Our next appointment was with Bull, Tulip’s business partner and possible lover, at his office by the Port. Before meeting with Bull, Mittens insisted we have a drink with a mouse informant at a bar called The Devil’s Liver. I find mice distasteful, and would prefer not to deal with them. They can be just as smart and insightful as any cat or dog, and always more so than the toy breeds of any species. But in the final analysis they are prey. How can you trust prey? Their world is distorted by a lens of constant fear.
The moment we sat down, even before we ordered our drinks, the small rodent spilled out his story: he was anxious both to begin and be gone. “Everyone always asks so I’ll tell you the gossip is true. Tulip did date Bull. I don’t know whether they mated, but judging from those ears of hers I bet they did.”
“What did Bull’s pack think of Tulip?”, Mittens asked. As usual, his voice was insinuating. He couldn’t ask directions to church without sounding like he was implying something dastardly.
The mouse shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Bull is an alpha dog. His pack is loyal.”
The mouse emphasized the word loyal, and well he should have. There was never dissension within a pack unless there was a competing alpha.
“Any pooch challenge Bull’s authority?” I inquired.
“What about the breakup with Tulip? Was it ugly?”
The mouse shrugged, “They didn’t break up. I mean they did break up, but not the way the Press tells it. They did it for politics. They get – got – along just fine, at least they did until that last time.”
“What do you mean?” Mittens purred.
“Well, I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but the last time I saw Bull and Tulip they were having an argument in Bull’s office. They shouted at each other.”
“Wages? Another molly? I dunno. There was a loud noise; a crash. They both left immediately afterward, in different directions.
“Did they see you?”
“No. But I got a good look at them. I didn’t see what I expected. Not at all.” The mouse was so nervous he was chattering. Mus musculus never like being in the open for long. “Tulip was crying. Not yowling, but real crying, with tears. Can you imagine a cat crying? After they left I sneaked into the office. There was a glass container shattered on the ground in the middle of the floor. That was the odd part.”
“The container held a velvet pillow on which there was an imprint.”
“Yeah. The left hind paw of a right-leading dog.”
“Whaddaya think they teach us in mouse school?”
“We believe you”, I hastily tried to diffuse the situation.
The mouse continued, “You know what else they teach in mouse school? – that the left hind paw of a right-leading dog is the least likely one to kill you. Its the weakest. Just like the lead paw is the strongest.”
“What’s that have to do with this paw print on velvet?” I asked.
“Nothing. I’m just saying”, the mouse replied.
“Did you – borrow – the velvet pillow?” Mittens asked.
“No way. You think us mice want trouble with Bull? I left everything exactly the way it was.”
“Do you know what happened to the pillow? Or the left hind paw that lay on it?” I asked.
“That’s the funny thing. Tulip came back. I hid in a mug. I didn’t see nothing. When she left, the whole mess was gone. She must have taken it with her. Even the hind leg she pretended to hate.”
“When exactly did this happen?”
“Tuesday afternoon. Just before she was murdered.”
How did this mouse know Tulip had been murdered? It was a stupid question. Mice always knew everything, because they were ubiquitous, and they talked. What one mouse knew, every mouse knew.
The timorous rodent continued, “You know what else is weird. After Tulip left, Bull came back. I saw his face. He was afraid. Can you imagine that. The most alpha dog in Montréal was afraid.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Naw, I didn’t stick around.”
I thought of the murids1 we’d smelt on the velvet pillow in Tulip’s apartment. I asked, “Did Tulip or Bull have any rat trouble?”
The mouse never answered my question. Someone knocked a glass over and he disappeared.
The sudden disappearance of the nervous mouse annoyed me to the point of anger. When I had composed myself, I wondered why. Upon reflection I realized that it was because the mouse had acted like a mouse. I had an insight into my bias against small rodents at that moment: I hate the way the way they quiver; I hate the way they scatter in the face of danger.
Why are my feelings about them so strong?
Because in my heart I know that I too am prey.