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TITLE: Detective Dawg and the Missing Apple
By Bryan Ridenour

This is an unpublished story for children of all ages...especially those in their mid elementary years. It would make a good picture book, as I can picture some really cool illustrations in my mind. This is one of several stories I have written about a Basset Hound and his detective agency solving crimes or mysteries that effect other animals on the Danworth Farm. This story has a closing theme of grace and forgiveness.
"Detective Dawg, Detective Dawg, are you awake?” asked a fluffy headed, energetic Scottish terrier.

“I am now, Rufus.” Rufus was his longtime friend and helper in the Detective Dawg Investigations’ Agency. Rufus helped solve mysteries, and Rufus’ pups examined evidence gathered at the crime scenes. There were hardly ever any so-called crimes on the Danworth Farm. The last offense had been several months ago when a wily red fox kept stealing the chickens’ eggs. This day, however, a crime had been committed, and Rufus knew Detective Dawg’s expertise was needed.

“Detective, I wouldn’t have awakened you, but we have a mystery to solve,” said Rufus apologetically.

“A mystery, huh? Just let me freshen up.” Dawg stretched, scratched behind both ears, and lapped some cool water from his dish. “Ok, Rufus, where are we going?”

“The horse barn,” he replied with urgency.

“I hope no one’s hurt,” said Dawg.

“No, no nothing like that Dawg, but there has been a robbery.” Rufus sprinted off in the direction of the barn. Sleepy headed Dawg followed slowly. When they got to the barn entrance, they carefully walked in. Neither wanted to disturb the crime scene. Melinda Mare whinnied a greeting as both detectives made their way to her stall. Melinda was twitching her tail nervously as they walked toward her.

“Dawg and Rufus, thanks for coming. I need your help,” pleaded Melinda.

Dawg calmly replied, “You’re welcome, Melinda. Tell us what’s happened.”

Melinda took a deep breath and then snorted it out slowly. She then began her story. “Every morning for the past several months, my boy has left me an apple on the top of my stall door. Today, my apple wasn’t there. “

“And that’s your mystery?” Rufus remarked. “This is what activated the barn yard alert? This is what’s gotten all of the other animals upset? Maybe, your boy just forgot.”

“Rufus, be patient,” Dawg scolded. “Melinda, go on.”

“Ok. Like I said, every morning my boy has left me an apple. He has never forgotten. He comes in early, cleans the stalls, gives me fresh straw and water and leaves an apple. He does all of this work so quietly, that I sleep right through it. Every morning, when I wake up I eat my apple. Today, I couldn’t. It wasn’t there,” Melinda said glumly.

“And you’re sure that your boy didn’t just forget today?” Dawg asked.

“I can’t be absolutely certain, but based upon his past, I would say that someone stole the apple before I woke up. I feel certain that he didn’t forget.” Melinda lowered her head sadly and waited for Dawg’s response.

“That’s good enough for me. Rufus, go get Cynthia Cat and start interviewing the other farm animals. Find out if anyone heard or saw anything out of the ordinary early this morning after the boy did his chores. Also, tell your pups to be ready to process any evidence that we might find. I’m going to sniff around here and see if I can find any clues. Let’s see if we can’t find out what happened to Melinda’s apple.” Rufus sprinted out of the barn to accomplish his task. Dawg began to use his very strong sense of smell and sniffed for evidence that the thief might have left behind. Almost immediately, Dawg saw several small tracks in the dirt.

“Melinda, I see a bunch of little foot prints, right here in front of your stall. Look like mouse prints. Do you know anything about this?”

“Those mice come through here all the time. There are about a dozen. They call themselves the “Pack”. They don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them. Their leader’s name is Mick and he acts real tough, but I just snort at them and they keep their distance.”

“Do they march in an organized manner, or bunched up?” questioned Dawg.

“Let’s see,” Melinda thought, “definitely in a bunch. No organization, just a bunch of hoodlums causing trouble. Why? Is that important?”

“Yes, I think it is. Notice these two lines about two feet apart. Looks like about six in each line… two columns… just a few inches apart. Looks like they were up to something today.” Dawg paused briefly and then made another discovery. “Aha. Look at this.”

“What?” Melinda inquired.

“It’s a feather. . . Small, whitish gray, fluffy. . . And it’s lying on the ground, right in the middle of where the mice made the columns.”

“That’s a clue?” Melinda asked. “Remember, Dawg, there are feathers all over the place. This is a farm and there are chickens around.”

“Yes, I know. But I’m going to take it in for evidence anyway. I’ll let you know if anything turns up.”

Det. Dawg turned the feather into the pups for them to examine more thoroughly. He then went to find Rufus to see if he and Cynthia had learned anything. He located Rufus and Cynthia at the Koi pond. “Well what have you two found out?” asked Dawg.

