Saturday, September 6, 2014

Read Chapter One of The Bungled Bike Burglaries by Christy Barritt

The Bungled Bike Burglaries (The Gabby St. Claire Diaries Book 3) by Christy Barritt
$2.99 or FREE for Prime Members

Stolen bikes and a long-forgotten time capsule leave one amateur sleuth baffled and busy.

Seventh grader Gabby St. Claire is determined to bring a bike burglar to justice—and not just because mean girl Donabell Bullock is strong-arming her into it. But each new clue brings its own set of trouble. As if that’s not enough to handle, Gabby finds evidence of a decades-old murder within the contents of the time capsule, but no one seems to take her seriously.

As her investigation heats up, will Gabby’s knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people crack the case? Or will it prove hazardous to her health?

Perfect reading for middle grade readers. Grade: 5th and up. Age: 10 and up.

The Gabby St. Claire Diaries follows the life of a young Gabby St. Claire, as featured in the Squeaky Clean Mystery series.


“Shakes on eight!” Mrs. Baker shouted.

 Forty Oceanside Middle School thespians began shaking their limbs one at a time to a count of eight. To any outsider, we might have looked like spastic morons. But to insiders, this was a traditional theatrical warm-up that helped prepare us for walking the boards—theater talk for being onstage.

I loved theater—the butterflies and all. The only two things that could make drama club better: having resident Diva Donabell Bullock transferred now and forever to Outer Mongolia Middle School and having my BF Pete shaking next to me instead.

That’s right. I, Gabby St. Claire, had managed to stay in a romantic relationship for roughly one month, two days, and about three hours, give or take five minutes. Not that I was counting or anything.

“Vocal warm-ups! Unique New York,” Mrs. Baker, my favorite teacher, continued.

Obediently we all began speaking the words, slowly and quietly at first, building to a loud, fast staccato rhythm. At least, in theory we did. Most everyone messed up after the fifth or sixth time. It was a tough two-word combo, and I was determined to be the first one who’d do it seven times fast without faltering.

An electrician wearing gray coveralls with Zollin Industries emblazoned on the back disappeared backstage. A moment later he appeared on the catwalk that spanned the width of the stage and gave techies access to the gel-covered stage lights above us. Only half of them were on right now, probably because of the electrical work being done in one corner. Our aging sound system was being removed.

“Take a seat.” Mrs. Baker’s voice managed to be loud and soft at the same time.

One day, when I was on Broadway, I’d be able to speak like that.

“As you know, I was able to convince the administration to allow us to do one more show this year. However—”

Uh-oh. “Howevers” are never good.

 My BFF Becca and I exchanged glances. Her pixie haircut matched her pixie nose but contrasted sharply with the long legs she had folded underneath her. I would have traded my frizzy red hair for her dark brown on-its-best-behavior-every-day hair in a heartbeat. I would have also gladly borrowed a couple of inches from her to add to my short five-foot-two frame. But just two. I wanted to stay shorter than Pete.

Not that Pete had ever said anything about not liking tall girls. It occurred to me I didn’t know much about his preferences or dating history.

A sharp elbow in my ribs from Becca made me jerk back to the present.

“So, you will choose a character from a novel or a real-life person with a connection to one of your classes, and write your own monologue from their POV,” Mrs. Baker continued.

The Diva’s hand shot up and waved like a magnolia in a hurricane.

“POV as in perspective or point of view?” asked the Diva, glancing around with an air of obnoxious superiority.

“The Diva” was the private code name Becca and I had assigned the snooty Donabell Bullock back in fifth grade. She loved nothing better than to embarrass, put down, or strike social terror into the hearts of others she considered beneath her.

“That is correct. All the teachers, except a couple, are on board with this counting as an extra credit assignment,” Mrs. Baker said.

I smiled. Extra credit was good, especially if it concerned my math grade. But knowing my pre-algebra teacher, Ms. Lynnet, the worst math teacher in the entire world, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts she was one of the “couple” who didn’t want to cooperate.

Becca raised her hand. “If the person we choose overlaps two subjects, can we submit the piece to both teachers?”

Leave it to overachieving Becca to ask a question like that. But since her parents had pulled her out of our previous production of Oklahoma for one lousy B in the aforementioned pre-algebra class, I figured she was milking this monologue thing for all the academic credit she could to placate her overly strict parents.

“That’s between you and them. Did you have someone in mind?”

“George Washington Carver, Hypatia, or Alexander Graham Bell. They’re scientists and historic.”

“They’re male. You can’t play a male character,” snapped the Diva, scowling at my BFF. She was probably just upset she hadn’t thought of double credit first.

A glance at Becca’s crestfallen face launched me into action. “She could play one of their female relatives,” I shot back, wishing I could actually shoot a suction-tipped arrow. It would stick to her forehead, right between the eyes, making her look ridiculous for once. The mental image made me grin.

