The Enid Blyton Society
Bill's Diary 1951 (Part 5)
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Book Details...

First edition: 2017
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1951
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Continuation Books

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Oct. 18th

Sunlight shone through the tiny barred window when we both woke up at exactly the same time. It was a few minutes after 09:30 according to Allie's watch and sleep had been fitful for both of us seeing the narrow sofa that had been our bed was threadbare and full of bumps. Allie still seemed tired but there was a determined look on her face that told me she was ready to face whatever came our way without becoming a burden. I was glad of that because predicaments can easily turn people into jelly. I couldn't help remembering back to one of the chaps in our own service who'd collapsed in terror when three of us had been detected inside the Kyrenia fortress that was thought to have been taken over by Nazis during the air raids. Fortunately the people who discovered us were on our side but it had been an unnerving experience. Allie has inner strength hidden behind her innocence ... an acceptable partner in any circumstance.

We got up and gave each other a brush down then spying a jug with water in it beside the small sink we washed ourselves as best we could a few minutes before the door suddenly burst open and we were confronted by our captors. Kovar motioned me to come out whilst his companion locked Allie up once again and then pointed his gun at my back. I protested as much as judged possible without raising ire but both men simply grunted and herded me along the path that ran through a copse of trees leading to the house we'd seen on our way down. Kovar's companion shunted me into the hallway and I was pushed into a room on the left where there was a table, two chairs, some shelves and an oaken cupboard. There was also a mirror on the wall and it was quite a shock to see my face in it looking as if I'd been on a thousand mile journey although it wasn't too dirty having given it a perfunctory wipe earlier on. The thought of attacking my captor and knocking him down flitted round in my head but there would be too much of a risk for Allie if I tried that although I was sure he could have been taken easily enough ... the gun wouldn't supply any deterrent. Whilst considering this I was thrown into a seat by the table and, still holding his gun, the man handcuffed my hands to each side of the chair.

"You stay here. Raya know why you here. He ask questions."

I feigned innocence and told him I was simply holidaying with my family in the hopes he wasn't as informed as I thought he might be but Uma had obviously clued him up and had probably made me out to be a serious threat that needed to be handled. Once I was secured, the chap left the room and I heard him yelling something out to Kovar who I could see I could see coming up the path. I managed to interpret a few sentences he spouted out in Czech from the lesson I'd absorbed when on an assignment in Brno. It appeared that Allie was going to be supplied with food and drink, which saved me asking them - not that my request would have been granted. We hadn't eaten since yesterday afternoon and despite the circumstances, we'd started feeling hunger pangs.

Approximately two hours of boredom passed, relieved only slightly by the presence of ten thousand mosquitos trying to eat me alive and then, just as I was getting to the stage of offering anything I owned for a drink, Kovar appeared. He unlocked my cuffs and pushed me outside where I shuffled along in front of him back down towards the shack. I asked him what was happening and when he didn't answer I asked again.

"Uma not arrive. You be in here until he come," he said and I was prodded back into the cabin. Allie ran up and flung her arms round my shoulders asking if I was all right. Apparently she'd been having terrible thoughts of my being violently interrogated.

"Right enough I guess, Allie."

Kovar shut the door, locked it, and disappeared.

"Bill, I still can't stop thinking of the children. If something should happen to us."

I took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes.

"Allie! Don't even think of anything like that. We must keep all thoughts positive and when an opportunity arrives, we'll make full use of it."

The purposeful look I'd noticed earlier had reappeared and I hugged her.

"OK?" I asked.

"Yes, Bill. Sorry ... I was letting my thoughts run in the completely wrong direction. I was so worried something was going to happen when they took you away."

She looked up at me and we kissed.

"I'm not scared anymore!"

"Why, Allie?"

"Because you're with me and that makes me sure as anything that somehow we'll survive this predicament."

"We also have the children, Allie."

