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Got a very large irradiated rat?  Who you gonna call?

Lou Matsumoto vs. The Atomic Rat


Tim Mulcahy

            The damp mist clouded Lou Matsumoto’s white light sensor preventing him from cleanly scanning the alley.  “These sensors aren’t doing shit,” Matsumoto said.  Matsumoto was a DOS operative and Rat Stalker team leader.  His weapon of choice was the L-239 Sniper Rifle with a white light sensor slaved to the barrel. 

            “Tell me about it,” McElvey said.  Dana McElvey was Matsumoto’s second in command and DOS heavy weapons specialist.  His weapon, the Dramon, high powered machine pistol with extended barrel and slaved white light sensor. 

            “Let’s just make sure we make this a clean sweep,” Matsumoto said. 

            The two men worked their way down the alley,  McElvey on the left, Matsumoto on the right.  They moved slowly, one foot in front of the other, one man covering while the other advanced. 

            Suddenly, McElvey put up his right hand.  Matsumoto stopped.  “Got something?” Matsumoto asked.  McElvey put his hand to his lips before extending his gun and activating the sensor.  Matsumoto did the same.

            Matsumoto heard rustling behind the green dumpster at the end of the alley.  It was the tell tale sound of claws on card board. 

            Slowly, he moved forward, keeping his back to the damp brick wall as he worked his way past his partner.  They were a well oiled team.  McElvey covered the front of the dumpster while Matsumoto worked his way around. 

            The sensor scanned past the dumpster onto plastic garbage bags and loose trash.  Wet, limp cardboard was every where.  Matsumoto winced as he saw the loose garbage. 

            He just cleared the dumpster when his sensor detected movement.  In one smooth motion he brought his weapon to bear.  Three popping noises, one shot missed, two others struck home.

            There was loud squealing followed by the sound of small feet on concrete.  “He’s coming to you,” Matsumoto's said.

            “Got him,” McElvey said.  His voice calm as he fired.  Three more shots popped out.  The quarry was down.  McElvey put on a canvas glove and grabbed the dead rat by its tail.

            The rat was three feet long with blood oozing out if its mouth, head and stomach.  “Big one,” McElvey said.

            “That’s my kill,” Matsumoto said.

            “Bull, you just wounded it.  It would’ve got away if I didn’t pop it.”

            “I had it, it was finished.”

            McElvey took out a burlap bag and stuffed the dead rat into it.  It was his first of the night.  The animal started twitching so he swung the bag a couple of times against the wall next to him to make sure the rat was dead. 

            Matsumoto was just about to continue the argument when his radio came to life.  “Go ahead.”

            “This is team two, we finished our sweep.”

            “How many?” Matsumoto asked.

            “I got two, Liza took down her first.”

            “Good job.  We got two, one a piece.”

            “Bullshit, I got them both,” McElvey said.

            Matsumoto looked at his partner and shook his head.  McElvey’s hands were starting to shake.  “Meet us at Luigi’s in fifteen, Matsumoto out.” 

            The Team leader put his radio away as McElvey pulled out a plastic bag and squeezed airplane glue into it.  The second in command put the bag over his mouth and nose and inhaled several times before coughing. 

            He pulled the bag away and threw it into a dumpster as he continued to cough.  A stream of clear snot ran out of nose as McElvey looked up at Matsumoto.  There was a dumb smile on McElvey’s face.

            “That shit’s going to kill you.”

            “Aagh,” was all McElvey said as he exhaled an unnaturally large snot bubble.


            The team hooked up at Luigi’s Coffee House. It was an old place, brightly lit with black granite-top tables.  

            “Hi, Liza,” Matsumoto said.

            Liza Moldonado was in the process of stuffing an Italian dessert into her mouth when Matsumoto and McElvey walked in. She was the newest member of the team.  A former cop, Liza was out on three-quarters after taking a shot in the leg while participating in a drug bust in Jamaica.  After that she got a job as a secretary with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.  Between the job and the pension, Liza was the wealthiest member of the team and by far the best looking, with long brown hair and eyes and olive skin.

            Lou and Liza met at a speed dating meeting.  After getting together a few times the subject of hobbies came up and Lou spilled the beans. 

            He knew he was breaking the rules by telling her about the team but he couldn’t help it.  What really surprised him was when she asked to join.

            “Hi,” Moldonado said, her voice muffled by the cylindrical pastry stuffed in her mouth. 

            “She done real good.”  That comment came from the fourth member of the Team.  Jack Reynolds started his adult life as a body builder.  When that didn’t pan out, he tried the ring.  After twelve fights and an even record of wins and losses, he wound up at the Department of Sanitation – the DOS. 

            Jack still had the muscles but they were covered by layer of fat.  His most defining feature was his face.  Jack was hideously ugly. 

            His first nickname was leather face, given to him when he was a teenager after acne left him so scared that his skin looked like well chewed leather.  Boxing didn’t help.  Jack’s ring career managed to get him another nick name – The Bleeder. 

            Matsumoto and McElvey sat down at the table.  “How’s the canoli?”  McElvey asked.

            “Really good, you should get one,” Moldonado said.  She finished crunching down the pastry and wiped a blemish of cream from her chin with the back of her hand.

            “Can’t, I’m lactose intolerant.”

            Moldonado looked across the table at McElvey.  “What are you talking about?”

            “Cream, I can’t eat it.”

            “There’s no cream in this.”

            “Of course there is, you called it that yourself,” McElvey said.

            “It's not cream like that.  It’s Ricotta cheese.”

            McElvey leaned back in his chair as if he just had some sort of epiphany.  He looked at Matsumoto.  “You know about this?”

            “Sure,” Matsumoto said.

            “How come you never told me?” McElvey asked.

            Moldonado was shaking her head in disbelief.  “Did you know your face was covered in snot?” She asked.

