Baby Adventures: The Mystery of the Fontaine Sisters - Part Four
"What?!" Treaphie gasped, her annoyance vanishing. "Let me see!"
The group surrounded Leti, who pointed to the floor. Tiny black dots were lying there, looking as though they had been spilled by someone moving hastily through the tunnel. Treaphie quickly scooped them up and compared them to the other samples she had. Unsurprisingly, they were all identical to each other. She placed the sticky dots into her pocket and thought about the information she had gathered that day with her siblings. It was the last day of employment for the Fontaine Sisters, and while she was getting deeper and deeper into the mystery, she felt she was getting farther and farther from solving it. The feat seemed nearly impossible now with the discovery of the tunnel, though the idea of an accomplice in the restaurant certainly helped reassure her that there was a way to succeed in solving the perplexing mystery.
When the babies returned to the restaurant, they slid into their seats at the booth just as Wendy Horco began taking orders for dessert. Brianna was concerned that they would be upset after missing dinner, but the babies happily told her that they didn't mind at all just having dessert.
"You just love exploring this place," Brianna said, amused. "Where do you go, anyways?"
Treaphie babbled incomprehensibly in response. Toupahz smiled at the Usul and said, "Did you know that I found something at the Smuggler's Cove today? I didn't see you and Leti, so I couldn't show you." She proudly held up the old eyepatch.
Brianna didn't look too impressed. "It's great that you found something, but why would you keep an old eyepatch like that?"
"Because it belongs to someone famous!" Toupahz said excitedly, turning it around. Kasthie gasped, for there was golden lettering in the corner of the eyepatch.
"It says Orvinn the First Mate," Kasthie whispered urgently to Treaphie. "He's on the list!"
"Who was he?" Treaphie asked Toupahz.
"He's a member of the Food Club in the Warf Wharf," Toupahz answered. "He doesn't have the best odds, but he won a pretty memorable round a while ago. It made quite a few poor Neopians become millionaires - was in papers everywhere. It could be worth something if I sell it!"
"That's great!" Brianna exclaimed, seeing the eyepatch in much better light.
"I just have to clean it first - there's some sticky black dots on it that are hard to get off," Toupahz complained. Treaphie's head whirled toward her sister in surprise.
"Can I see that?" she asked, trying to keep her excitement from her voice. Toupahz handed it to her, and Treaphie plucked off one of the black dots. She knew immediately that it was the spice that had been used to contaminate the food.
"Orvinn the First Mate had the spice!" Treaphie told the others. "It must have been him who did it!"
"Maybe not, though," Kasthie said uncertainly. "We've found people with the spice that have been innocent."
"We're going to have to investigate," Treaphie decided. As Wendy came back with their desserts, Treaphie realized how short time was. "We only have until tonight!" However, this scary thought did not stop Treaphie from enjoying her large chocolate cake, called the Forbidden Plunder.
As the babies happily ate their cakes, Kasthie whispered thoughtfully, "I'm not sure how we're going to get to Warf Wharf. Toupahz said she'd never bring us again because it's too dangerous."
"But we could just go through the tunnel," Treaphie told them sensibly.
"I don't think so," Leti put in. "We're eating dessert now, so surely we'll be leaving soon. When we next come, it'll be dinnertime!"
"Then we'll have to get Toupahz to bring us... somehow," Treaphie reasoned. She turned to her older sister, the Faerie Meerca, and said sweetly, "Toupahz, can we go to Warf Wharf?"
Toupahz's smile vanished at this request. "Why?" she asked, sounding like she had already made up her mind.
Treaphie glanced at her siblings and thought quick. "Kasthie wants to see all the cute petpets in Little Nippers!" she exclaimed cheerily.
Toupahz hesitated. "Well..." she began.
"And," Treaphie added quickly, "Leti had her eye on a few things in Krawk Fashions--"
"All right, we can go," Toupahz decided happily. "I was hoping to buy some wigs from the new Fontaine Sisters clothing line anyway, and maybe a Cap'n Threelegs hat --"
"What?!" Treaphie gasped in disbelief, her mind racing. "There's a... a Fontaine Sisters clothing line?"
