The Odds Of Getting Even

Paperback | April 4, 2017

bySheila Turnage

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Humor and action abound in the next Mo & Dale Mystery—follow-up to the Newbery Honor winner andNew York Times bestseller Three Times Lucky

The trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, NC. Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale's daddy--confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale's nerves are jangled, but Mo, who doesn't mind getting even with Mr. Macon for hurting her loved ones, looks forward to a slam dunk conviction--if everything goes as expected. Of course nothing goes as expected. Macon Johnson sees to that. In no time flat, Macon's on the run, Tupelo Landing's in lockdown, and Dale's brother's life hangs in the balance. With Harm Crenshaw, newly appointed intern, Desperado Detectives are on the case. But it means they have to take on a tough client--one they'd never want in a million years.

For everyone who's already fallen for Mo and Dale, and for anyone who's new to Tupelo Landing, The Odds of Getting Even is a heartwarming story that perfectly blends mystery and action with more serious themes about family and fathers, all without ever losing its sense of humor.

* “As always, Turnage's tale is full of heart and perfect for reading on a front porch.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Another rewarding adventure . . .The writing lulls you with laughter, then occasionally blindsides you with unexpected tenderness.”—Booklist, starred review

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Humor and action abound in the next Mo & Dale Mystery—follow-up to the Newbery Honor winner andNew York Times bestseller Three Times LuckyThe trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, NC. Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale's daddy--confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale's nerves ...

Sheila Turnage is from eastern North Carolina, just like Miss Moses LoBeau, the protagonist from Three Times Lucky. Her first novel for children, Three Times Lucky, is a Newbery Honor winner, a New York Times bestseller, an E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book, and an Edgar Award finalist. It has been nominated for six state awards and has...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 7.75 × 5.06 × 0.91 inPublished:April 4, 2017Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142426164

ISBN - 13:9780142426166

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Chapter 1: Tupelo Landing Inside OutMr. Macon Johnson’s kidnapping trial snatched Tupelo Landing inside out sharp as Miss Rose snaps a pillowcase before she pins it to her wash line. It gave my best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III a triple shot of worry before the courthouse even opened its doors.In the first place, Mr. Macon Johnson is Dale’s daddy.In the second place, Dale and me—cofounders of Desperado Detective Agency—helped put Mr. Macon behind bars last summer, making us top witnesses against him.And in the third place, Dale’s the first in his family ever to testify on the side of the law.The idea of his daddy’s trial twisted Dale so hard, he forgot how to sleep.As for me—Miss Moses LoBeau, a sixth grader in her prime—I looked forward to sending Mr. Macon to the slammer where he belongs. Nobody hurts Dale without hearing from me. Nobody kidnaps the Colonel and Miss Lana without answering to me, either. The Colonel and Miss Lana are my family-of-choice, and I am theirs. As best friend, Dale is family too.Besides, a conviction would look good for Desperado Detective Agency. “This case is a slam dunk,” I reminded the Colonel the day before the trial. “Dale and me heard Mr. Macon confess.” He closed the trunk of our vintage Underbird (which used to be a Thunderbird until the T and H fell off) and sent the Piggly Wiggly grocery cart careening across the parking lot.“A slam dunk?” The Colonel snorted. “There’s no such thing, Mo. An infinite number of things can always go wrong.”The Colonel’s handsome in a rugged, don’t-mess-with-me way. He wears his hair short and bristly and his muscles strong and lean. “Fasten your seat belt, Soldier. And don’t get your hopes up over this trial.”We zipped through Tupelo Landing, NC—population 148—and headed for the café we run with Miss Lana, at the edge of town.“Cat,” I said, reaching across the Colonel’s arm and hitting the horn. An orange cat shot to the sidewalk. The Colonel likes to pretend he wouldn’t have swerved.I know better.I waved at Dale’s brother, Lavender, the dashing racecar driver I will go out with in just seven more years, as he tooled by in his blue 1955 GMC pickup truck. Miss Lana says nobody’s perfect. I say Lavender proves her wrong.“What do you think will happen tomorrow?” I asked the Colonel.