THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY
YEAR TWO: CASE FILE NO. 05-57
￼AMBER LOVE 11-JUNE-2018 Catch up on Year One and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast.
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Where we left off:
Guster Nabu was exonerated from charges of abusive and overly aggressive behavior of the local rodentia community. All acts were considered justified and within reason for a cat detective monitoring the outdoors.
The Haunting of Hill House
As the official biographer for the agency, I’m surprised once in awhile by decisions Gus makes. He hasn’t been doing any serious hiking; but even more surprising, he hasn’t walked up the private road to the cottage more than a few times since Mrs. J died at the age of 99. She would have turned 100 on May 7th.
Gus loves the property up there near the top of the mountain. He loves the cottage too; and has a particular fondness for the wrap-around porch. It’s not in great shape and that porch certainly would need to be replaced, but it has a breathtaking view.
Mrs. J wasn’t exactly “friendly,” but she was cordial and definitely more pleasant than her husband. I secretly hoped she would outlive him and I’d have an opportunity to get to know her better, but that wasn’t in the cards. If my research is correct, and it may not be, the online deeds show that the land was purchased for only $1.00 back in 1962. Maybe it was from family. No idea.
We got to look at the inside of the house once. Nothing had been updated in so long, but there was a foundation of charm and intimacy. The great room houses an enormous fireplace that has reportedly never been used. Mrs. J’s wig sat on its stand on the dresser in a bedroom. We couldn’t be sure if the spouses shared quarters or not. There were more books than I think I’ve ever seen. Some in the attic on built-in shelves with a lot in the great room on display with framed photos blocking the spines.
May 23rd was the second time Gus led me up the hill to the small house where he acted like it was for a specific purpose only he could know. I humored him and went along. Both times he found the main entrance with a tiny porch (it’s really the back door) to be his focal point of investigating. Though we did end up on the veranda eventually, the tiny porch made of concrete slab with exterior basement shutter doors was more interesting to him. He stretched up against the back door trying to open it. He sniffed all around the clutter of buckets, dead leaves, and various detritus. He climbed up a stack of coolers to look in a high window before jumping down and making his way to the incline of the basement doors which also have windows next to them.
Honestly, Gus was being spooky. He kept acting like someone was inside the house and he kept trying to find the best window for a peek. It was too dark for me to see anything inside. Part of me kept being skeptical (that’s odd too) as I told Gus there was no one moving around inside.
Because of the isolation one can feel ascending the hill, especially through thick fog or snow, getting the sensations of paranormal activity isn’t that unlikely. Cats, as you know, are better at sensing such things than humans anyway.
This isn’t to imply that there aren’t enough corporeal clues to research. As you know, we have found a considerable amount of bones on this property. We’ve also found an arrow and shell casings. One of the more peculiar finds was coming across a tree with yellow tape around it when the tree seems healthy and not a danger. Did the squirrels find a crime scene and cordon it off without telling us?
If you hadn’t guessed, I’m the opposite of a ninja when it comes to walking. I’m more of a Frankenstein monster with clomping heavy feet in boots. Gus sometimes manages to have impressive ninja skills despite his bells. He can move silently when he’s being slow and cautious. When he’s ready to sprint though, he doesn’t care about the commotion. I didn’t think we stood any kind of chance sneaking up on a ghostly apparition. About the best luck I have is walking around the garage when machines are running and the hard-of-hearing Grumpy Old Man comes out. There’s no way I’m not breaking rice paper, if you catch my drift.
Gus knew something or someone was moving inside the house though. When Gus sees a stranger or another pet, he gets scared and tries to run away. If it’s a strange cat, he’ll do the opposite: puff up, hiss, and transform into Halloween cat mode. But people — living people — set him on edge. If he can’t run all the way back to the courtyard at the backdoor of our place, he’ll at least run to make some distance between him and the human. He does this with the neighbor he sees every day and won’t make friends with him yet. That day up the hill at the tiny house, Gus wasn’t afraid of anything.
