A Detective's Arrest
By appaloosa500 / Kay Hau
For once, my adventure doesn't start on a normal, slightly boring day. There was no sun peeking through my office windows—the sun had already set—and I was not lazing in my comfy office chair with my back paws on my desk or writing in my journal. Frankly, I was mad. Raging, to be exact. I had been in the middle of the most invigorating and challenging case of my life, then my client had withdrawn and turned the whole shebang over to the Neopia Central Authorities—meaning I didn't get paid a single neopoint though he'd used the information I'd spent a week digging up.
Next time I get paid in advance.
It was nighttime, around 9 pm NST. Sleep was not even on my mind. Neither was food—I hadn't even had dinner. I was deciding whether to run over to the Card House and see if I could pick a fight with some smart-alecks or to do 300 or so pushups. Either way would blow some steam pretty well. I was sitting at my desk, paws resting on top holding me up by my forehead as I stared at the center of my sloppy desk, teeth clenched, furiously debating the idea of beating up a few punks versus exercising until I crashed. My bushy Green Wocky fur must've been sticking out all over, even uncomfortably beneath my suede vest, I was so upset.
I was so distracted I didn't notice two cops and an NCA Chief enter my office until the Chief spoke.
"Detective Khargana, you're under arrest."
That jolted me back to reality. A giant Starry Lupe stood directly across from me, deathly serious. "Chief Kerowski? What—?"
He interrupted me. "You are hereby charged with grand theft. Everything you say can and will be used against you. Keep in mind, before you try any excuses, there were witnesses."
I didn't believe it. Chief Kerowski was a buddy of mine; you could even go so far as to say my source in the Neopia Central Authorities. If I hadn't been so angry maybe I would've questioned him instead of concluding it was some lame joke.
As it is, I rolled my eyes in exasperation and gestured for him to leave through the client door. "I just lost out on the job of my life and at least 12,000 NP in payment. I'm assuming you just want to haul me down to the station to squeeze any extra info outta me, and let me tell ya—I'm dry. Besides, I got plans for tonight."
To my shock, Kerowski gestured and the two cops came around the desk and stood on either side of me.
"This is ridiculous! You trying to pull a fast one, Chief?"
The Starry Lupe shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Khargana. You were witnessed, and I'm doing my job."
"I don't have time for this!" I exclaimed, starting to stand up.
Kerowski gestured and I was roughly grabbed, one cop to each arm. I was about to fling them off—two cops? Not even chiefs or muscle-bounds, just normal cops? Please. But my old friend met my eyes. I couldn't believe how cold his eyes were; I could scarcely believe he actually thought I was a criminal.
"Don't fight, detective. Your position is bad enough."
It was just beginning to dawn on me how deathly serious he was.
"Honestly, Kerowski, you know me. Would I stoop to common theft? And if I did, do you seriously believe I'd be incompetent enough to let myself be recognized?"
He didn't meet my eyes. He just shook his head sadly. "One mistake is all it takes. Let's go, boys."
It had to be some stupid, absolutely crazy mistake. Right? I mean, this is me we're talking about. Khargana the Wocky Detective. Ace-private eye. Impeccable reputation and success listing. It had to be a mistake.
And with those thoughts I let them haul me downtown to the NCA station.
Once we got to the station, they hauled me into an empty interrogation room and locked the door. Commander Slammer, a Blue Koi in an old-fashioned Maraquan military hat, eyed me with a wicked grin. I just earnestly hoped my poker face was on straight. Just to let you know, we've been at each other's throats since he transferred over when Maraqua got smashed. I'd been wishing that, now with it back up and running, he'd go back. Wish NOT granted.
"Why isn't the suspect cuffed, Chief?" barked Slammer.
"She didn't resist arrest—"
"Nonsense! Cuff her immediately!"
I let bozo on my left whip out the cuffs and lock my paws in front. The Commander, who, may I add, is half my size, gestured and the two cops shoved me into a hard, plastic chair.
"I'm a suspect, Commander, not a convict," I said, meeting Slammer's eyes. Admittedly, I was incredibly annoyed at such brash treatment.
