There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 197,496,222 Issue: 986 | 30th day of Relaxing, Y25
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Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace


by satintiger

--------

By the time Mae approached Fanciful Fauna, the midday sun was completely obscured by the clouds and the first few drops of rain had begun to fall. Pogo slept peacefully in her arms, blissfully unaware of the impending weather and satisfied with his full belly.

     Mae adjusted her hold on her little Pandaphant friend outside the door to the shop. She had dropped by her home to pick Obi up before the next stop on her journey, and he was all too happy to join her.

     She opened the door and strolled inside. The Petpets in their pens all called to greet her, and she quickly spotted the Koi shopkeeper among them.

     "Hello!" Mae said cheerfully to the shopkeeper.

     The Spotted Koi smiled. "Welcome. How can I help you?"

     Mae held Obi up in her arms. He yawned and stretched out one of his arms. "My Pandaphant doesn't seem to be feeling well. Do you have any medicine I could buy for him?"

     "Feeling sick, little one?" the shopkeeper cooed to Obi. He stared back blankly, and then closed his eyes in an attempt to go back to sleep.

     "He's normally much more alert than this," Mae said quickly. "Way more active. He hardly ever naps," she explained about her Pandaphant who, in fact, spent more time sleeping than Mae thought possible.

     The shopkeeper nodded. "Let me see what I may have for you." She smiled, and with that, left to go to the back of the shop.

     Once she was alone, Mae turned Obi around to face her. "Can you ham it up a little bit, Obi? You're not behaving very sickly." Obi lifted up his trunk and tooted it playfully before swatting at Mae's nose.

     She cradled him back into her arms. "You're not much of an actor, are you?"

     At that moment, the door opened behind her. A gust of wind blew in and the smell of spices and sand wafted through the room. Mae looked back over her shoulder to the door.

     There stood Psylina, looking just as startled to see Mae as Mae was hoping she seemed to see Psylina. "Psylina! Hello."

     "You were at the party last night," the Elephante said quietly. "It is Mae, is it not?"

     "Yes, I'm Mae. And this is Obi!" she motioned with her chin down to the Petpet in her arms. "I just stopped by to see about getting some medicine for him. What are you doing here? Adopting a Petpet for yourself?"

     Psylina shut the door behind her and walked slowly past Mae towards the counter. "I am staying here."

     "Oh?" Mae said as she set Obi down on the ground. He waddled towards one of the pens with a playful-looking Dandan inside and pawed at the gate before trumpeting through his trunk excitedly. Mae took a few steps closer to where Psylina was, now behind the counter. "Are you staying on vacation? Shenkuu really is lovely this time of year."

     "I came for the party. The party is now over," Psylina replied. "I will return to the Desert shortly. I am needed there."

     "Ah. Uh-huh," Mae said, nodding. "When are you leaving?"

     "Tomorrow," said Psylina curtly. She had yet to make any sort of eye contact with Mae during their conversation, instead choosing to look at the various Petpets around the shop and now the papers on the counter in front of her.

     Mae swallowed. Tomorrow? That didn't give her much time at all to figure out what happened to the necklace. With Psylina back in the Lost Desert where she was a royal, Mae was sure there would be nothing she could do if she discovered Psylina was the culprit.

     "Oh, that's a shame," Mae said, feigning disappointment. "You were only here for a few days."

     "I do not feel comfortable staying. There is a thief here. I do not like thieving. I am safer back at home." She rustled around some of the papers in front of her.

     "Right, weren't you the one who discovered that the necklace had been stolen?" Mae asked, inching forward.

     "Yes. I was afraid. Maybe the thief will target my valuables next. This is why I must leave."

     "When was it again that you noticed the necklace was missing? You left after Casara's glass broke, I think."

     The Elephante froze in place for just a second. When she regained her composure, Psylina turned her back to Mae and ran her finger along one of the Petpet feeding charts on the wall. "Yes."

