The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Exported Eustabees - Part Two
It was early in the morning when I soared up into the sky from the end of Bracknell Road. The day itself was quite blustery, which was not good for flying, but we had somewhere to be. Come rain or shine, we’d still find a way to get to the location. My mind was swirling like the clouds above us with queries regarding the case.
“Did you say Winding Wood Drive or Wishing Well Drive?” I called back to one of my siblings.
“Try Winding Wood,” said Luna. The Yurble had to shout to be heard over the wind. “There were two letters from residents in that area.” Soon enough, my keen eyes spotted the wooden signpost. However, I didn’t need the signpost to find the street.
At least two-dozen Neopians crowded the yards and sidewalks, all chatting animatedly with their paws. I could smell their confusion and dismay from a hundred feet away. This had to be the place.
“This is crazy!” Damien yelled. “Do you think all of them have a lost petpet?”
“We’ll soon find out,” said Charlie. I felt the pea Chia’s grip tighten on my ear as we swooped down for a landing. The crowd of Neopets slowly backed up, giving us enough room. Their babble of speech died down to a few whispers. My knees buckled a bit when I felt the warm pavement under my feet.
Damien and Luna slid off my back just as Charlie perched himself on Damien’s hat. Before any of us could say or do anything, a loud roar of talk broke out and the four of us became bombarded with questions and concerns.
A royal Poogle pushed her way to the front. “Everyone, quiet, please! Excuse me, excuse me,” she said, bumping shoulders with some of the residents. The noise hushed fairly quickly. “Petpet Detectives,” she extended her paw to each of us in turn, even Charlie, “my name is Paloma. I am the president of the Winding Wood Drive Association. I believe I speak for everyone when I say your presence here is greatly appreciated. We are all here to assist you in any way possible to solve this case.”
“That’s very helpful,” said Luna, “thank you. We received three letters yesterday from residents around this vicinity. To make things easier, who were the three?”
“Well, wait, I didn’t send a letter but my petpet’s missing too!” An agitated ghost Hissi flicked his tail in annoyance.
“Sullivan, hush,” came a voice from behind him, “you aren’t the only one.”
“Excuse me, Gracie,” Sullivan hissed to the Neopet behind him, “but I believe I was the first one to fall upon this ill fortune--”
I took a step forward and raised my paws, “Okay, okay. Here’s an idea. If you have a petpet missing, please raise your hand.” A sudden hush fell over the crowd as hands, paws, hooves, and wings shot into the air. I quickly counted.
Seven, I observed, feeling slightly dizzy at the thought of that many petpets vanishing in a matter of days. Damien was right... this is crazy.
“To make this easier,” said Luna, “we’ll split up. However, each of us can only talk to one person at a time.” There were some anguished cries and moans coming from the crowd, but Luna waved her black paws and simply said, “I’m sorry. We will get to everyone sometime today.”
Sensing that Sullivan was about to throw a fit if he wasn’t one of the first to speak, I pointed to him and jerked my thumb over my shoulder. The Hissi’s mouth curved into a pleased grin as he slithered beside me. I was already getting a headache. Today was going to be long and I had a feeling that Sullivan’s attitude was going to make it even longer.
“Which house is yours?” I asked.
“That one,” the Hissi used his tail to point. “Come inside. I have something to show you.”
I knew this was going to be interesting. I started up to the open gate of 4124 and Sullivan slithered forward to get the front door. The inside of his home was especially elegant, just as the exterior was. In fact, a ghost Hissi seemed out of place for such an upper class and fashionable Neohome.
He motioned towards a Zen sofa, in which I sat. I immediately wished I had a notebook or pencil, but it was Luna who remembered to bring stuff like that.
“Would you like some tea? I’m afraid I’ve become slightly obsessed with it after my trip to Mystery Island.”
“No thank you,” I said, “but I would like to begin right away. As you know, there are a lot of Neopians we should speak with.” I took a breath and folded my paws. “You said you were the first to have your petpet taken?”
“And this was when?”
Sullivan’s tongue flicked out as he thought. “This was... the eleventh night of the month of Gathering. Possibly the twelfth morning, as I’m not sure of the exact time.”
“What kind of petpet are we talking about?” I asked.
“A Eustabee. I trust you’ve heard of them?”
I nodded. “If I recall correctly, a Eustabee used to be a beast but was zapped by a mutation ray. They are typically red in color and are known for their tentative, yet docile personality.”
“That’s very good, Marlo.” Sullivan was grinning. His butler, a yellow Tonu, had just brought in a cup of tea. After Sullivan had taken a drink, I continued.
“How many others have a petpet missing?”
“Seven so far,” he hissed. “Normally if it was one or two over an extended period of time, we wouldn’t look at it as anything serious. Petpets do run away sometimes. However, the fact that so many had disappeared in less than a week and that they all happen to be Eustabees is just unfathomable.”
“Sullivan,” I asked, lifting my head from its downward position. “Do you have any idea who would want to capture so many Eustabees? Anyone in the area you can think of?”
