A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 197,466,050 Issue: 983 | 19th day of Hunting, Y25
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Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace

by satintiger


Mae didn't sleep well that night.

     After the revelation of the necklace's disappearance, pandemonium erupted in the manor. The guests all immediately agreed to turn out their pockets and show the contents of their handbags, but the necklace was nowhere to be found. Brunton and Tadriel also agreed to show their empty pockets, although Tadriel didn't seem to have any idea what everyone was so frantically looking for.

     The eight of them -- Jovron, his cook, his butler, and the five guests -- started to conduct a cursory sweep of the manor, but Jovron frustratedly told everyone to leave less than a half hour into their search. Sir Palomir insisted he walk Mae home after the evening's events.

     Once outside the manor, Palomir hesitated. "You mentioned at dinner, I think, that your parents have gone out of town?"

     Mae nodded.

     "Then perhaps..." the knight looked around uncomfortably. "Perhaps there's somewhere else you can stay? Forgive me for saying so, Mae, but something about sending you home to stay the night alone, after what happened, well... I think that's unwise."

     Mae ended up staying at Kacia's for the night, but hardly slept at all. By the time Kacia woke up and began making breakfast, Mae had already been sitting in the kitchen for some hours.

     "So..." Kacia yawned. "The necklace was there, and then suddenly it wasn't?"

     "I've been trying to go over it all in my head again," Mae said, "but something just isn't right. Everyone left the room for at least a little while beside me. It could've been any of them."

     Kacia looked at her in surprise. "What, you think it was one of you who did it?"

     Mae shrugged. "I don't see how it could've been anyone else, Uncle Jov said we were the only ones who knew about the necklace to begin with."

     "You might be the only ones he told, but that doesn't mean you're the only ones who knew."

     Mae frowned and leaned her head forward into her paws. "I think I'll go back to the manor today. Uncle Jov seemed badly shaken last night, I want to see if he's okay."

     Kacia gave her cousin a sceptical look. "Curiosity killed the Kougra, Mae."


     The sky was overcast when Mae made her way back up to her uncle's. She rang the bell, just like she had the previous night. There was a delay in the answer this time, which Mae noted was very unlike Brunton.

     When the door opened, Mae was startled to see that it looked like Brunton hadn't actually slept yet. "Brunton?" she said, surprised.

     He gave her a tired smile and bowed his head. "Miss Mae. I should've expected to see you back here today."

     Mae shifted uncomfortably. "I came to check in on Uncle Jov."

     The butler shook his head. "He has been in his study all night. The two of us searched the place together -- thoroughly, top to bottom -- for hours, and then he shut himself away in there. Neither Tadriel nor I have seen him since."

     "Tadriel is still here?" Mae asked. "I assumed he would've left for Altador once the party was over."

     Again Brunton shook his head, letting out a sigh. "Your uncle doesn't want him leaving Shenkuu until the matter is sorted out. All of the guests are still staying in town, as a matter of fact." He glanced around and lowered his voice, leaning in towards Mae. "If you ask me... I think he believes Tadriel is the one who took the jewels."

     "Really...? Tadriel?"

     "Yes..." Brunton stood back, straightening up. "I've been keeping my eye on him since the... events last night. Your uncle asked to hire him for an extra few days to cover up why he really wants him to stay. I think Tadriel knows, but he's acted perfectly polite about it."

     "He didn't know about the necklace, did he?"

     "From what I understood, it was strictly your uncle, the guests, and myself who knew. I was only informed moments before the first guest showed up, and I imagine you all found out together in the study. But I think it's easier for him to believe Tadriel is the culprit than one of his friends."

     Mae paused to think for a moment. "Was it you or Uncle Jov that told him eventually?"

     The Bruce stared thoughtfully off into the distance. "We asked to search his pockets and he graciously allowed us to... And then after your uncle dismissed the rest of you, he told Tadriel a priceless item had gone missing."

     Mae nodded. "Where is Tadriel now?"

     Brunton motioned behind him. "He's in the kitchen, making brunch. Said he might as well, since he's, erm, engaged here." He smiled. "I'll tell him we'll have one more joining us."

     The butler held the door open for Mae, and she walked carefully back into the manor. It was very still, despite all the chaos that had erupted the previous night.

     Her first stop was the study. She knocked lightly on the door. No response came from inside, so she knocked again. "Uncle Jov?"

     This time she heard some shuffling, followed by footsteps. The door cracked open to reveal a sliver of her uncle's haggard face. He studied her for just a moment before throwing the door open wide and giving his niece a weathered smile. "Mae, dear, did Brunton employ you to come check on me?"

