Authors: Donald J. Sobol
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Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children's Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Text copyright Â© 1996 by Donald J. Sobol
Illustrations copyright Â© 1996 by Eric Velasquez
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Reprinted by arrangement with Delacorte Press
For my grandson
Bryan Matthew Sobol
daville seemed no different from many other seaside towns.
It had lovely white beaches, a Little League, banks, churches, a synagogue, and two delicatessens.
Nevertheless, Idaville was different.
For more than a year no one, grown-up or child, had gotten away with breaking the law there.
How did Idaville do it? Police officers from coast to coast wondered. So did the CIA and the FBI. What was the secret? How did it happen?
Only three people knew, and they weren't telling.
All three lived in a redbrick house at 13 Rover AvenueâMr. Brown, Mrs. Brown, and their only child, ten-year-old Encyclopedia, America's crime-buster in sneakers.
Mr. Brown was chief of police. He was honest, brave, and
smart. When he had a case that puzzled him, he always knew what to do.
He drove home.
Encyclopedia solved the case for him at the dinner table. Usually before dessert. Usually with one question.
Chief Brown wished he could tell the world about his son. But he knew it was useless. Who would believe him?
Who would believe that a fifth-grader was the mastermind behind Idaville's war on crime?
So Chief Brown didn't say a word. Neither did Mrs. Brown.
For his part, Encyclopedia never boasted about the help he gave his father. Boasting was for people who needed to feel important.
There was nothing, however, he could do about his nick-name.
Only his parents and teachers called him by his real name, Leroy. Everyone else called him Encyclopedia.
An encyclopedia is a book or set of books filled with facts from A to Z. So was Encyclopedia's head. He had read more books than anybody, and he never forgot a word.
His pals said he was better than an encyclopedia. He was like a whole library that you could take along on a fishing trip.
Monday evening Chief Brown sat silently at the dinner table, staring at his cream of broccoli soup.
Mrs. Brown and Encyclopedia knew what was wrong. A case had him troubled.
“What sort of case is it, dear?” Mrs. Brown asked.
“One without a crime,” Chief Brown answered. He stirred his soup for a moment.
Mrs. Brown and Encyclopedia waited patiently.
“John Long is getting married tomorrow,” Chief Brown said. “He hoped to give his bride the wedding ring that his grandmother left him. He can't.”
“He lost it?” asked Mrs. Brown.
“No,” Chief Brown replied. “The ring is safe. In fact, it's altogether too safe.”
He explained. The ring was kept in a safe in the home of John's uncle, Gordon Long, with whom John lived. The uncle was the only person who could open the safe.
“The uncle flew to Brazil shortly before John announced his wedding date,” Chief Brown said. “He said he'd be back in a few days. He's already been gone two months. Brazil is a big country, and John doesn't know where to reach him.”
“Why doesn't John postpone the wedding?” Mrs. Brown inquired. “Or use another ring?”
“John has had his heart set on using his grandmother's ring,” Chief Brown said. “Besides, it's too late to postpone the wedding. Most of the out-of-town guests have already arrived in Idaville.”
“The uncle must have hidden a spare key someplace,” Mrs. Brown said.
“A spare key won't help,” Chief Brown said. “The safe has a combination lock.”
“This really isn't a police case,” Mrs. Brown said. “How did you get into it?”
“I caught the thieves who robbed John's gas station last year,” Chief Brown replied. “He asked me to help him again. I'm supposed to figure out how to open the safe. He said he didn't trust anyone else.”
Encyclopedia had been sitting quietly, listening. He knew his father and mother were going over the case for his sake. They were trying to give him all the facts he needed to solve it.
Suddenly his mother straightened. “Isn't John's uncle that retired lawyer who is rather strange? He's always dashing around the world, photographing the longest of anything.”
“That's right,” Chief Brown said. “Already this year he has photographed the longest bathroom shelf and the longest cigar ash.”
“I've heard,” Mrs. Brown said, “that he has ten albums filled with photos of the longest of almost everything.”
“I suppose everyone ought to have a hobby,” Encyclopedia murmured.
“The uncle hoped to photograph the longest cockroach and the longest whatever else he can find in Brazil,” Chief Brown said.
He put down his soup spoon before continuing.
“The safe with the ring in it is hidden behind a picture of the longest undershirt,” he said. “On the safe itself, in the uncle's handwriting, is the word
“Why write sleeveless? It isn't the longest word,” said Mrs. Brown, who had taught high-school English and other subjects. “The longest is a Greek word. In English, it has one hundred and eighty-two letters. The word is lopadotemachiselÂ â¦Â oh, I can't remember the restâ”
She broke off. Encyclopedia had closed his eyes. He always closed his eyes when he did his hardest thinking.
When at last he opened his eyes, he asked his one question.
“Does the uncle have a poor memory?”
“Why, as a matter of fact, yes,” Chief Brown said. “Not only can't he remember what he had for breakfast, he usually can't remember
he had it.”
“I guess he got so busy in Brazil chasing down the longest things that he forgot the date of the wedding,” Mrs. Brown said.
“But why did he write
on the safe?” Chief Brown said. “It's such a common, everyday word.”
“Common, yet uncommon, Dad,” Encyclopedia said.
Father and mother looked at their son questioningly.