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The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Traded Turdle - Part Three


by playmobil_is_my_life

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There was a slight pause after King Skarl's last words: Someone's been trading them back and forth. It was a big stretch and a little hard for me to believe. For one: why? I wasn't about to just go along with it unless King Skarl had evidence or a believable explanation.

     "That's a pretty interesting theory, Your Highness," I replied, shifting on the velvet sofa. "But what makes you so sure that someone would be able to accomplish this? I mean, certainly at least one innocent bystander would see the suspect transferring the petpets."

     "Maybe this is happening at night," suggested Luna.

     "I doubt it," answered King Skarl. "The Turdle Pen is locked at night, so it would seem impossible for anyone to access the Turdles at that time."

     Luna's pen continued to jot down what Skarl had to say. She looked up for a moment then back down. When her dark head came up again, she said, "Speaking of the Turdles, let's talk about them. Turdle number 5 won two races, yet he's supposed to be the least likely to win. How many times has he won and when did this start?"

     Skarl rubbed his brow like he was tired. The blue Skeith replied, "This started about three days ago, on the 24th. Turdle number five won the first and last races. I was notified by one of my servants of how lucky Turdle number 5 was that day. I wouldn't have thought much of it but all that changed when he won two races the day after that as well."

     "And the day after that, right?" Damien asked.

     "Right."

     "So you think that someone must be switching the Turdles between races?" I asked, my eyes darting from Luna's writing to the King. "Why's that? Do you have an idea of who might be behind this?"

     There was a pause. Skarl finally replied, "Well, I--"

     He didn't have time to continue because the double oak doors swung open with a whoosh.

     "No, I haven't an idea of who's behind this," the King finished before turning to see who was in the doorway.

     A royal Draik strode in wearing a green vest, matching pants and a very smug grin. Skarl stopped speaking immediately and sighed dramatically. By the look on his face we could tell that he did not like this Draik in the least bit.

     "How many times have I asked you not to come barging into my room like that?" asked King Skarl, through gritted teeth.

     "After one of your servants told me who was upstairs, I knew I had to see them for myself." The Draik's mouth curved into a sly smile, his fangs curling over his bottom lip. He crossed the room and offered his scaly hand. I shook it.

     "The name's Slade. I'm Skarl's nephew."

     "Marlo. Nice to meet you." I tried not to laugh at how brilliant he thought he was. Instead I just cleared my throat and introduced the other three detectives. I turned back to Skarl, hoping that he'd finish what he was going to say.

     "I think we're about done here," announced King Skarl. "I think you'll find something useful if you go to the Turdle Pens. Tell Bryce that you have my permission to view the Turdles… and whatever else you need to do to solve this."

     "Thanks for the heads up." We obeyed and turned to leave. But my curiosity was rising like hot air: Why was Skarl kicking us out so soon?

     "Oh and since I'm assuming you don't have a place to stay… there are two spare rooms on the third floor, left wing." He tossed me two silver keys as I turned. I handed both pairs to Damien, who pocketed them. We thanked the King and exited. The four of us starting back down the steps and waited until we were out of earshot before Luna started talking.

     "I wish we could have stayed longer," the shadow Yurble mumbled.

     "Whatever Skarl had to tell us it was obvious he wasn't going to do it in front of his nephew," Charlie noticed. "Perhaps it was something about his nephew that the King wanted to say?"

     "Do you think King Skarl thought Slade is behind this?" Damien asked.

     "He made it obvious he didn't like Slade," I said, gliding down the last flight of stairs. "Though I can't see how he could and we just saw him for a couple of minutes. Rich, arrogant, stuck-up…"

     "Let's just get to the Turdle Pens. We might be able to find Bryce," interrupted Luna, and we started out of the castle.

     ***

     The sand circle came into sight a few minutes later. Almost everyone had cleared out, even the glowing Pteri who ran the betting table. There were some shredded betting papers and candy wrappers that a couple of Kacheeks were sweeping up. We passed through the center of the circle taking big steps to avoid sinking into the sand too much. The grass that greeted us out of the sand was parched and crunchy. Meridell's rainy season didn't start until another month or so.

     There was a brown type of barn ahead of us, with the door cracked. Luna got to it first and pushed it open. I leaned forward to see over her head: a red Techo was raking hay from one corner to another. The five Turdles were in one corner eating lettuce. Luna stepped inside and cleared her throat. The Techo turned and asked,

     "Can I help you?"

     "Bryce?" I asked.

     "Yeah."

