The Falcon's Feathers (4 page)

BOOK: The Falcon's Feathers
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“So do firefighters,” Dink said.

They went inside. Grace Lockwood was holding a crow down on a table. The bird had plastic wrapped around its leg and neck.

She looked up. “Yes?” she asked.

“Um, we came to see how Flash is doing,” Ruth Rose said. “What happened to the crow?”

Grace shook her head. “Plastic six-pack holders!”

The kids watched as Grace carefully snipped the plastic with scissors.

The crow bit her gloves several times. Dink shuddered. That beak looked sharp!

When the crow was untangled, Grace moved toward the rear of the building. “Will one of you get the door for me?”

Dink opened the door and held it. Grace carried the crow through a small courtyard that was filled with cages and pens.

She threw the black bird into the air. “And stay away from plastic!” she yelled. The crow disappeared into the trees.

Dink looked around the yard. It was as big as a basketball court and surrounded by a tall wooden fence with a gate.

Dink saw a sleeping skunk in one cage. Other cages held raccoons and rabbits. He saw a few snakes and a lot
of birds. He even saw a baby fox!

“I always thought vets just took care of cats and dogs,” Josh said.

“Some do,” Grace said. “I happen to like wildlife.”

Josh looked at Dink and Ruth Rose and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Where's Flash?” Josh asked, looking around at several other cages.

“I put him over here,” she said, walking toward a corner of the courtyard. “Doc likes to separate the newcomers from the other animals.”

Grace stopped in front of a cage covered by a small rug. “He may be sleeping,” she said.

She removed the rug. The bottom of the cage was covered with straw. Inside was a section of hollow log.

“That's where he goes to hide from us,” Grace said. She tapped lightly on the side of the cage.

“That's strange,” she said, opening the cage door. She jiggled the log, then peered inside.

“What's the matter?” Ruth Rose asked.

“He's gone,” Grace said.

“What!” Josh looked into the cage. “How could Flash be gone?”

“I don't know,” Grace said. “I'd better tell Doc.”

She hurried toward the office.

“Something's fishy here,” Ruth Rose said. “How could Flash just disappear?”

“Someone stole him again!” Josh said.

Doc Henry and Grace ran across
the courtyard. The vet was peeling off a pair of surgical gloves.

“He was in his cage before lunch,” Grace said.

Doc Henry bent over and looked into the cage. “Darndest thing,” he muttered. “Was the gate locked?”

Grace nodded. “I think so, but I'll check.” She ran to a corner of the courtyard. “The lock's been busted!”

Doc and the kids hurried over. The thick wooden gate was closed, but the lock had been shattered. Bits of wood and metal were on the ground.

Doc Henry picked up the pieces of the lock. “Somebody sure wanted to get in here,” he said. “That lock was the best on the market!”

Dink examined the door closely “I wonder if there are any fingerprints on the wood,” he said.

“Could be,” the vet said.

“Should we call Officer Fallon?” Dink asked.

“That's an excellent suggestion,” Doc Henry said. He walked back toward his office.

“I'd better get that lock fixed,” Grace said. She hurried away without saying good-bye.

The kids left. They walked past Crystal Pond back toward Main Street.

“I'll bet Grace busted that lock to make it
look
like someone broke in,” Josh said.

Dink shook his head. “Grace helps animals, Josh.”

“Do birds have memories?” Ruth Rose asked suddenly.

“Why?” Dink asked.

“Well, remember when we first brought Flash to Doc Henry's office? Flash bit Grace on the hand.”

“Yeah, so?”

Ruth Rose stopped walking and looked at Dink and Josh. “Well, if Grace climbed the tree and took those falcons, maybe Flash remembers her. Maybe that's why he bit her!”

“You guys are jumping to conclusions,” Dink said. He pushed the cross button at Main Street.

“I think we need more information about peregrine falcons,” he added.

“Dink's right,” Ruth Rose told Josh. “If we know more about them, maybe we'll be able to figure out why someone's taking them.”

“Why don't we go to the library?” Dink suggested, crossing Main Street.

“Okay,” Josh said, “but Grace Lockwood is still at the top of my list!”

“Who else is on your list?” Ruth Rose asked.

Josh jogged across the street. “Nobody!”

When the kids entered the library, Mrs. Mackleroy was gluing a cover onto a book.

