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A Mystery from Nutmeg Street


Dead eyes, with years of curses and murder in them,
stared back at thirteen-year-old Lexi Wyatt. She
smiled. Lexi loved a good mummy and anything Egyptian.
And a gripping mystery.
She and her friends treated Dr. Thornsley’s musty
study like a shrine, with all its carefully copied treasures
from Dr. T’s many Egyptian expeditions. She turned from
the mummy mask on the wall to question Mrs. Thornsley
but saw her twin brother, Lanny, walking toward her. He
had a look Lexi knew meant her blond, brainiac brother
wanted to share an important thought. Which meant he
shared all his thoughts, Lexi decided, since he always had
that look and considered everything he thought important.
“Lexi,” he whispered, “I just realized something. You
and I are like ancient Egyptian kings and queens!”
She hesitated a moment, trying to decide if hearing
his explanation was worth letting Lanny have his ego
moment. Yes, she decided—if she was like Egyptian
royalty, she wanted to know why. “Okay, I give. Explain.”
“Well,” he started, “Dad is a famous archaeologist,
and Mom is an equally famous art historian, right? And
because of them, we get access to all kinds of amazing
places and people and adventures, right? We benefit from
our lineage, just like princes and princesses do when they
become queens and kings. See? Kings and queens—us! It’s
all about lineage.”
“Oh,” she said. “Good one.” She could stand being
like any royalty, but especially Egyptian.
And it wasn’t all that big a stretch, really. They did
get to accompany their parents on many business trips
around the world for the Antiquities Research Collective—
or the ARC, as everyone in town called the “think tank” in
beautiful Cortez Park. Not only did the twins’ parents work
there, but so had Dr. Thornsley. Lexi dreamed of imitating
the kind, brilliant man by becoming an Egyptologist herself
someday. Then, she would work at the ARC as a vital
member of the team of some of the world’s most renowned
archaeologists and art historians.
Lanny and Lexi’s best friends, Moki Kalani and Rani
Kumar, often went along on the ARC-sponsored adventures.
Best of all, somehow, all their experiences with fascinating
people and places ended up with them finding some mystery
or other. They’d even started calling themselves detectives,
looking for cases to solve. It was the best life Lexi could
imagine. Those were the reasons the Wyatt twins, plus Moki
and Rani, were here today, in the study of Dr. and Mrs.
Thornsley’s big old house on Nutmeg Street. They were
about to hear their first real mystery.
But this mystery hit home because their family
friend, the extraordinary Egyptologist, Dr. Thornsley, was
Lexi returned to her task, addressing Mrs. Thornsley.
“So you say, Mrs. T, four months ago Dr. T started getting
mysterious phone calls.” Lexi gently ran her finger over a
stubby pencil that had been used by Dr. Thornsley, whom
she would never forget. “He’d jump up and lock the study
door after saying hello. Sometimes, his voice would rise in
anger, and then he’d bang down the landline receiver. Have
I got that right?”
“Yes, that’s right, Alexia. The calls started last
February right after Dr. Thornsley and I returned from a
short trip out of town.” Mrs. Thornsley fidgeted with
the old, curly telephone cord. “He changed the subject
whenever I mentioned the calls, but I . . . I think he was
being threatened.”
Lexi set her hand on the widow’s shoulder, looking
fondly at the kind, fashionably dressed woman who often
called her “Alexia” rather than her nickname. “Don’t worry,
Mrs. T. We’ll find out what’s going on.”
Being smart and confident, they knew they would.
Just last year when they were in France with the twins’
parents, they inadvertently helped the French police catch
two jewel thieves and a sizable hoard of diamond bracelets
stolen from a Paris jewelry store. The crooks crashed right
into the four kids, who were strolling past the expensive
shop. The gemstones went flying out of the thieves’ pockets
and onto the sidewalk in plain sight of many pedestrians.
That lucky accident led to the police uncovering a ring of
international jewel thieves. The news and photos went viral.
After returning home to a citywide celebration in their
honor, the squad officially established their Botanic Hill
Detectives Agency.
But this case was right in their neighborhood. They
had to solve it, mainly for Dr. and Mrs. Thornsley.
Thirteen-year-old Rani gracefully pivoted to face
Mrs. Thornsley, her gold and turquoise sari twirling just a
bit. Whenever possible, she preferred wearing clothing
from her native country of India. She knew that girls’ saris
were usually reserved for festivals, but she loved honoring
her culture. Besides, her dear grandmother made them for
her. “You said something else happened here in the study,
Mrs. T?” She drew a squiggle on the dusty top of Dr.
Thornsley’s wooden desk.
