Last time Anatoly, Bentley and Thompson discovered their boat had developed a fault leaving them stranded on their search. They also spotted something unusual on a distant island, making the need to get moving all the more pressing!
After a few hours and a lot of bad language the engine finally spluttered into life again. Anatoly resisted the urge to cheer as Bentley and Thompson were flustered, tired and covered in motor oil. After a final check of everything the boat started to chug along, and Bentley began to steer the it towards their island of interest.
It was late in the afternoon but the sun wouldn’t set until around half-past nine, so they hoped to have enough light to do a decent search once they arrived. After sending a radio message to inform headquarters that they were on the move again they ate some hastily thrown together sandwiches and the boat powered across the calm sea. Whoever wasn’t piloting the boat took turns to sweep the vast expanse of the water – and skies – for any signs of their potential, unidentified enemy.
After circling the island the best spot happened to be on the opposite side to what they were now sure was a tent trapped up a tree. They had gotten a fairly good look at it from the water as they navigated around the rocky coast, and although they couldn’t be sure it had been one of Bill’s tents, it was certainly a tent and it hadn’t been there very long either. They tied the boat up to a large tree which was hanging over the water’s edge and splashed ashore.
“Let’s head straight for the tent, but keep your eyes peeled for anything untoward along the way,” Bentley ordered. “We’ll search that area and work our way back.”
Anatoly nodded as he checked that his gun was in its holster and loaded, waiting for Bentley and Thompson to be ready to move. He lead the way up the bank to the flat grass, his eyes scanning the whole area as they reached the main bulk of the island.
The landscape was similar to several islands they had been on. Lots of heather and sea-pink, various birds but not as many as on the island with the cliffs. They made swift progress across the island as they were not searching too closely yet, and they were eager to reach the tent. They spotted it from a distance and were able to walk more or less straight to it with only a few minor detours to cross small streams and avoid the boggiest areas.
They hadn’t seen anything of interest along the way, and after a cursory look around the area the tent was in they stood at the base of the tree looking up at it. “We’d better retrieve it,” Bentley said, looking meaningfully at Anatoly.
Anatoly sighed, nodded, handed Thompson his gun and torch and started to agilely climb the tree in a way that suggested he was used to doing things like this. As he came face to face with the tent, he wondered the best way to tackle it. He didn’t think that the tent would be wedged too much into the tree and he hoped it wouldn’t be caught on any difficult to reach branches. Soon the tent, mostly in one piece was being disentangled from the last branch and thrown down to Thompson and Bentley. “One tent,” Anatoly declared as he set the canvas free. “I am coming down now, look out below!”
Thompson, who hadn’t quite recovered his good humour since the debacle with the boat engine, glared at him as he extricated himself from the tent which had fallen to rest over his head. They spread it out to examine the canvas and discovered it was in good condition. The one or two tears could be put down to it being caught in the tree.
Anatoly picked up one of the guy-ropes and held it out. “The peg is still attached,” he said.
“So that will mean that there’s disturbed ground somewhere, if the tent was ripped from the ground,” Bentley said. “I wonder why the tent wasn’t retrieved though? If you are able to shin up and get it, why didn’t the children do that?”
“Perhaps they were unable to… if someone had pulled the tent up in an attack…” Anatoly said haltingly, not wanting to believe that was true.
“It would need to be more than one man,” said Thompson, lighting his pipe. “That is a strong tent, and secured into the ground, well… it takes a lot of force to rip a tent up to take someone by surprise. Why not just wait until morning and capture them all when they exited the tent?”
Anatoly shook his head, unable to answer. Bentley looked at the tent again. “It’s possible they were in the process of taking the tent down when they were attacked. If they were attacked! The wind could simply have carried the tent away from them in the storm a few days ago.”
“So we could be on the wrong island, is that what you’re saying?” Thompson challenged. “Like there aren’t enough islands here but to get the wrong one… well we’d just as well hope that Smugs’ radio just broke and this is all a wild goose chase.” Thompson’s temper wasn’t improving at the thought of there being nothing on this island either. In truth the whole thing was rather like a game of hide and seek, except the game was being played over dozens of islands instead of in a house or garden, which in a way rendered the searchers at a huge disadvantage.
“We should keep looking here for now, spend the night anyway, and then have a proper scout around in the daylight,” Bentley said calmly though he understood Thompson’s frustration. He knew however that they had to do their job, regardless of their feelings, otherwise they would never make it out on a field mission again if they went rogue.
“The tent could have come from this island,” Anatoly said after a long silence. “We have not explored it fully, after all. If we find nothing, we could radio in and ask for details of the storm, could we not? Give them our coordinates and see if we cannot work out the likeliest direction a tent could have come from.”
The two older agents looked at each other and gave a slight nod. “It’s possible,” Bentley agreed. “All right, let’s start searching. We don’t have the good light much longer.”
To be continued…