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By Chris Grabenstein
With Mark Shulman
Illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
Read by Bryan Kennedy
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The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and traveling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean. But after their parents disappear on the job, the kids are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives. They'll have to work together to defeat dangerous pirates and dodge the hot pursuit of an evil treasure hunting rival, all while following cryptic clues to unravel the mystery of what really happened to their parents-and find out if they're still alive.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile
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A QUICK NOTE FROM BICK KIDD
Just so you know, I'm the one who'll be telling you this story, but my twin sister, Beck (who's wickedly talented and should go to art school or show her stuff in a museum or something), will be doing the drawings.
Like this one:
I'm telling you this up front because, even though we're twins, Beck and I don't always see everything exactly the same way. For instance, I don't look like the way she drew me. I'm twelve. I don't have a mustache or an eye patch. So don't believe everything you see.
Fine. Beck says I have to tell you not to believe everything I say, either. Whatever. Can we get on with the story? Good.
Hang on tight.
Things are about to get hairy.
And wet. Very, very wet.
Let me tell you about the last time I saw my dad.
We were up on deck, rigging our ship to ride out what looked like a perfect storm.
Well, it was perfect if you were the storm. Not so much if you were the people being tossed around the deck like wet gym socks in a washing machine.
We had just finished taking down and tying off the sails so we could run on bare poles.
"Lash off the wheel!" my dad barked to my big brother, Tailspin Tommy. "Steer her leeward and lock it down!"
Tommy yanked the wheel hard and pointed our bow downwind. He looped a bungee cord through the wheel's wooden spokes to keep us headed in that direction.
"Now get below, boys. Batten down the hatches. Help your sisters man the pumps."
Tommy grabbed hold of whatever he could to steady himself and made his way down into the deckhouse cabin.
Just then, a monster wave lurched over the starboard side of the ship and swept me off my feet. I slid across the slick deck like a hockey puck on ice. I might've gone overboard if my dad hadn't reached down and grabbed me a half second before I became shark bait.
"Time to head downstairs, Bick!" my dad shouted in the raging storm as rain slashed across his face.
"No!" I shouted back. "I want to stay up here and help you."
"You can help me more by staying alive and not letting The Lost go under. Now hurry! Get below."
He gave me a gentle shove to propel me up the tilting deck. When I reached the deckhouse, I grabbed onto a handhold and swung myself around and through the door. Tommy had already headed down to the engine room to help with the bilge pumps.
Suddenly, a giant sledgehammer of salt water slammed into our starboard side and sent the ship tipping wildly to the left. I heard wood creaking. We tilted over so far I fell against the wall while our port side slapped the churning sea.
We were going to capsize. I could tell.
But The Lost righted itself instead, the ship tossing and bucking like a very angry beached whale.
I found the floor and shoved the deckhouse hatch shut. I had to press my body up against it. Waves kept pounding against the door. The water definitely wanted me to let it in.
That wasn't going to happen. Not on my watch.
I cranked the door's latch to bolt it tight.
I would, of course, reopen the door the instant my dad finished doing whatever else needed to be done up on deck and made his way aft to the cabin. But, for now, I had to stop The Lost from taking on any more water.
If that was even possible.
The sea kept churning. The Lost kept lurching. The storm kept sloshing seawater through every crack and crevice it could find.
Me? I started panicking. Because I had a sinking feeling (as in "We're gonna sink!") that this could be the end.
I was about to be drowned at sea.
Is twelve years old too young to die?
Apparently, the Caribbean Sea didn't think so.
I waited and waited, but my dad never made it aft to the deckhouse cabin door.
Through the forward windows, I could see waves crashing across our bobbing bow. I could see the sky growing even darker. I could see a life preserver rip free from its rope and fly off the ship like a doughnut-shaped Frisbee.
But I couldn't see Dad.
I suddenly realized that my socks were soaked with the seawater that was slopping across the floor. And I was up on the main deck.
"Beck?" I cried out. "Tommy? Storm?"
