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The Case of the Kidnapped Koala



"Look at that, Nicky!" Nan pointed to the picture under the headline in the newspaper. "It looks just like my Teddy bear."

"That's a koala," Nicky said, reading the article. "They're from Australia. It says here that there are only a few koalas in this country. And our zoo's koala disappeared yesterday."

"Poor Teddy," said Nan. "Maybe we can find it for them." A month before, nine-year-old Nicky Parks and his younger sister Nan had started a detective agency. They found missing spoons and keys and solved other mysteries for the neighbors. Now they got out their bikes and rode over to the zoo.

"Just a minute, there," said the guard at the gate. "Where are your tickets?"

"Official business," said Nicky, waving his detective badge. "We're investigating the kidnapping."

The guard examined Nicky's badge. "Oh, yes, Detective Parks," he said with a wink. "I've heard about you."

Nicky and Nan moved through the small zoo examining each cage for clues. "Hey, Nicky," Nan called, pointing to the monkey cage. "Maybe the monkeys took him."

"Don't be silly," said Nicky, bending down to look at a footprint. Then he straightened up and pulled Nan's arm. "Come on, Nan. Let's go see the scene of the crime."

There was a crowd in front of the koala cage. At the edge of the crowd the zookeeper was talking to several reporters. "How did a little zoo like this happen to have such a rare animal?" one of the reporters asked.

"It was a funny thing," said the zookeeper. "My son wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia. He told him about our zoo here, and somehow he must have said the right things. Three months later they sent us the koala. And they even sent us this eucalyptus tree."

"Yew-ka- what?" asked a reporter.

"Yew-ka-lip-tus," the zookeeper repeated slowly. "Koalas need eucalyptus leaves to eat. They can't live on anything else."

"You mean," said a reporter, "that if whoever took your koala doesn't feed it eucalyptus leaves, it will die?"

"Yes," the zookeeper nodded glumly. "I'm afraid it will die."

"Poor Teddy bear!" Nan exclaimed. "Nicky, we've got to find him right away."

Nicky and Nan pressed through the crowd to the koala cage. They peered in through the screen, looking for clues. There wasn't much to see in the empty cage, except for the eucalyptus tree. Nicky thought for a few minutes. Then he pulled out a notebook and began to write down a series of numbers. When Nan asked him what he was doing, he just shook his head. "I'll tell you tomorrow if it works out."

The next day the two detectives returned to the zoo. The koala was still missing. But when Nicky checked the cage, he gave a gleeful shout. "This case is as good as solved," he told Nan. Then he whispered something into her ear.

That night, after the family was in bed, Nicky and Nan slipped out of the house and rode over to the zoo again. They climbed over the fence and crouched down behind the bushes near the koala cage. It was dark in the zoo. The animals stirred uneasily, sensing that strangers were there. "This is kinda scary," Nan whispered to Nicky.

Suddenly there was a noise by the fence and then a crunching of gravel on the path. Someone was coming! The intruder went up to the koala cage. Then there were snaps and rustlings as he pulled leaves from the eucalyptus tree.

Nicky snapped on his flashlight. In the light of the beam he and Nan saw the kidnapper: the zookeeper's son, Charlie.

"How did you know?" Charlie asked.

"I counted the leaves on each branch of the eucalyptus tree," Nicky replied. "When there were some missing today, I knew someone was coming back each time."

Charlie told Nicky and Nan that he had taken the koala because his father never let him play with it. "It was my letter that got it from Australia in the first place," he said. "You're not going to tell on me, are you?"

"Not if you tell your father," Nicky said.

The next day's paper carried a headline: KOALA RETURNS MYSTERIOUSLY. The article mentioned that the zookeeper had just appointed his son Charlie as a special assistant to help him care for the animals.




©1973, 2013 The Silversteins