In a Pickle
FREE Teacher's Guide with purchase
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure
Release: December 28, 2012
Charlie Pickle can't stay put in the year 1920, due to an annoying habit of time-traveling. On a trip back to 1910, he meets a man with a secret. Murder makes the headlines that day, and Charlie's new friend knows who the guilty party is. Now, not only does Charlie have bullies and murderers to contend with, he's got some history to fix.
The screeching of gulls woke Charlie up several hours later. He sat up with a yawn, and the first thing he saw was Henry lying still, his eyes wide open.
“Oh no,” Charlie whispered. Had Henry died too?
“Shut up, kid. I’m trying to listen.” It wasn’t the politest way to be greeted in the morning, but at least Charlie’s homeless buddy hadn’t gone to his eternal resting place.
“Pretty sloppy job, if you ask me,” said an official-sounding voice outside the shack. “The water here’s not five feet deep. Pretty easy to dredge up a body.”
Another voice spoke, even more official-sounding than the first. “And this Smith character you told me about had a hunch there’d be a corpse to dredge up?”
A corpse? What had happened this morning while he’d slept? Charlie had a strong urge to peek out and see if he could catch a glimpse of the body. A reproving look from Henry, however, stopped him.
“Smith sounds like an alias to me,” the second voice continued. “I recognize the deceased’s ugly mug. He had many enemies, Duke. I say we round up the usual suspects, see if we can’t find someone who’ll sing.”
“Sounds good, Inspector.”
“All right, let’s pack it up.”
Charlie’s stomach roared like a jet engine. He hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day.
“Henry,” he said, after he could no longer hear the policemen. “I’m starving.”
Henry seemed to think it was safe, too, because he got to his feet, not bothering to muffle his footsteps as he crossed to the glassless window. “How can you think about food after someone was stabbed with a…? No, you aren’t starving.”
Charlie narrowed his eyes at Henry. How could he know the person had been stabbed to death? Had he seen something while Charlie was sleeping? Maybe Henry had seen the killer. Charlie was about to blurt out an accusation, but his stomach rumbled again.
“Yes, I am starving. I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t eaten since two days ago. Try beating that, kid.”
Charlie shook his head. “You’re cranky. And why did we have to be so quiet? Shouldn’t the police know we are here?”
“No,” Henry said, as he pulled himself through the window.
“But why not? We didn’t do nothin’ wrong.” Balancing on the window sill, Charlie lifted both legs through the opening and joined Henry outside. “It’s not a crime being homeless.” The words were somewhat of an afterthought, and he didn’t anticipate Henry’s response.
“Of course it is,” he spat. “The police…bah! They wouldn’t take my word for anything. I tried reporting a mugging before. A homeless man’s testimony means nothing. They’d think we’d done the man in ourselves.”
“I see. So, you’re afraid.”
Henry shot Charlie a look. “Charlie—”
“No, it’s okay. Even I get afraid sometimes. Like when President Wilson had a stroke. I thought I might have a stroke one day too, and it got me to thinking that I could actually die. So I was scared at first, but then I remembered my parents had died, and…What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Henry had stopped walking, and put his hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “President who?”
“You mean Taft, don’t you? William Howard Taft?”
“Um…” This wasn’t the first time Charlie had almost blown his cover. One time, in 1902, he told a girl she should have a zipper put on her clutch. Charlie had gotten the strangest look and couldn’t figure out why until four days later, when he’d time-traveled back to 1913, and he realized zippers were a new invention. “President Taft? Oh, right. I get him and that other guy mixed up sometimes.”
“But Taft hasn’t had a stroke. What president are you talking about?”
“I’m just a kid, all right? I can’t remember who’s secretary of state most days.” That earned him an even stranger look. “What?”
“You are one bizarre kid, aren’t you?”
Charlie looked at Henry with a grimace. “You have no idea.”