by Patricia Harrington
Here is another fun Thanksgiving mystery short story for you to enjoy, originally published ten years ago online in Laugher Loaf!
“He’s gone! Stolen.” Web Farley glared at Jeff Marks’ guests. He was sure one of those “greenies” had let his prize turkey escape from his truck.
The “greenies” were Lucinda Graham, an animal activist; Percy Chivers, a diehard vegan; and Marla Harwood, owner of the Eco-Friendly Hemp Clothing Store. Web didn’t include Jeff’s great-aunt Clarabelle Gilly—-he liked her.
Web had stopped on the way to his farm to talk with Jeff who grew organic herbs. Web raised turkeys for holiday tables. Unfortunately, Web made the mistake of showing off “Old Tom”, caged in the back of his pickup. Jeff’s guests had given the farmer an earful before their host hustled him into the study.
Lucinda, in skintight jeans, T-top and slick vest, almost shimmied in anger. “I suppose you feed that creature hormones!”
“Well, Ma’am, he does eat good. But that’s so he can take care of those hens of mine. He’s my prize stud tom.”
The guests gasped in disapproval; Web just turned and winked at Clarabelle.
She stared back with a frosty look that had served her well as a M.A.S.H. nurse. Clarabelle couldn’t help but size up people–the habit was too hard to break after bossing doctors for so long. She said to herself, you’re an old coot and that young woman is a classic Type A, if ever I saw one.
When Web made his remark, Percy, the vegan, had pressed his hand right over the Ralph Lauren pony stitched on his short-sleeved polo shirt. Clarabelle thought the tidy man looked as smooth as a polished apple in his neat chino pants. The way he stood, he might be getting ready to recite the pledge of allegiance.
Instead he said, “Eating meat is so unhealthy. Humans don’t have to be carnivores.” He jabbed a finger at the old farmer.”You’re…you’re preying on an ignorant public!”
“And makin’ a darn good living at it, too,” Web retorted.
Jeff placed himself between his riled guests and the farmer, and said, “Come into my study, Web, and we’ll go over those papers.” Jeff smiled apologetically. “Sorry, folks. Please. Visit the greenhouses before it gets dark. We’ll eat as soon as I finish.”
Soon after the two left, Lucinda and Percy drifted outside. Marla, however, sank onto the sofa beside Clarabelle, and said, “That man doesn’t value nature. It’s all ‘use it up for a buck.’” She shook her head. “His kind never learns,do they?”
Clarabelle thought Web might be able to learn; he just wouldn’t choose to.
Marla said, “I need fresh air”. Then as an afterthought, she added, “Is there anything I can get you?”Jeff had explained earlier that Clarabelle was recuperating from hip surgery.
“No, thank you.” Clarabelle held up her Agatha Christie book. “I’ll see how Miss Marple is getting along.”
Marla walked away in her long skirt of rough-spun hemp fabric and wool jacket. Clarabelle muttered, “That woman makes a darn good advertisement for her own store”.
Web and Jeff were still in the study when Lucinda and then Marla returned a half hour later. Lucinda, her cheeks flushed, sat on the sofa beside Clarabelle. “Could I get you a mineral water? I’m going to have one.”
“No, thank you,” Clarabelle answered. Lucinda nodded and smiled at her, and then stood up and walked over to where Jeff had set out refreshments.
Then Percy slipped in through the patio doors, smoothing his wind-blown hair. He stopped in front of Clarabelle, who patted the seat next to her. “Sit down. You still look upset.” He plopped down. “I’m all right, really. I still can’t believe that old coot.”
When Marla walked over, Percy bounced up. “Here,” he said. “Take my place. I’m going to get an orange juice.”
Marla sat down, and smiled. “Your great-nephew has quite a production here. I wonder what he nets?”
Clarabelle frowned. “I really have no idea.”
Marla shrugged. “Well, I need to freshen up,” she said, pushing herself heavily to her feet.
Suddenly, Web stormed into the room. “He’s gone!” The farmer flung a handful of feathers at the guests and glared at them. “Old Tom must of put up a whale of a fuss when one of you boosted him out of his cage.”
The guests began protesting their innocence in a garble of loud voices, which brought Jeff running. Web shouted, “One of you did it.” He jabbed a finger at them. “Who was it?”
When the ruckus began, Clarabelle had set her book on the sofa and then struggled to stand up. When she did, her fingers touched a turkey feather wedged between the mohair cushions. She examined the feather thoughtfully and then cleared her throat. “I think I know,” she said, and held up the feather.
She nodded at the three standing nearby. “This wasn’t here when you three went outside. I know that—-because I’ve been sitting here for the last hour.”
Percy pointed at the feathers on the floor and glared. “That one doesn’t mean a thing. There are more.”
“True. But . . . Web just brought those in. And each of you three sat by me after you returned from outside. Any one of you could have let the turkey loose while you were wandering around.” Clarabelle paused. “I think this feather stuck to the clothing of Old Tom’s liberator, and that person didn’t know it. The question is, what kind of clothing would the feather stick to?”
Clarabelle paused again, enjoying herself. “Let me see. Percy’s wearing short sleeves and so is Lucinda. So the feather wouldn’t have ‘hitched a ride’ on bare arms. And Percy’s pants are chino and Lucinda’s denim. Not much to cling to there. The feather wouldn’t be between seat cushions if it came in on someone’s shoes. So that leaves Marla with her outfit.”
All eyes turned to Marla who stirred uneasily.
Clarabelle said, “I think a turkey feather could easily nest in that rough textured hemp and wool you’re wearing. I expect that if we looked, we might even find a pinfeather or two from Old Tom still clinging there.”
Marla’s chin rose, along with her indignation; but as she flounced out of the room, she didn’t deny the accusation.
Clarabelle watched her leave and said under her breath, “Take that, Agatha Christie!”