The pile of rags was on the shelf between Sonny and the camera. He quickly pushed the pile forward so that it collapsed over, covering the camera, and then he flapped down from the shelf. He landed beside Rosie just as Ivan came in, and noticed a few of the chickens had also gathered just outside. Ivan glanced around the room; a grey downy feather floated down in front of him; he set a suspicious glare on Rosie and Sonny.
“What was the sheepdog doing in here?” said Ivan.
“Ah, well—“ said Rosie.
“He was looking for the fox,” said Sonny.
Ivan kept his eyes on Rosie, conducting a silent interrogation.
“Yes,” Sonny continued, “he’s convinced he can catch Winston’s killer. He was in here sniffing around for a scent. He must have found something to give him a fright, and he just took off. I’m not sure he’s much of a hunter, but he means well.”
Ivan turned to Sonny, unimpressed by his answer. “And what are you two doing here?”
Sonny went to speak but found he had nothing credible to say. A few seconds of silence passed.
“Well?” said Ivan.
Silence again. Ivan’s face grew dark. Then Sonny straightened up and smiled. “We were looking for any sign of an owl,” he said.
His answer caught Ivan off guard. “Did you find anything?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“As a matter of fact, we did.” Sonny led Ivan to the block of wood he had sat on the day Winston invited him into the shed. From there he could see around the legs of the workbench into a corner. He stretched his wing toward the darkness and said to Ivan, “See over there? On the ground.”
Ivan leaned forward and squinted. Sonny looked up as the big rooster leaned over him. His neck stretched out toward the corner of the shed.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” asked Ivan.
“On the ground,” said Sonny. “And that old rag there.”
“An old rag,” said Ivan, losing patience, “and small droppings. Sonny, why don’t you just tell me what you’re thinking?”
Sonny stepped out from beneath Ivan’s hulking frame. “Oh yes, sure. Well, that rag has been chewed up. See? And the droppings—it’s mice.”
“Yes. And if there are mice running around in here—“
“Then there’s no owl.”
“Exactly. An owl would clean up any rodents in one night.”
Ivan stood upright and smiled. “Well, how about that?” he said. “Little Sonny just got rid of the owl.”
“How clever!” Rosie chimed.
“It was just a rumour after all,” said Sonny.
“Well,” said Ivan, “I suppose we’d better go and let everyone know the good news.”
Rosie and Sonny welcomed the opportunity to exit the shed, and left with a flutter. Ivan walked to the door, paused, and then turned and scanned the room once more. A rag dropped from high and fell like a dry leaf to the floor. Ivan peered up at the top shelf, to the pile of old rags. The smile dissolved from his face.
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