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Happy Thanksgiving

Me: You’re smiling.

Nell: Yes. This is a day of thanks and I would like to wish all our American friends a Happy Thanksgiving.

Me: So would I but could you tell me what happened?

Nell: It was going well until David ate the canapés by mistake.

Me: He was probably nervous.

Nell: Fortunately Poppy improvised with some slithers of Brie.

Me: Don’t you mean sliver?

Nell: No. Brie tends to slither when it’s really ripe. I found myself sitting next to Ramson.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Those eyes are worse than Paul Hollywoof’s. We had just finished our soup when Sally walked in with Henry on her collar.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: We had all agreed that we would not overreact.

Me: I’m guessing this was a bit difficult for some.

Nell: In David’s case it proved impossible. He threw caution to the wind, along with several bread rolls, ran over to Sally and covered her in kisses.

Me: My Big Brave Beautiful Boy. He simply can’t disguise his feelings.

Nell: The guests applauded.

Me: Bless.

Nell: Ramson rose to his feet angrily so Gladys and Alejandro started performing the Macarena.

Me: Excellent diversionary tactics.

Nell: Everyone joined in while Gladys headed for Ramson.

Me: Bold move.

Nell: She was wearing a Hawaiian flower garland and wrapped it around his neck.

Me: How thoughtful.

Nell: What he didn’t know is that it was full of biting bugs and they soon got to work.

Me: Genius.

Nell: While Ramson was trying to get the bugs off we all ran for the door taking Sally with us.

Me: So everyone’s coming home?

Nell: Except Handsome and Sadie.

Me: Did they perish in the struggle?

Nell: Perished? No. They’ve run off together. Do try and be a little more realistic.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Quiet

Me: Are you safely on Dartmoor?

Nell: Quiet. I am crossing a field in stealth mode.

Me: I’ll whisper. How is everyone?

Nell: Well, I’m never flying in a helicopter with that animal again.

Me: Sadie Hunter?

Nell: No. Alejandro. Why didn’t he tell us he was scared of heights? Hooves everywhere and Gladys dancing the Macarena.

Me: Did Sadie behave?

Nell: She ate cheese most of the way and chatted to Handsome. Those two seem to be getting on like a kennel on fire.

Me: It’s probably part of his tactics. Keep your enemies close.

Nell: I think it’s got more to do with a shared love of Brie myself.

Me: Any news from Dave?

Nell: Yes. We’ve been chatting on WoofsApp.

Me: What did he say?

Nell: We’re meeting outside Beefy Mansion and trying to avoid alerting the sheep.

Me: Why?

Nell: They can’t be trusted. Ramson has them all on a tight rein.

Me: Are they wearing leads?

Nell: It’s a figure of speech. I’m not surrounded by sheep wearing collars.

Me: I wondered.

Nell: Anyway, Henry has been in touch with Horst. Ramson is hosting a dinner this evening and Sally is invited. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to get her out of there.

Me: But you’re not invited.

Nell: I am actually. Knitwear Wolf, Handsome, The Cat and I are guests of Sadie’s.

Me: Do you have anything to wear?

Nell: I packed my pearls and the others are always well turned out but that’s not the point.

Me: What about Poppy?

Nell: She will be in the kitchen. David and Jim are waiting tables.

Me: And Gladys and Alejandro?

Nell: They are the entertainment. You don’t think Gladys was dancing the Macarena for fun do you? It’s the ideal distraction.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Sadie spills the beans

Nell: In the end it was the perfectly ripe Brie that did it.

Me: I thought it might.

Nell: Sadie couldn’t resist any longer.

Me: So she finally spilled the beans?

Nell: Beans have no place on a cheese board. Have you ever heard anyone say it was the sight of baked beans that tipped them over the edge?

Me: No, but it’s possible. Anyway, what did she say?

Nell: Sadie is Sally’s sister.

Me: But Sally never mentioned her.

Nell: Same litter but different owners. Sally went to live in the countryside with a kind family but Sadie’s life took a different course.

Me: Poor Sadie.

Nell: Don’t feel sorry for her. She chose to be bad. She is completely devoted to Ramson Hunter and the Black Claw.

Me: So why did she pretend to be Sally?

Nell: The Black Claw have being trying to recruit Sally for a long time to no avail. They wanted her excellent contacts.

