If the smell doesn't do it, the flies on the windows are a dead giveaway. I make my path up the sidewalk and pause a moment by the opened front door. Like a sloppy flower arrangement, mail pokes out of the box at every angle and spills onto the porch below. It makes sense; the mailman had called police.
I step inside and scan the room as my eyes adjust to the lower light. It's quiet. I'm alone with him. The usual hustle and bustle of interest from patrol officers doesn't extend to decomps. No one wants to spend the rest of his shift smelling like a decomposing body, so they sit in the car with the heater on. I pick my way through the scene as I study his life.
There is a flutter near the Christmas tree and rabbit that I am, I freeze, every fiber aware. I strain to find the sound, but silence once again rolls across the room like a fog. The angel atop the tree smugly gazes down at me with outstretched wings. I study her a moment and then dismiss her.
Nostalgia tugs for my attention with a string of popcorn wrapped around the tree. Who strings popcorn anymore? I consider the old man, sitting in front of his television, patiently putting popcorn on a thread. Was he thinking about killing himself then? I hope not. I would hope popcorn strings would take him back to happier times.
A thunder of feathers explodes beside my ear as the burst of green and blue erupts from the tree. Two parakeets land on the bookcase while a third orbits the room twice before returning to the tree to rest beside the angel. He and the angel both glare down at me with disapproving eyes.
I step into a bowl of bird seed on the floor. That's when I notice the gray cockatiel perched on a Wise Man's head, bulling his way into the Nativity scene on the mantel. My simple suicide became far more interesting as I hurry to shut the front door and keep the birds from escaping into the December cold.
The first responding officers had failed to mention the birds. Most likely they didn't see them. They probably took one sniff, saw a gun by his side, and backed/ran out to gladly throw the responsibility at someone else. That someone was me. I poke around the house, gathering more information as I go from room to room, filling my basket of questions with answers.
If one ignores the mess caused by the birds, and the insects spawned and encouraged by decomposition, the house is relatively clean. Six empty cages stare back at me behind opened doors. Large bowls of bird seed and water are in each room. This was a planned death. Unsure of how long it would take before his body was found, he had released his birds.
A white parakeet sits on the edge of his computer which still hums in slumber. The bird flutters away as I reach forward to bump the mouse. The screen pops to life to reveal his suicide note. It is nothing surprising. He does however, give an inventory of his birds. There are clearly more birds to find before I can leave the scene. And after a short call the medical examiner, I find a towel and a bird cage and start toward the Christmas tree.