Shay Peters and the Frivolous Fashionista: Part Three
Also by chocolateisamust
III. Duct Tape Security
It was a long journey, and when Julia eventually landed in a small grove, I almost missed her descent. I immediately started to pay attention after that, and I wondered why she seemed to be going somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
I lowered myself a bit and saw a large grey building that was only one story tall and had no windows. So this is what a fashion studio looks like? I was skeptical now - it seemed that Miss James may have lied about who she really was.
As I landed on the grassy knoll and looked out at the building, I saw a security guard search Julia from bottom to top and then allow her in. With security like this, there was little chance I would be able to get inside. Unless I used some unique thinking, that was.
I dug around in my purse for sunglasses and shoved them onto my face, eager to get in. I walked down from the hill, strutting my hips and looking at the security guard who was standing outside the door, staring me down.
“Hey,” I said as I reached the Grarrl.
“Identification?” he said in a gruff voice, looking at me with hard blue eyes.
I giggled. “Aren’t you cute? Identification?! Don’t you know who I am?”
The blue Grarrl shook his head sternly. “No, and I don't care. So show me some ID. Now.”
I tipped my sunglasses down a few inches so he could see my eyes. “If you don’t let me in now, I’ll be sure to get you fired.” I paused for a moment to let that sink in. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“Hmm.” Short and simple replies were better in these kinds of situations.
“I’m sorry, m’am. I can’t let you in without identification,” the guard said with a tone of finality.
Darn. This wasn’t going to work - I didn’t want to cause a commotion and risk letting Julia know I had followed her here.
“Well, good day then. You’ll be hearing from me soon,” I said.
I flew up into the air and circled around to other side of the building, gently landing on the ground. The guard couldn’t know I stayed, but I wouldn’t give up this easily. This building definitely didn’t have anything to do with fashion. They wouldn’t have that much security. And, besides, all fashion buildings are brightly colored, right? Not this monotone and depressing shade of grey.
My eyes wandered around the back of the building - no windows, no source of light, nothing. Or... almost nothing.
My eyes caught the glimmer of a small object at the end of the building. I walked down, hoping it was a clue. There was a gas meter down there, Virtupets logo gleaming in the sun. I looked a little closer, and on top of the meter was a sticker with registration info. There were only a few words that caught my eye: “Defenders of Neopia, Incorporated.”
Well, Julia, someone isn’t who she says she is, I thought, wandering around near the meter.
At that moment, a pudgy yellow Skeith wearing a pleated polo shirt came into my view. He was trudging along the back pathway, shiny black shoes loudly striking the cracked cement with each step he took. He was snacking on a jelly doughnut as he headed straight toward me, and I briefly considered darting away before I realised he’d already spotted me. Taking a deep breath, I took hold of the moment, figuring the worst he could do was punt me away from the building like a Gormball. And I was used to being battered by clients when my con went wrong, anyway, so that would be nothing new.
“Hey, Jamey!” I called, stealing the name from an ID badge that was fastened around his neck with a bright red lanyard.
The Skeith, Jamey, peered at me critically and stopped dead in his tracks. “Do I know you?” he asked.
“It’s Shayna,” I said. When he narrowed his eyes, I added, “You don’t remember me?”
Jamey chuckled and wiped a dribble of jelly from his chin. “Um, no I don’t, miss. Sorry. Then again, I have a pretty bad memory.”
“You always have.” I laughed and flitted my eyes at him.
“So... um, where do I know you from?” he asked.
“I’m Julia's friend,” I said.
“Light faerie, aspiring fashion designer. She’s --”
“Oh!” Jamey nodded. “Yeah, Julia. I went to her house for a Christmas party last year. I must have met you there.”
I smiled. “Yes, that’s where.”
Jamey took another bite of his doughnut. “So, what are you doing around here?”
