Just after dawn, with the help of a black English-speaking guide, Jowett and his five men reached the village where, according to their information, Grimes and Hapgood were being held. Hiding in the foliage, they watched the village beginning to stir: a party of a dozen men with bows and spears emerged from a big hut and went out to hunt, two small boys rounded up a herd of cows and drove them out to graze.
Not far from the unit's hiding place was a hut where a woman rekindled a fire that had been banked down all night close to her doorway.
Prairie Dog got the go-ahead from Jowett to circle round through the surrounding jungle and explore closer.
While Tanker Bly kept watch the others relaxed, lying back and sipping from their water bottles and conversing in whispers.
Prairie Dog returned, looking disappointed.
'The cages are there all right,' he said, 'but the guys aren't in them.'
'Maybe the blacks found out about our mission and they're waiting for us,' said Arno Remsen, a member of the Jackdaw gang. He checked that his light machine gun was ready for action.
Jowett raised his hand.
'Maybe they did, but let's not let our imagination run away with us, right?'
'One of the cages was damaged,' said Prairie Dog, 'and they're lying around discarded as if they're about to use them for firewood. It looks like Grimes or the female broke out. Who knows, maybe they're racing through the jungle even now.'
Lieutenant Jowett had no means of knowing that their radio contact, the man who had supplied details of Grimes' imprisonment here had been caught whilst trying to pass on the news of the men's escape. Julien Mbwenu had given the enemy no information because he died from loss of blood as the neighbouring villagers, who like Julien's own people, sided with INTEG, carried him back to headquarters for questioning.
The incident led to increased security around the two villages. Julien Mbwenu surely must have helped the two men escape, thought the locals. (He had brought everyone trouble, instead of helping to draw into his village the wealth that would have been forthcoming from the king-hating English and French.)
Careful not to be detected, Jowett's contingent got a good survey of the whole village, fully satisfying themselves that Grimes and Hapgood were not there.
Jowett radioed to this effect and was informed that it had just been learned that Grimes had escaped.
'You would have been spared a trip,' said the voice at the other end, 'but we believe our contact was rumbled before he could transmit.'
It was arranged that a Roulette, a small and silent helicopter, would pick them up at 1100 hours at a certain compass point a few miles from the village.
The group began to make their way there, and if the villagers remained oblivious to their presence, the region's wildlife did not. Flies, mosquitoes and leeches attacked them to start with, and husky forms giving off pungent odours were to be heard moving around just a short distance away in the bush. Growls and coughing sounds suggested big cats or the monstrous lizards that flourished in this part of the world.
When they got out of the helicopter at Lagos airport they were met by brass in plain clothes and taken to a house on the outskirts.
'Some nice soft divans for us here, lads,' said Jowett.
First though they were briefly informed that the enemy had launched a surprise attack and were temporarily in control of parts of Hythe.
'We'll know more about all that in the morning. We'll discuss it then. No good turning the radio on for a bulletin, they've put their own people in at Bolsover Street to push the Gospel According to Saint Crask. The main thing for now is to have a good kip, lads, then we'll hold a staff meeting at eight tomorrow morning,' said Jowett.
A Foreign Office diplomat Jowett had been conferring with earlier shook hands with them all and left with his driver. When Jowett went to his room upstairs the others talked for a while, drinking lager from the well stocked fridge.
'Well,' said Sam, 'it look as if Harvey Grimes was good for more than makin' fuggin' chin music. You've got to give him credit, man. He broke out and got away with it.'
'The spirit of the serpent is in him,' said Prairie Dog with enthusiasm. Sitting cross-legged on his bed the Indian produced clouds of War Horse smoke from his long pipe.
Three of the beds were in one bedroom and two in the other. Carstairs, Prairie Dog and Arno Remsen were in one room and Tanker Bly and Frank Guppy were in the other.
'Well, fuck me, here we are and there's all that shit flying in Hythe,' said Remsen. 'I mean, right now I think they could use us outside Stanford Castle, couldn't they? Is there a sort of news black-out, then? I mean, how are they doing at Fort Craig? I suppose the brass must know, but they're not telling us, are they? And what's this shit they say has been coming over the wireless now, eh? Propaganda? They'll probably be trying to make a national institution out of this bloke Crask, I suppose: good old Uncle Humph, like.'
Prairie Dog nodded and handed Remsen his pipe for a little while.
Carstairs had been shocked to hear from the Sansatchee's own lips that he was gay and by no means ashamed of the fact.
'Have you got a woman, Sam?' asked the Indian.
'I know one I'd like to have, and that's the sister of Commander Otley.'
Sam was in a confiding mood, but he kept his voice down so that only the Sansatchee could hear.
'Yeah, Dog, and she's a spinster and a schoolteacher, which makes her sorta like exotic so far as I'm concerned. I think about these here crinolines and that that the women wore in the 1800s when I look at her.'
Carstairs further explained to Prairie Dog that while he was talking to her and looking into her placid grey eyes he had, to his amazement, 'started to feel himself go'.
'I mean, you probably think this is nuts, because to most blokes, squaddies and so forth, she would seem a bit past it, see. Well, I suppose I am too, what? But I mean there she is in her forties, probably even a virgin. She don't appear to know a lot, from what I can tell, about the old argey-bargey of love and sex and that kind of caper. Her big brother Darrow seem to believe that's the case, anyhow.'
Sam halted to take a long pull from his glass of lager.
'I don't think it's nuts at all,' replied the Indian. 'She's got quite a good figure, from what I saw of her, Sam. A classy woman of that type. She's the carefully scrubbed variety. But only you can say, man. It's between you and her, I guess.'
'Yeah, I haven't attempted to lay a glove on her, or anything like that,' said Sam, 'but she likes to chat, which is a start.'
The thing was that Sam could definitely feel himself about to go, as he put it, but didn't at the moment want to pursue that line and risk a rebuff; he had suffered one or two of those in his time.
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