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The Gathering at the Volcano Vault

All seemed quiet at the grand gothic mansion that was home to Vincent Wilson-Davies. The gentleman himself was at work in his study, deciphering the seemingly incomprehensible code of top international finance, when his manservant, Forbes, softly knocked at his door.


Forbes slipped through the door and placed a small pile of letters on his master's desk, then stood to the side and waited. The master glanced across, then pushed himself away from his computer.

'You wanted something, Forbes?'

'Indeed sir. I have received word from the team searching Asquith's headquarters.'

Vincent sighed. He had hoped the matter of the arch-villain had been settled when they had blown his jet out of the sky and into the hands of the Americans. Sadly, once the international community had heard of his attempts to bring down the global economy, due process had ground to a halt as various agencies battled for control of the investigation.

'Go on.'

'As we know, your algorithm worked with great efficiency. Asquith's operations were completely terminated, and much of the damage undone. His mainframe has been thoroughly examined and has revealed various interesting anomalies of use to the intelligence services. However, they've hit upon a snag, sir.'

'A snag?'

'Well, two actually sir. It was the intention of the collective minds of the international community to shut the facility down and destroy it once they had obtained all useful or saleable material. However, they find themselves unable to do so, sir.'

Vincent leaned back in his chair and stared at Forbes. 'Why ever not?'

'Reason one, sir, is Asquith's mother. She refuses to leave the island. Her health has apparently deteriorated significantly in the weeks since our encounter with her and is now very frail. She is claiming it would breach her human rights to remove her and her nursing team from her home.'

Vincent frowned as he remembered the feisty elderly woman who had forced Tweddle from her dance studio at gun point. Frail was not a word that particularly fit the image. He shook his head.

'All very interesting, but it's not her home. The island is one of Asquith's assets and as such has been seized.'

'Even so, sir. There is a reluctance to turn an old lady from her home.'

Vincent stared at his manservant. Anyone who did not know the man might have missed the minuscule raise of his eyebrow and the slight inflection in his tone. Vincent knew him well. They shared a look.

'And the other snag?'

'Asquith's vault, sir.'

'His vault?'

'Yes sir. They are having some difficulty reaching it.'

Vincent shook his head and tapped his fingers on his desk. 'I don't follow.'

'It would seem that Asquith availed himself of the many intricacies of his home, sir. His vault is deep inside the volcano itself.'

'What do they expect us to do about it?'

'I'm not entirely sure, sir, but my contact seemed to think our assistance would be most welcome.'

The helicopter swooped in low over the peaked island, settling with barely a bump on the helipad at the top. The pilot killed the engine and he and his passengers sat in the cabin staring gloomily out at the grey sky and wild sea.

'Remind me again,' grumbled Percy Rushmore, shifting his large frame uncomfortably in his seat, 'why are we back here exactly?'

Vincent rubbed his head wearily. 'Because the official agencies lack the resources or will to wrest a frail old lady from her home and none of them are brave or foolhardy enough to dig down through a volcano to find Asquith's vault.'

'Typical. We get all the grubby jobs,' muttered Malek Templer.

'I think the feeling was that we have certain powers not available to regular forces. That and nobody knows about us anyway,' said Vincent, tugging on his waterproof over his insulated fleece.

'So in other words, we're expendable,' said Elrond, glaring at the approaching storm.

Mr Tweddle voiced his own opinion on the matter by jumping sprightly from the cabin. The others shouted in protest as the wind whipped in, but Tweddle had spotted a small mouse in need of help at the edge of the helipad and so was quite oblivious to his colleagues' discomfort.

Forbes hopped from the chopper and snatched his small backpack from the small hold. He waited for the rest of the Gathering to follow, then made a dash for the door, snagging Tweddle by the elbow as he ran. Vincent was hard on his heels, closely followed by Elrond, then Malek, and lastly a very reluctant and still vociferously grumbling Percy.

Forbes slammed into the door and rattled the handle. 'It would seem the boys locked up before they left, sirs.'

