Of Potions and Paintbrushes: Part Seven
Also by antiaircraft
The events that followed were all a bit of a blur for Frostgleam. She could hear Marcus, the Skeith guard, yell to one of the other guards. The cadence of two pairs of heavy boots against the hard floor reverberated through the maze of safety deposit boxes. They’re running this way. There was more yelling, and an alarm sounded. A red light, mounted high up on the ceiling, flashed in rhythm to the sound of the alarm. The echoing sound of every security door in the vault slamming shut and locking nearly made Frostgleam jump out of her skin.
Leaning up against the wall, Frostgleam slid down to the cold concrete floor. Her heart was pumping so fast, she thought it might explode. She was close to hyperventilating. Stay calm. Remember to breathe. She focused her thoughts on her breathing, taking slow, deep breaths. Her heartbeat slowed a bit, but she could feel that the adrenaline was still flowing.
She crawled over to the unconscious Bernard. His breathing was strong and even, but Frostgleam could see that the left side of his head was swollen and turning a nasty shade of purple. Whew! That bruise is going to be sore when he wakes up, but at least he will wake up. Only a few more seconds, and the guards will be here, Frostgleam told herself.
A few seconds felt like an eternity. She could hear the guards’ footfalls get closer and closer. Suddenly, the sound of running stopped. The towering form of Marcus and a muscular red Gelert in a security uniform filled the end of the hallway. The two guards paused for a moment, surveying the situation. There was a look of disbelief on the Gelert’s face. Marcus, however, still looked intimidating.
“Stop where you are!” the burly Skeith commanded sharply.
The red Scorchio, still dazed and reeling from hitting his head, stopped cowering and slowly raised his arms in surrender.
Another two guards rushed in, breathless from their jog though the maze-like hallways of the vault. They stopped for a minute to catch their breath. One of them, a Skunk Yurble, shook his head in disgust and turned to his partner, an orange Moehog. “A vault heist in the middle of the day? What do you think would make these guys believe they could get away with that sort of thing?”
Marcus spoke up, his voice echoing a bit in the vault. “Let’s take these goons into custody,” he commanded.
The Yurble and Moehog stepped forward, passing by Frostgleam and the unconscious Poogle, to put the two would-be thieves in handcuffs. The Scorchio thief gave them no trouble, but was babbling incoherently as one of the guards put the metal shackles about his wrists. The Techo kept trying to lift himself up off the cold floor, but was still too woozy from Frostgleam’s kick to stand. Marcus had to lift him up off the floor, so that one of the guards could escort him to the waiting authorities.
The Gelert rushed in to check on Bernard, who was still unconscious. Frostgleam sat nearby, with her back against the wall, and watched as the guard checked the Poogle’s vital signs, then examined the lump on the side of his head. “I need a stretcher and a doctor!” he called out loudly enough that anyone in the vault could hear him.
Marcus was helping one of the other guards prop up the barely conscious Techo, looking around the crime scene. “I can’t believe they came in through the floor,” he said to no one in particular. “Let’s get them out of here!” he ordered.
The Yurble and Moehog guards began leading the two would-be thieves from the vault, with Marcus looking on, in case one of the thieves tried to escape. It seemed unlikely, as the Techo could barely put one foot in front of the other and was practically being carried by the Yurble guard.
As the Scorchio thief was being led from the room, he suddenly called out, “This place is haunted, isn’t it? That’s why there are so few guards. You let the ghosts take care of the place!”
Ghosts? Marcus suddenly remembered. “Miss Frostgleam! Are you all right?”
Frostgleam had not moved, much less said anything. She felt like if she tried to speak, her voice would get stuck in her throat. She swallowed hard, then forced the words to her tongue. “Yes, I’m fine,” she said, her voice quiet.
Marcus tried to follow her voice, and he extended his hand to her. Frostgleam took hold of the Skeith’s big hand and pulled herself up off the floor. Her knees felt wobbly as she stood.
“Let’s get you out of here, too,” the big Skeith said, warmly. “That must have been quite the ordeal for you.”
Frostgleam nodded, forgetting that no one could see her. “Yeah,” she mumbled.
Marcus kept his arm around her shoulders as he lead Frostgleam from the vault. An Acara and a Gelert, in nurses’ uniforms, rushed past them with a stretcher. When they reached the heavy door to the vault, the other two guards, with their prisoners in tow, were standing there, waiting. Marcus stepped forward to bypass the automatic security lock on the door that activated as part of the alarm lockdown, and opened the vault door.
They continued down the long hallway, back toward the main area of the bank. The alarm had stopped, but there were still red warning lights flashing brightly along the ceiling. As they climbed back to the vault’s main floors, Frostgleam could see that heavy iron bars now blocked every window in the building, and that all the glass doors that had seemed so fragile before were a lot more imposing with thick steel armour plates reinforcing both sides. Through one of the windows, she could see a young blue Ixi. He was wearing one of those really popular jackets, just like the one Hanso was known to wear, and he had his nose pressed up against the glass. Frostgleam raised a paw to wave to him, but quickly remembered that he wouldn’t be able to see her.
Every part of the bank was obviously in lockdown, with additional barricades made out of some material Frostgleam vaguely remembered, but couldn’t identify, complementing the strategically placed doors. All of a sudden there were a lot more security guards standing around than there were customers - some of the guards were carrying weapons Frostgleam had never even heard of, and which she suspected weren’t listed in any edition of the Battlepedia. Every now and again, they even passed a serious-looking representative from the Defenders of Neopia.
