The Mystery of the Kougra Paw
It all started as a fairly normal day. I was sitting at my desk, writing up the report summary of my latest case. I had successfully solved a mystery for some inhabitants of a 'haunted house', and wanted to complete a write up of it to prove my detective skills to any future clients. Goodness, was that family surprised when they found that their neohome was infested with not ghosts, but slorgs! I chuckled to myself as I wrote that part of the account.
Outside, it had been raining, which always made me feel like a detective from the stories, who started all their cases on 'dark, stormy, nights'. Except it was mid-morning. Not nighttime. Anyhow, after it stopped raining, my neighbor, a lovely pink Kougra named Jenelle, had been outside her home with some guests.
She asked me if I wanted to join them for a game of Gormball. I politely declined. See, Jenelle is part of a guild of Kougras. 'The Court of Kougras', they call themselves. Not being a Kougra, nor a member of the guild, I usually tend to opt out of activities Jenelle invites me to join them for. One time I joined them for a friendly game of yooyuball. I'm pretty athletic for a Chia, given that our feet are basically stubs, but pretty much any Kougra could probably beat me at any sport.
Anywho, where was I? Yes, it was raining, so everything outside was all muddy. Very unpleasant. I was glad I was staying inside. I was just preparing for lunch, some nice negg noodles, I think it was, when there was a knock on my door. It was Jenelle, and man did she look distressed.
"Smithy, my diamond has been stolen!"
Ah yes, I forgot to mention Jenelle is very rich. She's always going on fancy vacations in Altador, and having fancy dinners at Kelp. But I was not aware she owned a diamond. Or, I suppose, that she didn't own a diamond anymore. This was a development.
"You're a detective, right? Can you help me?" she pleaded.
Now let me make a disclaimer. I usually charge a fee if a pet needs my detective services. But, Jenelle IS my neighbor. She sends me postcards when she travels, and buys me a Christmas present each year. So I decided to make an exception for her.
"Yes. Are you sure your diamond was stolen? Are you sure you even have a diamond?"
"I'm sure! I just bought the diamond this weekend! I know it was stolen because... here. Come on, I'll show you."
I followed Jenelle to her neohome. Her neohome compared to mine... Picture a mountain next to a pebble. Pretty different. Kinda surprising they even built them both on the same street. She doesn't take very good care of it, though, I noted. Traipsed right through the mud, then right through the front door into the carpeted hallway. From the paw prints up and down the hall, I bet she wasn't the only one tracking mud everywhere.
She led me into the living room, where four uncomfortable looking Kougras sat on couches. An island Kougra looked up when I entered the room, and gave me an uneasy smile. A chocolate Kougra was talking to a cloud Kougra, but the conversation trailed off. A royalgirl Kougra suspiciously glared at me.
"One of them took it. I'm sure of it."
"Okay, well, I'll need to talk to everyone and get their account. Can you tell me what happened, introduce me to everyone, and show me where the diamond was?"
"Yes, of course!" Jenelle said, nodding. "I'm not very good at this detective stuff, am I?"
"Don't worry, leave the detective stuff to me. Introduce me to your guests."
"Right. Everyone, this is my neighbor, Smithy! Smithy is a detective, so he's going to find out which one if you is a thief. Smithy, this is the rest of the Court of Kougras guild council. Here's Odette, our president." Jenelle gestured to the cloud Kougra, who smiled at me and nodded. "This is Princess." Jenelle motioned to the royalgirl Kougra, who sneered at me. "Mervin, our resident mad scientist." She pointed to the chocolate Kougra. He, presumably Mervin, chuckled. "And Chef Chase. The best chef on Mystery Island!"
"Not by a long shot." The island Kougra smiled, clearly trying to be humble, but definitely in agreement with Jenelle's description of him.
"I invited them all over to see my new diamond, and play Gormball. When we arrived, I showed them the diamond, which was in there." Jenelle motioned to a doorway. "Then we played Gormball, then we came back inside for lunch, and I went to check on the diamond, those things are expensive, you know, and it was gone!"
Jenelle led me through the doorway, where an empty display case was standing sadly in the middle of a small room. As we entered the room, I noticed a spardel shoot out the doorway past us.
"It isn't entirely hopeless, though, because they left a clue!" Jenelle proudly pointed to an orange and black striped carpet next to the case.
