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The Lake of Adventure

By Trevor J Bolton

CHAPTER 1: ELKVILLE AT LAST


"Just look at those rapids! Do slow down, Bill!" yelled Philip, an excited fourteen-year-old boy, sitting next to the driver. After passing through countless miles of forest, it was a delightful surprise to see the swiftly flowing river suddenly come into view alongside the road. "Phew, I thought that forest was going to go on for ever. A change of scenery at last!" "And look, there are people riding the rapids in canoes!" added Philip's equally excited younger sister, Dinah sitting behind him. "I bet that's fun! Does this mean we're near a town at last?" "That's the Indian River and the Indian Falls," replied Bill casting a quick glance out of the window as he slowed the car down. "So yes, Elkville's not far away now. That's where we'll fill up with petrol and buy one or two items we still need." "There's no sign of the Moose Lakes," remarked another fourteen-year-old boy sitting between his sister, Lucy-Ann, and Dinah. He had red hair, green eyes, his face covered in freckles. "Mind you, we've already seen plenty of lakes on this journey as well as miles of forest." "We won't see the Moose Lakes until we reach Elkville, Jack," explained Bill. "Elkville is a smallish settlement spread along the short stretch of water between Little Moose Lake and Great Moose Lake." "I hadn't realised there were so many lakes in Canada," said Lucy-Ann, the youngest of the children, whose physical appearance was incredibly like her brother's except her hair was more curly. "We haven't seen a town for ages!" "There aren't many towns in this part of Canada but there are hundreds of lakes," explained Bill, carefully steering the big estate car along the now twisting road just above the river. "Elkville is the only town serving Little Moose Lake although there are several small ones scattered around Great Moose Lake." "There's a sign indicating that Elkville is just five miles away," pointed out Philip. "Have we much further to go to reach our cabin, Bill?" "From Elkville we follow the north shore of Little Moose Lake before taking the track over the hill to Otter Lake," was the reply. "Otter Lake is horseshoe-shaped, almost two lakes. The connecting stretch of water is the opposite end of the lake to our cabin. We'll have the lake very much to ourselves as ours is the only cabin on our section." "The only cabin!" exclaimed Dinah. "I bet you chose that on purpose as it will be completely out of the way. Come on, Bill, own up. Is this really just a holiday or are you on the track of something? You can tell us now we're almost there." "Let's say I'm combining a tiny bit of business with a great deal of pleasure," answered Bill evasively. "I knew it!" declared Dinah triumphantly. "And we all know what the word business means where you're concerned." They did indeed! Bill Cunningham was a special agent who helped to track down criminal gangs, often international ones. The four children had first met him when he had introduced himself as Bill Smugs, an ornithologist. He hadn't reckoned on meeting Jack, a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable young ornithologist, who soon realised Bill was no such thing. Bill had actually been on the trail of a gang operating on the mysterious Isle of Gloom where the children had, themselves, become unwittingly involved in an exciting adventure. Since then

they had experienced many more hair-raising escapades with Bill. However, the most important thing from their point of view was that, after several of these adventures, Bill had married Dinah and Philip's widowed mother, Mrs Mannering. Mr Mannering had died many years previously so his widow had to work hard to provide for the children. Eventually she had managed to set up a successful art agency which gave her a reasonable income. Jack and Lucy-Ann Trent were orphans whose parents had been killed in a plane crash. The two had run away from Mr Roy's school to stay with Philip and Dinah and had been adopted by Mrs Mannering before she married Bill Cunningham. The four children got on well and had enjoyed many an adventure together. Now they were on holiday again, this time in Canada. "I admit I have to keep a look-out for one or two criminals who are known to be in the Elkville area and for anything suspicious," confessed Bill after pausing a while. "Don't worry, the criminals in question may have heard of me but they don't know me. If I do see anything or anyone of interest, I simply report back to Headquarters in Toronto. Now there's nothing dangerous about that. After a week or so, someone else will take over our cabin while we move to another one, this time on Great Moose Lake where there's plenty going on." "Hopefully Mother will join us by then," said Philip. "It's so annoying that she's having to care for Aunt Polly when she could be on holiday with us but Uncle Jocelyn is useless when it comes to looking after people. He needs looking after himself! It's such a pity." "What a pity! What a pity!" came a mournful voice from the back of the car making everyone jump. "Poor Polly. Pretty Polly. Pity Polly." This was Jack's beautiful scarlet and grey parrot, Kiki. She had been fairly quiet on the journey as she was annoyed at having to travel in a cage at the back of the car but could not resist joining in the conversation when she recognised certain words. "You're right, Kiki, it is a pity," said Jack turning round to stroke the bird as she peered through the bars of her cage. "Thank goodness Aunt Polly is not as bad as we had first thought and is now recovering. That means Aunt Allie will be able to join us next week. You know, I'm actually looking forward to seeing a little town again." It was not long before the forest gave way to scattered houses marking the edge of Elkville. The sky, which had been largely hidden by the trees, opened up, a clear, blue sky with scarcely a cloud covering it. The river, now flowing more gently, twisted out of sight behind the buildings. In no time they reached what seemed to be the centre of the small, but fairly busy town, beyond which was the waterway Bill had referred to. Everywhere was a great variety of stores and eating places. People were milling around, almost everyone dressed in casual wear as most were on holiday. Bill parked outside a fairly large store. "You can stretch your legs if you want to while I make a few purchases," he said, getting out of the car. "I'll put my dark glasses on. That way it's easier to study faces without it being too obvious what I'm doing, not that I'm likely to recognise anybody on the first day." The children were also glad to have the opportunity to stretch their legs so they, too, left the car and wandered to the waterside behind the store. A delighted Kiki was now on Jack's shoulder startling passers by with her comments. "That's enough, Kiki!" reprimanded Jack sternly, as a severe looking lady opened her mouth in astonishment on being told to wipe her nose. "And don't you dare make one of your plane or train noises." "Plane or train, plane or train!" echoed Kiki, who loved words that rhymed. "Train or plane." "Look at Great Moose Lake at the end of this waterway!" exclaimed Philip, running his hand through his tuft of brown hair that refused to lie flat. "It's enormous! You can't see the far shore." "Bill did say that the Moose Lakes are huge," reminded Lucy-Ann, her green eyes shining with delight. "Isn't it great to see all those sailing boats and motor boats out on the water? It makes you really feel you are on holiday." She turned round. "And that must be Little Moose Lake we can see between the trees over there. But what's that? There seems to be a wall where this waterway leaves it and several buildings. How odd." "I seem to remember Bill saying something about a small hydro-electric power station at the Elkville end of Little Moose Lake," said Dinah looking at the power lines leading from the buildings. "That's obviously it and the wall is probably a dam."

"Listen, what's that coming from the direction of Little Moose Lake?" asked Philip, his head on one side. "It's too loud to be a motor boat and, in any case, it's approaching much too quickly." "It's a plane!" said Lucy-Ann pointing. "See? Over there. It's ever so low." "It must be coming down!" exclaimed Dinah in horror as the plane passed over the rocky land on the other side of the waterway. "Oh no! It's going to crash into Great Moose Lake!" "Don't worry, it's an amphibian!" laughed Philip, slapping his sister on the back. "It can land and take off on water. You really are silly, Di!" "Don't call me silly!" said Dinah, flaring up. "And don't slap me on the back, either. We all make mistakes, clever clogs, even you!" "Clever clogs, clever clogs!" repeated Kiki, dancing up and down in delight on Jack's shoulder. "Silly billy, silly clever clogs." This was followed by a rather loud squawk. "That's right, you tell her, Kiki," said Philip grinning as he fortunately dodged what would have been a large slap aimed at him by his angry sister. "Don't for goodness' sake start an argument here, you two," said Jack as people began looking in their direction. "We missed seeing the plane land ... oh, it's taxiing in this direction." The black plane with silver lettering in fact came quite close to where the children were looking over the railing. It was skilfully manoeuvred towards a long jetty, then there was silence as the engine was switched off. Two men climbed out, one immediately mooring the plane to a post. "He looks very grim," said Dinah, forgetting her squabble as one of the men turned round. He was bald, very stout, with a seemingly fixed scowl spread across his red, round face. "They can't be on holiday although they are dressed fairly casually." "Look at the side of the plane," pointed out Jack. "It says LARSEN TOURS. Perhaps they're going to pick up some passengers. I wonder where they take them. Over the lakes, perhaps." "Oh, there's Bill," said Lucy-Ann looking back towards the car park. "He's probably wondering where we are. No, he's seen us." Bill, holding a large and full shopping bag, was walking towards the car so the children hurried over to him. "It's strange seeing all these people after the miles of deserted road we've just driven on, isn't it?" he said as he placed the bag in the back of the car. "You carry on looking around while I go and find a gasoline station as they're called here. Then we'll make for our cabin. OK? I'll meet you towards the end of the store car park in about a quarter of an hour." With that, Bill got into the car while the children slowly returned to the waterside. "What's Bill up to?" muttered Philip as they watched the activity on Great Moose Lake. "Whatever do you mean, Philip?" asked Lucy-Ann in surprise. "He's only gone to fill up with petrol. What's odd about that?" "Perhaps I imagined it but I felt he didn't want us to get into the car with him just then," answered Philip. "After all, we're only killing time here. We could easily have driven straight from the filling station to our cabin." "Well he can't do much in a quarter of an hour, especially if he's filling up with fuel," laughed Jack. "I think your imagination is getting the better of you, Philip." "Silly billy," added Kiki pecking Jack's ear. "How many times have I told you...?" "Plenty of times, Kiki, plenty of times," answered Jack fondling the bird. "Is it my imagination or is that man over there staring at us? It's a bit hard to tell as he's wearing dark glasses." "Now you're being mysterious," laughed Philip, giving a quick glance in the man's direction.. "Most people stare at us because of Kiki." "No, Jack's right," said Dinah quietly. "That man wearing dark glasses, with black hair and crooked moustache he hasn't just been staring at Kiki but at all of us." Philip and Lucy-Ann looked towards the man who immediately turned his head and walked casually along the waterfront. "Let's go and wait for Bill in the car park," said Philip. "There, we'll be out of sight of the man, not that I can see anything unusual about him, quite frankly. Loads of people are staring at us."

The four retraced their steps past the front of the big store where plenty of colourful goods, many relating to activity on the water, were piled up outside. In about ten minutes, Bill returned and parked quite close to the children. "Ready now?" he said with a huge grin. "Climb aboard for the last leg of the journey." As soon as they were seated, Bill started up the engine and slowly drove the car towards the car park exit. Almost immediately Dinah, who was looking out of the window, drew in her breath sharply. "That man's watching us again," she said urgently. "And there's another man with him. Look. See who it is? He's the stout one with the scowling face from the aeroplane!"

CHAPTER 2: BILL'S UP TO SOMETHING


"This all sounds terribly mysterious," said Bill with a wry smile as he drove slowly along the highway. "Describe the two men who you saw." Dinah and Jack described the dark-haired man with the crooked moustache whom they had noticed staring at them. Dinah also described the second man as being bald, very stocky and redfaced. Both men had been wearing dark glasses. Before Bill could make any comment, Philip looked around in surprise. "We're going the wrong way!" he exclaimed. "You said we had to go along the shore of Little Moose Lake. That's in the other direction!" "It's all right, Philip, I just want to drive around Elkville to see what's here," replied Bill, trying to sound casual whilst looking quite serious. "We'll turn at the junction ahead then, after another junction, rejoin the lakeside road leading to our cabin." "Well, do you know the men, Bill?" asked Dinah impatiently. "I'm sure your description would fit no end of people I know," laughed Bill staring straight ahead. "I reckon your men were just interested in Kiki. I don't suppose there are many parrots in Elkville." He then spoke in a more serious tone of voice. "You are quite right to note any characters you consider suspicious and to let me know. You said the men came from a plane that had just landed. What can you tell me about this plane?" "There was nothing special about it," said Lucy-Ann shaking her head. "It was a black or a very dark colour and fairly small. Oh, and it had a name on the side, but I've forgotten what it was." "It was Larsen Tours, or something like that," said Jack remembering. "Does that mean anything to you, Bill?" "Larsen Tours? Yes, I've vaguely heard of them," was the reply. "If my memory is correct, they operate from one of the neighbouring lakes. They're quite a small concern apparently. There are much bigger touring companies around Great Moose Lake." After two or three more junctions, Little Moose Lake finally came into view and the children forgot about the two men, not that Philip was really interested in them. There, beyond the highway, the lake spread out like a sheet of sparkling glass. It was clearly smaller than Great Moose Lake as the opposite shore could be seen. There were plenty of small boats dotted about on the calm water and a fair number of log cabins were spread out at intervals along the shore. All around the lake, apart from in the Elkville area, were gentle tree-clad hills. The children eagerly looked at the inviting scene in front of them. "You did say we'll have a boat at the cabin, didn't you?" asked Philip, longing to be out on the water. "Yes, there's a sailing boat and, I believe, there's a small motor boat as well," replied Bill, now speeding up a bit. "I've been told where to find the key to the boathouse so we can explore after our meal. Most of the cabins on the shores of the lakes are let to holiday makers and come complete with boats. Fishermen like to stay on this particular lake as there are no distractions such as lake cruisers and Elkville is conveniently at the far end. We're going to enjoy ourselves, no doubt about it." They came to a junction on the highway where they turned right, the left hand road continuing over the hills to more lakes and a distant town. There was now little traffic as the highway merely served this side of the lake and various tracks leading into the forest.

After a few miles, they passed by a colourful store where the brightly painted head of a smiling moose was over the entrance. It was appropriately named Moose Store. Several people were sitting on the adjacent restaurant terrace, enjoying a meal in the late afternoon sun. "That's where we'll have to purchase fuel for the motor boat," pointed out Bill. "We need to buy several cans at a go but I expect we'll be using the sailing boat most of the time." "Can't we simply drive here in the boat?" asked Jack. "Presumably our lake is linked to this one." "It is, but there are little rocky falls and rapids between the lakes," explained Bill. "Moose Store will also be a convenient place to replenish basic food stocks to save driving all the way into Elkville." There were fewer cabins along this stretch of the road. On the other side of the highway were woods, mainly of pine, spruce and maple, into which rough tracks led at intervals. After driving round several bends, they passed the final cabin before the road came to an end in an empty car park. "Wherever do we go now?" asked Lucy-Ann. "We're at the end of the road." "This is where we have to walk over the hill with our luggage," replied Bill, his eyes twinkling. "But Bill!" began Lucy-Ann in protest, but was interrupted by Dinah. "He's pulling your leg, silly," she said with her laugh. Then, as Bill stopped the car, she added, "at least, I hope so." "Yes, I am," confessed Bill, "and it was worth it to see the looks on all your faces, not just LucyAnn's! I warn you the ride is going to be a bit bumpy from here onwards as we drive along a track through some forest and over the hill. So hold tight!" "Hold tight, hold tight!" called Kiki from her cage. "Humpy, bumpy, dumpy." "Sorry about this, Kiki," said Bill driving over a track leading through the trees. "Yes, it is going to be a bit humpy, bumpy, but it's the only way to reach Otter Lake. You'll be relieved to know that a Jeep comes with the cabin and a Jeep is made for this sort of rough territory." At first they drove among trees but, as they went higher, they reached the tree line and soon had a grand view over the tree tops of Little Moose Lake. It sparkled and glittered in the afternoon sun, the various boats on it looking like toys. Then, reaching the top of the hill, they had another superb view, their first of Otter Lake. The part of the lake they could see was more or less oval in shape, much smaller than Little Moose Lake, but they knew there was another section over the hills. Indeed there were hills all around, mostly no higher than the one they had just driven up, covered mainly with the now familiar pine, spruce and birch trees. As the track began leading down, the children at once looked for their cabin but, to their surprise, they could not see it. "Where's the cabin, Bill?" asked Philip, his eyes searching the shore. "I would have expected it to easily stand out." "Do you see that bit of land jutting out into the lake a bit further round?" said Bill. "That's where the cabin is, in the trees but at the edge of the lake. We're nearly there." The track now led quite steeply down the hillside towards the lake where it levelled out. In a short while, Bill suddenly made a turn to the right along a much narrower track which disappeared into the trees. In fact, after another sharp turn, they found themselves in front of a sturdy log cabin with a boathouse to one side. Parked nearby was a canvas-topped Jeep. "Here we are," said Bill bringing the car to a halt. "I must say I'll be glad to use the Jeep over the rough tracks around here. It's far more suitable on this terrain than a car. Well, let's have a look inside our new home for the next few days. I see it's called Pine Lodge and it seems to be very spacious." As soon as they had clambered out of the car, the children noticed the refreshing smell of pine wood wafting through the air. "What a lovely scent to wake up to, just like perfume," said Dinah sniffing loudly. "Pine Lodge is a very apt name." She sniffed in the fragrance once again. "Don't sniff, where's your handkerchief?" said Kiki at once, remembering the words Jack and Lucy-Ann's cross old Uncle Geoffrey used to utter so often. "Wipe your feet!" "Let's get inside first, Kiki," said Jack as Bill opened the front door.

"Go and select your bedrooms," said Bill. "They're all the same size and I'm not particular which one I have." The girls at once chose the back bedroom overlooking the lake. Outside the window was a veranda which extended along the rear of the cabin. The lake could also be seen from a side window in the boys' room at the front of the cabin. "That means this other front bedroom will be mine," said Bill lugging his case into the room. "Your cases are in the hall so let's unpack, then we'll think about having something to eat. I don't know about you but I'm feeling quite peckish." "Like Kiki," said Lucy-Ann with a grin. "Come to think of it, I'm feeling a bit peckish, too." "Peck, peck, peckish!" squawked Kiki flying out of the girls' room into the boys' room where she landed heavily on Jack's shoulder. "Jack Spratt. Peckish Jack." "Mind, Kiki. I've got to unpack," said Jack lifting his case on to the bed. "I'd better find your seeds if you're peckish." "Oh look, Freckles, red squirrels!" exclaimed Philip suddenly. He had been gazing out of the window after putting his case on his bed ready to unpack. "Aren't they lovely? Most of those at home are grey ones although I remember seeing red ones on one of our holidays. I must go and pay them a visit later on." "Don't for goodness' sake encourage one in here," said Jack at once, knowing Philip's love of animals and his uncanny ability to make friends with them. He gave a quick look out of the window. "I agree they look lovely creatures but they can do an immense amount of damage indoors. When you go outside I'll come with you in case there are some unusual birds, not that I've seen any yet. Let's hurry up and finish unpacking. I'm really quite hungry. Oh, good, here are Kiki's sunflower seeds." Being used to living out of a suitcase, Bill had finished his unpacking long before the children. He went into the kitchen at the side of the cabin to prepare a meal. "Smells good," said Lucy-Ann, eventually entering the kitchen. "What can I do to help, Bill?" "How about setting the table on the veranda?" suggested Bill. "It'll be nice to eat outside, listening to the water lapping almost beneath us. I'll call the others to get a move on." Soon all five were tucking heartily in to the meal as they were all very hungry after the long car journey. It was delightful out on the veranda seeing the lapping water of Otter Lake stretching out in front of them and breathing the fragrance from the pine trees. They were just finishing the meal with some fresh fruit that Bill had purchased in Elkville when there came the sound the children had heard earlier. It resembled a motorboat but they knew it was an approaching plane. At once Bill jumped up and leant over the veranda rail to see the aircraft. "Quick, tell me, is that the same plane you saw earlier?" he asked turning round. "Yes, I'm pretty certain that's the one," declared Dinah, joining him as the plane flew over the far end of the lake. "It was the same colour with silver letters on the side." "Larsen Tours I must check up on them again," muttered Bill. "Why on earth are you so interested in that plane?" asked a puzzled Philip. "And why the need to check on Larsen Tours? Come on, Bill. You're up to something."

CHAPTER 3: A RED SQUIRREL AND TWO BOATS


Bill paused for a moment before answering. "I was just interested in seeing it for myself," he said, once again sitting down. All four children now looked at him. "Come on, Bill, why all the secrecy?" pleaded Jack. "It's perfectly obvious you're interested in that plane. What's so special about it?" "I didn't want to alarm you unduly in Elkville," replied Bill, sitting back casually in his chair and looking round at the children. "While I was in the store, I happened to glance through a window and thought I recognised one of the people I am instructed to look out for. He's known as Crooked

Charlie on account of a crooked lip. When you described one of the men from the plane as having a crooked moustache, I realised this must have been the person I'd noticed. Naturally it was Kiki who drew his attention when you saw him but he may well know my connection with four children and a parrot. He may even have been informed that I could be in the area." "Did he see you, Bill?" asked Lucy-Ann, now feeling a little concerned. "I don't think so," said Bill shaking his head. "We've never met but he will have seen photographs of me. When you spotted him with his companion while we were driving away, I don't think they saw me as they were on the wrong side of the car. In case they did suspect I was with you, I drove in the opposite direction to the Otter Lake highway." "I knew it!" declared Philip triumphantly. "You wanted them to think we were staying somewhere on Great Moose Lake." "Are the men dangerous?" asked Dinah. "They haven't been arrested for any major crime but seem to be around when there have been police operations some successful, some unsuccessful against large scale criminal activity," explained Bill. "I think they're minor players covering for the main criminals, the ones we always want to catch. They're involved because they're well paid. If I suspected they were dangerous, I would certainly not have brought you with me at least, not to this quiet lake." "Does that mean you suspect Larsen Tours?" asked Jack. "You did say you've heard of it." "I'm merely aware of it as I had to know as much as possible about the area before coming here," answered Bill. "I hadn't linked Crooked Charlie, or any other suspicious character for that matter, with the company until you told me about seeing him come from the plane. He could be working quite innocently for Larsen Tours, but I doubt it. And the person with him could well be Big Joe Gregory. They often work together." "Big Joe Gregory," repeated Lucy-Ann. "Yes, the man we saw with Crooked Charlie was big so the name would suit him." "Scowling Joe Gregory would suit him better," said Dinah. "He had such a miserable face." Philip was just about to ask another question when everyone looked at each other in alarm. Once again came the throbbing noise of the plane's engines but, the strange thing was, it seemed overhead even though they had not heard it approaching. "It sounds as though it's hovering just above us!" shouted Lucy-Ann. "What's it doing? Is it going to land?" Then, as abruptly as it had started, the sound ceased and there was silence. Jack at once ran to the edge of the veranda and peered upwards. There perched on the edge of the roof was Kiki, cackling with laughter. Then she opened her mouth and, once again, they heard the sound of the aircraft. "You really fooled us, you naughty bird!" said Jack laughing. "I honestly thought the plane had returned." "Plane and train!" said Kiki, delighted at the attention she was receiving. "Pretty Polly!" "Well, I'm glad it was just Kiki," said Lucy-Ann. "I really thought the plane had come after us. I think we've had enough excitement for one day." "I have a feeling we're going to have lots more," declared Philip, giving Bill a sly look. Bill gave a grin. "I hope not," he said. "Come on, let's clear the table. We've all finished." They were just clearing the table when there was a strange scratching noise to one side of the veranda. Kiki at once looked in the direction of the sound, her head on one side. "Whoisit, whoisit?" she called loudly. The scratching stopped for a moment before resuming. As everybody looked, wondering what was the cause of this strange noise, a quivering nose appeared over the rail. This was followed by a little red body and a large, bushy tail. It was a beautiful red squirrel! Dinah, who had been holding her breath, gave a scream and retreated to the furthest corner of the veranda, while Philip at once slowly leant on the rail a short distance from the creature. Bill, Lucy-Ann and Jack looked on without moving. After a few seconds, the squirrel moved along the rail to Philip, its nose still quivering. Philip's animal magic was at work again.

"Look at this lovely creature," he said quietly, reaching out a hand to stroke it. "See how the pure white tummy contrasts with the reddish fur? It's not like the grey squirrel I had at Mr Roy's but like those red ones we saw in Wales. Come on Sammy, little fellow." Bill watched, impressed and fascinated. How did Philip manage to gain the confidence of even wild creatures in a matter of seconds? Spotting one of Kiki's sunflower seeds on the floor, Philip picked it up and, placing it in the palm of his hand, offered it to the squirrel. The little animal waited a moment, looked around, then cautiously approached the boy's outstretched hand. It took the seed and began contentedly nibbling it, quite oblivious to the fact it had an audience. Then it again approached Philip who, finding another sunflower seed Kiki had dropped, offered it to the squirrel. The animal accepted it and sat nibbling it, hoping there might be another one. Unfortunately, this was too much for Kiki who gave a loud screech and flew from Jack's shoulder on to the back of the chair closest to the squirrel. She then began growling like a dog. At once the little creature scuttled back along the veranda rail, darted down to the grassy patch below and proceeded to seek refuge in a nearby birch tree. "You naughty, naughty bird!" reprimanded Jack wagging his finger at the parrot. Kiki immediately tried to bite it then, changing her mind, flew on to Jack's shoulder and began gently nibbling his ear. She knew he was not very pleased with her. "What a pity, poor Polly, naughty, naughty," she said. "Polly's down the well ... " "That's enough, Kiki, you're not funny," said Lucy-Ann, also sounding cross. "Fancy causing a fuss while Philip was trying to make friends with that lovely squirrel." "Well I'm glad she did," said Dinah, leaving her corner of the veranda now that the animal had gone. "You shouldn't encourage wild animals on our veranda, Philip. If that creature returns, shoo it away and don't you dare bring it indoors. It's like a rat with a bushy tail and you know how I hate rats." "By all means befriend a squirrel, Philip," said Bill with a smile, "but I do agree with Dinah over one thing. It must not come indoors. It could do a lot of damage." "I don't suppose Sammy will bother to even come back on the veranda after being frightened by Kiki's noises and Dinah's long face," muttered Philip looking downcast. "Mind you, I suppose I was partly to blame because I did offer it a couple of Kiki's sunflower seeds." "I'm sure it will return if it sees you out here," said Jack good-naturedly, then changed the subject. "Well, as everything is just about cleared away, isn't it time we had a look in the boathouse? I'm longing to see the boats. Have you got the key yet, Bill? You said you knew where to find it." "Yes, the key was on top of the cupboard in the hall," replied Bill, "so that's where we'll keep it when we're not using it. Come on, let's take a look outside. These steps leading off the veranda over here seem to go down to the boathouse." The five went down the steps which did, indeed, lead to the landing stage and the boathouse where Bill wasted no time in opening the door. Everyone peered inside where there were two boats, separated by a wooden platform, the larger one a sailing boat, the other, a motor boat. "Just look at this!" exclaimed Philip, looking at the boats in awe. "We're going to have a great time out on the lake in these boats." "Can't we take one out now?" begged Dinah, her eager eyes ablaze. "They look ready for a cruise on the lake." "Not now, Dinah, but we'll take one out in the morning, immediately after breakfast," promised Bill. "I'm sure they are completely ready to go on the lake but I'll need time to check everything first. No doubt Kiki will try to imitate the sound of the motor boat's engine once she's had her first ride in it." "Blow your nose, wipe your feet!" said Kiki, hearing her name mentioned and hoping she was back in everyone's good books. She then puffed herself up ready to make one of her loud noises but, fortunately, Jack stopped her. "Quiet, Kiki," he said. "We don't want any of your noises in here. If you must make a noise, go outside." "What a pity, what a pity," was the reply as the parrot flew out of the building and perched on its roof trying out various sounds.

"It'll be easy enough taking either boat out of the boathouse but you'll need more care entering as you'll have to use the oars," said Bill looking around. "Now where are they? Oh, there they are, fixed to the back wall surrounded by all that fishing gear. I'll place a pair in each boat now as we mustn't go out on the lake without them." "Where are the cans of fuel?" asked Philip. "I can't see any in here." "Apparently they're in a small store just outside," answered Bill. "One of these keys fits it. As soon as the oars are in the boats, we'll find the fuel cans. The store can't be far." While Bill carefully placed the oars in the boats, the four children went outside where LucyAnn immediately spotted a small store. Unlocking the door and opening it, they found half a dozen cans of fuel Bill had ordered. "Everything seems to be in order, not surprisingly," said Bill, closing the door and locking it. He turned to lock the boathouse door. "Those cans should last us a while, especially as the motor boat's tank is already full. You carry on looking around while I move the car to a position under the trees." "Why do that?" enquired Jack. "Surely it's all right where it is." "I'd prefer it to be hidden from view, including from above," explained Bill. "In case Crooked Charlie spots it from his aeroplane," said Philip giving Bill a knowing look. "As I said earlier, I have a feeling we're in for an exciting holiday." And Philip was right. It was going to be an exciting holiday. Very exciting!

CHAPTER 4: OTTERS!
"If anyone calls, I merely want it to look as though the Jeep is our means of transport," said Bill patiently. "Everyone in the Moose Lake area uses Jeeps. When I've moved the car, I'll go indoors to radio headquarters to make the first of my daily reports and to try to find out how Mrs Sullivan is." "I do hope she's no worse, poor thing," said Lucy-Ann who was ever grateful to Aunt Polly for allowing her and Jack to stay at Craggy Tops. "She's had a tough life." "I'll keep you informed and will see you later," said Bill returning to the cabin. "I assume you're staying out here for a bit." "Come on, let's explore," said Philip, then, giving his sister a sly look, added, "We might find some very interesting creatures among the trees." "If all you're interested in is finding nasty animals then you and Jack can explore by yourselves," retorted Dinah. "Lucy-Ann and I will go our own way." But, as usual, Lucy-Ann wanted to be with Jack, something Dinah just could not understand. She was only too pleased when there was some distance between her and Philip in case he had found something she considered unpleasant, as was often the case. Poor Dinah did not share her brother's love of wildlife, something he had inherited from their father. In the end, all four remained together, enjoying a lakeside walk and chatting excitedly about taking a boat out the next day. The following morning, the children were up quite early and hurriedly ate their breakfast, so keen were they to go out in one of the boats. Kiki sensed their excitement and flew around making ridiculous comments, angrily raising her voice as everyone ignored her. Bill had received the good news that Aunt Polly was rapidly recovering from her illness which meant Mrs Cunningham would definitely be able to join the family in a week's time. While he was on a case, his department could always be relied upon to find a seat on an aircraft for a member of his family, however short the notice. At last they were ready to go on the lake. As there was a breeze blowing, Bill suggested taking out the sailing boat so he could see how the children coped as it would be more difficult to manoeuvre than the motor boat. Once everyone was aboard, he rowed out on the lake, well clear of the boathouse, before putting up the bright blue sail which flapped eagerly and noisily in the stiff breeze.

"Let's see how you get on with this craft," said Bill looking at the children. "Dinah, take the tiller, Jack, you're captain so take over the sail from me. I am merely a passenger. Lucy-Ann and Philip are deck hands until it's their turn to take over." It really was delightful on the lake. The hillsides, which were mainly in the shadows earlier on, became bathed in the gentle light of the morning sun, their carpets of trees now in various shades of green. The water cheerfully sparkled, the breeze causing little waves to gently rock the boat as it scurried across the lake. Kiki attempted to balance on top of the mast but her feathers became so ruffled in the wind that she gave up. "Poor Kiki, poor Kiki, what a pity, poor Polly!" she screeched, flying around feeling sorry for herself. Nearby birds looked on in amazement. A bird talking like a human! How peculiar! "This is lovely," said Lucy-Ann dangling her fingers into the cold water. "The water is so clear that I can see the bottom. We seem to be halfway across this part of the lake already and look, isn't that the way to Little Moose Lake over there?" "Yes and we must keep well away from there," warned Bill, a serious expression on his face. "Well away. There are rocky waterfalls and little rapids between us and Little Moose Lake and a very strong current we don't want to be shipwrecked on our first day out!" "Well, I'm more than happy here," said Lucy-Ann. "We're so lucky having a lake to ourselves." "Make the most of it as we'll be with hundreds of other people when we move to Great Moose Lake next week," said Bill, admiring the way Jack and Dinah were coping. "Now we'll soon reach where we connect with the other part of the lake so, steer a course over there, Captain Trent. We'll have a look at it." Jack carefully made an adjustment to the sail and, with Dinah still at the tiller, the boat veered towards the gap between the hills linking both sections of Otter Lake. "You know, when we tire of the lake, it would be great to go exploring in the hills some time," remarked Jack gazing around. "I bet there are plenty of wild birds there. Do you remember those donkeys we had in Wales when we rode among all those beautiful hills and mountains?" "The Mountain of Adventure!" stated Philip, thinking back. "What a thrilling time we had." "We've had so many adventures together," said Dinah. "I wonder if we'll have one here with Crooked Moustache." "Crooked Charlie, you mean," giggled Lucy-Ann. "I hope not. I just want a nice, peaceful holiday with no adventure to spoil it." "Fancy not wanting another adventure!" exclaimed Dinah scornfully. "Mind you, I can't think we'll have one with Crooked Charlie as we're not likely to see him again. And, what's more, you're not likely to spot him or anyone else here, Bill. It's so isolated. You won't have anything to report." "I have to regularly drive into Elkville," replied Bill. "And as you've discovered that our friends Crooked Charlie and Big Joe are associated with Larsen Tours, that's something of interest to report. I shall hopefully be receiving more information about this company during the afternoon. But that's business. Let's not mix it with pleasure." "You've said that before, Bill," said Jack with a knowing grin. "It's lovely and peaceful out here on the lake surrounded by these quiet hills but, when you're around, anything can happen! What are you looking for, Philip?" "As this is called Otter Lake, I was looking out for otters," said Philip, still closely watching the shore. "It would be great to see some otters playing about on the shore and in the water." "If we do see any, I shall steer in the opposite direction," declared Dinah at once, tightening her hold on the tiller. "We'll keep a respectable distance from them. Nasty, slimy creatures!" "No they're not slimy, they've got plenty of fur on them so it shows how little you know!" snapped Philip looking scornfully at his sister. "To be honest, Di, I think you'll like them, especially if we see them at play. You don't have to touch them and you won't get near them." "I doubt it very much," said Dinah pulling a face. "I'm enjoying sailing in this boat and don't want nasty smelly creatures to spoil everything." "We might even be lucky enough to spot a beaver or two," teased Philip while Dinah glared at him. "I bet there are some around here."

"We're already approaching the other half of Otter Lake," said Jack, hoping a full scale row would not develop between Dinah and Philip. "Oh look, there's an island ahead. I wonder if we can land there." "I expect it's possible but let's just sail around the island and think about landing another time," said Bill. "Once round it, we'll have a change of crew. I say, those hills ahead are much higher than the ones around our lake and the Moose Lakes. In fact, I'd call them mountains." The hills ahead were, indeed, mountainous as they had sharp ridges and towering peaks. There were plenty of rocky outcrops, some with waterfalls tumbling over sheer drops. It all looked very barren in contrast to their section of the lake, with little sign of vegetation except for a few trees and a scattering of forlorn looking bushes and shrubs. "They really are high!" exclaimed Lucy-Ann, gazing in awe at the mountains peering down on them. "Otter Lake is clearly the last lake in this direction." "It's the last in this chain of lakes," confirmed Bill, "but, needless to say, there are more lakes on the other side. Not even the Jeep will take us anywhere near those mountains but it doesn't matter as there are plenty of hills to explore all around. Well, here we are. Otter Lake, part two, and just over there, Otter Island!" This section of the lake and immediate shore was very much like their own part. Trees stretched down from the hillsides to the water although there were what appeared to be grassy banks in some places and tall, rocky headlands in others. Jack and Dinah were skilfully manoeuvring the boat around one side of the island when Philip gave such a loud yell that Kiki flew up in the air in shock. Even Bill jumped. "Look, on the island otters!" cried Philip, rocking the boat in excitement. "Jack, Dinah, turn the boat towards the bank and stop. Just look at them playing." Bill at once leapt up to assist Jack and Dinah who were clearly going to have some difficulty making a sudden turn, especially as Dinah was showing some reluctance to use the tiller. "We can't simply stop, remember," he said adjusting the sail. "We're not in a rowing boat or a motor boat. I'll take in the sail a bit and hopefully we'll manage to glide round in a circle." Despite the awkward movements of the boat, the children were able to watch a group of otters splashing about in the water. Others were on the muddy bank where, to everyone's surprise, even Dinah's, they seemed to have made a slide down into the water. "I do believe they're actually enjoying sliding down like we do on a water slide!" squealed LucyAnn in delight. "That means they're really playing." "I told you earlier, otters do play," said Philip who was longing to land and approach the creatures. "I must say they look bigger than otters at home, but they're having fun in the same way. And just look at those long whiskers. Take us round again, Bill." The otters paused for a short while as the boat passed close by then resumed their entertaining antics on the shore and in the water. Kiki flew over to watch them from a safe distance then began to copy their strange, bird-like twittering sounds. The otters ignored her so she flew back to the boat, still twittering. "What a strange noise they make," said Dinah, suddenly taking an interest. "What do they live in? Dens?" "They live in holts which will be on the shore nearby," answered Philip. "There should be quite a number of them judging by all the otters we can see. Gosh, I bet there are plenty of other otters around the actual shore of the lake. We might even have some as neighbours at Pine Lodge." "There's bound to be plenty of wildlife all around here," observed Bill. "It's so secluded. Otter Lake and its surroundings must have few visitors. People tend to flock to the Moose Lakes." "That's why the otters appear to be so tame as they're not used to people coming here," said Philip. "We're lucky to see them as they often only appear out at night. What a good job we're in the sailing boat. The noise of the motor boat's engine might have stopped them playing. Oh look, there's a sort of an inlet there, beyond those overhanging branches." "It twists its way round some trees," said Lucy-Ann. "It can't go far as the island isn't particularly big." "Well, you've seen what you wanted to, Philip, so I think we'll carry on sailing now," decided Bill. "You can always return to Otter Island another time. Right, now we're continuing our little

voyage, Lucy-Ann, take over the tiller from Dinah. Philip becomes the captain as long as he concentrates on the task and doesn't keep daydreaming about having an otter for a pet!" "Ugh!" muttered Dinah. "I confess I quite enjoyed watching them but, to have one as a pet. Ugh!" "Ugh! Ugh!" copied Kiki, delighted with the new word. "Ugh! Pop goes the weasel. Ugh!" "Pop goes the otter, you mean," laughed Jack, sitting down while Bill gave Philip a hand with the sail. "I'm going to do a bit of bird watching through my field glasses now my hands are free." He swept the hills but, although he spotted some birds, they were too far away for him to recognise them. He was hoping he might see an eagle or two. Then he focused on the end of the lake, having become aware of a movement to one side of a group of rocks. Yes, there was definitely something there. The something moved causing him to stiffen in surprise, scarcely believing what he could see. He rubbed his eyes, and looked again. There was no doubt about it. Somebody at the far end of the lake was also using field glasses. What's more, they were focused on the sailing boat!