“I think we’ll be good friends to Dale,” he said. “It can’t be easy to send your father to jail, even if he’s Macon Johnson. And I think we’ll tell the truth. Beyond that, it’s a crap shoot. But if everything goes as expected, we all testify, the judge rules, and Macon goes to prison for a very long time.”Of course, nothing went as expected.By sundown the next day, Dale and his mama needed a bodyguard, Lavender’s life hung in the balance, and the Desperado Detective Agency had a case we’d never want in a million years.It’s hard to say when things started going sideways. Life still felt on track as the Colonel and me lugged our groceries around the side of the café and into our home in the back half of our building. We seemed on track an hour later when Miss Lana peeked in the door to my flat—which my enemies say is nothing but a closed-in side porch opening off our living room.“Do you have your courtroom outfit ready, sugar?” Miss Lana asked, smoothing her Marilyn Monroe wig. Costuming counts with Miss Lana, a former child star of the Charleston community theater. So do staging and dramatic pauses.“Yes ma’am,” I said, nodding to my rocking chair. I’d laid out my new blue jeans and my clean-enough red sweater. “I’m going as a normal sixth grader,” I added as my phone jangled.She sashayed off as I scooped up the receiver. “Desperado Detective Agency. Felonies are our delight, lost pets our duty. How may we assist you?”“Mo, it’s me. Dale.” Like I wouldn’t recognize my best friend’s voice. “Meet me outside. Daddy’s invited us over, but we ain’t got much time.”Over would be to the county jail.“Harm’s going too,” he said. Harm, who’s new in town, is my best friend next to Dale.I hesitated. Miss Lana says be sensitive and the Colonel says tell the truth. It can be a mind-pretzeling combination. “No thank you to visiting your mean-as-a-snake daddy, but I appreciate the invitation. And I can’t believe Miss Rose is taking you to county lockup,” I added.“Mama’s not taking me,” Dale said. “Lavender is.”Lavender?“I’ll get my jacket,” I replied, and hung up the phone. Five minutes later Lavender wheeled his graceful old pickup truck into our parking lot. Lanky Harm Crenshaw, who has manners, hopped out and held the door for me. “Afternoon, LoBeau,” he said, swinging his tattered gray scarf over his shoulder.Harm’s tall for a sixth grader. Lately he’s been too fashionable to wear a coat, preferring to go scarf-and-sweater for a manly look. If Harm was old enough to shave, he wouldn’t. Ever since him and Dale formed a singing group, he’s trying to be popular with girls older than him.He’s already popular with me. “Hey yourself, Harm Crenshaw.”I peered inside the cab. “Excuse me, Dale. You’re in my seat.” Dale rolled his eyes, which are as blue as Lavender’s, and slid out. Even his freckles looked peeved.I slipped in next to Lavender, who smelled like motor oil. Lavender will one day be NASCAR famous. Until then, he fixes things. Dale and Harm crowded in and slammed the door. If we fit any tighter, we’d have to alternate breathing.“What’s Mr. Macon want?” I asked.“Nothing good,” Lavender said, heading through town. “I wish you’d change your mind about visiting him, little brother.”Dale shook his head. “I got things to ask. Some I can ask you and the Colonel, but some just Daddy knows. This is my last chance.” He peeked at Lavender. “I wish you’d come. It’s mostly you he wants to see. He says it’s important.”Lavender took the truck through her gears smooth as water. “Sorry, Dale. Whatever Macon wants, I don’t have it anymore.” He poked at a newspaper on the dash. “You Desperados made the paper again.”Harm read the story out loud: MACON JOHNSON TRIAL OPENS TOMORROWSmall-time crook Macon Johnson goes to trial tomorrow. He’s accused of helping Robert Slate and Deputy Marla Everette kidnap two of Tupelo Landing’s citizens—Miss Lana and the Colonel, of café fame.Eleven-year-olds Mo LoBeau and Dale Earnhardt Johnson III of Desperado Detective Agency helped capture Macon Johnson, and are top witnesses against him.“Daddy’s mean to me and Mama, and people say we’re better off with him in jail. But don’t write that down,” Dale told reporters at the time of the arrest. “I only turned Daddy in because he confessed to the kidnapping.”Mo had a different take: “I can’t wait to testify. I’ll get even with Mr. Macon if it’s the last thing I do.”The Desperados also captured Deputy Marla Everette and Robert Slate, who will stand trial next year. Their list of alleged crimes includes breaking and entering, bank robbery, kidnapping, and murder. Dale slumped. “It sounds bad when you read it in that newspaper voice.”We wheeled into the jail’s parking lot.“Dale, if you’re determined to do this, I’ll wait right here for you,” Lavender said, cutting the ignition. “I know I’ve said it before, but I wish you wouldn’t go in there. Not this time, little brother.”“I got to,” Dale said. Dale can be stubborn. He looked at Harm and me. “Daddy got this set up special for us. Visiting hours are almost over. Let’s roll.”Mr. Macon sat in the cafeteria-style visiting room, tense as a snarl of wire. Dale took a seat across from him. Harm and me sat, flanking Dale like bodyguards.“Thanks for calling,” Dale said. “I been wanting to talk. I guess my messages didn’t get through.” He slipped a paper from his pocket.I peeked over. At the top it said, Things to Ask. Underneath lay a haphazard spatter of words and squiggles.Dale ain’t a linear thinker.Mr. Macon shot a look at the door. “Where’s Lavender? It’s Lavender I need to talk to, not you.”Miss Lana says never plunge into business without exchanging pleasantries.I smiled at Mr. Macon, who pretty much hates me. “I love what you’ve done with the place,” I said. “Is that new paint? Because the gray tones really make your orange jumpsuit pop. As for Lavender, he can’t make it due to the fact that he’s not coming. Dale showed up for you.”