Previous Mystery Chapters

Chapters are posted in chronological order. Scroll down to find the chapter you would like.

 

Liz Blackbar

{Editor’s note: this is a sample chapter to let you see what kind of material you will get here. It is not actually part of Book One of The Campus Mystery Series. In the regular chapters, character background is usually built into the narrative. I will interrupt this chapter to add a few things to help you since this is probably the first item you will read here. Our tale begins at a small technical college in the St. Croix River Valley in the middle of the USA. Senior Editor, MysteriesPlus}

Liz Blackbar had a name that might make you think she spent her nights in some dark tavern amid smoke, booze, and who knows what else. That, however, was far from the facts of her life. She was not known to frequent bars, unless they had a frozen dairy treat in the offing. As for smoke and darkness, well, they just didn’t seem to be attached to Liz at all.

Liz was the PR lady for St. Croix College of Technology (SCCT.) Campus Administrator Moe Hufnagel knew that Liz was exactly the person he wanted to go before reporters if ever something really bad happened at the college. She was the kind who could report even a death and still send the reporters away with, if not a joke, at least a warm feeling and maybe a smile. He didn’t have much of a budget that he could send her way. What she got, she sometimes described this way, "I get less than one side of an old buffalo nickel." Still she managed to take what little came to her office and make it do the job as well as could be done on such limited funds.

Speaking of her office, that was a great contribution to SCCT itself. It was tiny, but she did get one of the few spaces at SCCT with both a door and a window. Moe had seen to that. In the space available, she had established what many thought of as "The Liz Blackbar Museum of Curiosities and Amazement." Among its many attractions was a siren from a 1930’s fire engine. High on a shelf in a glass box sat a not quite identified scale that may once have been used to weigh grain. It was a true wonder in gleaming brass and thin black lines that had meant something to the designer but now just looked interesting and even artistic to the average office visitor. It was probably what the artsy tourist guide books called "evocative." People at SCCT didn’t use words like that very much, if ever. Other wonders of the museum were a wide array of toys, whirligigs and whatnots that left visiting children and more than one colleague with mouth agape. Crowning it all, of course, was Liz herself, all smiles and ready for fun or business as the situation required. If the two could be mixed, she calculated, so much the better.

What happened to Liz just wasn’t right. Everyone agreed on that. However, at the human level, only two determined and highly skilled young men could put it right—Holmes and Watson.

{Editor’s Note:

Sorry to interrupt dear reader, but I think you need to know here that these are not the Holmes and Watson you may be thinking about. The Holmes here is Morelock Holmes. It was his great uncle who first brought fame to the name and who taught Morelock a great deal. Once the first great detective went to meet his Maker, Morelock took up the crime fighting mantle and took it to places his great uncle could never have imagined. Morelock is about thirty years of age and is always the latest to have the very newest electronic device, be it a computer, phone or whatever. He is a military veteran and an alumnus of SCCT.

This Watson is the grandson of the other doctor of that name of whom you may have read. This Dr. Watson is a psychologist who teaches at North Star College in St. Paul, MN. He often works cases along with Morelock Holmes. Now back to the story.}

Liz loved décor, as anyone who visited her office could see at a glance. She decorated her little car and she chose both her clothing and her jewelry carefully. As for jewelry, she wore a little and that was always very tasteful and not over the top like her office. She had purchased a very pretty Star of David necklace and put it on one morning before leaving for work. Her husband, a reserve police officer and substitute teacher, hadn’t seen it before. "Is that necklace something new?" he asked over breakfast. "Yes, I found it yesterday and just had to have it. It only cost $8.95 but it’s supposed to be genuine ivory." "You know I don’t quibble about what you buy with your own money, especially if it costs less than ten dollars. I am wondering why the Star of David. You haven’t decided to convert to Judaism have you?" "No, I just wanted something pretty. Besides, now that you bring it up, I’m tired of the continual nonsense of people who claim to be Christians dumping on the Jews. We have to get over that. It’s the twenty-first century."

"I know," he replied, "but remember, you are working in a little town in the Middle West. Some people here have never seen a Jew that they know about. They might give you a hard time." "I’m a big girl. I can handle it." "I know, but just in case, remember I’m on your speed dial and I have a service revolver." "I hardly think I’ll encounter anything needing such a dramatic response," she said as she gave him a quick kiss and headed out of the door. "Love ya!" "Same to you, lady!" came the reply.

Liz was always right, almost. This was a day for the "almost." Liz pulled into the parking lot in her cute little car with the rosebud vase. Her vase, however, contained a sunflower. It was a bit much for the vase, but it stood up. A false nose on an elastic band hung from the rear view mirror. Aside from these items, the car looked pretty much like any other shiny little bug on wheels. Its bright yellow color did make it easy to spot, however.

Liz had what she thought was a pretty normal day. She taught a class since there had been and unexpected need for a writing instructor that semester and she was more than qualified for that. Then she spent the rest her day in her museum/office planning a new advertising campaign for the college. It was only when she emerged to go home that she realized she had left her keys in the car.

"No," she thought, "you can have the car if you must, but you’ll never get my key ring!" Sadly, this was the day that Liz was wrong twice. The keys were not exactly what she wanted. She had placed her late mother’s wedding ring on the key ring to remind her of the now departed parents she had loved so deeply. Sadly, her car, the keys, and the wedding ring were definitely missing. She did not call for a dramatic rescue from her husband. She carefully scoured the parking lot. Then when she was absolutely sure that the car was missing, she dialed 911. After she identified herself, the dispatcher put her call through to the Richmont Police Department. A voice said, "We have it here in our parking lot. You can pick it up if you want it. Better bring a tow truck though. That’s what we needed to get it here after we got it unwrapped from the utility pole." That’s when she called for the dramatic rescue.

Liz and her husband, Dan, pulled up to the spot in the parking lot where the poor little car awaited burial. A tear ran down Liz’ cheek. She loved that car. It was the first new car she had ever had. Now it was dead. She raced to it to check for the key ring. It was gone. "Wait," she said. "There’s writing in apparently permanent marker all over my poor little bug." What they read was not for women and children or men for that matter. The car was covered with anti-Semitic graffiti. She looked up at her husband who held his lips tightly together. He knew this was not the time for an "I told you so." He simply said, "We’ll get them. I have a friend."

He called Morelock Holmes. Holmes called Dr. Watson. Both detectives met with Dan and Liz at the Blackbar home later that night. "I don’t quite know if this comes under hate crime laws or not," said Dan. Liz isn’t Jewish but somebody obviously thought she was. "Every crime is a hate crime as far as I’m concerned," said Holmes. "Often the greatest hate in a criminal situation is self hate on the part of the perpetrator," added the psychology professor." "It’s all because I couldn’t resist that Star of David necklace. I had never worn it before today. They certainly didn’t wait long to show their ignorance." "This crowd often doesn’t," said Holmes. "We’ve dealt with their type before," added Watson. "Right, it’s probably another of Harshreich’s evil deeds, but getting him has proved a bit tough. We should be able to track the actual perpetrators. He usually sets up a plan and then vanishes before his henchmen pull off the crime. We certainly will get them and maybe this time we’ll get him too."

"Harshreich, I’ve heard that name before," said Dan. "Didn’t he used to teach at St. Croix Tech.?" Yes," responded Holmes, "although it was under the name of David Harmon. He holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Germany. Harshreich is his real name. He left the college a few years ago and has been up to nothing but criminal evil ever since. We’ve tracked him through thefts of various kinds. He loves and steals jewels, expensive ones. There was even a murder we’re sure he planned, but we couldn’t prove it. Nothing seems beyond his dark plans, but this is the first time he’s tried something of this type." "We’ve long known of his anti-Jewish stand," said Watson. "Still, he’s never resorted to anti-Semitic graffiti on a stolen car. It doesn’t surprise me though. He’s filled with hatred." "Unfortunately he’s also brilliant, brilliantly evil," said Holmes. "The Richmont Police are good, but I think they will do even better than usual with you two helping, if you don’t mind, said Dan.

"We’ll be glad to do it," said Holmes. "We have an agreement with the college to handle anything involving students or employees for expenses only. If necessary, we’ll forgo that too. Knowing Harshreich, that will probably be necessary. He loves to flee to Europe. He has a lot of connections there. We’ll follow him if we can get a definite clue that proves that he’s the mind behind the deed and if we have some proof that he has followed his usual escape plan." "Mr. Holmes, this may sound silly to you, but I really don’t care about the thieves or the car that much. But I really would like to get the key ring back if possible," said Liz. "You see I put my mother’s wedding ring on with the keys after she and Dad died in the same year. It would mean a lot to me if you could get my ring back." She began to weep. "I’m sorry, but nothing in the world of possessions really matters to me very much, even if I do like to decorate. What matters to me are people, especially my family. Having that ring is like still having some contact with my parents. Please get it back if you can."

What Holmes had predicted did prove to be true. The local police caught the two supposed students who had stolen the car, covered it with graffiti, and then sent it flying into the utility pole. One of them finally did give up Harshreich as the mastermind. By that time, however, the evil mastermind had made his way to Austria. With Holmes and Watson knowing somewhere in Europe was probably his destination, they were not far behind.

They flew to Amsterdam and made contact with Interpol. Interpol had a lead that Harshreich had made his way to Austria, probably near Innsbruck. The two booked a room at an Innsbruck hotel. They planned their next move over lunch in the hotel dining room.

"We have nothing beyond the report that he was last seen in this area yesterday," said Holmes. "All I can think of is to pray and try to follow what he’s done before after a job." "That sounds like our best plan under the circumstances, Holmes. Criminal often fall into pattered behavior. He has often given himself a vacation after pulling of a crime. He very likely will be visiting tourist sights in the area for a few days before he moves on." "Right, but how can we know which sights to check. There are a lot of them around here."

Choosing where to start occupied the next few minutes. Holmes and Watson poured over a map of tourist sites they had obtained from the hotel desk. "Nothing looks more promising than the others, except, perhaps this one. Look, it has a small castle of mansion, a tour of the interior which includes a display of old family heirlooms and jewelry, and a beautiful surrounding garden." "It sound like something Harshreich would have designed himself to cover all of his favorite things." "Exactly my dear Watson. Let’s go, the game’s afoot."

Once they got to the mansion, they split up. Watson joined the guided tour of the interior while Holmes patrolled the grounds. Near the pond at the back of the mansion, he spotted his query. Harshreich had been convinced that he had eluded trackers as he almost always did. He did not even see the stealth Holmes until his form came hurtling through the air to down him with a great open field tackle. A wrestling match ensued. Harshreich was strong and had a litheness that belied his years. Still, he was no match for the much younger, stronger and highly trained Holmes. The detective had him on his face and was ready to apply handcuffs when he managed to wrench one hand free. He pulled the key ring from his pocket and shouted, "I know what you really came for," he shouted. With that he threw the key ring far out into the pond. Holmes left the criminal and did a quick surface dive into the pond.

Dr. Watson had spotted the struggle from a mansion window and came racing to help. However, before he could get there, Harshreich had managed to regain his feet and flee to the shelter of an outbuilding. He couldn’t get in, but he could hide around a corner where he spotted some flower pots, one sizable one was filled with soil. He pulled a small tape recorder from his pocket and pressed a button. Back at the shallow pond, Holmes had managed to retrieve the key ring. He had just come up for air when he heard an anguished cry from a small child. Watson had reached the far side of the pond. "Over there!" he said pointing to the outbuilding from which the sound seemed to come.

Holmes ran as quickly as one could through the waist deep water and raced toward the building as the cry was repeated. It sounded as though the child was truly in trouble. He ran at full speed around the corner of the building and directly into a painful sleep courtesy of a crash on his head from a heavy flower pot. By the time Watson had reached Holmes, Harshreich had made another clean escape. The doctor checked for a pulse and found one that seemed quite healthy. Holmes came back to the land of the conscious with a quick rising bump atop his head.

He knew that Harshreich was already beyond his reach once again. He raised the key ring for examination." "Well, you paid a price, but you got the key ring," said the doctor. "Yes, but as I expected, he left the wedding ring and removed the diamond." "Well, Liz will be happy to have the ring anyway, so we have a partial victory." "Yes, doctor, another partial victory. That’s all we’ve ever gotten against Harshreich." Then, seized by something that caused what was for Holmes a very unusual display of emotion, he stood. It was a slow movement since his head was throbbing. Then he raised a fist into the air and shouted, "We’ll get you, Harshreich!" The cry echoed off the mansion and the pond and seemed to travel to the mountains beyond. "So help us, God," added the doctor quietly.

 

 

The Campus Mystery Series

The stories you read here come to me by email from my young friend, Dr. J. B. Watson. His teaching, research, and investigations keep him heavily occupied. In addition, it brings me great pleasure to occasionally observe his great dedication to his wife and children. Since these things leave him little time to edit the notes he gathers in his work with Morelock Holmes, he has left that task to me. Therefore, errors (typographical and otherwise) are my responsibility. If you spot any errors, please report them via our Contact Us email.

All persons and situations presented here are purely fictitious. Some characters may resemble people you know. Rest assured that the person a story character reminds you of works much harder, has much less money, is far better looking and is much more intelligent than anyone you might encounter here. Even the college which serves as the launch point for our stories is pure fantasy; a place like this could never exist in reality, could it?

Senior Editor, MysteriesPlus.com

 

 

BOOK 1

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 1

Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower is Missing!

From the files of J.B. Watson, Ph.D.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Above a tiny tributary flowing into the beautiful St. Croix River sits a small college. Like the river, it also is named for the Sacred Cross. However, French is not among the college’s regular course offerings, so the students of St. Croix College of Technology (abbreviated SCCT, pronounced with a guttural "scut!" by the few students and employees who are unhappy with the institution) are not likely to make the translation of the name "St. Croix" to the English "Sacred Cross." They don’t usually come to this college to learn languages, art, or philosophy. Such classes here are taught only on a non-credit basis. They come because they can’t take another year of pumping gas or waiting on tables, or because, "My husband beat me and left me with three kids under age 10 and how will I ever support them unless I can get training for a good-paying job?"

