In addition to blogging, playing music, and writing poetry, I also write stories…fiction stories…that are often stupid. Here’s a recent mystery I wrote. I might try putting up a page for this, but we’ll see how that works out. For now, enjoy this!
The Framed Hall
Story by J.R. Underdown
An air of excitement hung over the campus of Boyce College and Southern Seminary. In both the guys’ and girls’ dorms students painted their faces, taunted other halls, and listened to music that could get your blood pumping…like Barry Manilow and David Hasselhoff. If you think a civil war had broken out, or aliens were invading, or a Tribulation Force was forming, you’re very wrong, but very close. Rather it was for an event called “Hall Ball.” Now if you think this was when the halls would get together and play a ball game, like bowling, you are, once again, quite wrong. “Hall Ball” was actually a dodge ball tournament held in the Seminary’s gym (they had one, believe it or not).
Soon the time of destiny drew near and the halls marched out into the darkness, adorned in their respective hall colors, waving their respective flags, and bearing their respective mascots. The hall of Dikaios, covered in black and blending in perfectly with the night, came together and marched around the “J-Bowl,” the giant lawn in the center of campus. At the end of this procession was Dudley Dunlap, a senior and the hall’s best dodge ball player. Suddenly, as they passed by the library, out from the shadows sprang several figures who grabbed poor Dudley and dragged him into the bushes on the south side of the building. No one noticed Dudley’s absence until the competition commenced. Then all of Dikaios wondered what had happened and fretted about what would become of their Hall Ball dominance (they made it to the final round before falling to Apostolos, the red hall).
Later that night, around 1:30 to be exact, the hall RA for Doulos, known as “Butterworthy,” was going door-to-door awaking his hall mates for an impromptu meeting. Some came out bleary-eyed, but most were still washing the paint from their faces (one person was about to try paint thinner…). It had been a rough night for Doulos, the green hall, since they only made it to the second round before being eliminated by Dikaios. Now they all stood before Butterworthy, who was grim-faced, and Dr. Collins, the Dean of Student Life.
When they were quiet, Butterworthy spoke, “All right guys, as most of you had probably heard, Dudley Dunlap from Dikaios had “disappeared” tonight before Hall Ball. Well, he’s still missing. They think this is the result of a prank and they’re blaming us.”
A murmur ran through the hall.
“Now,” Butterworthy continued, “while I have all the confidence that it wasn’t us, I still need to say that if anybody took part in his kidnapping or know anything about it, you need to come forward right now and let us know where he is or there will be consequences.”
“Wait,” stopped a tall, young man named Abernathy, “How do we know he was kidnapped?”
Here Dr. Collins stepped in. “A young woman from Dikaios thought she saw a group of guys taking somebody away from their procession and dragging him into the bushes by the library.”
“And they blame us for that?” Abernathy pressed.
“She thought she saw someone in a green shirt,” Dr. Collins answered.
“And Dikaios claims we did it to help us win,” Butterworthy jumped in.
“Much help it did us,” someone muttered. Murmurs began again.
Then a guy named Bobby spoke out, “You mentioned ‘consequences.’ I’m just curious what consequences they would impose?”
Dr. Collins and Butterworthy exchanged glances that said, “Shall you tell them or shall I?”
Finally Butterworthy sighed. “They’re taking away Felix until Dudley is returned.”
Uproar arose. Felix was this silver Styrofoam Chinese dragon-looking thing and was the official mascot of Doulos. The taking of Felix was tantamount to taking the Statue of Liberty from the United States or taking nuclear warheads from Iran. As their rage boiled over and no one confessed to knowing Dudley’s whereabouts, Felix was carried away by Dr. Collins and a reluctant Butterworthy.
“Don’t worry, Felix, buddy,” shouted a guy named Cory, “we’ll get ya back!”
It had been a rough night for Felix. He had to see his hall humiliated in the games and then, after the final loss, Abernathy picked him up by the leg to carry him away and the appendage snapped off. Now he was being taken captive by strange hands.
Soon the small crowd of disgruntled males dispersed, some to bed, most to resume washing paint off their bodies. The last three to return to their rooms were John, Josh, and Bryan. John was a skinny chap with black plastic-rimmed glasses, a very British nose, and brown hair that was beginning to look shaggy. Josh had a more average frame, short black hair, and stubble that always covered his face…even after he shaved. With Bryan, we’re back to the skinny body and brown hair, except his was shorter than John’s. His face also had a somewhat British look to it, though it bore a more intelligent visage than John’s.
