Cats, cats, cats everywhere, then out of the crowd walked a single crab. He had been hidden within the tangle of furry bodies that moved as a single unit down the dirty alleyways of Manhattan. They’d stopped outside the rear exit of Tommy’s Bar on 35th St and mewled until Tommy himself came outside to investigate the noise.
By the time he realized it was Mr Stix and his gang, it was too late. A tabby had stepped behind him and slammed the door shut. A pair of Siamese slipped either side of him and hustled him forward to meet Mr Stix.
“Well Tommy,” he said, leaving the words to hang in the air. He twitched his pincers like a boxer flexing his abs. “Tommy.”
The cats moved into a circle surrounding Tommy and Stix, two deep, and began to purr. The sound swelled, bouncing off the alley walls. Stix stared at Tommy, watching him fidget, glance side to side and behind to his bar, hoping to catch someone’s eye. Nobody was watching. Stix clicked his claws once and the purring stopped dead.
“Now, what about our arrangement, hmm? We agreed you would pay me every week and I wouldn’t have to come and see you like this. Jinxy here tells me you didn’t have enough for him this week. That so, Jinxy?”
Jinxy padded over to a trash can, bared his claws and drew them down the dented metal. The slow shrieking scratch answered for him. Then he sat, flicking his tail back and forth at the very tip.
“I’m sorry, Mr Stix,” said Tommy words tumbling over themselves. “Business hasn’t been good lately and I needed the money to pay for repairs and stock so I could try and get new customers. If they don’t come in, I don’t have any money for either of us.” Tommy raised his eyebrows and after a minute, looked away.
“So, your plan working Tommy? You got more customers yet?”
“Oh yes, Mr Stix, taking are up 20% already.” Tommy stopped talking, eyes wide. “I mean, I think so.”
“Tell you what I’ll do Tommy.” Stix sidled up to Tommy and placed a claw on the man’s shoulder, as the flanks of felines narrowed in on them both. “You have my money for me by 5 o’clock and we’ll say no more about it, hey? Then from now on, we’ll have a little increase in business to celebrate your expansion plans. Let’s say an extra 30%. Give you a bit of incentive to continue growing.”
Stix reached up and placed a claw just below Tommy’s crotch. He clipped it shut, saying “You have a loose thread.” As it fell to his shoe, the cats moved forwards, enclosing Stix in their midst once more.
The clowder slunk back along the alley, Jinxy calling back, “5 o’clock, Tommy.”