The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Missing Miamouse - Part Two
When Charlie arrived back on Bracknell Road, we didn’t have time for small chat about his rendezvous. Instead, the four of us took off almost immediately for Faerieland, where the constant ascent was intense.
“Never again, Marlo,” said Luna, stretching her back on a pink cloud once we landed safely. “Next time, we take an Eyrie cab.”
“Next time I’ll take the case alone and leave you all at home.” I laughed and the Yurble nudged me in the ribs. We started toward the golden gates.
The air was warm and breezy at ten-thousand feet, which was a tad unusual. I mean, science was not my best subject in school but wasn’t the air supposed to be colder up here? And the clouds under us were remarkably strong. Enough so to support an entire city!
“You’ve never been to Faerieland, have you?” asked Luna.
I glanced sideways at her. “No. Why?”
She grinned. “You’re walking like the cloud under your feet is going to give way.”
“Well, considering my size and the fact that I have another Neopian to watch out for—” Charlie, the pea Chia, was, of course, perched contentedly on the top of my head “—I’m just trying to be a little more careful!”
“Okay, children, let’s keep moving,” Damien called, his boots sinking slightly with each step.
The four of us passed under the arc and the clouds under us started to lose their pink hue. A few paces inside the walled city and they became a brilliant white. I felt like I was walking on fluff. All around us were buildings, most colored purple and yellow, with cone-shaped tops and wooden doors.
Many of the Neopians around us were painted faerie, if they were not an actual faerie themselves. Most, if not all of them, were winged. Sure, I had wings as well, but I definitely did not fit in. We did not fit in. Well, Damien looked okay. Maybe royal was in the same family as Faerie.
We had been to some pretty extreme places on our various quests to enforce the safety of petpets, and in certain worlds, the dress codes were pretty strict. In the Lost Desert, you dressed light to keep cool. On Terror Mountain, you dressed in layers to keep warm. On Krawk Island, you dressed like a pirate to avoid being mugged or called a tourist. Fyora forbid!
“Where are we going, exactly?” asked Charlie.
“1906 Water Faerie Way,” said Luna, who was skimming both letters. “I think it’s a few blocks from here.”
I didn’t mind walking in the least bit. With all of the new sights, it was nice to be able to enjoy them at a moderate pace. Pastel-colored children floated from place to place, their laughter sounding like bells.
“Marlo, turn left,” said Charlie, poking me in the ear.
“Oh,” I answered obediently, making a sharp turn. “Just keeping my eyes peeled for the Hidden Tower.”
“Mmhmm,” I heard Luna say from up ahead and I’m sure she rolled her eyes.
A few moments later we were standing on the threshold of a quaint, yellow home. Damien knocked on the wooden door (shaped in a Faerie-ish sort of way) and we waited.
The door opened slowly and I leaned forward to see who was behind it. It was a faerie Shoyru with blue eyes and a kind face. According to the letter, I would have guessed this was Rowan.
She frowned. “Can I help you?”
I was slightly taken aback, but recalling the letter, Taylor did say that Rowan was forgetful.
“We’re the detectives you contacted,” I explained.
Although it took her a few seconds, the Shoyru understood. “Oh, that’s right! Splendid! It’s so nice of you to have arrived promptly. At any rate, please come in.”
The interior of the Faerieland Neohome was modest and cozy. A Nova Sofa was in the center of the room with a few purple chairs sitting across from it. The walls were painted a pale yellow and the carpet was as soft as the cloud roads outside. I took a seat on the sofa with Charlie and Luna while Damien settled into a purple chair.
“Taylor, dear,” Rowan called into the hallway, her tone casual. “Come and say hello to our guests.”
“I’m here, Mother,” a gravelly voice came from behind.
The four of us turned to find a strange sight. Leaning against the wall with orange arms crossed stood a faerie Grarrl. His eyes were like liquid emeralds, but fierce and unwavering. The look he displayed was not unwelcoming or disrespectful, but rather apathetic. Plain.
“Hello,” he said briskly, and we nodded our heads curtly in response. The Grarrl didn’t seem to want to say more at the moment.
Though maybe he was going to but didn’t have the chance. Rowan plowed on, “Taylor, why don’t you bring our guests some Faerie Bubbles?” Luna smiled while I tried not to let my ignorance show.
“Oh, I am so grateful you all are here and not a minute too soon. I’ve always thought punctuality is very important,” Rowan chatted on lightly. But once Taylor disappeared into the kitchen, her tone lowered considerably. I leaned in to hear her better. “I just don’t know what’s gotten into that boy. He’s had some issues in the past, but I never imagined theft was one of them.”
The faerie Shoyru couldn’t say much more because Taylor came into the small living room with a pitcher of a purple liquid and four glasses. From the way Rowan straightened up immediately and plastered a wide grin on her face, it was obvious that Taylor realized what—or who—her last few words were centered on. He scowled.