Malek was about to step up but Vincent held up a hand. 'That won't be necessary. I know the code,' he said, punching a convoluted code into the keypad. The door resolutely refused to open. Vincent grunted and re-entered the code. The door remained locked.

'How about now?' said Malek, grinning at Vincent.

Vincent stepped aside, scowling as Malek placed his hand over the locking mechanism and closed his eyes. 'Someone must have reprogrammed it.'

'Might I suggest sirs, that it is unlikely the intelligence crew would have changed the code?' said Forbes cautiously.

'So, just who exactly is left on this God-forsaken rock?' said Percy.

'Supposedly just Asquith's mother and a small medical team,' said Vincent, pushing through the door as it finally sprang open.

Malek stepped back shaking his hand and rolling his neck. 'Sorry chaps, bit slow there. Must be a tad rusty.'

They shuffled through and filed down the long stone staircase to the IT suite that had formerly housed Asquith's mainframe. Vincent swung his torch back and forth, its beam cutting through the darkness to reveal bare desks and empty racks. The search team had cleared the space of every last wire.

Forbes studied a handheld thermal imager, turning it slowly through 360 degrees. He stepped lightly towards a door, still watching the imager at every step. At last he lowered the device and turned to his master.

'Sir, I can detect no sign of life.'

'Not surprising, we are inside a big lump of rock,' said Vincent, probing the corners of the room with his torch.

'But sir, I should get something. We're quite close to the living quarters. If the lady and her medical team are in residence, they should be registering at least dimly.'

Elrond shoved Vincent aside and took the device from Forbes, jabbing at the screen then handing it back disinterestedly. 'Perhaps they moved to another part of the island.'

Vincent finished his search of the suite and strode to the door. 'Move out.'

They stepped back shielding their eyes as the door opened onto a brightly lit corridor. Vincent switched off his torch and marched through, leading the way through a series of doors and stairways. The others followed, blinking as their eyes adjusted to the light, blindly trusting Vincent's unerring navigational skills to guide them. The rooms, though devoid of the expensive artwork they had seen on their first visit, gave every sign of occupation, yet they found no-one.

At last they reached the grand reception room. A tea tray set with a china pot, two cups and a plate of sandwiches, sat upon an old table beside two worn out chairs. Elrond reached out to touch the pot.

'Stone cold. Half the sandwiches are eaten. They left without finishing their tea. I guess they were in a hurry,' he said, looking back at Vincent.

'Asquith installed a bunker on the other side of the island,' said Vincent. 'Perhaps they had warning of our arrival and retreated to it.'

Percy eyed the sandwiches hungrily, but forced himself to look away. The last time he had been in this room Asquith's assistant had nearly tempted him with poisoned sticky toffee sponge. Only Forbes' quick actions had spared him.

'Let's go,' he muttered, striding purposefully towards the glass elevator down to the fuel depot.

Vincent reached out and caught his arm. 'That way,' he said, pointing to a door set deep in the rock wall on the farthest side of the room.

'Oh,' said Percy, shuffling hastily and setting out again. 'Righto.'

The door swung open at the slightest touch. Whoever had last passed this way had clearly been in too much of a hurry to lock up. The men looked at each other, then pushed through to the corridor beyond. They were only a few steps in when the ground shook violently, sending them crashing into each other and the walls of the corridor.

'What was that?' said Elrond, rubbing his head.

'Earthquake,' muttered Vincent.

'Sir, this volcano is believed extinct. There have been no recorded tremors in this specific region in living memory,' said Forbes.

Vincent adjusted his coat and straightened up. 'There has now. Let's get a move on.'

Percy led the way, his breathing becoming ever more laboured as the corridor climbed. They followed several bends and sharp turns, then at last reached another thick steel door swinging in the breeze.

Percy peered through it cautiously. 'Um, Vinnie? Where exactly are we?'

'The other side of the island. According to the schematics, this is the outer security area. The bunker lies two doors beyond.'

'There don't appear to be any guards,' said Percy as he tiptoed into the chamber beyond the steel door.

