The Mysterious Caravan

“Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream

I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been

To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen

They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed”.

Jimmy Page/Robert Plant

Previously on “A Figure in Hiding

Sunday May 18, 1975 2:30 AM

I’m there again, waking again, the rotors turning, the deep bass, and the melodic sound of the wilderness outside my walls. The house itself so silent inside, maybe the occasional parental snore tumbling down the tri level stairs of the yellow house, the house on the hill. The house that sits next to the wilderness, that stretches wooing the vibrations, the ground swelling with the beating of sound.

I’m fourteen, nearing the end of all boys seeking adventure, closing the portal of the unknown, withdrawing from the cloak of mystery. I am less a boy, and no more a man, caught as it were between joy and wisdom, lacking in adolescence, void of want. But this. This! The hammer of the gods, drawing life from the ground. The thudding, and the undertaking of heaviness, and then the bugle, the charge, so much closer.

I’m moving from my bed, shoving the strips of cut cassette tape aside that divide my lower level room from the lower entryway to the downstairs door, my yellow patterned pajamas too long, nearly tripping me as I reach for the handle on the outer screen door. The mid May New Mexico night is chilly, and I instinctively wrap my arms encircling my hands on opposite shoulders, as if this in itself will warm me. I lean against the brick planter to my right, its cold rough exterior balancing me as I listen. The sound is much louder now, and nearer, blades whipping air, and music fainter but recognizable, coming from the east, coming from the wilderness.

The concrete from the sidewalk feels cold and raw on my bare feet, and I tiptoe as if a need for secrecy is near. I am being beckoned, the sound, the heaviness, the music. I move across the double carport opening, the sloped trunk of my parents green Pontiac Lemans, and Ford pickup truck greeting me silently as I pass by. I stand there, greeting the wilderness, stretching before me east to the darkened points of Twin Peaks, the desert reverberating with mood and sound. And then I see it, my vision mixing with sound. The half-moon stretched across the cold dry New Mexico sky, the military helicopter flying low, dipping as it were in prayer to the night. The music booming from its open darkened side door distinguishable moving in rhythm to the stars, so high in the desert sky. The light of the moon dances but for a brief moment on the lower nose of the flying craft, as it bends and turns toward the east, and I see it there. Like the music, it is distinguishable. I watch as the helicopter moves towards Twin Peaks. It hovers there, a red lone bulb blinking from near where the rotor spins on its tail. And, then it’s gone, moving on eastward, toward Farmington, leaving its memory, and secret, and I’m there again.

Sunday May 18, 1975 1:45 PM

“I can see it was right here”! Jason’s excited voice doing its level best to enter adult hood, ascends an octave higher. He’s surveying the whipped up sand, lying almost in a perfect circle around where we stand. “It was cavalry, right”, he’s nodding his head up and down in convincing fashion. “It was cavalry”, I have told it all, word for word relaying to my best friend, my early morning adventure. “They were playing Zeppelin”, Jason’s almost reverent, his eyes opening wide and blue. “Uh huh, Kashmir”, I say, “and they had a bugle, they kept playing the charge over and over”. We stand there for a moment studying each other, like it all might make sense, if we stare each other down. We are the Hardy Boys, sleuths, investigators of odd mystery’s, friends and brothers. I am Frank Hardy, the older one, dark haired, thoughtful, Jason is Joe Hardy, the younger one, impetuous, and bright. The truth is, we are growing apart, we don’t realize it yet, but this is our last adventure together. This will be our final summer together. No, we don’t know it yet, but we are embarking, into a mystery, that will seal the covenant, between us for eternity.

Jason is over to visit, on my excited invitation on a bright, warm, Sunday afternoon. He comes prepared for adventure, waving his copy of the latest Hardy Boy Book, “The Mysterious Caravan“. The book is published in January, of 1975, and both of us have sworn an oath to save reading it till June, when school was over. It was May however, close enough, and neither of us could wait a second longer. Now as we stand here, the desert widening around us, the book becoming a pointer, with Jason shoving it over my right shoulder, looking to the Northeast. “Did they land on the peaks”, his voice is almost hoarse with excitement. I turn and look, the pyramid shaped desert mounds molded against the horizon. “I’m not sure”, I say, trying to get the early morning picture straight in my mind. “They seemed to be looking for something”, I’m almost whispering, “Or someplace”, Jason finishes, his eyelids squinting against the distant sky.

“He who does not travel will not know the value of men”, Jason’s voice rings out, proudly, pronouncing, pontificating! I look at him without having to say what. He grins, and points at the Hardy Boy book he has clutched tightly in his right hand. “Remember, on page nineteen”, he announces proudly, “it’s an old Moorish proverb, and I say we should put it to use”. I know he’s talking about a trip to the peaks. It’s almost two fifteen, the peaks are close to a mile and a half away through a myriad of dry washes, and sage brush. I’m feeling lazy, I’m not up for hoofing it out there. “Let’s”, I start to say, but Jason’s tugging my arm, leading me toward the house. “Let’s get your dad’s binoculars”, he says, he’s pointing with the book again, and the decision has been made.

