By Jaguaro 

Chapter One: The Discrete Meet Turns Up The Heat

Fred Jones surveyed the large classroom before him and his heart sank. The room, which seemed as large as a theater, was barely half full. Many of the students were catching a nap while others gazed longing out the window at the Spring sun, grass and early sunbathers. Those looking in his general direction had the familiar glassy-eyed expression that resembled a recently deceased fish from the market.

“As I was saying, when Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon chose to examine the fourth antechamber of the tomb of King Tut….” Now, he was even boring himself, trotting out the well-worn lecture which hadn’t changed in years, the result of little preparation time. He longed for the next few weeks to fly by so he could go back to “fieldwork.” Now that’s when the job got exciting. Four months of what his critics called “tomb raiding” got his blood flowing. He just wished the other eight months didn’t involve the torture of teaching Introduction to Archaeology, grading hundreds of tests and papers, and attending boring departmental meetings.

Still, he had to make some effort before the whole class slumbered. “Actually, in the next antechamber, they found something really shocking. An insect bit Lord Carnarvon. You have to admit, it was pretty strange to have an insect locked in that antechamber.”

A few eyes had swung from the window to him, yet began to slink back to their daydreams. Many had signed up for his course based on his fame for globe-trotting exploits. But many found the dashing figure in the field was a disappointment at the podium, Fred glumly noted.


“That insect killed Lord Carnarvon,” Jones continued. “He became another victim of the curse of King Tut. In fact, dozens of those expedition members lost their lives under mysterious circumstances, making people believe the treasure was really haunted!”
His evil sounding laughter did win the majority of minds a few seconds of attention, but he sensed their interest waning. Normally, curses, temples and even mummies made his students cringe, but there were more realistic monsters to be concerned about. The year was 1940. Adolph Hitler and his Nazi army ravaged East Europe, knocked France out of the war, and threatened Great Britain’s very existence. Scary ghost stories didn’t compare to what a real-life German army seemed capable of.
“Anyway, Carter and his team pressed on to…” he paused. A girl in the front winked at him. He could be seeing things, but it looked like there was something written on her eyelids. “Where was I…..oh, yes, down a narrow corridor to the mortu…” She blinked again. Now he saw it distinctly said “Love You” on the eyelids. She grinned. That Sharon Wetherby threw him off again. He couldn’t even remember what chamber he was talking about. As Sharon batted her eyes at him, he forgot whose tomb he was talking about.

A tall, gangly student with light brown hair and a goatee broke the spell as he entered the classroom. “Dr. Jones,” he stammered nervously, as though his voice was cracking with the fear of disrupting the famed archaeologist. “Professor Hyde-White and several visitors are here to see you now.”

Those students who had fallen asleep began to stir while the window gazers shifted their attention to the unique intrusion. “Mr. Rogers,” Fred began. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of an important lecture? Have them wait in the conference room until I’m finished here.”

“Sorry, Dr. Jones, but, man, this is really important,” said the tall, thin student. “These guys are, like, from Washington.”
Now even the most jaded students had their eyes riveted upon their teacher. Sharon’s eyes gazed up in hero worship. Fred felt his face growing a red tint. “That’ll be all for now, Mr. Rogers. Go tell them I’ll be there in a minute while I gather my materials.” He picked up his books, maps, and briefcase while his students stared at him with a stunned expression. “Class is dismissed for today. I want everyone to finish Carter’s book The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen. Your papers on his methods are due next week, so I suggest you use this extra time to get started on this assignment.” A few jotted these details in their assignment books, while most stared with their mouths open as he passed along the left aisle and out the classroom door.

As he strode into Hanna College’s main conference room, he shook the hand of his English colleague, Professor Hyde-White. But beyond his mustachioed faculty friend, he spotted a man who made his jaw drop. Perhaps the student who summoned him was right to be nervous.

“I’m so pleased you could join us on short notice, Dr. Jones,” said Professor Hyde-White. “May I introduce your guests? This is Captain Treesdale, Colonel Henry Thorwald, and…”

“Wow – Major General ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan” Fred found himself saying, resembling the same hero worship Sharon had shown him minutes earlier.

“I see you know America’s new leader of the Office for Special Services,” said Hyde-White, unruffled by his colleague’s rude introduction. “I trust you also know Professor Velma Dinkley from your department.” He gestured toward a short pretty brunette woman wearing glasses an orange turtleneck sweater and red skirt next to one of the officers.

Some of Fred’s enthusiasm went down a notch. He had hoped to have the glory of the special visitors all to himself. Of all the archaeology faculty to be at this meeting, he wanted Velma there the least. It had nothing to do with her being the only woman in the department. It was that she was such a know-it-all. Her intelligence did generate fear and jealousy among her fellow professors. Now he was concerned that her vast knowledge would easily upstage him at this conference. He mustered a neutral “Hello, Dr. Dinkley” to his colleague.