They formed up inside, staring around the room. Marks on the floor hinted at the furniture that had once stood there, but that was all that remained of its former occupation. A second steel door on the far wall was open wide. Beyond it all was dark.

'Still no heat signatures, sir,' said Forbes, holding up the thermal imager.

Vincent's jaw squared. He had fully expected the old lady and her team to be here. The bunker was secured behind two further steel doors and set deep in the rock, but even so, Forbes should have seen some trace by now.

He was about to move the team through to the bunker when the ground shook again. A deep and unnerving rumble filled the air. Mr Tweddle collapsed to the floor, clasping his ears and grimacing. Forbes staggered over to him and tried to shield his ears with his scarf, but he could do little to help.

Vincent watched from the wall he had been flung to. 'What is it, Forbes? What's wrong with him?'

'I would guess there are some sub-sonic elements to … whatever this is, sir,' said Forbes as he battled to help the struggling man. 'Certain frequencies are problematic for Mr Tweddle.'

Vincent nodded and pushed away from the wall as the rumbling subsided, holding out a hand to help Tweddle to his feet. 'It would seem Asquith left us a few surprises to deal with. I think it's safe to assume that his mother is no longer on the island. His vault, however, is.'

The others stared at him.

'Where, exactly, on this rumbling and potentially erupting volcano, is the vault. Vinnie?' said Elrond.

Vincent strode from the room without answering, pushing through the steel doors to the empty bunker. He flicked on his torch and shone the beam over a ladder, hastily pulled from a hatch in the ceiling.

'Vincent?' asked Percy nervously.

'An escape hatch. Our 'frail' old lady made her exit this way. She and her team obviously decided the neighbourhood was getting too rough. This leads to a tunnel down to a small boat house.'

'Excellent, so the old lady is safe,' said Malek. 'What of the vault?'

Vincent began climbing the ladder. The others craned back to watch him disappear through the hatch then one by one they followed. Percy got stuck in the hatch. Elrond shoved from below, and Forbes hauled from above, and they eventually freed him. He made good progress from there on, though his mood had deteriorated considerably.

After some time they emerged on the rocky and precipitous slopes of the volcano, high above the sea. Vincent waited, hands on hips, as they staggered out from the steep escape tunnel. He checked his watch rather pointedly.

Percy bent double, his face puce, his chest heaving. 'Abigail's right, you know. I'm supposed to have retired.'

Malek patted him on the back. 'Never mind old chap. All we have to do is dig into an apparently awakening volcano, empty Asquith's vault, scramble back across the top of said awakening volcano to the helicopter and fly home.'

Percy glared at him. 'Is that all?'

'No,' said Vincent. 'First we have to get our feet wet.'

Malek, Elrond and Percy stared at him as he turned and scrambled down the cliff face.

'What did he say?' said Percy weakly.

'I think he said we have to get our feet wet,' said Elrond.

'Yes, I thought that's what he said,' said Percy.

Malek hurtled after Vincent, shouting and sending small rocks and pebbles crashing down around him. 'Vinnie, we're hardly dressed for a dip, old man.'

Vincent ignored the protest and disappeared from view as the rudimentary path carried him down towards the sea. Tweddle was a short distance behind him, though he kept pausing to pick up small stones which he inspected and then secreted in his pockets.

Forbes strode along behind them both, carrying his pack and pulling a rope from one of its carabiners. He appeared untroubled by the rough terrain, or the prospect of a swim in the proximity of an erupting volcano.

The three at the top watched them go, then they stared up at the rising plume of smoke from the centre of the island. The ground trembled again as they deliberated. At last Elrond threw his hands in the air and launched himself down the cliff.

'This is a very bad idea,' he said, as he skidded downwards.

Percy and Malek stared at each other for a beat, then hurried after him. Tweddle and Elrond were waiting to catch them at the bottom before they tumbled into the rock strewn sea. Percy nearly carried both men with him but managed to halt just at the edge.

'Where to?' asked Malek.

Elrond pointed towards a narrow opening in the cliff wall. As they watched a wave smashed against it, sucking at the rocks and pebbles and throwing flotsam into the opening. Percy and Malek stared at it dismally.

