Last time Bill arrived in Gairdon to hear Philip’s startling tale of their time in the Valley of Adventure.
After talking to Bill on Tuesday evening, Anatoly had decided it was time to move his digs before he drew attention to himself. He walked to the next village a few miles away, but close enough to keep an ear out for any news of the missing man.
He put his bags down in the room he had just acquired from the stern looking Austrian woman downstairs and moved to the window. He screwed his mouth up as he eyed up the tall looking tree just outside his window and knew that he would have to get up the tree to attach the aerial for his portable radio. He would have to do it under cover of darkness so as not to draw any unwanted attention.
He swung himself away from the window, moved his bags, put the few clothes he carried with him in the chest of drawers provided and set out his wash bag on the washstand. He lay down on his bed, and took out his notebook to try and make sense of all the facts as he knew them, running around his head.
The light began to fade, and he allowed himself to wander out of the room in search of some food, beer and gossip. He listened intently to all the gossip around him as he ate in the local pub, and noticed that he was being given a wide berth. That changed and his presence was accepted when he brought the bar a round. Anatoly didn’t get any new information but now he had a foothold in the local community, which was an important part of his job.
Back in his room, Anatoly collected the aerial and cable for his radio, propped open his window and slipped back out of the house before the landlady could catch him. He put the aerial in his pocket and began to climb the tree. He went as high up as he could and settled himself against a hefty branch to install the aerial and secure it to the tree. This took him a few minutes.
Running the cable through his fingers, he began to climb down, but when he was level with his bedroom window, he threw the cable through it with a master shot. He gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back and then began to shin down the tree and back into the house. With that done he knew he could turn in for the night.
In the morning he tuned his radio, and sat back waiting for his check in from London. When the communication came Anatoly was surprised not to be talking to Bill and even more surprised to be told that one of the children had turned up in Scotland. Anatoly was totally stunned, he had thought he was hot on the trail of the children. He was told to stand by for a messages for orders on his next move.
Disheartened, he signed off and slumped on the bed. The message Anatoly received later that day buoyed him considerably, however. He was to make his way to a small airfield some thirty miles north, where he would be picked up by Bill and some other agents, and then fly on to the mysterious valley he had been hearing about.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Bill drove himself and Philip to the air strip first thing the next morning, glad that the weather had settled. It was perfect flying weather now, though they would have to hope that it stayed that way across the continent. The forecasts had seemed all right, at least.
The drive was not a long one but he used the few minutes to pick Philip’s brain again, trying to build a better mental picture of the layout of the valley and the treasure caves. He had Philip wait in the car once they got to the air strip, refusing to let him out of his sight as he ran his final checks on personnel and equipment. When he was satisfied he fetched Philip and personally escorted him to his aeroplane.
“I’m not a child,” Philip grumbled.
“No, but I’m not risking you being spirited away again,” Bill replied. “Your mother would absolutely murder me.”
Up in the air Bill let his two best pilots take the controls, freeing him up to re-run all his plans in his head. The priority was safely retrieving the children, after that they would aim to apprehend Juan, Pepi and any of their comrades. Only then could they think about liberating the treasure, and ensuring its safe delivery to Julius Muller.
“Just to remind everyone, the children’s safety is our top priority, followed by the old couple in the caves,” he said aloud. “I do not want them caught in the crossfire. We’ll get the five of them first, and if that means any of the crooks slipping past you then so be it. We can do what we can to round them up later. Is that clear?”
There were a few slightly disgruntled faces but everyone responded in the affirmative. Philip waited until the murmurs of ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘yes, boss’, had died down before he spoke up.
“Don’t forget Kiki, Bill.”
Bill pinched the bridge of his nose. “There’ll be a parrot around somewhere too,” he added to his men. “If you could avoid injury to her, that would be appreciated.”
That raised a few smirks, but they nodded all the same.
“We’re coming near to our pick-up point,” the pilot called back to Bill after they had been in the air some time.
“Take us down, then,” Bill said. “We’ll give our people until 10, then we’ll have to get on regardless of who has or hasn’t shown.”
To be continued…