by Starsky Hutch 76
Inside the library of an exclusive private school, the headstrong, fair-haired beauty’s uniformed classmates surrounded her at one of the study tables. As she spoke to Delia, the group skeptic, her words grew louder and more forceful. “First of all, Delia, my father is much tougher than he looks. He may look like a pampered businessman, but he’s really quite athletic. He was known far and wide as an adventurer in Japan before he made his fortune,” she said, continuing her story.
“Right,” Delia said, sarcastically. “I’m sure he’s a regular Indiana Jones.”
“Don’t listen to her! Continue your story, Buffy!” a redheaded girl said enthusiastically.
A librarian across the way shushed the girls, forcing Buffy to lower her voice to a dramatic whisper. “Once my father got inside the pyramid, he thought he was home free.” Buffy Winter smiled. “OK. There my father was in the pharaoh’s tomb with his flashlight trained on the decrepit old mummy.” The girls leaned in closer as she spoke. “It was holding a crudely fashioned scepter in its shriveled, claw-like hands. But as soon as he tried to pull the scepter from the Pharaoh’s bony clutches, he set off the worst trap of all. There was a sudden rumbling inside the tomb. The very floor beneath him began to buckle from some unseen force. Racing for the arched doorway, my father stopped when he saw sections of the antechamber’s tile floor falling away, dropping down into a bottomless abyss.”
“Then what happened?!” one of the girls exclaimed, drawing another shush from the librarian.
“Then what happened?” they all whispered this time.
“He took a deep breath and picked out the only route imaginable across the precarious checkerboard floor… and sprinted for the entry hole with the scepter cradled in his arms. With each step, the tile floor broke away beneath him, and finally, with the scepter locked between his teeth, he leaped for the entry hole with both hands!” The girls at the table let out a gasp.
“Then, just as the wall was giving way, he jumped for the rope ladder dangling into view. It was my father’s helicopter pilot arriving in just the nick of time, allowing him to climb to safety. There was still the matter of the rogue treasure hunters shooting at him as he rose out of the crypt. With his free hand he fired his Uzi at them, causing them to scatter as the helicopter took to the skies.”
“I don’t buy it for a minute,” Delia said. All eyes were on Delia as she tried to debunk Buffy’s story. “If that thing is so valuable, why send it to you?”
All eyes now turned back to Buffy to return the volley. What she wanted to give Delia was a kick to the forehead. The truth was that her father had trusted her to guard it, because she was being trained to be his top operative. But she couldn’t tell her that without revealing all his secrets. “Easy,” Buffy replied. “If you were a rogue treasure hunter, wouldn’t my dorm room be the last place you’d look?”
While Delia mulled over that one, Buffy spotted a black limousine arriving in the parking lot outside. Her eyes suddenly beamed. “To be continued. I gotta go,” she said, ignoring the protests of her friends to finish her story.
Buffy Winter’s room was filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases packed with odd souvenirs from around the world, all lovingly displayed. In the middle of the room stood Kompera Lee, a tall, formidable-looking Asian man. Even though the shelves were filled with all manners of artifacts, he was far more interested in the ones overflowing with sports trophies and various academic plaques and certificates. He proudly examined a first place gymnastics trophy.
His pride briefly turned to irritation as he saw pinups on the wall of young heroes such as the Star-Spangled Kid, Sandy the Golden Boy, Speedy, and the merely-youthful-in-appearance Robin. “Teenagers,” he grumbled.
Buffy bolted inside, winded from her run across school. “I don’t believe it,” Buffy said, surprised to find her father standing in her room. She ran to grab him in an overjoyed bear hug.
In return, Kompera Lee gave Buffy a short, polite embrace. “Hello, Daughter.”
“I thought you were off on pressing business somewhere,” Buffy said, eyeing her father. It was only when the two were in the same room that anyone could tell there was any relationship between the two. She was fair where he was dark, due to the Aryan heritage of her mother. But if one looked closely at family features such as the mouth or the shape of the eyes, they could begin to notice a resemblance.
“You did not believe I would miss your birthday!” Kompera Lee responded with mock hurt.
“Oh, is that today?” Buffy said playfully.
“I brought another souvenir to add to your very impressive collection. Kompera Lee handed Buffy an ornate, carved wooden box.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“Look inside,” her father instructed.
Raising the lid, Buffy scrunched her face quizzically. Inside was a new passport. She eyed him curiously. “Am I going somewhere?”
“The provost has assured us you are so far ahead in your studies that your professors might actually welcome your absence for a week. So that they might catch up to you.”
“A family trip? Just like a real family?” Buffy said sardonically.
“I felt it was time I took a personal interest in your education,” he said. “There is only so much you can learn in a school atmosphere. I thought I would bring you with me on one of my own expeditions.”
It was like a dream come true for Buffy. She thoughtfully perused all the exotic souvenirs her father had sent her over the years. “Everywhere you’ve been… I’ve dreamed of going,” she said. “Lead on, teach.”
The next day, over the Himalayas, a sleek private jet emblazoned with Bishamon Industries painted on its side in large block letters soared amongst the jagged, pristine white mountaintops. The jet’s handsomely appointed interior had the feel of an English sitting room that could comfortably accommodate eight to ten passengers. Kompera Lee, who had to duck inside the cabin, poured himself a brandy at the wet bar.
“So what’s so special about that scepter you sent me?” Buffy asked.
“It’s carved from a human thigh bone. And it’s part of a dark ceremony to draw upon a great mystic force which inhabits the body of a dying man,” Lee said. This got Buffy’s attention. “It was very moving. The ceremony divests the dying person of all their ego and emotions, which are then replaced by those of the mystical being, who then performs a task at the behest of the one who summoned him.”
“I always miss the good stuff,” Buffy said, peering out the window at the enigmatic mountains. “You want to know something funny? For years, now, I’ve told stories at school about you being a famous adventurer — that’s how I explained why you were always away on business.” She turned back to her father. “My friends actually think all those souvenirs you sent me are all ancient treasures, archaeological finds. Like that scepter, I’ve almost convinced them you stole it from a pyramid.”
Kompera Lee gave his daughter a sympathetic smile, seeing beneath her imagination. “I know it has not been easy for you, my daughter, with me abroad so very often. Someday, you will understand why it must be this way. From now on, though, I promise to do better than just holiday visits. How does a family trip each month sound?”
Buffy looked to her father and smiled. “I can’t wait for next month.”