by Diana Hockley
Frisbee, Rat Detective is an original mystery short story featuring a pet rat.
My position by the window in the family room was a splendid vantage point from which to observe next door’s cat when he came under the fence to dig holes in Fiona’s herb garden. I always tried to tell her, waving my arms in the air and bobbing up and down, but Billy usually disappeared before Fiona finally got to the window.
I could see everyone who came to the house from my perch – the postman, the vicar, Fiona and Greg’s friends – even though being a rat, I am short-sighted. It’s a very social life – the children run past the front fence on their way to school, mums go past to shopping and I get to see whose dog pees on Fiona’s petunias. Sometimes it isn’t such a good idea to be sitting in the window – like the day a kookaburra landed on the window sill and pecked at me through the glass! A baaaad moment.
Fiona’s husband, Greg, is the only human I have trouble with. I learned to stay away from the man after he tried to stamp on me when Fiona’s back was turned. Fortunately he missed, but it was a near thing. Fiona accepted her husband’s apology – “Sorry darling, it was an accident” – but I saw the way Greg looked at me, muttering, “You’re living on borrowed time, you little creep!”
Not long after that, Greg deliberately opened the door and let Fudge, the cat, into the room while I was running around the floor, stretching my legs. Greg pretended he didn’t know I was loose and it had been a close call, but I managed to whisk under the bookshelf a paw-length in front of Fudge.
I don’t know how long I’d been living with Fiona before the arguments started between them. At first, Greg was mildly irritated, but that soon changed. Their fights escalated to the point where Greg started to hit Fiona and even Fudge made himself scarce. Once, the two of us – me and Fudge – hid behind the sofa together. That’s when the “Animals Mutual Survival Law” kicks in. We don’t prey on each other when something else threatens. I hear even snakes observe it – but I don’t want to have to find out.
One sunny morning, I was woken by voices just outside my window. I yawned and started to climb out of my hammock to get my morning porridge with cream and honey, when a movement outside caught my attention. Greg stood in the shadow of the huge camellia bush nearby. A dark-haired woman leaned against him, smiling into his face. I could just hear a few bits of what they were saying:
“Greg, I can do it…”
“Fiona’s… get her to…lunch because…don’t worry…do what I tell her…”
The light breeze snatched the rest of their words. I shrugged – we rats can do that, you know – and I was just about to go down the ladder when something weird happened. Greg put his arms around the woman and stuck his face into hers. I couldn’t believe it! Even I knew that Greg shouldn’t be doing that, and we rats are cads and seducers from way back! And thieves, but I won’t go into that…
During the next few days, I was surprised when Fiona and Greg seemed to get along a lot better. Greg was unusually good-tempered and Fiona relaxed a little. I knew that because she picked me up and planted kisses on my head in front of Greg. I even got to watch TV with them in the lounge room! That day Greg actually apologised to Fiona for his bad temper. “Sorry, darls, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Cheer yourself up and ask your friends over for lunch.”
He’d never done that before…
Fiona planned the menu and wrote a grocery list, then rang her friends. “We’ll have a summer celebration,” she announced. “I’ve got a special bottle of wine for the best decorated sun hat! I’ll set the table in the family room. There’s more space in there for us all!”
I was really excited when I heard that. My cage is nearly always open so I can get at most goodies from there.
Fiona sang around the house as she swept and dusted the room, and bought lots of yummy things back from the shops. She washed and ironed her best tablecloths and didn’t even get upset when she found the lacework I contributed one rainy afternoon when she left the ironing too close to my cage.
She shared the excitement with me! “Look Frizzy Boy, chocolate mints for afters and if you’re good, some for you too!”
I thought that was a bit of all right. It was as though a great cloud had been lifted from the house, but even then, Fiona asked Greg very nicely to move the table or get dishes down from the top shelf of the cupboards.
The Big Day finally arrived. I watched Fiona wave Greg and his golf clubs off with a warm smile from the side of the garage and shut the double gates after him. As soon as his vehicle turned the corner, she hurried inside and set the table. She went to the big, glass-fronted cabinet in the lounge room and took out six glass tumblers which she washed in hot water, then polished with a clean tea towel. She set one in front of each place setting and then fetched a large jug of water from the kitchen.
I looked on, hopefully. A brisk scamper around the table settings would be great fun, like the time when I hid under the meat cover on the kitchen table. When Greg’s mother lifted the lid, I stood up on my hind legs and waved my paws in the air. Surprise! Things had gone downhill from there…
It was time to make Fiona feel guilty because she hadn’t let me out. I climbed halfway up the side of my cage, clung and adopted my “pathetic” act, as Fiona returned with a huge bunch of flowers and leaves.
