Detective Johns arrived late to the scene. Evening had come and gone sometime during his last interrogation; he’d entered the dusty grey meeting room in daylight but when he walked out again, the streets were dark, and the sky was the colour of a fresh bruise. Another day over. How many did he have left? How many days did anyone have? He was 52 years old, a smoker, not as fit as he should be. He was balding and pallid. But people relied on him. That counted for something. He turned up his collar now, against the chilly wind coming straight and cold from the dark mountain. You got philosophical in this job. He aimed his car keys behind him and pressed the button. Beep beep. Locked. A friendly flash of light. He wished he had a cigarette.
The crime scene was lit up like a Christmas tree. No bystanders though. It was a quiet suburban street in a commuter suburb. Most people would still be on their way home, picking up the kids from after school care, fetching a BBQ chicken for dinner if they were running late. Unaware of the tragedy unfolding just next door. He could see his partner had already arrived. Good. She would have made a start. An attractive woman in her mid-forties, she was dressed in no-nonsense pants and a closely fitted blouse, her hair cut short to accentuate her smooth white neck and the boyish grace with which she leaned against the fence, hands in her pockets, watching him walk towards her. The thought occurred, not for the first time, that he would like to unbutton that neat blouse, but he knew better than to entertain such fantasies.
What happened here?’
‘What do you reckon?’
They looked down at the body. Female, average size, decapitated. Her head, or what was left of it, appeared to have been dragged to where it lay on the doorstep. Her entrails spread out from a gash in her stomach. Blood had soaked into the ground around her.
‘Looks pretty much exactly like the last two.’
‘I can see tooth marks. And look here – scratches. She was gripped and held with claws.’
‘That would have to be a pretty big animal.’
‘I’m guessing a big cat.’
Detective Johns glanced up and down the street.
‘Did anyone see anything?’
‘Nobody was home.’
‘Still at work.’
‘Let’s get rid of the body before they get back.’
‘Really, Bob, that’s your solution?’
‘Well, do you want to tell them their third fucking pet rabbit’s dead on our doorstep?’
‘Not a hope in hell, I did it last time.’
‘Any chance it wasn’t our cat?’
They glanced at each other.
‘Of course it was our cat. Who else disembowels animals around here?’
‘Fine. You sort out the body, I’ll clean the step before the kids get home.’
Late that night, Detective Johns stepped outside to have a smoke. Life was good. He’d unbuttoned her blouse after all. He leaned over the veranda railing. Mr Tibbs yowled from inside, scratching at the door.