The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Missing Miamouse - Part Seven
It was much to our surprise that when we knocked on Simon’s door, the blue Lupe swung it open, revealing a pile of books on the coffee table, and Lindsey leaning forward on the blackberry sofa, pouring over a copy of Science is Fun.
“Hey guys,” said Simon, cheerfully oblivious. “What’s up?”
“Oh we just wanted to stop by to see if you knew where Lindsey’s house is,” said Luna, while I anxiously shuffled my feet. “But since I can see she’s already here, we’d like to speak with her.”
Simon turned to his friend, who had unburied her nose from the school book. “Umm,” said Lindsey. There was a definite shake to her voice. “Okay.”
“Would you prefer to go back to your house where we can discuss this privately?” asked Damien.
Oh, he killed me sometimes. So courteous. I was very close to blurting out the much anticipated question, as my patience was running dangerously thin. Did you or did you not pick up a Miamouse from the Faerieland grocery store between 2pm and 3pm on the 22nd?
“I’ll stay here,” she said, tone wavering again.
In a far corner of my mind I somehow understood that when you’re about to be busted, you’d rather be with a friend than by yourself.
Simon looked back at us, still in the doorway. “Come in,” he offered, confused.
We took seats around the coffee table. Simon closed all of the books, put away the loose papers and tidied up the pencils strewn across the surface. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Just to confirm,” I began. “You picked up a Miamouse at the Faerieland grocery store between one and two pm last Tuesday?”
Simon nodded, perplexed by the repeated question. “That’s correct.”
“Then Lindsey came over to study,” said Luna, gesturing to the thick textbooks on the coffee table.
“When Lindsey left, she took your brown coat with her?” asked Charlie.
“Yes,” said Simon, cooperative as ever. Meanwhile, the faerie Aisha remained still as a statue, paws clasped in her lap. She did not look up nor speak until she received a direct question.
“Did you tell him where you were going, Lindsey?” I prodded.
The Aisha sniffed. “Kind of.”
“Kind of?” Luna echoed.
“Kind of?” Simon repeated, confusion climbing. “I thought you said you were going home. We’d been studying Faerieland history for hours.”
“Did you go straight home?” Luna asked.
Lindsey sniffed again. A tear slid down her cheek. The Aisha hastily wiped it away.
“Lindsey,” said Simon, “what’s wrong?”
The Lupe’s question was followed by several more beats of silence.
“Okay,” I said, stepping in. It was clear Lindsey wasn’t going to talk. She had been defeated, that much was obvious; it was time for her to fill in the blanks. “Here’s what I think.
“If you were operating alone in this, there must have been some way you knew about the Miamouse being at the grocery store. You went to Simon’s. Simon just came from that same store and casually told you that he had found a Miamouse on the loose.” I turned to the Lupe. “Is that correct?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Perhaps you had heard about it from Taylor,” I continued to Lindsey. “After all, you would have been working at the weapon shop, he tells you about the Miamouse fiasco at his house, you figure the Miamouse Simon found must be the same one and not a coincidence. You go to the store, wearing Simon’s coat for disguise, pick up the Miamouse, and...?”
Now the tears were coming down hard. I almost felt a little sorry for Lindsey... almost... a little. Because she was withholding precious information about the case, I couldn’t bring myself to pity her. Simon looked stunned. I probably felt sorrier for him.
Luna had the softer heart for the Aisha. “Lindsey,” she said gently, “this isn’t as bad as it could be. If you could just help us out and fill in some of the blanks...” She broke off.
“I...” said Lindsey, wiping her eyes. “I did p-pick up Mika from the store.”
“Why?” I prompted.
Damien caught on. “Someone else was involved,” said the royal Aisha suddenly. “Someone with a motive.”
I wordlessly agreed by slowly nodding my head. To me, it appeared that Lindsey had no motive. She and Taylor were good friends. The Miamouse was not valuable nor was it associated with anything valuable. Unless Taylor had a 20% employee discount at the weapon shop and she only had 10%, there was nothing between them that would result in kidnapping.
“Are you working with Chase?” asked Luna.
“Ch-Chase?” Lindsey stuttered. “I d-don’t know anyone named Chase.”
Evidently the yellow Ogrin with the multiple piercings was out of the picture, even though he lied about the fact that he was the one behind the counter when Mika was dropped off.
“Was there a bribe? Incentive?” asked Luna. “Money’s always a good motive.”
The faerie Aisha was silent, a stream of tears pouring down her cheeks.
Damien stood up and pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. “Is this your handwriting?”
I knew what it was. Light will show you the way. Lindsey glanced down at the paper for a second and then immediately threw it onto the coffee table.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” said Damien.
“Does it mean anything?” I asked, and then rephrased my question. “Does it have to do with Mika?”
Lindsey was silent as ever.
“Who was it written for?” added Luna. “Who are you protecting?”
“Is it Simon?” I demanded. The blue Lupe immediately raised his paws in defense, eyes bulging with terror.
