The gag was so tight, it was almost impossible to breathe.
The blindfold triggered an intense headache.
Sweat stinging the eyes.
Ropes cutting into wrists.
Darkness all around.
Mrs. Brown heaved a deep sigh while she took down the last of the Christmas decorations.
On the one hand, she was sorry that the holidays were over and a New Year had begun. On the other hand, she was relieved that celebrating Christmas, Paddington's winter birthday and greeting the New Year in style hadn't included any nasty accidents, like Paddington nearly swallowing a bone in his Christmas pudding or singeing his whiskers with a sparkler.
She glanced at the little bear, who was sitting at the breakfast table, spreading a liberal helping of marmalade on his freshly buttered toast. He'd come downstairs later than usual as he'd spent a long time the night before writing about the events during the holiday season in his scrapbook. The clock had struck midnight when he'd finally closed the bottle of ink and put his scrapbook into a drawer.
While Paddington nibbled his toast and marmalade and emptied his third cup of tea, Mrs. Brown safely stowed away the Christmas decorations in the cupboard under the stairs. But she had a strange sense of foreboding. Things had been far too quiet in the Brown household lately. She felt a storm was about to break.
"Mary, get a grip," she chided herself. "Things are not bound to take a turn for the worse just because this house has enjoyed a period of plain sailing."
Her musings were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. She was struggling with a large cardboard box which stubbornly refused to fit in the last remaining free space in the cupboard, so she couldn't hear Paddington's conversation with the caller.
A couple of minutes later, just as she finally wedged in the last recalcitrant cardboard box, she heard a dull thud from the dining room. Blowing a streak of hair from her forehead, she hurriedly closed the cupboard door and rushed down the hall.
"Paddington!" she yelled. The bear was lying on the floor with his paws in the air.
"Paddington!" Mrs. Brown pleaded, shaking him. "Please open your eyes and tell me what's wrong!"
Finally the young bear's eyelids opened. He looked crestfallen, and his whiskers sagged.
In a very small voice he said: "That was Uncle Pastuso on the phone. My Aunt Lucy has been abducted and the kidnappers left a ransom note in the Home For Retired Bears in Lima, demanding one million sols. Uncle Pastuso doesn't think that he can raise that much money within the 48 hours deadline - and the kidnappers threatened to kill Aunt Lucy if he can't pay."
Mrs. Brown put her hands over her mouth to stifle a groan. She felt her knees go weak and she had to lean against the wall. With a trembling voice, she said: "Oh, dear, Paddington! What are we going to do?"
Paddington scrambled to his feet and dusted himself down in a very determined fashion.
With his whiskers straightening, and with a grim expression, he said: "I'm going to Darkest Peru to free Aunt Lucy. I'll call Mr. Doyle - maybe he and Mr. Bodie will come as well to help me."
With these words, he turned to the telephone and started to dial.
The radio in Doyle's gold Capri bleeped. As Doyle had to concentrate on trailing the car of a suspected arms dealer, Bodie answered the call from HQ.
"Patch call from Paddington Brown. Says it's urgent."
Doyle snatched the mouthpiece from Bodie's hand. "Paddington, what's up?"
"Aunt Lucy's been kidnapped and I want you to come to Darkest Peru with me to rescue her."
There was only one possible answer. Doyle made a sharp U-turn and headed as fast as possible towards Windsor Gardens. "Paddington, we're on our way."
An hour later, Major Cowley gazed indignantly at the gathering in his office. There was no mistaking the exasperated tone in his voice.
"Let me just make sure I got this right." He turned to Doyle and said: "You, Doyle and your partner in crime here named Bodie..."
Bodie was about to interrupt, but his superior froze him with a glance, pointed to Paddington and added: "...want to accompany this bear on a mission to Darkest Peru to free his Aunt Lucy from the hands of kidnappers who threaten to kill her?"
Somewhat recklessly, Doyle replied: "You got it in one, Sir!"
Doyle had only his sturdy nature to thank for being spared an untimely and sudden end when the CI5 controller favoured him with a look that would have sent a weaker man to his grave.
Just a breath away from loosing his temper, Major Cowley said: "In order to do that, you not only let a suspected arms dealer get away, you also demand a couple of days off during a vital operation.
"And my wild guess is that you'll be asking for CI5 funds. You need transport to Darkest Peru and all kinds of other things."
Shifting uneasily in his chair, Doyle replied: "Well, Sir, our trip to Darkest Peru is already taken care of."
Cowley's eye-brows rose so Doyle explained: "Brownie doesn't just operate a boat. He also has a plane for hire which suits us just fine. He owes me a couple of favours and has agreed to take us all to Darkest Peru.