            “Oh shit,” McElvey pulled a couple napkins from the dispenser and wiped his face while the rest of the team broke up laughing.

            “It’s not funny,” he said.

            “Sure it is,” Moldonado said.

            McElvey was just about to say something when a fat guy behind the counter piped up.  “What’s in that bag?”

            Matsumoto looked down at McElvey’s feet.  The burlap bag was leaking blood onto the white tile floor.  He was just about to deliver a creative lie when McElvey opened his mouth.  “Dead rats,” McElvey said.

            “Oh ... what, are you serious?” the fat guy asked.  Matsumoto gave McElvey a stiff elbow to shut him up.  It was pointless.  This time the stupidity came from the other side of the table, from Reynolds.

            “Sure, we hunt them.”

            “Hunt them?”

            “Yeah, DOS gives us fifty cents a piece for a bounty.”

            “You got dead rats bleeding all over my floor?”   

            “We’ll clean it up,” Matsumoto said.

            “Get the fuck out of here.  You crazy or something, bringing dead rats into my place.”

            “It’s okay we’ll -”

            “It’s not okay, get out of here.”

            Matsumoto could see disgust on the other patron’s faces.  He pulled a couple of napkins from the dispenser and dropped them over the expanding pool of blood as he lifted the bag.  “They’re just rats,” he said.

            The counter guy gave them the finger as he came around the counter with a mop and bucket.


            By the time they got back to Mott and Canal, the fog had gotten heavier and was supplemented by a light drizzle.

            Matsumoto and McElvey continued their sweep of the alleys, while Reynolds and Moldonado checked the garbage piles on the streets.

            "You're never going to believe this; guess who lives in Liza's building," Matsumoto said as he poked a pile of garbage with the barrel of his rifle.


            "Kitty Bill."

            "Get out," McElvey said.

            "Nope, two floors down." 

            Several years ago the City decided to finally solve its rat problem.  Dr. William H. Reston, also known as “Kitty Bill” had the solution, a genetically engineered cat with the intelligence of a chimp and the pack behavior of a wolf, combined with some of the more viscous traits commonly associated with mountain lions.

            The cats worked great until they decided to take over lower Manhattan.  Troops had to be called in. They even brought Kitty Bill in to see if he could tame them. The rumor was that Kitty Bill released something that calmed them down. The cats eventually did become tame and, for a while, very fashionable. To Matsumoto Kitty Bill was a hero.    

            "I thought he got assassinated or something," McElvey said.

            “Guess not. You ready?” Matsumoto asked.  McElvey nodded, his hands were shaking so bad he couldn’t hold his gun straight.  “You sure?”

            “I’m fine,” McElvey said.  He walked down the alley.  After about twenty feet he took up position next to a wet stone and brick wall.  Then he looked back at Matsumoto and moved his head side-to-side, gesturing him to come forward. 

            Matsumoto took out his rifle and, pointing the barrel at the street, moved forward.

            Dripping water was everywhere plunking down from dumpsters onto the street with high pitched clicking sounds, or onto wet cardboard with dull thumps.  The smell of wet rotting cabbage and spoiled spiced meat permeated the alley.  Matsumoto almost wished his nose was clogged, like McElvey’s. 

            Matsumoto took up position across the alley from McElvey.  The two men looked at each other. Matsumoto nodded and McElvey moved forward.  He went another thirty feet, then froze.

            McElvey raised his gun with his right hand and waved Matsumoto forward with his left.  When he got even with McElvey he stopped.  “What do you see?” Matsumoto whispered.

            At first, McElvey didn’t say anything.  He waved, indicating that he wanted Matsumoto to stand next to him.  Matsumoto was reluctant.  It violated standard patrol procedure.  McElvey waved again.

            “What is it?”  Matsumoto asked when he got next to McElvey.


            There was a brown object on the other side of a yellow dumpster.  Matsumoto couldn’t see the whole thing.  Just the rear-end and a hairless fleshy tail. 

            Between the drips, Matsumoto could hear the sound of teeth tearing meat and occasionally gnawing on something hard. 

            “It can’t be a rat,” Matsumoto said.

            “Must be at least eight feet long.”

            “Whatever it is, it’s eating something.”

            Their voices must have distracted the animal.  It backed out from behind the dumpster, pulling its food with it. 

            “It’s a rat,” Matsumoto said.  The creature sat back on its hind legs.  It was holding a man, gnawing down his leg.  It had just reached the knee. 

            “Is that Chin?” McElvey asked.

            “The dishwasher?”


            “Isn’t he an illegal?” Matsumoto asked.

            “What’s that have to do with anything?”

            “I don’t’ know, nothing I guess.”  The two men stood mesmerized as the rat chewed on the dead dishwasher.  It seemed content to stare back at them, it’s long whiskers twitching as its mouth moved, is bulbous black eyes, expressionless as it manipulated its prey with its front legs. 

            “What do we do?” McElvey asked.

            Matsumoto brought up his weapon and fired.  “Aim for the eyes.”  

            Matsumoto's first shot hit the rat in the forehead and bounced off.  McElvey fired also.  His aim wasn’t nearly as good but most of his shots hit the animal somewhere. 

            For an instant, the rat sat there taking fire, continuing to chew.  Then one of Matsumoto’s shots hit it in the eye.  The rat squealed, dropped Chin and charged. 

            “Run,” Matsumoto said.  McElvey was already running.  “Cover fire, cover fire,” Matsumoto shouted as he ran. 

            McElvey stopped, turned and squeezed off a couple of shots. After another few steps, Matsumoto turned and fired.  He saw another shot hit the rat in the eye. 

            The animal stopped briefly and ran its front paw over its eye before resuming the chase.  It was incredibly fast.  Matsumoto sensed its whiskers and hot breath on his neck as he got to the edge of the alley. 

