Who Murdered the Dinosaurs?

A millions of years old cold case.

Here’s a fun short story I wrote some time ago. It’s about as joke-packed as possible — it might even be too much. I think it’s great, though, and I do have plans for yet another case for Braeburn and Devereux. Enjoy!

Braeburn had worked many odd cases as a crime scene investigator. The clown that was set on fire and thrown off a building (eventually ruled self-defense). The time it was determined that the real killer was society (which got away with it because of its connections to powerful people). And the case of the health-conscious cannibal who only ate vegans (caught because he mentioned how he only ate vegans in pretty much every conversation). But this case had the potential to be something he'd never worked before -- something no one had ever worked before.

He stood before a place of death.  Old death. The university's Department of Paleontology. Its exterior was cracked, and the whole building draped in shadows. Everything about it was ominous and foreboding, except for the poster of a cartoon stegosaurus welcoming visitors

Devereux stood beside him, looking blonde and confused (that was sort of her thing). "If we're here to investigate a killing, it's probably from a really, really long time ago."

"There is no statute of limitations on murder," Braeburn said firmly.

"So... any idea why your dino friend wants a CSI?"

"No, but I owe him a favor." Technically, Braeburn was off duty, so he wore his casual clothes -- the exact same suit as his work clothes. He ran a hand through his short-cropped hair, which he cut every two weeks to keep from looking like a hippie. "You didn't have to come."

"I’m curious what this is about. It would be kind of neat to solve a dino-murder... though I'm going to guess a tyrannosaurus did it. Motive: hungry." She giggled but then turned serious. "But if he has, like, an actual human body here, we should probably call that in."

"Of course. I always do things by the book," Braeburn said. "Except where the book says you have some discretion on following the book. Then sometimes I don't do things by the book. But I usually do."

Devereux furrowed her brow. "What book are you talking about?"

Braeburn didn't respond and headed into the building.

"Does the book say anything about being courteous to your partner?" Devereux griped as she followed him in.

The building was as still and quiet as the bones of the creatures inside. They walked down a hallway until they found the office of Dr. Graham Smith. Braeburn knocked.

A bearded, nervous-looking man answered the door. The bags under his eyes indicated he had missed a few nights’ sleep. "Good, it's you."

He let the two investigators in and quickly closed the door. The cramped office was filled with boxes of files, and the desk was covered with photos and scribbled-on notepaper.

"This is my partner, Devereux," Braeburn said, pointing at his partner, who was playing with a small, petrified skull, trying to get the jaw to move.

"That's not a puppet," Graham told her.

Devereux put the skull down. "Anything can be a puppet if you attach a stick to it."

Graham just nodded and turned to Braeburn. "I didn't know you were bringing anyone else," Graham said, walking over to his desk. Braeburn followed. Graham leaned over and whispered, "She's kind of attractive."

Braeburn glanced at Devereux, who was making faces at the skull as if trying to provoke a reaction. She was dressed in a neat pantsuit and wearing just enough makeup and showing just enough cleavage to keep anyone from taking her too seriously. Braeburn shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so. What do you want us to look at?"

Graham gathered some files, set them on his desk and pulled out some photos, which he laid before Braeburn and Devereux. "We found a dig site about the same age as the meteor that is theorized to have killed the non-avian dinosaurs."

Braeburn looked over the photos of bones embedded in rock. Typical paleontology stuff. "They look long dead."

"Well... yeah," Graham said. "Anyway, this find was remarkable, actually. We're talking hundreds of dinosaur fossils -- most directly killed by the meteor that made their kind extinct -- triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex. These should be the ones that starved to death because of the meteor."

"Sounds like quite a find. Perhaps one that someone..." Braeburn paused dramatically, "...would commit murder over."

Graham looked taken aback. "Huh? No, not really. That's not where this is going. Everyone in paleontology is friends. We don't murder each other."

"CSIs are supposed to be friends, too," Devereux said. "But then one of them secretly replaces the bullet from a murder scene I'm investigating with a bullet from my gun. I’m running to my car to drive to the lake to dump the evidence when I see them all laughing at me."

Graham raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"

"The point is," Braeburn said, "friends murder each other all the time."

"I didn't murder them," Devereux added. "I thought about it -- but I didn't do it. Still, it's pretty easy to see how 'friends' could kill each other." Her eyes narrowed. "Really easy."

Graham stared at her for a few moments. "So, once again, no one in paleontology is dead. That's not why I asked you here." He chuckled nervously. "In fact, the simple murder of a colleague would be much less disturbing." He set down another picture, this one of colorful rock strata.

"As I said, the evidence we found was consistent with these dinosaurs dying at the same time as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. In fact, the rocks encasing the bones contain dust from the meteor throughout. Too much dust. I ran the scenario over and over trying to figure out how you'd end up with this kind of pattern and could come to one conclusion: it could only happen if the bones of already dead dinosaurs were buried in the dust of the meteor impact."

Braeburn stroked his chin. He could tell the twist was coming. The twist was always his favorite part of each case. "So these dinosaurs didn't die out due to the meteor; they died beforehand."

"Exactly. We always assumed the non-avian dinosaurs died out in the extinction event, but because of the margin of error in radiometric dating, all we really knew was that they died out around the same time as the meteor. This evidence is telling us that their dying-off is unrelated to the mass extinction. This could blow away our current understanding of the extinction of dinosaurs."

"And what was our current understanding?" Devereux asked. "They went off the gold standard?"

Graham stared at her.  "No. A meteor."

"So you're sure these dinosaurs aren't just an isolated few who died from other natural causes?" Braeburn asked.

"It's hard to be sure," Graham said, "but there are a lot of bodies in the dig... and there were other oddities as well. For instance, we have fossils of triceratops and tyrannosaurus rexes that look like they died at the same time -- yet there are no marks on the bones to indicate they died fighting each other. It's like something else came along and quickly killed them."

"That's quite a finding," Braeburn said. "What do your colleagues think?"

"Well, this would be an extraordinary claim, so I wanted to make sure I had some extraordinary evidence before I made it. Which leads me to this." Graham opened a desk drawer. His hands were shaking as he pulled out a piece of petrified amber. In the center of the amber -- known among paleontologists as "yellow gold" -- was a dark object.

Braeburn took a closer look. It was hard to see the details, but it looked almost like a bullet. "This is from the dig?"

"Yes. And it doesn't look natural, does it."

