The Circus lorry came to a stop too quick for comfort and Samson the lion was jolted in his bed. He wasn't awoken, because he hardly ever slept on those confined dark trips in between the many town and city circus locations. Samson knew, but no longer cared about the frantic big top set up that would follow. He closed his heavy eyes just in time as the canvas sides of the lorry were thrown open, because the sunlight was no longer his friend. Later he would have to face the bright lights of the circus ring, accompanied by the shouting and screams of the audience as he jumped up and over hoops to the crack of a whip. His humiliation was complete, his roar was heartless and his heart was tired. When the performance closed, Samson was led back to his cage. He looked forward to the darkness, away from the bright spotlights, when he could lay his aching body down on the straw and wait for his friend, Tom. Tom was a circus cat - but he was not an ordinary cat. As the circus had travelled through Scotland one winter, Tom had literally 'run away with it!' His parentage was very sketchy ; although his coat was pure black, he stood as tall as a medium sized dog, suggesting that one of his parents was a rather exotic breed of cat. Tom was as wild or tame as he wanted to be, but was fiercely independent and would often come and go as he pleased. The circus guard dogs knew well to leave Tom alone.
Tom was a special cat alright, but what made him special to Samson was that sadly, he was the only friend that the tired lion had. As always, Tom had made his way to see his friend not long after the show had finished. The tired lion stirred as Tom squeezed through the bars of his cage. With more effort than it should have taken, he lifted his paw and rested it on his friend with affection. Samson saw the strength in Tom, not just physically but in the tom cat’s heart. "You know you’re more lion than me my friend...” he said. Tom saw the tiredness in Samson's eyes more vividly this night, just as he had felt and noticed the despair through the ever fading strength of his once powerful giant paw. This frightened Tom, who knew it was time. It was now or never for him to turn his magical dream to free Samson into reality. For this he would need the help of someone extraordinary. The timing was perfect and as he said goodnight to Samson that night, he decided that it would start tomorrow. He would make it start tomorrow! The next day, a smiling happy Tess was waiting on the canal tow path for a boat full of friends. It was the time of year when Jack the boat dog and his master cruised their narrow boat near to the house where Tess lived. Sometimes they moored there for over a week! As well as seeing her beloved Jack, Tess would also get to see the two Spikes, who also now lived on the boat with Jack. Tess had helped them as puppies and met up with them again purely by accident in another adventure. Tess and Jack had many adventures over the years. They had often faced grave dangers, but always stood together. As Tess was watching the water she heard the barking getting louder and louder! The two Spikes had jumped off the boat at the last lock and were racing to the place where they always met. First one hit her with licks and then the other followed soon after! Tess was loved so much by the Spikes that they forgot she was not as young as she used to be.
She calmed them down and thought to herself how healthy and strong they looked, which made her tail wag happily. By now the boat had caught up with the excitement and Tess was able to do a calmer nose nuzzle with her best friend Jack. "They're so strong! I was lifted into the air by lick power!" She exclaimed to Jack, who was trying to calm the two Spikes down. "They have been so excited all day." Replied Jack. "Well we all have a little bit." he added, giving Tess an extra nuzzle. Later in the afternoon, after Tess had returned home for her lunch and Jack’s owner had moored the boat and fed his excited dogs, the friends met again to catch up properly. "Are the city foxes still helping the stray dogs Jack?" "Yes Tess, fox's brother has kept his word, although they are always a bit worried when I take the two Spikes with me for a chat...!" Tess laughed. "Tess - how is Fox? …And Owl?" Asked Jack. "Both are well." Said Tess to her brave friend. "I'm sure you will see them soon." But before she could say more, before even Jack knew what was happening, first one Spike, and then the other was beside her. Their protective growls were frightening, even for Tess! Tess soon saw what had happened. Without them realising, they had been joined by the largest tom cat Tess had ever seen. He was almost able to touch Tess who was trying to make sense of the situation. She calmed the two Spikes down and couldn't help but feel admiration for this proud cat who faced her. "Can we help you?" She enquired. Tom the tom cat moved forward as far as he dared without provoking the two Spikes. "I hope so Tess, I really hope so." Now Jack was beside Tess, and suddenly something clicked into place. "Tess! I forgot to tell you about a cat that was asking after you… I didn't meet him, but fox said a huge tom cat that had arrived with the circus was trying to find you." Tess turned to Tom. "Was that you?" "Yes, Tess. But first please tell your friends I have no wish to fight - although I am more than capable of fighting my corner. All I ask is a chance to talk to the Tess who may be my only chance to save my friend." Tess moved forward and got as close to the big tom as she thought polite, making it plain he was no foe. As she did, the two Spikes relaxed a little and Tess welcomed Tom for a chat.
