The Case that Time Forgot
The Sherlock Files Cases: Unsolved Book 3
By Tracy Barrett
Henry Holt and Company Copyright © 2010 Parachute Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
At first, Xander Holmes thought that the slip of paper must have fallen out of his own notebook. But even as he stooped to pick it up, he noticed some details that most people wouldn't have seen. This was partly genetic — he was, after all, the great-great-great grandson of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes — and partly habit. He and his sister, Xena, had started solving mysteries several months earlier, shortly after their arrival in London.
The paper was normal notebook paper, white with faint blue lines. It had been folded and refolded into a narrow rectangle. The size of the slit in my locker, Xander thought, and then, I don't remember folding any paper like that.
He paused. What else? The ink used by whoever had written on it had bled through a bit. His pens didn't do that.
It was probably just a note from his sister or one of his friends. The lockers at school had been installed only recently, while the students were on fall break, and he wasn't used to them yet. Probably people left notes in lockers all the time. He unfolded the paper.
He was still staring at the writing and trying to figure out what it meant when the locker next to his slammed shut. He looked up to see redheaded Andrew Watson, a friend and fellow member of the SPFD, the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives.
"What a pain these lockers are," Andrew grumbled. "You should figure out who's been stealing things so we can go back to storing our gear in our desks like before."
Xander understood that Andrew was just being grouchy, as usual. Andrew knew that he and Xena only investigated problems from Sherlock Holmes's notebook of unsolved cases. The SPFD had given them the precious casebook, and Xander and Xena had already solved two of its most baffling cases.
"Did you hear that Jill Fenton had her MP3 player nicked this morning?" Andrew asked.
"Uh, no," Xander said. He wasn't really paying attention. He was too intrigued by what he was looking at to think about anything else. What the paper said was odd enough, but it was the handwriting that interested him. Did anybody write like that, for real? It was all in capitals, and was written so plainly that it looked like a page from a penmanship book for little kids.
"Xander!" His sister was coming down the hall toward him. She was chatting with Hannah, her new friend. Xena's long dark hair with its blond streak looked almost black next to Hannah's light brown curls. She was followed by two boys named Shane and Jake. They played on what Xander still thought of as the varsity soccer team, despite the fact that they didn't say "varsity" in England. Xander, two years younger, was on what would be the junior varsity in the States.
Xena came up to Xander while the others stopped to talk with Andrew.
"What are you doing?" she asked. "I called you three times. I wanted to tell you I'm staying late after school with Hannah. I phoned Mom to say I'll come home with you after your soccer practice." She paused. "What's so fascinating about that paper?"
He handed it to her. "It's weird. I can't figure out what it is."
Xena read the few lines on the paper:
"So the bullet missed?" the detective asked.
"Yes, she ducked, or —"
But he was on his way out the door. "Dad," he called back over his shoulder, "be sure, lock the door on your way out. I'm going to the homes."
"What is this?" Xena was bewildered. "It doesn't even make sense! It sounds like whoever wrote it doesn't speak English very well." Most of the students at their school were British or American, but others who hadn't been in London very long sometimes had trouble with the language.
Xander grinned. "I think I figured it out. Read it out loud."
"Aha!" Xena said. "'Ducked, or, what, son, sure, lock, homes' — those words sound just like 'Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes'! Someone's trying to tell us they know we're related to Sherlock Holmes!"
"But why? A lot of people saw us on TV when we found that missing painting." The first case that Xena and Xander solved involved a painting that had gone missing in Sherlock Holmes's time. Xena handed the note back to her brother. "I think everybody at school knows Sherlock was our ancestor. Why wouldn't they just say something? Why the note?"
"That's what we have to find out!"
"What — now? It's the middle of school!"
Xander looked at the clock on the wall. "I have time. It's still my lunch hour, and I ate fast. Mom gave me tuna fish." He made a face and didn't need to say more. Xena knew how he felt about tuna. He went on. "And isn't this your free period? You said Ms. Perella doesn't care if you're late."
"Okay." Xena was eager to do a little detecting. "Let's see. Who could have been in the hallway?" She looked around at the rooms near the lockers. Science lab, teachers' lounge, janitor's closet, sixth-grade rooms.
"Almost anybody. You could tell the teacher you were going to the bathroom —"
"There aren't any bathrooms right here."
"No, but you could say you were going to the bathroom and then come this way."
"True." They considered. Then Xena said, "What about the paper?"
Xander examined it. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Except — what's this?" He touched the fold, and his finger stuck a bit when he pulled it away. He tried again, then sniffed at the sticky spot. "Honey!"
