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From my conversation with Eleanor Nathaber, she seemed like the obvious suspect. But in this job, you learn to be meticulous and persistent, no matter how long it takes… or how much danger it puts you in. So I decided to go and question Sal Amanka in his villa on southern Moon Island, where the hot sun's not the only thing that'll beat you down.

The immense villa with its blindingly white stone walls dominated the hillside. The gardens around it seemed to go on forever. Down below, shipping containers were stacked high in the shade of tikokos in bloom. Their rough metallic surface looked like an ugly stain next to the bright, almost gaudy appearance of the building.

I walked along the path lined with statues carved from pink marble. At the end, a towering pair of double doors took up three-quarters of the house's facade. I grabbed the knocker, shaped like a bow meow's paw, and gave two sharp knocks… and a ferocious roar from inside almost made me jump out of my skin.

An elegantly dressed Rogue opened the door. Behind him, stretched out on a slab covered with animal-themed cushions in eye-wateringly bad taste was a magnificent white chtiger, staring at me with its golden eyes. After I'd explained the reason for my visit to the butler, he left me to wait for a minute, all alone with the beast. As I looked out at the containers, I noticed that each one had a Droopik stamp on it.

In front of me, after a dizzyingly wide entrance hall and a sparkling-clean kitchen, an enormous bay window looked out onto a swimming pool. Sal Amanka was relaxing out there, lying on some sort of kibble-shaped inflatable raft. A gorgeous Ecaflip in a bikini, with a pair of oversized sunglasses covering her eyes, was lying in a deckchair and tanning her pelt. She was sipping a cocktail in a sensuous pose that seemed chosen to show off her impossibly long legs.

The butler crouched down and lightly slapped the water with his hand. Concentric circles gradually spread out, rocking Sal's raft ever so slightly. Without even bothering to open his eyes, the Ecaflip paddled lightly with his paws and drifted over to the edge of the pool. The Rogue bent down to whisper in his ear.

"A Mr. Saul Greyjack would like to speak with you, sir."

The Ecaflip yowled, clearly annoyed, then made a little gesture to tell the Rogue to let me in. He rolled into the water, clambered out of the pool and shook himself, sending droplets flying off his big, stocky body and onto the pretty Ecaflip, who had rushed right over to pat his fur dry with a thick bath towel embroidered with his name. Sal went to sit down in a big wicker chair and started picking his teeth with a Krackal fang.

The Rogue signaled to me to step forward.

"Sorry to bother you, Mr. Amanka. I'm Saul Grey…"

"Greyjack. An inspector from the Ecaflip City Police Department. I know," said the Ecaflip.

"Have we met?"

"No. But you'll soon realize there aren't many things I don't know," Sal replied, gesturing for me to sit down in the chair across from him. "Say, it looks like the dress code is pretty relaxed at the ECPD these days…" he added, pointing at my shirt.

"Oh, that. It's a long story… And with this crazy heat you've got out here, I have to admit I'm not really missing my raincoat."

"What can I do for you?" said Sal with a snap of his fingers.

The butler immediately filled our glasses with lemonade and garnished each one with a kaliptus leaf. He used an elegant pair of tongs to drop in a few ice cubes, which cracked as they plopped into the liquid.

"I suppose you're aware that the World of Twelve is currently dealing with a pretty severe kibble shortage?"

At these words, Sal began nervously fidgeting with the ring on his thumb.

"You'd have to be living in a cave to avoid hearing about that. It's just, well… I don't think it really affects me, is all."

"Oh really? You don't say…"

"I've always hated kibble. Can't stand the stuff. I'm more of an icefish man, to be honest."

"That's funny, I heard you had a booming kibble manufacturing business that pays for your luxurious lifestyle," I said with a sweeping gesture at his vast property.

"You'd better get some new sources, Saul old pal. I've earned this luxury with a lot of hard work."

"Sure. The hard work of other people, whose lives you put in danger in that secret factory of yours."

Even through his sunglasses, I could see that the Ecaflip was glaring at me fiercely. The white chtiger's roar broke the silence again. The beast was right behind me, strolling nonchalantly toward its master.

"Like I said, I'm more of an icefish man."

"So is that what's in all those containers out in front of your villa?"

"Precisely."

He held out his hand to the big cat, which nuzzled him affectionately in return.

"Come here, kitty-cat… You wanna give daddy a big hug, huh?"

