A cell phone rang early this morning and I jumped out of bed expecting a falcon situation. I clicked my cell open and said, “Hello?!?” No one answered and the nagging ring continued. I realized Sean’s cell was ringing and took it to him as he groggily rose from bed.
When he snapped his phone shut, he frowned. “Work emergency. I have to go in. Power outage. Got to turn off the servers so things don’t overheat and then fix the problems when the power comes back on. Don’t know how long I’ll be.”
Fifteen minutes later, he was out the door. I felt bummed to have lost such an important member of Team Falcon, but ate a quick breakfast and got my stuff together in preparation for heading over to the MCC. As I walked out the door, my cell rang. Wendy greeted. She’d checked the chick a couple of times and things seemed fine. In the night, the chick had moved deeper into the machine area and now sat on top of another large machine in an even tighter space.
“Well, shoot.” I said. “If she was going to have a hard time getting out of there from her perch yesterday, she’s going to have an even harder time now.”
Wendy agreed and told me she was going to go home and get some breakfast and take a shower. I said I’d be over at the MCC in 5 minutes to take my watch. As I walked up, 5 minutes later, I saw Wendy leaning against the fence. We chatted for a few minutes and I implored her to go get some food, a nice long bath and maybe even a cat nap. She said she’d see me in a bit and wandered off towards home.
It had rained overnight and the sky looked thunder-prone. The wind still gusted fairly strongly and I wondered, vaguely, what I should do. A half hour passed and my thoughts started to wander as I watched the chick, happily looking around, grooming and napping.
A man in tattered and mismatched clothes came up behind me and stood for about five minutes. Not sure what he was doing, I continued to stare into the locked area at the falcon. He mumbled something under his breath, dropped a piece of paper at my feet and then turned and walked around the corner. I looked down. The man had scrawled a note on the back of a starbucks cup sleeve that began with: “I know what you are …” and went on in a tiny scrawl the whole length of the sleeve. I decided to take a walk around the block.
On my walk, I ran into a prison guard who asked me what I was doing lurking out there by the fence. I explained myself and he came around to look at the falcon chick through the bars.
“Wow. She is big!” he exclaimed and then asked me some general falcon questions. I happily answered every one and then asked if the nice lieutenant was still on duty today. He wasn’t, but the guard promised to alert the on-duty lieutenant to the situation.
The Starbucks Sleeve Manifesto had disappeared to my relief.
Over the next hour, waves of guards came out to look at the chick and ask me questions. I found I could answer most of them, but a few of the questions stumped me and I admitted I’d have to research the answers. One nice guard told me about his love for hawks, acquired as a boy growing up in rural Indiana where he sat for hours watching hawks hunt in the corn fields. Like I’ve said, one of my favorite parts of this assignment is meeting all the new people and hearing all these great raptor stories. Really stellar.
I had a lull in activity and used the opportunity to check in with Sean. He was sitting in the dark at his office, waiting. “Not in the dark, here, but I’m in the same boat with the waiting,” I texted him.
A guard wandered up and told me that the lieutenant in charge had alerted the building manager’s assistant, who was on his way out. Movement. I called Wendy, who had just emerged from a nice, long bath. She hadn’t eaten yet, so I told her to do so and that I’d call Lesley and she could join us when she was done with breakfast. Oh, and to bring the pet carrier.
Lesley answered the phone and was out the door minutes later. Enthusiasm! Great! When she got there, we assessed the situation and began strategy planning. The chick perched on top of a maybe 9 foot tall piece of machinery. If someone manned the pet carrier, one of us could protect the Clark side while the other one climbed up under the chick with a towel. It seemed like a good plan.
Wendy hurried towards us minutes after the building manager greeted Lesley and I, so perfect timing! We laid out the plan to Wendy and we all agreed that she might be the best candidate for the number one spot – the actual capturer. So, at last we were ready. The manager unlocked the iron gate and the four of us entered the cage.
Two Men Enter! One Man Leaves!
Actually, three women and a prison guard enter – three women, a prison guard and a baby falcon, with any hope, leave.