CHAPTER 5: THE LAKE AND THE WATERFALL


"Bill, we're being watched," said Jack urgently. "There's somebody at the far end of the lake with field glasses trained on us." "Here, let me see," said Bill, almost snatching the glasses from Jack. "Where exactly did you see this person?" "To the right of that rocky outcrop in line with the group of trees on the hills way down there," replied Jack, somewhat surprised by the urgency in Bill's voice. He strained his eyes to try to make out the watcher. "I can't see anyone," said Bill trying to steady himself as the boat was now swinging round "Oh drat, we're changing direction!" exclaimed Jack. "Philip, Lucy-Ann, can you veer a bit to the right? Blow!" "Blow, blow, blow!" cried Kiki hearing a familiar word. "Blow your nose. Wipe your feet. Ugh!" "Don't interrupt, Kiki!" reprimanded Jack. "You should be able to spot the person near those rocks, Bill." Although Philip and Lucy-Ann altered course so that the far side of the lake could again be clearly seen, Bill was unable to focus on anybody. Standing next to him, Jack tried to point to where he knew he had noticed whoever it was with the field glasses. "I expect Jack has imagined seeing someone," said Philip shrugging his shoulders. "He was looking for a bird and that's probably what he saw." "A bird looking through field glasses!" exclaimed Jack scornfully. "That'll be the day! Don't be an ass, Tufty. I tell you, field glasses were being used and only humans use them. There was a flash as though the sun's rays were being reflected and look, the sun is in just about the right place." "If there was somebody watching, he will know that you were watching him," reasoned Bill. "That's why he is no longer visible." "Are you concerned Bill?" asked Lucy-Ann. "Not really, I just like to be aware of who's around, especially if I'm being watched," replied Bill handing the glasses back to Jack. "I was surprised that anybody should be over there on the shore as Otter Lake is so out of the way. It was probably an ornithologist like Jack or a naturalist like Philip, surprised at seeing us." "So why was he watching us?" demanded Jack. "If he was a birdwatcher, he was probably watching Kiki," answered Dinah with a laugh. "Very funny," retorted Jack. "Very funny," echoed Kiki. "Funny, funny, very funny." "It's not funny at all," said Jack. "I don't like being spied on by someone using field glasses."

At that, Philip burst out laughing. "But, Freckles, that's exactly what you were doing, and what Bill was doing!" "I expect whoever it was is staying in that cabin I can see," said Lucy-Ann peering ahead. "It's got a boathouse next to it like ours. And look. What are those strange buildings next to it? They seem to be very close to a river." "I don't know who owns the cabin now but it was constructed to house the workers of a very small and disused hydroelectric power station," explained Bill. "It proved to be quite useless as the river it was constructed over dried up one hot summer so construction of a new power station took place in Elkville. Those strange buildings are what's left of it. We'll have a better view when we get closer. In the meantime, let's just follow the shore." They continued sailing around the lake, Jack sweeping the shore with his field glasses, the others enjoying the magnificent scenery all around. At first all was calm, then, for some reason, the water suddenly became surprisingly choppy. Several times the spray shot through the air causing everyone to squeal when it hit them as it was so cold. Then sheets of water began to fly over the prow to land with a splash in the bottom of the boat. Kiki screeched indignantly whenever droplets landed on her. "I can see the river further down the lake where the derelict buildings are but I suspect there's another one entering the lake a short way ahead," said Bill standing up again to assist Philip. "It's clear we must veer to the left. No, don't turn the tiller sharply, Lucy-Ann, or we'll capsize. Gently does it, that's right." "Whatever's making us bump up and down?" asked a startled Lucy-Ann, gripping the tiller tightly as the boat leant over alarmingly. "If it carries on like this, I shall be quite seasick or lakesick!" "Gosh, there's an enormous waterfall coming into view behind this jutting out bit of land," said Jack, leaning over the side and excitedly pointing as he peered through his field glasses. "My word, it really is huge! Just look!" Everyone immediately peered in the direction Jack indicated. Dropping from a great height was a foaming waterfall which splashed furiously on the rocks below as it gathered momentum, sending showers of spray in all directions. On either side of the main body of water, a fine mist seemed to hover over the rocky face of the mountain, resembling a shimmering veil, ever changing in shape and density. All around were the colours of the rainbow, sometimes faint, sometimes intense. It was a most spectacular sight. And what a roar there was! Even from the boat it sounded like thunder, rolling continuously and angrily across the lake as the water tumbled incessantly from its lofty heights to hit the waiting rocks. At first, nobody said anything. Even Kiki remained quiet before breaking the silence by uttering, "Ugh!", but this was scarcely noticed above the perpetual din. "I think that's quite the wrong word," shouted Dinah looking in awe at the cascading water. "It's a magnificent sight. It reminds me of the superb waterfall in that beautiful deserted valley where we had that wonderful adventure finding the hidden treasure." "The Valley of Adventure," said Philip thinking back. "That was a great adventure. It's weird because we heard that waterfall long before we reached it, yet how come we didn't see or hear this one as we approached, despite being so close?" "That's because the base of the fall was completely hidden by that high rocky outcrop on the shore to the right of the waterfall," explained Bill in a loud voice. "All we could see on our trip across the lake was the top of the fall way up there. We didn't notice the sound of waterfall above the swishing sound of the boat cutting through the water until it came into sight all of a sudden. How about landing for a closer view?" "That's great," said Jack gazing upwards. "We shan't be able to climb up very high but we should be able to get close to the bottom of the longest fall. I bet it'll sound fantastic." "We'll make for the left of the waterfall," decided Bill changing the course of the boat. "The shore is quite low that side and there are some bushes we can tie the boat to. We'll soon be out of the choppy water, Lucy-Ann. I hope your lakesickness isn't too bad." "The surprise of seeing that wonderful waterfall made me forget I was feeling funny," laughed Lucy-Ann. "But it'll be nice to be on firm land once again."

"Soon be there," said Bill reassuringly. "We'll make for that sort of a bay straight ahead then we'll do a bit of exploring. Steady now. Turn the tiller gently. Here we are. This seat is a bit wobbly it seems to be working its way loose. I must find some tools and fix it some time. Well, we've arrived." The sailing boat drifted alongside the bank where Bill leapt out and deftly tied the mooring rope around a nearby bush. "All out!" he shouted above the roar of the waterfall. He glanced towards the hillside. "See that pebbly looking area where I'm pointing? That's scree. We've met it before on our travels so you know to avoid it if possible or exercise extreme care if you ever need to cross it. It looks as though we can avoid it by keeping to this rocky area. It's quite likely there was a landslide here once." It was slow going up the hillside as it was very uneven underfoot. At times the slope was quite steep and they had to go around the many huge rocks and boulders scattered all over the area. Some of the boulders were so enormous that the lake became hidden and, for a brief moment, the sound of the waterfall diminished. But the top of it, towering above them, never disappeared from view. After much scrambling, they reached a fairly flat area almost on a level with the foot of the fall. The noise was thunderous, the sight breathtaking! The water was crashing incessantly onto the waiting rocks, splashing wildly in every direction. Above hovered a swirling mist through which the torrent poured while a swiftly flowing stream cascaded down the hillside to the lake. For a while, nobody said anything, not that normal conversation would have been possible. Even Kiki's squawks of apprehension and excitement were drowned by the noise of this magnificent waterfall. Almost without realising it, Bill and the children were becoming soaked by the fine spray, some shooting out from the foot of the fall, some gently floating down from the misty heights above. It was quite refreshing after the slog up the hillside which had made them all feel quite hot. Hating her feathers becoming wet, Kiki flew over to some rocks just out of reach of the spray and started pitying herself. Eventually the five turned to look at the view below. Spread out before them was Otter lake and the hills beyond. The cabin could be clearly seen down on the right but the derelict buildings they had noticed earlier were hidden from view by the many rocks strewn on the hillside. Behind them rose the sheer, majestic cliffs of the mountain range. "Let's move along a bit," yelled Bill above the sound of the waterfall. "I'd like a better view of the cabin and the old power station. I think we may have to go down a little to avoid the scree we saw when we arrived. Everyone ready?" The children nodded and carefully followed Bill across the uneven hillside. Again, rocks and boulders frequently interrupted their view although these were replaced by shrubs and bushes the further the little party moved from the waterfall. It was while they had stopped to have another look at the lake below that Lucy-Ann's sharp ears heard a sound above that of the waterfall. "I'm sure I can hear an engine of some sort over there," she said gazing at the hills opposite. Everyone strained their ears. "You're right," agreed Dinah after a few moments. "And look. See what's making that sound?" They looked towards the hills over which a dark object was approaching. Bill pursed his lips but said nothing. The Larsen Tours plane was back!

CHAPTER 6: VERY MYSTERIOUS


"keep still," ordered Bill at once. "I want to have a good look at that floatplane. Can I borrow your field glasses, Jack? It would be interesting to see if I recognise the pilot." "Who knows? You might see Crooked Charlie at the controls," laughed Philip as Jack handed over the glasses. "It's certainly coming straight in this direction."

The engine became very audible as the plane approached Otter Lake. Kiki, of course, could not resist copying the sound of the engine but nobody objected out on the open mountainside. Once the aircraft had cleared the hills between Little Moose Lake and Otter Lake, it descended slightly. As it banked, the name LARSEN TOURS could be distinguished on the dark fuselage and the pilot could just be seen at the controls. However, nobody could tell if it was Crooked Charlie, not even Bill using the field glasses The plane continued to descend then, just when it seemed it might land on the lake, it rose and went over the hills before circling the lake once again. With the glasses held firmly in both hands, Bill tried to make out the identity of the pilot but to no avail. "Drat, drat, drat!" he exclaimed, clicking his tongue in annoyance. "It's just impossible to see inside the cabin because of the angle of the plane. This is all very weird. It's the Larsen Tours plane but, clearly, there aren't any passengers. So why fly a tour plane down the lakes with only the pilot on board?" "For one moment, I thought it was going to land," said Jack, watching the plane now flying back in the direction of Elkville. "Perhaps it was a practice run. As you say, Bill. It's weird." "There it goes, on its way back," said Lucy-Ann still gazing at it. Then she turned and spoke firmly to Kiki. "The plane has gone so stop copying the sound of its engine." "Drat, drat, drat!" said Kiki, remembering Bill's words. "Drat, drat, drat. Ugh!" "Absolutely, Kiki," said Bill with a laugh. "I couldn't agree more." "I take it you're still rather suspicious of Larsen Tours?" enquired Dinah, noticing the mystified look on Bill's face. "Only because of the association with Charlie and Joe," replied Bill. "I wonder if the pilot spotted our boat, not that a boat on a lake would be likely to interest him." "It might, being on this particular lake," said Lucy-Ann. "Well, the plane's gone so let's carry on along the hillside and have a look at the old power station," suggested Philip. "It can't be far." "I don't suppose there's much to see," said Bill, "but we may as well continue with our walk. I must say, I'm very much enjoying all this invigorating mountain air." Onwards they traipsed across the rugged terrain where the towering peaks seemed to frown down upon them. They made fairly good progress, despite the uneven ground, but had to be extremely careful when they reached a scree slope. As it was not steep, Bill decided to cross it, keeping a watchful eye on the children once he had reached the other side. "Well done," he said approvingly when they were all safely across. "We can't go much further along here as there's a cliff face ahead, but it doesn't matter. Look, we can now see the old buildings down there." Peering down, they could see a collection of buildings on either side of a narrow river. Bits of old machinery were scattered about and a rusty looking footbridge crossed the river. Some of the buildings on the far side of the river were without roofs although those actually constructed into the hillside were in a better state of repair. "It all looks rather sad, forlorn and forgotten," said Lucy-Ann. "Sort of left behind like an unwanted toy." The others smiled, but inwardly, couldn't help agreeing with her description. "It seems incredibly small for a hydroelectric station!" exclaimed Philip in amazement. "I know part of it has collapsed but what purpose would it achieve? Why ever was it built?" "As far as I know, Otter Lake was going to be developed for visitors," explained Bill. "Visitors require electricity so a developer began to have this power station constructed to provide it. It was soon realised that this was quite the wrong place to have a power station, especially as the river is not exactly fast flowing, so it was decided to build a big one at Elkville where there was a constant supply of swiftly flowing water. There, they could, and did, develop the Moose Lakes. Personally, I cannot think why they even considered building anything here. It's so wild." "I know we're some way away from it but the cabin itself looks in good shape," observed Dinah. "Very different from those derelict buildings down there." "It's almost certainly owned by somebody," said Bill. "It's probably hired out to visitors like Pine Lodge."

"I think you're right, Bill, because we're being watched again," said Jack looking through the field glasses. "Yes, there is definitely somebody watching us from behind the cabin. Oh, he's just moved. Blow!" "Blow!" repeated Kiki. "Blow, drat, pooh, pah, ugh!" "You do say the right thing sometimes, Kiki," said Jack. "I suppose none of you believes me." "I do believe you," said Bill, "because I definitely saw a swift movement behind the cabin. So, it looks as though the cabin is let, and to someone who is puzzled by the fact he keeps being watched by a boy with field glasses!" Jack turned and grinned sheepishly. "Why doesn't he come out into the open like we are?" he asked. "He keeps hiding. Why?" "Bill told you why," laughed Dinah. "Because he doesn't like being watched. I bet it's a birdwatcher like yourself." For several minutes they stood taking in the view. There was no sign of the watcher down below and they gradually forgot about him. "Well, I don't know about you, but this walk has given me an appetite," said Bill. "Unless you want to stay any longer I suggest we make our way back to the boat and to Pine Lodge for a bit of lunch." This suggestion was met with instant approval as the little party turned to go back along the rugged hillside. Jack could not resist one quick glance at the cabin through his glasses but there was no sign of anybody. Bill noticed a way down the hillside which would avoid the unpleasant scree slope and they were able to make reasonable progress along the shore of the lake. At first, it seemed as though the boat was no longer there. A concerned Lucy-Ann ran ahead and spotted it hidden by the large bush to which it was moored. They clambered aboard, hoisted the sail and off they went, at first through the choppy water caused by the waterfall, then across much smoother water. Gradually the sound of the tumbling water receded into the distance and everyone could once again talk at a normal volume. "That magnificent waterfall really was a great surprise," said Philip as they sailed towards the island. "Look, those huge cliffs are already hiding the fall from view and we can hardly hear it now. At least we know why the water in the lakes is so cold." "I began to shiver when spray first started shooting over the boat," added Lucy-Ann. "I hadn't realised the water had come from near the top of the mountain." "That's why you don't see many people swimming in these lakes," said Bill. "The water is too cold until the sun has had chance to warm it up." "Your otters didn't seem to mind the cold water, Philip," said Dinah. "Otters are perfectly at home in cold water," replied Philip making an adjustment to the sail. "A little to the right now, Lucy-Ann." "You should be using the expressions port and starboard, not left and right," said Jack with a grin. "A little to starboard, Lucy-Ann." "Stop showing off," reprimanded Dinah. "Well, have you seen any interesting birds, Jack? You've been very quiet on the subject." "I've been too occupied looking at otters, the waterfall, the floatplane, derelict buildings and watchers on the shore," replied Jack, grinning broadly. He raised the field glasses to his eyes and swept the shoreline. "There are some wild geese on the water over there and I did see some birds on the mountainside, but not rare ones. What I really want to see is a sapsucker but it's more likely to be in the woods near our cabin." "What on earth is a sapsucker?" asked Bill, not having heard the name. "It's a Canadian bird, a bit like a woodpecker," replied Jack. "As the name implies, it taps into the sap of certain trees, mainly pines." "I thought I spotted a beaver earlier on but I was too busy with the sail to ask to look through the glasses," said Philip as the boat bobbed round the bend to the Pine Lodge section of the lake. "I'll have to investigate another time."

"In that case you go by yourself!" said Dinah pulling a face. "Otters, beavers, squirrels . . . really, Philip. You should open a zoo!" "Certainly not!" replied Philip sounding indignant. "These animals wouldn't be happy in a zoo. This is where they belong. Well, we'll soon be back. I can see Pine Lodge way down there." He and Lucy-Ann now steered a course for the Pine Lodge boathouse. It was not as easy as it looked as a side breeze had begun to blow, but they eventually approached the shore, bringing the boat to a gentle halt alongside the landing stage. "Well done, you two," praised Bill jumping onto the landing stage and tying the boat firmly to a post. "Now to see about some lunch. I reckon we're all ready for something to eat." "You bet we are!" said Philip, rubbing his hands together. "It's been a very interesting morning, at times mysterious." "It certainly has been mysterious," agreed Bill. "Very mysterious."

CHAPTER 7: JACK HAS A SHOCK


After lunch, Bill told the children that he had to go into Elkville during the afternoon. "Just to report and, maybe, receive information or instructions," he said casually. "I shan't be away all that long as Elkville isn't too far away from here as you know." "Presumably you'll receive some more information about Larsen Tours?" enquired Dinah. "You told us out on the lake you hoped to learn something this afternoon." "That's one of the things we'll be discussing," said Bill with a nod. "Just remember to lock up back and front when you go out. I'll have my own key so it won't matter who's back first." In due course, Bill set off in the Jeep while the children decided to explore the woodland area on the hill opposite the cabin on the other side of the track. They were just about to set off through the sweet smelling pine when something with a large bushy tail bounded up to Philip. "Oh look, it's Sammy, the red squirrel," he said in delight, gently stretching out his arm so the little animal could sniff his fingers. "Hello Sammy. No sunflower seeds today, I'm afraid. You'll have to make do with conifer cone seeds. There are plenty around." "Don't for goodness' sake encourage that creature to come with us," said Dinah pulling a face. "It's bound to be covered with fleas." "You always say that about small animals that attach themselves to Philip," giggled Lucy-Ann. "I've never had any fleas from Philip's pets and I don't believe you have, either." Dinah was not the only one who was displeased to see the red squirrel. Kiki, who was always jealous of any animal that made friends with Philip, kept flying down telling it to wipe its feet and blow its nose. This time, however, the squirrel completely ignored her by running up a tree and keeping up with Philip by leaping from branch to branch, much to the amusement of Jack and LucyAnn. Even Dinah couldn't help smiling but kept a wary eye on the little creature in case it decided to jump in her direction. They very soon reached the track leading from Little Moose Lake and which continued over the hill to the derelict power station they had seen that morning. From a branch, Sammy watched the children cross to the wooded section on the other side of the track then bounded across to join them, sniffing in the undergrowth for something tasty to eat. Once again they were surrounded by trees but, as they were climbing, knew they would eventually be above tree level and on the hillside they had seen from the lake. Philip produced a compass from his pocket and confirmed they were going in a southerly direction as planned. They were chatting away together when Jack suddenly raised a hand and asked everyone to be quiet. "Listen. Can you hear it?" he asked quietly. Kiki flew down and perched on his shoulder, her head on one side as though she, too, were listening. "Whoisit? Whoisit?" she questioned. Then, on being told to keep quiet, could not resist, "Shhhhhh!" "Apart from Kiki, I think I can hear a woodpecker," said Lucy-Ann listening intently.

"You're on the right track, Lucy-Ann," said Jack. "I'm sure it's one of those sapsuckers I told you about out on the lake. I've been longing to find one. You stay here while I investigate. It can't be far away." He turned in the direction of the tapping sound and had only moved a few paces when he spotted what he had hoped to see for so long. A bird with a black head and a red crown was tapping its beak at great speed against a pine tree. Pointing towards the bird, which had its back to him, Jack signalled to the others to come and look. "There's a sapsucker at work," he whispered excitedly. "It's so engrossed in its task that it's completely unaware of us. Isn't it a lovely colour?" "Whatever is it doing?" asked Dinah who did not mind watching birds as they tended to fly away when approached. "It's tapping into sap blisters on that pine tree and has almost certainly been doing likewise on others," explained Jack. "It feeds on the sap and on insects attracted to the sap. When it turned slightly I noticed it has a red throat and a white belly, which means it's a male. It's quite a sight, isn't it? It's the first one I've ever seen." Spotting the bird apparently pecking a tree, Kiki flew over to investigate. She copied the sound made by the sapsucker causing the bird to stop and look around. It gazed at the parrot in surprise. Why was this strange bird uttering sapsucker sounds yet was clearly not a sapsucker? Then Kiki really startled it by instructing it to open its book at page six! This was too much for the poor bird. It flapped its wings wildly and disappeared among the trees. "Kiki, you can be a real pest at times!" scolded Jack sounding annoyed. "At least I've see one, and obviously there'll be others. I'll bring my camera with me on the next walk through here and don't you dare make noises while I take photographs." "What a pity, polly's down the well," said Kiki flying back to his shoulder where she again copied the sound of the sapsucker before flying back into the air. "I'll buy a lock for your beak one day," threatened Jack grinning. Then an awful thought occurred to him. "Oh no! Mentioning the word 'lock' has made me think of something." He felt in his pocket and produced a key. "Seeing Sammy made me completely forget to lock the cabin door. I'll have to go back. You go on and I'll catch you up." "Does it really matter?" asked Lucy-Ann. "After all, there's nobody around." "Of course it matters!" retorted Jack. "Bill told us to make sure we lock up if we go away from the cabin. There's all his radio equipment inside, don't forget, and goodness knows what else. Shan't be long. We're not that far from the cabin. Just keep going uphill and I'll follow." With that, he turned and ran down the slope, pursued by Kiki flying after him, still practising her sapsucker imitation. On reaching the track he paused to make a notch in the bark of a tree with his penknife. "I should have done this further back as everywhere looks the same," he said to himself. "At least I have a compass so will know which direction to go in when I return." The cabin was easy to find as it took up so much space. To his horror, Jack could not find the key. It was not in any pocket. He had lost it! Looking glum, he retraced his footsteps back to the track and began looking for the tree he had marked. Dreading he would have to search in all the undergrowth he had walked through on the hill, he suddenly spotted the key close to the track. "Gosh, thank goodness I didn't lose it in the woods or I would never have found it," he muttered. "I must have dropped it when I took out my pocket knife to mark the tree. Back to the cabin, Kiki." He hurried to the front door and locked it. He was about to return to the others when he decided to go round to the veranda to check if the door leading on to it was also locked. It wasn't. "That was really forgetful of us," he said. "Although Lucy-Ann's probably right. There's not likely to be anybody around. I suppose it's all right leaving the boat out. Bill didn't seem too concerned about it. Come on, Kiki. Let's return to the others." He walked back around the cabin and began to trot towards the track. He had scarcely reached it when he heard the sound of a vehicle coming down the hillside on his left from Little Moose Lake. At once he stopped and looked towards the sound but could not see what it was as his view was blocked by the trees. "Bill can't have had time to drive to Elkville and back," he reasoned. "He must have forgotten something and returned to fetch it. Good job I locked up or he wouldn't have been very pleased."

Once again he began to return to the cabin when, to his surprise, the vehicle stopped on the main track instead of being driven along the drive leading to Pine Lodge. Jack now began to feel concerned as it could not possibly be Bill returning or he would surely have driven to the front door. The boy made his way cautiously among the trees towards the sound of the engine, then remained rooted to the spot as it was switched off. He strained his ears but could not hear the sound of any footsteps on the drive or on the track, nor could he hear any conversation so was unable to tell how many people were in the vehicle. Slowly he crept forward, taking care not to tread on any cones or twigs. Kiki kept flying around close to him, knowing she had to remain quiet. In a matter of seconds, he reached the track to find a Jeep, similar in colour to their own one, standing there empty. Feeling a bit nervous, he approached the Jeep to see if it was the one belonging to the cabin. Reaching it, he peered inside and then nearly jumped out of his skin. "And who might you be?" asked a deep voice with a Canadian accent. Turning round, Jack found himself face to face with a tall, dark haired man with a grim expression on his face. The man began to slowly advance. "I'll ask you once again," he said. "Who are you?"

CHAPTER 8: A STRANGE MAN AND A STRANGER ANIMAL


Jack did not reply. Who was this man? He wondered whether to make a dash for it but common sense told him that he had no real reason to be alarmed. He had not been threatened in any way. He was just startled by the way the man had managed to come up behind him without being heard. "Are you looking for someone?" he managed to say without answering the original question. "You don't seem to be very talkative," said the man. "Yes, I am looking for someone. I'm looking for the person in charge of Pine Lodge. I presume you are staying here." "Yes, I am," replied Jack realising that it was pointless denying it. "But why do you wish to see the person in charge? Who are you?" "In answer to your question, let's just say I'm a friend of his," said the man. He looked back towards the cabin and nodded. "It's all very quiet down there. Is the owner out?" "Yes, he's out somewhere," answered Jack still feeling very suspicious of the stranger and not wanting to give precise details of Bill's whereabouts. "I don't know when he'll be back. Who shall I say called when he returns?" "Just tell him Al was here," said the man. He gave a nod. "He'll know." "Have you by chance been to the other part of Otter Lake this morning?" asked Jack, wondering if this could have been the person he had seen through the field glasses. "Near that old power station over the hill?" "The old power station?" replied the man looking somewhat surprised. "Goodness me, no and I don't think anyone else has recently, either." "Why do you say that?" asked Jack intrigued. For the first time the man gave a smile as he pointed to the ground. "This is the only track to that collection of derelict buildings. Can you see any tyre marks beyond the ones made by my Jeep?" "No, only footprints crossing the track," replied Jack. "What you're saying is that nobody's driven along here for some time." "Precisely," said the man. "And I don't think anyone would visit there on foot as it's miles from anywhere. Now I must be off. Please don't forget my message." He strode round to the driver's side of the Jeep and climbed in. Before starting up the engine, he addressed Jack again. "And well done for not saying more than necessary." With that, he turned the Jeep round drove off leaving behind a very puzzled Jack. "Was he friend or foe?" wondered the boy. "At least he gave a name so Bill should know at once who he was. I can't do anything now so I'd better return to the others. I wonder if they heard the Jeep."

The others had certainly heard the sound of the engine and, like Jack, assumed it was Bill returning. In fact, Philip spotted the car between the trees as it came down the nearby hill. "That's the Jeep all right," he confirmed. "Bill's back early." "Shall we return to the cabin?" asked Lucy-Ann. "There's no need to because Jack's down there so he'll tell Bill where we are," replied Dinah. "What a good job he went to lock up. Bill wouldn't have been best pleased to find the cabin unlocked." "Let's keep climbing until we have a view of the lake," said Philip. "Jack will soon catch us up once he's had a word with Bill." They continued upwards, accompanied by Sammy, then stopped in surprise. Once again they heard the sound of an engine revving up. The Jeep seemed to be driving away, then there was no doubt about it. It was being driven up a fairly steep hill in a low gear. "Bill's going away!" exclaimed Lucy-Ann. "Whatever for?" "Now I come to think of it, he wouldn't have had time to go to Elkville, meet somebody and return here," said Dinah looking at the others. "He must have forgotten something and come back for it." "That's if it was Bill," said Philip looking serious. The girls looked at him in surprise. "I think we'd better wait for Jack to find out. Oh look, here comes Kiki." Kiki had suddenly flown up the hill between the trees squawking loudly, having heard the voices of the other children. "Whoisit?" she chanted. "Jack and Jill. Up the hill." "Jack's obviously coming up the hill," said Lucy-Ann with a laugh. "Good, because I want to know who was in the Jeep. I just hope he comes in our direction." Kiki suddenly flew back down the hill in search of Jack. She went out of sight but it was not long before she could be heard, this time making the sound of an aeroplane which was a bit alarming at first until everyone realised who it was. Then she again appeared through the trees with Jack hurrying up the hill a short distance behind. "Who was that in the Jeep?" called Dinah without waiting for Jack to reach them. She then hastily moved to one side as Sammy leapt on to the ground quite close by. "Ugh!" "Ugh! Ugh!" repeated Kiki before erupting into cackles of wild laughter. "Hang on, let me reach you first," called Jack, puffing a little as he hurriedly avoided a patch of dense undergrowth,. In a few seconds, he had joined them and described what had happened down below. The others were intrigued to know the mysterious visitor had referred to himself as Al. "I've never heard Bill refer to a friend called Al," said Philip. "Mind you, Bill's very secretive about his friends unless they're family friends of course." "The strange thing is that the man didn't refer to Bill by name," said Jack. "He simply called him the person in charge of the cabin." "How weird," said Dinah. "You'd think he would ask where Bill, or Mr Cunningham, was, wouldn't you? Not merely the person in charge. And if he knows Bill, he would know about us. Did he ask where we three were?" "He made no reference to us apart from asking me who I was," replied Jack. "Come to think of it, I didn't tell him." "I wonder if he was the person you saw watching us through field glasses this morning," said Philip sounding excited. "I actually asked him if he was at Otter Lake earlier and he said he wasn't," answered Jack. "What's more, he pointed to the track leading over the hill to Otter Lake and there were no tyre marks there. As he remarked, it's a long, long way to walk to the lake. A vehicle would have to be used." "So, Jack, you and Bill may have imagined seeing somebody watching us," teased Philip.

"No we did not!" persisted Jack indignantly. "I definitely saw somebody using field glasses. It might be somebody camping beside the lake, somebody who drove along the track some time ago and rain has washed away any tyre marks made. It might even be someone who had a boat." "In that case he would have had to come from this part of the lake," pointed out Dinah. "Bill said it's impossible to move between Little Moose Lake and our lake on account of the rapids." Jack simply shrugged his shoulders and said no more. The four continued to chat for a while about the man called Al. Lucy-Ann felt there was something very suspicious about him as he had not enquired about Bill by name but her brother disagreed. "I was certainly a bit suspicious at first," he admitted. "I suppose it's the way the man sort of crept up behind me without me hearing him. If he was up to no good, I don't think he would have left his car on the track for everyone to see or spoken to me. And he probably wouldn't have been alone." "We'll have to be patient and wait for Bill to return," said Dinah. "Are we still going in the right direction, Philip? There still seem to be hundreds of trees ahead." "Yes, we are," confirmed Philip looking at his compass. "A wood or forest always seems to be much larger when you're in it than when you see it from a distance, mainly because progress is often quite slow through a woodland area." "Here, take the cabin key, Philip," said Jack. "What with Kiki's sunflower seeds, my notebook and other paraphernalia, my pockets are full. I nearly lost the key earlier." Philip found room for the key in one of his pockets as the four trundled onwards, Kiki trying to race Sammy which she usually did. After a while, Dinah stopped and asked the others to be quiet. "Listen carefully," she said raising a finger to her mouth. "That includes you, Kiki, for once! Can you hear something in the trees behind us?" Nobody spoke. Kiki flew around, keeping an eye on Sammy, but did not make any noise. Everyone turned and listened intently. Dinah was right. There was definitely a noise somewhere in the forest behind them. It sounded like the slow tramping of very heavy feet. "We're being followed!" squealed Lucy-Ann, her green eyes wide open. "If we are, the follower is giving himself or herself away!" exclaimed Dinah. "It sounds more like an elephant than a human." "Let's nip behind this small group of pines and keep still," said Philip urgently. "It won't be an elephant, Dinah, but it could well be a bear." Dinah just managed to stop herself from screaming as she crouched behind the nearest tree. A bear! The very thought of it! She shook her head and swallowed as she pictured a bear suddenly appearing between the trees. "Let's do something instead of just standing here," she begged in a low voice. "We can't just wait for a bear to appear. It might attack us." "No Dinah, Philip's right," whispered Jack. "We must remain still. If we make a move we'll be heard because four people cannot move quietly. Perhaps whatever it is won't actually come this way." The four children remained still, their hearts beating strongly as the sound of something tramping through the undergrowth grew louder. Then it stopped to be replaced by what sounded like the breaking of twigs. Unfortunately, Kiki could contain her curiosity no longer. She flew in the direction of the sound then, spotting the cause of it, uttered an ear-piercing screech and flew back at full speed, landing on Jack's shoulder with a heavy thump. "Poor Kiki, poor Kiki," she said, and pressed her body against Jack's head. "Ee-ore, ee-ore, eeore, ee-ore!" "Whatever it is making that noise has clearly frightened Kiki and yet she's making a donkey sound," said Jack, reaching up and stroking the parrot. "Watch out, everyone, that's never a donkey. It's on the move again and it's definitely coming this way." The steady tramping sound had now been replaced by the more menacing sound of the crushing of undergrowth and breaking of branches. The four looked on in alarm, longing to run but unable to do so. Then it arrived! From between two tall pines appeared a huge creature, the size of a horse, with a very long nose and remarkable antlers. With its drooping lip and hump on its shoulder, it was extremely

menacing in appearance. It stopped to stare at the faces peering round the trees. Kiki gave another screech. Dinah longed to do likewise but could utter no sound, her mouth was so dry. "Whatever is it?" Lucy-Ann managed to say. "It's like a monster. Will it attack us?" "It's a male moose," answered Philip, keeping his eyes fixed on the large animal. "Remain calm." "Remain calm!" Dinah managed to exclaim. "With that thing facing us!" "Do as I say and don't argue!" snapped Philip. "It will only attack us if it feels threatened. Keep facing it but don't make a move." The moose sniffed in the air, grunted, and sniffed again. With her head under a wing, Kiki could not resist telling it to use its handkerchief, but nobody laughed. They were far too scared. Then, grunting away, it slowly advanced towards the terrified children huddled together behind the trees, blocking their way back to the cabin.

