The Mystery Box Set

By: Eva Pohler

The Mystery Man, The Mystery Box, and The Mystery Tomb





THE MYSTERY MAN





Chapter One: First Day




Denise Walker ran in the hot sun across the Trinity University campus from Northrup Hall toward Chapman. The glare from the sun reflecting off the library windows and the metal sculptures and concrete sidewalk made her feel as though the universe had a spotlight on her.

It was hard to believe that, a week ago, she’d held her father’s gun to her temple and had come closer to going through with it than she’d ever come before.

When she reached her physics class and peeked inside, she groaned. Unlike the last class, this was an auditorium-style room with over fifty students. There was little chance she wouldn’t be noticed. Biting her bottom lip, she slipped through the entrance as inconspicuously as possible to the nearest empty seat. When she looked up, the professor was staring at her.

He continued to stare, first with his eyes wide, and then narrowed, as if he recognized her. She wondered if she’d met him at student orientation or at the convocation, but she was sure she would have remembered him. He was young, attractive, well-built, and tall. His skin was dark, as was his short curly hair. Startling emerald eyes gazed at her from his baffled and beautiful face. How long would he continue to stare? The blood had rushed to her cheeks, and she looked away, as she picked through her backpack for a notepad and pen.

Once she had unfolded the swivel desktop over her lap and had opened her notepad to the first page, Denise looked up to find the professor was still staring at her. She glanced around the room. Other students were now looking at her, too.

“I’m sorry I’m late, Professor Nadir,” Denise said as she nervously twirled a strand of her black hair around her index finger. “I went to room 124 in Northrup Hall by accident and didn’t realize I was in the wrong classroom until after the teacher had taken attendance.”

The professor surprised her with a grin. He had an adorable face when he smiled, and this relaxed her. He muttered something beneath his breath—she wished she could hear it. Then he said, “That’s perfectly fine, Dee—er, Denise.”

What the heck? How did he already know her by name in a class of over fifty students?

“As I was saying,” the professor said. “If you bought your textbook, return it. Get your money back. Everything in it is outdated.” He paused and glanced at the students and then found Denise again. “What I’m about to teach you in this course will blow your mind.”

Denise looked away, embarrassed again by his attention, and scratched out a note on her notepad: Blow my mind.

“The very first lesson I want you all to understand is this: Contrary to Einstein’s theory, it is possible for an object to travel faster than the speed of light. It only appears to be otherwise, because the object traveling at this speed is without light, and therefore, invisible.”

Denise couldn’t stop herself from raising a hand.

Professor Nadir laughed. Why would he laugh? But she kept her hand raised until he called her by name.

“If the object is invisible, how can your statement be proven?” she asked.

“Aha!” he said, smiling wider and lifting a finger in the air. “I’m glad you asked. That will be the topic of our first unit. Before tomorrow, I want you to read everything you can find on Einstein’s theory of relativity. I’m releasing you early today, but don’t get used to it. See you next time.”

Denise glanced around at the other students gathering their backpacks and purses and folding their desks before making their way down the rows and out of the room. Brian Jameson stood at the top of the steps near one of the back exits. Brian Jameson? She hadn’t noticed him among the crowd of students, and now her heart skipped a beat. His body had filled out—was more muscular than it had been in high school. His brown hair had grown out into wavy locks that fell to his ears. She waved at him and then turned away, down the steps toward the professor.

As Professor Nadir was packing his leather satchel, he didn’t see her coming toward him. She cleared her throat. When he looked up at her, a huge smile crossed his face. It was perplexing and breathtaking.

“I want to apologize again for being late,” she managed to say, despite how captivated she was by the man standing in front of her. “I was hoping to make a better impression on the first day.”

“You have nothing to fear.” He winked. “Consider me greatly impressed.”

A chuckle escaped from her throat as blood rushed to her cheeks. “That hardly seems possible.” She wondered if he was teasing her. “However, I’m very impressed by how quickly you learn your students’ names.”

