“Must have been a big pigeon to deliver such a long message, Tomcat” said Miss Scarlett.

“It was, Trevor is a big lad, I believe his owner fed him steroids when he was a squab, so that Trev could make it across The English Channel carrying small packages.”

“Sounds illegal,” giggled Miss S.

“Hardly, it’s the police we’re talking about, the boys in blue, the upholders of our laws, not some drug smuggling gang importing narcotics and bypassing the customs officers of our great country.”

“How silly of me to connect the police and crime in that way.”

“Absolutely, couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The conversation slowed as their main courses arrived. Tompkins repeated his starter of a large Chateaubriand Steak with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. Miss S had sole meuniere served with brown butter sauce, parsley, and lemon. They also quaffed a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux to celebrate the success of the previous evening.

Once Tompkins had finished his steak, he closed his eyes and savoured the last mouthful. “That should last me two hours until I have afternoon tea at Aunt Jemima’s. She has the most delicious cakes.”

“When should I contact you for the details of my assignment?” asked Miss S.

“I will send pigeons out later today, so you can send Bertie to me and I’ll attach the instructions to him and send him back pronto,” replied Tompkins.

“Thank you for being so decisive Tomcat; we always receive strong leadership from you,” replied Miss S, daintily eating the last of her sole. Then she placed her cutlery in the shape of an ‘X’ on the plate.

“Do you always place your cutlery in that shape, old thing?” asked Tompkins, “it looks odd.”

“It’s just a message to the waiter I am not interested in him,” replied Miss S coyly looking out of the window as the plates were cleared.

“Woof, there’s plenty of symbols here that I’m missing,” replied Tompkins, looking around the restaurant which was busy apart from the area in their immediate vicinity.

“I am sure you’re not,” replied Miss Scarlett finishing her Blanquette with a flourish and then fishing out her wallet from her bag.

“You don’t have to pay, Miss S, I can cover it with the tip I give the milkman,” protested Tompkins waving five notes around that he’d removed from his top pocket.

“That won’t be necessary, Tomcat, I’ve enjoyed your company today and I don’t mind. We can have a return match when we defeat the forces of darkness and their foot soldiers are back on the other side of The Channel where they belong.”

“Woof, that makes me feel so patriotic, damn fine phrasing and no mistake. That’s a good note to be signing off our meeting.”

With that Tompkins stood up and waited whilst Miss Scarlett paid the bill using her Visa card. As they left, he gave her an enormous hug, which all but knocked the wind out of her. Miss S turned left out of the restaurant, but Tompkins hung back in the shadows, waiting to see whether his friend was followed, but he saw no one.

Tompkins turned right and made for Aunt Jemima’s house in a nearby side street. Aunt Jemima no longer lived there, having moved to the country to be closer to her nephews. Tompkins kept the place going as a headquarters for his gang of patriotic pals. Tompkins whistled Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Number 4 as he walked along the streets lined on one side by smart, vertical railings.

That’s how Tompkins viewed his friends in his cadre – upright citizens, who got to the point, and wouldn’t bend in adversity. A defence against the forces of darkness heading their way at any moment, a defence against the influx of foreigners planning to stay in their country for longer than they were welcome to stay, a defence against those who wanted to change Old Blighty for the worse.