She nodded. It was surprising, but contemplating past incidents, we both felt the children might play an important part in out survival if all else failed. Dragging my thoughts away from the introspective to our current dilemma I began concentrating on our enclosure. Door bolted, window minus glass but with bars. There was a small fireplace but it was no use even thinking of a 'grate' escape. Although I doubted our chances the decision was made that next time an unaccompanied person came to the door with (hopefully) some food I'd jump him as long as he wasn't holding a gun in front of him as well. Doubted it would happen but it could because they might not possess Uma's knowledge of any capabilities I possess. I also hadn't shown any signs of aggression. However the hours passed one by one and as no one appeared Allie wondered if they were just going to leave us here, but I couldn't see that happening. We were hungry by now and despite what I'd heard earlier on, no food seemed forthcoming. If none appeared in the next couple of hours I'd hammer on the door - they might have forgotten we were here, or else were simply waiting for Mr. Big to arrive.

"That's it!" I expostulated.

Allie looked up from where she'd been trying to make the couch a little more receptive to human relaxation.

"What is it, Bill?"

"Doubt if anything's going to happen until old Uma arrives and that probably won't be much longer seeing they have such a valuable catch."

I didn't let on to Allie what I thought might happen when he got here because I suspected that as Uma wasn't one to fiddle about, and as I was perceived as a very real threat to his operations, there'd be no pussyfooting. He'd want information - and torture would be the name of the game.

Allie nodded her head.

"Of course. At least when he arrives we might be saved from imminent starvation, although I'm not looking forward to seeing him at all."

That made me suspect Allie had inkling as to what might happen. My watch didn't seem to be working or else it was slow because 12:35 showed up whereas Allie's told us it was just after 14:00 so that was taken as read. Just then, as we went to have another peep out of the window in the hopes of seeing some proof of life, there was the sound of a vehicle.

"Here he is!"

My previous plan that involved attacking our next visitor disappeared because if Uma had arrived I couldn't see him approaching the hut without an armed escort so Allie and I just stood by the window and waited. In a matter of a few seconds we saw a thuggish looking Arab ambling down the track with a bunch of keys. He had a moustache, deep-set dark eyes and would have been round the thirty-five mark. He also wore a head covering and didn't seem noticeably armed or even all that aggressive so telling Allie to crouch herself behind a chair at the furthest corner of the room, I poised myself. The door opened and I was just about to launch myself at the visitor when I noticed he was motioning at me and at the same time looking back up the track a little way to where a van was parked. Somehow he'd managed to drive it a little way down. Something about the Arab's demeanour told me to wait and see exactly what was happening and anyway, if there were people inside the van it'd be useless to try anything. I stepped outside, closed the door, and then wondering if the man could speak English I yelled out what I could remember of the textbook announcement that we had all been advised to learn and use at least once in any case we became involved with.

"You have no right whatsoever to detain a British police officer. If you're an agent of one Raya Uma you must face any resultant consequences of your actions."

It sounded awfully hollow but at least I was covering myself for any future inquiry - should one ever ensue. I felt it was imperative so that any authorities in their later reports would be able to put it in, but the chap just glanced at me not comprehending a word of what was said and I wondered if Uma was about to appear because we could hear another larger vehicle forcing its way through bushes at the head of the track. The Arab jabbered to me in his own language and apart from one or two words that sounded familiar, I heard 'bargua' being repeated. What that had to do with anything I couldn't fathom but suddenly a surprise floored me completely.

Jack and Philip jumped out of the second vehicle and ran down to confront me.

How? Why? What? Where?

For the hundredth time in my life those kids' resourcefulness and ability to surprise when it was least expected hammered through my brain although, without any clues, it was impossible to even hazard a guess as to how they had suddenly appeared on the scene. Raya Uma? Where was he? There was little time for detailed explanations but Philip explained in a few words that our foe was back up the track believing a poisonous snake had bitten him. Philip's bargua had apparently done the deed.

Still in utter amazement, I followed the boys to where a figure was seen lying on the seat of a van, moaning like a banshee. He looked up at us and I recognized Raya Uma wearing a horror stricken look on his face. Leaving him we continued on up to the second vehicle, a lorry, where I received a welcome as if I was royalty. Kiki got to us first of course and flapped round my head before I received the standard bear hug from Lucy-Ann who couldn't have looked happier. Dinah hugged me as well nodding her head towards the van where Uma was groaning continually, all confidence and power sapped from the villain. When I returned and said a few words to him, the rogue actually regaled to me how wicked he'd been!

"It is retribution. I am finished!"

