Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Hasp Deadbolt murderous nursery rhyme

A Deep Subject

Now, I have nothing against cats. Never have. I don’t own one, but I have friends who do. Still, by all accounts the Green cat was a rough customer. But I should start at the beginning. Hasp Deadbolt’s the name and solving crime’s the game. I work out of a small office in a rundown part of the city, but at least I don’t live there. Anyway, things had been kinda slow for a while, or I wouldn’t have touched a lost-kitty case, but I needed to pay the bills. So when a knock roused me from contemplation of my financial troubles, I called “come in” with more than my usual debonair charm.

The kid who walked in was big, really big. I wasn’t sure my client chair was going to hold him. Apparently, he wasn’t sure either, because he chose to stand.

What can I do for you, young man,” I asked, giving him the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how I was short on cash. I dropped my feet to the floor and shuffled a few papers I kept on my desk for the purpose.

I need help, Mr. Deadbolt,” he began, and then seemed at a loss as to how to continue. Anybody who gets my name right can’t be all bad, so I bit my tongue.

My clients usually do, Mr...?”

Johnny Stout, Sir. You see, it’s my cat. Well, not really my cat. He’s my neighbor’s cat. But, well, I’m worried.” I could see this was going to take a little time. Time, I had, and I eventually wormed it out of him. It seems his neighbors had a cat that they let roam around loose. It would bum food from everyone in the neighborhood, harassed small animals with little or no provocation, and generally made a nuisance of itself. And it hadn’t been seen for two days.

I have to ask this, Johnny. It sounds like this Green cat is a pretty unsavory customer. Why are you so worried?” It’s not that I didn’t want the job, but I really was puzzled.

Mr. Deadbolt,” he replied, “the cat is not the most pleasant creature in the world, but all he ever really did was kill some gangsters who were stealing from his owner.”

A cat killing gangsters?! Who were these gangsters ... mice?”

Exactly. The Mus brothers. Killing them was wrong, I know that, but they were robbing the Greens blind.” So, I took the case. I went right down to interview the neighbors and search for clues. Nobody had anything good to say about the cat, which seemed not to have a name. Mrs. Green called it “pussy.” Her son Tommy called it “that damn cat,” which was echoed by most of those I talked to. Pussy was a rough character, all right. He’d been implicated in the murder of Cock Robin earlier that spring, though another songbird had eventually confessed to that crime. “But I still think he had something to do with it,” insisted Mr. Oldersham, the Green’s half-blind next-door neighbor.

I was working my way down the other side of the street when young Johnny Stout came panting up. “I found him!” he gasped, “in the well!”

Show me,” I said. Sure enough, he’d pulled Pussy out of an old well in the Green’s back yard.

They don’t use this well anymore because they’re on city water. I don’t know what made me look in there.” He stopped for a minute. “But there he was. Floating!” He shuddered. “Who could have done this? Who?”

Leave that to me, son.” I had a hunch. I sent the lad home and went around to the front. I’d seen the Green kid watching through the back window, but it was his mother who came to the door. “Mrs. Green? I’d like to speak to your son for a minute.” She invited me in, and I waited in the small and spare living room for a few minutes. When he came in, he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

Tommy,” I said, “I suppose you have heard that dead men tell no tales.” He nodded. “That’s true enough, as far as it goes, but it’s not always strictly true. Cats, for instance, have nine lives.”

That’s an old wives’ tale!” he shouted.

Now, Tommy,” I said, “who’s the detective here, me or you? All of these old stories have a kernel of truth in them, that’s why people have repeated them all these years. Like henbane? It really does kill hens. Anyway, cats can communicate for a while after they’ve died, at least in some circumstances. They’ve been known to be able to talk for up to nine days after death, which is why we say they have nine lives.” I slammed my fist down on the coffee table. Tommy jumped two feet in the air. “Why did you do it, Tommy!?” I shouted.

He broke down. Confessed he’d been working with the Mus Brothers, skimming grain and anything else that wasn’t nailed down and selling it on the black market.

“So when that damn cat killed my partners and dried up my income, I had to rub him out. I just picked him up and ...” But I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that little Tommy is now doing 20 years in the rock hockey arena, with the possibility of time off for good behavior.

And Johnny turned out to be Stout in more ways than one; he paid me my full fee, on time.

The end

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