THE SECRET OF SLAUGHTER CANYON
Chapter 1: A Hero’s Destiny
“Think they’ll even fight today, Captain?”
The tall blond man peered through his binoculars at what was likely the tattered remnant of the once-proud Second Panzer Division. Victories that had come easily at the expense of the Belgians and French in the early going seemed hollow now, with much of the Wehrmacht in retreat or in an Allied prison camp. Perhaps the young lieutenant was right, and there would be no fight today, just another day of rounding up prisoners. But the Germans were a proud people….
“We ought to just let them run. The whole war’s going to be over in a few days or weeks anyway,” said the sergeant, an older man and veteran of many campaigns against the Germans, even preceding this Second World War
“No. So long as the enemy is in the field, he’s a threat. We must capture them personally,” the captain responded, barely able to contain his excitement at yet another engagement in the dwindling number of opportunities to gain the coveted rank of major before the end of the war. Rumor had it that his skill in moving the troops across the Rhine to outflank the enemy had his name on the promotion list at HQ. Rounding up the last of a prestigious enemy division would cement his advancement.
“Have the men ready to go on my signal. Make sure one of the big guns from the railway goes off. That’ll be the cue to run from the forest and spring the trap.”
As the sergeant and lieutenant rushed to pass the word down, the captain ignored the nervous and excited faces among the men he commanded, choosing instead to take out the tiny metal object that never left his side pocket. He gazed longingly at the tiny photo of the girl back in America that he would see as soon as the war was over, which could occur any day. Below the frame was the ring he had bought back in Paris during the liberation. He would soon be on his knee, holding that ring, offering his marriage proposal.
The crack of a gunshot broke his concentration. A series of excited shouts told him what he feared. A German scout had moved near their position, and was shot by a nervous private. Now the whole German column moved from a march to a run. But even with the premature engagement, the captain did not work his way up the ranks due to political connections. “Move now! Get into position!”
His soldiers poured out of the forest, yelling at the tops of their lungs. The German return fire was wild and inaccurate, due to their panic at being ambushed. He saw with delight that the lieutenant had moved the mortar gunners into position. On their third shot, a section of the small bridge being crossed by the German soldiers was nearly vaporized with a direct hit.
Losing heart quickly, many of the Germans threw down their rifles and sullenly threw their hands in the air, casting envious glances at their comrades in the advance guard, who were the only ones to make it across the river in time, and were hurrying away to a farm house. The captain grinned. The others would be caught by Americans working their way up from the South position. Adolf Hitler would never again be able to summon the Second Panzer Division on the Western Front.
Shouts from his men caused the captain to jerk his head to the left. A single individual was making a run for it. Normally, the captain would simply not waste the effort to track down an individual soldier, but his instinct told him otherwise. Pulling up the binoculars, he saw a man in a sharp gray uniform making a break for the river. Narrowing his view, the captain spotted the insignia of the S.S., the symbol of the notorious Nazis who killed without remorse. This was no mere scared German boy. This was a monster.
“Get him! Get him!” the captain shouted, waving at several of his boys. They sprinted toward the banks of the river to cut off his escape. Pulling out his revolver, the captain wanted to be there personally for the capture. Obviously, this German wouldn’t be running unless he knew the consequences of being captured were pretty severe.
Rounding the remains of another bridge, bombed by one of the many B-17 raids, he came face-to-face with the Nazi holding his Luger sidearm. Both shots seemed to echo as one.
The German rolled his eyes to heaven and fell onto his back. He would shut them no more in his life.
It took a second for the captain to register what happened. He felt as though a giant hand punched him in the chest. Like a beaten boxer, he sank to his knees as his men swarmed around him, crying “Captain! Oh, captain!” He fell onto his chest, enabling his men to see the wound that had exited through his back.
With his strength slowly ebbing away, he rolled himself onto his back, then remained motionless as the sergeant reached him. Off in the distance, he could hear the lieutenant giving orders for rounding up the prisoners. He’d have to finish the war for me, the captain thought.
While the younger men screamed for a medic, the sergeant knelt down, understanding what was happening. The older man clasped his superior’s hand, in a final handshake of farewell. With the last ounce of effort, the captain pointed to his side pocket. The old sergeant reached inside to retrieve the picture, ring, and a now-bloodied note.
“G-give these….to V-Vel-Velma,” the captain gasped, then his eyes ceased to blink.
“Yes, Melbourne O’Reilly, I’ll make sure she gets these,” the sergeant replied.
Chapter 2: “It’s My Party….”
Velma sighed. The note said that her appeal for reinstatement would be in five minutes, in the conference room. Though she had turned in the thick file to Hanna College nearly a year ago, she was still nervous about her chances. After all, few women actually received tenure in their applications. And no woman, or man for that matter, had won an appeal after being dismissed from the college in the school’s history.
How I wished someone I knew was here, she thought, dreading dealing with the stuffy administrators who were sure to give her record short shrift. But it’s the principle of the thing, she thought. And if she could get back at least an adjunct position, it might help women in the future make greater gains in academia.
May as well get it over with, she sighed, pushing open the double doors. At the long end of the table sat three male figures. She smiled as she recognized the balding, bespectacled Professor Brigston, fresh from his digs in Turkey. To his left was Professor Stone, the new curator of the archaeology museum, who replaced the evil Professor Wickles, who later turned out to a Nazi agent several years ago. Since he started after she was deployed on many missions, his selection could be good or bad. Finally, the elderly Professor Greer, could be fairly old-fashioned and set in his ways. At this point, she would settle for a good recommendation at another college.
“We’ve considered your request for reinstatement, and find it unacceptable, Dr. Dinkley,” Greer said sadly. Her enthusiasm dipped even lower. Oh, well, there’s always teaching at a boarding school.
“You have no business being an adjunct professor,” Professor Brigston added. Damn, he was my best chance on the committee, she thought. Would she have to go back to being a riveter…especially with the war winding down and so many G.I.s heading home? This was going from bad to worse.
“Because….we want you to teach full-time at Hanna College,” Professor Stone smiled.
“Your file was so incredible….and what the military provided….” Professor Brigston gushed.
Professor Greer ignored her widening smile, reading through his notes. “The committee has voted to not only reinstate you as a member of the Hanna College faculty, but to award you a promotion to Associate Professor of Anthropology…with all rights and privileges….”
But Velma tuned him out. This was amazing! It was a complete vindication of the disaster of two years earlier.
Greer had evidently stopped speaking as Professor Stone walked over to shake her hand. Strangely, Professor Brigston ignored her as he headed toward a pair of double doors. As he pulled them open, dozens of people entered the room, cheering “Atta girl!” and “Congratulations!” and “Alright Velma!” It was like a who’s who list. There was Professors Wayne and Engstrom from Biology, Professor Oswald from Engineering, and the legendary Distinguished Professor Jane Goodfew, who must have recently returned from Africa. Velma’s jaw dropped as she caught sight of Lysander Demos and Major Portsmythe, helping a haggard looking Professor Solari stumble forward holding his cane. All three were involved in their adventures in the search for Mysterium. As she shook Engstrom’s hand, she caught sight of Professor Henry Jones, and his son. Though the father called him Junior, the rest of the world new him as Indiana.
But where were…
“Three cheers for Velma!” Fred said, giving a hard guy-slap on the back. Despite the need to wince, she was happy to see her friends. Now she and Dr. Jones would be colleagues again, especially now that the War in Europe was winding down.
“You go girl!” Daphne cheered! The ever-chipper New York Chronicle reporter and husband of Dr. Jones was like the sister she never had. And Daphne was always supportive of any accomplishment made by women. The story was sure to circulate in her father’s newspaper within the week.
“Nice going Velms,” Shaggy grinned, taking his eye off of the catering crew for a few seconds. Her former graduate student would be hooked up with her again, academically. If only he’d give up his obsession with the Yeti, he’d finish the diss….
Could this day get any better, she thought as Lysander Demos gave her a hug while the young Italian graduate student Antonio Malvolo planted a well-meaning kiss on her cheek.
“There’s even better news Velma…Jensenrand’s been put on administrative leave. Seems he may have ‘misused’ department funds. So you know what that means…Professor Hyde-White’s coming back!”
As Fred spoke, the British professor stepped into the room, heading purposefully in her direction. But unlike the others, his facial expression was grim, not gay. In his hands, was a single envelope. Why isn’t he smiling, she wondered.
“Velma,” the kindly mustachioed man said softly, barely able to make eye contact. He handed her the envelope, which had her name on it, written with Melbourne O’Reilly’s noticeable penmanship.
“I’m so sorry…” Hyde-White said, hugging her tightly. As the realization of what the letter said and meant hit her, she cried until her eyes stung, while participants vacillated between staying to comfort her and quietly slipping out the doors of the once-festive occasion.
Chapter 3: “A Final Quest”
If the rapping at her door had been any quieter that morning, Velma may not have heard it at all. But then again, for the last few days, her small apartment near the college was nearly silent. Though she had not seen anyone since the fateful afternoon, she ignored the knocking.
“Velma, are you there?” Daphne’s voice sounded more timid than usual. Though it was her best friend outside, the bespectacled woman refused to respond.
“It me…Daphne…I just want to talk.”
“Not in the mood right now,” Velma sulked.
“I thought you could use a friend” the reporter said in a low voice.
“There’s nothing anyone can do for me now,” she said in a flat tone. It was true. She’d even give up her career and hard-won academic victories to have Melbourne back in her life. Nothing else seemed to matter. “No one can understand what I’m going through.”
“Remember when you thought Fred died in Russia,” Velma snapped. “You were a wreck….couldn’t do anything at all. The only difference was that Fred’s still alive, and Mel isn’t.”
After a long pause, there was a quiet sigh. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, the bell went off down the hall, indicating that Daphne had reluctantly boarded the elevator. I hadn’t meant to push away my friend, but that’s what happens when you lose someone close to you, Velma thought.
The rapping in the afternoon was much louder. The knocker seemed purposeful and deliberate, as if silence would be no deterrence. Guess I’d better figure out who it is…so I can get rid of them, Velma said to herself.
“Velma! I know you’re in there. And I know you haven’t left the apartment in a week.”
It was Fred’s voice. He sounded a little impatient. Then again, I haven’t answered the phone or the door in awhile, she noted.
“Look, I’m sorry about what happened to Mel. He was a great guy. But you can’t stay locked in there forever.”
Yes I can, she thought. And I intend to try.
“We’ve got a mission now. It’s a matter of urgent national security. You’ve got to come with us.”
Mission…if it hadn’t been for a mission, she would have never met Melbourne. She would have missed out on meeting her first real love. Then again, she wouldn’t be having this horrible heartbreak if it hadn’t been for those damned missions.
“The fate of the country is at stake,” Fred boomed, then lowering his voice, he said softly “and we won’t succeed without you.”
So what if she did go out on the mission. She’d share it with the perky newlyweds and a graduate student who spent more time with his dog and food than with her. They’d save the world all over again. When it was over, she’s find herself exactly where she would be now, alone and staring out the window on a dreary Saturday, more miserable than she had ever been in her life. Even teaching and doing research seemed repulsive, for once in her life.
Like Daphne, Fred was eventually forced to surrender. His heavy footsteps could be heard lumbering down the hallway, until the elevator came to retrieve him. And she was alone once more, both hating and desiring the silence that followed.
She was preparing to change for bed that evening when another knock came. This one sounded like an off-key “shave-and-a-haircut” beat. The panting that followed narrowed the suspect to one individual, or more accurately, one person and an accompanying canine. Like the others, she was in no mood to be conversational.
“Velms?” Shaggy began. “Hey, uh…condolences on Mel and all.”
