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Karens mystery, p.1
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       Karen's Mystery, p.1

           Ann M. Martin
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Karen's Mystery

  For the Stoeckleins —

  Alex, Rick,

  Pierson, Hill, and Aristia


  Title Page


  1 December

  2 2+2=Karen

  3 The Big House

  4 Detective Karen

  5 The Mystery of the Missing Cookies

  6 The Case of the Mysterious Bird

  7 Hiding Places

  8 The Three Investigators

  9 No Case Too Tough

  10 The Mysterious Disappearing Present

  11 “She’s Gone!”

  12 Upstairs and Downstairs

  13 The Vanishing Lights

  14 Caught!

  15 On the Loose

  16 The Booby Trap

  17 The Rat Hole

  18 Found!

  19 Tattletale

  20 Case Closed

  Join the Four Investigators Fun Force!

  About the Author

  Also Available



  I have a lot of favorite things. I have a favorite color (pink), and a favorite pet (my rat, Emily Junior), and a favorite teacher (Ms. Colman). I have a favorite month of the year, too. It is not the month of my birthday. It is not September when school starts. It is not June when summer vacation starts. It is … December.

  December is a gigundoly wonderful month. Winter begins in December, and I love, love, love winter. Especially snow. I like snowmen and snowballs and snow forts. I like snowflakes and snowstorms. Oh, and I like ice, too. Ice-skating and icicles.

  Here are some other good things about December: winter vacation and, best of all, holidays. I celebrate Christmas. My friend Nancy celebrates Hanukkah. These are happy holidays. Also, we get presents.

  Every year, I wait for December. It is too bad it’s the last month of the year. I feel like I’m always waiting for December. December of second grade was especially hard to wait for. My mother and Seth (he’s my stepfather) were going to go on a ski vacation for two whole weeks. So my brother, Andrew, and I would get to stay with our father. We would be at his house for Christmas! YEA!

  I was packing up to go to Daddy’s. I had to remember to bring a lot of important things. I had to remember the presents for my family at Daddy’s. I had to remember my Hanukkah present for Nancy. And I had to remember my detective stuff.

  Here is another one of my favorite things: solving mysteries. I just love mysteries and detectives. Maybe I will be a detective myself someday. Detectives get to poke around and look for clues. They find secret passages. They write notes in codes. They send messages to each other. They say things like, “The green bicycle crows at noon.” And they understand what that means. Best of all, they get to spy.

  I have been reading lots of detective books. I like the Bobbsey Twins. Bert and Nan and Freddie and Flossie solve gigundoly cool mysteries. Nan is my heroine. I like Encyclopedia Brown, too. Sometimes I can solve the cases before Encyclopedia does. And I like the Three Investigators.

  My suitcase was getting full, but I still had to pack: my magnifying glass, my Decod-R ring, The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore, and my maze book. Mommy had bought the maze book for me. She said she hoped it would take my mind off Christmas. (Sometimes I get just an eensy bit too excited about holidays.) The maze book was great. It was full of maps and secret passages and lost treasures. (I am very good at finding things.)

  I tried to close my suitcase. I could do it if I sat on it. I had just snapped the lid shut when I remembered something. I remembered that I was not finished packing. I had to pack for someone else. I had to pack for Emily Junior. She would be going to Daddy’s with me. I had to bring her cage and her food pellets and her water bottle and her toys. And I had to remember to bring Emily herself. (Well, she would be in the cage.)

  I take extra-good care of Emily Junior. I feed her and give her fresh water. I play with her. I even plan to give her a birthday party next year. (Sometimes I forget and leave the top off her cage, but I am working on that.)

  “Are you ready to go to Daddy’s?” I asked my rat. “Are you ready for Christmas? Are you ready for presents and vacation?”

  It was too bad we had to wait until the next day for the fun to start.


  Guess what. I have told you about Emily Junior and about my friend Nancy. But I have not told you who I am!

  I am Karen Brewer. But if I ever get to be an actress, I will use a stage name. My stage name will be Katerina Natalia. (Yesterday I decided it would be Francine von Fortunoff. Then I changed my mind.) I have a little brother named Andrew. Andrew is four, going on five. I am seven. There are a lot of things I have to teach Andrew.

