two flew together for almost a year until a vicious dogfight over Montmédy, just one week before the Armistice was signed. Manny’s Spad took one too many bullets and there was nothing Eddie could do except watch his brother’s plane crash into the ground in a ball of flames. He knew Manny had followed him into combat, had hero-worshipped him for years while he flew missions for France, and likely never would have even been there had it not been for him. Eddie barely found a way to live with that knowledge.

Not long after Eddie’s homecoming, their mother gave birth to Helen, a surprise pregnancy for the couple in their early 40’s. The pregnancy was hard on their mother, and she was weak and worn out by the time Helen came into the world. Helen only knew her mother for a few hours. Her mother named her and held her close to her breast until she breathed her very last breath.

Helen had dark hair and bright blue eyes, and could easily have passed for her older brother, Manny. Eddie latched onto her and, through her life, found a will to live. Instead of letting his mother’s death break him, Eddie had become incredibly protective of his baby sister, during his lucid moments anyway. But he suffered in that life. Memories of overflying the dead in the trenches at Verdun, of aerial battles, of dogfights that took the lives of almost all of his friends and his younger brother, played over and over in his memory. He once described the memories as cobwebs he could never clear out of the corners of his mind.

Their father buried himself in work to avoid grieving his wife and middle son. Dwight, the youngest son, went to college, and Helen was left to be raised by the suffering Eddie. He stopped learning the family business and spent his days flying all over Texas, teaching himself acrobatics, barnstorming, and reliving the fights where he saw so many friends perish in their burning flying coffins. He taught Helen to fly when she was barely tall enough to reach the pedals. Dwight came home from college with his beautiful, wealthy, east coast wife, who tried to tame the wild 6 year old to no avail.

The older Eddie got, the deeper into his own tortured mind he fled. Nightmares plagued him, always worse near the anniversary of Manny’s death. Eddie would abruptly stop talking in the middle of conversations or stop eating in the middle of meals and simply leave the room. He would go to his room and fall to his knees and pray for hours or days. About the only time Helen ever saw her eldest brother fully return to his good natured old self was when he was in the air. Flying in the clear blue skies under the Texas sun let Eddie leave his troubles on the ground. The problem was, every time Eddie landed, his troubles were still waiting right there for him.

Eventually, their roles reversed. It didn’t happen right away. It happened a little at a time. Helen often felt like she was now the one raising Eddie, rather than the other way around. She desperately wanted to find a way to quiet his troubled mind, to soothe his troubled soul, but she didn’t know how to do it. So she took him up into the air as often as their lives allowed.

***
HELEN stood at the mantle and stared at the photograph of Eddie in his youth, wearing his leather flight jacket and a white silk scarf, looking dapper and happy. A deadly looking biplane crouched behind him and she could clearly see the squadron emblem of an Indian chief staring fiercely toward the nose the plane where the guns were situated. At her brother’s feet lay a
real live full grown lion, sprawling contentedly on  the grass. The two lions had freedom to roam the Aerodrome and served as the official mascots of the Escadrille. She never knew whether to take Eddie seriously when he told her he couldn’t remember if that particular lion was named Soda or Whiskey.

She turned and looked at her father, the man old enough to be her grandfather. He sat in his favorite chair, reading glasses perched on the very tip of his nose, while he read to the family from his worn leather Bible.

Today he read from chapter 4 of the book of Judges. “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.”

Helen broke the family rule and interrupted her father before he reached the end of the chapter. She knew she shouldn’t, but her decision welled up in her chest until she felt like she would suffocate if she didn’t get it out there. “I’m going to England!”

The family stopped. Dwight’s ten-year-old twins quit examining their checkerboard, her father set his Bible down in his lap with his index finger holding his place, Dwight’s Barlow knife quit shaving the piece of wood he carved, JoAnn gasped and set her knitting down in her lap, and Eddie stopped staring off into space to look directly at her. Eddie’s eyes looked ice cold and unusually alert and present for once.

“I beg your pardon?” Her father said, clearly disapproving of the interruption, but understanding the importance of what she said.

Eddie’s voice sounded quiet, so quiet that Helen wondered if she was the only one who heard the slight edge of menace. “That ain’t funny, Troy.”

“I said I’m going. I’m leaving for England. In the morning.”

JoAnn stood. “Don’t be foolish. There’s a war on. The seas aren’t safe. I know you read about the Lusitania!”

“Well, good gracious! I ain’t sailin’ there.” Helen swallowed and lifted her chin. “I’m flyin’. I’m flyin’ Texas Diamond over and I’m gonna volunteer. Just like Eddie did.”

Eddie threw his glass into the fireplace as he stood. The shattering glass preceeded the hot coals protesting the presence of his tea by loudly hissing and spitting. “No you will not. I’ll be d — ”

“Edward!” His father’s command had him sit back down, and he looked at Helen. “What are you talking about, Troy? If this is your idea of a joke, it’s done. You’re upsetting everyone now.”

“They’re hurting for good pilots, Daddy. They have a program for Americans who want to help out. It’s just a matter of time before we’re in this war, anyway. You said so yourself.”

Her sister-in-law’s sharp laugh made everyone’s head turn. “Despite your constant objection to the contrary, Helen, I will remind you that you are a lady. Ladies do not go off to fight in wars. It simply isn’t done.” JoAnn picked her knitting back up as if her words settled the matter for good.

“Well, gosh, JoAnn. Thanks for the reminder. Now I’d like to remind you of something. I am reliably informed that Deborah was also a person of the female persuasion. You remember? Deborah, who led the Israelites into war,” Helen said. “Daddy just read that part in fact.”

“You will not.” Eddie stood again, more in control, no more risk of expletives leaving his mouth. “You have no idea what waits for you across that ocean. You have no concept of what it’s like, of the hell that is combat. I will not let this war do to you what the last one did to Manny.”

“Or to you?” Helen crossed her arms over her chest. “I wouldn’t be allowed to fight. Y’all know that. They only use men for combat missions. But I could sure free up a man and handle all kinds of non-combat flying. Supply runs. Ferry runs. Medical evacuations. Messenger runs. Humanitarian missions. All kinds of things.”

“You’re too young, Troy,” her father said. “You’re only nineteen.”

“Right. I’m nineteen. Which means I don’t need your permission. But I would appreciate your blessing.” She walked over to where her father sat and knelt on the floor next to his chair. “If I can free up a man to go help destroy the Third Reich, then shouldn’t I try?”

He put a wrinkled hand on her black hair. She thought perhaps his fingers trembled a bit. “My only and beloved daughter, good men don’t send their daughters to war.”

“Daddy, you’re an incredibly good man. You’re the very finest of all the fine men I know. But I feel God calling me.” She stood and looked at her family. She tapped her chest. “Do you understand that? I almost hear it like a voice yelling in my ear. I have to go. I don’t know why. But, there’s something waiting for me in England.” She shoved her hands in her pockets. “I’m going to go pack and then go to bed. I love y’all, but this is something I simply must do.”

“Helen! Don’t.” Eddie stood in the center of the room, fists balled, tears streaming out of his eyes. “Please. Please, don’t. I beg you. Don’t do this.”

She went to him and put her arms around him. For a moment he stood completely still, his muscles so tight he felt like a hot steel oil derrick, then his arms wrapped around her so forcefully that she thought he might bruise a rib or two. “I have to,  Eddie. Just like you had to. I know you’ll understand after I get there.”

Flight of Faith can be purchased in e-book format at the following booksellers:

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