Read an Excerpt
The Dinosaur Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1995 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Terrible Lizard
Five suitcases, three good-sized ones and two small ones, stood next to three good-sized children and two small ones. The children's grandfather, James Alden, reached into the trunk of his car. They had just pulled up behind the Pickering Natural History Museum.
"Whoa!" Mr. Alden said as he dragged out a heavy box. "What's in here, Benny?"
"Rocks!" six-year-old Benny Alden announced as he helped his grandfather lift the box from the trunk.
"My goodness, Benny," twelve-year-old Jessie Alden teased, "I thought you were just bringing a small bag of your rocks."
"I couldn't decide, Jessie, so I brought all of them," Benny told his oldest sister. "Mr. and Mrs. Diggs can help me make them into a real rock collection!"
"Do they know about birds' nests, too?" Soo Lee asked her cousin Violet Alden.
"They know all about birds' nests, too. And fossils and dinosaurs and all kinds of things." She took her seven-year-old cousin by the hand.
Soo Lee smiled at Violet. The Aldens were part of her adopted family now. They were cousins of her parents, Joe and Alice Alden.
Mr. Alden closed the trunk of the car. "Well, children, I know the Pickering Museum will have a dinosaur skeleton or two and a few other things you children are going to like." Mr. Alden and Henry moved the suitcases next to the side entrance to the museum, which was closed at this hour. "Now, let's see. Where's that buzzer Emma and Archie told me to ring for the night watchman?"
"Here it is!" Soo Lee cried.
"Then give it a ring," Mr. Alden told her.
Soo Lee pressed, then pressed again. The Aldens could hear the bell echoing inside the museum. Soon they saw a light moving along the dark hall.
Benny and Soo Lee pressed their faces against the glass door.
"Benny," Soo Lee whispered. "Can you see it? Can you see the dinosaur?"
Before Benny could answer, a large figure blocked the door.
"Museum's closed!" the Aldens heard a man yell from inside.
Benny rang the bell this time. The guard aimed his flashlight at the Aldens.
"I said the museum's closed!" the man repeated. "It doesn't open until ten tomorrow."
Before the Aldens could explain why they were there, the man disappeared.
"I'm going to drive around the block to the Diggses' apartment," Mr. Alden said. "Maybe they forgot to tell the guard when we were arriving."
Mr. Alden drove off, and the Alden children sat down on their suitcases to wait.
"Here," Violet said to Soo Lee. "You can lean against me. Soon we'll be inside the Diggses' apartment with our own beds to sleep in. Tomorrow there will be plenty of time for dinosaurs."
Soo Lee nodded. She hugged the small teddy bear the Aldens had given her as a present when she'd arrived from Korea.
Benny tried to cover a yawn. "I'm not tired. I want to see the big old dinosaur that's inside this museum!"
Fourteen-year-old Henry yawned too. "Well, I don't think that dinosaur is going anywhere tonight, Benny."
Benny leaned up against the door again. When he did, a loud alarm began to buzz over and over. The children covered their ears to muffle the terrible sound.
"What's going on?" Henry yelled over the racket.
"Somebody's here!" Benny yelled back.
The museum door whooshed open. A tall man in a uniform and hat waved his flashlight over the children like a spotlight. Next to him, a large German shepherd pulled hard on a leash and growled at the children,
"I told you," the man began. "The museum's closed, and now you've set off the alarm!"
"I did?" Benny asked, surprised that he had caused all this ruckus.
The man pushed a button on the wall. The awful alarm finally stopped, but the dog's growling did not.
Benny usually liked dogs, even big ones. They reminded him of the Aldens' own wonderful dog, Watch. But Benny would rather have come face to face with a live dinosaur than this big dog!
"Down, Nosey!" the guard ordered.
"Nice dog," Jessie said in her sweet voice. "He's a watchdog. Just like our dog, Watch."
Jessie's soothing voice seemed to calm the animal. He stopped growling and began to sniff at the children.
"I bet he smells Watch's fur on our clothes," Henry explained to the guard. "We couldn't bring him on this trip. Mr. and Mrs. Diggs don't have room for our whole family and our dog."