As Tess was watching the water she heard the barking getting louder and louder!
Tom started the story of Samson the lion, from the time that he had first joined the circus. How Samson, at the start of their friendship still had a dream, a dream to be free, to live his own lion life. Then Tom explained about how the circus had also tried to tame him - a feral tom cat! But he was too wild, they had lost that fight and eventually he was accepted on his own terms, as a free, yet wild animal that earned his place by keeping rodents away from the food supplies. When the time came for him to move on, he knew he would not be able to leave Samson there. He told Tess that the only reason he had stayed with the circus was because he had dreamt about helping Samson to freedom, but he never dared to believe the dream until one day, the circus animals were full of stories of a dog called Tess. Tess who had saved the fox and stood up to bullying. Tess who turned dogs away from fighting badgers. "Well, I looked long and hard for you Tess, but… nothing… until one evening, just after I’d left Samson. I had walked out to be alone in a wooded glade when…" Tom was interrupted by a familiar voice to Tess who, turned towards the source. And there, perching lower in a tree than Tess had ever seen her… was Owl!
"This is my doing, Tess." Confessed Owl. “I have followed Tom and his concern for Samson for so long. I just knew we had to help. I knew you could help." He added. "You did say I might see Owl." Said Jack to Tess with a grin.
But Tess was two moves ahead in thought by then. She knew Owl too well and if she was responsible for this introduction, for her to meet Tom it meant just one thing. It meant Owl had a plan to save Samson. She must have! Just as she’d had a plan to save Fox and a plan to save Badger.... surely now with her magic Owl ways, she had a plan to save Samson, the tired lion! Tess’s flash thoughts were interrupted.
"Do you know Owl, Tess? Tom asked. Owl knew exactly what Tess had just been thinking and Tess saw her smile as she replied: "Yes Tom, I do. Would you believe, she helped me find my missing wag when I was a puppy." Tom was soon answering and asking questions about himself and his new found friends. He explained to them that he never knew his father and only had a treasured memory of his real mother’s warmth and care, but loved as his own, his adopted mother and sister - the family who he grew up with in the broken down buildings and factories of Glasgow. Tom asked Tess if the fox hunt story was true and then he wanted to know from Jack if the cats in the city were right about Tess and the deal she made with the city foxes and the stray dogs. As the stories unfolded, he began to realise why information about Tess had been so guarded. She was loved and protected by so many animals. As soon as she could, Tess found time for a quiet moment alone with Owl. "You have got this all planned haven’t you Owl. Oh tell me, I know you must have!” Tess was right, but when Owl began to explain just how they would free and rehome a fully grown lion she began to think that Owl had finally gone stark raving mad. Tess had a thousand questions about the plan, but Owl had only one for Tess. "Do you trust me, Tess? You see, sometimes you have to have faith that something can happen in order to make it happen. I can't save Samson the tired lion without you, but together we can right a wrong. Trust me Tess."
