Scott Willard awoke to the steady rhythmic beeping of the alarm clock sat beside his bed.
Roused from his slumber by the harsh synthetic sound, Scott opened one eye and checked the time. Half-heartedly sighing to himself, he removed one hand from beneath his bedsheets and struck the top of the plastic device, silencing the wailing.
Rising, he moved about his room slowly before opening the door and traversing the landing. Snatching up a towel, he made his way to the bathroom and showered quickly.
Once he was clean and dressed, he made his way downstairs, checking his watch as he went.
Satisfied that he had sufficient time, he clicked on the radio and made his way to the kitchen. Rooting through the cupboards, one of his hands drummed out the rhythm to the song currently playing as his other searched for food.
Settling on a jar of marmite, Scott made up his mind and began to prepare his toast; all the while keeping one ear on the radio.
As he ate, he felt a shape move past his leg.
"Never too early to bother me, is it Louis?"
Reaching down absent-mindedly, Scott scratched the top of the cat's head. Pushing its head up into his fingers, the small feline began to purr.
Finishing his breakfast, Scott scooped up his plate and set it down in the sink, before fixing the cat his own bowl of food.
"See you later," Scott said, waving at the cat as he made his way to the door. "Try not to get up to too much trouble while I'm gone."
The street outside his house was relatively empty. Every so often a car would pass him by on his left hand side, but aside from that and the occasional pedestrian, Scott had no company on his walk.
Above his head the sky was a clear and crisp blue, white clouds crawling sparsely across it like lone swimmers in an empty sea. Darting through the air, a chaffinch settled down in the branches of an overlooking tree and peered at the young man through the pale pink blossoms.
Readjusting the bag slung over his shoulder, Scott again checked his watch. He was running almost perfectly on time.
"I could almost set my watch to you, you know that?"
Prudence Harding was stood just past the bend of an intersecting road, leaning against a low garden wall. Dangling from one of her ears was the wire from a pair of headphones.
"I like being on time. There's nothing wrong with that."
"How you holding up on your own?"
Scott's family were away on holiday, having left the previous morning. Not wanting to miss any of his classes, he had elected to stay behind and look after the house.
"Better than I thought. I actually like the peace and quiet."
"Surviving? If you want, I can come round and make you dinner some time."
Scott laughed. "Thanks, but I'm gonna have to pass on that. I've seen you cook. I'm not about to go down that road again."
"You're such a bastard." While her words were harsh, her tone was lighthearted.
Scott and Pru had been friends for so many years that casual insults like those had become commonplace. It had gotten to the point where he hardly noticed them anymore.
"How's the boyfriend?"
Pru grinned and interlocked her fingers behind her head as she walked. "He's doing okay. I still haven't put him through the ringer yet, though."
"I feel sorry for him. He still doesn't know how much of a nightmare you can be."
"Well aren't you nice today."
"Sarcasm is unbecoming of you."
"I can think of plenty of thing about me that are unbecoming, and you're picking sarcasm?"
"Honestly, I take what I can get."
"Speaking of, you going to Tom's party on Thursday?"
"Ugh, mind out of the gutter." Scott peered out of the corner of his eye at the dark haired girl to his right. "That was one time, alright. Why do you bring it up every chance you get?"
"Because you torture me. It's only fair."
Scott allowed himself a silent smirk.
"You still haven't said if you're going to Tom's. Come on, it's not like you have to give your parents an excuse. And you don't have a curfew to stick to."
"Yeah but it's the night before a school day."
"I swear to god, you don't even need parents. You do a damn good job of policing yourself as it is." Pru began to walk backwards so that she could look at Scott while she talked to him. "Tell you what... I'll drive you there and take you home. Then all you have to do is play designated drinker."
"Why are you so up for getting me to go out?"
"Because you need to live a little."
The pair reached the gates to the school building. Passing through the wrought iron structures, they entered a gaggle of students. Fragments of conversations could be heard as they maneuvered their way through the herd.
"-I watch a lot of it but, like, I'd never actually do it."
"-It's obviously coming back for another season. Plus-"
"-and who the hell does he think he is, saying that to-"
"-is their best single. Give it a listen, man."
Scott dipped between the swarm of bodies, all the while replying to his friend; raising his voice to be heard over the crowd. "I live plenty, thank you very much. You seem to be forgetting that time when-" His speech pattern was broken momentarily as he bumped into the arm of a younger girl. "Oh, sorry about that- That time when I jumped out of Lizzie's window."
"That was like a year ago," Pru replied. "I haven't forgotten. It's just nobody cares anymore."
"So what you're saying is I need to do something crazy to spice up my rep?"
"Why do I get the feeling that this is going to somehow end very badly for me?"
"You don't know that. This could be exactly what you need."
Finally setting into a steady pace, and falling in line with the other students, Scott half groaned under his breath. "If I say I'll go, will you get off my back?"
Pru's face brightened. "Almost definitely."
"I'm not liking the sound of that 'almost' you out there."
"Well I always have to be on your back about something. Them's the rules if you want me as a best friend."
"I don't recall ever saying that I wanted you as a best friend in the first place."
"Oh shut up. You love me and you know it."
Scott said nothing. He merely smirked and shook his head.
Constable St. Claire sat at his desk, spinning a pen around his thumb. The tendons of his wrist rose up as he finally stopped and gripped it tightly.
