The Lupine Saga 14

There was one person who went to every group, spoke to every person, and carried out an investigation on the behalf of the whole.

“You can just call me detective,” Kelin said to Pete.

“Yes, detective,” Pete said in his most assistant-like voice.

As soon as Sensei had dismissed the horde of kids, Kelin started acting. He rushed back to the tent where his belongings were held. He walked out wearing a long coat and a hat. He put another hat on Pete and deemed him deputy constable.

“Isn’t a constable above a detective?” Pete asked.

“Do you read nothing? Private detectives are always more important,” Kelin said in retort. He looked around the area to see where everyone was and what they were doing. “Va’il, you stay here with Harnes. Pete and I have to solve this mystery.”

“But–” Va’il started to say.

“No. Detective stories only allow the detective and an assistant, just those two and no more. And, well, you’ve got something holding you down anyways,” Kelin said while eyeing Harnes. Reluctantly, Va’il accepted his assignment as a non-playing character.

“Now, first things first. Harnes, where were you last night?” Kelin asked.

“Asleep,” Harnes replied.

“Eh, I’m too sure that’s true so we will have to continue with you, Va’il. Did you stay in the tent all of last night?” Kelin asked.

“Yes, too many games. I still ache even now. Besides, you would notice if I left. Are you suspecting…” Va’il said, but he didn’t finish asking.

“A detective suspects everyone until the real culprit is found,” Kelin said, “and there is a chance I wouldn’t notice. You’re harder to notice compared to other people. Especially since we all lack natural instincts about halfs. But you’re right anyways; I have never felt you leave. On to the next group, Pete.” The detective duo pressed on to the next person on their list.

“Twill, you there?” Kelin asked outside of the tent. Soon it opened and out walked the girl with the yellow feathers.

“You are? Oh, that boy’s friends. That Harnes, she walked right off as soon as she saw him. I’ll never understand that obsession,” Twill said.

“Right. We have a few questions for you, to investigate the case,” Kelin said.

“Case? Are you playing detective? I don’t want to play with you,” Twill said while crossing her arms.

“The case of the missing bacon. Yes we are playing, but it’s a serious investigation. I’ll find the culprit, if any of them are here. You have my word as a lupus,” Kelin said while bowing. Pete just stood there dumbfounded at seeing his friend be respectful. Kelin quickly reached a hand up and forced Pete’s head down as well.

“Of course my plump assistant here is greatly concerned as well, since we may have to resort to finding a new source of bacon, should we run out of food,” Kelin said. Twill dropped her arms and lost her intimidating expression.

“Well, you certainly do know how to play. Fine, I’ll play along. I’ll also let the others know. Everyone is just as concerned. Although, bacon?” Twill asked.

“It’s just a story tool,” Kelin said quickly, “but enough of that. Let me ask you, how much is gone, exactly?”

“Well,” she said, “the first night it was only about one person’s worth of food for a day. Which is why I didn’t pay attention. I thought I had miscounted by one. But the second time was different. Enough food for about two people was taken, maybe a little bit more.”

“Two people? Are you sure? I mean, a tiny deeri eats much less than a large bearan,” Pete said. Kelin nodded approvingly, as Pete had picked up the role just fine.

“Well, yes,” Twill replied. “I didn’t pack just portions based on person. I took the total amount of food everyone would eat, total, and divided it by the number of people. Therefore, each portion is an average. When we actually serve the food, the portion is adjusted per person. Harnes actually came up with the number system. Five is the size of each portion. A deeri might eat a three, but a bearan requires seven. In the end, it all adds up.”

“Ah, I see. So then, right now we are missing a total of fifteen?” Pete asked.

“Seventeen actually, they took a little extra the second time,” Twill said.

“Any guesses as to why?” Kelin asked, but Twill only shook her head.

“First, because they didn’t know about the numbering system. Second, because they didn’t take enough the first time,” Pete answered.

“A good deduction, deputy constable. But why would the culprit take so much, still? If they had just taken one, they might not have been noticed. Being off by one twice in a row would throw doubt into the mind of the servers, thinking they had miscounted a child to begin with.” Kelin was speaking to himself aloud at that point. “Twill, no further questions, unless you can think of anything else, anything at all, no matter how remotely related.”

“That’s all I know. I just deal with food, I haven’t really paid attention to anything else,” Twill said with another shake of her head.

“Okay then. Constable, it’s time we head to our next group of witnesses, or suspects, that bearan group over there,” Kelin said.

