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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 15th day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 26 > Short Stories > A Small Tail leads to a Profitable Trail

A Small Tail leads to a Profitable Trail

by scriptfox

You know something is wrong when you're too sick with anxiety to even worry about your favourite toy. Well, maybe favourite was the wrong word to use. I stared glumly at the blue Quiggle toy which served as a reminder of my failure to use my alchemical abilities outside of the Battledome. I'd tried and tried to turn it into Neopoints, and even after I'd given up I'd kept it hanging around the office. It served as a kneading ball, punching bag, and teething ring. (Well, maybe not THAT, but you get the idea.) It was looking pretty battered, and had helped relieve a lot of tensions. But not this time.

I still felt light-headed from the additional five points of strength that I'd gained last night. I had been hauled out of bed at midnight, no less, and had been dragged down to the secret lab. Even though I'd reluctantly agreed earlier (after reasonable assurances I could return to what I was), I still pleaded and begged not to get zapped. I might as well have saved my breath. I was so thankful when there were no side effects, but I knew that my days as an adult, male, gold Uni were numbered. This could be my last one.

Still, dwelling on it wasn't helping my concentration any, and you don't do a good job of investigating when you're too worried about your own problems to think about the one you're supposed to be looking into. I shook out my mane defiantly and looked back at my Neomail inbox on my Neoterminal.

A flicker caught my eye, and I looked up to see a small shadow through the frosted glass of my office door. (MonoKeras, Private Investigations, it read.) It reached up and struggled with the knob until it clicked open, and in came a kid Usul. She couldn't have been more than a hundred hours old, and as she came up to the desk I could see she was extremely worried, in that intense way that only children (of any species) seem to manage.

"P-please, sir, can you help me?"

I shrugged slightly. "I don't know. What did you need?"

"I... I lost my money. It was in a little string purse, and it was twenty whole Neopoints I was going to the chocolates store and my mum gave me the money to get a piece for me, but I stopped to look at the big rainbow. And when I did, I realised my money was all gone!" She ended with a little wail, and stood there sniffling.

"Oh. But I charge money to help people."

She nodded. "I know, they told me. But if you find it, I'll give you a Neopoint... please?"

I stared at her in consternation. What do you tell a kid whose big eyes are brimming with tears? You'd think the fact that I couldn't see her whole expression as she peered up over the edge of my desk would help. It didn't. I've always been a sucker for tears. This would be my cheapest case ever, I thought as I stifled a sigh. "OK. But you have to promise to be brave."

She gave a quick nod, and I reached into my desk to pull out a huge silvery tube. "By the way, what's your name?" I asked casually.

"Lizzerana," she replied. I had hoped to to distract her gaze from what I was about to do next. Fat chance! Her eyes were riveted to the tube as it opened to reveal Sun Pegasus, my baby fireball. He dropped onto the desk and hovered just above it, sizzling slightly. Her eyes grew wide and I worried for a second that she might run out screaming. Then I realised it was awe, and her paws appeared on the edge of the desk. I hoped that she wouldn't try to pet him, or even worse, try to eat him. Those were two common mistakes kids made around Sun Pegasus. It was fortunate that baby NeoPets heal fast.

"Here, just hold still," I cautioned as I cupped a hoof around Sun. Reaching into my desk with the other, I brought out a single Neopoint. "You had a bag with coins exactly like this?" A nod was my only reply. "OK, now which paw did you have your bag in?"

That one took a bit longer to figure out. Lizzerana finally held up her right paw with a definite "this one." I gave her the Neopoint and told her to hold it in her left paw. Then, holding her paws palm up on my desk, I carefully said a few arcane words and nudged Sun onto her right paw.

The spell worked. After a few seconds of bobbing, Sun began to spin. "OK, Lizzerana, now let's very carefully go back to the square." I held her left paw, holding it shut with the coin inside it. "Just keep your right paw in front of you facing up that way. Sloooww now, careful." Sun balanced on her paw, still spinning, and I led her out the front door of my office, shutting and locking it with one hoof.

When we reached the square, I headed towards the rainbow pool, walking slowly as I did so. Just as I'd hoped, Sun began to spin faster, and then elongated into a line. He whizzed into the air, bounced off my hoof, and hit the ground in a sizzling streak. I didn't waste time explaining to Lizzerana, I just grabbed her up and began running after him. We wove between a lot of startled shoppers, but Sun Pegasus was attracting more attention than we were as we trailed in his wake. Despite my best efforts (and with my speed rating, that's pretty good) I was still no match for a flash of fire like Sun. I heard the screaming before I caught up to it.

