Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 20-124
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Where We Left Off:
Gus discovered what we believe is an alien monster from another planet. It was large with an estimated thousand legs on a segmented arthropod type body.
People are so happy to “well, actually…” when it comes to species identification of what masses refer to as the black panther. It’s not that they’re wrong when they say, “There’s no such thing as a black panther.” It’s that there are multiple things which are called black panthers. The name comes from large cat species with either dominant or recessive melanin characteristics. Leopards (Panthera pardus) and jaguars (Panthera onca) are the most commonly referred to as black panthers; there are smaller species as well like margays and ocelots. What hasn’t been proven (until maybe now?) is the existence of melanin traits in the North American cougar (aka, puma or mountain lion).
“In addition, the term is sometimes used to describe dark-coloured bobcats, lynx, jaguarundis, tigers, and pumas (cougars), even though reports of black-coloured representatives of some species, such as the puma, have not been confirmed.”
Rafferty, John P. “Black Panther.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 22 Aug. 2019, http://www.britannica.com/animal/black-panther-mammal.
One morning when Oliver came up to have some refreshing fountain water from the “decorative” serenity fountain which is definitely not supposed to be for cats, he told me that he had a theory regarding Frankie “the Prime Minister” Costello’s disappearance. Oliver felt that we did get reasonably accurate information claiming Frankie left of his own accord when the blue jay gang put out a hit on him. Oliver is pretty sure that there’s a lot more to the story and ordered me to follow up.
I couldn’t possibly do this on my own, so I told Gus we had a new mission. Gus being #OhGus needs to think ideas are his just like 95% of men I’ve ever worked for and male teachers. He also didn’t want to take orders from Oliver since they’re supposed to be equal partners. Their partnership is like The Odd Couple’s Felix and Oscar (sorry not sorry those too young to get this reference).
“Hey, Gus? Didn’t you say that you wanted to follow up on the Costello case? Ya know, make sure he safely got to the woodlands?”
“Did I say that?”
“Yeah, it was last night. You were kind of sleepy, so maybe you don’t remember, but you said something about wanting to make sure the case was closed.”
“Right, right. After we check the border, we’ll head through the junkyard then see if we can make contact with Chipcent Donofrio or any of the other woodland chipmunks.”
And that folks, is how you get Gus to do what you want.
As much as I wanted coffee and a couple digestives or to stay in bed, I rolled out of bed in the morning before dawn. Gus has not recognized that our schedule needs to shift with the later sunrise. Anytime after 0500 is appropriate for Gus to set out on patrol which means I have to do what he wants. I don’t necessarily brush my hair or bother with deodorant, but I do brush my teeth. Jeans, tall socks, and a t-shirt for starters. It’s exploring, not a beauty pageant. We go downstairs. He gets restless and yells at me while I fuss with my hiking shoes, gaiters, safety orange vest, my exploring bag, camera lenses, hat, and finally critter snacks. Add a covering of bug spray. Then chase Gus around to put his harness on even though he knows it’s the only way he’s allowed outside and we’ve been doing this for years.
“Are you done? Can you let me put this on you?”
His response was curt.
Gus has been straying from his usual routine on patrol. Sometimes he goes right and over to Gnome Grove and Oliver’s wing first. Other times, he starts out towards where my car is parked then he heads down the road instead of up the hill. When he decided to headed down the road to the former bus stop which we affectionately refer to as Lucky’s Spot (Lucky was one of our cats who would wait for the school children), Gus tries to push his boundaries like always. I started off by keeping him at one particular cement block. Then he would inch down a little each day. Now he’s at my absolute limit of where he’s allowed to go since it’s five feet from the main road.
He likes to sit there while the sun comes up then decide what to do. It’s generally a pleasant time except for the stupidly loud monster trucks, commercial trucks, and now school buses. Sundays are usually the least disruptive morning patrols.
