“Oh no – what are we going to do now?!” cried Nico, as he looked in dismay at where the steps had been only moments ago.
“Erm, we need to stay calm and think,” said Tezzie (who did not feel calm at all, but as he was the elder, he thought that this was the right thing to say.) He turned back to Billy, who was looked slightly puzzled by all this interest in a garden wall.
“Billy, there were some steps here on this wall,” said Tezzie as he started feeling all over the wall to find the steps. “It’s our only way back home. Do you have any idea where they are – or how we can get them back?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. That wall has never had any steps on it. And ahem, I don’t mean to be rude sir, but your home could not be behind it – this is the wall to the family vegetable garden.”
This was not good news.
Nico piped up, “Wait a minute, Tezzie, your hat has stopped glowing!”
“Yeah – so?” said Tezzie, his mind elsewhere as he tried to figure out what to do next.
“Well – when your hat glowed, THAT’S when the steps appeared on Grandma’s garden wall, right? What if there’s a connection? Maybe the hat has to glow for the wall to make the steps appear. I think we’re meant to be here for some reason. Perhaps we’re supposed to help Billy before we can get back again? Maybe, just maybe, the hat will glow again once we have helped Billy out of his mess. Why else would we be here just exactly at the right time?”
“Well…” said Tezzie doubtfully, “I guess that since we are here, and at the moment there is no way back, it’s probably a good idea to help Billy. But I don’t see how my hat could know or think or do anything! I mean, it’s just a hat.”
“I know,” said Nico patiently. “I don’t understand any of this either, but do you remember what Auntie Suse said when she gave you that hat?”
Tezzie wrinkled his nose (as he always did when he was trying to remember something.)
“Erm, he said something about her and Dad going on lots of adventures with this hat, but I just thought she was messing around – it can’t really be true though, can it?”
“Well, we’ve had a pretty exciting adventure so far don’t you think?” asked Nico, turning to Billy for his agreement.
But Billy was gone! They had both been so busy trying to figure out why they were here and how to get back home, that they hadn’t noticed Billy looking at them as though they were crazy. He had very slowly backed away while they were fervently chatting about things that sounded like gobbledy-gook to him.
“Oh no!” exclaimed Tezzie, “We’ve got to find him. I think you’re right Nico - he may be our only chance to get back home!”
“Let’s go,” said Nico, and they set off towards the big house at a half-jog, making sure that they weren’t visible from the house. It was probably not a good idea to be caught by the gruff man again.
As they were approaching the house, they saw Billy's boss in deep and animated conversation with a very well-dressed gentleman. They started to overhear the conversation as they got closer. (Tezzie and Nico knew it was not good to listen in on other people’s private conversations – but as this man had been so mean to Billy they felt that this could be the exception. After all, they might learn something that could help Billy.)
“Absolutely sir, I agree, the boy can’t be allowed to get away with stealing jewels. And I thought he was a trustworthy boy, sir…” said Billy’s boss.
“Well, I have to agree, Mr Dallevill, Billy has always seemed such a nice boy – such a hard worker – it pains me to think he has stolen from us. If you find him, please be gentle and fair with the boy won’t you? He is only very young, and I can’t imagine he has much in life,” said the well-dressed man, who Tezzie thought must be the owner of the big house.
“Well I can’t say I’ll promise to go easy on ‘im Mr Fairchild, sir, I mean it’s my livelihood and reputation he could ruin for me sir, with this sort of goins’ on,” replied Billy’s boss.
“Hmmm yes, I can see you are very angry about it Mr Dallevill, but as I said, please remember he is only a boy, and we all make mistakes. He deserves a chance, does he not?” returned the gentleman. They continued talking in much the same way as Tezzie and Nico crept quietly past.
(Illustration: Billy’s boss talking to Mr Fairchild)
“Come on,” whispered Tezzie, “we’d better get to Billy before this Mr Dallevill finds him!”