I knew at once where Shelly would be, and I also knew
that she wouldn't hesitate to join me in my mission. I ran faster than I ever
have, tearing across the grass and road, cutting a path through the hedges on
my way to our NeoHome. When I got there, I was greeted by the sight of Mordegan,
sitting outside on the front porch, his head in his paws. Tentatively, I approached
him and placed a claw softly on his shoulders. He looked up at me, his eyes
bloodshot with large bags underneath.
"I'll never be a Lupe again..." he howled, staring
down over his current body, a brown Acara. "And C.C., they took him, too!"
C.C, or Crop Circle, was Mordegan's petpet, a
rather comatose and lethargic green Warf who never did anything. Personally,
I had no idea as to why Mordegan seemed so upset about it. Well, I could understand
the morphing potion, but C.C? He was just a useless hunk of fur! Still... Mordegan
was obviously terribly saddened by it, and that just fanned the flames of my
already growing hatred of the Gelerts who had done this.
I felt a pang of sadness when I remembered, my
Gruslen, Muerte, had been taken as well. With new resolution burning inside
of me, I strode in through the doors and up the stairs, following the sounds
of Shelly's sobbing. I winced as the pitiful sight met my eyes.
Shelly had always been a figure of maximum authority
for me; she hardly ever showed any signs of weakness, and she always seemed
to know what to do in any given situation. To see her like this, lamenting the
loss of poor Mr. Claws, her Meowclops, caused my insides to writhe and boil.
Shelly's sensitive Gelert ears picked up the vibrations of my footsteps, and
her impressive shadowed head snapped up and turned slowly in my direction. Her
face was streaked with tears, but her brilliant green eyes still flashed angrily
when she saw me.
"What are you doing here, Ezanna?" she demanded,
standing shakily on her paws. I gulped visibly, unsure of how to address her.
It sounded stupid, really. I wanted her to help me capture the infamous trio
of Gelert thieves, and here I was, looking like a complete, clueless idiot.
Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and blurted it all out in one long sentence.
"Shelly, I want, no... I need you to help
me find the thieves who stole our stuff. I know who they are; a trio of Gelerts,
called Team Alpha..." I broke off, my golden yellow eyes locked with Shelly's
acid green ones. She glared at me, her tail lashing angrily against the floor.
We held an impromptu staring contest for a few minutes before Shelly finally
broke off, her angry expression melting into one of confusion, mixed with mild
"Why do you need my help?" she asked suspiciously.
All right, it was time for me to swallow my pride
and say it like it was. "Because... you're a Gelert, and they'll trust you more
than me, and you may need to go undercover. And," I rolled my eyes skyward.
"You're stronger than me, you're smarter than me. I can't do this alone."
For the first time since the robbery, Shelly
smiled, a warm grin which broke across her smoky maw. "Alright, Ez. I won't
lie; I've been rather eager to settle these robbers myself." She cracked her
knuckles in a brief show of strength, her eyes narrowing.
"So when do we start?"
I smirked, pulling a pair of shades out of my
pocket and flicking them on. "Right now."
Shelly was quick to take charge of our little sleuth. She was the one giving
out orders, and I was the one carrying them out. I wasn't complaining, though.
After all, she certainly seemed to know what she was doing. We started by collecting
all the older newspapers that we could find and examined them very thoroughly,
searching for any news of an attack from Team Alpha. We worked in complete silence,
a silence only broken when one of us discovered something.
"Ah! Here's one. The user Annalila had a very
valuable NeoQuest plushie stolen... Gelert paw prints discovered at the scene
of the crime..."
"Found one! An extremely rare Battledome item
was taken from the user Bluebelli. They found a note, much similar to the one
we found, in the emptied vault."
It went on for hours, and after we finished looking
through all the old issues of the news, we had absolutely no new information
on Team Alpha except for the fact that they had never been caught, seen, or
failed to complete a robbery. I massaged my aching temples, racking my brain
for a pattern. Maybe the Chia cop had been right. Maybe we had bitten off more
than we could chew. I was just about to call it a day when Shelly's excited
voice cut through the air.
"Ezanna! Look, I found the pattern!" I jumped
up and rushed over to her side, peering at her messily scrawled notes. I, personally,
couldn't see any pattern whatsoever. I told this to Shelly, who merely shook
her head in exasperation and jabbed at the papers with a shadowed paw.
"Don't you see, Ez? The users! It's all in alphabetical
order!" She laughed hysterically, wiping away tears from her eyes with a
claw. I just blinked.
"But, Shelly... That couldn't be! See, then Battlesunn
wouldn't have been in alphabetical order at all!" I cried.
She shook her head. "No, see, they got all the
way to 'Z' awhile ago, so they restarted. Just before we got robbed, a user
who's name started with an 'A' was struck."
I couldn't believe it. She was right. I had renewed
respect for Shelly, that was for sure. "So..." I began, running my claws through
my hair thoughtfully. "The next user who they're going to rob will have a name
that starts with a 'C'."
Shelly nodded, her eyes narrowed in concentration.
"Exactly. It'll be someone really rich, too. With a rare item." She reached
for the Neopian address book, tossing it into my stomach with a force that knocked
me back a few steps.
"Here," she said, casting me an amused glance
as I wrestled with the huge book. "You find the user with the second largest
NeoHome whose name starts with the letter 'C'."
I raised a brow. "The second largest?"
She rolled her eyes and sighed exasperatedly.
"Obviously! The largest would've been robbed the first time around!" She said
a matter-of-factly, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Muttering slightly to myself at the indignity
of being reprimanded by my partner, I scanned the address book for the second
richest user. Almost instantly, I found it.
"Shelly! Hey, come here, I think I found it!"
Grinning widely, I pointed at one of the names
on the list. "Calypso, she recently got a cool negg and lives in a mansion of
gold." Shelly nodded; her eyes focused on the name.
"Good job, Ez. I'd be willing to bet my Hypno
Helmet that Team Alpha will be striking that place tonight."
I stood up and dusted myself off. "Then in that
case, we'll be there, too," I grinned ruefully, flexing my claws. "And we'll
give them a little surprise!"
To be continued...