Velma evaluated her fellow Hanna College professor. Her excitement about the special visit was diminished by the presence of Dr. Jones. He was all action and no academia. While she churned out books and journal articles, he was out robbing some ancient culture’s burial site of its precious artifacts so they could be displayed in museums for wealthy Americans. The man never even did research….he often “borrowed” some other tomb raider’s map and swiped a precious object without understanding anything about history, context, local sentiments, or the symbolic implications of the piece for its culture. She managed a “Hello, Dr. Jones.”
“Now that everyone’s been introduced, let’s get down to business,” said General Donovan. “Time is precious.”

Fred and Velma separately wondered what the OSS director could want from them. Archaeology typically had little to do with espionage and intelligence work.

“Last week, one of our operatives intercepted a secret communiqué from the French city of Vichy to Berlin,” Colonel Thorwald began. “The message reads ‘Quest for Mayan Artifact Continues Stop Request Extraction Team Stop Look Forward To Glorious Future Stop.’” Thorwald pulled his reading glasses from his face and rubbed his eyes. “We lost a good man getting that message to Washington,” he said, sadly.

“Do you have any idea what it could mean?” Captain Treesdale impatiently broke in, earning him a reproachful stare from his superiors.

“I have a hunch,” said Velma, hooking her finger over her lip. Fred secretly sighed in relief. He had no clue what the significance of the message was.

“Legend has it that the Mayans had an artifact that helped their civilization last as long as it did,” Velma continued. “No one knows the details of this item. It could be an amulet, a necklace, a spear, or something else. But anthropologists believe that whoever possessed it developed an incredible amount of courage in battle. Scholars believe that this item helped an outnumbered band of Mayan warriors crush the entire Bigmec army, giving them supremacy over the Yucatan.”

Wow, Fred thought to himself. For a woman, she sure knows a lot about the ancient Mayans. Whatever the item was might be a cool thing to display in New York. It might also generate a small fortune from the donors.

“Why did the Mayan civilization collapse if they possessed this object?” inquired Colonel Thorwald. He sounded skeptical.
“Most anthropologists theorize that the Mayans lost the item, which led to an erosion of their strength,” Velma replied confidently. “In fact, their descendants still live in the area today, but are a relatively powerless group. Spanish Conquistador Juan Carlos learned of the legend during Cortes’ invasion of Mexico, and put it in his diary, which is widely circulated among Latin American historians.”

“So why don’t more people know about this…thing?” asked Captain Treesdale, sounding more interested in Velma’s impromptu lesson.

“Well, for one thing, the account was mistranslated until recently,” Velma noted, nearly blushing with the rapt attention shown her by the male audience. “A Frenchman recently purchased the original Carlos diaries and had them reanalyzed. I only know this from a conference paper delivered at Harvard last year by one of his associates.

“Who might this Frenchman be?” asked Colonel Thorwald.

“His name is…” Velma began, but she was cut off by a red-faced Fred Jones. “Paul Darnand,” he spat, as if he had a bitter dose of medicine in his mouth.

“How do you know Dr. Darnand?” asked the female professor, upset at her colleague’s interruption and tone.”

“He’s a…well, competitor in my line of work” said Fred Jones. “Just beat me out in the race to acquire the scepter of Agamemnon and the crown of Persian King Darius. The guy is always one step ahead of me. He’s totally ruthless when it comes to getting what he wants. The guy watched hundreds of Arab diggers die in the hot sun just because he refused to abandon the quest for something called the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls.’”

Velma gasped. Although she never met Paul Darnand, she was familiar with his writings and research. Once she thought of him as an enlightened wealthy man who devoted his riches to the cause of archaeology. Now he was just a grubby tomb raider like the blond man across the table. Only she was sure that for all his faults, Dr. Jones never killed anyone. 

Captain Treesdale’s and Colonel Thorwald’s expressions brightened. “Well, it seems we came to the right place to learn about this mysterious telegram,” said Thorwald. Then his expression changed as he caught the look from his superior.

Professor Hyde-White noticed it as well. “General Donovan, is there some problem?” the man from England inquired.
“Wild Bill” Donovan bit his lip. “Darnand is an ultra-nationalist,” he said slowly. “We were afraid he would join the Nazi collaborators in the Vichy French government. Now it looks like he’s going to use his talents in the service of the Third Reich. And he might get something for ‘Der Fuhrer’ that could give Hitler an advantage if he ever wanted to fight us.”

Fred and Velma exchanged nervous glances. If it was one thing they could agree upon in faculty discussions, it was their revulsion of Hitler.

“We obviously have to beat Darnand to this Mayan artifact, if we want to preserve the free world,” Hyde-White insisted. Nobody had to remind him that his country was locked in a desperate battle for survival against the Nazi bombers.
“I agree,” Donovan said. “What we need is a team of archaeologists to go to Mexico, and ….”

Donovan stopped abruptly as a figure stepped out from behind a screen off to the side in the room. Fred gawked at the presence of a pretty redhead in a purple jacket and skirt.

