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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

82_ym_stormynightpussycatmanor_mddavis.jpg
Art by Michael D. Davis 2020

Stormy Night at Pussycat Manor


By Michael D. Davis

 

          The rain was coming down slow and steady in Quartertown, making the rats swim and the birds take cover. Count Whorley Whorton lay sleeping on the floor of the office wearing a full-body plush rabbit costume. When a knock came loud and persistent at the door he roused just enough to yell out, “Who is it?” There was an answer, but he didn’t make it out. Count let loose a horrible groan as he stood up.

          At the office door was a middle-aged woman dripping wet in a dark coat. Count left her at the door, staggered over to the desk and dropped into the chair. Tentatively, the woman followed him inside, closing the door behind her. Count lit a bent cigarette, put his big floppy bunny feet on the desk, and said, “So, whatch’ya want?”

          The woman sat down and started by saying, “My name is Beverly Hedren. I would like to hire you for a party on Halloween night.”

          “For what? Make fuckin’ balloon animals?”

          “No, no, in more of a security sense. We’ve had a few rowdy guests before and wish to have peace of mind.”

          “What kind of rowdy guests?”

          “There have been broken statues and even one small fight. We’ll pay your fee plus a bonus, since it’s a holiday.”

          “That’s all I need to hear,” Count sat up, riffled through the desk drawers, and threw her a pad and pen. “Write down all the nitty-gritty and if you could pay half now and half later, well, that’d just be peaches.”

          “Will do… oh and one more thing, Mr. Whorton, it’s a costume party.”

          Count shrugged in his bunny suit and said, “Does it look like I have a problem getting dressed up?”

          A few minutes after Beverly Hedren left, Irma walked in the door.

          “It’s comin’ down like hell out there,” she said, seeing Count.

          “Hadn’t noticed… ya just missed a new client.”

          “Good, we need a new job, what is it?”

          “Security. Gettin’ paid to drink and watch a bunch of dumb fuckers stumble around sippin’ booze while playin’ dress up.”

          “Your dream job.”

          “Ain’t it though? Now, wanna play grab-ass with Peter Cottontail?”

          Halloween night brought high winds and lots of rain, blowing and washing away all the little trick or treaters. Count and Irma got to the party an hour early, making a mad dash from their old station wagon to the house. Before they’d even rung the bell, they felt out of place. It was the west end of Quartertown, where old money had deep roots and no house had less than three stories.

          A woman that no doubt worked in a servant’s position opened the door. As she took their coats and disappeared, Count noticed a curious white cat dash through the hall, followed quickly by another of a different color. Thinking no more of it, he and Irma moseyed into a large sitting room to which they were instructed.

          That’s when they saw them. Cats! They were everywhere. Big, small, fat, thin, fluffy, hairless, one only had a single eye, another was missing a leg. Everywhere they turned more cats seemed to pop up. The sheer number of them was astounding. One chubby cat with only patches of fur on its head walked over Count’s foot instead of making the tiring trip around it.

          As they stood in awe of the cats, Beverly Hedren came into the room. She had a large blue dress on and a princess tiara. “Happy Halloween,” she said, “you came right on time, the guests should be arriving in the next hour.” She then glanced at Irma saying, “let me guess um… vampire?”

          “Yup,” Irma said. She stood wearing nearly all black and red, a high-collared cape draped over her shoulders. Irma’s light brown skin had been painted pale white with ruby red dripping from her lips. “No fangs,” she said, “but Bella Lugosi didn’t have any either.”

          Before Irma could continue Beverly had moved on to Count with, “And let me think you’re…Igor?”

          “Um…no,” Count said. He stood in a suit and tie with his hunch-back and ghost-white skin. He looked like he did every day. Pulling a magnifying glass and pipe from his pocket Count said, “I’m a detective.”

          “Right, sorry about that.”

          “Uh-huh, what’s the deal with all the fuckin’ cats?”

          Beverly twirled around with a slight smile glancing about the room. “Oh, they are my uncle’s, he is our host. Cats are his one great passion and love. He started a cat food company in the mid-fifties. That is how he’s made his money. All of our feline friends, you should know, have been rescued from shelters all around the world.”

          “Amazing,” Irma said, “how many are there?”

          “Oh, I don’t know. You’d have to ask the cat crew. They take care of all of them.”

          “Your uncle employs people to take care of his cats?”

          “Of course.”

