Marietta Mystery: Chapter 3 – “Encampment”

Written by Cynthia L. Sperko
Kurt stood up and glanced at himself in the full-length mirror in his bedroom. He hardly recognized himself with the Civil War soldier’s uniform he was wearing. His dad found it in one of the wardrobe closets, and it fit him very well. He had no idea how the soldiers managed to wear the wool outfit.
“It’s only for a few days,” Kurt said to himself. Then, he placed his pocket notebook and pen inside a leather shoulder pack and headed downstairs.
Although Kurt passed all of his final exams, including history, his dad thought it would be a good idea to take part in a Civil War encampment. Kurt dreaded having to go, but Sylvia and Edwin agreed that it could help them solve the latest clue.
“The boots of old may be black, brown, or worn, but the small feat that wore them longs to be known.”
In their shared bedroom, Claire was French braiding Sylvia’s long brown hair.
“Ouch, Claire, stop pulling my hair so hard!” Sylvia exclaimed.
“Sorry, Sis. I’m almost done.” Claire grabbed a pocket mirror from the dresser and handed it to her sister.
“What do you think?” Claire asked.
Sylvia smiled when she saw the beautiful job her sister did.
“Claire, if you ever get tired of being a science nerd, you can become a hairstylist. I love it!” she replied.
“Sorry, Syl. I have no desire to spend my days cutting hair. I just happen to love science. What time does the encampment start? Marly and I were planning on going sometime today.”
Sylvia looked at her watch and stood up in front of the mirror behind the door. She was wearing a tan and white checkered long sleeved Victorian-styled dress with a white ruffled apron. Her best friend, Dana, made the dress at fashion camp. It arrived just in time for the Civil War encampment.
“It starts this afternoon at 1:00” Sylvia replied.
“So Marly and you seemed to hit it off. I think it’s great that you found a new friend. Is it true that you met her at science camp?” Sylvia asked Claire.
“Yes.” Claire replied.
Just then, there was a knock at their door. It was their mother telling Sylvia that Kurt was waiting downstairs for her.
Edwin walked down the school hallway with a large box full of Civil War memorabilia. He was assisting Ms. Harris with finding Civil War related items for the encampment. Heading out the front entrance of the high school he quickly walked to the SUV and placed the box in the back. When he was finished, Edwin went back inside the school and toward the history classroom. As he approached the room, something on the floor caught his attention. At a closer glance, it was a calligraphy pen partially hidden under a school locker. Edwin looked down both ends of the hallway before picking it up. Before he could take a closer look, Ms. Harris approached.
“Ms. Harris. You scared me…I didn’t see you…” exclaimed Edwin.
“Sorry Edwin. I didn’t mean to do that. There’s one more box inside. Can you grab it for me?”
“Of course, Ms. Harris.”
Edwin did as he was told, but not before taking a good look at the history teacher. Ms. Harris looked to be in her late thirties. Her hair was dark brown with light blonde highlights and about shoulder length. She was thin-waisted and was wearing blue jeans and a short sleeved t-shirt with sneakers. Edwin liked history class and the teacher. “Could she be involved in this whole Marietta mystery?” he thought to himself.
Claire stood on the front porch at her friend Marly’s home. A young girl about Claire’s age opened it. It was Marly. Without a word, she grabbed Claire’s hand and pulled her inside the colonial styled home. After Marly closed the door, she led Claire upstairs to her bedroom.
Claire glanced around the small, pink painted, room. There was a daybed along one of the walls. Kitty corner from the bed was an old wooden desk that looked like it needed a paint job. On top of it stood a framed photo of Marly and an older girl with short blonde hair. There was also an old foot locker with a thick light green cushion on the top that was under the only window. Seeing Claire glancing at that location, Marly started the conversation.
“It’s pretty cool, huh?” she said as she pulled her new friend towards the window. “The view isn’t so bad either. Take a look.”
Claire did as her friend instructed and was amazed by what she saw, as it was an inground oval shaped pool with a tall metal fence around it. “Wow. I’m a little jealous. You must have so much fun swimming and all.”
“Yea, I do.” Marly grabbed Claire’s hand again and led her to her older sister’s room. “I want to show you something” Marly told Claire.
Opening the door, they both entered a brightly colored purple painted room. Claire stood by the doorway as Marly walked toward a small letter desk.
Then Marly opened what seemed to be a secret drawer of sorts. Once opened, she pulled out an unfinished wooden box and showed it to Claire. “My sister has a unique talent” Marly said with excitement. She flipped open a latch and upon opening it up Claire gasped with what she saw.
Claire reached for her back pocket forgetting that she left her phone at home. She had to tell Sylvia what was in the box. “Do you want to go to the encampment?” Claire asked Marly.
“I don’t feel like it” replied Marly
“I want you to meet my sister and her friends. All three of them are reenactors and I told my sis that we were coming today” Claire said.
No matter what excuse she made, Claire couldn’t get Marly to go with her to the Civil War encampment and she didn’t want to go alone. Claire reluctantly stayed with her new friend.
