In the last chapter Anatoly was manning the radio waiting for contact with Bill and got the strange news that a plane had been seen above their island.
Anatoly had the night off so he could sleep, freshen up, shave, change clothes and stretch his legs the next morning before he was back in the small dark radio room, waiting for any other news from Bill.
The chief had simply noted down the strange aeroplane activity and told Anatoly to relay to Bill to keep his eyes peeled for anything else peculiar while they made some enquiries of their own.
It was another long, boring day on standby in the radio room. Anatoly spent some more time reading his book and the newspaper, doing the crossword and then decided to write down what he could remember of his time with his father in case he ever felt like he had forgotten anything.
The writing took most of the day and he was so absorbed he almost didn’t hear the radio crackling into life and Bill’s voice over the speaker. “2890, reporting.”
Anatoly responded with his number and “Receiving,” and waited for Bill’s message. There was such a long pause that he thought the connection with Bill had been lost, but then he spoke again. This time it was in code. He spent half a second wondering what had happened to make full code a necessity, and then hastily started scribbling everything down. Bill would know he’d need a moment to decode, but he still knew to work quickly.
He knew Bill’s preferred code well, and soon had the message written in plain English below the coded one. In time he would be able to decode as he listened.
So the mystery planes had returned, and now they were dropping things into the sea. He reflected for a second that the last time he worked with Bill they had a missing aeroplane, and now they had more aeroplanes than they really wanted.
“I’ll pass that on,” he replied in code, a little slower at it than Bill was. “I’ve not turned up anything to tell you, but there’s a message from your aunt. I don’t need to give that in code, do I?”
“No, you can just tell me that,” Bill replied and Anatoly could hear the amusement in his voice.
“OK, well, she said that she is getting on as well as can be expected, but she has the measles pretty badly. The doctor has seen her and will check on her again soon.”
“Thank you,” Bill said after a moment. “I’ll do some looking around myself tomorrow,” he added in his code. “I’ll be in touch with co-ordinates when I have them.”
And that was the end of the transmission. He reported it dutifully to Roscoe’s receptionist, and sat back to wait for the end of his shift.
The time passed slowly over the next day or so. Anatoly didn’t receive a message from Bill the following day, so he was very glad when he was relieved of his radio duties. He slept in his bedsit that night, as someone else manned the radio.
The next day Bill was supposed to check in, when Anatoly was back on duty for the night shift. He was sitting up, drinking coffee, to try and keep himself awake when the radio went.
“2890 reporting,” said Bill’s crackly voice over the radio.
Anatoly fiddled with the dial, trying to get a clearer connection but no no avail, the problem must have been on Bill’s side.
“3847 receiving,” he said, hoping it was audible over the whistling and static.
Bill’s message came through in code again, and he had to get him to repeat some of it as it was very difficult to hear him. In the end, though, he had the message, that a plane had flown low over their island and the surrounding ones more than once. He passed that on right away, not to Roscoe as he had gone home at six as always, but to the night commander whose job it was to deal with whatever he could and call in the chief if required.
“Have you still got him on the line?” the commander asked. “Good. Tell him to stand by for an important announcement. I’ll need to check in with the Chief on this one.”
Anatoly’s telephone line was put on hold so he returned his attention to the wireless and told Bill to go on standby for the important announcement. He got a curt reply indicating that the message had been received, and then waited himself for his orders.
A short time later the commander was back on the line. “Petrov? The message to Cunningham is as follows; ‘Stay on your island and lie low. A team is on its way to you. We will request coordinates when we are in your vicinity so keep checking your transmitter.’”
“Right away, sir,” Anatoly said deferentially, and, quickly translating that into code, relayed it to Bill. There was no response, however. He fiddled with the dials and repeated himself. He repeated the message half a dozen times more. He swallowed hard, and told himself that perhaps the weather had gotten bad and Bill’s reply couldn’t get through, but he had a horrible feeling that something dreadful had happened.
To be continued…