            Just when he thought he was done for he heard the popping sound from McElvey’s gun.  The shots distracted the creature just long enough for Matsumoto to clear the alley.  When he turned, he saw the rat bounding in the other direction. 

            Matsumoto leaned against the wall.  His hands were shaking as bad as McElvey’s.  “What was that?”

            “I think I shit myself,” McElvey said just before bending over and vomiting against the wall of a building. 


            Matsumoto and McElvey got to the corner and sat down on the curb while they tried to recover. “What happened to you?”  Matsumoto looked up and saw Reynolds.    “What you got all over your shirt?” Reynolds asked.

            “Puke, I guess,” McElvey said.

            Moldonado was standing behind Reynolds.  The look on her face indicated she was having second thoughts about becoming a member of the team. 

“We need to find a cop,” Matsumoto said.

            “What for?” Moldonado asked.

            “Chin’s dead, we saw his body back in the alley.”

            “Jesus, why didn’t you say so.”  Moldonado pulled out her cell phone. 

            “And make sure you tell them about the giant rat,” McElvey said.

            Moldonado pulled the phone away from her ear.  “Giant what?”

            “Rat,” Matsumoto said. 

            “Like how giant?” Moldonado asked.

            Matsumoto looked at McElvey.  His partner was shaking, covered in puke and smelled like shit.  As if on cue, McElvey pulled a tube of glue from his pocket and a plastic sandwich bag. 

            “Lay off that shit.  We’ve got a problem here,” Matsumoto said. 

            “Can’t.”  McElvey put the bag over his mouth and nose and inhaled. 

            “I’d say at least eight feet,” Matsumoto said.

            “Impossible,” Moldonado said.

            “Look I’m telling you -”

            McElvey took off down the street.  He was staggering and laughing at the same time.  “Oh Christ, get him,” Matsumoto said. 

            They caught up to McElvey about halfway up alley off Mott Street.  Matsumoto heard movement.  All at once, their guns came up and their sensors came to life.  Even McElvey managed to bring his weapon up.

            Two figures were bathed in light.   One was standing.  The other figure was kneeling.  Both wore the uniforms of New York’s finest. 

            The cops were quick.  The standing figure spun and drew his nine millimeter.  The kneeling figure stood and did the same.  “Hold it,” one of the figures said.  He was in a combat stance with his pistol clutched in two hands.  Matsumoto knew “he” was a “he” by what was protruding out of his fly.  The man’s eyes followed Matsumoto’s down to his crotch.  The scene demanded attention.

            The other figure was apparently female. Her blouse was unbuttoned revealing a non-regulation pink lace bra. 

            “We need to report a murder,” Matsumoto said.

            “Lower your weapons,” the male officer said.  Matsumoto nodded and the team lowered their guns.  “And turn off those fucking lights,” the female officer said.

            “Sensors off,” Matsumoto said.

            In the shadows of the street lights, Matsumoto watched as the male officer did up his trousers while his apparent partner buttoned her blouse. 

            “Who are you assholes?”

            “There’s no time for that, there’s a dead guy over on Mott Street,” Matsumoto said.

            “What dead guy?” 

            “He was killed by a giant rat.”  The two cops looked at McElvey. 

            Matsumoto could almost guess what the cops where thinking.  McElvey was rocking back and forth.  He didn’t come off as credible.

            “A giant rat?” the male cop asked.

            By then, Matsumoto was getting the sense that it wasn’t a good idea to lead with the rat story.  In fact, he kind of realized that from the beginning.  Matsumoto sensed that the rest of the Team wasn’t exactly buying the giant rat story either. 

            “Doohan, is that you?”  Moldonado asked.  The male cop took out his flash light and shined it on Moldonado’s face. 


            “You know her?” the female officer asked. There was an edge of jealousy to her voice. 

            “It’s Liza Moldonado.  She used to be on the job.”

            “What, she get jammed up?” the female officer asked.

            “No bitch I didn’t, which is more than I can say for what’s going to happen to you.”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”  The female cop took a step closer to Moldonado.

            “Take it easy, Tina,” Doohan said.  Liza’s out on three-quarters.  How’s the leg, by the way?”


            “She should watch her mouth,” Tina said.

            “Look who’s talking.  Wonder what Jessica would say if she knew about Tina,” Moldonado said. 

            “Can we deal with the dead guy?” Matsumoto asked.

            “You say he was killed by a giant rat?” Doohan asked.

            “Why don’t we focus on the fact that he’s dead? We can look into what killed him later,” Matsumoto said.

            “That’s the first intelligent thing I heard all night,” Moldonado said.  Matsumoto thought he won back some respect.

            “Where’s the body?”  Tina asked.

            “I’ll show you,” Matsumoto said.


            On the way back, McElvey ducked down a subway station where, to everyone’s amazement, there was an open public restroom. 

            Matsumoto wasn’t sure he wanted McElvey wandering around alone, especially in his condition.  Then again, every time McElvey opened his mouth he seemed to cause problems.    Reynolds refused to stay with him.  He wanted to see the rat.  Matsumoto didn’t bother asking Moldonado. 

            He hesitated before entering the alley.  Matsumoto could almost feel the whiskers brushing the back of his neck. 

            “Problem?” Doohan asked.

            “Half way down, behind the dumpster,” Matsumoto said.  He swallowed and started walking down the alley.  He slowed as he approached the dumpster.  When he got to the other side, the body was gone. 

            “Where’s your dead guy?” Tina asked.

            “Rat must have ate him,” Doohan said.

            “I think you’re right,” Matsumoto said.

            “It was a joke, you idiot.”

            “But look at all the blood,” Matsumoto said.  He pointed at the pavement and cardboard.  Even with the light rain, there was still a lot.

            “Could be anything. Hell, for all we know, they could be slaughtering cats back here,” Tina said.

