Chapter 24 Cool Cat Attacks

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Clyde Newcastle put on his hat and locked his front door. The oak trees that lined the street had already lost most of their leaves and the sidewalk was littered with crispy piles of brown and orange. A 55 Ford Thunderbird roared up the quiet neighborhood street too fast and came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road.

Bernard got out and slammed the door. "Newcastle!" he called loudly, "I want to talk to you."

"How unfortunate." Clyde said calmly as he pull the key from the lock.

"Did you hear me?" Bernard demanded angrily. "I have something to say to you!"

"So I inferred," Clyde answered, "but I am on my way to work at the moment."

"Now listen here, Newcastle. You can play the part of the pathetic widower, but you're not fooling the big cats, and you're not fooling me."

"I'll remember that."

Bernard huffed and glanced angrily at Clyde's house. "I'm surprised you can afford this place on your teacher's salary."

"It's hardly worth asking of the man who was sleeping with my wife, but; Mr. Rompier, don't you think you're being a bit of an ass?"

"And this is a nice neighborhood too." Bernard went on, "Isn't it a little steep for a washed up poet like you?"

Clyde walked passed and left Bernard huffing on the doorstep. A couple of the neighbors were watching the commotion from their doorways and windows.

"I know you killed Loretta." Bernard said through clenched teeth.

Clyde stopped and looked back. "You can't possibly know that."

Bernard put his hands in his pockets and grinned. "Yeah? Why not?"

"Because I didn't." Clyde sighed and adjusted his watch. "Look Bernard, you may as well level with me; are you three sheets to the wind or just an idiot?"

Bernard pushed up on the brim of his black hat so that it slid back on his head. "Loretta was a beautiful woman, much too good for you, and she had enough dough to set you up for life. She didn't need you and she didn't love you." Bernard shouted. "But loved her so much you couldn't even see straight."

"Loretta's attractiveness, her wealth, and her lack of love for me are not secrets, and consider them self-evident. But I dispute the last point," Clyde said firmly. "I had already stopped loving her before you came along."

"That's a lie," Bernard said. "You were sick with jealousy and desperate for cash so you killed Loretta."

Clyde shook his head. "Drunk or not, you are an idiot."

"At least I'm not a murderer!" Bernard walked right up to Clyde. His chest was heaving.

"Look, Rompier. I loved Loretta once. That's none of your business, but it's true. That's why I married her. But that was a long time ago. The longer I knew Loretta, the more I realized that the only think I wanted from her was her absence. That woman wore me down like the influenza. And believe it or not, I wasn't sorry when she ran off with you, I was relieved. And if Loretta hadn't filed for a divorce, I would have."

"That's a lie," Bernard said shaking his head. "You were crazy about her."

"Yes, but that was before I got to know her."

"She told me you demanded support payments."

Clyde chucked quietly and shook his head. "Okay, Big Shot, tell me this: If I loved Loretta so much, and I wanted her money to boot, why didn't I contest the divorce?"

"Because you knew she'd never come back to you."

"But if I had wanted her money, I would have fought the divorce. And if I had wanted revenge, I would have killed her when she started going around with other guys. But I can tell you one thing, if I was the calculating monster you take me for, I wouldn't have waited until the final days of our marriage to murder my wife. Ex-husbands don't inherit, only widowers inherit."

Bernard Rompier shook his head. "Maybe it took you that long to come up with a plan."

"What plan? The clever plan of attaching her within earshot of witnesses and giving myself no alibi whatsoever? I've never claimed to be a genius, but what you're suggesting is ludicrous. Now, if you'll excuse me, I don't want to be late for work." Clyde turned to go but Bernard grabbed his arm to stop.

"Loretta told me stuff."

Clyde adjusted his hat. "My understanding is that women women usually do converse with their lovers."

"Loretta said your poetry is rubbish. She said you're a cold fish and it's the only passion you ever had. Dribbling, awful poetry that no one wants. She was sick of supporting you. She said you were too stupid to ever accept that you have no talent."

"Can you see why I was glad when she left?"

"But some fool actually liked your pathetic dribble," Bernard went on, "A big cat in New York offered to publish your collection. For the first time in your miserable, meaningless life, you thought you might actually amount to something. You thought you'd become a famous poet and she'd love you again. But Loretta told the publisher the truth. You're nothing but a common criminal."

Clyde hit Bernard so hard he fell down.

From the ground, Bernard grabbed his jaw. He moved it gingerly. "I'll tell the police," he spat angrily. He stood up and glared. "That's why you killed her!"

Clyde was breathing heavily but his voice was steady. "I did jail time," he said, "but that doesn't make me a murderer." Clyde adjusted his hat.

"I'm telling the police about this," Bernard said.

"While you're at it, please give Inspector Riggs a message from me," Clyde said as he unlocked his car door. "Tell him that I received a letter from the courthouse last night. The judge signed the papers on Friday. Our divorce was granted before Loretta was murdered. In case you're too stupid to sort this one out, that makes me a divorcee not a widower. Now, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Rompier, I have work to do."

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