Write about an animal that causes a huge problem.
– Reedsy Prompt Contest #41: Fuzzy Friends or Foes
“Detective, you’ve got a call on line two,” Dodge heard as he walked through the station’s door to start his day. He had a pretty tough night and woke up in a hangover blur. Now, just barely making it to work on time; he didn’t want to think before he got his morning cup of joe.
“Penelope, please just tell whoever it is to call back in an hour.”
“I can’t do that sir. It’s Rebecca Rabbit from Carrot & Co. Farms. You know, the big carrot farming industry, on the east side. She has been calling since six this morning about some missing produce.”
“Dispatch an officer on duty out there.” he responded while groggily making his way to the big pot of coffee.
Detective Dodge Dog’s wife had just left him for what she explained, “An adventure through the wild air.” It was only a week ago and Dodge could not shake the depression. He most certainly didn’t want to worry about some missing carrots. He heard hasty footsteps waddling his way.
Penelope Penguin, the agency’s finest receptionist, entered the room as he took his first sip of coffee. “She insists on having you come out, Detective. No one else.”
“Tell her I will be out as soon as I can,” Dodge huffed as he slammed down some more coffee, not caring about the heat any longer. He would get there as soon as he could alright, but he was going to take his sweet time, after his next cup of coffee.
After an hour of lumping around his office, slowly preparing himself for a case. Dodge made his way out east to Carrot & Co. Farms. Driving up the acre-long fields of carrots, he wondered what he was even doing here.
Rebecca was waiting on the front porch of the massive farm house when he arrived. Little ones were running around, finding whatever they could to get their hands filthy and in much need of a bath. She stayed where she was, oddly calm. At least more so than Dodge was expecting after being requested so early in the morning. She waited until he reached the top step to stand and introduce herself, “Hello Detective Dodge, thank you for coming out and seeing me yourself.”
“Of course, but just what seems to be the issue, that you were so adamant about my presence,” he absentmindedly replied while staring out over the fields of carrots. Noting that he couldn’t find a single patch of carrots missing from where he was standing.
“Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that the quantity in some of my crops has declined. Every week, I personally take inventory of all the produce, the just seeded, the still growing, and the ready to hit the market products. All of it. I have never had issues, outside of the natural causes, with my production of produce.
Until, I started noticing a rapid decline in some of the numbers. I went out to the plots and checked the soil and any other natural factors that could be causing this and I discovered nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Before you go any further,” Dodge interrupted, “this couldn’t be a worker just taking some product, thinking you wouldn’t notice?”
“No Detective, this is a family run business and has been for years. Everyone takes pride in what they do here.”
“So you don’t think anyone has been sneaking some extra carrots here and there, the past few weeks?”
“No I don’t Detective. Like I said my family would never do anything like that, we have more than enough to provide for ourselves and families. Plus, I never said it was carrots that were going missing.”
“Okay well tell me this Ms. Rabbit, what else are you growing here?”
Over the years, Rebecca and the rest of the Rabbit family have devoted more time to learn about new crops other than their usual carrots, radishes, lettuce, and berries. They recreated some of their innermost plots to help support tree groves. These plots went on for acres, supporting multiple fruit trees; each year these trees would be switched out for a new type of fruit tree. The family didn’t want anyone finding out what fruit they were growing, wanting to keep it a secret. Unless you were close to the very center of Carrot & Co. Farms, which very few have, you wouldn’t even know there were trees on the farm. Most people see carrots or if you are close to the Rabbits, the usual produce you find them selling at the market.
Dodge was sitting shotgun on a tractor, a first for him for sure. They were headed out to the center acres of the farm. He was listening to Rebecca talk about the farm’s history, while gazing out bored at the plots of crops. “You see Detective, my family has come up with a marketing strategy that has doubled our income annually. Most people know us for
our reliable produce of the usually root vegetables and leafy greens we grow. Only a few however, are able to snag our yearly surprise crop.”
That’s when Dodge became on high alert because coming into view on the horizon were thousands of wide growing trees, with leaves that looked like stretched out hands. “What are those?” Dodge couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Those, Detective, are what you are here about. Ever hear of the fruit called a fig? They grow on trees and make exceptional jams.” The tractor stopped beside the first few trees. Dodge jumped out, patiently waiting for Rebecca to hop out and show him over to the trees. She helped him get a fig down and opened it up for him, showing him what they look like, taste like, and smell like.
