Abattoir Terrace was steep. As usual, Landon Shaw felt he was stepping off the end of the world as he left number twenty nine a few paces behind his father.
It was a bitter November night; a day’s sullen drizzle had already begun to freeze on the pavement. November was an awful month, little wonder it’s only real celebration was someone burning on a fire.
“ Dad,” Landon tacked sideways to avoid a mini glacier issuing from a frozen downspout, “ will the meeting last long? I mean, with Saffron expecting, well, you know, women... she gets sort of lonely.”
Jellicoe Shaw, five foot four of true northern grit, ploughed on into the wind . Landon thought he heard a reply, before the wind whipped it away over the rooftops.
“...just the last half hour lad...don’t worry...yer mother’s bought a fresh bottle of sherry for tonight...they’ll be fine...”
Landon struggled to keep up, worrying. He knew Saffron was most particular about what she ate and drank, with her being six months gone, but he also knew his mother could be very persuasive. Time would tell.
Their rapid descent eased as the canal bridge appeared. Jellicoe paused, scanning the approaches intently. Away to the left, darkness boiled round the circlip factory.
“ Trouble Dad?”
Landon felt very alone beneath the sodium lamp’s baleful glare. Something scratched in the bushes.
“ Could be son.”
Jellicoe beckoned Landon forward.
“ Th’ole ecosystem’s knackered. Remember how the rats deserted their natural habitat, the canal bank, and moved off into town; richer pickings and far less competition.”
This time the bushes moved.
“ Don’t tell me another pest’s moved in.”
Jellicoe edged forward.
“ It’s worse than that son. They’re back. With all the Council spending cutbacks, the town got so disgusting the rats couldn’t stand it. Now they’re home and hungry as hell. Now.”