“This is utterly disgraceful!” John proclaimed.
“I know,” Josh agreed, “Why would someone kidnap Dudley over a stupid dodge ball game?”
“Worse, they’re taking Felix!” John continued.
“John, I would say Dudley’s disappearance is worse,” Bryan contended. “After all, Dudley is human and Felix is just a Styrofoam dragon.”
“I thought he was a lion?” Josh questioned.
He and Bryan exchanged glances.
“A Styrofoam griffin,” Bryan concluded.
“Yeah, but Felix represents all this hall stands for!” cried John.
“Like…?” Josh wondered.
“Beside the point!” said John after a moment. “The point now is that there’s only one thing to do…solve this mystery!”
Josh let out a groan. “Oh John, don’t start with that mystery stuff again! Just because you and some friends solved mysteries in high school doesn’t give you license to do it here.”
“But it’s for a good cause!” John countered.
“Yes…and for Felix!”
Josh sighed. “Okay, Mr. Mystery, just this once! And I’m only doing this for the hall’s integrity.”
“Bryan, you in?” asked John.
“I guess so.”
“Good! Then we’ll start immediately…after class tomorrow. ‘Til then, we go to bed…er, our respective beds.”
Josh and Bryan shook their respective heads and the three dispersed.
The following afternoon, the three investigators met up outside their rooms and proceeded to the library. They walked around the building and found a section of trampled down grass that led behind a low-hanging tree and some shrubs. Beyond the foliage they found a largely vacant area of mulch, and the mulch had been upset to the point that bare dirt could be seen.
“There was clearly a struggle here,” John noted.
“Clearly,” Josh repeated somewhat sarcastically.
“Any prints?” Bryan asked.
“Well Bryan,” answered John, “I don’t have the resources to check for fingerprints, and at any rate I don’t think that would be helpful.”
“I meant shoe prints.”
“Oh, I’ll check.” John whipped out a small magnifying glass and got on his hands and knees to survey the ground. “There’s plenty of prints…shoe prints…but they’re all jumbled together.”He stood up and examined a nearby tree. “Hullo! What’s this?”
Bryan and Josh peered over John’s shoulder and saw a red stain on a leaf.
“Blood!” John declared.
“Or paint,” Josh posed.
“Josh, that’s silly! Who would be painting back here?”
Josh and Bryan exchanged glances. John, meanwhile, continued his survey. He brushed away a limb and gasped. Again Josh and Bryan came behind and saw, scrawled in white chalk upon the brick wall of the library, this design:
“I’ve seen that before!” John said.
“We all have,” Josh popped in.
“Where have I seen that?” John wondered, ignoring Josh’s statement. He snapped his fingers. “Of course! It’s one of those Pokémon! You know, from the ‘Silver’ version? They were in that one cave and were totally worthless. Remember?”
“I never went beyond the originals,” Josh replied.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” said Bryan. “But more pertinent to our present situation, that is the Greek letter delta, which could be translated into English as a ‘d’.”
“D?” went John. “Hmm. I wonder what its significance is?”
Josh, whose head was being cradled by his hand, answered, “Look at your shirt, John.”
“Why? Is there ketchup on—gah! It’s on my shirt, too! Wait. This is my Hall Ball shirt! Doulos! Of course!”
Josh turned to Bryan, “If John was a master detective in high school, then I was on a National Championship synchronized swim team.”
“Yeah,” Bryan replied. “Now let’s look at our clues here.”
“What clues?” Josh wondered.
“First of all, this must be the scene of the kidnapping. The up-turned mulch points to that. Now, we know that no one from Doulos was missing from our team last night, so it must’ve been another hall. They probably left that ‘delta’ symbol to put anyone on the wrong trail.”
“OK, so if we’re being framed, then who’s the real culprit?”
“That red paint—and yes, John, that is paint—seems to point to Apostolos.”
“Not to me,” said John.
“We don’t expect it to.”
“Let me expound,” Bryan expounded. “Some guys from Apostolos decide to kidnap Dudley to give their hall an edge in Hall Ball. They nab him as he passes by the library. Dudley is a strong fella, so he probably fought back. In the ensuing scuffle, or even during their flight, one of them brushes by the tree, leaving a smear of red paint.”
“Brilliant!” John congratulated. “I think I get it now! So all we do is go to Apostolos and demand that they return Dudley immediately.”
“Not so fast,” Bryan slowed down. “The mystery isn’t completely solved. The question now is why haven’t they returned Dudley?”
