Big Tom McClinchey was a legendary mouser, like his father and grand father before him. His bloodline was much sought after by farmers who wanted to improve the rodicidal abilities of their own feline stock.
This ability had unfortunately been commented on years ago by a colleague of Professor McDooley. The Professor, being an irrepressible polymath, was curious. He had long noted the similarities between the physiology of cats and rabbits and was curious to know if a hybrid was possible.
After cornering Big Tom in his very own barn, they had taken him back to the lab and extracted some of his essence to see if it was possible to cross-breed cats and rabbits. The Professor believed that a vigorous and obviously fecund male subject would increase the likelihood of succesful insemination. Just why anyone would want such a hybrid was never fully explained.
Like any self-respecting Tom-cat, McClinchey saw this as an affront to his cathood. Once he was again at liberty he became determined to see what the outcome of this nefarious experiment had been. When the Professor was dismissed as a result of his illicit experimention, he had retired with the young crabbits to the isolation of his Inishbeg hideaway.
McClinchey had been searching the whole country in an attempt to ascertain the wherabouts of the Professor and his own preposterous progeny. Unfortunately this was easier than it sounded and it hadn't sounded easy to begin with. In his quest he had had to cross the territories of numerous other Tom-cats. This had led to regular ructions as each in turn defended their little realms with tooth and claw. That was before you took the unfriendly welcomes provided by the less engaging farm dogs into account.
As a result of his travails, he was possibly the toughest old Tom Cat that ever padded the byways of Ireland. These days even the largest, fiercest, most psychopathic, car-chasing sheepdogs took one look at him and immediately lost interest when they encountered his formidable presence. One eared, one eyed and multi-talon-ted in the martial arts. He was a downright fright to behold.
McClinchey had been curled up fast asleep, high up in a shed at the Ballygolightly timber yard. He thought he was dreaming when he smelt a very faint but familiar scent. He opened his eyes and stretched. It was real. He jumped down to investigate where the smell seemed to be emanating from. Silently making his way across the stacks of timber, he soon landed on the roof of Edgardo's hearse.
When he returned from his meeting with the Professor, Edgardo had parked in Katie's back yard. Once Larry had clued Katie in on Edgardo's particular role in trying to help Ulysses, he was given the red carpet treatment. This included parking his overly conspicuous vehicle off road.
He was now inside having a nap to sleep off the feast of grub Katie had recently set before him. When she had satisfied herself that he really couldn't eat another thing and was obviously near to nodding off, she had relented and shoved him up the stairs to his room. Saying that she'd wake him in a few hours once the seisiún had got going a bit. She didn't want him to miss out on another good night at the festival.
"There'll be music here again tonight if you fancy rising it up a bit later" she said as she pulled the door to. When he first arrived she had been delighted to see him deposit his instrument cases on the bed. He had chosen not to play that first night as he wanted to check out the standard of the other musicians. Tonight he intended to join in.
McClinchey jumped through the open window onto the passenger seat. He sniffed. It was a fresh spoor. At last! After all these years of searching this was definitely the Professors scent. He sniffed the drivers seat to memorize Edgardo's scent. The car looked like it was here for the night. He jumped out and carefully sniffed the tyres in an effort to discover where it had been.
There was the feint smell of birdshit. Not any bird. Distinctive. A swan. He had seen a V formation of them flying silhouetted against the setting sun the previous evening. He knew that they sometimes lived near men as they had been protected in Ireland for centuries. No one would dare kill the poor Children of Lir of ancient legend. He had seen them himself once before - around the harbour at Claddagh in old Galway City.
Where had they come from? West of the town? One of the Islands perhaps?
He crawled under the fence into the lane behind Katie's and set off along the road towards the shore.