The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Exported Eustabees - Part Three
At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
There were wooden shelves stacked with jars and tins. A barrel stood upright in a corner, casting a strange shadow. There were some old chairs, crates, and yard tools against the walls. Just next to what looked like a fuse box hung a curtain of Spyder webs. It was moving slightly. From the draft in the doorway, Damien wondered, or from somebody behind it?
The royal Aisha kept the flashlight trained on the cobwebs as he started over to them. “Eck.” He slid between two ripped sheets of web. Behind him, Nina floated down the steps and was hovering at the base of the stairs. Quick, ragged breaths made Damien’s ears prickle with interest. Two large, yet empty boxes faced him. The Aisha took a deep breath and pushed both aside with one quick swipe.
It was such a silly thing to say, Damien mused, but the only thing that came to mind. First off, it made him sound like an official Defender of Neopia, which he wasn’t trying to impersonate, and there was nowhere the figure could run to; Damien blocked his only exit.
His flashlight shone on the face of a red Gelert, who had both paws in the air. “Wait, wait,” he said. “Let me explain.”
“Nina,” called Damien, not taking his eyes off the suspect. “Do you know this Gelert?”
The Maraquan Shoyru hesitantly made her way over to where Damien was standing. She shook her head, aghast. “I’ve never seen him before.”
“I said I can explain,” the Gelert said, getting to his feet. “I’m a detective. My partner and I are working on this case.”
Damien slowly lowered the flashlight. “A... detective?” he echoed, like it was a foreign term.
“The name’s Jazz.” He offered a business card.
“I--,” Damien stopped short. The royal Aisha didn’t know what to say. He felt slightly taken aback that he and The Petpet Detectives weren’t the only squad working this case. Damien reached out to take the card. Jazz and Dash Detective Agency was what the title said. “I’ve never heard of this agency. Who called you guys in?”
Jazz faltered, and Damien glimpsed a pained looked on the Gelert’s face. “Well, we’re... just starting out.” He gave a hollow laugh. “You gotta start somewhere, right?”
“What on Neopia were you doing snooping around in my basement?” inquired Nina, her tone firmer than an unripe Jipple Pear.
“Excuse me, Miss, this is an investigation. You are involved, right? That makes you a suspect just like everyone else.”
Damien desperately wanted to tell him that wasn’t how a detective should do things, but he decided against it. Better to talk to Marlo, Luna, and Charlie first. “We should go,” the Aisha said. “I’m sure there is other work to be done.”
“Very well,” Jazz replied curtly. He glanced over at Nina’s outraged face and then said, “I guess I’ll let myself out.”
By late afternoon, we all met up again back on Bracknell Road to exchange information and eat a late lunch. It took over three hours to go over what we had learned from different people. My throat hurt from talking all day. My head was swimming with facts and everything was starting to blend better than a smoothie.
Turns out, of the seven clients, each of them had a surveillance tape to show us. The problem was, there were three different species of Neopets we had seen on the tapes. Once a blue Krawk, then a brown Techo, followed by a yellow Grundo. This meant at least three different kidnappers.
Damien played with the feather on his hat. “If this is a group of thieves, they may be easier to find.”
“Or harder,” I told him. “But no worries; there are two other detectives on the case, right?”
Charlie and Damien laughed at my sarcasm. My stomach flared with annoyance... or was it offense? I didn’t know, but I definitely disagreed with having Jazz and Dash on the case. We’ve never needed help before... It’s not that I didn’t think they were qualified enough for such a big case; after what Damien told us about Jazz sneaking around in a basement without any kind of permission or warrant, I was skeptical of his private investigating methods.
A patter of footsteps came down the stairs, from the Evidence Room. Luna made her way in where we were seated and took a piece of pizza from the Pizzaroo box on the coffee table.
“What are these?” I asked.
“Note cards,” she said, between bites, “for every client we’ve spoken to today.”
I read the first one. Name: Montgomery, Green Kyrii, Date of incident: 14th day of the month of Gathering, Time of incident: 11:38pm.... Under that was a paragraph or two of what he told Luna during the day.
“Let’s think of possible motives of stealing a bunch of Eustabees,” said Luna, refusing to take a break.
“The most obvious one is that Eustabees are well over several hundred thousand Neopoints.”
Damien whistled. “They’re little walking goldmines. No wonder there are several missing.”
“And with their docile personality,” Charlie cut in, “it really is the ideal crime because they wouldn’t put up a fight. It’s millions of Neopoints in a simple breaking-and-entering.” The pea Chia bit his lip. “Which still leaves us pondering how a Neopet could break into a millionaire’s home.”