          The doorbell soon rang between crashes of thunder, sending Beverly off to greet a new guest. As more people arrived the storm got worse outside, causing the lights to flicker and the guests to whisper worriedly.

          Well after the party was supposed to start it was clear not all the guests had made it. If Count Whorton hadn’t already noticed it would’ve been brought to his attention. A short man dressed as a caveman wandered up to him and said, “Low turnout this year. The weather I’d say. Heard a tornado touched down outside Des Moines and it’s headin’ this way. Anyways, Pluckman’s the name, A.J. Pluckman. Who are you and what ya dressed as on this spooky night of nights? Quasimodo?”

          “Name’s Count and I’m a sleuth.” Count pulled his magnifying glass out of his pocket.

          “Ooohh,” Pluckman said, “very Sherlock Holmes, I love it. I tell ya of all the people here that lady over there scares me the most.” He pointed to Irma who was pouring herself a drink and getting Count one of the same, only larger.

          “Uh-oh, she’s coming this way.”

          Irma approached and gave Count his bourbon as he said, “You know you’re scarin’ Captain Caveman here?”

          “Oh,” Irma said smiling, “really?”

          Pluckman started to stutter before Count cut him off saying, “This is my wife Irma. Irma, Pluckman. By the way, do you know the guy who’s supposed to be hostin’ this shindig?”

          “Why certainly,” Pluckman said, “Frederick Pussycat.”

          “That can’t be his name,” Irma said.

          “He was born Frederick Hedren, then he changed it after he started making his money. Some people jokingly call this place Pussycat Manor.”

          Count gulped down more of his drink, nearly draining the glass. “So, which one around here is he? The clown by the cat statue or the zombie by the other cat statue?”

          “Neither, seems he hasn’t come down yet. You’d know him when you saw him, older fella.”

          The lights in the big room flickered off and on, then went out completely. The room was silent, the loud sound of the wind blowing through the trees outside filled everyone’s ears. Tensing their muscles. “Don’t worry,” Beverly Hedren announced to her guests, “We, of course, have a generator, which should be kicking in any-”

          The lights came back on and there were a few cheers. Then, just as suddenly as they came back on, they went back out again. One of the guests turned on their cell phone light. What was meant to bring comfort and help did nothing but amplify the feeling of uneasiness in the room, as the tiny light let off from that one cell phone glinted off the thirty-some cat eyes all around the room.

          Beverly spoke again, saying she didn’t know what was wrong with the generator, but she’d have some lamps and flashlights out soon. Before she could finish talking, a blood-curdling scream came from another room in the house.

          Everyone seemed to scramble out of the room, most having turned their cell phone lights on.

          In a backroom they found a young woman still screaming and panicking. She had pressed herself up against a wall and wasn’t moving. A flashlight on the floor illuminated the origin of her terror. It was the body of a dead man.

          Count and Irma pushed their way into the room. A window had been broken by the storm and the body was damp from the rain. It was a man in his mid to late twenties, dressed as Count Dracula, and there was a dent on the side of his head where it had been caved in.

          Count picked the flashlight off the floor, pointed the beam at the face of the corpse, and said, “Bela Lugosi’s dead, anyone know him? I doubt its Mr. Pussycat, but ya never know in a story like this.”

          Pluckman had the answer, “I believe that’s Lyle Van Der Klok.”

          “Oh, sweet fuck,” someone in the back said.

          “We need to call the police,” said Beverly, speaking up, nearly shouting over the screech of the wind coming through the broken window. “We need to call the police now.”

          “There’s no service,” someone said, “storm must’ve took them out.”

          “There’s a landline in the kitchen.”

          “First thing,” Irma said, “everyone get out. Go back in the other room!”

          The group of them shuffled out. Pluckman, the last to go, picked up a box marked ‘flashlights.’

          “What should we do?” Irma said, “even if they get the cops on the line, they won’t be able to get here in this storm. And chances are our killer is someone out there in costume.”

          Count let out a grunt and said, “I need another drink.”

          Back in the main room, amongst all the murmuring guests, Count made his way to the booze, which was hard, but not impossible, with everyone’s flashlights flitting back and forth. He’d poured himself a glass, downed it and poured another by the time Irma and Beverly Hedren found him.

          “I got ahold of the police from the landline in the kitchen,” Beverly said, shining a flashlight in Count’s eyes. “They said they’d get here when they could, but with the storm no one’s going anywhere. What should we do?”

