Thursday, November 24, 2016
The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 16: Cake Walk
When they had gone his father said, "Well, let's do this. We're burning daylight!" His mother nodded, opened the envelope and began to read. After a while she handed the envelope to her husband who set it on the table between him and Gilbert. The clue read like this:
"Herein lies the key, answer it quick:
A blue flower, a pink citrus, a purple fruit
GQ BK DP CT XN GH AH JU KB AH PR GK OT NM NT PM HS DE YM NV TP DR VV QN TN GQ HK PA LW 03 25"
"What kind of clue is that?" Asked Gilbert.
"Good question," said his father rereading the clue. "A blue flower, a pink citrus, and a purple fruit."
"It is an association clue. We have to figure out what those three things have in common." Said his mother, "The answer to that clue is the key to unscrambling the rest of the message."
"Well I'm not real great with flowers, but there are only a handful of citrus most people worry about, orange, lemmon, lime, and grapefruit. Of those grapefruit is the only pink one."
"The only purple fruit I know of is a grape." Said Gilbert, "Grapefruit, grape, and a blue flower?"
"Yes, " said his mother.
Gilbert and his father both stared at her. She was smiling, like she had already figured it out. She reached over and rang the bell on the snack table. A few minutes later Marie entered the room and courtsied.
"Marie, what kind of flowers are planted out front?" She asked.
Marie looked taken back. "Which, mam?"
"The blue flowers around the edge of the fountain."
"Oh," she said, "That would be a hyacinth. A grape hyacinth."
"Thank you, Marie, that will be all!" Said Annabel.
When Marie had left she took a sheet of paper and wrote the word 'grape' at the top of the page. "Grape is the key word, so now we can make the rest of the key by writing the other letters in the alphabet."
She started writing more letters beneath the word 'grape' but stopped when she got to 'Q.' Her brow furrowed and she bit her lip.
"Playfair ciphers exclude one letter, usually Q or Z since they are used the least, but I don't know which ones Simon left out for this clue."
She pulled the clue toward her and read it through several times, muttering to herself as she did so. Gilbert looked at his father and shrugged his shoulders. Terrence shook his head, also in the dark about what she was looking for in the letter. Some kind of clue as to which letter he left out, probably, but there wasn't much there!
Finally she snapped her fingers and continued writing. When she was finished it looked like this:
G R A P E
B C D F H
I J K L M
N O Q S T
U V W X Y
"He left out the 'z'" she stated confidently.
"How did you figure that out?" asked Gilbert.
"It was a clever hint in the first line, he used the word "quick" which probably meant he left the Q in since he used it in his message to us."
Gilbert was floored that his mother had figured that out on her own. He probably would have just tried deciphering it both ways to see which one was correct. This seemed like such a small hint to be operating on, maybe her familiarity with Simon was giving her an edge that he didn't have.
"Now we need to decode the letter pairs," she said setting the clue next to her letter chart. "IF they are in the same row we trade them for the letter to the left. If they are in the same column, use the letter above it. If they are in opposite rows and columns, then we use the letter in the same row that is in the other letter's column."
"What about the numbers?" his father asked.
"I'm not sure," she replied, "We will need to decode the message first to see if they make sense."
Gilbert was losing track of what letters were supposed to be used where, so he just watched as his mother wrote the decoded letters below the first row:
GQ BK DP CT XN GH AH JU KB AH PR GK OT NM NT PM HS DE YM NV TP DR VV QN TN GQ HK PA LW 03 25
AN DI FA HO US EB ED IV ID ED AG AI NS TI TS EL FT HA TH OU SE CA NN OT ST AN DM AR KX 03 25
"Now we need to figure out where the spaces should actually be to form the words," she said as her pencil slowly went down the line of letters. About half-way down the row she let out a gasp and started scribbling furiously at the bottom of the paper:
"And if a house be divided against itself that house cannot stand. Mark 03:25"
"It's a Bible verse?" Terrence asked. "Why would he encode a verse from the Bible?"
"I don't know," said Annabel excitedly, "But I solved it!"
They all sat thinking for a minute, trying to decide what course of action to take when Gilbert let out a whoop and jumped up from the table. His parents stared at him, but he didn't care, he was pretty sure he knew what they needed to do.
"The Library!" he said with light in his eyes, "I bet there is a Family Bible or something in the library and we need to look inside at this verse for the solution!"
"That's a fantastic idea, son," said his dad, "Let's go see! Come on Annabel, I think Gilbert is on the right track!"
She shrugged, but allowed herself to be pulled from the room, across the hall to the library. In the library there was indeed a Family Bible laying on a podium of sorts near the reference bookcase. The large brown leather bound volume looked like it had been created in another world. There was intricate lacework on the cover that bore a strong resemblance to the Hunter Family Crest. The edges were gilded with gold, and illuminations littered the pages adding illustrations to the Bible stories. The text could easily have been hand written by monks in some forgotten era, the ink looked very much like it had been scratched in using a quill pen.
They turned the pages carefully, sending golden flecks of dust into the air that danced through the sunlight as it shone through the western windows. When they came to Mark chapter three, they found an illumination that looked like this:
"That's a triquetra," said Terrence, "a symbol for the Holy Trinity."
"No, there's an extra circle in the symbol," said Annabel, "It means unity. Look at the caption."
Terrence read the caption and nodded his head. "So it does."