'According to Vincent, it'll be fine because Forbes has a rope,' said Elrond.

'Super,' said Percy.

They filed across the rugged cliff base, bracing themselves against the coarse rock as a breaker rolled in, carrying with it more debris from the sea. A shout from inside the cave spurred them to action, and they threw themselves into the receding water, grabbing at Forbes' rope and hauling themselves into the dark, unknown depths of the volcano.

Percy fought against the pull of the receding wave, but his fondness for pudding was once more taking its toll. He struggled to keep his head above water and was making little or no progress towards the inner safety of the cave.

Ahead of him, Elrond swam and hauled himself clear, fetching up on a rough sand beach, where he lay gasping. Forbes and Vincent waited, Vincent looking impatient, Forbes looking concerned.

'Sir, I think perhaps Mr Rushmore is in need of assistance,' he said as he waded back into the water.

'Wait,' said Vincent sternly. He nodded to an incoming wave. 'I think assistance is coming.'

Sure enough, the wave hit, ripping the rope from Percy's hand and hurtling him towards the beach. Malek body-surfed in behind him, giggling and chortling as he dropped onto the sand. Vincent glanced over to the other side of the cave where Tweddle was inspecting a rock pool, smiling delightedly at the creatures living there. Vincent shook his head sadly. They were a great team, but they could be magnificent if only everyone could be persuaded to concentrate.

'Gentlemen, if you are ready?' he said, folding his arms across his chest.

Malek stopped giggling and propped himself up on an elbow. 'Right, right. Be with you in a jiff, Vinnie.'

The ground shook, harder than before. The men ducked as large fragments of the rock ceiling tumbled down. Even the sea seemed to recede to the safety of the bay. After several seconds the shaking subsided.

Percy pushed himself upright. 'Is it just me, or does it feel warmer?'

Vincent snorted. 'Don't let your imagination run away with you.'

'Actually, sir, I believe there has been a noticeable increase in the temperature of the cave. I would suggest that we waste no more time in reaching Asquith's vault,' said Forbes, checking the readout on his multi-function watch.

'Indeed,' snapped Vincent, turning to the back of the cave. 'It's this way. Things may get a little tight,' he looked back at Percy, 'for some of us.'

Percy stuck his tongue out as Vincent turned back, but he followed obediently, staring at the small tunnel they were heading towards. 'Now you mention it, I probably could have done without seconds last night.'

As it happened, the gap was wider than it appeared and Percy and the rest of the Gathering passed through without trouble. The tunnel climbed rapidly, bringing them to a reinforced door guarded by a retinal scanner.

'Who wants to tackle this beast?' said Vincent.

'I can cut it out, or Mr Tweddle could yell it into submission,' said Percy with a shrug.

'No need,' said Malek, bending down and holding his eye to the scanner. 'Pretty sure I can convince it I'm Asquith.'

The others stepped back to allow him room to work. He concentrated, gritting his teeth with the effort. After several seconds, the lock clunked and he staggered back, gripping his head. Vincent pushed by without a word and jogged along the tunnel on the other side. Malek nodded thanks to Forbes as he handed him some painkillers.

'We've got another one,' came the shout from further along the tunnel.

Malek rolled his eyes and swallowed hard, preparing to play mind games with another computer. 'Be right with you,' he called.

'No, actually I think this could be one for Mr Tweddle. It looks like some sort of sonic device.

Tweddle grinned and rubbed his hands, hurrying forwards. He glanced back at the others and pointed to his ears, nodding at them. They responded by digging earplugs from their pockets. Smiling, he hurried on.

He bent slightly to inspect the small black box attached to the steel door and frame, then he took in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and began working through several registers until, at last, the door popped open. He turned with a broad smile, which quickly faded as the entire island resumed its violently shaking.

The men were thrown from side to side, smashing into the rock walls of the tunnel, each other and, ultimately, the floor. As Percy bounced along the floor towards Vincent he grimaced and looked up at the crumbling ceiling above them.

'I think we might have made it angry,' he said.

