The crew at M&T Pony Detective Agency is back. This time they have a mystery crash and a large case to solve!
By N. A. Souer
The barn shook. Fire exploded in the distance.
“M, Wake up!” Mama Kitty cried. “There’s been a terrible accident.”
“What happened?” M asked, alarmed by the sound.
“A plane crashed in the back pasture,” Mama Kitty said. “Mousy and Tweak ran out to see if they could help.”
“Call 911,” M said.
“Mousy already did.”
“Down in the lean-to, trying to calm the pasture horses. They are terrified.”
“Stay here,” M said. “I’ll run out and see if I can help.”
What a way to start a New Year, M thought, his head throbbing from too much Apple-Nog at the office party a few hours before.
M galloped out into the darkness towards the distant glow, his mini sized legs going as fast as they could. When he got there nothing could be seen except the outline of a small plane, engulfed in smoke and flames.
M found Mousy and Tweak over by the fence line. Tweak was snapping photos with his new halter camera he’d gotten from Santa, and Mousy was trying to control the crowd of feral cats, who were watching all the commotion with suspicion.
“Did anyone see what happened?” M asked Tweak.
“Not really,” Tweak said. “One of the pasture horses said they smelled something sweet, just before the crash. They trotted down the hill because they thought Santa had left some peppermint treats out in the field. But the closer they got, the smell got really weird.”
“Yeah,” Mousy said, approaching his friends from the crowd of scared felines. “That is what the feral cats are saying, too. Next thing they knew a plane crashed in the back field.”
M looked down at his feet. “What is this stuff?” he asked, picking up his front hoof to take a closer look. “It’s all black and sticky.”
“It smells sort of sweet and petroleum like at the same time,” Mousy said.
Just then a big, burly police gelding came over. “Move along,” he said. “There’s nothing to see here. Go back to the barn for your own safety.”
In the aisle, outside their stalls, M tried to calm everyone down.
“Let’s go back to sleep,” he said. “The police and fire department will get everything sorted out.”
But M couldn’t sleep when he got back to his stall. He turned on his TV and watched an old rerun of Downton Stable, while he thought about the strange events of the night. He was nearly asleep when a noise out in the aisle woke him and the overhead light came on. M looked out as a lame reindeer staggered into the aisle way. Tweak, Mousy, and Sasha looked out, too.
“So sorry to disturb you all,” the reindeer said, out of breath and with a faint British accent, “but is there somewhere I could clean up?”
Mama Kitty approached the stranger.
“You’ve been hurt,” she said. “You need a vet.”
“No,” the reindeer said. “Please, don’t go to any trouble. I just need to clean up a bit.”
M directed the stranger to an empty stall where he staggered in, then collapsed, unconscious in the deep bedding.
“Now what?” Sasha asked, looking down at her short boss.
M thought something looked familiar about the stranger. Back in his stall he called his old place of employment, the Northland Pony Secret Service, where he had worked as a special agent before retiring and starting the M&T Pony Detective Agency with his business partner, Tweak.
“That is highly classified information,” an agent’s voice said.
“Look,” M said, “I’m a retired NPSS special agent, with a class five clearance.”
“And that’s the key word, retired,” the arrogant voice said. “You no longer hold the same clearance level.”
M snorted with frustration, then nudged the disconnect button on his halter.
“Well,” Sasha said. “Any luck?”
“No,” M said, “those young agents are all alike. No respect for retirees.”
M went back to his stall and sent an e-mail to his old friend, Red Kringle Bell. There was no reply. A few hours later a package arrived for M. Inside was a prepaid phone with a note that read, call this number.
“Who is this?” M demanded, once he dialed.
“It’s me, M,” a voice said.
“Why the burn phone?” M asked, as soon as he recognized Red Kringle Bell’s voice.
“I heard you were inquiring about Operation Candy Cane,” Red said
“What’s that? All I want to know why one of Santa’s planes has crashed in our pasture.”
“Did the pilot survive?”
“I think so, why? What’s going on, Red?”
“Operation Candy Cane is highly classified, that’s why I contacted you with a burn phone. I don’t want to risk this call being traced.”
“So what is this candy cane thing anyway?”
“Santa has been having the elf research department develop fuel for his sleigh with a candy cane syrup blend to help get airborne.”
“But he has the reindeer, why does he need fuel?”
“Yes, but the sleigh team is getting older and can’t get up to a high enough altitude to remain airborne as quickly as they used to.”
“So what does Santa’s fuel research have to do with the plane in our pasture?”
“A week ago we got intel that there had been a breach in Santa’s security. A sort of reindeer gone rogue. I just sent you a photo. We suspect this was the pilot of the plane. He’s wanted by NPSS.”
M pulled up the photo on his computer and immediately recognized the subject.
“Who is he?
