Lonesome Love Story - parts united

PART ONE

Flora MacDonald was laying on the couch in her usual position, head resting on two pillows artfully arranged, looking terribly sad.
 
"I'm so lonesome," she sighed. "All of my best beaus are either in Olympia or too busy for me. Ryan is showing off in Olympia. Ted is busy entertaining his brother Pelli. Archie is wonderful, but he is way across the Atlantic. Zac is even further away in Tasmania. Who knows what has happened to George! Maybe Hess been kidnapped by the FBI again or maybe he is on the road with Darthe promoting her new CD. Anyhow, I'm so bored I could cry."

Just then, the gate to the front porch area creaked open.

"Who could that be?" wondered Flora.

She jumped up, nosed aside the venetian blinds and looked to see who was at the door.

"Amazing!" said Flora, "It is ...

PART TWO

Oh my doggieness - it's an FBI agent AND the florist. First the florist - look at this, a lovely bouquet from Pippin, Gilligan, Fiddich, Donnie, Zachary, and Hank. There are too many names to read. It's from all my admirers who didn't go to the specialty. This bunch of flowers is so huge, I may have to get Mom Teri to add a room to the house. I hardly know what to say, except it's only to be expected that a gorgeous Brown Beardie such as MOI, of course has multitudes of admirers.

Now as for the FBI Man. He is showing me his badge and telling me it's my absolute duty under the law to tell him all I know about that other Brown Beardie of renown - BYGEORGE. I'm going to have think fast on this one - what do I tell this agent? Do you think agents have built in lie detectors. What shall I say???????

PART THREE

Flora thought quickly as she saw the agent flash his badge. She knew she could use her feminine wiles on most people, but there was something about this rather intense looking young man that had her worried. Something wasn't quite right.

Ok I know! I will play the dumb brown beardie girl, it should work, this agent doesn't seem to know beardies at all! I wish Tequila was here, she would say "I don't speak English" with a French accent... Maybe that's what I should do? No it wont work!

"byWHO?" she asked, hoping to gain a little more thinking time. She shifted her weight, sat up, graciously licked a paw and curled her tail more femininely around her hind legs.

"byGeorge, " the young man said. "He's one of your kind. Ya know. Hairy. Brown. Too charming for his own good." He glanced at her coat as it spilled over her shoulders, making its way down the ridge of her back to her tail.

Flora took her time answering. "Well, there are a lot of brown beardies you know. We're not nearly as unusual as some people seem to think. We come in all colours - black/white, slate/white, brown/white, fawn,
tricolour -"

"Yes. Very nice. What about Mr. George? We have information about him that we need to confirm, and a snout told us you were the girl who'd know".

"Well I heard of him I think. Where does he live already?"

"Maine"

Maine?? Where is that?"

"Northern New England"

"You came all this way to ask a Californian Beardie about a Beardie from Maine? You got to be kidding!"

"No I'm not kidding at all!"

Suddenly Flora Mac starts to cry & says between sobs: "I feel so lonesome (sob, sob) because everybeardie is gone to Olympia (sniff) & all you can think of is to ask me question about somebeardie I only heard of (sob, sniff) !?!?

"Oh no Miss!" (sigh) "Listen, I just wanted to ask a few question! Please don't cry!!! I understand you don't know him. He lives so far from you! Take it easy, I wont ask more questions!"

He looked at her, and she shifted her weight. Something about this man's gaze made her uncomfortable. She looked him in the eye, and then she realized.......
 

PART FOUR

YES!! That coal-black hair - that pale white face - that black circle around one of his oh-so-intense eyes - this FBI agent was no furless human susceptible to her awesome beardie wiles, but a ferocious BORDER COLLIE giving her that look that sends cattle and sheep running wherever he wants them to go!! Flora was indeed in deep trouble... not only was he giving her The Look, but he really wasn't all that bad-looking for a dog without a decent coat (at this point Flora remembered her own shorn flanks, and for the first time since her summer haircut she sighed despondently). Would she - could she - possibly succumb to wiles even more primitive than her own????

She then remembered she was expecting company. Moose, the "Wonder Beardie", and his brother SPlash, the "Houdini Beardie". These two boys have her thinking she is seeing double, because they look so much alike with their long flowing slate coats and similar white markings. And those really big laughing smiles. They had planned to whisk her away to Bakersfield by "borrowing" their mom's Camaro convertible and credit cards while she wasn't looking. She remembered being introduced to Moose at the Santa Rosa Specialty, but didn't get a chance to know him. What was he like? What about SPLash? Can she handle these guys? She's heard about them occasionally, just missed them at the So Cal get togethers, but still has never gotten to know them or see them together before. What will she do?.........

The flashing images of the beardie "twins" faded abruptly as the dark, handsome agent's face came to view, as he drew closer to her...

Luckily, just then there was a ferocious barking at the back door, Penny Rose was announcing yet another visitor!! Flora bounced away to see who it could be. Much to her amazement (and perhaps annoyance) it was that funny grey beardie-fellow from the Oak Grove Bounce-in, Calvin!! Normally she might object to his rude intrusion on her personal home-space, but in this particular case she was relieved at the break in the tension. (At last, an admirer in person!)

But her hopes were doomed to disappointment, for Calvin had not sniffed his way 100 miles back to her house to visit her wonderful brown self, nor even Penny Rose... but that big brown cat that had fascinated him so much on his first visit!! He dashed from the back door immediately to the living room. The cat, ensconced as always on the large stuffed easy chair, raised himself slowly, deliberately, from his favorite nap position and stood there - daring Calvin to make the first move.
 

Edward Scissorhands

Calvin of course had hoped the feline would make a break for it, thus begging Calvin to show off his latent herding skills by chasing him into a back bedroom or something. But, just as had happened on their previous encounter, Calvin found himself backing off instead from the ferocious beast.

However, by this time the FBI Border patrol was completely distracted.

As Calvin slunk off once again in disgrace from the unflustered gaze of the cat, the agent found himself irresistibly drawn into the fray.

HE could herd ANYTHING! his genes told him, more loudly than all the years of FBI training could offset. Driven by pure basic instinct, he drew closer to the cat.....

PART FIVE

...crouched, intense. Flora, despite herself, felt grudging admiration for his skill, sure though she was in the knowledge that this was purely instinct at work. "And what's so bad about instinct?", she thought, before reminding herself that this was a man, a DOG, who valued nothingónot even a mateóas much as his ability to control others Nothing.

Calvin made no bones about his awe at watching what was, by any standards, an expert, and sat there utterly mesmerized by the Borderís fixed gaze.

The cat remained unimpressed, and simply sat there washing his ears.

The nonchalance of the cat, and the surprisingly dim memory of the reason for this visit brought Flora back to her senses and reminded her that she had to find a way out of this situation; she knew that this was her chance to slip quietly away. She also knew that any sudden movement, however small, would attract attention back to herself. She started to think of her best chance of escape, sitting externally demure and prim with only the tip of her tail twitching slightly and showing her anxiety.

However, at that moment, the tension was broken by ...

PART SIX

... the piercing ring of a cell phone. The persistent sound of it sent the cat quickly through an open window, with Calvin in hot pursuit. Just then, Flora noticed a crumpled piece of note paper in the place where the cat had been quietly grooming himself. Hmmmmm.....It wouldn't be the first time that byGEORGE had glued an important message to a cat. She had to get that paper. She crossed the room, with a yawn, pretending not to care, and surreptitiously stretched out on the note. As was her custom, she made one complete circle before she flopped, which gave her enough time to read the words, "BACK DOORóbyG."

The FBI agent reached quickly inside a satchel attached to his collar.

"Border Patrol. Blackie, here," he mumbled. "Yeah. Whazzzup, Boss?"

"Hmmmmm.....Gotcha....Iíll check it out."

And, with that, the intense gaze of the Border Collie returned and moved directly across the room to Flora's bulletin board. Her heart sank as she followed his eyes to the 8x10 glossy photo. He stared at the familiar paw print......next to a message, which read, "Flora Mac, I'll always love ya, byGEORGE;-)"

She was certain her life was over.

