Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Four:

Case File No. 23-179

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AMBER LOVE 19-OCT-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:

Gus’ violent side came out a few times and in two of those circumstances, he ran off with baby wolpertingers clutched in his jaws. Both creatures were rescued and released.


The Thief

By the time this case file posts, we’ll be into New Jersey’s black bear hunting season. I worry for the sweet bear I’ve named Arkadi who comes to visit. One of my bosses looks forward to shooting two of the several bears in his baited orchard (at least he eats them). I miss seeing Pedals the Bipedal bear in headlines (to whom Bear Roots is dedicated). Then I think about all the lives lost in the west coast wildfires and it’s hard not to feel anything other than misery.

Arkadi has visited several times. I’ve only seen him or her (I’m thinking male now due to no babies and always being solo) a few of those times. On August 21, Gus and I had the most incredible up close experience when Arkadi came through the yard while we were in the ferns of the fairy garden. I thought Gus might run back to me, but he didn’t. The first encounter there, Gus hunkered down low while I tried to be as still as possible. It was surreal. The bear or volkolak didn’t want anything to do with us. He wasn’t interested in the snacks and walked through to cross the busy street as he usually does to head down to the steep forest hill to the houses and the pond that way.

I kept thinking I was taking photos, but I had the phone’s camera set on video and ended up with several one-second clips. I did better using the video and then taking screenshots from that. My mind was not still like my body. I wrestled with the desire to feel the experience and be present with also wanting to capture the moment “on film” for memories. The desires felt equally matched. I try not to get upset when I miss a shot like noticing I hadn’t been taking photos the whole time.

Then I think of the monks. I don’t know who they are actually. I’ve seen videos of Buddhist monks creating elaborate mandalas out of colored sand. When they’re finished with a mesmerizing shape, they dump it over and it’s gone. They appreciate the moment being over without the pull of clinging to something beautiful. If you’ve ever managed to create something on an Etch-a-Sketch (I have not) but then want to make something new, you understand this process. Likewise, I’ve watched many painters take portraits they created and paint right over them as if the canvas is a blackboard for temporary communication.

How do they do it? In yoga, it’s called aparigraha — non-clinging or non-attachment. And damn, I find it hard.

Only winning the lottery for hundreds of millions would beat that morning. We also saw a fox cross the driveway!

The only time I ever pulled my gun was when I didn’t know anything about bears. We had outside barn cats and I was so afraid a bear was going to kill one of them. We saw how they could smack birdfeeders like a ball and I pictured that being my little cat. I was so scared for her. She was smaller than the spherical birdfeeder that had once hung on a clothesline before a black bear smacked it down and broke it for the treats inside. I did not want my little girl cat to turn into a soccer ball for a bear.

Now: I’m way more informed. Gus was at the back of the garden and laid down low watching every move. I was standing behind the fairy house tree stump, plainly visible. I had placed bird seeds in a small pile on the garden wall about 10 feet from me and Arkadi didn’t even check it out. He had better things to do.

The interaction also it proved that even when something is literally right in front of me, I can’t get a focused photo.

On September 1, our experience was different. Arkadi the volkolak came over for a yummy breakfast of suet and seeds (which sounds gross to me). This was much farther away than last time but don’t worry – my pictures are just as blurry as ever! I can’t let you down with suddenly getting things to focus.

Gus and I were by the lilac bush that borders the private road by the space where my car is parked. When the bear turned away, I poked out from behind the bush to take the pictures and told Gus to stay by me. Did he? Not this time! It’s so normal for Gus to be so close that he’s between my feet or touching my ankle. I had dropped his leash figuring Gus knew what the best course of action for him was. This time he decided to walk up the hill and go under the Grumpy Old Man’s truck. A safe spot, but really Gus?

He was so casual and slow getting there with his leash dragging behind him. I directed my attention back to Arkadi once I knew Gus was somewhere safe. After one good pull on the birdfeeder, Arkadi was able to gobble up the seed cake in one bite. It must have been tasty. Then he walked away and I couldn’t see where exactly. I made my way to the truck and Gus was “too busy working” to come out. He eventually did and kept smelling traces of the dogs who had visited recently. For some reason, Gus felt that scent trail was a more important priority than keeping an eye out for whether Arkadi had gone through the junkyard and might possibly be right in our faces at any second. Alas, the bear creature did not take that route and I suspect he went through the bushes or one of the trails.

Between these events, Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died. It was awful. I had no idea he had been sick for years. Most people didn’t know which is fine. It wasn’t our business. I put the Black Panther bow tie on Gus and he actually kept it on inside the house for hours until The Cook thought it was in his way and removed it.

That day, the Butler was online with a gang of reformed super villains. He was seated in the room that’s part art gallery, part craft room, and part cat room (litterbox zone). I heard him yelling and wasn’t sure if it was something I should pay attention to or if he was being exuberant on the video chat. He came down to find us and said Arkadi had just stolen the mini picnic table I got for the critters! Dammit. I had taken one of the new suet feeders and wrapped the chain around the little table so that the squirrels wouldn’t make off with the entire thing. Instead the volkolak did. Dammit dammit!

Gus at window

The Butler said the bear took the feeder and table and walked away across the yard and into the woods. He looked for it later, but since it was still lush, there was no easy way to find it. I suspect that Gus and I will come across it at some point over the winter when we take our bigger expeditions up the mountain.

Case Findings:

Arkadi continues to visit for now. We are hoping that the hunters don’t get him. The volkolak has been looking for certain kinds of snacks apparently since there were loose seeds within easy reach for him and he chose to ignore them. The stolen picnic table and cage style feeder may eventually be found.

Case Status: Closed

(Amber’s other favorite Arkady is Shawn Doyle in End Game)

TV show Endgame

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