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Got a mystery to solve? Jigsaw Jones is on the case. When Bobby Solofsky is accused of stealing the grand prize for a pet talent show, it's up to Jigsaw to clear his greatest rival's name. Soon, more things start to go missing at the pet store and Jigsaw enters his own dog into the contest to solve the case. Can he find the prize medal in time for the competition?
James Preller's wry, witty, Jigsaw Jones books are once again available to inspire the next generation of young readers, featuring both new titles and classroom classics!
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For the first six days of my life, I didn't have a name. I was the fifth and last kid born in my family. After Billy, Hillary, Nick, and Daniel, my parents couldn't decide on a name for little old me. For six days, I was known as "the baby."
I say this because my mom found a box of old baby pictures today while I was doing a jigsaw puzzle. She got all misty-eyed and blubbery, saying things like, "Goo-goo, ga-ga," and calling me baby names. That is, after she finished yelling at my dog, Rags.
Mom says Rags is a shoe thief. But Ragsy just lies there, sprawled on the carpet. He can't figure out what the fuss is about. I think it's kind of funny. But Mom is missing three different shoes and she doesn't think it's funny at all.
So anyway, for six days my parents called me "the baby." They figured the right name would pop into their heads. By day four, the names that had popped into my dad's head were Carlos, Lars, Ferdinand, and Slippy.
(I think he was.)
Mom said, "No, No, NO!" and "Slippy?! Are you trying to make me crazy?!"
On day six, she said that I was as cute as a teddy bear.
"Sure," my dad agreed. "A bald, pink, wrinkled teddy bear."
So they named me Teddy, even though my official name is Theodore Andrew Jones. No one ever called me Teddy, though. And that's a good thing — since Teddy isn't a great name for a detective. A boy detective should be named Nick or Sam or Derek or Roscoe. You know, a cool, tough- sounding name.
Anyway, now I'm in second grade. And these days everybody calls me Jigsaw, except for my brothers, who usually call me Worm and Shorty.
I got the nickname because I love jigsaw puzzles. But the one thing I like more than doing jigsaw puzzles is solving mysteries. See, I'm a detective. And I've got the decoder ring to prove it.
I have a partner, too. Her name is Mila (sounds like "my- la"). We've found missing hamsters, stolen bicycles, and disappearing dinosaurs. We've had cases with spooky ghosts, marshmallow monsters, and walking scarecrows.
It's how we earn our living.
"For a dollar a day, we make problems go away."
It beats selling Kool-Aid for a living.
"You really did look like a teddy bear," Mom gushed. She held up my baby photo. "Don't you agree?"
Thanks to Rags, I didn't have to answer. Rags is like a walking doorbell with fur and a wet tongue.
I figured Mila was at the door. There was a big case brewing and we needed to talk. Bobby Solofsky had called that afternoon. He said he wanted to hire us and he was coming over to explain.
It would take a lot of explaining.
Bobby Solofsky has been a stone in my shoe since kindergarten. He's always bragging about how he's a better detective than I am. So why, I wondered, would he want to hire us?
There was definitely something fishy here — and it wasn't my tuna sandwich.
Grand Prize Gone!
I can always tell when Mila's coming. Her singing enters the room two minutes before she does. Today she was singing "Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone," only she changed the words around.
"Why, oh, why did Solofsky call? What, oh, what could he want?"
I was glad to see her. This Solofsky thing was bugging me. We needed to talk before he showed up.
Before Mila could say anything, I put my finger to my nose. That was our secret signal. Billy (my favorite brother) was sprawled on a living room chair, talking to his new girlfriend. Get this — her name is Rain. Not Snow, not Sleet, but Rain. She sounded like a drip to me.
We went to my tree house for privacy.
"Spill it," Mila said. "Why does Solofsky want to hire us?"
"No idea," I answered. "But I do know this. Bobby Solofsky can't be trusted. I don't want anything to do with this case."
Mila frowned, pulling on her long black hair. "This is business," she said. "It's not personal. We should hear what he's got to say."
I guessed she was right.
Suddenly, Rags started barking. Solofsky was here. I downed a glass of grape juice and wiped my mouth.
Bobby Solofsky climbed the tree house ladder. His face was a scowl. I waited for him to speak. But he just sat there. The minutes crawled by like lazy cockroaches.
"So?" I said.
"So?" he replied.