“His name is Rowdy Reindeer. He’s a grandson of Rudolph’s, but did not inherit the family’s red nose characteristic. We suspect he’s been selling Santa’s information on the black market.”
“So what does Rudolph’s grandson got to do with the plane in our pasture?” M pressed.
“NPSS suspects that Rowdy was secretly posing as an assistant to the elves doing the research and then selling the results to the Arabian mafia.”
“And why would they want it?” M asked.
“The Arabian Equine cartel controls the cost of oil, and a low cost substitute cuts into their profit. It is in their best interest to sabotage or stop any kind of substitute product being developed.”
“Even Santa’s research team?”
“Yes, sadly, even Santa.”
M shook his head. How could they be so inhumane to prevent Santa from developing something to make his yearly journey easier for his aging reindeer?
“Red, I want to tell you something, but I’m not sure if I should. It appears the pilot survived, but the local authorities investigating the crash do not know it.”
There was silence on the other end of the line.
“That’s what I figured,” Red said finally. “He must have ejected out of the plane before impact. Do you know where he is?”
“Yeah, he’s here at our barn,” M said. “He’s a little guy, no red nose, talks with a faint, British accent?”
“Yes, that’s Rowdy,” Red said.
“M, you need to keep him there and make sure no one gets close to that plane. I’ll send NPSS agents down to collect whatever parts are left of the plane and Rowdy.”
“What is so valuable about the plane? You said it’s the fuel that is top secret.”
“Yes,” Red said, “but the plane’s engine had to be modified to burn the fuel, so design modifications are classified as well.”
“What about the little guy flying the plane?” M asked. “What’s going to happen to him?”
“More than likely he’ll be tried for stealing North Pole research secrets. You and your team must keep him there. When the Arabian mafia realizes he’s missing they will put out a contract on him. I’ll get someone down there as soon as possible.”
Once off the phone, M filled in the team.
“Let me get this straight,” Tweak said. “We have to keep Rowdy here and secure the plane? How are we supposed to do that with the police and the fire department down there?”
“They can’t be there all night,” M said. “Let’s wait awhile and then venture out and take a look.”
The next morning, Tweak came running into the barn. “It’s gone,” he cried out in alarm. “The whole plane is gone.”
“How can it be gone?” M said. “There wasn’t much left of it.”
“That’s what the feral cats are saying,” Mousy said, out of breath from running up the hill after Tweak. “They said a big flatbed came during the night and took the plane away. There’s hardly any sign left of the crash.”
“Did anyone see who was driving? M asked.
“They said a couple shady looking Arabian geldings.”
M stomped his foot in frustration.
How was he going to explain this to Red?
“Look, we’re under orders,” M said. “We’ve got to find out what happened to that plane.” M paused, then turned to Mousy. “The storage place next door to our pasture just put in CC cameras. Any chance you could hack into their network and see if there’s any footage of the plane?”
“I could try,” Mousy said, “but it might not be a wireless network.”
“Right now it’s our only lead,” M said. “I’m going to call Red back.”
“What do you want us to do?” Tweak asked. M looked over at Tweak, Sasha, and Mama Kitty all waiting for their assignments. “You guys keep an eye on Rowdy,” he said. “We’ve already lost the plane, we can’t risk losing the pilot, too.”
Back in his stall M redialed his friend on the prepaid cell.
“Red, we’ve got a problem,” he began, “the plane wreckage is gone. A few of the feral cats saw a couple Arab thug types take it away on a flatbed. One of my associates is checking the CCTV footage of a business next door. But there’s no guarantee they picked up anything.”
“Good,” Red replied. “I’ll check the Google Earth satellite for your area. Maybe there’s something there as well.”
M had just nudged the disconnect button on his phone when Mousy and Tweak appeared in the stall doorway.
“We might have something,” Mousy said. “I managed to get a close up of the license plate off the neighbors CCTV, and Tweak ran the number through the state’s DMV database.”
“And,” M pressed.
“It is registered to an A1 Properties Incorporated,” Tweak said.
“Never heard of them,” M said.
“We had not either,” Mousy continued. “So we searched the state’s property tax database, and found five other properties owned by the same company.”
“Sounds like a shell company of some sort,” M said. “Keep working on it. See if there’s any connection between A1 Properties Incorporated and members of the Arabian mafia.”
“M,” Sasha said, looking inside the stall at her short boss. “Rowdy is awake now if you want to talk to him.”
“I certainly do,” M said, heading down the aisle way.
He had more than a few questions for their four-legged, pilot prisoner.
Inside the stall, M found Mama Kitty serving their guest carrot noodle soup and peppermint tea.
“My father is going to be so angry with me,” Rowdy said, sipping the tea. “He just doesn’t understand.”
“He is still your father,” Mama Kitty said gently.
“Maybe,” Rowdy said. “But, whatever I do it’s never good enough.”