Sun was attached firmly to the rear of a red Kyrii, who was screaming and jumping up and down in an effort to get loose. I put Lizzerana down. She didn't say a word, just stared in fascination as the Kyrii did one of the worst things he could possibly do. Apparently thinking of Sun as an ordinary fire, he dropped and rolled on top of him! He might as well have rolled into the Tyrannian volcano--his rear would've suffered less damage than it did when Sun got squeezed to the ground. The shrieks this time were deafening, but Sun heard my whistle even above them. He let go and hovered a few inches from his victim. The Kyrii slowly climbed to his feet, sobbing with pain and with tears streaming down his face.

Before he could get a good look around, I chirped to Sun again and he immediately moved up to the Kyrii's neck and encircled it, gently. The Kyrii didn't even realise what had happened as I removed a bag from the remains of his pants pocket. "Here, Lizzerana, count this and make sure it's all there." I said softly.

"Mine!" she chirruped, and instantly began digging into the bag as I turned back to our would-be thief.

He had recovered enough to feel the gentle warmth around his neck. As he tried to look down his nose, I recognised him. I didn't quite laugh out loud, but I realised this case had suddenly turned profitable, indeed. "Don't move, Kemannii," I said. "You've been collared by a baby fireball."

"Huh, wha...." he rolled an eye toward me and froze before hissing, "you!"

"Yes, me. You really shouldn't have jumped bail, you know. You've got several more charges to worry about now than the original bank theft."

His only reply was a growl, but he jerked when Lizzerana piped up, "It's all there mister. Thanks! Here's your Neopoint"

I looked down and grinned. "Glad to help. Keep it for now, though." I eyed Kemannii with mock reproach as I said casually, "you know, Kemannii, robbing a girl of her candy money is a new low, even for you."

"I never!" he blustered. "I just found it laying on the ground, and then you... you.... attacked me!"

"I? I haven't touched you. It's Sun Pegasus there that you need to worry about. He's got a nice hold on you, and he's probably itching to get back at the NeoPet that tried to flatten him that way. I'd suggest you don't move, or he'll start to squeeze... burns can be awfully painful, you know." A muttered curse showed my point had scored. "I'm going to leave you here for a while, Kemannii. I'd suggest you try to remember the Neoterminal number for your lawyer while I'm gone, but don't move or Sun may show you how deep he can bite... and don't think he'll be stopped by a little thing like skin, either."

Kemannii's jaw dropped. "But... but... you can't do that!"

I shrugged. "Watch me," I replied, and left him staring after me as I took Lizzerana to the Chocolate Factory.

Several minutes later, we emerged with Lizzerana happily munching a mint chocolate Usul that "looks just like me!" She'd insisted on giving me the Neopoint she owed me, although I'd had to slip a hundred points to the storekeeper to pay for her candy. He'd merrily played along with the game, letting me give him the additional she owed without her knowledge.

"Where do you live, Lizzerana?" I asked.

She stopped eating long enough to look around. "I don't know... but here." She handed me the bag. "Mum says that a policeman can get me home if I show him this."

I looked at it and realised her name, owner's name, and address were sewed into the bag. "OK, let's go."

An hour or two had passed by the time I returned to claim my real prize. After leaving Lizzerana in her front yard (and slipping away without talking to her owner, which was a good thing for her owner), I found Kemannii in the centre of a crowd as he stood there with his eyes squeezed shut.

"Wakey, wakey," I said, tapping him on the top of his head.

His eyes snapped open and he whispered hoarsely, "In the name of all that's Light, man, call off your weapon."

"Nope, no can do. Hmmm...." I clicked my hoof, and Sun flashed in reply. "What, no less than four escape attempts? You're lucky. I would have thought Sun would have been halfway down to bone after the second or third. OK. Next stop, the police station. Forward, MARCH!"

Kemannii stalked ahead of me to the laughter of the crowd. He didn't look around at all, just stared straight in front of him as he led the way to the police station. We didn't get lost, either--no surprise, since he knew very well where it was! As he began to open the door, I reached up and twisted on Sun. He obligingly snapped loose and turned into a satisfied little ball of flame. I grinned when I saw the scorch marks around Kemannii's neck. So he hadn't gone unpunished.

The sergeant in charge was very welcoming. We had known one another for a while, and he laughed at Kemannii's complaints as he locked him in a cell. "Count yourself lucky, Kemannii, your fur is gonna grow back. Not everyone that MonoKeras brings in is in such good shape!"

Returning to his desk, he filled out the paperwork for me to claim my reward, which was one-fifth of the bond money.

"Here you go," he said as he handed me the final form to sign. "Twenty thousand Neopoints Not bad for a morning's work! I don't know how you manage to catch them so fast."

I laughed. "Oh, nothing to it," I said as I winked at him. "I just follow up every lead... no matter how small!"

The End

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