“It’s interesting to see how they solve these crimes,” Chloe said from her sofa perch in the entertainment room, where she sat between Morty and Sassy. “Wouldn’t it be fun to solve a mystery, Zack?”
“No,” Zack said from the computer station, where he and Jinx were checking out the Internet.
“I think it’s fascinating,” Penne said, from the loveseat perch where he sat with Coco. “I often imagine how much fun it would be to be a detective solving a mystery.”
“Me too,” Coco said.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Jinx said. “Has anybody checked out the yarn bird cams on the perimeter lately?”
“What’s up?” Morty asked, walking to the computer. She gasped as she looked on the landscape, which was marred with broken eggs, confetti, and smashed cans of whoop-up.
“Who did that?” Sassy asked.
Penne pecked at the transistor radio. “Bavaria Camp One, our cameras near your nests are picking up organic debris. What’s your status?”
The radio crackled. “We’ve been whopped up and egged!” Queeny said.
“Who was whopped and egged?” Georgie Boy asked, lowering himself from the millet tree in the corner of the room, where he and several ‘keets were happily munching.
“The Queen of Bavarias on the outer perimeter,” Chloe said. “It looks like there’s something out there.”
“I’ll say!” Ninja Harine said, walking in the room covered with confetti.
“Ninja, you didn’t tell us you were going to a surprise party!” Zack said, pulling some popcorn from the bowl.
“I didn’t know it, either,” Ninja said. “I was patrolling the perimeter with Jeff Musk, and something threw cans of whoop up at us.
“It looks like they raided the storage shed,” Jeff Musk said, entering behind his friend, “and the French Fry express van has scratch marks all over it.”
“Scratch marks?” Penne asked. “What could do that?”
“Lots of things,” Jeff Musk said. “There’s no shortage of wild animals outside of Anipal Land borders.”
“You poor guys!” Sassy said, as she and Morty helped preen off the confetti.
“Roof patrol calling in,” Quarkey Bird’s voice crackled over the radio. “Guys, there’s something out there. We can’t make it out. It’s sticking to the shadows, but there’s definitely something right outside of the castle walls. They aren’t replying to standard greetings. Please advise.”
“Continue to monitor the situation,” Zack said, “we’re going to check it out from the ground.”
“Let’s go get them!” Chloe said.
“No hens,” Zack said.
“He’s right, Chloe,” Jinx said. “We know you have powerful Kung-fu, but we don’t know what this is. We want all the hens and babies rounded up in here.”
“What am I supposed to do with them?” Chloe asked.
“Eat popcorn,” Zack said, “or watch another Dudeline mystery. Keep them calm and quiet. Act normal so whatever’s out there doesn’t know we’re on to them. Guys, let’s form a small scouting party and head out. We’ll check in soon.”
Chloe growled as the boys left the room. Sweet Pea patted her on the back.
“Come on, Chloe. They’re looking out for us. I’ll help you do a head count of the castle.”
“And I’ll make more popcorn,” Coco said. “It looks like we’re going to need it!”
Meanwhile, Zack, Jinx, Penne, Georgie Boy, Ninja Harine, and Jeff Musk stealthy made their way out of a window and down to the ground floor of the Anipal Land castle. “I see the shadows that Quarkey Bird reported,” Jinx said, peering at the land beyond the moat.
“I smell it,” Ninja said. “It’s strange. Unlike anything I’ve ever smelled.”
Jeff Musk pulled night vision binoculars from his shell. “Something’s across the moat. I see it, near the electrical box. There are eyes,” he held up the binoculars. “It’s crawling, whatever it is, but still sticking to the shadows.”
An egg hit the wall just over Jeff’s head. He dropped the binoculars in the moat.
“Oh no!” Zack said.
“Forget it,” Jeff said. “They didn’t work well anyway.”
More eggs rained on the walls.
“Ambush!” Jinx shouted, pulling rocks from the small lavender garden that the girls planted next to the window and throwing pebbles at their unknown targets. Zack and Georgie Boy joined in the pebble tossing. There was a rustling in the bushes and trees beyond the moat, and then the eggs stopped.
“Did we get any of them?” Zack asked, peering into the darkness.
“I don’t think so,” Jeff Musk said. “I think you just scared them away.”
Jinx pulled out his radio. “Chloe, do you see anything on the yarn bird cams?”
“I see shadows, and –“ Chloe cut off as the hens squealed. “The power just went out!”
“I see it!” Ninja Harine said, dashing after the dark creature retreating from the electrical panel. Zack squawked as Penne and Jinx flew after them.
Zack and Georgie Boy walked to the electrical panel. Sure enough, the wires were chewed. Jeff brought him a repair kit and they set to repairing the frayed wiring while Georgie Boy studied the footprints. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
“None of us have,” Jeff said, as Zack spliced a wire to finish the repair work. The lights winked back on in the castle.
“Good,” Zack said. “At least the girls aren’t scared in there anymore.”
The front door to the castle burst open, revealing Chloe, Sassy, Morty, Coco, and Sweet Pea, puffed up and ready for kung-fu combat.
“The hens are safe and we’re here to help,” Chloe said.
“So much for staying safe inside,” Zack said.
Sassy gasped as she stared at the eggs oozing down the castle walls. “Who did this?”
“It’s a disgrace!” Morty said.
“Something chewed the electrical wires, but we fixed it,” Zack said.
Penne and Jinx flew back to the door, carrying Ninja Harine between them. They sat him down next to Chloe.
“He got away,” Ninja said. “I ran as far as I could, and they flew after him, but he went in the woods and the egging started again.”
“Then the Queen of Bavarias came out of their nests, and scared whoever it was further into the woods,” Penne said, staring at the sky. “It’s a new moon tonight. We didn’t have enough light to pursue.”
“You were wise to come back,” Jeff Musk said.
Chloe stood still and growled. “I think it was more than you pursuing them that scared them into the woods.”
“What do you mean?” Sweet Pea asked.
“It’s about to storm,” Chloe said. “Can’t you hear the thunder?”
Everybody stood still, straining their ears. Sure enough, they heard faint rumbling.
“Chloe, that’s impressive,” Jinx said. “I didn’t know you could tell the weather.”
“I lived in an aviary for seven years,” she said, “but we won’t have time to clean up the egg before the rain sets in.”
“Come on, let’s go inside,” Jeff Musk said. “We can study the clues when the storm passes we have some daylight.”
“Well baby sister, it looks like you got your wish,” Zack said to Chloe. “It looks like we have a real, live mystery to solve.”
“Yes, it does,” Chloe said, walking back into the castle with her friends.