Mae's Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Necklace
It was warm and sunny the next day. Mae and Kacia sat together in the grass atop the hill behind Mae's home; Mae watched as Obi splashed happily in the bubbling stream that ran down the mountain before them, and Kacia laid sprawled out on the ground with her eyes closed, absorbing the sun.
"What about the footsteps Khadi-Ra heard?" Kacia asked, yawning.
"I think that was just the sound of Sir Palomir going downstairs," Mae replied. She stretched her arms up above her head and sighed. "They left the gallery at almost the same time, it checks out that Khadi-Ra would've heard him."
"Shame about him being an art forger," Kacia said. "He seemed pretty nice."
Mae smiled. "I don't think he was selling forged art, Kacia. I think it was part of Casara and Tadriel's plan. Casara loudly told someone earlier in the night a made-up story about Khadi selling fake art pieces. Palomir overheard, as Casara intended, and repeated the story to me, which made me believe it must be true since I heard about it from two different people. Once they collected the gemstones back from the garden, it would've only been a matter of one of them planting a gem or two in Khadi's possessions and alerting the Defenders about it. The thieves would be in the clear, and Khad-Ra take the fall."
Kacia's jaw dropped. "Wow!"
She paused to think for a moment, then continued. "Not to mention, it did make Khadi-Ra look a little bit suspicious when Jov refused to tell me where he bought the necklace. Since I had the idea implanted in my mind that Khadi-Ra was potentially an art forger, I thought he might be lying, which would've made the implications against him stronger. Of course, the reason he couldn't tell me where Uncle Jov obtained the necklace is because he genuinely just didn't know!"
"Imagine if you hadn't caught them!" Kacia breathed, her eyes wide. "Khadi-Ra's life would've been ruined forever! And maybe even your uncle's, too!"
Obi waddled over to Mae and pawed at her knee. She lifted him up and cradled him in her arms. "It was you and your crossword puzzle that caught them, really. You gave me the final piece of the puzzle. And what an entrance you made last night! Your timing was perfect!"
The Kougras collapsed into a fit of giggles together. After Casara's attempted escape the previous night, the guests made sure that she and Tadriel could go nowhere before they were apprehended and taken away.
"You haven't seen the last of me!" Casara had howled, glaring at Mae. Tadriel had gone without a word, silently seething and casting furious looks to the Shadow Kougra. Although Casara's words unsettled Mae, she felt confident that it would be a long, long time before either Casara or Tadriel would have the opportunity to see her again.
"You couldn't possibly have known the location of the necklace from one Faerie Crosswords questions about the rain," Kacia said. "There must've been something else."
Mae stared up at the fluffy clouds rolling by in the sky above her. "I did notice how, even in the dull weather yesterday, some of the garden gravel still seemed to be sparkling. I just thought the rocks were fancy!"
Kacia giggled. "Why didn't Tadriel or Casara go get the gems from the garden? It seems risky to just leave them out there where someone else could've found them."
Mae took a deep breath in as she thought about Kacia's question for a few seconds. "I think they expected to have more time before anyone noticed the necklace had gone missing. Casara couldn't leave to go all the way downstairs and outside into the garden without risking being seen by Brunton or anyone who may have gone out onto the balcony, so Tadriel was likely waiting for an opportunity where he and Brunton were separated to sneak out into the garden and collect them. But Psylina's attempt to steal the necklace herself alerted us to the theft much sooner than the thieves anticipated, and Uncle Jov had Brunton keeping watch on Tadriel immediately afterwards. I'd guess they were waiting for things to quiet down a bit before going back to collect the gems, and since nobody had noticed them they probably thought they were safe where they were hidden."
Her cousin nodded. "So they felt comfortable letting them sit there in the garden after Jovron claimed that they had already searched everywhere?"
"Everywhere inside the manor," Mae clarified. "Nobody thought to look outside for the necklace."
The sound of voices travelling up the hill interrupted the conversation between the two girls. A Blue Lenny and Desert Lutari came into view shortly.