CHAPTER 9: PHILIP'S NEW FRIEND


Nobody moved as the creature advanced. It stopped chewing whatever was in its mouth, raised its head, and began to sniff and snort. Then, to the amazement of the others who held their breath, dreading he would be attacked, Philip boldly walked out from behind his tree and confronted the animal. The moose stopped in its tracks as Philip slowly stretched out an arm and spoke calmly. Head on one side, it ceased snorting but continued to sniff the air, somehow aware it was not being threatened. The other children looked on in admiration. After what seemed ages but was only a few seconds, Philip spoke to them without taking his eyes off the moose. "Come out slowly from behind the trees," he called. "When you've done so, remain still for a moment then pass by, giving the moose plenty of room so he won't think you're going to harm him. If he becomes startled, just stand still and face him." The others did as Philip instructed, Dinah fervently hoping and praying that the moose would not be disturbed as she felt convinced she would not be able to stand still and face it. The animal did turn its head to watch the children pass but made no attempt to move towards them until Kiki left Jack's shoulder and flew overhead. "Ee-ore, ee-ore, ee-ore!" she shrieked, flapping her wings wildly. The startled moose looked up, began snorting again and turned, now facing the three children who at once remained still. For one awful moment, it seemed that it was going to advance towards them. Standing trembling behind Jack, Dinah was doing her utmost to stifle a scream. "I'm going to get the moose to face me again," said Philip in a calm, confident voice. "If it does, I suggest you find your way back to the cabin. Just keep going downhill. I'll follow as soon as I can. Hopefully Kiki will go with you but don't call her yet. She's a bit of a distraction." Philip made a clicking noise and spoke to the animal as though it were a dog or a horse. It grunted before slowly turning round to face him once again. The others began to move downhill as quietly as possible, although Dinah was longing to break into a run. Fortunately Kiki lost interest and flew after her beloved Jack. Philip knew the next tricky moment would be when he, also, wanted to pass the moose. When it resumed chewing, he knew it was feeling perfectly comfortable in his presence so, very slowly, he began to move, leaving plenty of space between him and the animal. The moose awkwardly turned as Philip passed, its front legs being shorter than the hind ones. He kept speaking quietly to the animal which decided to follow him. This is not what Philip had planned although he was not really surprised as animals often attached themselves to him when he spoke to them. He continued down the slope, now having to break eye contact as he needed to watch where he was treading, the ground being uneven and covered in many places with quite thick undergrowth. All the time he could hear heavy breathing and a steady plodding behind him. Reaching the wide track, he wondered whether to cross it, thus risking the moose approaching the cabin, or walk along it hoping the animal would give up interest and wander away. Realising that the others would be unable to enter the cabin as Jack had given him the key, he decided on

the former action. Instead of making his way through the trees, he walked along to the drive leading to the front door, the moose continuing to patiently trundle along a few yards behind. As he walked down the drive, he heard a sound in the trees to his left. Giving a quick glance, he was relieved to see it was Sammy who had presumably followed him down the hillside. "Hello, Sammy," he said. "At least you don't seem to be afraid of our new friend." Then came another sound, this one from the front of the cabin. It was Dinah. This time she did let out a scream and flapped her arms at Philip and the approaching animal. "Oh no, he's brought that ugly creature with him. Philip, shoo it away! It's dangerous." "Calm down, Dinah," said Jack quietly. "I don't suppose for one moment he has deliberately brought the moose. It has simply followed him and will hopefully go away as soon as we're inside. Anyway, it's hardly being aggressive." As soon as he was close enough, Philip took the key from his pocket and threw it towards the three children standing by the front door. "Let yourselves in," he called. "Close the door behind you but don't lock it." Dinah grabbed hold of the key and attempted to unlock the door, but her hand was trembling so much with fear in case the moose came under the porch, that she merely fumbled. "For goodness' sake give me the key or we'll be here for ages!" said Lucy-Ann impatiently. Although wary of the moose, she no longer felt scared seeing it plodding along quietly with Philip. Without arguing but giving a scowl, Dinah handed the key to Lucy-Ann who at once opened the door. The moose suddenly gave a loud snort. Dinah pushed Lucy-Ann aside and shot into the cabin, shutting herself in her bedroom. Jack looked alarmed but saw, to his relief, that the moose had made the noise because Kiki had suddenly flown over its head and was telling it to blow its nose. He followed Lucy-Ann into the cabin and closed the door behind him. In a few moments, the door opened again and a beaming Philip entered the hall. "That was really exciting!" he exclaimed. "That's the first moose I've been close to. Where's Dinah? Hiding in a cupboard I expect." "No I am not!" called an indignant voice from the girls' room. "I just hope that creature doesn't keep coming to the cabin now it knows you are here. I'll be afraid to go outside. Has it gone?" "No, it's still outside," answered Jack from the boys' room. "It's standing on the drive." "Give it something to eat and perhaps it will go away," said Dinah appearing in the doorway of her room. "Now that really would be sensible!" declared Philip sarcastically. "Don't you realise that, if we give it food, it will keep returning for more. Worse, if it doesn't receive any because we're out, it will search for some, even if it means breaking the door down. You really are quite stupid at times, Di!" "Don't call me stupid!" retorted Dinah, flaring up. "You're the stupid one bringing that big fat moose down here when you could have shooed it away up the hillside." "Shoo, shoo, silly billy, silly billy," cried Kiki from the boys' room. "Pop goes the silly billy." "Don't make matters worse, Kiki," said Lucy-Ann, hoping Dinah would calm down. "It will probably soon get bored hanging about outside." "In any case, I didn't invite the moose to come down to the cabin," argued Philip. "It followed of its own accord. And I can just imagine its reaction if I'd stood in the forest saying 'shoo'! I'd have felt a right idiot!" "Anyway, what sort of animal is a moose?" asked Lucy-Ann. "I've never seen one before." "It's really only a very large deer," explained Philip. "Thus the antlers. The elk is similar but a bit smaller. I expect there are plenty of them in the forests around here." "Now you're putting me off going for walks," moaned Dinah pulling a face. "What are we going to do now that our hillside walk has been thoroughly spoilt?" "Let's take the boat out again," suggested Jack. "We don't want to be cooped up in here. The moose won't be able to reach us in the water." "Oh yes it will," said Philip, laughing at the look on Dinah's face. "They're quite good swimmers despite the fact they look so ungainly. But I agree with Jack. Let's go out on the lake."

"I think that's an excellent idea," agreed Lucy-Ann. "If we use the veranda door we can be out on the lake before the moose realises it. You coming, Dinah?" Dinah was not quite sure what to do. She was alarmed to learn that the moose could swim and had visions of it following the boat across the lake. She was equally alarmed at the thought of remaining in the cabin with the moose just outside. Realising it would be better to have company, she decided to join the others on the lake. Before Lucy-Ann unlocked the veranda door, Philip reminded her to lock the front one first. The four crept out onto the veranda, down the steps and along the landing stage to where the boat was moored. Telling the others to get into the boat, Jack untied the rope and climbed in as well. Philip already had the oars and began rowing hard. Looking back to the shore, they suddenly caught a glimpse of the moose. It was slowly trundling up the drive and disappeared behind some trees. Either it had not heard them or was simply taking no notice. "What a shame we didn't reach the top of the hill," said Lucy-Ann looking up the hillside beyond the cabin. "We can go up there another day," said Jack, helping his sister with the sail. "At least we had an exciting time didn't we, Dinah?" From her position at the tiller, Dinah gave a grin. "I must admit I was quite scared when I saw such a large beast coming through the trees," she said. "Mind you, I think we all were a bit scared. Thank goodness there are no animals anywhere near us now." Scarcely had Dinah uttered these words than she gave a little squeal. "Oh no! What has Philip got with him now?" "It's little Sammy," said Philip placing the oars in the bottom of the boar. "He jumped in the boat when he heard us. Don't worry. He'll stay with me, won't you, Sammy?" "Sammy, sammy, sammy," repeated Kiki eyeing the squirrel with disdain. "Sammy's down the well." It was lovely out on the lake in the sunshine. A slight breeze was blowing which helped their progress through the water. They had almost reached the other side when Philip gave an exclamation. "Look over there where that narrow river enters the lake!" he said. "See those bits of tree in the water? I bet beavers are trying to make a dam there." "If they are, they must be having time off," laughed Lucy-Ann. "There's no activity at all." "That's because they tend to come out at night," replied Philip. "I say, wouldn't it be great to come across here one moonlit night?" "No it would not," said Dinah shaking her head. "I don't mind sailing in the moonlight, but I refuse to deliberately go where there are beavers. And in the dark! Ugh!" "Ugh!" repeated Kiki, delighted to hear the word again. "Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!" "Shut up, Kiki!" said Jack. "Well I wouldn't mind coming out with you, Philip. It would be quite interesting. I've never seen beavers at work before. Even if we don't see any beavers, I'd enjoy sailing by moonlight. Yes, let's do it when there's a cloudless night. Tonight, perhaps?"

CHAPTER 10: OUT ON THE LAKE AGAIN


For a while, the boys could talk only about their proposed midnight outing on the lake in search of beavers. Lucy-Ann joined in the conversation from time to time but Dinah said very little. The thought of looking for animals in the middle of the night was in no way appealing as far as she was concerned. "Before you get too excited you'll have to get Bill's permission to go out on the lake at night," she pointed out. "He may well disapprove of such an idea." "Never!" replied Philip, giving his sister a prod. "It wouldn't surprise me if he wanted to come with us." "Don't be too sure and don't prod me like that," snapped Dinah. "What are you staring at, LucyAnn?"

"I thought I saw a movement on the hill between us and Little Moose Lake," said Lucy-Ann, peering across the water. Then she sat upright. "Yes, I did! Look, there's another Jeep. I hope it's Bill's this time." "The Jeeps all seem to be the same colour so it's hard to tell, but it probably is his," said Dinah turning the tiller slightly in order to have a better view. "Let's get back and tell him about his mysterious visitor." The others agreed so back across the lake they sailed while the Jeep disappeared among the trees near the cabin. Before they reached the landing stage, somebody came out onto the veranda. Yes, it was Bill! He leant on the rail and gave a wave as he watched the boat approach. "Ahoy there," he called as they drew up alongside the landing stage. "You certainly manage the boat well. Now you'll never guess what I've just seen on the track from Little Moose Lake." The four children stared at him and in unison yelled two words. "A moose!" Looking astonished, Bill said, "How did you know that? You couldn't possibly have seen it from the lake. There are too many trees in the way." "Wait till we're on the veranda and we'll tell you," said Philip. "In fact, we've a lot to tell you. We've had quite a time." As soon as everyone was seated on the veranda, they took it in turns to tell of their experience with the moose. Although he was a bit alarmed at first, Bill could not help laughing when told how the moose followed Philip all the way down to the cabin. "You were right not to attempt to feed it," he said. "Moose are like bears. Once they know there's food about, they keep pestering for it and can become quite aggressive. Oh well, Philip. That's another animal on your list of conquests." They continued discussing the adventure with the moose when Jack suddenly remembered his other encounter, the one with the man called Al. "Gosh, I nearly forgot, Bill," he said interrupting the conversation. "There was a mysterious visitor here earlier on." "A mysterious visitor?" repeated Bill, suddenly sitting up and becoming alert. "Tell me more." Jack sheepishly explained how he had dashed back to the cabin, having forgotten to lock up when they set off on their walk, and how he had been startled by the man referring to himself as Al. Hearing the name, Bill pursed his lips and grunted. "You don't look very pleased," said Jack noticing the expression on Bill's face. "I'm not exactly pleased that he has been able to trace me to this cabin so quickly," replied Bill. "Al that's not his real name, of course has been trying to persuade me to work for the Canadian government despite the fact I've told him I'm perfectly satisfied with the work I am doing." "How on earth could he know you are staying in this out of the way place?" asked Lucy-Ann intrigued. "Naturally the security department of the Canadian government knows that I and a couple of others are working on a serious matter in the area of these lakes but, as I've said, I'm surprised he knows exactly where I'm staying," said Bill, still sounding perplexed. "Still, there's no need to worry about him. He's on the side of law and order and he's good at his job." "When you were in Elkville, did you report that we saw someone watching us through field glasses this morning?" asked Jack. "I report everything," replied Bill. "To be honest, nobody was too concerned as this occurred around Otter Lake. It was decided it was a birdwatcher doing exactly what you were doing. Looking for birds through field glasses. He was naturally intrigued to find us on the lake and up on the hillside in this out of way place, just as you were surprised to see him." "Al pointed out that, as there are no tyre marks on the Otter Lake track, no vehicles can have passed along it recently," said Philip. "Al doesn't miss much," said Bill in admiration. "I don't think we need concern ourselves with the Otter Lake birdwatcher unless he suddenly appears outside our cabin. Incidentally, were you returning from the other part of the lake when I spotted you out on the water just now?" "No, we were having a very enjoyable walk up the hillside when that awful moose appeared, so we had to go out on the lake to get away from it," explained Dinah, shaking her head in disgust.

"Then, guess what! We had almost reached the other side when Philip spotted some beavers. Trust him to find some animal or another, even when out in a boat!" "No, I didn't actually see any beavers, I saw what seemed to be the work of beavers," corrected Philip. Then, sounding excited, he turned to Bill. "Bill, beavers work at night. Would you have any objection to us going out on the lake on a moonlit night to see them at work? It would be a marvellous sight." "I can't think of any objection as there's a full moon at the moment," answered Bill with a smile. "You can go unless the beavers are close to the river flowing from this lake into Little Moose Lake. As I've already informed you, there's a strong current there." "The beavers are down there at the end of the lake," said Jack pointing. "Almost opposite where we are. That dangerous river is way over there on the right." "As long as there are no clouds obscuring the moonlight, you should have a good view of the beavers, assuming they really are there," said Bill. "Oh they're there all right," declared Philip confidently. "They're constructing something, no doubt about it. How about you coming with us, Bill?" "I might well do that," replied Bill with a smile. "I've never seen beavers at work but I know they're fascinating creatures. I assume the girls will be going as well." "Certainly not!" said Dinah at once. "I enjoy sailing out on the lake in daylight but I have no intention of looking for slimy animals in the dark. Lucy-Ann can go if she wants to." "I'll stay with you," said Lucy-Ann generously, although inwardly she felt she would like to go as Jack was going. "As there's no time like the present, let's plan for tonight," said Philip, thumping the table. That's exactly what they did but, unfortunately, as afternoon turned to evening, ominous clouds began to scuttle across the sky. They remained there all evening much to Philip's annoyance. It would clearly be quite futile to attempt going out on the lake once darkness fell as there was scarcely any moonlight so, reluctantly, he locked the boat up in the boathouse. The next day, Bill and the children went out in the motor boat. It was very noisy after the quiet sailing boat but was, of course, easier to manoeuvre. Philip showed Bill where he thought the beavers were at work making a sort of a dam across the little river flowing into the lake. "I assume it's to protect their homes from predators," said Bill looking with interest at the branches piled up near the mouth of the river. "They need to raise the water to the level of their lodges," explained Philip nodding. "As you say, that helps to keep the predators at bay." "It's certainly a straightforward sail across the lake to reach here," observed Bill looking back towards the cabin. "You could probably go tonight as the forecast is for a clear sky. Pity you can't use this boat." "It would be easier but the noise would disturb the beavers and they'd dive out of sight," said Philip. "If a clear sky is forecast, it looks as though we'll be sailing across here tonight. You will come with us, Bill, won't you?" "Indeed I will," replied Bill. "Yes, it will be something to look forward to." However, that evening Bill received an urgent call on his radio. The children heard him talking for some time in his bedroom before he came on to the veranda to speak to them, a serious look on his face. "Listen, I've had a call to return to Elkville tonight and may need to be there for much of the night," he said. "If you still want to go beaver searching, make certain that you lock up first and leave the veranda lights on so you'll have something to guide you back. Don't wait up for me." "Are you going on a mission?" asked Lucy-Ann showing concern. "Oh dear me, no," laughed Bill. "Some more information has come through which can't be radioed and is urgent, so I have to go in person this very night. Think of it as a meeting." It was about ten o'clock when Bill departed. Dinah still had no intention of going beaver watching, especially as Bill wouldn't be there, so Lucy-Ann agreed to stay with her, much as she wanted to be with her brother. Thus it was settled that the boys would sail out on the lake at midnight.

Just before midnight, the boys wrapped themselves up well knowing it would be cold out on the lake. They decided to lock the cabin and take the remaining key as the girls could fairly easily climb out of a window should there be an emergency. Jack left Kiki with Lucy-Ann, partly for company, but mainly because she might disturb the beavers by making noises at them. "Now for some beaver spotting," said Philip eagerly as he locked the veranda door. "Got your torch with you?" "You bet!" said Jack grinning broadly. "Now for a midnight adventure!" But little did either boy realise just what sort of an adventure was waiting for them just out there on Otter Lake!

CHAPTER 11: BUSY BEAVERS AND WEIRD HAPPENINGS


The forecast was correct as it was a cloudless night, the lake bathed in the soft, gentle light of the full moon. Making sure the veranda lights were all switched on and having told the girls not to wait up for them, the boys carefully walked along the landing stage to the waiting boat. Climbing in, they took an oar each and rowed out onto the dark lake. Once clear of the shore, they put up the sail which flapped noisily in the breeze. "Gosh, listen to the noise of the sail," said a surprised Jack. "It seems almost as loud as the motor boat's engine in the still of the night." "We'll take it in and use the oars once we're halfway across," said Philip, "otherwise we'll disturb the beavers." With the sail in position, the boys settled down in the boat and looked around them. How different everything was at night. The dimly lit hills, a drab grey in colour, were silhouetted against the dark sky; the woods and forests were vague outlines near the foot of the hills; the lake shimmered and danced as the moonlight struck it, and beneath the moon itself was a bright, almost blinding patch swaying gently in the water. Above them, a myriad of stars twinkled in the cloudless sky while a gentle breeze blew them on their way. "We need to follow the bright patch of reflected moonlight," said Philip trying to peer ahead. "That means the lights from Pine Lodge must be directly behind us. Whatever happens, we mustn't get caught in the current dragging us over to the rapids." "The cabin lights look really dim after the brilliance of the moonlight," said Jack turning round. "Mind you, once we're on the return journey, we won't be staring into bright moonlight so our eyes will become adjusted to the dimmer lights of Pine Lodge." They continued to sail serenely across the lake, glad they were wearing jumpers as it was quite cool out on the water. Jack tried to look for signs of the beavers at work through his field glasses but it was impossible to focus them in the dark as everything seemed blurred. "I can't quite make out where we are," he said to Philip after a while, "but I do reckon we're halfway across." "I think you're right," agreed Philip. "I'm sure I can see the gap in the hills leading to the other part of Otter Lake over there. Better take in the sail and use the oars." The boys managed to take in the sail and, seated next to each other, began to row. This was hard work, not helped by the fact they were now facing away from their destination. Philip kept turning round but could not make out the shore due to the brightness of the moon's reflection. All of a sudden, the boat seemed to want to veer to the right as though it had a mind of its own. "For some reason it's becoming more difficult to row in a straight line," said a puzzled Philip, struggling with his oar. "You know what it is!" said an alarmed Jack. "It's the current Bill warned us about trying to drag us to the rapids. We must row in unison towards our right. Ready. Now!" Gripping their oars tightly and rowing strongly, they gradually managed to clear the strong cross current and reach calmer waters. They could now distinguish the shoreline which was closer than they had expected. Soon they stopped rowing and concentrated on looking for the little river

entering the lake. They realised they were there when the boat started gently rocking up and down in the water flowing into the lake. Then Philip just stopped himself from yelling out in delight. "Look, Jack, over there!" he whispered, pointing over the water. "See them? Beavers!" Jack looked in the direction Philip indicated and, sure enough, the bright light from the moon illuminated a group of little animals hard at work a short distance up the narrow river. They seemed to be nudging branches of varying sizes into position around a small area on the left hand bank. To the boys' astonishment, two small tree trunks appeared to be coming down the river by themselves. They even changed course and moved over to the left, revealing two more beavers busy pushing them with their noses. Philip was quite beside himself with delight. Even Jack was filled with admiration for these nocturnal animals actually constructing some sort of dam around their lodge. Every beaver seemed to be involved with some task or other. Unlike the otters, they were not playing. Annoyingly, the boat kept turning so the oars had to be repeatedly used but, fortunately, the sound did not disturb the animals, so engrossed were they with their task. The boys looked on entranced knowing that not many people had witnessed such a magical scene. Sometimes a branch broke loose from the others, only to be quickly retrieved and nudged back into position by a beaver. How the boys wished they had cameras with them although they guessed that a flashlight would probably disturb the little creatures. It was when they found themselves drifting away from the mouth of the river and the current forced the boat to violently turn that Jack spotted something which made him gasp in disbelief. He rubbed his eyes thinking he was imagining it. But no. A beam of light was shining in the air from the other side of the nearby hills. He nudged Philip who swung round. He, likewise, stared open mouthed. "Whatever do you make of that?" asked Jack forgetting the beavers. "I thought it was my imagination at first." "That must be coming from near the cabin on the other part of Otter Lake," said Philip standing up in the boat. "Oh drat! The beavers have heard us. That splashing noise is one of them bashing its tail in the water to warn the others. Now they'll almost certainly dive in the water out of sight." He looked towards the river and, he was right. The beavers could no longer be seen. In a matter of seconds they had all vanished. The boys continued to gaze at the beam of light projected up into the night sky, wondering what on earth it was doing. "Since the beavers have gone into hiding, how about having a peek at that light?" suggested Jack, suddenly feeling wide awake and excited. "I'm longing to see exactly where it's coming from." "Let's make use of the sail, then," said Philip standing up and trying to maintain his balance. "If we row, we'll be facing bright moonlight and will probably miss the other part of the lake. Listen. What's that?" That was a sound, a quite unexpected one, although instantly recognisable. It was an aircraft, and, what's more, it seemed to be approaching them. The boys gawped at each other in amazement. First a beam of light and now a plane! Whatever was happening over this quiet, secluded lake and the lonely hills surrounding it? "You know, I reckon that light is a signal to the plane," said Philip, struggling with the sail. "Perhaps something's going to be dropped by parachute. After all, there's nowhere for the plane to land even if it were broad daylight." "But why drop something, there's nothing over there?" demanded a perplexed Jack helping Philip with the sail. "Oh look, there's the plane, over that hill. I can see its lights. I do believe you're right, Tufty. It's certainly coming in this direction. Good, we're making better progress now the sail's up. We'll soon reach the other part of the lake as long as we don't pass the connecting stretch of water." "It has to be where there's that gap between the dark hills," said Philip holding on to the mast. "I've got my eyes on it so that we don't sail past. It's not that far." "The plane's coming lower and lower!" exclaimed Jack, unable to take his eyes off it. "Gosh, the pilot must be very familiar with this area as there are hills everywhere. I say, do you think he can see us in the moonlight?"

"That's a point," admitted Philip as the plane continued to descend. "Mind you, I should think he'll be concentrating on whatever he's about to do and won't spot us here. Thank goodness our sail is blue and not white. Anyway, the plane seems to be over the far side of Otter Lake." "I think we're reaching the narrow strip of water separating the two sections of Otter Lake," said Jack peering through the darkness. "Yes, I can make out land on either side. Here we go." They sailed through the short section of waterway, quickly finding themselves on the other part of the lake. Both boys immediately looked towards the far end from which the light was being beamed upwards. It was impossible to make out any details or see anybody near it. The plane was now circling overhead, its dark shape outlined ominously against the starlit sky, the noise of its engine echoing around the surrounding hills like continuous rolls of thunder. "I bet the light is coming from the cabin near the derelict power station," said Philip. "That confirms somebody is staying there after all. No wonder he was watching us through field glasses the other day, assuming it is the same person." The boat was now rapidly cutting through the water towards the light. Realising this, Jack spoke cautiously to Philip. "I think we ought to be careful," he said. "We don't know what's happening or who's about and we're approaching the light rather too quickly for my liking." "Gosh, you're right," agreed Philip looking around. "Help me take in the sail. We can use the oars if necessary. The breeze has been behind us and sent us skimming down the lake without us noticing. Here comes the plane again, but look how low it is. Whatever is it going to do?" As he spoke, he and Jack nearly jumped out of their skins. The searchlight was switched off to be replaced by a broad beam of light suddenly spreading across the lake, illuminating a long but narrow stretch of water, not all that far away from the sailing boat. "That plane is going to land because, of course, it's a floatplane!" exclaimed Jack. "And close to us, too, by the look of it. Quick. Grab an oar and row over to the nearest bank or we really will be noticed." Trying to remain calm despite their hearts throbbing, the boys rowed towards the shore. It was surprisingly difficult making out the bank despite the moonlight. In fact, they only discovered they had reached it when they hit it with such a bump they both fell backwards into the bottom of the boat. "You all right, Freckles?" enquired Philip picking himself up. "I think so," was the reply. "I was frightened of dropping my oar in the water. Still got yours?" "Yes, let's try for the bank again as we're drifting away," said Philip. "Avoid looking at any bright light on the water or we'll never make out the shore. Come on, steady does it." The boat was, in fact, still quite close to the bank and again hit it with a bump, this time more gently. As it drifted alongside, it scraped against a bush. Philip at once grabbed hold of it and asked for the rope. "I'll tie the boat to this and we'd better climb out," he said. "As soon as the plane hits the water, it will send waves across the lake. We'll just be in time to avoid them. Here comes the plane it's definitely going to land this time." No sooner had Philip tied the boat to the bush than the plane hit the water with a tremendous splash. The boys scrambled ashore just in time as quite large waves began rocking the boat wildly from side to side, some actually splashing over the bank. "It looks reasonably level along here," pointed out Jack as he slowly walked along the shore. "We'll make our way towards the light and try to see what's going on. But don't fall in the water, for goodness' sake." "Watch out for little roots tripping us up, and little streams flowing into the lake," warned Philip. "Hang on, let's stop here a mo. We can't watch where we're putting our feet and what's happening out on the lake at the same time." The boys stopped and stared across the lake. An almost mysterious silence descended as the engine was switched off. The floatplane was now fairly still, somehow anchored, gently bobbing up and down on the water not far from the source of the light. "Look on the side of the plane," said Jack in a hushed voice. "The moonlight is shining on the silver letters. See what it says?" Philip stared and said, "Gosh. It reads LARSEN TOURS! It's Crooked Charlie's plane!"

CHAPTER 12: A NIGHT OF ADVENTURE


"Whatever is a Larsen Tours plane doing landing on Otter Lake in the middle of the night?" asked a very mystified Jack, straining his eyes in an attempt to see what was going on. "What a pity Bill had to go to Elkville. He would love to have seen this." As the boys watched, a door opened and what looked like a small dinghy was pushed down into the water. Two people gingerly stepped into it from the plane and, using a paddle, made for the shore where one of them melted into the darkness. The dinghy returned to the plane and another person stepped into it. This was repeated two more times before the dinghy remained by the shore. Then the beam of light was switched off although small moving lights indicated that torches were now being used. "That's five people," said Philip, "and an unknown number already on the shore. I know they're near the cabin but it's weird because I can't see any lights apart from the torches. What a strange time to arrive. Whatever can they be doing?" "Something that needs investigating and there's one way to find out," replied Jack beginning to move. "Let's go and see." Their hearts throbbing with excitement, the boys slowly made their way along the shore, only risking using their torches when they had to pass in the shadow of large shrubs and bushes. It took some time before they realised they were now going around the lake and, therefore, must be reaching the spot where the searchlight had shone into the night sky. There was now quite a large area of open ground in front of them with rocks along the actual shore Jack almost walked into a large, wooden notice board facing them. He dared not use his torch but could just make out the words PRIVATE DANGER. It was too dark to read the smaller print beneath these words. "They clearly don't want people snooping around," said Jack. "I wonder what the danger is." "It could simply be to scare people away or, more likely, refer to that old power station," suggested Philip "Since this is private property, we'd better watch out for a fence or something surrounding it, not that I can see anything remotely like a fence." In fact there was little of interest to see ahead. There were no lights and, more importantly, no people. It was as though they were never there. "Wherever are they?" whispered Philip coming to a standstill. "They can't have simply disappeared." "Don't cross this open area," warned Jack. "We'd be seen in the moonlight immediately by anybody watching or approaching and they certainly haven't disappeared! Somebody will come this way as the plane is bound to take off soon. I doubt whether it will be there at daylight as I feel there's something fishy going on. Shall we go back and inform Bill?" "No, let's try and discover where those people have got to," said Philip determined to solve the mystery. "There's no sign of them yet they can't be far from us. If they're in the cabin, why are there no lights on? It must be nearby. Anyway, as regards Bill, he could be away from Pine Lodge all night from what he said." "It looks as though we've got to follow the water's edge if we're to go any further," said Jack looking all round. "This open space seems to have a sheer cliff at the back of it. The only way we can move without being noticed is to go to those rocks over there by the lakeside." "Then that's where we go," agreed Philip making a move. "No talking now unless vital. You never know who might be around and we're near the cabin, the most likely place they made for." The boys retreated stealthily to the water's edge listening for any sounds apart from those made by the water. Not far out, looking like a giant bird ominously waiting to pounce, was the waiting plane, swaying eerily from side to side on the water. "Why doesn't that plane float away?" whispered Philip turning to Jack. "It's not tied up to anything." "It's bound to have an anchor of some sort," said Jack quietly. "Like a large boat. We probably didn't hear it being lowered due to the sound of the engine. Keep going." They were creeping slowly along when, suddenly, Philip came to a halt, uttering a gasp of surprise.

"What's on earth's the matter, Tufty?" asked Jack bumping into him. "There's something or someone lying on the ground just ahead of me," whispered Philip, edging his way backwards and treading on Jack's feet. "Whatever it is, it's dark and lumpy." Cautiously peering round Philip, Jack could just make out a dark mass on the ground very close to the water. He stared at it open-mouthed. "I don't like the look of this," he said, breathing deeply. "Whatever can it be?" The boys stared at the strange object. Philip made noises at it and, receiving no reaction, crouched down and slowly felt it, ready to make a hasty retreat. He jumped back. "It's horribly damp, wobbly and flabby!" he gasped. "Like an animal but it can't be one." "Flash the torch on it," said Jack, "but shield the light." Philip did so then he uttered a sigh of relief. "Gosh, it really had me fooled," he said turning to Jack. "You know what it is? It's the dinghy the men came ashore in." "Well, I have to say I thought it was some sort of a creature," admitted Jack sheepishly. "We'd better not spend any more time looking at it because, one thing's for certain. This is where those people will return to. Let's move on. We can't be all that far from the boathouse." Feeling a little ashamed of their fear, the boys carefully crept round the black dinghy keeping a lookout for any sign of lights or people. To their surprise, they saw neither. It was very puzzling and rather scary being in these mysterious surroundings in the middle of the night. aware that at least half a dozen people were nearby, yet seeing no evidence of them anywhere. The dark shape of the boathouse loomed up ahead but, again, there was no sign of anybody near it and it was obviously too small for the group of people to be inside. "It's as though those people have vanished into thin air," muttered Philip quietly. "I suppose they were real and not ghosts. And we're not dreaming, are we?" "Of course they were real!" retorted Jack not feeling as confident as he sounded. "If we are dreaming, we're having the same strange dream. Those people have somehow managed to fade away into the darkness. To be honest, I don't feel comfortable about it." "You can say that again!" agreed Philip, looking around and listening. There was just a weird mixture of shadowy darkness and an eerie silence, apart from the gentle, yet almost sinister sound of the lapping water. As he gazed into the darkness, the shadows seemed to move slightly from side to side. Although he knew it was simply the bushes swaying in the breeze, it was quite uncanny and almost unreal. While he was staring, Jack suddenly clutched hold of him causing him to almost jump out of his skin. "Look," said Jack pointing across the lake. "What's that over there? That streak of white. I'm sure it's moving. I can't tell if it's close or some distance away." "It's moving all right but in a strange sort of way," replied Philip, wondering how many more shocks were in store for them. "It keeps changing shape. I reckon it's some way off and considerably higher than we are." As he peered through the darkness at the moving white streak, it gradually dawned on him what it was. "It's all right, Freckles. I think it's simply the moonlight shining on the enormous waterfall we saw a couple of days ago way down the lake. Come to think of it, I can just about hear it." "Of course it is!" said Jack feeling relieved. "I'm just getting jumpy and my eyes are beginning to play tricks. It seemed to be swirling in mid-air. This really is like a dreamscape. Heh, I've just thought of something. It's pointless us going on or we'll reach the river where the old power station is and we'll be cornered if the men appear. Surely all those people can't have come this way. They must be in that cabin after all." "Yet there are no lights, that's the thing that really puzzles me," said Philip coming to a standstill. "They can't be trying to hide them as they've already shone two bright lights from the shore, not to mention having a noisy plane land on the lake. But you're right. It's no use going on. I wonder if there's something of interest behind the cabin." "We didn't see anything behind the cabin when we were up on the hillside," said Jack. "Just a few trees and some tall rocks, if I remember correctly." The boys remained motionless, undecided about what to do. It was obviously futile continuing as they would simply arrive at the river. They could not remain where they were as they were too

close to the dinghy and plane should the mysterious people suddenly return. Yet, going back to their boat was like giving up. They could not decide what to do for the best. However, their minds were made up for them. While they were beside a bush discussing their next move they, once again, became rooted to the spot in fear. This time it was definitely not due to their imagination. It was real enough. Not far away, a fairly bright light suddenly penetrated the darkness and a couple of men carrying torches appeared. What's more, they began to stride purposefully towards the very bush beside which Philip and Jack were crouching.

CHAPTER 13: THE THRILLS CONTINUE


So taken aback were the boys that, at first, they simply stared disbelievingly at the approaching lights. It quickly dawned on Philip that, to avoid being spotted, he and Jack had to move, and move swiftly so, in a panic, he gave Jack such a hefty shove that the boy almost tumbled over. "Watch what you're doing!" whispered a startled and annoyed Jack recovering his balance. "If I'd have fallen, one of those men would have heard me and we'd've been caught. I reckon there's just enough light for me to find my way around this bush without standing so follow and this time don't push! We'll be in the shadow of the moonlight." "Wherever did those men come from?" asked a bewildered Philip, closely following Jack on all fours. "They seemed to appear out of thin air. Sorry I shoved you. I sort of panicked. I think they must be going to the dinghy. Listen, we might catch what they're saying." Voices could now be heard as the men approached with their torches. The bright light had already been switched off. At first, neither Philip nor Jack, now squatting uncomfortably behind a bush near the water's edge, could make out what was being said but, when the men reached the dinghy, they turned and their words could be plainly heard through the still night air. "Now don't forget what I've told you," snapped one voice, a voice of authority. "It's essential we have those food items quickly. I can't think how you forgot them, really I can't." "Sorry Mr Bennett," replied the other man. "Don't worry. I'll definitely bring them with the next assignment." "You won't, you'll bring them within twenty four hours!" was the angry response. "The next assignment's three nights away. I want that order within twenty four hours. Don't you forget that. Now do you need the light?" "No, there'll be enough moonlight for taking off," replied the second man. "Luckily the hills are well silhouetted against the sky. Right, I'll be seeing you, Mr Bennett and you'll have those items tomorrow, later today, I mean." This was followed by a splashing sound as the dinghy was pushed into the water. Nothing more was said as the boys saw and heard the outline of the man paddling furiously back to the plane where, with some difficulty, he hauled the dinghy on board. Then came another sound which the boys guessed was the anchor being raised. "That dinghy must be an inflatable one or he'd never get it inside the plane," whispered Jack, cautiously peering round the bush. "Now let's note exactly where the man Bennett goes. I can just see a dark figure standing by the water." Suddenly the boys jumped again as the peace and quiet of the lake was disturbed by a huge roar. It was the firing of the plane's engine. Almost immediately, the roar intensified as the plane slowly turned then began to skim across the lake before rising steeply up into the air, banking to the left and disappearing from sight over the hills. Only then did Bennett make a move. Two pairs of eyes were glued to his shadowy figure as he strode back in the general direction of the cabin without bothering to use his torch. Then he could no longer be seen. One minute his silhouette was visible, the next, it had gone as though he had become invisible. "These people definitely have some sort of a hiding place in or near the cabin," said Jack. "But where? They appear and disappear at will. It has to be quite a large hiding place because we know there are several people in it."

"Not to mention the searchlight," added Philip. "It must be in the cabin and yet there are no lights showing. Dare we take a look over there? The man seems to have gone." "I'm game," said Jack. "But we must be ready to make a dash for it if we're confronted by anyone. I have a feeling we won't receive a warm welcome around here." The boys crept out from behind their bush and silently moved towards the cabin, not knowing what to expect but hoping to see some sign of life or even to discover the entrance to a hiding place. They were almost there but how annoying! The area immediately in front of them was in the shadow of some trees and, without switching on their torches, they could see nothing except the dark outline of the cabin. "Drat, we daren't use our torches because we really don't know where those people are," said Philip clicking his tongue in annoyance. "We've no choice now. We must get back and inform Bill about all this. I hope you realise, Jack, that we're having another of our adventures." "I'm inclined to agree but, at the moment, I'm beginning to realise I'm too tired to care," replied Jack trying to stifle a yawn. "I'm really whacked out. Come on, let's find our way back to the boat." Philip was also feeling tired so the two boys staggered back towards the water then made their way around the shore towards their boat, hoping they wouldn't miss it in the dark. But their exciting night was not over! Believing that there was nobody about, they carelessly pushed around shrubs and bushes and trod on twigs that cracked loudly in the still night. Then they both froze to the spot. A powerful torch was switched on some way behind them and a loud voice began to yell! "Who's there?" called the voice. "I know someone's there. Show yourself or I'll set the dogs on you. I'll count to ten." "Keep still. It's the man Bennett and he's bluffing about the dogs," whispered Philip. "If he had any they'd have already barked. For goodness' sake stay out of the moonlight." "One thing's for certain, we can't remain here," said Jack, his tiredness being replaced by fear. "That torchlight is beginning to move and, what's more, in this direction and, quite frankly, I've no idea how far we are from the boat. I know it's tied to a bush but there are plenty of bushes alongside the water and they all look the same in the dark!" "If the worst comes to the worst, we'll have to use our torches," said an equally concerned Philip. "The moonlight doesn't light the ground up clearly enough. There are too many . . . oh, no! See that?" That was another torch being used, just a short distance behind the first one. A voice called out loudly. "What's bothering you, Bennett? What are you doing over there?" "I'm pretty certain there's someone along here," was Bennett's reply. "I went over to the lake and definitely saw a shape move in this bright moonlight. What's more, I heard sounds like twigs cracking and breaking. Come and help me search." The boys began to breathe deeply as they realised it would be difficult to escape from two men. Even if they managed to reach their boat, which was unlikely, it had to be untied before they could row away from the shore. But they had to do something quickly as both torches were now approaching them. "You sure we shouldn't be looking on the track leading over the hill?" shouted the second man, now much closer to the first. "If you did see someone, isn't he likely to be making for some vehicle parked there?" "What I saw, Dawson, was outlined against the water," replied Bennett. "He wouldn't come this way if he had a vehicle. There's only that one track leading over the hill. No, it was definitely someone snooping or he'd have answered me, someone who would have seen the plane, not to mention the men." "Let's get a move on, then," yelled Dawson. "I'm right behind you. One big advantage is we've got torches. Whoever you saw can't get far without using one and, if he does use one, we've as good as got him!" "What he just said is so right," said a very worried Jack. "We've got to make a move. Can you see your way without using your torch? If not, we'll have to hide, but goodness knows where!"

