Janet and Jane: The Case of the Monster Hunter: Part Three
"How do you know Lauren and Matthew Treiger?” Kell asked as he walked next to me, trying to keep up with my pace.
“They're detectives, like Jane and I, for one,” I answered.
“So you met them on a case?”
I shook my head, “Oh, not even close.” Okay, they were around here. I think I was a block away from them. “They're working with us with on the crime ring case, actually.”
“And they live in Neovia?” Kell looked around the neighborhood. “I thought it was in Neopia Central.”
“And who says that they can't work in Neopia Central? You know I live in Neopia Central and I visited Neovia on a couple cases.” I looked up at the street lights. It was getting late. They were probably expecting me by now. “I'm staying at their place while I'm doing this for you.”
He remained quiet for a little bit, deep in thought. “I know that isn't the only reason you know them. How do you know them?”
I saw their house in my sight. “They're my parents.”
As you could imagine, Kell was surprised to hear this. “So that means your parents knew my dad?”
“Apparently. That would be why I was surprised to hear about them in that paper.” I hopped up the three steps to the door. “That's why I need to talk to them.”
I got the key out of my bag, approached the door, and unlocked it. We entered the house. I smelled something good – my mom probably was getting dinner ready. I couldn't see my mom and dad in the living room. Then again, my mom was probably in the kitchen.
“I'm back!” I called, letting them know of my presence.
“I was wondering when you'd get back,” my mom said from the kitchen. “I'm making dinner. I'll be out in a few minutes.”
I took note of that and made eye contact with Kell. “If you want, you can stay for dinner.”
No need to say that he was a bit surprised by my invitation. He said, “I'm not sure if I should stay for long.”
“Don't worry about that. My parents are pretty hospitable. They won't mind if you stay for a while.” I walked over to the fireplace they had and looked at the pictures they had on the mantle. “It's your call, though. If you don't want to, you don't have to.”
The Wocky joined me at the mantle. “I don't mind staying, actually. You seem a lot nicer than you were last time we were together.”
That was true, actually. Last time we met up was back on Krawk Island. Things did not go very well – both with our jobs and with each other. We argued more than we should have. Let me just leave it at that. We did get along a little bit, but not before a fight broke out between us.
“Like I said, I'm civil to my clients,” I answered.
“Hmm,” Kell hummed. He grabbed a picture frame and looked at it. “I never knew you were purple before you were painted.”
“Why does everyone say that when they find out? You, Natia, James–”
He put the picture back where it was. “I never meant it as a bad thing.” He looked at it again. “I take it that the green Korbat is Jane?”
“You'd be right.”
“I never knew you two were friends when you were kids.”
Again, why was everyone surprised when they found that out? Jane and I made it no secret that we were friends for a long time. We just never said when we became friends. I have no idea why, though. It doesn't seem like anything we would want to hide from others.
“Who are these two?” Kell asked, snapping me back to reality. He showed me a picture of a green Kacheek and a mutant Krawk. The two had on lab coats and goggles. By the way they looked, they looked like friends.
“The green Kacheek is my dad,” I answered, pointing at him.
“And the Krawk?”
I shrugged. “I don't know. Must be a friend of my dad's. I need to ask him that.”
I reached for the picture, but it was quickly snatched away. I looked at who took it. To no surprise, it was my dad. I saw the green Kacheek look at the picture. I wasn't sure if he had a disgusted look on his face or not. Did he?
“Dad, who's in that picture with you?” I asked.
“Just someone I used to know,” he answered. He looked back up at the two of us. “Janet, who is this?”
“This is Kell, the Neopet I'm helping out.”
My dad put the picture back on the mantle. “While I don't mind company, you shouldn't be telling a lot of Neopets where we live.”
I rolled my eyes. “He is the only Neopet that knows besides Jane and I. He won't tell anyone.”
“And you know how I am about hats indoors.”
Ugh, I was not a kid anymore, dad. Still, I stomped over to the coat rack and hung my hat on it. “And you know I like hats.”
Kell decided it was a good idea to join into the conversation. “It's nice to meet you,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, too, Kell.” My dad walked into the kitchen. “Lauren, we have company.”
“I heard, Matt,” my mom replied.
My mom and dad talked a bit in the kitchen. While they were doing that, I sat down on the couch. Kell sat down next to me. It was quiet between the two of us for a good minute or two.
The silence was broken, however, when Kell spoke. “Your dad didn't seem to happy to see me.”
