Crime for the Holidays
By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: As always, the YGO characters aren't mine!! Any character that you don't recognize as a YGO character, however, is probably not one and is one I made up ^_~ This is not yaoi. I hope y'all enjoy! ^^

"Whoa, Tea, this is where you're working during the holidays?" Tristan exclaimed, gesturing wildly at the aisles and aisles of the Domino City Mall's toys and electronics store.

"That's right," Tea said proudly.

"Wow, Tea, this place is a kid's dream!" Yugi declared. "It looks like they've got just about everything here!"

"Hey, I even like the place," Joey grinned, playing with a remote-controled car.

Tristan draped his arm around Joey's shoulders and grinned obnoxiously. "Hey, we all know you're just a big kid, Joey!"

"Heeeey!!" Joey snorted in vexation.

Yugi and Bakura chuckled, but Tea leaned back against the counter, looking worried.

"Is something wrong, Tea?" Yugi asked, concerned.

Tea started. "Oh, uh . . . . No, everything's fine," she said, trying to smile. "It's just the holiday stress."

"Actually, it's more than that," a new voice said, and a grumpy-looking woman in her twenties came out from the back room. She had fluffy black hair that came to just below her shoulders, sharp, flashing green eyes, and was wearing the employee's uniform—which consisted of a red shirt and white slacks. "This job isn't all fun and games, especially with the shenanigans that go on around here."

Yugi and the others were startled. "Excuse me?" Yugi said, blinking.

The woman shrugged. "The shoplifting. Didn't Tea tell you?"

"Maureen!" Tea scolded.

"Shoplifting?!" the other teens exclaimed.

"You didn't mention anything about that, Tea," Joey said.

Tea sighed. "Well, that's because . . ." She paused. "Because I don't want you guys to get involved in another mystery!" she said finally.

"Hey, a shoplifting case doesn't sound all that dangerous to me," Joey shrugged.

"Well, it could be," Tea replied, crossing her arms.

"Tell us more about the shoplifting, Tea," Yugi said. "Haven't the police been investigating?"

"Well, they have, but they can't figure out what's going on," Tea sighed. "No one can. Lately, we've been having more shoplifting problems than usual, and the security cameras can't seem to pick up on how it's happening."

"That's terrible!" Yugi exclaimed.

"I feel so sorry for my boss Mr. Thorton," Tea said. "He's completely stressed, what with the usual holiday pressure and now this!"

"I can imagine," Yugi said, shaking his head. "Tea, I . . . we do want to help." Joey, Tristan, and Bakura nodded in agreement.

Tea was silent. "I would never forgive myself if something happened to any of you," she said softly. On the last case, they had nearly lost both Yugi and Seto Kaiba to deadly laser fire. Tea blamed herself for Seto being shot down since she had been with him at the time and since he had been shot protecting her. The boys had miraculously returned to life, but Tea never wanted to come that close to losing them again.

"Hey, we'll be fine!" Joey grinned. "What kinda friends would we be if we didn't try investigatin'?"

Tea slowly smiled. "You're the best friends anyone could ever have," she said.

"So, what do we do first?" Joey asked.

Tea wasn't sure how to answer. She was touched that they wanted to help, but she didn't want them to get hurt. "I don't know," she said hesitantly, "maybe we should just let the police handle this one on their own."

"Nah, it's cool, Tea," Joey replied. "We're not afraid of gettin' bashed around."

Yugi, Tristan, and Bakura nodded in agreement. "That's right," Bakura declared. "The holiday season is all about love and kindness . . ."

". . . And we want to help get this shoplifting problem resolved so that you and everyone here won't have to be worrying and you can just enjoy the holidays," Tristan interrupted and finished.

"If both we and the police work on the case, it should get solved that much faster," Yugi chimed in.

Maureen, who'd been listening to everything, spoke up now. "It's not just shoplifting that's the problem," she said. "There's also been the sabotage going on."

"Sabotage?!" Tristan repeated.

"Maureen!" Tea said again in frustration. The more Yugi and the others thought that she was in danger, the more they'd want to help out, and she absolutely did not want to get them into danger.

"Has anyone been hurt?" Yugi asked in horror.

"Not yet," Maureen said.

"Thank goodness," Tea added.

"But someone could've been," Maureen said grouchily. "Heavy cases and metal racks have fallen over without warning, the electronic toys have come alive and chased us, and . . ."

"Maureen, you've really said enough!" Tea exclaimed.

