They called it the Silver Cloak, or at least, Minnie did. She had wanted to paint it on the side of the bus, like a slogan, but Wilf suggested that might be a bit unsubtle for a secret organisation. Besides, Netty thought that people might mistake them for an OAP amateur dramatics organisation. Wilf was good at subtle, even if it did sometimes take the fun out of things. Minnie was all for a bit of spontaneity. It kept her young and that was worth its weight in gold at their age.
Of course, it started with finding that nice doctor Wilf had been so keen on locating -- the good-looking one with the nice bum -- but it didn't end there. They might have seen off one oddity that way, but the world was full of oddities, and it wasn't as though anyone else was making sure they got sorted out. Not lately anyway. There used to be a dark car which drove round London while everyone looked the other way and pretended not to see it. It had had its name written on the side -- Glowbranch, Glowwood, something like that. But Minnie had asked Sally, and Sally had asked Tom, and Tom had asked Irene and everyone had agreed it hadn't been seen in an age, and things were getting downright weird without it.
The Bridge Club had complained that something kept rummaging through their rubbish outside and leaving the dustbins half spilled out and as they were heavy wheelie bins they were sure it couldn't be foxes like the council said. They'd thought it was a tramp, but it was gone by the time anyone had made it to the door to see, and the footprints left in the snow didn't look quite right. Albert swore that he'd seen a thing early one morning while walking the dog, and it had hissed at him. He said that it had been wearing a boiler suit, and though he'd known some unpleasant workmen in his time they usually sucked in through their teeth and tutted not hissed at him. And Joan swore that she'd met one of them at the bus-stop and they'd had quite a nice conversation about the weather -- but that was probably to be taken with a pinch of salt, as Joan was blind as a bat and had been known to have nice conversations about the weather with lamp-posts on occasion.
Nevertheless, it was clear that something had to be done, and no-one else was going to do it. Young people were remarkably good at finding other explanations for things if dealing with them might interrupt their busy lives. So, Minnie had leaned on Wilf, and after a lot of waffling about secrets and whether it would be the right thing to do, Wilf had made out another of his information packs with all known information. Wilf knew the most, and besides, he knew how to use a computer and now his granddaughter had won the lottery or something, he had a shiny new laptop that he used with an intent expression and by patiently typing with one finger. They'd put out the word by phone, covering half of London without a problem. After that, all that was required was to borrow the mini-bus from the Day Centre for a 'day trip' and they were off.
It was Ernie, who worked part-time in McDonalds because he said it got him out and let him meet new people, who'd said he'd definitely seen the creature around the back rummaging through the bins right now if they wanted to come and see. The Silver Cloak were there, not exactly in a flash but at least within the hour.
It looked up, startled, as they approached, giving a warning growl, half a greasy Happy Meal stuck in its teeth.
"There now, dear, no need to be like that," Minnie smiled reaching for her ever present camera. "We only want a photo. Aren't you a sweet little thing?"
It was definitely looking confused now, making a quizzical grunt at them and tilting its head as a fry fell out from its rather pointed teeth.
Wilf looked as though he might object to the photo given time, so they were careful not to give him time, surrounding the thing quickly, beaming for the camera. It might have smiled for the camera too, or possibly it was a snarl. It was hard to tell. It did occur to Minnie that the incoherent chur of noise it made might well have interpreted to 'I would have got away with it, if it weren't for those pesky pensioners.'
Still, the photo only took a minute or two, even with Wilf muttering that it might not be a good idea and that maybe they should give it some space and Winston accidentally dropping the camera again. The flash drew a startled noise from the creature, and Minnie patted its skinny shoulder reassuringly.
"Are you done?" Wilf asked, still looking worried. "Come on, get it back on the bus. You know where it's got to go next."
They did, and if the thing objected it was still fairly easy to tempt it onto the bus with the lure of a trail of KitKats, which was a tactic that worked on pensioners as well. It wouldn't be right, after all, to leave it running around London. Someone had to deal with these things.
It turned out that knitting patterns didn't need all that much adjusting to fit alien beings, at least nothing that could thwart Esme, world champion knitter who could knit while eating and cast off in her sleep. It also turned out that alien beings liked Netty's meat-and-potato soup, which wasn't really a big surprise if you'd ever tasted it. Everyone liked Netty's meat-and-potato soup and it was a lot more nutritious than McDonald's everyone agreed that. And the Merrivale Day Centre had had years of dealing with people with altogether too much hair who mumbled incoherently and ate a lot. They were never really going to object to a few more.
The only thing the creatures really couldn't do was play bingo, and that was just as well. No-one objected to them eating the bingo papers, but they probably would object if they started winning.
"Do you think they're safe?" Winston ventured thoughtfully, as they watched their newest arrival attempt to eat the soup spoon. "I mean.. here?"
"Shame on you," Minnie scolded him. "We were hardly going to leave them out in the cold, were we? Poor things are only cold and hungry, and what else were we going to do, put them in a cage?"
There was a general rumble of agreement at that. Imprisoning them hadn't felt right. Killing them had been something that everyone had carefully not mentioned at all. There was no-one at the Day Club who hadn't lived through at least one World War, some of them two. There wasn't a one of them who didn't know what a gun did, and it wasn't something any of them would use in a hurry given a choice. Killing a person once, no matter the need, was a huge incentive to find another way to deal with unusual situations.
They were the other way. They'd seen all the alternatives.
"Besides," Minnie said, "don't they look much better now they're in something other than rags? Give it a haircut, and it could almost be good-looking." She patted the creature's backside encouragingly. This time it was too absorbed in its meal to do more than look up briefly.
"Are you flirting with it?" Bob asked, a little incredulously.
"Certainly," Minnie said, and grinned unrepentantly. "After all, what good's a secret organisation without sex?"
It was later that Wilf found her, pulling her away from a game of canasta for a private word.
"You know," he said quietly, hesitating as though he wasn't sure he should be telling her. "There's more than just them out there."
Minnie glanced over to where the alien-beings -- they had three now, but no doubt that would increase -- were sitting in a corner, mumbling at each other. They looked a little bewildered, but happy enough. The newest seemed to have a compulsion to pet its new blue cardigan, running its hands over the soft wool as it made a low coo-ing rumble to itself. "More that could use a nice cup of tea and a sit down?"
Wilf shook his head. "I'm serious, Minnie. There's some odd things out there, and they might not all look like.. that."
Minnie thought back to 1962, and a police-box which she'd found no phone inside, but a space which was far larger than it should have been. There had been someone else who'd called himself 'Doctor' then, and a blonde girl, and a soldier with perfect gleaming teeth who was with them but apparently not with them.
Of course, every nice girl loved a man in uniform. Rather thoroughly, as it had turned out, in the few weeks she'd had in there before she went home and found that it had actually been no time at all.
"I know," she said. "I know."
He looked a little worried still. Of course, that was Wilf. Terrific at organising things -- it had been him who'd tumbled to the idea of walkie-talkies to keep them in touch if anyone saw anything -- but didn't want to get anyone else into trouble. "I'm not sure he'd want us to be dealing with it."
"If he's not going to deal with it himself, someone has to," Minnie said logically. Wilf still looked worried and, on impulse, she reached to grab his woolly hat, using it to pull his head down until she could lean up and kiss him.
After all, what good was a secret organisation without sex?