Our investigation began at the morgue, which was a nondescript block of glass and steel on rue Parthenais, four blocks west of the St. Lawrence River. We entered via a trap door on the east side of the building.
Mittens refused to inspect Tulip’s body in the presence of the coroner – who was a fastidious, copper-haired Spaniel named Sniffy – so we entered the small, grey operating theatre unescorted. We found the infamous feline beauty’s body laid out on a gurney. Although Tulip rested on metal, not marble, if you let imagination rule you, you could see her as a statue of Juliet in a final, tragic repose.
The first thing I noticed was her ears: they had been clipped to look like those of a lioness. Although I am a dog, or perhaps because I am one, my unthinking response to this was, “here lies a predator.” The effect created by Tulip’s wild ears was enhanced by the leopard spots tattooed onto her pearl white fur.
Mittens spoke to me with a plaintive voice, “Elle est très belle. Non, elle est trop belle”1 He groomed his whiskers with his bright, white polydactyl paws, and then continued. “If she were not so beautiful none of this would happened hien? There would be no story for the press, you wouldn’t be here, she would still be alive. We are driven to crazy, violent acts because of beauty. We are driven …”
I agreed with one aspect of what Mittens had just said. Although the case appeared complicated, it was likely that the murderer had a prosaic motive, like jealous rage. Nevertheless, I took issue with Mittens’ implication that motives only came from the instinctual side of the psyche. For me, Domestication is more than just a lid on the id. It has its own set of motivations, some of which can overpower our elemental drives. Perhaps Tulip’s murderer was compelled by lust or rage. Perhaps the murderer had a more subtle motive.
We began our investigation by sniffing the corpse. The dominant smell was a mixture of formaldehyde and disinfectant, but beneath that I found a more diverse layer of odours: feline, canine, and much to my surprise, pantherine. This latter mystery was solved by Mittens, who said, “She was wearing leopard-musk perfume when she died.” The Cat Detective shrugged, “It is all too much. C’est trop. Trop.”2
“Let us examine her wounds” I said, wanting to move our analysis along. Although I am not squeamish I don’t like autopsies because they are so raw: everything is stripped away by death – our hopes, our pretensions, our very spirit.
Tulip lay on her right side in a fetal position. Mittens lightly hopped onto the gurney and rolled her onto her back so that we could inspect the wounds on her stomach and neck. “Tabernacle” the cat said sub voce. Tulip’s fur was tufted by clotted blood; her stomach was lacerated in two places, and the interior of her throat had been exposed by one savage bite.
“Do you see these paw marks?” Mittens said, pointing first at the large cuts on her belly, and then at the mess around her throat.
“Dog” I replied without hesitation.
“Indeed. Can you recognize the breed?”
“Judging from the size, depth and angle I’d guess a large, muscular breed, perhaps a Shepherd or Rottweiler. I cannot tell from the scent, which is odd. You’d think there would be a molecule of smell in such a wound. There isn’t. All I smell is formaldehyde.”
“Do you notice anything odd about these paw marks, I mean aside from the fact they have no scent?”
I looked at the marks again. “Yes, I do notice something very odd. The wounds on the belly are from a left rear paw. I can’t tell about the throat.”
“A rear paw. Indeed! How do you know that?”
“From the shape of the wound. Dogs never move exactly forward, they always lead slightly from one side, which results in characteristic differences between paws. This mark is one that would be made by the back left paw of a right leading dog. I am one such dog myself.”
[I sat down and raised my paw for him to inspect; he saw how the my paws and claws had been slightly deformed by my orientation.]
“Could the paw that created these cuts have been not attached to an actual dog’s leg?” Mittens wondered.
I looked at Tulip’s wounds one more time. “Mittens, I think you’re right. These gashes move from bottom right to upper left – against the paw’s orientation. It would be impossibly awkward for a righting-leading dog to do this.”
“What can we learn from the wound on her neck?” Mittens hopped onto a small space beside Tulip’s right ear. From there he inspected her severed carotid artery. He sniffed then said, “This was an indelicate death.” His voice was more fastidious than sympathetic.
“Regardez!” Mittens lowered himself so that his nose almost touched the corpse. “There are fang marks on her neck. Tulip was bitten before her throat was slashed.” After a moment, he pulled his whiskers back, raised his head and said, “Cat”.
I took a corroborating sniff. “Mittens, can you identify the animal who did this?”, I asked.
He replied, “I will be able to, when I meet him. But that is of little account. I am certain these fang marks were made by Trouble, Tulip’s tom-friend. It looks like a love bite but …”, Mittens shrugged.
Our examination left us where we were when we started, in the sense that the prime suspects were unchanged: Tulip was probably killed by either Bull, her ex-mate or Trouble, her current mate. Bull had the miscegenation and criminal history angles; Trouble was feral.
The evidence suggested that Tulip was murdered by clawed blunt instrument which made me suspect Bull more than Trouble. That’s because of the way cats approach violence. An old folk tale, which dams tell to their kittens illustrates my point. The tale is about a mythical kingdom called The Land of Cats, which tradition locates in western China, just north of Shangra-la. The ancient Chinese kingdom of Dian was the The Land of Cats’s neighbour to the west. At the time of the story Dian was ruled by a particularly ambitious monkey king. The tale begins with the monkey king asking his Chief Minister, “Why is The Land of Cats not part of my kingdom? Tell me about this country’s army. Do they have archers? Do they have trebuchets? Do they have cavalry? When he was told that The Land of Cats had none of these things, the foolish primate king ordered an army to be dispatched at once to conquer it. When this great, well-equipped army arrived at a narrow pass on the road outside the cats’ capital city, the entire adult population of The Land of Cats attacked with claws unsheathed and teeth bared. The Dian army was destroyed in one morning. The moral cats draw from this tale is that they do not need weapons because they are borne armed.
It was highly unlikely that a feral feline like Trouble would use a weapon other than his own claws or teeth.
As we exited, I glanced one last time at the corpse of Tulip, the erstwhile lioness. I was reminded of a game I used to play as a pup. It was based on a rhyme:
Who does the mouse fear?
The mouse fears the cat!
Who does the cat fear?
The cat fears the dog!
Who does the dog fear?
The dog fears the lion!
Who does the lion fear?
This last phrase was a cue for whoever was it to leap out of hiding and try to tag another pup while shouting, “The lion fears me!”.
Mittens must have heard me muttering the rhyme under my breath, for his next words were, “Indeed Barks, who does the lioness fear? Her lover? Her ex-lover? Another lioness? Herself?”
We were met at the exit to the morgue by an administrative assistant, who presented Mittens with the coroner’s report. Mittens accepted it with a merci and a little bow. He tucked the report into the satchel he wore slung across his chest. Before I could pose even one question, I found myself nudged towards the exit by the Cat Detective’s muzzle.
Mittens said, “Barks, now we must go to Tulip’s apartment. Let us make haste my friend.”