If only the fact that that Philip's snake was harmless, had been known to him.

Tala suddenly appeared on the scene, looking a little unsure as to whether I would go for him seeing he'd been in charge of the children but there were no recriminations. How could there be during this incredible turn of events. I hailed him cheerfully and he smiled back before getting into the lorry that he and the kids had arrived in - having come from some 'weird and wonderful place,' apparently.

A 'weird and wonderful' place is only to be expected where those children are concerned.

I went back with Philip to fetch Allie who'd followed my suggestion wisely just in case some scheme was being tried on us although there was little hope she would have been overlooked if a search had been made. She was standing at the door of the shack with a puzzled look on her face that was instantly superseded by a smile of rapturous joy as Philip ran and flung his arms round her. Allie hugged him back, practically breaking down with sheer relief. Both of us had no thought at all that we were still in danger and I think this was mainly due to our knowledge of how the kids handle things in their own special way. Philip's excitement told us that everything was positive and there was nothing at all to worry about. How could there be?

We walked back past the van to the lorry where the girls and Jack were waiting in anticipation and then I watched as Allie received the same kind of welcome I'd had to undergo. Kiki reflected the excitement by flying around squawking at the top of her voice and Uma plus his driver must have wondered what on earth was going on. I suddenly spotted the shy figure of Oola cowering behind everyone, which was quite understandable. The poor little chap was taking part in something that was outside of the world he was used to just as his environment was alien to ours. He seemed to be holding up though. Knowing we were all safe, the children as usual couldn't stop talking all at once but and gradually the story came out when they'd calmed down after a fashion with just Kiki carrying on her tradition of cackling out phrases,

"Pleased to meet you," she seemed to be saying over and over.

I felt Allie's arms round my waist.

"Our kids!"

"Yep. They came through just as we'd speculated, Allie."

They'd encountered caves and 'goodness knows what' according to Jack - nothing I suppose that could be classed as 'out of the ordinary' for this lot. Philip told us how he'd recognised Uma despite the disguise he was wearing. The scar shaped like a snake had been visible on his arm and the boys had known about it. Allie joined them for a gabfest whilst I got into the van with Uma and his driver. The Arab seemed harmless and rather far down in the pecking order - probably hired for his knowledge of the terrain. Tala spoke with him and as he didn't seem to pose any threat the chap was allowed to get out and make his own way home which didn't appear to be all that far from where we were.

Off went our convoy of two rattling down the dusty main road of Wooti where we eventually reached a tiny shop beside which was an entrance to what looked as if it was a government building. Entering with Tala in case my pidgin Arabic needed assistance, we came across a dark skinned man in flowing robes who led me to a telephone cubicle. After he'd operated something behind the counter I dialed a service number and heard two rings before Kate's clear voice came on the line such is the wonder of modern communications. Fortunately London was only about an hour behind (time-wise) so unless he'd been suddenly called out the chances of Matt being there were reasonably good. Katie, who'd taken over from Dennis in the communications room while he went for his afternoon tea, was surprised to say the least. An unexpected call from one of her colleagues in Syria was something she would relate to her boy friend this evening she told me. We chewed the rag for only half a minute and then she buzzed Matt's room upstairs and Linda came on the line.

"Linda Lloyd, Mr. Wooton's secretary. How can I help you?"

"Bill here."

"BILL! Bill, how are you? Where are you calling from?"

I would like to have had the time for a good old chat with Linda - she's one of those extremely articulate girls who sprinkles interesting comments throughout conversations and leaves a fellow waiting for more. Allie's like that. However, there was little time to impart much more than the approximate location and a rough idea of our health before she passed me over to her boss.

Surprised to hear my voice so unexpectedly, Matt was all ears as I asked if he could arrange for us to be collected by a vetted agency from the main boarding jetty in Barira. With Uma's influence in mind, I didn't feel like using an ordinary taxi.

"Can do," he said fervently "How's it going, Bill? Give us the lowdown."