     Mae shook her head. "I was worried about you! I've never seen you like that before."

     "I've never lost a priceless set of jewels before."

     He beckoned his niece into the room, poked his head into the hallway to look around, and then closed the door tightly before making his way back over to the armchair behind his desk. Mae sat down in the chair across from him on the other side of the desk.

     "Uncle Jov..." she started.

     "Mae, dear, I don't want you to worry about this. I'll contact the Defenders of Neopia, and I'm sure they'll be able to help me."

     Mae studied her uncle for a moment. "Were all of your guests' citizens who the Defenders would... approve of?"

     She watched as her uncle shifted in his seat and averted his gaze for a few seconds. "I suppose... I suppose not."

     "And..." she continued, choosing her words cautiously, "is the loss of a priceless necklace, previously known to be floating around in the seedy underbellies of Neopia, something you would want the public to know?"

     Her uncle's face darkened a moment, and he let out a cynical laugh. "Again, I suppose not."

     "Can you at least tell me how you found it?" Mae asked. "How did you come into possession of the Heart of the Sun?"

     Jovron waved his hand dismissively. "That is not important, and I promise you it has no bearing on the case at hand. Besides," he said with a wry grin, "a magician never reveals his secrets."

     Mae stood up from her chair. "Then why don't I take a look around and see what I can put together? Besides, the Defenders probably have their hands full anyway."

     "Mae! This is a dangerous situation, I couldn't possibly let you get in the middle of it. Your parents would never forgive me!"

     "But," Mae said, "I'm the only person who was at that party who you know you can trust." She watched as her uncle struggled to come up with a counterargument, then pressed on gently. "Just let me help you, Uncle Jov. Please?"

     He stared back at her, his lips pressed tightly together. "Well..."

     Mae smiled as she made her way back to the door. "I promise I won't do anything reckless."

     Her uncle spun his chair around to face out the window. "Forgive me, dear," he called after her, "But I'm not sure I believe you!"

     Mae stepped back out into the hallway, again feeling uncomfortable about how quiet it was, and leaned back against the door. She'd read plenty of detective stories when she was growing up, but it was different to be stuck in the middle of her own without really knowing where to start.

     She glanced around once she had made her decision, and quietly walked down the hall to the gallery.

     It had been left much the same as it was the night before, with the exception of the now-cleared dining table. Mae began by checking all the chairs, searching under the table, and inspecting every nook and cranny of the room she could think of. Since everyone who had left the room had come back in at some point, it would seem logical the necklace might be hidden somewhere nearby. But she had no such luck.

     She went back to the doorway, and looked both ways up and down the hall. To her right was the door to the study and the staircase leading back downstairs. To her left she could see the bathroom door, indicated by the vase of flowers next to it that Jovron had mentioned to Psylina. Past the bathroom was a series of other doors that disappeared around a corner.

     Mae turned back into the gallery and drew the door shut behind her. Her eyes swept the room. "What now...?" she wondered aloud. Her eyes landed on the balcony doors, which she marked as her next move.

     The sky hadn't cleared up from its gloomy shade of grey when Mae stepped out onto the balcony, but even the overcast weather didn't take away from the breathtaking view of the gardens. The sculpted trees danced in the breeze, and a voice rose up to Mae's ears from below her.

     "Another guest? You're lucky I'm the best, or I might start getting frustrated with you, Brunton."

     Mae recognized it as Tadriel's voice. She guessed the balcony must've brought her out right above the kitchen. She crept closer to the railing and listened.

     "I'm sure something small would suffice if you don't have time to--"

     "I have plenty of time, it's my patience that I'm beginning to run short on."

     Mae blushed. It seemed her visit was causing more of an uproar than she had intended. She made a mental note to thank Tadriel very graciously after brunch.

     The voices died down, and Mae made her way to the edge of the balcony. It was a little wider than the doors attached to it, and it was a rather far drop from the balcony down to the gravel-covered ground below. It would also, she concluded, be impossible for someone to climb out onto the balcony via a window from a different room, or vice versa; the windows to what must've been the bathroom and the study were too far away for a manoeuvre like that.

     Mae went back inside to the gallery and shut the doors behind her. They were almost fully glass, so anyone out on the balcony could easily be seen by those inside the gallery. On her way to leave the room, she made a stop at the seat where the glass had shattered. If there had been any leftover debris from the accident, it was gone now.

     Unable to think of anything else to check in the gallery for the time being, Mae went to the door. As her paw reached the doorknob, she froze -- she could hear footsteps moving quietly in the hallway. She pressed her ear to the door and listened, holding her breath. The footsteps slowed by the gallery, as if the person was about to open the door, but then picked back up and carried on down the hallway. A few moments later, they crept back up the hallway towards the gallery.

