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The Mystery of Wandering Caveman

By Dawn Hudson,2014-11-04 21:20
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Product `desc`riptionThree young sleuths investigate the disappearance of a caveman's bones from a museum and uncover skulduggery at a science foundation. Published by Random House on 1982/02/13

    THE MYSTERY OF THE WANDERING CAVEMAN M. V. Carey

    Chapter 1

    The Stranger in the Fog

    “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” said a woman’s voice.

    Jupiter Jones stood still and listened.

    The afternoon was thick with fog. Fog muffled the noise of the traffic on thePacific Coast Highway. It hung like a curtain between The Jones Salvage Yard and the housesacross the street. It seemed to press in on Jupe. He felt cold and lonely, as if he were theonly person in all the world.

    But someone had spoken, and now there were footsteps. Outside, just beyond the gates of thesalvage yard, someone was walking.

    Then a man spoke, and two people appeared, moving like shadows in the grey light.The man was bent over, and as he walked his feet made slow, scuffling noises on the pavement.The woman was girlish and thin, with long, fair hair that hung straight about her face.

    “Here’s a bench,” she said, and she guided the man to a seat near the office. “You rest aminute. You should have let me drive. It was too much for you.”

    “Can I help?” Jupe moved closer to the pair.

    The man put a hand to his head and looked around in a dazed fashion.

    “We’re looking for … for …” He caught at the young woman’s hand. “You do it,” he said.“Find out where we … where we …”

    “Harbourview Lane,” said the young woman to Jupe. “We have to go to Harbourview Lane.”

    “It’s down the highway and off Sunset,” said Jupe. “Look, if your friend is ill, I can calla doctor and —”

    “No!” cried the man. “Not now. We’re late!” Jupe bent towards the man. He saw a face thatwas grey and glistening with sweat. “Tired!” said the man. “So tired!” He pressed his handsto his forehead. “Such a headache!” There was surprise and dismay in his voice. “So strange!I never have headaches!”

    “Please let me call a doctor!” begged Jupe.

    The stranger pulled himself up.

    “Be all right in a minute, but now I can’t … can’t …”

    He sank back against the side of the office, and his breathing became heavy andharsh. Then his face crumpled and twisted.

    “Hurts!” he said.

    Jupe took hold of the man’s hand. The flesh was cold and clammy to his touch.

    The man gazed at Jupe. His eyes were fixed and did not blink.

    Suddenly it was very quiet in the salvage yard. The young woman bent to touch theman. She made a sound like a whimper of pain. There were brisk footsteps on the pavement, andJupiter’s aunt Mathilda came through the gate. She saw the man on the bench and thegirl bending over him. She saw Jupe kneeling in front of him.

    “Jupiter, what is it?” said Aunt Mathilda. “Is something wrong? Shall I callthe paramedics?”

    “Yes,” said Jupe. “You … you call them. But I don’t think it will do any good. I thinkhe’s dead!”

    Afterwards Jupe was to remember a confusion of lights and sirens and men hurryingin the fog. The blonde girl wept in Aunt Mathilda’s arms. People clustered at the gate of thesalvage yard, and there was a terrible hush when the stretcher was put in the ambulance.Then there were more sirens, and Jupe and Aunt Mathilda were driving to the hospital

with the blonde girl between them in the car.

    Jupiter felt that he moved through a dream, grey and unreal. But the hospital was grimreality. There was a corridor where people hurried about. There was a waiting roomstale with cigarette smoke. Jupe, Aunt Mathilda, and the blonde girl sat and leafedthrough old magazines.

    After a long, long while a doctor came.

    “I’m sorry,” said the doctor to the girl. “We couldn’t do anything. It’s … sometimesit’s best that way. You aren’t a relative, are you?”

    She shook her head.

    “There will be an autopsy,” he said. “I’m sorry. It’s usual in cases where someone dieswithout a doctor. It was probably a cerebral accident — a ruptured blood vessel in the head.The autopsy will confirm it. Do you know how we can get in touch with his family?”

    She shook her head again. “No. I’ll have to call the foundation.”

