Jimbo walks without fear, though the streets are dark and dangerous. He has somewhere to go, and nothing is going to keep him from getting there. He'll fight if he has to – he's done it before, and he hasn't been beaten yet; although his face is a patchwork of scars showing how close he's come, sometimes, and there is just a puckered hole where his right eye should be, a souvenir of one particularly vicious encounter. Others, passing, give him a wide berth.

He skirts remains of uneaten pizza and broken beer bottles lying on the sidewalk, stepping over the legs of a pathetic old wino who lies, snoring, in the gutter. Through an open window he hears the insistent nasal whine of an embittered woman, cataloguing her husband's shortcomings, blaming his failures for keeping her in this stinking neighbourhood when she should have been living the high-life. Jimbo has never settled, himself, just gone from female to female, sampling the exquisite pleasures they offer then moving on before things turned as sour as that whining voice.

A splash of scarlet on a doorstep bears silent witness to recent violence, and a cop is close, talking to a group of boys, none of them more than fifteen. They are shaking their heads, vehemently denying all knowledge, and Jimbo wonders if they were complicitous in whatever crime was committed, or just scared of reprisals if they talk. Whichever way, he thinks, they are right in their zealous refusal to cooperate – it would be lunacy these days, in a place like this, to get a name for helping the cops.

As he passes, one of the boys nods in his direction. "Look at him, man," he says to one of his buddies, "he looks like he's been put through a meat-grinder." The other boy laughs, "Don't he? He looks like he won though – ain't nobody going to be messin' wit' him!"

Jimbo lifts his head in pride at the backhanded compliment, strutting a little as he turns the corner into another alley where the stench of rotting garbage mingling with the smells of oil and soy sauce from Chang's Palace would be enough to make you vomit if you didn't have a strong stomach. But this is the only way to get to where he's going, to reach the place were Polly waits for him, ready to make this night good, and to make any risk and discomfort worthwhile.

He jumps, pulling himself up onto the wall at the end of the alley, and, with another little leap, he reaches the fire escape that rises up the back of her building.

Jimbo throws back his head and yowls. It's a fine night for a tomcat to be alive.