     Psylina certainly didn't seem interested in giving Mae the information she so badly wanted. Her answers sounded intentionally brisk and dismissive. "Could you tell me what you did when you left the gallery? Everything happened so fast, my head is still spinning!" Mae laughed, hoping she was coming off as nonchalant.

     Psylina remained facing away from Mae. "I left to use the restroom. I walked past the study. I happened to look in. The jewels were not in their case. I returned to the gallery and told you all about the missing jewels. That is what happened when I left the room."

     Mae's tail flicked back and forth. Psylina had repeated the same story that she had given the previous night, but this time Mae could see the flaws in it.

     Clearly, attempting to question her in a roundabout way wasn't working. Mae took a deep breath before responding. "Actually, I don't think that's what happened at all."

     At this, Psylina's head cocked ever-so-slightly towards Mae. Mae thought she saw one of her ears perk up. "Excuse me?" Psylina said quietly.

     "You're lying," Mae replied bluntly. "What you said happened is impossible. How could you pass the study on your way to the bathroom if the bathroom is in the opposite direction of the study? Let alone the fact that I watched my uncle shut the door to the study when we left for dinner with my own two eyes."

     Psylina whirled around. "You dare to call me a liar?!" she bellowed.

     "I do," Mae challenged. "You lied last night, and you're lying right now. You could've easily slipped away, claiming you were going to the bathroom, and then pocketed the Heart of the Sun yourself. You would've had ample time to find a place to hide it before alerting us since everyone was wrapped up in the commotion of Casara's glass."

     "Never have I heard such an insult!" Psylina roared. "This is horrible! It is terrible! YOU are terrible, little girl!"

     At this point, the shopkeeper returned from the back. She held a small bag in her hand and extended it towards Mae. "Here's your--"

     "Out! Away with you, nasty Mae!" Psylina wailed. "You must get this rotten child away from me now!"

     The Koi raised her eyebrows and looked at Mae. "Why, whatever ha--"

     Mae scooped Obi up off the floor. He batted at her arm, annoyed that she was taking him away from his new friend. Mae held him up and he squirmed around. "I think he's okay, actually!" she said hurriedly to the shopkeeper. "Thanks anyway, sorry to bother you!"

     With that, she made her hasty exit from the store. Obi was quickly back asleep again in her arms as she scurried away.

     ***

     "Well, you probably could've been a little more subtle about it," Kacia said. Mae was back at her cousin's kitchen table, trying to figure out her next move. Obi sat on her lap, playing with the hem of her sleeve. Kacia was across from her, her attention mostly focused on the Faerie Crossword Puzzle in the newspaper in front of her. "Eleven across is: 'Blank' Canyon; guild neighbourhood. Five letters, starts with C."

     "'Coral,'" replied Mae. "She was hardly answering my questions. I thought maybe a more direct approach would rattle her into telling me more, but instead, she just shut down completely."

     "You did sort of accuse her of stealing a priceless ancient Neopian treasure," Kacia said as she scribbled the answer onto the page. "Seven across. 'Blank' Mints; so strong, you might lose a tooth. Four letters."

     "'Zoba.' She might have stolen the necklace! She completely exploded when I confronted her for lying. And she did lie, I know that for a fact. Why lie if you didn't do something wrong?"

     "I don't know, I guess if you're positive that the study door was shut and that she wouldn't have passed by it on her way to the bathroom, that's pretty weird. Two down: Battledome League; 'Blank' Me Plenty League. Four letters ends with T."

     "Hurt," said Mae. "Her reactions to my questions were nothing if not suspicious. She couldn't even look me in the eye when I was talking to her about last night."

     "So you've talked to your uncle, the Lutari art guy, Brunton, Sir Palomir, the pretty Aisha, and now her. Didn't you say your uncle thinks it was the cook? Have you talked to him yet? Five down: Cursed Acara, four letters. Oh, wait, I know this one--"

     "Vira," Mae interrupted absentmindedly. Kacia heaved a sigh and wrote the answer in. "Yes, Brunton said that Uncle Jov suspects Tadriel. I think that may simply be because it's easier for him to believe it was a stranger than one of his friends. Although, it doesn't seem like he knew Psylina very well. Sir Palomir implied he only thinks Uncle Jov invited her for clout. And now I know she had a motive, too." She sighed yet again. "Everyone did, really."