Spent the next five minutes telling him in general what had happened to us without imparting any sensitive items seeing we were on a public telephone and I also asked if he could call up Operations and make arrangements for a boat trip back to Britain rather than flying. After sympathising with various details I'd mentioned involving one or two of our more untoward experiences he was very amenable to my request. Matt said we must have a get together in the Aldwych Club for a gabfest on my return. Couldn't think of a better spot and told him I'm looking forward to it already. Another minute or two was spent with a general appraisal of what had been passed on and then after Matt told me that Pete was out on enquiries, we called it a day. Tala and I left the booth and getting back into our respective vehicles we set off along a side road that led to a track which took us down to the river where we spotted our launch, still moored at the jetty. We crowded on to it and found, surprisingly, that it hadn't been interfered with by any wandering natives; possibly Uma's influence in the area had something to do with that aspect. After handcuffing him, our prisoner was taken from the van with Tala's help - Uma was beginning to realise that no ill effects seemed to be starting up from his 'terrible' snake bite. We told him to sit on the couch, which he did under protest and I placed another cuff round the rail so that he couldn't bolt. When we were in the van he'd fallen silent after relating a litany of bad deeds performed through his life and I had wondered idly if he was trying to make peace with his Creator although heaven wasn't in line for the chap right now. Probably many years in a Syrian or English jail if we could extradite him seeing his crimes overlap many borders. As he sat on the couch he started groaning again I began wondering just how harmless the bargua snake was. I looked at Philip who came out of the galley just then and he informed me that his pet had been lost when they were climbing up a shaft that led out of the caverns they'd been in. Shafts and caverns have played quite a part in the children's lives and I couldn't help thinking back to another time when Phil, Jack and I had been trapped in a shaft. We'd had come very near to losing our lives; in fact if it hadn't have been for Sam and his unit arriving on the island where we'd been imprisoned, I'm sure there would have been three more deaths to record in the North Devon Herald.

Leaving Uma to his on and off moaning, I joined Tala and we started up the engine while Allie began checking our inventory to see that nothing was missing. The children ended up in their favourite spot - hanging over the front deck rail and observing the passing scenes with their usual interest ... chattering at the tops of their voices of course. Small villages appeared and disappeared as we sped along the river causing much foam and waves to the delight of a few little brown-skinned boys who were fishing from the bank. Round the halfway mark we stopped and I sent he lads off to purchase some vittles from a market set beside a path near the river that displayed an assortment of local fare. Allie had told them to buy stuff so that hadn't been attacked by flies. They also brought back some bottles of rather warm mineral water.

"Always haggle!" I instructed them when told of the extraordinary prices they'd paid. Still, it was a 'oncer' so they were forgiven and we set off once again for Ullabaid where Allie and the girls served us up a feast. Allie's teaching Dinah and Lucy-Ann the art of presentation and she's a good instructor because the food looked so good we hesitated to touch it (for a few seconds only). I'd stopped the launch and whilst we were consuming delicacies out on deck the usual happened - once again we became the sole attraction to several urchins who gathered on the nearby shore to observe us with wonderment in their eyes. We finished and thought it best to up and away as I think everyone was becoming a little self-conscious. Although we weren't 'Rich Americans,' Allie and the girls threw a few coins over to our delighted audience.

Uma had stayed slumped on his couch while we imbibed still believing he was about to die and refusing the snack that Allie kindly offered him. Well, at least he wasn't giving us any trouble and the children looked on in anticipation when Kiki flew over to perch on the railing above our prisoner and fixed a beady eye on the rogue.

"Ooh ... Ooh ... Oooh ... Ooma," she said very appropriately.

We have to admire her clever habit of picking up the very latest sounds heard during the day, and then expressing them quite well when the occasion demands. Philip, who was on the tiller giving Tala a break, took us past Chaldo and later on Tala and I took the tiller in shifts - me first. Uma fell asleep fairly early - maybe because there was nothing else he could do. The chap slumped in his chair and didn't move for several hours; a miserable, exhausted wreck of humanity. Getting on towards midnight, Allie and the kids retired after a few complaints from the latter about the fact they'd never been able to visit the Arabian Nights city of Baghdad.

"Another time?" I suggested and that was answered with,

"Oh, sure."

"Yeah. Tomorrow morning, or perhaps we could visit next weekend!"

That from Philip.

Still, we've been through Ramadi I reminded them, and that's a reasonably big place.

"But you don't understand, Bill. Baghdad is Baghdad is Baghdad!"