A hoot behind him made them turn around. It was Shane, who said in a high voice, "Yes, sweetie?"
Xander felt himself flush, but Xena laughed. "Cut it out!" Her tone was playful, and Shane grinned at her before going back to his conversation with Andrew.
"Jerk," Xander muttered.
Xena took the paper and studied the single page. She turned it over, angling it at the light. "Whoever left this wrote something else on a piece of paper on top of it and made some marks. Let's see." She squinted, her eyes close to the dents that made a light tracing over the letters. "Something about love. No, about Lord N-E-L ..." She spelled out all the letters she could make out.
"Lord Nelson. It's got to be someone in my class! We've been studying the Battle of Trafalgar, where Lord Nelson was killed."
"Someone in your class who had honey on his or her fingers ..."
Xander shook his head. "Sorry, I didn't stick around long enough to see who had what for dessert," he said.
Xena wasn't paying attention to him but was looking down the row of lockers. People were closing them and getting on to class, rubber-soled shoes squeaking on the polished wood floor. Only a few students were left, putting things away or taking out textbooks and notebooks. Xena was good at reading body language — telling how people were feeling from the way they were walking or gesturing or even standing — and something had caught her eye.
"Do you know that guy?" She pointed at a dark-haired boy who was hanging up a jacket on the hook in his locker.
"That's Karim Farag. He's in my class. He's nice. Why?"
Xena kept her eye on the boy. "He just looks — well, he looks tense. And he took that jacket off the hook, hung it up, took it off again, and now he's hanging it up again. I think he's stalling, like he wants to stay here in the hallway for some reason."
"Let me check." Xander slung his backpack over his shoulder and went to where Karim was lingering.
The other boy looked up and nodded at Xander. He took his jacket off the hook again.
"I'm starving," Xander said to him. "I didn't like my lunch so I hardly ate any of it. Do you have anything?"
Karim looked surprised. "My mom gave me these." He pulled a plastic bag out of his pocket. "Honey candy. My grandma made it. Want some?"
Xander felt a flush of satisfaction. "Thanks." He helped himself to a handful. "Hey, I didn't get everything Ms. Jacobsen was saying about Nelson. Can I take a look at your notes?"
Karim nodded and dropped his backpack on the floor. He rummaged around in it for a minute and then pulled out some papers. He handed them to Xander, who took one look, and then glanced at Xena and grinned. She smiled back and made her way toward them through the thinning crowd of students.
"Looks like you need a new pen," Xander said. "Yours is leaking all over the place."
Xena came up. "Okay," she said. "We know you wrote that note about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and left it in Xander's locker. What's up? If you wanted to ask him about our great-great-great grandfather, why didn't you just say something?"
Karim looked around and then beckoned them to come closer. "I had to know if you were good detectives," he whispered hoarsely. "I wanted to see if you could figure out what the note meant and that I was the one who left it. I thought that if you could find all that out, then I could trust you with something."
"Trust us with what?" Xena asked, also pitching her voice low. "Is it about whoever's been stealing things from school?"
"No, it's not about the school thief. It's about Sherlock Holmes — and a case he worked on a long time ago. He never solved it." Karim swallowed. "And I need it to be solved. I need to know what happened to —"
The bell rang. "Meet me after school!" Karim called before he hurried down the hall to his next class.
Xena and Xander watched him go in stunned silence. Finally Xena said, "Well! What do you think that's all about?"
"I don't know, but — we have another case!"
Karim didn't have to tell Xander where to meet him. They both had after-school soccer practice — by now Xander was used to the way it was called "football" in England — and since they'd be practicing together, Xander was sure they'd have lots of chances to talk.
But it didn't turn out that way. It was a chilly, gray day, and the coach made them run laps to warm up. Karim was one of the fastest runners on the team, and every time he slowed down to keep pace with Xander, the coach shrilled on his whistle and yelled at him.
The two boys finally managed to meet in the locker room after practice.
"So what's up?" Xander asked as he changed out of his gym clothes. "What did you mean about a case that Sherlock Holmes worked on?"
"Shh!" Karim looked around. "Not so loud! You don't know who might be listening."
Xander looked around too. "Who?"
"I don't know. But I don't want anyone to know about this. It's — it's something that other people might be interested in. Let's wait until everyone's gone."
Lockers banged, boys talked and laughed, and after what seemed like a long time, they were alone.
Or almost. The janitor, Mr. Franklin, was mopping the floor, muttering about the dirt that the boys had tracked in. "Like there's anything we can do about that," Xander grumbled. "Cleats collect an awful lot of mud." Finally Mr. Franklin and his mop and bucket moved out into the hall.
