"My head is spinning right now," he said. "I didn't realize that Simon hadn't left Anna anything. I don't blame her for being upset, but to flat out refuse to work together seems a bit petty. I mean if we don't find the answer the entire estate, including this manor, will be sold and none of it will stay in the family."
"Why do you think he left you so much money, dear, if he wasn't going to give anything to Anna anything?" Angela asked.
"I really don't know... to get my attention maybe? I had ignored his letters and phone calls for so long, maybe he wanted to ensure that I would come. I think the bigger question is why did he leave poor Annabel with so little?" He drummed the envelope on the palm of his hand and sat next to Eudorra on the couch. "Well, we'd better see what this is all about. No point in delaying the puzzle if we only have five days to solve it."
He tore open the envelope and pulled out two sheets of paper. The first turned out to be a check for two million dollars signed by Simon a little over a week ago. The second was a half-sheet of printer paper that had the following words printed on it.
I'm sorry it took so long to make ammends with you, I hope you will forgive your old uncle. But I am glad that you decided to play, your first puzzle is below and will lead you to the first clue for the grand prize. Now, whether Anna has decided to play the game with you or by herself, know this. If either of you solve the puzzle before Saturday you will both be rewarded handsomely. I spent far to long only rewarding the victor, so I feel that this prize had to be split so both of you get rewarded.
I believe in you,
"Clue #1: A Belted Zero Gun Hook"
Eudorra looked at the final line of the letter nervously. 'That wasn't much to go on. Would Dad be able to figure this out without Annabel?'
"What is a gun hook?" Angela asked. "As far as clues go, that's pretty ambiguous. It isn't even a complete sentence, it's just a phrase."
"It's an anagram." Mort said as he walked over to a roll-top desk in the corner of the sitting room. "The message is scrambled and our task is to unscramble it." Finally in one of the drawers he found what he was looking for, pens and paper.
"What do you mean?" Eudorra asked as she took the paper and looked at the last line again.
"Anagrams are created by taking a word or phrase and rearranging the letters, the message is hidden until the letters get unscrambled." Here he frowned, "Anna was great at them, she could probably have this one figured out in no time."
Eudorra snapped a picture of the letter and clue with her phone, while her father started copying the line to the top of several pieces of paper.
"If we each take a paper and come up with as many words as possible, hopefully the message will jump out at us. Otherwise, we may end up taking the whole week on this one clue and never get any further."
Eudorra shook her head, there had to be an easier way to do this, but her father had dealt with Simon's puzzles before, so he was probably right. She sat at the table opposite her mother and began making lists of words using just the letters in the message:
Eudorra frowned, it looked like a really bad game of Boggle, or those games teachers would hand out in third grade right before the holidays. "How many words can you make using only the letters in the word 'Valentine'?" She looked up at her mother who seemed to be coming to the same conclusion. Her father wrote down three more words before looking up and shaking his head.
"I've got nothing," he mumbled. "Maybe we need to try a different approach. There is a letter "z" maybe we should try to come up with words that have a "z" in them, then try to make another word with whatever is left over. Each letter can only be used once so that should cut down possibilities."
Eudorra started a new column on her paper:
blaze ted ero gun hook
blaze hooked gun tore
She glanced over at her mother's paper, it read:
glazed bet ero um hook
glazed hun book etero?
glazed bet hen rook ou
Her father's paper looked similar:
zone a belted r gu hook
zone belated rug hook
zone late hero bug odk
They continued to work in this manner for what seemed like hours. Through the window the sky started to turn orange, and Eudorra could feel the muscles in her hand beginning to cramp. Jared had checked in on them several times. He brought in a pitcher of lemonade and a tray of freshly baked cookies for them to snack on while they worked. He nodded his approval of their work but would say nothing about the clue itself.
Finally Angela threw her hands up in the air in defeat. "I don't get it! It seems like the answer should be so simple, and yet we have gotten nowhere." She indicated several pages of garbled words as she said this.
"You're right, dear, I think we need a break." Mortimer agreed.
Eudorra looked out the window at the tops of the fruit trees and said absently, "Why don't we go out and sit in the gazebo before it gets dark. Maybe the fresh air will stir some fresh words into our brains."
