THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY
YEAR TWO: CASE FILE NO. 22-74

Cat Detectives

AMBER LOVE 08-OCT-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. For a one-time tip, you can go to the new PayPal.me.

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Where we left off:

Simon Squishypaws took on one of our cases because he’s a skilled hacker and shoe/footprint expert.

Rogues of Sherwood Forest

Professor Oliver Winchester and his butler, Alfredo Pesosvalor, have journeyed up the long private road to the main house (the small cottage with the most acreage) of the property. Oliver loves these trips most of the time because he gets to enjoy the gloriously fresh air up there and watch for more wildlife.

Curly tree

After his fox (or maybe kitsune) sighting a few months ago, Oliver noticed a different kind of unusual activity. Generally, when storms knock branches down, there’s no pattern. There’s beauty in the randomness of the fallen limbs as long as they aren’t a danger to anyone. We haven’t noticed any full trees downed since March’s wild winter storms luckily. The past couple of trips up the mountain, Oliver speculated that the branches weren’t actually random anymore.

ollie

They had to navigate Oliver’s buggy around from side to side to avoid the twigs, larger branches, and debris. Oliver indicated that something was amiss. He uses his front paws to pretend like he’s digging at the front of his padded seat close to the front window of his buggy.

“Something is setting off my cat senses.” He hunkered down in the carriage and peered through the lower screen.

“Everything’s fine, sir. It’s just branches from the wind and rain.” Alfredo didn’t want his master worked into a tizzy. If Oliver began howling, it would be hard to quickly get him down the hill until calm restored. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Oliver was right in the case.

branches

The front wheels butted into a branch on the pavement. It barely budged. The carriage wheels didn’t pop over it either. The branch shifted, seemingly on its own. It triggered another branch to move. Then a stone launched from the grass and whooshed passed the carriage.

“What was that?” Alfredo jerked the buggy’s handle back towards his body. He was ready to cover the soft carriage material to be a human shield so Oliver would stay safe.

“I warned you. We have to proceed with caution.” Oliver’s command was enough for Alfredo to continue further ahead.

branches
More suspicious debris.

 

They came to three small rocks across the pavement. The carriage wheels could fit through the outer wheels and the center stone. Alfredo glided the buggy directly over the top of the center stone. Inch by inch as slowly as possible. The carriage safely sailed over the stones, but when Alfredo’s right foot crossed the line, it set off another series of unexplained motions.

booby trap

There was a crack above them. As Alfredo looked up and Oliver looked through his sunroof, they watched a net cascade down towards them. Alfredo pushed the carriage ahead and Oliver was spared from being tangled. The human was caught like a wild animal. It wasn’t too elaborate and thankfully was not the kind of net that launched from the ground; otherwise, Mr. Pesosvalor would have been hanging from the tree like a bunch of bananas. Instead, he was able to get his sneakers unstuck and stretched his arms open like an angel showing off its wings. The net fell behind him and he was able to get back on his feet.

driveway

They continued on. They came to a patch of innocent-looking gravel on the right. As they crossed over it, the stroller rocked over on two wheels. Alfredo maintained control and righted the carriage. Oliver had bounced around but was fine. He is not used to disturbances!

They navigated right then left then right until they zig-zagged up to the fire barrel (it’s where the owners used to burn things). Alfredo stopped the carriage at the edge of the parking area and looked back.

“Sir, are you all right?”

The professor rubbed his cheeks on the front and back screens of his vehicle. “That was, how you say, ‘no bueno,’ but I’m perfectly fine. I need to groom myself though. There are hairs out of place now.”

When they finished patrolling the cottage and making sure nothing suspicious was around the residence or the garage, they returned to the detective agency offices. Oliver wanted a nap before sharing his findings. It was left up to Alfredo to clue Gus and me in on the strange ordeal.

During my time researching the hunting laws for my manuscript, Bear Roots, I learned that New Jersey does have beavers, but they weren’t ever spotted here in our neighborhood. We had to think about what other creatures had a penchant for engineering with wood. We came up with three possibilities: wood nymphs, gnomes, or birds.

Birds:

I researched birds who build the most elaborate nests and other than a rare type of hummingbird, only the bald eagle would be found in New Jersey. Personally I have not been graced by an eagle’s presence, but I know other people have. They create large nests which makes sense considering how huge they are. It wouldn’t be fair to entirely rule out a notably brilliant bird, but let’s take a look into other explanations for the branches and booby traps.

Hamadryads:

Wood nymphs are among the fairy folk category. In the back 90 acres, we have a decent amount of forestry still standing; however, I can’t say that’s true for all of the municipality. Yet another development is being erected with houses so close together people will be able to talk to their neighbors in the shower. It’s appalling and ugly. Not to mention our little roads were built for busy horse traffic not endless tractor trailers, pickup trucks, and sedans. I digress. Pardon.

Wood nymphs have not left any evidence that we know of, according to our Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency files. That’s probably how they like it. There’s a type of nymph called a Hamadryad. They are born to a specific tree and spend their lives protecting it.

dryad

The new housing development for active seniors is about two miles away. It’s right next to land that was supposed to be part of the Canal Acquisition, an alleged park managed by multiple organizations. Let me tell you, the 1st time I trekked down one of the canal trails, there was no indication it was maintained by anyone. Trees from Hurricane Sandy were still down and blocking the path. If the humans are not going to do what they promised to do, the burden has to fall somewhere on someone. That someone could be a tribe, or grove, of Hamadryads.

Gnomes:

Since hiring Gnomez Addams, we’d like to think we have a rapport with the local Gnomanity. Gnomez Addams is a good man. He’s dedicated to his job and his chores in Gnome Grove and around the Fairy Garden. He gets winters mostly off — he relocates back to the porch where he doesn’t have to patrol or make reports.

gnome gif

In any kind of society, there are going to be differences in personalities. The same goes for gnomes. There are kind ones and grouchy ones. Even though Gnomez likes us, I can’t guarantee that the free-roaming gnomes of the mountain feel the same way.

Whichever creature is responsible for the booby traps, I don’t know that intend to murder us. I think it’s more of a warning system to scare us away. The wildlife and magings of the mountain have gotten more protective of the land since the owner went to a nursing home and the new housing development began. They are running out of land. They’re rightfully upset about this.

ollie
Oliver and his manservant.

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