The Case of the Almost Abandoned Attic: Part Two
”Your attic is quite…a sight…” Caffax remarked, dusting off his jacket and sidestepping broken glass on the wooden floor. Jiere was still trying to get the cobwebs out of her hair while mumbling to herself. The Ghost Aisha simply floated ahead unaware of the problems faced by the beings with legs.
“Ah, I’m sorry about this,” she waved her hand around. “I’ve been meaning to clean this place up and make it look more…presentable but I can’t really hold a broomstick…Besides this setting actually attracts curious customers.”
“Hmm, I guess it does.”
She led them to the cabinet. Just as she had described, the shelves were empty, door ajar and the lock had disappeared too. Caffax looked inside the shelves to find signs of disturbed dust but found none. Whoever stole the items was extremely skilled and careful. The Neopet must’ve taken the pain to pick every item without disturbing the dust beneath them.
“How long were you gone, Ms. Ghost?”
“I guess 3 hours or so. Time is irrelevant once you are dead.”
“That was plenty time for the thief. Any idea why the lock was taken?”
“The lock was pretty expensive and a collector’s item.”
“What I don’t understand is how the thief stole items that were not on display…” Jiere commented.
“The items are just invisible Jiere. If you look closely at the shelf here, the areas that are dust-free, hold items. Or held. And I’m guessing that once it’s out of this enchanted cabinet, it becomes visible.” Caffax explained, turning to the Aisha for confirmation. She nodded.
“Oh, I see… Ms. Ghost, at what time did you leave?”
“Maybe at 2 am… Like I said, I don’t really keep track of time.”
“One hour after we went home…It’s 7 am now. The thief might still be in Neovia. How did he/she manage to carry all those items? There are no signs of dragging a sack on this dusty floor. The only footprints are those around the cabinet. Nowhere else. Do you think the thief had wings?” Jiere turned to Caffax.
“Maybe…tiny wings I suppose. This room is small and packed, so the thief must’ve had a slim frame to be able to avoid bumping into things which rules out Eyrie, Lenny, Scorchio, Shoyru, Skeith. Judging from the pawprints here, it’s definitely not a Hissi or a Uni. We can also rule out petpets as they are too small to carry so many items.” Jiere nodded in agreement and wandered off to the small broken attic window.
“You gathered all this by just one look? I’m glad I sought your help, Mr. Shadowclaw.”
“It’s not much, Ms. Ghost. I still didn’t consider the possibility of Faerie Neopets. That’s a whole different amount of possibilities. ”
“Um… Caffax, you better take a look at this.” Jiere spoke, peering out the window.
Caffax and the Ghost looked out the window. Lying on the deserted narrow road below, was a dustpan. Dust spilt all around it. He kept staring at the harmless inanimate object wide-eyed.
“What does this mean, Mr. Shadowclaw?” The Ghost asked, nervous.
“This means that our suspect list just got bigger.”
Back at the office…
Caffax flipped the pages on his clipboard and grinned to himself.
“You have that mad grin on you which means… this thief has really impressed you.”
“Of course Jiere! Take a look at this list of missing items Ms. Ghost gave! There are so many… And the dustpan… That was ingenious. He/she literally covered up their tracks. All this done by a single person.”
“How do you know it was a one-Neopet theft?”
“There was only one set of paw prints surrounding the cabinet.”
“True. I wonder where the thief disappeared with so many items. Maybe he/she had help hoarding them. Or magic. ”
“I kinda doubt the involvement of magic here. So far, it doesn’t look like magic was used. Anyway, Jiere, I want you to assort these items based on their rarity and price. I’m pretty sure that even if the thief is a collector, he/she will not keep all the items for themselves.”
“Okay, on it.”
The Printing Press door opened with the sound of the chiming doorbell and the Pteri shopkeeper’s daily customer entered.
“Oh, Hello, Mr. Shadowclaw, the daily news for you I suppose?”