“Okay, okay, I’ll come and get you as soon as I finish this,” she said, laughing. A few minutes later, she carried a bowl of flowers into the room, placed them in the middle of the table, then opened the cage door and plonked me onto her shoulder. She smelled great, but the scents from the kitchen were enough send a rattie dizzy with longing.
“Oh Frizzy, I’m so excited! It’s been a long time since something nice happened, hasn’t it? You can keep me company in the kitchen!”
She set me down on the sideboard with a piece of avocado to nibble. I leaned over the edge of the bench and calculated the distance to leap onto the table… no, even I couldn’t do it. I picked up my avocado and watched as Fiona diced the salad ingredients and put two eggs, salt, a lemon, a bottle each of olive and vegetable oil, and some freshly washed parsley on the sink.
Would she notice if I sneaked along over and grabbed some? Just then she finished making the mayonnaise and poured it into a glass jug, before opening the ‘fridgerator to take out a plate of – chicken!
My nose twitched as she placed pieces of it on separate plates. My mouth watered because I knew the bigger bones would have been kept for me to crunch, but then I forgot all about the chicken, because Fiona opened the oven door! Golden-topped bread rolls; the smell went up my nostrils. Just the one…please? For a starving rat?
She picked up a big pair of glove-things, took the tray out and put it on the bench across the room. Oh no, Fiona! Not over there! She actually laughed at me, hanging over the edge of the bench, my whiskers twitching like cockroach feelers – they’re not too bad either, just a bit crunchy.
“Oh, no, you don’t, Frisbee my boy. I’ll save some for you though.”
She arranged the rolls in a bowl and covered them with a tea towel. Disappointment almost overcame me. I retired to the back of the bench to sulk. Well, I did take my avocado with me. One has to keep one’s strength up.
Fiona took some glasses on stalks out of the cupboard and put them into the refrigerator beside several bottles of what I know held a yummy drink. Last time Fiona’s best friend, Lily, came over when Greg was away, they left their drink on the table and I got caught sipping from Fiona’s glass.
The doorbell rang. My share of the bread rolls was getting closer!
Fiona executed an excited little hop and went to answer it. I could hear them screaming “hello” at each other. I’d started to sneak along the bench and steal the rest of the parsley when she came back into the kitchen with some ladies wearing hats decorated with flowers and ribbons. One even had flowers in her hair! Clearly, this was a special occasion.
I dragged what was left of my piece of avocado behind the bread bin and settled down for a long wait. Fiona opened the bottles and poured drinks for her friends. Their voices were so loud I wished they’d go and have their lunch. Finally, Fiona poured the stuff in the jug over the salad.
“Lunch is ready! Everyone into the family room!” She made shooing motions with her hands and the women left the kitchen, taking their glasses, the bottles– and oh, no, the bread rolls– with them. Fiona picked up two plates and followed. Lily, Fiona’s best friend and mine, collected two more. I came out from behind the bread bin to continue my goody hunt, when a woman’s voice came from outside the door. “I’ll get yours and mine, Fiona!”
A dark-haired woman came into the room, walked swiftly to the table and opened her handbag. I squinted and sniffed the air; something about her was familiar…
I shrank back and watched as she took out a bunch of white flowers with yellow centers, grabbed a pair of kitchen scissors off the table and snipped the fat ends off the stems. Then she whipped off her hat, poked the flowers in amongst those already stuck under the ribbon and jammed it back onto her head.
After that, she picked up a large spoon, and began pressing the fat bits on a saucer, like Fiona does when she’s crushing my tablets. The woman quickly wiped the spoon, put it into the sink, then picked up the saucer and tipped it upside down over the salad. I could just make out water dropping onto the leaves. She put the saucer very quietly into the sink and poured a large dollop of yellow stuff over the top.
Fiona’s footsteps sounded outside the door. The dark-haired woman snatched up the plates and swung around, smiling. “Just coming!” She handed Fiona one of the lunches and they went out of the room.
Something about the lady worried me. When in doubt groom! I sat up on my haunches and started my toilette.
Did the lady have to take her medicine in the stuff Fiona made? I hated the taste of the “Baytrie stuff” which Fiona makes me take when my chest rattles, but she always put it in my favorite choccie ice-cream.
Fiona had forgotten I was out in the kitchen! Golden Rule for Rats – never miss an opportunity to steal! I stopped grooming and streaked along the bench, grabbed the bunch of parsley and dragged it back behind the bread bin. It didn’t take long to eat as much as I could stuff in. After that, I settled down for a nap to get my strength up for when the leftovers were handed out…
Piercing screams sent me into a panic. My heart pounded; I looked around for somewhere else to hide!
