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Who is Molly Whiskers? Episode 1

Who is Molly Whiskers?

Meet Molly, Fogsworth's newest private detective.

· 15:50

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Hello. I’m Imogen, and I have a story to tell you. It concerns rabbits, a couple of cats, a fox, and something called a slow loris, which is a funny-looking primate with big eyes. The story in question has a kidnapping, a daring escape, some unnecessary violence, and later I think there’s a cow made of chocolate.

It’s pretty safe for little ears, but I reckon if you’re the type of person who likes to get lost in a big book at bedtime or in a break at school, you and this story will get along just fine.

I’m going to read it to you… I’m going to do different voices and everything… and my friend Mark will help me with some sound effects and music so you get that thing where the hairs on the back of your neck all stand up.

Oh, and the story is called Molly Whiskers and the Blue Tentacle, and it’ll take me a few weeks to tell. I mean, we’ll do it in like, tiny chunks; I’m not a maniac!

Right, well I think that’s all you need to know. The rest you’ll pick up along the way, and I’ll make sure to catch you up each week so you can remember where we left off.

Right then, here we go. I’m looking forward to this. Cue the music!

Fogsworth is a small town unlike any town you’ve ever seen. Here, the cobbled streets are busy with the sounds of padding paws, skittering claws, clomping hooves and, occasionally, the slithering of something that travels very low to the ground, and hisses.

You won’t find people as we know them, in Fogsworth. Not the kind that walk around on two legs and eat hamburgers and talk about the weather. Here, no-one wears shoes or stares at a screen or goes on a diet. Shoes don’t exist here because the people of Fogsworth don’t need them. No-one in Fogsworth stares at screens because electricity hasn’t yet been invented. No-one here is on a diet because the people of Fogsworth take only what they need, and share what they have left over.

Well, most of them.

As the fog clears and we see the dark streets, with the moonlight glinting off the wet cobblestones, we catch sight of a small, hurried figure, cloaked in a hood and walking into a tavern.

A tavern is an old-fashioned word for a pub or an inn, where grown-ups come to drink drinks that make them unable to talk in a straight line or walk in complete sentences.

Here, there’s just enough lamplight to prevent us from getting a good look at the scary huddle of crows playing a complicated card game, and the music from the slightly out-of-tune piano is just loud enough so that we don’t overhear the filthy words coming out of the mouths of ten police cats, on the opposite side of the bar.

A keen observer — which is clever-talk for someone watching very closely — might notice that the cats are keeping a close eye on the crows and their card game. An even keener observer would note that the crows also know this. Whether anyone knows that the cats know that the crows know that the cats know… is unknown.

Let’s look around for the hurried-looking figure that led us into the tavern. Here they come, weaving their way through the crowd, dodging tall glasses being carried over from the bar, swerving to avoid a flying mug of beer.

Eventually the hooded figure makes its way to the front of the bar, takes a seat beside an elderly goose, and asks, in a quavering voice, “Excuse me, do you happen to know where I might find a Mr Toply?”

Lazily, the goose points a wing towards the bar, in the direction of a billy goat, standing against the wall and cleaning a glass with a dirty dish towel.

“Excuse me, good sir” says the voice from inside the hood. “I’ve been asked to deliver a package, which you must sign for.”

With that, the hooded figure produces a piece of paper and a small bottle of ink. The figure pats its pockets, says something unpleasant under its breath, and there is a brief moment of awkwardness which we’ll come back to in a moment, before the figure reveals a quill pen.

“Huh, alright” says the billy goat, gruffly, as the figure slides the pen, ink and paper across to him.

And just as he completes his signature, the figure removes its hood and reveals the face beneath. The face belongs to a rabbit, but not just any rabbit. This is Molly Whiskers, private detective.

“Aha!” says Molly, as she points an accusing paw towards the goat. “Caught red-handed.”

“Hoofed”, says the goose.

“Pardon me?” says Molly, a little annoyed at having her concentration broken, just as she was about to get to the good bit.

“Goats have hooves, not hands”.

“Yes, alright” says Molly, a little impatiently. “Caught red-hoofed, then, if you must.”

“Wuh?” says the goat, obviously very confused.

“In just a moment”, continues Molly, “I will be informing the police that I have caught the infamous Black and White Bandit, and insist that you hand over the loot.”

The loot Molly is referring to is a large stash of black and white paint. To be clear, this means that some of the cans have black paint, and some have white paint. You probably already gathered this, but it’s best to be sure about these things.

“But… I… oh, plops”, says the goat, looking guilty. “How did you catch me?”

“All I needed”, says Molly, “was a good look at your arms.”

“Legs” says the goose.

She — the goose — is right to point out this confusion. Most of the people in Fogsworth walk on two legs, except for horses, because the thought of a horse walking on two legs is, frankly, unsettling.

“Not now”, hisses Molly at the goose, before continuing, “there are bald patches all over your arms... legs,... whatever, which can only be there because candyfloss is particularly difficult to get out of goat hair.”

