March 18, 2015 – Sawyer and I made our move. We left the security of our hideout under the table in the conference room in the Happy Chicken Brewery, and ventured into the night hoping to find the well-traveled path back to our chicken yard. We did so without the aid of light. It was a terrifying ordeal! We stayed within breathing room of each other, stretching our wings in front of us and feeling our way in the dark. We dared not imagine the host of dodgy creatures lying in wait for two tired hens to cross their path. We carried a flashlight with us, but decided not to use it, after a twig in the underbrush snapped under the pressure of a passing traveler. As much as we wanted to know who that nomad was, we couldn’t take the risk that it might be Eunice. We hid behind the stump of a maple tree until the forest floor fell silent.
“Probably a feline,” Sawyer whispered in my ear.
“Well, that makes me feel better!” I replied sarcastically. My pulse drummed loudly in my ears. “Maybe we should have stayed behind after all,” I confessed, letting fear cast a shadow over our decision to leave the safety of the brewery and head back to Coop #3.
“No. You were right,” Sawyer said clutching my wing. “We have to make sure that the flock is safe. If there’s the slightest chance that Eunice got to them…” her voice broke before she could finish.
“You’re right,” I said. “We need to stay focused. Let’s take it slow. We’ve walked this path so many times, we should be able to make it back to the coop with our eyes closed.”
“They might as well be,” Sawyer tittered nervously.
An hour later, after crashing into a sycamore and tripping over a sapling stooped in snow, we reached the clearing just below the run of Coop #1.
“Look! There’s a light on!” Sawyer exclaimed. “The Orpingtons must still be up! Surely that’s good news!”
I wanted to agree with my best friend, but apprehension nagged my senses. I kept my uneasiness to myself.
Sawyer and I quickened our pace as the trail was now clear and familiar. In a matter of seconds we reached the henhouse door. Sawyer was about to turn the handle, when I reached my wing out to stop her. She glanced at me quizzically, but uttered no sound.
I pulled her around to the back of the coop and we huddled under the window.
“Listen,” I said softly.
“I don’t hear anything,” she replied puzzled.
“Exactly,” I answered. “If the girls are up late, we’d hear some conversation. We’d at least hear Peaches humming or talking to her pet stick. Something’s not at all right.”
Sawyer’s face tensed with worry. We had to get a look inside. Carefully, Sawyer climbed onto my shoulders and peeked through the dusty glass. I nearly dropped her when she gasped in horror.
“What’s going on?” I pleaded quietly.
“Oh my word!” she gulped, trying desperately not to cry or draw attention to herself.
“What it is?! I begged. “Please! Tell me!”
It took everything I had not to start sobbing.
Sawyer scrambled to the ground.
“They’re tied up! Every one of them! Peaches, Addie, Charlotte, Emaline…”
“Are they alone?!” I demanded. “Is Eunice in there?!”
A rush of anger took hold and my legs began to shake.
“No. I didn’t see her, but maybe she’s in one of the other coops as we speak!”
“Give me a boost,” I instructed and quickly positioned myself at the corner of the window.
The sight was heart-wrenching. Five hens strapped in wooden chairs, tied back to back in a circle around the hanging pellet feeder. Their beaks were wrapped in duct tape. I scanned the coop for signs of a booby trap. It looked clean.
“I’m going in,” I said to Sawyer when I landed back on my feet. “I don’t care if Eunice is still here!”
We agreed that I would enter the coop while Sawyer kept an eye out for the deranged librarian. I hoped the squeaking door would not cause the ladies too much distress, as surely they would wonder who was on the other side. Their fears were relieved when I made eye contact and they realized that their rescue was imminent.
“Are you alright?” I asked, feverishly freeing them from their restraints. I was convinced Eunice was not far away.
“We’re fine, we’re fine,” Addie replied in a rush, “but that madwoman is on the loose! I’m concerned she might have our sisters tied up as well!”
“Or worse!” chimed Lottie. “You know how mouthy Wilma can get. I can’t see Eunice taking kindly to that!”
We left the coop where the ladies fleetingly reconnected with a grateful Sawyer.
“We urgently need a plan!” Emaline hushed into the air.
“We need to save the rest of the flock!” Peaches declared quietly.
She was right. First things first. We needed to know if Eunice had reached the other coops and if those chickens were in the same predicament. We needed to know where Mom was. And most importantly, we needed to reach our cache of crabapples and slingshots buried in a box under the smelly bush. The very smelly bush still buried under a mountain of snow.