The students at SCCT don’t worry about getting a date for the big game. At SCCT there are no big intercollegiate games; there is no football team, no basketball team, and no sports at all unless you count the pick-up games students sometimes hold at a local high school. Besides, many of the SCCT students are married and over 25; quite a few have children who are nearing 25 or well past it. They are much more concerned with things like, "Can I put off the rent payment and then get the car fixed?"

Another fixation is textbooks. Their ever-increasing cost is putting many into debt even further than the tuition, which is small compared to other colleges, even to other two-year colleges. Textbooks are also a major concern of Mrs. Fae Klosterbauer, manager of the very small empire in the college’s main building creatively called The College Bookstore. Each semester she claws her way back from the edge of psychosis as instructors continue to forget to turn in book requests. "How in heaven’s name am I supposed to know what they want when they ignore my repeated emails asking for the forms?" she wondered aloud to nobody in particular not long ago.

Still, there were compensations, certainly not her meager wages, but the chance to troll the internet bookstore supplier sites for the extras for the store: cute shirts with the college logo, maybe a little doll that would also serve as a computer screen cleaner. Her latest find was a brooch of intricate design. She had acquired the last one on her favorite site. It featured simulated jewels: diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. They were beautifully formed into flower. "I’ll call it Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower," she said to herself. She often talked to herself when nobody was in the store. Best of all, she was confident it could retail for only $9.95 and she could still make the required profit margin that her supervisor demanded be placed on each item. She almost bought it herself the moment it arrived, but true to her mission to serve the students and employees, she carefully put it out on her best shelf, tilting the open box so the light would catch the "jewels" and make them sparkle. It was a good day for Fae Klosterbauer.!

It seemed to get even better a few hours later when a handsome gentleman appeared before her counter. Then things went south, BIG TIME! He said he was looking for a brooch. She smiled and said, "I have the perfect item." However when she went to the shelf, it was obviously missing. "We don’t seem to have one at the moment. Someone must have purchased our only one this morning." "Did it look like this?" said the gentleman, producing a colored photo from a leather-bound folder. "Yes, that’s it exactly," smiled Fae. "I can check the supplier’s website to see if I can order one for you."

Then she saw them, two burly men outside each bookstore door. They all had shoulders that screamed, "Gym time!" They had probably been there just outside the doors all the time, but she had been focused on the graying but still stunning gentleman inside. "With his looks, he could be George Clooney’s better looking older brother. Even a happily married woman of a certain age can wonder, can’t she?" she wondered, this time silently.

The gentleman and the oldest of his young associates went into a whispered conference and then he returned to introduce himself while the others remained on guard. Displaying an impressive credential folder, he said, "I am Frederic Helmholtz, Austrian Ambassador to the U.S.A. Is there a place where we can have a private conference immediately?" Fae prided herself on remaining nonplused in unexpected circumstances, but this was too much. She was definitely "plused."

Recovering, she said, "I think I’d better call the administrator." The ambassador nodded and she made the call. An assistant gave an answer on the phone. Then Fae said, "Oh, Lena, is Moe in? We have a situation in the bookstore he’ll want to be in on immediately." She continued after Lena’s response, "No I’m definitely in no danger." With a quick glance and a smile to the guards at both doors she said, "In fact I can’t imagine being safer this side of heaven. If Moe’s not here, who's the senior administrator available?" She told the ambassador, "She’s calling Larry Klee, one of our deans. Luckily he’s just over in Student Services, so he should be here in just a minute. I’ll close up, she said drawing the blinds."

Dean Klee, Larry to everyone on campus, was a rarity among administrators; some said he was a downright blessing. He could sit through the endless succession of meetings his job required, get everyone to accomplish what was needed and have them walk away smiling. When he arrived, Fae hung up the "Closed" sign and made the introductions. Then the ambassador explained. "Mrs. Klosterbauer ordered a replica brooch. It looked like the one in this photo." With a sigh, he went on, "Most unfortunately a tragic mix-up occurred. Our Prime Minister authorized these replicas to be made of the prize possession of our nation. They are replicas of the wedding present Emperor Franz Joseph gave to the Empress Josephine upon their marriage more than a century ago. It is worth millions because of the jewels and the royal provenance. Looking to the senior security man just entering, he said, "Heinrich, perhaps you should continue. This is Heinrich Deilhoffer, my security chief."

The chief took up the story. "My brother holds a position equivalent to mine, but for the Prime Minister of Austria. He took the brooch to the usual old jeweler for its annual cleaning. By the Prime Minister’s instructions, it was to be photographed and to remain at the shop for one week so that replicas of glass could be made there. The profits from the sales go to the Prime Minister’s Fund for Orphans. When the brooch came back to the palace museum where it is kept, the curator discovered that he had not the original, but a glass replica. A thorough investigation was made of the jeweler, his shop, and everyone working with him. Security camera footage was reviewed again and again. Finally it was discovered through computer records that a shipment of replicas had gone to a wholesaler. It took three weeks, but it was determined that the real brooch had come here. Now, Mrs. Klosterbauer tells us it is gone without a trace. Perhaps if we could review your security footage from this bookstore, we could find something."

Now both the dean and Fae were now pegging out on the "plused" meter. The dean then explained, "This is a low-budget, tax payer-funded college. There are no security cameras. We’d better call in the local police; they’re our security." "We’d prefer you didn’t call them, Dean," said the ambassador. "Police have to file reports which news reporters can access. If word of this got back to my country, the Prime Minister’s government would fall. Our nation would be in chaos. This must be handled with the utmost confidentiality. We’d best not even talk about the brooch under its best known name, ‘Empress Blossom.’" "You could call it Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower," suggested Fae.

Nodding, the security chief added, "As for a working name that would do. It will be clear to us and help us maintain security and confidentiality. The ambassador’s point on police is correct; they definitely must not be contacted if it can be avoided."

"I understand," replied the dean. Then I’d better call Morelock Holmes, he’s one of our alumni and a private investigator. He’s carrying on the work of his late great uncle who was also a great detective. I’m sure you heard of him."

"If Morelock Holmes is available, he’s definitely the man we want, Mr. Ambassador," added the security chief. "He’s young, but he already has a reputation in security circles as one of the top investigators in the world." I’ll make the call," said the dean. "Then maybe we could continue our discussion in the conference room adjacent to my office, I know it’s vacant this afternoon."

"With your permission, Dean, I’d like to have my men stay here with Mrs. Klosterbauer and do a complete search of the bookstore and its records. If the brooch is not here, perhaps they can determine who took it," said the chief. "By all means, make a complete search," replied the dean.

Holmes, about 30, was muscular but trim and tall like his legendary great uncle. He joined the group about a half-hour later in the conference room. Mrs. Klosterbauer arrived just after with the security men. "Oh, I’m so sorry! she began." "Fae, you didn’t take the flower, did you?" queried the dean. "No, no," said Fae. "It’s just that I got so flustered with the Ambassador and then the security people, I completely forgot until I walked in here past your assistant, Jane. I did sell it, to her. She came in during the customer rush around ten. She saw I was overloaded, so she just held it up and handed me this ten dollar bill," said Fae pulling the currency from her pocket. "I nodded back and she left. I completely forgot about it. I didn’t even enter it into the register."

Holmes knew most of the college personnel and he was closest to the door, so he asked Jane to step in. "I think we may have wrapped up the case," he said as she walked in with a beautiful flower brooch adjacent to the collar of her sweater. "We are saved!" cried the ambassador. "Let’s not close this case just yet," said Holmes drawing a jeweler’s eye piece from his pocket. "I brought this min-microscope along since the dean told me what we were looking into. Jane, would you mind if I examined your brooch?" "Please go ahead," said Jane handing it to him. "Isn’t it just gorgeous?"

While Holmes examined Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower or the Empress Blossom, the Ambassador explained the situation to Jane. "I have another replica with me," he said. You would do my nation a great service if you would accept an exchange of brooches, along with this check for $10, 000 U.S." "Of course you can have the brooch," said Jane. But I couldn’t possibly take the check; I’m just helping you return what belonged to Austria all along." "You are most gracious," replied the ambassador. "But you see, the check is already made out. I need merely add the designee and my signature. It would greatly complicate things with my report to the national treasury if I were to try to return the check uncashed. Perhaps there is a charity you’d like to see get the money."

Jane offered, "Well there is a non-profit group that works with students and employees here, Campus Crusade for Christ. They give out several thousand dollars worth of books and other materials here on campus every year. They also help with food for the hungry and a lot of good causes. I’m sure they could use the money." "I am familiar with their good work in my country," said the ambassador. "I’m happy to make the check out to them. Can you pass it on?" "Certainly," replied Jane accepting the check.

"I’m sorry to put a damper on things," said Holmes pocketing his eyepiece. "I’ve looked this brooch over carefully. I’m afraid all we’ve got is another replica. This investigation may be just beginning."

 

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion in part 2 of

"Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower Is Missing!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Campus Mystery Series

 

BOOK 1

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower is Missing!

Chapter 2

 

Here is a summary of Chapter 1.

College Bookstore Manger Fae Klosterbauer was having a good day until the Austrian ambassador entered her domain. He informed her that a brooch she had purchased for the bookstore was not an inexpensive replica but a priceless part of the treasures of his nation. Fae had apparently sold the brooch to the dean’s assistant, Jane. Morelock Holmes was called in to investigate. He determined that what Mrs. Klosterbauer had purchased was indeed the replica she thought it to be.

The meeting continued in the Dean’s Conference Room. Again a few whispers were exchanged between the ambassador and his security chief. The ambassador spoke, "With your permission, Dean, I would like to ask your ladies to submit to lie detector testing. That would help eliminate them as suspects and speed the investigation." "I have no objection," said the dean, "However participation in such a thing would be totally up to the ladies. The college cannot require it." Both ladies quickly agreed.

The security chief then spoke, "Is there a location, perhaps off campus where this can be set up? The less known of this here and elsewhere, the better." "There is a motel right across the street, I’m sure I can reserve rooms for you there." "Only one room should be necessary," said the ambassador. I have to return to Washington tonight. In fact my plane is waiting at the airport now." Then, looking to the chief, "You can remain here to work on this with Mr. Holmes while we return to the consulate."

The chief nodded.

Holmes then spoke, "If everything is cleared up here, the investigation could take us back to Austria." "Do whatever is necessary," replied the ambassador." "I’d also like to bring in a valuable associate of mine, Dr. Watson," said Holmes. "Of course," agreed the ambassador. "My government will finance whatever fee and expenses you require. There is no way I can overemphasize the importance of this to Austria. Now I’m afraid we must depart. The chief will have my contact information. You may call me any time, day or night. Thank you all for your strong cooperation. If you can find the, er, flower Mr. Holmes, you will be a true hero of Austria. Unfortunately that will be a secret known only to very few." "Secrecy is more important than public praise in my business, Mr. Ambassador. With your chief and Dr. Watson, I’ll do everything in my power to return Mrs. Klosterbauer’s Flower to its rightful place."

With the departure of the ambassador and his security team, minus their chief, the meeting ended. Holmes contacted another friend, an assistant chief with the St. Paul Police Department. He agreed to have one of his lie detector people at the motel near the campus the next morning. Fae Klosterbauer and Jane, the dean’s assistant, had no trouble showing their honesty.

"Dr. Watson should be joining us here at the motel shortly," Holmes told the chief. "Is this really the same Dr. Watson who worked with your uncle? If so he must be well over 100." "No," replied Holmes. "That Watson went home to the Lord at about the same time as my Great Uncle Sherlock’s death. This is that Watson’s grandson. He’s a professor of psychology at North Star College in St. Paul.

He’s quite brilliant in his own realms and he often sees things from a helpful perspective that I would never consider on my own. We met at a Campus Crusade conference back when we were both students. I was here at SCCT and he was just finishing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota. I think that’s his car I see just pulling into the parking lot."

The doctor entered their room and Holmes made the introductions. Then he and the chief described the case in full to Watson. "I think hypnosis may help here," said the doctor. "I have developed a Christian approach to this often abused technique. It should be quite safe. If Mrs. Klosterbauer will agree, I can get her into a relaxed hypnotic state in which memory is often greatly enhanced. She may then be able to give us exact descriptions of the people she saw in the bookstore when the flower was there. If some sort of switch was pulled there, she probably saw something." "Excellent," said Holmes. "She’s been completely cooperative thus far; I think she’ll go along with it."

Dr. Watson did get very detailed information from Mrs. Klosterbauer. From her hypnotized recall of names and descriptions, ten suspects were identified. She had seen none of them near the flower. Nevertheless, each was carefully interviewed over the next week by Holmes and the security chief. Meanwhile Dr. Watson ran extensive computer background checks on each from his office in St. Paul. No leads developed. Holmes, in his office, reached for his ever-present cell phone. "Well Watson, are you up for a trip to Vienna?"

Knowing and valuing his consulting work with Holmes as a great aid to his teaching, his college was generally very willing to give Watson leaves when needed. Holmes, Watson, and the security chief left that night for the Austrian capitol. The Prime Minister had arranged well-appointed rooms for them in a mansion near the Hofburg Palace. It was a convenient cover location operated by the Austrian Bureau of Investigation. It also served as the Prime Minister’s secret office and the headquarters for his security team. To minimize any chance of their attracting attention, the Prime Minister asked Holmes and Watson to stay within the mansion as much as possible, at least during daylight hours.

The investigation continued from that location for the next several days. Holmes and Watson poured over everything the Austrian investigators had done. It all appeared to be flawless. It also brought them no closer to a solution. As the third evening approached, Dr. Watson offered, "There’s a concert tonight by the Vienna Philharmonic. I think we need a break and a chance to see a bit of Vienna after dark." "Agreed," said Holmes stretching at his computer workstation. "A night in the city beautiful it is."

The next morning, refreshed by their evening break, the investigators were back at their workstations in the mansion, now joined by the Prime Minister’s security staffer, Frieda Lehmann. Frieda was far from a beauty, but she more than made up for that by her skills in investigation, mastery of languages and medals for both sharp shooting and martial arts. One look told everyone that this was not a young lady with whom to mess.