The grounds of the Marietta Boat Club looked as though the historic town took a time passage back to the Civil War era. There were many reenactors dressed as Civil War soldiers walking around the wooded grounds, and women, dressed in Victorian style dresses, congregated together preparing a meal over an open campfire. Some of them were hand sewing. Canvas tents were lined up in rows with various civil war items throughout the area.
Edwin found Kurt and Sylvia walking together and approached them from behind.
“There you are” Edwin stated, as both Sylvia and Kurt looked behind them. Edwin was dressed as a newspaper boy. He had brown trousers and a cream colored shirt with black suspenders. He was also wearing an old cap on his head. Removing his hat, he bowed down to Sylvia.
“Young miss, you look over so lovely this fine day” said Edwin.
Sylvia smiled and covered her mouth to keep herself from laughing out loud. “Oh, Edwin. Thank you very much. You look fine yourself” she answered.
“Hey, what about me!” exclaimed Kurt placing his hands on his hips. “What am I, chopped liver?”
“Not at all, Kurt” said Edwin. “I think that uniform is a new look for you, though.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny” Kurt replied, pulling on his collar.
Sylvia turned her attention to the ladies creating a meal over the campfire.
“Earth to Sylvia” said Kurt waving his hand in front of her face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I was thinking about the clue. It really baffles me about the ‘feat’ part.”
“The boots of old may be black, brown, or worn, but the small feat that wore them longs to be known.”
“That reminds me” said Edwin. He pulled out the calligraphy pen that he found and showed it to his friends. “I found this under a locker outside the history room” he stated, handing the item to Kurt. “I know it’s unlikely, but maybe the pen belongs to the person responsible for the clues themselves. I plan on putting it under a microscope later tonight. If I find out anything, I’ll let you know.”
The three friends decided to split up and walk the encampment grounds on their own. Sylvia thought it best to join the women at the campfire and Edwin hung around with the kids who were playing various games.
Kurt joined the reenactors in a musket shoot. Before he had a chance to fire a round, he felt his phone vibrate and pulled it out. It was a text message from the unknown source.
“The trail of breadcrumbs that you seek will lead you one step closer to solving the mystery.”
Kurt excused himself from the group and searched the grounds for his friends. He saw Edwin and waved him to come closer.
“Kurt, what’s the matter?” asked Edwin. Kurt showed him the text on his phone. “Another text from you-know-who.”
Both of them looked around from where they were standing. Sylvia glanced in their direction and came over to them. Then they filled her in with the new info.
“What do we do now?” asked Sylvia.
“Well, it did say something about following breadcrumbs” Kurt said pointing to two young girls carrying woven baskets of bread. “It’s a place to start at least.”
From a distance, the three followed the girls to the picnic pavilion. After the young ladies put the bread baskets on one of the tables, they skipped their way back to the encampment area. When the coast was clear, the three sleuths approached the baskets. There was a spread of other festive treats and nourishing food, as well as several coolers full of bottled water.
The bread baskets were just that, though. At least at first glance. Lifting up one of them Sylvia felt something on the bottom of it. There were several strands of colored threads taped to it. Sylvia removed it and showed it to Edwin and Kurt. Then she sat down on one of the benches, again lost in thought.
‘When I was at the campfire I listened to a conversation some of the women were having. It seems like back in the days of the war, women played a huge role in the efforts. They took care of the soldiers and troops by making sure they had enough supplies, including linen, hospital shirts, pillows, and various food items. It was a real movement.” Sylvia faced her friends as she continued. “I think the ‘feat’ in the latest clue has something to do with the women’s circle. Even back then, women wanted to be well known.”
“Sylvia, I think you solved it! It makes sense to me now” stated Edwin. “Maybe we should look around for another clue.”
They did just that, but came up with nothing. Disappointed, each of them grabbed a water bottle and went back to the encampment.
It was getting dark by the time the threesome walked back home. They chatted for a few moments and were about to head inside when they were approached by one of the reenactors. He approached their uniformed friend.
“Excuse me. Are you Kurt?” He nodded yes. Then the soldier handed him an envelope with familiar calligraphy writing on it and left quickly. The paper was off white, as usual, with a light scent of lavender.
Kurt ripped open the envelope and pulled out the note inside of it.
“I don’t believe it” Kurt said. “It’s an invitation to what seems to be a gala of some sort.” He showed it to Sylvia and Edwin. Edwin looked at it under the dim street light.
“My dad told me about this a few days ago” Edwin said. “Apparently, there’s a special party by invite only at the First National Bank, here in town. It’s quite a dressy affair, as well. Black tux and fancy dresses required.”
“Wait. There’s something else inside” said Kurt.
On a separate sheet of paper another clue was written in calligraphy.
“Have you ever robbed a bank? I bet the answer is no. This piece of the puzzle is the final piece to solve.”
“Someone wants you to be there” said Sylvia, looking at Kurt.
Edwin added. “We got this. Not sure how, but we got this.” All three nodded in agreement and entered Marietta Pizza.
Upon entering, Sylvia and her friends were greeted by an excited Claire. “There you are” said Claire. “I have something very important to tell you. I think Marly’s sister is the calligrapher!”
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion in the next issue of the Marietta Traveler.