Last time Bill met the two pilots, Alan and Mike, and discussed their secretive helicopter job.
Bill was driving back to the Evans’ farm after the pub closed and Alan and Mike had gone off for their holiday, thinking over everything that had been said in the pub that evening. Bill’s feeling of dread about what the children had gotten themselves mixed up in, was increasing at every moment. He wasn’t going to tell Allie everything because he knew she would get upset if he did.
He had already called in to the SIS, requesting a co-pilot for the next evening. Tomorrow! Alan really had left it until the last minute to recruit someone. Apparently he’d had someone in mind but it had fallen through, which was a stroke of luck for Bill. If they hadn’t been desperate he’d have stood no chance. It didn’t give him much time to prepare, but there wasn’t an awful lot to do, really. Someone would arrive the next morning to be his co-pilot, bringing a pair of phony pilots licences in case anyone asked to see them, and they’d have the day to make their plans before flying out in the early evening.
He hadn’t updated Inspector Morgan as he hadn’t yet decided how to proceed on that front. He’d make a decision in the morning. First he had to worry about what to tell Allie. Mike and Alan had been cagey on the details themselves. What he had heard, though, was hard to believe. Anti-gravity wings? It sounded like something from a science-fiction story. Alan had made vague comments about there being some teething problems with the wings. If these men were jumping out with wings that didn’t work, well, there was only one possible outcome. That made the dogs an even more important asset. A dead man couldn’t get up and make his own way back.
Allie was still up when Bill returned to the farm. “I was getting worried,” she chided, coming out to meet him at the car. “Come inside, Mrs Evans has left you supper and you look like you could use a good rest and some cocoa!” She led him inside and let him go and wash while she warmed some cocoa in the fire for him. She wanted desperately to ask him lots of questions but held her tongue, knowing how tired he was. Allie was nervous about the children but she didn’t want Bill to think she was nagging.
Hoping he didn’t smell too much of the pub, Bill returned downstairs after freshening up. He’d only had a few pints, and they’d been part of his cover but he didn’t want Allie thinking he’d been off boozing instead of working. Mrs Evans had left an enormous plate for him, what must have been a full quarter of a meat-pie, three hard-boiled eggs, heaps of cold new potatoes, lashings of tomatoes… He’d be hard-pushed to eat even half of it.
Allie was at the table, trying not to be impatient. She was flipping ideally through the daily paper she must have read about five times that day. She got up when the metal kettle began to whistle for the cocoa.
“I’ll sort that,” Bill said, but Allie brushed him off. He supposed she found it easier to keep busy. He sat down to his mountain of food as she poured the drinks. “I have a lead,” he told her when she joined him at the table again.
“You do?” she asked eagerly, leaning forward in her chair. “Do you know where the children are?”
“I’m still working on the assumption that they’re in that mountain,” he told her. “I met someone who just happens to have landed a helicopter on top on more than on occasion and he told me that there’s a trap-door in the mountain top. He doesn’t know where it leads to, he’s never been near it, but he has seen men come out of it.”
Allie gasped. “A trap-door in the mountain? Do you know what’s going on there, from this man?”
“He’s given me a fairly good idea,” Bill replied. “There’s some sort of testing outfit been installed there. A new-fangled sort of parachute that resembles a pair of wings. Sounds highly dubious to me, which is why I’m going to be flying in tomorrow night.”
“Wings?” Allie asked startled. She looked fearful. “You don’t think those people would make the children try these things?” she looked very worried that the children could be in more danger than she could have even imagined to begin with.
He had hoped that Allie’s mind wouldn’t have gone there, as his had, but she was a clever woman. “No,” he said, putting as much confidence into that one little word as he could. “They’re children, not trained paratroopers.”
He had questioned Mike and Alan as much as he could without arousing their suspicions. Mike had stressed that the guys trying the wings all seemed too heavy, and he’d warned them to try someone smaller. That had immediately had Bill’s heart in his throat, thinking of the children. Jack and Philip were sturdy for their age but still a good bit lighter than your average paratrooper. “Someone a lot younger might be lighter, perhaps?” he had managed to say quite calmly.
Alan had shrugged. “If they’ve got any skinny young lads we’ve not seen them. Just them great hulking blokes.”
“I told them I’d not take any big blokes up again, so goodness knows what they’ll do. You might turn up to find there’s no-one to jump tomorrow. I doubt it, though. I told them I’d be sending someone less particular than me next time, so I’m betting they’ll try to push the usual types on you. It’s up to you if you take them, though,” Mike had said and it had taken Bill a moment to catch up to what he had said about sending someone new.
“How do you know how particular I am? Or that I’d be the one going, in fact?” he’d asked.
Mike had laughed awkwardly. “Well, I had a mate of mine in mind for this but he’s… otherwise engaged right now.”
“At her majesty’s pleasure,” Alan had said into his pint.
That explained why he, Bill, was being trusted at this eleventh hour. So, if he went, he might well be faced with them trying to make the children jump. At least he would be able to intervene, then. If Mike and Alan had gone… it didn’t bear thinking about.
Allie listened to what he was saying, her face very pale and her lips set in a thin line. “You won’t let them try it on the children will you, Bill?” she said eventually when she had digested what he had said.
He bit back a retort about not being as stupid as all that. “No, of course I wouldn’t,” was what he said instead. “I’m flying in tomorrow to take out the next trooper testing the wings, and I’m going to do as much snooping around as I can. If I can see the kids and get them away then I will do, if not I’ll hopefully have more to go on for another attempt.”
To be continued…