The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Yanked Yooyus - Part Three
Damien and Luna hastily stacked the petpet food cans back on the shelf to conceal the chute we had found before hurrying up the steps. When we had reached the top of the wooden stairs, I swiped the card Dominic had given us and the doors slid open.
A red Acara nearly plowed into me as I took a step forward. She gasped and jumped back, staring up at us.
“Sorry,” she exclaimed, and then her expression turned to suspicion. “Hey, how did you get down there? That’s a restricted area.”
I held up the plastic card. “Dominic Fletcher gave this to us. We’re on the case.”
“Oh!” she squeaked, clamping a paw to her mouth. “Sorry again! I’m Ruby, one of the Yooyu caretakers.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking her hand. “I’m Marlo, and this is Luna, Damien, and Charlie. You said you’re one of the caretakers?”
Ruby nodded. “Yeah. I was here this morning before the Yooyus were taken.”
“Do you mind if we sit and talk?” Luna asked.
The Acara shrugged and plopped down on one of the risers. The four of us followed suit and Luna pulled out her notebook and pen from her Faerie Back Pack. It was noon, so the sun was directly above us, strong and bright. However, a cool breeze was blowing that made the intense rays feel mild.
“Could you describe what your job consists of?” I asked.
Ruby nervously twisted her paws. “Umm... well, I arrive an hour before the match to feed the Yooyus and then give them a brief check-up to make sure they’re in good condition to play.”
“How much training do the Yooyus have to go through?”
Ruby’s eyes widened. “Tons before the season. Only the best of the best are allowed to play. I mean, they’re ultimately representing Altador and the history of Yooyuball.”
“You arrived here this morning around 9am?” asked Damien.
“Was there anything that concerned you? Anything out of the ordinary?”
“Well, yeah,” said Ruby, and I found myself bending forward to catch all of the Acara’s words. “Dax didn’t show. He’s supposed to be my partner, taking care of the Yooyus and all. So I had to do everything by myself.” She rolled her eyes. “He can be such an airhead.”
Luna jotted down the information. “And where can we find Dax?”
“I don’t know the house number,” said Ruby slowly, “but it’s on Victoria Road, second on the right.”
I pointed to the Yooyu room. “Where does that small metal chute just above the first shelf lead?”
Ruby’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion as if she didn’t understand the question. “Oh, the little gray one? It’s for the dirty towels and blankets. All of that stuff goes straight down into to the laundry room.”
“Could you point us in the direction of the stairs?” I inquired.
Ruby laughed. “There are much more interesting places in the Colosseum, you know.”
“I’m sure,” said Luna, returning the smile, “but right now, we’d like to see the laundry room.”
We followed Ruby back through the two doors we entered from and down the same, gray hallway. Once we passed the courtyard, Ruby opened a door to our right with her access card.
“Here are the stairs,” she said, holding open the door.
Luna, Damien, and I began our descent. Charlie was always spared from the physical work, but this time the pea Chia was busy trying not to slide off my head.
After we started down our third set of stairs, Luna exhaled slowly and said, “There’s no way someone could’ve climbed up these steps with seven petpets.”
Damien paused on the landing to catch his breath. “Maybe there’s another way out.”
“I’m going to have to agree with Marlo’s theory at this point,” said Charlie. “Back in the Yooyu room, he suggested that there was more than one kidnapper. I don’t see how one person could have sent the Yooyus down the laundry chute, ran over here to pick them up, and then exited four flights of stairs in only two minutes.”
I nodded. “Neopian A loaded the Yooyus into the laundry chute, Neopian B waited in the laundry room and escaped after all seven of them had been sent down.”
When we reached the door to the laundry room, it was ajar. Clean towels and soaps were stacked on the shelves and dirty towels lay in a basket on the floor. Washers and dryers took up one of the walls. There was a small, metal opening above a large hamper, the same chute the Yooyus had come from. The small space looked like any other laundry room, except for a few key clues.
A box of detergent lay on the floor and a small, white pile of soap had spilled out. Two puddles of blue liquid had also seeped from their containers
“Look at this pile of towels,” said Damien. “Some of them are still folded.”
Luna bent down and pressed her nose to one of them. The shadow Yurble looked up at me. “They’re clean, too.”
I frowned. “Judging from the distance between the shelves and these clean towels... I’d say this was no accident. Someone was attacked.”
