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killer instinct
a noir interpretation
by robert a. melos

I felt the sweat on my forehead as I sat there under the glaring florescent light, knowing it made me look even more pale and frightened than I was. The room was small with a two way mirror on the one wall. I knew it was a two way mirror, even though no one said anything. I drummed my fingers nervously on the old wooden table. “Can we get this over with?” I asked.

The flatfoot sitting opposite me didn’t say anything, just nodded.

“Could I get a glass of water?” I asked, adding, “And a slice of lemon if you’ve got it?”

He snorted a laugh and rose from his seat, walking to the water cooler in the corner, grabbing a paper cup and filling it with the lukewarm water that passed for cool. Placing it in front of me he took his seat and nodded again, before turning on the tape recorder and opening a notebook.

I gulped the water like a man in the desert, my mouth still parched, but I began to spill my guts. “You’ve got to believe me, I never expected it to go down the way it did. I mean, I didn’t plan it or anything. You’ve got to believe me.”

I realized I was shaking and rambling. “You can ask anyone who knows me, I wouldn’t hurt a fly. I go out of my way to respect all forms of life.” I thought I heard the cop mumble a sarcastic “uh huh,” but I couldn’t be sure. I might’ve been hearing things. I could tell he wasn’t buying my explanation.

“Huh? The beginning? Oh yeah, that’s a good idea,” I said, catching his last comment.

I took a deep breath. “It all started a few days ago. It was around 3:00 AM. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been channel surfing, not really watching any one particular show for more than a few minutes, when I got a little thirsty. I got up and went to the kitchen. That’s when I saw him. He was sitting in the sink, on a dirty dish I hadn’t placed in the dishwasher.

“Yeah, I’m a slob. The truth is, I had to unload the dishwasher of its latest load and I hadn’t felt like it, so I left the dish with a few crumbs of cake still on it lay in the sink overnight. I know it’s not a smart thing to do, but I was lazy.

“Anyway, there he was; a little brown mouse, his tail switching about, and his ears twitching. He wasn’t afraid of me, but I froze. I was startled to see him sitting there, his big black eyes looking up at me with a hint of fear, but also a hint of moxie. He wasn’t as afraid as I thought, for he leapt from the basin to the countertop, and hide behind the half dead bamboo plant I sometimes water when I remember it’s there.

“Sure, you think I’m a wuss. I can see it in your eyes. A big mug like me startled by a little three inch mouse. You’re thinking I started to plot right then and there. I know it. And you’re right. I reached for an oven mitt. I’ve got those extra thick ones for extra hot plates. I was gonna grab him and take him outside to release him into the wild, but the little fellow was too smart for me.”

I swear the flatfoot snickered, but I continued. “He darted across the countertop, leapt over the scattered spice bottles, skittered around an empty wooden brie container I was saving in case I needed a gift box, scooted over to the telephone, shimmied half the way down the twisted cord hanging over the edge of the countertop, and swung to the space between the dishwasher and the trash compactor and disappeared.

“I was slightly unnerved, but figured it was my own fault for leaving a dirty dish out. I immediately emptied the dishwasher, and started filling it for the next load. Then I went to bed. I knew there was nothing I could do at that hour. So I lay there in bed thinking. What?”

I could see exactly what the lousy dick was thinking. His mind was like a dime store novel. “Yeah, so I maybe thought about how I was gonna get rid of the vermin, but I swear I didn’t plan it to go down the way it did. I went out the very next day and bought a humane trap, one of those little boxes with the spring action trapdoor that would safely catch him so I could release him over the back fence into the field behind my house.”

The look in the cop’s eye told me he wasn’t buying my story. Sure I was confessing, singing like a canary, but I swear it ended as an accident. “I baited the trap with peanut butter and set it at the far end of the countertop, figuring the varmint would return to the scene of the crime eventually. I then went about my daily life, every now and again checking the trap to see if he was in it.