"As good as!" shouted the moron (Slammer) in my face. "Consider your detective's license revoked as of now!"
That got me. "You haven't even told me what's going on!"
"Oh, and I suppose you're going to claim temporary memory loss?" he asked sarcastically.
I couldn't keep the low growl out of my voice as I answered. "Maybe you should refresh my memory, seeing as I haven't the slightest idea what's going on! I'll call a lawyer and have your department sued for this!"
"Lawyers can't help you here! We have three witnesses that have directly identified you and four describing you perfectly—down to that absurd vest you're always wearing!"
"One," I began, glaring. "Green Wockies are fairly common. That's why I've never painted myself—it would be harder to blend in. Two, I'd never be stupid enough to commit a crime in my vest."
Commander Slammer's grin widened. "So you deny it? That adds an extra couple years at least."
"You can't possibly—!"
"Not even Wockies look that much alike! What were you doing from the second you woke up this morning?"
"Not until you at least tell me where you presume I stole something!"
The Blue Koi leaned back and chuckled. "You don't seem to realize your position. You have no rights. You will not be granted a lawyer or a pardon or even a phone call to your owner. We have seven witnesses—more than enough to convince any judge. Even if you have an alibi for the time and place, even if a lie-detector corroborates your story, you aren't getting out of this."
Whiny Kadoaties—was this guy seriously a honest-to-goodness idiot or what? And as for that crack about revoking my license as a detective… ouch. So, what, I have an identical enemy or something? One with a vest identical to my one-of-a-kind? Aw, crabby Miamice! To cooperate with whoever was behind this, or to make Slammer's life miserable, along with my own?
I am not some dinky Feepit, and my life is private until or unless I say so.
I leaned back in the chair and smirked. "I'm not telling you a thing until someone tells me what's going on. You may as well lock me up now."
Unfortunately for me, Slammer took my advice.
Add slime to the cold, stone walls and chains to the prisoners and the NCA holding cells fit the description of Darigan's dungeons perfectly. It wasn't that bad, though—I had company.
I was brusquely thrown face-down into the cell, my paws still cuffed in front. Yeah, I admit I deserved it, but they didn't need to take it so personally. I'd only pointed out the flaws in their so-called 'logic.'
"Detective Khargana—this is a surprise," said a pleasant voice. I knew who it belonged to as well.
"Yo, Mack. I take it you got caught—again?" The Red Quiggle was a fairly ineffective sneak thief. Believe it or not, he'd actually had things stolen from himself and had hired me to recover them. I don't know his real name, but it sure ain't Mack.
The Quiggle squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, yeah. How's the detective biz? Whatcha in for?"
I scrambled to my rear paws and managed to get up and over to a bench, if you can remotely call a rock slab from Tyrannia a bench.
"If that creep Slammer has his way, I won't be a detective much longer. Either I'm being framed for a pretty big theft or the NCA has way too much time on their hands and needed some practice."
"Knowing you, I'd opt for a third: you insulted some rich bigwig."
"Nah, I do that all the time and this never happened. I'm pretty sure it's option one." Then I paused and considered Mack's words. Hmmm… "But who's to say one and three can't go together?" I whispered in a sudden rush of thought.
"Makes sense," laughed Mack. "One plus three equals two and all that."
I chose to ignore that worthless comment in favor of rapidly mumbling to myself. "Someone with enough pull for either 7 false witnesses or one look-alike… Likely the second, though perhaps two or three of the witnesses could've been paid under the table. How could they duplicate my vest though?"
I looked down and fingered the fine needlepoint and the soft texture. That and its 7 or 8 pockets, it truly was unique. Or so I'd thought.
"That's actually kinda what I'm in for."
I switched my gaze Mack's way. "Say that again and elucidate."
"Explain in detail, rush order."
"Uh, sure. I kinda broke into a clothing warehouse."
I raised my eyebrows at this.
"Hey, I thought it was a store! You'd think something so big would have some cash stashed somewhere!"
"Well, Iyou/I would. But no matter—what does this have to do with my vest?"
"I saw several, at least four, exactly like yours hung on a rack with a bunch of normal vests."
I scratched my neck ruffle. "Know the owner?" Probably not, Mack wasn't the type to do research.