“Let’s see if there’s anything else down here,” Damien said, and the Aisha slipped around the corner.
We padded under the dim lights of the gray hallway, careful not to step on the occasional spider under our feet. Our bodies cast shadows on the peeling walls, making it seem as if someone was following us. I shuddered, hating creepy, dark hallways. Would it kill them to install some real lights?
A spot of something sticky just to my left made me stop. I held out my arm and Luna bumped into it.
“Wait,” I said. “Check this out.”
Luna used her flashlight to illuminate a thin trail of blue liquid that snaked its way down the hallway.
“It smells like fabric softener,” said Charlie. The strong scent filled the tiny space with a fresh, flowery odor.
“Maybe it’s from whoever was attacked,” said Damien. The royal Aisha took the flashlight and followed the trail down the hallway.
It stopped in front of a wooden door similar to the laundry room. More fabric softener was on the frame at about Luna’s height.
“Hey!” cried a voice from beyond the door.
Luna and Damien jumped away and I felt a spasm of fear.
“Is anyone out there?” the muffled voice called.
Luna looked back at Damien and me. “Yeah... umm, just a second.” After the shock wore off, she tried the handle but it wouldn’t turn.
“On the floor,” said Charlie, pointing. “Something’s wedged under the door.”
“I’ve got it,” I said, dropping to one knee. A doorstop had been shoved so hard under the door that whoever was on the other side couldn’t get it open. I wrapped my large paws around the object and with one strong tug, managed to free it.
The door burst open and a speckled Gelert tumbled out. He raised a paw to shield his eyes from the dim lights and squinted up at us. His khaki tunic was similar to Ruby’s.
“Thanks, bros,” he said wearily, rubbing his face. “Who won?”
Luna frowned. “I’m sorry?”
“Was it Kreludor? I bet Trent a hundred Neopoints it would be.”
“Wait a second...” I said, taking a step closer. “You’re Dax, aren’t you?”
The speckled Gelert leaned away from my large frame. “Yeah, man. And who did you say you were?”
I paused. “Kreludor wasn’t today’s victor, Dax.”
Dax groaned. “Darn that Derlyn Fonnet, getting her team off to a weak start...”
“Mystery Island didn’t win either,” I said. “There was no match.”
Dax’s lime-green jaw dropped. “Huh? How could that be? Oh snap, that wasn’t because of me, right?” The Gelert sighed. “I’d better get up there.”
“Why would someone want to trap you in that storage closet?” Luna asked, pursuing him further down the hallway.
“Umm,” said the Gelert, not stopping to respond. “I don’t really know. Everything happened so fast. I was in the laundry room getting some fresh towels for the Yooyus and I was going to start a load of blankets, but then someone hit me.”
“Did you happen to see your attacker?” asked Damien.
“Not really. I remember being in that closet and seeing the door close, but that’s all.”
Luna quickened her pace to keep up with him. “Did you go to the laundry room first thing?”
“Yeah,” said Dax, rounding a corner. “I came in around 9am this morning. Ruby’s going to be so mad at me.” When we hung a left down another hallway, Dax stopped at another metal door. “It’s been great chatting with you guys, but I gotta get up to the ground level to find Ruby and apologize.” After reaching into the pocket of his khaki tunic, his expression became pained.
“What’s wrong?” Damien asked.
Dax checked his other pocket. “Snap. My card’s gone.”
“Someone must have taken it during the attack,” I said, making a mental note of that as I swiped my own card for the lift.
The metal door swung open. “Thanks, bro,” said Dax. “Catch you guys later.”
The speckled Gelert hopped into the lift and we watched as the machine carried him upwards.
“How did a guy like that land such a prestigious job?” Luna asked.
I grinned. “Oh snap, bros, now we need to head all the way back down the hallway.”
Luna nudged me in the ribs as she passed. “Hysterical, Marlo.”
“Hey, someone has to keep up with the dry humor,” I said, tailing Luna and Damien back to the laundry room.
“Now I know why we used the stairs,” Charlie commented as we passed an identical gray hallway. “If we rode that lift down, we may have never found the laundry room.”
“Us non-flyers are definitely taking the lift back up,” said Damien.
I flexed my white, Eyrie wings, laughing at the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to fit into the tiny space. “Suit yourselves!"
To be continued...