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Treasure Hunters: Quest for the City of Gold
Illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
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QUICK NOTE FROM BICK KIDD
Before we dive into our next adventure—and I mean literally dive, because it starts with Beck and me swimming for our lives—I just want to remind everybody that I, Bickford “Bick” Kidd, will be the one telling this tale.
My twin sister, Rebecca “Beck” Kidd, will be handling the drawings.
I’m the author, she’s the illustrator.
I’m the narrator, she’s the picture scribbler.
Fine. Beck says I’m also the stinky one and she’s the one who doesn’t smell like ancient cheese stuffed into gym socks.
It’s time to jump into the story.
And the shark-infested waters.
Okay, to start, I have to admit that I’m seriously impressed by my twin sis Beck’s ability to draw that picture, because at the time, we were maybe ten seconds away from being chomped on by a family of hammerhead sharks.
(Beck says she drew that illustration later on, from memory, not while we were in the water. I’m doing the same thing with the storytelling. It’s hard to write or draw while you’re swimming for your life. The ink gets all runny and splotchy.)
Where were we?
Oh, right. In the ocean. Off the coast of Costa Rica. Being chased by hammerhead sharks as we swam our way to Cocos Island, a Costa Rican national park also known as “the Island of Sharks.”
(Yes, Beck, that should have been a hint as to what might be lurking beneath the waves.)
We furiously paddled our arms and kicked our legs and tried to outrun the swarm of hungry sea monsters. Good thing hammerheads have eyeballs where their ears should be. Maybe they couldn’t see us—swimming right in front of them.
Why weren’t we in a rowboat or a motorized raft?
Because Mom, Dad, and our big brother, Tommy, had taken all available landing craft when they decided to do a little treasure hunting on Cocos Island without me, Beck, or our big sister, Storm.
“You three need to stay with the ship,” Dad had said when they loaded up the boats. “There are secrets belowdecks in the Room you need to guard.”
Yes, whenever Dad talks about the Room, it sounds like he’s capitalizing it, because the Room is this super-secret high-security walk-in vault on our ship, the Lost. The Room is off-limits to all of us. It’s where Mom and Dad keep their rare and valuable treasure-hunting maps locked up behind the Door. The Door gets the capital-letter treatment, too, because it’s made out of three-inch-thick solid steel. It’s so heavy I sometimes wonder how the Lost can stay afloat with that much deadweight in its hull.
I was pretty sure Beck and I had remembered to double-check the lock on the Door to the Room before we jumped into the Ocean. Pretty sure. We were kind of in a rush.
“How dare they go looking for the Treasure of Lima without us!” Beck had said as we prepared to dive in.
“Yeah,” I’d said. “How dare they!”
Yes, we sometimes think and say exactly the same stuff. It’s a twin thing.
So we jumped overboard and started swimming. Don’t forget, we Kidd kids have lived on the ocean most of our lives. We’re excellent swimmers and scuba divers. Except Storm. She doesn’t do water sports. Maybe because she has a photographic memory, which means that she never forgets that the ocean is full of scary creatures like, oh, hammerhead sharks!
But Beck and I were determined to join Mom, Dad, and Tommy on the island. Hey, we Kidd kids did pretty well treasure hunting on our own, without Mom or Dad. In fact, they were two of the treasures we’d recovered in our kids-only quests.
Now they were searching for buried treasure in the jungles of Cocos Island with just Tommy? Since when did the Kidd Family Treasure Hunters Inc. become a three-person operation instead of a six-person one?
Actually, it was dangerously close to becoming a four-person crew. Because the hungry hammerheads were much faster swimmers than me and Beck.
They were close and moving closer.
With a couple swift chomps of their jaws, they could definitely subtract two from six—permanently!
I heard a rush of water behind me!
The hammerheads breathing down our butts had just thrown open their jaws. I could smell their stinky fish breath. I believe they had recently enjoyed the all-you-can-gobble shrimp buffet at the nearest coral-reef diner.
