“I did it in my youth,” said Clemons. “Working for the Forest Service, it seemed only natural, birdwatching.”

“Yes, your lists and photographs from the 1940s are really important in the birding history of Steuben County,” said Dubois. “I actually entered them into our birding database myself, made you an account and everything.”

“Well, that’s mighty kind of you, I suppose,” Clemons said. “I can’t say as I’d be able to do much with a computer, never was much good at it, but if anything I did was useful to you, it is nice to know.”

“I want to talk to you about some later work,” Dubois said. “Some old letters with the county museum from Mr. Greenbriar seem to indicate that you have observations, and perhaps even photographs, from the 1950s that would be very interesting to us.”

Clemons didn’t budge from his seat. “Well, I’m afraid that’s a little bit too long ago for me to remember clearly,” he said in a soft voice. “I don’t do it anymore, you see, other than feeding a few yard birds. Arthritis, cataracts, all the usual suspects. I’m sure you understand.”

Dubois leaned forward in her seat, the wicker audibly groaning under the old cushions. “Mr. Clemons,” she said. “If what was in your letter to Mr. Greenbriar was accurate, you might have been the last person to see an ivory-billed woodpecker alive in Steuben County, ten years after the last confirmed sighting in 1944.”

“Joe Greenbriar always was a bit of a braggart,” Clemons muttered. “Don’t believe a word he says, even when he’s dead and buried twenty years.”

“There was another letter, too, one from a Polly–“

Clemons pounded his fist on his chair in a surprisingly hostile, sharp, gesture. “Don’t believe it,” he said. “I didn’t take an observation that wasn’t in my own backyard after 1950, and there sure as hell weren’t any ivories back there.”

Holding up her hands, fingers outstretched Dubois tried to back off. “I didn’t mean any offense, Mr. Clemons. I’m just trying to–“

Clemons buzzed for his nurse, who entered from the kitchen a moment later. “It was very nice to meet you, Ms. Dubois, but I’ve got nothing more to say. I’m glad my old data was useful, but it’s going to have to speak for itself. Maria, please show my guest out if you don’t mind.”

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