Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 193,800,643 Issue: 715 | 15th day of Sleeping, Y18
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The Unsettling Aftereffects

by jannafer


      The investigation had taken longer than most, but eventually Martenik had narrowed it down to two suspects.

      One of them had certainly stolen the Air Faerie’s blue topaz crystal.

      Gohk, a checkered Tonu wearing a bright set of Pant Devil shorts, sat in front of him for another round of questioning.

      “So,” began Martenik, “You were there at the banquet for the entire meal. You stayed for dessert, you got the Air Faerie’s autograph, and then you went home. Is that right?”

      “Yup. That’s it,” Gohk rasped.

      “What was for dessert?” asked Martenik, out of curiosity.

      “I, uh… well, I don’t remember, exactly. After so many banquets these past few months, all the menus seem to blend together. You know how it is.”

      Martenik actually had not been to a party or a banquet in at least two years. This crime-solving business had taken up so much of his time, he often had trouble remembering just what Neo-year it was. And that Pirate Aisha Morphing Potion he’d taken last week had left him with the strangest ears he’d ever had. With any luck, he hoped, his owner would soon change him back to being a Skeith. He allowed himself a moment to reminisce. (Those had been some handsome ears, back then. And the teeth, too! I could eat anything!)

      Enough nostalgia, he reminded himself sternly. His head shook a little, and despite the unsettling feeling of the new antennae-ears waving around like flower stems, he continued.

      “Just one more question, Gohk. A simple question, really. How have you been feeling lately? Been sick at all?”

      Gohk snorted and grunted. “Perfect health.”

      Martenik nodded to himself. “I see. Well, that’s all the questioning for now. I think we’re close to figuring this out. We’ll have one more meeting tomorrow morning at 8:00, and that will probably be all.”

      “Thank Fyora,” grumbled Gohk. “I have things to do. My friend Elibell is waiting for me.”

      A few minutes later, suspect number two was sitting in front of Martenik’s desk. Runtle the grey Quiggle was his usual nervous self, hardly able to sit still.

      “Just a few more questions,” reassured Martenik. “You say you were there for the entire banquet, you stayed for dessert, and then you went home. Right?”

      “I did, I did,” Runtle blinked quickly. “But I shouldn’t have.”

      “Why do you say that?”

      “Well, it’s sort of personal, you know. I shouldn’t have stayed for dessert. It was a mistake. Big mistake.” He twitched again.

      “Did it have something to do with… an argument? An accident? What?”

      “Maybe an accident, if you want to call it that,” lamented the grey Quiggle. “I just need to be more careful about what I eat next time.”

      “Why? What was the problem?”

      Runtle sighed. “Dessert was Neggy Custard Pie with a scoop of Borovan Ice Cream. I can’t eat cream. It makes me sick. It makes all Quiggles sick. I…” Panic grew in his eyes. “Just thinking about it makes me…” His eyes darted around. “Where’s the bathroom?”

      “Down the hall, second door on the left,” answered Martenik. “Go on ahead. I’ll meet you here at 8:00 tomorrow morning for one more meeting. Thank you for—“

      He was going to say “Thank you for helping me solve the case,” but by then Martenik had already hopped down the hall and slammed the door shut.

      That evening Martenik paid a visit to the Healing Faerie. She splashed up near the pond’s edge to greet him.

      “Martenik? Is that you?” she peered closely at the white shirt, Neovian jacket, and black pants that had always been his favorite. “You’re not a Skeith anymore?”

      “I know, I know.” My owner found a Pirate Aisha potion, and I went from being a perfectly good Skeith to… this.” He bobbed his head around so she could see the antennae-ears.

      “Well, you look fine,” she smiled. “And you’re still one of the smartest Neopians I know. Want to be healed today?”

      “No, actually I have a question for you. It’s about this case I’m investigating.” He held up two pictures for her to see. “Have you healed either of these guys lately?”

      She gazed into the pictures, trying not to accidentally splash water on them. “The Tonu doesn’t look familiar at all, but yes, that poor Quiggle… he came to me awhile back with a terrible case of Neezles. Had too much of some creamy dessert, I think he said.”

      Martenik nodded knowingly. “And you’re sure about the Tonu?”

      She looked a moment longer and shook her head. “Pretty sure. I try to take an interest in each pet that comes to me, and he just doesn’t look familiar. I’m sure I would have remembered those Pant Devil shorts.”

      “Thank you,” he smiled. “I think we’ve solved the case.”

      After saying goodbye, he turned to leave, but the faerie had one more thing to give him. She reached into the pond and pulled out… a yellow snowball.

      “Here!” She said cheerfully. “Use this wisely!”

      Martenik coughed politely. “Ahem. Er… thanks.”

      The next morning, Gohk and Runtle met in Martenik’s office. The investigator wasted no time.

      “Gohk, do you remember yet what was at the banquet for dessert?”

      “No, no,” the Tonu grumbled tiredly.

      “It was Neggy custard pie with a scoop of Borovan Ice Cream. Now here’s my next question: If you ate dessert like you said you did, why didn’t you get sick from the neggs? Tonu are allergic to neggs, just like Quiggles are allergic to cream.”

      A spark of panic lit behind Gohk’s eyes. “I… uh… well, I DID, but the, uh… healing faerie…”

      “She doesn’t remember seeing you.”

      “Well…. My… owner had a… cure, and—“

      “I talked to your owner too. No cures.”

      Gohk sat silently, eyes widening. He breathed faster.

      “You mentioned seeing a friend named Elibell. Would that be the Elibell in Neovia who deals in stolen crystals… like, perhaps, giant blue topaz crystals?”

      “All right! All right! I did it. It was me. I skipped dessert, snuck into the treasure room, and stole the crystal. I needed the money. I needed it so my owner could afford a Pirate Aisha Morphing Potion. I hate being a Tonu!” He held his short stubby hands over his eyes and sobbed quietly.

      “You… wait, what?” Martenik shook his head. “You WANT ears like these?”

      “More than anything,” Gohk sniffed. “I never wanted to be a Tonu, but you know how it is when our owners get these potions…”

      “I… yes, I do know. I’m sorry you were stuck in a bad situation like that.” He sighed. “I’m still going to have to have you placed in custody for the crime of stealing the crystal. We’ll sort out the rest of it later, but for now you’ll have to go with these two guards. All right?”

      Gohk looked sadly at the two magma Grarrl guards that stood at the doorway. They escorted him away, leaving only Martenik and Runtle in the investigation room.

      “Thank you for helping us to solve the case.” The investigator reached over to pat Runtle’s grey shoulder.

      Runtle smiled a little, grateful for the appreciation. “You’re welcome, I guess. I still can’t stand the thought of eating all that cream. In fact, even now it makes me have to—“

      He got up and hopped quickly toward the door.

      “Second door on the left!” Martenik called after him. Reaching into his pocket, he realized he still carried the yellow snowball from the previous evening. (Of course it hadn’t melted—those kinds never do.)

      He grinned mischievously. “Runtle, here! Catch!”

      The Quiggle turned just in time to catch the snowball before making it to the second door on the left.

      “Use it wisely!” they both joked at the same time.

      Martenik sat quietly at his desk and sighed happily, glad to have the case closed.

      The End.

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