This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Parker Sheaffer, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
© 2012 Parker Sheaffer
The Mystery of the Indian Mound
"What famous English privateer was instrumental in defeating the Spanish Armada?" asked the man on the television.
"Sir Walter Raleigh," said Noah.
"Sir Francis Drake," Adam said smugly.
"And the answer is... Sir Francis Drake. Lincoln High gets the points," the TV host said. "Now who can tell me what tribe Sacagawea belonged to?"
"Cherokee," shouted Noah.
"Shoshone," said Adam with a smile.
"And the answer is... Shoshone. Lincoln High gets the points again. Now, our next question is who was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys?"
"Ethan Allen," both boys answered at the same time.
"And the answer is... Ethan Allen."
"Thank goodness," said Noah. "It's about time I got something right. I hate when they do history on this show. And just how is it you know so much, mister? Your grades aren't that much better than mine in history class."
Adam shrugged and grinned with false modesty. He said, "Just naturally smart I guess. You should remember that I made a higher grade than you on that last test."
"Yeah, ninety-two to my ninety, that's all."
It was Saturday morning and Noah Osgood and his best friend, Adam Turner, were piled up on the sofa at Noah's house watching a quiz show for kids. It had become their regular routine to watch the show before heading outside to play. Even though the boys were best friends that didn't prevent them from sharing a bit of rivalry when it came to contests. It was all in fun.
After the show was over they headed for the kitchen.
"Mom," said Noah, "We're going to make a sandwich and ride over to the park to eat it."
She patted Adam on the cheek and said, "Hi there, Adam. Alright, boys. Just clean up after yourselves. I've got this house looking nice and I want it to stay this way, at least until Mitch gets here."
"Who's Mitch?" Adam asked.
"Mom's got a new boyfriend. He makes intellectual movies," Noah said, rolling his eyes.
"He makes documentaries, Adam. Mitch is a talented filmmaker and a very nice man," Mrs. Osgood told him. "Noah actually likes him, even though he's too cool to admit it."
"He's okay, I guess. Better than that last guy you dated. You know, Melvin, the car salesman."
Noah's father had been killed in an auto accident a few years earlier and Noah missed him every day. His nine year old brother, Artie, barely remembered their dad but Noah found constant reminders of him all over the house. His mom hesitated a long time before trying to date anyone again because she was afraid that Noah and Artie would be upset, but Artie didn't care and Noah loved his mother enough that he wanted her to be happy. Both boys held out one warning however, and that was that she not date any nerds or dorks.
Mitch was only the third man she had gone out with and while he wasn't exactly cool he seemed to be alright. The boys decided to give him a chance.
Oddly, not having a father was one of the things that Noah and Adam had in common and one reason they became friends back in the first grade. Adam's dad had left them when Adam was a baby so he never knew the man at all. It was just Adam and his mother and her mother, struggling along together in a small house.
They were not very well off but recently his mom had gotten a promotion at the factory and now they had a little more money and could afford a few luxuries like new sneakers, a better car and satellite television.
Noah didn't care how much money his friend had. He thought Adam was about the best person in the world, not to mention the most handsome.
Artie walked in from the backyard and asked, "What are you guys doing?"
Noah told him, "We're making a sandwich to take to the park. Want to come with us?"
"Really? I can come too?"
"Sure. Grab the mayo from the fridge and tell me how much you want on your sandwich," Noah said.
His mother smiled warmly at him. She knew it was a rare boy who was so kind to his younger brother.
The three of them rode around the small lake in the park and parked their bikes on the dock. Sitting with their legs dangling over the edge they enjoyed their lunch and sipped their sodas while they talked about boy things and soaked up the sunshine.
Hearing footsteps on the wooden boards behind them they turned and saw Seth and Ruben, two boys from school, coming toward them with a heavily laden plastic bag from the corner grocery store.
"You guys want some candy bars?" called out Ruben. "'Cause we got plenty."
They began to hand over fistfuls of Snickers and Butterfinger and Milky Way candy bars. Artie and Adam each took a couple.
"Wow," said Artie. "Thanks."
"Where did you get these?" Noah asked.
"We ripped them off from the grocery store," Seth bragged proudly. "I knocked over some bottles in the back and when the clerk went to see what the noise was about, Ruben filled the sack and ran out the door. Pretty smart, huh?"