“So long, Beck!” I shouted, thrashing against the waves. “You’re the best twin I ever had!”
“I’m the only twin you ever had!” she shouted back.
“This is no time to get all technical, Rebecca. We’re both about to die!” As the storyteller of the family, I decided to wax poetic with my dying words. “I guess it’s only fitting that since we came into this world together, we should leave it together, too!”
“Oh, no, you’re not!” cried the heroic voice of our (you won’t believe this) big sister, Storm!
She zoomed between us and the hammerheads on a Jet Ski!
“Where’d you find a Jet Ski?” I hollered.
“Tommy had it stowed in a secret compartment in the bow of our ship!” Storm shouted back. “He might’ve forgotten that he told me about it, but I never did!”
The thing to remember about our big sister, Storm, is that she remembers everything. She’s also the smartest Kidd kid. So why was she doing something as dumb as attempting to herd sharks on a Jet Ski? Because that’s what we Kidds do. We look out for one another—even if we look ridiculous doing it.
“Whatever you do, Bick,” Storm shouted, “don’t pee! Sharks can smell human urine in the ocean.”
Great, I thought. Now she tells me.
Storm circled the sharks, churning up a white, foamy wake to fence them in. More or less.
“Swim to shore, you two,” she told us. “I’ll keep these bad boys busy. I brought along one of Dad’s golf clubs!”
As I frantically swam for the beach, I chanced a glance over my shoulder to see what Storm was doing with Dad’s driver, the biggest club from his bag.
She jabbed at all of the sharks who dared snap at her as she zipped around and around them in dizzying circles. That’s Shark-Attack Defense 101: Poke ’em in their gills.
Or their eyes!
“What are you looking at, M. C. Hammerhead?” Storm yelled at the lead shark.
One-handing the Jet Ski throttle, she used her free arm to line up the golf club’s head with the shark’s big, bulging eyeball as if it were sitting on a tee!
Storm faked like she was going to rear back with the driver. The alpha shark, who seemed dead set on eating us a moment earlier, turned tail and headed out to sea. Guess he didn’t want to see one of his eyeballs ending up on the seventeenth green. It would make for a messy putt. The other sharks took off with him.
A couple minutes later, Beck and I dragged ourselves ashore. We were exhausted but alive, barely able to catch our breath.
When she landed her Jet Ski on the beach and hauled it up on the sand, Beck and I raced down to give her a huge hug. We were both sooooo lucky to be part of the most incredibly awesome family in the world!
“Thank you, Storm!” said Beck.
“You’re the best big sister we could ever have!” I added.
Storm didn’t seem to be quite as happy as Beck and me.
I could see her eyes darken as she narrowed them at us.
Yep. That’s why we call her Storm.
Like a thundercloud billowing up in the tropics, she can get very, very angry very, very quickly.
“Mom and Dad told us to stay on board the Lost!” roared Storm. “It was a direct order. Stay on the ship, guard the Room.”
“But we’re treasure hunters!” I told her.
“So we’re this close to the legendary Treasure of Lima and we’re supposed to just sit on the sidelines twiddling our thumbs while Mom, Dad, and Tommy have all the fun?”
“Yes,” said Storm, who can be as blunt as a hammer even when she’s nowhere near hammerhead sharks. She says exactly what she’s thinking, no matter what.
“But Mom and Dad need us,” said Beck.
“To help them figure out clues and junk!”
Storm raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Clues and junk?”
“You know,” said Beck. “Stuff.”
As you can probably tell, Beck’s talents are more visual than verbal. (Fine. She says my BO is extremely visual, too—it’s why she sometimes draws me with stink lines.)
“We have to help them,” I pleaded. “This island is teeming with treasure!”
Even though I was pretty sure Storm had already memorized the whole entire history of Cocos Island, I launched into a swashbuckling tale of pirates and plunder from days past.
