With his fur-felt, worn-in black cowboy hat hunkered down on his unruly dark brown hair and his scuffed up cowboy boots resting on top of his jumbled desk whose surface never saw the light of day Detective Buck Dale’s steely green eyes were as sharp today as they were when he joined the Calgary Police Department only five years ago. It was because of his keen insight that he rose so quickly in the ranks despite his crudely redundant, cow-boy red-neck demeanor that Calgarians were so famous for but now-a-days politics and society favored a water-downed version of the cowboy and wanted to terminate the red-necks. Stroking his moustach and beard Buck pondered about how everyone was jumping on the “be tolerant of others” bandwagon, other lifestyles, other religions, he was tired of being force fed this shit. He wanted to remain a redneck, didn’t he have rights just like the newly reformed non-smokers, AA treated booze-hounds, and gender confused girly boys who all demanded their say. As often as he could Buck tested his boundaries but after getting caught rolling tobacco in the little boys’ room and smoking in the stairwell he got strike one. Then after having a few beer at the nearby bar at lunchtime and some sap complaining he smelt of liquor it was strike two for him. What ever happen to the co-workers code of sticking up for each other? So Buck conformed on those two accounts yet he still managed to get in trouble when he had an office romance with a younger officer and she cried wolf because he dumped the clingy bitch. Buck could be charming and was an expert at defusing tension or potentially explosive situations so he always managed to side-step getting in real deep trouble. But Buck was quickly becoming a dinosaur as the current cowboys today looked more like clean shaven, chiseled models than the true slightly pot-bellied, thick armed, hairy ranchers.
Illustration by: Jason Hendrickson
Writing a truly boring report on his last case his eye lids were getting heavy, Buck loved the action in the field but hated the follow-up bureaucratic paperwork. His ears perked up when he heard on the Police Headquarters radio scanners that a neighborhood cat lady in the north-east sector of the city was found dead and despite figuring it was just an old bat crooking Buck wanted a break from the stale air in the office. As he jumped into his unmarked car he geared up for the heavy traffic flow that the big box stores’ avid shoppers caused not to mention the steady flow of flyers that raced to the Calgary International Airport where the mammoth planes would whisk them away which made the main road up to the airfield a great speed trap. The detective felt at home passing the mixture of rental townhouses and lower middle class homes built in this district which he himself grew up among. Buck knew there were pockets of real dilapidated shacks that hid behind outdoor mini-malls and low-income housing for immigrants. This address in Marlborough happen to be just off of a main road behind an old-style dairy queen that was long past it’s expiry date he could just image what shape the house would be in but maybe he’d be surprised.
Buck groaned the minute he laid eyes on the shack as he pulled up along the curb and parked in front of a police cruiser, Hurst, and the Humane Society van, there was no driveway. Police unnecessarily cordoned off the place with tape from the look of the yard if you could call it that and the building they were both decrepit. With a deep sigh his eyes that were trained to detect the smallest of details took in the picket fence with only a few flakes of chipped white paint left hanging on for dear life to rotting boards beneath that is what boards there were left. And the gate hung on crooked with just one hinge as if it wanted to escape it’s attachment to the failing boards. A dead tree cracked right down the middle leafless choked of life was an eye-sore in the middle of the yard which Buck disgustingly thought matched the few patches of dead grass riddled with huge ant hills as they claimed their own territory. Who could blame them? He sauntered up the overgrown pathway choked with weeds and crumbling concrete as his cowboy boots easily kicked away the remnants of stone and even the weeds were torn away by their unyielding toe. For a few moments he was mesmerized by his boots’ trail through the decay then he looked up and his eyes zeroed in at the shack ahead of him that should have been put out of its misery long ago like an old dog with arthritis, a bad hip joint, and a limp this shack titled to one side. Buck’s eyes slid along the rooftop those remaining shingles were so brittle they curled back and as his sight inevitably carried down the wood siding of the dwelling there were gaping chunks missing out of it like a junkyard dog had gone ape-shit and chewed it like a rubber tire. He shook his head when he saw the theme continued to some windows that were boarded up and the few others that made it were cracked so badly it spread like a spider web obscuring the view which in Buck’s mind really was a mute-point because the remaining glass was so filthy no one could see in or out of them.
