There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 189,696,820 Issue: 558 | 17th day of Hiding, Y14
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Baby Adventures: The Mystery of the Fontaine Sisters - Part Two


by cloudpuffpuff

--------

As Treaphie was about to push the creaky wooden door, it was flung open from the inside by an angry-looking Red Mynci.

      "Arr, ye be takin' all me loot!" he snarled, but the only reply was a chorus of cackling from inside.

      Treaphie stepped aside so that the Mynci could pass by. She then gestured the others inside and closed the door, plunging the room into darkness.

      A small candlelight emerged, its glow faintly lighting the center of an old circular wooden table. Then more candles sprung into view, revealing the faces of three smirking pirates.

      "Aye, they be young fer gamblin'," a Pirate Meerca remarked, crossing his arms. The Captain's hat on his head looked far too big for him, drooping over his ears, but he seemed proud to wear it nonetheless. The golden hook on his right paw glinted in the candlelight, making the babies feel rather defenseless.

      "Don't care how old they be if their money's good," sneered the Pirate Krawk, adjusting his many bandanas. Some were of plain design, but the ones on his head were polka-dotted with the colors black and white. He too had a gold hook, but it looked a little more worn than the Meerca's.

      The last pet at the table, a burly Pirate Eyrie, studied the newcomers more carefully. "Aye, but how much loot could them wee landlubbers be holding?" He had no hook, but that hardly made him less menacing - he was easily the largest one there, and his Captain coat, red-and-white bandana, and gold earring all looked surprisingly new.

      "Fair point, Deadeye," the Pirate Krawk replied, leering at the babies. "Well, kiddies? How much money do ye got? Ready ter challenge the 'mean old pirates'?" The pirates all cackled again.

      "That is beside the point," Treaphie replied cooly, successfully hiding the fear from her face. She tried not to think about the pirates' sharp hooks and vicious looks. "We would like to ask you a few questions."

      "Questions?" The Meerca laughed at the thought. "What are we on, a gameshow? Lass, the only question here be whether or not ye be ready ter play."

      Treaphie pondered for a moment. "I shall play," she decided firmly, to the gasps of the others, "on a few conditions."

      "Conditions?" the Krawk spat. "We be in charge of the game here!" After a moment, though, he chuckled. "Yer a tough one, lass," he conceded, "and if yer money's good, we'll hear ye out."

      "Excellent," said Treaphie, business-like. "I have loads of questions to ask you all. So I'll only play against you if you agree to this: it'll be three versus three - Leti isn't fond of these types of games, she won't participate. If one of us gets a higher score than all of you, you'll answer our questions with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Leti here knows when someone is lying, and if you cheat us of information, we'll be sure to let everyone know you don't keep your bargains."

      "And if we win?" the Meerca demanded.

      "Then we'll pay double what we wagered," Treaphie told them firmly. "Each of us."

      The Krawk turned to the Eyrie. "Well, Deadeye?" he asked. "How's it sound ter ye?"

      The Eyrie shrugged. "Depends how much we be wagerin'."

      Treaphie checked her pockets. "Five thousand neopoints each."

      The pirates' eyes widened.

      "That be an opportunity fer 15,000!" the Meerca gasped.

      "Thirty thousand, since we'd be winnin' double," the Eyrie muttered.

      "And if the landlubbers don't have the loot, we could always take some of their possessions," the Krawk said slowly to himself. "Fair warning, lasses and lad - we've dealt with cheats who haven't coughed up what they owe before, as ye can see from our fine collection of clothing." He smirked as he glanced at his companions. "Them bows look ter be silk, and that jacket could fetch us good money --"

      "Well, it won't come to that," Treaphie interrupted loudly. "Our money's good." To prove it, she removed the 30,000 neopoints from the pockets of her coat and placed them on the table, to the shock of the pirates.

      After a moment's silence, the pirates grinned wickedly. "Then we play!" the Krawk announced. "Deadeye, put enough gold ter match these young one's pile on the table. Monty, yer ter give out the dice." The Eyrie removed the 15,000 neopoints from the enormous, glittering pile on the floor.

      As the Meerca gave six dice to each of them, the Krawk casually said, "I believe introductions be in order? I be Grimtooth. He's Deadeye," he gestured to the Eyrie, who was still focused on the pile of gold on the table, "and he be Monty." The Meerca looked up at them with a glint in his eye.

      "I'm Treaphie," Treaphie spoke uncertainly, not sure whether or not it would be smart to give the pirates their names but unable to see how to escape the unasked question. "This is Kasthie, Kolyae, and Leti."

      As Monty finished giving them all dice, Leti hastily spoke, "Check them to make sure they're not rigged, Treaphie."