"Look, a paw print!" A brown, muddy looking paw print that was undoubtably a Kougra's was stamped right in the middle of the rug. From the placing of the rug right in front of the case, the print was almost definitely left by the thief. Given the shape of the print, I could tell it was left by a front paw. It was a bit strangely shaped due to being on a carpet, but the outline was certainly obvious.
"That's lovely, Jenelle. What's that carpet made out of?" Part of being a good detective is looking in unusual places for clues.
"Gruslen fur. I know what you're thinking, they didn't hurt the gruslen when they made the rug! I asked specifically when I bought it! But why do you want to know that? Look at the print!"
"The print does tell me that a Kougra committed the crime," I agreed.
"That's important, right?"
"Well, all of your guests are Kougras."
"Can't you trace the print, or something?"
"Normally, yes, but since this is on carpet, I don't think that it will be very easily traceable."
"Oh. That's right. I'm not thinking clearly. I should have lunch," Jenelle said. "I'll gather the others. You can ask them questions while we eat."
We went back to the living room, and Jenelle told the guests that she would begin preparing lunch.
"No, no, I already prepared something!" Chef Chase assured us, jumping up from the couch and running into the kitchen
"Have you ever tried his cooking?" Princess asked me.
"No," I told her.
"It's almost as good as my private chef's."
And so, with that lofty recommendation, we headed into the kitchen after Chase. We gathered around a large wooden table. Jenelle hurried to get dishes for everyone.
"I made Tyrannian Bone Soup!" Chase announced, carrying a large pot of, not surprisingly, soup, from the stove. "I'll admit, it's made from a mix I got. But I added my own spices!"
The pot was placed in the center of the table, and the guests and I began to serve ourselves.
"So, tell me about what happened today so far. As a group," I said. Better to get the investigation going.
"Well, we all arrived at about nine this morning," Odette said.
"I didn't get here until nine-thirty," Mervin said.
"Hey, that's right, neither did I!" Chase said. "Odette, you liar! I bet you took the diamond!"
"Whoa, guys, let's not jump to conclusions. Leave the detecting to me," I said.
"Actually, Odette DID get here earlier than the rest of you," Jenelle admitted. "I remember because I was still cleaning up the kitchen, so I had Odette wait in the living room... by herself... for a half hour..."
"So, no alibi, is what I'm hearing." Princess glared at Odette, clasping her gloved paws.
"Well, hang on," Odette said. "What about when we were all outside playing Gormball, and Chase had to go inside before the rest of us, alone, to 'start making lunch'? Not that I think you took the diamond, I'm just saying all of us had the opportunity to," she quickly amended. "Mervin also left the game by himself to get a glass of water from inside."
"Yeah. Princess was inside by herself, too. When she fell in mud and got totally coated, then had to go inside to wash off," Mervin said.
"And you'd never know it!" Princess sneered, smoothing her perfectly clean skirt. "Because I ALWAYS carry a spare change of clothes with me at all times. Including gloves. Especially gloves. I never go anywhere without at least three pairs."
"You mean you don't have gloves permanently glued to your paws? You even wore those playing Gormball!" Jenelle joked.
"Ha. Haha," Princess said, rather than laughed, and brushed a speck of dirt off of a glove.
"So Mervin, how's your latest experiment coming along?" Odette asked, raising her voice over Princess, who seemed ready to say a biting remark.
"It's going well! I need to figure out how to magnify the ray's power, but once I do, I can recalibrate the engine!" Mervin launched into an animated scientific explanation, waving his limbs wildly, sending whipped cream specks flying.
"That's great... I think," Chase said, looking around the table. Everyone was happily, albeit suspiciously, consuming their soup. Except for Odette, who was absentmindedly tapping a paw on an empty bowl. "Why aren't you having your soup?"
Odette looked up sheepishly. "There's meat in Tyrannian Bone Soup... I'm allergic to Tyrannian petpets... so I won't be having any."
"I don't think it's made from petpets," Mervin said.
"I'm sorry!" Chase exclaimed. "I didn't know you were allergic. I should have made something else!"
Odette shrugged. "Don't want to take any chances. If I eat any meat from Tyrannian petpets I break out in a rash. Doesn't bother me too much since I'm not one for eating petpet meat. I can't touch any fur from them, either. That's the inconvenient part. Makes my paws swell up."
"I'm just glad I don't have to worry about my little spardel getting made into soup!" Jenelle declared. "Here, Sparky!"
On command, the spardel I had seen in the diamond display room earlier came running. Jenelle picked him up and ruffled his fur.
