• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 08

Hounds of the Battersea Rookery

I have never really been a fancier of fur or feather, which is ironic given my current change in circumstances. See the rather mournful looking hound looking directly at you? That's me, even though my own mother wouldn't recognize me – if she had still been above ground and not pushing up the daisies. Don't know how the slippery little weasel did it. He didn't look dangerous when we knocked on his door and then barged in without waiting for an invite – a mild mannered, weedy young man in an old fashioned suit covered in cat hair.

The other two sorry sons of bitches next to me are my business 'associates.' We were in the collections business, recovering money owed by people stupid enough to borrow money from the city's biggest loan shark. That is how it should have worked anyway. We arrived to do the job and he did not seem at all surprised, or ask for a little more time to pay – almost as if he had been expecting us. The big white cat perched on his shoulder, twined around his neck like a fine lady's fur. It glared at me and gave me the shivers. Mr Atkins had eyes just a little too close together and something unsettling lurked just behind his stare. A long set of fresh claw marks ran down the back of one of his hands as if one of his little darlings had mistaken him for a scratching post.

Jack Flynn always was bone idle, happy to let other people do most of the work while he dozed in the sun – no surprise that, when IT happened, he just closed his eyes and started snoring. Billy Fagan snarled and tried to bite, getting a shorter chain as a result. One minute, we were doing what we were best at, money with menaces, while the man just stood there and smiled. No humour in that smile, brittle as glass and about as genuine as that woman who stopped me in the street last week and said she was Queen Victoria in disguise.


Hounds of the Battersea Rookery

A very good disguise; call me a cynic but the Empress of India has more teeth than she did and does not stink of gin, unwashed socks, and laudanum. Imagine reading that report in the London Illustrated News! As he smiled, he muttered a few words in a language none of us could understand, but that could have been anything. It all changed after that. The smell of meat frying in the kitchen next door and the bitch on heat four or five streets away became so much stronger, layers of scent building as the world faded into shades of black and white and grey. It might have been a lot worse. He could have changed me into a cat.