This was the last thing I wanted to talk about.
I just wanted the keys to the weight room, not a lecture. I couldn't just say I’m running late for class either since it was lunchtime.
“Don’t give me that look. It’s the school’s policy, not mine,” Coach Lawson pointed out. “Dean Williamson just checked on the entire team’s grades this morning. You guys need to get your act together.”
“It’s not my fault that Mr. Grant can’t teach math for shit,” I retorted.
“Hey! Watch your fucking language around school hours Jeff, and it’s not just math. It’s history too.”
I understood why coach was telling me this, but I knew my grades. I really did not need the reminder.
“History is just a fluke,” I replied cracking my knuckles. “I bombed Mr. Bryner’s last test because I had a paper and a math test that day too. I should be okay in that class. And I’ll figure something out about math.”
“You better. As captain, you need to set an example for the team. Not to mention be able to play on the team.” I nodded my head in agreement as he threw me the keys.
“Bryner is a pretty fair teacher,” Coach started before I could head out the door. “From what I hear, you’re the on edge in that class. Try to ask him if there’s some way you can boost your grade, at least enough so Williamson gets off my back about it.”
I knew coach would just keep bugging me until I talked to Mr. Bryner so I decided to just get it out of the way. “Will do. Do you know where I can find him?”
“He should be back from lunch by now. Ask the Administration’s Office.”
A small part of me didn’t want to see him since I was scolded earlier, but I didn’t hate Mr. Bryner. World History was actually one of my better classes this year. The other history teachers at Vermillion put me to sleep, but I haven’t fallen asleep yet in his class.
As luck would have it, I saw him just as I walked into the building. He was with the Museum dude from class earlier today by the office scanner. The suit and ties seems overkill for a high school lecture, but that Dr. Jones character seems like the type that would wear a suit everywhere he went. He was flipping through some raggedy leather bound book.
I caught their attention and I started to build up my case.
“I wanted to know if there was something I could do to boost my grade up a bit. I swear that last test was just a fluke, and I can’t afford to be on probation,” I explained.
Mr. Bryner seemed to understand. “I was surprised as well. You did well on the first test I gave, but ever since then, you’ve been on a steady decline. You also don’t seem to be trying as hard on your homework lately either. Is it the material, or are you just getting busy?”
“Oh man, I’ve been swamped. It’s senior year, why are you guys pushing us so hard?”
He gave a small chuckle. “I’m not quite sure myself, but I think if you just put the effort you did at the beginning of the year, you should be fine. Have you been keeping up with the readings for the week?”
I grimaced. “Actually, I haven’t started yet. In fact, I’m a bit behind. But I will.” I thought I heard a humph from the Museum guest. I gave him a dirty gaze as Mr. Bryner began to offer me some help.
“Look, I understand our school’s policy, and I realize you’ve been busy. I tend to stay an extra hour or two after school most days, so if you ever feel like you need to go over the material, I’ll be around.”
“Thanks Mr. Bryner. It means a lot. Is tomorrow after school good for you?”
“Sure thing. I’ll keep my schedule open.” As I strolled out the building he and Dr. Jones returned to scanning pages from that book. So that was my plan, until I saw Coach Lawson again to return his keys later.
The Dean was planning a mandatory lecture about what he believes to be “the fall of education among the athletes” for the basketball team this afternoon. To stay on his good side, Coach decided to cancel practice today so the kids had time “to study”. Luckily, he gave me permission to ditch the lecture since he gave me a similar speech already.
With the afternoon free, I was going to warn my friends and try to get them to ditch too, but I decided that it might be best to try to focus on my schoolwork instead. Mr. Bryner did say he was free most afternoons.
As I walked to the 400 building, I noticed two people in front of Mr. Bryner’s classroom.
I wasn’t too surprised to see Stacy. Word around school was that she was in love with Bryner. Maybe she just spent afternoons trying to get to know him better under the pretense of studying, I wasn’t sure. All I know was that she was involved in a bunch of clubs around school and is probably the top rank, if not high up there in academics.
The person waiting next to Stacy was an entirely different story. I sorta knew Jake a long time ago. He was the only person I knew when I first came to Vermillion High School and it was the same for him. He was always pretty quiet even when we were young. Everyone thinks that “the accident” changed him greatly, and I can’t imagine how he could cope with the situation, but even before “the accident” we never hung out when we were kids or during freshman year. We weren’t exactly friends before coming here, but I always felt Jake was the one that kept it that way, even now.
I was certain that Jake wasn’t struggling with his classes. I wasn’t sure of the reason, but he was not here for tutoring. Might as well check to see if Mr. Bryner's busy.
The two turned to me with surprised looks on their faces, as well as a slight frown from Stacy.
