Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Four:

Case File No. 30-186

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AMBER LOVE 7-DEC-2020 Find out how all this began. Catch up on Year One, Year Two, and Year Three cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. Thank you for all your financial and social support! Oliver and Gus are looking forward to bringing you more fascinating discoveries and investigations into the chipmunk mafia, the blue jay gang, the neighborhood critters, and cryptid sightings.

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.


Where We Left Off:

The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency found a bone on the neighbor’s porch and researched the origin.


Backfire:

When Autumn Arrived:

October might feel like it was yesterday or a lifetime ago. The Cook and I were recently discussing that for us, time is flying by. For other people (probably those stuck at home with kids who don’t like online schooling), time is stagnant and life is upside-down. We had a fairly good October, all things considered. We bought a lot of pumpkins and a few chrysanthemums. The weather was nice so the cats were able to have their patrols. I even sent out some snail mail cards which I’m trying to do more often to support the USPS and because it’s cheerful to get something in the mail that isn’t campaign garbage, bills, or junk.

Gus and Ollie in dining room

October was also when I began testing Oliver with harness training. It seemed to be going really well until it turned into a hellish, traumatic disaster. I would have Ollie in his buggy which was his second favorite thing in the whole world next to The Cook. Then I would wrestle the harness onto him. Once settled outside, we were all so happy to see that Ollie’s buggy top could be opened like a convertible and watch him get this brand new perspective of the outdoors. He was loving it, but hating the whole harness and captivity thing. Mainly, he and Gus often fight over inside territory so now that Ollie was getting a taste for the outside (though still in the buggy), they went at each other viciously.

It was a horrible patrol after days of peaceful adventuring and exploring by the humans and the cats. Oliver hissed at me. Gus was close to the stroller — so being Gus and being the nosiest cat ever, he stood up to see why Oliver was hissing at his human partner. Ollie squirmed and wiggled and managed to get out of the stroller without his vest or anything. They fought, screamed, growled, hissed and ran. Oliver made it to the back door (I was glad he knew to go home) with Gus on his tail. The Cook quickly let Oliver back in the house and that was the end of Oliver enjoying his once beloved buggy.

For weeks, we’ve been trying to get him to resurrect that love he had for it like the day when it arrived. That unboxing was one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever seen in my life! Oliver knew instinctively that the brand new set of wheels was for him.

This side story is necessary to give you an idea of how great it was until I ruined it. While Ollie was tolerating the harness training but staying confined to his buggy, fall was in its full glory. The crispy leaves were coming down and that was one of the best days too. It was the first time I pulled back the roof of Ollie’s stroller and he got to watch the leaves fall for the first time ever (video above).

The Other Plague:

Since summer, this area was also plagued by more than the virus. We had red-spotted lantern bugs which used to be rarely seen here. Oliver wasn’t interested in unless one flew by on the balcony, but Gus was enjoying having a new thing to catch.

The Butler filled the back bird feeder and had Oliver nearby as usual. When the human noticed how many of the bugs were covering our special tree, he tried smashing as many as possible. Others he would knock off aggressively with a stick and Gus would catch them. This led to another new discovery: Gus thinks these lantern bugs are mighty tasty.

Following that week, Gus and I ended up in Bunny Hollow on the trail. There are some tiny trees that had been cut down after storms or because of their location like blocking the trail where the mower needs to go. I like the one tree stump to use as an alternative critter feeding station because it has an open area by the roots and different levels for the all the various critters to find a spot with treats.

There is a smaller stump or stumps down the trail. They’re cut close to the ground and make a V shape so I think they’re conjoined or one tree with two trunks. Gus and I noticed that these little stumps had suspicious burn marks! It was alarming! Who would be trying to set a fire in Bunny Hollow? I was mad and scared at the same time. What if that fire had lost control? We’ve all watched the west coast and how California especially was destroyed by fire.

burned tree stump

The Grumpy Old Man used to be the volunteer fire chief. He really only was a rig driver because that’s all he was interested in. But one year, he got to be chief until someone else was willing to do it. That might lead you to believe that he avoids stupid shit that could cause an uncontrollable fire. This is why I sought his help specifically when setting up the fire pit to boil bones over the large metal drum.

burned tree stumps

I took a couple photos for our case files. Oliver had already seen the burned stumps on one of his walks with The Butler so the photos did not take him by surprise. We had to come up with theories about what happened.

Theory #1:

A stranger came onto the land and carelessly set fire to the tree stumps. This seems unlikely even though it is possible. The area is accessible through the woods where hunters are allowed to go.

Theory #2:

Lightning. I’ve heard stories of trees being struck by lightning. We put it on the case board even though it was unlikely. All it took was five minutes of research to see that this is not how lightning would naturally behave. It would strike the tallest tree and then make a downward carved line to the ground. These were small cut stumps.

Theory #3:

The Grumpy Old Man noticed the stumps had a bunch of red-spotted lantern bugs and attacked them with a blowtorch. Not the hypothesis we wanted to think about. However, it was the most plausible.

Theory #4:

The stumps were covered in red-spotted lantern bugs which spontaneously combusted.

Theory #5:

Thor was nearby.

Case Findings:

After reviewing all that we had in the photographic evidence, we visited the stumps again. The three of us agree that this was probably the act of The Grumpy Old Man being overly aggressive in his technique to kill the bugs.

Case Status: Closed

Oliver on table by pumpkin

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