The Diva locked her Frosty the Snowman eyes on mine and wrinkled her too-long nose in distaste.

“Right you are, Gabby,” said Mrs. Baker.

I basked in her praise as the Diva’s death-ray stare grew twenty degrees colder.

“Plus, I believe Hypatia was a Greek woman, correct?” Mrs. Baker continued.

Becca nodded enthusiastically.

I gave the Diva my best “Gotcha!” look.

“Please turn your rough drafts in to me before Friday. I’ll be evaluating them for accuracy, academic worthiness, and stage pizzazz. Only those that meet the criteria will be considered.”

“Mrs. Baker.” Brandon Coe’s arm went up. “If I choose a famous dancer, can I incorporate dance into the monologue?”

“Absolutely.” Mrs. Baker’s smile broadened and her eyes gleamed.

The Diva’s hand shot up. She waited for Mrs. Baker to nod before speaking. “Can we prepare two, just in case?”

“Of course.”

A whispered buzz of excitement vibrated through our club as the possibilities for our last show expanded.

The remainder of our meeting flew by as we played theater games and did improvisation exercises. I loved improv. It was one of the few times that speaking without thinking it through first was an actual virtue.

“Call me before eight,” Becca reminded me as she dashed out the door.

My reply got lost under the front row of seats. My backpack had tipped over, spilling its contents. It was tough to find everything in the darkness, especially since I refused to feel around on the cold, sloping floor. I wasn’t keen on an encounter with ABC gum, dead roaches, or whatever other horrors might lurk in an ancient school half a century old.

“Take a look at this.”

The deep, unfamiliar male voice startled me, and in my haste to see who was talking, I banged the back of my head on the underside of a seat. A few strands of hair stuck. I tugged it free, realizing with a lurch in my stomach I had ABC gum attached to my already disastrous hair.


The voice had come from the catwalk. The electrician was holding something about the size of a textbook but a different shape. “Some kid must have stuck this up in the eaves when the place was being built,” said Deep Male Voice.

“What is it?” asked Mr. Harold, my favorite OMS janitor. He was an older, dark-skinned, grandfatherly guy with a sweet wife who’d brought daisies to me after my stage debut in Oklahoma.

“Dunno. The lid’s rusted on. Probably junk. Might as well trash it.”

Why would someone hide something in the guts of a school building?

Visions of prying it open and discovering pirate booty, spy codes, or a map to buried treasure filled my head. Since I, Gabby St. Claire, was the next Sherlock Holmes, a solver of mysteries, I was not going to let them trash whatever it was until I got a good look inside.

“Can I have it?” I called as I shrugged into my backpack and trotted backstage.

“Sure, Gabby.” Mr. Harold deposited the grubby cylinder into my hands. “Less work for me emptying the trash.”

“Thanks, Mr. Harold.”

I sneezed as the dust particles jostled free. I carefully shook it, like I did wrapped Christmas gifts. It weighed less than a textbook but more than an empty tin would. Something rustled inside. I envisioned prying off the lid and discovering some secret science notes, hidden away until a future age was ready to receive them.

“Take it home and squirt some WD-40 on it,” recommended the electrician, handing a worn-out speaker to Mr. Harold.


“Lubricating oil. Your dad probably has some in your garage. It does wonders on rusty things like hinges, lockers, bike chains, or metal stuff like that. Put it in this in case the rain starts back up.” Mr. Harold handed me a small trash-can liner.

“Thanks.” I didn’t add that besides my mountain bike, our garage held junk like my father’s old surfing equipment and tools rusting from disuse, as Dad rarely did anything other than sit or sleep on the couch. But if WD-40 had to do with bikes, my BF Pete might be able to help me out. Pete took better care of his new mountain bike than most people took of their kids.

I tried stuffing the tin in my backpack, but it was too full. I would have to stash something in the auditorium. I couldn’t leave my math book. No way did I want Ms. Lynnet calling my house, which she did if you forgot to do even one measly assignment. I needed the Nancy Drew novel for my English book report. I’d chosen it since Pete called me Nancy Drew sometimes, and I figured I better find out more about her to make sure it was a compliment. By process of elimination, I slipped my civics book out and hid it under a seat. I’d get it in the morning.

I hurried out to the bike rack, eager to get home so I could delve into another mystery, one that could make me rich and famous. Maybe I’d be interviewed on talk shows and give speeches about my discovery. A professional hair and makeup expert would travel with me so my flyaway red hair would finally settle down and look fabulous. By the time I’d been on every TV station in the country, I’d be as famous as Sherlock Holmes.

My musing abruptly terminated when I spotted trouble. Blue lights flashed from atop a patrol car, and a police officer stood next to my bike.

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