Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 10: The second clue

After the Hawks left, Eudorra walked up to the reference section and looked around as nonchalantly as she could. When her eyes came to rest on the encyclopedia, however, it was all she could do to conceal a gasp. The encyclopedia had been jumbled so that it spelled out a message: share cluz.

She wasn't sure if she should reveal this to her parents quite yet, especially after Annabel had left the room in such a huff. But Gilbert... yes, Gilbert would need to know as soon as she could tell him. But first there was the matter of opening the next clue. She glanced over her shoulder and saw her father beginning to tear the envelope open. She silently pulled out her cell phone and snapped a picture of the first half of the encyclopedia.

She turned off her phone and went to join her parents as they opened the next clue. Inside the envelope was a note and a key. They each took turns reading the note silently. It read:

"In the bottom right drawer of my desk in the den is a box.
This key unlocks that drawer.
The answer to this clue is inside."

"That seems pretty simple," said her mother.

"Too simple," said her father, "After the anagram we just solved, do you really think he would just put the next clue in a box and say, 'here you go!'? I don't think so. Something is up."

"Well, let's go get it and find out!" said Eudorra as she pocketed her phone.

They went next door into Simon's study and opened the drawer on the desk using the key. Inside was a black velvet bag. Inside the bag was an ornately carved wooden box.

"We should take this back to HQ," said Dad in a voice like a detective in a black and white movie. We all laughed and he locked the drawer, then he carried the bag and box up to the sitting room.

In the light of the sitting room the intricate carving on the dark wood of the box shone brilliantly. The top of the box was carved with a border or long thin lines inside which rows of Celtic looking carving wound its way around the entire lid. The center of the lid showed a tree under which a family appeared to be sitting eating fruit. The sides of the box depicted a large building and what looked like a treacherous mountain path with some kind of hand rail. On one side a river appeared to be flowing next to the trail or pathway that ran around the entire edge of the box.

"It's beautiful!" Said Mom as she ran a finger along some of the woodworking.

"It's also missing a lid, and hinges," said Dad frowning as he searched for where the lid should lift up, and finding none looked over the rest of the box for any sign of hinges. "Nothing," he said with a defeated look on his face.

"That's some puzzle," said Eudorra, "Nothing moves at all?"

"Nothing obvious," he said as he tried to find the cut line for a lid once more. He felt around the sides of the box and tugged here and there when he found something that looked promising, after ten minutes of pushing and prodding, he let out a soft murmur and stroked his chin.

"What is it Dad?"

"It's definitely a puzzle of a box." He said, "Bring me the magnifying glass out of the desk."

She looked through several drawers before she found it, but when she did she quickly brought it to her father who was now holding the box just inches from his nose. He took the lens from her and examined a cut along one side of the box near the top, then another one near one corner, and a third right in the dead center on the front.

Jared entered with a tray of fruit and crackers to refresh the snack bar, and Angela took the opportunity to get a fresh glass of ice water while her husband continued to examine the box.

Eudorra wanted to shout "What is it Dad?" as loud as she could just to cut the tension in the room down a bit, but she knew better than to cause a commotion while he was studying the box. Instead she thought about the note that she had found that morning, and the look Gilbert  had given her. Then she also thought about the message on the encyclopedia. Had Gilbert set the encyclopedia that way to gain her trust, or did Simon leave hints other than the clues around the house as well? Her head was starting to spin, just as her father gave a shout.

"Aha!" he declared holding a small wooden dowel in his hand. "It is a Chinese Puzzle Box! See this flower is the key, it holds the rest of the box together." Eudorra came closer to the table for a better look, "Then once the key is removed the rest of the pieces should slide right off!"

And so they did, there were six or seven pieces by the time they were done removing them from the box. In the middle of the box was a large cavity, and in that cavity lay another letter. Mortimer picked up the letter and opened it. Another slip of paper with a strange symbol fell out. This time it looked like this:

"Wonder what this one means?" said Angela. "Some word in Chinese no doubt."

"Probably. I don't speak it myself," said Mortimer. "If it was French or Spanish, I could probably figure it out. How would we look up what this says?"

