Guest Art Courtesy of Mogodore J. Bivouac
Chapter Four: “Rocky Mountain High-Jinks”
The rickety truck rocked back and forth as it crept its way up the Alps. Fred wished the conditions were better. Not only could he barely see the road through the feeble light from the front of his truck, but it kept knocking rocks loose down the cliff. He had already seen a truck plummet down a mountain last year in Mexico. The last thing he wanted to do was join that vehicle as well as its riders.
As for his occupants, their complaints seemed to match the groaning sounds the old truck was making as it struggled to climb the mountain. But at the top was their best lead. Antonio claimed that he overheard a man and a woman in muffled tones talking about “imprisoned Americans” in Castle Tures high in the mountains. Professor Solari hypothesized that the men were held by Italian authorities, while Mario argued that the two were secret prisoners of the notorious personal political thugs of Dictator Benito Mussolini’s: the Blackshirts. Since the group didn’t like the idea of busting someone out of police custody or breaking into the headquarters of the Blackshirts, an old castle seemed like a better place to begin the search. That was the case, Fred thought, until I got onto this road.
“Velma, tell us a little about where we’re going,” Daphne asked.
“We’re making our way through the Valle Aurina in a region known as ‘Campo Tures’” began Velma, glad to see she had everyone’s attention. “Our destination is the Castello di Tures, which was built back in the eleventh century. A powerful family from the Tyrolian region ruled here, but their descendents were expelled when they failed to support the rise of fascism nearly twenty years ago. A Vicente D’Anto-…I mean ‘Biscia’” now owns the castle. It’s where he privately stores his archaeological treasures.”
Despite the snow-covered Alps, Fred’s efforts were rewarded, as the path began to level off. Up in the distance, he spotted a few lights from the castle, made visible by the impending darkness and possible rain from thick clouds. Fred brought the truck around to a gate closest to a large door, which he guessed was the front entrance. A pair of armed guards marched back-and-forth.
Fred shut off the motor. “I say we make a plan,” he began confidently.
“Let’s try a diversion!” Daphne exclaimed enthusiastically.
“Try a diversion?” Fred said in a startled manner. “I was thinking more along the lines of an ingenious trap involving tar, cotton balls, and a large fan.”
“I don’t think Daphne’s plan could be any worse than that,” Velma mumbled sarcastically.
“So what did you have in mind?” growled Fred, angry that his trap idea had been shot down.
Daphne pulled the group inside the truck and began to whisper.
* * *
The two Italian guards looked at each other as they took stock of the truck’s presence. It was not that unusual to see trucks pull up to Castle Tures since
Il Biscia had ousted the original owners. Usually, these vehicles were loaded with Roman artifacts, pillaged from around Europe and North Africa. But it was unusual to see a man dressed like a Scottish highlander marching toward him, along with another figure clad in a kilt playing what vaguely sounded like the tune “Amazing Grace” on a set of bagpipes.
“Greetings! I am the great Lord Shagworthy of the Norville clan of Edinburgh,” the bearded fellow proclaimed. “I have come to inspect the tapestries for purchase so that I may take them to my great castle up North!”
Under normal circumstances, the two guards would have unholstered their weapons, flipped the safety catches off, and demanded they surrender, but the unexpected nature of the situation left their mouths gaping open.
“I guess your idea isn’t so insane after all Daphne,” Velma admitted inside the van. “The guards seem to be suffering from a suspension of disbelief. Where did you come up with the plan?”
“My cousin lives in a castle right by Loch Ness,” Daphne responded. “I just happened to have enough fabric packed to make the boys some costumes.”
Meanwhile, the guards had recovered from their initial shock. “Tapestries?” one of them began in an inquisitive tone.
“This is a castle, man!” Shaggy continued in a higher-pitched tone. “There has to be some tapestries around here.”
The other guard sneered. “If…you…are…a…Scot…then…I….am…Felix…the…Cat!” he said in broken English.
“Rat?” snarled Scooby.
The guard never got to finish his sentence because his head banged against his partner’s head. Both guards slumped to the ground. Fred stood beaming behind the fallen pair. Shaggy breathed a sigh of relief as the girls joined them. “I still liked my idea about the tar and fan,” Fred mused as they crept through the door.
