Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Two: Case File No. 43-95
AMBER LOVE 11-MAR-2019 Catch up on Year One and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. 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.
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Where We Left Off
The squirrels from the north-western woods formed a team we’ve decided to call the Leverage squirrels. They work meticulously together stealing bird seed.
The Great Spy Chase
It’s getting harder to convince Gus that he does not own the mountain property behind ours. He’s ballsy though neutered. He has no qualms about racing up the hill and walking around the porches of the cottage which does not belong to us. He also loves to explore under the big porch. I’ve followed him under there and it is rather spacious. I expected it to be dark and terrifying with glowing eyes of raccoons popping from the shadows.
Perhaps you recall how I described our neighbors up the mountain: the wife was the nicer of the two; the husband was known to be a complete grouch his entire life and was hated by his students who considered him abusive. Before the age of cell phone cameras and surveillance inside schools, there were only stories and hearsay. I have always wondered about his career path as a teacher because he seemed to hate children.
While Gus and I were under the porch, we discovered two ceramic pieces on different days. I think it’s entirely possible that things were once set on the porch’s wide railing when strong winds could have pushed them over the side. We’ve had all kinds of garbage in our yard because of the winds. Being incredibly old and feeble, if something blew off their porch, they would not have gone to retrieve it. Their handyman/groundskeeper could have, but he only did as directed which was probably the safest bet with those folks.
I collected the ceramic pieces and returned to the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency so they could be examined further. Professor Oliver Winchester was elated that I did. He ordered me to wash off the dirt and let him take a closer look. They weren’t that dirty to be honest. Neither were buried or positioned into the soil. They were simply on top as if they had been knocked down without being further handled.
The first piece is not as interesting. It’s a broken chunk of blue ceramic which appears to have been rectangular originally. It has a grooved design. What perplexes Oliver and me is that we can’t figure out what the full shape was based on how the breaks in it appear. At first, I wondered if it had been some kind of planter, but I honestly can’t tell. I began the internet searches by decade to see if I could identify this piece. After checking through 1980s and ’90s ceramics on etsy, eBay, and 1stdibs, I got nowhere. I went back and looked through 1970s ceramics. I decided whatever year this blue piece came from, it was likely to be mass manufactured and cheap. Kovels.com is a great site to check if you can see the pottery marker but need more identification. In this case, we don’t have any kind of label. The color is cobalt blue with a shiny gloss finish; the breaks are ecru, barely dirty.
Moving on to the second piece which is far more interesting. It’s shaped like a deer, antler-less so we’ll say a doe. For some reason, it’s got a light blue blanket or some kind of rectangular covering along its back. The color is white with pink inside the ears. The hooves are painted black. The eyes are large with long eyelashes. The base of it is curved indicating that it was likely a handle to something like a mug, bowl, planter, or curved lid. The inside of the break is fairly dirty, however the opposite side to the deer is also glazed.
The eyes are not consistently painted matching each other which gives the impression the painter was not a professional or it was something cheaply made assuming no one would care about this wonky eye. This design appears to be consistent with other animal ceramics of the 1960s.
You simply must revisit The Haunting of Hill House Case File No. 05-57 to read about the white azaleas. There was an alarming interpretation in the language of flowers that said white azaleas are also associated with death threats. This old couple were practically hermits. Other than being not-especially-nice, we couldn’t discern what would warrant death threats. Then the Grumpy Old Man of our detective agency told us how Mr. and Mrs. J began a feud with their one-time friend, Mr. S.
Mr. S took care of the widest trail and even bought a small chunk of the land from Mr. and Mrs. J. As far as personalities go, I never found Mr. S to be a pleasant man at all, but my father got along with him great. There was somewhat of a Curmudgeon Club, I guess.
As Oliver researched the history between the S and J families, he realized it was a little like the Hatfields and McCoys. One small little thing ended a long friendship. Oliver poked through some of his Top Secret files and came across some papers where only part of the information on them was redacted by a black marker. Seeing anything redacted sends up his whiskers and means to keep digging.
According to Oliver, Mr. and Mrs. J were assets for the US government a long time ago when they lived in New York City. They gave up that life — or rather tried to escape it — when they moved out here at a time before all this suburban development. Mr. S never fully knew the secret past of his friends, but he tried to put the pieces together. Unfortunately, that led him down the wrong train of thought. He thought they were Russian spies which was the real reason their friendship ended and not because they told him to stay off their trails.
Where does the porcelain come into all this? I’ll get there. Mr. S died in 2012. He was survived by a whole lot of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Oliver has a theory that one of these survivors might have been told about Mr. and Mrs. J being spies and the myth that they were agents for the enemy rather than for the US. As a warning, someone aimed a shotgun up to the house on the hill even knowing no one was on the porch. The mystery shooter managed to hit a couple of planters from the porch railing and knocked them down. Most of the pieces were cleaned up, but the ones underneath the porch weren’t spotted and left there which is how Gus and I found them.
Oliver doesn’t believe there will be any more trouble.