During the entire car ride back to the office Jack contemplated that today was D-day, as far as the third letter was concerned. Unless he was able to break this case, the harsh reality was, they could have another victim, and this troubled the successful detective greatly.
Back in the familiar surrounds of the precinct, Jack made his way through the Bull Pen towards his office. He was oblivious to other Detectives in the room. He was pre-occupied on the mental checklist running through his head; a list of tasks he hoped to accomplish today in a hope to break this case.
Just as he reached his office door Detective Pete Unly called out. ‘Jobs, you got minute?’ Unly cupped his hand over the telephone receiver he held.
Jack moved to the seated Unly. ‘What’s up?’ Jack said.
Unly stood up from his desk and pointed to Jack’s office. ‘Could you hold the line please?’ he requested into the telephone handset. ‘Thanks, I won’t be long.’ He placed the telephone handset onto his desk.
‘Problem?’ Jack asked as both men entered Jack’s office.
‘No, no problem,’ Unly said. ‘It’s just that I’ve got this kid on the phone who says he saw the letter on the news and he thinks he can help us solve it. He’s some national crossword champion or something.’
Jack’s face distorted. ‘Kid…? ’ Jack said, ‘How old?’
‘Ah…said he was twenty-six.’
‘What does he do?’
‘Ah, he works in a mail room. You know, delivers internal mail in an office building.’
’And he thinks he can help us decipher the letter.’ Jack was skeptical. ’So is it fair to assume he hasn’t deciphered it then?
’Why does he think he can help us?’
‘Says he won some national crossword competition and is adept at solving puzzles. He sounds fairly sharp.’
’If he is that good he should be calling us to say he has solved it… not thinking he can solve it,’ Jack said. He moved around and sat at his desk. He placed both his palms flat on the desk in front of him as he processed this latest information.
‘Do you want to talk to him…or, should I have him come down?’ Unly asked.
Jack considered his options. He eyes lifted to the standing Unly. He shook his head once then waved the back of his hand at Unly. ‘We don’t need help from a mail delivery boy who can solve fucking crosswords. This is the real world– not a competition.’
Unly glared at his boss. He appeared surprised by Jack’s dismissive reaction.
This response was out of character for Jack. He was a person who never discounted any possible lead, regardless of how minor, or irrelevant it initially appeared. That was why he was such an effective investigator.
Jack noticed Unly’s blank expression. He realized his emotion was affecting his judgement. He shook his head then lifted his hand to Unly. ‘Hang on…Wait…’ Jack began. ’No, don’t do that. Take down this kid’s details and tell him to give us a call when he breaks the code.’
Unly shot a half grin at Jack. ‘Will do boss,’ he nodded in agreement. ‘By the way… you know he isn’t the only call we have had this morning. We’ve been inundated with so called experts.’
Jack reclined back in his chair. He clasped his fingers behind his head as Unly continued. ‘Every nut in the city has rang up this morning either claiming to be the killer, or they are self-confessed experts who claim to be able to crack the cypher…but when you talk to them Jobs, they clearly have no idea,’ he said. ‘We have taken all their details, just in case…but this guy...’ He jabbed his thumb towards his desk. ‘He is the first one that sounded like he knew what he was talking about – the real deal.’
’Let me know if anyone actually breaks the code.’
‘Under control,’ Unly said then returned to his phone call.
Jack followed Unly back to the Bull Pen. He stopped and leant a shoulder on the door frame to his office. He scanned the busy room of Detectives. ‘Listen up guys…’ All eyes turned to Jack. 'If today is the day, it is more than likely we have until this evening to try and prevent this thing from happening,’ he said. 'So we have a bit of time up our sleeve. Later this afternoon I want each team to get out among the red light districts and get the word out to the hookers to be alert for themselves and for each other. I want each of you to get in touch with your CI’s…find out what they know about these murders…find out the word on the streets. Use whatever means are at your disposal – pay ’em, bash ’em, shake ‘em down to see what falls out…I don’t care what you do, or how you do it…just get me some answers –and fast.’
Jack pointed at Spence. 'Can you chat with uniform and make sure we get extra black and white patrols ‘round the red light districts tonight.’
‘Sure thing jobs.’
Matthew had finally completed his rounds and was back at his desk. He was excited at what awaited him this evening; the chance to decipher the real-life code in the letter for the cops. As the afternoon approached he removed his copy of the letter to solve some more of the clues.
With the letter secreted inside one of his manila work folders, Matthew read to himself clue number eight. First description of Manchester appearing as Guardian’s leader. ORIGINAL he nodded, then recorded the answer beside the clue.
Matt lifted his head to check his supervisor was not watching. He casually checked his surrounds - all clear. He lowered his eyes to solve clue nine.
Number nine, he read to himself. Rules out going Dutch in this case, he read. After pausing he wrote the answer, “LAWSUIT” beside the clue.
Following another quick check to ensure all was clear, he read, “Commotion in Head Office.” “ADO.” He wrote the answer beside number ten.
Matt continued with clue eleven. ‘Call up soldiers, colonel wanting one to get shocking treatment,’ he read. RECOLLECT he thought to himself then recorded the answer.