My sisters and brother were all down in the lower cabins and equipment rooms, where the water was undoubtedly deeper.
They were trapped down there!
I dashed down the four steep steps into the hull quarters as quickly as I could. The water was up to my ankles, then my knees, then my thighs, and, finally, my waist. You ever try to run across the shallow end of a swimming pool? That's what I was up against. But I had to find my family.
Well, what was left of it.
I trudged from door to door, frantically searching for my siblings.
They weren't in the engine room, the galley, or my parents' cabin. I knew they couldn't be in The Room, because its solid steel door was locked tight and it was totally off-limits to all of us.
I slogged my way forward as the ship kept rocking and rolling from side to side. Whatever wasn't nailed down was thumping around inside the cupboards and cabinets. I heard cans of food banging into plastic dishes that were knocking over clinking coffee mugs.
I started pounding on the walls in the narrow corridor with both fists. The water was up to my chest.
"Hey, you guys? Tommy, Beck, Storm! Where are you?"
Of course my brother and sisters probably couldn't hear me, because the tropical storm outside was screaming even louder than I was.
Suddenly, up ahead, a door burst open.
Tommy, who was seventeen and had the kind of bulging muscles you only get from crewing on a sailing ship your whole life, had just put his shoulder to the wood to bash it open.
"Where's Dad?" he shouted.
"I don't know!" I shouted back.
That's when Beck and my big sister, Storm, trudged out of the cabin that was now their waterlogged bedroom. A pair of 3-D glasses was floating on the surface of the water. Beck plucked them up and put them on. She'd been wearing them most of the time ever since our mom disappeared.
"Was Dad on a safety line?" asked Storm, sounding as scared and worried as I felt.
All I could do was shake my head.
Beck looked at me, and even though her 3-D glasses were shading her eyes, I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was. We're twins. It happens.
In our hearts, we both knew that Dad was gone.
Because anything up on deck that hadn't been tied down had been washed overboard by now.
From the sad expressions on their faces, I knew Storm and Tommy had figured it out, too. Maybe they'd been looking out a porthole when that life preserver went flying by.
Shivering slightly, we all moved together to form a close circle and hug one another tight.
The four of us were the only family we had left.
Tommy, who'd been living on boats longer than any of us, started mumbling an old sailor's prayer:
"Though Death waits off the bow, we'll not answer to him now."
I hoped he was right.
But I had a funny feeling that Death might not take no for an answer.
Whoa, not so fast.
You didn't really think that was The End, did you? If I were dead, how could I be telling you this story?
Okay. Fine. Beck says she could've taken over. That writing is easier than drawing. Whatever. Scribble a picture or something.
Note to self: If I ever have a ship of my own, do not call it The Lost. Because that's exactly what (and where) we were: lost at sea. I guess we should be glad Dad didn't name his boat The Sunk, The Drowned, or Titanic II.
When the storm finally calmed, the four of us had, somehow, survived (for the moment, anyway). Yes, The Lost was still leaking, we all had seaweed in our shoes, and the ship-to-shore radio was dead. But we were all still alive.
Unfortunately, we couldn't say the same thing about Dad.
He was definitely missing. Gone. And none of us were sure what had happened to him.
"He went overboard," said Storm matter-of-factly. She's two years older than me and Beck, and she's such a genius (her IQ scores are off the charts) she's kind of socially awkward. She's always spouting stuff people don't really want to hear. "He's dead. Probably drowned."
"Hang on," I said. "We don't know that for certain."
Storm hesitated. "You're right. The sharks could've eaten him first."
I probably would've taken a swing at anyone else who said that. But it's just the way Storm is, and I knew she was as sad as the rest of us.
What made Dad's disappearance even more depressing was the fact that just three months ago, our mother had disappeared, too. She went missing in Cyprus.
"Those shady dealers probably shot her" was what Storm had blurted out back then. "One of them had an Uzi submachine gun hidden under the left flap of his tan double-breasted trench coat. There were dried tzatziki dip stains on the lapels."
Did I mention that Storm has a photographic memory?
