"Bound to be a series that will appeal to fans of fast-paced mysteries." —SLJ
Not many sixth-graders work undercover for the NYPD, but Edmund Xavier Lonnrot, code name Eddie Red, is not just any sixth-grader. A “near-death ice cream experience” lands him as a material witness in the police station with his dad, where the NYPD first discovers Eddie's photographic memory and uncanny sketch-artist abilities. Things get dangerous when Eddie is recruited to help track down the infamous Picasso Gang that’s casing NYC's famous Museum Mile. Look for the sequel on p. 53!
About the Author
When Marcia Wells discovered the crime writing of Jorge Luis Borges in graduate school, she was hooked. She is now a middle school teacher and lives with her husband and two young children in Bristol, Vermont.
Marcos Calo is an illustrator, animator, and comic book aficionado. He lives in A Coruña, Spain. Visit his website at www.marcoscalo.com.
Read an Excerpt
“State your name.”
The officer looks up at me and frowns. “State your real name. For the police report.” He jabs a meaty finger at the paperwork in front of him.
“Edmund Lonnrot,” I reply, making sure to keep my voice steady despite my wobbly insides. Worst Night Ever.
He sighs. “I suppose you have a middle name?”
Now, I know for a fact there are at least a dozen secret files in this office with my name on them (middle name included), so either this guy doesnt have security clearance or hes strict about official procedure. Judging from the hard glint in his eyes, hes not going to appreciate any comments I might have on the matter.
“Oh,” I say lamely. “Xavier.”
He rubs his temples, clearly counting to ten in his head the way he’s supposed to when it comes to dealing with children.
“All right, Mr. ‘O Xavier,’ here’s how this works: I’m going to tell you what we know, and then you’re going to tell me what you know. I expect your full cooperation.”
“We have a detective in the hospital. We’ve got a smashed van, suspects in custody, and a street in chaos. And we’ve got you, a material witness covered in blood. Does that sound about right?”
I nod again. Misery.
He sits back in his chair, tapping a pen on the desk. I half expect him to shine one of those bright lights in my eyes like they do in the movies. Instead he just starts chewing on the pen cap, swishing it around in his mouth, reminding me of a cow chomping on its cud.
“I want to know what happened,” he snaps, his count-to-ten demeanor cracking.
I gaze at the desk, numb. Where’s the trauma counselor? The psychiatric attention? I’ve been through a lot tonight.
When I don’t respond, he starts a lecture a mile long about what he can do to me if I don’t answer his questions: hold me there indefinitely, take me to court—to jail even. Maybe the jail for grownups, and wouldn’t that be a horrible thing to have happen? This guy has nothing on my mother. She and my dad are going to skin me alive. And as far as Detective Bovano is concerned, I am dead meat. He’s going to grind me into burger, serve up Edmund patties to his buddies.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone about the stakeout?” the officer shouts, full on angry now. Policemen usually don’t yell at kids like this, but I’ve broken about two million laws tonight, so I guess I have it coming. The kicker is, I did tell someone. Detective Bovano. A fat lot of good that did him.
Thinking of the detective snaps me out of my stupor. I put on my extrapolite voice, the one I reserve for church, weddings, and funerals; there may be a dead body by the end of this conversation. “I would like to speak with Bovano. He’s my supervisor.”
“Yeah, great. Sure. Except he’s in the hospital. Gunshot wound. You know, the bullet that could have killed you?”
“Is he going to be okay?” My voice cracks. They told me it wasn’t serious, but maybe they lied. If anything’s happened, then it’s all my fault.
Officer Molino (finally I have read the nameplate on his desk) scratches the short black hair on his head. Come to think of it, he’s sort of a younger version of Detective Bovano: bulky, Italian, and perpetually irritated at the world. Although, unlike Bovano, this guy seems to have a soft spot for kids with crackly voices.
“He’s fine. The bullet just grazed his chest. You can see him this weekend if you want.” He offers me a small smile.
I relax my shoulders and start to breathe a little easier. Bovano isn’t dead, Edmund. You stopped the bleeding. You helped him.
“I still need answers,” Molino pushes, more gently this time.
“Have you called my parents?”
