Goldrun: A Petpet Rescue! - Part Two
Inside, there was little light. The sun blazed in through the doorway we had just created, which was just enough to see what lay ahead of us. The room looked a lot like the one we saw through the window, but a lot messier. Furniture, boxes, cages, bags... several things lay abandoned and unused on the floor, creating a clutter of items. The sunlight reflected off of mirrors hanging on the wall, some being smashed, and some just covered in dust. Sierra was looking at a few books on a fallen down bookshelf, when a crash and a bang sounded from the corner of the room.
We all darted our eyesight in the disturbed direction, and gasped.
Two eyes stared back at us - wide, scorching red eyes. The figure was hooded, and the sunlight reflected off what looked to be a scythe. A moment of fear and dread surpassed, and the figure slowly whispered in a frightened tone: "Please don't run away."
Blinking in disbelief, we exhaled and began to wonder who was here with us. Presumably, not the store owner – he would have chased us out at the first sight of us illegally sneaking in the back.
"I'm Terry. I've been hiding in here," he muttered, and stepped into the sunlight. Before us stood a Halloween Mynci, which explained the terrifying eyes and the dangerous prop. He, however, looked far from scary. Scared, perhaps, but not scary. "Why are you here?"
"We're looking for clues to solve the whole missing petpet scenario," Sierra stated, inspecting Terry from head to toe. He was small and shaky, and looked out of place in his haunted attire. "Have you seen anything in here that might lead us to the culprit?"
The Mynci's eyes widened further, which made him seem more terrified than before. His teeth began to chatter, and he became more anxious of our company.
"I have.... but, not in here. But I think... what I saw... I think it's to do with the petpets..."
"What do you mean? What did you see?" Dane blurted, eager to leave the abandoned shop. We all stared at Terry, anticipating for a reply. He murmured with nerves.
"Well... last week... I just bought some sausages from the food shop for my dinner, ‘cos I was about to leave to make my trip back home... and I walked out and went around the back... y'know, ‘cos that's the way my house is..." he stammered, trying to spurt out the correct words. "I'm not from around here, I was on holiday... so I had to go that way, back to Haunted Woods... and, um, the food shop was having a delivery... um..."
"Go on, Terry." Sierra offered her comforting paw again. Terry gaped at the Gelert for a second, and ignored her touch.
"Well, there was a big Neopet, I didn't see what he was... I think he was a Mutant, because he was huge... so, um. He was bringing boxes into the shop through the back door, as you do... and on his wooden wagon thing, there was... there was... a petpet in a cage!"
I gasped, and Sierra let go of Terry's shoulder in horror. "A petpet? Seriously?"
"Yeah! A Weewoo, I think... I was so scared, because I think he saw me looking! So, I ran back the way I came, and found this back door open! And I've been hiding in here, because I don't want him to take me away because I saw! I'd heard about all the missing petpets, so I think it was him!" Terry was a bit bolder now that he had got the initial allegation out. We were all stunned, and Terry inhaled and exhaled fast to catch his breath again.
"So... the culprit is a large Neopet who delivers to the shops? Interesting." I pondered, ensuring that Dane and Sierra nodded in agreement. "I think we better report back to Ellie. Terry, I think you're okay to go home--"
"Thank you, but I'd much rather stay here until I know for sure that this petpet thief has gone. I hope you find him, though – please let me know if you rid Goldrun of him."
We waved goodbye to Terry, who retreated back into his dusty corner of the backroom. Ellie was bathing in the sunshine, but keeping guard all the same, as we approached her with the news. Sierra explained in a calm manner, as Ellie expressed shock.
"A large deliv'ry Neopet, ya say?" Ellie exclaimed, scratching her head and racking her brain. "Well, if this Terry says the food shop was the las' place he saw him, then I thin' we're best off goin' to visit Gertrude - she knows more about them deliv'ries than me."