    She began to sob, and a nurse came and led her away. Jupiter and Aunt Mathilda waited. After along while the girl came back. She had made a telephone call from the nursing director’soffice. “They’ll come from the foundation,” she told Jupiter and Aunt Mathilda.

    Jupiter wondered what the foundation might be, but he didn’t ask. Aunt Mathilda announced thatthey must all have a good strong cup of tea. She took the girl by the arm and propelled herout of the waiting room and down a corridor to the hospital coffee shop.

    For a while they sat without talking and drank their tea, but finally the girl spoke.

    “He was very nice,” she said. She went on in a low voice, staring down at herrough hands with their jagged, bitten nails. The dead man was Dr. Karl Birkensteen, a famousgeneticist. He had been working at the Spicer Foundation, studying various animalsfor the effects his experiments had on their intelligence — and that of theiroffspring. The girl worked there, too, helping to care for the animals.

    “I’ve heard of the Spicer Foundation,” said Jupe. “It’s down the coast, isn’tit?

    Near San Diego?”

    She nodded. “It’s in a little town in the hills there, on the road that goesover to the desert.”

    “The town is called Citrus Grove,” said Jupe.

    For the first time the girl smiled. “Yes. That’s nice. I mean, not many people know aboutCitrus Grove. Even if they’ve heard of the foundation, they don’t know the nameof the town.”

    “Jupiter reads a great deal,” said Aunt Mathilda, “and he remembers most of what he reads.However, I don’t know about the town, or the foundation either. What is it?”

    “It’s an institution that fosters independent scientific research,” said Jupiter.

    Suddenly he sounded like a college professor discoursing on some little-knownsubject. It was a way he had when he explained subjects in which he was well versed.

    Aunt Mathilda was accustomed to it, and she did not seem to notice, but the blonde girl staredat him curiously.

    “Abraham Spicer was a manufacturer of plastics,” said Jupe. “His company producedsuch items as dish drainers and food containers. He made millions in his lifetime.However, he never achieved his real ambition, which was to be a physicist.

    He therefore instructed that when he died, his money was to go into a trust fund. The incomefrom the fund was to support a foundation where scientists could do original, and perhapsrevolutionary, research in their special fields.”

“Do you always talk like that?” asked the girl.

    Aunt Mathilda smiled. “Too frequently he does. It may have something to do with all thatreading.”

    “Oh,” said the girl. “Okay. I mean, that’s nice, I guess. I didn’t tell you my name, didI? It’s Hess. Eleanor Hess. Not that it matters.”

    “Of course it matters,” said Aunt Mathilda.

    “Well, what I mean is, it’s not as if I were really anybody. I’m not famousor anything.”

    “Which is not to say that you’re nobody,” said Aunt Mathilda firmly. “I’m pleased to meetyou, Eleanor Hess. I am Mrs. Titus Jones, and this is my nephew, Jupiter Jones.”

    Eleanor Hess smiled. Then she looked away quickly, as if she were afraid ofrevealing too much of herself.

    “Tell us more about your work at this Spicer Foundation,” said Aunt Mathilda.

    “You said you take care of animals. What kind of animals?”

    “They’re experimental animals,” said Eleanor. “White rats and chimpanzees and a horse.”

    “A horse?” echoed Aunt Mathilda. “They keep a horse in a laboratory?”

    “Oh, no. Blaze lives in the stable. But she’s an experimental animal just the same.

    Dr. Birkensteen used isotopes or something on her mother. Her dam is what you’d

    say, I guess. Anyway, that did something to her chromosomes. I don’t understand it, but she’sreally smart for a horse. She does arithmetic.” Aunt Mathilda and Jupe both stared. “Oh,nothing complicated,” said Eleanor hastily. “If you put two apples in front of her,and then three apples, she knows it’s five apples. She stamps five times. I

    … I suppose that isn’t really so — great, but horses don’t come awfully smart. Their headsare the wrong shape. Dr. Birkensteen’s chimps are the clever ones. They talk in sign language.They can say some complicated things.”

    “I see,” said Aunt Mathilda. “And what did Dr. Birkensteen plan to do with these animals,once he had them properly educated?”

    “I don’t think he was going to do anything with them,” she said softly. “Not really.

