chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10
chapter 11
chapter 12
chapter 13
chapter 14
chapter 15
chapter 16
chapter 17
chapter 18
chapter 19
chapter 20
chapter 21
chapter 22
chapter 23
chapter 24
chapter 25
Chapter 24
The Cockatoo Virus.

The four children returned to Impala Lodge and Elké immediately demanded that she be taken to Kenilworth Drive by a police car, to pick up Aitch.
    A uniformed policeman ushered Biffer, Skin and Rebecca upstairs to the main office where they were promptly pounced upon by three excited children: Amanda, Maria and Paul.
    "Captain Friddle has been telling us how you all broke in and captured The Rat Squad and that evil Mr. Fugg," exclaimed Amanda, giving them all a big hug. "As you can see, we have already rescued our dogs and Maria's cat from those horrid cages."
    Rebecca was pleased to see that the two puppies she had played with in the garden a few days before were now quietly laying together on the floor at the end of the office. The black cat was curled up on top of a computer on the highest shelf, oblivious of the entire goings on.
    Rebecca also noticed that a paramedic was in the process of wrapping a wide bandage around Captain Friddle's chest. "Why, Captain Friddle, whatever is wrong?"
    Captain Friddle smiled. "It looks and sounds worse than it is, Rebecca. I have been told that I have at least two cracked ribs but with a little rest everything should be back to normal in a couple of weeks."
    At the other end of the office, Chief Inspector Webb and Keith Doyle sat in front of a computer, deep in conversation. Above their heads, Einstein, the white Cockatoo, ran up and down his perch, gave a loud squawk and began to raise and lower his crest and bob with excitement as everyone gathered around to listen.
    "Let me get this straight," the Chief Inspector was saying. "You are telling me that Fat Cat has got in his possession a so called 'cyber disc' that contains the necessary software for him to hack into all the computers of every bank in the whole world?"
    Keith Doyle's eyes blinked twice behind his round spectacles. "Yes sir. That is correct."
    "But is there nothing we can do to stop him?"
    A twinkle lit up those same eyes. "I think we can, sir, because unbeknown to our friend Fat Cat, I have inserted a cunning virus deep inside his software."
    "A cunning virus, cyber discs, software. What is the world coming too?" Said the Chief Inspector, pulling out a handkerchief and mopping his brow.
    "Let me demonstrate," replied Keith, giving a sympathetic smile. He selected a CD from a rack on the bench and slipped it into the PC. Soon a page full of text materialized on the screen.
    "This is the sort of thing Fat Cat might see after inserting the 'cyber disc' and entering his password," explained Keith. "Now let's see what happens when I initiate the virus."
    Keith punched in a codeword on the keyboard and sat back. Behind him stood Rebecca, Biffer, Skin, Amanda, Maria, Paul, Captain Friddle and even the paramedic and two uniformed policemen. All were waiting in anticipation. All were holding their breath.
    Slowly, Rebecca realized something strange was happening. In the centre of the screen a white blob was forming. The blob grew bigger and began to take on a specific shape: the shape of a bird being looked at from above. Was it a chicken? The bird's head suddenly turned and looked out from the screen with one beady, red eye causing all those watching to burst out laughing. The bird was a white Cockatoo, complete with a raised crest.
    "Why it's Einstein!" Called out Maria, giggling louder than most.
    The animated Einstein gave a loud squawk and began clawing with his feet at the virtual ground, reminiscent of a chicken scratching for food. Words and letters flew across the screen willy nilly and very soon the once neat text was a complete jumble and totally illegible. Moreover, whenever the bird spotted a letter 'e' he would pounce on it and swallow it whole, calling out in his squawky voice, "eee's for my tea, eee's for my tea."
    The real Einstein on his perch was shocked into silence. He crouched down with his head cocked to one side, listening intently.
    Keith Doyle turned in his chair to face the Chief Inspector.
