The Web Files


October 24, 2001|By Margie Palatini

* Editor's note: The story you're about to hear is probably not true. But just in case, fairy tale characters have been co-opted to protect the identities of those involved.

6:32 a.m. This is the farm.

My partner, Bill, and I were working the barnyard shift. It was peaceful. Quiet. Then we got the call.


"A lot of squawking going on down in the coop area, Ducktective Web. Looks like fowl play. Report says feathers are flying. Chief says we should check out the chicks."



"Let's fly."

6:35 a.m. The hen's house.

We knocked on the door. She answered.

"P'awk! P-p-p-awk! P-awk! P-awk! P-awk!"

"Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts."

"I've been robbed!" she clucked, unruffling her feathers. "Robbed, I tell you. Robbed! Robbed! Robbed!"

"So you're saying that you were robbed. Is that right ma'am? What exactly is missing from the nest, ma'am? Eggs, ma'am? Chicks, ma'am?'

"P-p-peppers," she said with a flap.

"Peppers?" I asked.

"My perfect purple peppers that were just about ready to be pickled."

"Have any idea who would pick a peck of your perfect purple almost-pickled peppers?"

"Not a clue," she clucked.

9:06 a.m. Headquarters.

We had Horner in the corner and were trying to make Little Boy Blue quack.

"OK, Blue Boy. Quit blowing your horn. Time to make hay. Suppose you just tell me where you were this morning."

"I'm innocent, I tell you! Innocent!" quivered the kid. "I was under the haystack. Fast asleep! Honest. Ask anybody."

"Sure. Sure. I've heard that bedtime story before. Got any witnesses?"

My partner shook his head. "No. The sheep were in the meadow. Cows were in the corn."

Things looked black for the boy in blue. And then we got another call.

"There's been some horsin' around reported down near Barn and Pen," said Bill. "Looks like another robbery."

We put the kid out to pasture.

10:43 a.m. Corner of Barn and Pen.

Bill and I talked to the horses.

"What do you know about a peck of unlawfully picked perfect purple almost-pickled peppers?"

"Peppers? Peppers? A peck of purple peppers? Not a thing. But somebody just high-tailed it out of here with a tub of my tartest tasty tomatoes!"

"And find my lettuce while you're at it, too!" sighed a sheep. "Somebody just lifted a load of my luscious leafy lettuce not 10 minutes ago! This is ba-a-a-d! Really ba-a-a-d!"

My partner looked at me and scratched his head.

"Peppers? Tomatoes? Lettuce? What do you make out of all this, Web?"

There was only one thing to make out of all of this.


11:47 a.m. The squad room.

My partner and I were still trying to quack the case, but we didn't have any idea whom to I.D.

"Rats!" said Bill.

"That's it!" I shouted.

There was only one suspect who was sneaky enough, wily enough, and tricky enough to pick a peck of perfect purple almost-pickled peppers, take a tub of tasty tart tomatoes, and lift a load of luscious leafy lettuce.

12:22 p.m.

My partner and I were hot on the tail of That Dirty Rat.

12:46 p.m. A real hole-in-the-wall.

"We know you're holed up in there, you Dirty Rat. Let us in."

He did.

"Eh, what's up, Duck?"

"There's been some trouble down on the farm," I said. "What do you know about a rash of recent robberies?"

"Robberies? Robberies?" said the rat rather innocently.

The rat grinned.

"OK. Sure. Go ahead, flatfoot. Look anywhere you want," he said with a smirking smile. "But make it quick, Quacker you're interrupting my lunch."

"Lunch, eh, Rodent?" I said, taking a gander at his table.

"Hey, what's going on here?" the rat hissed. "You're not going to pin this rap on me. Where's your evidence, you waddling webfoot? You got nothing on me. Nothing, see? I'm clean! Clean, I tell you. Clean!"

I picked a piece of lettuce from under his chin.

"Not clean enough, you Dirty Rat."

I smelled his breath. Just as I suspected. Garlic mayo.

"Book him, Ducko. His salad days are over."

My partner gave me a pat on the back. "Looks like you quacked another one, Web. But how did you ever figure it was him?"

"Just played a hunch he ate the evidence for lunch and forgot to use his napkin and brush his teeth. He's a dirty rat. He never did have good hygiene."

The Dirty Rat was tried and convicted of three counts of vegetable vagrancy, offensive bad breath and not using a napkin to wipe under his chin.

He was sent up the river and was sentenced to six months of farm labor with time off for good behavior, better table manners and clean teeth.

Case closed.

From THE WEB FILES by Margie Palatini. Copyright c 2001 by Margie Palatini. Reprinted by Hyperion Books for children.

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