continued from It’s good to be a spy cat (Part 2)
Field Journal Day 76
In position outside Lilibeth’s abode. Suspect…er, subject has been home all night. Houses in this neighborhood are lined up like boxes of cereal on grocery store shelves. The front yard is about the size of a minivan, so finding cover was a challenge. The ideal stake-out location ended up being the plastic castle that surrounds the sandbox. Considering it takes up half the yard, it’s quite roomy. There’s even a drawbridge.
Horgan has infiltrated the house in his guise as “guest”. Lester and Pfizz stayed in the truck. They’re monitoring my GPS tracker and the communications system. My mission today: plant tracking chip on subject.
Subject is identified, witnessed leaving through cat flap in the garage.
Interesting. She looks leaner than I recalled. Her formerly white fur is…dusty? That doesn’t make sense, not with the Lilibeth I’d met last year—she’d dressed up for dinner with pink bows in her shiny white coat.
What has she been up to?
Before I can cross the moat, she disappears into the neighbor’s yard. I move to follow and intercept, but she’s fast. Really fast. I can’t even see her tail.
Which way did she go? Darn. The plan is already falling apart.
A bzzt in my ear from my headphone. Lester’s voice, breathless. “Timber, she’s three houses to the right.”
Still no sign of subject. I’ve jumped fences, darted under porches, peeked in windows, hopped up on cars, startled babies, and annoyed one Labrador retriever. My black hair dye has left streaks across four yards. I’ll never find her this way, but I’ve left a trail three blind mice could follow.
I stop next to a stunted tree in the yard of a blue house. I must be four or five houses away from Hannah’s by now. I should climb the tree for a better view, but that leaves the embarrassing problem of getting back down. It’s tempting to give up and go back for breakfast. But Horgan hired us for a reason. There’s a certain amount of pride in knowing that he thought only a spy cat could crack this case. That he picked me to track Lilibeth.
Sometimes, the life of a spy cat is all “Stay under the couch, Timber,” and “Blend in with the llamas and see what you can hear, Timber,” but every once in a while, it’s actually exciting.
I won’t give up so easily. It’s time to start thinking like a cat. What could she be after?
She’s lost weight—so she’s not moving into another family. There’s nothing like new cat infatuation to bring out the tuna. And her normally pretty coat was in horrible shape, which means hair bows have been replaced by something else on her priority list.
I recognize the signs. She’s on the hunt. She’s going after something more important than food, than comfort.
If I don’t know any better, I’d say she’s acting like a spy cat.
That’s when Lilibeth pounces on me from above. “Who are you and why are you following me?”
“BlaaaaaaaaarcK!” I jump high enough to latch onto the tree’s lowest branches. My front claws stick. I dangle there like a drying fish, which is a ridiculous pose for a furred creature, but it seems safer than putting myself in her reach. “Don’t DO that!”
She sits below me, the picture of innocence. Until she reaches up with a claw and pokes me in the butt. “Talk, Oh Fluffy One. Or I bring out,” she unsheathes the whole paw-ful, “the rest of them.”
What am I doing, taking this from a little thing like Lilibeth? She weighs half of what I do, soaking wet. And I’ve got gravity on my side, plus the grenade launcher. Which is snugged around my waist, out of reach. She eyes it suspiciously.
Gravity, then. I swing my back legs, aim, and launch myself at her. I’m intending only to smush and startle, then interrogate. It seems a reasonable plan.
I land, instead of on her, on her back paws, which knock my breath away and catapult me over her head. She wrestles the tool belt off, easily loads the grenade launcher, and pounces on top of me. She wields the cardboard handle in one paw. The launcher’s rubber band is pulled back and aimed at my head.
It’s not too late to turn this around. I have a feeling I know what she’s been up to, and how I can get out of this compromising position.
“Well done, Lilibeth. You’ve passed.”
She drops the launcher. “You mean…you’ve been watching me?”
I knew it. “Yes. And the CIA is very impressed.”
“It’s real, then? The feline espionage program? It’s not just a children’s book?” She stalks off my belly and sits on the ground. Shakes her head. “I can’t believe it. I was hoping, of course…”
“That’s how I got my start, too. The Manual of Feline Espionage—not many felines see it for what it really is. Er, not many cats know how to read.”
“Hannah reads it to her daughter at night.”
Of course, Horgan got the book for his niece last Christmas. “It’s a great book,” I say.
“But I kept thinking, what if I could be a spy cat, too? So I’ve been practicing.”
I look at myself, splayed on the ground, taken down my a civilian. “It shows.”
That explains the sneaking out, the change in behavior. But on the way back to Hannah’s, I realize recruiting a spy cat is not a trivial matter. How much would Horgan want to tell his sister? Would Horgan even want another agent? We are obviously worth it, but secret agent cats aren’t cheap.
For instance, I want bacon for breakfast.
When I’m back within headphone range, I hear a Bzzt. Lester comes on. “Where have you been? Did you find her?”
“She’s here. And she’s onto us. She’s been practicing being a spy cat.”
A rustle. A deep grunt. Horgan’s voice. “You were not authorized to reveal any classified secrets, agent.”
“She figured it out first!”
“The goal is secrecy, Timber!”
I reach Hannah’s driveway and see Horgan sitting behind the steering wheel, Lester and Pfizz in his lap, all of them wearing headphones, the computer propped on the dashboard. “Um, have you looked in the mirror?”
Hannah comes out the front door in her bathrobe, two steaming cups in her hand. At the sight of Horgan in his pickup truck, she stops, wide-eyed. Then she notices Lilibeth wearing the grenade launcher slung over her shoulder. My hair dye must be running, because she blinks at me and says, “Timber? Is that you?”
In all the excitement, I forgot I wasn’t supposed to talk to Hannah. “It’s a long story,” I say. Horgan hears me through the headphones, and I hear his voice snarl “Timber!!” in my ears.
“Well, you might as well start now,” she says. “I was wondering how to tell you guys I learned Cat a long time ago, but you know my brother. He loves his secrets.”
Horgan sputtered. I heard Lester chuckle. “I told you it wasn’t hard.”
Honestly it was a relief not to be hiding things from our hostess. I was hoping this meant I could eat breakfast in the house. So I turned to Lilibeth. “You’re going to love working for Horgan. You can share a room with Cleo.” Her whiskers perked up with pride.
Hannah blinked. “Wait, what?”
Horgan coughed. “Wait, what?”
Some days, it’s good to be a spy cat. We solve all kinds of problems for people, and they don’t even know it.