Janet and Jane: The Case of the New Addition: Part Three
I couldn't sleep that night. My thoughts were just out of control. Why would Jane get an apprentice? Why did James have to be our apprentice. How would the detective business be affected with him with us for a while? Ugh, never before did I want a period of time to move faster than I did now.
I checked the time. It was close to one in the morning. I didn't sleep a wink yet. Maybe a walk would be what I needed. A walk through Neopia Central always seemed to calm my nerves. I had no idea how - it just did.
I thought I would have to improvise for light, but Supra was up as well. She always seemed to mimic me. Whenever I was tired, she'd always fell asleep in my bag. Whenever I was agitated, she was irate as well. Strange indeed, but I had her for a few years. Maybe she adapted to me. She would have to if she was to be my Petpet.
With her on my shoulder, I left my house and walked to Neopia Central. It was incredibly quiet. Usually, the quiet bothered me, but it was nice on occasion. The only sound I could hear was the sound of my own footsteps and breathing. I rarely saw Neopia Central empty (then again, it was night time).
Maybe I could check out the Marketplace. I could get a better look at the paintings that were on the buildings there. It'd be easier without all the distractions. I never did well with distractions. It wasn't like I got distracted - I just got very annoyed very fast. Nothing was more distracting than James. I didn't like him all that much.
As I was looking around the buildings, I heard footsteps. I froze. They didn't seem to be heading towards me, so I continued carefully. Maybe I wouldn't be heard. I only got concerned when the footsteps suddenly stopped. You know, maybe this wasn't the best idea.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure moving around. I turned around to get a better look at what that was. It appeared to be a Neopet, but I couldn't tell because it had its back turned and the outfit it was wearing was hard to make out (it could be a dozen Meepits on each others' shoulders for all I knew). The figure was facing a wall and... Hold on. Was it painting on the side of a building?
"Hey!" I shouted. "Hey! What are you doing?"
Maybe alerting the vandal wasn't the best idea. The moment I alerted him, he dropped his paint can and ran off. One of his the gloves he or she was wearing fell off. I saw a purple left hand with black claws. It looked as if it belonged to a Bori.
Didn't I just happen to know a purple Bori?
It would make sense. Pretend to be an apprentice so he could commit vandalism no problem. I saw the whole "pretending to help" act before (you don't want to know). The problem was that Jane went through this whole approval thing. The entire process took nearly a month to complete. Seemed like a lot of time to plan a crime (trust me on this one, but I have seen others plan over three times that amount of time). Now, I would believe this if he seemed more experienced. James gave me the impression that he was the exact opposite. He looked like an amateur who would get so nervous to the brink of passing out if enough things overwhelmed him.
I decided to keep this entire situation to myself. I was going to keep a close eye on James for the next few days. Even if he wasn't the culprit, he could still be involved. Maybe he was being forced to do this. Perhaps he was being paid. How about- Hold on. Why was I talking like he was the one who was painting the buildings. For all I knew, he was just some dude who wanted to become a detective.
I walked through the hallways of J2's base with my eyes half shut. I was half awake. After that incident last night, I couldn't sleep (try and guess how that well that was going for me). Long story short, I ran into three trees on the way here and five walls and three doors while I was here (four if you count the one where Natia accidentally opened the door on me).
The moment I began to wake up was when I heard Jane talking to someone in a nearby room. It was most likely James. Nathan wasn't here yet and Natia just slammed a door into me. Jane sounded concerned about something. I wondered what. Maybe if I listen in a little...
"I'd just rather work with you. Is that alright?" I heard James ask. He sounded very nervous (then again, he seemed like a nervous guy).
"Come on. Why can't you work with Janet?" Jane asked back. "She's a really good detective and I feel like you can learn a lot from her."
"I-I'd rather not say why. Is it alright if I work with you instead?"
Jane let out an exasperated sigh. "You're shadowing Janet today. That's final."
I quickly walked away after that sentence. Why would James not want to work with me? I know he didn't directly say that, but it was implied. Yes, I could have been nicer yesterday, but it was kind of his fault, too. He was irritating me. Besides, I felt like there was more to this whole thing.
Let me think. James was rather wary of me, so he tended to gravitate towards Jane. He picked up some evidence, smudging up the fingerprints (trust me, I checked). Right now, he seemed even more determined to not work with me, to which he gave no specific reason. This happened several hours after I saw the painter paint on the buildings and ran away after I called out to him. The Neopet, though, I didn't get a good look at, but I saw a purple hand with black claws like a Bori's.
