Authors: Michele Torrey
Tags: #Ages 9 & Up
ake McNeely’s Pet Palace was on the edge of town. The building looked like it hadn’t seen a coat of paint in twenty years. Moss and ferns grew thick on the roof. A neon sign flashed hot pink:
JAKE MC EEL ’S PET PALA
. (A few letters were missing.) Altogether, it looked downright seedy. Just the place to buy a kidnapped parrot.
Drake came prepared. Whenever he was on assignment, he carried his detective kit. It contained all sorts of clever gizmos—periscopes, a compass, a fingerprint kit, a flashlight, a decoder, a lock pick, a glowstick, a few nifty disguises for emergency situations, and much more. (And, of course, his handy-dandy camera disguised as a teddy bear.)
Already Drake and Nell were hard at work. Hidden by a bush, they used their periscopes to peer in the window at Jake McNeely as he helped a customer buy a fish and some dog food. After the customer left, Jake counted the money in his cash register.
“Hmm,” murmured Drake, “that’s a pretty thick wad of money for just selling a fish and a bag of dog food. Looks like thousands of dollars.”
“Maybe millions.” (He would have jotted a note to himself in his lab notebook, but it was too difficult to peer through the periscope, take notes, blow his nose, and remain top secret all at the same time.)
“Not only that, but Jake’s wearing alligator boots,” whispered Nell, “and a belt made from a boa constrictor. For a pet-store owner, he obviously has no respect for nature.”
“Agreed,” said Drake. “He fits our profile precisely. But, so far, I only see one parrot, and it’s not a Diamond Tipped.”
“Roger that. They must be hidden somewhere.” Nell put down her periscope and looked at Drake. “This calls for action. Prepare for Plan A.”
Five minutes later, they were ready. Nell was dressed as a shopper, complete with lipstick, department-store bags, and a checkbook. (Fake, of course.) Drake was dressed as a tourist, with a flowered shirt, shorts, teddy-bear camera, and a very fat wallet. (Again, fake.)
“Ready, Naturalist Nell?”
“Ready, Detective Doyle.”
Together they took a deep breath and entered the store.
It was dark, dingy, damp, and dirty. The air was filled with cheeps and squeaks, but they weren’t happy cheeps and squeaks—they were very sad indeed. And the smell? Frankly, the place reeked. “Can I help you?” Jake McNeely stood in front of them, looking rather mean in his alligator boots and snakeskin belt. He seemed impatient, like he didn’t really want to help them at all.
For a second, Drake was at a loss for words. Fortunately, Nell was on top of things. After all, she didn’t have a cold to worry about.
“Why, yes. Thank you very much,” she replied, acting natural. “I’m looking for a pet, and I love insects.”
Jake grunted. “Insects, is it? Well, if you want bugs, lady, we’ve got bugs.” And he led Nell to the bug section.
Drake knew that was his cue. While Jake tried to sell Nell a praying mantis, Drake crept around, keeping his eyes peeled for parrots. So far, nothing. And then he saw it. A door.
read the sign on the door.
THIS MEANS YOU!
Since Jake was facing the other way, Drake pushed open the door and crept in.
There were cages everywhere. Big cages. Little cages. Middle-size cages. Some of them were empty. Others held parrots. Diamond Tipped Parrots, to be exact. Nine of them.
“Aha!” Drake whispered to himself. “Just as we suspected!”
After snapping a few photos, Drake turned to leave. It was time to fetch Nell, scram, and present the evidence to the police. But before he could carry out the rest of Plan A, something terrible happened. Something awful. Something all detectives dread when they’re trying to be sneaky. Drake felt a sneeze coming on. A big sneeze. A dilly of a sneeze. A whopper. He tried to hold it back. But it was no use. It was rather like holding back a volcano when it wants to erupt.
Drake froze as the sound of his sneeze echoed throughout the store.
Suddenly all the parrots began to squawk and screech at once.
And from the other room, he heard Nell cry, “Run, Drake, run!”
But it was too late.