"It doesn't sound smart to me. You could have gotten in a lot of trouble. We
don't want any stolen candy bars, thank you."
Adam agreed and handed back the two Snickers bars. Artie looked disappointed but also gave back his.
Seth sneered, "You guys are too good to take a freebie? What a bunch of chicken shits. Guess you've never shoplifted anything have you?"
Noah said, "That's right, we've never stolen anything. Stealing is wrong."
"Yeah? Well, you'd better not snitch on us or we'll give you a pounding," Seth warned them.
Adam glared at him fiercely and told the thieves, "Why don't you go play somewhere else. You're bothering us."
Seth and Ruben left, still shoveling chocolate into their mouths.
"What a couple of jerks," said Noah.
"Yeah, what dummies," Adam agreed.
Artie asked, "Are you going to tell on them?"
"I should, but I guess I won't this time. They'll probably get caught soon if they keep it up," Noah replied.
After a happy afternoon spent riding around in the fresh air the boys headed home for dinner.
Noah invited Adam to join them but he declined. Noah's mom had their home looking really nice and she advised them to tread carefully and avoid any messes. Mitch was due any time.
When the doorbell rang it was Artie who let Mitch in and the four of them sat in the living room to chat a little while the roast finished.
Mitch was a tall man, about forty years old with short, black hair and glasses. He had a slightly prominent nose but other than that he was nice looking and friendly. He talked about his latest project, a film about the history of Native Americans in their area.
"They are opening up that Indian mound out on Route four, over by Fort Williams. They said they are finding a lot of intact artifacts and I get to be there to record their finds and film their digging methods. It's pretty fascinating, really."
Artie asked, "What's an Indian mound?"
Mitch explained, "It's a large mound of dirt made a long time ago by the native people who lived all across this country. There are hundreds of them still in existence but many more have been destroyed by time or by people. Some were for religious rituals, things we will never know about, and some were made as a base for wooden buildings. Some of them were burial mounds, like this one. A lot of times they cremated their dead and buried them in the mound, but they also interred some bodies intact. Like the Pharaohs of Egypt, their dead were often buried with objects like weapons and food."
He asked the boys if they would like to go out and see it up close. They both were excited by the idea so it was agreed that they would make a little field trip the next afternoon.
"Can Adam come with us?" Noah asked.
"Of course he can," Mitch said with a smile.
After church the next day Mitch picked the boys up in his SUV and they drove the fifteen miles out to Fort Williams, a historical site from the 1700's. There were three vehicles in the parking lot, a pickup truck belonging to the caretaker and two cars that belonged to tourists who had come to see the fort.
There were some small stone buildings and a newer brick building sitting among the remains of some raised earth barriers that at one time had held a log palisade. There had once been wooden structures on the site, but they had rotted away from neglect a long time ago.
The boys had visited the fort before on a previous field trip with their Scout troop and had seen the officers' living quarters and the armory. It had seemed pretty boring to them.
Mitch stopped the SUV and they got out. He showed them the newly graded dirt road that led from the corner of the parking lot down the hill and across a small creek, then around behind a hill where they lost sight of it.
"Aren't we going to drive to it?" Artie asked.
Mitch told him, "The road is pretty muddy and I don't want to get my car dirty. It's only a half a mile so let's just stroll."
They walked in the grass down to the creek, then waded across. The water wasn't deep. When they rounded the hill they could see several white tents and a lot of bare dirt up ahead.
Noah asked, "Why didn't somebody dig this up before? I mean, it's right beside a fort."
"I don't think anyone realized what it was until now," Mitch said. "Professor Hart is an expert and even he wasn't certain what it was until he dug a little."
There was no one in the tents since it was Sunday. The college kids who helped with the digging had the day off and the professor had gone to a conference for the weekend. The boys looked around but there really wasn't much to see except dirt and holes.
"Haven't they found anything yet?" asked Adam.
"Sure they have, but they take the artifacts back to the university each evening. That way they don't have to have a guard on the dig. So far they've found a lot of pottery, some copper ornaments, clay figurines, flint arrowheads and even a copper ax. It's beautiful stuff. You'll see it when my movie is complete."
"Is that stuff worth much?" Artie asked.
"Sure, a fortune to some collectors," said Mitch.
They snooped around a bit longer but it was more boring than the fort so they left and Mitch took them out for ice cream.
