As I Suspected
It was around 8:30 A.M. on a Tuesday morning. I can easily remember it was 8:30 since I usually get my coffee at eight, an hour after I wake up, and when I heard a knock at my door, I had just finished drinking my last sip of that thick black liquid that just about everyone I know claims is, quite frankly, addicting. I was kind of annoyed at the fact that another Neopet would come so bluntly up to my office to knock on my door so early in the morning. Surely I would never do the same. But half-heartedly, I coped with my emotions and rose out of the red lounger which I had so comfortably spent the last half hour.
Another knock. What an impatient being, I thought as I walked toward the entrance to my office. I took a long deep sigh of disappointment as I placed my hand on the doorknob. Just one more person to deal with. Little did I know that the man I was about to meet would change my life. Not for better or for worse, but straight-out change it. I turned the handle. The door creaked open as I pulled it toward myself. I took what seemed to be an elongated blink and looked out the doorway.
To my surprise, I didn’t see anyone. And I probably wouldn’t have either if he weren’t wearing that ridiculous hat. Intrigued, my eyes followed down his headgear until they reached the brim. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to encounter someone, but for some reason, I waited a second until I looked down.
“Afternoon, gov’nor.” A blue JubJub was standing outside my office door wearing no more than an oversized tie and an exaggerated top hat.
“Afternoon,” I replied, well aware it was morning. After looking at the fellow for a while, I started to question his ability to knock on my door. He only had two feet and in one of them his three large toes were clenching a small black device. Seeing as he had no arms, to me, knocking seemed almost impossible.
Just as I was started to wonder how that immense hat stayed balanced atop his head, my thoughts were interrupted by his thick, crude accent. “Barik,” he put it quite simply, but I understood and replied in the appropriate fashion.
“That’s me, Inspector Barik Von Lupe.” Another reporter, another sigh.
“No, that’s me. Barik Von JubJub, Neopian Times.” I was starting to question this guy’s sanity. “I’m here to write about you.”
Me? That made me forget about his kooky ways. After all, they usually want to know if we caught the robbers at the National Neopian, or if we found someone’s bike, but me? This guy was different. “Okay,” I answered, with a sudden boost of ego. “What do I need to do?”
“Well, gov’nor, just go on and tell me about your most interestin’ case, and I’ll reco’d it with this he’e tape recorde’,”
So that’s what that was. “Alright,” I complied, trying to hide back my excitement, but due to my lack of a poker face, he could obviously see it in my eyes. “Come on in.”
Before I even realized it, the JubJub was smack in the lounge chair I had been sitting in no less than three minutes prior, looking awfully comfortable. I took a seat on the couch across from the chair and only a coffee table separated us. For some reason, however, maybe it was due to my mixed emotions, it seemed to go on for miles. There was a ring on the table from my coffee, which my eyes were quickly drawn to. My mother always told me to use a coaster, but that was something that always happened to slip my mind.
“Well, get on with it, gov’nor.” I was growing tired of the man calling me the governor but I complied with his stubborn conversation.
“Wouldn’t you like some coffee first?” I was trying to be polite to my guest, who if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought lived here.
“Oh, just get on with it, man.” And being pressured by the one person who shared my name, this is the first story I could remember.
“Good Queen Fyora!” I muttered under my breath as the glass bottom boat was coming to a stop. I took a ride to Kiko Lake on a case, and when I dismounted from the vessel, I saw more of a panic than I expected. The second after I disembarked the vehicle, I hurried toward the area of the commotion, the end of the dock. I pulled out my badge. “Excuse me, move along,” I was pushing people aside in order to get my way through, and then waving my license in their faces as if it was an excuse for being rude. After I finished shoving aside about every other Neopet who was just as curious as I, I got to the scene.
There was a line of caution tape between two of the support pillars on the pier. I lifted up the tape and crawled to the other side. Now I was in the midst of a humble-looking yellow Blumaroo. He wore overalls and a sun hat, both of which anyone could tell had been worn more than a couple of times. In his right hand he dragged along an even older looking fishing pole, and as he stood on his tail, I could see he was only wearing one holey boot on his left paw. Next to him stood a Kiko. He was yellow with one scraggly hair on his head, and by the looks of him alone I recognized him as the shopkeeper from the Carpentry.
“I got a call saying that something was amiss at Kiko Lake,” I stated bluntly; it wasn’t a question, but I expected an answer. I showed them my badge, which was still in hand from treading through the sea of people.
“Well, suh,” the Kiko replied. I glanced at the Blumaroo, who looked too distraught for words. “This young lad ova heya...” He pointed in the general direction of the man who I assumed was the suspect in question. “He lost his right boot a fishin’.” Is this what my career has come to?
