They had walked several hours before reaching the first of the caves. Nigel informed June it was the smallest of all the caves with a distance of 500 feet inside and it wasn’t large enough to accommodate the supplies and however many men involved.
As they passed it, June thought of their childhood, how rambunctious they’d always been, especially Roland. As a family, they’d hiked mountains, caves, everything and anything outdoors. On one particular occasion, Roland had taken off and headed deeper into the cave on his own. She remembered her parent’s anxiety as each took a turn calling his name, the sound echoing off the walls with the smell of the dank earth filling her nostrils, the depth of cavernous blackness of the cave. She hadn’t been nervous; children don’t understand the inherent dangers involved. June saw it as just another one of Roland’s larks and when he returned, she remembered her parent’s relief and anger. Her dad had cuffed Roland up the back of the head and warned him about taking off on his own.
That was the first but not the last adventure they’d undertaken as a family. It spoke to Roland’s excitement and delight in traversing the unknown, his verve and his capabilities.
Nigel pointed ahead, “Three miles to the next set of caves, there are two, but neither would be large enough to accommodate these guys.”
“Your men already scouted the area?” June asked.
“They split into two groups, the larger group are starting at the far end, the smaller at this one.”
“Have they found any clues to suggest they’re here?”
“Not yet.” That surprised Nigel. Either they were more clever than he’d given them credit for and were covering their trail, or they’d gone another route. That worried him because if it were the case, they’d deliberately dropped clues to confuse and obstruct.
A couple hours more and they were passed the second set of caves heading toward another one. He found another clue. A hat. “June, take a look at this.”
“That’s Roland’s good luck hat; he took it everywhere, even if he didn’t wear it, it was tucked into his satchel.”
Nigel nodded but didn’t explain his relief. This was a very personal item and it likely meant they were on the right track and Roland at least was still free enough to drop hints.