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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Hunting, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 30 > Short Stories > A Shady Business

A Shady Business

by kitcatcritter

"HE-E-E-E-ELLLLP!!!!"

The cries of a terrified Wocky rang through the Haunted Woods with eerie echoes. Her pattering paws make crackling sounds as she stumbled through the dry twigs and leaves covering the ground. She turned to look at the Esophagor chasing her, making a terrible mistake she took her eyes off the path and tripped!

"I have you now!" the Esophagor cheered, reaching out a long claw to snatch her and eat her like a bite-size snack.

"This'll teach you to only give me half of what I wanted!" the Wocky screamed loudly, but it didn't look like there was any help for miles around.

And then...

"Unhand her, you creep," a voice said loudly.

The Esophagor stopped, and looked around.

"Who's that?" he growled.

"It's noooot a good idea to interrupt my lunch!" A strange figure wearing a black cloak flew down. "I am the Cloaked Shadow, and I demand you let that Wocky go right now, or else you face the consequences. Again," the figure said coolly, like being faced with being a second course was no big deal. "Now, feel like co-operating?"

"No," the Esophagor replied, lowering the struggling Wocky into his gaping mouth. Just as he was about to drop her in, a black flash swept past his eyes and his 'snack' was no longer there. He looked around, red eyes gleaming angrily. The cloaked figure stood in a tree opposite him, holding the Wocky, too high to reach.

"NOOOO! YOUUU WILLL PAY FOR THAAAAT SOMEDAY!" the Esophagor moaned, sinking back into the ground. The Cloaked Shadow jumped down from the tree and put the Wocky kitten down.

"Are you all right?" he asked. He was obviously a Shoyru, but his face was hidden by a black and white mask.

"I'm fine, thanks to you, Mister. I don't know what I would have done without you!"

The cloaked Shoyru waved the thanks away like a buzzing fly. "No need for thanks. Anyone else in my situation would have done the same. Now, be on your way, and be careful! I have to go." He jumped into the air and flew off into the night , cloak flapping out behind him like a bird's wings. "Wait! You didn't tell me your name!" the Wocky called after him. But he didn't answer.

Dekkir dug into a big bowl of Froot Loops that that creepy Toucan Sam had dropped on the doorstep yesterday. She unfolded the morning paper using one of her long green ears and lazily scanned the headlines.

"G'morning," her younger brother Mike yawned, coming into the kitchen. Dekkir looked up.

"Geez, Mike, you should get more sleep. You look like a zombie!" she exclaimed with her mouth full.

"Yeah, sure..." he muttered, flopping into a chair (specially made for Shoyrus, so he wouldn't crush his wings). "Can I have the comics?" he asked.

Dekkir shrugged. "Sure."

She dismantled the paper and handed him the comics. He held them with one shadowed paw while he made himself some toast. His pet Cobrall, Serpentine, curled around his neck and purred. "Good morning to you too!" he gasped. "So where's Min? Still asleep?"

"No. You're just up late--she's already left for school."

"Ah. I see." Silence reigned in the kitchen until Mike's toast was done. The loud 'POC' sound the toaster made coincided with Dekkir's, "Whoa!"

"What, scared of the evil toaster?" Mike sniggered.

"No, of course not! It's just this article here- it's so obviously... Rrg! I mean, LOOK at that picture," she said, handing him the paper, and pointing out the headline.

"'Mysterious superhero watching over Haunted Woods'... so?"

It was a half-page long article, with a tiny clipped picture of a cloaked figure flying away from the camera, over the Haunted Woods.

"SO? Well, let me spell it out for you. D-u-m-b. There's no such thing as superheroes. Only the Neopian Police, and none of us wear black cloaks. Well, unless it's part of a camouflage outfit..." Dekkir finished. She was a detective working for the NPD (Neopian Police Department). And she was VERY good at her job.

"You know..." she continued thoughtfully," I should check this out. In case it's some lunatic in leotards. He could end up hurting someone, or himself."

"How do you know it's a guy?" Mike asked cautiously.