Long story short—without a mother or a father, Storm, Tommy, Beck, and I were now officially orphans drifting across the Caribbean Sea in our very own slowly sinking orphanage.
Of course, we weren't always this miserable.
Not to brag, but four months ago, we were probably the most incredible family anybody could ever meet. Not because of anything any of us did but because of who our dad was: Professor Tom Kidd.
That's right. The Tom Kidd.
The world-famous oceanographer and treasure hunter.
The guy who found the 1621 wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora del Mar de Oro off the coast of Barbados (it was loaded with gold coins, bars of silver, and sacks of Colombian emeralds). In Asia, he uncovered thousands of pieces of ceramic pottery dating back to the Ming dynasty in the hold of a sunken cargo vessel. Off the coast of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean Sea, he brought up a treasure chest filled with sparkling jewels and diamond-encrusted religious artifacts.
And we were his crew. We were treasure hunters, too!
Our parents homeschooled us and taught us how to survive in the real world—without iPods, iPhones, iPads, or Papa John's Pizza. We're at least two grades beyond where we would be in a regular school.
(Well, maybe not Tailspin Tommy. He's seventeen and spends a lot of time on personal grooming, so he's probably somewhere around his regular grade level.)
I have never been to a mall.
Beck has never had a mani-pedi.
Tommy didn't need a gym membership at Bally Total Fitness to pump up his pecs.
And Storm can out-Google Google with our onboard computer because she remembers every web page she's ever surfed across.
Yep, ever since Beck and I were three, our home and our school have been this incredible, sixty-three-foot-long sailing ship. This is where we learned to cook, took karate lessons (Dad has a black belt), and practiced navigating by the stars.
The Lost has taken us to more ports and countries than any of us can remember. (Except Storm, who, like I said, remembers everything—even what kind of food stains you have on your raincoat.)
Nine years later, it's totally normal for Beck and me to read a treasure map, go on deep-sea dives with our dad, and help him dredge up priceless Viking shields from an eleventh-century shipwreck in the Skuldelev Narrows in Denmark because a museum in Oslo is willing to pay top dollar to add them to its collection.
What isn't normal is throwing around a baseball in a backyard. Grass feels funny under my feet. Plus, when you throw baseballs on a boat, you lose them.
The same way we kind of lost Dad.
Yeah, until Cyprus and, now, The Perfect Storm, life on The Lost had always been extremely great.
Too bad our happy life was going to end when we sank and everybody drowned.
Unless, like Storm said, the sharks got us first.
I think my parents nicknamed my big brother "Tailspin" Tommy because he usually has this seriously confused look on his face.
Unless he's navigating a ship.
Then the guy is like a laser. Completely focused.
As the day dragged on and the sun scorched away every single cloud in the sky, Tommy stood in the wheelhouse, squinting at his instruments and ignoring the blistering heat. This was hard to do. The deck was so hot my feet were sizzling like sausages on a grill.
"Are we totally lost?" I asked.
"Definitely." Tommy nudged the wheel a little to the left.
"Are you laying in a course?"
"Nah. I'm just goin' with the flow, bro."
"The equatorial current. The Cayman Islands are directly in its path."
"So, we're basically drifting?"
"Basically. The GPS is dead. Didn't like being submerged in salt water."
Beck, who was still wearing those 3-D glasses, came up to join us.
"We're still taking on water," she reported. "Big-time."
Tommy nodded. He remained remarkably mellow, no matter how much bad news we hurled his way. "No worries. I'm only burning fuel to power the generators and, you know, keep the bilge pump batteries stoked."
Now Storm joined us outside the deck cabin. She was eating a Twinkie she must've found floating around down in the galley. The wrapper had kept the moist sponge cake from getting too soggy.
"We should have a funeral," she said.
Tommy got that tailspin look of confusion on his face. "For the dead GPS?"
"No. Dad. And Mom."
"They're not dead," I said.
"They might be," said Beck.
"Well, you don't have funerals for people who might be dead. You wait."
"I don't know. Maybe till you have a body to bury?"
