| I sat calmly on the white sofa while the others shifted uncomfortably under the detective’s watchful gaze. The family had been called into the living room after the squat little man throughly searched the bedroom and questioned everyone privately.
Robert sat on the arm of the sofa beside me, sweating nervousness like the rat he was. A dark dinner jacket draped over his lap and teal dress shirt opened at the collar with an awful navy tie hanging loose around his thin neck. I glanced over when his leg started to twitch as he answered some pointless question or other.
The blonde twit Shelly was wearing a red evening gown with a slit so far up her thigh it was easy to see she hadn’t bothered to shave her upper legs and with enough rocks to put a quarry out of business. Her large glassy blue eyes where nice and puffy, their color turning as red as her dress while she continued to bawl into a handkerchief provided by Matthew.
Ah yes, Matthew. He was a chivalrous toad. A man who thought of one thing, which dimwitted Shelly had an over abundance of. He sat in a leather high back armchair by the dead fireplace. Acting as though he had not a care in the world about the sordid business, but his eyes shifted about the room taking in everything everyone was doing. His immaculate gray suit wrinkling as he continually crossed and re-crossed his legs.
Jena stood by a window with Lisa, her twin. The two were always together, you could never get them to part. Each wore a simple dress their father approved of, Jena’s being a grayish-blue bruise and Lisa’s a sickly green. The smooth lengthy lines accentuated their finer points while hiding the scares that danced across their skin, a permanent map of misery.
The detective was talking about Charles. Not that I cared. Charles had been a bastard when alive. I was glad he was dead. It was the way he had died though which had brought the police into this mess. The detective was going on about how everyone had a motive to kill Charles. Probably trying to scare one into a confession.
He was right. Shelly was Charles’s second wife. The first only dead a mere week before he married his stupid secretary. He humiliated her in public, kept her on a tight allowance and basically ignored her at home. She was meant to be a beautiful ornament to decorate his arm at important functions and dinner parties, and shoved into a closet when the need was over.
Matthew at one time, was his business partner. Until Charles swindled him out of his share of the company. For a long time Matthew’s eyes drove fiery daggers into Charles’s back. Eventually Matthew and Shelly found a way to make Charles pay for his indiscretions. The idiot never noticed the two having an affair in his very house. Often when he was in the house.
Jena and Lisa were treated no better than Shelly. Each was a grown woman in her own right; but Charles dictated their lives from what their interests were, to their dress, to where they could go, to who they could see. They were allowed no choices in their own lives. Charles’s word was law and they had all the evidence to prove the cost of disobedience.
Then there was Robert. A nervous son who disgraced his hard father. Oh there was nothing wrong with Robert. He was quiet and shy. Preferring the company of books and maybe a silent chat or two online. Thin as a twig and mousy brown hair, he was the exact opposite of everything his father expected in a son. Charles had done everything from encouragement and bribes to threats and beatings in a desire to change Robert into someone else.
Then there was me. I hated him. Plain and simple. The man was a beast. Hard headed and cold hearted. He treated animals cruelly, saying once that all strays should be drowned instead of taken in. I will lose no tears or sleep over his death. The bastard.
“We know Charles was poisoned. And that it was deliberate and relatively slow. There is also reason to assume that it was someone in this room.” The detective’s voice was thick and deep, starting somewhere far down his throat. Really, it was much more suited for the stage. A great rumble for such a fat little man.
There was a loud gasp from the assembled group. Everyone stared at the detective with a comical mixture of fear and horror. Shelly started to cry harder, Matthew shifted uncomfortably, Robert coughed, and the twins went even paler. What Idiots people where.
It was easy to see what they were thinking. Even the empty headed blonde was wondering who killed Charles. They looked at each other, wondering who was the killer and if they might be the next victim.
The detective continued speaking, “You all had motives for murder. Mrs Haring had no love loss for her husband. A harsh and neglectful man who never treated her as an equal nor with love.”
Shelly’s shiny head snapped up, her face blotchy. “What . . . ? You, you mean . . . a woman scorned or something?” God could she sound any more dimwitted? It was like listening to a child forgetting the simple question to which they were answering.
“Yes, something like that.” The detective gave her an indulgent smile. Well what do you know, the fat fool was smitten. What a shocker. Obviously he felt she was too daft to figure out how to poison anyone.
“Mr. Donver, I understand you where once in business with Mr. Haring and he swindled you out of the business thereby ruining you.”
