Friday, November 25, 2016
The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 17: A Hint From the Grave
There were scientists, authors, playwrights, great thinkers, philosophers, religious men, explorers, artists, composers, and intertwining around them all strange plant-like leaves and stems woven and intertwined with each other on a red background. Between Johann Sebastian Bach and Galileo she noticed something she had never seen before, a roman numeral 4. She stopped dead in her tracks. Why was there a number here? She backed up against the banister and looked at the mural above and around the roman numeral "IV." At first she didn't see anything, then she almost let out a scream of excitement but caught her self just in time. She whipped out her phone and snapped a picture of that part of the mural so she could show Gilbert.
She was partway through a text message to him, when she remembered he was sitting in the theater with his parents who would notice if he pulled his phone out in the dark theater. She would have to figure out a way to show him without drawing their attention during the movie.
"Eudorra," she heard her mother's voice call from the corridor leading to the guest rooms. She quickly put her phone away and walked back to the head of the staircase before they came around the corner and caught her on the upper floor of the hall. Her mother stepped from the corridor with her arm in her father's.
"Oh, there you are!" she said when they saw her. "We checked your room and you weren't there."
"We knew you couldn't have wandered too far!" her father said with a smile. He looked way better than he had at dinner, he wore a clean blue button up shirt and slacks and his hair was combed into complicated swirls. Her mother wore a simple blue print dress with a bow in her hair. She quickly considered her blue jeans and red polo shirt, and wondered if she should change into something a little more formal.
"You look fine dear, we just wanted to dress up a bit since we haven't been to a movie in such a long time," said her mother with a smile.
Eudorra didn't feel much better about her wardrobe, but then she remembered that the Hawks had gone straight to the theater after dinner and that they hadn't dressed up at all.
They went down the grand staircase, and Eudorra had to try really hard not to shout out again when she spotted another roman numeral in the mural on the first floor. She kept her poise and continued walking along behind her parents, quickly looking around for more numerals in the mural. She thought she saw one more near the door to the den but she would have to look at it closer to be sure. They came to the theater and her father opened the door for them to enter.
The room was dark and it took a moment for their eyes to adjust. The glow from the popcorn machine gave off a yellow glow, and they could see an outline shaped like Annabel coming toward them with large cardboard bowls of popcorn.
"Here you are!" she said, "At last! We went ahead and picked out a movie, I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," said Mortimer, "What did you pick?"
"It's an old Sherlock Holmes staring Ron Howard, we thought it was appropriate considering the circumstances."
"Yes, very fitting," Angela said accepting one of the large bowls of popcorn. "Where should we sit?"
"Anywhere you'd like! Here Eudorra, have some popcorn," Annabel said unceremoniously handing her the second bowl.
'Great' she thought, 'just what I always wanted a giant bowl of popcorn in a tiny little theater.' She smiled, actually this could work out perfectly if only her parents picked the right seat.
There were four rows in the theater room. Annabel and Terrence were sitting in the front row on the right. Gilbert sat in the row behind them towards the center. Her parents looked like they were about to sit in the third row when she quickly brushed past them to the second row and sat a few seats away from Gilbert. She plopped down and offered him some of the popcorn, which he accepted. She hoped her red face was not too noticeable in the dark room while the opening credits began to roll. She didn't dare look at her parents until after the show had started. They had chosen to sit at the end of the second row opposite Gilbert's parents. Just what she wanted, now they could compare notes without anyone noticing.
She unlocked her phone and turned the brightness on the screen down so it would be less noticeable. Then she opened the picture she had just taken and handed the phone to Gilbert, along with the popcorn bucket. At first Gilbert didn't see the phone, but reached instead for the popcorn. She nudged his arm with the phone several times before she got his attention. He took the phone and looked at the picture discretely, then shrugged and handed the phone and popcorn back.
She rolled her eyes as she opened her note app and typed: "Did you see what was above the number IV?"
She handed the phone back to him, and he glared at her like she was trying to interrupt him while he was engrossed in the movie. At least she hoped it was him putting on a show of annoyance. Maybe he really did want to watch the old black and white film. She hadn't thought of that. This might not be a good time to discuss this new discovery. He handed her phone back with another message typed into it.
"So, I found an "III" upstairs by the corridor that leads to our room, what about it?"
"We can talk later if I am annoying you. But I think we need to get pictures of every number, especially the design in the mural above them. I think our symbols have a deeper meaning!"
He looked at this new message and sat a little straighter in his chair.
