Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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At the AstroVilla: Part Eight


by kemppotatoe

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Cypher jumped in shock and spun around, unaware of the fact that anyone else was in the basement. She found herself face to face with an angry-looking Kougra. A skunk Kougra.

      "Luther, it's me!" Cypher said quickly, ripping off the maid apron. "It's me! Cypher!"

      Luther grabbed the mop from her cart and held it horizontal to the floor, aiming the mop-less end at Cypher. "Exactly! Why are you doing this?"

      Cypher's mouth dropped open. "You actually believe what people are saying? You think that I'm the kidnapper? I thought you were on my side!"

      Luther narrowed his eyes. "I just now thought about it. They're right. Why else would you be so interested? You, after all, were in Lenny's room that night. You could have staged it to make it look like you were only curious. You were one of the first ones on the elevator the night Lorraine was kidnapped. And now, you're down in the off-limits-to-guests basement, where the third victim has been taken! Who knows how long you've been down here!"

      Cypher couldn't believe what she was hearing. Luther was actually turning on her! "No! It's not me!" she said, almost in tears. "Luther, I promise you! What can I do to prove that I'm only trying to help the hotel?"

      Luther eyed the Cybunny. "There's nothing you can do, because it's obvious! All the clues point to you! You tried to sound innocent by claiming that Aewa wanted you to solve the mystery... but that was just a cover!"

      Cypher opened her mouth to say something, when a thought struck her. "Luther," she said, sternly, "if I'm the kidnapper that you claim I am... why wouldn't I just take you right now? We're all alone in a basement! Wouldn't this be the ideal time? So why am I not kidnapping you?"

      An awkward moment of silence passed, as Luther took a deep breath and lowered the mop. "Because you're not the kidnapper," he answered.

      Cypher sighed. "Are you back on my side? Or am I once again a rich, snobby, snoopy guest?"

      Luther smiled and dropped the mop back in the cart. "As long as I'm not a rude and worthless kitchen-Kougra, I'm on your side. But why are you down here anyway? Is that a staff key?"

      Cypher nodded, grabbing the key at the end of the necklace. "Dez let me borrow it. I found out about the attack and knew I had to do something about it. But I know Griptor will throw me out if he catches me... and the rest of the staff could come back down here any minute!"

      Luther frowned. "Wait... it was you who made them leave, wasn't it? You're clever, I'll admit it."

      Cypher smiled. "I turned the lights off on the entire fourteenth floor. It's pitch black... I knew I could pull off a few screams and get all the workers to check it out. Except you..."

      "I was halfway up the stairs when I realized that we were leaving an attack site unattended. I guess you're lucky it was me who came back!"

      At that moment, there were yells from above in the lobby. Cypher and Luther both jerked their heads up. "I think more are coming now, though..." Cypher whispered.

      Luther looked around. "Quick! To my room! It's down the other hallway, I'll be there in a second!"

      As Cypher ran through the basement halls, she could hear that pets were on their way down the stairs. She heard yells of "Someone turned off the power on the fourteenth floor!" and "It was a distraction! Hurry!"

      Just as the Cybunny was passing the electricity box, she heard Luther say, "Did you find anything up there?" in a fake casual voice.

      "No," another pet said, "the lights were cut off! Dez said it was the Cybunny! She took his staff key and asked how dark it got up there! But it was a distraction to get down here! Where is she?"

      Cypher moaned as she ran. Dez thought it was her now too! Could her stay here get any worse? After attempting to save the hotel and the pets who worked there, she had become a major suspect in the crime! This was the thanks she got for practically solving the mystery? After all, the Chia Police hadn't been able to prove anything after their investigations.

      "Nothing's happened down here since you left..." Cypher heard Luther say far behind her. She kept running until she saw Luther's door; it was the very last one. She inserted the staff key and pushed the door open hurriedly, leaving it open a crack to listen to the conversation at the other end of the basement.

      "Listen, you guys," Luther said, "I stayed down here to guard and I promise nothing has happened since you left."

      "Aren't you in league with that Cybunny, though?"

      "Yeah! You were with her a while ago! Are you up to something too?"

      "No, no, no!" Luther said. "Did it occur to you guys that there's also an electricity box in the staff room on the seventeenth floor?"

      Cypher listened intently, hoping that Luther could manage to get the angry pets to search somewhere else. She took a deep breath and stared at the brick wall right in front of her. She stared and listened.

      "Alright, half of you go check the staff room on the seventeenth floor!" a voice called out.

      "Don't forget the other box on the twenty-seventh floor, too!" Luther called out.

      "How many boxes are there?"

      "It doesn't matter, just go check out the twenty-seventh floor!"

      "And," Luther said again, "there's one in the kitchens!"

      "Everyone else, to the kitchens!"