“What’s this?” Rowan asked innocently.
Taylor didn’t react to the seemingly odd question. “Drinks for our guests.”
“Oh, sweetheart, you’re so thoughtful.” Rowan beamed.
I didn’t miss the way Taylor’s eyebrows rose as he took a seat across from Rowan.
“At any rate, you’ll have to excuse my naivety, but how exactly does one start this... process?” Rowan asked timidly.
“It’ll be painless,” I assured her, pouring myself a drink of the purple stuff. “We’ll ask you both some simple questions and would like you to answer as accurately as possible.”
Rowan and Taylor exchanged glances.
“When did you last see Mika?” Damien asked.
Rowan sighed and her lips pressed into a thin line. “It was the 22nd of this month. Two days ago. I was going to the Healing Springs--”
“--grocery store,” Taylor interrupted.
Rowan’s eyes narrowed in thought and she nodded her head. “Yes, I do believe it was the grocery store. Thank you, dear... at any rate, Mika was in the other room napping while I was getting my purse and sweater. I picked up what I needed while I was out and chatted with a friend just outside Faerie City. When I came home an hour or so later, Mika was gone.”
She shot a fleeting looking at her son. He rolled his eyes.
“And do you know what else was gone?” Rowan continued, her tone growing huffy. “My coin purse! There must have been five thousand neopoints in there and someone had to go and snatch it from my bag.” The Shoyru exhaled heavily. “What a horrible day. First it was the neopoints, then coming home to find Mika gone.” Her jaw was clenched in frustration.
“And you were the one at home, Taylor, while your mother was at the grocery store?” asked Luna, finishing her notes from Rowan’s monologue. The shadow Yurble’s pen was poised once again, anticipating an important answer.
“Yeah, I was home,” said Taylor. “Just got off work, actually.”
“Where’s work?” I asked.
“The weapon shop in Faerie City,” he replied, and Rowan flinched. The action was a clear indicator that she didn’t approve of him being employed there.
I took a sip of the drink that I had been holding, too involved in the conversation to try it. A mildly sweet taste filled my mouth and bubbled all the way down my throat. Once the fizz subsided, I asked, “Was there anyone at all who came over, Taylor? Friends, neighbors, maintenance worker, et cetera?”
“Nope,” said the Grarrl. “It was a very quiet couple of hours.”
Rowan exploded at him. “If I was out and no one else was here but you, who could be responsible for our missing petpet?”
“I don’t know, Ma,” Taylor said simply. “Maybe you left the backdoor open.”
“That only happened once,” Rowan fumed.
“From your letter,” I began, trying to draw the conversation to the focal point, “you say that Taylor has been trying to get you to give him the Miamouse.” I turned to the Grarrl. “Is this true?”
He nodded. “It’s not a huge deal since we’re living together, but I made that offer so she could spend more time taking care of herself rather than a petpet.”
Rowan gave a cry of outrage, her soft eyes blazing with frustration. “Don’t patronize me, boy. You’re the one who took my petpet.”
“Our petpet,” her son retaliated. “And I didn’t.”
In a matter of seconds, the peaceful home was filled with a multitude of dirty looks and hostility. And it definitely wasn’t getting us anywhere.
“Wait a second,” I said, holding up my paws in what I hoped looked like a calm manner. “Let’s all just relax, okay? I know this is a tough situation, but please try to stay focused. Taylor, did you leave the house at all while Rowan was out?”
The Grarrl shook his head, knowing where I was going with this. “All the doors and windows were locked.”
“Has Mika ever been able to get out of the house on her own before?” Charlie asked. He had been so quiet, as usual, that I nearly forgot he was there.
“There’s never been a problem,” answered Rowan quietly.
We were all silent for a moment and then Luna rose. “All right,” she said. “Thanks for your time. We’ll spend the next day or so talking to some people in the vicinity and going over what we already know.”
“Thank you so much,” said Rowan, also standing and wringing Luna’s black paw.
“Would you happen to know of a hotel in the area?” I asked. Since we were nearly two miles up in the sky and I wasn’t so keen on flying back and forth all the time; we needed a place to call home for the new few days.
Taylor finally stood, too. “There’s one in Faerie City called the ‘Iris Inn’. I pass it on my way to work. It’s not too shabby and the price is good.”
“Great,” I said. “Thanks.”
All the way back to Faerie City, my mind was reeling. If we were unable to obtain any more information or some kind of lead, this case was going to dead end fast. If we can’t prove Taylor’s guilty or it was true that no one else entered the house, then what? I didn’t want to think about that.
Apprehension settled into my stomach... or maybe it was just the purple fizzy drink acting up.
Would this be the case that finally stumped us?
To be continued...