"So, it's byGEORGE, is it? Is this the brown fellow you're pretending not to know?"

She couldn't protect George any longer, although she knew she must. The agent was going to insist on details about George's top-secret project....but would he also want to know about the gallon jar of collected cat slime inside of George's crate....or about when he opened the cat-wash on the beach....or about his CAT-a-TONIC beverage company....or about the patent he applied for when he invented the CAT-sicle ice cream thing.... or about when he chased the border collie at his herding instinct test....or about when he broke that nice Mr. Ngís nose at the Boston Specialty...or about his unsanitary Ther-a-PEE practice???

Flora Mac knew that, if she didn't think fast, the future of beardies everywhere could be drastically altered, just as GEORGE was on that fateful day, at the tender age of six months. They were on to him, that was for sure. But, even after abducting him twice, the FBI still didn't know the extent of GEORGEís secret project. They had no idea of the far-reaching effects of his commitment to serve the Beardie Community, not to mention his unrelenting efforts to make cat-sliming an annual Specialty event and to rid the world of lawn ornaments.

Her head spinning, she heard herself say, "I hope you'll excuse me, Agent Blackie, but I have the most insistent urge to relieve myself.....Iíll just be in the back yard a moment...."

"Oh no you don't, Ms. MacDonald.....you think I was born yesterday??"

Flora said, "Of course not, but I can't just squat in the middle of the room here....itís a girl thing...you know....please, Agent Blackie....Iíll be right back.."

Reluctantly, he agreed to give her two minutes.

She was off to the back door in a flash. Meanwhile, the border collie reached down to pick up a crumpled piece of note paper, which seemed to appear out of nowhere...

Flora quickly scanned the back yard and didn't see anything unusual at first.....

Then, from behind an azalea bush came a rustling sound, a muffled bark, a shadow, and THEN.........

PART SEVEN

a brown beardie called in a familiar Maine accent: "Hurry, Floradorable.

Follow me. I've got a plan."

Flora watched the brown beardie jump up on some rocks and over the back fence. Strange, he sounded like George, but...

Just then the FBI man came out the back door, so Flora followed the brown beardieís path up the rocks and over the fence, something she had never tried before.

Landing lightly on the sidewalk, she saw the brown beardie in a red Miata.

"Thanks for coming all the way from the East Coast to rescue me," called Flora to Elizabeth and Tequila, as she squeezed into the car.

"De rien, Flora. Maintenant, allons-nous?" said Tequila in her charming French, then punched the gas pedal to the floor.

Flora turned to the brown beardie: "You're not George, even though you sound like him. Who are you and why are you helping me?" she asked. "And do you really have a plan?"

The brown beardie replied: "I'm Alex, a good friend of George's from Maine. He said I should rescue you and bring you to meet him at Hoboís house. George says if anyone knows how to save us, Hobo does."

"Okay! But I will have to leave a message to our friends in the area.

Let's pass by my favorite department store first."

So, Flora raced out of the car, jumped through the revolving door and flew up the stairs. There was a huge potted palm there where she left a coded message. She then proceeded to the computer area. "We cannot do this on our own!"

Luck was on her side as there were all these computers turned on and remembering what her Mum had taught her, she signaled Misty and Rummy in NSW to check on Zac and to put a security alert out for BYGEORGE!!

Heavens!! A suspicious Tan Male had just come round the corner. So, Flora sped down the emergency exit and bounced her way to the waiting car. Thank goodness I had sent a message to M & R!
 
So Elizabeth and the three beardies sped across the country, hair blowing in the wind, singing Dartheís beardie songs, with an occasional interruption for a general barkathon, and finally arrived in Commerce Township, Michigan, at Hoboís house.

Flora and Alex leapt from the car, then turned and called "Merci beaucoup" to Elizabeth and Teq. "Bon chance," called the brave Frenchwoman and her beardie as they drove off.


Tequila in Miata
Alex and Flora ran through the electric fence into Hoboís backyard, where they found Hobo lifting his leg at a large tree, and then from behind the tree, came Flora's Maine man, George.

"About time you guys got here," Hobo said. "We've got to get you guys out of the country. I've got connections...well, links anyway... all over the world. Maybe we can get you to Canada or Switzerland or Australia."


byGeorge

Just then they heard the bell on Hoboís computer that meant incoming mail.

"Good," said Hobo, "maybe someone has answered my plea for refugee status for you two. Let's go check."

They raced to the computer, downloaded the new email and found...

PART EIGHT

... a picture of Daisy, Hoboís girlfriend, in a provocative pose .. Hobo quickly clicked onto the screen to close the window .. turning a bit red in the nose area ... "please disregard that .. ummm .. let see what we have here?"

"ahhhhh .. yes ... we can send you to Emmetís house in Canada ... you wont have to show many papers to get there ... in fact, we can probably give you some copies of our papers and the customs wont be any the wiser."
 

Hobo in the boat
"But first .. lets relax by the lake and have a swim. You and byGeorge have some catching up to do. There is a nice little island over there where you can be alone for awhile." Alex and I will check the net and see how we can transport you to Canada. Checkers will take you there.

Flora and byGeorge were very agreeable to the idea. They were taken by a small boat to a lovely little island. They had to almost forcefully push Checkers, Hoboís brother, back into the boat so they could be alone.

Back at Hoboís house, Alex and Hobo began connecting to possible contacts for the transportation for the re-united pair. "There is an underground railroad set up for rescues that we might use" explained Hobo. Alex was amazed at the huge array of databases. The computer then began flashing a warning signal ...

"Its an intruder alert, someone has attempted hacking into the system........."
 
Out on the island things were peaceful, Flora and byGeorge were nibbling on some strange treats that Hobo had given them .. "At Last" said Flora "we are together." She began snuggling next to byGeorge (who was contemplating his next move). It seemed like a dream come true. Flora offered another treat to byGeorge (now laying on his back .. with the lovely girl feeding him (what a life).
Checkers by the lake

byGeorge then noticed a flock of geese wandering about the far end of the island ... something was familiar about the piles of .. what was it? ... about their feet. A smile crossed his face as he examined the treats he was munching on ... He was about to comment on this to Flora. Then suddenly ...

PART NINE

A rustling from the shrubs came from behind Flora and byGEORGE. The pair of them quickly jumped to their feet! Eyes fixed on the shrubs in front of them. "Oh no," cried out Flora, "they've found us!" "Get back Flora. They're not taking me without a fight," said byGEORGE.

Flora sighed and thought..."My hero! He's so brave, fighting for our love and so we can be together...How romantic!" but she could not stop worrying that maybe this was the last time that she'd ever see him. Then suddenly, the rustling noise got closer and louder. byGEORGE waited for the invader to pop out from the bushes...he crouched down low and...and...AND out from the bushes popped a red-faced Alex, eyes covered with his paws.

"Errr...I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said sheepishly. "ALEX!!! You scared us!! We thought it was the FBI" cried Flora, "byGEORGE would have slimed you!!!"

"Sorry, sorry, sorry...but I have some news! We finally got a hold of Emmett in Canada. We couldn't figure out who was trying to hack through Hoboís stuff, but it was Emmett. He said that his e-mail was down and he was trying to get a message onto Hoboís computer...but I don't think that's the only thing he was trying to do," smiled Alex, "I think he was also trying to find files of Hoboís beardie gal.."

"Errr...my beardie picture gallery files," said Hobo who appeared from behind Alex."

Flora and byGeorge looked at one another and smiled.

"Sure Hobo. Anyways, go on Alex," said byGEORGE.

Hobo looked at the ground and wondered what he was going to do to Emmett when he met him....

"Sure Hobo. Anyways, go on Alex," said byGEORGE.

"Anyways Emmett said that it would probably be safe in Canada for a couple of days...at least. He's actually got a private jet waiting for you too at the Detroit-Metro airport. It will take you to Lester.B. Pearson International in Toronto. From there, Emmett will take you to a safe-house of an unknown destination," explained Alex, "here are your papers to show at customs."

"Well then, let's go," cried Flora thinking how romantic and exciting it will be to be on a private jet with her Maine man GEORGE.

