The Mysterious Case of the Snorkle-napped Snorkle
Also by meowicry123
Author's memo: The characters of Grotson and Shylock Usul were based off of their respective Neodeck card descriptions.
Shylock Usul was never one to brag. At least not when there wasn't anybody around to listen.
Fortunately, at this particular moment in time, there was someone. And his name was Grotson.
"So you see, my dear Grotson, how I solved the Case of the Whispering Stairwell? All very elementary, I assure you. Of course, I am only speaking for myself. The owners of the house were absolutely baffled by the solution. But what can I say? One must share one's intellectual gifts with the world. It won't do to be stingy, you know."
Grotson—a rather dejected looking gray Grarrl—nodded his head politely. "I see," he said.
His companion nodded with an air of deliciously smug satisfaction. "There really is nothing quite like solving a case. Invigorates the senses, don't you know?" And here she gave a pointed look at her dispirited-looking assistant. "It would do you some good to get out more, to exercise the little gray cells, as it were. You've been acting quite morose lately."
"I'm painted grey," the Grarrl remarked.
"Even so! You're looking even glummer than usual."
"And I've been on plenty of mysteries."
"You haven't been on enough. And plus, you haven't been here for my last three cases, if I remember correctly." She paused. "Which I always do, of course."
The Grarrl suddenly chuckled. "I don't think it's me you're thinking of, to be honest, Shylock. You're the one that actually wants another case."
The yellow Usul glared in his direction. "And what exactly gave you that idea?"
"You always get like this when you don't have a case. Nervous."
And that particular moment, the sudden footstep of a visitor caused the young Usul to skyrocket three feet into the air.
There was an awkward silence—punctuated by the muffled sounds of Shylock flailing around for her chair—before the visitor finally opened his mouth.
"Ah... pardon me... I d-don't mean to be a bother... but the door was open, you see, and I thought that it was all right for me to... ah, just step in... terribly sorry..."
Shylock quickly stood up and tramped over to where the small brown Moehog was standing uncomfortably in the doorway. "And just who might you be?"
"I'm—I'm Nicholas Pigglesby, ma'am."
"Nicholas Pigglesby, eh?" said Shylock, stroking her chin. "And what business do you have here?"
"Well, I heard from someone that you're some sort of a great detective, and I thought you could... well, maybe, uh... help me with a case."
"'Some sort'?" Shylock repeated, her face suddenly stretched in a taut smile. "'Some sort of a great detective? I happen to be the best detective in the world. The absolute best. And I'll have you march straight back to that source and give them a—"
"—Pardon Shylock, Mr. Pigglesby," Grotson interrupted suddenly. "She's been a bit wound up as of late. Tends to happen when she hasn't gotten any new mysteries to solve. Which is why, I think, she'll be more than happy to help you with your problem. Isn't that right, Shylock?"
The Usul looked mildly annoyed. "I suppose I'll take it, but only as a favor to my assistant here. He's recently been acting even more dull and depressed than usual."
Grotson chuckled before surreptitiously throwing Nicholas a wink. "I suppose I have. Well, thank you, Shylock. 'Tis quite an honor to have a generous-hearted friend like you."
Considerably mollified, Shylock finally turned back to the Moehog. "Now then, tell us why you're here."
"Well," said Nicholas awkwardly, "you—you see, it's a bit odd, but my Snorkle... he disappeared."
"Your Snorkle disappeared? You're consulting me about... a Snorkle?" The Usul looked insulted.
"Yes, but you see, he's very important to me, and he's... he's a prize Snorkle. He's won a ton of petpet spotlight competitions, and he's very... he's very valuable."
"I see." Shylock nodded. "Proceed."
"Well, he was sitting near me while I was at the library today. At one point I went to the restroom for a minute. Less than a minute. He's usually very well-trained, and I was sure he'd be there when I came back. But when I went back to my chair, he was gone. Just like that. I'm sure he was..." Nicholas looked like he was about to cry. "I'm sure he was Snorkle-napped!"
"Well, let's not jump to conclusions," said Shylock hastily, handing him a kerchief. "How do you know he didn't just run away for a moment? For all we know, he could still be around the premises."
"Oh, Fancy would have never done that," said Nicholas. "You don't understand. He and I weren't just neopet and petpet, we were... we were best friends. And plus, I did search around the library, but I couldn't find hide nor tail of him."
Shylock paused momentarily. "However, if he was indeed—as you so colorfully put it—'Snorkle-napped,' then I'm sure he would have put up a fight and you would have heard it."
The Moehog looked inconsolable. "But he's been bred to be showcased at competitions, you see. He's used to being handled by other people. I'm sure he didn't realize something was wrong until it was too late!"
"Hmm," murmured Shylock thoughtfully. "Well, do have anything else you could tell us? Anything suspicious?"
The Moehog looked unhappy. "I don't want to accuse anyone without evidence, but there were three other people with me in the library."
"Could anyone else have come in and taken him while you were in the restroom?"
"The library door has a loud chime, and I'm sure I would've heard it, since the restroom was right near the entrance. I have very good hearing."
"Okay," said Shylock. "Tell me... do you know any of these three people?"