Devereux squinted at the amber. "You think someone shot the dinosaurs?"

"Here's what I think." Graham shifted in his chair. "I think maybe the dinosaurs didn't go extinct from natural causes. Maybe they were... murdered."

Braeburn didn't change his expression. It was the only one he had. "That's quite a claim, doc. But why bring this to us and not other paleontologists?"

"Because he's afraid they'll make fun of him," Devereux said. "For good reason, too, because this seems pretty crazy."

"I'm not worried about other paleontologists making fun of me," Graham said. "Well, sure I am, a little. That’s why I haven’t presented it yet. I thought you could help figure out if there is anything to this theory before I go public."

Braeburn paused thoughtfully. "Solve a sixty-five million-year-old murder... That's quite a cold case."

"I know this probably isn't as dangerous and exciting as the things you usually investigate," Graham said.

"I don't know what you think we do," Braeburn said, "but CSIs are most at home in a lab."

"TV gets our job all wrong," Devereux added. "For instance, when we come upon a murder scene, we don't just say a quip and walk off. I mean, we often say a quip... but then we have to stick around and process the scene. And if your quip goes over poorly, that can be really awkward."

"Stick to puns," Braeburn advised. "Like when that body was missing a hand, and I said, 'I guess he lent someone a hand... and the question is whom.' But stay away from political humor -- that can be divisive."

"The way that guy’s face was smashed just really reminded me of what Obama did to the economy," Devereux said defensively. She looked at Graham. "Anyway, I write down the best quips in a little book I always carry with me."

"And the job isn't dangerous," Braeburn continued. "We very rarely have to draw our guns." He looked at Devereux. "When was the last time I drew my gun?"

"Yesterday," she answered. "That's why you had to take a leave of absence."

"I mean before then."

"Three days ago."

Braeburn paused for a second. "Oh. Well, it's been a bad week."

Graham stared at the amber. It was so tiny and innocent-looking, yet it concealed deadly secrets, like a kitten that had swallowed a thermo-nuclear device. "Anyway, I really could use another set of eyes on this," Graham said. "I'm kind of hoping I just missed something and this is all crazy."

"Perhaps," Braeburn said. "So what equipment do we have to work with?"

"We have a new mass spectrometer and a really advanced tomography scanner."

"Okay, then." Braeburn picked up the piece of petrified tree sap. It was hard, unyielding, and mysterious -- much like him. "Let's take a look at the alleged murder weapon."

The work of a CSI involved a lot of sitting around and waiting for results. Devereux usually spent this time on her smartphone while Braeburn sat in quiet contemplation, going over the facts of the case in his head. It was actually quite a sight to behold. People would stop and stare at Braeburn's statue-like visage. Others would see if they could get away with drawing on his face.

Graham had drilled into the amber to extract a sample of the 'bullet' for the mass spectrometer, and now it was being scanned so they could see a 3D image of the object.

Devereux waved her hand in front of Braeburn's face. "So are we really looking for someone who murdered the dinosaurs? This is kind of stupid-crazy."

"We'll go where the evidence takes us," Braeburn said. "I owe Graham. Back in college, I had a situation where things got pretty harried. To make a long story short, it was his quick thinking to use liquid nitrogen to slow the triggering mechanism on a bomb, giving me time to get the drop on the well-funded European terrorists who’d taken over the campus, and thereby save the vice president's daughter."

Devereux stared at him. "You never told me that story."

Braeburn shrugged. "I don't like telling stories."

Devereux looked at him. "So... are you okay with everything? The shooting yesterday was clean; there’s no way the investigators will come to any other conclusion."

Braeburn shook his head. "No. It's not that. It's just that things feel... unresolved."

Devereux patted him on the shoulder. "The body will turn up floating in the river two towns over. Then we'll know once and for all that the threat Lancaster posed to all of us is over."

Graham came in with some drinks. "Here's your coffee," he said, handing the cup to Braeburn. He turned to Devereux. "And your Diet Coke."

She grudgingly took it. "Eww. I hate diet."

Graham appeared confused. "But... you asked for it."

"And I hate it." She opened the can and took a drink.

"Anyway, the mass spectrometer is done with our sample," Graham said.

"You two look at that," Devereux said. "I'll see if the scanner is ready to give me a good look at the 'murder weapon.'"

Braeburn headed over to the spectrometer with Graham. The chromatogram was displayed on a nearby monitor -- all the matter of the object reduced to a couple of lines on a chart. "No idea exactly what it is, but it's organic," Braeburn said.

Graham studied the data for a few minutes. "It's not a shell or anything similar."

"No. It looks like something that would have degraded quicker if it hadn't ended up preserved in tree sap."

"Could just be some weird biological thing, then. There are plenty of things we don't know about the species from millions of years ago."

"Nope!" Devereux declared as she stood by the tomography scanner. "Come look at this."

"What do you have?" Braeburn asked.

Devereux pointed to part of the 3D model. It was rounded like a bullet but pointier at the front. "See here at the tip." She zoomed in. "It's very fine, but this was machine-tooled."

Graham raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?"

Devereux went cross-eyed. "Duh, I don't know. I'm just a girl. What do I know about science and math and stuff?" She scowled at Graham. "Yeah, I'm sure. There are very small repeated markings on the tip, as if it were sharpened. The markings are so small they couldn't have been made by hand. So I'm thinking machine tooled -- and with pretty advanced equipment."

Graham looked shaky and went to find a chair.

"But that's not all!" Devereux exclaimed. She zoomed in so they were looking closely at the side of the object. "Look at these marks." She pointed to some curved, parallel lines. "Striations. This was fired out of a rifled barrel."

Graham sat down and held his head in his hands. His simple world of long dead giant monsters was falling apart. "65 million years ago?"

"I don't know the timeline. But I look at bullets all day and I know what I'm talking about. And there’s one more thing: It's hollow."

Braeburn stroked his chin. "The bullet itself wasn't meant to kill; it was a poison delivery system." He walked back to the mass spectrometer. "There were a number of elements that seemed odd here, but put them together, and we could have a toxin. I'll need to get this to an expert to confirm."

Graham was silent for a few seconds. "So someone poisoned the dinosaurs... coincidentally, just before a meteor hit?"

"When you work murder cases, you learn not to believe in coincidence," Braeburn said. "For instance, once we had a murder victim who had on the exact kind of shoes I had just bought. I spent hours looking into that connection. Nothing came of that. Probably not a good example. Anyway, let's put all the evidence together: The bullet is made of a material that should have quickly degraded and left no evidence. It killed the dinosaurs with poison that would normally leave no trace over time. And this was done at about the same time as a meteor strike."

