WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The esoteric and cryptic phrase "like a duck in a noose" that was quoted Wednesday night on behalf of the elusive Washington sniper may not have been an original expression but rather a reference to an old fable.
The story "The Rabbit, the Otter, and Duck Hunting" revolves around a boastful little rabbit that lassos a hapless duck, but the duck eventually triumphantly escapes from the snare and gets the best of his foe, and the rabbit ends up eating his own fur for perpetuity.
The sniper's efforts to apparently "control" the Montgomery County police chief in having him read the bizarre quote could have been a cruel attempt to humiliate him in a puerile manner since the duck gets the better of the rabbit in an obvious way.
The obscure phrase was contained in the third communication from the ghostly sniper received by a law enforcement task force based in Montgomery County. The county's police chief, Charles Moose, read the quote aloud during the latter half of a nationally televised news conference.
"The second portion of this briefing is a message," said Moose, after a short pause.
"You asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose,'" Moose said, swallowing hard. "We understand that hearing us say this is important to you."
Then Moose asked the media to carry the message "accurately and often." He refused to answer any questions, gave the sniper contact information, and left the public and the media to speculate on what the quote meant and how it related to the shooting spree that has claimed 10 lives and injured three others.
The image of a duck trapped in a noose may have come from a story that is posted at various Internet sites. The story's origins are not clear, however it could be interpreted as the sniper, in the metaphoric form of the duck, escaping from the proverbial police noose.
In one version of the fable, the rabbit stealthily wades out into a river to capture a duck for dinner.
"He quickly fastened his noose around the neck of the closest duck," the story goes. "Startled, the duck began to struggle to get away and finally took off on his wings and dragged the rabbit out of the water after him."
"Now it was the rabbits turn to be startled. And boy was he. He held on to the noose and was taken high into the air. Higher and higher he went. All of a sudden, he lost his grip on the noose and down he fell into the middle of an old hollow Sycamore tree without a hole in the bottom to get out."
Some versions of the story end with the rabbit eventually getting out of the Sycamore stump while others leave him trapped in it. All, however, concede that the rabbit was reduced to consuming his own fur in order to survive.
"He stayed in there so long that he had to start eating his own fur," the story says, "as rabbits still do to this day when they are starved."
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)