He nods. “They know you’re safe, but you can’t speak with them until we’re done here. You signed away your rights when you joined the force—you know that.” He leans forward, eyeballing me. “Just answer the questions, Edmund.”
I put my head in my hands. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I’m exhausted. And extremely nervous about the impending parental wrath, not to mention feeling guilty about Detective Bovano. “I’m tired,” I say. “It’s nine at night, my parents are going to kill me, and I just want to go home. Can’t we talk about this tomorrow morning?”
The officer shakes his head. “It’s gotta be tonight.
While it’s fresh.”
I sigh, smelling defeat. “What do you want to know?”
“Where should I start?”
“How about at the beginning, hmm?” he says, holding his pen ready above the desk.
“All right, but I’d like to have some water, please. And an orange soda. I need some sugar if I’m going to get through this.”
He stares at me, mouth open in disbelief, and then he caves. Muttering something under his breath, he turns and signals to someone across the room. I smile. Orange soda, a forbidden beverage at my house, is on its way.
I shouldn’t be here. I should be at home watching a movie, hanging out with my best friend and doing normal things that eleven-year-olds do, like wrestling until a lamp breaks or making things explode in the microwave.
But instead, I’m Eddie Red. And I am in a lot of trouble.
If you’re a kid, there are three things you need in order to solve a police investigation:
1. A unique crime-fighting talent
2. A best friend who’s a genius
3. A boatload of dumb luck
The dumb luck began with an ice cream cone on the Upper East Side during a January thaw.
The term January thaw is a lie, at least in New York City. The forecasters tell you it will be fifty degrees out and everybody gets all excited, and gullible kids like me wear shorts to school. But what they don’t tell you is that the wind chill will be negative ten and the sun will only be out for three hours, so in the end it
all balances out to a nice thirty degrees on the street.
I’ve had goose bumps the size of icebergs all day. At least my mom made me wear my winter jacket.
“I’ll have pistachio, please,” I say to the lady behind the counter. The ice cream shop is warm and cheerful, with sunny paintings on the wall of kids playing Frisbee in the park and swimming at the beach.
The fact that it’s January also means that the ice cream has been sitting there undisturbed since October, so in ice cream years that’s about eighty. The woman goes elbow-deep into the tub of pistachio and forces the dregs of the barrel into a cone. Dregs that are covered in freezer burn. My suspicions are confirmed: this ice cream is going to be über-stale.
“I’ll have the same,” a deep voice echoes behind me. My dad. He smiles down at me, one of his enormous hands coming to rest on my shoulder, the other adjusting the thick glasses that lie across the bridge of his nose.
“I love pistachio,” he says, speaking to the woman, who is clearly Not Interested.
“It tastes good,” he continues, “but I’m always more keen on what color it’s going to be. It isn’t naturally green, but because the pistachio nut itself is green, people expect the ice cream to be green like they do with mint. Which isn’t naturally green either. “So the companies add green food dye to it. You never know quite what you’re going to get. Ooh!” he exclaims as she hands him the cone. “Today’s is positively neon! I think we could call it plutonium!”
The woman’s brow crinkles and she gets that startled expression on her face like most people do when they meet my dad. He looks like a three-hundred pound linebacker who can wrestle a bull with his bare hands, and yet he’s in a sweater vest and bow tie (not on my recommendation, believe me).
When he opens his mouth to speak, I don’t know if people are expecting a caveman because of his size or what, but usually within thirty seconds it becomes clear that Dad truly knows everything about everything, from the weather patterns in the Amazon to quantum physics to food dye in pistachio ice cream. It’s part of his job.
Cones in hand, we leave the shop and head down a quieter street toward an empty park bench. I sit and watch the traffic trickle by, trying to ignore the gloom brewing in my stomach. Ice cream out with Dad usually means one thing: serious conversations involving bad news. Like the time when he told me that my hamster Leviticus had been trapped and eaten by Sadie, our evil cat. That day involved some cookies ‘n’ cream and a whole lot of tissues.
“Edmund,” my father says quietly, hailing the arrival of the Moment of Reckoning. My stomach does a somersault. All breathing stops.
I should be on a bus headed over to the Upper West Side, where we live. I wish I were on that bus. I’d be a lot warmer. And calmer.