Sunday May 18, 1975 2:40 PM

The wind has picked up outside, as it often does in the spring. The sand is blowing throwing curtains of torment, all around our yellow house on the hill. I have just about talked my younger brother, out of a tortuous hike. I have this earnest look on my face, “We should wait Jason, we should go another time”. He knows we are growing apart, I see it still, to this very day I see it, a small dot of trust missing, the disappointment. His big brother, is growing more distant. Frank Hardy is losing his way.

It is at that moment that second in time, when two friends, young detective brothers, began to shift apart, to lose their way that the spirits that guide us all, can intervene. The magic that imparts gifts upon the gifted, can be summoned, and I did just tell you now dear reader, oh yes I did, the wind was blowing. Indeed what was too happen at that moment my friends, was to convince me that throughout my coming life, no matter what prevailed, destiny always stood taller.

“Vera, did you see the story on the Taylor kid”, my dad is reading the Sunday paper, something he seldom does. He’s a man who’s more interested in the ads. Jason and I are perched morosely in the living room floor, treading the gold carpet, pretending to study the cover of “The Mysterious Caravan”. Its yellow cover lies still between us refusing to open all by itself. “You mean the janitor from the school that was so sad”, my mom’s leaning against the opening that leads from the kitchen into the living room. “He took his own life you know”, mom’s voice down a notch, softer and sadder. “It says here he was a war hero, in Vietnam”, my dad’s sounding interested, “First Cavalry”, dad’s reading, “credited with saving over forty-five lives in the Cambodian Incursion”, in June of 1970″. Jason and I are staring at each other, my right hand is on his left hand, positioned tightly upon the cover of the Hardy Boy book between us, as a calling begins to speak. “I never would have dreamed”, my mom is saying, somewhere close to us, but sounding so far away. “Says here his name was Katz, is that Polish”, my dad is losing interest, as the seismic plates begin to shift around him, and the wind in the wilderness begins to wail. “Good nickname, they gave him”, dad’s saying, “called him Kashmir, because it says here he would climb any peak in Kashmir to save a cavalry man”.

Sunday May 18, 1975 4:10 PM

Most of our journey finds us seeking cover from the blowing sand, in the many arroyo’s that labyrinth the landscape. I carry my dad’s binoculars in their plastic case, making sure they stay hidden under my red jean jacket. Jason holds his Hardy Boy book carefully under his arm, our thinking not extending far enough to visualize what necessity it might possibly have to us on our expedition. It has taken us, an hour to hike to the peaks, and scale their sandy rounded west flank. It is as if our arrival at the tall desert peaks, has announced an armistice between our mission and the wind. In my right back pocket, carefully folded, is the front page of the Farmington Daily Times. We want to keep the story of “Kaz (Kashmir) Taylor close to us. It has summoned us from somewhere, by eyes that deem it necessary for us to know more. So it is that two young men, nearing their own ages of accountability, stand together on a bare sandy peak, looking to the west. The late afternoon sun shines its charge across the high barren plateau, striking Shiprock some twenty-five miles to the west, and casting a shadow of much awaited mystery on our two lads.

“He was gunner and medic, First Cavalry”, my voice sounds small, with the whole world below me. “He was a hero, and saved forty-five lives”, Jason continues his voice sounding stronger, than mine. “He was alone an orphan, nobody knows where he came from or if he has any family”, I continue, my voice doing its best to sound stronger. I’m taking the binoculars out of their plastic case, and taking the thick white plastic lens covers off. “He is a stranger to us”, Jason sounds almost ethereal. “He is known by his brother’s”, I finish, my voice a little higher than it needs to be, “and they are here”, I am whispering, almost at a perfect pitch, with the binoculars, making contact with my eyes.

“The horses, and the riders are over a mile away to the southwest of us. Even with my dad’s powerful binoculars, they look small but not insignificant. Jason is pulling on my left arm, demanding to see, his sleuthing instincts on high alert, and I give in to him. It is a time to share, to watch his face taunt and pale, his glasses tight against the black wide rims of the binoculars. “They’re cavalry”, he gasp, his voice once again adolescent strained and losing pitch. “Real cavalry”, he repeats in a smaller voice, as he hands the tubed glasses back to me. I look again, the horses and men are gathered around the fence near 550 highway. They are “real cavalry” as Jason said. I can make out their blues, and their stripes. I count them, and as if reading my thoughts, my younger brother, Joe Hardy, speaks, “there are seven”, he says.

