Chapter 16

“Miss Parsnip!”

It was Judy Fipple calling from the end of the corridor. ”Miss Parsnip!” repeated Judy. “We were completely unable to find you. For almost two hours!”

“Barna-baby!” cried Mr. Hootsman, holding out his pudgy arms for Barnaby.

“Miss Parsnip,” said Donny Bing. “I brought potato wedge soup. Would now be a good time to eat it?”

Miss Parsnip looked rumpled and attempted to straighten her hair.
“Why don’t you eat it at school?” she replied distractedly. “We’re going back to school. Right now. Are all my groups present? Cutthroats? Rogues? Peglegs? Swamis….slobbies…um…oh…just everyone? Let’s move!”

Fay fell quietly in line behind the relieved parents and students and considered Mr. Arg’s warning. There were some rough characters on the loose, no question about that. But how much trouble could they possibly get into in modern day Elbow Harbor?

Well, Fay thought, at least I was wrong about the field trip to the Crunch & Barley Breakfast Factory. It wasn’t quite as dull as dust after all. And now she had the pirate coin bouncing in her pants pocket again. But it was time to go back to school. Back to boring Elbow Harbor Elementary.

Miss Parsnip led the way out of the factory toward Elbow Street. Normally boring Elbow Street, but now buzzing and hopping with activity. People were running in out out of buildings, and all three dedicated officers of the Elbow Harbor police force were hastily jotting notes in their police officer notebooks.

“They took daisies,” whined Horace Fipple who was standing by the front door of Fipple’s Floral in a green apron. “And floral arrangement supplies! You can’t just take supplies! All our arrangements are custom made by professionals!”

“That’s outrageous!” exclaimed Judy Fipple, raising her hand in the air. “Miss Parsnip, may we stop and assist the police in this investigation?”

“Children!” replied Miss Parsnip with alarm in her voice. “We are not criminologists! We would surely be in the way! We will get back to school at once!”

“But Miss Parsnip!” called Barnaby Hootsman. “We can identify the culprits!”

“What’s that?” piped up the police lady who’d been questioning Horace Fipple. She stared at Barnaby Hootsman. “You have information about these hoodlums?”

“Maybe,” replied Barnaby. “Is there a reward?”

“Atta’baby,” said Mr. Hootsman thumping Barnaby on the back. “Sock it to’em.”

“May I have your name,” asked the lady cop, pointing her pencil at Barnaby.

“Hootsman,” replied Barnaby in his best secret agent voice. “Barnaby Hootsman.”

“And has anyone else witnessed suspicious characters in town, besides you?” continued the cop.

“Would I have to split the reward?” asked Barnaby.

“Hootsman was with me,” said Fay stepping around Judy Fipple. “We both saw ‘em.”

“And you would be?” asked the police lady.

“Fay LaFarge,” said Fay.

“Ma’am,” said the police lady to Miss Parsnip. “We’d like to borrow these two students for now, so they can help us make sketches of the perpetrators.”
Behind her, a timid little police artist with a clipboard nodded and waved his pencil.

“Fay,” asked Miss Parsnip, “Barnaby? Are you all caught up on multiplying fractions?”

“One-third times one-fifth equals one-fifteenth,” replied Fay.

“That goes double for me,” added Barnaby.

“Fine then,” said Miss Parsnip. “Hurry back to school so you can copy down tonight’s assignment.”

“Okay kids,” said the police lady, “I’m Officer Brambly. Would you say this gang has a leader?”

“That would be Yellow Tooth,” said Fay. “The meanest, ugliest scoundrel you’d ever care to lay two eyes on.”

“In your worst nightmare,” added Barnaby.

“And his teeth,” continued Fay, “are yellow. And pointed like a row of daggers.”

The timid little man nodded and sketched vigorously.

“Nasty skin,” continued Fay, “looks like popped bubble wrap.”

“And body odor,” said Barnaby, “that’ll make you drop dead.”

The little man stopped sketching. “I don’t think can draw that,” he whispered.

“Sure you can,” replied Fay grabbing his pencil. “Just make some squiggly lines coming from him to show stink…like this.”

“And put a dead guy next to him,” added Barnaby grabbing the pencil from Fay, “with x’s for eyes…like this…”

“Oh,” said the little man, obviously pleased. “Oh yes, that does the trick.”

Fay and Barnaby described the other twelve pirates in gruesome detail from their stubbly whiskers to their wrinkly tattoos, until it was clear the police artist was happy with his results.

“I don’t want to go back to school for fractions,” said Fay. “But if I don’t take my lunchbox home tonight my locker will smell like old putrid tunafish.”

“Oooh,” said Barnaby with an evil gleam in his eye. “Old putrid tunafish! What if it accidentally gets loose in Judy Fipple’s desk?”

“What if it doesn’t?” replied Fay tartly.

“What if I get to school before you?” challenged Barnaby, before taking off at a run.

“What if it gets loose in your hair Hootsman?” shouted Fay. Fay tore down Elbow Street after Barnaby, overtaking him at the edge of the schoolyard, where they both skidded to a halt.

Fay stared at the playground. “Hootsman,” she whispered. “I think we’re too late.”

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