"At least the warehouse name?"
"For goodness sake, the address?"
"I think it was across from this place called The Card House, but you wouldn't know where—"
"Done and done!" I said in relief, pulling a tiny laser knife from my neck ruffle. Slammer may have had my vest emptied of my usual useful gadgets, but he hadn't even thought I'd have other gizmos.
I stuck it in my teeth and carefully sliced my cuffs off. Then I checked for guards and went for the cell door's bars.
"What are you doing?" squeaked Mack. "You'll get us in trouble."
The bars I'd sliced came out and I slipped through the empty space. Before a certain Red Quiggle could follow me, I switched settings on the laser knife and welded the bars back in place.
"I'm off in search of justice!" I said heroically. "Actually, I'd just go mad sitting in the same cell with you, and I'd completely lose it in a prison. So my last option is to clear my good name, then face the music for breaking myself out of jail. Who knows, maybe they'll be so humiliated they'll let me off free!" I chuckled and took off down the hall before a round of guards came along.
Slipping out of the holding cells was actually really easy. Turns out the (empty) guardroom had a (unlocked) backdoor. Honestly, I'd have to have a talk with Kerowski about security hazards. After this whole mess was done with, of course.
Once I was out I was stuck with a dilemma. Not how to get to the Card House—incidentally my favorite info-gathering hangout—but how to get home. I was known at the Card House as the Queen of Spades, dressed in a faux kau-hide jacket, kau-boy hat, and usually shades. They'd never trust me in my Wocky Detective vest; they probably wouldn't even recognize me.
My problem: how to get home, change, and get to the Card House without being spotted by an NCA officer.
I groaned and ducked to the other side of the street, since just then such a one was coming my way down Main Street on patrol.
Undoubtedly they'd have noticed my absence by now. Since the guardroom had been empty, logically they'd started their rounds before I'd reached it. For all I knew, my Neohome could already be surrounded.
Commander Slammer would undoubtedly be in the lead of the stakeout, and I refused to give him the pleasure of catching my twice. I could hear the snide voice even now, "That's an extra five years at LEAST, Ms. Khargana!" And I'd never get my detective's license back. I could still operate, of course, but I wouldn't be able to examine crime scenes or use the NCA's resources. And they'd have the right to kick me out of whatever or wherever they chose.
MIAMICE! I'd already lost a 12,000 NP commission! I refused to lose anything further!
I was going home, and Adam himself with his asparagus weapons help any NCA officer that stood in my way! Khargana, the Wocky Detective, would clear her good name and solve her own case!
I quietly took off at a jog through the forest surrounding my Neohome/detective headquarters. Good thing about being a Wocky: light paws during a run. I barely snapped any twigs as I dashed through, carefully on the alert for any glimpse of a blue uniform. I slowed down as I reached the clearing where Kay had chosen to build our house, dropping to all fours and staying as still as a statue.
Nothing… nothing… nothing… A light chink! Someone had jostled a metallic weapon or something. I strained my ears, closing my eyes and hoping I was close to invisible in the shadows in the underbrush. A rustle of clothing, some light whispering. Yep, there was a stakeout around my Neohome.
Man, Kay was going to be mad about this latest enterprise. The great goody-goody, friend of Fyora, inventor, and chief advocate of Petpets' rights, who now had an outlaw as a beloved Neopet. Absolutely great. And you could bet easy money Slammer would love to tell her every detail of whatever it is I'm said to have done criminally and my escape from the holding cells. And I could hear her hurt, reasonable voice even now, saying how she understood things from my side but could I possibly consider hers?
Okay, okay, back to the story. I had to concentrate. How could I get to my office without being noticed? I didn't have a chimney, and even if I did, I certainly can't fly. I didn't have any secret underground ways in or out, and as far as I knew the cops would have a ring around the entire house, just waiting for me to come up some easy path or sneak from the bushes. Waiting to pounce at me.
Boy, I hate being a wanted criminal.
First order of business: I needed a distraction. A Igood/I one. One that would get every one of those cops either out of the open or to the other side of my Neohome. Short of exposing myself, I didn't see how I could do it.