The following week at school was a bit hectic for Noah and Adam. There was a big history test on Thursday so they spent extra time studying for it. Noah was determined to outdo his friend and Adam was equally determined to come out on top. The tests were graded that night and returned to them on Friday. Both boys had made a grade of 90 out of 100, a tie.
They were feeling rather pleased with their grades until the elderly teacher, Mrs. Cole, said, "I see that you all studied hard and most of you improved your grades significantly, but I want to congratulate two of you who did particularly well, Ruben and Seth. You boys said that you have been working extra hard and it shows. I've never seen anyone improve so dramatically. You barely passed your last test yet somehow you both made 100 on this test. Keep up the good work."
Everyone else in the room exchanged looks of disbelief. Seth and Ruben were known to be as dumb as posts. Making 100 on a history test could only mean one thing, they must have cheated.
"They must have cheated," Adam said.
"Of course they did, but that doesn't surprise me. They're not particularly honest, you know," Noah agreed. "The question is, how?"
That evening Noah's mother said, "Noah, can you and Artie order a pizza for dinner? I have to go out for a little while and I don't have time to cook anything."
"Sure thing, Mom. What's up?"
"It's Mitch. He called and said his car won't start. He's out at the Indian mound and needs a ride so I'm going to pick him up and take him to his house. Save me a slice or two and don't burn the house down. I won't be too long."
The next day Noah and Adam sat watching their show.
"Hey, Adam, do you know what Paul Revere said at the end of his ride?"
"He said, 'Whoa'."
Adam tossed a pillow at him and laughed. "That smelled worse than the fart," he said.
"This one, here, aaaah."
"Gross, dude. Too bad there's not a Merit Badge for farting. You'd get that one easy."
Adam once again was getting more correct answers than Noah. Adam knew that the Mason-Dixon Line separated Pennsylvania from Maryland. Noah thought it was Virginia, but Noah didn't do too badly.
Part of the problem for Noah was that he was more than a little distracted by his friend. When he should have been concentrating on the television he was instead daydreaming about Adam's beautiful mouth, his perfect nose and luxurious, thick hair. He was always careful to not let Adam see him staring because he feared what his friend would say if he knew that Noah wanted to kiss him. It might cost him his dearest friendship and that would break his heart. Still, it was becoming harder not to gaze lovingly at him. Once or twice Adam glanced at him suspiciously and Noah looked away quickly, relieved that nothing was said.
The two of them were preparing to go out when the phone rang and Noah answered it.
"Noah, it's Mitch. Is your mom there?"
"No, Mitch. She and Artie are at the mall getting some clothes for Artie. They should be back any minute."
"Oh, she said she would give me a ride back to the site so I can fix the SUV. Ask her to call me when she gets back, okay?"
"Sure," said Noah, "Can we go back out there too? Maybe they will be digging today. I would like to see that."
"Of course you can. It will be fun."
Noah's mother and brother pulled into the driveway almost as soon as Noah hung up the phone. She slapped her forehead when he told her that she forgot about driving Mitch back to his SUV.
"Doh!" she said in her best Homer Simpson voice. The boys all laughed.
A short time later they were all headed back to the dig site. To their surprise when they arrived they found that the dirt road from the parking lot of Fort Williams to the dig was taped off with yellow crime tape but the parking lot itself was open. There were three cars that belonged to tourists who were wandering about, there was the caretaker's truck sitting off to the side and there was a police patrol car parked beside Mitch's SUV. A uniformed officer was trying to open the driver's door.
Mitch said, "Can I help you, Officer?"
The police officer was a bit odd looking. He had a noticeable lack of chin but his oversized ears made up for it. He was young enough to have several pimples and the overall effect was that he didn't look very bright.
With a country drawl he asked, "This your vehicle?"
"Yes it is. What seems to be the problem?"
"We had a theft last night. Somebody drove down to the Indian Mound and was digging around. Probably stole a bunch of stuff. It rained some just after dark and the road got muddy. Now the only vehicle I see around here with mud on it is this one and it just so happens that the tire tracks on the road match the tires on your SUV. Would you mind opening it up for me?"
"You're free to search it but you'll be wasting your time. There's something wrong with it and it won't start. That's why I left it here last night. I came back today to try and fix it," Mitch told him.
"That may be, but just the same I better take a look."
