Then came what seemed to him to be its culmination. High above his head he was suddenly conscious of a downward current of air. He looked up. The shouting voices, apparently from the falling clouds, voices unfamiliar and guttural, warned him of what was coming. The darkness which loomed over him, took shape. He turned and ran for his life. Only a little way above his head a storm of shrapnel now was streaming from the lowered guns of the Admiralty. Turning back to look, he saw, scarcely fifty yards above him, the falling of a huge Zeppelin. He felt himself just outside its range and paused, breathless. With a crash which seemed to split the air, the huge structure fell. The far end of it, all buckled up, rested against the back of the Admiralty. The other end was only a few yards from where Thomson stood, at the bottom of the steps leading up into Pall Mall. A dozen searchlights played upon it. Men suddenly appeared as though from underneath. Some of them stood for a moment and swayed like drunken men, others began to run. Round the corner from the Admiralty Square a little company of soldiers came with fixed bayonets. There was a shout. Two of the men ran on.
Thomson heard the crack of a rifle and saw one of them leap into the air and collapse. The other one staggered and fell on his knees. A dozen of them were there together with their hands stretched to the skies. Then Thomson was conscious that one of the oil-clad figures was coming in his direction, making for the steps, running with swift, stealthy gait. A flash of light gleamed upon the fugitive for a moment. He wore a hat like a helmet; only his face, blackened with grease, and his staring eyes, were visible. He came straight for Thomson, breathing heavily.
“Hands up!” Thomson cried.
The man aimed a furious blow at him. Thomson, who quite unconsciously had drawn a revolver from his pocket, shot him through the heart, watched him jump up and fall, a senseless, shapeless heap upon the bottom of the steps, and, with a queer instinct of bloodthirstiness, ran down the line of the wrecked Zeppelin, seeking for more victims. The soldiers were coming up in force now, however, and detachments of them were marching away their prisoners. Another company was stationed all around the huge craft, keeping guard. Thomson walked back once more towards the Admiralty. The sky was still lurid with the reflection of many fires but the roar of the guns had diminished, and for several minutes no bomb had been thrown. With the revolver in his hand still smoking, he ran into a man whom he knew slightly at the Admiralty.
“Thomson, by God!” the man exclaimed. “What are you doing with that revolver?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I’ve just shot one of those fellows from the Zeppelin. How are things going?”
“There are six Zeppelins down in different parts, and a couple of dozen aeroplanes,” the other replied. “Woolwich is safe, and the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall. Heaps of reports to come in but I don’t believe they’ve done much damage.”