            “Or chickens and ducks,” Doohan said.

            “That would violate the health code,” Moldonado said. Everybody turned to look at her, even Matsumoto.

            “Sorry, lost my head," she said.

            “I’m telling you there was a dead guy here.”

            “Yeah, and he was killed by a giant rat,” Tina said.

            “Actually, that’s true.”

            “Right ... who are you assholes, anyway?” Tina asked.

            “What do you mean?” Matsumoto asked.

            “What are you doing out here?”

            “Hunting rats,” Moldonado said.

            “For fun?” Doohan asked.

            “Actually, yeah, you should try it,” Moldonado said.

            “There’s also the bounty,” Reynolds said.


            “Fifty cents a piece.”

            “How many you get?”

            Reynolds showed the cops his burlap bag.  “Sure won’t retire on that,” Doohan said.  “Wait a minute ... you idiots shooting off guns around here.”

            “Actually -”

            “Let me see that thing,” Tina said.  Matsumoto handed Tina his weapon.

            “It’s an L-239 with a white light -”

            “It’s a bb gun with a mag-lite wired to the barrel,” she said as she handed the gun back to Matsumoto.

            “Does the job,” Matsumoto said.

            “And technically, it’s not a firearm,” Moldonado said. 

            “I’ve seen everything,” Doohan said.

            “You going to call this in?” Matsumoto asked.

            “A report of blood stains and giant rats?  You’ve got to be crazy.”

            “Yeah but -”

            “Doohan and Cunningham, requesting meal,” Doohan said into his radio, ignoring Matsumoto.  The two officers turned and walked down the other end of the alley, leaving the team in the middle of a pile of blood and garbage.

            “What do we do now?”  Reynolds asked.

            “I think we should call it a night,” Moldonado said.

            “Okay, let’s collect McElvey and -” 

            A scream came from the other end of the alley.  Matsumoto got to the end just in time to see the rat pull someone around the corner. 

            The identity of the screamer was confirmed when Team caught up to the rat.  A steady stream of profanities spewed from McElvey’s mouth, punctuated by pops from his bb gun.  Matsumoto couldn’t help admiring his boyhood friend's pluck. 

            “Aim for the face,” Matsumoto said as he began firing.  Reynolds came up next, adding his fire.

            Finally Moldonado limped up and started shooting.  Matsumoto deluded himself into thinking he hurt the animal when he got a clean shot at the eye.  Something must have worked though.  The rat let go of McElvey’s leg. 

            There was a tense moment when the giant reared up and flashed its incisors at the Team.  Matsumoto thought it was going to charge, but it turned and ran.

            Reynolds was the first to reach McElvey.  He was lying in the street, next to the curb, rolling back and forth.  Moldonado had her cell phone out.  Matsumoto watched for the rat to make sure it didn’t double back. 

            “Hang in there buddy,” Reynolds said.  He tore away McElvey’s jeans.  Two wounds penetrated deep into the calf.  They looked like they went right to the bone.

            “Ambulance is on the way,” Moldonado said.

            “What do we tell them?” Reynolds asked.

            “Don’t say anything about the rat. They’ll think we’re nuts,” Matsumoto said.

            “We are nuts,” Moldonado said.

            “Christ, I think I shit myself again,” McElvey said.

            “Take it easy, Dana.  I think you’re entitled,” Matsumoto said.

            “What about tetanus?” Moldonado asked.

            The two men turned away from McElvey and looked at her.  “What are you talking about?” Matsumoto asked.

            “He got bit by an animal, he needs a tetanus shot.”

            “Say he cut himself on some rusty sheet metal,” Reynolds said.

            “And what about rabies?” Moldonado asked.

            “She’s right,” Matsumoto said.  We have to say it was an animal.”

            Reynolds had his shirt off and tied a tourniquet just below McElvey’s knee. 

            “We could say it was a dog.”

            “A raccoon, maybe,” Moldonado said.

            “In the City?” Reynolds said.

            “Sure, I’ve seen them,” Moldonado said.

            “I don’t believe it.”

            “I’m telling you -”

            “Why not just say something big bit him, we just couldn’t get a good look at it,” Matsumoto said.

            In the distance, Matsumoto heard a siren.  A minute later the Ambulance arrived. 

            “Where you taking him?” Matsumoto asked.

            “Belleview,” the EMT said.

            “Can I ride with you?”

            “You family?”

            “Good friend,” Matsumoto said.

            “Sorry, meet us at the Emergency room.”


            McElvey was nowhere to be seen in the Emergency room and the receptionist wouldn’t tell him anything because he wasn’t family.  Moldonado spotted one of the EMT’s that brought McElvey in.

            “That guy, yeah, he’s in detox,” the EMT said. “He’s a glue sniffer, really fucked-up.  The guy was hallucinating when we brought him in, ranting about giant rats trying to chew his leg off.  It wasn’t until I went through his pockets that I figured out what was going on.”

            “What’s going to happened to him now?” Matsumoto asked.

            The EMT shrugged his shoulders.  “Got me.”  He left the Emergency room. 

            “What now?”  Reynolds asked.

            “I don’t know.  We’re going to need Dana if we have any chance of bringing this thing down,” Matsumoto said.

            “Are you nuts?  This isn’t fun and games anymore,” Moldonado said.

            “It’s our job,” Matsumoto said.

            “That thing might kill you,” Moldonado said.

            “What if it’s not the only one?”

            “Good point, I always wanted to move to Idaho,” Moldonado said.

            “You wouldn’t understand,” Matsumoto said.

            “Understand what, that you go out at night pretending your part of some elite team of rat killers. That you give fancy names to bb guns and flashlights trying to make this stupid game seem important.”