“Hey Jeff. Did Mr. Bryner ask to see you too,” Stacy asked me.
Jake shook his head seemingly to himself since Stacy didn’t notice.
“No. I just wanted to talk with Mr. Bryner about the latest chapter. The school is all of a sudden really concerned with grades of the basketball team.”
“Oh, okay. I’m not sure if it’s a good time though. Mr. Bryner asked me about some project he’s working on,” she said with much more cheer in her voice. “He also asked Jake too,” she added in an afterthought. Jake nodded in agreement.
“Oh okay. So what’s the project?”
“Actually, I wasn’t sure myself,” Stacy replied. “Jake seems to know a bit more about it though.”
At that moment, Jake pulled out a wad of paper from his pocket, began uncrumpling it, and handed it to me, the words illegible from the wrinkles and smudged handwriting. I showed Jake the paper and he gave a small sigh.
“I don’t know that much either,” Jake mumbled. “All I know is that the project involves the lecture from class today somehow, and that he was hoping to get some of his best students on it.”
He shifted his gaze away from me and started to look uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to guess why.
“Well, I guess I should come back another time.” I couldn’t hide the bitterness in my voice.
I turned around walking away when I heard my name shouted from a few feet behind me.
I looked as Jake averted my gaze as if by reflex before heading towards me.
“Maybe you should stick around. It probably won’t take too long.”
“It’s fine. I don’t need to see him anyways. I just wanted to check if he was busy.”
“He’s not. Stick around,” he insisted. Before I could give a respond he continued with, “It would help me out if you stuck around.”
“Huh,” I asked irritatingly. “How could I help?”
Before I could get a response, Mr. Bryner opened his classroom door, letting Stacy enter the classroom before walking towards the two of us.
“I’m glad you decided to come Jake,” Mr. Bryner said before he turned to me. “Jeff. This is a surprise. I thought you wanted to meet up tomorrow afternoon.”
“Yeah, my afternoon cleared up so I wanted to see if you’re free, but I realize you’re busy,” I explained. “I’ll just drop by another time.”
Jake decided to speak up. “Actually, Mr. Bryner, how long would this take? Maybe you and Jeff could talk afterwards.”
Mr. Bryner paused for a bit trying to decide the right words to say. “Actually, this might take some time to explain. I’m sorry Jeff, but you understand right?”
Before I was able to respond, Jake interrupted. “Maybe Jeff could help us out. It’s a win-win. You need some help for this ‘project’, and Jeff needs some extra credit for the class. How about it?”
Once again, Mr. Bryner mulled his thoughts over before speaking, but I already knew my response. “Look, I’m already swamped with practice and everything else, I can’t really add on another project in my life.”
“Well that settles that,” Bryner said. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
Jake however, wouldn’t let it go. Once again, he spoke before I could leave. “I’m sorry for pushing. I’m just curious, why did you tell me to keep this a secret, but not Stacy?”
This time, Bryner answered right away. “I forgot to mention to Stacy that I didn’t really want this to spread around the school. It’s a project involving Mr. Nicholls and myself that is still in the works, and the both of us don’t want the details out in the open right now.”
“It’s not illegal is it,” Jake asked.
“No, Of course not...”
“Then it should be fine if Jeff hears about it as well, right?”
I’m not sure why this was so important to Jake, but I did wonder what Mr. Bryner was hiding. “Well, I do have a free afternoon. How about it?”
“Well…, I suppose you are welcome to come inside Jeff if you really want to join.”
Jake agreed immediately. I also responded but without Jake’s enthusiasm. “Sure. Depending on how long this takes, is there a chance we can start by going over the previous chapter?”
“Maybe,” Mr. Bryner replied. “Just promise me, the both of you won’t spread a word of what I’m about to reveal.”
The both of us nodded and all of us walked to his classroom. Just before I headed in, Jake gave me a tap on the shoulder.
“Thanks. I’m sorry about pushing you into this, but that emphasis on not telling anybody made me wonder how badly they wanted to keep this project a secret.”
“No problem. This does seem kinda sketch.”
Dr. Jones was waiting inside talking to Stacy at Mr. Bryner’s front desk. His eyes widened greatly and the papers he was holding dropped to the floor the moment he saw my face.
“Nicholls, I believe you remember Jake and Jeff from the lecture this morning. Jeff wanted to go over last week’s material so I told him he can stick around until after this meeting is done.”
“Well,” Dr. Jones stammered. “Okay then. I’ll pull up another chair.” Jake however, put his hand up and sat at the front row. I decided to take the open chair next to Stacy right in front of Mr. Bryner’s desk.