"We have to pay for the fuel of course, but that will come out of our own pockets. But we do need some equipment, like weapons, ammunition and communication devices."
The black look on Major Cowley's face brightened slightly and he nodded approvingly. "I appreciate your efforts to go easy on the CI5 funds, Doyle. I think I can let you have the equipment you need. That you treat it with utmost care goes without saying."
"Of course, Sir."
"So, what's your plan?"
A tad more comfortable, Doyle explained: "The guy who kidnapped Aunt Lucy is known as El Diablo and he is the most vicious baddie in Darkest Peru. He knows that Uncle Pastuso is very wealthy, which is obviously why he had Aunt Lucy kidnapped.
"El Diablo and his mob use a fortress deep down in the rainforest in Darkest Peru as their headquarters. Nobody knows where it is - we only know the location of their nearby airfield.
"Brownie will take us to Lima, where Uncle Pastuso will be waiting for us with a plane to take us to that airfield. We won't land at the airfield, we'll have to use parachutes."
Major Cowley could hardly believe his ears. "And just how are you going to find the fortress?"
Paddington answered: "I'm sure I can lead Mr. Bodie and Mr. Doyle there. Bears are very good at finding their way in the rainforest."
Major Cowley sent a look heavenwards and said: "This is one hell of a stupid plan, but I can see you're determined to carry it out. I'd be most grateful if you could return all the equipment in perfect condition and avoid getting yourselves hurt or killed. And don't return to Lima without Aunt Lucy."
Major Cowley rose to his feet to show that the conversation was at an end. Bodie, Doyle and Paddington beat a very hasty retreat before the CI5 controller had a chance to change his mind.
Bodie eyed the Tupolev 134 standing on the tarmac at Elstree Airfield critically. The snowflakes dancing around the plane couldn't hide the fact that it had seen better days and Bodie asked: "Brownie, are you sure that this rust-heap will take us safely to Lima?"
Loading a crate into the Tu-134, Brownie answered: "I don't know. I've never taken it on such a long journey before. I've divided the trip into three parts of about 2500 miles each, so each stretch of the way's just about within the plane's range. We shall be all right ... I expect."
That answer failed to take a load off Bodie's mind and though Doyle didn't much like the look of the Tu-134 either, he said cheerfully: "I'd rather take my chances with that plane than go back to Cowley to negotiate a first-class passage to Darkest Peru."
He added another crate to the plane's already heavy load of cargo.
Casting a suspicious glance at some of the boxes Brownie had loaded into the Tu-134 from his van, Bodie asked: "What's all this stuff, Brownie?"
Brownie shot him a fierce look. "Mind your own business. You're getting a flight to Lima at very short notice and I'll only make you pay for half of the fuel as I'll be able to do some business during the trip. Some things are better left in the dark."
Bodie and Doyle exchanged glances and Doyle said: "We're very grateful to you, Brownie and we promise not to interfere with your business, don't we, Bodie?"
Bodie shrugged his shoulders. "We'll concentrate on our mission, Brownie, don't you worry."
The snowfall became heavier and Doyle said: "I think we should take off for warmer climes right now."
He turned to Paddington who was hurrying towards the plane, having taken the umpteenth box with marmalade out of the Capri's boot, and asked: "Do we have all your belongings on board now? Lots of marmalade, bread, that new camouflage suit Mrs. Bird made for you, an extra pair of Wellingtons, cocoa?"
The young bear nodded vigorously. "Everything's in the plane, along with some special grenades I made together with the CI5 armourer."
Doyle immediately looked worried. "What kind of special grenades, Paddington?"
"Oh, just a little idea I had which Mr. Donaldson helped me put into action," replied Paddington vaguely.
Before Doyle could say anything else, Brownie ushered them onto the plane. He said: "Let's get out of here before the snowfall gets any heavier. We don't have any time to waste with that sword of Damocles of a 48- hours deadline hanging above our heads."
In the rush to go through all the necessary preparations for take-off, Doyle forgot to inquire further about the mysterious grenades. Having ensured all their equipment was safely stowed away, he settled back into his seat. Paddington sat beside him and Doyle checked that the young bear's seat belt was properly fastened. Bodie sat on Paddington's other side and called out to Brownie in the pilot's seat: "Ready for take-off, captain!"
Brownie said: "First stop is Dakar - sit back and enjoy the flight." The plane gathered speed until it finally left the ground and rose into a grey sky.
The flight to Dakar went smoothly.
Brownie had bought the Tupolev after it was retired from service by Aeroflot, and had spent a good deal of money to keep it in shape. However, he'd expended very little on the cosmetics, and the plane looked decidedly tatty
Inside, most of the seating had been replaced by mountings for cargo. And Bodie and Doyle were surprised just how much cargo Brownie had taken aboard.
