Halloween Short Story: The Jimmy Hoofer Case

The M&T Pony Detective Agency is back — and this time they have some inherited land and the rumor of ghosts. Read on to see how the case unfolds.

By N.A. Souer

“Everyone says it’s haunted,” Mousy said.

M stomped his mini-sized hoof in frustration. As the managing partner at the M&T pony Detective Agency, he had heard this sort of thing before.

“Look,” M said, “if I galloped off every time someone tried to scare me, I’d never get far in this business.”

“Still,” Mama Kitty said, “if the property has a bad reputation that would explain why Grandpa Sonny never sold it.”

“Maybe he couldn’t sell it,” Tweak said. “At least not at market value.”

“Even if he didn’t get full price,” Mousy said, “he still would have been money ahead.”

For the first time in its history, the M&T Pony Detective Agency was in an odd situation. It all started when M and his office secretary, Sasha, received certified letters informing them they had jointly inherited a valuable piece of real estate from their dear friend, Grandpa Sonny, who recently had crossed Rainbow Bridge.

“None of it makes any sense,” Tweak said. “If Grandpa Sonny had something that valuable, why would he live out his last days at a low income, senior living barn like this one?”

“That’s what we’ve got to find out,” M said, then turned to Mousy. “Keep digging and find out more than just the local gossip of the place supposedly being haunted,” M said with a wry smirk. “Find out the history on the property, who owned it, what it was used for and if there are any outstanding liens against it.” He turned to Mama Kitty and Sasha, “I’d like you girls to dig into Grandpa’s Sonny’s family history. See if you can figure out how he acquired the land in the first place. Did he inherit it from some shirt tail relative?”

“And me?” Tweak asked.

“Find it on a map and take a look at Google Earth. See what kind of shape it’s in,” M said.

A few hours later the team met in the feed room.

“The property looks like an overgrown mess on Google Earth,” Tweak said. “It doesn’t look like nothing has been done in years.”

“That’s odd,” Mousy said. “When I looked at the tax records, they indicated there was a training stable leasing out the land from a guy named Sonny DaBari.”

“Wait!” Mama Kitty exclaimed. “That name sounds familiar.” She jumped over to the feed bin, where she and Sasha began rustling through papers. “Here it is!” she finally announced, holding up a family tree chart. Sonny DaBari was Grandpa’s Sonny’s distant cousin.

”So,” M said. “Maybe they worked out a deal between them so that Grandpa Sonny would not have to claim it.”

“I don’t think so,” Mama Kitty said

“Why not?” Tweak asked.

“Because Sonny DaBari died in 1979, and Grandpa Sonny wasn’t foaled until 1987.”

Everyone was silent until M’s cell phone started to ring back in his office-stall.

M went to answer the call while the others continued to talk.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Tweak said.

“It sounds spooky,” Sasha said.

“More than that,” Mousy said, looking down at his laptop. “Here’s one of the headlines from the time, QH Racing Agent Killed in Trailer Accident, Authorities Question Cause.”

“Sounds like it wasn’t an accident,” Tweak said.

“Not likely,” Mousy said. “The article goes on to say Sonny DaBari was investigating a possible connection between the racing commission and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoofer.”

“Isn’t he the gelding that was trying to unionize the QH runners at the track?” Sasha asked.

“Yeah,” Tweak said, looking over at Mousy’s computer screen. “And judging by the dates, he disappeared right before Sonny DaBari supposedly had the accident.”

“Was the body of Jimmy Hoofer ever found?” Mama Kitty asked.

“No,” Mousy said, “and it probably never will because he’s likely at the bottom of some lake with cement hoof boots.”

“This is all interesting,” Sasha said, “but what does Jimmy Hoofer’s disappearance have to do with Grandpa Sonny?”

“There’s got to be some kind of a connection,” M said, returning from his stall. “That was the legal office on the phone. Someone is contesting Grandpa Sonny’s will.”

“Why?” Tweak asked.

“And, who?” Sasha asked.

“Someone named Nellie Hoofer.”

“Any relation to the assumed, late Jimmy Hoofer?” Mama Kitty asked.

“A great-granddaughter,” M answered, “and she claims her great-grandfather is alive and well and living on the property in question.”

“No way,” Tweak said. “He’d have to be over 50 years old.” M shrugged. “No one lives that long, I don’t care what kind of supplements you take.”

“Book a trailer ride down there,” M said. “It’s time we go see the place.”

“But the locals claim it’s haunted,” Tweak protested.

M smirked

“Great!” M said. “If we meet up with the ghost of Jimmy Hoofer maybe he can clear this whole thing up.”

“The great-granddaughter cannot really believe Jimmy Hoofer is still alive?” Sasha asked.

“Who knows?” M replied “The estate lawyer says she’s one of these natural communicators. He confessed he thinks she’s a nut job, but he has to go through with the formality of contesting the will anyway. In the meantime, let’s go have a look.”

* * *

The next day the team arrived at the inherited property. The group stood on the side of the road, alongside a wooded meadow area.

“There’s not much to see,” Sasha said.

“It’s out in the middle of nowhere,” Tweak said.

