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The Mystery of the Stolen Dinosaur Bones
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2015 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Look at the huge, blue sky!" said Violet Alden. She snapped photos through the window of the shuttle van. Violet was ten, and she loved to paint and photograph beautiful things.
Her twelve-year-old sister, Jessie, sat next to her. She looked out the window over Violet's shoulder.
"I've never seen so much blue sky either. It seems to go on forever," she said.
"That's why people call Montana 'Big Sky Country,'" said Henry. Violet and Jessie's older brother sat behind his sisters. He was reading from a brochure he had picked up at the airport. Henry was fourteen and liked to learn all he could about things. "It looks like we're getting close to the Hell Creek Formation. Paleontologists from around the world come to study the fossils that are found there."
"Elliot's ranch must be close too," said Jessie. "It will be fun to join him on his dinosaur dig!"
The Aldens were going to visit Elliot Boyce, a paleontologist who was a friend of their grandfather's.
"Hell Creek Formation was once home to thousands of dinosaurs," said Henry. "And their bones have been found all throughout this area. Including T. rex bones!"
"I hope we find a T. rex," said Benny. "Or maybe we'll find a dinosaur that nobody has ever seen before!" Benny was six-years-old, the youngest of the Alden children. He was always excited about new adventures.
James Alden looked back at his four grandchildren from the front passenger's seat. "I wouldn't be surprised if you had a dinosaur named after you, Benny," he said. "You children never fail to amaze me!"
The four Alden children smiled at their grandfather. When their parents died, they had run away and lived in a boxcar in the woods. They knew that they had a grandfather, but they had heard that he was mean. When Grandfather finally found them, they learned that he was a very nice man. They went to live with him along with Watch, the dog they had rescued while they lived in the boxcar. Grandfather had a big house in Greenfield, Connecticut. He also had a big backyard and moved the boxcar there for the children to play in.
Watch leaped onto Henry's lap and started barking at something outside the window. Henry laughed as he rescued his brochure. "What do you see, Watch?" he asked.
"It's a herd of bison!" exclaimed Violet. She took photos of the grazing animals.
"There are all kinds of wildlife that live in Montana," said Henry. "In fact, Montana might have more animals than people!"
"And some of those animals were huge!" said Benny. "Like an apatosaurus!"
"You're right about that, Benny, "said Jessie. "It's fun to think about dinosaurs out there grazing, just like that herd of bison."
The driver pulled the van into the parking lot of a large wooden building with a big sign.
"Hogan's Museum and Diner," said Benny, carefully pronouncing each word. Benny was just learning how to read big words. He loved to practice by reading signs.
"This is where we're supposed to meet Elliot," said Jessie.
The Aldens unloaded their bags and waved good-bye to the shuttle driver.
Just then a young man with curly red hair and a scraggly beard approached them. He smiled when he saw Grandfather Alden and held out his hand. "James! My goodness, it has been a long time!"
He and Grandfather shook hands. "Yes, it has, Elliot," said Grandfather. "I haven't seen you since you graduated from college."
Violet shyly studied Elliot. He was wearing muddy work clothes, which Violet thought was an odd way to dress in public.
"You've never met my grandchildren," said Grandfather. He introduced Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny to Elliot, and Elliot shook each by the hand.
"It's very nice to meet you," said Elliot.
"Same here!" said Benny. "When will we start digging dinosaur bones?"
"Let's go in the diner for some lunch first," said Elliot, laughing. "Then we can visit my dig. It'll be fun to show you my exciting find, but we should eat first!"
"Lunch is a great idea!" said Benny. "I like to dig for dinosaurs, but I also like to eat!"
"Thank you, Elliot," said Jessie, laughing. "Lunch sounds like a good idea."
The Aldens put their bags into Elliot's jeep. Watch jumped into the jeep and wagged his tail. They gave him some water then headed into the diner, which was right next to the museum. They sat down at a table and looked around. The walls were covered with mounted dinosaur skulls.
"This place is sort of scary," said Violet. "All those skulls look as if they're alive!"
