The Falcon's Feathers (2 page)

BOOK: The Falcon's Feathers
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“Let me see.” Dink took the glasses and squinted through the lenses. From his perch. Dink could see directly into the nest. It was woven of twigs, pine needles, and bits of dead leaves.

But there weren't any falcons. All Dink could see was a few feathers.

He looked at Josh with raised eyebrows.

“Where are they?” he asked.

“What's going on?” Ruth Rose asked.

Josh looked at her. “The baby falcons are gone.”

“Maybe they flew away,” Ruth Rose suggested.

The kids had climbed down and were standing under the falcons' tree.

Josh shook his head. “They were just learning to fly,” he said. “They weren't ready to leave their parents yet.”

“Could they have fallen out?” Dink asked. He glanced at the ground.

“I doubt it,” said Josh. “If they had, the parents would still be here, watching over them.”

He frowned. “I think something took those birds,” he said.

“What do you mean?” Ruth Rose asked. “What kind of something?”

“Animals,” Josh explained. “Owls and snakes like to eat baby birds.”

“But wouldn't the parents protect the little falcons?” Dink asked.

“Yeah,” Josh said. “Unless something happened to them, too.”

“Maybe something scared the parents away,” Ruth Rose said.

Josh shook his head. “The parents wouldn't leave their babies.”

“Then what could have happened to them?” Dink asked. “Five falcons can't just disappear!”

“I don't know,” Josh said. He looked worried. “Come on, let's get out
of here. I want to report this.”

“Report it to who?” Ruth Rose asked. She and Dink followed Josh back toward the path.

“I'm not sure. But we can ask Mrs. Wong,” said Josh. “She knows a lot about animals.”

Twenty minutes later, the kids walked into Furry Feet, Mrs. Wong's pet shop. She was cleaning a large goldfish tank.

“Hi, kids,” Mrs. Wong said. “What's up? I was just about to close for the day.”

Josh explained about the missing falcons. “They were there yesterday,” he said, “but today they're gone!”

Mrs. Wong wiped her hands on her jeans. “That does seem odd,” she said.

“Peregrines are an endangered species,” Josh said. “Should I report this to someone?”

“That's a good idea, Josh,” said Mrs. Wong. She went over to her desk and pulled open a drawer.

“Here you go,” she said, handing Josh a card. “That's the number for the Department of Environmental Protection—the DEP, for short. They have an office over at the fire station.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Wong,” Josh said. “May I use your phone?”

Josh dialed the number while Mrs. Wong went back to cleaning the goldfish tank.

Dink and Ruth Rose listened as Josh explained about the nest and the missing falcons. He thanked whomever he was speaking with and hung up.

“Someone is gonna go out there and take a look,” he told Dink and Ruth Rose. “But the guy I talked to said an owl probably got the babies.”

Ruth Rose shuddered. “Those poor falcons!”

The kids thanked Mrs. Wong and left the store.

Outside, it was starting to get dark. Ruth Rose, Josh, and Dink crossed Main Street and cut through Center Park. A family of ducks was swimming in the pond. When the parents noticed the humans, they quacked loudly to
their babies. The ducklings quickly swam over to their mother and father.

Josh stopped walking. “I don't think an owl could have taken those baby falcons.”

“You don't?” Dink asked.

Josh shook his head. “Mother and father falcons are fierce! They wouldn't let an owl within ten feet of their nest.”

“Could a snake climb that high?” Ruth Rose asked.

Josh smirked. “Yeah, a human snake!”

“What do you mean?” Dink asked. “You think a
person
stole the falcons?”

Josh nodded.

“But who would do something like that?” Ruth Rose asked.

“I don't know,” Josh said. “But we're going to find out!”

The next morning, Dink rang Ruth Rose's doorbell. She came to the door wearing a green jogging suit. Even her sneakers and headband were green.

“You look like a bush,” Dink said.

Ruth Rose grinned and yelled into the house, “MOM, I'M LEAVING!”

She and Dink headed up Woody Street to pick up Josh. They were going back to the falcons' nest to look for clues.

Josh lived at the end of Farm Lane, in a big yellow house. Behind the house stood a white barn. Josh was shooting baskets at a hoop nailed to the barn door.

He was dressed in a camouflage shirt and pants.

“Geez,” Dink said, “why didn't you guys tell me you were going disguised as trees!”

The three kids hurried down River Road, then took a bike path into the woods. Just before they reached the clearing, Josh stopped. A man wearing jeans and a flannel shirt was standing under the falcons' tree, looking up into the branches.

The kids looked at each other, then stepped into the clearing.

The man turned around. He had wavy black hair, a tanned face, and blue eyes.

“Hi there,” the man said. “What are you kids up to?”

“We were just hiking,” Josh said cautiously.

The man smiled. “Wait a minute. Your voice is awfully familiar. Are you the guy who called my office yesterday about the missing falcons?”

Josh grinned. “Yeah, that was me,” he said. Josh introduced himself. “And these are my friends, Dink and Ruth Rose.”

“Very nice to meet you,” the man said. “My name's Curt. Look, guys, I know you want to help, but the best thing you can do is to stay away from here. The adult falcons won't come back if they see or smell you kids.”

“But we came back to look for clues,” Josh said. “I thought a person might have taken the falcons.”

Curt looked surprised. “A person? Well, it's possible, I suppose. But I doubt it. I've been over this whole area, and I didn't find a single clue, human or otherwise.”

The kids followed Curt as he walked away from the tree. “The DEP appreciates your phone call,” Curt said, “but leave the rest to us. I have a feeling we'll wrap this up soon.”

At the trail, Curt turned right. “Thanks again!” he said. He waved and began jogging down the path.

The kids headed down the trail in the other direction. Suddenly, Josh stopped. “Listen!” he said.

“What?” Ruth Rose said.

“I heard something.” Josh knelt next to a patch of tangled weeds. Slowly, he parted the stalks with his fingers.

A brown bird was hunched in the weeds. It had a sharp beak and shiny black eyes.

“It's a young peregrine falcon!” Josh said. “He must be from the nest!”

The bird was trembling. It opened its beak and made
cack-cack-cack
noises at Josh. Its shiny eyes never left Josh's face.

“The poor thing looks scared,” Ruth Rose said.

Josh took off his T-shirt and carefully draped it over the bird. “He won't be so scared if he can't see us,” Josh explained. He held the bundle against his chest.

“What should we do with it?” Dink asked.

“We can't leave him here,” Josh said. “Something will eat him.”

“Let's take him to Mrs. Wong!” Ruth Rose said.

The kids hurried down the path. Josh smoothed the bird's feathers and spoke to it in a soothing voice.

“Hey, what's this?” Josh said. He gently stretched out one of the falcon's legs.

Wrapped around the leg was a narrow metal band.

Mrs. Wong examined the band. “There's writing on it,” she told the kids. “But it's too small for me to read.”

“What is it?” Josh asked.

“It's a name tag,” said Mrs. Wong. “Just like you'd hang on a dog's collar. Someone thinks he owns this bird.”

Josh was holding the falcon, still partly wrapped in his T-shirt. It sat quietly, watching the humans.

“I wonder if he's hungry,” Ruth Rose said. “What do falcons eat?”

BOOK: The Falcon's Feathers
9.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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