It was late 1996 and my fair city was plagued by some sticky-fingered critters who had adopted the bus stop as their hunting ground.
Since we were basically a wide spot in the road, our bus stop was Earl's Tire Shop and Diner. Trouble was that Earl was only open Monday through Friday and closed up shop each day at 4:35PM sharp.
Since some interstate bus lines run after 4:30 some days -- and even run on the weekends -- Earl had been thoughtful enough to construct a shaded bench out of scrap lumber so that folks had a place to sit while they waited on their next bus.
Some feet away from the shelter, Earl had built a rack so that luggage could be stored off of the ground.
Unfortunately, since both the shelter and the rack were constructed out of scrap lumber, they weren't exactly transparent. If you were sitting in the shelter, there was no way to watch the luggage rack without getting up.
Some enterprising critters had noticed this, and had developed the annoying habit of walking off with a bag about once a week.
After the fourth theft, the Sheriff had gone to Earl and suggested that he do something about the line-of-sight issues betwixt the shelter and the rack.
Earl's response had been to hang a couple of signs stating: "NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR STOLEN PROPERTY" and that was that, as far as Earl was concerned.
Anyhoo, about a month later (and five more stolen bags), I get a call about an abandoned car on the edge of town.
I scoot out thataway, and I find a 1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am, primer in colour, no hood, high-centred on a curb, engine still hiccuping along, both doors gaping wide open.
I know -- know -- who belongs to that car, but I call in the tags to Dispatch anyway, get out and stroll up to the car.
Two things of interest immediately catch my eye: the first of which is that the area of bare metal where the back seat would normally be was absolutely chock-full of various articles and styles of clothing (mostly womens), several empty bags of the carry-on variety, no less than seven full sets of shaving gear -- still in the shaving cases -- and one open white Samsonite hard-sided suitcase on top of the whole pile.
The second thing to catch my eye was the incredible amount of blood in the front half of the car. I'm serious, it looked like someone had just got done filming a slasher flick in there.
I go back to the cruiser, tell Dispatch to send the Sheriff my way and Dispatch informs me that the Trans Am comes back to Big Mama's nephews Dobie and Nug.
I knew that.
I go back to the car, use the screwdriver sticking out of the ignition to kill the car and I notice a ... distinctive ... print on the steering wheel. In blood. Once I notice this print, I immediately spot more. On the dashboard, the back window, the drivers headrest, the rear-view mirror -- pretty much all over the inside of that car. All in blood.
Thing is, these prints look a lot like a dog's foot-print, only they're a bit more rounded and there aren't any claw tips visible. And they're about two inches across.
A bit puzzled, I -- desperately trying not to muss up any of the copious quantities of blood -- weasel the white suitcase off of the top of the pile in the back seat for further examination.
I was sitting on the curb, staring at the inside of the suitcase which was absolutely coated in fine, light-coloured hair -- more like fur, truth be told -- and rubbing a finger absent-mindedly across the multitude of 3/8's inch holes which had been drilled in the sides of the suitcase, when the Sheriff pulled up.
"What do we have?" snarled the Sheriff.
"Well," sez I, "I think Dobie and Nug are the critters that have been stealing the luggage from Earl's."
"Should have figured as much ... damn, that's a lot of blood."
"Yeah. Might want to run the ambulance over to Big Mama's place. They'll go to her if they're hurt," I rub a tuft of fur between my forefinger and thumb, "I'm thinking it's safe to say that they're hurt."
The Sheriff looked over his sunglasses at me.
I look back at him, "I'm not sure, but I think the suitcase they just stole had one very pissed-off bobcat inside it. I figure whoever was in the passenger seat opened the suitcase, and the bobcat kicked arse until Dobie and Nug got the doors opened and bailed out. "
"Goodness," remarked the Sheriff, "Talk about your bad luck. Oh, well. I'm going to head over to Big Mama's house and make sure she doesn't yard-dart another paramedic. Full report of what's here on my desk ASAP."
Whistling a jaunty tune, he got back into his cruiser and scooted over to Big Mama's house, where -- true to form -- Dobie and Nug had to be dragged out from under the porch, said dragging out resulting in Big Mama losing her temper and going to jail along-side her nephews.
The only fingerprints I ever found on that suitcase belonged to Nug, and trust me -- I looked everywhere and tried everything I could think of.
We recovered most of the stolen luggage, but none of the owners wanted to travel back to Bugscuffle County to testify, so the DA dropped the charges against Dobie and Nug.
Thing is, to the best of my knowledge they never, ever tried to steal luggage again -- so I guess that Justice was actually served anyway.