            Matsumoto turned and walked away.  Reynolds looked at Moldonado, shaking his head.  “It’s late, maybe we all should get some rest,” he said.  He joined Matsumoto on the far side of the Emergency room and sat down on the bench next to him. 

            Out of the corner of his eye, Matsumoto watched Moldonado limp through the sliding glass doors.  After she left, Matsumoto rubbed his face before looking up at Reynolds. 

            “Is that what we are, a bunch of nerds playing guns?” he asked.

            “Nah, we ain’t playing.  Me, I’m in it for the bounty.   That reminds me, where’d my bag go?” Reynolds asked.

            “Must have left it downtown,” Matsumoto said.  His voice flat and exhausted.

            “Too bad, two dollars in bounty money in my bag.”

            “We got to get that rat.  Dana would have wanted it.”

            “He ain’t dead, Lou, just in detox,” Reynolds said.

            “I know.  He’ll never be the same.”

            “Ever think that might be a good thing?”

            Matsumoto didn’t respond.  He stood up and walked towards the door.  “I need to get some rest.  I’ll see you at work.”


            Over the next two days, Matsumoto tried to see McElvey twice.  The second time he got an explanation.  According to the receptionist the shrink on McElvey’s case wouldn’t allow him to see any of his old friends, especially Matsumoto.  She said the shrink called him an enabler, whatever the hell that was. 

            Matsumoto was surprised when he got the call from Moldonado, a week after McElvey was attacked. 

            “I’ve been thinking,” Moldonado said.

            “About the rat?”

            “Yes, have you seen the papers?”

            “Just the ones people throw out,” Matsumoto said.

            “What do you think?”

            “I think people aren’t reading as many papers as they used to.”

            “About the disappearances.”

            “What disappearances?”

            “In downtown.  I think it’s the rat.”

            “I thought you were going to run off to Idaho.”

            Moldonado paused long enough for the dead air to become uncomfortable.  “I’ve been thinking that maybe you were right.”


            “It being our job to kill that thing.”

            “But no one believes us,” Matsumoto said.

            “Making it even more important that we do something.”

            That rat scared the crap out of him.  He fired everything he had at the beast and it did nothing.  Then again, there was McElvey.  Matsumoto felt he owed the man something.

            “We’re already branded nuts; we go down there with shotguns-” 

            “I’m not suggesting that,” Moldonado said.

            “What do you have in mind?”

            “I'm thinking we should talk to Kitty Bill.”

            “I think shotguns would be better,” Matsumoto said.

            “You can’t discharge firearms in a residential area.”

            “So your better idea is to release a bunch of vicious cats that almost overran the City?”

            “We could at least talk to the guy,” Moldonado said.

            Matsumoto bit his lip as he thought for a moment.  “How about we get a picture of the rat and bring it to the cops?”

            “So you’re in?” Moldonado asked.

            “I’m just brain storming.”

            “How many people will die before that happens.”

            “I don’t know.  How long does it take to breed a killer cat?” Matsumoto asked.

            “You don’t need to get snippy about it.”

            “The idea is stupid.”

            The phone went silent.  Matsumoto got the feeling that Moldonado was trying to control her temper.  After a few seconds she let out a deep breath.  “I’m not suggesting we start breeding cats -”

            “Then what are you-”

            “Jesus Christ, will you let me finish.”


            “This guy knows a lot about rats.  He might have some ideas.”

            “You sure he’s the guy?”

            “Pretty sure.”

            “Okay, I’m in,” Matsumoto said.


            The next day, Matsumoto and Moldonado were standing outside her apartment building near Battery Park.  “You sure he’ll come out?” Matsumoto asked.

            “It’s part of his routine.  The guy’s a machine that way,” Moldonado said.

            It was one of those late summer New York afternoons.  Temperature in the low nineties, humidity in the high nineties.  Sweat formed on Matsumoto’s forehead but never evaporated.  Instead it just accumulated until it ran down the sides of his face, into his eyes or down his nose, eventually dripping off the end onto the sidewalk.        Moldonado looked hot also, though she wasn’t a sweaty mess like he was.  She had her long brown hair up in a pony tail and was wearing a tank top.  What Matsumoto couldn’t understand was why she chose long jeans instead of shorts. 

            “Aren’t you hot?” he asked.

            “A bit.”

            “Why don’t you wear shorts?”

            Moldonado looked down at her legs for a second.  “I don’t know, I guess I don’t like them.”

            “Can’t see the pins in long pants,” Matsumoto said.

            “You’re an ass – wait, that’s him.”  Moldonado pointed across the street at a man coming out of the building.  “See I told you.”

            “Don’t point.”

            It was Kitty Bill all right. He was gray on the sides and a bit heavier.  “How do you want to play this?” Moldonado asked.

            “He’s your neighbor, go up and talk to him.”

            “I can’t do that.”

            “Why not?”

            “What do I say?”

            “How should I know?  Talk about the weather or something and then ask if he’s the cat guy.”

            “Let’s just follow him, see if an opportunity presents itself.”

            Reston turned left out of the apartment building and walked toward Battery Park. Matsumoto and Moldonado tried not to be obvious, but after a hundred yards it became pretty clear they were following him.  The man stopped twice to give them dirty looks.  After another twenty yards Reston turned.

            “What do you want?”

            “Uh ..., Matsumoto said.

            “Why are you following me?”

            Moldonado was the first to recover.  “I live in your building. My name’s Liza Moldonado-” 

            “I know who you are.  Who are you?” Reston said, pointing at Matsumoto.

            “You’re Kitty Bill, aren’t you?”  Matsumoto finally said.

            “Leave me alone,” Reston turned and started walking. 

            “It’s not like that,” Moldonado said as she limped after him.

            “I need to get out of this City.  Every time I turn around, somebody’s spotting me and blaming me because real estate prices are down,” Reston said to himself as he quickened his pace, trying to stay ahead of Moldonado.

