Killer in the Closet
This #FridayFlash fic was written as part of a prompt call themed around saws, idioms and proverbs; inspired by a prompt by Beetiger: “Too much stuff”
A horde of hungry eyes stared at Casey when the locksmith’s work was done and she opened the door. Green eyes, yellow eyes, a few blue eyes.
For a few moments all was quiet, then a pink, fanged maw opened beneath one pair of eyes, and released a terrible sound, the angry angry cry of a lap-sized cousin of a starved lion. It was followed by another one, then two more, and soon every single one of the carpet of cats waiting in the tiny hallway inside old Mrs. Gentlefellow’s front door. With a growl, she swept a couple of cats aside with the side of her foot, and managed to take a full step into the apartment before her brain registered the stench hanging in the air.
With a hard swallow, she reached up and adjusted her breathing mask. Bad enough the place was full of cats; she was going to be itching for a week at this rate. Not much to be done about it, though – she was here to find out if the smell that had bothered the old lady’s neighbor was a result of foul play or just a failure to keep up with those furry devils’ litter boxes.
Wistful thinking, of course.
There was no way, no matter how filthy, a litter box could smell like someone went to the butcher and forgot to put their purchase in the fridge. The best-case scenario was that the old bat had done just that and then went for a cruise in the Bahamas. Someone swore behind her; probably some poor technician trying to keep the cats from running out through the open door. God. Casey could not understand why anyone would want pets, and especially not pets like cats, with no practical utility.
But then, maybe that antipathy also had something to do with that pesky allergy thing she’d been dealing with all her life.
The kitchen, once she managed to wade there through the sea of hungry felines, showed no evidence of a shopping trip interrupted by a bout of scattered mental faculties. The counters weren’t clear, but at a glance none of the clutter piled onto them could explain the smell permeating the apartment. Knick-knacks, jars of all shapes and sizes, half of them the sort cookies or candies would come in at the supermarket. Crazy old ladies, saving everything for a rainy day.
Casey shook her head, tugging at the edge of her gloves. Might as well check the trash, too; nobody ever got a promotion by doing a hack job of an investigation.
Opening the cupboard under the old lady’s sink in search for the trash can, she found a newly-changed trash bag, and several cans of cat food, causing the chorus of her whiskered, fanged onlookers to redouble in volume. Maybe that was why the old lady was gone; Casey couldn’t see how anyone could stand that noise – thirty seconds and it was already giving her a headache. With a sigh, she pulled out one of the cans, hooked a gloved finger into the pull-ring on the lid, and opened it. Chunks of something with a cursory resemblance to meat in a gel-like, just as unappetizing sauce.
A plastic plate sat on the floor over in a corner, and she upended the empty can over it, drawing a hissing, yowling mass of famished animals to converge on the freshly-served meal. She was probably going to catch flak over it, changing the scene, but she couldn’t work with those beasts following her around singing an aria of desperate, primal hunger.
No sign of the old lady in the tiny bathroom.
Last chance. Casey proceeded to Mrs. Gentlefellow’s bedroom.
The coroner determined cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head, noting that most of the damage to the exposed parts of the woman’s body had been done postmortem. Those cursed, devilish cats, those pets the old woman had hoarded, hadn’t loved their mistress very much in death, it seemed.
A week later, one investigator was landed in the hospital with a concussion after opening another closet door in the old woman’s home, and the chain of events was official. There had been no burglars, no foul play, no material motive to be discerned.
Just a lonely old woman who’d collected too much stuff over the year, and whose hoarding had finally gotten the better of her.