Bill's Diary 1948 (Part 3)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
August 20th (Friday):
Morning was mainly spent on the blower while Johns was dispatched to sort out the protocols that had to be taken care of if I was going to take a helicopter over to Wales and up a mountain range. Rang Ashe and was given the go-ahead, the department pays a subsidy to the airport and is entitled to use their facilities when required. Arranged for a telegram to be delivered to the farmhouse so that Allie would have a smidgeon of news. Contacted London and made another report then asked for Pete but he wasn't there. Instructed that he be informed where I was and what I was up to because he wouldn't forgive me if I kept everything to myself - especially as he knows the kids. Spoke with Matt briefly and after telling me to hold on, I was informed that the Air Authority had been in touch with the Foreign Office on more than one occasion about several unlogged helicopter flights in North Wales. Evidence of this had been discovered when an apartment of suspected aliens had been raided in Shepherd's Bush and further information had now superseded the reportage of a few unrecorded flights because there are now rumours of 'illegitimate activity' that could be traced back to the Los Alamos experiments.
Matt said he couldn't tell me any more because no one there knows anything more but he referred me to the few brief details he'd spilled on his return from a visit to the facility. A lot of information is still hush-hush despite atom weaponry not being such a taboo subject anymore; but any revelations once the mountain connection is followed through may well be!
On the off chance I requested a number for the department's Land Survey contact which he got for me saying I should ask for a geologist named Froggatt. Found I was talking to the British Museum and after identifying myself officially, spent fifteen minutes enquiring for information as to the presence of any caverns, grottos, or caves that might exist in the region of interest. Froggatt was able to tell me there's a fairly extensive collection somewhere in the Glyderau range although he'd have to look up facts and figures before pinpointing them. The men that Khan had been working for must be using them although what they're up to is all speculation of course because Ashe and his crowd haven't been called in as yet and surely they'd have been informed if there was anything out of the ordinary taking place - perhaps it is a crowd of moviemakers! Let's hope so and that the children are merely in temporary digs.
The one thing that's keeping sheer panic at bay is the thought Allie and I both share - those four, plus parrot, didn't come down in the last shower of rain. They're survivors! The note was a bit of a worry certainly because Jack inferred that Philip had been taken, but had he been. Maybe he went along voluntarily and later the children could have joined him seeing their donkeys had scarpered. Or, taking a new tack, perhaps they've decided to try hiking back; I wouldn't put it past their adventurous spirits but surely we would have spotted them, either on our way there or on our way back seeing we took two different routes.
Visited the administrator's office and found there's no 'copter available until tomorrow so we have a little more time to plan our strategy. The decisions have been made - I'll pilot, Johns will accompany me, and we'll leave the aerodrome at 02:00. Word has come through from Bangor that another trip has been booked so that ties in nicely, and once again it's at night. Why they want it at 03:00 is anyone's guess but perhaps they're scared someone might raise a U.F.O. alarm. One thing's for sure, they'll be paying big money to someone for supplying paratroopers prepared to test equipment by jumping out of a helicopter in the dead of night. All sounds very peculiar so the local coppers, when they can find the time, will have to do some investigating.
Found Johns who was making his way back from air traffic control brimming with facts and figures so we hopped it to our quarters and planned the specifics of the 'rescue.' If it hadn't been for the 'sinister touch' surrounding the helicopter flights, I could have relaxed more but then again, Matt's mention of Los Alamos has added a new dimension to the mystery. (21:25)
August 21st - 22nd:
Up early and after a snack, we spent all morning at the office gathering flight data and discussing the evening flight with Henry after he dropped in, then we were taken to a hangar at the other side of the main building to familiarize ourselves with the transport. The helicopter cabin has a good clear view and BEA is emblazoned on the sides ... wonder what British Airways will be charging us for a brief (I hope) flight. Took the helicopter up a few feet to check that everything is in order - controls are very similar to the one we used at Yeovil so that, plus the good weather outlook, is good news. Johns contributed another angle of view - besides being used for the parachutists, the helicopters could be carting supplies when needed seeing there are no commercial outlets handy and those involved might have thought it superfluous to log all the flights seeing they'd be much the same by all counts. The pilots hadn't mentioned supplies but it doesn't make any difference. All flights need to be logged.
As it was, a couple of loaders were filling the luggage bay with several wooden boxes and two crates that had been collected from a warehouse in the city. According to a chap nursing a clipboard, an office in Bangor had ordered them to be delivered and they were to be dispatched tonight. Now we were about to investigate, I had become even more curious and after recalling the children's other escapades, I began thinking the worst and wanted to fly off straight away. Back in the office there was a message from Khan that contained some relevant flight information that would be useful when we reached the mountain.
Spent the afternoon and evening discussing things with staff. Bashir was there briefly and he gave us a few more details of the procedures taken when the paratroopers were training. I got the clerk to provide us with an Ordnance Survey map so the exact spot where we were to land could be gauged. Put a call through to HQ in Colwyn Bay and requested that a message be delivered to the farm. Can't tie up staff on the fairly slim grounds we have, but it'd be good to have Effans and at least one other person waiting for us - and what better destination than the butterfly place.
The chap, who answered, recognized my voice and said that he was Sergeant Tindall. The name was familiar but it wasn't until he jerked my memory that I recalled him from a while ago - met him once in Scotland. Had to congratulate him on his wonderful memory for voices, a talent that should serve him well in his job. Told me he was spending time at Colwyn Bay as part of a scheme for familiarizing recruits with procedures followed in other provinces. Good to hear what he's been doing. Even told me how his wife was, and all about the alterations they were having done to their little cottage. Very friendly chap. He transferred me to Ashe who listened as I clued him up on the map we were using - did he have one? Yes he did! Recording the exact spot, he told me it would be easy to find and gave me some grid references. Asked him if he could have Effans instructed to be there at, or around, dawn, and to apologize for any disruption but I was sure he'd oblige. In the short time we've known him I've got the feeling the Evans's would do anything for their boarders however, if he's unable to help out we could probably fly to the farm and land in the yard - that is if the 'copter can handle six of us. Also included a short message for Allie just to set he mind at rest ... kept it positive.
