The doorbell rings.
The doorbell rings again.
The doorbell rings a third time.
Joe sticks his hand out from under the duvet cover and scrabbles around on the bedside table. He knocks his house keys on to the floor before his fingers finally find his phone. He props himself up on his elbow and checks the time. It’s 7.50am, on a Sunday.
The doorbell rings again, now accompanied by the door knocker.
“Bloody hell,” he mutters, swinging his legs out of the bed and scooping up the keys. He picks a red hoody off the back of a chair and tugs it over his head, then slides his feet into blue flip flops. He stumbles out of the bedroom, staggers down the stairs and lurches along the hallway. He unlocks the front door and pulls it open.
“Yes?” he says, his voice still gravelly from sleep.
“Good morning, sir. Are you Mr Joseph Davis?”
The speaker is a white rabbit, six feet tall, standing on its hind legs and holding a notebook and pen in its front paws. The rabbit’s nose twitches slightly.
Joe squints in the morning sunlight.
“Yes – I – but, Dave? Is that you? Did you get locked out?”
“No, sir,” says the rabbit. “I am not Dave. I need to ask you a few questions.”
The rabbit flips open the notebook.
“Is this some kind of charity thing?” Joe says, rubbing his forehead. Maybe there’s a fun run on somewhere today that he’d forgotten about. The costume is very realistic, he thinks.
“I will ask the questions, sir, if you do not mind,” replies the rabbit.
“Actually, I’m quite busy right now, thanks,” Joe mumbles. “I need to, um, do some stuff.”
Joe steps back and starts to close the door, but the rabbit blocks the threshold with a large white foot. The rabbit’s claws glint brightly.
“This is a serious matter, Mr Davis,” says the rabbit. “It will not take long.”
“Okay, okay,” says Joe, deciding that he’s not really awake enough to argue with a giant rabbit. He swings the door open again. “Fire away, I’m all ears.”
He sniggers at his joke, but the rabbit fixes him with pink eyes, unamused. After a moment, the rabbit consults the notebook. Joe leans against the door frame and folds his arms.
“May I refer you to the night of the 3rd, at approximately 10.35pm. You bought fish, chips and mushy peas at the establishment known as The Codfather Fish Bar and Kebab House at number 92 Cowbridge Road East. Is this correct, sir?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” replies Joe, stifling a yawn. “Seems about right.”
“You then proceeded to return home,” continues the rabbit, “whereupon reaching your destination, you disposed of the leftovers into your neighbour’s garden, like so.”
The rabbit holds out its left paw and then, with gusto, hurls an imaginary paper wrapper half-filled with cold chips over its right shoulder.
“Is this an accurate representation of events, sir?” enquires the rabbit.
“Did I?” shrugs Joe, apologetically. “Sorry about that. Post-pub munchies, you know how it is.”
The rabbit writes a comment in the notebook and turns the page.
“Subsequently, on the night of the 6th, at approximately 11.15pm, you obtained a large ‘Meaty Pizza’ from Mario’s, situated at number 78 Cowbridge Road East. This was a pizza numbering a donner kebab among its toppings, I believe?”
“Honestly, you should try it,” replies Joe. “Actual kebab on actual pizza, it’s amazing.”
“And upon turning into your road,” continues the rabbit, “you threw the remains of the said pizza at your house mate, a Mr David Brooks.”
The rabbit turns to the side and then, with vigour, flings an imaginary slice of pizza like a frisbee.
The rabbit turns back to Joe.
“Sound familiar, sir?”
“He started it!” exclaims Joe. “I don’t know where he is, but if you can find him, he’ll tell you.”
Dave is never going to believe this, he thinks. I should take a picture. He fumbles for his phone in his hoody pocket but then realises he’s left it upstairs. Typical. The one time you’re being interviewed by a six-foot rabbit on your doorstep is the one time you don’t have your phone on you.
The rabbit finishes writing another comment in the notebook and turns another page.