Soon after the plane touched down and rolled to its parking position, a convoy of vans carrying the Red Cross insignia approached the plane.
Bodie and Doyle gave Brownie, who was busy opening the hatchway, a questioning look. Bodie asked: "What's the Red Cross doing here?"
Brownie mopped his brow. "Collecting the equipment for drilling wells I've brought for them!"
Bodie and Doyle stared at Brownie open-mouthed. It took them a few seconds to get over the shock and they were lost for words.
Paddington said: "That's very commendable, Mr. Brownie."
He mopped his brow as well. Compared to the weather back home in England, Dakar felt very hot. "I bet a lot of people are very thirsty here and will be grateful for water."
Still embarrassed, Doyle said: "Brownie, I don't know what to say. I'm sorry, but I really thought you had more..." He paused for a moment before adding: "...explosive cargo aboard. Well, apart from our explosive cargo."
He was about to say something else, but Brownie cut him off: "Don't pin a medal on me just yet, Ray."
Pointing to some men standing a little further from the plane, who looked nothing like Red Cross workers, he added: "Why don't you go to grab a cold drink while I do some business with these gentlemen."
He avoided Doyle's gaze. "A man's got to eat, you know - and be able to provide for the Red Cross at a low price." Brownie took a deep breath and looked straight into Doyle's eyes with a pleading expression.
A small smile touched Doyle's face and he said: "Come along, Paddington. Time for a bun and an ice-cold drink."
Paddington asked: "Do you think they have buns in Dakar, Mr. Doyle?"
"Let's find out. You coming, Bodie?"
Bodie hesitated. "I haven't had a Biere La Gazelle for ages, so let's go."
They headed for the airport building. Paddington raised his hat politely to the Red Cross staff and took Doyle's outstretched hand. The airport was crowded and he didn't want to get lost.
An hour later, Brownie had finished his business, both the legal and the not-quite so-legal. The Tupolev had been refuelled for the next stretch of the journey to Recife.
When Bodie, Doyle and Paddington returned, Brownie asked: "Did they serve buns in the buffet, Paddington?"
The young bear shook his head. Patting his stomach, he said: "But they did serve Dege. It's some kind of pudding made from couscous and it's delicious."
He took a piece of paper from his duffle coat pocket. "The cook was kind enough to share the recipe. I will make some for Aunt Lucy. I expect she will be hungry."
Doyle ushered everybody onto the plane and a few minutes later, they were heading over the Atlantic.
The second part of their trip was nowhere near as smooth as the first. Crossing the Atlantic from East to West meant going against the wind and today it was particularly strong. It was a rough ride.
Luckily, no one on board was bothered by the turbulence. A steady munching could be heard from Paddington's seat. And occasionally, the clinking of a spoon in a jar as the young bear made more sandwiches.
Peering down at the ocean, he said: "Crossing the Atlantic by plane is a lot more comfortable than being a stowaway in a life boat.
"When I fist came to England, the sea was so rough at times, I had a job to stand up. Once, I was nearly washed overboard."
Having passed the halfway mark, Brownie made some frantic calculations on a scrap of paper. Bodie, in the co-pilot's seat, asked: "What's wrong?"
Looking worried, Brownie answered: "We're using up more fuel than I'd expected because of the strong wind. I hope we can make it."
With the plane approaching the coast of Brazil, the tension among the passengers mounted. The fuel gauge was under close scrutiny, but even Paddington's hard stares had no effect...the fuel tanks were emptying at an alarming rate.
When they were within range of Recife Tower, Brownie was straight on the radio to the flight controller. "We're coming down with our last drop of fuel. This could be a crash landing!"
"Roger!" The flight controller hit the alarm button. "The fire brigade will be there to greet you with a foam blanket. Good luck!"
"Thanks," shouted Brownie into the mouthpiece. He turned round to Doyle and Paddington: "Brace yourselves!"
He instructed Bodie to relay him details of the flight level as he struggled to bring the plane down safely.
"600 feet...500 feet...400 feet..."
Doyle squeezed Paddington's paw. "We'll be all right, Paddington!"
"Of course, we will. The fire brigade has put out all that whipped cream on the runway, and a landing in whipped cream must be good."
Before Doyle had a chance to explain that the stuff on the runway wasn't exactly what you'd want to put on your strawberries, Bodie shouted: " ...300 feet...200 feet..."
The engines started to splutter.
"...100 feet... ".
The right engine stalled.
"...50 feet..." Bodie, in the co-pilot's seat, couldn't keep the alarm from his voice.
As the Tupolev touched the ground, all inside were thrown heavily back into their seats. The brakes screeched and it seemed to take forever till the plane came to a complete stop.
