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The Case of the Mummy Mystery
It all started with a dare. . . .
Only Joey Pignattano would agree to eat a worm in exchange for a dollar. Problem is, he doesn't trust Bobby Solofsky to hold up his end of the deal. So he's hired Jigsaw Jones and Mila Yeh to make sure Bobby keeps his word.
But when the worm goes missing and the primary suspect is a mummyon Halloween of all days!Jigsaw Jones is the only one who can solve the case!
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Guess He'll Go Eat Worms
I'm a detective, and I solve mysteries.
Some cases are nice and easy. Somebody loses a cat. I find the cat. They pay me, and everybody's as happy as a bug in a rug.
Then there are the tough cases. The cases that wiggle and turn like a worm on a hook. The mysteries that are full of surprises.
This was one of those cases.
I thought it was going to be a simple job. But one thing's for sure. I never expected mummy trouble.
That's right. I said mummy. Not mommy. Mummy.
Mommies I can handle. Mummies are a different story. A mummy is a walking zombie. He's a guy covered with bandages who looks like he jumped off a tall building without a parachute. He's a guy who was dead and buried — but then came back to walk the earth.
That kind of mummy.
It all started with a dare. At least that's the way Joey Pignattano told it. We were in my office, a tree house in my backyard. As usual, Joey Pignattano's mouth was moving. But I couldn't believe what my ears were hearing.
I glanced at my best friend and partner, Mila Yeh. Her arms were folded across her stomach. Her face looked pale, like she was going to be sick. As Joey talked, Mila's eyes blinked open and closed, open and closed, like the flashing lights of a Christmas tree.
Mila couldn't believe what Joey was saying, either.
I interrupted Joey, speaking slowly and carefully. "Hold on, Joey. Let me make sure I've got all the facts." I read from my detective journal. "You are telling us that you are going to eat ... a worm."
Joey's head bobbed up and down enthusiastically. "For a dollar," he added, smiling proudly.
"For a dollar," I repeated. "Well, that's not something you see every day." I scratched the back of my neck. "Are you going to eat it plain? Or with ketchup?"
Joey's eyes got wide. "Great idea!" he exclaimed. "I never thought of ketchup!"
"It's something to think about," I told him.
Mila shot me a look. I ignored her and continued. "Are you going to swallow the worm whole? Or chew on it?"
Joey bit his lip. "Dunno," he said. "Depends on the worm."
Mila looked at us like we were both nuts. But I had to admit. I sort of liked the idea of Joey Pignattano eating a worm. Like I said before, it's not something you see every day.
"Wait a minute," Mila said. "Who is paying you the dollar?"
"Bobby Solofsky," Joey answered.
"When are you eating the worm?" she asked.
"Friday," Joey said.
"That's Halloween," I said.
Joey nodded. It sure was.
Mila just shook her head. "Don't you think that eating a worm is sort of ... gross?"
Joey shrugged happily. He didn't particularly think so.
"So why do you need a detective?" I said.
Joey leaned close. "I don't want to get cheated," he whispered. "I don't trust Bobby — he's trouble."
I wouldn't trust Bobby Solofsky, either. But then again, I wouldn't eat a worm for a dollar. I guess there are two kinds of people in the world. Some eat worms. The others, well, they just don't.
Picky eaters, I guess.
"I could make sure you don't get cheated," I assured him. "But I make a dollar a day. Can you afford me?" Joey stared hard into my eyes. "Would I eat a worm if I had that kind of money?" he asked.
I saw his point. Joey Pignattano was flat broke. "OK, Joey," I said. "You can owe me."
So that's how this whole mess started.
The mummy didn't come into it until later on.
That night before dinner, my brothers Daniel and Nicholas were messing around in the playroom while I did my spelling homework. I had to write each word five times and put them in ABC order.
While I worked, I listened to my brothers talk. "Every Halloween," Daniel said to Nicholas, "he prowls through town, causing trouble everywhere he goes."
I looked up from my homework. "Who does?" I asked.
"And he eats stray cats," Daniel said.
"Who does?" I asked again.
"And he loves mischief," Daniel said.
"GUYS!" I yelled. "WHO loves mischief?"
"Don't tell him," Nicholas said. "He'll have bad dreams."
