• Hugo Earnshaw-Saran

THE ENIGMATIC FOSSIL HUNTER

This story is linked to another LEAP story, which can be found here: https://www.theleapblog.com/post/the-dinomilizer



CHAPTER 1


NEW YORK TIMES

“To all dinosaur lovers in New York, listen up! Drop all your Saturday plans right now to see one of the most famous paleontologists: Leonardo Palkär! This smart and young palaeontologist is famous for his money, and for his discoveries! That’s right, go to the museum to see the Titanosaur and Tyrannosaurus Rex, and watch an interview with Leonardo in front of the Leonardo Palkär section with all his discoveries. From Compsognathus to Spinosaurus, his discoveries are highly detailed and interesting. This is a once in a lifetime experience-so don’t miss out! Get tickets for free at www.NewYorkTimes.com/NYC/ticketLP.”


John was intrigued by the advert he saw in the newspaper as he was finishing his chocolate donut and morning coffee in Central Park. Though he was now working as a detective with the New York Police Department, he had a palaeontology degree from Columbia University. He took out his phone and quickly registered for a ticket.


SATURDAY AFTERNOON


There was a large crowd of people with all sorts of questions packed into their heads.


“What’s his personality like?”


“What’s the trick? What’s the trick? What’s the trick to your great fossil hunting?”


“How long will I be able to interview him for, because I have a LOT of questions”


But not all could be answered, as Leonardo had to leave shortly for an excavation in Ethiopia.


“I wish I could answer all of your questions, but I have a very important dig to get to in Ethiopia,” Leonardo was telling the crowd. He managed to answer most of the questions, and did so very fluently and smoothly, speaking without even blinking.


John watched it all from the back of the room, taking note of everything. Something felt… out of place. He had arrived with an interest in dinosaurs, but was about to leave with a particular interest in Leonardo Palkär.


2 MONTHS AGO


A silhouette in the starry night was putting black gloves on, walked into a large mansion and disappeared into the dim light of the entrance.


PRESENT DAY


“What’s your secret? What’s the trick to finding so many fossils?” Leila Janus, from NYC Magazine asked Leonardo.


“Palaeontologists, like magicians, never reveal their secrets,” Leonardo said with a smile. But his eyes were cold.


John looked down at the information pamphlet on Leonardo he had been given. Leonardo was the most successful discoverer of fossils of all time. By a long way. He didn’t know why, but it just felt suspicious. Something wasn’t right.


He took out his phone and typed “Leonardo Palkär” into Google. One of the articles said that Leonardo had discovered twice as many fossils in a year as all paleontologists around the world.

“There is no way that anyone could be that good or that lucky,” John muttered to himself. He kept reading.


THE NEXT DAY



The blue, red and white walls of the police station John worked at made it look like a LEGO set.


He bumped into his boss, Jordan J. Johannes, and almost spilled his coffee.


“Watch out!” Jordan shouted. Then, at a more normal volume, he said, “Wow, you look tired!”


“I was up all night researching this palaeontologist Leonardo Palkar. I saw him speak at a museum yesterday.” John rubbed his eyes.


“Oh! Nerd stuff. That better not interfere with your job!” Jordan joked.


“Well actually, I was hoping to talk to you about it–” John started saying.


“Whoa, I’m not interested in dinosaurs. Just crimes and mysteries,” Jordan said, holding his hands up.


“Well then this might be right up your alley! I think the palaeontologist might be a criminal!”


“What’s the crime? Boring people to death talking about fossils?” Jordan winked.


John took out a folder and started showing Jordan some of his notes.


“Leonardo sells his fossils. For a lot of money. No one knows how he manages to get so many fossils. But I have a hunch. Look at the dates of these two auctions and the type of fossils, and look at the dates that similar fossils were reported stolen.”


“John, I respect your enthusiasm, but he’s just a smart guy! I need you working on real crimes!”