Mama Kitty looked up as M walked in.
“Rowdy,” she said, “this is M&M, the owner of our detective agency.”
After the introduction, Mama Kitty quietly excused herself and left the stall.
“Looks like you had quite a bumpy landing,” M said, taking in the bandages Sasha and Mama Kitty had put on his head and shoulder.
“Yeah, I misjudged the petro needed for the distance,” Rowdy said, sniffing at the soup before taking another sip of tea.
“Where were you supposed to land?” M asked. Rowdy hesitated, and then sipped at the tea some more. “Look,” M went on, “I’ve already talked to a contact at NPSS, and I know you’re wanted for selling North Pole research secrets. If you do not cooperate it could result in even more charges against you.”
“I was supposed to fly the plane with a full tank of peppermint petro to an airstrip in Chaska,” Rowdy confessed with all the moodiness of an adolescent, teenage reindeer. “Most of the petro would be used up so they weren’t getting much.”
“And, what were you supposed to get out of the deal?” M pressed. Rowdy remained silent. “You may not realize this, but tampering with Santa’s research is a federal offense under North Pole law. Cooperating with us now just might keep you from a life sentence in a very bad place somewhere.”
Rowdy rolled his eyes and ignored M’s threat.
“They were supposed to get me back to the UK,” Rowdy finally answered.
“UK?” M pressed.
“Yeah, I want to get away from everything and everybody at the North Pole. You have no idea what it’s like. My father expects me to work on the sleigh team like he does and his father before him. My parents won’t listen to me. I refuse to work at a nowhere job for years, thanklessly pulling a sleigh around for a big, fat guy in a red suit.”
“So, you don’t approve of Santa’s humanitarian toy making work?” M asked.
“No, I don’t,” Rowdy said defiantly, “and I refuse to be another cog in the wheel of the North Pole system that caters to that egotistical old fool.”
“So, what’s in the UK?”
“My schoolmates,” Rowdy said. “I was sent there to boarding school, and me and my mates are going to start a rock and roll band.”
M took a deep, frustrated breath and changed the subject.
“Look, we need to find the plane you were flying, and I would really appreciate your help.”
“What do you mean?” Rowdy said. “It crashed and burned.”
“Yes,” M countered, “but some of your Arabian mob friends have stolen the wreckage.”
Rowdy took another sip of the hot, peppermint tea, then said nonchalantly, “Oh well, It won’t do them much good.”
M didn’t know what else to say. How thick headed could this spoiled brat be?
“I’m sure the petro was pretty well burnt up, and if any of the plane’s engine is salvaged it won’t be usable.”
“And, how do you know that?” M pressed, losing patience.
“I altered the firmware on the motherboard for the plane’s engine that controls the ratio balance of the petro and candy cane syrup.”
“You did what!”
Rowdy smirked, and then said, “It was nothing more than a small bit of reprogramming. If they start the engine it will dump more than enough syrup into the petro system to instantly freeze up all the cylinders. The whole thing will be a useless pile of rubbish.”
M could not believe what he was hearing.
“And, you really expected to get away with this!” M said, astonished at the utter ignorance.
“Well,” Rowdy said, with a mocking tone, “we all have to keep secrets for the fat guy in the red suit.”
That was it. M could not handle it anymore. He stomped out of the stall.
Mama Kitty and Sasha were waiting in the aisle.
“Did you learn anything?” Sasha asked
“Yeah,” M said angrily, “I learned he’s a cocky jerk.”
“And?” Mama Kitty pressed.
“We’ve got to find that plane and turn him over to NPSS as soon as possible,” M said, “otherwise the Arabian mob is going to fit him with cement hoof boots.”
“But he is so young,” Mama Kitty said, “how can he be in so much trouble?”
“Look,” M said, “after what I just heard, I’m about ready to turn him over to the Arabian mob myself.”
Once M got back to his stall, Mousy and Tweak came to the doorway.
“We tracked down the CEO of A1 Properties Incorporated,” Mousy said. “It’s a guy called Jonathan Dole Smithson.”
“His name was buried in the fine print on the company’s website,” Tweak added. “Other than that, there’s no trace of him.”
“Let me make a few phone calls,” M said.
Thirty minutes later, M had an answer.
“Jonathan Dole Smithson is an alias for a Bay El Si Heeb, a known equine Arabian mobster figure in this area,” M told Mousy and Tweak, standing in the aisle outside one of the stalls. “A friend down at the state’s federal crime bureau says he’s been charged several times but they can never get a conviction to stick.” M paused, and then added, “Now that we have a name of one of the mob guys, do some more digging and see what else you can find.”
Once back to his stall office, M phoned Red back and filled him in on the latest development.
