Agent 441, reporting from the Udder Side.
Shadows in the Dark
The telephone's ring ringing sounded like cymbals smashing the two halves of my brain together. I had fallen asleep again at the desk with my feet kicked up and wrinkling notes from a few unsolved cases. I pushed an empty glass out of the way to check the time and the l.e.d. display was as red as my bloodshot eyes. Four in the morning. Who calls at four in the morning other than a crazy dairy farmer?
"John Steele, Private Investigator. How can I help you?" I managed to get out without slurring my words too much from drowsiness.
The voice on the other line confirmed my deductive skills. "This is Farmer Milkerson and I've got a missing dairy cow."
You see not everyone is cut out to be a gumshoe because they don't pay attention to detail. The details will kill ya. "I'm on my way, Farmer Milkerson."
I didn't have to be a p.i. to spot the farm. The silos and cows were a dead giveaway. Farmer Milkerson led me to his herd.
"There's one missing," he said pointing at the rest.
I asked him how he could tell and he went into some line about how a shepherd always knows how many sheep he has and will leave the rest to find the lost one. "Are we talking about sheep or cows," I growled. "What's the missing one look like?"
Farmer Milkerson slowly pulled off his cap, pushed his hair back, and put the cap back on as he thought. "She's black and white." he finally replied.
Rarely have a found a case to be as simple as that, as simple as black and white. I've found that the grey border in the middle is always where the bad is and that's why people hire me. Why was she gone? Where did she go? Was she taken; a cownapping? I hated to remind him that with the current high price of beef his dairy cow might be worth more dead than alive. Questions to ponder. Questions that needed answers.
My first step was to check the field where the cow was supposed to have been. Unfortunately, this was harder than it appeared. Neither my leather shoes nor my car made for good transportation in a cow pasture. I borrowed one of the tractors and made my way into the darkness.
Trying to see something in a black starless pasture was like trying to see through a glass of chocolate milk. You can tell a lot about a man's soul when you travel in the dark. Morals can fade away like shadows in the dark. Luckily I didn't have to contemplate my lack of good virtues long because someone came into the view of my headlights. Like a bad penny I knew she would turn up somewhere.
"Dairy farmin' doesn't bring in a whole lot of money, you know." He shifted back and forth in his rubber boots for a moment and I thought I might have lost more than sleep this morning. Farmer Milkerson then looked me straight in the eye and I could see a wry smile cross his lips. "But I could offer you a refreshing glass of milk."
What to do, what to do? Milkerson guessed my weakness and not many do and few of those live to tell it. "Make it chocolate and we'll call it even." There was no point in making it easy on him.
He obliged my offer and I went on my way. There would be more investigations today and that dairy drink would get me through like not even my lucky .38 could do.
My eyes glanced back at the rear view mirror and saw the sun's rays piercing the clouds like bullet holes in the sky. In the glowing pink light I could see the lost cow and I swear I thought I saw her wink at me before my car disappeared around the curve.