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THE TREASURE TRAP Chapter 12 -- Trapped (excerpt)

Angel Wilson and Billy Beak dreamed of becoming half-millionaires. All they had to do was find Old Man Waterman's $1,000,000 cash!

We waited for the dust to settle. When it did, our spirits sank. We were sealed in.

For a long time neither of us moved, just stood a little numb and a lot scared. How would we get out?

It's not so bad," Angel finally said. "Every treasure hunter has this happen once in a while. We're lucky. We've got the spade to dig out."

At least we were safe. Some small chunks of dirt had fallen from the ceiling. but the roots had held firm. Of course, half the room was taken up with dirt from the tunnel.

"We ought to dig straight up," Angel said, "and climb to the field. It'll be easier than trying to make it to Seeley's tunnel.

It made good sense to dig up. We had ten. . . maybe fifteen feet to go. Waterman's tunnel was twice as long as that.

We pulled over the chair and set a battery light on it, so neither of us had to hold it. Angel said she'd start because I was still shaky from before. She was terrible. She didn't shovel, she attacked. Every time she put the spade down, she started a new avalanche.

"Take smaller shovelsful," I said. "You don't have to beat it to death."

The look she gave me I can't put in this book, but she did tame down a bit.

Still the dirt rolled in.

"Where's it coming from?" Angel asked.

I didn't know, but if I didn't take over the shoveling, the whole rotten tunnel would be in on us.

"Give me that," I said, grabbing the spade.

"Go ahead, smart aleck. See if you can do any better," she snapped.

Of course I could do better. Anybody could do better.

But I didn't do better. With each shovelful, twice as much dirt fell in. It got so bad I didn't have anyplace to throw the dirt. Already the room seemed much smaller than it had before.

"Told you so, Smart Alec."

Well, I had it coming to me. No sense fighting about it. The big problem now was to stay alive and get out.

The food was safe. It was on the other side. The cot and table hadn't been touched either.

What worried me was our air supply. Now that the tunnel was sealed, where would we get it?

I poked around the shelf till I found a box of wooden matches. I lit one. It burned evenly. Plenty of air now. How long would it last?

We sat on the floor and tried to figure a way out, but neither of us came up with any ideas, other than if we didn't get one soon, we'd suffocate.

It would be pretty rotten to have to die down here. We wouldn't even have a proper funeral 'cause no one would find our bodies.

The way I see it, if a kid's going to die, he ought to have everybody crying about it, with the priest preaching what a fine boy he was, and the choir breaking up in the middle of the Dies Irae, and anybody who ever did anything mean to him saying he's sorry.

And if two kids are going to die, that should be a town affair, with the mayor and the councilpersons at the funeral, and the flags in the school at half mast, and the Little League games canceled, and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts marching behind the caskets, and all traffic stopped, while everybody kneels in solemn prayer. . .

Angel, Billy, and Tad stared in disbelief at the glittering gems scattered beneath them.


. . . We opened the attic door and ascended the stairs.

As I've said, the coffin was at the head of them, and there, inside it, sat Tad.

"Hail!" he cried, magnanimously, extending his arms to us.

"Hail shmail," Angel retorted. "Are you still in there? You promised me you'd get out."

"Isn't this something, Billy?" Tad asked, ignoring her. "Just look. See the sarcophagus?"

He pointed to the floor next to him. On it lay a long, narrow box, carved in the shape of a human being.

"It fits in here tight as a pin. That's how they kept their mummies from corroding."

"You're going to need it if you don't get out of there," Angel warned.

Her face was scarlet.

"I'd fit,too," Tad replied, "Except it's kind of stuffy. I'd make a great pharaoh."

To be honest, I couldn't blame him for getting so excited about that coffin. I hadn't really noticed before, but inside and out was inlaid with pearl. Bright paint was mixed with the pearl to form delicate pictures. There were animals, suns, and symbols I didn't understand. There were gods and goddesses. There were straight-nosed people with pearl eyes. . .

"Get out!" she hissed.

"I will. I will," Tad returned airily. "I just wanted Billy to see me. Can you beat it? I tell you it must have been fantastic to live in those days."

"Get out!" Angel cried again. "For four thousand years this has been sacred. Then you climb in."

"I follow the great Nikhamatumin," Tad sighed.

In ecstasy he lay back in the coffin.

"Ouch ! ! !" Up he popped, rubbing his head.

"I hit a nail. I must tell my carpenters to be more careful."

"Oh, no ! You broke the floor. what am I going to do? Angel wailed. "Get out so I can see."

She pulled Tad's arm so vehemently that I thought it would dislocate.

At last Tad took the hint and climbed from the coffin. Rubbing his head in consternation he said, "I didn't break anything. I hit a nail."

But Angel didn't listen. She grabbed Miss Sally's flashlight (which Tad had evidently swiped, for it was sitting on the sarcophagus) and beamed it at the floor of the coffin.

"It's not cracked," she said at last.

"Of course not," Tad replied, "but some of the nails are sticking out. I didn't do that."

"There aren't any nails," Angel said, studying the floor more closely. "The ancient Egyptians didn't have them. At least not steel ones."

The light rested on a spot along the edge of the floor. For a long time she studied it, then ran the beam along the edge to where Tad's head must have hit.

"Impossible," she muttered to herself, then stood up, kicked off her sneakers, and climbed in.

Crouching in the middle, Angel again examined the edges, stopping now and then to finger something which had caught her eye.

"Something's wrong," she told us. "Tad was right. There are nails in here."

. . . "You think it's counterfeit?" I asked.

"I don't know. Someone could have switched it at the airport . . ."

For the third time Angel ran the light around the floor, this time with Tad and me leaning over the edge. At first my focus was riveted to the nail holes, but then it changed. In a minute's distraction I compared the painting of a dog on the floor to one along the sides of the sarcophagus. The dog on the side seemed duller in color to that on the floor. I looked to a set of suns and they too were different in shading. As a matter of fact, all of the colors on the floor were brighter than those on the sides.

"Angel," I said. "I think something happened to the real floor. This one must be a replacement."

When I showed her what I meant she was amazed . . .

"Somebody's tampered with this coffin," Angel said. "I've a feeling they put in another floor."