“To make us sweat,” Josh suggested. “To humiliate us.”
“Those cads!” John seethed.
“What’s a cad?”
“I believe it’s Irish for ‘dunderhead.’”
“I believe it’s German for…”
“Guys!” Bryan cut in, “Let’s focus! We need to figure out our next move. How do we approach the guys on Apostolos with this?”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Josh stopped. “How do we know that paint wasn’t left as a decoy just like the Doulos symbol?”
Bryan opened his mouth to respond and then shut it. He cocked his head and looked up through the foliage at the library windows. “That’s a good point,” he finally answered.
John sighed. “Great, Josh. We were going somewhere and now because of your questions we’re back to square one! Thank you, Mr. Postmodernism!”
“Take heart, John, we’re not completely at square one,” Bryan comforted. “We’ll just go in a different direction.”
“And that would be…?” Josh wondered.
“To interview Dudley’s best friend: Dan Danbury!”
“How will that help?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s heard something from Dudley.”
Now Josh and John exchanged glances.
“Well if there’s a better idea, I’d like to hear it!”
John opened his mouth to offer a suggestion, but Josh interrupted, “We’ve got nothing, let’s go.”
They made their way back to Carver Hall and hopped into Josh’s car. It was a tedious trip since Josh was paranoid about scuffs being left on any part of his interior. At last they made it to Dan “Dan Dan” Danbury’s house. It was a small ranch-style abode, the perfect place to rent out to semi-well behaved college students. Dan was a man of medium build with a rather average face and short black hair.
When he answered the door he bore a confused look. When the three told him their purpose, confusion turned to grief and he reluctantly let them in. They were immediately in a living room, the kind you would expect from a bunch of guys living together: a big, new flat screen TV, a couple of gaming consoles, a bookshelf full of movies, a coffee table layered with junk and stained with rings from wet cups, and an old couch and recliner, both from the ‘80s and neither matching. The investigators took the couch and Dan Dan took the recliner.
“This whole situation’s outrageous!” Dan began. “I can’t believe Doulos would sink to such lows.” Then he noticed John’s shirt. “Are you from Doulos?”
“We all are,” John admitted and soon regretted it. For suddenly Dan leaped from his chair, nearly knocking over the coffee table, and grabbed John by the shirt.
“Did you come to gloat over my pain?!” Dan yelled.
Thankfully Bryan interceded. “Calm down, Dan. We didn’t take Dudley. We don’t know who did. That’s why we’re here.”
Dan shot him a look. “What? Do you think I kidnapped my own friend?”
“No! We were wondering if you’ve heard anything from him.”
“Oh…” he loosened his grip on John and resumed his seat. “No, I haven’t heard anything.”
Bryan and John sat down and the former began follow-up questions like, did he have any enemies? Did he think somebody was going to kill him? Did he have a bank account in Switzerland? Those sorts of questions. Meanwhile, John and Josh picked up the mess created by Dan’s rage and put it back on the table. It was mostly pop cans and empty Chinese take-out containers, but Josh also came upon a boutonniere. He held it and thought for a second, then replaced it on the table and resumed listening to Bryan.
But Bryan had come to a pause. Dan knew nothing, or at least added nothing to their case. Then a thought struck him.
“Dan, did Dudley have anything major planned? Anything that would take him out of town?”
Dan Dan shot him another look and then replied, “No. Hall Ball was the biggest event of the month for him. He would never miss that. Not for anything. Now if you’re done, I’ll let you out. I have things to do.” With that, he showed them the door.
“What was with that last question, Bryan?” asked Josh.
“Well, I was just thinking,” Bryan explained, “what if Dudley wasn’t kidnapped, but simply skipped town?”
“Then what about the girl who thought she saw him kidnapped?” John posed.
“One witness isn’t a strong case,” Bryan countered.
“I’d love to agree with you, Bryan,” said Josh as they hopped into the car. “But that mulch patch by the library looks like a kidnapping.”
“Could’ve been staged.”
“You know, maybe this is a legitimate kidnapping and not just about Hall Ball.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it.”
“Whoever kidnapped Dudley had some knowledge of Boyce and its events. Besides, Dan seemed to be covering something. I’m going to run with the hypothesis that Dudley skipped town.”
“And how are ya gonna prove that?”
“I have no idea. If our suspects won’t cooperate, we’ll never bring it to light.”
“What?! And leave the mystery unsolved?” John jumped in. “Need I remind you gentlemen that Felix’s life is on the line?!”