Eudorra snapped a picture of the symbol with her phone. When her parents looked at her quizzically, she said, "Maybe I can find a search engine that uses images to find out what it is."

"Does something like that exist?" her father asked.

"I don't know, but I can't look." Said Eudorra, silently congratulating herself on coming up with this so quickly. She glanced at the clock and her heart gave a leap, it was already after 10! "Um, I do need to get some homework done though. So I'll try to find an image search once I've gotten something done."

"Good, girl!" said her mother, "Don't let this game get in the way of school work! We'll keep puzzling it out, go on."

Eudorra left the room as unconcerned as she could, then took off at a run once she thought she was far enough away that her footsteps wouldn't be heard in the sitting room. She ran down the corridor to a set of stairs at the back of the manor. Then she exited out through the back door into the green house and finally out onto the grounds. She bolted around the corner of the Manor into the orchard. She looked for Gilbert everywhere, but without success. Had he changed his mind?

"Eudorra!" a voice whispered. Eudorra looked around bewildered, "Up here."

She looked up and saw Gilbert sitting on a platform in the branches of a weeping willow on the edge of the orchard. He peeked through the branches and leaves, motioning for her to climb up.

"What is this place?" she asked once she had climbed the ladder laying against the tree.

"An old tree house, I heard Mom blabbing about it when she first got the letter from the lawyer. I checked it out last night while my parents were apparently lifting tea cups."

They looked at each other for a minute, neither one of them quite sure where to start.

"So they still haven't figured out their first clue?" Eudorra said finally.

"No, but I did." Gilbert said in a matter of fact tone. He didn't seem proud or anything, just like it was something that was bound to happen, "They misinterpreted the clue, and went off to the kitchen. When I read the riddle, it was pretty obvious they should have been looking in the greenhouse."

"What did the clue say?" she asked.

"Green and wet thumbs help things to grow,
You will need both in order to go.
Tubes can hide clues.
Cup and hand will help you.
Did you guess right? Only time will show."

He recited from memory. Eudorra was impressed, maybe he wasn't as hooked on video games as she originally thought.

"You didn't copy it down or something?" she asked, "Or take a picture of it with your phone?"

Here Gilbert grimaced. "I left my charger at home and my phone is dead, or I would have."

"What kind of cord does your phone use?" she asked.

"It's a micro usb port. Pretty standard, but my mom didn't bring her charger, and Dad's is a proprietary plug so it only works on his exact model."

"Well, maybe you can use mine after we get your first clue."

Gilbert looked like he could have kissed her, which would have been super awkward so she was glad when he finally broke off and started talking about the clue.

"So the first line means we need to look where things grow, the greenhouse seemed like the most obvious place."

"Did you look already then?" she asked.

"I did last night, but it was too dark. Then this morning we were all trapped in the library, so I haven't had a chance until now."

"Did your parents open their next clue?" she asked.

"Yes, but they couldn't make heads or tails of it either. I'll tell you about it once we have the first clue solved. Let's go check out the greenhouse!"

They climbed down the ladder and carefully made their way toward the back of the Manor. They didn't want to be seen together, so that Gilbert's parents would stay in the dark. When they reached the corner of the house, Gilbert looked around to see if anyone was out back or in the greenhouse itself. When he was sure the coast was clear, he waved for her to follow him again.

The greenhouse was much as he remembered it from the night before. Rows of potted plants an tiers of rain gutters mounted to the wall. However, there was also a lot that was new. There was a water spigot at one end of the green house and a table of seedlings in red plastic cups. Gloves and hand tools sat on a bench near the door into the Manor. Eudorra also looked around trying to take everything in.

"What was the clue again?" she asked as she looked around at all the plants.

"Green and wet thumbs help things..."

"Wait!" she said suddenly, taking out her phone. "Let me type it in a note so you don't have to keep repeating it."

She opened up the app on her phone and typed the riddle rhyme in as Gilbert repeated it several times. When she was done, this is what she had:

Green and wet thumbs help things to grow,
You will need both in order to go.
Tubes can hide clues.
Cup and hand will help you.
Did you guess right? Only time will show.