"I can make out vague outlines," muttered Philip. "To be honest, I don't think we'll get much further without using torches and running. Then we risk getting caught or passing our boat which will result in the same thing. Well it's no use staying here. We must press on as quietly as possible." "Stop if you see any sort of a hiding place," said Jack, as onwards they moved. The terrified boys were unwilling to switch on torches and try to dash to their boat although fully aware the men were not far behind. Closely followed by Jack, Philip led the way around bush after bush, not one big enough to hide under, or even behind. All the time he had to make certain they did not stray far from the lake in case they passed the boat and the men found it. But where was it? If only they could see it. They couldn't! If only the men would give up and go away. But they didn't! They came on relentlessly, their voices growing louder, the beams from their torches brighter. Suddenly an awful thing happened. Poor Philip caught his foot in a root and tumbled headlong, his torch rolling into the undergrowth. His first instinct was to hurriedly stand up but, to his alarm, he couldn't. He had sprained his right ankle and he was in some sort of a hole. He held his breath? Had he been heard? The answer was all too obvious. "Hear that?" yelled Bennett. "I told you someone was there, and he's not far ahead what's more. Let's get him!" The two men were clearly close by as their movements through the undergrowth became louder, their torches waving wildly along the ground. Philip managed to get up with Jack's help and tried to run but his badly sprained ankle would not let him do so. He could scarcely hobble and the men were almost there!

CHAPTER 14: BACK AT THE CABIN


Although it seemed pointless attempting to hide behind the bush, the boys remained where they were while the men advanced as there really was no alternative. Philip whispered to Jack to make a dash for it but Jack had no intention of leaving Philip to the mercy of the two men, now just a few yards away. Then a most peculiar thing happened. All of a sudden, the men stopped in their tracks. There was a plop and a splash as something tumbled into the water. This was followed by a slithery sound and another loud splash. "What on earth was that?" cried Dawson. A slight hint of fear could be detected in his voice. "That was no human, I'll be bound. Whatever was it, Bennett?" "Hang on, whatever it was fell into the lake," answered an equally surprised Bennett, shining his torch on the water. The beam lit up startled animals swimming a short way out. "See what it is? It's a couple of those otters. They're everywhere. Here, look, there's another one about to jump into the lake. I expect the noise of the plane disturbed them and that's what I heard thrashing about in the undergrowth." "Do you mean to say we've been chasing a group of otters round the lake?" asked Dawson, clearly finding it hard to believe. "I just can't believe it." There followed a moment's silence before he let out such a raucous laugh that the boys cringed and the otters splashed out from the shore, rapidly swimming away from the strange, disturbing noise. Bennett continued to shine his torch on the otters until they were out of range of the beam then swung the torch around the bushes and trees on the bank. The boys held their breath fearing they could be seen. "Well, they've gone so I guess that's it," drawled Bennett. "I'm mighty relieved we were chasing otters and not humans. No harm's done. Come on, let's get back and for goodness' sake, shut up! They could hear your raucous laughter down in Elkville." In the darkness the boys looked at each other in total disbelief. They, not the men, had startled the otters as they ran past the holt. They glanced back at the two torches. Yes, the men were definitely returning to wherever they had come from, Dawson still guffawing loudly about chasing otters despite Bennett continually telling him to be quiet. "Fancy those men believing they had been following otters round the lake!" exclaimed Philip scornfully. "Can you really imagine otters hurrying through the undergrowth and breaking twigs

when there's a lake nearby to slide into? I reckon it was my fall that disturbed them. I certainly felt something give way underneath me so I probably practically fell into a holt." "Can you hobble to the boat all right or would you like me to row it down here?" asked Jack. "It's best we don't separate so I'll come with you," replied Philip standing awkwardly. "It's only a sprain, thank goodness, not a break, so I'll just about manage to limp along. There's no problem now we're not being chased and the ankle's better than it was even a couple of minutes ago. Gosh, what an exciting night!" "An exciting night! I've had more than enough excitement to last this entire holiday, let alone for one night!" exclaimed Jack letting out a huge sigh of relief. "To think we only set out to spot beavers and ended up scaring a few otters, not to mention being pursued by men who are almost certainly up to no good." "Well, thanks to the otters, we avoided being caught," replied an equally relieved Philip. "Before you make a move, shine your torch on the ground. I dropped mine when I fell. I can't see it, though." "It can't be far unless it rolled into an otters' holt," said Jack shining his torch in the undergrowth. "Oh look. There it is under that fern. Don't bother bending. I'll get it." The boys set off, making slow progress, only switching on torches when they knew the light was hidden by bushes from anybody near the cabin. Philip's ankle was quite painful so it was with great relief that he suddenly spotted the dark shape of the sailing boat bobbing silently on the water. "At last!" he said hobbling over to it and gingerly stepping aboard. "Quick, untie the rope and jump in, Freckles. Thank goodness I can rest my leg for a while as we sail back to Pine Lodge." Still feeling concerned, Jack untied the rope and climbed into the boat. Philip already had an oar and the two boys rowed out onto the lake, hoping nobody would be able to spot them. "Do you reckon it's safe to put the sail up?" asked Jack after a few strokes. "I think we're both so tired that we're not going to make much progress rowing. We almost went round in a circle." "Couldn't agree more," replied Philip yawning loudly. "It's not as though the sail's white or yellow. It's blue, almost the same colour as the night sky, so it isn't likely to be noticed, not that it matters now if it is." As soon as the sail was in position, the boat cut through the water towards their part of the lake. The flap, flap, flapping sound of the sail almost sent the boys to sleep. In fact, Jack had to react quickly to avoid going the long way around Otter Island. "That shows how tired we are," he muttered. "I'm longing for my bed. I envy the girls. I bet they've been fast asleep for ages." But Jack was mistaken. Dinah certainly was sound asleep but Lucy-Ann merely dozed as she kept listening for the boys' return. Both girls had gone straight to bed when Jack and Philip had sailed away in search of beavers earlier that night. "I shall probably lie awake listening for Jack returning," said Lucy-Ann turning out the light. "Well I shan't listen for Philip returning!" replied Dinah emphatically. She gave a loud yawn which was immediately copied by a rather disgruntled Kiki wondering where her beloved Jack had got to. "If they're mad enough to go out in the middle of the night to look for beavers that might not even be there, that's their lookout. I'm certainly not staying up for them if you want to, that's your business, Lucy-Ann, but don't you dare disturb me." Saying that, she closed her eyes and, within a matter of seconds, was fast asleep. Lucy-Ann lay awake trying to picture the boat sailing on the lake under the stars, wishing she was in it. She hoped the boys really would find some beavers going about their work in the moonlight. After a while, Lucy-Ann did drop off to sleep, but it was not a deep one as she kept waking up then dozing again. After some time, she sat up in bed wondering what time it was, but dare not switch on the light for fear of waking Dinah, who was clearly sound asleep. She decided to see if she could spot the boys returning in the moonlight. Stepping out of bed, she put her feet in her slippers before quietly opening the bedroom door and going into the sitting room which overlooked the lake. Kiki opened one eye but did not attempt to follow her. Knowing the veranda door was locked, Lucy-Ann opened a window but, feeling the chill of the night air, immediately closed it. Pressing her face against the glass she tried to see if there was any sign of a boat on the lake, but could see nothing except the dark, shimmering water.

"The moonlight's not as bright as I expected it would be," she thought to herself. "I can barely make out the nearest hill." Then she gasped in amazement. Was that a light shining upwards on the other side of the hill over on the left? Believing she was imagining it, she rubbed her eyes and looked again. There was no doubt about it. A beam of light was shining up into the night sky. At once she hurried back to the bedroom to rouse Dinah. "Wake up, Dinah!" she said urgently. "Wake up. The boys are out in the sailing boat and there's some strange light shining up into the sky." "Eh? What on earth are you going on about, Lucy-Ann?" asked Dinah blinking. "I told you not to disturb me. Whatever's the matter? Have the boys come back? Is something wrong?" "There's a light shining up into the sky from the other side of the hill," said Lucy-Ann breathlessly. "And the boys are out on the lake." "A light shining up into the sky!" exclaimed Dinah in disbelief. "You must be imagining it. On the other side of the hill! We'd never see a light on the other side of the hill from here!" "Look for yourself, then!" persisted Lucy-Ann. "Come over to the window and have a look." Reluctantly a somewhat grumpy and sleepy Dinah left her warm bed and made her way over to the window, almost knocking a chair over. "Where is there a light?" she asked peering in the direction of the hill on the left. "The only lights I can see are the ones on the veranda to guide the boys. It's the middle of the night and there's almost total darkness over the hills." "It's over there on the left," said Lucy-Ann joining Dinah. She gazed at the hill but, to her dismay, there was no light. She ran out into the sitting room and peered through the veranda window but, again, could see no light shining up into the sky. She could not believe it. "There was a light over the hill," she spluttered, returning to an extremely annoyed Dinah. "I didn't imagine it. I definitely saw a beam of light shining upwards and from the other side of the hill." "You've really let your imagination get the better of you!" snapped Dinah angrily. "A light beaming up into the sky! Really, Lucy-Ann! Whatever next? I'm going back to sleep and I don't want to be awakened even if you see a display of fireworks in the sky. Good night!" Poor Lucy-Ann gave one more glance out of the window before returning to bed. "There was a light over the hill," she muttered to herself, although began to wonder if she could possibly have imagined it. Then a thought occurred to her. "I know, I'll ask Jack and Philip about the light. They will definitely have seen it from out there on the lake." Feeling happier now, Lucy-Ann did manage to drop off to sleep despite her intention of listening for Jack's return. The boys returned first. Philip unlocked the door and quietly opened it. The boys entered the cabin, locking the door behind them, hoping they wouldn't wake the girls or Kiki. No sound came from the girls' room. Even Kiki was quiet. In a matter of minutes, they had undressed, climbed into bed, and fallen asleep, tired out after their exciting night. Neither they nor the girls heard Bill return in the early hours of the morning.

CHAPTER 15: THE RETURN OF DR WALKER


Although he was the last to go to bed, it was Bill who was up first. After washing and dressing, he went into the kitchen to start preparing breakfast. He didn't bother waking the children as he knew the boys had been up during the night beaver spotting and assumed the girls had probably stayed up late as well. However, he did succeed in unintentionally waking Kiki who, in turn, woke the girls by reciting mixed up nursery rhymes rather loudly. "Am I going to be disturbed all night long?" complained an irritated Dinah opening her eyes and stretching. "First it's Lucy-Ann, now it's you, Kiki." Then she became aware of daylight streaming in through the bedroom window. "Gosh, it's morning already. Wake up, Lucy-Ann! Do be quiet, Kiki! I've heard quite enough about Humpy Bumpy."

Lucy-Ann was equally surprised to see daylight and annoyed to think she had not heard the boys returning. Just to make sure they were back, she quietly opened the door to their room and in flew Kiki who immediately began nibbling Jack's ear while squawking with delight. Not surprisingly, both boys woke up, immediately recalling their night adventure. It was not long before everyone was in the little kitchen talking nineteen to the dozen, despite going to bed late. "You'll never guess what happened to us during the night, Bill," said Jack sinking into a chair. "No sooner had I dropped off to sleep than I was awakened by Lucy-Ann and tales of a light over the hill," protested Dinah. "A light over the hill! Can you believe it?" "That's because I definitely saw a light shining up into the sky!" insisted an indignant Lucy-Ann. "We went beaver searching but ended up having a smashing adventure!" declared Philip, then added, "We've discovered something you'll be most interested in, Bill." "Start on your cereal while I do some toast," said Bill wondering what on earth had happened to make the children so excited. After all, he'd only been away one evening! "It's too late for a cooked breakfast. I promise we'll make up for it at lunch. Now tell your stories one by one. Lucy-Ann, you first. What's all this about lights shining up into the sky?" He listened with a smile as Lucy-Ann described the light she had seen in the sky over the nearby hill, a light which had strangely disappeared when Dinah was awakened to see it. But his smile vanished when the boys related their night adventure and, after a quick look at Philip's ankle, he asked them to repeat certain parts over and over again. Lucy-Ann looked triumphantly at Dinah when the boys described the searchlight beam penetrating the night sky. "And you're as certain as can be it was a LARSEN TOURS plane?" Bill asked more than once. "The light was being reflected off the letters and was sort of twinkling so it wasn't clear," said Philip while Jack nodded. "If it didn't say LARSEN TOURS, it was something similar." "Could the pilot have been Crooked Charlie?" asked Bill. "It could have been him," answered Jack. "Of course we didn't get a good look at him as we were hiding and it was dark. The man in charge was definitely called Bennett. He was ordering the pilot about." "Charlie works for people who order him about and gets paid well for doing so," said Bill. "You heard his voice?" "Yes, but we've never heard Crooked Charlie speak," replied Philip. "All the men we heard spoke with a Canadian accent, not surprisingly. I can't remember the third man's name, can you, Jack?" "'Fraid not," answered Jack. "I think we were probably too worried to take it in. Sorry Bill." Bill paused for a while then began to casually munch away at a slice of toast. The children looked at him in surprise, expecting him to say more. "Well, what do you make of it all, Bill?" asked Philip. "Is all this connected with the job you're on? You can answer that, surely?" "Yes, I do believe it is," Bill replied looking vaguely into the distance. "If only I'd known all this before I went to Elkville. The boss is now on his way back by road to Toronto. I'll contact him tonight. I reckon you were right about the plane having a trial run the other day, Jack a practice run for last night."" "So what's the next move?" asked Dinah. "Knowing you, you won't just sit on the veranda all day!" "You're right," laughed Bill, coming out of his trance. "You boys heard that the pilot has to return within twenty four hours with certain items. I think I'll become Dr Walker again remember him? and do a bit of bird watching, or plane spotting. And I'll do it on the neighbouring hillside!" For a moment, there was complete silence. The children looked at each other, then at Bill, scarcely believing their ears. Eventually, the silence was broken by Lucy-Ann. "Bill, please, you mustn't go over that hill, please don't," she pleaded, shaking her head. "You're almost certainly walking into great danger." "If I went as myself and politely knocked at the cabin door, I would agree that it might, in the circumstances, be a little unwise," agreed Bill. "No, I shall go to the Otter Lake hills as Dr Walker, the naturalist, who, if I remember correctly, took you away to the Sea of Adventure. Yes, if there's

anybody on guard, I shall be watched, but I don't think they'll worry too much about a harmless nature lover as they won't want to draw attention to themselves." "There'll be a person on guard all right," stated Jack. "Remember somebody watching us through field glasses on our trip across the lake and up on the hillside? I bet that was a guard." "I reckon you're right, Jack," answered Bill. "It seemed doubtful at the time that the watcher should be interested in us but, from what you have told me, it seems as though he may well have been. Nevertheless, I cannot believe there is somebody permanently on some sort of guard duty in an out of the way place like Otter Lake. It was either pure chance he was on the shore or, maybe somebody does keep a watch during the day before a plane is due. By the way, I've discovered who owns that cabin." "Who?" asked four voices simultaneously. "George Larsen, boss of Larsen Tours bought it from the Moose Lake Electricity Company," replied Bill. "They also bought some of the surrounding land, supposedly for 'development'. Now do you understand why Dr Walker's little expedition is necessary?" "How will you become Dr Walker?" asked Dinah. "You haven't still got his clothes, surely?" "I always carry a wig and beard," replied Bill. "No. I haven't the clothes. Anyway, they were for windswept islands so would look completely out of place here. Don't worry, I'll find something suitably casual for a naturalist. You said that the man piloting the plane was to return within twenty four hours so I think I'd better set off after our midday meal, which won't be all that long from now as we all got up so late." "Isn't there anything we can do?" asked Philip. "We must be able to assist you in some way, surely?" "No . . . and yet, yes, I think you will be able to help," said Bill, pondering carefully. "I'll take the Jeep along the track leading over the hill to Larsen's cabin and leave it near the top of the hill on this side. I can then explore the hillside overlooking the lake and possibly scramble down to the cabin. You can assist by taking one of the boats out and visiting that section of Otter Lake, perhaps returning to see the otters on the island. This will distract anyone who might be on guard without you endangering yourselves as you'll be at the far end of the lake." "Smashing, that sounds great," said Philip. The others also nodded in agreement. "I'm afraid we left the sailing boat out all night, we were so tired when we returned. Should we take it or the motor boat?" "I think the motor boat would be advisable," replied Bill. "It's more manoeuvrable, it's faster and the sound of the engine could grab the attention of any guard who might be in the area. He'll concentrate on you instead of the hillside. I don't mind being seen as I'll be in disguise, but I'd rather not be. So, as soon as we've finished eating, I'll look out my wig and beard." "There's just one thing," said Lucy-Ann. "Isn't there a good chance that the plane will arrive while we're on Otter Lake? What should we do if that happens?" "I assume it will come tonight but, should it arrive, just act normally," answered Bill. "Look towards it, not away from it. It's a natural thing to do. Rest assured that anybody watching will have already noticed that there are only children in the boat and shouldn't be too concerned. He or she would be more suspicious if you ignored the sudden presence of a floatplane. However, don't remain too long before returning as I don't suppose a great deal will take place while you are watching and I want to see some action." Before lunch was prepared, the boys rowed the sailing boat back into the boathouse and brought out the motor boat ready for the afternoon ride. There was a great deal of chatting during the meal as the children discussed what might or might not happen and came up with all sorts of situations. It became extremely noisy, especially when Kiki joined in and Sammy appeared on the rail of the veranda. "Please, please, please calm down, everyone!" begged Bill. "What a hubbub!" "Hubbub, hubbub, old Mother Hubbub!" screeched Kiki in delight, remembering the word. Then she spotted Sammy and flew over to the rail to address him sternly. "Naughty boy. Wipe your feet. Shut the door, hubbub!" This was followed by one of her favourite sounds, that of an express train speeding through a station.

Poor Bill put his hands over his ears in despair and quite looked forward to a peaceful afternoon as Dr Walker, a naturalist, on a quiet hillside. He disappeared into his room after the meal, not reappearing for some time. When he did, what a transformation!

CHAPTER 16: BILL IS CAUGHT!


"Oh look, it's Dr Walker all over again!" said Lucy-Ann with a squeal of delight. "It really is! And you're wearing those hideous thick glasses. I'd forgotten them." Kiki jumped up and down when she saw Bill in his disguise and wondered whether to give his beard a peck. Fortunately she decided against it. "Silly billy, silly billy!" she squawked, still longingly eyeing the beard as she hopped from one foot to the other on poor Jack's shoulder. "Pay the bill! Pop goes the bill!" "At least she knows it's you," laughed Jack. "Do keep still, Kiki. I wonder if she remembers Dr Walker. I shouldn't think so." "I hope not as, last time, she pecked off a bit of his, or my, beard," recalled Bill staring at the parrot. "Now this is the plan for the afternoon. I shall go out in the Jeep but will turn left towards Little Moose Lake. There, I'll turn round and drive back past Pine Lodge to the hill overlooking the Larsen cabin. By doing that, there will be no tyre marks leading directly from Pine Lodge to that cabin over the hill, in the most unlikely event anybody checks." "While you're doing that, presumably we drive the motor boat down Otter Lake and turn towards the island?" asked Jack. "That's where we'll hopefully cause a diversion." "That's about it," nodded Bill. "I suggest you drive around the island, look at the otters or pretend to do so as I expect the noise from the engine will frighten them away, and generally remain near that end of the lake, preferably in view of anyone in or near the cabin. Now listen carefully. One, don't keep staring down the lake at the cabin and, two, if you do spot me on the hill, do not draw attention to the fact by waving!" "How will we know when to return?" asked Dinah. "Come back to the cabin when you've had enough cruising around the island or soon after the arrival of the plane, should it come," replied Bill. "You might like to drive over to the waterfall but don't make Lucy-Ann lakesick! I shall obviously be longer than you, possibly much longer, so don't worry if I'm late returning to Pine Lodge, especially as I shall drive past to Little Moose Lake for the reason I mentioned earlier." "If you are challenged, Bill, or we find ourselves challenged, do we know each other?" enquired Jack. "A good question and I have given it some thought," replied Bill. "I shall keep the name Dr Walker but will adopt a Canadian accent. I shall be in charge of four British children as a family friend who emigrated here some time ago." "Gosh, things are really happening, now," said Philip. "We're obviously in for an exciting time acting as decoys out there on Otter Lake." "Otter Lake?" questioned Lucy-Ann. "Don't you mean the Lake of Adventure?" "The Lake of Adventure!" laughed Dinah. Then she thought for a moment. "Yes, Lucy-Ann, you're right. Otter Lake does seem to be turning into the Lake of Adventure." Shortly after this, Bill set off in the Jeep, making certain he had his powerful field glasses and notebook with him. He reminded the children to lock the veranda door before they set off across the lake. He would lock the front door and take the key with him. The children waited on the veranda until they heard the vehicle returning from Little Moose Lake before preparing to set out across Otter Lake. After some time, they clambered into the motor boat, started up the engine, and off they went, full of excitement! Wearing his Dr Walker wig, beard and thick glasses, Bill drove past Pine Lodge without giving it a glance. Slowing down, he cautiously made his way up the hill between the two sections of Otter Lake. This was new territory so he kept studying both sides of the dusty track, not that there was much to see apart from the usual trees and shrubs. The hill was not a very high one so he soon

reached the top where he drove away from the track to park the vehicle out of sight behind some thick bushes. "Now be careful, Dr Walker," he said to himself as he climbed out of the Jeep. "The tricky bit is going over the top of the hill without becoming too conspicuous on the skyline. I don't want to be spotted straight away." Annoyingly there were no trees or shrubs on the ridge itself so, peering over, Bill chose a spot where there were trees lower down between him and the Larsen cabin. Quickly he scrambled over then remained perfectly still for several seconds before creeping along the almost barren hillside, pretending to be looking for birds and other forms of wildlife in case anybody should be watching. "On the one hand, if I descend to the trees I shall be hidden from anyone below but won't be able to see a thing," he reasoned. "On the other hand, if I stay up here, I shall have regular views of the cabin but risk being spotted. Obviously I must choose the latter but I won't make a move until the motor boat appears down the lake, which shouldn't be long." From his position on top of the hill, Bill had fine views of the entire lake and could see the children's boat heading for the waterway joining them. It was not long before they turned towards the island where the otters were, a distant rumble being occasionally heard from the boat's engine. This was Bill's cue to move on round the hillside until he had an uninterrupted view of the cabin. Avoiding staring directly at it, Bill nevertheless tried to spot any sign of life down there. He could see nothing unusual around the cabin but, out of the corner of his eye, he had the impression of there being a movement in the undergrowth to the right of the cabin. He stiffened and remained motionless, still looking out of the corner of his eye. Again, there was a definite movement. Bill gradually moved to a position beside a bush where he was partially shielded from view from anyone by the lake. This time he peered very carefully through his field glasses. Yes, there was no doubt about it. Somebody was crouching beside a bush and that somebody had glasses clearly trained on the children's boat. "Good, the plan's working," thought Bill. "While he's distracted I can move across this bit of bare hillside and almost be in line with the cabin. These glasses are quite powerful so I might even be able to see inside." He hurriedly crossed the hillside, keeping an eye on the man below who did not take his eyes off the far end of the lake, even when the boat disappeared behind the island. Bill made a dash for a bush a short distance down the hill and behind which he could hide should the watcher turn round. Crouching, he put the glasses to his eyes and again focused carefully on the man still near the cabin. At that moment, the man turned to reveal his face. Bill drew in his breath sharply as he immediately recognised him. "Harry Dawson," he muttered. "I wonder if that's the man whose name the boys couldn't remember. What's he doing here? We thought he was in Quebec. This is very interesting. What's his connection with Larsen Tours and why should a plane come here in the middle of the night? And what's going on around this part of Otter Lake? We've clearly been concentrating on the wrong lake. The sooner I report everything, the better." With this in mind, he now focused on the back rooms of the cabin but learnt very little. Inside each was a made-up bed and cupboards, just what one would expect in a cabin. Clicking his tongue in exasperation, Bill moved further across the hillside to look down on the disused hydroelectric station. "Fancy attempting to construct such a small one in that position!" he muttered contemptuously. "It would scarcely provide electricity for itself and the cabin, let alone other cabins on Otter Lake or the larger Moose Lakes." Using his field glasses, he saw that much of the equipment had been removed from the power station but there were the remains of linked huts and a rusty but usable footbridge across the narrow river. Some of the huts on the far side were actually built into the hillside itself. Shaking his head, Bill again focused on the man, Dawson, who was obviously intent on noting every movement of the children's boat, now in view once again progressing towards the waterfall. He was clearly agitated as he kept on looking at his watch. "Hopefully he's expecting the plane so there should be plenty to see quite soon," thought Bill. He gazed at the children's boat and gave a grin. "They're acting innocently extremely well. While that man is distracted, I'll see if I can find a way down to those derelict buildings."

He continued across the hillside until he almost reached the river flowing down to the former power station. He was pleased to find plenty of large rocks and boulders along the river bank, rather like those near the waterfall. Keeping a close lookout in case there was a second person in the vicinity, he carefully crept from one boulder to the next as he made his way cautiously down the hill. A short way down he came across a large sign which read: PRIVATE PROPERTY LARSEN TOURS. Completely ignoring the sign, he continued downwards. Soon he was alongside the first of the old buildings. It was a long, narrow concrete shed with part of its roof missing. There were a few windows with rusty bars across but they were too high for Bill to look through. In any case, the panes of glass were covered with grime. However, further down near the footbridge, there was a broken window much closer to the ground. Looking around to check nobody was about, Bill peered through the window but could see nothing more than a corridor with a concrete floor and an old, metal cupboard with a twisted door and a broken hinge. What did attract his attention was the sound he felt certain he could hear above that made by the river. It seemed to be coming from one of the buildings on the other side of the river and sounded like an engine working. Wondering whether or not to cross the rusty footbridge to check on this, Bill reluctantly decided against it as he would be in full view of the person near the cabin. "Could that be an engine? Surely not! It must be my imagination working overtime, but it's worth investigating some time," he muttered to himself. "The buildings look much the same as over here. Totally abandoned, but at least they have their roofs on. Now, if Dawson's still beside his bush, I'll have a closer look at the Larsen cabin as there doesn't seem to be anyone else about." Before making any move in the direction of the cabin, he checked that Dawson was still keeping a watchful eye on the children's boat. To Bill's annoyance, the man was no longer there. "Drat, drat, drat!" he said aloud. "Now where has he gone?" Prying around the outside of the cabin was now annoyingly out of the question as Bill knew he had to regain the high ground in order to avoid being seen. He swiftly climbed further up the hillside until he had reached the large bush behind which he had hidden earlier. He decided it would be useful to make as accurate a plan as possible of the area below him. Choosing a spot to one side of the bush, he opened his notebook and began noting down the relative positions of the cabin, landing stage, abandoned buildings and lake. So engrossed was he on his task and keeping a lookout for Dawson, who could not be far away, that he was totally unaware of the figure on the hillside above him, a figure watching him carefully and approaching stealthily. The first Bill knew about this person was when he had almost completed his drawing. Hearing a sound behind him, he swiftly turned and, to his horror, found himself face to face with a scowling man with a crooked lip and a revolver pointing straight at him!

CHAPTER 17: A TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE


While Bill was on the hillside, the children were enjoying themselves out on the peaceful lake beneath an almost cloudless blue sky. Bright sunshine lit up the rocky hills and the various shades of green of the forests, causing the water to sparkle as though reflecting the light from hundreds of twinkling stars. Philip wondered whether to visit the site of the beavers but decided to do so during the return journey. "Our priority is to be visible from the cabin over the hill," he said. "We might see something of the otters although they won't approve of the engine chug, chug, chugging along." "Chug, chug, chugging!" called Kiki from Jack's shoulder, pleased with some new words. "Chug, chug, chug . . ." "Please, that's enough, Kiki," begged Jack. "You're chugging right in my ear." "What a pity!" squawked Kiki and flew up to try out the chugging words on a couple of birds following the boat, hoping for some food. In amazement and disgust, they flew away.

They soon reached the waterway connecting the two parts of Otter Lake and, once through, could not resist glancing at the hill rising above the far end of the lake but saw no sign of any movement. "Do you think Bill's there yet?" asked Lucy-Ann, still feeling extremely anxious. "Of course he is!" retorted Dinah who was taking a turn at driving. "But I bet we don't see him. He'll want to be hidden from view as much as possible. That's why he suggested we create a diversion at this end of the lake." "I keep looking out of the corner of my eye for somebody spying on us from that cabin, but I haven't noticed anybody yet," said Jack. "I'm longing to use my field glasses." "Better not," said Philip at once. "We've got to let anyone watching us and I bet someone is watching us think that we're interested in the island. In my case, that's perfectly true as I'm longing to see the otters again. I just hope the sound of the engine doesn't scare them too much. Ease off the throttle a bit, Di, and keep some way out from the island so there's no chance of the boat's propeller harming an otter." "I'll let the boat glide along now we're approaching Otter Island," said Dinah. "Your otters are only a short distance round if I remember correctly." The otters were distracted by the boat's engine as Philip had suspected and did not play like they had on the previous visit. In fact, most quickly disappeared from view so the children kept cruising slowly around the island. After going round a couple of times, Dinah steered a course for the waterfall which suddenly loomed up from behind the tall outcrop of rock. The sound of the tumbling water thundered across the lake. The water became rather choppy but, on this occasion, Lucy-Ann did not mind too much. In fact she quite enjoyed it. "I wonder what the waterfall looks like after torrential rain," she mused. "I bet it's a smashing sight," said Philip gazing at the fall. "I can just picture it. I bet we wouldn't be able to get as close as we did the other day. Spray would be everywhere! And I expect there'd be waves on the lake." "We'd better not land this time as we're supposed to be causing a diversion on the lake," said Jack. "Let's make our way back to the island. My turn at the wheel now, Dinah." It was during the journey back across the lake from the waterfall that Lucy-Ann spotted a figure crossing the distant hillside whom she assumed was Bill. "There he is on the hill!" she exclaimed, and was just about to point when Jack, now at the wheel, leaned across and grabbed her arm. "Don't do that, Lucy-Ann!" he said at once. "Bill told us not to wave or whatever you were going to do. And we mustn't all stare in that direction in case we're being watched. Mind you, I'm surprised to see Bill still near the top of the hill. I'd have thought he would have been well over the hill by now. After all, we've been around the island a couple of times and visited the waterfall." "He seems to be following something or someone as he keeps on stopping and ducking," said Dinah, looking out of the corner of her eye. "He must have spotted somebody. Perhaps that's why he's taken so long. He wanted to keep out of sight. Oh drat! Now those tall trees have hidden him from view." "Well, Bill's out of sight and where he wanted to be, above the cabin, so I think our task is probably complete," said Philip after a while. "We'll have to remember to use the sailing boat when we come otter spotting in future as they've nearly all disappeared because of the noise from our engine." "Where shall we go now?" asked Jack. "Any suggestions? We don't want to return to the cabin just yet, do we?" "I say, Jack," said Philip sounding excited. "Since we don't want to rush back and it's great fun being out on the lake, how about going to see what the beavers have done?" "You and your beavers!" said Dinah, shaking her head. "Oh well, at least they won't actually be there. What a blessing they only come out at night." The otters were again playing on their island but kept a watchful eye on the motor boat which passed at some distance. Jack steered through the narrow waterway before setting a course for the site where the beavers had been busy toiling during the night. Although there was no sign of any

beavers now, the girls were intrigued to see evidence of their work in the form of branches and even small tree trunks beginning to form a dam on the river. "You mean they created that dam all by themselves?" said an astonished Dinah. "It's much bigger than it was on our last visit only yesterday." "They're incredibly busy little creatures," said Philip. "That's why Jack and I wanted to see them actually carrying out their work last night. And we weren't disappointed." "No, it was a sight to remember," said Jack, easing off the throttle and allowing the boat to glide round in a big circle. It then occurred to him they might be able to see something of the rapids Bill had told them about so, revving up the engine, he drove a short way out away from the shore. The ride gradually became extremely bumpy which Lucy-Ann did not like very much although the others quite enjoyed it. "This is good fun," laughed Dinah, sitting upright, her hands in her lap. "Steer right across this choppy bit, Jack. It'll be lovely and bouncy. Hold tight, everyone!" Jack increased the revs and cut across the choppy section. Everyone squealed as they were suddenly drenched with extremely cold water while the boat leapt up and down like a switchback ride before reaching the calmer area beyond. "That was really horrible!" exclaimed Lucy-Ann as Jack turned the boat for another run. "Oh no, we're not going to do it again, are we? Please don't." But it was too late. Their speed was increasing. Once again they ploughed through the choppy water which again splashed over the sides, now leaving a puddle in the bottom of the boat. Kiki flew up in the air, screeching in dismay. She hated her feathers getting wet. "Right, we need to cross the choppy bit one more time in order to go in the direction of the cabin," said Jack, a broad grin covering his face. "Here we go!" He steered the boat into the rough water but, instead of it cutting across as on the previous occasions, some strange force was causing it to alter course and even beginning to drag it along. Without the children realising what was happening, they had strayed perilously close to the river leading to Little Moose Lake." "For goodness' sake turn away, Jack!" cried Lucy-Ann looking and feeling concerned. "Stop mucking about. Can't you see? We're being dragged into that river, where the rapids are. We'll capsize. Quick, do something! Turn!" "I'm trying to but the boat seems to have a mind of its own," said Jack, now beginning to feel panicky. "We're being pulled along in the current. It's almost too strong for the engine." The little boat was now tossing up and down on some very frothy water, its engine revving away but with little noticeable effect. Lucy-Ann, trembling with fear, clung to the side of the boat while Dinah, no longer enjoying the ride, held her breath in alarm. Philip bent down to pick up the oars but, realising they would have little effect, immediately threw them down in dismay. "Try putting it in reverse!" he yelled, grabbing the wheel from Jack. "Go on, I've got the wheel! I'll try to steer to one side." The engine roared in protest while the little boat rocked violently as Jack put the engine into reverse. Philip tightly gripped the wheel, feeling it vibrate uncomfortably in his hands. Kiki copied the sound of the engine's roar but nobody took any notice of her. They were too busy holding on while watching the terrifying water ahead as the boat dashed towards the rapids. Swinging and swaying dangerously, the boat struggled to battle with the ever strengthening current. Philip continued to grapple with the wheel, dreading it might break, while Jack was terrified that the engine might stall and leave them at the mercy of the current. The girls clung desperately to the slippery sides of the little craft in terror as they could see the spray caused by the rapids ahead of them and, worse, the jagged rocks protruding menacingly above the foaming water. White with fear, their mouths feeling unpleasantly dry, all four children remained silent, unable to yell, dreading what was going to happen. It seemed they were battling in vain for they were now about to leave the safety of their lake and enter the mouth of the dangerous river with the rapids beyond. There was no escape!

CHAPTER 18: WHATEVER SHALL WE DO?


The little boat continued to swing violently from side to side as Philip tried to steer towards the nearby shore. Jack switched the engine out of reverse, fearing it would suddenly blow due to the pressure being put on it. The situation now seemed utterly hopeless when there was a loud thud and a scraping noise as the prow hit something. The boat swung round, almost throwing the children out into the water, and became stuck. "Put it in reverse again, Jack, but just for a moment!" shouted Philip finding his voice while trying to sum up the situation. "I don't know what we've hit but it might just enable us to get away from here and we're very close to the shore of the lake." The engine spluttered then roared again as the boat tried to move in reverse against the swiftly flowing water. Philip kept turning the wheel this way and that, feeling the boat trying to respond. After what seemed to be ages, it gradually worked its way free from the obstruction although it was in danger of being caught once more in the vicious current. "Forward now, Jack," called Philip, spotting the danger. "Steady does it. At last! I really believe we're moving out of that savage current. Whatever happens, we mustn't get dragged back into it." The four were utterly drenched by water still splashing over the side of the boat but, so relieved were they to be moving away from the relentless current, they did not care. Jack eased off the throttle as they now approached the shore, bumping gently against the bank. "Gosh, that was one mighty powerful current," he said, heaving a huge sigh of relief. "I really thought we were going to be dragged towards the rapids. I must admit I was jolly scared." "Bill said we should keep clear of this river," said Lucy-Ann, close to tears. "If we'd have gone down there we would probably have drowned." For a moment, nobody spoke. The thought of what could so easily have happened to them had put the children in a state of shock. Even Kiki was quiet, sensing something was up. "It was good fun at first," said Jack, breaking the silence, "but I didn't notice us moving towards the river as we criss-crossed the choppy water. What a terrible shock that was!" "Well, we've learnt a simple lesson the hard way," said Philip humbly. "We keep right away from this corner of Otter Lake and we take full heed of Bill's advice." "It was that enormous branch that saved us," said Jack pointing. "Somehow it's become jammed out in the rushing water and has acted as a barrier. We might have the beavers to thank for that. Good job we had the motor boat so could use reverse. If we'd have been in the sailing boat we'd have been stuck there until someone noticed us." "Let's get back to the cabin," said a rather forlorn looking Dinah. "I'm soaked to the skin and very, very cold and just look at the water in the bottom of the boat!" Indeed they were all wet and cold and still in shock so Dinah's suggestion met with immediate approval. Now taking the wheel once more, Jack cautiously turned the boat well away from the river and kept close to the shore until it was safe to cross the lake to their welcoming cabin. As soon as they landed, they went to their rooms to dry themselves and put on a change of clothing. While they were doing this, Lucy-Ann heard a vehicle on the main track. It was clearly slowing down. "Good, that's Bill returning," she said to Dinah. Both girls listened, expecting to hear the Jeep pulling up on their drive, but the sound of the engine disappeared into the distance. "Of course, Bill said he would drive to Little Moose Lake then come back!" said Dinah. "That'll take several minutes. I wonder why he slowed down unless it was to attract our attention. Well, I'm dry now and feeling much better so I'm going out to the veranda to relax as the sun is shining directly on it." Soon all four were on the veranda, chatting about their experience on the lake as they waited for Bill to drive back, wondering what he would say about their terrifying experience. They waited and waited for the sound of the Jeep's engine, but in vain. It did not return. As the afternoon wore on, the children began to feel concerned although tried rather unconvincingly to reassure each other. "Bill may have had to go all the way to Elkville to report," said Dinah. "That's what's delayed him."