"What about Tom?" Asked Tess. "Yes, he reminds me of you in a lot of ways. He knows nothing of the plan I have just told you, but do not under estimate him. His love for the tired lion is so strong because this is about him, Tess! Samson has become his greatest weakness. A wild animal cannot afford to show compassion, yet at the same time it has made him stronger, because in showing his weakness he has also shown us his strength. Tess, I have known Tom since he was born. I have always watched over him. I helped his mother to evade capture for months in the highlands of Scotland. His father was as dear to me as you are.” Tess gasped “You knew his father?” “Yes Tess.” Owl stated. “He was the bravest cat I have ever known, until now maybe. You already know Tom is part of our special family don’t you?"
Tess knew exactly what Owl meant. Even though the two Spikes were protecting her, as soon as she had seen Tom, she had felt his kindness towards her. Tess turned slowly away from Owl and looked at Tom through the thicket. Tom was already becoming good friends with the two Spikes and Jack. She turned towards Owl. "Can we really do this, Owl?" Owl looked her in the eye. “Yes, Tess!” That night Tess's brain was in a whirl with the plan that Owl had made to rescue and re-home Samson the tired circus lion. It appeared to be brilliant, but she had to go over every detail in triplicate. Just one thing worried her, but she set this aside for now and settling into her favourite sleeping position, drifted off into a lovely coma-like sleep. The next day was an annoying rainy one, Tess had agreed to meet Tom and Owl in the morning, before meeting up with Jack and the two Spikes later in the afternoon, to explain the plan of action. Knowing her friends, she felt sure they would help, but they needed to know the risks. Tess set off early for her meeting with Tom and Owl. The rain was still pouring down and when she got to the meeting point she was soaked through. Not, however, as soaked as the large black tom cat she saw wearing a not very happy handsome tom cat face!
As they waited for Owl, Tom told Tess some grave news. When he had returned to the circus the night before, Samson was in a very bad way. "He hasn't eaten for two days now, Tess. It’s breaking my heart. They just don’t seem to care.” Tess moved forward and put her nose under the face of her new friend. “Two more days, Tom!” She reassured him. “Owl has it all planned. Just two more days. You have to tell Samson to hang on!”
Looking on from a medium high branch during this chat was of course, Owl. She wanted to see the two new friends without her presence felt. Now, as she swooped down to join the two allies, she was certain in her heart that her plan would work.
“Tess is right, Tom.” Said Owl as she landed on a lower branch, “Now is the time to tell Samson that in two days he will have a lovely new, safe life in a beautiful safari park. I promise!” Tom the tom cat was speechless for a second. “A safari park!”
Tess and Owl explained about a lioness who was being transferred from a safari park just outside London to another which was only ten miles or so from the circus. They then went into the details of how they were going to get Samson out of the circus and onto the lorry containing the lioness which was heading for the safari park. At one point Tom stood up and paced around as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. “This is mad!” He gasped! “What about the paperwork saying ONE lion? What about the lion in the lorry? What about...” Tess interrupted him. “Sit down, Tom” She said, trying to calm him down. “There won’t be any paperwork, we have that all taken care of and the lioness in the lorry will be very heavily sedated. We know all about her, you have to trust Owl. Tom, please.”
“Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in this circus? Stuck in this cage?!
Owl turned to Tom. “Can I tell you a story?” She took a deep breath and started. “This is a story of the bravest Tom cat in all of Scotland. You see Tom, I have known you since before you were born. Your father and I were the closest of friends. He would visit me just like Tess has done in the past, with problems just like Tess. Well one day your father told me about a beautiful wild cat he had met. The cat had gorgeous, exotic markings and he found out that she was an Ocelot. She was being kept in a cage by a very rich, unkind American who collected wild animals and wild cats in particular. Your father had a dream to free that Ocelot and Tom, I have to tell you, that Ocelot was your mother. With the help of friends we did manage to rescue her and she lived happily in freedom with your father for many years. After some time, you were born and it was all so lovely until one day your mother was spotted by a game keeper or visitor. Your father fought off three dogs, but it was no use Tom, and your mother was killed. They said they thought she was a dangerous animal. Your father saw it all and I can only imagine his hurt, his grief, and yet even after seeing the love of his life taken away from him, he managed to escape the savagery and take the one thing left he loved more than himself, you Tom, safely to his friends in the city. They brought you up and loved you like you were their own family. Tom, look at your unusual tummy markings. Did you ever wonder where they came from? To most you look like a very big black cat, but underneath you have the markings of an Ocelot. The markings that killed your mother. She left them with you, but safely out of sight.” Owl took a deep breath “Tom. Let’s do this for Samson - but also for your mum.” Tom was close to tears “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Well, by the time they thought you were ready to know the truth you had already left Glasgow for a life on your own. Said Owl. "Your step mum and your sister Mitzi both missed you so much, Tom. They waited for you to return, to visit but you never did, but they knew you were safe because I sent them regular messages about how you were doing.” Tom’s heart felt heavy. “Oh, Owl! I thought about returning so many times, but something always got in the way and then when I met Samson I just knew I had to stay with him. I’m all he’s got.”