Soon enough, we were stood outside the food shop once again. The front was appealing – the wooden walls were painted beige and had plants growing up around the doors and windows. The windows were shiny, and inside we could see a room full of a variety of foods – meats, diary, and vegetables galore – with a Cybunny happily sitting behind the counter, beckoning Ellie inside. She greeted her back, and opened the door.
The door rang a small bell as it opened, which produced a high-pitched chime. I thought this matched the Cybunny well – she was petite, with very feminine features and a quirky smile.
"Afternoon, Sheriff. How can I be of your service t'day, ma'am?" She ruffled the green fur around her neck as she curtseyed in Ellie's presence, but Ellie remained stern and professional.
"I am ‘ere on strict business t'day, Gertrude. I want to know ev'rythin' ya know ‘bout the Neopet that delivers all your goods."
Her pleasant exterior quickly turned into a surface of sadness and confusion. "'E's an oddball, that Mynci... a Mutan', very big. Sure, he can lift ‘bout ten boxes a minute – very efficien' and fast, but... there's some'in' ‘bout him I don' trust."
"Can you elaborate, Gertrude? What is it about him that you don't trust?" Sierra persisted, once again, to save the day.
"Well, let's see... ‘e never talks to me, jus' ignores me if I try an' make small talk while he's unloadin' all the food. ‘E always rides off on his wagon b'fore I can say thanks. An' recently, he's been goin' t'wards the big ole' Neolodge down the road--"
"Wait, the outta business one... wi' the Uni stables?" Ellie interrupted, and Gertrude nodded, slightly peeved.
"--Yes, Sheriff, the Lonesome Sanders hotel. Not been takin' ‘nyone for years, right? Well, he's always off there in that direction ev'ry night, Ellie, I'm not sure why. Maybe ya wanna investigate that?"
"I think we will, ma'am. He's a very mysterious character, and he's now our number one suspect. Do you know his name?" Dane asked.
"Jacek. His name is Jacek. ‘E's just left here after a deliv'ry, so y'all go catch him up... I can only presume he's goin' to the hotel. Whatever y'all investigatin', take care."
"Thanks a lot, Gertrude, we'll keep in touch."
As soon as the three of us, and Ellie, stepped out of the food shop, we knew exactly where we were heading. I had never noticed it before – perhaps it was covered in a cloak of dust when we first arrived, which had hidden the now crumbling building. The Lonesome Sanders hotel sat about 100 metres away from Laurene's saloon, aligned right behind it in a bid to make sure no one found it with ease. Just two storeys high, but wide enough to accommodate the population of Goldrun.
And sure enough, parked just around the corner from the entrance, was a large wooden wagon. No cages were to be seen at first, but there were a few scattered chains on the floor, tracing the path to the back door.
Sierra gulped. Brought back to reality, I realised we were stepping into a dangerous unknown. The petpets, hopefully, would be waiting unharmed in the building for us. But what if they weren't? What if this mysterious Neopet was plotting something evil, something we couldn't stop?
Following Ellie's brave lead, we found ourselves in a dark room. Around us, we could hear the clatter of metal, and scratching. Pained whimpers echoed, and Ellie lit a piece of wood to finally uncover where the petpets had gotten to.
The walls were coated in cages. Around a metre in height and width, and each containing what we had dreaded – saddened, helpless petpets. Cirrus', Tapiras, Flouds, Weewoos... every petpet imaginable sat in a cage each with weak limbs and teary eyes. They had put up a fight, and succumbed to imprisonment.
"Oh my goodness! Who could do such a thing to these poor petpets?" A Kadoatie near Sierra stirred and whined, and she walked over to stroke it through the bars of the cage. It purred – probably a noise it hadn't made in a long, long time. "Why are they here?"
"I'm not sure, Sierra... we'll ‘ave to find that Jacek somewhere..." Ellie stated, looking for a doorway into the rest of the abandoned hotel.
Dane and I continued to inspect the room, hoping for a sign to tell us why these petpets were being kept here. After looking underneath and behind cages, sweeping dust from corners of the room, and looking behind peeling posters of celebrities on the walls, Dane found a cage full of paperwork.
