Barik Von Lupe: 550 Weewoos
"How could this have happened?"
The devastated voice belonged to Lia, a small white Lutari. It was four in the afternoon and Inspector Barik Von Lupe had just arrived at the crime scene.
"What's wrong, Lia? Why did you call me?" Barik Von Lupe asked the poor Lutari, who could barely hold back her tears.
"I... I... Feathers was kidnapped, and... and... someone took him from me and... and I will never see him again!" Lia answered, stuttering and crying.
Lia was a very young and shy Neopet, so her reaction was understandable and expected. Her best friend was a little white Weewoo called Feathers. She had found him one day near the Neolodge in Neopia Central; lost, weak, and alone, he had been wandering around vulnerable to the most dangerous situations. Lia had wanted a petpet for a long time, so she had taken him home and given him a bath. Since then, a true, loving friendship had developed between two completely different creatures.
"Tell me what happened," said Inspector Barik Von Lupe.
"I... I was sitting on a bench right next to Feathers and... and I got up to get some ice cream, but when I came back he wasn't there anymore!"
"Hmm..." mumbled Barik as he wrote Lia's testimony in his notebook.
"He would never abandon me like that! I know it! He couldn't even fly properly because of a wounded wing. Someone must have kidnapped him!" she exclaimed unhappily. Recounting the circumstances was upsetting her even further.
"So you didn't see anyone who could have taken him?"
"Unfortunately, no." She paused to wipe her eyes. "The Food Shop had a very long line of Neopets, and when I came back to the bench he wasn't there... I originally thought he was playing a prank on me, but it didn't take me very long to realize the truth."
"Don't cry, Lia. Feathers can't be far away from here, right? We will find him! I promise," he tried to comfort her. "Do you remember the exact place you and Feathers were before you went to the Food Shop to buy an ice cream?"
Although Lia was quite miserable, she felt relieved knowing someone was willing to help her find Feathers.
"We were right here," she pointed.
The Lutari was quiet for a brief moment as she looked toward the empty spot on the bench. She then turned and took a seat where she had been with Feathers for the last time.
"Wait! Don't sit there!" Barik said, as he bent to inspect something between the slats of the bench.
"I think we found a clue! This looks like a Weewoo feather! Tell me Lia, were there any other Weewoos flying around when you were here with Feathers?"
"Not that I've seen," she replied.
With that, Inspector Barik Von Lupe picked up the feather with a pair of tweezers, put it on his brown bag, and took Lia home safely since it was growing dark in Neopia Central.
* * *
Twenty-four hours had passed since Lia had asked the Inspector to help her find her lost petpet. The case was complicated and there was still no clear trail to any guilty party. A plain white feather wouldn't help much, but good inspectors never give up. At least Barik Von Lupe wasn't going to quit, even if he had nothing right now.
Lost in his thoughts, the inspector decided to return to the crime scene, hoping to find something useful to the investigation. After all, did they not say that criminals always return to scene of the crime?
Barik took what he needed, crossed the river, passed by the old Kacheek and Sons' Warehouse (which was especially noisy with the sounds of metallic grinding that day), and started looking for other Weewoos that could be flying around the city. He looked and looked, but didn't see even one.
"Not a single bird in the air... curious..."
That was when the unexpected happened.
As Barik took out his binoculars, a neomail fell from the sky and landed in his hands. It was signed by Lia.
"Inspector! I just got a neomail from the kidnapper! And things are very weird here. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who has lost a Weewoo! Everyone in the area has lost theirs overnight! Come to where we were yesterday so you can see for yourself! Everyone's looking for their petpets! Quick! –Lia"
Barik tucked the neomail away and started running urgently on all fours until he found Lia at the bench from the day before.
"Inspector, thank Fyora you could come!" she started, "It's exactly as I said! All the Weewoos in Neopia Central have been kidnapped! I wasn't the only victim, but I was certainly one of the first owners who was victimized. I found this neomail pushed in under my front door. Someone must have put it there during the night."
The neomail Lia had received the night before was dark and had little wings that helped it to fly. Instead of the typical plain text inside, however, there was only a sound clip, so the inspector and the Lutari listened:
"If you ever want to see your petpet again, follow the the instructions you'll receive soon."
And then it ended with a little metallic whine and a clank.
"It's some sort of fancy embedded technology," she said thoughtfully. "Do you think they took Feathers to Virtupets?"
Barik Von Lupe rubbed his chin and said, "I need to go pay a visit to a certain place. I think I know where Feathers is. You go home Lia. It's getting late now."
The sun was preparing to rest and Kreludor was starting to become the brightest object in the twilight sky.
* * *
The Lupe ran tirelessly and soon arrived at where he believed the thief and around 550 stolen Weewoos were hidden: a very old, two-floor warehouse next to the industrial zone owned by the Kacheek and Sons' Company. The door was deteriorated so it wasn't hard for the inspector to gain entry. As soon as he entered the building, he thought, "Where are the furniture, the boxes, the gardening tools?"
The place was empty.
It all seemed in vain, but the inspector decided to look around first.
He kept quiet for a moment, listening for noises, but there was nothing. He searched the floor for secret trapdoors, but couldn't find a thing. He returned to the ground floor and pressed on the walls, trying to find any false panels, and that was when it finally happened. One of the panels gave in as Barik Von Lupe gave it a firm push. It landed on the floor with a loud clatter.
On the other side lay a large, hidden area. Packed together in extremely small cages, the lost Weewoos huddled, shaking, cold, and scared. The poor birds were too miserable even to sing, but the thick, soundproof walls would have foiled those cries for help anyway.
Shocked, Barik Von Lupe opened the only window on the floor and started releasing the petpets as fast as he could. He watched as they scrambled toward the window and began to fly, one by one, toward the skies of Neopia Central. There was a brightness in their eyes and a look of gratitude the inspector had never seen before. After the Weewoos were freed, he ran to Neopia Central to warn the authorities. He was certain that the thief would return to the warehouse, and they would need to be prepared for his (or her) return.
* * *
The night sky was like magic, and all of the owners were delighted to have their petpets back. The orange and purple sunset was filled with little white points that weren't stars, but Weewoos celebrating their newfound freedom.
One of them, however, was eating ice cream with his owner. Feathers was still hurt, but the petpets hadn't been mistreated so badly that he wouldn't be able to recover. He'd be fine after a visit to the Healing Springs.
The thief was found to be a corrupt petpet shop owner who had planned to make millions of neopoints by holding the birds hostage. He had been interrogated as to the whereabouts of the warehouse's owners. All of the misplaced garden tools that had been in the warehouse would be returned to their rightful owners, his petpets store would be closed, and he would be going to jail.
"But inspector, how did you figure out where all the 550 weewoos were?" Lia asked.
"That is the easiest question you could have asked, Lia!" he smiled. "I had passed through the old wooded path by the warehouse that day, and I remembered that it was especially noisy. Well, your neomail had the exact same sound, so it could only have meant--"
"--that the old warehouse was where the thief was hiding the petpets! And the metallic sound was him building the secret area!" she finished.
"As I suspected."