Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Four:
Case File No. 39-195
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Where We Left Off:
Oliver Winchester performed an experiment based on the groundhogs’ ability to predict weather.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close:
I can’t believe I kept forgetting about the Mystery Key Case! This was perplexing. It meant studying up on New Jersey geography and revisiting some Old World magick.
I took a trip to the lovely little town of Clinton which hugs a branch of the Raritan River. I had been working there in the art museum teaching yoga during their closed hours before COVID-19. In Clinton, there’s a nice health food store there and my favorite coffee place, Citispot. I stocked up at Basil Bandwagon, ran some other errands, and went home to take Gus out. Gus was being his usual impatient self. I took the groceries out of my bags and found a key on a blue lanyard which was most certainly not mine.
The lanyard is made out of woven cotton and had four letters in white typeface: UCHS. I put it on the dining room table for Gus to smell with his SuperSmeller. While he was doing that, I called the health food store and asked if the young man working the cash register accidentally dropped it into my bag. He said it wasn’t his and asked his co-workers. They called me back and none of them had lost a key, but they were going to hang up a flier in case it came from a customer. I asked Oliver to begin his research into this unexpected artifact.
I started to make a mental list of all the places I had gone, places my bag might have been, and places the car itself had gone without assuming all of these would necessarily be the same. I also thought about the possibilities of doing a magickal locator spell. The only thing is, the way that works is to utilize a pendulum over a map. Who (besides my father) still has paper maps? A modern spell worker has to adapt to modern methods.
Lucky for me, I have the internet and a smart phone. Believe me, not everyone does; or rather, if they do, they don’t know how to use either. There are still some people holding out on the conveniences of a smart phone and I respect their desire to be unplugged. I’m not one of those people obviously; although I do expect people to have respect business hours even in an unorthodox business like yoga or writing.
Oliver and Gus met up to compare notes while I was working on the spell. I held the key on the lanyard as the pendulum since it was conveniently assembled as one. No need for a terminated crystal on a chain or ribbon. Now that’s what I call practical magic (rimshot!). Instead of a paper map, I opened my phone to the map app.
The key dangled above the map presently set at our office location. The key began to move in straight swings rather than circles. I moved the map to whichever way “forward” was as it swung. The key took me east then north. It began to spin in a circle over the area of New Jersey separated from New York City by the Hudson River. The swinging key smacked against the invisible boundary of the digital river. The origin of the key had to be in one of those cities. We are desperately in need of contacts at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense located in Newark.
Gus and Oliver came back with their input. First of all, they told me not to be an idiot and to do an internet search on the letters UCHS. The first hits were Union City High School which happens to be in the northeast part of the state. It didn’t sit right with me. How would a high school student from way out there have access to my car? And, what the hell would they do with it if their motive wasn’t to simply steal it? The body panels don’t match. One tire continuously leaks. It’s loaded up with stuff of mine that I can’t find any other place to store. It goes from A to B, has air conditioning, and the after market stereo that I’ve put in my last two cars. I’m lucky to have it and I would not want it stolen.
“Do you guys have anything useful to add to the case besides mocking me?” They looked at each other then back at me. I guess I had to accept their idea of humor.
At least Gus and Ollie agreed with me that my car had not been taken on a joyride by some kid seventy miles away and then returned, but the northeast location was connected to the case in some way according to the spell’s results.
“The Butler did it.” Oliver was looking down at the key on the floor in the middle of our small circle when he iterated that poignant thought.
“Oliver, be serious.” I thought he was joking. It turns out he wasn’t. Oliver had figured out part of the case based on what Gus’ SuperSmeller deduced.
“Gus said that he detected various grimy substances on the lanyard.”
“Yes, I did. I detected motor oil, antifreeze, and other greases that would be used in a garage. I’ve become quite familiar with those from my work with The Grumpy Old Man. By the way, he’s still mad that there are mice living in his workspace.”
“That’s your job, Gus, not Oliver’s.” Before I continued to derail the subject matter, I had to point that out.
I held up the key by the lanyard. Gus leaned in to sniff it and Oliver smacked it. We’re not sure exactly what happened, but Oliver’s smack must have tapped a secret button or latch on the key somewhere. It opened up like a Transformer and took on a new form. It was still a key, but it was a strange one.
“Do you think our friends Louie or Simon could help us with this case?” They were only cats I could think of further east than we are, but neither were located northeast. Louie moved recently to a different part of the state. Simon was southeast but he could likely access the general area we needed by train.
“Our friend Simon Squishypaws does not leave his house and you know that. Even long before the pandemic. He’s not that kind of feline.” Oliver looked disappointed that I even suggested it.
It seemed obvious to me that we could simply asked Simon’s human companion, Erica Schultz. I guess the cats wanted to keep things away from humans whenever possible. I admit, humans are stellar at fucking shit up in the world. I guess with the Plague Times it’s safer for everyone to stay home. Oliver continued explaining about his revelation from earlier.
The Butler had taken this car to be serviced somewhere around the Union City area. I had only been in that vicinity once before and was unaware that people mostly speak Spanish only. I learned that by making a fool of myself babbling on and on to a shopkeeper for two minutes before realizing she was perplexed. I’ve been playing with DuoLingo for a week so at least now I can order a ticket to Santiago (un boleto a Santiago). We asked the Butler if the key meant anything to him. No, of course. He said it wouldn’t belong to anyone at the garage either.
We were left with a strangely shaped key, the letters “UCHS,” and the report about the filth on the lanyard. At least we knew that the car had been taken to the geographic area revealed by the spell. Using a magnifying glass, I could see the details etched into the key better. It didn’t appear to be purely decorative. Oliver took a closer look and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I held the key and it stayed still. Oliver tapped it again and the key returned to a normal looking house key. He tapped again and it unfolded into that other strangely shaped key.
The magical key could only be used by cats! Oliver read the script carving. “Property of the United Cats of the Hemsut Society.”
“What’s Hemsut? It sounds Egyptian, not Spanish.” I was no linguistics expert, but I’ve seen enough Discovery Channel specials on ancient Egypt to have an idea of how the names sound.
“Right you are. Hemsut is a goddess. A goddess of fate and protection, in fact.” Oliver walked around me and Gus while he described this quixotic society of cats. I was relieved he knew something about it, but seriously, he probably read it on Wikipedia.
Thank goodness that was resolved. Ancient Egyptians loved cats. Sometimes they loved them a little too much and would kill a cat to be mummified with its human companion. Not cool. Now we know who the key belongs to and figure out the safest way to return it.
A mysterious key was discovered in one of the cars. Only the cats were able to activate its magical properties. We worked together to find out that it is the property of a society of cats who worship the ancient Egyptian goddess, Hemsut.
Case Status: Closed