Forbes lurched across to them, bashing his shoulder against a sharp outcrop in the wall. He barely winced. 'Sir, if I might suggest haste? I fear the volcano is approaching critical.'

Vincent nodded and crawled towards the door. Elrond grabbed his leg and pointed back towards the sea.

'For God's sake, Vinnie! We have to get out. Whatever is in there, it's not worth being evaporated for.'

Vincent tugged his leg clear angrily. 'We have to recover certain items.'

'What? Gold?' snorted Elrond.

'There is gold, but that is of little consequence. What we are really here to collect are the blueprints for Asquith's new propulsion system and the magnetic hovering aircraft we destroyed.'

Elrond stared at him, thinking of the importance of such technology. He grinned and nodded. 'Let's get at them!'

They followed Vincent into the vault, staring wide-eyed at the banks of gold and silver bars stacked in caged racks along an entire wall of the room. With an irate shake of his head, Vincent grabbed Elrond by the elbow and pulled him to a workstation housing a computer and drawing cabinet.

'Look through the blueprints in those drawers. Grab anything that looks valuable. Forbes, help him,' he said as he powered the computer up and began trawling through its directories.

'What do you want us to do?' said Malek, still staring at the gold bars.

'Look for anything of value in the rest of this clutter,' said Vincent without looking around.

'Value?' said Percy hoarsely, taking an unsteady step towards the bullion.

'Not that!' snapped Vincent.

'Oh,' said Percy sadly.

The shaking of the floor grew ever more violent and the temperature of the room increased again. The men worked as fast as they could, gathering blueprints, data and futuristic-looking weaponry.

Vincent connected a field disc to the computer and downloaded all the files from Asquith's directory, then he helped Malek and Forbes roll the blueprints into sturdy tubes. He was about to call the men to evacuate when the rock wall behind the bullion split open. With a scream Percy leapt back, crashing into Tweddle, who in turn crashed into Malek. They stared in horror as lava began to seep through the racks.

'Erm, Vinnie?' said Malek.


'I think we should go. Like, right now.'

Vincent turned around and, taking in the scene in a split second, started grabbing as much gear as he could. 'Take what you can.'

The men scrambled to collect as many artefacts and tubes as they could carry, then they all charged for the door. Percy arrived first, demonstrating a surprising turn of speed for one so out of shape. Forbes exited last, pausing to pull the steel door closed.

'I hardly think that's going to help,' shouted Vincent.

'The bullion will slow it down rather more than a steel door, but even if it gives us a few seconds, it may help,' said Forbes, pounding along the tunnel after his master. As they turned a corner he risked looking back over his shoulder. The door was already glowing red.

They arrived at the cave and waited on the beach for a break in the waves. At the first opportunity, they launched themselves into the sea, wading through the water holding their bounty high over their heads.

Forbes was nearly washed away as a wave crashed in before he could leap clear, but Elrond reached out and grabbed his collar, hauling him up onto the rocks. Forbes nodded his thanks, then checked the items he was carrying to ensure none had suffered for their dunking. Apparently satisfied, he leapt to his feet and hurried up the path after the others.

The ground gave a violent lurch and Malek slipped from the path. Tweddle flung himself to the ground, catching his arm just as it went over the side. Before he could pull him back to the path, a roaring sound, followed by several loud explosions brought them all to a halt.

'Wait!' shouted Elrond, watching the sky. 'Don't move. Don't move.'

He tracked a large lava bomb as it arced from the centre of the island. As it began its descent he leapt, shimmering as he went. The lava bomb hit his back mid-flight and bounced away harmlessly into the sea. Elrond, however, fared less well.

As he fell to the ground he shimmered back to normal, revealing a large burn on his back. Forbes sped to his side and poured water over the injury. It evaporated instantly. Vincent knelt beside his old friend, his face pinched with concern. Elrond rolled over with a groan.

'I've finally found something I'm not impervious to,' he said with a shaky grin.

'Can you carry on, old chap?'

They stepped back as the still smouldering man struggled to his feet. 'Of course. It takes rather more than a spot of lava to stop me.'

