The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Traded Turdle - Part Three
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
"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.
"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,
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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
"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…