The Mystery Tomb

By: Eva Pohler

He smiled down at her and then continued up the stairs. “Thanks.”

As Samantha walked through the foyer, she overheard part of the conversation between the professor and Brandon. She stood inside the doorway, on the verge of joining them now that she was rid of Mark.

“Excuse me for being so bold, Brandon,” the professor said, both of them apparently comfortable with their coffee and cigars, each in overstuffed chairs on either side of an empty fireplace at the back of the room, and unaware of her presence.

Above the mantel behind them loomed a huge elk head, its glassy eyes watching over them. Samantha shuddered.

Brandon raised his eyebrows and waited expectantly for the professor’s question, exhaling a stream of smoke that swirled up toward the ceiling. “What is it?”

“Well, I couldn’t help but notice these past two weeks that you hold a strong emotion, something like contempt, in regard to the Native American people who once lived on your land. Am I wrong?”

Brandon avoided the professor’s eyes. “No, Ricardo. You’re observation is correct.”

Samantha moved out of sight, not wanting to interrupt, and anxious to hear the old man’s reply.

“I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”

“I didn’t always hate them. They were well liked by my family for over two centuries. I liked them, too. My wife and I both did until something terrible happened. Oh, dear. Forgive me if I don’t go into details. It’s too disturbing.”

“Of course. I understand. I apologize for bringing it up. Let’s talk instead about how you came to own that beautiful bronze of Beethoven in your foyer.”

“Now that I would be pleased to divulge.”

Samantha crept away from the study through the foyer toward the front double oak doors. What had happened between Brandon Gellermann and her ancestors that made him hate them all these years? She walked around to the back of the estate and down a steep hill to the small creek below. Steppingstones made the trek easier for her, and as soon as she neared the creek and was out of the light thrown off by the exterior fixtures around the manor, she pulled off her black pumps and carried them as she walked along the water to a large rock beside a tree. The thick trunk of the tree leaned over the running creek nearly parallel with the surface, and from the rock beside it, Samantha could sit and hold onto the trunk for balance as she moved her dangling legs through the cool water.

Two weeks ago, during a brief tour of the manor, Brandon had told her the name of the creek—Lethe, which was also the name of the river of forgetfulness in the Greek mythological Underworld. She had inwardly laughed at the irony given that she had come to be sure the Unikweti would never be forgotten.

Off in the distance, up the creek to her right, the hills seemed to roll up into darkness, to the end of the earth. The slight breeze over the water refreshed her in spite of the troubling turn of events.

She wriggled her toes in the water. The last thing she wanted to think about were her seizures, but Mark’s questions made her recall her fourth grade teacher, plump and pear-shaped with gray curly hair swept up in a bun. She wore a red pantsuit that was too small, the buttons of her jacket threatening to pop, like her temper. She stooped over Samantha’s desk. “Samantha, have you been listening?”

“Yes, Mrs. Bradley.”

“Then tell me what I just said.”

“If an object has more protons than electrons, it has a positive charge.”

Several of the children had giggled.

“That’s what I said a minute ago. I want you to repeat what I said last, just now. Who can say what I’ve just said to the rest of the class?”

All but Samantha raised their hands.

Mrs. Bradley put her stiff, cruel face to Samantha’s ear. “Pay attention this time,” she rasped. Mrs. Bradley stood upright, tugged at her tight red jacket, and called on the boy three chairs behind Samantha.

“Yes, Jack?”

“We measure the strength of an electrical current in amps.”

“Got that, girl?” Mrs. Bradley spat, narrowing her cold eyes.

Samantha had nodded, fighting back tears. “Yes, Mrs. Bradley.”

Samantha stared at Lethe Creek, wishing some things could be forgotten.

“Beck, that you?” a voice came from out of the darkness.

She straightened her back, pulled her legs together, and looked in the direction of the voice.

“Charles?” she whispered, unable to see the figure on the rocks behind the leaning tree.

“Not Charles. Tukihëla Nisha.”

“But your grandfather said…”

“He’s not too fond of my Native American side.”

Somewhat frightened by the angry tone in his voice, Samantha glanced back at the well-lit manor on the hill and then back at the dark figure behind the leaning tree.

She climbed to her feet. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I didn’t know.”

He took five steps toward her and stood in her view with the tree between their feet. He would only have to step over the tree to be next to her. The moon was behind him, and his face was in shadows. Samantha could not read its expression. She took another step back.