Guest Art Courtesy of Mogodore J. Bivouac
Chapter Five: “Going Off The Rails On A Crazy Train”
The train slowly pulled away from the Venice station and lumbered toward the Yugoslav border. It had begun its journey in Paris and wound its way south through Milan. The final destination in Istanbul, however, was not guaranteed. After all, these were the days of World War II, and anything was uncertain in the troubled lands of East Europe.
|This concerned Dr. Fred Jones, who was interested in keeping a low profile for his friends and himself as the Balkans began to heat up. Yugoslavia had been a nominal Axis ally, but that had changed several days earlier when military officers overthrew the royal government and announced an end to the treaty binding them to Nazi Germany. While people generally seemed happy that their government had broken ties with Hitler, there was also a feeling of dread at what might happen to their country in retaliation.
The group moved through the crowded hallway to their assigned cabins. The cabin steward motioned for him, then handed him a telegram. Their fellow agents, Antonio
Malvolio, Mario Tomari and Professor Solari had taken sleeper cabins in the next train car, according to the message. He scrawled a few lines indicating a meeting in the dining car that evening and handed it to attendant, along with a few coins. The Italian railwayman smiled, then departed for the next car.
Art By GillianB
Inside the rapidly expanding sleeper cabin both Dr. Joneses and Shaggy Rogers had already chosen their beds. Fred chose the remaining bed and placed his suitcase on board. “Shaggy, let the girls and Scooby in the next cabin know that we’re meeting the agents in the dining car for dinner.” Shaggy nodded and ducked out the door
“Isn’t that a little dangerous, given that we know one of them is a spy?” Dr. Henry Jones said in a sarcastic tone.
“Dad… we need to figure out who the spy is,” Dr. Indiana Jones shot back.
“And I suppose you think it’s wise to tell them all our plans…Junior,” his father replied, the temperature in the cabin beginning to rise.
“If I can suggest a plan, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Jones,” Fred interjected. “If we discover who the spy is, we can mislead him, putting some space between us and
Biscia.” The others nodded and began to work on a strategy for deceiving the spy.
* * *
Meanwhile, after receiving the message from Shaggy, Velma and Daphne decided to do some investigation of their own on the train. In the bar car, they found two empty seats at the furthest end of the long table. As Velma received her drink, she felt an annoying tapping on her shoulder. Figuring it was Shaggy, she ignored the tapping until she heard an unfamiliar girl’s voice say “Hello,
She turned and was face to face with a bespectacled character who could have been her twin if it was not for the blonde hair. Her clothing even vaguely resembled Velma’s, especially in color. “I’m sorry, but you may not be familiar with the term
paisana. It means that you are also from my country.”
“I know what a paisana is,” replied Velma with a slightly exasperated demeanor. “And who the heck are you?”
“The name’s Verona Dempsey,” the girl replied confidently. “I’m a graduate student at Barbera University. I’m doing my dissertation on the mosaics of Hereclea in Macedonia. Today you can find Hereclea in Southern Yugoslavia.”
I know that the part of Macedonia where Hereclea can be found is in Southern Yugoslavia, Velma grumbled to herself. Why does she keep treating me like I’m ignorant?
Art By GillianB
“I’m Daphne Blake, and this is my friend Velma Dinkley,” the redhead offered cheerfully, breaking the momentary silence.
“You’re the Editor of the New York Chronicle… great paper,” said Verona in a manner that Daphne couldn’t tell if she was praising her paper or trashing it. “And you must be Dr. Velma
assistant professor of archaeology at Hanna College.” Velma winced when Verona emphasized the word “assistant.”
Verona continued. “I’ve read some of your research. Your last article in the American Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology was a little sloppy. First, you should have used a Most Different Systems Design, not a Most Similar Systems Design.”
“What?” Velma bellowed. Now the whole bar car seemed focused on their conversation.
“Second, your independent variable used Torino’s data to measure hunter-gatherer cultures,” Verona continued in a snide tone. “Are aware that Lightner’s research is more contemporary, has fewer missing cases, and avoids some of the flaws Torino made?”
“Well, the AJAA didn’t seem to have a problem accepting my article for publication, did it?” said Velma, leaving the bar to get to her feet, standing slightly taller than her academic opponent.
“Actually, I’ve replicated your results with the MDSD and Lightner’s data,” said Verona, rising to her feet, in a scene that resembled a Western gunfighter’s duel. “The proof of your flaws can be found in a research note in the next quarterly edition of the AJAA.” The crowd, despite their lack of knowledge of the subject, swung their eyes toward the brunette-haired archaeologist, expecting a rebuttal.
