By Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 10, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
QUICK NOTE FROM BICK KIDD
Got to make this super speedy, guys.
Half an hour ago, we were bored out of our minds. Now? We’re finally on an adventure—one with a time limit, too!
Once again, I, Bickford “Bick” Kidd, will be the one telling this tale. My twin sister, Rebecca “Beck” Kidd, will be handling the illustrations.
But she better scribble fast.
Like I said, we’re on an adventure!
There was an elephant lurking in the shadows behind us.
It just stood there. Stiff and silent. I figured he was waiting for us to make one false move and then—boink!—pointy tusk to the butt.
“Um, can we get out of here?” whispered Beck.
“Chya,” said our big brother, Tailspin Tommy. “That elephant has its trunk curled up like it just sniffed a bag of hot roasted peanuts.”
Definitely not the first thing I’d think to experience in a museum—but stranger things have happened to us Kidds.
“Or, he just got a whiff of Bick,” added Beck. “He smells like hot roasted gym socks.”
“Do not,” I countered.
“You guys?” whispered Storm, our brainy older sister. “We have only fifteen more minutes to find the Hope Diamond!”
Ah, the Hope Diamond. The treasure we were currently hunting. It’s got 45.52 carats (the kind they use to measure diamonds, not the kind bunnies nibble). It’s also 45.52 times bigger than the average engagement ring, which, Storm told us (because she memorizes trivial factoids in her spare time), is only about one carat. That’s right. The Hope is also the Humongous. It’s about the size of a walnut and is the largest deep-blue diamond in the world. Some people say it’s worth a quarter of a billion dollars!
They also say it’s cursed.
“It was originally plucked out of the brow of an Indian temple statue by a Hindu priest,” Storm had told us the night before we set off on our adventure. “The priest’s punishment for the unholy theft was a slow and agonizing death. The diamond showed up in Europe in 1642 when a greedy merchant sold it to King Louis XIV for a handsome profit. But the merchant didn’t get to spend his money because he was soon mauled to death by a pack of wild dogs.”
Storm. She loves the gory details. Says they make history way more interesting.
Anyway, she told us that when Marie Antoinette (Queen “Let Them Eat Cake”) owned it, she was caught trying to flee France with the ginormous diamond. That was in 1791, during the French Revolution, so the big blue bauble was seized by the French revolutionary government.
“They also chopped off Marie Antoinette’s head, so she probably didn’t need a diamond necklace anymore,” Storm had added.
The Hope Diamond was then stolen. More people bought and sold it (many of them getting murdered or losing their fortunes along the way). Finally, an American heiress brought it to the United States. It’s why we’re on our current expedition in the heart of Washington, DC.
We’re also trying to ignore the whole “Hope Diamond Curse” thing.
But it might’ve found us.
Because ten seconds after we slipped away from the scary elephant lurking in the dark, we were face-to-face with two snarling lions attacking a wildebeest!
“Dudes?” whispered Tommy. “Can we, like, lose all these angry mammals?” My knees are starting to get a little shaky.
I totally agreed with my big brother. Especially when I saw what looked like a tiger ready to leap off a cliff!
“Follow me,” said Storm, backtracking to where we had spotted the elephant. “Up this way,” she directed. She doesn’t need a map because she has a photographic memory—the map was in her head.
Suddenly, I heard footfalls echoing in the distance.
“Somebody’s following us!” I said as quietly as I could while running up a steep set of steps.
“They probably know about the Hope Diamond!” said Beck.
“Uh, everybody knows about it,” countered Storm. “It’s sort of famous.”
“This way!” I said because I saw what I thought would be an excellent hiding place.
I was wrong.
I yanked open a series of doors and we were, somehow, transported to a tropical rain forest. We’re talking 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. A swarm of butterflies, some with ginormous wings, fluttered near our faces. One tickled my nose with its flappers.
“I have something tangled in my hair!” shrieked Beck.
“That’s a Madagascar moon moth,” said Storm, calmly. “And a Gulf fritillary butterfly. And, I believe, a pink cattleheart. Hard to tell, it’s so dark in here.”
“Because it’s the middle of the night and we’re not supposed to be here!” I exclaimed. “This is a top-secret treasure hunt!”
“Then you might want to lower your voice, little bro,” suggested Tommy. “Maybe quit exclaiming stuff.”
We heard a door swing open. Felt the whoosh of air being sucked into the airlock chamber that we’d just passed through.
“They’re following us!” I said.