The four of them jumped into the small boat and went back to the mainland so they could say their farewells. They then discovered that there was a large stretch limo waiting in Hoboís driveway. A strange, dark figure was leaning up against the limo. The figure spotted the four of them, walked over and stood in front of them. He took off his hat, and the four Beards recognized it was one of their own kind.
 
"Who are you?" asked Flora. The young, handsome brown Beard replied, "The name is Short, Emmett Short."

"Emmett! What are you doing here? How did you get here? Why are you here???" asked Alex.

"Iíll explain later, there has been a change in plans. We can't fly to Toronto, the FBI is all over there! Somebody has leaked information...I had to get to you guys before you got to the airport .. .Iíd fly you to another airport in Hamilton, Ont. so you guys could stay with me, but that is our last resort, as I don't know if it's safe or not .. .hopefully we can figure out somewhere else in Canada that we can send you guys too! If we canít ... there is also places in Europe," explained Emmett.


"The name is Short, Emmett Short"

"But who else do we know in Canada that can take us??" asked Flora

Meanwhile Rummy and Misty decided there were plans to be made. FloraMac needs their help and they must help her find BYGEORGE. They must also touch base with Zac coz he will know what to do about the FBI.

"I think you had better grab a plane - Mum knows your away anyway - Check at the Maine Department Store for the coded message and then make your way to Flora's", said Rummy.

"OK, Iíll talk to you through the microchip if we're in trouble and Iíll leave you and Zac to help BYGEORGE."

"If we need extra backup - Iíll ask Ruatha and Oakcrest for help."

Rummy quickly started transmitting to Zac. "Message sending failed!? Hmmm ... which beardies are choking the transmission lines with trash notes again!" Rummy tried hard to set up a link with Zac and soon succeeds. After explaining everything known so far...

"My golly, Rummy this is..........."

PART TEN

"We are going to Australia," said Flora. "Hobo, intercept my message to Rummy and Misty. We have no time to loose and we are no longer safe even in Canada."

Just then Zacís image appears before them in a hazy, statical image. "Hello!? Hobo? Can you see or hear me? I am testing my latest beardie locator. With it I can track any beardie with the BR-DE707 microchip. Rummy just told me that Flora .... .byGeorge...."

"Hello, Zac!" giggled Flora, who abruptly gets serious. "I am here, with my George ... I mean byGeorge. You must help us get into Australia. The FBI...."

"I know! Rummy, better contact Misty and tell her to scout for beardie lodgings for ... how many will you be?"

Tequila answered, "It's all for one, and one for all! We are all going!"

"And us too!" And Moose and SPlash bounced from their mom's car to join the group. "Got your message in the potted Palm, Flora!", Moose said with a wink.

So, with much packing, every beardie sped to the nearest airport on Emmettís limo.

Emmett volunteered to get the tickets. When she rejoined the eagerly waiting group, she had tickets with her, but....

"For where???", exclaimed Alex.

"The Philippines. There were no more tickets left for any place I can think we can go to. The only available ones that can carry all of us are these special promo fare tickets to Davao City, Philippines. It's a maiden flight to the latest International Airport there from here. So I thought, well, maybe we can go there and ask Rebel for help."

"Rebel! The Philippine import from Oz! Hmmm .. I am kinda skeptical about going to that place.", said Flora. "I mean, how will we get in touch with her?"

"No problem! Rebel was adamant about having her own microchip so I issued her one of the old models. I can still link up to it.", Hobo offered. And so he twitched his ear and sent a message halfway round the globe to Rebel.

Checkers leaps for joy upon finally getting to meet the sexy Rebel. So the furry troupe boarded the plane, and slept all the way.....

....the leaves parted to reveal a helmet shaped mop of trimmed brown hair with two loose, wobbly eyes attempting to focus on Flora long enough to give her a reassuring glance. The eyes gave up their struggle and the eyebrows twitched instead, as a deep voice rumbled "In here, quick!" and a slender paw waved imperiously below the leaves.

Flora, however, was frozen to the spot as a shiver of horror fluttered along her spine. "Why am I back in my yard?", she thought. And who is that behind the leaves??? This wasn't byGEORGE! It couldn't be! She had a photo of her hero - the very one that the Border Patrol had just stared so suspiciously at, showing him in all his long coated glory, brown tresses flowing in the breeze as he posed imperiously over the top of a slate bitch puppy that he had body slammed into a muddy puddle. This canine specimen in front of her looked like a furry greyhound with a Cairn Terrier's head stuck on the front. Her dry mouth could scarcely frame the words, but she managed to croak "Who are you?"

The wobbly eyes suddenly focused and narrowed as the helmet head in the bush took note of her tone. Then a big grin split the mustache from the beard and with a chuckle, the brown stranger said "Hey, girl, it's me... producer of the Dumpit litter, the one who will take you out to dinner so we can sit and stare at our bowls together....... remember?"

All the tension flowed out of Flora as she listened these shared memories, and she peered at the odd looking dog more closely. Hmm .... .maybe..... that grin...... those eyes..... of course it was. His hair-do might be weird, but his personality was just the same. She searched for something complimentary to say about his appearance. "ah .. uh..... great disguise, byGEORGE..... you had me fooled .... .who did it for you?"

A shadow of seriousness crossed by GEORGE'S face. "This ainít no disguise.... this is my mom's idea of a cute trim. But it's interesting that you couldn't recognize me..... oops..!"

Too late! The Border Patrol had appeared behind Flora's shoulder, eyes sharp and piercing, clutching the note that had dropped off the cat. As Flora sank into a miserable crouch he stared imperiously at byGEORGE and said.......

"The jigs up byGEORGE. We've been lookin for ya for months! An informant has told us that you are a part of a CD ring promoting subversive beardie material, an causin country wide hurricanes, thunderstorms and turnin Olympia into a wet refrigerator for beardie hoomins. Didja think that cool haircut would throw the Amazing Border Collie Patrol off yer trail?......hahaha! We hafta take ya to headquarters while we round up some others for helpin ya escape detection so long. Thatíd be those fellas, Hobo & Checkers, and Short, Emmett Short, who popped up in Version 2 of our information leak. Come along quietly now, ya hear?"

byGEORGE, after giving Flora MacDonald a long look, turned to The Border Patrol and said "Let's go."

Flora cried softly ....... "Oh byGEORGE it's over, it's over." She glumly watched through the window, a dainty paw at her lips, (carefully pigmented to match her lovely brown coat). Her eyes caught the handsome byGEORGE glancing over his shoulder as he entered The Border Patrol car parked at an angle at the curb. Her heart was thudding and she was unable to hold back the tears. Suddenly ........ she remembered! Hobo & Checkers must be warned! They are in danger too! Also that Short, Emmett Short fellow!

She picked up the pink wall phone hanging in the kitchen, and.......

"Floradorable, dear, we are about to land."

Flora awoke from her dream, wiped the drool from her mouth, and hugged George tight.

Sigh .... thank goodness that was the dream and not this.

Flora looked out the window and saw a small airport surrounded by lotsa trees. In the horizon are scattered buildings, the makings of a progressing city.

"Davao City"

PART ELEVEN

The plane landed with the renowned soft landing of a Philippines Airlines plane.

"We've touched ground?!", exclaimed Flora. "They must use very soft cement here. I am not landing here again!"

There was a howl in the cabin and everyone looked at Checkers who was panting hard while looking out the window. There outside in the waiting shed was a very young white/slate beardie girl. She was pacing here and there, with an occasional step-bounce-step every now and then, showing her nervousness.

"That has to be Rebel.", Hobo said.

When everyone deplaned, Rebel rushed over and hushed everyone to a hidden area among some trees.
 

Rebel
"Welcome to Davao City, my home in the Philippines.", announced Rebel. "Hobo, don't pee on the trees, there's a stiff fine if you get caught! And Checkers, please stop sniffing at me, I haven't started going in heat yet. I am still 9 months old!"

" We have to hurry! They just discovered that a beardie, that's me, has infiltrated the Philippine territory and so a local chapter of the International FBI was formed just now. They call it the FBI too, for Fight Beardie Invasion. I think the rough collies here have teamed up with them. They are really threatened by our obvious wit, intelligence, and undeniable beauty. We are in trouble! Imagine a bunch of Lassie types going after us!"

