The Eyes Have It: A Mystery Short Story

Aug 20, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Gail Farrelly

This story was previously published on March 27, 2015 in the Yonkers Tribune.

Old MacDonald had a farm.

Young MacDonald didn’t.

That was a problem, you see, because Tim MacDonald (aged 31) thought it was about time–well, more than time really–that his grandpa Michael (aged 78) park his old tractor for good and turn over the farm lock, stock, and barrel to his grandson, his only living relative. After all, Tim figured, he was the was the one with a college degree in agriculture and the one who kept up with the very latest developments in the running and management of a modern-day farm. barn

He considered himself an expert in squeezing out profits from the land, the farm animals, and the employees, but he couldn’t always get his way when Grandpa was still around running the show in what Tim thought was an old-fashioned and inefficient manner.

Never mind that the farm had been making a profit for more than 50 years. That was the past, and Tim had higher profit goals in mind for the future of the MacDonald farm. If only he could be in charge.

I’m not a mind reader–well, not really–but I know how Tim’s mind works. And heaven help us if he succeeds in his plans, I was thinking one spring day, as I watered the vegetable section of the farm. I looked at all the beautiful greenery around me and thought about the only green that Tim was interested in–cold, hard cash!

I had the dubious honor of being a classmate of Tim’s through elementary school and high school. He was as obnoxious then as he is now, interested in his own welfare and no one else’s. Always sure that he’s in the right and never willing to listen to an opinion other than his own, he’s the boss from hell.

I never went to college and have been working on the MacDonald farm since I graduated from high school 13 years ago. Twelve of those years I thoroughly enjoyed. The last one, not so much. That’s because Tim (who had been working on a farm in Ireland since he got out of college) returned to the old homestead to work for his grandfather. Woe is me! And the other ten farmhands too. We had always loved working for old MacDonald. He pushed us hard, but he was fair. Just about the perfect boss really, but when he brought in Tim, we had less and less contact with our old

Tim was assigned the job of dealing with “personnel” issues. Phooey! Punching a time clock was instituted and an efficiency expert was hired. We could all see where this was going and we really didn’t want to go there. We heard a few arguments between the two MacDonalds, but sadly the young MacDonald always seemed to win.

One Sunday at church I found out something that scared me. Bill, an old friend from high-school who worked as a bartender at a little place a few towns over, waylaid me in the parking lot and said, “Hey Jeff, what’s this I hear about the MacDonald farm? Tim MacDonald says that change is in the air.”

“That’s news to me,” I said.

Bill grinned, hiked up his pants, and said, “Well, y’know how Tim blabs on after he’s had a few beers? Last night he claimed that soon he would be the one running the farm. His grandfather was getting old and tired, he said. Claimed the dinosaur–yep, that’s what he called him–was getting ready to turn the operation over to him.”

I was speechless. Bill saw that and said, “Oh, who knows, maybe it was just the beer talking.”

I gave him a weak smile, said a noncommittal “Could be,” and half listened to his chitchat for few minutes before I said good-bye.

Maybe I was overreacting, but Bill’s words chilled me. As I drove home in my pickup truck, I couldn’t help but wonder if Tim was planning to harm his grandfather. Old Michael was so gentle and trusting. Could he handle the likes of a pushy, obnoxious, evil grandson?

Ten minutes later when I got home I had reached a decision. I would do what I could to protect old MacDonald. Admittedly that wasn’t a lot, but one thing I could do was keep my eyes open to observe any suspicious actions on the part of Tim. I reminded myself of the mantra of the Department of Homeland Security. “If you see something, say something.” Right.goat

I bought myself an iPhone and, in the next few weeks, spent a lot of time learning how to make use of all its features. Just in case. Like a Boy Scout, I planned on being prepared. I wanted to have emergency numbers at the ready and also be able to take photos or create a video if the need arose. Ironically, Tim made fun of me when he saw me fiddling with it one day. Putting his hand on my shoulder he said, “Well, old buddy, see you replaced your old dumb phone. Are you sure you’re up to this challenge?”

I shrugged and didn’t answer him. He walked away laughing.

But I had the last laugh.

A week after our conversation I happened to see from afar Tim entering a small shack at the side of the main MacDonald barn. It was where we housed our pesticides and fertilizers. I wondered what he was doing there, because he never dirtied his hands with the “grimy” side of the business. That was left for his underlings. Paperwork was his forte.

