It was a nice sunny morning in Beauvillage and the main street was once again crowded. Detective Frederick Wiseman was strolling around the small marketplace picking up groceries here and there. He had to admit to himself, that he was getting used to the life in a small town. It was way different than Megacity, that´s for sure. Far from his detective collagues and most importantly captain Shark, who would point out any flaws whenever he could. He was gratefull, that the mayor had recognized his great abilities and wanted him to remain here to lead the local police. Though the events from nearly two weeks ago did not bode well with him at all. He got the scolding of a lifetime from the captain and what was worse, Strongdome along with his small gang of collaborates – young Chichi Tofu and Michael Miles got all the praise from him. At least the Beauvillage´s people knew the official version and praised his efforts as well. He was now being celebrated, as he should´ve been in Megacity. He was even awarded a small flat near the mayor´s office. The downside was, that he would have to take care of himself now and cooking was no easy task. But he was sure he would manage. Afterall he is a member of the famous Wiseman family. And he was certain that Beauvillage would be the place, where he could bolster his career so much, that he would be able to overcome the reputation of his father and grandfather and even his uncle who was now in line to replace the current head of law enforcement in the country.
As he was thinking about this he passed two women who were shopping for grosseries too.
"We are all extremly worried. I mean Bridgess had barely eaten a thing since yesterday. She´s in her den all day and keeps whining."said Mrs Pebble.
"Our puppy Max was just the same. We didn´t know what to do. But then I remembered that the Tofus had experiences with animals. So I brought him there."
Upon Mrs Downy´s comment Wiseman´s head snapped to the direction of the two women, now listening carefully.
"Really Marion. The Tofus."said Mrs Pebble skepticly.
"That´s what my husband said too. But listen. There´s no vet in Beauvillage and they are really not so bad. I explained the situation to Violet Tofu and she said, that they will do all they can to help. That they can´t ignore an innocent little creature in need."
Mrs Pebble looked at her questioningly.
"She asked nothing in return?"
Mrs Downy shook her head.
"Despite their eco-obsession, they´re really good people. We should be gratefull that they are around always willing to help. Really Abby, go to them with Bridgess. They´ll help."
As Mrs Pebble was mulling it over, Wiseman was thinking hard as well.
"Your pet too?"asked the saleswoman who also overheared the conversation.
The two women nodded.
"It must be some kind of epidemic. Since yesterday I´ve heared at least dozen people saying that their pets are sick."
Wiseman´s interest was rapidly growing.
"Seems like a case is brewing right under my nose."he thought as he listened to the women exchange some of the names of the people, who claimed to have sick pets.
"And all this is happening a week before the Pet convention. And the kids were sure our Max would win."said Mrs Downy sadly.
Wiseman´s suspitions only grew.
"Sick pets? Before the pet contest? The Tofus?"he thought trying to piece it all together.
"I´ll look into it. And if the Tofus are responsible, I will make sure they are thrown into jail. Till they ROT!"he exclaimed the last part out loud, pumping his fist into the air, but completly forgeting the grosseries he was holding. The three women looked at him strangely as the grosseries fell loudly to the floor.
At the Tofu household everyone was just finishing their breakfast. Lola however ate very little but her parents barely noticed. Since yesterday they have been on and on about the EPO. All of them learnt, that both Mom and Pop worked there. Now Amyas too. The kids were however astounded to learn, that the EPO was co-founded by their grandmother Iris Tofu almost 30 years back. She still does some work for them on occasion.
Lola, Chichi, April and Miles were just finishing up and picking up their stuff.
"We´re so proud of you Lola, I mean its family tradition."Mom told her for what seemed like the thousandth time already.
"You´ll see, you´ll like the work."said Pop kindly.
Buba looked at Lola, then scrowled at Mom and Pop. It seemed to her like yet another one of those times when they put their own wishes ahead of Lola´s and Chichi´s. But before she could say anything to Lola, the young group headed out the door.
"Jeez. I thought they´d never shut up about it."growled Lola as they exited the house.
"They don´t mean anything bad by it, Lola."said April and Lola glared at her.
"They could give her a break though."said Chichi once again completly on his sister´s side.
"Well they seem to be very dedicated to the idea. And it is a family tradition I guess."pondered Miles with a shrug.