Crashing sounds came from the family room and plates smashed. I knew some of the chairs were being thrown around because Greg did that a lot.
“Get an ambulance! Fast!” Lily shrieked.
“She’s convulsing!” someone yelled. A woman ran into the kitchen, snatched some tea towels and ran out again. The front door slammed against the verandah wall; high heels clacked as someone hurried down the path. I hopped over the bread bin and sidled along the bench to perch on the draining board of the sink and peer out of the window. A lady had opened the double gates and stood peering down the street. Where was Fiona?
People were still yelling in the family room. One of the ladies rushed into the kitchen. I didn’t have time to hide, but she didn’t even see me as she whipped out her black shiny thing and jabbed at it. I could see her hands shaking. She held it against her ear for moment, then screwed her face up and snapped it shut. Her high heels slid all over the polished concrete floor of the hallway as she went back to the family room. I heard her shout, “I can’t get Greg!”
Scary piercing noises started up and a big green and white van with flashing lights on top pulled into our driveway. Two men dressed in dark blue coveralls jumped out, threw open the back doors and dragged out bags. One pushed a funny-looking trolley up the path toward the door. They disappeared and I could hear more furniture being moved around.
It was time to make myself invisible again! I scuttled back behind the bread bin just before some of the women came into the kitchen, including the dark-haired lady who had cut the bulbs off the stems and stuck the flowers into her hat band. None of the ladies were wearing their hats, which I thought a pity.
Munching a hat looked as though it might be fun!
“Has she got a virus?”
“Is she going to be all right –“
“Well, I thought she didn’t look herself when I got here. I’m not surprised she’s sick!” the dark-haired lady said. I knew there was something wrong with what she was saying. For the life of me I couldn’t think what it might be, but she wasn’t nice. We rats know things like that.
A wild-eyed woman rushed into the kitchen. “They think it might be food poisoning!”
“Was there something wrong with the chicken? Oh my God, what if we all get sick?” a fat woman shouted, clutching her throat. I put my paws over my ears, but I couldn’t shut out their voices.
“Don’t be silly, Marge, Fiona’s the only one of us who’s sick!”
They all gasped. “What can we do? Has someone phoned Greg?”
“I tried, but he didn’t answer,” said the woman who had tried to ring Fiona’s husband. She came and leaned against the bench beside the bread bin. I squeezed myself down into the little gap between the metal and the wall, hoping she wouldn’t turn around.
“Who’s going to clean up the mess?” They looked at each other.
“I can’t stay here for too long; my husband’s expecting me to pick him up at two o’clock.”
I let out a rattie sigh of relief, as the woman moved away. None of the ladies was looking in my direction, so I tried to decide whether to make a run for the curtains over the kitchen sink and climb to the cornice board without being seen.
The funny screaming noises sounded again and then Lily came into the kitchen. “They’ve taken Fiona to the hospital. We need to clean up in there.”
As she went into the laundry, the other women looked at each other like they wanted to get out of there. I wished they’d get on with it so I could go back to my cage for a nap. Finally, to my joy, one of the women followed Lily and I could hear water running and the sound of a bucket scraping over the side of the concrete sink. No one said anything and then the other women walked out of the room.
I sidled across the back of a chair, slid to the floor, crept along the wall to the hallway and peeped around the side of the door to the family room. Chairs were over-turned, food splashed the legs of the table and pieces of china were scattered on the floor. I paused to sniff a coffee cup, but there was nothing interesting in it. I heard Lily talking as the ladies approached, so retired underneath the bookcase nearby, from where I could see what was going on.
The other ladies stood together, making what even I knew were excuses. “We’ll only be in your way, Lily.” They tip-toed around the mess and slid quickly out of the door into the garden.
“Couldn’t get away fast enough!” Lily snarled to her companion, as they started cleaning.
I pressed against the wall to avoid the water trickling under the bookcase as Lily and the other lady mopped the floor tiles. Where was Fiona? What was I going to do? What about my dinner? And where was Fudge? I shivered.
Night came and so did Fiona’s husband. My heart pounded as Greg walked into the hallway, only inches from my hiding place. I relaxed just a little as Fudge ran past him, meowing for his supper. If Greg was angry, the cat would get it! I didn’t really want Fudge to get hurt, but at least I knew where he was. I poked my head out and peered at my cage on the table next to the window. I was hungry and thirsty. How to get there before Greg caught me?