"Tell me WHAT?" I demanded.
"Nothing," Daniel answered.
"Please," I pleaded. "What are you guys talking about?"
Daniel sighed. "OK. But you have to promise not to tell Mom and Dad."
"I promise," I said.
"Do you promise on a stack of Batman comic books?" Nicholas asked.
"I promise," I repeated. "Now tell me: What are you guys talking about?!"
Daniel looked around cautiously. "Not here," he said. "Down in the basement."
Suddenly, my mother called out, "Dinner's almost ready. Theodore, it's your turn to set the table."
"MOM!" I complained. "Please don't call me Theodore. Everybody calls me Jigsaw."
My dad came into the room. In a funny voice he said, "I don't care WHAT you call me ... as long as you call me for dinner."
Then he gave my mom a big, sloppy kiss.
Daniel gave me a poke. "After dinner," he whispered. "In the basement."
I smiled. Secrets are almost as much fun as mysteries.
My mom set out a big, steaming bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce. "Joey Pignattano is going to eat a worm for a dollar," I announced.
"That's very nice, dear," my mother said. "Please pass the spaghetti, Billy."
I continued, "I wouldn't eat a worm, no matter how much you paid me."
"I'm proud of you, son," my father mumbled.
I stared down at my plate of spaghetti. "I think Joey is crazy. Worms are so slippery and slimy and gross." I put down my knife and fork. "Sort of like, er, spaghetti."
"Jigsaw!" my sister, Hillary, protested. "Gross me out the door!" She spit out something into her napkin.
"Hey, hey," my father said. "No talk of worms at the dinner table."
One by one, my brothers pushed their plates away.
"What's wrong?" my mom asked.
Billy frowned at me. "Sorry, Mom," he said. "I just don't feel hungry anymore."
"Me, neither," Daniel and Nicholas said.
Hillary complained, "All this talk about eating worms has spoiled my appetite — especially for spaghetti."
Grams didn't seem to pay any attention. She just kept shoveling huge forkfuls into her mouth. Grams finally winked and said, "Eat up, kids. These worms are delicious."
The Legend of the Mummy
An hour later, I followed Daniel and Nicholas down into the basement. My oldest brother, Billy, was already down there. He was rebuilding an old car engine. His face was marked with black grease. A million different parts were laid out on newspaper.
Billy looked up from unscrewing some kind of what-cha-ma-call-it. "What's up?"
"We're going to tell Jigsaw about the Halloween legend," Daniel explained. "You know — the mummy."
Billy nodded slowly, staring hard at Daniel. "Oh, yeah," he said. "The mummy. Don't you think it might scare him too much? I mean, he's only a pip-squeak."
"Am not," I protested.
Daniel sighed. "OK, OK. You know what a mummy is, right?"
"Sure," I joked. "He's like Frankenstein's cousin. Or nephew, or something."
They laughed at me.
"Hey, I'm kidding," I said. "A mummy is a movie monster. He was in one of my puzzles, 'The Monsters of Hollywood.'"
Daniel shook his head. "Yeah, but this one is real, and he lives right here in town."
"Yeah," Billy said. "The mummy rises from his wormy grave and comes alive every Halloween."
Billy got up, arms outstretched, and walked stiffly across the room. He moaned and groaned. He tried to grab me by the throat. But I ducked out of the way.
"Remember Mrs. Estep's cat, Twinkles?" Daniel asked.
"Remember how it disappeared two years ago at Halloween?"
I still remembered.
"The mummy got it," Billy said.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Barney Fodstock saw it happen," Daniel said.
Billy went on, "And you know Mr. Reilly, the old guy with white hair who lives on Charlie's Hill? His hair used to be jet-black."
"So his hair turned completely white in one night," Billy said. "Because he saw the mummy and nearly died of fright."
A chill ran down my spine. Which was weird, because I didn't really — really, really — believe in mummies.
But still, it was hard to know for sure.
It's a Mystery
When I got to the bus stop the next morning, I found Joey Pignattano staring into his hand.
"What are you doing, Joey?" I asked.
"Training," he answered.
I looked closer. An ant crawled on Joey's palm.
