The Rat of Hamelin


1st October

Sacrifices had to be made to survive. A pheasant hunted for dinner. A lamb slaughtered as an offering to the gods. A crime committed for a thick wad of cash. Piper had grown accustomed to the term “sacrifice”. The word was like a safety blanket, comforting him that his actions were necessary. Even as he stood in the officer’s interrogation room, he reminded himself that what he had done wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t meant to kill them. 

“Piper, we have witnesses saying that they saw you loitering around the town square on the day of the kidnapping,” the officer said harshly. 

“I wasn’t aware that walking around was illegal.”. 

“Where are the children? If you plead guilty and show us where they are, I guarantee you’ll get only thirty years in prison. I know you did it.” 

The piper sighed. 

“Did what? Kidnap the kids? I keep telling you, I didn’t do it.” Liar. He had kidnapped them. God, he had killed them! Accidentally, but still. At least all they had were suspicions. Gossip wasn’t incriminating, was it?

“Your trial has been scheduled to be in two weeks,” the officer said, looking at his notes. Piper gave him a small smile and extended his hand for a handshake. 

“I look forward to having my name cleared.”  

14th October 

As Piper walked out of the local market, he hugged his coat closer to his chest. He was bound to receive death glares from the townspeople and if he was unlucky, maybe even a few insults hurled at him. Understandable- if the residents of Hamelin hadn’t always been so cruel. Perhaps he would have felt bad for all the parents missing their children if they hadn’t cast him away from the very beginning. If they hadn’t made it clear they didn’t want him, he would have never turned to a life of thievery. Really, it was their own fault that their kids were dead. Well, maybe that was too harsh. Piper made a sharp turn. 

Piper had to admit that he was partially to blame. He had once heard that if you felt bad for your actions, it meant that underneath you were a good person. And he thoroughly believed that despite his somewhat morally wrong occupation, he wasn’t a bad person. 

When Piper arrived outside his house, he took off his shoes, placing them on the rack. Hopefully it wouldn’t rain tonight. There was parchment nailed to his door and he sighed as he removed it. It was one of those irritating campaign posters. By the end of October, a new mayor would be elected. Piper briefly scanned through the list of names in the running. He only recognised two, the current mayor and a new candidate: Judge Morris. Piper crumpled the paper and tossed it aside. 

15th October 

Piper took it as a good omen for his trial that it hadn’t rained the night before. But things began to go haywire when he left his home for Court. There were eggs thrown on his door and his shoes were gone- presumably stolen. Piper checked his watch. If he wanted to get there on time, he would have to just leave the eggshells and trek on bare feet. 

See? Classic example of how blatantly terrible the people of Hamelin were. They wouldn’t even give him a chance to defend himself before judging him. It’s not like they knew for certain that he had committed the crime. No one but himself knew that. 

Piper had begun his job as a professional thief years ago. He never particularly enjoyed it but it was necessary. People in town weren’t too keen on hiring him for any other jobs. It started off with smaller jobs fueled by pettiness. Simple jobs that didn’t pay well. But after a while, he got bigger offers, this time fueled by greed. Dangerous, but they paid well.

 But then he was asked to steal the town’s children. He didn’t know who had requested it- probably someone looking to hold them for a ransom. And they offered a lot of cash. Enough money to move away from Hamelin and begin a new life. A life that didn’t involve thievery. 

Piper entered the courtroom. There wouldn’t be enough evidence to prove him guilty, he knew that. So he straightened his tie and stared at the jury in front of him. He hated them all. They were all such liars. One could argue that Piper was too but at least he acknowledged that he had done some bad things! The people in front of him were all the same. Wolves in lamb’s clothing. Pretending to be saviours and letting people hold them up to such prestige. Of 12 of the jurors, Piper could count seven who had hired him before. 

Judge Morris banged his gavel. 

“The trial shall begin,” he declared.  


The first day of trial ended surprisingly well. The prosecutor was an unbothered man who kept calm the entire time. The only thing that was worrying was that it was revealed that if he was found guilty he’d receive either the death penalty or life in prison. He didn’t know which was worse. Be killed or wait a lifetime and then be killed. 

When Piper reached his home, he found another stupid election poster. This one was dedicated to Judge Morris specifically and there he was in the drawing, sitting elegantly with the caption “Vote for Morris: vote for justice.” Piper looked up and grimaced. The egg splatters on his windows had been left to bathe in the sun for more than seven hours and they were beginning to turn a ghastly greenish-yellow. Scowling, Piper clenched the voting paper in his hand and began furiously wiping away the stains, using Judge Morris’ face as a wipe. 


16th October 

People needed someone to blame. He came across this realisation when talking to his lawyer before the second day of trial began. 

“Piper,” his lawyer, Mr Salsky, said awkwardly as he adjusted his glasses. “I need to warn you.” 

“Of?” Piper responded. Piper didn’t particularly like his lawyer. He had a petite frame which constantly made him look like he was cowering and glasses that for some reason, were always crooked. 