  Andrew and I have an awfully big family. This is because our mommy and daddy are divorced. They used to be married. Then my family was easy to describe: Mommy, Daddy, Andrew, me. But Mommy and Daddy decided that they did not want to live together anymore. They were through loving each other. So they got divorced. Mommy moved out of the big house we lived in. (It is the house where Daddy grew up.) Andrew and I moved with her. We moved to a little house. The little house and the big house are both in Stoneybrook, Connecticut.

  After awhile, Mommy and Daddy got married again. But not to each other. Mommy married Seth. He lives with us at the little house. He brought along his dog, Midgie, and his cat, Rocky.

  Daddy married Elizabeth. She is my stepmother. She lives at the big house with Daddy — and about a million other people. My big-house family is gigundo! Here is why. Elizabeth has four kids. They are my stepbrothers and stepsister. Charlie and Sam are old. They go to high school. David Michael is seven, like me. Actually, he is a few months older than I am. He never lets me forget it. My stepsister is Kristy. She is thirteen and she baby-sits. She is my favorite baby-sitter in the whole wide world. She is also one of my favorite people. I am glad she’s my sister.

  Emily Michelle lives at the big house, too. Emily is my adopted sister. She is two and a half years old. Daddy and Elizabeth adopted her from a country called Vietnam, which is very far away. (I named my rat after Emily.)

  Also at the big house lives Nannie. Nannie is Elizabeth’s mother, so that means she is my stepgrandmother. Nannie watches Emily while Daddy and Elizabeth are at work and everyone else is at school.

  These are the big-house pets: Boo-Boo (Daddy’s fat old cat); Shannon (David Michael’s puppy); Crystal Light the Second (my goldfish); and Goldfishie (Andrew’s guess what).

  Since Andrew and I live at the big house every other weekend and on special vacations, it is a very busy place. I just love the big house.

  Here is an interesting fact. Andrew and I have two of lots of things. We have two mommies, two daddies, two families, two houses, two cats, and two dogs. We have clothes and toys and books at each of our houses. I even have two best friends. Nancy Dawes is my little-house best friend. She lives next door to Mommy. My big-house best friend is Hannie Papadakis. She lives across the street from Daddy and one house down. Nancy and Hannie and I are all in Ms. Colman’s second-grade class at Stoneybrook Academy. We call ourselves the Three Musketeers.

  Since Andrew and I have two of so many things, I gave us special nicknames. I call us Andrew Two-Two and Karen Two-Two. (I got the name from a book Ms. Colman read to our class. It was called Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang.) Sometimes being a two-two is confusing. But mostly it is fun. Like right now. I could not wait to go to the big house for two weeks. I was so, so excited!

  The Big House

  “We’re here! Here we are! Hello, everybody!”

  It was Saturday. It was time for our big-house adventure to begin.

  That morning, Mommy had woken Andrew and me early. “Let’s go, merry sunshine,” she had said to m
e. “Get ready for Daddy’s.”

  Andrew and I ate breakfast while Seth packed the car. He put the skis in a rack on the roof. (I was afraid they would fall off.)

  When the car was packed, we drove to the big house. Andrew and I said good-bye to Mommy and Seth. (Andrew only cried a little.) Now we were standing in the door-way. Mommy and Seth were driving away. Daddy and Kristy and Nannie and everyone greeted us.

  “Hi, Professor!” David Michael called to me. (He gave me that nickname because I wear glasses.) “Guess what. We are going to decorate the house today. The outside tree, too.”

  “Yea!” I cried. Decorating the house meant getting out our Christmas decorations — the manger, and the wooden angels for the mantelpiece and the bell to hang in the doorway and the music box that looks like Santa Claus. (We were not going to decorate the inside tree yet, though.)

  “Before you get too excited,” said Elizabeth, “please put your suitcases upstairs. And Karen, why don’t you put Emily Junior and her cage in the playroom? Then we will begin decorating.”