"They were framing the meteor for the death of the dinosaurs!" Devereux exclaimed.

Braeburn nodded. "Exactly. Someone knew a meteor was coming and killed the dinosaurs, timing it so the meteor would cover their tracks and take the blame."

Graham went white. "Do you know what you're saying?"

"These are hefty charges," Braeburn said, "but they'll be hard to prove. Lawyers will probably argue that any evidence that has been petrified for 65 million years is contaminated and should be inadmissible."

"Grah! Lawyers!" Devereux yelled.

"Who cares about the court?!" Graham got up from his chair. "We're saying that 65 million years ago there was something on Earth that had the intelligence to specifically wipe out the dinosaurs and conceal its tracks. If this is true, this is one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- scientific discoveries ever made." He took a couple of deep breaths. "Maybe it's time to bring some other scientists in on this."

"No," Braeburn said firmly. "That would be a bad idea. Think for a moment: Who would kill the dinosaurs?"

Devereux pondered that. "It could be advanced space aliens or something."

Braeburn shook his head. "Space aliens would have no reason to conceal the evidence, as they would be long gone before anyone could react to what they'd done. The only ones who would want to conceal evidence for millions of years would be creatures who live on this planet."

Graham ran his hand through his hair. "It has to be another animal that lived around the time of the dinosaurs... one that covered up the evidence so that if another intelligent species evolved, it wouldn't know about it."

"And what happens when the killers -- or their descendants -- find out we're on to them?"

"Then whoever killed the dinosaurs may kill us as well!" Devereux exclaimed.

Graham had to brace himself against a table. "This is a lot to deal with. Now I wish we hadn't found this at all."

Braeburn pulled Graham to his feet. "Get yourself together. We have a killer to catch. Let's put together a list of suspects."

"Um... what's this about?" Dr. Carl Stayman sat in front of a computer in a lab in the biology department; a large, awkward-looking man, he turned his chair and looked at them with confusion.

Braeburn glanced around the room. There were numerous cages containing live animals scattered around the lab. The most suspicious was a boa constrictor that rested in a coil, staring at him. There were also some small monkeys -- and no man with any sense trusted monkeys. Then there were a few different types of rodents, all looking as shifty as ever. An iguana sat on a branch in its cage, silently observing the room. There was a large aquarium with some tropical fish and an octopus nestled under an outcropping of fake coral, who almost looked as though they were trying too hard to appear disinterested. In another cage a brightly-colored parrot seemed about to say something, but then thought better of it.

Braeburn turned to the biologist. "We need to talk alone."

Carl raised an eyebrow. "Um... there's no one else here."

"I don't like talking in front of animals," Braeburn said. "They make me nervous. And when I get nervous, I sometimes lash out violently."

"Uh... okay." Carl glanced questioningly at Graham and then got up and led them to his office. It was much neater than Graham's, with a number of file cabinets and lockers and a desk with nothing on it but a computer and a cupful of pens.

Braeburn glanced suspiciously back at the animals and closed the door. "What I said before was a lie; I never lash out violently. I only use violence methodically, when it serves a particular purpose. I simply needed to come up with an excuse, because I can’t trust the animals out there. We have discovered evidence that the dinosaurs did not die out from natural causes but were in fact murdered by a contemporary, who then concealed the evidence so future intelligent species would assume the extinction was caused by a meteor. We need your help in coming up with a list of suspects."

Carl was quiet a few seconds and then turned to Devereux. "Hi, I'm Doctor Carl Stayman."

She smiled. "I'm Devereux."

"And this is Braeburn," Graham said, "the CSI friend I told you about. I brought them in because the evidence we found was so weird that I just wanted an outside perspective." He handed Carl the amber containing the bullet. "Someone made this 65 million years ago, filled it with poison, and used it to kill dinosaurs, timing the murders so they would all be covered up by the dust from a meteor strike. We're trying to figure out who could have made this weapon."

Carl stared for a while at the amber and then set it down on his desk. "So CSIs are real and not a TV thing?"

"We can be real and a TV thing," Devereux said.

"We suspect there is an animal out there hiding its advanced intelligence from humans," Graham continued. "We're a little worried, because if that's true and it finds out that we know about it, well... "

Carl nodded. "This is really stupid."

"Murder doesn't usually make rational sense," Braeburn said.

"That's not what I meant. But okay, I’ll play along.”

"So do you know of any animal that might be concealing its high level of intelligence?" Braeburn asked. "One that would have something to gain from the demise of the dinosaurs?"

Carl chuckled. "Well, all living animals today evolved from some animal from back then, so I guess we're all suspects. I have an alibi, though."

Graham looked lost in thought. "If the animal is quite intelligent, it's probably like us and adapted by using its brain rather than through evolution. So you probably want to look at animals that haven't evolved much since the time of the dinosaurs."

"Like sharks?" Carl suggested.

"Now there is an animal I'd suspect of murder," Devereux said.

Braeburn shook his head. "How would a shark manufacture and manipulate the murder weapon? And how would it kill on land? We'd be talking about some sort of 'land shark,' an almost comical notion."

"Crocodiles could go on land," Graham said. "And they'd have motive: being the biggest reptiles, the elimination of the dinosaurs made them the biggest predators for a while."

"Plus they have this knowing smile like they got away with something," Carl laughed.

Braeburn thought for a moment. "We encounter the same problem as with the sharks, though. It seems unlikely that crocodiles could manipulate the equipment. We need an animal with fine motor skills."

"Was there some sort of monkey back then?" Devereux asked.

"Oh, mammals, now there is someone who gained from the extinction of the dinosaurs," Carl said with a big smile. "With them out of the way, mammals soon became large and dominant. They'd certainly be on my suspect list. Of course, the mammals back then were mainly little shrew things and monotremes." He turned to Devereux. "Egg-laying mammals, that is."

"Why did you assume I didn't know that?" she demanded.

His smile faded. "Sorry. Anyway, extant monotremes would probably be your closest links to the mammals from back then, so maybe you should go to Australia and rough up a platypus until he talks. Careful, though -- the males have venomous spurs."

Braeburn thought about that. "Probably easier to go to a zoo. We can see if the local one has a platypus. But we'll want more evidence before we pursue a particular suspect."