There was an ominous silence, broken only by the sound of the left engine stalling.
Bodie spluttered ... "Now that's what I call getting down on a wing and a prayer!"
Brownie exhaled slowly. "Welcome to Recife!" he said.
Licking his lips, Paddington asked: "Can we taste the Brazilian whipped cream now, Mr. Doyle?"
Doyle sent a look heavenwards and offered a prayer of thanks to the gods of aviation, before replying: "We'll see if we can find some Brazilian whipped cream in the buffet. Eating from the tarmac isn't really done in the best circles!"
Having thanked the friendly firemen for their efforts, the team watched as the Tupolev was towed to its parking spot. A vehicle from apron control brought them to the airport building, where Paddington hurried straight to the buffet.
Doyle bought him an enormous sundae, with mangos, passion fruit and a huge helping of whipped cream. It was a feast to celebrate their safe arrival at Recife.
Bodie and Paddington held a competition to find out who could eat more casadinhos, a delicious Brazilian biscuit, for dessert. The lead switched back and forth many times. In the end, they had to call it a draw.
The flight to Lima was a lot quieter than the trip to Recife. Bodie, Doyle and Paddington fell fast asleep. The little bear, whose whiskers still showed traces of whipped cream, snuggled up to Doyle and snored gently.
Even asleep, Bodie wore an expression of incredulity. He found it hard to comprehend that he'd nearly lost an eating contest to a little bear!
Brownie was concerned with more serious matters. He found it increasingly hard to stay awake with the journey coming to an end, but the huge supply of Guaraná Antarctica they'd had taken on board in Recife did the trick.
An hour before the scheduled arrival in Lima, the atmosphere inside the plane changed completely. The sleeping beauties were wide awake, busy getting ready for the mission ahead.
Bodie, Doyle and Paddington changed into their camouflage suits. With great care, Doyle helped Paddington to put on a harness made by the CI5 department responsible for special equipment. Pulling the release cord was difficult with paws, so Paddington and Doyle were to do a tandem jump.
The parachutes underwent another inspection, along with the weapons, the radio equipment, the altimeters and the compasses.
Without Bodie and Doyle noticing, Paddington managed to stow away his special grenades in the many pockets Mrs. Bird had added to his camouflage suit. She'd also attached an elastic band to his bush hat, so he wouldn't lose it during the parachute jump. It also meant that his supply of marmalade sandwiches was kept totally safe.
Doyle wore a headband to keep his unruly curls from getting into his eyes. Paddington liked his mate's headband, but thought it a pity that no marmalade sandwiches could be hidden in it.
When the plane touched down in Lima, Aunt Lucy's rescue party was ready to leap into action.
Paddington hurried across the tarmac, paws outstretched. Uncle Pastuso gave him a huge hug. "It's so good to see you, sobrino," he said, finally letting go of his anxious relative.
With his right paw, Uncle Pastuso took hold of one of Doyle's hands and with his left paw he took a firm grip of one of Bodie's. His handshake was so vigorous, the CI5 agents thought their fingers would fall off.
"Senor Bodie, Senor Doyle! How good of you to come to Peru to help free my sister Lucy!"
Grimacing, Doyle replied: "When Paddington needs our help, we rush to the rescue."
Bodie took a good long look at Uncle Pastuso, while the bear shook Brownie's hands warmly. Uncle Pastuso was only a tad taller than Paddington. He wore a camouflage suit and a bush hat, just like Paddington. Wondering whether Uncle Pastuso kept a marmalade sandwich under his hat as well, Bodie briefly touched his cap. Maybe it was high time for him to emulate this particular habit.
Pointing to a Cessna Skyhawk parked nearby, Uncle Pastuso said: "We'd better get cracking! The kidnappers' ultimatum will expire in five hours!"
When Uncle Pastuso climbed onto the pilot's seat, Bodie and Doyle exchanged surprised glances and their jaws dropped. Uncle Pastuso chuckled. "Have no fear. The plane is fully modified to accommodate a bear with short arms and legs. Besides, I've had a flying licence longer than I can remember."
Still baffled, Bodie and Doyle settled themselves in the passenger seats and Paddington climbed into the co-pilot's seat.
It didn't take long before they were airborne, heading for the rainforest.
"All right, muchachos," exclaimed Uncle Pastuso. "We're almost at the jumping-off point. Are you ready?"
Paddington, who was safely attached to Doyle, was the first to answer. "Yes, Uncle Pastuso."
Bodie and Doyle replied in unison: "Of course, Uncle Pastuso."
"You have to head south-east for about three miles. Luckily, the wind's on our side today. It should be easy to find the airfield."
Uncle Pastuso gave the rescue party the thumbs up.