We fell into position quickly. I ducked, averted my eyes and walked sideways (a John Cleese funny-walk if there ever was one) quickly around the machine to guard the Clark side. Unfurling my towel, I stood at the ready. Lesley opened the door to the carrier and stood back on the Federal side, opposite me, the huge machine between us.
Because I stood behind the machine and, therefore, my view of the other side obliterated, I didn’t actually see what happened. I heard scrapes from the other side as Wendy moved a bucket into position to stand on. Then, I saw a towel fly through the air, the falcon take off towards Lesley, mostly in the towel, then shouts of “I got it!” and “Over there!” and the like from the other side.
I ran around just in time to see the falcon, mostly underneath Wendy’s towel, fly right at Lesley with Wendy running behind it, holding some of the towel. Was Wendy holding the falcon? I couldn’t tell. It happened too fast. Lesley held the pet carrier up, shield-like, and the falcon flew right in. I blinked. Lesley slammed the door shut, looking stunned. The four of us stood in silence.
“Well,” I said to the guard, as I crossed to pick up the already blanketed pet carrier. “That’s that, then. Thank you so much. We will get out of your hair and get this girl home.”
Soon, the three of us were crossing busy Congress on the way to my house. In my arms, the pet carrier thumped as a very, very angry young falcon moved around inside. In the middle of Congress, a car stopped traffic as the driver rolled down her window and began shouting inquiries regarding what we had in the carrier.
“A FALCON!” Wendy yelled back. “Your LIGHT is GREEN! You’d better move before you get rear-ended!” After a time, the woman, fortunately, heeded Wendy’s good advice.
Adrenaline still coursed through my body as we walked through our front door. I laughed shakily and took the falcon directly into the bathroom. I peeked under the towel covering and got a hiss and a glare for my trouble. Other than the fact that she was generally peevish, the falcon seemed in grand condition. I covered her back up, turned out the light and shut the door.
My two new friends, Wendy and Lesley, stood outside. They also seemed consumed by adrenaline, so I suggested we should have beverages and sit awhile. Lesley joined me in a gin and tonic and Wendy had a tall, cold glass of H2O. We toasted our success, each other, helpers from yesterday and today, the falcon chick and raptors in general. For the next two hours, we sipped our drinks and chatted. Honestly, I had a great time due, no doubt, to the great company.
Sometime in there, Wendy and I transferred the falcon chick from the small pet carrier she was in to a larger one I had in storage. I thought this transfer might be difficult, but as it turned out, I simply put the carriers door to door, put my leather gloved hand down in the space between and the chick lunged at me. I ripped my hand away and slammed the other carrier door shut as the momentum of her lunge propelled her into the other box. Okay!
Sean called about 2:30pm to say that the power was back on and he had the computer network back on-line and humming. I told him we had an overnight guest. He laughed and laughed, then bemoaned the fact that he hadn’t been there for the capture.
“Don’t sweat it too much, bud. You get to spend all night with her,” I laughed.
I called Mary somewhere in there too and she laughed as I told her the whole story. We arranged to meet the next morning at Dr. B.’s office. I left a message on Dr. B.’s machine, warning him.
It’s now 8pm. I put a shallow pan of water in the chick’s carrier about two hours ago. Sean and I are sitting on the couch in our jammies, preparing to watch Deadwood on HBO. The a/c is cranked up a little and I put a fan back in the utility room where she is staying so that her under-the-blanket temporary residence stays nice and cool. Sean and I can’t get over the fact that we are sharing our house with a falcon. It is just so amazingly cool.
The chick has been an ideal guest. There hasn’t been a peep from her since she arrived. Every so often, Sean or I go back to check on her. She glares out at us, but seems just fine. You wouldn’t even know she was here if you didn’t have a sensitive nose like I do. Carnivores smell a little funky, to be honest. Just part of the carnivore gig.
A little while ago, when I went back, I heard splashing sounds. When I peeked under the blanket, she was standing in the dish of water and her head was all wet. The newspaper on the bottom of the carrier was equally sodden, but I don’t think I’ll disturb her to change it.
“Have a nice bath, sweet girl,” I said, and left her to it.