He reeled away in the general direction of the top of the path. Vincent nodded to Forbes, who hurried after him, catching his elbow just as he was about to teeter over the edge. They reached the top without further incident, but what awaited them there stopped them in their tracks.

'Ah,' said Percy. 'I don't suppose you know of another way off this rock?'

Vincent shook his head as they stared across a seething lake of lava to the helicopter pad on the other side. There was no way across.

'Not to worry,' said Elrond, pulling his phone from his pocket. 'Now, as long as I can get a signal …'

'Calling the AA might not help, old man,' said Malek.

Elrond turned about, holding his phone up and urgently refreshing the screen. At last he gave a small cry of relief and began tapping instructions. The other men stared at each other in bewilderment, then leapt back as the helicopter engines roared into life and the blades began to turn. Elrond stepped closer to the edge, watching the screen and helicopter at the same time. Forbes kept a hand on his shoulder to stop him tumbling into the lava pool.

'Elrond, you're surely not controlling that beast remotely?' gasped Vincent.

'Why not? If I can do it with a toy, no reason I can't do it with a grown up one,' grinned Elrond as the helicopter lifted off.

'Sir, I advise keeping as much distance from the crater as possible,' said Forbes.

'Good thinking,' said Elrond, sliding his finger around the screen.

The helicopter banked away, then circled around the island. As it neared their position, several lava bombs shot from the volcano, one of which was heading straight for the helicopter. The men shouted as Elrond scrambled to swerve the helicopter out of the line of fire.

'Okay, chaps, we're going to have to make a leap for it. Vinnie, I can't leap and remotely control a helicopter, so you go first and take the controls.'

Vincent nodded and got into position, waving the helicopter in closer. 'A bit more, Elrond. I can't make that distance.'

Elrond clenched his jaw in concentration as he brought the helicopter in as close as he dared. At last, Vincent took a flying leap, catching the skid on the left side of the chopper. Elrond backed the craft away from the turbulent air so close to the crater. Vincent swung his legs up and into the cabin, then pulled himself in, taking the pilot's seat and grabbing the controls.

He swung the helicopter back in, wrestling against the turbulence. Malek jumped, landing squarely on the skid, then hopped into the cabin. He turned back and held his hands out for Percy, who was looking even less athletic than normal. He danced from foot to foot as Vincent shouted at him to get a move on. At last he sagged and stepped back.

'I can't chaps. Sorry. You go. Send a boat for me.'

Forbes began throwing blueprints and other material up to Malek. 'Perhaps you can go next, sir?' he said to Elrond. 'I think perhaps two pilots might be better than one in this situation.'

Elrond stared at Percy, then nodded and made the jump. He scrambled over Vincent and took the co-pilot's seat. Tweddle jumped next, carrying the last few items retrieved from the vault, then Forbes circled his hand over his head and made a complex signal to his master.

Vincent muttered something to Elrond over the headset, then took the helicopter higher as his co-pilot leaned out and lowered a rope. Vincent hovered above Forbes and Percy, battling to keep the craft steady as the heat from the volcano battered the air. Forbes grabbed the rope and speedily fashioned a harness around Percy, who protested vehemently.

The volcano gave another rumble, and the lava began to bubble excitedly. Vincent leaned out of his door and signalled to Forbes.

'Grab on, Forbes,' he shouted. 'There'll be no time for a second retrieval.'

Forbes nodded and smiled apologetically at Percy. He grabbed the harness and wrapped his legs around Percy's middle as Vincent lifted away from the volcano. Percy shouted and chuckled as they soared away from the island, but Forbes was more restrained. He knew they were a long way from safety yet.

Sure enough, as they sped away from the island, rocks and lava bombs began to rain down around them. Elrond, Malek and Tweddle leaned out and began reeling them up to the cabin. Vincent dropped the helicopter closer to sea level, all the time watching the flying rocks and trying to steer the clearest path possible.

'Vincent! You're too low!' shouted Elrond. 'We need to get above these damned rocks!'