Carl nodded. "Yeah. Otherwise, you'll look like an idiot beating up a platypus."

"I don't like punching animals," Devereux said. "Except maybe pigeons."

"So are you guys actually serious about this?" Carl asked. "I mean, you really think an animal killed the dinosaurs and then hid its intelligence for millions of years? If scientists detect any amount of thought from an animal, we’re all over it. Like when we saw what appeared to be tool usage in cephalopods."

"Maybe it's some animal that's usually ignored and not generally thought to be intelligent," Devereux suggested. "Like people don't think I'm smart because I'm pretty and say a lot of stupid things."

"Good point," Braeburn said. "Perhaps it’s some animal that we consider boring and don’t study very carefully."

"I guess amphibians aren't that popular," Carl said. "They were the big land animals until about 250 million years ago and have kind of just been ‘meh’ ever since."

Braeburn nodded. "Worth checking into."

"Oh, and we haven't really considered insects," Carl added. "They've been around forever. Hive insects demonstrate at least some communication ability."

Graham mulled that over. "Insects working together could accomplish a lot."

"Yeah, but do they care who the big land animal is?" Devereux asked. "They've always lived in the margins. Why would they murder the dinosaurs? Unless too many of them were being stepped on."

"You make a good point," Braeburn said, "but they're still worth considering." He thought for a few seconds. "Maybe just listing animals isn't the best way to go about this. Murder isn't often committed by a stranger -- it's done by someone the victim knows. So who is the dinosaurs’ closest living relative?"

Carl snorted. "Other dinosaurs."

Devereux raised an eyebrow. "I thought all dinosaurs were extinct."

"Colloquially, we say the dinosaurs are extinct," Graham explained, "but that's not technically true. The term 'dinosaur' is treated as a clade; that means it applies to any descendants of the original dinosaurs. And while non-avian dinosaurs are dead, avian dinosaurs are alive and thriving."

"So what are these 'avian dinosaurs’?" Devereux asked.

"Birds," Braeburn answered. He looked deep in thought.

Devereux grimaced. "What? So like a pigeon is descended from a pterodactyl?"

"No," Graham explained. "A pterodactyl isn't a dinosaur. It's a flying reptile."

"So a pterodactyl isn't a dinosaur, but a hummingbird is? That doesn't make any sense."

"Science doesn't have to make sense," Graham said. "It just has to follow the data."

Braeburn continued to think. "Birds make sense as suspects. They did rise to their own sort of dominance after the fall of the other dinosaurs."

Carl nodded. "Yep. They'd be my number one suspect. The only problem is getting any of them to talk. I'd start by questioning the penguins -- they have to be pretty bitter about not being able to fly. Maybe you can bring along someone they trust -- like Morgan Freeman."

Braeburn began to pace. "But there are some problems with birds. It's hard to believe they'd have the capability to manufacture guns and bullets."

"If you're looking for intelligence, though, birds have plenty," Carl said. "Magpies show self-awareness in a mirror test. And of course, some birds can even talk."

"And since they can fly, they can get to places difficult for other animals to reach," Devereux added. "Makes it easier to hide what they're doing. And they have these little, black, beady eyes that make them look suspicious, like they're up to something."

Braeburn shook his head. "We're just speculating now. We need more data."

Graham nodded. "Maybe I should spend a bit more time looking over what we found in the dig and see if anything else jumps out."

"I'll give the data on the murder weapon to Cortland, one of our crime lab technicians," Braeburn said. "He might be able to make sense of it."

"And I'm going to go back to my lab to do some work related to the real world," Carl said. "If you guys find out an animal is secretly planning to murder all the humans, send me an email." He headed for the office door. "A text if it's urgent."

Graham walked over to a locker and opened it. "I was looking for a place to lock this up." He put the amber inside and put a padlock on the door.

"Hey!" Carl protested. "I’ve got stuff in there, too."

Graham handed a strip of paper to Braeburn. "Here's the combination, just in case. Do you really think we might be in danger?"

"There's always danger when a killer is on the loose."

Braeburn sipped his coffee and stared blankly at the wall. He had pored over the data in his own head all night, but there was little to conclude so far. The death of the dinosaurs was a huge change that benefited many different creatures, so in a way, nearly everyone had a reason to want them dead.

Devereux entered the coffee shop and sat down opposite. "You're supposed to be relaxing."

"I can only relax when murderers are caught and put away for good," Braeburn said.

"And you're fine with what happened with Lancaster? I mean, he was once your partner... and your friend."

"Friends don't become assassins for criminal cabals and use their CSI knowledge to cover their tracks." He smiled at Devereux. "And now I have a new partner... and friend."

Devereux narrowed her eyes. "Really? What's my first name?"

Braeburn shrugged. "That would only be relevant if I knew another Devereux that I needed to distinguish you from." He sank back into thought. "Still, I wonder what those blueprints were about, the ones we found at Lancaster's hideout."

Devereux leaned back in her chair. "Something sinister, no doubt. But it's all over now."

Braeburn placed a dollar on the table and got up. "I haven't heard from Graham, but we might as well go back to the university and see what else we can find."

They headed to Braeburn's car, a simple sedan that was a lot like him -- practical, unassuming, able to hold multiple cups. When they were a little way down the road, his phone rang. It was the lab technician, Cortland. Braeburn put him on speaker. "Cortland, do you have something for me?"

"Well, I received the mass chromatogram," Cortland said. "That’s a graphic representation of mass spectrometry data, where the x-axis is time and the y-axis is--"

"We know what a chromatogram is, Cortland!" Devereux snapped. "Just tell us what you make of it!"

"Well, most of what you sent me appears to be keratin," Cortland said. "That’s the material that is found in the hair and nails of many vertebrates and is also part of the outer layer of--"

Devereux sighed loudly. "We know what keratin is! Anything else?"

"I also found traces of numerous toxins. Toxins are poisonous substances found in--"

"Dammit, Cortland, we know what toxins are!"

"Which toxins did you find?" Braeburn asked.

"Tetrodotoxin. Tyramine. Dopamine. Maybe a few others."

"Any guesses at what this thing was?"

"Not really," Cortland said. "Sounds like some sort of poisoned claw, but I can't think of any animal like that. Keratin is found in invertebrates, but the few that are poisonous deliver venom through their teeth. But I found one other oddity. There was just a trace of chitin, which is what makes up the hard parts of many invertebrates, such as the shells of clams and the exoskeletons of insects."

