Bill's Diary 1947 (Part 2)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
May 10th Saturday
Paddy's voice woke us. He'd risen at dawn and done practically a day's work before we stumbled out of our tents to the sound of an old shanty being sung as he made his way up the slope with a large box taken from his boat that was moored a little further round. Lucy-Ann came into our tent to help with the sleeping bags and she handed them out to Dinah who was too scared to enter in case "those horrible rats" were wandering around - they weren't. Paddy and his wife asked us to breakfast before we set off so we took advantage of his kind offer and soon, replete with porridge, herrings and hot drinks, we made our way out into another day with sun and clear skies ready for us. The couple had been won over (with reservations) by Kiki's charisma and Jack got her to fly to their shoulders and rub her beak up and down against their cheeks as a kind of "Thank you." This delighted them both as they accompanied us to the jetty and adamantly refused to take the few pounds I offered them for their hospitality. After we'd boarded the Lucky Star and I'd written down their address (I'll send them some kind of monetary "thank you" at a later date) they waved to us as we pulled away and headed for the open sea.
Made good speed and soon there was no land visible anywhere. After an hour, I gave Philip the tiller and went to test the transmitter so that our location could be recorded at HQ. After a lot of knob twiddling I managed to contact the communications room and was passed over to Dennis who sounded glad to hear I was alive and well. After making my report he brought me up to date with current operations and gave me another coded call sign. "All in a day's work," he said and told me he'll get permission from the men upstairs to let Allie know where we are and what we've been doing, before signing off.
The kids were enjoying their new environment. Kiki introduced herself to a few stray gulls and the boys were using an improvised fishing rod to "catch some dinner!" The girls, playing the part of "gracious ladies," were relaxing in the bow and Lucy-Ann was trailing her hand in the water as the boat sped along. No boredom arose despite the fact we just went on and on under a sunny sky for several hours until tiny little dots appeared on the horizon and the bird count which had been sparse, suddenly increased a thousand-fold. Jack nearly fell out of the boat as he leaned out to catch closer glimpses of birds that had landed on the water to preen their feathers.
Thought it'd be a good idea to keep going and give the kids a look at the larger islands and then, to make sure we weren't too far away from civilization should an emergency arise, the plan was to head south until we found an ideal place that would situate us about an hour or so from Lewis. We motored on and entered stretches of water where there was an absence of any land and then more islands came into view. Hard to judge exactly which they were and the compass readings, were no help but Jack who was poring over the map thought the larger one with a solitary lighthouse could have been Eilean Mor in the Flannans.
We went on further and after a short hop across an empty part of the ocean, another island loomed up and if I hadn't decided to make it our first port of call there probably would have been "Death on the High Seas" because the boys who'd been examining the cliffs through their field-glasses could see birds everywhere. A Paradise! Consulted the map and after a little figuring by taking the sun in relation to our direction, the general agreement was that we were approaching Roaireim (should've brought a sextant).
Nosed the boat into a small cove and after getting out we couldn't help but marvel at the sight of so many birds and after Jack had taken some photographs we trekked to a high point having to literally push our way through feathered entities that were rising and falling and screaming everywhere. Rarely seen Kiki overwhelmed but at this particular moment she'd gone suddenly quiet and remained hunched up against Jack's head as if trying to blend with him for protection. We reached the top of a cliff and lay down to spend a few hours just watching and relaxing after the long trip and then we heard a sound that contrasted greatly with the bird calls coming from all quarters - it was a plane! That was peculiar because there were no transport routes here so I could only surmise there'd been a minor error by the navigator. Didn't manage to spot it unfortunately because Stu's instruction to "Keep Alert" is still quite fresh.
Eventually we made our way down again and with the help of the four kids and bird (Kiki had recovered from her brief bout of enochlophobia) I supervised the setting up of our temporary camp after which we spoiled ourselves with an enormous meal and were entertained by Jack having "words" with his sister - in friendly fashion of course. Don't think I've ever heard them fight - certainly not like Dinah and Philip are capable of. The kids refrained from discussing or asking me for more details of the circumstances that drew us here because they're sensitive and know that a lot of my work details are off limits. Either that, or else they were so thrilled with their surroundings they never even thought of asking, and I prefer it that way. Didn't want to raise their concerns again especially in Lucy-Ann's case because she does tend to worry about my "Dangerous Doings."