“Well, this a bit embarrassing, but I was having breakfast with Julia, and I accidentally put my house key in her purse instead of mine! I know, I know. Totally ditzy of me, but I really have to go and feed my Puppyblew, but I can’t get into my apartment! Unfortunately, I can’t get into this building to ask Julia for my key back, as I don’t have an ID badge.”
“I’ll swipe you in,” Jamey offered, nudging his chin towards an unguarded back door that was made of thick steel.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, no problem,” the Skeith said as he grabbed hold of the ID around his neck and swiped it across a pad that was stamped with a Virtupets logo. At this, the door made a loud clicking noise, and the Skeith pulled it open. “Here you go.”
I walked in behind him, and I almost groaned out of exasperation: there was nothing there. It was an empty warehouse with bare white walls and - oh, a red door on the far side of the wall.
“Do you want me to get Julia for you?” Jamey asked.
I smiled innocently. “Yes, please. I haven’t actually been inside before."
“No problem.” Jamey led me over to the bright red door and pulled it open. “She works in Population Control, right?”
I paused for a second. “Yeah, yeah. I think so. She doesn’t talk about work that much.”
The door led to a dark staircase, lit by a few lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The stairs ended, and we opened up into a brightly lit room adorned with walls of mahogany and a beautiful oak floor.
“Population Control is that way,” Jamey pointed to one of the staircases to the left. “I really need to get back down to work. Can you make it from here?”
I nodded. It was easier than I thought to get him off my tail so I could explore. “Thanks for your help.”
“No problem,” he said. “Hope your Puppyblew isn’t too hungry when you get back home.”
I smiled and waved. “Thanks. Bye now.”
With that, the Skeith departed down another staircase, and I turned to the one he directed me to. A plaque was mounted above the stairway entrance reading Department of General Population Control - Neopia Central Division.
I took a deep breath and started down the staircase.
The stairs ended abruptly, and the last step was pressed up against a thick wooden door with no markings. The doorknob was a cool metal, and I gingerly wrapped my paw around it. Then, I pushed the door open.
I have to admit, by this point, I was pretty nervous. I’d been involved in some pretty crazy schemes in the past, but this had to be the most bizarre. Why had the ditzy faerie lied about where she worked? I had thought she’d be an easy, quick target, but that was turning out to be completely false. Or maybe it wasn’t, and I was just an idiot for turning the easy money into a grand old adventure.
“Here goes nothing,” I muttered, and I pushed open the door.
Inside was a surprisingly roomy corridor with cream-coloured walls and soft tile floor. It was long and straight, and it had dozens of plain wooden doors across it. With a knot in my stomach, I started down it, feeling awfully claustrophobic despite the wide space. This was just too weird. What kind of place did Julia James really work at?
All of a sudden, one of the doors flung open, and out tumbled two Cybunnies with ribbons in their hair. They were both blue, and they seemed young. One of them stared up at with me slate grey eyes and said, “Are you new here?”
“I... um... yeah,” I said with a nervous chuckle.
The second Cybunny grinned. “Cool! We don’t get new people here much.”
I smiled back tightly. “So... they really didn’t explain my uh... job... much. What exactly is this place?”
The first Cybunny frowned. “That’s dumb. Why wouldn’t they explain it to you?”
“Corporations have a tendency to miss big details, if you know what I mean.” I winked, trying to charm some information out of them.
The second Cybunny sighed at this. “Yeah, I guess.”
“So,” I asked, “like I said, what exactly is this place?”
“The Department of General Population Control!” cried the first Cybunny.
“Yes, and what happens here?” I was running of patience.
“This,” said the second Cybunny, “is where they keep rare pets until we’re let out into Neopia on our pet days. We live here ‘till then.”
I was too dumbfounded to even speak. Not that I had the option to or anything.
Because at that precise moment, a door across the corridor was flung open, and out stepped Julia James. In one hand she had her purse. In the other, she had a wide slab of duct tape.
Oh, and the duct tape? Yeah, it was promptly smacked across my mouth.
To be continued...