Last time the escapees met up with Johns and Philip and attempted to evade the Alsatian pack.
The first dog, panting heavily, was leaping through the water towards them. “Go on! Get them! Find them!” Meier was shouting, egging the creature on.
The dog stopped, just outside the cave, and howled before he was joined by his pack.
“Not a nice sight,” Bill murmured to Johns, wondering how, or if, they could handle this. They were both armed but a pistol each wasn’t going to do much against a whole pack of dogs. Johns continued to stare down the dogs as if he wasn’t in the least impressed by their existence.
“Keep still,” Bill said clearly. “As long as we don’t attempt to move or get away the dogs won’t do anything more than stand and stare.” He hoped, anyway. He seemed to spend a lot of time hoping these days.
Meier and Erlick, even more out of breath than the dogs appeared next, and quickly thought better than to stand in the open where Bill or Johns might shoot them. It was very tempting, thought Bill, only he didn’t think the dogs would react well to someone shooting their masters.
“Come on out!” The dogs have found you. If you don’t want them to set on you, come on out – and throw any gun you’ve got down on the ground, and put your hands up. We’ve got you covered,” Meier commanded.
And so began a hushed conversation between he, Bill, and Johns. Johns asked if they ought to go out and Bill immediately rejected the suggestion. “I doubt if he’ll dare to set the dogs on us. He knows the children are here.”
Jack interjected with an unfortunately convincing argument. “Meier wouldn’t stick at anything.” Meier’s explosion of temper after a minute or two of no response rather proved Jack right.
“You heard what I said. You have one more chance. The dogs are ready to pounce. They’ll round you up all right, and I warn you, their teeth are sharp so don’t resist!” he threatened.
Taking their cue from Bill, nobody moved. Bill wasn’t sure what would be more frightening for them; sitting waiting for the dogs to attack or going out to face Meier. Whichever it was, they would all be in it together.
And then Philip moved. Bill was astounded. What on earth was he doing – surrendering? He couldn’t believe that Philip would turn himself in, return to the mountain and the prospect of being thrown from a helicopter – or worse.
“Put your hands up!” Meier shouted to the boy, and Philip complied.
Bill and the others watched tensely at first, and then with growing admiration as Philip talked to the dogs, causing them to relax from their threatening postures.
“Where are the others?” demanded Meier impatiently. “Tell them to come too, or I’ll give the order for them to be dragged out!”
Bill winced as the lead dog jumped up at Philip, wondering if somehow the magic had failed him, but no, the dog merely delivered a wet lick to the boy’s face, and soon all the dogs were milling around him. When Meier tried to command the dogs again, although they looked at him for a moment they chose to ignore his orders and listen to Philip who led them – or at least as many as would fit – into the cave to join the others.
Philip extended his magic to the others in the cave, laying his hand on John’s and Bill, so that the dogs accepted them. “Philip!” Bill breathed in admiration. “You’re a marvel! It’s magic you use – can’t be anything else!”
“What a boy!” Johns agreed, his face showing his admiration for the boy. The dogs were happily sniffing, licking and laying down in the cave in-between people, wherever there was space.
“Meier’s shortly going to have a fit, I think. He just can’t understand all this!” said Jack.
Outside, Meier’s shouting began again, showing he was indeed getting more and more irate. “Fetch them out, I say! I’ll shoot the lot of you dogs, if you don’t obey orders! What’s come over you? Fetch them out!” he bellowed in vain.
Bill watched to see if the dogs would respond, but they didn’t. Clearly their allegiance had switched to Philip now. He was just wondering how they were going to break this stalemate when Meier fired his gun. At first he thought the man might have carried out his threat and shot at the dogs, but none seemed to be harmed. Still, he judged it was high time to be proactive and not sit around waiting for more shots.
“Philip! Will the dogs obey you? Will they go for Meier and Erlick? If they will – order them to! We’ll give them a taste of their own medicine!”
“Right!” Philip nodded, a determined look in his eye. He pointed to the tree where the two men were hidden and spoke to the dogs, encouraging them to fetch their former masters. The Alsatians gleefully did Philips bidding and rushed across to Meier and Erlick, flung themselves on the men and managed to rid Meier of his gun. “Don’t hurt them! Bring them here!” Philip then ordered the dogs, proud of his control over them.
Bill and Johns exited the cave a moment or two after the dogs, having waiting just long enough to be sure that the animals were doing as they were asked, and were amused to see Erlick screaming and howling for all he was worth. He had seemed brave when he was in charge but was now being revealed as the coward he really was. Bill ignored his pleas of “Call them off,” and kept his eye on Meier who was fighting wildly with little regard for his own safety.
One of the dogs grabbed Meiers’s trousers and hustled the man over to where Bill and Johns were standing. Erlick was brought too, and as the dogs herded the men over, Johns pulled out his weapon, aware that one or other of the men might still be armed.
“Hands up,” said Johns, lest either man have another weapon. “Any funny business on your part, Erlick, and the dogs can have you for all I care. Stand up, Meier, and put your hands up, too.”
Bill made a mental note to see if he could pinch Johns for his team in future as Meier glared at them both.
“Shut up!” he said to Meier as the man began to ask questions then spew forth what only Bill and Johns recognised as offensive statements. He had his gun out himself now, something he didn’t really like to do in front of the children but the situation necessitated it.