Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 48-152
AMBER LOVE 13-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.
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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:
Our last case took us back to some earlier discoveries of 2020, namely the presence of werewolves in northwestern New Jersey.
Tombs of the Blind Dead:
Fair warning, dear readers, this case is as gruesome as the last couple. It turned my stomach and that churning and lightheadedness lasted for hours. I found some relief in a natural ginger ale. When I was able to eat again, fortunately it was a wonderful vegan Asian take-out. I’ve pixelated some of the images and others will be hidden under a fold.
A Case During Quarantine:
I write this case file as the world is in quarantine unless you’re considered essential. It’s proving just how many of us aren’t and the degrees of variation: doctors to garbage workers. It’s also proving how many thousands of jobs can actually be done from home, but companies never wanted to offer it before. It’s a strange time. Streets of Paris are empty. Police in Spain stop on blocks and serenade people sheltered inside their homes. Yet, here in the US, stupid people are insisting on going to beaches where those governors haven’t shut them down. You can certainly keep distance on a sparsely populated beach, but that’s not really the point. The point is to limit contact. If one of these dopes stopped for gas on the way or took a plane, that adds to more people having have made contact with each other.
It’s an apocalypse. It’s been written about in science fiction forever. There are plenty of comics and shows that have storyboarded this very thing for us.
Gus still gets his patrols and adventures when the weather is nice. It probably does me a lot of good too. The air feels refreshing at 45-55 degrees. Buds and blossoms are beginning to show (and pollen!). Mother Earth is fighting her way through with these signs of life. Yet, somehow, in all this it feels as though we’re surrounded by death.
In one day, Gus and I had three wildlife interactions. I’ll tell the tales out of order and begin here with the most gruesome and mysterious of the lot. We were in Gnome Grove and headed north. The sun was out. Gus was in peak performance mode having already succeeded in one rescue operation. He walked ahead of me and paused for the slightest of seconds at a furry mound in a small clearing. Then he continued to the edge of the woods (fortunately staying where I could watch him).
I was shocked to see an immobile furry mound in the grass. I thought it was a huge squirrel that had lost a fight. Then I got close enough to see a face. Another eyeless face, staring back at me. I didn’t know what it was at first. I knew it was likely from the rodentia sciuridae family, but I emailed an expert to make sure. I speculated that it was a beaver, hence my bewilderment. I don’t know of beavers in this area where we only have small tributaries and ponds. Turns out, it is a groundhog.
Death seems to feel welcome here at the Winchester-Nabu estate. That’s fine. It’s a cycle of nature and the only off-putting part is the smell (and the bugs to be honest, they’re worse than the smell). I know lawn/trail mowing season will be starting, so as we find bodies or parts, they’ll have to be moved.
I gloved up and examined the remains at my feet. It was unusual in that so much of the skin with fur was intact, but it was only the front half of critter. The teeth are large and thick (why I thought it was a beaver). The remains include a head/skull and attached are the skin, fur, and paws of the front arms but no arm bones and very little muscle tissue.
All I could compare it to for describing would be a regalia headdress with skin. I came across videos of a Grizzly Bear woman doing a bear dance; her name is Laura John and her St’át’imc name is “Stálhalamcen — Grizzly Paws.”
There was no blood found on the scene leaving Gus and I to declare this as a secondary scene and not the site of the killing. Recently the turkey vultures had been trying to feed off the devil-deer carcass which is what we want them to do. The carcass is covered by chicken wire with the hopes that beaks can reach through the wide square openings and get what they need. I don’t think it’s working. I’m debating whether to remove the chicken wire. For now, it’s in place. One day, a scapula (shoulder blade) was in the middle of the trail so my concern about scavengers pulling the bones all over the place is substantiated. I still don’t want them getting hurt in the process of eating.
With my gloves on, I carried the new half-carcass to the site of the devil-deer and arranged it under the same chicken wire. The smell didn’t hit me until I was almost at the end of the trail near the devil-deer skeleton. I wasn’t bothered then except for turning my head to avoid the odor of decay. I gently worked the make-shift cage over both bodies. Gus came all the way over to observe. It was his first time going that far since the devil-deer had been moved there.
I took the necessary photos for reference and research to be done later. Gus and I stayed outside and I started to feel sick to my stomach. I was not enjoying the rest of the fresh air. I tried deep breathing hoping it would settle the churning, but it didn’t. Gus had another wildlife interaction and had zero interest in returning home. I had to though. The queasiness was not going away on its own.
Fortunately, once inside, there was one remaining bottle of the ginger ale. I prefer the sugary ginger ale to hot ginger tea. I showed the staff the photos and waited for Oliver to his own research. I had seen enough for one day. How is it possible that I love looking at the bones, but once there’s anything else attached, I have such a strong urge to vomit?
Our examination of the scene produces the conclusion that the groundhog remains were dropped rather than dragged to the discovery location. Vultures likely did it, though we’re not sure. Usually we see them dining in place whereas other birds might take their meal and fly away to eat alone. We have no identity of the victim and not much to go on.
Due to the odors of the devil-deer remains, it’s likely that the vultures and other aviary scavengers have determined this area a suitable place to drop off their food supply and come back to it later. Hopefully they aren’t angered that their feasts have been relocated to be further from the house.
Gus and I discovered that the groundhog was missing from the body farm area. The devil-deer remains had been disturbed also, but were in place. Gus went to the end of that trail at the intersection with another and found the groundhog remains. All that was left was the head. Those paws which had been perfectly intact were nowhere to be found. The head was returned to the body farm and placed next to the devil-deer skeleton again.
We still have no ID or personal information on this victim.
Gus and I patrolled for 90 minutes. In the early part of our shift, we spotted a vulture leaving the yard probably quite annoyed at our presence. Eventually we navigated through the terrain, even on some trails (yay, Gus!), back to the property, and then to the body farm. The groundhog head was once again missing. This time, it was nowhere in the immediately vicinity. We checked a couple of the nearby deer paths and couldn’t find it.
Case Status: Open