Just before 18:30 we visited the boat and after a bit of fiddling about, a short message was sent off to Whitehall, which included our location, and then when HQ was contacted and Dennis's stand-in came on air, the kids took turns to transmit messages for relaying to Hampshire. When Lucy-Ann's slot came up, she spoke at breakneck speed trying to cover everything they'd done since leaving home and as Bernie's a sensitive guy he told her to hang on for a moment and went to fetch Glyn whose legendary shorthand prowess was about to be put to the test. Lucky he was on duty because Glyn's the only one who could keep up with the rapidity of Lucy-Ann's report that finished with a description of how one of Philip's rats had ventured into their tent this morning and run it's nose over Dinah's back while she slept. The rodent had been ushered back to its master and Lucy-Ann hadn't dared to tell Dinah about the incident thus preventing at least one scrap between sister and brother. Dinah's still in the dark because she and the boys had gone out onto the deck and didn't hear the description being sent through.
Just before signing off, Bernie passed on some info - the gang member they netted with my help is a qualified pilot and according to evidence extracted from him, there are others and they've started up somewhere in, or near, the UK it appears. Finished transmitting after telling Bernie I'll be in touch when we find ourselves a base. Before returning to camp we gathered round the wireless and listened to the end part of Dick Barton seeing reception was excellent - and it was nice having a little bit of "Home" coming into our isolated location. It was also comforting to learn that another Special Agent was up to his ears in danger but I think my case was more threatening because Barton had only to corral some character in a deserted building (with help) whereas I'm being threatened by unseen enemies and impelled to sail off to "uncharted" islands. Yawns started up as the news came on so we returned to settle down in the tents for the night and fell asleep listening to the cries and squawks of the sea birds gliding around and eventually nestling on the nearby cliffs for some shuteye.
This is the life. Woke early in the morning to another perfect day although it had a kind of "over-warm" feeling about it suggesting the weather might be about to turn. Prodded the boys and went out to check the boat. As the girls were already dressed they accompanied me to the cove. Everything was fine although the sea seemed a little choppy and after a once-over we went back for a quick breakfast and by 08:30 had packed up and left the island. Heading south, we began searching for a more permanent base and after halting for a dip, continued on until more islands appeared. Passing a fairly big one we headed further west until another came into sight and once Jack started yelling himself silly at the number of birds he could see and reeling off lists of names, the business of finding a headquarters was settled.
A curious incident made an impression on me a little more than it did on the kids. Lucy-Ann fished a piece of orange peel from the sea and presented us with a mystery. As far as could be gathered there was no one within miles of our craft so where did it come from? Eventually we concluded that it may have been discarded from a stray fishing boat and drifted around for a few days so I forgot about it and made for a channel that took the boat, only just, whereupon we became the "First Settlers." Sent the kids off to locate a place where we could bunk down and also told them to look round for a more suitable mooring area. There were certainly plenty of birds around, and the puffins visible further up meant the kids were adequately supplied with wildlife - even Dinah who hasn't shown any fear of strange birds seemed interested. Philip returned in about half an hour and said they'd found a good place to pitch the tents and there was also a cove further round that'd be ideal for the Lucky Star so it was all settled. We spent time lugging stuff from the boat and setting up camp in a little dell where the resourceful kids had made a most important find - a supply of fresh rainwater that filled a natural hollow in the rocks.
Kiki's taken to imitating the puffins by emitting a guttural "Arrrr" every now and again and as for Philip's rats, I hadn't seen them for a while but he said they were "adjusting" to their new location and I took him at his word. No one could ever say they lead uncared-for lives no matter how bizarre their living quarters. Wasn't long before we were established - Lucy-Ann was in her element and I berated myself for not secreting a feather duster in my luggage. Love to have seen her face when I presented it to her. She busied her self with the placing of utensils and other essentials and even came in to the Boys' Tent to ensure our beds were the right way round (!) and asked us for any clothing that needed to be washed. Told her to fill a container of water from the pool of course and she looked at me with a shocked expression. "Of course I will. Do you honestly think I'd wash the clothes in our drinking water?" Patted her on the back, "No, of course not." She smiled happily and I left her to it.
Had our first meal sitting on some heather and looking out on the ocean while the sun set. The rats showed themselves at last much to Dinah's annoyance but they stayed with their owner and were fed with bits of spam. An interesting interlude occurred during our repose - a puffin wandered up and after looking at Philip with a beady eye became affected by whatever magic it is that he uses. The boy just sat there looking back at the bird and glancing at him I noticed his features became extraordinarily relaxed yet focussed. The puffin didn't seem in the least afraid, but I couldn't imagine it coming so close to us if Philip hadn't been there although it's true Jack has quite extraordinary powers with birds. I think in his case, he'd probably have to make more of an approach. After allowing Philip to stroke it, the puffin downed a snack and waddled away only to return a few minutes later with a comrade that could only have been his mate. She made friends with Philip as well and they seemed content to 'hang around' as it were - Philip's aura had enveloped them and after they'd been named by the irrepressible Kiki, Huffin and Puffin joined out group! The rats weren't too happy, I think they would have preferred the birds to attach themselves to Jack but that was rather out of the question.
