In common with most country people who keep a dog and a cat, I am able to let them have a bit of freedom. This inevitably means that I live with two occasional killers! I have changed their names to protect their privacy. For the purposes of this post, I’ll call the dog Dogberry and the cat Verges.
Dogberry works with military efficiency and is hard-wired to hunt pheasants (No-one taught him; it is instinctive.). Though not a working dog, he has all the skills of one and killing is not normally a part of his m.o. – he sees his role purely as the silent marker for firepower (He must be very disappointed by its failure to materialise.). However, once in a while, he does come hard upon a bird by accident and the temptation at such close quarters is too much for him. With no warning and no malice aforethought, he is a clean and clinical. He doesn’t conceal the body, either. Afterwards he expects commendation for a job well done. Ah.
Verges is a loner who kills for his own amusement. He chooses his victims from two demographic groups: the down-and-outs of garden society (mice and rats) and those more integrated within it whose deaths involve taking risks (all birds). He exhibits a psychopath’s mentality. If the victim is a mouse, he will taunt it and play with it until he gets bored or is caught red-pawed, when usually he will deliver the coup de grâce. If he is distracted (perhaps by the Law in pursuit) the mouse may escape, but rarely will it recover. When the man from British Gas makes his annual visit, Verges is exposed as a serial killer: inevitably, a row of tiny skeletons or mummified bodies will be discovered under the boiler.
Birds are another matter. Verges understands that there is legislation against harming them. Most of the time he observes the law, but if something happens to disturb his equilibrium – say, being exiled to the lobby on a cold day (outrageous!) or inconvenienced by a visiting dog (the folly of it!), he will exact revenge. Birds can’t be played with like mice (too prone to escape and actively protected), so they must be snatched and dispatched with speed. Afterwards, Verges lies low for a time until the hue and cry is over.
When relaxing at home, Dogberry is a gentle and subservient friend and Verges a more uncertain companion, a feline Cesare Borgia who may purr civilised greetings whilst ever concealing the spiked weapon within the velvet. Their felonious lives are left outside, though. Not for them the country house murder. I’m glad to say.