Jessie smiled. She was always motherly toward her younger siblings. "Those dinosaurs have been dead for a long time, Violet. They can't hurt you."
"Hello." A woman wearing a colorful apron over a T-shirt and jeans appeared at their table. She had a pad and pen in her hands. "What can I get you?" she asked. "We have a soup and sandwich special this weekend."
"That sounds perfect," said Mr. Alden. Everyone agreed. The woman took their order and quickly walked away. Jessie noticed that she had scowled at Elliot before turning away.
The woman soon returned with a tray of soup and sandwiches.
"I like your apron!" said Benny. "That's a triceratops, right?"
"It's a Torosaurus," said the woman. She wasn't smiling.
"I haven't seen you before," said Elliot.
"Mickey is on a break," said the woman. "I'm the owner. I'm usually in back. Do you folks need anything else?"
"I think this will do," said Mr. Alden. "Thank you."
The woman hurried away.
"It seemed as if she didn't want to talk to us," said Jessie.
"She looks sort of familiar," said Elliot. "But I don't know where I've seen her before."
After lunch the children decided to look around the museum while Grandfather and Elliot had coffee and visited. The museum walls were covered with fossils, tools, framed photographs, and clippings from newspapers and magazines. The children got closer to study the photographs. The woman who had served their lunch joined them.
"That's my great-grandfather," she said. She pointed to one of the photos on the wall. "His name was Bones Hogan. This was his museum a long time ago."
"And now you own it," said Jessie. She wondered why the woman was being friendly to them now.
"That's right," said the woman. "My name is Jolanda Hogan."
"It's nice to meet you," said Jessie. "My family is here visiting. We want to dig for dinosaur bones!"
"You kids have come to the right place," said Jolanda. "You may even find a real dinosaur while you're here! My great-grandfather used to say that dinosaurs are still among us." Jolanda laughed. "Of course we all know that dinosaurs are extinct," she said.
"Wow, look at the scary skull in this photo," said Violet. She pointed to a photograph of a large, bearded man pointing at fossil remains next to him.
"That T. rex was one of my grandfather's best finds," said Jolanda. "Bones Hogan sold that dinosaur to a big museum in Washington, DC.
"I bet he got a lot of money for it!" said Benny.
Elliot had explained over lunch that collectors and museums bought dinosaur bones. The rarer the bones, the more valuable they were.
"Oh, money wasn't important to Bones," said Jolanda. "Though he needed money to run this museum." She sighed. "Bones is long gone now anyway."
"Look, there are Grandfather and Elliot. It must be time to go," said Jessie. "We'll come back soon!"
Jolanda looked over at Elliot standing by the doorway. Violet noticed that she was scowling. Jolanda turned and smiled at the Aldens. "Please come visit my museum anytime," she said.
In the parking lot, a tall man with dark, slicked-back hair greeted Elliot. They shook hands and Elliot introduced the Aldens to Warren Gordon.
"Mr. Gordon buys fossils for a museum back east," said Elliot.
"Nice to meet you all," said Mr. Gordon. "Elliot, we'll talk later about that find you told me about!"
"Yes, we will," said Elliot, smiling.
Mr. Gordon waved as he headed into Hogan's Museum.
The Aldens piled into Elliot's jeep and headed down the bumpy and dusty road. Watch barked when a roadrunner raced by.
"Did you know that birds are descendants of dinosaurs?" asked Elliot.
"There are a lot of theories about that," said Henry.
"That's true, Henry," said Elliot. "We learn new things about dinosaurs almost every day!"
"Birds today are much smaller than most dinosaurs," said Benny. "That's a fact."
"That's okay with me!" said Violet.
Everyone laughed as Elliot pulled onto a side road.
"Let's stop at my dig and I'll show you my latest find," said Elliot. "I'm so excited about it. From what I've read, nothing like it has ever been found before!"
He pulled the jeep over and everyone got out. Elliot led them to a spot in the brush. There was a big hole that was almost hidden from view.
"It's a cave!" said Benny. "We love caves."
"Well, then, follow me!" said Elliot. He pulled a flashlight from his pocket.
