The boys all paused in the woods as rifle shots echoed. Adult voices could be heard in the distance hooping and hollering.
“This could be dangerous!” warned Miles, the oldest Plumlee brother, who just happened to have dark hair. “We should probably stick to the canyon’s edge and away from those crazy hunters.”
“Maybe we should just go home,” said a plump Matt Christensen. His voice shook with fear.
“Yeah, we could always come back another time,” added Nick Horvath.
Mason, the younger Plumlee, turned towards the others, “You’re not scared, are you?”
“No, just hungry,” answered Matt. “Plus, you two will probably get called to solve a mystery.”
“Yeah,” added a fifth boy who no one could name, but everyone recognized as part of the group.
Baaannggg! A rifle shot rang through the canyon, and a bullet whizzed by Mason’s head.
The boys all stood and stared at the bullet’s resting place, cratered in the trunk of a tree. The fifth boy fainted.
“Geez!” said Nick, breaking the silence.
“I’m okay,” said Mason. He ran his hand through his buzzed blond hair in relief. “It was close, but I’m okay.”
“Can we go now?” asked Matt.
No one had a chance to answer. A group of hunters strode out of the woods, the underbrush giving way before them. Each man had a gun in his hands or resting on his shoulder. Each man was tall as a tree. One had a mohawk. When he saw the boys, he began flapping his tattooed arms in slow motion and hooting like an owl.
Miles didn’t find it amusing, not one bit. “You nearly killed my brother!”
“Did we? I’m so sorry,” said the largest of the four men. He wore a headband that marked him as their leader. “Maybe boys shouldn’t be so deep in the woods without their daddy.” He laughed and then kept walking. Two of the men followed behind him. One was shorter and the other taller, but neither was as wide nor as strong. The one with the mohawk walked backwards as he started to flap his arms again: “Hoot! Hoot! Hoot!”
Another shot whizzed over the boys’ heads, followed by the sound of the hunters laughing.
“I’m leaving,” said Nick and Matt in unison as they gathered up the unnamed boy and left.
“Stupid sportsmen!” growled Miles. When he turned back to look at his brother, Mason was deep in thought. “What is it, Mason?”
“Remember the last thing dad said when we left Kayville?” asked Mason.
“Make sure you check the batteries in the flashlight,” joked Miles.
Agitated, Mason continued, “No, before that.”
“He said what he always says. He said, look for clues.”
“Yeah,” Mason paused and contemplated how it was a good thing his hair was blond and Miles’ was brown, “well, that was a clue.”
“What do you mean?” asked Miles, not comprehending. “I mean, how do you know?”
“Well, they’ve got guns, right?”
“Yeah, so what.”
“Well, that guy in the ditch over there’s been shot.” Mason pointed to a ditch cloaked in lush ferns, and sure enough, there was a body struggling to pull its way through the undergrowth.
“Holy cow, Mason, that’s some clue!”
Miles and Mason were the foster sons of Mike Krzyzewski, the world class detective, molder of men, and sometimes high school basketball advisor.
“So should we help him?” asked Mason, deferring to his older brother.
“Should we or must we?” replied Miles. “Let’s take him to the campsite. There we can give him some first aid. Otherwise, he might die.”
The boys walked over to the man struggling in the ditch. His eyes were wide open and unblinking. “Sir, we’re here to help you. we’re the Plumlee Boys.”
“I’m–I’m–I’m–” His face flushed pale as a bed sheet, and his head collapsed onto a pillow of green ferns.
“Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man!” started Miles. “I think we’re about to get another clue.”
Off in the distance, a gunshot thundered through the wide canyon. These boys were a long way from Kayville. Birds splattered the blue sky with shadows.