I decided to investigate. I crept up to the shack and found a narrow window in the back to peer through. What I saw surprised me. Tim was wearing plastic gloves and was filling several tiny plastic containers with industrial-grade pesticide from a huge sack. I whipped out my trusty iPhone and got some great footage. I didn’t press my luck and overstay my welcome. Tim’s back was to me, but I knew that at any moment he could turn around and I would’ve been tree

I slipped the iPhone into my pocket and crept away. Tim was up to no good, I was sure of it, but of course what he had done wasn’t a crime. Not yet, anyway. But the whole thing creeped me out. What if he planed to poison his unsuspecting grandfather? Just this week there had been a story in the news about a wife who was accused of poisoning her husband with some kind of pesticide. Was that warping my judgment in this case? Or was I watching too many crime shows on TV, causing me to see crime where there was none? Only time would tell.

Two mornings later Michael MacDonald was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. His housekeeper reported that it was some kind of stomach upset. A sudden and serious one. He was also having breathing difficulties. As soon as I heard this, I went to the sheriff’s office, confided my fears about the possibility of a poisoning, and presented my ‘evidence’ on the iPhone.

Luckily, the sheriff took me seriously. He sprung into action and contacted the hospital. Long story short, it turned out that Michael HAD ingested poison which could have come from the pesticide used at the MacDonald farm. Armed with a search warrant, obtained mainly because of my iPhone video evidence, the sheriff and his deputies were able to find some incriminating evidence at Tim’s place. And fingerprint evidence supported the charge that he could have tampered with his uncle’s coffee cup that had contained the poison. The very morning that his grandfather got sick the MacDonalds had had breakfast together–a rare event, according to all who knew

Old MacDonald recovered from his illness and was back to work in two weeks, Whew!

Tim’s “ordeal” would take longer.
He was charged with attempted murder. The District Attorney was successful in getting him indicted. There was, after all, motive, means and opportunity. The D.A. felt the probability of conviction was high, but still, some of the evidence was weak, so he was willing to entertain the possibility of a plea bargain. Tim ended up agreeing to plead guilty to attempted murder and accepted a sentence of three years in prison. He didn’t get off scot free. But in my book, he got off easy–way too easy.

Anyway, his grandfather never wants to see him again. I’ve heard through the grapevine that, upon his release from jail, Tim plans to go back to Ireland. Good riddance!

I’m proud of my role in protecting Michael MacDonald and expected no reward. But I got one anyway. It was a mixed blessing. Mr. MacDonald gave me a nice raise in salary, provided I take some courses in the agriculture program at the local community college. I agreed, although I’m not big on formal schooling. It didn’t teach young MacDonald very much, did it?

But I’m willing to give college a go. It can’t hurt.

So…Old MacDonald STILL has a farm.

Forget the E-I-E-I-O.

To my mind, a simple Y-A-Y does the trick!

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Gail Farrelly (Twitter: @gailfarrelly) lives in Bronxville, NY. She writes mystery books, short stories, spoofs, and lots of other stuff. She’s putting the finishing touches on a book of her spoofs, LOL: 100 Comic Cameos of Current Events. She shares a website with her sister, Rita Farrelly, author of the local best seller, Not in the Bronxville: A Suburban Mystery Novel.


  1. A fun story, but Gail’s usually are. Thanks for the smiles!

  2. Gail,

    I love the story. It’s unique and original. Glad the Old MacDonald still has his farm and justice prevailed. Guess I should buy an iphone!

  3. “He considered himself an expert in squeezing out profits from the land, the farm animals, and the employees….”

    “…Tim had higher profit goals in mind for the future of the MacDonald farm. If only he could be in charge.”

    “He was as obnoxious then as he is now, interested in his own welfare and no one else’s. Always sure that he’s in the right and never willing to listen to an opinion other than his own, he’s the boss from hell.”

    So Tim is the agrarian Donald Trump, eh? As always, Gail, another entertaining story.

  4. Another clever and fun story. Good job.

  5. Loved this entertaining story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  6. To Jan, J.R., Jacquie, Barry, Earl, and Doward,

    Thx so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

  7. Fun story, Gail. I really enjoyed reading it.

  8. So many great books to read…looking forward to many hours of pleasure


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