The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Exported Eustabees - Part Seven
When the three of us arrived outside of Monte’s house, I spotted a royal Aisha standing out front, peering into one of the front windows. My heart was hammering like a Wind Up Zytch trapped in a cardboard box. Luna hurriedly slid off my back and Charlie leaned forward anxiously atop my feathered head.
“Damien!” Luna called, reaching him first. “We got your message. What’s the plan?”
The Aisha turned and sighed in frustration. “I don’t know,” he said, eyes darting to each of us in turn, “the gate’s open, but the doors and windows are all locked. There doesn’t seem to be a way in.”
“Is Monte home?” I asked.
The Aisha scowled. “No one is. Don’t you think he would have heard me poking around if he was home?”
I raised my white paws in defense, startled by the bite in his words. “Well, it’s a big house,” I retaliated, “did you maybe speak with his butler or something?”
A flash of energy sparked in his eyes. “Hey, I just said no one’s home.”
“Well, I find that kind of hard to believe,” I snapped. “No butler, no housemaid, no personal chef? There are a lot of Neopians that come around these houses, Damien.”
“Guys,” said Luna, taking on her usual role of mediator, “don’t. We have to think of our next plan.”
“I vote we find a way in the house,” said Charlie.
I sighed. “What about the alarm?”
Damien opened his mouth as if he were going to say something, then thought better of it and crossed his arms sulkily. I squinted at him, perplexed. This case must have really had him worked up. It was rare to catch the royal Aisha in a bad mood.
“That isn’t a good idea,” he said at last.
Luna’s dark brow creased with surprise. “Why not?”
“He could come back,” said Damien, looking anywhere but up at the rest of us. “We don’t know what he’s capable of.”
“We should talk to Sullivan!” I exclaimed. “They’re all buddy-buddy, right? Maybe Sully will know Monte’s whereabouts.”
Luna nodded in agreement. “The number is 4124.” She climbed up onto my back as Damien started down the street ahead of us. “Where does he think he’s going?” she whispered to me.
“Hey, it’ll take at least five minutes on foot but only one on the Marlo Airlines,” I called after him. Damien turned. “We need to hurry.”
He shrugged casually and hoisted himself up behind Luna. I sprang from the ground and let my white wings take us there.
After a mere five minutes on Sullivan’s doorstep and the even shorter flight home, Luna, Charlie, Damien, and I crashed in the living room, deep in thought.
“Well, that was about as useful as the Island Mystic,” said Charlie dejectedly.
Sullivan had simply said Monte informed him that he was going to be out for a few hours and should return later that evening.
“I’m still not ruling out our old pal Sullivan as an accomplice,” I said. “Anyone close to Monte could have easily been involved in this case, what with so much to do.”
“You gotta give him props, though,” said Damien, crossing a leg and folding his paws. A small, but strange smile curved his mouth upwards. “He had all of us fooled. I mean, just a few hours ago we were back to thinking that it was a whole team of Neopians. Pretty brilliant if you ask me.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ingenious. Hey, we should check back at Winding Wood Drive to see if anyone’s seen Monte.”
“You guys go ahead,” said Damien, “I’ll stay and keep an eye on things.”
“I’ll stay, too,” Luna offered. “I’m not feeling too well.”
“Fine by me,” I said. “Suit up, Charlie. We’re off again.”
No sooner than the door had shut behind them, Damien excused himself to the Evidence Room. As he was heading upstairs, Luna took a deep breath on the Green Sofa. It was true: she wasn’t feeling well, but the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach had nothing to do with illness.
Sucking in another deep breath, she rose and swiftly conjured a plan of her own.
Luna found Damien in the Evidence Room as he had stated, rifling through papers on the desk. The shadow Yurble made them out to be a copy of the profile cards she had made earlier. He was looking at each with great interest before realizing he was not the only one in the room.
“Oh!” The royal Aisha spun. “You scared me.”
“Sorry,” said Luna softly, stepping carefully as if the floor were made of glass. “What are you looking for?”
“I’m just browsing,” he said. “Trying to get a lead.”
Luna bobbed her head up and down slowly. “Yeah, Marlo takes good notes.”
When the Aisha nodded, that was enough to confirm the wild thoughts in her head. I’M the one who takes notes, not Marlo. Without even blinking, she swiftly drew the Virtublaster 3000 and pointed it at the figure in front of her.
