Sequel to Ride for Rights
It’s the Women’s Air Derby of 1929 and four women all want one thing: to win.
For Angeline Miller, it’s one last hurrah before she finally takes that leap into motherhood, but will her husband be waiting on the other side of the finish line?
For Penelope Burns, it’s a chance to stick it to her patronizing husband and win her son’s pride and affection back—she hopes.
Veronica Truman just wants to make her ailing mother proud.
Nancy Devine, Hollywood starlet and diva, wants to be the next Lady Lindy of the Air...and will pay any price.
One week, a group of very determined and capable women pilots, sabotage, and fate comes together. Who will fly to success? Who will fail? And what awaits them in Cleveland, Ohio?
After another hour of making lazy loops and circles, Penelope found herself no closer to a solution, so she landed, placed her aeroplane in the airport hangar, and decided to engage in her next favorite pastime. She went to her preferred speakeasy. Plopping herself down on a bar stool, Penelope grunted as she reached inside her shirt pocket for a cigar. “Screw prohibition!” She winked at the bartender, Robert. “Bring me some panther piss!”
Robert looked up from where he was wiping down the bar with a wet cloth and grinned at her. “Well, if it ain’t Penelope Burns. Finally made it back, I see, and in one piece. One nice looking piece.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Penelope chuckled despite her sour mood. Robert was an attractive enough fella. She eyed his trim figure and silently appreciated his tight trousers. How long had it been since… She quickly shook her head at her wandering thoughts. She had more important things to worry about right now, like how to get her son back.
Robert placed a tumbler of gold liquid in front of her, and sensing her reluctance to converse, did not attempt to engage her in further conversation. Penelope brooded in silence and watched the other bar patrons in their suits and fringed dresses through the hazy cloud of smoke fogging the air. Jazzy music came from a small band on the corner stage. She gulped down her whisky and searched for a match to light her cigar. Finding none in the vicinity, she peered further down the bar, past a few patrons who were laughing amongst themselves. There was a discarded newspaper at the end. Perhaps underneath it, she would find a match.
She stood and made her way through the group of men, ignoring their pointed looks and sneers as they eyed her flight attire. She heard one of the men laugh and turn to his friends. “If that’s the way women pilots look, my daughters will never leave the ground…in anything!” Raucous laughter filled the bar.
Penelope felt her face grow red, not in embarrassment, but in anger. She turned to the offensive speaker and taking in his expensive maroon suit and haughty manner, placed her hands on her hips. “If you’re the way fathers look nowadays, I wouldn’t come out of the womb!” she shot back.
The man’s small mouth fell open beneath his mustache, and his companions hooted encouragement his way. Penelope pointedly ignored them and grabbed the newspaper off the bar. There were no matches underneath. A sigh of weariness and disappointment escaped her lips. It was doubtful the rude men would comply if she asked them for a light. She smiled wryly to herself and settled for placing the cigar between her teeth to chew on. Moments later, her attention was captured by three bold words on the newspaper page. Women’s Air Derby. Ignoring the increasingly rowdy men, Penelope grabbed the paper and squinted at the article below the eye-catching headline.
Eight-day National Air Races welcoming women pilots for first Women’s Air Derby on the 18th of August. Race to begin in Santa Monica, California and end in Cleveland, Ohio, a 2,700 mile course. Winners will receive $25,000. Categories include light sporting craft and heavy sporting craft. Entrants must have pilot’s license.
Penelope gasped in surprise. This could be her ticket! Surely Thomas would be proud of a mother who won a 2,700 mile air race and twenty-five grand! She knew she was capable of doing it. She calculated the miles quickly in her head. Two thousand seven hundred miles in eight days amounted to approximately 337 miles a day. Her Travel Air could fly for 600 hours. She was a capable pilot, and she had nothing to lose. Today was the 30th of June. She had exactly seven weeks to prepare. She could fly the route in advance and make sure there were no surprises.
She turned around with the paper clutched under her left arm, cigar dangling forgotten from her lips, and came face to face with the man in the maroon suit. He had obviously imbibed a few shots since they had last spoken because his words were slightly slurred. “Women like you need to be reminded that you’re women.” He spat at her as his hand groped his crotch. “Need some reminding?” His breath was tainted with alcohol fumes, and Penelope had to struggle not to gag. It wouldn’t due to show weakness, but she really did not have time for this right now.
Perhaps her own whiskey gave her a false sense of bravado, or perhaps the unhappy altercation with her husband and the frustration of not seeing her son, topped off by this arrogant son-of-a-bitch was simply the last straw, but to everyone’s surprise, she took a step back, swung her right arm behind her, and thrust it forward as hard as she could. Her fist met the man’s mustache with a loud thwack, and she had a satisfying glimpse of his surprised wide eyes before he fell on his backside on the sticky, tobacco-covered floor. She glanced down to be sure she still had the newspaper clutched under her arm and chomped down on her cigar reassuringly before walking out the door, ignoring the sting in her hand.
Nothing was going to stand in her way of entering and winning this Air Derby. Nothing and no one.