(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Uma of One Grain Amongst the Storm. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)
Every time the one-legged raven returned to the village and filled the night with its grating caws, someone died the next afternoon and the skies wept till the funerals.
The entire village was more than aware of this phenomenon. It happened every several months. It wasn’t regular – like clockwork – but it was frequent enough not to be considered by many as a coincidence.
The local policeman had pointed out a few things during a village conflab called to discuss the matter. The victims (does one call them victims?) were all adults. Few had died of natural causes. Most had died as the result of an accident. And then the rain always began soon after. A few practical suggestions were made.
Madeline Clumski suggested that the one-legged raven was possessed. It was the work of the devil. The bird should be shot. In fact people had tried and it always disappeared only to return like Rasputin a month or so later. Madeline was well respected in the village. Perhaps she was right. If the village bank was a bit more generous she could afford to purchase a gun and shoot the raven herself.
Charlie Dalzell considered the coincidence of the deaths to be mathematically feasible. Such things happen. Charlie taught algebra at the local high school, so his understanding of coincidental possibilities was well regarded.
Mickey Dragnet suggested murder. Someone was releasing a one-legged crow, murdering someone for some reason, and running off with crow in hand. There was an outcry over this because it was really a silly suggestion. No one in the village had a pet raven, let alone a one-legged one. Mickey was regarded as a mean man who was a bit if a recluse. He was also the local bank manager. It was suggested that his natural bent for meanness went hand in hand with his profession. No one got away scot-free from owing the bank a penny in overdraft.
Sally Smith said that Mickey Dragnet clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. He had called the bird a crow, and it was obviously a raven. There was a difference, and if Mickey Dragnet was so sure of himself he would’ve known that.
So all in all, the meeting had not solved the mystery. And then it happened again; just two days after the meeting. The victim was the aforementioned Sally Smith. The raven made an appearance and the next afternoon Sally Smith was found hanging from a tree. This time there was no rain.
“Dam unreliable meteorological office forecasts,” muttered Mickey Dragnet, as he poked a piece of carrot into the cage of his one-legged crow.