IT WAS WEDNESDAY EVENING, a.k.a. trash night. Steve Brixton, seventh grader, formerly of the Brixton Brothers Detective Agency, plodded along his driveway, dragging a maroon bin behind him. The bin’s wheels rumbled and popped as they rolled over pebbles on the blacktop. This week the Brixton family’s bin was very full. The lid would not close tightly; it bounced up and down, making an irregular, slow clapping sound. And the trash was heavy—Steve could feel the can’s weight in his elbow, and he kept switching the arm he used to drag it: right, then left, and back again. He sighed. Tonight was a particularly difficult trash night, and that’s because the garbage bin contained fifty-nine shiny, red-backed books: a complete set of the Bailey Brothers Mysteries, a series of detective novels that until a week and a half ago had been Steve’s favorite books of all time.
Steve pulled the bin down off the curb. It hit the street hard, and its lid bounced open like a clam’s shell, revealing the can’s contents. Steve stood underneath a streetlamp. Its orange bulb flickered and hummed, even though the sun was just now setting and there was still plenty of light in the sky.
There they were, neatly stacked in a cardboard box atop a week’s worth of kitchen scraps and dental floss: Bailey Brothers #1 to #58, and of course The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook, which was jam-packed with Shawn and Kevin Bailey’s Real Crime-Solving Tips and Tricks. (Shawn and Kevin Bailey, as pretty much everybody knows, were the sons of world-famous detective Harris Bailey and the heroes of the Bailey Brothers books—they had their own crime lab and fixed their own cars and were basically the acest sleuths around.) The handbook had chapters full of things every serious gumshoe would need to know: stuff like “Tailing Baddies,” “Making Your Own Blowgun,” and “Modus Operandi, Portrait Parlé, and Other Funny Foreign Phrases for the American Sleuth.”
Steve stood and stared at his books. He looked around. Identical maroon bins stood like sentries outside every home on the street. The neighborhood was quiet. Assured that he was alone, Steve reached out and picked up a book: Bailey Brothers #15: The Phantom of Liar’s Bluff, which started like this:
© 2011 Mac Barnett