This story originally appeared on another blog as part of a contest to tell a short story about a spy cat. I wrote about the story and about the cat that inspired it here. However, since then it seems that that website has disappeared, so I decided to republish the story here, for completionist’s sake.
Smudge paced back and forth.
Normally, he enjoyed a bit of snugness, but the tight quarters of the small cage were getting to him. At first he had welcomed it. It’d been a narrow escape even, with that kind stranger happening by, assuming he was a stray, and taking him away before his enemies could catch up. It had made it easier, being driven all the way across town to the shelter. But now it was time to move again.
“You’re a restless one, aren’t you, Columbus?” said a lady who worked there. A vet, presumably, who was giving him a cursory exam.
Columbus, she had said, because he was obviously a traveler. Smudge, his most recent owner had called him, because of the bits of dark across his mostly snow-white fur. And Pencil, another human had said, because of the small white ring around his black tail. He liked them all. None of them were his original name, of course. Almost nobody knew his original name, not anymore. But Columbus Pencil Smudge, he put together in his mind, that would do just fine.
He meowed again, plaintively, sounding scared. He wasn’t, of course. But he’d learned long ago how to influence the humans; how to use a bit of mild hypnosis to plant ideas in their minds that would be to his advantage. In this case, he prompted the lady to search again for his owner. If she would just keep checking online. Smudge had made sure to pick an owner who was active on the internet. His owner would be worried, his kids upset, and with all the time he spent poking around on the computer, he’d surely have posted a few pictures on the internet by now. If Smudge could just get the lady to find one, then he could get out of here…
Of course, there were dangers to that plan as well. He’d have to suffer the indignity of a microchip, first of all. They’d put it under his skin, right next to the other one, the one they couldn’t see, the one his own people had put there months ago. The one he’d deactivated thanks to a little trick he’d learned with an electric lamp and a fish bowl, which had almost killed him. But it’d been necessary. He had to keep them off of his back, for their own safety, at least until he could complete his mission. They had sent him out, but he couldn’t go back, not until the enemies were stopped.
The enemies of us all, thought Smudge.
He stretched out, resting his chin on the carpeted floor of the enclosure. He couldn’t do anything locked up. But he knew how to wait. He’d learned it on the streets before he was recruited. Many a rat had learned to curse in their final moments Smudge’s matchless patience. And now, he vowed quietly, his new enemies would learn to regret it as well. They’d realize just how dangerous he could be when he was cornered. They’d finally understand that it was he who was manipulating them, and that when he had them all lined up, he would sink his claws into them all, in a single pounce.
When the mission is complete, than we’ll all be safe, he thought as he began to slip into a nap. And I can finally go back home.
He didn’t have to wait long today. Even before the lady had returned less than an hour later, the bio-organic components in his ear picked up her approach…her quickened breathing, her excited pace. “Good news, Columbus,” she said as she gave him new water. “We found them! There is a very excited family that is coming back to pick you up later this afternoon. Isn’t that nice?”
Smudge mewed simply. It was done. Back to the deep cover of his family’s home. A couple of days of rest.
And then, back to the hunt.