We take turns watching them. The horses stand as a barrier as the cavalrymen pay attention to something by the fence. Along the shoulder of 550 highway we can make out two pickup trucks, both government green, behind them two horse trailers, empty of their cargo. It seems forever, the binoculars going back and forth between us, and as Jason is taking his turn, I realize we are laying side by side. Our stomachs are mashed into the gravel and sand of Twin Peaks, our elbows churned into the soil, Jason resting his left elbow, on the yellow cover of, “The Mysterious Caravan”. I study him for a moment, it seems I have known him my whole life. We have climbed mesas in the dead of night, entered houses unbeknown, risked life and limb above water, investigated haunted forts that we did not build. Yet he doesn’t know me, he doesn’t….”I’m flunking Mr. Ellison’s Algebra class”, I spit out. It comes out with a weak rasp, sounding anything but noble. I stare at him hard, I’m thinking maybe I have breached the vale, and this is the end, for us. The binoculars are still tightly pressed against his glasses, but it doesn’t stop the lone tear that falls, that drops onto the thirsty sand of Twin Peaks. I hear him alright, it’s a shame for me but I hear him. “I have to get an A in Ellison’s class he whispers”.

Sunday May 18, 1975 4:55 PM

The wind has picked up again, blowing from the north. Dark angry clouds are rolling to the back of us, there’s a distant rumble of thunder, and it smells like rain. “They’re moving”, Jason’s lips are barely moving as he whispers, he has the binoculars held out, may be a half inch from his glasses. I take the field glasses from him, and take a quick glance, as I climb to my feet. The seven men on horseback are riding at breakneck speed and they are making a direct beeline for the peaks. I can see the lead rider of the column, he’s carrying a pole with a red and white flag on it. The other’s riding behind him, have their swords drawn, all except for the one bringing up the tail position. The rear rider has a pair of binoculars pressed to his eyes as he rides, and they are aimed up to the top of the peaks where Jason and I now stand. “They’ve seen us”, I gasp, I’m pulling Jason back from the rounded edge of the west peak, “let’s get out of here”. I’m ashamed, not sounding very Hardy like at all. Jason and I look at each other, for a moment, I see the same uncertainty, reflecting in his eyes. It’s just a split moment, the skies darker, and the thunder louder. Armed danger against us, a mystery. It’s just a split moment, and in that second, for things have indeed changed, we lock souls. Everything becomes one from our childhood adventures, to our future destiny. It’s just a split moment. “The Vault” we say it together, our voices even, and we are running to the east following the terrain downward. My dad’s binoculars clumsily packed in their plastic case tightly held in my right hand, Jason’s Hardy Boy book in his left, and we are jumping, are faces held high to the darkened sky, our free hands joined. We are falling, as the first bolt of lightning parts the sky.

Throughout the spring and summer, and early fall of 1974, Jason and I had spent much time, in what we called the wilderness, a large tract of barren land to the east of my family’s home, that overlooked Kirtland, New Mexico. The only inhabitants of the land, was an abandoned oil tanker, a couple of hollowed out old sedans from the fifties, and Twin Peaks. Throughout the summer we had mapped out the labyrinth of dry washes, rattlesnake havens and had roamed each sandy square inch of Twin Peaks, mapping its distinctions, and the best ways to ascend or descend it. One could climb it from any direction, but the best trail was on the north side. From that side two boys filled with adventure seeking skills could switchback above a rocky ledge, and then a gentle climb to the top. The eastern peak had a moderate slope, with a shallow dry wash careening down its flank, that we has nicknamed the descent. After a hard days play in the hot New Mexico sun, our choice was always to descend the east side in the shade, and its calmness, and head for home. Between the two peaks, and their shared ridge, was a large washed out square arena that dropped some fifteen feet into a four-sided sand bed of brush and gravel. The profound drop off connected to a deep narrow arroyo that wiggled down the south side between the peaks and continued on some five hundred feet before playing out behind an east to west running ridge. Jason and I had named the area “The Vault” because of its sudden steep sides. Truth be known we had always felt that somewhere within “The Vault”, we would find hidden treasure. Now we used it as an escape route.

Perhaps you can join me, my reader, as we watch Frank and Joe Hardy, alias Danny Swearingen and Jason Waite, fall. Fifteen feet against a rocky wall, the ground coming up fast and hard, as the dark sky overhead makes its way closer. The warm air rising, passing the young lads as they fall, on its way upwards, past the peaks to meet its cold relation. You can watch as the boys hit the sandy earth, may be a scratch or two from the twisted sharp tumbleweeds caught in “The Vault”. They are boys however, and they are scared. You know how tough scared young lads can be. No doubt scared, like young “Kaz (Kashmir) Taylor” a young man whom we heard of his heroics earlier this very day. Now we digress, here perhaps, as we watch our young boys run down the narrow arroyo. Would it surprise you to know, that they too are thinking of Mr. Taylor as they run, among many other things, I’m sure. They recognize they must beat the charging horseman unseen, and then they know, they must solve this mystery upon them. For indeed, they know there are connections, and clues, gifted upon them this very Sunday, and it is their last mystery they will ever solve together. Let’s rejoin them now, shall we. It looks like they have reached the safety of the ridge, no worse for wear. I am concerned about the weather however. Perhaps somewhat more than the cavalry that this way rides.

