“Right,” said Jack. “I’ve managed to get a few people involved. Experts even. My colleague Jeff’s eldest daughter Susannah is a recently qualified vet and she’s agreed to help us out in this. She is fascinated by the latest developments and would really like to help track a big cat down for personal curiosity and so she can add it to her already impressive CV. She spent three years in the Army before doing her vet’s course up in London so she’s gutsy and the right person to help us. Her boyfriend Greg is good with guns and he’s going to bring hit shotgun just in case the worst happens and the creature decides to attack.”
“Oh no,” cried Florence, “you can’t shoot it. Pleeeeaasssse!”
“No Florence,” nobody wants to harm it but as your mummy says we need to take precautions. This is a serious endeavour and we need to careful on every level. History is here being made by us all so we need to do it right and we need to be cautious yet decisive when the time comes. We shall see what occurs....
“And Ellie is putting a spanner in the General’s works,” declared Frieda. “Apparently, he is even worse than we’d expected and totally bought her ridiculous lines about demons in the graveyard and shapeshifting black cats. Apparently, get this, the fool has told Ellie that you can psychically predict someone’s DNA. He also believes that he can tetra heal the Universe and has the power of Greyskull. Idiot! She asked me what he was on about. I told her I haven’t a clue but to stay with it. I doubt he has a clue what he’s talking about either.”
“Well, let us hope the ABC Team is down by the river,” added Robin.
“Up a creek without a paddle,” joked Tom.
“Our problem is that there are too many variables at the moment and we need more hard data. I have had an idea though,” said Jack, thoughtfully. “About filming, or tracking at least. I think it’s maybe time to set the trap. I need to visit a farm supplier I know first though....”
Meanwhile, down by the riverbank Billy Poison and his lady were confusing paw prints in the mud – no doubt made earlier that morning but something like a Golden Retriever on its walk – with those of a big cat and already seeing this as evidence that Ellie was indeed right in her suggestion that this was the place to base their operation. “Can’t you feel it, Billy,” enquired Ellie, thoroughly enjoying her role and taking it ever so seriously now that she saw her village threatened by these outsiders.
And, she considered, how dare the General assume that because she had red streaks in her hair and listened to Grindcore music on her MP3 player that she was some wayward village idiot who hung out in the graveyard or by the cricket pavilion taking drugs and drinking beer! As it happened, she was the youngest of three children, possibly the cleverest but not much given to academic pursuits. She was more an artist and loved making things.
Quite a lot of her time was spent looking after her mother, Anne-Marie, who had Multiple Sclerosis and, despite have a goodly supply of cannabis available (from some outdoor planting in the Minster Woods) to help with her movement, and all the love in the world from her family, she still struggled getting out and about. So Ellie did what she could for her mum, spent quite a lot of time seeing friends at her house and doing creative things in her spare time.
Matters descended once again into the farcical as The General emerged with a retinue including a mobile film unit from Channel X TV led by presenter Yvonne Fawcett. At least she was wearing wellington boots and a sensible outdoor jacket. The General had a pair of cheap trainers on and looked totally ridiculous in a pair of shorts that were far too small for him. He was barking orders to anyone that would listen but most of his followers were more interested in getting photographs of themselves with Yvonne than doing anything for the self-styled Leader and Expert.
“Ok people. We are here today to investigate the mystery cat further,” said he. “We have a number of local leads including information from this young lady here, Ella.”
“It’s Ellie,” replied the teenager, clearly miffed at The General making the same mistake as other people. “And what I suggest we do is spread out along the river banks on either side and see what we can see. We’re looking for anything out of the ordinary.” Seemingly in charge, and yet working for the other side, Ellie seemed to somehow galvanise the ABC Team into action and they split off in twos along both sides of the riverbank.
Huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with his team, The General waded into the river and emerged five seconds later covered in mud. “There’s a bridge just up there,” said Ellie, unable to stop laughing. “Ahh, yes, love,” he said. “I thought I saw something metallic in the water. Hum.” Ellie rolled her eyes and put her headphones on. The music of Dead Infection was much more enjoyable than hearing The General’s babbling ninsense, Ellie thought.
Half an hour later, after more interviews with The General, a woman from Scotland who’d “come down specially” and had “psychically predicted the arrival of a dark messenger” in Dorset was surveying the scene. Ellie was there, taking it all in, and there was much excitement as the walkie talkies crackled into action. Billy The Burger Man had found something “out of this world” (well he was into UFOs so what did anyone expect?) and needed “everyone to witness it” further up river. So off they tramped, some in excitement and Ellie in resignation, that he’d probably found an old crisp packet and would declare it as evidence for a retrieved alien spaceship before sending them out to hunt for occupants.
They arrived to find a small crowd standing around what looked like a couple of field mice. More photographs were being taken and someone from the Midlands, one of The Generals’ shock troops, had even produced a pair of surgical gloves. Someone with a brain, Ellie thought, whatever next?
What came next boggled even her young and open mind. “I cannot believe it,” said Burger Man. “Animal mutilation. I never thought I’d see the day!”
“Animal what,” asked Yvonne, cameras rolling in anticipation of something...anything. “Mutilation,” interrupted The General. “Proof that we are not alone.”
“Well, they look very alone now,” said Ellie. “And they’re just field mice, so what gives?”
“They have bore holes in their skulls and I have seen this in publications,” replied Burger Van. “Done by aliens, intent on harvesting animal DNA for their own uses. Nothing else could have done something as precise as this but we have more and more cases in The Literature,” he added.
“Errm, and how did they get here?” asked Ellie, hoping the cameraman was getting all this insanity on film. “Well,” he continued,”My bet is, in an area like this, that they have been dropped from a great height probably by black helicopters operating out of a secret military facility. That’s what They do, you know.”
Field mice dropped from black helicopters piloted by aliens? “Let the heavens open up and swallow these people whole,” Ellie muttered to herself, shaking her head in total disbelief.
The ABC Team had cranked the credulometer up to 11............