The masked ones are back. With a blood-curdling scream, they announced their presence at 4:37 a.m. I sat up fast, but my heart beat me to the ceiling. As I tried to make sense of the sounds, the scream simmered down into vicious, long, drawn-out snarling. Squealing, pleading, chittering answered. It did no good. A sharp bark morphing into another snapping snarl was the poor little bugger's payback for even daring to be alive. I hurried to the back door, but they must've heard me, for by the time I looked out, all that was left of the murderous encounter was swirled up dirt on a leafless section of the patio. My scarecrow still stood nearby, mute during this entire ordeal that happened right in front of it. Right in front!