Sample text for Murder, my tweet : from the tattered casebook of Chet Gecko, private eye / Bruce Hale.

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Sneak and Ye Shall Find

Never take on a wacko as a client. It wastes your time, and it annoys the wacko.

Somehow I had forgotten this. And so, recess found me tailing a parakeet's boyfriend to see if he'd been stepping out on her. (That's detective talk for seeing another dame on the side. And a dame is a girl. And on the side is...on the side.)

I shadowed T-Bone LaLouche through the halls of Emerson Hicky Elementary. Like any good detective, I used kids, bushes, and the odd teacher as cover. (And believe me, we have plenty of odd teachers.)

T-Bone LaLouche was a lean and shifty ringtail. Ringtails have a cat's body, a fox's face, and a raccoon's tail that's been dipped in goo and slammed in a door.

Oh, and one other thing: If you startle them, they give an ear-piercing shriek and shoot this funky musk from their butts.

Don't ask me how I know that.

I watched as T-Bone stopped near the library to chat with a simpering mole in a tutu. Heads together, they seemed awfully chummy. Could this be his extra-credit baby-cake?

When I leaned around a skreezitz bush for a better look, T-Bone suddenly glanced up. I dived for cover-kronch!-right into the bush.

Through the spiky leaves, I could see the ringtail frowning my way, but he went back to his confab. Soon, the mole waved toodle-oo and toddled into the library. T-Bone took to his heels.

I tagged along.

In the hall by the cafeteria, the ringtail approached a fluffy European rabbit. (I could tell she was European by her spiffy scarf and her world-weary ways.)

Miss Fluffy leaned against a pole and toyed with her whiskers. T-Bone cozied up. She passed him something-a love note?-and they giggled like a couple of teenage girls at a Brad Spitt movie.

Man, this guy wasn't just two-timing my client; he was three-timing her.

Sensing something, T-Bone raised his head and started to turn.


I scrambled up the wall, out of sight. In my racket, sometimes it pays to be a wall-crawling lizard.

I crept along quietly. Then my foot slipped. Strange. We geckos can scale almost anything, including glass. I shook the foot and crawled closer...just across from the cuddly pair.

A strange sight distracted me: squatty machines being wheeled into the cafeteria. And they were wearing what looked like...aprons? Was head chef Mrs. Bagoong getting some new cooking gizmos?

I shook my head. Better focus on the job at hand.

Miss Fluffy was saying, "...after you do me this favor, you and I can..."

Someone had taped a WET PAINT sign to the pole she was leaning on. Silly rabbit. Didn't she know-


Suddenly, everything slipped. I scrabbled desperately, clawing a paper sign from the wall. It read, WET PAINT.

Duh. The pole hadn't been painted; the wall had.

"Whoooah!" I cried, plummeting like a duck after a pond-scum sandwich.

SKREONCH! A shrub broke my fall.

"AAIIEEE!" T-Bone shrieked, like an air-raid siren singing opera. Under his scream, something went ffrappp!

The rabbit and I clapped our hands over our ears. A second later, we covered our noses instead.

The ringtail had blasted a paint-peeling musky stench, fouler than a roadkill casserole. It spread down the hall, clearing kids and teachers with its potent funk. Miss Fluffy fled.

Eyes watering, I coughed and hacked and staggered to my feet.

With as much dignity as he could muster, T-Bone stood tall and glared at me. "It's your own fault," he said. "Maybe you shouldn't startle kids like that."

"Maybe you shouldn't have had the cabbage-and-cheese breakfast burrito."

The ringtail snorted. "Oh yeah? Maybe you shouldn't sass someone bigger than you." He loomed over me.

"Oh, really? Maybe you shouldn't be two-timing your girlfriend," I said.

"My girlfriend?" he asked.

"Yeah, your bubby-cakes, your doll-face, your smoochie-poo. Anne Gwish?"

His face froze. "Anne what?" said T-Bone. "Who's she?" He stalked away.

Still holding my nose, I stumbled in the opposite direction.

From above, a clap-clap-clap reached my ears. I glanced up.

It was Natalie Attired, my spiffy mockingbird partner. An ace investigator, she thought she was quite the joker (but she was really just a card). Perching on the roof's edge, Natalie looked me up and down, from my paint-smeared feet to the twigs in my hat.

I held up a hand. "I know, I know. I'm scratched and filthy, and I smell like a ringtail's butt."

"So, other than that," she said, "how was your day, dear?"

Copyright © 2004 by Bruce Hale

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Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Geckos Fiction, Animals Fiction, Schools Fiction, Extortion Fiction, Robots Fiction, Humorous stories, Mystery and detective stories