Me: She does have a busy social diary.

Nell: Not to socialise. To gain power in the animal community.

Me: I see.

Nell: Ramson and a couple of ruthless rams abducted Sally on her way to visit us and Sadie took her place.

Me: So where is Sally now?

Nell: Imprisoned at Beefy Mansion as we suspected.

Me: So what’s the plan?

Nell: Fortunately Poppy was able to borrow a chinook so we are flying up there now.

Me: Who is we? Only I’m a bit scared of heights.

Nell: Myself, Knitwear Wolf, Handsome, Gladys, Alejandro, The Cat and Sadie, of course. Harriet needs to stay here in case David gets in touch.

Me: Sadie doesn’t really deserve a flight in a helicopter if you ask me.

Nell: Sadie is our bargaining chip. Do keep up.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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We are using cheese

Me: Why is Bad Sally tied to a kitchen chair with a scone in her mouth?

Nell: We had no choice. She wouldn’t stop shouting at everyone. You can call her Sadie by the way. She knows we know.

Me: Well, if she doesn’t, she is going to be having serious doubts about your hospitality.

Nell: She definitely does. After David left yesterday we decided to confront her. We need to know where he is going.

Me: Has she told you?

Nell: Not yet but Handsome is working on her.

Me: Not torture?

Nell: Certainly not. We are civilised.

Me: I don’t think appealing to her good nature is going to work.

Nell: No. We are using cheese.

Me: Cheese?

Nell: Hunters can’t resist it.

Me: So that’s why Gary the Bearded Goat is here. I wondered why he was delivering cheese on a Monday. Let’s hope Sadie starts talking.

Nell: She will when she sees the cheese board. Perfectly ripe Somerset Brie, Mature Cheddar, Cornish Yarg and Poppy’s savoury biscuits.

Me: Fingers crossed then. How is Harriet coping?

Nell: She is devastated. Not only her beloved brother is at risk but Jim too.

Me: Jim the Farm Dog?

Nell: Yes, he and David were in cahoots.

Me: Good word.

Nell: Thank you. As soon as David knew Sally was on Dartmoor he asked Jim to go with him as he knows his way around the area and isn’t phased by sheep.

Me: Clever Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: We should have guessed Horst would join them but it’s a nuisance as we won’t know if Henry gets in touch. So now our only option is Sadie.

Me: Don’t the other woodlice know Louse Code?

Nell: Of course they do but Henry isn’t contacting them, is he?

Me: No. Sorry.

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Dave is on the alert

Me: Dave seems very alert for a Sunday morning. It’s almost like he is waiting for someone.

Nell: That’ll be to do with Peter Tavy.

Me: Who?

Nell: Alejandro’s friend the Dartmoor pony. We found him outside this morning with Sally’s collar and a dirty sporran.

Me: What an odd outfit for a pony.

Nell: He wasn’t wearing it. Honestly I despair of you sometimes. He found Sally’s collar on the moors and a Beefy threw the sporran at him. It was full of mackerel.

Me: I shouldn’t think Hamish wants it back now.

Nell: That’s not the point. It confirms our suspicions that Sally is on Dartmoor.

Me: It was awfully kind of Peter Tavy to come all this way.

Nell: Alejandro invited him to Sunday lunch weeks ago. He met Peter and his wife Mary walking on the moors.

Me: Does Poppy know we have guests?

Nell: Yes. She’s cooking roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and lots of vegetables for the vegetarians.

Me: Delicious.

Nell: We’re hoping David eats something as he refused his bacon sandwich.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: He is definitely on edge. He lost his temper with Sadie when she stepped on Harriet’s toe and nearly gave himself away.

Me: He hates deception. Darling boy.

Nell: He said she was a Very Bad Sally.

Me: He’s right.

Nell: Did you see Knitwear Wolf leave after he delivered the papers?

Me: No. Why?

Nell: I thought I heard his motorbike and he usually comes in to say goodbye.

Me: He’s in the kitchen peeling potatoes for Poppy.

Nell: Wait. Where is David?

Me: Why?

Nell: Get Knitwear Wolf. I think David has stolen his motorbike.

Me: No.

