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Where We Left Off:
The Cook and The Grumpy Old Man found an ancient artifact buried in the fireplace.
Gone in 30 Seconds:
The Butler found a dead body in the backyard! This case had us stumped! It goes back to the end of August when other parts of the world like Maui and California were going through natural disaster crises. It was a time when people felt helpless. Thus, our mystery at home provided a distraction from the constant pressure to fix-everything-wrong-with-the-world-right-now. I sent off a couple of small monetary donations hoping it would do some good.
Before the body was discovered on August 31st, Gus found a waft of fur in the grass. It was unusual because of the overall color, a light brown. It could have come from a local wolpertinger or non-magical bunny rabbit, but we needed to examine it more. It reminded me of a different case when we found a similar clump of fur in the same general area. That was linked to our studies of the raccoons. Part of this case will be to determine if the fur found in the grass has anything to do with the dead body.
Identifying the body:
The body was in tact and easily identified as a mouse. We got lucky there. Sometimes we have only pieces or bones to work with and that makes it much harder.
The body was found close to the back porch which means it could easily be a house mouse that also spent part of its time indoors. Some of the indoor mice never go out. They have everything they need inside, but we believe it is better for them if they go out. Of course, it would be best if they never came into the house at all, but that’s not going to happen here even with two stellar hunters out to get them.
Oliver and Gus thought it was best if I brushed up on my share of the crime-solving work. They ordered The Butler and I to go to Crime Con, a true crime convention with thousands of people (mostly unmasked, by the way) and experts in the fields of science, psychology, and catching bad guys. I put all my notes on that experience at my blog so as to not interfere with the cat detectives’ case files. My favorite part was getting to see Ann Burgess, one of the FBI’s original profilers. She gave the audience a brief introduction on each chapter in her new book with Steven Matthew Constantine, A Killer by Designer: Murderers, Manhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind. This is going to be a great asset in solving our Winchester-Nabu cases.
Gus, Ollie, and I went around to talk to the neighborhood critters to see if anyone had any information about the mouse or how it ended up dead so close to the house. The sparrows would only talk to Oliver because Gus scares them. He’s jumped at them aggressively (and playfully) while they try to eat. I suppose it was ridiculous to expect the birds’ full cooperation after all the terrorizing they have faced. After hearing the resentment from a house sparrow, I put out a second helping of seeds in the patio basket and at the Moretti rock fortress.
“Where do we go next, guys?” I directed my question mostly to Gus since he leads the patrols when I have to chauffeur Oliver at the same time.
“I heard something,” Gus said. “Follow me!” He ran towards the old well house which we’ve already determined was haunted. Besides a tragic ghost, a family of squirrels lives inside too.
I gently knocked on the front of the building and placed a few peanuts in the entrance hole. I walked around to the back of the building and slid some peanuts under the corrugated roof which seemed to be a back door for the squirrels. Gus waited as patiently as he possibly could with the scent of critters tingling his Super Smeller. Ollie and I moved back a few feet so that whichever squirrel came to the door wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
We could hear the scratching sounds of claws navigating through the walls. The hole in the front of the building was mostly shadowy darkness. I had a hard time seeing what was moving around back there, but no doubt, the extraordinary sight of the cats allowed them to see more. All I saw was a peanut sliding into that shadow and disappearing. Three peanuts disappeared and I hadn’t seen anything more than a blur. Gus hopped up on the cinder block next to the well house door and spoke to someone on the other side.
“Hello? I know you’re in there. All we want is some information. And we have even more peanuts if you help us out,” Gus said.
A squirrel appeared at the entrance and introduced herself as Squirla Moon, a climate scientist who was only in New Jersey to give some lectures on the changing conditions of Greenland and the Artic.
“You’re interrupting my lecture. I have students in here,” Squirla said. She agreed to go ask her students if they knew anything about a dead mouse near the house. “None of them have any information for you. I’m sorry, but I really must get back to work.”
I was beginning to lose hope, but Gus and Ollie had other ideas of critters we could interview. Our presence at the well house garnered the attention of a robust cardinal who landed in the dogwood tree on a thin branch. We asked him if he had any information on the mouse.
“Hello, Guster,” the bird looked down directly at Gus then to Ollie. “Oliver.” He gave a courteous nod and didn’t even say hello to me when I was the one holding the can of birdseed.
Oliver asked the cardinal if he had any idea who the dead mouse was or if he’d seen anything suspicious in the area.