“For centuries,” I proclaimed as dramatically as I could, “this island served as a buccaneers’ bank! One daring pirate captain buried three hundred and fifty tons of gold he stole off Spanish royal galleons! His crew had to dig a really, really big hole!
“Then,” I said, “there’s the treasure Mom and Dad and Tommy think they’ve found.” I took a long pause and sort of hoped there’d be an enormous thunderclap when I uttered my next words: “The long-lost Treasure of Lima!”
“Dun-dun-dun!” quipped Beck.
“We’re talking a whole boatload of Incan gold and artifacts the Spaniards shipped from Peru to Mexico for safekeeping, way back in 1823.
“But, arrr!” I said in my best talk-like-a-pirate voice. “The captain of that ship got greedy, me hearties. He went rogue and slit the throats of the guards traveling with the Incan gold. He threw the dead bodies overboard and brought the treasure here to Cocos, where he hid it high in the craggy hills! The captain and his scurvy mates planned on lying low, then coming back to retrieve their treasure. But they were captured and tried for piracy, and their buried booty has never been found!”
“I’m fully aware of the historical significance of this island,” said Storm, who’s usually the one giving the history lectures. “But the true moral of your pirate story is that when teams don’t stick together and do what they’re supposed to do, everybody loses!”
“That’s exactly Bick’s point!” said Beck.
Since I hadn’t realized I’d been making a point, I couldn’t wait to hear what Beck would say next!
“Mom and Dad might need Bick and me,” Beck told Storm, “to do our jobs on the team.”
“Riiiiight,” said Storm. “I almost forgot. You guys are in charge of junk and stuff.”
“No. The team needs us for crawling in tight spaces.”
“Beck’s right,” I said. “She and I are the youngest and, therefore, the smallest and wiriest members of the family! Getting into tight spots is what we do best.”
Storm rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.”
“It’s like you said, Storm,” added Beck. “If we don’t stick together, if everybody on our team doesn’t do exactly what they’re supposed to do, then we could lose the Treasure of Lima.”
Storm exhaled. Loudly. “But you two were supposed to stay on board the Lost with me and guard the Room. That was our job!”
“Only because Mom and Dad forgot they might need us to crawl into a cave!” I told her. “If I were a pirate, that’s where I would hide my treasure. Someplace so narrow, only someone our size could reach it.”
“Then how’d the pirates get it in there in the first place?” demanded Storm, because, let’s face it, she’s way more logical than me.
“Cabin boys,” said Beck.
“And monkeys,” I added. “Pirates always have monkeys riding on their shoulders. Unless they go with parrots instead.”
“Fine!” said Storm, sounding totally exasperated. “Whatever. Let’s go find Mom and Dad and Tommy!”
She trudged up toward the jungle.
Beck and I high-fived. We’d totally double-teamed our big sister into submission. It’s another twin thing.
Storm planned on using her photographic memory to lead us to the treasure site that Dad had pinpointed on a map in the Room. He had all sorts of rare maps in there. Some were so old, they even showed where you’d find sea serpents and other mysterious monsters.
One map—a recent discovery that Dad made in, believe it or not, Rome, Italy—might take us to the Lost City of Paititi deep in the Amazon rain forest. The map was an antique (dating all the way back to the 1600s) and cost Dad several hundred thousand dollars.
Legend says the Lost City of Paititi is filled with all the gold and precious gems that the last Incas of ancient Peru wanted to hide from the Spanish conquistadors looting their land.
“We have to hike up Mount Iglesias,” announced Storm, gesturing to the leafy green peak in front of us.
“No problem,” I said, even though I was huffing and puffing and sweating like I had a leaky bilge pump under each arm. (Look for Beck to start adding stink lines to my pits.)
“Um, how high is the summit?” asked Beck.
“Two thousand and seventy-nine feet,” reported Storm.
“Oh,” I said, as if it were no big deal. “At least it’s not two thousand and eighty.”