"Or perhaps he needed to return to the Larsen cabin and we simply didn't hear him go by because we were talking loudly," suggested Lucy-Ann hopefully. It was while they were eating that it began to occur to them that it might not, in fact, have been Bill who had driven past. "I hate saying this but there's even a chance it was that pilot we saw last night," said Philip, much to everyone's alarm. "We assumed he would return by plane, but he may have used a vehicle instead." "And it could have been him we saw on the hillside and not Bill," said Jack quietly. The others were stunned realising this could well have been the case. "If so, he would almost certainly have spotted Bill." "After all, I remember pointing out that the man seemed to be following somebody," added Dinah. "It could have been the pilot or somebody else stalking Bill." "Don't," said Lucy-Ann. "Are you seriously suggesting Bill might have been caught?" "We must face the fact that it's a possibility," said Philip. "On the other hand, he may be all right and not wish to return until the plane arrives when it'll probably be dark. We just don't know." Supper was a subdued meal as the children worried about Bill. All four fervently hoped he was waiting until it was dark or until the plane arrived before returning to the cabin. They went to bed feeling they would not sleep because of their concern but, having just had one very late night, they soon closed their eyes and sank into a deep sleep. When they arose in the morning and found Bill had still not returned, their hearts sank as they now feared the worst. "The question is, Whatever shall we do?" asked Philip. "It's a long walk to the nearest cabin on Little Moose Lake and, if we did go there, what do we say? We think Bill has been captured by somebody near a disused power station on Otter Lake? They'd think we were mad." "Since we don't know for certain that he has been captured, we've got to be careful what we say to people," warned Dinah. "If he hasn't returned because he's on to something, we don't want to ruin it for him." "Well we can't possibly wait and wait and wait," said Lucy-Ann in despair. "We should be doing something." "Lucy-Ann's right," declared Jack. "We must do something. I vote we go to the other side of Otter Lake and search for the hiding place. After all, Philip and I saw people being taken somewhere and it didn't seem to be the cabin as there were no lights shining." "We might all get caught," said Lucy-Ann, not liking the suggestion. "That won't help Bill." "Well I agree with Jack," said Philip after thinking for a moment. "We must plan this very carefully if possible, allowing for an escape route. Yes, my mind is definitely made up. I'm convinced Bill is a prisoner in some hiding place around the other side of Otter Lake. It's up to us to discover where it is and try to rescue him. We'll discuss what to do over breakfast." Various plans were put forward over breakfast on the veranda but were all far too complicated to consider seriously. Finally, after a short period of silence, Dinah came up with a straightforward idea. "Why don't we take the sailing boat to a position roughly halfway between the huge waterfall and the derelict power station?" she suggested, drawing a rough plan on a sheet of paper. "We all get out of the boat, pretend to be exploring, just as we did the other morning. In fact we can be in two groups looking for anything which suggests a hiding place. Anyone watching will hopefully assume we're a bunch of kids having fun on the hillside." "That sounds simple enough but we must be on our guard the whole time," added Philip. "If we feel threatened, we should return to the boat." "Unless we're up on the mountainside," pointed out Lucy-Ann. "It would take some time to return to the boat from up there." "We should be fairly safe up on that mountain," said Jack. "I don't think we'd be followed up there. After all, these people surely won't want to unnecessarily make themselves known. They'll just want to keep us away from their property." "It would be really great if we discovered where Bill is being kept," said Philip. "We must decide exactly what to take with us, torches and spare batteries, for example."

"Why do we need torches?" asked a surprised Dinah. "It's broad daylight." "Without torches, we won't be able to see anything or do anything if it's dark, that's why," answered Philip. "And it'll almost certainly be dark where we hope to end up." "Where's that?" asked Lucy-Ann. "In the hiding place, of course," replied Phillip. "We've got to do our utmost to discover it." "If we do discover it but can't enter it for any reason, we can summon help, even if it means traipsing over the hill to Little Moose Lake," said Jack. "Once we're back on the lake, we should be quite safe." "Are you certain those men don't have a boat?" asked Dinah. "After all, they're by a lake and there is a boathouse. If they have one, they could come after us." "We've never seen any sign of a boat although there may well be one in the boathouse," answered Jack. "They probably don't want to attract attention by going out on the lake and, when you think about it, there's no place for them to actually go in a boat. I cannot believe for one moment they would come after a group of children apparently enjoying themselves in a sailing boat." "Now we know what we're going to do and we've all finished eating, I'll pack some food for us to take on our trip," said Lucy-Ann getting up from the table. "We don't know how long we'll be away from here. It could be ages." Before anybody could actually do anything, there was an interruption in the form of a bleeping noise from inside the cabin, immediately copied by Kiki. "It's Kiki," said Lucy-Ann looking at the parrot hopping from one leg to the other on the rail as she made the strange sound. "Look, she's doing it again." "No, there's definitely a bleep coming from in there," said Dinah getting up and going inside the cabin. "Hear it? It's coming from Bill's room." "I bet it's his radio," said Philip dashing past Dinah and rushing into the room. He opened the cupboard where he knew the equipment was kept and, sure enough, the sound was coming from the radio, accompanied by a flashing light. "I wish I knew how this thing worked!" he said, almost shouting. "It could be just what we need." Picking up a plugged-in microphone, he pressed a button on it and spoke. "Hello, hello, we need assistance," he said urgently. "Can you hear me? Please answer." The bleeping ceased, being replaced by a crackling sound, but no voice. "Can you hear me?" repeated Philip sounding desperate. "We need assistance. It's urgent. Please help. I don't know which buttons to press but I hope you can hear. I repeat. It's urgent." Receiving no reply, he pressed a couple of buttons and twisted a couple of knobs but this resulted in weird, rather unpleasant wailing noises. After repeating his request for help he finally gave up and glared at the machine. Soon afterwards the crackling noise ceased. "If only Bill would show us how the radio-transmitter works!" sighed Dinah. "But he never will as it's all part of his hush-hush work. A pity." "What a pity, what a pity!" uttered Kiki flying into the room. She followed this with such a good imitation of the bleeping noise that the children looked back to the cupboard believing it was the radio again. "It really is Kiki this time," said Jack. "You fooled us, naughty bird." "Naughty, naughty. Poor Polly, Polly's down the well," said Kiki, perching on Jack's shoulder and gently nibbling his ear. "I could kick that radio!" cried Philip, stamping in exasperation. "Kick, kick, kick!" "Kick, kick, Kiki!" cried Kiki loudly in Jack's ear. "Kiki, Mickey, Rikki!" "That's how I feel, Kiki," said Philip looking approvingly at Kiki. "It's so frustrating. To have the radio bleeping like that just when we need to communicate with somebody. Come on, let's clear everything away and get ready for our trip across the lake in search of Bill. That was a good idea of yours to prepare some food to take, Lucy-Ann, as we probably will be away for several hours. Now we must find our torches and spare batteries." "Don't forget your field glasses, Tufty," reminded Jack. "They'll definitely come in handy."

"I do hope we find where poor Bill is being kept," said Lucy-Ann, a serious look spread across her face. "Oh dear. Why is it that, wherever we go, we end up bang in the middle of an adventure?"

CHAPTER 19: THE SEARCH FOR BILL BEGINS


Later that morning, four excited children set off once again across Otter Lake, this time in the sailing boat. In case they became separated they hid the cabin key under a stone near the boathouse. It was another bright, sunny day but they made certain they had warm clothes and rugs with them in case they were out quite late. They were determined to discover the location of the hiding place where Bill was almost certainly being held, however long it took, and even to consider a rescue attempt. Once at the far end of the lake, they turned towards Otter Island, keeping it between them and the area around the cabin. Philip gazed longingly at the otters, now swimming and playing quite happily, ignoring the boat as it quietly passed them before sailing towards the far shore. "See you again some time," he called making the others smile for the first time on this trip. Soon after leaving the island behind, they encountered the rough water flowing from the large fall, now coming into view. The bumps and splashes reminded them of their unpleasant ordeal the day before, but nobody actually commented on it. They approached the shore about midway between the waterfall and the derelict buildings, as Dinah had suggested earlier. "It's vital we leave the boat where it's hidden from view from the cabin end of the lake," said Jack. "Everyone look out for somewhere suitable." As they sailed slowly along, they saw the usual shrubs and bushes near the water's edge but these would not hide the boat from the cabin. Then Lucy-Ann spotted a small inlet where a little stream flowing from the hillside entered the lake. "There's an ideal spot!" she said pointing. "We can tie the boat to that bush and there's even a tall rock which will conceal the mast." "Yes, this certainly looks ideal," agreed Philip turning the boat towards the inlet. Once they were there, he leapt out and securely tied up the boat before looking around as the others scrambled ashore. "Yes, this is excellent. We must remember exactly where the boat is in case it's needed in a hurry. That tall, pointed rock can be our guide." "What about the basket of food?" asked Dinah. "Is it all right leaving it in the boat? There's little shelter from the sun." "A good point," said Jack. "We must first find a place for the food well out of the sun." "And away from those geese," added Lucy-Ann with a laugh watching the antics of some geese swooping over the lake a short way out. "Kiki doesn't know what to make of their loud noises." Perched on top of the mast, Kiki watched the geese. She tried to copy the collective din they were making but, for once, found it impossible, much to everyone's relief. Jack soon found a place between two rocks which could just accommodate the basket. After handing everyone a bar of chocolate, he positioned a flat stone on top of the basket to keep the lid secure. "That should keep our food safe from hungry geese," he said. "Talking of geese, do stop trying to copy them, Kiki. It's a dreadful racket they're making. Now what do we do with these clothes and rugs we've brought? Leave them in the boat?" "I suggest we put them near the food," replied Philip going back to the boat to fetch them. "There's more chance of being spotted if we have to go to the boat for them." "We're just about ready to start searching," said Jack as Philip returned with an armful of clothes. "This is where we presumably split up." "I'm going with you," said Lucy-Ann at once. "You're with me, Di," said Philip, slapping his sister on the back. "Only if you haven't got some horrible creature on your person," said Dinah looking for any giveaway bumps. "I'm surprised you didn't bring that Sammy with you."

"It wouldn't have been fair to remove him from his own area," said Philip. "Otherwise I'd have certainly brought him. Now where are Dopey the Dormouse, Tillie the Toad, Herbie the Hedgehog . . . ?" He was interrupted by a squeal from Dinah. "If you've got all those creatures I'm not coming with you!" she yelled. "Toads and dormice, indeed! You'll have to go with him, Lucy-Ann." "Calm down, calm down, I haven't really got them," said Philip laughing. "I'm just teasing. You really are so silly at times, Dinah!" "I've told you before not to call me silly!" snapped Dinah, glaring at her brother. "You're the one who's silly, always hiding some sort of creepy crawly in your clothes. Ugh!" "Let's not start an argument here, of all places," pleaded Jack. "We're here to try to locate Bill. Remember?" "Bill, bill, pay the bill!" said Kiki joining in. "Naughty boy, naughty boy. Ugh!" "Naughty girl, you mean," said Philip with a sly look at his sister. However, remembering that they were looking for Bill, she had calmed down as quickly as she had flared up. "I suggest that you, Jack, and Lucy-Ann follow the base of the high cliff, more or less where we were the other day, while Dinah and I creep along behind these bushes. We'll be between you and the shore. I just hope my ankle doesn't play up." "Just take your time as far as possible," said Jack. "If we spot anything of interest or want to warn the other pair about walking into danger, we'll hoot like an owl. I know there aren't any around here but the men are not likely to know that." "Good idea," agreed Philip, immediately imitating the call of an owl. To his amazement, his call was answered. "I thought you said there weren't any . . . " Then he realised the answering call was Kiki. Pleased to have their attention, she continued to hoot. "It won't matter if anyone sees or hears Kiki hooting as it will add a bit of realism," laughed Lucy-Ann. "Well. Are we ready?" They were so she and Jack departed, using rocks to shield them from any watchers down by the lake. Scrambling up the rugged hillside was far more difficult than they had expected as they had to keep retracing their steps in order to remain hidden. "We could be so easily spotted on this bleak slope," said Jack after a while. "It's all right for Kiki. She just flies over or round any obstacle. Well, I reckon we're now high enough to have a decent view down so let's make our way across the slope towards those abandoned buildings. Look, there's a line of bushes over there we can keep behind." From time to time, both groups encountered little waterfalls running down the hillside to enter the lake. They were not deep but were somewhat difficult to negotiate due to the awkward shapes of the slippery rocks and stones just beneath the water. And the water was very cold! After a while, Philip and Dinah paused to look around. They could not see Jack and Lucy-Ann but, occasionally, could hear them as they dislodged stones and pebbles. There was now a good view of the Larsen log cabin and the area around it but the derelict power station was still out of sight. "We must be careful crossing just here," warned Philip. "There aren't many tall bushes or big rocks. Keep as low as possible." Bending down awkwardly, he and Dinah crossed the almost bare hillside and were relieved to reach a rocky area offering plenty of shelter from prying eyes. They hurried across this section until their way was blocked by a large boulder. Peering around the boulder, the two spotted the old ruined buildings at the bottom of the hillside not too far ahead. "Well, we can't go much further forward and to go down to the shore risks being noticed," said a disappointed Dinah. "We've found nothing of interest. Absolutely nothing. What a waste of time!" "It's clear we need to be down there where the buildings are but I agree, I don't think we dare attempt it," said Philip who was feeling equally disappointed. He began to survey the area through his field glasses. "I wonder how Jack and Lucy-Ann are getting on." At that moment, Jack and Lucy-Ann were having some difficulty crossing the scree slope they had encountered on their previous walk along the mountainside. Twice Jack slipped much to LucyAnn's alarm but, fortunately, managed to regain his balance. He hoped the sound of the falling stones could not be heard from the cabin area.

"It's definitely more difficult than it was the other day," said Lucy-Ann, her arms outstretched as she tried not to slide. "It's as though there's more scree." "It's always changing as more falls down from above," explained Jack as they finally reached the other side. "Luckily Philip and Dinah are well below it. I spotted them earlier but it doesn't matter as they don't have to hide from us." "I can see the rock face ahead which is where we had that good view of those old buildings the other day," said Lucy-Ann. "The trouble is, we won't be able to go any further and we haven't seen any sign of a hiding place on the hill." "It's all very distressing," agreed Jack. "It obviously isn't up here. We'll go as far as we can then I'll study the area below through my field glasses. I expect Philip's doing the same." Philip was focusing on the area between the cabin and the old buildings when a movement near the abandoned power station attracted his attention. He caught his breath. Could it be Bill? He watched intently. Had he imagined it? For a moment he thought he had, then a man appeared, staring down the lake. It certainly wasn't Bill! "There's somebody down there, Di," he whispered. "He's staring along this side of the lake. I wonder if he saw us arrive. If so, he's probably wondering where we are." "Look, there's a second man approaching the first," said Dinah in alarm. "We'd better move. If either of them comes along the shore in this direction and climbs up the hill, we'll be seen." "There's no reason why either man should climb up here," said Philip, his eyes firmly fixed on the men. "They're watching the shore and the lake. Drat. I'd better warn the others. Keep an eye on the men." He cupped his hands around his mouth and, facing upwards, gently hooted. The men looked up the hillside suspiciously. The hoot was answered, not by Jack, but by Kiki, who flew down to Philip and Dinah. Seeing the bird, the men looked at each other but said nothing before continuing to gaze down the lake. Neither seemed to realise that Kiki was not an owl. However, unfortunately Kiki attracted the attention of the men again by talking to Philip and Dinah despite being told to go back to Jack. "Jack and Jill," she said, pleased to have an audience. "Jack Spratt." Just then, Jack hooted which made Kiki fly back up the hill to him, but it was too late. The men had not associated the voices with the bird and one made it clear he intended to investigate. "See if you can make your way to the foot of that huge cliff up there," said Philip in alarm. "Jack and Lucy-Ann must be somewhere there or Kiki wouldn't be flying around. That tall man is trying to find a way up here and it won't be long before he succeeds. I'll follow you in a moment." Dinah slowly crawled up the hillside around shrubs and rocks towards the cliff face while Philip watched the men below. The taller of the two, climbing on to a rock, clearly found a way up the slope. Philip knew he had to move. He was just about to follow Dinah when he realised he would still be seen by this man. He had to get further away. Feeling concerned, he hurried back behind the sheltering rocks until he returned to the bare hillside. He knew it was no use attempting to cross it as he would almost certainly be in full view of both men. He had to climb. His heart throbbing with a mixture of excitement and fear, Philip scrambled upwards, bending low and clinging to roots and shrubs. He unexpectedly reached the scree which made a noise as pebbles were sent down the slope. Then, to his horror, Philip felt a pain in his ankle which caused him to lose his footing. He slid down the slope and in full view of one of the men!

CHAPTER 20: THE PASSAGE THROUGH THE ROCKS


Further up the hill, Jack spotted Dinah scrambling up, clearly with some difficulty. She made matters worse for herself by frequently turning round to see if anyone could see her from below. Jack moved towards her, attracting her attention. "We're just above you, Dinah," he called as loudly as he dared. "Don't keep looking round, just keep going. You're almost here. I assume Philip has spotted somebody."

"Two people to be precise," answered Dinah, puffing slightly but relieved to at last reach the safety of a flat rock which she sat on to get her breath back. Jack and Lucy-Ann waited expectantly to hear what she had to say. "One is down by the lake but the other is actually trying to climb up the hill. I think he heard Kiki talking and thought it was a human." Jack immediately put the field glasses to his eyes but could not see anybody as the shape of the hill hid the shore from view. Suddenly, all three spotted Philip darting along down below. Reaching the end of the sheltering line of rocks, he began to scramble frantically up the rugged terrain. All was well until he attempted to climb the scree which suddenly gave way beneath his feet, causing him to tumble downwards. Loud shouts from below indicated he had been heard and probably seen. From their position high up on the hill, the other three looked down in alarm. Had Philip injured himself? They were most relieved to see him look up and, almost immediately, resume climbing but, in his panic, he made little progress. "Over to your left, Philip," called Lucy-Ann, unable to keep quiet any longer. "Attract his attention, Jack." Jack hooted causing Philip to glance upwards for a moment. This was long enough for Lucy-Ann to point out the relatively safe way up she had spotted. Crawling over to his left, dreading he might fall even further, Philip was pleased to find firm, if uneven, ground beneath him. Puffing and panting, he now made a determined effort to reach the others. At last he did so. "Are you all right, Philip?" asked Lucy-Ann anxiously. "You've grazed your knees." "Oh it's nothing," replied Philip, dabbing his knees with his handkerchief. "It's my fault. I felt my weak ankle give way and panicked. I only hope I didn't break my torch in the fall. We've got to move quickly as one of the men is climbing up. He must have heard me fall so he knows someone's up here even if he didn't actually see me. We must find somewhere to hide up here. There's no time to go down to the boat." "These rocks will hide us from anybody below but not if anyone actually climbs this far," pointed out Jack. "Listen. I just heard the sound of falling stones. That means the man is still climbing up the hillside." "We'll have to move towards that steep cliff ahead," said Lucy-Ann. "If we go the other way, we'll reach that nasty dangerous scree slope. Anyone could see us there." "Right, this way," said Jack, making a move. "There are some large boulders just in front of the cliff. Hopefully there'll be room for us to conceal ourselves there." The four hurriedly moved to the boulders, bending low to avoid being seen. Between them and the sheer face of the mountain was a natural narrow track which seemed to end in a gaping hole in the rock. For a moment they wondered if this could be the hiding place but quickly realised that there was no way the men would have climbed up here in the middle of the night without any lights. "We'll have to remain here for a while," said Jack when they had all reached the hole. "Let's see how big this sort of a cave is." He switched on his torch, the beam lighting up the uneven, damp sides of what was really little more than a large cleft in the rock. At least they would be well hidden here unless anybody actually came along the track between the boulders and the cliff. "I'm going to creep back to see if there's any sign of either man," said Jack after a while. "I won't be a moment." He darted along the rough track until he reached the open hillside. Hearing voices alarmingly close by, he came to an abrupt halt. "I saw him climb up here after he fell, Karl," shouted one of the men. "He can't have gone towards that waterfall or we'd have spotted him so he's definitely somewhere up here." "Right, well let's look for him," called the other. "We need to know exactly what he's doing over here. We've got to find him, Ron. We'll start with that row of rocks up there. I'll search above them, you cover the ground below them." Jack did not wait to hear any more. He dashed back to the others and spoke to them urgently. "Both men are up here and they did see you, Philip. One is actually going to search between these

rocks and the cliff face so get into this cave or whatever it is and see if there's a dark corner or a nook we can hide in. He'll be here any moment." Philip switched on his torch and shone it around but, to his dismay, there were no dark corners. They pressed themselves against the rocky walls hoping they would not be noticed in the semi-darkness should the man not possess a torch. Then they heard a voice yelling. "There seems to be a dead-end down here," he shouted. "But I think I can see a large hole right at the end. I'll just go and check inside. It's just the sort of place someone would hide in." The children shrank back against the damp walls knowing they would be discovered any moment. Philip began to wonder whether to reveal his presence since, as far as he knew, the man was not aware there were four children on the hill. The others might not be noticed. While he was pondering over this, Lucy-Ann, near the rear of the cave, was trying to squeeze even further back into a fairly narrow nook. Realising this would be useless as a hiding place she turned to find somewhere else. To her surprise, she noticed a cleft on her right, a cleft not visible from the front of the cave. Shining her torch into it, she was amazed to find that it continued through the rocks. "Come back here," she whispered urgently. "I think I've found a hiding place that won't be noticed from the front of the cave. It looks big enough to take all of us." The others rushed to the rear of the cave and eased themselves between the rocky sides of the cleft just as they heard footsteps approaching on the gravel outside. Pushing along to make room for everybody, Lucy-Ann was further surprised to find what appeared to be a narrow passageway which immediately went down although not too steeply. "There's some sort of a passage here," she said turning round. "Here, Jack. Squeeze past me and lead the way." With Kiki perched on his shoulder knowing she had to keep quiet, Jack did so and was amazed to see the narrow passage ahead. "I can't see how far it goes," he said quietly, "but we may as well follow it. At least we'll be out of sight of those men." "Just stop a moment or we'll be heard," hissed Philip, bringing up the rear. "I can hear a sound coming from the cave. The man doesn't seem to have a torch so he's probably feeling his way round. I just hope he doesn't come across this cleft, or whatever it is." Almost afraid to breathe, the four listened intently. They heard someone muttering in the cave and the shuffling of feet as he moved around. Then, after what seemed ages but was really less than minute, there were no more sounds. The man had departed! "Phew!" said Jack. "That was close. Now, do we go on or wait until the coast is clear?" "I suggest we go on," said Dinah. "We might have to wait a long time for those men to go away. In the meantime, let's explore this passage and see if it leads anywhere." "I'm not certain this is a passage," said Jack shining his torch upwards. There was no roof, the rocky walls simply meeting way above their heads. "It's not man-made, more like a natural fissure in the rocks which looks as though it ends a short way down there. Anyway, we'll press on and see." Expecting the passage to come to an end as the walls grew closer and closer, Jack was surprised to find it continuing beyond a slight bend. As before, it was narrow but with considerable height. Progress was quite slow as the ground was very uneven and, at intervals, drops of water fell from above making it slippery underfoot. In places where it was damp, moss grew. In other places, the walls and floor were amazingly dry. And all the time, the passage was going downwards. "I wonder if it actually leads anywhere," said Lucy-Ann. "The air is quite fresh so it might do." "Yes, there isn't the damp smell we've noticed in other passages," added Philip. "There's no musty smell." "Fusty, musty, dusty!" squawked Kiki, flying up in the air. "Fusty, musty, dusty." "Yes, Kiki, we heard you," said Jack, as he led the way around another slight bend. "Everyone, keep still! What's that ahead?" Jack stopped in his tracks as he saw what seemed to be a beam of torchlight shining on the ground ahead. For one awful moment he had the impression of somebody approaching but, as the beam did not move, he cautiously went towards it. To his relief he saw it was, in fact, a shaft of light coming from the outside through a natural cleft in the rocks.

"At least that shows we're not going deeper and deeper into the mountain as I feared," he said. "And that hole or cleft probably accounts for the fresh air in this passage. I've noticed similar clefts as though the rocks have split open like slate. What a pity we can't see out of it." "What a pity, what a pity," said Kiki, still flapping around in the confined space. She was not enjoying being underground one bit. "Poor Polly. Put the kettle on." "It'll be a bit difficult down here," giggled Lucy-Ann. "We've been going downwards all the time," observed Dinah as they continued along the passage. "Do you think we're near those old power station buildings? That's the way we're heading, isn't it?" "We certainly must be going in that direction," agreed Jack. "You're right, we can't be all that far from them. We've come a fair distance so I hope there is a way out of here. It would be so annoying to reach a dead-end." Onwards and downwards they went, round a few twists and turns until, all of a sudden, the ground levelled out, the side walls became further apart, and they found themselves in a sort of underground room. "Wherever are we now?" asked Philip amazed, shining his torch on the walls. Then he shone it ahead and gave an exclamation of annoyance as the beam lit up a solid wall of rock. "Oh no! Look. We've reached a dead-end. We can't go any further." "To have come this far and to get nowhere!" exclaimed Dinah in disgust as all four uttered grunts and groans of disappointment. "You were right, Jack. It is just a fissure in the rocks, but a mighty big one. I must say, we're having a very disappointing morning. Now we've got to traipse all the way back." "I don't know if it's my imagination but I can feel a slight breeze blowing around my legs," said Lucy-Ann. "You know, I can feel it now you've mentioned it," said Jack. "What's more, it isn't blowing down but from that wall of rock in front of us. It's probably just coming from another hole. Let's investigate." Shining his torch around the rocks on each side of the room and the wall at the end, Jack spotted a narrow cleft similar to the one in the cave. He squeezed through hoping to find another passage but, instead, was amazed to be confronted by a sheet of rusty metal. "Whatever is that doing here?" he said, turning round to the others. "You won't believe it but there's a sheet of metal blocking the way. I'm sure it's not a door and it certainly couldn't have been dragged down from the top. What on earth can be on the other side?"

CHAPTER 21: A BOLD PLAN


Tucking his torch inside his belt, Jack heaved with all his might. Nothing happened. He pushed again. This time, the object leant forward slightly. Jack now gave a hefty shove on one side. There was a nasty scraping sound as whatever it was pivoted slightly like a door. "This isn't just a sheet of metal," he called back to the others who were waiting impatiently to find out what was happening. "And it's quite definitely not a door although it has moved like one. It must be a cupboard of some sort, but what on earth can a cupboard be doing in a place like this? And where are we?" Before attempting to push the cupboard any further, he listened for voices, suddenly realising there could be people nearby and he'd been shouting. Not hearing anyone and feeling excited, Jack pushed again, urged on by the other three, not to mention Kiki. Once more came the unpleasant scraping noise as what was, indeed, a metal cupboard dragged across the floor which, surprisingly, seemed to be almost level. Kiki at once flew through the gap which now presented itself and began to mutter quietly. As soon as there was sufficient room, Jack eased himself around the cupboard and, using his torch, found he was at the end of a dark, windowless corridor with similar metal cupboards, all a dull matt green in colour, stacked against one side.

"I've no idea where we are," he whispered as loudly as he dared. "You'd better come and see for yourselves." "This is most peculiar," said Dinah looking around, once they had all passed through the gap. It was when she closely examined the doors and spotted the name MOOSE LAKES ELECTRICITY on little metal plates that she realised where they were. "Of course! We're actually in the old power station. They didn't bother taking these cupboards away and they've clearly forgotten or ignored the passage through the rocks. Well, if cupboards are here, there must be an entrance somewhere. But where?" "I can't hear anybody so it should be safe to go down the corridor," said Philip. "Better call Kiki to you, Jack. We don't know who or what's at the end." They went round a bend where they received a further surprise. It joined another corridor, but this one was actually lit by electric lights! "I do believe we might have discovered the hiding place but it's not how I expected it to be," said Dinah sounding and feeling very excited. "The thing is, these lights mean that there are people around so what do we do? Dare we explore the lit corridor? If so, which way?" "Wait, I think it would be unwise for all four of us to go either way along this lighted corridor," said Philip summing up the situation. "I reckon Dinah is right and we've stumbled on the hiding place. That means there are unpleasant and quite ruthless people around. Look at the way they seemed determined to catch me on that hillside. No, I've another idea in mind." "So what are you suggesting?" asked Jack holding Kiki tightly. "Having come so far, we've got to do something." "Listen, isn't that someone coming towards us?" whispered Lucy-Ann, raising a finger to her lips. "Let's get back to our passage." They dashed back past the cupboards as the footsteps approached, and hurriedly entered the rocky passage. Jack was just about to tug at the metal cupboard when he realised it would make the awful screeching sound, and that would most certainly be heard down the corridor. "I'll have to leave it," he said quietly. "Hopefully whoever we heard won't come down here." Jack's hopes were dashed. Whoever it was went to one of the cupboards and could be heard rummaging inside. Dreading the person would notice one cupboard out of line, the children held their breath. For one awful moment, it seemed the footsteps were coming closer. Then they receded and all was quiet once again. "Let's decide what to do while we're in here," said Dinah. "You sounded as though you had a plan a moment ago, Philip." "Since I was the one the men spotted on the hillside, I suggest I explore the lighted corridor to see exactly what's along there," replied Philip sounding confident. "Hopefully there'll be somewhere to hide if anybody comes. If not, I might be able to run back here as it doesn't look as though anyone knows about this passage." "Supposing you're caught?" asked a concerned Lucy-Ann. "That's a risk I have to take," said Philip. "If I'm caught, they might not bother looking for anyone else but, if one of you is caught, they'd look for me as they've already seen me. Another thing to bear in mind if I'm caught is that you will have to continue the search for Bill." "Of course, but what do the rest of us do while you're investigating?" asked Dinah. "After all, we don't know how long you'll be." "I suggest the cave at the top should be a sort of headquarters," said Jack. "Naturally I'd prefer to be down here while Philip's away, but we'd need a torch on all the time. At least in the cave we've fresh air and can keep an eye on any movements in the cabin area. There might even be rocks we can actually sit on. One of us will return at intervals to this end to, hopefully, learn something." "Sounds sensible to me," answered Philip. He consulted his watch. "It's more or less lunch time so this is probably a good time for me to explore. Whoever are down the corridor are likely to be eating and that normally means sitting down." "What about you having something to eat?" enquired Lucy-Ann. "As you say, it's lunch time." "No, this is the time to explore," insisted Philip. "In any case, I had a whopping great breakfast and I think I'm too excited to eat right now. So, I'll meet you later on somewhere in this passage or back in the cave, hopefully with some news. I'm off."

"Good luck," said the other three as, without more ado, Philip disappeared from view round the side of the cupboard. He pushed it back slightly so that it looked to be in line with the others, but made sure there was a gap wide enough for him to squeeze through in case he had to return in a hurry. Tip-toeing towards the main corridor, he switched off his torch. Wondering whether to go to the left or right, he decided on the latter, reasoning that the entrance to the building was almost certainly on the left. As he crept stealthily along, he noticed that, at intervals, there were lights in the roof while, along the right hand wall, were several thick wires, relics from the past. A few old chairs and a table were against the left hand wall. The floor was of dark grey concrete. All the time, he listened carefully for any sound that might indicate the presence of anybody. In the background, he could hear a constant hum but could not decide what was causing it. It sounded like a motor of some sort. A short distance down the corridor was a railed off area. Reaching it, he saw that the rails were around narrow stairs leading down. He decided he would explore there later but had to quickly change his mind. From round the bend in the corridor, just a short way ahead, came the sound of footsteps and there was no time to dash back to the passage through the rocks. His heart throbbing, Philip almost fell down the short flight of steps in his hurry and found himself in a cold-looking, square room with several dials and wheels around the walls, none of which appeared to be working. One thing was certain. He could not hide here if the person came down the steps. Three fairly narrow passages led out of this room. The humming sound of a motor he had heard a bit earlier was much louder and came from the furthest corridor. He prepared to run down the nearest should the owner of the footsteps begin to descend the stairs. And that's exactly what happened! Philip fled down the passage in front of him and fumbled with the door handle. The door was locked! He held his breath, dreading that the person, now at the foot of the stairs, would appear and catch him. The footsteps, however, went along one of the other corridors and he heard a door open. And what a din there was! It was clearly the door to the room where the engine was running. After a couple of minutes the door was closed and, again, footsteps sounded ominously close. Then they were heard on the stairs. As soon as it was safe, Philip ran to the corridor from which the engine sound was coming as he was curious to discover the source of the noise. Finding himself confronted by a sturdy green door, he turned the handle, feeling certain the door would be locked, but it wasn't. It opened. He entered the room to be nearly deafened by the noise from the machine attached to the far wall. He quickly closed the door behind him, knowing that the increase in volume with the door open could be noticed by anybody nearby. He strode over to the rather smelly, vibrating machine and realised what it was straight away. "It's a generator!" he said. "So that's how they have electric lights in the corridor. And I bet it powers the searchlight we saw the other night and the spotlight which lit up the lake when the plane arrived." There was nothing else to see in the room so Philip left, pleased to escape from the rather sickening smell and the din and crept back up the stairs, all the time listening for voices or footsteps. "I'll see what's round that bend," he decided once he was back up top. Rounding the bend, he was surprised to find that the corridor widened out. Several metal cupboards were against the wall, some similar to the ones he had seen earlier but a few were considerably larger. There were two doors on either side of the corridor which, further along, joined another one at right angles. The doors on the right, numbered two and four, had bolts fitted, although they were not drawn across. The other doors, one and three, had keyholes, surprisingly with keys in them. Philip exercised extreme caution as he approached the first door on the left, number one, as it was open. No sound was coming from this room, or from the others, so he peered inside. It was not very attractive as the green and white emulsion was peeling off the walls. There was a desk to the right with about half a dozen chairs scattered around. To the left were more metal cupboards and a large pile of what seemed to be old curtains. There really was nothing of interest in the room so Philip continued along the corridor, sniffing as he did so as there was an unexpected and not unpleasant smell. Somebody had been cooking! "So there's some sort of a kitchen near here," he muttered, "and possibly even a dining room with people in it. I must be extremely careful."

Reaching the intersection of the two corridors, Philip peeped round to his left. Not far along was whatever served as a kitchen. Two voices came from here, one a woman's. Looking the other way, the boy was surprised to find the corridor turning again, this time to the left. He trotted to the corner where he very cautiously peeped round. There were rooms at intervals, some with doors open. Several voices could be heard coming from one room, one raised as though in anger. There were also other sounds such as crockery being used and chairs being moved. Philip decided that was almost certainly a dining room so it would be too risky going any further with people around. He planned to explore there later when there was less activity. "I'll go back to the doors with bolts attached and have a look inside those rooms," he thought as he turned round. "I might learn something." Back down the long corridor he hurried until he reached the first of the doors. Listening carefully, he was satisfied there was nobody in the room. "If there is, I'll simply close the door and drag the bolts across," he reasoned as he slowly turned the handle The room was long, narrow and windowless. There was a made up bed in one corner and a wash basin with a mirror above it in another. A wardrobe was against one of the long walls. Its doors were open so Philip could see it was empty. As elsewhere, the floor was concrete. "What a dreary, uninviting bedroom," he thought. "But what a good prison cell it makes with the two bolts on the outside. Just the sort of place they'd keep Bill. And I bet the next room is the same." Closing the door, Philip noticed that the bolts on both doors looked comparatively new compared to the doors themselves. "It's as if they've been deliberately turned into prison cells," he thought. "But why?" Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted. He heard voices coming from the kitchen end of the corridor and they were growing louder. At once he began to rush towards the safety of the passage through the rocks but, almost immediately, stopped in his tracks. This time he heard footsteps. But these were approaching from the other end of the corridor. Poor Philip was now trapped!