“It appeared he had a key,” I said. “So the question becomes: is it really possible that the kidnappers could have keys to seven different Neohomes?” It was definitely something to pay attention to. “We should take a look around tomorrow and see if anything appears out of place.”
Luna finished her pizza slice and wiped her mouth. “It puzzles me how each member of this group knew exactly how to find the Eustabees. I mean, they all pretty much knew where to go. Maybe there was one who acted as the scout and told the rest where to find them. A large group acting suspicious is sure to rouse unwanted attention.”
“Probably a lot of personal research or an educated guess,” said Damien. “If those Neopians had keys to everyone’s homes on the block, hypothetically, then it may not be the first time they’ve entered someone’s home unnoticed before.”
“Which is why we’re going to take this case very, very seriously,” I said, stretching my white wings. “There are three Neopians out there wanted for breaking-and-entering and kidnapping. Everyone needs to be extremely careful, okay?”
“Yep,” said Charlie.
“Right,” said Damien.
“Of course,” said Luna.
The day after was quite the contrary to yesterday’s dreariness and small rainfall in the evening. It was quite warm for the Month of Gathering, but not unbearable. The sun was bright overhead as Luna and I trekked along the sidewalk of Winding Wood Drive.
We passed two Gelerts speaking with Remy, one of the seven clients. When the red Gelert, Jazz, looked up, he waved and rushed over.
“Look what Dash and I found around Remy’s home,” he said excitedly. My stomach lurched. They found the first physical clue? Jazz held up a small bottle and inside were a few strands of brown fur.
“It’s definitely not mine,” said Remy, the spotted Koi, who seemed to be pleased by their finding.
I examined the strands and said, “Where were these found?”
“Ah-ah,” Jazz said teasingly. “We aren’t working together on this case. Which means,” he did a small, yet embarrassing dance, “Dash and I found a clue.”
“That’s...” I started, finding my voice, “That’s great.” I forced a friendly smile and proceeded around to the side of the house with Luna, since Remy was Gracie’s neighbor. The grass swished under our feet.
Luna nudged me in the ribs. “Don’t let them worry you. I saw Jazz pick it up from the front of Remy’s house, so it really isn’t a proper clue because--”
“--because we know that the kidnappers came in from the backdoor and left the same way,” I finished, with a sigh of relief. “Good. And I wasn’t worried, I was just... morally concerned.”
“Mmhmm,” said Luna, rolling her eyes at me.
I let her bask in her glorious moment before declaring, “There is no way we aren’t going to be the first to solve this big case.”
We reached our destination. The backdoor was located at the side of the wall, next to two large windows. A deck with wooden panels took up a mere fraction of the spacious backyard. There was a wooden porch swing against the side of the house, but the real sight was the center of the backyard. A Light Faerie Fountain was surrounded by a patch of Gardenias, neatly trimmed and nourished.
“Oh my Fyora,” Luna breathed. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Yes, it’s gorgeous,” I said, endeavoring to sound only sarcastic and not downright rude, “but we’re supposed to be looking for clues.”
Luna sighed dreamily and tore her eyes away from the yard. My eyes lowered to the ground and started to sweep it for footprints. There didn’t appear to be anything to follow in the grass. Besides, tracks in the ground, especially the thick grass, would have to be very fresh for anyone to find.
“Marlo, look.” Luna was holding up a miniscule leaf, about the size of a fingernail. It had been stuck to the deck.
“I know, I know, you like nature, but—”
“No seriously,” said Luna. “Look.” The unique markings around the edges caught my eye when I moved in to see it. “It doesn’t even look like it’s from Neopia Central.”
I wracked my brain. “I’ve seen this before, just recently.”
“Where?” When I didn’t answer, Luna continued to think aloud, “Maybe it blew in from Meridell or something.”
Her statement hit me like a Pet Rock. “No,” I said, growing excited, “not Meridell... Mystery Island.” Luna raised an eyebrow. “Sullivan,” I told her. “He drinks tea from Mystery Island. It has little leaves in it that look like that. Maybe it’s a type of spice?”
“You mean to tell me that Sullivan, who didn’t show up on any of the surveillance tapes, could have been standing right here where we are?”
I shrugged. “It could be a lead.”
“He’s just across the street!” Without waiting for an answer, Luna pulled me along between the houses so we could pay the ghost Hissi a visit.
To be continued...