"We must have missed something," said Holmes. "Let’s go over those security videos from the jeweler’s shop one more time." "If we project them on the big screen here, turn up the volume and go to extreme slow motion, we may catch something that has been overlooked," said Frieda. Following her suggestions, each tape was painstakingly reviewed; starting with the point the Austrian investigators had concluded must have been when something might have been amiss at the shop. "I believe our chief told you when you arrived that the jeweler had collapsed and died while working with the genuine brooch. We started our study of the tapes there because that’s when the other workers rushed to him and the emergency medics were called. We can go back and review from there."

"Wait," replied Holmes. "Is there any tape from before that point?" "I believe we have everything for the last two months, so I should be able to locate it here." Frieda caused the tape to blur by and then stopped it. "Yes, here we see the jeweler entering the shop that morning." "I see the old gent was not a fastidious attendant to his wardrobe," said Watson. "Excellent Watson," said Holmes. "That missing button over his solar plexus is duly noted. Let’s fast forward to a few minutes before the collapse." "Here we have the jeweler a minute or two before his death," said Frieda. "Notice he has a replica brooch in his left hand while he compares it point by point with the original in the stand on his workbench." "What’s that little tool he’s using?" asked Watson. "It’s very similar to what dental hygienists use to clean teeth. It has a sharp tiny point jewelers use for the most meticulous work," replied the Austrian.

"Hold it once again," said Holmes. "I think I heard him say something. Can that sound be enhanced?" Frieda responded, "If I take it back to regular speed we can boost it and repeat it if necessary. Yes, that seems to do the work." "He said ‘scratch it’ if my German is adequate," said Watson. "Very close," replied Frieda. "More precisely translated it is ‘I scratched it.’ Then he grabs his chest and goes to the floor." "Time for the Prime Minister," exclaimed Holmes moving for the door. Still a bit perplexed, the other two quickly followed him to the executive’s private office on the same floor.

"Welcome, lady and gentlemen," greeted the Prime Minister. "I’ve been waiting to hear from you. Do you have something?" "I believe I know where the treasured brooch is located, but you may not like what we’ll have to do to retrieve it," said Holmes. "The people of Austria would never forgive me if I did not do anything and everything I could to move heaven and earth to restore the Empress Blossom," came the minister’s response. "It may take some of that," replied Holmes.

Later that very day the earth was moved and Holmes could place the long awaited call back to Dean Klee in the U.S. "Greetings from Austria," said Holmes. "Please give my greetings to Mrs. Klosterbauer as well." The prearranged meaning of the coded message was clear to the dean, success had been achieved. "The Prime Minister insists that we take a few days to see his beautiful country before we return. I’ll call when we have an exact arrival time set."

Following their very brief vacation, the American investigators were on their way home. "The Prime Minister and his government are most generous. I could get used to this travel in his private jet. Care for more of Austria’s finest sparkling grape juice, Watson? I’m sure the attendant would be all too ready to supply it since we are her only clients on this flight." "No, I’m fine on the liquid refreshment just now," responded the doctor.

"What’s that you’ve been reading and marking?" asked Holmes. "They’re galleys for a new book from our campus pastor: The Subject of Forgiveness," came the reply. "Let me guess the theme: repent, confess to the Lord, and He will forgive," said Holmes. "Right as usual, Holmes." said Watson. "But this chapter on forgiving oneself has me thinking. Perhaps the inability to forgive himself was the old jeweler’s problem. He may have been so consumed with his obvious artistry in jewelry that in a sense he came to worship his own skill and the very jewels of his nation. If so, that would explain why he couldn’t merely admit to a very understandable tiny scratch he had made by mistake and then forgive himself and ask those most concerned with the Empress Blossom for forgiveness as well." "And as is your usual doctor, you leave me with something worth pondering," said Holmes. "On a much lighter note, we’ll be landing in Richmont soon. The wonders of a small jet will leave us only five minutes from the SCCT campus. I’m sure the dean and the others are dying to hear our report."

The dean, Mrs. Klosterbauer and Jane were indeed waiting in the Dean’s Conference Room for the duo. "I can’t tell you how good it was to get your call. Please tell us the details." said Dean Klee. Holmes began the report with a recounting their arrival, learning of the death of the jeweler, and the review of evidence. "The first real clue came from our slow motion look at security footage from the jeweler’s shop. We noticed a button missing from the old man’s shirt. Then with the help of Frieda, a member or the P. M.’s security staff, we determined that the jeweler had said, ‘I scratched it,’ just before clutching his chest. I had notice in tape reviewed earlier that there was only one brooch on his work table after he collapsed even though he had held a replica in his hand while comparing it to the original. Since we subsequently learned that the remaining brooch was a replica, he had to have grasped the original to his chest as he fell. It fell into the gap in his shirt as he went to the floor."

Holmes continued, "We asked for an exhumation and got permission from the family to search his clothing. In Austria it is expected that a man will be buried in the clothes in which he dies. To dress him in fresh clothing as we do here, would be a great disrespect to the deceased and to his family. The Empress Blossom was inside the shirt as expected; thus here we are." The campus trio burst into applause. "Wait," said Holmes. "I think Watson’s part of the story is what you’ll like best; your turn doctor; you devised this part."

"We had to have a cover story to explain the visit of the ambassador and his men to the campus. I’m sure there must have been questions," said Watson. "Indeed there were," replied the dean. "However, since we had all signed the security chief’s pledges of lifetime secrecy, we could say nothing." "Well your cooperation will be rewarded, thanks to the Prime Minister" continued Watson. "The story will be released to the papers tomorrow that you three combined on an entry into a contest sponsored by an Austrian travel agency. The ambassador was here to inform you of your prizes, but he asked you to say nothing until the story could reach the media. It will say that the story was sent to the media in German. It took some time for the travel agency to become aware of the problem and get an English version out, thus explaining the delay of the media announcement until tomorrow. Now we get to the good part. Each of you will receive an all-expense-paid first-class trip to and tour of Austria with the guest of your choice." "A dream!" exclaimed Jane. "He certainly was," added Mrs. Klosterbauer. "What’s that?" asked the dean. "Oh, the, ah, the Prime Minister; he certainly was generous," she recovered, mentally congratulating herself on the save. "I think Shakespeare had the conclusion to this one added the doctor: ‘All’s well that ends well.’"

Just then came a loud and long scream from somewhere beyond the conference room. "That’s got to be Mary Loft," cried the dean as he went rushing toward the door. "She’s in the library right next door."

 

 

Why did Mary Loft scream? What mystery awaits in the library?

Find out in our next exciting tale:

"Leaping Librarians!

Or

The Curse of the Carolenskis"

Coming Soon to this Website!

Were you lookng for the secret sentence to help you win a contest? Here it is: "The game is afoot!"

A WITC-New Richmond person, Lori, has won the Holmes Fan Contest.  A new Holmes Box Fan will be presented to her courtesy of MysteriesPlus. Thank you for playing. Watch this site for an even bigger contest to come. You will be able to win a ride in "One of The Safest Planes in the World!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter X (inserted after Chapter 2)

"Death? In the Sky, pt. 1" or "Rich Man, Poor Man"

Sarah North was one of those lady instructors at St. Croix College of Technology whom the less mature male students placed in the category "teachers you don’t mind looking at." Sarah herself could hardly have cared less that she was placed in the category of the better looking instructors by some young males. Since the death of her father a few years before, there had only been one man of consequence in her life, her husband, Kevin. He was an architect with a company that built pole barns and similar structures. Kevin and their two girls were the center of Sarah’s life. She taught because she enjoyed that too. It brought in a nice income to supplement what Kevin made. Her goal in teaching was to help students learn what they needed in communication skills. She did it well.

There was another man that she and her husband visited once or twice each month, Doug Phillips, a retired SCCT instructor. His last year at the college had been Sarah’s first there. He had been a good mentor to her during that year. Since the death of her father, he had continued to give her tips on teaching and he had become a bit of a substitute father. He saw himself as that to her and to Kevin. He had children of his own, four of them; however they were what he regarded as disappointments. He could be proud of his "substitute children."

Phillips himself was the kind of instructor all of the others looked up to both before and after his retirement. Like Sarah, he had also been a communication instructor. He had been the first at SCCT to implement computers in instruction and the first to teach on line. Seeing the possibilities of the Apple IIc, he had invested early in Apple stock. That and his other stocks were now worth millions. He had also developed a very successful private consulting business. He had a God-given gift for technical writing. Over the years, "Is it a Phillips?" had become the key question for a growing list of technicians when given a new manual for a machine imported from abroad.

As much of manufacturing moved from the US to Europe, Latin America, and the Orient, the calls to Phillips to translate the English of a foreign engineer into something American technicians could actually understand far exceeded what he could handle. Many of his former students had joined in the battle to make the machine operating and servicing fields safe and understandable for American technicians. They took the system that Phillips had taught them at SCCT and used it to do what he did.

Still whenever Honda, BMW or a host of computer or automobile firms planned to market their products in the USA, it was to Phillips humself that they looked to make their operation and repair manuals readable for the American technicians and users. To say that Phillips had become wealthy because of this and his varied investments would be an understatement. His retirement from SCCT had come not because he no longer wanted to teach, but because the demands of his consulting and the need to spend increasing amounts of time conferring with his accountants and financial advisers made teaching at SCCT something that had to go. "Ah, that we should live so long and so well as Doug Phillips," was a line often heard in the Staff Lounge at SCCT.

One Thursday after school Sarah and Kevin had left the girls with her mother so they could drive the half hour to Cascade City Airport to visit Doug Phillips. As usual they met him at his hanger. The hanger was the envy of the other plane owners in the area. Not only was it larger than any other at the airport, inside it contained a wonderful array of "toys for big boys." Phillips had acquired his pilot’s license some fifteen years earlier. It was a great pleasure for him to fly or do anything involving speed. Flying his own plane also helped him get around the country to keep consulting appointments. He still flew commercial flights to visit clients outside the US, although he was thinking about getting his own jet and hiring someone to pilot that. It was fun to be able to contemplate such possibilities, especially when he compared his financial situation to the struggle his father had faced in trying to keep the family farm going when Doug was a boy.

Passing Doug’s Lamborghini parked outside, Sarah and Kevin entered the Phillips hangar. They were familiar with the interior from earlier visits. Suspended in the air was Phillips favorite, his first plane, a blue two seater. Now he mostly flew his new Cirrus. It was generally regarded at the safest plane in the air. It even had an airframe parachute system. If the plane became unable to fly while in the air, a single lever deployed a large blue parachute that safely floated the plane to the ground. Doug’s wife especially like the electronics. She knew that if she were flying with Doug and he became disabled in flight, she could press a button and a program in the plane’s computer could safely land the plane at a preselected airport with no further attention from her. The plane even sent a preprogrammed radio message to the airport that the pilot was disabled and that emergency crews should be waiting to get him to a hospital as soon as the plane landed.

In addition to the planes, some of the Phillips collection of automobiles was stored in the hangar. Kevin especially liked the new sports car and the custom-made Harley Davidson cycle. A couple of antique sports cars from the 1940’s were also on display and ready to go should Doug Phillips choose to drive one of those for the day. Overlooking it all was what Doug called his "cabin in the sky." It was a log cabin in the southwest corner of the hangar. It sat on piers high above the floor level of the hangar. Here was Doug’s second home and the office in which he did his best work. It had complete bathroom and a small cot for those nights when he worked late and didn’t want to drive home to the Phillips mansion. A microwave and refrigerator joined a flat screen TV within a few steps of a leather recliner. From his desk, Phillips could look down on all of his toys in the hangar or out of the picture window to the west to do a visual check on the weather. He had other hangars full of "toys" at other airports, but this was clearly the one he preferred. It was also only a few miles from his mansion on the hill overlooking the Cascade City Intermediate School and the school district athletic fields. The school superintendent knew that if he could make a good case for something the district needed but the tax payers couldn’t cover, a Phillips check would be forthcoming.

Yes, it would seem that all was well with Doug Phillips, all except the four children. They were all over eighteen now. All had attended some kind of post-high school education. The oldest was Marshall. He kept saying that he was developing some kind of business of his own, but nothing ever really developed, perhaps because he spent most of his development time at his favorite bar. Next came Maria. She had said that she was going to be a veterinarian. Then she discovered the night life of the Twin Cities. Now her life was just party time every night. Vet school was left in the dust.

Orlando seemed to offer some hope. He had exhibited some acting talent before he went off to Hollywood to try to break into motion pictures. Then Hollywood found out that he had access to some of the Phillips money. He was thus tapped to be an executive producer (i.e., money source) for films that never seemed to get to the theaters. Finally in birth order came Henry. Doug Phillips had hoped that a plain old-fashioned name might give him a son with some old-fashioned desire and drive to accomplish something. Unfortunately he turned out like the rest, just sitting around waiting for Doug to die and leave them a million or three.

Doug blamed himself for the failures of his children. He had spent too much time with his teaching and his consulting. Like a thousand fathers before him, he had told himself that he was doing it all for his children and his wife. They, however, just wanted him to play catch or attend a dance recital. He had always managed a week or two for the annual family vacation. He did try to get to their school activities, but he often was late when he did make it. For them he had not been absent, but he was just not there often enough. Now they were alienated from him and from each other. Only Doug’s wife seemed to keep the group in touch to whatever degree that was managed and that wasn’t much.

Doug called down to Sarah and Kevin when he saw them enter the hangar, inviting them up to the cabin. They climbed the familiar stairs and pulled up chairs around the desk. "So what’s new old man?" inquired Kevin. "Same old, same old," said Doug. "I’m finishing a manual on the new Lamborghini hitting the market soon. They’re sending me one at half price as soon as it’s available. I guess that means I should double my fee so we can trade even up next time, my revision of their manual for the new car." "You have a tough life," joked Sarah.

"I know I’ve been about the luckiest man alive," said Doug. "Except for the kids, everything I’ve touched has become the proverbial gold. Still I’d trade it all tomorrow for a good night’s sleep, productive offspring, and maybe a grandchild. Speaking of which, let’s see the latest pictures of your two girls. Next time you’ve got to bring the little ones along."

