Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Murder in the Neighborhood

It was a hot and steamy night in the City of the Angels. But then, it’s frequently hot and steamy making every angel in this city sweat buckets. Take it from me, perspiring angels are not a pretty sight. Nor is murder. But murder is what I had on my hands. Again.

As the local gumshoe detective, I’d solved some pretty big crimes in the neighborhood. Tough cases attracted me like moths to a swimming pool. I’d solved the Mystery of Who Killed the Grass? and What Kind of Cat was Jackson? And the ultimate head scratcher: Who Cut the Internet Connection? But now I was faced with the biggest case of my detectiving career: Who Killed the Bush Mallow?

Bush Mallows are a native California shrub that go by the alias of Malacothamnus fasciclaris. They grow to be four to six feet tall and have little pink flowers that dames love. The victim of this particular murder fit the description of a young Bush Mallow: she was 3.5 feet tall with pink blossoms that had faded to a deadly brown. Unfortunately this murder hit close to home. The Bush Mallow I’d planted in my own garden a year ago was now the victim of this apparent homocide. It was Homocide: Life in the Garden.

Luckily for this case I had my trusty sidekick. Jackson had a feline cunning and an ability to see in the dark like a cat because my sidekick Jackson was a cat. As I marched out to the murder scene, Jackson followed.

“Who would want to kill the Bush Mallow?” I said gazing at the yellow crime scene tape that cordoned off part of my front garden. Meanwhile Jackson stared at the fence and noticed my old nemesis perched atop it: the Squirrel.

Did the Squirrel kill Miss Mallow? Of course! It was common knowledge that the Squirrel had it out for me. But would he push himself to murder a young plant to hurt me? I looked at the Squirrel, he bared his teeth and clucked at me. I didn’t have any evidence of him being near Miss Mallow the night of the murder or ever, in fact. But in fulfilling a personal vendetta, the Squirrel would try to hurt me anyway his twisted peanut-sized mind could dream up. Ah-hah! The Squirrel did it! As I was about to declare “case closed” I turned back to the dead plant. As I touched its dry, brown body I noticed a footprint next to its trunk.

Ah, hah! Evidence! The footprint was large, like a men’s size 12 shoe, which meant the murderer couldn’t be the Squirrel unless he was sporting a disguise of Paul Bunyan or the Jolly Green Giant. Okay, if the Squirrel didn’t kill my Mallow, a man with a big foot did. But who had a big foot?

“Mail delivery!” the Postal Worker hollered as he rounded the Palm tree and stomped into my front garden. His size 12 black shoe missed my dead Mallow by an inch.
“Do you always cut through my garden?” I said pulling a cigarette from behind my ear. I didn’t light the cigarette I just pulled it out from behind my ear then returned it back to my ear, then pulled it out again.
“Sometimes,” he shrugged.
“Did you step on my Bush Mallow and kill her?”
“No,” he said retreating. “Besides, if I would have stepped on it, it would be flattened, and it’s not.” He handed me two bills and the PennySaver flyer and disappeared across the street.

Before I declared this “case closed”, I now had something to consider. Hmmm. The Postal Worker did have a good point about the lack of trampling marks on the plant. I reexamined the victim’s body. The Bush Mallow was dead brown but stood tall, completely untrampled. Well if the Postal Worker didn’t do it, someone else must have. But who?

“Your plant looks dead,” my 86 year-old neighbor said from his yard.
“Because it is, Harold,” I said twirling the unlit cigarette in my hand. “The question now is: who killed it?” I stepped toward him trying to unsettle him and get to the truth.
“Not me if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Then how did you know it was dead?”
“… It’s brown.” Clearly my technique for unsettling him was not working.
“Did you see any suspicious activity around the plant before its death?” I said circling Harold.
“The only person I saw near the plant was you.”
“Yes, when the Santa Anas came.”

Hmmm. I remember the Santa Ana winds. They are strong, hot winds that blow into L.A. from inland desert areas and damage plants, destroy kites and decimate a woman’s hairdo. I also remember the latest Santa Anas that blew into town. They were so strong they were rocking my 3.5 foot tall Bush Mallow back and forth in its planted hole. Finally I remember fearing that the gale-like winds would knock the plant over so I ventured out into the winds and with a mallet hammered the five foot tall stakes into the ground on either side of the Mallow. Then I tied the plant to the two redwood stakes and called it a day.

It was just a two days later that I noticed the Bush Mallow was dead.

Now I tugged on the dead plant and lifted it off its base, it swung in my hand like a Christmas Tree that had been chopped clean of its roots.

Ah-hah! It was me. In my attempt to save the plant from the Santa Anas, I killed it by severing it from is roots. At last! The murderer was found!

Uh. Hmmm. Okay. So I was the one who killed the Bush Mallow. But does that make me a bad person or just an ignorant one? My sidekick sat on my foot and purred. Maybe the judge will let me off without doing any time. After all he is a pretty wonderful guy, that Mr. Wonderful.

“Case Closed”