The movement and noise had stopped at last. The boss had stepped out of the camper and was prowling around outside, clearly assessing his new patch. Enzo lifted his head and sniffed... New air, a hint of something odd, something he had not smelled before. He rose, stretched and looked out of the window. "Where in God's name are we now?" he thought. After rumbling along for what seemed like forever, they had now come to rest in a forlorn flat open space. A few scraggy trees, not much grass and in the distance something blue and flat. " That looks dodgy. I need to stay away from that" he thought. What had happened to his cosy life? Why was he here at all?
Enzo was a much loved grey and white cat of medium age, sleek, elegant with a touch of arrogance. The Boss had a love of fast sleek elegant cars but lacking the wherewithal to buy one had christened his cat Enzo in homage.
Enzo lived his peaceful life in a quiet corner of England while the Boss went about his own business and for the most part kept out of his way. He could be away for days or sometimes weeks at a time but he always ensured Enzo was properly cared for and Enzo was happy enough for this arrangement to continue. Happy enough not to seek out a new home- that might involve the presence of raucous children or worse still, dogs. Oh no, a life undisturbed had much to offer for the creative cat.
But then the Boss began to be at home days at a time, clearly ever more restless and he became a great nuisance to Enzo with his everlasting coming and going. During this time the Boss got into the habit of discussing his life with Enzo and as time passed Enzo became aware that he could understand what the great man was saying. One evening as they sat together The Boss reached down and took Enzo in his big hands.
"I will find us a travelling home and we will seek adventures and travel the world my lad. We will see what the world can offer us. You will travel with me and if you get bored with it and find yourself a new home, so be it. But I cannot willingly give you up to someone else."
A travelling home? What in the world was that? Home is home, surely? It doesn't move.
But then one afternoon the Boss bounded in full of enthusiasm, plucked a sleeping Enzo from his bed and took him outside to see this new home.
" A bit pokey", thought Enzo "and obviously that bed is mine, so where does the big man sleep? Worrying." He was not at all sure about the whole idea but it might be different for a while. He had seen ships cats in films on the television and though they had exciting lives. This might work out... Maybe.
For the next few weeks the Boss was more animated than he had been for a long while, and his evening chats became more like planning meetings. Clearly you didn't just pack up and go like Enzo had imagined (and he had a few more trips to the vets than he would have liked).
But then one night the Boss told him they were ready to go, and would be off next day. That gave Enzo just time enough for a few farewells that night, and the chance to hand over his patch to Merlin, the lad down the road who was forever trying to get a hold on Enzo's territory. Done properly this handover would mean less fighting and bickering amongst the lads, although he would most likely get a bruising from someone sooner or later!
Enzo looked at Merlin for a long time, Merlin stared back unblinking. They understood each other, Enzo turned away and was ready for whatever lay ahead.
As Enzo bounded down from his perch, the Boss loomed in the doorway.
" Right young man, first thing is to keep you safe. One of my old mates has fixed up this collar so I can keep tabs on you. Come here, there's a good boy."
Enzo eyed his new collar with suspicion. It was a big lump of a thing and did not look like the sort of object a cool cat would wear. Nevertheless, it seemed there was no option and it fitted rather well in the event.
" See here, on this screen, this bleeping light is you. And here you are in the van. It's great isn't it?" He was undoubtedly pleased with himself but the technology was wasted on Enzo. It seemed his loving carer needed to know where Enzo was, even though he could obviously see him there. Odd indeed. Enzo warily walked to the open door and poked his head out into the great unknown.
Their new home had been fitted with that most despicable of inventions - a cat flap. A door for Enzo's own personal use to spare his owner the trouble of opening a door for him when he wished to leave or return. He pondered on his need to squeeze himself through such a small space, just so the Boss could remain at rest. "Not likely" thought Enzo. This would need to be resolved as a matter of urgency, this must not be allowed to become a habit.
