The Bloody Cat in the Bowler Hat

The cat had been slain with a knife and carefully arranged in a man's hat before being presented upon the garden path of its owner's house. The children found it the next day, a Sunday, when they were going out to buy ice cream. The ice-cream man, parked down the street, heard the screams and smiled for a moment thinking that good custom was coming his way.

But then he heard the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth and thought for one horrible, surreal, eternal moment that somehow he'd brought his van to rest on a child's body. The reality - after he'd exited his vehicle, frantically checked it for blood and gore, and then ran over to the garden to see the source of the commotion - was a little better, but not by much.

What he found was a little girl on her knees, rocking back and forth, cradling the body of a mottled-brown female cat, moaning 'Bellsie... Bellsie...' (the cat's name, as it happened, was Bells). Blood leaked onto her simple gingham dress. The scene looked to Simon, the ice-cream man, who was only 22 and from a good Catholic home, like a blasphemous mockery of the pietà. He blinked the association from his mind and focused on the hat, before registering a little boy's voice coming from the house, screaming 'MUM DAD! MUM DAD!' over and over again. Almost in syncopation with his sister. Grotesque choral music.

Someone had called the police and now the garden was filling up. Simon backed away, placing his smartphone back in his pocket since someone else had beaten him to the call. As he wandered dazedly back to the van and got his keys out to start the engine, having now dispensed with any ideas of profit, he reflected on the voice of the little boy. Climbing into the cab, he rested his forehead against the steering wheel. 'MUM DAD! MUM DAD!' The recording played over and over again as if he was still hearing it from outside his own head. For some reason, it was more insistent than the plaintive 'Bellsie... Bellsie..' The voice of the girl was pathetic, the voice of the boy was... something else.

'Excited' Simon murmured. He sat up and took a deep breath, surprised a little by the word. When he was a boy himself, his mother had taken him to a conference of local women and talked about his "special gift". Being only five at the time, he'd been excited to receive a new toy, his little ears perking up and his mind forming an image of a shiny new digger with Bob the Builder sitting in its cab. But then a middle-aged woman, with bone-white hair and the most enormous bosom he'd ever seen, started talking about proximity to the "true cross".

His mother then shared a story that he still found embarrassing, and he wriggled on her lap as she told it again. 'There was a boy at his school, quiet as anything, who never made trouble but didn't have any friends either. Well, my Simon just went up and hugged him one day, even when the other boys started teasing him. It turned out later that the boy's dad was a mean drunk. Social services got involved, but of course, I couldn't tell them about Simon.'

A very thin woman, whose skin reminded Simon of wastepaper, asked if she could place a hand on his forehead. To his disgust, his mother immediately agreed, and so he suffered the crinkled flesh. And it was worth it in the end because of what it clarified in his mind.

A banging on the side of the cab. Simon was startled away from his reverie to see a policeman, who was now gesturing for him to lower the window. 'Don't think you're gonna get much business from the kiddies, mate' he said. He was a large man with a moustache and looked a bit like the sort of Philistine police chief that's a staple of American cop films, incongruous on a British street, in official blue togs. Simon smiled. 'Don't suppose I will' he said, and then, bizarrely (and followed by immediate regret), 'do you want anything?'

'Only for you to move along, son' he said, although not unkindly.

'Of course' said Simon, and put the key in the engine lock. 'I'm sorry. I, erm, I saw what happened.'

The policeman narrowed his eyes for a moment. 'Did you now?' he said, placing a hand on the window and tightening his grip. 'And what exactly did you see?'

The boy, thought Simon. I saw the boy take his dad's hat from the master bedroom, and then a knife from the kitchen, and then he slit poor little Bells' throat. Why? Because the last time that an ice-cream man came to this street his sister got ice cream and he didn't, because he'd been naughty, and his sister tried not to gloat but she couldn't help it. And he watched her from the living room and got angrier and angrier and angrier...

'Son?' The policeman. 'Are you okay? Do you need a paramedic?'

'No' said Simon, 'I'm sorry, it's just...' He creased his brow and thought for a second about how he should phrase what he said next. 'I didn't see much today' he said. 'But yesterday when I was driving around I saw a little lad chasing a cat. Now that I think about it, he might have had a knife.'
Written by Casted_Runes (Mr Karswell)
Author's Note
Written for robert43041's competition, "The dead cat in a hat":
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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