My name is Slade, Stan Slade, Private Eye. I see a lotta things, for I fly by night. Mice fear me, dames revere me, lesser Great Horned Owls want to be me. Someone’s got to be the eyes and talons of justice in this stretch of woods, and for the right price, that someone is me.
It’s a tough job, but not without its perks. For example, take this case last spring.
It was early, just before sunset, and I was still roosting, catching a few last Zs. My stomach always being on the alert, I opened one eye when I heard the approaching flutter of tiny wings. A frumpy house sparrow landed in front of me.
I opened my other eye and stared. “Stop shivering, Toots. You’re making a breeze.”
“Sorry,” she squeaked.
“You here on business?”
She bobbed her head twice.
“Then relax. I make it a policy never to eat clients.”
Her trembling subsided to a minor twitching, so I continued.
“What brings in a classy dame like you? Domestic troubles? Old man getting frisky with some young chick?”
Was that a look of disdain in her black eyes? “No,” she said. “My mate was taken by a housecat last week.”
“Eh, sorry.” I swallowed, felt the urge to regurgitate a pellet, but couldn’t in front of the lady. “So why are you here?”
I ruffled my feathers and closed my eyes as she spilled her sob story.
“I’ve been robbed. I was asleep last night and had a terrible feeling that something was wrong. I woke up and counted my eggs. One was missing!”
I opened my eyes. “You’re sure you didn’t miscount?” Small birds in general, and those of the female persuasion in particular, are notoriously inept at understanding simple mathematical concepts.
She glared at me. “Of course I’m sure. I know when one of my own babies is missing!”
“Okay, okay.” I backed a few steps down my branch. She looked mad enough to go for the eyes.
Dame Sparrow took a deep breath. “I want you to find out who stole my egg and stop him before I lose my entire clutch. Name your price.”
“You’re wanting me to play bodyguard? My rates aren’t cheap, you know.”
She raised her beak and nodded.
My heart went out to the broad and I sighed internally. Curse my sentimentality.
I clicked my beak. “Six mice per night.”
“Just how do I procure these mice?”
“Particulars are up to you.”
She shuddered. “Four.”
We shook wings and took flight. I followed her to her place, a tidy little nest done in willow twig and nestled into the hollow of a large oak tree.
“Nice digs, sister.”
She indicated the nest. “I laid four eggs. See for yourself, there are only three now.”
I craned my head to peer into the interior. She had one thing right; there were three eggs nestled within.
I cased the surroundings, my sharp eyes probing for clues, but found nothing. Either this doll was delusional, or she’d been hit by a professional.
I picked a neighboring tree with a good line of sight to the nest and directed Mrs. Sparrow to follow her normal nightly routine.
“Pretend to be asleep,” I warned her, “so our perp feels safe to come prowling around again.”
A few hours into the stakeout, I was ready to chalk the whole episode up to hysteria. All was quiet, nothing out of the ordinary disturbing the night. Just then, I heard something odd. I rotated my head until I pinpointed a lithe form slinking toward the nest.
I knew that slink. It was Jacob “Twiggy” Dayz, head of the local weasel mob. I scanned the area for any of his henchman, but he appeared to be working solo. Probably didn’t want to split the loot with anyone. He slithered up the tree trunk.
I watched as Jacob sneaked his way up to the nest. Even from my vantage point, I could hear the pounding of Mrs. Sparrow’s heart and I was amazed the weasel didn’t notice.
I leaned forward as he reached to slide one paw into the cozy bird domicile. I’d seen enough, and let’s just say I prefer stoat steak to mouse burgers any day.
Jacob looked up just before I sailed into him. His eyes widened, but it was too late. The Case of Dayz’s End was officially closed.
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