Rebecca was stood looking out of her window. She was watching the strange creature that was sat under her front hedge. She had never seen anything like it before. It looked scared - menacing - but scared.
After a telephone conversation with the desk officer at the local Police Station she had decided to take his advice and call the RSPCA. She dialled the number.When the operator finally came on line Rebecca explained who she was.
"There's an animal outside my house" Rebecca said, "I don't know what it is, but it's certainly not a native species. I think perhaps it may have escaped from somewhere. But I'm going to need a hand catching it. Is there anyone that could come out and give me a hand?"
The woman on the end of the 'phone sighed, audibly.
"Well" Said the woman, finally "I can pass a message on to one of our Inspectors, but the are very busy"
"Yes, I know that. Thank You" Said Rebecca, then added "Oh, could you tell me which Inspector is on duty in this area to-day?
The woman at the end of the 'phone sighed again, slightly louder this time. In the background Rebecca could hear the sound of clicking - the woman was typing on a computer keyboard.
"Inspector McCarthy" Announced the woman, "I'll pass your message on and ask him to ring you as soon as he's free"
"Thank you" Replied Rebecca. She replaced the reciever and put the telephone back on the table.
All the time she was on the telephone she had been watching the creature. She had seen it flinch , it's head and shoulders drooping slightly, as a car passed by on the road that ran in front of her house. Apart from that it had hardly moved, except for it's head, which jerked at each new sound. She couldn't help thinking, given it's appearence, that it seemed to be feeling reasonably secure where it was, which made her wondered how long it had been there.
Suddenly the sound of the television interrupted her thoughts. She glanced at the screeen, recognising the theme tune to 'Star Trek'.She looked down at her watch - two pm - in an hour or so the children would be out of school. She doubted this creature would still feel secure with the street filled with children making their way home. The entrance to the local school was in the next street and many of the children passed through this one on their way home. Many of them lived on this street too. Once they got home and started coming out to play, one of them was bound to spot it. She considered her options. She wondered about going out and trying to approach the creature on her own, but what then? She had a cat basket but, considering the size of this creature, that wouldn't be of much use, it wouldn't fit in it. Besides which, the teeth she had seen earlier had looked sharp. She suspected it's instincts would be to bite if it felt threatend. She did have a pair of gardening gloves, but she didn't think they would offer much protection. There was also the problem that the animal might be just as likely to bolt the minute she stepped out of the doorway. She had no catch pole or net to prevent it running off.
She was so engrossed with her own thoughts that the sound of the telepohone ringing made her jump. It took a couple of seconds for her heart to stop racing.
She picked up the receiver. "Hello" She said,.
"Hello, is that Rebecca? Asked the voice at the other end. The line crackled slightly but she recognised the voice.
"Inspector McCarthy" she said, almost triumphantly "I'm so glad to hear from you, thanks for getting back to me so quickly!
"That's OK" Said the Inspector, "I was intrigued, what's this about an animal that YOU can't identify?"
Seh laughed. "You have got to come and see this" She said, "I have never seen anything like it before, and the schools' going to be out in about an hour. I've got no way of catching it, and I'm afraid it's going to bolt." When she stopped speaking she realised she was almost out of breath, she had been talking so fast.
"What is it?" The Inspector enquired
"That's just it, I don't know.Looks like some sort of cross between a guinea pig and a cat. Body of the guinea pig, teeth of the cat and it's just, well, sitting under my hedge!" Again, she had been speaking so fast she had to pause to take a breath. The Inspector took the advantage and jumped in.
"What's the address?" He asked.
She gave him the address.
"Oh, I'm not that far away." He said, "Put the kettle on, I'll be there in about fifteen minutes"
"Great" She said, then a thought struck her "Oh" She paused, "Only thing is, it's at the front of the house - and the only access is from the front of the house! The back garden is accessed by an alleyway but that leads to the front of the house as well. Sorry, that not very helpful is it?"
"Mmmmm - OK" He said, pausing for a moment, "Well, I'll park up the street a bit, see if I can get a peak at it. If it does bolt at least I should get a look at it. Where exactly are you?"
She gave him directions to the house. - "If you park by the new construction, and walk down the right hand side, I'm directly opposite the second old fashioned lamp post" She instructed him. "Although you might want to cross before then because the guys opposite have builders in and it's very aware of them. The drilling spooks it a bit, but it doesn't seem to feel threatend by them. I think it's figured out that they are too far away to harm it. But it is keeping a close eye on what they're up to, If you cross too close to there it's more likely to spot you."
"OK", He said, laughing, "You sound like you're mounting a covert military attack"
She laughed as well, "I'm sorry" She said, "It's just that I want someone else to at least see this thing, otherwise no one will ever believe me. And it will drive me crazy trying to figure out what it is.
"Hang on, I'll be there soon" He said and disconnected the line.
She stood at the window, watching the strange, furry figure. She studied it, noticing that it's hind feet barely moved despite it's almost constant, furtive glancing around. Then, for the first time since she'd seen it, it looked up at the window. She froze. Would it see her through the glass? She wondered, "Would it perceive her as a threat?
It stared in her direction. It felt like an age to Rebecca as she stood there, holding her breath, although in truth it was barely 30 seconds. It cocked it's head to one side, as if trying to figure out what it was it was looking at. Then the drill from one of the workmen across the road started up again and it's head shot round to look in that direction. Rebecca took the opportunity, whilst it's attention was elsewhere, to take a step back, away from the window. She hoped that she would be less noticeable, or at least less threatening, if she were not so close to the window.
Having satisfied itself that the noise wa not an imminent threat, it turned it's head back to gaze at the window. Although, when it turned it's head back to the window, it did it slowly and deliberately, unlike the jerky movements she'd been watching it make earlier. Again it's head tilted to the side, but this time it appeared to rise up slightly on it's haunches, as it pointed it's nose into the air and sniffed. The skin on it's nose wrinkled. Rebecca held her breath, it was definately looking in her direction - in fact - it seemed to be staring right at her. She stared back, mesmerised. Suddenly it's head jerked again, focusing it's attention to something in the street. She stepped back, further into the room, away from the window and shivered.Then she turned and left the room.
She walked up the hall to the kitchen and put the kettle on. She glanced at her watch - quarter passed two.She hoped Inspector McCarthy wouldn't be too much longer, that creature was begining to give her the creeps. She tried to reason with herself - it just a scared animal - she told hersefl. Probably much more afraid of her then she should be of it. But then, she thought, so were spiders and she was positively phobic about them.
She shook her head in an effort to dislodge the thoughts and returned to the front room. Carefully she approached the window and was relieved to see the creature still there. Just as before, it was crouched under the hedge twitching it's head from side to side. It seemed to be watching and waiting.
Suddenly it's head jerked up again and it stared passed the hedge on the left side of the house, towards the road. Rebecca moved her head slowly to try to see what had caught it's attention, although she already had a pretty good idea. The creature seemed to drop down low on it's haunches and lean back slightly into the hedge. She watched it, almost certain now that it had seen, or at least heard, the Inspector. She glanced toward the road, looking over the short hedge she saw the head and shoulders of a man approaching. The blue uniform shirt confirmed that it was, indeed, the Inspector.
Then she looked back at the creature - it was staring straight at him.