After leaving Miss Brown, Trixie hurried across the living-room and outside to the path that led around and down to the cabins. With the exception of two which were called “family size,” all of the cabins on her list were tiny cottages and she tidied them very quickly. The larger ones took longer but at last she was through and started off around the pool toward the kitchen.
As she approached Maria’s small cabin she noticed that a little boy was playing out in front of it and guessed he must be Pedro, called Petey.
“Hi,” she greeted him, suddenly feeling homesick for Bobby. “I’ve got a little brother who is just about the same age as you.”
The dark-haired boy stared at her solemnly. “I’m in the first grade but I didn’t go to school today ’cause I got sort of a sniffle.” He sniffed. “It isn’t the cold kind of sniffle but Mommy is too dumb to know that. Does your brother ever get the crying kind of sniffle and get kept home from school on account of it?”
Trixie thought for a minute. “Bobby doesn’t cry very much. Why have you been crying, Petey?”
He doubled up his grimy fists. “On account of my mommy is an ole meany. She wouldn’t let me go wif Granddaddy and all of ’em. So I’m gonna run away to where Granddaddy is. I’m not scared of that great big ole monkey.”
“What monkey?” Trixie asked curiously.
He pursed his lips. “Guess maybe you’d call him a g’rilla, he’s that big. I’m not talking about the little ones that sort of hop and dance around you. I’m talking about the great big ’normous one that’s way up high, you know, all ready to jump down on you and eat you all up.”
It was Trixie’s turn to stare. “What are you talking about? Did your granddaddy go someplace where there are lots of monkeys? A zoo, maybe?”
He shook his head. “Zoo! It’s sort of a cavelike place. But I’m not scared of that great big ole ape! I’m going to give him a great big swat just the way I did last year and then I’m going to eat him
Trixie frowned, torn between curiosity and the voice of her conscience which told her that she shouldn’t try to get information from this child about where the Orlandos had gone.
“You shouldn’t talk about running away, Petey,” she said at last, and rather reluctantly. “You’re not old enough to go anywhere without your mother. I’m sure you know that.”
He sniffed again. “I go to school wifout my mother. Guess I can go where Granddaddy went wifout her. And I'm not scared of that great big ole green man wif the big red eyes and the horns. Last year I was sort of scared of him, but I’m a big boy now. I’m six, and when he goes dancing and hopping all around the cave I’m just gonna laugh and laugh.”
Trixie’s curiosity got the better of the small voice of her conscience. “What cave?”
Petey glared at her. “I just tole you. It’s sort of a cavelike place. It’s all dark and shadowy in the corners ’cause it’s not lighted ’cept with candles. And then all the horrible peoples come in and dance around, ’cept that they isn’t peoples. They is mostly sort of like animals.” He tucked his thumbs through the straps of his overalls. “I guess maybe my grandmommy is sort of scared of ’em, ’cause she didn’t want to go this year, but then Tio came and he and Granddaddy talked loud and then Grandmommy began to pack and she wanted to take me wif her but my mommy kept saying, ‘No, no, no!’ ”
Then, aware of the fact that he had been shouting, he clapped a small hand over his mouth and raced inside the cabin.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Mystery in Arizona by Julie Campbell. Copyright © 2004 by Random House, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, 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.