     Mae's heart beat faster in her chest -- for a moment, she struggled with how to proceed. It didn't sound like the visitor on the other side of the door was doing... much of anything. In fact, she could no longer hear any footsteps or movement at all.

     While she was lost in thought, the door suddenly swung open, and a certain Desert Lutari tried to walk through, nearly knocking her over.

     Khadi-Ra grabbed Mae's arm and steadied her. "Mae?" he said.

     "Oh... Hello again," Mae said pleasantly, a little bit embarrassed.

     Khadi-Ra studied her for a moment, and then shifted his gaze to look behind her into the gallery. "What are you doing in here?" he asked.

     Not wanting to admit that she had been listening at doorways, and also not sure if she could trust him to tell him she was investigating the disappearance of the Heart of the Sun, she looked away for a second. "I was... looking for my uncle," she said.

     Again, Khadi-Ra stared at her quizzically. After a couple of seconds, he walked past her and gazed around the room. "It can be awfully exciting to get wrapped up in a real mystery, isn't it?" he smiled, turning back to face her. It seemed he already knew what she had been up to in the gallery.

     She blushed and walked a little further into the room. "I want to help my uncle."

     "Very noble," he said, nodding. "Well then, what's on the agenda for the day, Detective?"

     Mae scratched the back of her head without saying anything for a few seconds, then looked squarely at the Lutari. "How did you say you knew my uncle?"

     He too paused before speaking again. "Your uncle... and I met a few years back. I believe it was in the Lost Desert, he bought an art piece from me when I was visiting Sakhmet. Since then, he's come to visit me several times in Qasala when he's on the prowl for new pieces."

     "I see," Mae replied. That seemed reasonable enough to her. "And the Heart of the Sun... You had heard of it before?"

     "Yes, I had heard it had resurfaced and was being traded around through the black market, although it's nearly impossible to sell such a notable piece of jewellery."

     "It is?" Mae asked.

     "Oh yes," Khadi-Ra nodded. "With it being such a famous necklace, one wouldn't want to get caught with it, especially since it's widely known it was stolen long ago. If someone were to be found with it now, they'd be in possession of stolen goods."

     Mae looked out at the gallery thoughtfully. "It must be worth quite a lot though, no?"

     Khadi-Ra exhaled sharply. "Oh, I can't even imagine how much it'd be worth now. It's been missing for so long, I couldn't put a price on it."

     "Huh," Mae murmured. She glanced around the room, then back at Khadi-Ra. "Don't I remember you leaving the gallery for some time during dinner? When Casara's glass broke?"

     His eyes widened a bit for just a second, and he let out a startled laugh. "Did I? I supposed I did. I went to the bathroom to get a bandage for her."

     "Did you see anyone else around?"

     Khadi-Ra shook his head. "Not a soul. I went down the hall to the bathroom, got the bandages from the cabinet, and came straight back. The bandages took me a few minutes to find as they weren't in the first aid kit, so I suppose it took me longer than one would think. But... There was nobody else around." He turned his head to the side, and drew in a breath as if he was about to say something else, but seemed to swallow his words.

     Mae's tail twitched. "Was there... something else?" she pressed gently.

     He smiled again, and gave a small shrug. "It's probably nothing, Mae, I just... could've sworn I heard the sound of footsteps down the hall when I was coming back. But there was so much going on, I'm sure I was just hearing things."

     Mae studied his face for a few seconds, trying to process her new information. He seemed to be telling the truth. "Everyone left the room at one point or another throughout dinner," she sighed. "It'll be hard to pinpoint exactly when the Heart of the Sun was taken."

     "Everyone?" Khadi-Ra repeated. "I don't think I recall Casara leaving. Or you, for that matter."

     "Casara went out on the balcony," Mae said, tossing her head in the direction of the balcony doors. "I consider that leaving the room, don't you?"

     "I suppose," the Lutari agreed. "Did you check the balcony for the necklace?" Mae nodded. "Did you find it?" She shook her head 'No.'

     "Then I don't believe Casara could be the culprit. She couldn't have doubled back and taken it from the study without ever leaving the gallery. It seems that you and she are the only two who wouldn't have had the chance."

     The gears in Mae's head were spinning at a mile a minute. Everything he said was true; she herself never left the room, and Casara had no chance to take it and smuggle it out without someone finding it on her person.

     It was Khadi-Ra who spoke next, taking a few steps towards the door. "I'm afraid I must take my leave for now, I have some business with your uncle. Will you be staying for brunch?"

     The colour crept back into Mae's cheeks before she replied. "I think so. I have some business to attend to too."