This was getting painful. Tomorrow, she’d write them a letter, asking not to be disturbed. Maybe it would be for a few months. Maybe it would be for a few years.
“Sorry to bother you and all, but we have this mission…”
She could take it no longer. She stormed toward the door, hoping to put the visits to rest once and for all. “Listen NORVILLE, I don’t want someone to talk to! I don’t want to go out with the gang! And I most certainly DON’T WANT TO GO ON ANY MISSION!” she screamed.
It was not odd that Shaggy would go silent during her tirade, but it was surprising that he would respond. “But the fate…”
“This country has PLENTY of competent individuals that can protect it. And if you’re so desperate for someone smart, take Professor Hyde-White or Brigston, or even Jane Goodfew if you really need a woman. But I’m through playing detective for this country.”
“You don’t understand, Velma. There are kidnapped kids….”
What? Now this was something that made her pause. Though she had no children of her own, Velma absolutely loved kids. And nothing made her madder than someone hurting a little one. “Shaggy, let the FBI handle….”
“They’re Japanese kids.” Shaggy mumbled. Had Velma not been at the door, she might have missed that little detail.
While Shaggy droned on about some details of the case, Velma bit her lip. Like many Americans, she certainly didn’t approve of the Pearl Harbor attack, and felt that the Japanese military dictators would get what was coming to them. But unlike a number of Americans, she absolutely detested the incarceration of legal Japanese-American citizens in what were little more than prisons in the remote Western wilderness. And she also remembered their mission in Costa Rica, when General Tanaka tried to stop her execution, at the cost of his life.
In mid-sentence, Shaggy froze as the door creaked open. There was Velma with her hair in curlers, in a frumpy robe, sporting a crooked frown. “Okay, okay. One last mission, but it will only be to rescue the children. When it’s through, we’re through.”
Chapter 4: “New Mexico, New Mission”
“They don’t want us to meet at the War Department?” Fred announced in surprise as the gang headed from the hotel. “I thought…”
Shaggy shook his head. “The note pushed under my door specifically said the Bull Run Battlefield in Manassas, Virginia.” Then he shivered. “I hope there aren’t any Civil War ghosts!” Scooby cringed.
Velma rolled her eyes. “Of course not, Shaggy,” Daphne chirped. “But why would General Donovan have us meet there?”
Fred shrugged. “Probably wants to tell us something he can’t tell others in the military,” Velma reasoned.
Pointing to the bus headed for Alexandria, Arlington, and Manassas, Fred held a finger to his lips. “In that case, we better keep quiet about what we’re doing until we get there.
Most of the travelers on that May day were elderly patrons, hoping to do some antiques shopping in the quaint town of Centreville, or schoolchildren on a field trip to Mount Vernon. Hardly anyone stopped at the battlefield where so much blood was spilt on the first major engagement of the Civil War.
The four agents and the dog walked over the stone bridge and headed down a local farm road. Glancing up onto Matthews Hill, they caught sight of two figures. All met along the ridge where some of the first of the day’s fighting took place.
“I know we’re in the business, but why all the extra ‘cloak-and-dagger’ routine?” asked Fred.
“This matter is of great importance,” the white-haired General Donovan, legend of the OSS, began, “even if some of my colleagues and superiors don’t seem to think so.” Velma noticed that Donovan seemed to have aged significantly since their last encounter. The stress of the war had been hard on him.
“And what’s worse, we may have a leak,” the younger, dashing blond Colonel Steve Milton interjected, earning a glare from General Donovan. “Every time we tried to close in on a German saboteur or American Nazi sympathizer, they simply disappeared,” Milton said, as much to his older colleague as to the group members. “By going out of the loop and recruiting all of you for this mission, our domestic counterspy department might have some success.”
“So what’s the plan?” Daphne mocked. “Let me guess…you want us to recover the sword of Stonewall Jackson before the South uses it to secede from the North?” she gestured toward the statue where the famous Confederate General rallied his men against Northern forces on nearby Henry House Hill. The contempt she had for the military leaders was only matched by their disdain for her.
Colonel Milton glared at Fred, as if it was his job to keep Daphne in line. He just shrugged and grinned.
“Nothing so grand, my dear,” General Donovan replied. “In fact, it’s so simple even you could probably handle it…with help, of course.”
Daphne’s eyes narrowed considerably, but Donovan continued before she could issue an angry retort. “As I said earlier, not everyone would find this important. My cable to Shaggy indicated that a train car full of Japanese children has disappeared in the deserts of New Mexico.”
“…which was an illegal camp to begin with, considering that you rounded up all Japanese-Americans…US Citizens… and locked them up in cages….” Velma sputtered in anger.
“It was not something I agreed with,” Donovan snapped. “But we made the camps as humane…”
“…just following orders…” Velma replied…
“…matters of internal security…” Colonel Milton added
“…how would you like it if…” Daphne interjected.
“QUIET!” More than just the word itself, the arguers looked in shock at the tall gangly graduate student, who was more known for being timid than brave. As if suddenly aware that everyone was staring at him, his tone became more docile. “This isn’t helping us rescue those kids.”
“Just give us the details and where we need to begin.” Fred said to the military officers.
“The kids were staying at an internment camp in Lordsburg, New Mexico,” Colonel Milton began. “They boarded a train that was to transfer them to a Justice Department facility in Santa Fe. There, they would meet their parents following a day behind. Or at least that’s what the commanding officer on the train had written in his orders….but he’s nowhere to be found in our records. All would then be sent to Denver, then West to their homes in California and Oregon. The train was found in Albuquerque, but the kids are still missing.”
“Why didn’t the FBI or the Justice Department investigate?” Velma exploded.
General Donovan shifted uncomfortably. “They are spending all their time catching the saboteurs and their allies that we can’t nab because we’re compromised at the War Department….and we’re pretty strained by the war effort. Even though Germany surrendered, our government is preparing for a big push against Japan.”
“So why do you care about saving Japanese kids?” said Shaggy, taking a tone usually reserved for a sarcastic Daphne.
Colonel Milton’s expression darkened. “Those are kids are still citizens of the United States, even if our government sometimes forgets that…and what’s more, they’re kids. Nobody kidnaps a kid in this country! We already saw what happened to the Lindberg baby, and it nearly tore this country apart when he was found dead!”
The sharpness of Colonel Milton’s response created a pause in the conversation. Donovan broke the silence. “There’s a plane gassed up and waiting to go from the Camp Springs Army Air Base. I suggest you fly to Albuquerque first, then on to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Can I assume that you are capable of flying a plane Miss Blake…I mean Mrs. Jones?” Still thinking about the missing kids, Daphne decided to forego her typical remarks and simply nodded.
“One more thing,” Colonel Milton added. “We’ve got a new tech outfit out in Leesburg, Virginia.” He handed a card to Fred. “They’re sort of informal…like you guys…so we don’t have to worry about them being part of the leak. Go get outfitted by them with some of their new gadgets before you head out to New Mexico.
Chapter 5: MITH Department
The building in Leesburg, Virginia did not look like an impressive military installation, or even a sophisticated office building. Instead, it resembled a rather disappointing abandoned-looking warehouse.
“Wonder if anyone’s home?” Shaggy asked, half hoping he was right.
“Want me to knock?” Fred asked, heading for the closest thing that resembled a front door.
At that moment, from inside the hangar was a loud explosion. Billowing clouds of black smoke poured from the two open windows on the side. Daphne clutched Fred’s arm with a steely grip. “Uh…no…” she said soberly. “Let’s wait a minute.”
“Could it be a bomb?” Shaggy quivered, rapidly depleting his fingernails. “Romb?” Scooby covered his eyes with his paws.
Out of the door staggered two men, coughing, gasping and wheezing. A horrible stench accompanied the black clouds. Thankfully, both seemed to be rapidly dissipating.
“I highly doubt that, Shaggy,” Velma said, holding her nose.
As the men approach the gang, a thin man with horned-rimmed glasses, thin beard and spiky hair remarked “I’d say the Onion Gun concept is totally shattered.”
His partner, a bald man with thin clear spectacles, sporting a goatee and rakish beret, nodded in assent. “Next time, let’s try a beet bullet, or maybe a potato projectile!”
“Uh, are you guys…” Fred stammered, too surprised to say much else.
The horned-rimmed glasses guy bounded up to the group. “Colonel Milton said you’d be coming. MITH is at your service!” He took Velma’s hand. “And who might be this charming creature?”
Velma’s jaw dropped. Was it the terms he used? Or did her mixed feelings about the loss of Melbourne O’Reilly cause her to hesitate? At any rate, she could only mumble something unintelligible.
“Her name’s Velma,” Daphne cooed, clearly interested in getting her friend back to the land of romance. “And your name is….”
“Adam Stern” he said proudly, then planted a quick kiss on Velma’s hand, which caused the girl to blush uncontrollably, but led Daphne to sport a triumphant grin, as if she had been the one smitten. “And this is Justin Heilman,” his thumb indicated his partner.
“Buster,” Heilman frowned, indicating a preference for a nickname.
“Is that based upon “Buster Crabbe” Fred asked, indicating a resemblance between the man and the star of the Tarzan movies, a former Olympic athlete.
“No… ‘Buster’ Keaton,” the bald man in the beret deadpanned, as if completely humorless.
“What is this place?” Shaggy gaped, still marveling at the aftermath of the explosion.
“It’s MITH, or the Military Institute for Technology and HUMINT,” Stern beamed.
“This is where we make and test the spyware of the future.”
“What’s HUMINT?” Fred cocked his head.
“It’s our word for human intelligence,” Buster responded. “Adam builds ‘em and I test ‘em. Nothing goes out until we make sure the item doesn’t blow up in our faces….like today.”
Though flattered by Adam’s advances, Velma detached her hand from his. “Colonel Milton said that you would have something for us.”
“Right you are,” Adam said gleefully as he and Buster pulled and pushed the four agents and the dog into the large warehouse. Debris, mixed with a series of gadgets, power tools, and a number of household items filled the tables. The walls were decorated with warning signs, propaganda announcements with humorous doodles, and the occasional pin-up girl posters. Daphne shrieked with horror as she recognized a redhead resembling herself wearing a skimpy outfit, with a seductive pose on a converted B-24 bomber similar to the cargo planes she used to fly in the Himalayas to China. The pin-up gal’s word bubble said “Get Liberated.” Buster reddened with embarrassment. Fred scowled.
“How about those items?” Adam said nervously, afraid to get within striking distance of
Daphne. “Buster, give Fred his new piece of technology.”
“Not going to give me a weapon?” Fred inquired.
“Nah, our stuff is only of the non-lethal variety,” Buster noted, earning a shocked expression from the brave archaeologist. The beret-clad man handed a simple looking silver pen to Fred.
“What’s this supposed to do?” Fred frowned.
“Wait, don’t push the clip!” Adam warned.
In the next instant, the entire room was flooded with a thick whitish smoke. Though odorless, it blanketed the room, obscuring nearly all views. Daphne fumbled for Fred’s arm, while Scooby circled around, looking for Shaggy.
“Whoa…” Fred beamed. “That’s cool!”
Buster glared at Fred. “Each pen has only one smoke screen charge, so use mine…and use it only when you really need it. We only have two left for right now.”
“How about me?” Shaggy asked, hoping secretly for a Scooby Snacks-making machine.
“Check this out…” Adam beamed, handing over a dark colored vest.
Shaggy smiled. “I really need one to replace the one I gave up in Costa Rica.” It was a little tight, due to his tall frame, but a vest is a vest, he thought.
Buster seemed to read his expression. “This isn’t just any vest,” he said gruffly. “It’s bulletproof.”
“And it’s pretty flexible!” Shaggy beamed, maneuvering around in mock martial arts moves.