Just then Doug spotted the dry cleaning delivery man coming into the hangar. He called down to him, "Just hang it on the rack as usual, Perry. I’ll be down in a minute with your payment." He pulled a thick roll of $100 bills out of a drawer and excused himself from Sarah and Kevin. "I’ll be back up in a minute. Those stairs are about the best exercise I get these days." "I hope you don’t mind if I sample the goods a bit," said Perry Wilson, perched on Doug’s Harley. "No, you feel free. There’s no use having goods if you can’t share with friends. I really appreciate the deliveries." "For $100, I’ll deliver to you any time; I can use the money." This delivery man was not just a worker; he owned the dry cleaning business. Doug was the only person in town who still could get an actual delivery. Everyone else had to come to the store to pick up or drop off clothing. Doug knew this and was happy to pay accordingly.

He could still climb the stairs, albeit not as fast as he once could. "Anything new with your kids, Doug?" asked Sarah. "Not really. They come to the mansion once a week or so. It’s never very pleasant, but they at least have to make a show of it just to make sure they’re still in the will. Of course Orlando doesn’t come that often. He’s still out in Hollywood. They’ll keep him around as long as he can keep money flowing. Maybe I should tighten the tap and let him see what real life is like. Still I hate to do that to any of the kids. It seems money is the only thing that I can give them now. Apparently that is all they have any interest in. At least I’m doing something for them."

The conversation continued for some time. Most of it was more pleasant. Sarah got a couple of new teaching ideas and then she and Kevin left. On the ride home she observed, "It’s sad to see a man with all of those toys and all of that money who is really so unhappy with himself and his lot in life." "True," replied Kevin. "The Bible says something about that doesn’t it?" "Yes, more than once. The verse that comes to mind says, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his own soul?’" "I wish I could memorize stuff like you can," said Kevin. "I can remember the general idea, but never get the exact words." "Well we each have different gifts; I certainly see that in the classroom. Some have to work a lot harder to get the same result as others of to even come close."

The journey home was enjoyable. The newscast on television the next morning was not. Kevin called out, "Sarah, come and see this. Somebody tried to kill Doug Phillips last night!"

{Who did what? Will Sarah and Kevin be regarded as suspects? Will Holmes and Watson be drawn into the case? If so, what will they find?

Find out next time in ‘Death? In the Sky, pt. 2,’ or "Find the Killer and Win a Prize!"}

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter X pt. 2

“Death? In the Sky” or “Find the Killer and Win a Prize”

Summary of the story to this point:

{SCCT Instructor Sarah North and her husband, Kevin, had visited former SCCT Instructor Doug Phillips at his airplane hangar in Cascade City. The next morning the early TV news carried the report that someone had attempted to kill Phillips.}

Sarah and Kevin sat stunned before the television set. “Who would want to kill Doug?” asked Sarah. “Are you kidding? He’s told us he has four children who are just waiting for him to die. There may be others, but those kids would be at the top of my list.” Just then the telephone rang. It was the chief of police of Cascade City. He was sending a man over to interview Sarah and Kevin since they had been among those Doug Phillips had been able to report that he had seen recently. “Well, if Doug can talk, he must not be in terrible shape at this point. As soon as this interview is done, we’ll have to get back to Cascade City to see how he is,” said Sarah.

The officer arrived a few minutes later. He explained that Doug Phillips had apparently drunk some poisoned wine. Phillips had managed to call 911 before he passed out. He was taken to the Cascade City Hospital where they had pumped his stomach and he was now recovering. The officer was polite, but he gave Sarah and Kevin the “don’t leave town” line used in a hundred old movies. They asked if they could go to Cascade City and were told that that would not be advisable until they were notified otherwise.

“It looks like we might need a lawyer,” said Kevin. “That and a detective,” replied Sarah. “Morelock Holmes and his partner, Dr. Watson, do investigations for SCCT staff for little or nothing. I’ll give him a call,” she added. “Then I’ll call Doug at the hospital.”

Holmes and Watson visited Phillips at the hospital later that day. “We’re here on behalf of Sarah North and her husband,” explained Holmes. “They wanted an ‘eyes on’ assurance that you were recovering and some help in finding out what really happened to you. What can you tell us?”

“Well I certainly didn’t try to kill myself as one of the policemen tried to suggest when he was here. That’s nonsense. If I were going to do that, I would just crash a plane or a motorcycle. I could be sure I wouldn’t survive in that case. With poison you never quite know what will happen. You could end up with a tube down your throat for a stomach pumping. Death is almost better than that, but I’m glad they did it now that it’s over.”

“So you are convinced that someone did try to kill you?” asked Watson. “It seems that way. I always have a little wine when I’m working at night. It helps me relax while I work. If I have more than two glasses, I just stay at the cabin so I won’t have to drive.” “Where is this cabin?” asked Holmes. “Oh, it’s part of my hanger at the airport here in town.” “So how much wine did you have last night?” asked Holmes. “Well just one glass finished off the bottle I had brought from home, so I opened the new one my delivery man had brought. I had just one glass from that when I started to feel very sick. That’s when I called 911.” “To get to the tough part, do you have any reason to believe that anyone would try to kill you?” asked Holmes. “There are plenty of people who might benefit if I were dead, but I can’t believe any of them would actually try to kill me.”

“Who might benefit if you were dead?” inquired Watson. “There are my kids to start with. After my wife, they inherit everything. None of them has much use for me other than money anymore. My wife would benefit too, of course. She gets the biggest share of my estate. She might want me dead just to be free of the burden of putting up with me. I really don’t give her much trouble anymore, but I neglected her a lot in years past. There’s that and the fact that I had a wine cellar put into our mansion. That just about killed her.” “Why would a wine cellar kill her?” asked Holmes. “It’s the embarrassment from her perspective. We agree on most things, but she was brought up as a strict conservative Baptist. Having a wine cellar put into the house was about the same a constructing a totem pole or some other idol to worship in her book. I have to smuggle a bottle out of the cellar when she isn’t looking if I actually want to use any of my wine stock.”

“Who has access to the wine cellar?” asked Holmes. “Anybody who comes to the house could probably get down there. It’s not locked. I can’t show it to anyone because of my wife, so probably the kids and the wife are the only ones, other than the workmen who built it, who even know it’s there.” “Who might have had access to the wine at your hangar?” asked Watson. “Well, there’s the guy who brought it, the dry cleaner. He gets my favorite brand and brings it in tucked in the pocket of something I’ve sent him. That way if my wife is at the hangar, she won’t see it. He and I sometimes share a drink if she isn’t around. Think of it, a grown man having to sneak drinks like some teenager tapping into the old man’s liquor cabinet.” “Are the bottles always sealed when the dry cleaner brings them to you?” asked Holmes. “Not always, he sometimes has a drink to ‘sample the goods’ before he brings the bottle in. I don’t mind sharing. He may have sampled the bottle he brought yesterday. I don’t remember. He came while Sarah and Kevin were there, so I just wanted to get him paid and get back to them.”

“If he brought a bottle that was already opened, someone at the liquor store could have put poison into it," said Watson. “Is there anyone at the store who might want you dead?” “Anybody in town might want me dead. I’m the richest guy around here. Envy can eat away at anybody.” Holmes and Watson made their exit and headed back to Holmes’ home and office on Maple Lake. Holmes called Sarah to report that Doug Phillips was physically doing well but cynically unhappy and, of course, highly displeased that someone had tried to poison him.

“It strikes me that a little Bible reading would be in order for Doug about now,” said Kevin to Sarah. “I remember talking to him about that once,” said Sarah. “He said he tried it but couldn’t make any sense of it, so he gave up. I guess he’s just another agnostic waiting for some great revelation in the sky before he bothers to crack a Bible again. He’s never been to a church that I know of.” “Think of that. He’ll go to the other side of the world to talk to a foreign engineer to get clarification on one sentence in a machine operations manual, but he apparently won’t go across town to ask a pastor to explain the book that could change his life.”

Holmes and Watson interviewed both the dry cleaner and the people at the liquor store. “It seems we have quite a suspect list: four children, a wife, a dry cleaner, the owner and three workers at the liquor store and everybody in or around Cascade City,” said Holmes. “It didn’t help that the bottles were apparently mixed together. It seems that it is kind of a ritual with Phillips to pour some from a new bottle into the old bottle and use that as his start on the new bottle.” “Did he tell you that?” asked Watson. “No I got that from the dry cleaner before you joined us at his store. I’ve heard of others doing that, so I asked about it.” “That’s too bad, if we could have ruled out either the new bottle or the one from home, it would have narrowed the suspect list.” “It seems we should talk to Mrs. Phillips,” said Holmes. “Then maybe we can get some idea on how much she or the children might have wanted the old man dead.”

Holmes’ plain Chevrolet with its perpetual coating of dust looked quite out of place in the curved drive in front of the Phillips’ mansion, but Holmes took little notice of that. He was focused on what Mrs. Phillips might have to say. All of the children had come home once they had heard about the attempt on their father’s life. This gave Holmes and Watson a chance to interview them too. All seemed appropriately shocked at the murder attempt and concerned about the welfare of Doug Phillips. Neither detective was able to discern any inappropriate or “red flag” indicators that a murderer might be among them.

As the detectives drove away past the Phillips’ tennis court, Holmes suggested, “I think a visit with the Cascade City Chief of Police would be in order.” The chief was out, but he was expected back in about an hour. Holmes and Watson used that hour to have lunch. Then they met with the chief in his office. “We still don’t know what poison was used, if any. We sent the bottles and the glass Phillips was using to the lab down in Madison. Hopefully we will get some kind of answer later today.” “Do you have any other leads at this point?” asked Holmes. “Nothing useful. Somebody said he thought he saw a couple of suspicious characters looking over Phillips’ fancy sports car outside the hangar. The suspicious characters turned out to be a female instructor from Phillips’ old college and her husband. I sent a man to interview them, but they don’t appear any more likely as suspects than anybody else. I’m hoping the lab boys and girls will give us something to go on.”

The chief’s secretary knocked and then entered his office. “I knew you’d want this email as soon as it came in, Chief. It’s from Madison.” “Thanks,” said the chief taking the printed email. “Let’s see what we’ve got. Oh, great. He was poisoned with a mixture of chemicals common in weed killers available at any hardware store. You don’t even have to sign for that stuff and any one of about ten of the chemicals can kill if you get enough of it into a person. Luckily Phillips got sick and called 911 when he did. Another sip or two and we’d be looking at a death in his ‘cabin in the sky,’ not just an attempted murder.” “How many hardware stores are there in Cascade City?” asked Watson. “Only one, but they get a fair amount of business. Anybody could have bought the stuff there or at twenty other places in the last few months and not left a trail.” “I’m afraid we’ll have to seek clues elsewhere,” said Holmes. “We’ll keep in touch, Chief. If we find anything, you’ll be the first to know.” “Likewise,” said the chief. “Stop in again.”

Holmes and Watson headed back to Maple Lake. As Holmes drove, Watson used his cell phone to report on their progress, or the lack thereof, to Sarah North. Once back in the office, they reviewed what they knew and the suspect list. “Let’s list things on the black board here,” said Holmes. “You know you may have one of the last operating blackboards in America, Holmes. Why don’t you convert to a whiteboard like everybody else?” “There’s something about a blackboard and white chalk in my hand that seems to help me think,” said Holmes. “I know it’s odd, but it seems to work, at least most of the time. Now we have a wife and four children, each of whom would get millions if Doug Phillips died.” “Yes, and we know now  from Mrs. Phillips that the school district would gain a bundle too; so I suppose the superintendent, the school board and maybe even the district employees would have to be on the list,” added Watson. “Well that just gives them a bit of a leg up on the ‘any envious person in town’ group. Let’s focus on the prime suspects,” replied Holmes.

“OK,” said Watson. “I suppose we have to include Sarah North and Kevin. They and their children would get something, according to Mrs. Phillips. Do you suppose she was just a bit too hasty to tell us about all of those outside her family that might have some motivation to kill Doug Phillips?” “That thought has occurred to me, but I called Phillips’ lawyer. He confirmed what she said, even though he couldn’t go into specifics.” “Didn’t he violate lawyer-client confidentiality by telling you who is in the will?” “You have to know how to provide lawyers with plausible deniability. I merely said that I was making some guesses about who was in the will and that I would pause after each one on my list so he could clear his throat if I had guessed wrong. He didn’t make a sound, so he can swear in court that never told me a word about the will. I knew he’d want to help catch Phillips’ attempted killer if he could.”

Below is the list of suspects Holmes and Watson prepared:

Suspects

Wife, Mrs. Phillips
4 children—Marshall, Maria, Henry (Orlando less likely because he’s not in town often, but still a possibility)
Sarah & Kevin North
Dry cleaner
3 workers at liquor store plus liquor store owner
School superintendent, board, & district employees
Any envious person in or around Cascade City
UNSUB (Person yet unknown who could have gotten to wine bottles)
Phillips himself (He may have consciously or unconsciously tried to either kill himself or to stage an attempted murder for reasons unknown.)

Editor’s Note:
 {Did Holmes and Watson solve this one? Who was the attempted murderer?
Find out next time, or offer your own solution according to the directions below.}

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IF YOU, DEAR READER, ARE THE FIRST PERSON TO CONTACT US 
(Use our much improved “Contact Us” page) WITH THE SOLUTION, NAMING THE GUILTY PARTY AND HIS OR HER REASON FOR ATTEMPTING THE MURDER, YOU WILL WIN A RIDE IN ONE OF THE ‘SAFEST PLANES IN THE AIR.’

A ride in a real Cirrus, just like the one in this story, awaits the winner of this contest at the Osceola Airport. You can ride along and see all of the state-of-the- art technology. Your particular Cirrus will be even safer than usual since your pilot will be Dr. Stuart Sybesma, who is both an experienced owner/pilot and a physician and surgeon. Details on arranging for this ride with Dr. Sybesma will be supplied to the winner. The winner will need to match his or her schedule to available times for the pilot and plane.

 

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter X, pt. 3

"Death? In the Sky" or "Alcohol: Legal, Addictive, and Deadly"

{Summary of the story thus far:

SCCT instructor Sarah North and her husband visited former instructor Doug Phillips at is aircraft hanger. Later that night Phillips was taken to the hospital, apparently the victim of attempted murder by poison. Sarah called Holmes and Watson in to investigate.}

Holmes and Watson had prepared the following list of possible suspects:

Suspects

Wife, Mrs. Phillips

4 children—Marshall, Maria, Henry (Orlando less likely because he’s not in town often, but still a possibility)

Sarah & Kevin North

Dry cleaner, Perry Wilson

3 workers at liquor store plus liquor store owner

School superintendent, board, & district employees

Any envious person in or around Cascade City

UNSUB (Person yet unknown who could have gotten to wine bottles)

Phillips himself (He may have consciously or unconsciously tried to either kill himself or to stage an attempted murder for reasons unknown.)