"Of course! They're famous, aren't they? You can buy the exact wigs and outfits they wear!" Toupahz sighed. "I better get it before it's gone. Since they're getting fired, maybe the clothing line will be cancelled too."
Treaphie glanced at her siblings, wondering if they were thinking along the same line as her. At their blank expressions, she said in a low voice, "If someone were to purchase those clothes, they could effectively disguise themselves to get the blame put on the Fontaine Sisters! Perhaps we could inquire about past purchases made of those clothing items."
"So much to do," Kasthie moaned, putting her head in her small white hands.
"And we only have until tonight!" Kolyae whined.
"But we're getting closer to solving the mystery!" Treaphie said excitedly. She hesitated. "Though that is rather a lot to do... perhaps we should split up into groups," she suggested.
Kasthie looked up curiously. "What would we do?" she asked.
"Leti's supposed to be at Krawk Fashions, and Kasthie's supposed to be at Little Nippers," Treaphie recalled. "So Kolyae and Leti can question the clerk at Krawk Fashions about the clothes, and Kasthie and I can head to Little Nippers. Right behind that place is the Food Club, and I'm sure we can slip into it somehow. Kolyae, you and Leti have to meet Kasthie and I right away at the Food Club."
Almost immediately after she had spoken, Brianna suddenly announced, "Time to go, everybody! Toupahz, you're heading to Warf Wharf, correct?"
"Not for long," Toupahz responded. "Just to buy a couple more things."
"So for a very long time then," Brianna decided with a smile. "Meet us back at the hotel when you're done. I'm off to meet Cap'n Threelegs with Awesomific and Silce. Look how excited Awesomific is, she's bouncing all over the place!"
"She's always like that," Toupahz replied, grinning. "All right, see you guys later!" She headed to the other booth and spoke quickly to Beytani. When she returned, she notified the babies, "Beytani's coming with us. She'd like to get one of those nice auburn wigs with the curls." The Faerie Shoyru beside Toupahz smiled cheerfully at the thought, and the six of them left the restaurant.
The babies were silent during the entire ride to Warf Wharf, not wanting to arouse suspicion among the two chattering Faerie pets beside them. When the shops came into sight and the cart slowed to a stop, the babies looked at each other seriously and nodded. There was no time to waste.
Leti and Kolyae followed Toupahz and Beytani obediently into Krawk Fashions while Treaphie and Kasthie trooped towards Little Nippers. As Leti slipped inside the shop, Kolyae poked her and whispered, "Should we check out the clothing line before asking about it? Maybe we can see how similar it is to the actual Fontaine Sisters."
"Good idea!" Leti remarked. "It could help with the investigation." She and Kolyae stealthily followed their older sisters, whom they knew were interested in purchasing clothing from the Fontaine Sisters clothing line.
As they approached the display, Kolyae audibly gasped. "What are the Fontaine Sisters doing here?" he questioned.
Leti laughed. "Those are just the clothes on some Aisha statues, though the similarity is striking." She circled the statue, peering at it critically. "Whoever made these did a really good job with the accuracy. On an Aisha you can hardly tell the difference between them and the real Fontaine Sisters!"
Kolyae's brain worked furiously. "Then that means whoever did this could have easily bought the clothes and posed as the Fontaine Sisters!" he concluded.
Leti nodded fervently. "We're so close to the bottom of this mystery," she told him excitedly. "Let's ask the clothing store owner who bought these clothes recently."
The two wandered over to the cashier, trying to be casual despite their eagerness. They waited until there was no line, then quickly made their way to the pretty Bori shopkeeper.
"Yes?" the shopkeeper asked kindly. "How may I help ye? Would ye kids like a lollipop?"
"Yes, please!" Kolyae chimed. Leti was annoyed that Kolyae was so easily distracted, but she couldn't resist accepting the bubble-gum-pink lollipop that was handed to her.
"Thanks," she said graciously, trying to be polite. She unwrapped her lollipop and began to lick it as she continued. "We need to know who has purchased those Fontaine Sisters clothes recently."
The shopkeeper laughed. "Quite a lot of people! They are two of Krawk Island's most fashionable lasses, after all."
"Do you remember the customers?" Leti asked anxiously.