"It says so in the paper, dummy," Dekkir answered, snatching back the newspaper. "I don't have any cases to work on right now, so I can afford to kill some time." She rushed out of the room; nothing excited Dekkir more than a tough-to-solve-mystery-identity kind of case.

Mike sighed. "I don't know how they got that photo," he said quietly to his Cobrall, "But it looks like I've really put my foot in it this time."

Serpentine purred sympathetically and twined his tail around his owner's neck again.

Mike dialed his friend Corie's phone number and waited for her to pick up. It rang twice, and then--"Hello? Corie speaking."

"Hi, it's me, Mike. Wanna come for a walk?"

"Yeah, sure!"

"Okay... meet me at the Chocolate Factory in half an hour?"

"Uh... I might be late. Link is kind of--"

"Say no more--it's Link? Understandable. I'll be waiting for you! G'bye!"

"Bye!"

Mike hung up the phone, and flew up to his room. He took the crumpled black cloak out from under his bed and stuffed it into his pillowcase.

"Just in case," he smiled, smoothing the blanket over it. He pulled on a raincoat and was out the door.

Luckily, Corie managed to get away faster than she'd thought, and met Mike outside the chocolate factory within a few minutes of his arrival. He handed her a strawberry jelly Usul, chewing on a lime flavoured one himself.

"So how's it going?" Mike asked, leaning against the factory wall. Rain dripped off the yellow plastic hood and into his eyes.

"Fine, I guess." Corie shrugged.

They spent the day browsing around, walking through the rain to get to each shop fast enough to nab something when the shops restocked. Not much luck, but it was fun anyway. Except when Mike got trampled by a Skeith who was reaching for the last Kiko keyring in the Toy Shop. At the end of the day, just after he said goodbye, he hesitated.

"What is it?" Corie asked, seeing the thoughtful look on her friends face.

"Oh, nothing. Never mind. I'll see you later!" Mike smiled, and flew away.

Corie stood there a moment and went inside. "Something's up," she muttered, looking out the window. She watched Mike go around a corner, then ran out the door and started to tail him.

"I'm home!" Mike called, flying up the stairs to his room. Silence. He opened the door to his room to find his little red Kacheek sister, Min, sitting on his bed, holding a black cloak. Serpentine was hissing at her but he couldn't reach her over the mattress. "Oh no...." Mike groaned.

"Zo it waz you? Just WAIT till I tell my friendz!" Min grinned happily, holding up the garment. "My big brozzer eez a superhero!"

"What were you doing in my room in the first place?!" Mike yelled.

"I waz cleaning up... Dekkir ees not home yet zo I decided to ztart my chores, and I found zis!"

"PLEASE don't tell Dekkir, Min. Or anyone! Pretty please?" he begged, snatching away the cloak and carefully folding it up.

"Eef it meanz zat much to you, I won't. But YOU have to promise zat you will take me with you sometimes."

Mike shook his head. "No way, Min. It's too dangerous."

"Zen I must tell ze world ze true identity of ze Cloaked Shadow," she smiled nastily.

Mike covered his face with his paws. "RRRG. Okay, Min. You've got me. But if you do come with me you have to promise that you'll do exactly what I say. Comprendez?"

"Sure," Min giggled. "So, you going out tonight?"

"Yes."

"Zen I get to come with you!" she squealed. "I must go make up my own superhero costume! Min, ze super-Kacheek!" She ran out of the room beaming with pleasure. "Memo to self: get a memory eraser device. And put a lock on the door," Mike muttered, taking his black-and-white mask out from under a pile of broken toys in his closet. He put it on, then unfolded his cloak and slid it on. The rain tapped at the window like fingers. Not a good night to be in the Haunted Woods, Mike knew.

Min burst through the doorway, announcing, "Do not fear, ze red shadow is here!" while squirting at Serpentine with a water gun. She had a sheet patterned with pink flowers tied around her neck and a feathered Halloween mask. "I am ready to fight all evil," she declared, "An' I 'ave left a note so Dekkir will know where I am."

"What exactly does the note say?" Mike asked impatiently.