Velma’s jaw dropped. “But it’s metal. How did you…”
“The technology’s been around awhile,” Adam pointed out, clearly enjoying his little lecture. “The early ones were made of silk, but didn’t have the stopping power of today’s bigger caliber guns. The ones in World War I stopped more, but were so heavy that you could barely move. We simply used a lightweight metal that combines the best of both.”
“Can we test it?” Fred grunted after Shaggy accidentally hit him with a fake chop across the bridge of the archaeologist’s nose. The graduate student reacted in horror.
“And for the ladies,” Adam smiled, handing Velma a small box that looked much like a gift. She opened it to examine the contents….
“It’s a compass,” she remarked flatly. “You know the technology for this has been out for awhile.”
“But not one that points to True North” Adam grinned like a fool.
“What do you mean?” Shaggy asked.
Velma explained. “All compasses don’t point to the North Pole, but a powerful magnetic center in North Canada…”
“Prince of Wales Island…” Adam interrupted
“I know that!” Velma shot back. Adam backed off, not willing to offend her further.
“Anyway, it can throw off your reading by as much as 20 degrees. But how’d you guys do it?”
“Trade secret,” the bespectacled scientist smirked. “But I’ll share my secret with you over, let’s say, dinner at eight?”
“Sorry, got a mission to do,” Velma said warily.
Buster headed toward Daphne, handing her a small cylindrical object.
“Thanks,” the redhead said graciously. “But..er…what is it?”
“It’s a beeper,” the scientist in the beret replied.
“What does it do?” she asked hesitantly.
“It beeps,” Buster said, clearly nonplussed.
“And, uh, what good is that?” she wondered aloud.
“In case, you get lost, or something, you can use it to call for help when you can’t...”
“Like that never happens,” Fred muttered, earning a reproachful glare from his wife.
“I’m jealous of you guys,” Adam remarked. “I wish I could be a secret agent. They could give me a cool codename, like ‘Savage.’” Then he glanced at his partner. “You could be something like ‘Jamie Hazard.’”
Buster rolled his eyes. “Let’s leave the intel work to the professionals.
“Velma! Velma!” The sound of Adam’s voice rang out behind her as she reached the car that would eventually whisk her away to an airfield in Maryland
“Yes?” she responded hesitantly.
Still breathing hard from the sprint, the bespectacled scientist hunched over, as if trying to recover. All he could muster was a simple summoning with a single motion of his hand. Curious, she left the others behind at the car to wait.
Adam managed to recover from his earlier exertion. “I have to let you know that Shaggy’s bulletproof vest is still in the testing phase. We know it can stop a .22, but I’ve seen some windshields stop something at the lower caliber. Neither Buster nor I know what to expect with the bigger caliber.”
Velma nodded. It did seem as though the flexibility of the vest could be compromised by less stopping power. Then her eyes narrowed as if in realization. “Wait a minute, you could have told Shaggy that when all of us were together.”
“Well,” Adam said haltingly. “I wasn’t sure he’d wear it if he knew the possible limits. You seem like someone smart enough to figure out how to put it to him.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” she responded pointedly. “You wanted to tell me something. Is my compass not field tested as well?”
Adam paused meaningfully. “Well, I was going to ask you out on a date…..for when you get back from your ‘secret mission’ and all….”
Velma’s heart fluttered. For the first time since she learned about Melbourne’s untimely passing, she felt as though someone appreciated her for more than just someone to pal around with.
“I know that I’m no Gary Cooper or Errol Flynn,” he added nervously, “but if you aren’t seeing anyone…”
Velma put up her hand. “Adam, you’re sweet. And I like you more for who you are than if you were Tyrone Power or Clark Gable. But the truth is, I…I just lost someone very dear to me…to tell you the truth, he was my fiancé.”
Adam’s head drooped. “See…it’s not you, it’s me,” she continued. “But when I’m ready for someone special in my life, I’ll be looking for you, or at least someone very much like you.”
He grinned. “That’s something to look forward to!” He gave a mock salute, then jogged back to the hangar, a slight spring in his step. Just before he reached the door, Velma swore she could have spotted him click his heels in the air.
The girl with glasses opened the rear door of the sedan, then pulled herself in. Surprised to see Shaggy riding Shotgun, she glanced over at female companion in the back seat.
“So,” beamed Daphne with thinly-disguised pleasure. “Did he ask you out?”
Velma flushed. “What are you talking about?” she hissed.
Daphne’s girly smile signified that she was right in her suspicions. “I saw the way he was checking you out, even if you didn’t. So did you say ‘Yes sir?’”
Velma’s jaw dropped. “I…I didn’t….hey, I just lost Mel. I need some time to collect myself, think things through….”
“I know,” Daphne reassuringly patted her arm. “But it is nice to know that you’re still ‘a catch’ for a man.”
A catch…jinkies. On one hand, she wanted to strangle the little redhead for…but on the other hand, maybe her friend was right. Men DID find her attractive, even if she was an Anthropology professor instead of a movie actress, wore glasses instead of eye shadow, and wore clothes that were…practical, instead of all the rage in Europe (or what was left of it). She wouldn’t have to be lonely for the rest of her life.
Velma looked forward. Though the boys seemed to be in an animated discussion about the Washington Senators baseball team, she could swear that she saw Shaggy glance toward the back at least once during her relatively quiet conversation with Daphne.
Chapter 6: “Should’ve Made That Left Turn At Albuquerque”
On Camp Springs Army Air Base, the quintet was greeted by General Donovan and Colonel Milton. “I understand you received your gear at MITH,” Donovan observed.
“Were you impressed by their work?”
“Yes!” Velma said a little too enthusiastically, then reddened slightly. Shaggy looked at her quizzically, while Daphne barely stifled a giggle with her hand.
“What she means is, we can use everything they gave us,” Fred declared authoritatively.
“Good,” Colonel Milton replied, handing over a series of manila envelopes. “Now you’ll all need your cover story. You’ll all play Western tourists staying at a New Mexico ‘dude ranch.’ Here are your new identities.”
“I’ve always wanted a secret identity,” Fred grinned. “I’ll take the name Rudy Shackleman…” He glanced up at the top of the page. “I’m Mr. Smith?” he whined, barely able to conceal his displeasure with the unoriginal name.
“Roger Smith,” General Donovan responded forcefully. “And don’t you forget that name.”
“I won’t,” Fred said, shoulders slumping as if all the air had been rapidly released out of his body.
“I’m Mrs. Smith,” Daphne said, clearly please. Then she caught sight of her name.
“Callie?” she offered quizzically.
“It’s short for Callisto,” Colonel Milton reacted to her surprise. “I figured someone named after a Greek nymph wouldn’t mind another one for a cover name.”
Her eyes bugged out in shock. He named me Callisto?
“Benefits of a ‘liberal arts education,’” he grinned.
Shaggy tentatively opened his folder. “Mr. Ned Johnson. Like who came up with this crazy…”
“I did!” General Donovan’s nose bore in until it almost touched the beak on the graduate student’s face. “Got a problem with it?” he growled, clearly miffed at the teasing over the names the gang were given.
“Agent Ned Johnson, reporting for duty,” Shaggy squeaked.
Velma scanned her folder. So I’m Vera….Johnson?” She wondered if she was paired with Shaggy as a couple, or as brother and sister? But given the harsh reaction to Shaggy’s ribbing, silence would be the better part of discretion. Maybe she’d figure it out later.
“You’ll fly to Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Colonel Milton instructed. “Gas up at civilian stations along the way, to avoid catching the attention of our spy in the military. Find some western clothes, then start poking around. Roger and Ned will be under the cover of ex-military veterans taking their wives (Velma’s eyes widened considerably) around on a sightseeing tour of where they were stationed. Conduct your interviews quietly and discretely.”
“And find those kids before something happens to them,” Donovan’s wagging finger illustrated the importance of the mission.
Daphne glanced around for the plane they would fly. Would it be a converted bomber, or an ugly transport plane?
Colonel Milton seemed to read her mind. “Originally, you’d be in a B-25, but the Mitchell bomber wouldn’t fit the cover of tourists, so we weren’t sure what to do. Fortunately, your rich daddy seems to have solved the problem for us.” He gestured toward a plane at the end of the runway.
Her heart leapt into her chest. A Beech Staggerwing! Ever since her Lockheed Vega was reduced to bits and pieces in a Mexican jungle, she’d longed for a small, fast and maneuverable craft. But the missions had called for bigger, lumbering vehicles like the Ford Trimotor a pair of seaplanes. But this….. “oh thank you thanks…for pointing it out to me,” she stated. Dad must’ve really been thankful for the last story I wrote, breaking the news that Winston Churchill’s conservative coalition had surprisingly lost the British elections. I better be more careful with this one, she thought. Well, relatively more careful, she added to herself.
Fred evaluated the craft with a frown. “It’s….”
“What?” Daphne responded sharply.
“Kinda…ugly..like a bottle with biplane wings,” he mused.
“Frederick Jones, for your information, this craft has a 420 horsepower Wright Whirlwind that can go 200 mph, twice as fast as that ‘tin goose’ I flew in Egypt. And as for maneuverability, just you wait and see when we’re up in the air!”
Twenty minutes later, the modern-looking biplane roared to life, impatient to get airborne. Like a hornet, it zoomed angrily down the runway with surprising speed. Upon getting airborne, the plane banked to its right, did a U-Turn, then thundered back over the runway only a few feet from the ground. Too stunned to move, General Donovan and Colonel Milton stood in the middle of the runway, as the Staggerwing buzzed overhead at top speed, blowing their caps off their head a good ten feet behind them.
“Bye boys,” she smiled, blowing a mock kiss at them. Colonel Milton smirked as he went to retrieve the hats, while Donovan muttered “I hate that gal.”
At that moment, the small craft’s pitch rose higher and higher, until it peaked hundred of feet in the air, flipped over, and did a stall, fluttered like a dying bird, then reacquired its power as it raced toward earth, turned in a Southwestern direction, then headed for the Appalachians.
“…you know, Howard Hughes broke several speed records with this baby….” Daphne continued her description of the new plane. Glancing behind her, she saw Shaggy had turned a paler shade of his usual pale, sitting as stiff as a board. Scooby had covered his eyes with his paws and quaked fervently, ignoring the suitcase and boxes of food that had spilled all around the cabin. Velma was hunched over her chair with her face in a pillow, prepared for the vain attempt to survive a crash. Even her husband in the co-pilot seat matched his shirt, while chewing down his nails almost past the fingertips.
“All right, all right,” Daphne muttered. I’ll go a little slower, and fly a little straighter, which led the inside cabin to breathe a collective sigh of relief. She shook her head. “The nancies….” she whispered silently to herself.
Though clearly terrified at the initial demonstration of the Staggerwing’s capabilities, which resembled an impromptu airshow, the aircraft made sped quickly on its way to the deserts of the Southwest. “We made good time,” Fred observed, just waking up from a nap.
“We should,” his wife pointed out. “The Staggerwing outflew almost every military aircraft the year it was built, and can still beat many of them…if properly handled.”
Shaggy looked out his window. “Regypt,” Scooby remarked, having discovered a stray peanut butter sandwich.
“Yeah buddy, it kind of does look like that place,” the goatee-clad boy admitted. “Not a lot of green out here, but there are some mountains.”
“Get used to it,” Velma said, reading up on an almanac that she had packed. “This place only gets a few drops of rain per year.”
“We’ll have to get some real authentic cowboy and cowgirl outfits,” Fred observed. “And I know just the place to get outfitted.”
“You do?” Daphne asked, somewhat surprised.
“Yeah. I did some hunting for artifacts around the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people South of here during my graduate studies at the University of Texas,” Fred said. “And I found the greatest little place….Cowpunchers!”