Art By GillianB
|“YOU WANT PROOF?” Velma yelled. “I GOT YOUR PROOF RIGHT HERE!” She clenched her fist and cocked it back. Daphne jumped from her seat and pinned her friend’s arm behind her back and whispered. “Not now, not here!”
“Lemme’ at her!” growled Velma. The crowd roared in approval. Daphne couldn’t understand their exact words, but it sounded like they wanted the two girls to fight.
“You’ll get us both discovered,” Daphne hissed. “This is fascist territory, not some academic conference!”
Velma shook her arm free from Daphne’s grip and stalked away. “You just wait until the next annual meeting of the AAAA. I’ll find some major flaws in your research note…and maybe your little dissertation too. You messed with the wrong archaeology
professor…paisana,” she snarled venomously.
“Conference paper rebuttal… real intimidating,” Verona quipped, but the two had already departed the bar car, Velma still loudly muttering to herself with Daphne pleading her friend not to reply.
* * *
As the train pulled briefly into Zagreb, a major city in the Croatian region of Yugoslavia, a figure dressed in a dark suit and hat boarded the second class sleeper and made his way down the railway corridor, rapping on doors and speaking to passengers in quiet tones. As Fred stepped out into the hallway, he caught sight of the dark-suited man and froze. It was Biscia himself. Just then, Biscia caught sight of him and headed toward the blond archaeologist. The Italian was too close to Fred from him to jump back into his cabin and head for the gun. Besides, Henry, Shaggy and Scooby inside would have been exposed to Biscia if he could not lock the door in time.
Instead, Fred bolted down the hallway with Biscia in close pursuit. As he reached the end of the car, he saw a small crowd of people waiting to move to the next train car. It was too late to force his way past the individuals. He was trapped.
“Good evening, Dr. Jones,” Biscia smiled broadly in triumph. It must be the last thing a bird sees before a snake strikes it, Fred thought lamely. I see how he gets his nickname.
“Move along back to the cabin you were staying at,” Biscia continued. “I would like to meet with your colleagues very much.”
The conductor came up behind Biscia and muttered something unintelligible.
“Hmmm?” Biscia replied, without much conviction, his eyes still boring in on Fred Jones.
“Tickets, please,” the conductor repeated, this time in English.
The change in language caught Biscia off-guard. He turned toward the conductor, only to come face-to-face with his archnemesis.
But Biscia never got to finish his sentence. The conductor picked up the dark-suited man, and hurled him through the nearest window. The man yelled out a cry of terror, then vanished.
All of the startled train passengers gaped open-mouthed at the conductor, their eyes demanding an explanation for his unorthodox move. The conductor paused for a second, and stated “Uh…no ticket.”
|Despite the presence of multiple nationalities on the train, the small crowd seemed to get the message. They were galvanized into action, furiously waving their tickets or fumbling frantically for their documents, to avoid the fate of the dark-suited man.
“Thanks Indy,” Fred chuckled. “Biscia almost had me there. How did you know what to do and where to get a conductor’s uniform?”
Dr. Indiana Jones grinned. “Let’s just say I’ve had some experience in this matter…on a zeppelin.”
* * *
As the group huddled for one last meeting before their dinner with the three Italian agents, Velma described their meeting with Verona. “Can you believe it, we met another American in the bar car. She said she was studying archaeology and was going to write some silly little dissertation on Hereclea…”
“What?” Henry bellowed so loudly that Velma jumped slightly. “What she blonde? Was her name Verona?”
“Uh…yeah,” said Velma in a slightly trembling voice, owed in part to Henry’s outburst. “She said her name was Verona Dempsey.”
Henry responded by slamming his hat on the floor. Indiana swore under his breath.
“Like, what’s going on?” quivered Shaggy.
“Her name’s not Dempsey,” Indiana responded. “It’s D’Antonini.”
“You mean…” Fred began. “Exactly,” Henry responded, reading his mind. “She’s Il Biscia’s daughter. She was taking classes at Barbera University to spy on us.”
“So she’s the spy?” Daphne inquired.
“She had no way of knowing what we were doing,” Henry responded, shaking his head. “We even took care to make sure she didn’t know we were leaving. One of our Italian agents must have tipped her off, and her father.”
Fred bit his lip. Velma crossed her arms defiantly. “I thought there was something evil about her. She criticized my research. Probably did some silly little replication just to spite me.”
“That means tonight’s meal is very important for determining who the spy is,” Henry said dramatically. “Not to get all biblical, but in this sort of circumstances, it may well end up being our last supper.”
