Authors: Donald J. Sobol
Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Text copyright © 1988 by Donald J. Sobol
Illustrations copyright © 1988 by William Morrow and Company, Inc.
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Reprinted by arrangement with Yearling Books
Susan, George, Bryan
Laura, and Brent
n police stations across the United States, the same question was asked again and again.
Why did every grown-up or child who broke the law in Idaville get caught?
Idaville looked like an ordinary seaside town. It had clean beaches, two delicatessens, and three movie theaters. It had churches, a synagogue, four banks, and a Little League.
What made Idaville different from anyplace in the world was a redbrick house on Rover Avenue. For there lived ten-year-old Encyclopedia
Brown, America’s Sherlock Holmes in sneakers.
Encyclopedia’s father was chief of police. When Chief Brown came up against a crime that he could not solve, he knew what to do. He put on his hat and went home to dinner.
At the table, he told Encyclopedia the facts of the case. Usually Encyclopedia solved the mystery before dessert. If he needed a few extra minutes, his mother was disappointed.
Chief Brown never told anyone the secret of his success. Who would believe him?
Who would believe that the brains behind Idaville’s war on crime hadn’t yet raised the seat of his two-wheeler?
Encyclopedia never let slip a word about the help he gave his father. He didn’t want to seem different from other fifth-graders.
But he was stuck with his nickname. Only his parents and teachers called him by his real name, Leroy. Everyone else called him Encyclopedia.
An encyclopedia is a book or a set of books filled with facts from
to Z. So was Encyclopedia’s head. He had read more books than anyone in Idaville, and he never forgot a word. His pals said he was better than a library for
getting answers. He was never closed.
Tuesday evening, Chief Brown took his seat at the dinner table. He looked at his soup without picking up his spoon.
Encyclopedia and his mother knew what that meant. He had a case he could not solve.
“Tim Crandan was robbed in his home early today,” Chief Brown said. “The case is a puzzle.”
“Tell Leroy about it, dear,” Mrs. Brown urged. “He’s never failed you.”
Chief Brown nodded. He took a small notebook from the breast pocket of his uniform. Using his notes, he went over the case for Encyclopedia.
“Shortly after sunrise,” Chief Brown said, “Mr. Crandan was awakened by noises in his living room. He surprised a robber.”
“Who is Mr. Crandan?” Mrs. Brown asked.
“For thirty years he taught tennis in Alabama. He retired last year and moved to Idaville,” Chief Brown answered.
He looked back at his notes and continued.
“Mr. Crandan saw a masked man making off with his three Chinese screens. The masked man pulled a gun and tied Mr. Crandan to a chair. Mr. Crandan watched through a window
as the robber loaded the screens into a station wagon and drove off.”
“How valuable are the screens?” Mrs. Brown asked.
“Each has six panels of ivory figures,” Chief Brown said. “Mr. Crandan has them insured for a huge amount of money.”
“Aren’t there any clues?” Mrs. Brown inquired.
“A good one,” Chief Brown said. “As Mr. Crandan entered the living room, the robber saw him and hurriedly put on a mask. He wasn’t quick enough. Mr. Crandan recognized him but was afraid to say anything. The robber might have used his gun if he thought he’d been recognized.”
Mrs. Brown glanced at Encyclopedia as if expecting him to speak. The boy detective was not ready to ask his one question. Usually he needed to ask only one question to solve a case at the dinner table.
So Mrs. Brown asked a question herself. “If Mr. Crandan knows who robbed him, why haven’t you made an arrest?”
“Because,” replied Chief Brown, “the man he recognized is one of the Enright twins, Fred or Carl. They look exactly alike. Mr. Crandan
couldn’t tell which twin was the robber.”
“I don’t know the twins,” Mrs. Brown said. “What do they do?”
“Fred Enright was a store clerk,” Chief Brown replied. “Carl Enright was a top professional tennis player for twenty years. Both men are retired. Fred moved to Idaville six months ago. Carl followed him a month later. Each lives alone.”
“What about an alibi?” Mrs. Brown asked. “Where were the twins when Mr. Crandan was robbed?”
Chief Brown flipped a page in his notebook. “Fred claims he didn’t get up until eight o’clock today, more than an hour after the robbery. Carl says he slept until nine. Neither has a witness to back up his story.”
“So neither has a real alibi,” Mrs. Brown stated.
“For that matter, neither does Mr. Crandan,” Chief Brown pointed out. “He could be making up a story about a robbery.”
“I see—then he can get the insurance money and still keep the Chinese screens,” Mrs. Brown murmured. “But why would he say one of the twins robbed him?”
“Mr. Crandan dislikes them,” Chief Brown
replied. “They dislike him. I don’t know why, but it has something to do with a tennis tournament many years ago.”
“Mr. Crandan may have faked the robbery,” Mrs. Brown said, “and he’s trying to blame one of the twins.”
“Mr. Crandan doesn’t have a criminal record,” Chief Brown pointed out. “But the twins do. They spent a year in jail in Alabama two years ago for stealing oil paintings.”
“Then turn everything around,” Mrs. Brown said thoughtfully. “The robber didn’t put on his mask until Mr. Crandan entered the living room because he
Mr. Crandan to see his face.”
Chief Brown frowned. “The robbery might be a clever trick. The twins could be setting Mr. Crandan up. If he accuses one of them of stealing the screens and can’t prove which one, he’ll look foolish. Good heavens, what a twist!”
Mrs. Brown glanced at Encyclopedia again. The boy detective had closed his eyes. He always closed his eyes when he did his deepest thinking on a case. Suddenly his eyes opened.
“What was the robber wearing, Dad?” he said.
“Dark trousers and a white, short-sleeved
shirt,” Chief Brown answered.
“Leroy,” Mrs. Brown said, obviously disappointed by the question. “How can his
“Not all his clothes, Mom,” Encyclopedia replied. “Just his shirt. It tells us who is guilty.”
for the solution to
The Case of the Masked Robber.)
hroughout the year Encyclopedia helped his father solve mysteries. During the summer he helped the children of the neighborhood as well.
When school let out, he opened his own detective agency in the family garage. Every morning he hung out his sign:
The last customer Monday was Farnsworth Grant. Farnsworth, who was ten, had founded the Idaville Flat Earth Association.
“If the earth were round, people in Australia would be hanging upside down,” he insisted.
When he came into the Brown Detective Agency, he wasn’t having fun with the earth, round or flat. He was concerned with something round
“Bugs Meany stole my pizza!” he blurted.
Encyclopedia groaned. “Bugs, forever Bugs.”
Bugs Meany was the leader of a gang of tough older boys. They called themselves the Tigers. They should have called themselves the Spoons. They were always stirring up trouble.
Farnsworth explained what had happened. His mother was feeling ill, so he had volunteered to bring home a pizza for dinner.
“Ten minutes ago I was carrying the pizza when Bugs stopped me,” he said. “Bugs looked into the box and helped himself to a piece. Then he said I was just the kind of kid he needed.”
“To join his new society,” Farnsworth answered. “It’s called the Society to Preserve the Round Pizza. He said he needed concerned citizens like me as members.”
“I can guess what happened next,” Encyclopedia remarked. “Bugs said you could join his society if you paid the dues. Since you didn’t have enough money, he took the rest of the pizza in payment.”
“You know Bugs, all right,” Farnsworth said bitterly. He laid twenty-five cents on the gas can beside the detective. “I want to hire you. Get back my pizza!”
“It may be too late,” Encyclopedia warned. “But we’ll talk with Bugs. Come along.”