Storm shook her head. "Not gonna happen. Sharks." To emphasize her point, she chomped off a chunk of her Twinkie.
So we decided to go ahead and have a funeral at sea.
Beck found Dad's favorite hat—this navy sweat-stained, beat-up old yachting cap sporting golden anchors on a golden life preserver.
Dad has worn the captain's hat so much the sun and salt water had faded the gold to popcorn yellow.
Mom had bought the hat for Dad when he first started treasure hunting on his own boat.
We took turns holding the hat and remembering Dad and Mom.
Beck, who was technically the youngest (by two minutes), went first.
"Thanks for giving us the best birthday parties ever," she said. "And thank you especially for that incredibly awesome coconut pirate head from Hawaii."
That made me smile. On our birthday, Mom and Dad would always take Beck and me into the nearest port and let us pick out the coolest presents ever. My favorite was the samurai sword we'd found in Hong Kong. Instead of ice cream and cake, we'd always have whatever exotic dessert the locals loved best. Sometimes the desserts would be on fire, so we'd blow them out instead of birthday candles.
I was up next.
"I remember the first time Mom and Dad took Beck and me on a dive. Not the first time we put on scuba gear, but the first time we went down to a real shipwreck. We both found these incredibly cool old Roman coins. Later I asked Dad if he had planted the coins so Beck and I could find them."
"Did he?" asked Beck, who'd probably wondered the same thing.
I shook my head. "Nope. He said the sea would never go easy on us, so neither would he and neither would Mom. We found those coins fair and square. We were officially treasure hunters. Thanks, Dad. Thanks for teaching us we could handle anything the ocean or life threw at us."
"Except this," said Storm, opening up her arms to take in the ship, the sea, and the enormity of our generally sucky situation.
We all stared at her.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
"No worries," I said, because I liked the way Tommy sounded when he said it. "Your turn, Storm."
"Okay. Well, remember that time we docked in the cove, right next to that ninety-foot yacht? The HMS Snobbysnot?"
I nodded. "The rich kids whose parents couldn't figure out how to get their fancy diesel engines running."
"Right. Anyway, Dad was on the deck, cleaning up a dagger he'd found in that sunken pirate ship. It was such a hot day I jumped in for a swim. That's when the bratty boys on the yacht started in with the walrus and blubber jokes."
Tommy laughed. "I remember that! Dad clenched the dagger between his teeth, grabbed a rope, and went swinging over to the yacht, pirate-style."
Beck picked it up from there. "Then he said, 'You folks look like you're having engine problems. Too bad you're miles from the nearest mechanic. Just about the only person who might be able to help you out is my beautiful daughter, the pretty girl swimming down there.'"
Storm was biting back her tears.
So I went ahead and finished her story for her: "'Because,' Dad said, 'just for fun, Storm Kidd has memorized the maintenance and repair manuals for just about every seagoing craft there is. Including your floating mansion.'"
"And then you fixed their engines," said Tommy.
"Only because Dad asked me to," said Storm, trying to dry her eyes with her knuckles. "It's what we 'beautiful' daughters do. Okay, Tommy. Your turn."
Tommy fumbled with the hat in his hands. "Okay. Um, thanks, Dad, and, uh, thanks, Mom, for, you know… everything."
We all nodded. Because that pretty much summed it up.
Tommy tossed Dad's hat into the sea.
And we all stood on the deck, watching it slowly float away.
There's something else you should know about Beck and me: We sometimes erupt into what our parents used to call Twin Tirades.
Of course, when Mom and Dad first called it that, I didn't even know what a tirade was.
So, Mom (our homeschool ELA teacher) made me look it up: "Tirade: a prolonged outburst of bitter, angry words."
Basically, there's lots of shouting and snippy name-calling (the names I come up with are way better than Beck's—I'm the writer; she's the artist). And our Twin Tirades aren't really "prolonged." In fact, they usually last about sixty seconds and then we're done. They're sort of like a summer squall in the Bahamas. Lots of thunder and lightning and then, a minute later, the sky's completely clear.