            Matsumoto jogged up to Reston.  “We need your help.”  Reston stopped.

            He looked at Matsumoto again.  “Help with what?”

            Matsumoto told him about the giant rat while Moldonado caught up.  She got there just in time to hear Reston tell Matsumoto he was nuts.  Kitty Bill continued his walk.

            “People are dying,” Moldonado said.

            “People die all the time,” Reston said and continued walking. 

            “You stop this thing, it could save your reputation,” Matsumoto said. Reston stopped and turned.  The frown lines on his faced deepened as he looked back at Matsumoto.

            It was a desperation play, one Matsumoto never thought would work.  “Assuming I believe you for a second, what kind of help do you want?”

            “Could we talk about this back at Liza’s apartment?” Matsumoto asked.


            The three of them sat around Moldonado’s kitchen table.  As they laid out the details of their battle with the rat, Matsumoto could see a change come over Reston.  “Actually, it kind of makes sense,” Reston said.

            “How does any of this make sense?” Moldonado asked.

            “Back in the old days, they used to dump all kinds of things in the sewers.  That provided the mutagens, but you still needed selective pressure to create the super rat.”

            “What mutagen?” Moldonado asked.


            “There’s no power plant in New York,” Matsumoto said.

            “No but in the thirties there was a watch factory.”


            “Radium dials, they poured the excess down the sewers.”

            “And the radiation created the rat?” Moldonado asked.

            “No, natural selection did.  The radiation just created the opportunity for lots of mutations.”

            “You think it’s the only one?” Matsumoto asked.

            “Don’t know, probably not.”

            “How do we deal with this?” Moldonado asked.

            “You know, I might just have the thing. We need to go to Brooklyn.”


            Reston's lab was located in an old brownstone in Bedford Stuyvesant. 

            The first floor was a large open space with black tables arranged in parallel rows.  There were cloth and plastic sheets covering elaborate looking machines. 

            “What are these things,” Moldonado asked.

            “Automated gene sequencers.  We need to go to the basement,” Reston said.  He walked up to a door that looked like it belonged on a submarine.  He turned two dogs on the top and bottom before releasing a latch. 

            The door was sealed with a rubber gasket that didn’t seem to want to let go at first.  Reston gave the door a hard pull.  After a couple of seconds the seal broke.  Matsumoto wished it didn’t. 

            “Christ, what’s that smell?”  Matsumoto asked.

            “Hydrogen Sulfide, smells like rotten eggs doesn’t it?”

            “You ain’t kidding,” Matsumoto said.

            “Do you expect us to go down there?” Moldonado asked.

            “It’s not so bad once you get used to it,” Reston said.  He switched on a light and descended the stairs.

            Matsumoto shrugged, pinched his nose, and followed.  After going a few steps he turned to Moldonado.  “Coming?” he asked while his fingers still pinched his nose. 

            “I guess.”

            The basement was lined with glass cases, each about the size of a large suitcase.  When he reached the bottom, Matsumoto looked into one of the cases.  There was a large cat with fangs protruding from its upper lip in it.  He jumped back.  “Please tell me they’re dead,” Matsumoto said.

            “Hibernating, that’s what the hydrogen sulfide’s for.

            “Are these ...”

            “An improved version.  I didn’t have the heart to put them down,” Reston said.

            “This is what you wanted to show us?”  Matsumoto asked.


            “No way, we’re not letting these things out on the street again.  We almost lost the City last time.”

            “They’re safe, I promise. They only attack targets painted with this.”  Reston reached under a table and pulled out a paint ball gun.  “These paintballs have yellow fluorescent paint and a cat hormone that drives the animals wild. Anything wearing it will get torn to pieces.”

            “Only things hit with the paint balls?” Matsumoto asked.

            “Yes, make sure you’re careful not to break any of the balls.  Once the hormone is released ... well I wouldn’t want to be around,” Reston said.

            Matsumoto picked up the pistol.  It had single shot and a full auto feature. 

“There's also a failsafe device,         special collars.”  Reston opened a drawer and handed one to Matsumoto.  They were plastic with a black box on the opposite side of the buckle. A small antennae came from the box. 

            “What’s this?” Matsumoto asked, pointing at the box.

            “A detonator.”

            “What’s it detonate?”

            “An M-80.”

            “You mean -”

            “When this is over, we blow their heads off.”

            “You can’t make them tame?”

            “Not these monsters,” Reston said.

            Matsumoto stared at one of the cages for about a minute.  He didn’t know what was worse, going to the cops and winding up in the ward next to McElvey, or letting these things loose.

            “What do you think?” he asked Moldonado.

            “I think we’re going to need Reynolds.”


            It wasn’t easy convincing Reynolds to rejoin the team. He was more freaked by the giant rat than Matsumoto thought.  Things got even hairier when he got a look at the cats.

            “I’m out of here,” Reynolds said.

            “Come on Jack we need you.”

            Reynolds couldn’t go near the things.  His hands were shaking worse than McElvey’s ever did.

            “Don’t worry about it,” Reston said.  They’re tame as kittens.”  Reston walked up to one of the, now loose, cats and shook its protruding fang. “See, not a hostile bone in its body.”

            Reston was playing with an Angora, about four feet long, nose to tail.  Its eyes were yellow and it looked like it could bite through steel cable.  

            “So what’s the plan?”  Matsumoto asked.  Reston was handing out paint ball guns.  Reynolds looked at his gun and scowled.    

            “The cats operate in a pack.  They’re engineered so that we’re pack members.  As soon as we see the rat, we paint it and let the cats do the rest.”

            “That’s an awful big rat.  You sure your little monsters can do the job?”

            “First of all, they’re not monsters.  Second of all ...” Reston grabbed one of the cat’s paws and pressed the bottom forcing the claws to extend.  They must have been at least a half inch long.  “They’re razor sharp.  They’ll do the job.”