          Count groaned again, glanced at Irma in the dark then said, “We’re gonna set up at your dining room table. Talk to everybody in the house. See if anyone knows anything, see if anyone saw anything, and maybe just maybe, solve a murder. But first I gotta take a leak.”

          Seven minutes and one piss in the dark later, Count and Irma were sitting opposite Pluckman, an electric camping lantern on the table between them.

          “So, you knew the dead guy?” Was Count’s opening question.

          “Not really, I just met him a couple of times. When I came to see Mr. Pussycat, visit with him on his porch, Lyle would be there. I live a few blocks down, not in a house like this, but it’s not too far away. Anyhow, the last few times when I stopped and chatted him up this Lyle fellow was there.

          “Why was he there?” Irma asked.

          “Well, he works or worked for Mr. Pussycat. Mr. Pussycat isn’t a spring chicken, he needs help doing this and that. I’d call Lyle an assistant or something. He was just always there fussing with the old man. Making sure he had this, or that making sure he wasn’t cold or whatever.”

          “Anyone not care for the way Lyle treated Mr. Pussycat?”

          “Well, he seemed to be good at his job, but you know how people talk. There’s been a rumor goin’ around the neighborhood that…” a cat jumped up on the dining table and startled Pluckman, he glanced around the darkened room. Then went on, “A rumor that Lyle and Mr. Pussycat were more than just employer-employee. Some have gone as far to say that Lyle abused him, but I don’t believe that at all.”

          After a little bit more they excused Pluckman and talked to Beverly Hedren before they brought in another guest.

          “The storm seems to be getting worse,” Beverly said, “we may have to stop all this and all have to go to the basement.”

          “No one’s gonna want to be stuck in the basement with a killer,” Count said.

          “What should I do? The woman who should be taking care of my uncle is freaking out because she found a dead body and everyone else is freaking out again because we found a dead body! So, what should I do?”

          “Calm down… we’re gonna talk to people and figure this out. How many servants do you have in the house?”

          “Um…five, four kitchen and one for my uncle.”

          “Okay, now go help your guests—we’ll deal with this.”

          Beverly went off and they brought in the next guest, a woman dressed in a 50’s nurses’ uniform.

          “I’ve been here all night, even here before you. To help set up and do this and that, Beverly is one of my oldest friends. And I can tell you right now who’s done this awful thing.”

          “We’d be delighted to know.”

          “It’s that Thomas whoever… you know Lyle is gay, right? And that Thomas was his boyfriend but then I heard that Thomas got jealous that Lyle was spending all his time with Mr. Pussycat. Apparently, there was a big ol’ fight between ‘em on the front lawn just last week.”

          “Is Thomas a guest here?” Irma asked.

          “Of course not… he works in the kitchen.”

          Count and Irma excused her and the nurse started to leave the dark dining room then Count said, “Wait a second, Nurse Ratchet, you were here all day?”

          “Yes.”

          “Did you see Lyle?”

          “Um… I don’t believe so.”

          “Thank you.”

          “What are you thinkin’?” Irma said when the woman was gone.

          “Not much, just a passing hunch.”

          The cracks of thunder outside were nearly constant as the next guest made his way in. He was an older man dressed as a zombie and he sat down saying, “Let’s get this over with.”

          “We only have a few questions.”

          “Uh-huh, don’t know nothin’.”

          “You never know.”

          “I know I should’ve stayed home.”

          “Did you know Lyle?”

          “Met him.”

          “What did you think of him?”

          “Nothin’ much.”

          “What about his relationship with Mr. Pussycat?”

          “It was weird… he was always fawning over the feeble old man. Did you talk to him?”

          “Who?”

          “Mr. Pussycat.”

          “Not yet, but by calling him a feeble old man it makes me doubt his value as a suspect for murder.”

          “I’d say, the man’s ancient.”

          Count interrupted the back and forth between Irma and the zombie by saying, “When’d you arrive tonight?”

          “On time,” was the zombie’s answer.

          Count took a sip from his glass which needed to be refilled once again. “You see Lyle tonight?”

          “Not before he was lying on that back room floor.”

          Count and Irma quickly and methodically questioned all the guests. When they were done Count leaned back in his chair as a cat used him to jump from the floor to the table. “Fourteen guests,” he said.

          “What?”

          “Fourteen, I kept count. At the beginning of the night, we had fourteen living guests. We still have fourteen living guests.”

