The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Missing Miamouse - Part Three
“Maybe,” Charlie began, playing with the tassel on the chair cover he was sitting on, “whoever took Mika was painted invisible. That way, he or she could have been in and out without Taylor knowing.”
“Yeah, but how would that same Neopian gain entry through a locked door?” Luna asked.
Charlie shrugged. “Maybe it was an invisible ghost who can walk through walls.” He and Damien laughed at the comment.
“Very funny,” I snapped.
Damien gave me a small smile. “After the last big case, you gotta learn to think outside of the box.”
“What are the odds we’ll ever deal with another case involving a bunch of Eustabees and seven clients again? I vote we stick with something more realistic.”
“Marlo, we solve mysteries everywhere in the world and encounter psychos all of the time,” said Damien gently. “That’s definitely not very realistic.”
It was getting late and the four of us were “bouncing ideas off each other”, a term Luna began using not too long ago. We had just returned from dinner and jumped right into the case. We spent ages going over possible angles but couldn’t come up with anything great.
The Iris Inn only had two floors but Taylor was right; the price was very reasonable for decent rooms and service. I sat on the floor, my back against the bed. The pink and yellow wallpaper was something that would only look acceptable in Faerieland, I observed silently.
“I think Taylor’s very likely to be the guilty one,” said Luna, leaning back in her chair. “He didn’t say anything about exactly where Mika was when he was home. Just that she was simply there. And he could be using his Mother’s forgetfulness to his advantage to try to make it seem as if this were more likely to be her fault.”
“Taylor has the most obvious motive,” I agreed. “But let’s say it’s not him. What other motives would there be?”
Damien’s hat was in his lap: a sure sign that the royal Aisha was deep in thought. “Well, they’re not rich and they aren’t in a powerful position of any kind. Rowan seems friendly enough so I can’t imagine she’d have enemies.”
“But what about Taylor?” said Charlie, more talkative than usual. “Maybe there’s someone at the weapon shop that has a thing or two against him.”
“Wait, think about it,” said Luna. “Taylor said no one came to the house while Rowan was out. If we’re following your theory, there are two options. One, he was lying about having no guests and had an accomplice, or two, he was lying about having no guests and took Mika somewhere himself.”
The pea Chia held up a green hand to silence her. “But listen, we don’t know that it was Taylor.”
“The way I see it, there’s gotta be something Taylor’s not telling us.”
Luna had a good point. I added, “Unless the Miamouse just randomly escaped from a sealed home with locked doors and windows during the one hour or so that Rowan was out—very unlikely—then I think Taylor definitely has something to do with this.”
“Maybe you should talk to him tomorrow,” said Luna.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I think I will.”
“Cool,” said Damien. “Charlie and I will head over to the weapon shop to talk to someone who knows Taylor.”
Luna sighed. “Guess that leaves me with the neighbors.”
Remembering Taylor’s indifferent and isolated behavior this afternoon, I almost thought neighborhood patrol would be the easier thing to do.
As the sun rose higher in the peaceful sky the following morning, Damien and Charlie trekked across Faerie City to reach their destination: a patch of fluffy, white clouds supporting a building titled ‘Faerie Weapon Shop’.
“It’s funny,” said Charlie, “faerie Neopets are supposed to be so serene, but they have their own set of artillery.”
“I bet they’re really good in the Battledome,” remarked Damien. After watching how the Neopians around him flew with such grace and agility, the royal Aisha could only imagine how swift they’d be when it came to combat.
He pushed open the wooden door and stepped inside. Dozens of colorful swords, shields, potions, and orbs were on different shelves. An old, brown coat hung from the wall, looking positively dull next to all of the shiny items. The lights were dim, which was such a huge contrast compared to the brightness outside. Damien waited for his eyes to adjust. They soon fell upon a golden knife of some kind with a ribbon pattern coursing up the blade.
“Nuria’s Golden Dagger,” came a voice from behind. Damien spun to find a faerie Aisha watching them intently. “Forged in flames hotter than a thousands suns. You interested?”
Damien glanced back at the sword, which was marked at 59,999 NP. He smiled. “It’s beautiful, but maybe later.”
“You’re two of the detectives, right?” the Aisha asked. “Taylor said you’d stop by. I’m Lindsey.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Damien, and he introduced himself and Charlie. “I guess you know why we’re here.”
“Yeah,” said Lindsey, “I get it. Missing Miamouse, Taylor’s being framed by his demented mother, now you gotta come over and talk to me.” Surprisingly, a casual smile was on her face. “It’s fine.”
Damien returned the grin. Perhaps if Lindsey would be as cooperative as she seemed, this wouldn’t be too hard at all. “Where were you on the afternoon of the 22nd, roughly between 1 and 2pm?
“Here,” Lindsey said, gesturing to the small, dingy room. “I was taking Taylor’s shift that day.”
“Did Taylor mention why he needed you to cover for him?” inquired Charlie, sitting on Damien’s shoulder.
