The Mystery Tomb

By: Eva Pohler

“The Mësingw?” Mark raised his brows at Samantha.

“Really? Please don’t joke with me.” Samantha looked more closely at the beads on the lining. Beneath the folds of dirt, she could make out the half red and half black face: The Mësingw.

Her mouth fell open as Mark laughed out loud and patted her on the back. He professor met her eyes, and the two of them smiled before also breaking out into joyous laughter. Then she jumped up in the air, hugging herself. Mark ran a victory lap past the excavation units and all around the site, and she quickly followed, singing “Woohooo!” repeatedly as the sun continued to sink beyond the rolling hills.

“We’ve done it!” The professor shouted in the evening air.

“We’ve done it!” Samantha cried, too, returning to the professor, Mark not far behind.

She sank on the ground and covered her face with her hands. It had been such a long journey, and she had nearly given up. Tears sprang to her eyes. Her grandmother had been right: Their family was descended from a tribe that had branched away from the Lenape.

“The lost tribe,” the professor said, tears streaming from his eyes. “My word, Samantha, you were right. My word, woman, you’ve discovered the lost tribe of Unikwëti!”

Samantha left the bathroom on the second floor of Gellermann Manor and danced in her robe toward what had been her room for the past two weeks. She couldn’t believe four years of research had finally paid off. Her grandmother would be so pleased to know there was a way to join the modern tribe. And the professor would have to get tenure after this. And what about her? Surely this would get her a job just about anywhere, or at least somewhere good. She was so tired of living off her parents and eager to pay them back for all their generosity. At twenty-five years of age and still living with her parents, her days of feeling like a loser were over.

She hummed to the song playing on her iPod until, as she neared her door, the stranger from earlier appeared at the top of the stairs across from her. She’d had this part of the house to herself for two weeks, so it was a shock to see someone this evening. Her face flushed as she clutched her robe and pulled the tiny ear buds from her ears.

His long dark hair was wet like hers.

“Just great,” he said.

She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“You and the others are staying here?” He looked her up and down.

“Are you?”

He took a step closer to her. “I live here.”

She backed up toward the door of her room. “Listen. Please don’t make us…”

“I come all the way home from Iraq to find this.”

“We’ve finally found the tribal seal on a bandolier bag that’s just like my…”

He took a step closer, his face inches from hers. “You better start packing.”

For a moment she thought he was going to kiss her. She stammered back and said, “Look, I’ll just go get dressed.” She entered her room, breathless, and closed the door.

Everyone else was already seated at the table when Samantha arrived at seven sharp. Brandon Gellermann wore a formal suit, as he had every evening since they’d been there.

He stood up when she entered. “Good evening, Samantha.”

“Good evening. I hope I haven’t kept everyone waiting.” She took her seat beside him across from Mark and the professor.

The table was clothed with ivory silk trimmed with Chantilly lace. Samantha noticed a new setting tonight. Royal Crown Derby, Ashby pattern. China was her mother’s love, after her family. Their home was full of collections from all over the world. Samantha turned her plate over. The maker’s mark was green, indicating World War II production. This meant each of the pink flowers was painted by hand. Brandon had a valuable collection.

“Not at all.” Brandon took his seat. “We’re all just a little on edge tonight. I was just telling the professor that I wasn’t expecting my grandson home for another month.”

For the first time in two weeks, a fifth place had been set on the table next to her.

“Will he be joining us?” she asked, dreading the answer.

“Unfortunately, no,” Brandon said. “Charles has been in Afghanistan for nearly six months, and tonight he wasn’t up to company.”

Relieved, Samantha twisted the napkin in her lap beneath the well-dressed dinner table as the butler entered with plates of salad. As she picked up her fork, Sam said to Brandon, “Your grandson didn’t seem too pleased to see us.”

Mark laughed. “That’s an understatement.”

Nodding, Brandon said, “Yes. He told me his feelings about the matter. I must say I never expected him to oppose your research.”

“What does this mean?” Samantha asked, takin a sip of her water. “Do we really have to clear out?”

“I was just telling your professor that you may continue your excavation as long as you wish, but this is the difference: I want you to leave everything you find here with me.”

“What?” the professor asked, with a touch of indignation.

“You may photograph as much as you’d like,” Brandon said. “But I’m afraid that everything you find belongs to my grandson, for he is, er, a descendant of the bodies you have discovered.”