Mila started to hum. She couldn't help herself. "A needle pulling thread," she sang.
I ignored her.
"Time is money, Solofsky," I said. "What's up?"
He grunted and shrugged. Then he ran his tongue across the front of his teeth and made a gross sucking sound. I've known camels with better manners.
"First off," Solofsky began, "I'd solve this case myself, but I'm not allowed at the scene of the crime."
I scratched the back of my neck and listened.
"Start from the beginning," Mila urged. "Tell us everything you remember."
I opened my detective journal.
"I have to clear my good name," Solofsky said angrily. "That guy in the store blamed me for no reason. I put the medal back exactly where I found it!"
"Slow down," I told Solofsky. "What guy? What store? What medal?"
I poured him a glass of grape juice. That seemed to calm him down. "Here's the deal," Solofsky said. "One, I was in that new pet store last Saturday. Two, the grand prize for their animal talent show was on the counter. I picked it up. Then I put it right back down. Now the owner says I stole it."
"What did he say, exactly?" I prodded.
Solofsky groaned. "He said, 'You should return the medal before your aura turns black.'"
"Your aura?" I repeated.
"The guy is a little weird," Bobby answered. He wagged a finger in a circular motion beside his ear. "He's bonkers. He's a Froot Loop, I tell ya. And I've been framed!" I frowned at Bobby's description. His words left a bad taste in my mouth.
"Tell us more about this pet shop," Mila said.
"It's crazy," Solofsky scoffed. "There's this really loud- talking parrot. And animals run around free. Like, um, there's a cat and a ferret."
I glanced down at my notes. "Let me get this straight, Solofsky. You're not allowed in the store because the owner thinks you stole some kind of medal. Is that right?" Solofsky nodded.
"And you want to hire us to help clear your name?"
"That's right," Solofsky said.
"When is the contest?" Mila asked. "And is this medal the grand prize?"
"I was getting to that," Solofsky snorted. "It's an animal talent show. The contest is this Saturday. The winner gets this cool gold medal. I figure it's worth a few bucks, for sure," he added.
I looked Solofsky in the eye. "I've got to ask," I said. "Did you take it?"
"No way," he blurted.
"One more thing," I said. "Why do you care if you're not allowed in the store? You don't even have a pet."
Bobby tapped his foot. His eyes narrowed. "There is this little white puppy," he confessed. "She's kind of cute and I like to visit her. You know, play with her and stuff."
I'll admit it. That surprised me. I never figured Solofsky for the cute puppy type.
A scream came from my house. It was my mom again. "Rags!" she hollered.
Another shoe was missing.
I locked eyes with Mila. Then I pushed a glass jar toward Solofsky. "We'll look into it for you," I promised. "Three dollars ought to be enough to get us started."
"Three dollars?!" Solofsky protested.
I shrugged. "That's the price, pal. Hire us, or don't hire us. It makes no difference to me."
Solofsky grumbled, muttered, and moaned. Then he shoved three crumpled dollars in the jar.
Fur, Fins & Feathers
It was time to take a little trip to the pet store. My brother Billy was happy to drive Mila and me. We brought Rags along for the ride. Billy never missed a chance to borrow my mom's car. Besides, he told me, his girlfriend worked there.
"Rain?" I asked.
"What kind of name is that?" Mila asked.
"Her parents are a little ... different," Billy explained.
"No kidding," I answered. "Does she have a sister named Partly Cloudy?"
"Har-har, detective," Billy groaned. He pulled up the car in front of the store.
"Come on, Rags," I said. "We've got a little detective work to do."
It was good for Rags to get out of the house. He'd been making my mom a little crazy lately. I figured the pet store owner might give me some advice on how to solve Ragsy's shoe problem. It was the perfect cover. No one would suspect Mila and I were really snooping around for clues.
There was a sign over the door.
FUR, FINS & FEATHERS
I pulled off my baseball cap and scratched my head. "Kind of a weird name," I murmured to Mila as we stepped inside.
"Hi, Billy!" A tall girl with white teeth and twinkling eyes waved to my brother from behind the counter.
"Who-o-o-oa!" a shaggy-haired man exclaimed. "My daughter and I were just talking about you, Billy, and like, wow, here you are!" He snapped his fingers in astonishment. As if Billy walking in the door was the most amazing thing that had ever happened.
