Had it not been the warm reassuring ray of the morning sunlight that seeped through the cotton blinds and rested on the fleshy face of Milkman, he wouldn't have woken up at exactly eight o'clock. He opened his eyes abruptly and almost immediately, squinted. Shifting away from the sunlight, he made a displeasing sound in his throat as he stared blankly for a moment at the ceiling. From the corner of his right eye, he could see the clothes he wore the previous day. The ones he wore to work. Slowly, his mind began to recount how he had been in those clothes and was congratulated by his superior, Franklin Abindarl, about his three-month leave and his promotion. God! He recalled how everyone kept offering him congratulatory handshakes and flashing him awkward smiles. Still staring at the ceiling and fondling his goatee, he considered the number of "congratulations" he got, too much that it looked somewhat asinine. Did he really deserve it? For chrissake! It was only a leave and a promotion. A three month leave! Or maybe he deserved it. A wry smile came to his face causing his fleshy cheeks to bulge. He recounted some of his numerous successes as detective in the force, how his ingenuity and witty interrogations had cracked some difficult cases and brought hardened criminals to justice. He had been constantly praised for the way he milked the truth out of lying cold-blooded criminals. He wasn't just called "Milkman" for no reason.
The wry smile dissolved as he yawned vigorously. His meaty face scrunched up in disgust as the filthy air that escaped his mouth filled his nostrils.
"Ah" he muttered under his breath, realizing it was time he took care of his bad morning breath that smelled of booze. He eased himself out from under his duvet and staggered to his feet. He let out a slight groan, a result from the sharp jolting pain he felt in his back which he always got whenever he lay down for long. Milkman was aging. He was no longer the young athletic chap he had once been when he joined the force. He was 43. Although for someone aged 43, he looked very much younger with his athletic arms, broad shoulders, stunning height and his dazzling brown eyes. Above all, he had a most charming smile. One that could melt ice or even the hardest of minds. Hardly was there any woman in the world who could resist a smile as benign as the one he gave. Milkman was charming and he knew it. He also knew he was a fine detective but how he came to be that advanced in age with no one to call a wife was a mystery that even he couldn't yet solve.
He approached the bathroom in short unsteady steps that suggested he was still a little drunk from the booze he was plyed with the previous night by his "bachelor" friends. He took off the top of his pyjamas with a little grunt and was about to turn the door knob when the telephone's piercing ring tore the gracious silence of the morning atmosphere into shreds.
"Hello" he said, pressing the telephone tightly to his right ear, his voice sounding a little husky.
"Hello Michael, is that you?" He recognized the voice at once. It was unmistakable. The bulky condescending voice of Franklin Abindarl, his superior.
"Yes, it's me."
"Your attention is needed at the station. Er...I wouldn't have called you but we had no choice," he went silent for sometime, then continued " rest assured, you'll be compensated for the disturbance"
"Uhm... what's this about, Sir?" He asked, his voice a little edgy.
"There's a problem at the Mayor's residence- possibly murder"
"Okay. Yeah, well...Ramon can work on the case. He's a good guy. He's got brains. He's..."
"If it's a murder," Franklin cut in impatiently. " We need the best capable officers to nab this criminal"
"But murder?" His left eyebrow went up in alarm as he unconsciously fondled the black hairs on his bare chest.
"You have to come to the station right away." the impatient superior retorted, sounding a bit flatulent.
"Who was murdered?"
"The Mayor, Michael... The Mayor is dead."
* * *
Bambi let out a deep sigh of exasperation after hours of meticulously scrutinizing the huge paperwork that now lay scattered across his fancy glass-made desk. He snatched a glass cup containing little quantity of whisky and poured the content down his throat in one gulp. The eyebags that unusually formed under his eyelids was suggestive of the fact that he hadn't had much sleep in the past days. He pushed his chair back, cracked his knuckles and spat irritably on the floor. It landed some inches away from Helena, who lay sprawled on the floor, across the doorway.
