Little Fuzzy – Day 59 of 77

They didn’t see anything, though they kept at it till dusk. Baby had a wonderful time with the loud-speaker; when he yeeked into it, he produced an ear-splitting noise, until the three humans in the car flinched every time he opened his mouth. It affected dogs too; as the car moved back and forth, it was followed by a chorus of howling and baying on the ground.

The next day, there were some scattered reports, mostly of small thefts. A blanket spread on the grass behind a house had vanished. A couple of cushions had been taken from a porch couch. A frenzied mother reported having found her six-year-old son playing with some Fuzzies; when she had rushed to rescue him, the Fuzzies had scampered away and the child had begun weeping. Jack and Gerd rushed to the scene. The child’s story, jumbled and imagination-colored, was definite on one point—the Fuzzies had been nice to him and hadn’t hurt him. They got a recording of that on the air at once.

When they got back to the hotel, Gus Brannhard was there, bubbling with glee.

“The Chief Justice gave me another job of special prosecuting,” he said. “I’m to conduct an investigation into the possibility that this thing, the other night, was a frame-up, and I’m to prepare complaints against anybody who’s done anything prosecutable. I have authority to hold hearings, and subpoena witnesses, and interrogate them under veridication. Max Fane has specific orders to cooperate. We’re going to start, tomorrow, with Chief of Police Dumont and work down. And maybe we can work up, too, as far as Nick Emmert and Victor Grego.” He gave a rumbling laugh. “Maybe that’ll give Leslie Coombes something to worry about.”

Gerd brought the car down beside the rectangular excavation. It was fifty feet square and twenty feet deep, and still going deeper, with a power shovel in it and a couple of dump scows beside. Five or six men in coveralls and ankle boots advanced to meet them as they got out.

“Good morning, Mr. Holloway,” one of them said. “It’s right down over the edge of the hill. We haven’t disturbed anything.”

“Mind running over what you saw again? My partner here wasn’t in when you called.”

The foreman turned to Gerd. “We put off a couple of shots about an hour ago. Some of the men, who’d gone down over the edge of the hill, saw these Fuzzies run out from under that rock ledge down there, and up the hollow, that way.” He pointed. “They called me, and I went down for a look, and saw where they’d been camping. The rock’s pretty hard here, and we used pretty heavy charges. Shock waves in the ground was what scared them.”

They started down a path through the flower-dappled tall grass toward the edge of the hill, and down past the gray outcropping of limestone that formed a miniature bluff twenty feet high and a hundred in length. Under an overhanging ledge, they found two cushions, a red-and-gray blanket, and some odds and ends of old garments that looked as though they had once been used for polishing rags. There was a broken kitchen spoon, and a cold chisel, and some other metal articles.

“That’s it, all right. I talked to the people who lost the blanket and the cushions. They must have made camp last night, after your gang stopped work; the blasting chased them out. You say you saw them go up that way?” he asked, pointing up the little stream that came down from the mountains to the north.

The stream was deep and rapid, too much so for easy fording by Fuzzies; they’d follow it back into the foothills. He took everybody’s names and thanked them. If he found the Fuzzies himself and had to pay off on an information-received basis, it would take a mathematical genius to decide how much reward to pay whom.

“Gerd, if you were a Fuzzy, where would you go up there?” he asked.

Gerd looked up the stream that came rushing down from among the wooded foothills.

“There are a couple more houses farther up,” he said. “I’d get above them. Then I’d go up one of those side ravines, and get up among the rocks, where the damnthings couldn’t get me. Of course, there are no damnthings this close to town, but they wouldn’t know that.”

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