The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Yanked Yooyus - Part Nine
For the past few days, we had pieced together little bits of information and discussed the results eagerly, glad to be sinking our teeth into the challenge of this colossal case. Unfortunately, time was not on our side and now all the chips were on the table.
Jasper Curry didn’t object to us searching his office after the blackmail letter was found on his desk. Damien waited outside with him politely. A key pad on the side of the doorframe caught his eye.
“How many people know the code to your office?” he asked.
The Darigan Skeith frowned. “None except for me. Because an access card will open any door, I had extra security installed.” He paused. “I guess it didn’t help much.”
“Damien,” Luna called, “Mr. Curry. You should come see this.”
The royal Aisha came into the room to kneel next to Charlie and me. Jasper watched from over our shoulders.
“What are we looking at?” he asked.
Luna grasped the edges of the silvery air vent and with a pop the slab of metal was freed from the wall. She picked up her flashlight and showed him what was inside.
“See how some parts of these metal walls are dusty?” Luna asked.
“Well, yes,” said the Skeith. “I imagine they haven’t been cleaned in years.”
“Exactly,” Luna replied. She pointed the beam to the vent again. “Some patterns of dust are visible, and then there are other places where there is no dust at all, like it’s been wiped away.”
“Wiped away?” asked Jasper. “With what?”
Charlie grinned. “Probably fur.”
Dang, this guy is dense, I thought, or maybe that was just disbelief. I clarified, “We’re guessing that this person didn’t know the code to your office door, so they had to find another way in.” I pointed to the vent.
“At approximately what time did you find the letter, Mr. Curry?” Luna asked.
“I came back from my lunch break at 3pm. That’s when I found the letter.”
Damien raised an eyebrow. “This person knew you’d be gone and that no one would walk in while he or she planted the letter. Where does this vent lead?”
Jasper chuckled darkly. “Everywhere. All of the offices in this hallway are connected.”
Damien glanced over at us, disappointed that we were unable to get any further with the air vent lead.
“Thanks for your time, Mr. Curry.”
Luna spent twenty minutes analyzing Jasper Curry’s letter when we returned to the Morning Glory Inn. I watched as her eyes darted from left to right. When the shadow Yurble was finished or grew tired of the same words, she stood.
“The only big thing I’ve noticed is that this person doesn’t refer to his or her accomplice.”
“So his or her use of singular pronouns is somehow a clue?” I asked. Hidden meanings in cryptic letters were not my forte.
“A small one,” Damien agreed. “He obviously must be aware that we know there was an accomplice. By writing the letter as an individual, I see two possibilities.” The royal Aisha used his blue paws to represent the ideas: “The kidnapper doesn’t link himself with his accomplice, meaning that they don’t have a very good connection. The kidnapper merely needed a second person who would help complete the job.
“Or the contrary explanation,” said Damien slowly, more partial to this idea, “would be that he’s trying to protect his accomplice by not referring to them in the letter.”
I pressed my paws together and rested my chin on them. “One extreme or the other.”
“Do you think this letter was delivered by the accomplice?” Luna asked.
“Definitely,” said Charlie. “Dominic said the kidnapper was larger than him and Dominic is too big to fit through the air vents himself. Judging by those obvious facts, the accomplice would have to be the one in the Yooyu Room and the one who delivered this letter.”
“I wonder why the kidnapper didn’t send the blackmail earlier?” Luna wondered.
Damien rocked his chair back so that it stood on two legs. “Maybe he enjoyed watching the havoc. Or perhaps he had no means of discreetly getting the blackmail letter to Jasper Curry...”
“I’ll order a pizza.” I could see that the conversation was going to continue through the night.
Damien massaged his temples on the fourth morning, Tuesday. There were dark circles under his eyes. “We’re running out of time.”
“Obviously,” I grumbled, struggling to keep my attitude in check. I had never been a patient person and considering that we had just over forty-eight hours to find both kidnappers made me frustrated.
Tension was also running high in the Colosseum. After Jasper Curry had shown us the note, its message spread to the Colosseum employees, Yooyuball players, and Altadorians. I didn’t doubt that tomorrow morning’s front page back in Neopia Central would feature a new headline.
