Death by Kitty

 

The black one was purring, rubbing against his leg. “Na,” he said, “she na get nutting”. Damian pulled the handset away from his ear and sucked his teeth in annoyance. His friend was still talking as he pushed the black cat away with his lower leg, then pulled it back to kick. He re-connected with the telephone. “Course mi na tell 'er. Awhere mi fi sleep?” He heard the front door shut. “She bak. Mi gawn.” He hung up and sprang back to his seat in front of the tv.

“Damian” called his sister from the hallway “I've got some corn fed chicken. To celebrate.” He grunted his reply. Only his sister could cook rice, peas and chicken how he liked it.

Delilah put a sealed white plastic bag on the kitchen counter. She took a glass bowl from a cupboard and opened the white bag, tipping the quartered chicken into the bowl before reaching for the lemon juice. Delilah might have been wearing lead weight glasses but her hearing more than compensated. She huffed. She hadn't taken him in for a promise of money. She wouldn't touch it. The idea of Damian and Miss May. She shook the image from her head. Could men like her brother be called gold diggers? Probably not. She'd taken the idiot in because her mother had pleaded with her. She had no love for her brother, he'd used her as payment to gain rank in his old gang. But she loved her parents, enough never to tell them about that. Shame stopped her from telling anyone else. So, with no reason they knew of to prevent his staying with her, here he was. She'd heard all his plans for the money. House, car, woman. She wondered how hard that would be for him once he flashed the cash. One hundred thousand wouldn't buy him a home. He still lived in a dream. He'd tried to bribe her saying he could help with the boys tuition fees, give her the lot in one go. She nearly told him that she didn't need it and why. But stopped herself.

He dipped the drumstick into the rich tomato and pepper sauce and removed most of the meat with a huge bite. Delilah's chicken bones lay in a neat pile on her plate. She'd cooked enough for her sons as well, but as all three were away Damian ate their portions. He belched. “Tanks sis. Dat was a good meal.” She cleared the table. He waited for her to mention his recent inheritance, but not a word was spoken. Relieved he lent back in his chair, arms behind his head. He brought them down sharply, cracking his elbow on the table. The black cat jumped through the open door and onto his lap. Damian yelled with double discomfort. His right arm was getting numb and the cat had put it's claws into his thighs. Delilah rushed in at the sound.

“Prince! Off!” the cat leapt from his lap and through the open dining room door. Damian made a strange gagging noise as if he'd inhaled a feather, shoulders shaking. Delilah quickly slapped him on the back. He circled his shoulders to stop her.

“Mi all-right.” his fake accent faultered, “I hate cats.” His eyes were still streaming as he got up and left the table. “Damn fool woman and damn fool cats.” She kept her mouth closed, insulting words piling up behind her teeth.

The front door slammed. She smiled. He'd gone out and would be out for ages. He'd probably meet his old gang again, those men that time had left behind. They'd talk about the old days because the new days held nothing for them. Or maybe Damian would lead the conversation to his new, hoped for life. If he had any sense he wouldn't. She couldn't imagine any of them being pleased for him. She heard something upstairs and went to investigate. Damian had left his bedroom door open. A laptop, once owned by her eldest son, was on. From it came the sound of a woman moaning. She went to shut the door and was stopped by Prince. He was half way into the room, ears forward and sniffing. She wanted to say no, but why? The cat had more right to that room that her brother so she let him alone. He looked up briefly at her waiting for a rebuff, none came so in he went. Splodge, Delilah's black and white cat, wobbled after, a soft round body on delicate paws. Delilah walked up to the door. The laptops screen blinked at her from the desk by the bed as the scene change in the film. She focused on the cats. Prince was sniffing under the bed while the ever comfort seeking Splodge now lay down neatly between the folds in the messed up duvet and the squashed pillow. She should have chased them away, Damian hated them. The thought made her smile. She'd remove them later. She went back down to the kitchen to do the washing up.

The front door slammed shut causing Delilah to jump. He'd only just gone out. She left the kitchen quickly and passed him in the hallway. “Good night.” she said without looking at him. She heard the fridge door open and went upstairs leaving Damian mumbling in the kitchen. She didn't want to argue with him tonight. Locking her bedroom door she checked that that the cordless phone was on her beside table and the marble rolling pin under the next pillow. She picked up a magazine from the floor. She heard him as he opened the spare bedroom door and turned up the volume on the laptop. Delilah reached into her bedside cabinet for a pair of foam earplugs. Damian had done this before leaving her to smirks from her sons. She had sent them to stay with her in-laws shortly after. Just before she inserted her earplugs she heard him get out of bed.

Nobody really knew what happened. There had been no evidence of foul play, even though the body showed all signs of violent asphyxiation. The police reluctantly accepted the coroner's verdict. Death by severe allergic reaction. Cause, cat fur. Later Delilah thought about that night. After seeing Damian kick Splodge she'd kept both cats away from him for their protection. But what if he was the one who needed protecting from them?

 

Audrey Kynaston

 

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