An hour later, everyone emerged from a series of dressing rooms in the downtown department store built from a converted saloon.
“What do you think?” Fred beamed, wearing his matching white hat and shirt, matching blue vest and pants, and omnipresent orange ascot. Only the brown boots and belt looked vaguely authentic, although the giant belt buckle…”
“Yeah, your outfit screams ‘dude ranch,’” Daphne said sarcastically.
“As opposed to yours, ‘Mrs. Smith,’” Velma smirked, pointing to Daphne’s purple buckskin jacket that matched her hat and boots. It was complemented with a lavender skirt that looked way too short for the 1800s.
“Nothing in this place is authentic,” snarled a heavyset woman in a gingham dress. “They certainly didn’t have hats like those on the range!” she pointed to Shaggy’s gaudy sombrero. “And those little pink horses on those girly boots…you’d have been laughed out of the dance hall….if they had dance halls back then!” she mocked Daphne.
“And you are…” Fred wondered aloud.
“Leora Lasswell, local historian,” the woman shot back. “And I know a lot more about the West than…”
“But we’re not supposed to look authentic,” Shaggy shouted. “We’re supposed to look…” He stopped in mid-speech, wilting under Fred’s glare.
“Well, whatever look you’re going for, it ain’t the way it was,” she waved her hand dismissively as she left through the swinging doors. “And they didn’t have these…that’s just a legend!”
“I think you look real,” a nasally voice said behind Velma, indicating her plain brown farm dress. “Real…cute, that is.”
“Wait…I know that voice….” the bespectacled anthropologist thought. She spun on her heel. Her worst suspicions were confirmed. “Gibby Norton! You…you…!”
A small lad in a tall thick hat, light blue shirt, brown pants obscured by gaudy puffy chaps faced her. “Hello Velma. Remember me from college?”
“How could I not,” she grimaced.
“You know this guy?” Daphne asked.
“Gibby was an engineering student at Yale with me,” Velma noted to her friend. “Thanks to Mr. Norton following me around, telling everyone I was his girlfriend, I couldn’t get a date, even with that Geography Professor who hit on all the co-eds!”
“I’m still single, if you are too,” Gibby waxed romantically, trying to snuggle up to the Anthropologist.
“Eww! Never!” Velma insisted. “C’mon guys, let’s get out of here,” she said, pulling Scooby away from a display with hats and scarves. But he managed to snag two lime green scarves. As the group left, he put one in Daphne’s hands. “Thanks Scoob!” she replied cheerily. Though it clashed with her purple and pink outfit, it was the thought that counted.
Chapter 7: “Desert Disappearance”
“Where were you on the night of June 15th.” the interrogator demanded.
“June fift...hey, what is this. It ain’t even the end of May yet!” the subject responded.
Fred frowned as Shaggy blushed sheepishly. “I always wanted to say something like that,” the bearded fellow whispered to Scooby, who giggled quietly.
“Stop that, you two,” Velma snarled. “This is serious business!”
“For the record, what happened to Train #13 on the night of May 1?” Fred said casually to the Albuquerque station master.
“It’s like I told the local police. A train came up from a Justice Department Camp full of adults…”
“Where’s the camp?” Daphne inquired.
“Clovis, New Mexico…it’s in the eastern part of the state,” the mustachioed man responded. “…on the border with Texas.”
“So it’s not between here and…say the camp in Lordsburg?” Fred asked politely.
“Maybe the train got lost or took a little detour…”
The station manager shook his head vehemently. “Lordsburg’s on the extreme Southwestern end of the state, and we’re in the North Central region of New Mexico,” he added, using a wall map to illustrate his point. “There’s no way the train would’ve made such a detour, or gotten lost. Clovis is further from Lordsburg than Albuquerque is!”
Velma fixed the manager with an icy stare. “And why didn’t you tell someone about this little detail?”
The man through his hands in the air helplessly. “How was I to know there were supposed to be a bunch of kids on the railcar? All of the paperwork was in order. It wasn’t until the parents started screaming bloody murder to the press in Santa Fe the next day that anyone knew something was wrong.”
“May I see the paperwork?” Velma asked sternly.
The station manager shrugged, pointing to the top drawer of his desk. “Look over it all you like, but there’s not an “i” that isn’t dotted or a “t” that isn’t crossed in that form. Everything’s perfect and legal,” he said. For the first time, he seemed lost for words. He shook his head sadly. He really does care about the kids, Velma thought.
“Who could change things like that?” Shaggy wondered aloud while Fred, Velma and Daphne scanned the document for any clues.
“It’d have to be someone at the War Department,” the man mused.
Fred glanced up. “You mean it couldn’t be someone from the railroads or Justice Department.”
“Uh-uh,” the station manager grunted. “Only someone in the military would have enough pull to authorize such a switch in orders at this point.”
Velma, Fred and Daphne looked at each other while Shaggy and Scooby continued to scan the map, looking for places the manager had mentioned. “Donovan said he was sure there was a spy in the War Department,” said Daphne in a soft tone. “It’s probably the same guy who made the switch.”
Velma nodded. “We’d better go to the Justice Department camp in Clovis,” Fred said quietly in an attempt to stay out of earshot of the station manager, who walked over toward another man who had just entered the office. “Hopefully there was just a mixup, and the kids are stuck there.”
“And…just one more question, Mr…..” Shaggy said, again mimicking a detective from the silver screen. Fred and Velma rolled their eyes.
“Jack Hunter,” the station manager replied.
“Yeah….did any of the Japanese in Clovis see any kids?
“They complained about being herded like cattle into the cars,” Hunter offered. “But none of them said they saw anything about any kids. I even asked them.”
“Thar’ ain’t no young-uns here…Jap or othuhwise” the burly man grumped at Fred’s question.
Velma frowned at the camp official’s tone. “But who was on that train that….”
“See har lil’ lady,” the big man growled. “No nips wuz on duh train.” He spat a wad of chewing tobacco somewhere in the vicinity of Daphne’s boots. She fought the urge to scream.
“We iz bustin’ up dis camp, on duh ohduhs of duh gumint,” he waved toward the others, who sure enough were pulling down poles and fences. “Yuh jest mosey on ut if yuh knowin’ wuz good fer yuh.” Several men stopped their work and began walking toward the group, but they did not set down their tools.
“Uh, thanks, Mr. Redd,” Shaggy stammered, as he pulled the others back from the foreman. “I think we better go back…to the Billy the Kid museum, or something like that!” All seemed to agree, nervously backing away from the toughs as they reached their car, only to speed away before the workers reached them.
“Dey give yuh tah trouble?” one asked his boss.
The burly leader of the work detail squinted meanly at their car, now rapidly disappearing over the horizon. “I tink dey repohtuhs,” he remarked. “We git’ ‘em if dey retuhn.”
Chapter 8: “A Wooden Expression”
“I think we got the mystery solved folks!” Fred beamed to the gang over their lunch at La Posta, the small legendary Mexican restaurant south of Las Cruces New Mexico that had once served as a way station for the Butterfield Trail. “The agent’s log shows the train took on water here, before moving on….”
“And a brakeman reported seeing the kids on board as he linked on a special freight car,” Velma added, comparing her notes to their leader’s research.
“Yeah, those guys in Clovis had to be behind it,” Shaggy said, shivering at the thought of their gnarled faces, almost making him forget his succulent spicy burrito.
“Reah,” Scooby barked, supporting his pal. “Ris rem!”
“They used a lot of anti-Japanese terms too,” Velma said hotly. “It’s enough for us to call Donovan in DC and have him send out soldiers to arrest those guys.”
“Well I don’t think they did it,” countered Daphne, to everyone’s surprise.
Fred exhaled strongly though his mouth, clearly exasperated at his wife’s stand. “Daph, we’ve got eyewitnesses that place the kids on the train after Las Cruces, but not after Clovis. We’ve got the Albuquerque station manager telling us no kids were on board. None of the Clovis detainees reported seeing any kids. And we’ve got some shady Japanese-hating strongmen at the only stop between here and Albuquerque who chased us off,” he roared. “I suppose you have an explanation that’s better than women’s intuition!”
She fixed him with an icy stare. “I just don’t think any of those Neanderthals is capable of signing his own name…much less write up the authorization form that would fool Mr. Hunter,” she sniffed indignantly.
All dropped their jaws in response, then one by one began to nod glumly. Guile seemed to be too much for those dismantling the camp. Shaggy leaned over to whisper something to Fred.
“Sorry Daph,” Velma buried her head in her hands. “I should’ve thought of that. I just got so mad when they called those kids Nips….couldn’t think straight.”
She was rewarded with a reassuring pat. “Don’t worry, you’ve been through a lot. It’s understandable….”
“Not to those kids!” Velma whined, a small tear escaping her right eye. “Nobody cares about them except for us, and I can’t even think straight.”
“You’re the smartest one of us all,” Daphne mustered, hoping to cheer up her friend. “You can’t have the right answer each time….that’s why we’re a team….as long as you’re with us.” Velma nodded gamely.
“As for my loving husband,” the redhead growled angrily. “I’ll show him this mission that I’m not some silly woman who can’t think for herself or rely on ‘intuition.’”
“So we know the kids were on the train in Las Cruces,” Fred said gesturing toward South Central New Mexico. “And even if we don’t believe those baddies in Clovis, none of the Japanese saw them at the Justice Department Camp. So they disappeared somewhere in Southeast New Mexico.”
“Maybe the ghost of Billy the Kid got them,” Shaggy whimpered weakly.
“No silly,” Daphne lectured the bearded fellow. “He only fought grown men.”
“Anything going on in those thar parts?” Fred raised his hands hopelessly after pointing to the region.
“I’ve heard rumors about a big test project down that way, but they call it the Manhattan Project, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense” Velma concluded.
“Maybe if we flew to Lordsburg, we could find out something about who took the train out?” Daphne interjected, itching to fly in the air yet again.
Fred nodded. Despite excellent directions from Velma’s “special compass,” their flight from Clovis to Las Cruces over the rail tracks had sadly revealed nothing of interest.
An hour later, thanks to Velma’s excellent navigation, they were in the office of the commandment of the Lordsburg camp, or at least what was left of it.
“They’re taking down the camp gates tomorrow,” he pointed out to the five. “The fences will be gone by the end of the week. And I suspect that locals will make short work of the lumber from the houses when the month is out. Looks like they’ll ship me out to some island in the Pacific, guarding Japanese military prisoners at Guam or some place like that,” he said, glancing westward.
“Can you tell us anything about Train 13?” Daphne asked eagerly.
“What do you reporters want to know about that incident?” the man snarled. “That little mishap cost me a promotion that I earned after three years of….”
“We just want to know who signed the forms authorizing the transfer of the kids….” Fred insisted in vain.
The commandant glared at him. “I’ve put everything in my report to the War Department. There’s nothing I have to say…”
“Can’t we just have the name?” Shaggy pleaded.
The man in charge of the rapidly closing camp merely glared at the five. “Lot of good it will do you. The man’s name isn’t even in our list, and there’s no one on the active duty roster anywhere that looks like him. Whoever did this may as well be a ghost.”
“Captain….” Velma fixed him with the same hardened look he offered. “We just want to help you. If you help us apprehend him, you might get that promotion back.”
Velma’s words seemed to move him, but he seemed to relent more out of defeatism than any genuine belief that his career could be resurrected. “It’s too late for that…happened on my watch, so I’ll take the blame. But if you could nail the guy responsible, it would help….It was a Major Horace Wooden.”
In one of the few tents not dismantled by the camp guards, the group huddled around while Velma drew notes on a pad of paper.
“Sociological studies show that when people take pseudonyms, they try to pick a name that either closely resembles their first and last name, on average,” Velma began, explaining how she would decode the name of the villain.
