The White Meowclops: Part Three
As is often the case when one has had turbulent sleep
during the night, Auryn woke up late in the morning feeling more tired than
he had been before resting.
It was Sunday, so at least he didn't have to
go to work. Auryn groaned; his head hurt and his legs felt as if they were solid
lead. Some days just weren't worth getting up for. Nevertheless, he soon found
himself heading towards the bathroom, intent on taking a quick shower.
Just as Auryn was getting the towels from under
the counter he heard a knock on the front door, followed by silence and then
another subsequent knock. Great, Rubio must have gone somewhere. Auryn sighed
and went to go answer it. Who would be knocking at their door anyway? It wasn't
as if Auryn was the most popular Neopet in all of Neopia, and Rubio tended to
make plans whenever he wanted friends over.
Auryn made his way through the Neohome, but
as he reached the hallway he stopped because he heard the sound of the door
opening and a familiar voice answering it.
"Arr, it not be 'eh good time right now. There
still be one occupant remaining. Come back in a wee bit, and he should be… taken
care of." The sound of a sword being unsheathed rang through the house, accompanied
by rough laughter.
Wait… what had Patches just said? Auryn felt
his blood run cold, now fully aware of the fact that Patches was, after all,
a pirate, and pirates weren't exactly known for having honorable intentions.
Auryn ducked behind the door of the nearest room as he heard the front door
close, trying not to think about what Patches might have done with his owner.
Auryn heard the scrape of Scorchio claws against
marble flooring approaching the room, which Auryn just realized was a guest
bedroom, and stop at the doorway. "Please don't look inside… please don't
look inside… please don't look inside…," Auryn thought, hoping that Patches
hadn't heard him enter the room, and feeling as if the banging of his heart
in his chest was loud enough to give him away. After what seemed like an eternity
however, he heard the footsteps continue on down the hallway, and Auryn let
out a breathe of air he hadn't realized he's been holding.
It wasn't as if Auryn were a completely defenseless
Neopet; on the contrary, many a day had been spent training at Techo Mountain.
The problem was that he had been caught off-guard: his Battledome weapons were
in his room, and a plain Zafara fist, no matter how strong the arm attached
to it was, could only go so far against a sharp pirate sword.
Auryn now had a straight path to the front door;
all he had to do now was make a run for it. At the count of three… one… two…
"Mer-row!" Auryn yelled in surprise and faced
the bed where it was coming from and stared at it for a few seconds, and then
remembered what he was doing and ran as fast as he could right into the Pirate
Scorchio waiting at the guest bedroom door.
Auryn tried to bypass him and run to the entrance,
but Patches grabbed him by the tail and wouldn't let go. Auryn yelled, "Leave
me alone, I've done nothing to hurt you!," but only found that the hand holding
his tail tightened its grip.
"Arrr, what the devilpuss is the matter with
yeh?" Auryn continued to squirm for a moment, then realizing that Patches had
no intention of either letting him go or fighting him, stopped and twisted his
upper body around.
"What did you do with Rubio?" Auryn asked Patches
Patches gave Auryn a confused look. "Rubio be
at the store, buying some milk!" He released Auryn's tail, whose fluffy tip
was frayed from being held so tight, and Auryn brushed it behind him and turned
to fully face Patches.
"Then what did you mean when you said you'd
'take care of me?'"
"Arrr, that? It be only a little pirate humor."
Patches withdrew his sword from his belt and dropped it on the floor, in front
of Auryn. "See, I mean ye no harm. I was just goin' to ask ye to go out of the
house for awhile so me and the boys could play Krawps."
"Oh," Auryn said feebly, feeling dumb but still
eyeing the pirate sword suspiciously. "I guess that would be okay. I'll just
head on over to the - hey, wait." Auryn walked back into the guest bedroom.
"Did you hear anything coming from under the bed?"
Patches gave him a quizzical look and Auryn
lifted up the bed skirt, revealing a caged and very unhappy white Meowclops
under it, with a note attached to the cage bars. Auryn picked it off and read
it aloud. "Behind the hotdog stand, Monday, 2:30 AM." Auryn frowned. "How weird.
AM? If that's the time of an auction it's a bit odd that it would be in the
middle of the night. Do you know anything about this?" Auryn asked Patches.
Patches didn't respond, but there was a strange
glint in his eye as if something had just clicked into place. Finally he said,
"Yes, Rubio found 'em wand'rin' 'round the house and arranged to sell 'em to
'er Korbat. 'Ehs a little eccentric and likes the night, but has 'eh wallet."