I could hear Greg scooping food into Fudge’s metal bowl. Taking a deep breath, I streaked across the room, dived behind the curtains and began to climb laboriously, paw-over-paw. Just as I managed to get inside my cage, the “phst” of a drink can being opened sent my heart rate into orbit, but then Greg walked past the family room to the lounge. I knew he was settling down for a night of drinking and I didn’t want to think about what that might mean later for me – or Fudge.
Golden Rat Rule Number One: Every rattie worth his weight in yoggie drops knows you never get trapped without food. Who knows how long a cat will crouch at the entrance to your nest and starve you out? I grabbed a food block in my mouth and dashed for the curtain. The materi – stuff – caught on my claws as I slid to the floor and then slunk under the bookcase.
Greg was talking on the telephone and his voice sounded all silly. He even giggled and made kissing noises! Yuk! The conversation went on for what seemed like forever, but finally I heard him turn on the TV.
I scrambled up and down the curtains moving my food blocks under the bookcase. I’d almost finished when Greg turned the TV off and came into the family room. I froze, as he peered around. “I’ll fix you when I catch you!” he promised.
I didn’t move until I heard the bedroom door close. I decided to leave the rest of my food in my cage. I had to get on with shifting my stash to a safer place, but it was too dangerous to come out into the open until Fudge left for a hard night’s hunting in the mountains, also known as the local park. I just had to be patient…
The doorbell rang, almost frightening me out of what wits I had left! I couldn’t work out where I was, then realized that I was tucked into the springs in the sofa. The first thing I did was to check my food cache was safe, and it was. The second thing — crawl down to the floor and try to get back to my cage. It was then I remembered that something terrible had happened. I didn’t know what it was, but there no porridge with cream and honey waiting for me! And where was Fiona?
When Greg went to answer the door, I bolted across the room for the curtains. The voices grew louder and heavy footsteps marched toward the family room. Not a moment too soon, I changed direction and slipped behind the sofa. Greg came into the room, accompanied by two strange men. Big, highly polished black-shod feet walked over to the chairs. The floor shook under their feet.
I dived into Fiona’s sewing basket and huddled down. The lid was half- off, so I forced my head up through the pieces of lace and a half-finished, dainty white blouse I’d seen Fiona making. It kept getting in my face; it would look better with scalloped edges…
“What can I do for you?” Greg’s voice sounded nervous. “Is it about Fiona? Is she –“
“You haven’t phoned the hospital this morning then, Mr. Rogers?” The older of the two men watched closely, as Greg wiped his hand over his face and shook his head.
“Late night, you know, at the hospital. I just woke up. Is Fiona all right?”
“She’s still in intensive care, but yes, she’ll recover.”
“They said she’d eaten something which didn’t agree with her,” said Greg.
“She certainly did. We would like to ask you a few questions in relation to the poisoning of your wife, Mrs. Fiona Rogers. Is that all right with you?”
The elder of the detectives, DSS George Roundtree, began. “Now then Mr. Rogers, the results of toxicology indicated that your wife ingested something toxic, possibly the juice from something like a daffodil. “ He paused for a moment, looking at Greg in a thoughtful way.
“The contents of her stomach indicated that it was in the rocket leaves and tomato salad she ate at lunch yesterday. Mrs. Lily Evans called at the hospital this morning and when she found out what Mrs. Rogers had ingested, she told them that in her opinion, there is no way Mrs. Rogers would have made a mistake about what she picked from the garden yesterday for the salad. Then she rang the station and we talked to the hospital. Would you like to comment on that?”
Greg cleared his throat. “My wife isn’t as good with herbs and that sort of thing as she would like everyone to believe, Detective Senior Sergeant. I always warned her she’d make herself sick one day.”
I wanted to run out and bite him. How could he say that about Fiona?
The policeman’s voice took on a hard edge. “Mrs. Evans advised that your wife has a BA in Biology and training in herbal medicine. So why would you say she is not competent, Mr. Rogers?”
Greg reached down and ran his hand over the back of Fudge, who had sneaked into the room. I sank below the rim of the basket.
“Not everyone who has a university degree knows everything about their subject,” Greg muttered dismissively. “It’s just a piece of paper.”
No one spoke for a moment and I cautiously popped my head up to look around. Fudge was nowhere to be seen, but then my eye was caught by two hats, both decorated with flowers, lying on top of the footstool beside Fiona’s sewing basket. I stared at them, knowing there was something very important which I should remember about a hat and flowers.
I slid over the rim of the sewing basket, shaking aside the folds of Fiona’s newly decorated blouse and peered around the edge of the sofa. Fudge was licking his furry bum on the other side of the room and couldn’t see me.
