Pyramids of Thrush Creek
a novel by Henry Youndt
“Whoever found this found her body!” Roger clenched his fist. “And I’m going to find out who they are and what they know!” Roger and his friends delve into a mystery surrounding his missing girlfriend. His buddies warn him that if he keeps snooping around, he’s going to get shot. But he can’t let it be. With nothing more than a stick in his hand, Roger confronts an armed criminal and discovers the answer to the mystery of the pyramids of Thrush Creek. But now he has to run for his life! Roger and three others escape by canoe to hide in the wilderness where they face yet another set of challenges. On top of that, relationships are strained by competing romantic interests—not to mention lust.
But the question remains, was there a conspiracy or did all these strange events happen by coincidence? Or is there a divine plan? In Pyramids of Thrush Creek, Roger and his friends debate their conflicting world views while coping with life’s unexpected twists and turns.
Henry Youndt is an inspiring writer with many years of experience in whitewater canoeing and wilderness camping. In Pyramids of Thrush Creek he takes us on a whitewater adventure and mystery bound to stir your emotions and stimulate your mind. Can you catch the hidden mistakes in his characters’ reasoning?
Pyramids of Thrush Creek can be ordered directly for the author for $20.00 per copy. Just send a check along with your order to: Henry Youndt, 305 Laurel Road, East Earl, PA 17519. Don't forget to include your mailing address.
Or you can order it online from the published by going to https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781634498685
Also available at Aaron's Books, 35 E. Main St. Lititz, PA 17543
Prologue (Not included in published book)
A young girl sits in the grass on the edge of hayfield on a rounded hilltop. Her golden curls hang below her shoulders and her sparkling blue eyes almost conceal the melancholy she has buried deep inside. A Brittany spaniel snuggles beside her and nudges her arm with his nose. She puts her arm around the dog and hugs him.
Her older sister is walking down the path toward home, but she will stay a while longer. She doesn’t want to go home. She likes this place where she can be alone with her thoughts and dreams, where the quiet breeze seems to touch something in her soul. Here she feels small but invincible. She enjoys gazing down at her home, her rural neighborhood, her tiny world. Things look better from up here. From here she can see all the way to the edge of town. Beyond the town she can see majestic mountains. Above and beyond the mountains, the high cirrus clouds stretch to infinity inviting her dreams to soar beyond the limits of her world. Here on the hilltop, her sadness evaporates. The air is crisp and clean. And it’s quiet here.
From up here, she can’t hear her parents arguing. It’s not that they argue that loudly. It’s just persistent, futile and unnecessary. And she is tired of hearing it. Why can’t Mom ever give in? Daddy’s not hard to get along with. He and I have lots of good times together.
A light breeze carries the faint chiming of church bells from somewhere in town. A wedding, perhaps, she wonders as she gazes toward town. Her eyes shift back to her tiny house. That, down there is the house of a little girl. But, soon I’ll be turning into a young woman. What will that be like? Someday I’ll be married and living in a nice big house somewhere in the forest. I don’t know where. I’ll just sit right here until I think of a good place.
And how will I find the right boy? There aren’t many as good as Daddy. Some are no good at all. Somehow, I’ll figure out how to find the right one. I won’t settle for second best. And I won’t be arguing with him all the time, like Mom does. I can do better than that. Men aren’t that hard to understand.
Dogs aren’t that hard to understand either. She ruffles the dog’s ears. I taught Perky to fetch my flip-flops. If I can do that, I can get a boy to treat me right. Dogs and boys aren’t that different. They both like to eat and they both want to be loved. It’s as simple as that.
But, they say people change. You never know about change. You have great plans then things change. Some changes are good, some not so good. You just never know.
I’ll change. That’s the scary part!
Enough daydreaming! The girl gets to her feet. “I’ll make the best of whatever life brings my way,” she speaks out to the world below. “And I will have a good marriage, no matter what!”
He wasn’t afraid. He was well aware of the dangers, but he had other things on his mind. His glistening blue kayak slipped quietly along the pristine waterway. With a life-vest drawn snug across his chest and muscles bulging from his bare arms, Roger Koralsen paddled a slow steady pace. Someone watching from a distance could have recognized his regular Sunday morning routine.
A slight wind gust mussed his dark wavy hair and sent ripples across the smooth water. His brown eyes danced over the serene landscape as the drumming of a woodpecker rolled across the quiet valley. He loved the solitude of this section of Thrush Creek, hidden deep in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. It was here that he felt close to the yearning deep inside him, that longing for something he couldn’t quite identify.
Despite the dangers of kayaking alone, he was on the water almost every Sunday morning unless the weather was impossible. His paddle strokes quickened a bit as he approached the remains of a four-foot-high dam. A thirty-foot opening had been blasted out of the dam years earlier. But that was only after the tragedy.
He steered his kayak through the center of the opening and rode over the series of knee-high waves that followed. Then, as always, he made a 180 degree left turn into the eddy and drifted up behind the ten-foot section of dam jutting out from the left bank. There something unusual caught his attention. On the river bank, just behind the dam, someone had built a small pyramid of rounded grapefruit-sized stones. Three stones formed the triangular base with one stone on the top.