“Tell Lavender to get in here. It’s important.”“Why?”“Because I said so.”We didn’t move. I watched Mr. Macon’s face—all angles and planes, like clay cut with a knife.His eyes glittered. “Dale, how’s your mama?”“She’s good,” Dale said, studying his note. “It’s just me and her now. I’m man of the house, and I got questions.”Dale? The second-smallest kid in sixth grade? The man of the house?Dale looked into his father’s eyes. “If you go away, Mama and me won’t have your get-even reputation to keep us safe anymore. I thought about getting a security system, but they cost, so I traded for guinea fowl instead. Guineas shriek every time anything moves. You know birds: We got coyotes running at night, do I need to—”“Stupid plan,” Mr. Macon said, his voice razor-quick. He leaned forward. “I hear Lavender has a new racecar. Tell him to come talk to me about it.”He’s going away for fifteen years and he wants to talk racecars?“Time’s running out, Dale,” Harm whispered, glancing at the clock.Dale sighed and skipped to the last item on his list. “Good luck in court tomorrow, Daddy,” he said. “I hope they don’t call my name to testify, but if they do, I came here to ask you to pre-forgive me. It would mean a lot.”Mr. Macon took a cigarette from behind his ear and tapped the filter on the table. “Life’s about getting, and then about keeping. I take care of what’s mine. I hoped you’d be man enough to do the same by the time you got on that witness stand, but you always have been a mama’s boy.” He shrugged. “Do what you got to tomorrow, boy. But remember this: I won’t be in here forever.”Harm stood up. “That sounds like a threat.”“Does it?” Mr. Macon asked, rising. Harm pushed in front of Dale and me, his hands balled into fists, and the guard bustled over.“Time to go, folks,” the guard said. “Sorry, Macon.”Mr. Macon glared at Dale. “It’s okay, Earl. I’m done with him.”Mr. Macon knows how to make words into knives and he knows where to slice. My hate for him blossomed all over again. “Is that why you called Dale over here?” I asked. “To bully him?”“I didn’t call for him,” he said, walking to the door. “I want Lavender. Tell him to see me. If he won’t come, tell him he’d better watch his back.”“What does that mean?” I demanded.“Shut your motor mouth and do what I say.”My temper went off like the Fourth of July. “You’ll get yours tomorrow!” I shouted. “Me and my motor mouth will make sure of it.”His steps echoed down the hall.My temper’s a work-in-progress. So far it’s all work and no progress.Dale slipped his list in his pocket. “I’m sorry, Dale,” I said, my anger cooling like a kettle taken off a stove. “He just makes me so mad, and . . .”“I know,” Dale said. “Daddy brings out the worst in people. Also in dogs. It’s a reverse talent he’s got.”“Forget about him,” Harm said, but of course Dale couldn’t.Back in the truck, Dale sat silent as sawdust while Harm and me filled Lavender in.“Mo’s right. He’s a bully,” Lavender told Dale. “We Johnson men aren’t afraid of bullies.”“I am,” Dale said. “A little bit.”“I’ll be there tomorrow. So will the Colonel.” Lavender studied Dale’s face. “And as for being a mama’s boy . . .” Lavender gave him a gentle shove. “We’re nothing like Macon. I’d rather be Rose’s son than Macon’s boy any day of the week.” That night I plucked the Piggly Wiggly Chronicles Volume 7 from my bookshelf, hopped into bed, and picked up my pen. The Chronicles go back to my kindergarten days, when I first started writing to the Upstream Mother who lost me in a hurricane flood on the day I was born. I used to think I’d find her. Now I mostly write to keep track of my life, but you never know—she could show up. Dear Upstream Mother,Dale and me testify against Mr. Macon tomorrow, and I’ll be glad to see him go. Mr. Macon’s the kind of mean you can taste in the back of your mouth.Why Miss Rose ever married him remains a mystery. Miss Lana says time and drink change people, and he used to be a better man.Today he threatened Lavender. I tossed my pen onto my book. I like writing to my Upstream Mother, but sometimes I need immediate answers. I hopped up and padded into the living room.The Colonel and Miss Lana dozed on Miss Lana’s curlicue Victorian settee, her head resting against his shoulder. “Greetings,” I said, and they jumped like startled cats.“Mo,” Miss Lana said, blinking. “Can’t you sleep?”I hesitated. “Miss Lana, I know you like me to be sensitive, so you’ll be glad to know Harm and me kept Dale company over at Mr. Macon’s place today.”“You went to the jailhouse?” Miss Lana said, frowning.“The guard let us in. He likes Mr. Macon.” I looked at the Colonel, who had somehow gone to full attention without moving a muscle. “Mr. Macon threatened Lavender. But when we told Lavender, he shrugged it off.”The Colonel sat up. “Threatened him how?”“He said, ‘If Lavender won’t come see me, tell him to watch his back.’”The Colonel frowned. “Stay away from Macon, Soldier. I’ll talk to Lavender tomorrow.”“Yes, sir. About tomorrow. Dale’s scared . . .”