The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Yanked Yooyus - Part Twelve
When Luna, Damien, Charlie, two of the Defenders and I opened the door to Candice Valentine’s office, the pink Wocky burst into tears.
She allowed herself to be led to an empty conference room down the hall, where she, Dominic, the four of us, and the Defenders could sit.
“Candice Valentine, we’ve found incriminating evidence that holds you and your father responsible for the kidnapping of seven Yooyus and other crimes associated with it. Do you deny this charge?”
The Wocky exhaled loudly, catching her breath. “No, I don’t deny it.”
“You and Knox had the whole thing planned out,” I continued. “You’d slip away from your box right before the game, get the Yooyus down the chute, and leave right as Trent was coming in.”
Candice sniffed. “Yes, it’s true. I helped him plan everything.”
“Why would you do that?” Luna asked.
Silence filled the room. “Last year,” Candice began softly, “my father worked here. He was on the Altador Cup Committee. He was going to take Jasper Curry’s place.” She paused, dragging a paw across her face. “But then there was a scandal,” Candice hiccupped, fresh tears flowing freely, “and he was framed.”
“What kind of scandal?” Damien pressed gently.
Candice rolled her eyes at the thought of it and said. “He was accused of stealing thousands of Neopoints from Jasper Curry.”
“And you think he’s innocent?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Candice, staring at the tabletop. “I knew he was innocent at the time and I still believe he is.”
I leaned back into the chair, studying the pink Wocky’s face. Her words filled me with uncertainty. Knox had sent a ransom to Jasper that requested millions of Neopoints. A few thousands here and there when you had a way to make yourself invisible didn’t seem so far-fetched.
“If you believe your father was wrongly fired,” Luna began, “then who do you think stole from Jasper Curry?”
Candice’s face crumpled and her shoulders slumped. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I don’t know.”
Luna stood, an indication that we were finished. Candice had reached the emotional state of being unable to say anything more about her father and the four of us were weary from the long day.
“I took good care of the Yooyus,” she promised. “I never wanted to hurt them.”
“Where are they?” I asked softly.
“585 Florin Road. There’s a key in the top drawer of my desk.”
Thank Fyora, I thought, not in the mood to have to break a window or knock down a door with my shoulder.
When Luna went to find the key, the Defenders escorted Candice from the building to the amusement of a dozen photographers and reporters. Charlie and I watched the scene erupt from the office window.
“I wonder if Candice is right,” Damien murmured as the pink Wocky slipped into the Eyrie cab without commenting to anyone.
“I think she’s just confused,” Charlie said. “If Knox was once working at the Colosseum, he would’ve had the resources to continually steal Neopoints from the Altador Cup Committee. After reading the ransom note he typed, it sounds like he was more than capable of taking money that didn’t belong to him.”
“Found it,” said Luna, holding up a brass key. “Top drawer, just like she said.”
The four of us started to leave and spotted Dominic slumped into a chair in the back row.
His starry face was pale, head buried into his fins. For the fiftieth time in our career, I wondered what it felt like to be betrayed by someone you cared for. It was unfortunate that we had seen his sorrow too many times, and definitely not one of the highlights of being a detective.
“Dom?” I asked, patting him on the shoulder. “Was Knox the one stealing from Jasper Curry?”
The starry Jetsam’s jaw clenched. He nodded painfully. “Yeah. We all knew he was responsible.” He looked up at us. “I can’t believe Candice still thinks otherwise... after all this.” We left him to his thoughts in the silence of the now-empty room.
“Candice didn’t say anything in her letter to Knox that indicated she thought he was innocent,” said Luna once we sauntered down the stone hall.
“Which reinforces my point,” said Charlie from the top of my head. Although I couldn’t see the pea Chia, I could hear him thinking. “I’m sure that deep down Candice knows her father is guilty of stealing those Neopoints and that it was his own fault he lost his job. But it was her love for him that got in the way, clouding her judgment.”
“The innate need to protect a family member,” I answered.
Luna squinted at the winding, brick roads that led to homes and neighborhoods. “I guess there’s only one thing left to do.”