“These guys are going to help pay for all of the seeds we need to set up next year’s harvest. The fig is rare in this area strictly for the fact that most of our citizens have never even heard of them. A few years ago, we had multiple orange groves and sold them fresh and in the form of marmalade. We were sold out by mid day with a full money pouch that consisted of half the year’s wages.
We kept some of those trees in a small grove a little more north of here, and started planning our next big thing. We went through your usual jam flavors but wanted to do something more. Something no one else around here has seen. That’s when one of the uncles chimed in on a fruit he discovered while traveling.”
Dodge studied the fruit as Rebecca continued.
“We spend a lot of money to build this fig grove but each fig on each tree will bring that money back tenfold when we bring them to market in a few months. Unless the fruits keep disappearing. As I told you before Detective, I have discovered an immense amount of figs disappearing over the past few weeks. At first it was just a few and I thought maybe the family was getting a little curious on just what we invested in. So like you thought before, I went to them first. Just claiming to wait until harvest and we can all try them out together but stay away from the groves for now.
Everyone agreed and we went about our business. Then the next week, I noticed even more numbers of figs were missing. I started to stake out on the farm house ground for what I thought would be the young family members sneaking out for a taste on a dare. I saw nothing, other than Owen Owl flying around like he usually does, stretching his wing and helping us keep unwanted guests out. That’s where you come in Detective, I would like you to come with me to question Owen and help me find out who is stealing my figs.”
Once back at the farm house, Rebecca zipped into the house to get her things. They met back at Dodge’s car to head out to Owen Owl’s tree house. It was located just a few blocks outside of the farm’s fields.
“Who is it?” a sleepy voice came from within the tree house.
“Hey Owen, it’s Rebecca. I am also here with Detective Dodge.” A muffled curse was just barely audible. Followed by the rummaging and scrambling of items on the other side of the door. Finally, after he was satisfied, Owen opened the door.
“Rebecca, Detective,” He said nodding to Dodge, “what can I help you with, I was just about to catch up on some sleep.” Dodge couldn’t help but hear the lazy, drag of his symbols. He started to wonder just what Owen uses to help him get to sleep and just how helpful this wise owl could be.
“I need to ask you a few questions about your flights the past few weeks,” Dodge used his serious voice, “may we come in?”
Owen’s eyes shifted a little as he hesitated,”uhh, I guess, umm, this isn’t going to take long is it?”
“That depends on how you answer the questions, Rebecca and myself.”
“Okay well what do you want to know?”
A few minutes later after Owen recalled his nightly routine to help Rebecca out. “See what I mean, nothing unusual during my flights. There was that one morning in town though with Penny Pig.”
Penny was known as the town gossip. It was hard to believe anything that came out of her mouth because in fact, everything came out of her mouth. Dodge was about to interject and stop the owl from saying anymore when Rebecca stepped in, “What happened with Penny Pig?”
Thirty minutes later Dodge found himself on the road again. After Owen reenacted, the scene Penny made one night down at the pub, there was no way he could stop Rebecca now. Although he still didn’t want to spend his morning driving her around on a goose chase for some jam. He was becoming mildly interested in how this will all play out. They pulled
up to the Pig residents; just like the farm, all the young ones are out making a mess of things. When Penny answers the door, Dodge and Rebecca are taken back. The look of shock on their faces springs Penny into gear.
“Oh my, I am sorry my dears, I wasn’t expecting company and y’all know us ladies have to keep up with our dying youth.” Through a thick, mud brown face mask, she winked at Rebecca. “Come in and I’ll take off this mask and grab some tea.” When she returned with three glasses of her fresh brewed tea she asked, “Now, what can I help y’all with?”
As Dodge tried to swallow a big gulp of tea, Rebecca was already submerging in the story we heard from Owen. “Penny, we are investigating a little problem I am experiencing over at the farm. During some questioning we found out that you were at the pub the other week, and also heard you got a little heated. What was that about?”
Penny looked at Rebecca then to Dodge, visibly contemplated what the situation was between the two, how she should answer. “Yeah, I gotta little agitated at the pub the other week; nothing that the whole town has to keep talking ‘bout.” You could see on her face, the smirk, showing she loved the attention, no matter how received. “Tammy Tortoise and I went over there after a double shift at the Diner. I was telling her the tragic story of my Cecropia Tree.
I got the tree a few months ago, it was very expensive; one of those exotic trees that needs a special environment to survive.” She stands, jesters for us to follow her. “I have been working hard to help my new
baby grow and flourish, lots of money too.” She led them into a mini greenhouse in the backyard. A no kids sign hung on the tented door.
