This special tale was written for Fandango’s Dog Days of August #6
Today’s Prompt is: Pets
Here’s what I created. I hope you like it.
Murder in the menagerie
Detective Shelly Hobbs had been having lunch when the call came in.
“We have a deceased male. He’s died under suspicious circumstances. Requesting your presence.”
Shelly smiled this one would be fun; she could already tell. Arriving on the scene in her black Mercedes, she ducked beneath the police tape and took in the red brick 1930s construction; four-bedroom house. It was semi-detached and had well-maintained gardens aside from the dog pee damaged lawn.
“ ’Allo, detective. What’s ‘e bloody done?” asked a bearded man at the fence. He looked a businessy type in his suit.
“Afternoon, I don’t know yet. Did you know him well?” Shelly crossed the lawn to chat with him.
“Sure, I keep telling him to get shot of his animals. They drive me nuts! I ‘ope whatever ‘appened will make him get rid of them now.”
“I can see how they’d get annoying. What’s your name please?” Shelly took out her notebook.
“Earnest French,” the man showed his driving license.
“Thank you, Earnest. May I return if I have questions?”
“Course – I didn’t do anything if that’s what you think.” Earnest’s face paled. “I’ll be about for you.”
“Thanks, Earnest.” Shelly continued to the front door.
“Thank you for coming, Detective Hobbs,” said Sergeant Klass meeting her on the step.
“No problem, Jake. What have we got?”
The sergeant led the way inside and to a living room.
Shelly’s attuned nose was assaulted by the strong odours of animals. A hamster in its ball crashed into her feet.
“We believe the victim is forty-three-year-old John Downey. The ambulance guys wanted to put the death down to his animals. I wanted to be sure and called you.” Jake nodded to the deceased on the floor between the couch full of dog fur and the dining table cluttered with magazines, worming tablets and a large birdcage containing a cockatoo.
Shelly glanced about and raised her eyebrows. There were cages, vivariums and fish tanks all over the room. She saw rats, a boa constrictor, a python and corn snake, spotted geckos and an iguana, a Guinea pig, tarantulas and terrapins too. “I don’t know why but I think the victim likes animals.”
“Would it be this lot or the four cats in the bedroom and the three dogs, horse and goat in the back yard that gives you the clue,” Jake replied with a grin.
“No wonder it stinks like a zoo in here.” Shelly peered into the bedroom. The cats were all on the furry blue duvet. A line of litter trays under the radiator suggested they lived in there. She stepped before the victim. He was bare from the waist up, his modesty covered by a pair of dog print boxer shorts. He’d been scratched, clawed and bitten by many assailants according to his many wounds. “What is this – mutiny in a menagerie?”
“Do you think all the animals did this then?” Jake asked as his radio crackled to life. ‘APB out for a Gary Gaul in connection with the kidnapping of an eight-year old girl by the name of Leah Colman.’ “Sounds like an ugly case.”
“No kidding!” Shelly hated kidnappings. She dropped to a knee to look for clues. She scanned the body taking in his scratches, fang puncture marks, and open wounds. Her eyes roamed the carpet beneath; where she noted red flecks of something other than blood. Rising she went to the rear window and glanced outside. There really was a horse and goat back there with the dogs. “No, Jake. This was no animal attack.”
“How can you tell?”
“Not one single animal touched him during his death. The dogs are not bloodied, they did nothing. The snakes are constrictors – he has fang marks. And if the scratches are from cats they have four-pronged forks for claws.”
“I knew something was fishy.”
“Really? He has goldfish, not piranha.” Shelly grinned.
“You know what I mean.” Jake laughed, “What’s the plan?”
“Call the RSPCA to collect the menagerie before they all starve to death. We better get him transferred for an autopsy too.”
“Roger that.” Jake got on the radio at once.
Shelly left by the back door and knelt by the three Border Collie dogs. She wanted to be sure none of them had attacked their master.
“You there. Is John alright?”
Shelly, seeing no signs of a fight on the dog muzzles and paws, rose and looked for the voice. Leaning over the fence she saw a middle-aged lady wearing an apron over her peach dress. She was scratching her arm with her beaten up red-painted fingernails. “I’m afraid he’s dead. Looks like an animal attack. Did you hear or see anything suspicious?”
“No, sorry. I turn my TV up real loud to cover the noise of all the creature. I don’t mind him having them but they do make a row.”
Shelly tickled the goat behind the ears. “I love creatures myself. What’s your name?”
“Hilda Roberts. I suppose the animals will be taken and euthanized now, will they?”
“No, we’ll see they all get new homes. How’d you get the round sore on your arm?” Shelly said, now feeding the horse some hay.
“Oh, I put my arm down on my hot coffee. Really burns now.” Hilda told her.
“Ouch! Put some burn cream on, okay? Do you have pet’s yourself?”
“No – used to years ago, mind. Kept getting upset when they died so decided to stop having them.”
“Fair enough. You take care of that arm okay.” Shelly smiled and went back inside.
“RSPCA and coroner are on route for you,” said Sergeant Klass peering into the boa constrictors vivarium.
“Thank you. Let’s go out and wait for them.” Shelly left the house for the front garden.
“’e’s dead, isn’t ‘e?” said Earnest looking ill in his garden.
“How would you know that, sir?” asked Jake glancing at Shelly.
“Bad feeling. I didn’t ‘ear ‘im talking to the ‘orse and goat this morning. ‘e didn’t take the dogs for a walk either. Never misses either chore. ‘e loves those animals see.”
“Yes, I’m afraid he is dead. I’ll have to arrest you and take you in for questioning as you knew he was dead ahead of being told.” Jake took out his handcuffs and made to walk around into the neighbouring garden. “You don’t have to say anything, but—”
“Sergeant Klass – stop,” Shelly ordered.
“Okay, isn’t he …”
“No, he’s not our murderer. Arrest Hilda Roberts – the other side please.” Shelly instructed.
“Not old ‘ilda surely,” Earnest said.
“Go indoors please, sir.” Shelly waited on the pavement for Jake to make his arrest.
“You can’t arrest me. I’ve done nothing!” Hilda yelled as she was brought outside in handcuffs.
“Yes, you have. You hate animals, don’t you?” Shelly accused.
“No, I just want my peace and quiet,” Hilda said.
“Enough to kill?”
“Liar! You don’t have animals but you do have a ringworm infection on your arm.” Shelly indicated the red area.
“Proves nothing, detective.” Hilda set her jaw in defiance.
“No, only that you were in John’s house. You see his cats have just been treated for ringworm. They also live in his bedroom so you didn’t meet them out here.”
“Still proves —”
“I’m not done!” Shelly silence her suspect. “There were flecks of nail varnish on the carpet by the victim. I’ll bet by the state of your nails it’ll be a match to you. Hard work killing someone and making it look like animals did it, isn’t it?” Shelly glared as she condemned the woman.
“How dare you?”
“Because all animals go to heaven, Mrs Roberts. They never attack without good reason unlike people do.” Shelly nodded to Jake. “Take her away.”
“My pleasure, detective,” he said. “Come on, Madam – get in the car.”
Shelly climbed into her Mercedes and smiled. She loved a nice easy case to solve. She would wait for the RSPCA and ensure the animals would be taken care of properly.
Pets are a privilege and joy. They should be loved and cared for after all.
Thank you for reading! Do check out the Short Stories tab for more fun tales.
Have a great day!