    He didn’t care about smart horses and talking chimps. He wanted to help people be better. Youhave to start with animals, don’t you? It wouldn’t be right to start with a human baby, wouldit?”

    Aunt Mathilda shuddered. Eleanor looked away, retreating into a cocoon of shyness.“You really don’t have to stay with me,” she said. “You’ve been great, butI’m okay now. Dr. Terreano and Mrs. Collinwood will be here soon, and they’ll talk to thedoctor and … and …”

    She bowed her head and the tears started again.

    “There, now,” said Aunt Mathilda quietly. “Of course we’ll stay.”

    And stay they did until a tall, bony, grey-haired man came into the coffee shop.

    Eleanor introduced him as Dr. Terreano. He had with him a plump, sixtyish woman who woreenormous false eyelashes and a curly, flaming red wig. She was Mrs.

    Collinwood, and she took Eleanor out to the car while Dr. Terreano went to find the doctor whohad attended to Dr. Birkensteen.

    Aunt Mathilda shook her head when she and Jupe were alone.

    “Strange people!” she said. “Imagine doing things to an animal so that its offspring will bechanged. That Terreano person who came in just now — what do you suppose he does?”

    “Some sort of research, if he’s at the Spicer Foundation,” said Jupe.

Aunt Mathilda frowned. “Strange people,” she said again. “And that foundation

    — I would not like to go there. Once those scientists start poking and pryingand changing things around, there’s no telling where they’ll stop. It’s not natural!Terrible things could happen!”

    Chapter 2

    Bad Blood!

    AUNT MATHILDA TOLD Uncle Titus that night about the scientist who had come through the fogand died in their salvage yard. She said very little about the Spicer Foundation,however, and when Jupiter mentioned the place, she quickly changed the subject. The idea ofgenetic experiments plainly upset and frightened her. But she did not have a chance to forgetthe Spicer Foundation entirely, for as the cool, grey days of spring passed, thatinstitution for scientific research was in the news again and again.

    First there were the reports on Dr. Birkensteen’s death. As the physician at thehospital had suspected, Birkensteen had suffered a stroke. There were brief accounts of hiswork in genetics, and the reports concluded with the information that the body was to beshipped to the East for burial.

    Scarcely a week later the Spicer Foundation was involved in an astounding discovery,and newspaper people swarmed into the little town of Citrus Grove to cover thestory. An archaeologist named James Brandon, a scientist in residence at the foundation, haddiscovered the bones of a prehistoric creature in a cave on the outskirts of thetown.

    “What a great mystery!” exclaimed Jupe. It was an afternoon in May, and Jupe and his friendswere in the old mobile home trailer that was Headquarters for the detective firm they hadstarted some time before. Jupe had the newspaper spread out on the desk. BobAndrews was reorganizing the files while Pete Crenshaw was cleaning the equipment inthe tiny crime lab the boys had set up.

    Pete looked around. “What’s a mystery?” he asked.

    “The cave man of Citrus Grove,” said Jupe. “Is it really human? How old isit?

    James Brandon, the archaeologist who found it, calls it a hominid. That could mean a man, or itcould mean a manlike animal. Is it prehuman, or something else?”

    “Brandon is going to be on television this afternoon,” said Bob. “My folks weretalking about it at breakfast. He’ll be a guest on the Bob Engel Show at five o’clock.”

    Pete wiped off the counter in the lab. “You want to watch?” he said.

    “You bet I do,” said Jupiter Jones.

    There was a small black-and-white television set on the bookcase near Jupe’s desk.

    Uncle Titus had acquired it on one of his buying trips. It had been out of commission when itcame into the salvage yard. But Jupe had a knack for fixing things, and he had put the set inworking order and had installed it in Headquarters. Now it flickered to life, and the boyssaw Bob Engel, the talk show host, smiling at the television audience.

    “Our first guest today is Dr. James Brandon,” said Engel. “He’s the man whodiscovered the fossil remains of a prehistoric man in a cave right here insouthern California.”

    The camera pulled back, and the boys saw a lean, rugged-looking man with close-cut fair hair.Next to him was a shorter, rather paunchy man wearing a cowboy shirt, a wide belt with anornate buckle and high-heeled boots.

