Chapter 1 - The Great Escape
You might not believe this... But it’s true; our feline friends have made quite a lot of money from all the adverts that they've been in. Everybody knows that cats are very independent creatures, but here’s the story of how this independence really went to their heads! Because somehow, and don’t ask me how, but when all the humans left after a nasty virus made life too unbearable, they banded together to create their own little country somewhere in Central Asia where all the countries end in “Stan.” If that doesn’t mean anything to you then it’s time to get your atlas out. You see where Russia is? It’s not very hard to miss because it’s the biggest country in the world - but just underneath it, there are a bunch of countries ending in “Stan”, like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan. Well, it’s somewhere there...
Most of these cats didn’t have a clue where their new country was let alone what it should be called. Not, that was, until their leader, whom everyone called “Max” because of his sheer size, made an interesting discovery. Max’s owners were French and, one day, he had decided to pay a visit to the now-deserted French embassy where he used to live. It was a very beautiful building indeed, and even though the place was covered in dust, the memories of his life there came flooding back as he passed from room to room. When the time came to leave, Max, who was rather vain, thought he’d take a final look at himself in the big mirror in the hallway. With no-one about, Max struck a variety of poses in the mirror and was very happy with what he saw. He thought he’d just admire himself for one last time when, in a corner of the mirror, he spotted the reflection of a photo which looked strangely familiar to him. Turning around, he approached what seemed to be a book with his photo on it along with a lot of official-looking stamps, each with a date on them. The pages inside were all creased and something must have happened to the ink because he could only make out a few words. Max could just about make out the word “cat” and then there were some words ending in “stan” and some in “sh” but the rest was just a mess!
“Well!” thought Max who had by now given up trying to make any more sense from the writing, “I suppose we could call this new country of ours, “Cattishtan” and we’ll be the “Cattishtanis”!” Max liked the sound of this new name, and, as he looked at a photo of his beloved daughter on the second page of the book, he thought of a name for her too! But for now, it was time to get back to his job as the first President of Cattishtan!
Fast forward two years and Max’s country was ticking over rather nicely, thanks mainly to its capital, “Chaki City”, which Max had named in honour of his daughter, Chaki. His two sons were anything but adorable, but because he thought they looked like a couple of clowns when they were kittens, Max just called them Sniff and Shoof. But within a few years, they had grown really quite big and ugly too, so Max put them in charge of the Secret Police to keep everyone in line. It was a decision which he would later regret! You might be asking how the Cattishtanis survived without any humans to feed them? Well, it’s quite simple really. The shrewd Cattishtanis negotiated some juicy contracts with the human TV advertisers. Except that now they, and not their former human owners, were the ones who got paid for their efforts, in the form of kibbles and other treats delivered by drone by the various brands. In a nutshell, you could say life was rather good for the Cattishtanis.
However, not everyone did so well out of these juicy contracts. “The Little Poor Cats” as they were called, were a subspecies of cats with tiny paws and a constant demonic sort of smile which seemed to be stuck to their faces. They never got a single kibble from all the advertising that the Cattishtanis did on TV, but instead were forced to do all the work that the Cattishtanis couldn’t be bothered to do themselves. The best job that they could hope for was to wait on the rich Cattishtanis at the top restaurant in Chaki City, the “Golden Dumpling” but usually they would find themselves stuck with less pleasant chores like changing the litter boxes of wealthy Cattishtanis! There were even certain Little Poor Cats who were forced to spend their day endlessly chasing a bauble on the end of a string round and round to provide the air-conditioning for a huge luxury basket belonging to a very rich Cattishtani! And you haven’t heard the worst of it yet! Some really unlucky Little Poor Cats were even forced to perform as freaks in circuses and zoos!
So, it was certainly no fun being a Little Poor Cat in Cattishtan. Worse still, most of the Little Poor Cats were constantly drugged with a type of domestic cleaning fluid, which the humans used to use to clean their homes and which made their eyes purple, preventing them from seeing properly at night.
Obviously, all this domestic cleaner made them very thirsty but even then, they were strictly forbidden from drinking the fresh water which spewed from the many fountains dotted around Chaki City. These were only for the Cattishtanis to use. Instead, they would have to make do with drinking the waste water that occasionally flowed down the street gutters!
Thankfully, there was one Cattishtani who felt sorry for the Little Poor Cats and that was Chaki. For the Little Poor Cats, she was truly a source of hope, because, as the daughter of President Max, she had become highly respected in Cattishtan, thanks to her glittering career. And a very successful Cattishtani Chaki was too! For not only was she one of the best players of “Baubles” that Cattishtan had ever known, but she was also a lawyer and had her sights set on a singing career too. “Baubles” was a hugely popular sport which was played with bouncy baubles, often left over from all the Christmases gone by, but also with anything that was round and rolled along. It was a kind of a mixture of football and handball, except that you would have up to a hundred Cattishtanis in each team and there were almost no rules, so it was often a complete free-for-all which sometimes ended up in a full-scale riot! But having won just about everything there was to win in this sport as a player, Chaki was now coach of the national team.