“Out the back door,” said Beck, pointing straight ahead. There was a butterfly perched on her fingertip. One that looked like it had an owl face printed on its wings.
We dashed through one door, stepped into a room with a major fan stirring up a breeze, made sure that no moths or butterflies were hitching a ride on our clothes or in our hair, and then yanked open an exit.
Ten feet later, we were surrounded by bugs. We’re talking tarantulas, praying mantises, bees—the works. It was like every creepy crawler in the world was there, waiting for us in the dark.
“This place bugs me!” I shouted as quietly as I could because whoever was chasing us was right behind us, coming out of that second door from butterfly world.
“This way!” whispered Storm.
She led us into a chamber filled with mummies and then one lined with bones.
“We only have two more minutes!” We’re not going to make it!
We rounded a corner, passed a gift shop, and headed into a dimly lit room filled with sparkling glass cases.
There it was. Sitting in a display case under its own mini rotunda. The Hope Diamond!
“Well done, children,” said Dad, stepping out of the shadows, clicking his stopwatch.
“You made it up here with time to spare,” added Mom, who’d been hiding in the rare gems room with Dad.
“You guys?” I said.
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but—”
“This was the easiest, lamest, most boring, worst make-believe treasure hunt ever!” said Beck, finishing my thought for me. It’s a twin thing.
“I concur,” said Storm. “All we really needed was a floor plan for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.”
“Chya,” said Tommy, grabbing one from a nearby rack. “It’s like printed right in here. See?” He started tapping icons. “First floor, Mammals. Second floor. Butterfly Pavilion, Live Insect Zoo, Mummies, Bones, Gift Shop, Hope Diamond. Even I could figure it out.”
“But you had a time limit,” said Mom, acting as if that made the whole thing some kind of huge challenge.
But the security guards who barged into the room swinging their bulky flashlights?
They definitely made the whole adventure a little more interesting.
“What’s going on here?” asked one of the Smithsonian security guards.
“Just a little harmless family fun, George,” said Dad, who obviously knew the guy.
“Oh, hi, Dr. Kidd,” said George, holstering his flashlight. “Didn’t see you there.”
“Hi, Doc,” said the other guard, waving his flashlight like a chunky baton.
“Good evening, Jayden.”
“We hope we didn’t cause you guys any trouble,” added Mom.
“Nah, not at all,” said Jayden, hiking up his belt a little. “Needed the exercise.”
“Gets kind of boring around here at night,” added George.
“Tell us about it,” muttered Beck. She wasn’t a big fan of fake treasure hunts inside museums. Me, neither.
But it was the best we could do for the time being. Mom and Dad had agreed to curate an exhibit at the Smithsonian about the Lost City of Paititi, which we had discovered deep in the rain forests of Peru, where it was even sweatier than inside that hot and humid Butterfly Pavilion.
“Can’t wait for your exhibit to open,” said George.
“Me, neither,” said Jayden. “Will you be displaying any of the real gold?”
Dad shook his head. “No. That belongs to the people of Peru.”
“But,” said Mom, “we’re putting together quite an exciting diorama.”
“Chya,” said Tommy. “Visitors can bust a dam and watch Paititi emerge from its lake, just like we saw.”
“Cool,” said Jayden.
“Totally,” agreed Tommy.
Then they knocked knuckles.
“What goes on in here?” asked a grouchy man in a tweed jacket as he stepped into the Hope Diamond exhibit hall.
“Me and Jayden were fist bumping,” replied Tommy. “It’s a bro thing.”
“Dr. Kidd?” The grumpy man arched an eyebrow. It was bushier than most mustaches. It kind of reminded me of a caterpillar from that Insect Zoo.
“Good evening, Professor Hingleburt,” said Dad. “What brings you to the museum at this late hour?”
“My radio!” replied the angry professor, unclipping a walkie-talkie from his belt so he could wiggle-waggle it at everybody. “I was next door, at the American History Museum. Heard we had intruders over here. I raced across the Victory Garden as quickly as I could.”
In case you’ve never been to Washington, DC, the Smithsonian is a collection of several different museums mostly lined up between the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol Building.
In addition to being crabby and cranky, Professor Hingleburt was also bald. His eyebrows were the hairiest thing on his head.
“I’m sorry we interrupted you, Professor,” said Dad with an easy smile. “Were you doing research next door?”
“Indeed I was!” said Professor Hingleburt. “I am on the verge of announcing a major discovery of monumental historical significance.”