Had another talk with Henry before he left for HQ, and then went with Johns to get the very latest information from Air Traffic Control. Just in case we're flying into a hostile setting, I'll wear a regulation cap pulled well down and goggles, seeing my visage is not all that unfamiliar to errant individuals. Right now it's time for a cup of tea and I reckon we could do with a nap seeing we may be up all night - pity I can't talk to Allie. (17:25)
Johns and I slept for a few hours before getting up and making our way to the hangar a fraction before 02:00. The helicopter had been brought out and Henry was waiting there with another chap from Liverpool HQ who'd been fully briefed and was acting as Liaison Officer so that any added back up could be called upon at a moment's notice. We couldn't foresee any difficulties - our task was to land on the mountain and confirm the whereabouts of the children.
An airport official also joined us and after a few words with him, we got into the helicopter. Would like to have had Henry with us as well but he was on reserve to handle emergencies and as Johns had to be there seeing he was the area rep there wasn't all much room for another adult if we were thinking of taking the kids away with us. Henry climbed in before we left to give me some useful advice about flying and landing procedures - more as a recap as we wanted nothing left to chance. The plan was to drop the kids at the point where Effans is scheduled to meet us and take the helicopter back because it will be needed tomorrow. Henry finished his pep talk and jumped down, while I started the engine and went through the checklist. Found the tower signal and radioed the flight plan once more, looked at the fuel gauge, and checked the alternator while Johns busied himself making sure we were clear of any obstructions - he turned on the booster, and switched on the beacon as well. I followed procedures closely whilst taking in Henry's last minute instructions because we had to be just that more careful seeing it was dark. Johns got up and closed the door with encouraging sounds from Henry, his mate, and the airport man (think his name's McCarthy), and then we took off.
Setting a westward course we barrelled through the starry sky with our headlights picking out very little - just the odd tree or building. Running out of land, we passed over the Mersey and Dee river outlets keeping to a reasonably direct course and then flew inland and headed in the general direction of the Carnedd Dafydd cliffs before Johns who was demonstrating extremely passable navigation capabilities, said we'd reached Gallt yr Ogof. I congratulated him because this was exactly the place I wanted as a reference point. The mountain nearby was part of a range and, increasing the rpm's, I steered the craft upwards and with Johns reading out Khan's coordinates, I made the adjustments as we rose further and leveled out. Flying nearer to the top of a crag, a patch of light suddenly sprang out and, passing over the rocky face, we found ourselves above a brightly lit courtyard. Carefully as possible, I manouvered the helicopter down until the wheels scrunched on a round concrete base.
I turned off the motor, and as the vanes ceased whirling we noticed a group of what looked like Chinese or Japanese figures standing in a shadowed area at the back of the yard. A couple of men that looked European detached themselves from the group and as they approached the helicopter we heard one of them call out that his name was Meier. Looking at him I noticed slightly thinning hair, a flattish nose set in a rather sallow face, and the most piercing eyes I've ever seen on an individual ... they seemed to look right into my head and I was glad of the goggles. The other chap, named as Erlick, was bald and thick lipped and looking at these two characters, I couldn't help thinking that if the kids were here, I'd rather they weren't. Yelled down that I'd taken the place of the regular pilot temporarily and they both nodded. Told them the goods were in the hold but they were already opening the hatch and calling out some foreign-sounding words whereupon the Japanese workers surged forward to pull the containers out and place them on the ground. They worked fast and efficiently before disappearing through an opening in the cliff with Meier's co-worker dragging one of the crates behind him. One of the Japs stayed back however, hovering just out of range of the light that flooded the courtyard.
Johns and I jumped down from the 'copter and Meier told us that a meal was ready if we'd care to accompany him, but playing very much by instinct, I disguised my voice a little and told him we had to get back because there are "rumours starting up." The knife-like eyes bored into my skull as he looked at me rather tensely.
"You know the procedures then ...?"
I told him I did and couldn't care less if someone wants to practice jumps at night. He relaxed somewhat then asked me guardedly if we could take a parachutist up with us right now seeing we weren't lingering. The volunteer was helping them to test some experimental levitation aids and all we needed to do was to make sure he ejects from the helicopter somewhere near the mountain. I remembered Ashe's and Khan's reports about extensions on the paratroopers' arms.
Something still didn't jell though because Meier and his cohort looked positively villainous and they certainly didn't fit into any visions one might have of scientists experimenting with hitherto unknown forces. Meier went on to say that it was necessary for their research that a younger person takes part, seeing weight was an important factor at this stage of their work. When I enquired as to what he meant by 'younger person' he told us they had access to a boy and it was he who would be performing the jump. Turning to the Japanese man who'd stayed back, Meier spoke a few unintelligible words to him and he immediately sped off through the cliff opening. Meier faced me and stated that the fee would be doubled and I told him I'd do as he asked, trying to sound pleased.
There may have been scientists somewhere in the curious setting but all my instincts told me there was something very strange going on but if I couldn't draw out a reference of some kind to four children who were suspected as being around these parts, I was ready to make off immediately. Wondered who the 'boy' was and speculated that he might be a young Japanese lad related to one of the men but one thing was for sure, I wouldn't be pushing him out of any helicopter. I'd take him into custody and instigate enquiries. Thinking again of the children, I found myself wanting to get away immediately because I felt that every second counted now and an all-out search had to be mounted.
Meier suddenly spoke telling us the 'inventor' had been informed of our presence. Inventor! Johns was as puzzled as I was so we lit up cigs and waited. Suddenly voices could be heard coming from behind a shadowy mass of rock. Our plans, assumptions, speculations, conjectures, and hopes, came to fruition at that very moment ... I recognized them.
The kids were here!
I nodded to Johns and he could see the relief on my face as a boy suddenly appeared. It was Philip being escorted by a fit looking Jap who was only a fraction taller than him but with bulging muscles that made him look quite incongruous. Philip with his trademark tuft of hair held his head high and there was a bold look on his face although looking closely at him I noticed the telltale signs. He was putting on a brave front no matter what might happen to him and I felt profoundly grateful that he'd come into my clutches at such a crucial moment. He didn't recognize me at all but just allowed himself to be steered to a spot nearby where he waited with his escort.
