Black Iris: Chapter Twenty-One

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

I’m sitting on the couch fading in and out of sleep when I hear the pitter-patter of little feet. These mice have been disrespecting me for weeks now; in fact, one of them stole a meatball right off my plate the other day while I was filling my water bowl. Now they have the nerve to come out in the open while I’m sitting right here, which is beyond insulting. It’s time I reminded them they’re in a cat’s house.

There are two of them in the room: one large female and one medium-sized male. They have just dropped some turds and are now scurrying from shadow to shadow in search of crumbs, which are in no short supply around here these days.

Before I even realize I’m doing it, I’m on all fours creeping towards the tiny sounds. At the moment, they’re under my desk, so I slink carefully around the corner until I’m in range. My body is low to the ground, my ears are back, and my ass is doing its pre-attack wiggle. I wait for them to get a nibble of cracker, and then I pounce.

My head slams into the inside corner of the desk, and both mice scurry underneath me. The chase is on. They zig, I zig. They zag, I zag. Paper crinkles, charcoal dust kicks up into the air, wooden rods roll across the floor. I accidentally step into a dirty bowl with dried milk in it, my arm slips out from under me, and my head smacks the hardwood floor. Now, I’m mad.

“You could help me, you know,” I yell at Lincoln as I blur past the couch.

He whimpers and rests his head on his paws.

The mice pause on the other side of the room, and we lock eyes. They run into the kitchen, and I follow. Once again, I have too much momentum and crash headfirst into the porcelain toilet. For a moment, I see stars and lose sight of my prey, but then one of them moves, giving away their location. I pursue them back into the office/bedroom before they disappear behind the couch. With the strength of 10 humans, I push the couch aside. Lincoln groans but stays where he is. The mice duck into a hole in the wall and are gone.

I sit like a sentry staring at the hole. Time passes, but I don’t feel it. I’m aware of every creaking floorboard in the building, every footstep, every shifting chair, but the hole remains silent.

Then my phone rings, causing me to leap six feet into the air. It’s Mandi.

“Hey, what’s up?” I say, trying to sound calm.

“I just responded to a 911 call. Guess where it was.”

“Where?”

“Steve McCarthystein’s office.”

“What happened?”

“He hung himself.”

***

McCarthystein didn’t come home for dinner tonight. It wasn’t unusual for him to stay late at the office, but he would always call to let his wife know, and today she hadn’t heard from him since he left in the morning. By 11:30 p.m., she started to worry. She tried both his cell and office numbers and got nothing. She reached out to a few of his partners, and one of them told her he had missed a late-afternoon court appointment.

At 2:30 a.m., she drove to his office. The lights were off, but the front door was ajar. She walked back to his office and found him hanging from a noose.

There was a suicide note in his suit jacket pocket where he normally kept his handkerchief. In the note, he expressed remorse over his sleazy law practice and mentioned his drug and gambling addictions. There was a half-eaten sandwich on his desk, along with a tipped-over Coke bottle that had ruined a stack of papers and shorted out his laptop.

“I wonder why he didn’t finish his dinner first,” I say.

“I guess he wasn’t hungry,” Mandi says.

“So, he just left it there? Why wouldn’t he have thrown it out?”

“Why should he bother? He was killing himself.”

“I don’t know, it seems like if he was going to take the time to write a note, he could spare a few seconds to toss a half-eaten sandwich into the trash. Or mop up the soda so it didn’t damage the computer.”

“We think the soda was actually spilled while he was hanging himself. It looks like his foot bumped it as he was swinging.”

“So, nothing about this bothers you?”

“The part where a guy killed himself bothers me.”

“Right.” No longer sure we’re still talking about McCarthystein, I end the conversation.

There are questions I might have asked if I thought knowing the answers would make a difference. Did anyone speak to his assistant Sheila? When did she leave the office today, and was McCarthystein there when she did? He blew off his court appointment, but did he meet with any other clients? Who was the last person to see him alive?

I keep my own theory to myself. Even if I wanted to drag Mandi into this (as my father suggested), I don’t think she’d believe me.

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