Carefully, I stuck my paw between the bars and pulled out a piece. I blew sand off of the sheet, and began to read.
Pros: fast, light, determination
Cons: easily distracted, annoying
Notes: Good petpet for racing, will likely pull in lots of bets. To falter him, I'll have to find a distraction of sorts to make him fall behind.
Pros: very fast, handles obstacles well, determination
Cons: able to fly away
Notes: Really fast petpet. With good advertising, will ensure lots and lots of bets – not sure on how to falter, however."
He stood beside me, lost for words. Sierra peered over my shoulder, in her usual nosey manner.
"So, that's it. Jacek's part of some big, awful money-making scheme." Sierra tutted. "I mean... the Poogle Racing in Faerieland is very successful."
"Aye. ‘E musta been plannin' on recreatin' that success with all our petpets. Well, now we know." Ellie pressed her hat against her ears.
A large shadow fell upon the several cages, casting dread across the petpets. The Kadoaties squeaked, and Celia clopped her hooves in distress. Following the shadow, it was tied to two large, hairy feet. They belonged to, of course, the Mutant Mynci behind this calamity. He ceased walking farther into the room, knowing he had been found out.
"Drat! How'd you get in here?" Jacek muttered. "I was hoping just a petpet cage just fell over, but..."
Ellie stepped forward in an authoritative stance, unclipped her badge from her blouse and held it in front of her. She clasped the Cork Gun resting in her pocket, ready to aim and fire. Jacek sighed, and raised his hands above his head.
"Jacek, ya been holdin' these petpets captive for months, causin' the citizens o' Goldrun great distress. We'll be takin' these back, an' I expect ya to explain yaself. Now."
* * *
The orange sunset was back again, resting on the horizon as the Goldrunnians danced and sang and cheered. Drum beats thudded through the air with songs created by whistles entwined, as everyone was reunited with their petpets, and thanked us for our good deed. Ellie appeared once again, dressed in casual attire – a maroon dress that nearly touched the floor. Ready to celebrate, she beamed and clasped all three of us in a group hug.
"I can't thank y'all enough – Goldrun will always remember y'all as saviours. Is there any way I can repay ya?" she was hopping on the spot to get dancing, but bowed before us all the same to express her gratitude. "I insist that ya stay for our rodeo, sweethearts. Y'all have helped Goldrun in ev'ry way possible, an' this is the least I can do. Please stay for t'night, and I'll give y'all directions home in the mornin'."
Ellie skipped off to join a group of Baby Neopets. We smiled at the pleasant sight of them dancing and giggling. What a compassionate Sheriff, and a true leader, we all thought and nodded together. Sierra stood up to dance with a Blue Lutari named Kyle, who had been waving from across the porch in the low light of the fire. Dane stayed sitting down, watching the celebrations and sipping a blueberry smoothie Laurene had given him with tinted cheeks and a timid smile. Terry sat next to Dane, with a rare smile spread on his face, and his usual alert eyes were settled to a shade of violet. He was also staying for the rodeo, enjoying the festivities before setting off on his delayed journey back to the Haunted Woods. I sat on the other side of Dane on a lopsided haystack, and admired the wonderful and brave citizens of Goldrun. They had not given up hope, over the several months of waiting for help, and they had successfully emerged with hopes and dreams of the future again. Ellie was once again the authoritative but lovable Sheriff she should be, and Laurene's heart had warmed now that Celia was fluttering by her side again.
I couldn't help but notice, though, a character beyond the fun and dancing. He also sipped from one of the saloon's cups, brimming with banana slushie. His muscles flexed as he noticed I was watching, and stood up from his haystack. I shivered in fright for a moment, but the terror immediately subsided. Now we had exposed him for who he was, there was no need for fear in Goldrun anymore.
Jacek flashed red eyes at me, before turning away towards the sunset.