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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 42: Brown 14
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Previous chapter: Chapter 41: Kondor 55
After dinner, they had what they called vespers, a half hour of talk about God and Jesus and the Bible, with a couple of songs to break it up. Derek hadn't realized that his new friends were religious; he didn't really know much about religion, except that it seemed to be about being good all the time and spending some of your free time in church. These people didn't seem like that at all, but actually seemed to enjoy their religion, in a quiet, personal way.
After vespers was the treasure hunt. Each cabin was to compete as a team; Derek stayed with David's group. A representative from each group went forward and drew a clue from a coffee can. Ralph was their representative. He was back in a moment.
"O.K., guys, ours are the blue clues. If you see a clue that isn't blue, don't touch it; it's for a different team."
"What does it say?" Michael asked.
"Give me a minute, I've got to get it open." And Ralph fumbled for a moment with the rubber band around the rolled slip of paper. "O.K., here it is. 'It may be quite pleasant to go for a swim, but check this location before you get in."
"That's easy," David said. "It's the lifeguard's chair."
"I thought it was the buddy board," Bob said.
"Well, whichever," Ralph said, "it's down at the beach. Let's go." And the eight of them took off like a shot.
A treasure hunt is in many ways like a race. You read the clue and attempt to determine what it means, and then you go to the place you think is intended in order to find the next clue, and search for the clue there. Once you find it, you repeat the process, until you have the clue that takes you to the end. The first group to finish and have all the clues is the winner. So there was no effort made to stay together; the faster boys ran on ahead, while the slower ones dragged behind and even walked. By the time Derek reached the waterfront, the clue had already been found (he didn't ask where), and they were waiting for Michael and Ralph to catch up. Soon all were together.
"You guys are going to have to move a bit faster," David said, "if we're going to win this."
"Read the clue," Michael said, and John unwrapped it.
"By morning and evening, and oft in between," he read, "no place is so peaceful, no place so serene."
"That's the chapel," Michael suggested.
Bob objected. "I would have said the boating lake. The chapel isn't very quiet when we have services there."
"And the boating lake isn't very quiet when people are boating in the afternoon," Pete countered.
"But it says morning and evening," Bob said, "and that's when the lake is quiet."
"Even the mess hall is quiet then," joked John. "But they've both got points."
David intervened. "Bob, no one knows that waterfront better than you. The chapel is a big place, so we'll go check there, and you run down to the boat dock and see if you can find it there. Let's go."
Without waiting for agreement, they took off in their own directions. Although he couldn't keep up, Derek followed David's group, in part because he hadn't been to the boat docks yet and didn't want to get lost. By the time he arrived, the group had scattered around the building, checking window sills, door frames, signposts, steps, and wherever else they could find. Someone's voice called, "I found the pink clue."
"Leave it alone," David answered. "Moving other people's clues is a rules violation. Anyway, I've already seen the yellow and the green. There's sure to be one for us here somewhere."
"I've got it," Bill called, and appeared from the shadows with a slip of paper.
"Does it say it's clue number three on the outside?" David asked. "If we misunderstood the clue, we could have found the wrong clue."
Bill looked for a moment. "Yes, it's number three," he said, and opened it. "A voice goes out for those who have ears to hear."
"That's silly," Pete said. "That should also be the chapel–unless they want us to go search the pulpit inside?"
"All the clues are supposed to be outside," Ralph answered, and everyone stood quietly for a moment, thinking.
John had an idea. "The maintenance guys, and the security people, and the nurse, and some of the administrators–they all have these little radios they use to keep in touch with each other. It's cheaper than cell phones."
"Right." David picked up the thought. "And there's a radio transmitter at the maintenance barn, with a tower right next to it so that it can reach people who are on the other side of the campground. That has to be it."
"What do we do about Bob?" John asked.
David again took charge. "Pete, you go get Bob, tell him where we're going, and catch up with us there." And with a nod of agreement, they again took off, each at his own speed, in different directions.
All this running was wearing Derek down. He came puffing into the area around the barn–this time he had started in a run, because the barn wasn't one of the places he knew; but by the time he was halfway there he could see the blinking light on top of the tower and slowed down, walking alone in the darkness. He wondered how these guys managed to run without stumbling over something unseen, but the game was fun, and he was really starting to enjoy it.
They were still searching when he reached them; they were still searching as the other stragglers arrived. They were still searching when David stopped. "It isn't here," he said.
"What do you mean, it isn't here? Where else could it be?"
"I don't know where it is, but it isn't here. Nobody else's clue is here either. If there were any clues here, we should have found at least one by now. We didn't get it right."
"So," John asked, "What does it mean? Read it again."
Bill fumbled with his flashlight, and unrolled the clue again. "A voice goes out for those who have ears to hear." And again they stood staring at each other under the moonlight.
"This might sound stupid," Ralph said, "but do you think it means the dinner bell?"
And they stood staring at each other again.
"Well, if it does, it's a pretty stupid clue," John said.
"Yeah," David agreed, "but it doesn't mean here, and I can't think of anywhere else it could be. I guess we should look there. Wait a minute. Where are Bob and Pete?"
Everyone looked around. "I haven't seen them since they left us," John answered, and everyone agreed.
Oh no, Derek thought, it's starting. He put the idea aside. Two guys got separated from the group in the dark, and for good reasons. Maybe Pete is still looking for Bob, and Bob is in the boathouse or something. It's too soon to panic.
"Alright," David said, "we'll go to the bell. Ralph, you head over to the waterfront and see if you can find them. But if you don't see them right away, meet us at the bell. Don't waste a lot of time looking for them, they might be wandering around looking for us." And again, everyone took off.
Derek knew where the bell was; it was under the flagpole, about a hundred feet from the mess hall, and he'd been there. He didn't hurry. By the time he reached the bell, the others had found the clue, and were waiting. As he approached, Ralph came running up, huffing and puffing from exertion.
"Day," he began, and stopped, trying to catch his breath. "David, you've got to come down to the waterfront. Bob's in the lake. I think he's drowned."
For about two seconds everyone stood frozen, as if Ralph was talking in some alien language. Then David dropped the clue he was holding, and ran down the hill toward the lake, the others following. Derek did his best to keep up, but by the time he could see the lake under the moonlight, David was already in the water pulling the body of his friend to the shore.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #89: Novel Confrontations. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: