After unlocking his front door, Tompkins bounded up the stairs to the roof like a wildebeest running from a lion. He saw the three pigeons he was expecting in his loft, along with two others he’d not seen before. “Five pigeons in a short space of time, eh,” said Tompkins to himself, “I’d better read these messages as something is going on, the opposition are organising and we have to respond.”
The Why pigeon, light-grey in colour with dark-grey tips on its wings, cooed as Tomcat undid the clasp on the casket and read the message – “Target not appearing as planned – considered to be already in England.” Tompkins let out a low whistle and stared into the distance for a while – “What?” he muttered, “already in England, how did that happen without us knowing. Stalin 2.0 walks amongst us and we only now find that out.” He shook his head, knowing he’d have to almost exhaust his loft to let people know of the latest news.
The message on the all-white How pigeon said “Newhaven 25th.” Tompkins rubbed his blond mane with frustration – he’d been in the vicinity on that very day. “Bish and bosh,” he fumed, “this is taking the proverbial Mickey Mouse out of us – this is saying – we know where you are meeting, we will arrive in broad daylight and you won’t know we’re even in your country. We were distracted by that buffoon in the marshes and Stalin 2.0 arrives, thumbing her proverbial nose at us and we miss her whole shebang. This makes me annoyed.”
The flecked-grey Who pigeon yielded a sinister message – “Alone, but not for long – friends will join.” Tompkins sat down and thought about what this all meant. Stalin 2.0 was meeting people, like-minded people, in Tompkins’s own country and he didn’t even know where she was or who she was with. At the back of his mind, a thought occurred that perhaps he was being played like a clarinet by Sidney Bechet. He’d have to ponder this further and await further developments.
He looked over at the two pigeons he hadn’t been expecting and noticed they were both brown with white patches on their flanks. He caught one of them and opened the casket attached to its leg. The message was from his pal, Topper, who had written: “Dapper Dan has disappeared – please advise.” A similar message providing more detail was in the casket on the other pigeon’s leg. This bird was sent by Terry.
“Oh, that’s bad, it seems like Dapper Dan’s gone for a Burton,” said Tompkins to himself, “the blighters have grabbed him, but for what reason? They know more about us than we know about them. I hope they aren’t torturing him to find out if they’re missing something important. Anyway, Tomcat, there’s no point in moping about the bush, I must do something. As pater says, ‘Grab the onion with both hands and don’t cry’.”
Tompkins sprang into action like a hungry cat chasing a fat mouse across a garden, like a greyhound chasing the mechanical rabbit round the track, and like a falcon dropping on an unsuspecting vole by a country river. His hands were a blur. He wrote messages to Terry and Topper, acknowledging Dapper Dan’s disappearance, and asking them to be at Aunt Jemima’s for sponge cake at 11:30pm today. Their pigeons went on their way with an energetic hurl from Tompkins. He sent the same Aunt Jemima message to all his other pals too, adding an extra line that Dapper Dan had disappeared. He sent a pigeon to the organiser of the bus tours, advising that the manager of the nearby Jaguar garage should be on the next tour to Romania, even though he was not an East European.
Tompkins phoned Spiffy Wiffy’s office and gave Tiffany a message about the non-arrival of Stalin 2.0 at Harwich to pass on to Ingram. Tompkins felt sorry for Ingram. The Inspector was always being sent off, if not on wild goose chases, then on semi-domesticated goose chases.
Tompkins had a few hours to spare. He decided on a weights workout followed by a run. He felt inside he would need all his strength in the next few days. Tompkins didn’t use traditional barbells and dumbbells. He performed push-ups, lifted park benches, and pulled old lorry tyres. After an hour of weights, he ran to Regent’s Park and back, finishing in a time that pleased him. He was almost ready for the London Marathon again.