They climbed through the trees until the path flattened out. Rabbits and mice occasionally ran out of their way as the birds chirped merrily in the gradually warming sunshine. They half-walked, half-jogged until the house came into sight. Tompkins knelt behind a log as did Filly. They scanned the grounds of the house.
“There’s someone down there,” whispered Filly, “I can see them lying down on a blanket with a pair of binoculars trained towards the village. They must have missed us.”
“It looks like they expected us to come blundering along the path,” replied Tompkins.
The figure moved and then spoke into what looked like a mobile phone, before resuming his watchman duties. He put the binoculars down and there was a sharp intake of breath from Tompkins.
“That’s Noddy Houghton-Smythe, by god,” he hissed, “that means he’s one of our opponents, I would never have thought that of him. He was down in Clifton a few days ago – we even talked, by God, if I’d known he was against us I’d have punched him hard.”
“That’s brave of you, Tomcat, my dear, but doesn’t help us at the moment,” replied Filly, scanning the ground behind the reclining Noddy, “there’s someone coming – do you recognise that person?”
“Yes, I damn well do,” whispered Tompkins through gritted teeth, “that is Mr. Tiffkins Ritchie, who was also down in Clifton. How many more of them are there, were they all planning together, before I arrived and after I’d gone?”
“Perhaps – what does it matter now?” asked Filly, “at least you know, better late than never, my love.”
Tompkins was fuming at the acts of betrayal. His mood darkened further when he saw two more men come out into the clearing and walk past the other two, heading for the village.