The Disappearance of the Heiress: Part Five
Myra pounded down the stairs after Aunt Loren. “What’s going on, Mama?” she asked. “You were talking to that Lenny for an awful long time. Aunt Loren said he was called Mr. Regwensop, and that he was an old friend of yours. What kind of name is Mr. Regwensop? That sounds like something someone just made up on the spot.”
“Which is quite likely,” Zara said. The older Faerie Draik looked shaken as she bolted the door. “All right. Loren, Myra: please listen to me carefully. Mr. Regwensop has told me a few things I was not aware of before, and there are a lot of things I need to do. If you see Mr. Regwensop again, I would like you to fetch the Chia Police. I don’t want him here again.”
“I thought he was your friend,” Aunt Loren said curiously. “He said he was. What is the matter with you, Zara? I thought he seemed rather amiable. He was from Terror Mountain, and they’re a good sort, from up there. My cousin went to Terror Mountain and she said everyone was very pleasant and helpful.”
“Where’s Terror Mountain?” the little Faerie Draik asked. “What’s the matter, Mama? You look scared.”
“I’m not sure that he was telling the truth when he said he was from Terror Mountain,” said Zara. “Loren, please just listen to me. I don’t want to explain right now, but Mr. Regwensop is not my friend, and you must never let him in Fruits of Brightvale, ever. If you see him here again, please fetch the Chia Police.”
“What about me?” Myra asked. She was confused by Zara’s dazed expression. “I didn’t see him. Is he bad?”
“Yes,” said Zara. “It doesn’t matter that you didn’t see him, because we shan’t be here much longer. Loren, I have decided to ask Arianne, the pink Xweetok from near the Scrollery, to help you with the shop while Myra and I go to Neopia Central.”
“During schooltime?” Myra asked, puzzled. This was a mixed blessing. School meant early mornings and less time to play, but she loved Geography class and learning all about Kiko Lake.
“I don’t know about that,” the green Acara said, frowning. “Are you sure you’re all right, Zara?”
“Helene,” said Myra’s mother. “I am called Helene. Loren, I don’t have time to explain everything right now. Please bear with me. Right now, I am going to Myra’s school to tell them she is going away and collect the necessary schoolwork she will miss, and then to Arianne’s home to ask her to help you in the shop and to settle on payment for her assistance. While I’m gone, you need to help Myra pack the things she will need. Then I am coming back here to pack my own items and Myra and I will leave for Neopia Central tomorrow morning. If Mr. Regwensop comes back while I am out, keep the door bolted and wait until I get back. I will deal with him then. Is that clear?”
Myra was in a state of bewilderment from her mother’s speech. From the expression on Aunt Loren’s face, she was stunned too. The older Faerie Draik looked at them questioningly.
Aunt Loren hesitated. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Zara? Have you had a shock? You don’t seem to be thinking very clearly. Maybe you should sit down and rest.”
“Loren, please do this for me,” said Myra’s mother. Myra was shocked to see that she was close to tears. “I have a father who doesn’t know where I am, I have a daughter who doesn’t know who I am, and I have just encountered someone I hoped never to see again. I would really, really appreciate it if you would help Myra prepare for the journey. I haven’t gone mad, I promise, but I don’t want to waste any more time. I’ve lost so many years already.”
“All right, Zara,” the elderly green Acara said soothingly. “We’ll do as you say. I’m sure Arianne can help me.”
“It’s Helene,” said Myra’s mother as she went out. “My name is Helene.”
Aunt Loren stared at Myra’s confused expression. “I’m afraid I don’t know any more about this than you do, love,” she said kindly. “Your mother ended up on my front bushes when she was only a little older than you, and I’ve never been able to get anything out of her about where she came from. I never heard anything about a Mr. Regwensop before.”
“I thought she was an orphan,” said Myra slowly. Privately she was wondering if Mr. Regwensop had anything to do with the sad, pensive look that crossed her mother’s face every now and then, the one that mystified the little Faerie Draik because she could not see what her mother had to be sad about.