“Edmund, they’ve cut my hours back at the library again. I’m going to search for a different job, but in this economy . . .” He lets the sentence hang there. I know where this is going. I’ve heard the rumblings at home. I don’t want to hear what he’s going to say next, so I take a big lick of my ice cream in a desperate attempt to distract my brain. Yuck. Gurgly things start happening to my already churning digestive tract.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “but we can’t send you back to Senate next year. We just can’t afford it. You’ll have to switch schools. But don’t worry,” he adds, patting my hand. “You’ll make new friends. And you can visit Jonah on the weekends.”
No more Senate Academy? The words wash over me, fizzing on my skin like a bad rash. No more awesome classes like architecture and photography and fencing? No more bus rides or bagel breakfast sandwiches with Jonah? Or blowing things up in chem lab with Jonah or eating at Al’s Pizza after school with Jonah?
“What about a loan?” I ask. “I’ll do anything. I’ll get an afterschool job.” Who would hire an eleven-year-old? Maybe the Mafia . . . they have kids run errands for them all the time in the movies. “I’ll pay you back, plus interest. We have to talk to Mom. She’ll know how to fix it.”
Icy wind pricks at my eyes, making them water. Just then a woman walks by in a pink scarf, her green eyes widening with sympathy. Great, she thinks I’m crying. I wipe the frozen tears away quickly. All I need is for someone from my class to witness this and I’ll be called Little Boo Boo Sniffles or something equally moronic for the rest of the year. Although, maybe if Dad thinks I’m crying he’ll take pity on me . . .
“Edmund,” my father says softly. “Your mother agrees with me. Senate is too expensive.”
Nope, no pity today. Before I can regroup and reload, a loud cry calls out from behind us: “Help!”
My dad springs up like a jack-in-the-box and turns his head, eyes shifting toward the alley. For a big guy, the man is seriously quick on his feet.
“Run back to the ice cream shop,” he commands in a whisper. “Call the police. I’ll meet you there.”
He takes off into the alley. Into the alley.
What does he always say? Never go into an alley, at any time, for any reason. Lonnrot Family Rule #1: Avoid alleys at all costs. Dangerous places . . .
And now he is gone. Into an alley.
Every muscle in my body fights with my brain. I can’t move, can’t think, can’t do anything. I pray I don’t pee right here and now. I grip the slats of the park bench, my fingers curling around the cold wood. More yelling, this time spiked with my dad’s deep voice. His shouts jolt me out of my stupidity, because next thing I know my body has thrown itself behind the bench, crouched down low.
Same stupidity, different location.
Loud men’s voices, and now scuffling noises. I flatten my stomach against the pavement, cramming myself under the bench. The cement scrapes at my bare knees. Quite the hero. For once I am psyched to be small.
What do I do? What do I do?
Blend in to your surroundings, soldier! My friend Jonah’s voice shrieks silently in my head. He’s obsessed with military stuff. Quickly I take off my red cap. Without it, maybe I can pass for a blob of garbage; my black winter coat looks like a trash bag, right?
This is the worst hiding place ever. I might as well just lie across the open sidewalk. There are no bushes, no newspaper kiosks, nothing to hide behind. Should I try to flag down a passing car? It’s New York City—no one’s going to stop unless it’s a cab. Plus I’m too chicken to move.
I strain to hear what’s happening. The only sounds are my pulse hammering in my ears, the rustling fabric of my jacket against the gritty stone, and the whoosh of a few cars passing by, their wheels barely visible from my strange hideout. No birds, no dogs, no people. Just machinery and alley brawls in this weather.
Must do something.
I try to fish my cell phone out of the mountain of down quilting I’m tangled in. Finally a chance to call 9-1-1!
Bumbling the phone with icy fingers, I watch helplessly as it clatters away from me on the cement. Terrific.
Assess your situation! Work with what you have! More of Jonah’s combat tactics tick through my mind. Okay, assessing . . . assessing . . . I am wearing shorts and lying on a sidewalk in January. My cell phone is out of reach. I smell gum.
A new wave of fear tightens my lungs as a man comes sprinting out of the alley and whizzing by my park bench. His long black hair and weird, spindly goatee fly back in the breeze as he books out of there. He’s holding a bloody knife in his hand, too distracted to notice the kid sprawled out on the ground.
Click goes the camera in my mind. A bloody knife?