Joey closed his eyes, brought his hand to his mouth, and swallowed. The poor ant never knew what hit him. One minute he was crawling around, searching for a crumb. The next minute the little guy was trapped inside Joey Pignattano's belly.
What a way to go.
Joey licked his lips and shrugged. "Not so bad," he said.
"Sure," I said. "Better than Raisinets. But a tiny ant is not exactly a squishy worm."
"I know," Joey said earnestly. "I'm working my way up the animal kingdom."
Mila skipped out of her house. The minute she saw Joey, Mila started singing:
"Nobody likes me,
When the bus pulled away, I watched as Mila's house got smaller and smaller until it was the size of a bug. "Did you decide yet what you're going to be for Halloween?" Mila asked me.
I shrugged. "I don't know. A pirate, I guess. Or maybe a gorilla. Or Frankenstein, I think, maybe. How about you?" I asked.
Mila smiled. "Here's a hint. I vant to suck your blood!"
We both laughed. Mila was going to be a vampire. "My stepmom, Alice, is sewing me this really cool black cape. And I already have a set of plastic fangs."
Then I told her what my brothers had told me. About the mummy ... and how he walks through town on Halloween ... and causes all sorts of trouble.
Ralphie Jordan, who was sitting in front of us, turned around. "It's true," he said. "Barney Fodstock even saw the mummy with his own eyes."
"How do YOU know?" I asked.
"Everybody knows about the mummy," Ralphie said. "It knocked down Earl Bartholemew last year."
Earl Bartholemew was an eighth-grader who lived across the street from Ralphie. "Are you sure?" Ralphie's eyes lit up, bright and large. "It was Halloween night. Earl was in a hurry, so he cut through Greenlawn Cemetery. Suddenly, he felt someone push him in the back. Earl fell and chipped a tooth. But when he turned around ... no one was there."
"Maybe he tripped," I said.
Ralphie shook his head. "No, Jigsaw. He was pushed."
"Well," Mila said, pulling on her long black hair, "it sounds like a mystery to me."
I pulled out my detective journal. I turned to a new page. With an orange marker, I wrote: THE CASE OF THE MUMMY MYSTERY. "This looks like a job for Jigsaw Jones, Private Eye."
Halloween was nearly here. Everybody in room 201 was ready to explode with excitement. Our teacher, Ms. Gleason, said she was going to send the whole class to the nurse. "You kids have a bad case of Halloween Fever."
We sure did. We were really looking forward to the Halloween parade. All the parents were going to come. Even Grams. And it was the same day that Joey Pignattano was going to eat a worm. What more could you ask for?
Meanwhile, the story of the Halloween mummy swept through the class like a hurricane. The more kids talked about it, the better the stories got. Now even Bobby Solofsky claimed that he had seen the mummy. I didn't know about that. But one thing was sure: We were all going to stay far away from Greenlawn Cemetery.
Ms. Gleason was excited, too. But she wasn't thinking about mummies. "I really want to win the teachers' pumpkin pie contest this year," she told us. "Ever since last year's disaster, I've been working extra hard in the kitchen."
"What happened last year?" Danika Starling asked.
Ms. Gleason buried her face in her hands. "I left my pie on the radiator at school on the day of the contest. By the time the judge saw it, my beautiful pie was melting. You could have eaten it with a straw!"
Then Ms. Gleason cheered up. "But this is my year," she said. "I'm going to make the most beautiful, most delicious pumpkin pie this school has ever seen — and I'm not going to leave it on the radiator!"
"I don't like pumpkin pie," complained Athena Lorenzo. She squinched up her face. "It tastes too ... pumpkiny."
Ms. Gleason walked to the blackboard. "Well, OK, then. Everyone break into groups. We've got a lot of work to do."
Ms. Gleason was the best teacher in the school. She made learning fun. This week's theme was Halloween. All week long, every activity had something to do with Halloween. So we didn't even mind learning.
On Monday, Ms. Gleason draped a white sheet over the big stuffed chair for story hour. She drew two black eyes on the sheet. We all took turns sitting in the ghost's lap for story hour. Even better, we read spooky stories every day.