Everyone slipped into the coaster van just beside the back gate. A rather short and small golden retriever, who was driving, said aloud, "Do you know what I had to go thru to slip all of you past quarantine! You owe me a years worth of Eagle Pack dry food!"

Everyone looked at the only alien breed in the car. He is really a sweetie, though somewhat aloof. Spoiled brat! Upon arriving at Rebelís home, she said, "This will be a quick stop. I don't wanna risk an FBI search with us here, don't wanna trouble dad Yeti and grandma Helen. We will just get supplies."

While the girls loaded up the van with frozen chicken cuts, beef cuts, and lamp chops, the boys flew around the garden, marking every tree and rock in sight!

"Hmmmph! Men!", exclaimed Tequila. "This is what we get for demanding equal rights. No more chivalry. Hey you pissing mutts, help load the dry food or there will be no complaining when your brand is not included."

"Where to, Rebel?", asked George. "We are sorry for all this."

"Hey, no sorrys! When else can I see all of you, although I wish it was on better situations."

"Uh, oh....", Hobo said. "I am getting a faint signal. Too weak! It seems to come from some Ark-something place in the USA."

"Let's hurry! Where we are going, less than an hour from here, the signal is excellent. That's where I was when Hobo contacted me."

Everyone made like a basketball up the van. Rebel gave Nash a slight paw pat. "To Eden."

Nash gave a huff, and drove off to his wonder hideaway in the mountains.

PART TWELVE

Everyone looked in awe upon entering Rebelís place in Eden. The fog covered mountain was covered with trees and flowers of the best variety. The grass was tall and soft. A gazebo sat on top, with lodgings fit for any beardie.

"Oliver! Hobo, here! So the signal was from Arkansas. What's up?"

Oliver
"Hobo!!! The FBI are all over the USA and Canada, hounding every beardie around. Sherlock and I are trying our best to confuse them! We sent some to Egypt, and some to India. Rags sent a big group by boat to the mountains of Antarctica. Even found them donations for cold weather gear."
"Wonderful. But you don't sound happy."

"Well, the papillon wanted to help, and sent the biggest group to the Philippines. They left today."

"Oh no!!!", Hobo cried out. "Still, we have around 24 hours, and they will need to trace us to here. Rebel, you sure you can trust all your contacts?"

"Nothing is certain here, Hobo. Just relax everybody. We'll leave here tomorrow to who-knows-where."


The papillon 
(Beau)

So every beardie found his and her own spot. Flora and George swayed together in the hanging couch in the gazobo. Tequila went around to check out the flowers. Hobo, Emmett and Alex discussed about alternative plans. Checkers, together with SPlash and Moose, was huffing and puffing at the fog creeping in from the mountain top when he noticed Rebel on the grass below, gazing at the view of Davao City, Davao Bay, and the remote islands.

"Ehem! Hello Rebel!"

"Oh, hello Checkers. I was just thinking about all that is happening, all the excitement ... The lovely moon will rise in a while, casting an eerie but mystical reflection on the bay." Rebel snuggles up to Checkers. "I know my perfume will not turn you on as much as the scent of... but well, I have not reached that stage in my doggie life yet. When that time comes, I hope we can still find each other."

"Ah, uh, duh....(gulp). Hehehe, uh, Iíd better tell you about the basset.....you see....uh...."

"I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did ... as long as you love me."

Checkers faints.

Hobo and Alex had been spying and quickly carried Checkers to the ice-cold pond and dumped him in. Checkers surfaced with a loud yelp.

"Hahaha! Got more than you can handle, right bro?!", snickered Hobo.

Just then there was loud beardie scream! A water buffalo (caribou) is snorting, horns aimed right in front of Tequila. There's a weird glow in it's eyes and Hobo noticed it. Just as it's big hoof was about to trample on poor Tequila, Hobo aimed a paw at the caribou. The caribou's eyes cleared, and gave out a soft "moo".

Hobo declared, "We must move now. My chip has decrypted the programming on the poor mammal as being of ancient origin. Good thing I jammed it just in time. Kinda like that of the one I gave Rebel....oops!"

"Ancient? You gave me an old chip? (sniff sniff) And I thought .. I could .... help..."

"And you can, coz only your chip can intercept the messages sent by the FBI here!", Hobo declared happily. "Tune in to the Rebel!"

"OK, I am picking up something ... a female voice ... she is saying, ĎNo! No more you brute! Unless you buy me my Alpo I wont bear any more of your children for your hoominís puppy farm! I....í oops! a Canine Impregnation Agency (CIA) agent's signal. We'll deal with that later ... OK I have a clear signal coming in... a gruffy voice .. he says, ĎOK Lassie, Bassie, Tassie, and Hassie, the FBI agents from the USA are arriving tomorrow night. It is our chance to prove to the world that Rough Collies still rule and not some bearded ladies and shaggy faced boys. We have a reputation to protect. While waiting, we will watch this inspirational video Lassie Come Home.í Oh dear, what will we do beardies? "

"It's very clear", our heroine Flora declared. "We will go to Japan to Daisy. We will ask the Oz beardies to meet us all there. In Japan, the whole beardie community can protect us from any foreign trouble."

"But....", Rebel offered, "We can't go there from here. You will need many requirements coz you will all have to go as entertainers. Tourist visas are hard to come up with. You will also need to pass the dance test, ballet test, singing test, to get your work permit. Okay let's try to go as a choir. You sing woofprano, you two the altodog, you 3 do the bassbark. One to three..."

"BARK..WOOF....ARF....AWOOOOOOO!!!!"

"We wont make it!", Emmett declared.

"We go to Australia first. Nash, tell Yeti I love him and will come back soon. I will go with you all."

Everyone rode again, daydreaming of another long plane ride of comfort ... only to realize that...

"A ship? A cargo ship!!! We will all stink and be matted by the time we get there!", sobbed Flora. "I don't wanna look awful when George and I..."

"We have no choice. There is no other way! The FBI has already bought off all government agencies! Now everyone sneak in quickly coz the ship leaves in 5 minutes. Just squeeze in with the chickens. It'll just be a day or two.", Rebel enthused.

So every beardie moaned and groaned as the ship carrying chicken and stowaway beardies floated off to Oz.

PART THIRTEEN (That is ominous!!!!)
 

Misty
Meanwhile back in Sydney Rummy intercepted Misty who was about to stowaway on a jet to Maine.  Fortunately she was reached in time and redirected herself to Ruatha as suggested. in the Southern Highlands.  To her delight Zac had arrived from Tasmania and was talking to Rummy. " I've just been in touch with Hobo we have nine guests arriving from the Philippines!!"

"We have to outwit the quarantine border collie patrol.  There is more at stake here than just Flora and ByGeorge.  I shall discuss the wider ramifications when the group arrive but suffice to say - we have a lot to do."

"Zac did Hobo say when they would be arriving and where" asked Misty.

Zac replied " We only know that they are on a chicken freighter from Davao City."  Rummy went and found Thunda and Scout. Zac said " We need your help. If you are agreeable,  I'll just code your microchips and then you will be up to date with all the news."
 
Suiting action to words Zac fiddled with the microchips Right a quick twist a flick now bounce as high as you can reach.  Boing Boing - Right.
" WOW"  said Thunda and Scout simultaneously. "I've never absorbed so much information so fast. How did you do that Zac. asked Scout.

"I'll reveal all later but for now we have work to do.  Scout can you go down to the docks and see where there coming in.  Thunda they will need supplies and somewhere to rest up I gather that the trip was going to be pretty foul."



Thunda

"I'll give you a hand Thunda "said Misty.

"Now as you know they will be shipped straight to quarantine," Zac stated, " so we will have to get them out. Rummy - you have an excavation license and so do I, so we'll head to Eastern Creek and set up an escape tunnel in case we need it.  As soon as we have them out we will need to re-charge their chips and we had better encode some new ones - I'm not sure if they are all carrying! Everyone know what they have to do.  As soon as we get them out, we'll hopefully head straight down here to Ruatha."
 
