Whither & Why: Happy Birthday Mr Gurney
From the [REDACTED] of Gerald Honk, Esq
My dear brother Christopher,
I hope this letter finds you, and finds you well. I write to you under cover of subterfuge. You may wonder why you have received this letter by the means of a shaggy-haired and lanky young canine at your door – please do feed him, by the way, he is especially fond of barbecue pulled pork – or indeed, why you may have heard nothing for many months from either myself or my friend, the racketeering rugger-bugger and contumelious carabinieri, Sir Hilary Harrison-Nairn.
The brief response is, we are in hiding. Caution was the watchword: it turned out that the faithful former police dog resident with myself and Lillian had a troubled past, and her joining the bobbies was a last-gasp attempt at redemption. Caution’s former employers, a highly-organised international secret society known as the [REDACTED], caught up to her in summer of this year, demanding the restitution of a highly-prized Rembrandt she had been keeping tucked away under her collar. It transpires the Rembrandt contains a secret code, the first clue to a trail which will lead us to the mythical [REDACTED] and the discovery of [REDACTED] which will forever change the way we think about the Dutch.
Caution’s former owner, the officer of the law who you may remember from last Hallowe’en, was in on the secret, but met a most unfortunate fate when the aforementioned secret organisation caught up to him and [REDACTED]. Lillian and I knew the only way to resolve the situation was to uncover the [REDACTED] ourselves. But we met with a problem; Caution was not only in love with Bismarck, but had recently become a mother. She would not leave without her paw-amour.
Bismarck, in turn, refused to depart without HH. HH was, and I quote, “well up for it”, but knew very well he could not leave on an adventure of indeterminate length without bringing his wife, Samantha. Samantha insisted on being accompanied by the small television documentary crew that had been following her life for several weeks prior. And Mrs Clutterbutt, my friend’s devoted housekeeper, managed to smuggle herself into the expedition disguised as a briefcase.
My friend used his mother’s connections with the highest levels of MI[REDACTED] to gain us a technological and intelligence advantage over our foes, as well as the services of Agent [REDACTED] to be called upon when needed.
And so, several moons since, here we are: myself, Lillian, HH, Samantha, the documentary crew, Mrs Clutterbutt, Agent [REDACTED], Caution, Bismarck, and six now-quite-sizeable young hounds. We are at an impasse. Quite literally, as the Swiss chalet the trail led us to last month has suffered from extreme snowfall and we may pass the New Year here before we are found. The organisation has caught up to us at several points, and the documentary crew lost its Best Boy to the ensuing scuffle. They tried to take Mrs Clutterbutt, but the puppies, rising as one in their defence of the demure dowager of our little clan, launched themselves at the foe with the rapacity of raptors.
But why do I write to you now? Last night, after our customary three hours’ staring at the Rembrandt, and the other clues we have assembled over the course of our journey (I am particularly fond of the [REDACTED] we uncovered at the bottom of a Norwegian fjord), we fell to sleep. I awoke to hear the remarkably lucid cries of my friend. He spoke thus:
“GURNEY! GURNEY! FIND… GURNEY! HAPPY… BIRTHDAY! BIRTHDAY… HAPPY BIRTHDAY! GURNEY! FIND… BIRTHDAY… GURNEY! GURNEY! HE HOLDS… THE AANWIJZING! MUST… FIND… OR ALL WILL FALL! ALL WILL FALL!”
I knew I had to act immediately. I transcribed HH’s words onto a piece of bark carefully scraped from the interior walls of our cramped shared accommodation, and tucked it precisely under the tongue of Caution and Bismarck’s youngest, but most sensible, son, Vespasian. I instructed Vespasian that he must find his way out of Switzerland and back to England, to you, dear brother. He is a loyal and ravenous friend. Treat him well.
As for what you must now do, Christopher, it is only this:
You must find this Mr. ‘Gurney’. When you do, speak the words ‘Happy Birthday’. He will know what it means. He will act upon it. Our entire fate, nay, the fate of the whole of the Netherlands, rests upon the knowledge this man has. He can find us. He has to, before [REDACTED].
I leave you with the words you must remember. Speak them today.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. GURNEY.
Your most humble and affectionate servant and brother,