However, the Cattishtanis and the Little Poor Cats were not the only inhabitants of this small country. On the banks of the river that formed the border of Cattishtan and which snaked away towards the mountains and beyond, lived a very old acquaintance of Max; the Fishing Cat. He had been there for so many years that no one knew his name, so he was just called the Fishing Cat. The Fishing Cat had some strange powers because, just by looking into the water, he could predict the future. That would prove to be quite handy because, at present, the future of Cattishtan looked quite uncertain, especially as Max was now rather old and no longer the mighty Cattishtani that he once was. Worse still, Chaki suspected that her two twin brothers, Shoof and Sniff, were plotting to seize power once their father had passed away. Fearing the worst, Chaki thought it best to warn the Fishing Cat. So, one day, when most of the Cattishtanis, including her brothers, were fast asleep after their daily lunch at the Golden Dumpling, Chaki decided to go and see the Fishing Cat. Naturally, the Fishing Cat was very concerned about what Chaki had to say. So, when Chaki’s back was turned, he tip-toed up to the river bank and peered into the water beneath. What he saw almost made him fall into the river itself! It was at this moment, having seen images in the water of Chaki’s two brothers moving into the Presidential Palace in Chaki City, that the Fishing Cat realised that he really had to do something to help Chaki.
To make matters worse, Chaki feared that if Shoof and Sniff were to seize power, things would become a lot more unpleasant for everyone, and especially for the Little Poor Cats.
The tenth anniversary of the founding of Cattishtan was approaching and the brothers were looking for an idea of how to celebrate the occasion. So now, thought Chaki and the Fishing Cat, was the time for them to hatch a plan to help the Little Poor Cats escape. And this is what they did!
Chaki’s big idea was to convince her brothers, who were currently the head and deputy head of the Secret Police, to give their permission for a charity bauble match between a Cattishtani team and another made up of Little Poor Cats. This had never been seen in Chaki City before and Chaki’s brothers, Shoof and Sniff, thought it might be quite hilarious because the world-class Cattishtani players would surely crush the Little Poor Cats. So, to give them a chance, the brothers told Chaki that she could be their coach for the match. It wouldn’t be too much of a gamble, they thought, because even a top coach like Chaki wouldn’t be good enough for these pitiful little creatures to win. What’s more, it would be good to see their sister on the losing side for once!!
The game was scheduled for the evening because, in the middle of summer, it was just too hot to do anything in Chaki City before the sun went down. The national stadium, officially known as the Baubles Stadium, was filled to capacity with Cattishtanis all comfortably seated in their baskets and all waving the national flag, which was completely black with a white paw in the middle. It was a place Chaki knew very well, having won match after match there when she was captain of her baubles club. But managing a team of Little Poor Cats who were so much smaller than their Cattishtani opponents, and who, under the powerful spotlights of the Baubles Stadium would have a hard time seeing each other let alone the bauble, was going to be a huge challenge. And sure enough, the first half of the match was a complete disaster for the Little Poor Cats who, after only ten minutes, were sixteen goals down!! But the thousands of Cattishtani fans who were already dancing in their baskets with delight at the score could not have imagined what was about to happen after the half-time break. For Chaki, however, the break couldn’t have come soon enough because she knew that the thousands of Cattishtanis wouldn’t be celebrating for long if her plan worked! So, it was when all one hundred of the Little Poor Cats were assembled in the changing rooms that she announced her plan. Naturally, the Little Poor Cats couldn’t believe their little ears, but were, of course, delighted to hear that Chaki was about to give them the chance to start a new life! As soon as she had explained everything, Chaki gave the biggest of the Little Poor Cats, a certain Vlad, a little map with the directions on how to meet up with their contact - the Fishing Cat! She also gave every Little Poor Cat a travel permit which she had got the Minister for Culture, Plume, to draw up in case there were any Cattishtani secret police checkpoints. She then handed over to Vlad the keys to the stadium’s emergency exit doors, then tossed an old bottle of bleach on the floor to make it look like she had been drugged before locking herself in one of the lockers.
By now, the half-time break was over and the Cattishtani team, who were itching to score even more goals, had emerged from the tunnel that led to the changing rooms. But there was no sign of the Little Poor Cats. As the minutes ticked by, so the fans in the stadium became more and more impatient. Fearing a pitch invasion, the referee, Snowball, who was also the Minister for Sport of Cattishtan and who was anything but sporty, judging by his physical appearance, asked the Cattishtani players if they had seen the Little Poor Cats in their locker rooms. The minutes passed, and Snowball, who by now was looking visibly uncomfortable, glanced up at the Presidential box.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have done, because Max had a look of thunder about him, and his two sons, Shoof and Sniff, looked even angrier.
Fearing what might happen next, Snowball rushed into the tunnel towards the changing rooms, which he found to be completely empty. He was all the more horrified when, after hearing a series of desperate meows which seemed to be coming from the corner of the room, he opened one of the lockers to find Chaki cooped up inside and looking in a very bad way. Relieved, however, to have been found, Chaki could hardly get her words out, but when Snowball saw the empty bleach bottle on the floor, he realised what must have happened to her. After a short pause to catch his breath, Snowball summoned up all his courage, even though he was scared to death, to climb up the stands to the Presidential box and give Max some very bad news indeed!