Bodie opened the door of the Cessna and peered down. The rainforest was very dense. He wasn't sure at all whether it would be easy to find the airfield and carry out a precision landing. They might as well end up dangling from one of the trees.
As he was the first to jump, he double checked his compass.
Uncle Pastuso yelled: "Now!"
Without hesitation, Bodie jumped.
For a few seconds, Doyle and Paddington watched Bodie's free fall. Then it was their turn.
When Doyle jumped, Paddington shouted: "Geronimo!"
The wind pulled at his whiskers and fur. He stretched out his arms and legs, so that his posture perfectly matched Doyle's. His nose pointed towards the ground and he could see the trees rushing up to meet him. But he wasn't scared.
He enjoyed himself immensely. "I bet there aren't many bears who have experienced a free fall from 15,000 feet," he thought.
A little further below, he could see Bodie's parachute opening. It looked like a giant mattress. He thought that it would be nice to have a bed big enough to accommodate such a large mattress. He wondered what Mrs. Bird would have to say about that idea. His musings were interrupted when Doyle pulled the ripcord.
When Doyle glanced at the parachute, his heart missed a beat. It hadn't opened properly! His training kicked in in an instant. He went through all the motions to discard the main parachute and open the reserve.
This time, the parachute opened without problems. Their free fall was stopped and they started to glide.
Doyle heaved a sigh of relief before checking his compass. He steered the parachute in the right direction, keeping an eye on Bodie.
Paddington retrieved a marmalade sandwich from under his hat and took a big bite. "Parachuting makes you hungry, Mr. Doyle. Do you want one?"
"No, thank you Paddington. I'm too busy getting us down in the right place." The airfield came into view. As far as Doyle could make out, nobody was standing guard.
"That's careless, but very good for us," he thought.
Paddington had just finished his marmalade sandwich when Doyle told him: "We'll land soon."
They watched as Bodie landed safe and sound on the tarmac of the airfield and prepared themselves to follow.
At one point in their descent, the tree tops came dangerously close. Doyle muttered a string of curses. It was tricky to steer the reserve parachute. He made some last-minute adjustments. Moments later, he and Paddington were down on the ground, none the worse for wear.
Bodie was busy checking the premises. "Looks like we're on our own. What kept you so long?"
Doyle gave his partner a wide grin. "Nothing in particular. I just had to open the reserve and Paddington had a marmalade sandwich. Needs must, Bodie!"
Bodie rolled his eyes and watched as Doyle fumbled with the harness to free Paddington. He put the little bear down to the ground.
Paddington looked around and sniffed. The warm, damp air carried many different scents. There were begonias and orchids nearby - hummingbirds flitted about, attracted by the nectar of the colourful blossoms. But it wasn't nectar which had aroused Paddington's attention. He sniffed again to make sure.
"I can smell marmalade!" he called out excitedly.
"That's not much to get worked up about - you can probably smell one of the sandwiches you keep under your hat," said Bodie.
Paddington favoured him with a hard stare. "My sandwiches are made with Mrs. Bird's homemade marmalade. But the marmalade I can smell here was made in the Home For Retired Bears by my Aunt Lucy. She has a secret recipe and I can smell it a mile away." Paddington's voice had a firm note to it, so neither Bodie nor Doyle dared to voice doubts - though they had difficulty believing Paddington's words.
With his nose in the air, Paddington paced about. Suddenly, he bent down and poked the ground with his paw.
Straightening again, he licked the paw. "That IS Aunt Lucy's marmalade. She must have grabbed a jar when she was abducted. I think she has marked a trail to lead us to the fortress."
Bodie was flabbergasted. "I don't think the kidnappers would let her do that. Besides, she'd have to hide it from them. That's impossible."
For the second time that day, Bodie found himself at the receiving end of Paddington's hard stare.
The young bear explained: "Aunt Lucy wears a poncho and you can hide lots of things in a poncho."
Doyle asked: "Supposing they frisked her?"
Now it was Doyle's turn to be treated to a hard stare. Paddington said: "I'm sure Aunt Lucy did take a jar with her." He sniffed again, ran to a tree a little further away and shouted: "Here's another lump of marmalade. Come on, let's follow the trail."
Bodie and Doyle weren't entirely happy, but they shouldered their backpacks and followed Paddington, who was already sprinting away.
For a while, they made good progress with Paddington leading them from one lump of marmalade to the next. Around them, parrots squeaked. In the trees, they could see spiders waiting in nets for their prey and snakes curled around branches. Butterflies were everywhere and - following them at a safe distance - a capuchin.
Suddenly, Paddington stopped. He frantically searched the area, sticking his nose in the air. Woebegone, he said: "I can't find the next lump!"