Then I received absolute confirmation ... Jack, Lucy-Ann, and Dinah appeared suddenly from behind the rock and stood very nervously at the edge of the arc light that lit up the yard. This was a partial fulfillment of the operation and now it was time to begin calculating our next move. Johns and I now knew the kids were being held against their will because the atmosphere reeked of foul-play, what with the Japanese helpers and the two in-charge who would fit very neatly into the pages of a Scotland Yard Rogues' Gallery. Johns muttered that we now had to tread very carefully and just then there was a movement over by the entrance into the cliff. Several of the Japanese workers emerged followed by the chap called Erlick, and then came one of the strangest sights anyone would see in our present surroundings. It was a man wearing white woollen trousers with what looked like an authentic ermine robe draped round him. His creased face was surrounded by long black hair that could only have been a wig, and strangest of all, on his enormous forehead he wore a great big crown!
A King? King of where? It was baffling. Johns and I just stood there, acting like bystanders observing a ritual taking place in some Baltic country or remote Ethiopian village. One of the Jap workers handed a long box to the 'King' who undid it and took out what looked like two quite beautifully made wings. 'Extensions!' Wings to be used and someone to use them. They were going to put them on Philip! He was expected to leap out of the helicopter.
No he wasn't! I'd see to that.
Johns nudged me and whispered that a gun had been stashed in the passenger seat compartment and I was glad he'd seen to that, or perhaps it had been Henry. We watched as Meier and Erlick began fastening the "wings" onto Philip's arms after calling him away from the others who were standing back looking quite shocked. Couldn't see all that much of them because they shrank back when a few of the Japs crowded round Philip and then a strange thing happened. We saw a small figure walk towards the King and his group of henchman ... it was Lucy-Ann, who looked terribly distraught.
Will those children ever cease to amaze and to astound - particularly the youngest one, because there she was approaching the 'King' and actually seizing his arm! My first impulse was to jump into the helicopter, and grab the gun but I realized very quickly that it would be useless and managed to fight down the urge to lunge forward and do something positive. Common sense had won out and all I could do was to keep watching and waiting.
Facing the "King," Lucy-Ann spoke and the tableau will stay in my memory forever; she offered to have the wings strapped on to her own arms because, as she said,
"I'm lighter than Philip."
Lucy-Ann was prepared to sacrifice herself on the understanding that her slightness might help to keep her aloft longer and possibly allow her to glide down safely. For her enormous pluck she was suddenly enveloped in two enormous feathery wings that almost hid her from sight as Philip hugged her and told the little girl what a darling she was. His defiance grew and next moment he was sweeping his winged arms around and saying to one and all that he would go and what's more, he'd fly back down to the mountaintop just to show them all!
Erlick manhandled Lucy-Ann away and I felt myself wanting to push his face in. Don't know whether it was just me but he seemed to ooze nastiness from every pore, in fact he vaguely reminded me of Il Duce. Lucy-Ann ran back to join the others although I had to strain my eyes to make them out and I guessed it was Jack holding her close to him. Johns and I climbed back into the helicopter and waited while Meier and Erlick manouvered Philip up the steps and into the rear where he sat on the floor with his wings crossed in front of him. Noting that no mention al all had been made of an emergency parachute, we sat there and waited. Erlick brought the 'King' forward and looking down at him I got the strange feeling he didn't seem to be aware of much at all. He looked vaguely towards the space where Philip had entered and then peered over his shoulder at the Japs massed behind. Mountain caves, mad scientist, King, paratroopers, wings ... from my vantage point, the scene looked like something out of a Republic serial movie but with a more ominous air, because it was true-life.
Started up the engine. Meier had gotten into the 'copter with Philip while Erlick handed Johns a sheet of paper with a few figures and diagrams on it; we were to fly clear of the mountain and then hover above a flattish stretch roughly halfway between the entrance and where the children had been camping. "Push him out!" if he won't jump was Meier's pleasant reply to the question I put to him. He must have taken what I had said to him earlier, quite literally - "No business of mine if someone wants to jump!" As he turned and went back down the steps, Philip made a parting gesture with one of his wings and said something that Meier seemed to resent but before he could do anything Johns started yelling out instructions and the vanes whirled faster and faster. We were off once again.
One down, three to go. How we were going to extract the rest of the kids from an army of Japs wasn't fathomable just then, but the first thing was to fly Philip to safety. As we rose, I opened a small side window and leaning out, yelled something down using my own voice just to give the other children some kind of assurance. I know I included 'Bill Smugs' so it might have cheered them up a little although the engines were making quite a din. Philip didn't hear me, but maybe they did down below.
I was used to the helicopter by now and without any further ado we flew back over the summit and descended rapidly down the mountainside. Philip looked startled when we flew lower and lower, skimming over trees and bushes lit up by the headlights. He'd been looking out of a window, no doubt feeling terrified, then as we flew further on he looked puzzled and I saw him in the mirror staring at the backs of our heads. After a few more minutes had passed Johns, looking up from the map, nudged me and pointed in the direction of the area where the children had left Dapple the donkey with Jack's note. I steered towards it and we landed rather bumpily on a suitable spot nearby.
Cut the motor, whipped off my goggles and cap and turned to face our passenger who looked at me as if he was dreaming.
"Bill! Bill ... How did ...?"
Jumping up he grabbed at a seat and almost knocked himself over when one of the wings struck the cabin ceiling. I went to him and, taking hold of his arms, undid the catches and threw them on the floor. The boy hugged me like anything and kept looking up at my face for assurance that his ordeal was over. Johns grinned and nodded his head when I introduced them to each other, then he opened the door and lowered the ladder. Helped Philip down and then swept the area with a powerful torch while Johns wrote some information down with the help of a chart.
Philip was overjoyed to realize he was free although it was tempered by the realization there had to be another trip to rescue the others. He told me he'd been kept in a cell but the others had been camping out in the open area where the helicopter landed. Gave him a very rough grounding as to what had happened on my side so far and said he could stay with Johns while I finished the operation; asked him for some working information in the minute or two we had and he confirmed what Khan had already told me - there was a pack of dogs the men used for searching out paratroopers who took part in their flying experiments. There was also some kind of a laboratory that contained forces they couldn't understand and it produced rays with the power to affect a person's equilibrium. I took this in and resolved to get it all sorted out once the children were safe.