* * *
After searching for roughly 15 minutes, they came upon a pair of doors. Two deep voices came from behind one. It looked as though it were protected by a tripwire device, letting someone know somewhere that the occupants had come or gone. The other door was not blocked by such a device. Fred creaked that door open. Sure enough, except for a wooden table and three chairs, it was empty. A window faced them on the opposite wall from the door.
“I’ve got another plan. I’ll push open the window, tie my whip to some part of that overhang, and swing into their room. It’s got to be identical to this one.”
Velma rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you just let me figure out how to defuse this alarm system,” she said exasperatedly. “It’ll only take me a few minutes….”
“…but where’s the fun in that?” Fred grinned.
“Men!” Velma muttered under her breath. “They never do things the easy way.” Daphne nodded.
“Unless it involves the quickest way to a meal!” Shaggy chuckled.
Fred pushed open the picturesque window and tossed the end of his whip. It wrapped around a nearby gargoyle. Like Buster Crabbe in a Tarzan movie, Fred swung out from the ledge and crashed through the adjacent window. He closed his eyes as glass flew all around him and he thumped to the floor. When he opened his eyes, he looked around at the two men. One wore a fedora much like his. He also had a sturdy jacket and pants resembling his. The other man had a bald head with a thick beard. He wore glasses and a conservative-looking tweed suit. No, it couldn’t be.
Just then, the door swung open and the remainder of the group peered inside. The scene also shocked them into silence.
Fred broke the silence. “Dr. Jones?” he said to the man who somewhat resembled a slightly older version of him.
“Dr. Jones,” the man responded.
“Dr. Jones?” the older man inquired to his partner.
“Dr. Jones,” the man responded, pointing at the man who flew into through their window.
“Dr. Jones?” Daphne queried, looking at the slightly older version of their group’s leader.
“Dr. Jones,” he nodded.
“Dr. Jones?” Shaggy looked quizzically at Fred, pointing to the eldest man in the room.
“Dr. Jones,” Fred’s head titled slightly up and down, in assent.
“Okay, okay, knock it off!” yelled Velma. “We get the idea.”
“I…uh…think…like introductions are in order,” said Shaggy, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Well, there’s Dr. Jones #1, which is really Professor Henry Jones, distinguished chair of archaeology at Barbera University,” Velma said, indicating the elderly bearded gentleman.
“Then there’s Dr. Jones #2,” she continued, sounding like the lecturer she was at Hanna College. “He’s Henry Jones Junior, also a professor of archaeology at Barbera University, but he’s only an
associate professor,” she said in a nasal tone. “He’s better known as….”
“Indiana Jones!” Daphne beamed. She glided over to the slightly older looking man who somewhat resembled Fred. “Did Fred get glass all over you?” she said, taking his arm and gently brushing it. “I’m a great admirer of your… exploits.”
Dr. Indiana Jones grinned back. “And you are…?”
“Daphne….Daphne Blake,” she said breathlessly. “Editor of the New York Chronicle.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet an exciting member of the media,” he said in a charming tone. “You don’t just cover the news… you make it!”
Daphne blushed then covered her mouth and giggled a little. “Why thank you…Dr. Jones” she said meaningfully. “Or can I just call you Indiana?”
“I’m Indy…to my friends…” he added.
“…AND DOCTOR JONES NUMBER THREE IS, OF COURSE, OUR OWN FRED JONES OF HANNA COLLEGE!” Velma intoned loudly, hoping to drown out Daphne’s possible response. The redhead frowned momentarily, but then returned her gaze to Indy’s eyes.
“Professor Dinkley,” Henry began. “I’ve cited several of your journal articles, but I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting you in person. He doffed his hat that he had just put back on over his bald head. The hat closely resembled her own.
Now it was Velma’s turn to blush and giggle. “Why, Professor Jones, it’s also good to see you too. I attended your conference presentation at last year’s AAAA meeting in Boston. It was very… inspiring.”
Fred suddenly became the impatient one. “Uh, guys, maybe we should get out of here before Biscia’s guards wake up and recapture everyone.
“Good idea,” Henry suggested. “We need to talk about mysterium as soon as possible.”