It was difficult to breathe with so many people around. The Colosseum staff moved in groups and kept their heads down when they passed us, but you could feel their burning questions bubbling under the surface. The press waited at the front doors and large windows in the lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone to interview. Every now and then security would chase them away, but sooner or later the camera crews and reporters would find their way back.
I sighed audibly just thinking about it. Damien and Charlie were at the desk, rifling through Luna’s notes in their attempt to find something that we had missed.
A muffled shout coming from the window made the four of us raise our heads in interest. Luna was the first to the window.
“Check out what’s going on in the square,” the shadow Yurble said, and we all crowded around her to see.
In the plaza around Camden’s booth stood Dax, Trent, and a dozen of NeoVision and Neopian Times reporters. I could see that Trent had his fists clenched and Camden’s jaw was set. If their shouting match turned physical, someone was likely to get hurt.
Without warning, I put one foot on the balcony railing and leapt from the building.
The ground rushed towards me as I spread my white wings and made a safe landing just outside of the mob. Pushing past the thick line of reporters, I stumbled into the clearing where Trent and Camden continued their heated discussion.
“Who do you think you are? Who the heck do you think you are?” I heard Trent demand.
“Guys, stop!” yelled Candice Valentine. She and Dominic Fletcher stood closer to them than anyone else, ready to break up a fight.
Trent started to advance, but I put a massive paw on the silver Grarrl’s shoulder. “What’s the problem?”
“The problem?” Trent asked. “The problem is that you haven’t arrested this guy yet!” He thrust a paw towards the green Ogrin in front of the Yooyu Protection booth. “He’s out here saying that the Yooyu kidnapping was a good thing. That Yooyuball’s better off without them.”
“What happened,” Camden began in a similar tone, “is while I was standing out here, these two practically attacked me.”
“What gives you the right, bro?” Dax piped up. The speckled Gelert’s face was solemn with cold fury. “Someone robbed the Colosseum, robbed Altador and you’re out here cheering them on?”
I raised a paw peacefully. “Guys, I know--”
“Excuse me?” spat Camden, ignoring me completely. He shook his head at Dax. “I have every right to be out here! It’s a free world! I can say whatever I want.”
Trent rolled his eyes and Dax said, “We don’t wanna hear anything you have to say and neither does any Yooyuball fan.”
“You might be surprised,” Camden replied coolly. “I have a list of signatures that beg to differ.”
“Marlo, come on,” said Trent. “Do something about him!”
“Everyone needs to calm down,” I said. “Camden is right.”
Trent gawked at me. “How can he not be the kidnapper? You’re just going to let him walk free, aren’t you?”
“You agree with him?” Dax asked in disbelief.
“It’s not about whether or not I agree with him,” I explained, endeavoring to stay calm. “It’s his right to be out here.”
“This Grarrl obviously has an anger management problem,” said Camden, and I held up my paw to silence him.
Trent shook his head. “It’s your fault this has happened,” he said to Camden. And then to me, he added, “Check his little list. One of those signatures is the guy you’re looking for.”
“Thanks for nothing, bro,” said Dax dejectedly and he followed the silver Grarrl out of the square.
Once the two were out of sight, Camden quietly crawled back behind his booth and the reporters dispersed. Dominic and Candice lingered.
“Sorry,” said Dominic, and it struck me a moment later that I didn’t know what he was apologizing for. “Everyone’s been so tense.”
I shrugged in a quiet understanding. “It’s been four days. People need someone to blame.”
Candice, whose arm was looped through Dominic’s, looked close to tears. The sadness, worry, and exhaustion showed on her pink face.
“We are closing in on these people,” I said in what I hoped sounded reassuring.
Candice bit her lip and nodded. Dominic smiled feebly. Then the Wocky and Jetsam turned and painfully exited the plaza.
Luna, Damien, and Charlie met me in the center of the square.
“Thanks for waiting,” said Luna.
“Just kidding,” she teased. “If you hadn’t jumped off the balcony, we would’ve missed the whole thing. So what happened?”
I filled them in as the sun peeked over the Colosseum.
To be continued...