Scattered across the surface in front of him were numerous different files and folders of paperwork, all in varying stages of completion. A mug of tea, long since turned tepid and cold sat on the corner of one such file. A dull ring of moisture was left clinging to the brown paper as he lifted the cup to his lips and attempted to force down the liquid.
His eyes were bloodshot, from where he had been rubbing them. Snatching up a packet of antihistamine, set down next to where his mug had been placed, St. Claire unwrapped the foil and swallowed two of the pills.
"Damn Hay Fever..." he muttered under his breath, grunting from the back of his throat.
Leaning back in his chair, St. Claire's dark brown eyes fell on the upside-down form of David Stafford. "Morning Dave."
"Pulling another all-nighter again?"
"Got it in one." He swivelled his chair around so that he could talk to his co-worker face to face. "Tryin' to pack in as much overtime as possible."
"I'd hold back on it if I were you. Don't want you making the rest of us look bad." David smirked. "Gotta say though, the overtime pay is pretty cushy."
"Not doing it for the pay. I'm takin' the hours in lieu. Looking to get a bit of time off at the end of the month; take Jess somewhere nice."
"I was gonna say," David half-laughed. "It did seem strange to see you actually getting some paperwork done. All things said, I thought you enjoyed running the beat."
"Name me a single Constable in this station that likes paperwork and I'll eat my fuckin' hat," St. Claire replied.
"Point taken. So anything interestin' happen in the early hours?"
"Not really. We got a drunk and disorderly in Three, but that's about as exciting as it gets. Julie brought him in. Apparently he mistook a park bench for his ex-wife."
"I take it that didn't end well?"
"Kicked the absolute shit out of it. Got a fine for the damages."
"Good thing I weren't there."
"I'd've probably laughed at him," David said, grinning and leaning back against the desk behind him.
"That's why we keep you locked up in here most of the time," St. Claire chuckled in reply. "Can't be trusted out there, you'll stop people takin' us seriously."
"So where you thinkin' of taking Jess?"
"Old friend of my Dad's has a place out in Majorca. Said I could have it for a couple of weeks, if no-ones renting it."
"Yeah, I thought so. Love a nice bit of hot weather."
"It's out by Spain, innit?" Scratching the side of his scalp, David tilted his head to the side.
"Maybe," St. Claire shrugged. "They speak Spanish out there, but I dunno if it's near there. They speak Spanish in Tenerife and that's all the way down by Africa."
"Fair enough. The Detective's Spanish, isn't he?"
"Who, Franko? Yeah. He doesn't speak the lingo very much, but it tends to come out when he's had a few."
"I still find it weird that you go out drinking with him."
"Hey, he's nice enough. Plus it helps to be in close with the boss."
"Yeah but has it even once worked in getting you a favour?"
"Well not yet." St. Claire laughed. "But hey, you wait. Sooner or later all those whiskey's are gonna add up."
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that."
"Don't you have anything productive to be getting on with? Or are you just makin' it your mission to pester me?"
"I actually wanted your help with something."
St. Claire took note of this. Very rare was it that Dave would admit he needed help with anything.
"What is it?"
"Over the last few weeks, a load of cats have been going missing from Lindum. It's not isolated to one spot either, and it's too high a number to be coincidence."
"You know this isn't usually police business, right? There are dozens of lost pet agencies, that should be able to find them. Not to mention nowadays, almost every animal is microchipped."
"Yeah, you'd think that but all of them are turning up zip. It's weird. Usually with a high number of pet disappearances like this, most of them would have ended up in shelters. But the report I got yesterday says that the number of cats picked up by these places has actually been going down."
St. Claire had already lost interest with the conversation, however decided to humour his co-worker. At least that way he would be able to say he tried to help. "Maybe they were just hit by cars or something?"
Almost two hundred and thirty thousand cats had been killed in motor collisions in the UK, the previous year. It was a fair assumption to believe that the happenings had something to do with adding to that figure.
"See at first I thought that too, but no. I went and asked around the council, to see if the street cleaners reported higher levels of roadkill, but no dice."
"Is this actually a case you've been assigned?" St. Claire didn't want Dave to be getting into something off the books. It wasn't that they were busy, and his time could be devoted elsewhere; far from it in fact. Franko, the Detective in charge of their station, didn't approve of officers spending excessive amount of time on things that didn't concern them.
"Well no, but I just thought it was strange."
St. Claire reached down absent-mindedly and picked up his mug of tea, only remembering too late that it was almost ice cold. "Look, you want to work this on your own time, fine. I'm not going to be the one to stop you. Just make sure it's actually on your own time. You know how the Detective gets when it comes to stuff he doesn't think is important. Not to mention, Lindum is outside our jurisdiction."
"We use Lindum crime labs for almost all of our cases. Not to mention, we always work with their Police Department."
It was at that point that St. Claire realised he wouldn't be able to argue with David any more about the matter. He was going to continue to look into it, no matter what he said to him. "So what exactly did you need my help with?"
"Jess's sister still works as a receptionist in Parks Veterinary, doesn't she?"
"Give her my number. Tell her to call me if they get any injured cats. Anything that seems suspicious."
He knew where Dave was going with his train of thought. "You think someone's killing all of them."
"It's just a theory. Honestly, I hope I'm wrong about it, but it doesn't hurt to cover all of my bases."