Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 11: Of Chargers and Chagrins

Anna paced the dinning room in agony. Not only had she not solved her first clue, the second clue was driving her just as batty. To top it all off she was sure she had seen Mortimer and his family emerge from Simon's study carrying a black bag with something in it. They were solving clues and she wasn't. How was Mortimer suddenly making so much progress when she had always been the one ahead of him?

'Slow down,' she told herself, 'There is no need to panic, you just need to focus harder, not let these distractions get in the way.'

Speaking of distractions, where was Gilbert, it shouldn't have taken him that long to find Jared and ask if there were any other cellphone chargers in the house. The answer was probably no anyway, so he should have been back by now! There was a squishy footstep outside the door. 'Now who in the world could that be?'

Gilbert stepped squishily into the room, his face red, but stony.

"Where have YOU been?" she asked, "I've been worried sick!"

"Sorry," he mumbled, "I couldn't find him at first."

"Never mind that, why is your pant leg wet and your shoe squeaking?" she demanded.

Gilbert looked down and his shoe dumbly, as though he had just noticed it. "I startled Marie in the kitchen while she was washing dishes, I guess I should have announced myself as I entered."

"Fine, you'll have to change in a minute but right now your father and I are trying to figure out this clue, and it just isn't making any sense!" This all came out in a single breath, and Gilbert desperately wished his phone was charged. When his mother was one one, she was definitely on one!

He shuffled over to the table as quietly as he could with a wet shoe and sat next to his father who was moving pieces around trying to grips with what lay before him.

The envelope they had received held pieces of plastic cut into geometric shapes. Tangrams, Gilbert knew they were called, but these ones had an additional twist. There were letters on one side of them that had to line up once the tangram was solved. Put the tangram together incorrectly and you had one jumbled up message!

He really wished his phone wasn't dead. He could snap a quick picture of the pieces and make some excuse to leave again. Instead he would have to sit here and endure his mother's nagging and tirades. He looked at the pieces and tried to concentrate on them without being too obvious about trying to help. He would move a piece here or there, but with his mother's voice echoing off the inside of his skull, even if he tried to solve it, he probably wouldn't have been much help.

Instead he tried to memorize each piece, perhaps he could make duplicates when he got back to his room. No match for a cellphone camera he decided after memorizing his third piece and forgetting the first in the process. He decided he would have to get a hold of the pieces after his phone was charged. In the mean time he picked up the first clue to indicate that he was interested in helping, though he had to hold back a smile at the thought of his parents lifting each cup in the kitchen cupboard only to be called out by Simon from the grave!

"Come on Terrence! Any luck?" Anna almost screamed in his ear.

Terrence, exercising great restraint, turned to her and said, "Dear, why don't you go take a walk, or lay down for a bit. This game is getting to you, and it isn't helpful when you perch over me while I'm trying to work this out."

Anna stepped back and took a deep breath with her head in her hands. Gilbert looked at her in slight shock. Normally she would turn around and rail on his father for saying something like that.

"I know, I'm going to pieces... I just... I thought this was going to be so easy, coming back here and beating Mort again. I never knew Simon would pull something like this just to torment me."

"Why do you think he is tormenting you?"

"Because I don't get any of these puzzles! But Mort and his family are running all over the place solving everything!"

"Well in their defense, dear, the will did say that we could all work together. After all it is about saving the Manor and keeping it in the family right?"

"No! It's about winning! Simon's puzzles were always about winning!"

Marie, entered the dinning room with a fresh tray of snacks and an ice bucket full of drinks. Gilbert watched her for a minute, then was struck by an idea.

"Marie," he said, then blushed as she turned to look at him, "Um... er... could I get some scratch paper and pencils... please?"

"Yes sir, I will bring them right in," she said with a smile and a wink.

A few minutes later she was back with a handful of pencils and several pieces of paper.

"Will this do?" she asked.

"Yes, Marie, thank you!" he said blushing once again.

When she had gone Annabel rounded on him once again, "What are those for?" she demanded.

He gave her a, 'I'm really getting tired of your attitude, so would you please knock it off' look and said, "If we make a second copy of the clues, then two of us could be working on it at the same time... Mom."

That thought seemed to strike home, and she settled down immediately. Even going so far as to make a third copy of the tangrams so she too could start working on them. They sat this way working on the puzzle in relative silence until Jared and Marie came in to start setting up the room for lunch.

Gilbert deftly slid his copy of the clue into his pocket when Marie came to set his place. Then he sighed, and said, "Well, I guess I had better go and wash up before lunch," and left the room.

