The evidence was everywhere. From a distance it looked like fluff, like fur, like that down that you find down near the skin on one of those rabbits, those mongrel cottontails that had been making such a mess of the flower beds in the neighborhood. I moved in closer to take a gander.
Closer inspection showed it to be feathers. A lot of small ones, only one or two big ones. The small feathers meant that it wasn’t a gander. Or a goose. Or a duck, or a cardinal, or a peacock, or an emu. That greyish white meant it had been a crow or mockingbird. Probably one of the neighborhood mourning doves.
No sign of any bones or blood, but plenty of feathers, scattered over a wide area of the lawn. Something violent had happened here, something deadly, something lethal, something fatal. The victim of this crime wasn’t stunned, resting, or pining for the fjords.
What could do something like this? What was big enough to take down a mourning dove with one swell foop and then carry its probably still struggling and squawking and squirming carcass off to feast on it elsewhere. There was that feral cat that’s been roaming the neighborhood and he had the look of being a member of that well-known bird killing gang, the Tuxedos. He could have done it if he was stealthy enough. But I knew this one. I had him sussed, I knew his measure. He had fallen off the wall last week after I startled him – that klutz wasn’t sneaking up on anything with wings.
No, this hit had all the earmarks of a Death From Above. Could one of those hawks have taken this critter out and carried it off for dinner? Sure they could have. And we see lots of them around hear. One dive from 1,200 feet, a fast flare, a flash of talons, a flap of wings, a liftoff toward a nest up in the rocks on Castle Peak – it would have been the deadliest touch-and-go you’ll ever see. But that’s not where my money was.
This was a nocturnal hit. This happened by the light of the moon, the stars, and that stupid streetlight that’s right there where it blocks my view of my telescope. I had heard that this Hedwig, this Archimedes, this Woodsy wannabe was back in town. He’d been out there hooting for the last week. Now I knew where he had been dining and dashing. I checked the video cameras to see if he’d been caught, but he was smart. The hit had occurred right outside the camera’s field of view. Now we would never have the evidence to convict, but I knew. Oh, yeah – I knew.
Safe in the light of day I walked back to my car, knowing that tonight I would have to walk back up to the house in the dark.
I would be listening for the rushing sound of wings coming up behind me.