“There’s a chance that you might, erm, be found guilty even without evidence.” 


“The people of Hamelin would be very, very angry if authorities can’t find who stole their children. So to appease them…” 

“They would send an innocent man to jail?” Piper said softly. Salsky nodded. There was nothing either could do. Just pray. Piper closed his eyes. If he was found innocent, he would give up his ways. He’d quit being a thief. Goodness, he’d be a philanthropist! Maybe to some children welfare organisations. Piper chuckled under his breath at the irony of the promise.  


The atmosphere of the courtroom was vastly different than it was yesterday. The awkward prosecutor had been replaced with another one- a woman who wore a proud smile. Piper took a seat next to his lawyer. Judge Morris banged his gavel. 

The prosecutor stood up. 

“I will now begin my case as to why Piper is guilty,” she announced. “There has been new evidence found that proves that he was definitely the culprit that committed this atrocious crime.” 

Piper stiffened. There was new evidence? His lawyer began to clumsily look through his notes and Piper felt the urge to hit him on the head. Perhaps if he was a competent lawyer, his innocence would be secured. 

“Your honour, I want to change Piper’s charge. Not only is he guilty of kidnapping,” The prosecutor paused, “but he is also guilty of over thirty counts of murder.” 

He could hear his lawyer mumbling profanities under his breath while Piper tried to calm his frantic heart. How could they accuse him of murder? “The bodies of the children have been found disposed of at a creek in the forest.” She presented to the entire room her evidence, flashing pictures and bringing witnesses to the stand. It was strange, watching his own actions be unveiled. Hearing the prosecutor describe such a gory, cruel scene made Piper want to shout. Yes, whatever she was saying was true but it made him sound like a cruel killer. It was an accident! Of course he wouldn’t kill intentionally. “We have found traces of Piper’s hair on the children’s clothes,” the prosecutor continued. “We suspect that he lured the kids with his magic pipe and drowned them in the river.” 

When she was finished, his lawyer stood up and tried to defend Piper. “Wind might have blown his hair there,Salsky argued. As Piper listened to his lawyer spout ridiculous reasons, he knew that there was no hope. 


The jury left the room to discuss the verdict and Piper stood in the room, zoning out. He ignored Salsky’s panicked whispers. It wasn’t fair. People did bad things all the time but they were never punished. Only him. How could people like those juries be the ones deeming his guilt? They were just as terrible as he was, if not worse.

The jury spent two hours in deliberation before coming back. They walked in and took their seats, passing their verdict to Judge Morris. 

“We find the defendant,” Morris began. Salsky buried his face in his hands. Piper couldn’t help but feel irritated. What right did Salsky have to be unhappy? The worst thing that could happen to him was that his career would be ruined. Piper though? Death. 



Piper couldn’t remember much of what happened after he was declared innocent. It was fuzzy, like thinking of a memory you weren’t quite sure had happened. The Judge had explained that although his DNA was found there, it wasn’t sufficient evidence that he had committed the crime. 

“Wind might have blown it there,” he said with a wry smile. 

It was all odd. The opposing team had a strong argument- far better than what Salsky had come up with. Of course Piper wasn’t upset but felt like waiting for someone to pounce out and yell “Just kidding!”

Salsky was busy crying tears of joy and Piper handed him a tissue. 

“Stop looking so shocked,” he snapped. Salsky continued crying and Piper couldn’t be bothered to comfort him so he packed his things and left the courtroom. It was drizzling slightly and the air was unbearably cold at his bare feet’s expense. Tucking his hands in his coat pockets, Piper made his way back home using the least crowded route. He didn’t want to deal with the wailing of a distraught mother or father. 

“Excuse me, Piper,” someone called out. He turned around and saw the face of Morris. “Cold weather,” the Judge remarked. Piper didn’t want to seem rude but he just wanted to get back home and curl into bed. 

“I have plans so I think I’m going to head off,” Piper responded. Morris nodded before looking at his feet. 

“You should get some new shoes. It’ll be raining a lot this season,” he said. 

“Do you have something you want to discuss with me?” Piper asked. It was freezing and Piper didn’t want to chit-chat.  

“Buy yourself a pair of boots,” Morris finally said before handing Piper an envelope and walking off. Piper tore open the envelope. There was a note, a surprising amount of money and what seemed to be…a knife? 

11th Stonehill Avenue, by 28st October please,” The note read. What? And then it hit him what Judge Morris wanted him to do. That was the home of the current Mayor and 28th October was nearing the end of elections. And the knife was for… 

Piper thought about the promise he made to himself earlier; to quit his job of crime and be a better person. But as he slipped the knife in his pocket and headed towards the mayor’s house, he reminded himself sacrifices needed to be made to survive. 

Naomi (Class of 2026) is a poet, who occasionally dabbles in writing prose to satisfy her inner child’s wattpad-stardom dream. She rarely succeeds.