By The Whistling of a Tea Kettle

Submitted into Contest #160 in response to: Start your story with the whistle of a kettle.... view prompt

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Crime Drama Mystery

The tea kettle whistled again. 

Cayd hit the timer on their phone and took the kettle off the stove. They wrote down the time in their journal and added more water to the kettle. Something wasn’t adding up.

“The neighbor said the kettle was whistling for thirty minutes before he went to check on her,” Officer Bell said as Cayd’s sharp eyes swept over the crime scene. 

Cayd crouched in front of the stove, squinting at the knobs.

“Did he turn the stove off?” They asked. 

“Yes, but after he called 999,” Bell said. “It’s on the recording if you want that.”

“Yes please. And her kettle.”

“Do you want the stove too?” Bell joked, rolling his hat between his hands. 

“Too cumbersome.” Cayd’s face twisted up in vague distaste. “And it would change my flat too much.”

“I wasn’t serious.”

“Oh.”

The average tea kettle was two and a third quarts. The average person would only put in about half of that at a quart and a sixth. A full tea kettle would take seven minutes to reach boiling point when put on an averagely heated stove. 

Cayd crouched in front of the stove, squinting at their reflection in the oven door. 

“Thirty minutes,” they muttered crossly. “What tea kettle holds enough water to boil for thirty minutes?”

Unable to stand their flat or the tea kettle conundrum any longer, they grabbed their coat and yanked their hood up, heading a block away for a hot meal and something to clear their mind. 

The bell above the door rang out, and Cayd scowled, shaking their head like a dog to clear some of the rain from their head.

“Cayd?” Tyrone the cashier said. “Cayd! Boys, it’s Cayd!”

“Ten minutes before the kitchens stop!” A line cook called. “Somebody mark the date. Cayd Fairhouse is early for once!”

“Very funny,” Cayd said, still cross. “My usual, Tyrone.”

“Ooh, something’s got you in a snit,” Tyrone remarked as he obeyed. “Is it your neighbors again? I told you they’re nothing but a nuisance. My landlord’s still got a free room in their townhouse down on the East if you want it.”

Cayd shook their head and passed over their card. “Tea kettles,” they said savagely. “Can be vexing things.”

“Tea kettles?” Tyrone raised an eyebrow as he gestured for Cayd to add their tip. “What’s a tea kettle done to you?”

“Boiled for too long.” Cayd slunk over to the waiting area and threw themself on a stool. 

“Ah.” Tyrone handed them a soda. “Case work, then.”

“Irritating case work.” 

“Explains why you’re here a whole fifteen minutes early. Usual wait time.” He handed them their receipt and headed back to the register. 

Back in their flat, the boxes of food sat strewn over the counters as Cayd listened to the kettle’s whistle fade. 

“13:25,” they hissed, practically stabbing their notebook as they wrote the time down. They started pacing, running fingers through their hair. “What tea kettle whistles for thirty minutes?” They threw themselves in a chair and yanked a box of food over as the tea kettle sat there mockingly. 

Cayd opened their computer and signed into their email, stabbing at their cheese covered chips with the plastic fork they regularly reminded Tyrone to not pack. In their email, a copy of the 999 call and the case file had finally arrived. 

“999, what’s your emergency?”

“Yes, hi! I think someone’s murdered my neighbor!”

“Sir, what’s going on? What’s that noise in the background?”

“The tea kettle.” The sound grew quieter as the caller presumably moved to another room. “It’s been going off for awhile now and I thought maybe she fainted so I came to check on her but there’s a lot of blood in here.”

“Sir, where are you? What address are you at?”

“1337 Cansbury Drive, apartment 27.”

“Ok, thank you, sir. Officers are on their way.”

“Thank you.”

Cayd replayed the message three more times as they ate their chips. They called Bell. 

“Did any of the other neighbors hear the kettle going?”

“A few. One of them said it went on for about half the time the original caller said though.’

“Is the caller in her will?”

“No. She’s left everything to charity, why?”

“Curiosity.”

Cayd tried one last time, filling the kettle up as far as they dared. It only whistled for twenty minutes. That left a whole ten minutes unaccounted for. 

Maybe, they were overthinking it. 

They went back to the recording and hit the subtitles button for the hell of it. 

“Sir, what’s going on? What’s that noise in the background?” [unidentifiable noise]

“The tea kettle.” 

Cayd frowned and replayed it. There was a little noise sandwiched between the question and the answer, hidden under the noise of the kettle. They grabbed headphones and turned the sound up. 

“-background?”

[Noise]

“The tea kettle.”

[Noise]

“-background?”

[Noise]

“The tea kettle.”

[Noise]

“-background?”

[Noise]

“The tea kettle.”

Over and over again, Cayd looped the tiny section, playing with the sound settings of their laptop until the noise finally made itself known. 

It was a voice, moaning in pain. 

To be sure of what they had found, they checked the initial pictures taken when the forensic officers arrived. The kitchen was a gruesome sight. There was blood everywhere, and a hammer left in a sink full of red water, along with a tea towel. The hammer had no fingerprints on it. 

There were a few footprints in the very front of the kitchen, “likely from the caller stepping in to check on the deceased”, the initial officer’s notes read. There were a pile of towels on the floor too, from the killer covering their tracks, quite literally. 

(Pictures never failed to make Cayd’s stomach churn. The flash on the cameras always threw everything into such awful relief that it was sometimes worse than seeing it all in person.)

Cayd listened to the recording one more time before calling Bell.

“The neighbor did it. They used the tea kettle to hide the noise.”

“Cayd, it’s three in the morning.”

“Should I call back when you’re on duty?”

“Yes. But email me everything until then.”

“Ok. Sorry I called so early."

“It's alright, just remember what we talked about with checking the clock.

"Ok."

"Thanks for the solve, Cayd."

Cayd wrote out their full findings, including the math of a boiling tea kettle, waited until seven to properly call Bell, and then dragged themselves to the couch to finally sleep after cleaning up their kitchen. As they laid down and pulled a blanket up, in the flat next door, the tea kettle began to whistle. 

August 23, 2022 00:32

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