"Sounds like a ghost to me," Joey said, blinking.

"Well, whatever it is, I wish it'd just stop!" Maureen grumped, crossing her arms. "We'll never get any work done as long as it keeps bothering us!"

"What kinds of things are being stolen?" Yugi asked now.

"Anything the shoplifters can get their hands on," Maureen replied wearily, "but they seem to be especially fond of stuffed animals. What I can't figure out is, How do they keep smuggling them out of here?!"

Before anyone could answer, a horrible moan came from the Employees Only area.

"What's that?!" Joey gasped.

"Mr. Thorton!" Tea exclaimed, running through the door. Yugi and the others followed without a moment's hesitation and Maureen didn't even try to stop them.

Tea went up to a door marked "Burt Thorton" and knocked. "Mr. Thorton?" she called.

"Oh, come in, Tea," a voice called back in a worn-out tone.

Quickly Tea opened the door and she and the others went in. "Mr. Thorton, are you alright?" the girl asked worriedly.

Burt Thorton, a plump, balding man with pale gray eyes, looked up from his desk, which was cluttered with all sorts of various odd objects. He was squeezing a couple of rubber stress balls in his hands so tightly that Joey wondered why they didn't burst. What was left of his hair was going wildly in all directions, and a comb was stuck stubbornly in half of it. "Oh, Tea, I've been calculating up the money I've lost since this shoplifting problem started," he wailed, "and it's just terrible!" He handed her a sheet of paper.

Tea stared at it in confusion, and the four boys crowded around to see as well. "Mr. Thorton, this is a receipt from Marcie's Magic Shop!" Tea exclaimed.

"What?" Mr. Thorton grabbed the paper back. "Oh . . . yes. . . . I had to stock up on lucky rabbit's feet and horseshoes," he sighed.

The boys stared at him. "Huh?!" Joey said finally.

Mr. Thorton didn't even seem to notice the newcomers. "But they're not doing their job!" he continued. "Things are still being stolen!" He rummaged through the mess on his desk and eventually found what he was looking for. "Here!" he said, thrusting it at Tea, "look at this!"

Everyone crowded around once again. This time Tea was holding the list of stolen items and what they had cost Mr. Thorton.

"Whoa, Maureen wasn't kidding," Tristan remarked. "More than half the stolen items are some kind of stuffed animals!"

"Freaky!" Joey declared, scratching his head.

"According to this, the burglaries started almost exactly two weeks ago," Yugi mused, pointing to the date of the first shoplifting, "on the Monday before Thanksgiving."

"That's right," Mr. Thorton nodded. He paused, blinking at the four boys. "Who are you and why exactly are you in my office?" he exclaimed in confusion.

"Oh . . . it's alright, Mr. Thorton," Tea assured him. "These are the friends I was telling you about."

Mr. Thorton nodded absent-mindedly, his mind already drifting back to the problems at hand.

"We wanna help catch the robbers," Joey announced. "We're amateur detectives, and we're pretty darn good if I do say so myself!" He grinned.

Mr. Thorton was twisting a old piece of lettuce around in his hand. "Right now, I'd be willing to accept help from the Man in the Moon!" he declared.

"Mr. Thorton, do you have any idea who might be doing this?" Yugi asked.

"None at all," the man replied, shaking his head. The lettuce he was holding crumbled into confetti on his lap. He didn't even seem to notice. "I'm cursed!" he moaned. "Cursed!!"

The door opened and Seto Kaiba came in. "Mr. Thorton . . ." he began, but was immediately cut off.

"Kaiba! Hey, what're you doin' here?!" Joey asked in confusion. He grinned mischievously. "I never thought you'd be trying to reconnect with your childhood." He picked up a rubber duckie on Mr. Thorton's desk and squeaked it at Seto.

"Don't be ridiculous, Wheeler." Seto glared at the blonde boy—and the rubber duckie—in annoyance.

"I told you, I'm not going to sell!" Mr. Thorton said stubbornly.

"It would be in your best interest to do so, Mr. Thorton," Seto replied in his smooth businessman tone. "What with your financial problems and . . ."

"That property belongs to the Thorton family, and it's not for sale at any price!" Mr. Thorton snapped.

"Would someone please explain what's going on here?!" Tea yelled.

Everyone turned to look at her. "This young man wants to buy some property across town that I own," Mr. Thorton said, standing up and sending tiny flakes of lettuce all over the floor. "But I'm not selling!" He pushed Seto gently toward the door. "Now, I would appreciate it if you would all leave me to wallow in my misery!" he said overdramatically.