"Wow, I didn't know that," Devereux said sarcastically. "That was very interesting."

"Really?" Cortland asked.

"NO!" Devereux yelled and pressed “end” on Braeburn’s phone. "Grah! He annoys me so much! So what do you think it means?"

"Can't be sure," Braeburn said. "But if Graham found something else, maybe we can put this all together."

There were police cars near the paleontology building with their lights flashing and doors open. "What's going on?" Devereux exclaimed as they got out of the car.

Braeburn recognized the large figure of Detective Kowalski, who was talking to a very distraught-looking Carl Stayman on the lawn. Behind them, police were rolling a body bag on a stretcher out of the building. A young-looking cop was vomiting by some bushes.

"Rookies," Kowalski chuckled as he pointlessly tried to straighten his rumpled suit with his sausage-like fingers. "We always warn them about the discount sushi restaurant next to the station, but they never listen. So what are you doing here, Braeburn?"

Braeburn glanced uneasily at the covered body. "We were working with a Dr. Graham Smith here in the paleontology department."

"Graham shot himself!" Carl cried. "I found him in the lab. He wrote a note on his computer saying that he faked data, and... I guess he took his life over it."

"Suicide?" Braeburn looked at Kowalski. "You sure?"

Kowalski shrugged. "Seems pretty clear-cut, but we have some of you science guys looking at the scene." He rolled his eyes. "Never understood all this DNA stuff. Back in the day, we used to just find the most likely suspect and beat him with a phonebook until he confessed."

Devereux looked shocked. "I don't think you're supposed to beat people with phonebooks."

"Then why do they keep sending them?" Kowalski asked. "I use the internet to look up phone numbers like everyone else, toots."

"I've told you not to call me that!" Devereux yelled. "And how do you even know my middle name?"

"Can we look at the crime scene?" Braeburn asked.

Kowalski shrugged. "I guess. But since you've recently been working with the guy, we have to treat you like a suspect. So don't go tampering with any incriminating evidence while you're in there."

It wasn't easy for Braeburn losing a friend -- though it had happened to him many, many times. And his friends almost always died in very dramatic fashion -- often necessitating the need for vengeance afterward.

They found two CSIs processing the scene. "Oh, no," Devereux grumbled. "Not them."

It was VanHoose and Desdemona. VanHoose had slicked-back hair and was wearing a light suit with a pastel pink shirt and smoking a cigarette. Desdemona, with dyed black hair, black nails, and black lipstick, was in her usual black corset and was raiding the lab's cabinets for snacks.

VanHoose waved his iPhone around the crime scene. "Beep. Beep. Huh. I'm suddenly detecting a trace of loser." He looked at Braeburn with one of the expressions that had earned him the award for "Most Punchable Face" in high school.

The woman giggled as she opened a bag of Fritos. Desdemona cultivated a look somewhere between sexy and scary and adjacent to disturbing. "And it’s the bleached blonde CSI cheerleader." Desdemona waved invisible pom-poms, spilling some of her corn chips on the ground. "Go team! Solve that murder!"

Devereux clenched her fists. "They shouldn't dismiss me as a cheerleader just because I try to cheer people up with rhyming chants and choreographed dances when we’re stuck on a case," she muttered.

Braeburn looked at the two CSIs. "Hello VanHoose. Desdemona. What have you found?"

"We already solved this one, because we're awesome," VanHoose said. "It looks like he was murdered..." He put on sunglasses. "...by himself."

"You mean suicide?"

"I call it self-murder, and it counts as a murder solved! All the evidence--" VanHoose turned and walked into a table. "I shouldn't wear sunglasses inside," he mumbled as he took off his glasses. "Anyway, all the evidence points to suicide -- gunpowder burns and whatnot. Plus he left a note on the computer over there..." He pointed to a computer next to a chalk outline on the floor. Blood splatter was on the desk. "...saying he was going to kill himself -- also consistent with suicide. So... murder solved!" He turned to Desdemona and high-fived her. "That puts us way ahead of you two jokers in the annual murder-solving competition."

"That's not actually a thing," Braeburn said.

"That's loser talk, loser! Anyway, I think we're done here."

Desdemona opened a can of soda, then held it away from her as it overflowed and spilled onto the floor. "We'll call this one 'the case of the dumb dinosaur guy who offed himself because dinosaurs are dumb and stupid and dead.'"

"Please be more respectful," Braeburn said. "He was a friend of mine."

Desdemona giggled. "Guess we have a motive for suicide, then."

"Oh! Burn!" VanHoose exclaimed. "You got him good! High-five!" He slapped Desdemona's hand in another ritualistic display.

"You're not supposed to high-five at crime scenes," Braeburn said. "It can cause contamination of the evidence."

"Yeah, we play by our own rules!" VanHoose shouted. "Because we're awesome!"

"Sometimes I pick up evidence with my mouth," Desdemona said.

"And because you don't play by the rules," Braeburn explained, "you often get your evidence thrown out in court."

VanHoose rolled his eyes. "Who cares? It's not like anything is going to happen to us; we're union. Anyway, we just got called about a new case. They found a dead body at Covington Estates, but get this -- the guy’s eyes were exploded. Sounds awesome."

"Oh, that does sound good," Devereux said.

"Yeah!" VanHoose exclaimed. "And we're going to solve the hell out of it!" He high-fived Desdemona again.

"I just love murder," Desdemona said. "One day, I think I'm going to commit some."

"As long as these two idiots are assigned to your case..." VanHoose gestured to Braeburn and Devereux. "...you'll never get caught."

Desdemona laughed. "Unless I commit a murder that can be solved with pole dancing."

"Hey!" Devereux exclaimed. "I only posed as a stripper to help with a case! Sure, the strip joint ended up having nothing to do with the murder, but I used the money I made to buy the office a new espresso machine!"

The two just laughed. Then VanHoose's face turned grave. "Seriously, though, I’m sorry about your friend, Braeburn."

"Thanks. He--"

VanHoose laughed. "Just kidding! I don't care!" He turned to Desdemona. "Ha! Got him good!" They high-fived and left the lab.

Devereux turned to Braeburn. "Those two are the worst human beings in the history of everything."

"They can rub people the wrong way."

She looked at him with concern. "Hey, does it ever get weird for you, being around Desdemona?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, she's the twin sister of your ex-wife, who turned out to be a foreign spy who betrayed you to the Russian mob and then apparently died in a plane crash."

Braeburn shrugged. "I guess I never think about it." He walked over to the computer.