  “Okay!” I ran upstairs. Andrew ran after me. I stuck my rat in the playroom. I closed the door so Boo-Boo could not get in.

  When Andrew and I had put our things away, we ran downstairs again.

  Daddy and Charlie and Kristy were outside. They were going to string lights on the fir tree in the front yard.

  Everyone else was inside. They were opening boxes and looking at all the things we had not seen since the year before.

  “There’s the gold bell!” said David Michael.

  “There’s Santa!” exclaimed Andrew.

  “And there’s Rudolph, Rudolph, Rudolph!” I sang.

  “Simmer down, Karen,” said Elizabeth. (That meant I should calm down.)

  “Sorry,” I replied. I decided to help Nannie for awhile. Nannie was busy putting evergreen branches around the house. She put some on the mantel. Then Andrew stood on a chair and arranged an orchestra of tiny wooden angels in the branches. They looked like they were playing music in a forest. Nannie put a branch over each picture frame in the living room. Sam hung ornaments from the branches. Finally Nannie tied several branches together with a red bow. She hung them on the front door.

  “Oh, it’s Christmastime, it’s Christmastime!” I shouted.

  “Indoor voice, Karen,” said Nannie.

  “Boo. Nannie, I am going outdoors,” I replied. “Then I can use my loud voice.”

  I put on my jacket and my hat and my scarf and my mittens. I wanted to put on my boots, but I did not need them. There was no snow yet. I hoped snow would fall before Christmas.

  When I joined Daddy and Charlie and Kristy, they were almost finished putting the lights on the tree. The tree was going to look gigundoly pretty. The lights were red and green. And the bulbs were big. (Last year, some of the bulbs disappeared. We do not know what happened to them. I think someone stole them. I hoped the thief would leave our tree alone this year. I did not want any holes in our decorating job.)

  Daddy turned on the lights then.

  “Beautiful!” I exclaimed. Then I added, “Yea! Hurray! Hurray!”

  Detective Karen

  By lunchtime, the decorating was finished.

  “Karen? Andrew?” said Elizabeth. “Have you unpacked your suitcases?”

  My big-house family was in the kitchen. We were eating chicken ’n’ stars soup. (The stars are really noodles.) Daddy was fixing a fruit salad.

  “No,” I answered. “We’ll unpack after lunch. I might need some help with Emily Junior.”

  “What kind of help?” asked Daddy.

  “I need to put her cage where she will be safe from Boo-Boo.”

  Sam snorted. “From Boo-Boo? Boo-Boo is too old to catch things. He probably wouldn’t know what to do with a rat.”

  “I am not taking any chances,” I replied. “Daddy, I think we should put the cage high up. But not so high up that I cannot reach it. Plus,” I went on, “we have to fix Emily’s water bottle. I took it out of the cage so it would not drip while we drove over here. I gave her a dish of water, but I bet she wants her bottle back now.”

  “Emily Junior is such a baby,” whispered David Michael.

  “I heard that!” I yelled. “And she is not a baby!”

  “Before you two have a fight, let’s go take care of Emily,” Daddy said to me.

  Daddy and I left the table. We went upstairs to the playroom.

  Daddy looked around. “I think Emily Junior will be safe on this table,” he said. “It isn’t too high up.”

  “But Boo-Boo might jump on it,” I told him. I felt worried.

  “I don’t think so,” replied Daddy. “Emily will be safe.”

  Daddy fiddled around with the water bottle. I took Emily out of the cage. I let her run around on the floor.

  “Careful, honey,” said Daddy. “This is a big house. And it’s new to Emily. She does not know her way around. Oh, and be sure to keep the top on the cage. You know how Nannie feels about rats.

  “Now let me see. How does the bottle work?” Daddy continued. “Where are my glasses? I’ll be right back, Karen.”

  When Daddy came back, he was frowning. “I can’t find them,” he said.

  I jumped up. “I’m a good detective,” I told him. “I will help you.” I remembered to stick Emily in her cage and to put on the lid. Then I got out my magnifying glass and Decod-R ring. I walked all through the house.

  “What are you doing?” David Michael wanted to know. When I told him, he said. “I’m a good detective, too! We could be a team.”

