The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Lost Lizark - Part Four
“You are involved in something much bigger than you know,” said Victoire, her voice almost a whisper. “Whoever framed you and took the Lizark from its cage is very dangerous.”
“That much I figured,” said Damien, keeping his own voice low, but writhing with adrenaline. “Most of the kidnappers we encounter are deranged in some way.”
Victoire shook her head quickly. “No, no, not like that. He or she is capable of wielding dark magic, something not many others have in their possession. When I saw you being attacked in the clearing, the light that emanated from the figure’s cloak was something I haven’t seen in a long time.” Damien remained silent, struggling to retain the information while Victoire continued: “It was dark magic that wrought itself upon every building in Geraptiku, ultimately causing its demise. This is the Lost City’s black secret.”
Damien’s head was spinning with excitement and apprehension. “Dark magic caused Geraptiku to crumble? Like Battledome magic?”
“Yes,” said Victoire. “But without the physical object. The cloaked figure that stunned you in the woods is capable of this magic.”
“So...” Damien began, desperately trying to wrap his mind around the information. “This Neopet can conjure magic out of thin air?”
Victoire took a moment to glance around as if they were being watched. Her gaze returned to the Aisha’s anxious face. “It is a gift people were born with, one that our ancestors once possessed. A magical touch. A shaman.”
Damien paused. “Like the Island Mystic? And our ancestors? You’re a Geraptikan descendent?”
“I am,” said Victoire simply.
Damien inhaled deeply, desperately trying to comprehend this new information. “Why are you helping me?” he asked at last.
“Because I know that you didn’t take the Lizark,” said Victoire. “Please, I do not want to be involved. Share this information with your friends, but leave me anonymous.” Victoire shot a fleeting glance at the guard, who now looked like he was stirring. “I should go,” she breathed, and put her hood up. “Oh, and Damien. It was very dark that night, remember?”
“Yes, that I can remember,” he said, easily able to recall the blackness that engulfed himself and the small torch. “What about it?”
“Just think about it,” Victoire replied, and in a swift movement, she was halfway down the stone hall, leaving him in the darkness once again.
The following morning, Luna, Charlie, and I spread out all of the different photos on the floor of our room at the base station. There were forty-two shots of the festival, but a few were blurry, dark, or just consisted of trees and sky. Still, with the remaining number of photos that contained smiling archaeologists and their guests, we’d have to put a lot of time into the project.
When we returned from the office building last night, a letter had arrived from the Virtupets Space Station addressed to The Petpet Detectives at The Base Station, Geraptiku. The three of us crowded around the letter to read it carefully.
Dear Petpet Detectives,
Once again, we are happy to assist you on your current case. The piece of collar was stained with graphite, and the sleeve was coated with domestic coal or, in simpler terms, charcoal. Hope this helps. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate at the moment! Good luck.
The Virtupets Space Station, Sector 8
“Charcoal,” said Luna finally, as all of us had quieted after receiving the letter. “That’s not too much of a leap.”
“The archaeologists probably use charcoal not only outdoors but also in the communal kitchen as well,” Charlie added.
The pea Chia’s statement made me realize something. “London usually cooks for everyone.”
“Who?” said Luna, and I realized they had not met yet.
“The green Eyrie. He told me he went to culinary school for a year before becoming an archaeologist.”
Luna blinked and waited for me to fill her in.
“He has the most access to the kitchen area. And if the stove is run on charcoal...”
“Possible but not entirely plausible,” said Charlie. “That’s why it’s called a communal kitchen. Neopians of all sorts have access to it. Just because London’s in there the most doesn’t really mean anything.”
“So the charcoal clue doesn’t help us much,” I said glumly.
Luna shrugged and then turned to the photos that were spread out in front of us. “I’m going over these again.”
The shadow Yurble had compiled a list of Neopians that had frequently showed up in the pictures – too frequent to have been able to slip away during the festival to follow Damien. She pointed out two Neopians we had heard of that were in only a couple of shots.
“From the looks of these, it’d be either London or Felix.”
I raised my eyebrows at Charlie, who gave me a look in return that clearly said it could mean nothing.
“Speaking of Felix,” continued Luna, “I wonder when he’s coming back from his trip to Neopia Central. After pulling a disappearing act just before the festival, it definitely throws the suspicion on him.”
“What would he gain from kidnapping one of his own petpets?” I inquired, flexing my white wings.
Charlie shrugged. “Publicity stunt. Similarly, what would London gain?” There was a pause. “Marlo?”
I had resorted to gazing out the window as a group of archaeologists passed by. London was out in front, showing his colleagues a clay and bone necklace with zest. Even though I couldn’t hear their conversation, the green Eyrie was obviously coming off as ostentatious.
“Marloooo?” Luna called. “Are you even paying attention? This is kind of important here...”
“London wants to be higher up than he is,” I commented, tearing my eyes from the window. “I’m betting he doesn’t go out of his way to cook meals for everyone just because he likes to. He was so eager to find something spectacular when we were at the site yesterday, and he’s totally jealous of Victoire, who apparently won some fantastic award for ‘supplying the archaeological community with a wealth of discoveries’. He wants the attention, and maybe even the role of the gallant Lizark-rescuer who not only “locates” the petpet but also happens to free Damien from his wrongful imprisonment. That’s what I think.”