Jake McNeely burst into the room, dragging Nell by one arm. He grabbed Drake by his collar. They were caught. Plan A was a bust.
“Trying to mess up my scheme, are you, you little brats? I’ll show you. . . .” And before Drake could smack him over the head with his teddy-bear camera, Jake shoved Nell and Drake into the biggest cage and locked it. They were trapped!
“Maybe later I’ll introduce you to my pet piranhas,” Jake snarled. “But for now, I’m expecting another rare delivery from Mexico.” And with that, he threw back his head and laughed a sinister laugh.
As soon as the door closed behind Jake, Nell cried, “Quick, Detective Doyle, pick the lock with your handy-dandy lock picker!”
“Check!” But when Drake reached for his detective kit, it was gone. “Egads! Jake must have taken it with him!”
It was, quite possibly, the worst moment of their detective careers.
“This is awful,” said Drake.
“Terrible,” said Nell.
“We simply must do something.”
“Yes, but what?”
“What about Plan B?” asked Drake.
“There is no Plan B. There wasn’t time. All we have is Plan A.”
“This is awful,” said Drake again.
So they sat in the cage, trying not to think about being fish food. Meanwhile, Nell was getting rather hungry and Drake was wishing he had brought an extra hankie.
Then, suddenly, Drake felt something wiggling under his clothes. “Great Scott!” he screeched. “They’re eating me already!” Fearing the worst, he reached inside his shirt and pulled out a . . . a . . . cell phone. The same phone that Sloane had lent him as payment for rescuing her from the laundry chute. It was set on
Sick with relief, he flipped it open, wondering who could possibly be calling. “Uh—hello? I mean, Doyle and Fossey.”
“Drake? Are you all right?” It was his mother.
“Uh—I don’t know, Mom. I’m not feeling so good.”
“I think my fever—”
Nell snatched the phone away from him. “Mrs. Doyle, this is Nell. We have an emergency. . . .” And she proceeded to give Mrs. Doyle the gory details. (You really can’t blame Drake for being a little foggy in the head, because, as you well know, his nose was stuffed up and he was running a slight fever, plus he felt another sneeze coming on.)
Five minutes later, red and blue lights flashed and sirens wailed. “The jig is up,” the police yelled through the megaphone. “We’ve got you surrounded!”
Thanks to the police, it was over in a jiffy. Jake gave himself up. Drake and Nell were released. The parrots were taken into protective custody. All in all, Plan A was a smashing success.
TV crews and reporters from the
Mossy Lake Daily Word
arrived to interview them and take their pictures. Nell gave a few speeches and held up quite well under the lights, but Drake was exhausted. He was relieved to see his parents drive up, and after them, Professor Fossey. It was time to call it a day.
“Couldn’t have done it without you, Detective Doyle,” said Nell, shaking his hand.
“Ditto, Naturalist Nell,” said Drake.
“Get plenty of rest and call me in the morning,” Nell added, patting him on the back.
That night, tucked in bed, with a flashlight under the covers, Drake wrote in his lab notebook:
Jake McNeely (known as Jake the Snake)
A slippery fellow, according
Parrots to be returned to
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erious scientists always have their own lab. It can be quite simple. A desk. A lamp. A few necessary supplies. Here are some hot tips for creating your own lab:
1. Begin collecting items you might need for experiments, such as tape, string, markers, rulers, and glass and plastic containers. You never know when they might come in handy.
2. You’ll need a blank lab notebook. Like Drake and Nell, you will record every step of the experiment: procedures, observations, results, etc. And, of course, all good scientists know to xsrecord even their mistakes.
3. To be completely official, you will need a lab coat. Old shirts that button down the front work well. Using a permanent marker, write your name on the shirt. (Ask permission first.)
4. Lastly, all good scientists label everything. Keep masking tape and a marker on hand.
Good Science Tip
All scientists make mistakes. Many experiments don’t turn out as expected. This is part of everyday science! If your experiments have unexpected results, try to figure out what went wrong and why. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And definitely record your mistakes in your lab notebook. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were accidental.