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3

What's The Game?

Sage and Dredly sat quietly in their cab as they sped through Sloane Square on their way back to their house in Clapham. Dredly wondered why the assassin had not killed them; thought of the old man's gruesome death; mused on mortality and the frailty of life. Sage wondered whether Hamley's had the new skateboarding video game in - and if they did, would he be as good at it as he was at the snowboarding simulator? As the cab crossed the Thames, Dredly broke the silence.
"The Shoe Whisperer..."
"So is that like a horse whisperer?"
"I guess so... The old man said the Shoe Whisperer would be the only person who could help me break the shoes in."
"Then we're going to have to find him." Sage looked at Dredly. He was gazing out the window at the city speeding by.
"Yes..." Dredly slipped into silence. He was troubled. After a pause he spoke again. "I don't like it. It's almost as if someone wants us to go and find this 'Shoe Whisperer'."
"But if those shoes really are as dangerous as the man said, you're going to have to get them removed by a professional." Sage wasn’t about to try to disarm the shoes himself and risk getting maimed by booby-trapped footwear.
"Yes, we need a professional.” Said Dredly, “And that's my point. The person, or persons, who sold me this pair of shoes must know that only the Shoe Whisperer can help me. I feel... I feel..."
"Real?" Sage prompted.
"No, I feel..."
"Free?"
"No, I feel..."
"Like dancing? What? What do you feel? Why won't you finish the sentence?"
"I will finish the sentence if you'll let me finish the sentence!" Dredly was constricted with annoyance as he gesticulated at Sage to shut up.
"I feel as though we're being dragged into a web of intrigue."
"Like puppets on a string..."
"What?" Dredly looked at Sage in bewilderment. "When have you ever seen a puppet in a web?"
"Well... Wasn't there a bit in Pinocchio with the giant spiders…"
"No, there wasn't. Now if you could just shut up for a minute, I've got a grand plan."
"Okay... You go ahead and plan grandly." Sage replied. His voice had a note of dejection, written by its mother and allowing it to skip games for a week.
"We're going to have to beat this guy at his own game..." Dredly began.
"What if it's chess - neither of us are very good at chess. We'll get creamed."
"Good point. If I had a penny for every time the Bogo-Indian defence has blown up in my face...”
"And my Grunfeld always flops." Sage added ruefully.*  


Sage plays Calorie, the Cat of Doom at chess in one of the humor books at Dredly.com*In fact, Sage's grasp of chess was better than he claimed, but an incident in Regent's Park had ruined his game. He had been playing chess with Dredly when a scruffy looking man had come up and asked for a match. Sage had obliged, played black and used the Grunfeld defence in response to White's opening d4, his hope being to counter attack on White's centre, making best possible use of his fianchettoed Bishop. Unfortunately, rather like Flohr in his meeting with Capablanca at the AVRO tournament of 1938, Sage's Grunfeld defence slowly unravelled and he was forced to resign after move 37. After the defeat, Sage lost his confidence - essential in competitive chess - and started to choke on certain moves. c5 became impossible for him, closing off his use of the Sicilian Defence, and finally his problems became so acute that he even lost the ability to Castle. Sage could never quite remember the name of the vagrant who had so easily picked apart his Grunfeld Defence, but the name Robert Angler always had a familiar ring to it.

 

"Anyway, so long as chess isn't this man's game, we can beat him at it. Even though it looks like a trap, I think we should seek out the Shoe Whisperer, but our advantage will be that we're going after him with the full knowledge that it’s a trap. And then, just when our enemy thinks he's got us, we strike!"
"Sounds like a doosie!" Sage liked the plan, even though he didn't quite fully understand it.
"We’ll do whatever it takes to beat this unseen enemy. Cross oceans, cross continents. We’ll fly to any country, drive to any city...”
“Climb ev’ry mountain... Ford ev’ry stream...”
“Follow ev’ry rainbow, ‘til we find our dream - exactly!” Dredly cried, punching the air. “This will be the greatest journey since...” 
“Lassie went home?” Sage suggested helpfully.
“No, since Marco Polo discovered China.”
“Er... Didn’t the Chinese discover China?”
Dredly was thrown. “What?”
“I mean, surely the Chinese discovered China first, otherwise they couldn’t have been living there when Marco Polo arrived... Unless they just wandered in and didn’t realise where they were until Marco Polo turned up and told them they were living in China...”
“Okay, the greatest journey since Scott went to the Antarctic.” Dredly's tone was patient.
“But didn’t he fail?”
“All right! It’ll be the greatest journey for quite a while! God you can be difficult sometimes... Look I'm sorry..." Dredly put his hand on Sage's shoulder. "I'm still rattled by the gnome incident."
Sage sympathised with his friend's view. They had come into contact with a number of gnomes in the past and he could safely say that he hadn't met a gnome he didn't hate.
The cab drew up outside their house. It was part of a Victorian terrace, with steps leading up from the pavement to the fairly grand porch. Their front door was blue, while that of their elderly neighbour, Albert, was red - and that was the way they all liked it. Dredly paid the driver while Sage went up to unlock the front door, but he had hardly got his keys out of his pocket when Albert burst out of his house. His thin white hair was a wispy muddle, his grey cardigan was askew and his thin, bony hands were shaking.
"He's done me again!" His voice, which, though croaky and old, was irascible at the best of times, was brimming with futile anger.

Albert storming out of his house in fury in one of the humor books at Dredly.com
"Dredly, come on!" Sage shouted, rushing into Albert's house.
He headed straight for the kitchen and as he entered, he caught a glimpse of the tip of a big, white, furry backside disappearing out of the back door. He looked at the empty packets strewn across the floor and the open fridge and realised, with annoyance, that Albert had indeed been “hit” again.
“That bloody polar bear!” Albert cursed, sauntering in as fast as his legs could carry him.
“Dammit!” He said and went to the window. “Why don’t you sod off back to Greenland where you belong, you big furry bastard!”

“Typical!” Said Sage, looking at the mess. “Nine million people living in London; one polar bear on the loose and it always raids our fridges!"

 

 

 

 

 

Can Sage and Dredly sort our Albert's ursine problems? Or will the daft old codger just have to grin and bear it?

Find out in the next furry chapter...

"PAWS FOR THOUGHT."

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