"Hey, Jax," Billy said, squeezing my shoulder. "This is my little brother Jigsaw. He's looking for some advice."
"Far out," Jax said. "Billy's little bro."
Okay, confession time: I wasn't exactly honest with Billy about the case. After all, his girlfriend was a suspect. That's the thing in my line of work. Everybody's a suspect, and anything is possible. It can put a detective in a tight spot. I didn't want Billy to know that I was checking out a robbery — and that his own girlfriend might be the thief. After all, she was at the scene of the crime.
"Where are my glasses?" Jax patted his pockets, scratched his head, and looked around the store. "The animal kingdom is full of sticky-fingered critters. I love it! Where's my green tea?" He wandered off, searching for his lost cup of tea.
Mila and I made eye contact. Neither of us had a clue about what Jax had just said. Mila nodded at a sign above the counter.
"Wow," I said, pointing to the sign. "You're having a talent show?"
Rain drew her lips together in a tight frown. "Yes, but," she said, "the grand prize is missing. My father thinks a boy took it this weekend."
"Were there witnesses?" I asked.
"Not exactly," Rain said. "I saw the boy holding the prize. And the next minute, it was gone."
"What will you do without a prize?" Mila asked. She poked me with her elbow and crept off to look around the store.
"We'll think of something," Rain said.
I tried to keep Rain talking while Mila checked out the store.
"Maybe I can solve the mystery for you." I pulled out my detective journal. "Give me the facts," I said.
Rain smiled at me. "Well, okay. Why not? There was an older couple looking at the fish. And there was a girl named Danika who was upset about the animals in cages...."
"Animals in cages! Animals in cages!" a high-pitched voice squawked. I turned and saw a parrot pacing on a stand, screaming its head off. "Cages! Cages!" it repeated over and over.
Suddenly, a cat and a ferret raced over my shoes, through my legs, and across the floor.
Rags leaped up and strained at his leash.
"Sorry." Rain laughed. "The cat's name is Rainbow, and this is Curiosity, our ferret. They're both free to roam around the store." Rain picked up the ferret and gently stroked its head. The ferret reached up and playfully batted at Rain's earring.
Meanwhile, Rags was pretty much flipping out. He whined and pulled on his leash. "Shhh, Rags," I said. "It's okay."
Mila pointed to a photograph on the wall of Rain and her family. She called me over. "Look at this, Jigsaw," Mila said with a laugh. "The ferret is sitting on that lady's head!"
Solofsky was right about one thing. This sure was a lively little store. "That Jax," I whispered. "He's a little..."
"Colorful?" Mila suggested.
"Yeah," I agreed. "And nobody actually saw Bobby take the prize. As strange as this might seem, Solofsky might be telling the truth."
Woof, woof! Rags pawed at me in alarm. The ferret, Curiosity, was trying to tackle his tail.
Jax quickly came over. "It's cool, Jigsaw, no worries," he cooed calmly. "Ferrets are active little critters. They're always into something. But they sure make life interesting!"
It was time to go. Between the squawking and the meowing and the barking, I'd had enough of the wonders of nature for one day. I needed peace and quiet so I could think. At Jax's suggestion, I bought a cheap chew toy for Rags. Maybe this would keep him from stealing Mom's shoes.
Guess who wasn't talking about the animal talent show at school the next day?
And I was getting worried. If I didn't find the missing prize, Solofsky would tell everyone that I couldn't crack the case. I wondered if Solofsky was setting me up. This could all be another one of his tricks to make me look bad.
Before the morning bell, kids were lying on the reading rug, talking at desks, or just hanging around. By the cubbies, I heard Lucy Hiller tell Mila that she was planning to enter the contest. "But before I finished filling out the form in the store, I noticed my glitter purse was missing." Lucy complained, "I still don't know what happened to it."
Hmmm. That made for two robberies at Fur, Fins & Feathers. I wondered if the person who took the grand prize also stole Lucy's purse.
Joey Pignattano walked in the door. He looked like he'd just lost a fight with a wolverine. He had scratches all over his hands and face.
"What happened to you?" I asked.
"Four words, Jigsaw," Joey said, glumly holding up four fingers. "Never dress a cat."
"Eyes are —" Ms. Gleason stood at her desk and waited for us to answer her.
"WATCHING!" some of us answered.
"Ears are —"
"LISTENING!" more of us answered.
