Read The 100-Year-Old Secret Online

Authors: Tracy Barrett

The 100-Year-Old Secret

T
RACY
B
ARRETT

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
NEW YORK

An Imprint of Macmillan

THE 100-YEAR-OLD SECRET. Copyright © 2008 by Parachute Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn and Company Ltd. Printed in March 2010 in the United States of America by R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia. For information, address Square Fish, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Square Fish and the Square Fish logo are trademarks of Macmillan and are used by Henry Holt and Company under license from Macmillan.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Barrett, Tracy.
The hundred-year-old secret / by Tracy Barrett.
p.         cm. — (The Sherlock files)
Summary: Xena and Xander Holmes, an American brother and sister living in London for a year, discover that Sherlock Holmes was their great-great-great-grandfather when they are inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives and given his unsolved casebook, from which they attempt to solve the case of a famous missing painting.
ISBN: 978-0-312-60212-3
[1. Brothers and sisters-Fiction. 2. England-Fiction. 3. Mystery and
detective stories.] I. Title.
PZ7.B275355Hu 2008
[Fic]-dc22
                                                                                            2007034004

Originally published in the United States by Henry Holt and Company
Square Fish logo designed by Filomena Tuosto
Book designed by Greg Wozney
First Square Fish Edition: 2010
10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1
www.squarefishbooks.com

C
HAPTER
1

I
f they hadn't been playing the Game that day, if the ballet dancer hadn't happened to walk by, if Xander's dimples and big dark blue eyes hadn't been so appealing, and especially if Xena had waited only five minutes before reading the mysterious note, perhaps none of it would have happened. But it did happen.

To anyone watching Xena and Xander Holmes it might seem like an ordinary Friday afternoon—a sister and her younger brother passing time on the steps of the Dulcey Hotel in London. But to twelve-year-old Xena the day was anything but ordinary. For one thing, they were Americans who had arrived in England only the week before with their parents. For another, the whole family was sharing two very small hotel rooms until they found an apartment. Not to mention that she and Xander had to start at a new school on Monday.

No, the only thing normal was that Xena and Xander were playing the Game. The rules were simple. Whoever guessed something correctly about a passerby—like his job or where he was from—got a point. Today they had a good lookout spot on the front steps with a box of what the doorman called “biscuits.” They'd been confused about why they would want to eat biscuits in the middle of the day, but their mother had explained that cookies were called biscuits in England.

Xander noticed a couple strolling past, the man consulting a map while the woman clung to his arm, extending her left hand to admire the gold band on the fourth finger. “Tourists,” he said, and then added, “honeymooners.”

“Duh,” Xena answered. “I wasn't even going to do them. They're too easy. How about him?” She pointed.

Xander took the binoculars and peered at the tired-looking man standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change. Xander shrugged and looked at his sister.

“Gardener,” she said. She always enjoyed this part. “Muddy boots.” But she knew this wasn't enough. Anybody can have muddy boots, especially in a damp city like London. “Calloused
hands. Sunburn on the back of his neck as if he works bent over a lot.”

“There's not enough sun here for anyone to get burned,” Xander objected.

Xena tried not to think about that. Even in London the sun had to come out
some
time. They would be living there for a whole year and if it was going to be gray and cold every day, well, Xena would rebel and convince her parents that they had to go home to the States. She didn't care if their father had a great job teaching music and composing here. She didn't care if their grand-parents had been Londoners. It wasn't fair to make her and Xander come all the way across the ocean if they were going to be cold and damp all the time—especially since they had to leave all their friends back home in sunny Florida.

The man put down his bag, and it gaped open at the top. Xander trained the binoculars on the opening. A trowel and one of those little rake things were poking out. “Darn!” he said. He handed the binoculars back to his sister.

He perked up as a slender girl neared them. Her brown hair was in a neat ponytail, and she moved gracefully. He leaned forward. Aha! “Ballet dancer!” he cried.

“How can you tell?” Xena asked. “A lot of
girls in my martial arts classes and on the track team move like that. Maybe she's an athlete, not a dancer.” Xander said nothing, but he had a smug look on his face. Xena squinted at the girl. Nothing. She looked like an ordinary teenager going to meet her friends. “No way,” Xena said.

“Way,” Xander answered. He hopped off his perch and trotted along next to the girl. She slowed and then stopped.

That's the way it always was. Xander was ten years old and killer cute. Nobody could resist those dimples, that smile, those enormous eyes. Even the blond streak in his brown curls seemed charming on a boy, whereas Xena thought the same streak looked freaky on her.

The girl laughed at something Xander said and then dug a card out of the bag slung over her shoulder. She gave it to him, tousled his hair in a way that Xena knew he found annoying, and then waved at him as he bounded back up the stairs.

“What is that?” she asked, and he tossed the card in her lap.
MISS ROSE'S SCHOOL OF DANCE
, she read.
CLASSES, PRIVATE LESSONS, CONSULTATIONS
. And then an address and phone number.

“I told her I was interested in ballet and asked her where I could get lessons,” he said, not even trying to hide the smugness in his voice.

“Okay,” she said, “how did you know?”

“Easy.” He took a bite of his cookie. “The way her feet pointed out when she walked—you know, not pigeontoed, the other one.”

Xena groaned. She hadn't picked up on that.

“That's how dancers walk. And her bag,” he went on. “It had a picture of those shoes on it, the ones they dance in. And—”

“Okay, okay,” Xena said. He didn't need to rub it in.

It used to be that she
always
won the Game. Her father had taught it to her when she was in second grade. He would pick her up from school, and as they sat in the car waiting for Xander to finish his Pee Wee Soccer practice, he'd show her how to look for clues.

Xena had been great at the Game from the beginning, sometimes even beating her dad. He'd love it when she'd get one right and would brag about it to her mom.

Then Xander learned how to do it too. Dad had been so proud the day a man in a blue uniform walked by, putting letters into mailboxes, and Xander had yelled, “Mailman!” Dad had cheered as though Xander had done something really amazing. Once when some kids overheard Xena and Xander playing the Game and called them
weird, their dad told them that Grandpa had taught it to him, and that Grandpa had learned it from his own dad, so it was a family legacy and something to be proud of.

But now Xander was starting to catch up with Xena. She was furious with herself for missing the ballet shoes stenciled on the girl's dance bag. How obvious can you get?

So when a man came hurrying down the steps next to them and pressed a piece of paper in her hand, she was preoccupied and didn't even think to look at him or call after him or anything. When she heard him mutter “It fades fast,” she looked up, startled. She got an impression of someone short and round, with white hair sticking up on the top of his head, and then he was gone.

“What's that?” Xander tried to snatch the paper from her hand, but she held it out of his reach until he settled down. Then she opened it and started reading. Xander leaned against her shoulder, breathing cookie breath into her face.

My dears
, the paper read.
My very, very dears. I speak for the whole Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives (SPFD) when I say that we are thrilled beyond words to welcome you to England, the home of your ancestors.

Xena stopped reading. She exchanged a puzzled glance with Xander, then turned her eyes back to the paper.

Please allow the SPFD to welcome you more formally. Go to The Dancing Men (if you're hungry, they make an excellent ploughman's lunch) and ask for a saucer of milk for your snake. Then all will be revealed.

“The ink's fading!” Xander exclaimed. Xena read the last few words hurriedly.

Please do not delay. We long to make you welcome. Time, as your illustrious ancestor used to say, is of the essence.

Sincerely,

The pale blue ink disappeared before she could read the signature.

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