As chance would have it, my snobby, girly, rude, annoying, but admittedly beautiful Uni friend happened to saunter into the clearing at that moment. (Don't ask how we happened to become friends when we clash so much. Let's leave it that we weren't, then I learned she had a brain and she learned I had a heart.) Adriana_Flyer's her name, red's her color, and perfectly pedicured and prettied up was her entire being.
"Oh Khar-ga-na!" she shouted in a musical voice, which probably meant she had something in mind for me that I wanted nothing to do with. Like a party—yuck. "Come one, Khar! I want to take you somewhere!"
I could practically hear the hearts of a few male cops thump harder, and Slammer himself stepped out of hiding to explain things as they stood to the pretty Uni.
"Excuse me miss, is there a problem?" said the Koi gallantly, in a voice completely opposite from the one he'd used on me. Things were really going my way—his back was to me but Adri was facing my hiding place. I quickly stuck my head above the bushes and gestured to her that I didn't want him knowing where I was and wanted a clear shot into my Neohome.
I'll grant the girly friend of mine this—she's quite an actress. Absolutely no trace of enlightenment or comprehension filled her face, but she smiled brilliantly at the stubby commander, blinked her long eyelashes, and asked if perhaps they could move along a bit? Just maybe? The flowers on the other side of the house were soooo much prettier…
Almost preening in pride at being such a lovely lady's escort (do fish preen? No, huh.), Slammer took her hoof in his fin and accompanied her around the building, forgetting the fact that at this time of night it was unlikely the pretty Uni wanted to admire flowers.
I grinned, knowing the younger NCA officers enough to be positive they were too busy straining their ears to collect gossip to pay attention to a Green Wocky slipping silently towards her own client door. I reached the door, carefully peeked around and strained my ears, then hurriedly opened it and slipped in. No one was the wiser.
Things were definitely looking up. My office, my gadgets, and most of all, my undercover Card House outfit, they were all here. I wasn't quite cocky enough to dare risk being seen through the large window, so I stayed close to the ground and snuck over to an easily overlooked pirate chest in the corner.
Inside the chest, however, was an outfit worth far more than it's weight in Neopoints. I carefully slipped out of my vest and hung it on a ready peg, slipping on the heavy black jacket in its place. Next I pulled on the fancy black kau-boy hat, complete with twisted silver hatband. I also put on the dark shades, a heavy silver belt, and, for good measure, black armbands around all four paws. Who knew how long I'd have to keep up my gangster Queen of Spades charade?
I glanced in the mirror I had there (for just that purpose) and, as usual, barely recognized myself. So far only two people knew Detective Khargana and the Queen of Spades were one and the same person, and I was one of those two. The other was the owner and manager of the Card House—a suave, handsome Brown Wocky named Black Jack, whom I shall introduce shortly. I intended no one else to ever discover the sweet little detail of my double identity.
With a deep breath, I ducked low and slipped out my door. I reached the bushes and trees undetected and, out of curiosity, slipped quietly around to the front of my Neohome. I could overhear Slammer and Adri quite well, as could the 20 or so NCA officers also eavesdropping.
"Oh, commander! That's terrible! I never would've dreamed Khargana would commit such a great atrocity!"
She's a better actress then I'd thought! But I know for a fact she would never use the word 'atrocity' if she were genuinely upset. More likely the dark phrases "I knew it all along," or "You could see it coming, moron." Her real self usually used a much more lofty tone, not the pitiful, aggrieved one I heard now. Adriana_Flyer's real way of facing something dislikeable is to raise herself above it. So I knew she hadn't been brainwashed by the idiot commander.
With a smile, I slunk into a well-hidden area where only Adri could glimpse me, took off my hat and shades, and quickly saluted in her direction, signaling she could end her drivel. Then I hurriedly pulled them back on and dashed off before anyone was the wiser.
I reached the Card House without further incident. The door easily swung open, revealing the club the same as usual, especially at this time of night. It was around 11 pm NST, but I'd long since resigned myself to staying up all night. Most Card Housers were nocturnal anyway.
Just as I remembered it, Card Housers clogged the huge open room either shouting for drinks from the large Kougra barman, playing cards or pool at respective tables, arm-wrestling, arguing, talking shady deals, or just plain gossiping.
