Last time Bill visited a couple of airstrips, looking for evidence of any funny goings on that might be related to the mysterious helicopter that the children saw.
Mrs Evans was still talking as Bill was beginning to eat when Allie appeared from the living room. “Hello, Bill,” she said, sitting down opposite him. She was ringing her hands and looked very tired. “Did you find anything?”
Mrs Evans gave the counter top one last wipe with a cloth then quietly left them to it. Bill swallowed a mouthful of the soup Mrs Evans had made with what had been left of the ham. There were a couple of thick slices of bread, thickly spread with butter on the plate beside his bowl, but he refrained from picking it up. It was hard to have a serious conversation with your mouth full of bread.
“Not today, I’m afraid,” he said. “I visited bunch of airfields. It’s mind-boggling how many there are around this area, most doomed to failure without a doubt. All I found out was the same things I already knew.”
Allie sighed and flexed her good hand again. “How many airfields have you got left?” she asked, trying to refrain from nagging him for not trying harder. She knew he was trying his best and he was on his own without his team of agents and he was one man.
“Two or three which are at the top of my list, and then there are quite a lot further afield,” he said. “I’ll be heading to the north-east tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have more luck. If not, I’ll have to pull some strings and bring in back-up.”
“Will you be allowed back-up?” she asked hopefully. “I’m so worried about the children, Bill. Do you think they are all right?” she was a strong and independent woman who didn’t like to show weakness but she wasn’t sleeping well with her hurt wrist as she couldn’t get comfortable, so she was more fraught and tired than usual. She was grateful for Bill and his hard work but she wanted her children back where she could keep an eye on them.
“They’ve survived worse,” he said, with slightly false cheeriness. “I imagine whatever is going on in that mountain, they don’t want the children running off and telling tales. They’ll be being held somewhere to keep them out of the way, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if they are released before I get to them. The folk in there may know that someone’s on to them by now and be planning to move on already.”
“You don’t think they will hurt them, then?” Allie voiced her concern, she was aware that the men her children ended getting into trouble with.
Bill lowered a spoonful of soup. “They’re just kids, Allie. It takes a special kind of monster to hurt children, and I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with here. I’m not saying that one of the boys isn’t going to get a smack for mouthing off, or that they’ll be kept in five-star luxury, but I don’t think they’ll come to any serious harm.”
“Why don’t you go up and get ready for bed? You look exhausted. I’m going to eat this and then head to bed myself.”
“I couldn’t sleep, even if I wanted to,” she said tiredly. “And this wrist means I can’t get comfortable,” she added, almost in tears.
“I’ve got some pills in my case that might help. I always carry them in case of emergency,” he said, wishing he’d thought of that before. “They’ll help with the pain and hopefully knock you out a bit. So on you go, upstairs,” he said firmly. “I’m not fussing, I’m bossing,” he added at her look.
“Same thing,” she shot back, a little feistily. She still got to her feet and stifled a yawn. “Will you be long?”
“Not unless Mrs Evans forces other courses on me,” he said, making a weak joke. Mrs Evans did in fact try to make him have more soup and a dessert but he was firm in his refusal, stating that he needed to get to bed – as did she, as she would be rising with the dawn to see to the farm. He made his escape from her and hurried upstairs to his room where he rifled through his suitcase for the little bottle of pills. With those in his hand he went back into the hall and knocked lightly on Allie’s door.
“Come in, Bill,” Allie’s voice called from behind the door. Her voice sounded thick and muffled as if she had been crying. She was sat on the edge of her bed in her night things and a dressing gown, face in a tissue as Bill entered. She looked a little sheepish that he had caught her in a moment of weakness.
He cleared his throat awkwardly. As often as he wished he could avoid Allie when she was furious with him he could deal with her then, he could take her anger. Her tears were another matter. “I brought you the pills,” he said. He fetched a glass from the dresser and poured water into it from the pitcher there, then handed her the glass and one pill.
She nodded and put the pill in her mouth and then took a drink of water. “Thank you, Bill,” she said quietly. “I don’t know what’s got into me, I’m just dreadfully worried about the children and I’m being perfectly rotten to you, aren’t I? Especially when you are doing such a wonderful job trying to find them.”
Bill put the glass on the bedside table where she would be able to reach it later, then sat on the bed beside her. “I wish there was more I could do,” he said. “I don’t like to think of them, trapped in that mountain. I know they’ll be putting a brave face on, but they can’t be having a good time. I can’t imagine how it feels for you.”
“I don’t know that I would be able to put into words how I’m feeling right now,” Allie admitted. She wrapped her dressing gown up as tight as she could with her good hand. “I’m just sick to death with worry and keep thinking that I will never see them again!”
A joke about bad pennies and always turning up was on the tip of his tongue but he swallowed the words. “You should try to get some sleep. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better news.”
Allie swallowed and nodded. “Yes that will help.” She paused, reached for Bill’s hand and asked, “Will you stay close?”
It wasn’t how he had imagined that she might first invite him into her bed, but he understood her not wanting to be alone. Reaching over, he quickly untied his shoe-laces and eased his feet free. He waited as Allie carefully moved under the covers, her dressing gown being tossed out to land on the chair by the bed, but when she lifted the covers for him he shook his head and patted them down. He lay on top of the covers and put his arm around her so that her head rested on his shoulder. “Wouldn’t want anyone to think there was any sort of impropriety going on,” he said gruffly.
She giggled a little, “I’m sure Mrs Evans will be very disapproving in the morning.” She nestled into him and closed her eyes as she breathed in his smell. She felt calmer as she lay next to him. She hadn’t wanted to admit it, but his absence had been part of what was making her jumpy. She hated him being gone so long.
Privately, Bill had planned to return to his room after Allie fell asleep. If the pill she had taken hit her like he thought it would, she would be deeply asleep within fifteen minutes and would be unlikely to stir until morning. However, with his arm under her he would have to do some manoeuvring to free himself. Perhaps he would just sleep where he was, and sneak back to his room in the morning. He doubted he would wake before Mrs Evans rose at dawn, but it wouldn’t be too hard to return to his room before she announced breakfast. The feeling of Allie in his arms had nothing to do with his decision, of course. It was merely the practicalities of not disturbing her, even though she’d be in a drug-induced slumber.
“Mr Cunningham, in your bed, look you,” he murmured in a poor attempt at a Welsh accent, and heard a sleepy laugh from Allie before her breathing grew deep and slow and he knew she’d fallen asleep.
To be continued…