“It’s going to be a bit tight in here,” he said as he tried to squeeze his bulk and the angular crate together into the front cockpit.
Phoebles clambered into the cab of the Routmaster while Beryl and Flo rushed up stairs to the top deck. Mad Jack hung back near the hotel entrance.
“What should I do?”
“Stay here and answer the phone. If Fluffy rings tell him everything’s fine and he’s winning the war.” Boz turned from the crestfallen hussar to the Kronstadt sailors.
“Come aboard, comrades, we’ll give you a lift back to the docks.”
Phoebles indicated; there was a grinding of gears and then a pause as their passage was blocked by a squad of Gilnockie Reivers driving a small herd of dun coloured, gracile Jersey cows down the road.
“Haw you, thas coos nae choried. Sam Ned geez em.”
“Never doubted it,” replied Boz.
With a gnat like whine from the Genet Major, Ferdy took to the air. Moments later the Routmaster jerked onto the highway and headed towards the docks.
“Where do I go after that?” asked Pheobles. “How will we find The Kittens?”
“Just head northish. I expect the resistance will find us.”
Once clear of the town Jersey’s winding lanes were a delight and the view from the open top deck a panorama of tomato vines in regimented rows, terraced potato paddies and acres of shimmering polytunnels. Hedgerows bloomed, nature twittered and scampered. Only the occasional broken fence or slime filled shell hole despoiled the idyll with memories of conflict.
They wound up gentle hillsides, descended into wooded vales where arching branches threatened the occupants of the upper deck. And then they rounded a bend to find a fallen tree trunk blocking the road. Phoebles braked hard and upstairs everyone tumbled towards the front of the bus. A far from friendly figure stepped out into the road, black beret with three pointed red star badge, scarlet neckerchief, leather jerkin, several day’s growth of stubble and an angry Kalashnikov.
“Do you represent the resistance? I am Boz, we came over with the counter-counter-revolutionary armada.” Boz had come down to the rear platform of the bus, it seemed only polite.
“That’s as maybe. I am Le Brocq of La Résistance Crapaud. What is your business here?”
“We are attempting to meet up with the Kittens of Chaos. Have you any idea where they might be? Probably in the thick of something reckless.”
“Ah, Generalissimo Starcluster and her Battailon Durruti, a right band of nutters. Last we heard, some of them had joined up with The Lesbian Brides of Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Doubt, they’re warrior nuns. I could guide you to their lair, but they’re loose cannons the lot of them. You might be better off staying with us.”
“We need to find them,” said Boz.
“Your funeral.” Le Brocq put two fingers to his mouth and blew a sharp whistle. A dozen guerrillas emerged from the undergrowth and dragged the heavy log to the side of the road. Laughing he swung up onto the bus and pressed the bell.
Le Brocq guided Phoebles along a tortuous route. They passed a burned out Hummer and several sites devastated by fierce fighting. Eventually they arrived at the mound of La Houghue Bie. They parked up and began the climb to the nuns’ fortress convent.
“I’d best lead the way, said Le Brocq, “This lot can be aggressively defensive.” But no one challenged them. When they reached the walls the thick oak door was swinging on its hinges and inside was deserted.