The guard gave the children a puzzled look. "You know Mr. and Mrs. Diggs? They are on the Board of Directors of the Pickering Museum!"
"They invited us to help set up the Dino World exhibit," Jessie explained politely. "They're friends of Grandfather's. They were looking for volunteers to help out."
The guard smacked his forehead. "Say, now I know what you're talking about! Mrs. Diggs did say something yesterday about meeting you with the loading cart tonight. Forgot all about it, I did. Even wrote myself a note since I'm always forgetting things, but — oops — I lost the note!"
The Alden children felt better now.
"I didn't mean to scare you," the man said in a much friendlier voice. "I'm Pete, Pete Lawlor. And this is our watchdog, Nosey. He's friendly when he knows you."
A phone rang in the distance, and Nosey's ears pricked up.
Pete Lawlor went off to answer the phone while the children gently stroked Nosey. He sniffed at the children's shoes, their suitcases, and their clothes.
"That was Mrs. Diggs on the phone," Pete said when he came back. "She told me to put your suitcases on this cart and bring you straight up to the apartment. I bet you don't know how we're going to get there."
"Through a tunnel?" Soo Lee guessed.
"Grandfather told us about the tunnel before we got here," Henry explained.
"Shucks!" Pete said. He pushed the cart down the dim hall past a wall of television screens that showed different rooms of the museum. "I wanted to surprise you. Just work people from the gas company and a few museum people use the tunnel. It runs underneath the museum and the apartment building across the way. That's where Mr. and Mrs. Diggs live. There's an entrance over this way," Pete said. "Straight through Africa."
Trailing behind Pete and Nosey, the children made their way through a large hall lit only by an exit sign. Up ahead were six huge humps.
Henry felt Soo Lee's hand squeeze his own. "Are those dinosaurs?" she asked.
"Not exactly," Henry answered. "Here, up you go." He gave her a boost up to his shoulders. "See?"
"Elephants!" Soo Lee exclaimed.
The cart squeaked to a stop when Pete reached a doorway. He pulled a crumpled map from his pocket. "Let's see, is it this door or the one over there?" he mumbled to himself.
The children looked at each other, puzzled. For a museum guard, Pete Lawlor didn't seem to know his way around very well.
"Let's try Entomology," he said.
"Ento what?" Soo Lee and Benny repeated together.
"Entomology," Jessie said. "Where they study bugs, I think."
Sure enough, when Pete opened the door, the Aldens found themselves in a room full of insects, hundreds of them!
"Take a look at that one!" Pete said. His flashlight stopped in front of a glass display case standing apart from the others.
"Wow!" Benny cried when he got a closer look. "I'm glad it's not alive and crawling around." It was a crunchy-looking beetle nearly five inches long.
"It's a Goliath beetle from Africa," Pete said. "How'd you like to meet up with one of those?"
"I don't think I would," Violet answered.
"Me neither," Henry agreed.
"Maybe I would!" Benny said, but his voice trailed away. Suddenly he felt tired after all. He'd had enough bugs for one night.
Benny's big yawn was catching, and the other children began to yawn, too.
"If you think that's a scary critter, take a look at this one," Pete said. He beamed his flashlight across the room to another display case.
Henry pointed to his watch. "You know what, Pete? We had a long car trip with our grandfather. How about a tour another time instead?"
"Sure," Pete said. "I get carried away and forget what time it is. Now let's see if I can find the right door. Give me a minute."
Pete trotted off, jangling his keys. The children leaned on each other, too tired to think about being in a strange, dark room full of bugs!
Just as their eyes began to adjust to the dim light, they heard the alarm scream again. Nosey bolted out of the bug room, his toenails clicking against the marble floors.
Soo Lee held on to Violet, and Benny stayed close to Jessie.
"Wait here," Henry said, racing after Nosey. "I'm going to see what set off that alarm. This time it wasn't us."
"I want to go, too," Benny said, half scared and half excited.
