The lengthening shadows of early evening helped Tukiko lead the four adventurers away from the noisy crowd halfway up the hill,
and down into the bottom of the valley where the shadows were closer together and darker.
Those few Devil's Own who saw them and realised what was happening either looked the other way or actually nodded encouragement at what Tukiko was doing.
By now there were very few inhabitants of the camp who didn't owe the diminutive doctor for the care they had received at her hands.
Some of those people who acknowledge her were only alive now because of it.
Tukiko led the way along the muddy valley to where her new car was parked. Jeass had done a good job.
Her old car had suffered badly at Tuki's hands,
so Jeass had beefed up the suspension on the custom-built ambulance and strengthened the frame to give it a chance against its owner's madcap cross-country driving.
Arriving at the car, Tukiko looked carefully back the way they had come while the kids clambered across the already untidy mess that was the interior.
Satisfied that they were not being pursued, yet anyway, Tukiko spun the car through a hundred and eighty degrees and tore off due north along the dirt track towards the road.
Initially, she had planned on heading for Hope and home but, as the road got closer, Tukiko realised that doing so was just inviting trouble onto the small town.
"Hang on, kids!"
Tuki swung the wheel, and the car lurched westwards across the uneven ground and directly towards the Devil's Own lookout post close to the tarmac road.
Making sure the lookouts had definitely seen the rapidly approaching and unmistakable ambulance, Tuki only then turned onto the road and headed not towards Hope, but to New Flagstaff.
Dusk was settling in nicely when Tukiko pulled up outside the doughnut shop on Santa Fe Avenue.
She let the kids, obviously ravenous by the way they attacked their food, eat for a while before she asked the inevitable question.
"So how in hell did you guys end up in a Devil's Own encampment?"
The chewing slowed. The doughnut was swallowed, and uneaten pieces were put reluctantly back onto plates. The first bird had come home to roost.
The Mrs Doctor Lady, as Tukiko was known to most of the orphans at the factory, was not only overseer Taiyoko's partner, she was also somehow or other related to Joe.
Not only that, but she was also on excellent terms with the staff at the orphanage.
Being in trouble with any one of those was one thing, but being caught by Dr Troy meant they were in for a triple whammy of trouble once Finny told on them.
In the lengthening silence that followed, guilty glances were thrown by the boys towards their dejected leader.
Finny took a breath and let it out in a resigned sigh.
"We went on an adventure."
Somewhere in the ensuing questions more and more of the answers came from the three increasingly excited and animated boys, complete with sound effects whenever they could squeeze them in.
Finny's contributions trailed off until she sat silently looking down into her lap. This did not go unnoticed.
Once she had gained the gist of what had happened Tukiko held up her hands for silence.
"Okay boys, I've got it. Now, why don't you take your doughnuts and go and sit in the car while I have a word with Finny?"
Finny sniffed noisily and it was only then that Casper, Onetooth and Worms realised that Finny was actually crying.
In embarrassed silence, and with just a little more haste than was seemly, the three of them left the shop. Tukiko watched them through the window as they got safely into the car.
Now with foreheads pressed against the glass, the boys tried to get their heads around the unfamiliar concept of their leader crying without any sign of an injury to justify it.
But when they noticed the Mrs Doctor Lady scowling at them, they suddenly found somewhere else to look.
Tukiko turned her attention to the little girl sitting across from her.
It took an effort of will to climb the sandstone steps to the shiny black door. Tukiko hoped Silja would be there, it would be less awkward if Silja was there.
Silja, it turned out, wasn't there. The door opened to Tuki's knock and revealed Kirsten with little Annie peeping out from behind her legs.
"Oh, hello, Tukiko. I'm afraid Silja isn't here. She's gone somewhere with Uwe."
Tuki managed a smile that hid her disappointment.
"No, that's okay. Actually, I was wondering if Joe was in?"
The door opened wide with Annie staying behind Kirsten's legs. She knew Tuki, of course.
She had even visited with Silja but Annie only knew Tuki well enough so that waiting behind Momma was the right thing to do.
Kirsten took in Tuki's grubby, muddy and bloodstained work clothes.
"Of course. Come in, he'll be delighted to see you."
Tuki doubted it. Since the 'Miss Brown' thing, their relationship had, if anything, become even more strained. But because of what had happened she at least now had an inkling why that was so.
Kirsten, holding Annie's hand so that the four-year-old didn't scoot off, led Tukiko through to the lounge.
Joe was sitting on the gold and blue couch examining what looked to be sheets of printer's proofs.
Joe had recently come into possession of a consignment of four dozen original Jack Daniel's 1ltr whiskey bottles - but sans labels.
He had the bottles, and he had the rotgut to fill them with, now all he needed were authentic looking labels - hence the proofs.
However, there were two incongruous things about the scene that made Tuki smile. Firstly, no duster. The Spivey bird without its plumage was a rare sight indeed. Secondly, the glasses.
The fact that Joe sometimes needed glasses to read was a secret known only to a few. Tuki had known Joe for years so was in on the truth but still, he looked strange in spectacles.
And Joe was incredibly self-conscious about his glasses too. As soon as Tuki entered the room, Joe whipped them off and hid them under a sheet of the famous black labels.
Joe didn't stand up. Joe was a feminist in that respect... apparently. He treated Tukiko to a suspicious stare.
In the second or so that the two exchanged the monosyllabic pleasantries,
Kirsten took the opportunity to snatch an antimacassar from the back of her own chair and lay it on the seat of the seat she then offered her visitor. Tuki noticed but didn't blame her.
The floor of a yurt is hard-packed earth and... other stuff. Kirsten took her own seat.
"Joe, Tukiko came to see you."
Joe had anticipated that Tuki was here for Silja and so thought that he could now, after saying hi, pretty much ignore her. Kirsten's explanation for Tuki's visit put an end to that.
Joe grunted and turned back to his proof sheet.
"What have I done now?"
Tuki bristled. Why was it always like this?
"You know, you say that every time we meet. I mean, every damn time. You haven't done anything."
Joe looked at her.
"I'm sorry. You're right." He snapped the proof sheet into an upright position as if it were a newspaper and turned back to it.
"So, what haven't I done then?"
It was Kirsten. Joe looked at her over the top of the proof sheet. The look of disappointed reproof he was met with tugged at his conscience.
He sighed and put the large sheet of miss-spelled labels down next to him. He gave Tuki his full attention.
"Sorry, Tuki. Really. What is it you want?"
Kirsten shook her head, but it was probably the best she was going to get from him. She, too, had noticed the lessening cordiality between him and Tukiko. And she, too, also knew the reason why.
Tuki was quite happy to get to the point.
"It's about Finny."