Seto raised an eyebrow at him.

Yugi and the others had just finished explaining to him about the strange things that had been happening there when suddenly a high-pitched scream came from the front of the store.

"Now what?!" Joey exclaimed.

"Maureen!" Tea replied, and they dashed out to find out what was wrong. Mr. Thorton followed, looking apprehensive.

Maureen was standing by the front counter, shaking. "Some weird masked man shoved me aside and ran off!"

"Don't worry, we'll get 'em!" Joey yelled, and he, Tristan, Yugi, and Bakura all split up to look, leaving Tea and Seto at the counter with Maureen and Mr. Thorton.

"Maureen, do you know where this man came from?" Tea asked.

Maureen shook her head. "No. He was just suddenly here!"

"Have you called the police?" Tea wanted to know.

Again Maureen shook her head no. "I guess I should," she said slowly.

"You do it and you die!" a nasty voice growled from up on the small second floor, which was enclosed about by a wooden railing. They looked up to see a muscular man dressed in black and wearing a ski mask holding a wooden packing crate threateningly.

"What are you doing?!" Maureen demanded.

"Why in you in my store?!" Mr. Thorton yelled.

The man didn't answer and instead threw the crate down at them, forcing them to scatter.

Seto looked up at him angrily. "What is it you want?" he demanded.

The man turned and disappeared down an aisle. Seto growled in frustration, then spotted the stairs leading up to the second floor and climbed them determinedly. Without warning the man leaped out and tried to attack the boy from behind, but Seto whirled around and punched him.

Tea watched the fight, her eyes wide. Maureen had dived into the backroom with Mr. Thorton to call the police, and Tea prayed that they'd arrive before long.

Seto was getting the upper hand, but the man didn't seem overly worried. Instead he dove over near the railing and Seto followed. In a split-second, the man had moved away and he shoved Seto at the railing, hard. The boy grunted in pain and then gasped as the railing snapped, sending him crashing to the floor below.

Tea screamed and rushed over to him, feeling sick. "Kaiba? Are you hurt?!"

The boy was sprawled in a supine position on the carpeted floor, a blank expression on his face. Tea was horrified as she looked into his unfocused, glazed-over eyes. "Kaiba!! Speak to me!!" she pleaded. She could see the boy's chest was rising and falling and heard his slightly raspy breathing, so she knew he was alive—but what if he'd been seriously injured? What if he'd broken his spine or his neck? "Kaiba, why won't you answer me?" she cried. "Can't you see me? Can't you hear me?! Somebody, help!!" she screamed.

"Tea? What's wrong?" Joey called, running over from where he'd been searching. "Yugi said that guy escaped through the upstairs exit into the mall. We tried to follow him, but he had too much of a head start . . ." The Brooklyn boy trailed off. "Oh man! What happened to Kaiba?!"

"He . . . he fell off the balcony and now he isn't moving!" Tea replied, shaking.

"You mean he got knocked unconscious?" Joey asked, kneeling next to the other boy.

Tea shook her head. "I don't know!" she cried. "His eyes are open, but he's not seeing anything!"

"Oh man," Joey exclaimed, waving a hand in front of Seto's glassy eyes. He didn't get a response. "Kaiba! What the heck's wrong with ya?!" the blonde boy exploded in frustration.

"Kaiba . . . please!" Tea wailed. "Answer us!!"

Without warning, Seto rose up with a groan, rubbing his head.

"Man, Kaiba, you were seriously freakin' us out!" Joey declared.

"Are you alright?" Tea asked worriedly.

Seto looked up, and both of the other teens were relieved to see his blue eyes focus on each of them in turn. "I'm fine," he said slowly.

"What was goin' on with you, man?" Joey demanded.

"Couldn't you hear us?" Tea added.

Seto thought about that for a bit. He *had* heard them, but only very vaguely, as if they were far away. He had hit the floor with such force that he had been completely stunned for several moments, unable to move or even think clearly. "I heard you," he said finally, "but I was incapable of answering." He looked over at the broken part of the railing that had landed beside him and glared at it.

"Man, that must've been one cheap railing," Joey remarked, shaking his head.

Seto picked it up and looked at it, shaking his head. "No. That snake pushed me against it on purpose. He knew I'd fall through." He pointed to the edge, which was smooth and clean—not rough and jagged, as it would be if it had just broken accidentally. "Someone tampered with it."