I looked back up at the hats. Dainty white flowers wilted amongst the red ones on one of them. A vision of the dark-haired lady cutting the fat, round things off the stems and sticking the flowers into her hat band suddenly flashed into my mind!
Then I knew I had to get it down! But how?
A long piece of ribbon dangled from one of the hats. I was desperate! The men would go and not know about the lady! I leaped into the air, grabbed the ribbon between my teeth and swung. The hats landed right side up leaving me shocked and in the dark. I kicked my legs to try and free them from the hats.
“What was that? Is someone else in the house, Mr. Rogers?”
“No, of course not!”
What to do? I ran in one direction and the hats came along with me. Where am I? I realized I could see through the weave of the hats so I kept going in the direction of the black boots.
“Good grief, will you get a look at that!” one of the men said, his voice rising with shock. “Walking hats no less!”
Then Greg shouted, “It’s my wife’s rat! I’ll kill the little creep!” He bent down and wrenched off his boot.
I scrambled out from under the hats, rose on my hind legs and beat frantically at the white flowers with my paws. Greg raised his arm, but the youngest detective grabbed his wrist and took the boot away, whereupon Greg swung around and punched him.
That was it! They grabbed Greg, spun him around, put shiny thingies around his wrists, snapped them shut and dumped him in a chair.
I was safe!
“Mr. Rogers, why did you punch Detective Constable Peter Morris?” asked DSS Roundtree, as the younger man rubbed his reddened cheek.
Greg folded his mouth into a hard line. Peter Morris looked at me, still clutching the jonquils. He reached down and gently picked me up, chuckling as he took the stems from between my paws and handed them to his partner. “My kids have pet rats! Cute little things, George.”
Golden Rat Rule Number Two: Always smile at rat lovers! I gave him my, “Aren’t I the cutest thing?” look, and curled my mouth up at the corners. Works every time. He scratched me down my back and put me in my cage where I stood on my hind legs and clutched the bars. Not only was it a good vantage point to watch, but I could look pathetic at a moment’s notice.
The other man laid the flowers on the table and then took out a handkerchief, wrapped it over the brim of each hat and placed them beside the flowers.
“Any idea who these belong to, Mr. Rogers?” he asked Greg, stirring the limp little petals with the tip of a pen. “These white ones with the yellow centers look like jonquils to me. Member of the daffodil family.”
“My wife’s friends –” Greg cleared his throat and tried again. “My wife’s friends must have left their hats behind.”
The detective fixed him with a narrow stare. “That may be, but under the circumstances, the woman who owns this hat would hardly be a friend of your wife’s. What do you reckon, Pete?” He flicked one of the cut ends of the stems, before looking at Greg. “I’m sure Mrs. Evans will know who these belong to. Or perhaps you do?”
“No. How would I know?” asked Greg, scowling. The detectives stared silently at him for what seemed like a very long time. He couldn’t meet their eyes.
Pete smiled. “Perhaps the owner of this hat is actually a friend of yours?”
Greg’s face whitened.
“How well do you and Mrs. Rogers get on, Greg?” asked George the older man, very softly.
“Very well, Senior Sergeant!” Greg’s voice rose defiantly. He looked the detective in the face with wide, honest eyes. I could have told him that always works for me, but not for him.
“Mr. Rogers, can you account for your movements between 10am and noon yesterday?”
“I was playing golf,” snapped Greg.
“Can someone confirm that?”
“I was playing in a foursome, Detective Senior Sergeant.”
The detectives looked at each other. “I think we’d better have a little chat down at the station, Mr. Rogers. There’s the little matter of your assault on Detective Constable Morris and we need to clear up the question of who owns the hat with the jonquils. You’re going to help us with our inquiries and if you won’t, then I’m sure Mrs. Evans will.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Roundtree took Greg by the arm and helped him stand. “Just have a quick look in the kitchen, Pete. See if Mr. Rogers has done the washing up yet.”
Fudge, always a greedy opportunist — which of course I am not — followed the younger detective out of the room, thinking he might get fed, but Pete was gone only a few minutes. “Someone’s cleaned the place up, George.”
George sighed. “We couldn’t be that lucky. I expect the women did it yesterday. We’ll see what we can find out from Greg here and Mrs. Roger’s friends. Call Mrs. Evans and ask her to come and get the animals and close the house up. Warn her not to touch anything, for all the good it will do.”
I gave up being cute and settled down to munch a food block. The two policemen escorted Greg out of the house and placed him in the blue and white car parked in the driveway.
Lily was coming to get me – and Fudge – but even that couldn’t dampen my spirits.
Fiona would be home soon and life was good!
You can find other short stories and articles by Diana involving rats/mice in our Rodent Ramblings section.