"It was a dark and stormy night. Rain slashed the window. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed. Spooky shadows like giant teeth danced across the walls.
Tick-tock, tick-tock went the old clock, thumping like a scary heartbeat. Quiet as a ghost, she climbed the dark, dark stairs. In her bare feet, she tiptoed down the dark, dark hallway to the dark, dark door. She tapped one, two, three times, signaling in Morse code. Just then, the door creaked open.
"AAHHH!" screamed Judy from under the covers of her top bunk bed. She let go of the Mood Libs tablet she'd been writing in. It sailed through the air, bonking Stink on the noggin.
"Ouch!" yelled Stink, rubbing his head. "Watch the brains! You're gonna give me an egg on my head."
"You already are an egghead, Stink," Judy teased.
"Well, you didn't have to throw the book at me."
"At least it wasn't the encyclopedia. That's what you get for scaring the pants off me while I was writing a spooky Mood Libs story."
"Why are you under the covers? It's the middle of the day."
"Nancy Drew says a person should never be afraid of the dark. So I was practicing."
"Why do you have a flashlight?"
"A good detective always keeps a flashlight under her pillow."
"Does Nancy Drew do that?"
"Hel-lo! Haven't you read THE MESSAGE IN THE HOLLOW OAK?"
"I'm not a Nancy Drew cuckoo-head like some people!"
"Can I help it if I'm trying to read all fifty-six original Nancy Drew classics?"
Stink waved the Mood Libs book at her. "Does Nancy Drew throw stuff at her brother, too?"
"Nancy Drew doesn't have a brother. But if she did, I'm sure she'd throw stuff if he scared the jeepers out of her."
"That's Nancy Drew talk, Stink. Get a clue."
"Do Nancy Drew mysteries have any stuff that blows up? Good mysteries have stuff that blows up. Like boats or cakes or maybe exploding motorcycles?"
"No, Stink. Nancy Drew mysteries have old clocks and hidden diaries and squeaky steps and stuff."
"Oh," said Stink. He did not sound one teeny bit scared. He sounded a teeny bit bored.
"But Nancy Drew mysteries do have stuff like exploding oranges and flaming rockets and spooky old mansions. Lots of mansions. And they are all haunted, and one time Nancy Drew almost gets crushed when the ceiling falls on her. Another time she's chased by a phantom horse. She even gets strangled by a giant python. No lie."
"Exploding pythons are cool," said Stink, getting mixed up. "Can I look at one of your Nancy Drews?"
"Over there." Judy pointed to a pile of stuff on her desk. "Under my sock monkey."
Stink lifted up the sock monkey. "Under your sock monkey is a pillow."
"Under the pillow," Judy told him. Stink lifted the pillow.
"Under your pillow is nothing but a big fat dictionary."
"Under the dictionary."
Stink lifted up the dictionary. "It's a mystery just trying to find your Nancy Drew book." Under the dictionary was Nancy Drew book #43: THE MYSTERY OF THE 99 STEPS. "Why's it under all this stuff?"
"Well, um . . . don't laugh, but-"
"Ha! Ju-dy is scare-dy!" Stink chimed. "You hid it under here because it's scary. You're scared of a Nancy Drew nightmare!"
"Can I help it if I have an overachieving imagination?" asked Judy. "I double-dare you to read it. In the dark."
"See, Nancy's friend has this weird dream about these creepy ninety-nine steps, so Nancy goes to France to try to find them and solve the mystery of her friend's dream. It's spine-chilling. Says so right on the back. Books don't lie, Stink."
"Maybe you'll have a bad dream from reading the book. Then I can go to France to solve the mystery of your bad dream. . .and see the Eiffel Tower."
"The Eiffel Tower is so beside the point, Stink. But you just gave me a genius idea. I'm going to solve a mystery. A real-life, Nancy-Drew, scare-your-pants-off mystery. For sure and absolute positive."
"What's the mystery?"
"I don't know yet. I have to find one first."
"Do you have to go to France to find it?"
"Stink, you don't have to leave the country to find a mystery. There could be one right in your own backyard."
Stink looked out the window into the yard. "All I see out there is your purple jump rope, a pink-and-white soccer ball, your bike with the flat tire, and the blue tent we use for the Toad Pee Club. The only mystery is why Mom and Dad don't make you pick up your stuff."
"Ha, ha. Very funny. A mystery is out there, Stink. Maybe not in the backyard exactly. But it could be right under our noses. All we have to do is pay attention."
Just like that, she, Judy Moody, went looking for a mystery.
Excerpted from Judy Moody, Girl Detective (Book #9) by Megan McDonald. Copyright © 2011 by Megan McDonald. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.