"Aye, but I couldn't say them all of the top of me head. If ye had some particular customers in mind I could verify if they've purchased 'em."
"Marietta Jonelle?" Kolyae asked. The shopkeeper shook her head.
"What about Alice Swindle?" Leti questioned. Again the Bori signaled 'no'.
After a thoughtful silence, Leti asked, "Orvinn the First Mate?" She was pleasantly surprised to see the woman nod her head.
"He ordered two of 'em, if I remember correctly," she told them promptly. This information greatly intrigued the two babies, but they continued plowing through the list of suspects. Nobody else but Sally Anchor and Rachel Astondi had ordered clothes from the Fontaine Sisters clothing line.
After thanking the cashier, who soon had another customer to tend to, the babies excitedly walked away. "Do you know what this means?" Leti asked her brother happily. "Orvinn the First Mate was at the Golden Dubloon, at the Smuggler's Cove, had the spice on his eyepatch, and purchased the Fontaine Sisters' clothes! I bet anything he's guilty!"
"We still haven't interrogated him or Admiral Blackbeard, though," Kolyae put in, sucking his lollipop contently. "We better go catch up with Treaphie and Kasthie and let them know what we found out."
The two hurried to Little Nippers, where they quickly found Kasthie poring over the petpets. "They're so adorable," she cooed, tickling a Swabby. "Look at the Kateil! And the Florta!" She giggled as one of the petpets zoomed around in their cage.
"Kasthie, we can't get distracted!" Leti chided. "Where's Treaphie? We have some exciting news for the both of you."
"She's looking for a passage to the Food Club," Kasthie told her, not taking her eyes off of the colorful wings of the Piraket. "It's members only in there, and we can't get in."
"But it's connected to this building, as far as I can see from the outside," Treaphie's voice suddenly sounded, causing Leti and Kolyae to jump. "We just have to find a hidden door... a loose board..."
She leaned against the wall tiredly and instantly hopped up, startled - the wall had given way behind her!
"This is it," she proclaimed to the others. "Let's go!" She pushed the board aside as the other three babies covered her from the sight of the busy shopkeeper, and the four slipped inside.
As they made their way through the passage, Kasthie reminded Leti, "Didn't you say you have news for us?"
"Oh yeah," Leti remembered. She quickly related the story of what she and Kolyae had discovered, not leaving out the part about the lollipops.
"I wish I had come," Kasthie murmured enviously.
Leti laughed. "But you got to see all those cool petpets!"
"True," Kasthie realized, smiling.
Treaphie, however, was silent, clearly thinking hard. She finally spoke as they neared the end of the passage, "That makes Orvinn very suspicious. Two sets of the clothes? I can't think of why he'd want one at all, but two makes it seem as though he was getting two impostors dressed up."
"So he's definitely guilty!" Kolyae said triumphantly.
"I don't know," Treaphie said uncertainly. "It all fits, but why would he do it? Why would he want the Fontaine Sisters fired?"
None of them had the answer, but they knew where they could find it: in the Food Club, just ahead of them through the opening of the passageway.
They emerged in a deserted dining hall with twenty vacant seats and a long, empty wooden table. It took up most of the space in the room, so they squeezed past and peered around another room, then another.
Finally they heard noises coming from a room nearby and hastened towards it. There were abundant jeers and shouts, and they glanced uncertainly inside.
Every single member of the Food Club was in the room, helping themselves to a variety of snacks and arm-wrestling with each other. They looked tough and as though they could knock most pirates down without a fight. One particularly large pirate, a very wide Blue Bruce with a small red bandana tied around his head, easily beat his young opponent in an arm wrestling and yelled, "Nobody challenges Orvinn and gets away with a win!" His cry was answered by some cheering pirates while his defeated opponent slunk away.
The babies exchanged significant looks. They had found their suspect.
"Stay here," Treaphie warned. "I'm not letting you guys go in there - it's dangerous. You're going to have to just... contact somebody if anything happens."
"No way!" Leti exclaimed. "We're here for you, Treaphie. We're all in this together."
Treaphie smiled gratefully, and the babies walked into the room together.
At first, their arrival went unnoticed. Soon, however, the pirates began chortling and pointing out the young newcomers to their comrades. Only one pirate seemed to have found their arrival something unpleasant.
