Ginseng and Sassafras Tea: Chapter Eight
written by Sugarberry

The adult ponies were sitting in the living room chatting when Hood finally finished the dishes. Laser had run off to find his sister and cousins.

Hood held up his hooves reminiscent of Laser the day before. "See? Wrinkly. That means I did a good job."

"Or that you're getting old," shot back Stardrift.

"Which reminds me," Hood settled into a comfortable chair, "I had an accidental run-in with Dreamy early this morning.

"Were you able to talk some sense into her?" bitterly asked Moonglow.

"No, that meeting occurred this afternoon and was a total failure." He accepted a cup of coffee from Kaleidoscope. "The encounter I'm referring to happened before I'd heard about the headline story."

"So what did you think of Dreamy Dalton after all these years?" asked Checker. "Moonglow tells me you two were... acquainted... in high school."

"She was a pest," Hood grimaced. "But this morning, my first impression was that she'd changed for the better."

"She's unscrupulous," hissed Moonglow. "And I used to think it was cute the way she followed you around all the time."

"Do tell!" perked up Kaleidoscope.

"There's nothing to tell," Hood grinned and sipped his coffee. "Except maybe the time she put mistletoe on the bus over my seat," he added in afterthought.

"Yeah! And after she kissed you, you threw the mistletoe out the window," added Stardrift.

"Too bad you didn't throw..." began Moonglow.

"Moonglow!" admonished Checker.

"Just kidding," Moonglow meekly recanted.

"Well, anyway. Back to this morning. I was actually setting up a dinner date with Dreamy when Buttercup, whom I'd promised to help with her groceries, came along with her foal in her forelegs and yelled, ‘Hood, come hold the baby!' "

Moonglow and Stardrift sat upright with wide eyes. "What did Dreamy say?"

"She said ‘Some things never change' and left in a huff."

The mares broke-up in gleeful laughter. Checker and Kaleidoscope looked on in wonder at their wives' ability to see so much humor in another mare's mistake.

When Stardrift was able to talk again, she sputtered, "So Dreamy thinks you're a family man?"

"And with Buttercup, no less!" giggled Moonglow, and she and her sister collapsed in another wave of laugher.

Checker shook his head. "I don't see what they find so funny."

"It must be a mare thing," Kaleidoscope concurred.

Hood, however, was pleased to see that his embarrassing situation had relieved the tension of the day for his sisters. It almost made the predicament worth it.

The slamming door announced the arrival of the foals, hot and sweaty from a hard game of tag.

Kaleidoscope rumpled Blush's mane as she crawled into his lap. "Ready for cake and ice cream?"

"Yes, Daddy," came the reply, repeated as well by her twin brother Crush and their cousins. Puzzle, however, was too exhausted after the rough play to be hungry. He curled up on the couch with the kitten, and was soon fast asleep.

Everyone else moved on to the kitchen where Stardrift's chocolate cake and Hood's chocolate chip ice cream awaited devouring. A pleasant atmosphere hung over the gathering, and only light-hearted topics came up for discussion.

It was dark outside by the time the colts and fillies began yawning and nodding off. After deciding that Laser and Lacewing would spend the night, Moonglow and Stardrift took them all upstairs to wash them up and put them to bed.

When only the stallions were left in the room, Kaleidoscope poured them each a fresh cup of coffee. "Once the kids are in bed, your sisters will spend the next hour looking through old baby pictures," he predicted to Hood.

"Either that or sorting layette items," Checker chuckled. But then his face grew serious, and he rubbed his eyes as if the weight of the world had again just settled on his shoulders. "Well, guys, give me some help here. This robbery case has got me stumped."

"Why did the culprit strike in broad daylight?" asked Kaleidoscope. "And why does he only take garden produce? He's obviously not out to get rich quickly."

"The pattern up to now has shown us a criminal who has a grudge against the town-- someone who wants to pay back for some real or imagined injustice inflicted upon him."

"Like someone who didn't receive justice in the legal system?" asked Hood.

"That, or even something less serious like having his phone disconnected. However, the offender normally wants his victims to know who he is so he can enjoy his revenge."

"Like leaving clues that point in his direction without incriminating him?"

"Yes. But in this case, the malefactor doesn't seem to want any public notoriety, which is making it very difficult for us."

The three stallions sat silently for some time, each mulling over the information in their minds.

Suddenly, Hood remembered the idiosyncracy that Laser had noticed with the lawnmower. "What do you make out of the fact that the lawnmower was left out front over in Rosy Bells' front lawn?"

Checker sat up, his eyes bright. "Who told you that?"

"Laser, actually."

"Why didn't he tell me?"

"It's one of those things that didn't become apparent until after he though about it awhile. He assumed the stallion was there because the machine was there."

"That brings up some interesting questions. Was this just a chance occurrence completely unrelated to the other jobs-- someone saw an opportunity and took it-- or could this be a switch in pattern for our resident wrongdoer?" Checker thought out loud.

"Maybe he's tired of being an unknown and wants to hand you some leads," suggested Kaleidoscope.

"That makes the department look really bad," said Checker, scowling. "The crook tries to leave a trail on purpose, and we still don't have anything!"

"Who interviewed the stallion that was at Rosy Bells' place?" queried Hood.

"Hmm... that would have been Sparky."

"Sparky, huh... not to meddle, but maybe you should talk to him again."

"You can be sure I will!"

Moonglow and Stardrift were heard coming down the stairs, so the stallions switched to a discussion of the local baseball team.

Clutching several infant outfits in her hooves, Moonglow was beaming. "Look at these darling outfits that Stardrift got for our little foal," she cooed, holding up some tiny sleepers trimmed in neutral-colored ribbons and bows.

"Adorable," chimed the stallions, exchanging "I told you so" glances.

Hood took the opportunity to say goodnight. He was anxious to stop by the shop on his way home. Rosy Bells wouldn't be closing until eleven o'clock, and he had a question he wanted to ask her.

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