The following day Scout advised Zac and Rummy that the freighter was just coming into port. There were a huge number of border patrol collies about. Far more than normal. "There must be an international alert out all right",  he said I have never seen so many. There is no way we can spring them before Eastern Creek is there? I think they will be under horrific guard conditions if they are discovered."

Mmmm Zac mused to himself.  I wonder if I could get Hamish the underwater swimmer down here!!! Hamish my old friend - where are you?


Scout

"Ouch" said Hamish , "that came in very loud and clear I'm in Sydney visiting friends Zac What's up."
"Can you get away - I need your help urgently." responded Zac.
"Yeah sure where will I find you?" I'll be at the Opera House on the Jetty." answered Zac.
"Okay be there in 20" he responded.
 

Rummy
As promised Hamish turned up at the jetty to find Rummy and Zac looking at a Phillippino freighter just about to come into port.  "Hamish this is the low down. We have friends aboard that ship in a chicken container - we have to
get them out and over here before they land.  The border collie patrol is out in force at the terminal. Scout is on his way to join us.  He is very good at scaling ropes.  We thought to swim out and sneak up the back howsers whilst
you create a diversion at the front." Zac explained.
"Yeah I can do that I'm pretty good at those sort of capers.  Can these friends swim?" Hamish declared.

" Rummy and I can piggyback a couple I'm sure the rest will be able to. We will sneak ashore at Lady Macquarie's chair and then bolt to Ruatha for a bit of R & R." Zac advised.

"Well guys here we go - we can't leave it much longer.  They'll be too close to port shortly." Rummy declared.

All three dogs disregarding the danger of sharks leapt into the blue waters of the harbour and separating towards their objectives.

Hamish swam towards the pilot boat and started a frenetic barking and sure enough the pilot stopped the boat and sent a signal to cease engines to the freighter.  A rescue was required a poor little dog was in trouble up front in the harbour!!.  As the freighter slowed Zac and Rummy noted the lee side ropes and quietly snatched them in their teeth and gradually limbered themselves up and over the sides. Collapsing on the deck for breath.  They lay still and listened for any strange noises.  When all appeared calm they urgently sniffed their way towards the back of the freighter carrying hundreds of containers.  My god thought Rummy how on earth are we supposed to find them in this lot.

Zac turned to Rummy and said, " I'll try and raise Hobo on the microchip but can you give one of your single alert woofs just in case their close by.  It may be enough."

"Woof" Rummy spoke softly. They listened intently and then thought they heard a return woof.  Zac tuned the microchip in and immediately got Hobo.

"Zac", Hobo gasped - "is that you."

"Yes mate - we're here." "Its pretty grim in here Zac the ladies and the youngsters are pretty well done in there is little air left."

Flora heard Hobo talking -" ByGeorge, I think help is at hand!"
Brave little Rebel held onto Flora's paw - "oh my is it really - have we made it."

ByGeorge turned to the group and gradually woke them up licking and sniffing and checking everyone out until the whole group was more or less alert.  At the thought of freedom their energy levels rose.

Scout had done a quick recon of the container and discovered that with Rummy's help they may be able to slide the bolt. It was not sealed like all the others for some strange reason.  Zac fetched a loose piece of rope from one of the other containers and then threaded it through the loop.  They pulled and tugged and pulled and tugged and gradually the huge container door opened about 12 inches.

It was enough - one by one the beardies emerged.  Smelly tired but delighted to have some fresh air. Checkers gave a squeak and was about to woof for joy. But Tequila fortunately restrained him by giving him a loving hug.

" We need to slip over the side - is there anyone who can't swim." Rummy asked. "No - good then follow us. Zac you head off I'll bring up the rear."

Over the side they went - anyone passing by would have noticed this rather long sausage chain that seemed to link the freighter with the Opera House and then gradually disappear at the Opera House!  To their relief Hamish had eluded capture and was waiting to help. When all were safely ashore.  They were greeted by Thunda Bunny who had managed to get hold of a limousine.  They  gratefully shook themselves out and got into the limousine (stretch) to discover that Misty and Thunda had provided welcome fresh spring water for them.

Safe at last they sped towards Ruatha.  On arriving the hospitality was laid on.  Proper beds to sleep on, food of every description and best of all 25 acres to exercise and explore.

Flora looked to ByGeorge and said, "Lets just go and spend some time together."

Checkers looked at Rebel and they agreed to go off exploring.  Tequila looked at the the handsome brown dog who had helped save their lives and said  "Scout I understand you live here would you like to show me around."

Misty and Rummy had a big brotherly sisterly hug.  SPlash and Moose elected to explore on their own. Emmett, Hobo and Zac sat down where they were together with Hamish and had a preliminary discussion about how to get everyone home.

"Gentlemen: just before we work that out there is something that everyone needs to be aware of  after dinner. I think everyone deserves an explanation of what has now happened and how we should all proceed." Zac stated

After dinner and true to his word.  Zac ensured that everyone was present:  "Beardie one and all I feel you have deserved the honor of knowing what is going on with FBI and why since you have put your lives on the line.  You have without knowing become an integral part of the great search for Beardiedom Worldwide.  As some of you know ByGeorge has been an inventor of some considerable merit (ByGeorge took a small bow) but one of his inventions accidentally revealed a secret gene known only to a select number of beardies. ByGeorge has been sworn to secrecy up until this point.   It is this gene and the prime source of it that the FBI are after.  You all know now that we have perfected microchip communication. Speaking of which Rebel can you still tune into the FBI with the old chip?"

Rebel twitched for a moment and said "Yes, but there is only a lot of border chatter at the moment. May I turn it off I find it hard to concentrate on two things at once!"

"Of Course Rebel - I just needed to know the state of play." Zac continued on to his enthralled audience.

"ByGeorge managed to instill this gene into some microchips but I discovered that the prime source is actually located in Scotland at Edinburgh Castle. A Scottish Knight whose name we don't know lies in a crypt in the Castle and his sword has a handle with a Ruby as the centerpiece behind this Ruby it is thought that the prime source is located."

Zac had the room spellbound - never had they heard this part of their legendary history. Zac continued. "It is up to us to get to the prime source before the FBI.  We need each living beardie to inherit some of the prime source so that they can pass it on to their progeny.  We are unique and we must ensure that we remain so. Are you with me!"

A cacophony of barking commenced.  Everyone in the room was excited there was no thought of home.  All wanted to continue the adventure and help locate the prime source and be a part of beardie history.

To do that however they needed to get to Scotland ........
 
Let's review what we've got so far: 
"Amazing!" said Flora, "It is ..."

"What shall I say???????"

She looked him in the eye, and then she realized....

Driven by pure instinct, he drew closer to the cat ...

However, at that moment the tension was broken by ...

Then, from behind an azalea bush came a rustling sound, a muffled bark, a
shadow, and THEN ...

They raced to the computer and downloaded the new email and found ...

Then suddenly ...

"My golly, Rummy this is ..."


Flora looked out the window and saw a small airport surrounded by lotsa trees. On the horizon are scattered buildings, the makings of a progressing
city.

Nash gave a huff, and drove off to his wonder hideaway in the mountains.

So every beardie moaned and groaned as the ship carrying chicken and stowaway beardies floated off to Oz.

To do that however they needed to get to Scotland ...

      *     *     *

Now, I don't know about you, but this tail is getting a little ponderous, not to mention more twisty and turn-y than anybeardie's logic ever was. In fact, with Part Thirteen, "The Revelation," it veritably teeters on the brink of becoming the quintessential shaggy dog version of the "Tails of King Arthur": plot-line strewn liberally with red herrings and pungent carcasses; mythical swords; equally mythical Scottish castles; car chases; chicken boats; dead-end tangents; snivelling damsels; gratuitous, steamy s*x. It will probably lead to an ending that leaves us all gasping in disbelief, muttering, "Huh?" 

Remember that most succinct punch-line of yore, "I wouldn't put a dog out on a knight like this," that tied up the many loose ends in an earlier beardie fable, "Canterbury Tails?" 

See, that's what worries me.