Mitch unlocked the doors and gave him the key and permission to search inside. The detective tried to start the engine but it didn't respond at all when he turned the key.
The boys were not allowed to touch the SUV but they could walk around the parking lot so Noah decided to look for other evidence.
There was definitely mud on Mitch's vehicle, especially on the tires, and it matched the mud from the road. Tire impressions left on the muddy track seemed to have the same tread pattern as Mitch's tires, yet there was something odd about the scene and Noah was annoyed that he couldn't quite see what it was.
The most peculiar thing he saw was a red rectangle of mud over by one of the buildings. It looked like someone had drawn the outline of a big box with red mud. He was trying to piece it all together in his mind, knowing that Mitch was innocent. After all, how could he have driven down to the dig when his SUV wouldn't run and he was sitting at home? And if he had driven down there why leave his SUV sitting in the parking lot with telltale mud all over the tires? It didn't make any sense.
About then the detective stood up with a large flint spearhead in his hand. He had found it in the console between the two front seats.
Mitch said, "I have no idea how that could have gotten there. I sometimes don't lock the SUV if there is no equipment in it. Anyone could have planted that."
"That may be true," said the detective, "But it's stolen property and in your vehicle so I have enough cause to take you in for questioning. Hands behind your back. I'll send a wrecker to take your SUV to the impound lot."
As the officer handcuffed Mitch Noah tried to protest and explained to the officer why the whole business didn't make sense, but the policeman ignored him. With a smug tone of voice he told Noah, "Now you just let the grownups deal with this son. It's way over your head."
That annoyed Noah more than a little.
Noah and the others stood watching in disbelief as Mitch was taken away. They were sad and quiet as they returned home. Fortunately Mitch called them a couple of hours later to say that he had been released and was back home.
"I talked to Professor Hart, who's in charge of the dig, and he believes that I'm innocent, but until this situation is resolved he has asked me not to return. With that bumbling deputy in charge, who knows how long that will be?"
That Monday at school their English teacher announced that there would be a test the next day so Noah and Adam knew that they would have to spend the evening studying instead of working on Mitch's problem. Noah didn't feel very hungry at lunchtime so he decided to look in the library for books about Indian mounds.
As he turned the corner in the hallway he saw the janitor coming out of the English classroom and something about his demeanor looked suspicious. Noah pressed himself against the wall so that he was hidden by a row of lockers and stuck his head out just enough to see the man carry a trash can down the hall to the teacher's lounge where he took it inside and closed the door. Noah followed and listened at the door. He could hear the clicking of the photocopier.
It only took the janitor a couple of seconds and Noah had to quickly hide in an empty locker to avoid being seen when the man came back out. He watched him return the trash can to the English classroom, enter and then exit a minute later with only a folded sheet of paper in his hand which he then carried to the utility closet and emerged without it.
Once the man was gone Noah couldn't help himself. His curiosity led him down the hall to the closet where a quick peek inside revealed a folded copy of the next day's English test lying openly on a shelf. He examined it and placed it back in its spot and went to the Library. There he was able to sit at a table with the door open wide enough to see down the hall. As he suspected, Seth came along a few minutes before the end of lunch period and retrieved the stolen test from its hiding place.
Noah knew his duty. He went to the office and asked to speak to the principal. He reported what he had seen and later that day there was a search of some student lockers. Seth and Ruben were in trouble. When the copy of the test was found in Ruben's locker the boys admitted that they had convinced the janitor, who was Ruben's cousin, to use his keys to pilfer tests from the teacher's desks. They got suspended for a week and the janitor was fired.
It was the talk of the school for the rest of the day. When Adam brought it up Noah decided to explain his role in the whole affair. Artie was listening and gave him a disappointed and confused look. He asked, "Why was it okay for you to snitch on them about the test when you wouldn't snitch on them for stealing the candy bars?"
"This was different," Noah told him. "I didn't actually see them steal the candy bars. If I had I would have said something. This time I did see it go down so I had to be honest and report it. A lot of times when people do something wrong they want to make you feel that if you tell on them then you are the one doing something wrong. They call you a snitch, but so what? Who cares what they call you if you're doing the right thing? It's crazy. I mean, just think, if no one ever reported people for doing bad things then criminals could get away with anything."