A handsome Brown Wocky stood near the entrance, his back to me as he greeted an extremely well dressed Xweetok couple. Probably gang lords.
I waited for him to finish, then tapped the shoulder of his dandy black suit. "Black Jack," I said softly. He turned, a smile already over his movie-star face.
"Hello, Queenie. What's up, darling?" Then he looked closer into my eyes and the smile dropped from his face.
"What happened?" he whispered, leaning closer so no one would overhear. For a club owner, B.J.'s a pretty perceptive friend.
"I need to talk to you in your office," I whispered back, not ready to risk interruption or being overheard. "It's about the Wocky Detective."
This was sufficiently vague that, had anyone been eavesdropping, it would've been meaningless. To B.J., the only one who knew my true identity, it meant I had a serious and personal problem.
He nodded and immediately headed straight to the back and down a little hall, me just behind him. He pushed open the old-fashioned door to his soundproofed office and I entered.
His office looked the same as always, but I pretended to take an interest in it to play for some time to think how to phrase my words. Same modern office—white walls, black carpet, silver chairs and filing cabinets, glass-topped tabled and desk, glass-fronted display case of personal treasures (including, for some reason, a picture of me in my Card House outfit), and skylight high above that B.J. would lean back in his huge executive chair to gaze through at the stars. Hopeless romantic.
He was doing exactly that when he somehow sensed my eyes on him and realized I was ready to tell him what was going on.
"I—and I do mean Khargana the Wocky Detective and not the Queen of Spades, am being framed. Some sort of serious robbery, but not one would give me any details. Yes, I was arrested. Yes, I broke out to clear my name."
Black Jack groaned and ran a paw over his handsome face.
"Apparently there were 7 sure-fire witnesses, who got me down to my vest, and I know a source who says for some reason there were several of my 'one of a kind' vest in that warehouse across the street."
B.J. froze for a second, then burst out laughing. "Well, that makes it easier," he chuckled. "As the two I was just welcoming as you entered happed to own that warehouse. New neighbors and all; never let it be said Black Jack was inhospitable. Oh, I love the irony. But of course I must have them evicted for conspiring against you. I can't have that sort of Neopet in my club."
He reached for the buzzer that would alert 10C, the large Red Kougra bartender who also served as bouncer, and I just barely managed to lunge forward and stop his paw in time.
"Don't you DARE blow my cover," I said warningly.
Black Jack's sparkling eyes widened in surprise, then he smiled and winked. "Any Card Houser would lose membership, at the very least, for talking to me like that. Except you. So, what do we do?"
"I," I yanked down the brim of my hat, "am going to have a chat with those Xweetoks. Thanks, B.J."
He shrugged, got up from his desk, and gestured me out before him. The two of us walked back down the hall before parting—him to the entrance to greet Neopets and keep an eye on the place, me to the back bar for a quick chat with the 10 of Clubs while I figured how to face the Xweetoks.
10C was gossiping happily with a usual batch of Card Housers when he saw me approaching. Without me even having to ask, he moved down the bar aways and tossed up one of my usuals. Cherry Neocola—I don't like the hard stuff. Too bitter, and despite my tough rep, I have a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to drinks. Not that I'll ever admit my palate is limited to Neocola, hot cocoa, and milkshakes.
"Yo, Queenie! Been wonderin' when you gonna show up, with all that action goin' on!"
I frowned and sipped my Neocola. "Guess I'mma outta the loop, boyo. What's up?"
"No way!" the huge Red Kougra laughed. "Ya don't know? The National Neopian got robbed!"
"What?" I gasped before catching myself and checking my accent. "How'd someuns pull off somethin' like that?"
"I dunno. Some detective or other made off with somethin' like 10 million fresh NP notes. Heard 'e jus' walked into the director guy's office an' came out with a check. As 'e were gettin' the NP, that manager—ya know, the big fat Green Skeith dude—asked what were goin' on. Some sorta struggle an' the detective got away."
"Bang," I mumbled, for loss of any other words. Thank Fyora for the gender assumption, as well as my shades, hat, and the strength of mind to keep my paws from shaking.