"Okay," he typed back, "I'll see what I can find tonight, you stay clear though, so they don't think we are working together."
"Here, let me refill that for you!" he said loudly, standing up with the cardboard bowl, still half-full of popcorn. "Who knew girls could eat so much popcorn?"
"Could I get a cream soda as well please?" Eudorra said, trying to play along.
Gilbert's parents turned in their seats and glared at her. They, at least, were trying to watch the movie, and for the time being Eudorra had probably better watch it as well so they didn't find her behavior offensive. Gilbert returned with the popcorn and a can of cream soda which was still dripping from the can of ice it had been sitting in. In the bowl of popcorn she found a napkin that he had hastily scrawled a note on.
"I'll send you whatever pictures I can get after the movie is over. GH"
Eudorra nodded in the darkness and she hoped that he had seen. She didn't dare risk handing him her phone one more time now that she had annoyed his parents. They would probably be more alert to any interactions between them. If they caught her she was pretty sure that the consequences would probably be severe, and that was the last thing she wanted now that everyone was starting to warm up to each other.
She kept to herself for the rest of the movie, though she did consider nipping out to "use the bathroom" in order to look for more numbers in the mural. However, she felt that Gilbert had the better intuition on this one. Her parents would find it unusual for her to be out in the hall looking at the mural when she had homework to do, while his parents let him roam pretty much wherever he wanted. So it would be safer for him to do the looking while she kept up appearances with her parents.
When the movie ended, the families bid each other good night and went their separate ways. Eudorra peeked back over her shoulder at the top of the stairs and saw Gilbert stretching as he looked at the mural on each side of the theater door. She kept close behind her parents and hoped that Gilbert would send her pictures soon.
She entered her room and pulled out her science homework. She had always loved science because of her interest in robotics. She did not however relish biology. It was the least favorite of the sciences and seemed to have the most homework. Maybe it just seemed like there was more homework because she didn't care for studying animal behaviors and cellular processes. She would much rather write a five or six page paper on electrical theory than a one page paper on the parts and functions of animal and plant cells.
Minutes passed like days and she kept checking her phone for a message from Gilbert. She had read the chapter on cells, but she was struggling to write the paper. It was hard to focus on something that didn't interest you when something that did was looming over you like a dragon waiting to strike. She could physically feel the electrons moving slower through her brain as she tried to focus back on the paper. Three paragraphs later her phone buzzed.
She pounced on it like a tiger attacking a mouse. She opened the message and waited while her phone downloaded several images taken from around the entry hall. The numbers 0-9 were all represented in the mural and above each of them was an ornate symbol hidden in the tapestry-like background of the mural. She turned to a fresh page in her notebook and copied the symbols and their corresponding numbers onto the page. Then she scrolled through the images on her phone until she came to the symbols they had discovered from solving Simon's clues.
The symbols matched the numbers III, VI, IX, and nulla. The Roman's she knew didn't have a numeral for 0, but scholars had overcome this by using the Latin word "nulla" instead. Simon had apparently adopted this notation as well for the sake of the puzzle. But what a puzzle! Did he have the entry hall repainted, or had the symbols and numbers been there the whole time? She would have to ask her father when this was all over, but not just yet. She and Gilbert were on to something and they needed to figure out what it was before they told anyone.
She typed a quick, "Thank you" back and added, "Did you see what numbers our symbols match up with?"
He replied, "Yeah, what do you think that means?"
"No idea," she typed back, "But we better find out."
Eudorra tried to finish her homework so she could devote all her attention to the puzzle, but every time she tried some other thought came into her mind and she ended up staring into space trying to fit more pieces together. She scribbled a hasty conclusion to her paper, that she knew neither her teacher nor her parents would approve of, but she just couldn't focus on cells any more. She had to find out how these numbers related to their clues.
She copied the clues and symbols from her phone into her notebook so she could study them more closely. She circled the symbols on her number chard and marked which family had been given which ones. She poured over the clues again and wrote down their solutions. She drew a hasty map of the Manor and marked where each clue had led and what symbol they had found there. There had to be a pattern here. Some additional information that she was missing.
The thought consumed her for the rest of the evening until she drifted off into an uneasy sleep where she dreamed of roman numerals twisting themselves into fantastic shapes and then being hidden in the pool table and under the floorboards of the manor. The next thing she knew she was floating above the manor looking down on the orchard and the pond wondering where all the blue flowers were. And what was that emerald ring doing on her finger?