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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 40-300

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Where We Left Off:

The cats received some intel from Junco Joe Adonis on why the stags were meeting up together.

To Keep a Bird Singing:

It was January and the Back 40 acres had been sold. That wasn’t going to stop Gus from wanting to investigate across the borders.

from Monk: Here's what happened

Gus and I were outside distributing bird seed to our designated snacking spots for the critters. While Gus carefully checked around the sundial and Cheeks Moretti’s rock fortress, I stood nearby in the grass. I looked down and saw fluffy feathers.

“Gus! Come here and check this out,” I said.

He came over and used his SuperSmeller to see what I had found.

“Bag it!” Gus demanded I secure the wispy fluffy feathers into an evidence baggie. That’s not easy. Those kinds of feathers, like downy hair, are difficult to handle without accidentally letting them fly away in the breeze.

“What do you think? Could be a titmouse or junco,” I said.

“Dark-eyed junco. Slate-colored. Male.”

I made mental notes of Guster’s identification of the feathers. We continued our patrol of the grounds. Gus came upon more scents to follow. The problem was, he was leading me to the trails—those trails we aren’t allowed to use anymore.

The winds had knocked down more twigs and branches. I swear, everyday there are more branches on the ground to clean up. I followed Gus to the corner entrance of the woods. I studied the ground for tracks until I caught up to Gus where the ground changed from the grassy yard to the dead leaves carpeting the woods. I reminded Gus that we were no longer the caretakers of the trails and officially trespassing. His SuperSmeller didn’t recognize the block and lot border that the municipality delineated. Gus simply doesn’t care about such things.

“Take a look at this! Get some photos!” Gus ordered.

I saw the suspicious wet marks on the dead leaves. Gus was right. I needed to get photos. I squatted down and used my phone to take the pictures. It looked like blood. Gus had already moved on and found something else. I was caught up in my own visual observations of the apparent blood puddle, but eventually he pulled my attention away to see what new thing he discovered. There was a log of mystery poop.

collage top: unknown substance on dead leaves on the trail; appears to be blood. collage bottom: mystery poo on the same trail not far away

Digestion doesn’t work that fast that something would be eaten and excreted a few feet apart unless significant time had passed. Nonetheless, we were onto something and needed to get to the bottom of it. Gus examined the immediate area, but was willing to return the way we came. We don’t know if the new landowners have put up their own trailcams. They put up a lot of No Trespassing signs and have security cameras at the house.

trail cam of Amber and Gus walking toward Fort Winchester

We went back down the slightly sloping trail and headed to Fort Winchester to check our own camera. We weren’t disappointed. There were more images of Jersey devil-deer, but we know their feces resemble the “Raisinette” style.

There was also a rotund masked bandit captured on camera on night, Little King Meth House. Raccoon feces can be log shaped and four inches long. Deer and raccoons are not going to see birds as prey. Raccoons love eggs, but not adult birds. There was also a slim possibility that a junco could have been preyed upon at night by a larger bird like an owl or hawk.

trail cam of Gus in front of the Fort Winchester camera

Then I saw the images of the creature who became our prime suspect: a fox or fox-creature like a kitsune! The foxes had one busy week in our backyard when they ran through for mating season purposes. It was prime opportunity to get great photos in those seconds it takes for them to prance by me, but did I get good photos? No! I snapped one and it’s terrible.

blurry photo of a red fox running away down a trail

“All right, Gus, we need to take these evidence photos back to the office and study them. Maybe Oliver will have some ideas about the blood spatter and fecal matter,” I said.

“Are you really going to bag those up?” Gus looked at me with side-eye and I swear he even crinkled one eyebrow.

“No! I mean, I could, but—no. He’ll have to work from photographs on this one since he wasn’t on the scene with us this time,” I concluded.

With the tiny feathers bagged and our photos, Oliver, Gus, and I gathered to study and research the possibilities of a fox attacking a dark-eyed junco.

trail cam collage: parts of a red fox

“I think a fox makes the most logical sense,” Oliver said. “Too bad we aren’t able to get any DNA off these feathers from the culprit. Has anyone seen Junco Joe Adonis since you last spoke to him?”

Gus answered for us. “Only from a distance. Doubt he wants anyone to know he actually spoke to a cat such as myself.”

“Hey, Ollie,” I said, “Do we have any other samples that we have positive identification for Junco Joe? Maybe we could compare them?”

Oliver checked our inventory database and discovered that we did have a sample on file among our junco feathers in box number two. I retrieved the sample and we were able to compare them for positive identification.

black cat Gus outside

“I can’t believe you don’t trust my olfactory sense to give us an ID!” Gus was appalled. He’s rarely wrong so I did understand his reaction. He walked over to his puzzle game, turned in a circle, sat down and then spun one of the test tube shaped containers that spill out treats. Unfortunately for him, it was empty. The spin was more a sign of frustration and a bit of jealousy. That comes out whenever Oliver is on “Gus’ floor” of the building.

“This might have to wait until tomorrow’s patrol outside so we can directly ask Junco Joe Adonis who attacked him.” I thought that was a reasonable plan. Gus didn’t agree. He wanted to go back outside immediately. I had already changed into my inside clothes and wasn’t going back out.

dark-eyed junco on the ground

The next day, we did find Junco Joe Adonis at the far end of the former Fairy Garden wall. I’ve been putting bird seed there more regularly hoping it would bring more animals through the path of the trail camera.

“I don’t want to talk to yous guys,” the bird said as he fluttered up to a branch of the conifer tree.

We pleaded and explained that all we wanted was an answer so we could close the case. He clearly wasn’t hurt.

“Fine! It was a fox. A red one,” the bird spit out. “It had nothing to do with the bucks meeting and me telling yous about that. He smelled the food, the moles, and me and it just made him lose control. You know how those kinds get—not much self control. I got away and stayed in the maple until he left.”

That was all we needed to know. I put down more seeds on the garden wall and thanked the bird for sharing his side of the story. A first person account is rare. It felt good to have a survivor of an assault tell their own story.

Case Findings:

A red fox (name unknown) became over-stimulated by the scents of food resources which included a live dark-eyed junco named Joe Adonis. Joe lost a few feathers from being attacked, but escaped.

Case Status: Closed

orange and white cat Oliver on the highest platform of his cat tree

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