Beruthiel Beauregard looked around the village of Aberbran. It was small and quaint. It resembled the small Appalachian town she'd been born in and was her traditional territory, in that a cat could make several circuits in a day. The people were much the same, living in each others' pockets and knowing everything that went on. They also had a mistrust of outsiders who tried to become one of them. They had no problems with tourists, after all much of the business depended on them, but people who moved in and tried too hard to become one of the locals instead of letting the process take the years needed. The major difference was the language. In Beru's hometown, a few people spoke Gaelic, the ancient language of their forebears but in Aberbran the language was similar but different enough to remind Beru she wasn't at home. The Welsh was about as common as the Gaelic at home, meaning it wasn't out of place but not everyone spoke it.
Beru wandered around. She had a fair idea of where she was going and what she was looking for thanks to the intelligence from both the members of Clouder Number Nine and their new friend Rhys. She made a circuit of the town and started another one. No sign of Natalia.
Beru saw some of the village cats but none would come near her. She checked in with Phoebe and Fiona. No joy there either. None of the cats were talking.
Beru found a secluded spot and called into headquarters. She needed a cat who could get the village cats to talk. That meant Rhys, even if he didn't have any training. Angus said he would bring the cat so Beru and the others went back to their stations and waited.
A couple hours later Rhys found Beru. She was waiting in the alley by the teashop with that day's salmon crusts laid out before her. Salmon wasn't Beru's fish of choice, her being more of a fried catfish kind of cat, but fish was fish and tasty.
“So what's the news?” Beru asked once Rhys was in conversing distance.
“Natalia's gone,” Rhys said as he picked up a crust.
“Gone where?” she asked. That could be good or bad.
“All the other cats would say,” he answered wolfing down the meal. “was that after the fight, Natalia slunk off to the gazebo and then a while later a giant Russian man came and picked her up and drove off with her in a limousine.”
“Sounds like my sister,” Nala said over the comm system. “She's gone home. I think the man was Boris, her butler.”
“Focus on the immediate threat of the Gaelic League,” came the dulcet sounds of Lady Gwen over the comms. “Natalia will be a mission, later.”
“Yes, My Lady,” Nala answered.
“Ma'am, yes, ma'am,” answered Beru. She heard the sniggers of the other cats over the comms but she was an American. She didn't “My Lady” anybody. She “Ma'am”ed like the free cat she was.
Beru turned to Rhys and studied him. He'd had a couple days of training but was no where near ready for a mission but then again this was his home turf.
“I'm supposed to send you back to HQ,” Beru said.
“Let me help,” Rhys pleaded. “I can be of use and you know it.”
“I do know it,” Beru said. “That's why I said 'supposed to'. I'm not going to do it. But you have to stick to my side and follow my orders.”
“I can do that,” Rhys agreed.
“I rather thought you could,” Beru agreed. She outlined her plan and Rhys contributed a few refinements. They set off to patrol the village.
Early the next morning, Fiona, Phoebe, Beru, and Rhys gathered in the park. They discussed their various findings. Something was happening. It was big and the Gaelic League was moving out of Aberbran for the next phase of their plan. Whatever they were after in the castle, they'd found it. Hopefully Alex had found out what it was and MEOW would be able to stop it.
“Phoebe, will you take a look around the pub?” Beru asked. She could have made it an order but she was an outsider to this Clouder so she'd frame the orders as questions until some cat made an issue of it.
“Sure,” Phoebe answered. “I'll look in the conference room and the guest rooms that Alex identified in his reports. There might be some rubbish with useful information.” Phoebe dashed off to the pub, to try to get there before the maids could clean the rooms in question.
“Fiona, you said they took trains,” Beru said. “Do you know where to?”
“Aye,” Fiona answered. “Manchester and Cardiff. But it sounded like they had connections but different ones and would rendezvous elsewhere. They were trying to be careful about not all traveling together but there are only so many trains out of Aberbran.”
“Manchester and Cardiff,” Beru said. “Hmmm.”
“We're mobilizing the local clouders,” Erik said over the comms. “As soon as Phoebe returns from the Pub, Angus will pick you up and bring you back to headquarters.”
“Roger and out,” replied Beru. She, Fiona, and Rhys found cozy spots under the gazebo for a wee nap. They had time now and who knew when they'd get another chance to sleep as things seemed to be heating up.
Their naps were interrupted an hour later as Phoebe reported in. Beru woke instantly at the sound from her collar and she activated the comm unit.
“What have you got?” asked Beru.
“I know where they're going,” Phoebe said a little breathless.
“Where?” demanded Beru.
“London,” Phoebe said. “I hope Angus is about to town because I saw a time line and we've got to go.”
“I'll be at the park in five,” Angus said over the comm.
“So will I,” said Phoebe.
Beru roused the other cats. They were waiting when Angus pulled the Land Rover up beside the gazebo. They had just gotten settled when a flying blur of gray and white fur hopped in the open door.
“Go,” Phoebe panted. “I'll strap in as you get out of town.”
Angus didn't need to be told twice that the situation was urgent. He had seen the pictures from the castle and had an idea of the target. It was the time line he was unsure of but if Phoebe was running and willing to ride unsecured for any length of time it was urgent. He stepped on the accelerator and was speeding down the road towards headquarters.
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