“Wait! I just thought of it! The culprit cannot be an avian!” Twill said. Kelin stopped and looked back at Twill.

“How did you come to that conclusion?” Kelin asked.

“I didn’t, Pete did. He said that the culprit didn’t know about the numbering system. Every avian here knows about it. Call us gossipers or just plain talkative, but every avian knows.”

“Brilliant, that’s why I have a deputy constable,” Kelin said in an awed tone. Pete said nothing, but he did smile for a bit. But he soon had a troubled look on his face. However, neither Kelin nor Twill noticed that Pete might have another thought. He kept quiet as Kelin finished thanking Twill again. The two boys then departed, and walked towards a group of bearans sitting around a fire.

There were five bearans, grumbling amongst themselves around the blaze. Kelin walked right up to the group; however, Pete kept a few feet back. Rowlf was with them as well, and Kelin approached him.

“Hello guys, I’ve got a few questions. I’m going to find out who exactly is the thief, and I need your cooperation.” The group members all looked up at Kelin, with obvious displeasure.

“Wasn’t any of us and we don’t know anything,” one of the bearans said. The others all nodded in agreement.

“I see. Well then perhaps you know something that could at least help track down who actually did steal the food,” Kelin said.

“We may like to eat a bit more than oh, a deeri, but that doesn’t mean we did anything,” Rowlf said. Even the normally positive Rowlf seemed bitter.

“Fine, I believe you. But can I ask why you are so defensive?” Kelin asked. Two of the boys stood up at the remark, but Rowlf motioned for them to sit back down.

“Let’s say you do believe us. That doesn’t mean the others will. Accuse us just because of our appetite, ridiculous. They didn’t even notice that we couldn’t do it even if we wanted to!” Rowlf said with a touch of disgust.

“Wait, who accused you of what?” Pete asked.

“Just a few of the others, you know the way everyone is. Who it is doesn’t matter, what matters is that they were the only ones who said it aloud. We are all suspects in their eyes! Even though there are certain people we all trust less.” Rowlf was still angry, but his tone was a bit calmer than before because the detective duo seemed to believe him.

“You said you couldn’t have done it? Why, what did you notice?” Kelin asked.

“Scratches. Little scratches freshly made on the container. Scratches too small to have been made by the large hand of a bearan. Not only that, but the food container isn’t a bearan one. Fingers are too big for such a small latch. Avians brought the food in their own containers, right? Latches are too small, so it’s simply impossible for any bearan here to have even opened the container. Doesn’t make any of us happy, but at least no bearan committed this crime.” Both Pete and Kelin had no choice but to agree with the simple logic Rowlf had given.

“I see. Well then perhaps you can tell me why those scratches weren’t made by the avians here, as part of distributing the food? It’s their container, correct?” Kelin asked.

“I don’t think so. The scratches weren’t there when we arrived the first day, nor at the end of the day. I know all this because I’m the one who helps move the containers out and around when it’s time to eat. I only noticed because they suddenly appeared. Also, Twill is the only one who was distributing anyways, and she doesn’t scratch at things. Part of her personality, she doesn’t mess around or fiddle with things. Makes her a bit cold to deal with at times, but she always moves with reason.” Rowlf was satisfied with his explanation, and no one else could find anything to question in it.

“You seem to notice a lot about Twill and minor details. Why Rowlf?” Pete asked out of curiosity.

“We’ve been in classes together forever. I guess we’re kind of friends, but it’s more like coincidence. I’ve just noticed over time how she is. The details are something I have to have. I want to be a baker; I have to notice every slight change in detail when it comes to cooking and food. As the sayings go, if you’re good at noticing things in one area, you get better at noticing things in all areas,” Rowlf said.

“Can you think of anything, anything else about the crime or the scene that would help?” Kelin asked. “So far what you’ve given has provided an insight that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Rowlf just shook his head. None of the other bearans had anything to say either, so Kelin and Pete moved on.

“I never knew that Rowlf was so… like that,” Pete said.

“Yeah, it is a surprise from the bear with a sweet tooth. But it shows that even he can be pushed. Honestly, when it comes to missing food everyone would first suspect a heavy eater. I know that not everyone would hold back their thoughts. Prejudice does horrible things to everyone, even children like us,” Kelin said while walking towards the felis. There were a few of them sleeping at the edge of the lake. As Kelin approached, one of the felis opened a single eye.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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