Lights go off one by one. The shopkeeper prepares to leave. The front door shuts. Security shutters roll down.
A moment’s silence. Then, in the far corner, sharp eyes twinkle. Lithe. Sleek. Watchful. Feet moving purposefully. The intruder heads towards its goal.
The Hovis Seed Sensations. The rat will eat nothing else.
This is the story of shopkeeper vs rat. Of man’s ingenuity and need for revenge vs a rodent’s will to survive and prosper against the odds.
For SUPERPROOF, it also explains why sometimes it is just very, very difficult stop a rat getting to eat what it loves.
In this case, just one food in a mini supermarket of plenty, on the outskirts of London. In this case, Hovis Seed Sensations.
The story begins when the shopkeeper begins to notice that just one food is being regularly nibbled.
Every night, one Hovis Seed Sensations loaf, in a display stand of many other brands, is bitten into. Packaging is torn, and chunks ripped out.
The shopkeeper winds back his CCTV footage. It does not take long for the culprit to reveal itself. Literally.
It is a single rat. Every night. Emerging straight after the shop closes. It heads straight for his favourite food and has a feast, before loping back into hiding.
The shopkeeper was having none of it. Poisons. Traps. The full panoply of weapons pest control could throw at a rodent were deployed.
Days went by. And every night, it returned. Took its fill of Hovis Seed Sensations. Traps avoided. Rodenticide shunned.
The shopkeeper was not to be outdone. An escalation of violence was clearly needed. So, he bought a rifle. An air rifle, to be precise.
On the night of the planned assassination, he switched off the lights as usual. Locked the door. Closed the shutters.
The difference was, this time he was waiting. Gun in hand. Perched between the toilet paper and washing powder, he had a clear line of sight.
But, for the first time in days, his adversary did not show.
Two days later, the shopkeeper opened up in the morning. And found another Hovis Seed Sensations with its corner torn apart.
A quick check on the CCTV footage revealed the horror of the rat, back on its nightly prowl.
Other shopkeepers might have given up. Why not just deny your customers their Hovis Seed Sensations? Why not shut up shop and move?
But this retailer was not going to be beaten by a rodent. A fiendish plan began to form in his mind. Yes, this should do it. This is clever enough to defeat even this four-legged criminal genius.
Thanks to days of observation, this retailer knew precisely the rat’s modus operandi.
So, a length of wire mesh stretched across the aisle rat always scurried along. Two wires. A fully-charged car battery.
Yes, this would spell the rat’s demise. It will be electrocuted before it got to taste another morsel of loaf or sensational seed.
The trap was set. The mesh buzzing with enough power to spell the end of a whole nest of rats.
The following morning, the shopkeeper arrived. The mesh still in place. A loaf desecrated. No rat. Dead or alive.
Back to the CCTV. The by now frazzled retailer could not believe what he was seeing.
The rat emerged as usual. Approached the deadly mesh.
Then it did what the shopkeeper described as a “mission impossible” leap over the pulsing electric fence, before calmly heading on for his evening meal.
Before heading back the way he came. Again, avoiding the dire consequences of the merest scrape with the mesh of doom.
SUPERPROOF experts say: “This sounds extraordinary, but on a number of levels, it isn’t. Rodents can become obsessed with just one food.
“Also, they are incredibly resourceful and perceptive. They have a sixth sense which means they can evade many human attempts to trap or kill them.”
All that is clearly true. But, this is where our story ends.
Because SUPERPROOF presented the shopkeeper with a quote to rat proof his shop. The rogue rat would have been banished for ever. The problem would have been solved.
But he heard nothing back. Perhaps the shopkeeper did move. Perhaps he did find some other fiendish ploy to kill his mortal enemy.
Or perhaps, the rat is still enjoying his nightly feast of Hovis Seed Sensations.
We know which outcome we would have our money on.