     "Nice to meet you, I'm Marlo and this is Luna, Damien and Charlie," I started. Bryce extended a gloved hand and I shook it politely. "We were hired by King Skarl to sort out a problem with the Turdle Racing."

     "Problem?" Bryce echoed, leaning on his rake, "With the Turdles? Like what?"

     "Well," I began, trying not to look like I didn't have all the facts (thanks to King Skarl practically shooing us out), "King Skarl and other Meridell citizens have noticed that Turdle number 5's odds have become more likely to win." I was surprised at how confused Bryce looked. I asked the Techo, "Did you notice this?"

     "I don't really pay attention, to be honest," he replied, "so no, I didn't notice. If you want to see Nutty, he's right over there."

     "Who?" Damien inquired.

     Bryce's eyes widened, "Nutty: Turdle number 5. He's right over there." He indicated with the rake.

     The four of us started over as Charlie climbed off my head. Bryce continued shifting the hay, his back to us. My eyes went from Turdle to Turdle.

     "Which one's…err, Nutty?" I asked.

     Luna picked up one of the Turdles who was eating a piece of lettuce. She flipped him over, where there was a light blue number '3' printed on the bottom of his shell. "Easy enough, find number five," she said.

     We started flipping over the Turdles until Damien said, "Found him."

     A large number '5' was printed on the bottom of the Turdle's shell. He tried to wiggle vainly out of Damien's grasp to get back to his dinner, but Damien wouldn't let go.

     "The five looks more like an S," Charlie noticed. "It's kind of sloppier than the other writing on the Turdles." The pea Chia traced his finger over the '5'. "Maybe this isn't the original Turdle number 5."

     "Let's not make that decision just yet," I advised. "We should probably try to talk to King Skarl again. See what he was about to tell us. Then we'll find some dinner and get to bed early. I'm a little tired from the flight here this morning."

     Luna unzipped her Faerie Back Pack and whipped out a magnifying glass. I swear Luna keeps everything in her Faerie Back Pack: paper, pencils, magnifying glass, tons of notebooks and scraps, other types of books, a pair of mittens, two pairs of scissors, etc. If you asked her for the kitchen sink she'd pull that out too.

     "Wait a sec," Luna said, her large eyes growing wider. "Check out the sides around the blue marker." She waved the magnifying glass over the blue number '5' on the shell. "It's fuzzy and uneven." To prove her point, Luna flipped over a Turdle next to me and put the magnifying glass up to its number. "Turdle number 3 doesn't have that… neither does Turdle number 1. Which means that whoever printed the number on Turdle number 5's shell--"

     "--Used a different marker," I finished. "Either this could be a really big coincidence that someone used a different marker for this Turdle… or Skarl was right. This isn't the real Turdle number 5, this is the other one!"

     "We should tell him about this," said Damien firmly. The royal Aisha stood up and brushed the hay from his knees. As I stood up I saw that Bryce was watching us, frozen with the rake.

     "Is… is there something wrong with Nutty?" the Techo asked. "Can he still race?"

     "Oh, he's in perfect racing condition," I said, and added coolly, "Let me ask you something. Who comes around here most often?"

     "Umm, not too many Neopians besides myself," replied Bryce, "Tavi stops by on occasion since he runs the betting here. Slade came by the other day, acting like he owns the place and what not."

     "Why did Slade stop by?" asked Luna.

     Bryce stopped raking for a moment and looked at us seriously. "Because he can. He has access to everything on the grounds. I know Skarl despises him and probably told him not to but Slade doesn't seem like one to listen to anyone."

     "Makes sense," Damien rolled his eyes. He thanked Bryce for his time and the four of us started back to the castle.

     ***

     A shadowy figure stood hidden behind a clump of bushes and sheltered under two pine trees in the Meridell forest. His long, red cloak was draped over him and it nearly reached his ankles. The sleeves were too long, so they hung past the waist of the cloak. The figure shifted as four Neopets emerged from the Turdle Races, his boots scraping the pine needles that lay scattered all over the forest floor.

     The first Neopet to exit the path to the Turdle races was a large white Eyrie. On his head was a pea Chia and close behind him followed a shadow Yurble and royal Aisha. The figure knew that they were the detectives. And there was no way he could let them solve this case. It was much too important and he wasn't going to let anyone in his way. The detectives turned onto the main road and his eyes followed. Watching them retreat to Skarl's castle.

     Although his face was completely hidden behind the red hood, the cloaked figure's mouth twisted into a malicious grin.

To be continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Traded Turdle - Part One
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Traded Turdle - Part Two



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