"I'm really sorry about your friend," Devereux said, looking over the blood-splattered desk. "So was this murder-of-the-dinosaurs thing really just a hoax?"

"I wouldn't think Graham would do such a thing, but I guess it's a more plausible explanation than that there really is an animal out there that’s been hiding its intelligence for millions of years." A Glock 17 lay on the ground, also splattered in blood. Next to the computer was a pad of paper; a pen lay on it, and a few unintelligible words were scribbled at the top.

"Guess he started to go the traditional route on the suicide note," Devereux said, "but changed his mind. No one handwrites a letter anymore."

Braeburn tried to discern what Graham had started to write, but the ink was too smudged. He looked at the note onscreen and read it aloud. "'I'm a fraud. I wanted to finally make a famous discovery, so I started faking evidence. That’s when I realized how pointless my life has been. I apologize to all those I hurt.'"

"So is he saying the thing encased in amber is fake?" Devereux asked.

"It would be hard to fake petrified amber."

"Maybe it really is just something simple, then," Devereux said. "Just a weird claw... that maybe crushed a poisonous bug, which is why the other trace is there."

Braeburn rubbed his chin. "You said you’re sure it was machine-tooled and had been fired through a rifled barrel."

"Well yes..." Devereux looked around the room to make sure no one else was there and then whispered, "but I'm wrong all the time."

The atmosphere at Applebees was drearier than usual. Devereux worked quietly at her salad while Braeburn sat in thought, not even touching his Bourbon Street Chicken & Shrimp.

"Know what might cheer you up?" Devereux said. "Let’s grab some pipes, lead VanHoose and Desdemona into a dark alley, and totally go to town on them."

"Assault doesn't usually cheer me up. Only solving crimes."

"We'll have a new one to solve soon," Devereux said. "I bet you'll be cleared on the Lancaster thing by next week. You should be happy about that. He was nearly perfect at covering his tracks, but luckily you found that small trace of soil that led us right to his hideout by the river."

"Yeah, lucky I guess. Luckier would have been bringing him in alive."

Devereux frowned. "He deserved what he got. At least one of his booby-trapped crime scenes didn't take us out."

Her phone rang. She grimaced as she answered it. "It's Dumbleton. What do you want, Chief? We're in the middle of some important work right now."

"Oh... well... I just wanted to check on you two. See... uh... Braeburn is supposed to be taking time off because of the... um... shooting, but I heard he tasked Cortland to analyze something and... and now he was at a crime scene this morning."

Devereux sighed loudly."We don't have to explain to you what we're doing on our own personal time, so why don't you not be the world's biggest nazi douchebag and stop questioning us about it."

"Oh... well... uh... that's another thing. Braeburn is on administrative leave, but you aren't, so you're really supposed to be working an assigned case right now..."

"Are you done rambling?" Devereux demanded. "Because you're really boring me, and I want to get back to my meal."

"I thought... um... you said you were in the middle of important work."

"Eating is important!" Devereux shouted. "If you don't eat, you starve to death! How do you not know this? You have to be the dumbest human being that ever lived. No wonder your wife left you." Devereux hung up. "Grah! I hate our boss!" She fumed at Braeburn. "He's always..." She twirled her finger in the air as if it were a loading icon for her brain. "...talking to us."

"You need to show more respect for authority," Braeburn said.

"Hey, I come from a time when everyone questioned authority."

Braeburn raised an eyebrow. "When was that?"

Devereux thought for a moment. "The ‘90s."

They ate quietly for a few more moments. Braeburn then asked, "So what did you think of this whole dinosaur case?"

Devereux shrugged. "I thought it was nonsense from the start. I mean... killers from 65 million years ago? The earth is only thousands of years old."

"You're a young earth creationist? But you work with science every day."

"Hey, I've worked tons of murder cases. This is the first one where the age of the earth came up. Anyway, I just don't believe it all; maybe everything isn't really old but just looks it."

Devereux went back to her salad while Braeburn continued to stare at nothing quietly. Devereux broke the silence. "Maybe it's time we finally address the obvious sexual tension between us."

Braeburn suddenly rose to his feet. "I know who the killer is."

"Oh... did my comment about how things aren't old but might only look old help put everything into place?"

Braeburn shook his head. "No. I wasn't listening to you. Let's get back to the university." He headed for the exit.

Devereux idly moved a leaf of lettuce with her fork. "I guess I'll pay, then."

"Um... hey again," Carl said as they marched into the biology department.

"Did you tell anyone or anything about the case we were working on?" Braeburn demanded.

Carl stood up from his desk. "Oh, come on. You're still on that? It was a little funny before; now it's just depressing."

"Just answer the question."

"I told Sally, the boa constrictor. You think she murdered the dinosaurs?"

Devereux drew her gun. "It does make sense." She slowly approached the large case in which the boa lay curled up. "Snakes have been thought of as evil forever. Maybe that's because they really are secret schemers -- something people knew long ago but have since forgotten."

Carl walked over toward the case and gestured at Sally. "How is a snake going to do anything? It doesn't have any limbs. Please don't shoot my snake."

"Not the snake," Braeburn said as he approached the aquarium opposite the boa. He peered inside, but what he was looking for was no longer there. All he saw was the label on the glass: Mr. Squishy.

Suddenly he heard a loud thud behind him. He quickly turned and drew his weapon. Carl lay unconscious on the ground. Above him stood Devereux. An octopus had wrapped two of its arms around her waist and two more around each of her arms. In another of its arms, it had Devereux's gun, easily identified by the pink rubberized grip, pointed at her head, and in yet another was a second gun pointed at Braeburn. Its last two arms were doing a slow clap. "So you silly little apes figured it out?" the octopus said, its mantle and eyes peeking out from behind Devereux's head.

Braeburn kept his gun pointed at the large, dark eyes of Mr. Squishy. "I assume Graham was on the right path, too, which is why you killed him. You were too cutesy, though, in trying to cover up the note he was writing. A modern ballpoint pen has quick-drying ink and is hard to smudge like that... unlike the ink of a cephalopod."

Mr. Squishy chuckled. "So you realized an octopus has ink -- good detective work, Encyclopedia Brown."

"I always said I wasn't going to be that woman," Devereux muttered to herself, "the one who gets captured and has to be rescued by her male partner."