      "Wha-- as if I'd -- ye be accusin'--" Monty sputtered indignantly, but Treaphie had already swooped down to the dice and checked them. Leti had been right - her dice had only the number two on each side!

      "You better replace all the dice with good ones now, or the deal's off!" Treaphie commanded. The pirates looked put-out, but they did as instructed. After double-checking each set of dice to ensure it was regular, she sat down at the table.

      "Ready ter play?" Grimtooth asked, grinning. "Let's begin!"

      The first roll was made by everybody, and dice were soon flying across the table. Each player peered at their dice carefully. Treaphie was disappointed - she had only rolled low numbers, though she had managed to get a 4 and a 1. She kept them grimly, deciding that whatever happened next, at least she'd qualify.

      Grimtooth glanced at her dice and chortled, his face full of false sympathy. "It's a difficult game, lass," he said mockingly, pushing two 6s and a 5 to his 'keep' pile. Treaphie glared at him.

      The next roll fared even worse - two 3s, a 2, and a 1. Monty cackled, placing his qualifying dice and a 5 to his own 'keep' area. Starting to regret her hasty bet, Treaphie kept a 3 and rolled again. To her delight, a 5 appeared, though it was the only high number she got. Moving the die quite obviously to her pile, she glanced at Deadeye and saw that he was doing even worse than she was - he hadn't even qualified yet!

      But a single look at Grimtooth and Monty put any thought of winning out of her mind. She stared hopelessly at their piles - both qualified, Grimtooth's having two 6s and a 5 and Monty's with a 6 and two 5s. Pulling her last few dice towards her, she looked at her sister's pile and gasped.

      Treaphie, as she had been the only one talking, had been the center of the pirate's attention. But her big brother Kolyae was doing a little better, and her small, timid sister, Kasthie, had all 6s in her pile.

      "We'll have ter leave right after this game," Monty chuckled. "We'll be shopping fer hours with this loot!"

      "We'll get loads from the Dubloon-O-Matic first," Grimtooth reminded him gleefully.

      Loudly Treaphie said, "I don't see why you're bragging about you owning the money when you're losing."

      "Losing?" Grimtooth exclaimed. "Why, I be in the lead here, lass--"

      "In the lead?" Treaphie said lightly. "I may be a baby, but I believe I can count, and it seems to me that Kasthie's numbers are larger than yours."

      Grimtooth glanced nonchalantly over at the young Korbat's dice and gasped in disbelief. The other pirates showed similar signs of astonishment.

      "She be unqualified, lads," Deadeye reassured his companions. "If she doesn't roll a 1 or a 4 in this next roll, she'll be forced ter end unqualified."

      "Excellent point, Deadeye," Grimtooth said cheerily, looking fondly again at the large pile in the center as Kasthie rolled the dice. "I wonder where we should go first, lads -- hey!"

      Treaphie had begun to grab the money. At Grimtooth's sharp look, she said quickly, "But Grimtooth, you said the winning team gets the loot." Her large lavender eyes blinked innocently at him.

      "But ye haven't won! Ye couldn't have--" He faltered, seeing Kasthie's dice. She had obtained both a 1 and a 4.

      "Good job, guys!" Leti exclaimed happily. "Now let's get out of here!"

      "Hold on, Leti," Treaphie warned. "We still have to get the information from them!"

      "We've done nothin' wrong," Grimtooth told them firmly. "So yer questionin's of no importance. Be gone now, and let us never see ye again!"

      "You told us we could question you if we won, and we will," Treaphie repeated firmly. "Now stay where you are and tell us the truth!"

      "Fine," Grimtooth said wearily. "What do ye want ter know?"

      "You were at the Golden Dubloon yesterday at 4:30 pm NST, correct?" Treaphie asked.

      "What's it ter ye?" Monty snarled.

      "I'll take that as a yes," Treaphie muttered. "Now, did you witness the incident with Gavril McGill's food being contaminated?"

      The pirates chortled again. "Arr, that was entertaining, that was," Grimtooth told them.

      "Can you give us... more details?" Treaphie asked expectantly.

      Deadeye answered, "We were there, lass, bein' treated by Loretta Fontaine. We'd had a fine day at the business and were ordering extravagantly, and we had finished up a lengthy meal. She was just dishin' out ter us large mugs of Grog ter wash down the food with when a shout came from the table beside us. Naturally, we all looked over, and we were surprised ter see the Governor himself leapin' out of his seat. We - Grimtooth, Monty, and I - were never supporters of him, so we were more interested than concerned at the commotion. The lass Rosetta Fontaine had served him a particularly fine plate of Cap'n Threelegs Cutlass Crusade only a moment before, and he had dug in immediately. She looked startled as he began ter rant ter her about the food."