Occasionally I would detect the sweet hint of the wild honeysuckle which is growing everywhere around here. The fresh air was glorious. The bugs — they’re out of control already and piss me off. Otherwise, we seem to have a fair population of local wildlife and cryptids: rabbits, wolpertingers, lots of chipmunks, squirrels, deer, mice, and at least one groundhog and possible a herd of Jersey devils or “devil-deer” hybrids. What I didn’t detect were any nefarious odors like sulfur or rancid old lady perfume. I honestly don’t know if Mrs. J wore perfume in her golden years. She was particular about her appearance though. It had to be a serious circumstance for her leave the house without her wig and lipstick.
I noticed the white azaleas growing next to the path of leading from the parking area to the back door. I took a couple photos while trying to keep an eye on Gus. We don’t have white azaleas and neither do the folks directly next door to us. They’re an elegant flower compared to their bright pink cousins like the neon Rhododendron we have.
What Does the Azalea Flower Mean?
The Azalea tends to represent good qualities of personalities, but it also symbolizes specific emotions or events. Many people feel this flower means:
- Remembering your home with fondness or wishing to return to it
- Taking care of yourself and your family
- Temperance – the Victorians often carried a bloom if they supported the prohibition of alcohol, but it also represents emotional evenness
- Passion that is still developing and fragile
- Elegance and wealth
- Femininity and feminine beauty
- Abundance, especially of beauty or intelligence
- A death threat – only when sent in a black vase
Despite being an overwhelmingly positive plant, Azaleas still have a dark side due to the association with death threats.
— FlowerMeaning.com, 30-May-2018
Reading through the meaning of azaleas, I felt warm and loving. That is, until I got to the end! Death threats? Really? We’ll have to circle back to that. For now, take a look at the specific symbolism of the colors as noted on FlowerMeaning.com:
- White adds a sense of purity, restraint, and civility to your message.
- Red and dark pink lean towards the romantic and passionate side of the scale.
- Purple and pink are more jovial and less intense or personal.
- Yellow is primarily focused on friendship and family relationships.
The way that the azalea general meaning and the white color meaning specifically marry together into a definition of kindness and putting aside old grudges feels like the perfect way Mrs. J would communicate. We weren’t troublesome neighbors. As I said, we always got along. They even used to give a Christmas present to my parents when I was a tween. However, they always seemed like cranky old people. The husband had a terrible reputation as a school teacher who was mean and horrible. Both husband and wife never refrained from making judgmental comments about what a dump our property was since it has historically been filled with cars, sometimes only half a car, barrels or other metal drums, plastic buckets, and an unusual number of ladders. Decades of those kinds of remarks did cause tension that was never addressed with them.
Mrs. J loved cats even though she never owned any while living up the hill; so at least she always had time to extend a loving pat on the head for the old female barn cats we used to have who lived outside. And she always called them “pussies” or “puss puss”. As you can imagine, twelve-year-old me would grow wide-eyed.
The final general meaning of the azalea is more stern but still has a message of kindness:
Care for yourself and those around you. Never forget where you came from, and stay in control of your emotions and actions for success in life. — FlowerMeaning.com
Fortunately for us, we never received any azaleas in a black vase from Mr. or Mrs. J. They weren’t exactly into sharing their flowers in the first place. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize the daffodils on the side of the mountain were planted by them and considered part of their landscaping. I picked a few and brought them home thinking it was a wonderful find from nature. Well, as usual, the next time I saw Mrs. J she reprimanded me; I may have even lied and said I didn’t do it, but honestly I don’t remember. They would also reprimand the neighborhood boys who would cut small trees to build forts. This was puzzling since the land is considered a tree farm, but it’s not “farmed” per se. The trees aren’t sold like a Christmas tree farm.
I prefer to think that if Gus watched Mrs. J’s ghost move through the house and around the porch while we were visiting that she was extending a neighborly welcome especially because she hadn’t had a cat visit in a long time.