“John,” answered Josh, “First, your shoes better not be scuffing my door. Second, Felix is a Styrofoam statue.”
“Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a soul!”
Bryan laughed. “Good use of the double negative, John. But I haven’t forgotten Felix. In fact, he might be the way of eliciting a confession.”
Josh glanced sideways at Bryan. “What do you have in mind?”
“A little adventure. This mystery has been lacking that so far.”
“I’ll say,” John agreed. “This investigation has been about as exciting as a man fishing in a lake with no fish.”
* * *
That night, when all was dead and silent, three figures dressed in dark clothing entered the hall of Dikaios. Bryan and Josh wore black clothing. John wore dark blue jeans and a dark green flannel shirt fastened about his neck by the top button. He hoped it gave the appearance of a hero, but it really made him look like a college student living in his childhood. Beneath his “cape” was his hall shirt. Josh and Bryan tried to convince him to dress more appropriately, but John wanted to show hall pride, even if it meant foiling the mission. (“If I go out,” he declared, “at least I’ll go out singing the name of Doulos!”)
They crept up to the door of Teddy Beryl, the hall RA and keeper of Felix’s prison. No light appeared to be on and the door was unlocked; thus they slowly opened it and entered. There Felix sat underneath a window across from the door. Teddy was asleep in bed. Cautiously they snuck up to their mascot.
The plan was simple: steal Felix back and openly admit it. When Dikaios would confront them, enraged at their audacity, they, in defense, would ask what they did with Dudley. But, of course, simple plans are never simply carried out.
John kept watch while Bryan and Josh grabbed Felix, Bryan in the rear, and Josh picking the dragon up by its one front leg. Suddenly that leg broke and Felix face-planted into the floor. A lamp mounted on Teddy’s bedpost flipped on and acted as a spotlight on the three frozen figures.
“Who are you?” demanded the gruff voice of Teddy Beryl. John answered.
“We are ministers of mystery! Jukeboxes of justice! And we have come in this sore hour, at the turn of the tide, to take back our native son, who was lost, but now is found, so that he can tell us every day, ‘Good morning, Doulos, how are ya?’”
“Doulos?” Teddy repeated, waking up a little bit. “You’re trying to steal that Styrofoam thing? You dare? You dare?!”
“We do dare!” said Josh, “And we would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids and their dog…”
“Are we all having the same conversation?” Bryan wondered.
“I’ll show you conversation!” Teddy yelled, flipping off the light and attacking the three. The ensuing chaos lasted for a minute or two before a silence prevailed and all that was heard was heavy panting.
“OK, I think I got ‘im,” said John at last.
“Well, I’ve got somebody, too,” Bryan noted.
“It might be me,” Josh informed.
“Somebody, turn on a light,” John suggested.
The overhead light flipped on and to their surprise Bryan had Josh pinned, John had Felix pinned, and Teddy stood by the switch with an amused grin.
“Man, this is awkward,” John concluded.
“I agree,” said Josh. “Can we try this again?”
Teddy shrugged and turned the light off. More wrestling ensued. The next time the light came on John was at the switch and Teddy was pinned beneath Bryan, Josh, and Felix. John knelt by Teddy’s face.
“Well, Teddy, while we have your attention…where’s the rebel base?!”
“What?” went Bryan and Teddy.
“Thank you, Darth Vader,” went Josh.
“You’ll never get anything out of me,” Teddy grunted. “My cavalry’s here!”
They all looked toward the door where the entire hall of Dikaios stood.
“What’s going on?” one boy asked.
“They’re from Doulos!” Ted began, which was enough to incite their anger, but he continued, “And they’re trying to steal their hall mascot!”
“You dare!?” one screamed.
“Why do people keep saying that?” Josh wondered.
“We have bigger fish to fry, Josh,” said John as they abandoned their position and slowly retreated to the window. Teddy stood up with a smirk and joined his hall mates. It looked like it would be a painful end to their adventure, but Bryan bought time.
“Alright Teddy, what’s this all about?”
Teddy scoffed. “What’s this all about? This is about dirty Doulos kidnapping Dudley Dunlap!” The other guys grunted in agreement.
“We didn’t kidnap Dudley!” Bryan countered.
“Prove it!” demanded Teddy.
Bryan cocked his head to develop an answer.
“For one, we don’t have him. And if we did, why haven’t we given him up? The fact that he’s still missing means that this isn’t just about Hall Ball.”
“Of course you took him!” Teddy shouted, ignoring Bryan’s last statement. “The ‘delta’ sign on the wall proves it!”