Gus poked around Cheeks Moretti’s fortress, but didn’t linger long. He shoved his head into the entrance of the fortress burrows — the corner lilac bush — but came right back out. Then got that look — the intense Gus sees something I don’t look. This results in dumbfounded human behavior. I look down at Gus. Then look in the direction he’s staring. Then back at Gus.Then back up the road. I still don’t see anything. But eventually, I get to witness that his target is not invisible (this time). A sleek black cat scurried from the upper parking lot across the private road and into the boulevard trail. I was honestly shocked Gus didn’t want to pursue. Instead he headed to the parking area where I unhooked his leash so he could inspect under the mobile command unit.
Another time when we were standing at Lucky’s spot and watching traffic go by, Gus and I saw a black cat stalking its way through a parking lot across the street. It hunkered down low and army-crawled its way underneath a car. That was the only picture I was able to snap so it’s not particularly good evidence. Nonetheless, this makes at least two sightings by me and Gus from our patrols; there was one more when we were on the observation deck and that darn black cat came off the porch beneath us before darting around the corner. I have no idea how many more times Oliver and Gus have spotted it through the windows when the humans weren’t paying attention.
Due to the distance of our sightings, I have no accurate way to determine the size of the creature. If we compare other incident reports that have been occurring in the neighborhood with the sightings, we’re ready to name this cat creature as our prime suspect in a number of cases.
Bear with me while we get into some X-Men level shit here. Recently, we introduced readers to the pumapard, a hybrid of a puma and leopard which had been documented on at least two occasions by historians. Since leopards can carry melanism with some frequency, then it seems entirely plausible for a pumapard hybrid to also carry the recessive allele for it.
Cats of the wild, larger variety are known to lounge in trees. In fact, they look adorable when they do. Sometimes their domestic cousins are spotted doing such things. Cats are all sizes have their awkward moments and when you witness those, you see how cartoonists get such great source material.
Anyway, I bring up the reminder about cats in trees because it takes us back to the case file on the crushed bird feeder and the mysterious poop. Remember that mountain lions don’t give a shit about your boundaries. Such was the case recently when an 87-year-old California woman and her husband discovered one in their house. Then the poor thing got scared and locked itself in their bathroom! Keep in mind that the mountain lion population is dwindling. If they need to crossbreed to maintain some kind of numbers, that may be a thing to consider. Regardless, they need conservation efforts.
Now we get back to our What If? scenario just like the comic books. What if a melanin pumapard or even some smaller hybrid found its way into our neighborhood. A panther x ocelot = pancelot? (That’s fun to say aloud, btw. Try it.) Black cougar x domestic feline = felis blackus? Puma catus melatonis? We can leave the naming up to the scientists on this one, but we’re not ready to abandon all hope that we’ve discovered and kind of documented something important.
We got around to asking questions while in the junkyard. Gus doesn’t have the best contacts there. They pretty much hate him. But Chipcent Donofrio and Munka Kelly are pretty cool with us. Stan and Joan, the cardinal couple, also reach out that far since there’s a big snacking area at the boulder and small maple tree.
Chipcent was willing to share what he knew in exchange for ten peanuts. It was a bargain, in my opinion. He told us that the creature was larger than Gus but bore an uncanny resemblance to a domestic feline only larger with a stockier physique. He saw the creature go through the junkyard and over to the maple tree. That’s when Chipcent admits he was terrified of being discovered and eaten as an amuse-bouche. He managed to slink away over the boulder and back to his home in the overgrown brush without the cat creature looking his way. It seemed to be more interested in a larger squirrel in the tree.
It seems that the cat creature was after one of our squirrel friends and climbed up the small maple tree which is how the bird feeder got so damaged. It wasn’t the primary target, simply in the way. The good news is, we’ve seen Parker since this incident so she wasn’t eaten. We’re not sure if anyone else was.
But what about Frankie Costello?
Chipcent said there’s a good chance Frankie was caught by the cat creature. He watched it come down from the tree and dive into the other bushes. Chipcent heard a tiny squeak. He knew it wasn’t Munka Kelly or any other chipmunk he knew well. It could have been Frankie after all.
No evidence has been found to confirm whether Frankie “the Prime Minister” Costello is deceased.
Status: Still Open