The shock was too much for Max who, already not in the best of health, fainted upon learning of the fate of his beloved daughter, Chaki. Not so for Sniff and Shoof, who had quickly put two and two together and figured out what must have happened. After giving Snowball an earful, they seized the stadium microphone and announced that the match had been abandoned and that the borders of Cattishtan were now closed following a serious incident! Meanwhile, Chaki was wondering how she was going to explain the events to her brothers because she knew they probably wouldn’t swallow her story.
The waters of the river where the Fishing Cat lived had magical powers that only the Fishing Cat was able to use but which had protected him throughout his life. The Fishing Cat liked Max a lot because he paid him generously in kibbles in return for the fish that the Fishing Cat delivered to the finest restaurants in Chaki City, including, of course, the Golden Dumpling. Lately, however, with Max’s health declining, Chaki’s brothers had started poking their greedy snouts into the Fishing Cat’s affairs and were now asking for more and more fish in return for fewer and fewer kibbles. Naturally, the Fishing Cat thought this was all rather unfair, but the trouble was that the ailing Max was less and less able to help out his old friend, the Fishing Cat.
So, the Fishing Cat thought that the time had come to sort these brothers out and that was why he was more than happy to help the Little Poor Cats with their escape. They might even become future new customers for his fish, he thought. But for their plan to work, the Little Poor Cats would have to be very careful about how they made their way to the river, and so he told Chaki to tell them that as soon as they got close to it, they were to hide in the undergrowth and wait for three big
splashes. This would be the signal to approach the river bank from where the Fishing Cat would be able to escort them safely along the river towards the mountains.
Meanwhile, the Little Poor Cats had found it quite easy to leave Chaki City, probably because most of the Cattishtani border police had gone to the stadium to watch the much talked about bauble match!
All that the Little Poor Cats now had to do was to link up with the Fishing Cat. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and after a four-hour trek along the river, and with Chaki City now far behind them, the Fishing Cat and his one hundred escapees finally arrived at the source of the river. All that stood now between them and freedom was a wall of snow-capped mountains which, despite their incredible beauty, looked quite daunting. As Vlad and his fellow Little Poor Cats contemplated the challenge that lay before them, the Fishing Cat explained that once they had crossed the mountains, they wouldn’t be too far away from an old disused Russian military base where they would be free to make their home. Even though the land beyond the mountains would probably seem a bit like a desert, the Fishing Cat reassured everybody that he had heard that there were a few oases with an abundant supply of fresh water and perhaps even a few small rodents to feed on. “Good Luck!” smiled the Fishing Cat, content that he had done everything in his power to help, as one by one the Little Poor Cats trudged off towards a new future. Despite not having a guide, they found a relatively easy route between the peaks and, within a day, the Little Poor Cats had reached the other side. Not only were they relieved to have made it through the mountains but also to discover that the information provided by the Fishing Cat was correct. For it wasn’t too long, once they had made it on to the desert-like plateau behind the mountains, until they stumbled upon the old military base that the Fishing Cat had been talking about. Even though the base had long since been abandoned, some of the facilities still worked and it was while exploring one of the buildings that they spotted a whole load of large cardboard boxes which they knew would provide them with some much-needed shelter. Although the boxes were now empty, Vlad and his companions thought that they must have contained supplies, judging by the signs which were still visible on the sides. As he blew away the dust which had accumulated over the years, Vlad could just about make out the word ‘Leningrad’, which was where he thought the boxes must have come from. That gave Vlad, who knew a few words in Russian, an idea! Climbing up on top of the largest box, he stood up on his hind legs and announced to everyone; “This is the most important day in our history!” Then, pausing to scan the land around him, as if to check that he and his fellow settlers really were alone, he added, “because finally, we have our own land! From now on we are no longer The Little Poor Cats and we’re not poor anymore either!! We are the “LPCs” and this is our capital, ‘LPC Grad’!” (For those who don’t understand any Russian, this means “City of the LPCs”!)
Once all the emotion of the moment had passed, the LPCs spent the first few days establishing and securing their colony. It was only then that a team was chosen to explore the surrounding area. The first task was to find those famous oases that the Fishing Cat had talked about and fortunately the first one was not very far from the base. As they explored the lush green interior of the oasis, the LPC reconnaissance team found that not only was there fresh water everywhere, but that much of the oasis was covered by a lush carpet of delicious-tasting green grass. Excited about what they had found, the LPC explorers hurried back to LPC Grad with as much of their discovery as they could carry, for the others to taste. And sure enough, right from the first delivery, the wonder-weed, as they called it, was an instant hit!
What’s more, the LPCs quickly discovered that the grass was an excellent way of getting rid of the furballs which had a terrible tendency of getting stuck in their throats The Fishing Cat had not told them about this wonder-weed, and that gave Cash, whom Vlad had just made his new finance minister, a very good idea. Seeing as apart from the oasis there wasn’t exactly a lot of food around, Cash thought that the LPCs might be able to offer the Fishing Cat their wonder-weed in exchange for his fish. The Fishing Cat could then probably sell it on to the Cattishtanis who would surely also find the wonder-weed irresistible. So, LPC Grad now had its first export!