CHAPTER 22: A GREAT DEAL HAPPENS


Filled with horror, Philip looked around for somewhere to hide. He had no choice but to dart through the open doorway and to retreat to the rear of the room where the pile of curtain-like material lay. Lifting it, he saw that the fabric was actually covering two large boxes, a short distance apart. At once he squeezed into the gap between them, flinging the material over himself. Almost lined up with his face was a large rent. Before he was able make any adjustment, a man entered the room, followed by three others and a woman dressed in grey. Philip hoped and prayed that his face could not be seen through the hole as the first man sat behind the desk facing him. The other people each selected a chair looking towards the desk. "I've just come from the cabin with the latest news from Kurt Patterson," said the man who was clearly in charge. Philip recognised the voice as being one of those he and Jack heard a couple of nights ago. It belonged to the man named Bennett. "We discovered that Dean Morrison, a director of the Winnipeg and Prairie Bank, has rented a secluded villa on Squaw Lake, just beyond Great Moose Lake," continued Bennett coming straight to the point. "Charlie and Joe took some good photos of the villa and its surroundings from the plane on one of their legitimate trips over the lakes." "I take it that we're to have the company of this person?" enquired the woman. "Not quite right, Martha," answered Bennett, giving a wry smile and shaking his head. "We also discovered that Morrison's two sons like to explore the surrounding area alone. Mr Patterson has said that some wicked person has kidnapped the kids and will be bringing them here tonight. Kidnapping the two sons rather than the father means we can guarantee a very generous ransom will be paid." "What about the three guys we already hold?" asked another familiar voice. "Any news?"

"They stay put, Dawson, until the ransom money has been paid in full, otherwise they will, shall we say, disappear," replied Bennett in a sinister tone of voice. "Again, we should learn something tonight." "Where are the kids to be kept?" asked Martha. "Presumably not with the other hostages?" "In number eight," was the answer. "There are two beds in there and it's away from our other guests. Unfortunately, they won't have quite the same standard of comfort here that they undoubtedly have at home but that's tough." "Room eight is where that guy Walker is," said another man whom Philip recognised as the one following him up the hillside that morning. "Where are you putting him? Incidentally, what's the story behind him? Why did Charlie bring him here? He keeps on about the wildlife around this lake moose, beavers and otters. Quite mad." "Charlie brought him because he caught the man studying our buildings very closely and carefully drawing a plan, Mitchell, that's why," said Bennett. "That doesn't tie up with his claim of being a naturalist. And he's not mad. No, there's something rather suspicious about him which is why I want Mr Patterson to see him for himself. He knows the people we have to watch out for and Walker could well be one of them. To answer your first question, it's already arranged that Dawson will move Walker to room two in a couple of hours or so." "Walker could be telling the truth because we do know there are plenty of otters around this lake, don't we, Mr Bennett?" said Dawson slyly. Despite feeling nervous, Philip could not help grinning slightly, recalling the two men believing they had been chasing otters a couple of nights back. Not surprisingly, Bennett scowled, completely ignoring the question. "So what's the plan for the rest of the day, Mr Bennett?" asked a man Philip had not seen before. "Do we all wait up for Mr Patterson? How long will he be staying?" "Larry Grant is keeping watch for any unwanted visitors this afternoon, then it's your turn, Whitman," replied Bennett. "Martha, you can take a rest for a few hours after the evening meal but I'll need you to be available near midnight when our visitor is due in case he requires refreshment. You'll have to see to the kids." "Sure," said Martha resignedly. "I expect they'll be spoilt brats. Good job Charlie returned yesterday with more food." "He should have brought it the other night," said Dawson. "That would have saved him a journey. I take it I'm with you tonight, Mr Bennett?" "You take it correctly," was the curt reply. "And have your gun ready, especially when we switch on the big lights. We don't want any more snoopers, innocent or otherwise." "Talking of snooping, what about that kid we saw going up the mountain?" asked Mitchell, to Philip's dismay. "He's still out there somewhere." "We can't waste time searching for a kid right now but we will do a bit later on," replied Bennett. "Grant is obviously keeping watch for any sign of him near here, or of him going away in his boat in which case we ignore him. He's probably one of the kids we've seen before out on the lake but it's the first time we've seen one so close to here. They're usually up by that waterfall. Right, I'm going back to the cabin. You've all got something to do. I'll be in touch later." With that, Bennett left the room. The others lingered for a few minutes, talking quietly to each other, but Philip could not make out what was being said. What was uppermost in his mind was that Bill would be brought to room two, and that was just across the corridor. "Now do I stay here or do I inform the others?" he wondered as the last person left the room. Realising it would be some time before Bill was taken to room two, and somebody might need the material he was hiding beneath, Philip decided to return along the passage through the rocks to let the others know what he had learnt. Not hearing any sounds indicating footsteps or conversation, he left his cramped position, pulled the fabric back over the boxes, and crept out into the corridor. This time he did hear voices, but they were distant ones so he scurried along to the corridor with the metal cupboards. Squeezing through the narrow gap between cupboard and wall, he was pleased to be in the safety of the passage once again. Switching on his torch, he made his way up to the cave where he expected to find Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah. To his dismay, they were not there although the basket of food was.

Looking outside, he saw no sign of them so, feeling puzzled he returned to the cave where the sight of the food made him feel quite hungry. Soon he was tucking in, expecting to hear the sound of voices any moment, but none came. Once again, he looked outside then, not wanting to waste any more time, decided to leave a note. He used a sheet of paper some of the sandwiches had been wrapped in and wrote the simple message: BILL WILL BE IN ROOM 2 LATER. FIRST ROOM ON RIGHT I HOPE TO RESCUE HIM SEE YOU SOME TIME. "That will have to do," he said. "Now where shall I leave this?" Philip decided to place it on top of the basket and to put the basket in the middle of the floor where it would be immediately noticed. Still puzzled by the absence of the others, he again went back down the passage. "I could soon find my way through here without a torch," he tried to convince himself. "Hopefully, next time I make this journey, Bill will be with me." Reaching the end, he decided to wait in the cupboard corridor as he would then probably hear the sound of Bill being taken to his new prison cell. If anybody approached, it would be a simple task to dart back into the passage. Wishing he had a chair, he sat on the uncomfortable concrete floor wondering what had happened to Dinah, Jack and Lucy-Ann. What had been happening to them? When Philip had left them earlier on, the three returned to the cave high up on the hillside. Reaching it, they decided to have something to eat. "Do we lug the basket all the way up here or shall we eat down by the lake?" enquired Dinah. "I reckon we ought to have the food up here where we know it's safe," replied Jack. "We don't know if the men are still looking for us and, if they are, we won't know exactly where they are until we hear them, by which time it might be too late to hide." "I wish Philip had come back for something to eat instead of disappearing the way he did," said Lucy-Ann with a sigh. "He'll be awfully hungry by the time he has his next meal." "You know what Philip is like," said Dinah showing little sympathy for her brother. "Hot headed. Always acts on the spur of the moment." "Like someone else I know," said Jack looking at Dinah with a grin. "Very funny" said Dinah, and rudely poked her tongue out. "Very funny." "Very funny, very funny, very funny!" said Kiki joining in. She had been quiet in the passage, annoyed at having to spend so much time in there. "Put the kettle on." "We can't put the kettle on but we can have a meal," said Jack. "Come with me to the end of the line of boulders, girls, and keep watch while I fetch the basket of food. Make a hooting sound if you spot anybody." They hurried along the short track between the boulders and the sheer face of the mountain. At the end, they found an ideal place to eat a it was almost entirely surrounded by rocks. Seeing nothing down below to suggest the men were still on the prowl, Jack set off, Kiki happily flying on ahead. He was just crossing the scree slope when he slipped but, fortunately, was not hurt in any way. "There's no way I can drag the basket up the hill just here," he said. "I'll keep below as long as possible." A bit further on, he saw what seemed to be a safe way down and used it. Eventually reaching the bottom of the hill, Jack looked along the shore and, spotting the pointed rock which served as a guide to the position of the boat and the food, moved towards it. It was not long before he found the picnic basket and the warm clothes they had left with it. Knowing they might have to stay in the area until after dark, he decided to take the clothes up to the cave. "Come on back now, Kiki," he called. "If only you could carry some bits and pieces." "Pieces of eight!" squawked Kiki, eyeing the basket, hoping that there would be something in it that she could eat. It was slow going carrying the basket and clothes over the uneven ground, especially as Jack had to keep peering round rocks and bushes to make certain the coast was clear. Passing below the scree, he gave a moan, knowing he would soon have to lug the basket up the hillside. Kiki at once copied the moan then, to Jack's alarm, gave a hoot.

"Don't do that, Kiki. You gave me a shock," he said, and looked up the hill. "Oh well, here goes!" He could not see the cave but could make out the line of rocks which, to his dismay, seemed much higher than he had expected. He was annoyed to find he was actually puffing before he reached the top where the girls relieved him of the basket and the extra clothes. As they sat in the sunshine inside the circle of rocks eating their picnic, Dinah looked at LucyAnn and said, "We're waiting." "For what?" asked a puzzled Lucy-Ann. "You know what you always say when we picnic outdoors," said Dinah grinning. "That food always tastes nicer outside," replied Lucy-Ann, trying to smile. "Normally it does but I'm feeling too worried to enjoy it all that much on this occasion." "I know how you feel," said Jack, nevertheless munching away. "I just wish Philip would appear so we know he's all right." "Give him time," said Dinah. "Kiki, stop pecking at the fruit. Eat your sunflower seeds." After they had eaten, Jack decided to scour the shore of the lake with his field glasses. Then he uttered a groan of dismay. "My glasses! Where are they? I must have dropped them somewhere." "They can't be far as you've only been to fetch the food," said Lucy-Ann. "Unless you dropped them in the passage, of course." "No, I had them when we returned to the cave," said Jack. "I remember protecting them as we squeezed between the rocks. I know, I slipped on the scree. I bet that's where they are. I must find them." "Let's first pack the basket and put it in the cave out of the sun," said Lucy-Ann. "Then Dinah and I can come with you to keep watch." Soon Jack was back near the scree slope where he searched in vain for the missing field glasses. The girls anxiously kept watch, afraid that Jack could be seen on this bare part of the hill. It was while he was searching and the girls were keeping watch that Philip arrived in the cave, little realising that the others were so close. By the time Jack had located the glasses down where the basket of food had been kept, Philip had already returned along the passage. "Let's take it in turns to keep watch," suggested Dinah. "It's lovely here in the sun. I might even have a nap when it's not my turn." Both Jack and Lucy-Ann thought that was a good idea. "That means I can do a bit of bird watching when one of you is keeping watch," added Jack. "I'll take first watch for an hour so you can have your nap now, Dinah." Although he spotted a man going to the cabin and another leaving it, Jack saw nothing to give cause for alarm. Then it was Lucy-Ann's turn to keep watch while Dinah slept, open-mouthed. Kiki had a berry in her beak and looked longingly at Dinah. "Don't you dare pop that berry in Dinah's mouth," she said, knowing how Kiki liked to make the most of open mouths. "What a pity," remarked Kiki dropping the berry. "Poor Polly." Lucy-Ann resumed keeping watch for any happenings down by the cabin. After a while she spotted some activity. She sat upright and stared. Then, scarcely believing her eyes, she cried out. "Dinah, wake up! Jack, come here!" "What's the matter? Is someone coming?" asked Dinah, waking up as Jack hurried to join them. "I was having such a lovely snooze." "Look!" cried Lucy-Ann pointing, her hand trembling. "That man down there. See who's with him? It's Philip! They've caught Philip!" CHAPTER 23: PHILIP ENCOUNTERS THE ENEMY! What had happened to Philip? Quite a lot! He had been sitting on the cold floor for some time before he heard any sound from the main corridor. He at once jumped up, ready to make for the passage should footsteps come in his direction. Instead of footsteps, he heard muffled thumps and bangs as though things were being quite roughly moved about. He peeped round the corner but could not see what was happening on account of the bend in the corridor. One thing was certain and that was there was at least one person not far from him, and probably moving furniture.

Soon all was quiet again, at least, for a while. Then came the sound of more footsteps and distant voices. They suddenly stopped. Philip held his breath wondering if that meant Bill had been moved to room two. As soon as he heard the footsteps receding, he crept along the corridor expecting to find the bolts drawn across the door. But they weren't and, indeed, the door was wide open. A table and another cupboard had been brought to the room. Disappointed and dejected, Philip returned to the corridor with the cupboards and sat down again on the floor. Tiredness was gradually overcoming him as he sat there waiting and waiting and waiting. He tried hard to keep his eyes open but they seemed to have a mind of their own and insisted on closing. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, Philip dropped off to sleep. He dreamt he had rescued Bill and was crossing the lake with the others, delighted all was well. He dreamt his mother had now joined them. He then heard Kiki squawking in his ear. "What are you doing here?" screeched the voice. He looked up expecting to see Kiki. Instead, he was shocked to see a woman's angry face glaring at him in disbelief. "What are you doing here?" she repeated, this time grabbing him by the wrist in a very firm grip. "Tell me at once!" "I ... I ... came inside to have a look inside these old buildings," stuttered Philip, not knowing what excuse to make and furious that he had allowed himself to be caught so easily. "What are they? I was exploring. Do they belong to you?" "Didn't you see the PRIVATE NO ADMITTANCE DANGER signs?" cried the woman, shaking her head alarmingly quickly. "Didn't you? Just you come with me. We'll see what Mr Bennett has to say about you. One thing's for sure. He won't be very pleased." Philip struggled and was wondering whether to kick the woman and try to escape when a tall, thin man appeared, having heard the commotion. "What on earth is that kid doing in here, Martha?" demanded the man whom Philip immediately recognised as Mitchell. "He's the one we saw on the hillside. I'll take him to Mr Bennett for you. I've got to relieve Larry who's keeping watch." "I found him asleep, Ron," answered Martha. "I went to put something in that cupboard and thought I was dreaming. There he was, sleeping, bold as brass, inside our property. Can you believe it? That entrance has been unlocked nearly all day. We're getting careless." "On the other hand, it's enabled him to come to us and saved us searching for him," said Mitchell with a rather nasty grin. "Just you come with me, kid." Philip knew he had no choice but to go with Mitchell. Still glaring, Martha left them and strode down the corridor, her grey skirt swaying from side to side as she walked. Without speaking, the surly Mitchell held the boy's arm as he opened two doors, one strong and clearly fairly new, the other somewhat dilapidated. They were now outside by the river and had to go a short way upstream to reach the rusty iron footbridge constructed over it. As they crossed the bridge, Philip noticed there was still some debris from the workings of the former power station in the water although most of it had been completely removed. From here it was a short walk to the cabin. Little did Philip know just then that he was being watched in alarm by Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah up on the hill. He was ushered unceremoniously into a front room of the cabin, a sparsely furnished room with a desk, table and chairs. The man Bennett, seated behind the desk working, looked up in astonishment as the boy was pushed towards him. "So, what have we here?" he drawled. "An uninvited visitor?" "Caught red-handed trespassing inside one of our buildings, Mr Bennett," said Mitchell. "Quite clearly he has ignored the warning signs." "Sit down here, boy," ordered Bennett indicating a chair while Mitchell remained in the doorway. "This is government property and a dangerous area as the signs indicate. There used to be a power station here and there are still endless tunnels in which you can get lost, old equipment which can cause harm and dangerous chemicals. So why were you trespassing?" "I was looking for the person in charge of me and my friends," replied Philip sulkily, deciding it might help Bill if he made it look as though they were simply on a holiday with him, which to a large extent was quite true. "I can tell from your accent that you are English," observed Bennett. "And just who is the person you are staying with?"

"Dr Walker," said Philip. Then he stared angrily at Bennett. "Have you seen him? He's a naturalist." "No, you are the only person we've seen around here," lied Bennett, staring back. "I assume the friends you refer to are also children. Where are they?" "I don't know, probably near the waterfall as that's where we like to be," answered Philip, furious that Bennett had lied about Dr Walker. "Anyway, what's it to do with you?" "If I get any more cheek from you, boy, you will regret it!" yelled Bennett, losing his temper and standing up, a menacing expression that alarmed Philip now spread across his face. "Let that be firmly understood. Now, what is your surname?" "Mannering," replied Philip truthfully, noticing that this was being written down. "Why do you need to know?" "And this Dr Walker is also English?" enquired Bennett, his head slightly tilted, ignoring the question. "He's Canadian," said Philip remembering Bill intended using a Canadian accent. "A family friend. He studies nature wild life, plants, and the like. He said he'd be somewhere around Otter Lake." "It's a big area," said Bennett, waving a hand dismissively. "If he's a responsible adult, he would take heed of the danger notices that have been put up so it would be most unlikely that we would meet. Now, tell me, how did you manage to enter our building?" "The doors weren't locked," replied Philip. "I thought Dr Walker might have wandered inside." "He must have been in there some time as he was asleep when Martha found him," said Mitchell. "Where exactly was that?" asked Bennett looking anxiously at the other man. "In the side corridor," was the reply. "The one with the lockers." "How far did you go into the building before you fell asleep?" demanded Bennett. "I was so tired climbing on the hills that I just lay down and fell asleep," answered Philip. "Now please let me go. You've no right to question me like this." "We've every right," said Bennett, a sinister expression returning to his face. "You were trespassing on government property in a danger area and we need to know why. I'm much too busy right now to ask you any more questions but will do so later on. Take him back over the bridge, Mitchell, and don't stand any nonsense from him." With that, Bennett resumed work while Mitchell stepped forward and, grabbing hold of Philip who was still seated, almost dragged him outside. Now feeling quite scared, Philip tried desperately to think of a way of escaping, but he knew that the man Larry Grant was somewhere around. It would be difficult enough getting away from Mitchell, but it would be almost impossible to escape from two men. He then noticed a short, but rather stout man standing on the bridge, someone he had not seen before. Mitchell yelled at this man. "I'm relieving you now, Larry. I've just got to sort out this intruder." "So you've caught that kid," called back Grant. "Good. I'm going inside." Philip realised that, for the next few minutes, there was nobody keeping watch. If only he could escape from Mitchell's clutches! But the man held him in a grip of iron. Then, to his further dismay, Martha appeared on the other side of the river just as Grant was entering the building. She waited at the far end of the bridge for Mitchell and Philip, a smirk on her face. Reaching the bridge, Mitchell roughly pushed Philip ahead of him. The boy tried to resist but it was useless as the man was extremely strong. "Mr Bennett says the boy's got to stay here for a while to learn a lesson about not trespassing," explained Mitchell as they reached the other side. "That's why I'm waiting for you," said Martha totally ignoring Philip. "I thought Mr Bennett might decide that. Now, where should he go?" "I've got the latest plan for use of rooms right here," said Mitchell, fumbling in the back pocket of his trousers. "Hold the boy a moment, Martha."

While Mitchell began to rummage for the plan in his vast pocket, Martha took Philip by the right wrist. Her grip was also tight but her attention was focused on the paper Mitchell now produced and held up at an awkward angle for her to see, thus keeping it out of Philip's gaze. Seeing the tall Mitchell leaning over slightly and Martha craning her neck as she tried to read, Philip knew this would be his only chance to break away from them. Taking a deep breath, he swung his right wrist back and forth in front of him with all his might causing Martha to both let go and fall to the ground. Mitchell, unable to believe his eyes, turned, mouth wide open, to grab Philip while holding the sheet of paper. Philip pushed him as hard as he could. Caught off balance, the gangling Mitchell took a couple of involuntary steps backwards, lost his footing and, uttering a loud yell, tumbled down the bank into the river. Philip wasted no time. He fled from the scene. Beside herself with fury, Martha managed to stand up, screaming both at Philip and at Mitchell, now attempting to scramble out of the water. Soon the man's bellows of rage mingled with Martha's yells as, finding renewed energy, Philip began to clamber up the hillside, dreading that Bennett might appear from the cabin. It was hard going in places as the ground was very uneven and quite steep. In addition, Philip had to negotiate bushes and shrubs, many actually blocking his way and hampering his progress. He tried to take his bearings without actually stopping, knowing it would be useless if he went too high as he would only have to come down again, giving his pursuers a chance to catch up. A quick glance back showed that, although some way behind, Mitchell was frantically climbing up the hillside. Of Martha, there was no sign. "It looks as though I've got to make for that dip in the ridge if I'm to stand a chance of reaching Pine Lodge," he decided. "Dash, that means I've got to go down a bit but that's clearly where the track is." Annoyed at having climbed too high, he went down the hill a short way, all the time trying to put bushes between himself and the two angry people determined to catch him. Risking another glance, he caught a brief glimpse of Mitchell who was somewhat closer this time but, more alarmingly, he saw Martha who had not bothered to climb the hill. She had remained on the track guessing, correctly, that Philip would make for it sooner or later. As he approached the track Philip became aware of a sharp pain in his right ankle. "Oh no! That's the one I sprained when I fell the other night," he muttered. "Please don't give out on me now." Having reached the track at last, he knew it was downhill all the way to Pine Lodge but he could not take advantage of the fact. His ankle was hurting, preventing him from running, and he could hear yells and shouts growing louder and louder. In a desperate attempt to evade Martha and Mitchell, Philip took his compass from his pocket and darted into the wood. They simply followed him. He was now slowing down while they were catching up. Shaking with fear, Philip knew it was just a matter of seconds now before his two furious enemies caught him.

CHAPTER 24: PLENTY OF EXCITEMENT!


Limping along, Philip heard Martha and Mitchell closing in on him, ready to pounce. He was on the point of giving up any hope of escape when his attention was drawn to another sound, that of something approaching him. Alarmed, he peered between the trees. Who else was in these woods? And why make such a din? Then he nearly jumped out of his skin for a huge brown shape appeared clumsily and noisily around a nearby bush. It was a moose! Stopping in his tracks, he wondered if it was the same one he had met before, almost in the same area. He noticed that Martha and Mitchell had also come to a halt as they looked in awe and alarm at the large animal, tossing its head and snorting loudly. Philip spoke quietly to the moose as it gazed at him over its long nose and rather droopy lip. It sniffed the air, still giving noisy snorts, and began chewing as it felt at ease beside the boy. Then, hearing Mitchell tread on a twig not far away, it stopped chewing to gaze in the man's direction.

Philip was delighted to notice Martha put a hand up to her mouth to stifle a scream in obvious fear as the animal now focused its gaze on her. Realising this must be the moose that had tried to follow him a few days earlier. Philip wondered if it would stay near him as he made his way down to Pine Lodge. However, he knew that even if it did, Martha and Mitchell would never be far away so would still catch him. His position still seemed hopeless. Then Mitchell picked up a stick and made a move! Trying to appear brave, he foolishly began to wave the stick at the animal and to yell at it. If he really believed this would frighten the moose and cause it to run away, he was in for a big shock. The startled animal ceased chewing, snorted angrily, lowered its antlers threateningly, laid back its ears and charged towards the man and woman. Standing to one side, Martha actually let out a scream in terror, while Mitchell's air of bravado immediately deserted him. Eyes and mouth wide open with fear, he fled yelling through the trees, pursued by the moose, leaving Martha behind. Ignoring the boy, she, too, suddenly turned and ran, soon disappearing from sight. Philip was overjoyed to hear the sounds of grunts and snorts accompanied by breaking twigs and yells gradually growing fainter. At first he wondered if he was still asleep in the power station and dreaming, so amazing was the scene he had just witnessed. But it did not take long for him to appreciate he was wide awake and that he had to act quickly as there would no doubt be a search party after him before long assuming Martha and Mitchell returned to the cabin unscathed! While he carried on hobbling, his mind focusing on what to do, he was startled to hear a noise in the trees behind him. He dodged behind a tree fearing Mitchell was returning. The sound was now very close so Philip held his breath, ready to try to run. What should appear but the moose! Relieved, he spoke quietly to it as it followed him down the hill, sniffing and snorting. Although he was making for Pine Lodge, he knew he could not possibly stay there as, being the only other cabin on Otter Lake, that would be the first place the enemy would search. He also acknowledged that there was no way he could walk to the nearest cabins on Little Moose Lake as they were some distance away, and his ankle was quite painful. Hiding in the forest might prevent him from being captured again but would achieve nothing else. Then a plan suddenly entered his head, a plan so daring that it caused him to open his eyes and mouth wide with excitement. Would it really be possible? "I'll fetch my warm jacket from the cabin then take the motor boat out on the lake," he decided. "I'll tie it up behind a bush well away from the track so it won't be seen. Tonight, I'll return across the lake and I'll jolly well join the others in the search for Bill. If only I can do it! First, I've got to reach Pine Lodge." Limping and hobbling, he eventually reached the cabin and, with the moose contentedly chewing not far away, went straight to the boathouse to make sure the door was still open and to place the oars in the motor boat. Now to fetch his jacket. He removed the cabin key from under the stone and went inside. He was surprised to find his jacket missing then remembered he had taken it with him that morning in the sailing boat. Instead, he grabbed a rug and filled a bag with biscuits and chocolate. Finally he locked the cabin and, replacing the key, hurried to the boathouse where he untied the motor boat. The moose was walking slowly up the drive. He was just about to start up the engine when it dawned on him that it would be heard by anybody on the track and would completely give away his whereabouts. Taking the oars, he rowed strongly away to the left, keeping as close to the shore as possible. Fortunately he was facing the cabin as he rowed so would spot any activity there. While rowing, he became aware of a sound above that of the oars dipping rhythmically in and out of the water. It was that of an engine revving up. Feeling puzzled as he had not seen a vehicle near the power station, he rowed over to the shelter of some pines and tied up the boat. Then he climbed out and found a position offering a clear view of Pine Lodge and its boathouse. Through the trees on the hill, he caught a fleeting glimpse of a Jeep which was being driven down the track towards Pine Lodge. For a brief moment, he thought it was Bill then realised this would be impossible. However, a more plausible thought occurred to him. "Of course! Bill's Jeep!" he exclaimed. "Those people would have removed the key from Bill but left the vehicle where it was in case anybody came to ask awkward questions. I bet one of them is in the Jeep searching for me. I wonder I didn't see it when I came over the hill."

Keeping his eyes on the cabin, it was not long before he saw two men on the veranda. One was Dawson. He didn't recognise the other one. They peered through all the windows before going over to the boathouse and looking inside. Philip hoped they would think that only one boat was kept there, the one they had seen the children in on the lake. The sailing boat. The men disappeared and a few minutes later, Philip saw the Jeep climbing the hill towards Little Moose Lake. This was his chance. Leaping back into the boat, he started up the engine and drove down the lake, hoping to reach the far end before the Jeep returned. Arriving at the waterway linking the two sections of the lake, he turned off the engine and resumed rowing. Making for the little inlet he and the others had spotted on Otter Island, he kept to the far side of the waterway as this lessened the chance of being spotted by the person keeping watch. He couldn't help smiling when he realised it was Mitchell's turn. He wondered if the man had recovered from falling into the river and being chased by a moose. Once level with the island, Philip rowed towards the little inlet which he remembered being just behind the overhanging trees. Soon finding the channel, he deftly rowed into it. It was only a few feet in length and just wide enough to accommodate the boat which he tied to a bush. He now relaxed sitting on the bank not far from the playful otters. Although he was enjoying the antics of the little creatures, his thoughts were about Bill and the other three. What were they doing? Having looked on horrified as Mitchell led Philip to Bennett's cabin, Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah were at a loss to know what to do. They waited until Philip was hauled back to the old buildings before returning to the cave, thus not seeing him escape from Mitchell's clutches. Dinah immediately spotted the note on the basket. "Look!" she exclaimed in surprise, picking it up. Then her eyes lit up. "Philip has left a note to say he has discovered where Bill is being held prisoner. Perhaps he'll be in the same room." "When could Philip have come here?" asked Jack looking puzzled. "Of course! While we were looking for my field glasses. Where exactly is Bill being kept?" He looked at the note. "Room two. It's up to us to do something now. What a pity we missed Philip." "What a pity, what a pity," repeated Kiki, swaying on a nearby rock. "Poor Polly." "Poor Philip, you mean," said Lucy-Ann without smiling. "So what do you suggest we do, Jack? I suppose we'll have to wait while Philip is shut up somewhere. He's probably being questioned. I do hope he'll be with Bill. They'll be company for each other." "Not for long, if we have anything to do with it," retorted Jack. "Let's think of a plan now that we have a definite idea where Bill is even if we aren't certain as to Philip's whereabouts." "The starting place is the other end of the passage through the rocks," said Dinah. "Then down the short corridor with all those ugly green cupboards." "A nasty problem has just occurred to me," said Lucy-Ann looking glum. "We know that Bill is being held in this room two, but surely it will be well and truly locked?" There was a moment's silence as Dinah and Jack looked at each other aghast. Of course! Bill would hardly be allowed to come and go as he pleased. "It's strange Philip didn't think of that," said Jack. "Now listen. Firstly, one of us must locate room two and see if it's locked. Then report back to the others. If there's a key in the keyhole, we attempt a rescue, one opening the door, the others somehow, somewhere, keeping watch." "Let's go down the passage now," said Lucy-Ann, eager to do something positive. "Once in the cupboard room or whatever it is, we can listen for any people who might be around." "Yes, we'll do that," agreed Jack. "O.K. with you, Dinah?" "Fine with me," was the reply. "Anything rather than sit here waiting and wondering." So, much to Kiki's annoyance, the three stumbled along the passage, glad that they had thought to bring spare batteries for their torches. Once at the end, they eased themselves around the metal cupboard and into the short corridor leading to the reasonably well lit one. Here they stopped and listened. "I'm the one who's going to look for room two," declared Dinah, a determined look on her face. "Philip's my brother, after all." Jack was about to argue but knew it would be in vain. "Come back instantly if you hear anybody coming," he said. "Don't risk being caught. We'll hear you and return to the passage."

"Do be careful," said Lucy-Ann. "I'll come with you if you like." "No, it's vital just one of us does this," said Jack at once. "Kiki, stay on my shoulder." Without saying any more, Dinah crept along the lighted corridor. Reaching the stairway, she peered down, listening for any noise below but, apart from the hum of the generator, all was quiet. She then cautiously peeped round the bend in the corridor. Like Philip, she was surprised to find it much wider here but what really attracted her attention was the first door on the right, the door her brother had referred to. "Well, here goes," she thought, and quickly tiptoed to the room, immediately spotting the bolts drawn across. "Thank goodness there's no key involved. The drawn bolts confirm that somebody's in there. Right, back to the others." Then, coming from somewhere at the far end of the corridor, she heard footsteps and voices! There was no time to dart back to the passage as she would be instantly noticed. Besides, this would give away the escape route through the passage in the hillside. Terrified, she shrank back against the wall beside a cupboard. The voices came from two people, a man and a woman. She found herself trembling as they could not possibly pass her without noticing her. Hardly daring to breathe, she remained as still as possible while the voices grew louder and the footsteps closer. Then the two people stopped just a few feet away from her. "Right, Martha, this is where I prepare the room in case Kurt Patterson wants to interview the hostages tonight," said the man. "He'll certainly need to see Walker. There's something mighty suspicious about that man. Him and his wildlife!" "Well I've been instructed to find torches and fresh batteries, Larry," said Martha. "I believe they're kept in this cupboard. Then I must think about preparing food again." To Dinah's dismay, the woman noisily swung open the door of the very cupboard against which she was huddled, and rummaged inside. The cupboard shook a little as items were moved then the door was slammed shut. Dinah swallowed, certain she was about to be discovered. But the woman returned down the corridor, her clattering footsteps becoming more and more faint until they could no longer be heard. Dinah waited a moment to see if the man followed the woman but she could hear him moving chairs. Just as she was about to flee back to the passage, she heard a sound which was music to her ears. It was a little cough from room two, a cough she had heard many times. Bill's cough. Longing to slide back the bolts, she refrained from doing so as she would be heard by the man in the room opposite. Back to the passage she ran, glad she was wearing rubber-soled shoes. With great relief she rejoined the others and told them about room two, the bolts across the door, and Bill's cough. "So you see, he really is in there and we can rescue him as the door is bolted, not locked with a key!" she said excitedly. Then she looked serious. "But I didn't hear Philip. I'm sure I'd have heard him and Bill talking if they were in the same room." "Well done, Dinah," said Jack. "Now we must decide when to attempt a rescue. Whatever happens, it mustn't go wrong because we'll only have the one chance!"

CHAPTER 25: BILL AT LAST!


The three returned to their cave to decide the best time to attempt a rescue. Naturally they were tempted to act straight away but, as Dinah pointed out, if they did so, Bill's escape would be noticed when food was taken to him and a full-scale search made. "Once he's been given his meal, there's a good chance he'll be left alone until he's taken to the man Patterson, whoever he is, some time tonight," she pointed out. "I think the ideal time to rescue him is just after the meal. Then we can sail back to Pine Lodge as soon as it's dark and get help to find Philip." "By Bill using his radio, you mean?" enquired Jack as Dinah nodded. "There's also the car, don't forget," added Lucy-Ann. "Bill can drive us to the police headquarters in Elkville. We won't be safe in Pine Lodge once the search is on."

It was reluctantly agreed they would wait until the evening before attempting a rescue. They would have something to eat before proceeding through the passage to the corridor with all the cupboards. There, they would take it in turns to listen for any indication of a meal being provided, such as the sound of the bolts being drawn back. "Remember, it would almost certainly require two people to take food to Bill," pointed out Jack. "I suspect one holds a gun while the other enters with the meal. Bill would soon deal with just one person." "Supposing he's tied up, how would we release him?" asked Lucy-Ann. "It's a chance we've got to take," replied Dinah. "He's not likely to be tied up while eating but have you got your pocket knife, Jack? At least that would cut through any rope being used." "It's in my belt, as usual," answered Jack. "Well, it seems we've just got to be patient and wait if we're to stand any chance of escaping from here with Bill and getting help for Philip." How the afternoon dragged. Jack tried to do some bird watching but, for once, couldn't keep his mind on it. Dinah and Lucy-Ann attempted to have a snooze in the late afternoon sun but found they weren't tired. There was little activity down below to occupy their attention although they were surprised to see Dawson and Whitman walking over the hill and down the track, having searched in vain for Philip in the Jeep. "I bet they've been snooping around Pine Lodge," declared Jack. "I just hope they didn't break in and find Bill's radio. They'd have smashed it for sure." This was not a pleasant thought. In fact, so many thoughts coming to mind made them feel there was no way out of this adventure. There were so many obstacles. In the end, Lucy-Ann went to the cave to prepare some food. "I must do something, even if it's just putting sandwiches out, whether we eat them or not," she said with a sigh copied and exaggerated by Kiki. The meal actually cheered them up a bit as they knew it would not now be long before they had the chance of rescuing Bill. As the sun began to dip in the sky, preparing to rest behind the hills, they decided it was time to start keeping watch on room two, so back through the passage they traipsed. Once at the end, Jack went with Dinah to see the actual position of the room while Lucy-Ann firmly held Kiki. Although there were distant voices in the adjoining corridor at the end, nobody interrupted them. "You go back to Lucy-Ann while I stay here and listen," whispered Jack as they retreated to the row of cupboards. Dinah melted into the darkness while Jack strained his ears for any indication that somebody was coming. He did not have to wait long. One set of footsteps echoed down the corridor then, paused as a door was opened, although no bolts had been drawn back. Then, alarmingly, to Jack's left, a door was slammed and locked. He shrank back into the shadows as a man hurried along, shouting something to whoever was in one of the rooms as he passed. There was now a lengthy period of inactivity followed by quite a lot of movement. Another person entered the building from outside and strode along the corridor. But what really made Jack stand upright, his ears pinned back, was the sound of bolts being drawn back. Somebody snapped instructions, there was a pause of several seconds, then a door was slammed shut followed by the sound of bolts being drawn across it. Jack was convinced somebody had taken a meal to Bill. He refrained from immediately running down the corridor and opening the door of room two. He remained where he was while he could hear voices and movement, however distant. Suddenly all became reasonably quiet. "Hopefully they're all eating," he thought. "In any case, this is my chance. It's now or never." His heart seeming to thump loudly, his whole body shaking with excitement and apprehension, Jack tip-toed along the corridor, around the bend, and to room two. With fingers trembling and, indeed, fumbling, he slid back the lower bolt, pulling a face as it creaked a bit. Then he drew back the upper one and slowly opened the door. At first, he jumped in surprise and his heart sank on seeing the figure eating at the table. It wasn't Bill but a bearded man with dark hair, wearing thick glasses. Then he remembered that Bill was dressed as Dr Walker. Bill jumped in even greater surprise on seeing Jack.