We moved to our desks. I bumped into Danika Starling. She was a suspect, too. I'd have to get some answers from her sooner or later.
"Hands are —"
"QUIET!" everyone answered.
"Feet are —"
"STILL!" we answered loudly.
"Lips are —"
"SMILING!" we shouted. Everyone was seated and paying attention.
Ms. Gleason smiled. "I know everyone is excited about the animal talent show," she said. "So as part of our study on animal behavior, I'm offering extra credit if you go to the contest and write a short report."
Everybody started chattering again.
"Are you going to enter your basset hound?" Nicole Rodriguez asked Ms. Gleason.
"Oh, goodness no!" Ms. Gleason said with a laugh. "Brutus doesn't do tricks. But he does have some interesting behaviors. Which brings us to our next assignment. I want each of you to choose an animal and list four interesting ways in which that animal behaves. Use your own pet if you have one."
Oh, great, I thought. Rags in action. He sleeps. He drools. He sleeps some more. I scribbled a quick picture, including a puddle of slime.
"I saw some really cool snakes at the zoo on Saturday," Eddie Becker blurted out. "Can I use them?"
"Yes, you may choose any animal you like," Ms. Gleason answered. "Even our class hamster!"
Just before recess, I got a secret message from Mila.
MT M T TH TR SWNG. HV NWS.
"So, what's up?" I asked Mila on the playground. I held up her coded message and read, "Meet me at the tire swing. I have news." It was one of our favorite codes. Mila had left out all the vowels!
"Rain was right," Mila said. "Danika was in the pet store at the time of the robbery. She was protesting the treatment of the animals."
"Danika thinks some of the cages are too small," Mila explained.
My list of suspects was growing. Danika Starling is room 201's biggest animal lover. I wondered if she was mad enough at the pet store to steal.
"I've got an idea," Mila said. "You should enter Rags in the contest."
"Rags? In a talent show?" I laughed. "Rags is a good dog, but he doesn't exactly have any talents."
"It will get you behind the scenes," Mila urged. "It might help us break the case."
"Yeah," I muttered. "And I'll get laughed at when Rags sleeps through the whole thing!"
The Case of the Missing Talent
"Little Holmes!" Jax greeted me when I walked in the store.
"Hi, Jigsaw," Rain said. "I was just telling Dad that you're a detective. Are you here to solve the mystery?"
"Actually, my mom is parked outside," I said. "I just want to enter Rags in the contest."
"Awesome, Little Holmes!" Jax shouted again.
"Dad loves Sherlock Holmes," Rain explained.
I nodded politely and tried to put a smile on my face. Little Holmes? Yuck. Theodore was bad enough. I didn't need another name. "You can call me Jigsaw," I suggested.
Jax was a suspect. By pretending that the grand prize was stolen, he wouldn't have to spend money on a giveaway. It was definitely a motive. The oldest one in the world, in fact. Money.
I went over the list of suspects. Rain said the older couple never even came to the front counter. So they couldn't have done it.
That left four suspects: Solofsky, Danika, Jax, and Rain. I needed proof. Hard facts. Right now, it was like trying to do a puzzle with some of the pieces missing.
"What talent does your dog have?" Rain asked.
"That's the problem," I grumbled. "He doesn't seem to have one."
Rain pinched her lower lip thoughtfully. "All animals have talent. You could give Rags a doggy IQ test," she suggested.
"Brilliant idea!" Jax cheered. He fished around the cluttered counter until he found a magazine article. He handed it to me. The headline read: HOW SMART IS YOUR DOG?
"Thanks," I said, shoving the magazine into my backpack.
Squawk! "Funny ferret! Funny ferret!"
Excerpted from "A Jigsaw Jones Mystery: The Case of the Best Pet Ever"
Copyright © 2003 James Preller.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Teddy,
Chapter 2 Grand Prize Gone!,
Chapter 3 Fur, Fins & Feathers,
Chapter 4 Behave!,
Chapter 5 The Case of the Missing Talent,
Chapter 6 IQ Test,
Chapter 7 Dropping Clues,
Chapter 8 Tricky Business,
Chapter 9 The Hiding Place,
Chapter 10 Suspects by the Dozen!,
Chapter 11 Rags to Riches,
Excerpt: The Case from Outer Space,
Other Books By James Preller,
About the Author,