The Cock Crows Nevermore

This morning, in a quiet English village, there’s a killer on the loose, a killer with a price on his head.

A reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest. No corpse has yet been found, but the villagers themselves are convinced that murder has been committed. The name of the place is Calf Heath in the rural central England county of Staffordshire. It’s the sort of place where nothing exciting, let alone violent, ever happens. The sun comes up, the cock crows, and life goes on the same. Except now the cock doesn’t crow.

The bantam cockerel, Thomas, to give him his adopted name, has vanished off the face of the earth and in highly suspicious circumstances. Thomas arrived, unannounced, in the village last November. He set up home amid the branches of a sycamore tree in Melvyn Wootton’s garden. Melvyn fed him. And Thomas crowed appreciatively.

He crowed at dawn. Crowed at lunchtime, could still be heard crowing as the sun went down. And tended to round of his days ... with some impromptu late-night crowing. The job of being a bantam cockerel was clearly one that Thomas took very seriously indeed. Too seriously, perhaps.

Calf Heath is a quiet place now. Calf Heath was a quiet place before last November. The problem seems to be that in between Thomas the cockerel made Calf Heath a very noisy place. And someone took exception. But who?

If you look on all the street lights in Calf Heath today, there are posters appealing for clues. Melvyn Wootton himself will give $150 to anyone with any information. Reports of a mystery figure lurking in the bushes near the sycamore tree with a net have already been received. Villagers say a single gunshot was heard shortly afterwards, followed by a screech of tires as a car sped away.

But Thomas has disappeared without trace. No sign of a struggle and not even a tell-tale feather left behind. The police are baffled. Villagers eye one another with deep suspicion. It is the ultimate English who-dunnit. A mystery that even the respected Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cannot investigate. Because Thomas, repetitive bantam cockerel that he was, is a bird. And shooting birds is not classified as cruelty.

A case of murder most fowl.

By Ed Boyle
  • Bob Bicknell

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