M and the crew are back! This time the M&T Pony Detective Agency is looking into the unknown — the alien unknown. Read on for more!
By N.A. Souer
If you missed the first part of the story, you can catch up here.
A few hours later Tweak and Mousy came to the stall doorway.
“It’s getting dark outside,” Tweak said. “Don’t you think the girls should have been back by now?”
“Maybe they’re working late,” M said. “Mr. Ritter did say fall was the busy time at the apple orchard.”
“I think I’m going to walk over and check on them,” Mousy said. “I’m not comfortable with my mom being out so late.”
“I’ll go with,” M said, “because I’m sure not making any progress here.”
On the way over the three discussed the case.
“I’ve called everyone I can think of,” M said, “but I keep hitting dead ends”
“What about the local police? Tweak asked.
“They refuse to talk about ongoing cases,” M said. “As soon as I tried to explain the possible drug ring connection with the Ritter Orchard, they just laughed. One police Sergeant told me I should contact the state’s Bureau of Extraterrestrial Affairs. By that time I was desperate, so I asked for the number.”
“What happened then?” Tweak asked.
“The guy just laughed more and hung up.”
“What about your contacts at NPSS?” Mousy asked.
Before M started the M&T Pony Detective Agency, he had worked as a special agent for the Northland Pony Secret Service, aka NPSS.
“I tried,” M said, “but they claim this type of crime is handled on the state level. NPSS won’t investigate until it crosses state lines when it becomes a federal crime.”
“But we don’t know if this stuff is happening in other states,” Tweak said. “It could be for all we know.”
“Yes, and there’s the rub,” M said, “the local authorities say it’s bogus and NPSS won’t touch it unless we can prove that Fenta-Bute laced apple treats are being sold in other states.”
The conversation was interrupted by a vibration sound from M’s cell phone in his halter pocket. He reached down and nudged the call button on his knee.
Mama Kitty’s panic-stricken voice cried out from the speaker.
“Sasha’s been kidnapped. The aliens took her!”
“Calm down,” M said. “Where are you?”
“The west side of the orchard.”
“Okay, stay there,” M said, breaking into a run. “We’re on the way.”
When they arrived, Mama Kitty was seated in an empty apple basket, while Mr. Ritter stood by doing what he could to console the frightened feline.
“What happened?” M asked.
“Sasha was giving me a ride home,” Mama Kitty began. “We were taking a shortcut through the apple orchard. Suddenly the alien spaceship appeared, Sasha bolted and I fell off. I tried to run after her, but I just can’t move as fast as I used to.”
“Where did she go?” M pressed.
“She ran towards the utility shed.”
M looked over at Mousy.
“That’s where the spotlight and tank setup is,” Mousy said.
“Then what happened?” M pressed Mama Kitty more.
“When I caught up I saw the aliens forcing Sasha onto a trailer.”
“Aliens,” M said with a smirk. “What did they look like?”
“They walked upright on two legs and had on white space suits,” Mama Kitty said. “They had big, goggle-like eyes. And, they had weird tails, too. Not hair, but sort of like feathers.“
“Feathers?” Tweak asked, puzzled.
Mousy looked at M.
“The shiny outfits have got to be hazmat suits because of the radiation risk,” he said. “But, two legs?”
“That description only fits one bunch of thugs,” M said
“Who?” Tweak asked.
“It’s gotta be one of the wild turkey gangs in this area.”
“What would turkey aliens want with Sasha?” Mama Kitty asked.
“Maybe as a hostage in exchange for a Thanksgiving Day pardon” Mousy said with a chuckle.
“They’re not aliens,” M said, “only a bunch of web-footed bullies.”
Just then a cell phone pinged a message on a nearby apple crate. Mr. Ritter looked down at the phone’s screen, then at M with a fearful expression..
“What’s wrong?” M asked, then went over to see the message for himself.
“They have kidnapped my granddaughter,” Mr. Ritter said with a shaky voice.
“They’re demanding you sign over the orchard,” M said, reading the text. He looked up at Mr. Ritter. “But, they don’t have your granddaughter,” he said. “They have one of my associates.”
“They must have thought Sasha was Ellie May Ritter,” Tweak said. “Remember how much they look alike?”
“But where is the real Ellie May?” Mousy asked.
“She just texted me this morning,” Mr. Ritter said. “She was going to catch the next trailer home from Pony College and planned to be here tomorrow.”
