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The Quest of Quilby: A Mystery Short Story

IN THE September 10 ISSUE

FROM THE 2016 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andPets,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Linda Reilly

This story has never before been published. It is a fun story featuring a hedgehog!

“I assume you’ll be keeping the rodent in your room tonight, Miss Krissy?” Bingham the butler says, peering pompously down his long nose at me. He sets a plate of chopped apples on the cover of my cage.apple slices

Krissy, my super cool ten-year old human companion, props her hands on her hips. “He has a name, Bingham. It’s Quilby. And you know perfectly well he’s an African pygmy hedgehog, which is a mammal.” You can’t get away with calling me names!

“Don’t worry, Bingham,” Krissy chirps. “I promised Grandma I’d keep Quilby upstairs tonight. Besides, I don’t think he’d like the party. All that noise, the people…”

Uh oh. Noise? People? Is that what happens at a party? I can already feel a tingle in my quills…

***

Krissy sits cross-legged on the second story landing while I perch contentedly in her lap and watch. Our view of the party is superb. “Oh Quilby, I can’t wait till I’m old enough to attend one of Grandma’s parties,” Krissy sighs. “She has such fascinating friends.”hedgehog

Fascinating? Downright strange if you ask me. Since I usually see everything from ground level, watching people from a bird’s-eye view is a real eye-opener. And I’ll tell you one thing–humans are one bizarre species. I mean, check out that woman over there by the rubber plant. With that gaudy feathered thing draped around her neck, she looks like a big blue turkey. Gobble gobble, lady! Thanksgiving was two months ago! Oh, and feast your eyeballs on this dude, the one with the cowboy hat. What do you think this is, mister, a cattle ranch?

Krissy yawns. “I’m getting sleepy. Guess it’s time for bed, Quilby.” Bed? Just when I’m starting to enjoy myself? Phooeyworms! We toddle back to Krissy’s room. She brushes her teeth, says her prayers, and promptly falls asleep. Some hedgies are messy creatures, but not me. I’m fastidious, so Krissy leaves my cage door open at night. That way I get to explore her room, see what goes down in the dead of night. Downstairs, the humans are getting boisterous. Usually I hate loud noise, but this party thing has me curious. Hmmm, look at that. Krissy hasn’t closed her bedroom door all the way. I wonder…

I stick my snout into the opening and push open the door. Don’t worry, Krissy. I won’t get you in trouble. I promise…

***

I waddle back to the second story landing, where I can study the festivities from above. Man, it looks like a thousand humans are down there. They’re drinking, eating, laughing. In one corner, three of them play music with big metal instruments. Others wiggle around like they have ants in their pants–dancing, I think Krissy calls it. Bingham is milling about with a phony smile pasted on his mug, offering peeled shrimp to the guests from a silver tray. stairs

The guy wearing a cowboy hat strolls up behind him and claps him on the shoulder, almost sending Bingham sailing across the polished parquet floor. Bingham cringes noticeably as Cowboy Hat snatches enough shrimp off the tray to feed a pod of whales. Heh heh.

Although…there’s something I don’t like about Cowboy Hat. He’s a little too friendly, know what I mean? Always draping his arm around other humans, slapping them on the back. And he keeps stuffing his face like he hasn’t eaten in weeks. Now he’s over at the refreshment table, scooping up some gooey dip with celery sticks. Ugh! He just dropped a big blob of dip all over himself! The guy’s a total slob! But Cowboy Hat doesn’t even notice the spill. He’s too busy staring at the woman walking past him. Her hair is big and her dress is shiny. Strands of sparkly decorations are wrapped around her neck.

Cowboy Hat wriggles through the crowd like a slippery snake until he catches up with Big Hair. He clamps his hand on her shoulder and sidles close, planting his lips almost in her ear.

Come on, lady, tell him to take a long walk off a short pier! But she doesn’t. Instead, she giggles as if Cowboy Hat has just whispered something utterly hilarious. The two chat for a while and then Cowboy Hat struts off. The gleam in his beady eyes sends a shiver through my quills. I look at Big Hair again. Hmmm, what’s wrong with this picture? I know! The sparkly thing around her neck is gone.