Tess moved towards Tom to snuggle with the big cat. “I have go to meet Jack and the two Spikes.” She said, softly. “I’ll let Owl tell you how we get Samson’s cage open while I’m gone.” She cast a glance of good luck up to her wise feathered friend.
“Tess is right Tom.” Owl added, “You only have just over a day to teach Jolly how to unlock Samson’s cage with the key.” Tom stopped in his tracks “JOLLY!” Tess soon reached the boat for her meeting with Jack and the two Spikes. They were all well aware of what she was going to say and of course, they were all keen to help. The two Spikes would be integral to the plan as their job was to herd the sheep onto the road at the allocated place just before the lorry containing the Lioness arrived. Once the lorry had stopped, the plan was to open the back and get Samson inside. While the driver was distracted at the front, Jack would enter the cab and grab any folders containing paperwork. Owl had arranged for her Kestrel friend to keep her informed of the lorry’s progress.
Jack was first to speak. “Tess…. how do we get the back of the lorry open? What if it’s locked? “Well, Jack...” winked Tess, “That’s where we’ll need to be ‘Jolly’ lucky and trust Owl!
Tom was not in an enviable position. He had two very difficult tasks ahead of him before they even got to the main event! Firstly, he had to talk to Samson about the plan and try and stir some zest for life back into the tired lion. Secondly, he had to try and control a rather excitable young circus chimp and get him on board so he could turn the key and unlock Samson’s cage! Jolly was very close to Tom. The two had often played together, frequently visiting Samson, where the young monkey would sit on Samson’s back, wrapping his arms around the great cat’s mane, such was the affection they all shared.
As it happened, that turned out to be the easier of the two tasks! Jolly was very excited to be able to help in the plan and was also excited to be able to meet Tess and her now famous friends. Tom spoke in a hushed voice, “Jolly, this has to be kept secret, even from your mum. I know that will be difficult - can you do that?” Jolly assured Tom that she was up to the task and knew she would easily be able to open the cage door with the keys. It was arranged that Tom would sneak into the lion keeper’s caravan to get the keys after the predictable amount of alcohol had been drunk by him and he was, as always, snoring loudly.