“Actually, two more strange occurrences, Rani. Three
months ago, in March, an old framed picture from this very
desk went missing.” Mrs. T’s index finger jabbed decisively
at its surface. “It showed Dr. Thornsley twenty years ago
with some people I never knew from his hometown back
East. When I asked him what had happened to it, he said
the picture had fallen from the desk and broken. He had
planned to get a new frame, but the picture never reappeared.
One month later . . . he died.” Mrs. Thornsley covered her
face with her hands. She worked hard to choke back some
sobs. Rani came to her side and put her arm around the
After a moment, she continued. “Then one afternoon
last month, I came home from running errands to discover
that someone had broken into this room. Nothing appeared
to be missing, but this desk had been ransacked. The police
found no fingerprints or other clues to lead them to a
suspect.” Mrs. Thornsley could no longer control herself.
Tears flooded down the furrows in her face. She fretfully
wrung her tired, wrinkled hands. Lexi, always emotional,
teared up, too.
Seeing the two crying, Moki looked around and nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the next. “Hey,
uh, Mrs. T,” he asked, “what’s that I see over there on the
coffee table?” The Hawaiian boy, who had moved to
Southern California five years ago, pointed beyond the
study door. With big eyes, Lanny silently thanked Moki for
the rescue.
“Bless you, Moki,” said the woman. “You read my
mind. I’ve had enough of this room for a while. Let’s go. I
set out some snacks for you four in the living room. It’s
been very difficult for me to spend any time in this study
alone, you know, since my husband’s death in April.” Mrs.
Thornsley dabbed at her eyes with a tissue and squeezed
Rani’s small but strong hand.
“That makes perfect sense to me, Mrs. T,” replied Lexi,
blinking back a tear while supporting Mrs. Thornsley with
an arm around the woman’s small waist. The girl snapped
off the wall switch to the study’s overhead light fixture with
her free hand.
Moki, a confirmed foodie, bounded into the living
room. His Hawaiian shirt was a blur of colors as he ran and
barely missed clipping his side on the woman’s enormous
grand piano. His huge brown eyes had zeroed in on a platter
piled high with cookies.
Mrs. Thornsley couldn’t resist a booming laugh. “Oh,
Moki. You’re like medicine for my poor, sad soul. Please,
do help yourself. You’ve earned your fill.”
“Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.” He lunged toward the
platter and dug into the cookies. “Mmm, chocolate chip,”
Moki said through a mouthful. “My fave.”
Lexi and Rani served everyone some of the frosty
lemonade from the nearby crystal pitcher.
They stared as Moki grabbed a third large cookie.
“Oinkers!” snorted Lexi.
“Huh?” he replied with crumbs cascading from his lips.
“Didn’t you have breakfast this morning?” asked Lexi.
“Sure, but that was almost two hours ago. Anyway,
mysteries make me hungry,” he croaked between chomps.
No one seemed to have noticed that Lanny had
remained behind in Dr. Thornsley’s study. Something had
caught his eye. The room’s lighting was subdued now, and
the study was as still as a tomb. Lanny felt as if he had
been transported back in time to ancient Egypt. Such was
the magic of this room. The only movement came from
some dust particles that danced inside a splinter of sunlight
stealing in through the sheer-curtained French doors behind
Dr. Thornsley’s massive wooden desk.
A low cabinet beneath Lexi’s favorite mummy mask
contained, among other mementos, meticulously detailed,
expensive copies of assorted treasures from Dr. T’s excavations. There were miniature cat- and ibis-headed statues
and raised cobras on pharaohs’ headdresses. In addition, Dr.
Thornsley had displayed his old compass, badly scratched
by desert sands, yellowed dig-site maps, and various
archaeological tools. Though fascinating, he and his friends
had seen these objects before in what Lexi called Dr. T’s
mini museum during their frequent visits to Nutmeg Street.
What had actually grabbed Lanny’s attention was an
out-of-place object on the floor to the left of Dr. T’s desk.
He stooped to pick it up. It was a small sandstone sphinx.
Its right forepaw had cracked off. Lanny knelt and rummaged under the desk and soon found the broken piece,
reuniting it with the maimed original already cupped in his
left hand.
From his low position on the floor, Lanny thought he
saw a shadow cast on the rug. He turned around quickly to
glance in the direction of the French doors. Nothing. It
must have been his imagination. Or maybe Mrs. T’s nextdoor neighbor was passing by in his side yard. Being a
detective with a tendency toward curiosity, he decided to
Setting the pieces of the sphinx down on Dr. T’s
desk, he unlocked the doors and stepped outside into the
mild breeze. Scanning the area, he saw no one and concluded the shadow could have been caused by some
fluttering branches of the nearby weeping willow tree. He
hesitated a moment, shrugged, and returned to the study,
making certain to relock the doors. Then, he carefully
picked up the sphinx pieces off the desk to show the others.
