Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 21-125
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Where We Left Off:
In our last case, we tried to identify the species of wild cat we discovered lurking in the neighborhood.
On our patrols and investigations, the cats and humans here are used to certain kinds of discoveries. We’ve found glass, pottery, and way more plastic than I’d ever like to see; we find fabric scraps from torn items, toys, and more organic parts like bones and feathers. I’ve come across hair twice that I recall and it was clearly from the same creature — the samples were found in close proximity and were consistent in length, texture, and coloring. Hair, as far as our evidence collections go, is that rare. You can imagine my surprise when I was with Gus in the edge of the junkyard and looked down to find an unusual scattering of clumps of hair.
I would describe it as extremely soft, longer than Gus or Ollie’s hair (definitely shorter than mine), and with an interesting neutral gradient of colors. I noted ashy white, grey, black, and tan-rust. None of the feline creatures we’ve spotted have this kind of coloring. A fox would, but since I’ve never had the privilege to pet one I don’t know what the texture is like. I took photos but didn’t take samples for our evidence catalog. Oliver let me have it about that. I wasn’t in the mood to bag up dewy hair samples and carry it around. I suppose I should have though. Don’t worry. A couple days later, I went back to retrieve the little bit I could find remaining after the lawn had been mowed.
Gus has only had limited contact with other animals. He said the hair reminded him of his step-brother Rocky (RIP). I thought about that and Gus was right. Rocky was a Shetland sheepdog with long hair. It was part of his regular grooming for him to get haircuts which meant that his hair could be just about any length other than very short.
To my knowledge, Gus hasn’t gotten that close to a fox, kitsune, wolpertinger, or even a Jersey devil-deer. He has come close to baby bunnies of the eastern cottontail variety. He’s definitely made himself familiar with rodentia and birds. Oliver leads an even more sheltered life. He’s only met a few dogs. He’s caught mice inside. Other than that, he hasn’t had personal contact with any other animals or creatures.
I opened this new case file, but we don’t have too much to go on in order to identify what this hair came from and if there was a crime committed. The strange array of clumps on the soggy ground definitely seemed suspicious. I had to log anything significant about the area:
- the chimney/stovepipe of the wood stove inside the workshop was dismantled; its contents were emptied on the same side of the building as where we found the hair. The stovepipe itself had been moved to the opposite side for disposal.
- the immediate area was covered in the contents of the stovepipe: all the brush that birds had collected for their nests (they had left before the dismantling); we found a few feathers.
- the stovepipe was in bad shape so there were some bits of metal around.
- one of the many lawnmowers was parked.
- the junk that’s been there for years was still there.
That summed up anything we could possibly think of as unusual for the area. The junk occasionally changes and is replaced with other junk. But generally speaking, these things aren’t that notable unless they’re missing and a space is cleaned.
We gathered in the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency offices and brainstormed what kind of animals could have hair so much like that of a sheltie. Goats have rougher texture hair. They have been seen in a nearby farm area but have never been spotted in our neighborhood. Bobcats have certain areas of their bodies where their fur is longer. Coyotes probably don’t have bits of tan or rust in their coats. Raccoons have bushy tails, but we don’t have experience touching them either.
Then I got to thinking about way back in the 1980s when I had a longhaired black cat. She was truly all black unlike Binx, who sprouted only a few random stray white hairs, and Gus, who has two white domino spots. Lady Claire was completely black in all her melanin glory. She also became an outdoor-only barn cat. Because of her long coat’s exposure to the sunlight, it faded like anything would. She had a brownish appearance in the sunlight. Yet if you inspected her up close, you’d easily she that she was a black cat with gradients throughout the hair strands. It’s like furniture and carpeting that are exposed to sun in one half of a room making everything uneven in color over time.
Could the rusty coloring be something as easily explained as sun lightening?
Oliver looked at the photos and immediately agreed that it was suspicious. He strongly felt someone had been mauled there. We never found a body though. Corpus delicti? (Okay, so in the office I kept saying, “Habeas corpus!” which means produce the body, but Oliver smirked and pointed out I had the wrong Latin. Thanks, Prof.) Corpus delicti — the more familiar crime drama catchphrase, “No body? No crime.” You have to prove that a crime has been committed if you’re going to accuse someone of it.
“The corpus delicti of a crime simply consists of the fact that the crime in question has been committed by someone; specifically, the corpus delicti of murder is established if the evidence shows the death of a human being caused by the criminal act of another, and the State is not required to produce the body or remains of the decedent.” McDuff v. State, 939 S.W. 607 (1997)
Despite the absence of a body, the hair discovered at the scene can count as remains or at least as evidence that something violent happened at the end of the junkyard. It was violent enough for the hair to end up in clumps and scattered around an area about three-feet by one-foot. It doesn’t seem logical that someone was getting a beauty treatment and new hairdo in that location.
Since I did eventually hike back and retrieve samples of the hair, Oliver was able to analyze it properly. It was shocking that the test results showed a presence of sulfur, also known as brimstone. Meaning, brimstone of the dark part of the underworld some people refer to as Hell. It may be a place where some demonic creatures are born, but they don’t exclusively come from there as we have shown in other cases. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find a gate to Hell in New Jersey. I mean really — it’s kind of obvious this would be a likely place. We’ve researched the gates of Hell unofficially for the Vodka O’Clock podcast.
After analysis, Oliver and Gus believe that the hair came from a hellhound. We speculate that it may have encountered the wild cat hybrid investigated in our previous case, the black pumapard or the black pancelot; or perhaps the entanglement was with one of the much larger, full-blooded Jersey devils not the peaceful devil-deer.