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Cryptic Hearts

By xMeganful

Mystery

Cipher

London was shrouded by mist and rain the day that the message occurred, miserably drizzling down the window that Sherlock Holmes stood before, a violin grasped within his hands as he turned and twisted around the room with the melody. Barely a fortnight had passed since the ceremony between Dr. John Watson and Mary Morstan, the couple settling quietly into married life in their suburban home. Boredom clouding his mind, John had returned to the infamous man's flat.

"Just pick something, Sherlock!" sitting opposite the Consulting Detective, watching him from the familiar comfort that his chair brought, he sighed. John grasped his phone in his hand, scrolling through the many pages of requests that the two men had been asked to investigate. Setting down the violin, Sherlock groaned in frustration.

"They're all boring, John! Not anywhere good enough for my time..." he muttered, sitting improperly on the plush sofa on the eastern side of the room, his limbs splayed carelessly over the furniture. His dark hair was tousled and unkempt, his clothes reflecting the same disconcern for his appearance.

John pressed a finger to his temples, attempting to rub away the migraine that was beginning to arise, "You haven't even read them yet, for Christ sake." the brunette stilled in silent protest, his eyes fixated on the ceiling. "Please, Sherlock, just pick one. I need something to think about other than decor; it could another bloody Bluebell for all I care."

After a moment, Sherlock quitted the sofa for the table chair, forcing his laptop from sleep mode as he began to scroll through his website 'The Science of Deduction'. Hovering over his shoulder, the other man pointed to the screen.

"What about that one?" the message was from a young girl in Dartford, an image enclosed with it.

Dear Mr Sherlock Holmes,

Typically, I would not concern someone such as you with such menial matters, but I fear that something terrible is afoot.

Yesterday, I discovered an email that had been anonymously sent to me. Please find the attached screenshot.

I believe it to be a code or cipher of some sort, though I can't make any sense of it. Your help would be greatly appriciated, Mr Holmes.

Many thanks,

Charlotte Taylor.

Instantly, Sherlock's mind was buzzing with intrigue and delight. Opening the attached image, he found a screenshot of an email, as the girl had said. A line of seemingly random block letters was the only obvious message present.

DEEZZMAPEDCXJLTCYER

Though Sherlock Holmes knew better than to believe that this was random; coincidences ceased to exist in his racing mind.

John cleared his throat and piped up, "What do you think it means?"

"It's code. Give me a moment." replied Sherlock, his eyes transfixed on the screen as the email moved and altered within his skull, each letter become extensively analyzed as reality subsided.

DEEZZMAPEDCXJLTCYER

STTOOBPETSRMYAIRNTG

STOPTRYING TOBESMART

STOP TRYING TO BE SMART

Many minutes had passed when his mind resurfaced, John having regained his seat after he had become immersed in his thoughts. Sherlock hummed with a grin touching his lips, "A skip code in a shift cipher. How moderately smart."

"What?" spoke his friend, who watched the detective with interest.

He pushed himself from his laptop, paced the floors and began to explain the features of the cryptic message, "The letters were a shift code. The alphabet is moved a certain number of places left or right, so all I had to do was move them back to their original place. The shift code then revealed to be a skip code, which, when placed in the right order, reads-"

"Stop trying to be smart." John leaned over the laptop, the words printed in an email to the girl. He read the email were Sherlock explained to her that this was a prank conveyed by her classmates, who had previously taunted the girl over social media for becoming skilled in her studies. "So that's it? Case closed?"

"Afraid so, John." both men regained their positions in their chairs, endless boredom plaguing their minds. "That was barely a two..." muttered he, who sat with ignorance, unknowing that the mystery had only just begun to unravel.

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