The Magus Conspiracy

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Chapter Twenty-Two: Ashtown Lane.

It was the middle of the afternoon and Ashtown Lane was quiet. The sun had softened the road and the smell of melting asphalt finessed its way through the air conditioning filters of Bree’s SUV. The entrance to the mansion shimmered in the heat, the name ‘Abydos’ picked out in gold across black marble gateposts. Forgill and the teenagers sat in the capsule of cool air, engine running, and watched the gates.

Further down the road, in a nondescript dusty little car, Clodagh Daly watched and waited.

Mark’s humor had improved greatly with the cracking of the puzzle and Niamh felt reassured by Mark’s dream, inferring from it that her parents and Mira were alive somewhere. Now she was focused on getting through the sidh and rescuing them. Mark withheld his opinion that there was a world of difference between being rescued by the felkynd and being abducted by the Marforí. He hoped Kenny and Martha were still alive but, if he were honest with himself, he thought it unlikely. Still, not finding their bodies at the house was a good sign.

But now he and Niamh were essentially fugitives. Once the police found their dead colleagues, the first place they would go looking for answers was Almha, and although he and Niamh were innocent of any wrongdoing, if the police realized their parents were missing, they would be taken into care and all hope of rescuing the adults would be lost. From now on they had to stay under the radar.

Ferdia’s research had revealed the mansion on Ashtown Lane was called Abydos and belonged to a businessman who spent most of his time out of the country. If the sources were correct he was in Asia, but they were taking no chances. The plan was for Forgill to buzz the intercom on the gate and masquerade as a TV license inspector. Ferdia had run up a convincing laminated ID card in the business center in Wicklow and this would get them into the grounds if there was someone at home. But when Forgill called there was no answer, so they were staking the place out and considering their next move.

“That wall goes all the way around the property,” said Forgill, “and it’s topped with razor-wire. I don’t fancy trying to climb over it, so the gate is our only option.”

“There’s a keypad on that intercom,” said Ferdia. “I think we should try to hack the code.”

And how do you propose to do that?” asked Forgill, “Pull it off the wall and hack it with your pocket computer, I suppose.”

Ferdia looked confused.

No, of course not. I’ll use probability. Most people don’t change their access codes regularly, so I just need to examine the keypad and see which buttons are the most worn. That will tell me the digits in the PIN code which will limit the permutations considerably. The keypad has a manufacturer’s logo and model number on it, so I’ll look up the security system on the Net and see how many digits are in the PIN code for that particular model of keypad. Next I’ll cross-check the most used digits on the pad with important numbers and dates in the guy’s life. I reckon I’ll have a match in a couple of hours.”

“You’ve been watching too much CSI,” said Mark.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Ferdia, “but this will work.”

Despite himself, Forgill was impressed.

“OK, Boy Genius,” he said, “here’s another one for you: How are we going to know what the secret key looks like?”

“That’s obvious. It’ll look like it fits the lock. I’m amazed no-one has brought this up already.”

“How do we know what the lock looks like?”

“Well, obviously we go into the cave underneath the Black Castle and look for it. Actually, one of you needs to do that; I’ll be cracking the PIN code on that keypad.”

They debated for several minutes then decided Mark and Forgill would go into the cave, while Ferdia and Niamh stayed in the SUV and worked on the access code.

Give me one minute,” said Ferdia. He jumped out and ran up the road to the gate of Abydos, disappearing around the nearest gatepost, tablet in hand. Several minutes later he reappeared and ran back to the SUV.

“Ok,” he said breathlessly as he jumped into the passenger seat, “it’s going to be a bit trickier than I had hoped. Six different digits are worn on the keypad, and according to the manufacturer’s specs,” he brandished the tablet, “that model of keypad uses a six-digit code. The good news is that people generally use dates for six-digit pin numbers. With a little bit of digging into his family, cross-referencing the worn digits on the keypad, I should come up with a shortlist of candidate codes.”

Jolly good,” said Forgill. “You work on that. Now, let’s be away to the Black Castle. Could someone give me directions, please?”

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