“Yes, thank you ma’am.” Caffax had to drag himself to the stool. There were a few other customers and all of them greeted Caffax. He was a celebrity in a small town like this.
The shopkeeper handed him the paper, “Whoa… You look like you’ve been hit by a truck. Couldn't sleep , eh?”
“I guess so. Fell off the bed.”
“Ooh, that’s nasty.”
“Yeah. How was yesterday’s fair at the Deserted Fairground?”
The Pteri laughed. “Deserted is not the right term for that place. It wa bustling with people everywhere. I got lost once or twice. But anyway, I got some pretty neat items for a good price. This hairpin for example.” She gestured at the shiny thing on her.
Caffax smiled. Maybe he should’ve given Jiere a heads-up about the Fair. She loved accessories after all. “That’s great, wait a second-” He abruptly got up from the stool and examined the hairpin, startling the shopkeeper.
“This isn’t found in Neovia. Where exactly did you buy this, ma’am?”
“I…Um…there was this hustler in one of the stalls.”
“Did you ever see him before?”
“No…I don’t think so…”
“Describe him.” Caffax said with a serious tone. The Pteri grew nervous.
“Well, he wore a cloak that covered his entire body. He wore a mask that covered his eyes and a hat, definitely not Bart from Apple Bobbing. All I can conclude is that, it was a male, not too tall.”
Caffax thanked her and hurried out of the shop, speaking to himself, “It must be him.” That hairpin was definitely on the stolen items list.
He found Jiere waiting for him at the Office. From the looks on her face, she had some serious news too.
“You won’t believe what I found.” She began.
“I’m pretty sure I can. Continue.”
“The missing items… I found them with some of the townsfolk. All bought from the same place.”
“Let me guess, the Fairground?”
Jiere nodded. “I compiled all the items I found with the townsfolk and they add up to the cheaper items from the stolen item list.”
“Strike off Hairpin of the Deep too. I found the shopkeeper of the Printing Press wearing that.”
“Okay. What do we do Caffax? What do you think is happening here?”
Caffax closed his eyes. What would he do if he was the thief? Yes, too many items to carry. Some of them not useful for him. If he had to sell the expensive ones, he couldn’t sell it here. Too obvious. He had to travel somewhere far. Maybe Krawk Island. But first, he had to lighten the weight. The best choice of course, is a Fair. No one would suspect a thing.
“We need to pay a visit to his stall.”
Caffax and Jiere made their way to the Deserted Fairground as fast as they possibly could.
The place was deserted now. The only Neopet around was the Bagatelle owner. He was packing up too.
“Excuse me Sir, do you know anything about the Hustler who had his stall here yesterday?”
“Of course. That show stealer. Appeared out of nowhere, that lad. The next thing you know, all my customers were drawn towards his stall because he had a few fancy things and assured deals.”
“Where did he go?”
“How would I know?” The owner got a good look at the two Neopets questioning him. “Who are you people anyway? The Fair is over and that Hustler’s gone too.”
“Don’t mind us, Sir. We are just asking around. We’ll be on our way. One last favor, please. Could you point us to his stall?” Jiere requested.
“Sure.” Pointing at a small broken table at the corner of the Fairground, he said, “That’s where he was yesterday. He had a huge sack with him when he appeared. Must’ve been very heavy and from the looks of it, he must’ve been dragging it from quite a distance. Disappeared without a trace when all the items were sold.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Just like the Bagatelle owner described, Jiere and Caffax could only see a table with a big rock supporting one of its legs.
“Even though the thief has vanished, there must be drag marks on the ground from the time he came here with the sack. That could lead us somewhere! I’m going to see if we can trace this trail!” Jiere followed the faint trace.
Caffax, on the other hand, examined the table. There was a piece of paper under the rock. Just then Jiere came back to report that the trail was invisible now because of too many footprints.
Caffax unfolded the piece of paper. There was a sentence scribbled on it.
I couldn’t make this too easy for you. This is your challenge. Come find me.