"Uncle Jov!" Mae sang as she sprang up from her spot in the grass.
"My dear Mae!" cried the Lenny as he spread his wings. Mae fell into his hug, holding him tightly. As they pulled away, he continued, "I simply cannot even begin to imagine how I can repay you for your brilliance last night!"
Khadi-Ra smiled and laid a paw on Mae's shoulder. "That goes for me as well, Mae."
Mae stepped back from her uncle, beaming from ear to ear. "Is it horribly inconsiderate if I say it was the most exciting night of my life?"
Jovron and Khadi-Ra exchanged a look. The Lenny grinned. "Let's just hope that you don't make a habit out of nights like that, yes?"
Before Mae could reply, Khadi-Ra cut in. "Mae, without you, I have no idea what would have happened to me." His expression darkened for a moment. "To think someone I've known for so long could pull such an unforgivable trick..."
Jovron waved a wing. "Think not about what could have happened, but of what did. Mae saved the both of us last night." He gave his niece a wink. "You must get that wit from my side of the family."
Khadi-Ra turned to look at Kacia. "And you, with the big reveal!"
Jovron clapped in agreement. "Yes, quite the revelation! What timing you had, Kacia! How did you manage to find the missing gems?"
Kacia glanced at Mae and grinned. "Someone told me to go out to the garden and search the area underneath the gallery window for any particularly shiny red stones. Once I looked closely, it was easy to see that there were some stones that were totally different from the rest."
"An ingenius find!" Jovron bellowed merrily. He grabbed Kacia's paw and scooped her into a hug as well. "You may not be my niece by blood, but please consider yourself welcome in my home at any time!"
As the four of them exchanged enthused stories about the night before, Obi tottered over to Mae and pulled at her pant leg. She lifted him up into her arms as she said, "Oh dear, I think someone's getting hungry!"
"Well..." Jovron started. "Perhaps it may seem like a poor idea, but I was considering hosting a dinner party tonight."
Three faces turned in bewilderment towards him.
"Please!" Jovron laughed. "There will be no priceless artefacts, just priceless people."
"It's a bit of a shame, I think dinner parties have been completely ruined for me," Khad-Ra sighed. When Jovron gave him a startled look, he chuckled. "If a set of jewels doesn't go missing at every dinner party I go to from now on, I'm afraid I'll find them all terribly boring!"
Jovron joined in the laughter along with him. "My friend, my hope is that tonight will be the most dreadfully boring party I've ever thrown. I don't know that my heart could handle even one single second of excitement today."
"Will you be inviting the others?" Mae asked, thinking of Sir Palomir and Psylina.
The Lenny shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. I paid a visit to Fanciful Fauna this morning, and the shopkeeper informed me that Psylina left for the Lost Desert in the middle of the night last night. The good knight Sir Palomir informed me he was to depart for Brightvale today. I believe he's following up on the second case you managed to close somehow last night!"
"Oh, I nearly forgot about the stained glass windows," Mae blushed. "That was just a guess, I could be wrong!"
Jovron gave his niece a look of admiration. "My dear Mae, I don't believe your intuition was incorrect about anything last night! I would be far more shocked if you were incorrect about the case from Brightvale."
With that, he clapped his wings together. "My dear friends and family, I might be out a cook at the moment, but shall we begin our journey back to my humble abode for what will certainly be a very uneventful meal?"
As Mae made her way down the hill with Kacia, Jovron, Khadi-Ra, and Obi, a wry smile crossed her face.
"What's the smirk about?" Kacia asked, giving her cousin a nudge.
"Well..." Mae said. "There's just one mystery I have left to figure out."
"Another one?" Jovron replied, surprised. "I'm surprised there's anything left for you to solve."
Mae looked to her companions, and her smile grew. "It's one of the toughest mysteries I've ever faced!"
Her friends looked on eagerly in anticipation as she finished her thought. "What am I going to tell my parents?!"