Through his chocolate complexion came the pinkish hue of his own blush. “I’m not good with names. I called attendance, and it was only by the power of deduction that I came to know yours.”

This was getting awkward. “I was the only student missing out of fifty or sixty?”

“Seventy-two. And there were seven missing, but you were the only female.”

She felt relieved and gave him a nod of understanding. The tension left her body as she was reassured that nothing out of the ordinary was going on between them.

He swept up his book satchel and headed toward the front exit. “I’ll see you on Wednesday, Denise.”

“Have a good day, Professor,” she said.

A whirlwind of heat washed over her as she watched him leave.

“Denise!”

She glanced up to the exit at the back of the room where Brian was waiting. So, he’d waited for her. As she raced up the steps, two at a time, she wondered what on earth he could possibly have to say to her. She met him on the landing, where he was holding the door open.

“That was strange,” he said.

“I know. Right?” She stepped into the hallway, where others were headed to lecture halls and classrooms. “Long-time, no-see. How’ve you been?”

“Not as good as I am now,” he said with a cheesy smile. “Are you going to another class?”

“Composition. You?”

“Calculus.”

“How fun.” Brian knew her well enough to know she wasn’t being sarcastic. They both loved math.

“And after that?” he asked, as they rounded the corner of the hallway.

“I have a break, for lunch.”

“Want to meet up at Earl Abel’s? Around eleven-thirty?”

She smiled up at him. “Okay. Yeah. Sure.”

As they parted ways in front of her next classroom, she felt a tingle work down her spine. Brian was interested in her again, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.



Earl Abel’s was bustling with lunchtime diners and with the aromas of chicken, potatoes, and pie when Denise arrived and cased the entrance for Brian. When she didn’t spot him, she stood with a crowd of others near the hostess station feeling unsure about her decision to lunch with him. Things had ended awkwardly between them in high school. Then she’d taken two years off to save money, and he’d gone on ahead of her to Trinity. They were the same age, but he must be a junior by now, and he hadn’t so much as given her a text or a phone call in the two years since they’d last seen one another. Did he really think they could pick up where they’d left off?

The hostess, not much younger than she, asked for her name.

“Denise, party of two.”

“I’ll get you seated in about ten minutes,” the hostess said.

“Thanks.”

Maybe it wasn’t Brian’s intention to pick up where things were before, she scolded herself. They could be friends, couldn’t they? This was just a lunch, not a romantic riverboat cruise or a sunset at Enchanted Rock. She closed her eyes as the wave of memories with Brian accosted her.

“Are you okay?”

She opened her eyes to see Brian looking down at her.

“Yeah. Fine. How was your calculus class?”

“Great. I have the same teacher I had last semester, for Calc Two. She knows her stuff. How was Composition?”

“The jury’s still out on that.” She lifted her brows and grimaced. “We shall see.”

After a few more minutes of small talk, the hostess took them to their table and they ordered. Their food arrived, and they continued to chat. As Brian told her a little more about his major (math), his job (teaching assistant in the math department), and his aspirations (a professorship at a university after grad school), she continued to assess his intentions toward her. There was something about the way he gazed into her eyes that gave her the feeling he wanted to be more than friends.

She still didn’t know how she felt about that.

When the check came, he offered to pay, but wouldn’t that make it a date? Since she still wasn’t sure what she wanted, she insisted on paying her share of the bill. Afterward, he walked her to her car and kissed her softly on the cheek.

“See you in Physics on Wednesday,” he said in that low, gentle voice that used to send chills of pleasure down her body.

There may have been a few chills today.

“See you then, Brian.”



That evening after her school day was over, Denise made a pot of beef stew and studied while it cooked. She did her calculus, biology, and composition homework first. Then, after she added the veggies to the stew, she sat at the kitchen table with her laptop and scoured the internet for all things related to Einstein’s theories.