“Looks can be deceiving,” M said. “Let’s explore the place.” He set off down the road and went until he found a field trail leading into the woods. “This looks like an interesting path.”

“I don’t think we should go down there,” Sasha said.

“Why not?” M asked. “We are the new owners, and I’d like to see what we have inherited.” M didn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he turned and started down the trail. The rest of his team followed. A mile in, the group reached the top of a hill with a clearing below.

“Look at that.” Tweak said, gazing down at what looked like a training stable for young racing prospects.

“Maybe the tax records were right and someone is living on the property,” Mousy said.

“Let’s go find out,” M said, then started down the hill.

As they got closer, it became obvious that it was definitely a working stable. Young horses dressed in jock-type racing tack exercised on a dirt track on the far side of the property.

“Oh, if only I was 10 years younger,” Sasha gushed, watching a rather beefy looking stud colt breeze by.

“None of us is as young as we’d like to be,” Mama Kitty said, perched up on Sasha’s back.

M looked back at the girls with a smirk, but kept going. When he got to the side of the track, he approached a gray haired chestnut, intently watching a stopwatch and one of the track runners from a steel gate.

“Can you tell me where I can find the manager?” M asked as the chestnut nudged the button on the stopwatch with his nose.

“That’d be me,” the old horse said. “The name is Squeaky Dabari. Who are you?”

“We’re from the M&T Pony Detective Agency, and we represent the estate of Sonny Beau Gill,” M explained. “My name is M, and these are my colleagues.” After M introduced the team, he turned back and asked, “Are you any relation to Sonny Dabari?”

“That is my registered name, but everyone calls me Squeaky.”

M glanced back at Mousy and Tweak.

“That’s strange because our research indicates that was the name of the previous owner of this property, but he is now deceased.”

The old horse laughed.

“That was Sonny Dabari senior. I am junior.” He rocked back and forth on his front feet, causing his plastic composite shoes to make noise. “Never got to race like my Daddy wanted me to cuz the vet diagnosed me with navicular. Ever since I’ve had to wear these special shoes, Daddy called me Squeaky.”

The group collectively laughed nervously.

M cleared his throat.

“Well, Squeaky,” M said, “as I said the owner of this property, Sonny Beau Gill, has recently passed and the land has been willed to other parties.”

“Oh, yeah,” Squeaky said. “I remember Sonny Beau. That was Great Aunt Bessies’s boy. How’s he doing?”

“As I said,” M began once more, “he has passed on and the ownership of this property will be changing.”

Squeaky looked down at M with a confused expression.

“How’s that?” Squeaky asked. “My Daddy, Sonny Dabari SR, owned this land, and when he left this world it came to me.”

“So, you don’t lease the property from anyone?” Tweak asked, perplexed.

“No sir,” Squeaky answered. “Everything you see here I own outright.” He motioned around at the row-shed style barn, the utility hay shed, and the dirt track. “I’ve been teaching my boys to run here for over 30 years,” he said “and I’m not about to stop.” Squeaky turned as a young, chestnut horse approached, then entered a nearby starting gate. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” Squeaky said, “I’ve gotta get back to work.”

He turned to the stopwatch on the fence post, and clicked the start button with a nod to the chestnut colt to start.

“While we’re here, do you mind if we look around?” M asked.

“Suit yourself,” Squeaky said, watching the stopwatch intently. “But make no mistake, no son of Great Aunt Bessie’s is gonna take this land from me.”

Tweak started to say something, but M hushed him, and led the group away toward the trail back into the woods.

“Why didn’t you tell him we are the beneficiaries of Grandpa Sonny’s will?” Sasha asked, annoyed with M.

“Because there’s no sense making an enemy of that old guy,” M said, then turned to Tweak. “Are you sure you have the correct coordinates off Google Earth?”

“I rechecked three times,” Tweak said

“Okay,” M said, turning back to the group. “Let’s take a nice walk out on the trail and see what we’ve inherited.”

Sasha started to say something, but M turned away and headed down the path into the trees. The rest of the group followed. Together they strolled along enjoying the crisp, cool October air and the brilliant fall colors around them. Eventually the conversation returned to the land.

“What are you thinking of doing with your half?” Mama kitty asked M.

“Well,” M began thoughtfully, “our board-rent is not getting any cheaper, and the cost of hay is getting outrageous, so I’d like to build our own barn and clean off an area for our own hay field.” He stopped and looked up at Mama Kitty, perched on Sasha’s back. “We could all live a much easier life here.”

“How would we finance the building and land clearing?” Tweak asked.

M thought a moment before answering. “We’ve had some recent, lucrative cases,” he said, “and I’d be willing to invest in the property. We could set up the barn so the front half would be office space for the detective agency and the other half stalls that we could rent out. Basically the property would work for us rather than us working our tails off every month to cover the board-rent.”

The group walked on several yards up an incline, quietly contemplating M’s idea.

Suddenly, Sasha let out a blood curdling scream. She bolted up the incline past the group, and trembled at the top of the hill.

“What the heck!” M yelled.

“There’s a dead body,” Sasha cried, eyes bulging with fear.

M and Tweak checked it out.