He tried to decide if it was safe to go to Eudorra's room to show her the next clue, but decided against it. What if her parents saw them working together. Would they get angry and split them up? Or would they want to help too, ruining his chance to solve the puzzle himself? It just wasn't a good idea any way he looked at it. So instead he went to his room and washed up.

He changed into a fresh pair of jeans and dug around in his duffel bag for his other pair of tennis shoes. He laced them up and put his now dead phone in his pocket, just in case Eudorra wanted to keep the charger in her room. That might be less suspicious to her parents, than it would be for his. He also made sure that he transferred the puzzle pieces into his new jeans so he could show them to her if they had the chance to talk.

With her help, he knew he could solve the whole puzzle. She was quiet, logical, and didn't try to push her agenda over everyone else's. They made a good team, and as long as they kept getting the clues in a reasonable time, they shouldn't run into any problems. He was so busy getting ready for dinner that he didn't see the note someone had left on his nightstand.

Eudorra had gone straight back to her room after solving the puzzle in the greenhouse. She quickly flipped open one of her textbooks and spread papers out on the desk, so it looked like she had been hard at work. She grabbed a fresh sheet of loose leaf paper and stared at the Algebra problems on the page.

'Come on' she chided herself as she tried to work out the first problem of the assignment. She buried herself in her homework for the rest of the morning, trying to get the clues and goings on in the Manor out of her head. It didn't matter if they solved the puzzle if she failed all her classes!

After Algebra she started in on her book report again. She plowed through the chapters and jotted down notes of things she might want to include in the report. It was hard work keeping the clues out of her head. Especially the look on Gilbert's face when the water from the tube sprayed all over his leg and shoe!

She did wonder why his mother, Annabel, was having such a hard time with these clues. Had she lost her touch, or was she just over analyzing everything? Maybe it was nerves, or excitement from being back at the Manor for the first time in so many years. From what Gilbert said, they weren't having any luck interpreting the clues. Annabel had been really sharp, according to her father, why was she so scatterbrained this time around?

By the time lunch rolled around, Eudorra had read the rest of her book, taken an obscene amount of notes, and was on page two of her report. There was a soft knock and the door and see looked up to see her mother's smiling face poking through the door.

"How's it going kiddo?" she asked.

"Pretty good, I think." Eudorra replied with a huff, "I've gotten part of my Algebra done, and I finished reading my book. But, I have to write a seven page report on it, so that is going to take some time."

"Well lunch is almost ready, so why don't you take a break and come join us?"

Eudorra slammed her book shut and hopped out of the chair. She stretched and yawned as she tried to get her blood flowing again after sitting for so long.

"Eudorra!" her mother shrieked, "What is all over your shoes?"

Eudorra looked down quickly and saw that there was in fact mud from the greenhouse caked to the side of both of her shoes. She was stunned. How had she not noticed? What should she say?

"I took a short walk out in the orchard to clear my head earlier, I guess I must have stepped in something." That was mostly true.

"Well, don't move! Let's get them off you before you track mud everywhere."

Her mother bent down to untie her shoes which kept her from seeing the color rising in Eudorra's cheeks. That was close, too close! There had to be a better way to pass information along without getting caught. Once freed from her muddy shoes she found another pair in her suitcase and put them on while her mother rinsed the muddy pair off in the bathtub. Then they left the room together to head down to lunch.

At the top of the grand staircase, however, things became tense once again. Gilbert, who had changed out of his wet clothes was also heading down the dining room for lunch. Their eyes met, and they both colored. Gilbert, in an attempt of chivalry waited for them to begin the decent, then tapped Eudorra on the shoulder opposite her mother with his phone.

She held her hand behind her back and felt him place the phone in it, along with what felt like a handful of papers. She tried to glace at them from the corner of her eye, but at that exact moment, her mother turned toward her to point out a portrait of Shakespeare in the mural. Instead, she slipped her hand behind her back and slid the phone and papers into her back pocket. She would have to look at them later when she wouldn't have to worry about getting caught.

When she got to the bottom of the stairs, Eudorra glanced behind her and saw that Gilbert had stopped on the stairs where he had handed her the phone, and had only now begun to walk down them again. 'Probably to hide the face he gave me something.' she thought, 'Good call!'

They entered the dining room and took their seats next to her father who was sitting opposite Annabel and Terrence. They were both looking quite disheveled and anxious. A few minutes later Gilbert entered the room and flopped into a chair next to his father. Eudorra tried not to look at Gilbert too much, but she thought she detected the inkling of a smile in the corner of his mouth.

So how was it?

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