Having arrived back in town to messages about an ongoing investigation concerning the comprehensive destruction of a landmark in Port, I turned the corner onto Upper Reimann and saw smoke and a large void where the cabbit’s house had only days earlier sat.
“I guess dinner is off,” I muttered as I instinctively began a cursory inspection of the site’s security and freshness while quickly verifying that my own house had only minor damage.
Still uncertain of the fates of the occupants, I was partially relieved—if only momentarily—to hear the voice of Hally angrily chattering something behind me: “Looking over the scene of your crime?”
Ignoring the bizarre question I tried my own, “What happened here?”
“Oh I think you know what happened!” came another strange outburst.
Observing her body language and making note of her path through the site I corrected her with: “I will in time.”
Ignoring me, she stayed focused on me and began circling like one of her unusual ‘pets.’
“You never liked me; and I went out of my way to help you all those times, inviting you to Thanksgiving! To hunt Kraken! You’re the only person with any motive, I know that!”
“Motive? For what exactly?” I teased, studying her as she straddled the edge of coherence.
“Burning my house down!” she shouted.
“”Well, you’ll be no use,” I coughed, swatting the smoke out of the way to study a boot print.
“Use? Use?!” she cried out, growling slightly.
“Someone nearly burnt down my house. I have to sort that out and deal with the damage before the ice takes too strong a hold. I suppose now you’ll be moving…” I said having a bit too much fun seeing her so upset.
“No way! I’m moving back in. To spite you,” she scolded.
I tried not to grin as she folded her arms defiantly. I turned back to my work and said, “I have no time for spite, but whatever eases your suffering.”
I could have sworn her face glowed red through her fur as she growled: “I will follow you to the ends of the Earth and be your neighbour forever. Just ‘cause you tried to push me like this!”
I suddenly felt a slight pang of guilt that I was enjoying this so much, and honestly felt bad for the awful creature. Thinking of creatures, I asked: “Did your pets survive?”
“My hyenas got out just fine!” she barked, as though she thought it would hurt my feelings.
I didn’t like them either as pets or as neighbours, but I was relieved that they had survived.
I was growing weary of her childish accusations and decided to offer my thoughts on the idiocy of her claim. “I had nothing to do with this, Hally. Here is a simple test: were you in this dwelling when it was levelled? If I hated you so much, this conversation would be impossible. I never speak with the dead; I let them speak to me.”
She seemed to calm a bit, saying quietly: “I was. Jumped out the second story window.”
I offered concern for her health and inquired about medical treatment to distract her while I examined what at first appeared to be blood on a scorched cushion.
“No, and I have no time for fake concern either!” she spat as she left the scene.
“Neither have I,” I thought out loud as I turned back to my own house and shook my head at the black soot on everything. There seemed very little of consequence that hadn’t been picked over by scavengers.
Hally had simultaneously accused and exonerated me by making it obvious that she was well aware that she had been present during the inferno while I had not. I could not believe that she had done this to collect any insurance compensation. As troubling as had been both her choices of pets and her almost criminal incompetence in their care, she would clearly never willingly harm any of them. It was too early to discount the tragically customary lamp, candle or stove accidents, but the whole matter was gravely troubling. There had been far too many thoroughly destructive blazes within this city’s confines of late.
I now began to wonder whether fate (or someone else) hadn’t confused an address…