The air outside was warm, warmer than home had been. The smells and noises were very different. There was definitely a lot to investigate but first, just to sit and ponder was the order of the day. He heard dogs in the distance that sounded like they were restrained. He heard weird chirruping noises from the trees. He heard a gentle repetitive swishing noise from the direction of the flat blue. He heard children.
So much to do, but first a wash. He had been asleep for hours and he had standards to maintain. On his first appearance in this new home he should make sure he set his mark as a cat of elegance and breeding, nothing less. First impressions were everything.
Preened and groomed he sauntered off down a dusty track towards the barking dogs. It had been a boring journey and the prospect of annoying some trashy mongrel would be pleasant enough entertainment. Any other time he might easily not bother, but it was hot and for such little effort on his part the result might be amusing, if predictable.
And it was. He found a dog tied to a tree outside a home similar to his own. Enzo sat in full view of the poor creature and cleaned his whiskers. There is little more offensive to even the most well-tempered restrained dog than the sight of a free roaming cat cleaning his whiskers. The dog began to bark furiously, Enzo skulked out of sight to a place where only the dog could see him. The dog's owners then came out to chastise the poor thing for being a "bad boy" and barking at nothing. Once they had left, Enzo then flicked his tail and set the dog off again, and again. Textbook stuff, but it was proof to Enzo that wherever he was the same rules still applied and that consoled him enough to venture on.
A little further and he became aware that there had recently been another cat in the vicinity. A boy cat of his age. This was a very different game and required a completely different set of skills. Enzo must tread carefully here as he was now in someone else's patch. He did not like to fight but he must meet this adversary and settle the matter quickly, as he too would be aware of a stranger in his territory and would be looking out for Enzo.
Carefully he turned a corner and there in the shade of an old tree, lay a big ginger cat, peacefully dozing in the midday sun. Enzo settled down in the dust and waited,as it wouldn't do to march up and announced himself. Sure enough the ginger cat soon opened one eye and stared straight at Enzo. The staring had begun...
Enzo had long since learned that the best way of resolving issues of territory was mutual understanding, if that was at all possible. He had no wish to take this chap's patch, he just wanted a quiet corner for himself. So he must be appeasing but firm and the best way of achieving this was to mimic his moves as he did them and not take his eyes off the game.
Ginger opened both eyes and sat up, Enzo sat up. Ginger walked forwards to a spot at middle distance from them both, Enzo walked forward a few steps then sat. Ginger walked forward more until only a few feet remained between them and also sat. It all hinged on the next few seconds. They waited.
Enzo dropped his head and backed off very slowly showing due respect to the incumbent, then moved slowly towards the cover of a bush and slipped out of sight. As Ginger had made no moves to chase him, the deal was settled and Enzo had sorted the issue with the minimum of trouble. As soon as the coast was clear he retraced his steps to his new home and ran to the comfort of the Boss who was outside, with a glass in his hand.
"Hello there young'un. Been making friends? I guess it's supper time now you've come home."
Enzo thought supper was a good idea and clearly so did the boss who gave him some of the meat he was preparing for himself. They both settled down for the night and although Enzo put up a good fight for the bed, the Boss undoubtedly thought it was for him and in fact it became too hot for Enzo, who eventually sprawled out on the cool floor.
The Boss was up and out early next morning and came back cheerful with a fish for Enzo's breakfast. " I found a man who didn't want this, lad. So I asked for it for you." Enzo was pleased to see the Boss happy once more and even more pleased to have a fish for breakfast. This life might be better than he thought.
So the days passed with Enzo spending most of his life under the van where it was cool and breezy and the Boss coming and going. Enzo explored his new home a little at a time and tried to keep out of Ginger's way. One evening he went down to the flat blue with the Boss and realised it wasn't flat at all but moving water and a lot of it. It still held no appeal for him but he did see some dogs running in and out of it. They seemed to like it but they were simple minded things and clearly had no problem getting wet and that wasn't his idea of fun at all.
One evening the Boss's phone rang. Enzo had heard this before and knew there would then follow a conversation with seemingly no-one, just a reedy voice that he could barely hear.