Roger knew a triangle of anything could be a distress signal. But this was so small and inconspicuously placed, that it was not likely to be intended as a distress signal. Someone might arrange three canoes into a triangle to attract the attention of an air-borne rescue team. But this small pyramid of stones in a cove behind the dam would not be noticed by anyone unless they turned into the eddy, as Roger had done. Still, the reason for its existence aroused his curiosity.
For no particular reason, he reached out with his paddle and knocked the stone off the top of the pyramid. Something silver glistened in the sunlight between the other stones. He pulled up on shore, got out of his boat, bent over and picked up the item, a silver necklace with a plain heart-shaped pendant. He flipped the heart over and held it so the sunlight hit it at an angle. On the back of the heart he could see the engraved initials R.K. & M.D. He straightened up quickly and glanced all around as he recognized the familiar object. This was the necklace he had given to Michelle, his high school sweetheart, the year they both graduated from high school. Who could have put this here? Why?
Two weeks after graduation, Michelle had drowned in this very area doing the very same thing he was now doing, kayaking alone. But that was before the low-head dam was destroyed. A skilled white-water boater, Michelle was well aware of the dangerous hydraulic below a low-head dam. She was quite familiar with the river. She and Roger had frequently canoed it together and they always portaged around the dam. She knew the location of the dam and would have avoided getting too close to it. No one really knew what happened that day in 1987. Her boat was found tumbling in the hydraulic. Her body was never recovered.
Now, almost seven years later, here was her necklace, under a small pyramid. What could this mean? If someone found it along the river, why would they bury it in a pyramid? Did someone, who knew his routine, purposely put it there for him to find? If so, then why?
He felt someone was trying to make him relive all the pain of those years following Michelle’s death, trying to force him back to the booze and wild parties. If he went back there it would cost him his career as a teacher.
Roger stood there examining the necklace in the palm of his hand, then clutching it, then dangling it from his fingers and glancing around to see who might be watching. There was no sign of anyone, although there was no shortage of places a person could be hiding. He paced up and down along the river bank, looking for a note or any clue to the meaning of what he had found. He roamed into the shadowy woods then back to his kayak, feeling frustrated because he had found nothing and saw no one.
Though only six miles from town, this area seemed quite remote. The hillsides on both sides of the creek were tree-covered. The right bank was steep and bordered with brier thickets. The left bank, where Roger stood, was heavily posted with NO TRESPASSING signs. There was not a building in sight anywhere. The only signs of civilization were the remains on the old dam and the NO TRESPASSING signs.
Having no idea how long he had been there, Roger glanced at his watch. He had to get going. He slipped the necklace into his pocket and stood for a moment, staring at the four stones that had formed the pyramid. Then he raised his hands toward the forest and shouted to whoever might be hiding there, “What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?” There was no answer. Even the birds were silent. He slowly pushed his kayak into the water, climbed in and headed downstream.
About four miles ahead he would come to a small church sitting high up on the left bank, with a lawn running down to the water’s edge. Beyond the church lay the quaint little town of Thrush Glen. He needed to be there about the time the morning worship service ended. His friend Rick Beck, who attended the church regularly, would then shuttle him back upriver to his SUV. Roger would then return to the church and pick up his boat.
Roger had known Rick forever, it seemed. They had become best friends in first grade and remained close through high school. They had reconnected after college and now, for the last two years they shared an apartment on the edge of town.
Questions about the necklace and pyramid swirled in Roger’s head as his paddle-blades stirred the water. Just ahead, to the right a great blue heron stood motionless. As the kayak approached, the heron took to flight. It flew downstream a hundred yards or more and landed in the shallow water near the edge of the creek. There it stood, looking about till the kayak got too close again. The whole process was repeated over and over as the heron led Roger onward, not that he wouldn’t have followed the creek anyway. Following the flow of water was his passion, his pastime, his therapy. A pair of king fishers darted from tree to tree and then disappeared.
As the church came into view, Roger could see a number of people standing outside the door chatting. He paddled up to the bank and got out. As Roger hauled his boat up onto the lawn, Rick and George strolled down toward the creek. George Lauger, another friend from high school, was an average kind of guy, medium height, medium build, with medium brown hair, and a warm smile, but with an exceptionally friendly personality.
“Nice day to be out on the river, aye?” George shouted as they approached.
“Sure is,” replied Roger. “Couldn’t ask for anything better.”
“Did ya see much wild life?” George asked, gazing in the direction Roger had come.
“Just the normal,” Roger answered rubbing his hand over his pocket to be sure the necklace was still there. “You won’t believe what I found.”
“You hungry?” Rick asked. “George n’ I decided we’re stopping at the deli for cheese-steaks. If you’re not hungry, you’ll just have to wait in the car while we eat.”
“Oh, I think I could handle a cheese-steak!” Roger shot back. “Why are you just standing there looking at the water? Let’s get going.”