“I’m taking care of things,” he said, and my fear melted like an early snow. He stretched his wiry arms over his head. “Lights out, Soldier. We’re fine.”I didn’t know it then, but things were already going sideways. Chapter 2: Trial DayThe next morning—Trial Day—I cranked up the café radiators at six a.m. Our string of Thanksgiving lights glowed a soft swag of halos against the café windows.Dale’s dog, Queen Elizabeth II, sauntered across the room and collapsed near the jukebox. She’s been given to sinking spells lately—for reasons Dale and me were keeping Top Secret until school the next day.“Do I have to testify? Are you sure?” Dale asked, trailing the Colonel from the kitchen. “Because I might throw up. Fifteen years in prison seems so long. Daddy’s not used to hard time, just lots of little time strung together like a nice necklace. Do you think he can get off?”Only Dale can accessorize with jail time.The Colonel answered patient as rain. “Even if Macon gets time, he’ll be all right. You and Rose will be too. You have me and Lana, you have Lavender and Mo. As for Macon going free, if the defense can create a reasonable doubt of his guilt, he’ll walk.”“Can that happen?” Dale asked as I plugged in the jukebox.“No,” I muttered under my breath.“Anything can happen, Dale,” the Colonel replied. “But don’t get your hopes up.”Don’t get your hopes up? That’s the same advice he gave me, only pointed in the opposite direction.The parking lot stood bumper-to-bumper, cars and trucks bellowing clouds of steam as townsfolk waited for us to open. “Surrounded by wolves,” the Colonel muttered, tying his white chef’s apron over his court clothes—gray pants, white shirt, and his light-up Charleston tie from a couple Christmases back.Miss Lana tucked a strand of her glossy Ava Gardner wig behind her ear and wrote the day’s specials on the chalkboard. Ava Gardner, an old Hollywood star, grew up just down the road. Miss Lana believes in going local. “Court will be standing room only—which means standing room only here too,” she said.“We should put gossip on the menu,” the Colonel muttered. “We’d make a fortune.” He had a point.If Tupelo Landing was a country, gossip would be our national sport.“Ready, sir?” I asked, heading for the door.The Colonel studied Dale, his brown eyes serious. “Are you sure, Dale? We don’t have to open today.”Not open? My plaid sneakers squeaked to a halt on the clean tile floor.Dale nodded, stubborn as a brick. “I want everything ordinary even if it ain’t.”Miss Lana smoothed her broad-shouldered, tuck-waisted 1940s-style suit. “Places,” she called. The Colonel grabbed the coffeepot. Dale snagged an order pad. I positioned myself by the door. “Action!”I flipped the closed sign.Truck and car doors swung open, spewing people across the parking lot. A white van yawned and a gaggle of women in bright-colored coats spilled into the crowd. Friends and neighbors surged over the gravel like a hungry, ragged wave and poured into our tiny café, clattering across the tiles, peeling off overcoats and scarves, thumping down around red Formica tables and along the counter.Out on the highway, a motorcycle slowed to let two cars ease into the lot, and then gunned its engine down the road.“Welcome,” I shouted over the hubbub. “No pushing. Old people and children first. Get back, Jake and Jimmy Exum. You ain’t old or young, that’s why they call it middle school. Let Hannah Greene’s little sister through.”Little Agnes Greene, a kindergarten kid, squirted through the crowd. “Mo, I got a major symptom of dehydration,” she said, her small face pinched with worry.“Water coming up,” I said, taking her hand and leading her to a table. “Hey, Hannah,” I shouted to her big sister. “I’m hydrating Little Agnes on table number two.”Little Agnes, named for her aunt Big Agnes, went hypochondriac just after Halloween when Hannah read her bedtime stories out of a medical book. Now Agnes believes she catches every disease blowing in the wind. Last Wednesday she thought she had smallpox.Hannah rushed to her sister as Detective Joe Starr pulled up in his Impala and eased into a skinny parking spot. He and my teacher, Priscilla Retzyl, slipped in to stake out a window table.I trotted over with waters. “I hope you’re coming to court today,” I told Miss Retzyl. “Dale and me are testifying. Feel free to give us Extra Credit.” She smiled her Not in This Lifetime smile as my archenemy, Anna Celeste Simpson, flounced through the door—a swirl of blond hair, braces, and weasel-esque brown eyes.“Morning Mo-ron,” she said.“Attila.”She curled her lip and grabbed a window table.Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of pale blue hair at the door. “Make way for elders!” I called as Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton strolled through the door in a trim navy blue outfit.“Thank you, dear,” she said, stifling a yawn and taking her regular stool at the counter. She smiled at me over her bifocals. “I barely slept a wink, thanks to the clunking and bumping of my old radiators. But you’re looking lovely, Mo.”I smoothed my jeans and red V-neck sweater. “Court clothes,” I explained.“Primary colors,” she replied. “Very trustworthy.” I poured her water and tried to look like I knew what she meant. “Just toast and coffee, please.” The Colonel poured her coffee, grabbed her order, and headed for the kitchen.