I did understand actually and if we hadn't have had to get back north fairly urgently and if the alien passenger hadn't been with us, I would have stopped the launch and taken everyone for a visit. The children understood of course and went off to bed in their usual high-spirited way.

Oct. 19th

I did my shift then snatched a few hours sleep but was up before we approached Ala-ou-iya where the ever-vigilant customs people stopped us. An official tore himself away from the card game he was participating in on the verandah of a small hut and asked to see our papers but it was simply routine. in fact he hardly glanced at them before returning same and rejoining his mate after saluting us.

We'd found various things to occupy ourselves with during the trip. The children had played some games and a bit of clearing up was done plus some perfunctory packing, initiated by Lucy-Ann. The boat slowed down when Al Tabqah or Sinny Town came into sight and I took over as we neared the jetty so that Philip who'd taken the tiller again to give Tala a break could join the others who were leaning over the railing trying to catch sight of someone who might turn out to be famous. Not much chance, as any stars we'd so far seen tended to look very Arabic although there were a few English-looking make-up artists and one or two others helping with various facets of the trade. Raya Uma was awake and looking around him in bewilderment - probably wondering what on earth was going to happen to him in the very near future. Manoeuvring the launch slowly and carefully into a mooring spot I waited whilst Jack and Philip handled the ropes and Dinah dragged out the ramp, then stepped down and hailed two of the more classier-looking taxis. The owners acknowledged my signals and threaded their vehicles through the movie workers and sightseers to where we stood. With Tala and I helping 'the poor sick prisoner,' we got into the first taxi and the others, including Oola, commandeered the second. Off through narrow, crowded streets we went and in about fifteen minutes time we reached the Gendarmerie HQ housed in a defence ministry building one or two blocks from the town centre.

Paying off the taxi drivers, we got out and marched up stone steps into a small front office where I asked for Commander Sabbagh whose name was included in one of the lists very handily supplied by the all knowing and ever efficient Gianni (Del). Tala and Oola had been reluctant to enter the whitewashed room but the kids dragged them in saying that nothing was going to happen to them, which would affect their mode of life (in simpler language of course). They both sat together by the door - 'just in case!' The presence of nine 'foreigners' plus a talking parrot obviously required someone higher-up than a desk sergeant and after a moment or two the side office door opened and a dark swarthy individual emerged. His eyes were deep with a prominent mole underneath the left one. His head was balding, face unshaven, and he wore his uniform with an open necked white shirt. He introduced himself as Captain Nassar and fortunately spoke English so it wasn't long before the man had been made aware of the situation. Raya Uma had been placed on a bench against the wall from where he looked at us all in an extremely bewildered manner. He really looked sick but the psychologists tell us that 'it's all in the psyche' and symptoms can be caused with a simple mindset. According to the way things were meant to go in Uma's world he should have been in a hospital bed encased in snow-white linen with a radio on the locker and a hot drink on the bedside locker.

The police chief looked at him with contempt after I'd given a rough history of what had happened to us and why we were here. The children contributed as well and received much admiration from a couple of officers who were standing nearby. I looked across at Raya Uma.

"Don't worry. The snake that bit you was a family pet ... no poison ducts."

Uma looked at me in astonishment.

"What do you mean? It's a bargua ... it bit me."

"Yes, it used to be the property of an entertainer. Used in his act."

I pointed to Jack.

"We have our own ophiologist here. He can assure you old chap."

This drew a blank as I suspected it would - Uma hadn't the faintest idea of what I was talking about. He just sat there looking terrified. He'd been caught out. His operations had ceased with his belief in a false premise. Jack had passed on to me that Uma was in the process of sealing them into an underground room when Philip had let the snake loose on him. Raya Uma's accomplices would now be rounded up with the help of some very informative papers found on his person.

Captain Nassar indicated to his nearby colleagues and a protesting Uma, looking at us in desperation, was seized and taken out back where a stone passage could be seen. Jack had to chase after Kiki who flew after them looking as if she was going to follow Uma to his cell. The boy came back into the room with her. Kiki was protesting.

"Bad. Bad Kiki. Yoom ... Yoom. Bad Kiki!"

"No! Bad Uma" Jack told her but Kiki, not bothering to answer, flew over to perch on Lucy-Ann's shoulder where she started nibbling at a button on her shirt.

