It seemed reasonably late and there appeared no one else around. The twins felt sure they were on the coast road north of Blossom Bay and this time of the evening the place was deathly quiet, except for the thud of heavy boots on the tarmac as the two strange men approached. When they saw the three youngsters stand their ground and make no evasive moves, they visibly slowed their progress to a slightly embarrassed walk.
"Evening ladies, gentleman," one said, pausing on the kerb nearest the rising ground flanked by trees and fencing. "You seem a bit out of your way."
The other, who was much shorter and wider and very much the worse for wear from the sprint that had initially brought them to this location, barged impatiently forward.
"We saw you," he said in a scraping kind of voice, hoarse and unpleasant, "we were looking right where you appeared suddenly out of thin air." He mopped his brow and glared at them as if daring them to deny it, which the twins promptly did.
"Wasn't us," said one.
"Nothing of the sort," said the other.
"Isn't it brilliant!" said Billy Buckle. "We have the power to appear anywhere we like." This time the glare came from the twins directed with double the intensity at the boy. So much for their attempt at denial.
"You don't say?" the taller man replied, giving his partner a quick glance. "Anywhere, like the other side of that wall for instance?" He indicated a barrier half way up the sloping hill that flanked the coast road, pale in the dim light, winding like a ribbon along the contours of the land for some distance either way, the perimeter no doubt of some mansion hidden amid the trees.
The twins just stared blankly and Billy squirmed, eager to have his outrageous claim proven. The men stared too, instigating a contest of sorts. They coughed, and smirked and polished their nails, as if to say they simple could not believe such a wild tale so that even Fizzy began to squirm.
"All right!" Divvy eventually huffed, considering herself very much in charge for she held the trophy. "That wall there, hmn," she said, glancing upwards, taking a few steps here and there and shifting the trophy in her hands as if sighting with it.
"Is that what you use to flit?" the hoarse voiced individual said, studying her actions.
"She twists it this way and that and a glowing door opens before your very eyes," Billy helpfully explained.
"Oh if only it were that simple," said the wielder of the device.
"Complex beyond measure, known to trained experts only," said her assistant. Neither liked the way the men were eyeing the trophy, a thing of value in itself without the added power of taking people off around the world in an instant.
"Let me see," Divvy said, thinking up a simple plan to escape these suspicious men. "If you use only a root in calibration it takes you to another Winkel. However a root of a root sends you say a hundred miles that way depending on angles and stuff. But for this challenge it all needs super fine tuning. You need a root of a root of a root for a line of sight skip, say to the other side of that wall." As she was speaking she was making a funny face all too familiar to Fizzy who ushered Billy Buckle a little closer with discreet hand movements, signing to be ready at any moment. Thankfully he understood. Divvy twisted her fingers this way and that, still sore from cactus prickles but with more deft feeling and then she tapped the device three times.
A ring of light popped up by the road and the men stepped back amazed.
"Run for it!" Divvy cried and the three youngsters leapt through the portal once more to where a glow the other side of the wall was visible, their exit point as planned. The men cried too and looked around, spotting the light on the hill. Then, before the oval dissipated they too leapt through and tumbled out amid trees and shrubs.
The taller one stood up first for the other was tangled and cursing among some wiry plants near the inner side of the wall.
"That was something, really something," he said, out of breath, not from the exertion of the thing but the sheer thrill of suddenly finding himself instantly transported within the grounds of a mansion he had been spying upon for the past week. His partner finally found his hat and replaced it on his square head.
"We did it," he growled happily. "I could hug you kids." Suddenly he seemed overly friendly.
"We said we could and we did," Billy proudly claimed some credit for the miraculous feat. "Behold. One second you were on the outside of that wall, and now you are on the inside. Ow!" This last part of the speech was due to Divvy flicking one of the boy's prominent ears viciously.
"They were supposed to stay on the outside so we could get away," she whispered through gritted teeth.
"Now now, don't fight," the taller man said. He had always seemed the more personable of the two but was positively fatherly at the moment. "We can't thank you enough for solving a problem that's been bugging us for days at a stretch. Namely how to get from that side of the wall to this. And in an instant you solve the puzzle for us." He raised his hat and whistled.
"Yeah," croaked the other. "We were locked out, then you kids come along and here we are, no longer locked out," and he laughed in a way that suggested he was coughing up solid chunks of phlegm from his lungs.
"Now the deed is done we'll bid you good evening," the kindlier man said and the two then made their silent way towards a path that presumably led to the mansion hidden in the hills. Faint lights were visible through the thick trees within the grounds.
"Well, that was strange," Billy Buckle said in the ensuing silence.
"You were amazing twin," Fizzy enthused. "You got the trick of it now. What was it? The root of the root of the root and angles and stuff. Simple really."
"Like you and the Buckle boy," Divvy sternly rebuked the others with rising ire. "Don't you see what's just happened?"
"Nope," Fizzy denied comfortably.
"My ear is really starting to burn now," Billy announced.
"Good. The other will burn too when I tell you I think we've just helped two thieves get into that mansion over there to steal all its owner's valuables."
"Ow!" Billy said for Fizzy had just flicked his other ear and gave him a look that told him it was all his fault.