The Mr. Kitten Murder Mystery - 0.1 Prolog

"Never, never, never surrender!"

"Would you like to come out, Winston Churchill?" Captain Peacock asked. "Fly around free for a while?"

"Freedom," the bird said as the Captain opened the large cage. "All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, duty, honor."

The Captain laughed as Winston half hopped, half flew out of the cage, stretching his great wings and fluttering about the exquisite morning room of Calvin Manor. He was a gray Macaw parrot, much like the one his great namesake had. Macaws can live over one hundred years, and the English Prime Ministers' own parrot is rumored to still be alive in a pet shop, unfit for sale because of his constant obscene rants against the Nazis. Parrots can imitate nearly all sounds, not just voices. Some give hi-fidelity renditions of the telephone, the smoke detector, police sirens, the alarm clock and similar things, often in the middle of the night. Winston Churchill had been kept away from such influences and taught a selection of the great statesman's quotations.

The Captain watched him fondly and went back to his chair. "Don't make a mess now, Winston," the Captain said. Despite the bird's oratory skill, he was not housebroken. "I'm not supposed to let you out of your cage in here. We wouldn’t want Helen to get upset," he said, referring to his niece, the lady of the house.

"Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others," Winston replied, as he perched on the edge of a Ming vase and dropped a bit of fresh organic fertilizer onto the highly polished parquet floor.

"There's no reason to upset her, she's upset enough already these days, you know," the Captain mumbled. “We need to treat her especially well, the poor dear.”

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

“Well, she’s not as bad as all that,” the Captain started to say, then he stopped himself and smiled. It was easy to forget that the bird didn't really undersrand what he was saying. "Polly want a cracker?" the Captain asked. He chuckled and corrected himself as the bird stared at him implacably. "Winston want a cracker?"

The bird flew to the windowsill and stood with his head tilted to the side, gazing out the window.

The Captain picked up his unlit pipe and went to stand next to the bird. Although it was mid-morning, the large house still cast its shadow over the thick carpet of lawn. Past the enormous lawn, pine streets stood below an expanse of sky. Although they were in Silicon Valley, the high-tech capital of the world, here up in the hills it was peaceful and rural. A deer quietly munched one of Helen's manicured rose bushes.

The Captain turned to the bird and asked again, "Polly want a cracker?"

"A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject."

The Captain frowned at the bird, then shrugged and walked to the sideboard. He selected a chocolate from a box there, then patted his broad stomach and made a wry expression. "Winston want a chocolate?"

Winston Churchill flew to the sideboard and carefully took the candy in his beak. The Captain went back to his wingchair by the window and immersed himself in his newspaper. 

After a few minutes, the bird spoke again, imitating the famous exchange between Lady Nancy Astor and Sir Winston Churchill. "Sir, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your tea," the parrot said in a high female voice. "Madam," the parrot answered himself in a masculine voice, "If I were your husband, I would drink it."

If it was an attempt at communication, it was lost on the Captain. He did not notice Winston Churchill’s distress as the bird flew to the davenport and collapsed behind it. The Captain did not hear him. Nor did he hear his final, dying words.

"Although always prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it should be postponed."

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