“On average….” Shaggy repeated in a monotone.
“Hey, we don’t have much to go on!” she snapped, then softened her tone. “Sorry, Shag, it’s just the stress…”
Fred waved his hand dismissively. “So are you thinking of cracking the first or second name?”
“The second,” she responded. “It seems a little stranger than Horace, which is kind of bland.”
“So we’re supposed to think of some names of folks beginning with the letter W?” Daphne inquired. “Williams, Walters, Wilson….”
“Not necessarily,” Velma pointed out. “It would’ve been too easy for him to pick out a generic last name like the ones you just ticked off, Daph. Given the odd nature of the last name, I think the word has more significance than the first letter.”
“I get it!” Fred announced. “It could be a like name based off of a wood product…”
“Bark?” Scooby woofed, producing some much needed laughs from the quintet.
“Or describing something,” Shaggy mused. “Like metal.”
After a few minutes of jotting down and rejecting potential names, Velma jabbed her finger toward the roof of the tent. “There’s, of course, another definition for the term. I would’ve thought of it sooner if I brought my dict…”
“What is it?” Fred interrupted.
“Wooden was the name of a Norse god,” she lectured. “But most non-Scandinavian people think of him by another name: Odin.”
“We don’t know any Odins, do we Scoob?” Shaggy wondered.
Fred shook his head. “There are probably a lot of Norse gods to go through….”
Ignoring them, Velma continued “In fact, we get our days of the week from them. Wednesday is Wooden’s day.”
“Friday is Freyja day,” Daphne beamed.
“I know, I know, and Thursd….” Fred started, then dropped his jaw. “Thursday is Thor’s day.”
“So?” Shaggy wondered.
“Do we…” now it was Daphne’s turn to mimic Fred’s expression. “Thorwald.”
“Exactly,” Fred said sternly.
“And Horace is similar to Henry,” Velma concluded.
“Wasn’t he a Colonel?” Shaggy interjected suddenly.
“Not after he was busted for leaking information to Sergeant Payne in Egypt during our quest for the Ramla Alliance….and he was linked to ‘Old Man Wickles,’” Fred remembered. He suddenly began furiously drawing with a pencil.
“What’s that for?” Now it was Velma’s turn to ask questions.
Ten minutes later, the answer was apparent, when the commandant looked at Fred’s crude sketch. “Yeah, that kind of looks like the guy,” the man noted angrily. Fred motioned them to leave, giving the camp leader a dismissive wave, adding “We’ll get him for you.”
“But why didn’t the commandant recognize his mug shot,” Shaggy asked as they strode toward the car that would lead them back to the airfield.
“Probably because he’s not on the active duty list anymore,” Velma responded. “I for one would like to know what he’s been up to…or is doing. Have you any thoughts on what to do now, Dr. Jones?”
The blond archaeologist nodded. “You’ll see when we get to Daphne’s plane.”
After a half-hour drive, they were at the makeshift hangar near the Mexican border. “Let me see your map of New Mexico, Daph.”
She shrugged her shoulders, then handed him a thin paper.
“No, I want to see the detailed charts. I want to see if any rail lines between Las Cruces and Clovis had any other routes.”
“But we already checked those,” his wife insisted. “There’s no other path that goes between those towns.”
“I’m not thinking of something along the direct route,” he insisted. “I’m looking for some place they could have left the route, then backtracked. Let’s see…White Sands, Almagordo, Artesia….here” he pointed dramatically. “They could have gone down here, then backtracked.”
“But that’s to the south, out of the way,” Shaggy complained.
“Exactly,” Fred explained. “We’ll look at detours in Roswell and Portales as well. That should clear up this mystery….”
Chapter 9: “Carlsbad Clues”
“Sorry I can’t help you,” the station manager known as “Big Ben” told them, his hearty delivery, bright red hair, gaudily-colored green outfit with purple bandana contrasting with the dreary news. “But no train like that’s been through here in the last few weeks. All we get are freight cars going back and forth between the caves and Artesia through here, carrying guano.”
“Guano,” Shaggy asked in a shaky voice.
“Bat poop,” Velma whispered.
“Ewww!!” Daphne gasped, given that Velma didn’t evidently whisper quietly enough.
“Yup. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, kids,” Ben said cheerfully. He ushered them out. “You best be on your way before the sandstorm arrives.” He glanced around, looking out toward the Pecos River, before shutting the door.
Fred shook his head dejected. “Maybe one of the other places has a better lead…”
“Wonder why he was so quick to get us out of there?” Velma wondered suspiciously.
“That’s because he didn’t want you talking to me,” a voice rasped behind them. It was a small scruffy man with grayish hair. A black vest complemented his blue shirt and brown pants. A hat matching the pants was in his hands.
“And you are….” said Shaggy, desiring an introduction.
“They just call me Old Hank. I’ve been working this station as a night watchman before you gals and fellers were born. I overheard you young-uns talking with Big Ben, and I seen what you’re lookin’ for.”
“Please explain” Daphne requested.
“’round these parts, I’ve been seein’ strange looking things going between here and the caves. Cars and trucks have been drivin’ ‘round late at night, without their lights on. Things been disappearin’ in these parts. Anyway, I was working a few weeks ago when the Ghost Train came by.”
“Ghost train?” Shaggy and Scooby gulped.
“Years ago, a train carrying payroll for the miners was ambushed by Billy the Kid and his gang. The Engineer made a run for it, took a curve around the bend too fast, and it spilled over into…Slaughter Canyon.”
“S…S…Suh…Slaughter Canyon?” Shaggy stammered.
“Nobody ever recovered the gold or bodies, ‘cause the area is plum full of rattlesnakes.”
Old Hank ignored Shaggy and Scooby’s trembling, and continued his story. “Anyway, I knew it was the Ghost Train. It was ‘Ol Number 13, just like the train the Kid tried to rob. And this time it was full of little ones, much younger than yourselves, followin’ the same route West to the caverns and the canyon. I saw them wavin’ and a clappin’ as the train sped along at night. And shore ‘nuff, when it returned, the train was empty…the kiddies just disappeared.”
“Hank, you ol’ varmint!” Big Ben’s hearty voice boomed. “You git outta’ here ‘fore I hafta’ fire ya’ again for tellin’ tall tales!” Hank gave his boss a dirty look before scurrying away as fast as his limp would allow.
After Big Ben left, Fred announced. “I think I’ve got it! Someone kidnapped the kids to have them look for the gold of Train 13 in Slaughter Canyon!”
“Only one way to see if his ‘tale’ checks out, and that’s to follow the tracks West,” Velma announced, pointing to their car.
“Sorry folks,” Charley, the caverns guard said. “No passenger trains have stopped by here, even at night like you suggest.”
“Is there any other place they could have gone?” Daphne begged.
Charley scratched his head. “Well, the tracks lead up to the caverns, of course. There’s a switch that leads along the old tracks to El Paso through Slaughter Canyon.”
“Could the train have gone to Texas then?” Velma offered.
The guard shook his head. “A rockslide to the Southwest in the Guadalupe Mountains destroyed the path. There’s no way out of Slaughter Canyon.”
Fred beamed triumphantly. “And I suppose no one had recovered the gold….”
“Gold?” the guard peered at them intently.
“You know,” Fred laughed. “From Train 13….”
Instead, it was Charley who chuckled. “That’s just a frontier legend, like ‘The Lost Padre Mine.’ Folks just made up the story about that train to tease greenhorns into spending their time prowlin’ around. Truth is, Billy the Kid never robbed trains, and never rode around these parts. No train crashed out here. It’s just a tale.”
“Wha—why is it called S…Slaughter Canyon?” Shaggy’s speech clearly was faltering.
Charley grinned. “It’s not named because anyone died there. They just called it after the rancher Charles Slaughter, who first owned land in that area. No relation, of course.”
No one joined Charley’s laughs.
“So Henry Thorwald’s behind this!” General Nessmeyer boomed out in anger. He had never quite forgiven his former subordinate for leaking classified information to a soldier who turned it over to an enemy in Egypt. “When you catch him I’ll…I’ll…”
“Do you have any idea on a motive?” Velma answered on the phone. She was the only one in the room. Daphne and Fred were flying over Slaughter Canyon for aerial recon, while Scooby and Shaggy were going to a restaurant to bring back food.
“That’s easy,” Nessmeyer gruffed. “Thorwald’s son was killed at Pearl Harbor. He’s got a fanatical hatred for the Japanese ever since…always suspects we’ll cut a deal with them instead of annihilating them. Sgt. Payne must’ve shared his views, which is probably why Colonel Thorwald confided it him. Hated to lose a good soldier….”
“What do you mean, General?”
Nessmeyer paused for a moment, before continuing. “After he was demoted in rank for leaking information, he left the service. I’ve heard rumors that he went into business with some sort of aircraft company as a technical consultant, but that’s just a rumor.”
“As for the train, we don’t have anything solid,” Velma pushed the glasses back over on top of her head and rubbed her eyes. Though she couldn’t see General Nessmeyer’s facial expressions, she was sure that General Donovan’s deputy was equally disappointed.
“Any leads?” he asked hopefully.
“Well, we have an eyewitness who claims he saw the train roar through late at night, on its way West of Carlsbad, but the guard at Carlsbad Caverns said that no train came through there. Unless it went to someplace in Slaughter Canyon, we’re stuck with another dead end, and will have to look around Roswell or someplace like that.”
After a long pause, Velma asked “General? Are you still there? Operator, we lost….”
“Slaughter Canyon….I never thought it would come to this,” he gasped.
“What do you mean, General Nessmeyer?” the anthropologist asked.
With his response, Velma could tell that the old man was clearly pained to explain what had happened. “I know you’ll never forgive me, Dr. Dinkley, but you have to know the truth.”
“I’m listening,” she said quietly.
“After you and your friends discovered the Mysterium in Macedonia…”
“But the British bomber plane from Greece destroyed the field where it was buried”
Velma replied quickly. “There’s…”
“The instruments you used to test the field contained small traces….just enough for us to conduct a few experiments, and have our scientists recreate the element.”
“You….you…How could you?!” Velma purpled with rage. “You messed with elements more dangerous than…..”
“I know…I know…it was a mistake…”
“...I can explain….”
“I’d like to see you try!” Velma exploded.
“We received top secret intelligence several years ago that Germany was tasking its scientists to build the most destructive bomb ever. They had a head start by several years, and we’d never deter them from using it against us unless we had something equally destructive.”
Velma paused as General Nessmeyer continued. “The Mysterium you found was destroyed in the bombing attack to prevent the Italians from getting it first, but we really needed something like that. Captain Treesdale took the instruments you used for testing the element, and we developed the closest copy of the formula.”
“But it’s too unstable to use…” Velma protested.
“We know that…now,” the officer replied in a huff. “In fact, our replica was far more destructive than what you found in those fields. But it was so unpredictable. It wouldn’t explode unless properly prepared. Even when it was prepared, it sometimes wouldn’t create any sort of blast. The greatest danger was at the conclusion of the preparation….”
“What happened,” Velma demanded.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep the locals in Wyoming in the dark, but the bomb exploded prematurely, wiping out nearly all of our scientists and a number of military officers and servicemen.”
“So that wasn’t a meteor….”
“No, and despite our losses, we were lucky,” Nessmeyer stammered. “If that thing had been properly prepared, we might’ve lost half the state…”
“So how does it wind up in New Mexico?” Velma inquired nervously.
“We obviously couldn’t use it, or even destroy it properly, so we stashed it in a cave in New Mexico, figuring the limestone and formations would hide the original small container that we had left after the Wyoming disaster. Having too many guards would attract unwanted attention. The location and details were so top secret that most military with TS clearances were barred from learning about the Mysterium or its location. Thorwald must have picked up enough details before he left the service.”
