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The Great Nut HeistFrom the Tales of F.E. Lyon: P.I.
By Stephen Brand
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Stephen Brand
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Problem
It was a mystery putting the neighborhood animals in a quandary. I, however, was the most inquisitive in finding the nut-stealing culprit.
But first let me rattle you as to who I am. My name is F.E. Lyon and I'm a private investigator to the animal kingdom in these parts.
I'm a cat of all colors and apparently nine lives, though we won't discuss the time the snake almost got me. The mirror says I'm yellow and white, the vet says I'm a Tabby and have a pretty face. I say I'm just pretty.
Now on to the puzzle of who is grabbing all the food?
Before sunrise one morning, my Master let me outside and I was sifting about, as I always do. The familiar surroundings awaited a tasty bounty that would hopefully stir around the next corner. The full moon deliciously gave perfect sunlight for anything daring my wrath. The calm breezes enabled me to search for snacks in pleasure. Lest you forget many other predators are also involved in a morning hunt.
That same day, Master put out a lot of rotten pecans on the driveway for the animals in the neighborhood to eat. I don't care much for pecans, so it was no big deal to me. Until, they started evaporating so fast.
Anyway, off in the distance I see two squirrels, who I know are conniving a plan to avoid my haunt. They are painfully aware that if I see them I'd stalk their every move. I pretended they weren't there.
The traveling wind blew their conversation within earshot as they nervously watched my moves.
"That darn cat thinks he's the real meow," said the largest squirrel Sam. "Hey, have you guys noticed that Sorry hasn't been around lately?"
The smallest squirrel, Hooch, 'cause he'll drink anything, nodded, "Yep, I noticed. I bet Dipwad ate him, too!"
You see, Dipwad is what I hear the critters in the neighborhood have named me. No worries, sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
I couldn't help but grin thinking about tasty ole' Sorry. See, there is this small fenced-in area on one side of my owner's house. Inside this section is a short tunnel leading to my private cat door. If Sorry had snooped any further he may have discovered my entrance then crept inside to find my food and water bowl – which resides inside what I call the junk room. The junk room leads into my owner's bedroom. So the truth is that I had to eat him, for two reasons. First, I had to protect my secret door, and second I had to protect my master's house. Don't think boss would want to find wayward critters inside his house.
Sometimes I'm not so sure he wants me in there.
Morris, a cat friend of mine - of which I don't have many – told me Sorry got his name because every time he comes near the other squirrels he apologizes for something. That is so lame. What a wimp! The only time I'll apologize is when my owner finds I've dragged a bird into the house. I know that isn't cool but sometimes it's as if the silly things want to go inside the house, so I just help 'em along. And once inside, all is fair in love and, well, the opportunity to get zesty morsels of anything edible.
I lurked closer to the gathered squirrels to better hear the conversation.
"One of these days Pete is gonna catch that furry little monster sleeping and put a scratching to his hide," said Sandy the middle-sized squirrel with a smile. "You know Pete hates that little fur ball!"
"Hey, keep it down, you know how well cats hear," said Sam.
Now I know Pete the possum and he ain't no prize. And what kind of name is Pete anyway? He simply dislikes me because he and the other peeps know I'm the king of the jungle around these parts. I do, however, respect Pete's claws and the fact he thinks he could take me in a dark alley, or so I've heard through the grapevine.
Meanwhile, the non-thrilling threesome follow each other up a tree and onto the wire running high in the air along the fence between two backyards – one of which belongs to my owner.
I think squirrels parade above ground to rub in to everyone else, except for birds, that their tight-roping ways are somehow proof they are superior. Big whoop! I could skinny a wire if I wanted!
Oh well, now back to what's taking the frost off the pumpkin as I scour the yard for mindless prey. I stumble onto the area in question. The same spot my owner laid out a ton of those old pecans a week or so ago. That stash had to be as tall as me back then. I think he did it to help bait the squirrels for my consumption. Every animal in the hood, according to the rumor mill, thinks my boy did out of the kindness of his heart to feed the needy. Maybe they're right. He knows I don't fancy pecans.
Anyhoo, the problem is that occasionally a nut of some kind helps me wash down squirrel, mouse or bird. The problem dive-bombing me into an uproar is that every day that pile gets smaller by leaps and bounds. Darn it all, I want to know who is hogging the nuts!
After a long day of scampering in and out of the house, lounging around taking catnaps and just playing with anything that moves, I've just polished off a siesta while snuggled up to my owner, who always takes a rest in the afternoon. He must be tired, too. Maybe he's part cat?
I'm now ready for my early-evening trawl and mosey outside to find the surviving leaves had already shadowed the yard and the sun deeply lost behind the horizon.
I'm just feet away from the house only to find Scarlet the skunk – which I call Scarface - of playful wit and nameless origin, hiding 30 feet away. I was also unaware she hadn't eaten much the past few days.