"Hi Will mate. How are you? "
" Great. This is a good way to spend your life, I would recommend it," answered the Boss. The conversation drifted on and Enzo lost interest, then suddenly the Boss blurted out "What? You must be joking. Not a chance. I can't believe anyone would even think of it. NO!"
Enzo was now interested, ears pricked he listened to the reedy voice intently. "This really needs resolving as soon as possible, I know you understand. You have been in the same position yourself in the past and you know how it is. The best man for the job and all that. We have no-one else at hand and you are two hours away with the means to act. He needs to get out of the place quickly and quietly and back to Blighty. They have the airports and ports covered and will spot him if he tries to get out and he needs documents, which he doesn't have. You can do this.
"Let me get this clear, you want me to pick him up, hole him up in my van and smuggle him back home."
"In a nutshell, yes."
"And if I get caught? I guess that's my wandering days over."
"Why on earth would they search a camper? He's a bad man, he will have made you do it under threat. We will sort it out. Don't we always?"
Enzo sensed tension in the air. The Boss wasn't happy.
"You seem to have forgotten, I have retired." He said it with an air of despondency, as if he already understood that this was a done deal and Enzo felt that if The Boss possessed a tail it would be swishing. Enzo watched and waited.
"But you never really retire from the Service, do you?" replied the reedy voice.
So what's the plan?" sighed the Boss.
The conversation then continued, much more quietly and with long silences where the Boss merely listened. Enzo laid his head on his paws, closed his eyes and drifted back into the half-sleep that is a cat's preferred form of rest. Sounded like plans would change and there might not even be a fish for breakfast tomorrow.
When the Boss had finished the conversation, he turned to Enzo and said, "It was a nice try lad , but looks like I have work to do again. I need to be out tomorrow and bring back someone to share our little home for a while. Best behaviour mind."
Enzo was not impressed, he had no need of company. Just himself and the big man was fine by him, and a stranger was not to be trusted in this tiny home. But it seemed important to the Boss, so he knew he must at least be polite.
The next morning the Boss busied himself much like he used to in the old days before they started their roaming, and after a quick tickle of Enzo's ears, he left. Enzo settled under the van and pondered on what their new visitor might be like. Did he even like cats? Would he be afraid of Enzo? He thought fondly of the time he chased both a dog owner and her dog up the road, she seemingly more scared of him than the dog was. Good times.
The day passed pleasantly enough but it was getting increasingly hot and deep shade was a rare thing, so Enzo sought out cool shady stones to stretch out on and sleep. As the day drew to an end and the sun began to fade, he heard voices approaching and opened his eyes to see the Boss's feet alongside their new guest's feet, walking down the track. They were obviously talking to each other but oddly Enzo could not understand a word of it, and that baffled him. He hoped this newly acquired language skill of his was not going to let him down now. He had just got rather used to it.
"Would you like some tea?" asked the Boss, once they were inside.
"How confusing," thought Enzo, now I can understand again. "What on earth are they playing at?"
"We should stick to Spanish outside of the van I think, it will create less interest."
"Whatever you suggest," replied the visitor. "You're in charge. Just get me out of this."
From his hidey hole under the van, Enzo could hear this conversation above him and although he was pleased the Boss was home, he was unsure of the visitor. But soon the smell of food drew Enzo out and he bounded up the steps and ran to the side of the Boss. "Ah, here's my little friend Enzo come to say hello. Enzo meet Luke, Luke...Enzo, my companion."
"You're a handsome chap aren't you" smiled Luke as he bent down to stroke Enzo. Enzo responded with a rub of the Boss's legs after which he lay down on the floor and waited patiently for his meal, eyeing this Luke person with great distrust still, even though he appeared friendly enough.
After they had eaten, the Boss and Luke settled down to a long chat, and Enzo who had no interest in it all, fell asleep. Some hours later when the two men went to bed Enzo curled himself up in a corner, out of the way. The place seemed very cramped all of a sudden.