“Hi, kids,” she said. “Someone loves this book so much they wore the binding right off!”

She finished the job, then laid a heavy book on top of the glued one to keep it flat. “There,” she said, wiping glue from her fingers. “So how can I help you today?”

“We're looking for information about falcons,” Josh told her.

Mrs. Mackleroy pointed to the computer table. “Do you know how to do a computer search?” she asked.

“Sure, we do it in school all the time,” Ruth Rose said. “Come on, guys!”

Dink sat at the computer. Josh and Ruth Rose looked over his shoulder. Dink typed in F-A-L-C-O-N-S, then hit the “enter” key.

A few seconds later, a long list of book titles appeared on the screen.

“Geez, there must be fifty books about falcons,” Josh said.

“Try PEREGRINE,” Ruth Rose said. Dink typed in the new word, and the list shortened. The library had four books about peregrine falcons.

Dink printed the shorter list, and they took it to Mrs. Mackleroy.

“These are in the children's room,” she said, making check marks next to two of the titles.

The kids found one of the two books. The title was
Peregrine Falcons: Royal Raptors
. They huddled together on a bench and quickly turned pages.

The book talked about how peregrine falcons had nearly been wiped out because of pesticides.

They flipped more pages until they came to “Amazing Falcon Facts.”

“ ‘Peregrine falcons are easy to train,' ” Josh read aloud.

“And look, it says they mate for life,” Ruth Rose added.

“Look at fact number seven,” Dink said, running his finger down the page. “ ‘Peregrine falcons are among nature's fastest hunters. When chasing birds, peregrines have been known to top 200 miles per hour!' ”

“That's faster than a cheetah!” Josh said.

“My dad's car only goes a hundred,” Dink said. “Boy, wouldn't it be neat to see peregrine falcons racing.”

“THAT'S IT!” Ruth Rose yelled.

Mrs. Mackleroy tapped her pencil on her desk. “Ruth Rose …”

“Sorry,” Ruth Rose said.

The kids returned the book and hurried outside.

“I bet someone is stealing falcons to
race them!” Ruth Rose said. “People race dogs and horses, so why not falcons?”

“Let's tell Curt,” Josh said. “He doesn't even know Flash was stolen again.”

They called the DEP office from the phone booth in Ellie's Diner. Josh told Curt that someone had broken into the vet's and stolen Flash. Then he told him about what they had learned in the library.

A few seconds later, Josh hung up. “He's coming right over.”

“He is?” Dink said.

“Yeah,” Josh said. “And while we're waiting, I could use a pistachio cone!”

Ruth Rose ordered her usual: strawberry. Dink got his favorite, butter crunch. The kids sat in a booth and worked on their cones.

“You know, I've been thinking,”
Ruth Rose said between licks. “Who besides us knew that Flash was at the vet's?”

Dink and Josh looked at her. “Well, Mrs. Wong knew,” Dink said.

“For sure,
she
didn't break in and steal Flash!” Josh said.

“And Doc Henry knew, but I don't think it's him, either,” Dink said.

Ruth Rose glanced at her friends. “Who else?”

“Grace Lockwood!” Josh said.

“Don't forget about Curt,” Dink said. “We told him that Flash was at Doc Henry's.”

Josh shook his head. “It's Curt's job to
protect
wildlife.”

Just then, Curt Striker walked into the diner. He ordered a cup of coffee, then slid into the booth. “So you kids have been doing some detective work, eh?” he said.

“Someone stole Flash right out of the vet's place!” Ruth Rose told Curt.

“I know,” Curt said. “Josh told me on the phone. But who's Flash?”

She grinned. “The falcon! We named him that because he eats so fast.”

“So what's this about racing falcons?” Curt said, looking at Josh.

“Well, we read that peregrine falcons can fly 200 miles an hour!” Josh said. “So we thought someone might be training them to race.”

Curt sipped his coffee. “Racing falcons, eh? That's an interesting idea.”

“Could someone make money racing falcons,” Dink asked Curt, “like in a horse race?”

Curt nodded slowly. “Yes, I guess they could.”

He finished his coffee. “Tell you what, let me run your idea by a few of
my contacts. Meanwhile, let's just keep this between us, okay?”

“Do you really think you can find out who took the falcons?” Ruth Rose said.

Curt slid out of his seat. “You can count on it,” he said.

BOOK: The Falcon's Feathers
5.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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