Sal started scratching the beast behind its ears, then ran his hand under its chin.

"Where have you been prowling around this time? Your bandana is all crumpled up!"

The Ecaflip smoothed out the cloth around its neck, which I had thought was just a collar. Printed on it was the same blue logo that I'd seen at Eleanor Nathaber's place the day before. My curiosity was piqued.

"Nice little scarf he's got there. Where'd you find it? I've been looking for one like that for my pet."

Sal seemed troubled.

"Oh, that old thing? Just something I picked up at a little stand along the beach."

The Ecaflip started twirling his ring again. Clearly, something was upsetting him.

"Anyway, about that whole kibble thing. Even if it doesn't affect you, as you say, I'm sure you've got some kind of opinion about it, right?"

Sal stifled a laugh.

"You want to know what I think? Ecaflips and Ouginaks have always found plenty of reasons to stab each other in the back. This is just one more. That's what I think."

Suddenly, a loud whooshing sound caught my attention from the magnificent kokokos that encircled the house. I saw Sal's face go white as he carefully looked up to the sky. We were suddenly engulfed in the shadow of a hot-air balloon that had emerged out of nowhere. I couldn't get a clear look at it with the sun in my eyes, but it seemed to have a sort of canine look to it. As it floated away, Sal mopped his brow, his hands trembling uncontrollably, then started fiddling with his ring more intently than ever.

The sun beat down heavily on our heads. The heat was suffocating. Last night's seafood was still swimming around in my stomach. I asked the butler if he could point me to the bathroom.

He led me to a wide hallway and said, "All the way down at the end, sir. Feel free to call me if you need anything at all."

"I think I can manage," I replied in a slightly caustic tone.

I opened the door and found not an ordinary bathroom, but an enormous litter box… presumably the chtiger's. That Rogue had a sense of humor, in any case. Unless he was distraught about something too… I was about to close the door again when something caught my attention. In the middle of the vast sea of litter, a huge mound of chtiger poop rose up like a mountain. A little bit of paper was sticking out of it, marked with a stamp… that same one of Droopik! My tenacity sometimes pushed me to do the unthinkable. I tried using the very tips of my fingers to pull the paper out, but it seemed to be stuck deeper in the doo-doo than I thought. I was going to have to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty for this one. I pulled off my shirt and tied it around my snout.

"Lary, I'll make you pay for this too," I grumbled as I plunged my arm into the enormous pile of dung. Before long, I had extracted a document that was half-digested, but still likely to provide some useful information… I could sense it. Skimming it over it quickly, I read:

I, the undersig… Amanka hereb… outsource part… production… to Team… exchange for… Modsters

I couldn't understand a word of this nonsense. The very end of the paper mentioned a sample that needed to be taken the same day.

I looked around quickly and noticed a few other scraps of documents that had apparently also made their way through the belly of the beast… and beyond. Was Sal using his pet to get rid of compromising documents?

I left the bathroom and went back to the Ecaflip. He was curled up in a ball on the ground, his massive body racked by sobs as his butler held out a box of tissues. It was a surreal scene. The big, tough tomcat I'd been talking to a few minutes earlier had been replaced by a vulnerable little child.

Sal looked up at me, his eyes wide and shining with tears.

"Those crooks! Those dirty rotten croo-hoo-hoo-hoooooks! They've taken everything from me… EVERYTHING!" he groaned between sobs.

Suddenly, the whooshing of the hot air balloon's burners flared up again. I looked up at the sky to get a clear look. Filled to the brim with shipping containers.

It looked like neither old Eleanor or this thug Sol was behind the ongoing kibble shortage. At least, not directly… After grilling the Ecaflip for a while, Saul learned that a secret organization known as Team Missile was working in the shadows. Their goal: capture the Modsters for obscure reasons. To achieve that goal, certain of its members were willing to take extreme measures, like confiscating parts of various kibble reserves… The kibble scandal was only the tip of the iceberg.

 

"Where are they going, Sal?" I asked the big tomcat, shaking him by his shoulders.

"Where Osamodas reigns supreme, where his creatures live in harmony and the kibble flows as freely as water: OSATOPIA."

Now it's up to you to keep pursuing the investigation and Team Missile into the very heart of Osatopia! What you'll discover there goes beyond anything Saul Greyjack could have imagined: a unique event that will only happen this summer…