We watch them from the ridge as the rain begins to fall. We see them circle to the west of our position, going to the north side of the peaks. The clouds above us are growing darker by the moment. “I think we should head out before they get to the top” I whisper to Jason. “They’ll be able to see us from up there”, I’m Frank Hardy, the careful one. Joe Hardy’s having none of it however. “We have to see what they’re doing”, Jason’s voice sounds raspy, excited, full of fear and life. We watch the top of the peaks for several minutes through the binoculars, waiting to burrow down under the ridge at the first sign of movement above us. I have just begun, to think the cavalry has gone on to the north of our position, when they come riding around the base of the eastern peak, they are no more than four hundred feet from us. “What are they doing”, I’m whispering to Jason crouching down behind the sand bank that makes up the top of the ridge. It’s his turn at the field glasses, he’s beckoning me to take a look, his finger up in the shush position. I have just pressed my eyes to the binoculars when the lightning hits.

The world explodes both in and out of sound, white fire coming down, separating Twin Peaks. The force of electricity flows into “The Vault”, and then floods the arroyo, branching out to the left and the right. I can’t hear anything for a moment, only see, horses reeling, raring, For a brief moment as Jason is pulling me down behind the sandy embankment I see the frightened well lit faces of seven men in blue U.S. cavalry uniforms. Jason’s eyes are wide and blue, scared behind the shield of his glasses, and then I can hear him, “let’s go, let’s go, come on, let’s go”, he’s yelling. We are in movement running to the south and then along a wash to the west, somewhere further to the west of us in the now pelting rain, I hear the sound of horses, and men shouting.

Tuesday May 20, 1975 4:40 PM

Jason’s mom brings us both a tall thick glass of homemade root beer. She is a kind German woman with a thick accent that always takes time to ask about my family, even distant relatives. She leaves us alone in the family’s dining room to talk. It is a day and time in which drinks and snacks far and few between are not allowed outside dining areas. It seems forever since I have been there, and it feels good to be around Jason’s family again. Over the course of the past year, Jason and I have drifted to hanging out with others, with occasional sleepovers, with other friends, and then there are the girls. All distractions to our detective years and history together, but a sad reality, that is soon to make its final decision known. Today though we talk of mystery, for upon us is an incredible puzzle. We sit and discuss the mystery of what we know of “Kaz (Kashmir) Taylor” and how it connects to the helicopter, that I saw early Sunday morning, and the mounted cavalry that we both experienced Sunday evening. “Maybe there is gold hidden in “The Vault”, and their trying to find it”, Jason says. He’s sitting up straight, his eyes dancing, excited, he goes on, and “it could be just like in “The Mysterious Caravan”, where the thieves are looking for hidden gold in the Moroccan Desert. “Really, I’m surprised Jason”, I’m talking down to him, something I have never done, “what does that have to do with dead Kashmir dude”? Jason’s not to be deterred though, “look they are looking for something out there, and I admit I don’t know what Kaz has to do with it, but there’s a secret out there”. We sit there for a moment, like we used to do, studying the complex, being Hardy Boys, and then it dawns on us both at the same time. “What were they”, we both start to say, and then get the giggles over it, like a couple of girls, even that’s funny. “Doing down by the fence line”, Jason finishes the sentence. “It looked like they were putting a sign up”, I’m kind of proud of myself for getting the actual clue spoken out loud first. “Let’s go see what it says”, Jason is already standing up, when his mom comes in to tell him, of the serious chores he has waiting for him. I offer to help, but Irma Waite is a strong believer in one doing their own work, so Jason and I agree to go Wednesday after school. “Remember to ride your bike tomorrow”, Jason says as my dad arrives to pick me up, “you remember to get your chores all done”, I’m smiling as I leave with my dad, happy I don’t have chores, or have to get an A in Ellison’s class.

Wednesday May 21, 1975 3:50 PM

Jason and I, don’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what we are involved in, but we appreciate it. Our bikes rest on their kickstands up the embankment well off of highway 550 both are facing west. We stand in awe before the nailed U.S. Cavalry hat sitting atop the old fencepost that holds part of a tattered bob wire gate. There are deep hoof prints mingled all around us in the dried mud. Underneath the hat nailed to the post is the first cryptic clue, Jason and I have ever seen in real life. A series of numbers and words written in a foreign language occupy the sign. Of particular notice and interest to Jason and I, are the two black circles we see, one above the number four, and the other encircling the number six. I’m so excited I can’t let myself believe what I see before me is real. “I’m thinking somebodies jerkin are chain here”, my voice sounds paranoid, and not at all as happy as I feel inside. “Uh, I don’t think so”, Jason’s voice is reassuring, much more calm than usual. “Nobody in Kirtland would know how to write like this”, he’s bringing out his notebook, and a #2. Something I’m glad he remembered, because I forgot mine. He’s bent down low against, the sign, squinting, he’s trying to balance the wide two inch pale notebook, in his hand and write at the same time. I lean over and take the notebook from him, and hold it, my palms open balancing it, like an altar boy does the Bible for a priest. “Make sure you get the black circles”, I’m Frank Hardy again, studious, making sure all the shoestrings are tied, and doors closed. Jason, sometimes known as Joe Hardy, my younger brother looks up at me and smiles, and then continues his copying.