    “Today Dr. Brandon is accompanied by Mr. Newt McAfee. Mr. McAfee is a merchant inthe town of Citrus Grove, and he owns the land where the cave man was discovered.”

    “Right!” said the chubby man. “And that’s McAfee: Mack-like in Mack truck-Afee. A fee’sthe money the dentist charges you to yank a tooth. Don’t forget it, ‘cause you’re going tobe hearing that name lots from now on.”

Bob Engel forced a smile, then turned his attention to his other guest.

    “All right, now, Dr. Brandon,” he said. “Could you give us a little background, in case someof us haven’t read about the discovery of the fossils?”

    The fair-haired man straightened in his chair.

    “It was pure luck that I found them,” he said. “I went out for a walk a week or so ago, justafter the rains stopped, and I noticed that there had been a small landslide on the hill aboveNewt McAfee’s meadow. Part of the slope had come down, and, there was an opening in the sideof the hill. When I got closer, I saw that there was a cave, and I could see the skullinside. It was nearly buried in the mud on the floor of the cave, and I didn’tknow what I had at first, so —”

    “You don’t have nothing, buddy,” interrupted the man next to Brandon. “I’m the one that’sgot it!”

    Brandon ignored this. “I went back to the Spicer house to get a torch,” he said.

    “And when he got back to my field, I was waiting with a shotgun,” said McAfee.

    “Come trespassing on my property and I’ll take notice!”

    Brandon took a deep breath. He seemed to be controlling his temper with difficulty.“I explained what I’d seen,” he said. “We looked closer, and I knew for sure that it was askull!”

    “An old one!” cried McAfee. “Been there for thousands of years.”

    “In addition to the skull,” said Brandon, “most of the skeleton remains. I haven’t beenable to really study it yet, but there are similarities to very old fossils discovered inAfrica.”

    “And is it a man?” asked Engel.

    Brandon frowned. “Who’s to say exactly what makes a being a man — a human?

    There are definite hominid characteristics, but it isn’t what we would recognizeas a modern man. I’m almost sure that it is older than any hominids found in America sofar.”

    Brandon leaned forward. His tone now was enthusiastic. “There is a theory that theAmerican Indian descended from Mongolian hunters who migrated from Siberia to Alaskaduring the last ice age. That was about eight thousand years ago, at a time when so much oceanwater was frozen into ice that the level of the sea was quite low.

    The ocean bottom in the narrows between Siberia and Alaska was exposed, so Asian tribesmencould simply walk across from one continent to the other, following the game theyhunted to the New World. The theory has it that they then spread out and settled in variousplaces, and some of them kept going until they reached the tip of South America.

    “That’s the accepted theory. It’s the one you’ll find in most schoolbooks. But now and thensomeone pops up with a different explanation. Some of these mavericks say that man lived onthis continent long before the time the nomads are supposed to have crossed that landbridge. Some even claim that modern man really originated in America, and that he migrated theother way, to Asia and Europe.”

    “And do the fossils in the cave at Citrus Grove support this theory?” asked Engel.

    “I can’t say right now,” said Brandon. “At this point I can’t even be sure how old thosebones are. But we have much of the skeleton, and—”

    “You mean I have the skeleton,” said Newt McAfee. He glowed with perspiration and delight.“And that little guy in my cave sure is a human, right enough. Ain’t anythingelse it could be, is there? So if he’s been there two or three million years —”

    “Now wait a minute!” cried Brandon.

    “You said yourself you didn’t know how old he was!” insisted McAfee. “Had to be much olderthan eight or ten thousand was what you said. You was sure enough of that when you

    first saw him. So that means humans did start up here in America, and that little guy in mycave could be the great-grand-daddy of us all. Maybe it was his kids and grandkids that wentacross them straits to Asia and started humanity on its way. Maybe the Garden of Eden wasn’tsomeplace over there, like we always thought.

    Supposing it was in Bakersfield or Fresno. Wouldn’t that be a lick?”

    “You’re jumping to conclusions,” said Brandon in a dogged way. “When we have a chance toproperly study the find—”

    “Ain’t going to be no studying done!” declared McAfee.

