At about 7pm, Mrs Elkins arrives with two cat carriers, two toys, and what looks like an overnight bag. The black cat carriers are rather luxurious and lined with material. There is a small window in the door but otherwise we can easily keep out of sight and maintain our undercover operation. The toys are not very flattering, and Gemma bats hers over the head with her right paw, indicating a certain displeasure with the resemblance. I try to calm her down by pointing out that she and her toy will never have to share the same space and she sees the validity of my argument, before kicking it forcefully in the stomach with her back paws. It seems as though the anger management classes still haven’t taken full effect.
Mrs Elkins allows us a last use of our litter trays and food bowls before we begin our trip. We will catch the first train in the morning from London to Amsterdam and our tickets are in Business Premium class, which seems right for two cats operating by stealth. She positions the two toys in places where they are discernible to anyone passing by and will move them each day. Mrs Elkins will accompany us only part of the way. The handover will take place in Brussels where hard green vegetables that are difficult to chew come from. Our Dutch handler will take us from there to Amsterdam and Mrs Elkins will come back to our home in time to be seen the following evening, so that the neighbours are comfortable with her being around the house.
I pack something for the trip, namely the books Whose Body and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Gemma sees that’s a good idea and takes two New Statesman magazines that John reads but won’t be needing as he’s in The Maldives. My cat carrier has a small light in the interior which operates by pushing a switch. There’s a slightly raised area which would count as a bed and a small blue blanket which I can snuggle under if I feel cold. The blanket feels soft, and I wonder whether I can keep it when I come back. I put Tom Sawyer under the blanket so it will be warm and leave Whose Body on top. I don’t investigate Gemma’s carrier as I know she likes to keep details of her personal things private.
Once we’ve familiarised ourselves with our temporary abodes, Mrs Elkins says we should be going. She closes and locks the doors, and we are picked up.
“How are you, Gemma?” I ask.
“I am fine, Freddie,” she replies, “how many channels does your television have?”
“I don’t have a TV,” I reply, “but that’s alright because I will be able to read instead.” I try to make the best of every situation, as my mum taught me when I was a growing kitten.
We are taken out into the cool night to begin our adventure in Holland. Our friends are asleep in their various homes around and I look forward to seeing them all when I return in a few days.
Chapter 4 – Today
Everything goes well as we catch the train with plenty of time to spare at St Pancras International. Gemma says the Romans beheaded St Pancras at fourteen years of age for being a Christian. He is the patron saint of health, jobs, and children. Gemma claims to have found this information on the TV she has in her carrier, but I’m sceptical of this claim. I think she is taking the Michael as she knows I can’t verify this.
We seem to have a compartment to ourselves, although I can’t tell as Mrs Elkins has thoughtfully placed us towards the window, and I can only see the trees and fields speeding by. I try to count the cows, but it’s difficult and I content myself with reading about the efforts of Lord Peter Wimsey to find out who the killer is. Personally, I do not know who did it and as a station flashes past, I realise I don’t really care who did it. I don’t give up on books, not even those by Virginia Woolf, but I’m tempted to do so here. Dorothy L isn’t as good as Agatha, not by a long way, but my curiosity means I will persevere until the end. I realise I should have brought Agatha’s Murder on the Orient Express with me or Stamboul Train by Graham. Still, I could read them on the way back as long as I remember to ask Henk to buy them for me. I fall into a slumber and meditate as we zoom under the waters of the English Channel and materialise in France, where the trees and fields appear similar to their English counterparts. The cows zip by all the way to Lille, our first stop.
Mrs Elkins gives us a small treat via a little drawer on the carrier’s side. At least she gives me a treat. I’m not sure whether Gemma gets one. I bow to the treat and then sniff it carefully before biting it in half. It’s quite chewy and sweet to the taste. I resolve to eat the other half in a different country, Belgium, which is coming up soon. According to the map in the atlas I checked before leaving, Belgium would be a light-brown colour and Holland would be green with a chaotic coastline, so it should be easy to tell when we cross the international borders as the ground will change colour.