Reggie lay in the dark, wondering how the hell it had gone this far.
It was all just a joke, he thought. Elaborate, maybe, but just a damn joke!
* * * * *
This was all Henderson’s fault anyway, him being such an officious little prick. Sending out a newsletter about the strict no-pets policy. Mentioning the policy during the monthly board meeting. Twice. Warning them all not to try to sneak any pets into the complex while it was under Henderson’s watchful eye.
That had been enough. Henderson wanted something to watch, Reggie would give him something to watch.
He’d installed a pet-door. Henderson, who lived across the courtyard, had yelled, but there was nothing in the rules against a pet-door, just pets.
That had been fun, but the joke had really hit its stride when Reggie stopped by a little shop he knew of where you could buy just about anything, as long as it was bizarre. He’d seen something in there that would be perfect, if they still had it.
* * * * *
Reggie stared toward the bedroom door, wishing to God they hadn’t.
* * * * *
“What we have here is a fully articulated cat skeleton,” said the thin, dark-haired man behind the counter. “In pristine condition.”
“What’s that?” Reggie pointed to the thin strip of leather hanging loosely about the tiny skeletal neck.
“That’s the story,” said the guy, dark eyes intense. “This belonged to one of those crazy cat ladies. She couldn’t bear to part with her pet when it died, so she had a taxidermist prepare this. The story is she kept it with her, treating it like a living pet. She’d move it about her apartment, even slept with it on her bed. When she died, her son brought it here, and we just loved the story. Especially this part.”
He gently turned the leather strip until tiny gold lettering became visible.
“It’s still wearing the collar it wore when it was alive.”
* * * * *
* * * * *
It was perfect. He went home and put a tall table beneath his front window. On top of it he placed a pet dish, the kind with two bowls, one for water the other for food. He filled the bowls, then centered them so they were plainly visible from across the courtyard, where the nosy, officious little prick lived. He put Schrodinger behind the bowls, positioned as if it were eating.
It didn’t take long.
Henderson went snottily berserk. He sent Reggie notes, which Reggie promptly ignored. He called a special meeting of the Condo Association, but Reggie got wind of the meeting and attended. There was nothing in the rules barring cat skeletons, especially if, as Reggie claimed, it was a work of art. Henderson circulated a petition which no one took seriously. To let him stew, Reggie simply went out of town for the weekend.
It was when he got back that things started to get weird.
He found the first one as he was shaking the keys out if his jacket pocket. Small, brown, and only slightly bloodied, the mouse lay on his doormat. Well, the body lay on his doormat; the head was… somewhere else.
“Henderson…” he hissed, then went straight to Frank Jesperson, the Chairman of the Condo Association. Henderson was already there, waiting like a viper beneath a rock. Reggie pointed a finger at him.
“This guy’s gone too far!”
“I’ve gone too far?” Henderson was incredulous. “Me? You might have gotten away with that ‘art’ thing, but not this. People are complaining— you’re the one who’s gone too far!”
“What are you taking about?”
“I’ve been getting complaints of a cat meowing at night,” said Jesperson. “Henderson here claims you’re playing a recording.”
“How? I haven’t even been here for two days!”
“A timer or something,” Henderson said. “All I know is that he’s trying to make that ‘cat’ of his seem real, and now it’s bothering people. I’m starting another petition, and—”
Jesperson had ushered them out then, asking simply that if something were happening, it stop. Reggie was halfway home before realizing he’d never even brought up Henderson’s mouse.
“Are you making all that noise?” he asked the skeleton as he let himself into the condo. Aware that he was visible from Henderson’s, he steeled himself and gently stroked the tiny skull for a minute before he went about unpacking.
* * * * *
* * * * *
That was the first night he heard it. It woke him up, actually; the meowing. He’d looked about the house and found it empty. On his way back to bed he’d found the second mouse, small and decapitated… inside the house this time, lying in front of his bedroom door.
Reggie had checked the house for intruders. He found nothing, but… up on the table where it belonged, Schrodinger was now turned about, facing into the condo.
What the hell? he’d thought, a little spooked. He went back to bed without touching anything… and found a third mouse next to the second in the morning.
That night he’d slept with his bedroom door closed. The latch was broken, and he could only push the door to, but it was better than nothing. He’d awoken to the meowing again, but not gotten up.
If this is Henderson, somehow pranking me back, he thought, clinging to the idea, then it’s a good one.
He’d fallen back to sleep listening to a strange clicking sound he couldn’t identify.
That had been last night. Tonight, he’d managed to identify the sound coming from the other side of his door, though he wished he hadn’t.
Little bones tapping the floor? Footsteps? Impossible…
He froze, closing his eyes, as the unlatched door nudged open the barest bit.
Something clicked its way through the shadows, leaping to land, almost weightless, onto the foot of the bed.
And though Reggie refused, childishly, to open his eyes, something down between his feet was purring…