Returning after the trip to town she pushed through the gate. Jenny was surprised to find two tabby cats sitting on the back door mat. “Hello you two. You’re too early.” They stretched languidly to their feet, poised, half relaxed, half ready for flight. Leaving their options open in the way that cats do. “It’s alright kitties.” She walked towards them calmly and bent to give each one a gentle stroke. “The butcher gave me a rabbit and some other bits and I have to cook it up, but seeing as you’ve waited so nicely I’ll get you some nibbles.”
They stood to one side of the stone step allowing access to the kitchen. She reached to bring down the cardboard packet from its resting place on top of the cupboard. After sprinkling a small handful in front of them she watched, smiling as they nibbled. The little noses and licking tongues left tiny damp smudges on the step as they hoovered up the treats. Jenny pulled the door closed and left her visitors to their own devices, knowing that they would probably just curl up somewhere and snooze the day away until dinner time. No doubt about it cats had got it all organised. Even these little strays seemed happy and at ease. The winters probably weren’t easy for them to be sure, but they coped.
Now, the plan was to go down to the park, take a ride up the quiet little avenues in the area and look at the big houses. They were beautiful, shiny front doors with gorgeous patterned glass fanlights and gardens with cleverly designed brick paths. She wondered what it would be like to live somewhere like that, but wasn’t envious. Not that she felt undeserving in any way but was happy with what she had. After all a big house with all that extra responsibility wouldn’t benefit her now would it?
Humming quietly she whirled past the backs of the houses. So much litter now, of course it blew back and forth down the narrow alleys but there were other things. Black bags of rubbish spilled out and had been split. Probably a lot to do with cats, but they didn’t know did they? You couldn’t blame them if there were carcasses and so on, it was just food to the kitties and they thought the mess was someone else’s problem. There were some boxes and unidentifiable detritus and even an old mattress, dirty and wet, leaning against one back gate. She sighed, people didn’t seem to have the time to bother about these things anymore, of course rats would be attracted and it was just so unsightly.
She turned at the end of the back alley and headed the opposite way from the route that she had taken earlier. The carriageway was narrower up here and ran along the ends of the roads parallel to her own. The old cobbles rattled her bike and her bones but she was used to it and sped on towards the block of lock up garages. All the while she flipped glances back and forth watching for the old tom. Every now and again there would be the glimpse of a familiar tail, or the flash of a black coat skipping over a garden wall, but no sign of the ginger cat.
As she approached the block of garages a large, white van pulled from the end of the road. It drew in opposite to the small concrete building, effectively blocking her way. She stopped and supported herself with one foot on the cobbles the other one still on the bike pedal. If the van pulled right up to one of the double doors it would mean dismounting and walking around.
The van door swung open and the driver and his mate jumped out. They were both dark-haired with a look about them that she could only think of as swarthy. In their short leather jackets and baggy black pants there was something that struck her as unfriendly, certainly they didn’t invite any sort of approach or conversation.
The bigger one, from the passenger side, glanced around as the other man unfastened the big padlock. Oh well then, she would have to walk around. They ignored her weaving around the side of the white vehicle and across in front. They were too involved dragging the big garage doors open to notice a little old lady on a bike. By now Jenny had reached the far side of the van and her inquisitive nature drew a glance to the inside of the garage. The light was turned on; there inside were stacks and stacks of wooden boxes. How fascinating, she couldn’t imagine what they could contain. One of the men had turned around. He stepped between her and the garage blocking the view.
“You want something lady?” It wasn’t friendly and she felt quite threatened by his demeanour. Jenny lowered her gaze. As she looked away though she had the quickest glimpse, a flash nothing more, of ginger fur. She did a double take and the unfriendly stranger took a step towards her. He was really rather frightening. She clutched at the handlebars of her bike and scuttled away feeling quite upset.
The pleasure had gone from her little jaunt. All she wanted now was to go home and put the kettle on and then cook up the treats for her fluffy friends. She scuttered to the front of the van, mounted up and sped along the road that had brought the two men to the garage block. As she pedaled away she could feel their eyes boring into her back. The bike wobbled alarmingly, was it that or the men glaring behind her that caused the nasty lurch in her stomach. She had meant no harm, but was concerned about that flash of ginger. It could easily have been Rags.