Chet Gecko--gumshoe, smart aleck . . . football player?!? Now there's a mystery.
Chet's sixth case in paperback!
Kidnapped! One by one, the members of Emerson Hicky's football team are disappearing. As far as Chet Gecko is concerned, this is a cause for celebration.
Only trouble is that Chet's old nemesis, Herman the Gila Monster, is the number one suspect, and he wants Chet to clear his (not quite) good name.
Chet and his mockingbird partner, Natalie Attired, must solve the case fast, or Herman will make sure it's their last. But which is more dangerous--Herman . . . or P.E. class?
Case of the Mopey Monster
The stink alone should have tipped me off. I was taking a brain break, just swinging on the swing set, when a serious stench grabbed me in its funky blue fist.
It was strong enough to make a skunk blush.
Hmm, I thought, as I whooshed forward. Cabbage and beans for breakfast?
Right stink, wrong source.
Something snagged me in midswing— glomp!—and there I hung, stuck in the sky.
I twisted to look under the seat. An ugly mug met my gaze.
Even wrong way around, I could tell: It was Herman the Gila Monster. He wasn’t as big as Beijing, he wasn’t as mean as a six-pack of hungry sharks. But the Big Bad Wolf could’ve learned something from Herman— his breath was stinky enough to melt a brick house.
"What’s up, Herman?" I asked, coughing.
"You," he said.
That’s Gila monster humor for you.
Normally, I kept my distance from the big lug. But since he’d already caught me, my best move was to play dumb.
Unfortunately, you can’t play dumber than Herman without a lobotomy.
"You wanted to see me?" I asked.
"Yup," he said, hoisting me by my tail. "I like talk."
I almost told him, Go see a speech doctor, but it was a long way down to the ground.
"I talk better on my feet," I said.
"Okay." Herman let go my tail.
The ground rushed up to meet me like a car salesman at closing time.
As I climbed to my feet, the burly Gila monster clapped a hand onto my shoulder. "We go . . . someplace private," Herman growled.
My life flashed before me. It wasn’t pretty. But it was my life, darn it, and I wanted to live to see fifth grade.
"Let’s go to the scrofulous tree," I said. "I do my best thinking there."
With a grunt, the Gila monster steered me in that direction. Two small squirrels were playing Frisbee under my favorite tree.
"Scram!" Herman growled.
They scrammed. Herman shoved me down on the grass. I rolled and raised my fists and feet, ready to fight back. Then, with a thud like a meteorite hitting the earth, the Gila monster flopped down beside me.
"Gecko," he said, "I got problem."
"I’ve been meaning to mention that," I said. "You know, a little mouthwash— "
"Not funny," he rumbled. "Problem big."
I sat up. He was serious.
I’d never figured myself as a friendly ear for school-yard thugs, but what the heck. I bit.
"What’s on your mind?" I asked. "And I use that term loosely."
Herman sighed like an avalanche on a distant mountain. "Team in trouble. Coach blame me."
The Gila monster was a fearsome football player. Several times, he’d been kicked off the team for his hijinks, but he always got called back. Emerson Hicky Elementary took its sports seriously, and a monster on the front line is hard to find.
Like I cared about that.
"So," I asked, "why tell me?"
Herman’s heavy head swung my way. "Players go bye-bye," he said. "Not my fault. Gecko can find players."
"Oh, no," I said. "Not me."
Herman moved faster than a starving toad at a fruit-fly fest. Before I could even twitch, he grabbed my ankle.
"Gecko will help," he growled. "Or Gecko will need help." The Gila monster shook his other fist meaningfully. I got the picture.
Then, a thought took that long, lonely trip across Herman’s mind. His fangs twinkled in a smile. "Plus, Herman will pay. One chocolate cake for every player you find."
I smiled back. "That should’ve been the first thing you said, buddy boy. Tell the nice detective all about it."
Copyright © 2002 by Bruce Hale
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