Anyway, Rebecca (I call her that only when I'm mad) and I burst into a Twin Tirade while we were lugging bailing buckets up from the engine room.
"We need a plan, Bick," she said, coming to such an abrupt halt in the deckhouse that water sloshed out of both of her buckets.
"Tommy has a plan," I said. "We ride the current up to the Caymans. That's where the treasure is."
"I'm talking about the bigger picture, Bickford!" (Yep, she only calls me Bickford when she's angry, too.)
"I thought you said we needed a plan, not a picture, Rebecca!"
"That is what I said. And it has to be the absolute best plan. Not the second-best. The best!"
"Well, who's going to decide what's absolutely best for us?"
"And by we," I said, "do you, by any chance, mean you, Miss Bossypants?"
"No, you numskull!" Beck's face was redder than a boiled lobster. "If I meant me, I would have said me, not we."
"What about Tommy and Storm?"
"They're part of we and us."
"No, they're not. Do the math, Einstein. We're twins. Not quadruplets."
"I mean us us. The whole family."
"Then why didn't you say so?"
"I already did."
"Are we cool?"
And, just like that, our Twin Tirade was done.
Together, we made our way out of the cabin and into the wheelhouse.
"Tommy?" said Beck.
"Storm?" I called.
"We need a plan!" we shouted together.
Tommy nodded. "Cool. I'm down with that."
Storm emptied her bailing bucket over the side and joined us on the poop deck.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
"First, we survive!" I said.
"Okay," said Tommy. "How's that gonna happen?"
"Easy," said Beck. "Mom and Dad taught us everything we need to know."
Storm nodded, and soon Tommy was nodding, too.
"We'll need to start rationing the food and drinking water," Storm said. "I'll work up a spreadsheet on the computer."
"And I'll check out the stars tonight," said Tommy. "Triangulate a little. Make sure this current is taking us where we need to be."
The two of them turned to Beck and me. "Then what?" they said together.
It looked like our big brother and sister were ready for Beck and me to take charge of this barely floating disaster.
"Well," I said, "we keep doing what we've always done."
Tommy arched an eyebrow. "Treasure hunting?"
"Without Mom and Dad?" said Storm.
"Why not?" said Beck.
"It's our family business," I said, completing her thought. (Yeah, that's something else twins do.) "We just need to find Dad's treasure map for the Cayman dive."
"And don't forget," said Beck, "we already know how to do everything that needs to be done. We can maintain the ship. We can fish and forage for food."
"And Tommy can navigate us anywhere on the seven seas," I said.
He nodded as humbly as he could. "True, true."
"And, Storm," said Beck, "you can handle all the computer stuff."
"And evaluate potential new treasure sites," Storm added.
"I can cut deals with suppliers over the Internet," said Beck, "once Tommy fixes our satellite dish."
"Top of my list," said Tommy, "soon as we reach port. Satellite dish and a cheeseburger. With fries."
"We don't really need any adults to keep this business afloat," I added. "Besides, does anybody here really want to give up treasure hunting? Do any of us seriously want to live a boring landlubber life filled with schools, strip malls, and frozen fish sticks?"
We all shook our heads.
Beck tossed in a gag-me-now gesture.
The truth was, none of us could ever be happy on dry land, not after having spent the bulk of our lives adventuring on the high seas. Heck, we'd even met pirates. Real ones. Not the wax kind at Disney World.
In a way, we Kidd kids were like the wild things in this picture book my dad always read to Beck and me when we were little. The one where an ocean tumbled by with a private boat and a boy named Max sailed off through night and day.
"We can do this," said Beck.
"Definitely," said Tommy.
"No doubt," echoed Storm.
I stepped forward. "All those in favor of keeping Kidd Family Treasure Hunters Inc. open for business, raise your hand."
The best thing about sunset at sea?
It's not the pretty colors. It's the fact that the freakishly hot fireball in the sky finally stops sizzling you like a strip of extracrispy bacon when it dips down into the ocean. If you squint, you can see steam rising.
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