After ten or so minutes of driving through the empty city streets, with the only sounds for company the grumbling engine of his rusting car, the Chinese food rustling away in their containers and bag on the passenger seat, and the occasional splash of rubber through oily puddles gathering quickly in the intermittent rain, Jones began to amuse himself once more with the game. Could he add to his tally for the evening? If he did it would surely be a personal best.

The old girl’s glistening tyres skipped across the wet road surface as she was guided by her faithful master onto Hope street. The irony of such a name was not lost on Jones, it might once have been a place for aspiring young families and of burgeoning industry, but now it was nothing more than a shell. Rows of multistory buildings blackened with grime flanked either side of the road, their windows boarded over with bruised and battered metal panels obscuring the empty spaces inside. The entire area would have been flattened, but the city simply didn’t have the money to do the job, nor fix the potholes on the surface of the streets which were causing havoc for the old girl’s already ailing and arthritic suspension. Indeed Jones would have avoided the place altogether if it didn’t shave ten minutes off of his journey.

The only people who frequented such concrete graveyards were the homeless, or drunks and drug-addicts, maybe an occasional group of kids who would manage to bend one of the metal shutters back far enough to slip inside to the darkness and mess around with whatever was left of the buildings’ skeleton inside. It was surprising that he had never heard of anyone being hurt in one of those eyesores, warned as visitors were of the dangers of the rot inside by occasional ‘Condemned’ signs, ironically themselves rusted and cracked as if the treacherous stagnancy of the place were contagious. But for these sporadic guests, the place felt dead.

Jones saw it only for the briefest of moments. It leapt across the abandoned road straight in front of the car. He didn’t have much time to react, but as his mind was already on his points tally, and being a seasoned pro at that sort of thing, with the deftest of touches to the steering wheel, the old girl responded quicker than her rusted body would have suggested possible, making sure both driver and car got the kill. 

Bang on target. 

It was quite clear that Jones and his weathered metallic accomplice had ended the animal’s life, as a loud squelch spat out into the night air. The car rose up and shuddered on the driver’s side slightly as the front wheel rolled over the body, before the rear wheel finished the job. The sound of bone crunching was louder than expected, and for a moment he was convinced he had heard what sounded like the animal shrieking - a high pitched shrill which cut through the quiet like nails on slate. Indeed, of all the tiny bodies his nightly drives had severed and broken, none had been accompanied by such violent protestations, no matter how brief.

Looking in the rear view mirror with a curious smile on his face, Jones was slightly disappointed that there was no evidence of the kill left behind. The car must have entirely eviscerated the carcass, that would have explained the loud screeching sound. Still, points were points and reaching a personal best was enough to make the late delivery worth it: But which points to award himself? He wasn’t entirely sure what he had hit as the animal seemed to leap up out from an open drain at the very last minute. The area was notorious for its rats, but even by those standards, that would have been the largest rat he’d every seen. A cat maybe? The more he thought about it, the more the size of the animal surprised him. Was it really that large? It certainly made an horrific noise as it was mangled by the hulking mass of his car, suggesting something bigger. After contemplating an appropriate scoring system for ‘unknown’, he settled on six points for something as big as a large cat - maybe larger - and congratulated himself on finally beating his score from the previous year. Perhaps a couple of whiskeys to accompany those beers in the fridge would be a suitable reward for such a grand achievement, it seemed only right to recognise the occasion. Life is full of little victories.

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