Last time Anatoly arrived at the Evans’ farm, looking for a holiday but getting swept up in Bill’s plan to storm the mountain.
With stomachs fit to bursting the men retired to Bill’s bedroom to start making their plans. Bill lit his pipe and the other two lit cigarettes as they made themselves comfortable, then he brought out the map he had found in Meier’s pocket and carefully spread it out on top of the blankets.
“It is a hell of a place,” Anatoly remarked as he looked at the complicated diagram. “How did you get out?”
“With great difficulty,” Bill said. The map was not a straight-forward one to say the least. It encompassed miles of passages which not only meandered east to west and north to south but also upwards and downwards, and not in easily split levels such as in the floor plans of a house. Because of that, it rather resembled a cone of worms. Still, some of it had labels, and so using those and some of the bits he recognised Bill felt like he had a reasonable understanding of the map.
“Do we think that the men in there will have stayed put?” Johns asked. “Some of the servants might have scarpered as might the men who were to test those blasted wings.”
“How many men might be needed to clear the whole thing?” Anatoly added to Bill. “Could it be too big for who we have got?”
“There’s only one way in and out, unless you count the roof,” Bill said. “It might be that some of them have left, but they seemed pretty in awe of the King, so as long as he’s there…” he shrugged. “It shouldn’t be too hard to round up whoever’s left. I’m not expecting a great deal of trouble from them. I bet they’ve all got bad records and have been trying to hide from the police while they earn a bit of money. How many men did you say are joining us?” he asked Johns.
Johns did some adding up. “They sent a dozen, but four of them have escorted Meier and Erlick back to London for questioning. So that leaves eight, plus the three of us. The Cardiff police are pretty keen to have a hand in it as well, so we could have another ten men easily if we want them.”
“Plus the scientists?”
Johns nodded. “Two, possibly three.”
“I want someone to take a look at the equipment and make it safe,” Bill said to Anatoly. “Then we’ll see about what to do with it all.”
“Do we think that the scientists might be of use to us?” Anatoly asked. “More likely than not, they will be defectors.” He stretched out and grinned a little. “It is a while since I was in on a raid,” he mused.
“That would be because your big head gets in the way, all those solo missions have gone to your head,” Johns shot back playfully.
“Play nicely, boys,” Bill said mildly. “We’re going to bring in everyone we find in there, servants, scientists, paratroopers… so we need a plan. What I propose is we enter through the roofless cave, and then systematically search our way up the mountain. There are a lot of dead ends which we can quickly clear, and then we can set up blockades at strategic points to prevent anyone sneaking past us.” He circled a few areas he felt would be key, in pencil.
“Do you want copies of that map made, boss?” Johns asked as Bill made marks to where the cordons were to be set up. “I can drive into town for that?”
“Yes, hopefully they’ll be able to Kodagraph it in Cardiff,” Bill said with a nod. “I think we should have at least five copies made as we’ll have to split up.”
“I’ll go to the station in Merthyr to phone and ask,” Johns offered. “I’ll take the plan just in case I can go straight on to Cardiff.”
“Thanks Johns,” Bill said with a nod.
“What do you want me to do, Bill?” Anatoly asked.
“You, my lad, can tell me what you can about the job you’ve just come back from. I’ve been incommunicado the past few weeks so I haven’t heard a word,” Bill said as Johns folded the map and slipped out.
“You know I cannot-” Anatoly began, but Bill cut him off.
“Yes, believe me, with as many years in the service as I’ve done, I’m well aware of how much you can’t say,” he reminded the younger agent. “I’m not asking for all the details, the wheres or the whos. Just an idea of how it went would do.”
Anatoly accepted that with a nod. “Well then, I suppose it went… well.”
When he didn’t say anything after that Bill sighed. “Is that it? ‘I suppose it went well’?”
“You sound like my father,” Anatoly said with a roll of his eyes. “I achieved my objective. I got the information I was after, and I brought it back. And I am in one piece,” he added as an afterthought. “So yes, it went well.”
“Well, I suppose that’s all we can ask for,” Bill said with a wry smile.
Anatoly must have realised that Bill wasn’t going to let him off without hearing something more because after a deep and despairing sigh he began to outline his arrival in an unnamed place, at an unspecified time with an unspecified purpose. “And then I found myself in the sewer.”
“Ah. Yes, I’ve been there more often than I’d like to remember, unfortunately,” Bill said knowingly. “But sometimes needs must.”
“It got a bit hairy down there,” Anatoly admitted.
“How hairy?” Bill asked curiously.
“We-ll,” Anatoly said, trying to look as if it had been nothing, and not a life-or-death situation. “I was being chased, and I dove down one of the off-shoots to find somewhere to hide, but someone was on my tail quite badly. I found a hiding-hole, and stood there in the dark while they tried to follow me.”
Bill knew that it wouldn’t just have been the dark he was standing in but wisely didn’t comment. “But then what happened?”
“I was not hidden well enough for someone passing right by the end of the passage,” Anatoly said, blushing red. “His torch found me, but then the strangest thing happened… He turned it off, walked away and threw himself down into the sewage, judging by the swearing and shouts I heard.”
“He was one of ours, then. You were unbelievably lucky, Anatoly Petrov!” Bill said, guessing correctly.
Anatoly looked a little chastened. “I understood what it meant,” he muttered, as he reached up to rub the back of his bright red neck.
“There won’t always be someone there to save your skin.” Bill’s tone was grave. Every agent ended up in that sort of situation sooner or later. The sad truth was that too many of them didn’t have the sheer luck of someone else there to intervene. “It happens to the best of us, though. Sometimes, despite our best efforts we end up with our backs against the wall.”
“Then I go down fighting, but keeping my mouth shut,” Anatoly replied. “I know it comes with the job Bill, I know what is at stake!”
“Do you really though?” Bill asked, eyebrow raised. “You’re still young, a lot of this is a game to you, Anatoly. Just like it was for me.”
“I lost my father to this ‘game’, remember? I know how serious it is,” Anatoly said with deathly calm.
Bill held up his hands in surrender, “I know, I know. I’m just used to reminding people of the fact. Lots of people don’t take the job seriously, you know that.”
“Well, more fool them, then,” Anatoly said with a half-hearted shrug and said harshly, “we all cannot all be good at the job.”
Bill looked sternly at him, but let it go to not start an argument. “Come on, let’s get some kit together before Johns comes back with the maps and some extra bodies,” he said, diverting their attention from that topic.
To be continued…