      As Cypher listened and stared glumly at the wall, she realized what she was seeing. One solitary brick had moved just a millimeter inward. It was almost as if it was creating a large rectangular hole to look out from...

      Cypher silently shut the door and listened as the brick budged again. This time, she heard something else.

      "I think I hear pets walking up the steps," a hushed voice said, "Kiko, go out there and check."

      The sound of the brick scraping against the other bricks could still be heard, until finally it had been pulled entirely out. Cypher bent over and looked under the crack of the door. She caught a glimpse of a bright red eye moving away, and then the grunts of someone trying to fit through the area where the large brick had been.

      "I think I'm getting too big for this," a strained voice said. But Cypher didn't understand... there was no one there! She could hear a small pet trying to get through, but all she saw beyond the hole was blackness!

      "Good job, Kiko, now go see if anyone's there! Hurry up, Marvo's getting kind of mad down there!"

      Cypher's eyes widened at the sound of that. Marvo? Marvo LeMaer?

      ***

      Mr. Griptor stood angrily in the lobby, watching his staff scamper to the elevators. They were headed to the locations of every electricity box in the hotel, but Griptor had his doubts. He turned to the Acara at the front desk.

      "Has Cypher left the building? She would have to have told you to be allowed out unattended."

      Miss Laurel shook her head. "No, Miss Cypher hasn't left the hotel since she checked in!"

      At that moment, Torington appeared. "Mr. Griptor," he said, "Cypher's room has been checked. She's not there, nor is she in the restaurant, coffee shop, bakery, pool, gift shop, or kitchens."

      "Staff quarters?" Griptor asked. "I wouldn't put it past her to break the rules and go down there!"

      "We'll check."

      ***

      Invisible! The pet was invisible!

      It dawned on Cypher as she was crouched on the ground, looking through the crack beneath Luther's door. It had to be a small pet - likely a Korbat - who could easily fit through the hole. She could hear the wings fluttering away. The rest of the basement was silent... where had Luther gone?

      "It's empty!" Kiko, the invisible Korbat, called out. "You can come!" A ghost Poogle and a ghost Hissi came spookily through the wall next. Cypher held her breath so she wouldn't gasp.

      "Okay," a voice said through the hole, "you two go scare a few guests in the lounge. Kiko, go ahead and start playing the piano. Lenny and I are going to go back down to the lab."

      Cypher's mouth dropped open at the sound of the name Lenny. It sounded almost as if he was there... voluntarily...

      Cypher could hear the two pets from behind the wall. They were talking, and their voices seemed to slowly get farther away... until Cypher could no longer hear them at all. She took a deep breath and opened the door.

      The brick had been replaced. It fit so perfectly, that if Cypher hadn't seen it move, she never could have guessed that it was really a secret window. Or passageway...

      Passageway? That was it! Cypher smiled at herself and cracked open Luther's door, peering hesitantly into the hallway. Who knew if Kiko the Invisible Korbat was around, but Cypher was pretty sure he had gone to freak out a few guests. She silently tiptoed across the hall and faced the blank wall.

      "Cypher!" a harsh whisper called out. "What are you doing?"

      Luther came skidding down the hallway, panting for air. Cypher looked up at him, grabbed the brick and yanked with all her might. It didn't budge. "Move, you stupid brick! Move!" she whispered to herself.

      Luther came up next to her. "I had to act like I was following so they wouldn't get suspicious!" he panted. "But I managed to get back... why are you talking to the wall?"

      Cypher sighed. "You won't believe this, but an invisible pet, and two ghost pets just came through here! There were other people on the other side of the wall, and someone mentioned Lenny! It was this brick..."

      Luther gave the Cybunny a confused look. "You're kidding, right? Why on Neopia would ghost pets be behind this wall?"

      Cypher stopped tugging on the brick and stared at it instead. "Maybe I need to push..." she said to herself, gently shoving the brick inward. Sure enough, it slowly moved into the blackness and fell with a loud thump on the other side.

      Luther's eyes were the size of juppies. "You have got to be kidding me..."

      At that moment, the sound of pets coming down the stairs could be heard. Torington's voice was distinct above others. "Griptor ordered us to search the basement. We're looking for that meddling Cybunny. Everyone suspects her."

      "Luther!" Cypher whispered quickly, "I need your help. Not only to save the hotel and everyone who works here, but to clear my name!"

      Luther nodded. "Of course. These other bricks must move too! Hurry!"

      They began to push in bricks that surrounded the first one until they had a large enough hole to fit through. Torington sped down the hallway just as they fixed the last brick back in its place. But they were on the other side...

      ... in complete blackness.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» At the AstroVilla: Part One
» At the AstroVilla: Part Two
» At the AstroVilla: Part Three
» At the AstroVilla: Part Four
» At the AstroVilla: Part Five
» At the AstroVilla: Part Six
» At the AstroVilla: Part Seven
» At the AstroVilla: Part Nine



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