Partners in Crime is the first book in the Sleuth or Dare series.
When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it's a perfect fit.
But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it's up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there's someone else out there who doesn't want the two detectives stirring up any trouble....
With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time?
The killer held his breath and huddled in the back of the darkened closet, hoping not to be found. But the woman with the wire-rimmed glasses paused and tilted her head to the side. A floorboard squeak, followed by the rattle of a hanger, told her that something — or someone — was in the closet. She stepped forward, one hand reaching out for the doorknob, and — “Will you shut that thing off?” I said, looking over Darcy’s shoulder. “Norah! It’s just getting to the good part!” Darcy protested. I reached over and closed her laptop. “You shouldn’t be watching those horror shows anyway. You’ll have nightmares.” Darcy ran her hand through the purple streak in her short black hair, which matched her outfit. Her entire wardrobe was black and purple. “First off,” she began, “it’s not horror. It’s my favorite detective show, Crime Scene: New York. Second, I never get nightmares. Third, it’s ten thousand times better than those sleep-inducing astronomy documentaries you watch. And fourth, I like to try to figure out the ending. Why won’t you let me have any fun?” “Because we have work to do.” I sighed. “Can we get back to it, please?” Darcy gave me the stink eye. With love, of course, because we’re best friends. I sat back down, slid an elastic off my wrist, and pulled my long blond hair up into a ponytail. Darcy and I were in my room, sitting opposite each other on my polka-dotted beanbag chairs. My room is my favorite place in the world. I have cool astronomy posters on the walls and glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling, which are an exact replica of the night sky in October when Orion — my favorite constellation — is most visible. Darcy and I were supposed to be working on our social studies project: creating a small business. Not a real one — we’re seventh graders. But we were supposed to come up with the name, logo, and a little business plan. And then we had to present it in front of our teacher, Mrs. Feldman, and the whole class (gulp!) in one week. But we couldn’t even get started on the assignment until we decided what that business should be. It was stressing me out just a little. I looked at the ideas I’d written in my notebook. “How about a dog walking company? Or pet sitting?” I suggested. “Meh,” Darcy said and blew a giant purple bubble with her gum. I leaned forward and popped it with my finger. The remnants of the bubble stuck to her chin. “Why don’t you come up with a good idea, then?” I asked her. “I have.” Darcy crossed her arms. I rolled my eyes. “We need something legal.” Darcy and I are both nerds and proud of it, but I use my brainpower for good. Darcy, on the other hand … Hmm, how should I say this? You know how compasses always lead north? Darcy’s moral compass leads to trouble. Everyone says I’m a “good influence” on her. I try to keep her from going too far over to the Dark Side, but some days I’m convinced she’s one computer hack from being led away in handcuffs. Darcy Carter moved into the house next door three years ago, when we were in fourth grade. My mom, model neighbor that she is, baked brownies and insisted we walk over as a family to welcome the new people to the neighborhood. Darcy and her mom answered the door. Darcy gratefully grabbed the plate of treats while her mother blushed and gave an embarrassed smile. You see, Darcy’s beautiful black hair looked like it’d been cut by a lawn mower. It stuck out at all angles around her face. I’d assumed she was a deranged moron. I still believe the deranged part. But, as I quickly learned in school, Darcy is smart. Really smart. Like maybe, possibly, just a tiny bit smarter than me. (And she told me later that she’d hacked all her hair off like that on purpose to protest her mother’s decision to move out of Boston and to our “boring little town” of Danville, Massachusetts.) One day, several weeks after they moved in, Darcy came over and knocked on my door. Her hair had grown to a short bob, but one section was streaked purple. Apparently she was only half protesting then. She said, “Well, it looks like I’m stuck in this town, and you’re the only kid in school I could ever imagine myself hanging with, so … want to be friends?” I didn’t know what to say to that. I think I stood there and blinked a few times. Then Darcy held out her fist … for the first of a million times in our friendship. “Give it a jab,” she said. “Um, okay.” I made a fist and bumped hers. “Cool,” she said. Then she walked into my house and we raided the kitchen for cookies. We’ve been best friends ever since. Now we sat rubbing our foreheads, struggling to think of a great idea. “We need to be different,” Darcy said. “Everyone is going to do something typical like a babysitting company or a lemonade stand.” That was true. And, honestly, the idea of gluing pictures onto yet another poster board was so boring, it made me want to puke. Darcy and I like a challenge. I glanced over at Darcy’s shut laptop. She always brings her computer when she comes to my house. She needs to be connected at all times. Most people breathe air. Darcy breathes Internet. I have a computer, but my parents don’t allow me to keep it in my room. It’s in the living room, where they can watch me and make sure I don’t get into any trouble. Me. Miss Has Never Been In Trouble. (Meanwhile, Darcy, who gets in trouble on a regular basis, could ask her mother if she could keep a nuclear reactor in her room and her mother would say yes.) But the sight of Darcy’s beloved laptop gave me a flash of inspiration. “How about we do a website for the business?” I suggested, sitting up straight. “I can design the logo and do the writing for the site. You can do the programming!” Darcy rose up from the beanbag chair, her eyes wide with excitement. “And on presentation day, you can talk to the class, and I can handle the tech stuff to make the website come up on the big screen.” She sat back down and immediately opened her laptop. I nodded, grinning. “That will be so cool.” Then I frowned. “But we’re still no closer to picking a business.” I threw my arms down to my sides. “We need help.” “Help …” Darcy repeated in a whisper. She looked at her laptop screen, which showed a paused image from the crime show she’d been watching. Then her whole face lit up and she turned to me. “I got it! A detective agency. Our fake business will be a detective agency!” “Detectives?” I said, feeling hesitant. “Us?”