The Mystery of the Crystal Anubis: Part Three
“Not Rufus too!” whispered Gil. Felicia’s lips were trembling. “So you still think those footprints –”
“Yes,” I interrupted. “There’s no doubt that they belong to the kidnapper...” Russell searched the room quickly but thoroughly and found nothing else of interest.
“So what do we do now?” asked Gil as we walked back through the hallway and down the staircase.
“Well,” I said slowly, “we’re going to test my theory first, and if I’m wrong, we’ll conduct a thorough search of all those houses whose owners were at the party last night.”
“How are you going to... to test your theory?” Felicia asked tentatively.
“Well, we’ll go for a walk to our primary suspect’s house and interrogate him, although I doubt there’ll be a need,” I informed her.
“And who exactly is our primary suspect?” Gil raised an eyebrow at me.
I smiled mysteriously. “Wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise...” I muttered. I started towards the door, Russell close behind.
Felicia stopped near the fireplace and gazed, frowning, at the large portrait above the mantelpiece. Gil walked over and stood next to her. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll find the Professor soon enough.”
“Come on,” I called. I was anxious to see if my suspicions were accurate.
Felicia walked towards the door, and Gil started to, but tripped over his own shoelace. He fell into the brick wall near the fireplace, putting a hand out to stop himself; the brick his hand was on slowly moved into the wall like some sort of button.
A sound like a shifting stone seemed to be coming from the grate itself. I ran over quickly and bent down. Looking in, I saw a small stone passageway at the back of the fireplace, just wide enough for someone to crawl through. Russell ran inside, barking madly. “Look at this, Gil!”
He bent down. “Wow... What do you think?” Russell barked loudly inside the tunnel, and it echoed as though he were in a large, stone chamber. “Well, I must say I wasn’t expecting this...” I muttered.
“Are we – are we going in there?” stammered Felicia, her eyes wide.
I chuckled. “You don’t have to.” She seemed to be fighting with herself.
I crouched down onto all fours. “Here goes nothing.” I army crawled through the passage, which was surprisingly short. When I stood up, I found myself in a small stone room that led to a long staircase, sloping down into overwhelming darkness. Russell barked down at it, listening to the sounds of his own echoes. In a few moments, Gil and Felicia were both standing next to me. “I was not expecting this...” I repeated slowly, looking around.
There were lit torches on either side of the small room, and Gil and I each took one. “Ready?” asked Gil, shakily.
“Lead the way,” I offered with a small smile. The three of us, plus Russell, descended slowly, each footstep echoing into the darkness. There were sounds of water dripping from the ceiling. We were climbing down for a long time when we saw some light approaching, revealing the end of the staircase.
We came out into a long, narrow, torch-lit hallway that branched off here and there. “Any idea where this leads?” asked Felicia, her eyes still wide.
“Well, there’s a good chance that this tunnel will connect with the house of our culprit,” I said. Gil eyed me with raised eyebrows. “Why would you think that?”
“You never know,” I answered, shrugging. But secretly, I was almost positive of it.
We walked down the tunnel, staying to the main path. We must have been trudging along for at least a half an hour when –
“Listen,” whispered Gil, stopping suddenly. Russell growled. We could hear footsteps ahead of us... but they stopped, as though the whoever it was had heard Gil. Then the footsteps started again, only they were faster, running. “Come on!” I whispered sharply, and we broke into a run as well.
We ran for a few minutes, but stopped suddenly. All three of us had nearly run into a solid, stone wall in front of them. It was a dead end.
“There’s got to be... another brick... we can push,” I panted, looking around.
“Or not,” said Felicia. “Look!” She pointed up to the ceiling. A trap door hung open, revealing a long dark upward passageway with a rope ladder on one of the walls.
“We’re going to have to climb... Here,” said Gil, “climb up on my back. I can fly up.”
“Ladies first?” I asked Felicia with a grin. She shook her head frantically, so I volunteered.
Gil got down on all fours, and I could just reach the ladder while standing on his back. I climbed up a few rungs with just my hands until I was able to get a good footing on the ladder, then climbed up to make room for Gil and Felicia. Once they were on the ladder behind me, Gil holding Russell in one hand, we started the slow, long, dark climb up to... somewhere.
This climb was just as long as the staircase, but took more time and was more physically taxing. After about a half an hour or so, my head hit something. “OUCH!” I yelled, rubbing a fresh new bump on my head.
“What is it?” yelled Gil from below. His voice seemed surprisingly distant. “I’ve hit a ceiling... perhaps the bottom of a trap door...”