"Watch and I will stand guard," said Grandfather. He smiled as the children crawled after Elliot through the hole. The hole led to a passageway.
Elliot shined his flashlight to light their way. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny followed. The passage soon opened up into a tall cavern. The children could hear water dripping somewhere in the dark. The air was much cooler than outside. Elliot leaned down and flipped on a lantern sitting on the cave floor. The cave suddenly lit up in the soft glow.
"This reminds me of Dragon's Mouth Cavern," said Violet.
"Yes, it does!" said Jessie. "Remember when we ..."
Suddenly Elliot gasped. "Oh no! Oh no!" he exclaimed. "Somebody stole my dinosaur bones!"CHAPTER 2
Elliot shined his flashlight around the edges of the cave. "The dinosaur bones that I stored here are all gone! They've been stolen!"
"How awful!" said Jessie.
"Were there a lot of bones?" asked Henry.
"It was just a small collection of leg bone fragments, but they were part of my big find," said Elliot. "I had them stored in a cloth sack." He slumped against a wall and shook his head. "If I don't have all the bones, I won't get to say I found it all by myself." He looked around the cave again and sighed. "I'm going to look outside. He headed toward the passageway.
"We'll be right there," said Henry.
Suddenly the Aldens were alone in the cave.
"It's spooky in here," said Violet. "Look at the scary shadows on the walls!"
"It's just the light from the lantern playing tricks," said Jessie. She put her arm around her sister.
"I've heard of bank robbers, but who would take dinosaur bones?" asked Benny.
"That's a good question," said Henry. He picked up the lantern and shined it around the cave, making the shadows move.
Violet tried not to look at the creepy shadows. She noticed two square-shaped marks in the floor in front of a wall. "Look at those marks," she said, pointing.
Henry shined the lantern close to the marks. "I wonder what made those." He shined the lantern up the wall. "Hey," he said, "there's a big hole up there!"
"Oh," said Jessie. "We'll need a ladder to get that high."
"Maybe that's what these square marks are," said Violet. "A ladder was placed here."
"You have good eyes, Violet," said Jessie. "You've already solved the mystery!"
"Well, not exactly," said Violet. "We haven't found the missing bones yet."
"Or the thief," Benny pointed out.
"But we're on the right track," said Henry. "It looks like the thief came down here, took the bones, and went back up, using a ladder."
"We need to tell Elliot!" said Jessie. "Let's go!"
The children climbed out of the cave and joined Elliot and Grandfather, who were talking.
"I found that cave a few days ago," Elliot was saying. "I thought it would be a perfect place to stash my finds." Elliot sighed. "I guess I was wrong!"
"It appears that someone else knew about this cave," said Grandfather.
"There aren't any other tire tracks though," said Elliot. "There are only the ones from my jeep." He scratched his head.
Grandfather noticed Benny shifting from one foot to the other. "Oh, it looks as if my grandchildren have something to tell us," he said. "Did you find something?"
"Yes," said Jessie. "We think we know what happened!"
The children took turns telling Elliot and Grandfather about their discovery. Perhaps the thief had come down a ladder, stolen the bones, and gone back the same way! The cave must have another entrance.
"It's funny that I didn't notice another passageway before," said Elliot. He chuckled. "I guess I'm always looking down, looking for bones!" Then Elliot became serious again. "I need to make some phone calls right away," he said. "We need to go to the house."
"Maybe we can come back and look for the other entrance to the cave," said Henry.
"Yes, that's a good idea," said Elliot. "Let's get going."
"Where is Watch?" asked Violet.
"Oh, look, he's over there digging," said Benny. He ran over to Watch and bent over to see what their dog was digging up. "Oh! Watch found a fossil!" he cried. "Is it one of the stolen bones?"
"No," said Elliot. "But it is a toe bone from the same dinosaur!" He pulled a small roll of tape and a marker from his pocket. "It's the fifty-fourth bone found so far." Elliot wrote 54 E.B. on a piece of tape. He secured it to the toe bone as Benny held it up.