'Not while two of our men are hanging down there,' said Vincent.

Malek swore as a rock plummeted down terrifyingly close by. Elrond leaned back to glare at Vincent, signalling with his free hand to increase altitude. Vincent ignored him. Both men hanging from the rope were dear friends, brothers in all but blood. He would not risk losing them.

The volcano shuddered. They stared back at it, Forbes and Percy twisting on their rope to stare as the the smoke pouring from the crater was replaced by an explosion of lava. A shock wave rippled out from the island, shaking Forbes loose from Percy. He plummeted down, landing back-first in the sea.

Elrond shouted, leaning out of the chopper so far he risked falling too. 'Forbes is down! Vincent! Forbes is down!'

'I know,' said Vincent grimly. 'Perhaps you chaps could stop messing about and get Percy clear so I can get us down there for a rescue.'

Elrond looked chastened and, along with Malek and Tweddle, redoubled his efforts to pull Percy into the cabin. Meanwhile, Vincent was watching the lava bombs dropping around his faithful manservant. As if that wasn't enough, he could see black shadows skimming beneath the surface. He glanced across as Percy clambered aboard, then instantly dropped the chopper to a low hover above Forbes.

'Malek, be ready with your weapon,' he barked.

'What?' said Malek. Vincent nodded at the first dorsal fin cresting the waves. 'Oh!' He grabbed his gun from his pack and leaned out, taking aim.

'Elrond, Tweddle, get Forbes.'

Elrond and Tweddle were already in position, lowering the rope to the man in the water. He swam to the trailing line, grabbing and twisting it around his arms, unable to do any more in the choppy waters. He nodded up at the men to signal he was ready.

Malek fired as a shark decided to try its luck before it was too late. He caught it on the flank, the blood pouring from the wound stirring the other sharks into a frenzy. Forbes watched it nervously as Elrond and Tweddle heaved on the rope.

At last he was close enough to hook a leg onto the skid. As soon as Vincent was satisfied his manservant was safe, he tipped the nose of the helicopter and powered them away from the volcano. Elrond settled back into the co-pilot's seat and grinned at Vincent.

'I feel a bit cheated,' he said.

Vincent stared at him. 'What are you talking about?'

'Well sure, the volcano was exciting, the tombstoning was invigorating, and the emergency helo embarkation and sharks certainly added a bit of zip, but no arch-villain. Not even a hologram!'

Vincent smiled. 'Sorry old chap. We could detour to Colorado if you like, but I doubt the Americans are allowing Asquith visitors.'

'I've seen quite enough of that devil, thanks. But I wonder what happened to his mother.'

Vincent went quiet, watching the dials and staring out at the rolling ocean. The mission was not complete. He had been tasked with the retrieval of the vault items and the removal to a place of safety of Asquith's mother. The mystery of her disappearance was a bother at a time when he should have been celebrating with the others.

Suddenly Forbes leaned forwards, pointing ahead. Vincent frowned, at first seeing nothing. Then he spotted it, just a tiny speck at first, but as they closed the gap, very clearly a small boat. He glanced at Elrond who shrugged with a smile.

'Worth a look,' he said.

Vincent flew the chopper low over the boat as all the men leaned out, staring down at its occupants. There, waving a stick and just as fierce as before, was Asquith's mother. A queasy looking nurse sat beside her while another stood at the helm, fighting to keep the boat straight against the crashing waves.

'I'll contact base to arrange for them to picked up, sir,' said Forbes, picking up the radio handset.

As the helicopter disappeared over the distant horizon, a small seaplane took off from a nearby island. The old lady heard its faint drone approaching and allowed herself a small smile. Peering down beneath her seat she saw the comforting sight of several million pounds worth of gold bars. Settling back to await their planned rendezvous, the old lady chuckled at the thought of the international rescuers arriving several hours from now to find only an empty boat adrift on the ocean.


© 2014 Kay Lawrence.

line Wife to the 74 yr old kid
16th September 2014

Didn't think this would be my scene but I loved it. Even more than the first episode! Would love to be an old lady like 'her'. What fun


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