“So…assuming he finds it or has found it….”
“He might do anything with it…attack Japan with it or perhaps something more sinister…like go after the military for busting him down a rank. I’m sending everything I can in the region to the Slaughter Canyon Cave…..”
Just then, Fred and Daphne walked in the door. “Aerial recon showed a small airstrip, but didn’t show….” Daphne began, but was shushed.
“Daphne, grab Scooby and Shaggy,” Velma ordered. “Fred, get the motor on our van started up. We’re going to Slaughter Canyon on the double. I’ll fill you in on the way.”
“We’ll meet you there as soon as we can,” Nessmeyer thundered. “And I pray we’re not too late…”
Chapter 10: “Cave Of Blunders”
While Corporal Richard Payne, brother of the late Sergeant Robert Payne from their days in Egypt kept a close watch, wielding his Colt .45 automatic, Major Thorwald rechecked his own self-load pistol for the third time that hour. If the children could not make progress, he needed to make an example that would make them work faster and harder. Already, his friend Doctor Warner had warned that time was running out, and the Mysterium needed to be found soon…or else.
Besides, he felt little sympathy for the Japanese he had forced to search the cave. Even if they were kids, it was his boy who died at the hands of their aircraft. He remembered the day as if it were yesterday. He had gone aboard the USS Arizona, angry that his son had chosen to get engaged to an Italian girl. She was 29…ten years his senior, and a Catholic at that! The boy had refused to listen to his reasoning why it wouldn’t work, and why a safer hometown fiancé made more sense. The officer stormed off the ship, too angry from their fight to look back…until the bombs began to fall and torpedoes hit the water. He ran back to the battleship, but an explosion rocked the USS Arizona. Frantically swimming the waters and calling out to his son for hours, he retrieved the only sign of his existence, a sailor’s hat with his name as well as the top half torn away, a grisly clue to a body that was never found.
Ever since then, he’d done everything he could to seek revenge on the Japanese. But the high command kept him in the European Theater, despite numerous attempts to transfer to the Pacific campaign. Enraged at their denials, he found a confidant in Sgt. Robert Payne, who shared his views on the need to exterminate the Japanese as a people. But his superiors, no doubt angry at his attempts to override the chain of command in seeking a transfer, cooked up a story about him leaking classified information, to reduce his rank to Major. Sergeant Payne died in their custody, no doubt killed to cover up their incompetence over falsely identifying him as a double-agent. After learning some additional information about the Mysterium location, he left the service, went to Oklahoma to meet Payne’s brother Richard, and developed a plan to exact his personal vendetta against the Japanese. It was through Payne’s brother that he was introduced to Dr. Morton Warner, a scientist who would be capable of converting the Mysterium into just the device he would need to level Tokyo.
At that moment, a dark figured approached the uniformed officer. “Is the search almost complete, Major?”
“You crack the whip hard enough on the kids, and they’ll find it. I cut an extra hour off their sleep to make them keep searching in the dark. Anyone who complains….”
“The details of their captivity are unimportant to me, only that they find the box before long,” he rasped.
Thorwald nodded. “Of course, Doctor. But do not worry. I made sure that I covered my tracks well. They’ll never find…”
“Major, do not think your own military to be so naïve,” Warner snarled. “You may have fooled them for the moment, but sooner or later, they’ll catch onto your tricks, and it’ll be curtains for us. I want that box before tonight! Don’t give the children a single break until they find it!” he hissed.
The officer bowed his head, snapped his heels together, spun around and headed back to the mouth of the cave to pass the word to Corporal Payne.
“Please…a glass of water….” the boy began as the man passed him, but Thorwald merely ignored him.
“I know you hate Japanese, but I’m not Japanese,” the boy protested. “I’m Chinese!”
“And I should care why?” Thorwald sneered.
“China’s the ally of America,” he insisted. “And I’ve even helped the United States. Why Doctor Indiana Jones and I….” but he was cut off by a vicious slap from the American officer.
“‘Short Round,’ I don’t care if you’re Chinese, Japanese, or Koreanese…in my book you’re all yell…”
But at that moment, a small boy with bloodshot eyes and a dirty face crawled in, holding a metal box. He gasped something unintelligible, then collapsed. But Thorwald ignored the prostrate boy as well as Short Round, his eyes gleaming with desire. He snatched the box and ran toward the cave entrance with the treasure they had searched weeks for.
“Doctor Warner, the Mysterium!”
The bespectacled man opened it, spending several minutes analyzing it. “You are right, Major,” he said in a serious tone. “It is time for the third phase of our operation. We’ll fly to El Paso tonight with Corporal Payne, secure a military plane there, head for Mexico…”
“Then we’ll fly across the Pacific, using my military cover until we can get in range of Tokyo…” Thorwald continued.
“Yes…of course,” Warner agreed.
“What about the children, Doctor Warner?” Corporal Payne said, joining the conversation.
“If they are discovered, it will put our whole operation in jeopardy,” Warner insisted.
“Make sure they are all inside before you detonate the charges around the entrance. Soon, ‘Slaughter Cave’ will live up to its name.”
“We’re going to kill them?” Thorwald wondered aloud.
“Henry, my dear fellow,” Warner began, patting the military man on the shoulder. “Have you already forgotten the Japanese treachery on December 7, 1941, when they took the lives of thousands of American sailors, including that of your son?”
Thorwald paused, then his eyes narrowed to slits. “No, Doctor, I have not. Corporal, let me help….”
“Freeze, Thorwald!” a shout rang out like a shot. He froze in recognition of the voice as four figures and a dog ran toward him. Dr. Jones and his gang won’t take me alive, he thought as he pulled out a .45 automatic. But Jones already had his revolver drawn.
“Don’t make me do this Major!” Fred yelled. In the next moment, two shots rang out as one. Thorwald fell, clutching his shoulder, while Fred grabbed at his hand, the revolver having been shot away from him.
“You cost me the life of my brother,” a taller, bald man said, moving toward them. Like Thorwald, he was armed with a pistol, intending to get as close as Fred to ensure a kill shot. But as he approached his quarry, another man jumped in front of the famed archaeologist at the moment the shot was fired.
“No, Shaggy!” the bespectacled woman screamed as the thin man lay crumpled in the dust, unmoving. The dog which had moved to attack Thorwald howled in sadness as Velma Dinkley ran to the prone figure.
“Your friend may have sacrificed himself for you, but it will only prolong your life for a moment, Doctor Jones,” Corporal Payne sneered. “Prepare to meet him…in Hell!”
But the taunt gave Fred just the moment he needed to reach his pen with his good hand. Squeezing it, he managed to fill the air with a thick acrid smoke, forcing several wide shots. Fortunately for him, it also made the girl dressed as a pilot miss her shot as well.
Seeking to get a clearer vision, Payne stumbled toward the mouth of the cave, where he tripped over a smaller shadow. But it was no accident, for Short Round had knocked him down with a leg sweep. The small Chinese boy was now a flurry of punches and kicks against the larger man as the smoke began to dissipate in the windy ridges of New Mexico.
With a final effort, Payne swung a devastating punch, knocking Indiana Jones’ diminutive friend off balance. As he rose to his feet, Payne slapped in a new clip into his automatic pistol, but a loud gunshot seemed to echo throughout the valley. Like a gunslinger in the old west, the tall man fell flat on his face a few yards away from where Daphne knelt, aiming her revolver at their adversary. She ran to check on Fred as Short Round wrenched the gun away from Corporal Payne, in order to train it on the wounded Major Thorwald.
”I’m fine…just a small flesh wound,” Fred grinned, then dropped his smile. Daphne’s mouth gaped in horror. “Oh, no,” she managed to whisper. Only a few feet from them, Velma knelt at the side of Shaggy, who had not moved since he bravely took the slug meant for Fred. Scooby reared back his head and bayed in sadness.
Overcome with grief, tears began welling up in Velma’s eyes, running below her glasses. Only days ago, her Australian fiancé had perished in Europe at the hands of German guns. Now a spy had killed one of her few close friends. “Shaggy,” she began, holding his hand. “I….I never told you how….” but she looked down his green shirt toward his body…Wait! she thought, as she frantically felt for a pulse to confirm her suspicions. Though weak, it was there.
“What are you doing Vel-” Fred began, but she interrupted him. “He’s alive! He was wearing that bulletproof vest Adam and Buster gave us!” She pulled up his shirt to confirm the silvery substance, with a significant indentation in it.”
“Then why is he….out like a light?” Daphne asked.
In response, Velma held up a bloodied rock. “He must have knocked himself out on this when he landed.” She ripped off a piece of her skirt to make a hasty bandage. Scooby’s howls turned to barks of joy.
Daphne stood up, and stalked over toward where Short Round was holding Major Thorwald at bay. As she reached the military officer, she heard the drone of a plane’s propeller, indicating that the third man had his aircraft aloft.
“I’ll never tell where he’s going girlie,” the Major said defiantly.
“Okay then,” Daphne smirked. “If that’s the way it’s going to be, you won’t mind if I shoot out both kneecaps, before I finish you off for trying to kill my husband.”
“Your…husband…?” he gasped, his eyes darting back toward the archaeologist seeking to join them.
“Doctor Jones, your wife threatened to kill me!” the officer stammered.
“If I’ve learned anything in my marriage, Henry, it’s not to cross my wife when she’s really mad. Good luck!” He turned away.
“Fine!” Thorwald shouted. “But at least I’ll die for my country, a patriot to the end!”
“Patriot!” Fred barked. “You’re the biggest traitor this country ever had!”
“That Mysterium we found would do what our weak-kneed politicians in Washington refuse to do…exterminate every Japanese man, woman and child!” Thorwald shot back.
“You monster!” Velma yelled in anger.
“THEY were the ones who attacked us first!” Thorwald reminded her. “As long as any Japanese person’s alive…”
“You were going to kill us all, and I’m not even Japanese,” Short Round pointed at himself.
“They’re just kids!” Velma howled.
Fred held up his hand for silence. “Other than the poor kids in this cave, Thorwald and his cronies wouldn’t have harmed any Japanese…” Now he had everyone’s attention.
“…Because he and his pals would’ve actually killed a lot of Americans. In particular, he would have destroyed this country with his treachery.”
“What are you talking about?” Thorwald pointed at the blond man.
“Your partners in crime, Corporal Payne….”
“…and Doctor Morton Warner….”
“…and Doctor MANFRED WICKLES” Fred interrupted.
“That’s right, Major Thorwald,” Fred gritted his teeth. “All this time, you’ve been working for a spy who was going to use the Mysterium to blackmail this country into giving Germany back to the Nazis!”
“You have no proof!”
Velma whipped out a photo. “Is this your ‘Doctor Warner’?”
Thorwald’s smug stare evaporated rapidly as the color drained from his face. “No…he’s a scientist….professor of Physics at Hanna College….”
“Wrong. He was the curator at the museum at the school…and a Nazi spy,” Fred boomed. “Velma and I knew him on the faculty. And we’ve seen him kill to get what he wants…he even dispatched Sergeant Payne to keep him from talking.”
”No doubt, he would’ve done the same to you when you learned he wasn’t going to kill Japanese, but Americans instead,” snapped Daphne.
Like a fish stuck on dry land, Thorwald’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound escaped. Finally, he regained his speech. “My son…my revenge…he tricked me! I want him dead. Give me a weapon and I’ll kill him myself!”
