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Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

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BOOK: Mystery of the Mummy's Curse
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“It's the missing gold cat,” Benny said.

The children looked at each other, speechless.

“I'll go get Pete,” Jessie said, walking toward the door.

A few moments later, Jessie returned with Pete—and Dr. Snood.

Jessie showed them the lock on the door. “See, here are the scratches.”

The two men studied it. “This was definitely picked from the inside,” Dr. Snood agreed. “Just as you said.”

Then they walked to the back of the room and looked at the open coffin. “You children didn't open this?” Dr. Snood asked.

The children all shook their heads.

“Help me,” Dr. Snood said to Pete. Together they lifted the lid off and placed it gently on the table. Then they both walked slowly around the coffin, examining the mummy and the death mask.

“I don't know why someone opened the coffin, but fortunately the mummy doesn't appear to be damaged,” Dr. Snood said at last. He sounded relieved.

“There's something else,” Henry said.

Dr. Snood looked up from the mummy. “What is it?”

Henry motioned to the gold cat. “We just found this—in Sam's bag,” said Henry.

Dr. Snood picked up the statue. “In her bag, you say?” He strode over to Sam's desk. “I don't know what's going on, but I think it's time I had a word with Dr. Dickerson.” He picked up the telephone.

“No,” Jessie said.

Dr. Snood spun around in surprise.

“I mean, please let me call,” said Jessie quickly. “I have a plan.”

Dr. Snood looked at her for a moment and then nodded. “All right,” he said.

Jessie picked up the phone and dialed Sam's number. She looked nervous. “Hello, Sam,” she said after a moment. “It's Jessie, at the museum. Pete asked me to give you a call. He needs to see you.”

She listened for a moment before she spoke again. “I don't know, he didn't say. He just asked that you come right away.”

Again she listened, then said, “No, Dr. Snood is out at a meeting.”

At last Jessie smiled. “All right, we'll see you soon.”

She hung up the phone.

“Why did you tell her that—about Pete asking you to call and Dr. Snood being out?” Henry asked.

“I know it isn't right to lie,” Jessie said. “But I didn't think Sam would come if she knew
Dr. Snood
wanted to see her. I've noticed that she's always avoiding him.”

“That does seem to be true,” Dr. Snood agreed.

“I guess you might say I've ... set a trap,” Jessie said.

“Very smart, young lady,” Dr. Snood admitted.

Jessie smiled and felt her cheeks turning pink.

Pete grinned. “I told you these kids were good.”

“I have a question,” said Henry. “Has Sam told either of you about the pieces missing from the exhibit?”

“What?” the two men said. They looked at each other and then back at the children.

“Pieces
missing
?” asked Pete. “I've heard nothing of the kind.”

“Neither have I,” said Dr. Snood.

“We noticed some pieces missing, like a small baboon sculpture, and the little blue hippo, and a flute, and this gold cat. Sam said she had told you,” said Jessie.

“No one said anything to me,” Dr. Snood said. He seemed to be straining to remain calm. “When Dr. Dickerson comes, we'll get to the bottom of this. Pete and I will wait in here until she comes,” Dr. Snood said, stepping into the exhibit hall.

When the two men had gone, Violet said sadly, “I hate to think that she's the one who's been stealing the pieces all along. She's so nice.”

“I agree,” said Jessie. “But she could still be a thief.”

The Aldens waited for Sam to come. No one felt much like talking. The only sound was the clock ticking on the wall.

Finally, the children heard footsteps in the hallway. “That must be her now,” Jessie whispered.

The footsteps came closer, and then Sam stood in the doorway. “What's the matter?” she asked.

Then she spotted the statue on the table. “What's this doing in here? I put this—” She stopped abruptly as Dr. Snood stepped into the room, with Pete behind him.

For a moment, Sam and Dr. Snood just looked at each other.

Then a slow smile spread across Dr. Snood's face. It was not a happy smile. Instead, he looked very, very angry.

Sam sighed heavily and looked at the ground.

“So it's you,” Dr. Snood said, his voice tight. “Even under all that red hair, I'd recognize you anywhere. I hoped I'd never see you again.”