I pushed with all my might, and with a great heave, a wooden door flung open, making a loud bang as it swung and hit the floor next to it.
I stuck my head out and looked around and gasped. I was in a small, dimly lit basement (I could tell by the window on the top of the wall with the blinds shut) and sitting in the corner, tied up tightly in chairs, rags over their mouths, were Professor Dolan and Rufus Kipling.
“Professor!” I whispered. They made muffled, excited noises through the rags covering their mouths. I quickly pulled down the rags. “Who has done this to you?” I breathed quickly.
“It wassss –” began Rufus a hushed voice, but he stopped dead. Someone seemed to be fumbling with keys on the other side of the door at the top of a flight of wooden stairs. “Hide!” I hissed to Gil, Felicia, and Russell. I pulled Rufus’s and Professor Dolan’s rags back up, and turned around to find a place to hide. The best place was obvious; there was a table with a white table cloth in the opposite corner of the room with the Crystal Anubis placed on top of it. We quickly scrambled to get under it, but not before shutting the trap door.
The door flung open just as Russell had slipped under the table cloth. We could hear footsteps marching down the wooden stairs. They then paced back and forth in front of the Anubis for a minute before turning to the corner where Rufus and the Professor were bound. I silently peaked out from under the tablecloth. Standing with his back to the Anubis was Marcus Oakley.
“So...” he muttered, still looking as nervous as ever, as though he couldn’t believe what he was doing. “Are you ready to tell me what the symbols mean?” He pulled off Rufus’s rag.
“Never,” spat Rufus.
I went back under the tablecloth and pulled out a pair of handcuffs (I had assumed I might need them) from my trench coat as quickly as I could without making a sound, and peaked out from the tablecloth again. Marcus now had his hands behind his back... How convenient. I snuck out from under the table cloth, and stepped silently across the room.
“I’ll never let you out!” shouted Marcus. “You’ll starve to death – unless you simply tell me what the symbols on the Crystal Anubis –”
He stopped short. I had cuffed him. “Another mystery solved,” I muttered triumphantly into his ear.
Gil and Felicia jumped out from under the tablecloth, and Russell barked wildly up at Marcus. “Mr. Oakley...?” said Felicia, dumbfounded. Gil quickly ran to Rufus and Professor Dolan and untied them.
“No!” yelled Marcus. “How did you know?” he snarled, still looking nervous.
“Well, it’s fairly simple,” I said. “I basically knew as soon as I heard the muttering during the flashes, it sounded just like the way you’re always muttering.
“But then I wondered – why were you at the party in the first place? Why had Professor Dolan invited you?”
“Because we – we’ve done business in the past,” finished the Professor, looking angrily at Marcus. “And he betrayed me! He told me many years ago that he’s been looking for something with the right... the right powers to fuel something he was ‘inventing’, so he pays me to let him do some experiments on some of my artifacts, which he always returns. But now –”
“I found what I was looking for!” spat Marcus wildly. “The Crystal Anubis had the perfect properties to fuel my death ray –”
“Your WHAT?” shrieked Felicia. Marcus grinned insanely. “All of Neopia could have been mine! But I didn’t know how to unlock the Anubis’s powers... when I realized that Dolan couldn’t translate the symbols, I kidnapped Rufus, but accidentally let slip what I was building, so neither of them would help me...”
Gil still looked confused. “But that doesn’t explain the tunnel under your houses...” he muttered, looking from the Professor to Marcus.
“Ah, well those have been there for centuries,” informed Professor Dolan. “But we dug them out a bit so they connected with our houses. I think they were used as a secret base for some sort of rebellion years and years ago... but no one uses them anymore, except us.”
“What do you use them for?” asked Felicia. I laughed. “Well, do you expect them to go running down the street with loads of valuables in their arms? They’d be stolen like that.” I snapped my fingers.
Professor Dolan looked stunned. “You really thought that out thoroughly,” he said slowly. I nodded. “Just doing my job, and I mean to finish it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Gil with a smile. Russell barked. “Well, we’re not just going to let you go free, now are we?” I asked Marcus Oakley. He grinned slightly maliciously.
“We wouldn’t have to tell anyone,” he muttered. “I’ll change my ways, I swear!”
We started up the stairs, Marcus wriggling annoyingly. “The last person who said that to me ended up escaping from jail and breaking into the National Neopian three more times before we caught him again.”
Marcus was panicking now. “B-b-but – Dolan! My friend... how could you let them take me? You know I meant no harm...”
Professor Dolan scoffed. “Friend?” he asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Don’t worry,” I said to Marcus with a smile as I opened the door, “you’ll make lots of new friends where you’re going...”