March 22, 2015 – We managed to free the Orpington’s from their ropes without being spotted by the crazed lunatic who had tied them up in the first place; one Eunice Ignatia Tightklutcher. I always suspected Eunice was battier than a squirrel drunk on nut juice, but this behavior was extreme even for her. Losing the election for Library Trustee had sent her on a rampage, and Sawyer and I, the unfortunate victims caught in her crosshairs. In a desperate attempt to hunt us down, she had forced her way into Coop #1. She tried to bully the Orpingtons into giving up our whereabouts. When they refused to buckle, she bound and gagged them before – presumably, moving on to Coop #2.
We needed a plan and fast.
“It’s a no go,” Addie murmured, having returned from her reconnaissance mission to the smelly bush. “There’s simply too much snow. It would take us days to dig deep enough to reach our cache of slingshots and crabapples. We wouldn’t be able to do it without Eunice seeing or hearing us.”
“By then, we’d be pie filling,” I replied truthfully. “Emaline… what did you find out about Mom?”
“I stuck to the side of the house, just like you told me to, Hap. I worked my way up to the front window. It’s dark and quiet inside. Either Mom’s asleep…”
“Or she sleeps with the fishes!” Sawyer gasped, finishing her thought.
“Ladies! Stay focused!” Charlotte scolded. “This isn’t the time to let fear cloud our judgment. We need a plan. What are we going to do?”
“We have to know if the others are alright first and foremost,” said Violet urgently. “But how?”
I’ve been trained in critical thinking. I forced myself to brainstorm but all of my ideas involved strategies best suited when there isn’t four feet of snow on the ground. I glanced around at the others who shifted and fidgeted while trying to come up with their own brilliant ideas.
“Where’s Peaches…?” I asked, noticing that she had suddenly gone missing.
“I don’t know,” said Sawyer looking around. “She was beside me a second ago.”
My chest tightened. “Please tell me she didn’t wander off on her own!”
My prediction proved true when the sound of Peaches’ scream curdled the night air.
“CURSE THE BLOODY WENCH!” Lottie wailed. “SHE’S EATEN POOR PEACHES!”
The lot of us took off running in the direction of Coop #2. Our colander helmets bounced and rattled as we navigated the way with only the paling glow emanating from the window of Coop #1 to light our way. We were not deterred by the threat of danger. Peaches’ keen struck at the heart of us. We ran headstrong into whatever terror had gripped her soul. We had no weapons but what we eyed in the split seconds before we advanced; an orange snow stake, a broken branch, a jagged icicle that burned without the armor of a mitten, and three snowballs. Our war shrieks ripped through the curtain of time and space. We surged forward, undaunted. When we reached the entrance of Coop #2, I grabbed the handle and threw open the door. A small nightlight glowed above the roost, but the henhouse was empty. All four of its inhabitants were missing and there was no sign of Peaches.
“BLOODY CRAB BALLS!” Lottie cursed again, having apparently turned into a pirate sometime during the ordeal.
“TO COOP #3!” Addie charged, hoisting the orange snow stake into the night.
“ARRRRRHHHHHHH!!!!!!” We roared, turning our advance in the direction of the coop that Sawyer and I called home.
Mentally, I ticked off the steps between the henhouses. I knew we were almost there when the chicken in front of me stumbled to the ground. Then, one after the other, we all followed suit. Beaks slammed into the snow. Stomachs crashed into backs. Wattles and wings entwined. Bits of frozen slush broke from the ground assaulting our faces mercilessly in a violent spray.
I heard the coop door open and a voice slice above the ruckus.
“GET OUTTA HERE, YOU DIM-WITTED, WIRE-FRAMED, HALF-BAKED CRACKPOT, BEFORE I RIP A RIGHTEOUS HOLE STRAIGHT THROUGH THE CENTER OF YOUR DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM!”
I scrambled to my feet in the obscurity of darkness and was immediately welcomed with the bottomside of a cast iron skillet to the side of my head. Thankfully, the pile of hens already on the ground, softened my fall the second time.
When I came to, I was back in my nest box. Addie was standing over me, flicking a pencil flashlight back and forth in front of my eyes.
“She’ll be fine,” was her unlicensed, medical prognosis. I wasn’t so sure, as the rhythmic pounding that had taken up residency in my head, grew louder.
“What happened?” I asked Addie in a voice thick with fog. Then I remembered why we had been running. A sharp pain struck my heart. “What about Peaches’?” I mouthed, teary-eyed.
“What do you want to know?” a friendly voice piped up from the nest box to my right. “Boomer of a headache, but otherwise, I’m fine.”
I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life.
“I thought you were… gone forever,” I choked, hugging her tightly.
“Nah, just gone for a minute,” she replied, squeezing back. “Wilma thought I was Eunice and whacked me in the bell tower with a campfire pan. Then she did the same with you. Those guys…” she paused, pointing in the direction of Sawyer and the Orpingtons, “tripped over me when I was splattered on the ground. It was poultry in motion,” she laughed, forgetting for a brief moment that her head sported an egg worthy of an ostrich.
“Yah… sorry about that…” Wilma drawled. “You gals really need landing lights or something. Your yelping nearly took 10 years off of me.”
She later explained that she had spotted Eunice through the window of Coop #1, tying up the girls. She quickly gathered the rest of the flock and barricaded them inside Coop #3. Then, with a 10 lb. skillet in her wings, she waited by the door for Eunice to strike. She never did.
“She must have given up and left the yard when you girls didn’t crack,” Waffles reasoned. “You saved us! Oh, and you, too, Wilma,” she added quickly, hoping to avoid a peck to the head.
“Ladies,” Tim interrupted. “I just got a text from Bo. He’s been hot on Eunice’s trail since she left our property. He finally caught up with her.”
“Where is she?” I asked, holding my breath.
“The library. He’s watching her from the parking lot. He said he can see her on the second floor pacing back and forth, waving her arms in the air like she’s having a madcap conversation with someone.”
“IS someone there with her?” Addie questioned. “Because it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think she was talking to her shadow.”
“Nutball,” Wilma hissed.
“He’s texting again. Yes. He can’t make out who it is, but she’s definitely talking to someone. She keeps looking down. He thinks she has someone else tied to a chair.”
“We need to get to the library,” I stated.
“And call the police!” Sawyer added.
“We can’t do that!” Wilma argued. “Her sister works for the police! She’s a mole!”
“Wilma’s right,” I nodded, rubbing the side of my head. “We need to take care of this ourselves. It’ll be daylight in another hour. That should be time enough for us to come up with a strategy.”
“Who do you think Eunice has tied up this time?” asked Peaches.
I raised an eyebrow. It was a mystery with no immediate answer.