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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Seven: Case File No. 35-347

mourning dove on a tree branch

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Where We Left Off:

Another bone fragment was discovered. The team cleaned it and compared it to past discoveries and believe it’s connected to another case.

It’s a Wonderful Life:

In the middle of the December holidays and feasts, Gus and I went out for a patrol which we expected to be peaceful and unremarkable. Inside, Oliver Winchester watched the panoramic view from his suite. We kept in contact through our comm system. Oliver’s vantage point had a pretty clear line of sight to where Gus and I were heading.

We went around Gnome Grove and stopped at the garden wall. At this time, there are stacks of firewood precariously balancing on the cinder blocks. Since it’s winter, the fairies and gnomes have been relocated to indoor assignments. It’s too bad because we could have used their eyewitness accounts about what we found in that garden.

I was pouring out some birdseed on the wall when Gus noticed that something was wrong. He loves to sit at the wall waiting for birds to show up, but on that day, there was a spread of feathers on the ground waiting for us. Instead of a living bird, we came across the evidence of a dead one.

“I didn’t do it,” Gus said.

“I know, Gus. I’ve been next to you the whole time,” I said. “This was obviously done when we were inside.”

There was a cold breeze giving the downy feathers the only sign of life as their wispy barbs moved like sea anemone. Stiffer tail feathers weren’t moving at all. They lay among the dead foliage bed of wildflowers, hostas, and ferns.

mourning dove feathers on the ground; crime scene 23-Dec-2023

What Happened Here?

I immediately took photos and video of the scene. Gus used his Super Smeller to find any clues. I was baffled by what he told me.

“I smell hints of cheesesteak,” Gus said. “You said you used to eat those a lot.”

“I did before becoming vegetarian.” I was perplexed. Since giving up delicious food like robust cheesesteaks, I wasn’t sure if that was something that could be obtained around here anymore. The Grumpy Old Man and I used to get them at the bowling alley’s sports bar.

“I remember when The Grumpy Old Man came home smelling like this, but there’s something a little bit different,” Gus said. It took Gus a while to think through the puzzle of scents.

“Well, I guess I better get to work on gathering this evidence.” I pulled a plastic baggie from my adventure bag and began collecting an assortment of the feathers. Downy feathers are so hard to manage. They don’t like to go into the baggies. The firm wing and tail feathers are easy.

I studied the tail feathers and thought for sure I saw hints of blue and made an incorrect identification. My first draft of the case report said this victim was a blue jay, but I was wrong. It was a mourning dove! Oh no! Doves mate for life so if one of them was murdered, their spouse could be out there in a deep depression. The last time doves were the main subject of an investigation was back in 2022 when Gus discovered new eggs in the roost and then the eggs were stolen. We determined that was the mating pair, Zen and Mac. I hoped they wouldn’t be involved in another tragedy.

After the initial report, Gus and Oliver requested strongly that I check my findings against other feather samples in databases. I went to The Feather Atlas and didn’t need to check beyond there. I took a measurement of a tail feather—9 cm. I entered the pattern, size, and color into the filter. I scrolled down the page of photo results and when I found the match, my breath stopped. Dammit! That’s when I realized this was about a dove not a jaybird.

I asked Gus to revisit the scene which was going to do anyway, but not because I needed him to. It’s one of his favorite spots, and having any “fowl play” around there when he’s not involved, irks him.

Victim Identification Came from a Strange Lead:

“Ah-ha!” he said. “I know what it is that’s been bothering me about this victimology. That wasn’t a local cheesesteak I could smell! That was a Philly cheesesteak!

As you may know, Philadelphia is not only famous for their violent sports-driven fans; it’s of course known to the food world because of cheesesteaks, hot pretzels, and cream cheese. If you veer towards a more epicurean style, they have local brew pubs and apparently great Polish food (but I had given up meat before getting to try that). What makes a Philly cheesesteak different is that they use overly processed, hot, liquid cheese on their steak sandwiches. I find it appalling, but I’m not from there. I used to prefer better quality slices of melted cheese like a cheddar, Swiss, American, or provolone. Those certainly aren’t fancy cheeses, but they are definitely a step up from a vat of Cheez Whiz.

palette knife dipped into vat of cheez whiz then spread across the cheesesteak

Side bar
Coming from Philadelphia native and writer at, Adina Steiman gave specific advice in 2016 about how to order one of their famous sandwiches in the city.

“If you’re going to indulge in a cheesesteak, do it right. Order it “Whiz wit” and enjoy it topped with Cheez Whiz and fried onions. Only a silky, neon-orange cheese sauce can complement the beefy brawn of this sandwich.” —Adina Steiman

The realization that this victim could be from Philadelphia and made its way all the way up the Delaware River to our part of New Jersey gave our detectives a huge break in the case. Typically birds in the pigeon family don’t have any reason to leave a small area where they eat well. Something else forced this bird out of Philly.

The kill was so fresh that the tips of some of the feathers had soft tissue and blood on them. We ran samples through a DNA system and found a familial match. That gave us a path to pursue in identification. And Bing-Bang-Boom—we discovered that the victim was Giuseppe “Joe Bruno” Dove.

Dove was known to associate with some our local Blue Jay Gang members, namely birds known as Mickey Blue and The Boot. Dove may have been a tough guy in his city, but he didn’t come up here with any back up. That seemed to be his downfall. 

Case Findings:

The death of a dove is tragic to its family. We were able to identify the feathers and then the victim. Before we knew it, we had an organized crime case. Though we initially began to suspect larger predators like a Great Horned Owl, one of the free-roaming neighborhood cats, or even a Bobcat, we ended up piecing together the clues that gave us The Blue Jay Gang. The jays have been rambunctious lately. At least one of them attacked and killed “Joe Bruno” Dove and left only feathers behind as a calling card.

Case Status: Closed

“This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this and get away with it, hey, that’s great. But its very, very unpredictable. There’s so many ways you can screw it up.” —Paul Castellano


Steiman, A. (2016) Why Cheez Whiz deserves your respect, Epicurious. Available at: (Accessed: 02 January 2024).

unknown, NCS. (2022) Mafia quotes – the best extracts from notorious mobsters, National Crime Syndicate. Available at: (Accessed: 02 January 2024).


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