Her eyes weary, her energy low and her disposition a little lacking in zeal, Scarlet was in no mood to tolerate my disrespect for her as a predator. I admit that if it isn't about me then worry not. This time I should've taken notes.
"Hey Dipwad," Scarlet says perturbed, "why don't you go take another nap in your so-called secret hiding place and leave me be!"
I continue wiping the sleep from my eyes as I labor around a tree to find Scarlet hidden behind a bush. Dipwad is the name tagged me by members of the weaker sex of the animal kingdom, which includes everybody but me. Hey, it's better than being called something much worse!
"What's wrong Scarface," a name given Scarlet because of the reminder left her by a stray dog one night, "you scared?"
Her tail wiggles as she raises her nose skyward, "I can't hear you, come a little closer."
I may be slow at times, but I ain't stupid.
"Yeah, and get a whiff of your stinky hide? No thanks!"
She writhes with disappointment but can't resist saying the inevitable.
"Sounds like you're scared?"
I smirk and tell her if I find her off guard then her life will be in jeopardy. I mean skunks taste like rotten feet, but I still have to keep up appearances by pointing a threat her way. I start to walk off thinking she just isn't worth the trouble.
"Hey," I say turning back around, "quit eatin' all the nuts!"
Scarlet's facial expression proves she must not know.
I stop, turn to face her and point toward a large tree near the back fence.
"What nuts? You know exactly what nuts I'm talking about. The ones my daddy left over there for all you heathens."
Again astonishment traps her face.
"Dipwad, if I knew nuts were under that tree I'd be under that tree, not around these looking for worms."
Well, reality lit me up like a new bulb 'cause now the field had narrowed by one on nut thief suspects.
"Okay, so it ain't you," I said, "so now you're warned so stay away from 'em or I'll have a little skunk with my midnight snack."
She backs up a little and spouts, "Hey, sourpuss, you still have those teeth marks on your neck from the little poodle?"
"Hey, that dwarf poodle was rabid and would have attacked anything in sight," I yelled.
"He wasn't rabid, he just seized an opportunity to knock you off your pedestal," Scarlet says with a joyful voice. "And hey, tough guy, you were bigger than he was! Ever tried eating only one pound a food a day?"
Well you can't argue with the truth and I couldn't think of a clever retort, so I thought I'd leave well enough alone and go my merry way. I did offer her a few choice words before leaving. Besides, she didn't know the truth behind my being so accessible to that poodle. I was drugged I tell ya!
After another endless day of playing gumshoe reporter, it was time to return to the cool interior and watch a little television with my owner – who always seemed to be watching something boring.
I was rounding the last corner of the house, when I stumbled upon three mid-sized dogs 40 feet away playing in the grass field next to my house. I looked again to notice they were the same ones that visit our neighborhood every now and again. One of them turns my way.
"Look fellas, it's poodle boy!"
The other two mongrels - one dark gray and the other tan – roll around laughing at my expense. Since these three haven't been known to attack anything larger than a leaf, I felt compelled to fire back.
"How's that gash doing? You know, the one I gave you a few weeks ago when you tried, yes tried, to chase me away from that scary little twig that fell out of the tree?
"What gash Spot," he answers while slowing his snicker. "The only mark you left came by your blood. I think it came from your foot."
They obviously didn't know about the claw I injured that week sharpening my dog getters. My owner was force-feeding me some sleepy-time medicine and applying ointment to my injury three times a day, so I wasn't exactly on my game then. Suffice to say my foot was really sore and my judgment was a little impaired there for a few days. Clouded even!
"Why don't you come over here and try again?" I said inching closer.
Tough guy didn't seem so giddy now, as he and the others darted off without a response.
"And keep your mitts off my pecans," I shouted as they ran down the street.
Little did I know Randy raccoon had watched the whole conversation from high on his perch – a branch in the tree that stood next to that small fenced area I had mentioned earlier. Thankfully, his position enables him from seeing inside the tunnel and my door.
"It wasn't them," said Randy, looking down at me.
"Well if it ain't the sissies of all raccoons," I said looking his way. "How do you know?"
"Because those guys haven't been around the last two weeks. I heard their owners were out of town and they had a stay at the vet."
Well isn't that a kick in the teeth, just when I thought I had shrunken the list of possible criminals.
"It isn't you, is it?" I mumbled.
Randy shakes his head, "I don't care much for nuts. I do, however, get a good feeling in my tummy after taking a bite out of a cat!"
"You may have the innate ability to open trash cans to eat anything and everything, even if it is something somebody threw up, but the chances of you taking a nibble off me are slim."
"Very funny," Randy spouts. "Besides, word's out you're the only one around here that eats everything, especially if it once breathed."
Excerpted from The Great Nut Heist by Stephen Brand Copyright © 2010 by Stephen Brand. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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