Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (5 page)

BOOK: Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man
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Nevin was a gentle boy of twelve. He wanted to be a florist when he grew up.
The two boys enjoyed strolling about Idaville. They would stop to admire a rare tree or sniff a blossom.
Nevin’s family was poor. To earn money, Nevin had gone into business cutting lawns. He used a power mower which Encyclopedia had helped him build from old parts.
Encyclopedia decided to find Nevin and take a nature walk. He had finished a case early. He had recovered Charlie Stewart’s missing tooth collection.
“The collection wasn’t stolen after all,” Encyclopedia said to Sally. “Charlie’s mother had used the teeth as weights in hanging out the wash. She put a few teeth in each of Charlie’s stockings to keep them from getting tangled in the wind.”
“Nice work,” said Sally. “If his mother had left any teeth in the stockings, Charlie might have got his toenails clipped on the way to breakfast.”
Encyclopedia sat down wearily. It was hard having a mother mixed up in a case.
“I’m taking the afternoon off,” he said. “Maybe Nevin is free to visit the Botanical Gardens.”
“He isn’t,” said Sally. “He stopped here while you were at Charlie Stewart’s house. He just got the job of cutting Mr. Upjohn’s lawn.”
Mr. Upjohn always won several first prizes at the monthly Garden Club flower show. He grew his beautiful flowers in his large back yard, which he kept completely hidden by a high wall of bushes.
“I’ve been dying to see his flower beds,” said Encyclopedia. “With Nevin working there, I can sneak a look.”
“We’ll sneak two looks,” said Sally. “I’m going with you.”
Mr. Upjohn was very rich. The detectives came upon his big house from the rear. Encyclopedia could see nothing but the roof above the bushes. Hearing Nevin’s power mower, he got off his bike and parted the branches.
Nevin wasn’t in the back yard. But Mr. Upjohn’s daughter, Marybelle, a sixth-grader, was there with a hose. She aimed it and
swis-s-h-t-t.
A stream of water sprayed over Encyclopedia.
“Next time don’t go poking your nose where it doesn’t belong!” Marybelle said, laughing.
“Blug-a-luggle,” gargled Encyclopedia. Red-faced and soaked, he climbed back on his bicycle.
“That Marybelle Upjohn!” said Sally. “She makes my fist itch!”
“Scratch it on her, and you’ll get Nevin in trouble,” said Encyclopedia as they rode to the front of the house.
Nevin saw his friends and stopped the lawn mower. “Were you attacked by a fire hydrant?” he asked the dripping Encyclopedia.
“By Miss Smarty,” said Sally. “What’s she doing back there? She never worked in her life!”
“Her father asked her to water his flowers for two hours,” replied Nevin. “He’s paying her. She told me she is getting more money than I am when she hooked up the hose a few minutes ago.”
The hose, Encyclopedia saw, was hooked to a water outlet by the garage. Like a long green snake, it ran across the driveway and disappeared into the bushes that walled off the back yard.
“Marybelle warned me to be careful of the hose,” said Nevin. “She told me it was brand new and cost a lot of money.”
“Marybelle always brags about how much things cost,” said Sally, fuming. “She’s probably sitting in a lawn chair eating jelly beans instead of watering the flowers.”
“Were you attacked by a fire hydrant?”
“Maybe she’s sleeping in a chaise lounge,” said Encyclopedia. “It’s none of our business what she’s doing—”
“Hey, will one of you kids guide me into the garage? ”
Encyclopedia saw a truck backing toward the Upjohn’s garage.
“I’ll help,” he called to the driver.
With Encyclopedia giving signals, the truck inched backward and stopped.
“Don’t stop there!” shouted Encyclopedia. “Your front wheels are on top of the new garden hose.”
The driver, however, had hopped out of the truck. He glanced at the green hose. It was squashed flat under the front tires.
“The hose is rubber,” said the driver. “It won’t break. Besides, I’ll be only a few minutes.”
It took him five minutes to unload several large boxes, which he stacked against the wall of the garage. He was gone when Marybelle’s mother drove up.
She parked her car in the garage and went into the house. A short time later she rushed out. Her mouth was open like a trunk.
“Nevin!” she called. “Come here at once!”
Nevin shut off the lawn mower. He ran to the front door and disappeared inside with Mrs. Upjohn.
When he came out, he looked close to tears.
“Mrs. Upjohn said I broke a valuable Chinese vase,” said Nevin. “She said my father will have to pay for it.”
“Why does she blame you?” asked Encyclopedia.
“She said she had the vase by the kitchen sink when she left the house fifteen minutes ago,” answered Nevin. “She said I broke it getting a drink of water. But I didn’t go into the house.”
“Marybelle!” said Sally. “She did it, and she’s afraid to own up!”
“Marybelle claims she didn’t go into the house either,” said Nevin. “She said she never stopped hosing the flowers in the back yard while her mother was gone.”
“Marybelle is lying,” said Encyclopedia.
“Can you prove that?” asked Sally eagerly. “You couldn’t see her behind those bushes.”
“I didn’t have to see her,” said Encyclopedia.