“Hey, whoa!” said the Aisha stepping back and knocking into a second desk. “What the heck are you doing?”
What’s my name?” Luna asked hotly.
The Aisha shook his head in disbelief. “What is the purp--?”
“My name,” she hissed.
Her request was followed by momentary silence. “Luna.”
“You hesitated,” the Yurble accused.
“Well it’s kind of hard to think when someone has a space weapon pointed right at you!” he yelled defensively.
Luna took a step closer, the Virtublaster 3000 now a few feet from his face. “What’s our address?”
“Br—umm, Bracknell Road,” he sputtered, gripping the edge of the desk behind him. “Number 411.”
“Good,” said Luna, not moving an inch, “one more question. What was our last case?”
She could see by the look on his face that he had no idea how to answer. As the royal Aisha’s eyes searched every object in the room for a clue, Luna took a second step closer, paws trembling.
“You’re not my brother.”
“Oh yeah?” said the Aisha. “Then who do you think this is?”
It was hard to recognize her own voice. The change of expression on the Aisha’s face was like night to day. He smirked and straightened up.
“Houston, we’ve got a smart one!” Fixing his eyes upon Luna in that smooth, suave way they had seen before he took a step forward and crossed his arms. “Speaking of Houston, he must have supplied you with that nice blaster you’re holding.”
“It was a gift, yes,” Luna admitted, not taking her eyes off him.
“So,” said Monte, dragging over a chair and sitting down. “How’d you find out?”
Luna didn’t respond. That’s what he wants, she knew. He wants me to drop my guard... and then a new thought popped into her mind... but the more I talk, the more time I buy for Marlo and Charlie to return. Even though she was the one with the weapon, Monte was still dangerous enough to be wary of.
“The first thing you did once we saw you was get into an argument with Marlo,” she explained. “It takes a lot for Damien to be so petty--”
“That’s all?” asked Monte. “My poor, petty self blew the cover?”
“No,” said Luna, sharply. “That was red flag number one. The next was when you started off down the street... on foot. We always fly and Damien knows that. Another example is how you’re sitting.”
Monte’s eyes widened in amusement. He looked down at his crossed leg and folded paws. “Wow,” he said, in mock amazement. “Observant. And the final reason you knew it was me all along?”
“You smell different,” Luna finished. Yurbles had a very keen sense of smell and it proved to be one of the key factors in Luna’s decision.
“A keen sense of... sense,” said Monte, with a cold laugh. “Good job.”
“I have to admit, I was impressed when we learned that you made the morphing potions. That’s a lot of brain power.”
Monte flashed an arrogant smile. “Yeah, yeah, just call me the Science Whiz.”
“And let’s not forget how you managed to get a copy of everyone’s house keys, too.” Luna was probably even more impressed by that feat. “That way, you didn’t have to worry about the alarm system.”
“It took a while,” said Monte, “but I did get the job done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to Winding Wood Drive before those other detectives do something stupid.”
As he stood, Luna clicked the Virtublaster 3000 to “on”. The sound of space energy fueled inside. “Don’t move,” she warned, “or I’ll blast you.”
“No you won’t,” said Monte, with another conniving smirk. “Because if you do, I have a feeling someone’s going to get hurt.”
Luna raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not threatening me when I’m the one with the space weapon?”
“No,” Monte put a paw to his chin, “but Damien on the other hand won’t know what hit him.”
The Yurble stopped mid-breath and lowered the gun, eyes stony and face expressionless. She felt as if the air had been knocked out of her. The tables had been turned. Even though Luna had the advantage, she now felt helpless. Somehow, Monte had managed to rise to the occasion.
“You’re bluffing,” was the first thing Luna could think of to say.
“Think so?” said Monte, taking a step towards the door. He gestured towards the Virtublaster. “That’s not going to kill me.”
“No,” said Luna, her mind made up, “but it’s gonna hurt a lot.” Squeezing the trigger, a ray of blue light hit Monte square in the chest. His eyes rounded in shock and his mouth formed a silent scream of agony as his body went limp and sunk to the dusty floor.
Luna let the space weapon fall to her side. “See?” she taunted. “You really were bluffing. With that, she hurried to fetch some sturdy rope, silently hoping that Marlo and Charlie had found their real brother.
To be continued...