“We got some information from Cathy Cat.” Cynthia was a barn cat, which suited her just fine. She loved the outdoors and was always available to help in mysteries. On the other hand, Cathy Cat stayed indoors and was quite lazy. She was supposed to keep the mouse population in the house to a minimum but was too lazy to chase them. However, she did at times listen in on their conversations. She had overheard Mick talking the night before. “Cathy said that she heard Mick rallying the other mice. He was talking about doing something to the horse. Now, what he had planned, she didn’t hear, but at least we know that they were probably involved.”

“Good work you two. I’m going to go back to the pups’ stall and see if they have any information.”

“OK Dawg,” replied Rufus. “We’ll stay here at the pond and wait for further instruction.”

Dawg went to the pups’ stall and found the puppies at play, tugging on an old discarded sneaker. He pulled Scotty aside and asked what he had found out. “Well Dawg, we have some very interesting information. Take a look at this.” Scotty rolled a pop bottle over the feather and it acted as a magnifying glass. Dawg looked at the feather in its enlarged state.

“OK Scotty,” Dawg said, “What am I supposed to be seeing? I only see a feather.”

“But Dawg, it’s the type of feather that’s fascinating. You are looking at a goose feather, “ Scotty said with enthusiasm.

“A goose feather? But there aren’t any geese on this farm.”

“Exactly, “ nodded Scotty, “That’s why this is so interesting. Why would a goose be in cahoots with those mice?”

Dawg had no answers, only more questions. He told Scotty thanks for the help and went to talk to his partners. Once again, he found Rufus and Cynthia lounging by the pond and told them his information. They both agreed that this was a clue, but neither had any ideas as to how it tied into the missing apple.

“OK, I want you both to go talk to Polly Parakeet. See if she’s heard any of the other birds squawking any useful information. Also, ask if she’s seen any geese around here. And lastly, look for more goose feathers.”

“Sure Dawg. What are you going to do?” asked Rufus.

“I’m going to go talk to Dexter Duck down at the duck pond. Maybe he’s seen a strange goose hanging around.”

Rufus and Cynthia left and Dawg headed to the duck pond. Sunning on the bank, and preening his feathers, Dexter was enjoying the warm sunshine. He quacked a welcome at Dawg as he approached.

“So, Detective, what brings you to the pond on this wonderful day?” asked Dexter.

“Well, I’m working on a mystery,” said Dawg. He told about the missing apple, the goose feather, and how he thought the mice were responsible, but couldn’t put all the pieces of the puzzle together. “So, my question is, have you seen any geese around here?”

“No, Dawg, I haven’t,” Dexter said shaking his head no for emphasis.

“Do you have any ideas as to why a goose feather would be left at the scene of a crime?” asked Dawg.
Dexter scratched his beak with his right wing and thought very hard. After a few seconds, he said, “I’ve got it! Well, at least I know something that might help. I know where there are some goose feathers here on the farm.”

“Where?” asked Dawg expectantly?

“In the farm boy’s room...in fact, I would guess there are goose feathers in every bedroom of the house. They all sleep with goose down pillows. I know this for a fact. I keep track of those sorta things. If they ever go to using duck feathers, I’m outta here!”

“Thanks, Dexter, you’ve been a huge help!” Dawg ran back up to the barn to share the news with his partners.

Rufus and Cynthia had also found out some information from Polly Parakeet. Polly told them that the farm boy had a birthday sleepover the night before and the evening ended with a huge pillow fight. One pillow had been ripped and goose feathers had flown everywhere. The boys swept up all of the feathers and took the torn pillow to the trash pile.

“Dawg, I guess that the wind could have blown one of those feathers into the barn during the night,” said Rufus.

“That’s possible,” said Dawg, “but the barn doors are closed at night. Besides, there haven’t been any gusty winds in quite a few days. I really believe that the feather was a clue, and I think that I have solved the case.”

Rufus and Cythia looked at each other in surprise. “So, Dawg, what do you think happened?” asked Cynthia.

“First, let me ask you a question that we really haven’t considered yet. How did those mice take the apple?”

“They carried it,” answered Rufus.

“Correct,” affirmed Dawg, “but how did they get it down from the top of the stall door?”

“Well, maybe Mick pushed it off the stall door and some of his buddies caught it,” suggested Cynthia.

“Maybe,” agreed Dawg, “but an apple falling from that height onto some mice would surely have caused some commotion. Surely some of those mice would have squealed in pain when it hit them.”

“OK, then Mick just pushed the apple off onto the ground and then they carried it off,” said Rufus.

“Nope,” said Dawg. “The apple falling from up there would have made quite a noise and some of the animals would have awakened to see what was going on. Let’s just say, however, that everyone was sleeping soundly. There are two other reasons why that apple wasn’t just pushed off onto the ground. There was no indention in the dirt where the apple would have landed, and it’s very likely that a chunk or two of apple would have broken off, leaving behind evidence that the apple had been there and been stolen.”

Both Rufus and Cynthia knew that Dawg was right, but neither knew how he had solved the case. “So tell us, how do you think they took the apple,” inquired Cynthia.

