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Mr. Pufferton and the Last Magazine: Part Four

by emblo93


Chapter 4 – In Which a Heinous Crime is Inadvertently Committed

The return to the estate offered little in the way of celebration. Old Shamus greeted the returning duo with a grunt, Chef had not yet returned with the groceries, and it wasn't long before Argyle and Mr. Pufferton sat across from each other in the sitting room with a brand new copy of Feasts and Fetes sitting between them. If the pages could talk, they likely would have mentioned how depressing the entire scene was.

     "So... what now?" Argyle's excitement at successfully completing his mission had sufficiently worn off. "Did you figure out what to do with it?"

     "Argyle, one does not simply 'do.' There is a clue somewhere within these pages. Something in here is valuable enough to cause a Grarrl to risk several years locked up in some foul dungeon. It is up to us, now, to figure out what it is and where." Mr. Pufferton picked up the magazine and flipped through it idly.

     "Any idea where to start?"

     "The beginning is as good a place as any." Mr. Pufferton turned to the very first page and began to read.

     "Right." Argyle picked between his teeth. "How many pages is that thing?"

     Mr. Pufferton checked briefly. "One hundred and twenty-two."


     In the foyer, the ancient grandfather clock ticked away the seconds.

     "And what exactly are we looking for?"

     "Anything that might be of value."

     "What, like free cologne samples?"

     Mr. Pufferton closed his eyes. "No, my dear Argyle. I do not believe our friend went to the trouble of offering you a year's salary and subsequently breaking into my home in order to smell marginally nicer."

     Argyle sank deep into his plush arm chair. "It was just a thought."

     Seconds dragged into minutes.

     "What page are you on now, Puffs?"

     "Two. Argyle, would you be so good as to see if Chef has returned. And, should you find the answer to be decidedly negative, would you then be so good as to walk back along the road to the city and help him with his groceries?"

      Four o'clock came rather earlier than Argyle St. James would have liked. It had admittedly been nearing midnight when he found Chef attempting to buy "the most exquisite hollandaise I've ever seen!" from a small, privately-owned grocery, and by the time they'd found a cart service willing to transport half the ingredients in Neopia, it had been half past one in the morning. For another hour, Argyle and Chef had argued about whether to walk back to the estate or not, and it was ultimately decided that spending the night in Neopia Central was not an option only after the pair made the unfortunate decision of trying to book a room in the aptly named Cheepo Hovel.

     "How was I to know it was literal?" complained Argyle. "Look, there's the gates now. Besides, the rooms weren't all that bad!"

     "Aye, but I like to wake up in the morning without having to pick petpetpets out of my hair. And I also like to wake up with a bed under me. And with all my money still in my pocket."

     Argyle yawned. "Least we won't have to deal with Puffs. Do you need help with the groceries?"

     "Oughta be good. Get yourself some rest, St. James. If what you told me is right, you've earned it. Oy, is that the light still on?"

     It was the light still on.

     "Either Puffs has forgotten to flip the switch again or else he's still messing about with that glossy." Argyle spat to the side of the road. "Six hours should have been time enough to figure that thing out."

     Chef swatted him with a spiked tail. "That old Bruce has solved more mysteries than you or me ever will. Remember when Lord Culldersack lost his monogrammed monocle?"

     Argyle snorted. "Not much of a mystery. But it did get the bloated old fool's ego up even more than it already was."

     "Then what about the missing schoolboy? That was right kidnapping, that was!"

     "You mean the Von Smythe brat who ran away? I could have told you he'd run off with his vagrant uncle."

     Again, Chef poked at the insolent manservant with his tail. "You can make light, St. James, but the Bruce has got smarts and no denying."

     Argyle put his hands up defensively. "Oh, I'm not denying, Chef! But the 'cases' he's worked so far are things you find in the children's section of bookstore. Don't know how this one could be much different."

      Mr. Pufferton was asleep in his chair. Papers littered the table in front him, adorned with bizarre symbols and equations. At least a dozen books were open, folded upon themselves and marked in one way or another. A map of Neopia Central lay unfurled across an entire quarter of the table, riddled with little pins. In the midst of it all, the latest issue of Feasts and Fetes sat as though a monarch. It was propped up against a stack of old books, opened to a page somewhere in the middle of the magazine. Something was circled in red ink.

     "Oh, Puffs..." Argyle made his way slowly to the side of the snoring Bruce. It would be kinder to let him sleep here for the remainder of the night. Argyle laid a blanket around the lightly heaving shoulders – the guest room would not miss it tonight – and bent over to examine the circled item in the magazine.

