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Murder in the Night
By Bill Bryan

     This mystery starts with an e-mail from my son, Will, in Colorado – “Hey Dad, how would you like to have a cat?”. He went on to explain that he was moving out of his small ‘bachelor’ pad and into a larger place with a roommate, his friend Dan. Dan, it turns out is allergic to cats and Will had a male white and black cat, Bravo, that he had adopted from a rescue center a little over a year earlier and would DOD (Dear Old Dad) like to have him, thereby ‘keeping him in the family’.

     Bravo, according to Will, was a neutered six year old male who was blessed with a unique personality (aren’t all cats?) and a wonderful disposition (aren’t all cats?). Will said Bravo was equally as happy outside as inside and that he didn’t jump up on things. (Yeah, right!! I never met a cat that didn’t jump up on things and even though I am primarily a dog fancier, I have had a number of cats over the years). Will said Bravo really was a ‘wimp’ by cat standards, kind of afraid of his own shadow and when outside would never venture far from home (Yeah, right! male cats don’t roam!). 

     Anyway, my son’s plea, even though he is 37 years old was reminiscent of when he was a little boy – “Please, Dad, please!!”. I e-mailed him back that I would have to talk to his stepmother (my wife, I believe) and we would make a ‘family decision’...About five minutes later, I messaged him back, “Yes, we will take Bravo”.
Next steplogistics—how do we get Bravo from Denver, Colorado to Tappahannock, Virginia? No problem, son Will works for United Airlines and will get an ‘employee’ pass for him and an ‘employee’s cat’ pass for Bravo and they will Fly the Friendly Skies together in a week or so, which they did. Wife Debbie and I met Will and Bravo at Richmond Airport and had a nice family reunion, not having seen my son in some time and never having seen Bravo. The cat seemed no worse for wear, which is more than we could say for Will. First of all, they had flown the ‘red-eye’ (night flight) from Denver to Washington, DC, then caught a commuter flight from DC to Richmond. Will didn’t get much sleep on the overnight flight, and apparently neither did many of the other passengers, because Bravo was very verbal all night in his carry-tote cage. No fear, all was well now.

     Bravo’s introduction to his new home went well—he promptly walked over to Moses, our 13 year old Golden Retriever and they touched noses and Bravo said to himself “Well, I’ve got another Golden for company” (son Will also has a Golden Retriever in Colorado and I guess to cats they all look alike)…and Moses said “Oh, great! A cat!!). Later, we bedded down for the night and decided to shut our bedroom door to keep Bravo with us for the first night. He would have his choice of where he slept—chair, window sill, beside the dog, on the bed with us or in the adjoining bathroom (scene of the crime). All went well, considering what the cat had been through the past 24 hours, only a few meows during the night and some in-room roaming. All went well, that is, until we awoke the next morning. Debbie awoke first and did her usual ‘brush her ‘teefies’ in the bathroom. That’s when I heard “Bill, Beta is gone!”. Well, Beta WAS a Siamese Fighting Fish (also known as Betas) that I had purchased a week or so earlier and Deb had made a home for in a vase used for floating candles and located it on our bathroom basin between the double sinks. For obvious reasons, we had named the fish ‘Beta’ (I also had purchased another Beta the same day and he was named ‘Alpha’ and he was in a bowl in the entrance hall to the house).

     Anyway, when Debbie said Beta was ‘gone’, I got up to verify the obvious—NO fish in the bowl. Well, I expected tears from Debbie, because she and that stupid fish had developed a ‘routine’ in the short time we had had him—when Deb would get up in the morning and go in the bathroom, the fish would become active and, as she said, ‘flip his fins at me’ and she would feed him three Beta pellets which he would gobble up in Beta fashion (they have jaws that look like and move like shark’s jaws). In any case, I verified that Beta was nowhere to be found and thus the mystery arose—What happened to Beta? Why was there no noise during the night if Bravo had gotten him? Why wasn’t there water ‘thrown’ out of the vase onto the counter? Why weren’t some of the many toiletries surrounding the vase knocked over or disturbed? Why wasn’t Bravo’s paw wet? Why did Bravo have a smug look on his cat face? And lastly, where was the body? You can’t have an official ‘murder’ without a corpus delecti. 

     At this writing, no body has been found and I have replaced Beta with Beta II and put a cat proof lid on the vase. Bravo never did and still shows absolutely no interest in that vase (trying to throw us off track, I suspect). I have informed the pet store owner that the sushi (Betas) she sells is too expensive to be used as cat food (if that is even the case, still unproven—no evidence, no body). My mother in law, who lives with us asked me the other day “What kind of cat is Bravo, is he a Siamese cat?” I replied “No”, then I rethought it and said “Yes, maybe he is now because he allegedly ate our Siamese Fighting Fish.”
Epilogue

     This is being written just 'minutes' after the discovery of the body of 'Beta' and 11 days after his disappearance, upon which we (I) placed the circumstantial blame on 'Bravo', the cat—after all, the fish disappeared the very first night that Bravo took up residence here, so-o-o-o what other logical explanation could we 'assume'? 

     A few minutes ago, Debbie was cleaning out the vase that 'Beta I' lived in (and 'Beta II' lives in) and she noticed something like a fin coming out of one of the little conch shells that were in the vase. She called me to come verify (inspect) and sure enough it was a fin that was attached to Beta's body. Apparently (another assumption), the fish had gotten inside the shell and could not get out...he certainly didn't 'drown', but probably injured himself trying to get out or maybe starved...who knows?...So, Bravo (the murder suspect) is off the hook...I don't even think Bravo is guilty of scaring Beta into the shell, because he has shown No interest in Beta II and one would think a cat would return to the scene of a gourmet fish dinner and he hasn't...So, Bravo, you still have nine lives left, unless you keep jumping up on the counter! 

© 2001 Bill Bryan All Rights Reserved.


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