The boys and I went for a refreshing swim before bed and when we returned, the girls reported seeing an aeroplane in the far distance and Lucy-Ann said she thought something had dropped from it - something like a puff of smoke. I asked her if it could have been a parachute but she wasn't sure, as it had been a long way away. The news was pertinent enough so I went down to the boat and contacted HQ. Nothing to report from that end when I mentioned the plane, but there was news of Allie - she's bearing up well. When I got back to the camp, the kids were bedded down and after checking the girls I joined Philip and Jack. Didn't want to alarm them over my concern about an aeroplane being in these parts so I just said that things are all right and Allie is coming on nicely.
Thousands of sea birds, four children, three rats, two puffins, and I, slept soundly under a large moon that shimmered over a restless sea. A few cries from the direction of the cliffs were about the only sounds we could hear apart from lapping waves but they didn't disturb us because, very soon, we were Dead to the World.
Woken by the sentinels and while I wrote a few things up before breakfast, the kids went for a dip. The puffins followed Philip and joined him in the water much to the amusement of the others. He has friends for life but I think they'll really need to stay in their environment. If he wants to take them home with him I may have to nix it, with backup from Jack who'd probably agree with me - be inclined to go along with his evaluation seeing he's the "expert." At breakfast the kids chattered enthusiastically and thought of applying titles to various parts of the land to give it their own imprint. They've already bestowed the name "Puffin Island" on our present location and that's fair enough seeing we haven't defined exactly where we are. My map reading isn't honed enough to make a decided judgment with so few reference points but if we're lost, who cares? That's what we wanted in the short run!
During breakfast I began linking the two planes with what Bernie had passed on. Common sense yelled "Nay!" but I couldn't afford to miss anything no matter how obtuse. Why were there a couple of lone aircraft so far off the track? The Syndicate has almost governmental powers when it comes to tracking down those who cross them. They have their own planes, I'm here, and now unidentified aircraft are in the vicinity. Thought it'd be a good idea to check the islands nearby and confirm our current status, which is supposed to be "isolated." Be nice to have a little time-out as well seeing I'm On Duty continuously, and it's easier to work and think alone when a mystery presents itself.
The kids wanted to come of course but it wasn't hard to persuade them I'd like to be solo on this occasion and anyway, they had plenty with which to occupy themselves. The boys wanted to immerse themselves in the birdlife and the girls were happy to join them. They also wanted to examine the curious little nests in the puffin colony so, round 11:30 after a swim, I went off to the boat and watched the kids waving from a little knoll just down from where we were camping.
Spent the day cruising round the nearby islands that seem to make up a kind of archipelago in which our base is at the end and after some calculating, speculated that we might be in the St. Kilda group. Called into a small island that, according to the map may have been Dłn, and scanned the ocean from a high point. All was peaceful, and all was still, except for the livestock (birds, and anything else). Lunched on potted meat and slightly stale rolls that had been brought from the camp and cordial that Lucy-Ann had made up for all of us. Set off again following a course taken from the sun and kept a lookout for any more planes, but none materialized.
Just before dusk the exploratory voyage was completed. Spent an hour or so on the radio speaking with Stu who wanted to know the latest news; he said the secondary unit had been launched into Operation Sonora. He also said that recent intelligence confirms the Syndicate is stockpiling arms to supply a country presently unknown, and our treaties can't function fully if we don't seize every opportunity to pinpoint the illegal activity. The planes spotted in our sector may or may not have a connection - probably not but that's only relative to our lack of information, and due to the enemy's' talent for secrecy. He passed me over to Pete who'd just come in and it was good to chat with him for a while; exchanged the latest news and said I'd keep in touch. Waited till dark and got back to 'Puffin Island' at 21:15. The enemy has ways and means and if there were any agents in the vicinity it made sense to approach under cover of darkness, otherwise a visit might be organized.
The kids were waiting anxiously on the beach when I returned. They'd heard the motor and rushed down for an explanation of my long absence. Wish I could have warned them because the anxiety had obviously built up as the hours dragged by. Filled them in with a brief account of the day's meanderings and once again managed to avoid looking concerned about the appearance of aircraft in these parts. We trudged back up the cliff in the starlight and snuggled down in our tents after an improvised supper made up for us by the girls.