“Who are you?” Donovan half-roared, half-gawked. “How did you get in here?”

“Daphne Blake, ace reporter, New York Chronicle” the redhead beamed with a confident smile. “And I just got my best scoop of the month. Mayan artifacts, government espionage, foreign plots, Nazi intrigue…”

Donovan bellowed with rage. “You try and write one single word of this meeting and I’ll have you muzzled….”
“I think not,” Daphne shot back. “My uncle is the publisher of the New York Chronicle, and he’ll give me the front page.”
“The Justice Department will have something to say about that,” Donovan countered, desperate not to lose the advantage to the perky reporter.

“I’m sure with all of the campaign contributions my daddy’s making to Mr. Roosevelt, the Attorney General won’t make a peep,” said the redhead, throwing a smirk at the OSS Director.

Their eyes continued to blaze at each other for a few seconds, then Donovan slowly eased back into his chair. Outfoxed by a journalist, he thought with dismay. “What do you want, you little muckraker?”

“I’ll hold off on writing this story for now….provided that I get to be on the team that locates the Mayan artifact,” she said, as if she had planned it hours ago. “And I want an exclusive with you after we find it.”

“Out of the question,” Treesdale barked.

“Stow it, Captain” Donovan muttered to his subordinate. At least he could still tell some people what to do. “We need several members on this team. Clearly Dr. Jones has the field experience while Dr. Dinkley is the foremost expert on this subject.” But he still had one final bullet in his gun for the reporter. “Is there anything useful you can do, other than type and stick your pretty little nose in other people’s business?”

“As a matter of fact, I can provide the transportation,” Daphne responded, biting back an indignant snarl. “You know that all commercial traffic might be watched, but daddy owns a Lockheed Vega. And I can fly it.”

Fred whistled in wonder. Not only was she beautiful but… “you’re an aviator?”

“An aviatrix,” she beamed back at the handsome blonde at the table. She eyed him up and down. He looked a little geeky with the vest and tweed coat, but with a change of scenery, a thin white cotton shirt over those rippling muscles… Velma rolled her eyes.
Donovan began retracting his claws from the debate with Daphne. A smile crossed his face. “It seems we’ve killed two problems – aerial transportation and a pilot – with one bird.” He looked to Fred and Velma. “Can you name anyone else who should be on this team?”

Fred shook his head. He preferred to work alone, although the presence of two attractive women in a hot, steamy jungle wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Velma piped up. “Might I suggest my graduate assistant, Norville Rogers?”

Fred winced. The gangly student who had summoned him earlier didn’t seem like the type suited for such dangerous work.
Donovan sensed Fred’s unease. “In what way would he help the team?”
“Mr. Rogers has an amazing knowledge of Spanish, as well as the Mayan dialect,” Velma said, after a moment’s hesitation. “He knows the Yucatan like the back of his hand. We’ll blend, even disappear. With his help, Darnand and the Nazis will never know we’re there.”

Professor Hyde-White clapped his hands with delight. “Bravo! Hanna College will be well-represented in the quest to save mankind from Hitler’s evil. Mr. Wickles, the museum curator, can cover both of your classes, Dr. Jones and Dr. Dinkley.”
Fred stood up. “I think I speak for the team, General Donovan, when I say you can count on us.”

“That’s good to hear, son,” said the American intelligence director, rising to clap a large hand on the famed archaeologist’s shoulder. “Because what little is left of the free world is counting on you.”

That evening, as Fred turned to pack, he heard a familiar knock that resembled the old “shave and a haircut routine.” He did not even have to push back the blinds to see who it was. “Professor Hyde-White, I presume?”

“Excellent show!” the Professor beamed as he strode into his colleague’s home. “Not only will we have two of Hanna College’s finest faculty helping on a mission to save the world, but it could open up some lucrative connections with the government.”
Fred curtly nodded, still focusing on his packing. “Something trouble you, old boy?” the Englishman asked with piqued interest.

The famed archaeologist chose his words carefully. “I’m just not comfortable working with a team.”

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Hyde-White said shaking his head. “Miss Velma’s knowledge on the subject is incredible, and will undoubtedly help the mission. Miss Daphne is an accomplished flier who can get you there without notice from some certain Europeans (and shower the college with publicity, Fred thought). And I’m sure Mr. Rogers’ knowledge of the language and local color will be of assistance.”

“I know, but…oh what’s the use. Donovan has spoken,” Fred said in a resigned tone.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you to be careful, Dr. Jones” Hyde-White responded, changing the subject. “The Nazis are ruthless and will stop at nothing to use the Mayan artifact to achieve world domination.”

“Of course not,” Fred said with a grim voice, picking up a revolver and tossing it into his suitcase. “Besides, you know what a… cautious fellow I am.”

Will Fred find the Mayan Artifact?
Will Velma earn Fred’s respect?
Will Daphne get her big story?
Will Paul Darnand foul up their plans?
Will Shaggy and Scooby get a spinach taco?


Find out in Chapter Two,  Now on-line!


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