Wednesday May 21, 1975 4:30 PM

We leave the hat and the sign posted to the fence as we found it. Jason and I sit on the embankment by the side of 550 highway, studying the copy he has made. The traffic from east to west has increased, early clock out for some fortunate Kirtland and Shiprock, workers, who are employed in Farmington. The sky over head has taken on a late cold spring blue, and a light breeze has kicked up coming from out of the west, blowing dry cold air over the barren landscape. I look over my shoulder, they sit there, a mile to the northwest, the peaks, a time, a place, for the rest of my life, feelings I can’t ever forget, for you see my reader, there in that barren and dry, place, there a mile away from “The Vault” I left Camelot. My friend, my dearest friend, sitting right here next to me, studying, talking, putting the pieces together, “its Vietnamese you know Danny, I’m sure of it, and the numbers they’re directions, its code, I told you, it’s “The Mysterious Caravan”, their looking for treasure”. “I bet Kaz hid it” Jason’s voice has reached a high peak of excitement, his eyes dancing from positions of high upper right visual knowledge to lower left feeling. I agree with him, I have too. He is right, for the most part I suppose, but then I have gone forward, I have left Camelot, and the mystery, the clues, the code, it is telling me more, and my excitement has turned to ashes, it descended like a descant to grief, for in some part of me the boy has gone hunting, and seen the first blood of the kill.

Thursday May 22, 1975 12:15 PM

Mrs. Shari Groves, librarian at Central Junior High in Kirtland New Mexico, stares suspiciously at the two boys who use their lunch hour to study foreign language dictionary’s and maps in the back of the small library. They sit there, the libraries globe before them, surrounded by books on far eastern language alphabets and their characteristics. It is uncommon, and those of you who our familiar with the habits, and pathways of young men ages thirteen and fourteen, recognize that Mrs. Groves with her usually cheerful disposition, no doubt has good cause, to keep a keen eye on the two lads. If you have a bird’s eye view, and in this particular story you do, you would notice that the boys have mapped out numbers on a sheet of paper to the right of them. Those numbers are “36749906.5” followed by the letter “N“. The number 6 has been circled with a dark imprinted line, as if someone has taken a pencil around it multiple times. Beneath this line of numbers you will see another series of numbers reading “1083096.8” followed by the letter “W“. To the left of our young sleuths is another sheet of letter and number filled paper. You have the privilege of studying it for yourself now. From the top left hand corner now shall we. “Mt Troop 4 Squadron 12 Đoàn 1 K Binh M Birgade 052.475“, stare closer and you will see that the number 4 has another dark imprinted circle above it. Following this line of carefully printed letters and numbers, you will see a final line that reads, “024 Trm Kashmir Chúng ta quên bn không“.

“Its latitude and longitude, it has to be the location of where the treasure is”, I’m talking loud enough to get an ssshhh from both Jason and Mrs. Groves. I take the ruler from Jason and starting with the degree of longitude given, I begin the reversal process of mapping the numbers of the equations. “Thirty-six degrees out of 360°” I’m talking too loud again which gets me a stern look of rebuke from both librarian and Joe Hardy. Numbers are not my strong point but neither is language, so I dig in to calculating the distance, and bearing between my latitude and longitude points. I have the general area on the globe but I need a map, and as I’m about to let out a scream of sleuthing frustration, Mrs. Groves, soft voice whispers in my ear, “look on the wall”. I nearly let out a scream anyway. Jason is staring at me his mouth open in a big toothy grin, that makes me what to loosen some of his teeth. He has seen Mrs. Groves approaching and taken great care to cover his work, while watching me get the big scare. I look at the west wall of the library, the large USGS map of the area, framed by oak, a gift to the school, by some unknown benefactor. I walk to it, my paper and ruler in hand, and begin to measure points. I can hear Jason and Mrs. Groves whispering in the background, but for me I am alone. I am working, the first clue in my young life, that will lead me someday to scrub millions of points of data for one of the world’s largest corporations. My right brain has met my left. “Wow, just wow, LOOK AT THIS”, I’m nearly shouting forgetting my station and location. Forgetting Mrs. Groves and Jason’s stern stare. I turn to announce my news, to an empty library.

“The Vault” on Twin Peaks holds the direct crosshairs of the latitude and longitude measurements given by the cavalry’s sign on the highway. I have to tell Jason if I can figure out where he’s off to. My heart misses a beat for a moment, perhaps, Mrs. Groves is on to us. May be she’s in league with the mysterious caravan of cavalry, looking for Kashmir’s treasure. Why at this moment Jason is no doubt sitting under the torturous gaze of Principal Carl Schmitt being grilled on what he knows, while Mrs. Groves holds his paper of findings. Schmitt’s probably in on it too. The whole darn school staff is probably in on it, they’re always talking about teachers don’t make enough. A little of Kashmir’s gold to grease their pockets would probably make them all succumb to torturing a kid. They do it on a daily basis anyway. I stand there for a few minutes bewildered, wondering at how I might form a rescue for poor Jason. I’m marching to the door of the library, paper in hand, ready to do business, when the door is flung open by none other than Principal Carl Schmitt.