“Oh, well,” said Aunt Loren. “Better do as she asks, my love. I’m not sure she hasn’t gone a bit simple, but if so it’d be best to humour her. Do you know what to pack?”
“So I’m really going to Neopia Central?” Myra asked excitedly. “I’ve never been out of Brightvale before. What do you need for Neopia Central?”
The Faerie Draik walked hastily through the streets of Brightvale, her mind formulating a plan. She felt certain that Neopia Central would be the place to find out what had happened to her father, though she realised she would have a hard time proving who she really was. Probably hundreds of Faerie Draiks had come forward claiming to be her.
She turned the corner and bumped into Arianne the Xweetok. “Arianne!” she said with relief. “Listen, Arianne, are you still wanting a job at Fruits of Brightvale?”
“Yes,” said the young Xweetok in confusion.
“Oh, good,” said the Faerie Draik. “My daughter and I have to leave for Neopia Central tomorrow, and Loren needs help with the shop. She can teach you how to operate the till, stack the fruit and serve the customers. I’m sorry it’s such short notice, but –”
“That’s all right!” said Arianne in delight. “I’ve been wanting a job for so long. I want to save the Neopoints to go on exchange to Roo Island. So I can really start tomorrow?”
“I’d love it if you could,” said Helene.
“I think there’s room for one more book,” said Aunt Loren. “What about Neopian Encyclopedia K – O?”
Myra selected Spooky Stories from her collection. “I like this one,” she said. “I had nightmares the first time I read it, but it’s so exciting.”
“I think Zara’s back,” Aunt Loren said, listening. “Yes, it sounds like her. I wonder if she’s calmed down yet?”
Myra’s mother entered the room. “All packed?” she asked. “Good. Thank you, Loren, for doing this for me. I’m going downstairs again to teach Arianne the mechanics of the shop, but I think she’ll be ready to start tomorrow.” She started down the stairs again.
“So I’m really going?” Myra said with excitement. Aunt Loren had been so skeptical about this trip to Neopia Central that Myra had wondered if her mother was just pretending. “What’s Neopia Central like, Aunt Loren?”
“Dirty,” said the elderly Acara confidently. “Call me attached to my homeland, but it has none of the cleanliness of Brightvale. I only went there once, when I considered moving the shop up there, because for all its faults Neopia Central is a business hub, you know, but who knows what kind of folks live there? And besides, I bet the residents up there wouldn’t appreciate fresh produce like we do here in Brightvale. They prefer disgusting greasy food from Pizzaroo and Hubert’s Hot Dogs.”
“Aunt Loren,” said Myra uncertainly, “is Mama’s real name Helene?”
The question seemed to take Aunt Loren by surprise. “You know, there’s something about that name,” she said slowly. “It rings a bell in my mind... was Helene the lead singer of Moehawk? Wait a minute – Myra, love, see if you can find my scrapbook. I’m sure I’ve read that name in the Neopian Times.”
Myra fetched Aunt Loren’s scrapbook which she had looked at so many times over the years. It was a huge notebook whose pages were filled with interesting news articles and pictures pasted in by the Acara, her shopping lists, new recipes and even a few unfinished stories. It wasn’t dated particularly carefully, but Myra loved seeing the contents of Aunt Loren’s life reflected in a scrapbook.
Aunt Loren turned the yellowish pages of the book. “You ought to start one of these, love,” she said to Myra. “Look, here’s something my mother wrote to me when I was your age. That’s about a thousand years old, you know.”
“You’re not a thousand,” Myra said, giggling. “You’re only about a hundred.”
“As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth,” murmured Aunt Loren, “what’s left of them, anyway. Helene, Helene – where have I heard that name before? I can see it in my mind’s eye: HELENE VANISHED, a big newspaper headline. I wonder if your mama ran away when she was young. That would explain why she was sleeping outside in my garden.”
“Maybe it’s the name of a coffee table, and the headline was actually HELENE VARNISHED,” Myra said.
