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The next morning, Jaiden wished she had called in sick to work. She didn’t realize how much was normally up and down at her job. Every time she needed to get something from across the room, she’d be halfway to her feet and start putting weight on her bum ankle. She’d been at her desk for two hours and her ankle throbbed.
Her pain medications were in her purse which she had locked in her locker, safely in the staff room across the hall. The pills might ease the aching, but they’d also have her drooling all over the reports on her desk and snoring loud enough to scare the animals in the lab on the other side of the hall.
Unfortunately, this report on the Emerald ash borer was due to the state forestry office today. She had to assemble field reports to document the spread of the beetle and the damage it was doing to area woodlands. Last year, several areas had been select to test insecticides to stop the invasive species. The results had been inconclusive at best and Jaiden was concerned that other insect species would also be affected either by the ash borer destroying their habitat, competing for their food sources, or that attempts to curb the ash borer infestation would also damage beneficial insect populations.
Jaiden hit save on what she hoped was the final draft of her report. She leaned back in her chair, wondering if she could prop her ankle on her desk. However, the effort to move it there proved not to be worth the relief the position might provide.
Between her ankle and the report, she hadn’t had time to investigate the mythological animals file for anything related to her sighting. Though the sighting bothered her, it was low priority compared to her other work.
The director of the Michigan agricultural university extension office, Glenn, wove his way through the rabbit warren of desks stacked with reports and yellowing computer monitors. These backwoods offices hadn’t upgraded to flat screens. New computer equipment was always in the budget for next year as part of a research grant that they always failed to get.
“I thought you would be interested in this.” He slid his personal tablet computer onto the desk in front of her.
Jaiden picked up the flat screen and studied the glowing image. Though blurry, a tiny, blue butterfly perched on a oak leaf with its wings wide open. “That isn’t a local species, is it?”
“That’s why I thought you would be interested. It could be a Karner Blue, but they aren’t known to be this far north.” He sat on the edge of her desk. “A woman saw it on a hike and took a picture with her phone.”
“Don’t they always.” Jaiden scrunched her brow. Was the vivid blue the product of strange lighting, poor photography, and an unsteady hand? Or could it be the endangered and elusive Karner Blue?”
“Where was it found?”
“You’ll like this even better. In the acreage around Willow Hill.”
Jaiden’s eyebrows shot up and she barely kept her bum in her seat. “You’re kidding. If this is really the Karner Blue…” Excitement welled so quickly, she could hardly contain it. “If a new habitat is discovered, we made be able to block the land from the sale to a developer.”
“If there is one, nothing has been confirmed.” Glenn tapped something on his screen. “There’s no ‘we’ in this. If you want to do this, it’s all you. On your own time.”
Jaiden’s head bobbed up and down like a bobble-head. Her thoughts jumbled just as quickly. She’d have to find the butterfly, find its origins, and mating habitats. Document eggs, caterpillars, cocoons. It’s be a huge process, but worth it, if it meant preserving the land from the developer. The Karner Blue was so rare any habit would be protected by the state’s department of natural resources.
She couldn’t wait to get out into the woods. Jumping from her chair, she fell forward into her desk.
Ugh. Her ankle. It’d be two weeks before she could hike around the woods. A butterfly could live it’s entire life cycle in that time. Or it could migrate to a new location. Or this could be a quick stop on its migration path. All those questions and she couldn’t answer a one of them without finding the rare butterfly.
“I’ve emailed you a copy of the picture and the witness’s email and phone number,” Glenn said before leaving her desk.
“Thanks. That will give me a place to start. Talking to the woman would give her something to do until she could strap on her hiking boots and check out the area herself.
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