Mike Mills is a private eye. Nothing fancy. Just a quiet office on Main Street in Mount Airy. Even little towns have their secrets.
But when you're a private eye, you never know who's going to darken your door. Mills sure never expected the big guy that came calling the other day.
It was Tuesday, one o'clock. Mills was sitting at his desk, writing out a check for his life insurance. He's a former cop. He doesn't take chances. His secretary, Christina Thompson, was down the hall, powdering her nose.
Next thing they knew, all hell was breaking loose in the front office. Breaking glass, pounding feet. A woman next door would tell them later it sounded like terrorists had broken in.
Christina poked her head out into the hall. That's when she saw him. He was big, a six- or eight-point buck, maybe 175 pounds. And headed right for her. She screamed, slammed the door and dove under the sink.
By now, Mills was on his feet. He could hear Christina screaming. It sounded like a warning, but he couldn't make it out. He stepped around his desk, headed for the hall.
That's when the buck turned and came after him, charging right into Mills' office.
"His shoulder hit me in my shoulder," Mills said. "He knocked me back across, perpendicular to the wall, and he hit the wall. Then he came back off of it, thrashing his head and legs. Then he hunkered down in the front, turned his head to the left and charged me."
For Mills, the world went into slow motion. He could see this would be no fair fight. The buck had razor-harp hoofs and a good 12-inch spread of antlers. There was no time to count points. But there was no mistaking his mood.
"That look in his eyes when he bent his head downward . . . I didn't see fear," he said. "I saw plain, aggressive animal instinct."
Mills yelled to Christina to stay where she was. That just made the buck madder. He charged.
"I leaped over my desk toward the door," he said. "He struck the wall where I had been standing and buried his horns." There are holes in the drywall, and a blood stain.
At this point, the deer turned and chased Mills out of his office and down the hall. In the front office, Mills dodged to the right, and the big galoot couldn't make the turn.
"He leaped 17 feet over my computers and out through the plate glass window onto the street," Mills said. From there it clambered over a couple of cars, turned left and headed out past the Episcopal Church and out of town.
The whole caper probably took less than a minute. To Mills and Thompson, it felt like an hour.
They were lucky. The buck was big and angry. But he didn't hurt anybody. Somebody up there -- Bogart maybe -- must look after private eyes and their secretaries.
Sure, the plate glass will have to be replaced. And the drywall will have to be patched. Mills figures it'll come to $600 or $800. But that's why you pay insurance premiums.
Word around Mount Airy is that this crazy buck was one of two spotted earlier just outside of town. Mills said one of them crashed through the storm door of a house in Merridale, trashed the first floor and jumped out through a bay window, eight feet to the ground.
Male deer get kind of dumb this time of year, Mills said. Mating season. He's a hunter and he knows.
Last Saturday morning in Bel Air, an eight-point buck leaped through the window of a dinette store on U.S. 1. Cops said it was the third deer to crash through a window in Bel Air in five months. They put it out of its misery.
And just today another buck -- a six-pointer -- tried twice to butt his way into a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. office on Green Spring Drive in Timonium.
It was 10:30 a.m. Clarence Clabaugh tipped off the newspaper.
"He didn't break in, but he left blood on both windows," Clabaugh said. "He's got a sore head, I'm sure."
Maybe these bucks see a rival reflected in the windows. Maybe (( the glass looks like a shortcut out of town. Maybe they're after the hunters. Who can figure a buck in rut?
One thing's for sure. Wildlife officials say there are more deer in Maryland now than ever before. More people, too.
Looks like we're going to be seeing more of each other.