STEVE BRIXTON, A.K.A. STEVE, was reading on his too-small bed. He was having trouble getting comfortable, and for a few good reasons. His feet were hanging off the edge. Bedsprings were poking his ribs. His sheets were full of cinnamon-graham-cracker crumbs. But the main reason Steve was uncomfortable was that he was lying on an old copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, which was 959 pages long, and which he had hidden under his mattress.
If for some reason you were looking under Steve's mattress and found the Guinness Book of World Records, you'd probably think it was just an ordinary book. That was the point. Open it up and you'd see that Steve had cut an identical rectangle out from the middle of every one of its pages. Then he had pasted the pages together. It had taken over two weeks to finish, and Steve had developed an allergic reaction to the paste, but it was worth it. When Steve was done, the book had a secret compartment. It wasn't just a book anymore. It was a top secret book-box. And inside that top secret book-box was Steve's top secret notebook. And that top secret notebook was where Steve recorded all sorts of notes and observations, including, on page one, a list of the Fifty-Nine Greatest Books of All Time.
First on his list was a shiny red book called The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook, written by MacArthur Bart. The handbook was packed with the Real Crime-Solving Tips and Tricks employed by Shawn and Kevin Bailey, a.k.a. America's Favorite Teenage Supersleuths, a.k.a. the Bailey Brothers, in their never-ending fight against goons and baddies and criminals and crime. The Bailey Brothers, of course, were the heroes of the best detective stories of all time, the Bailey Brothers Mysteries. And their handbook told you everything they knew: what to look for at a crime scene (shoe prints, tire marks, and fingerprints), the ways to crack a safe (rip jobs, punch jobs, and old man jobs), and where to hide a top secret notebook (in a top secret book-box). Basically, The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook told you how to do all the stuff that the Bailey Brothers were completely ace at.
The Bailey Brothers, of course, were the sons of world-famous detective Harris Bailey. They helped their dad solve his toughest cases, and they had all sorts of dangerous adventures, and these adventures were the subject of the fifty-eight shiny red volumes that made up the Bailey Brothers Mysteries, also written by MacArthur Bart. Numbers two through fifty-nine on Steve Brixton's list of the Fifty-Nine Greatest Books of All Time were taken up by the Bailey Brothers Mysteries.
Steve had already read all the Bailey Brothers books. Most of them he had read twice. A few he'd read three times. His favorite Bailey Brothers mystery was whichever one he was reading at the time. That meant that right now, as Steve lay on his lumpy bed, his favorite book was Bailey Brothers #13: The Mystery of the Hidden Secret. Steve was finishing up chapter seventeen, which at the moment was his favorite chapter, and which ended like this:
"Jumping jackals!" dark-haired Shawn exclaimed, pointing to the back wall of the dusty old parlor. "Look, Kevin! That bookcase looks newer than the rest!"
"General George Washington!" his blond older brother cried out. "I think you're right!" Kevin rubbed his chin and thought. "Hold on just a minute, Shawn. This mansion has been abandoned for years. Nobody lives here. So who would have built a new bookshelf?"
Shawn and Kevin grinned at each other. "The robbers!" they shouted in unison.
"Say, I'll bet this bookshelf covers a secret passageway that leads to their hideout," Shawn surmised.
"Which is where we'll find the suitcase full of stolen loot!" Kevin cried.
The two sleuths crossed over to the wall and stood in front of the suspicious bookcase. Shawn thought quietly for a few seconds.
"I know! Let's try to push the bookcase over," Shawn suggested.
"Hey, it can't be any harder than Coach Biltmore's tackling practice," joked athletic Kevin, who lettered in football and many other varsity sports.
"One, two, three, heave!" shouted Shawn. The boys threw their weight into the bookshelf, lifting with their legs to avoid back injuries. There was a loud crash as the bookshelf detached from the wall and toppled over. The dust cleared and revealed a long, dark hallway!
"I knew it!" whooped Shawn. "Let's go!"
"Not so fast, kids," said a strange voice. "You won't be recoverin' the loot that easy."
Shawn and Kevin whirled around to see a shifty-eyed man limping toward them, his scarred face visible in the moonlight through the window.
The man was holding a knife!
That was where the chapter ended, and when Carol Brixton, a.k.a. Steve's mom, called him downstairs to dinner.
© 2009 Adam Rex