The Cackling Murders
Chief Inspector L. R. Hen studied the scene of the crime. A bit of blood and a few feathers had made it as far as the door, but the bulk of the gore was centered around the victim's cubicle.
"Looks like the same M.O. as the others, all right," she told her assistant. “Looks like we have a serial killer. The victim killed on her roost, and the body dragged out the door.”
"I heard it happen!" An excited neighbor told her tale for the fourth or fifth time. "I heard that dreadful cackling sound, then one single sort of shrieking squawk from her, and then it was quiet."
"Right." CI Hen looked around at the blood and feathers. There was little else left of the victim. No body had been found as yet, but the search would have to continue outside in daylight. "It's the cackling that bothers me," she told her assistant, Chanticleer, in an undertone. "That doesn't fit the usual profile for killers like this."
"This is the third one," Chanticleer reminded her. "The third disappearance where someone heard cackling."
"I know. I thought it was coincidence—that the victims were killed just after laying an egg, while they were excited about it. But three times? I don’t believe in that much coincidence. I suppose it’s just possible that the killer seeks out victims with fresh eggs, but I don’t buy it. It has to be the killer, not the victims, making that noise. And is it even possible for a fox to cackle?"
Chanticleer scratched around a bit on the floor of the roost and thought about it. He picked up a few grains that had been missed, and finally admitted, "I never heard of it if they can."
"Me either." Chief Inspector Hen was more confident. "I'm pretty sure they can't." She considered the implications, gazing about the hen roost with a hard look in her beady little eyes. "And the door was locked."
He got the picture. "An inside job, then. But where'd the body go?"
"The door locks from the inside."
"But Red," Chanticleer protested. He knew better than to use the first part of her name. L.R. Hen didn't care for the "Little" part. Red was okay. "Could anyone in here manage it? It's no small thing to cut a throat like that, and the body was carried, not dragged. No blood smears or anything along the floor."
Red considered her assistant. Could anyone truly be that naive? She could see that there was one resident of the chicken house that had the weaponry, the size and the strength to commit the crime. One, and only one. And if the crime could only have been done one way, and only one suspect could have done it that way. . . she reached casually as though to adjust her badge, and instead gripped her axe.
"Why'd you do it, Chaunty? Was life in the hen house just too dull?"
He didn't answer, but leapt at her, spurs outthrust, trying for the same deadly kick as had killed three roosting hens. But Inspector Hen was no ordinary hen. She was armed and ready, and parried the attack. "I don't want to kill you, Chaunty. We can help you."
He gave a great, cackling laugh, and attacked again. "No you can't. There's no help for a rooster who's acquired a taste for blood.
She gave him a whack with the side of the axe, and he flew back a few paces. "How'd it happen?"
"You've got bigger problems than you know, Red. That new bird in roost 17C. She's got teeth."
Teeth? Hen's teeth? Shocked to distraction, Inspector Hen nearly failed to parry the next attack. Only one kind of hen had teeth.
Recovering, she gave C. the mercy stroke, for there was no help for him now. She turned her back on the still standing headless corpse, took a firmer grip on the silver axe, and moved off down the long rows of hen roosts. There was only one way to deal with a were-hen, and Inspector L. R. Hen was the chick to do it. There'd be no more cackling murderers in her hen house, and no more hens with teeth.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014