Cold. Rain, pitter-pattering on the window. Teletubbies is on, but what’s the use? They’ll never find what they’re looking for. My head feels like a loaded diaper and so does my diaper, coincidentally. I’ve half a mind to call Mommy for a stiff glass of juicey when the source of trouble stumbles into the room on pink light-up Skechers.

Scarlet’s the type of girl who’ll help you build a monster sandcastle one second, and then knock it down the next. She’s whip-smart, too—she’s three, like me, but she reads like she’s five. Not to mention she can count to 48, or so they say. Put all that together, and it spells trouble. I think. The rain is getting heavier, and I think I hear a thunderclap.

“You know, Mommy says it’s not polite to stare, Charles. Aren’t you going to say hello?” In my consideration, I’d almost forgotten she’d entered the room. “The name’s Charlie, I say, and hello, Scarlet. What do you want?”

“My, my, someone sounds like they need a nap. Why so testy?

“You know full well why, Scarlet. I haven’t forgotten the last time you came in here.”

“Oh, Charles, you know that whole thing came down to you. I hardly deserve the blame for the fallout. And, in the end, no one got hurt, right?”

No one got hurt. That’s a laugh. The last time Scarlet brought me a case, it ended with skinned knees, booboos, and a change of pants for a one Louis Linkler. I should check in on Linkler, I think. Suddenly, it hits me. “Scarlet, are your bringing me a new case?”

“You catch on quick. I thought you’d make me beg. They do say you’re the best, but after last time, I wasn’t so sure. Can I trust you, Charles?”

“Depends,” I say. “What’s in this whole joint for me?”

“We’ll talk price afterwards, Charles, but rest assured you’ll be compensated handsomely. Speaking of handsomely, is that a new dinosaur shirt? It’s quite becoming.”

“You don’t need to flatter me,” I growl. “Just tell me what exactly it is that you need.”

“I need many things, Charles. Ballet lessons. An EasyBake Oven. More play dates with Ellen, and fewer with Lydia. A peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, crusts off and cut diagonally. But none of those compares to this. What I’m looking for is something that was taken from me.”

Another thunderclap. Golly, that juicey would hit the spot right now. This sounds dangerous.

“My birthday party was last week, and Julia Stanger slipped it to me that her present for me was a limited edition Frozen tricycle. Only 2,000 were made, and almost 1,800 were snapped up by a sheik in Monaco. So, suffice it to say, I was excited for this trike. The time comes to open the presents, and all that was left was some neatly folded wrapping paper. The thief was comfortable stealing the tricycle, but wasting wrapping paper was apparently pushing lines of propriety.”

“My goodness,” I say. “We’re dealing with a maniac.”

“Exactly why I came to you. You’re the only one I trust to take on something like this. Can you do it or not?”

I look out the window. This could be dangerous. But any toddler detective worth his weight in Legos takes on these sorts of cases.

“I’ll do it, Scarlet. But I need something from you.”

“What’s that, Charles?”

“I need some goddamn juicey.”

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