“It looks like a dog,” said Tompkins, “but something in its demeanour suggests it will not attack. It’s sort of apologetically ambling in this direction. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would say it’s Marvin, Stalky’s dog.”

        “You have amazing eyesight,” said Daisy, “it looks like a black outline to me.”

        “Well, Daisy, sometimes you see what you want to see, I could be deluding myself into believing something that ain’t true. Let’s just see what happens next.”

        Tompkins and Daisy watched the black blob get closer. Every minute, Tompkins checked all around, just in case the dog was a cunning decoy, but there appeared to be nothing of interest.

        “That’s Marvin,” whispered Tompkins, “Marvin, over here boy, good boy.”

        The blob stopped and then walked more decisively towards the sound of Tompkins’s voice.

        “I’ll move out of the way, in case this is some kind of trap,” said Daisy retreating about 10 yards and looking around the trees. The breeze moved the lighter branches so that Daisy imagined there was a whole army of people hiding in the copse.

        Up ahead, Tompkins hugged Marvin and patted him, checking there was no transmitter or microphone attached to his collar. Marvin tried to bark but Tompkins clamped his mouth shut in a friendly way that didn’t alarm the dog.

        “Good boy, Marvin, good lad,” said Tompkins said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice. A loud-barking dog would pick out their position better than any searchlight ever could.

        Daisy moved forwards almost tripping over a branch. She dropped the stone on her foot but avoided swearing.

        “Marvin looks a little thin,” said Tompkins, “he’s not had food for several days.”

        “I didn’t know you liked dogs, Tomcat,” said Daisy.

        “I like animals in general, even aardvarks, but dogs are one of my favourites” said Tompkins.

        “What about East European dogs?” asked Daisy.

        “Well, the dogs are fine, it’s just their East European owners I have a problem with,” replied Tompkins, smiling in the darkness. “Anyway, speaking of problems, I am not sure how to approach this. I favour going around the darker side of the house to the front door as we’ll be more difficult to see. What do you reckon?”

        “Isn’t there a back door we can use?”

        “There is, but Marvin came from the front of the house, which suggests something around that side is open, such as a door or a window. If Marvin here can get out, we can get in. Also, you never know, they may have booby-trapped the back door if they can’t watch both doors at once.”

        “Good thought, Tomcat, should we take Marvin with us?”

        “Yes, that might be a good idea, but I hope he doesn’t bark because of us. I will carry him and make sure he keeps his mouth shut.”

        “But he must weigh a lot, he’s a big dog.”

        “He’s a lot less than he used to be, Daisy, trust me on that – I used to bench press with Marvin in the garden, just over there when Stalky was alive.” Tompkins pointed to the outline of a picnic table and two benches. “I used to rest on the table and put my hands under his belly and then lift him up, which surprised him no end, but he enjoyed the attention.”  

        “Didn’t he yelp?”

        “No, he was a big strong dog – he wouldn’t yelp. He’s an English dog.”

        “Yes, anyway should we continue, with Marvin?”