“Well, there is that black and white cat who comes around. Odd how you never seem to be patrolling when that cat is here, Oliver,” the bird said.
Gus wasn’t going to let this rotund bird imply that we’ve been lax on our neighborhood patrols. “Hey, I’ve not only seen that cat, I’ve chased it outta here. Now do you know anything about the mouse or not?”
“Have you even bothered to check your own surveillance cameras?” the cardinal said.
“We’ll get to it,” Gus said. He walked over to Ollie’s stroller and whispered, “Why didn’t we do that first?”
“We’re taking this investigation in steps while we’re all together,” I explained. “Whenever we split up, we can check things off our list faster. Right now, I suggest we leave this bird alone and find someone else to talk to.”
With that, we bid adieu to the cardinal and circled around to the former Fairy Garden now Fern and Weed Garden. I sprinkled birdseed on the top of the wall surrounding the garden when I startled by sudden movement. The boys noticed too. Gus jumped up on the wall to see who was hiding the weeds.
“It’s Bunny Wailer,” Gus yelled over to me and Oliver. “You know, one of Paris’s kids.”
Paris and Harlem are the twins of Bunny Hollow’s mayor, Shirley “Bunny” Foy. Paris and Harlem are outgoing and had been coming close to the house. We hadn’t seen Bunny Wailer very much at all. When he’s not performing, he’s a quiet fellow and doesn’t socialize with humans or cats.
“I’m not talking to cops,” we heard from the weeds. It gave the impression that the ferns were talking.
“We’re not cops. We’re private detectives,” I said.
Mr. Wailer was not going to say anything to us unless it had to do with other wolpertingers and rabbit creatures. Before I could say another word, a white pom-pom butt zipped all the way across the field and into the woods.
Our next stop would be to find chipmunks. Since none of the Blue Jay Gang were nearby, we had to go to alternate sources and there’s nothing better than finding a member of the Chipmunk Mafia. They’re plugged into everything around here. We got lucky and found Munka Kelly gathering snacks at the rock fortress. The sparrows hadn’t eaten everything and Munka planned to bring back some goodies to her family.
Ollie filled Munka in on the situation. She was grateful for the food and for Gus behaving himself. Whether those factors are the only reason she shared information, we’ll never know. What’s important is that she had the information we desperately needed.
“His name is Patrick Murinae—or rather, was Patrick Murinae. Have you checked any of the cameras?” Munka said while keeping her peripherals on Gus.
“Um, yeah, we’re going to do that next,” I said. “We just wanted to canvas the neighborhood first. It could narrow things down for us.”
We thanked Munka for giving us the victim’s identification. One part of a long investigation was done. Next step, yes, check the footage. The body was discovered on August 31st, but that doesn’t mean Patrick died on the 31st. We had to gather forensic data such as finding any visible wounds and getting the cause of death.
Examining the Evidence:
When we took a closer look at the body (Eww, David!), we could see that there were injuries which were probably contributing factors, if not, the actual cause of death. It was finally time for me to have The Grumpy Old Man keep an eye on Gus and Oliver while I retrieved the memory cards from the cameras and downloaded the files.
As soon as we got inside, the cats needed to eat and have dessert. I grabbed a banana and headed to my work station. It took hours to go through the footage from the newer camera, a Garde Pro, because it doesn’t have a smart naming convention for files using the date like the Browning camera. Nonetheless, the newer model does have better resolution and isn’t as fussy about the brand of memory card.
I found a pertinent file! After sifting through a lot of images and videos of an opossum, the raccoons, and the deer families, I had finally found something suspicious: a different stray cat roaming around the backyard.
This cat doesn’t appear to have any patterns to its coloring like the black and white cat who has a pattern like a cow. It wasn’t showing up as a high contrast black either. Plus, the black cat and the black and white cat wear collars. This solid-colored trespasser was not in our files. It is possible that this cat was previously identified as Ringo. It’s difficult to tell if those are striped markings on his tail.
The sample of hair that we found could belong to this unknown subject or “unsub” as they say in the biz. This unsub had the opportunity and a natural instinct motive. Even if we tested the corpse for other DNA, we didn’t have any samples from that cat for comparison. Our hunches tell us that cat is the murderer!
The Butler discovered the body of a mouse victim at the end of August. We talked to any critter in the neighborhood willing to answer our questions. The surveillance camera footage was thoroughly studied and it places a likely suspect near the scene of the crime near the time of death. While we don’t have the specific DNA evidence that would officially close this case, we are unofficially considering it solved.
Case Status: Closed