On Tuesday, we played Halloween Bingo with our vocabulary words. We did Spider Math on Wednesday. Every group got a spider's body with a different number on it. My group — Mila, Joey, Geetha Nair, and me — got number seventeen. Then we had to pick out the legs that added up to seventeen and attach them to the body. I attached 9 + 8 and 11 + 6. Joey Pignattano tried to attach 1 + 7, but Mila wouldn't let him. In art, we made really cool bat mobiles.
Meanwhile, I did a little work on Joey's case. First I caught up with Bobby Solofsky in the cafeteria. He was sitting with Bigs Maloney, Lucy Hiller, and Eddie Becker. "Joey told me about your dare," I said.
Bobby slid his tongue across his teeth and made a sucking noise. "Yeah, so what," he said.
"I'm supposed to make sure everything's fair and square," I told him. "Joey doesn't want to get cheated."
"Cheated?! By me?!" Bobby placed his hand on his chest. "I'd never cheat anyone."
"Sure, Solofsky," I said. "You're a regular Boy Scout. But just in case, why don't you let me hold onto the money. This way it won't get lost."
Eddie's Big Idea
Eddie Becker pulled me aside after lunch. "Hey, Jigsaw," he said. "Is Joey really going to eat a worm for a dollar?"
I shrugged. "You know Joey. What do you think?"
Eddie smiled. "I think he's crazy enough to do it."
I nodded. Joey was definitely crazy enough to do it.
"But you're going about this the wrong way," Eddie said. "He could make a lot more than a dollar if you let me help."
"How?" I asked.
"Sell tickets," Eddie said. "I bet you a lot of kids would pay a quarter to watch him do it."
I thought it over. "Well, it's not something you see every day."
Eddie offered to be in charge of selling tickets. "But I want pay for my work," he said. "I get half. Joey gets half."
It was a deal. We shook hands right there. Now Joey would be able to pay the dollar he owed me.
"One more thing," I added. "Tell Bobby that I'll bring the worm."
Back in room 201, I found a note inside my desk. It was in code:
blue the witch candy purple mummy and tall man green is like door monster red going brown to trick treat orange get black you!
I knew the note was from Mila. She liked to test my brainpower. This one was called a color code. The only words that really mattered were the ones that came right after color words. So I circled all the color words. Then I underlined the words that were next in line.
I looked up and saw Mila smiling at me.
I grabbed my throat and made a choking sound. Then my head fell on the desk, as if I had suddenly dropped dead.
At recess, Ms. Gleason gave Mila and me permission to visit the school library. We wanted to learn more about mummies. We found a good book called Mummies! Mummies! and More Mummies!
I was a good reader. But Mila was a fantastic reader. It didn't matter how many words were in the book or how squished together the words were. Mila could read just about anything.
I looked over her shoulder while Mila flipped through the pages. She'd read a little bit, say, "Hmmm," or "Boring," or "Yuck," and flip the page. When she said "Yuck," I always made her read it out loud.
Here's the thing. Long ago in Egypt, they used to make mummies all the time. That's because the Egyptians didn't want the bodies to get all juicy. The Egyptians believed they would need their bodies later on in a place called "The Afterlife." The Afterlife was their idea of heaven.
It took seventy days to make a mummy. The grossest part was when they scooped out the brain. They did this by sticking a long spoon up the dead guy's nose!
Then the embalmer — the guy who was in charge of making mummies — took out the dead guy's stomach and guts and stuff. Then they dried the body out with a special salt called natron and wrapped it up nice and tight like a birthday present.
Presto! One mummy, coming up!
Ding! The bell rang. We had to get back to room 201.
Oh, well. At least now I understood why mummies were so grumpy. They've all got headaches!
Excerpted from "A Jigsaw Jones Mystery: The Case of the Mummy Mystery"
Copyright © 1999 James Preller.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Guess He'll Go Eat Worms,
Chapter 2 Not Hungry,
Chapter 3 The Legend of the Mummy,
Chapter 4 It's a Mystery,
Chapter 5 Halloween Fever,
Chapter 6 Eddie's Big Idea,
Chapter 7 Worms in a Box,
Chapter 8 The Robbery!,
Chapter 9 An Eyewitness,
Chapter 10 Pumpkin Pie?,
Chapter 11 Mila Saves the Day,
Chapter 12 Joey's Big Moment,
Sneak Peak: The Case from Outer Space,
Other Books By James Preller,
About the Author,