“Finally, on the morning of the 8th at 12.30am, you purchased a ‘Magic Box’ from Magic Grill, number 225 Cowbridge Road East, containing three chicken pieces, three spicy wings, one medium chicken burger, fries and a can of Pepsi. You later drop-kicked the uneaten portion into the bushes adjacent to the alley way near the top of your road.”
The rabbit holds out both paws, pulls back its right leg and then, with oomph, punts an imaginary takeaway box into the street.
“Do you concur?” asks the rabbit.
Joe tugs his sleeves over his hands.
“I was aiming for the bin – I was trying to re-play the final moments in the Ireland – France game, you know when Johnny Sexton nailed that drop goal from 45 metres out –”
The rabbit interrupts him by holding up a paw.
“Sorry,” says Joe. “Must stop rabbiting on.”
He chuckles at his joke, but the rabbit fixes him with pink eyes, unamused. After a moment, the rabbit returns to the notebook.
“It seems you have got quite the record in discarding food around the neighbourhood, Mr Davis,” declares the rabbit. “Littering with intent, one might say.”
“Well, okay, I’m sorry,” replies Joe, a smile curling on his lips. “I promise I won’t do it again.”
His food choices had been pretty bad recently, he had to admit. He wonders if maybe this whole scenario is an elaborate ploy devised by his mum to spook him into eating more fruit and veg.
“It is too late for sorry, Mr Davis,” says the rabbit.
A patch of cloud shades the sun. A light breeze gently ruffles the rabbit’s fur.
“What d’you mean?” asks Joe.
“Early on the morning of the 9th, a local rabbit, known as Warren –”
Joe laughs. The rabbit fixes him with pink eyes, unamused.
“Did I say something funny, sir?”
“No,” mumbles Joe, “just clearing my throat – carry on.”
“On the morning of the 9th, a local rabbit, known as Warren, was set upon by two urban foxes just a few metres from where we are standing now. By the time the police were called, it was too late. All that was left of the victim were some chewed up dandelion leaves and a bit of tail fluff.”
The rabbit pauses and gnaws the end of the pen, taking a moment to regain composure.
“I don’t see what this has got to do with me,” says Joe, scratching the back of his head.
“You are an accessory to murder!” frowns the rabbit.
“What?!” splutters Joe. “Look, hang on a minute –”
“These urban foxes have been operating in the area for weeks, surviving on your detritus. Without your provisions, they would have moved on to fresh ground long ago – and Warren would still be here today.”
Joe pushes his hand through his hair.
“How was I supposed to know?”
“Ignorance is no excuse, sir. He leaves a large family behind. He was a pillar of the local community.”
“Hey, it was nothing to do with me,” says Joe, shaking his head. “I just threw some food away, okay.”
“Actions have consequences, Mr Davis,” says the rabbit, gravely.
Joe looks at his flip flops. He shoves his hands into the pouch of his hoody and fiddles with his keys.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You do not have to say anything,” replies the rabbit. “But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
“You’re arresting me?!” exclaims Joe.
“I am afraid you will have to come with me, sir, standard procedure. You are required for further questioning.”
The rabbit closes the notebook.
“But where?” Joe asks.
“Bristol, sir. Or, to be more precise, Bristol Zoo.”
“You’re kidding,” retorts Joe.
“The zoo is home to a special unit,” explains the rabbit, “seconded from Avon and Somerset Police to investigate crimes against nature.”
Joe pulls his hands across his face.
“I don’t believe this is happening.”
“I should also inform you that, should it be necessary, extradition protocol will be initiated to return you to the jurisdiction of South Wales Police.”
The rabbit begins to turn towards the gate. A few drops of rain form spots on the path.
“Best we get going, sir. Hop to it, you might say.”
The rabbit sniggers.
“Just a hop, skip and a jump to the car, sir.”
The rabbit chuckles, shaking its whiskers.
“Come along, sir. It will not be a kangaroo court, I promise.”
The rabbit tips back its head, bares its teeth, and guffaws. Joe stares at the rabbit.
The rabbit wipes its brow with a paw and coughs quietly.
“This way, please, Mr Davis,” says the rabbit.
Joe closes the door behind him. He follows the rabbit down the path, out of the gate and into the street.