“What could my neighbour’s cats have to do with anything?” Sarah asked.
“I am trying to decide that very question.”
“Well, although I hate colloquialism, ‘if I knew the answer to that…'”
“Oh. The saying is, ‘If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be asking the question'”
“So what have my neighbour’s cats got to do with anything?”
“As I say, I’m not sure. Would you mind describing them for me.”
“Well I don’t know where to start.”
“How about with their colourings.”
“That’s what I meant but she’s got more than 10 cats. So I’m not really sure what they all look like. There’s several tabbies, several pure black, at least one black one with a white underbelly. And so on, she has a lot of cats.”
I looked around the room. It was an ordinary room. An ordinary living room. There were no clues in this room and yet I had seen the clue from the moment I had entered it. It wasn’t in this room it was beyond it. It was in the garden. The most important two pieces of information were there to be watched on the real life television of her back window.
“When,” I asked, “was the last time that your neighbour mentioned your bird feeder?”
“Oh not for years now. It’s verboten. We used to row about it all the time.”
“Who originated the rows?”
“Well I did. Her cats keep trying to eat the poor birds. And I… I just don’t think it’s fair.”
“So why have you stopped arguing about it? Have you suddenly become happy for her to have her cats eat the birds?”
“No. No way! She just wouldn’t budge and neither would I. I knew that she’d never change and that we had to live next to each other so we both, about four years ago, decided that it was best to give it up. Give it up, ignore it, and just try to get along. It’s worked much better.”
“No, including now. We still haven’t spoken about it since we made our pact.”
“Just because you haven’t spoken about it doesn’t mean she hasn’t been acting.”
“You know that cats are supposed to be being kept indoors during this bird ‘flu crisis? Her cats aren’t indoors even though she cares so much about them.”
I called out, “GEOFFREY!”
Geoffrey walked back into the room.
“Arrest the next door neighbour. Get forensics to check the bird feeder for poison for gods sake. I can’t believe you haven’t done it already. The neighbour isn’t a hardened criminal for Gods sake she’ll probably confess immediately.”
They both said, “confess to what”, at the same time.
“Confess to poisoning the bird feeder. She did it to protect her cats. She didn’t want them to catch bird ‘flu.”
“Do you want to interview the neighbour?” Geoffrey asked.
“No. Why should I? I want to go and get a less dangerous drink.”
And with that I got up, swished my coat tails behind me, and walked out of the room.