Super Secret Club: The Great Cookie Caper
IIn the garden of number forty eight, Rainbow Lane, Neopia Central, stands a tree house. But this is not just any treehouse. This treehouse is the headquarters of the Super Secret Club. It’s Super (of course) and Secret (naturally) and the Club risk their lives on difficult, dangerous missions, like retrieving the ball that fell into Mrs-Jenkins-Next-Door’s garden, and taming the wild Warf that somehow managed to crawl through the hedge. There’s no mission too big, no task too terrifying. They will work tirelessly to ensure that justice prevails in the garden. Until nap time, that is.
It is the height of summer in Neopia Central, a time when the streets are filled with tourists from all four corners of the globe. The temperature has unexpectedly soared, and the holidaymakers are eager to celebrate the weather by cramming into the Smoothie Shop, or queueing for hours outside Hubert’s Hotdogs next door.
Across the street, the Super Secret Club is enjoying their freedom with a trip to Al’s very best place in the whole world; the Bakery. The pint-sized Grundo is perched on a huge stack of cushions, relishing the fact that he is at last the same height as his friends.
The Breadmaster glides over to their table, unimpeded by the enormous trays balanced on his hand. He grins at the sight of his favourite customers, bending down to ruffle Al’s already unruly hair, streaking it with flour.
“Ah, good morning, young sir. Would you perhaps like some of my world-famous cookies?”
“You got it!” Al nods emphatically. “Mama never lets me have ‘em for breakfast.”
“Well, consider this our little secret.” The Breadmaster puts a finger to his lips, then turns to the other two occupants of the table. “And will you two be having the same?”
Vyla shakes her head, not able to stomach so much sugar and chocolate this early in the morning. “A Banana Crepe would do me just fine, thanks. “
Taros looks conflicted. He’s been instructed by his parents to watch his figure. But the stacks of Artichoke Cupcakes on display don’t look the least bit appetising. “I…er….”
“He’s on a diet.” Vyla explains quickly, before the Skeith can respond.
“Oh? But why’s that? There’s nothing wrong with appreciating food.” He pats his own round stomach. “How about you treat yourself to a little cupcake, just this once?”
“Oh, all right, then.” Taros replies, secretly elated that he’s once again got out of eating healthily.
“Excellent. Now, you three wait just a moment. I’ve got to make up a brand new batch of cookies for our extra special customer.”
The Kacheek prances off, towards the kitchen, where Al knows the magic happens.
Seconds later, a loud cry of horror interrupts the quiet hum of chatter in the quiet bakery.
The Super Secret Club leap to their feet, racing to where the Breadmaster is standing in the doorway.
“My famous cookie recipe! It’s …It’s gone!”
“Gone?” Vyla echoes. “What do you mean, ‘gone’?”
“I mean that someone has snuck into the kitchen and taken it!” the Breadmaster cries hysterically.
“Can’t you just make the cookies from memory?” Taros suggests
“Ah, therein lies the biggest problem; This batch was supposed to be infused with magic from the Faeries, and then sent off to the poor pets in the Hospital. The magic is very delicate, and if I use a pinch too much of anything, it might not work: I need that recipe to make sure all the measurements are right.”
“Tha’s ‘mportant.” Al murmurs helpfully. “So, nobody gets cookies for breakfast? Not even the sick pets?”
“I’m afraid not, young sir. Not until we get the recipe back.”
“Aha!” Al exclaims, turning to his friends. “I know what we gotta do!” He puffs out his chest, addressing them in his ‘leader’ voice “Super Secret Club. Our mission today is to find the yummy cookie re-sippy, so that the sick pets can get better….an’ then, we can have cookies for breakfast!” he adds. “Let’s look for some clues, you know, like they do on the Defenders of Neopia show!”
The Super Secret Club comb the kitchen for clues, looking for anything at all out of the ordinary; It certainly appears to be in its usual state: all kinds of ingredients are lined up on the counter, crusty loaves of bread are baking in the warm glow of the oven, and the comforting smell of home-made treats fills the air.