"Okay," Xander said, "but you have to be quick. They're going to lock up the school any time now."
Karim launched right into his story. "Did you ever hear of the Carberry Museum?" Xander shook his head. "It's a really small place. Some guy named Josiah S. Carberry in the eighteen hundreds had this collection of stuff, mostly fossils and bones but some art too, ancient Greek and Mesopotamian and some Egyptian things."
"It is. Anyway, after he died his house got turned into a museum. Mr. Carberry left a lot of money, and in his will he said that the trustees, the people who run the museum, should use it to buy things that they thought he'd like."
"What are you boys still doing here?"
Xander and Karim jumped and turned around. Mr. Singh, the assistant principal, had poked his head around the open door. "Football practice," they chorused.
"This late? Well, hurry up. I have some work to do in the office, but I want to leave soon."
"Yes, sir," Karim said, and the door closed.
"So about a hundred years ago," Karim went on, "the trustees bought an Egyptian water clock. Do you know what that is?"
It had been a while since Xander had studied ancient civilization back at home, but like many people, he was fascinated with ancient Egypt. He also had the help of his photographic memory and had read most of the encyclopedia. An image popped into his head.
"It's like a big jar, right?" Karim nodded. Xander continued, "And there's a hole at the bottom and lines marked on the inside, and the Egyptians filled it with water, and as it dripped out, they could tell what time it was by the level the water reached."
"Right. There are different kinds, but that's like the one the trustees bought. It was carved from solid rock and weighed over a ton."
"I know. It was huge. So anyway, the Egyptian government sent it here with some other things, and it arrived at a warehouse to get unpacked and cleaned, and then they were going to take it to the Carberry Museum."
"They were going to take it to the museum? It never got there?"
"It vanished. Overnight. Everything else the Egyptians sent was still there, but some things got messed up. A mummy had been moved, and a part of it was broken — like someone maybe was looking for something under it — but the mummy was still there. Even a gold necklace wasn't missing. Just the water clock."
"So they called in Sherlock Holmes?" Of course they would ask for help from the most famous detective of the day, and that was his ancestor! Now that he thought of it, Xander remembered seeing a drawing of something that looked like a large flowerpot in the notebook of unsolved cases that he and Xena had been given by the SPFD. That must be the water clock!
Karim sat up straighter and looked sharply to his right. "What's that?"
"Didn't you hear something?"
Xander strained his ears. "Nope. Nothing. Don't be paranoid. Everybody's gone except Mr. Singh."
"And Mr. Franklin."
"Nah. He finished here. Hurry up — before Mr. Singh comes back."
Karim walked over to the right-hand side of the locker room, glanced toward the showers, then returned. "Nothing there. Okay." But he still seemed nervous.
"Come on." Xander was dying of curiosity. "What else? Why do you care about a stolen water clock? How do you even know about it?"
Karim swallowed. He appeared strangely reluctant to go on. "There were guards watching over the clock." His voice dropped even lower. "And one of them — one of the guards was my great-great-great-granduncle. And — and he confessed that he stole it."
No wonder Karim was embarrassed to talk about the theft. Xander felt sorry for him, but he was more curious than ever. If Karim's ancestor had confessed to the crime, the case was solved. So why was the theft of the clock mentioned in the notebook of Holmes's unsolved cases? What kind of help did Karim want? And why did he come to Xena and Xander right now? Why not months ago, when everyone first found out that they were related to the great detective who had lived a hundred years earlier?
Before Xander could ask, a few musical notes sounded from Karim's backpack. He pulled out his cell phone. "Hi, Mom. Practice ran late." He glanced anxiously at Xander. "I'm still in the locker room. No, I'm fine. Okay, five minutes. Bye." He snapped the phone shut. "I have to be quick. The water clock wasn't the only thing stolen."
"But I thought you said —"
Karim held up his hand. "Please, Xander, let me finish. I went to see my grandparents over the weekend. My granddad is ill." He gulped. "He — he was worried he was going to die, even though my dad says he'll be fine. My granddad said he had something to tell me that should be handed down from father to son. He told my father, but my father didn't believe him, so he had to tell me."
Xander felt a prickle of excitement. "What was it?"
"He told me about the water clock. He said it had a secret compartment, and inside it was a magic amulet that no one's ever found."
Xander's mind was whirring. "An amulet — you mean like a charm?" Karim nodded. "And it's magic?" (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Case that Time Forgot by Tracy Barrett. Copyright © 2010 Parachute Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.