* * *
As the truck made its rapid descent down the mountain, Indiana began the discussion. “We arrived in Venice a few weeks ago and started investigating a library where a number of old Roman and early Christian texts are kept, researching the last known location of mysterium….”
“But the real answer lay beneath, in the crypts below the library floor,” Henry interrupted.
“Ooooh, a crypt,” Daphne shivered. “Sounds creepy and scary.” She snuggled up closer to Indiana, as if for protection. Fred snorted in disgust.
Dr. Henry Jones continued, ignoring Fred. “We were looking for information about a Roman General Publius, who allegedly found mysterium.”
“There’s no evidence that the Romans ever discovered mysterium,” corrected Velma.
“That’s because Publius never shared his findings with his superiors,” shot back Henry. “As soon as he discovered mysterium, he contacted the Roman Emperor Caesar Saladia, but must have had second thoughts. The Romans searched everywhere for him, threatening to crucify him as a traitor, but they never found him.”
After a pause, Fred asked “So what did you find in the crypts?”
“Saladia ordered Publius’ deputy Marivus to lead the search. We were investigating what he found. The written record said nothing, but a clue on his shield indicated that…..” Henry paused, after receiving a signal from his son.
“Like what?” said Shaggy in a cracking voice.
Henry whispered to Fred. “We know you, and I know of Velma, but how do we know the other two…” he gestured toward Daphne and Shaggy “…aren’t spying for the Italians?”
“Don’t worry,” Fred responded in a reassuring tone. “Both of them are on our side. They both helped us find the Mayan artifact and keep it from the Nazis in Mexico.”
Henry nodded. “My apologies Miss Blake, Mr. Rogers,” he said, raising his voice to a normal level. “It’s just that Junior and I have been betrayed by someone and we don’t know who.”
“Donovan suspects it is at least one of the three Italian agents working for the OSS,” Fred said in a confident tone. “We tend to agree with him. All three were acting strange the night we arrived in Venice. And two Italians tried to capture us near the docks.”
“We were lucky to escape,” Daphne said, her eyes rolled up at Indiana.
The famed archaeologist put his hand around her and gave her a reassuring hug. “Don’t worry baby,” he said. “We’ll find out who he is.”
Henry glanced over at his colleague. “Velma, any ideas about who the spy might be?”
“I’ve got a hunch,” Velma admitted. “But nothing definite. We plan to meet with the three in Venice and take the train to….where were you going to say that Publius was last seen?”
Henry chuckled. “Heh-heh, almost forgot that I didn’t tell you what was engraved on Marivus’ shield. I didn’t tell Antonio, Mario or Professor Solari either, which was why Biscia was holding us in Castle Tures.”
“Say, why didn’t Biscia turn you over to Mussolini’s authorities?” Fred said, then scratched his chin in contemplation.
It was Indiana’s turn to answer. “That’s because ‘Il Biscia’ or whatever he calls himself wants to discover the mysterium…and doesn’t want to share that little piece of information with Mussolini for some reason. That’s why he was keeping up away at Castle Tures...he was waiting to hire some torturer from Germany.”
Velma could hold her exasperation no longer. She exploded “BUT WHERE WAS PUBLIUS LAST SEEN?!”
Henry fixed her with a stern stare. “He was last reported in the area of what was once Macedonia, which is now part of Southern Yugoslavia today.”
* * *
“Are they away?” Biscia asked, staring out from one of the castle’s parapets.
“They just headed back down toward the mountains,” Graffanino observed, watching through a trap door once used to pour boiling liquid upon invaders.
“Good,” Biscia smiled. “You know, Agent Graffanino, I’m taking an awful risk.”
“You allowed them to escape without so much as a fight,” Graffanino wondered aloud. “Why?”
The Italian archaeologist hesitated, wondering if he should share all or some of his master plan with espionage agent. “Traditional measures of…
persuasion were not paying off. At the docks, I thought capturing and torturing the women might have changed their minds, but now I have a better plan. Rather than beat clues out of them, I will let them lead us to the mysterium. Then we will have them and the element,” he said triumphantly, but (in a manner Graffanino could not hear him, he added) “…and push Mussolini and Hitler aside in my bid to conquer the world.”
He considered his plan of deception, both for the Americans as well as Graffanino and his boss Mussolini. At that moment, a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli came to mind.
“For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are…”