“Ma, where’s Pa?” asked Aaron Burke from his seat beside his mother at the table loaded with the Thanksgiving Feast.
“How should I know?” Ma shot back. “He took a load of turkeys to the meat packers two days ago. I haven’t seen him since.”
“Aren’t you worried about him?” asked Charlotte, Aaron’s wife.
“Naw. You all know how he is. He gets a little money in his pocket and he has to find out how long he can stay drunk. I figure he’ll come home again when he’s sober and broke.”
A knock sounded at the front door. “You all go ahead and eat. I’ll see who’s at the door.”
A state trooper stood on the porch. “Ma’am, is this your husband?” He showed her a blowup of Pa’s driver’s license.
“That’s him all right. What’s he done now?”
“Your husband’s dead. We found the truck this morning with a load of empty crates. He was decapitated.”
“Well, who would have done that?”
“I was hoping you could tell me,” said the trooper.
“I haven’t seen him since Tuesday. I don’t know what to tell you. Come in and you can talk to all of us.”
“Not all at once,” the trooper said. “One at a time.”
She led him to the living room. “Who do you want to talk to first?”
“Just a minute till I tell the family. How do you like your coffee?”
“I usually drink it black.”
He talked to them one at a time and no one knew why Pa had been murdered or by whom. He had just finished when his cell phone rang. He listened intently and then said, “Whoa! What are you trying to tell me?” After a brief pause he said, “Are your sure?
“Thank you all for your information. I’ll let you know what we find out.”
The trooper pulled his cruiser in behind the truck and got out. Walking over to the CSI he asked, “Will you tell me again what you’ve found?”
“I know it’s unbelievable but it seems the turkeys have escaped and murdered their owner. Part of the flock was rounded up at that farm yonder. The rest have just disappeared.”
“Are you trying to tell me that those turkeys managed to get out of the crates and kill Mr. Burke?”
“Yes, sir. We think they had some help from some wild turkeys. Tame turkeys can’t fly because they’ve been bred to have larger breasts. But we found wild turkey feathers on the truck.”
“How would they have held an axe?”
“I don’t know, sir. But that’s what our evidence points to.”
“We can’t put that in a report.” The trooper scratched his head. “Do we know where the crime took place?”
“Right over on the other side of the truck.” They walked around the truck to a spot between some broken crates. He pointed to the ground. “See that pool of blood. And we have the hatchet that was used. Even with all that blood there are no fingerprints on it. Just turkey feathers. And see here. Turkey tracks in the blood leading away from the scene.”
Drawing a deep breath, the trooper said, “See if you can round up the culprits. We’ll sort this out somehow.” Trooper West called his sergeant and told him the news.
“Say that again,” Sgt. Banks said. West repeated what he’d said. “We can use a little help out here.”
The sergeant arrived with two other troopers. He called the Burke farm for someone to come and take into custody the errant turkeys. “I want you to keep them separate from any other turkeys until this is settled.”
After leaving instruction with the CSI about the turkeys that had already been captured, the sergeant and three troopers set off on the trail of the fleeing turkeys. It wasn’t difficult to track them in the three inches of snow that had fallen overnight.
In the meantime, Wild Bill Turkey flew up into a pine tree. “Hurry up and hide,” he told the white turkeys on the ground.
“We can’t fly,” one gobbler answered. “Our breasts are too big.”
“Well, then you better find some place to hide down there. Just don’t tell where I am. Hurry up. Here they come.”
Harvey, a name Wild Bill gave him, hurried along after the other white turkeys. He noticed his tracks got lost in theirs. Seeing a group of low growing young pines he slipped under them and back where he was hidden from view. White feathers against the white of the snow.
The troopers ran past following the main flock of turkeys. It wasn’t too difficult to head the miscreant, flightless birds back towards the barn where the others were being held. The Burkes were there putting the runaways back into the crates. Mr. Burke’s body and the other evidence was on the way to the morgue.
Banks gave West a slap on the back. “Open and shut case. Perpetrators under wraps. Death penalty. Christmas dinner.” He laughed at his own joke.
Cold and hunger stole Harvey’s sleep. The wild turkey’s leaving their roost alerted him that morning had come. He began walking. When he reached the edge of the woods, he saw buildings. Different from where he was raised. No turkey barn. He hurried as fast as his frozen feet would allow. In a fenced in yard were birds like he’d never seen. He ran up to the fence. “Who are you?”
The rooster crowed. “Ben. You can’t come in. Here comes Minnie.”
“She owns us.”
The small lady came across the lawn with a dog running ahead of her. Harvey was afraid of dogs. This one didn’t try to scare him but helped the lady chased him up a ramp to the door to the chicken coop. Minnie opened the door and Harvey went in. In front of him was a trough full of mash. He was home.