Tom spent a lot of that night with Samson. He began by describing the park where he would living. He explained that all the lions there knew he was arriving and they were all on his side after hearing about his horrible life. Samson sighed heavily, “It’s too late for me Tom,” he said. “I don’t know if I can change.” Tom began to get angry with Samson. “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in this circus? Stuck in this cage?! Because I won’t be here with you Samson. I couldn’t bear to watch as the last spark of life slowly dims from your eyes!” He paused, seeing the sadness in his friend’s eyes. “We can speak more in the morning, but it has to happen tomorrow night, Samson. We’ll get you out and near to where the lorry passes and then we’ll all wait there until the morning. It is all planned. The horses have agreed to jump over their enclosure fence in the morning to create a diversion so by the time anyone notices you have gone, you will be well on your way.” Tom looked at Samson with pleading eyes, “Goodnight my friend. You know I love you, don’t you?” Samson scooped the big tom cat up with his huge paw and rolled him over, nuzzling his Ocelot patterned tummy. “I love you too, Tom, the tired lion purred, deeply, like lions do. “One day you must tell me about these markings...” he said, as if he knew everything. Of course he did, Owl had visited him the previous night and told him the tale of Tom’s mum and Dad. Samson had melted at the story and just wanted to look at his beloved friends markings again. “Maybe you can tell me as we wait for the lorry?” Samson remarked as Tom walked through the bars of the cage. Tom turned back with joy! “Oh great! Samson, it’s just going to be amazing! I can come and visit you all the time… oh it’s so exciting!” The next day Tess met up with Jack and the two Spikes and waited for Owl to go over the plan for the last time. The only thing she was still worried about was the one thing that was out of her control. Opening the cage and the back doors of the lorry. Owl arrived with some good news for her: the lorry would not be padlocked. Just how Owl knew these things was beyond Tess, but she knew the information would be correct. It always was. Jack was also curious about Jolly. They would meet for the first time tomorrow night and it would be a first for him and the two Spikes. What could go wrong?
The rest of the day was spent in contemplation, Tom stopped by and told the group about his previous night’s conversation with Samson and then bid them farewell. “The next time you see me, you will meet my wonderful friend.” He smiled, and then he was gone.
As the day went on, Owl seemed to receive visitor after visitor. Falcons, Kestrels flying to and fro. These must be Owl’s spies, thought Tess. She had known Owl for years but had never met one of these beautiful birds. She wondered how much of a part they had played in their other adventures that Owl had orchestrated.
Just after dark, Owl flew down to the lower meeting branch where Tess and Jack were sitting. “Everything is set, Tess! The two Spikes are waiting near the circus, just in case Tom needs a hand ‘talking’ to the guard dogs. Although they seem so frightened of Tom that I don’t think they will be needed. The lorry with the lioness in will approach the gate to the field at around 8am. I have fast messengers all along the route. The two Spikes will have plenty of time to herd the sheep onto the road. Tell them to be nice! And Tess, I tried to get word to the lioness travelling in the lorry, that she should expect company but she has been in quarantine. I will try to get a message to her before the tranquilliser sets in, but it will be up to Samson to smooth that first meeting out. You should tell him as soon as you can.”
“I might leave that one for Tom,” replied Tess, “but will you keep trying as it might be a shock for her?”
Owl nodded, “I will, Tess. You might not see me again today, but I will be around. Keep calm my friend and we will speak tomorrow.”
When Samson returned from the circus ring his friend Tom was waiting for him. “Everything is set, just a few more hours are you ok?” Samson lay down, “Tom I’m tired, I just want this to be over.” “Trust me, Samson.” Tom said, reassuringly, “Now try and sleep for a few hours until I get the key.” The wait outside the lion keeper’s caravan was the longest in Tom’s life. He heard the snoring but waited just a while longer before he silently leapt up and through the back window. With the key in his mouth he arrived at Samson’s cage. Samson was on his feet and was pacing with nerves. When Tess saw Jolly she could have kissed her. She took the key and standing on the back of Tess put it into the lock. It turned and she jumped down leaving the key in the lock and almost landing on her mother who was standing silently behind her. It would seem that Samson was not the only circus animal that Owl had visited the previous night. “Mum!” Cried Jolly. Jolly’s mum was a mature very wise circus chimp who kept herself very much to herself. Jolly tried to explain, “Mum we’re..” “I know what you’re doing, Jolly.” She was talking to Jolly but she was looking at Tom. “And we will do it together.” As Samson Walked out through the open cage door, Jolly’s mum entered behind him. She filled a large bag she had brought with her with straw and then put it down and covered the lump with more straw. “It might buy us extra time,” she explained as she locked the cage door and gave the key to Tom. “Can we risk you putting this back?” Tom was sure, and within seconds he was back.
Tom was a special cat alright, but what made him special to Samson was that sadly, he was the only friend that the tired lion had.