     It was an advertisement. Specifically, it advertised a special deal happening at a Pizzaroo store near you:


     Amazing Deal On Peppermint Pizza!

     Now only 218 neopoints a slice!

     Come On Down To Pizzaroo

     Where There's


     "What are you on about, Puffs..." Argyle had sampled Pizzaroo's specialty peppermint pizza on one occasion; he had sampled little more than Grumble Be Gone for days after. For Mr. Pufferton to circle the ad indicated either an abrupt change in gustatory disposition... or a clue.

     "Argyle." The voice issued from the depths of the blanket, from a smothered god. "Why is there a blanket over my head?"

     "Warmth, Puffs."

     "I see." The blanket fell promptly to the ground. "You'll notice that I've circled an advertisement."

     "Any particular reason for that?"

     "Call it a hunch, Argyle. A theory. A feeling in my proverbial and plentiful gut. Tell me, do you recall every locale you visited today?"

     Argyle reached into the foggy memories of the previous morning's activities and did not find his recollections wanting. "Well enough, yeah?"

     "Did you, by any chance, end up in the Moonshiner's District?"

     "Hmm? Come to think, we did end up there. You'd think Kauvara would shut that place down with all the counterfeit potions coming out of there."

     "Yes, yes, moonshine potions are a bad business, but did your Grarrl friend do anything in particular while he was there?"

     Argyle fell into a chair and slumped his head onto the table. "Urgh... Puffs, it's four in the morning."

     "Crime doesn't sleep, Argyle, nor should we."

     "He... he might have visited a house? He didn't spend long there, I can tell you that."

     Mr. Pufferton nodded slowly and placed the tips of his flippers together, resting his beak upon the bridge they made. He closed his eyes, deep in thought.

     "Puffs... why did you circle this ad? Maybe it's just because it's four in the morning, but I don't see the connection between pizza and breaking into our house."

     There was no answer.


     It was then that Argyle noticed the soft sound of Mr. Pufferton's snores permeating the air, and he smiled to himself before picking the blanket up off the floor and draping it around the Bruce's shoulders once more.

      For the third time in as many days, Argyle found himself in Neopia Central. And for the third time in as many days, Argyle found himself wishing only half-jokingly that he had died in his sleep. As before, Mr. Pufferton had refused him entry into the cart, and the fourth trek into the city had proven to be the worst one yet. The prospect of moseying innocently around the Moonshiner's District with a clearly well-to-do Bruce did nothing to boost his spirits.

     "Remind me again why we're here? I know that Grarrl came here yesterday, but he went a lot of other places too. Nicer places. Some pubs, some cafes. Even the docks would be nicer than this..."

     Mr. Pufferton stepped gingerly around a sleeping Buzz dressed only in rags. "You'll see momentarily, Argyle. Confound these beggars. I had forgotten how much poverty infested this area."

     "'S only natural, Puffs. It's desperate pets brewing these bathtub potions." Argyle warily eyed a shifty-eyed Kacheek hawking "Ultrador" strength potions from a burlap sack.

     Mr. Pufferton grunted in acknowledgment and continued making his way through the twisty maze that was the Moonshiner's District. The cobbled streets wound through all manner of buildings; some were storefronts that had long since been boarded up, and others were homes, kept upright through layers of scaffolding and sheer force of will. The roads themselves were filled with the muck of ages and the stench of life. And the pets who walked those roads were hardened by the bitter tribulations of life, eager to sneer and hard to please. If ever there was a more brutally real place in Neopia, it has yet to be found.

     Argyle and Mr. Pufferton were not in the Moonshiner's District to come to terms with the harsh reality of life in Neopia Central, however. Mr. Pufferton was content to observe life from his mansion's veranda, and Argyle had already known it all too well. They were instead looking, as Mr. Pufferton had said at the outset of their journey, for a singular house.

     "It will be a passing ordinary house," the omnipotent being had said. "It will look like any other. There will be no reason to knock at its door. And that, my dear Argyle, is precisely the point."

     It seemed an unreasonable point to Argyle, yet he accompanied the Bruce all the same. Perhaps they would stop for pie on the way back to the mansion. Argyle enjoyed pie. Pie of all sorts, really.

     "Argyle, why are you mumbling about boysenberries?"

     The Techo blushed and muttered something about the fruit being in season this time of year.

     "I see." Mr. Pufferton suddenly came to a halt. "Ah, we're here."