After scanning our papers closely the chief became quite polite when he leant of my status with the British Police. He offered to put us all up in a hotel but was assured we had accommodation and weren't in need of any medical care - fortunately. Allie and I agreed that we'd been lucky to escape harm having been detained by a person who was known for his ruthlessness.

The police chief finished typing out a few details on an extremely ancient typewriter and turning, he smiled broadly and shook hands with each of us, even Kiki who proffered a clawed foot to his delight. Jack had taught her that trick ages ago. We moved out of the station after I'd had a few more words with the Captain and given him some confidential addresses. We decided to stroll back through the crowded, dusty streets and as we approached the river, a low sun was filtering its rays through trees bordering the shore. Once again we boarded the launch, ready to plan our final journey that would take us back to where we started - Jarabulus or 'Barira' as it's known locally. Without wasting any time I informed Tala he was to start back early in the morning whereupon he called Oola and ordered him to tidy up the cabin because:

"In morning we off up river."

Oola, after receiving a clap on the back from his beloved master, set to with a vengeance because the sooner he finished, the sooner he'd be able to 'touch the hem' yet again. Allie, the kids and myself sat out on the deck to recount more of our tales and I had to admit, their side was ten times more interesting than ours. The things they get up to could fill a sizeable book, although surprisingly the children found our account just as exciting as theirs. Jack ended by informing us that the girls had been "as good as boys."

Now that's praise indeed!

I felt Jack's brow just in case he was coming down with something which made everyone laugh and shortly both boys got up to mess round with fishing rods at the rear of the boat.

The sky eventually darkened with lights springing up and as is the custom following our escapades, which have been many and varied, it was a hilarious evening with the kids talking non stop as they recounted in more detail what had taken place when Allie and I had been indisposed. What they got up to and how they'd handled their particular situation, once again, delivered memories of past years and similar adventures they'd been through together. After we'd been brought up to date, the conversation drifted back to the when we'd first met and it was nice to relive various times knowing that it was now 'water under the bridge' and no threats existed anymore. I resolved to read back through the old diary entries in the very near future. I got up to sit at the table in order that a few details could be written up but fell instead into a reverie whilst listening with half-an-ear to the conversation.

Once again the dilapidated structure Craggy Tops located on Britain's west coast came up and there was a suitable reaction from Lucy-Ann when the Negro help was recalled ... Jo-Jo. This villain, the first one of any substance they encountered, is still considered the very worst according to all four and if Kiki could talk, she'd probably acquiesce to their judgment. The rumours still filter through about his body being found at the bottom of a shaft on the plains near Broadmoor.

Then there were the spies discovered in Scotland who were eventually netted with the children's help, and that young gypsy girl they befriended who attended the Cunningham/Mannering wedding nuptials. Philip keeps up a correspondence with her, and due to the excellent education she appears to be receiving, her initial letters that were scrawling and almost undecipherable, are now vastly improved. My after-knowledge of that particular case consists of the prisoners serving time initially in Landsberg and then being transferred to Hohenasperg although I think it was Richter who's reported as being on his deathbed due to a prison assault. That's according to a letter received some months ago from Reg.

The kids kept trying to drown each other out as each new memory was recalled ranging on through the various incidents of note. Allie couldn't help laughing at their enthusiasm when they started acting various scenes from some of the situations with which they'd been involved. Kiki, sensing their excitement, became enthusiastic herself and flew from one family member to another trying to make herself noticed.

Tipperlong! They remembered that character all right and Philip, our top impersonator, made the others roar at his antics when he portrayed the poor chap and his ordeal at the bottom of a large hole on the island where they'd been trapped back in '47 - at least I think it was about then.

"Who's this 'Bill?' ... are you playing at pirates?' ... pack of villainous children ..."

Phil has a very amused audience when he comes out with that stuff. Then Monally, the madman we found in Wales was recalled. Wonder what's become of him. I'll follow it up when we get back to old Blighty. Philip reminded us of the ship in a bottle that he got for his birthday and the journey it took us on which ended in the thwarting of that chap Eppy with his plans to obtain treasure in the Greek islands; Hamidi's in Athens now and about to retire - I can remember him thinking that 'Kiki' was one of the children's names. I observed our 'friend and associate' who was on the table near Lucy-Ann looking for crackers in an empty tin. Lucy-Ann glanced up and saw me gazing in her direction.

