What a tale (and sadly not really ended). I left you with a bit of a teaser, which some people hoped was a precursor to a happy ending to the Story of George’s Escape. But no, I’m afraid not. This is a long story, I’m afraid, with no pictures, so you may want to make a cup of tea first!
On Thursday morning I did the rounds as usual, calling George cand rattling a bag of croquettes. I headed up to the HLM housing, as we still suspected the Man of having catnapped George. He had been acting suspiciously, and, as I listed in my last post, had been seen with a big ginger/white cat but denied having one….etc etc. I spoke to Mr B (whose family have been keeping an eye on the Man, and who is sure he has George) and as I was talking the Man came out of his appartment and went to his garage.
I decided to play the innocent, as I didn’t think he knew me, or that I knew who he was, so I approached him and asked if he had seen our cat. I acted my socks off – my husband can’t sleep, I cry all the day, I said; George is like our baby, we don’t have children…do you have a cat, m’sieur? I think I made a connection, because we talked cats, and he said that his cat was a good friend, but he was worried it would get run over…and so on. He did ask a couple of bizarre questions:
- “Maybe your cat is in a house with children, and they play with the cat…Is your cat good with children?”
- “Ah, m’sieur, we don’t have children; George is like our baby. “
- “”But when children come to your house, is he good with children? Does he play?” he insisted.
- “Bof…je ne sais pas exactement…” I replied, wondering what’s this with the children?
Anyway, I left shortly afterwards.
In the evening I was doing my rounds, and I met Aurélie, Mr B’s daughter. We were chatting, and we turned the corner so we could see the Man’s windows. There was a big ginger/white cat at the open window.
“It’s George!” said Aurélie. I rattled the croquettes, I called his name… I wasn’t totally convinced it was George, but from outside the flats to the fourth floor it looked very like him. I called again, and Aurélie insisted the cat meowed and looked as though he wanted to jump. “It’s George! It’s George!” Then the cat was removed, and the window was closed.
I was convinced. By now the entire B family had arrived, plus Mr FD and Veronique and her partner who had initially alerted us to the fact this Man had been seen with a ginger and white cat. We phoned the local Gendarmes, but they said they were dealing with another important case and couldn’t come out just for this. They would pass by in the morning.
“But he will have taken the cat elsewhere! Oh! C’est incroyable!” everyone lamented. But the Gendarme politely wished us Good Evening and put the phone down.
Then Mr Veronique said to Mr FD “OK, let’s go up to his flat and demand to see the cat!” So someone let us in, and off we went, the three of us, with everyone else trailing behind. Mr Veronique and Mr FD hammered on the door, and rang the bell, shouting that the Gendarmes were on their way, but if he gave up the cat that would be the end of the matter. Finally the Man opened the door – and he looked terrified. He started shouting back at us, but I could see that he was really upset and frightened, and I started to have my doubts.
So, using the connection we had made that morning, I started to speak quietly to him, I took his hands, I started to cry (because I was really upset and adreneline filled by now too) and I explained that we’d seen the cat at the window – what colour was his cat? I asked. Brown and white, he replied. Could I just see it, for my own peace of mind? He knew we had lost our baby, I continued…he understood how I felt… we had talked about it…Could I just go in his flat, and meet his cat?
Every time one of the others started to speak, the Man got upset again, so I sent them all away, except for Mr FD who stayed by the door. The Man let me into his flat, which was full of boxes and other things – but in a very orderly way; it wasn’t a complete mess. Just full of boxes and bags.
We found the brown-and-white cat…which was, in fact, a ginger/white cat who was a big friendly boy, who could easily have been mistaken for George from a distance, or by someone who didn’t know George. This poor guy had been accused by everyone of taking our cat, while he had this one of his own, which he called brown, but which was a rich ginger colour. Being slightly “not all there” he possibly didn’t understand the subtlties of language. I admired the cat, and stroked him; I asked his name (Bee-bee) and said how lovely he was.
We talked about cats, he told me how he had been praying for us, because he was a Christian, and we needed peace. I told him I was a Christian too, and thanked him for his prayers. He then said that people were always watching him…always accusing him…he was upset by this…then he told me how he prayed for people all the time and how he wouldn’t lie as we all have to face God…
Then, very gently, I said, could I possibly look around the rest of the appartment? Not accusing him, but for my own peace of mind?
He let me walk round the appartment, open doors, rattle the bag of croquettes, call out George’s name…There was no sign of George, and quite honestly, I don’t think he would be a good enough actor to say everything he had, and to behave as he had, if George was in the appartment. And I could see nowhere where a cat could be hidden against its will: I swear I would have heard it meeowing. Finally, with apologies, handshakes, more apologies and thanks from Mr FD and I, we left. Without George.
Everyone was waiting below…Was it George? No, it wasn’t. Are you sure? Yes. Really sure? Yes. We know our cat.
But, said Aurélie, the cat meeowed. It was George! No, we don’t think it was George that we saw at the window. But he has two cats, she insisted. No, he said he has one cat. I know he has two! Did you see two? No. There you are! He has George hidden! No, we don’t think he has.
But, said Mr Veronique, we saw him with a ginger and white cat. Yes, we replied, that’s his cat. Are you sure it wasn’t George? Yes, we are sure.
Please stop accusing this man, we said. If he has taken George somewhere else (maybe somewhere with children, and hence the bizarre questions this morning), we believe that George is safe. We are satisfied that this man loves cats and wouldn’t harm George. If he wants to keep George, and wants to bring him back to the appartment then he will, finally, make a mistake and we will see George. But, while we are keeping a slightly open mind, we don’t think he has George.
But, but, but… everyone chorused, and it struck me that they actually want this Man to have done something wrong. They do care about the fact our cat is missing, but they were rather happy to blame this Man, and they are still sure he’s Up To No Good. I just think he is different, and fragile, and I hope we have not done him harm. When he said everyone was watching him, we said, it’s not on our behalf. We have asked them to stop. (We know they won’t, and they’ll let us know if they see anything suspicious – but we did ask them not to accuse the Man any more)
And so, and so…We continue to follow up leads (there was one hopeful view, but I found a ginger/white cat in the area which is probably the one that was seen) and to trail round the village, calling and rattling croquettes. People come and talk to us, and tell us hopeful (and not-so-hopeful) stories about cats that came back (or that fell down drains and couldn’t get out again),; one woman came out to tell me she’d sent her husband to check under the church because they found a kitten there once…I was out for an hour-and-a-half last night, and the same again this morning, but no luck. We are starting to think our beautiful soft boy is gone. We hope he has been taken in by someone who thought he was abandoned and who will love him dearly, as we do.
We will continue going out and calling, but I think we need to start drawing a curtain over George.