A Series of Suspicious Events: The Baby Sister Crime
Hi, all, this is a sequel to A Series of Suspicious Events: The Meepit-Domination, and will make more sense if you read that one first. Enjoy!
I set up my office/lemonade stand on the first day of summer, as I figured I would attract more people that way, plus the fact that I had all day to sit there. It was a baking-hot day, so hot that although my feet were smothering, I had to wear sandals to avoid the pavement burning the soles of my feet. I being a red Kougra, it was doubly hot, as everyone knows dark colours are hotter. The trees, which were supposed to be green, had turned brown with thirst, all but some carefully-watered gardens and lawns, of which mine was not one. My owner and mother, Lorraine, is far too forgetful to water a lawn.
I yawned and stretched on my piano stool, sitting in front of my plywood stand. It was made of two pieces standing up on either side, about five feet high, and a third nailed flat across in between for a table to hold my now warm pitcher of lemonade, a stack of paper cups, and a money tin. Lorraine had helped to bolt a broken beach umbrella to the top of the standing boards, so that I could sit in relative shade. I had added the final touch: a sign which read: Chloe’s Lemonade Stand and Detective Services.
Business was slow. So far, I had had only one customer: Angie, the blue Wocky across the street, who wanted me to find her Kadoatie for her. That had been easy, Ellie loved to climb trees (and get stuck in them) so all I did was look for the tallest tree. Once that was done, it had been a simple matter of getting a ladder (with a little help from my older sister, Sorrel) and rescuing Ellie, who was crying at the top of her voice.
“Hey, Lo, what’re you doing?”
I peered up through my sunglasses to see my next-door neighbor, Illme, a blue Kyrii, looking at me. He’s the only one who ever tries to shorten my name. It always comes out sounding stupid.
“I’m solving crimes,” I told him importantly. “And selling lemonade. Do you want some?” I added politely, showing him the warm pitcher. He shook his head, grinning.
“Wanna play Gormball? A couple of my friends and me are gonna.”
“’A couple of my friends and I’,” I corrected absently. My older sister, Sorrel, hates people using bad grammar.
“Yeah, whatever.” Illme shrugged it off.
“So, why aren’t you gone?” I asked, beginning to get a little irritated. Illme can do that to people. It’s something about the way his fringe of hair hangs a little too long so that it covers his eyes.
“I’m going, I’m going,” Illme said quickly, putting up his hands defensively. I snorted. Illme never does what he says. “Yeah, just, like, I need your help.”
I blinked. My help? Since when had Illme ever needed my help? “What do you need?” I asked, trying to sound casual.
“Your detective services,” he almost whispered, looking very much like he wished he didn’t have to say this.
“Oh, really?” I asked coolly. “And why is that?”
“Okay, yeah, well, like, my baby sister went missing and, like, Mum is going to be really mad when she finds out, even though I don't really care, and, like, y’know…”
I didn’t know, and all those ‘likes’ were beginning to annoy me. “Get to the point, Illme,” I told him bluntly. Illme glanced around nervously, blowing his hair out of his face.
“Okay, I need you to find her,” he blurted out. I’d never seen my arrogant, annoying neighbor so nervous, and I was rather enjoying it, but I decided to take pity on him. Lorraine’s always saying that I have a wonderful heart.
“Have no fear, dear sir,” I told him, copying the professional tone the detectives in books always used. “I shall find your sister, or perish in the attempt.” On second thought, maybe I’d been just a bit too poetic.
“So, she was just playing in the yard, and the next thing I knew, she was, like, poof. Gone. Vanished.”
I gave Illme a disbelieving look. Poof, gone, vanish? That couldn’t have happened. We were trotting through Illme’s garden, a small, brown-grassed place with a few thirsty weeds growing in the corners and an ancient, rusty swing-set that looked like it belonged in the nineteenth century, at least. I knelt down in the dust and held my magnifying glass to the dry grass. Illme looked on anxiously. I peered hard through my magnifying glass, but all I could see was a few dehydrated ants and a lot of dirt.
“Did you find any clues?” Illme asked anxiously when I stood up.
“Your grass is a fire hazard, and your ants are not getting enough water,” I told him. He didn’t look like he thought those were clues, but he didn’t argue either. I sighed and rummaged around in my black Detective Case. I quickly found what I wanted: a finger-print test case and a tracking book. I flipped the tracking book open and ran my finger down the index.
“Babaa, no Baby Sister.” I shut the book with a snap. Illme looked downtrodden, and I hastened to cheer him up.