“They're just not so happy about meeting new Neopets right now,” I informed. “Like I said, they're trying to stop the crime ring with Jane and I. Only the crime ring doesn't know that they're...” How do I say the next part? “alive.”
“What do you mean?”
“Long story short, they faked their own deaths because of this whole crime ring.” I crossed my legs. “I don't blame them, either.”
“That's something you shouldn't be telling a lot of Neopets, either,” my dad informed as he and my mom entered the living room. The two sat on the other couch that was next to the one Kell and I were sitting on.
I rolled my eyes. “Relax, dad. I told him about the crime ring already.”
My dad was not happy to hear that. The green Kacheek asked in an unhappy tone, “Why on Neopia would you do that?”
“Because Kell and his brother, Corbin, are monster hunters. I remember you saying that this crime ring mostly did illegal experiments. Well, if one of these experiments were to go wrong, someone would have to take care of it.” I crossed my arm. “Besides, I've known Kell for a long time now. I trust him to keep this a secret.”
“I'll tell Corbin, but that's only because I work with him. If that does happen, he'll certainly have to be a part of it,” Kell added in. “Don't worry, Mr. and Mrs. Treiger. I will keep this a secret.”
My mom leaned closer to my dad and said, “They have a point, you know.”
And of course, my dad wasn't exactly pleased, but he understood. “That they do, Lauren.”
“Oh, before I forget,” I said suddenly. “I want to ask you guys a couple questions.” To this they agreed. “Do you guys know Reginald Merino?”
Something told me that they weren't expecting that question. It might be the surprised looks on their faces, it might be that they sat straight up and fidgeted nervously, it may be that they didn't respond right away. One of the three. No matter, I had the feeling that they didn't know how to respond.
“Where is Jane? Why isn't she with you?” my mom asked nervously. The blue Kacheek gave the most fake smile I've ever seen her do. She was changing the subject.
“Do you know Reginald Merino?” I repeated.
“Lauren has a point. Jane should be with you,” my dad said more calmly, but I could tell that he was still nervous. “We want you two to be together while you're working on the crime ring case with us.”
I was getting very frustrated very fast. “But I'm not on that right now. This isn't too hard. Now I will repeat it one more time. Do you know Reginald Merino or don't you?”
“She deserves an answer,” Kell added.
My mom and dad were silent. My mom twiddled her thumbs – she only did that when she was nervous. The two looked at each other, sharing a thought. Before I could say anything else, the two went down the hall. I didn't bother going after them.
“I know they know,” I said once the two were gone.
“Why were they changing the subject like that?” Kell asked.
“I don't know. This doesn't seem like something they'd want to hide.” I got up and stretched. “But it sure seems like something they're not willing to talk about it anytime soon.”
“Should we see what they're talking about?”
I shook my head and walked to the coat rack. As I put my hat back on, I said, “Trust me – that'll make things worse. If they want to talk, they can talk. Until then,” I went back to the couch and got my bag. “I'm going for a walk.”
I went out of the door and onto the streets of Neovia. I needed some fresh air. I didn't get more than five steps away from the steps when I heard the door open again. A pair of footsteps came up to me and walked alongside me.
“Why are you going on a walk?” Kell asked.
“All of that made me lose my appetite. Besides, the fresh air clears my head,” I informed. “When I get back to Neopia Central, I'll be back to staying up all night trying to figure out how I can stop this. Might as well relax when I can.”
He didn't seem to like my answer. “I wouldn't do that. I've pulled all-nighters before and they don't really work.”
“What am I supposed to do? I don't have a reliable way to contact my parents and the police chief still refuses to tell me things.” I sighed as the two of us walked into the park. “Jane, Natia, and James are working as hard as they can, too.”
The yellow Neopet remained quiet for a little. “You can use all the help you can get.”
“Oh, you have no idea.”
“If you want, I know a couple Neopets who might be willing to help.”
I shook my head. “No, Kell. You can tell Corbin and only Corbin. Do not tell anyone else or I will–”
“I was talking about Corbin and I.”
Okay, this was a first. Kell never offered to do anything for me, let alone this big. Whenever we worked on something, we were usually forced to do so (like I said, we didn't get along very well). Why the sudden change of interest in this? You know what, I didn't care. I needed all the help that I could get.
Still, I couldn't help but ask, “Are you sure about this?”
“Positive,” he answered. “If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't say I would. I already know Corbin will be willing to help. He likes working with you and Jane.”
Hmm? Was I hearing things? If I didn't know better, I would have said I heard Jane and Corbin. Kell didn't hear anything – well, if he did, he didn't say anything or did anything that I noticed – so maybe it was just me.