Hauled the wings out of the helicopter, and got back in to grab an oil lamp from the locker which I handed down telling them to use it sparingly in a concealed spot if they needed some warmth. "Plenty of Good Luck" was wished to me as the rotors started whirling again and the engine noise increased. Philip was smiling delightedly up at me and it was good to see as the helicopter took off into the air once more ... no doubt the fact he'd escaped from whatever might have been in store for him was still sinking in.
Reached the cliff face in no time at all and once more circled the mountain rising higher and higher in the night. Wondered if the light was still on because it was going to be ten times harder to land with no illumination and there was also the army of Japs to consider. First and foremost to worry about was that the helicopter would have to be brought down by headlights alone because, as the machine sailed over the summit, there were no ground lights to be seen.
Responding to instruments and the impromptu advice imparted by Henry, the helicopter went lower and lower as I tried to make out the best landing spot from what could be seen of the yard. Down further and then a crashing sound came followed by a jolt that shuddered right through the frame. For a second or two the 'copter spun around a little way but at least it had landed although it wasn't quite level. Shone the torch around the yard and picked out Jack running forward and yelling out that the coast was clear. The girls then came into view from a corner and rushed over as well. Helped Lucy-Ann up and she collapsed onto the floor looking as if she could hardly believe she wasn't acting out a wild dream. Pulled Dinah in and she looked up at me with utter relief showing on her face as Jack climbed in behind her. The motor was still running and as soon as they were settled I moved the flight control and we rose swiftly but the cabin suddenly began to yaw quite dangerously, so I brought it down again. Something was wrong.
Adjusted the collective lever and tried again but the pitch was even worse and we dropped to the ground. Years of working in tense situations had made me reasonably immune but not so the kids. I could almost 'feel' the dismay radiating from behind me as they tried to will the 'copter up and away. Our worst fears became reality after I'd fiddled with the controls briefly then raised the machine only to thud down once more. The fact had to be faced - we weren't going to get away by flying because I couldn't risk another attempt; the antitorque pedal wasn't working and that put the compensation right out the window. Another attempt, and the 'copter might have careered right over the crag and plummeted down the mountainside.
The only thing going for us was that none of the mountain's inhabitants had appeared so they must have been too far away to hear the helicopter returning. As flying was out of the question, the only thing left for us was to make our way through the mountain and, recalling something Philip had said about a rope-ladder, I questioned Jack. He confirmed that it existed so there was at least a means of getting down into the cave at the base. Poor Lucy-Ann, I put my arm around her and said that it's late in the night and anyone who's left in the mountain would probably be sleeping. It was just an unfortunate piece of luck the helicopter failed to respond and besides, we've been in tough situations before and managed all right. We just had to get through the mountain unseen and once we were outside, it was merely a matter of joining up with Effans.
Snowy the kid suddenly joined us. I'd forgotten him and hadn't even thought of asking Philip about the little kid; then in the brief time available to gather our thoughts, I enquired after Kiki. Hadn't seen her at all, what had happened to her? I was surprised Jack hadn't said anything about the parrot but he was probably too occupied with escape to even think about Kiki. He told me she'd disappeared when they were captured and no one had seen any sign of her since! It would be utterly tragic, not only for Jack, but also for the whole family if Kiki was gone for good so I had to say something. I stole a minute from whatever time we had available to assure him that I didn't think for one moment Kiki would not be found.
"She's a bird," I said. " ... and like us, she's been in tight situations before today. She has her instincts and all she needs to do if there's any danger about, is to spread her wings."
Despite his feelings, Jack had to agree with me; knowing Kiki better than anyone he cheered up a little. Dinah also agreed saying that Kiki's too clever to let herself be caught by anyone with ill intent. We marched over to some steps that led into the mountain and after listening for a few seconds, I took Lucy-Ann's hand and down we went, making our way along a narrow uneven passage by torchlight.
It slanted downwards and keeping well together we crept along keeping a good lookout for any of the men. On our way we passed a small cell-like cave with a solid door that was open and Dinah whispered that it was where Philip had been imprisoned. No one was sure of the right way as the passage branched off every now and again so we had to hope that as the route was down all the way, we'd eventually find a part that would take us to where the rope ladder was stored. Back and forth and around we went while the minutes passed by. The little kid clattered along behind, sniffing the air and occasionally giving a little "Maa-a-a" which was not welcome at all but as there didn't seem to be anyone around, we just kept on going ... past grottos and through caves, some with very high ceilings, and at last, emerging from a tunnel we found ourselves on a kind of balcony.
Down below was an enormous pit sealed with a great metal door that had a split in the middle. As we looked, the sides parted slightly and an immensely brilliant mass could be seen. It was like an enormous fire but extraordinarily it was of a colour not easy to define - seemed to be off the spectrum and I could only attempt to describe it as 'Ethereal Red," but it kept changing and at one stage there was a violet tinge. Strange and weird! It made me think of the lecture that Matt took part in when a group of scientists and lawmakers attended a symposium in New Mexico a couple of years back.
The professors had already coined a word from a part of the atom - 'Nuclear,' and the world had found a new form of warfare when the innate power was harnessed. It was a little over three years since two Japanese cities had been leveled by atom bombs and those catastrophic incidents had been due to the atom's capabilities being investigated out of sheer desperation. Surely the Oppenheimer research wasn't being duplicated in this remote part of Wales!
I attempted to explain what I thought was happening to the kids but it didn't register all that well - not surprising though because my only knowledge had come from Matt, and the scant details he'd brought back with him. It's all pretty secret stuff and I wondered if the mountain contained uranium, which is apparently needed for atomic research. Looking at my watch in the glowing light it was hard to believe the time had gone so quickly - 03:40!