Feeling frustrated, John stormed away to his office. He found some new files on his desk and read about criminals who were on the run: Bonkers Kazam, Lester Lorkis, Ralse Look, Cecrops Atlas and Lee Dung. Finally one caught his interest - the case file of George Leabug.


George Leabug, the founder and CEO of Leabug Technologies, was known for his massive collection of dinosaur fossils. The report said that Leabug found his Tyrannosaurus Rex’s elbow had indistinct writing on one side and felt a bit unlike the original, so he suspected that the original had been stolen.


“It’s time to go to Leabug Manor.”



CHAPTER 2


John stood in front of the imposing tall doors of Leabug Manor and knocked.


Once inside, he sat down with Leabug in his study. The study had wood panelled walls, covered in expensive paintings. Leabug wore a casual brown suit, and his deep green eyes glimmered in the sunlight.


“Mr. Leabug, I have a few questions for you. First, what is your occupation?” A staff member put a cup of coffee on a table close to the chair John sat in.


“I am the founder and CEO of Leabug Technologies.”


“Thank you. Can you tell me a bit more about your T Rex?”


“My T Rex, or Linda, as I like to call her, is not only a precious fossil, but also the COO of Leabug Technologies,” Leabug said, clearly upset.


John almost spat out his coffee. “Is that allowed?”


“Maybe she’s more of a consultant,” Leabug sighed. “I could just tell something was not right when I saw her last month. I can’t believe it’s taken you police officers so long to come and see me about this! It’s atrocious!”


John tried not to look at Leabug like he was a crazy person. “Can you think of any time where someone might have had the opportunity to steal the fossil?”


“Linda.”


John coughed. “Sorry. Can you think of any time where someone might have had the opportunity to steal Linda?”


“We held a huge party for the 11th anniversary of Leabug Technologies here at Leabug Manor. A ton of people came to celebrate.”


“Do you have a list of the main people who attended the party please?”


“Jake, would you print and give me that list of the people who came to the party last month?” A blonde haired man in a suit and bowtie passed the paper after a fast printing job. The paper looked like it had the times of the day they had left and in the order they left in.


“Thank you. May I see Linda?” John asked.


“I know it’s not Linda, so you’ll have to go on your own. I’ll have Jake show you where the fake Linda is. It would be too painful for me to go down there again,” he buried his face in his hand with a mixture of grimace and sadness.


Leabug pulled a book in the bookcase, which swung open to reveal a secret passageway. Jake and John walked down the stairs and soon they were looking at a giant collection of fossils. John saw the T Rex and inspected it. Leabug was right, it was fake. But it was a really good copy. John examined the fossil meticulously and noticed that it felt like there was a very spongy area on the inside.



CHAPTER 3


John was at the office the next day, reading through the list of guests. Ryan Astor was the last person to leave the party!


“Oh Ryan, it’s interview time,” John said, as he grabbed his coat.


It was a short drive to Ryan Astor’s manufacturing building. John flashed his police badge and asked the security guards to open the gates.


John’s voice echoed through the large storage room. ”Ryan! We need to talk!”


Clangs echoed from behind, as someone came down the metallic stairs. John turned around, and saw a tall and muscular man holding a box on his left shoulder.


“Yes? Were you calling for me?”


John was surprised by his deep voice, and dirty tank-top. “Ryan Astor? It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He showed Ryan his badge. “I have to ask you about the party at George Leabug’s manor. How was it?”


“What party? Either I was sent an invite, but didn’t receive it. Or, I just didn’t check my Google calendar messages. Either way, I didn’t know I was invited to a party!”


John took out his piece of paper and showed him the list of guests, and screenshots of the CCTV footage. “I’m going to ask you again. Were you at the party or not?” John asked.


“That is my name on the list, but that’s not my face in the photo. You should check that again Mr. Lakrac,” Ryan said, confused by everything.


John held the photo up next to Ryan’s face. Ryan was right - it wasn’t him. ”I just need to confirm, if you weren’t at the party, where were you?”