No, it couldn't be. I was just over speculating. Overspeculating was something that I did way too much. One time, I thought Natia committed a crime (then again, that was back in the days when Jane and I were still bugged by her presence). The probability of James being the vandal was slim to none. Why would he even work with us if he was doing it? Even if it was just a cover, it was too risky to pull off. Not even Kanrik would do such a stunt (let alone pull it off).
Maybe if I could get going, James wouldn't be able to meet up with me. I was just as reluctant to work with him as he was with me. He already messed up some evidence. Who knew what else he would do? For all he knew, he could get the two of us into a very bad situation where- You know, I'd rather not finish that sentence.
Speaking of James, he was coming my way. He ran up to me just as I was about to walk through the door to go outside. The Bori looked exhausted again (he must have been chasing me for a while). Again, his clothes looked a bit messed up and his hair was in a beanie. This time, he had his glasses on (something told me that they were reading glasses).
"I was looking for you," he said. "Jane sent me to shadow you again today."
Yes, I knew that. I said, "Oh, did she? I thought she would have you switch around."
"That's what I thought, too. Maybe she wants me to learn how to investigate a scene first, and since you're doing that-"
I held up my hand (I always did that to politely interrupt someone (even though I was far from polite)) and said, "I get it." I crossed my arms and sighed. Looked like I was stuck with him. "I'm going back to the Marketplace today." Then I glared at James. "I have a feeling there will be new paintings up today."
James took off his glasses and tilted his head. "What makes you say that? Intuition?"
"You could say that."
I walked out the door and headed to the Marketplace. I didn't even wait for James. He only joined me when he finally caught up to me. He tried starting a conversation with me, but I ignored him. If you couldn't tell, I wasn't in much of a mood to talk. I just wanted to find out who was doing this and why.
The moment the two of us walked into the Marketplace, the same green Cybunny from yesterday ran right up to us to greet us. She said, "Welcome to the Neopia Central Marketplace! May I interest you in a sale of-" She stopped when she noticed it was us. "Hey, didn't I see you two yesterday? Are you guys here to take up on my sale of high-end grooming items?"
"Maybe later," I answered as James and I walked past her.
The Cybunny remained persistent. She ran after us. "Are you sure about that? It looks like your friend needs it. He has paint all over his hands."
He had what on his hand? I looked at his hand to see there were paint splatters on both of his hands. Why would he have paint on them? Unless...
"I-I was just working on an art project last night for my school," James quickly said. "Speaking of paint, did you find out who was painting the sides of the shops here?"
The instant he finished question, the Cybunny pouted. "No. No I have not." She stamped her foot on the ground. "And get this. My shop was painted last night! How am I supposed to endorse my sale on grooming products when there are mutant Neopets painted on the side of my shop?"
"That's terrible," I said. "What other shops were painted on?"
The Cybunny looked up and made a strange face. It looked like she was thinking. She said, "Hmm... Well, my buddy, Ally, had her food shop has gross food all over it. Ew!" She stuck her tongue out. "The shop next to me, Milo's Battledome Equipment, has lots of cute Petpets all over it, which I don't mind, really, but he does." The Cybunny snapped her fingers. "That's all I can remember at the moment."
"Do you mind if you show us?" James asked politely.
The Cybunny looked at us with a hint of suspicion in her eyes. "Why do you want to see them?"
James wasn't able to answer, but luckily, I was able to come up with a good answer. I said, "Simple. We have a friend who wanted to see them, but he can't come here today."
The Cybunny didn't look convinced. "Right. Anyway, I have no problem showing you guys the paintings. Maybe afterwards, you can check out my sale."
I sighed, "Maybe."
The Cybunny walked away, to where I assumed the shops that had the paintings. James had no problem following her. I was a bit reluctant, but I followed the two. Correct me if I was wrong, but that Cybunny seemed to be getting suspicious of us. I needed to get away from her quickly (just in case she was the type that got very curious very fast).
Even from a distance, I could see the paintings as we came across a corner. The first one I saw was the one with all the Petpets. That was basically a pink background with Babaas, Faellies, Miamice, and other cute Petpets (too cute for my taste, to be honest). As we got closer, I saw some of the other paintings. There were the mutant Neopets on the Cybunny's shop and the gross food on her friend's shop, and I saw a couple more on random shops.
I went to ask the Cybunny a question, but she hopped into her own shop before I could get the words out of my mouth. James began to go off on his own, too, but I managed to catch up to him. If you couldn't tell already, I wasn't happy with Neositting this purple Bori while Jane and Natia got information. At this rate, half of Neopia Central would be painted before we caught the vandal.
"Alright, James," I said. "Today, I will show you how to collect evidence."
He quickly turned to me and said, "That sounds cool." He reached into his pockets and pulled out some gloves. "I even got my own gloves this time."