“Right,” I said. “585 Florin Road.”
Judge Hog accompanied us to the east side of Altador in a second Eyrie cab. He flew alongside us like a shadow in the sky, always to my left.
It felt liberating to be this close to wrapping up the case, but a weight of disappointment pressed down on me as well. The most amazing opportunity of our careers was coming to an end. No more wandering the private nooks of the Colosseum, no more standing in the middle of the arena, no more accidentally running into members of Yooyuball teams in the Morning Glory Inn.
Candice didn’t make finding the Yooyus difficult. All seven of them had stayed in the guest bedroom for the past few days. Each looked well fed and happy to have visitors. One by one they uncurled themselves and began scampering towards us.
“Poor little guys,” said Luna, picking up the Clockwork one. “I bet they’re anxious to get back to the game.”
“Dax and Ruby will probably need to give them each a full check-up,” said Charlie, “so we should return them to the Colosseum as quickly as possible.”
I lifted the starter Yooyu, marveling at the tough, brown shell that covered its back. It stared at me intelligently. “Ready to go home?”
The Yooyu blinked.
“Come on,” said Luna with a grin, already carrying two. “Let’s load them into the Eyrie cab.”
“Now this is how you watch a Yooyuball game.”
I lounged back in the plush chair and propped my feet up on the edge of the large, glass window. The view was better than I could’ve dreamed. With seats like these, the game was an explosion of activity right before our eyes. The Darigan Yooyu was flung towards the left goalpost but it zigzagged away, being picked up by a team captain. Two defenders collided and another raced by them with lightning speed.
Our wonderful seats in box four had been provided by Dominic Fletcher. Jasper Curry had graciously decided to reward us with a large sum of Neopoints and a shower of praise. The Neopian Times boasted headlines in caps-lock and bold print all about the case and the reopening of Yooyuball. Because the starter match had been postponed by a week, the crowd was insane. They stood and cheered, waving banners and flags.
To our content, everything was as it should be. We knew in the Yooyu Room, each petpet was in tip-top shape with Trent operating the machine that would launch them into the air. We knew Jasper Curry and Dominic Fletcher were anxiously watching the opening match. We knew Olivia and Alexander were in the stands, cheering, and we knew Camden’s booth was still out front and open for business. The Ogrin wasn’t particularly thrilled about the Yooyus being back in the arena, but we were glad he was innocent nevertheless.
“You know, Marlo, this game’s starting to grow on me,” said Luna, sipping a lime green smoothie as the opposing team intercepted the Faerie Yooyu.
“I’m glad,” I told her, “because with Jasper’s generous payment, we’ll be able to afford to come here much more often.”
Luna smirked. “If that’s how you want to spend your share...”
“And just what will you do with your portion?” Damien asked the shadow Yurble.
She smiled dreamily and closed her eyes. “I’ll be taking a nice, long vacation in Faerieland. Or maybe Lutari Island, I hear it’s very nice at this time of year.”
The four of us sighed happily and watched the game continue as peacefully as Yooyuball could be.
It took a couple of weeks, but eventually Dominic Fletcher’s constant headache began to lift. Although he had been enjoying the daily matches, the starry Jetsam still deeply missed Candice, who was obviously no longer on the Altador Cup Committee. One afternoon, after a thrilling Maraqua vs. Lost Desert match, Dominic returned to his office to find a white envelope face-down on his desk.
Dominic paused before flipping it over. He knew he’d be sick to his stomach if this turned out to be another blackmail letter or something worse. But when the Jetsam realized that it had come from Bracknell Road, his breathing returned to normal.
Thank you for your cooperation and kindness during our stay in Altador. We are thrilled that the Altador Cup is back on its feet and that the Yooyus are safe. For the sake of Yooyuball, we hope you never need us again, but should something come up, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Here’s to a wonderful Cup season!
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading my final submission to the NT. It has been a joy to create cases for these characters and I will certainly miss it! My inbox is always open for comments/feedback. Thanks to our wonderful 'Times editor, Droplet; beewitched2; and everyone who’s supported me by enjoying the series.