Meanwhile, back in Chaki City, the entire government was still in a state of shock following the LPC mass escape! The hunt was on for the accomplices in Chaki City who must have helped them in their escape. Led by their bosses Shoof and Sniff, the Cattishtani secret police were working round the clock on finding the culprits! Nevertheless, they were sure that even if the Little Poor Cats had managed to cross the mountains, they wouldn’t have survived very long under the hot sun of the desert lands on the other side. But what the Cattishtani secret service agents didn’t know about was the existence of the military base, as well as the oases which, of course, the Fishing Cat had never told them about!
However, such was the determination of Shoof and Sniff to get to the bottom of all this, that not even Chaki escaped her brothers’ attentions. Despite her explanation about what happened, they still had their suspicions. Luckily, Chaki was safe in the knowledge that as long as her father was still alive, he wouldn’t let any harm come to his beloved daughter!
Not, that was, until Sniff and Shoof saw a report on a Russian TV channel that could be picked up in Chaki City all about a newly discovered colony of wild cats. The journalist on the TV appeared to be surrounded by a crowd of little cats, with constantly smiling purple eyes, who looked anything but unhappy!
For Sniff and Shoof, this was exactly the proof they needed, and Plume, who was summoned on the spot to interpret the words of the Russian journalist, confirmed that it was indeed a new colony of cats who had apparently set up home at a disused Russian military base. The journalist explained that they called themselves the LPCs and that they had discovered a type of grass which was not only delicious but was brilliant for getting rid of furballs and which they called “wonder-weed”!
As you can imagine, upon learning of the existence of a new rival country, Chaki’s brothers went ballistic and immediately blamed the Fishing Cat who, they were sure, must have seen the hundred or so Little Poor Cats go past his door. So straight away, they gave orders for two secret police officers to be sent to the river to arrest the Fishing Cat and bring him back to Chaki City for questioning. But the attempt to arrest him failed miserably because the Fishing Cat simply told them to go away and threatened to call his friend Max if they did not leave him alone. In the end, he got so bored with their questions that he fell asleep and the two hapless Cattishtani officers were forced to return to Chaki City empty-pawed!!!
Meanwhile, back at LPC Grad, Cash and his colleagues were preparing to make their first trip back to see the Fishing Cat, confident that he would love their fantastic wonder-weed. Despite the obvious risks that this meant taking, what with all the Cattishtanis, aided by their spies, who were on the lookout for them, the LPCs, led by Cash, managed to find the Fishing Cat who seemed more than a little surprised to see them. However, for the LPCs, the long trek proved worthwhile, because upon tasting the wonder-weed, the Fishing Cat quickly realised just how delicious it was and that it would no doubt be an excellent remedy for fur-balls. So, a deal was done and the Fishing Cat agreed to supply fish to the LPCs in exchange for the wonder-weed, which he also figured he would be able to sell onto the Cattishtanis. Needless to say, the LPCs set off back home very happy with all the fish that they had got their paws on in exchange for their wonder-weed. They were so excited about the success of their trip that they didn’t realise that one of their number had disappeared. The missing LPC was a certain Fluke, one of the guides for the group, who, having discreetly left the group, was now hiding in a bush. It was only when the other LPCs started hearing what they thought were the howls of wolves that they noticed that Fluke was no longer with them. Panic-stricken, because the Fishing Cat had warned them that there were all sorts of unpleasant creatures in the forest, they sped off as fast as their little paws would carry them back towards LPC Grad, leaving Fluke to his fate.
But thankfully for him, Fluke had not fallen into harm’s way. He had other ideas and had deliberately broken away from the group to take a closer look at what the Fishing Cat was up to. And, as it turned out, he had chosen the right time. By now, night had fallen but thanks to the full moon, he could see exactly what the Fishing Cat was doing with some of his wonder-weed. As he tip-toed closer, Fluke could make out that when the Fishing Cat soaked the wonder-weed in the water, fish would start jumping out of the river and also that on the river bank, certain flowers which looked half-dead would sprout back into life. So that was the secret! This wonder-weed when mixed with river water brought everything back to life! But that wasn’t all! A few moments later, when the moon passed back behind the clouds, and when the Fishing Cat tried dipping the wonder-weed in the river again, something else happened which was, well, a lot less wonderful!
Almost instantly, the plants and flowers started to die and even a few lifeless fish popped up on the surface of the water. The Fishing Cat had discovered the deadly side of the wonder-weed but, without the light of the moon, Fluke, with his poor night-time vision, wasn’t able to see this.
Meanwhile, it had only taken a few experiments for the Fishing Cat to realise that all this had something to do with the moon. He couldn’t really understand why but, for safety’s sake, he thought that he had better note down his discovery on an old scrap of paper, which he’d found on the ground and which must have been dropped by one of the many humans who used to walk along the river years ago.
Slowly and surely, because he was quite old, the Fishing Cat jotted down the magic formula on the piece of paper. Just to be doubly safe, he wrote at the end of his formula, in capital letters, “ONLY TO BE DONE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE FISHING CAT AND UNDER A FULL MOON, OTHERWISE FATAL” before signing with his paw and his famous stamp in the shape of a fishing rod. He then hid his scrap of paper along with a few strands of wonder-weed and a small bottle filled with river water in a tiny box that he had also found. All this happened under the distant gaze of Fluke, who had memorised the location of the hidden box.