“You aren’t going anywhere!” Fred wagged his finger at the man, adding emphasis to his scolding tone. “Daph, get the plane ready. You and I are going to catch up with ‘Old Man’ Wickles. Velma, you and Short Round stay here, watch Shaggy, and wait for Nessmeyer’s replacements from Fort Bliss to reach here. Then tag along with us…”
“Where?” Thorwald responded. “That’s just it. You don’t know where he is, or where he’s going. But I do. You need me.”
“Tell us now!” Fred roared. “And I’ll put in a good word to make sure you don’t face a firing squad. You’ll get a nice life sentence instead for your cooperation.”
“At this point, I’d welcome a soldier’s death for the jeopardy I’ve put the country I love in,” Thorwald fired back. “Admit it, Dr. Jones. You need me.”
“No we don’t,” Daphne insisted. “That plane sounded like a Piper Cub. My Staggerwing back in Carlsbad can outfly that aircraft any day of the week!” she boasted.
“If you love this country so much…” but Fred’s voice trailed off. Without knowing which direction to fly in, Daphne’s speed would be a non-factor. Plus, there was something in Thorwald’s eyes which caught his attention…a yearning for revenge, a chance for redemption.
“Let me make things right,” the Major whispered. “For my son who gave his live on December 7, 1941.”
“All right,” Fred relented.
Daphne whipped her head around. “Are you crazy! We can’t trust this trai-”
“We have no choice,” Fred admitted. “We don’t even know which direction to fly in. And everyone deserves a second chance, even this guy. Velma and I will keep our guns on him while you fly. The plan’s foolproof.”
Daphne bit her lip, shot another look of disgust at Thorwald, then stormed back in the direction of the vehicle that they drove up in.
Fred pulled Thorwald to his feet. “Velma, help up Shaggy. Shorty…make sure the Japanese kids are safe until the cavalry comes, okay?”
“Okay Doctor Jones,” Short Round grinned with a mock salute. “You can count on me.”
Chapter 11: “Heading Them Off At The Pass”
As the Staggerwing hurtled across the desert, the interrogation began.
“So where’s Wickles….” Fred began.
“El Paso, Texas” Thorwald insisted. “We have a space in a hangar there at Biggs Army Airfield. He’ll refuel the Piper Cub up, then head for Mexico before the United States Army Air Forces can scramble anything.”
Daphne took her eyes off the horizon and glared at their prisoner. “Forgive me if I don’t trust you, Major.”
“If I’m lying, you can drop me off with the military there. I’m sure after Nessmeyer learns what happened, the firing squad will begin loading their guns.”
Velma put a pen to her lips after checking her special compass to help with directions. “I’m sure he’s telling the truth, Daph. He’s got nothing to lose at this point.”
The redhead brushed some hair from her face, glowered at Thorwald, and turned her attention to the controls.
“After we were to fly to Mexico, we were supposed to head out for the Baja Peninsula, in order to make our way out to the Pacific, and later Japan. Assuming you are right, that means he could go anywhere after getting into Mexican airspace.”
“Isn’t El Paso right on the border with Mexico?” Shaggy asked.
“So we’ve got to stop him in El Paso!” Fred insisted.
Velma frowned. “Can we actually make it there in time? Wickles has a pretty big head start.”
It was quiet. All eyes bored in on the female pilot, who finally spoke. “The Cub’s got a head start, but this ol’ plane can outrun it. We should be getting to El Paso right around the same time he does.”
“What do we do if we spot the box?” Shaggy asked. “Is it going to blow or something?”
Now it was Velma’s turn to offer her view. Shaking her head, she began her lecture. “It’s got to be properly prepared before it can reach its full destructive power. The blast in Macedonia, while significant, was limited. Only a fraction of the field actually blew up, due to some mixture of soil compounds with the Mysterium. But if what Nessmeyer said is true about its full potential….we’ve got to stop Wickles!”
The Doctor watched the city of El Paso emerge on the horizon. He grinned. So easy to manipulate the good Major Thorwald, “Warner” thought. Once the professor learned of Thorwald’s terrible loss, he made a quick friendship, cultivating the hate that motivated a once rising star in the Army. He introduced the major to the Payne brothers, men easily corrupted by the desire for money. Through his desire for revenge, Thorwald seemed eager to betray his country’s secrets, believing himself to be the real patriot who would destroy America’s sworn enemy Japan. It was through Thorwald that the Doctor “Warner” first learned of the dangerous element Mysterium, so central to his plans.
In Egypt, such information nearly helped “Warner” dispose of his enemies, MI-13. But though Velma was caught, Fred Jones managed to fight off the enemies. Then, that group of meddlers caught Sergeant Payne moments before his secret meeting to pass more information about Allied actions in the desert. Then later, just as he almost had the Alliance of Ramla, Jones tricked his ally Dr. Najib, swapping a false alliance for the female redhead. No doubt, it was the trickery of Dr. Dinkley, who he failed to kill with a hail of gunfire. So “Warner” managed to escape, but he never forgave Dr. Jones and his compatriots for the loss of his key spy, as well as his opportunity to force Britain to switch sides in the war.
But it was no matter. Now that the Japanese children had crawled through the cave to retrieve the Mysterium, he would refuel in El Paso, fly next to Mexico, then to Cuba, and on to Washington, DC. There, President Truman would receive a most ominous threat: Remove American and British troops from Germany, or the Nation’s Capital would be annihilated in a firestorm. Once the GIs left, the Nazis could begin to rebuild. No doubt, America and Britain would want to retake the Fatherland, but with Russia rebuilt, the two would have no choice but align with the Nazis against the Communist threat. It was just as Der Fuhrer had foretold in Mein Kempf: an alliance of the three to dominate the world. America would dominate Latin America, as it had done so for 150 years. The British would continue to maintain their empire in Asia. And the Third Reich, with British and American assistance, would beat back the Soviet hordes and establish hegemony in Europe for a thousand years. And it would be led by him, the great Dr. Manfred Wickles.
Shortly thereafter, the furthermost flung buildings of the West Texas town came into for Fred and his friends: a few ranches, interspersed between miles of desert and mesquite brush. As the plane began its approach into the Biggs airfield on the Eastside of El Paso, the gang frantically scanned for any sign of the Piper Cub.
“Maybe it came and left already,” Shaggy speculated.
Daphne shook her head. “You couldn’t refuel a plane like that in seconds flat, unless you want to arouse suspicion. I’m puttin’ this bird down.”
“Good idea,” Fred said, hopeful to get back into his wife’s good graces. “We can nab Wickles on the ground.”
The Staggerwing hit the ground so hard that a tire almost blew. Within seconds, Fred, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby prepared to spring from the plane to search for Wickles’ plane. “Let me go with you,” Thorwald begged. “I know what color the Piper Cub is…as well as where the hangar is.”
Fred exchanged glances with Velma. “Sure…just stick with us, okay. If you spot him…we want to be close by…to spring our trap.”
“I’m sticking with the plane,” Daphne insisted. “If he makes it off to Mexico, we need to be gassed and ready to follow him as far as he goes.”
As they made their way from the runway to the hangar, Thorwald began. “The plane could be refueling out back, or it is parked inside the hangar. We’ve got to check both. Which do you want to investigate first?”
Fred gave Velma a knowing look. “Shaggy, you and Scooby head out to the fuel depot. Velma, Thorwald and I will go inside the hangar.” Though clearly preferring safety in numbers, the loyal pair slipped around the back to search for the small plane.
“We’ve got two guns among us….” Fred began, but Velma corrected him.
“Make that one.”
“Sorry… I left my pistol on the plane for Shaggy.”
“He didn’t have one when he came with us,” Fred pointed out. “I guess he must have missed it and left it on the plane….or didn’t want to carry it for some reason. Always figured him for a paci-”
“Well how’s he going to stop Wickles when he finds him?” Velma sputtered.
“He and Scoob will probably yell loud enough to summon us,” Fred mused. They began to move up and down the cavernous hangar, checking for any signs of clues left by their advesary. “At any rate, Major, now tell us the color and approximate size of Wickles’ plane.”
But they were met with silence. “I said…” Fred began, but Velma frantically tugged at his sleeve. “He’s gone.”
Fred swore under his breath. They’d been so intent on finding Wickles that he had forgotten all about their prisoner who claimed to be helping them. “That’s two people we need to search for now!”
Velma shook her head in disgust. “Daphne was right to be suspicious. Sometimes women’s intuition….”
“…won’t do us any good unless it can find both Wickles and Thorwald,” Fred interrupted. They hunted up and down the hangar for several minutes until they heard shouts from outside. “Fred! Velma! Major! It’s Wickles! He’s getting away!!”
Fred darted outside almost in time to be knocked down by the wing of the Piper Cub as it taxied down the runway, ignoring the shouts of Velma and Shaggy. Scooby barked furiously, but even his fleet feet were unable to keep up with the rapidly moving aircraft. With a loud grunt, the plane was airborne, heading to the left of the Franklin Mountains, straight for Mexico.
“Get back to the plane!” Fred yelled. “We gotta catch them before it’s too late!”
But as he spoke, the Staggerwing’s propeller roared to life. “Wait! Wait!” the archaeologist shouted as he ran toward his wife’s plane. But it was too late, as he raced down the runway in hot pursuit of Wickles and Thorwald’s yellow Piper Cub.
“What’re you doing?!” he bellowed. But his screams were unable to summon the plane back, as it raced into the sky, hot on the tail of America’s enemies.
“Why is she going after them alone?” Velma asked, rapidly biting her nails as she watched the planes speed toward Mexico. “Aren’t we supposed to be a team?”
Fred scratched the thin stubble on his chin. Then it hit him. “She’s always trying to prove herself to our superiors….and me. Plus, she was the only one really suspicious of Thorwald. She’s mad enough at him…and us…to pull a crazy stunt like this.”
Scooby returned from the hangar with a pair of binoculars. Shaggy reached for them, but Fred rudely snatched them from his friend’s hand while the others used their hands to shield their eyes from the setting sun.
“She’s almost caught up with them,” Fred said in partial admiration. “But they’re closing in on the border. In a couple of minutes, they’ll be in Mexican airspace.”
As if recognizing their threat, the Piper Cub’s pilot began to maneuver rapidly, banking and rolling its wings. But Daphne’s Staggerwing managed to compensate and follow the patterns of her enemy.
“She just might…..”
“Too late,” Fred groaned. “They just crossed the Rio Grande.”
But the Beech Staggerwing seemed oblivious to the development, as it buzzed after the Cub like a mad wasp. As the Cub began a steep climb, the Staggerwing bored on in.
“What’s she going to do…her plane’s not armed, is it?” Velma inquired.
“I dunno,” Fred mumbled. “Maybe try to…”
At that moment, there was a horrible sound as the two planes collided. The Staggerwing did not seem to ram the other plane as much as it tore through the Piper Cub, ripping it into several pieces. “Yeah!” Shaggy and Scooby cheered as the destroyed plane rained pieces of metal on the landscape.
But the Staggerwing had paid a heavy price. The propeller seemed to sputter as the plane wobbled for a moment, trying to stay airborne. At last, the aircraft began a steep nosedive that even surpassed falling parts of the wrecked Piper Cub.
“Oh my….” was all Velma could manage.
“Eject! Eject!” Fred frantically yelled. But even though Daphne carried a parachute, no such white object was spotted. The Beech Staggerwing continued its steep descent, before slamming into a desert hill in the bleak Mexican landscape.
“D-daph….” Fred said weakly.
“Maybe she survived the crash....” Shaggy offered hopefully. But the plane then burst into flames. No one spoke, while Scooby sobbed uncontrollably.
“I….I….” Fred began while the others stared wide-eyed at him. “…..never got the chance to say goodbye,” he admitted. Though clearly in shock, a tear of acknowledgement of the tragedy slipped from his eye and fell down his face nearly as fast as his wife’s plane had crashed.