“If we left it there, then why act as if we didn’t? Besides, we’ve seen the spot and found red paint on a tree leaf.”
“Apostolos…” someone muttered.
Teddy remained unmoved. “OK, say another hall framed you. Why the theatrics of stealing that thing?”
“His name is Felix!” John popped up. “And this story needed some action, that’s why!”
“This is silly,” Teddy concluded. “You guys go to bed and we’ll finish this in the morning.”
Suddenly Josh began laughing. “This is silly!” he boomed, reaching into Teddy’s trashcan and pulling out a bulletin. “Look! Dudley got married this morning!”
Bryan and John were shocked along with some of the Dikaios guys. Bryan looked at the paper.
“Sure enough. Married to Heather Moss.”
Teddy gave out a short laugh. “Alright, you figured it out! Dudley wanted to elope, but didn’t want to make it public yet. We came up with this idea of ‘kidnapping’ him so he’d have an excuse to be gone. We decided to lay the blame on Doulos since you’re our rivals. Some guys from Apostolos did the work for us.”
“And Dan Dan was part of the ceremony,” Josh added. “That’s why he had a boutonniere on his coffee table today!”
“There!” John declared. “Mystery solved! Now give us Felix back and let us go.”
“Not so fast,” Teddy stopped. “You sneak into my room and try to steal something and attack me? That deserves some type of punishment.” The rest of the hall moved in behind Teddy. “Now, what could we do?”
“Dodge ball?” came a voice.
“Good idea! A little game of dodge ball. Who said that? He can throw first.”
“I did!” said the voice more distinctly. It was Abernathy, John and Josh’s roommate, along with the rest of Doulos. “We’re here for revenge…and Felix…so say your prayers!”
And so began the most epic literal Hall Ball game in Boyce’s history. Doulos unloaded into Dikaios and both sides splintered and began the fight. Our three investigators were left in Teddy’s room.
“How’d they know to come up here?” Bryan wondered.
“I told Abernathy,” John admitted. “It’s nice to have insurance.”
“John, you actually had a good idea,” said Josh.
“That is surprising,” Bryan agreed. “But now we should probably join the fight and add more action.”
“Yeah,” John piped, “we’ve almost salvaged this story.”
Into the fray our three investigators dove. Before them was a clash of the Doulos green and the night clothes or (in some cases) the bare chests and underwear of Dikaios. Dodge balls practically hung in the air, so furiously were they throwing; for this fight had no rules, only glory.
Josh was rather reserved in his part. Grab a ball every now and then, leave a guy’s face red, repeat. It was a simple role, but Josh didn’t mind and was actually quite affective at it. He eventually dragged Felix to a corner and set up a “hornet’s nest” with a couple other hall mates.
John and Bryan, meanwhile, tried to stick together and fight as a team. Bryan became quite the tenacious dodgeballer and had a very accurate aim, which some from Dikaios rued. John was energetic and did more in cheering Doulos on, often shouting “2oth Maine, FORWARD!!” However, his skills as a dodge ball warrior were lackluster. He spent more time getting pummeled and trying to recover his glasses than throwing the ball.
Soon this out-of-hand game became out-of-foot as Apostolos, which shared the same floor as Dikaios, joined the melee. Things got considerably out-of-head when the other halls, awakened by the raucous and shouts, went up to investigate and ended up joining. But everything got out-of-body when Seminary president Dr. Mohler showed up with his beagle named Baxter and ran down the halls unleashing stinging throws and yelling, “Who’s your daddy!?” In the end, when the sun rose, Doulos returned to their hall with Felix, and everyone else went to bed, most with bloody noses and aching pains, but all with a greater sense of manliness.
And so, Dudley’s marriage was made public and Doulos was cleared of any suspicion. Although the college scolded Dudley on faking his kidnapping and framing a hall, they commended him heartily on getting married young. Felix’s front legs were eventually glued back on and John, Josh, and Bryan were viewed by Doulos as legendary heroes. Josh swore up and down that that was the last time he would work on a mystery of any sort. Bryan thought it was rather fun and told John he was willing to do it again. John, however, was rather depressed that in spite of all he’d done, he didn’t have a girlfriend yet. As for all the men in Carver Hall, they were absent from morning classes the day following the great fight. But rest assured, after awaking and playing a few hours’ worth of video games, they resumed their academic studies.
And the moral of today’s story is: Never tackle a sleeping dragon…unless it’s missing its legs.
*college-time mysteries. Some rights reserved. ’12.