“What is it?” Mousy asked from the top of the hill crest.

“Keep Sasha and your mom up there,” M called back, as he stared down at a partially uncovered, and very decomposed hoof and fetlock joint in the dirt, just to the side of the trail path. “I will call the police.”

An hour later, the group was interviewed by a burly, grey haired police gelding, while several other police horses taped off the scene.

“Why were you out on this trail?” the police gelding asked. “This is private property.”

M explained the whole situation and ended, saying, “Since we are the beneficiaries of the will, we just wanted to see what we have inherited. We talked to Sonny Dabari, the guy that runs the training stable down there,” M paused and pointed with his nose. “He told us we could look around.”

The police gelding stared down at M.

“Sonny Dabari has been dead for years,” he said.

“Yes,” M said, “we know Sonny Dabari, Sr. has been dead for a long time, but we talked to his son, Squeaky Dabari.”

“Look,” the police gelding said, “I don’t know what kind of October spooky prank is being pulled here, but there is no way you could have talked to old Squeaky Debari because he died in a barn fire years ago. This place has been abandoned ever since. So, again, who did you talk to?”

“I’m telling you,” M said, “the guy identified himself as Squeaky Dabari and said he ran the training stable down the hill.”

The rest of the team nodded agreement with M’s statement.

The police gelding shook his head in disbelief, then asked for their contact information and said he’d be in touch at a later date.

After they got done, M took off down the hill.

“Where are you going?” Tweak called out.

M didn’t answer. The rest of the group chased after him.

When they got to the bottom of the hill, they looked over where they’d seen the training stable. But, the scene was totally different. The dirt track was overgrown with tangled weeds, and littered with rotting fence boards, scattered every which way with menacing, rusty nails pointing upward, ready to puncture the frog of anyone who dared to get too close. The rail gate, where they had talked to whoever claimed to be Squeaky Dabari was now a dilapidated sight, rusted out and hanging off a half broken hinge, flaked with peeling paint someone had applied years before. In the distance, the row-shed barn was blackened from what looked like a serious fire at some time, and nearby the adjacent hay shed had caved in and looked like it had been the victim of recent severe storms.

M turned back to the group.

“Let’s go home,” he said softly, and then turned back to the trail that led to the road.

* * *

A week later, a dark SUV van pulled up to the barn and a bay gelding got out, along with a young, chestnut mare.

“Who is that?” Sasha asked, looking out over M’s head.

“I have no idea,” M said. “When the estate attorney called to say he wanted to stop by to get our hoof prints on some documents, he didn’t say anyone would be coming with.”

The past few days had been tense around the barn, and no one dared mention their trip to the inherited property. But now, the time was at hand to make decisions.

“Have you heard from the state police?” the attorney asked, once everyone gathered in the feed room.

“Yes,” M said. “They confirmed the body we found was a decomposed Jimmy Hoofer. The police think there might be others because they have long suspected the TB mob was dumping bodies out there and relying on the property’s haunted reputation to keep out prying eyes. The police have just have never had any proof, until now. So for the time being, the place is a crime scene.”

“I’m sorry it has such an unpleasant past,” the attorney said. “Hopefully the reputation will fade once things are sorted out.”

“We hope so,” M said, “because we’d like to relocate our agency there. We’re just not so sure now.”

“On that note,” the attorney said, “forgive my manners, but I forgot to introduce my companion.” He turned to the chestnut mare, and said, “I’d like to introduce Nellie Hoofer, the great-granddaughter of Jimmy Hoofer.” He paused, and then explained with a smirk in M’s direction. “She requested to come with me today because she has a message for you from a deceased relative.”

“Yes,” Nellie Hoofer began, totally unfazed by the obvious disbelief in the room. “I know this sounds crazy and all, but my great-grandfather just didn’t realize he was dead. He’s been living out there all this time. Anyway, I’m supposed to tell you Squeaky Dabari talked to Great Aunt Bessie’s boy, and it has been decided that you can have the land.”

“Yeah, well,” M said awkwardly, not believing the nonsense he was hearing. “That’s very nice of them.”

The attorney awkwardly cleared his throat, and then changed the subject.

“If I can get your hoof prints on these documents,” he said to M and Sasha, “I can finish the paperwork.”

After they left, the team gathered in M’s stall.

“What do you make of that?” Tweak asked. “Think it’s really a message from beyond?”

“After what happened out there,” Sasha said, “I don’t ever want to see the place again.”

“She’s got to be a fake,” Mousy said.

“The message did indicate Squeaky had talked to us,” Mama Kitty said.

“Alright,” M said loudly, stomping his hoof to silence the team. “Something happened out there we can’t explain and I get it. I was there. But I have come to the conclusion some things in life do not have an explanation, and this is one of them.”

“But the question remains, what are we going to do with the land?” Sasha asked.

M let out a deep breath, and shook his head.

“After just paying $3K for our winter hay,” he said, “I think we are just going to have to accept a few roommate ghosts when we move into the new barn.” Sasha gave him an annoyed look, but M ignored her. “It could be worse,” he added with a cheeky grin, “they could be puddle monster ghosts.”