The Barking Bird

When the animals disappeared, the residents of Ballyoran called a meeting. They could live without scavenging foxes and the early morning jabber of crows, but who would be so cruel as to steal their pets?

“They’ve snatched my Snowdrop,” said Mrs. Flynn, speaking of her Giant Flemish rabbit who once won a fight against a stray dog.

“But your rabbit was outside in a hutch,” said Mr. Moran. He scratched the gray hairs of his chin. “My iguana was indoors, sealed in a glass cabinet. There’s no way they could have got their thieving hands on him.”

Mrs. Moran discreetly checked a wound on her thumb. “It would have taken their thieving fingers off if they’d tried.”

Old Casey Channery sat at the back of the Village Hall, rubbing his wrinkled face, attempting to smooth out his worries.

He owned a dairy farm on the outskirts of Ballyoran. The Channerys had farmed the land for over three hundred years, but a week ago, things changed. While tending his Holsteins, a stub of straw churning about his mouth, a beautiful naked woman strolled through his field. Old Casey wasn’t that old, and there was still smoke in his pipe, but this woman frightened him. Underneath her flawless skin, something fluttered, and Old Casey fought with a vision of sparrows trapped in a burning building.

She disappeared through a gap in the hedgerow, and later that day, his cows stopped producing milk.

He knew who the woman was, and she wasn’t really a woman, but he didn’t want to appear a fool. He left that to his brother, Old Rian. But he’d been wrong to hold his tongue.

Danger stalked their homes and Old Casey knew its name.

Mrs. Dyer, the village choir mistress, waved her arms in the air. “It’s those pylons,” she said. “Putting microwaves into the air. That’s what scared off the animals.”

“Don’t be so silly,” Mrs. Moran said. “It’s the new couple that moved in behind us. I saw them putting fertilizer on their lawn and them that puts fertilizer down, probably puts poisons down, too.”

Old Casey stood from his chair, accidentally knocking it over. He cleared his throat and spoke up. “It’s the Barking Bird. It’s among us and means to do harm.”

His words hushed the crowd who turned wide eyes upon him.

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Shaun Baines

Shawn lives in a damp cottage in Scotland. He keeps chickens and bees and dreams of being a crime thriller novelist. One day, he says. One day…

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