     The house was, in fact, passing ordinary. It had a door, two windows, and a roof. The door was on both hinges, the windows were only cracked in two places each, and the roof had not yet fallen through completely, so one might have said that it was an above average house for such an area, but that was merely a matter of semantics. The number of the house was 218.

     " the ad?" Argyle seemed puzzled.

     "Like the ad, Argyle."

     "And the street?"

     "Pandaphant Boulevard."

     "Why here?" The street seemed much the same as any other, and were over a dozen houses with the number 218 in the city.

     "A hunch, Argyle. Should this escapade prove fortuitous, I shall enlighten you as to how I solved a most perplexing puzzle." The Bruce smiled enigmatically at Argyle's rolling eyes, and he stepped up the door and knocked sharply on it.

     There was no answer.

     "Try again, Puffs. Might be they didn't hear you."

     Mr. Pufferton obeyed the suggestion and rapped again on the wooden door. "Hallo!" he called. "Is anybody in there?"

     There was no answer.

     "Ah well, can't win 'em all, yeah?" Argyle was not sorry to see the end of the adventure; he much preferred the quiet living in Barnaby Downs. "What was your hunch, then? Might be I'll keep it in mind next time I need to know how not to solve a mystery."

     "I'm afraid it was an overly complex scheme, Argyle. The price of the pizza would have been the street number. The first letter of the pizza on sale would have been the first letter of the street name."

     Argyle rubbed his chin, trying to remember the exact wording of the ad. "But there's got to be a hundred streets starting with P! Why this one?"

     Mr. Pufferton raised his chubby flippers up to the sky. "Ah, a fancy, Argyle! The ad claimed an 'amazing' deal, whereas past issues might have claimed the 'best' deal or else a 'crazy' special."

     "So... A, B, or C?"

     "First, second, or third! Any fool with a street guide would be able to find the first alphabetical street that started with P!"

     Argyle looked at his boss with wonder. "Pandaphant Boulevard..."

     "218 Pandaphant Boulevard, Argyle... An amazing deal on peppermint pizza... only 218 neopoints. It would have almost too tidy."

     "But, Puffs... why would-"

     "'Ello gents, spare a neopoint or two?" The Buzz came out of nowhere, bowling into Mr. Pufferton and putting his grimy hands near any area that might have a loose pocket. "Haven't eaten in two days, haven't slept right in five. Anything'll do, guv. Just a 'point, honest."

     "Get back, you filthy beggar!" Mr. Pufferton grabbed the Buzz's arms and shoved him back forcefully. "I have no neopoints for you!"

     Argyle had more pity for the lost soul. "Here you go, mate." He tossed a twenty-point coin at the pathetic figure. "Buy yourself a hot lunch."

     The Buzz snatched the glittering coin out of the air and made a shallow bow to the Techo. "Thankee kindly, Master Techo. And thankee too, Master Bruce." He made an even shallower bow to Mr. Pufferton and hovered off down the street. Within a minute, he was out of sight.

     "Well I never!" Mr. Pufferton huffed. When Mr. Pufferton huffed, it was a sight to behold. "The nerve of that Buzz! Come, Argyle, I've quite lost my appetite for this."

      Several hours later, the pair arrived back at Barnaby Downs. Mr. Pufferton shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Argyle to be shaken out. "A complete and total waste, Argyle. A morning ruined. I say, I've never been so deflated in all my life."

     Argyle nodded sympathetically and began turning the pockets on the gigantic coat inside-out. A small plastic bag slipped out of one of them. Inside was a small green orb. "Puffs, is this yours?"

     "What is it?"

     "Looks like... a pea?" Argyle opened the plastic bag and rolled the object out into his hand. "Just a pea, yup."

     "I don't recall putting a bag of pea in my pocket, Argyle."

     "Right, I'll just toss it, then." Argyle, true to his word, tossed the little pea over his shoulder at the front door. The noise that followed resembled the din created during a scheduled demolition. Argyle was flung forward, sprawling across the foyer. Dust and debris scattered over him, the remnants of the front door. When all was settled, Argyle turned himself around to see a gaping hole where the front of the house had been.

     "An attack pea, then." Mr. Pufferton had remained upright throughout the ordeal; it would take more than an attack pea to lift him off his feet. He brushed a piece of door frame off his shirt. "Argyle, my boy... I believe we have just become smugglers."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Mr. Pufferton and the Last Magazine: Part One
» Mr. Pufferton and the Last Magazine: Part Two
» Mr. Pufferton and the Last Magazine: Part Three
» Mr. Pufferton and the Last Magazine

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