“It’s not quite that straightforward,” said MacKenzie, “you’re assuming they’re going to follow those bookings to the letter and they may not; two people should follow them from Harwich and four more should wait in Manchester, one at each of the hotels and two at Piccadilly to make sure they arrive and head to those hotels.”
“Right, bish and bosh, good plan,” replied Tompkins furrowing his brow with concentration. He wanted to do 100 one-armed push-ups but wondered whether it was inappropriate as big decisions were being made.
“I would suggest the four of us head to Manchester on 28th June and that you, Tomcat, and a pal, follow them from the time they leave their ship, make sure they get on their train, and make sure they only get off their train in Manchester.”
“Excellent – we’ll do that – anyway, don’t mind me I am just going to exercise my biceps for a few minutes, is there anything else?” Tomcat started his push-ups.
“Yes,” said Daisy, “at least one car should follow the train from Harwich to Manchester, in case they get off on the way, to throw you off their trail. They could jump off just as the train’s pulling out and not give you time to react.”
“Now, that, that… sounds 13.14… like a job 15.16… for the old Tomcat and a pal in his Jaguar..18.19.20…Dapper Dan, Toppy, and Terry can get the train 21.22.23…”
“Great,” said Connie, “I’ll write down all the details in small enough type, so you can attach it to the pigeons you’ll be sending out, Tomcat.”
“18.104.22.168…thanks Connie, much appreciated…35.36.37.”
As Tompkins neared the halfway mark of his exercise, the four others started the various plans for the trip to Manchester. Daisy organised their accommodation, Smythe their travel arrangements, MacKenzie wrote out the train’s itinerary, including the roads to use to make sure the car arrived at each station ahead of the train, and Connie wrote the executive summary of the whole scheme. Every eventuality had been thought of so far. Once they had seen the four people in the flesh, following them to Leicester and Boston should be easier.
Tompkins completed his exercises, made himself a cup of fine English tea and watched as the other four finished their various tasks in a studious manner. He knew enough to be quiet as his helpers needed to concentrate hard. The 28th was only two days away now and some tough decisions would be made during the visit. How would those decisions be arrived at – would it be Tomcat alone or would it be by committee? He couldn’t say for sure, because events might hinge on a few seconds of decisiveness and there was no one more decisive than Tompkins, even if he was wrong sometimes, rarely, but sometimes.
Ten minutes later Connie Fritz beckoned Tompkins to read something on the screen of his laptop.
“Tomcat, I just received this message for you – it says three pigeons – Who, Why, and How – are on their way to your home.”
“Oh dear, that’s not good. I have a funny feeling in my water our plans may have to change. That’s all we need. I feel someone is playing us like a trout plays those amateur fishermen in the north-west of Scotland. Hook, line, and sinker. They’re on to us and we might not be a close as we think we are to them. Anyway, we’ve done enough for today, let’s all go home, and I will let you know what my pigeons tell me.”
“Ok, Tomcat, but why do you think those thoughts?” asked Daisy.
“The names of the pigeons all mean something different and come from separate secret sources. When things are going well I receive What, When, and Where – the three just sent are not necessarily bad news, more of a change of plan. Anyway, I should be away from here – cheerio.”
Tompkins closed the door of Aunt Jemima’s with some force, causing the furniture to shake throughout the ground floor and the chandeliers to sway. The more he thought about what the pigeons might mean, the more his pace quickened as made his way home.