A few hours later, when he was sure that the Fishing Cat had gone away to do something else, Fluke approached the place where he thought the box was hidden. By now, the moon had completely disappeared behind the clouds and, because everything had gone darker again, he had difficulty finding his way. Finally, and after a bit of a detour, Fluke eventually managed to find the box along with its precious contents! He wasn’t very good at reading or writing and so he didn’t really have a clue what the Fishing Cat had written. All that mattered to him though, was that he had seen this amazing wonder-weed in action with his very own eyes. It was at this point that Fluke had another idea, for he had also heard that Max was now very ill. With a little help from his wonder-weed and the Fishing Cat’s magic formula, he thought, maybe he would be able to save President Max’s life… in return for a small reward, of course! The trouble was that he knew that it would be mission impossible to go and see Max directly, because of all the security that had been placed around him, especially following the of Little Poor Cats’ escape. But perhaps there was another way which in normal times would be unthinkable! It might be worth trying to negotiate with Shoof and Sniff and to convince them that he had a secret formula for saving their father’s life!
It would be a long shot, but after a few minutes’ hesitation, Fluke decided to try his luck and so off he set for Chaki City! Since the escape of the LPCs, the checks at the border of Cattishtan had been increased above all to prevent the few LPCs who still lived in Chaki City from leaving. The Cattishtani customs officers never imagined in their wildest dreams that having escaped and tasted freedom, any LPC in his right mind would be thinking about returning and so they were astonished to see Fluke show up at their checkpoint.
Even so, they weren’t going to take any chances and they arrested him on the spot! This was exactly what Fluke had planned and sure enough, it wasn’t too long before he found himself in a small room face to face with Sniff and Shoof.
Despite the frightening size of Shoof and Sniff, who were now looming over him, and the bright spotlights which were glaring directly into his eyes, there was no way that Fluke was going to blink first!
– “OK, so what do you have to say for yourself, Mr Fluke?” puffed Shoof.
Summoning up all his courage, Fluke placed the small box that he had brought with him on the table and then calmly opened it. As if invited to perform, the crumpled sheet of paper, the few strands of wonder-weed and the small bottle of water popped out on to the table. Chaki’s brothers were hoping for something rather more impressive and Shoof, who was particularly disappointed, snapped.
– “Oh, for crying out loud!!” he moaned. “What are we going to do with an old piece of paper and a couple of blades of grass?!!”
As he struggled to pick up the piece of paper with his paws which were now starting to tremble, Fluke knew that his life depended on him giving a good explanation!
– “On this sheet,” he whispered as he carefully placed it right under Shoof’s nose, “there’s a magic formula which could save your father’s life. I got it from the Fishing Cat!”
– “I see,” replied Shoof as he read the formula. “Maybe it’s not too late after all to save our dad’s life,” he added, winking slyly at his brother, who looked a little lost.
– “Never mind, Sniff,” he sighed. “I’ll explain everything to you later.”
To Fluke, Shoof looked strangely lost in thought but the magic formula had actually given Shoof a fiendish idea, which he thought he would try and explain to his brother.
For a few moments, poor Fluke was left on his own while Shoof and Sniff talked in private in another room. Then suddenly, the door opened and the two brothers emerged to say that they accepted Fluke’s offer! Relieved that his plan seemed to have worked, Fluke spelt out his conditions. He demanded a full meal, with a starter, main course and a dessert, of course, at the Golden Dumpling, which he knew was the best restaurant in Chaki City, but also the right to return safely to LPC Grad. Shoof and Sniff paused for a few moments and looked at one another as they weighed up Fluke’s demands.
Then turning towards Fluke, Shoof boomed, “OK! But give us that piece of paper right now! And those “weeds” as well!”
“I beg your pardon?” replied Fluke who had hardly got his words out before Shoof and Sniff lunged towards him in an effort to seize the piece of paper. Taken aback, Fluke struggled to hold on to his end of the paper and, in the tussle that followed, the paper tore into two pieces!
– “Now the other bit, Fluke!” ordered Sniff.
Sensing that he too was in danger of being torn into two pieces if he didn’t obey, Fluke thought that he had better give the brothers the other half of the piece of paper.
Shoof quickly scanned the contents of the now very crumpled sheet of paper but when he read the part where it said that the formula would only work when there was a full moon over the river, he immediately screwed it up into a paper ball and tossed it into the litter basket in the corner of the room.
– “That part,” he announced, “we don’t need!!”
By now, Fluke really didn’t know what to expect and so he was very relieved when Shoof and Sniff gave him what they said was a lunch voucher for the Golden Dumpling before showing him the door and telling him never to come back again.
With Fluke now out of the way, the coast was clear for Shoof and Sniff to activate their plan. Without wasting a moment, after all their father was very ill, they dashed over to see Klaus, who was Max’s personal doctor, and showed him the formula signed by the Fishing Cat.
Klaus, who was a little surprised and also not too pleased to see Shoof and Sniff because they usually brought trouble with them, tried to be polite and said, “Well, thank you for coming, Shoof and Sniff, but why couldn’t the Fishing Cat come and see me with this formula himself?”