* * *
As his shoulders drooped, more from stress than physical exertion, Fred thought that perhaps their best opportunity to uncover the spy had passed. The dinner came and went without incident. None of the verbal traps that Henry and Velma employed caught an agent in a lie. Even Daphne, ever the astute reporter, had whispered to Indiana that none of the three gave away any visual cues. And his own gut feeling, which he trusted most of all, was telling him nothing. He resigned himself to his planned nighttime conference, where their group would discuss breaking all ties with the agents, though this would surely raise the suspicion of the true spy. But there were no good options.
The car attendant with Mediterranean features bounded toward the archaeologist and handed him an envelope. Fred waited until the man turned his back to open it. It was a hastily written note from Professor Solari, asking him to meet in his nearby sleeper car in ten minutes. Suddenly, worries about desperate plans seemed distant memories. Perhaps Professor Solari had figured out that a spy was in their midst and wanted to reveal his identity. It seemed like a good bet. Fred glanced out the window at the high snow-capped Yugoslav mountains, but his mind was focused on the upcoming meeting.
After dawdling the requisite number of minutes, Fred made his way to the next sleeper car. He had to reluctantly slow his pace, but it was too difficult to contain his excitement. Not only were they hot on the trail of mysterium, but they were likely to eliminate one of their key threats to reaching their goal.
As Fred entered the car, a gunshot rang out. He saw the old man grasping the door handle, while his other hand unsuccessfully flailed around for something to help him stay upright. Professor Solari then crashed to the floor of the car and rolled to his side and did not move.
||Fred rushed toward the man’s side as both Mario and Antonio stepped out of cabins flanking Professor Solari’s door. Fred drew his gun, but no one else appeared in the hallway. He whirled upon the other two agents. “Who did this? What did you see?” he demanded.
Mario was the first to speak. “I just was coming out of my cabin when I saw Professor Solari locking his cabin door. A shot rang out in the hallway, and I ducked to his side. I never saw the shooter.”
Antonio did not wait to be addressed by Fred. “I didn’t see the shooter either. I had just opened my door when I heard the shot. I ducked back inside momentarily. Then I heard someone hit the floor, and I peered out to see who it was. It was our mentor Professor
Solari gasped slightly and Fred looked down, relieved. The Italian professor might make it, but he was in no shape to give answers. By now, two attendants, a conductor and a uniformed man who appeared to be a railway policeman raced down the hallway toward the badly wounded man. The conductor yelled one the attendant to retrieve a doctor from the first class sleeper car, then helped assisted the other attendant in carrying Solari in the direction of the other sleeper car. Meanwhile, the railway policeman took statements from all three, then moved up and down, interviewing other passengers who had stepped into the hallway to get a look at what happened. Antonio and Mario hurried toward the direction where the railway officials took Professor Solari.
As the railway policeman dismissed him, Fred gritted his teeth. On one hand, a suspect had been eliminated, narrowing the likely suspects to one of two. On the other hand, whoever the spy was became more dangerous by shooting a fellow agent. Was it Antonio, or was it Mario? Furthermore, Fred remembered Solari’s message to meet him. They might have learned the spy’s identity had the shooting not occurred. But was Solari going to reveal the spy? What if he himself were the spy, implausible as it may seem? Fred was no closer to the truth than he was when dinner ended, he had to admit to himself.
* * *
|“What’s wrong, Fred?” inquired Daphne, catching Fred’s pained expression as he entered the sleeper cabin that served as their meeting place.
“Professor Solari,” Fred gasped. “He’s…he’s been shot!”
“My word!” exclaimed Henry.
“Who did it?” said Indiana Jones in a cold tone that gave nearby Daphne the chills.
“I don’t know,” Fred revealed. “I got a message from Solari to meet him after dinner, but I never got the chance. As soon as I got to the hallway, a shot rang out and Solari collapsed.” Fred went on to describe the details of the events and the conversations.
“Poor guy,” Daphne moaned. “Is he going to be okay?”
Art By Thartman
“Some conductors and attendants took him to a first class sleeper where a doctor is staying,” said Fred, sounding a little more optimistic.
“I’ll go check on him…c’mon Shaggy” Velma said.
The others waited for ten minutes for Velma and Shaggy to return. The door opened and only Velma entered the room. “I left Shaggy with Professor Solari. He needs to be keeping an eye on Antonio and Mario to make sure the spy doesn’t finish the job.”
“Are they suspects?” queried Daphne.
Fred repeated what the two other agents told him. He described the relatively dark hallway and the actions of other passengers. Velma began to nod, somewhat knowingly.