"Let’s see if we can narrow that list down a bit," said Holmes. "Who are the most likely people to attempt to murder Phillips?" "Well, we have to start with the family," replied Watson. "Yes, and who else had access to the wine that almost killed Phillips?" "That would be the dry cleaner and the people at the liquor store."

"OK, then let’s put our computers to work and see if we can find out anything on any of them that would provide particular motivation to make an attack on Phillips."

An hour later Watson called Holmes to his computer screen to look at the report he had accessed from the casino closest to Cascade City. Then came one of those moments which Watson had come to expect from Holmes. "I’ll call the Chief. I think we have it now." Watson didn’t know precisely what they had at that point, but he assumed that it had something to do with one of the prime suspects. Just then their office time was interrupted by a call from Doug Phillips asking them to come to the Cascade City Hospital.

Phillips greeted them from a chair in his private room. "Thanks for coming, gentlemen. They say I can leave this place any time. If it weren’t for the fact that I donated about half of what it took to build this place, they probably would have kicked me out by now. However, I’m more than a bit reluctant to leave until the person who tried to kill me is caught. Here there is only one door to the room, and you saw the officer the Chief has provided to guard that while I am here. The police haven’t told me they have anything on my attempted killer, so I was hoping you could turn up something. I’ll be glad to pay triple your usual fee." "Thanks for the offer," said Holmes. "But we have a client in this case. However, we will keep you informed as soon as there are any developments of substance. I suspect one quite soon based on what Watson found and the call I made to the Chief." That’s great, what can you tell me about it?" Holmes and Watson shared their suspect list and how they had focused on the prime suspects.

"If you can get me sprung from this place and find out who attacked me, I’ve got to do something for you. This kind of experience makes a man do a lot of thinking. When I get out, I’m going to get rid of a lot of my ‘toys’ and see if I can rebuild some of the long-neglected relationships in my life, starting with my wife.

I might even go to church with her. That’ll be tough; I haven’t darkened the door of a church in many years. I’m an educated man, holder of both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Do you think there is anything of value a man of intellect can find in this Jesus stuff my wife keeps harping on? "You’re the most educated man in the room, Dr. Watson. Why don’t you take that one while I step out to call our client what we have found thus far," said Holmes. "Glad to," replied Watson. "Indeed there is much of value in Jesus for the deepest of intellects. That value far surpasses that of all the toys and money in the world. I’ll be glad to tell you about it in as much detail as you want any time." "Well, I am interested. Would you be willing to come over to the mansion and discuss it after I get out?"

"Certainly, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do."

{Editor’s note: Dr. Watson began meeting with Doug Phillips. Interested readers can access information on what happened in those meetings at our "For Open Minds" page.}

Phillips continued, "I have a hangar at the local airport full of planes, cars, etc. If you boys solve this case, I want you to go over there and pick out whatever you want, something for each of you. If it’s a plane and you don’t know how to fly it, I’ll give you lessons myself. If you don’t see anything you want there, I have six more hangars at other airports filled with more inventory you can pick from."

With that generous offer, Watson made his way out to join Holmes and to depart the hospital. They only got to the parking lot when Holmes’ cell phone rang. "Chief, have you got him? Good. And a confession, great. The money, huh? That’s what I thought. We’re at the hospital now. We’ll tell Phillips."

Back in Phillips room, Holmes explained. "I found in searching through financial records that the dry cleaning business is not a great money maker here in Cascade City. To make matters worse, your friend there has a bad gambling habit. That’s what Watson found. Wilson was in severe straights. That’s why I told the Chief to interrogate him. He confessed to the Chief that he just wanted to knock you out because he figured you must have a stash of $100 bills in your sky cabin since you always paid him with a $100." "He probably used weed killers instead of dry cleaning chemicals to try to throw us off the chase," added Watson.

"Well, it’s good to know it wasn’t my wife or any of the kids. That will make things easier in trying to rebuild things with them. Still, Perry is a friend of sorts. If he’d just told me he was in financial trouble, I would have loaned or given him whatever he needed. I guess I’ll have to hire a lawyer for him. He can’t get off, but maybe we can get him into some sort of gambling addiction treatment while he does his prison time. Then I guess I’ll have to help get somebody else in for him to run the store. We can’t leave Cascade City without a dry cleaning establishment. Now Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, don’t forget about my offer of something from one of my hangars. I’ll be offended if you don’t help me divest myself of far too much of this world’s treasures. Then maybe there’s a good charity that needs a significant share of the rest."

Thus did Holmes start flying lessons and become the owner of his own beautiful Cirrus aircraft. It took a little hangar browsing, but Watson and his wife found an almost new three-wheeled Victory motorcycle in Northstar College colors, purple and white. It even came with a matching set of husband and wife helmets and leathers. They made quite a splash in those outfits riding around the campus. The football coach even thought about asking for little orange racing stripes to be added to his team’s uniforms because they looked so good on the Watsons’ outfits and on the motorcycle.

{Did you solve the mystery before Holmes revealed the perpetrator? The answer to the mystery is plainly given in the story above. If you are the first one to email us at mysteriesplusone@gmail.com giving the name and motivation of the perpetrator in the story, you will get the plane ride. Test your skills against the famous detectives again next time in this space.}

 

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

Chapter 3

"Leaping Librarians or the Curse of the Carolenskis"

Morelock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Dean Klee rushed into the St. Croix College of Technology’s small library in response to a scream. Standing on their desks were library staffers Mary Loft and Sheena Wygren. "It’s over there, a snake!" said a quivering Mary, pointing to a corner behind some bookcases behind the main library counter. Grabbing an empty waste basket and rushing toward the corner, Holmes hollered, "Better get everyone out of here, Dean. Watson and I will deal with the snake." The dean had little work to do since all the students had already begun a rush to the door.

In the doorway to a little workroom at the rear of the library stood Nurse Lynette Coakley, waiting to see if her professional skills would be needed. It seemed that where there was a snake, there might be one or more snake bites requiring immediate attention. Like a U.S. Marine who runs toward the sound of gunfire when others run away, Lynette was scanning the library, ready to run to anyone who needed her, snake or no snake. Then she spotted it, "Over there," she screamed as she ran toward the prone body of student hidden from the others by bookcases.

Holmes had quickly captured the snake by slamming the inverted waste basket over it. "Put some heavy books on this basket and keep and eye on it," he said to Watson. Then he raced to Lynette and the student. The nurse shook her head. "Too late," said Lynette. "She was probably dead before I even spotted her."

"This time we do call the police," said Holmes. "Call 911," he called to Mary, now back in her chair, but still a few shades lighter than normal. "Tell them we have a body in the library." "I seem to recall a novel with a title like that," said Lynette. Then she added, "I’ve checked for snake bites on the ankles and arms, nothing shows."

Holmes began his inspection of the body. "Well we can’t undress her to check for bites under her clothing with all those onlookers at the windows. Her arms are clear, so a drug overdose by injection is unlikely. Take a look at this almost hidden by her eyebrow; that looks like an injection site. There’s one over the other brow too." The brows were heavy and black, as was the dead girl’s lipstick and clothing. She was clearly among those who preferred the "Goth" look. A dog collar decorated her neck and small silver-colored chains hung from various points on her blouse and slacks.

"I think you’re right about the injections," said Lynette. "The coroner should be able to tell us more." Sheena Wygren, camera ever at the ready, had gotten a shot of the snake as she observed it from her desktop. After climbing down, she had been comparing her photo to those identifying various snakes on the internet. "It certainly could be a rattler, "she called. "I’ve called for my favorite vet; she can handle anything in the animal world." "Good work," returned Holmes. "Watson, better put another book on that basket." "Already done," replied the doctor maintaining his vigil in the corner.

Police Sergeant Gil Tyler soon arrived closely followed by EMTs with a gurney. "Dean, can you move those students away from the library windows?" he said. "We’ll be working here for some time and we can do it better without a lot of gawkers. I’ll let you know as soon as we have anything you can pass on to them. Hello, Morelock, what have we got?" inquired Tyler, extending a hand to the detective. They had worked a number of cases together, so Holmes was certainly a man he trusted.

"We have a body, a snake under a basket guarded by Dr. Watson, and this is Lynette Coakley, she’s a nurse and lead instructor for the Medical Assistant Program here," said Holmes. "Good to have a nurse on a case like this," said Tyler. "Who found the body?" "I saw it first," said Lynette. "Both Mr. Holmes and I have done some examination of the body. There are no easily spotted snake bites, but Mr. Holmes did find a probable needle injection site near each eyebrow." "No obvious cause of death," added Holmes.

"Hear that boys?" Tyler asked the waiting EMTs. "Is Hennepin County taking our customers today?" The lead EMT nodded. "Well then, she’ll be headed for Minneapolis, but not until we finish our examination of this possible crime scene. You boys can take a seat and relax for a bit. I’ll need to get some pictures." "I can do that for you," offered Sheena. "Thanks, but the D.A. likes it better if I do it. If I can borrow that camera, though, you’ll save me a trip back to the squad."

"What a tragic circle," said Lynette. "Circle?" asked Holmes. The dead girl is Heather Carolenski. She was one of my students. She just moved here from Minneapolis at the beginning of the school year. Now her body is headed back to the city she fled. She said she wanted to be where it was safe. Her brother had been shot in some gang battle near their home. I guess I’d better be the one to call her mother. I think I can locate the phone number."

Now the dean had joined the group. "We’ve never had a death on campus before," he said. "Morelock, would you be willing to work with the police on this? We certainly want it cleared up as soon as possible." "If it’s OK with you, Sergeant," said Holmes. "Welcome aboard," said Tyler. "The Richmont P.D. is always willing to take help from you and Dr. Watson too, but we could never afford your fee." "This one is for the good name of my dear alma mater," said Holmes. "Can you work one gratis for good old SCCT?"" he called to Watson. "If it’s something I can do from the Cities," said the doctor. "I’ll need to get back to the family and my campus." He had joined them since the vet was now on the scene and taking charge of the snake.

The Sergeant spoke to the dean. "We’ll need to keep the library closed for a day or two while we continue our investigation of the scene here. Did they get those security cameras working?" "Security cameras," said Holmes. "Don’t tell me the board finally cut loose some funds for those." "Yes, and they’ll be thanking the Lord they did with this event. The cameras were installed while you were in Austria," replied the dean. "Well, their long-delayed action is most welcome. It is a miracle that they finally acted," said Holmes. "That will help us identify who was here and who, if anyone, had contact with Miss Carolenski. The snake could have been a weapon or a diversion to facilitate escape." "It will be good to have your eyes as well as mine on the replay of the security tape, Holmes," said Tyler.

"Watson, can you pay a visit to the Hennepin County coroner sometime late tomorrow? He should have some results from his examination of the body by then," said Holmes. Thus, after teaching his classes at North Star University the next day, Dr. Watson was in the coroner’s office. "Good to see you again, Dr. Watson," said the coroner. "I’m afraid we don’t have any clear cause of death yet. There were no snake bites and those injections over the eyebrows were just a weak form of Botox; it seems to be a fad among the young here in the metro. It caught on when somebody sent some nonsense out on the internet that if you got the injections before you were twenty-five you’d never wrinkle until you were over seventy. It’s both silly and false information, but certainly following it is nothing that could cause a death. We’ll keep looking over the body and tissue samples." "I guess I’ll go talk to the girl’s mother, then. Holmes thinks that might lead us to something. The woman lives out on Emerson."

"I wouldn’t go there after dark unless it’s pretty far out on Emerson," cautioned the coroner. "That’s a pretty rough area." Since the next day was Saturday, Watson spent the morning with the family and then, under bright sunshine, ventured to the home of Mrs. Carolenski. It was indeed a rough neighborhood. A number of houses on the appropriate block looked ready for demolition with broken or boarded up windows. The Carolenski house and the one next door, however, had obviously been well rehabilitated. "Looks like the good work of Urban Homeworks," he thought.

He knocked on the door and was admitted by Mrs. Carolenski, eyes still red from repeated crying over the loss of her daughter so soon after the death of her son. "Thank you for taking my call and allowing me to visit," said Watson. "I have children myself; I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you." "Thank you, doctor. It is hard, very hard. However, I take consolation in the fact that Heather knew the Lord, so I will see her again in heaven." "I’m praying my children will open their hearts to Him in a few years," said the doctor. "They’re twins, only two years old now." "How nice for you," said Mrs. Carolenski. "I hope my wandering husband has found the Lord, he was such a prisoner of superstition. He left me right after Heather was born. He said he hoped that if he had no contact with the children, they would be spared from the family curse."

"Tell me more about the ’curse’," said Watson. "My husband came from Poland. There is still a lot of superstition in that part of the world. He said his father had run afoul of some witch. She put a curse upon the family saying that at least one child in every generation would die before age twenty-two. My husband’s brother later died at nineteen. I don’t believe in curses, but I know my husband would see what has happened to both of our children as the clear work of that witch." "I’m in agreement with you on curses, especially if applied to Christians," said Watson. "However, this may give me something to take back to the coroner. Is there any reason at all for you to believe that anyone may actually have tried to cause your daughter’s death?" "None at all," replied Mrs. Carolenski.

Following a few more inquiries and answers, Watson took his leave after sharing a prayer with the dead girl’s mother. Then he called the coroner. "Have you checked the Carolenski girl’s tissue samples for any genetic markers that may indicate an inherited cause of early death?" The coroner said he hadn’t but that he certainly would do so and then get back to the doctor.