It was a far better trap then I'd thought. And it did sound like something my own wily mind would come up with, much as I hated to admit it. I knew Kerowski would never buy me charging into some little shop with a frost cannon and yelling for the shopkeeper to fill some bag with the dough. Having the director himself write a check—it was brilliant.
10C was still talking. He wasn't one for noticing he'd just given one of his best buds the shock of her life. "An' it gets better! They foun' the director unconscious in 'is office, guessin' the detective were teched up, cause there weren't no marks on 'im. A'membered purty fast all them threats 'e 'ad for 'im though. They could up with that there detective, an' whaddays know—let 'im get away!" My Kougra bartender pal laughed delightedly. "What a bash! Them coppers ain't 'ad a 'eadache like this in ages, eh?"
I forced myself to laugh along, then allowed my gaze to wander over to the rich Xweetoks. "Say, ain't never seen those fellas before. Who them newbies?"
10C rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Black Jack's new neighbors—own that dump across the street, otherwise they never woulda made it past the door." He winked. "Totally outclassed, eh? An' they ordered mineral water—ain't never 'ad an order like that."
I laughed a little easier at that joke, mainly because, looking them over, he was exactly right. They totally and absolutely did not belong in the Card House. Not that they were rich—plenty of millionaires visited from time to time. Not even that they were exquisitely well groomed, though that perhaps played a part in it. It was the uncomfortable glances they kept directing towards the Card Housers, the regulars who attended the club.
I've seen the most debonair fellow fit in like a glove, just as she'd seen the most pitiful little orphan get accepted as a busboy and looked after by some tough Battledomers and whatnot. The Card House was really a strange and incredible assortment of Neopets on both sides of the law and a handful in the middle.
But the Xweetoks didn't fit in anywhere. The rich stockbrokers and businessmen ignored them, as did the criminal masterminds, musical talents. The Battledomers smirked every time they glanced towards them, whispering and then breaking out in rude laughter. A few toughies that preferred to keep to themselves noticed them and sized them up, probably looking for easy targets, but dismissed the idea when they found out they were Black Jack's neighbors. Everyone else was chatting good-naturedly, playing pool or cards, or talking over secret business in hushed tones, completely oblivious to the newcomers.
The strangest of all: not one Neopet greeted them or shook their paw. Not even out of curiosity.
The Xweetoks nervously hugged their glasses close, their eyes flicking around anxiously. Almost trembling, one finally got up and walked over to a few tough Battledomers in a corner. He seemed to offer a proposal, but the guys started laughing their heads off. The Xweetok glanced back at his companion and shook his head sadly.
She gulped and took a try with some of the toughies right down the bar from 10C and myself. It really was pitiful.
"Gentlemen? If I could request a moment of your time to offer you a proposal-"
"Buzz off, lady," said a large Grey Buzz, scowling as he glared at her over his drink.
"But I'm prepared to offer a sum of-"
"Ah, shut up," grumbled an equally large Yellow Kyrii. "Why doncha crawl back to whatever lame social club ya losers were kicked outta, eh?"
His buddies laughed at that ridiculous piece of so-called humor and the female Xweetok slunk pathetically back to her chair.
The two Xweetoks started whispering frantically and my curiosity was fast getting the better of me. I nodded to 10C, lifted my glass, and walked over to join the Xweetoks.
"Well, I ain't short o' NP or nothin', but things 'ave been a might borin' 'round these here parts," I said casually, swirling my Neocola.
The two Xweetoks lifted their eyes hopefully, then froze as they latched on the green fur of my paws. I studied the direction of their eyes—it's amazing how much you can tell from where a Neopet happens to glance—and watched as they took in my thick, bushy tail, my triangular ears, and my neck ruffle. Green Wocky, head to toe. Duh.
"Is—is it you?" asked the male, sounding downright terrified.
What on Neopia? I wanted to laugh, but that probably wouldn't help my situation. Now, this was interesting. Maybe…
I flicked off my shades and tipped back my hat, giving them a full view of my face as I grinned nastily. "What do you think?" I asked coldly.