Leaving the cart behind, the other children covered their ears and followed Henry.
"Look, somebody went in there!" Benny pointed to a door.
Henry pulled it open.
The children jumped back. Inside the huge, dim room was a giant dinosaur skeleton with a jaw big enough to eat a tree—or a person! Shadows loomed on the wall.
Suddenly the children heard panting, then keys jangling. But they couldn't tell where the noises were coming from.
"Hey, how did you kids get in here?" Pete Lawlor said next. "I'm afraid it's off-limits without Dr. Pettibone here to let you in. Even Mr. and Mrs. Diggs are careful not to upset Titus by coming in here without him."
"Benny thought he saw somebody sneak in here," Henry explained, "so we just followed. We thought maybe it was you."
Pete shook his head. "No way! Titus Pettibone is the head of the fossil department, and nobody comes in here without his say-so. He doesn't want anything to happen to T. rex here. This Tyrannosaurus is going to be the main attraction when Dino World opens. Titus has been working on this skeleton his whole life, and...."
Pete forgot what he was saying. Instead, he beamed his flashlight up and down the skeleton as he walked around the huge creature. "I don't get too much of a chance to see T. rex myself. What a beast! No wonder they called some dinosaurs terrible lizards."
"Come on, you two," Jessie said. "Let's go find Mr. and Mrs. Diggs."
The children headed toward the exit. The door was about to click shut when Violet stopped.
"Where's Pete?" she asked.
The children turned around. There were two dinosaurs in the room now, the huge real skeleton and the even larger shadow that covered the wall and ceiling. And Pete had forgotten all about the Aldens as he kept flashing his light over the dinosaur skeleton.
"Pete! Pete!" Henry's voice echoed.
Finally Pete pulled away from the dinosaur, nearly tripping over its tailbones.
"Sorry, kids," he apologized. "I just wanted another look. It seems bigger and more amazing at night."
With Pete and Nosey leading the way, the children filed out of the dinosaur room, and did not see another shadow moving slowly across the wall.CHAPTER 2
The Shadow Knows
Pete deposited the children at Mr. and Mrs. Diggs's. "It's nice to be in a normal apartment," Benny said.
An older gray-haired couple smiled at the children.
"Not too normal." Grandfather Alden laughed. "Just take a peek in the other rooms."
The children stuck their heads in the living room. Every inch of it was crammed with amazing things. Several animal skulls hung on the wall. Stuffed animals and birds of all kinds filled each corner. Benny looked admiringly at a collection of old snakeskins.
"We're so lucky to be living and working at such a fine museum," Mrs. Diggs told Benny, "We get a lot of its leftovers."
"I like leftovers!" Benny announced.
"You can't eat those leftovers, Benny," Archie Diggs said. "But Emma and I made you folks some sandwiches from our roast chicken dinner."
"Leftover chicken sandwiches are my favorites," Benny said.
Laughing and talking, the Aldens sat down at the Diggses' kitchen table to eat sandwiches and to make plans for the next day.
"Now tomorrow morning, first thing, I'll give you a quick tour of the museum before it opens," Archie Diggs began. "You'll meet Eve Skyler, who's head of the planetarium. And the day after, you'll work with our famous fossil scientist, Titus Pettibone."
Mrs. Diggs put down her teacup when she noticed the Aldens frowning. "What is it, children? Is something wrong?"
"Mr. Bones might get mad at us," Soo Lee said. "The man with the flashlight told us."
"Told you what?" Mr. Diggs asked.
"That Titus Pettibone doesn't let anybody near the dinosaur room and, well ... that's where we wanted to help out," Henry explained.
"We know you do," Mrs. Diggs said. "That's the whole reason we asked you here. Why, with the Dino World opening just a week away, Titus knows he can't do every thing himself."
"Not to mention all the problems we've been having around here lately," Archie said. "Our alarm system seems to be acting up. And our new night watchman, Pete—a nice young man, mind you—still needs a lot of supervision. He just started on the job."
"Now, Archie, you and Emma shouldn't worry," Mr. Alden said. "Once Titus learns how careful these children are, he'll be glad to have them on board."
