I was outside around dusk tending to an old potted flower as my good botanical deed for the day when I heard the noise: an odd, seemingly random, yet somehow intentional noise, an attention-getting noise, an insistent rustling in the duff among the cedar trees just upmountain--
Normally such sounds are naturally irregular, like a thrush hunting for bugs among the leaves, the hopping, leaf-scattering noise varying in incidence and intensity with the hunting action, like the wind. This noise had a slow, scattery but rhythmic incidence and always the same loudness. That never happens naturally, except perhaps with water. But this was animal. Attention getting. Huh? I kept looking to see what it was; it sounded kind of large; then on the third or fourth try I saw between the trees that it wasn't a bear or a fox or a deer or a wild pig,which don't make noises to attract humans anyway; it was only crafty Crow. Who...doesn’t... make... noise to attract humans either...
He wasn't doing anything specific, he was "as though" just sort of randomly shuffling along in the leaves, not stopping to feed as a thrush or other hardworking bird might do, no: I could read him like a dark book, he was making all that noise to see if I moved, and if it was really me, because I was near where he wanted to go, i.e., the compost pile, his favorite dining emporium in these parts, like Capone had in Chicago. Here, though you can get fruit peels and other impossible luxuries, you name it-- pineapple crowns, even, and if it was me Crow would have to wait, and who knew how long; Crow does not like waiting (Al didn’t either), let alone abandoning his reservation to another crow.
Anyway, when I turned my head and stood a bit, the better to see him, he had achieved his immediate purpose: it was me and I was there. With no longer any need to move, Crow just stood still in dark impatience. He knew it was me now, and I now knew it was him (we have our history): he was The Mighty Titan. He knew it, I knew it, he knew I knew it and so on down through the infinite maze of crow/human intermentation. So as he stared at me darkly, mulling over the fact that I had moved and so was real, I said to him in the deepening silence - in a voice to scare a crow and so gain the psychological upper hand - if there is such a thing with winged creatures - that I knew he’d done the plastic bag job and was The Mighty Titan the authorities are looking for; he should come clean, he'd feel better.
From out of the darkling forest came that icy look, you know that look, you’ve seen it a thousand times after dinner in any of the smoke-stained questioning rooms on any of that relentless crime show that replicates with all those different titles, where at some point you’re expecting repentance on the stony face of some non-beaked thug across the table from a hard-boiled detective not holding an old potted flower at twilight and saying that if the thug just confessed the detective would do his best to try for a minimal sentence, maybe just one of those electronic monitoring bracelets or something, but instead he gets that look, that icepick look that says: "You can’t hold me, you ain't got nothin'!"
And Crow was right, I had nothin. Purely circumstantial. He flew away in recidivist disdain and I went into the house with some lettuce I picked instead. As I was rinsing the leaves in the sink, Crow and his moll flew into Chez Compost for dinner, selected a nice long golden apple peel and wafted it to their reserved loveseat in the cherry tree, where they shared and squawked sweet nothings like all the innocence in the world.
There are countless crime stories in nature too, where justice takes care of its own.