Part 27

I’m not sure if it even means anything, but this was not part of my notes, and it lay here by the corner torn in two when I returned that day of the theft, he said. There was a scratched out set of, I suppose you could call it pictograms, and arrows or something, and, well, here.

He handed the clue over, damp and possibly a herring (of some colour).

Três bumped up against my shoulder as I tried to smooth the taped together sections. Puzzles excite me, but this seemed like nonsense. I’ve got a few friends at home that would have loved to see something as weird and obtuse as the half-formed sigils and curlicues and scratchings and sinewy arrows and try to make sense of it.

It didn’t seem like a code, just scribblings and segments of words that would have only made sense to its rushed author.

There’s numbers, they form a pattern or at least two separate sets, look there, said Três.

Yes, said Enzo, they were torn off at the ends, and those looping whorls through some of them seem to be ones done in error, or maybe ones they were crossing off. I tried to keep it all intact.

I’ll take a look as we pick up the trail, I said.

Honestly, it looked like garbage, as far as leads went. But it could have held an answer if we muddled through it.

Do you have a name of someone we can talk to in the village? Someone that could have noticed or helped the pair? I asked.

Lena whispered close to Enzo who nodded, small dips of his chin.

I never learned what she was about to say, however, since Graham rushed in, a look partway fierce and partway shaken in his eyes.

Get your stuff together. We have to move. Now.

Três snickered, but he snapped his head her way. They took our original route in, at least three of them. I watched one lagging behind, possibly a reargaurd. I don’t think he spotted me. If they were looking for a trail, they definitely found ours. They were using different bird calls to talk, and the last one I heard caused the boy to head back, double-time. He’s armed. I doubt they will be too kind if they find out our lie. Now. Move.

Lena and Enzo gripped each other tight. Três already moved for the packs and things.

Of course, I fell into that liquid mush, hot anxiety feeling that most sane and incapable people feel when confronted with new and sudden danger. And here I thought I could handle myself in almost any situation.

But, I stammered out. But we need to get to this village, pick up the tracks.

Graham said, Ok, I’m not going to argue. Anywhere but here. You can give orders on the way, captain. I’ll lag behind, try to cover our tracks. Heléne?

The two older, strange lovebirds held the same tension, almost as one person. I will tell them I was here all along, just working in the back, she said.

In an instant I saw how well that could work out (not very). Still, only one surprise would be better than four.

Right, said Graham. Your radio looks operable. Get on it now, have a friendly chat with your contacts. Make it obvious you are talking. Stay safe.

A bag came arcing through the air and I wheezed out as I awkwardly caught it. Lena gave quick directions as we loaded up; Enzo pointed out the path leading north and away, up and around the slope.

I wanted to reiterate my promise to the man, to thank Heléne for her grudging help, say something heroic.

Bye, I managed at last.