“So it’s down to Mario and Antonio as our suspects…” Indiana began.
“How do you know it wasn’t Professor Solari himself as the spy, and someone shooting him for it?” Henry offered.
“No, the two other agents were the only ones in the hallway that could have done it,” contended Fred. “Besides, no one else had a motive to do it.”
Velma provided a triumphant smile. “And, because I know who the real spy is now.”
The group paused and stared up at her, allowing her to begin.
“Fred, Daphne, do you remember when we first met the three agents in Venice. One complained about how late we were,” she asked.
“Yeah,” Fred answered. “But what was so significant about that?”
Italians are famously late for everything,” Velma lectured. “Italian trains are notoriously late for everything. That’s what separated Mussolini from everyone else. As a fascist, he felt it was his job to make the trains run on time…”
“That’s pretty thin evidence Dr. Dinkley,” Dr. Henry Jones scolded her.
“It was just a hunch,” Velma admitted. “But it made me keep an extra eye on our spy suspect. Our second clue came when I went with Shaggy to the sleeper car to check on Professor Solari. I saw Verona holding our suspect’s hand.”
“Who?!” demanded Fred in a booming voice.
“In due time, my dear Fred,” responded Velma, without missing a beat. “I reasoned that Verona’s action with our suspect might be coincidence. But there was another clue. As they always say, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is….”
“Just give his identity!” roared Indiana.
“All right Dr. Jones,” said Velma, her eyes narrowing. The third clue came from Fred when he gave the statements of our two suspects. One of them was lying. Think about it Fred.”
“But none of them said anything incriminating!” insisted Fred. “They both gave safe answers.”
“One lied,” Velma continued. “One of them planned his ambush, then gave it away in his response to your question.”
The momentary silence was broken as Daphne changed her expression. “You mean, our suspect was watching Professor Solari and waited to make his move?”
Fred slapped his forehead. “I get it! Why didn’t I see it before? How could Mario have known that Professor Solari was locking or unlocking his door unless he had been watching him for some time?”
“Tomari’s gonna die for this,” said Indiana in a low voice. “He’s a threat to all of us now.”
Henry shook his head. “Junior, we’ve got to use the spy to misdirect our enemies,” he said in a wise voice. “Fred’s original idea was a good one.”
“But who are we going to get to convince Mario to lead Biscia in the wrong direction?” Indiana retorted, then stopped himself. He glanced down at the pretty redhead, who was holding his arm and gazing into his eyes with hero worship. With her, it would almost be too easy. “Uh…Daphne, will you do something for me?” he asked, knowing by her expression that she would.
* * *
Mario stood over the fallen Professor Solari. He had not died, as the assassin had hoped he would. But it would be days before Solari could talk again, if ever. By then, the mysterium would be in Biscia’s hands. In fact, he would have probably suffocated the old man with a pillow had Antonio, and then Shaggy not been present. He considered killing the pair, but then his cover would be blown and he would never tell Biscia or his daughter where the older men had learned of the mysterium location. That was why his mentor allowed them to escape from the Castello di Tures; torture, threats and imprisonment didn’t seem to be doing any good.
Instead, he would bide his time. The professor would be taken to a hospital at the next stop. He, Mario, would remain close to the group. As soon as he learned the location, he would contact Biscia, who was probably following at a short distance, maybe on another train. Then they would move in for the kill and take the mysterium for themselves. The plan was foolproof.
Just then, the door to the sleeper compartment opened up and Daphne stood there in a purple robe. “Hey Shaggy,” she beamed cheerily. “I’m here to take over your shift so that you can get some dessert.”
The goateed graduate student did not hesitate to leave, but bounded out the door. “And Professor Henry Jones wants to speak to you, Antonio,” she added.
Antonio made a slight bow, then followed Shaggy out the door, albeit at a slower pace. Daphne turned to look at Mario, who could not take his eyes off her. “Are we alone?” she asked coyly. “He’s not going to wake anytime soon, is he?” she said, indicating the wounded man.
Art by Mogodore J. Bivouac
|Mario shook his head. Even though he was Verona’s
man, he had a hard time keeping his eyes off Daphne. Perhaps he had
a weakness for redheads. Anyway, it did not matter. Here they were
alone and she seemed to be flirting with him. He thought of Verona,
then reasoned that he, as a man, was entitled to whatever he wished
at the time. Besides, Verona was unlikely to find out about this
Daphne shifted her posture to get closer to Mario. “I had to send
away Antonio for two reasons, Mario. Care to play a little guessing
game to find out why?”