The goat blinks. The goose looks confused. The pianist plays on, and no-one notices someone get up from the table behind Molly and make their way slowly and quietly to the bar.

Now, if you’ve ever done one of those drawings where you go from dot to dot to create a picture in outline, you’ll probably know it as “joining the dots”. We sometimes use that phrase to relate to other things, like taking two seemingly separate thoughts and connecting them together. Clever detectives like Molly do it all the time. She is very good at it, and often does so quicker than the people around her.

She gives it a moment, and realises that neither the goat nor the goose are joining the dots in her story between a shaven leg, some candyfloss, and a bunch of paint cans.

“Candyfloss” she continues, with great patience “is very fluffy, but it’s also very pink. Its fluffiness is perfect if, for example, you and your friends had eaten all the grass in your meadow and needed to cross a bridge that had a troll living underneath it, and wanted to disguise yourselves as sheep. But its pinkness is a dead giveaway that you’re nothing but a bunch of goats in sheeps’ clothing.”

The goat begins to shift from hoof to hoof. Molly is, of course right, that the goat and his friends have been rolling around in candyfloss in order to disguise themselves as sheep. But sheep are famously not pink, which brings us to the paint cans.

”Which brings us to the paint cans”, says Molly, helpfully. “You knew Mr Peterson at the DIY shop would ask too many questions if a goat who worked behind a bar suddenly ordered a dozen cans of white paint and three cans of black, SO YOU STOLE THEM!”

Molly allows herself a brief moment of satisfaction, and continues.

“You stole the paint, made up a huge batch of candyfloss, rolled around in it, then painted yourselves white with little black markings, and went over the bridge without the troll even noticing.”

The goat begins to clap, very, very slowly.

“Congratulations, Ms Whiskers” he says. “Except you missed out one tiny detail.”

“What?” asks Molly, desperate to know what she missed.

“What?” asks the goose, desperate to try and keep her mind off a nagging pain in her right wing (we will come back to that).

“You thought Peterson at the DIY shop was angry when you interviewed him, didn’t you? But he wasn’t, see. He was probably just guilty because he was in on the whole thing!”

“What!?” splutters an exasperated Molly.

“Oh yeah”, says the goat, looking smug. “We cooked up the plan together. I’d take the old cheap paint that no-one wanted ‘cos all the cans were rusting, and the town would buy him some nice, shiny new paint ‘cos they thought the old stuff was nicked.”

Molly was annoyed for two reasons. Firstly, she was furious that her moment of brilliance had been destroyed by this big-headed thief, but also she was annoyed at herself. You see, Molly is brilliant at many things, but reading faces has never been her gift, and some things about the way people work just don’t seem to make sense to her.

As the music and the hubbub begins again, a dull click that comes from the goat’s side of the bar is almost too quiet to hear.

“Oh”, says the goat, looking down to see a bright and shiny pair of handcuffs enclosing his hooves.

It seems no-one has noticed one of the cats silently get up from his seat after hearing the discussion at the bar, slide under the bar-top and approach the goat just at the right moment.

“Mr Toply, I am arresting you for extreme levels of naughtiness”, says the cat. “I will ask you to accompany me to the station, and we’ll also be knocking on Mr Peterson’s door.”

“Oh, boggleplops”, says the goat. The goose tuts loudly, and rolls her beady eyes disapprovingly.

After a few seconds, the pianist starts up yet again — a little more forcefully this time, as if the musician were tired of being interrupted — and the conversation around the tavern continues once more.

“I just got so tired of the grass in our meadow, and I thought it looked so much… I dunno… greener on the other side of the bridge, so me and the boys hatched a plan to fool the troll”, continues the goat, finally pleased to get everything off his chest and admit to his crime.

“Troll? There’s no troll under that bridge!” says the police officer. “That’s just Barry the crocodile. I suspect he thinks it’s funny to scare you lot, since you make such a racket running over the bridge when he’s trying to sleep.

“Come along then, off to the station with you”, and with that, the police officer leads a miserable goat out of the tavern.

Meanwhile, no-one’s noticed Molly slip quietly away. We’ll no doubt see her again soon. Otherwise it would be an odd choice to name this podcast after her.

And in case you were wondering why the goose had a pain in her right wing? Well, that’s the sort of thing that’ll happen when a clever — if sometimes absent-minded — rabbit, suddenly in need of a pen, plucks a large feather from your wing. Goose feathers do make the best quill pens, so it was lucky for Molly that the goose happened to be there.

Less lucky for the goose, however. But it’ll grow back.

That’s the end of part one of Molly Whiskers and the Blue Tentacle. I’ll be back next Tuesday to introduce you to Roscoe and Bailey, Fogsworth’s finest police detectives, and Patchee, who might have bitten off more than he can chew when asking Molly for a job.

Molly Whiskers and the Blue Tentacle was written by Ashley Kingsland and read by me, Imogen Church, with production help by Mark Steadman. You can follow the story on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and there’s more info about the show at MollyWhiskers.com.

Thanks for listening.

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