Tall Tails 1:
It was a hot summer night outside but, inside the casino, I was cool as ice. The roulette wheel was on my side and my pile of chips was steadily growing. I counted out another hundred and pushed them across the baize until they rested on number 8, black. My lucky number – reminds me somewhat of my mother, only without the ears.
I felt hot breath on my neck and a waiter leaned over my shoulder, placing before me a dry niptini – shaken, not stirred, two olives. Just how I like it. “Compliments of the lady…” he said.
I looked up and saw her, a stunning redhead draped in white furs, in spite of the heat. About her neck was a gleaming gold collar from which hung a single, brilliant diamond. “Eight carats” I thought. “Worth at least a hundred grand…”.
Her green eyes surveyed me, taking in my immaculate tux and impressive whiskers – lightly curled with just a dab of wax for a subtle sheen – and my air of practised insouciance. I tweaked my bow tie a little and raised my niptini glass to convey my thanks. A half smile played about her lips and she tilted her beautiful head towards the door. I understood.
Draining my niptini, I cashed in my chips and bade my fellow gamblers a good night before strolling out to the lobby, where she was waiting. I introduced myself, although I had the feeling she already knew who I was. “My name is Bond. Ash Bond”. “Oh, I know who you are, Mr Bond” she purred. “My name…” she extended an immaculately manicured paw, “…is Pussy Galore”.
“Please come with me.” She began to walk towards the door, then stopped, glancing coquettishly over her shoulder. “I’ll make it worth your while..”. I was intrigued, but my professional training had taught me to be cautious. Instinctively, I felt for my trusty Walther PPK then, flicking a stray ear tuft back into place, I followed her to her car. She drove fast and silently, as we snaked our way out of the town and into the foothills of the mountains. All my senses were on high alert as she steered the car towards what appeared to be the blank stone face of a cliff. As we approached, the whole cliff face rolled slowly upwards and we drove inside. A small door ahead of us slid open. Pussy climbed out of the driver’s seat and opened my door. “This is where you get out.” she purred. “My boss is waiting to see you.”
I stepped through the door into a dimly lit room which appeared to contain nothing, save a large desk, behind which was a high-backed chair. The chair slowly swivelled round and I found myself staring into the impassive, pale face of a hoomin. His silver hair was swept back from his forehead and he sported a set of whiskers on his top lip which were almost (but not quite) as impressive as mine. The eyes behind the studious-looking spectacles radiated pure malevolence. On his lap sat a large and beautiful white cat, whom he stroked with great delicacy and tenderness.
“Greetings, Mr Bond”. The voice that emanated was smooth and languid. I was impressed, especially as he hadn’t appeared to move his lips. “How do you do that?” I asked. “Please don’t play games, Mr Bond” said the cat. “We have business to discuss. Thank you, John. You may desist now”. The man stopped stroking and sat immobile. “There is a chair behind you, Mr Bond. Please sit down”. I sat, and immediately metal clamps pinned my limbs, front and back, and I was unable to escape. A familiar, immaculately manicured paw relieved me of my gun.
“Do you recognise this?” the cat continued, indicating a brown substance in a small dish. “Of course,” I replied. “It’s catnip”. “Exactly, Mr Bond. The scourge of the feline world. The means by which the hoomins have manipulated us and subjugated us for generations!” “Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I’m quite partial to a bit of ‘nip myself – in moderation, of course”.
“This is like no catnip you have ever encountered before. It has been genetically modified, so it no longer has any narcotic effect…”
“What’s the point in that?” I asked. The cat’s tail began to twitch. He did not like being interrupted.
“It no longer has any narcotic effect…on CATS. But on hoomins…” He cackled, a sound so evil that it sent a shiver down my spine. “Think of it, Mr Bond. The entire hoomin race enslaved to catnip! A new world order. The order of Felidae – our order! It will be us cats who will laugh while they chase little plastic balls and points of red light! It will be US who shut THEM indoors at night! It will be US who make THEM poop in public! It will be US who take THEM to get….” He closed his eyes and a slow shudder shook his frame “…FIXED!” The last word came out like a hiss. For a split second, I felt an infinitessimal flash of empathy, but…Oh no! It could not be.
“We’re not ready yet!” I yelled. “One day, maybe…but not yet. At least, not until we’ve figured out can openers!”
He sighed. “I was hoping you and I could work together, Mr Bond”. He was icy calm now. “But, as it’s obvious that we cannot, I’m afraid… this is goodbye.” He pressed a button on the desk and the floor in front of my chair retracted, revealing a sparkling blue pool…and a heaving, boiling mass of savage, razor-toothed fish. “However, I hate to dispose of an enemy before lunch – John, my napkin and my fork, please.” He hooked the fish out one by one and ate them with relish (tomato, I think), spitting the teeth into a black onyx bowl.
As I watched in horror (tomato with piranha – what a faux pas!) I felt the brush of fur against my cheek and Pussy appeared in front of me. Bending down low, she whispered in my ear “I can help you escape, but first you must do something for me…”
“Anything..” I breathed.
“Get your big butt out of my window seat”
Owwww…Catsy! I was just getting to the best bit…