Spent a relaxed day in the sunshine with one precaution taken. When a plane appeared flying back and forth a couple of times, we laid down flat. Swam every now and again because it was so hot but it took only a few minutes after we'd emerged to make us feel like going back into the water. Not sure how Kiki cools herself on hot days because she wasn't brave enough to follow the example of the other birds that were swimming and diving in the water. She just stayed on the beach perching on bits of driftwood and talked nineteen to the dozen trying to console herself when she watched Huffin and Puffin swimming around with the kids. I think she felt left out and abandoned. Towards darkness it became cloudy and the temperature soared. The kids became tired quite early and were in their tents by 20:00 or just after.
The following entries were recorded on May 24th,1947 from notes retained by Det. Insp. Cunningham, and also from his personal recollections:
Brought the log up to date by torchlight, and then thought I'd nip down to the boat and send off a message. Soon I was in the cabin trying to communicate with London but it was difficult because a storm was definitely on its way and the signals were distorting so decided to move round to the little channel christened "Hidden Harbour" by the kids. Started the engine and putted off around the rocks to moor in the more sheltered area and then worked on the transmitter. Checked the valves and began using the call signs whilst adjusting the volume and range to bring up a clear green line in the panel. Managed to send a short message to HQ that covered more about the islands in the sector we were based and the route I'd taken on my sojourn. Couldn't be sure if it registered although an announcement came through but nothing more, and then a sound came from outside. Thought nothing more about it but just as I started another message a small thump came from behind. Turning abruptly I was confronted by a rough looking individual who was holding a cosh at the ready. Another thump came from outside as if something was nudging the boat and as I lunged towards the intruder he struck me down with a tremendous blow to the temple.
Unconscious for at least a couple of hours and eventually came to with a splitting headache, aware of being on a craft sounding considerably louder than the Lucky Star. I was in some kind of locker with my hands and feet tied. Almost suffocated, I bashed my feet against the door several times until it opened and a bearded guy with greasy-looking hair and freckles on his upper cheeks dragged me out onto the deck. The Syndicate probably has their own Rogues Gallery of agents they want to snuff out because he knew me all right. His English was poor but the few words he muttered, and his attitude, told me he was in a temper as I was hauled over the deck and kicked down a couple of steps to where his associate was handling the boat. One look at this man when he turned round was enough to convince me all bets were off as to whether I'd see Wednesday or not. He had a nose that reminded me not a little of Kiki's beak, his hair was tousled, and he wore a fisherman's sweater.
Loukas without a doubt. Recognized him from a picture I'd seen during a briefing in the Operations Room. They'd also taken us through an exercise on Confronting The Enemy. "Delay is the Keynote," we'd been told. "Ruthless men have no qualms regarding slaughter ... they're permanently on the run and to their way of thinking, one witness eliminated is one witness less. Kill him!" It was just as this was running through my mind that I suddenly thought of the kids! They were alone ... cut off from the world, on an island with no resources. What would they do? What could they do except perhaps make off in the boat. At least they had that but how could they find their way back? I consoled myself with the thought that the boys had some rudimentary map-reading skills so maybe they could head for Lewis at the very least. An utter mess, but how could I have possibly envisaged that the very men we're after would descend on these lonely isles? "Delay was the Keynote!" So far there could be a chance as they'd surely want to interrogate me and wouldn't do it here on the high seas. I may last through Wednesday because the "delay" factor is at least feasible.
Loukas handed the tiller over to his mate whom he referred to as Dorek and then pulled me up on to a slatted seat after a few backhands to my face. Looking down with contempt he made no bones about my ultimate fate - I'd be questioned "under pressure if necessary" and then eliminated! So, I wasn't to leave this world immediately. I'd be searched, interrogated during the next day or so, perhaps with a little softening up, then shot, taken out to sea and tipped overboard. No one would find me unless we were near an island of reasonable proportions where a body might wash up onto the beach. Loukas fired off some questions - Why had I been on the island? Where was my back-up crew? My call number? How far has the investigation gone? I said nothing despite his threats and just sat there feeling painful all over so he gave up and went back to the cabin. The boat kept on for a few more hours then began slowing down and the noise of the motor that had been boring into my aching head, lessened somewhat.
Looking out in the darkness a rocky coast was just discernable with the help of a searchlight set into the bow of the boat. We slid past more rocks jutting out of the water and when the engine stopped we drifted to shore coming to a halt with a bump. Loukas fastened the boat and then he and Dorek manhandled me onto a small beach where my feet were untied so that I could stagger along between them until we reached a ledge where they shoved me up on to a patch of grass. Couldn't protect my face seeing I was bound but managed to roll over and stumble to my feet again. In the gloom a grey mansion-like place with a number of chimneys could be made out and after being prodded up the path I was taken to an outhouse on the right of the main building where they took the bonds off my feet and unceremoniously threw me inside. The door was slammed shut and I lay there on the concrete floor eventually passing out from sheer exhaustion.
