Authors: Mary Elise Monsell
The Mysterious Case of Mr. Pin
Mary Elise Monsell
To my parents
The sky was dark. The air was cold. It had been days since Mr. Pin left his home at the South Pole to be a detective in Chicago.
A black wing pulled the bus cord at Wabash Street. The driver watched as Mr. Pin hopped out of the bus into a swarm of snowflakes.
“Mind your step,” the driver said.
The door creaked shut and the bus headed west. Mr. Pin headed north.
He was at home in Chicago. It was cold.
Mr. Pin was a rock hopper penguin, mostly black and white, with long yellow plumes on both sides of his head. He wore a checked cap and a red muffler. A mysterious black bag was tucked under his wing.
Suddenly a rock hit a streetlight. Glass splintered. A black car squealed around the corner and disappeared.
Mr. Pin picked up the rock. A note was attached.
“Pay up or else,” it said.
“Could be trouble,” Mr. Pin said out loud, putting the rock into his black bag. “Looks like I arrived in Chicago just in time.”
Just ahead was a dinerâ
Smiling Sally's Good Food
I wonder if the rock was meant for that diner, thought Mr. Pin.
The windows were iced over. A light was on, and Mr. Pin went inside. The diner was empty except for a smiling lady standing behind a curved counter.
“I'm Sally,” she said.
“I'm Mr. Pin,” he said, shedding his cap. “Detective Pinâreasonable rates.”
“We need a detective around here,” said Sally. “There's been trouble.”
“Trouble?” asked Mr. Pin as he hopped up onto a stool.
“Gangsters,” said Sally with a shiver. “But you don't look like you're from around here,” she added, spinning a cup in her hand.
“I travel a lot, but I'm from the South Pole,” said Mr. Pin, resting his beak on the counter.
“Want something cold?” asked Sally, her eyes twinkling.
“I like ice cream,” said Mr. Pin. “Especially chocolate.” He took off his muffler and fanned his feathers so they would dry.
“Chocolate ice cream coming right up,” said Sally. “No charge.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Pin, nodding his head sleepily.
“No reason why big cities can't have big hearts. Just call me Sally or Smiling Sally. This is my place, so I do what I want. Food's good and you meet interesting people. Where did you say you're from?”
Suddenly, with a blast of cold air, two very mean-looking customers stormed in. Sally dropped a whole tray of clean cups.
Mr. Pin sat up with a start.
Gangsters! he thought. He hopped behind a counter and grabbed a heavy rag mop. Mr. Pin was ready for trouble.
The two thugs wore shiny black shoes and trench coats with the collars pulled up to their ears. One was short. One was tall and big. The short one did the talking.
“All right, Sally,” he said, “where's our money?”
“I don't have the money,” said Sally. “Business has been bad since the weather's been so cold.”
“Maybe you should charge more money,” said the thug with a sneer as he mashed sugar cubes with a saltshaker.
“Yeah, and stop giving away so much food,” said the tall one.
“I'll do the talking, Jake,” snapped the short one.
“Hey, Mac, what's that?” asked Jake as Mr. Pin darted past. “Looked like a penguin.”
“It's just a waiter,” sniffed Mac.
“Business can't be that bad, boss. He was wearing a tuxedo,” said Jake.
“Yeah,” said Mac to Sally. “We want our money by midnight tomorrow or we'll blow up your diner.” Mac pulled out a smelly cigar. Jake lit it and the two left to a waiting limousine.
Mr. Pin slipped out the back and watched the car pull away. It was the same black car Mr. Pin had seen when the streetlight was broken!
The next morning, Mr. Pin woke to the smell of warm cinnamon rolls and the sound of an elevated train rumbling past. Sally had put him up for the night on a cot in the back room.
Suddenly a little girl with curly red hair poked her head into his room and demanded, “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” asked Mr. Pin.
“I asked first,” said the little girl as she came into the room and sat down.
“Very well,” said Mr. Pin, studying the little girl in the blue plaid jumper. “My name is Mr. Pin, penguin detective from the South Pole.”
“That's nice,” said the little girl. “I'm Maggie, and I live upstairs with my Aunt Sally and two gerbils. Have you solved any crimes yet?”
“Not yet, I'm just starting. But I may have a crime to solve right here.”
“Really!” said Maggie excitedly. “I think I'll be a detective, too. I don't have school today. Are you hungry?” Maggie had a way of talking all at once.
Mr. Pin was always hungry, so he quickly said yes and hopped after Maggie through the kitchen into the steamy diner.