I examined the gloves. "I'm sorry, but you can't use those gloves."
I took one of the gloves and said, "These are fabric gloves. Fabric smudges fingerprints." I gave the glove back and took my own out of my bag. "Here, I have some rubber gloves for you."
The moment his eyes hit the gloves, James stepped back. It was as if he was afraid of the gloves (strange phobia, if I do say so myself). "Uh, no. I don't need those gloves."
"Yes you do." I was getting annoyed, and it was showing. "You need to wear these to prevent the situation we found ourselves in yesterday."
"I don't want those gloves." Just like I was getting more annoyed as the time passed, he seemed to get more afraid. "Please, don't give me those gloves."
"What is the big deal? They're just gloves!"
I tossed the pair of gloves to James. He quickly jumped away like it was a fire Yooyu being thrown at him by a Yooyuball forward. Alright, I have seen some strange things over the years (trust me on this one), but this was new. Afraid of rubber gloves? What was so bad about rubber gloves?
"Fine. Be that way," I said dryly as I picked up the gloves and put them on. There was nothing wrong with them. "You can just stand and watch me in action."
James nervously nodded. "Yes, if you don't mind that."
I walked up to the nearest building with a painting on it (which happened to be the one with all the Petpets). It was like the one with the painting of the Chia police chief yesterday. There was almost nothing, but I saw a paint brush on the ground. I carefully picked it up to examine it. It was like the one I saw yesterday - it had a grip on it and was about the same size.
"Either this Neopet was careless or didn't care enough to take it," I said to James as I placed the paint brush in a plastic bag. Or the Neopet was scared when I spotted them and wanted to get away from me, being more concerned about not being caught than to clean up his work.
"Can you really tell what happened from what was left behind?" James asked.
Well, seeing the vandal in the act helped, too. "You can ask Jane. Evidence is like pieces of a puzzle. I'm just good at putting them together." I looked at James. I didn't think he heard me. He was looking up at the the painting, almost entranced. "James? You listening?"
I walked over to him to shake some sense into him. I went to grab his wrist to shake his arm, but the second before I grabbed it, James quickly moved his arm away and took a few steps back. This guy was getting weirder by the minute. He was examining me with terrified eyes, like I was a dangerous criminal.
"I-I'm sorry," James nervously said. "I was just thinking-"
"Thinking about what?" I asked.
"Well..." The Bori looked back up at the painting again. "I think I see a pattern."
A pattern? That wasn't something I didn't consider, but I didn't think it was likely. I said to James, "Really? What's the pattern?"
"I'm not entire sure about this, but..." He stopped for a second to look at the other paintings that were close by. "Well, it seems that the paintings were made to repel customers. Like this is a Battledome equipment shop. Something like cute Petpets would repel anyone serious about the Battledome."
Huh, that actually didn't sound too farfetched. It made sense. It wouldn't be the first time I ran into something like this. But if that was true, what was the store that had the police chief painted on it selling?
"You have a good eye, James," I said. "That could be a good motive."
"Really?" James asked. His eyes instantly lit up. I could tell he was happy. "Oh, Jane will be so glad about this!"
"Now let's get back to work, James. We still have a lot of work to do."
James eagerly nodded. I gave him the plastic bag that had the paint brush. He happily placed it into my bag. A second later, he instantly jumped back. Yep, getting weirder by the minute. Supra hopped out of my bag while being in a rubber glove (the only reason why I knew it was Supra was because the glove was glowing green). She was trying to get out of it, so she shuffled to James for help. James didn't help, though. He just nervously backed away.
"James, what is up with you?" I asked. I picked up Supra and took her out of the rubber glove. The Miamouse scurried up to my shoulder. "You're acting strange."
He slowly shuffled away and said, "What? I'm not acting strange." in a shaky voice.
"You sure are." I offered a hand to help him up. "Do you need help getting up?"
The purple Bori quickly shook his head and said, "N-no. I don't need help getting up." After that, he quickly got up. The poor Neopet was shaking terribly.
"You seem nervous? How come?"
"O-oh, no reason." James slowly backed away from me.
"So you're just a nervous Neopet? I've noticed." I stepped closer to James, who stepped back again. "But this is more than your usual self. What's going on?"
James looked like he was about to bolt. The moment, he began to run, I quickly reacted by grabbing his left wrist. When I grabbed it, he instantly began fidgeting. He was getting scared, I could tell.
"Janet! Let me go! You need to!" he shouted.
"Why?" I asked. "Are you worried that I know?"
I looked around to make sure that nobody was around before I said, "That I know you're the vandal."
To be continued…