"Bill, come over here you look as if you're somewhere in space."

I got up to join the happy group and sat beside Allie who poured me out a coffee.

"Just reminiscing" I said as Lucy-Ann scrutinized me trying to read my face. "I was thinking of our past shenanigans and despite the narrow escapes we experienced I can't help feeling they contributed something to us all even if it was only our appreciation of each other."

Allie put her arm around me and remarked,

"You lot didn't have it all to yourselves."

"Allie," I said. "Right from the first you've always been there to add support even if you weren't right in the middle of every adventure."

"I did all the worrying."

"Mum, it must have been just as bad for you as it was for us," Dinah said, entering the conversation despite her mouth being full of pomegranate. The boys nodded in agreement when they heard this.

"Aunt Allie, Jack said. "I think I'd rather have been tied up somewhere in a cave than have to undergo all the fretting you must have gone through. At least we knew where we were and whether we were all right."

Kiki suddenly flew to Jack's shoulder and rubbed her beak against his ear causing him to yell out.

"Kiki! What have you been eating?"

Jack grabbed a cloth and rubbed it against the side of his face. You've rubbed something on to my ear and it's dripping down."

Kiki cackled and flew up to perch on the cabin roof. She looked down with a stern eye on the little gathering.

"Look you whateffer!"

Everyone laughed.

"She doesn't forget her material," Allie remarked.

No indeed.

Oola attempted to join us every so often but the ever-vigilant Tala kept an eye out and would yell whenever he discovered his helper had disappeared. The native boy would then race back to be assigned a task tin order that he be "kept busy."

Reflections continued and the kids began thinking back to their period as guests of the Tauri Hessian Prince Aloysius, or 'Gussy' as he'd been called. Lucy-Ann had been thrilled to indulge in her fantasy of being a Princess whilst she was holidaying in the King's palace and it had even rubbed off a little bit on Dinah so she's possibly growing out of her Tom-boyish role and becoming just little more feminine. They'd all been allowed to dress up in old-time royal clothing stored in a museum Gussy had taken them to. Access to the robes wasn't generally given to members of the public but the Prince's status had allowed his companions to enter a room that was usually closed off. Once inside they'd all enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Jack told us for the tenth time about Gussy's visit to their school and how Philip and he had basked in the reflected glory. The whole tale of their Ruritanian adventure was known by the boys and had been written up in school yearbook.

I tested Jack.

"What was the name of the maid who brought you breakfast? First morning you were at the castle?"

I'd learnt it when she brought food in for Ronnie and myself and had told it to Jack only once. He remembered.


"Near enough ... but there's no 'o' in it."

"Give me one, Bill" Lucy-Ann asked taking my hand and looking up at me with her big eyes."

"Name of the crazy Count? His sister's name? Who were the acrobats that engineered your escape from the tower?

"The Count was Paritolen," Philip yelled out with gusto.

Lucy-Ann was indignant.

"I was just going to say that. I was ... believe me Bill."

"Of course I believe you. Shut your row you others until she gives up."

Lucy-Ann didn't give up and after a bout of thought produced the name 'Tatiosa,' but couldn't for the life of her remember the acrobat's titles.

Jack could.

"Toni and Bingo," he said with a superior grin."

"Only because you lived with them longer than us," Philip said. "Go on, tell us Gussy's full name!"

That was a difficult one although I knew it all right from various reports read in the course of duty.

No one could.

"Gray Race ... Gray Race ... " Kiki squawked, raising her crest and swaying back and forth before flying down to the table for another snack.

Friends or passers by have applied the word 'astounding' to Kiki's talents before today and it's not hard to see why.

"Kiki seems to be doing better than any of you with this one," I told them.

Allie got the 'Gramondie' part and Dinah managed to remember 'Racemolie,' but only because of Kiki's remark so I had to give them the rest while Kiki received due attention (and a biscuit) as the kids congratulated her valiant attempt.

Everyone bedded fairly early and Allie read for a while but ceased when I snuggled up beside her. (23:20)