Mrs. Schroedinger's Cat

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Mrs. Schroedinger’s Cat

Bob Colby had his service revolver levelled at Bell, who was across the room with his own gun pointing back at Colby. Alice stood near the entrance. Mrs. Schroedinger had her hand on the closet door and was calling frantically to her cat. I was frozen between Colby and Bell. One wrong move could mean disaster, and everyone made the wrong move.
Alice reached for the light switch and the room went black. I heard two doors open and two simultaneous gunshots. I dropped to the floor. Then the sound of people in motion. I waited to feel the pain, but none came, so I began to inch my way across the floor. Reaching for the wall and turning on the lights, I saw Alice sprinting down the hallway, Colby looking at his gun like a firecracker had gone off in his hand, and Mrs. Schroedinger peering into the closet. Bell was nowhere to be seen, and I had wet my pants. Wrong move.
"Where is Max?” Mrs. Schroedinger screamed. Max was the cat.
"Where is Bell?” Lt. Colby looked around.
“Where is the bathroom?” I wanted to ask, but before I had the chance someone screamed from the alley outside. Colby and I stepped to the window and looked down. Bell was sprawled on the pavement three floors below, his neck twisted sharply so that he looked like he was wearing his head backwards. Blood was already oozing from beneath his body. A teenaged girl stood doubled-over near the entrance to the alley, vomit splattered at her feet.
I strode across the room and peered into the closet.
“Is he dead?” Mrs. Schroedinger demanded.
Aware of the stain on my pants and the warm urine on my leg, and unsure whether she was referring to Bell or to the cat, I gave the only answer I could think of. "There are only two possibilities,” I said to her,” yes or no.”
The apartment across the street from a Royal Farms Market that had been robbed on Tuesday belonged to Mrs. Schroedinger. Colby had gathered us there to see what he could learn. “Us” included Lt. Bob Colby of the Towson Police; John Bell, a local punk suspected of the hold-up; Alice Veraska, Bell’s one-time girlfriend; Mrs. Schroedinger; and me. Oh, and Max.
My name’s Vernon Rooks; I work for the Towson Times-Mirror. Bob Colby and I had met when I was covering my first story for the Mirror, and we had collaborated several times since. He sometimes let me in on a breaking investigation, and I kept him informed of details I learned as I snooped around.
The store had been robbed at dusk and the clerk had been shot. The single surveillance camera didn’t catch a clear image of the crook. Two witnesses saw Bell at the time of the hold-up, but their stories didn’t agree. Mrs. Schroedinger had heard the gunshot and gone to the window, where she saw Bell running down the street. Alice Veraska claimed that Bell was with her at the time, eating supper at a diner four blocks away. Both women agreed on the time, 6:12pm, because both of them had noticed the big clock on the Union Trust Bank marquee that was half-way between them on Harrison Street— Schroedinger when she turned her head to follow Bell down the street, Veraska when she stepped outside the restaurant to smoke a cigarette.
"So Bell was both places at once?" Colby had wondered aloud in his office Monday afternoon. That morning he had interviewed Mrs. Schroedinger, who identified Bell from a mug book, and then Colby tracked him down. While he was busy with that, I located Alice and got her story. Back at his office we compared notes. "Either that,” I said, “or he has a disappearing twin."
Colby massaged his jaw with the fingers of one hand. "One of them must be mistaken," he said.
“Or lying.”
Colby narrowed his eyes. “Let’s find out.”
A trip to Planck’s Diner turned up nothing conclusive. While no one working on Tuesday night identified Bell or Veraska, that didn’t mean they weren’t there. Absence of proof is not proof of absence. The diner had been busier than usual that evening, and short-staffed to boot, so it was possible the couple were telling the truth. Colby walked Alice through the motion of getting up from a table and going outside for a smoke. Cigarette butts littered the sidewalk, but again that didn’t mean much. Maryland had recently passed a No-Smoking in Restaurants ordinance, and lots of folks probably stood around just outside the door at dinner time for a quick smoke. I took the opportunity to glance down the street. The Union Trust clock was clearly visible from there.
Next Colby walked us to the apartment. He had just opened the window so that Mrs. Schroedinger could demonstrate where she had been standing, when Alice produced a handgun from her purse and tossed it to Bell. Colby drew his own weapon. Max, the cat, sprinted into the closet and Mrs. Schroedinger slammed it shut. That’s where things stood when the lights went out.
We pieced it together later. Bell and Colby had fired their guns simultaneously and, incredibly, the bullets had collided head-on and annihilated each other. That was evident from the pattern of lead fragments we later found in the room. Bell had then sprinted for the window and leapt—apparently forgetting that he had climbed three flights of stairs to get there. The police picked-up his body and, a couple of hours later they picked-up Alice at the bus depot. She had the cash from the robbery with her. We never found Max. Mrs. Schroedinger believes he was hit by a bullet, jumped out of the window, and went off somewhere to die. Colby thinks he’s probably still in the closet. Me, I’m not sure the cat ever existed at all.

About the Author: 
Dave Arbogast is an educator with curiosity about everything. Though his teaching has been focused on English, he loves to learn about history, geology, philosophy, religion, baseball, coal mining--even quantum physics. Dave also writes, both professionally and personally. You may read his blogs at and