She had been approached in early April by a spook (aka black cat) who she'd never seen before. It was a nice day, and she'd been sitting by the back door when she saw the cat on the deck beckoning to her. Being a basically timid and somewhat small cat, she didn't immediately ask to go outside. She just watched the cat for a while through half-closed eyes, as though she was mostly asleep and didn't realize that the other cat was trying to get her attention. Then Buddy came inside and told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to go outside and talk to the cat - he was an official of the US government, and if she didn't want to get them all in trouble she needed to talk to him. She waffled a bit more and then asked Val to let her out.
Once outside, the spook cat gestured for her to come over to the far end of the deck against the house where they couldn't be observed unless someone actually came onto the deck. He introduced himself as Ludlum, and explained that the government had some concerns about someone who was living in the house, a woman known only as the "Yarn Lady". He said that she was a friend of someone very high up in the government, and there had been chatter about her, indicating that she was living far beyond her means. She had been overheard talking about her houses in Beachwood, Freehold Boro and Howell, in addition to the house she was currently living in. The government was concerned that perhaps this "Yarn Lady" was on the take, and might compromise the US government through her contact with her friend.
Ludlum went on to explain that she, Emma, had been tapped to surveil this woman, as she was an intelligent cat who appeared to be somewhat helpless and eminently pettable. Emma just looked at him - what was this guy about? She was helpless! She was a smallish cat living with two larger cats and two maniac dogs who would chase her every time they saw her. If this "Yarn Lady" was some sort of foreign operative, she could be cat meat if she was caught spying on her!
There must have been some clue to what she was thinking on Emma's face, because Ludlum went on to explain that the woman was completely harmless, at least as far as they could tell. The concern was that if she was in the pay of some foreign power that she might be trying to get information from her friend to pass on to some hostile country.
"How do I know you work for the government? I'm not straight off a turnip boat, you know." Emma was getting suspicious - maybe Buddy was playing some elaborate hoax on her. Just because she looked innocent didn't mean she was.
The black cat raised his right front paw, and Emma saw something she'd only seen on television. It was a very carefully rendered tattoo of the a secret government organization, right on the center pad of his paw. Well, cats didn't get something like that for a joke - he must be for real. "Okay, so what do you want me to do?"
"Just get close to her - spend time with her. Be around when she makes phone calls. Listen to when she talks to the lady who owns the house and find out where she's going. That's all."
Emma considered this request. "Well, you know she's not here much these days. She's staying at that house down in Beachwood, and only comes here sometimes."
"We know that, but we've also heard that it's only for a few weeks, and that she'll be back. Just see what you can do, Emma. I'll be around. I've concealed a small marked branch in the leaf pile by the back door. If you have any information for me, just pull the branch out and put it on top." He showed her the branch, and obtained her agreement.
Emma hadn't spent much time with the yarn lady since she'd moved in last fall. She was a naturally reserved cat, and since Buddy liked to sleep on her feet at night, Emma was reluctant to go into the room, fearing that Buddy would chase her out. Hmmm - maybe this was a way to get Buddy off her back. If the US government wanted her to do this, he'd have to leave her alone - and the yarn lady did have a very cozy feather duvet.
So, when the yarn lady moved back from Beachwood, there was Emma on her bed, right next to Buddy. As the yarn lady unpacked her clothes, Emma meowed at her, and wandered over, asking for a head-scratch. The yarn lady was delighted. "Emma, Emma, Emma. You've finally decided that I'm good people! It took you long enough."
This was the start of a very pleasant relationship for Emma. It turned out that the yarn lady had never had an undercover kitty before (in more ways than one). Emma loved to sleep under the duvet, snuggled up to the yarn lady, and the yarn lady loved it too. Emma spent much of her waking hours (and most of her sleeping ones) on the yarn lady's bed, apparently just hanging out and asking for loves. But really she was listening.
And what did she hear? The yarn lady talking on the phone to her daughter, her friends, and occasionally some sort of business calls, but they were about things like why hadn't the beaded curtain she ordered arrived yet. Boring. But very, very comfortable. And when she talked to Val, they just talked about what was going on in their lives. They laughed a lot and just had fun.
Emma never felt the need to put out the stick for Ludlum. She had nothing to tell him. So, one day earlier this week she saw him at the sliding door - beckoning for her to come outside. Since it was warm, the door was open and Emma just walked outside.
"Nothing to report, Ludlum. She doesn't seem to talk to anyone but people who live around here. Oh, and I found out that the house in Beachwood is owned by friends of hers who were away in Florida. She was just house-sitting for them. The Adelphia house is where she used to live and the Freehold one is her friend's house. They all joke about how they have several homes because they spend so much time at each others' houses. That's it. I really don't think she's any sort of spy." Emma had become quite fond of the yarn lady, and wanted to make sure she didn't get in trouble.
"Hmmm - well that's good. We wouldn't want our person to be compromised by some domestic spy. I still want you to keep an eye on her though. Her friend is in a very sensitive position, and we need to protect our own." Ludlum reached behind himself and pulled over a small paper bag. "Even though you haven't provided any crucial intelligence, we like to pay our undercover operatives. I hope you like this." Ludlum turned and slinked off of the deck, hugging the house until he came to the gate, which he scaled in a single jump to the top and then disappeared onto the driveway on the other side.
Emma pawed at the bag. Hmmm, what was in here? She opened it and found a cat-sized portion of very fresh tuna. Not the kind that comes in cans, but rather the kind that comes straight off the fish. She carefully removed the wrapper and quickly ate it, before Buddy or Kid noticed. They'd probably fight her for it, and it was hers.
Maybe being an undercover kitty wasn't a bad thing after all. A comfy feather duvet to sleep on, a nice lady to scratch her head and make her caves under the covers, and best of all - being rewarded with fresh tuna for doing basically nothing. She'd keep this up as long as they wanted her to.
Photo courtesy of Phaedra - http://www.flickr.com/photos/phae/3002129498/