  “Okay,” I agreed. “Now let’s think carefully. We should look in the places where Daddy has been today.”

  “Good idea,” said David Michael.

  First we looked in Daddy’s bedroom, even though he had looked there himself. No glasses. We looked in the kitchen, where he had eaten breakfast and lunch. No glasses. We looked in the living room, where Daddy and Elizabeth had put the boxes of decorations. No glasses. We even looked in the attic, where the boxes of decorations had come from. No glasses.

  “Maybe Emily Michelle wanted to play with them,” I suggested. So we looked in Emily’s room. No glasses.

  “I know!” exclaimed David Michael. “Before you came over this morning, Daddy bought new lights for the tree. He needed his glasses to read the instructions on the box. Let’s look in the den.”

  So we did. And I found Daddy’s glasses lying on the floor. They must have fallen off a table. David Michael and I gave them to Daddy.

  “You are wonderful detectives!” he said. “Thank you!”

  The Mystery of the Missing Cookies

  I was very proud of David Michael and myself. We had solved the Mystery of Daddy’s Glasses. And no grown-ups had helped us.

  “Hey, David Michael. Let’s solve some more mysteries,” I said. “Want to?” (I had finished unpacking my suitcase.)

  “Sure,” he answered. “Do you know of any more mysteries?”

  “No … but I’m sure one will come along.”

  I hoped this new game would be fun. I hoped it would do something else, too. I hoped it would take my mind off Christmas. I was definitely too excited. Elizabeth had told me to simmer down. Nannie had said to use my indoor voice. Daddy had said, “I cannot hear yellers, Karen.” Andrew had said, “Too much noise!” And Kristy had said, “Could you talk a little louder, Karen? I don’t think they can hear you in Denmark.”

  “Where is Denmark?” I had asked.

  “Across the Atlantic Ocean.”

  I laughed. But I knew I needed to stop thinking about Christmas.

  David Michael and I prowled all through the big house. We peered at things through the magnifying glass.

  “Found any good mysteries yet?” asked Charlie.

  “No,” replied David Michael.

  “But we will,” I added.

  All was quiet in the bedrooms and the bathrooms and the living room. We crept into the kitchen. Nannie was there. She was baking cook

  She looked cross.

  “What’s the matter?” I asked her.

  Nannie frowned. “These cookies are for the bake sale,” she said.

  “I know. You told us at lunch,” I answered. “You said not to eat any.”

  “But somebody did eat some. A whole handful is gone.”

  “Uh-oh,” said David Michael.

  I whispered to him, “Hey! It’s the Mystery of the Missing Cookies!”

  “Right,” he agreed. “Let’s get to work.”

  David Michael and I cased the joint. (That is what TV detectives say.) We searched for clues everywhere. We used my magnifying glass, but we did not need the Decod-R ring.

  “Who are the suspects?” I asked.

  “Everybody,” replied David Michael. “Oh, except for us. And Nannie.”

  “And except for Kristy. She went to her friend’s house. And except for Charlie. He went to the store.” (Charlie can drive. He even has a car of his own.) “Let’s see,” I went on. “That leaves Daddy and Elizabeth and Sam and Andrew and Emily Michelle. Let’s look for footprints!”

  My brother and I did not find any foot-prints in the kitchen.

  “Okay. We better interview the suspects,” I said.

  We talked to Daddy and Elizabeth first. We asked them questions like, “When was the last time you were in the kitchen?” We decided they were not the thieves.

  We looked for Sam, but we could not find him. So we interviewed Andrew next. As soon as we told him about the cookies, he screeched, “I did not take them! I understood what Nannie said!”

  “Well, excuse me,” I replied. “Come along, David Michael.”

  We found Emily in the playroom. She was trying on dress-up clothes.

  And guess what. Her mouth was covered with cookie crumbs! David Michael and I brought her into the kitchen. “I don’t think she understood your warning,” I told Nannie. (Nannie forgave Emily.)

  Another case had been solved.

  The Case of the Mysterious Bird

  “Jump, jump … Come on, JUMP!”

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