The door flew open and an instant later with a blood curdling screech a blur of ginger and white shot out into the dank dark alley and sprang deftly up to the top of the tall red brick wall that stood on the opposite side. It would have kept running until absolutely certain of safety but something inexplicable made it turn around to look its assailant in the eye. A short, stocky man wearing black and white checked trousers stood in the doorway with a self-satisfied smile as he rubbed his dirty hands into the grease stained apron he wore.
“Here kitty kitty kitty,” the man said with a crooked smile, mocking the wounded feline.
The cat began to lick its back leg, recoiling slightly with the pain as the wound gaped open and fresh blood oozed out.
“Does it hurt my little friend?” the man said walking toward the wall with a slight stagger in his step.
The truth was that it hurt more than anything the cat had felt before, the knife had cut deeply into the leg and created a jagged gash, which would take some time to heal and would probably cause many more nights worth of pain. It wasn’t going to let the man see that it was hurt, so it opted to sit with its head held high defiantly.
Sensing that victory was going to be stolen from him, the man began to look around for any way of reaching the top of the wall, his eyes fell on a rubbish container in a shadowy corner of the alleyway.
The cat stood up and began pacing to and fro across the top of the wall; its eyes never off the man who by now had dragged the rusty metal container full of rotting food across to the wall with a look of utter determination now shining in his crystal blue eyes. After much effort, the man pulled himself up and immediately wretched as the rancid smell of decomposing vegetables and rotting meat escaped the broken lid of the bin.
“You’re in trouble now my furry little compadre. Once Tom gets his hands on you, you’re going to wish you’d never been born!” he said wiping drool from his mouth. He reached up and his fingers managed to find a hold with ease, as he tried to pull himself up, his body shook with the exertion and his face turned a darker shade of pink then red and finally purple, sweat trickling down his forehead. He spat and swore as he struggled to find a way up until the toe end of his foot slipped into a hole in the wall and he gained some much needed leverage.
The cat being supremely confident had, for the moment, lost interest in Tom and his effort to scale the wall. It had returned to licking the wound on its leg and pondering how it had got into this mess in the first place, then remembering how hungry it had been and how the succulent smells that poured out of the restaurant’s door had been too inviting to ignore. It had managed to get itself through the restaurant unnoticed by the customers and then down the cold concrete steps to the kitchen, past the skeleton crew of waiters and kitchen staff milling around. It took the juicy piece of fish from the worktop and turned to leave, but it hadn’t seen or heard the chef with his large knife bearing down. There was searing pain in its leg and for a second it had almost accepted its demise as sweaty hands began to clamp themselves around its neck but in the darkness a light had appeared and it bolted toward it.
Even with the painful reminder in its leg the cat still toyed with the idea of going back in for the piece of fish that it had dropped onto the tiled floor of the kitchen, and it was as this thought meandered through its mind that it suddenly remembered Tom who had been quiet for what seemed to be a very long time.
He had been very deft in his movements, once he had a foothold it had simply been a matter of pushing until he had straddled the wall. The cat sat in front of him licking the wound and would every so often glance down at the kitchen door as if in thought. Every movement Tom made was slow and almost silent, which was surprising for his size, he was so close that all he had to do was reach out but he wanted to be sure that the cat would not escape, so he pushed with both hands and slid his backside along the wall once more and as he made this final movement, the cat’s face, with what can only be described as a look of absolute horror turned to meet his.
The red brick wall had been the achievement of a man called Ben Wallace, a local man who liked to describe himself (to anyone that would listen) as multi-talented. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, building work in this area flourished and Ben had offered his services many times to anyone who was interested. Eventually his persistence paid off and he was given the job of building the red brick wall that would separate a popular and rather expensive restaurant from the slums that lay beside it.
Anyone who knew Ben would tell you that he was the nicest man in the world, very funny and generous and maybe a little bit too affectionate (especially after a drink or two) but he did have a vital flaw which was that Ben Wallace was undeniably the worst workman who had ever existed. Of course, he liked to think that every time he carried out a job, it was as if God himself had come down to do it, but everyone else knew it was best to stay well clear of Ben Wallace when he was carrying out any work, and this wall was no exception. It had remained untouched by any man, woman or beast for 40 years exactly until the day a wounded stray cat jumped up to save itself from an angry chef.
Tom and the cat were both frozen with surprise, seconds passed without either of them moving, the cat in a ready to pounce position and Tom who was holding onto the wall to steady himself tensed every muscle of his body in anticipation.
“I haven’t come all this way up here not to teach you a lesson,” he said under his breath, trying to move his arms into a better position while attempting to make this movement undetected.
The cat looked quickly down toward the restaurant and then on the other side of the wall to the gloomy street filled with charity shops and estate agents, wondering whether it should risk everything for the fish or just leave while it had the chance.
It was at that moment, as Tom leaned forward slightly and the cat arched away toward the street that a crumbling noise sounded out from below them.
“Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea!” Tom said to the cat, the fear and disappointment written all over his face.
He began to edge backward slowly and the cat prepared itself to jump down toward the street when a loud cracking noise made them both stop and look at each other in panic. An instant later a large crack tore straight up the middle of the wall, the half of the wall that the cat sat on fell toward the gloomy street and Tom’s half collapsed in the direction of the restaurant — the noise of tumbling stone smothered the cries and screams.
It was a month later when Tom, now sporting a shiny silver wheelchair returned to the “crime scene” (as he had taken to calling it since lawyer told him he might have a case for negligence). He was almost hoping to see the creature that had caused all his misery but the street was desolate and so was the alley. With a sigh he wheeled himself over to have a closer look at the row of flowers that lay on the pavement. Just before leaving he picked up a card sitting on a bunch of flowers and began to read the neat italic writing that lay inside.
Dearest darling Ben Wallace, gone but not forgotten, always in our hearts xxx.
He returned the card back in its rightful place and shook his head.
“Stupid old man shouldn’t have been hanging around by the damn wall anyway!” He said gruffly, rubbing his neck as if physically discomforted by Ben’s demise. Presently he froze and squinted to look at something far off down the street; his mouth twitched and a grin appeared.
“This time I’II have you!” Tom muttered wheeling himself toward the blissfully ignorant ginger and white cat wandering down the road.