I had seen the house, plenty of times in my on my patrols. The neighborhood is not the best. It’s in a poor rural town. It was called the cat house. Even though there were plenty of places that cats could go, and even though cats aren’t supposed to like each other, dozens of cats would go in and out of this house.
There are three abandoned houses on that block and I was involved in shutting down a drug house that sprung up in one of them, so I knew the area. I never expected a murder in the neighborhood.
The call came in from a scared kid. There wasn’t much to go on at the moment. He hung up after saying there was a body that looked like it was stabbed to death, and we should get over there. I was the closest patrol car.
There was plenty of drug activity. I spent most of my days making traffic stops and busting minor crimes. In ten years, I had never heard of a murder. I kicked on my lights and stomped on the gas.
Outside the house, a kid was slipping out the back. He saw me and started to run, but he was out of shape. I stopped and stepped out of my patrol car. “Stop!”
He was the kind of kid that knew he was way in over his head. He was still carrying his school backpack and it was full of books. I didn’t even have to chase him. He turned and faced me. The look on his face just said “I am in so much trouble.” He was probably a honor student or something.
I waved him toward me and he complied. “Are you the one that called?”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything more. Slowly he trudged up to me. His overloaded backpack shifted back and forth, forcing him to swagger back and fourth as he made his way to me.
I turned off my lights to not draw more attention from the neighborhood. “What’s going on?”
“I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t get home soon.” He said.
“Where do you live?”
He pointed down the street.
“What house? What’s your address?”
“What’s your name?”
“I’ll explain it to your folks. I need you to show me what you found.”
He rolled his eyes, took a deep breath and turned towards the house. He started to trudge in his signature swagger towards it, and I followed.
“How old are you?”
The kid walked like his life was over. “I just need to know what you know and you won’t be in trouble.”
“I know that police are allowed to lie.”
“Hey kid, as long as you didn’t do anything wrong, you’re not in trouble.”
He just said, “Trespassing.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m not going to charge you, just don’t do it again.”
He looked back at me, this kid had some major trust issues. We reached the back of the house and he shoved open the door. It wasn’t much of a door anymore, it was rotten and had been kicked in years ago. There were five or six cats lounging in the long grass. Something seemed off, the cats weren’t spooked, but beyond that, they were all watching us intently. Kevin noticed me looking at them.
“They’re on guard.”
“What do you mean?”
“Something has them worried.”
Their eyes stayed glued to us. Do cats get worried about a dead body?
Kevin pushed through the door and ducked under a collapsed beam. I had a harder time. He carried the weight of his backpack, but I was carrying the weight of ten years of riding around in a patrol car.
We went through a porch door with a hole kicked through it. The smell of cat piss hit me hard and made me gag a little, but the smell quickly disappeared and was replaced by the faint sweet smell. I didn’t know what to make of it.
The house was old, probably built a hundred years ago. Plaster and wallpaper peeled off the walls leaving just the wooden lath. Three cats watched us enter and scattered. Kevin entered into a the narrow hallway and immediately turned to the left and started up a steep set of stairs.
“Be careful, the steps are rotten, only step on the edge of the stairs.”
“Is there another way up?”
Kevin thought about it for a moment, like he was trying to remember. “You don’t want to go that way.”
He seemed confused. “She’s angry, you’d have to go through the kitchen.”
“Who’s angry? There’s someone here?”
Kevin stopped and looked around like he was listening. “I don’t hear her. She might not show up.”
“I don’t know her name. My friends just call her the cat lady.