When we walked in we were plunged by humidity, in the middle was a magnificent tree. It had light bark almost white and big baseball glove shaped leaves sprouting from every direction. Only upon closer look, you could see where the leaves were ripped off and on others there were chew marks.
“I was upset because someone had been inside my ‘treehouse’. I was telling Tammy, I think one of my kids was doing it out of spite, bratty teenager and all, big rebel he thinks. After about a week of noticing little by little, my leaves were getting worse, I confronted all of my kids. I must say I truly don’t think any of ‘em did it, but after that talk my leaves have been completely fine. Who knows maybe my motherly lie detector was faulty, or…”
“..Or maybe the culprit found a new snack to steal,” Rebecca jumped in excitedly. “Quickly Dodge we need to run a search on all reports of missing or abused plants in the area over the last month.” Rebecca quickly shook Penny’s hand and bolted over the side gate. Dodge followed, giving Penny an apologetic look before using the gate himself.
After hours of research and Dodge’s next few rounds of coffee, Rebecca noticed something. When she called him over from his desk, puzzled, he couldn’t help feeling sorry for the girl. If something was happening throughout town, he would know about it. Or would he? He has been preoccupied lately, his now ex-wife, trying to take the house along with everything else the man could think of. Now irritated he
reaches Rebecca and the files she has been hovering over, “What is it, Rabbit?”
“There have been over twelve reports of crops and plants being vandalized or stolen in the last three weeks. All the reports are still open. Why hasn’t anyone looked into this? I figured you were a little, out of it, should we say, but I never thought you slumped this bad.”
Shocked, taking a few moments to think over what she said, “What do you mean, you figured I was a little ‘out of it’?”
“Detective, you have been sheltering yourself inside your office and home, disconnecting from the world around you. I mean I understand, after everything you have been through and are going through, but there is a line. This morning when you showed up on my door looking like a wild wolf, the smell of bourbon seeping out of you, I knew exactly where you stood on that line.”
Dodge had no idea what to say. He stood there with a blank stare. He knew he was falling down a rabbit hole, but he couldn’t see how deep he actually got. Pulling himself together he went back to the other information she dropped on him. “You said over twelve?”
“Twelve in my hand, Penny and I are not in these files and I can’t even imagine how many other cases there are that were not reported.”
“Check the date on all of them. When did it start?”
“From the look of everything including the Ceropia tree and my fig trees, it all started about four weeks ago. Reports of the same cases continue and then stop; only to have more cases open up, repeat, and stop.”
Dodge quickly ran out of the room, when he came back he was holding a file about as thick as an acorn. “These are all the files of people who have left or have become citizens in the area.” Look for dates and incoming residents that link to the dates of the reports.”
After a few minutes, Rebecca zoomed up. Dodge waited for her to speak but she just turned and looked at him, “We need to head out to the South Side.” Along the way, Rebecca stayed quiet. In deep thought, about what? He wouldn’t know. Every time he tried to ask a question to find out what she found and where they were going, she would stop him.
Pulling into a beat up neighborhood, Rebecca told Dodge to take a left, and then stopped them three houses down. She got out of the car and marched straight up to the door and knocked. Dodge, barely making it before the first set, became furious. “Just what is this about Rebecca? We can’t just go knocking on random people’s doors!”
The door swung open, there stood, Seth Sloth, exactly who Rebecca was looking for. She wasted no time, he didn’t even get a hello out, “Seth Sloth, do you know how much you put my life in jeopardy?” Seth’s body shifted with unease as she kept going, “My family depends on those figs to survive the winter and continue the business into next year. Why would you venture so far for a few figs? What about all the other people’s lives you put at risk? You can’t just go pilfering whatever you want.” Dodge’s eyes are as wide as saucers.
“Yo man, I did pilfer. Where I come from you just go about your own business and eat as you please. I didn’t know it wasn’t the norm up here in
the north. Chill out and let’s move on from this little bunny. They were some of the best figs I ever had.”
Dodge took Seth back to the station for questioning. He was charged with theft, destruction of property, and possession of illegal substances. Happy that Rebecca finally figured out where her figs were going but also feeling compassion for her. She opened his eyes to the path he was walking on, not knowing it ended in a pit. “Thank you, Rebecca.”
“I knew you were still in there , Detective. You just had to be shown the way out.”
“How did you know it was him?”
“Sloth’s are excellent camouflagers, no wonder, no one saw him.”