The Adventures of Sycamore Chip, Sleep-Deprived Squirrel Detective: The Case of the Dead Rabbit

The real trouble with being a woodland shamus is that there’s never any interesting crime. Actually, there’s never any crime, period. What would qualify? Fortunately, Chip was still keeping up his streak of poor sleep, so in his mind there were crimes a-plenty. The forest was a seething cauldron of evil, its denizens a bunch of sad-eyed passives with no one to rescue them from their plight. No one except a great detective and his capable assistant, that is! So Chip rolled up his sleeves (no mean feat when you don’t have any) and set right to work, beginning with the gruesome murder and summary grisly consumption of a local rabbit.

Chip and Gary made their way carefully through the underbrush towards the scene of the crime. “We can’t move quickly,” Chip cautioned his deputy. “If the ne’er-do-wells catch our scent, or in any other way know we’re coming, they’ll clean up all signs of their act. No one would willingly leave behind the tiniest glimmer of a clue when Sycamore Chip is on the case.”

“So they know you’re a detective, then?” whispered a thoroughly excited Gary.

Chip paused and closed his eyes slowly. Seconds ticked by in which Gary thought the great detective was creating dramatic effect, but as it turned out Chip had simply settled into a fitful, and very short, sleep. This happened frequently, and was often the cause of Gary’s more common duty: rescuing the great detective from one misfortune or another. There was no need for rescuing this time, and after another minute Chip said, as though they had never been interrupted, “Oh, they know me. They most certainly know me. Now keep your voice down. We don’t want to give the malefactors a chance to get away.”

Chip had no reason to worry on that score. The badger which had killed the rabbit was behind a bush, finishing up the last few morsels of his meal. The scent of fresh blood was thick on the afternoon breeze, and both Chip and Gary froze dead in their tracks, their instinct to run away coursing through every vein. Gary did in fact dash off behind a tree. Chip didn’t, but mostly this was because his perpetual fatigue kept the flight mechanism at bay. He hopped slowly into view in what he assumed was a confident swagger (but which actually looked like a squirrel hopping slowly) and stopped several feet from the badger.

Chip cleared his throat, and the badger cocked its head toward him. “My name,” said Chip, this time with a pause that was intentionally dramatic, “is Sycamore Chip. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”

The badger blinked at him. “There aren’t any sycamores in this forest,” he said.

“You’re evading the question.”

“You didn’t ask me one. Now let me eat in peace.”

Gary was now at Chip’s side now, shivering in fear. “I-I don’t think he’s heard of you, sir,” he said. “Perhaps we should question him from up in this fine oak tree.”

Chip shook his head grimly. “They’ve all heard of me. Every one of them. But it’s customary in every crime story for the criminal to play dumb. They have to keep their cool, you see. And I’m not questioning him from a tree. Don’t be so cowardly. Don’t you see we have to assert ourselves or the case will never be solved?”

“I see,” said Gary, though he didn’t, and was still marshaling his arguments for the two of them making for the nearest tree.

Chip hopped a few inches closer to the badger and said, “You can’t fool me, you know. Squirrels may not be gifted with quite the killer instinct you possess, but I possess at least one thing you don’t: the ability to spot a crime when I see it.”

The badger turned fully this time. “What’s a ‘crime?’” it asked.

Chip blinked several times. “A crime? What’s a crime?”

“That’s what I asked.”

“A crime is, well, it’s something evil, something that has been done that bears a strong resemblance to an act which is, er, a crime.”

“Ah. I see,” said the badger, though he didn’t. He snuffled the breeze in a manner which in the forest is equivalent to a human twiddling his or her thumbs. “But why are you here?”

“Oh, I think you know full well why I’m here,” said Chip.

“Offhand I’d have to say no, I don’t know why you’re here. You should have already fled by now. Isn’t that your instinct?”

“That’s the instinct of the common squirrel, yes. But I’m not a common squirrel. I’m a detective squirrel.”

“A what?”

“A detective squirrel.”

“I’d ask you what that is, but then you’d tell me, and I’m not sure I care enough at this point to go through all that.”

“Do as you wish. What’s most important is this: a rabbit has been brutally murdered near here and I am investigating the incident. Perhaps you can tell me,” Chip said with a knowing smile, “if you’ve heard of anything related to the matter.”

“Yes, I can.”