“Can you text her back?” M asked. “Tell her to go stay with a friend or something for a few days.”
“What good will that do?” Tweak asked. “We need to rescue Sasha!”
“As long as those bird brain thugs think Sasha is the real Ellie May,” M explained, “they won’t hurt her. They need her for leverage. In the meantime it will buy some time for me to contact a buddy over at the Hay, Grain, and Drug Administration office.”
“And what’s that supposed to do?” Tweak asked.
“If there have been any reports of Fenta-Bute laced products in other states that will make the case for the drug task force from NPSS to get involved.”
Everyone was silent.
The whole team knew when M called in his NPSS friends they were dealing with some very serious characters. And, to date, this was the most dangerous situation the M&T Pony Detective team had encountered.
“I’m so scared for Sasha,” Mama Kitty yowled out. “What if they torture her?”
“As long as she shuts her mouth,” M said, “the only torture she’ll endure is not seeing peppermint treats for a while.” M could tell Mama Kitty was not convinced. “Look, Sasha has a lot of pasture-street-smarts, she’ll be okay.”
“You know, “Mousy said, “this could easily go from a kidnapping to a hostage situation. Can NPSS deal with that kind of crisis?”
“They have hostage negotiators on staff,” M said, “and if we can find out where they’ve taken Sasha it might give them the upper hand.” M turned to Mr. Ritter and asked, “Do you have any security cameras out by your utility shed?”
“Yes,” he said, “We have a few to watch for trespassers.”
M turned back to Mousy and Tweak.
“Review the camera footage,” M said. “See if you can get a decent description of the trailer vehicle and a possible plate number. Then comb through the state’s DOT cameras and see if you can get an idea where they took Sasha.” M paused and looked at Tweak. “Also,” he added, “get a description of the trailer and Sasha out to local law enforcement agencies. Explain what has happened and tell them to keep an eye out.”
“What do you want me to do?” Mama Kitty asked, looking at M with a fearful expression.
“Stay with Mr. Ritter and help him contact his granddaughter,” M said. “If she doesn’t have a place to go, text me and I will figure something out.”
“Is my granddaughter in danger?” Mr. Ritter asked with concern.
“As long as those bird brain thugs don’t realize they have the wrong mare, we’re good,” M said. “But, we’ve got to work fast.”
An hour later the team met in the barn feed room.
“It turns out there have been five other Fenta-Bute poisonings,” M told the team, “two in Iowa and three in Wisconsin. Only one case involved a Ritter Apple product but the crime labs in both states say the chemical makeup of the substance in all five cases was essentially the same and likely from the same source.”
“So is NPSS going to help us?” Tweak asked.
“There’s a team of special agents on the way,” M said. “Meantime, Ellie May has been stashed at an NPSS safe house barn.” M turned to Mousy. “Have you been able to figure out where they took Sasha,” he asked.
“Not exactly,” Mousy said, “but I’ve got a pretty good idea where they are headed. I was able to link footage from the various traffic cameras around the state, so I know they took Highway 94 to 36. It looks like they’ re headed to Wisconsin. I’m trying to hack into Wisconsin’s DOT system now.”
“Good,” M said. “Keep on it.” He turned to Tweak. “Did you get a description out to the local authorities?”
“Yeah,” Tweak replied, “The police have issued an APB for the whole five-state area.”
“Okay,” M said, silently fearing for Sasha’s safety. “I guess it’s a hoof-biting, waiting game from here.”
Thirty minutes later a dark SUV trailer pulled up and five mini horse, NPSS special agents got out and trotted into the barn. The group gathered in the feed room where M briefed them on what was known so far.
“If they are headed to Wisconsin,” one chestnut, special agent said, “we know who’s behind this.”
“Who?” Tweak asked.
“Antonio Tetrazzini,” a pinto special agent chimed in. “He’s the top Tom-Don in the state’s wild turkey mob.”
The lead agent turned to M and his staff.
“Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this,” he said. “If Antonio Tetrazzini really has one of your associates, then she’s in serious danger. Our sources tell us the guy barely survived Avian Covid Flu a few years back, and he’s not been right in the head since. Antonio Tetrazzini is one mixed up, psycho bird.”
“What happens now?” Mousy asked.
“We have the Tetrazzini hideout under surveillance,” the chestnut special agent said, then looked over at M. “Has your client replied to the kidnapper’s demands?”
