Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 47-151

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AMBER LOVE 06-APR-2020 Find out how all this began. Catch up on Year One and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. We are in the final stretch of YEAR THREE still because we started cataloging our criminal investigations in the spring.

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.

Add a little suburban fantasy to your reading with a story about friendships, shapeshifters, small town politics, animal rights, and folklore. Ursula, a bisexual woman of color protagonist, trying to hold her life together and save her friends from being murdered.


Where We Left Off:

In our last post, we celebrated the adoptiversaries of Gus and Oliver with a lot of links to animals and organizations that could use some support.


Cry of the Werewolf:

On Sunday, March 15th, the weather was mild and seasonal — a nice break from the unusual extreme swings. Although it is spring in March so we can get anything from snow to rain to mid-seventies and sunny. I’m perfectly content to enjoy the flannel weather. It’s Gus’ favorite weather too. He doesn’t appreciate that I’ve been much pickier in our third year of investigating. On this day, it was a full staff patrol with the Butler, the Cook, Oliver, Gus, and myself walking around. The Grumpy Old Man was working in his space and that’s as far as he would go after I needed his assistance in moving an entire body.

Gus walking

Gus and I made our way up the hill on the privet drive. He sensed something unusual and followed along. There have been tons of birds returning and rustling through the still dried leaves on the bushes and the ground. Squirrels are running around looking for their secret hidden caches. When the squirrels and blue jays see us, they alert everyone around for half a mile.

Oliver and Joe

The driveway could use a good brushing. There are leaves and branches all over the place. Sometimes you need to watch where you step in case there’s some poo right in the middle of the road. I thought that’s what we had come across as I came to halt.

mysterious hair ball in driveway

I can only describe the object as a large black furball that looked like it was made of smaller furballs stuck together. It was not damp or wet. Gus took a look at it and decided the specimen was not something requiring his attention. He continued up the hill a little way then stopped to wait for me.

I used two small twigs to pull apart the hair ball looking for bones. Owls are known to vomit “pellets” of undigested organic matter which have been formed into oval balls containing hair and bones. There are people who have made businesses out of collecting owl pellets and selling them as science kits. It’s pretty cool.

This object was substantial in size — more than I would expect from an owl in this area. When I pulled it apart with the twigs, I didn’t see any bones at all. Nothing but hair balls clumped together. Oliver and the Butler saw it too and thought it was worth investigating.

mysterious hair ball pulled apart

I chose not to bag the specimen as evidence and bring it back to the office. My cursory examination out in the field was quite enough. I did check on the specimen a couple days later and discovered some worms had moved in. Pretty sure they were worms. They looked longer than other things and didn’t immediately make me puke, but caused enough shivering and nausea for me to lean back. By this day, the ground had been wet so the dampness of the specimen was due to weather and not digestive juices. I double-checked for bones and found none. The American Museum of Natural History has a great photographic post about what barn owl pellets look like when taken apart. The bones of rodents and small mammals are easy to identify. It happens to be a sad post about a surge in owl deaths near a particular stretch of road.

If it wasn’t an owl pellet, what could it have been?

The Barn Owl Online Survey website of the UK states: “Fox faeces are quite often found in farm buildings. Because they often contain hair and sometimes bone they can be confused with owl pellets (their smell becomes much less noticeable as they dry).”

I’ve had plenty of experience finding poops in the wild. This was no poo! I’m much more inclined to believe it was a coughed up hairball. The size of it means it was definitely not of the domestic cat species. Then I remembered what we were researching before the global COVID19 pandemic hit. Lycanthropes!

Since stories never go into detail about the pathology of werewolves other than they shapeshift and how that process might work, there’s nothing easily available for the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency to go on. We had to pioneer theories about Werewolf Hairballs. Feel free to name your indie band that.

michael sheen werewolf

Over the days of this quarantined week, Oliver, Gus, and I spent some time going over hypotheses and looking for connections. There’s a condition in humans called trichobezoars. You’ve perhaps learned of the bezoar through an episode of House or from one of the Harry Potter books.

“A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons.”
—Severus Snape

Centuries ago, people were given balls of animal matter to swallow when they’ve been poisoned. I guess the hope was that the bezoar would sponge up the poisons and be expelled. However, in some real cases, not only on House, a bezoar can form on its own inside the digestive tract and require surgery to be removed. It was given the nickname The Rapunzel Syndrome when cases were discovered of hair inside humans running from the stomach through the small intestine and sometimes as far as the colon. To give you some scope, the small intestine of an adult human is about twenty feet long. It sounds like a Joe Hill horror comic to me.

The Mayo Clinic has this information:

Bezoars are classified according to the material that forms them:

  • Phytobezoars are composed of indigestible food fibers, such as cellulose. These fibers occur in fruits and vegetables, including celery, pumpkin, prunes, raisins, leeks, beets, persimmons and sunflower-seed shells. Phytobezoars are the most common type of bezoar.
  • Trichobezoars are composed of hair or hair-like fibers, such as carpet or clothing fibers. In severe cases, known as “Rapunzel’s syndrome,” the compacted fibers can fill the stomach with a tail extending into the small intestine. Rapunzel’s syndrome is most common in adolescent girls.
  • Pharmacobezoars are composed of medications that don’t properly dissolve in the digestive tract.

In the “Adverse Events” episode of House, the patient played by Breckin Meyer, suffered from the pharmacobezoar type.

gilded bezoar
Bezoar mounted in gold filigree, 4th quarter of the 17th century, from Goa (India). Now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

 

If swallowing a bezoar to cure your ailment isn’t your thing, perhaps turning one into a table decoration or piece of jewelry is more your style.

Oliver in his carriage

“I think we’ve stumbled onto something never before documented. Damn! We’re so good at this.” Oliver sat erect on the observation deck in between planters of sprouting cat grass. He continued, “From what I can tell, the lycanthrope groomed itself thoroughly, probably after a substantial few meals. When it transformed back into human form, it coughed up this specimen of a hairball. That was probably quite a painful blockage in the digestive tract.”

“I’m hungry.”

“Gus, how can you be hungry after this discussion?”

Gus with food
“What? I’m still hungry.”

Case Findings:

This rather gross discovery of a hairball, approximately five inches in length, came from one of the recent lycanthropes released into our woods by that New Yorker fellow.

Case Status: Closed

 

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