"This—this isn't what it looks like!" whimpered the female. "We were… um…"
The male quickly took over. "Just… just looking for a night guard for the warehouse! Heh heh…"
Oh, this was priceless. They thought I was someone else! And if they did have anything to do with my frame-up and the bank robbery, that someone very well might be my look-alike.
"Of course you were," I answered slyly, allowing my grin to widen.
"We—we're perfectly satisfied with our cut," said the male nervously. "It's nothing like that. I mean, you did come through. Brilliant, I heard-"
"Even if that detective got away."
The male quickly shoved a paw over the female's mouth.
All right. They as good as made a confession. It took quite a bit of strength of will not to leap across the small table, grab them by their tiny little throats, and scream that they were going down. I calmed myself down with the wonderful thought of dragging them downtown into Kerowski's office and having them give a full confession. And explanation. Wouldn't that be nice?
"We're sorry for bothering you, Rosemary," he said quickly, getting to his rearpaws and dragging the female up with him.
"Perfectly alright, eh? An' we'll be seeing more of each other—don't worry." I made sure, however, that my smirk gave them plenty to worry about. As indeed they should. They had no idea who they'd been messing with.
They quickly rushed out of the Card House, not even glancing at Black Jack as they ran past him.
No one in the Card House had even noticed the interchange, except perhaps 10C. Nothing slipped past that ol' gossip. I finished the last of my drink and went back up for a refill.
My good buddy already had a new Cherry Neocola waiting, so I slid over the empty glass, which he promptly rinsed out in a small sink behind the bar, turning it upside-down on a towel to wait for a full wash later.
"Know a Green Wocky named Rosemary?" I asked.
"Nope," answered the Kougra easily.
"There's the thing, boyo," I answered, looking back towards the door the Xweetoks had so quickly rushed out of. "Neither have I. Those dimwits thought I was someone else."
10C laughed. "An' ya led 'em on, I'm a bettin'."
"A 'course! I always could use a good laugh 'er two, eh?"
The huge Red Kougra started cracking up, then was called down the bar to fill more drink orders.
Rosemary. A Green Wocky that looks exactly like me, or at least reminds people of myself. I'm pretty average looking, even average size as far as weight, height, and build. Of course most Green Wockies were far prettier, but there had to be a handful that didn't have delicate, lady-like features. Narrow that handful and multiply it by the thousands of Wockies Neopia-wide, and I suppose it's entirely possible to find a Wocky that at least resembles me. And that one's name was Rosemary. I was sure of it.
I would wonder about accents, manners, and voice later. Right now I was assuming it was mostly based on appearance.
Maybe that Wocky, whoever she was, was the brains behind this whole set-up? It certainly wasn't those Xweetoks. Though, from the way they been trying to hire toughies, and that lame quick cover-up explanation, maybe they wanted someone to take out this Rosemary. Or threaten.
Or did I still not have enough pieces? You don't need all the pieces of a puzzle to see the picture, but you sure need more than one or two. Maybe it had something to do with that case I'd been working on? The one the NCA took over? Or something to do with how I spent my day, not that I'm willing to admit anything just yet.
Come to think of it, how did that Rosemary chick even know about me? It seems much more likely that someone would hire a look-alike to frame me then that an identical enemy cooked up a scheme against me. In my experience, the brains of the job are rarely the ones risking their necks.
But those Xweetoks sure seemed scared of her. Well, of me—but I expect that when I'm playing the rough Queen of Spades. And something about their cut… could she have gypped them and kept most of the NP for herself?
It all depended on this Rosemary. I'd just have to find her.
Unfortunately I only had one decent idea of where to go next. Fortunately, it was a pretty solid lead. I slapped a couple NP notes on the counter to pay for the Neocola, shouted "G'night 10C!" and headed for the door.
Black Jack caught my shoulder as I passed him. "Where are you going now?" he whispered.
"Just across the street," I answered.
"Take care," he said anxiously. I turned and looked him over. He was blushing slightly and seemed genuinely worried. "I shouldn't need to remind you this seems very well thought out, even if the plot clearly underestimated you."
Silly. He knew he didn't have to remind moi that I needed to watch my every pawstep. I nodded and slipped out.