The sun was barely rising when Charley Rooster raised his head to crow. Before one cock-a-doodle-doo escaped from his mouth, Betty Mouse's squeals penetrated his ears.

Charley flapped his wings, his red feathers glisten as he jumped down from his roost.

"What's the problem?" Charley asked in his most dignified voice.

"Someone has mousenapped Frieda," Betty Mouse shrieked. "She was in her match box crib when George went out to hunt for crumbs this morning. She was gone when I went to give her a piece of cheese for breakfast."

"This should be an easy case to solve," Charley Rooster boasted, strutting around the barnyard. "Where is Tabby Cat?"

"You aren't putting the blame on me," Tabby Cat Meowed, stretching her long grey furry body. "I'll have you know I haven't laid a paw on that precious little creature."

"Perhaps I was a bit hasty with my accusations," Charley Rooster said. "You'll have to admit you're the most likely suspect though."

"What about Bobby dog?" Tabby Cat meowed. "Maybe he took Frieda Mouse."

"Hold on just a minute," Bobby Dog growled. "What would I want with a skinny little mouse?"

"That's a good question," Charley Rooster said. "I don't think Bobby Dog is guilty of this crime."

"Someone took Frieda," Betty Mouse squeaked. "Are you going to stand around all day asking ridiculous questions or are you going to help me find her?"

"Everyone help me look for clues," Charley Rooster said. "There has to be some evidence around somewhere."

"Look at this," Tabby Cat said. "There's tiny footprints in front of Betty Mouse's hole. They look like yours Charley."

"They do resemble mine," Charley Rooster stuttered. "They're much too small, besides I didn't take Frieda Mouse."

"Who has small feet that look like Charley Roosters?" Bobby dog yelped.

"Petunia Hen, that's who, " Hoot Owl squawked, flying down from his tree house. "I say we give her the third degree, she'll be glad to tell what she did with Frieda Mouse."

"Where have you been all morning, Hoot Owl?" Charley Rooster crowed.

"I just got back from visiting my mother, she lives in a tree on the Hendrick's farm," Hoot Owl hooted. "It gets lonely sitting in that tree with no one to talk to, but I assure you, I know nothing about this crime."

"I know who the guilty party is," Charley Rooster said, grabbing the mousenapper by the wing. "Look at his feet, they'll fit in the footprints we found perfectly. Tabby Cat, check out this criminal's home."

Tabby Cat found Frieda Mouse curled up fast asleep, she hurried back and laid her in Betty Mouse's arms.

"Just as I suspected," Charley Rooster crowed. "Lock him up in the bird cage, we'll keep him there until he decides not to get evolved in mousenapping again."

"I don't think we should get that drastic," Betty Mouse said, cuddling Frieda in her arms. "I'm sure he didn't mean any harm, and he did take good care of her."

Can you guess who the mousenapper was and why?

Answer: Hoot Owl was the mousenapper and he did it because he was lonely.

Copyright © 1998 Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.