…Indeed, it was only a few minutes later than Connie heard a ruckus near the entrance of the stadium. She turned around, and could see a crowd gathering. She ran over, only to see the towering figure of Judge Hog. Next to him, the Scorchio stood frowning and, Connie realised, it was he who was the source of the shouting.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “Have they caught him?”
The Scorchio shook his head. “It wasn’t me who called the Defenders. I think Vince did, and now they want to arrest, well, [i]you[/i].”
Connie’s mouth dropped open. She looked up at Judge Hog. “You think I kidnapped the Poogles? We’ve already sorted this out, Mr Hog sir - it wasn’t me, it was the Wocky we think might have called you.”
“I think you’re going to have to explain this situation to me,” Judge Hog said, frowning. “I’m not sure I quite now what I’m hear for, if it’s not to arrest you for Poogle pinching!"
“Come with me to my office, I’ll tell you what we know so far,” the Scorchio said.
Judge Hog nodded, though, and happily went with him. Connie trotted along behind them. Once they were inside, the two of Neopets quickly explained to the Defender what had happened over the course of the day.
Throughout all of this, the Judge rubbed his chin in concentration. It was only once they’d finished that he spoke.
"He was with a little Meerca boy, you said?” The other two pets nodded.
“You know,” said Connie. “The bit I don’t understand is how they managed to sneak back in and retrieve the other two Poogles without anyone spotting them!”
“Well…perhaps they haven’t left the stadium at all,” Hog said.
“What?!” Connie and the Scorchio frowned at the Defender.
“I’m thinking about it, and how would a schoolboy get away with wondering all over Neopia on a school day without getting caught by someone? There’s no way! And sneaking out, then back in would be far too risky!”
Connie nodded. “So that means…well, where in the stadium could they hide?”
“I think I know where,” said the Scorchio suddenly. "There’s a room underneath the Poogle’s stalls that we never really use. It mostly keeps the spare track blankets and some Christmas decorations. It would be the perfect place to hide, since we never lock it, and I would’nt've checked it!”
“Let’s go,” Judge Hog said, standing and leading the way out of the cramped office room. Connie and the Scorchio had to both jog to keep up with the long strides of the Moehog.
The Scorchio led them through to the back of the stalls. There, he lifted a door in the ground which opened up onto a stairwell. All three went down, Judge Hog first, and soon found themselves in a basement-like room, a few lamps turned in the corners.
“Oh dear,” came the voice of Vince, who was frozen to the spot in the middle of the room. In his hands was a paintbrush of yellow paint - not the magical kind, either. As Connie’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, she saw he was painting none other than her favourite Poogle, number Three!
“Unhand that Poogle!” Judge Hog cried, and his voice echoed around the room.
Vince dropped the paintbrush, which splashed everywhere. He held his hands up, as did the Meerca who squeaked in fright next to him.
“You two are coming with me,” said the Judge.
He pulled out two pairs of handcuffs, and quickly apprehended the two. Vince was crying out in protest, telling the Judge that Barnaby the schoolboy was the mastermind behind it all - that he, poor Vince, had just gotten caught up in the genius criminal plan of the young Meerca. Judge Hog, of course, paid no attention, and began to lead them both up the stairs in front of him. The Scorchio followed behind.
Once they’d left, Connie released a breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. She went over to her favourite Poogle, and stroked him on the nose to try and calm his shaking. She started to inspect the paint job Vince had been subjecting Three to. She frowned as she leaned closer.
A few minutes later, the Scorchio returned. “Judge Hog says he’s going to lock Vince away for his bad deeds. Barnaby, of course, they’re hoping to give a good telling off to before returning to his mother. I’m so glad this is all over and tomorrow can be a normal day at the races! The one thing I don’t understand, though, is why they wanted the Poogles in the first place. What were they going to with them?”
“If you come over here, and have a look - do you see those lines painted on his back legs there?” she said, and he nodded, leaning forward. “I think they were going to try and pass them off as Malevolent Sentient Plushie Poogles, so they could scam people out of Neopoints!”
“I’m so glad we caught them before they could get away with it!” he said. “And it’s all thanks to you! From now on, I want you to have the best seats in the house for the Races, and I’ll have Dipping Apples waiting for you to feed to Poogle Three every morning.”
“Sounds like a deal,” Connie said with a smile.