Thursday May 22, 1975 12:45 PM

Our position above the library, allows us the benefit of watching Mrs. Shari Groves converse quietly with young Jason, as his friend furiously studies the USGS map on the western wall of the library. It would seem my reader that Mrs. Groves recognizes, the script at hand, and also knows whom might be able to help decipher. You see my friends, she is aware that Principal Carl Schmitt, began his tenure as a vocational agriculture teacher. Indeed one of Mr. Schmitt’s crowning achievements in his agricultural past was to learn the Vietnamese art of irrigation in order to bring water to rice fields inland. The fact is folks, Mr. Schmitt had to learn some of the Vietnamese language in order to learn about some of their farming methods. That in itself not an easy task in a small New Mexico community at the height of the Vietnam War. We can all understand young Danny’s concerns at turning to find his accomplice missing, along with their findings, but rest assured no foul play is at hand. Frank and Joe Hardy, may have gotten their first big break in their case.

“My guess is this is a summons of some sort”, Mr. Schmitt, has one of those reasonable, “can’t we gather together kind of voices”. “If you look here gentlemen, and Mrs. Groves”, he gives the grinning librarian a nod of acknowledgment, “Mt is one or a, than there is troop, Mỹ Đoàn 1 K Binh all goes together as U.S. 1st Cavalry”. “I speculate that top line is saying a gathering for 1st U.S. Cavalry 12th brigade”. Mr. Schmitt is looking over the top of his glasses, at us, and I gather he is doing some other speculation he is not telling us of. “What about the bottom line”? Jason almost forgets his manners in his excitement, “uh Mr. Schmitt”. “That one is easier boys”, Mr. Schmitt has gone from reasonable to a businessman sound. That line is saying, “Our Kashmir we will not forget you”, “I can’t tell you what the numbers are for”, Mr. Schmitt finishes with a sniff, looking even further over his glasses at Jason and I. There is a silence in the library that last forever. No one speaks, then the fourth period bell sounds. “You gentlemen better get to class”, Mr. Schmitt is standing up dismissing us, we are already gathering papers, leaving no evidence behind. Mrs. Groves, is calling out after us, before we can get our lowered gazes out the door, “tell Mr. Schmitt thank you boys”.

Thursday May 22, 1975 3:45 PM

We are at the fence post again. The hat and sign are undisturbed, just as we had left them on Wednesday. The flow of traffic along 550 highway hums in the background, a reminder that we are in between the worlds of mystery, and man. The sun hangs high in the light blue sky, its brilliance a reminder of a summer that is almost at hand. A light breeze has picked up out of the south crossing the San Juan River and is making its way up the long slope from the village of Kirtland to the northern high plain. There is one more day of school left, which is of no concern to me, outside of one failed Algebra class. Jason and I have talked nonstop since the final school bell rang, and what was unknown about our mystery is now partially known. The 12th brigade of the 1st U.S. Cavalry is among us. They are gathering to honor one of their own that has fallen, and they have chosen “The Vault” of Twin Peaks to meet at. Why and when is still a mystery, but as we stare at the sign, the numbers swarming around us, something so simple, that has been staring at us all day is summoned forth. Like the hieroglyphics that melted in Frank and Joe Hardy’s hands in “The Mysterious Caravan, the puzzle comes together. “052.475 is” Jason begins, “the date”, I interrupt, Jason looks at me grinning, “that’s Saturday”, he say’s and before I can interrupt again with the obvious question and answer, he blurts out, “024 is military time for midnight”, he’s so excited he’s almost hyperventilating, “they are doing this Saturday at midnight”.

We stand there, Frank and Joe Hardy, alias Danny Swearingen and Jason Waite, integrated in time. The ghost of mystery, and childhood, struggling with the realities of adolescence and change. The sun becoming ever brighter, as it tilts towards Shiprock, our time together so fragile now, so limited, and defined, and nearing a place of goodbye.

“Why do you think the number 4 has a circle above it”, Jason’s inquisitive voice, one I hear to this day in a sweeter dream. “Yea, and why is number 6 circled in the longitude”, I’m trying to imagine my voice sounding more like Frank Hardy, but it comes out nasal sounding and small. We study the numbers on the sign for a bit, the sound of traffic on 550 growing denser in the background. “They are meeting on the 26th at midnight not the 24th“, Jason’s soft voice carries the solving of the riddle, the final clue, the missing puzzle piece. I look at him amazed. Something so obvious, concealed in plain sight. It has all come together, all of our lives to this moment, and suddenly we both are laughing, I reach over and grab him, and hug him. Nobody sees us. “Let’s go see what they do”, I’m whispering loudly in his ear”. “We have too”, he whispers back.