She and her mother moved to get up from the table, when suddenly her father let out a gasp and grabbed a fresh piece of paper from the stack. They both crowded around him as he wrote the first line:
gazebo elted r un hook
Eudorra heard her mother say, "I don't get it. Are we supposed to look at the gazebo?"
Her father wrote: look gazebo eted r un h
Something clicked in her head and Eudorra almost screamed, "Look under the gazebo!"
Her father wrote the message out, then double checked the letters with the original to make sure they hadn't left out or added any letters. Then he sat back, wiped his eyes, and smiled up at her.
"Eudorra, you did it!" he said.
"No, Dad, we all did it! Now let's go get that clue!"
They all stood up to leave, when Mort stopped at the door and looked back at the papers spread out on the table.
"Not to be rude," he said with a worried glance at the table, "Do you think we should make our work a little less obvious? In case Annabel tries to mess with our clues?"
The two women thought it over for a minute before Angela said, "I suppose we could lock it into the desk, that way if they need to come into the room while we are gone it isn't out in the open."
"Good idea, Mom," Eudorra said. "If she changes her mind, we can always show her our clues then. But leaving them out while she is being super competitive would be like leaving your robot unguarded at the state competition. It just isn't a good idea while your competitors are walking around free willy nilly."
Mortimer grabbed the papers off the table and set them in a drawer of the desk. Then he locked it and put the key in his pocket.
"We should probably keep a relatively calm pace too, so that we don't alert them that we've solved our first clue." he suggested before they opened the door to the upper hall.
The two women agreed and they set off at a quick but leisurely pace around the top of the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door. They walked down the steps to the gravel drive where their van was still parked, but the dark SUV was now gone. They turned left and followed the house around through the orchard and to the back of the Manor where the gazebo stood, glistening white and red in the setting sun.
Eudorra ran ahead and started looking around the sides of the gazebo, it had a fresh coat of white paint and the lattice looked to be in pristine condition. By the time her mother and father had caught up to her, she had completely circled the gazebo and hadn't seen anything obvious underneath it. She watched as her father stopped at one particular opening and scratched his chin. He muttered something under his breath that sounded like "I wonder," then knelt down and reached up into the floor boards of the gazebo. He felt around for a minute, then his hand hit something metal, and he carefully pulled it out.
It looked like a green metal box about the size of a loaf of bread. Eudorra recognized it immediately as an "Ammo can." They used similar metal boxes to store come of the robot tools in the lab at school. She watched him pry the end open, and as the lid swung back she could see a plastic gallon zipper bag, and inside there appeared to be another envelope.
In the fading sun they took the bag out of the box and closed the lid. Mort carefully slid it back onto the shelf inside the floorboards, and they walked back to the front of the house.
Eudorra could almost fly! The euphoria of solving the first clue and finding the envelope so quickly lifted her heart and she felt like she could sprout wings and take off any minute! As it was, they tried to keep their excited voices down so that they did not alert the Hawk family of their findings. By the time they reached the front door, they had mastered themselves once again, and walked at a slow stroll back up the stairs to the sitting room.
When they entered they looked around for signs of occupation while they were gone. The fire had been lit and there was a new tray of food including hot cocoa (Simon's favorite), marshmallows, and shortbread cookies. Seeing no sign that the Hawks had come into the room, they closed the door and Mortimer unlocked the drawer with their clue and made sure it was still in place.
"Everything looks fine," he said. "I do wish she had agreed to work together, all this double checking everything is going to get pretty bothersome by the end of the week."
"I agree," said Angela, "it would have been nice to have additional brains to pick and ideas to throw around. But she made her choice I suppose."
"Their son didn't say a single word the whole time during dinner," said Eudorra, "He just kept looking at his phone the whole time. I don't know how people can get so wrapped up in what they are doing that they forget to be human." Her parents looked at her with knowing smiles on their faces. "Okay! So I had a hard time putting my phone down when I first got it, the point is I'm not glued to it anymore like that guy is! I've learned to not let it run my life all the time."
"If you say so dear," said her mother with a slight tone of mockery in her voice. "Let's take a look at what we found under the gazebo!"
Mortimer was already opening the bag at the large table, and slid the envelope out on top of the clue they had already solved. Eudorra read the front of the light blue envelope, which said: "Answer 1- Frank." Her father carefully opened the envelope and unfolded the paper to begin reading.
So how was it?
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