      Surprised by the wealth of detail Deadeye offered after the unhelpfulness of Grimtooth and Monty, Treaphie directed her next question to the Eyrie. "Do you remember the rant?"

      "Can't say I recall all the details meself, lass," Deadeye answered honestly, "but I do remember a few parts... he mentioned somethin' about it tasting bitter and sticking ter his tongue - real amusin' fer us. He looked at his meal and saw small black dots coverin' it. Then he yelled at poor Rosetta, tellin' her that whoever was responsible fer this must be fired immediately from the Golden Dubloon. He's a regular down there, says that it be the only respectable place fer him ter eat."

      "Thank you," said Treaphie sincerely. "You've been a big help." The babies left the Bilge Dice building in good spirits, discussing the information amongst themselves.

      "Leti," Treaphie asked, "were they telling the truth?"

      "They seemed very sincere the entire time," Leti replied. "I don't think they were responsible - though they were certainly useful witnesses."

      "Agreed," Treaphie said enthusiastically. "I can't wait to get back to the Golden Dubloon! We've got loads of investigating to do."

      "Like what?" Kolyae asked.

      "We're going to have to ask the waitresses for more information, and look around for any sign of the strange black substance Gavril McGill found in his meal," Treaphie answered.

      The babies met up with Toupahz in Krawk Fashions with guiltless expressions, pretending they had been with her the entire time. Toupahz left with an armful of pirate clothing, and the group returned to the jostling crowd of pirates outside.

      "Now that I've done my shopping, I don't think I'll be returning here anytime soon," Toupahz complained, looking disgusted. "They should really make a more friendly area of Krawk Island to shop in!"

      Kasthie giggled, imagining the pirates talking cheerily to each other in a friendly marketplace. The image entertained her the whole way to the hotel.

      The family went to the Golden Dubloon for dinner, much to the babies' delight. As they took their usual seats, Brianna informed the family that the Golden Dubloon was busy during the dinner hours. "We won't be served for another twenty minutes," she said glumly. "Awesomific, we should find a place with better service for when you're here full-time."

      "We could look," Awesomific responded uncertainly, "but the Golden Dubloon's the best! It's a fact!"

      The two went over the pros and cons of the Golden Dubloon so avidly that the babies were able to slip away without being noticed. They toddled to Captain Hackett's door and were greeted in a much more friendly way than before. Upon coming inside, Treaphie began speaking right away.

      "Mr. Hawkett," she began, "Kolyae, Kasthie, Leti and I are working hard on the case."

      "Are ye?" the Captain answered with a smile. "Ar, I be sure ye fine lasses and lad found somethin' useful."

      "We've just begun," Treaphie confessed, "but we found some witnesses that told the story in great detail. We have a few new leads we'd like to pursue tonight, but we need your permission first - both involve the Golden Dubloon."

      "I'd be happy ter give ye permission fer anythin'," the Captain proclaimed. "Just let me know what ye want ter do."

      "First of all, we'd like to examine the Food Storage Rooms," Treaphie told him.

      "That can be arranged, as long as ye don't have any of that contaminatin' stuff with ye!" the pirate laughed.

      The babies looked at each other, then nervously laughed too. The pirate was a lot more scary when he was laughing - he looked a bit insane.

      "Did you clean out the Food Storage Rooms?" Treaphie asked him. "After the, um, incident?"

      "Of course!" Captain Hackett exclaimed indignantly. "We got a business ter run! I had all the food in there thrown out - a tremendous waste of delicious goods, I tell ye - and I had the waitresses swab the deck down there twice. There be no trace left!"

      "Second," Treaphie continued bravely, "we need to interrogate the other waitresses here."

      "That might be a problem," the pirate confessed. "We need all hands on deck tonight. It's the dinner rush."

      "When can we ask them, then?" Treaphie questioned anxiously.

      The Pirate Lupe scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Lunchtime tomorrow should be good, lass," he told her. "Not many folk come at noon - pirates tend ter come late fer everythin'." He grinned.

      "Thank you, sir," Treaphie said gratefully. The babies turned around, left the room, and headed for the Food Storage Rooms. They were unlocked, which surprised Treaphie.

      "I figured maybe there was a special card or something that the staff had so that only they could get in," she told her siblings seriously.

      "Then anyone could get in!" Kasthie gasped in realization.

      Leti pondered this before saying, "I suppose I'm not surprised. Krawk Island never struck me as a place with advanced technology."