“Oh! But Matt couldn’t have killed Charlie. I mean, . . . at least . . ., oh dear.” Shelly’s words trailed away into a bubbling incoherent pot of words and sounds. The detective stared at her patiently. All she had to do was say the words. Everyone knew already, but then, she was probably to too stupid to understand.
“I was alone with Shelly.” Matthew said, coming to her defense. Shelly looked at him with such a mixture of shocked fear and relief it was hard to tell which was the dominant emotion.
“You were together at the time of death?” asked the detective, one eyebrow raised.
“Yes.” Said Matthew.
“Really?” The detective still sounded skeptical.
“Yes really.” It was Jena who spoke. She stood by the window, arms crossed and head high. “Everyone knew. Except father. He was too busy dragging people down.” marvelous how people can forget they where once suppressed when a tyrant is dead.
“Well, then that leaves two of you in the clear. As for the other three . . .” I wanted to smack him. There were four more, four. Not that I had expected the little oaf to count me amongst the others, but a girl does like to be noticed.
“Miss Jena, you and your sister have been subjected to a horrible upbringing. Your father beat you and left scares on your bodies in the express purpose of binding you to his will.”
As if the old man had to try very hard with this lot. Jena may be outspoken now, but while dear old daddy was alive she slunk along with the rest of them, dancing to his tune. Charles never tried. He did.
“Yes, but we were at Mrs. Longview’s tea party in the next town.” Lisa said, her quiet words made even quieter by the fact that she never spoke above a whisper.
“As I know from talking with that charming elderly woman not too long ago. No no my dear, all I am putting forward are the motives. Which brings us to Master Robert.”
“Let me stop you now detective. I admit, I had no love for my father and am glad he’s dead. He treated my sister’s and stepmother abominably. He also had very loose business tactics I didn’t care for. But I was in my office with two other associates planning meetings for the rest of the week when father died.”
The detective nodded his head slightly toward Robert. “You put the facts together quite nicely. Now I have a little story to relate to you all.” He straightened himself up, standing erect he didn’t look nearly as plump as he did before.
“Charles Haring was a difficult man who grew from a backwards, dirt poor farm boy into the leading CEO of a fortune five hundred company. He became very rich and was known to pull over a shady deal or two that wasn’t quite within the law. As he grew older he began to despise his family and took it into his head to cut each and everyone of them out of his will. He was in the process of changing his will when he died. If his wishes would have been attained before hand, the vast fortune of his holdings would have gone to, Sable.”
“What! But father hated Sable! Besides, she’s a cat!” The cries of protest where loud and fast. Everyone was talking and glaring at me as though I had a use for money. Please. Yawning, I stretched, arching my back into a perfect ‘n’ before lightly jumping up and settling down on Robert’s lap.
The detective coughed and all those standing sat silently, their faces turned to his expectantly. “As I said, had the will been completed before his death all his money and holdings would have gone to Sable and any descendants of hers. As that is not the case the old will still holds. But Charles had another plan. A devious one. One where he was prepared to die to see it completed. He wanted to get one or more of you tried and convicted of murder. He set about slowly poisoning himself and laying the ground work so that his suicide would appear to be the greedy work of his family.”
No one spoke. No one moved. The silence stretched out until Lisa broke it, her voice far louder in the silence than any of the others could have been. “You mean, father poisoned himself?”
“Yes. Charles Haring committed suicide.”
“Then, we’re free to leave?” Asked Shelly looking adoringly into Matthew’s eyes.
In response, Matthew rose and pulled her to her feet. “Well what do you know, the old blagger killed himself. Let’s all go down to Barney’s and have a party. By his own hand the tyrant is dead at last!”
The twins followed Matthew and Shelly out the door. The detective remained behind for a minute. A frown forming between his brows. “Just one thing puzzles me though. The cat hair. But then cat hair does have a knack for getting around doesn’t it?” With that he left.
Robert and I stayed in the living room listening to the house and the sounds of tires crunching over gravel. When all had been silent for about ten minutes Robert picked me up and carried me over to the window. Holding me close to his chest he whispered, “Well done Sable. They never suspected a thing.”
I tilted my head up and licked his chin. Robert may be a kind of rat, but he was my rat. I wasn’t going to let that cantankerous, rotten hearted bastard cut Robert out off his well deserved inheritance. Charles had to die. I was just the cat to do it.