“I was at home, asleep after a long day of hard work.”


“Can anyone confirm that?” John asked.


“Just ask my security guard. I live at 147 Ivory Street.”


John thanked Ryan for his time, and went back to the office to check the CCTV footage again.


He watched it in slow motion. There was a very, very weird angle, where “Ryan Astor” looked directly at the camera.


“Wait, that isn’t Ryan Astor, that’s…” John couldn’t believe it. ”LEONARDO PALKAR?!”


John was questioning everything about Leonardo: Why would he lie so much? Does Leonardo have a grudge against Leabug? Did he find all the fossils except for Leabug’s fossil?


But being a detective is a hard, time consuming job, especially when you are on a tricky case like this. John wanted to have a well-deserved coffee at the Dino Café.


John jogged to The Natural History Museum, and turned left into the Dino Café.


At that time of year the Café was filled with customers, but one stood out in the crowd - someone who had a face that anybody would recognise once they had looked at some CCTV footage of them. Even from afar, there was no missing his distinct moustache and height… It was Leonardo Palkär! This would be a good time to have a fun undercover interview with him.


John quickly walked up to him. “Hey, I love this place too!”


“That is music to my ears! Glad you do! This place deserves all of its customers,” Leonardo said, beaming.


“I’m John Lakrac by the way,” John said.


“I’m Leonardo Palkar.”


“You mean the famous palaeontologist? What an honour to meet you!” John exclaimed.


“What do you know about Tyrannosaurus Rex skulls? Just to be curious,” John asked, hoping to get another lead.


“Funny you should ask, I just found one and they are very interesting. They are not only exotic, but also are almost as hard as bronze! They are intriguing up and down,” Leonardo seemed excited to speak about it.


“Actually, I have a case that is quite interesting, and wanted to ask you if you know George Leabug?”


“George Leabug? You mean the Leabug family?! Did something happen to him?” He seemed calm, but a bit too calm for being interviewed by a detective… John felt Leonardo was hiding something.


“Cool chatting! You want to keep in touch? We could exchange numbers?” John had a plan.


“That would be great! Detective and palaeontologist talking!”


Leonardo thought everything was going fine. But what Leonardo didn’t know was that, out of suspicion, John was about to go on a stakeout to find out exactly what he was hiding.


John left the Dino Café, only to hide in a bush next door to wait for Leonardo. At around 7pm Leonardo finally left. John watched him like a hawk.


Everywhere Leonardo was on his stroll home, John was following and watching. Finally, Leonardo arrived at his mansion.


Instead of going in the front door, he opened his garage door, and disappeared from view.


“What’s down there, Leonardo?” John asked quietly, his words vibrating against the walls. He needed to find out.


CHAPTER 4


It was a bright and sunny day in New York that day, the breeze was still. John saw a new movie was coming out and came up with a plan.


He immediately texted him saying:


“Hey Leonardo, I just saw this new movie coming out today in the cinemas at 3pm and am planning to watch it. Wanna join in watching THE FULL MOON?”


Leonardo texted back saying that he had a meeting from 3:15 to 4:15 and that he was sorry that he had to watch on his own.


John immediately recognised that this was a perfect time to snoop around Leonardo’s house. His curious genes and instinct were jabbing at him for so long, he just needed to find out what was in that garage. He remembered the route and drove a car straight there.


Leonardo’s house exterior was decorative and fancy; security cameras watched from almost every direction. What caught John’s eye was that there weren’t any cameras at the garage - a perfect place to break in.


John’s gym exercises came in handy when he lifted the garage door straight up from the ground. The garage was empty and most of the doors were locked. There was a red ray watching from above John’s head. It was a security camera!


It was time to take his safety knife out, cut the camera wires, and finally disconnected it. He charged through the door in the middle - it wasn’t locked!


But where did it go? Was it all a trap? Well John found out there were traps when his bronze detector beeped like a helicopter was crashing! He looked down, and saw there were bronze spikes poking out of the ground.