“Look, Illme, I don’t think Baby Sisters usually go missing, so they don’t record their tracks.” I wasn’t sure about any of this, but it seemed a pretty good reason.
“Hey, Chloe, whatcha doin’?”
I whirled around as someone addressed me that way for the second time that day.
“Grace!” I yelled when I saw who it was. “What are you doing here?!”
My Meepit frowned at me, then turned to Illme and gave him the biggest, cheesiest smile I have ever seen. Illme melted. He went limp. He was like a wet banana skin. He smiled back, the goofiest, weirdest smile I have ever seen.
“Hey, um, aren’t we supposed to be looking for a Baby Sister?” I asked, patronizingly. I could see I needed to be very grown-up here, and stay on track. No one else was going to.
“Can I help too, please?” Grace squeaked at me in her very, very high voice. Sorrel says she can’t help it, she talks very, very high (so high it hurts my ears sometimes) because her vocal cords are so short. I think she does it on purpose to be annoying.
“No,” I said shortly. “We are on a mission here. Find The Baby Sister Mission.”
“Aw, Chloe, she can help, too, can’t she?” Illme looked at me pleadingly. “She’s so cute.”
I stared at him. I couldn’t believe he was taken in so easily! He would be just the kind of pet who would let the Meepit-Domination Plan take place under his nose!
“Fine,” I said shortly, turning back to Grace. “But listen, I’m keeping an eye on you. I know all about your secret meetings.” And I did. I had snuck in and listened to one only two weeks ago. It wasn’t the Meepit-Domination Plan meeting, but hey, it was a secret meeting, held by Meepits, right? They were all the same thing: evil.
Grace, however, looked very surprised, or as surprised as a weird pink thing with big black eyes can look.
“You know about the meeting?” she asked incredulously. I nodded, feeling very important and professional. Grace looked shifty-eyed around the garden, carefully avoiding my piercing glare.
“Okay, uh, can we find my sister now?” Illme interrupted our one-sided staring match, fidgeting nervously. I turned back to him with a long, drawn-out sigh.
“Of course,” I said.
So we looked. I read instructions out of my How-To detective book, and we followed them. First, we secured the area. We all got yellow chalk and made lines on the grass. Then, we combed the area. I sent Illme inside his house (he assured me that since his little sister could not open doors, she could not have gotten inside) for the comb we needed. He came back out with a ridiculously small Illusen’s Beauty Comb. It took several hours.
“Done?” Illme groaned, flopping down with one paw over his eyes.
“It’s you who wanted to find her in the first place,” I snapped, dropping the comb and flumping down next to him. I was hot and tired. Surely this couldn’t be real detective work.
At this moment we were interrupted by a rainbow Uni, who came in through the gate carrying a pitcher.
“Sorrel!” I jumped up and ran to my sister. She laughed and gave me the pitcher and a stack of cups.
“I heard you were playing with Illme,” she said. “I thought you could use some refreshment; it’s awfully hot.”
“You are the best sister ever,” I said truthfully. She was, at that moment. Sorrel just laughed some more and waved as she left.
I sat down and poured Sorrel’s lemonade, which was a lot better than mine, and then we drank it, and got back to work. I had just opened my mouth, feeling highly ashamed, to tell Illme that I didn’t think I could really find his Baby Sister, when the gate burst open and a girl who looked about Lorraine’s age, with curly dark hair and glasses, came running in, carrying a baby Kougra. It was Illme’s owner, Genevieve.
She lifted Illme straight off his feet into an enormous hug, and started shouting:
“How could I?! I can’t believe I actually forgot you! I mean, I got to the store, and realized I’d forgot to tell you when I went out to get Molly! I can’t imagine it.”
I just stood and stared.
“So, the Baby Sister wasn’t really lost?” I asked when Illme’s owner had stopped being so hysterical. The baby Kougra, Molly, watched me calmly from her place on the girl’s hip. Genevieve looked puzzled.
“Lost? Molly? It was Illme that I forgot.”
“Oh.” Illme and I exchanged embarrassed glances.
“Well,” I said after a moment, “Guess I’ll go home, then. Bye, Illme. Bye, Genevieve. Bye, Molly.”
“Bye!” they all chorused, and Illme sidled up and whispered:
“I’m sorry.” He pushed a few cold Neopoints into my paw.
Well, it was all right, really, I thought as I trudged home, thirty Neopoints wasn’t bad earnings for a day, even if Molly hadn’t really disappeared. Next time, it would work out better.