“No!” said Lindsey, her voice tight from crying. “No, Simon would never do s-something like that!”
Okay, I thought, exhaling slowly. Finally we have a pattern. The four of us had come across this before when interrogating a suspect who went from possible to prime. Damien called it the Silent-Answer plan and Lindsey was falling right into it. She wasn’t lying anymore, which was a good start.
Questions that received “no” answers were sincere. Lindsey had jumped to Simon’s defense, and even Chase’s, whom she didn’t know. However, if we asked a question that prompted a “yes” answer, we simply received the silent treatment.
“Lindsey,” said Simon, looking positively petrified. “Just answer the questions.”
“Do you know where Mika is?” inquired Damien.
“Wait,” I said. “I know who the accomplice is.”
I turned to Simon and he squirmed uncharacteristically on the blackberry sofa. I could see the fear in his brown eyes...
“Would you please contact the Defenders of Neopia? They should come as soon as possible.”
Simon sighed. “Yeah,” he said, sounding relieved. “Okay.” He disappeared into the other room.
In that moment of racing thoughts and my heart thudding loudly in my throat, something clicked in my mind. If it wasn’t Simon and it wasn’t Chase or Kit, who was the other Neopian involved? I was almost embarrassed at how obvious the answer was, flashing in front of our eyes since day one.
“New plan,” I announced, thinking on the spot. “I’m flying to 1906 Water Faerie Way. Luna, will you stay with Simon and Lindsey? Oh, and ask the Defenders if they’ll head over there when they’re finished here. Damien and Charlie, can you go to the weapon shop? Take Lindsey’s note with you.”
Damien’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Wait, Marlo. What?”
“Taylor,” I said simply. “Lindsey’s working with Taylor.”
Lindsey let out a loud sob and buried her face into her paws, defeated at last. “H-he said he’d g-give m-me t-ten thousand n-neopoints if I just went and p-picked up the Miamouse and d-didn’t say anything,” she blurted out through the waterfall of tears.
Well, I thought, feeling satisfied, there’s the motive.
Simon came back into the living room, face white. “I’ve just sent a Beekadoodle to the Defenders of Neopia’s headquarters,” he said, looking faint. “They should be here in... uh, no time.”
“Good,” I said. “Sit. Rest. Luna’s going to stay here with you.”
The shadow Yurble nodded consolingly. “Go,” she said to us. “The Defenders will be here soon.”
So with Simon massaging his temples, Lindsey curled up into a ball on the sofa, and Luna standing with her arms crossed, Damien, Charlie and I split.
It didn’t take too long for the royal Aisha and pea Chia to reach the weapon shop, but to their surprise it was locked up.
“Don’t tell me Taylor and Lindsey are the only employees,” Damien moaned, giving the doorknob one final twist.
“We’ll have to break in,” said Charlie. “Use your boot.”
Damien turned to the Chia who was standing on the window ledge. “What?”
Charlie shrugged. “It’s not like we’d be able to find a rock around here.”
That was true. The shop, as well as every building in Faerieland, was sitting on a bed of pink and white clouds. Feeling that there was no other option, Damien bent to remove his boot, but then paused.
“Hang on, I have a better idea. But you need to climb down off the ledge.”
With the grace and agility that an Aisha naturally possessed, Damien hopped onto the window ledge just as Charlie scrambled down. His paws groped for the shingles on the roof until he found one that he could dig his nails into for support. Sliding to the right, Damien inched his way across the ledge until he was right next to the door. Balancing on his left leg, he pulled his right back and jammed it through the glass, kicking at the corner of the window until he heard a satisfying smash, then crunch.
“Nice,” said Charlie. He was smiling.
“I’m glad you think vandalism is funny,” Damien replied jokingly. He hopped off the ledge and peeled off his blue vest. Wrapping it around his paw, he reached in through the opening and fumbled with the lock. With a click, the bolt slid aside and the door swung open.
Charlie climbed onto Damien’s shoulder and together they entered the dark shop. The pair spent a few minutes looking around, reaching for the light switch, and checking the register.
“What did that note say?” asked Charlie.
“Umm,” said Damien, pulling up the blue rug to find only floorboards. “‘Light will show you the way’. Maybe it means something about the sunlight? Try the window.”
“Hey!” cried an angry voice from the doorway. Damien turned. Taylor was standing in the shop, orange hands clenched into fists. The faerie Grarrl didn’t look the least bit amused. He lowered his head to examine the glass on the floor. “Did you break my window?”
Damien swallowed, a lump forming in his throat. “Did you co-kidnap your mother’s petpet?”
“You found out about Lindsey?” Taylor asked.
“Yeah,” said Damien. “And we have reason to believe that Mika is in this very room.”
Without hesitation, Taylor strode to the wall and seized Nuria’s Golden Dagger, the one Damien had admired during his first visit to the weapon shop.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you continue with your search,” said Taylor, pointing the dagger at them both. “So just don’t move, okay? Then maybe no one will get hurt.”
To be continued...