High school students everywhere, throughout millennia, will be forced to write book reports on this odyssey, an odyssey that could do with some brutal editing and a tight wrapping up.

There is a knarled sage, The Wise One, raconteur of beardie lore who lives deep in the bowls of the Firey Pit, on the very edge of the Dark Lair of the airy-nosed Wombat, Ďneath a mossy, shrivelled craignagower, high in the Scottish Highlands who could bring this saga to an abrupt but triumphant conclusion. 

[But first we digress: we need a hero to save the day.]

PART Fourteen ....
 
.. Recently implanted with the latest heat-seeking super microchip, the nifty XTC-2001, enter our hero, bonny Barley, the Bionic Beardie, who hatches a plot to get everybeardie back home to Scotland.

"To get to Scotland from Australia turn left at Romania, a sharp right through Spain, on to Finland, Moose Jaw, Czechoslovakia, Japan, Sweden, and into Paris to stock up on escape paraphernalia. Rent vehicles with roomy trunks: Peugeots, deux-chevaux, trucks, over-head roof racks, bicyclettes de course (bicycles, of course) avec des sacs humongous, hay wagons, and any other means by which eighty-seven beardies can hide-a-way during the trip through the Channel Tunnel and into the UK, thus skipping months in British doggie prison, the dreaded quarantine. Shop for disguises: at `Le Joke Shop Georges Pompidou' buy fake mustaches and glasses with bulbous noses. >Honk, honk<  Depart from Calais at 0900... "   .. and so they did ..


Barley

PART Fifteen (Some Unfinished Business)

Like some giant corn-popper gone berserk, the beardies erupt, one after another, in joyous barks and bounces to celebrate their safe passage into the UK. Barley contacts the convoy of stowaways via their communications chips.
 

A PEE I Photo - Beardies protest Baaaad Airways after being thrown out of the counter area where the First Intrntional Pee Parade was held. (see related Story page D13 Fugitive Beardies sought after eluding FBI)
"We must make a slight detour, everybeardie. First we stop in London-town to drink all the water in every public fountain. Next, we take the M20 to Heathrow Airport. Reinforcements will arrive from Wales, from the North, the Inner, Outer and In-between Hebrides. We all meet at the BA (Baaaaad Airways) counter where we outdo each other in the World's First International Pee Parade in honour of every beardie who was ever detained, blamed, and shamed leaving England.

A moment of silence here for our latest victim, that vixen stay-black, Ch. Stop in the Name of Love, call name, Bossie. Detained because she couldn't stand up and turn around in her crate. Her hair was too big.

Hark, O Wise One, we invoke thy hallowed name...

PART Sixteen (Heading North)

Elated from the fun they had enjoyed at the BA desk at Heathrow, the band of intrepid travellers left the glowering officials to mop the floor and wandered out to sit for a while in the concourse.  Their faces grew sad and thoughtful as they each thought of the beloved hoomins they had left behind and the enormity of the task still ahead.  They hadn't been able to get in touch with any of the British beardies yet, and it was slowly becoming clear to them that the Brits didn't carry microchips. How were they to contact anybeardie?

"Are we all still here? This group's getting so big I'd better do a head-count," said Hobo. "Give me a wag when I call your name .....  Checkers, Emmett, GEORGE, Splash, Moose, Zac, Hamish, Thunda, Scout, Rummy, Misty, Flora, Rebel, Tequila ..... "

There had been a wag missing. Flora was nowhere to be seen. They spread out round the concourse and sniffed the air as they moved across it. Eventually Checkers, who never missed the scent of a female, homed in on her and led the others across to where she stood gazing wistfully out of the front window.

"What's up, Floradorable?" asked GEORGE gently, licking lightly at her ear.

A little tear was slipping out of the corner of Flora's eye.

 "Where are all the Beardies? I thought they would be everywhere. This is our home country, isn't it? All I can see are Golden Retrievers and Labradors."

"Well, this isn't really our native land - we really come from Scotland, you know. It's just that the rest of the world keeps forgetting it's a different country to England.  And.....oh! look Flora! now we have our Beardies - look there!"

The whole group crowded round GEORGE, ears pricked and tails wagging, following his gaze.  Outside two Beardie puppies were gambolling about, bouncing and barking while their slightly embarrassed hoomin was hanging onto their leads and trying to get them to pay attention. They all rushed outside and along the road to join them.

BARK..BARK..BOUNCE..WAG..BARK..WIGGLE . . the two pups went into ecstasies of noselicks and tummy-ups,
so it took a while to get a bark in edgeways and find out their names. They were Jendie and Maj, and their hoomin, who by now was firmly tied to a lamp-post by the twisted leads, was Wendy Hines.  Hobo managed to calm them down enough to listen, and asked if they could help them find a way to get to Edinburgh.

"Edinburgh? Is that in London?" piped the little high-pitched voices, "We don't know anything except what's in London. Would you like to go to the park with us? We can play chase and bite-butt."

Hobo sighed and muttered to Zac: "Not much chance of any help from these little ones - they're only babies. They don't know anything."

Meanwhile Tequila, with Continental courtesy, was unwrapping Wendy from the lamp-post, her tail wagging politely as she went round and round with the lead in her teeth unravelling it.

"Oh, come on Tequila," muttered Emmett, "we've got more important things to think about."

"Nothing should ever be more important than rendering service to a hoomin, mon ami," Tequila reproved him gently as she trotted over carrying a black object in her teeth..  "Et alors, I was able to cast mes yeux into her address book while I was giving her salutations, so now je puis telephoner le maison de Donny. I have also borrowed her mobile phone."

As Emmett, who knew no French, gazed blankly at her, GEORGE whispered into his ear, "She's got Donny's phone number... now all we need is somebeardie who can work a phone!"

"Mais naturellement, c'est moi! You American Beardies.. you have no culture.  In France we are taught all the social graces, and that includes using the phone."

Emmett looked as if he was about to growl something rude, so Misty stepped swiftly between them and licked Tequila's nose."What a clever beardie you are, my dear. Make the call and let's get moving."

Tequila placed the phone gently on the ground and dabbed lightly at itwith her paw. "Donny? C'est toi?  We are here, so many of us, all your Beardie buddies. We have to find Edinburgh Castle......"

As she explained, the others waved goodbye to the now-yawning little beardie babies and their mum, who was hurrying them away and didn't seem to have noticed she had lost her phone. "Hmm....." said Thunda and Scout in
unison, "shouldn't we give her the phone back?"  They debated the finer points of correct Beardie behaviour while Tequila nodded and spoke to the little black object on the floor.

Eventually she dabbed at it with her paw and came over to them. "Eh bien, Donny says he doesn't live in Edinburgh - he's much further north, so we need to meet up with Archie and Moose and they will direct us to the castle.
He will email them and arrange for them to meet our train."

"Train? Train? We're going on a train? Is that allowed?" Several of the beardies started yapping excitedly and wagging their tails.

"It is a good thing I came back to join your group, n'est-ce pas? What would you do without me?"  Tequila flicked her head hair. "Follow me, mes amis - we are going on the sleeper!"

The whole group trotted light-footedly after her, off to the railway station where they sneaked aboard the Highlander high-speed train, bound for Edinburgh and more adventures.

PART Seventeen  (.. All change at Edinburgh..)

In the cold grey of an Edinburgh morning, Hobo and his Beardie friends stumbled stiffly out onto the platform at Edinburgh's Waverley Street railway station.  More than one of them was wondering how much more of this
they could take:  the smelly, cramped freight container on the ship from the Philippines to Australia .... the bumpy overland ride in the jeeps across Asia and Europe. ..... the boney roof racks and tickly hay wains through the
Channel Tunnel ..... and now a British Rail sleeper compartment, a masterly exercise in torture and sleep-deprivation, had shaken their bones and cramped their legs for long and weary hours all the way north through England and into Scotland.  Why were they doing this?

Hobo and GEORGE exchanged glances and nodded silently at each other. The troop needed a morale booster, and fast.  They needed to be welcomed and recognised for what they were - an ancient Scottish breed - in their own
homeland.  Well, that should be easy - they just needed to get out onto Prince's Street, the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh, and crowds would flock to greet them.