      "Fair point," Kolyae acknowledged. Without further discussion, they snuck inside, their eyes watching their owner intently until they had entered the room.

      The place was well-lit, for candles were placed at regular intervals along the walls. Food was sorted into piles according to what type of food it was. The more popular dishes, like Cap'n Threelegs Cutlass Crusade, had large piles ready and waiting, but the less liked choices, such as the Slithering Squid Surprise, had only one or two that looked as though they had been there for a long time. There were two more rooms leading off the one they were in.

      Treaphie looked nervously around before saying, "It's the dinner rush, and there are ten waitresses here. We should probably hide before--"

      Footsteps sounded outside the room, and the babies' eyes widened.

      "Hide! Now!" Treaphie hissed.

      The babies leaped behind piles, fearful expressions on their faces, as a waitress came down. Treaphie gasped audibly before covering her mouth with her paw - the waitress was an Aisha!

      Immediately suspicious, she watched the waitress closely. The Aisha walked into the room on the left and emerged with a mug of Grog, looking to be one of the new fruity flavors.

      As soon as the waitress left, the babies leaped out of their hiding spots.

      "We've gotta be quick," Treaphie warned them. "Quick, investigate - look for anything out of the ordinary!"

      The babies searched the food, but they found nothing suspicious. Treaphie took a particular interest in the Cap'n Threelegs Cutlass Crusade, the dish Gavril McGill had ordered, but all looked to be normal. Treaphie sincerely wished all the evidence hadn't been cleared up by Captain Hackett.

      The other babies had no further success, and they were about to return upstairs and admit defeat when more footsteps sounded from above.

      The babies glanced at each other and dove into the adjoining room, scanning around for a place to hide. It proved unnecessary - the footsteps receded, and the waitress clearly had only come for something in the room the babies had been in.

      "Let's get out of here," Kasthie murmured. "I'm getting scared."

      "Now's our best chance," Kolyae reasoned.

      Treaphie glanced around, and her eyes sparkled in excitement. "No, guys, here's another place to search!"

      The others looked around, and they saw the place where all the cocktails and other beverages were kept. These were in plentiful supply, looking freshly made.

      "We can't leave without checking here, too," Treaphie announced decisively.

      "All right," said Kolyae uncertainly, and they got to work once more.

      To her disappointment, Treaphie found nothing yet again. She sighed and was about to suggest they head back up when one of her sisters caught her attention.

      "What's this?" Leti asked, holding up a few black dots. Treaphie came closer and studied them carefully. They seemed to match the description Deadeye gave them of the contaminants.

      "I think these are what made Gavril McGill's food so bad!" she exclaimed in wonder. "We should keep these for investigating. It looks like a spice of some sort." She pocketed the evidence. "Is that all that's there? Where'd you find it?"

      "Right here." She pointed to the ground right next to the Grog. Treaphie immediately looked concerned.

      "Captain Hackett said it was all cleaned up," she began in alarm. "So why is there more stuff contaminated?"

      "We must tell him right away!" Kasthie exclaimed.

      "That's right, Kasthie, we must," Treaphie agreed. "But first let's think about this for a second - the place was all cleaned up. Unless they missed the spot, this is new - the contaminator has struck again."

      Kasthie frowned. "But then why isn't the food contaminated? It's next to it."

      Treaphie checked the food nearby and admitted it had no trace of the substance. "So the contaminator must have returned since it's been cleaned and accidentally dropped it."

      Leti gasped. "Treaphie!" she spoke in a hushed voice, though filled with excitement. "The Aisha waitress that came down here brought Grog! What if..."

      "... it was she who did this!" Treaphie finished, grinning broadly. "We know she was here at the time, she's a waitress. She's also an Aisha, so she could have easily been mistaken for one of the Fontaine Sisters. She probably worked with a relative of hers to impersonate the Fontaine Sisters. We're so close to figuring out the mystery! Let's tell Captain Hackett!"

      "But we don't know for sure," Kolyae reminded them. "We have to interrogate her before announcing she's guilty."

      The babies returned and shared all they had found out with Captain Hackett, who ordered five waitresses to inspect the Food Storage Rooms from top to bottom and clean it again. Looking annoyed, the waitresses left with the cleaning materials, and Treaphie was pleased to see that the Aisha waitress was not among them.

      They got back into their seats just as Rosetta Fontaine came to their table. The Green Aisha halfheartedly took their orders, and after another ten minutes their food was delivered to them. The babies checked and double-checked their food before eating it, admitting that it was quite delicious. They returned to the hotel, pleased by the events of the day.

      "We'll get even more done tomorrow," Treaphie promised her siblings.

To be continued...

 
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