            “You said that last time,” Reynolds said under his breath.

            Reston turned on him.  “That wasn’t my fault. My cats did everything the specification called for.  If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the DOS Procurement.”

            “Take it easy, Bill,” Matsumoto said.  He didn’t like the way the cats looked when Reston got agitated.  “You got the failsafe in place?”

            Reston took a small black box the size of a cell phone from his pocket.  It had a single small red button. “All set.”

            “Okay, let’s move out.”

The Team, supplemented by forty cats, moved into lower Manhattan, sweeping out from Battery Park.

            Matsumoto couldn’t help but admire the way the animals moved.  Several flanked out while others worked their way into parallel streets.

            Lower Manhattan was quiet.  It was as if the population got some subliminal message that this part of the City wasn’t safe. 

            They reached the Financial District and worked their way toward South Street Sea Port.  Matsumoto was nervous.  He kept fingering the safety of his paint ball gun.  Even though his L-239 was useless against the rat, he felt more secure with it.

            Reynolds froze.  His left hand shot up.  It was a clear night with a full moon.  Visibility was good, even under the FDR Drive. 

            Matsumoto quietly walked up next to his big friend.  “Whatcha got?” he whispered.

            “Movement by that dumpster,” Reynolds said, holding his arm straight out, his hand flat and perpendicular to the ground. 

            Matsumoto looked back at Reston.  The man nodded and came forward.  Moldonado moved off to the right.  They all unslung their paint ball guns and clicked the safeties off. 

            As Matsumoto approached the yellow dumpster he saw something moving inside it.  A wooden fruit crate rocked back and forth from the motion of something underneath. 

            When they got to within twenty feet, Matsumoto crouched down.  The rest of the Team followed his lead.  They stared at the dumpster.

            “How long are we going to do this?” Reston asked, his voice just above a whisper.

            “As long as it takes,” Matsumoto responded. 

            Whatever was in the dumpster jerked to the right.  The wooden crate shot into the air and crashed to the ground, its soft thin would splintering on the hard pavement. 

            When Matsumoto looked back, two red eyes were staring at him.  “Rat,” he whispered.

            There was a puff and a yellow paintball hit the side of the dumpster.  Then another, followed by a third.  “What?  Hold your fire,” Matsumoto said.

            It was too late.  Yellow paint dripped down the side of the dumpster.  The moonlight made the fluorescence glow.

            “Nothing’s happening,” Reynolds said.

            “Takes a second for the hormone to get to them,” Reston said. 

            Seconds later the first cat struck.  Matsumoto didn’t see it until it was in the air, front paws stretched out, claws extended.  It seemed to float, almost hovering before landing in the dumpster. 

            The cat screamed, followed instantly by a high-pitched squeal.  Lettuce, rotten fruit and cardboard flew into the air.  A second later a three-foot long brown rat landed on the pavement. 

            Even though the rat was obviously dead, its head nearly severed from its body, three more cats jumped it, while seven more dove into the dumpster.  More garbage flew into the air, followed by screams from dying rats.  Matsumoto never realized there could be so many rats in a dumpster. 

            He turned to look at Reston. The man was crying.  Reston noticed Matsumoto looking at him and wiped a tear from his cheek. “I’m sorry it’s  ... I don’t know how to put it.”

            “Beautiful,” Reynolds said.  Matsumoto turned to look at his friend. Reynold’s eyes were as wide as they could possibly get.  He was obviously mesmerized by the scene.

            “Yes, beautiful,” Reston said.

            “There must be five bucks worth of rats in there,” Reynolds said.

            “Feel free to try and take them away from the cats,” Moldonado said.  

            “How long does this last?” Matsumoto asked.

            “Till the cats are done feeding.  I figure forty-five minutes to an hour,” Reston said.

            “Want to grab a bite?” Matsumoto asked.

            “Kind of late, don’t you think?” Moldonado said.

            “There’s an all night diner on Johns, burgers are pretty good.

            “Sure,” Reynolds said.

            “I’m going to watch my cats,” Reston said.

            “Bring you back anything?” Moldonado asked.

            “Ham and cheese would be great.”


            Reston was sitting on a curb, still watching his wonder cats when the Team got back.  Several cats were sitting around him calmly licking blood from their claws.  One big happy family. 

            “Here’s your sandwich,” Matsumoto said.

            “I’ve been thinking,” Reston said as he pulled his sandwich from the bag.  “I asked for rye.”

            “No you didn’t.”

            “Sure I did, I can’t eat a ham sandwich on whole wheat.”

            “Oh for ... pretend you’re roughing.  They probably don’t have rye bread in Alaska.”

            “Whatever,” Reston said.

            “So ... you’ve been thinking,” Moldonado said.

            “I think we should head back toward Chinatown.”

            “Why?” Moldonado asked.

            “Seems kind of barren down here.  Better pickings for rats further uptown.”

            The Team member looked at each other and shrugged.  “Fine,” Matsumoto said. 

            “Bit of a walk,” Reynolds said.

            “Well, we can’t put the cats in a cab, now can we?” Moldonado said.

            “You don’t need to get all pissy about it,” Reynolds said. 

            “Sorry, my leg hurts.”

            The Team turned north.  As they walked, Matsumoto noticed the cats fanning out once again. 

            “Ammo check,” Matsumoto said.

            The Team looked at their magazines.  “I’m good,” Reynolds said. 

            “Me too,” Moldonado said. They looked at Reston.


            “Check your ammo,” Matsumoto said.

            “I didn’t shoot anything.”

            “Just the same, you need to check.  It’s procedure.”

            “It’s stupid.”

            “Look, would you just check,” Reynolds said.

            “Oh, for chrissakes,” Reston looked down at his gun.  “I’m good, happy?”