“Everybody settle down,” I shouted, loading my tray with waters.Naturally Tupelo Landing’s Trial of the Century was the topic du jour.The Azalea Women, aka the Uptown Garden Club, wedged through the crowd elbow to elbow like a dumpy rugby team and grabbed a table near the jukebox. “I hear Hanging Judge Wilkins has come to Willow Green for the trial,” one of them said.Unlike Tupelo Landing, nearby Willow Green has its own courthouse. Also a traffic light and a hill. Tupelo Landing has a school, a Piggly Wiggly, the historic inn owned by Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton, and the café.A silver bike flashed by the window and Harm Crenshaw hopped off. “Morning everybody,” he called, swaggering in and unwinding his scarf.“Hey,” Dale called. Harm’s lopsided grin lifted Dale’s tension like sunshine lifts fog. Outside, curly-headed Sally Amanda Jones, Dale’s girlfriend-in-waiting, walked briskly toward the door, her red Piggly Wiggly sunglasses over her eyes and her breath steaming in the cold.“Hello, Dale,” she said, shrugging out of her plush lavender jacket.“Hey Salamander,” Dale said. “I knew you’d be here for me.”She blushed and took a table. Sal loves Dale like smoke loves fire.I turned back to the Azalea Women. “Welcome and thank you in advance for your generous tips.” Generous tips equals a flat-out lie, but like Miss Lana says, you don’t stop pitching just because nobody’s swinging. I draped a paper napkin over my arm. “Today, our Get Out of Jail Free Delight features Free-Range Eggs, Potatoes at Large, and Bacon a la Parole. We also got the Colonel’s famous Tofu Incognito— a vegan delight featuring tofu scrambled up to look like somebody else. A Special runs six dollars and includes a basket of All Rise Biscuits. May I take your order?”“Get Out of Jail and coffee,” they chorused. “How’s Dale holding up?”Dale and me been practicing that question all week.“Hang on while I check, s’il vous plaît,” I said. Thanks to Miss Lana, I speak excellent Tupelo French. This can lead to bigger tips or total confusion, depending. “Hey Dale,” I shouted. “How vous holding up?”The café swiveled toward Dale.“Hey,” he said, his expression blank as a block of cheese.I cued him up. “Dale’s holding up trés bon, right Dale?”“Right,” he said, looking relieved. “I’m holding up real bon. So’s Mama. In my family we believe everyone’s innocent until captured.”Harm winced.An Azalea Woman sniffed. “Such strong convictions.”“Yes,” Dale said, sending a saucer of toast spinning down the counter. “But mostly our convictions are misdemeanors. Daddy’s our first Class C felony.”The Azalea Women snickered. I crumpled their order and stuffed it in my pocket.Mayor Little darted through the door. “Good morning, fellow citizens,” he called, shrugging out of his overcoat and smoothing his orange tie over his round belly. “Dale, my heartfelt condolencesor enthusiastic backslaps, depending on how things go today. No matter which way the legal wind blows, you can count on me.”“Thank you,” Dale said, very dignified.Anna Celeste Simpson sauntered to the jukebox and dropped in a handful of change. Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” blasted across the café.I hate Anna Celeste Simpson.Jimmy and Jake Exum—jeans, plaid shirts, scant eyebrows—jumped to their feet as the Colonel shot through the kitchen door. “No dancing,” the Colonel shouted. Jake and Jimmy sat back down. The Colonel stalked across the café and yanked the jukebox’s plug out of the wall. Elvis oozed to silence.Grandmother Miss Lacy’s gaze traveled from Attila, to Harm, to Sal. Then to Hannah. “What on earth?” she said, as if she’d just noticed us. “Why aren’t you children getting ready for school? You’re not all witnesses.”“Mayoral Decree,” Dale said, carrying a sandwich to Queen Elizabeth.Mayor Little patted his lips with a napkin. “You didn’t hear, Miss Thornton? I issued my first decree. Mother’s tickled pink. Allow me.” He headed for his notice on the bulletin board, his buffed burgundy loafers tip-tip-tipping across the tile. “Attention, citizens,” he said. “My decree again, by popular demand.”Mayoral DecreeWHEREAS half the town’s on the witness list in Macon Johnson’s trial, and the other half is dying to see what happens, I—Mayor Clayburn Little—decree Tupelo Landing closed on Trial Day. The Colonel can do as he pleases with the café, as there is no way to stop him.Vote Mayor Clayburn Little! The mayor who cares!“I didn’t know the mayor could issue a decree,” Grandmother Miss Lacy murmured as the Colonel backed in from the kitchen with a load of clean coffee cups.“He can’t,” the Colonel said.The big-haired twins—Crissy and Missy—pushed into the crowded café and zeroed in on the Exum boys’ table. At nineteen, the twins have reached and maybe surpassed their full potential. “Excuse us while you move, and thank you,” Crissy said. Jimmy and Jake jumped up. Harm gulped, his eyes glued to the twins.Harm’s been thinking of talking to the twins for a couple weeks. For Harm, talking to them is like climbing Mount Everest. He craves the fame and excitement, but mostly he wants to do it because they’re there.“Dare you,” Dale said.Excellent. If anything could take Dale’s mind off the trial, this would.