“Warren? Donna? What are you doing causing all this racket? Is that blood? This had better not be one of your tricks.”

Betty charges out of the house leaving me behind with an unsigned policy and the sweater, or “the sweeter.” I have no choice but to follow. When we catch up to the hooligans in the town center, it’s clear that this is no Halloween prank. Blood is dripping from the wounds of these terror-stricken pre-teens. Others are shaking with panic and shock. A crowd gathers round to try to get a sense of what’s happened. Officer Clarke is on the job, calming down one of the boys.

“Warren, I want you to take a big breath, and tell me what happened.”

“Birds, a million of ‘em. They attacked me for no reason!”

I look down the road to see a flock of crows sitting atop a telephone pole. I’m not sure if it’s the same flock that announced my arrival earlier this morning, but they look peaceful enough at the moment. Meanwhile, that strange lady, Missy, has sidled over to the constable.

“Hubble, maybe we should think about shutting down the festival.”

A groan rises from all those within earshot, including Mayor Novak.

“Folks, this festival has been the pride and joy of Elora for fifty years, and we are not shutting it down because one child fell into a barrel and another threw a rock at a bird and got what he deserved.”

Most agree with the mayor on this one, but there are whispers of doubt. I generally stay out of local politics and disregard gossip altogether, but I’ve already witnessed two strange incidents this morning, and I’d be a fool to ignore what’s going on. Mainly because you never know how it’s going to affect business. Curious, I approach one little girl who is standing off to the side.

“You okay, Sweetheart? Do you want to tell me what happened?”

The girl looks relieved to be able to tell her side of the story to anyone, especially to claim her innocence.

“I didn’t throw no rocks. We were like, on the school grounds mindin’ our own business ya know, playin’ dodge ball, and all of a sudden this bunch of dirty old crows attacks us.”

“For no reason?”

“Well, Warren had the ball and he was aiming at Pamela ‘cause he likes her, ya know? Then one of ‘em starts hoppin’ closer and closer and all of a sudden, it flies up an’ pecks Warren on the cheek. Arthur gets a rock and throws it at the bird to shoo it away. In defense. So, rocks were thrown.Warren is all bleedin’ and cryin’. Then another couple o’ birds go after Gregory, and pretty soon, the whole flock of ‘em are on us. We just turned and run. It wasn’t our fault, I swear!”

“I’m sure it wasn’t,” I reply as shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds dance in my head. Legends of the crow come to mind in fragments from long-forgotten university lectures. Some cultures believe that a crow flapping its wings signifies an accident about to happen, or that, if you open your door to find a crow, it’s a sign of danger. The more superstitious will tell you that the crow signifies death because it’s known to circle over road-kill before it descends to eat the remains. 

I hear Missy speaking to the mayor now, trying to convince him and the rest of the town, “Percy, you need to reconsider. Something’s not right.”

“Yeah, you for one.” The smart-ass remark comes from the kid I recognize as Betty’s son, Zack. He’s inserted himself into the crowd, flanked by two other teenagers. One of them is what I’d call stocky, and the other is what I’d call skanky.

Missy ignores the insult and pleads, “At least postpone the school dance tonight. We can always reschedule.”

“Are you for real?” barks Stocky. “Halloween is tonight and tonight only. Everything else is just another day.”

Skanky backs up her friend, “There’s nothing for us to do in this stupid town as it is. You have your pie wars and your big-ass pumpkin contest. What do we have except the dance? You can’t take that away. It’s the only fun we have.”

Officer Clarke gives the three teenagers a stern look as if to say, “Mind your manners.” Encouraged by his support, Missy presses on with her plea.

“Hubble, you know I have good instincts. Postpone the rest of the festival a day or two at the most. Give us some time to understand what’s going on. Because, sure as hell, something is going on.”

“What, Missy?” he replies. “Bruce’s dunking and the crow attack occurred at opposite ends of the town and at different times. They’re totally unrelated.”

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