We had to cross a rickety bridge that park rangers had made entirely out of gear confiscated from fishermen working illegally in the protected waters around Cocos Island. We knew the backstory of the bridge because Tommy had, a day earlier, fallen hopelessly in love with one of the Costa Rican park rangers living on the island.
That’s why Mom and Dad call our seventeen-year-old big brother “Tailspin” Tommy. Every time he sees a pretty girl, he nosedives hopelessly in love with her.
And sometimes, he takes the rest of us down with him!
“Keep your eyes on the ground and always look ahead,” said Storm, leading us deeper into the jungle, which was extremely hot and muggy.
That meant Beck, Storm, and I were extremely sweaty and grouchy.
Halfway up the slope of Mount Iglesias, trudging through the thick vines and drippy leaves, Beck and I erupted into one of our famous Twin Tirades. In case you’re counting, this was number 1,103.
These flash rants are yet another twin thing. They’re quick diatribes or outbursts of denunciation (words Mom put on our homeschool vocab quiz last week) that flare up like a match but burn out before the flame can scorch your fingertips. Beck and I get really, really angry with each other and then, usually in a minute or two, forget what we were angry about.
Storm was so used to our fast-moving squalls of fury that when this one blew through, she totally ignored it and kept hiking.
“When you think about it,” I said, “I’m actually the most important member of the whole Kidd treasure-hunting team. I write up our adventures and share them with the world! If it weren’t for me, no one would even know who we are.”
“So? If it weren’t for my drawings, nobody would even know where we are, pea brain.”
“Yes, they would. I’d just write that we’re on an island in the Pacific Ocean, three hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Costa Rica!”
“Well, Bickford, a picture is worth a thousand words.”
“That’s a horrible cliché, Rebecca.”
“So what? It’s also true. See?”
“You can’t draw us in Hawaii when we’re in Central America!” I told her.
“Um, yes, I can, because I just did.”
“Oh. So I guess your pictures are worth more than my words.”
“That’s very interesting, Beck.”
“So are you, Bick.”
“That’s very benevolent of you to say, Beck.”
“What’s benevolent mean?”
“Cool. Good word, Bick.”
“So, um, what were we arguing about?”
“Huh. Me, too.”
And just like that, Twin Tirade number 1,103 was history.
We had hiked another twenty yards when, suddenly, Storm swung up her right arm to halt us in our tracks.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You two!” Storm replied in an angry whisper. “All your shouting and Twin Tirade–ing may have attracted some unwanted attention.”
“From who?” I whispered. “Tommy’s girlfriend? Because park rangers are the island’s only permanent residents.”
Storm pointed off into the thick foliage.
All I could see were a bunch of green leaves, brown dirt, and a yellowish-brown lump of fuzzy black spots with bright yellow eyes.
The lump moved.
“Wh-wh-why is that cat wearing camouflage?” stammered Beck.
“Because,” said Storm, “it is a jaguar, a name derived from the Tupian word yaguara, which means ‘he who kills with one leap.’”
I sometimes wish she wouldn’t tell us everything she knows.
“Back away slowly,” coached Storm, who’s memorized a ton of Jungle Survival Tips. “Avoid eye contact, which can be seen as a challenge.”
The last thing I wanted to do was challenge one of the largest carnivorous cats in South America. The two-hundred-pound jaguar prowled forward on padded paws. The three of us backed up. Slowly. If you run away from any predator, it’ll just think you’re food. Fast food.
“Actually,” said Storm, who is so filled with facts they come spewing out exactly when you don’t want to hear them, “you are more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a jaguar.”
“Except,” said Beck, “if there’s one, like, ten yards away from you.”
“True,” said Storm. “If he lunges at you, be sure to cover your head with your hands.”
“Why?” I asked.
“The jaguar is a unique hunter. Instead of biting you in the neck and going for your jugular, it sometimes sinks its teeth into the back of your head to pierce your brain.”
Great, I thought. Jaguars are like zombies. They want to eat braaaaains!