The curious party of animals were soon far beyond the circus. The two Spikes heard them first and then Tess and Jack smiled as Tom approached. Tom sat down and introduced them, “Tess, Jack, meet my dearest friend, Samson! Oh and this is Jolly and, erm this is Jolly’s mum who has saved the day so far.” After the brief hello’s the party, with Tess leading the way, set off for the place where they would wait until the lorry arrived in the morning. It was a two to three hour walk and everyone was aware that Samson was feeling it. Tess stopped now and then asking Tom if he was ok, but yes he was fine. The waiting point was near to a stream so everyone could get refreshed when they arrived. Tess was putting on a brave confident face, but inside she wished that Owl was around. The reality of what they were doing was beginning to hit home. Of course Owl was around. The time the group spent together waiting until the morning was precious. Tess bonded immediately with Samson and Jolly’s mum. They had both heard the stories of her helping animals in various forms. The most touching moment was when Samson told Tom that he knew about his parents. Everyone in the group had tears in their eyes. Apart from the two Spikes, that is. They had assumed guard duty just outside the camp, as ever loyal to Tess.
Everyone might have nodded off after a while. Certainly it was Spike One who woke Tess with a loving face lick in the morning. The seriousness of the situation showed on everyone’s face, and after a while Tess heard her friend Owl, who had appeared on a low branch. “Tess, the two Spikes need to get into position now! The lorry is on its way, right on time. Is everyone ready?” Tess looked behind her, first at Jack and then at Tom. Both of them nodded. “Yes Owl, we’re ready.”
With everyone waiting the swish of a falcon’s wings broke the silence. “Now, Tess!” said Owl. Jack shot off to message the two Spikes who immediately began to explain to the bewildered sheep, the necessity of getting through the gate onto the road as soon as possible. It was chaos. The whole road was full of sheep making the most horrendous noise. The lorry had plenty of time to see the unexpected obstacle and stopped in the expected place. Tess and Tom walked with Samson towards the back door as they heard the lorry driver getting out. What Tess saw at the back of the lorry made her blood run cold… a padlock… disaster! As soon as the driver had left the cab Jack was supposed to dash in and grab any paperwork, but the door was slammed shut by the irate driver! He had one chance, the driver’s window was open by around eight inches, but it was too high. Could he jump that high? Before he had time to think he saw Spike One standing by the lorry door facing him. He ran…using Spike One as a spring board! It worked and tucking his legs in, Jack entered the lorry cab in silence. Seeing a folder full of papers, he picked the whole thing up in his mouth and leapt through the open window onto a waiting Spike who deadened the sound. For a split second he imagined himself in the circus as still on Spike One’s back, they both arrived at the back of the lorry only to see a very worried Tess. “It’s padlocked, Jack!” she exclaimed, wondering for a second why Jack was standing on Spike One’s back.
As soon as Tess had finished speaking, Jolly’s mum pushed past carrying a large piece of wood. She levelled the wood for a second and then smashed it down accurately onto the top of the lock with such force from her incredible strength that it immediately gave way. “Quickly!” She gasped, as she pulled away the broken lock and lifted the levers to open the lorry doors.
Samson said quick goodbyes as he jumped into the back of the lorry and lay down next to the unaware sleeping lioness who would later become his soul mate and the love of his life. When Jolly’s mum closed the lorry doors she snapped on a new padlock which she had been carrying. “Owl! She had this planned as well!" Tess said to herself, as they all made their way back to the hiding place. They watched as the sheep finally made their way back into the field as the lorry driver scratched his head and climbed back into his cab.
Jolly and her Mum had already started back to the circus. Tess didn’t get chance to say thank you before they left but knew the importance of them getting back as soon as they could. Samson was on auto pilot in the back of the lorry. He found some space in the straw next to the sleeping lioness and tried to sleep as he continued his dreamlike journey towards the Safari park.
“Do you think he’ll be ok, Tess? Asked Tom. “He’ll be ok won’t he?