Illustrated by: Jason Hendrickson
When he reached the door the smell of cat feces and piss overrode the smell of death causing even Buck’s steel clad stomach to churn as he instinctively pinched his nose close and his macho image was betrayed when his eyes began to water stung by ammonia because of the huge number of cats. Buck’s watery eyes had trouble finding the body through the sea of cats in fact they were sitting on her like she was a cushion. Whooshing the cats aside it didn’t take close examination to see the felines had nibbled on her fingers and toes some were knar downed to stubs the poor animals were starved which was evident by their protruding rib cages. On further examination he saw her torso hadn’t been utilized as a cushion but a litter-box which the claw marks attested to just like a cat moved around litter in its box pieces of skin were torn out and crap lay on her stomach. Buck’s jaw was clenched so tight it began to ache painfully as he left the repulsive enclosure and instructed the Humane Society to begin the depressingly daunting task of moving the cats into cages to be transported. It was obvious that almost all of them would have to be put down and although Buck wasn’t a cat person he felt sorry for what he envisioned that they endured not only starvation but fleas, sickness, and dehydration. He had no sympathy at all for old Ms. Kat but he had a slew of other emotions about her like anger, disgust, and disbelief. Buck just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that the self-acclaimed cat lover thought she was providing love, food, and shelter when in reality she held them captive and condemned them to death. They would have been better off running wild in the city in back alleys where they could at least be free to catch mice and in public parks or neighborhood backyards where they could catch birds. Yes disease, climate, and cars could easily claim a cat’s life but it still stood a better chance on the outside. He considered the case close a natural death.
Detective Buck Dale came from over five generations of cops, detectives, lawyers, and judges so Buck’s fate was sealed but he didn’t mind because it was one of the few jobs that allowed him to be macho. His mother was a social worker which is how his parents met. She had called for a police escort to remove two children from an abusive household and afterwards he asked her on a date. With a year of marriage under their belt Buck’s parents had him and the next two years in the couples’ relation came two more boys. Tragedy struck their family when at age twelve his dad was killed during a bank robbery. That left his mother to raise three sons on a meagre wage and despite the widow’s funds she got from the police, funds were tight. Of the three boys Buck had been closest to his father and after his death when he needed time alone he’d go into the garden in their backyard and through his sweat and tears he grew ivy, roses, iris, and lilies. It was the only time he had to himself and his younger siblings never teased him about his green thumb at least not to his face. Being the oldest he became the dad and lost his remaining childhood to the task. It’s not that Buck ever resented it but it quickly toughened him up. Despite the fact his dad died as a cop Buck became one too while his brothers became lawyers. Buck had several girlfriends over the years but whenever it became too serious he broke up with her. He didn’t want to leave a widow behind like in his parents’ case.
Haley’s emotions echoed that of Detective Buck Dales ten-fold. She was the one that made the old bat pay for her cruelty. Because of her record of poor health, which ironically was due to the effects of ammonia and illness the cats had passed onto her and her age, seventy-nine, it would be deemed a natural death and by the look on the detectives face he was mad and disgusted enough to easily accept that conclusion. Sitting at a nearby bus stop she quietly watched the emergency agencies respond to her murderous act triggering her mind to recall the details of her endeavor. The short jaunt from where she lived to Ms. Kats home in a blanket of darkness at three a.m. mid-week when the residential streets were deserted wearing black clothes made her virtually invisible. Dull street lights didn’t reveal her besides many of them were burnt out or busted by bored teenagers. Ms. Kat was an easy target not only because of her age and bad health but the old biddy never locked her door as if inviting her in. She knew enough to go through the front door just in case the Dairy Queen had security cameras that fanned far enough behind it to catch some of Ms. Kat’s property. As she tripped up the over grown path quietly cursing she pulled her ski mask over her head in case by some unforeseen reason the woman got up to have a whiz or stayed up watching television although it was highly unlikely this late. Stretching the tight rubber gloves on before she touched the door knob and thankful for her soft non-trended slippers she gently pushed aside the cats and cursed in her mind when she unavoidably stepped in feces on her way to Ms. Kat who slept in her antique big backed chair in the living room because the cats had over taken her bed. Her eyes watered but not from the stench it was from her heart-felt pity for the felines’ plight. Well, that would end soon better for the cats to be put asleep than live this tortured existence. Many of them were a matter of weeks if not days from death anyways. Carefully she held up the old ladies’ head and smoothly pulled the cushion away with one fluid motion then pushed the pillow into her sleeping face. Her feeble attempt for life lasted only a minute or two she swatted at Haley once and her back arched slightly then she slumped in the chair. Feeling for a pulse and finding none Haley dropped the pillow and backed away letting her body fall naturally to the floor exactly where the police found her. Cringing at having to close the door behind her because she’d be imprisoning the cats in their tomb once more she freely cried as she yanked off the mask and gloves and stumbled down the path agonizing over how easily and peacefully the bitch died in comparison to the poor animals. Ms. Kitty Kat was buried with no witnesses save a few stray cats that stood on the brink of the hole as her casket was lowered, crying out in unison at her demise. The felines were a lot more forgiving than Haley was.