Bevis stood in the doorway. Six foot four in his stocking feet, he cut an impressive figure. His clean-shaven jaw was square and manly, his shoulders were wide enough to carry a fortnight's shopping in a trolley on each one, and his voice was soft and rasping with an untraceable burr. Sometimes, he sounded Irish, other times American - but he always sounded as though he meant business! Although it was late at night, his eyes were hidden behind dark glasses, making him look even more mysterious, and not even his hair, cropped close to his scalp, gave anything away.
"Champagne?" asked Prism, batting her lavish new lashes.
However, Bevis was in no mood to celebrate. "I've no time for that,” he said bluntly. "We need to find the children. Have you any idea where they've gone?"
From his vantage point on the hill, Bevis surveyed the forest below, his keen eyes missing nothing, his ears noting the sweetness of a distant lark.
"Looks like rain" came a gruff voice from behind him. It was Mordant, whose puffy red face could scarcely disguise his lack of sleep from the night before. To his great annoyance, Bevis remained motionless and kept focusing on the view. He didn't need to turn round. It was only too easy to recognise Mordant from his nauseating smell and rasping cough, both the result of the cheap cigarettes that continually hung from his fingers.
"So what's the strategy?" Mordant demanded. "Come on, you're supposed to be the Number One.... Numero Uno! Tell us then, what's your plan?"
"Well" said Bevis "the first thing I plan to do is eat my breakfast. And after that...."
"Yes!" demanded Mordant.
"I'm open to suggestions." Bevis replied calmly. Mordant snorted with contempt.
"Ha! Just as I thought, Mr. Super-agent! Mr. Cool in your fancy leather and your imitation Raybans! What you're saying is, you haven't got a clue, have you?" Mordant grinned at his subordinates and twitched his head towards Bevis. "Thinks he's a professional, this guy!"
The man on the bridge watched them dart underneath him, then, almost casually, he strolled down the steps to the towpath and set off in pursuit.
"Is he coming after us?" asked Joe, anxiously.
"Just keep running, Joe!" Roots urged, but Odi couldn't resist a backward peek.
"He's coming alright", he said. "Is he gaining on us?" said Alice. "Heck no," Odi replied, "that guy's too cool to run!" Sure enough, Bevis had hardly accelerated. Even when the party he was following disappeared round a bend, he kept his pace to a confident stride, his long leather coat trailing obediently.
Roots led the way, feeling more unnerved by this stranger than by all the other agents put together. Somehow, he felt they wouldn't shake this one off so easily. How right he was. No matter how fast they ran, or how far they got, they had only to glance behind them to see the sinister figure advancing on them purposefully.