"This is your toe bone," said Benny. "Watch found it for you." He handed the bone to Elliot.
"Thank you, Benny," said Elliot.
"And we'll try to find the stolen bones!" said Violet.
"That would be great," said Elliot. He put the toe bone in his pocket. "Now let's get going."
At the ranch, the Aldens unpacked. They put their things away while Grandfather and Elliot made phone calls. Since the dinosaur Elliot had found was very rare, Elliot explained that the thief could be trying to sell it quickly before he got caught. Elliot called on the people that he knew in the business. Once the word was out that the bones were stolen, it would be hard for the thief to sell them.
"I hope you can find clues about who stole my dinosaur bones," said Elliot. He showed the Aldens where he kept equipment for caving. The children put small packs together. Jessie and Henry helped Bennie and Violet strap on caving helmets. Then Henry grabbed a folding ladder. "I think we're ready to explore!" he said. The children and Watch headed back to the dig site.
Watch followed the children into the cave. "Do you smell any clues, Watch?" Jessie asked. Watch sniffed around the floor. He stopped near the ladder marks and looked up and wagged his tail.
"I think Watch wants us to go up into that passageway too," said Violet.
"He sniffs something," said Jessie.
"Let's check it out," said Henry. "I'll go first."
Henry and Jessie set their ladder against the cave wall. Henry climbed up while Jessie held the ladder steady. He shined his headlight into the passageway before crawling in.
"Be careful," called Violet. She looked around nervously. The shadows from their flashlights made the cave walls look like they were alive.
"I think I hear something," whispered Benny. He shined his flashlight on a dark corner. Something scurried out of the light beam.
"What is it?" cried Violet.
Jessie slowly walked over and shined her light around the cave floor. She gasped as a dark brown mouse scampered between her feet and zipped across the floor. It disappeared inside a crack in the wall.
"What else lives inside this cave?" asked Violet. She shivered.
"Henry," Jessie called. "Watch out for cave creatures up there!"
Just then Henry poked his head out of the passageway. "Come on up!" he said. "Just watch your step."
Jessie helped Benny and Violet up. Then Jessie handed up Watch and crawled in after him. There was room for everyone to crouch. The passageway headed into the darkness.
"We just have to crawl for a few feet, then the passageway gets taller and wider," said Henry. "It's very dark and some places are muddy."
"We'll be very careful," said Jessie. "And stick together. Right, everyone?"
The children agreed. They crawled slowly through the rocky passageway. The bright lights on their caving helmets and their flashlights showed the way. Soon the passageway became large enough for the children to stand up.
"Look over there," said Violet. She pointed to an opening. The children saw a small cavern just below them. "Should we go in there?"
"I think so," said Jessie. "We'll all go together and keep close."
They carefully stepped into the cavern and shined their flashlights around the floor.
"Oh, I see some tracks," said Violet. "They're in the mud by that opening in the wall."
Jessie tiptoed over and shined her light on the cave floor. She drew in her breath and looked back at her siblings.
"What's wrong?" asked Henry. "Are they footprints?" They joined Jessie by the muddy tracks.
"Oh, those aren't footprints," said Violet.
"Not from a person," said Jessie. "They look like bird tracks ..."
"Very big bird tracks!" said Violet. "They're huge! What kind of bird makes tracks that big?" She looked around and hugged herself.
"I know!" cried Benny. "It's a real, live dinosaur!"
Just then Watch started barking.CHAPTER 3
A Cave Full of Bones
The children stood still and listened. Watch stopped barking.
"Were those footsteps?" asked Violet. "I thought I heard footsteps."
"It must be the dinosaur!" said Benny.
Excerpted from The Mystery of the Stolen Dinosaur Bones by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER. Copyright © 2015 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & 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.
Table of Contents
Contents1. Stolen Bones,
2. Caving Adventure,
3. A Cave Full of Bones,
4. Dinosaur Dan,
5. A Different Story,
6. A Living Dinosaur!,
7. A New Suspect,
8. Big Discovery,
9. Old Friends,
10. The Clues Add Up,
About the Author,