I turn my gaze back to Cowboy Hat. He’s lifting the edge of his trouser leg and pushing something into the top of his boot. It’s the sparkly thing! Why is he hiding it like that? Hey, people! Pay attention down there! The cowboy’s just taken that woman’s neck decoration!necklace

But no one even notices. They just keep eating and drinking and dancing. These humans! I’m telling you, they’re oblivious. Their eyes are five feet off the ground and still they see nothing! I promised Krissy I wouldn’t get her into trouble. But I have to do something.

Puffing my quills, I race downstairs. At first, the sight of all those shoes, some with sharp spikes on the bottom, fills me with terror. A hedgie could get seriously impaled at a gig like this.

Swallowing back my case of the jitters, I start zigzagging through the humans. The problem is, at floor level everything looks totally different. How will I ever find Cowboy Hat? He could be anywhere.

“Eeeeek!” someone above me shrieks. “Is that a rat?” A rat? Puleeeeze.

“It’s Quilby,” Bingham snaps, making a grab for me. Hah! Too slow! Clicking and hissing, I scuttle through the crowd. I still have no clue how to find Cowboy Hat. I smell it before I spot it. A luscious splotch of crab dip on a pointy leather toe. Bingo. Cowboy Hat.

I dart under the cowboy’s trouser leg. Yelping like a crazy man, he tries to shake me out, but my quills stick like glue. I use my claws to pull the sparkly thing out of his boot. When I drop down and leave it on the parquet floor, the humans gasp.

“That’s my diamond necklace!” I hear someone squeak.

Mission accomplished, I dash upstairs to safety. Watching from the landing, I snicker and snuffle with glee as a couple of the humans grip the cowboy’s arms. Seeing this go down is better than eating a tube full of juicy meal worms. After that, other humans wearing boring blue outfits show up and drag Cowboy Hat out the front door.hedgehog

Rubbing the remnants of sleep from her eyes, Krissy stumbles out of her bedroom. She yawns. “What’s all the commotion?”

Bingham is beaming like a full moon as he trots up the stairs carrying a covered tray. “Oh, Miss Krissy, you missed all the excitement! While you were asleep, our dear little Quilby exposed a crook!”

Dear little Quilby? Oh, brother. After Bingham fills her in on my heroic actions, Krissy claps with delight.

“Quilby, you’re just like a real detective! That is so cool!”

Darn right it is. I am one cool hedgie.

“And because our courageous Quilby saved the day,” Bingham warbles. “Ta da!” food

He whips the cover off the tray and sets down a plate in front of me. Aw, man–roasted chicken. One of my all-time favorite nibbles. Okay, Bingham, not too shabby.

But would it have killed you to sprinkle a few meal worms on top?

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

Linda Reilly is the author of the Deep Fried cozy mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime. A Frying Shame, book three in the series, will be released in 2017. Learn more about her at www.lindasreilly.com.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Margaret S. Hamilton
Twitter: @margar_hamilton
September 10, 2016 at 11:57am

great story, Linda! Hedgehogs rule.

Reply

2 Linda Reilly
Twitter: @LindaSReilly7
September 11, 2016 at 4:40pm

Thanks, Margaret!

Reply

3 Kaye George
Twitter: @KGeorgeMystery
September 10, 2016 at 6:15pm

What a lovely story! Thanks so much, Linda and Kings River Life.

Reply

4 Linda Reilly
Twitter: @LindaSReilly7
September 11, 2016 at 4:41pm

Glad you enjoyed it, Kaye ~

Reply

5 Doward Wilson September 11, 2016 at 6:39pm

What a delightful & entertaining story, Linda! Thanks for sharing it with us & do some more or a full length book with these wonderful characters!

Reply

6 Linda Reilly
Twitter: @LindaSReilly7
September 12, 2016 at 6:18am

I’m happy you enjoyed it, Doward, and thrilled that you liked the characters!

Reply

7 Jane Fricker September 12, 2016 at 12:05pm

Thank you, Linda Reilly. That really is a charming story. May I dare to hope that you may write another such story featuring Quilby in the near future? Anyway, I am at home from work today suffering from a bad head cold, and trolling facebook for some relief, and found your story just what the doctor ordered!

Reply

8 Linda Reilly
Twitter: @LindaSReilly7
September 14, 2016 at 6:05pm

Jane, so sorry you’re feeling under the weather. Thank you for your delightful comments about Quilby. So far I hadn’t considered allowing him to star in another story, but I think you’ve inspired me to let him solve another mystery!

Reply

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