Remember waking up sometime during the night and after feeling about, discovered a small pile of blankets in the corner. Wrapped myself in them and fell asleep until dawn when the door opened to admit an elderly grey-haired man who looked every bit a farmer in old overalls and muddy wellingtons. I got up and despite my aching body was about to jump him but just in time noticed another man standing outside nursing a revolver. He looked as dangerous as the first two I'd encountered so it was no use attempting anything right then. The old man was carrying a small loaf of bread and from his pocket he produced a bottle of water, which he placed on a wooden stool before leaving without saying a word. The guard yelled something in a language I couldn't understand and then shut the door and locked it. Listened to the retreating footsteps and then went over to the rear window. It was barred and looked out onto a grassy, stone-covered bank that extended to what looked like moors. Couldn't spot any other houses so chose to have breakfast and try to work out a plan of escape. The cell-like enclosure was fairly bare save for a couple of rusty metal chairs, a stool, a wooden bench and some shelves containing a few old flowerpots and other junk.
The nagging headache had receded somewhat and once the food was gone I examined the lock and then scratched around in the dusty floor amongst bits of shredded newspaper and other mess until a small length of fencing wire showed itself. That was my key, and after working on the mechanism for a few minutes I pushed the door open carefully listening for any sounds. Couldn't hear anything so, creeping out, I sidled along the wall and round to the back. Taking a gamble, I ran up the bank, jumped over the top and then looked around to see where I was.
Hilly landscape on one side, rocky seacoast on the other and a partly completed house further up the track on a rise. That was all. Can't say my prospects looked promising but a recurring thought returned ... the children! My duty was to try every way possible to rejoin them so I set off running at a measured pace hoping that when I got over the rise I'd find a few more houses or shops or anything - perhaps one of the locals. In a way I had the British Treasury behind me and could offer a substantial reward for help but it wasn't to be. There was a sudden "Bang!" and something whistled past my head. Turning round I spotted my two captors - they'd obviously discovered the empty cell and had scrambled up the bank, seen me, and taken it from there. Cursed inwardly - should've waited till nighttime! Admittedly I hadn't known whether they'd be transferring me sooner than later so hadn't liked to wait, but now it was all off. The men had a dog on a leash and it looked vicious ... very vicious so I didn't want to give them any reason at all to release it on me. Dorek was blathering something as I walked back towards them keeping an eye on the dog and the gun that was pointing at me. As I got within range Loukas lunged forward and knocked me to the ground. I felt the fury rise because I'd had enough of this treatment and was just about to put both them and the dog out of action when I caught sight of two more figures appearing round the corner of the building. Could only accept my fate as sealed.
Got up with hands raised and was escorted back down to the yard where the men conversed briefly before I was manacled again and led back to my quarters by the second lot. I was shoved inside and berated in no uncertain terms by one of the rogues who had a lined face with a tiny moustache. He threatened to kill me if I made another attempt at escape despite orders from higher-up that I was to be held for questioning. He addressed his mate as Victor who looked a lot like a bodyguard I'd seen in a crime movie recently. His name was added to the facts filed away in my memory.
Victor asked how I'd opened the door whereupon I just shrugged and said it hadn't been locked properly. Shouting at me in another language that sounded Polish I was thrown down onto the floor again and the men exited without locking the door. Victor hung around outside however until the farmer arrived with a slide-bolt which was attached very efficiently thus making their prisoner secure. They'd left the cuffs on and as my hands were behind my back I was unable to do anything to lessen the discomfort so just lay there with my head throbbing again before drifting off into a light sleep when the pain lessened.
Sometime later I was wakened by an enormous wind that was battering something against the wall; looked like a gale was starting up because the turmoil increased and it began raining heavily. A little later Victor and the farmer appeared out of the darkness with a flask of thick barley soup and another bottle of water. The cuffs were removed and while Victor stood by the door with his gun aimed directly at my chest I ventured to ask how long I'd be imprisoned and, seeming more communicable, he gave a jeering grin and told me they were waiting for a Rafal to arrive and interview me, meantime how about revealing which of their number had informed the authorities of the Syndicate's presence here? I was able to say truthfully that no one in their organization is on our payroll but I doubt he believed me. "Rafal's held up but when he arrives you'll confess!" he said as they both left and bolted the door.
