(Editor’s Note: This is our second installment in the serial about the missing bees mystery. You can read the first installment here if you are new to the spine-tingling thriller.)
A Great Horned Owl called softly as the Lone Ranger rode into camp. He found Tonto reading a little blue book by the light of the campfire. The book had golden letters on the cover. “What are you reading, Tonto?” he asked.
“A little book with a long title, Kemo Sabe, ” said Tonto. “It is called The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen. Someone named Sherlock Holmes wrote it. He is from England. I thought it might have some clues for us about the bees disappearing.”
“Holmes,” mused the Lone Ranger, “That name is familiar but I can’t place it just now.” He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down. “Tonto,” he said, there is something strange going on at Nonsanto’s place down in the valley. I don’t know what to make of it.”
“I suppose you’ll want me to ride in and take a look,” said Tonto.
“Yes, Tonto, I think we have to get to the bottom of this before all the bees disappear. Does that book you’re reading have any ideas that might help?”
“Well, Kemo Sabe, he says that this colony collapse disorder could be caused by a lot of things; fungus, virus, corn syrup, nosema , nicotene based pesticides, antibiotics,radiation, or something called ‘genetic modified crops.’ And then he says it might be something to do with the climate changing.”
“That’s not much help Tonto. I don’t understand half of it.”
“The author says he needs more data. Says it is a ‘capital mistake to theorize before one has data.’ ”
With that, Tonto got up, mounted his horse, and headed for the Nonsanto Ranch.
Meanwhile, back at that ranch, an industrial laser was slicing through a metal table to which a man was securely strapped. Dr. Nonsanto was leaving the room when the man shouted, “Round Up!”
Nonsanto returned to the table and looked down at his captive.
“Bah,” he grunted, “Words you overheard and which can have no possible meaning for you, Mr. Bond.”
“Are you willing to bet the ranch on that, Nonsanto?” said Bond.
Nonsanto thought for a minute as the laser drilled closer and closer to Bond. “Turn it off and take him to the dungeon. We may need him to convince his friends that everything is all right.”
Just then, one of Nonsanto’s henchman came in. “Boss!” he cried, “We just caught an Indian hanging around.”
Nonsanto replied, “I don’t have time to deal with him. Beat him up and send him away.”
Meanwhile, not far away, a train pulled into the station at Wagon Wheel Gap. Two men got off the train. One of them walked to the station master and said, “I say, old chap, is there a decent hotel in the vicinity?”
“Not from around these parts are you, fella?” said the man.
“Why no, we’re not. However could you tell?” Watson responded.
“Elementary. Your wearing tweed. And your friend there is wearing a funny looking hat and smoking a pipe. No pipe smokers around here. And yep, there is a hotel just up the creek there. I’ll give you a lift in the buckboard it you want.”
As they headed up the little canyon to the hotel, Holmes asked the driver if he had noticed anything out of the ordinary lately. “Just the bees being gone. And it seems like we don’t get as much snow as we used to and it melts earlier and earlier. Oh, one other thing too. The birds are coming back earlier every year. We got us an Anna’s Hummingbird — that’s a picture of one back up the page there — and they don’t hardly ever get this far north.”
“What about the flowers?” inquired Holmes.
“Funny you should mention it. That field over there ought to be full of wild Iris right about now but they all wilted off and died just yesterday. You should have seen them last year. I got a picture right here taken by a Mr. Galen Rowell. This is what they looked like last year. Now, they’re all dead. Makes a man want to cry.”