"Thanks, James," Mrs. Diggs said. Mr. Alden stood up to go. He would be back for the opening of Dino World. Mrs. Diggs handed him his hat and scarf. "I know your grandchildren and your grandniece will be a big help."
After walking their grandfather to the door to say good-bye, Henry, Jessie, and Violet rejoined Benny and Soo Lee in the kitchen, When they got there, the food had been cleared away, and in the middle of the table was Benny's rock box. Benny was sitting next to Mrs. Diggs and explaining where he had found each and every rock. "This one came from the stream next to where we lived in our boxcar," Benny told Mrs. Diggs. "I'm saving it forever and ever."
Mrs. Diggs put on her glasses for a closer look. "This one's a nice piece of black shale, Benny. Now tell me, what's in that jar?"
Benny slowly took out a mayonnaise jar full of shiny dead insects.
"Your cicadas, Benny!" Jessie cried. "You brought your dead cicadas, too?"
Benny held up the jar as proudly as if it held gold nuggets. "A whole jar full!" he told Mr. and Mrs. Diggs. "They fall out of the big tree in our backyard every summer, and I save them. I don't think they live long."
"You'll make a good scientist," Mr. Diggs told Benny. "Adult cicadas only live a few weeks, but they sing up a storm for those few weeks. They look quite nice in that jar too. Good place for them. This week, I'll take you to the Entomology Room."
"Entomology is the study of ..." Mrs. Diggs began to explain to the children.
"Bugs!" Benny and Soo Lee shouted together.
"Pete told us when he took us to the bug room," Violet said.
Mrs. Diggs looked surprised. "Took you to the bug room? Whatever for?"
"He thought it was a shortcut to get to your apartment," Henry said. "But we came here a different way, over by the dinosaur room."
"You were in the dinosaur room, too?" Mr. Diggs asked. "How on earth did you get inside? I hope Pete didn't fool with that lock. He's still finding his way around, I'm afraid."
"I was afraid, too," Soo Lee said, biting her lip. "The big dinosaur made big shadows way, way up."
Mrs. Diggs patted Soo Lee on the shoulder. "Well, you needn't be afraid. We'll get Titus to give you a tour during the day. My goodness, I wonder what Pete was doing over on that side of the museum at this late hour? Well, let's get you all off to bed and figure this out in the morning. You children have a big day ahead."
"And a big dinosaur ahead, too!" Benny said in an excited voice.
With Mr. and Mrs. Diggs leading the way, the children followed the couple up a short set of stairs to two rooms off a landing.
"Now that Dino World is nearly ready," Mrs. Diggs explained, "we've had to move a lot of things wherever there's room. You'll even find a few interesting things in these guest quarters. Usually we have scientists and museum people staying there, so it's all decorated with specimens from the museum. I hope you children don't mind."
The children stepped inside a small room with a second room connecting to it. Just like the rest of the apartment, these rooms were jammed with all kinds of objects from the museum.
Mr. Diggs pulled down a tiny, stuffed animal with huge eyes to show Benny and Soo Lee. "Now this little fellow is a marmoset monkey. He's about thirty years old. There was no room for him at the museum, so we adopted him."
Benny stroked the stuffed animal, which looked as if it had just jumped down from a tree.
"I can move some of these things to a closet," Mr. Diggs offered. "If they bother you."
"Oh, but we like all this stuff," Benny said. "Soo Lee and I take walks and find things—like my cicadas. I keep them in my room."
Soo Lee showed Mrs. Diggs her special box. "Violet and I found it in the woods. It's a bird's nest."
"A fine hummingbird's nest," Mrs. Diggs said as she turned back the covers on the beds. "You Aldens are all such curious children. I know our staff will enjoy showing you the Pickering's wonderful treasures."
In no time, the Alden children were fast asleep, all except Jessie. Without Watch at the foot of her bed, she couldn't fall asleep right away. The guest room faced the street, and the street lamps and traffic sounds kept her awake.
Excerpted from The Dinosaur Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1995 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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