Monday, November 14, 2016

The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 9: The First Solution

The Grandfather clock in the sitting room struck nine, the windows were now dark and reflected the interior of the room. Eudorra and her mother were crowded around her father, who was sitting at the table in the sitting room next to a large fire. The piece of paper they were staring at had just come out of what they thought was the answer to their first clue, instead of giving them great relief it sent additional questions off in their heads. The most notable of these was, "What IS that?"

"Dad, what is that?" Eudorra finally said after staring at the paper for several minutes.

"You know, I'm not really sure," he sad setting the paper down on the table so they could all look at it more easily. "I think I've seen something like this before, but I can't for the life of me remember where or what it means."

Eudorra studied the symbol again, tracing each line with her finger:
"It looks like two intertwined loops," her mother said as she leaned over the paper. "Like two of those... what are they called? Jesus Fish?"

"Yeah, my friend Amy has one on her backpack," Eudorra said. She took out her phone and snapped a picture of the symbol, then paused. "Do you think we are allowed to use outside help? Like if I sent this picture to Amy and asked her what it meant?"

"I don't know. I think were supposed to figure it out for ourselves," said Mortimer, "That's how Simon always did it before."

"Yeah, but you never were instructed to work together before either. So... do I send it or not?"

"I think," said Angela, "That we are supposed to work with Annabel and her family to figure this out, maybe Jared and Marie. Beyond that, I don't think we can ask for help if it isn't someone already here at the Manor."

Eudorra silently cursed her mother's sense of logic. She had a very good point and Eudorra knew she wouldn't be able to put a hole in logic that sound. Still, she did not delete the picture from her phone, just in case. Maybe she could corner Annabel's son Gilbert and ask him. He might know what it means, he certainly spends enough time on his phone, he might have seen it somewhere.

"Well, it is getting late. We should probably turn in, or we might sleep through breakfast," said her father.

"Okay, Dad," she said, a little too jovially which drew looks from her parents, "Sorry, I mean, shouldn't we lock up our clues again?"

"Yes, I'll do that, why don't you two go start getting ready for bed?" Mortimer said as he stood up and picked up the papers.

Eudorra and her mother walked down the corridor that overlooked the entry hall. The chandelier was almost even with them, and it partially blocked their view of the opposite side of the Hall. Albert Einstein smiled as they walked past him toward their rooms. Most of the lights were turned off, and it gave the place an eerie glow of half-light. Long shadows fell across the floor and wall that followed their footsteps down the red carpeted corridor.

In her room, Eudorra put on her sweatpants, oversize t-shirt, and fuzzy bunny slippers, then put her hair in a ponytail so she could wash her face and brush her teeth. She glanced over the homework on her desk and grimaced. She hadn't done any yet, and she knew she would have to set aside some time tomorrow to get at least part of it done before the next clue took over her attention. She grabbed the book she was reading for her book report, "An Overview of Robotic Theory" by Robert Knutt, so she could read some of it as she was drifting off.

On her bed was a giant teddy bear she had had since she was three. She also brought her fleece blanket that she could never sleep without. It was funny being in high school and still having these bedtime routines from when she was just a kid. Perhaps that was part of what made us unique, our quirky mannerisms that made us different from everyone else. She turned on one of the side lamps and turned off the overhead light in the room, a small crystal chandelier that she would have never thought would adorn a room she slept in. She said her nightly prayer, then snuggled into the blankets with her teddy bear and fanned open the worn copy of "Robotic Theory" to chapter three: Servo Motors.

She blinked and daylight shone off the treetops outside her window. Eudorra sat up straight and blinked. Had the night gone by that quickly? Next to her lay Robotic Theory, still open to chapter three, however there was a noticeable fold on one of the pages where the book had fallen out of her hand and bounced off her leg. Her teddy bear was off at a weird angle, and her hair certainly felt like an 80's hairdresser had stopped by during the night.

She yawned and tried to focus on the hands of the fancy table clock on the desk. 8:30, hopefully breakfast was still on! She hopped out of bed and quickly brushed her hair into a ponytail once again. She put on a pair of jeans and a fitted t-shirt with a cardigan, then as she was putting on a pair of tennis shoes, she saw it.

A slip of white paper had been folded in half and slid under her door. She finished tying her shoes quickly and walked over to the door. She picked up the paper and opened it, expecting to see her father or mother's handwriting. Instead she saw the untidy scrawl of teenage male handwriting. It was signed, "Gilbert Hawk." Curiosity peaking, she started at the top of the note and read it through:


Sorry I didn't pay attention earlier when we were introduced. My name is Gilbert. Mom and Dad are being pretty dense about this whole "solve the clues" game thing. I have a copy of our first clue and was wondering if you would help me solve it. You don't have to give me any of your family's clues if you don't want to. I just want to prove to them that I am smart, and that I can be social without them breathing down my neck.

I would really appreciate it if you didn't let on during meals, I kind of want this to be a surprise. We can slip away easily enough throughout the day while our parents are off doing their thing. If you are cool about this, meet me in the orchard around 10 am, we can talk then.