HOW DID ENCYCLOPEDIA
KNOW?
The Case of the Blueberry Pies
Encyclopedia was shocked. He had just seen Chester Jenkins
running
past the detective agency.
Chester never ran—except to the school cafeteria at lunch hour. He was the biggest eater in the fifth grade.
He was also the roundest. In fact, Chester was nearly as high lying down as standing up.
Encyclopedia hurried out to the sidewalk. He looked up and down the block. There wasn’t an ice cream truck in sight.
“What’s wrong, Chester?” he called.
Chester stopped. He turned around and wobbled back. He was puffing like a marching band.
“I’m in training,” he gasped. “I have to be in shape for the Idaville Youth Fair tomorrow.”
“Charlie Stewart entered his tooth collection in the hobby contest,” said Encyclopedia. “Are you in a running race?”
“Not exactly,” replied Chester. “I’m getting in trim for the pie-eating contest.”
Encyclopedia was puzzled. Why roadwork? Chester was a cinch to win. Only Belly Slave, the hippopotamus at the zoo, could eat more.
“Do you remember how sick the Thompson twins, Jimmy and Johnny, became last year?” asked Chester. “Their mother said the pie-eating contest was disgusting. She said there ought to be a physical fitness contest instead.”
Encyclopedia remembered last year. Chester had left the other boys lying on their backs covered with pie crumbs. The Thompson twins had to be carried home.
“The rules have been changed,” said Chester. “This year each boy has only two pies to eat. But he must run half a mile to the finish line.”
“Hopping hamburgers!” exclaimed Encyclopedia. “That’s a tough break, Chester.”
“Those Thompson twins are fast runners,” said Chester. “But if apple pie is used, I’ll have a good chance. Apple pie is my favorite.”
“Here’s to apple pie!” said Encyclopedia.
“Thanks,” said Chester, and grimly resumed his running.
The next morning Encyclopedia and Sally biked to the Idaville Youth Fair. It was a city of tents and fun rides crowded into one corner of the old airstrip.
The two detectives watched the kite-flying contest and the pet show. At ten o’clock a whistle blew for the pie-eating contest.
Fifteen boys lined up to hear Mrs. Thompson, the mother of the twins. She explained the new rules.
Each boy was to race to the table opposite him. On each table were two pies. The boys were to eat the pies, using the knives and forks provided, and then run a half mile course among the tents.
“Most of the running will be out of view of the judges,” said Mrs. Thompson. “But a father will be stationed every two hundred yards to make sure no boy takes a short cut.”
The knives and forks troubled Encyclopedia. “Last year Chester won bare-handed,” he said to Sally. “Table manners will slow him down.”
“The silverware is Mrs. Thompson’s idea,” said Sally. “She said eating with the hands is a disgrace.”
“Chester still has a chance if the pies are made with apples,” said Encyclopedia. “Apple pie is his favorite.”
“They’re blueberry pies,” said Sally. “Mrs. Thompson baked them herself. She said she didn’t want anyone getting sick.”
Encyclopedia saw Chester’s chances fading as the boys crouched at the starting line.
“On your marks,” said Mrs. Thompson. “Get set ... go!”
Fifteen boys dashed for the tables.
Chester got off to a bad start. He was the last to reach the pies, and he fumbled his knife and fork.
After the first mouthful, however, he settled down. He began to eat smoothly, showing the form which had won him last year’s contest. Knife and fork flashed like lightning. He overtook the other boys rapidly.
“He’s ahead!” screamed Sally. “Go, Chester!”
“Say,” said Encyclopedia, frowning. “I see only one of the Thompson twins.”
Sally looked at the pie eaters carefully. “You’re right,” she said. “Which twin is missing, Jimmy or Johnny?”
“Don’t ask me,” said Encyclopedia. “I can’t tell them apart. Come on, Chester!”
Chester was eating like a true champion. He was the first to finish both pies. He wiped his face and started on the half-mile course. In a moment he was lost behind the rows of tents.
The second boy to finish eating was the Thompson twin. He wiped his face, jumped from the table, and sprinted after Chester.
“Go, Chester ! Go!” screamed Sally.
Three other boys finished their pies. But they could not run more than ten feet. The rest gave up at the table.
The race was between Chester and the twin!
“Chester has a minute headstart,” whooped Sally. “There’s nobody who can hold his pies like Chester! ”
So it seemed as Chester eventually staggered into view again, still leading. Ahead of him stretched one hundred yards of open ground to the finish line.
He was halfway there when the onlookers roared. The twin had burst into view, running like the wind.
Chester was wobbling gamely, but slowing down with every step. The twin sped past him and won by fifteen yards. Encyclopedia and Sally were stunned.
When the twin had caught his breath, he walked back and forth, shaking hands. His lips were parted in a wide smile of victory.
“He sure has beautiful teeth,” said Sally grudgingly. “Look at him strut. You’d think he was on television doing a toothpaste commercial.”
Encyclopedia stared bitterly at the twin’s white-toothed smile.
“He’ll be smiling on the other side of his face soon,” said the boy detective. “Chester is the rightful winner.”
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