Bodie and Doyle stopped dead in their tracks. Bodie muttered: "It was a bloody stupid idea to follow some imaginary marmalade anyway. Now what are we going to do?"
Wiping the sweat from his forehead with his right sleeve, Doyle said: "We'll have a rest, a drink and do some thinking!"
They sat down in a circle and Doyle unpacked a bottle of water. It passed from one to the next. Paddington handed out marmalade sandwiches. As he did so, the capuchin, came up close.
The bear held out a sandwich to the little monkey, who took it gratefully. The capuchin settled down close to them and they ate in silence.
Having finished his sandwich, the monkey ran a few yards, turned around and looked expectantly at his new mates.
Paddington said: "I think the monkey wants us to follow him." He hurried up to the capuchin, who took his paw and pulled him along. Bodie and Doyle had to be quick to gather up their belongings and follow.
Bodie and Doyle shouldered their backpacks and followed Paddington, who was already well ahead.
For ten minutes, they raced after Paddington and the capuchin. Finally, the monkey stopped and pointed to a tree.
After a close inspection, Paddington exclaimed: "There's another lump of marmalade! We're back on track!"
From that moment on, the capuchin went along with them, helping them out whenever parts of the marmalade trail were missing. Obviously, many animals in the rainforest shared Paddington's fondness for marmalade. They made steady progress until they reached the banks of a river.
Pointing to alligator tracks in the mud, Bodie said: "I don't like the look of those!"
Paddington and Doyle secretly agreed, but Paddington said in a resolute tone of voice: "We must cross this river to free Aunt Lucy!" He climbed onto Doyle's shoulders, and Nelson, the capuchin, hopped onto Bodie's.
Bodie and Doyle waded into the river. The water washed up to their waists. Moving along carrying their backpacks and furry friends, was hard work. The river bed was also slippery, so they had to tread carefully. When they had almost reached the other side, Nelson shrieked frantically, pointing to a rippling on the water.
Bodie and Doyle glanced around to see what had so scared Nelson. Staring back at them were the black eyes of an alligator.
The alligator moved towards them slowly and stealthily. The rest of animal was well-hidden in the muddy water, but from the length of the rippling on the water surface, they could tell it was a huge beast.
Bodie and Doyle drew their guns and took aim. Just as they were about to fire, the alligator backed away.
In a cheerful voice, Paddington said: "You can put the guns away, Mr. Doyle and Mr. Bodie. I think my hard stare scared the black alligator away."
To Bodie and Doyle's utmost amazement, the alligator turned and beat a very hasty retreat. It was soon out of sight.
Holstering his gun, Bodie said: "What a pity. I had been looking forward to bringing home some shoes and handbags as souvenirs!"
Never mind, Mr. Bodie," said Paddington. "We'll find some other nice souvenirs for you. The marmalade honey my Aunt Lucy makes is very tasty. It's sweet, because the bees in the garden of the Home For Retired Bears are always getting at the marmalade."
"I think the lovely Liz would prefer a handbag," grumbled Bodie. "She doesn't have a sweet tooth."
"Then maybe a nice Peruvian poncho would suit her?" suggested Paddington.
"Maybe," replied Bodie, climbing up the riverbank. They stopped for a breather, but the break didn't last long. Once Paddington found the next mark on the marmalade trail, they set off again.
Bodie brought his mates to a halt by raising his hand. Pointing to a spot some distance ahead, he said: "That looks like a clearance to me."
Paddington took his opera glasses from his suitcase and peered through them. "I think you're right, Mr. Bodie."
Doyle adjusted his field glasses and scrutinized the clearing. Handing them to Bodie, he said: "I think we've found the fortress. Looks like El Diablo has an appreciation for architecture. It's a neat, rectangular brick building with a tower on each corner."
Bodie grinned wickedly. "Let's go and find out if we can improve the architecture of the place and prise Aunt Lucy from the claws of these bastards."
He handed back the field glasses and was just about to move on when Doyle stopped him. "Not so fast, Bodie. Let me check the area again."
As he did so, he exclaimed: "There's at least one man on patrol."
Paddington's hat was perched on top of his head at a rakish angle. With an eager expression he said: "Not for much longer if I can get my paws on him."
Bodie gave Doyle a meaningful look. That bear surely could teach new CI5 recruits a lesson or two about motivation!
Quietly and cautiously, they walked on. Approaching the fortress, they got down on their hands, knees and paws and crawled. When the man patrolling the premises was only a stone throw away, Bodie counted down with his fingers. On "three", Bodie and Doyle rushed to the guard as he lit up another cigarette. Paddington and Nelson followed closely behind.