It is the philosophy of certain religions that the serpent was the cause of man's downfall and so was the reason why man specially loathed the serpent. A philosophy considered fine by many except Bambi, who wasn't part of the "many". He vehemently objected, pointing out that man was the cause of his own downfall and just like a dog, he believed the serpent could also be man's bosom friend. Bambi was weird. No one had been able to understand his morbid fascination with morgues or his curious interest in the astuteness of hideous serial killers. His fascination with morgues began when he was just twelve years old, shortly after the passing away of his mother, Helena. One who he had formed a deep attachment with. He missed Helena greatly. And since her passing away, he saw death in a different way. At her ten-year remembrance, he described death, with tears welled up in his eyes, as the ugly familiar visitor whose hideous face can truly be seen by those whose little heart it's shattered. Now, whether it was because of her death or because he wanted to prove certain doctrines wrong, that he gave Titi, his then fiancee, and now his wife, a great shock with his absurd choice in pets, one will never know. It doesn't matter, anyway. It doesn't change the fact. The fact being five years ago, on a chilly Saturday morning, three days to his wedding, he had gone, as if propelled or controlled by a puppeteer, to acquire a snake for a pet. A python. A baby python. Though now 34, he hadn't quite gotten over his mother's untimely passing. His fascination with morgues and his absurd likeness for wild pets, he believed, helped him saw the thin line that separated life from death and to constantly appreciate the beauty of life in the present.
It however came as no surprise to everyone when Bambi named his dear pet after his beloved mother, Helena.
Indeed, it was a great shock that day, when Titi came visiting and found the lush-skinned serpent coiled dangerously, inches away from where she was sitting. It had been sometime before she inadvertently glanced away from the magazine she was reading and saw the huge reptile, well camouflaged with the color of the sofa. Her little heart fluttered. Her lower lips quivered. She tried screaming, but she lost her voice, terror completely taking hold of her and releasing her only after Bambi rushed in to take the creature, who seemed unconcerned about his environment, out of sight. All efforts to persuade Bambi to dispose the creature proved futile. He became obstinate and hard hearted about the matter. A trait he inherited from his father, whom he never knew. Knowing very well she had to live with a man and his pet python, she forced herself to reason timidly that she could live with a python and maybe having such a creature as pet wasn't so bad after all. She believed he would become bored and soon dispose it. She didn't want to ruin her wedding which was to happen in a couple of days. Titi thought within herself that though she didn't like the way things were now, the future held better days. But how could she live with man and beast? She had thought. Maybe by loving man and his beast, she could live happily. Well, Looking back now, she definitely concluded the whole affair had not been bad considering it attacked her twice in the last five years and Bambi had always been close by, never letting it out of his sight. Bambi's obstinacy was very surprising to everyone. He clearly adored Titi and couldn't bear to lose her but he also wasn't ready to give up his just acquired wild pet. His interest in keeping such wild pet was seriously frowned at by his few friends and prospective in-laws. It was mainly because of this that his well influential father in-law didn't recommend him for the position of Mayor but instead his daughter. Though he couldn't understand his daughter's decision to go on with the marriage, he still concerned himself with how she fared financially, especially as the meager income Bambi earned from vetting manuscripts for a publishing firm could scarcely have been enough to sustain the union. And so Titi, who had always had a reasonable interest in politics was quite agog when she received her father's support to be the next Mayor of Kanga Town.
Getting up from his chair, Bambi snapped his fingers at his pet, who in turn became suddenly alert and slid up to him. He squatted and patted the body. Helena shook her tail as she observed her master graciously with her beady eyes. Bambi, stroking her large head, glanced surreptitiously at the clock hung neatly on the wall of his study. 6:00am. He grunted. He decided it was time he went to bed.