Gilbert Hawk

Eudorra stared at the note in amazement. Why would Gilbert do this? Was he really that upset with his parents? Should she tell her parents, in case they asked why she was slipping off all the time? What did all this mean?

Just then there was a knock at the door, and Eudorra jumped in surprised.

"Eudorra, honey, if you don't hurry breakfast will be gone before you even get started." It was her mother.

She tucked the note in her pocket, then opened the door.

"Sorry, mom, I overslept!" at a glance she knew her mother had already been up, showered, and had breakfast. She was one of those "Can't sleep past 5" types that were often reported to be harassing roosters to get out of bed before the sun came up.

"Well, hurry dear, they're about to clear the plates!" she said, and they hurried down to the dining room together.

In the dinning room Mr. Henson was sitting at the head of the table once again, wiping his mouth with a napkin. He had apparently just finished eating. Her father, Mortimer, was still in the middle of a large plate of pancakes. Her mother's place was empty, she had no doubt eaten before everyone else. As she looked at the Hawks, she was surprised to see Annabel and Terrence looking disheveled and sore. They moved rigidly, like their arms had bad sunburns or something. Gilbert, who was normally buried in his phone, looked up as she came in then resumed eating a large bowl of cereal. No phone in sight, although he did blush a little. Jared and Marie were standing to one side, no doubt waiting to clean up after the meal.

Eudorra quickly loaded up her plate with pancakes, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Marie filled her glass with orange juice and left the pitcher on the table next to her. Jared filled a single platter with a second helping for her, then cleared the rest of the serving dishes from the table.

"Once everyone has finished eating," said the lawyer, "We will adjourn to the library for the second round of clues."

Eudorra blushed at this statement, and stared down at her full plate of food. She could feel her temperature rising and knew her ears must be turning bright red. She stole a glance a Gilbert who smiled, but didn't say anything. His bowl of cereal was also quite full still, so he probably had gotten up just before she had. They both tried to eat quickly without being stuffing their mouths too full, at least she did, Gilbert... well, he tried.

Once they had finished, their places were cleared and the entire party made their way diagonally across the hall, under the chandelier to the library which sat on the front corner of the mansion opposite the dinning room. The walls of the room were lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling. There were sitting chairs, several sofas, a desk, and a large fireplace on one wall. The red carpet and the wall sconces gave the room a rich, warm glow.

Mortimer and Terrence each grabbed a chair and set them next to the sofas, so that they were all seated in a semicircle around Mr. Henson. Mr. Henson had set his briefcase on the table and pulled out two more envelopes. He gave one to each family, then stood at the head of the semicircle next to an impressive collection of reference books. Including, Eudora noticed, a large red encyclopedia that she immediately wanted to start perusing. She loved reference books! They had helped her team to win the State Robotics Championship. By out studying the other teams in design, weight distribution, and physics they had built an impressive robot that not only beat the other robots, but wowed the judges and the audience. The encyclopedia especially drew her attention because her family could never afford one, even a used one would have given her hours of reading material! Now, here was one with almost an entire week to herself!

Mr. Henson examined the paper in his hand closely, then began to read aloud.

"Greetings once again, my Niece and Nephew!

Hopefully you didn't find your first clues too challenging. (I do hope that Anna didn't search the entire teacup cupboard looking for her solution! If so she must take another look at her clue and think a little harder.)"

At this statement Anna sat straight up, and winced. She looked at Terrence shocked, he must have had similar feelings, because his jaw had gone slack and his mouth was hanging wide open. Gilbert glanced at Eudorra and stole a wink while everyone else looked at his parents.

"Now that's just..." began Annabel, but the lawyer interrupted her.

"Hold on Annabel, I asked the lawyer to read this out loud, it isn't his fault you looked in the wrong place." Mr. Henson started to sweat, then said. "The statement says that right here in print. You uncle seems to have known you well, if his guess is not far off the mark."

Annabel slumped back into the sofa and winced again. Mr. Henson cleared his throat and continued reading.

"Again, you must solve all three clues, the provide the answer to the entire game to Mr. Henson by Midnight on Saturday. Each clue will lead you to part of the answer for the entire puzzle. Miss even one, and you may be left out in the dark!

Once again, I implore you to work together, as this puzzle will be solved most easily by combining your resources to solve every clue. If you don't and the estate is lost, that will be a heavy blow to our family indeed! For your old Uncle Simon's sake, set aside your pride and win this puzzle together!

Until the next clue, adieu!"

Mr. Henson folded the paper and put it back in his briefcase. Eudorra who had been looking at him while he had been reading, was now looking directly at the encyclopedia, and something was definitely wrong with it. But she didn't dare take a closer look with everyone around.

"Well, that is it for now folks," Said the rotund lawyer wiping his sweaty face with his handkerchief. "You my go your separate ways, or indeed work together as Mr. Hunter directs."

Annabel stood up stiffly and left the room followed closely by Terrence and Gilbert, who didn't dare look back.

So how was it?

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