I am a cat, and my duties are numerous and varied. On the fateful morning that the whole, terrible affair began, I was engaged in important business in one of our many guestrooms. Even so, I could hear all that occurred in all places in the house. My hearing, like everything about me, is exquisite.
Madeleine, who lives with us by through the good offices of her cousin Helen, walked into the morning room where Captain Peacock was reading the paper and enjoying his morning pipe. Winston Churchill, the parrot, resides in that room and Peacock would never smoke in the poor bird's presence, nor in mine, so he was enjoying the pipe by chewing on it. Although the Captain is rarely without his pipe, I have never seen him with tobacco. Perhaps he carries the pipe for the same reason he wears tweeds with patches on the elbows, cultivates a handlebar mustache and keeps a pith helmet in his room. There is a connection that eludes me.
I heard the delightful crinkle of a box of chocolates being unwrapped followed Madeleine's voice. "Would you like one, Captain?"
"Maybe later, dear," he answered with a disapproving rustle of newspaper. I could almost read the Captain's thoughts. Helen was forever obsessing about her weight and she avoided chocolates at all times that she was not actively consuming them. Chocolates in the morning room were a temptation she was not likely to resist. Helen had extracted a promise from the entire household to support her in her weight loss goals, so it was no surprise that Madeleine was leaving a box of chocolates in the morning room. The Captain ascribed it to brainless vapidity, although I suspected more sinister motives.
The fabric of Madeleine's blouse rustled as she shrugged, then I heard the box being set on the sideboard and Madeleine's footsteps retreating into the conservatory that adjoined the morning room and out into the garden.
Desultory conversation ensued between the parrot and the Captain. The man seemed to be trying to explain to Winston Churchill the strange dynamic that has recently strained the perfect tranquility of our happy household and Winston was replying with his usual cynicism.
I should say a word about Helen here. As the granddaughter of the great Calvin K. Calvin, she came into her inheritance three years ago when the old man's will left his property and money to her in the form of a life estate with a remainder to her living relatives. This means that everything belongs to her until she dies at which time the estate will be divided among her living relatives. Up until that time, they get nothing. For the last three years, Helen has been the benefactor of said relatives, Captain Peacock (her uncle), the widow Betty (Helen's mother's cousin), and Betty's daughter Madeleine. They live with Helen and her husband Steve and she allots them generous, although not excessive, allowances, that please Peacock and Betty but do not satisfy Madeleine, who aspires to a celebutante lifestyle. Helen and Steve have a live-in domestic staff of two: Tiffany, the personal trainer/cook, and Blandings the butler/chauffeur. My domestic staff consists of Helen and Steve.
Anon, I heard the Captain open the sideboard drawer and deposit the chocolates therein.
I returned to my duties until a strange turn in the conversation and the sudden silence of my compatriot, Winston, aroused my curiosity. When Madeleine came upstairs and began warbling karaoke into her iPad, a device I both coveted and pitied, I went downstairs to satisfy that curiosity.
And thus began the series of events that transfixed the nation and came to be known as The Reality Murders, not out of existential introspection, but for less highbrow reasons that will become clear as this narrative continues. Pin It Now!
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