After leaving Phoebe at the Royal Mail office, Nala and Alex ambled their way around town until they came to the Black Boar Inn. The local pub had been established sometime in the seventeenth century as a coaching inn and pub and was still the heart of village life. There were newer and more modern hotels on the outskirts of town but the Black Boar was where everybody went to have a pint and talk. The visitors they were interested in might not be staying here but people here would be talking about them. Anything new and or unusual was always discussed, in great detail, at the local pub.
Nala took one last look at Alex and ruffled his fur some more. He still looked too much like a pure bred Siamese to be believed as a stray but hopefully people would believe him to be the pub cat. Buildings this old usually had a cat or two to keep the vermin population down and as far anyone knew at MEOW the last pub cat had disappeared a month ago. This left a vacancy for Alex to fill. If he could get in with the publican.
Nala finished her grooming of Alex and nudged him on his way. He looked at her, unsure of himself but excited. She nodded to him to go on and he did. She hoped that the faith everyone had in the kitten was well founded. They would soon find out and luckily her own part of the mission was to get in with the street cats so she'd be able to keep an eye on him.
Alex crept into the pub. A fire was lit in the ancient fireplace and an empty cat basket sat next to the hearth. He was here to be the pub cat, so he strode with great purpose to it. He looked right and left to make sure no other cat was coming and then settled down into the basket. He curled up to look asleep but really watching the tap room.
“Och, look at the wee cheetie,” said a Scottish guest to Rhys, the publican.
“That is indeed a bold cat,” answered Rhys. “But I guess he can stay there, if no one comes looking for him. Our cat disappeared a while ago and there is just something about having a cat at one's hearth.”
“Aye,” agreed the Scott. “Cats and warm places just seem to go together.”
Alex smiled to himself. So far so good. He had permission to make the hearth his base of operations for the next few days and then Angus would conveniently come looking for him and he'd be ex-filtrated with ease.
“Now aboot that meeting room,” the Scottish customer said to Rhys.
“Yes?” asked the publican. He would be only too happy to rent the Assembly room to this patron as it stood empty most of the week.
“I'll be needing it every Thursday for the next two months,” the customer said. “Any break on price for such a good customer?”
Rhys thought. Most of the people with whom this Scott met were from elsewhere and some were staying in the rooms above the pub and he did want the room for eight days when it would stand empty.
“I'll give you eight days of rental for the price of seven, Mr. Mac Andrew,” Rhys answered.
“Och, that is dear but I'll take it,” agreed the Scotsman, Mac Andrew. “We'll be here tomorrow at 9AM sharp.”
Alex smiled to himself. That was an excellent start to his spy career. Headquarters would be buzzing with that information. He would probably have a standing mission to be around this pub for the next eight Thursdays, starting tomorrow. Good work he said to himself.
“Here, cat,”Rhys said as he brought over a dish of cream and another of shredded chicken bits. “You look like you could do with some meat on your bones. But don't eat too much. You need to catch the little mousies.”
Alex tucked into the meal purring his appreciation. He'd catch a few mice to keep his cover. Really if all missions went like this, then he'd be a great agent. Maybe as good as the famous Nekkosan. He shook his head, splatting cream all over the hearth. He couldn't think like that. He had to survive this mission first and if there was one thing the Academy drilled into the kittens, it was looks can be deceiving. By that motto, Alex knew he should be prepared for this mission to go pear shaped at any moment.
Alex finished his meal and curled back up into the basket. He decided he could take a little nap so he'd be awake later to make a full inspection of the pub. It wasn't a dereliction of duty, his collar would still record and transmit the conversations, around him, back to headquarters. When he checked in later, they'd let him know of any changes to the mission. With that happy thought and a full tummy, Alex went to sleep for an appropriately named cat nap.
He woke to the sound of another cat purring at him. Alex opened one eye and saw that the cat sitting on the hearth next to him was a Russian Blue. He started to close his eyes again thinking it was Nala, but opened them again when it occurred to him to be offended. This was HIS mission, why was the leader not trusting him to do his job? He woke up fully and looked at the cat. Yes, she looked like Nala but her collar was wrong and she had a strange gleam in her eyes.
The cat moved over and took a good look at Alex and then walked away. Alex, belatedly, shook his head so that the camera in his collar could emphasize the recording of this strange cat and looked after her until she was gone from the tap room. He started to follow her but the men he'd over heard before were starting to climb the stairs to the meeting room. He had to follow them.
Alex got upstairs to the door of the room when the emergency alarm on his collar went off. He turned to leave but a chirp sounded from his collar. He pressed a hidden button on the collar and an earphone slipped into his ear. Orders from headquarters were quickly relayed to him. Yes, a member of his clouder was in trouble, but he couldn't help. Instead, he was ordered to stay and complete his mission. He was to follow and eavesdrop on the men he had seen. Then he was to stay the night and find away to be in the room for their meeting tomorrow. Headquarters would give him an update on the rest of his clouder when he checked in after the pub was cleared for the night.
Alex acknowledged his orders and the earphone retracted. He went about his business with part of his mind worried for the rest of his clouder. The worry increased when the second and then the third emergency signals sounded. Then he heard the sound of Headquarters responding. He was comforted to know the humans were on the way. He had his orders and he had to follow them. This was his first assignment and his clouder was counting on him. He rushed to keep up with his targets. He could and would do this.