“Hello,” said Sally. “Have some nice hot cinnamon rolls.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Pin as he hopped up onto a stool between two truckers. They nodded to him as they shoveled scrambled eggs into their mouths. Mr. Pin shoveled cinnamon rolls into his beak.
“Mr. Pin's from the South Pole,” said Sally. “He's a penguin detective.”
Mr. Pin nodded. His beak was stuck together with honey.
“This is Hank,” said Maggie. “Hank delivers ice cream.”
Mr. Pin's eyes lit up.
“Sally put you up for the night?” asked Hank as he elbowed the hungry penguin.
Mr. Pin nodded.
“Sally takes care of everybody,” said another trucker named George. “She gives people food, puts 'em up for the night. I don't know what we'd all do without Sally and her diner.”
Several truckers nodded in agreement as they bundled up in heavy coats. The diner emptied quickly as they left for work. Mr. Pin held up a sticky wing to wave good-bye.
Sally looked worried.
“It's no use,” said Sally in tears as she counted the money. “We just don't have enough to pay those gangsters.”
“What gangsters?” shouted Maggie.
“Jake and Mac want your aunt to pay them money by midnight or they'll blow up her diner,” said Mr. Pin, wiping honey off his beak.
“That's terrible,” said Maggie.
“Right,” agreed Mr. Pin. “But don't worry, Sally,” he said. Mr. Pin wiped Sally's eyes with a napkin. “I'll come up with a plan. At the South Pole, penguins have to stick together or they'd freeze.”
Mr. Pin fanned his feathers and stared at a stack of stainless steel ice cream dishes. “Freeze!” shouted Mr. Pin excitedly. “That's it. We'll freeze the gangsters.”
Maggie wondered what Mr. Pin could mean by freezing gangsters and she meant to find out. Maggie followed Mr. Pin as he hurried off to the back room. Mr. Pin hopped about the room, deep in thought. All of a sudden he said, “We're going to need two chairs, two very large buckets, and lots of ice cream, preferably chocolate.” Mr. Pin rummaged through his black bag and added, “I have everything else.”
Maggie wrote down what Mr. Pin needed in a notebook. She liked being organized.
“How much ice cream are you going to need?” she asked.
“Enough to turn the diner into the South Pole,” said Mr. Pin.
“That could be a lot,” said Maggie.
“Here's the plan,” said Mr. Pin. “The gangsters walk into the diner at midnight. We'll each pull a rope that is attached to a bucket of ice cream. The ice cream will fall on their heads and, presto, the thugs will turn into walking snow cones.”
“What happens if the snow cones try to get away?” asked Maggie.
“I have a couple of tricks in mind,” said Mr. Pin mysteriously. “But we'll need the truckers to surround the diner.”
“Right,” said Maggie. “I'll ask Hank to bring ice cream and have the truckers here by midnight.”
“Aren't the truckers in their trucks now?” asked Mr. Pin.
“I'll call them on my CB,” said Maggie, running up the back stairs two at a time.
Mr. Pin hopped up after Maggie. In a small room on a desk next to a gerbil cage was a CB radio and microphone. Because there was an antenna on the roof, Maggie could talk to the truckers while they were on the road.
Maggie picked up the microphone. “Breaker 1-9, this is Orphan Annie. That's my radio name. Hank, we need ice cream fast. Preferably chocolate. Lots of it, too. It's an emergency.”
“That's a roger, Annie,” came the call. “But right now my truck is stuck in a snowbank and there's a blizzard on the way.”
“Roger, Hank,” said Maggie. “But some gangsters said they'd blow up the diner at midnight unless Sally could get them money. Sally can't, so we need ice cream for a trap, and we need trucks to surround the diner.”
“We all want to help,” radioed George. “But we're all stuck out on the highway. Roads are closed. A semi is jackknifed. And the diner here doesn't have cinnamon rolls.”
“Oh, dear!” said Maggie.
Mr. Pin hopped up on Maggie's desk and grabbed the mike. “All right, truckers. This is Detective Pin. Sally really needs your help. Now just stick together and don't give up.”
Maggie manned the radio while Mr. Pin hopped down the stairs and worked on the trap. First he hammered two chairs onto the wall above the door. Then he balanced two buckets on top of the chairs. Next he tied two pieces of rope onto the handles of the buckets. When he pulled the rope, the buckets tipped down, just over the doorway.
Outside the wind howled and the snow pounded into the glass windows. Mr. Pin was worried.
“Any news?” asked Mr. Pin when Maggie came down for dinner.
“The trucks are still stuck,” was all she said. She grabbed a plateful of sandwiches and hurried back upstairs to her CB.
It was almost midnight. Still no ice cream and still no truckers.
The phone rang.
“Hello,” said Maggie.