We kept backing up, totally ignoring Storm’s earlier instructions to keep our eyes on the ground and always look ahead.
Because we ended up blindly stepping back into a pit.
A snake pit!
“Ah,” said Storm calmly, “that snake coiled around that branch is the Bothrops asper, more commonly known as the fer-de-lance, or terciopelo.”
“Is it poisonous?” I gasped.
“Yes. Very. In fact, it’s known as the ultimate pit viper due to its super-strong venom.”
“But they only attack if attacked first, right?” said Beck as we all backed up to the other side of the pit, where the snake wasn’t lurking.
Storm shook her head. “Terciopelos are unpredictable. Here’s another interesting factoid: a terciopelo can have sixty babies at once.”
That made Beck and me hop up and down while we checked around our feet, searching for infant vipers. All I saw were some twigs and broken branches. No baby snakes. The super-viper giving us the beady eyeball from the other side of our mud hole was flying solo. That was a good thing. Then again, we still had that jaguar prowling around the rim of the pit to see if tonight’s dinner would be marinated in juicy snake venom.
That’s when the floor of the rain forest above our heads started squirming.
“Uh-oh,” said Beck. “Looks like kindergarten’s out for the day. Here come her babies!”
At least forty slimy little reptiles slithered up to the edge of our hole.
“Good-bye, Rebecca. Good-bye, Bickford,” said Storm. “It has been an honor and a pleasure being your big sister. At least our deaths will be swift and this pit will serve as a convenient grave.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “Who says we’re going to die?”
“Storm,” said Beck. “And all the itty-bitty baby snakes.”
“Who cares what they say? We’re the Kidds. We never give up without a fight.”
“This time,” said Storm, “perhaps we should. Did I mention that the fangs on a terciopelo are an inch long?”
“Then,” said Beck, “they might scare off a jaguar, too!”
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked.
“Of course,” said Beck.
“It’s a twin thing,” we said together.
“Wait for it,” I said.
“Waiting,” said Beck.
The viper uncoiled herself from the tree limb and slithered down the far side of our pit.
“On three,” I said quickly.
“One… two… three!”
We each bent down as fast as we could and grabbed a stick with a forked end.
I jabbed my improvised tongs under Mama Snake’s head. Beck went for her midsection, maybe three feet down. With a grunt, we simultaneously heaved the snake up and away—sending her flying straight at the jaguar!
The baby snakes slithered off to find Mama. The jaguar took one look at the hissing snake’s wide-open jaws and bolted.
Beck and I clambered out of the pit, reached down, and hauled Storm up.
Then the three of us went running up the trail—suspicious of every shadow and vine wiggling in the breeze.
Finally, up ahead, near the summit of the mountain, we saw Mom, Dad, and Tommy.
They were standing outside a cave. Our awesome family was about to be reunited again—and none of us had been bitten by a poisonous snake or had our brains bashed in by a giant cat.
Mom saw us first. “Rebecca? Bickford? Stephanie?”
(Yep, Stephanie is Storm’s real name. And Mom and Dad are the only ones allowed to use it.)
“What are you guys doing here?” asked Dad, who was holding some kind of golden crown topped with three gold-plated feathers.
Praise for Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile"Short chapters, copious illustrations, and a rollicking, nonstop plot....The fiercely loyal Kidds and a healthy dose of humor... make this fun-filled adventure series stand out.... It's hard to imagine the adventure-loving reader who wouldn't be hooked by this series."—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Treasure HuntersA New York Times Bestseller
"This new series promises it all: ruthless pirates, CIA spies, terrorists, stolen works of art and priceless treasure. More important, it delivers. A high-seas adventure that will entice even the most confirmed of landlubbers."—Kirkus Reviews
"A frenetic sense of excitement and adventure permeates this nautical escapade... There's little time to breath as the Kidds pinball from one spot of trouble to the next, making for a fun and fast-paced ride."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Jan 15, 2018
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- jimmy patterson