The metal doors slid together again by mechanical means and as they did so, a rumbling sound came and the floor we were on shook slightly. The children had experienced this before but they all kept close to me because it was quite awe-inspiring. Snowy had rushed off to the other side of the balcony so we followed him and found ourselves in a part of the caves the kids recognized. Jack led us up a wider passage and then through a narrow tunnel decorated some way along with curtains and colourful screens leading to a cave that was pointed out as the 'King's' bedroom.
I peeped in. Lo and behold, an elderly gentleman was lying asleep on a couch. Jack whispered that he was the 'King,' and I remembered his rather bulbous head, only now it was minus all the trappings of Kingliness. There was no other way to go, so with Dinah keeping tight hold of the kid, we tiptoed one at a time past the sleeping figure to another cave that contained a large table, and chairs, and not much else. Further along we came across what Dinah told me was the Throne Room! The 'King' had a throne! Inside, we could hear noises - snoring sounds. I looked through the curtain covering the entrance and what a sight. Several men were lying around or sitting in chairs near a table that contained the remains of a meal, and they were all asleep. Jack said they were the paratroopers who'd been going through drills over the last several days.
Whispering instructions to the kids, I flipped off the light and we carefully made our way through the room of sleeping figures with the torch flicking on an off to show us where to step. None of the sleepers moved. Treading down a longer passage, we reached another part where the track had been dug out so that part of the rock had become a kind of bridge, which led us on to another spectacular sight.
Gazing over a low wall we saw a second pit similar to the one further back only this contained what looked like an enormous laboratory with wheels and wires and a series of containers that were belching out coloured smoke, and gases all being drawn down over a mass of wires moving underneath us. What a sight! It told me there was an incredible mind behind everything in this mountain and the children's testimony points very firmly in the old man's direction. The 'King!'
There was little time for explanations so I just answered Lucy-Ann's enquiry by suggesting the brain behind it could be combining the properties of hydrogen and/or other elements such as helium to render them manageable so they can be employed for whatever end the scientist had in mind. Perhaps it was to power his curious wings or there could be a more ulterior purpose. Whatever it was, the experiments needed to be investigated urgently.
It was quite unreal, standing there with the kids watching the mesmerizing flow of energy but once again Snowy had had enough and was eager to move on. Led by Jack, we stumbled along and suddenly found ourselves in the enormous cave from where the children had first entered the mountain. It was the one with a large pool and we were now on a narrow ledge that overlooked it; obviously there had to be at least one other way of entering the mountain seeing the dogs were kept near the parapet where the kids had been sleeping. There were a few dim lights shining so I switched off the torch and the children began looking for the rope ladder that was supposedly concealed somewhere.
Suddenly Lucy-Ann tripped over something and fell down, banging her knees on the ground. I grabbed her and found the ladder was actually out of its hiding place and hanging over the edge of the cliff face. That was untrammeled luck because the only way the kids knew of unrolling it was to move a wheel hidden in the pool below. Without further ado, Jack started down the ladder followed by Lucy-Ann and then Dinah. Thought I'd be able to hold the kid whilst climbing down if it didn't struggle too much but when I looked around, the animal had disappeared. Dinah had said the dogs have an entrance somewhere - a small hole that leads up to the main passages, and Snowy with her instinct, must have found it. The rope ladder shook as the kids made their way down and taking hold of the sides, I began the descent.
Hadn't climbed down more than a few yards when suddenly I felt Dinah's head bump against my feet and heard her whisper urgently that someone was coming up. Reversed immediately and sped to the top again followed very rapidly by the others. Grabbing hold of each one as they appeared I hauled them onto the rocky floor and whispered -
"Back into the passage!"
We rushed into the darkest one and then a shadowy figure could be seen entering from the other end. Why hadn't I brought the gun with me? Shunted the kids into a passage that led off the one we were in but the movement was noticed and a challenge rang out. Footsteps could be heard from various points as we crouched down against the wall keeping as still as possible, and then a torch shone in. I got ready to fling myself on whoever was there but just as the beam was about to envelop us, a diversion occurred. Somewhere in the gloom of the caves a voice could be heard reciting disparate sentences and phrases in a very mournful manner! It was Kiki! Kiki, doing what she often does when alone and feeling unloved. I grabbed Jack's arm to stop him calling out but he knew the score and kept quiet. Meier and Erlick's voices could also be heard so they must have come up the ladder with some of the Japanese staff, and they were obviously searching for the source of the strange sounding utterances.
Just as a wandering torch beam was about to pick us out, one of Kiki's loud sneezes rang out causing the men to race off in another direction. Meier must have thought it was the kids playing around and he sounded utterly furious making all kinds of threats, and then suddenly we heard a shot ringing through the passages and caves. The terror stricken kids pressed harder against me and I shoved my hand over Lucy-Ann's mouth. The footsteps suddenly sounded further away and then we heard a voice yelling out that the helicopter had returned with no one in it and the children had vanished as well. Meier let out a blast of Germanic language only to be cut short by someone else - probably Erlick, who yelled out an order for the dogs to be released because the children must have escaped down the ladder.
If only it were true!
All thoughts of dispatching staff to locate Philip must have disappeared as they tried to figure out why the helicopter had returned because the pilot was supposed to head off back to his base after disgorging 'the boy' with his wings. An argument started up with Kiki butting in and even giving one of her terrible screeches. It was quite a performance and while the men hunted and yelled furiously to each other in the caves further away from where we were I pulled the kids to their feet and hustled them out to where the rope ladder still lay, spreading across the ledge and disappearing into darkness.
We began climbing down as before and this time after long and tiring journey, we reached the bottom and the kids sank to the floor by the pool for a brief rest. The ladder's length meant we had a few minutes grace if anyone started down but after a moment or two, I urged them to their feet and we went out into the cooler air where the first light of dawn could be seen in the east - it was a few minutes after 05:00. Had to keep going so we stumbled down the slope making our way towards the spot where the children had originally been camping. Jack who'd been worrying about Kiki suddenly received a marvellous surprise - a screech was heard above us and next moment Kiki appeared having found her way down - either into the entrance with the pool, or perhaps she'd flown back through the caves and launched herself off the mountain top.
