The 'Puss In Boots' guest stars - Claudette, Claude and Ptolemy Pheasant - are in town imbibing of a frappocappalatteccinocano at the newly opened CostaBuck coffee shop. And because it is almost Christmas, they are also trying the 'special' flavours that corporate coffee companies seem to think the consumer cannot go without, like salted caramel and cinnamon, and ginger and mulled wine. It shouldn't be allowed really, this messing about with perfectly decent tastes malarkey, but companies go mad at this time of year providing must-have gourmet experiences and, sadly, the general public encourage this annual lunacy by actually buying the products. Basically, it's a hideous joke of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
'I'm not sure about this one,' says Claude, who has brought his horse with him. Claude goes everywhere on his horse. However, the management at CostaBuck has been resilient about letting the horse into the shop, so it is currently tethered outside and enjoying many a pat and a polo mint from passing Christmas shoppers.
'What flavour is it?' asks Claudette.
'The horse?' says Claude. 'Odd question, if I might say.'
Claudette gives him her best feline frown.
'The coffee,' she says.
'Egg nog and sprout,' says Claude. He smacks his lips and grimaces a bit. 'Somehow it doesn't sit right on my palette. And I suspect it's not going to sit right with my bowels either.'
Ptolemy Pheasant has eschewed weird seasonal coffee in favour of standard issue hot chocolate. He had a moustache of cream attached to his top beak but neither Claude nor Claudette has told him. Not because they are anxious about pointing out the fact he looks a bit of a pillock, but because they are enjoying sniggering about the fact he looks a bit of a pillock.
'The hot chocolate is lovely,' says Ptolemy. 'You should have stuck with the hot chocolate.'
Claude puts on his best straight face. 'I mustache you, Ptolemy,' he says, 'is it better with or without the marshmallows?'
Claudette snorts into her mug. Really, cats can be very cruel.
'Oh, definitely with,' says Ptolemy. 'You can't have hot chocolate without marshmallows.'
Anyway, bad jokes aside, the three sit and chat about the forthcoming production. They have heard about the Phantomime, of course - for despite the best efforts of Mrs Miggins the whole cast is buzzing with the news that an ominous letter has been received and that Mrs Miggins is tempting fate by refusing to re-cast Mrs Pumphrey as Alice Fitzwarren.
'Personally,' says Ptolemy, 'I am relieved she is sticking to her guns. Camilla is far more suited to the role. Mrs Pumphrey is rather...well, blowsy, isn't she? For the role of a slim young thing, I mean.'
'You mean, she's too porky?' says Claudette, who says it like it is.
'You certainly didn't seem bothered the other day in rehearsals when you were helping her with her breathing exercises,' says Claude.
Ptolemy has the grace to blush a tad. 'Purely a professional hand,' he says. 'Anyway, this Phantomime stuff is a load of rubbish. It's just somebody playing a trick. At my estate in the countryside the squirrels are always at it. They think they're hilarious of course, but they are nothing but unfunny jokers with stupid tails.'
'Well, I think we should be careful,' says Claudette. 'Claude and I worked a theatre last year that was definitely haunted, didn't we Claude?'
Claude nods. 'Absolutely. And if it wasn't haunted then it was seriously cursed. Fair made my fur stand on end it did, some of the stuff that happened that week. Ghostly shadows in the wings, talk of murders and revenge. They even brought in a psychic medium to try and sort out the mysterious happenings.'
Ptolemy Pheasant frowns. 'It wasn't a production of 'Blythe Spirit' was it?' he says.
'Might have been,' says Claude. 'Didn't really pay that much attention. Claudette and I were there to provide the interval entertainment with our magic act. You see a lot of strange stuff happening in the wings when you are waiting to go on stage.'
Ptolemy sighs, then catches sight of his reflection in the window and hurriedly wipes his beak free of cream.
'I think we should definitely keep a look out for this Phantomime character,' says Claudette. 'You can't take chances with fate, not in the theatre anyway.'
Claude agrees. 'Look what happened to Macbeth,' he says.
'What do you mean, look what happened to Macbeth?' says Ptolemy. 'I know it's supposed to be referred to as 'The Scottish Play,' in theatreland in order to avoid bad luck but...'
'You don't know what happened to Macbeth??' says Claudette, genuinely appalled.
'With the witches?' says Claude. 'And the lion and the wardrobe that fell on his head and covered him with fur coats and mothballs?'
'The moths were especially angry,' says Claudette.
'And compromised,' says Claude.
'And then there was the haggis and the trees walking up the hill and the enormous line of Kings reflected in the mirror behind the banquette, and Duncan's horses eating themselves...' says Claudette.
'It's why my horse is called Duncan,' says Claude. 'In deference to the Curse of Macbeth.'
Well! If there was any doubt that Claude, Claudette and Ptolemy Pheasant might have experienced any trouble integrating with the regular cast at Much Malarkey Manor then I think that doubt has been cast to the wind, don't you?