"It wasn't just the ink," Braeburn continued, holding his gun steady. "The rest of the evidence fit as well. Octopuses have been around since the time of dinosaurs and haven't evolved much since then, and the versatility of your arms makes it plausible you would be able to craft and use weaponry."

"People think it's all about opposable thumbs," Mr. Squishy said, "but octopus arms are even more adaptable. They make your stupid little hands look like children's toys."

Braeburn moved sideways, keeping his gun aimed at the octopus's head. "And the suction cups on your arms contain tiny, chitinous teeth, hence the chitin trace on the bullet. I'll bet we find some on the gun that killed Graham."

Mr. Squishy narrowed his eyes. "I guess someone has been watching Animal Planet."

"Plus, Carl mentioned something about tool use in cephalopods, and I remembered seeing a YouTube video of an octopus carrying around coconut shells to use as shelter," Braeburn said.

"Everyone thinks vertebrates are the be-all, end-all of intelligence," Mr. Squishy said. "But some of us took different evolutionary paths and are better for it. I assure you that we can do more than schlep around coconuts. But as you've probably figured out, we like to keep our abilities hidden."

"And that's the only part I haven't figured out," Braeburn said. "Why kill the dinosaurs? If you're so intent on being left alone, why take a large, obvious action like that?"

Mr. Squishy laughed. "Yes, I can see you little monkeys furrowing your brows, but let me explain it this way: Kill one, it's a murder. Wipe out thousands of species entirely, and it's a normal mass extinction. It wasn't even the dinosaurs we were really after."

"Is there any way this squid could get off me and you guys could continue this discussion elsewhere?" Devereux asked.

"I'm not a squid!" Mr. Squishy shouted, pressing the one gun closer to Devereux's temple. "That's like me referring to you as a tarsier."

"I don't even know what that is!" Devereux yelled.

"It's a big-eyed monkey," Braeburn explained.

"He called me a big-eyed monkey?" Devereux looked angry now. "If I weren't Caucasian, that would be really racist!"

"Calm down, Devereux," Braeburn said softly. "Let the octopus explain himself. You said it wasn't the dinosaurs you meant to kill?"

"No, they just got in the way. We were after the large marine reptiles, like the plesiosaur. They were becoming too dominant, and we decided it was time to cull them."

"Wait, a plesiosaur isn't a dinosaur?" Devereux said. "But it has a long neck like a brontosaurus and has 'saur' in its name!"

"It just isn't, okay?" Mr. Squishy said sharply. "And brontosaurus isn't considered an actual dinosaur name. What you're thinking of is called an apatosaurus."

"Whatever!" Devereux yelled. "Just get your stupid tentacles off me!"

"I don't have tentacles!" Mr. Squishy jammed the gun against her head again. "I have arms. A squid has tentacles."

"Let's calm down here," Braeburn said. "We only want to understand."

"I'm not sure your little mammal brains are developed enough for that," Mr. Squishy said. "We octopuses like to live an existence free from interference -- especially from anything on land. So when we decided to eliminate some species that were in our way, we figured the best way to do it was to kill lots of species and time it with the impending meteor impact. That way, if some future intelligent creature arose and looked into the earth's history, it would just seem like a normal mass extinction event. We specifically designed our poison bullets so they'd fragment on impact, and if any of them were preserved, it would look like a piece of a claw or something innocuous. The only problem was that we didn't realize how much future generations of young primates would love reading about the dinosaurs, and thus how much focus they would receive. So, we knew it was only a matter of time until some incriminating evidence would be found. Thus some time ago we began plans to continue the cover up."

Braeburn tried to keep a bead on the octopus, but he kept shifting his position behind Devereux. "Really? You're going to kill humans to help cover up your original crime? More murder to cover murder?"

Mr. Squishy laughed. "Many of us are abyssal creatures, so you don't know how low we can go. And don't think you'll be only the second time this has happened. There were a few other times we decided certain species had to go. Let's just say sloths should be a certain size and no larger."

"I don't think this is a path you want to go down," Braeburn said. "Humans will put up much more of a fight than dinosaurs."

"On the contrary, I think you'll die even easier." Mr. Squishy’s eyes squinted as if he were smiling. "Our plan has already been in effect for decades, and you people haven't caught on yet. It's so diabolical that it's hard not to be the talking villain and tell everyone about it. For it's the perfect murder, as the victims will blame themselves for their own deaths."

Braeburn frowned. "What have you done?"

"We're the ones behind climate change!" Mr. Squishy exclaimed. "It's a slow way to kill you, but it will do. And if, millions of years from now, some new intelligent creature evolves and looks into the extinction of humanity, he'll only find a cautionary tale about caring for the environment."

"I don't believe in global warming," Devereux said. "It's a bunch of made-up nonsense."

"We call it 'climate change' now!" Mr. Squishy emphasized his words by tapping the gun barrel against Devereux's temple. "And the science indisputably points to it being man-made -- I know, because I helped plant the evidence! Oh, it will be so nice to be rid of you humans; you've been nothing but trouble since you descended from the trees."

"Are you implying we evolved from apes?" Devereux asked. "Because I don't believe in that either."

"Shut up!" Mr. Squishy pressed the gun harder to Devereux's temple.

"So what now, Mr. Squishy?" Braeburn asked.

"Well, I was entertaining the idea of shooting you both and the scientist here." He motioned with a free arm to the unconscious Carl. "I'd make it look like he blamed you for Dr. Smith's death and then killed you before taking his own life."

Braeburn carefully looked at the octopus through his gun sights. "You try something like that, and it will not end well. Just so you know, I have nothing against shooting animals. I once shot a monkey."

"Twice," Devereux corrected him.

"The second wasn't a clean shooting," Braeburn said. "I don't like to talk about it."

Mr. Squishy scoffed. "Like you know enough biology to know where the kill shot is on an octopus. Still, another 'suicide' seems sloppy, so I'll make you a deal. Get me that bullet in amber, and if I leave with that, you two are free to go. With that piece of evidence destroyed, you'll just be two nutballs ranting about a talking octopus. And the whole climate change thing most likely won't get really bad until after your lifetimes anyway."

"You'll let my partner go?"

"Don't give in to him!" Devereux said. "He's weird and slimy, and I think he's wrong about global warming!"

"Or I could just shoot you both." He waved one gun at Braeburn while pressing the other into Devereux's head. "People will get suspicious, but they probably won't suspect dinosaur-murdering octopuses. And I'll be long gone before anyone knows to look for me. We octopuses are masters of disguise. We can change our skin color and even texture to mimic other things. Plus, I bought a disguise kit." With a free arm he put on a fake mustache and a black wig. "So just do as I say and don't try me, Braeburn. We octopuses like to live fast and die young."