On Monday morning Holmes met Sergeant Tyler outside the office of Campus Administrator Moe Hufnagel. "We can call off our investigation here," he said. "Yes, I got the call from the coroner on cause of death," said the policeman. "Watson was on target tipping him to with something inherited. Can you either pronounce or spell the name of that rare disease that killed the girl?" "I can pronounce it, but spelling Latin terms is Watson’s department. It’s too bad he couldn’t get away to join us today to claim his well-earned glory for leading the coroner to the solution on this case. Mrs. Carolenski told Watson that the snake wasn’t poisonous, the girl just kept it to scare off neighborhood toughs," said Holmes. Dean Klee then joined them and them they entered to share the good news with the administrator. Naturally both he and the dean were greatly relieved to find that no crime had been committed on campus. "Thank you both for your work and please give our special thanks to Dr. Watson. Let’s hope we can return to a very routine time of peace and quite here," said Mr. Hufnagel. "Amen," added the dean.

The college did actually pass more than a month in welcome and quiet routine. Then it happened, no bodies, no missing jewels but just as bad, a serious breech of computer security. Check this page soon for

"THE HACKING OF JEFF HEATHLEY’S HARDDRIVE."

 

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If you like mysteries, try this one. An innocent man claims he is God. To silence him, religious leaders form a conspiracy to have him murdered. They succeed. He’s dead and buried. Then come reports that he’s not in the grave. Read about it as written by an eye witness to much of the action. It’s a great true story available free and online at www.BibleGateway.com. Enter "John" in the search window. (Hint: wait to read 1, 2, & 3 John until after you’ve read "The Book of John.")

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THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 4

“The Hacking of Jeff Heathley’s Hard Drive.

 

Computer Networking Instructor Jeff Heathley climbed the stairs to his cubicle office. Finally he had reached the end of another long day in the classroom. Of course his day wasn’t over, he had to put in the finishing touches on the test he planned to put online for his students the next day. He opened the laptop sitting on his desk and sat down with a bit of a sigh. He entered his password and opened the test file. “No!” he screamed as his hands rushed to his mouth to cover the sound. He was glad no one else was usually in the office area at this hour. He wasn’t in the habit of revealing his emotions on campus and this was enough to cause even his personal gaskets to blow.

It was clear to his experienced eyes as soon as he opened the file. He had been hacked. “This can’t be,” he muttered to himself. “I’ve got the most secure files on campus. Yet there it is. Confound it, there it is, plain as day!” Leaning back in his chair and looking up into one of secretary Donna Finn’s many mobiles that decorated the area, he uttered a half prayer-half question : “What am I going to do?” Then he heard the sound of someone moving. Looking around the cubicle wall, he saw Donna coming up the stairs. He made a quick trip to the back of the small office area to assure himself that there were no others on hand. Then he went to Donna’s office.

Her office displayed the best of Donna’s mobiles. She really was an artist with old computer components, spray paint, glitter, and only she knew what else. “Donna,” Jeff said speaking at a whisper, “Have you seen anyone other than faculty up here in the last hour?”  “No,” she replied. “Even I’m not usually here at this time, but I had to stay late to get some work done for the dean. Of course I just ran down to the Ladies’ Room for a couple of minutes, so someone could have come and gone then without my seeing him or her. Is there a problem?”

“I’ll tell you because I know you can keep a secret, but I’ve got to have your promise that you will not breathe a word of this to anyone unless I say so,” said Heathley.  “Of course,” replied Donna. “What is it?” “Somebody hacked into my test file.” “That’s bad,” she said. “It’s a disaster,” said Jeff. Donna inquired, “Don’t you think we should call the dean? She’s handled a lot of difficult things over the years.”

“I know she’s about the best dean around,” said Heathley. “However, she’s my boss and I’m a computer instructor. I’m supposed to know how to prevent stuff like this. It’s bad enough that the file was hacked. I’d rather I didn’t have to suffer professional embarrassment in addition to being victimized by theft. This has really thrown me for an emotional loop. I don’t know what to do.” “Can you track the thief through your computer?” asked Donna. “I’ll certainly try, but I can already see at first glance that his guy is top notch. None of the usual hacking markers are there. It was just a flicker of my cursor that tipped me to something wrong,” he replied.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked. “I don’t know,  pray I suppose. If I don’t get this stopped, who knows where he’ll strike next? If he could get through my firewalls, he certainly could hack the main college grade and transcript system if he wanted to. Nothing is safe while he’s on the loose.” “I’ll be glad to pray, it looks like we all need that here. Maybe I should call Morelock Holmes since there’s been a theft, even if it is electronic. You know he works cases for the college for expenses only since he’s an alumnus.” “That’s a bit of a comfort, but let me work on this alone for now. I’ll call Holmes later if I need him. Maybe I can follow the data path. I don’t want to lose a second. Could you call my wife and let her know I might have to stay here in Richmont tonight? Just tell her a problem has developed with a computer system, she understands. Tell her I’ll call by nine myself if I can’t make it home.”

Sweating from everywhere the body could provide that cooling system, Healthley labored at the laptop trying every trick he’d ever learned and then developing one or two on his own out of necessity. Nothing worked. At nine his cell phone’s alarm clock function reminded him that it was time to call his wife and Morelock Holmes. Unhappily he made both calls. He arranged to meet Holmes and Dr. Watson early the next morning in Holmes’ car outside the motel where Instructor Heathley sometimes stayed when he couldn’t make the long trip home.

Inside the nondescript Chevy, the three conferred.  “I have a good idea of the hacking and the threat this hacker poses to the college, but why did we need to meet here in the car?” asked Holmes. “I suppose this thing has me a more than a little paranoid,” replied Heathley. “I wanted to be as sure as I could that nobody could hear about the problem or be listening to what we might do to track the hacker. I just don’t know whom I can trust right now.” “That’s understandable,” said Watson. “However, you do have an obligation to notify the college data processing center. Have you done that?” “Yes, I made the call telling them to change whatever encryptions they could to secure things. Fortunately they didn’t ask how I knew there was a problem. I guess the hacking of my files is bound to come out. I just hope we have a solution in place before it does.”

“Do you have any idea how the hacking might have been done?” asked Holmes. “There are a couple of ways at least. The simple way was for the hacker to get to my laptop and shove in a key logger. That’s like a flash drive. You just push it into a data port and it helps you figure out what the pass word is for the file you want. That’s why I asked the division secretary if she had seen anyone in the office area during the few minutes I had left my laptop at my desk. I had brought it up and then had to go back to the lab for a book. Unfortunately she hadn’t seen anyone.”

“Maybe the new security cameras caught something, we’ll check the recordings.

How else could the hacker have worked?” asked Holmes. “It gets worse. A person who’s good enough can use phishing software from anywhere in the world via the internet. These guys electronically troll for files they might want. Colleges are often a target because they have files of tests, grades, and transcripts that some students might be desperate to get at if they can’t earn their grades legitimately. If hackers can get to a test or grade file, they can either steal data or change grades for a fee. They market this stuff on black market sites. Students in programs like mine know how to get to those sites. A student who has the money and thinks he might be failing would pay well to get what he wants.”

“Watson and I will check out those security tapes. Meanwhile is there a way you can determine whether or not your data was accessed from a remote location?” asked Holmes. “Maybe, I’ll keep at it; maybe I just have to bring in a colleague to put some fresh eyes on the problem. I’ve got to trust someone, I’ll talk to Diane Petry, she’s in our department and she certainly wouldn’t have had any motive for hacking my files.”

The security tapes showed that no one but the invisible man could have gotten to the laptop during the time Heathley had left it alone. Heathley and Petry were able to determine that the hacking had been done from somewhere off campus, but that only narrowed the hacker’s location to the entire rest of the universe. Holmes called Heathley and arranged another meeting. Holmes, Watson, and Heathley now met late that afternoon in the Holmes vehicle. “I’m glad I have a full-size car,” offered Holmes. “I may need to get a van with a conference table.” “Seriously, is there any way to narrow down the possible hacker location?” “Not with the equipment available to us,” replied Petry. “Somebody with something like a Cray Supercomputer could do it,” added Heathley, but there are only four or five of those in the world as far as I know. Most of them are with the CIA or the military.”

“I think it’s time I called in a favor,” said Holmes. “If you can give me your file identification codes and password, I know someone who should be able to help, also from a remote location. That means two or three more people will have to know about the problem in order to work on it.” “I suppose it has to be done,” replied Heathley.

The next morning Holmes and Watson walked through the door and down the long hallway past the St. Croix Tech. computer labs where they could see Heathley and Petry working with students. They went up the stairs to Donna Finn’s office. “Oh, Mr. Holmes,” she asked, “is there any news on the case? Jeff has kept me up to date and I’ve been praying like crazy.” “If you can arrange a conference room for the first hour he and Diane are free, you can join us there and hear all about it,” Holmes replied.

Two hours later, the detectives were joined by the three college staffers in the closest conference area with a door. “We have good news,” said Holmes. The hacker is in police custody. They arrested him right here at his Richmont apartment at dawn. He claims he didn’t hack anything except your test file. His name is Jake Melstone. Do you know him?” “Yes,” replied Heathley. “He was a student of mine, brilliant, but very undisciplined. He could do the work, but I had to give him a failing grade in every class. He didn’t like to do the simple things like showing up for required classes and turning in assignments on time. We are here to train people for jobs. Following directions on the basics like that is vital in the workplace. If you can’t do that, you really can’t claim to be qualified for work, no matter what your skill level. I guess he thought he could prove just how good he was by hacking my test files.”

“He says he didn’t share the data with anyone, I suppose you can check that out,” said Holmes. “We can do that and then we’ll have to go to work building even more security into the system,” said Petry. “How did you ever identify the hacker?” “I can handle that one,” said Watson. “Holmes doesn’t like to blow his own horn, but he deserves it, that’s why I write about his cases when I can. A few years ago he was called to help with a kidnapping case in Washington State. The wife and child of a man you’ve heard of were being held for ten million in ransom. Holmes located them and got them free within two days. Mr. Gates has been waiting for a way to repay Holmes in some way beyond the healthy fee he happily gave.”

Holmes continued the report, “I knew that his company had one of the Cray Supercomputers.  He put one of his best people on it with the codes you gave me and, well, here we are.” “Praise the Lord!” said Donna. “Amen! and thank you so much, Mr. Holmes, and please relay my thanks to your friend out west. I’m certainly not Bill Gates, but if there is ever anything I can do for you, you know you’ve got another friend in the computer field.” said Heathley. “Two,” added Petry.

“I won’t contribute another ‘All’s well that ends well,’” said Watson. "At St. Croix College of Technology, it doesn’t end; there is just a lull before the next storm. However, we can thank the Lord for that.”

{Indeed, it wasn’t long before the next “storm” hit along the nearby banks of the St. Croix River. Find out about it in our next episode, “Administrator Attacked!” or “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!”}

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 5

"Administrator Attacked!"

Or

"Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!"

St. Croix College of Technology was enjoying a run of good administrators. Chief among them for the last several years was Morris Hufnagel, or Moe as he preferred to be called. A former Army officer, then high school football coach and school superintendent, he came to SCCT with a strong resume and an open smile that helped him establish both authority and friendly relationships quickly. Working so close to the St. Croix River and Minnesota, his devotion to the Minnesota Twins added to his reputation as an "ordinary guy" who also happened to be a good manager and a man who could talk to students and staff on their terms.

It was early in the school term but late into the baseball season. The Twins were once again locked in one of their perennial battles for the Division Championship with the Detroit Tigers. Even a cold night in the Twins’ new open air stadium couldn’t deter a true fan like Moe. The Twins had won the game in extra innings and would be moving on to the American League Championship Series. Moe drove over the bridge humming to himself and easily found the wooded lane that led to his secluded home overlooking the St. Croix River. Only yards from his driveway his new Honda was nearly shoved off the road by two violent thumps coming from the side.

He stopped, grabbed his bright lithium-powered flashlight, and jumped from the car. His light revealed two large furry forms retreating into the woods. "Bears!" Moe said out loud. Then he examined the fenders of his shinny vehicle. He knew those repairs would be costly, but he wasn’t injured. One of Moe’s best survival characteristics was his ability to think of the positive even in the midst of something others might see as wholly negative. He called his insurance agent and then slowly drove up the driveway and into the garage. He’d begin the estimate gathering process in the morning.

His wife, Til, short for Matilda, was waiting up. "How’d it go?" she inquired. "The Twins beat the Tigers and the Honda lost to the Bears." What? How could that big, beautiful car lose to anything?" He explained his evening. They shared some decaffeinated tea after Til said a prayer of thanks that Moe was OK, that they had a beautiful home with a beautiful view, and a car that would be as good as new after repairs. Til also focused on the good, even when something bad happened. Then they went to bed.

Repairs were made to the car and all was peaceful on the campus and at the Hufnagel estate until after the first snowfall. It came a bit early, coating the ground with a sparkling new shine in the moonlight. Moe and Til stood in their darkened living room enjoying the sight through a large picture window. "Almost takes the sting out of the Twins’ loss in the World Series, doesn’t it?" said Til. "It does the job," replied Moe. Just then the serenity was broken by howling and scratching from the back of the house. Moe headed into the kitchen with Til close behind. "The security lights should show us what that was," he said. "That’s funny. I checked those motion sensors and lights only a couple of weeks ago, but it’s pitch dark out there. I’ll go take a look," said Moe grabbing his kitchen flashlight. "Whatever it was sounded big. Don’t go out without your shotgun," ordered Til. Moe was a man who didn’t take kindly to orders from anyone now that his Army days were long behind him. He took his orders from God and friendly advice from the college group president. Nobody else gave Moe Hufnagel orders, nobody other than Til. He took the gun down from the rack over the fireplace and quickly loaded it.

Armed with shotgun and flashlight, he slowly opened the door to the back yard. His sweeping light revealed only footprints, footprints of something definitely not human. He knelt in the snow to examine the tracks more closely. Then he went back inside, carefully locking the door. "Looks like a couple of Mountain Lions paid us a visit," he reported. "Two? I only saw one on the television news stories last year," said Til. "If one could wander the county last year, two could certainly be around this year. We should be OK as long as we keep the garbage can in the garage and keep the doors locked. If they don’t find a food source, they’ll move on. They don’t usually stay in one place long anyway."