     Khadi-Ra's laugh -- a low, warm laugh that Mae found oddly comforting -- filled the gallery, echoing off the walls. "Well then, Mae, I'll see you at brunch. Good luck with your investigation." And with that, he left.

     Alone again, Mae exhaled for what felt like the first time since she had bumped into Khadi-Ra. Confident with her questioning of her first suspect, she made her way out of the gallery herself. She watched as Khadi-Ra opened the study door and then closed it behind him as he went through. The hallway was silent, but the distant sounds of Tadriel cooking in the kitchen floated up the staircase.

     She had no idea how much time there would be before brunch, but she figured she could get in a little more sleuthing before it would be time to eat. She turned thoughts over in her head about everything Khadi-Ra had told her, and something began nagging at the corner of her mind. Something he had told her was... off, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

     She looked down the hallway, and saw the vase of flowers that signalled the bathroom door. Again her tail twitched intuitively, and she found herself walking along down the hallway towards the bathroom.

     Like the rest of the manor, the bathroom was beautiful and ornate. Golden sinks and marble countertops, a big wide mirror with elegant pink seashell lights, and a small statue fountain with etchings of dancing Koi on the basin greeted Mae as she entered. She remembered coming in this bathroom as a child and almost being unable to move for fear of breaking the serenity.

     She stood in the doorway and imagined that she was Khadi-Ra, coming in here to look for bandages. There were three cabinets under the sinks, so she felt it was natural to start with the one closest to the door. She found the first aid kit in there, but when she opened it, she noted that as Khadi-Ra had said, there were no bandages. In fact, there were no medical supplies at all inside -- it was completely empty. She rooted around through the rest of the miscellanea in the cabinet, between toothbrushes and combs and tissues, but still found no bandages.

     Scooting over to the centre cabinet, she found much of the same. Plenty of... stuff, but no bandages. Finally, in the back of the furthest cabinet from the door was a small unlabeled box with all the supplies that one might find in a first aid kid inside -- including bandages.

     Mae smiled and laughed at her findings. Her uncle was certainly eccentric, having a first aid kit but keeping the first aid supplies somewhere else entirely. As she stood up from the floor, she felt confident that she, too, would've taken a bit of a long time to find a bandage for Casara's hand.

     She found herself looking at her reflection in the mirror. Could she really handle solving a mystery like this? She frowned, finding the idea of letting her uncle down unbearable. But It seemed like there was something much bigger than her at play in this mystery, and even she wasn't sure where to turn to next.

     Just as she was lost in thought, she heard the gong ring, signalling mealtime. She started and shook her head. It was important for her to get to brunch; maybe someone there would have something to tell her that would help her investigation.

     She leaned forward and washed her paws in the sink. As she turned to take a towel from the rack, she noticed it was empty. "Great," she muttered as she shook her paws out and wiped them hurriedly on her pants. Coming to brunch with damp pawprints on her clothes was not the sort of behaviour she felt fit in with her uncle's palatial estate.

     What Khadi-Ra had said was bothering her even more after her investigation of the bathroom. "But the bandages were hard to find, just as he told me..." she said to herself as she made her way into the hall. "If anything, what I found only corroborates his story."

     As she stood there outside the bathroom, Jovron and Khadi-Ra came out of the study together, talking in quiet voices. "If you'll excuse me for a moment," Khadi-Ra said to Jovron, "I'll just go wash my hands before we eat." He began walking down the hallway towards Mae.

     "Oh, there's no towels in there," Mae said offhandedly, still lost in thought.

     "Yes," Jovron called back. "I had the linens from the bathrooms sent to the laundry room to be cleaned yesterday but with all the commotion..." he trailed off. "My apologies for the inconvenience."

     With that, something clicked. Mae's eyes widened for a moment, and she looked quickly to Khadi-Ra. "You!" she exclaimed.

     He and Jovron both looked equally startled by Mae's outburst. They exchanged a look before Khadi-Ra turned back to her. "...Yes?" he said cautiously.

     Mae shook her head, trying to organize her thoughts. "You said you didn't see anyone in the bathroom or the hallway when you left the gallery last night?"

     "Yes?" Khadi-Ra said again.

     "That doesn't make sense at all!" Mae said excitedly.

     After she didn't continue to elaborate, Jovron and Khadi-Ra exchanged another look. "Well... why not?"

     "Because!" Mae said, the words starting to flow freely from her out of exhilaration. "There's someone that Khadi-Ra definitely should have seen last night! This means that someone was lying about where they were when they left the room -- right around the time the necklace went missing!"

     And with that, Mae finally had her next lead.

To be continued…

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