Despite all this, business didn’t seem to have slowed down in the slightest - every door and barricade had at least one security guard standing by to buzz people through after a quick inspection, and all of the bank staff were proceeding as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on (apart from a few extra hand signals here and there). In fact, besides a few people looking around curiously or pestering security guards, the same was true for most of the customers in the bank, who probably (and rightly) assumed that there wasn’t a whole lot to be worried about.
“You will need to give a statement to the bank manager,” Marcus told Frostgleam discreetly. “I’ll take you to see him now.”
They walked past the Personal Accounts section and down a hallway, stopping in front of a polished wooden door with brass hardware. Marcus knocked. From somewhere on the other side of the door, Frostgleam heard a deep voice call, “Come in, Marcus.”
Marcus opened the door, revealing an exquisitely posh office. Everywhere she looked, Frostgleam could see polished wood, from floor to ceiling. Sunlight poured in through the large windows, framed by heavy, velvet drapes, causing everything to sparkle. The deep burgundy carpet felt like walking on the clouds of Faerieland, when it still had a place in the sky. There was an assortment of leather chairs and couches around the room. Marble pedestals held a small number of tasteful treasures of unknown worth, the likes of which Frostgleam had never seen in any shop.
In the middle of the room sat the largest desk Frostgleam had ever seen. Above the desk hung an elaborate crystal chandelier. A discontented-looking green Skeith, in a sharp suit, sat in a high-back leather chair on the other side of the desk. As Frostgleam approached, he motioned toward the wing-back leather chair across the desk from him, on Frostgleam’s right. “Please, sit down,” he said, calmly.
“Thank you, sir,” Frostgleam said in as strong a voice as she could manage, sitting cautiously on the leather chair. She sank into it, so that her feet no longer touched the ground. The grumpy grimace on the face of the bank manager made Frostgleam feel like she was sitting in the headmaster’s office.
Marcus spoke up. “Sir, Miss Frostgleam here,” he gestured to the chair Frostgleam was occupying, “intercepted the would-be burglars while she was in the vault to access her safety deposit box.”
The bank manager looked at Frostgleam again. “Detective Morton,” he motioned to the chair to Frostgleam’s left, “and I will need you to give a statement of the events that transpired in the vault.”
Surprised that there was someone sitting next to her that she failed to notice, Frostgleam turned to look at the detective. A Woodland Acara, wearing a trenchcoat, turned toward Frostgleam and extended her paw. “I’m Detective Olivia Morton. I’ve been called in to investigate this attempted burglary. I’d like you to recall everything that happened in the vault. Please make sure you tell me every last detail you can recall. Sometimes, something that seems unimportant is really critical to an investigation.”
Frostgleam shook the detective’s paw. “Sure,” she said, going over the events in her mind. Then she began to talk, her confidence growing with each passing word, as she recounted the events.
“And that was when Marcus showed up and arrested them,” Frostgleam stated, concluding her recount of the events in the bank vault. Sun and Drakovitch sat in the chairs across from the fireplace, leaning forward in their seats as Frostgleam told her story of the foiled bank heist.
“Were you able to get your paint brush?” Drakovitch asked. “I noticed that you didn’t have a chance to open your safety deposit box before being attacked by the thieves.”
“That didn’t even occur to me at all until I was almost done telling my story to the bank manager. I was kind of in a panic about it, since that was the whole point of my trip to Neopia Central.” Frostgleam took a deep breath before continuing. “So I asked him if I could go back down to the vault to get what I came for, but I was told that the hall my safety deposit box was in was now a crime scene, and I couldn’t go back there until the investigation was over.”
“So that’s why you are still invisible,” Sun stated, sympathetically. “You weren’t able to get your paint brush.”
“Well,” Frostgleam started. “That’s partially true. I wasn’t able to get my paint brush from my safety deposit box.” She paused for a moment. “However, for my part in subduing the thieves, the bank manager gave me this.” She laid a Ghost Paint Brush down on the coffee table in front of her brothers.
Both Sun and Drakovitch jumped up from their seats, cheering and hugging Frostgleam. “Now you can be a ghost again,” Sun said, smiling.
Drakovitch frowned a little. “Why haven’t you used it already?” he asked Frostgleam, sounding a bit confused.
“I don’t know,” Frostgleam answered, a distant tone in her voice. “It just didn’t feel right at this time.” She held hands with her brothers. “After the incident at the bank today, I just feel like I need some time away from the rest of the world.”
“Away from us, too?” Drakovitch asked, sounding a little more serious than Frostgleam was used to.
“Goodness, no!” Frostgleam reassured her brothers. “I don’t know what I would ever do without the two of you,” she said, hugging them both. “I only want to remain anonymous for a while. You know, not have to engage in pleasantries with strangers and such.”
“However, there is one certain Ghost Aisha I know of that has a big pot of onion soup she wants to share with friends. Maybe I can manage one more outing before becoming a total homebody,” she said laughing. Sun and Drakovitch laughed with her.
The sun was setting on Neopia Central, on a warm night in the month of Eating. A ripple formed in the surface of the Rainbow Pool, followed by a splash. There were few onlookers at this time to notice the strange movements of the waters. When no one was looking, a ghostly Aisha rose up from the waters, barely making a splash, and disappeared into shadows, joined by the silhouettes of a shaggy Lupe and a Draik, as they made their way back toward the Haunted Woods.