Last time Johns arrived at the farmhouse to assist Bill.
The two men worked and studied the maps of the area through til lunchtime. Bill recounted everything he had found out and every bit of information that he had gotten out of the two men at the pub the night before. Johns took it all in, though Bill could see he was tired from his exceptionally early start. He made up his mind to tell the other man to sleep after lunch, he needed him sharp and ready for the evening. The sun blinded them as they left the barn for the kitchen and Mrs Evans’ amazing cooking.
Allie was helping Mrs Evans set the table for five, and had forgone her sling. Bill wondered if she was trying to make a point that she was at least somewhat recovered now. He hoped she wouldn’t ask to be involved in that evening’s rescue mission. He didn’t think she would, she was a sensible woman and would know that there would be no place for her on such an operation. Still, he knew she wouldn’t be happy about being left behind, what mother would when her children were in danger?
Allie glanced up when Bill and John’s entered and smiled wryly at Bill. “I knew your stomachs would lead you in sooner or later,” she teased, though the laughter didn’t reach her eyes. “Sit down and I’ll get you a drink while Mrs Evans serves.” She moved to get the drinks Mrs Evans has prepared, and thought better of carrying the whole tray over. She brought the drinks to the men, one by one, though they didn’t seem to notice her. They were still discussing something, and Allie found that she couldn’t get close enough to hear their quiet voices. She wished she could ask Bill to let her go with them, but she knew he would say no and point out that it was no place for a woman like her.
Bill and Johns broke apart when Mrs Evans put a heavy dish on the table with a bit of a thump, and both looked guilty having been rudely ignoring the women. Bill cleared his throat. “What a wonderful spread,” he said to Mrs Evans.
“It’s a pity there aren’t more to enjoy it,” she said heavily. She was generally remaining in good humour but now and again the plight of the children caused her to sink into a morose mood.
“Indeed to gootness, it’s awfully quiet without those children,” Mr Evans lamented as he took his seat, still brushing straw from his trousers.
“They will be back soon to enjoy Mrs Evans’ wonderful food,” Bill promised.
“I just know that you will bring them back safe, look you,” Mrs Evans said firmly, sitting down and reaching out to pat his hand.
Bill smiled kindly and looked sideways at Johns. “In the meantime, Johns can make up for four hungry children I’m sure,” he joked weakly.
“I’ll do my best,” Johns promised seriously.
He did eat well, as did Bill. He wasn’t overly hungry but he thought he ought to get a good meal in as who knew what the evening would hold. He sent Johns off to get some rest upstairs, Mrs Evans being good enough to make up a bed for him at short notice, and he sat back and thought about what he still needed to do to be ready for later. Not a lot, really. They’d both change their clothes and pack a bag each but that wouldn’t take long. They’d already planned all their routes, both primary and back-ups. Their contingency plans were in place, as much as they could be. They’d call in to HQ on their way to Abergavenny so that they were up-to-date and on standby, and that was all they could do, really, until they were up in the air.
Bill found himself growing tense as he drove towards the airfield that evening. He really hoped he and Johns could pull this off and rescue the children, or at least get a lie of the land. He wanted to bring the children back as soon as possible but he knew he would have to make a decision once he’d got more of an idea of what was going on on top of that mountain.
Allie had been stoic and wished them luck when they’d left the farmhouse and he prayed he wasn’t going to return with any sort of bad news for her. They’d left early enough to scope out the airfield, just to make sure this wasn’t some sort of trap, though the chances of that were slim. Then they’d collect the required keys and paperwork from a locker on-base. Mike had already passed him a key to a padlock for a side-gate on the base.
Johns was as quiet as a mouse as they got out of the car, just down the road from the airfield. He was a good agent, Bill knew, even though he wished it was Anatoly helping him right now. Johns kept a look out as Bill unlocked the side gate, one hand in his jacket pocket, gripping his gun in case this was all a trap.
But, as promised, the air field was completely deserted, with the exception of old Bert the night watchman. Bert had been well-paid to ignore their night-time activities so he wouldn’t pose any problems, but still, Bill was keen to avoid him this early in the evening. The locker they found easily and removed the key which opened the helicopter doors, also inside was a map with the coordinates of the mountain, other flight routes in the area, safe landing spots and so on clearly marked. A quick scan told Bill that their annotated maps were more or less identical, which was good to know.
Enthused by the fact that the plan seemed to be going well, Bill turned to Johns and motioned him to follow as he headed to the forecourt where the helicopter was standing, ready for its illicit take off. As instructed they flashed a torch on and off in the requisite pattern to let Bert know that the helicopter wasn’t being stolen, and after an answering flash came from the watchman’s hut, Bill opened the helicopter doors. He slung their gear in the back and they settled in the cockpit seats.
“I’ve not flown this model before,” Bill said to Johns. “But I don’t think it’ll be a problem.” He took a few minutes just to familiarise himself with all the controls, noticing that Johns was doing the same, then when they were both confident they knew what was what, Bill pressed the started button for the engine and it purred into life. He performed his flight safety checks diligently and then, at last, he opened the throttle to increase the rotor speed, pulled slowly on the collective and pressed the left foot pedal down, until finally, the helicopter rose slowly into the air.
To be continued…
Thank you my dear, for Chapter 17