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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Seven: Case File No. 03-315

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Where We Left Off:

Gus became obsessed with the old well’s pump house. We came to the conclusion that there’s a haunting.

All She Was Worth:

My car is quite old, but it does its job getting me places. I’ll admit that I don’t treat the car like a prized possession. It gets regular maintenance and has been a moving storage unit for as long as I’ve had it. When you don’t have one more inch of space indoors, where do you keep stuff? I keep all that stuff in my car.

What I don’t do is keep perishable things in the car long term. You won’t find a moldy sandwich, but you could find a stale McVities digestive biscuit. One of the hot days of spring, I had to use the air conditioner. It made an awful sound. There was a lingering odor which smelled distinctly like roadkill. I know I’m not always able to contain my B.O. or successfully mask it, instead creating a musk of Polish sweat and essential oils. However, I try to politely distance from other humans when I’m ripe.

Seinfeld: but the whole car smells.

This smell…this wasn’t me. I’ve been through this before: something dead was inside the car.

Gus thoroughly inspects all vehicles on the premises. He goes around each one sniffing for information. He goes under them and even checks around the wheel wells. By now, you’ve seen how much he loves this part of his job especially when he’s able to be at the mobile command unit, a trailer which is popular with intruders small enough to get by the security systems.

Considering what I usually see from Gus when he’s passing by parked cars, I was surprised he didn’t take the opportunity to file a report about the putrid smell of my car. Surely, the Super Smeller could detect the rotting corpse sooner than I did!

Parks and Rec, Ron Swanson: My question is, what the hell?

“What the hell, Gus?” I said to him. “Why didn’t you tell me something was rotting away inside our car?”

“I thought you knew,” Gus said. “The stench was unmistakable. Even with the potent perfume scent of the lilacs next to it, that smell was a burden on my senses.”

“This means I have to get The Grumpy Old Man involved. You know he’s been unwell and off his game,” I said adding a few more explicit phrases.

Before I could dig around under the hood, I had to teach a yoga class. It was my Chair Yoga class and I often give an older lady a ride home. I did so with several apologies about the odor of the car. She’s an interesting woman I’ll have to bring on a case someday due to her forensic and psychic expertise as a handwriting analyst.

Seinfeld and snooty man: Maybe you stunk up the car, rather than the car stinking up you.

Back at home, I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials about where to find the filters of the car and what could be causing the smell. The men on the channels didn’t even mention corpses and decomposition. They weren’t helpful at all, in fact. I followed the instructions one gave about taking out the glove compartment and the side vent in the dashboard. My car did not resemble the car in the video which was allegedly the same year and model. Doesn’t that figure? I cracked my passenger vent in a couple places trying to pry it out “gently” with a screwdriver like he said to do. My glove box didn’t come apart the way he said either. Getting the screws back in was a chore. And when the whole thing was disassembled, there was no cabin filter!

The Butler kept telling me it had to be in the air filter because that’s where the other dead rodent was found. He was partially correct. I was relieved that the air filter is incredibly easy to access. I popped it open and discovered a urine-soaked nest of grey fibers and peanut shells. We hadn’t had peanuts in their shells for months so that critter had to be living in the car over the winter or fall. Though it smelled of rodent urine, it did not have the decomposition smell. Different odor. Even my ruined-by-COVID nose could tell this was not the main source.

The Grumpy Old Man had a look and he spent a couple days going back and forth to it between his other projects. He also couldn’t find a cabin filter. The Butler had ordered one online which we then had to return. The only solace in this was that I was not proving some gender role about women not being able to fix easy problems with cars. All of us were perplexed.

Finally, The Grumpy Old Man dug deeper and removed a wheel-shaped part. It was the blower and it was FULL. Full of nesting material. He had set it off to the side so Gus and I could inspect it. I ended up doing that without Gus’ assistance because he would not leave his post at the old well house (see previous case file). I didn’t have gloves so I did not pull apart the circular nest. I was dumbfounded that there was not only one, but two rodent nests inside the car this time. When the Old Man pulled the nest out, he did find a body.

This time, I felt we did not need photographs for the case file. Nonetheless, this critter had a story.

Who were they?

Were they alone?

Were there others who willfully fled?

Why were there two nests?

Without a body to examine, we needed to speak to critters of the neighborhood and ask around about any missing mice. Cheeks Moretti, the boss of the Chipmunk Mafia, is retired now, but his network is still the best source of information. The thing is—many of the chipmunks we’ve known have faded out.

  • Tamas Marmotini – Missing
  • Frankie “The Prime Minister” – Presumed Deceased
  • Sgt. Burrows – Deceased
  • “Lil Chip” Amunko – Missing

That leaves a lot of other chipmunks on our list as possible Critters of Interest in this case, but we don’t want to stir up trouble. It’s also been a strange spring season. Only three chipmunks have socialized with us and collected their snacks. Our best shot was to reach out to Philip “Benny Squint” Lombardo. Benny frequents the micro neighborhoods close to the Moretti rock fortress.

Gus has been so distracted (obsessed) with the other case at the well house that I had to wait until Oliver was ready to stroll. We stopped at the corner of the fortress to put out the bird seed and peanuts then went over to his patio to leave snacks there in the hanging basket. I saw that Gus was staring at the well house and took the chance of leaving him in order to chauffeur Ollie around for five minutes before heading back to the rock wall.

It took some patience, but eventually I saw a beige blur cross the road and flash in between rocks. I told Ollie that our guest was on his way. I backed up so that Benny Squint would feel safe approaching the flat red brick on the wall’s corner where I place the snacks. He came up unexpectantly from the peonies like those plastic rodents in the whack-a-mole games. Benny ate and talked with Ollie while I kept my eyes on them and Gus who was off to my right.

Case Findings:

The story that came back once we reconvened at the back door was a sad one. The mouse was legally named Clara but the locals called her Buffalo Claire. She was known to absolutely everyone from chipmunks to birds to the Mantids. Claire had a difficult life. She did have family, but didn’t always stay with them. She ended up desperately seeking shelter in the cold months and decided my old car would keep her protected from the elements. I did work twice a week all through this past winter. After talking through these findings with the cats, we agree that the fumes from the engine combined with the tightly constructed nest in the blower, kept Claire from getting fresh clean air. She died in the car and no one knew.

Case Status: Closed


Lando, L. (2023) Family of Clara Gomez, known to Buffalo Community as Claire, remembers her life and legacy, WKBW 7 News Buffalo. Available at: (Accessed: 25 May 2023).


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