Saturday May 24, 1975 3:00 PM

Jason and I have spent a good deal of the day fashioning djellabas out of two moth eaten black army blankets he has found in his families garage. No doubt at some point Mr. Waite will come looking for them, but winter is a few months away, and young detectives are aware that an adults mind grows weary with the characteristics of life. One’s memory can fade, with were one might have placed blankets, or chords, and in the day to day activities such things are soon forgotten. In “The Mysterious Caravan” Frank and Joe Hardy travel to Morocco in search of an ancient treasure hidden in the desert. Their mode of wear while dealing with thieves, and smarmy characters in the North African wilderness is a hooded Berber garment called a djellaba. While we are not seamstresses, we have a tiny spot of creativity between us, and our final product while not authentic in nature to the desert wear, has us at least looking like characters from a future movie, two years hence called Star Wars. Our plan is to scale Twin Peaks Monday evening, in the darkness, concealed by our wear, and see exactly what kind of mysterious rite the U.S. 1st Cavalry has planned for their deceased comrade. We talk as we sew, with questions of death and the living. Will we see the body of “Katz (Kashmir) Taylor”? Will there be guns fired? Will treasure be found or buried with the body? Most of all we want our plan to be perfect, without the slightest chance that we will be seen, or caught. We are sleuths, and we have solved a mystery, it is time to reap our reward.

It seems reasonable to us that the cavalry will be on horses, since the landscape is difficult for any type of motorized vehicle, unless they are all on dirt bikes. That doesn’t seem likely, as even a dirt bike might have difficulty with some of the larger arroyos, especially at night. To us their best approach on horseback, is the north side of Twin Peaks, and so as I observe, Jason caringly labels the caravan trail, on our map. We have a decision to make, on where our best vantage point might be. We consider the east trail, up which we have renamed the “Kashmir Descent”, but even in darkness it is too open and we might be seen. Our only choice it seems is to assail “The Vault” in darkness, and hope that we are not seen or trapped in the narrow arroyo on our way to the top.

We walk outside the yellow house, the house that sits on the hill. The wind has picked up, blowing sand across our concrete driveway, along with two small tumbleweeds from the wilderness to the east. I walk over to the edge of the driveway, standing next to the white decorative metal stand that holds up the right front of the carport. Jason follows me over both hands in his pockets, a serious look on his face. Twin Peaks stares blankly at us across the space of brush, tumbleweeds, and dry washes. “I finished “The Mysterious Caravan” last night”, Jason’s talking to me, or maybe to the wilderness. I look over at him, “I’m almost done, with it, don’t tell me what the next one’s called”. I’m referring to the next Hardy Boy title, which is always put in the last paragraph of each book. “Okay, suit yourself, it’s really out there” he says. The afternoon has cooled off considerably with the strong wind. We stand there a little longer, two boys, on the edge of forever, staring out at the wilderness. Somewhere, a little beyond Twin Peaks we see a helicopter flying.

Monday May 26, 1975 10:15 PM

I bring you back with me, my reader, as I have done so many times before. Our age, and experiences in life, our gains and losses, our loves and fears, make us anticipate this night, as well as dread it. Frank and Joe Hardy, alias Danny Swearingen and Jason Waite, are waiting for us, as they have waited on so many adventures before. You see them there don’t you. The Swearingen family’s yellow and blue tent pitched behind the yellow house on the hill. It’s thick canvas exterior rocking in the gentle breeze blowing from the wilderness, from the northeast. Above this scene a star filled sky, a universe of treasure and mystery, and beneath it, those boys, with clear eyes, and strong hearts, and such curious minds, they wait, dressed already in their black hooded djellabas, they wait. It’s a full moon tonight, my friends, the fullest, and it shines a pathway over the wilderness, lighting the brush, and the dry arroyo’s, and making Twin Peaks glow, like two worlds arisen from the past, for that they are tonight. If you listen, if you draw your subconscious open to hear, you will hear the sound of the ground swelling with the beating of sound, and you will hear a bugle. At first distant, and then closer, near the desert peaks, and then like our dear boys laying there open eyed and waiting, you will hear the hammer of the gods, drawing life from the ground. It is time!

I’m on my knees unzipping the netted opening of the tent, my black robe slipping over my hand, making my efforts difficult. Jason’s pushing me from behind, impatient to be free of our canvas quarters. At last we are free of the tent, at first on our knees and then sprinting to a run. We are passing the corral that makes up the back of our property, my brother’s horse, “Babe”, staring wide eyed at us as we run, the moonlight shining off of her brown coat, giving her an ethereal glow. We stop for a moment at the edge of the property looking with wonder across the span of the wilderness. The helicopter hovers in the distance above the peaks, a light shining down, bathing the entire expanse of the summit. “Do you hear it”, my voice is out of breath, excited. “Kashmir, its, its, its, ZEPPLIN”, Jason is beside himself reaching to pull his hood up and on, “let’s go, come on”, he’s has my left hand jerking me forward. I’m running, trailing behind my younger sleuthing brother, trying to keep my hood on. We are stumbling, falling and tripping. Our excitement is uncontrollable. Those moments! Those high flying jumps, over desert yucca, the whole of the moon to light our way. Our black robes flying open, heavy woolen hoods, bouncing off of our backs. We are forever the same as we have always been, since that first meeting over a Hardy Boy book in the Grace B. Wilson Elementary School library. We are the Hardy Boys.