Orvinn the First Mate slowly stomped towards them, his large belly's tattoo of an anchor making him look even more menacing. "Arr!" he hollered. "This be a private club! How did ye get in?"
"They be babies, Orvinn," a large Kyrii said, still chuckling. "We don't need ter enforce anythin'."
"And what do ye suppose they came here fer?" Orvinn growled. "They be wantin' free food! Our food, lad!"
"We haven't come for your food," Treaphie said loudly and clearly. "We actually came to speak to you, Orvinn."
"Me?" Orvinn looked startled for a moment. Was Treaphie imagining it, or was that a look of fear on his face? Soon he recovered and continued gruffly, "What do ye want with me?"
"Just to ask you a few questions," Treaphie said evasively. "Could you come with us, please?" She left the room with the other babies, out of earshot of the other pirates, though still visible to them. Treaphie didn't want to be alone with someone as menacing as Orvinn, especially when accusing him of something so serious.
The other pirates pushed the big Bruce forward, joking about the babies questioning him. "Looks like ye be in trouble, Orvinn," the Kyrii said in jest. "Yer bein' questioned by top detectives!"
As Orvinn stumbled into the room, he glared at the babies. "What do ye want with me?" he asked again, more angrily this time.
"Were you present at the Golden Dubloon during the time of the Fontaine Sisters' incident?" Treaphie asked him.
"N-no," Orvinn stuttered. "I only heard about it from Lucky McKyriggan, who was present at the time."
Treaphie glanced at Kasthie, who slowly shook her head to indicate that that name was not on the list. "Lucky McKyriggan was not at the Golden Dubloon that day, but you were. Why are you lying? Are you hiding the fact that it was you who was responsible for the Fontaine Sisters being fired?"
"What? Of course not!" Orvinn blithered. "I was just mistakin' the days --"
"You purchased the Fontaine Sisters' clothing," Treaphie interrupted.
"Well, it be popular -"
"Among girls, not pirates like yourself! You were at the Smuggler's Cove the day that the spice used to contaminate the food was found there."
"So what? I be friendly with Goldtooth, that be all --"
"Your eyepatch had the spice on it. You did it!" She pointed dramatically at Orvinn.
Orvinn protested, but very poorly, and soon there was no question about his guilt. "All right, it was me!" he finally admitted, knowing they had been certain of his guilt from the moment they had walked in.
"You have two accomplices, don't you?" Treaphie guessed. "Two Aishas, one Pink and one Green."
"How did ye know about Jenna and Sue?" Orvinn asked, surprised.
"I know now," Treaphie answered with a grin. "So you had them go through the tunnel from Krawk Fashions to the Golden Dubloon, wait for Loretta and Rosetta Fontaine to leave the Food Storage Rooms, then contaminate all the food right before Gavril McGill's arrival. You had them enter the restaurant empty-handed while the real Loretta and Rosetta Fontaine were in the Food Storage Rooms. Then they quickly went back into the Food Storage Rooms before the other Aishas came up so that the impostors weren't discovered. You wanted to be sure witnesses saw the whole thing, so you went yourself."
Orvinn stammered, bewildered, "Y-Ye know about the tunnels?"
"We discovered them recently," Treaphie responded evasively.
"There aren't many missing parts to this whole situation now," Kasthie said happily.
"But there are still some," Kolyae reminded her. "Why did you have spice on your eyepatch?"
"Must have accidentally spilled it on meself," Orvinn confessed. "I got it off everywhere I could see, but I couldn't see there."
"How did more spice get back in after the incident - and why?" Treaphie demanded.
"I had Jenna and Sue come back through the tunnel ter contaminate the food again. I had told them ter try ter get the Fontaine Sisters fired more quickly. They had just pulled out the spice when they heard feet approachin'. Quickly they put the spice back and went through the tunnel again, but them pullin' the open spice jar with them caused a spillage. The cleanin' barmaids came soon afterwards, and Jenna and Sue couldn't come back in without being caught."
"Everything seems pretty clear to me," Leti remarked thoughtfully, "but I still can't see why you did it. There must have been a reason."
