Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 192,066,143 Issue: 629 | 24th day of Sleeping, Y16
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Madison Jones and the Case of the Neopies Caper


by wildtail_4998

--------

Please understand that this recording must stay in your hands. If anyone untrustworthy were to get this recording, it would be disastrous!

      A week ago....

     Before I begin the story of how I saved the Neopies, let me introduce myself.

     If you don't already know who I am, the name's Jones, Madison Jones. But call me Maddie. I'm your average white Kougra, except for my above average life. Not all the white Kougras in Neopia are sleuths, and happen to be the sleuth. What do you mean you've never heard of Madison K. Jones, private eye? I've solved loads of cases in Neopia Central. I should be famous, but I like to keep an air of mystery. (Andrew says the only mystery surrounding me is how I even manage to solve cases. I'm ignoring him.)

     I'd been laying low for way too long. Nothing exciting had happened for years, except for that one incident with Commander Flint, but that's another story. But I'd passed an uneventful end of Year 15, doing odd jobs like finding rings and helping lost Puppyblews.

     It had struck me that maybe this meant I was leaving the sleuthing life, which is quite depressing actually. Anyway, my best friend Andrew Emerson, the orange Kougra, and I had celebrated the New Year and I had resolved, secretly, to get back to the thing I do best: sleuthing.

     Well, I had spent the first few days of the New Year searching for a mystery that needed solving, and nada. I decided to take it down a few notches, since mysteries usual found me, not the other way around.

     Drew and I were out on a normal shopping trip (I needed a new Yellow Lined Notebook and Drew was looking for a good wrench) when we came across one of those giant flyers that read: "The 6th annual Neopies! Coming soon to this location."

     I loved the Neopies! I had completely forgotten about them in my search for a mystery. I walked in the direction the arrow was pointing and Drew followed, a little reluctantly.

     There was a stage being constructed and a box of half-eaten Juppieswirl Bonbons sat on top. I started to walk up to the stage when a blue Elephante ran into me.

     "Excuse me, but this area is off-limits to Neopians at this time," he said in a regal manner, adjusting his blue bowtie and smoothing his orange hair.

     I squeaked and played with my blonde curls and adjusted my glasses. "You're Ellsworth! Host of the Neopies." (I could almost hear Andrew rolling his eyes behind me.)

     I hoped my signature outfit was presentable in the midst of a celebrity: my Detective Trench Coat and my Super Sleuth Hat and Wig. I had stowed my old Tour of Mystery Magnifying Glass and my tape recorder in my coat pocket, along with my Yellow Lined Notebook.

     I glanced back at Andrew, dressed in his Rugged Work Shirt and Vest and his Khaki trousers with Cuffs. He had, thankfully, left his Moltara Inventor Hat and Goggles at home, so he was at least not looking like a mad scientist. For once.

     The Elephante smiled, I could tell he was the type that enjoyed a bit of flattery. "Always glad to be recognized by my fans. And who might you be?"

     Drew looked Ellsworth straight in the eye and said: "I'm Andrew Emerson and this is Maddie." He pointed an orange paw at me.

     "Madison K. Jones," I corrected, batting Drew's paw out of the way. "I'm a huge fan. I love the Neopies! You're getting ready for them right now, aren't you?" (I enjoy trying to guess who will win each category. Drew says this habit has something to do with his hatred of the Neopies. Not really sure what that means, as I am a delightful companion during the Neopies.)

     Ellsworth looked me up and down, and the smile left his face. "Why, you're the famous Madison Jones who helped my friend Elon. A detective, I hear!"

     Momentarily confused, I answered a little late. "That would be me. Detective. You're friends with Elon?"

     Ellsworth grimaced. "Sadly, yes. I happen to frequent the circles where many rich and famous Neopians choose to reside."

     Behind me, Drew laughed. I glared at him before turning my attention back to Ellsworth. "We have to be going. Off-limits, right? It was a pleasure to meet you."

     I turned to leave, but Ellsworth grabbed my arm. "Don't go yet. I have a favor to ask," he said, looking more than a little bit embarrassed.

     I glanced at Drew, who did his unhelpful habit of just raising his eyebrows whenever I really need him to do something else, like help me out.

     "What can I do for you?"

     *****

     A few minutes later, Drew and I were sitting at a booth at the Smoothie Store, each of us holding a smoothie (I had chosen a Small Roasted Chestnut Smoothie, while Drew was gulping down a Large Churro Smoothie. He'll do anything to get free food, and Ellsworth had insisted on paying.) Ellsworth sat across from us, playing with his Small Wheatgrass Fruit Smoothie. I sipped some of my drink before whipping out my tape recorder.