While Sniff seemed puzzled, as he always was due to his limited brainpower, Shoof quickly found an excuse and explained to Max’s doctor that the Fishing Cat had apparently been tied up in a very important meeting and so he couldn’t make it. Then, Sniff, who wanted to show the others that he wasn’t completely dumb, pointed out that the formula couldn’t be a fake because it had the Fishing Cat’s stamp on it, which was in the form of a fishing rod, along with his signature.
– “Hmm,” replied the doctor. “I've seen so many formulas in my life, but nine times out of ten they never work!”
However, because Klaus was so desperate to find a way of making his dear friend Max better, all he could do was raise his paws to the sky and admit that seeing as no other treatment had worked, he should at least give this one a try!
Little did he know that not only would this formula not work, but it would also kill the President!
For Shoof and Sniff, this was music to their ears, because now they knew they were on the verge of seizing power!
It was a very strange formula, thought the doctor as he followed the instructions in the formula line by line. He then made a quick final check, under the watchful gaze of Shoof and Sniff, before turning to the Presidential basket where Max was curled up and visibly half asleep.
“Come on, Max,” whispered Klaus. “This should make you feel better...” At first, there was no reaction from Max but then, sensing that this might be his last hope, Max slowly started chewing the wonder-weed and, for a few minutes but which seemed like an eternity, Shoof, Sniff and Klaus really didn’t know what to expect. To everybody’s surprise, Max seemed to look much better, and Klaus was just about to give Max a second dose when suddenly the President of Cattishtan had a relapse. It was then that Max, sensing that he really was at death’s door, asked for his personal assistant Pistache to be summoned so that he could dictate his last wishes. While everyone waited for Pistache to arrive, the brothers started strutting around the room, much to the annoyance of Klaus, as if they knew it was only a matter of minutes before they were declared the new leaders of Cattishtan. Max then asked them to stand to attention before him and, taking a big breath, he announced his decision:
– Shoof, you will NOT be the next President of Cattishtan...!!”
Shoof was, of course, gobsmacked but before Max could finish his sentence, Sniff interrupted him:
– Does that mean it’s going to be me then, Dad?”
– “No,” replied Max. “You won’t be either!” And then, in a last breath, he declared, “The next President of Cattishtan will be Hubertus.”
– “What??!!” exclaimed Sniff.
– “There must be a mistake!!” insisted Shoof.
Even Pistache, who had just arrived, was taken aback but before she could double-check, Max was already dead.
So, against all odds, Max had chosen neither of his sons nor even his beloved daughter, Chaki, the current Ambassador of Cattishtan, but a certain Hubertus, a former TV star and business ace, who had been driven out of Chaki City by the brothers a few years ago, because he had become a little too rich and famous for their liking!
Even though they were disappointed by their father’s choice, the brothers knew that the plan had worked anyway, because they had managed to get rid of him, and there was no way that they were going to let Hubertus be the next President. But they had to cover their tracks and, to do that, Shoof had the perfect plan.
Shoof immediately made a few phone calls and in the space of ten minutes, Fluke, who had been arrested whilst in the middle of his meal at the Golden Dumpling, found himself face to face once more with Shoof and Sniff.
– “We caught this Little Poor Cat red-handed!” exclaimed Shoof.
– "Doing what?" protested Fluke, before insisting, “In any case, I’m NOT a Little Poor Cat anymore!”
– “Oh really,” snapped Sniff. “So, what are you then?”
– “I think he’s what you call a “Little Piece of Ch….” chuckled Shoof before he was interrupted once more by Fluke who was even more defiant than ever!
– “I’m an LPC...” but before he could finish his sentence, Shoof blasted, “who was caught red-handed eating at the Golden Dumpling!”
– “Yes!” added Sniff. “No LPCs eat at the Golden Dumpling. It’s too expensive for them. So, it all looks very fishy to us!!”
– “I can’t believe that I’m hearing this!” protested Fluke, “You gave me a voucher to eat there! I want to see my lawyer!”
– “LPCs don’t have lawyers either!” hissed Shoof. “That’s too expensive for them, too!”
By now, the whole scene was creating quite a din and Klaus decided to intervene.
– “I’ve had enough of all this nonsense!” he announced before adding, “I’m going to call Chaki. After all, I think that she should also know that her father has just died.”
As soon as she arrived on the scene and upon seeing the doctor and the personal assistant who appeared to be closing a very official-looking book, Chaki immediately realised that something very serious must have happened. Shoof and Sniff had also noticed their sister arrive. Instinctively, they took their huge paws off of Fluke, who was evidently terrified, judging by his very bushy tail! For the brothers, it was time to go on the attack and together they declared,
– “Our father has been murdered by this wretched little LPC!”
– “And so,” said Sniff as he continued to prod Fluke in the face, “we’re taking command in order to save our country!”
– “But it is Hubertus who is to be our new President!” replied Chaki as she examined Max’s testament. “Look… it’s written down there.”
– “Is that so?” replied Shoof as he hastily crossed out everything that was written in the testament. “I can’t see anything! Can you, Sniff?”
It was at this point that the doctor gave Chaki the piece of paper with the formula written on it.
Chaki started to read it before pausing to ask,
– “But there’s a bit missing, isn’t there?”