Luna’s jaw had dropped twice during my monologue and the second time she didn’t bother to close it.
“Well,” said Charlie, after a few beats of silence. “That’s a great motive.”
“See, I pay plenty of attention,” I added smugly.
Because we had an abundance of news and hadn’t visited Damien since the morning before yesterday, we decided to walk to the chambers after an early dinner.
“Thought you might have forgotten about me,” the Aisha said glumly, but he managed to smile as we arranged ourselves before him, brimming with excitement.
Luna explained everything: Felix flying to Neopia Central the night of the crime, our trip to the Mystery Island Monthly office, receiving the photos from Kale, discovering that it was charcoal found on Damien’s sleeves, and the theory I had about London.
“I can see you’ve been busy,” said Damien, “and I have some news of my own. I, um, I’ve just thought of something that could be a good clue. When I was knocked out in that clearing, the torch in my hand was still lit. As I think about it more and more, I can recall hearing two heavy footsteps coming from somewhere next to me--”
“--to extinguish the flame!” Luna finished happily.
“Right! Geraptiku is still in its dry season, so if the flame was dropped it would have likely caught a section of the jungle on fire. So...” he paused. “Whoever stunned me must have been wearing boots, unless he or she had feet able to withstand extreme heat.”
I winced. “Does that help us much?”
“Sure,” said Luna, who I could tell was on a roll, “there are plenty of Neopets species that don’t wear any type of shoe.”
“But Felix and London do,” I pointed out. Although it was an important piece of information, our top two suspects were still... well... our top two.
Charlie sighed from atop my head. “I wish we knew which brand or what size.”
Luna was thinking hard now, scribbling down what looked like illegible words in her notepad. “Absence from the festival, wearing boots...”
“London and Felix fit, but there are a handful of others that it could also be,” I pointed out. “As soon as Felix arrives, we should speak with him right away.”
“Definitely,” said Luna, and she looked pleased. “We have a great start.”
“And there’s more,” Damien said quickly. The royal Aisha was hesitant because he didn’t know how to phrase his next few sentences. “I think I have another trait you can add to your list. We may be searching for a direct descendent of the Geraptikan race.”
“Why’s that make a difference?” I asked.
“Because, um,” Damien began, “I think whoever attacked me has magical abilities.”
Luna and I exchanged confused glances. “How would you know?” I asked.
Damien shrugged. “The chanting, for one, and the fact that this yellowy light came right from his hands. I think...” he paused. “I think we’re looking for a shaman.”
I could feel my eyebrows rising. “A what?”
“A shaman is a person with magical abilities, usually healing or communicating with the spirit world, but there are other branches of their abilities as well,” Luna explained. “Geraptikans were said to have had magical powers a long time ago, but no traces of magic has been present in the modern day race.”
“Do we know that for sure?” Damien pressed. “What about the Island Mystic?”
“That guy’s a joke,” I retorted.
Damien narrowed his eyes, displeased with my tone. “Seriously, Marlo, what if it’s possible? Many of the first Geraptikans had healing powers and a control over spiritual forces. Their children could have had magical abilities as well, and so on and so forth. It’s not completely unlikely that there are still people today living with these gifts.”
“Okay, okay, Geraptiku’s a weird place. Maybe Neopians are still running around healing each other and talking to the spirits. We should tell the Defenders,” I said. “Then maybe they can cut Damien a little slack.”
The Aisha frowned. “You heard what that Kougra said. If the kidnapper has magical abilities, it’s only a bonus to us. You guys still have to find out exactly who we’re looking for.”
“Right,” I said, and sighed. For some reason, the thought of shamans walking around in modern times made me a little uneasy. “But Damien, are you sure we’re dealing with a... a shaman? I mean, really sure?”
Damien considered it, remembering how confident his late night visitor had been. “Positive.”
“Geraptikan descendent, absence from the festival, boots...”
Luna had been repeating that phrase like a tape recorder on a loop for the rest of the day and into the next. She, Charlie, and I ate breakfast in the communal kitchen, but London was surprisingly nowhere to be found. However, it was after ten and it was possible that the green Eyrie had gone out with the team.
I had barely finished my scrambled eggs when a brown Wocky entered and hurried up to us.
“Good morning, Raia,” said Luna, flashing a friendly smile.
“Hey guys,” said Raia, and she was smiling too. “You’ll never guess what happened over in region three. They’ve got an infestation of Blechies that have eaten through their sleeping bags, provisions, and backpacks. Pretty strange, huh?”
“Blechies?” said Luna, after taking a sip of her orange juice. “Those wormy petpetpets that eat almost anything?”
Raia nodded. “That’s them.”
“What happened to the archaeologists?” asked Charlie.
“All fine, but definitely spooked,” said Raia. “I mean, they’re speculating that they built their camp on a Blechy colony. A bunch of supplies are ruined. Oh,” her tone became suddenly chipper, “and Felix’s Eyrie cab is due to touch down in a minute or so.”
“It is?” I about choked on my eggs. Why couldn’t she have skipped right to the point instead of making me nauseated with her plague of petpetpets story?
“I saw it from my window,” said the Wocky. “It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve last seen him. If you’re finished with breakfast, I’d be happy to introduce you.”
Score! “Great,” I replied. “Thank you.”
And after rinsing our plates in the sink, Luna, Charlie, and I eagerly headed out to meet one of our primary suspects.
To be continued...