“I called the university,” said officer Mendez, leaning back against the wall, balancing on the sloped heels of his black c’boy boots, pushing back his hat and scratching his head. “They must have one of them snake experts up there.”
“I don’t need a snake expert,” said little Timmy Ortiz. “I have here my trusty 45.” Little Timmy Ortiz was new to the force and wanted to give his gun a shot.
“Do you know what kind of a mess that’ll make? They’d never get it cleaned up and it’s hard enough selling properties in this town.”
Little Timmy Oritz shook his head. “What are you thinking, chief?”
“I’m thinking a snake expert can get that feller’ out of there, no problem. No fuss, no muss, you know what I’m saying there, Timmy? You know what kind of snake that is? I sure as hell don’t.”
“I’m not going in there, chief. I never liked snakes.”
“He looks like he ate a three year old, that’s what worries me. Kids are always playing in these old empty houses.”
“The real estate agent says it was locked.”
“That may very well be, but doors ain’t the only way of entering a building.”
“Any kids gone missing lately?”
“Not that I know of, but who knows? Maybe their parents haven’t noticed any missing yet. The day’s still young. Hey, git the door, will ye? That might be the snake expert.”
“What’ve we got? I’m Herb Schwenkopfer, herpetologist. You say there’s a snake in the bathroom and he ate a kid?”
“Looks like he ate a kid. Or a big dog.”
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“Down this way.”
“Boy this house is a blast from the past all right,” said Herb, looking around at the extravagant use of avocado green brocade drapes and the wood paneling . “Looks like the house I grew up in.”
“We all grew up in this house,” said the chief. “If we were born at the right time.”
Schwenkopfer looked around. “No, seriously. This really looks like the house I grew up in.”
“You don’t remember your address from back then?”
“I’m trying to, but,” Schwenkopfer shook his head. “Oh well. It’ll come to me or it won’t.”
“Here you go. It’s in here. A young couple was looking at the house this morning with a real estate agent and they happened on, here, you go ahead and look.”
Schwenkopfer slowly opened the bathroom door, not wanting to startle the snake, especially if it were — as was possible given the house had been empty a while — a big rattler.
There, wrapped around the back of the toilet, against the back wall, and around the pedestal of the sink, was an eight foot Colombian Red Tail boa. It did, indeed, look like it had eaten recently, but more likely on a big rat or cat than a three year old.
“Not a bad place to live, is it, buddy?” Schwenkopfer spoke softly to the digesting snake. He slowly lowered his catch pole. “I’m going to need that large crate out of the back of my truck,” he whispered loudly to Little Timmy Ortiz. “Hurry.”
“Got it, boss,” said Little Timmy. He hurried out to the street where Schwenkopfer’s truck was parked. He came back with the crate in time to see the herpetologist lift the heavy snake gently and lay it on the floor.
“I did live here,” said Schwenkopfer, softly. “This is Lamont, my pet snake. When I went up to Boulder for college, I couldn’t take him with me. That first year my little brother, Orville, was supposed to take care of him, but Lamont got out. Orville never found my snake. I think he’s been living here the whole time, in the furniture, inside the walls, catching vermin, these 40 years.”
“Does he know you, Professor Schwenkopfer?”
“Don’t be silly, chief. He ain’t no dog.”