Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Five:

Case File No. 47-255

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AMBER LOVE 04-APR-2022 Find out how all this began. Catch up on Year One, Year Two, Year Three, Year Four and previous Year Five 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 PayPal.me.


Where We Left Off:

We were shocked to discover an infamous criminal standing in our kitchen.

Room:

Gus and Oliver got to resume their outdoor adventures for a while, but then the spring weather got peculiar. Instead of spring rain to make the flowers bloom, it’s been a lot of gusty wind and occasional snow squalls. The ups and downs of the weather confuse the cats. As soon as they get used to loading up with gear, something interrupts their routine. For Gus, it’s annoying that my schedule is not firmly the same every day. Having some days too cold for outdoor investigations really pisses him off.

There are definite signs of wildlife returning. Robins have been sighted. We’ve also seen piles of poop – so far it’s been the unmistakable raisinette drops of the Jersey devil-deer who are around all winter based on the tracks we follow. The volkolaks  and bears seem to have returned although we haven’t personally witnessed them. Someone has been stealing the birdseed. The feeder is a mangled cage with a door barely hanging on. Squirrels could easily take the brick of seeds, but it’s possible that it’s someone in the bear family.

Gus outside

The Grumpy Old Man had to replace the cover for the mobile command unit at the beginning of winter. Of course it ripped immediately while he was putting it on. Fortunately for Gus, there is a zipper to access the door. He routinely inspects the undercarriage for mice, but he doesn’t consider it a complete inspection if he doesn’t get to go inside. A few times I’ve managed to open the door enough for Gus to fit through it. It’s also noteworthy that he confidently jumps up without the stairs when he must, but other times when he needs to be up on something he’s a whiny baby. I only got the door open enough to fit myself through on one occasion so far.

All the glue traps (gross, I hate them) were empty, but Gus was hyper-aroused. He wanted to get into every nook and cranny of the kitchen. I’m extremely lucky that I did not need to call the Grumpy Old Man to dismantle the very nice wooden cabinets because Gus found a secret spot. There was no way for me to access it.

old movie secret room behind bookcase

Here’s what happened: He was in the cabinets under the sink. He maneuvered his way around all the stuff stored in there. I tapped on the flashlight of my phone to check all the dark shadows for squatters and evidence. In his excitement, Gus noticed a few inches of open space where the inside of the cabinet does not go up all the way. Yes, Gus decided to let his Super Smeller lead him over the hurdle and down into the secret room.

Star Wars spice runner

I couldn’t reach him. I looked all around the cabinets, opened doors and drawers, and there was no logical way to get to that small room. Why is it there? The cabinets could have been made to extend back there although it would be difficult to reach. One would have to essentially crawl through the cabinet to get to it. But there could have been a door built into the other side for access. When dealing with tiny quarters, every square inch of space counts.

“Gus? Gus? Gus!” I said. His reflective eyes caught the bouncing light of my phone.

“What?”

“What’s down there? Are you stuck? Can you get out?” I was trying to convince my brain that at worse, the cabinet would need to be broken to rescue Gus; but also, I was trying to tell myself that my brain was going into panic mode before there was an actual problem. He responded and he was moving freely. Good news, he wasn’t stuck.

Gus is familiar with squeezing himself into the mobile command unit’s cramped spaces. I’ve caught brief glimpses into his snooping on camera like this moment in the rafters from 2020:

 

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“One thing at a time, woman. Let me look around,” Gus said.

I attempted to wedge my big human body into the cabinet and get my big human head in a position to look over the side wall of the cabinet’s innards. It was not working. Elastigirl, I am not.

“Gus, do you think the Grumpy Old Man knows about this secret room?”

“I doubt it,” he squawked up from the darkness. “He knows more about this mobile unit than anyone else, but this probably escaped his attention.”

I was squished on the floor because the extending section that makes the trailer extra wide was collapsed in while it was closed up for the season. The table was in the way so I tilted it against the cushioned bench seating area. I felt like I was the one trespassing not the mice. The place was cleaned thoroughly but in disarray because of the lack of space. If someone had seen me, they’d assume I was hiding back there on the floor blocked from view by cabinets.

“Okay, I’m coming out,” I finally heard Gus say.

“Are you even sure you can get out of there?”

I think Gus surprised himself as much as me when he scaled the cabinet wall and heaved himself through the gap on the first try. No need to dismantle the place! What a relief!

Scroll through the Instagram slides to see the videos shot on the scene that day:

 

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He decided we were all done in there and we exited the MCU. Gus thought he wanted to continue exploring for evidence outside, but I suggested eating lunch. Sometimes that’s all it takes. “You want to go eat?” He redirected himself and jogged down the hill until he reached the back door.

Once inside and fed, we were able to get together with Oliver for a meeting. Gus relayed all the facts to his partner while I changed out of my outside clothes into something more comfortable (usually pajamas or leggings). It was officially No Bra O’Clock.

Gus outside

“I need treats before wrapping up this meeting,” Oliver insisted.

“Seriously, man? Just tell me what you’ve figured out. Then you get the treats,” I said.

“This mobile command unit was previously owned,” Oliver said. “I believe there’s something the original owner didn’t mention to The Grumpy Old Man when he chose it.”

“Uh oh,” Gus and I said in unison.

Case Findings:

According to Oliver’s research through vehicle identification records, the original owner was tracked down. He doesn’t have a large online presence, but made a few videos from when he purchased the unit. He said he had “big retirement plans” in mind. In one video, he alluded to there being many compartments — not all of them obvious.

Gus asked if there was any evidence of what that man kept in the secret spot. Ollie could only make educated guesses: smuggling small illegal goods; hiding a personal drug stash or paraphernalia; or hiding cash. The worst theory was that a child could fit in there. That would be too much for us to handle. I’d want it off the estate immediately and burned. Luckily, Gus and his keen Super Smeller did not detect the presence of any human. If someone had been stashed inside, there’d be a strong chance that human waste would be present even after cleaning it up. Gus would know. He said it wasn’t used for that.

Case Status: Closed

 

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