That prediction proved correct and peace returned to the valley, for a week. The snow melted and fall regained prominence with its reds, yellows and tans decorating the banks of the river. It was Friday night. Son Paul Hufnagel had returned home for the weekend. It was his junior year at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. He had accepted Moe’s advice to minimize his expenses for the first two years by living at home and going to SCCT. He enjoyed being away and on his own now, but an occasional trip home was good too. So he thought as he switched on the television next to the fireplace. He settled back into Moe’s favorite recliner. He knew his father would be up from the basement in a few minutes and he would have to yield the comfortable throne. His "reign" was far shorter than he anticipated. Before he could grab the remote to switch channels, the big picture window shattered and he hit the floor. He didn’t know if it was the sound of the glass or the gunshot sound that preceded it that caused his quick reaction. He didn’t care. He kept low and probed for the remote to turn off the TV. Then he quickly crawled to the lamp cord and pulled it. He had seen enough cop shows to know you don’t sit in front of a lighted window after someone has shattered it with a slug.

Moe came running up the stairs. "What happened? Paul? Are you OK?" "I’m fine, but you better stay low until we can figure out who shot the window out." Moe crawled over to the sound of Paul’s voice." "You sure you weren’t hit, not even by the glass?" "I’m fine, Dad. I just thought the floor was the best place to be for a few minutes. My ROTC training is worth something, you know." "It certainly helped me," replied the older Hufnagel. I think whoever made the shot has moved on. Have you got your cell phone?" "Never without it," said Paul. He reported the incident to the 911 dispatcher. A sheriff’s deputy arrived in fifteen minutes followed a minute later by the sheriff in his SUV along with another deputy. The second deputy patrolled the grounds as the sheriff got the report from his deputy.

The deputy had dug a round from the wall near the TV and had it in a plastic bag. He handed it to the sheriff. "This boy wasn’t hunting turkeys," said the sheriff as he examined the bag’s contents. This would have taken a turkey’s head right off. This is something you might use hunting bears and we don’t have bear season for a week yet, just before hibernation time. This shooter’s going to face some stiff charges when we get him." The sheriff and his men continued their investigation both inside and out while Moe and Paul found a big tarp to cover the window. "That will have to do until we can get some plywood or a fast window repair service in the morning. I’m glad your mother is spending the night at your aunt’s house," said Moe. "She can get spooked," said Paul.

Plywood had to do the job until a window man could come on Monday. Til gave much quicker service, arriving within an hour of Moe’s early morning call. "Why didn’t you call me last night? I would have come then." "And how would that have helped?" asked Moe. "This way you got a good night’s sleep. You know you would have been up all night if you’d come home. By the way, how’s your sister?"

"It was just strep throat. She was beyond the infectious stage before I went. She has her meds and is resting. She should be fine. It’s you and Paul I’m concerned about. Until this is solved, I think we all should move to a hotel." This time Moe stiffened. "You and Paul can go tonight, but a man’s home is his castle. I’m not leaving mine with nothing but a tarp over the window. I’m staying." "That’s two of us," added Paul. "You can stay tonight," said Moe. "Tomorrow it’s back to Madison so you don’t miss classes. I can watch over a window without help."

Til headed back to her sister’s place reluctantly. There was no use spending money on a hotel when her nurse’s training might be of help elsewhere. Moe responded to her calls every three hours with patience. The night passed without incident and the Hufnagel men caught a church service on television so they wouldn’t have to leave the "castle." After lunch Paul prepared to head south with a grim look and a, "Call me if anything happens." "You’ll be the third to know," said Moe patting his cell phone. "It’ll be 911, your mother, then you." "You know I can get back here in three hours," Paul had said. "Not legally," said Moe. "Now off with you."

Moe took Monday off to supervise the new window installation. He looked around the surrounding woods during the day. He didn’t find anything. He had tightened the bulbs on the rear security lights and they now worked as they should. Til drove up. "I thought you were staying at your sister’s place." "I couldn’t, not with you here alone and her doing fine," replied Til. Have you heard anything from the sheriff?" "No, but they are investigating. A case like this is tough. They couldn’t find anything in the woods and neither could I. The shooter may have been somebody accidentally picking a bad place to test his gun before bear season. You know if you get into the woods, you can’t even see the house once you’ve gone fifty yards. A bear rifle has a lot more range than that."

"You may be right, but I just don’t think the sheriff is doing enough. We need to call that private investigator you said did some good work on the campus." "Oh, we don’t need him for something like this. It’s hardly a mystery. It’s probably just a dumb accident." An uplifted eyebrow combined with a frown as only Til could do told him he’d had the only victory she’d let him win with her for a while. "I’ll make the call."

 

{What did Holmes find in the woods? Was it an accident or were bears, lions, and a gunshot part of a plot to get the administrator? Find out in the next chapter! You will see it here in about two weeks.}

 

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 6

"Something In the Woods"

Holmes and Watson arrived the next morning. Moe gave them a tour of the house and grounds along with a report on the shooting. Til had tea and scones waiting for the trio in the kitchen when they came in. "It’s been a tough few weeks," she said. "With the bears, the lions and now the window shot out, it almost seems as if there is a conspiracy to get us." "My wife sometimes sees things as more hazardous than a situation might warrant," said Moe. She gave him "the look" so he did not continue on that note.

"There may be something in this," said Holmes. "Tell us about the bears and lions." That part of the story was then shared by both Til and Moe. "Watson, why don’t you check the security lights while I give a closer inspection to the woods?" said Holmes. "Just what I was thinking," said Watson. "Now that the snow has melted and the leaves have dried, we may see something that the sheriff’s people missed." "Indeed," said Holmes. "I’m for the woods, but not until I have a closer inspection of the area around back where the mountain lions were scratching the door."

Watson and Moe checked out the lights and motion sensors and then waited for Holmes. A distant "Aha!" from the woods told them that the detective’s search had born fruit. Holmes returned with this trophy in a plastic bag. It didn’t look like much. "Look at this, Watson," said Holmes stepping onto the porch where the others waited. "Looks like a piece of plastic wrapper inside a plastic bag," said the doctor. "That it is," replied Holmes. "But this wrapper has a label and a UPC code. It’s from a pound of hamburger. That code may tell us where it was purchased and approximately when. It could be the key to the case, but getting everything I think it may lead to will take at least a few days."

"Meanwhile we wait, worry, and pray," said Til. "Sometimes I wonder why God allows us to go through such trials." "Well, I’m no theologian," said Watson, "but I’ve sometimes found that it is during those trials that I pray most frequently and most fervently. I think that’s at least part of His plan." "You’re probably right," said Til." I know we ultimately have to leave everything in His hands and He will see us trough. Still I’m glad that this time we have a couple of his helpers here in the flesh." "I think we’ve just been promoted, Watson," said Holmes. "So it seems, thank you for the compliment, Mrs. Hufnagel," said Watson.

Holmes and the doctor then left, promising to return the next day. Moe had to leave for work, as did Til. She served as a nurse three days per week at a nearby hospital. When she returned home, Moe was already there. "I have a surprise for you in the backyard; come and see" They went through the house and out of the back door. A large, furry, and friendly form put its paws on Til’s shoulders. Til laughed and petted the German Sheppard. "Who’s this?" she said. "This is Gretel. She’s going to be here to keep you company from now on. I don’t want you alone here on days when you don’t work and I’m in Richmont," said Moe. She gave him a hug. "It’s still love then after all these years?" "Always was and will be until death do us part," said Moe. "Well I do love her and you even more," said Til. "I do wish you hadn’t mentioned the "death" part though. We’ve been a little too close to that around here lately." "Pray more and worry not at all," is what the preacher on that Sunday TV program said. There’s more good news to come," said Moe. "Where there’s a Gretel, there has to be a Hansel. The trainer is bringing her brother here tonight. One can patrol the front of the house and the other the back. You are going to be one safe lady."

Holmes arrived the next morning, as promised. "I have passed the wrapper on to a friend in the St. Paul Police Department. He says that either he or a super market contact of his should be able to tell us something within a few days. Dr. Watson had to return to his other duties, but I think it might be good for me to nose around here a bit more today." "You are most welcome," said Moe. "As you’ve seen, we’ve upped security with a couple of dogs added since yesterday. Adding a highly accomplished investigator to that helps me breathe even easier." "Amen to that," added Til.

Holmes’ inspections of that day yielded nothing new. "I think I can do more good elsewhere for now," he said. "I’ll call as soon as I have more news. With the dogs and your home security system, you should be fine. Just remember to draw the curtains before switching on any lights. You might want to always light two rooms at once. Then if there is an intentional shooter about, he won’t really know where you are." With that Holmes left and Moe and the dogs had the safety of the "castle" and the "queen" in their hands and paws.

After dark two days later, a human form crept through the woods at the back of the house. Stopping just beyond range of the motion sensors, a quick ray of light went from the form toward the kitchen window of the Hufnagel home. A creaking of the door sounded and Holmes ran quickly from behind a tree to the door. Moe welcomed him in whispers and quickly closed the door. The security lights did not reveal anyone else in the area.

"Your call was most welcome," said Moe. I don’t think anyone was out there to see you come in. "Good," replied Holmes. As I said on the phone, we’ve traced the wrapper to a John Riley. What does that name mean to you?" "We bought the house from a Michael Riley, John might be his son," said Moe. "I heard the son really wanted the property, but Michael felt he was too impulsive and immature to have such a place. Instead he put the money from the estate into a trust fund administered by a lawyer. The son gets regular payments, but what he really wanted was the land."

"That seems to tie things together," said Holmes. "I suspect he’ll be making another move soon. Is there a place I can stay here for a few days?" "Certainly, Paul won’t be home, you can use his room." Thus, Holmes, careful to never turn on a light in Paul’s room, took up his post. The next morning Moe was off early, as usual. He left the garage open since Til usually left shortly after him on her work days. As she rounded the corner of the garage, a man swung down from the only tree near the house. He tried to hit Til with a bag of flour.

Before the bag could find his mark, Holmes and Gretel sprang from under the tailgate of Til’s SUV. Gretel grabbed the man’s arm and Holmes quickly followed in a well practiced move that had the assailant in handcuffs behind his back before he knew what was happening. Holmes kept an eye on him while Til called 911.

The next day Holmes met with Watson at the professor’s office in St. Paul to tell him about the finish of the case. "My congratulations on another successful adventure," Holmes. Was it the hamburger wrapper that did him in?" "Yes," replied Holmes, "that and quick work from Gretel." "Captain Mostrom of the St. Paul P.D. was able to determine from the UPC that the hamburger was purchased in Clearwater, just over the bridge from here. I went to the store and talked with the manager. He’s a bit of a computer geek and couldn’t have been happier to try out their new UPC tracking system. It identified not only the time of purchase but the purchaser’s residential zip code and credit card number. The credit card company eventually gave us the name of John Riley as the buyer.

Holmes then explained the Riley connection to the case. "It was John Riley who caused all the difficulty. He confessed, but said he just wanted to scare the Hufnagels into selling the property to him. After looking over the rifle they found at his home and examining the high-priced scope attached to it, the sheriff agreed that any shooter could easily have killed Paul from the short distance Riley claimed to have been away from the house when he fired. The attack with flour seems to confirm harassment rather than murder as a motive. Still, he will have a number of years in the state prison system to consider the error of his ways."

"He never just called the Hufnagels to make an offer on the property, I suppose," said Watson. "No, I asked about that. However, with the way they love the place, I don’t think any amount would have induced them to sell. At least they can live in peace, now."

{At St. Croix College of Technology, peace seems to be short lived. Don’t miss our next chapter, "Lost Lorraine" or "The Dean Is a Real Goner!"}

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 7

"The Tale of Lost Lorraine"

Lorraine Rapp was a breath of smiling fresh air when she arrived as Dean of Student Services at St. Croix College of Technology. There had been some difficulties in that area which she worked to bring right and now after several years on the job, things seemed to be humming as well as one could hope in her sector of the ever- changing seas of academia. She had worked with others to establish a program of cultural exchange students for her college and the first students from Germany had been on campus in the fall for two weeks. Now the end of spring semester was fast approaching and she was readying herself to accompany a group of SCCT students on a late May trip to let them see the glories of Germany.

The plan was to fly out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport direct to Frankfort. After eleven days there touring the area and even trying to do a quick intake of beginning German, they would join a larger tour group to take a bus tour to Munich. After two days with that group, they would bus back to Frankfort for another direct flight back to the U.S.

All went well, amazingly so actually, with the collection of the students at the SCCT campus, getting the group to the airport and on to their plane for departure. Lorraine settled back into her seat, fastened her seat belt, and checked again that all of her charges were similarly prepared for takeoff. Only then could she breathe a short prayer of thanks that even Melody Olson had actually remembered her passport. The flight to Frankfort was smooth. The Icelandic volcano that had disrupted European flights for days was once again spewing its ash in a northerly direction, so no southerly detours were necessary in the flight path.

They landed in Frankfort, got through the tight security, and were met by their German guide who helped them find a bus to their hotel. They were to be hosted by the nearby Frankfort Technical Institute, a college somewhat similar to SCCT in function. There the students would take a short course in German in the mornings and then have the afternoons free to tour museums, do some shopping, and on some days, just try to "hang out" or relax. There was one incident in which student Tyler Friesen, who had learned a little German from his grandmother back in Wisconsin, tried to show off for a couple of the other males. He spotted a very attractive German girl on the street and tried to use his "advanced" language capabilities to make a date. His German apparently was not as advanced as he had hoped; she called a nearby policeman, and Lorraine had had to use all of her tact and somewhat better command of German to beg that the poor, ignorant tourist be let go with a stern warning. Finally peace reigned and a much chastened Tyler hastened back to his room at the hotel counting himself blessed that his exposure to the glories of Germany did not include time in the Frankfort City Jail.

All else went well in Frankfort. The students saw many of the sights and learned of Frankfort’s great efforts after World War II bombings to rebuild in an architectural style at great contrast to its prewar form. However, the churches, mostly Roman Catholic in that part of Germany, had generally had been rebuilt as replicas of their prewar form. Some of the students had hoped to tour a church near their hotel on a Sunday morning and were surprised to be barred from doing so because it was being used for services. They had been told that many European churches were no longer in use as worship locations but instead were now just museums. Such was not the case for the one they had chosen. Some attended the mass and others were happy to have another bit of time to just observe the city in general and the passing crowds on the streets.