Despite the cold temperatures outside, Mario’s forehead became
thick with perspiration. “Uh…because, you wanted to get…uh…closer
to me?” he said, more out of hope than with any sort of
“Yes, that’s one reason,” Daphne purred, swinging her legs
almost absent-mindedly. “But can a smart guy like you figure me
out on the other one?”
Mario racked his brain for any reason at all. Wasn’t the first one good enough, his mind whined. Nothing could come to mind. He found it impossible to concentrate with her giving him that smile.
“Uh …. I give up,” Mario admitted in desperation.
Daphne glanced at the door once in a furtive manner, then leaned in as if to nibble on his earlobe. Instead, she whispered “We think Antonio is a spy.”
The news (and whispering in his ear, for that matter) had an electrifying effect on him. His babbling nearly gave him away, but he maintained just enough self-control to manage a “There’s…uh…a spy among us? You mean it’s Antonio?”
Daphne lowered her head and rolled her eyes up at him, and gave a quick set of nods. “Fred thinks he shot the professor.”
Mario was so worried about being discovered as the assassin that he hadn’t considered framing Antonio. Boy, he was getting lucky this evening. “Since it wasn’t… uh… me, it has to be Antonio.”
Daphne batted her eyelashes at the Italian. “I believe every word you’ve said. She began to undo the tie to her robe. “Since you’re on our side, want to know where we are headed next?”
Mario’s head bobbled up and down enthusiastically.
Daphne twirled her long red hair around her finger. “Good. We plan to slip off the train in some place called Belgrade, then head down toward this pretty little town called Dub…dubro…”
“Yeah, that sounded like the place Dr. Jones talked about. I mean the old guy.” Daphne stopped idly twirling her hair and now tossed it back.
Now Mario was left with a terrible dilemma. On one hand, he was living out a fantasy he had held since meeting the group earlier in Venice. On the other hand, this was exactly what Biscia needed to hear…and fast. He could dally with Daphne, but who knew what Biscia would do if he learned that his spy had valuable information and delayed sharing it…even for an hour. As mad as Verona would be if she found out he was having an affair, it would be worse to learn that he had not told her where the mysterium could be found.
“Uh…Daphne… could I get back to you in… just a few minutes?” he begged.
“Sure!” she giggled. “I’ll save you this spot. Now don’t take too long”
He wouldn’t take too long. He sprang from the cabin and ran across the length of the first class sleeper car to the second class sleeper car. He looked down the hallway, then sped down to the cabin he shared with Verona. He pulled open the door rapidly. Verona glanced up from a book about the Roman Empire in Eastern Europe. “Yes?”
“I found where the group of American agents is going, Verona!”
Verona put down her book and gazed eagerly for his anticipated reply. “Where are they going, Mario?”
Verona frowned. Publius had spent some time on the Dalmatian coast, but she was confident he was closer to Macedonia, based upon her research. “You’re absolutely positive?” she said slowly. Mario nodded eagerly.
“Well, I’ll go send the telegram to my father,” she sighed. “Coming to bed?”
“Uh, no, sorry Verona, but I have to… guard Professor Solari, so he doesn’t blow my cover should he wake up,” insisted Mario.
Verona regarded him suspiciously. He sure seemed to get back to the other sleeper car in a rush. She wondered if it really was guard duty that had him hurrying back. But there wasn’t time to dwell on Mario’s rapid retreat. Her father had to know where to send the troops to take the land this time. She quickly scribbled a note which sounded innocent enough to anyone else who read it, but her father would know exactly what each word would mean. The coastal city on the Adriatic was about to receive some unexpected guests, courtesy of several handpicked detachments of Mussolini’s army. Then she stepped out into the hallway and motioned for the attendant.
Meanwhile, Mario ran back rapidly down the hallway and back into the first class sleeper car. He pulled the door open quickly and announced “I’m back now Da-”
His mouth moved, but no sound came out. On the seat where Daphne had been minutes before sat Fred Jones, smiling confidently. “Hello Mario! Oh, I had to send Daphne back to our cabin to discuss our travel plans with Indiana Jones. Want to play a game of 21 while we watch over Professor Solari?” He handed a deck of cards to Mario, whose disappointment was incredibly obvious.
* * *
Far from the speeding train, the man known by enemies as Il Biscia swore under his breath. He staggered from the railway tracks toward the FIAT 508 field car driven by two Italian military personnel and commanded by Graffanino. Though every bone in his body felt broken, he soldiered on. He would receive medical attention, then vent his merciless fury upon the Americans. They had made a huge mistake by not killing him, Biscia mused. As Machiavelli once wrote
“If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared…”