    Brandon spun around and glared at McAfee.

    “That little guy’s been in my cave right along, and he’s going to stay there!” said McAfee.“Ain’t nobody going to haul him away and cut him up and look at him through amicroscope. And if you think the lines of people waiting to get into Marinelandand Magic Mountain are long, just wait’ll you see the lines of people who’ll wantto see a real cave man!”

    “You’re going to put the fossils on display?” cried Brandon. “But you can’t!We aren’t sure how old the bones are, or …”

    “The bones are old enough,” McAfee announced. “What we’ve got right here is thebeginnings of civilization, and everybody’s interested in that!”

    “You ignorant lout!” shouted Brandon. “You haven’t any idea what you’re talking about!”

    “I’m talking about what may be the first man.” McAfee looked full at the camera.

    “That’s why I come on this show. I want everybody to know that I’m getting my place ready,and as soon as I can, I’ll open my cave for visitors. It’ll be like thoseother wonderful places in California, and —”

    “You imbecile!” shouted Brandon. He lurched out of his chair.

    The camera quickly moved in close so that only Bob Engel could be seen.

    There was some shouting off camera, and a scuffling noise. Then Bob Engel said hastily,“That’s all for this exciting portion of our show. We’re out of time, thankheavens. Now stay tuned for an important message from Nodust furniture polish, and then we’llbe back with …”

    Pete turned off the television. “Wow!” he said. “Things really got out of handthere. Brandon looked like he was going to pound that McAfee guy right into theground.”

    “I didn’t like McAfee much myself,” said Jupe, “and if he won’t let Brandonremove the bones …”

    “Can he stop Brandon?” said Bob.

    “I should think so, if the cave is on his property. What a maddening situation for anarchaeologist to be in — to find something so exciting and then not be able toevaluate it! And probably there’s been bad blood between those two men from thebeginning, if McAfee ran for his gun when he saw Brandon at the cave. A badsituation! And Brandon’s got a temper. It’s the sort of thing that could end in … in …”

    “Bloodshed?” said Pete.

    “Yes. Yes, that’s just how it could end — in bloodshed!”

    Chapter 3

    An Unusual Welcome

    AFTER THAT FIRST explosive interview, James Brandon did not appear on televisionagain. It was Newt McAfee who was seen on several of the talk shows, and as spring turned tosummer, the chubby merchant from Citrus Grove gave interviews to any reporter who would standstill and listen. By the middle of July most people in southern California knew about hiscave and his cave man. Then the paid advertisements began to appear. The cavewould be opened to the public early in August.

    During the last week of July, Jupiter had a timely encounter with his neighbour Les Wolf.

    Wolf was a contractor who installed ovens and stoves and dishwashers in restaurantsand hotels. He lived in a big frame house down the street from The Jones Salvage Yard. On thatJuly day Jupe was riding his bike past the Wolf home when he saw Mr. Wolf trying to coax akitten out from under a hedge. Jupe stopped to lend a hand. He approached the hedge from oneside and stamped his foot, and the little cat scooted out the other side and into Mr. Wolf’sgrip.

    “There, now,” said Wolf. He grinned at Jupe. “Thanks, Jupe. My wife would neverhave forgiven me if the cat had got away and been run over or something.”

    Wolf started for the house with the kitten cradled in his arms. But then he stopped and turnedback towards Jupiter. “Say, you know that little town down the coast? The place where theyfound the cave man? I’m putting in a new kitchen in a restaurant there laterthis week. Didn’t your aunt tell my wife that you’ve been following that cave manstory in the newspapers?”

    “You bet I have!” said Jupe eagerly. “The cave man goes on view this Saturday.

    Are you taking the big truck to Citrus Grove? You wouldn’t need a helper on that job, wouldyou?”

    “You’re too young, and besides you’re not in the union,” said Mr. Wolf. “HalKnight is going along to help. But if you don’t mind riding in the back of the truck, alongwith my gear …”

    “You bet I don’t!” said Jupe quickly. “Could my friends Bob and Pete come too?”

