Phoebles and Boz moved over to their favoured table in the bay that looked out onto Narrow Street and sat on the window bench. Ferdy and Ginsbergbear pulled up bentwood cane-bottomed chairs and McGoogs perched on a leatherette-padded stool. They huddled conspiratorially.
“My plan is that we explore the caves south of Mam Tor and discover what is going on.” began Slasher McGoogs, producing a dog-eared copy of The Potholer’s Handbook for Derbyshire, IIIrd Pocket Edition, 1956; printed on storm resistant paper. Within the chapter headed Castleton Caverns it included a handy sketch map of the Speedwell and Peak cave system. It did not show Titan, which at the time of printing was still to be discovered, but Slasher had roughly pencilled in the location of the gigantic chamber.
“Have you cleared any of this with Larry?” asked Boz.
“I have told Larry nothing. I despise despots and Larry is Gato Número Uno.”
“That’s hardly fair,” chipped in Phoebles, “We and the Revolutionary Committee did all agree he should be PM.”
“And it’s not as if he’s done any harm since taking office. In fact he’s done sweet FA. I’m amazed he doesn’t get bored.” Added Ginsbergbear.
“If I may interject at this point.” interjected Ferdy, “Mr Larry can in no way have ‘done sweet Fanny Adams’ despite the accusations in Mr Fluffy’s Chicken News on US telly. Firstly she was not all that sweet – she was a grubby little tyke. Secondly, she was ‘done’ many decades ago and her story has passed into myth. And thirdl…”
The tail end of a steel wire ladder dropped past their window into the street outside. It was followed by the descent of a pair of improbably long legs and finally by the top half, only, of a bottle-green chauffer’s uniform. As the door to the catnip den opened and Barrymore, Larry’s indispensable feline factotum, entered, the inmates could hear the Vwwshsh of the twin VW vectored screw engines of the incumbent Acting Prime Minister’s personal dirigible. She lifted her goggles and perched them above the peak of her cap as the wire ladder began to drift slowly down Narrow Street.
“Stay!” commanded Barrymore into the discreet mouthpiece that curved elegantly out from under her headgear. The drifting ceased instantly.
“Blimey!” exclaimed Boz, “Is the Den bugged?”
“Certainly not, Mr Boris. I just happened to be passing and am graced with unusually acute hearing. Larry wanted you to know that he intends to despatch the Coleyfishspytrawler Lord Ancaster towards Antarctica to investigate the rumours.”
“What rumours?” asked a slightly ruffled Slasher.
“Ah, Mr McGoogs, a pie without your sticky paw in it? Makes a refreshing change. There’s reports of unusual activity at the US airbase – UFO under the ice – that sort of thing. Leave it with us. You have Larry’s full approval for your own little enterprise.”
“Man… Larry knows of our enterprise?” Ginsbergbear spoke, “I’m not sure even we know about our enterprise yet.”
Sashaying over to the door Barrymore looked back over a coquettishly inclined shoulder and said, “Carry on.”
Wrapping one leg around the wire ladder with the sensuality of a trapeze artist, she ascended into the heavens.