Jack's face was a picture as she landed on his shoulder and rubbed her head up against his cheek. Everyone patted the bird and congratulated her for distracting the men when they were chasing us. I joined in as well because, looking at it from every angle, it was fair bet she'd saved our lives. Snowy was nowhere to be seen and there was some concern about that, however goats are superb at finding their way around cliffs and in no way would the mountain itself be too steep for the little kid to handle.
Kept our eyes well open whilst following the track that led down to the stream and after fifteen minutes or so, just as the sun was beginning to rise, there was a shout accompanied by a bleating sound. We stumbled over a small ridge and Philip rushed up to us with the goat gamboling round his feet. What a welcome sight that was and we were all glad the kid had found its master. According to Jack, they'd used Snowy to take notes down to Philip when the boy was locked in his cell because the creature was able to traverse the rocky crags and reach him where the temporary prison opened out onto the cliff face.
Philip said they'd been waiting there for "hours and hours," as if we didn't know. Jack shook his hand and Lucy-Ann hugged him excitedly. Dinah was smiling and clapped him on the shoulder, not even shying away when Jack suddenly produced the slow-worm ... apparently Philip had slipped it to him when he was about to make his 'jump.' Dinah may have a nightmare or two in the near future when she recalls how many times she'd pressed up against Jack when we'd had to conceal ourselves during the flight, but perhaps she's beginning to accept the creature a little because we were told it had once been found wriggling all over her leg! Jack says she didn't react in her normal way, although at the time her lapse had been put down to the dire straits they were experiencing.
Johns came up behind Philip, smiling and congratulating us as well. He's the type of chap who looks as if he'd take practically anything in his stride but even he wasn't immune at this particular moment. He had the pack on his back and also carried a canvas case into which the wings had been folded. After the kids had settled down and ceased their excited talking we were ready for our next journey - to the butterfly valley, but we had to get a move on and put some distance between us and the mountain because Johns and I couldn't see our hunters giving up the chase. The kids were thrilled when I told them where we were going because they all wanted to see the place and had felt let down when David hadn't been able to fulfill their hopes.
But, just as we were setting off on the trail leading east, we heard a sound that stopped us in our tracks. Coming from further up the slope near the mountain there was a mournful howling sound and then excited barking that made the kids look upwards in horror. They knew what it was and so did Johns and myself. Jack looked at me with an anxious look on his face.
"The dogs are after us!"
Kiki rose from his shoulder and gave a few howls of her own that were almost drowned out by a sob from Lucy-Ann. The poor girl was finding things just a little too much and Jack put his arm around her.
"Cheer up," he said comfortingly. "Bill will look after us, he always has."
Bill will look after them!
Johns nudged me and motioned towards his pocket; at least the Smith & Wesson had been taken from the copter. The howling dogs intermingled with men's voices could be heard a little nearer as Johns and I explored our options. Jack happened to voice what we'd already contemplated - wade up the river and find a suitable place to hide. Before he'd even said it, Johns was helping Philip and Dinah in, and I was assisting Jack. Lucy-Ann clung to me as I followed and started wading toward the other side making for some rocks near the water's edge further up. If we found a cave of some sort we could possibly hide at the very back of it and leave the rushing water to blot out any scent the dogs might follow.
We kept on going with the sounds of yelping Alsatians drawing closer and closer and then I spotted just what we needed - there was a hole in the cliff side bordering the river that looked as if it was a tributary because water was bubbling out of the entrance. The river itself went on past and wound its way over the landscape, probably for miles. Reaching the entrance we filed in up to our knees with the water now seeming that much colder. Snowy somehow managed to keep up with Philip who hoisted him every now and again when the river got deeper. Making our way as far to the rear of the cave as we could, it was now just a matter of waiting in the wetness and hoping the hunters would simply go past and put a few miles between them and us.
Squeezed up as we were and sitting on a tiny little ledge with our feet in the water, it was an uncomfortable wait and the only thing I could do to relieve the boredom was to offer everyone some nut chocolate we'd found in the helicopter. Johns had some as well and, despite its rather melted state, we finished it all up. There was still a chance but it was slim - the dogs could well lose the trail when they got over to the other side of the river, but would their handlers look at the problem from our perspective? Probably they would. Johns, looking as if he was taking in a movie, reminded us that it was likely the men would work out where we'd gone although it was a pity he said that because the children couldn't take much more bad news. We also couldn't afford to have Kiki bird screeching when the sound of splashing outside the cave came to our ears. Jack shut her up but it was useless.
The dogs had found us!
One of the men, Meier I think, could be heard urging them on and as we looked over towards the entrance an enormous Alsatian, after leaping through the water, stood just outside the cave with his eyes fixed intently upon us. I was pretty sure that Johns knew the drill. In a situation like this, it would be all or nothing, so we prepared ourselves mentally for the assault. The lead dog howled and several more joined him. Kiki tried a not very successful imitation ... she didn't have to worry of course. Provided she could get past the dogs crowding round the entrance, she'd be able to sail over their heads and make all the noise she liked unless one of the men shot her down.
The hounds made no effort to attack us but just stood there waiting for the command. What a sight - I could see how useful they'd be as guards, and for tracking down absconders besides locating any unfortunate paratrooper who veered off course with the 'wonderful wings' attached to his arms. Johns still looked unperturbed and I wondered at his laid back manner; it was probably due to his training, which had been intense according to the description he'd given me. I was glad he was here. The kids huddled up against us and Lucy-Ann looked more frightened than I've ever seen her. I tried reassurance saying that we at least had a weapon although it'd be a pretty forlorn hope to think we could save ourselves from the dogs even if a couple of shots brought the men down. There also may have been more of the mountain dwellers further back, and we had only six shots.
Didn't take long for the men to appear. They ran up suddenly and seeing the dogs outside the tunnel baying at us, quickly drew back, probably thinking we could be armed. They took cover behind a tree and Meier's guttural voice with its heavy accent rang out.
"Leave the tunnel immediately or we'll set the dogs on you!"