"Well—I know all three of them, though only by acquaintance. They all live near my street, maybe one or two blocks away. I've passed by their homes before."
"Then there's not a moment to lose," said Shylock, suddenly energetic. "If you know where they live, let's go pay them a visit and ask a few questions."
"But won't we be a bother?" asked Nicholas, shifting uncomfortably.
"If they're innocent, I'm sure they won't mind," said Grotson. "Once they hear your story, they'll probably want to help you out anyway."
"Right," said Shylock. "Well, now. Lead the way!"
For the Moehog's small size, he was fleet of foot—which was just as well, Grotson thought, since a small downpour started as soon as they left the doorstep. Before long, they had arrived at the house of the first suspect. It was a run-down villa, decorated with peeling blue paint and with some rusty gadget parts littering the front yard.
"His name is Lester," said Nicholas quietly.
Grotson rang the doorbell, and within a minute, a worn-looking yellow Kyrii had opened the door. "What do you want?" he spat at the visitors.
"We're here investigating the loss of Fancy, Nicholas' prize Snorkle," said Shylock. "According to Nicholas, you were with him in the library today, when the Snorkle disappeared. Can you tell us anything about the incident?"
"A Snorkle?" said Lester, looking annoyed. "I don't remember much. And if you're accusin' me, I didn't take it." He pointed to the sling on his arm. "My friend was plannin' on takin' me to the hospital for a checkup today. I was waitin' for her outside the library, but I didn't see her, and it looked like it was about to rain. So I went inside and read a magazine. She didn't come, I missed my appointment, and I went back home before the shower could soak me over. End of story."
"Thank you for your time," said Shylock. She paused. "Are you sure you don't have anything more to add?"
"Well, I remember there were two other people in the library at the same time. Bill an' Eunice. I'm sure Nicholas knows 'em. One of 'em probably took the critter."
"Thank you," said Shylock again, and the trio turned to leave.
"Well," said Nicholas. "I guess that's it for Lester. I'll take you to Eunice's next."
As it turned out, Eunice lived only a few blocks away. The house was a one-story complex, nicely decorated, with a soaking umbrella and galoshes under the front porch. The group was greeted by a purple Acara in a chef's hat, who shook her head at Nicholas' story. "Well, isn't that just like people these days—kidnapping a poor helpless Snorkle! I'm sorry for your loss, Nicholas. From what I recall, I went to the library shortly after taking a walk around the park. I remember seeing you there, Nicky, but I can't say I remember a Snorkle. I wasn't really paying attention though. I left for home pretty soon after you did, and I've been baking biscuits inside the house ever since." Her forehead puckered in thought. "There were still two people in the library after I left... Lester and Bill. You might want to pay them a visit."
"Thank you, ma'am, and we will," said Grotson. After the conversation, the Acara politely closed the door, and the group headed over to Bill's address.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" A thin, striped Blumaroo looked them over curiously. His house was a simple apartment, strangely spare of any external decoration except a thick coat of white point. A few small corners looked to be peeling.
Nicholas told his story, and the Blumaroo shrugged apologetically. "I think I may have remembered seeing a Snorkle with you today, but they're awful small, and I'm afraid I just wasn't paying attention to that sort of thing. I went to the library to check out a book, and decided to stay and get a head start on it. I do vaguely remember seeing you leave, though, Nicholas... I probably left half an hour or so after you did. Headed straight back home. Never left the house until now."
"Thank you, Bill," said Shylock. She paused. "One more question: do you recall any other people in the library when Nicholas was around?"
"Let me think. I suppose Eunice was there, I remember seeing her. And also Lester—I left before he did. I can't say I remember anyone else being there. Unfortunately, I don't recall seeing anyone taking a Snorkle."
Nicholas thanked him, and the group quickly moved to seek shelter at a nearby diner. Nicholas looked categorically depressed. "None of them even remembered seeing my Snorkle. I guess maybe you were right, Shylock. Maybe he really did run away."
"Not so fast," said Shylock. She gave Nicholas a grin. "Once again, you're underestimating the world's greatest detective."
Who was the thief? And how did Shylock know?
The thief was Eunice. She claimed that she had gone straight home shortly after Nicholas left the library, before Lester and Bill, and had been inside the house ever since. This would mean that she would have avoided the rainstorm, which only started after Shylock's group had begun on their trip to interview the suspects. (Remember, even Lester—the last to leave the library—was able to "make it home before the shower.") However, there was a soaking umbrella and set of galoshes under her porch—this meant that she had indeed been outside in the rain, most likely in an attempt to hide the Snorkle. Confronted by Shylock's accusation, she quickly broke down and confessed. The Snorkle was at her cousin's house, where she was planning on picking it up at a later date.
Earlier on, Eunice had seen the Snorkle's victories in the paper and had realized how much the petpet was worth. When Nicholas went to the restroom—and when she realized that Bill and Lester were engrossed in their books—she was unable to resist and had stolen the petpet. (Fancy had been placed inside a knapsack where, true to his training, he had remained quiet and well-behaved during the entire ordeal.) Upon her tears and apology, the judge (and Nicholas) later relented and sentenced her to community service: a lifetime of puddle duty at all future Petpet Spotlights.