– “What bit?” replied Shoof, who hadn’t seen Fluke wink at Chaki.
– “OK... Well it doesn’t matter,” muttered Chaki, having now understood what her brothers must have done.
Even so, Chaki knew that this wasn’t the time to take on her brothers so she decided to play along with them.
– “Well, it’s a good thing you’re here to save the country! I guess you’ve both got enough on your plates so, if you like, I’ll take care of this miserable LPC!!”
The brothers were surprised, to say the least, because they didn’t expect Chaki to fall in line so easily, but they decided for once to trust their sister.
As soon as they were out of the room, Fluke thanked Chaki for saving his life and gave her the missing part of the formula, which he had picked out of the rubbish basket in the interrogation room. Chaki immediately pinned it behind her ambassador’s collar, in the knowledge that she now had a vital piece of evidence which would come in handy later on. Then, turning
to Fluke, she said very coldly:
– “I don’t know what your part in all this is, and I don’t even really want to know. So, just go now and don’t ever come back!”
With Fluke now gone, Chaki was free to put her plan into action and, without wasting any time, she went to see an old friend. This friend was Plume, the Minister for Culture and Information, and when Chaki caught up with her, she found her hard at work as usual on the latest edition of the main daily newspaper for Chaki City, ‘The Daily Chat.’
– “Hey, Chaki, what’s new pussycat?” asked Plume, rather jokingly as she showed Chaki into her office.
– “I’ll tell you what’s new, Plume!” replied Chaki, “and I bet that when I tell you what it is, it’ll be on the front page of your newspaper tomorrow morning!!”
– “If it’s what I think it is,” said Plume, “I’ve already heard,” and she showed Chaki the official announcement of the death of President Max after a long illness that she had been told to print on the front page tomorrow
– “But that’s not true, Plume!” insisted Chaki. Then she continued, “My father was murdered! And what’s more, by my brothers!”
– “What?” uttered Plume. “Murdered?!! ...”
Plume pulled over a chair for Chaki to sit down on, and, once she had recovered her composure, Chaki began explaining what she had found out. At first, Plume found Chaki’s story quite hard to believe because the information had been passed on to her by Max’s personal doctor.
– “But the doctor didn’t know about THIS!” insisted Chaki, as she revealed the missing part of the Fishing Cat’s sheet of paper with the secret formula on it.
By now, Plume had also put two and two together and, in a menacing voice, she declared:
– “I was never a great fan of your brothers, and now I know why!”
– “Perhaps we should change the headlines of the ‘Daily Chat’ tomorrow,” suggested Chaki, “if you see what I mean??”
– “That’s a great idea!” said Plume. “Just imagine the reaction of the Cattishtanis when they find out that their President was assassinated by your brothers!!”
– “Yes, that would definitely spark a revolution!!” replied Chaki.
– “Right then,” replied Plume. “I’ll get straight down to work on a special edition!”
And so, in a matter of minutes, the two Cattishtanis agreed on how tomorrow morning the despicable deed of Shoof and Sniff would be splashed across the front pages of the national newspaper, the Daily Chat!
– “Now that we’ve got that sorted,” added Chaki, “I need to go and talk about all this to the Fishing Cat.” But then she paused because she had suddenly thought of something.
“Maybe a revolution is not such a good idea,” admitted Chaki and she explained to Plume that her idea was to deliver a copy of tomorrow’s Daily Chat to her brothers before it went on sale, with a note stating that if they wanted to avoid being lynched by the entire population of Chaki City, then they had better get over to the Fishing Cat’s residence tomorrow at noon where their sister would be waiting for them!!
– “That’s a great idea!” agreed Plume. “I’ll prepare my special edition right now and you can take a copy. You never know, it might come in handy!!”
– “My brothers won’t know what has hit them when they read their early copy of the Daily Chat tomorrow!!” chuckled Chaki, before heading off for her meeting with the Fishing Cat.
Meanwhile, back at his cabin next to the river, the Fishing Cat had noticed that something wasn’t quite right because the river waters had become a lot choppier than usual. But what worried him even more was that his box with the formula, the wonder-weed and the water bottle had strangely disappeared. It was at this moment that an unusual noise coming from somewhere in the vegetation near to the river caught his attention. With all the strange things that had been going on recently, the Fishing Cat was very much on his guard and so he crouched down and prepared for the worst. He was greatly relieved when a familiar face emerged from the undergrowth.
– “Well, well! What brings you here, my dear Chaki?” called out the Fishing Cat as he greeted his old friend.
Chaki tried to reply but she was completely out of breath having dashed all the way from Chaki City up to the river. That didn’t stop her, however, from handing over to the Fishing Cat something that she knew he would be very happy to see. The Fishing Cat instantly recognised the missing pieces of paper and whilst, at first, he was overjoyed to get his secret formula back thanks to Chaki, his mood quickly darkened once he heard what Shoof and Sniff had done with it!
– “I know exactly how you must be feeling,” admitted Chaki, now that she had got her breath back.
Now, feeling a lot better, she then went on to explain that just before he died, her father had chosen Hubertus as his successor, something her brothers could not bear the thought of.