Nell: If I’m not mistaken David is on his way to Dartmoor to rescue Sally. Hurry.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Ramson Hunter

Me: Who the hell is that?

Nell: Mind your language, please. There are young animals around.

Me: It’s put me off my cornflakes.

Nell: Come upstairs and I’ll tell you. David had a bad night so Mutley and Harriet are letting him sleep in front of the fire.

Me: That’s the scariest sheep I’ve ever seen.

Nell: Yes. After Henry’s last message we decided to do some research. Timothy is lying low at the moment due to the holiday season so he volunteered to go online.

Me: It’s a tough time of year for turkeys.

Nell: Exactly. Anyway, it turns out Sadie Hunter is part of the Hunter clan and her partner in crime is Ramson Hunter.

Me: Is that him?

Nell: Yes, and we have reason to believe he is holding Sally and Henry prisoner.

Me: Oh dear. Do we know where?

Nell: We are hoping for another message from Henry but Knitwear Wolf thinks it might be up at Beefy Mansion on Dartmoor.

Me: Knitwear Wolf comes into his own in this weather, doesn’t he? All those thick sweaters and warm cardigans.

Nell: We are discussing imprisonment not knitwear.

Me: Yes, of course.

Nell: Apparently Ramson Hunter is known for his ruthlessness so we need to free them as soon as we can.

Me: Does Dave know?

Nell: We haven’t told him yet. Fortunately The Cat persuaded Sadie to stay over last night.

Me: How did it do that?

Nell: Cheese. She can’t resist it.

Me: Clever.

Nell: It had a Swiss cheese fondue evening. It turns out that Hamish can yodel.

Me: Has there been any sign of his sporran?

Nell: Oh yes. That cheese stealing Beefy flies over regularly throwing mackerel out of it.

Me: Were they fresh?

Nell: That’s not the point.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Learning the Truth

Me: Why are you and Poppy looking so serious?

Nell: There was a revelation at Morning Thoughts that has left us no alternative.

Me: But I only told my friends and they all promised to keep quiet.

Nell: Good grief. It’s not about you. Why do you think Poppy has been making bacon sandwiches?

Me: Friday treats?

Nell: No. David is Learning the Truth.

Me: I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Nell, even with a plate of bacon sandwiches on the side.

Nell: We have no choice. David discovered something incriminating in Sally’s bag.

Me: I presume you mean Bad Sally.

Nell: Stop saying that. Yes.

Me: A knife?

Nell: Much worse.

Me: Not a gun?

Nell: No. A half eaten piece of Cornish Yarg.

Me: She hasn’t eaten Henry, has she?

Nell: Would you stop. Henry is somewhere else entirely. This was another piece.

Me: But how do you know?

Nell: Because Horst just heard from him.

Me: Good. So is it to do with sharing then?

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: Was David upset because Bad Sally didn’t share?

Nell: No. David knows Cornish Yarg is Hunter’s favourite cheese.

Me: I see.

Nell: You don’t though, do you?

Me: Not really.

Nell: David thinks Hunter is trying to recruit Sally by offering her cheese. He says it explains her odd behaviour.

Me: He has a point.

Nell: But she isn’t Sally, is she?

Me: No.

Nell: He wants to reason with her.

Me: That could be very dangerous.

Nell: I know. Which is why David is with Charlie and Knitwear Wolf right now.

Me: My poor Big Brave Beautiful Boy. What did Henry say?

Nell: ‘There’s more than one.’

Me: Is that all?

Nell: It’s Louse Code. You have to be brief.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Nonchalant is the word

Nell: Thank goodness Tony came to visit.

Me: Why?

Nell: David needs a friend and distraction. He’s starting to suspect that something is wrong. At Morning Thoughts today he said Poppy was giving Sally a hard stare.

Me: And was she?

Nell: Of course. I’ve had to ask Malcolm to prepare Sally’s food after I saw Poppy cutting toast with her sword and sprinkling chilli on Sally’s scrambled eggs.

Me: That sounds quite nice.

Nell: That’s not the point. And as for Gladys and The Cat.

Me: Do they know too?

Nell: I blame Handsome. I think he and The Cat had one dry Martini too many and he spilt the biscuits.

Me: You mean beans.

Nell: I do not. Handsome hates beans. Anyway, it definitely knows and so does Gladys.

