Ginseng and Sassafras Tea: Chapter Four
written by Sugarberry

It was several hours later when Hood was approached by his brother-in-law, Checker.

"What's up?" queried Hood as he peered around Checker, expecting to see Laser and Lacewing following close on his hooves. "Am I under arrest for abusing the child labor laws?"

Checker was the Chief of Police in Woodlawn, and he was well-respected by all the citizens for his bravery and his fairness. He slid onto a stool at the counter, and rubbed a hoof across his eyes as if it had been a bad day.

Hood became anxious. "What's wrong? Is Moonglow okay?"

"Oh, yes. She's fine. Thanks for taking the kids off her hooves this afternoon. She needed the rest."

"But that's not why you're here... to thank me."

"No. I wish that's all it was." He paused a moment before going on. "Hood, while Moonglow was asleep and Laser and Lacewing were here with you, someone snuck into our garden and took every blasted tomato that we had on the vine."

Hood stared at Checker unbelievingly. "You mean the scoundrel who hit Bugle and Bellflower sometime before morning was brazen enough to strike again in broad daylight?"

"I'm afraid so. And the darndest thing, Hood, is he leaves no evidence, no clues, no prints. This whole affair is getting downright spooky."

Hood didn't respond. Since spring, these freak thefts of nature's produce had been occurring in and around Woodlawn, yet no one ever saw or heard a thing to point a hoof at the culprit.

Finally, Hood asked, "Where do you go from here?"

"I'm stumped," admitted Checker. "This whole affair is uncanny, the way the perpetrator seems to be watching everyone all the time, waiting until the time is right for a strike."

"I took the kids for a walk today, just to see if there was anything out of the ordinary."


Hood felt a shiver run through his body. "I didn't see anything tangible. Yet, something's out there." He looked tensely at Checker. "I'm sure we were being watched."

Checker attempted to lighten their somber mood. "You sure Sparky wasn't following you?"

Sparky was the new recruit on the force and he had a newcomer's never ending commitment to duty, sometimes to the point of becoming a complete nuisance.

"I think he learned his lesson when he tried to arrest me for breaking and entering," Hood grinned. "It was my own house; I'd just forgotten my key."

For the first time since arriving, Checker smiled, too.

"How about the new flavor in a double-decker cone?" enticed Hood. "I'll even give you a relative's discount."

"Thanks, but not tonight. I'm going to head home and check things out again before dark. I just wanted you to know what happened before you heard a blown-up version of the truth."

"I appreciate that," Hood replied, a frown returning to his face. "Give everyone a hug for me."

"Will do, Hood," Checker waved and walked away.

Hood stared after him, mulling events over in his mind, until Patchwork Petal tapped him on the shoulder. "Hood? Hood?" she called, her perky disposition clouded with worry. "Did you get some bad news?"

Hood nodded his head. "Bad enough. Our town thief has struck again, and in broad daylight."

"Where now?"

"My sister's place," Hood informed her. "Patchwork, why can't we catch this fiend?"

"My brother says it's aliens," Patchwork Petal snickered. "But that's not possible... is it, Hood?"

"What's not possible?" asked Drumstick as he joined them behind the counter. "That I'm caught up on all the dirty dishes?"

Patchwork Petal punched him in the foreleg. "Who do you think is stealing all our food? You don't haunt gardens during the night, do you?"

Drumstick feigned disappointment. "You can't possibly blame me, Patchwork! I'm loyal, dependable, and..."

"And soon to be fired if you don't get back to work," reminded Hood jokingly. "Hop to it!"

"Yes, sir!" Drumstick responded and went off to wait on the pony pair who had just entered.

Patchwork Petal returned to clearing tables while Hood scanned the faces of the ponies in the shop. Was it possible that one of these friends and neighbors was behind the unexplained happenings plaguing Woodlawn? Hood shook his head. "I'd rather it were aliens," he whispered to himself.

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