– “On that point, I must say that I agree with them,” said the Fishing Cat. “But even if Hubertus is a right show-off with extravagant tastes,” he added, “he’s not a nasty piece of work like your brothers.”
– “Anyhow,” replied Chaki, “I’ve got a plan. We won’t be able to save my father, but we can save my country!”
She then explained what she had agreed with Plume and that, if everything went to plan, they should expect a visit tomorrow around noon from Shoof and Sniff in person.
It had been a long time since Chaki and the Fishing Cat had seen each other, and, despite the terrible events which had occurred back in Chaki City, they were able to spend a pleasant evening together.
After having eaten several helpings of a delicious speciality that the Fishing Cat had prepared, Chaki could no longer stop herself yawning.
– “Maybe we should try and get some rest because I think we’ll need all our strength tomorrow.”
– “You’re quite right!” replied the Fishing Cat. “It’s going to be a hard day, but luckily, I’ve got a couple of very comfortable camp beds over in my cabin. It’s not quite the luxury of the Presidential Palace but it should do the trick!”
– “Don’t worry, that will be perfect!” replied Chaki, who was yawning after almost every word. “Good night!”
It was the height of summer and so the sun rose very early over the river. As was usual at this time of year, the Fishing Cat had gone to do an early spot of fishing. He knew that this was always the best time because early in the morning, even the fish were still waking up and wouldn’t expect to be preyed upon by the Fishing Cat!
Chaki had also woken up quite early but fishing was the last thing on her mind. She knew her plan was a risky one, but she just hoped that Plume had done everything that they had agreed and that her brothers would quickly see that the game was up! If everything went to plan, she could expect to have some company before too long.
And sure enough, she was not to be disappointed, because on the stroke of noon, she started to hear some voices in the distance. What worried her, however, was that there seemed to be an awful lot of voices coming her way! She started to fear the worst because if her brothers had been able to bring reinforcements with them, the Fishing Cat and she wouldn’t stand a chance and it would be them who would be ending up in prison!
Then suddenly, through a gap in the undergrowth, she spotted what looked like Rufus, the head of the Army, and several other Cattishtanis who didn’t look very pleasant characters, to say the least!
– Suddenly, she heard a voice which she recognised immediately. It was Shoof who, on spotting her, boomed, “Ah, there you are, Chaki!” before adding rather arrogantly, “so this is the place you have chosen for your last stand with that Fishing Cat friend of yours!” He was quickly joined by his brother who, a few paw steps behind, thought that he had found a good joke. “Yeah - it all sounds a bit fishy to me!!” quipped Sniff before being reprimanded by his brother. “Eh, I’ll crack the jokes here, Sniff!” muttered Shoof, who turned to his sister and sighed. “As you can see, my dear sister, we’re quite a long way from Chaki City and unless I’m very much mistaken, there is no one here who can save you now, least of all him!!” as he pointed with one of his huge paws to the Fishing Cat who had just returned from his fishing outing and who looked a bit bedraggled, to say the least.
– “What do you mean? I don’t understand,” replied Chaki.
– “Oh, don’t worry… you’ll soon understand!” boasted Shoof. “Because it was you and that old Fishy Cat who let all those LPCs escape and that’s what led to our father’s death!!”
Poor Chaki looked shocked and couldn’t even get a word out before Shoof, who was even more triumphant than ever, continued.
– “I bet you’ve been double-dealing in kibbles and doing all sorts of fishy things with Fishy over there! Well, now I’m going to nail the two of you in one go!”
Sensing that the end was near, Chaki asked for one last request.
– “There’s just something I’d like to give as a souvenir to Rufus which I’m sure he’ll appreciate!”
Although a little surprised, Shoof and Sniff accepted their sister’s request. And without wasting time, Chaki handed the two pieces of paper to Rufus in front of everyone.
– “What!?” asked the brothers. “Do you think you are going to save your skins with two pieces of paper?!!”
But Rufus wanted to know a little more and he began to read the words on both ends of the paper. However, it was when he saw the front page of the Daily Chat, which Chaki had suddenly produced and held up right in front of him, that he understood what must have happened. Turning immediately to Shoof and Sniff, he shouted:
– “Guards! Arrest these two assassins!”
– “You can’t be serious?” complained the brothers almost at the same time.
– “Oh yes, I am,” replied Chaki. “It’s time for the truth, Shoof, don’t you think?” she continued.
– “Truth, Shoof!! That rhymes!” blurted Sniff. “I didn’t know you were a poet, Chaki!” But Chaki was anything but joking and, in a very serious tone, she added, “Fortunately for you two, it’s only you and us who have this special edition of the Daily Chat!”
– “Otherwise, I think you would have had thousands of very angry Cattishtanis on your tails by now!” added the Fishing Cat. With Shoof and Sniff looking completely stunned, Chaki announced her terms. “You let Hubertus return to Chaki City and become our next President and I will spare you the death penalty for murdering our father.”
On hearing Chaki’s words, Shoof was stone still and Sniff was speechless!
– “It will just be prison,” continued Chaki, “with perhaps a chance for early release if you behave yourselves!!”
But all Shoof and Sniff could do was nod as they accepted Chaki’s offer before surrendering to Rufus and his guards who handcuffed them on the spot!