Authors: Mary Elise Monsell
“No wonder Pete the chicken man was missing. He wasn't there, because he was here.” Maggie was very logical.
“Right,” said Mr. Pin, who understood Maggie's logic.
“We have to find him,” said Maggie.
“And we have to find out what's in this box,” said Mr. Pin.
“Aunt Sally is going to worry,” said Maggie, skipping after her penguin friend. Sally always worried when they missed a meal.
“Right,” said Mr. Pin, hopping over potholes. His red beak darted through the crowd of lunchtime shoppers. Overhead, an elevated train screeched to a stop. Maggie and Mr. Pin burst into Smiling Sally's diner.
Inside the diner there was a crush of hungry truckers. Sally was busy flipping burgers and pouring cool lemonade. Sally loved feeding people, especially Maggie and Mr. Pin.
“You're all right,” said Sally to Mr. Pin. With a wide smile, she handed him a tall lemonade. Sally had a smile that sang.
“I don't know too many penguins who can handle this heat,” said the trucker named Hank, whisking away sweat.
“I don't know too many penguins,” said a confused man who was delivering ice.
“You don't know Mr. Pin,” said Hank. “Mr. Pin is a detective. He's been here since he saved Sally from a gang of gangsters.”
“That's right,” said Sally. “Now what'll it be, Maggie dear. You had me a bit worried when you were late for lunch.”
But Maggie was worried about the chicken man. She didn't want the trail to get cold while they sat in the steamy diner.
Mr. Pin tucked cinnamon rolls, grilled-cheese sandwiches, and lemonade under his wing and steered Maggie to the back room.
Maggie spread the food out on Mr. Pin's desk. Meanwhile, Mr. Pin made short work of the tape and string around the homeless lady's mysterious box.
Quickly, Maggie pulled shreds of paper from the box. Underneath there was more paper and finally a roll of cotton.
“It's a chocolate pigeon!” shouted Maggie.
“It doesn't smell right,” said Mr. Pin. “It's not chocolate.”
“Then what is it?” asked Maggie.
“Clay,” said Mr. Pin.
“If it's not chocolate, then why would the homeless lady who's really the chicken man give us a clay pigeon that looks like a chocolate pigeon when he's being chased by a runner who isn't a runner?” Maggie had a way of talking all at once.
“I don't know,” said Mr. Pin, “but I'm going to find out.”
“And where,” asked Maggie, “did the chicken man go?”
Moments later Mr. Pin and Maggie were hot on the trail of the chicken man. First stop was the chicken shop on Monroe.
Florrie, the chicken man's wife, was wringing her hands.
“He's here, but I don't know what's wrong with him,” she cried. “Ever since his uncle George died, Pete's been so â¦ strange.”
Maggie and Mr. Pin went to the back room, where Pete the chicken man sat on a stool, shaking.
“Why did you give us a clay pigeon?” asked Mr. Pin.
“And why did you meet us at the park?” asked Maggie.
“I had no choice. Someone was following me,” said Pete. “So I disguised myself as a homeless lady. I always liked pigeons. My uncle George used to take me to the park to feed them. He gave me a clay pigeon just before he died. He said it could be very valuable. He also gave me hundreds of chocolate pigeons from his chocolate shop in Indiana.”
Mr. Pin looked at the clay pigeon and wondered how it could be valuable. Chocolate pigeons seemed more artistic.â¦ Maybe it was a clue.
“Uncle George said we could use this pigeon to help homeless people,” said Pete. “We need to find out why this bird is valuable before we can help anyone. Uncle George never had a chance to tell me.
“Maybe it's priceless art,” said Maggie.
“I don't know,” said Pete. “But I do know someone else wants it.”
“The runner in the park,” said Mr. Pin. “We'll set a trap and bait it with a chocolate pigeon. It may be dangerous. Are you willing to take a chance?”
“Yes,” said Pete.
“Now here's the trap,” explained Mr. Pin. “Wrap up a chocolate pigeon in a box like the one you gave us. Bring it to the diner tonight. Hopefully the runner will trail you to Smiling Sally's.”
“All right,” said Pete, still shaking. “I'll do it. Thanksâ”
But before Pete could finish thanking them, Mr. Pin and Maggie had disappeared.
Smiling Sally's diner simmered in the evening heat. Sally was busy in the alley passing out free food to homeless people. Mr. Pin and Maggie waited inside. Pete's clay pigeon was safely hidden in Mr. Pin's black bag, which he kept in the back room.
A slow ceiling fan cranked in the sweltering silence.
The diner was empty when Pete the chicken man approached the door. Suddenly he tripped on a black shiny foot and threw his box into the air. For the second time that day, Mr. Pin caught the box just in time.
From a shadow came the shiny-shoed runner, a skinny man wearing a knit cap.
“I want that pigeon,” growled the runner.
“What's so great about a clay pigeon,” asked Mr. Pin, stepping toward the door.
“It's not the bird,” sneered the skinny man. “It's the jewels.”
Maggie's eyes popped.
Pete plopped onto a stool.
“What jewels?” probed Mr. Pin, his mind racing.
“The jewels in the bird. I helped George make chocolate pigeons in Indiana. He ran the shop. I stirred the vats. One day he said he hid his grandmother's jewels in a clay pigeon. He said he was giving them to his nephew. Now I want that pigeon.”
Mr. Pin had an idea. “You can have the pigeon,” he said. “But this is the wrong one. The real pigeon is in the back room.
Maggie couldn't believe her ears.
Pete was stunned. Mr. Pin was going to give the jewels to a crook. The homeless people would never get warm clothes and food to eat.
Mr. Pin hopped off to get his black bag. When he returned, he gave the thief the clay bird and had him promise never to bother Pete again.
Pete buried his head in his hands while the runner who was not a runner snickered and cackled out the door.
But Mr. Pin had a plan.
“Quick,” he said. “Back to the chicken shop. One of the Monroe Street chocolate pigeons is the real thing. That clay bird is a fake.”
“How do you know?” asked Maggie.
“Because Uncle George did not tell Pete that the pigeon
valuable. He said it
be valuable,” explained Mr. Pin. “Uncle George wanted people to believe the jewels were in the clay pigeon. That way, Pete would always have the jewels safe in a chocolate bird.”
“Why was a chocolate bird safer than a clay bird?” asked Maggie.
“Because Uncle George had hundreds of chocolate pigeons. Think of all the hundreds of hiding places to confuse a thief. Besides, why would anyone hide jewels in a clay pigeon when he had a chocolate pigeon?”
“You're right,” said Pete, dabbing his eyes. “He loved chocolate.”
“A great man,” said Mr. Pin, “who knew his chocolate and wanted to help the homeless.”
Maggie, Pete, and Mr. Pin raced back to the chicken shop. They chopped up several chocolate birds and finally found the glittering jewels. A siren wailed in the distance.
“I called the police,” said Mr. Pin, “while I was in back getting the box.”
“Good thinking,” said Maggie.
“Thanks,” said Pete.
“I don't think that scoundrel will be bothering any of us again,” said Maggie. “Right, Mr. Pin?”
But Mr. Pin didn't answer. He was happily preening chocolate from his wing â¦ and thinking that his memoirs would be one chapter longer.
All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this ebook or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Originally published by Atheneum.
Copyright Â© 1989, 2007 by Mary Elise Monsell
Illustrations copyright Â© 1989, 2007 by Eileen Christelow
Distributed in 2016 by Open Road Distribution
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