Heads high, they trotted out proudly into the murky morning light, but stopped and blinked as they took in the roaring traffic, the hurrying crowds, the grey cold stone of the buildings. Even GEORGE was cowed by the noise and haste, so different from his quiet fields in Maine.  His thoughts drifted back to happy days wrestling with little sister mUrPhY in the mud, chasing the cats, giving his mom high-fives while she sang her quirky songs. Would he ever see home again?  Rebel was hiding behind Checkers, and the Australian beardies were shivering in the damp cold.

To break the mood, Flora stepped forward, with Hamish not far behind, and wagged her tail at a passing hoomin. "Oh look," exclaimed the hoomin to another, "a Dulux dog with a tail! And brown too... I thought all those Old English were grey?"  Flora and Hamish flattened their ears miserably and slunk back to their friends. They had come to their own country, yet no one knew them.  What chance did they have of finding the ancient sword in Edinburgh Castle without any friends to help them?

"Come on, sport! Cheer up!" Rummy gave her an amiable shoulder-shove.

"We've come this far and we're not going to give up now!  Hobo, can you raise anybeardie on the microchip yet?"

"I'm not getting any signals from around here, but there's a faint whisper coming through from some distance away. We'd better get up out of this station to get a better reception."

The group followed Hobo along the pavement and lay down to rest around a grey statue of an important-looking hoomin in old-fashioned clothes.  Hobo took on that look of abstract concentration that always came over him when
he was receiving a message from far away.  Splash and Moose wandered round sniffing, and then Moose let out a happy yelp: "Beardies!" All of them except Hobo scrambled to their feet and stared intently at the two well-groomed figures approaching them through the crowd. The Beardie in front was in his prime, a handsome slate fellow, but the second moved stiffly and in obvious discomfort.

"G'day!" called Thunda and Scout in unison, "Who are you?"

"I'm Moose and this is Archie coming along behind."

Several eyebrows twitched in confusion as the Beardies took this in. Another Beardie called Moose? Their own Moose just laughed. "Hey, bud, you carrying my name, so you've gotta be a good guy!" and gave his alter ego a
playful bodyslam.

"Oof" breathed Edinburgh Moose,"please dinna dae that tae Archie - he gets sore joints already withoot ony help from you.  Donny said you need a guide to the Castle....?"

"Oh, yes please" yipped Tequila, batting her extremely long eyelashes at
the Scot.

He gave her a stony stare and grunted. "Weel, ye'll no be needin' much help frae us then - it's richt there behind ye!"

They all wheeled round and slowly tipped their heads back as they focused on the high, forbidding walls above the steep cliffs and the narrow entrance.... guarded by a troop of Border Collies. Zac and Emmett both gulped audibly, and Tequila let out a small sob.  How could they sneak past those strong-eyed, dedicated guardians?  They had no doubt the Border Collies would do anything hasten the extinction of the Beardie breed - hadn't they been whittling away at the reputation of the Beardie for decades already?  They had usurped so much of the Beardie's heritage and status, taken their flocks and their hillsides. To deny them their very genes would be only another step in the Master Plan.

Hobo, having finished his transmission, strolled over to join them. "Hey, guys, I don't think we'll need to break into the Castle after all. That was a Burfitt of Breaksea Beardies on the line from Wales... they've been rooting around in the UK Beardie archives which their dad is supposed to keep safe. The stuff's all higgledepiggledy in boxes and bags, so the beardies thought it'd be fun to re-arrange it. They found an ancient manuscript that says the phial containing the Beardie gene was removed from the Castle twenty years ago and taken north by Bessie of Aviemore to hide in
a remote location in the Cairngorms. She was a Wise Old Bitch with uncanny powers of prescience who knew that one day the Border Collies would try to stop us recovering it. So long as she passed on the secret of where it lies
hidden, the rest should be simple."

A peculiar snorting noise made them all turn round.  Old Archie was chortling but trying not to laugh too hard in case it hurt his joints.
 
"Simple?  Ye've never been in the Scottish mountains, laddie, that's for sure.  Winter's drawing on, and the blizzards that blast across those hills will strip the flesh frae your bones if ye dinna treat them wi' respect. Auld Bob, whose photo in an Aviemore shop drew my hoomin to want a Beardie, told me of those hills when I was a little laddie and met him at the shows. And HE learned all he knew frae Bessie hersel'. They're baith deid now, doG rest them at the Rainbow Bridge."

Misty stepped forward eagerly. "Is there anybeardie we could visit who might have have spoken with Bob or Bessie? ..... Who might have been told the secret of the hiding place?"


Bessie

"Aye, that there is, lassie - ye'll be wanting auld Liza, Bob's grand-daughter, who lives to this day in Aviemore and walked those same hills in her youth."

GEORGE went a little pale (not that anybeardie could notice under the hair). "Er..." he croaked, "you don't mean Liza MacRunival, do you? Who lives with Donny and Mull and all the other MacRunivals?"

"The very one, lad, the very one!  Do you ken her?"

 GEORGE, Hobo and Flora all licked their lip and averted their eyes. Checkers and Rebel were puzzled by these calming signals.

"What's so scary about this Liza, guys? Hey, if she shares a house with our buddies Donny and Ruby and Mull, she can't be THAT bad!"

Hobo sighed at this youthful optimism but agreed, "You're probably right, Checkers - it's just that her reputation has preceded her.  But hey - she's a Beardie like the rest of us. She can't possibly be mean enough to
refuse to help. Even if she won't tell us, I bet she'll tell Donny or Kiri."

"OK," said Zac briskly, "time to move on again then - north to the Cairngorms!"

Thunda and Scout groaned together and even GEORGE sighed, despite seeing his goal coming so much closer with this heartening news. They were all getting so very, very tired. They woofed their goodbyes to Moose and Archie and walked slowly back down into the railway station to wait for the next train to Aviemore, to visit the MacRunivals and hopefully end their quest.

Part Eighteen ....
Our heroes had got as far as Edinburgh, only to discover that the phial of Beardie Uniqueness Gene had been spirited away for safekeeping some twenty years earlier by Bess and hidden at a secret location in the Cairngorm mountains. Now they must go north to Aviemore to visit the fearsome Liza MacRunival, who alone carries the knowledge of this hiding place.........

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the watery autumn sunlight, the stationmaster at Aviemore stood gazing into the distance, appreciating the lovely view of the Cairngorm mountains ten miles away, while he waited for the moment to wave his flag and send the train from Edinburgh on its way.  His eyes strayed right and his arm froze as he focused on the seemingly endless stream of hairy dogs disembarking quietly from the train and gathering on the platform.  Eventually no more came out and the door was closed behind them, but he still stood there, mouth dropped foolishly open, until a passing traveller jogged his elbow and the train moved off.

"We all here, buds?" Hobo did a quick headcount - 15 - and nodded. They all stood around silently and rather depressed, looking at the station, the distant view, each other.

"So....where's Donny then? You'd think he'd come and meet the train!" muttered Checkers.  Just then a grey Beardie came rushing round the corner of the building and nearly colided with Zac, who gave a warning grumble.
 

Donny and Mull
Cairngorms in background
"Oops, sorry I'm late," said Donny, "I had to go and meet a plane."

"Anyone we know?" asked Hobo.

"Er..... maybe......" Donny seemed reluctant to discuss the topic, and just went round wagging his tail, sniffing butts and generally making everyone feel welcome.  "Come on, guys, let's go back to my place.  We'll take the scenic route through the field and avoid the traffic. You look like you need some fresh air."

"What most of us need is sleep, preferably in our own beds," sighed Flora. GEORGE nuzzled her cheek comfortingly. "Lead on, Donny."

They followed him across the road and up behind the shops, ignoring the surprised looks of passing hoomins and the rude comments of a couple of Golden Retrievers.  As they approached the grassy areas where a lovely grove of Rowan Trees hung heavy with scarlet berries, an elegant slate beardie moved shyly out from the shadows.  She stood silent as they approached, and they watched her curiously, some of them failing to notice that Hobo had stopped dead in his tracks, so they bumped into him.
 