Johns made a movement but I told him to wait. There was a small chance the men might consider the children's plight although, writing this, I can't think why I'd even thought that. I whispered to him that depending on what happened next, we would take the initiative. If there was absolutely no alternative, we'd get up and the children were to stay where they were while we made our way out. He was to shoot Meier and Erick on sight, and his specialized training would give him the advantage - Johns confirmed he could 'beat them to the draw' if it came to that. Meier was in a rage and he yelled that we have one more chance to come out or else the dogs would be ordered in. This was it. There was no turning back. I motioned to Johns but just as I did, Philip unexpectedly stood up and waded slowly to the mouth of the cave despite my making a grab for him.
"Philip!" I yelled. "Get back here immediately!"
He didn't but just kept going and then stood at the entrance putting his hands up in the air as directed by Meier. The dogs sniffed curiously round him and then one or two started whining and wagging their tales slightly as they listened to him talking to them in a very low voice. What he was saying I don't know but he just kept at it with his hands still above his head while we looked on in amazement. This was too much for Meier and he fairly shrieked at the boy telling him to call us out as well, or else! Incredibly, as he said that, the lead dog suddenly stood up and putting his paws on Philip's shoulders, began licking the boy as if he was an old friend. That's what happened all right and next moment the nearest of the pack were rallying around trying to lick his thighs or waiting impatiently to receive a pat from the lad. The kids had told me about their first encounter with the dogs and it had seemed typical although I hadn't for one moment thought it would apply in this tense situation. Philip was renewing his relationship with the beasts and then when Meier suddenly yelled out an order for us to be dragged out, the dogs ignored him and instead, several of them followed Philip back into the cave and when he'd pointed out to them that we were his friends, they began acting just like pets.
Once again the Pied Piper of animals, insects, reptiles, birds, and (yet-to-come) fish, had woven his magic!
"What now?" I heard Johns ask.
I looked at the swirling mass of dogs bunched round their new master and decided we'd play it purely as the cards fell and when Meier suddenly fired his revolver in a rage trying to shock the dogs into coming out I had an idea. Would they obey Philip? After seeing the way they were reacting to his presence I felt it might be possible to turn the tables a little, so I got Johns to stand behind the boy with his gun drawn and then asked Philip if he felt capable of ordering the pack to attack the men outside. He took only a second to decide. The dogs loved him; he knew they did because of his empathy with all animals. Looking over at the men who were standing by the tree with their guns pointed, he said,
"Golly, Bill! I'll sure try!"
I felt positive he could do it. I looked at Lucy-Ann, Dinah, and Jack and became acutely aware that this was our only chance. The consequences, should they capture us, might be too horrible to dwell upon and as I waded up to Johns who had his gun un-cocked, I gave the signal.
Meier yelled at us again, and Philip, turning his head towards the milling dogs, suddenly waved his arms forward and yelled.
"Go get 'em boys!"
That was the very moment I realized we were all saved. Making enormous leaps in the flowing river, the whole pack made a beeline for the two rogues who didn't even have time to realize what was happening. Reaching the cowering men, they flung themselves at them and Philip who was wading after them was almost lost in a seething mass of bodies making him clutch at a tree for support while the Alsatians worried at the men and began dragging their quarry over to the stream. Meier's gun had dropped to the ground and disappeared in the matted vegetation when the first dogs struck and we could actually hear Erlick screaming in terror, afraid he was going to be ripped to bits. Hearing another loud squeal behind me I turned, but it was only Dinah trying to extricate herself from Lucy-Ann's clutch as everyone watched with bated breath. Philip seemed to be enjoying himself and I didn't begrudge him that, no matter how gruesome the scene was of two men being dragged along the ground by a pack of animals. One thing I realized was that whoever looked after the dogs had not been kind to them. They were well trained but short of any love and consideration so Philip with his natural affection for animals and the uncanny powers he possessed, had won them over easily.
Erlick stood before us and then made a sudden move towards his inside pocket but Johns forestalled him by leveling his gun and saying he'd shoot immediately if he didn't raise his hands. I went and disarmed him. The dogs released Meier and he also stood with raised hands. The children filed silently out of the river outlet and joined Johns and myself.
"What have you done with the dogs?" Meier said through his teeth, sweeping us all with his piercing eyes. He started speaking in German, spitting out abusive words and asking Erlick if he knew what had happened to them.
"Halt die Schnauze!" I yelled, and they collapsed into silence.
Never have I seen such a look of hatred when Meier suddenly caught sight of Kiki who flew out to join Jack. At the sound of the parrot's voice he must have realized it was she that had fooled them in the caves and as the quote goes, 'he was beside himself with rage.' I saw his fists clench. Kiki was lucky that looks can't really kill anyone although if she'd been human there might have been a few bad dreams in later days. Johns and I searched the prisoners and were lucky to find a map of the mountain caves with locations of the various passages, and where they all led.
The men were allowed to drop their hands and told that if there were any 'funny business' the consequences would be grim. Philip saw to it that the dogs were spread around them ready for escorting. I'm not sure whether it was their training or whether it was Philip's complete control because they seemed to know exactly where they should place themselves but they were probably quite used to escorting prisoners. Dinah mentioned that Sam, and for that matter Philip, had been escorted to the mountain in a similar way. The name 'Sam' rang a bell.
Effans and Co. were scheduled to be waiting for us over the way so it was time to move off else they'd have been wondering what had happened to us, so away we went with the eager dogs and reluctant prisoners trailing behind. u The mountain will have to be visited sooner rather than later and the 'King' taken in charge once Meier, Erlick, and the dogs have been dealt with. Kiki kept flying off Jack's shoulder and calling to the dogs ordering them to do all kinds of things but they seemed to have got used to her and simply raised their heads to look at the parrot with beady eyes, probably thinking that it wasn't the right time or place to "wipe their feet." Snowy wouldn't go near them and was seemingly annoyed that he couldn't get closer to Philip as he clattered along in front of us, looking behind every now and again.
After hiking eastwards for half an hour or so, we spotted the odd butterfly resting on bushes and trees and as we neared the missed location because of David's inability to read a map properly, more butterflies came into sight and when we negotiated a narrow trail that was like a pass between two hills, we saw a wonderful sight.