     "Not too hard to think of a motive when it's a bunch of rocks that could turn you into an immediate billionaire," Kacia mused. "Defender of Neopia: 'Blank' Hog."

     "I guess so."

     "Defender of Neopia: 'Blank' Hog. Fifteen across. Five letters," Kacia repeated impatiently.

     Mae fell forward onto the table, exasperated. Obi whined from her lap. "Why do you do the crosswords if you never know the answers?"

     "I didn't say I don't know the answers. Fifteen across is 'Judge.' I just thought maybe getting your mind off the missing necklace would be helpful."

     "I can't get my mind off it! None of it makes any sense. Six guests show up to a dinner party, all of who left the room at some point but not for long, the Heart of the Sun disappears, yet nobody had it on them when they were searched. Tadriel may still be a suspect, but it's hard to believe that he happened to spot the necklace and was able to pull off stealing it in that very moment without anyone being able to find it in his things, and he only would've had a few quick minutes to do it before he was with Brunton again. Even if it was one of the guests who knew about the necklace before the theft, that's a pretty incredible feat. Whoever stole it must be very sneaky. And smart."

     Obi began chewing on one of Mae's fingers, but she was too distracted to notice. Kacia finally looked up from the newspaper and stared at the crumpled torso of her cousin on the table. "So what? What are you going to do next?"

     Mae remained laying across the table. After a few seconds, she slowly sat back up. "Who, what, where, how, and why. That's what I have to figure out. Once I know all of those, the mystery should solve itself."

     "Who, what, where, how, and why?" Kacia repeated.

     "Well, the 'what' is easy. The 'what' is the Heart of the Sun. My uncle 'found' it somewhere, displayed it for his guests at a dinner party, and then suddenly, it disappeared. The 'how' is simple too, but also complicated."

     Kacia looked vexed. "Simple but complicated?"

     Mae closed her eyes and tilted her head back in thought. "It's simple because we all watched Uncle Jov lift up the display case. He so badly wanted us to see the jewels up close and in person -- without even a glass barrier in the way -- that there was no added security. Quite foolish on his part, but there's no surprise there.

     "It's complicated because... then what? If someone took it and hid it on their person, we would've found it when we were all searched. If it was hidden somewhere inside the manor, Uncle Jov and Brunton would've found it when they swept through the place. The two of them know every nook and cranny of the manor like the back of their hand; there's no way their search wasn't thorough. But it also seems impossible that someone was able to get it out of the manor undetected. Somehow, the necklace is just... gone!"

     "I see," nodded Mae's cousin. She drummed her fingers against the newspaper in front of her. "So 'where’ as in, where is it now?"

     "Yes, exactly!" Mae responded enthusiastically, opening her eyes and snapping to attention. "The 'why' is, obviously, their motive. Like you said before, the necklace being so invaluable is motive enough for anyone. There was nobody in the household that night who didn't have a motive, I suppose."

     "Yourself included?" Kacia snorted.

     "Hey! I'm serious!" Mae said with a pout. "Which brings us to the 'who.' Which one of us is the culprit?"

     "If you knew that, it wouldn't be much of a mystery," said the Kougra.

     Mae sat back in her chair and stared down at Obi. After a moment, she said, "There's one person I haven't questioned about the night of the crime still. I have to go back to the manor."

     "Why don't you sleep on it and go back tomorrow? It's already almost dinnertime, and you probably need the rest."

     Mae shook her head emphatically. "No, Psylina leaves for the Lost Desert tomorrow. I have to finish this tonight. And guess what?"

     "What?"

     A grin spread across Mae's face. "You're coming with me."

To be continued…

 
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» Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace
» Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace
» Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace
» Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace



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