Pepe is on vacation for a couple of weeks, and is not available to dictate the next chapter of his saga. Instead, I am referring to the pile of notes I have taken while listening to his ramblings while under the influence of catnip. It is just as well. The next chapter is of a period of time that he normally will not discuss. I’m sure he doesn’t remember the things he told me that night.
I returned to the Concrete Palace late that night after retracing the route of the delivery van. I was on foot and it was raining hard, but luckily George had lit the stove, and the Concrete Palace was blisteringly hot. I could see the steam rise from my fur as I lay on the sheepskin rug that he kept in the center of the room. Unfortunately he had eaten the corner of the rug, but there was still room for the three of us to lay, stretched in front of the fire. Creepster cried when she heard that Orion was gone. Together we huddled together, dreading his fate, praying for strength for him to endure, strength for us to go on without him. George growled a vow of revenge.
George was not surprised that the Grand Poobah had figured out our mission. He was surprised, however, that the band of squirrels were pulling out. We stared out into the darkness and debated what we should do. Occasionally we saw faint lights in the field, heard shrieks in the darkness. By daybreak everything was still. The gig was up.
We stepped outside as the sun came up. Barney, George’s childhood owl friend, swooped low. His hoot startled me when I understood the implications. “Whoooot! The riff-raff is gone! Just like we predicted, they have moved to the north. I will follow them, and send a message when I know where they are settling. It may be a few months before you hear from me, my friend. Be safe, be sound.”
And with the whisper of his wings, he was gone.
The following two years were the most difficult in my life. After having been in the thick of things, I felt profoundly left out. Cocooned, meaningless, uninspired. I spent the days chasing rabbits, watching Creepster hone her birding craft. I went on missions stealing Easter eggs throughout the neighborhood with George. Practicing my serpentine racing between cars across the highway in rush hour traffic. Anything for diversion. Little did I know then, that the story was not even close to being over.