The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Lost Lizark - Part Seven
The great boot search the following morning yielded extremely disappointing results. After taking a cart from region to region (because there was no way in heck each of us were planning to walk several miles in the heat) the three of us collapsed in Luna’s room once we arrived at the base station.
As much as we wanted to see Victoire again, the red Ixi was nowhere to be found the rest of the day or the next morning. We had an innumerable amount of questions for the mysterious Ixi, but they would have to wait... or never be answered. It was frustrating. However, that didn’t mean I had given up on my ideas about Felix or London; the pair was still our most likely kidnappers.
What was odder than Victoire’s behavior was how Damien had jumped to her defense when we mentioned her standoffish attitude in the hallway. However, she was the one who claimed to have made sure he was okay in the clearing, so perhaps he was simply feeling protective of his guardian. Still, it would be beneficial to speak with Victoire soon. However, considering that we had only seen her once during the past few days, it was unlikely that we’d run into her again before our time in Geraptiku expired.
“Nothing can be inferred from Victoire,” said Charlie out of the blue, laying on one of the blue pillows. “Sure, she was in the clearing that night, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Damien even said he knows it wasn’t her that blasted him.”
“Oh, come on. How would he know that for sure? Personally, I’ve always thought that Damien gives people a little too much slack,” I commented gruffly.
An hour later I sat in the communal kitchen, picking at my scrambled eggs. The sun was only a little while from setting and I had decided to fix an early meal while Luna and Charlie headed to the current site to, once again, search for the red Ixi.
“Scrambled eggs again?” asked London, entering the kitchen and wiping his boots on the doormat.
I shrugged at the other Eyrie. “What can I say? They taste good, fill me up, and are ready in a snap.” It hadn’t been that long since I had eaten them last. I thought about it. The most recent time had been two days ago, right before Raia had told us about Felix’s cab. And the infestation of Blechies... how could I have forgotten that?
The fork in my paw stopped right before my beak.
Blechies... The wheels in my mind were beginning to turn. Infestation? Maybe... maybe an attack on region three? I stood up from the table with lightning speed, letting the fork clatter noisily onto my plate.
“Do you have a map of Geraptiku I could borrow?” I asked London.
“Yeah,” said London, eyeing me with curiosity. “Just a second.”
When the green Eyrie had fetched the parchment, I spread it out in front of me after moving my plate to the sink. Just as I had suspected, regions three, four, and five were positioned in a triangle shape around the eastern end of Geraptiku. I traced my paw over the areas as if to reassure myself that my theory was valid.
“Something wrong?” asked London from over my shoulder.
“No,” I said, rolling up the map and heading for the door. “Something’s finally right.”
Luna and Charlie studied the map I had given them, along with my theory of attacks on the eastern region of Geraptiku.
The shadow Yurble lowered the parchment and looked up at me. “You think the infestation of Blechies wasn’t an accident?” she asked, lowering her voice.
“Exactly,” I said. “The Blechies were put there to drive away the archaeologists in region three. When that didn’t work, the kidnapper set fire to the tents in region five. We can speculate that the next ambush will be on region four. See, when Raia told us about the infestation, we overlooked it at first. But those petpetpets’ eating away at all of the supplies was a warning just like the fire. While Blechies are a little less dangerous than an actual fire, both were intended to get a point across.”
Luna’s eyes darted back to the map in her outstretched paws. “Regions three, four, and five are all located in clearings just before the entrance to the Deserted Tomb! I wonder if that has any significance or our kidnapper is just knocking out region by region to drive away Felix’s team.” She faltered. “But after all of this new information... could you picture Felix plotting attacks on his own employees?”
The island Draik had suddenly become an unlikely candidate, even if he was a little obsessive over hosting fundraisers during tragic events.
“We still have London and Victoire, aka ‘Miss Evasive’ to think about,” I added eagerly.
“Let’s put that on hold,” said Charlie. “Our main focus now is getting to region four and catching this shaman guy -- or girl -- in the act. So far he or she has targeted regions three and five in broad daylight. If region four is going to be next, we not only have to get over there and wait, but also make sure he or she can’t see us. If the kidnapper knows we’re going to be hanging around, his or her next attack may be postponed.”