Lindsey’s eyes drifted upwards to the tiny Chia. She shrugged. “I think it was something about family issues.”
So Lindsey was in on Rowan and Taylor’s little argument. Damien and Charlie both knew that could be an important piece of information to remember. If Luna was right that Taylor was up to something, was it possible that co-worker Lindsey could have played a role?
Damien and Charlie continued to browse the store. A Light Faerie Sword was mounted on the wall, pointing crookedly at the floor. Looks like this place doesn’t get many customers, the Aisha mused, running his paw over an empty shelf and causing a cloud of dust to rise.
“Let me know if you need anything,” said Lindsey, and the Aisha disappeared behind a copy of Neopia Weekly.
Once the small, yellow home came into sight, I swooped downwards, enjoying the final rush of warm air blowing though my feathers. Being an Eyrie, I naturally enjoyed the feeling of flight, especially without three others on my back. Although the other detectives didn’t weigh much together, the freedom was nice to have every now and then.
Landing swiftly on my white paws, I started up to the small, wooden door. Taylor opened it before I could knock. The faerie Grarrl immediately crossed his arms.
“Hey, Marlo. I figured you’d be back.” It wasn’t really a greeting, but he stood aside so I could come in.
“Just following through,” I said. “Is Rowan home?”
“No,” Taylor told me. “She’s at the Healing Springs… or at least that’s where she said she was going.” Once we were inside and seated in chairs opposite of each other, Taylor blurted out, “Look, I don’t know what you want me to say. I was here the entire time. No one came over. I don’t know what happened to Mika.”
I nodded my head, not necessarily in an I-believe-you kind of way, but that I understood that he was telling me there was nothing new to find out about that specific subject. “I just have a couple more questions for you. Where exactly was the Miamouse while Rowan was out?”
Taylor shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe she hid somewhere and fell asleep.”
“Does she do that often?” I asked. “Hide?”
“Oh yeah, all of the time,” said Taylor. “Maybe that’s why Ma always forgets about her. Out of sight, out of mind, right?” He chuckled at his little joke.
I would have grinned back politely, but the wheels in my head were turning again. “What kind of places does Mika usually hide in?”
Taylor laughed again like it was a silly, irrelevant question. When he saw that I actually did want to know, his orange face flushed. “Umm, I don’t know, shoeboxes, desk drawers, pillowcases?”
“Excellent,” I said, standing. “Thanks.”
“Wait, that’s it?” said Taylor, following me to the door.
“For now,” I said, obviously pleased. To avoid being annoyingly vague, I added, “I think I may have just stumbled onto something that could help the case.”
With a final smile and thank you, I made a swift exit.
I knocked on Luna’s door after being unable to find Damien and Charlie in our room. They had left for the weapon shop earlier than I had, so I expected them to be back by now.
Luna answered the door and I glanced over her shoulder to see Damien and Charlie sitting at the small table; Damien jumped up as soon as Luna slid over to let me in.
“I know how Mika escaped 1906 Water Faerie Way without Taylor’s involvement.”
“Let’s hear it,” said Luna.
I couldn’t help but grin smugly. “Rowan carried her... in her purse.”
There was a few beats of silence while the other three detectives contemplated the situation.
“Okay,” said Luna. “What makes you think that?”
I explained everything Taylor said and watched the pieces fall into place.
“You think Mika was left at the grocery store?” Damien asked, incredulous. “Is that even… possible?”
“It’s just as possible as someone committing a disappearing act from a house with locked doors and windows. Plus, if Mika had crawled out of Rowan’s purse, don’t you think Rowan would have seen her scurrying around?” Still believing my own theory, I continued, “And remember what Rowan said about the coins in her purse?”
“They were stolen,” said Charlie, and he paused. “So you think maybe whoever took Mika was originally only interested in the money in Rowan’s bag?”
I nodded. “That’s what it looks like unless anyone else here can come up with another idea.”
“Rowan did say there had been a number of robberies at the grocery store lately when I talked to her yesterday evening,” Luna added. “I’ll admit, I thought it was a bit odd, but a petpet actually being snatched from a hiding place at a grocery store is even odder.”
“Well, what other theories do we have?”
Luna shot me a look of annoyance. “Taylor, remember?”
I had a feeling she’d bring that up. “I know, but we’ve jumped on weirder possibilities than this one. If we ignore the fact that maybe Mika was hiding in Rowan’s purse, who else do we turn to besides Taylor?” I added before she could bring him up again.
“Well, Charlie and I may have found a suspect at the weapon shop,” started Damien, “but the motive isn’t there.”
I looked back at Luna. The shadow Yurble was biting her lower lip. With a reluctant shrug, she said, “Okay, then. Although it’d be an odd coincidence for Rowan to be the one who was robbed while Mika was accidentally in her purse, I guess there is a miniscule chance that it could happen.”
Damien nodded. “It’s worth investigating.”
Luna plucked her notebook off the nightstand and smiled wryly. “Guess we’re going to the grocery store.”
To be continued…