“Hallo, little mummy,” said Sphinx, swinging Poppy up and whirling her round. She giggled for the first time since Hilda had disappeared.
“I’m not a mummy!”
“Well, no, not yet,” agreed Sphinx. “I’ve got the bandages all ready, though.”
Ricky and Randa dragged Poppy and the other little ones into the chalet, and Sphinx turned to where his parents were talking in low tones to Charles, Charlie and their older offspring.
“Any luck?” he asked. They shook their heads.
“Poppy saw some men dragging her off, but they were wearing balaclavas and she couldn’t give much of a description.” Charles ran his hand through his hair. “There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of clues. We’re hoping some witnesses will turn up soon.”
David John snorted.
“I doubt it.”
“What do you mean?” said Charles sharply.
“I mean that these people are not fools,” said David. Since he seemed to be under the impression that this was all the explanation that was required, Augusta expanded on the subject.
“They knew she was Margaret Thatcher, so they must have known a full-scale search would soon be mounted for her. They’d have been prepared, and they’d have been careful to make sure they didn’t leave any clues. They’ll have had a vehicle waiting and a hideout prepared, and they won’t be easy to find.”
“Yes. You’re right, of course,” said Charlie. She was pale, even her usually buoyant curls looking a little limp. “We haven’t had time to think since it happened. Been talking to the police for most of the time.”
“You told the police?” David’s head jerked up in surprise. “What on earth d’you go and do that for?”
The Maynards stared at him, exhausted, worried and bewildered.
“That’s what normal people do when people get kidnapped,” said Phoebe gently. “Sometimes, believe it or not, the police can even help.”
“I’m sure they’ll do very well,” said Augusta kindly. “You all look exhausted. Come in and have something to eat. It’s all right,” she added, “I didn’t do the cooking.”
The food, having been prepared by Amy, who was as confident and efficient in cookery as she was in everything else, was excellent. Even the Emersons seemed less overwhelming than usual, and Charlie was grateful to Sphinx, who talked endlessly to the fascinated children, giving them the sorts of details about mummies and tombs that normally she would have been horrified at their hearing.
Even so, not all of them had been able to forget the incident so easily. Poppy sat between John and Sphinx, listening in silence to the chatter, picking at her food.
“Are you all right, Poppy?” murmured John, towards the end of the meal. Poppy turned a small, unhappy face towards him.
“I think they were hurting her,” she said in a whisper. Her lower lip trembled. Sphinx, spotting this, swept in to the rescue before John could speak.
“Hey, little mummy. What are you crying for?”
“I want Aunty Hilda to come back,” said Poppy. “I don’t want them to hurt her.”
“Well,” said Sphinx in a matter of fact voice. “That’s a good thing, because they definitely aren’t hurting her.”
“Nah. She’s one of the most important people in the country. They’ll want money, I should think. Once they’ve got that, they’ll give her back.”
“Definitely,” said Sphinx with a firmness that concealed well his inner doubts on the matter.
“But what if they hurt her before then?”
Sphinx leaned forward to speak low in Poppy’s ear.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find her before that happens.”