“Alright,” Mr. Bryner said. “Stacey, before we start, I forgot to tell you that I was hoping to keep this extra-curricular project between this room only. Did you tell anybody you were meeting me today?”
Stacey shook her head. “No, but why the secrecy?”
“Well, I don’t really want word of this to spread. This is something that both Mr. Nicholls and myself do not want to disclose to the public yet. Can you promise me you won’t tell anybody?”
“No problem Mr. Bryner. I give you my word.” I believed her. Mr. Bryner also seemed to believe her. However, Dr. Jones was rubbing his forehead. I decided to ease his mind a bit.
“Don’t worry. I’m pretty sure the three of us can keep a simple secret.” This seemed to have the opposite effect and he exploded.
“Really? You can keep this a secret? It hasn’t even been a day yet…” His face turned bright red from the fury, so he decided to step outside for a breather.
Mr. Bryner apologized for his behavior. “Normally Mr. Nicholls is much more collected. This is a big deal, for the both of us. We’ve been working on this for a long time now. Anyways, I might as well get this started.”
Mr. Bryner handed both Stacey and Jake a few sheets of paper. Stacey shared her papers with me. The first thing I noticed on that first page was the crude drawing of the moon that covered the upper right hand corner. Below the moon was a cliff and a view of the ocean. At the bottom half of the page, there were pen scratches of a foreign language and other symbols I couldn’t read. Bryner turned on his projector and showed the image of the Pirate that Dr. Jones talked about this morning.
“Do you recognize the picture,” Bryner asked.
I decided to speak up. “Yeah, it’s a picture of that Pirate, the Golden Devil.”
Stacey corrected me. “Technically, it’s a portrait of what most believed the Golden Devil looked like. Nobody knew his identity, so this portrait was made instead.”
“Right. Jeff, remember what you asked Mr. Nicholls today? If he was searching for the treasure? Well, you were correct.”
“I knew it!” Both Jake and I said that simultaneously. The three of us turned to Jake. He looked down at his papers, embarrassed at his outburst.
“Jake, could you pull up a chair and join us,” Bryner asked. “It would be nice if we were all sitting together.”
Jake obediently listened to Mr. bryner’s advice. As Jake was pulling up his seat, Dr. Jones came back, straightening his tie and fixing his suit as he walked inside the door.
“You really are Indiana Jones,” I called out to him. Jake held his hand up like he wanted to say something, but decided to let it go as he put his seat to the other side of Stacy.
“Well, both Bryner and I both believed that this legend wasn’t just a fantasy,” Dr. Jones explained as he sat down in Mr. Bryner’s desk. “For the past few years, the both of us have been searching everywhere for any clue as to where the Golden Devil hid his treasure.”
Mr. Bryner pointed his attention toward the monitor and changed the slide. This picture was a black and white picture of an old piece of paper centuries old. On it held symbols that looked similar to the symbols on the papers he handed out.
“This is a common message the Golden Devil would hand out to his crew and the various merchants he worked with. A paranoid man, he encoded his orders so his plans would only be known by those he trusted. For the past few years, both Mr. Nicholls and myself have been searching for any clippings that held the code of the Golden Devil. What I handed to you was the result of years of research.”
“Seven pages,” Stacey remarked as she flipped through the pages. “Doesn’t give you guys a lot to work with.”
“This isn’t a movie,” Dr. Jones responded. “The clues don’t magically appear and get solved within a few hours. It took a lot of effort to find these.”
“This is why I asked you two for help,” Mr. Bryner explained, pointing to Jake and Stacey. “We were hoping that you could help us decipher the code. Now, if you flip to the last page I gave you, you’ll notice that there has already been some progress on a cipher.” He clicked the slide to show a bunch of symbols next to a list of syllables and foreign words.
“The words written in blue are the ones we’re certain is correct. Red we’re less sure about. We’re hoping you guys could help us expand the cipher and translate these pages.”
“What language did the Golden Devil write in,” Jake asked, his eyes focused on the handouts.
“Portuguese. However, some of the words are of Spanish dialect. I have a dictionary that translates both languages spoken during that time period into Modern English that you can use whenever.” At that point, Mr. Bryner opened his desk drawer and pulled out a binder. “Well, it’s not an official dictionary, but just like the code the two of us have been working to build a key as a base to translate the various pieces of clues we can find.”
“So I get you guys are searching for this treasure, but I still don’t understand why you guys want to keep this a secret,” Stacy asked.
“They probably just don’t want Nazis or Communists to come after them.,” I jokingly explained. “Wait a second. Are there terrorists after you guys? Are we in danger?”
Dr. Jones gave a small chuckle. “No, there’s no bad guys, not that we know of anyways. This treasure is just a legend, and many in the intellectual community might look down at the both of us if they knew we were searching for what many call a fool’s dream.”