“If you don't mind me asking, your parents were rather insistent about you and Jane staying together,” Kell went on. “What was that about?”
“You mean other than changing the subject? Mom and dad always wanted us to stay together,” I answered. “Family is very important to us. Jane and I always stick together because of this. It helps that we're looking into something dangerous.”
“Wait, you and Jane are sisters?”
“Yes and no. Jane's my adopted sister.” I hopped on the stones that were popping out of the ground. “That picture you were looking at earlier was actually the photo of when Jane moved in.”
“Is that true?”
“Yes, now shh!”
Okay, now I know I heard something. Was it and Jane and Corbin, I didn't know (I sure hoped it was, at the very least). Was I going to do anything about it? No, not now. If it was Jane and Corbin, whoever that was shouldn't know I heard them.
Kell did need to know, though. If someone with malicious intent was watching us, he needed to be careful as well. I grabbed his arm, pulled him closer to me, and whispered in his ear, “We're not alone.”
“What? Really?” he asked, taking his arm back.
I nodded. “Yes.”
“What do we do?”
“Nothing for now. I'll let you know when and if we do anything. Got it?” After I said that, he didn't hesitate to nod.
“What did she say?”
“I don't know. I didn't hear what she whispered.”
Kell looked around. “Is that what you heard?” he whispered in my ear.
I nodded and said, “Yes.”
Kell and I remained rather close to each other as we walked together in the park. It was in case we need to tell each other something (that and neither of us wanted to get separated). The whispering continued and rustling went through some foliage. I knew that the rustling wasn't from the wind.
Wait, what was that? I was looking up and I saw something in a tree. Curiosity got the best of me. I wondered what on Neopia it could be and how it got up there. I decided that I was going to find out.
“Janet, why are you looking up in the tree?” Kell asked.
“There's something in it. I'm going to get it,” I answered. I grabbed onto the trunk of the tree and began to climb it.
“Are you sure that's a good idea?”
I was almost to the top of the tree when I answered. “I'm sorry if I'm curious,” I said with the most sarcasm I've had since I came to Neovia (then again, that wasn’t saying much – it wasn't all that much to begin with). “You never know what you can find.”
“You're going to fall.”
“I'm not going to fall.”
Once I was in the branches, I looked down on him. He was looking up at me, his arms were crossed, and he was either frustrated because of me or worried about me (or it could be both – it could always be both). The yellow Wocky said, “Didn't we meet after you fell out of a tree and into the pond here?”
“Hey, Jane and I were trying to get away from that thing you and Corbin were trying to catch. I just lost my hold on the branch.”
I crawled out on the branch that had this item on it. It appeared to be a bag. It looked worn. Probably from age? Yeah, age, I was going to go with that. There was quite a bit of pollen on it, which was strange, since these trees didn't release pollen at this time of year, let alone this much. How long was this thing up here?
And what was inside? That was the real question. There were a couple zippers on this bag and it didn't feel light, so I knew there was a good amount of things in this bag. I sat down on the branch and pulled the bag onto my lap. The strap was tangled around some of the twigs, so I got that out of the mess before I tore it.
I heard a rustle from a bush that was on the ground. I leaned forward to see what it was. Only in doing that, I lost my balance (I did, however, did get to see the source of that rustling). I tried to regain it, but I fell out of the tree, anyway. There was no pond this time, but Kell was able to catch me he put me back on the ground.
“I told you,” Kell said in a condescending voice.
“I know you did. No need to rub it in,” I said, sounding irritated. I stomped over to the bush that the rustling came from. “Come out, you two. I know you're in there.”
Sure enough, one Neopet did come out. The shadow Korbat I knew as Jane. I helped her out of the bush and then Corbin came out. I knew it. I knew they were watching Kell and I. I didn't know why they were doing that, though.
“May I ask what on Neopia are you doing in Neovia?” I asked Jane.
“I was looking for you,” she answered. “You just left a note that you were going to Neovia. You never explained why.” She crossed her arms. “I ran into Corbin and he said that Kell was up to something, too.”
“What are you two doing?” Corbin asked us.
I looked at Kell. He was avoiding eye contact with everyone. “Kell, you were the one who wanted to keep it a secret. Can we tell them?”
He was hesitant to answer, but he did. He said, “I guess I don't mind telling them now. But maybe we should do that at your parents' place, or at least on the way there. We might have a bit of explaining to do to them, as well.”
I nodded. “And they have a bit of explaining to do to us.”
To be continued…