“Double dare you,” I added. “But I hope you’re wearing Kevlar beneath that sweater, because you’re getting shot down.”Harm chugged over to the twins’ table. “Morning, ladies,” he said, giving them a crooked smile and pushing the hair from his eyes. “Crenshaw. Harm Crenshaw, brother of the noted racecar driver Flick Crenshaw.”“I can’t believe he invoked the name of Flick,” Dale whispered.Flick Crenshaw’s the dirtiest racer on the circuit. He about killed Lavender last summer by spinning him into a speedway wall. The twins, who keep Lavender company until I’m old enough for dating, saw Flick do it. Now they stared at Harm like he was a cat-gift on their doormat.“Close your eyes, Dale,” I said. “This could be ugly.”“Yeah,” Dale said, sounding happy for the first time in days.Harm took a deep breath. “You’re looking doubly fine today,” he told the twins, hooking his thumbs in his pants pockets. The twins frowned. “Doubly fine. Because you’re twins,” he explained.They eyed him up and down. “He’s cute even if he is Flick’s brother, isn’t he, Missy? You’re cute,” Crissy told him.“I am?” Harm said, his voice cracking. “I mean, thanks.”Crissy tilted her head. “But you’re not mature enough to talk to us,” she continued, shifting her gaze to her fingernails. “We’re tossing you back like the minnow you are.” Dale snickered. “Maybe we’ll reel you in when you grow up,” she added.Harm hesitated. Then he gave them a wink. “Catch me later, then,” he said, and strolled away.“Smooth,” Dale said as Harm walked by, grinning.Smooth? In what universe?“Pathetic,” I told him.“Yeah, but I did it,” he said, grabbing an apron. “How can I help?”My answer was shattered by the squall of tires on the highway, a flash in the parking lot, and a spray of fine gravel on the café windows. Little Agnes shrieked. I reached a window just in time to see a red motorcycle skid through the parked cars, hit a hole, and fly into the air.The café gasped as the bike landed nose-down, flipping the driver over the handlebars. The driver skidded by, sank a boot heel into the gravel, and popped up to run crazy-legged through the parking lot, arms flailing.“No! Stop!” Little Agnes shrieked, covering her eyes.The biker smacked square into the back of the Colonel’s Underbird and collapsed facedown across the trunk, legs splayed, still as a bug on a windshield. Papers drifted out of his saddlebag, settling across the parking lot.“My stars,” Grandmother Miss Lacy whispered. “Is he dead?”“I have a headache,” Little Agnes whispered in the silence.The Colonel and Detective Joe Starr charged the door. “Stay put,” Starr said.We rushed to the window to watch the Colonel and Detective Starr cross the parking lot—trotting at first, then slowing like men who didn’t want to see what they were about to see. The driver didn’t move. Behind me, Dale whispered a prayer.Starr bent to peek beneath the heavy helmet and reached for the driver’s wrist—and a pulse.“Oh, no,” Sal said, tears pooling in her voice.The driver jerked away from Starr, and an Azalea Woman cackled like a startled hen. The café answered with a ragged flutter of nervous chuckles. “Not passé at all,” the mayor gasped, fanning his face with his hands.The biker slid onto unsteady legs. The Colonel and Starr grabbed his arms—one on each side—and slowly walked him toward the café door.The trio stepped inside.The motorcyclist slipped off the heavy black helmet and shook out a mane of long, curly red hair. “Hello everybody, I’m Capers Dylan,” she said with a weak smile. “Is there a mechanic in the house?”  Chapter 3: Capers Dylan“Mechanic?” the mayor cried. “Do we have one?”Do we have a mechanic?Lavender, who’s destined for NASCAR glory, keeps every car in town rolling, including the mayor’s dented Jeep. “Lavender’s world class with the un-running. He can fix anything,” I said as my classmate Thessalonians Thompson—orange hair, round face—pushed through the door.“What’s going on?” Thes asked.“A beautiful motorcyclist just plummeted into our midst miraculously unharmed,” Mayor Little said. “I can’t wait to tell Mother. Take off your hat, young man.”Thes swiped his gray plaid cap off. Capers Dylan’s eyes went red. She sneezed. So did Little Agnes. “You must have a cat,” Capers said, and sneezed again.“That depends,” Thes said, his green eyes shifty. “What has he done?” He took a seat at the counter. “Hey, Mo. A fried egg sandwich with a side of okra. We got a twenty percent chance of rain. And I’d love to go to a movie with you.”Thes is a weather freak. “Movies ain’t on the menu,” I said.Capers Dylan sank into a chair and unzipped her black leather jacket, which looked like a squirrel had gnawed off most of the left sleeve.“You’re lucky you weren’t bad hurt,” Sal told her.Capers Dylan flashed a wide smile. “I’m lucky I didn’t get killed. And you are?”“Sally Amanda Jones. Sal for short.”“Nice to meet you, Sal for short,” Capers replied.I studied her face. Pale skin, soft freckles across broad cheekbones. She had just enough crook in her nose to make her face interesting.“Actually, Ms. Dylan,” Detective Starr said, surveying the parking lot, “you’re very lucky you didn’t get killed. You skidded down the only safe passage through those cars.”