By Dave Arbogast
Bill Colby had his service weapon levelled at Bryce, who was across the room with his own gun pointing back at Colby. Wanda stood near the entrance; Mrs. Schroedinger had her hand on the closet door, frantically calling to her cat. I was frozen between Colby and Bryce. One wrong move might mean disaster, and everyone made the wrong move.
Wanda reached for the light switch and the room went black. I heard two doors open and simultaneous gunshots. I dropped to the floor. Then the sound of people in motion. I waited to feel the pain, but none came, so I crawled over to the wall and found the light switch. I saw Wanda sprinting down the hall, Colby staring at his gun, and Mrs. Schroedinger peering into the closet. Bryce was nowhere to be seen, and I had wet my pants. Wrong moves.
"Where is Max?” Mrs. Schroedinger screamed. Max was the cat.
"Where is Bryce?” Lt. Colby looked around.
“Where is the bathroom?” I wanted to ask, but before I had the chance someone screamed from outside the window.
Colby hurried over and looked down, and I moved to peer over his shoulder. A teenaged girl was looking at Bryce, who was lying face down in the alley. His neck looked like he was wearing it backwards, and a puddle of blood was forming around his head. The girl vomited.
I turned around and looked at Mrs. Shroedinger, vaguely aware of the stain on the front of my pants. "Don't know where your cat is," I said. Turning back to Colby, I shrugged. "Guess we'll never know for sure."
The apartment, which belonged to Mrs. Schroedinger, sat across the street from a Royal Farms Market in the middle of Koerner, Virginia, a medium sized town that sits close to the border with Maryland. The store had been held up at dusk on Tuesday, and the clerk had been shot. He was in critical condition and might not live. The single surveillance camera didn’t catch a clear image of the crook. Two witnesses saw someone leave the store, but their stories didn’t match. Mrs. Schroedinger had heard the gunshot and gone to the window, where she saw a man she later identified as Bryce running down the street. But Wanda Veraska, Bryce’s girlfriend, insisted that Bryce was with her at the time, at a diner four blocks away.
“I had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when I heard a noise, and looked up the street,” Wanda said.
Both women agreed on the time, 6:12pm; both of them had noticed the big clock on the Union Trust Bank marquee half-way between them on Harrison Street.
"So Bryce was both places at once?" Colby wondered aloud in his office the next afternoon. He had interviewed Mrs. Schroedinger that morning, and she had picked Bryce’s face from a mug book.
“At least, I think that’s him,” she hesitated.
Then Colby tracked down Bryce and located Wanda. He interviewed them separately, and both stuck to the diner alibi. Back at his office we compared their stories.
“Either that, or he has a twin,” I said. My name’s Vernon Rooks, and I work for the Keorner Gazette.
Colby massaged his jaw with the fingers of one hand and narrowed his eyes. "Somebody’s mistaken,” he said.
“Let’s find out.”
A trip to Melvin’s Diner turned up nothing conclusive. The guy behind the counter remembered Wanda but not Bryce.
“But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there,” Colby said to me. “Absence of proof is not proof of absence.”
The diner had been busier than usual that evening, and short-staffed to boot, so it was possible the couple were telling the truth. We looked at the sidewalk outside the door and saw cigarette butts, but again that didn’t mean much. I took the opportunity to glance down the street. The Union Trust clock was clearly visible from there.
Next we went to the apartment. Colby had opened the window so that Mrs. Schroedinger could demonstrate where she had been standing, when there was a knock on the door. She went to answer, and Bryce and Wanda burst in. He had a gun. His eyes jumped from Mrs. Schroedinger to Colby, who drew his own weapon. Mrs. Schroedinger called out for the cat and ran to the closet. That’s where things stood when the lights went out.
We pieced it together later. Bryce and Colby had fired their guns simultaneously and, incredibly, the bullets had collided head-on and annihilated each other. At least, that’s what the forensics team concluded after examining the pattern of lead fragments in the room. Bryce had then sprinted for the window and leapt — apparently forgetting that he had climbed three flights of stairs to get there. The police picked-up his body and, a couple of hours later, picked-up Wanda at the bus depot. She had the cash from the robbery with her.
We never found the cat. Mrs. Schroedinger swore he ran into the closet with her, but a thorough search turned up nothing.
“Probably ran out the door,” was Colby’s guess.
“You don’t think he jumped out the window?” she worried.
Me, I never saw the cat, and I’m not sure he ever existed.
About the Author
Dave Arbogast lives in the USA and has published professional articles in scholarly journals such as English Leadership Quarterly and The Journal of the Virginia Association of Teachers of English.
"Mrs Schroedinge's Cat" is his first published piece of fiction.
You can read his blog musings at: <https://obblegobble.wordpress.com>.