“Man, this place is full of traps!” John’s voice echoed through the deep tunnel before he carefully stepped over and across the trap.


He then saw lines of pipes on the walls. They must lead somewhere! But something that stood out to him was that each pipe had initials on top; and one of them said “GL”. Could that be for George Leabug?


All John could do was look more at the things in this house.


He came up the stairs and looked for another way to get in. He locked eyes on another door that seemed a little loose. John barged through and was greeted by traps, traps and traps. Arrows in the wall that would shoot out, more spike traps, and laser shooting security cameras.


“Wow, a lot of traps! There is no chance he can’t be hiding something.” John said quietly, but could make out what looked like a long line of fossils in the hallway, and a small table at the end.


This was a tricky situation, but he needed a search warrant to get through all this security.


John just came out when he heard footsteps approaching. LEONARDO WAS BACK EARLY! This would be a good time to hide! John thought. He couldn’t be noticed.


Leonardo whistled and walked through the main doors for the first time John had seen.

“Phee-ew,” John said in relief once Leonardo’s steps faded in the cool air.


John sneaked past the camera view and walked quickly to get back in his car.


THE NEXT DAY



“We need a search warrant for his house! He’s hiding something!” John was excited by his discovery.


“Well, you told me why and it sounds good. I’ll go talk to them.” Jordan said as he walked away.


“YES! Victory!” John cheered himself while all the other police officers stared at him, smiling.


AN HOUR LATER


“We got it, kid! Your warrant has been approved,” Jordan said, for once with a grin under his thick moustache.


Flashlights beamed around the area in the hands of trained officers. This was the time of the century.


They kicked a door open, and saw tons of traps.


“Told you there were traps,” John said, replying to one of the officers' gazes.


They slowly broke the traps out one by one, and found something at the end of the hallway.


“Guys, I got something,” one said, pointing at a 3D Printer printing a fake ankylosaurus skull, and a computer with 3D printing software on the screen.


“I think we have enough evidence, he’s going to the courtroom,” John said with a smile touching his ears.


“You mean me, old friend?” A shadow was cast over the deep hallway.


“Perfect timing, Palkär.”


Leonardo dashed out and up the stairs.


“It isn’t that easy Leonardo. We have a team of cars about to hunt you down. And I will be there when you’re arrested,” John called after him.


“Good luck trying!” An engine sound started and the smell of gas filled the air.


“GET HIM!” John yelled at the officers surrounding himself.


“Got it John,” one officer said. They all rushed to follow Leonardo.


John got into a car with two other officers, while Leonardo was a passenger in a limo. It was like a game of cat and mouse; Leonardo’s limo was the mouse, while the cops were the cats chasing him down.


A cop took out his gun and tried to shoot one of the limo’s tires! John had to grab him straight from the window and had to calm him down.


“Why did you do that?” John couldn’t resist asking this rogue officer.


“I have had a… connection with fossils from the age of seven. But I accomplished the goal!” He pointed at the three left tires of the limo, which had been blown out. The limo was falling behind, making it a golden opportunity for an arrest!


John leaped out of the car, opened the door of the limo, took out handcuffs and arrested Leonardo. He did it. He arrested Leonardo Palkär!



CHAPTER 5


The next day was a whole new day of the job for John. He felt unstoppable. Nothing, absolutely nothing could beat him. He was about to go to court to hopefully send Leonardo to where he deserved to go: prison.


The courtroom was decorated fashionably with oak panels. Banners lined down pillars connecting walls together. Leonardo was wearing a very fancy suit with a cold stare facing John.


Of course, George Leabug was a witness. He was awestruck that anybody would do what Leonardo did to Linda.


“Now the trial to confirm if Leonardo Palkär is guilty or not shall sta-” The judge started.