"What's up, Hobo?" asked Rummy. "You OK?"

A light of painfully desperate hope was shining in Hobo's eyes. "Is it...? No, it couldn't be.....?"

"Yes, it is," smiled Donny. "Daisy flew all the way from Japan to join us in our quest... and to see you."

As Hobo and Daisy flew on light paws to meet each other, we shall draw a veil over their happiness and move on a little.......


Daisy moved shyly out of 
the shadows

                   *              *               *               *
*               *                *
The Beardies soon shrugged off their tiredness in the clean Scottish air, filled with the scent of honey from the heather, and had no difficulty finding places to rest in the Runival household, which was so crowded already that the hoomins didn't notice the extras.  Old Liza was almost a disappointment - she didn't bite anyone's head off and was quite prepared to pass on the details that old Bess had told her when she was a pup. Donny whispered that she was feeling her age these days and had mellowed, but Ruby told them that the change had happened when Donny took over as Pack Leader and had given her a talking-to about her lamentable behaviour.  Whatever - it seemed that Bess had hidden the phial in the Barns of Bynack, a huge granite "tor" or pile of rocks up on a mountain called Bynack More. There was a hidden "room" concealed within the rocks which few knew about, but Bess had often been there in her youth with her hoomins.  They decided that the next day they would mount an expedition to recover the phial.
 
The next morning the distant mountains didn't look at all inviting. Huge storm clouds piled menacingly above them and the lower slopes were shrouded in veils of sleet.  GEORGE suggested that some (especially the ladies) might prefer to stay and keep contact with their friends world-wide and pass the message on for more help if they should get into difficulties.  Some - but not all -  were keen to get up to the tops, having been fond of mountaineering in their past lives.  "These mountains are nothing compared to the Alps!" Tequila maintained stoutly. Donny knew otherwise, but wisely kept quiet.  In the end the group that set out comprised Hobo, Checkers, Donny, Ruby, Zac, GEORGE, Emmett, Tequila, Hamish, Thunda and Scout.  Liza and Kiri waved them goodbye, rattling off last-minute instructions for how to find the mountain dredged up from distant memories of conversations with Bess many years earlier.  Meanwhile, Flora, Daisy and the others got busy on the communication network, alerting the Beardies of the World to what was happening.
               *                *                *                  *
*               *                *
Many hours later, our heroes were trudging doggedly up through deep heather and sticky peat bogs, every step an effort as they pursued their unwavering but weary course up the mountain called Bynack More.  The sleet and rain swept fiercely across their faces and whipped their coats backwards and forwards, drenching them with icy spray at the roots.

"hoooowl...... ooooooow...... whyyyyyy am I heeeeere?" groaned Checkers.

 Zac grinned weakly and gave him a gentle bodyslam. "Not far now, eh Donny?"

"Er..... I guess not...... umm..... She said we had to go right to the top and then down the other side for a bit."

"Right to the top?" Tequila plonked herself down flat in the heather. "Mais non, mon ami - why do we exert ourselves with such unnecessary energy? For what reason do we not go round the side?"

"Yeah, good one, Teq," woofed Emmett, stopping beside her. "I vote we go round the side."

"I vote we go back down," gasped Checkers and sank into a heap, turning onto his back and waving his legs in the air.

Donny stood uncertainly - not being the oldest in the group, he didn't like to push his point of view.  Hobo considered the problem.  "Do you think it would be easier to go round, Donny?"

"No," Donny's reply was terse, "The side-slopes are covered in really deep heather - we'd scarcely be able to see where we were going and soon get far more tired.  It's easy walking and a clear route over the top - Liza said so."

"Right, you heard the lad," said Hobo bracingly, "up you get, you lazy lap-dogs." He bounced and barked right in Checker's ear.

"woo....woo!! No need to shout!" grumbled Checkers and heaved himself up with exaggerated tiredness. Just then a fat brown bird whirred up out of the heather just ahead of them making a noise like a creaky door. Like an arrow from a bow, Checkers raced off after it, Ruby and Tequila at his shoulder, with Emmett, Hamish, Thunda and Scout not far behind.

The rest stood and grinned as the frantic yelps of excitement faded into the distance.  "Thank dooGness it flew uphill," woofed GEORGE. "If we just keep plodding up we'll find them in a heap up there somewhere, no doubt."

And so it proved. The would-be 'bird dogs' lay with their sides heaving and their tongues nearly touching the ground just near the summit. There was no sign of the grouse - that had taken a sharp right-turn back down as soon as it saw them collapse.  GEORGE and Zac chided them to their feet and herded them gently but firmly up to the top.  There they stood and gazed down the other side, trying to make out the shape of the landscape through the rushing clouds, and it was GEORGE who, with a woo-woo of elation, led the way towards a huge rocky outcrop standing strangely out of place on the lower slope.  In among the jumble of boulders they found a natural corridor leading to an open space where all was suddenly peaceful, sheltered from the wind and weather, and completely hidden from the wild country outside.  They sniffed around eagerly, rooting up grasses  with their noses and pawing at small rocks to move them aside.  Donny called them over to his corner.  "This looks like it!"  He was eyeing a scratched picture of a dumbbell low down on the rockwall in front of him.

With one accord, Thunda and Scout set to, digging into the grassy earth below the picture. "Careful!" warned Hobo "It might be in something breakable."  They slowed down and soon revealed an old walking boot buried in the soil. For a moment everyone hesitated, but then GEORGE lifted it out and carefully shook it sideways. Out fell a chunky see-through container and some dog-biscuits vacuum-wrapped in foil.

A note with them said: "Whoever you are,  you'll be hungry by now. If you partake of my hospitality, you must also finish my task. I have seen in a vision that Beardies will come home to their own country from across the great sea and use this Beardie Gene for the benefit for all Beardiekind.  Keep it safe till they arrive.   Bessie."

The whole group found themselves strangely reluctant to set off back, and sat around on top of the rocks for a while, munching Bessie's biscuits and discussing what to do next. The clouds cleared and shafts of sunlight gave the place an air of mystic beauty.

"This is a lovely place," woofed Zac, "I bet Rummy and Misty would love to see it."

"Yeah, and Rebel too," agreed Checkers. "We could live here quite comfortably. There's good shelter in the rocks, and a stream just over there, and all those hundreds of rabbits jumping in front of us down in the valley... they wouldn't miss a few. Nice natural diet, eh, guys?"

Hobo and GEORGE exchanged glances. They too were thinking of beloved Beardie girls who would enjoy all this space and freedom.  On a day of better weather, it wouldn't be such a hard trip to get here.  Hobo went up to a high point and communed with his microchip.  One by one the others climbed up alongside him and joined in the great broadcast across land and sea ......
 
"Beardies of the World! Here is a home for us where we can be free and happy. There is space to gallop to our heart's content, clean water, shelter from the storms. The sweet air fills us with energy and we know we have come HOME.  Join us, friends, let us be one Beardie Nation again in our native land.  And bring those who are sick, those who fade.  We have here the Gene for Beardie Uniqueness, and with the help of that we can restore them to what they should have been, give them the vibrant health and long life which was their birthright."

And so the Great Return began. From all corners of the world, the Beardies went Home. Their hoomins loved them too much to stop them, and even helped by swapping places with them at the Customs posts on entering Britain, so they could avoid the dreaded quarantine. (What the officials thought when they opened up the Pet Carriers and travel boxes and found hoomins hiding inside is not recorded.) They gathered in a great host in a secluded valley near Aviemore -  old and young, sick and well.    Lily brought Teddy; Brodie brought Emma; Fergus and Hamish brought Rumi; and Panda brought Rags (beardie in spirit if not in body). To each of the ailing ones GEORGE, Hobo and Daisy administered doses of the Beardie Gene that corrected their faulty immune systems and re-invigorated them.  In no time at all they were galloping round with bright eyes and happy bounces.


Clean water and shelter

When all had gained enough strength for the long walk into the mountains, they chose a day of bright warm sunshine and set off, barking happily and bouncing for joy that their great community of Beardie souls had come together as one in Scotland ....... their own, their native land.


Charlie on Ben Nevis

The End