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Where We Left Off:
Gus proved that he can still work hard indoors as well when he captured two more mice.
Arsenic and Old Lace:
As you know, The Grumpy Old Man specifically ordered Gus to exterminate the mice and voles. He also has it out for groundhogs, but I would not want Gus to go up against one of them. Gus has worked hard inside on the trespassing mice and outside on the volepyres (vampire voles). We hadn’t seen a vole in months!
That doesn’t actually mean there wasn’t some evidence of vole, mole, and other rodent activity. Holes were still appearing in the yard, but less frequently. There seemed to be a long stretch of time when there weren’t any new holes in close proximity of the residence. I figured the voles must have detected whatever repellant The Grumpy Old Man was using.
One day, as Gus and I were leaving on our patrol, I saw a couple of cone-shaped containers. From a distance, the labeling looked like plant food. It bore the same color scheme and typical patterns of Miracle-Gro products. There’s been a serious drought – apparently around the world – and the plants are in terrible shape. I’ve never been one to worry about the lawn, but other plants like the herbs and vegetables, flowers, and even “weeds” serve as food. Plus, if you put on your 7th Grade science hat and think back, all the plants provide us with a little thing called oxygen. My moment of thinking the conical containers were plant food was quickly crushed when I got closer.
Gus sniffed around the firewood stack where he believes a chipmunk spends some time. He’s not wrong; I’ve seen it there. This firewood stack is near a table with a glass top where the above mentioned containers sat. I don’t know why I bothered to pick one up since I assumed it was plant food. Nonetheless, I did. It was poison! Specifically – rodent poison for mice, moles, voles, and groundhogs. I was not happy about this.
The problem with poisons is the same as with other means of killing pests: you can’t control who comes across it. I’ve filled you in on the major issues with glue traps. Poison has the same problem. What’s to stop chipmunks from eating it? What happens to anything that scavenges the carcass of a poisoned animal?
Gus and I moved on to do our own work feeding the critters and looking for any other signs of trouble that would need investigating.
Within days, there was a horrid odor. People could smell it from inside, but it was especially gross on the back porch near the firewood pile. It took days before I personally found the source. Before that, however, I saw that the containers of poison had been knocked down to the porch floor and were somehow opened. The Grumpy Old Man noticed it too and asked how they got opened. I told him some critters could certainly do that: raccoons, squirrels, maybe opossums. They don’t have paws. They have hands which are dexterous. It gives them quite the bonus.
He cleaned up the spilled containers. I didn’t voice my worries about Gus coming into contact with the poison. I didn’t have to. He may hate rodents, but The Grumpy Old Man loves Guster. He has since the day Gus was adopted.
As for the smell, it was still there even after the containers were cleaned up and resealed. Many times, we know it could be dead mice inside the walls. You can’t do anything about that unless you love tearing open walls and renovating. It was completely by chance that when I felt my stomach churn from the odor, I looked down and spotted the dead body on the back porch.
Gus was nearby on his leash so it was more important to move him than do any kind of thorough inspection. Once Gus was away from the crime scene, I used a broom to move the body a few inches. That’s when it got even more repulsive. I almost vomited right then. I felt it starting. I needed fresh air.
When I moved the body, what I thought was just dirt around it… moved. Squirmed to be more honest. In all different directions. It was so bad. So gross. I will not go into more details because I’m sure you know what happens to decaying things. It ain’t pretty.
I took one photo. I used a shovel to scoop up the corpse and throw it into the woods. I got back to Gus as quickly as I could and didn’t look anywhere in the direction of the firewood again. This was one crime scene that I was absolutely not going to clean up all on my own. Thankfully, The Grumpy Old Man hosed down the porch.
The body was a vole. It’s simply not likely that a vole would be able to unscrew the caps of those containers in order to feast on what it thought was a good meal. Who opened those containers? Who was the victim? Was that vole intentionally poisoned? We know The Old Man didn’t do it. He hadn’t distributed the poison yet.
We had to get to work and find out the answers before it became a cold case.
I had a strong feeling the chipmunks might have some of the answers, but Gus had a tendency to capture them rather than interrogate from a polite distance. Munka Kelly was the one I seemed to have the best relationship with at the moment. She’s currently pregnant and hasn’t been captured by Gus. Munka is an adept super spy. She’s been more focused on becoming a mother, but she uses her spy skills to stay safe and get peanuts before the birds.
Munka relayed some local rumors that the vole, Mr. Hoskins, was last seen in the company of two female raccoons. Neighborhood critters have noticed the raccoons, who had a reputation for being friendlier than their species is known to be. Munka doesn’t normally share information with us, but a murder so close to her own stomping grounds has her worried. Munka moved from the area farther away down The Boulevard to some place across the border at the neighbor’s. She’s still close enough to visit every day for peanuts.
Two raccoons? The trail camera has picked up evidence of a raccoon, but only one appeared partially on camera. It made sense at the time that a raccoon would appear in that location, Fort Winchester. Not far from there is an abandoned building where raccoons are known to live.
Oliver was inside the offices setting up the murder board. “Don’t lose sight of the key questions. Who would want Mr. Hoskins out of the way? Who is capable of opening the poison? Who had the opportunity to do it?”
“After what Munka Kelly said, we can focus on the raccoons as the primary suspects,” I said. “They are incredibly dexterous. Plus being nocturnal, they could have opened the containers without me or the elder humans noticing.”
Gus paced while Oliver looked at the board deep in thought. Something came to Oliver’s mind which he shared when he was ready. “I think I saw this murder! One night, I sensed a stranger. I ran to the windows in my room and saw the hunched silhouette of a raccoon. It kept walking closer to the porch. To follow it, I had to leave my room and run through the first floor to other windows. Gus, do you remember?”
“You do that a lot,” Gus said. “But, yes, I remember checking on you and after you growled, I went back to the second floor.”
“Ollie, did you witness a raccoon open the poison?” I asked.
“I couldn’t be sure what it was doing, but that had to be it! There weren’t any snacks left back there. The garbage isn’t located there. That poison is designed smell appealing to rodentia,” Oliver said.
Raccoons aren’t part of the Rodentia order. They’re Carnivora. We discussed this and drew the conclusion that the raccoon tracked the smell of the poison in order to use it against Mr. Hoskins. The raccoon got lucky. She was part of a duo—sisters as noted by Munka that there was a pair—who had been targeting critters they felt were sad and lonely. One sister followed the scent trail and discovered the poison. She saw this as a surprising opportunity that she couldn’t pass up.
“We have to find out who these murdering raccoons are?” Gus pulled his ears and brow forward. His whiskers twitched. Of course, I wasn’t going to let Gus tangle with raccoons if I could help it.
Oliver had better confidential informants than Gus. He also was able to get across the most dangerous border on his strolls with The Butler. They walk right past the decrepit building where the raccoons live. We had to wait for the weekend, but when it was time, Ollie and his chauffeur were able to close the case. They saw some deer near the building who paused and were willing to talk. Those larger beasts had no problem throwing the raccoon sisters under the proverbial bus.
“You must mean the Brewster sisters. They’re sweet, but also dangerous. We don’t socialize with them,” the doe confirmed.
It took a lot of interviews and scouring our surveillance drive to get the information needed to close this case. The Brewster sisters are a pair of raccoon who are still free to conduct their murderous business. They target critters, particularly ones of the Rodentia order, they deem as ones who would be better off dead. To them, it’s a community service.
The Grumpy Old Man had cleaned up the crime scene so we hoped there weren’t be any other dead bodies left on the back porch.
Case Status: Closed