“Is that so?” said Dad. “Congratulations.”
“Therefore,” said Professor Hingleburt, “as a serious scholar, I would appreciate it if you could keep your children on a tighter leash. We can’t have them running amok wreaking havoc!”
“We apologize,” said Mom.
“It was all in good fun,” added Dad.
“And highly educational,” I added. “Who knew there were butterflies that looked like owls?”
“The kids didn’t break anything or, you know, let any tarantulas out of their cages,” said George the guard.
“Gave us a real run for our money, though,” added the other guard, Jayden, patting his belly. “Almost made me burp. Had a double cheeseburger for dinner…”
“Well, Dr. and Mrs. Kidd,” huffed Professor Hingleburt, “just because you’re working here doesn’t mean your children should be allowed to run around these hallowed halls at all hours.”
“Mom’s a doctor, too,” said Storm.
“Then you both should know better!” said the pouting professor. “Too much freedom is a dangerous thing. It leads to anarchy and lawlessness!”
“But, Dr. Hingleburt,” said Dad, “freedom is what America is all about. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
“Is that so?” protested Dr. Hingleburt. “Well, maybe that’s why this country’s in such sad shape. With packs of wild children pursuing their happiness by charging willy-nilly through our cherished national treasures.”
“The children won’t do it again, Professor,” said Dad. “I promise.”
“There will be no more after-hours explorations in any more national landmarks,” added Mom.
Beck and I looked at each other and sighed.
“There goes this weekend’s race up the steps of the Washington Monument,” she mumbled.
I nodded. “And that thing at the Lincoln Memorial.”
It sounded like however long we were stuck in DC, we’d have to behave like ordinary kids instead of the wild things on a wild rumpus we were born to be.
We’d have to be bored out of our gourds, instead.
The next day, we joined Mom and Dad in the sealed-off corner of the Smithsonian where they were setting up their exhibit about our time in Peru.
“Visitors will walk through this corridor and feel as if they’ve just entered the Amazon rain forest,” Mom explained as the six of us traipsed through a maze of fake plants, all of them dripping with water.
“Whoa. How’d you get it to be so muggy in here?” asked Tommy, checking both his armpits for sweat rings.
“Dozens of humidifiers hidden behind the scenery,” explained Dad.
“You might consider selling sweat bands at the gift shop,” suggested Beck, wiping her brow. “Especially for when Bick visits.”
We rounded a bend and came to a display of wax dummies depicting the nasty loggers we’d met on our last adventure. They looked like scurvy pirates with chain saws cutting down all the trees in the area illegally.
“Deforestation is, as you guys know, a major concern in tropical rain forests,” said Mom.
“Indeed,” spouted Storm. “In the Amazon, nearly seventeen percent of the trees have been chopped down in the last fifty years.”
“Check it out!” I said, pointing to a pile of fake logs that seemed to be smoldering. “The smoke looks so real!”
“We wanted to demonstrate the slash and burn techniques being used by too many loggers,” explained Dad. “We are striving to totally immerse our guests in that experience.”
They were doing a good job. The room smelled like a wet bag of charcoal.
“Demonstrating the smoke is super-important,” said Storm, jumping in. “NASA satellite reports suggest that the heavy smoke from Amazon forest fires inhibits cloud formation and, therefore, reduces rainfall. That means all this deforestation could change the Amazon rain forest into the Amazon no-rain/no-forest.”
“Once our visitors complete their journey through the rain forest,” said Mom, “they’ll enter the main hall and see… this!”
“Whoa!” said Tommy (again) as we stepped into a wide-open circular space. “It’s the volcano crater. The lake where we finally found the Lost City of Paititi. And there’s the stone table where the bad guys almost, you know…”
Storm slid her finger across her chest in a slashing X. “Cut out your heart for an ancient Incan-style human sacrifice?”
“We’re going to skip that episode in our exhibit,” said Dad. “Keep it rated PG.”
Tommy nodded. “Smart move. Fer shure.”
“We’re still working on the mechanics to topple the dam and drain the water out of the lake,” said Dad. “But here’s what we have so far.”
He went to a wall and bopped a flat red button.
“Whoa!” This time we all said it with Tommy.
Miniature boulders mechanically toppled away, opening floodgates. Gushing water sluiced out of the fake lake to reveal a miniature model of the shimmering gold city of Paititi that would’ve been right at home on a model train set. It looked just like the real thing, only eighty-seven times tinier.