"What on earth are you doing here?" he asked, leaping up from the table. "Quick, Bill, we've a chance to escape," whispered Jack urgently, and was on the point of leaving the room when, to his horror, he heard somebody coming along the corridor. He stood rooted to the spot in dismay but Bill acted quickly and closed the door telling Jack to move into the corner. "If anyone comes in, you'll be hidden by the open door," he whispered returning to his seat and continuing to casually eat. "Just keep perfectly still." The footsteps drew closer and closer until they were outside the door. Jack dreaded that all the effort to find Bill had been in vain. Even if he were not discovered, he would be as much a prisoner as Bill if the bolts were slid into position. He listened, the seconds seeming like hours. Then, what a relief! The footsteps gradually faded away until a distant slam of a door was heard. "Whew, that's the outer door," said Jack, breathing normally again. "Let's see if the coast is clear." "Just a minute," cautioned Bill, holding Jack's shoulder "Are you seriously suggesting we go outside in full view of anybody watching?" "No Bill," replied Jack with a grin. "We know a secret way out of here. Trust me." Bill had a look of disbelief as the boy opened the door. Peeping along the corridor, he saw nobody and fled back along the corridor while Bill deftly drew the bolts across the door to give the impression he was still inside before hastily following Jack. Through the gloomy locker room they went, Jack switching on his torch, and were greeted by a voice calling out from a dark corner. "Whoisit? Pay the bill. Silly billy." "Has Kiki spotted you, Jack?" called an anxious Lucy-Ann. "Have you got Bill?" A bewildered Bill listened to her voice wondering where it was coming from. He was even more astounded to see Jack apparently disappearing into the rocky wall behind a cupboard! Shaking his head in wonder, he had to shift the cupboard a bit more to squeeze round it and was greeted by Lucy-Ann and Dinah with hugs and squeals of delight. Kiki flew around squawking, longing to tug at Bill's beard. Jack pulled the cupboard back as best he could knowing it was vital it was in line when a search was made for Bill, as it obviously would be any time. "My word, this is a wonderful surprise!" exclaimed Bill, wondering if he was dreaming. "But where are we?" "It seems to be a passage through a series of clefts in the rocks," explained Jack. "We found it by chance while we were looking for somewhere to hide from those men. It starts quite high up on the hillside. Come on, let's get moving. I'll lead the way." "Before we go anywhere, Bill, have you seen Philip?" enquired Dinah. "He was caught trying to find you." "Good heavens, no!" replied Bill. "Do you mean he's somewhere in these buildings? Before we make any move, tell me what you know." Briefly they explained that Philip had set off in search of Bill that morning and how they had seen him later being led to and from the cabin. "This is terrible news," said Bill, aghast. "It's absolutely essential we get help as I don't think I can do anything alone, much as I would like to. For a start, these people possess guns. Right, lead the way." Little was said as they made their way up the passage through the rocks as Philip was now uppermost in their minds. At last they reached the cave, the open air making them feel a little better. Bill very cautiously peered over the rocks at the scene below. "Which boat did you use and where is it?" he asked, turning round. "The sailing boat," replied Dinah joining him. "See that tall, pointed rock way down there? The boat's tied to a bush on the other side." "As soon as it's dark, we'll sail away from here and, hopefully, reach Pine Lodge before they discover I'm missing," said Bill. "Now, do you know if they possess a boat?" "We wondered that but we've never seen one," replied Jack. "There could well be one in the boathouse."

"There's bound to be one in there," said Bill. "In the unlikely event of them seeing us, we should have a good start as they'd have to open the boathouse doors to get a boat out. Do you know a straightforward way down to your boat? It'll be dark, don't forget, and we daren't use torches." "We've got to avoid that awful scree," warned Lucy-Ann. "It's so easy to slip on it and it makes a very loud sound as the stones go down the hillside." "In that case I'll creep along behind this line of rocks and see if I can spot a safe way down at the end," said Bill, bending low and setting off. In less than a minute he returned. "Yes, we can reasonably safely descend just along there as long as we tread carefully. Now it's just a matter of waiting." They sat outside the cave, exchanging news. Bill told them how he had been caught as he had been so occupied studying the lake and land below that he hadn't watched his back, thus made an easy target for Crooked Charlie. "That must have been Crooked Charlie we saw from the boat creeping down the hill," said Dinah. "We assumed it was you. We thought it was strange you were still near the top of the hill. How could he possibly have known you were there?" "His sharp eyes had apparently spotted tyre marks leaving the track where I turned off," replied Bill. "Incidentally, I heard the man Dawson you saw him the other night, Jack tell someone that he and a man called Whitman took my Jeep out this afternoon and, on the way back up the hill, it ran out of fuel. He must have driven some way as there was sufficient fuel to drive to the other end of Great Moose Lake. I wonder where he went." "Well, wherever they went, I hope they had a long walk back," said Jack. "Look, the sun's going down now. It'll soon be dark." As the sun turned a brilliant orange before sinking out of sight behind the hills, Bill decided it was time to go down to the lake and sail back to Pine Lodge. "Gather up your jumpers and jackets," he said. "I'll take the food basket. Now, no talking. My escape can't have been discovered yet or there would be plenty of activity down below. But just remember, they could find out any minute and start searching, in which case it's back to this cave. All clear?" Everyone nodded as they picked up their belongings and followed Bill. It was tricky going down the rocky hillside as there was not yet much light from the moon. They stopped each time one of them caused stones to tumble down the hill in case they had been heard. It was with considerable relief they reached the shore and made their way along, trying to keep rocks and shrubs between them and the water. Eventually they reached the tall, pointed rock. "Freedom at last," said Jack as they went round. "The boat's right here behind the rock." But it wasn't. One short piece of rope was still around a bush but it had been cut. The boat had gone!

CHAPTER 25: BILL AT LAST!


The three returned to their cave to decide the best time to attempt a rescue. Naturally they were tempted to act straight away but, as Dinah pointed out, if they did so, Bill's escape would be noticed when food was taken to him and a full-scale search made. "Once he's been given his meal, there's a good chance he'll be left alone until he's taken to the man Patterson, whoever he is, some time tonight," she pointed out. "I think the ideal time to rescue him is just after the meal. Then we can sail back to Pine Lodge as soon as it's dark and get help to find Philip." "By Bill using his radio, you mean?" enquired Jack as Dinah nodded. "There's also the car, don't forget," added Lucy-Ann. "Bill can drive us to the police headquarters in Elkville. We won't be safe in Pine Lodge once the search is on." It was reluctantly agreed they would wait until the evening before attempting a rescue. They would have something to eat before proceeding through the passage to the corridor with all the

cupboards. There, they would take it in turns to listen for any indication of a meal being provided, such as the sound of the bolts being drawn back. "Remember, it would almost certainly require two people to take food to Bill," pointed out Jack. "I suspect one holds a gun while the other enters with the meal. Bill would soon deal with just one person." "Supposing he's tied up, how would we release him?" asked Lucy-Ann. "It's a chance we've got to take," replied Dinah. "He's not likely to be tied up while eating but have you got your pocket knife, Jack? At least that would cut through any rope being used." "It's in my belt, as usual," answered Jack. "Well, it seems we've just got to be patient and wait if we're to stand any chance of escaping from here with Bill and getting help for Philip." How the afternoon dragged. Jack tried to do some bird watching but, for once, couldn't keep his mind on it. Dinah and Lucy-Ann attempted to have a snooze in the late afternoon sun but found they weren't tired. There was little activity down below to occupy their attention although they were surprised to see Dawson and Whitman walking over the hill and down the track, having searched in vain for Philip in the Jeep. "I bet they've been snooping around Pine Lodge," declared Jack. "I just hope they didn't break in and find Bill's radio. They'd have smashed it for sure." This was not a pleasant thought. In fact, so many thoughts coming to mind made them feel there was no way out of this adventure. There were so many obstacles. In the end, Lucy-Ann went to the cave to prepare some food. "I must do something, even if it's just putting sandwiches out, whether we eat them or not," she said with a sigh copied and exaggerated by Kiki. The meal actually cheered them up a bit as they knew it would not now be long before they had the chance of rescuing Bill. As the sun began to dip in the sky, preparing to rest behind the hills, they decided it was time to start keeping watch on room two, so back through the passage they traipsed. Once at the end, Jack went with Dinah to see the actual position of the room while Lucy-Ann firmly held Kiki. Although there were distant voices in the adjoining corridor at the end, nobody interrupted them. "You go back to Lucy-Ann while I stay here and listen," whispered Jack as they retreated to the row of cupboards. Dinah melted into the darkness while Jack strained his ears for any indication that somebody was coming. He did not have to wait long. One set of footsteps echoed down the corridor then, paused as a door was opened, although no bolts had been drawn back. Then, alarmingly, to Jack's left, a door was slammed and locked. He shrank back into the shadows as a man hurried along, shouting something to whoever was in one of the rooms as he passed. There was now a lengthy period of inactivity followed by quite a lot of movement. Another person entered the building from outside and strode along the corridor. But what really made Jack stand upright, his ears pinned back, was the sound of bolts being drawn back. Somebody snapped instructions, there was a pause of several seconds, then a door was slammed shut followed by the sound of bolts being drawn across it. Jack was convinced somebody had taken a meal to Bill. He refrained from immediately running down the corridor and opening the door of room two. He remained where he was while he could hear voices and movement, however distant. Suddenly all became reasonably quiet. "Hopefully they're all eating," he thought. "In any case, this is my chance. It's now or never." His heart seeming to thump loudly, his whole body shaking with excitement and apprehension, Jack tip-toed along the corridor, around the bend, and to room two. With fingers trembling and, indeed, fumbling, he slid back the lower bolt, pulling a face as it creaked a bit. Then he drew back the upper one and slowly opened the door. At first, he jumped in surprise and his heart sank on seeing the figure eating at the table. It wasn't Bill but a bearded man with dark hair, wearing thick glasses. Then he remembered that Bill was dressed as Dr Walker. Bill jumped in even greater surprise on seeing Jack. "What on earth are you doing here?" he asked, leaping up from the table.

"Quick, Bill, we've a chance to escape," whispered Jack urgently, and was on the point of leaving the room when, to his horror, he heard somebody coming along the corridor. He stood rooted to the spot in dismay but Bill acted quickly and closed the door telling Jack to move into the corner. "If anyone comes in, you'll be hidden by the open door," he whispered returning to his seat and continuing to casually eat. "Just keep perfectly still." The footsteps drew closer and closer until they were outside the door. Jack dreaded that all the effort to find Bill had been in vain. Even if he were not discovered, he would be as much a prisoner as Bill if the bolts were slid into position. He listened, the seconds seeming like hours. Then, what a relief! The footsteps gradually faded away until a distant slam of a door was heard. "Whew, that's the outer door," said Jack, breathing normally again. "Let's see if the coast is clear." "Just a minute," cautioned Bill, holding Jack's shoulder "Are you seriously suggesting we go outside in full view of anybody watching?" "No Bill," replied Jack with a grin. "We know a secret way out of here. Trust me." Bill had a look of disbelief as the boy opened the door. Peeping along the corridor, he saw nobody and fled back along the corridor while Bill deftly drew the bolts across the door to give the impression he was still inside before hastily following Jack. Through the gloomy locker room they went, Jack switching on his torch, and were greeted by a voice calling out from a dark corner. "Whoisit? Pay the bill. Silly billy." "Has Kiki spotted you, Jack?" called an anxious Lucy-Ann. "Have you got Bill?" A bewildered Bill listened to her voice wondering where it was coming from. He was even more astounded to see Jack apparently disappearing into the rocky wall behind a cupboard! Shaking his head in wonder, he had to shift the cupboard a bit more to squeeze round it and was greeted by Lucy-Ann and Dinah with hugs and squeals of delight. Kiki flew around squawking, longing to tug at Bill's beard. Jack pulled the cupboard back as best he could knowing it was vital it was in line when a search was made for Bill, as it obviously would be any time. "My word, this is a wonderful surprise!" exclaimed Bill, wondering if he was dreaming. "But where are we?" "It seems to be a passage through a series of clefts in the rocks," explained Jack. "We found it by chance while we were looking for somewhere to hide from those men. It starts quite high up on the hillside. Come on, let's get moving. I'll lead the way." "Before we go anywhere, Bill, have you seen Philip?" enquired Dinah. "He was caught trying to find you." "Good heavens, no!" replied Bill. "Do you mean he's somewhere in these buildings? Before we make any move, tell me what you know." Briefly they explained that Philip had set off in search of Bill that morning and how they had seen him later being led to and from the cabin. "This is terrible news," said Bill, aghast. "It's absolutely essential we get help as I don't think I can do anything alone, much as I would like to. For a start, these people possess guns. Right, lead the way." Little was said as they made their way up the passage through the rocks as Philip was now uppermost in their minds. At last they reached the cave, the open air making them feel a little better. Bill very cautiously peered over the rocks at the scene below. "Which boat did you use and where is it?" he asked, turning round. "The sailing boat," replied Dinah joining him. "See that tall, pointed rock way down there? The boat's tied to a bush on the other side." "As soon as it's dark, we'll sail away from here and, hopefully, reach Pine Lodge before they discover I'm missing," said Bill. "Now, do you know if they possess a boat?" "We wondered that but we've never seen one," replied Jack. "There could well be one in the boathouse."

"There's bound to be one in there," said Bill. "In the unlikely event of them seeing us, we should have a good start as they'd have to open the boathouse doors to get a boat out. Do you know a straightforward way down to your boat? It'll be dark, don't forget, and we daren't use torches." "We've got to avoid that awful scree," warned Lucy-Ann. "It's so easy to slip on it and it makes a very loud sound as the stones go down the hillside." "In that case I'll creep along behind this line of rocks and see if I can spot a safe way down at the end," said Bill, bending low and setting off. In less than a minute he returned. "Yes, we can reasonably safely descend just along there as long as we tread carefully. Now it's just a matter of waiting." They sat outside the cave, exchanging news. Bill told them how he had been caught as he had been so occupied studying the lake and land below that he hadn't watched his back, thus made an easy target for Crooked Charlie. "That must have been Crooked Charlie we saw from the boat creeping down the hill," said Dinah. "We assumed it was you. We thought it was strange you were still near the top of the hill. How could he possibly have known you were there?" "His sharp eyes had apparently spotted tyre marks leaving the track where I turned off," replied Bill. "Incidentally, I heard the man Dawson you saw him the other night, Jack tell someone that he and a man called Whitman took my Jeep out this afternoon and, on the way back up the hill, it ran out of fuel. He must have driven some way as there was sufficient fuel to drive to the other end of Great Moose Lake. I wonder where he went." "Well, wherever they went, I hope they had a long walk back," said Jack. "Look, the sun's going down now. It'll soon be dark." As the sun turned a brilliant orange before sinking out of sight behind the hills, Bill decided it was time to go down to the lake and sail back to Pine Lodge. "Gather up your jumpers and jackets," he said. "I'll take the food basket. Now, no talking. My escape can't have been discovered yet or there would be plenty of activity down below. But just remember, they could find out any minute and start searching, in which case it's back to this cave. All clear?" Everyone nodded as they picked up their belongings and followed Bill. It was tricky going down the rocky hillside as there was not yet much light from the moon. They stopped each time one of them caused stones to tumble down the hill in case they had been heard. It was with considerable relief they reached the shore and made their way along, trying to keep rocks and shrubs between them and the water. Eventually they reached the tall, pointed rock. "Freedom at last," said Jack as they went round. "The boat's right here behind the rock." But it wasn't. One short piece of rope was still around a bush but it had been cut. The boat had gone!

CHAPTER 26: BILL TAKES CHARGE


Bill stared at the cut rope in dismay while the girls were close to tears. Even Jack felt he could cry his eyes out after all the effort they had put into rescuing Bill. Instead, he threw his jacket on the ground, longing to stamp on it. "We must return to that cave immediately," said Bill urgently. "They may think it's just Philip's boat but there's a good chance they know you were with him and that you would come to this spot sooner or later. This is a real blow." The four clambered up the hill with heavy hearts. To have come so far and still been defeated by the enemy! They sat at the entrance to the cave making suggestions, all of them quite impractical. "I suppose we couldn't swim, could we?" was one of Dinah's suggestions. "No, firstly because the water's much too cold bearing in mind how far we'd have to swim," replied Bill. "Secondly there are rather nasty currents in this lake and, thirdly, we could well lose our way and come to grief in the dark."

"There must be something we can do," said Lucy-Ann in despair. "We can't just remain here." "We must face the fact that we could not be in a worse place," said Bill, sounding grim. "We can't walk around the lake. In one direction we'd be confronted by the powerful waterfall, not to mention the rapids further round while, in the other, we'd have to cross the river by the power station bridge, the last place we want to be. Behind us is the sheer face of the mountain." "It's all so unfair and hopeless," muttered Jack. "I've a good mind to go back through that passage and try to find Philip." "You'll do no such thing, Jack!" declared Bill at once. "Believe me, I want to find Philip as much as any of you but, entering that building where there are armed men, and, I might add, an armed woman, would only make matters worse. We don't even know exactly where he's being held and it's quite an extensive building. Let me think for a while." He thought and thought then made his way behind the line of rocks until he had a shadowy view of the lake and the cabin The moon was now much higher in the sky, bathing the lake and the hills in its soft light. And near the boathouse, it lit up two men! Bill stopped and watched intently. They seemed to be pushing some sort of machinery but he could not tell exactly what. "There's something odd happening down there," he called to the children who joined him to have a look. "I can't make out what that thing is they're pushing." "I know what it is!" exclaimed Jack noticing a reflection in a lens. "It's the searchlight. Remember we told you about it the other night. That must mean the plane is coming." "I forgot to tell you in all the excitement I heard them mention that a man called Patterson will want to see Dr Walker tonight," said Dinah to Bill. "He must be coming in the plane." "Patterson?" repeated Bill in surprise. "Are you sure it was Patterson?" "Quite sure," said Dinah confidently. "But I can't remember the first name. It wasn't very English sounding. Do you know someone called Patterson?" "I certainly would like to meet a Kurt Patterson," replied Bill quietly. "Yes, that's the name Kurt," interrupted Dinah. This brought a smile to Bill's face. "He's the main person we're after but he's very elusive is Mr Patterson," said Bill. "So, he's coming here, is he? Tell me, Jack. Where did the plane come to a halt when you saw it the other night and how did the passengers get to dry land?" "The plane circled the lake a couple of times before making its final descent over the island and stopping opposite the boathouse," answered Jack. "Then they used an inflatable dinghy. Why do you ask, Bill?" "A vague idea is coming into my mind," answered Bill coyly. "Do you know if they left anybody guarding the plane?" "As far as I know, the pilot disappeared with everybody else," replied Jack. "I'm sure there was nobody left on the plane." Then his eyes lit up as he looked eagerly at Bill. "I do believe you're thinking of taking off in that plane." "Unfortunately, no, much as I'd like to," said Bill. "We're surrounded by hills, some of them very high, so it would be extremely dangerous for a novice to even attempt to take off in the dark, and I am a novice when it comes to floatplanes. I have other thoughts but they'll have to wait until I see the plane for myself." "We've a long wait if it comes in the early hours of the morning like last time," said Jack. "Then we must be patient," said Bill calmly. "Say, how about a snack? I could do with a piece of cake." "Pieces of eight," said Kiki. mishearing. "Pieces of eight. Wipe your feet. Blow your nose." "If only we could fly like you, Kiki," sighed Lucy-Ann going to fetch the basket. "Then we could soar up into the sky and return to Pine Lodge." They all enjoyed a bite to eat as they waited and waited and waited. It was beginning to feel chilly so the children were glad of their pullovers. Gradually, one by one, they fell asleep, using their jackets for pillows and wrapping themselves up in their rugs. Kiki still flew about for a while talking to herself before settling down while, very much awake, Bill kept watching and listening and thinking. The situation was difficult and dangerous like so many he had experienced. There had to be a way out.

Several hours passed with Bill deep in thought. Then, he jumped and leapt to his feet, again wide awake. Straight up into the night sky shone a bright light. Peering down at the area around the boathouse where the beam was coming from, he noticed some activity but could not pick out the cabin due to the brightness of the light. "I do believe they're opening the boathouse door," he said to himself. "That can only mean one thing. They intend getting a boat out." He put Jack's field glasses to his eyes, his own having been taken when he was captured, but everything was blurred in the darkness. Then he heard the distant throbbing sound of an aircraft approaching. Straining his eyes, he tried to make out its lights but was unable to do so. He soon realised that the plane was not coming from the Moose Lakes but from over the high mountain behind him. He reluctantly decided to wake the children in case he had to act quickly and leave them for a while. He didn't want them to wake up and find he had gone. Despite yawning, blinking and rubbing their eyes, they quickly became excited hearing the plane coming. "That's the light I saw the other night," said Lucy-Ann to Dinah. "And you thought I was imagining it." "Well, it had been switched off by the time I looked," retorted Dinah. "Like it has been now. See?" At that very moment, the searchlight was switched off to be replaced by another light, this one illuminating part of the lake. At the same time, the noise of the engine became alarmingly loud as the outline of the plane appeared in the sky over Otter Lake. It circled the lake twice, all the time gradually descending. Then, at the far end, it lined up with the cabin area, made a final descent and landed on the water with a loud splash, coming to a halt near the boathouse as the beam of light was extinguished. Almost immediately the plane's engine was turned off but the sound of a much smaller one echoed up the hillside. A motor boat was being driven from the boathouse the short distance to the plane. As the little group watched from their position on the hill, three men and, what seemed to be two children on account of their size, climbed down into the boat and were taken to the landing stage. Lights from torches could now be faintly seen as the group moved towards the power station, leaving the mobile light where it was. Then they all disappeared from sight. "Goodness me, they seem to have kidnapped a couple of children this time!" exclaimed Bill in disbelief. "Now listen, kids. I'm going down to the lake. You are to remain here. I have a vague plan in mind but there's no time to discuss anything. In any case, it depends on what I see down there. I promise I won't be a moment longer than necessary." Saying that, he disappeared into the darkness as he wended his way down to the shore of the lake, leaving behind three puzzled children. His intention was to somehow prevent the plane from taking off again. He crept along the shore to a position where it jutted out and was considering plunging into the water and swimming out to the plane when he spotted a boat the sailing boat tied to an iron post. "What a stroke of luck!" he said, but his delight was short lived as neither the oars nor the sail could be seen. He thought for a moment then recalled the last time he was in the sailing boat. "One of the seats was loose if I remember correctly. Now, I wonder . . ." He looked all around. All was quiet. There was no movement apart from little waves gently hitting the shore. Untying the rope, Bill climbed into the boat and took hold of the loose seat. It was, in fact, only very slightly loose so he tugged and tugged, pausing while it creaked ominously. He tried again and again it creaked in protest. One more determined and hefty tug and it came apart from the main structure. Using the seat as a paddle, Bill struck out as best he could towards the plane. It was extremely difficult as the seat was a bulky and awkward object, but it did serve a purpose. Keeping an eye on the buildings now coming into view, Bill marvelled at the way the people from the plane had so quickly disappeared from sight. There was no sign of anybody keeping watch, nor was there any light inside the plane itself. After what seemed ages, the boat bumped against one of the floats. Making sure the cabin door was on that side, Bill tied the boat securely to the float before climbing up onto the fuselage. Relieved to find the door was not locked, he switched on his torch, shading the beam with a hand,

and entered the cabin, going straight to the cockpit. The dials were illuminated and he was delighted to see a key in the instrument panel. "Very careless of you, Charlie," he said with a grim smile as he removed the key. "Mr Patterson is not going to be amused." The little lights in the various dials went out. Bill was now searching for the fuse box when he spotted a beam of light from a torch swaying from side to side near the boathouse. At once he crept to the door and watched. The light disappeared and reappeared as the man holding the torch moved behind bushes. Whoever it was, went into the cabin. Bill resumed looking for the fuse box, eventually finding it under the instrument panel. It was low enough for him to use his torch without the beam being noticed, thus he knew which fuses to remove. This done, he considered paddling over to the shore to lie in wait for the person when he returned, but deemed it inadvisable. He might not reach the shore in time and therefore be noticed, while capturing the man and tying him up would only invite a search party. He did, however, decide he would commandeer the motor boat and drive the children to Pine Lodge. Even if he couldn't start up the engine, it would hopefully have oars that could be used to row the four across the lake to a safer position. As he couldn't yet make for the shore, he flashed his torch quickly around the cabin, spotting a small briefcase. This he removed then noticed some sort of winding mechanism leading outside the plane. "That'll be the anchor preventing the plane floating away," he thought correctly. Keeping an eye on the door of the log cabin, he wound up the anchor and, feeling the plane move slightly, knew it was time for him to make an exit. He suddenly remembered the boys saying that an inflatable dinghy had been lowered when they had seen the plane on their night adventure. The dinghy was easy to find as it was strapped to the fuselage close to the door. Bill removed it and, checking the coast was clear, threw it in to the boat. He then clambered down into the boat just as the man left the cabin and strode back to the power station, fortunately without giving the plane a glance as Bill was already paddling away from it towards the boathouse. He was halfway between the plane and the boathouse when angry shouts and a general commotion could be heard from the direction of the old building. "That's done it! My escape has been discovered!" he exclaimed angrily, swiftly paddling in the other direction. "That means sooner or later they'll use that searchlight." As soon as he reached the shore, he left the boat and hurried along, leaving as much ground as possible between him and the power station. He had just reached a point where he felt he ought to scramble up the hill when he stopped in his tracks. A boat was being rowed towards the bank a short distance ahead! Bill bobbed down behind a rock. He intended commandeering that boat!

CHAPTER 27: THE CHASE ACROSS THE LAKE OF ADVENTURE


Back on Otter Island, Philip's mind kept turning to Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah, wondering what they were thinking when he didn't return. He felt confident they would do their utmost to rescue Bill, especially now they had the number of the room where he was being held. Feeling more relaxed, he spent ages watching the otters at play close by. They took absolutely no notice of him, even when he started eating some of the food he had brought with him. How he wished he had a camera as he could have taken some wonderful pictures. The day's activity was having an effect on him. He felt tired, so tired in fact that he folded up the rug to form a pillow and lay down, facing the otters, knowing he could do nothing while it was still light. Gradually the otters became a blur as, once again, Philip dropped off to sleep. This time, he fell into a deep sleep, not even becoming aware of darkness descending on the island or of the otters retreating to their holts for the night. A couple of beavers paddled by in search of broken branches while a sapsucker returned to its nearby nest in the cavity of a pine tree. Philip would undoubtedly have slept all night had not a distant, yet familiar, throbbing sound penetrated his dreams. He opened his eyes wondering where he was, it was so dark and his bed so

extremely hard and uncomfortable. Aware of water lapping all around him, it quickly dawned on him that he was on Otter Island, and the sound which had awakened him was that of an approaching plane. What really grabbed his attention was seeing, between the trees, a light shining into the sky the searchlight! Suddenly wide awake, Philip leapt to his feet and, grabbing the rug, pushed his way through dangling branches to the edge of the island where there was sufficient moonlight to illuminate the dark yet silvery water of the lake. Above the mountain opposite, the light of the plane was approaching. Lower and lower it came, skimming the mountains and descending steeply over the lake which it circled twice. The second time, Philip actually ducked as the noise was so deafening he really thought the plane was going to crash on the island. It was, indeed, right overhead and very low as it prepared to land on the lake. Just as he had witnessed a couple of nights earlier, the searchlight was replaced by a light which lit up the other end of the lake. There was a splash as the plane touched the water, quickly skidding to a stop somewhere near the cabin and boathouse. Peering through the darkness to try to see the dinghy being lowered into the water, Philip was surprised to hear the faint noise of a motor boat's engine once the plane's engine had been turned off. "So they have got a boat after all," he said trying in vain to spot it. "I suppose Patterson, whoever he is, is too grand to travel in a dinghy. No doubt those kidnapped boys are at this moment being forced into that old building to be held to ransom. If only we could prevent it from happening. It's vital I reach the others before that plane takes off again." He had to risk using his torch to reach and untie the motor boat, but he carefully shielded the light with his hand. It was with great difficulty that he managed to manoeuvre the boat out of the inlet as there was insufficient space to use the oars properly and he kept knocking against one bank or the other. However, once away from the island, he rowed strongly across the water, not daring to use the engine. All was in darkness at the other end of the lake so Philip assumed the man Patterson and the young hostages were already in the power station. At first, he had only the sombre outline of the high mountain to guide him, then the shimmering white motion of the waterfall eerily penetrated the darkness. It was hard going rowing across the bumpy stretch of water flowing from the waterfall but Philip gritted his teeth and persevered, despite having the weird sensation at times of moving backwards. He frequently turned round to see if he was approaching the bank but it was a long time before he could begin to distinguish the rocks and bushes along the shore. He was looking for the pointed rock where they had moored the sailing boat when he heard distant shouts followed by the waving lights of torches. Wondering what was happening down by the cabin and boathouse, he forgot about the pointed rock, instead rowing directly to the shore and climbing out to tie the boat to a bush. He had just finished securing the rope when he nearly leapt out of his skin. Somebody had pounced on him! He let out a cry and struggled but his assailant was strong and soon had him in a very firm grip. Turning his head, he saw that his attacker was a bearded man with dark hair. At the same time, the man noticed the boy's features in the dim light, and exclaimed in amazement. "Philip!" he said, loosening his grip. "Philip ... how come you ... we thought ..." "It's you, Bill!" cried Philip with great relief. "You certainly know how to creep up on somebody! I was caught and got away, but what about you? How did you escape? Did Dinah, Jack and Lucy-Ann manage to rescue you?" "Questions and answers later," snapped Bill decisively. "We've got to get away from here immediately as there'll be a full scale search for me and for you, as well, it seems. Stay by the boat as we're going to use it. I'll fetch the others if I can find that cave." "Wait, I'll give the signal we arranged," said Philip. Facing the hillside, he hooted several times and listened. There followed a series of hoots from above, one of which was clearly Kiki's. "They're almost directly above us."

Bill wasted no time. He shot up the hillside at an amazing speed while a puzzled Jack continued hooting at short intervals. "That sounded like Philip," he said between hoots. "It can't be. It must be Bill." "I can hear whoever it is climbing up the slope," said Lucy-Ann. "We'd better be careful as it might be one of the enemy." "Stop hooting, Jack, in case it is," advised Dinah. She crept along behind the rocks until she had a view of the person scrambling up. At once she could make out Bill's dark wig. "Pssst! We're just here, Bill. Was that you, hooting?" "It was Philip you heard. He's safe for the time being," said Bill, much to Dinah's delight. "Tell you more later. Collect your belongings. We've got to move away from here immediately. They're looking for me, and Philip, too, I shouldn't be surprised." Dinah hurried back to the cave where she told the others to gather up their jackets and rugs as Bill wanted them to immediately go down to the shore. Appearing behind her, Bill took hold of the basket and Philip's belongings. "Follow me," he said. "I'll just tell you that Philip is safe but, please, no questions just yet. Follow me down the hillside. Do be careful as we daren't use torches. Watch every step." It took some time but, eventually, the four reached the shore without any mishaps. Lucy-Ann rushed to Philip, giving him a hug. She was just about to ask him how he had escaped when Bill gave instructions. "Into the boat, everyone," he ordered. "Lie low in case there's any shooting. I just hope we've sufficient fuel to reach Pine Lodge. I don't want to have to do any rowing. Oh, drat! They've switched on their big light." Bill started up the engine and swung the boat round to face, as far as he could judge, Otter Island. "Steer a straight course by that bright star, Jack, actually it's Venus, and don't turn round because of the effect their light will have on your sight," he said. "I need to see what's going on by the boathouse. They'll be after us in no time as soon as they hear us." Satisfied Jack was steering a straight course, Bill peered through the darkness. The area around the boathouse was well lit by the mobile light, revealing what seemed to be a state of confusion with people yelling and running, having heard the motor boat set off. Bill was somewhat puzzled to see the enemy's motor boat with passengers on board making for the plane, now having turned through ninety degrees, instead of chasing after them. "It looks as though Charlie is going to board the plane with a couple of people," said Bill. "He doesn't yet know I have the key and several fuses. Yes, they're there. We've a good start but that boat of theirs may be more powerful than ours." He expected the boat to immediately set off from the plane in hot pursuit but, surprisingly, it returned to the shore where someone climbed aboard. Then it turned and set off across the water at a very high speed. Clearly it meant business! "Whoever's at the wheel went to collect a second person," said Bill. "Keep going Jack, I'll take over in a minute. I want to get an idea of the pace of this boat following us. It's certainly getting a move on compared with us but we have a full complement on board. Luckily we'll soon be out of range of that light of theirs." Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Philip watched anxiously as the enemy's motor boat cut through the water with great speed, steadily gaining on them. They were pleased when they were out of range of the searchlight but, to their horror, a beam of light suddenly shone towards them from the pursuing boat itself. Then a couple of shots rang out! "Down, all of you, including you, Jack!" yelled Bill, seizing the wheel. "Hopefully they may be trying to scare us with warning shots but I wouldn't be too sure with these ruthless people. Hold Kiki down, Jack. Don't let her fly up in the air." "What are we going to do now?" asked Lucy-Ann in despair. "If they don't catch us on the lake, they'll catch us as soon as we land." "Never give up," replied Bill calmly. "Now I want to note the reaction of that boat as we circle the island." "Circle the island?" questioned Dinah. "Isn't that wasting precious time?"

"Oh no," said Bill. "As I said, I want to see the reaction of that boat." "Good job you disabled that plane," said Philip. "Otherwise they could take off and land again near Pine Lodge." "Don't say things like that, Philip," said Lucy-Ann with a shudder. "It really can't take off, can it, Bill?" "It certainly can't," replied Bill, and he showed the delighted children the key and the fuses he had removed. "It's getting rather bumpy so we must have reached the current from the waterfall but we daren't slow down." The boat bounced uncomfortably sending cold spray in all directions, but did not slow down. Raising his head, Bill stared ahead until he could just make out the outline of Otter Island. He altered course slightly to go round the left side of the island, then as they did so, swung round to the right to more or less follow the shoreline. Glancing back, he saw the pursuing boat cut a much wider arc through the water suggesting its speed was preventing sharp turns. Smiling to himself, he steered right round the island, the bewildered children knowing better than to question his actions. "At least they're not firing at us," said Philip. "I thought they would have kept on shooting." "Like us, they're having a bumpy ride and probably holding on so firing a gun is not easy, thank goodness," observed Bill. "In any case, they can't see us because we're turning and the bow of their boat is high in the air. Keep holding tight as we're going full speed past the island to our section of the lake." As the little boat sped through the water, its engine howling in protest, Bill again noticed that the pursuing boat needed more space to turn. However, once back on a straight course, it began to gain on the fully laden little boat in front and, alarmingly, there came the scary sound of gun shots again. Bill noticed that the spotlight kept lighting up the air more than the water due to the boat's bow pointing upwards. Grim faced, he steered towards the river leading to Little Moose Lake, the waterway with the rapids and rocks. He was thankful there was sufficient moonlight for him see the outline of the shore broken only by the dangerous stretch of river. Still crouching low in the boat, the children were unaware they were approaching the very spot where they had been terrified a couple of days or so ago, so busy were they peeping at the boat gaining on them. "We're not going to lose them, are we Bill?" said Dinah. "When we reach Pine Lodge they'll catch us before we even leave the boat." "True," said Bill casually. Then, after a pause, he added, "If they get that far." Four pairs of eyes gazed at him questioningly but he was now fully concentrating on what lay ahead. He knew he had to time this just right as they were heading straight for the rapids. At the last moment, he turned the wheel causing the boat to cut through the strong current. The boat rocked severely while water splashed over the sides making everyone squeal as it was so cold and quite unexpected. Luckily Jack was still holding Kiki or she would have flown off in terror. "Whatever's happening?" asked Lucy-Ann sitting up. "Keep down!" yelled Bill. "We're crossing a strong current but it'll be calm again in a moment." He watched the enemy attempt to turn their boat but they were travelling so quickly and so much of it was out of the water that it scarcely altered course. The current seized it, sweeping it to the mouth of the dangerous waterway. In a matter of seconds, there was a loud crash as the boat struck the rocks. "You can get up now," said Bill, looking at the bewildered expressions on the children's faces. "Unfortunately they couldn't turn in time so they've crashed on to the rocks at the start of the rapids. They'll survive, but they're going to find life most uncomfortable for a few hours as they'll be wet and miserable." The children looked at each other, remembering their near encounter with the rapids but said nothing. Bill now made for Pine Lodge and they safely reached the landing stage. "I'll go first," he said to the children as he climbed out of the boat. "Just remain here for a moment."

They watched him leave the landing stage and walk on to the veranda. They noticed him fumble in his pockets for the key. Then they saw two figures emerge from the shadows and heard some very frightening words. "Put your hands up. We have you covered."