Ignoring the pet, he lurched slightly out of his study and into his bedroom- a well furnished room with a king size mattress. The shiny marble floors complemented the low hanging ceiling. The silver chandeliers hung delicately from them. He stood, hands akimbo, regarding the bed for a moment. He made a curious noise in his throat when he saw the bed was empty. Titi had woken up. He could hear the distant "flaps" of her footwear somewhere in the living room. She was getting ready for work. Bambi had initially opposed the idea of her working as a Mayor but seeing the huge benefits it brought, he stopped pressing the matter. Without warning, he collapsed into the bed. The papers on his desk could wait, he thought. He switched off the light from the lampstand and in the darkness his dreamy eyes rested on the wall. Though he couldn't see the wall, he gazed at the painting on it. A painting of he and Titi. A painting they got two years back when they had gone on vacation in Paris. That was before she became Mayor. Before everything went south.
"A most delightful vacation it had been."
He recalled how Titi had been chattering away happily when they got back from the trip and how he, a man of few words had joined in, smiling broadly, chewing his pizza hungrily and discussing ludicrous topics. She later ruined the happy moment when she brought up talks about his pet. Since then, it's been as if the flame of their love had lost it's burning intensity. Like the love they once shared had been washed down the drain. Or turned into smoke and let freely out of a chimney.
With all these mixed memories in mind, it was not long before the invitingly succulent mattress was able to ease him into dreamland.
But Bambi hadn't slept for more than ten minutes when the blood curling scream of his wife jerked him out of his sleep. He sat bolt upright in bed, a bit confused, still feeling sleepy. Unsure of where the noise had come from, he attempted to resume sleeping but was immediately dissuaded by another scream. With quick lightening speed, he got out of bed, his eyes suddenly clear. He sped towards the sound, his heavy feet moving lightly on the marble floor. As Bambi raced on, his mind wandered off to the various possibilities of what could have warranted such scream. What could it be?, He thought, probably she slipped and fell?- No. Did she see a ghost? He banished the suggestion immediately. He didn't believe in ghosts. Oh God! Could it...
"Aargh" he yelped in pain. He had stumbled over a low stool kept carelessly in his path. He stood up mechanically, ignoring the pain in his right toe. He dashed into the kitchen and immediately his jaw fell apart. At the far corner of the spacious kitchen Titi's lifeless body lay awkwardly at the mercy of his beastly pet, her face twisted in pain. He crashed down to his knees. For the first time in a long while, tears came rolling freely down Bambi's cheeks. He hadn't quite recovered from his mother's death and now this happened. Though he sometimes doubted his love for Titi, he was sure now that he loved her. She was his life. He took her hand and rubbed his cheeks on them, sobbing loudly. This was more than he could handle. He stood up slowly and made to go out but stopped abruptly. He smiled sadly as he spotted the set of knives tucked away neatly in an open drawer. A terrible idea came to his mind.
Twenty minutes had barely gone past eight when Milkman, along with two officers and Franklin Abindarl stormed into the Mayor's residence, their faces looking important. They filed in, Milkman leading the pack. He entered the kitchen and immediately saw the Mayor, lifeless and limp like some dead sea animal washed up ashore. Milkman had only begun to examine the body, wondering what kind of Savage murdered someone in this manner, when he heard an urgent call. Franklin's voice.
He turned swiftly and half jogged to where Franklin's voice came from. He pushed the study door open and found Franklin standing, hands in pocket, gazing intently at the hidden corner, which was a blind spot from where Milkman stood. He followed his gaze and advanced further, taking silent cautious steps. He stopped, discovering what caught Abindarl's attention. His mouth fell apart as he blinked quickly in surprise. Not far away from him, Bambi lay huddled in a corner, his eyes staring blankly into space. Life had gone out of them. Helena was nowhere in sight.
Milkman closed his mouth momentarily before his lips parted, breaking the silence of the gloomy morning.
"Suicide" he sighed deeply and continued. "But why did he do it?"
Franklin Abindarl who had come closer and was inspecting the body behind Milkman's shoulders replied tonelessly, his warm breath fanning the detective's ear.
"Why does Bambi ever do anything?".