"I don't have anything against the Fontaine Sisters, lass," Orvinn insisted. "Ye see, I wanted ter become one of the champions of the Food Club. Ter do that, I needed ter eliminate the best of the competition. The champions always have a victory feast with each other at the Golden Dubloon - I know, I was at one of them. So ter effectively get them out of the race, I was plannin' on havin' two barmaids secretly puttin' something into their food ter make them sick. Too sick ter compete! But there be the maximum amount of barmaids there already, so two of 'em had ter go. The easiest ter get rid of were the most famous, Loretta and Rosetta Fontaine."
"What did ye say ye were planning, Orvinn?" growled a deep voice close by. The babies and the Bruce whirled around and came face to face with the large group of pirates, all of whom were glaring at Orvinn the First Mate contemptuously. They had evidently been eavesdropping and were displeased by what they had heard.
"I-I didn't mean any permanent harm--" Orvinn began, but the pirates' voices grew louder and drowned him out.
"How could ye stoop so low, Orvinn, matey?!"
"We may be pirates, but none of us would ever attempt somethin' like that!"
"Yer a disgrace, an absolute disgrace!"
"Hey, guys?" Leti called out in her usual small voice, which didn't gain her much attention. "Guys?" she tried again. The pirates were still too busy noisily bickering to hear her.
"EVERYONE BE QUIET!" Treaphie shrieked. The room fell silent, and the Usul nodded to her young sister.
"Thanks," Leti said quietly to Treaphie, clearing her throat. "Um, I know you're all really upset--"
"Upset? We be furious!" cried the Kyrii, earning a roar of approval from the rowdy group.
"Yes," Leti said simply before continuing as though there had been no interruption, "Though you're all feeling very negative emotions right now, I think you should take care of this logically."
"What be the 'logical' thing ter do, lass?" demanded a fierce Blue Blumaroo with an angry look in the one eye that wasn't covered by an eyepatch.
"Well, for starters you have to clear the Fontaine Sisters' names," Leti said timidly. "And then you should tell Gavril McGill about what we discovered and have him deal with Orvinn. Any further action may get you yourselves in trouble with the law, after all."
The pirates stared at her for a moment before they burst out laughing. Treaphie, Kolyae, Kasthie, and Leti exchanged baffled glances with each other.
"Hey! What's so funny?" Treaphie commanded in her most official voice.
After a few more chuckles, a young but very chubby Purple Scorchio with a slender golden hook gleaming on his long tail managed to choke out, "This ain't Faerieland, lass! This be Krawk Island, populated by us pirates, and we take matters into our own hands around these parts."
"But you've never had a government before," Leti protested. "Now you have someone who can decide on a fair way to judge Orvinn's crime and deal with the consequences Orvinn's actions have produced!"
"It's a great system, and much less work for you," Treaphie added helpfully.
The pirates seemed to consider this for a moment. Then a tall Blue Chomby sighed and said, "We may as well try it, lads. After all, these three lasses and that young lad have figured out this whole situation. Why not see if their intellect can be of further help to us?"
"He's right," chimed in the Blumaroo.
Leti smiled serenely. "Excellent! So you'll speak to Governor McGill shortly?"
"As soon as possible," promised the Chomby. "And we'll be keeping our eyes on this one," he said with a glare at Orvinn, who appeared to be very uncomfortable.
"Eye," the Blumaroo corrected, pointing to his eyepatch.
"Aye!" the other pirates chorused, mistaking his meaning. The Blumaroo glared at them all and turned his back on them dejectedly.
"I'm so glad we got this whole mess straightened out," Kolyae whispered happily. "Now the Fontaine Sisters have their jobs back, the Food Club is uncorrupted, and we don't have to keep sneaking away from Brianna and Toupahz--"
"Oh Fyora!" Kasthie gasped, earning strange looks from several of the pirates who were unfamiliar with the saying. "We have to go meet Toupahz, pronto! Can you imagine what state she'll be in if she can't find us?"
"Yikes," Treaphie muttered in agreement. "Come on guys, we better go quickly!" As the four piled through the passageway and ran hastily through Little Nippers, Treaphie couldn't keep the grin off of her face. She had just gotten the adventure she'd been longing for, yet she already couldn't wait for her next one to come.