Monday May 26, 1975 11:05 PM

The U.S. 1st Cavalry, 12th Division gathers nearby. The sound of horses, and the whispers of men, seem to surround us, although to our best estimation we have moved to their east, and they are behind us. The helicopter is no longer hovering above Twin Peaks, having moved on around the time we passed the abandoned oil tanker, and hollowed out sedans. Our knowledge of the wilderness, and countless hours spent mapping the labyrinth of arroyos in the wilderness, has paid off, as we have made good time under the light of the moon. In our excitement in leaving we have forgotten our flashlights. The last ridge before Twin Peaks stands before us. We are close to the same place we encountered the cavalry and the lightning over a week ago. The moon is so low, it’s as if you could reach up and touch it. I’m staring at it in wonder, Jason’s climbing ahead of me, pulling his hood up over his head for the hundredth time, cresting the ridge, “Oh”, it’s a whisper, almost prayer like. I look up, he’s on his knees, desperately signaling me forward with his left arm behind his back. “What”, I start to say, but Jason’s looking back his finger lit by the moon, going up to the shadow of his face under the hood, a plea for my silence. I instinctively bring my own hood up, as I reach the crest of the ridge, and then I too am sinking to my knees, amazed at the sight that unfolds before me.

“The Mysterious Caravan”, a hundred, a thousand dress blue. The moon is speaking to the earth, the night is singing to the sky, and we are witness. Brass and swords, black arm bands, stripes and solemn faces, and we are witness. They ride from the southwest following the narrow trail from 550 Highway, to the northeast following the trail that Jason and I had put to paper, around the Twin Peaks, the caravan trail. The light of the moon fills the wilderness, the solemnity of man, invades our young souls, and in that moment we are witness. I take Jason’s hand, gently, pulling him back down from the ridge, “we better head up to The Vault”, I whisper. He nods in agreement and we back our way down the sand embankment, making our way toward the dark narrow arroyo that leads to “The Vault”.

Monday May 26, 1975 11:50 PM

There are stories that you follow, that become you. I know it’s true for you my reader. Would it be unbecoming of me, to say that you have come to cherish these boys? They are you, male or female, they are you, from the explosion of birth, to the investigation of life, to the finality of breath, they are you. I am you also, and I take you with me now, to the end. The arroyo it’s dark, so little light, twisting and narrow, turning, following the pattern of thunderstorm water. Like spirits they levitate upward. They run in darkness, their dark robes floating behind them. Their breath in ancient air, pulling it from the New Mexico sky, exhaling with life. You see them there. “The Vault”, and you see the dress blues lying there upon the naked stone, the hat, and the sword, of “Katz (Kashmir) Taylor” as they see it. From above them, from fifteen feet of stone and sand above them, you hear it, oh I know you hear it. The sound of many boots, the sound of many boots.

I am beside my brother you see. He is beside me, and it is the end. We climb “The Vault”. Strange that we have never climbed “The Vault”. Our black robes have encumbered us, and so we disrobe leaving the black blankets in the southeast corner of “The Vault” underneath a large sage bush. The moon is shining down, the light exposing the upper half of “The Vault”, and as we begin to climb, we see the uniform, hat and sword. Seven feet up a rock outcropping holds, the dress blues and side weapon of Kashmir. We climb to each side of it, grasping stone and brush, our eyes alight with adventure. We can hear the movement and the sounds of men so close to us, just above us. Many men, and then I feel the edge, the top. I look over at Jason, one foot behind me, and then he looks at me. Together we raise our heads above “The Vault” to see what we will see.

The boots, the many boots, a hundred, a thousand, and they come together, upon this place they come together. The moon falls upon the stone faces, the looks of war. The silence of life, of darkness, under the moon, on Twin Peaks, and Kashmir is here, his remains so near to our very faces.

And it was that Jason and I saw, “The Mysterious Caravan” from life unto death, and its sight, will never leave me! – 02.13.2015 – דָּנִיֵּאל

Hardy Boy Characters, and Title “The Mysterious Caravan” All Rights – Grosset & Dunlap

Kashmir – All Rights – Jimmy Page & Robert Plant

5 thoughts on “The Mysterious Caravan

  1. Bittersweet that it was the last adventure. It was a fun story, and you really did set a scene.
    Love the Zeppelin music in the video & the YouTube clip.
    I watched your video, but it kept stopping, so I couldn’t complete the viewing. It was not like it stopped because it needed to load more, rather it was on pause. I had to hit the play icon again.
    …… OKAY! I just tried playing it again, and the same pausing happens.


  2. Pingback: The Mystery of Cabin Island | Daniel Swearingen

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