    The Chief Inspector, on his part, continued to gaze at the screen, fascinated. When he did speak, it was in a slow, deliberate manner. "If you intend to enter Fat Cat's software, surely you need to know the password?"
    "That's exactly what I hope Fat Cat believes," replied Keith. "But unbeknown to him I have isolated a single character of my own on the outside of his cyber disc. Whenever Fat Cat enters his password he unwittingly transmits mine too. At the moment my character is set at 'zero', telling the virus to remain dormant. But if I were to change the 'zero' to a 'one' the Cockatoo virus will blossom into life and destroy all of Fat Cat's files."
    Keith Doyle turned back to his computer and began typing away at the keyboard. "There," he said finally. "That's done it. When Fat Cat comes on-line, the 'zero' will switch to a 'one' and the instant he enters his password the virus will be activated."
    The audience behind cheered in appreciation and immediately broke into applause.
    "What's all the fuss about? Have I missed something important?" It was Elké, returning with Aitch.
    Skin laughed and grabbed her by the shoulders. "You've just missed the Prof. showing off his genius, that's what" he said and went on to explain what had taken place.
    The party atmosphere that had infected all those in the general office was snuffed out soon after a police constable entered and spoke quietly to the Chief Inspector.
    "O.K.," called out the Chief Inspector. "Keith, Paul, Maria and Amanda, get your things together. Your parents are downstairs waiting to take you home."
    This was a signal for pandemonium to break loose. The four kidnap victims rushed about gathering up their meagre belongings, hugging and kissing those that were being left behind and rounding up their animals. Einstein was put into his cage, the black cat unceremoniously plucked from his resting place high up on the computer and the two dogs woken from their slumber.
    Then, suddenly everything was quiet. Rebecca, Elké, Biffer, Skin and Captain Friddle each slumped back into a chair, exhausted. Aitch settled himself down on Elké's lap.
    "No wonder I feel whacked," exclaimed Skin. "Look at the time, it's a quarter to four in the morning!"
    Rebecca sighed. "For some strange reason I'm kinda sad the adventure is all over."
    "What is going to become of us all now? Is what I wonder." said Biffer, grimly. "Have you any thoughts on that score, Captain?"
    "Not really, Biff." Replied the Captain. "The police will probably pass that tricky dilemma over to the appropriate authorities."
    The four children looked at each other and grimaced.
    Elké broke the silence. "Captain Friddle, may I ask a favour of you?"
    Captain Friddle grinned. "You are forgetting Elké. You and Sheba saved me from suffering a serious injury, or even death, from that monster Mr. Fugg. Please ask a million favours."
    "As a matter of fact, this does concern Sheba," went on Elké. "When I was becoming friends with her, I promised I would help her back to her native land: a tropical jungle with lush vegetation, gurgling streams and an abundance of game. Captain Friddle, is there anyway you can help me keep my promise?"
        The Captain threw back his head and laughed out loud. "Now that is certainly a tall order, Elké. But as strange as it may seem, I think I can help you out. An ex-army lieutenant friend of mine works for the wildlife parks commission of Tanzania, in East Africa. I will contact him as soon as possible and let you know what he suggests."
    Just then the peace and quiet was broken by the entrance of an exuberant Chief Inspector Webb, rubbing his hands together, obviously pleased with the night's events. "Right you kids," he said. "I have decided that the four of you will be moving into Impala Lodge for the foreseeable future. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I want you all to be somewhere where I can keep a close eye on you. And secondly," he now stared straight at Elké. "I need someone to take care of that tiger thing upstairs and you seem to have a natural bent for the job."
    He strode over to the window and gazed out into the darkness, before turning to face them again. "I am having Lucy the maid make-up some beds for you to sleep in. What about you Captain Friddle? Do you intend to stay for the rest of the night?"
    "No, no" replied the Captain, getting up. "I must return to my hotel. There are a million and one things to attend to."

chapter 25