“I guess that means he’s hungry,” George quipped as the three turned and headed for the parking lot.
As Rick pulled out of parking lot, Roger, who was seated in the back, leaned forward against the driver’s seat, stuck his right hand up between George and Rick, opened his fist and said, “Look what I found along the creek today. It’s Michelle’s! Someone hid it in a little pile of stones, kind of like a...”
“Whoa! Back up!” Rick butted in. “How do you know it was Michelle’s?”
“I bought it for her. I engraved our initials on it. See?” Roger turned the heart over in the palm of his hand.
“So it really is Michelle’s?” George turned to look back at Roger.
“Just listen to me. This is too weird.” Roger went on to recount how he found the necklace at the dam, hidden in a small pyramid of stones.
“That is really weird,” George agreed, as he examined the necklace. “Is this how you found it, or did you clean it up?”
“No. I just put it in my pocket”
“It doesn’t look like something that’s been lying on the ground or in the river for five years,” George observed.
“Six years, almost seven now,” Roger corrected him.
“Wow, almost seven years,” Rick responded. “It doesn’t seem that long.”
“You’re right,” Roger continued, “This is too clean to have been outdoors all that time. And that pyramid was not there last week. Someone did this just within the last week. And I think they intended for me to find it.”
“Do you think somebody found it right after the accident and kept it all these years?” Rick asked.
“I don’t know. But, obviously somebody knows something about Michelle.” Roger clenched his fist. “And I’m going to find out who they are and what they know!”
“Does anyone know for sure if Michelle was wearing the necklace when she drowned?” George asked.
“She wore it all the time,” Roger replied. “And it wasn’t in any of her stuff we went through after her death. Her mother let me go through all her stuff and take anything I wanted. It wasn’t there.”
“Who would do something like this?” Rick asked.
“I have no idea,” Roger answered. “There’s only one person keeps coming to my mind. And I don’t know why. I have no reason to connect him to anything. He’s just the creepiest person I know—the father of one of my students. He never looks you straight in the face. It seems like he has a grudge against everyone, but he won’t say why. He makes all these little sarcastic comments, but he won’t repeat or explain anything. He saw Michelle’s picture on my desk and says, ‘You ought to be over her by now.’ I said, ‘she was a great person. I’ll never forget her. And I don’t want to.’ He says, ‘Some people just can’t seem to cope with a tough situation.’ Like he thought I wasn’t coping with it. He’s weird! His son is a good student though. Seems to be a well-adjusted kid and everything. I had no problems to discuss with the parents. We didn’t have any conflict. But the father is really creepy.”
George pondered for a bit, and then said, “I wonder if we could get a list of everyone who helped search for Michelle after the accident.” Glancing over his shoulder at Roger, he added, “I’ll see what I can find.”
As Rick turned into Joe’s Deli & Grill, Roger said firmly. “Look, you guys don’t say a word about this to anyone. If someone is trying to send me a message, or mess with my head or anything like that, he’ll have to strike again. Let’s just keep our eyes and ears open and our mouths shut.”
“Good strategy,” George affirmed. “I won’t say a thing.”
“Agreed,” Rick replied.
Roger inhaled deeply as they entered the small deli. The aroma of chopped steak sizzling on the grill made him realize how hungry he was. Rick stepped up to the counter. “I’ll have a cheese-steak, fries, and a Pepsi,” he stated as he pulled a ten dollar bill out of his wallet.
“Make that two of everything,” Roger chimed in.
“Make it three,” George added as he passed Rick a ten dollar bill. “I’ll go find us a table. Outside, I suppose?”
“Sure,” Roger answered, handing another ten to Rick.
The girl at the cash register rang up the order. “Twenty-five O two.”
Rick handed her the three tens. She took two pennies out of a small dish by the register, then handed Rick five one dollar bills. Rick turned toward Roger with a perplexed look as he stared at the five bills fanned out in his hand.
“Put the extra two in that jar, then it’ll come out even,” Roger directed as he nodded toward a jar on the counter with a poster about starving children. Rick dropped two dollars into the jar, handed one to Roger, put one on the tray with the food, and stuck the other one in his wallet. Then they headed outside to the picnic table where George was seated.
Rick set the tray on the table and flicked the dollar bill toward George. “There’s your change.”
“This looks like a pretty good meal for nine bucks,” George said as he picked up the dollar bill.
“Yeah, it is,” Roger’s mind was obviously on something other than the meal. “We’re missing a dollar. We each paid nine dollars. Three times nine is twenty-seven. We put two in the jar. That only makes twenty-nine. We gave the girl thirty.”
“Well Rick, you’re the bean-counter.” George quipped.
“I know she gave me the right change,” Rick turned to Roger. “Ya know, Roger, I think you should be an accountant. They say a good accountant can make the numbers come out any way he wants.”
George glanced at Rick with a grin and added, “Yeah, I’m not sure that he should be teaching math to fourth-graders.”
“Seriously,” Roger insisted, “what happened to the other dollar?”