“Later that night, again around 3:00 AM, I got up and wandered out to the kitchen. I looked at the trap first, and didn’t see him. I turned to get a paper cup and there he was, like he was mocking me, just sitting there, twitching his ears and looking at me with a defiant glare. He then ran across the countertop again, this time over the top of the trap I’d set, and again doing his acrobatic routine on the phone cord before disappearing between the dishwasher and trash compactor. I thought about getting a cat. If I didn’t have a dog who wouldn’t abide another animal companion in the house I would.

“Huh? No, I wasn’t considering contracting a hit. Sheesh. You coppers are all alike. Just listen. I’m telling you this wasn’t premeditated, it just sort of happened. I swear it.”

I felt the sweat trickle down my cheek. The goofy smiling detective sat staring at me with cold eyes, and a poker face. I continued. “I got a little crazy. I washed the countertop down with bleach. I figured he was pestilence and maybe the smell would drive him out. I still hadn’t planned on anything more violent than the humane trap with the peanut butter. I swear to you, I didn’t want to harm the little fellow. I really do respect all forms of life.

“Fine. Don’t believe me. He mocked me with his dancing on the trap. I know how that sounds, but it wasn’t planned. He just ticked me off. Anyway, he disappeared for a couple days. I thought he was gone, moved on, left, vamoosed. Then I walked into the kitchen last night and there he was again, sitting in the sink, trying to drink what little water there was around the edge of the drain.

“He looked up at me then went back to drinking like I wasn’t even there. I told him to leave. I said it out loud, just that way. ‘Get out.’ And he did it. He just jumped out of the sink and pranced over to the trap, and then across the top and once again did his acrobatic flip down the phone cord and between the dishwasher and trash compactor.”

Now came the hard part. The flatfoot just stared at me with a blank expression, so I figured I might as well get the rest of it off my chest. “It just happened. Tonight I walked into the bathroom, lit the light, and there he was, doing a mousy paddle in the toilet bowl. For a brief second I thought about fishing him out, and setting him free in the field behind my house, as I had originally intended, but then I realized he was so desperate for water because he probably had already ingested some poison from the factory across the field behind my house, and that’s why he was in the kitchen sink the past few nights, and now in the bathroom.

“So I did it. I closed my eyes, reached out and flushed. Yeah, it was that easy. I opened my eyes, and watched him swim against the tide and then get sucked down and out the sewer. I flushed again, with some weird sense of hope that he would somehow get through the pipes to a place where he could breathe again and not drown.

“Yeah, I know, I’m a wuss, but I swear it wasn’t premeditated. I didn’t plan it. At best it was accidental mouseslaughter. I saw an opportunity and took it.” I looked at the revulsion in the cop’s eyes. Or maybe it was indigestion from too many donuts or bad station house coffee? Either way, I had made my confession. My conscience was clear.

The detective shrugged, closed his notepad and stood up. “You’re free to go, for now. Don’t leave town. If a body turns up we might have more questions, but you’re overreacting. All you did was rid your house of a mouse. You take things way too seriously. Relax. We’ll be in touch.”

I slowly stood up and walked out of the police station into the daylight. I was a free man. The cop believed me. Or maybe they didn’t have enough evidence to convict me? It didn’t matter. The guilt was gone, and so was the mouse. They say your first kill is always the hardest. Maybe the next time it’ll turn out different? Maybe the next time the varmint won’t mock me? Maybe I’ll actually catch one in a humane trap?

I’ll learn more about my killer instinct with my next kill.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

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ken mohnkern
6.25.07 @ 11:56a

You get an additional five points for using "varmint."

alex b
6.26.07 @ 3:34a

I love that you applied noir to everyday living. "L.A. Confidential" in your kitchen- rock on, Robert. (I'd also love to see how you would track down a missing broad- or a boyfriend).


robert melos
6.26.07 @ 4:15a

Hm, me as a gumshoe? That could be interesting.

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