The foursome were at the gate now and Miles was moving towards his van.
"Anyway. Business calls. I should be back when you come home from school."
With that he jumped into his van and sped from the place in top speed, taking a sharp turn at the end of the street. Chichi sighed.
"Looks like I will have to work on the van again real soon. And I´ve only made last repairs two days ago."
Chichi and April were moving in the direction of their school, but as they turned they saw that Lola was remaining at the gate.
"Billy is coming for you again?"asked April and Lola nodded.
"In that case, I´ll see you after school as well. My Mom talked with your parents before you woke up. I´ll be staying over tonight too."
Lola sighed once again. April would be bunking with her once again. Not that she minded it very much, but it would be relaxing to have some privacy especially in the light of the events. April waved to her and started to walk again. Chichi however stood in place and as though he made up his mind about something, he walked slowly back to Lola.
"Look I...I don´t know what to say, sis. I know that you´re not happy with that EPO practice thing."he started and Lola smiled faintly at her brother´s attempts to cheer her up.
"Well, of course I´m not. But I don´t have anything else, so I suppose I should be gratefull I do have something."
When she thought about it yesterday evening she figured, that she could give it a shot. She pondered about any other career and couldn´t see her do any profession she could think of. With parents like hers she did have impressive insight into ecology and perhaps she would be able to help. So maybe there was something good, that would come from it. Mom and Pop were over the moon because of it. There seemed to be only one downside to it. One that Chichi knew already.
"There´s still Amyas to concider. I know he´s a nice guy and all, but seriously he can get even worse than Mom and Pop sometimes."he said and both of them pondered for a while.
They meet their cousin from time to time, but mostly when out of Beauvillage. Their older cousin is easy to get along with but is also very wayward. The excentric demonstrations their parents do sometimes are one of the practices he loves to employ as well.
"Good thing Uncle Alan doesn´t work there too."she said thinking that one wayward Tofu was more than enough.
Chichi chuckled, but looked over his shoulder. April was still waiting for him. Understanding the situation she kept some distance to give the siblings some room to talk privately.
"I guess what I meant to say is, that I have your back. If there´s y´know... anything you´d like to talk about or just need someone to listen, I´m here."
Lola smiled brightly this time. It was nice to know she had her little brother´s support in the very least. She reached out with her hand and ruffled his hair fondly.
She looked over his shoulder at April who was still waiting for him.
"You´d better go now, or you´re going to be late, squirt."
Chichi chuckled again, stuck out his tongue at her playfully and turned in the direction of his school.
"Besides, your girlfriend is waiting for you."she said slyly, not being able to resist this oppoturnity.
Chichi blushed slightly but sighed and shook his head.
"Don´t you start too. She´s not my girlfriend."he said quietly.
"Yet."Lola thought to herself smugly as Chichi waved and dashed after April..
"But one of these days, I´ll make sure he sees that the girl really loves him."she swore to herself looking at the pair.
As Chichi chaught up, they slowed their pace and were now chatting as they disappeared behind the turn.
A second later Billy came up on his bike. One look at his face told Lola all she needed to know.
"Let me guess, you got the talk as well."she said sympatheticly after she kissed him.
"Yeah. Dad wouldn´t stop talking about it. He even brought the catalogue out. I swear I´ve seen more types of alarms, than most would believe to be possible."he said as he took the two helmets and passed one to Lola.
"Let´s just get to school. I´m sure everyone in class will be discussing it all day. We also have to hand the forms to Mr Philips."
Billy nodded and started the bike.
"Why do I feel, that we´re sealing our fates by doing it."he said as they rode off.
"Calm down, detective."said the mayor once again as Wiseman was pacing his office for several minutes now.
"So you say, that the Tofus are involved in this pet convention."he said once again as though his suspitions were confirmed.
"Well yes, they are co-organizing the event."
Wiseman took note of that and paced again in deep thought.
"Its supposed to be a contest too, right? What are the prizes?"he asked.
"Oh, just some trophies and pet food. Nothing too expensive."
Wiseman paced again.
"How do they want to profit out of this, then?"he mumbled more to himself than the mayor.
"Profit? The Tofus wanted no such thing. Mr Tofu said, that it gives a nice oppoturnity to celebrate and show Beauvillage´s pets."