"Yeah," said Adam, "Don't let them fool you. It's not fair to all the other students if these guys can cheat and get rewarded for it. Remember, Scouts are honest."
"I think I get it," Artie said, looking relieved.
Noah invited Adam to come over and study for a while, but his mom had another idea.
She said, "How would you boys like to earn a couple of dollars each for washing my car. It's got a lot of dust and dirt on it. I think I picked up some of it out at Fort Williams."
"Sure thing, Mom," Noah said. "It's sort of hot out anyway so this way we can cool down." He took Adam to his room and said, "We should change into some shorts. I've got some extra ones you can wear."
"Thanks," said Adam, "I hope they fit."
"Hey, we're the same size. Just because you have a bigger butt than me."
"Have you been looking at my butt?"
Noah blushed and stammered, "No!"
Adam laughed and changed into the shorts. Noah was careful to turn his back and look away while he did but he couldn't resist one quick glance over his shoulder. To his dismay Adam was looking at him and grinning.
"Caught you," Adam announced gleefully and shook his butt.
It didn't take long to wash the car with all three boys helping out. When they finished Noah's mom paid them and said, "Just in time. I have to run to the store for some milk for dinner. I'll only be gone a couple of minutes. Adam, you're staying for dinner, aren't you?"
"Sure, thanks. I'll call my mom and tell her."
As soon as his mom drove away Noah stood looking at the driveway. The ground under the car was perfectly dry even though the rest of the driveway was soaking wet. It made a perfect rectangle. Suddenly all the pieces came together and he knew that Mitch had been framed. He sat down with Adam and explained his theory to see if Adam agreed.
Adam said, "Wow, I'll bet that's exactly what happened. They've arrested the wrong guy."
The next call was to Mitch.
Noah said, "Listen, here is how I believe you were framed. The caretaker out at Fort Williams took the tires off your SUV and put them on his truck. Then he drove down to the Indian mound and dug up a bunch of things. They had all night to do it. Then they put your tires back and washed off their truck. I saw a big rectangle of mud by one of the buildings that was just the size of his truck and I'll bet there is a hose inside that building.
"They did it to frame you and draw suspicion away from them. If you look closer at your SUV it looks like the mud on the sides was thrown on but they forgot to put mud in the wheel wells. Also there were no tire tracks from the road to where your SUV was parked. That was what was wrong with the whole scene. If your SUV had been driven down that road there would be tracks leading across the parking lot. I'll bet if you tell the detective to look under the caretaker's truck he'll find a bunch of mud under it where they didn't wash and he'll probably find some stolen artifacts in their house."
It all turned out just as Noah predicted. Mitch got the detective to take a look at the caretaker's truck and, sure enough, it was coated in mud. They got a search warrant and found six ancient pots, some copper jewelry and a stone statue in a trunk in the caretaker's house.
Except for the thief, everyone was happy. Professor Hart was thrilled to get the artifacts back and proclaimed them to be important pieces. Mitch had nothing but praise and gratitude for Noah and his mom was really proud of him.
The next Saturday morning Mitch asked Noah if he and Adam and Artie wanted to make another trip to the mound. This time they would see people digging and get to examine some of the treasures that had been brought out of the earth.
"I think the professor wants to thank you personally," Mitch said.
Noah called Adam's house and Adam's mother answered.
"Hi, this is Noah. Can I talk to Adam for a minute, please?"
"Sure, Noah. I'll get him. He's watching his favorite quiz show in the living room."
"Quiz show? But that doesn't come on until eleven."
"Really? We have satellite television so he always watches it at nine. Maybe it comes on at different times on different channels. Hold on while I get him."
Noah couldn't believe it. So that was how Adam always knew all the answers to the hard questions. That stinker.
Adam picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"
"Boy, you are so busted."
"Uh, what do you mean?"
"Enjoying your quiz show?"
"Uh oh. Don't be mad. I'll explain when I get there."
"Yeah? Well, come early. Mitch wants to take us back out to the mound. It sounds like it will be fun this time."
Noah wasn't mad at his friend. He thought it was humorous in a way. It just felt funny to be pranked like that.
When Adam arrived he said, "I'm sorry I fooled you. It was just a joke. Don't be mad at me."
Noah grinned and said, "I'm not mad, you nut. I could never be mad at you."
"Thanks," Adam whispered as he leaned forward and kissed Noah softly on the cheek.