By Aaron Menzel
“Let’s go over this again,” Brunswick said as he shuffled through the case file. “You mentioned to Detective Mills that you stole the goat because you had to eat. That’s correct, yes?”
The woman nodded, wisps of her white hair fluttering in the air conditioned room.
“Ok—so you stole the goat from the petting zoo across the way, led the animal up seven stories to your apartment, greeted a neighbor, and field dressed the creature in your bathtub. Both the upstairs and the downstairs occupants confirmed hearing bleating for about fifteen minutes before an abrupt stop. I’m clear on this?”
“Right. So the Patrol shows up, you let them in, and they immediately see the head of the animal in the kitchen sink. Meanwhile, you continue to fry up…what was it?”
“It’s liver,” the woman whispered. “The rest was for a stew.”
“It’s liver. They cuff you, you comply, and here you are—with the only motive revolving around your hunger—which, by the way, nobody here is buying.”
“I had to eat it.”
“But that’s absurd, Mrs. Boone. You had a fully-stocked fridge. The pantry was nearly overflowing. You’re old but could get to the grocery store around the corner. You aren’t poor, so explain to me how stealing a goat seemed the logical solution to your hunger.”
“I didn’t steal it because I was hungry. I stole it because I had to eat it.”
“But why eat it if you aren’t hungry? Please, enlighten me. If Mills has to come back in here, I promise he won’t be as understanding.”
“I didn’t have a choice. I had to eat it. It had to find the dog. It had to snatch it.”
Brunswick felt his jaw slacken, but only for a moment. Picking up his pen, he began to write. “A dog, what dog?”
“And Samantha is?”
“Mrs. Boone, did you eat your landlord’s dog?”
“I did. The whole thing. I didn’t have a choice. Fur on my tongue, canines in the disposal…”
Brunswick struggled to keep up as he spoke, flipping to the second page. “So the goat from the petting zoo and your landlord’s dog. You’re saying you had to. You had to eat two animals, not because you were hungry, but because you were driven to do so.”
“Six,” Mrs. Boone replied, wringing her hands in her lap. Her manacled feet rustling on the concrete floor. “I didn’t eat two animals. I ate six.”
“Six. You’ve eaten six different animals?”
“But I had to. I had to! You don’t understand. It’s the only way to heal. The only way to cure myself. I haven’t slept in weeks. And each animal is worse than the last. Each one bigger. Each one tougher. And they don’t do the job. They never catch. They tell me they will, I can see they want to, but they never catch!”
Brunswick spied the red dot glowing above Mrs. Boone’s head. Good, the recorder remained active for their session. Mills was never going to believe this.
“What don’t they catch, Mrs. Boone?”
“Each other,” she hissed. Leaning forward, her eyes widened and her lips puckered. “The wiggle, Detective. They wiggle unceasingly. At first it tickled, but then it grew, and now it’s all I feel.”
“The animals you’ve eaten. They wiggle when they’re inside of you?”
“Oh, yes. They wiggle and tickle inside me. And I’ll die if it doesn’t stop. Saint Gertrude’s wouldn’t help, and the librarian at Hooser Public turned me away. She didn’t believe me.”
“When did you visit Saint Gertrude’s?”
Brunswick looked up.
“My cat. She always loved me, right until the end when I strung her up next to the laundry. Claire was always such a good mouser. I thought for sure she’d nab that nasty bird.” She spat out the remainder of the sentence, and it lay between the two, like something unpleasant caught and displayed for all to see under the bare bulb of the interrogation room.
“So you killed your cat—”
“I had to.”
“You killed your cat to catch this bird—which you also ate. Mrs. Boone, if what you say is true, we’ll need to get you checked out for parasites. Birds are notorious for transmitting diseases, even when cooked—”
“Oh no, no, no. I ate that one raw. I had to. Had to. It kept pecking. I caught it in my laundry basket.”
“Sure, well, I will contact Saint John’s when I leave here today. This is all very helpful information, Mrs. Boone, and I’m glad you feel comfortable opening up to me.”
“Had to. Had to, you see? The spider was easy. I didn’t mind that. A leg got stuck in my teeth and it fought a bit on the way down, but I didn’t mind. I had hope. I thought a spider would be all it would take. It had such a simple job. So simple, you see? Just wrap up that fly. Just wrap it up, up in a web…” Mrs. Boone trailed off and settled back in her chair. Her eyes softened. Her feet became still.
Brunswick stood. “Mrs. Boone? Mrs. Boone, I’ll be right back, OK? I’m just going to get another cup of coffee. Do you need anything?”
Mrs. Boone sat back up in her chair, her eyes bright and feverish. “Could…could I trouble you for a cow?”
Brunswick paused, hand on the doorknob. “I’ll see what I can do.” He left the room and shut the door, wiggling the latch to check the lock behind him.