“OK, here’s what I think happened. After the pillow fight, the pillow that was thrown away became instrumental in this crime. Remember the two columns of mice tracks?” reminded Dawg.

Both nodded yes.

“Well, here’s what I think happened. The mice took that pillow off of the trash heap and carried it to the barn. They carried it to the stall door and Mick, no doubt, climbed to the top and pushed the apple onto the pillow that the mice were holding. The pillow would cushion the fall and protect the mice. And, since the pillow was ripped, they left behind a key piece of evidence...the goose feather.”

A smile broke out on Rufus’ face and Cynthia could only nod her head in amazement. “That’s remarkable,” said Rufus, “and I believe you’re right. Now, what do we do?”

“Both of you go and tell the barn cats to round up the mice and bring them to Melinda’s stall. I think we can get a confession,” Dawg said confidently.

“How?” asked Cynthia.

“Those cats standing over them will surely cause at least one of those mice to squeal the truth...and if not, I still think there is one way to prove that my theory is correct. Please go and tell the barn cats to get to work. I’m going to go get the pups at the lab.”

Rufus and Cynthia ran off to round up the cats and Dawg requested that Scotty and the puppies come to Melinda’s stall door. He also asked the pups to bring the smallest comb they could find.

Thirty minutes later, Dawg, Rufus, Cynthia, the puppies, the barn cats, and the mice met at Melinda’s stall. Dawg said,

“Melinda, I think I have solved the case. Mick and the mice are responsible for taking your apple.”

Mick immediately denied it. “You have no proof, Dawg. Why blames us?”

“Well there are a couple of reasons. First, your footprints were at the scene of the crime, and most importantly, we found a goose feather there also.”

“Footprints and a feather?” asked Mick. “That’s your evidence? We’re always running through the barn, and about the feather, do we look like birds?”

Some of the other mice in the pack snickered at Mick’s comment. Dawg smiled then told the group about the ripped pillow, about how he believed the mice carried it to the barn, and how the apple could be quietly stolen.

“That’s a great story,” said Mick, “but unfortunately you have no evidence.”

Dawg motioned for the barn cats to move in closer to the mice, but none of the mice showed evidence of fear. “Look Dawg, these barn cats can’t intimidate us into confessing. You know as well as I do that they only eat canned food. You’re wasting your time. Mice, let’s get out of here.”

As Mick turned to leave with his pack, Dawg said, “Wait just a minute. I think that I have one more way to prove that you are responsible. Have any of you been down to the trash heap this morning?”

“No way, right guys.” All of the mice shook their heads. “Now can we leave?”

“No, not just yet,” said Dawg. Scotty took out a small comb from his evidence bag and went to one of the mice and ran the comb through his hair. “Here’s what you’re looking for Dawg.”
Detective Dawg took the comb and held it up to the sunlight that was streaming through the open barn door. There in the teeth of the comb was one very small goose feather. He carefully pulled it from the comb’s teeth and held it up for all to see.

“Here’s your evidence.” All eyes looked at the feather and then at the mice. Several in the pack hung their heads in shame and Mick was suddenly not so confident. “Mick, your mice carried that pillow to the barn and you pushed that apple off of the stall door. You quietly carried the pillow out and you thought you would never be caught. Unfortunately for you, there was a feather left behind. If that isn’t enough evidence, I’m sure that if we took the time to carefully examine your teeth, we would find some apple skins. Will that be necessary?”

Mick and the others shook their heads. “OK, we did it. Now what’s going to happen?” Mick asked sadly.

“That’s up to Melinda,” said Dawg.

Melinda cleared her throat then said, “Mick, I’m disappointed in you. You know better than to steal and you’ve been a bad example for the others. You could be a positive role model, but you’re making choices that are causing others to get into real trouble. You do know that I could have you and the rest banned from the farm?”

Mick looked at his gang and all knew that she was right. It was the code of the barnyard.

“Yes, I know,” said Mick.

“But I’m not,” said Melinda.

“Really?” asked Mick.

“Yes, Mick. I have decided to forgive you. I want to give you another opportunity to make right choices and to be a good leader. As I have been waiting for Dawg to solve this mystery, I realized that there have been times that I have made decisions that have displeased God, and every time that I have asked for forgiveness, He has forgiven me. So, I want to give to you what God has given to me, and that’s forgiveness.”

A tear slid slowly down Mick’s whiskery cheek. He knew that he could have lost a whole lot for making a very bad choice. But instead he had experienced something that he never expected...grace. “Melinda, I don’t know what to say other than thank-you and that I am really sorry. Do you think God will forgive me?”

Melinda nodded her head yes. “You need only to ask Him, Mick, and He will forgive you, but He also wants you to make wise choices from now on.”

“I will really try,” said Mick. And he did.

The case of the missing apple ended happily and nighttime blanketed the farm. "Thank you God for a good day," Dawg mumbled sleepily. He spun three times then dropped in an exhausted heap on his blue comfy pillow. The Basset Hound sighed and rolled from side to side until he found just the right spot to drift off for a well-deserved night's rest.
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