“There are actually several properties owned by the shell company A1 Properties Incorporated,” Red said. “We’ve had them under surveillance for some time.” The line went silent and M could hear Red typing on his computer keyboard. “Wait a minute,” Red said. “It looks like there is one not far from your location.”
“Where?” M asked.
“Hold on,” Red said. “Let me pull up the satellite footage from last night.” There was more silence on the line. “That’s got to be it,” Red said at last. “One of the properties is about seven miles from you, on County Road 8 and Wagon View Trail. At 4:47 a.m. a truck pulled in with a flatbed trailer. The load was covered, but it looks like it could be our missing plane.”
“Anyway to confirm it?” M asked.
“Not without boots on the ground,” Red said. “Any chance some of your team could take a quiet look? We don’t want to spook them.”
M dispatched Mousy and Tweak. A half hour later M’s cell phone buzzed.
“It’s definitely the plane,” Mousy said, “and it looks like they’re trying to piece it back together.”
“Is there enough left?” M asked.
“Hard to say,” Mousy said. “I’m no expert, but it looks like the fuselage took most of the damage. The engine might be salvageable.”
“Any sign of the head mob guy?” M asked.
“Not at the moment,” Mousy said. “Tweak was able to listen in on one of their phone calls with a wiretapping app, and Bay El Si Heeb is coming here within the hour. Heads must be gonna roll cuz they are a nervous bunch.”
“Okay, keep them under surveillance,” M said. “There’s an NPSS SWAT team on their way.”
A few hours later, a military chopper touched down in front of the barn. Red Kringle Bell, along with two other mini North Pole FBI agents trotted in.
“Where is Rowdy?” Red asked M.
“Come with me,” M answered, then led the group down the aisle.
Inside the stall they found Mama Kitty and Sasha changing the bandages of their four-legged charge. When M appeared in the doorway, the girls finished quickly and left. After M made the introductions, Red Kringle Bell went straight to the point.
“At this moment,” Red began, “a SWAT team is apprehending Bay El Si Heeb and his associates. When the raid is over, they are going to charge them with theft of North Pole intellectual property and a host of other charges yet to be determined.”
“So,” Rowdy said, “what’s that got to do with me?”
“A lot, because you could be charged too.” Rowdy shrugged. Red went on. “But instead, we’re here to offer you a deal.”
“What sort of deal?”
“Witness Protection in exchange for your testimony against Bay El Si Heeb.”
“And, what if I don’t want protection from your lot?”
“Look,” Red went on, “we just learned an hour ago there’s been a contract put out on you. The Arab mob does not fool around. Without our help, I doubt you’ll stay alive for the next 24 hours.”
“And, how do I know I can trust you?”
“This is a North Pole FBI agent,” Red said, motioning to one of the other minis in the group. “He has a signed clemency statement from Santa himself, clearing you of any charges if you will testify against Bay El Si Heeb.”
“And then what?”
“Then you go into North Pole Witness Protection.”
M heard Mousy and Tweak come into the barn. He quietly excused himself and left the stall.
“Did they get the mob guy,” M asked.
“Oh yeah,” Mousy said. “The SWAT team came in with guns blazing. They also found several kilos of dirty hay cubes in the building where the plane was.” Mousy paused, then looked down the aisle at the end stall. “What’s happening here?”
“There’s a North Pole Fed in with Rowdy offering a witness protection deal.”
“Think he’ll take it?”
“Not sure,” M said. “The kid seems too dumb to know how much trouble he’s really in.”
“He’d be a fool not to take it,” Tweak said. “Those mob guys are mean. They probably even torture puddle monsters just for fun.”
M smirked at Tweak’s comment, then said, “Well, whatever happens from here on out, it’s an NPSS problem. We’ve done our part.”
They all nodded agreement.
An hour later another chopper set down in front of the barn. Rowdy was led out in leg-chain-hobbles by the two mini FBI agents. Red said a quick goodbye to M and his team, then trotted out to board the chopper. Everything was back to normal.
The following week a letter arrived in the mail, postmarked North Pole. Inside was a hand written letter, on official Christmas Town stationary, along with a check.
The message read:
Dear M&T Pony Detective Agency Team,
It is with great appreciation that I want to express a heartfelt thank you for your help apprehending the dangerous criminal, Bay El Si Heeb, and for providing aid and comfort to my wayward reindeer who was in distress at the time as a result of his own choices.
As we all know, we sometimes make bad decisions in our youth that we later regret. I can only hope in years to come my young reindeer friend will see things differently and seek to mend the relationships with his family and friends here at the North Pole. In the meantime, I have been assured by Northland Security that Rowdy is in a safe location where no harm can come to him.
Thank you again for all your help. Please accept the enclosed gift to cover any cost incurred in your effort to help ensure the safety and security of our operation here at the North Pole.
Everyone here wishes a belated Happy New Year to everyone on your team!