Chapter fifteen: the factory tour
“Come on Paws!” shouted Kiwi. “It’s not much further. We should hurry before the sun goes down and curfew starts.”
“Ok, Ok,” he replied, opening yet another sandwich. “I’m just hungry - I forgot to have my breakfast!”
“But it’s the afternoon,” whispered James to Amy.
“Did you remember to bring the permit?” asked Kiwi.
“Permit?” stammered Paws.
“Yes… to enter the building…”
“Oh that permit…”
Kiwi put her paws on her head. “You’ve forgotten it, haven’t you?” she growled, turning to confront Paws. The others stopped too.
“Well, no I didn’t forget it…” stammered the clumsy cat.
“So, you’ve got it?” asked Kiwi, relieved.
“Well, no…. I just failed to remember it, that’s all,” said Paws, ducking Kiwi’s swipe.
“So where is it,” she growled.
“Back with uncle!”
“Geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz,” said Kiwi and knocked Paws’ sandwich into the dirt. He pouted and then scrambled to retrieve the best bits.
An hour later, on their second attempt that afternoon, the cats and the kittens returned to the building. Kiwi made sure she carried the permit and that Paws had no sandwiches to distract him. The factory had a massive, cobbled drive, which swept upwards from iron railings to a big entrance - quite grand for a factory.
“This is a much posher entrance than the alley,” said Amy with wide eyes.
The building had three floors and was built of old stone. Gargoyles in the shape of fish heads with bulging eyeballs gazed down from above the windows. Kiwi rang the bell, which was on a very long chain, and waited. The heavy, wooden door was opened by a friendly, young brown cat, rather than Ginger, whom they had half expected to come roaring down the driveway.
“Hello there, I’m Mr Dogg,” announced the skinny, brown cat, who was wearing little black boots and a black cap. Amy and James just stared in astonishment.
“Hello,” said Kiwi politely. “I have a permit from the mayor to view the factory. I came to interview Mr J Catskins just the other day.”
“Let me see,” said Mr Dogg, studying the permit. “Ah alright, come in. I will show you around. I just need to tell Mr J Catskins first.”
The door slammed with a clang and the cats found themselves in a brightly coloured hallway with an emerald green carpet. There were two doors, to the right and left, and a huge, wooden staircase swept upwards straight ahead. Kiwi noticed with a smile that the light bulbs were the regulation, blue type.
“This is a cool place,” said James, nudging Amy.
“Very different from the bits we explored,” she whispered.
“What an impressive staircase,” said James loudly. “And all of those pictures of cats with moustaches and old hats with feathers and stuff - they must be very old. They look like they’ve stepped out of a history book.”
“They are all the past owners of the factory,” announced Mr Dogg, appearing suddenly. The others jumped and turned round. “I’ve checked with Mr J Catskins and he has agreed that I can show you around. He is too busy to do it himself. I’m sure you won’t mind, no?”
“That’s fine,” purred Kiwi.
Mr Dogg went bright red and adjusted his cap.
James stopped in front of the last in the line of pictures. “That must be Madame Purrfect,” he said, pointing to a picture of a sleek, rather attractive, blue Burmese cat with soft, grey eyes and a white feather boa. A necklace with a fish-shaped, red stone glittered around her neck. “No wonder old Furrball keeps staring out of windows when her name is mentioned,” he whispered to his sister.
“Wow,” said Amy.
“Yes,” said Mr Dogg sternly. “That’s the previous owner of the factory. Retired a year ago.”
“Did you know her?” asked Kiwi.
“No,” he replied. “I started working here after she had gone and Mr J Catskins had taken over. Oh excuse me,” he sighed as the phone on the wall began to meow.
Amy and James stared at the phone. It was meowing??!!
So, Mr Catskins was wrong - not all of the staff had been here for years,” thought Kiwi.
The cats pretended to talk while listening.
“Hello?” said Mr Dogg. “Yes, I see no problem.” Replacing the phone receiver, he said “follow me,” and started to walk up the staircase with its green-painted floorboards to a wide landing, which was really a gigantic room swathed in emerald green carpet. In the corner stood a mini catbar and loads of squishy green cushions were scattered around the floor. Amy noticed a few cat toys dotted about and something that looked like a scratching post. She rubbed her eyes. Yes, it was a scratching post!
“This is where we entertain guests and visitors to the company,” explained Mr Dogg. Kiwi noted the blue lights. Nothing unusual here.
There were three doors at the end of the landing: one white, one yellow and one green, all with gold-coloured handles. Mr Dogg opened the yellow one first, which was full of cat litter trays, all yellow, along with cat size sinks and dryers. The room smelt of fish. “We like to keep it sweet smelling in here.” In the corner was a row of showers. A ladycat sat in the middle of the room, offering a range of perfumes, snacks and ribbons.
“This is the bathroom - all new facilities - unisex, you know. It’s the new thing, and no-one has complained yet,” said Mr Dogg. “We have shower cubicles, but we find that most catizens prefer the self-wash. I guess old habits die hard!”
Amy and James stared in disbelief - no-one was ever going to believe this!
“Ok, moving on, through the green door, I can show you where our famous cat biscuits are made and packed for sale,” smiled Mr Doggs proudly.