Taros notices several dimples in the golden cube of butter on the on the table, and considers making the joke about the Elephante ,but something tells him now isn’t the right time.
“See anything, Al?” Vyla notices her friend’s hand creeping towards the bowl of chocolate chips on the table. Taros wanders over, tactically shoving the bowl away from his curious fingers, whilst Vyla pretends to inspect the counter.
“Nope.” Al replies. “This is a big ole’ problem.”
“Well, what do the Defenders of Neopia do when they can’t find something?” Vyla prompts him.
“Oh! I know! They’d say ‘If I was a recipe, where would I be?’ he responds, in the best approximation of Judge Hog his squeaky voice will allow.
“Exactly. Now, where do you usually find recipes?”
“Mama has a big book full of ‘em at home. I like looking at the pictures of the yummy food.”
Taros spots a large tome, sprinkled with sugar and smeared with jam, lying open in the far corner, and deposits it on the counter with a loud thump.
“This looks like a recipe book to me.”
Vyla hoists Al up so he can peer at the strange multi-coloured squiggles decorating the page. These words are far too tricky for him to read. He turns the pages carefully, trying to find a nice picture of his favourite cookies.
“Stop!” Vyla cries. “Look at this!”
She is pointing to a spot where, instead of a page covered in flour and ink, a ragged fragment of paper remains.
“The page with the recipe’s been torn out!”
Al runs a stubby finger over the ripped page, noticing the fine white dust that covers it. He cautiously licks the tip of his thumb.
“Bleh!” he exclaims, rushing off to fill a beaker of water. “There’s a whole lotta flour on that page!”
“So…” Taros ponders. “To find the page, we’ll need to see if there’s a trail of flour we can follow?”
The Super Secret Club resume their search, peering around for the elusive flour. It is not long before Vyla spots something peculiar.
“Come and look at this!”
The three of them congregate beside the back door. Al notices that instead of the handle being shiny like he remembers, the polished metal is a lot duller, and it’s littered with small smudges of white powder, as though somebody was holding something messy in one hand, and forgot about it when they tried to open the door.
He explains his findings to the Super Secret Club, even swiping a little bit of the substance from the handle to check that it is indeed the flour they’re looking for.
“Seems like you’re right.” Vyla agrees. “Great looking, Al.”
Al takes a moment to congratulate himself on his amazing skills of observation, before Taros interrupts.
“So, we know that whoever took the recipe used the back door to escape. What is there out there that someone could want?”
“Nothing, as far as I know.” Vyla responds. “Just a few trees, and some long grass. I think there might have been a gym there a long time ago, but it’s gone now.”
“But it would be a lot harder to trace them if they went through all of that grass.” Taros muses. “Perhaps we should go out there and investigate?”
He leads his fellow club members outside, down a set of battered stone steps leading onto untamed wilderness. As if anticipating their entry onto the abandoned plot of land, a wind that certainly wasn’t there earlier has picked up, and the tall grass waves ominously.
“Kinda spooky, isn’t it?” Taros laughs nervously, earning him a disapproving smack from Vyla. The Techo indicates a fear-stricken Al with a pointed glance.
“Sorry, pal.” Taros mutters sheepishly. “Here, you climb up.” He squats down, and Al clambers onto his shoulders.
“Now then.” Vyla begins. “Where do you think the culprit could have gone from here?”
“Culp…what?” Al frowns down at her.
“The person who took the recipe.” She clarifies. “It could be just about anywhere. I’m not sure where to look first.”
“Maybe we could look by those trees?“ Taros points to a spot in the distance. “With all this wind, the recipe could have blown into the branches.”
The three of them make their way over to the towering tree closest to them, wading through the tall grass.
“See anything, Al?” Vyla asks, once they reach their destination.
Her tiny friend squints up into the wide boughs above him, hunting for the scrap of paper amongst the bright green leaves. For a moment, it looks like they will have to choose a different place to look, but then Al gives a triumphant shout
“I see it! It’s right up at the top!”