Wiseman thought harder about it.
"Are any people from the other towns attending?"
The mayor shrugged.
"Perhaps a few, but our citizens are in the majority. In fact nearly all of Beauvillage will be there."
Wiseman wrote all this into his small notebook.
"Why are the people bringing the sick pets to them?"
The mayor sat down behind his desk and looked at the detective.
"Beauvillage has no veterinarian. We don´t have one ourselfs and no one from the other towns would accept the job here. Over three years ago, Violet Tofu had gained the reputation of being able to help. The fact that the nearest veterinarian station is located in Megacity and that Violet Tofu wants nothing for her help, the citizens ussualy ask her when a problem occurs."
Whatever the mayor said, it did nothing to ease Wiseman´s suspitions.
"Well, I will keep my eyes open. If I see any foul play, I will be forced to act."
The mayor nodded.
"Do as you will, detective."he said with a smile, and dismissed him.
Wiseman pieced his thoughts together as he left the office. He can´t do anything while there is no evidence, he knew that. But there was something he could do.
He took out his cell phone from his coat and dialed the familiar number.
"Please Chichi. I don´t know, what to do otherwise."said one of the fifth grade girls as she was standing with Chichi, Phil and April infront of their classroom. Chichi sighed. After their lesson with Starchy he wanted to go outside and play basketball a little. But the younger girl headed them off before they got the chance. She explained that their family rabbit – Fluffy, had gone sick and not eaten anything for days. Hearing from her classmate, that their sick pet is being treated at the Tofus, she approached him pleading to treat Fluffy as well. And she was not the first one today. In fact a few of his classmates including Chloe, Emily and Oliver had asked him to do the same. This would mean, that more animal accomodations were needed. Not to mention more work for both Mom and Buba. Nevertheless...
"All right. Bring him over to our house after school and we´ll try to do what we can."
The girl´s face showed visible relief. She smiled brightly at him.
"Thank you. You Tofus are the best."she said, before kissing him on the cheek and running off leaving Chichi blushing and April jealous.
"Jeez, you´re getting really popular with this animal treatment."said Phil with a grin, elbowing him.
"Oh, come on, dude. Its starting to be a problem. I don´t know how many more pets will our new vet station hold. The house is already half-full."he said as the trio was moving back into the classroom.
"Then you shouldn´t have taken her up on that offer."said April sternly.
"What was I supposed to do, April? It is for a good cause and I can´t really ignore it."he explained but April crossed her arms huffed and walked away from them seating herself at her desk.
Chichi looked confusedly at Phil who knew exactly what was eating April at the moment.
"Forget it, Chichi. Let´s sit down."
Another familiar trio was watching them as the two sat down and started to talk about something else. The Brainless wonders were completly fumming. Since morning they´ve seen the biohazard accepting people´s offers to heal their pets. They were still angry about the drug incident. Chichi, along with Michael Miles had pulled their leg, got them into a pointless chase and when the incident was over they were hardly even mentioned while Chichi and his friends got all the credit.
"Biotrash is the center of attention again."said Archie angirly.
"Tell me about it. First the incident and now this."growled Nick while glaring at Chichi who was preoccupied with his conversation.
"Beauvillage´s pets are getting sick you know."said Tex quietly.
"Who cares about some stupid animals? The problem is, that he´s in the spotlight again and the people actually like it."said Nick in pure rage.
Chichi had gained incredible popularity in his school thanks to that incident. The younger pupils are looking at him in awe, the teachers in approoval and their peers are hailing him like a hero. Not to mention the friendship he has with the dubious Michael Miles.
"I should be the one getting all that fame. Not some ecological wierdo."he growled again and his two cohorts nodded.
There was something however, that he gained from the incident. An ally, a mentor and a secret position.
Suddenly he felt his cell phone vibrating. Looking at the display, he smirked.
"Speak of the devil."he thought as he picked up.
"Yes, sir?"he asked and a familiar older voice replied from the other side.
"Mick, I have something I will need your help with."came the voice of detective Wiseman.
"Its Nick, sir."he said with a sigh.
"Nevermind that now. Listen I need you to stop by my office after school. And bring your friends too. We have some work to do."