“She sacrificed everything for the mission.” Velma managed in disbelief. Just a few days ago, Fred was trying to console her for the loss of Melbourne O’Reilly. Now she stood before her friend, unable to come up with the right words.
“The Mission….was it really worth it?” now hat fell from Fred’s hands. He turned and walked up the runway without saying anything. Scooby retrieved the fedora, and walked behind the blond, clearly slinking along. Shaggy now burst into tears. Velma did her best to quicken her pace, but the determined Dr. Jones ignored all.
Chapter 12: “Out In The West Texas Town Of El Paso….”
Fred trudged back to the hangar, as if weights were attached to his ankles. As slow as his gait was, he was still ahead of Velma and Shaggy. The former moved stiffly while the latter’s legs wobbled like jelly. Scooby slunk with his head low, quietly whimpering.
Thinking of turning back and scowling at the dog’s whining Fred stopped as he reached the doors.
But the combination of coming to a halt, his friends’ continued shocked silence, and Scooby’s sudden stop made things temporarily quiet….just enough to hear a low beeping sound. The sound came from a row of lockers near the entrance to the hangar. Curious, the tall archaeologist moved toward the doors, trying to determine the location.
“Fred,” a woman’s voice said, and he felt Velma’s hand on his shoulder.
“I thought I heard something….like a…”
She shook her head. “I didn’t hear anything. Look, maybe you’re just…”
He waved her off. “There it is again. I think it’s coming from over here,” he said in a curious tone.
“Even if you did hear something, it’s probably just some sensor or alarm….”
Fred put a finger to his lips, his expression indicating that Velma ought to remain quiet. He pawed at the door of the closest locker. Finding it locked, he picked up a nearby rock and banged until the door gave way. Looking inside, he was greeted only by his reflection, causing his shoulders to slump.
“Mmmmph!” A muffled sound caught his attention. He looked down and his jaw dropped. There was Daphne sitting at the base of the locker. Her arms disappeared behind her back, but the ropes binding her legs and ankles around her boots were fairly obvious. Her eyes glared angrily at him above her new white scarf, which wrapped around her head and was jammed between her teeth. Clearly she was unhappy at being a captive yet again.
Fred simply gaped for what seemed like several minutes. Through her gag, Daphne made stifled sounds indicating a desire to be set loose. Trembling, Fred knelt and untied her ankles, then the ties binding her legs. She stopped making noises, but fixed him with an inquisitive stare. A moment later, he slipped the gag from her lips, replacing it with his lips. After a brief hesitation, she kissed him back, as if considering whether or not to respond in kind. Now Velma and Shaggy were speaking rapidly, but the couple seemed not to hear them.
Daphne’s mouth worked its way free from her husband’s. “Uh…Fred,”
“Mmm?” He had returned to nuzzling her cheek.
“Uh, my wrists…boots…still tied, ya know.”
A minute later, Daphne was rubbing her hands to renew the circulation. “What happened to you?” Shaggy stammered.
Daphne glanced over at the lanky graduate student. “When you guys took off to look for Wickles, you’ll remember that I offered to stay with the Staggerwing, in case we needed to take off again. Well, about a minute or so after you guys left, Thorwald sneaks into the plane and hops out with a gun in his hand, pointing at me.”
Velma blushed and ducked behind Fred.
The redhead’s expression darkened. “I knew we shouldn’t have trusted that creep. He bound me with some ropes, gagged me with my own silk scarf, and stuffed me in this locker.” She glanced over at the empty space where the plane had been. “Now he’s stolen my plane, joining Wickles, no doubt.”
She glanced at Velma and Fred, noting an absence of concern. “For folks who just lost a powerful element like Mysterium, you three don’t seem too broken up about it.” Shaggy smiled, Velma shrugged her shoulders while Fred struggled to tell her some coherent explanation, only just realizing Thorwald’s sacrifice.
“So he kidnapped me to get me out of the way, so he could go after Wickles. And the Mysterium’s…wait, don’t tell me…I’ve lost another plane?! Dad’s gonna KILL me!”
Fred grasped her tender wrists. “I thought I’d lost you….” he cried, tears streaming down his face.
“Now you know how I felt when you pulled that little fake poison stunt in Russia,” she said sharply, though softening his expression as he moved in for another embrace.
The party at the downtown Plaza hotel was reminiscent of recent V-E days. Eager to avoid the public relations fiasco, the military flew the despondent parents of the lost Japanese children down from North New Mexico for a grand reunion…on the government’s dime, Donovan darkly noted, nearly collapsing at the bill. But given what could have happened, it was a small price to pay.
Bitterness and enmity could have made such an event turn ugly easily, but the parents were simply overjoyed to have their children back in their arms. Rather than be traumatized, many of the children were excitedly telling tales of caves, buried treasure, and the dramatic gunfight outside the cave that they secretly witnessed.
The hero of the night was Short Round. He received a medal for watching over the kids until General Nessmeyer’s troops arrived an hour later, as well as for standing up to the villains.
Even the Army, eager to avoid the scandal of the traitor in their midst, played up Major Thorwald’s role in bringing down Wickles and destroying the deadly Mysterium, claiming he was working undercover to bring the saboteurs to justice.
Of course, the quintet of sleuths, now known as Mystery Intelligence-13 or MI-13 for short, received little credit, but that was the nature of their work. Headlines would bring unwanted attention to the group, inhibiting their work on future projects.
But that did not mean the gang would go unrewarded, Fred mused as he spotted Shaggy and Scooby slumped in a corner, surrounded by husks of tasty Tamales. Velma was frantically outlining a scientific paper on the properties of Mysterium.
“The American troops in Italy got my seaplane back when they liberated Venice,” Daphne beamed. “I can’t wait to fly the ol’ girl again.”
Fred grinned. It would be like Donovan to find a plane on the cheap rather than spring for a brand new one.
As for his own reward, this came in the form of a promotion in rank and pay. It wouldn’t seem like much, but it would supplement his teaching pay considerably. As for the Hollywood screenplay he planned to write about their adventure….
“Well, Dr. Jones, I have to say I’m impressed.”
He turned around, half expecting another officer or local reporter, but the voice sounded vaguely familiar. Though he was out of place wearing a tux, without his signature fedora or bullwhip, Indiana Jones was certainly a familiar sight.
“Doctor Jones…it’s an honor!” Fred responded.
“Maybe first names will be easier,” the world-renowned archaeologist admitted.
“What are you doing in El Paso…Doc-I mean Indiana?”
The well-dressed character with the white dinner jacket gestured toward the Chinese kid on the stage in the ballroom. “Shorty and I go way back….to Shanghai in fact, before we were involved in the war. I have to say, after hearing about your exploits from Colonel Milton, you’ve certainly proved to be a member of the ‘Jones family.’”
Fred blushed. “We’re…not relatives or anything…are we?”
The elder Jones chuckled. “Not that I’m aware of, at least. Besides…do you think you have anything in common with my Dad?” His thumb gesture indicated the older man with a beard and spectacles, locked in conversation with Velma.
“No more than you….Junior.” Now it was Fred’s turn to chuckle as Indiana blinked in surprise.
At that moment, a gorgeous redhead in a slinky purple dress approached the pair. Now it hit him. “Daphne?” Indiana gaped. She was no longer the cub reporter he had charmed back in Europe several years ago. Fred looked mildly worried.
“Would you mind, Doctor Jones,” she said off-handedly, giving him no more notice than one of the well-dressed waiters. My husband and I have business to attend to.”
After she led him by the arm, Fred finally spoke. “I…I…”
“Worried that I still feel something for him,” Daphne laughed in a melodic tone that resembled wind chimes. “I’m completely over him. But I have fallen for another Doctor Jones.” She clasped his left hand with her right, and maneuvered his right hand around her waist while she draped hers over his neck. “I’ve got a surprise for you, Fred. I’m gonna teach you the latest dance steps from New York City…so you won’t look like you have two left feet out on the floor with me.”
“I’ve got something for you too,” Fred beamed. He freed his left hand and made a signal to the Hispanic band leader, who struck up a fast-paced number that seemed to involve a guitar and violin dueling for the dancing couples’ affection.
Her jaw dropped in shock as Fred began spinning about with her to the beat. “You…you know how to dance! And that song…it’s…it’s….”
“That’s right Mrs. Jones,” Fred grinned a mile wide as his wife’s surprise. “It’s Django Reinhardt’s song titled ‘Daphne.’”
Meanwhile, Velma and Henry Jones Sr. were locked in conversation. “Working on a Mysterium paper,” he said, clearly bemused. “But I thought you hated…”
Velma put her pen down. “Since it no longer exists, I thought the world should know about what it was, how destructive it was, so people would think twice about it as they raced to make weapons that are increasingly more destructive.”
“Do you think we’ll ever learn?” he asked. “You and I know, at least, that this government’s already preparing something just as lethal not far from here.” The latter part Henry whispered, furtively glancing around as he said as much.
Velma’s look was non-committal. “I have the feeling that once someone sees just how deadly these things are, they may choose to never use them after the first few times, as a result.”
She took a break from her scribbling on hotel stationery to watch Fred dip Daphne at the center of the dance floor. Her sigh was unfortunately audible.
“The mystery I want to solve is why a smart and attractive woman such as yourself is acting like a wall flower at the biggest party this town has probably ever seen.” His hand waved across the tables and chairs and dance floor.
She spotted Indiana Jones, who grinned and gave her a nod. At his side, the teenage Short Round waved encouragingly. A short distance away, the Greek archaeologist Lysander Demos, dressed in a black tux was striding in her direction with a pair of glasses and a bottle of wine. To his right, the bespectacled Adam Stern stepped away from his friend Buster. After a quick glance toward Velma, he waved to the pretty Latina selling roses, and made his purchase. The bespectacled girl’s survey of the room even took her eyes to the man seated with her at the table. Though much older, he had the qualities that made younger women like her swoon.
“You’re right Henry,” she smiled shyly. “Thanks.”
She walked toward the dance floor, where Shaggy and Scooby were goofing about, mimicking the other couples in their dance steps so that they could make their way more closely to the desert table.
“May I cut in?” she inquired. After a moment’s hesitation and a shrug of his shoulders, Shaggy unhooked himself from the clearly disappointed Scooby, and held Velma much the way Fred had first tentatively held Daphne.
“Know any dance steps?” she asked as the band played Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.”
Shaggy tried to guide Velma somewhat toward the Sopapias the waiters had just brought from the kitchen. “Just the cake walk…and that song about sitting under the apple tree or something….” he managed.
“…with anyone else but me…” she finished, gazing up into her eyes. The look seemed to throw Shaggy off whatever rhythm he was maintaining, and he stepped on her toes.
“Ow” she yelped, then swung the gangly graduate student away from the Mexican honey delight on the table inches from them. Now I know what they mean by ‘love hurts.’”
Head slinking down at being separated from his buddy, Scooby sauntered back to the tables. As he turned to watch his missed opportunity at the new treats on the dinner table across the room, a hand stroked his ears.
“Don’t worry ol’ pooch…I know just how you feel,” the bearded man with glasses spoke in a heavy voice. Scooby’s smile returned. The only thing that beat a pile of deserts was a nice skritching behind the ears. “Ranks a rot.” The elder Dr. Henry Jones couldn’t help but laugh.
At that moment, one of the small Japanese boys held up the piece of paper to evaluate his subject. It was an excellent replica of the large dog to his left side.
“That’s a good drawing Iwao!” his mother complimented.
Mr. Takamoto, who had just taken notice of the sketches, pored over drawings of the agents who had rescued his son from the caves of New Mexico. His son sure had talent, he mused. Perhaps his works would fetch interest at school…a local gallery…or even some Hollywood studio!