The end of their time in Frankfort seemed to come much more quickly than Lorraine had anticipated. However, she was looking forward to the bus tour with a large group of German and U.S. students from various locations. This gave the students another opportunity to interact with a very different set of people than they generally saw at SCCT. Of course the German countryside with its hills and forests was beautiful. They stopped at two villages along the route to get a brief look at life outside the big city, a pleasant change for the SCCT students, and then they were on to their main stop, Munich.

Munich was a strong contrast to Frankfort architecturally. It had chosen to rebuild city-wide after the war to be exactly like it was before the devastation of the bombings. Prewar photos of buildings were carefully studied and most everyone agreed that the rebuilt structures had indeed managed to look almost exactly like the buildings they replaced. Time in Munich was short, but everyone was now beginning to look forward to the return trip to Frankfort with a stop at the fabled castle of "Mad" Ludwig.

Historians debated whether or not he had actually suffered from some mental illness or had just been the victim of political intrigue. There was no debate, however, on the beauty of his castle. If you have ever seen a picture of any European castle, you have probably seen this one. Set in the wooded mountains of Bavaria, this is the castle used as the model for Disney’s Cinderella castle and repeated as a symbol of Disneyland. The bus got as close as possible to the castle, but a significant walk up to the castle still remained. Then groups could tour the interior as long as members were prepared for an endless series of winding staircases and rooms both large and small. Lorraine shepherded her charges up the stairs to follow the guide to the first interior room. They sometimes had to break up into smaller groups or be joined by members of other groups depending on the size of a particular space.

About halfway through the tour, they came to the armory. Lorraine had toured the castle once before on an earlier trip. She backed up against the wall to let the students have a better view. She found herself pushed against a tapestry curtain, so she tested if she could make still more room for others by getting behind the curtain. She meant to remain viewing her students by holding the curtain to one side, but the space behind the curtain proved to be only a small storage space. As she backed into it she somehow dislodged a heavy piece of sculpture from a shelf above her head. It came down with a thump on her head and Lorraine immediately followed with her own thump as her body hit the floor. None of the others noticed the noise. The tapestry swung closed and the tour group moved on without her.

Lorraine might have been a bit hurt emotionally if she had known that the students were so busy gawking at the castle and then intrigued by the chance to continue getting to know students from other groups on the bus that she was not missed. By this time in the tour, the students were quite independent. The bus got them back to their Frankfort hotel and they went to their rooms to ready themselves for supper and their last night in Germany. It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning that anyone noticed that the dean was not at the table.

Tyler Friesen volunteered to go up to Lorraine’s room to check on her. Finding the door locked and getting no response to his knocks, he used a phone in the hall to call the desk. He explained the situation and a clerk brought a key to the room. They entered to be sure the dean was all right and were greatly surprised to find the room obviously untouched by a recent occupant. The bed was made and no luggage was in place; neither was Lorraine.

Tyler made a hurried trip back to the SCCT students hoping to see Lorraine there eating breakfast and ready to get on the bus to the airport with the students. Such was not the case. A hurried bit of discussion led the group to the conclusion that they should get on to the airport so they wouldn’t miss their plane. Tyler volunteered to stay behind to coordinate the search for the missing dean. The others happily accepted his offer as they all had families and/or jobs to get back to.

Tyler and the hotel staff made a thorough search of the building. No sign of Lorraine was found. The hotel manager reluctantly summoned the Frankfort police. Tyler made the required call back to the SCCT campus. This had been a clearly written direction given to all of the students on the trip. In the event of some major difficulty, the SCCT administrator was to be informed as soon as possible. Since morning in Germany was dead of night back at the campus, Tyler could only leave a recorded message for Campus Administrator Moe Hufnagel. Tyler promised to call back later. He didn’t get the chance since Moe called the hotel and then the Frankfort police as soon as he checked his messages. Moe thanked his military discipline for ingraining in him the need to check for messages immediately upon arriving at the office.

Once Moe had all the facts that could be gathered via phone calls to Germany, he place one call locally. Holmes took it at his office/residence on Maple Lake. He then called Watson and asked that the doctor meet him at the airport for a trip to Frankfort. North Star College was between terms, so Watson needed only to check with his wife and then grab his always-packed bag and head for the international terminal.

{Where was Lorraine? What condition was she in? Find out next time as "The Tale of Lost Lorraine" continues next month.}

 

THE CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES

BOOK ONE

HOLMES IS DEAD, ISN’T HE?

Chapter 8

"The Tale of Lost Lorraine pt. 2"

Here is a summary of our story to this point. Dean of Students Lorraine Rapp accompanied a group of St. Croix College of Technology students on a tour of Germany. At the castle of King Ludwig of Bavaria, she backed into a small storage area to give students a better view of an amour display. She accidentally bumped a heavy sculpture on a shelf. It fell and knocked her out behind a heavy tapestry. She lay unnoticed and the students went back to their hotel in Frankfort not noticing her absence until the next morning. Student Tyler Freisen remained in Frankfort and the other SCCT students returned to the USA. Campus Administrator Hufnagel asked Holmes and Watson to fly to Frankfort to investigate.

It was dark. That she knew. Lorraine also knew that she had a terrible headache and was lying on a cold floor, just where she did not know. She was confused. She reached out her hand and felt a heavy curtain. When she moved it she could see a small window across a room. It was just before the earliest gray of dawn began to light the sky, so she couldn’t see much in the room. She tried to sit up. Dizziness attacked her and she slumped back down. She decided the cold floor would do for a while. When a bit of light became visible under the curtain, she tried again to get up, this time very slowly. She managed to brace herself against a wall and achieve sitting position. Then, moving even more slowly, she managed to get to a standing position. "Thank you Lord for that much," she prayed.

Lorraine moved the curtain tapestry and looked out into the room. She could see now that some old amour was displayed on the walls. She decided she must be in a museum or an old castle somewhere. She could see doors, one to the right and one to the left. Lorraine always tried to take the right path, so through the door to the right she went, still moving quite slowly. She found a narrow winding staircase leading upward. She had hoped for down, but she took what was available. She got to the top of the stairs and found herself in the most beautiful room she had ever seen. It was quite large. On one side were beautiful blue pillars topped with ornate gold leaves. Between the pillars were gorgeous paintings. Above this was an even more marvelous scene on a gold background. There were men, apparently kings, six of them, each one separated from the others by a palm tree. Above them was a painting of Jesus surrounded by angels.

Lorraine had no idea what all this meant, but she knew she had to move on. She found a window at eye level and looked out. She could see now that she definitely was in a castle and a very beautiful one. Then she remembered. This was Cinderella’s castle. "Of course", her addled mind told her, "You are Cinderella!" Then it all seemed clear. She remembered how the handsome prince had danced with her at a ball and how later they had married and he had brought her to the castle. She looked at her hands and realized they were not the hands of a young girl. She determined that she had lived in the castle with her prince for many years, but she still didn’t know her way around her castle.

She continued to wander in the early morning l light. Eventually she found her way down to a courtyard. There she was met by an elderly gentleman in a uniform. She could read the German and English embroidered patch on his jacket. He was a guide. He was surprised to see someone in the castle at such an early hour. He asked who she was. "I’m Princess Cinderella," came the reply. "Of course you are, my lady," said the guide. "May I escort you to a place where you may rest from your examination of your castle?" The princess was happy to have a guide and even more happily went with her escort to a bench where she could sit in the morning sun.

The guide excused himself and went a short distance away to place a cell phone call to his wife. They lived in a cabin just below the castle grounds. He asked that she come to assist with a visitor who evidently had become detached from her tour group, perhaps more than a little of her mind, and apparently had spent the night wandering the castle. This was not a new phenomenon to the guide. About once a year some confused tourist got lost in the castle and spent the night wandering. He was the one who opened the touring areas in the morning, so he was usually the one to find such wanderers. Usually they were not as confused as "Cinderella," however.

After meeting the princess, his wife agreed that a few days of rest and some good German food would be just what the "princess" needed. She asked the "princess" to take a break from her duties at the castle and to come for a short stay at their cabin. The "princess" agreed. She didn’t feel up to any royal duties at present.

Back in Frankfort, Holmes and Watson met with the local Chief of Police. He said nothing had turned up. It was as if the dean had vanished. The detectives went to the hotel where the SCCT group had stayed. They met with the hotel detective who also had nothing to report except that two thorough searches had been made of the premises and they were convinced that the dean was definitely nowhere at that location. Next Holmes and Watson talked with Tyler Freisen. He also had no idea where the dean might be.

Holmes and Watson checked into a room at the hotel and went to dinner. Then they met again with Tyler. "When was the last time you recall seeing the dean?" inquired Holmes. "Well, let me see. Actually the last I remember seeing her was early in the tour of Neuschwanstein, that’s the castle," replied Tyler. "You didn’t see her on the bus to Frankfort?" asked Watson. "No, not that I recall. Of course there was a girl sitting next to me from the University of Nebraska. With all respect to the dean, the U of N girl was a bit more of an attraction to my eyes."

"That castle is definitely a point we will have to pursue," said Holmes. "Watson, I think might be a quick trip to the castle for you while I work the case from here. The dean could easily have gotten on the bus and then disappeared before entering the hotel. I’ll have to check for security tapes and continue work with the police and the house detective. Maybe you can check on busses and trains to the castle while I see if I can contact Mr. Hufnagel. He might learn more from calls or emails from the other students on the trip."

Again the time difference between Germany and the campus delayed things until morning, but Mr. Hufnagel was on the phone to each of the students at the first opportunity. None of them could recall seeing the dean after the beginning of the castle tour. "Have you packed your Prince Charming costume, Watson? It looks like you have a trip south." said Holmes. "No definite dean sightings can be confirmed after the castle visit. While you visit the castle, I’ll get on those security tapes."

A train trip followed by a short taxi ride provided the quickest transport for the doctor, getting him to the castle later that day. He contacted castle security and asked for a search. This was not the first such request the staff had ever received. Still, in a castle of the size of Neuschwanstein, it was no mean feat. It took all of the security staff about three hours to complete the task. No sign of the dean was spotted. One security guard did find a broken piece of sculpture in the armory, but no connection between that and the missing lady could be made.

Next the guide staff was assembled for a meeting at the end of their usual shift. They were questioned about any sighting of a lady fitting the dean’s description. Spotting one person, even a lone wanderer, amidst the usual crowd of tourists coming through the castle was impossible. There were security cameras at the entrances and exits, but none within the castle itself. Watson asked the security chief to look at available tapes for any sight of the missing dean as he provided the chief with a photo of her he had brought from Richmont.

It so happened that this was the old guide, Gustav’s, day off. Thus he was not questioned about the missing dean. He had spent the day with "Cinderella" and his wife back at their cabin. Watson decided to stay in the area, so he booked a room at the closest location so he could come back to the castle the next day. From his room he phoned Holmes back in Frankfort.

Neither had any signs of the lost Lorraine to report to the other but they agreed to continue working from the two locations. Early the next morning Watson decided to begin his own examination and search of the castle. He held out little hope that one man could find a missing person at the site which an entire security staff had already searched, but he knew he couldn’t rest until he had done everything he could.

It was nearly 5 p.m. Neuschwanstein time when he collapsed onto a bench near the main entrance to the castle. "I’ve done everything I can think of, Lord" he prayed. "If you want me to find this lady, you’ll just have to show me where to look." Then he closed his eyes and tried to relax. When he opened them he saw an elderly man making his way up to the castle with a lady who looked familiar to Watson. She did not seem to recognize him, so he waited on the bench. When they were only ten feet away, he could no longer restrain himself. "Dean Rapp!" he cried. She looked at him a bit taken aback. "I believe you are mistaken," she said. "I am not this Dean whatever person, I am Princess . . ." Her voice trailed off. Then her faced showed signs of recognition. "Why Dr. Watson, fancy meeting you so far from home. What brings you to the castle?" "I came to find you, dean. You’re not longer the ‘Lost Lorraine,’ thank God!"

"Did someone think I was lost?" she said. Explanations were shared. The dean seemed to regain all of her memory with the sight of a familiar face. She had met Dr. Watson several times back at SCCT. Excessive thanks were given to the old guide and the dean offered to entertain both the man and his wife any time they might be able to visit Richmont. She promised to send a box of Wisconsin products to the couple as soon as she got home.

Watson made a call to Holmes to report his find. The arrangements were made for the train back to Frankfort. Watson and the dean reached the Frankfort hotel and the lady finally got to use her room for a night. The next morning Holmes and Watson accompanied Lorraine to a plane and the three, plus Tyler Freisen, headed back to the USA. "She said she didn’t need more rest, but I have noticed that Lady Lorraine has been asleep almost since we took off," said Holmes to his partner. "Yes, I believe that rest is the best treatment for recovery from memory loss, so that’s good" replied Watson. "Moe was overjoyed at your locating the dean," said Holmes. "I should have let you make the call to him." "That’s quite all right. You know I do these things for research and learning, not for glory. You are welcome to whatever of that is to be handed out."

"You are indeed a humble spirit, dear Watson. No wonder your wife puts up with your frequent departures and always welcomes you home like a returning hero, which you are once again," said Holmes. "There really wasn’t much heroism to it, you know. I just sat down on a bench, prayed and the prayer got an almost instant answer," said Watson. "I’ve never seen an answer to prayer bring exactly what I asked for and so fast. " "It’s unfortunate that the news media will seldom report it that way," said Holmes. "I always pray every step of the way through my cases, but it doesn’t get reported. I’m sure the media will just say that you ‘happened to be at the right place at the right time.’ God will get not credit at all." "Sad but true," said Watson. "You know if you will ever agree to teach that short course on crime detection I’ve been begging you to do at North Star College, you could put that right. Every law enforcement officer who can squeeze into the main lecture hall will be there once they learn that you are conducting the course. Then at least some of the media might report that our "secret" crime detection technique is prayer. When can I tell dear old President Hamel that you will grace our campus?"

The negotiations on this point continued for some time. A full report on that will have to wait for another story. "Lost Lorraine" was welcomed with flowers and applause upon her return to SCCT. Many hugs were exchanged and peace returned to the campus. This time it even seemed to stay for awhile. Then he arrived. Who was he? What did he do to disturb this idyllic spot? Find out next month in "Mr. Left Comes To Call."