Flash Friday 02/08/2013: In Cold Blood
April twenty-third. Another death, just like clockwork.
Haven’t even got out of my straw bed before I saw him. Poor George the Gentle went for a drink at the water bottle on the other side of the cage, didn’t know it was rigged to blow. Got a ball-bearing lodged in the back of his head. Died the way he lived; on his own, with nobody to mourn him. Of course, it was all set up like an accident. I mean, they happen, right? Drawing a king when you’re so close to the blackjack. Watching as the ball on the roulette table bounces out the number you just put your life’s hopes and dreams on, and lands in some fat-cat’s choice instead, as if Fate herself wants you to live like a bum.
Of course, accidents never happen in this cage. Not by accident, anyway.
I sat Dominic One-Eye down. He lost his left one in a nasty accident. Always tells stories of the cage he once lived in, demanded by the bigger boys to run the wheel day-in, day-out. They had a monopoly on the water and the pellets. He had to sing and dance for his food. He never said how he got out of that one. All I know is that he still had both eyes when he started his escape.
“So it’s back to me, eh?” Dominic said. “One guy gets himself killed and you’re on my ass like I did something.”
“It’s because you did, Dominic,” I said. “You did it.”
“That’s bull, and you know it. Stuff happens, Mikey. People die all the time. You can’t blame me for everything.”
“No, but I can blame you for this. It’s just like the little ‘accident’ we had with the hamster ball and the stairs. You never did shed a tear for John. Maybe because you had murder on your mind.”
“The thing is, you haven’t got a motive, have you?” Dominic laid back on his blue plastic chair, as if he owned the place. “I thought cops needed one of those. You know, standard practice and all. Can’t go around arresting people out of nowhere, can you?”
“Oh, you had a motive.” I withdrew my notebook, flipping to the page. “Says here that George was taking naps on your patch of sawdust. I know how you always want to claim the premium mounds for yourself. Couldn’t stand George hogging all the good bits.”
“So you know what you thought?”
“Mikey, don’t you dare go down–”
“You thought about killing him.” I slammed a paw on the table, its joyous colours doing nothing for my temperament. “You thought about nailing the bastard so you can have your sawdust back. Hell, maybe then George won’t even bother you for some of your pellets when he’s hungry. Must’ve been real tempting in that mind of yours, Dominic.”
“Now you listen here,” Dominic said. What was once a chuckling hyena having his day was now a ferocious lion, leaning over the table like he was gonna bite my head clean off. “You can make your fairy-tale stories up all day, but I ain’t admitting to nothin’ about nobody, you hear? You haven’t got the balls to pin it on me. You don’t have the guts.”
“I’m gonna convict you,” I said, “because you and I are the only two fools in this cage now. You just murdered the last guy.”
Dominic looked over his shoulder. It was only now that he realised that he became the murderer purely by default, given that the only other sucker here was me. He turned back, his face looking a lot more humbled than before.
“If you bleat to the humans,” he said, “I’ll be sure to hang around when we’re next in the hamster balls. Maybe you can break your neck like John did with his own stair escapade.”
“If you start playing up, I’ll just tug my puppet strings with the dogs. They’ll have you buried in the back yard like the bone-head that you are.”
“Well,” Dominic said, raising from the table. “You and I both know what time it is.”
“That’s right,” I said. “We can finish this later.”
Alison skipped into her room, the hamster food bag in her hand. While she was devastated at the sight of a second hamster dying, she couldn’t help but feel convenience over the idea that she had to buy less pellets with her pocket money now.
She opened the top of the cage, Dommy and Mikey already waiting for their food. She knew that Dommy never got along well with the other hamsters, but this was the first time she saw him glaring at Mikey with his spare eye. This was also the first time she saw Mikey exchange the favour. Both of them stopped as she dug her hand into the pellets and placed some in their bowl, the sound of happy munching dispelling all qualms they might have had.
Perhaps they got into a nasty argument, Alison thought.