This was bad news, and good news - the "bad" being that Rafal is extremely high on the Wanted list due to his horrendous record. His ruthlessness is legendary and he's already cut quite a swathe through some parts of Central America and in at least one of the Baltic States where he left behind three dead bodies (some say six). His knowledge of investigating agents and their routines is second to none so any hound on his trail who is captured has to be very careful when making false statements because if Rafal knows the truth, the unfortunate prisoner would be lucky to survive more than a few hours. The "good" news was that Rafal had been held up and couldn't get here for a few days so there was always the chance I could make another escape attempt. The rain was really pelting down now and the wind moaned around the place like a banshee so there was fat chance of any sleep. Had the soup and sat on the stool dying for a smoke. Nothing else to do so eventually curled up on the rugs and thanked God it was summer, otherwise I may have frozen stiff.
Came to after a fitful night and took stock - had no watch so could only take note of each day that passed and gauge the approximate time by the sun. I was hungry, sore, and due to be wiped out in the very near future depending on when the notorious Rafal favoured us with an appearance in these parts. Noticed an aerial on the roof of the main building but there was little chance I could gain access to their transmitter. For the best part of the morning I just lay on the blankets in a kind of Limbo and then in the afternoon, while dozing, thought I heard the sound of a plane. Worried constantly about the children and prayed the Lucky Star was following a carefully calculated easterly course with all of them on board. There was food, and they could anchor the boat before sleeping in the cabin when it got dark. I weighed the odds and recalling their astonishing ability to survive in dangerous conditions, I was able to relax a little and become more optimistic. A couple of buns in a paper bag were handed to me in the evening by a fairly youthful gang member whom I hadn't seen before and from the few words exchanged in an unguarded moment when the farmer arrived to take my empty bottle and fill it from a tap in the yard, I gathered several more of the gang had arrived. The youth said something to the farmer in Spanish, presumably so that I wouldn't catch on, but I understood and "hidroavión" made sense seeing I hadn't heard any vehicles arrive. Suspect the extra men have arrived by seaplane and this new boy could be a pilot?
May 16th - 17th
Two more days! Writing as small as possible in the notebook and as nothing much has happened, the paper should last. Suppose I could ask for a sheet or two seeing I've behaved myself since the escape attempt and they don't seem so wary now because I haven't been handcuffed at all except for the couple of times I was taken over to an adjoining field for some exercise. Even allowed a couple of cigs so I guess they have to look after me seeing the Big Cheese is due. When though? The kids are never far from my thoughts - keep imagining their faces when my disappearance became obvious. Would they think I had been drowned? Captured? One or the other, but I was helpless to console them and even worse, although I tried to push the thought out of mind, they could be in difficulties!
The faintest glimmer of hope arrived towards evening when Victor and the farmer chap appeared with my rations - a couple of cold sausages, some bread, and (surprisingly) a chilled soft drink. While they were handed over Victor called from the door asking me if I knew of anyone else in the vicinity of the island where I'd been captured. It seems a couple of the men visited today after a fire had been spotted blazing away on a high point! More trippers, or could it possibly have been started by the kids? Why? They had the primus, why go up on a cliff and build a fire? Why hadn't they set off in the Lucky Star and sought help? I pleaded ignorance but tried to glean a little information. Made some suggestions and in the course of conversation managed to find out the island had been searched but no one had been found and the fire had been snuffed out before the men left.
When my jailers had gone I wondered about it and looking at it logically my spirits rose. I knew the kids had been there and surely it must have been they who'd started the blaze. The fact that nobody had been found didn't mean all that much because they're pretty nippy at making themselves scarce. Perhaps they found a hole or something to hide in ... Kiki and all! Why hadn't they cleared out though? Perhaps they couldn't start the boat for some reason or another. It's likely they're still there but what about the Lucky Star? The questions keep piling up.
I have a fellow prisoner.
Late in the night, the door opened and a commotion ensued as a guy was hurled inside. He fell heavily to the floor and began yelling but the chap who'd brought him just shouted something back in another language, then bellowed at me, "Here's your mate!" and bolted up again. The new prisoner lay on the floor whimpering for a few seconds then got up and received a shock when he fell over me. I stuck out a hand feeling for a shoulder and made myself known - to his relief. Told him I was a prisoner here too and thrust a couple of blankets in his direction whereby he made himself as comfortable as he could. He'd been captured today on an island where his boat was moored and the first thing he's going to do when it's light is to "Demand an Explanation!" He was so riled up that he kept going off on a tangent about his rights as a citizen ... blah ... blah, so I suggested we get some shut-eye and see what tomorrow brings. His name's Horace.
