May 31, 2014 – The flight from Paris to Halifax, Nova Scotia departed from Charles de Gaulle Airport at precisely 3:10 PM Parisian Time. This go around, Sawyer and I had front row, first class seats, as the pilot thought the sight of two hens wearing berets and eating chocolate croissants from a white paper bag might be too much of a distraction for the passengers riding in coach. I don’t see how, but we were not about to argue. Besides, the seats in first class were large enough that Sawyer and I fit comfortably together in one.
Our flight attendant, Margaux, was very kind and attentive to our needs. She brought us a blanket, slippers for our feet and blue sleep masks. Sleep hardly seemed appropriate to two worldly tourists such as us.
So as not to hurt her feelings, we slipped on the masks and played a couple of rounds of ‘What’s in your wing?’ before tucking our lovely gifts into the carry-on bag that we bought at the airport.
“Will we make it to Dumpling’s photography exhibit in time,” asked Sawyer as the plane touched down on the runway.
I did a quick computation in my head. “It’ll be close, but since she moved the show from her studio in Antigonish to the one in Halifax, I think we’ll make it there before it’s over.”
Without access to the limousine we opted for a yellow taxi to take us to the hotel that Dumpling had booked for the flock. I did not at all enjoy myself. A thick acrylic wall with sound holes separated us from the driver.
“This is nothing more than a cage on wheels!” Sawyer exclaimed.
I reached for her wing to quiet her, my gaze focused on the unshaven driver who squinted suspiciously at us from his rear view mirror. I had seen that look before on Eunice the librarian, seconds before she exploded into a wild frenzy.
We rode in silence the rest of the way. The driver drove very fast and slammed on the brakes when he pulled up alongside the main entrance of the Harbourfront Hotel. Sawyer and I jumped out and ran for the door. He started yelling at us and shaking his fist. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realized we hadn’t paid him. When I stepped back out to correct my oversight, the taxi was peeling away in a cloud of rubber.
Sawyer was chatting up the man behind the information desk when I returned. His name was Timothy. We told him that we have a brother named Timothy. He laughed and asked if our Tim was as good looking as him. This caused all three of us to hoot with hilarity. He then called for a man named James to take our carry-on bag and lead us to room 1127, where the rest of our flock was staying.
The room was bright and cheerful. We immediately spotted the group suitcase. It was open across the foot of a king size bed. My piccolo was tucked in a corner still in its protective case. The snack bag Mom had packed for us was on a table by the window.
“Empty,” Sawyer announced peering inside.
I scrutinized the suitcase for clues.
“There are no pearls, no tiaras, and no baubles of any kind left behind. They’re at the festivities alright.”
We quickly freshened up, excited to head over to Dumpling’s gallery and meet up with everyone. I was hopeful to catch at least one shrimp ball before they called it a night. We spotted James in the hallway and asked if he could arrange a car for us.
“The gallery is directly behind the hotel,” he explained. “I would be more than happy to escort you there if you like.”
Well, this is it, I thought. Thirty six hours later, and we’re finally on our way to the main event!
A back door in the hotel led to a shared alley with Dumpling’s downtown gallery. James held it open for us to pass through and was about to say something when a commotion in the Longfeather building distracted him.
Angry voices shouted undiscernible words and sirens blared. A paddy wagon pulled up and two uniformed officers jumped out and swung open the rear panels. A metal door under a weathered green awning burst open. I heard someone cry, “I don’t want to be pie!” as a parade of characters, handcuffed and led by riot police, began to spill into the alleyway. At the head of the line was none other than Dumpling Longfeather.
“Howdy doo, ladies!” she chirped to me and Sawyer as an officer held her elbow and navigated her steps into the paddy wagon. “You missed a humdinger of a party!”
Behind her came several roosters dressed in white tuxedos with slicked back combs. They were not at all happy over their arrest and pushed back angrily against the constables. When they were loaded and secured, a policewoman slapped the back of the vehicle and it pulled away allowing room for a second paddy wagon to take its place.
“What is going on?” Sawyer cried nervously.
I didn’t have a chance to answer. The metal door flew open again and this time the police were leading out a much more familiar group… Charlotte and Addie, Bo, Emaline, Daisy, the four pullets, Waffles, Betty, Hattie, Wilma and Tim! They looked shocked and fully distressed. The last one out was Peaches. Her wings were handcuffed behind her and she was crying. I couldn’t take it!
“LEAVE THEM ALONE!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
The officers stopped.
“HAPPY! SAWYER!” Familiar voices wailed. “Please help us!”
“What is the meaning of this,” I charged, walking up to the nearest patrolman. He had Wilma in ankle restraints.
“Who are you,” he questioned.
“I am part of this flock!” I declared proudly. “Why are you arresting them?”
“We’re not,” the officer explained calmly. “Except for this one,” he said tilting his head toward Wilma. “She has a foul mouth on her.”
“Well, we are considered fowls,” Sawyer piped up from behind me.
Really, Sawyer? We’re doing this now? You’re going to play the, ‘We’re the Fowlers’ card again?
I turned my head and regarded the officer.
“There was a drug bust at the gallery tonight,” he explained.
“Dumpling wanted to use us as mules!” Charlotte spat, utterly disgusted. Her pearl necklace looked impeccable against her ruffled feathers.
“Mules,” Wilma laughed sarcastically, “more like…”
“WILMA!” I hushed, knowing full well what word was next on her beak.
“See what I mean?” The officer said shaking his head.
“Look,” he continued. “We’re fairly certain that your family knew nothing about the drug deal, but we have to bring them down to the station for questioning. It’s a procedural matter. You’re more than welcome to meet us there. The station is right around the corner on Gerome Avenue.”
My head could not fully process what was happening.
“Don’t worry! We’ll fix all of this!” I called after them before the doors to the second paddy wagon closed. “Peaches, I’ll fix this. I promise!”
A second later, the red tail lights bounced over a bump and turned the corner, out of sight. Sawyer and I stood in the shadows of the alley, thoroughly drained. Our long-awaited journey had turned into a horrific nightmare.
How could we have been so wrong about Dumpling? She targeted my family! She set us up!
Revenge would have to wait. We took off on foot to the police station, unclear how the rest of the night would play out. I knew one thing for certain. I needed to call Mom.