“Lanny, you better hurry before Moki eats all the
cookies,” Rani shouted over her shoulder just as the boy
was rejoining the group. Cookie scents wafted to his
nostrils, but he didn’t have food on his mind.
Mrs. T’s eyebrows knitted together as she stared at
Lanny’s hands. “What do you have there, Lanyon?” she asked.
In answer, he put his palms face up to reveal his find.
“Oh, that was my husband’s paperweight. He bought it
in one of his favorite dusty, old curio shops in Giza on a trip
to Egypt many years ago. It must have been too near the edge
of his desk and gotten jostled off during the earthquake.”
A moderate earthquake had, indeed, rumbled through
their coastal resort town of Las Palmitas that very morning
and snaked its way up into the group’s beautiful
neighborhood of Botanic Hill. They were all too familiar with
earthquakes in Southern California.
“How he treasured that little sphinx so.” She gently
took the precious pieces from Lanny, cradling and
inspecting them momentarily. “Fortunately, I think I can
easily fix it.”
Lanny watched the rest of the squad finish the
snacks. He turned toward Mrs. Thornsley and said, “You
said you called us here today to tell us about Dr. T’s urn. Is
it from the same expedition where he found the mummy
mask that’s on the wall in his study?”
“Yes, Lanyon, though the mask is just a copy of the
original. My husband found both objects in Egypt at the
royal burial grounds in Abydos last summer along with
other treasures.” The widow quickly pulled something
from her pocket. “Here’s a photo he took of the urn right
after it arrived in his office at the ARC last October for study
and display. He estimated the urn and mask to be 5,000
years old and priceless.”
The kids crowded around the photo. “It’s beautiful
with all the golden swirling lotus designs on the black
enamel paint,” Lexi said. Her voice swelled with pride
over Dr. Thornsley’s discovery.
“And it contained a mummified Egyptian cobra,” said
Mrs. Thornsley with hiked-up eyebrows.
“Whoa!” Moki called out, abruptly removing his hand
from the photo’s edge. “Why would anyone want to keep a
snake, even a dead one, in a jar?” He brushed his hands as
if to remove something squirmy and toxic. Snakes didn’t
exist in his native Hawaiʽi. He was no fan of reptiles.
“It’s a tomb burial urn, Moki, and snakes were sacred
to ancient Egyptians,” she replied.
“A ‘sacred snake’? Sorry, but those words don’t seem
to go together in my head.”
The woman paused. Her face had turned ashen again,
but she slowly continued. “I realize you kids might already
know some of this information, but you won’t know all of
it. After all, you’ve been busy solving other mysteries. You
see, my husband was the last ARC employee to see the urn
before it disappeared. The police couldn’t find any other
suspects, so he was blamed for stealing it. He died in shame
from the rumors after a long and brilliant career. Oh, how I
wish now he had never gone to Egypt last year to find that
urn.” She closed her eyes tightly to squeeze back any more
tears and sighed. Silence engulfed the room.
Then, Mrs. Thornsley squared her slumped shoulders
and went on. “Since law enforcement agencies seem to
have hit a dead end in their investigations, I want to hire
you four to find the urn and who really stole it, return the
object to the ARC, and restore my husband’s good name.”
“Mrs. T, Lexi’s right. We’ll find out what’s going
on,” Lanny replied. “In fact, we’ll gladly take the case. But
the theft occurred last fall. It’s June now. Something must
have happened recently to make you call us today. What
was it?” He hesitated to question her. Would she dissolve
in tears? Worse, would she call him “Lanyon” again? Moki
delighted in teasing Lanny about his real name. But they
needed to know why she had called.
“Yes, Lanyon, two things have happened. Dr. Abbott
called me this morning and—”
But before the widow could continue, Rani gasped
and pointed at the window. Mrs. Thornsley turned and
uttered a little cry, drawing her hand up sharply to her mouth.
“What the heck!” Lexi shouted as she sprang to her
Through the large front window, a face disguised by
what resembled the death mask of an Egyptian pharaoh
was gazing in at them. Sensing discovery, the trespasser
immediately ducked away. The kids raced to the window
in time to see someone squeeze back through the dense
hydrangea bushes, rocket across the manicured lawn, and
jump the hedge.
“The front door!” Lexi shouted, “Go, go, go!” She
headed for the door with the two guys behind her. Rani was
already there, yanking it open and bolting outside ahead of
“Teach that Mask Face a lesson,” Moki hollered as he
almost tripped over a footstool. “It’s not nice to look in
other people’s windows.”
“I’m with you, bro,” Lanny replied. “Catch that nut!”
The four kids tore across Mrs. Thornsley’s lawn and
sprang over her low hedge in their hot pursuit of the brazen,
masked trespasser. At the end of the block, they cut the
corner sharply, not looking back to notice the broken
branches and trampled flowers they left strewn down
Nutmeg Street.