Name’s Red. Red Woodman, Major Mammal Crimes Detective. This is supposed to be my last day on the job is I can make it through. Cough.
They’ve assigned me a kid nick-named “Lucky” I’m supposed to train to take my place. I’m looking through his resume. He’d flunked out of occult detective school, which was something advertised in matchbooks.
But Judge Jeremiah Bullfrog at Frog Court had written a nice reference letter about Lucky’s internship there. Lucky served as a translator from Creature to Hoomin language in Frog Court hearings. He was fluent in Frog and Heron, and he knew some Duck and Goose. That would be mighty useful.
Well, he would be helpful. But Major Crimes is no place for the squeamish, in comparison you’d never even see roadkill in Frog Court. Lucky had a shock or two coming up.
He sat across the desk from me, legs crossed, in designer jeans and penny loafers. In the old days the Division was called Headless Mammals Division. Most of the letters had worn off but we left “Headless” on the door to spook the rookies.
“Welcome to Major Crimes,” I said as gruffly as Ed Asner. “Here’s your first case. Two headless ducks. Then go question Nancy Nutria in the interview room. Norm Nutria from the East End Nutria Gang, didn’t come home this week.”
The blood drained from Lucky’s face as he tried to make head or tail of the headless duck pictures.
“OK, now go interview Nancy Nutria.”
But Lucky kept staring at the duck pictured on the right.
“The feathered pattern, it reminds me of a skull. I’m feeling a vibration that Nancy Nutria’s case involves a skull. I went to occult detective school you know.”
“You flunked out too, I see.”
“I could say there was a woman to blame, but it was my own damn fault,” he smiled.
Lucky was a masterful interrogator, with his callow appearance and constant refrain of “Gee I’m confused.”
He quickly learned from Nancy that Nutria is an alias, and their real name is Myocastor (Mouse Beaver) Coypus, or Coypu in South America.
Nanny became vague about how her family got to Oregon. She claimed there was a mass escape from a fur farm.
Norm and Nancy Nuria were the parents of three remaining young from the two litters and 26 young they’d had earlier this year.
“We were blessed,” boasted Nancy,” The average litter is 5.”
I was suspicious. Nutria’s social groups were about 10. I’d only saw 5 nutria around their encampment. I suspected Norm had driven off his younger male competition. So that’s another group with a motive to off Norm; the young buck nutria.
Norm was big; he weighed about 24 lbs. He often liked to fake that he was a beaver. Many cannot tell the difference.
Nutria and beaver look alike except for the Nutria’s ratty tail, as opposed to the beaver’s flat tail. Nancy said it was convergent evolution but what does a nutria know.
Before they moved to the preserve, Norm and Nancy and their babies panhandled food in a suburban park. In return for the food, they passed pathogens and zoonoses back to the hoomans that hand fed them. pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/…
Now Norm and Nancy and their large litters set up behind newly erected beaver dams, and preceded to undermine the stream walls, strip the vegetation, and sabotage the beaver’s engineering with new channels. They made homes in assembled cat tail islands.
They preferred burrowing into steep cliffs, too.
“Well yes,” Nancy conceded, “The beavers have complained.”
I watched the interview from behind the two way mirror. This was important stuff. Several studies theorized that more nutria = less beavers. So beavers had motives to make Norm disappear, too.
But nutrias’ life expectancy in the wild is only 2-3 years. And a long freezing spell will kill most of them.
I saw Nancy and Lucky leave.
“She’s showing me where she saw Norm last,” Lucky said.
“If she has a litter in the squad car again,” I replied, “You’re cleaning up.”
“There! I last saw Norm there!” She gestured and retreated to crowd her off spring downhill where they all grazed on the grassy bank.
Lucky stood up straight and turned stiffly and began walking along the stream’s muddy banks until he reached the Energy Vortex where the underground springs bubbled.
My vision swirled as it seemed as if Lucky’s penny loafers morphed into heavy climbing shoes and his designer jeans became work jeans. He dipped his fingertips into the Vortex waters and called out sixty point eight degrees, and scrambled up the steep cliff, as if he was possessed. I joined him and we took a different path out.
He pointed to the sky. “Eagles.” He gestured to poop on the ground, “coyote.” And ahead. “Crows.”
There was something pink or white on the grassy path ahead.
Oh its a chicken bone, I eat chicken there but don’t throw away …
No its not a chicken bone. And this is your trigger warning.
You can still turn the page.
As Lucky foresaw, a skull lay ahead.
The icy weather drives the nutria out of the cold water and onto the shore. They are easy prey there. I could have petted one if I wanted the living daylights chewed out of my hand.
There have been over 30 coyote sightings in the immediate Oak Hills area where Norm the Nutria vanished; a probable undercount.
See the NW corner of this map. pdxedu.maps.arcgis.com/…
Eagles nest within a mile.
Crows or Gulls could scatter the remains.
Nutria cannot survive weeks of freezing weather.
I struggle to fully understand the mechanics of this cycle of life.
In South America, gators hold the nutria down. Who are the gators of Oregon?
Lucky asked me how to fill out “cause of death” on Norm’s death certificate.
“Natural causes,” I growled.
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