The man didn't know what had hit him as he was knocked off his feet. He didn't even have to time to yell before Doyle shoved a gag into his mouth and pulled it tight. Nelson tugged at the man's hair for good measure and Paddington helped Bodie tie him up. In no time, El Diablo's henchman was trussed up like a chicken and safely tied to a tree. To Paddington, he looked as if he was ready and waiting to be served as a delicious Sunday lunch.
Doyle took his radio from his backpack, switched it on and said: "Doyle to Uncle Pastuso. Do you read me?"
Only the crackling of static reached Doyle's ears, so he tried again: "Doyle to Uncle Pastuso. Do you read me?"
This time, Uncle Pastuso's voice answered: "I read you loud and clear, Mr. Doyle. What's the status?"
"We've found the fortress. It's about three hours' march south-east from the airfield. We're making our move now. Are you ready for the pick-up?"
"I'll be there in ten minutes," came Uncle Pastuso's reply. With a swift and resolute movement, he started the aircraft's engine.
Guns at the ready, Bodie and Doyle were the first to reach the fortress. They checked out the premises. Everything was quiet, there was no other look-out.
Paddington spent a couple of seconds sniffing for marmalade. Then he ran towards the tower at the eastern corner of the fortress and started to climb it. Bodie and Doyle were right behind, watching the bear's back.
Paddington often said: "Bears are good at climbing" and this time, he well and truly outdid himself. Bodie and Doyle wondered how the bear was able to climb up a wall which didn't provide proper footing. There was only one possible answer ... as Doyle said: "I guess the marmalade on his paws provides him with a good grip!"
Above them, they could hear a murmured conversation in Spanish. They could only understand scraps of it, but when Paddington came down again, he gave them the details : "Aunt Lucy's in that cell right above. She managed to hide a jar of marmalade in her poncho when she was abducted. I was right about that. They tied her up, of course, but she had a go at the ropes with her claws during the plane trip to the airfield and managed to get rid of them. So she was able to map out the marmalade trail for us. She's very proud of us for finding our way."
There was a very pleased smile on Paddington's face.
Doyle asked: "Paddington, what's the window to Aunt Lucy's cell look like?"
Like a shot, the young bear replied: "No glass, just three iron bars."
"Plan E?" asked Bodie and Doyle nodded.
Paddington pricked up his ears. "Plan E?" he repeated, curiously.
"E for explosives," explained Bodie.
Doyle added: "We'll blow a hole in the wall of that bloody tower, Paddington."
There was an excited gleam in Paddington's eyes. He definitely liked plan E!
Paddington eyed the harpoon in Bodie's hands questioningly. "I didn't know we were going fishing!"
Doyle gave the young bear a smile and said: "No fishing, Paddington. You are a lot better at climbing than Bodie and myself, so we need a rope to reach Aunt Lucy's cell."
Bodie released the harpoon. With a whirring noise, a hook attached to a rope shot up along the tower to land with a clinking sound on the battlement.
For some seconds, they held their breath, anxious as to whether anyone had heard the clatter of the hook on the bricks.
All was quiet.
Doyle tested whether the rope was securely fastened. He found it was safe to climb and started up, followed closely by Bodie.
After a couple of yards, they turned around to Paddington and Nelson: "You two stay at a safe distance!"
Paddington's and Nelson's answering nod was very half-hearted.
When they reached Aunt Lucy's cell, they found her waiting at the window. "Hello Aunt Lucy," said Doyle. "We're so pleased to find you well. Paddington has told us lots about you."
"All good, I hope," she said, adjusting her glasses to have a good look at the agents who'd come to her rescue.
"Of course," Doyle said.
"Paddington speaks about you two with great respect." Aunt Lucy told them. "I suppose that is why he turned to you for help. Now, how are you going to get me out of here?"
Handing her a splinter guard blanket, Doyle explained: "We're going to blow a hole in the wall. You crouch down in the opposite corner of your cell, pulling this blanket over you. It'll protect you from getting hurt."
Aunt Lucy listened intently, and there was no hint that she was frightened.
Doyle added: "Then we'll help you climb down. Are you okay with that?"
The same gleam they had seen in Paddington's eyes minutes before, was now visible in Aunt Lucy's as she said: "Ale vamos!"
Bodie, who all this time had been busy fixing the explosive charge, gave the thumbs up and said: "Right, let's go!"
Bodie and Doyle descended some yards and Bodie pressed the remote control detonator.
A loud bang rent the air.
Bodie and Doyle put their arms above their heads as splinters of brick and iron rained down. Immediately they heard Spanish expletives shouted by gruff male voices.
As footsteps approached her cell, Aunt Lucy waited no longer. She discarded the splinter protection blanket, groped her way through the smoke to find the opening in the wall and started to climb down.