“Actually,” the Hissi said, “this is what I wanted to show you. Follow me, please.”
Rising from the Zen sofa, I had the strangest feeling that this case was going to be kicked up another notch on the weird-o-meter.
Luna was standing in the middle of a small room inside of Neohome number 4138. Her client, a blue Xweetok named Gracie, was bent over her desk, frantically trying to operate a gray machine.
“Where did all this come from?” Luna asked.
“It was imported from the Virtupets Space Station,” Gracie said. Her small, squeaky voice matched her petite and delicate appearance. “It’s such a nice feature to have in a Neohome, isn’t it?”
Luna glanced from the small camera in the corner of the room to the monitor on the wall. “It certainly is.” She was beginning to realize that the case they had been called upon was going to be one of the most challenging yet. Seven Eustabees missing, seven Neopians angry, and maybe seven times more challenging than anything else the Petpet Detectives had worked on.
Great! thought Luna energetically.
“Here!” Gracie exclaimed, finishing with the wires and pushing a tape into its correct machine. An image appeared on the monitor. It was a picture of Gracie’s living room; Luna recognized it immediately when they had gone past it and into this smaller room. The words at the bottom of the screen read: 16th Gathering Year 8 11:01pm.
“This happened last night...” said Luna. It wasn’t really a question, just a thought.
Gracie fast-forwarded the image on the screen, causing it to blur for a moment. When she stopped the tape, Luna peered closely up at the monitor.
A door opened--the back door, Luna guessed--and in stepped a blue Krawk, carrying a bag over his shoulder. Luna gasped, clapping a black paw to her mouth. Never before had she or her brothers known what the kidnapper looked like when they just started the case. It gave her an uneasy feeling.
From the Krawk’s mannerisms, Luna guessed him to be male. She pointed that out to the Xweetok.
“See that?” Gracie gestured to the monitor a second later, like she had viewed the tape a million times. “How would he know to go straight into the living room?” Luna watched as the Krawk on the screen came towards the surveillance camera and then hung a right. The image on the screen panned to the left to view the living room.
“If he’s been in this business for a while,” Luna got around to answering, “he probably has a few tricks up his sleeve.”
They both watched in silence as the Krawk slowly bent to pick up the sleeping Eustabee, put it in his shoulder bag, and made a swift exit. But before he did, the Krawk looked directly into the camera and acknowledged it by waving his blue hand. In an instant, he was gone.
Luna checked the time on the monitor. It now read 11:03pm. “Two minutes,” she said softly. “That’s all it took.”
“The worst two minutes of my life,” Gracie replied, tears shining in her dark eyes.
Luna’s mind was swirling with thoughts of the case and what she had just seen. “Thank you for showing me the tape,” the Yurble said softly. “I promise we’ll do our best to right everything.”
“Thank you,” the blue Xweetok whispered, and together they made their way back into the living room.
Damien eagerly followed a Maraquan Shoyru down Wishing Well Drive. The Shoyru, Nina, floated quietly beside him. Charlie had decided to stay and talk to Paloma, the president of the Winding Wood Drive association, so Damien was on his own. It made him a little apprehensive.
“This is so horrible,” Nina spoke at last. The Maraquan Shoyru looked as if she wanted to hide inside her shell. “How could this happen to all of us? I had to send my son to his grandparents’ house in Shenkuu... I figured it best for him not to be around with all of this going on. I would have normally sent him to Felecia’s house, but we had a bit of a falling out, and besides, she lost her Eustabee, too.”
“I’m sorry that you have to put up with all of this,” consoled Damien. “The sooner this case is solved, the better for everyone.”
Nina mumbled something in agreement. She pointed to a sizeable home with green shutters. “It’s that one. Please come in.”
Soon enough, the two of them were sitting at her kitchen table, running over what happened.
“Both my son and I were here sleeping when our Eustabee disappeared,” she said. “Neither of us noticed anything out of the ordinary so I don’t know what I can tell you.”
Damien was trying his best to listen, but his extra set of ears was picking up a shuffling sound. Not just a petpetpet skittering around or the sound of a Neohome appliance... more like footsteps. Nina continued to yammer on about the quiet house and typical night until the royal Aisha held up his paw to silence her.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized quickly. “It’s just... is there anyone else at home with you?”
“Now?” Nina asked. The Maraquan Shoyru shook her head. “No.”
Damien took a deep breath and strained to listen, his ears erect. The sound was coming from underneath them. The royal Aisha turned to Nina and asked, “Does this home have a basement?”
“Why yes,” she answered, her green face looking slightly frightened.
“I don’t want to alarm you,” said Damien, holding up his paws, “but I believe we are not the only ones here today.”
He stood up and asked for a flashlight. Without questioning or doubting his judgment, Nina fetched one from under the sink. Damien switched it on and pushed open the door that led to the basement. Darkness, dust, and a flight of stairs faced him.
With Nina hovering in the hallway behind him, Damien’s grip tightened on the flashlight as his started down the creaky steps...
To be continued...