SMALL JUSTICE: From the Notebook Files
I have a strange tale to tell you, a true story that to this day remains unexplainable. It bothers me still, even haunts me. First, let me share a little bit about my cousin, Madalyn, and myself and how we came to be involved in this story. We live in a small, rural town, a farming community, actually, where everyone knows each other, and, unfortunately, it’s a place where goodness and cruelty struggle to co-exist. The Fate River cuts through an oak and pine forest that spread away from the river’s banks a little over a mile and ends where agriculture fields take over. The Fate is wide and mostly shallow except for in its center where it deepens and a strong current hides.
Maddy lives on the large farm adjacent to our small plot of land. Her daddy owns over two hundred acres of land. My dad owns one field of forty acres. We are the same age and of the same mind, so we’ve been best friends all of our twenty-five years now. Aunt Ella is my mother’s sister. She’s a nurse. Maddy’s father is a true farmer, a local born and raised here. My daddy was a big city lawyer who gave up the money and insanity for some peace and quiet. Mama retired from teaching when I came along. Maddy and I have no siblings, just each other. We do have relatives living in the area. Some of them are the salt of the earth kind of people but there are a few that are as heartless as anyone can be. This tale begins with their cruelty.
School was out for the summer. The heat was stifling, so Maddy and I took off for the river to cool our feet. Being only eleven then, we were not allowed to swim in the river without the presence of a parent and we obeyed that rule faithfully. As we approached the bridge that connects the land, we heard voices nearing the bridge from the opposite side. We slowed our steps and moved into the trees to see who else would be at the river. Some people you learn early to avoid. From behind the trees we waited and watched until the voices became people. The two girls in the group were our cousins; the three others were boys from town. Maddy immediately became frightened and wanted to leave for the group that showed up were known to be a pack of mean bullies. They were older than us by three years. Claire, our budding psycho cousin, was carrying a squirming sack which she was violently swinging back and forth, causing the other to laugh and cheer her on. I knew that what was in the sack was alive and about to be thrown into the river to die a horrible death. It happened minutes later. The bunch watched from the bridge until the sack sunk beneath the water and then they left, whooping with glee and giving each other high fives. I can still hear our cousin Kim’s twisted laughter reverberating through the forest. Once they were out of sight, I tore out of the trees and down to the bank and began searching for the sack. It bobbed up several feet down the river. I race to rescue whatever was in the sack. As I pushed through the shallows, I could heard my mother warning me not to go into the deeper waters but that’s where the sack was and I needed to get it. I could also hear Maddy’s pleading voice begging me not to go in but I could not bear to see any animal being so cruelly treated. Once I reached and took hold of the heavy, waterlogged sack, I turned to paddle back to the bank but the current clamped onto my legs and pulled me under. I could feel my body scraping the river’s bottom and though I fought to get loose, I knew I was losing the battle. Then something happened, something I still can’t explain. It was like two strong hand took hold of my waist and forced me upwards and over to a sandbar. I still had the sack grasped in my hand. Maddy wadded out to me. I told her to get the sack out of the water and onto dry land. She did and after grabbing some air into my lungs, I hauled myself onto the bank. I didn’t think to ask who had saved me until much later. When I did ask Maddy about it, she stared back at me with a queer look on her face and said no one else had been in the water. Just me.
We quickly yanked the knot loose and found four black and white sodden kittens, along with the mother cat, in the bag. Two kittens were already dead, the mother cat and the other two were barely hanging on. Maddy showed me how to breathe into their little mouths to help them survive. When their breathing evened out, we helped the mother cat. She survived, and as soon as she could manage, she went to her two dead babies and licked them, like she was kissing them goodbye. Maddy and I cried.
We carried the cats home in our shirts and told our mothers what had happened. I got a scolding from Mama but it wasn’t too harsh. Mama, like me, could never accept cruelty of any kind. Aunt Ella, Mama, Maddy and I buried the dead kittens at the north end of our field, placing little crosses made of sticks and tied together with twine on the tiny graves. We kept the kittens and the mama cat in our garage since Maddy’s family was leaving on vacation the next morning.
The mother cat we name Indigo because of her blue-black fur. We named the kittens Gray and Tay. Tay belonged to me. Indigo stayed close to me, rubbing up against my legs and curling up on my lap when her babies slept. I got the feeling she was thanking me for saving her and her babies. Two weeks after the rescue took place, Indigo began disappearing at night. We weren’t concerned. That’s the nature of adult felines. But once she started prowling, strange stories began circulating in town. The first piece of gossip concerned my cousin Claire. Mother heard talk at the beauty parlor that Claire was being stalked and that she had reported it to the police. She claimed to have pictures of her stalker, a dark figure who watched her house at night from across the road, but when the police asked to see the photos, Claire could not produce them. Claire swore up and down and on the Bible that she was telling the truth but due to her bad reputation not too many folks believed her. Weeks later, Claire was found dead near the river. Some maniac had ripped her throat apart. She bled out. Two weeks later one of the boys who had been with Claire the day they threw the cats into the water was found dead behind the Quik Stop. He too had been talking about about a dark creatures who seemed to be everywhere he went. His throat had been ripped to shreds and his eyes horrifically gouged out. Then Kim was killed, suddenly and viciously. The police believed we had a violent serial killer stalking the town. His prey appeared to be the young folks.There was no evidence of sexual assault, just the mangling of the throat and face. The other two boys who were with the group that day were also found murdered near the Fate River. The community became paralyzed with fear.
But the killing stopped that night, the night the last of the group was found dead, and Indigo suddenly ceased her nightly disappearing. It all still baffles and frightens me because I cannot shake the belief that it was Indigo out there taking revenge for the cruel murder of her two babies. I know it sounds insane. House cats can not kill people, right?