    “Sure. Only you boys will have to find a place to stay. It’ll take me aboutthree days to finish the job, and the couple who own the restaurant will put me up. They’vegot room for Hal, too, but they don’t have room for any more.”

    “That’ll be all right,” said Jupe. “We can bring our sleeping bags and camp out.”

    Jupe hurried home to call his friends and to get permission from Aunt Mathilda andUncle Titus to make the trip. On Friday morning, when Les Wolf’s truck rolled out of RockyBeach, Jupe, Pete, and Bob were aboard.

    Mr. Wolf drove south for nearly two hours, then turned off the main highway and headed east, upinto the hills. The road turned and dipped and climbed. The boys saw orange groves on eitherside, open fields, clusters of trees, and broad meadows where cattle grazed.

    After half an hour the truck slowed to go through a town called Centerdale, beyondwhich were more miles of trees and groves and grassland. Then at last a sign informed them:“Entering Citrus Grove. Speed laws strictly enforced.”

    Citrus Grove was hardly more than a hamlet. The boys saw a supermarket, two petrolstations, a car dealership, and a tiny motel called The Elms. They passed the townswimming pool and then an abandoned railway station that looked bleak and dusty. Inthe centre of the village a little park lined one side of the street and a row of narrow storeslined the other. The boys saw a bank, a hardware store, a drugstore and the public library.But though the town was small, there were crowds everywhere. A neon “No Vacancy”

    sign flashed at the motel, and outside the Lazy Daze Cafe a long line of people was waiting tobe seated.

    “All that publicity about the cave man,” said Bob. “It’s really drawing thecrowds.”

    Jupe grinned at the sight of a crowded hamburger stand that advertised dinosaurburgers. “That’s getting into the swing of things,” he said.

    Les Wolf turned on to a side road beyond the park and pulled to the kerb. Heleaned out to call to the boys.

    “The Happy Hunter Restaurant is down this way half a mile or so,” he said. “Icalled the owner last night and he said the campground near town is full. Hesays you’re to see Newt McAfee in that grey frame house at the head of MainStreet.

    McAfee’s finding places for people to stay.”

    “Not that guy from TV!” exclaimed Pete.

    “I’m afraid so,” said Jupe.

    The boys scrambled out of the truck.

    “Check with me at the Happy Hunter on Monday,” Wolf told them. Then he droveaway.

    Newt McAfee’s house looked pleasant enough when the boys started towards it. In front it hada wide porch and a small lawn. As the boys neared the place, however, they sawthat the house badly needed paint and the curtains at the windows were grey and limp. Some ofthe shutters were missing slats. The lawn was mostly crabgrass.

    “Looks seedy, doesn’t it?” said Bob. “I thought McAfee owned the hardware store and the

    car dealership.”

    “Maybe that doesn’t make him prosperous in a town this size,” said Jupe.

    A sign was tacked to the porch railing of the McAfee house. It advised visitors who neededaccommodations to go around to the back. The boys trudged obediently around thehouse, and they saw a meadow that stretched away from the road to a patch ofwoodland. Quite close to the house was a barn, silvery with age. On the side of the house thatwas farthest from town, the meadow extended a short way along the road until it ran into anearby hill. Huddled against the hillside was a spanking new building. It was trimand modern, built of redwood, and windowless. Above the double doors a sign read:“Entrance to Cave Man Cavern”.

    “Hey, hey!” said Pete. “The guy is making a real production out of it.”

    “Do you want something?” said a soft voice behind the boys.

    They turned and Jupe saw pale hair and a pale face. He remembered a bleak and foggy day inRocky Beach, and a man who walked in from the highway to die.

    “Oh!” said Eleanor Hess. “It’s you!”

    “Hi.” Jupe put his hand out and she took it.

    “I … uh … I was going to write to your aunt,” she said. “You were so nice. But I thoughtmaybe you wouldn’t want to be bothered.”

    “I’m glad we could help,” said Jupe, and he introduced Bob and Pete.

    As Eleanor acknowledged the introductions, the back door of the house opened and aplump woman with short, frizzy hair looked out.

    “Ellie, what do those boys want?” she called. She spoke rudely, as if the boyscouldn’t hear her.

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