“I am guilty. I did it all. I stole from all those dirty celebrities who don’t even know what they’re doing by just spending a few million dollars on a beautiful fossil. I know what it’s like to find a fossil though,” Leonardo admitted in frustration. “Just imagine that you find a perfect fossil, and want to keep it forever. And then imagine it’s sold to a billionaire who has no idea what the KT line even is!”.


“But how can someone even bear to do something like that! You took my Linda, and you will pay for it,” Leabug wept.” You deserve five more years added onto your sentence to prison.” He blew his handkerchief.


“What I’m saying is, all you celebrities who buy fossils don’t know what you’re doing. You are stealing the accomplishments of great palaeontologists.” Leonardo stood up.


“If that’s not an admission of guilt, I don’t know what is! Well you are still guilty so you need to go to prison. That’s 15 years in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre for you. Outside there will be a van waiting to take you there. Logan, take him to the NYPD van. ” The judge announced.


Two guards opened an exit and guided Leonardo to a prison vehicle. It had NYPD on it and it had doors in the back, so Leonardo hopped in. He cackled once he was alone with the driver. The driver took off his costume and they sped off.


In the courtroom the people heard the screech of tires. Something was up, and a crowd of people shuffled outside to see what was happening. They noticed that the van wasn’t going to the prison and the police started another chase.


The “prison” van’s driver was named Brandon Lotus and was working with Leonardo the whole time! He was also a wanted criminal and would do anything to not get caught.


Brandon looked in the side mirror and saw he was being chased. Luckily for the police, they called in a police helicopter to catch up with the van. Now he was worried; would he get caught, or make another grand escape from the New York Police Department? He was about to find out.


“Get out!” Brandon yelled at Leonardo as he was being cornered.


“Detective, we got a double sandwich,” an officer said in the back of a chopper to John.


“Really! Who are they?” John asked through the radio.


“Brandon Lotus and Leonardo Palkär sir.” John was amazed by this great deal. How did the two of them even know each other? These questions would be answered in the interrogation room.


CHAPTER 6


The New York Times


THE SANDWICH ARREST OF LEONARDO PALKAR AND LONG TIME CRIMINAL BRANDON LOTUS


“Yesterday, famous criminals Brandon Lotus and Leonardo Palkär were both arrested after a dramatic car chase. This duo were working together and trying to escape prison’s captivity.


Brandon faces 24 years in prison, and Palkär has been sentenced to 20 years in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre . It looks like it’s the end of the road for these two.”


Leonardo stopped reading and took his feet off of the table. “I wish they had chosen a better photo of me,” he huffed.


“You know what Leonardo, I think we could have been good friends if this had never happened,” John said as he looked out of the small window.


“We still can! How about I give you information about Bonkers Kazam, and in return, you get me a shorter sentence.”


This got John’s attention.


“Well spill the beans! Tell me everything; but make it a summary because I have a meeting in 10 minutes,” John made a ticking sound and tapped his watch. He was waiting for the cards to be laid on the table. We’ll see how good the information is! John thought with his notebook in hand.


“He was the criminal mastermind behind all of this. When I say that, I actually mean it. He taught me 3D printing, how to cook up a mastermind plan and how to make a scam. He fled to China and is on the run now. I’m still in contact, so I can tell you his location and everything if you get me a phone and computer. Deal?” Leonardo was convincing, but was he lying?


John’s head was spinning, but he needed to find out what was happening.


“Leonardo, call him and we’re going to record it,” John said, handing his phone over. “Found out where he is right now.”


Leonardo put the phone on speaker, dialled the number he had for Bonkers.


“Hi Bonkers! Did I wake you up? I couldn’t remember if you were still in China…”


“I am, but I’m a little busy right now. Can you call me back in two hours?” Bonkers replied. There was a lot of background noise where he was.


“Okay I’ll talk to you then. Bye!” Leonardo said cheerfully.


Leonardo ended the call and slid the phone across the table. John looked at Leonardo and smiled.


“This could be the first chapter in a new partnership.”


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