“Ah, that’s nice. Isn’t that nice, Gary?” Gary nodded rapidly but could do no more than squeak because the badger had now taken notice of him and was watching him with beady eyes. Chip asked, in a patronizing way, “And do you know precisely what became of this rabbit?”

“Yes. I killed him and now I’m eating him. I’d like to continue eating him.”

“Ha! A confession! So you admit to having perpetrated this foul deed?”

“I suppose so, if by ‘perpetrated’ you mean I did it.”

Chip shook his head sadly. “An innocent rabbit. Such a tragedy. Isn’t it a tragedy, Gary?”

Gary was not quite brave enough, and was standing several feet back, muscles tensed and ready for flight. But he still managed to squeak out, “A tragedy, yes. That’s what it is, all right.”

“And we have a full confession from the killer, who’s still on the scene of the crime.”

“A lucky break!”

“There’s nothing lucky about it, Gary. Just solid detective work. Now,” said Chip, turning once again to face the Badger, who had gone back to his meal, “in cases such as this, there’s really only one way forward: you’ll have to come with me.”

“To do what?”

Chip was momentarily flummoxed. In all the detective stories he’d read, the criminal was sent to jail. The forest didn’t have a jail. The closest thing they had was the beaver dams along the south bank of the river, but even in his sleep-deprived state Chip was fairly certain the beavers wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about turning their homes into a prison for carnivorous animals.

So Chip improvised. “You’ll face punishment from the proper authorities.”

The badger frowned. “For killing a rabbit?”

“Of course!”

“That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Next you’ll be telling me you plan to punish mockingbirds for going around repeating what other people say.”

Chip’s eyes took on a hungry gleam. “Gary!” he shouted. “Make a note of this. Some mockingbird is going around repeating what other people say! That will be our next stop after we deal with this fiend here.”

The badger blinked several times in succession and then said, “What’s the deal with you, anyway?”

“He doesn’t sleep much,” admitted Gary from a spot now fifteen away.

“Hush!” shouted Chip. “Let me do my job.”

The badger sighed. He went back to his meal and said, without turning his head, “Look, this is getting a bit annoying. Ordinarily I wouldn’t feel the need to kill again because I’ve got a belly full of rabbit, but if you keep bothering me I’m going to have a go at you anyway.”

Chip backed up a few inches. Even his extreme fatigue wasn’t proof against a direct threat from a badger. He forced himself to stay calm, though, and said, “You may think that, but you’ll find I’m made of tougher stuff than that. Now come along quietly or. . .”

He didn’t get a chance to finish his thought, because at that moment the badger whipped away from the rabbit he was eating and pounced at Chip. The great shamus flung himself a foot in the air and scurried up a low-hanging tree branch. The badger followed him, leaping right at the spot where Chip was. However, just at this moment Chip’s sleeplessness overcame him and he blacked out, landing with a thud on the forest floor. The badger’s momentum carried him right past where he would have collided with Chip, and he slammed head-first into the tree trunk with a thwack. He hit the forest floor with a thud and got up rubbing his head angrily.

“This is ridiculous,” he shouted. “I’m going someplace where I can eat in peace.” And with that, he dragged the remains of the rabbit to some other part of the forest.

Chip was dozing peacefully when Gary appeared some minutes later, trembling like a leaf. He crept slowly towards the sleeping figure of the detective and nuzzled him until he woke up. Chip looked about him wildly, saw the badger had gone, and smiled.

“We haven’t caught him yet,” he told Gary, “but we did the next best thing: scared him away. He’ll think twice before he commits a crime in this forest.”

“Did we really scare him away?”

“Of course we did! And gave him a good walloping he won’t soon forget! I can still see some of his fur over there on the grass.”

Sure enough, some fur from the badger’s top-knot had come away due to the ferocity of his collision with the tree. Gary saw it, and his eyes widened. “You fought a badger,” he said with wonder in his voice. “And drove it away!”

“That I did,” said Chip matter-of-factly, “though sadly I fell asleep in the middle of it. No matter. I think this should convince you, if you ever needed proof, that detective work is not for the faint of heart.”

“I can see that.”

“And that I have the heart for it.”

“I can see that, too!”

Chip was on his feet now and twitched his tail. “So, then,” he said, “let’s find that mockingbird.”

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1 Responses to The Adventures of Sycamore Chip, Sleep-Deprived Squirrel Detective: The Case of the Dead Rabbit

  1. Cat says:

    May all your nights be sleepless. I want more.

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