(1 of 1. Originally posted on May 26, 2023 for the prompt “Broken Doorknob.”)
It seemed like thieves got dumber every year. Xavier had selected the easiest lock to bypass for Cleopatra’s room, one that you could open with a small knife blade, yet some barbarian posing as a thief had smashed the doorknob with a hammer. He hoped the vinegar-soaked board under the doorway had kept Cleo from escaping.
“We better check on her, I guess.” Xavier pulled a mouse out of his pocket as he stepped through the door. The body of the would-be thief lay contorted on the floor near the cabinets at the back of the room, foam dripping from his blue lips.
Xavier tossed the mouse under the cabinets. A flash of movement confirmed that Cleopatra had not left her usual hiding place. With her distracted by food, Xavier opened the hidden trapdoor on the other side of the room and dragged the deceased thief’s corpse over to it. He dropped it down the chute into the pigpen out back.
He figured Cleo wouldn’t get out now, since she hadn’t already, but he found a brick to hold the door closed anyway. He had a few more pets to feed before he set about repairing the door. Caring for his animals calmed his nerves. You can predict the general behavior of most animals, once you understand them. If you know what motivates it, you can lead it where you want. Even train it a bit, depending on how smart it is. Some animals respond well to food. Others respond to rumors of treasure hidden in the crazy old hermit’s house.
“Trouble is, Cleo, those dumb brutes don’t know how to handle a treasure like you.”