“Right,” said Luna. “Let’s pack up and start hiking. We can figure out a more specific plan on the way.”
Damien wasn’t as excited about it when we visited him.
“Sounds dangerous,” he said.
“And how does being taken back to Neopia Central on trial sound?” I asked him. “This could be our chance at catching this guy.”
The Aisha frowned, sitting on the edge of his cot. In a way, it felt good to know that in thirty hours, he’d be out of this ridiculous dungeon. But whether or not Damien would be in the comfort of our Neohome or the Defenders of Neopia HQ we didn’t know. “Just be careful, okay? From what... umm, from what I heard, this shaman has incredible skills.”
“We can take him,” I declared smugly, but my insides were writhing with apprehension.
It had taken us thirty minutes to reach region four and it had grown progressively darker. The canopy above us hid the sinking sun and was oddly still. Luna, Charlie, and I crouched behind a clump of bushes. Every once in a while, I poked my head out and glanced around. Luna’s vision was pretty good at night, but mine was keener.
“What happened to ‘you must be out of your mind if you think Charlie and I are willing to go walking around in the dark with a crazy shaman on the loose’?”
“This is different,” hissed Luna. “Because we’re relying on your theory being correct, we had no choice but to try to catch him here.”
“Or her,” Charlie whispered.
“Or her,” Luna agreed.
My feet were beginning to hurt so I shifted my weight onto my haunches. It was almost completely dark now and the openness of the jungle rendered us vulnerable. “What exactly are we going to do if he or she shows up? It’s not like we can conjure magic out of thin air!”
“I know,” said Luna impatiently. “But we’ve already discussed this.” (And we had, on the half hour walk to region four, but the current situation was making me antsy). “You get into the sky, I wait for him to be right under you, and then we tackle him. Or her. Whichever! After that, I hurry to the tents nearby and have the archaeologists send for the Defenders of Neopia.” She looked up at me. “This sneaking-around-in-the-dark plan was originally your idea!”
“All right, all right. I just feel weird about everything. People who can create magic and all... it’s just not normal.”
A silence fell among the three of us except for the beating of ours hearts as we anxiously awaited the next attack. I could barely see the yellowy light of two tents in region four and a few of the archaeologists were laughing and joking by their fire. If only they knew what was coming... if only we knew if tonight would be the right time for our kidnapper to make another move...
“Marlo!” said Luna suddenly, grabbing my arm. “Listen.”
I hunched down motionless next to the Yurble and strained to hear a voice somewhere in the darkness.
“Imek nowaah siskaturma...”
“Someone’s coming,” Charlie breathed from Luna’s shoulder. “But from where?”
Luna pointed to her left, where intertwined branches rattled noisily somewhere in the distance. Whether it was simply the wind or our desired guest I didn’t know. I used that as my signal and floated upwards, white feathers brushing silently past the leaves. As I ascended, I prayed that Luna’s plan would work. With baited breath, I watched as a small figure staggered through the path, a yellow sphere of light growing in his or her palm.
"Mekfra flommai utel desawuc lotru nowaah...”
I had the Neopian in clear sight now, like a hunter with its prey. Without waiting for Luna, I swooped from my position in the figure’s direction and knocked into him.
Thrown off guard, the Neopian howled and fell. I carefully located two arms and pinned them down, preventing them to be utilized. Luna was at my side, pulling out her flashlight.
“This should be exhilarating,” I said, voice tight from the task of restraining the kidnapper. Although I was twice his or her size, the Neopian was putting up a good fight. However, under the weight of a very large Eyrie, this guy was going nowhere. “Check the boots.”
Luna knelt by the figure’s feet and pulled out the photograph of footprints from her Faerie Back Pack. She examined the pattern of traction on the Neopian’s shoes under the flashlight. “Yep. This is definitely our kidnapper.” She shined the flashlight on his head, still hidden by the cloak’s hood. Because there were a couple of possibilities as to who this could be, my heart thudded with excitement as I reached out to pull back the hood.
But the face that squinted up at me made my stomach lurch.
“Him or her?” asked Luna.
“Him,” I said, astonished, “but you’re not gonna believe this...”
To be continued...