The lorry approached the rear of the safari park and pulled into the courtyard. The lorry driver turned and reached for his folder with his paperwork in not knowing that Jack was sleeping soundly on top of it.
“Where…?” After several minutes searching he opened the lorry door and walked into the safari park office. “Morning,” he nodded to the kind eyed lady in the office. ”I’ve got a Lioness that’s being transferred.”
“Have you got the transfer slip?” She asked. The driver shook his head, “Well, It seems to have been left. I’m sorry”...
“Ok” said the lady, putting down her pen, “No problem, let’s get some help. I want to make sure the lioness has as little stress as possible. The vet will meet us outside in a minute.” After the excitement of the rescue, Tess, Jack and Tom had slowly made their way back to the canal side with the two Spikes leading the way. Jack was still proudly carrying the folder of paperwork in his mouth as they arrived at the boat. They all decided to try to get some sleep and then meet back later, just after lunch. Tom would report on the circus reaction to losing a fully grown lion very close to a medium sized town and they would all await any news from Owl’s spies about the arrival of an extra lion at the park!
“This key doesn’t seem to fit the padlock” said the confused lorry driver, trying and retrying the much smaller key. One of the safari park workers shuffled off and reappeared with some bolt cutters. Moving past the driver he placed the jaws around the lock and it cracked. Inside, Samson had Tom’s instructions from Owl imprinted on his mind and he had already assumed the position of the most tranquillised lion in the world. He heard the lorry door open, and the gasps of surprise as the lady with the kind eyes counted an extra lion. An extra lion to the tune of one! “Oh Tess! Jack! It was frantic!” reported a stunned Tom as he met with his rescuer friends. “First the circus owners were screaming at the lion keeper, then the Police arrived, then the armed Police arrived. They all just kept looking at the empty locked cage. Jolly’s mum made this the perfect lion knap! For good reason, celebrating what appeared to be a successful mission was placed on hold by Tess and her friends. For a few weeks after the event, the search for Samson was relentless. Of course the national press had publicised the loss of a circus lion and by now the safari park had tried and retried to find and follow a paper trail to confirm the transport of two lions and not one. The two lions were in quarantine, so news of Samson was hard to come by even for Owl and her super spy network. “He’s ok and thinks he’s in love” was the only message they could get from Owl, which on the whole was not a bad message. It was the last few days of the two lions’ quarantine when the troubled lady with the kind eyes decided she would rather die than hand over the beautiful but tired looking lion back to the circus. Of course she knew they had the missing circus lion. She had known for weeks. She couldn’t explain how and why it had happened of course, but who could?! Soon the paperwork with details of the ‘two’ lions transferred was safely logged into the Safari park records. Her friend at the other park was more than willing to shield this tired lion from a certain death performing in captivity.
Could Owl have foreseen this act of compassion by the lady with the kind eyes? Tess was asking herself this question for many months after the event. The group had had one last meeting before they all said goodbye. This was always the hardest part made all the more difficult in the light of what they had just achieved. Tom had said his awkward emotional goodbyes first, he was heading back to his home in Glasgow. It was time to reunite with his step mum and his little sister Mitzi. Soon after that, Jack the boat dog and the two Spikes waved Tess an emotional goodbye as the narrow boat set off and chugged at its reassuringly slow pace towards their home and mooring in the city. Tess stood on the canal tow path and watched the smoke from the boat’s stove, imagining Jack and the two Spikes cuddling in front of its warmth until it disappeared out of sight. As she turned for home feeling slightly alone, that familiar lovely voice broke the silence and along with it her melancholy. “Speak tomorrow, Tess,” hooted Owl “There is something we need to do...” Tess reached home and curled up into her comfy bed, all the while wondering what Owl had got in store for her in the morning. At just about the same time as Tess was settling into her sleeping position thinking about Jack, a certain tired but happy lion had flopped onto his bed thinking about her. Just before, thanks to her, he cuddled up to a lovely kind lioness he had met in the back of a lorry, one life changing morning.