“Hello, Reggie,” Sam said.

“What's going on?” asked Benny.

Dr. Snood turned to the children. “We've found our thief,” he said. “Her name is Samantha Peters.”

“It was,” said Sam. “I've married. Now I'm Samantha Dickerson.”

“You two know each other?” Pete asked.

“Yes,” said Dr. Snood. “Dr. Peters—or Dr. Dickerson, if you prefer—was my partner many years ago, before I became the director here. We were digging in an Egyptian tomb. She was a brilliant Egyptologist, and everything was going well. Until I realized I could never work with her again.”

“Why?” asked Benny.

“Shall I tell them?” Dr. Snood asked Sam.

She looked away, refusing to answer.

Dr. Snood turned back to the children. “She suggested we might take a few ‘souvenirs' from the dig—small statues to keep for ourselves or sell. I told her, definitely not. But it sounds as if that's exactly what she's been doing here.”

“Is it?” Violet asked Sam in a soft voice.

Sam was looking at the floor. She sighed again. At last she looked up at the faces of the children. Her face looked sad and tired. “Yes, I have,” she admitted at last. “When Pete asked me to run this exhibit, I was very happy. I haven't been making much money lately. I thought I'd be able to pocket a few pieces and make some quick cash. I was planning to sell them to a rich collector I know.”

“That's who you were talking to on the phone about a cat, wasn't it?” asked Jessie.

“Yes,” Sam said. “When I found out that Dr. Snood was the director here, I was afraid he'd catch me. So I had my hair curled and dyed red. I went by my married name and called myself Sam so people would assume I was a man. Unless they met me, of course.”

“So that's why you've been avoiding Dr. Snood,” Jessie said.

“Yes,” said Sam. “When Tina got hurt, I was pleased that Pete suggested you children would help me. I figured I could slip anything past a bunch of kids.” She raised her eyebrows. “But I didn't realize who I was dealing with. You Aldens are smart. And you don't give up.”

“No,” Henry said. “We don't. Not until we've solved the mystery.”

“So you never told anyone that those pieces were missing, did you?” asked Violet.

“Of course not,” said Sam. “I didn't think you'd even notice if a piece was gone here and there. That's why I didn't take them all at once. I hadn't counted on you having such good memories. I had to pretend I was surprised each time you noticed another one missing. But I figured that if you kids were the only ones who knew, then I was safe.”

“But then why did you give me that list to make sure nothing was missing?” asked Jessie.

“I made up that list myself. I left off the pieces I'd already taken,” Sam said.

“What about my notebook?” Jessie asked. “Did you take it?”

“I did,” Sam said. “You let me look at it, and I never gave it back. I changed it, too. I tried to make it look like your handwriting, so you wouldn't realize. Then I left it by Dr. Snood's office, so you'd think he'd taken it, not me.”

“What about the lock on the door and the open coffin?” asked Henry. “Did you do that?”

Sam nodded. “That's where I was hiding the pieces,” she said.

“In the coffin?” Benny asked, shocked.

“I knew no one would look in there,” she said. “Last night I came back here very late, after everyone had left. I was planning to take out the last of the pieces. But then the security guard came by, just as I was about to leave. I quickly turned off the lights so she wouldn't see me. But then she did something I hadn't expected.” Sam laughed a short laugh. “She thought no one was in here, so she locked the door. I was locked in.”

“And you had to break out,” Henry said.

“Exactly,” said Sam. “Good thing I know how to pick a lock. But in my hurry I left the coffin open and forgot to lock the door behind me. And I accidentally left the most valuable piece here—that gold cat.”

While they were talking, Pete had quietly gone over to the telephone and made a phone call. A police officer appeared in the doorway just as Sam was finishing her story.

As the police officer led her away, Pete said, “It looks as if the mummy's curse is on Sam.”

James Alden and his grandchildren arrived at the museum that night just before seven o'clock.

“I can't wait to see how everyone likes the exhibit,” Benny said.

“And I can't wait to see what you've all been working on,” Grandfather said.

“Hello, Aldens,” Pete said, coming over as soon as he saw them. He brought Dr. Snood with him. The Aldens were surprised to see how happy Dr. Snood looked.