“Let me get this straight.” I was kind of annoyed. “You called for an investigation—over a boot?” I could hear the disappointment emerge from my voice as I said those last three words.
“Yes, suh, that’s quite right.” He looked at my eyes and sighed. “It’s a small town.” I started to think dissatisfaction was contagious.
There was a fairly long few seconds of silence until the air was slowly, but not shockingly, interrupted from its stillness. “That boot...” I almost forgot about the man who owned the item in question, who at the very moment, spoke for the first time since I arrived. “That boot,” he continued, “held---my life---savings.” I almost thought he would burst into tears right in front of me. Now this is my kind of work, missing money.
“I’m on the job.”
It was around 3:00 by the time we cleared the crowd and had finished questioning the man in need. I decided to go look for the item myself. The only thing I wanted from the Blumaroo was his other boot.
I dove into the water in my scuba gear. It took what seemed like forever to float back up to the surface, but when I did, I took the boot in hand. Carefully, I swam right to the edge of the dock, where the Blumaroo had been sitting just hours earlier. I wanted my remake of what happened to be as accurate as possible.
Very carefully, I took my strong grip off of the shoe and watched it sink. I waited a few minutes before going under after it, not wanting to disrupt the currents even the slightest bit. The boot sank about thirty to forty feet until the current started to drag it along. Time seemed to pass slowly underwater, but anything for a case. The hours dragged along as I did, following the piece of footwear, but if it had one more hole, it probably wouldn’t have qualified as such. We swam through the current past Brightvale and Meridell, and the last thing I remember seeing is the plains of Tyrannia, through the water which blurred my vision so. Then everything started getting darker. The boot was pulled down into the ocean, and I followed suit. It was dark for what seemed like forever. All I saw was black, and as I sank down deeper and deeper into the waters of Neopia, it just got blacker. From cloud black, to black, to ebony, to jet black, all the way to the point where you can’t see the hand in front of your face. Then it changed. It was as if I was going higher and higher, and the whole thing was replaying. The shades got lighter, until it seemed like I reached the surface and the sweet sun was shining on my face again. But it was just the opposite. I had gone deeper into the ocean and was now in an inhabited area called Maraqua.
The boot flew past each and every shell-shaped building and straight to the Ruins. To my despair, I watched the boot float straight into the remains as if being carried by a strong wind. I followed it fast. I watched. The shoe, flying about forty feet away in front of my very eyes, sank into the underwater fishing hole. As I followed it, everything got dark again. There was just enough light for me to see the boot finally succumb into absolute darkness. I chased it. But this blackness that swallowed the boot wasn’t even close. It wasn’t even a shade of black. It was red. I ran smack into the closed mouth of a giant squid that had just swallowed my one and only piece of evidence.
You know that feeling you get when someone’s about to punch you in the stomach? You tighten up the muscles in your abdomen to help ease the pain. It’s a Neopet instinct, to protect oneself. Without even thinking twice, my body didn’t tell me to, it screamed in my ear to swim, swim up, and swim higher and higher. It told me in a heartbeat, and what felt like an hour later, although I’m sure it was only a minute or less, I was to the surface, but not secure. I looked down. I saw ripples. Maybe I had just become paranoid after a life and death experience, and the ripples were only mine, but I jumped out of the water. I was safe.
Then I heard whispers. “What a nutcase,” one said. “I’d like to catch that on a fishing line,” another said. Soon there were thousands of little voices. My conscience, I told myself, it’s telling me something. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I screamed. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. I was in a state of mind where anything could be extremely touchy. It was kind of like an overdue volcano. And it just erupted.
“Why won’t you leave me alone?” It started out subtle, and I whispered. But more and more tiny voices crept into my head, vibrated the small bone in my ear, and they all got sent to my nerves, where I processed each and every sound, each and every voice. “Why won’t you leave me alone?” It was getting serious; it was like that one friend who refused to get off your back. “Leave me alone!” The voices were gone. They were gone. All I had to do was ask. It was silent; I stood, bathed in my own fear and lunacy.
“Turn around,” a voice came back. But it was just one, the overpowering one, so I listened. I turned around. And there they were. It was all an illusion. There was a crowd of people staring at me, just staring and wondering what was wrong, wondering how someone could do something as I did. Then one man stepped out of the pack. He walked over to me. “Excuse me.” I recognized him as the same voice who told me to look behind myself. “I’ve been studying with water faeries for some time now.” He seemed smart and full of skill. “I think I can help.”