Woke early and after adding the latest "news" to the notebook, I got up in the half-light to peer out the window. My cellmate has the annoying habit of grinding his teeth while sleeping and this had woken me during the night. All was quiet outside - the walls are of thick stone and nothing much has penetrated. Turned to look at the new arrival but he was covered head and all with his blanket. Several days in my present conditions is not good for the body so I stood there doing a few exercises with aches and pains manifesting themselves and after a few minutes there was a movement and Horace turned over to sit up and look up at me. Nodded to him and asked how he was but instead of answering, he jumped to his feet and began firing questions. Who are his captors? Where were we? Where's the nearest police station?
He's the lanky, professorial looking type with a tiny moustache, receding hairline and big ears propping up a pair of rather battered looking spectacles. Sun burnt complexion, knobbly knees ... and wearing a pullover and shorts, I think a butterfly net would have completed the picture I was forming of this character. Told him to calm down and as I "interviewed" him obliquely, he seemed only too happy to have someone take an interest. Gave his surname as "Tipperlong" and said he'd been on a day cruise when he was ignominiously seized by two men who appeared on Soaigh Island when he was visiting to investigate a fire burning up on the cliff. Went on to tell me that he lives with his parents in Glendale and twice a year takes his boat down to Ramasaig and boards with a family in their cottage using it as a base to cruise round places he'd visited with his father when he was a lad. Said he couldn't understand why someone had built a fire when there was no sign of a boat anywhere so he'd called in to have a look-see and then been assaulted and kept a prisoner by some children who were camping there.
Well, that was goodish news - I was aware of who the children were all right but wasn't going to say so until I knew Horace a little better. "No sign of a boat!" That was something I couldn't understand and I wondered if it had been taken round to another cove. I also recalled the bad weather a few days ago and wondered if perhaps the Lucky Star had come unsecured and drifted off in the wind but Tipperlong filled me in on that as well and said one of the boys had told him their boat had been smashed up in a storm!
He became quite agitated reliving his experience and his anger grew as he reported being tripped up and shoved into a large hole by one of the boys whom he knew as "Jake." I drank all this in and pictured the four facing up to yet another "adventure" and handling it in their own way. If they'd done what Horace said, and he'd been taken off the island, it meant the children at least had a replacement boat. Horace went on to say that he was unable to get out of the hole because the boy who'd pushed him in had threatened to hit him on the head with a stick - and he had! I thought about that and decided it "may" be true if the kids had a plan and were intent on carrying it out but why couldn't they have simply asked Tipperlong if he could just take them off the island? Perhaps they thought he was connected with the men who'd captured me.
That seemed the best explanation so I let Horace carry on and then became suspicious as to how truthful he was because his description of the outrageous treatment he'd received included a scenario where all the kids had "conked" him on the head whenever he tried to climb out of the hole! I couldn't believe that and then when he told me a "girl with lots of freckles who said her name was "Lucian" had been his worst assailant I was convinced his account was suspect. Wonder if he confused her with Jack seeing there would probably have been little chance to distinguish either of them from where he was confined. I asked him if he knew why the children were there and Horace said he'd no idea except that they kept mentioning a "Bill" and had the weird idea that he (Horace) had something to do with his disappearance! The poor man was completely up in the air and I can see why.
Grounded him a little on my own presence here ... cruising round the islands on leave and suddenly kidnapped for no reason that I could make out! Untruths are an essential part of the job unfortunately. He asked for my name and I calculated that if I said "Bill" he'd probably make the connection so I gave my second one. Didn't seem interested in a surname but if he'd asked I would have told him it was "Smugs" - in fact, Horace didn't seem interested in anything except getting out of his unfortunate position, retrieving his boat, and sailing off into the blue.
During our desultory talk he mentioned having started a correspondence course in ornithology and having to protect my true leanings, I talked about the prevalence of birds on the nearby islands and to relieve the boredom we discussed their habits for an hour or so. He doesn't seem to know all that much as yet but happened to mention that one of "those kids" had somehow got of hold of a parrot and tamed it. "The bird talks" he said. I expressed my incredulity in a passable manner and we continued conversing while at the same time I kept trying to figure out a way of escape. Eventually when he'd finished his spiel, I had a suggestion - he could jump the elderly chap when our meals were brought in while I took out the guard but he recoiled in horror at the very thought. "We could both get killed," he said, so the subject was dropped.