"I just got Sparky last week. He's a highly trained guard spardel!" Jenelle appeared to then remember that the diamond Sparky was guarding had been stolen.
"Well... with all due respect, he isn't a very good one," Mervin said. Jenelle looked at Mervin and covered Sparky's ears.
"He... still has to do a bit of training. But he's very good at sitting by the diamond when I'm away. In fact, I'm sure he was in the diamond room when it was stolen. I leave his food bowl in there, and he always eats his breakfast from 10:00 to 11:00, the time when we were outside. He barks at intruders so loudly everyone outside can hear! Or... he should."
As if on cue, Sparky looked across the table at Chase and began to bark at an ear-splitting volume.
"See! Look at how talented and clever he is!" Jenelle yelled over the din.
"I've never heard anything like this before!" Odette exclaimed.
"Does this mean that Chase did it? Can we go now? I have a nail appointment!" Princess yelled.
"I have a kadoatie. All spardels, and warfs, for that matter, bark whenever they see me," Chase yelled.
Jenelle placed Sparky back on the floor, where he scurried off into another room. The incessant barking finally stopped as the sound of Sparky running down the hall became fainter. Everyone took a deep breath and waited for our ears to stop ringing.
"He does have a point. My warf freaks out every time he sees Chase. The smell of kadoatie really gets them mad," Odette said.
"I haven't heard anything that loud since my Automatic Pant Devil Detector popped," Mervin muttered.
Everyone had, by this point, finished their soup. Jenelle was the first to stand up from the table.
"Okay. Smithy will need to interview you all now, so he can figure out who took the diamond."
"Sure thing," Mervin said.
"Fine. Let's get this over with," Princess said, standing up. Jenelle opened her mouth to say something else, but I jumped in before she could say anything.
"Actually, that won't be necessary. I believe I know who stole the diamond," I announced. I probably sounded a little haughty, but it's important to be confident when making accusations of this nature. So the suspect thinks there's no doubt in your mind.
"What? Who?" Jenelle exclaimed.
"It was... YOU!" I pointed definitively to the thief.
"Me?" the accused Kougra exclaimed. "Why would you even think that?"
"Well, when Princess started talking about her gloves, I knew it couldn't be her. She wears those everywhere, and she wouldn't have been able to get her paws muddy enough to leave a print like the one we found by the case."
"Hmmph," Princess said, smugly smiling.
"Next, Chase owns a kadoatie, so whenever the guard spardel sees him, it barks loudly. Loudly enough to hear from outside. Since Jenelle is sure the spardel was in the diamond room the entire time she was outside, and never heard barking, it means Sparky didn't smell Chase. So Chase wasn't near Sparky, meaning he didn't go in the diamond room, meaning he didn't take the diamond."
"I follow that," Chase agreed.
"Odette, I'll admit, I was suspicious of. But when I heard that she's allergic to Tyrannian petpets, that suspicion went away."
"Why?" Princess asked.
"Jenelle, what's the rug that we found the paw print on made out of?"
"Gruslen fur," Jenelle answered automatically.
"Which Odette would not be able to touch without having her paw swell up noticeably. Odette, may we see your paw?"
Odette held out a paw of normal, non-swollen size.
"And so, we know who that leaves!"
All heads turned to Mervin.
"You can't honestly think it was me! You don't have any evidence I did it, just a bunch of shaky insubstantial evidence that none of the other guests did!" Mervin exclaimed.
"But I can change that. Follow me, all of you." I led the guests and Jenelle into the room with the empty pedestal and paw print.
"Now, when I saw this print, I assumed it was mud. After all, it's rainy outside, there's mud everywhere. But, if I taste it..."
I poked the print, then licked my paw. Exactly as I suspected.
"It tastes like mud. Because it is. But you know what else it tastes like?"
"Dirt?" Chase suggested.
"Chocolate," I said. Mervin, who was, as you may recall, a chocolate Kougra, froze and looked around guiltily.
"Fine. I admit it! I needed the diamond to be a magnifier for my lab! I came inside for a glass of water, but I couldn't help myself, so I took it! It's hidden in the potted plant by the door, I was going to take it with me when I left." Mervin looked around glumly. "And for the record, your watch spardel is completely ineffective."
Now, I won't bore you with the final details of the closing of the case, but I will disclose that Jenelle decided to reward me for my good work by sending me on a vacation to Mystery Island. Mystery Island is every bit as nice as it looks on the post cards. Which, I'd say, about concludes this tale.
Until next time,