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March 13, 2011

'Scotty's Treasure Hunt'

March 13, 2011|By Mike Mallory
  • "Treasure Hunt"
"Treasure Hunt" (Brendan Mallory )

The fact that Jason was out of school Wednesday was not the surprising thing. The surprise was that when he came back on Thursday, he didn't make a single bad joke. He didn't even smile.

"What's wrong?" I asked him at lunch.

"Do you remember me talking about my great-grandpa?" he said. "He died."

"Oh."

"He was 95, so it wasn't exactly a shock, but still..."

"I'm sorry, Jason. I know you liked him a lot. If there's anything I can do, let me know." I had no idea what I could do, exactly, but I've heard people say that in situations like this.

We didn't talk too much more the rest of the week, but on Saturday he showed up at my house. "Scotty, remember you told me to let you know if you could do anything?" he asked. "I need your professional help."

I'm not quite a professional like my Dad, who is the police chief here in town, but everybody knows I'm going to be a detective someday. "What's the case?"

It turns out that Jason was helping his Mom pack up all of his great-grandfather's belongings and moving them out of his room at the assisted-living place. "I found this in a drawer," he said, handing me an envelope with the words "For Jason" on it. Inside was a piece of paper on which was written: This room contains hidden treasure! The rest of the letter was written in verse:

A fortune, Jace, for you to find,

Within the things I leave behind.

So start the search, and when you do,

You'll find it right where ICU.

"Is this for real?" I asked.

"When I was really little and visited him, he used to make these treasure maps for me that would lead to a hidden piece of candy, so yeah, I think it's for real. But I sure can't find anything valuable. And that ICU bit...isn't that part of a hospital?"

"It's where they take the sickest people," I said. "Had he been in the hospital?"

Jason shook his head. "I'm stumped, Scotty. Would you mind coming over and looking through his things? They're all still in boxes. Maybe you can see something I missed."

Naturally, I agreed.

There was not a lot to go through. Mostly it was clothing, with a couple pairs of shoes, a few books, a watch, a stack of puzzle magazines (filled in), and a framed school photo of Jason. Nothing appeared to be valuable. "That last line has to mean something," I said. "ICU, ICU..." Then I looked over the stuff again, and started to laugh. I knew where the treasure was.

"What is it?" Jason asked.

"This should be easy for you, since you're such a glutton for pun-ishment."

Jason looked confused, but then he started whispering, "ICU, ICU..." over and over again, and then he started to laugh. "Where ICU‚ means where I see you! Even if I wasn't visiting, he'd see me...in that photo!" He grabbed the framed picture of himself and carefully removed the back, and then said, "Whoa!" In between the backing and his photo was a baseball card: a 1933 Babe Ruth that was autographed!

We went to his computer and looked up the value and I thought Jason was going to faint. "Will you sell it?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said. "Great-grandpa kept it all these years, so maybe I should hang onto it too. Besides, despite the money I'd get from selling it, if I got rid of it, I'd be Ruth-less."

Even though I groaned, it was good to have Jason back.

Special thanks to Brandon Mallory for his illustration.

Mike Mallory is one of the authors included in "Sherlock Holmes: The American Years" available in book stores.To learn more about him visit http://www.michaelmallory.com.

For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids

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