     "This is Madison K. Jones, Neopian Central detective, first case of Year 16," I said into the tape recorder. Drew looked away, embarrassed that I was talking to my tape recorder in public. "Here with Mr. Ellsworth, host of the annual Neopies. What is the problem, Mr. Ellsworth?"

     The Elephante looked at me, then at the tape recorder, and back again. He smoothed his incredibly lustrous hair down, and I couldn't help but wonder how it stayed so incredibly shiny. "As you certainly know," he began in that incredibly snobby voice of his, "each year I hand out many a trophy to the winners of each category."

     I nodded and Drew took out some project and started to fiddle with some gears, making it very clear that he was going to be completely useless during this meeting.

     "Unfortunately, there are a perfect amount of these statuettes. No more, no less. And they take a year to create, for they are forged in the heart of Moltara using only the finest materials," he continued. "They are pure gold, as you know."

     "Why are you telling us this?" Drew asked, sitting up and putting his tinkering back in his pocket.

     "Well, you see I am in need of a detective." He lowered his voice and leaned across the table. "One of the statues has been stolen!"

     Drew gave a quiet cough that sounded like he was trying not to laugh. I kicked him under the table before whipping out my notebook. He glared at me and muttered something under his breath about Ellsworth deserving it. Privately, I agreed, but I didn't mention that.

     "I need details. When? Where? Who was around at the time?" I poised my pencil at the top of the page, ready to catch every fact and anything else Ellsworth let slip.

     Ellsworth looked around the shop, checking to make sure there were no eavesdroppers lurking nearby. "It was only this morning. I had just gone out to get some Juppieswirl Bonbons, as my stock was running low." He blushed a bit at this. "When I came back to polish the trophies, one was missing!"

     I almost felt bad for him. But I have nerves of steel, and was determined to get to the bottom of this. Ellsworth continued. "No one else was around, but they could have easily run in, nabbed one and escaped during the time it took for me to get my candy."

     I nodded, looked down at my notes. "And you have no suspects?" Ellsworth took a minute to consider my question, before shaking his head.

     "The only people who really had any knowledge that the trophies had been delivered were the members of the Gourmet Club." He puffed himself out a bit at this. "They are all quite impressed with my job, as one might imagine."

     Andrew and I shared a look; I could see in his blue eyes that he wasn't a fan of Ellsworth's attitude, before I turned back to the Elephante. "Here's the deal. I'll do my own snooping, and guarantee the statue to be back by the first day of the Neopies. Or sooner." The determination in my voice made Ellsworth smile.

     "Thank you so much." He stood and paid for our drinks. "I hope to see you both again very soon." And the famous Elephante left us alone.

     *****

     I placed my tape recorder and notes back in my pocket, before standing up and adjusting my hat. Drew got up and finished his smoothie. "Well Mads? What do you think?" He asked me as we wandered out of the shop.

     That was a tough question. In all honesty, I had no idea. "Our best lead is the Gourmet Club, so it looks like we'll have to start there." I turned to Drew, grinning a bit despite my predicament. "How's your Gourmet Club Bowls score?"

     To say that my plan was flawless would be a huge exaggeration. It was barely even a plan. (Although getting to see Drew dressed up in a Handsome Shirt and Tie was most certainly worth it. Let me tell you, he looked ridiculous.) It was a pretty simple plan too. Go in, play Gourmet Club Bowls, act snooty, get them to answer our questions with my tape recorder hidden in my dress. And of course, watch their faces for anything suspicious.

     When we walked in, I was feeling a little uncomfortable, and more than a little nervous that they'd find the tape recorder. But I, unlike Drew, no doubt looked like I belonged, as I'd traded in my Detective Trench Coat for one of those Grey Silk Dresses, and removed my hat. (Drew says I looked awful and like I was going to throw up. He's obviously lying, as I can pull of rich, snobby Neopian without any trouble. I am an amazing actress.)

     Drew started the game against Sir Hefferton, rolling his bowl towards the jack, while I struck up a conversation with Dr. Grumps, who was waiting off to the side for his turn. We were just chatting about the game, our bank interests, what stocks we invested in, when I began to slip in little hints about the Neopies. As soon as I mentioned Ellsworth, there was a flicker of something on Dr. Grumps' face.

     "Are you excited about the Neopies, Doctor?" I said sweetly, hoping my accent wasn't too much. I was probably laying it on a bit thick. "I've heard that the famous Ellsworth is part of the Gourmet Club!"

     Dr. Grumps huffed a bit. "That Elephante is an awful player, and yet people recognize him before me!" We were going somewhere. I glanced over at Drew to make sure he was distracting the rest of the club. "I am a superior character in every way."

     "That's just terrible, Doctor! And so unfair," I said, trying to sound sympathetic, but really I was itching to outright ask him if he had anything to do with the theft. I must have sounded convincing, because Dr. Grumps gave me a smile that did not look like it belonged on his face.