“How you popped to your feet, I will never know,” an Azalea Woman said.Miss Lana set a cup of coffee on Capers’s table. “I’m Lana,” she said. “We spoke on the phone. You’re our inn’s first guest.”Capers beamed. “Pleased to meet you. I’m here to cover Macon Johnson’s trial for the Greensboro Gazette.”The trial! I looked at the 7UP clock. Seven twenty- five a.m.“A reporter?” the Colonel said, his voice backing up like a cat with wet paws. The Colonel hates reporters. Also law enforcement, health inspectors, and busybodies.“Why cover Daddy’s trial?” Dale asked. “He’s mashed potatoes.”“He means small potatoes,” I said.She winked at Dale. “You must be Dale Earnhardt Johnson III.”“Don’t say anything else,” I warned. “She’s researched you.”“And that would make you Mo LoBeau,” she said, stirring cream into her coffee. “The other half of Desperado Detectives.”As a detective, I ain’t used to people knowing more about me than I know about them. So far, I didn’t like it. “Capers Dylan. Odd name,” I replied.Her laugh spattered like rain against a pie tin, taking in the entire café. “My mother loved recycling last names and putting them first. It’s a Charleston tradition,” she said, rubbing her elbow. “Please, everybody: Call me Capers.”Miss Lana’s face lit up. “You’re from Charleston too? Let me get you some ice for that elbow.” Capers’s gaze drifted to the Colonel’s sign, above the coffeemaker.The Colonel—Attorney-of-SortsNo License, No GuaranteesQuestions Taken Thursday Afternoons OnlyThe way she took it in stride, I knew she’d researched the Colonel too.“Miss Dylan,” Detective Starr said, “what happened out there?” He flipped open the notepad he keeps in his shirt pocket.Was he giving her a near-death ticket?“Dale and me wonder too,” I said, opening my order pad and picking up my pen.Capers took in the café faces. “Did anybody see the accident?” We shook our heads. “Well, let’s see. A car passed too close. Almost blew me off the road.”Little Agnes frowned. “No. You fell down all by yourself.”“Hush, Agnes,” the mayor said. “A near lethal blow-by. Scandalous. Must have been an out-of-towner. We Tupelites pride ourselves on lawliness. Well,” he added, “Dale’s family is a notable exception, but their farm’s outside the town limits.”“Can you describe the car?” I asked.“A sedan,” she said. “Blue, black? I don’t know. And I didn’t get a license plate number. But I’m sure my insurance will cover any damages to your cars or . . . whatever. If it doesn’t, I will.” The café relaxed. In Tupelo Landing, we pay our bills unless we’re Macon Johnson.Her pretty smile quivered and her eyes flooded. “Sorry, folks. I’m not normally a crier. . . . I wish I could be more help.”Miss Lana says tears are the universal solvent. It could be true. Harm went into full meltdown. “Crenshaw. Harm Crenshaw,” he said. “I’m willing to let you slide.”Let her slide?“Harm, sit down,” Miss Retzyl snapped. Harm folded into the closest seat and put his hands on the table. “Miss Dylan, have we met? You seem so familiar . . .”Capers shook her head. “Like I said, I’m here to cover Macon Johnson’s trial, which ties into a larger trial I’m covering later on.”“The trial of the murderer Robert Slate,” I guessed. “Captured by Desperado Detectives last summer along with his ugly girlfriend, Deputy Marla Everette.”She laughed. “Well, I’ve interviewed Marla Everette and I don’t find her all that ugly. Slate’s as ugly as they come.” She smiled at Miss Lana. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just catch my breath—and hope for a ride to the courthouse.”Miss Lana, who doesn’t drive as a public courtesy, elbowed the Colonel. “Colonel, she needs a ride. Where are your manners?”“Perhaps I left them in the kitchen,” he muttered. “I’ll check.”The kitchen door swung closed behind him.Mayor Little smoothed his tie. “Miss Dylan, I’d be glad to squire you about. We’ll pick up Mother on our way. She’ll enjoy meeting you.” A shiver tiptoed up my spine. Myrt Little’s the oldest, meanest woman in Tupelo Landing. Her tongue’s sharp enough to shred a cabbage at twenty paces.Capers smiled. “And I’d be grateful for a good mechanic,” she said.“I’ll call Lavender and see if he can work you into his schedule,” I told her, heading for the phone.Grandmother Miss Lacy slipped a ten beneath her plate. “Remind him about my boiler, would you, dear?” she asked. “It clunks and bangs every year this time, but it does rattle my nerves.”“I told you to replace that thing last year,” the Colonel shouted from the kitchen.“I’ll remind him,” I told Grandmother Miss Lacy. Lavender can fix anything, except maybe a broken heart. “Lavender’s never too busy for me and mine. Fifteen minutes later, Lavender pulled into the parking lot, the morning sun golden in his hair. He headed for the motorcycle as Capers zipped what was left of her jacket and strolled toward the door.Dale checked the clock. “Guess I can’t put it off any longer,” he said. He tiptoed to Queen Elizabeth and tenderly shook her awake.“We’ll be okay, Desperado,” I told him. He nodded but didn’t meet my eyes.Testifying will break Dale’s heart, I thought. And Dale’s heart is my jurisdiction.I made an executive decision. I sailed to the table Sal shared with Skeeter—tall, glasses, freckles the color of fresh-sliced luncheon meat. “If I testify first, maybe they won’t need to call Dale,” I whispered. Skeeter stopped peppering her eggs. “I got eight dollars in tips saved up. Get the prosecution to call me first and it’s yours.”Sal with her calculator brain and Skeeter with her law books pull strings most people don’t even know exist. Miss Lana says they’ll run the country one day. The Colonel says he can’t wait.