"Okay. I'll get the amber. It's in Dr. Stayman's office." Braeburn headed to the office, keeping his eyes and gun on Mr. Squishy, who forced Devereux to follow. Once inside, they moved to the locker with the padlock.

"Open it!" Mr. Squishy demanded.

"Let me get the combination." Braeburn pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and looked at it, still keeping a gun on the octopus. "Apparently for extra security, Graham wrote down the combination in the form of a riddle. 'Three pie-men came down Mulberry Way, each with a sack of...'"

"Just shoot the lock," Devereux sighed.

"It might be fun to solve," Braeburn said.

"Just shoot it. I want Squishy-Gropey off me."

"I'm not taking my gun off him," Braeburn said.

"You have two guns," Devereux told Mr. Squishy. "Just keep one on me and shoot the lock with the other."

The octopus hesitated. "I saw on Mythbusters that shooting locks doesn't work."

"I've shot locks many times,” Devereux said.

"Someone could hear the gunshot," Mr. Squishy said.

"If someone comes in I'll just tell him I saw a bug and got scared and shot at it. Then I'll bat my eyes and giggle, and that will be that."

"It could deflect."

Devereux rolled her eyes. "If you're going to be an octopussy about it, just give me the gun and I'll do it."

"Fine. But one false move, and you go the way of the dinosaurs."

Mr. Squishy loosened his grip on Devereux's arms and handed her the gun, keeping the other at her head. Braeburn stood back quietly, keeping careful aim on the octopus.

"I want my own gun." She motioned to the gun with the pink grip Mr. Squishy was pointing at her.

"That gun is fine. Just shoot the lock."

Devereux held the gun loosely, pointing it upward and looking at its side. "Is there a safety?"

"The safety is off!" the octopus shouted. "Just point it and--"

The gun went off in Devereux's hand, firing upward. The emergency sprinkler over her head shattered, spraying water down on top of them. As the water doused the octopus, he screamed and fell off Devereux. She turned, stripped the gun from his arm, and proceeded to punch Mr. Squishy repeatedly in the mantle.

"That's it!" she screamed. "You've released the kraken!"

Braeburn put a hand on her shoulder. "I think he's had enough."

"But he's so soft and squishy," Devereux said. "I could punch him all day."

Mr. Squishy jolted up and sprayed ink into Devereux's face. She shrieked and fell backward as the octopus tried to squirm away. Braeburn was quickly over him, though, and pointed his gun down at the cephalopod.

"I don't think so," Braeburn said. "Your first mistake was murdering the dinosaurs. Your second was murdering my friend and making it personal. Now I'm just looking for an excuse to turn you into rubbery sushi." He glanced at Devereux, who was rubbing her ink-covered face. "Good thinking there, Devereux. Being a saltwater creature, getting soaked in fresh water would shock his system, as he'd absorb it too fast."

Devereux smiled. "People think I'm dumb because I'm pretty, but I'm actually of average intelligence." She looked at the quivering octopus. "And how are these guys supposed to defeat us when they have the same vulnerability as those aliens from Signs?" She thought for a moment. "Maybe the ending of that movie wasn't as dumb as I thought."

"I wouldn't go that far," Braeburn said.

"By the way, I thought of something!" Devereux looked excited. "While you two were going on and on about the dinosaurs, I was thinking about Lancaster. That bit of soil we found, the one that led us to his hideout -- it was almost too perfect. And Lancaster knew exactly where to plant it so it would seem like we were lucky to find it. He wanted us to find him, and he purposely forced you to shoot him -- that was his plan! And we won't find his body in the river, because he’s alive! And I know what he's up to.

"The body with the exploded eyes was found at Covington Estates -- which is where many of the workers of the Hillman Corporation live, right? And why were the eyes exploded? To cover up the fact that Lancaster stole one to get through a retinal scanner. I bet if we DNA-check those eyes, one of them isn't the victim's. But I think it's too late, and Lancaster has already gotten into the Hillman Corporation headquarters and stolen the HX-7 device. That's what the blueprints were about!"

Devereux was quiet for a moment. "And if the body with exploded eyes was Lancaster's work, he may have booby-trapped the crime scene again. That means he could have already murdered VanHoose and Desdemona -- which would be awesome, because then they would be dead, and I already solved their murders. So good for me."

Braeburn nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, that does all fit together. Good work, Devereux... but it's not that important right now, considering that humanity faces the threat of being wiped out by hostile marine life."

Devereux frowned. "Of course, when I finally crack open a big case, it's rendered irrelevant by murderous octopi!"

"I think the plural is 'octopuses,'" Braeburn said.

"'Octopodes' is also accepted," Carl said, walking in clutching his head.  He looked at his drenched office, the soaked CSIs, and the gun still pointed at the octopus which lay shivering on the ground. He looked quizzically at Devereux. "Are you in blackface?"

"It's octopus ink, jackass."

"And did you glue a mustache to the octopus?"

"It was the octopuses who murdered the dinosaurs," Braeburn explained. "This one murdered Graham -- and pistol-whipped you. The octopuses also plan to wipe out all of humanity and are using climate change to do it. Isn't that right, Mr. Squishy?"

The octopus just lay there, barely moving.

Carl was quiet for a few seconds. "Can one of you drive me to the hospital? I'm pretty sure I have a concussion."

"Can't you drive yourself?" Devereux asked. "We're pretty busy here."

"No, because I have a concussion."

Devereux rolled her eyes. "I drive with concussions all the time."

Carl was silent again. "Can you just put Mr. Squishy back in his tank before he dies?" He walked off.

Braeburn looked at the shaking octopus. "That probably is a good idea."

"And we probably should change before we take this to federal authorities." Devereux looked at her wet blouse. "This reminds me of that case where I entered the wet t-shirt competition."

"That wasn't a case."

Devereux smiled proudly. "And I won it." Her expression turned more serious as she looked at Mr. Squishy. "Yeah, we'll definitely need the octopus alive and the amber to prove this to the government so they don't just think we're crazy. You think we can convince people?"

Braeburn nodded. "I'm sure we can. After all, we did catch the suspect red-handed..." Braeburn adjusted his wet tie. "...times eight."

"Good one!" Devereux pulled a black book out of her pocket. "That's going in the quip book!"