     "I agree completely my dear." He patted my paw reassuringly before continuing. "I am certain Ellsworth will soon receive his just reward." That was enough to lead me to be skeptical, and I had it all recorded.

     I looked over at Drew again, and he caught my eye. I winked and he came over. "Oh, Doctor this is my dear friend Andrew." I smiled and ignored Drew's questioning gaze. "I have a feeling you two have a lot in common! Perhaps we can all go out to eat sometime?"

     Andrew was obviously dying to say something, but I stepped on his paw quickly, waiting for Dr. Grumps' reply. "That sounds lovely!" he said, and his voice didn't seem as gruff. "I didn't quite catch your name, though." I froze. What if he knew of me? I am quite renowned. Unfortunately, I didn't really have a choice.

     "It's Madison," I said, without elaborating. His eyes narrowed a bit, but I could tell he couldn't quite place where he'd heard that name before. "How about the Bakery for a bite to eat?"

     *****

     An hour later, Drew and I were sitting in a corner of the bakery, munching on the most expensive thing we could find, and trying very hard to keep up appearances. Dr. Grumps had been griping to us for at least fifteen minutes about all the awful players that were part of the Gourmet Club, and he'd complained about Ellsworth more than once.

     I took a bite of my cookie, and I had come to the realization that I had to question him about the trophy. "Doctor, I spoke to Ellsworth this morning, in passing." I could see that my words had an immediate effect on him. His eyes narrowed and his tone became much gruffer. I pushed on though, because I had to get the truth. "He was distraught about something, and I have reason to believe that one of the trophies for the Neopies is missing." Dr. Grumps was definitely sweating, confirming my suspicions that he stole it.

     "Who exactly are you?" he growled. The gig was up. I pulled out my tape recorder, and I could see Dr. Grumps paling at the thought of what I had recorded. There was no reason to continue pretending, so I dropped the accent and all thoughts of acting sophisticated.

     "Dr. Grumps, I'm Madison K. Jones, private eye, and I have been recording and interrogating you for the past few hours, in the investigation of this theft. I have gathered evidence that points out that you are the culprit." This wasn't exactly true, as I had no real evidence except what he'd said during our time together, but he had no knowledge of that. "And from this evidence, I suggest that you confess to escape punishment."

     He slumped in his chair, defeated. Drew looked at me, a little surprised. (Undoubtedly he had not expected me to be this brilliant and bold.) "How did you know?" the yellow Tonu muttered, not willing to meet my piercing green eyes.

     "I am quite accomplished." I smiled, certain that he was more than a little shocked at my intelligence and keen sleuthing skills. "If you could tell us where the statue is hidden, we will retrieve it and put this whole business behind us."

     I could practically see the wheels in Dr. Grumps' head turning, weighing his options against the risk of me revealing his crime. "Fine. It's hidden on the table back at the club." Andrew and I promised him that we wouldn't reveal the incident to anyone, and retrieved the statue from back at the Gourmet Club.

     *****

     The next day, Drew and I, both dressed in our natural outfits, hurried back to the center of Neopia Central, where the Neopies were truly starting to take shape. Ellsworth wasn't difficult to find, with his blue suit and shiny hair, and he raced over as soon as he caught sight of us.

     "Maddie! I am so glad to see you!" He looked stressed, so I decided to make it quick, getting the trophy out and handing it to him. His face lit up as he held the solid gold out in front of him, inspecting every angle. "Oh thank you so much! I will be sure to neomail you very soon with your reward."

     I shook my head. "It was no trouble, Mr. Ellsworth, don't worry about it." He raised his eyebrows, and began insisting until I finally gave in. Drew and I waved goodbye, feeling very satisfied and certain we would be seeing Ellsworth in a few weeks for the Neopies.

     *****

     A week later, I was sifting through the mail when an envelope caught my eye. I called Drew up from the basement, and he smelled a little bit of smoke, not to mention his fur was a little charred, but it didn't really matter as I ripped open the envelope with a distinct Neopies symbol on it.

     Dearest Maddie and Andrew,

      It would be an absolute pleasure to have your company backstage during the 6th annual Neopies, which I am hosting. I hope to see you there.

      Ellsworth

     Inside were two very official looking backstage passes, although I was certain we would be seeing people backstage without passes, and caring little boxes that may look suspiciously like Juppieswirl Bonbons, but I didn't really care. I had backstage passes to the Neopies!

     Andrew and I grinned at each other, and I felt very certain that we were going to get into all kinds of trouble while backstage. Oh well.

     So, this is Madison Jones, private eye and sleuth extraordinaire, signing off.

The End

 
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