“We’ll be ready to open to the public in two—” Mom started. But she didn’t get to finish that thought.
Because a fire alarm went off.
Sprinklers started twirling and spritzing in the ceiling.
That smoldering log pile? It must’ve been too realistic for the smoke detectors. Because all of a sudden, it was really raining inside Mom and Dad’s fake rain forest.
“We need to push back the opening date,” Mom told us over dinner that night in our short-term DC rental apartment.
“We also need to rethink the whole ‘smoking logs’ effect,” added Dad.
This was not good news. As long as Mom and Dad fussed over their make-believe diorama of our last adventure, we wouldn’t be going out on any new adventures. And we were itching for action. We Kidd kids wanted to jump back into the field and hunt some new treasures.
Mom and Dad?
They thought it was their job to “educate and enlighten the public” on the plight of the rain forest.
Yep. That’s what’ll happen when both your parents are super-genius professors with multiple PhDs (in addition to their mad spy skills). They want to educate everybody they meet.
Meanwhile, we were stuck. In a city. In an apartment! We’re used to sleeping on boats or in tents or under the stars.
“You guys,” groused Beck, slamming down her knife and fork dramatically, “we haven’t been on a real treasure hunt in months.”
“We’re bored,” I added.
“Have you finished all of your homework?” asked Mom because she’s also the professor in charge of our homeschooling.
“We had homework?” said Tommy.
“Washington, DC is full of history,” said Mom. “You four should get out and explore it.”
“It’ll give you kids something exciting and thrilling to do,” said Dad. “School groups come to DC all the time. There’s so much to see. The Lincoln Memorial. The White House. The National Gallery of Art.”
“They do have a da Vinci and a Raphael,” said Beck, softening. She, of course, is our resident artiste so she’s a sucker for art galleries.
“I’d like to visit the Library of Congress,” said Storm. “See if they need any help cataloging their collection…”
“I want to go to the International Spy Museum,” I said because, hey, I did.
So, we all agreed to stop whining. We’d take a break from treasure hunting. We’d give DC a chance.
The next day, while Mom and Dad reworked the “smoldering logs” section of their Smithsonian exhibit, we checked out all the major tourist attractions. Storm, of course, was our walking, talking guidebook.
“George Washington never lived in Washington, DC. There’s a bathtub in the basement of the Capitol building. The White House has thirty-five bathrooms and until 1901, it used to be called the ‘Executive Residence’.…”
By the middle of the afternoon, three of us were seriously bored. There’s only so much white marble you can stare at. There’s only so much trivia we can listen to our big sister blather.
“Here’s an interesting tidbit of little-known history,” said Storm, the only one of us still enjoying the sightseeing. “Right before World War Two, curators at the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art feared that Washington, DC would become the target of a bombing blitz, just like the one over in London.”
“So?” I said grouchily (because my feet were tired).
“So,” said Storm, “they came up with a plan to build a super-secret bomb shelter vault underneath the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Memorial to hide the country’s most valuable treasures.”
Okay. Storm definitely had our attention again.
“Who’s this Oliver Wendell Holmes dude?” asked Tommy. “Any relation to Sherlock?”
“Um, no,” said Beck (because she and I went to more homeschool history classes than Tommy). “He was like a major Supreme Court Justice. 1902 to 1932.”
“Oh, right,” said Tommy. “The scowling dude with the walrus mustache.”
“Unfortunately,” said Storm, “the secret treasure vault was never built.”
“Says who?” I asked.
“History,” replied Storm.
Tommy nodded. “History. It knows everything that ever happened.”
“Or, maybe,” I said, “the phrase ‘it was never built’ is just super-secret spy lingo for ‘it was built!’”
“Exactly!” said Beck. “That’s how you guard treasures. You deny that you’re guarding them!”
“Seriously?” said Tommy.
“It’s the old deny-it-to-hide-it trick,” I said.
“That is so clever,” said Tommy. “I wish I’d thought of it.”
“You guys?” said Storm. “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s time for another treasure hunt. A real one!”
“First stop,” said Beck, “the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Memorial!”
“Let’s go!” I hollered. “Lead the way, Storm.”
Our big sister didn’t budge.
“Um, I couldn’t find one on any map of DC.”
“Wow!” I said. “It’s that big of a secret? That means it has to be the classified entrance to a clandestine treasure vault!”
“Not really,” said Beck.
- Praise for Treasure Hunters
- On Sale
- Jun 10, 2019
- Hachette Audio