“Not to mention you guys don’t want any competition,” I suggested. “Speaking of which, are you guys planning on keeping the treasure, or are you going to donate it?” Dr. Jones turned to Mr. Bryner to answer.
“If,” Mr. Bryner emphasized, “if we find the treasure, we do plan on giving it to a museum of some sort. That’s something we plan to decide down the road.” It seemed odd since they have been searching for the treasure for years. I would spend my entire time thinking about how I would spend my fortune.
“How about these two,” I asked. “Would Jake and Stacey get some of the fame and fortune?”
“We will worry about that when we get there,” Mr. Bryner replied, “but I wouldn’t have asked for your help if I didn’t think you guys couldn’t be very useful to our search.”
“Any chance I could have a cut as a fee for my silence?”
Dr. Jones turned to me, his face returning to a reddish state. “I’m kidding. Lighten up.” He didn’t. I decided that maybe I shouldn’t joke around in case Dr. Jones pops a blood vessel.
“So, do you two have any other questions you want to ask me? There’s no real time limit on this. We could plan meetings whenever you two are free.”
Jake cleared his throat. “I have a couple questions if that’s okay.”
“Sure, Jake. Go ahead.”
“First, did you guys track down the source of these pictures? They might know a bit more about the legend of Double D.”
“That’s pretty nice thinking. Fortunately, we also had the same thought. Unfortunately, a lot of the sources we had were dead ends. You guys know pretty much as much as we do at this point.”
“Shame. I also wanted to ask how did you guys decipher the code then? What makes you certain that your key is correct?”
“The two of us didn’t start the code,” Dr. Jones replied. “Page…5 I think. That has the article with one of Double D’s messages decoded from a journal entry of one of the merchants with a translation as well. From there, the two of us have tried to keep making educated guesses.”
“Like Mr. Nicholls said, it’s been a few years. The progress has been slow but steady. I’m hoping to explain my thought process in cracking the code, and Mr. Nicholls is also happy to help.”
At this point, a thought occurred to me. “How about that book?”
I immediately regretted saying anything. Dr. Jones once again threw a furious gaze in my direction. Even Mr. Bryner turned to me with concern. I decided I wasn’t going to say anything else, but the damage was already done.
“What are you talking about Jeff,” Stacey asked.
“Well…” I began. At this point, Dr. Jones got off his seat and started whispering something to Bryner. “They have a book about this stuff, right? I notice you were scanning these pages from a leather bound book.” I wasn’t certain that those pages came from the book, but their response made me think mentioning that book was a bad idea.
“Well, not exactly,” our teacher explained to us after Dr. Jones took another walk. “Some of those pages were scanned from my journal. I’ve been keeping one that holds all of the research, theories, and dead ends during this journey.”
I wasn’t so sure that was the case since Dr. Jones tried to constrain himself from hitting me. The other two though just take the news in stride. Well, Stacy took Mr. Bryner’s word as gospel and Jake kept an indifference as he kept skimming the handouts.
When Dr. Jones walked back in, Mr. Bryner continued. “What’s important now is that first page. We believe that if we can crack that code, we can begin the first step on our trail to Double D’s treasure.”
Jake asked another question. “So why ask for our help? We’re just two high school kids.”
“Bryner kept telling me how he had some incredibly talented students this year,” Dr. Jones said. “I thought it would be better to have students help then people with full time jobs try to volunteer.”
“So you’re not willing to split equally with the two of them,” I asked.
Another dirty look. I really need to learn to shut it.
“No, I don’t expect an equal four way split,” Dr. Jones replied. “I was hoping that the recognition might have been enough.”
This time Bryner gave a confused gaze at Dr. Jones.
“I’m just telling them the truth.”
“Anyways…,” Bryner started. “I want to thank you two again for helping us out. Like I said, both Nicholls and I will definitely give any advice along the way. I have a good feeling about this, with the four of us. And Jeff. You’re in this as much as Stacey and Jake are. If you want to join you’re welcome too. I’ll even be willing to provide you credit for World History for helping out.”
This does sound tempting, but I knew what I had to say. “Thanks for the offer, but I am too busy to get involved. Though about that silence fee…” I turned to Dr. Jones. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anybody. And I would put money on these two,” pointing my thumb toward Jake and Stacey. “They’re really smart. I’m sure they’ll guide you to the treasure.”
At that point Mr. Bryner started to explain his method for cracking the code. I realized that this meeting wouldn’t be done any time soon and just promised to meet up with Mr. Bryner tomorrow. With that, I left, completely astounded that I knew that my teacher was on a quest for a legendary treasure.