Last time the SIS put together a search team and Bill woke up in a shack.
Bill felt his consciousness drifting away like a boat on the sea as the energy he had pulled together left him. He slumped against the wall and his head dropped down to his chest. He had no idea for how long he was like that for, but later he jerked awake, groaned and stretched the best he could.
Once he had gotten his bearings again, he recalled his desire to escape. He tried to move around and find a nail with which he would work his bond loose. His fingers scrabbled against the dirt floor and the rough strips of wood which formed the walls, searching for something sharp. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity so he had to shuffle along on his behind, to reach fresh areas. He knew he’d had a small folding knife in his pocket before, but that would have been taken from him when he was captured.
A bread of sweat trickled down his forehead and he grunted as he shifted another few inches along, still searching. He grasped and discarded a cigarette stub, a smooth pebble, a frond of some sort of weed. “Oh for a damned nail,” he thought to himself, and then his fingers touched another stone. This one was not worn smooth by the sea, rather it was rough and triangular shaped.
With a strange twisting motion in his wrist, he got the stone in his fingers and tried to angle the rock towards his bonds and force it up between his wrists and against the ropes, trying to find a weaker spot. A sharp gasp escaped his mouth as he grazed the flesh of his wrists, but he kept hold of the stone. He drew it back and forth repeatedly, creating a slight notch in the rope, and then had to stop to rest his cramping, aching fingers.
Bill had no frame of reference for time as he worked at his bonds. He had to break several times as his wrists and fingers cramped. Eventually he broke through the final part of the bond and slumped tiredly to one side, trying to move his wrists to stop them from aching and cramping as he found his energy leaving him once more and drifting off to sleep again.
Anatoly stood in the locker room at in the London office and swapped out his real life cards and identification papers for a service identity. He stuffed them into his bag he was taking on the journey to Scotland, closed his locker, and went out to join the rest of the team in the briefing room.
He got a brief nod of acknowledgement from Bennett who was heading up the team, which turned out to be comprised of six agents, two of whom he recognised from his trip to an Austrian valley to rescue the Mannering and Trent children. He went to stand beside those two, knowing them to be reasonably friendly.
“You along for this one, then?” Thompson asked him, stretching his thick arms above his head.
“Yes, I have been Bill’s contact from the start,” he replied. He and Thompson had once scaled a cliff in that Austrian valley, not knowing whether or not a gun would be pointed at them when they reached the top, so there was a certain respect between them.
“You’re Bill’s right hand man these days, ain’t you,” said Bentley in a teasing tone of voice.
“He trusts me,” was all that Anatoly could trust himself to say. He didn’t have an answer that was suitable apart from that. He stood and listened to Bennett as be began the briefing, giving an overview of the situation, the timeline and where they were going to start looking.
All the information about Bill’s trip he already knew, having been the one to pass it on in the first place, but he listened respectfully all the same. “It may be that Cunningham gets in touch as or before we even arrive at the coast,” Bennett was saying. “It could be a simple case of malfunctioning equipment. But given the aeroplane sightings, it could be more than that.”
“He does attract trouble,” came a voice from the other side of room. Anatoly bit his lip to stop himself retaliating and starting a fight. He was only here on Roscoe’s grace, he didn’t want Bennett to reporting him and taking him off the mission.
“Pipe down,” Bennett said mildly. “If he does get in touch, we’ll move straight to phase two which is looking into the aeroplane sightings. Either way, we should arrive before dawn at the airstrip, then we’ll take cars to the harbour where we will pick up our boats. There will be three, so two men to a boat and I’ll be staying on the main land to coordinate things.” He paused and looked at Anatoly and frowned. “Two men to two boats, and three on the last,” he amended. “I’ll let you sort yourselves out into teams.”
Anatoly glanced at Thompson who gave him a nod. “You stick with us, lad. If you’re even half as good as Cunningham makes out, you’ll do.”
Anatoly nodded, glad to be with agents he could get along with, and secretly pleased to hear that he was being praised by Bill. He was ready to get going now, because at the moment all the time they weren’t looking for Bill the more chance they had of losing him all together.
“You all know Bill but here’s a recent photograph nonetheless,” Bennett continued, pointing to a cork pin board where there were several photographs, maps and other bits of paper. “I want you to familiarise yourselves with the faces of the four children, too. Their boat is called Lucky Star…” He went on to describe the type of boat it was and pointed out a rough sketch.
Back in his shack Bill woke from his fitful doze and after stretching out the kinks the best he could, began systematically testing his prison. The door was strong and firmly bolted, the walls contained no windows. Although a few of the narrow timber strips forming the walls had started to rot at the bottom that created no more than an inch or so of space. Enough for a mouse to get in, but not for him to get out. He could put his fingers through and get a hold of the wood, but no amount of pushing or pulling made any difference. The planks held.
There was nothing in the shack but himself, a few loose stones and the odd weed which had grown through the rotten gaps at floor level. Not even any water, and as he noticed that he also noticed how thirsty he was. Perhaps they would come to interrogate him soon. Then he could assess his situation better and perhaps make his escape.
To be continued…