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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Case Of The Super-Secret Hold

When I run out of reading material - which happens because I read a book a week (plus 15 hours of sports on TV, hours of comedy and drama, too) - oh yeah and writing some 60 hours week, I find myself plumbing the bookshelf of my eight-year-old son, Hudson.

A book's a book regardless of its length.

Anyhow... he had one I hadn't seen before... something called Encyclopedia Brown and his Best Cases Ever.  I've heard of the character... but have never read him before.

Created by Donald J. Strobol... this 50-year-old character was a side hobby for the man who did write a book I knew of... the Two-Minute Mysteries.... fascinating little 300 word mysteries that dared YOU, the reader, to solve them! I still have one from when I was about 10!

Well... the same holds true for Encyclopedia Brown... just that he created a family of characters as a method to provide mysterious crime-solving entertainment for kids. The answers to the crime riddle are always presented at the back of the book... I must admit that despite my love of logic and fact, I'm still running at about 50 per cent in solving these kid mysteries...

Encyclopedia Brown was/is 10-years-old and helps his police chief dad solve crime mysteries around the dinner table, and for 25-cents will also solve problems for kids via his own detective agency located in the family garage. Like any great detective, Brown has his enemies... a gang of kids who call themselves the Tigers.

Here's a short story with a bit of Japanese in it. Can YOU solve the mystery? This was one I failed... and yet, in hindsight, I should have solved. I guess my encyclopedia is missing a few books.

The Case Of The Super-Secret Hold
The heart of Bugs Meany was filled with a great longing.
It was to knock Encyclopedia flatter than an elephant's instep.
Bugs hated being outsmarted by the boy detective. But whenever he felt like throwing a punch, he remembered Sally Kimball.
Sally was the prettiest girl in the fifth grade. It wasn't her face, however, that the toughest Tiger remembered. It was her fists.
Sally had done what no other boy under fourteen had ever dreamed of doing. She had outfought Bugs Meany.
Bugs had told everyone that Sally had hit him with a few lucky punches. Nobody believed his story, including Bugs himself. He thought she had hit him with a milk truck.
Because of Sally, Bugs had never bullied Encyclopedia. Sally was the detective's junior partner.
"Bugs hates you more than he hates me," Encyclopedia said as the partners sat in the Brown Detective Agency one afternoon. "You can be sure he'll try to get even."
Sally agreed. "He's like a thermometer in hottest Africa," she said. "He's always up at something."
Just then Duke Kelly, one of Bugs Meany's Tigers entered the garage. He put twenty-five cents on the gasoline can. "Bugs wants you," he said.
"He wants to hire us?" gasped Sally.
"No, he wants you to come to the judo show this afternoon," said Duke. "The twenty-five cents will pay for your time."
Encyclopedia and Sally exchanged questioning glances.
"The judo show starts at two o'clock in the junior high school gym," said Duke.
"Judo?" Encyclopedia repeated half to himself. "The gentle art of self-defense?"
"Judo is the art of using your opponent's strength against him," said Duke, "or her."
With that he departed, grinning slyly.
"Bugs has more up his sleeve than his elbow," said Encyclopedia thoughtfully. "But I'm curious."
"So am I," said Sally. "Let's find out."
The junior high school gym was already filled with boys and girls when the detectives arrived.
Coach Richards, who ran the summer sports program, spoke briefly. he explained the aims of judo.
Then four men from the Idaville Judo Center took places on the mat in the middle of the floor. They wore white trousers and a loose jacket bound at the waist by a knotted belt. For half an hour they demonstrated holds, locks, throws, and escapes.
After the children had stopped clapping, Coach Richards spoke again.
"Judo is not only for grown-ups," he said. "three of our own junior high school students will now show you what they have learned in two short weeks.
Bugs Meany and two of his Tigers, Spike Larsen and Rocky Graham, trotted onto the mat. They wore the same white costumes as the men.
"Gosh, he's really good," said Sally as Bugs began flipping Spike and Rocky to the mat like baseball cards.
"They know how to fall without getting hurt," said Encyclopedia. "But the throws are an act. Bugs couldn't throw Spike and Rocky if they didn't let him."
After a whirlwind five minutes, the Tigers lined up and bowed. Coach Richards stepped forward to thank them.
Bugs held up his hand. "I'm not finished," he said.
Coach Richards moved back, surprised.
Spike strode towards Bugs. He stopped within a foot of his leader.
Bugs shot a hand to Spike's throat. When he pulled the hand away, Spike fell over on his back and did not move.
Bugs repeated the grip on Rocky.He, too, fell over on his back and lay unmoving.
"You just saw my super-secret move," announced Bugs. "I completely knocked out Rocky and Spike. But I didn't hurt them. If I really wanted to, though, I could break their necks for life."
Rocky and Spike stirred. They crawled off the mat shaking their heads.
The gym had grown silent. All eyes were on Bugs.
"Now you are asking yourselves, 'Where did Bugs learn this terrible hold?'" he continued. "I'll tell you. I wrote to a famous professor in Japan for the secret."
Bugs strutted up and down the mat. "A lot of you have heard about a certain girl who is supposed to have licked me," he went on. "Now you know I wasn't trying. I could have put her in the hospital, only I'm a gentleman."
His meaning was clear, and all the children understood. Bugs was challenging Sally to a rematch, then and there! If Sally refused to fight, or if she were beaten, Bugs would rule the neighborhood. The Brown Detective Agency would be powerless to halt his bullying.
A small boy near Sally pleased, "Don't fight him. He could kill you!"
But Encyclopedia whispered into Sally's ear. As she listened, her lips tightened. "Super-secret hold, phooey!" she snorted. A moment later she was on the mat.
Bugs turned white. He had thought to scare her. Now he was the one who was scared.
There was nothing for him to do but fight. He reached for Sally's throat and took a thump in the stomach.
Fortunately for Bugs, his two-week course in judo had taught him how to fall. Sally 's fists gave him plenty of practice. Eventually he lay on his back and refused to get up.
"I can't go on," he wailed. "I hurt my back lifting a big box this morning."
"He must have hurt his head," though Encyclopedia, "to believe anyone would fall for his super-secret hold!"


The solution:
Bugs tried to scare Sally with his super-secret hold.
All the Children but Encyclopedia believed that Spike and Rocky were really put to sleep, and that they could be seriously hurt if Bugs had wanted to hurt them.
Encyclopedia lone saw that Spike and Rocky weren't really knocked out.
He whispered to Sally the reason he knew they were faking.
Spike and Rocky had fallen on their backs.
A person who is knocked senseless, or who loses consciousness while standing up, does not fall backwards.
He falls forward.

So... did you solve the case? Like I said... I actually knew the answer, but when the pressure was on, I couldn't come up with the solution. Outfoxed by a 10-year-old!

Anyhow... just something a little different. Check out the Encyclopedia Brown books for yourself or your kids. All the stories are as short or shorter than this one.. and all should get the old brain thinking.

While about 50 per cent of the books I read are mysteries (usually historical or period pieces set at the turn of the 20th Century Toronto, the 11th and 13th Century England or Ancient Egypt) - and the others non-fiction historical books... I can't write a mystery to save my life. I know the formula... but my brain isn't hard-wired that way, I suppose. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't go to law school even though I passed the entrance exam.

... Then I wouldn't have gone to Japan, and you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Anyhow... I present this also to encourage your kids to get the old brain cells moving... to think... and maybe to give the author's estate a few bucks (Donald died in 2012... no mystery... just old age, I'm afraid).

Visit a library and read a book!

Andrew Joseph

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