The body lay half stashed under the radiator in the entryway. There was blood smeared on the floor. I only noticed it when I was about to leave for work. I threw open the door to the basement and pressed the garage door button. As the door flew back, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a darkness that should not be there.
I walked over and bent down curiously.
Murder in the night! I had not heard a thing. No shrieks, cries of pain or maniacal laughter.
I called all of the house mates together. There were 4 suspects-the Polish princess, the blonde good ol’boy, the aerobic instructor and the new kid. I questioned them each in turn. Mum’s the word. I could not get anything out of them.
I took them to the scene of the crime and pointed out the evidence. I inquired about their alibis. They all looked at each other. Nothing.
I looked around the house for clues. How did the victim get in? Where was he killed? Where was the other half?
Ah yes, I neglected to mention; there was only the lower half of the body.
I decided that I needed to dispose of it and let bygones be bygones. Burying it seemed a little extreme. I scooped it up, flipped open the garbage can and tossed it in.
I pondered on the drive to work. Who could have done such a thing? Would I return home from work with a kitchen ripe from a rotting body in the garbage? Why was it half eaten? Why eat it at all?
The Polish princess is old and frail, delicate and unassuming. It surely could not be her. But it could be an act. She went through a difficult time and is demanding as a result. Hmmm.
The good ol’boy , I thought was too happy go lucky, even lazy and did not have the gumption nor the tools for the job. Nope, probably not him.
The aerobic instructor on the other hand has the speed and agility. She could dart in and do the deed before the poor victim knew what hit him. A possibility, but she is scattered, a bit of an airhead and does not like to get dirty. I just could not see her as a murderer.
The new kid, on the other hand has street smarts. He is a young, tough, and understands how to use weapons to his advantage. He also is too curious for his own good. If there were a house invader, the kid would definitely be the one to ‘take care’ of it. I am OK with dispatching intruders but did he have to eat half of it?
When I came home from work, I examined the housemates carefully. No mouse breath on anyone. Every whisker was neatly washed and in place.
I shrugged and decided it was unlikely to happen again. (I have had mice in the house but it was years ago in a harsh winter. That was the year that GusGus was living in the pantry. I think he and the cats were in cahoots.)
Life was back to normal. It was a fluke.
Then, there was a second victim! (Isn’t there always a second victim?)
I came home not a week after the first incident to find another hapless intruder mutilated. This time in the dining room! And he was not dead, just mortally wounded.
As I flipped on the light in the kitchen, the aerobic instructor, Miss Winkie, dashed around me and into the dining room. She proceeded to lick the victim. I did not realized what it was. Again I thought it was some kind of string toy.
I stepped onto the hardwood floor of the dining room and peered down at it. OMG! It’s a snake. When I turned on the overhead light, all of the cats were huddled round it. They sniffed it like they had never seen it before. It was not a garter snake. It had spots not stripes. I stepped back. Winkie stepped back in. She wanted it.
What to do. What to do. I do not know my snakes very well. I had never seen one like this. As I was hunkered over, pushing the cats away; it moved its head a fraction. Oh no. Not dead.
About ¾ of the way down its body the cats had crushed and chewed on it. I wondered randomly if it could grow its tail back. It was not flicking its tongue out. It looked at me. I looked at it. I was alone in the house with 4 cats and a mostly dead snake.
I decided this one needed to go outside. I could not throw it in the garbage. I unlocked the side door, got the dustpan, brushed in the little snake. I took it outside and shook it gently onto the rock wall.
I now think the murderer/protector of the innocent is Winkie. She had been a 3-year old stray when she was invited to move inside. The street kid, who I wrongfully blamed, had been a kitten. I am not letting him off the hook completely. But I think the snake was definitely hers.