The time went by very slowly. Couldn't see or hear any activity out in the yard and when Horace's watch displayed 20:05, our food arrived. Victor and another rough-looking individual with a name that sounded like "Kazik" brought it to us. Grubs looking up - we each received a cold meat pie, an apple, and a soft drink.
"You're due out," Victor muttered as they left.
What that meant I wasn't sure but HT decided they were going to release us as the men had obviously "come to their senses" and realized their mistake. I didn't like to spoil his optimism but if we were 'due out' I could only infer bad news. We were to be questioned and then eliminated ... not a very nice subject to dwell upon.
If I disappear, Andrew will be one of the first to hear about it seeing his tentacles stretch everywhere. Sometimes I wonder ... (NFP). As my Executor he'll hand the necessary documents to Morrison & Partners who'll delegate the three named colleagues to liaise with the Department so that any unfinished business can be taken care of. Friends will be notified ... Courtenays, Sorensons, the boys at Bow Street and at the Yard ... lads up North, Charles and Gwen Donnington, Sullivans, Mannerings ... God Almighty, Perish the Thought that Allie will be the only representative of her family! Whatever happens, the odds are I'll never see her and the kids again.
The kids! I hoped and prayed they had taken over Tipperlong's boat and were headed for safety.
Brought my notes up to date while having supper. Horace happened to be by the window and suddenly he called out.
Didn't react for a second then realizing he meant me I sprang up to join him. Three men, two with revolvers, were approaching from the yard that was lit up by an outside light. They arrived at the door of our cell, unbolted it, and a voice yelled for us to come out with hands together. Did so and after cuffs had been locked onto our wrists we were marched off with Victor leading the way and Kazik plus the other man at the rear. Passing the main door of the house, I noticed Loukas and Dorek standing just inside watching us. We were marched down the track, across the grass and to the shore where a boat was moored. Victor let on that the "Boss" had changed his plan and this of course is one of the keys to the Syndicate's elusive nature - changes of plans. No wonder, they're so hard to pin down.
It was a warm night with a moon sailing in and out of dark clouds over to the west above the ocean. I can remember every detail because I was 99% sure my last hours had arrived and wanted to block the horror of what might be in store by filling my mind with minutiae. Horace and I were escorted onto the boat deck, and pushed towards an open hatch where I thought we were going to be tipped in but instead they freed our hands and guided us down some metal rungs that were screwed to the wall.
There was enough light coming through some cracks in a fairly robust partition to make out a small room that seemed to be an extension of the cabin itself. Before closing the hatch, Victor looked down at us both and said the Boss has decided that seeing I haven't offered to talk at all and the "other fellow" doesn't seem to know anything, it'd be a waste of time trying to obtain information from us. We'd be here for a few hours and then taken and "dumped!"
The hatch banged down and I lost no time in examining our new place of confinement while poor old Horace sat on a bench looking terrified - I think it was dawning that he wasn't in a position to stand up and declare his rights as a citizen.
"What do you think is going to happen to us?" he asked in his rather whiny voice.
I told him I don't know but to try and keep his pecker up while I examined the hatch but there was no lock, just a bolt on the outside so it appeared we were well and truly stuck! The general noise lessened and after a while we heard just one set of footsteps pacing back and forth every now and again until it ceased altogether so had to conclude there was at least one guard on duty. There was nothing to do but sit down and try to think of a plan. The only one that came up was stymied when I mentioned it out loud ... ask for water and as soon as the hatch is opened we take the initiative by climbing out and attacking the guard. If more arrived there might still be a chance - I could take two men and if there was a third, Horace could tip him overboard but once again my suggestion was nipped in the bud. HT shied away in dismay at the thought of perpetrating such a violent act. He was still convinced the men would realize their "mistake" and release us as soon as they cottoned on so why get their backs up? Couldn't blame him I suppose after all he was a mere "innocent" caught up in a major kerfuffle.
We talked; at least Horace did, while I sat listening and trying to think of an alternative plan of action. The poor chap was worried about his parents and he was worried about his boat, which was supposedly still on the island and that set me thinking again - had the kids used it to get away? Horace whined on saying he'll be more careful when visiting the islands in future and he wouldn't ever approach any of them without cruising round first to establish whether unaccompanied children were around. He couldn't begin to fathom what his folks would be thinking when no phone calls came through. They might imagine he'd met with a terrible accident somewhere on the ocean and perhaps be drifting around helpless. He kept on trying to console himself (and me) with assurances that the authorities would have already been informed and even now there could be aeroplanes and the coast guard out looking for him. He has a clue as to where we might be, he thinks we're on the Isle of Beàrnaraigh which, if true, means we were wrong in our calculations that the enemy had moved to the remotest parts.