“We’ll see what we can do,” Skeeter said as an Azalea Woman headed to the window. Outside, Capers scooped up her scattered papers and Lavender examined the motorcycle.The Azalea Woman narrowed her eyes. “What do you think?”“I think she’s pretty,” Harm said.“Nice dye job,” Crissy said. “Missy and me can do that color if anybody’s interested.”Dale shrugged into his jacket. “I don’t like her.”“Dale!” Miss Lana said. “She’s from Charleston. Give her the benefit of the doubt.” Miss Lana always says give people the benefit of the doubt. The Colonel saysgive yourself the benefit of your doubts, which you get for a reason.“I’m going home to change,” Dale said, and gave Harm a shy smile. “Thanks for coming today, it means a lot to me. You too, Salamander.”Sal knocked over her milk.“Come on, Liz,” he called, heading for the door. “See you all at the courthouse.” An hour later only Lavender remained, polishing off a sandwich.The phone rang. “Café,” I said. “Hey, Miss Rose.”Dale’s mama kept it short and sweet.“We’re on our way,” I told her, and hung up. “Your mama’s Pinto won’t start—again,” I told Lavender. “She needs us.”He sighed. He’s brought the Pinto back from the dead so many times, we call it Lazarus. “Thanks, Mo.”I grabbed my jacket. “Miss Lana,” I shouted, running for the door, “I’m riding with Lavender.”I scooped the last of Capers Dylan’s lost papers from the parking lot and hurled myself into the pickup. “What’s that?” Lavender asked.Good question. Tight, blue-inked handwriting crowded the page. A fine tan scribble of mysterious numbers and letters overlaid the words.“Reporter notes?” I guessed, stuffing it into my bag. “I’ll give it to her later.”We took off for Miss Rose’s ailing Pinto—and Tupelo Landing’s Trial of the Century.

Editorial Reviews

“With her mix of homespun humor, well-plotted mystery, and delicious characterization . . . Turnage's tale is full of heart.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review“Another rewarding adventure . . . narrated by Mo in her distinctive, imaginative voice. The writing lulls you with laughter, then occasionally blindsides you with unexpected tenderness.”—Booklist, starred review  "Well crafted, with fast pacing; readers will gallop through the nonstop action to a satisfying conclusion. A must-read for fans of the first two volumes, and a rewarding adventure all on its own."—School Library Journal"Turnage's rich voice, abundance of heart, and wicked sense of humor handle the dynamics of the town with verve…One can only hope that this is not the end of this clever, sweet, laugh-out-loud funny series."—VOYA"When Dale’s father, Macon, is accused of breaking out of jail. . .Does Mo. . .follow her gut and hunt down Macon, or does she relinquish power to Dale and support his conviction that his father is innocent? Friendship prevails in this fine novel, with a number of unobtrusive acts of kindness flourishing throughout. There’s a complexity to the characters, from mean-as-a-snake Macon to drop-dead-handsome Lavender, all carefully developed throughout the series, creating a terrific read."—Horn Book"A rousing tale of action, adventure, and intrigue....So sit back and enjoy a well-told yarn that is sure to please readers of all ages."—SLCPRAISE FOR THREE TIMES LUCKY:  •  Newbery Honor  •  New York Times bestseller  •  Edgar Award Finalist  •  EB White Read-Aloud Award Honor Book"What do you get when you combine Because of Winn-Dixie's heart with the mystery and action of Holes?...Mo LoBeau is destined to become a standout character in children's fiction."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review"Here is a writer who has never met a metaphor or simile she couldn't put to good use."—Publishers Weekly, starred review"Turnage's lively novel features a distinctive voice and a community of idiosyncratic characters."—Booklist, starred review"The heroine of Sheila Turnage's "Three Times Lucky" is so plucky that young readers may wish she lived next door."—Wall Street Journal"A literary descendant of Scout Finch of "To Kill a Mockingbird"—Mo LoBeau announces this novel's mystery from behind the counter of the Tupelo Diner: 'There's been a murder and we're out of soup.'"—Newsday PRAISE FOR THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING: •  New York Times bestseller"The perspicacious Mo LoBeau is at it again!. . . humor and action abound."—School Library Journal, starred review"Just as its predecessor did, this sequel shines thanks to Turnage's deft, lyrical language and engaging characters."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review"Turnage's ability to create convincing characters and her colorful use of language combine to make this a fresh, droll, rewarding trip to Tupelo Landing."—Booklist, starred review"The budding detective has clearly taken to heart something her foster mother always emphasizes: 'All the world's a stage, sugar, so hop on up there.'"—Publishers Weekly, starred review"A rollicking sequel."—Wall Street Journal