"Oh… so what's he doing under the bed?" Auryn
asked, letting the bed skirt fall back to its original place and ignoring the
subsequent unhappy cry from the petpet.
"I haven't the answer to that one, sonny. Maybe
to keep 'er from wailing?" Patches crossed his arms. "Now, if ye please, me
boys 'ill be here soon, and I daresay they don't take a lik'n to Neopets like
"How long do you want me to be gone?" Auryn
wasn't sure he bought the Pirate's story entirely; something just seemed off.
He made a mental note to check it over with Rubio later.
Patches considered. "Yer better off comin' back
later than sooner. After lunch at the minimum."
Auryn left for the coffee shop, the fact that
he hadn't gotten his morning shower the least of his worries. Sure, Korbats
were nocturnal, which would explain the time, but why would Rubio have it arranged
behind the hotdog stand, and why hadn't he told him?
"Then again," Auryn thought, "Maybe I shouldn't
check it over with Rubio. He's been acting strange lately also. It seems like
all I've been getting lately are excuses, none of which add up quite right."
Auryn made it the rest of the way to the Deep Catacombs, ordering a cup of Banana
cream coffee from the middle-aged yellow Shoyru when he arrived and heading
back outside the shop, sitting down at the first vacant table he saw.
Auryn sipped at the smooth mixture while glancing
around the catacombs. A group of college kids from University Neopia were huddled
around a slow-burning flame chatting and telling stories, Local artists with
dropping hats and colorful palettes were painting caricatures of each other,
and Auryn could hear the low hum of a local band playing a modern jazzy tune
contently. Auryn couldn't help but smile; the warm atmosphere and dim torchlight
of the catacombs was relaxing, and everybody just seemed happy to be alive.
"Hey… I didn't know you came here." Auryn turned
around and was surprised to find a kiwi-colored Shoyru standing next to him,
her short blonde hair (now highlighted green) crimped to perfection and her
eyes with black eyeliner and mascara on them, making her look soft and feminine.
A touch of jade eye shadow and lip gloss shimmered on her face, and the spike
on each of her wings was painted the same rich, glittery green.
It was Imp! Auryn was stunned speechless for
a moment. Here was his assertive, businesslike co-worker transformed into a
Shoyru that looked like she could have been the week's beauty contest winner.
After a few awkward seconds, Auryn finally managed to speak. "Waiting for someone?"
Embarrassed, Imp blushed and said in a small
voice, "No… I'm auditioning for a play."
"Oh." Auryn hadn't expected that. "Which play?"
"It's called 'Illusion's Thorn.' It's a comedy
about the fight between Illusion and Jhudora. There's a Neopet that's the head
of an Illusion Fan club in the play - that's the part I'm auditioning for, which
is why I look so green… well, more so than normal, anyway. I'm supposed to look
like an obsessed admirer. Anyway, the audition isn't until one, so I'm kind
of just hanging out here for awhile. So what are you doing here?"
Auryn motioned for her to sit down and said,
"It's a long story. Interested?" Imp nodded her head and Auryn told her everything,
starting from the strange events concerning the white Meowclops and the missing
petpet reports, to when he found out his owner had a private bank account. He
told her that Rubio had said that Franz had a gambling addiction, and how he
thought Patches was going to fight him, and about when he had found the white
Meowclops under the guest bed with the ambiguous note attached. All the while
Imp had listened silently, emerald eyes big with interest.
After taking a minute to soak it all in, Imp
asked, "So what are you going to do?"
Auryn finished his now-cold coffee and scratched
the back of his neck. "I'm not sure. If I confront Rubio about it I might not
get the whole truth, and I'm still not sure I trust Patches even if he doesn't
want to send me to Davy Jones's locker. He looked like he was lying when he
told me that Rubio was selling the Meowclops off to an eccentric Korbat. In
fact, the only thing I'm sure of is that something is going down at 2:30 tomorrow,
and the more that I think about it the more I'm convinced that I want to be
there for it."
Imp nodded, a thought suddenly occurring to her.
"Hey, do you think there's any connection between the fact that you found a
petpet on the streets and the disappearance of the Mallard? Maybe something
is causing the petpets to act weird and run away from their owners?"
Auryn thought about it. "I don't know, but there's
definitely something shady going on."
To be continued...