With the loose price tag in hand, I finally had myself a case. I dropped the price tag off with my forensics guy, Calvin. He does a thorough analysis, and he’s contributed mightily to a few successful investigations for me. I’ll never forget being stuck on the Uthoff stolen homework case where he was able to get me the exact brand of chocolate smudge left on the paper to figure out that Uthoff had simply lost that multiplication table.

After that, I made a beeline for the only place in town where you could find every shady character from A-Q. As the last sentence should make obvious, we’ve only gotten up to Q in class. Very excited to see what comes next week.

The juice bar is called The Dirty Diaper. I tried to kick in the door like an old Western movie, but I ended up just kicking through the door and getting stuck for, like, ten minutes. After I stopped crying and someone helped me out of the door, I sat down at the bar—inconspicuously, of course. I ordered a Dora’s Delight, which is a few ounces of Capri Sun mixed with a shot of salsa. It’s disgusting, but this is a bar full of kids from the wrong side of the tracks, and I had to show them that I belonged. Gaining Trust 101. Learn about it.

With They Might Be Giants playing from the speakers, I take down the drink in one fell swoop. The bartender walks over, clearly impressed. “’Round here,” he says, “that’s a sign of disrespect.”

“What?”

“Is the drink not good enough to sip or something? We don’t take too kindly to that kind of drinking in these parts.”

“Kind sir, we are but compatriots in the arena of sleaze. You have no reason to suspect that I am anything but a denizen of the depraved, a cretin of the highest order. Why do you interrogate me so?” Sometimes, you have to lay it on thick.

“…What?”

“Let him be, Ronnie. Kid didn’t know.” I recognized that mysterious voice. I turned around to be face-to-face with Big Luke.

“Nice to meet you, stranger. The name’s Luke. Mind if I take a seat?”

And just like that, I was sitting with the biggest, baddest motherflipper in town.



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