CHAPTER 28: AL AND HIS MEN ARRIVE


Bill raised his hands high in the air and slowly turned round. It was too dark to make out the features of the two men facing him, but he could not fail to notice the revolvers in their outstretched hands. "I assume that's the door key so use it, get inside, and look for the light switch," ordered one of the men. Bill did so while thinking of a way of outwitting them. He switched on the light and, once again, turned to face them. He was about to hurl a chair when he gave a gasp of astonishment. "Al, what on earth are you doing here?" he asked. "Jack said he'd seen you." "Who exactly are you?" asked the man addressed as Al, his gun still pointing at Bill. At first, Bill stared back at Al in amazement, then it dawned on him that he was still wearing Dr Walker's wig and beard although he had long since discarded the glasses. "I'm Bill Cunningham," he said, "disguised as Dr Walker, a naturalist. I'll remove this wig and you'll recognise me all right. Hang on! Those kids are about to drive off in the boat, thinking you're the enemy. They mustn't!" Having heard the engine start up, he rushed to the door leaving two very perplexed men not knowing whether to stop him or let him rush outside. They followed him, revolvers still in hands, while he leant on the veranda rail and waved frantically to the children watching him. "Come back, come back! All's well!" he yelled at the top of his voice. "These men are friendly. They're just not giving a very good impression of it at the moment. Return to the cabin." Seeing Bill waving and smiling, the bewildered children returned to the landing stage where they climbed out of the boat, Jack carrying the briefcase. Kiki flew to see the newcomers, who looked at her in surprise, while Bill, with great difficulty, removed his wig to reveal his familiar head with its bald top and plenty of hair surrounding it. Al looked on bemused. "So it is you, Bill!" he exclaimed, at last placing his revolver in its holster. "This is Gerry. I don't think you've met. Gerry, Bill Cunningham from Britain." The two men shook hands and returned indoors. As the children entered the room a few moments later, Al and Gerry nodded and smiled at them then Al turned back to Bill. "Do you mind telling me what's going on?" he asked. "We received a radio message we traced as coming from here requesting urgent assistance but when we tried to reply there was silence. We came here and what did we find? Nobody!" "A radio message!" exclaimed Bill. "I didn't send a radio message. Are you ...? "It was me," interrupted Philip to Bill's surprise, and explained how they had heard the radio but did not know how to reply. "Things were getting really desperate and we needed help." "Let's all sit down," said Bill. "If one of you kids would kindly make some coffee, I'll explain what appears to be going on in that derelict power station. Al, it's serious. They've got hostages and are demanding ransom money. We're going to need reinforcements, and need them fast." "We've a helicopter and armed men on standby," said Al. "It was obvious from your last report that something very odd was going on around this lake, not in the Great Moose Lake area as we had originally suspected. The message requesting urgent assistance was the final straw. I got things moving." Over mugs of coffee and a plentiful supply of biscuits, Bill and the children told their stories, with several interruptions from Al and Gerry. They gave the names of the criminals involved in the kidnappings at the power station and the number of known hostages. Bill picked up the briefcase

and put it on the table. Opening it, they found it merely contained a notebook, but a notebook containing valuable information. "Just a glance shows how useful this information is," said Al, perusing a couple of pages of the notebook. "Take a look at this, Gerry." "George Larsen was amazed when I spoke to him yesterday about his tour plane being used in suspicious circumstances," said Al. "I wonder if he knows more than he's letting on. I think we ought to question him again." Philip then referred to the kidnapped Morrison boys which caused Gerry to thump the table in disbelief. "Gee, we only heard about those poor kids last evening!" he declared. "It was assumed they'd been taken right away from this area. To think they're so close." "Let's get one or two things clear," said Bill, deciding it was time for some action. "Right now, there are two extremely wet people stuck in a boat down there near the rapids and hopefully there are people marooned in the Larsen plane on the lake. One could be the man we really want, Kurt Patterson. There's a chance they'll have swum ashore but I doubt it. They might attempt to make use of our sailing boat but, again, I doubt it as it will be drifting on the lake. When I last saw it, the plane was also drifting but I imagine whoever are on board will now have lowered the anchor." "We'll get these two matters sorted out first," said Al. "Am I correct in assuming that those people believe you and the children here are alone?" "I'm convinced of it," replied Bill. "They're not even sure who I am. I was going to be paraded before Patterson who would probably have seen through my disguise. Anyway, those who are left won't be expecting a raid from Dr Walker or the boy. This is the time to surprise them." "And there's no escape route over any of the hills apart from the nearest one?" asked Gerry. "They could hide on the hills and mountains but there's no way over them as they're much too rugged," said Bill. "There are impassable obstacles like waterfalls and streams. The only track is the one in front of this cabin which I suggest you guard. If there's an unexpected raid on these people before they can find a way of escaping, they'll probably barricade themselves in those old buildings without realising there's a secret way in." "We'll need to know exactly where that is," said Al. "We'll show you," said Jack at once. "I guess you'll be too tired to return to those hills," said Gerry with a smile. "In any case, things are going to get a bit rough." "You must let us see you catch those criminals," begged Dinah. "After all we've been through!" "I think they could help us and shouldn't be in danger up on the hill," said Bill. "If they remain here in the cabin, they won't sleep a wink and we'd have to waste manpower by leaving a guard here." "Right, I'll arrange matters," said Al. "It'll probably be dawn before we move in on the power station but we'll immediately send the helicopter to pick up the men stranded on the rocks. Then we'll use the chopper over the hill. We'll make exact plans, Bill, after I've radioed instructions." Everyone waited while Al went to the transmitter in his vehicle. His instructions were obviously brief and clear as he was back in just a few minutes. "The chopper is setting off from Elkville to find the men in the smashed boat," he explained entering the room. "It will bring them here as I want to see them as, no doubt you do, Bill, then they'll be taken to hospital if they need treatment, otherwise to our Elkville headquarters. Two police vehicles with a complement of armed men will also arrive here soon. All three vehicles are waiting on the Moose Lake road." "I'm intrigued to know, Bill, how you, with a boatload of kids, outwitted two armed men in a faster boat than yours, and caused them to have their unfortunate accident," said Gerry looking puzzled. "It was partly their own fault," replied Bill. "I noticed the faster they went and that boat of theirs could certainly shift the higher the prow came out of the water so the boat's spotlight simply lit up the sky instead of us, and the more difficult it was for them to alter course."

"So that's why you went right round the island!" exclaimed Philip. "To see the way the other boat reacted. Artful!" "Rather clever," said Gerry smiling. "So you turned to avoid the rapids while they carried on and sort of came to grief." "Isn't there a chance they'll drown?" asked Lucy-Ann. "The river slopes, thus the current is strong, but the water's not deep," said Bill. "That why there's no shooting of the rapids here as we saw on the Indian River when we arrived. Now, do I hear the chopper?" Through the still night air came a clattering sound as the helicopter approached. Everyone went onto the veranda to watch as it hovered over the far end of the lake. A bright light shone down and, in less than a minute, a figure could be seen being lowered. There was a pause and he was hauled up again, this time with a second person clinging to him. The scene was repeated, then the man was lowered a third time. He was out of sight for just a few seconds before being hauled back up. The light was extinguished and the helicopter came swiftly towards the cabin. Grabbing torches, everyone went to the main track where there was just sufficient space for the helicopter to land safely. Jack held Kiki tightly as the helicopter arrived making a terrific din. With lights shining downwards, it carefully landed with dust shooting in all directions. Peace returned as the engine was switched off and the pilot leapt out. "We have two prisoners aboard, sir," he said to Al. "They're in quite a sorry state but claim they were simply enjoying a moonlight ride on the lake when they were caught in a current that forced them onto the rocks." "Really?" said Al with a smile. "How unfortunate. Sorry state or not, I want to see them." The two men were escorted from the helicopter by two burly guards. Wrapped in blankets and looking exhausted, they were, indeed, quite bedraggled. "We meet again, Larry Grant and Karl Whitman," said Bill approaching them. "But in slightly different circumstances. Fancy trying to shoot the rapids in a motor boat when you were supposed to be following our boat!" The two men stared at Bill before looking at each other in bewilderment. "Who are you?" enquired the sturdy Larry Grant not recognising Bill as Dr Walker. "What do you mean, following your boat?" "We ask the questions," said Al curtly. He turned to the pilot. "Their identities have been confirmed so make a note of them. Ah, here comes our van over the hill and the police vehicles as well. Once the prisoners are in the van we can decide what we'll do next." Still weakly protesting their innocence, Grant and Whitman were led into the van as soon as it stopped. After a brief word with Al, the driver returned to his vehicle ready to proceed over the hill. The helicopter pilot produced a gun which he handed to Al. "Our man spotted this in the wrecked boat when he rescued the men," he said. "We lowered him to retrieve it rather than leave it there." "Quite right," said Al taking the revolver. He summoned the pilot and one man from each of the police cars to join him, Gerry and Bill in Pine Lodge. They went into the large sitting room where Al introduced Bill to the three newcomers. "This is Bill Cunningham," he said. "He has just had the unpleasant experience of being held captive by Patterson's men. The next objective is to remove whoever are on board a floatplane on the other section of Otter Lake. They are almost certainly armed. Bill, please give details." Bill explained how he had caused the plane to drift, its likely position and the fact that it would be impossible for anybody to reach the plane or escape from it, apart from swimming in very cold water, as there were no boats in the immediate vicinity. He also explained that he had a motor boat available at Pine Lodge. After a few exchanges of ideas, it was decided that Bill and Don, an armed officer, would take the children in the motor boat to the nearest point on the shore of the lake to their cave. The children would retreat to the cave while Bill and the officer would then wait until Al and Gerry came over the hill in one of the police vehicles. An armed guard would remain at the top of the hill.

In the fullness of time, the children were back in their cave while Bill and Don waited for the cars to appear in the grey light of dawn. Some activity could be seen around the power station buildings. Well out on the lake was the floatplane, like a huge bird waiting to pounce. While the cars descended the hill to stop close to the cabin, all activity ceased as people hurried into the building. Various officers alighted, guns at the ready. Using a loud hailer, Al wasted no time in addressing whoever was on board the floatplane while Gerry led a group towards the power station. "Open the plane's door and come out with your hands raised," he ordered seeing the door facing him. "We have guns trained on you from all directions." At first, there was no sign of a response. At a sign from Al, one of the officers fired over the plane. Once again Al spoke. "I'm ordering you to appear one final time," he said. "If you don't, we'll start shooting and could well hit the fuel tanks in this poor light." After a few seconds, the door was opened and Crooked Charlie appeared, arms raised. "You will be picked up by armed officers in a motorboat any second now," called Al. He then informed Bill on the radio. Guns at the ready, Bill and Don drove to the plane to collect Charlie who made no resistance. Another man appeared in the doorway. "We'll ferry you separately, Big Joe," said Bill as he set off to the shore with Charlie aboard. "So it was you with the kids in Elkville," snarled Charlie glaring at Bill. "'Fraid so, Charlie," Bill replied. "I hate to tell you this, but I was also Dr Walker up there on the hill." Charlie stared open-mouthed, scarcely believing his ears. He was about to ask a question when the boat bumped against the shore and he was unceremoniously hauled out and searched. Then it was back to the plane where the glowering red face of Big Joe Gregory greeted Bill and Don. He likewise offered no resistance and said nothing on the short journey to the shore. Bill's next task was to take Don to the plane to check there was nobody else on board and to retrieve any weapons. Nobody was on board but they did find two revolvers. Finally, Al and three officers including Don squeezed into the little boat with Bill and set off across the lake to the cave. On the way, they had a view of Gerry and his men cautiously approaching the power station. Then came a most unwelcome sound. A gunshot! This was followed by another, and another, and another. Clearly the enemy had no intention of giving up easily!

CHAPTER 29: INTO ACTION!


As soon as the motor boat left them, the four children scrambled up the hill in order to obtain a good view of the action down below. Seeing the cave, Kiki flew around squawking, hoping she would not have to go down that awful passage again. From outside the cave, there was sufficient light to show a small group of officers making their way cautiously towards the power station, two approaching the cabin, whilst others waited on the shore. Al's instructions on the loud hailer could clearly be heard by the children who looked on with glee as two men were removed from the plane. "If only we were closer we'd be able to see if Crooked Charlie is one of them," said Lucy-Ann, fervently hoping he was. "And that one with the miserable red face," added Dinah. "What did Bill call him? Oh yes, Big Joe Something or other." They watched the two prisoners being taken to one side as the helicopter soared over the hill to land beside the Larsen cabin. Seemingly satisfied there was nobody in the cabin, several men climbed into the motor boat which now set off in their direction. "They're on their way over here," said Jack, pointing excitedly. "Bill's one of them. We'll be able to show them our secret passage."

But the motor boat had to suddenly change course as several gunshots were heard coming from the power station. "Oh no, they're using guns!" shrieked Lucy-Ann in horror. "Are they firing at the motor boat? Is Bill all right?" "They all seem to be unharmed," said Philip, a serious look on his face as two more shots rang out. "It's hard to tell if the enemy are firing at the motor boat or at those officers approaching them. Look, they're having to take refuge behind some rocks." "They're probably firing at the boat as well as the officers as they won't want it to reach this side of the lake," said Jack grimly. "I've a good mind to go down the passage to hear what they're planning down there." "You can't do that!" declared Dinah looking amazed. "Bill wouldn't approve." "It won't hurt to see if there's anything to be learnt," said Philip. "It's not as though we'd be daft enough to show ourselves, let alone attempt to take on people with guns!" "Come on, Philip," said Jack. "You and I can go." "I'm coming too," said Lucy-Ann unexpectedly. "Well I intend to keep watch here," said Dinah. "If we all go and Bill and the officers arrive, they'll wonder where we are. I still don't know what you hope to gain by going down the passage but do be careful. They'd love to take you hostage." "We'll be careful," promised Philip going to the back of the cave. "See you soon. We may even be back before Bill reaches here." He, Jack and Lucy-Ann disappeared through the cleft in the rock. Kiki remained on Jack's shoulder, nibbling his ear and making the odd derisory or self-pitying comment as they went down the now familiar passage. "For goodness' sake hold on to Kiki," said Philip, once they had reached the end. He squeezed through the narrow gap between the rocky wall and the metal cupboard. "I can hear people talking so they're not far away. I'm going to try to hear what's being said." Scarcely had he taken a couple of paces when he almost jumped out of his skin. A shot was fired! Shrinking back behind the cupboard, he half believed the shot was aimed at him, it was so loud. It wasn't, of course. It was a gun fired at the entrance, the sound echoing down the corridor. There was a loud exchange of words suggesting that one of the men at the entrance was addressing the officers outside. Philip could not make out what was being said but he did hear very rapid footsteps as somebody ran down the main corridor. The boy remained where he was hoping to learn something while Jack and Lucy-Ann listened impatiently. He did not have to wait long. Hearing more distant shouts and worryingly frequent gunshots, he became aware of several footsteps returning along the main corridor. These were accompanied by Martha's voice and a child protesting. In a matter of seconds, he heard the woman stop by the cupboards, not far from where he was. Her words were now perfectly clear, especially as her voice was raised. "Just you wait here," she ordered. "Do as you're told and you won't come to any harm." Then, in a more sinister tone, she added, "If you disobey any of our orders, you may well end up in that lake out there." "I wanna to go home," wailed the voice of a young boy. "Why did you take us away? I don't like it here. I'm real scared." "Stop snivelling!" snapped the unsympathetic woman. "Nobody has hurt you or your brother." "Why are you keeping us here and why is there shooting?" asked an older boy. "Who are you attacking? I hope it's not our daddy." This made the younger boy burst into tears. "Don't let them shoot Daddy, Ethan," he sobbed. "Please!" "Nobody's shooting at your father," said Martha, shaking her head. "They are our enemies out there, that's why I'm holding a gun and we're having to shoot. Do stop whining." "I don't know who they're shooting at and I don't know why," muttered Ethan looking at his brother. "It sure is a great mystery. But don't worry, Johnny. It's obviously not at Daddy."

The conversation now ceased although there was plenty of discussion and a great deal of shouting at the entrance. Philip told Jack and Lucy-Ann what he had heard. "Horrible woman!" said Lucy-Ann feeling sorry for the two young boys. "I think we ought to go back and let Bill know that Martha has the boys." "I'd like to stay a bit longer to see what she does with them," said Philip. "She purposely ran to fetch them so there must be a reason." "I'll wait with you a bit longer then I'll return to the cave to see if Bill's there," said Lucy-Ann. "I hope they don't intend harming the boys. I wonder what Gerry is planning to do." Gerry was, in fact, attempting to communicate using a loud hailer. "I advise you again. Come out with your hands raised above your heads and we'll hold our fire," he called. "We know who you are and who you have imprisoned in the building." The only answer he received was in the form of gunshots. He now communicated with Al and Bill who had reached the shore safely and were climbing up the hillside. "We're going to have to use force but I'm worried about the Morrison boys." "We're on our way up the hill," replied Al. "Bill and I will use that passage the kids discovered and will hopefully take those four criminals by surprise. I suspect we'll be unable to communicate with each other by radio so you're in charge of the officers with you. Try to keep the enemy talking as much as possible. You'll know when we attack as there'll be a commotion at the entrance to the building." Gerry informed to his men, telling them that either they would have to wait until there was an indication that Al and Bill were trying to storm it from inside or the four criminals made some surprising move in an attempt to get away. "At the moment, time is on our side," he pointed out. But Bennett had other ideas. Without taking his eyes off the rocks behind which the officers were hiding, he spoke to the three next to him. "Our trump card is the Morrison kids," he sniggered. "The police don't know we've got them. We'll use them to make our getaway in one of those vehicles. They wouldn't dare risk harming the boys but we would." He then shouted as loudly as he could in Gerry's direction. "You in charge. Listen to me." "I'm listening," Gerry replied, wondering if the enemy were about to surrender. "We have the kidnapped Morrison boys," yelled Bennett. "Yes, the Morrison boys! If you want them alive and unharmed, this is what you do so listen very carefully. Leave the ignition key in one of your vehicles so we can use it and tell your men to put their guns down. When you've done that, we're coming out with the boys and, believe me, if anyone makes one suspicious move, we shoot one of the boys. Understood?" There was a pause before Gerry replied. "Produce the boys to prove you really have them," he called, playing for time. "Sure," called Bennett. "Just wait a minute and you'll see for yourselves." As the minutes passed without any communication, Gerry began to feel alarmed in case any harm had come to either of the boys. Inside the entrance to the power station, a furious Bennett could scarcely believe his ears. "What do you mean you can't find them, Martha?" he shouted, his eyes still watching for an attack from outside. "I told you earlier to remove them from their room in case we needed them to bargain with. Now produce them!" "I did bring them from their room as you said and told them to wait by those lockers," protested Martha. "They've gone and I've searched every unlocked room for them. I tell you, they've simply disappeared!" "Don't be so ridiculous, woman!" shrieked Bennett, now almost beside himself with rage. "Disappeared! Utter nonsense! Find them, I say. And be quick about it!" "Look inside the larger cupboards," suggested Dawson as an angry Martha turned to go back down the corridor. "Little kids might fit in some of them." Martha made another quick search for the boys, this time opening doors of the few full length cupboards, but, no matter where she looked, she could not find them. This was not surprising. They weren't there!

CHAPTER 30: KIDNAPPERS CAUGHT!


So where were the boys? Philip had heard Martha instruct them to remain where they were which meant she was going somewhere, probably to the entrance. At once, a plan entered his head, but he had to act quickly. Whispering loudly down the dark corridor, Philip tried not to startle the boys, shining the torch on himself as well as on them. "Johnny, Ethan, I'm a friend. I know a way out. I'm a boy. See? Come quickly before that horrible woman returns." In the torchlight, he saw two boys, one about ten, the other about eight, standing terrified in the corridor. Their terror changed to astonishment when Philip shone the light on himself. "Come on," he called urgently, dreading Martha would appear. "Trust me." The boys hesitatingly looked at each other wondering what to do then Ethan grabbed his young brother by the hand and ran towards the waiting boy. "Through here," said Philip indicating the way. "Jack and Lucy-Ann are in there oh, I'm Philip. We're friends and we'll get you home. We're going up this secret passage so watch where you tread. It's slippery in places and quite dark, but don't be afraid." "Is this really a secret passage?" asked Johnny looking around in awe. "Yes," replied Lucy-Ann. "It's so secret that nasty, horrible Martha knows nothing about it." "They're all horrible people," said Ethan. "They kidnapped us. Say, what's that cute bird?" "It's Kiki, my parrot," answered Jack. "She doesn't like the passage but she'll talk once we're at the top." "Do you mean we are going to the very top of the mountain?" asked Johnny, eyes wide open. "Not quite," laughed Philip. "It does seem like it though, doesn't it? It's not too far." They continued chatting, Johnny and Ethan becoming more relaxed, and were almost at the cave when Jack, who was in the lead, suddenly stopped. "Listen a moment," he said putting a finger to his lips. "Someone's in there and it's not Dinah!" Everyone remained silent, even Kiki. Then, hearing Bill's voice expressing concern about the three children going down the passage again, Jack revealed himself, a huge grin on his face. Al was with Bill and Dinah while Don was just outside with two more officers, Jeff and Will. "Jack, what on earth made you decide to ...?" began Bill, then looked in disbelief as the Morrison brothers appeared looking apprehensive on seeing so many new faces. "Let me introduce you to Ethan and Johnny Morrison," explained Jack. "We thought they'd be safer up here than with those criminals down below." For a moment, Bill and Al were speechless. Then, as Lucy-Ann and Philip emerged, they demanded to know how the children managed to rescue two boys being held hostage by a gang of armed criminals. After Philip quickly explained , Bill and Al had a brief discussion with Don, Jeff and Will before preparing to go through the passage themselves. "Under no circumstances are you to follow," stated Bill emphatically. He then addressed the Morrison boys. "Remain here with these four and, as soon as possible, we'll have you back home. You're safe as long as you stay here." Al and the officers were astonished by the passage through the rocks. They were even more amazed when confronted by the metal cupboard at the end which Jack had remembered to pull back into position earlier. Hearing a woman's voice quite close, they remained perfectly still. "Where are you?" she was demanding. "If you boys don't show yourselves we'll throw you in the lake when we do catch you." "Pleasant woman, isn't she?" remarked Don while Martha was heard opening cupboard doors and slamming them shut before rapidly departing down the main corridor. "We can assume the men will remain at the entrance," observed Bill, pushing the cupboard. "This is our chance to capture Martha Rowe and possibly release the three hostages. I hope Kurt Patterson is also somewhere down here. He's the one we really need to capture. The others are small fry, but dangerous. Watch out as Patterson will almost certainly be armed."

Al issued instructions to his men then asked Bill to lead the way. Will remained in the locker corridor while the rest crept quickly but stealthily along the main one. Reaching the stairway, Bill paused, raising a hand. Martha's voice could be heard below as she searched for the boys. "Corner her down there, Don," ordered Al. Instantly and silently Don shot down the staircase. A muffled shriek was heard a few seconds later, then a grim faced Martha appeared on the stairs, looking in disbelief at the men with guns. "How did you get past ...?" she began. "No questions," said Al abruptly. "Down the corridor with you. Got her gun, Don? Good." "Room eight, I suggest, where she won't be heard if she shouts," said Bill. He assumed a Canadian accent. "Excuse me not wearing my wig and beard but we have met. Dr Walker!" Martha's mouth rapidly opened and closed like a fish while her piercing eyes stared through Bill. He led the way to room eight where he, then the Morrison boys, had been imprisoned and ushered her inside. The key was still in the lock. "You'll be delighted to learn, Martha, that the boys are safe with friends," said Bill with a sly smile. "We know how much you care for them." "How did they get out?" she almost growled, screwing her face up menacingly. "The same way we got in," replied Bill closing the door and locking it. He turned to Al. "The other hostages are this way. Keys are often left in the doors so, hopefully, we won't encounter any problems." Around a corner they went, knowing Martha's long absence would soon be questioned by the men at the entrance. Bill indicated a door with a key in the keyhole. His gun at the ready, Al checked to see who was inside and, to everyone's relief, three surprised and weary hostages were released. "No time to explain," said Al to the relieved men, "except we're government agents and you are free. Armed men are at the entrance and you don't need me to say they are ruthless." "I'll just have a quick look for Patterson," said Bill. "We must catch him. Come with me, Don." The two looked in all the rooms including the tiny kitchen but there was no sign of Patterson. A disappointed Bill informed Al and everyone returned to the dark corridor leading to the passage. They reached it just in time as a man's voice shouted down the main corridor. "Martha, where are you?" yelled Bennett. "Bring those kids here. Using them is the only way we're going to escape." There was a pause then hurried footsteps approached. Al nodded at Jeff who waited in the shadows. As the man Mitchell hurried past, Jeff leapt on him causing him to fall in surprise. At once Don joined in, relieving the startled Mitchell of his gun. Jeff hauled his lanky prisoner to his feet, gripping his hands tightly behind his back. Mitchell found himself facing his own gun. "Just how did you get here?" he demanded. "Where's ...?" "Bring him here," interrupted Al. "Bill and I have the same question for him." He looked straight into the eyes of the glaring Mitchell. "Where's Patterson?" Mitchell stared back and, seeing the released hostages, realised the hopelessness of his situation. He decided to cooperate as much as he could. "He left as soon as we heard the chopper," he replied. "Was it picking up Grant and Whitman?" "It was," answered Bill curtly. "Where did Patterson go when he left?" "Along the shore, I think it was dark," moaned Mitchell. "I don't know any more." "Let's get back up top where I'll radio instructions to Gerry," said Al returning to the passage. Once back in the cave, Al radioed Gerry to say there would be an attack on the remaining two men at the entrance from inside the building and that Gerry and his men should be prepared in case there was an attempt to escape. Mitchell looked on in disbelief, disbelief that turned to incredulity and fury as a boy's voice addressed him. "Hello, Mr Mitchell," said Philip with a cheeky smile. "I do hope you've recovered from your fall and from that moose? It just wasn't your day, was it?"

Desperately longing to seize Philip, the furious Mitchell gave a snort not unlike the one made by the moose. To make matters worse, Kiki flew to a nearby rock and snorted back at him several times. Mitchell was livid but Jeff still had him in an iron grip, while Bill held a revolver. "Let him sit on these rocks, Jeff," said Bill, not taking his eyes off the prisoner. "That saves you having to soil your hands holding him." "Bill, kindly guard our prisoner," requested Al. "Jeff come with us. We're going to either capture Bennett and Dawson, or force them outside where Gerry will take them. It should all be over soon." The children and former hostages immediately went to watch from a safe vantage point. They waited for some time before hearing shots being fired. They held their breath then the six youngsters could not help cheering when they saw Bennett and Dawson appearing on the footbridge, hands in the air. Gerry's men immediately relieved them of their guns and led them to the helicopter. A few minutes later, Martha appeared, escorted by Will and Jeff. Philip kept Mitchell informed what was happening. The man scowled, glared and even opened his mouth as if he were going to speak, but words would not come out. Ron Mitchell was feeling extremely sorry for himself. It was not long before Al and Don appeared, having hurried up the passage. Don had a pair of handcuffs which he immediately put on Mitchell. "Well, Bill, I expect you'll want to take this bunch of plucky kids back to Pine Lodge," said Al. "Don and I will escort Mitchell to the cars but I'll be along to check all is well with you. There'll be a couple of guards in the vicinity of your cabin. We'll contact Dean Morrison to say his sons are safe and we'll let these men's families know they are safe. We've lost Patterson but the chopper will start an air search and we'll do a ground search around Otter Lake. What a pity." "What a pity!" repeated Kiki, then snorted at Mitchell as he was escorted down to the waiting cars, giving the smiling Philip one final glare. Looking at each other, Bill and the six children uttered huge sighs of relief. "It's all over, Bill," said Dinah. "I bet you're feeling pleased." "I'd be more pleased if we'd caught Patterson as he's the man behind this vile kidnapping organisation," replied Bill. "I suspect George Larsen may know more than he claims as his plane and cabin have been used. Come on. Let's get back to Pine Lodge, a bite to eat and a snooze in the sun. And you'll soon be reunited with your parents, Johnny and Ethan." Down the hill they traipsed to the motor boat, noticing plenty of activity as the prisoners were taken away from the scene. Some of Al's men remained to search for Kurt Patterson. The helicopter took off and began to fly quite low over the area as it joined in the search. Bill started up the engine and off they slowly went across the lake, the boat fully laden. As they approached Otter Island, Jack spotted the prow of a boat sticking out from beneath some trees. "Look, that's our sailing boat," he cried excitedly. "It must have drifted across here when I abandoned it," said Bill. "To be honest, I thought it would have got caught in the current from the waterfall and carried across to the rapids. We'll try and tow it behind us and collect the sail and oars some other time, if we can find them." He steered across to the sailing boat. Philip leant over and tugged at it. As it swung round, he grabbed hold of what was left of the mooring rope which seemed to have tied itself around a branch. Managing to free it, he tied it to a rail at the back of the motor boat. Giving the otters a wide berth, they continued round the lake to Pine Lodge where they moored the two boats. After a hearty breakfast, they were sitting on the veranda, ready for a snooze, Philip now joined by Sammy, much to the Morrisons' delight, when a car was heard on the drive. Bill immediately leapt up to see who it was. To his surprise, it was a taxi. He was even more surprised to see the passenger alighting. It was Mrs Cunningham! After greeting her and taking her case, Bill led her to the veranda where she saw the sleepy children relaxing in the morning sunshine. "Hello, everyone," she said, beaming as the children looked up in astonishment. "We tried to contact you by radio but there was no response, so I came here anyway, How wonderful to see you all looking so relaxed. Thank goodness, this time you're not having one of those awful adventures!"

CHAPTER 31: THE END OF THE ADVENTURE


"Mother!" yelled Philip and Dinah at the same time, scarcely believing their eyes. "Aunt Allie, how good to see you!" cried Lucy-Ann, leaping up and giving her aunt a hug. "We didn't expect you for another couple of days," said a delighted Jack. "Come and sit down. How's Aunt Polly?" "Poor Polly," squawked Kiki flying around excitedly. "Polly's down the well!" "I hope she isn't," said Bill with a smile. "I'll make you some coffee. Would you like something to eat?" "No thanks, we stopped for a bite on the journey, but I'd love some coffee," replied Mrs Cunningham as Bill disappeared into the kitchen. "I'm pleased to say Aunt Polly is very well and now has somebody coming in daily to see her. Uncle Jocelyn's useless, of course. Tell me, who are these two young boys? Are they staying nearby?" "We've got such a lot to tell you, Mother, but you won't believe any of it!" declared Philip. "These are Johnny and Ethan Morrison." "What a coincidence. I heard on the car's radio that the Canadian police are searching for two boys called Johnny and Ethan Morrison!" exclaimed his mother. "They've been kidnapped." "And here they are, Mother. We rescued them!" said Dinah, laughing at the amazed expression on her mother's face. "Honest! Their parents will be along soon." "And this is Sammy, Philip's pet squirrel," said Ethan, pointing at the little creature sitting contentedly on the veranda rail. "Isn't he just great?" Poor Mrs Cunningham looked at each child in turn wondering if her leg was being pulled. Before she could ask any questions, they tried to explain what had happened over the past few days, but it was all too much for her take in. She looked pleadingly at Bill as he brought her some coffee. "I'm afraid it's all true, Alison," he said, looking a bit guilty, having heard everything from the kitchen. "But it's all over." Then, as a helicopter chose that moment to swoop low over the nearby hills making everybody jump, he added wistfully, "Well, almost. The man behind it all seems to have escaped, but we're convinced he's out there somewhere. They're looking for him. But don't worry. We've got armed guards outside." "Armed guards!" exclaimed a shocked Mrs Cunningham, spilling some coffee. "Whatever's going on here? Are these really the kidnapped boys?" While a lot more questions were being asked and answered, a big car drew up and out stepped Al who was immediately introduced to Mrs Cunningham. With a wry smile he confirmed what everyone had said. He informed Bill that the prisoners had been taken away and that the old power station buildings and Larsen cabin were being thoroughly searched. Then he spotted the sailing boat moored to the landing stage. "I thought you set that adrift, Bill," he remarked in surprise. "How did it manage to find its way here?" "It had drifted across to Otter Island and somehow became attached to a branch," said Philip with a grin. "We towed it behind the motor boat. We were all too tired to row it back." "We couldn't, anyway," said Bill. "There are no oars in it. I had to use part of a seat for an oar." "Yes there are oars in it," contradicted Philip. "I noticed them when I was untying the rope." "Untying the rope!" exclaimed Bill in astonishment. "I thought you just tugged at the rope. I was too busy keeping the motor boat steady to really notice you. A rope doesn't tie itself. And who produced the oars?" Bill and Al looked at each other, the same thought entering both their heads. "Somebody found the oars, rowed the boat to Otter Island and tried to tie it to a branch of a tree but it was too dark to do so properly!" said Al. "That somebody must still be on the island," said Bill. He thought for a moment. "Al, it could be Patterson."

Hastily excusing himself, Al rushed out to his car and radioed for assistance. Soon four men arrived while the helicopter began to hover over Otter Island. Shaking her head and wondering if she were dreaming, Mrs Cunningham poured herself some more coffee. "I can't take all this in," she said. "Helicopters, boat chases, armed men, kidnapped boys . . . and I thought you were having such a peaceful time!" Al briefed his four men who climbed into the motor boat and set off across the lake, watched by six excited children. Everyone waited apprehensively for it to return and, when it did, there were five people on board. Ordering the children to remain on the veranda, Bill and Al went to meet the boat and to see the fifth person. "I know who that is!" exclaimed Al in amazement. "It's George Larsen, boss of Larsen Tours. What on earth was he doing on Otter Island?" "I was captured in my own plane by those people in that power station," spluttered Larsen hearing the question. "I just managed to escape and found the rowing boat. Naturally I used it but hid on the island in case they came after me." "We need to ask you some important questions, Mr Larsen," said Al. "Bring him over here." As George Larsen was being led along the landing stage, one of the officers produced a gun. "We found this behind a tree. Mr Larsen claims he must have dropped it without realising it," he said. "I find that hard to believe, sir." Then everybody jumped as Ethan Morrison let out a yell, pointing at the man. "He's the one who brought us here and threatened us on the plane! I can tell from his clothes and his face but he's lost his hair!" "Hold him still a moment," ordered Bill, turning and hurrying indoors. In less than a minute he returned with a sheet of paper he showed to Al. Al whistled in amazement. "Mr Larsen, we have a photograph here of you with a good mop of hair," he said showing the man the photograph. "The thing is, the man with the hair isn't George Larsen, but Kurt Patterson!" "I don't know what you're talking about," stated Larsen sullenly. "I don't know a Kurt Patterson. As you see, I'm bald, and have been for many years." "Yes," agreed Bill. "George Larsen is bald, but he wears a wig when he wants to become Kurt Patterson. We thought it was strange to use a briefcase just for a small notebook. Clearly it contained your Patterson wig which, no doubt, is still on Otter Island or even floating on Otter Lake." Al immediately instructed two of the men to return to Otter Island to look for the wig as evidence. After charging Larsen with kidnapping and placing him in handcuffs, Al escorted him with Bill to a waiting car which was to convey him to Elkville. "Mr Cunningham and I will be along later to question the man," said Al to the driver. Then he pointed to one of his men. "Don here will accompany you as the man's dangerous." "What an exciting time we're having," said Lucy-Ann as Bill and Al returned to the cabin. "I suppose it's all over now." But it wasn't all over as, to everyone's surprise, a small floatplane appeared from the direction of Elkville and, after circling the lake, landed in the water, gliding across to the landing stage. Bill at once went to help secure the plane, ducking under a wing in order to do so. As a man and a woman scrambled out, the Morrison boys gave whoops of delight. "Mom, Dad, we're free!" shouted Ethan rushing down to the water's edge. "We escaped through a secret passage and we heard a gun battle and we saw people arrested!" yelled Johnny, joining his brother. "And guess what! Philip's got a pet squirrel." Mr and Mrs Morrison came ashore, so relieved to have their sons back safe and sound that they were close to tears. They listened carefully to what everyone had to say. Like Mrs Cunningham, they found it hard to comprehend and could scarcely thank the rescuers enough. "We now have the man behind this recent spate of kidnappings," explained Al. "We suspect he originally bought that derelict power station over the hill there to store stolen property before hitting on the idea of kidnapping which would be more profitable. Believe it or not, this was under cover of a tour company so nobody would question his plane flying up and down this area. When

committing his evil deeds, he changed his identity. He even had a Larsen Tours cabin beside the lake!" The Morrisons were, understandably, most grateful to everybody but anxious to return to their villa with their sons. They invited Mr and Mrs Cunningham and the children to spend a day with them on Squaw Lake and would send a floatplane to collect them and bring them back. Then they were off just as the motor boat was returning. As the boat drew up alongside the landing stage, bobbing up and down on the waves created by the plane, one of the men waved a very soggy object in the air. A soggy, bedraggled wig! "The wig was floating on the lake right by the island, sir," explained the other with a huge grin on his face. "He must have thrown it in expecting it to sink. Somehow I don't reckon it's much good now." "Well I'll leave you all in peace for the time being," said Al, "but we'll talk more later, Bill. This has been a most satisfactory operation thanks largely to this bunch of kids here. Well done, all of you. Well done!" "Well done, well done," copied Kiki flying up onto the roof. "Wipe your feet." Al and his remaining officers drove away leaving Bill, his wife and the four children to continue discussing the exciting happenings. Gradually they all relaxed until Kiki began braying like a donkey up on the roof. "Ee-ore, ee-ore," she cried. "Ee-ore, ee-ore!" "Kiki, why are you making that noise?" asked Mrs Cunningham. "Good gracious! Surely you haven't really seen a donkey?" She got up to investigate and walked around the cabin. Suddenly she stopped and gave a scream. Everybody rushed to see what had scared her and burst out laughing. It was the moose! "It's only a moose, Mother," said Dinah, to everybody's amazement. "Nothing to be afraid of!" "You old fraud!" exclaimed Philip laughing. "I might tell you this animal saved me by chasing Mitchell and Martha. They were dead scared of it. You should have seen their faces!" "I can just imagine it," said Jack grinning. "That Mitchell was such a coward. You come down here now, Kiki. Stop ee-ore-ing at the poor old moose." "Well, I'm going to prepare an early lunch," said Bill as they strolled back on to the veranda. "Philip, your little friend Sammy's here. He's already nibbling away at something." "I think my appetite is slowly returning after all this excitement," said Mrs Cunningham watching the antics of Kiki and the squirrel. She thought for a moment. "You know what I'd really like to do this afternoon?" "What's that?" the others asked. "Go out in the motor boat," she replied. "Just be surrounded by hills and forests in the sunshine. Out there on the peace and tranquillity of Otter Lake." "Good idea, Aunt Allie, but you've got one thing wrong," said Lucy-Ann gazing out across the lake. "To you it may be a lake of peace and tranquillity but we'll always know Otter Lake by another name." "What's that?" asked Mrs Cunningham. All four yelled the same answer: "The Lake of Adventure, of course!" I think they're probably right!

THE END

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