Me: They mustn’t let Bad Sally know they know.

Nell: Stop calling her that. You all need to be discreet. Nonchalant is the word.

Me: They probably don’t know what it means.

Nell: Well, I haven’t seen anything less nonchalant than Gladys in a full length ball gown and The Cat in a sequinned jumpsuit dancing to ‘Evil Woman.’

Me: I did wonder.

Nell: And I saw Alejandro spit and he hardly ever does that now.

Me: Any more news from Henry?

Nell: Yes. I’m not sure you can deal with it.

Me: What did it say?

Nell: ‘Sadie Hunter.’

Me: Who is she?

Nell: Someone very dangerous.

Me: Not a member of The Black Claw?

Nell: I am afraid so.

Me: Do we know her?

Nell: Yes, we do.

Me: You don’t mean Bad Sally is Sadie?

Nell: Yes. Stop calling her that.

Me: Henry said Sadie Hunter.

Nell: Yes.

Me: Hunter. We all need to run.

Nell: I told you. Nonchalant is the word.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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I have something to tell you

Nell: Close the door. I have something important to discuss with you.

Me: What’s happened?

Nell: You are not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: What I’m about to tell you is in the strictest confidence.

Me: That’s a bit difficult.

Nell: If you tell anyone they will have to swear to keep it to themselves.

Me: Ok.

Nell: Henry has been in touch with Horst using Louse Code.

Me: What’s Louse Code?

Nell: I think it’s done with leaves, sticks and vibrations but I am not sure. Anyway, that’s not the point. Henry is alive.

Me: What did Henry say?

Nell: It was rather shocking.

Me: Please just tell me what he said.

Nell: ‘It’s not Sally.’

Me: What?

Nell: That’s all, apart from ‘Min’ at the end.

Me: Min?

Nell: Min is Henry’s nickname because he’s so small. It’s a family secret so Horst knows it’s definitely him.

Me: Clever.

Nell: The question is, what does it mean?

Me: Sally didn’t do it?

Nell: Or, Sally isn’t Sally.

Me: But if Sally isn’t Sally, then who is she? And how come she looks like Sally?

Nell: That is what we mean to find out.

Me: But how are we going to do that?

Nell: Handsome is in a meeting right now with Charlie, Horst and Knitwear Wolf.

Me: But we have to tell Dave. My Big Brave Beautiful Boy is in danger.

Nell: Harriet has been informed and is watching over David until we know more.

Me: But Dave needs to know.

Nell: There is a high probability that David will reveal the truth if he’s told. We have to consider Henry and Sally’s safety too.

Me: True.

Nell: Don’t worry. We will come up with a plan. We always do.

Me: You’re right. Sorry.

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Missing but not lost

Nell: I blame myself.

Me: You mustn’t do that.

Nell: I should have stayed focussed.

Me: Let’s go over what happened again. We might have missed something.

Nell: The picnic was all set up on the beach and the weather was perfect.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Knitwear Wolf wanted everyone to appear relaxed, so Mutley had a little sleep on a blanket in the sand dunes and Sally stayed with him.

Me: That was kind of her.

Nell: The Welsh Corgi choir sang sea shanties while the Whippets Institute passed round sandwiches and flasks of tea.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The cheese board was in the middle of the beach with the Cornish Yarg on prominent display.

Me: What happened next?

Nell: David was coming back from a swim when he noticed a dark shadow over the cheese board so he gave a warning bark.

Me: Yes. I saw Handsome move towards it. You have to admire the way cats can slink.

Nell: I crept in on soft paws and Harriet focussed on it intently.

Me: We were all fairly focussed to be fair.

Nell: And that’s when Sally screamed so we all ran towards her.

Me: It was shocking.

Nell: Apparently a wild Beefy had attacked her but it had gone by the time we got there.

Me: And so had the Cornish Yarg.

Nell: Yes. We only took our eyes off it for a moment but it was long enough for it to be taken.

Me: But it wasn’t only the Cornish Yarg.

Nell: No. It was Henry too. He had bravely positioned himself on the outside of the cheese. It’s wrapped in nettles so a woodlouse is easily camouflaged.

Me: Poor darling Henry.

Nell: Until we know differently Henry is just missing not lost.

Me: You are right. Sorry.