The Techo put his hand on my shoulder. I dared not look over to what he was doing, worried I might ruin the process, but if I would’ve looked, I guarantee you, I would’ve seen a look of deep concentration and unselfish love. I wish I saw the man’s face. I’ve never met anyone else like that before. Minutes passed, and I felt a little tingle go through my body, then suddenly, quickly, instantaneously he removed his hand from my wet fur. I didn’t ask him what he did, but it helped, it helped.
Actually, when I look back at it now, he probably transferred some of his healing powers into me, and cured me of my problem. I assume that after being underwater for so long, it started to get to my head; maybe I was running out of oxygen, or possibly it was due to me rising up out of the water too quickly, but all I know is that that man, that wonderful, wonderful man, helped.
I eventually got it all cleared up with the crowd, and the uproar stopped. Actually, I nearly forgot about my mission. That is, until I saw a young female Usul fish out a boot from the abyss of water. I ran over to the man who owned a bait stand.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said to him with as much gusto as possible, after the incident earlier. “Have you seen any Old Rotten Right Boots since this morning?” The man looked at me. He gave me the sort of glance you give a twenty-year-old Korbat who didn’t know how to add 1 and 2.
“I don’t have time for jokes, mister.” I knew it. He thought I was a loon.
“I’m serious.” I fished for my badge, and it almost slipped out of my hand as I retrieved it from my pocket. “I’m Investigator Barik Von Lupe.” I started to get smart. “Maybe you’ve heard of me,” I added sarcastically; everyone’s heard of me. “I’m on a case; a young man lost his boot this morning. He had his life savings stored in it...” I told him my story with as little detail and as much truth as possible.
“I know this is a dilemma, mister.” He looked like he didn’t quite care. “But it would be impossible to find that boot. Millions, maybe billions are fished out every day. I see a Neopet walking out with one every time I look up.” That’s a lot of boots.
This was a case. I didn’t care what we had to do to get that boot back. I went back to my office. I got out a pen and paper and wrote my story. I had an announcement published in the news immediately, asking for every Old Rotten Right Boot found on the 6th day of Eating, and I got a response. Over two million boots were sent to my office.
It took me four months to sort through all the boots, but I got my results. I found one boot with fourteen Neopoints in it. I figured someone stole the rest.
Feeling only half successful, I went back to Kiko Lake and found the Blumaroo. “Here you go sir, here’s your boot. To my dismay, it only had fourteen Neopoints.” The poor creature was speechless.
“Thank you so much, sir!” He looked more excited than someone who won a Tyrannian Paint Brush from the Wheel of Monotony. “I worked all my life for this money.” This time I saw tears come to his eyes.
“To this day, I admire that Blumaroo more than anyone I’ve ever met. That case may not have been the most exciting or successful, but it changed my life dearly. I have never met someone so unselfish or humble. He wasn’t even angry that I couldn’t return his other boot. Someday, I’d love to be just like him,” I ended my anecdote with one of those touching endings you’d see on a documentary about the Neopian Pound.
“Good story, gov’nor, I’ll just be on my way now.” The JubJub looked down at his tape recorder and looked a little less surprised than one might’ve expected. “I forgot to press record,” he admitted with a shameful look in his eye.
“Oh, that’s quite alright.” It wasn’t to me, but I digress. “You should be getting home now.” There goes that interview.
“Thanks for your time, gov’nor.” And with that, he was out of my office faster than he was in it.
Stressed out by the strangest man I had met in a while, I went to my coffee machine, and refilled my mug to the brim. I decided to catch up on what I missed that morning and picked up the paper. Taking a sip of coffee, I read the headline.
Top Hat Bandit Strikes Again
I literally spewed my coffee. Quickly, I ran outside, but he was gone. There was a bandit who I invited into my own office for my own selfish purposes. He was in the paw of my hand, and I, Master Investigator Barik Von Lupe, let him get away.
After cleaning up the coffee from the counter, I walked back to my couch. The lounger gave me bad memories now. Looking on the table, I saw the man’s tape recorder. He left it here. It would only be nice to return it, but to a bandit? I went to put down my coffee, and this time, I remembered to use a coaster, so as not to put another ring on my table. But I looked for it in vain. It was gone. I coped with my habits and set the cup down on the glass. Picking up the small black tape recorder, I realized it was nothing of the sort. It was just a black box. I was curious. Slowly, carefully, I opened the lid. The only thing inside the box was a small business card. It read: Thanks for your business. Gratefully yours, the Top Hat Bandit.
I closed the box and set it back down where I found it. Reclining back on my couch, I sank into the cushions as if they were an endless abyss of feathery pillows.
“As I suspected.”