Spread out below was rolling land with butterflies of all descriptions darting up, down, and around, resembling masses of colourful flowers. We had to pause because the scene was surrealistic and required time to take it all in. The location was obviously conducive to the requisite plant life, with the right atmosphere, breezes and everything else that made it an ideal place for butterflies to run through their breeding cycle. Jack said that conditions vary from place to place over the years so it's just our good fortune the valley we were in was currently the ideal environment for the multitudinous insects.
In the distance we could see a group of donkeys and three people who were probably wondering what on earth was coming towards them and if it hadn't been for Snowy taking off and running up to them, Effans, Trefor and David may well have jumped on donkeys and rushed away from such a bizarre sight. As it was they hailed us with big smiles although David kept well to the rear as the dogs came nearer. He looked a little self-conscious ... probably remembering the telling-off he'd received from Effans and the few sharp remarks I'd made as well. Softhearted Lucy-Ann exchanged some kind words with him though and he cheered up a bit, feeling a degree of acceptance. There were lots of whateffers exchanged between Kiki and Effans; he's terribly impressed with her and even said he'd like to buy the bird. Philip ordered the dogs to move the two prisoners out of range and got them to sit around, growling every time one or other of them moved hand or foot.
We were all starving and the children were delighted to see that Mrs. Evans had prepared a feast fit, not for a 'Mountain King,' but for a real King. Coverings were set on the ground and carrier bags that had been unloaded from the donkeys were opened for the goodies to see the light of day. We couldn't have been in a better spot - springy moss to sit on, trees waving in the wind, and trillions of butterflies all round us while we tucked into potted meat, chicken, tongue, ham, hard boiled eggs, potato salad, cucumber, tomatoes, soup, Welsh rarebit, and some lovely cake that Johns, informed the kids, was Bara Brith. There was such a variety of stuff that Effans, Johns, and I, took it in turns to name each one as the requests rang out. "Teisenau Tatws Sawrus!" I announced when Jack picked up a potato cake, "Cawl!" yelled Effans but we already knew that because his good wife had cooked it up for us a few times. "Pastei Bersli!" Johns said in answer to Dinah's question as she got stuck into a piece of pie.
There were other treats as well - custard tarts, a cake made by soaking fruit in half a pint of Ginger Beer overnight according to Effans, Aberffraw cakes, three kinds of biscuits, scones, apple shortcake, sponge drops, cheese savouries, garlic bread, asparagus-fingers, and fruit. There was also delicious orange cordial that we dribbled into our cups from a metal container that had somehow kept it remarkably cool. Finally we helped ourselves to Taffi Triog and sucked it as we looked out over the rolling meadows and listened to Philip naming some of the butterflies that were fluttering about all over the place ... coppers, skippers, fritillaries, and another dozen or so while Kiki, who was stuffing herself with raspberries from a bag she'd discovered, stopped feasting every now and again to soar up into the air, looking as if she wanted to grab at a few. Probably trying to scare them away from what she considered her own personal pleasure ... she wasn't going to share her booty with anyone be it human, animal, or insect. The kid wasn't forgotten either and received it's share of food running from one to another, and back again for a repeat play. We kept our backs to the prisoners who were now sitting down almost obliterated by the great dogs surrounding them.
When we'd finished, Philip and I took a few snacks over for the men, and also gave a pile of scraps to the dogs that sniffed everything first then looked at Philip as if waiting for permission to eat them. They were certainly well behaved and stayed where they were whilst we threw the food around so they could reach it. While the kids were wandering amidst the butterflies Johns and I explained to Effans what had happened up at the mountain and he was suitably impressed, looking at us with rounded eyes as I went on to describe the predicament we'd been in after the helicopter had crash landed.
Left Johns to continue filling them in while I went over to the prisoners and managed to extract a few facts from Meier who told us that his cronies had learnt of the scientist after he'd been dropped from working on the secret project back in 1944 due to an unstable disposition. He had retained his abilities for innovative science but his mind had become so absorbed in work, he'd lost track of reality and needed supervision. He'd even forgotten his name and had adopted that of a colleague at Los Alamos. Couldn't get much else except that Meier, Erlick, and one or two others had seen the potential for making a tremendous amount of money by funding experiments to produce some extremely potent weapons for the Reich after Machtergreifung had taken place. Apparently a rare metal had been discovered in the mountain and it looks as if other scientists must have taken part as well, or else given advice. I left it at that. Meier and his cohort will be grilled by the State who'll be particularly interested in finding out how the equipment was installed and what kind of information it was that had been purloined from official sources.
Evening came and it was decided we'd sleep out on rugs that Effans had brought and then return to the farmhouse tomorrow. The kids filled us in on their experience of living up near the mountaintop with the Alsatians and watching the paratroopers going through their drills. They hadn't seen much of the 'King' although they had talked with him once and according to Jack he doesn't seem to know what's going on outside of his experiments. He'd told the children he wants to be Ruler of the World because of his great brain and that he'd conquered gravitation so that was where the wings came in. The paratroopers will have to be rounded up and questioned as soon as possible because they must have realized by now that Meier and Erlick are missing.
After sunset passed and darkness approached, we settled down for a night under the stars. The children were thrilled to hear that Allie's hand was almost better and I told them how she'd wanted to come with us but I'd forbidden it, because riding donkeys up in the hills would have added unnecessary strain. Evans, Trefor, Johns, and I lay down fairly close to the dogs with David just a little further back, and the kids set their rugs up a short way along near some bushes. I think they wanted to be together on this last night of their adventure and also they were set to talk endlessly but the chat didn't last all that long because of sheer exhaustion. I handed a couple of rugs to the prisoners and they settled down with the ever-vigilant dogs still crowded round them. The animals were probably enjoying a change of scene under the benevolent gaze of their new master! Philip had spent some time with the leader cementing the friendship and handing out pats to the others, allowing them to lick him now and again. He said they needed constant reassurance in the early stages of the takeover and I believed him because his knowledge is instinctive when it comes to animals. Snowy went to lie down beside his donkey friend - "Dapple" for a while, then joined Philip and the others and after they'd all talked ourselves out, there was peace except for the occasional whine from the pack, the odd bleat from Snowy and a muffled bray from Dapple when he felt like it. (22:15)