Gilbert, who had taken a step toward the reference shelf, tapped his father on the shoulder and pointed at the encyclopedia, "Look at this!"
Both Annabel and Terrence left the Bible and looked at the red volumes of the encyclopedia. The first ten volumes of the set clearly spelled out the message: "share cluz."
"What on earth?" declared Anna.
"Who in their right mind?" burst out Terrence.
"I think that means Simon really did want us to share clues," said Gilbert, turning a little red as he spoke. "It's just like the Playfair cipher, except the key is the message."
Sure enough, the rest of the encyclopedia was organized alphabetically, except for the ten volumes at the beginning. The "B" volume had even been turned upside down to make a space in the message.
Annabel became quiet as she sulkily stared at the message spelled out in red and gold. What was this all about? Was Simon losing it? When had he EVER encouraged them to work together?
The Frank family sat on the couch in the Game Room exhausted. It was now dark outside, and they knew that dinner was probably waiting for them. But they couldn't move. They had given their all to this puzzle and for now they just wanted to sit.
Mortimer held an envelope in one hand, a key in the other. On the table in front of them sat a hook and fishing line. They had spent the last half-hour trying to catch the key ring on the fishing hook without losing the end of the fishing line. In the end they had tied the line to one of the cues as a makeshift handle. Even with this handle attached, it had taken what Eudorra considered a ridiculous amount of skill to get the hook on the key ring.
But they had finally done it and unlocked the cabinet with their solution. It was a sheet of white paper with another symbol, it looked like this:
Four oval shaped loops intertwined around a ring. It didn't mean a thing to her, and as far as she knew, aside from the creator of the symbol, Gilbert was probably the only one who could decipher it.
"That was a lot of work for one measly scrap of paper with a symbol we don't understand printed on it," said her father staring straight ahead at the unlit fire.
"Yeah it was," replied her mother. "How on earth are we supposed to discover what these symbols mean?"
"I was asking myself the same question," said Eudorra, although she already knew in her heart that she was probably going to show Gilbert the first chance she got. He had already found answers for two of the symbols, for all she knew he already knew what this one meant.
"Well, we had better go down for dinner," said her mother after a pause.
Her father gave a consenting grunt and they all got up and walked very slowly down the corridor to the stairs. It was a sign of how tired they were that they didn't even think about taking time to freshen up before dinner. They just marched right down the stairs and around the corner into the dining room.
When they sat down in their places at the table, the Hawks were already well into the meal and looked a bit concerned at how late they had arrived.
"Are... are you alright?" Annabel asked quietly, "Mort, you look awful!"
It was true, his hair was sticking out at odd angles and his fingertips were still red from turning the dials on the lock. His shirt had come untucked while they tried to fish out the key ring, and there were bands of sweat starting to circle under his armpits.
He gave a tired laugh and waved her on, "I'm fine, Simon just ran us through one of the craziest puzzles that I think I've ever done."
"Really?" she asked with genuine concern in her voice. "Are you going to be alright then?"
"Yes, I think we will," answered Angela. "We practically had to tear apart the game room to solve this last clue."
"Tear it apart?" Annabel looked really shocked at this. "What on earth for?"
"We had to open up a cupboard using only things we found in the room." said Mort, "And Simon had hidden things all over the place that we had to discover and then fit together. It was nuts!"
Annabel and Terrence exchanged looks. Their clue hadn't been nearly this difficult, just solving an association and looking in the family bible seemed almost petty compared to whatever challenges they had had to face up in the game room. They finished eating their meal in silence and excused themselves for the evening.
"We were going to watch a movie in the theater tonight, if you would care to join us?" said Annabel rather timidly, not knowing if they were going to be too tired for a movie after their ordeal.
"I might," said Eudorra looking at her parents who both nodded their consent.
"I think we all will," said Angela, "Goodness knows we need something to help us relax after THAT clue."
"Perfect, I'll go warm up the popcorn machine then, and we'll see you in a few," said Annabel as she left the dining room.
The Franks continued to eat their dessert in silence. Mr. Henson excused himself when he had finished his cake and ice cream and left them to themselves. Marie and Jared entered the room and started cleaning the meal up when Mortimer snapped out of his reprieve and looked right at Jared.
"How in the world did you set that puzzle up Jared? That was a piece of work!" he said.
Jared smiled and gave him a wink, "I was merely following orders sir."
Marie let out a giggle as she cleared the dinner plates. "He was at it a good week, I can tell you! Ordering the carpenter to come and install the fake panel and locking shelf. I thought they'd never get it done!"
Jared rolled his eyes, but continued to clean the room as he said, "It was merely a trifle. Mr. Hunter was always good to me, so I saw it best to execute his orders to the letter."
"That candlestick must have been a tricky bit of work," said Eudorra.
"Oh, but it was!" cooed Marie, "It took the carpenter two whole days just to design and build the locking mechanism behind the mantlepiece! Then two more to paint it to look just like the marble slab!"
"All in the spirit of the Hunt," said Jared, still smiling.
"Well, you two deserve a raise after all that work!" said Mortimer, "And believe me, I'll see to it that you get it!"
"Dear, we'd better go freshen up before the movie," said Angela, gently patting his arm.
"Oh yes, we had better! Well, you two carry on and I will see what I can do about that raise. Maybe I'll have a word with Mr. Henson."