            Matsumoto froze.  It came around the corner.  The animal was massive, bigger than eight feet.

            “What?”  Reston asked.  Matsumoto pointed.  “Mother of God, that’s big,” Reston said.

            “You think it’s the same rat?” Reynolds asked.

            “If it is, it’s still growing,” Moldonado said.  They all looked at Reston.

            “How should I know?”

            “You’re the scientist.”

            “I supposed you’re going to blame this on me too.”

            “What are you talking -”

            “Sure something weird happens, something doesn’t go according to plan, blame the scientist.”

            “Doc, no one’s blaming you,” Moldonado said.  “You think the cats can handle it?”

            “Guess we’ll find out,” Reston said.  He walked up the street toward the rat.

            As soon as Matsumoto got next to him, Reston turned on him.  “You said the rat was eight feet.  This one’s at least seventeen, nose to tail. I could have brought more cats.”

            “Doc I’m not blaming you.”

            “And don’t think you’re leaving me here like you did the last time.”

            “Doc, I’m not-”

            “No way I’m putting up with that shit again.”

            The rat looked down the street at the Team. It was making no effort to flee or hide itself.  The large brown creature just stood there with its whiskers twitching.

            Moldonado drew ahead of the Team and approached the rat.  The animal reared up on its hind legs, sniffing the air.  She fired two balls.  

            Both hit.  The rat hesitated for a second, then charged.  “Shit,” Moldonado said, as she turned and tried to run. 

            Before he could go five paces the rat was on her.  Matsumoto switched his paint gun to full auto.  “Let him have it,” he shouted as his paintball gun sent a stream of balls toward the rat.

            Balls from three guns plastered the creature.  “Where are the cats?” Matsumoto said.  The rat had Moldonado by the leg. She screamed as the beast's incisors clamped down on her calf while its front feet grabbed her torso.

            “Liza!”  Matsumoto watched in horror as the leg came away at the hip.  “My god.” Matsumoto charged.

            “It tore her leg off!” Reynolds said. The rat reared up with Moldonado’s leg in its mouth.

            “Son of a bitch,” Reston said. 

            Matsumoto managed to hit the beast in the eye with a paint ball.  It dropped Moldonado.

            While Reynolds and Reston covered him, Matsumoto pulled her clear. Then the cats struck.

            In his mind’s eye, Matsumoto pictured what it would be like if a pack of lions attacked an elephant.  These were not crazed killers.  The attack was coordinated, almost choreographed. 

            Four came out of alleys and charged the front of the animal while another five headed for its midsection.  Several more jumped from the rear onto the rat's back. 

            As the claws dug in, the rat reared up, dropping Moldonado’s leg.  This gave several cats the opportunity to get underneath it.  They scrambled to its white belly and started working their claws into the thing’s stomach with the obvious intention of disemboweling it. 

            “What are you doing?”  Matsumoto asked.

            “Getting my leg back,” Moldonado said.  She started crawling back toward the rat.

            “I don’t think -”

            “You have any idea how much that thing costs.”


            Moldonado shook her head and continued crawling.  Then Matsumoto understood.  “Hold on, let me.”  He pulled her back to the curb. 

            The rat was in full retreat.  It had one of the cats in its mouth.  The animal was limp, obviously dead and the rat shook its head from side to side.  It tried to swat other cats with its tail and had two pinned with its front legs. 

            But there were too many.  Several, clawing their way up the animals back, got to the rat’s head.  Once there they jammed their claws into the creature’s eyes.

            A deafening squeal resonated through the canyons of lower Manhattan.  The rat dropped the cat that was in its mouth and used its front paws to clear the cats from its eyes. 

            It was just a matter of time.  The rat was weakening.  With its belly torn open, stomach and intestines, along with a thick stream of blood began flowing to the street. 

            Matsumoto managed to get the Moldonado’s leg and rejoin her.  They sat on the curb as the rat released its final squeal and fell to the ground.

            She looked the leg over.  There were a couple of teeth marks in it, but otherwise it was fine. After a minute she put the leg down and looked at Matsumoto.  He was looking back at her smiling.  “You okay with this?”

            “We’re all missing something,” he said.  He kissed her on the cheek and got up.

            Reston was in the middle of the street, doing a jig.  Reynolds was on the side watching the cats begin their feast.

            Matsumoto walked next to Reston.  “You see that, it’s beautiful, just beautiful, better than I could have hoped.”


            “This could put me right back on top.  I mean, can you guess the demand for these babies?”


            “I mean the military sales alone, and forget about international, you ever see the rats in Hong Kong.”

            “You need to push the button.”

            “And ... what?”

            “The button, Bill.  The cats tasted blood.”

            “They’ll calm down, once the hormone dissipates.”

            “You sure about that?”

            “Well ... actually no.  Look this is my first field trial okay.”

            “We can’t risk it.”

            Reston looked back at his cats.  Then at Matsumoto.  “I was having a real good day, too.  Things were going right.”

            “You can always make more cats.”

            “You think?”

            “When word of this gets out, hell you’ll be a millionaire.”

            “But I need the cats -”

            Besides, if the cats eat the evidence, who’ll believe there was a giant rat in the first place.  You’ll be labeled a nut, like the rest of us.”

            Reston pondered that one for a moment.  He looked at his cats.  Then he looked at Matsumoto.  “Good point.”  He pushed the button.

            There was a series of muffled explosions.  Matsumoto turned just in time to see one of the cats explode.  Its spinning head arched through the air and landed on the pavement.  The head rolled several yards before coming to rest in front of Matsumoto and Reston. 

            There were sirens in the background.  Matsumoto looked at the dead cats and the partially eaten carcass of the giant rat.

            “What happens now?” Moldonado asked. 

            “Not sure,” Matsumoto said.  “But I think were about to be famous.”

            The End.