Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 27-131
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Where We Left Off:
In the junkyard, Gus and I discovered that unidentified critters built their own Stonehenge for Samhain.
We settling in for the night with a typical weekend routine although it was midweek. The butler/chauffeur, Alfredo Pesosvalor, was here on one of his off nights so that we could prepare for a road trip. The TV was playing Homicide Hunter, a new favorite of ours to marathon — probably also explained the nightmare I had about a banshee with a body made of blood chasing me. Gus had been crying to go out in the dark, but I could tell was about to give up and come to bed too.
A clatter? Thump? Smash? It’s hard to describe exactly. It sounded and felt like a small version of what happens when a car crashes into the Wall O’ Doom around the front yard. Could it have been a tiny car? I felt a slight jarring of the house, but no one else sensed that. Maybe the cats did.
The butler took a flashlight and tried to look through the front windows into the yard and see what happened. The roof from the porch below was in the way. We yelled down to the elder humans and they didn’t know what it was either. They said it was unlikely a car crash; and with such a small disturbance, they didn’t want to think about it until morning.
With the sunrise, came the opening of our investigation formally. The darling chapel-shaped bird feeder in the front of the house was on the ground. The seed spilled all over. Despite being apart and in pieces, the feeder didn’t look smashed and severely damaged. Someone thought they wanted the contents, but then decided it wasn’t for them after getting it all over the ground.
It’s not unusual for black bears or other wildlife to tip over garbage cans and drag things a considerable distance. I once saw one carry a trash bag up the driveway leaving a grotesque Hansel & Gretel trail behind them. They obviously had someplace to go and needed take-out. We’ve also had a bird feeder whacked by a bear who proceeded to roll and crack it until it could eat the delicious seeds. That was a long time ago. However, I’ve been hearing from some locals that the bears are out and about before winter sets in. It’s not only that. It was also the beginning of hunting season. The wildlife is nervous and being driven from the comforts of the woods back towards houses and roads.
There are some subspecies of black bears that are critically endangered. Regardless, New Jersey is still allowing bear hunting at least two weeks a year. They get to extend the hunting season when NJ DEP decides if enough have been “harvested” (slaughtered) to maintain the population they want. In October, another 61 were killed in this county; 265 in the state.
I’ve decided to name the one that Gus and I spotted in July Arthur. I’m assuming the bear was male because it was alone at the time. I’m not sure of their social behavior. I’ve either seen them alone or a momma and cubs in a group. Since someone just across the way and through a dense copse posted a photo to Facebook of a bear on his deck going after his bird feeder, it seemed likely to be Arthur since that was the direction we saw him walking back in July. I’m not saying it took months for him to cross the road and go down a hill. I just mean that it’s probably a familiar route. That’s something wildlife does. There are paths worn by deer so I know that animals can have such habits.
Why would Arthur knock down the bird seed then not eat it? That was our investigation’s focus. Also, hoping that Arthur was indeed okay and unharmed.
Lately, the birds didn’t seem to want the bird seed in either feeder. The feeders were filled with different styles and brands of seeds too. It was puzzling. Only this week did they start eating voraciously at the feeders again. The birds, squirrels, and chipmunks have been gathering everything I leave out. Usually it takes a long time for them get through a corn cob, but this week, they will clean one completely in 24 hours. The corn eating seems to happen in the dark so I’m not sure if the deer are coming through for it or if the squirrels are enjoying it.
Oliver sent out some emails and Gus put the word out through his CIs that we were looking for information on the bird feeder vandalism. Gus and I waited by the small maple tree with the cage style bird feeder. I was impressed with the patience and lower aggression Gus was showing. After taking a couple minutes to dig at something under the grass, he skulked to the tree and waited. A white-breasted nuthatch arrived. Gus stared up and listened as the bird hopped around the tree trunk.
“What did your informant say?” I could wait to ask when Gus trotted back over to me.
Gus had a look of excitement. It could have been pride in his self restraint for not chowing down in the adorable bird within his grasp.
“It wasn’t Arthur. Not exactly.”
“What does that mean, Gus?”
“According to my source, Arthur is not a regular New Jersey black bear. He’s a volkolak.”
“Like in my book? You’re saying Arthur is a shapeshifter?”
“That’s what I heard.”
I had to wonder if Arthur the Bear was someone we knew from town — not that I really know anyone here, all of our contacts are through the Grumpy Old Man and his connections. Who could the human version of Arthur be? Do we even have a right to know? Would it put them in grave danger of trophy hunters like Walker in Bear Roots?
We took the information back to Oliver and I began typing up the case file notes. We debated the various ethical issues of outing a volkolak and even whether we needed to know at all. The vandalism wasn’t that extreme. The bird feeder isn’t hanging, but it was reassembled. There was no other property damage.
After much debate, the Winchester-Nabu team decided that we didn’t need to find out Arthur’s human identity at this time. If something else happens which would require our need to know, then we’ll get back to the investigation.
Case Status: Closed