"Okay, so we are in the greenhouse where things grow. Are we supposed to get our hands wet doing something?" she asked.

"That's the line of thought I was going for, and there is a water spout over there," he said pointing to the end of the greenhouse. "The next line says something about tubes hiding clues, do you see any tubes?"

They both looked around the greenhouse desperately looking for a tube that could hide a clue. At first the only tubes Eudorra could see were the hoses that watered the the plants on the tables. But then, as she grabbed a metal post to steady herself in order to look under one of the tables, she felt something.

"Gilbert, over here!" she said excitement mounting in her voice.

Gilbert came and looked at the post. There was a black tube wired to the post that was open on the top and looked like it stopped about a foot above the ground. Could this be what the clue was talking about?

"Look at the other posts, see if they have tubes too," he said. They both looked but found no tubes on any other post.

"So we found the tube, now what do we do?" Eudorra asked looking at the poem once more.

"Cup and hand will help you... There are some cups over on that table by the water spout. Maybe we have to fill the tube with water? There aren't any hoses, so we can't just run a hose over here."

"I'm game," she said, "Let's get two cups and go to work."

They each took a cup and filled it from the spigot and brought it back to the post with the tube, which happened to be the in the opposite corner from the water spout. Gilbert carefully poured his cup in the tube and reached for the other cup when a stream of water hit his pant leg.

"Aw great!" he moaned quickly stepping out of the stream, "There's a hole in the bottom of the tube!"

"Oh!" said Eudorra, "That's what the wet thumb is for! To hold the hole while we fill the tube."

"While someone else fills the tube!" corrected Gilbert, "That's a long walk, and I don't know anyone who has arms that long!"

"Right... the clue should have said, 'A cup and a hand will help you' you would have to have two people to solve this one."

"Which is why Mom would never be able to solve it!" smiled Gilbert suddenly, "Because she always tries to do everything herself! She hates asking for help!"

"Is that why she didn't want to work together at the beginning?" Eudorra asked tentatively.

"Yeah, she's a busybody who wants to do everything herself. Dad says she's independent, but I think she just likes to accomplish things to prove how good she is."

"Well, I guess I'll hold the hole, and you can run for water." said Eudorra stooping to get a better look at the bottom of the tube.

She placed her thumb over a large hole about one inch from the bottom of the tube. Then Gilbert poured her cup into the top. Eudorra could feel the water pressure against her thumb, and nodded to Gilbert when no water came out.

He quickly ran back to the spout and filled both cups. The return trip was slower with both cups filled to the brim, he didn't want to spill any of it. He poured them both into the tube, one after the other, then ran back to the spout to refill. It took ten trips before he saw something bobbing in the water. Another five and he could almost reach it with his fingers. Finally, after two more trips he pulled a small canister attached to a fishing bobber out of the tube.

He dried the tube off as best he could on his sleeve before he opened it.

"Do you think I can let go of the hole now?" Eudorra asked.

"Oh, yeah! Sorry!" Gilbert blushed. "I saw the canister and forgot what you were doing."

She stepped lightly to the side and let go of the hole, the water immediately shot out spraying a patch of the path clear of leaves and dirt. She joined Gilbert as he unrolled a piece of paper that was sealed inside the waterproof container. It was another strange symbol that Eudorra had never seen before:
"What in the world!" exclaimed Gilbert.

"That's what our clues led too as well," said Eudorra, "A strange symbol, but neither of ours looked like this," she added.

"Well, now what do we do?" he asked still staring at the symbol, dumbfounded.

"Let's take a picture and put it back. That way if your Mom does figure it out, it will still be here."

"Good idea," said Gilbert, "The more we can keep us working together under wraps the better!"

Eudorra snapped a picture on her phone and promised to send it to him once his phone was charged. Then he rolled it back up and put it back inside the waterproof container before sliding the whole thing back into the tube. They left the greenhouse the same way they had come and crept back into the orchard. Unfortunately someone was standing at a second floor window at the back of the house as they did so and raised his eyebrows as he watched them go.

So how was it?

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