She safely landed in Doyle's arms and they were down the rope and on the ground in a matter of seconds.
Almost immediately, they heard the whirring of the helicopter. Nelson jumped up and down, shrieking excitedly.
"Uncle Pastuso," said Bodie, pointing to the helicopter, from which a rope ladder was already dangling. Bodie said: "Quick, everybody get on board!" He took Aunt Lucy's paw and together they made a dash to the rope ladder and started to climb.
Doyle, however, saw Paddington run back towards the tower and begin determinedly climbing the wall.
"Paddington," Doyle yelled. "Get down here this instant."
But the bear climbed on. When he reached the hole in the wall, he threw something into the cell. At that moment, the door to the cell opened and another bang rent the air.
Paddington climbed down as fast as his legs would carry him. When he reached Doyle, the CI5 agent pushed the bear in front of him and together they made a run for the rope ladder.
Bodie and Aunt Lucy had just managed to climb into the helicopter, while Doyle and Paddington were still some way short.
Suddenly, men raced around the corner of the tower and started shooting. Doyle returned fire, managing to keep their pursuers at a safe distance. The end of the rope ladder was almost in reach, when a bullet passed dangerously close to Doyle's head. For a split second, he wondered why the men who must have come to check out Aunt Lucy's cell didn't follow them as well. He decided not to wonder about this good fortune - he was busy enough dealing with the men behind them.
Paddington reached the rope ladder and started to climb. A bullet missed him by a fraction of an inch and singed the fur on his leg. Doyle hopped onto the rope ladder, glad that Bodie was covering their climb to safety.
Moments later, everybody was safely on board and the men on the ground were running around like headless chickens, stamping their feet on the ground and swearing violently.
The Peruvian police arrived a little later and they found that arresting El Diablo's goons was as easy as picking cherries. The leader of the operation used exactly these words in his report!
When Uncle Pastuso landed the helicopter on the lawn in front of the Home For Retired Bears in Lima, they were greeted by all the bears living there with cheers and confetti.
It was a Fete Day, but it had started gloomily at the Home For Retired Bears. When word of the successful rescue mission reached the Home, the depression vanished, replaced by great excitement.
Preparations for an enormous feast were made and decorations put up. The mayor of Lima arrived to offer his congratulations and thanks for the capture of El Diablo and his men.
Aunt Lucy, Paddington, Bodie, Doyle and Uncle Pastuso had to shake so many hands and paws, they felt extremely tired when they settled down at the table in the evening.
There was loads of food. Bodie and Paddington tucked in as if it was going out of fashion and Doyle wondered where they put it all.
There was something which still puzzled Doyle, so he asked Paddington: "What did you throw into Aunt Lucy's cell? I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that nobody came after us from there?"
Paddington took a long sip from his mug of steaming hot cocoa. Peruvian cocoa had a special taste to it and he decided to savour it to the full. He wiped some of it from his whiskers before answering: "Those were some of my special grenades. They contain powder, marmalade and glue. So, the men who came into Aunt Lucy's cell were stuck to the ground and simply couldn't come after us."
He reached out a paw for another marmalade sandwich, leaving Doyle staring at him, open-mouthed.
At midnight, a firework display painted the sky all the colours of the rainbow. In the end, Paddington waved a tired paw holding a sparkler to spell out the words: "Thank you for your help, Mr. Doyle and Mr. Bodie."
He was so tired afterwards that Doyle had to carry him up to Aunt Lucy's room, where he slept till 10 the following morning, snuggled up to his auntie.
Three days later, Major Cowley gazed at Bodie and Doyle, who were sitting at his desk looking mightily pleased with themselves.
"Gentlemen, congratulations on a successful mission. You did really well. No damage to CI5 property, no injuries. What's even more important, I've just had a meeting with the Prime Minister who's happy about a significant improvement of Britain's relationship with Peru. There's a new trade agreement and the Peruvian Prime Minister will visit London next month."
Major Cowley rose, walked over to a filing cabinet and took out a bottle of scotch. He filled three glasses and said: "Cheers, gentlemen!"
When they had emptied their glasses, Doyle said, somewhat recklessly: "Sir, what about a raise?"
Bodie and Doyle emerged, grinning, from Major's Cowley's office.
Rubbing his hands, Bodie said: "That hard stare Aunt Lucy taught us as a thank you present worked a treat!"
Doyle had to agree: "A raise and a couple of days off in one go! Who'd have thought Cowley capable of THAT?"
A few weeks later, during a training session with Macklin, Bodie tried out something Paddington had taught him.
When he needed a break from Macklin chasing him across the forest, he sat down, raised his cap, got hold of a piece of Swiss roll and took a big bite.
Macklin's cry of "BODIE" echoed and re-echoed around the forest.