          “So, if he wasn’t a guest, did he come as a servant?”

          “I don’t know. Let’s talk to the servants.”

          In the back of the house in a little room off the kitchen, the five servants sat around a table. The girl who’d found the body was sobbing into the shoulder of another woman.

          “Can we talk to you for a minute?” Irma said to the girl.

          Wiping her face the girl said, “Can we do it here?”

          Irma didn’t see why not and started by saying, “How did you find the body?”

          “After the lights went out the second time Thomas told me to go to the back storage room and get some flashlights out of the box. I was walking in the dark hall when I heard glass break. When I opened the door, I felt the wind blowing in the broken window. I stumbled around until I found the flashlights, turned one on, and then… screamed.”

          Count looked at the men in the room. One had wet bloodshot eyes. “You Thomas?” Count said. The man nodded. “Why’d you send her to go get the flashlights?”

          “I was working, cooking.”

          “Did you see Lyle today?”

          “No.”

          “What time did you get here?”

          “I don’t know, me, Maria, and Ray here all drove in together an hour early.”

          “You had a rumble with Lyle the other day?”

          “It was just nothing. I was upset that he was always here. That Beverly was always being a bitch so I didn’t know why he would want to be here anyways. Oh but Mr. Pussycat! He just loved Mr. Pussycat!”

          It was deadly silent after Thomas’s shouting ceased. Irma broke the silence saying, “What kind of things did Beverly say?”

          “Normal rich-bitch comments. Boiling down to how Lyle… or any of us are lucky to be working for them. Earning some good money. But how we can all be replaced like that.” He snapped his fingers. “She kept telling Lyle that she was going to have him fired. I don’t think she liked how close he and the old man were.”

          After a few more minutes Count and Irma went back to the main room. The guests were still milling about nervous and scared as the windows shook. Pluckman came over to Count and asked if he’d want a flashlight of his own. Count thought why not and was taken over to the box. Pluckman first picked up a flashlight that didn’t work then one that just flickered, the third one he grabbed actually seemed to shine bright. Count took it, shined the light here, there, then down at the box. Something caught the light as he did so. Bending down, Count pushed the flashlights out of the way and saw a bloody bronze cat statue at the bottom of the box. Count called over Irma and showed her.

          After pouring himself another drink, Count said loudly to the room, “We’ve had a murder tonight. And the murderer I think is in this room. We had fourteen guests at the beginning of the night and we still have fourteen guests. Lyle Van Der Klok could have come as a servant tonight, but I believe he was coming as a guest, he was invited. Because he was in costume and all the servants tonight are in uniform. With not one of us seeing him tonight, I believe the murder happened this afternoon. Before any of us arrived.”

          “Do you have any proof?” Someone yelled out.

          “We have the murder weapon or is there a lot of bloody cat statues around here?”

          “Then who did it?”

          “A person who was here before the party had access to the statue and the back room. The woman who hired us… Beverly Hedren.”

          There were some shocked gasps and people looked at Beverly. She screamed out in anger, “Fine! But you would have done the same. Anyone of you that lives on this block, in this neighborhood. He was a shitty little piece of scum that was trying to worm his way into my uncle’s will.”

          Irma had a pair of handcuffs in her purse right next to her gun. She slapped them on Beverly’s wrists when she was through yelling and screaming.

          The cops showed not too long after the storm lightened up. It was nearing four A.M. and detective Klunkel was the one on duty. “So, why the hell’d she hire you two if she was plannin’ on killin’ this poor bastard?”

          Irma answered, “She figured everyone would just blame Thomas and no one would figure it out especially, as she put it, a fuckin’ drunk and a part-time whore.”

          “They always underestimate us, Irmie,” Count said as he rifled through kitchen cabinets. “Been here all night and haven’t eaten a damn thing. Electric stoves went out with the power.”

          Just then Count opened the pantry doors and out rolled Mr. Pussycat. A shriveled up old man in a tuxedo with cat whiskers painted on his face. Mr. Pussycat was slumped over in his wheelchair, a cleaver stuck in his head and a calico in his lap chewing on his dead fingers.

          “No wonder we hadn’t seen him all night,” Irma said.

          Count reached around the dead body into the pantry and grabbed a package of cookies. Walking out of the room he said to Klunkel, “This one’s yours. We solved the last one, had a great date night doin’ it too. Happy Halloween.”

The End.


Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror from flash fiction to novella he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020