“Very clever, Miss Myra, but I don’t think that’s the answer –”
“Wait!” Myra said urgently. “You just passed it.” She flipped back a few pages, where there was a large newspaper cutting. “Look, HELENE VANISHED, and a picture of –”
The two of them looked up as Helene entered the living room. She stared down at the clipping in front of them. “Well,” she said. “It would seem I have a little explaining to do.”
“...and so the meat is put inside a bread roll, and topped with cheese,” Myra said. They were walking through the sunny streets of Neopia Central, and Helene was attempting to explain the phenomenon of a hot dog while Myra spun in circles trying to take in the business of the Central.
“Not just with cheese. Sometimes they put mustard, or relish – you can get ones with chocolate on them. Look, Myra, you’d best see for yourself. We’ll go get hot dogs after we’ve been to the Art Centre.”
“I thought we were looking for Grandfather. Why would he be there? What’s an Art Centre?”
Helene tried her best to explain. “The Art Centre is a wonderful place where there are lots of interesting things to see and do. Among other things they have new and old copies of the Neopian Times. I don’t know where Grandfather is at the moment, but he’s a very important Draik and there might be something about him in the Times. They often write things about his business.”
“Why didn’t you look in Aunt Loren’s scrapbook?”
“Aunt Loren only has selected pieces of the Times, and she doesn’t have anything later than a couple of years ago. She boycotted the Times when her favourite comic was taken off, and she hasn’t read it since. I’m also hoping to find out where my governess went after I was taken away.”
They arrived at the Art Centre where a friendly yellow Draik was supervising the Archives. “Excuse me,” Helene said. “I’m wondering if you can give me information about a certain person.” She told the Draik what she was looking for while Myra wandered off to look in the Coin Shop.
The Draik frowned as he looked through the papers. “Well, this is a copy from several months ago which says he has suffered his worst attack yet, but it says he is still living in the home he bought three years ago in Neopia Central. I don’t think he would have moved since then, so if you were wishing to contact him that would be the place to go; however, he is a very unwell Draik and does not accept visitors very often.”
“An attack?” Helene asked.
“Why, ma’am, did you never hear about the disappearance of his daughter? He underwent a severe injury at” – the Draik scanned the papers again – “Terror Mountain years and years ago and he would have made a recovery if he had not suffered from the shock of losing his little daughter soon after. I don’t think they ever found her, either. He was never the same Draik again. I believe that was the cause of the downfall of his business.”
“Oh,” said the Faerie Draik slowly. She had no idea that her disappearance had such profound effects. “So he lost all his money?”
“Oh no, ma’am, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. He didn’t go broke, but I’m afraid he lost his head for business and he was having lots of bills to pay. His injury required expensive health care and he spent large amounts on searching for any information leading to his daughter’s disappearance. Eventually he sold the business and bought the small house in Neopia Central where he lives now. I believe his daughter’s former governess was rehired as his nurse, as several years later more information came to light that it was not irresponsibility on her part that was the reason for little” – the Draik looked at the papers again – “Helene’s kidnapping.”
Myra, who had come back from the Coin Shop during this long speech, tugged her mother’s wing and whispered, “Helene – is that you, Mama?”
The Draik looked at them questioningly.
“A game we’re playing,” Helene said quickly. “Could you give me the address, please?”
He wrote it down on a piece of paper. “I warn you again, ma’am, if you’re wanting to see him you probably won’t be successful. The nurse who is responsible for him is very strict about visitors.”
“That’s all right,” Helene said, taking the address he gave her. “Thank you so much for your help.”
“Are you from Brightvale, by any chance?” the Draik asked. “Your accent sounds like my cousin Arianne’s.”
Helene was dying to head towards her father’s house straightaway, but the Draik had been so kind to her that she felt compelled to tell him about Arianne. “Yes, we know her. She works at Fruits of Brightvale.”
“Oh, so she got the job, then?” the Draik said in delight. “I’m so glad. Thank you, ma’am. I hope I was able to help.”
Helene smiled at him gratefully. “You’ve been of enormous help.”
To be continued...