The Rodent Army
Another Sunday loomed, and with it another shift for Janine and Duncan at Cook-Inn. The cats, Reiver and Romany, had just been fed. Romes curled up on his heat pad, happily anticipating a nice snooze while his carers were away. Reiver, however, had other ideas.
“I’m off into the garden” he announced. I have some important patrolling to do. Come with?” He extended his elderly brother an expectant paw.
Romy sniffed disdainfully. “Your supposition is elementary, my dear Reiver. All you will do is mildly annoy the birds and the local rodents”. Being a detective of long standing, Sherlock Romes sometimes couldn’t resist the temptation to tell the truth, however much it hurt. Reiver, fortunately, had little imagination (and even less brains) so the barb stung not at all. He grinned at the thought of ‘annoying’ a pesky rodent into an early grave, and stomped happily out of the cat flap. This left his brother thinking how fortunate it was that the huge cat run, which occupied their whole garden, kept Reiver from getting out and doing himself even more damage than he was intending to do to the rodent population.
Stomping around the perimeter of the garden left Reiver in a somewhat less cheery mood. Several times he had run at a cheeky jackdaw which, being of the vastly intelligent ‘corvid’ species, had merely flown four feet up – and then come straight down behind the thundering cat, forcing him to turn round and jog back the way he’d come. All the while he could hear the cawing of the bird’s fellows, laughing at him from the eaves of the house. In a fit of pique, Reiver slunk off to a favourite mouse hole he’d located a week ago, hoping to have better luck with something that couldn’t fly.
Sure enough, pretty soon a thing like a big, baby mouse crept out of the hole. Not seeing Reive’s immobile, monochrome form in the shadows of the raspberry canes (‘or mistaking your huge hide for a whale’ whispered a jackdaw close to Reiver’s ear) the mousey thing began to trot confidently across the garden. In a flash, Reive had pounced and brought him down. He was sure he could hear bird applause from the trees, and wondered briefly if it was in praise or sarcasm.
In came Reive through the cat flap, dragging the rodent with him. He dropped it in front of the sofa long enough to ask his brother what he thought of the catch. Romes inspected the bedraggled creature for some time, which irked Reiver; but he knew better than to say anything at this point. Eventually the great detective took a step backwards from his heat pad. Reive, impatient, asked him; “What do you think?”
“Well”, said Sherlock Romes gently, “They don’t usually wear uniforms.”
It was true! In his haste not to be embarrassed all day by cheeky birds, Reiver had failed to notice that the rodent in question had on a sleek, black cotton top with a military-looking insignia. The creature stood to attention, announcing its name, rank and serial number. Reive, and even Sherlock, looked at the thing aghast. “I am cadet Rufus Rat”, he said, “from the East Lothian division. My number is…”
“I hate maths” Reiver told him, pawing at him to make him stop talking. “What are you doing in a suit?”
“Err, I think he just told us that” said the detective, trying not to be annoyed at his brother’s blunt enthusiasm. “Cadet” he said, turning to the young rat, “What manouvres are your battalion currently planning?” Romes bent forward to hear the tiny rat’s answer.
“I’m not supposed to tell you…” said the rat in a very small voice, looking at his tiny shoes.
“What precisely,” asked Romes. “Were you warned not to tell us?”
Rufus, on stronger ground here, happily informed them that he would not be mentioning anything about the planned invasion. When questioned further, he related that he absolutely should keep secret that tomorrow at noon was the time of the operation, and that the ultimate aim was to steal all the food in the house! Brexit was looming, it seemed – and the rodents were gathering supplies for themselves before the shops emptied.
Reiver jumped up, unable to contain himself. Food was a subject close to his big heart. He made to paw the rat again, but Sherlock stopped him. “We must treat our prisoner with respect” he suggested, to Reiver’s confused face. “And,” he whispered, “we must use this information to circumvent the planned disaster.”
While Reiver wondered what ‘circumvent’ meant, Romy chewed thoughtfully on a piece of Webbox cat treat. He knew it was a habit he should stop, but the Webbox helped him think. In about twenty-four hours, a whole battalion of rats was planning to storm in here and take everything! Romy hadn’t felt so young in years. The game was well and truly afoot! As his brain whirred gratefully from the unaccustomed exercise, Romy’s memory decided to give him a helping hand.
When he was young, the detective recalled someone reading a fairy story about a piper who, wearing colourful clothing, went about ridding towns of rats. If the detective remembered correctly, this had been accomplished with the aid of music. And rodents had very, very good ears…
Romes did something he almost never did these days. He slipped out through the cat flap and entered the voluminous garden. There he found the birds lined up on the fence tops, all wondering how Reive had fared against the odd little rodent. They were all rather fond of Reiver, because he couldn’t catch a corvid on his best day. Reiver, Sherlock knew, was to them a continual source of entertainment. “Time to pay for all those free lunches,” Romes told them, referring to the regular donations of cat food left out for them by the carers (chiefly because Romes hadn’t eaten it).
The birds shrugged noncommittally. What concern was a rat invasion to them? Romes explained that this invasion might make the carers move out, and then the cat food would be given to the local birds elsewhere. And the next cats moving into this garden would probably be able to catch crows! He reminded them that he would never, personally, be that crass; but you know most felines…Romy had their attention now, and he outlined his plan.
Re-entering the house Romy found Janine’s Ipod shuffle on the computer table, and he dragged it out into the garden. There, a crow picked it up obediently and her beak pressed the ‘ON’ switch. Through the attached headphones, cello music began to play very quietly. Rodent heads popped up from holes all over the garden, and some other gardens besides. The crow flew up and circled the area, attracting as many rats to the tunes as possible. When it seemed that every rodent in the whole of Scotland must be hypnotised by the tunes of ‘2Cellos’, the bird flew off towards the river. Rats, and not a few mice, followed.
Reiver watched from the doorway, unusually thoughtful. “Why do they follow?”, he asked his wiser brother. “They must know it’s a trap.”
“Because they can”, explained Sherlock wisely. “Same as the reason you catch baby rodents. Just because you can.”
Once over the river Esk in Musselburgh, the crow dropped the little Ipod straight into the choppy river. The rodents followed the tunes, and the result was much like the one in the old tale. Afterwards, the crow retrieved the tiny machine and carried it dutifully back to Sherlock. Romy dragged it into the house and left it to dry on the sofa, giving it pride of place on his heat pad. “Don’t worry”, he counselled an unconcerned Reiver; “Janine dropped this old Ipod in the Esk once before. It made a full recovery.”
“What on Earth was she doing?” Reive asked in surprise.
“Feeding the birds”, Romy stated with a smile.
God bless, all. Have a happy week. Remember the Helpline number is; 07531 436 389.
Janine, Reiver and Sherlock Romes. xx