The next morning they packed up and moved out. Enzo had a special travelling bed for when they were on the move, so he could rest more comfortably while the van rocked about, but he still didn't like the movement or the noise. This continual moving on and stopping seemed to go on for days and Enzo longed for somewhere he could call home, to prowl and explore. This was no life. One night he jumped onto the Boss while he was in bed and demanded some affection.
"You poor little bloke. This isn't what I planned you know. But tomorrow it will be over and we will take Luke back to where he belongs. Then we can get back to our travels and live a peaceful life again. Settle down here next to me, there's a good boy." Enzo felt loved again and snuggled up. This Luke chap was getting all the attention lately and he was glad it was going to stop soon.
The next morning they set off as usual after breakfast. Then they stopped by the side of the road. "This is where you go in the storage box, Luke. Sorry but I need you out of the way for this bit. It wont be nice, but stay put until I get you out. Anywhere where there are cameras you must be out of sight. Ok?"
Luke nodded and reluctantly climbed into one if the under bench storage boxes. This surprised Enzo greatly as it was not even the sort of pokey place that held any interest for a cat, so why would a grown man squeeze into this dismal hole? People didn't do this sort of thing and Enzo found it most alarming.
They set off again and soon slowed up and started talking to people outside. Enzo opened his eyes.
"Just pull up over there would you Sir?We would like to check the van please."
As he moved off the Boss turned to Enzo in his travelling bed on the seat next to him.
"Think quickly Enzo lad. What do we do here? This could be tricky!"
Enzo sensed the Boss was worried; he sensed it was something to do with their guest who was still out of sight in the storage box, as no normal person would willingly get in there. He looked out of the front of the van and saw the Boss laughing with some men outside.
Enzo jumped out of his bed and leapt up onto the padded seat of the box, stretched out and looked as sleepy as he could - it wasn't hard as he had years of practice under his collar. Footsteps and voices approached and the door opened.
"Oh, I see. You travel with a companion, do you Sir?" said the stranger." It's unusual to find a cat, not many like the travelling life. What's your name then, little chap?"
As he reached forward Enzo rolled onto his back. He wriggled and did his best to look appealing as the stranger stroked his chin and rubbed his tummy. The temptation to sink his teeth into this strangers hand was overwhelming, to do the full cat thing and grab him with the claws of his front paws and scratch him with his back, but that was not the plan here. He needed to make the man feel special and loved, so he wouldn't poke about in dark corners.
"His name is Enzo and he seems to be happy enough travelling with me." replied the Boss cheerfully. "Would you like to see his passport?"
" He is a lovely fellow isn't he? No, that won't be necessary at all. Everything is in order here, I can see. You couldn't get up to much trouble with a cat in tow, could you now?"
The two men laughed and agreed. Enzo closed his eyes as the door shut. After a few minutes the Boss climbed back into the driver's seat and started the van. Enzo took up his place in his travelling bed and settled down for a nap. No words were spoken for some time and then the van stopped again.
"You're a credit to the trade Enzo. What a master stroke."
The Boss climbed through the van from the driver's seat, and lifted the lid on a very flustered looking Luke.
"Did you have to leave it so long mate? It was sweltering in there and no air to breathe" Luke had clearly not enjoyed his stay in the box.
"Grumble as much as you like, but you are now on home ground. You may have noticed we did get searched but my little friend here kept you safe by sitting on the lid and being cute. It might have been a very different story." The Boss ruffled Enzo's head.
"We are at a roadside cafe so we can have a quick bite to eat then we must be off again." said the Boss. "We'll bring you something back for being a clever little boy, Enzo. Won't be long."
As the Boss and Luke left the van Enzo watched them walk into the nearby building. He left his bed and sought the comfort of the Boss's bed. It was much comfier and quieter than trying to sleep in the front of the van, and he was out of the way. The Boss wouldn't be back for a while and it was just the place for a proper sleep, all this travelling and adventure made a cat very tired. H e hoped Luke wouldn't be with them much longer, it wasn't the same with him around. He didn't like sharing the Boss with strangers, just the two of them was best. He laid his head on his crossed paws and let sleep overtake him as it so often did. It wasn't such a bad life.