Last time Bill and his men met up with Lucy-Ann, Jack, Dinah and Kiki then snuck through the tunnel from the fern-cave into the back of the treasure caves.
They were lucky that the men had all put down their weapons in order to batter at the door, and were clearly not expecting an attack from behind. They were so busy hammering at the door, goaded on by shouts from Jim Smith and Pete Bentley, they had no idea that anyone was creeping up behind them. It was a terribly simple job in the end to round them up, as after Bill barked out for them to put their hands up they simply complied. They were too shocked and stunned to do anything else. Only Juan seemed to have the courage to speak, demanding to know how they had got in behind them, and who had locked them in.
Bill silenced him with a few sharp words of his own, and after Smith and Bentley had come in, grinning widely, the men were rounded up. Their hands were bound for the walk to the cave’s entrance, though they would be untied one at a time for the climb down. Nobody expected any trouble from them as there would be several guns pointed at them for the duration and any funny business would be swiftly dealt with.
Anatoly began a quick look over the cave, looking at the treasures and then using the small camera he had brought with him to take pictures of the artefacts so that when they got back to base they could start putting out feelers for people who might be legitimately looking for their lost treasures after hiding them during the war.
Bill, meanwhile, was being led around by the four excited children leaving he, Anatoly, and the few others that hadn’t escorted the men off, to marvel at the wonders of the caves. The children were talking nineteen to the dozen, talking over each other in their excitement and desire for three of them to tell Bill everything about the caves and their adventures, while Philip was trying to tell the others about his adventurous trip to Scotland. What with Kiki adding more than her tuppenceworth it sounded like there were a hundred rowdy people in the caves.
Eventually Bill held his hands up in defeat. “All right you lot, that’s enough,” he said, laughing. “That includes you, Kiki,” he added as the bird kept on shouting. Jack rapped her smartly on the beak and her head retired under her wing after giving him a reproachful look. “I’ve heard most of your adventures from Philip, but you can tell me all your stories on the plane. But one at a time please!”
It was with reluctance that Anatoly tore himself away from the treasures, he had barely skimmed the surface of what had been stored away in those desperate war-time years. Both his rolls of film were already full, however, and so there wasn’t much point in continuing to look other than his own enjoyment.
There was some consternation about how the old couple were going to get down the rocky cliff to the ground, and in the end various ropes were used to create harnesses to help lower them down. They didn’t make a word of protest, even as they bumped a little on the way down, although they were clearly frightened. They had taken Bill to be some sort of deity, bowing to him when he spoke, and had obviously decided that they must obey him no matter what. They meekly allowed themselves to be helped along the walk back to the planes, though Bill insisted they stop two or three times to rest briefly.
At last they reached the hulking shapes of their aeroplanes, looking incongruous in the wild surroundings even with the four others alongside. Bill decided that all the planes ought to be flown back at once, together, and so the passengers were divvied up, the prisoners and guards separate from the rescued parties.
The children went with Bill, of course, and Anatoly dived into that plane too, before anyone could order him elsewhere. He laughed as Lucy-Ann frightened Bill by asking about Martha, who turned out to be a hen and not a missing woman, and settled back in his seat satisfied that they had done a good job. Everyone had been rescued, all their enemies had been captured and with the exception of a few grazed knees and elbows everyone had come out of it unscathed.
“I wonder how the old couple are doing?” Jack said, peering out his window to try to catch a glimpse of the other planes. “I bet they’ve never seen a plane up close, let alone flown in one!”
“They’ll be all right,” Philip said confidently. “Bill told them to get on board and that everything would be fine, and they obviously think he’s some sort of god so they’ll have believed him.”
The first part of the flight was short, as they were to drop off the old couple not too far from the valley. There was no airstrip in or around Julius Muller’s village, so they hand to land on the outskirts of a nearby town. Only two planes landed, the one carrying the old couple and Bill’s while those containing the captives continued on for London.
Bill’s team had made some contact with Austrian officials beyond getting clearance to fly, though as always it had been full of vague statements and half-truths. As Britain had fought against the Nazis who had invaded Austria, it hadn’t been too difficult to persuade the Austrians to be helpful.
Upon landing the Austrian government was contacted, and some specialist officers were dispatched to collect the old couple and deliver them to Julius Muller. They would leave them to handle the matter of the treasure caves, but Bill knew that he would be keeping an eye on any developments.
That took up more than an hour of their time, though they used some of it to ensure the planes were refuelled and everyone could use the facilities to freshen up.
Bill seemed uneasy, Anatoly thought but he knew better than to voice the suggestion. Kind-hearted Lucy-Ann, however, had no such compunction and slipped her hand into Bill’s as he stood by the plane. “Is everything all right, Bill?”
He smiled at her. “I’ll be able to relax once I’ve dropped you off with your aunt,” he said. “Until then, I’ve no idea what trouble you’ll get yourselves into.”
Soon after they were all on board again, a head count was performed, and with everyone present and correct they took off once more, flying into the twilight on the last leg of their journey home.