Everyone knows me as the woman that things happen to. Things like fingertips in pies and hooks on the car roof (I can explain.). This one, however, happened to my auntie's colleague's sister, and I'm grateful that it didn't happen to me.
Rita works in a factory in the valley, twenty miles from where she lives. She's worked there for years, and knows everyone. Most of her workmates live in the nearby village, but she recently moved to the suburbs, to a semi-detached house on a 1930s housing estate.
One Tuesday last January, the snow began to fall, and Rita's boss suggested she escape while the going was good. Rita tried to start her car, but the battery was dead. Her boss suggested that she take his car, assuring her that he'd get a lift home with someone. Rita didn't argue. She was particularly impressed by the snow shovel and the box of warm clothes in the boot. The only problem, her boss explained, was that the heater was playing up. Rita was undeterred, she wrapped up well, pulling a hat low over her forehead, and wrapping a scarf around her neck and mouth.
The snow was already drifting as Rita pulled off the main road and onto her estate. She wasn't bad at driving on snow and ice, but as she steered the car carefully into the street that led to hers, a cat ran out straight in front of her. Rita slammed on the brakes, skidded, and heard a sickening thud. She sat for a moment, eyes closed, then gritted her teeth and got out of the car, walking around the back. On the pavement, thirty yards away, a cat was writhing in agony. She took a deep breath and looked at it. No collar. The street was deserted and quiet. The cat writhed some more, and Rita reluctantly took the snow shovel out of the boot, and hit the poor creature over the head. Once, twice, thrice. It didn't move. Blood stained the snow.
Rita put the cat in the boot, not wanting the owner to make a grisly find. She got back home, shaking. She let herself in, and put the kettle on. As she waited for it to boil, the phone rang. It was her sister, my aunt's colleague, who lived on the same estate. Rita sighed. “You would not believe the day I've had!” she said.
“Hush!” her sister said. “Lock the door, there's a lunatic on the loose. You know Mrs Morris's white Persian? The friendly one? You know, he wriggles around in front of his gate, purring, wanting attention? Some maniac in a mask and bobble hat just got out of a car, beat it to death with a shovel, put it in their car and drove away with it!”
Rita put the phone down, and went outside to check. There was no mistaking it. The bloody fur on the radiator grille was pure black.