“Only to not hurt his daughter,” M said. “They apparently don’t realize Sasha is not the real Ellie May Ritter. They are demanding he sign over the property before midnight tonight.”
“Okay,” the chestnut said. “Text back and say there is a lien against the property and cannot be settled until the bank opens tomorrow.”
“Won’t stalling make them angry?”
“Not if the story is convincing.” He was interrupted by his cell phone. He nudged the call button and listened through his earpiece. When the call ended, he looked back at M. “That was one of our surveillance team, they have visual confirmation your associate is being held at the mob’s hideout”
“What’s the next move?” M asked.
“Send a message back using the lien on the property reason. Arrange to meet tomorrow in a public space, out in the open. That will give us time to move another team into place.”
The next morning, everyone met in the feed room at 5:00 a.m.
The chestnut NPSS agent addressed the group.
“At 9:00 a.m. today a set of documents will be left on a picnic table at the Elmo Lake Park,” he said. “Once pickup is complete, the kidnappers will release your associate at the north end of the lot.”
“And if they don’t? Mousy asked.
“We’ll have sharpshooters in position if necessary.”
The room was silent, as the gravity of the situation sank in.
“The papers have microscopic tracking devices embedded in them,” the chestnut agent went on, “so we will be able to track where they go.” The agent paused and looked at M. “As soon as your team has your associate out of harm’s way, my agents will move in. Simultaneously there will be another NPSS team over in Wisconsin, ready to raid the Tetrazzini hideout.”
At 9:05 a.m., M, Tweak, and Mousy were crouched behind a bank of porta-potty stalls, at the North end of the Elmo Lake parking lot. All three dressed in Kevlar, bulletproof, vests.
M’s earpiece buzzed to life.
“The package has been picked up,” a voice said.
“Copy that,” M said quietly into his halter mike. “In position for the release.”
The trio nervously waited.
Several minutes later, a silver stock van pulled up and Sasha was shoved out the back, onto the pavement. The vehicle sped away. An immediate barrage of bullets peppered the van. A wild eyed turkey hung out the side window with a AK-47 shooting back.
“Sasha, run!” Tweak cried out.
The big mare scrambled to her feet, then bolted to a brick lined wash stall, and leaped the side half-wall for cover. Tweak and Mousy scurried over to her.
M’s earpiece came to life once more.
“Cease fire,” a voice commanded. “Targets are down.”
“Status report?” A voice inquired.
M recognized the chestnut agent’s voice on the other end.
“Driver is dead,” another voice answered. “The side target took one in the wing, but he should survive. Rear target got hit in the wishbone. He’s alive for now, but bleeding out fast.”
“Was Antonio Tetrazzini among the targets?” the chestnut agent’s voice asked through the earpiece.
“Negative,” the other agent answered.
Then a new voice came on the line.
“Wisconsin team to Elmo Lake team, do you read?”
“Go ahead, Wisconsin team,” the chestnut’s voice answered.
“The suspect you’re looking for has been apprehended here, along with 20 kilos of merchandise.”
“Copy that,” the chestnut answered.
M trotted over to the others.
“They got him,” he said.
Mousy and Tweak breathed a sigh of relief.
Sasha collapsed to the ground.
“I’ve never been so scared in all my life,” she cried as the chestnut agent came around the wash rack wall.
“Everyone okay here?” he asked, then looked down at Sasha. “Are you okay ma’am?” Sasha nodded weakly. “What are all those bite marks on your flank?” the chestnut agent asked.
“Oh, it was awful!” Sasha wailed. “They locked me in a stall with hundreds of West Nile infected mosquitoes and told me I was going to die a terrible death.”
The chestnut agent looked over at M.
“We better get her checked out,” he said.
A few hours later, the chestnut agent called M with results of Sasha’s lab report.
“The coat and skin scrapings did show the presence of West Nile virus,” he said, “but the blood draw was clean.”
“Does that mean she has West Nile or not?” M questioned.
“Fortunately the virus did not penetrate the subcutaneous layer of flesh to make it into the bloodstream. “
“So, you’re telling me Sasha’s was too fat for the mosquitoes to bite through and infect her with the virus?”
The chestnut agent stumbled for the appropriate, albeit politically correct words to respond with.
“It’s okay,” M said finally. “For once I’m glad having some extra padding is a good thing.” He paused, and then added with a devious grin. “Just wait until I tell our vet!”