I was not settling into small town life very well.
As a recent transplant to the tiny town of Amoeba, I was not yet accustomed to how things worked away from the big city I had been raised in. But I had recently accepted a great job in Amoeba and moved into a small house on a quiet street.
I wasn’t endearing myself to the community. When someone lived in town, the locals expected them to participate in community activities. Not my style. I was also hated by my mail lady and my paper boy, both of whom found my overgrown lawn and cluttered driveway unsightly and annoying. And the neighborhood children were afraid of me after I got drunk and knocked over their lemonade stand, which was technically set up on my property.
I didn’t leave the house too much unless I had to. I sat at home one evening in late October listening to some old records I found while moving. As I opened the back door to let my cat, Snookums, out into the yard, I could hear the sounds of festivities downtown. The residents of Amoeba were meeting in the center of town to decorate the Donut Emporium for Halloween. It was, after all, the tallest building in town.
I went back inside, happier listening to my record player than the joyful sounds of the community. I fell asleep while the record player spun and the music blocked out the noise.
I woke up abruptly to the sound of banging on my door. I glanced at the clock as I stumbled toward the door. It was almost two in the morning.
“You missed the festival!” A crazy looking woman wearing a trash bag for a coat and foil on her head stood on my porch waving her arms wildly. “You’re being punished, Mister!”
I was still half asleep. There were crazy people in the city, but they were the kind you pass by and never see again. Not the kind you find wandering around your yard in the middle of the night.
I rubbed my eyes. “Don’t you live up the road?”
She ignored my question and continued to rant. “You’re being punished! You shouldn’t have spilled the lemonade!”
I yawned. This wasn’t even mildly entertaining. I shut the door slowly. “Good night. I hope you find your way home.”
I waited a few moments until I heard her shuffle down the stairs . I peeked out the window and watched her wander up the road.
I quietly opened the door, hoping she wouldn’t hear me and come back. I looked around for Snookums. He had been outside for longer than usual while I was asleep. I walked around the side of the house and noticed something in my driveway.
It was Snookums. He was lying on his side with a knife sticking out of his chest.
I gasped. Snookums had been murdered!
I looked around but saw no one. It was late in Amoeba, and most of the town’s people were home from the Halloween Festivities. I walked to the end of my driveway, scratching my head. Who would do this?
I could think of a few people. Luckily, all my disgruntled ex-girlfriends were far away in the city. But there was the crazy woman who wore trash bags and a few vengeful children in the neighborhood who could have done it.
I could see movement up the road at one of the older, larger houses. The crazy woman who had been on my porch lived there, and she was still puttering around her yard.
She had mentioned that I was being punished. Was this the punishment she had alluded to? Had someone taken the life of my dear Snookums to punish me for my ill-natured ways? Did the crazy woman in the foil hat know who had done it? Or had she done it herself?
I covered Snookums’ body with a trash bag but didn’t remove it from the driveway at that point. I decided to take a walk downtown, which was only four blocks from my house. As I got closer to the Donut Emporium, aka downtown, I noticed that there were still a few people around.
A woman was leaving the police station with two young boys with her.
“This will never happen again, officer.” She dragged one boy by the arm and the other followed with his head down.
“No problem, as long as they’re at the school at seven tomorrow morning to clean up the spray paint!” The police officer was laughing rather than angry.
As the woman opened her car door to let them in, I realized they were the same two kids whose lemonade stand I had destroyed. They had been covering their junior high school auditorium with graffiti for the last few hours, leaving them unavailable to kill my Snookums.
Things weren’t looking good for the crazy woman. Now that my only other suspects were in the clear, all signs were pointing toward her and her pointy foil hat.
I stopped to admire the Donut Emporium, now covered in orange and black lights. Cutouts of bats and witches were taped to the windows and someone had strung popcorn around the banister in front of the building.
“You should have helped, mister. You’ll pay. Pay for not being nice.” The crazy woman was behind me now.
I stared at her in her strange getup. I was ready to walk over to the police station and have her arrested.
She walked around me toward the Donut Emporium. She tore one of the popcorn strings from where it was tied and watched as the popcorn fell on the sidewalk.
I turned to walk away. “Alright, lady, now you’re just making a mess. Sure they’re not going to make you pay?”
“Oh, no.” Crazy didn’t look even slightly worried. “I’m not making a mess. Mice come out and eat the popcorn. Then the kitties eat the mice.”
She was pointing over in the corner by the dumpster. Sure enough, there were several skinny, stray cats hanging out near the dumpster. Perhaps they were waiting for the mice that would come to eat the popcorn.
The crazy woman walked over to the dumpster and the cats swarmed to her, rubbing against her legs. They knew her. They liked her.
This was not a cat-killer.
And now I was even more confused.
I walked home, thinking that the best thing to do would be to just bury Snookums and forget the whole thing ever happened. I could hear the crazy woman a block or so behind me, making her way home as well.
I opened my garage and prepared to put Snookums inside for the night until I could bury him the next day. I used an oil rag to remove the knife, then wrapped the cat’s body in the trash bag and carefully put it in my garage and shut the door.
I went inside and lay the knife on the counter while I scrubbed my hands in the kitchen sink. I heard the clock chime three times from the living room telling me it was three o’clock. I glanced at my laptop on the counter. I watched the clock on the computer switch over from two fifty-nine to… two am. An hour had disappeared.
This is when I noticed for the first time that the knife on the counter was actually a letter-opener.
The following morning was sunny and cool. My new-found clue had awakened my desire to solve this mystery. I grabbed the letter-opener and started walking up the road toward the crazy lady’s house. She was the only one who would know who killed my cat.
I knocked on her door around ten o’clock. It was bright out, it felt like eleven.
Crazy answered the door. The trash bag was missing, but her signature foil hat was present and accounted for. She looked frightened to see me standing there with the letter opener.
“Oh, no.” This was all she said.
“Linda, who are you talking to? Who is at the door?” I heard a woman’s voice from inside.
Crazy Linda backed away from the door. The woman who walked up behind her was her sister, a woman I had seen before. It was her day off work, as it was Sunday. And she immediately recognized the letter opener in my hand.
She was my mail lady. And she had murdered my cat.
“You should really think about mowing your lawn a little more often.” The door shut.
I’m an amateur writer, reader and blogger. I live in Ohio with my family.