“James, good to see you,” Pete said. He introduced Dr. Snood to James Alden.

“The exhibit looks great,” said Grandfather.

“We couldn't have done it without your grandchildren,” Pete said.

“I must admit I had my doubts at first,” Dr. Snood said. “But I was wrong. They did a great job with the exhibit—and they caught a criminal!”

“That is their specialty,” Grandfather said proudly.

“Can I tell you something, Dr. Snood?” Jessie asked in a quiet voice.

“Yes,” Dr. Snood said.

“We thought
you
might be the thief,” she said.


Me?
” he said. And then he did something they had never seen him do. He began to laugh. “Why me?”

“Well, we kept seeing you looking at the pieces, and then they'd be missing,” said Jessie. “And there always seemed to be something bothering you.”

Dr. Snood was silent for a moment. Then he spoke. “You children are wise beyond your years. There has been something bothering me, and it took this exhibit for me to realize it.”

“Realize what?” Pete asked.

“I realized, as I watched this exhibit being put together, how much I miss Egyptology. That's my real love. So I'm stepping down as director. I'm going to lead a dig in Egypt next year.”

“Excuse me,” said a voice behind the children.

They turned around and were surprised to see Lori Paulson.

“Hello, Ms. Paulson,” Pete said.

“What are you doing here?” Benny couldn't help asking.

Suddenly Henry laughed. “I think I know,” he said. “You're a reporter for the
Greenfield Daily News
, aren't you?”

“How did you know?” Lori asked, surprised.

“When I called the newspaper yesterday, you were the one who answered, weren't you?” Henry said.

Lori nodded.

“I knew your voice was familiar,” Henry explained. “I just didn't figure out it was you until now.”

“I've just started working there,” Lori explained. “I'm an assistant in the Arts and Entertainment section. I was trying to make a name for myself by bringing in a report on the new exhibit. The museum was keeping it all such a secret. I thought there had to be something important going on. I wanted to get the story before any other reporter.”

“So that's why you were always at the museum asking questions,” said Benny.

“I was hoping you kids would tell me something,” said Lori. “I listened when you were in the café and made notes in my notebook.”

“So that's what you were hiding under the table that day,” Henry said.

“I also sneaked up to the exhibit hall a couple of times and tried to peek in,” Lori told them.

“We heard your footsteps,” Violet said.

“And I did something I regret.” Lori looked down at her feet and then back at the children. “One day, I sneaked into the prep room and went through the papers on the desk and looked at the artifacts. I was hoping to learn something to put in the article. But I heard a sound and rushed out before I had a chance to put things back. I'm afraid I left quite a mess.”

“What were you doing at the Carson City Museum?” Henry asked.

“I heard they'd tried to get this exhibit, too,” said Lori. “So I called them to find out. They wrote to me, and then finally gave me an appointment with the director the day I saw you there.”

“And what did she have to say?” Dr. Snood asked.

“She told me at first they were disappointed they hadn't gotten the exhibit,” Lori said. “But when she talked with Pete Miller, they came up with some ways the two museums could work together in the future.”

“Good work,” Dr. Snood told Pete.

“Why were you being so secretive?” Jessie asked Lori.

“I was afraid that if you knew I was a reporter you wouldn't tell me anything,” Lori said.

“We thought you were a spy” said Benny.

“A spy?” Lori said. And they all burst out laughing.

“As it turns out,” Pete said, “there is quite a story behind this exhibit. And I think the Aldens are just the ones to tell it.”

The children spent the rest of the night telling Lori everything that had gone on at the Greenfield Museum while the exhibit was being prepared.

The next morning, Jessie picked up the newspaper at the front door. She brought it in to the kitchen, where the whole family was sitting, eating Mrs. McGregor's special blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Jessie turned straight to the Arts and Entertainment section. There, on the front page, was a picture of the four Aldens standing next to the mummy, and an article written by Lori Paulson, staff reporter. The headline read, ALDEN CHILDREN KEEP MUMMY'S CURSE FROM COMING TRUE.

BOOK: Mystery of the Mummy's Curse
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