"Eet says, 'Mike and I have gone to a friend's house and will be back soon'. So eef she comes back before we do, she will not be worried."

"You've got brains, kid, I'll admit that. But lose the weird mask."

She grumbled but took it off. "Now we go," Mike said, flying down the stairs and out the door. Min tacked the note to the fridge and followed him out. "Wait for meeeee!"

Corie watched as the cloaked Shoyru flew out of Mike's house, chased by a red Kacheek wearing a flower-patterned sheet. "So now we're getting somewhere... what's that guy doing in Mike's house?" she whispered to herself. She managed to follow them all the way to the Haunted Woods. Once the caped pair reached the sea, the dark Shoyru took the Kacheek's paw and flew her over. Corie followed closely. "Interesting," she said, landing a couple yards away in the dark trees.

A pair of red lights suddenly surged out of the ground beside her, followed by two long claws. "I can smell youu... come closer, little Shoyru closerrr...".

"Eek!" Corie shrieked. The Esophagor turned and saw her, taking his eyes off the Cloaked Shadow and his new little friend. He snatched her up in a long claw, covering her mouth.

"Eet's over zere!" Min yelled joyously. "Get 'im!" she cried, running over. Mike followed quickly. "No, kid! Get away!" he hissed to Min,

"It's too dangerous. "Ha!Take zat!" Min laughed, squirting the Esophagor with her water gun. He laughed. "That tickles, little morsel!"

He grabbed her by the tail and she screamed, fighting her sheet-cape that she got wrapped up in. Mike darted over. "Let them go," he said quietly, pretending not to know either of the two pets in the Esophagor's claws. "You can't save 'em boooth!" the Esophagor taunted, "So eitherrr waaaay I get my meeeaall!"

A bright light infiltrated the clearing, and a voice called out," Cease and desist! You're under arrest!"

"Aaaaa!!! Noooooo liight!" the Esophagor howled. He dropped Corie and Min and sank into the ground, moaning. Mike managed to catch Corie before she hit the ground. Min made a splash-landing in a mud puddle.

"Who are you?" Corie asked, peering at the masked Shoyru He simply gave a quick hand wave and disappeared into the night. "There's something really familiar about that guy..."

Dekkir walked over, shutting off the powerful flashlight beam.

"Min? Corie? Where'd the Cloaked Shadow go?"

"'E went ho... erm... 'e went somewhere," Min said, getting up out of the puddle. "Drat! Missed him!" Dekkir growled, tugging off Min's filthy cape.

"And how did you get here anyway, Min?" she asked suspiciously. "I lost my kite and I was looking for eet." Min sobbed. She was a very good liar.

"And ze Esophagor chased me, and ze Cloaked Shadow saved me from IM and Corie too!"

"Okay, then, well, let's get out of here and go home. I missed him this time, but I'm gonna catch that lunatic."

Meanwhile, 'that lunatic' was sitting on the couch, channel surfing with Serpentine curled up on a cushion next to him. His soaking wet cloak was folded and stuffed into his pillowcase with his mask. He had tossed Min's little note to Dekkir in the garbage after having shredded it into tiny pieces. Every tiny detail was taken care of, except for Min's big mouth. He hoped she hadn't told on him.

"'Kay, Min, go get a bath and then go to bed- you still have school tomorrow," Dekkir said, opening the front door. Min ran up the stairs, tracking mud over everything.

"I can't believe this," Dekkir said, flopping down into the couch next to Mike.

"What?" Mike asked (like he didn't know).

"Min just got saved by the Cloaked Shadow, the guy who I was tracking all day, and then he gets away without a trace! I tell you, this has NOT been a good day. How was your walk with Corie?"

"How'd you know about that?"

"She was there too. So?"

"I had lots of fun. I'll call Corie tomorrow to see if she's okay. But for now," he gave a huge yawn," I'm going to bed." So he did. And he stayed awake a few minutes extra, listening to the rain tapping at the window, like fingers. The Cloaked Shadow's identity remained a secret... for the time being.

The End

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