“What about the white door?” whispered James.
“Ssshhhh,” hissed Amy, pushing him forward. “We’ll probably see it later.”
Paws trundled along behind, munching on some snack from the bathroom. He dropped wrappers on the floor. James scooped them up and put them in a bin.
“Well, this is where our biscuits are made,” announced Mr Dogg, as they all followed along a green line painted along the wooden floor, which cut straight across a really massive, high-walled room. All around, machines buzzed and hummed, and rattled and whirred. Cats dressed in little white hats, aprons, gloves and socks rushed around busily. No-one chatted. A cat-radio sang out from somewhere. Amy could make out lots of faint mewing and the odd purr, strangely in tune. She blinked.
“Look,” she pointed to James, “They’re all wearing little white socks!”
Mr Doggs heard: “That is for hygiene. We don’t want any extra ingredients in our biscuits!”
In one corner of the room was a big mixer into which some cats were pouring various unknown ingredients. The giant machine whirred and whirred, and a tube emerged from the side, which passed along into another mixer into which other cats were adding more ingredients. The mixer whirred and spun very fast. James felt dizzy watching it and nearly fell over his tail. Splodges of mixture plopped out of the end on to a wide conveyor belt, which whizzed along into an oven, and then whizzed out and under a presser to be made into shapes.
“Wow,” said James, rushing over to look at the end result - the familiar looking, fish-shaped Catskins Biscuits, which were still warm. Their scrumptious aroma filled the room.
“What’s in them?” asked Amy as the lines of biscuits whizzed past her eyes.
“That’s a very old - and very secret - recipe,” laughed Mr Dogg. “It’s even a mystery to us workers.”
A hush fell over the kittens. Top secret? Wow!
“No! Please don’t touch!” yelled Mr Dogg, bouncing on his little black booties. Paws was dangerously close to the conveyor belt of perfectly warm goodies. “You can have some when we get to the packing section. And try not to dribble!”
“Yum, free food,” whispered James as Paws strode off grumbling.
They followed the green-painted line and headed onwards as the conveyor belt whizzed past into the next room where the biscuits sat in neat lines, waiting to cool down. Cats moved swiftly, wrapping and packing them, while others placed the end result on another conveyor belt, which whizzed onwards.
Mr Dogg stopped and inspected the process, and picked up four packets of freshly packed biscuits. He handed them out; one packet each. “Now, don’t eat them all at once,” he grinned.
The cats followed as Mr Dogg led them further down the factory and into the next room. Behind them, the loud crunching of Paws’ jaws could be heard above the whizz and whirr of the machinery!
“Right, this is the packing room,” announced Mr Dogg. All around them, cats in white gloves and boots were packing biscuits into crates, and dragging them in wheelbarrows to a lift at the side of the room. Amy looked up and nudged James. Up above they could see the metal beam that they had crossed, terrified.
“Where does the lift go?” asked Kiwi.
“To the cellar and the two upper floors,” said Mr Dogg. “We’ll go to the cellar next. The upstairs floors are the owner’s private residence.”
Amy glanced around the packing room. There were no more doors anywhere except for the lift. They all crept into the lift, which rushed down with a whoosh, shuddered, shook and stopped with a mighty bump. Ouch. They all stumbled to their four feet and stumbled out. Kiwi sighed - Cat City lifts were just too embarrassing.
“Ok,” said Mr Dogg. “This is the cellar. Here we store all of our crates for delivery. And over here is the delivery hatch.” He opened what resembled a giant catflap by pressing a green button on the wall. The hatch opened with a loud, whirring noise and outside was a small carpark with three green vans, their sides emblazoned with the words ‘Catskins Biscuits, Cat City’s oldest and best’ in big, gold lettering. A driver sat in one of the vans, dressed in a green uniform, reading the Morning Meow.
“Right, well that’s probably the grand tour,” said Mr Doggs, rubbing his paws together. “Shall I take you to the entrance?”
Kiwi hesitated, looking around. “What is in those crates?”
“Biscuits, of course,” said Mr Dogg. “What else?”
Kiwi paused. “Can I open one?”
Mr Dogg looked amazed. “Of course,” he said, opening one with his claw. “If you would just help me with the lid… thanks… take a look inside…”
“What are you looking for?” asked Paws, who kept burping loudly from eating far too many fishy cookies.
James turned his nose away.
“Just checking,” said Kiwi. “I’m sure everything is fine, but I have to check these things.” She unpacked the entire case, to the astonishment of Mr Dogg, and peered inside. How odd. The case was sound. There was no false bottom to it. How strange. She pretended not to be surprised and replaced the biscuits, one by one.
“Well,” she said, cheerfully, “everything seems to be in order. Thank you for your time and showing us around. We have many other companies to check so we better get going now. You have to understand that we have to search the entire city for these missing catizens. I guess you’ve read the Morning Meow and know about all this. Please tell Mr J Catskins this. We like to keep good relations with people.”
“I will,” said Mr Dogg, smiling back. “I hope you have had a most enjoyable visit. It was my pleasure to show you around. Any questions before you go?”
“Errrmmmm, do you have any more free biscuit samples,” asked Paws, wiping crumbs off his nose. “You know, for police purposes, of course!”
The kittens sighed.