Before anyone can stop him, he has leapt down from Taros’ shoulders, and is racing towards the gnarled trunk. There are plenty of footholds, so Al easily makes his way onto the highest branches, clinging onto the bark like a Mynci.
“Al!” Taros shouts from the ground. “You be careful up there, buddy!”
“I know all about climbin’ trees!” Al bellows back, now even higher. He doesn’t notice the tree has begun to shake with his added weight. “An’ look! I’m almost there!”
He points to a branch not far away, one of the highest of all, and very frail-looking.
“Okay, just grab it, and come straight down: It’s dangerous to be up there in the wind.”
Al confidently leans towards the scrap of paper, now slightly crumpled from its ordeal, and grasps it firmly in his hand.
“Got it!” he cries, turning towards his friends to show them his prize.
None of them notice until too late that he has let go of the branch with both hands.
Another sudden gust of wind howls through the trees, and Al’s tight hold on the recipe wavers for several brief moments. He reaches out as far as he can, clutching the precious paper to his chest.
The branch he’s sitting on gives a loud, sickening crack.
Time seems to stand still. Al’s beaming face slowly morphs to one of horror as realisation dawns on him, moments too late. Suddenly, he is flying through the air, tumbling foot after foot from his perch, with no wings to stop him. Vyla and Taros race into action, surging forward in unison.
The Baby Grundo hits the ground with a dull thud before they can reach him.
The Super Secret Club is at his side in an instant. Taros hoists him easily into his arms. Looking down, he’s shocked to find Al smiling up at him.
“Look.” He whispers. “I got the special re-sippy back.”
Then, he bursts into tears.
“What’s wrong, pal? Is something hurting you?”
“His arm!” Vyla gasps. “Look at his arm!”
Al’s right arm is bent, but in all the wrong places. It hangs at his side, limp and lifeless.
“You run and tell his Mama what happened. I’ll get him to the Hospital.”***
“I feel so guilty.” Taros confides in his friend a short while later. He and Vyla are trekking through the corridors of the Neopian Hospital, on their way to visit their smallest friend. Al had been whisked away from them almost as soon as they arrived, closely followed by his tearful Mama, who had abandoned an urgent Neomail to see to it that her little boy was okay.
“You’ve got no need to.” Vyla insists. “You weren’t to know the branch would snap.”
“Yeah, but I should have gone after him…or better yet, stopped him from doing it altogether.”
“Then I would have ended up carting two of you here. And you know how determined he is-he would have done it, whatever you’d have said.”
Taros sighs deeply. “This whole recipe business was a lot more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Well, at least it’s back with its rightful owner now…too bad we never found out who took it in the first place.”
“Might I suggest we don’t go looking for them any time soon? I don’t think Al’s quite ready to be chasing criminals yet.”
Vyla chuckles, then stops, hearing a familiar voice.
“…An’ then, I fell right outta the tree, but I got the re-sippy, so that all the sick pets here can be better.”
Taros knocks gently on the door, shamefacedly leading the way inside, followed by a just as guilty-looking Vyla.
Al is sat up in an enormous bed, his right arm covered in a bulky yellow plaster cast. He pauses in telling his Mama of today’s adventure, and grins broadly at them.
“Hey look, it’s my pals! Do ya have any presents for me?”
“Al.” Mama chides him, smiling behind her stern tone.
“We might not, but we do know someone with a little surprise for you.” Taros grins, opening the door a little wider to let the Breadmaster step into the room. He is carrying the most enormous tray of cookies that any of them have ever seen.
Al’s eyes light up. “Oh, goody! This is the best day ever!”
“And why’s that, you daft boy?”
“’cause I get cookies for breakfast, that’s why!” he cries. Then stops. “Oh….but you said I wasn’t allowed ‘em for breakfast.”
“Well, I reckon I could make an exception just this once.” Mama grins. “Come and sit down, all of you. I’m rather partial to a cookie or two myself.”