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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 51-311

sepia vintage looking effect on man casting fishing line into grass

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Where We Left Off:

Finding a feather in an odd place launched us into an investigation.

A Better Tomorrow:

Gus and Oliver are used to seeing humans doing bizarre things. There are plenty of times when the boys will approach who they’re watching and either supervise or get involved. This is especially true if you try to organize a closet. Nothing quite compares to the afternoon when Gus and I were outside by Oliver’s patio and we saw the Grumpy Old Man fishing in the grassy backyard.

man with fishing pole in the grass

“What the hell is he doing?” I said to Gus.

“Looks like he’s fishing.” Gus has a sardonic way of stating what seems obvious.

“He’s in the grass, Gus. Don’t you think that’s weird?”

“Not any weirder than other things humans do.” He sniffed around the rock wall without much interest in the grass fishing.

Fortunately, I heard a loud and short “mreeoh” which was Ollie at one of his screen doors to the patio. He couldn’t see the Grumpy Old Man from the door to his bedroom suite. I walked over and explained to him what Gus and I saw. Ollie doesn’t talk all day long, but when he does, you can get into a deep conversation with him.

man with fishing pole in the grass; What the hell is he doing?

“Before you make fun of my groomer,” Oliver referred to how he demands being brushed by only the Grumpy Old Man, “remember that there are some fish that go on land.”

“Of course I remember. We have an axolotl specimen in our collection.” This creature has one of those names that I can’t spell without looking it up. I used to look up “Mexican walking fish” and just copy and paste. Now, I take a stab at the spelling and it still needs to be corrected.

We agreed to have a meeting after lunch to talk about what kinds of fish are known to walk on land. A quick internet search revealed that there were more fish capable of walking than I would have guessed. As a matter of fact, the second fish on the list below, Snakehead fish, I thought was a fictional creature made up for an episode of Bless the Harts.

  1. Mudskippers – Oxudercinae
  2. Snakehead fish – Channidae
  3. Epaulette shark – Hemisciyllium ocellatum
  4. Climbing Gourami – Anabantiformes
  5. Walking catfish “plecos” – Clarius batrachus
  6. Mangrove rivulus – Kryptolebias marmoratus
  7. Bichir – Polypteridae
  8. Pacific leaping blenny – Alticus arnoldorum

I was perturbed that the adorable axolotl wasn’t on any of the lists. I did a basic search of just the word “axolotl” and immediately saw the reason why: it’s not actually a fish. These charming little creatures are amphibians—basically salamanders. They also happen to be critically endangered for a couple of reasons: invasive predators like perch and tilapia; and growth and urbanization in Mexico City which leads to water pollution.

still from cartoon; Wayne holding an icky snakehead fish
Bless the Harts

We had this list and we were still stumped. None of these fish are found inland in New Jersey. Not unless you’re fishing in someone’s aquarium. We also know that the Winchester-Nabu estate is on some rather special land where there are volkolaks, earth pigs, werewolves, volepyres and vampuirrel. You never know what the hell you’ll find here.

Gus jumped up to his fancy water fountain in the window surrounded by pretty rocks. “You don’t think this has something to do with his obsession to get rid of the moles and voles, do you?”

“I hadn’t considered it,” I said. “If he puts a baited fishing line down a burrow and critter bites into it—” I thought about the horror of a cute creature biting into a fish hook. Personally, I think fish biting hooks is pretty horrible too. I used to fish as a kid and it was gross.

Oliver sleeping in his catnip bowl.

Oliver put his front paws in his dish of dried catnip and laid down in it. He seems comfortable that way. I stopped trying to figure out why he like to lie down over a dish. He looked at Gus, then me. “You’re such a hypocrite. You let Gus pierce those ‘cute creatures’ with his long fangs and then he throws them around the yard with his murderous claws.”

“I know, Ollie. I know. But Gus is being a cat with instincts. It’s not the same.” I tried to make the argument in my head while speaking to sort it all out, but Oliver was probably right. It’s hypocritical for me to let Gus kill critters. I’m okay with that. I’d rather not be the one doing it unless my life actually depends on it or if it keeps an animal from suffering.

Gus picked his head up from the fountain. “Why don’t we just ask him what the hell he was doing?”

Ollie stood up (covered in catnip) and turned around to walk out. “I’ll do it. He likes me best.”

“Hey!” Gus and I said.

We could hear Oliver’s booming voice penetrated through the floors. It took him a while to get back to us. Once he found the Old Man, he needed his treats and grooming before getting down to business. I’m pretty sure Ollie’s hair gets brushed more often than mine. It takes a lot more energy and strength to brush mine. We didn’t reconvene until after dinner.

Gus, Ollie, and I stood on the balcony taking in the evening air. It was still light out. A few birds were around. A plane flew over as seems to happen every five minutes. We have take our serenity in small sample size chunks of seconds here.

Oliver on the balcony with his eyes closed.

“You’ll be disappointed by the news,” Oliver began and immediately instilled a glaze of worry over my brain. “The Grumpy Old Man was only testing his reel and line.”

I asked, “Why would I be disappointed in that?”

Gus suspected the answer would be something I didn’t want to hear.

Oliver answered, “He wants to go after a sea monster.”

“Which one?” Gus asked his partner.

“Like Champ and Nessie, only it would be in salt water. He thinks there might be one in the Atlantic at the shore,” Oliver said.

It’s not like the Grumpy Old Man to be interested in sea monsters. In fact, he usually doesn’t catch anything when he fishes. It’s more about the experience of fishing than about the catch. I sensed something weird was going on.

“Ollie, what are you trying hard not to say?” I said.

Oliver jumped up to a cushioned chair. “I don’t know how he got the idea, but he wants a soup made of sea monster fins to see if it’ll stop that cancer from coming back. He’s had enough of it.”

I can see how anyone would resort to any possible treatment looking for a cure. First, it was the prostate cancer. Then bladder cancer. After those treatments, there was more that either the doctor missed or was new. And then the same thing happened yet again. I’m not in favor of finning, but I don’t blame him feeling desperate for a solution.

Case Findings:

The Grumpy Old Man was spotted casting a fishing line into the grass. It was strange so there was an internal investigation. The detectives learned that their elder human wants to go after an Atlantic Ocean sea monster and make a soup out of its parts hoping there’s something in the nourishment that will boost his immunity. There are currently no dates on the calendar for a vacation to the shore. The mystery of what he was doing and why are solved.

Case Status: Closed

The Grumpy Old Man sitting next to Ollie in his stroller in the driveway.


Greene, P. (2022). 7 Different Fish That Walk On Land (With Pictures). Wildlife Informer.

Every, M., & Hill, S. (2023). Fish That Walk on Land: 6 Fish That Can Survive and Move Out of the Water. Field & Stream.

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