“Swear blind, perhaps, to incite revolution that will do its job,” Matthew read. He sat back in his chair as he repeated the clue. Ah… EFFICIENT, he thought nodding in understanding of the clue as he recorded the answer for number twelve.
He continued reading the clues. He was on a roll. ‘Worker agonizes, before dropping off final message for third rate opponents,’ Matt read to himself out loud before lifting his eyes to check he was clear to continue. Returning his eyes to the clues, he broke down the clue into parts, before writing “ANTAGONISTS” beside clue thirteen.
Two to go, he thought to himself, satisfied with his progress. He sat back into his chair then stretched his arms upward. He felt like he was making good time. He returned to his clues and read number fourteen to himself.
US city’s austere characters assembled as prizewinners. Breaking it down in his usual fashion he quickly concluded the answer was “LAUREATES”, which he promptly recorded beside clue fourteen.
Last one, he said to himself as he lifted his eyes for the last time to check his surrounds. ’Number fifteen’, he said to himself. “Go brown and turn into leather”. He scoffed to himself at how easy this was. ‘TAN’ he said out loud as he recorded the answer.
With all cryptic clues completed Matthew lifted the manila folder containing the letter from his desk and reclined back into his chair. He was pleased with himself. OK, he thought as he scanned the letter. Let’s look at what these answers mean. He reached for a blank sheet of paper from his desk caddy and commenced to write down the answers to all fifteen clues in order.
Matthew read all the words, as if in a sentence to see what it read. ’Ashe Zero Pollux Disbelief Style Theory Scut Original Lawsuit Ado Recollect Efficient Antagonists Laureates Tan,’ he read to himself. Well...that’s clearly not it.
Maybe the words are jumbled. He tried sorting the words into a logical sentence. Regardless of how he rearranged them however, there was no sense to any of the combinations he came up with.
Matthew closed the folder and returned his list of answers to his desk. He stared at the folder, tapping his fingers on the desk while analyzing the possibilities for all the answers he had recorded.
He flicked open the cover and re-ran his eyes over the clues. He carefully scanned every word. 'Hello,’ he said to himself. He lifted the copy of the letter to examine it more closely. His discerning eye noticed a possible anomaly with clue number two. Uncertain if he was onto something, he quickly checked all the other clues to see if the anomaly was a typographical error, or intentional.
Matt noted that only clue number two and clue number ten had a small dot, or a period after the clue. None of the other clues had a similar dot. Was this intentional, or just a printing error? He studied the letter.
After running his eyes over all the clues, Matthew’s analytical mind was now deep in contemplation. I wonder, he thought as a possible scenario came to his mind. He returned his focus to the clues.
By now Matthew leaned on his elbows, hovering over the letter lying flat on the desk. While passing his eyes over the clues he found himself doing a double take at clue nine. What’s that...? He lifted the letter to take a closer look at the printing. His brow furrowed. Is that deliberate…? He noticed what appeared to be a small hyphen in front of clue nine. Matt tapped his fingers in contemplation as he stared at the letter. Do they mean something?
The tapping of the fingers onto the desk suddenly stopped. Matthew froze. Two full stops, one hyphen…what if it is not the actual answers to the clues… but the number of letters in the answer. Maybe they make up GPS coordinates or something…Maybe that is where he will dump the body.
Matt quickly jotted down the corresponding number of letters from each cryptic answer. ASHE has four letters, so he quickly jotted down the number four. ZERO also has four letters so he wrote another number four beside the first number. POLLUX has six letters so he recorded the number six next. He continued on in this format until he had recorded the corresponding number of letters from each clue. Matthew stared blankly at the list of numbers he had written.
His mind started to work overtime. If I place the full stop where it appears after clue two… and the other one after clue ten…and then put the hyphen where it appears in the clue…before clue nine… He inserted the dots and dash into the number equation. Let’s have a look? He lifted his scribble notes. He sat back in his chair to survey the outcome.
‘Of course,’ Matthew said out loud as he quickly rewrote the number out again without spaces.
Longitude and Latitude coordinates…He jiggled his mouse to awaken his sleeping computer. He quickly opened up Google and typed “latitude and longitude coordinates,” searching for a site that would pin point these coordinates. His search located a website called “LatitudeandLongitudeFinder.com.”
Matt slid his notes closer to his keyboard as he typed in what he suspected were the coordinates he had deciphered from the letter and hit the Enter button.
He sat eagerly watching his search result load on his computer screen. His shoulders slumped and he fell back into his chair. That can’t be right. He checked the numbers in case of a keying entry error, but they were all entered correctly.
Matthew stared at the screen as he ran a hand across his mouth. He was confused at the blue marker that had pin pointed Matthew’s coordinates near a town called Plattsburgh in Northern Vermont, up near the Canadian border.
He steepled his fingers in front of his face. He won’t be dumping a body up there. Something must be wrong. He picked up the letter and re-examined the clues.
Matt re-read the answers to himself. He paused after completing the re-read. What am I missing? He was certain he was on the right track with the idea about the co-ordinates.
This was going to require a great deal more thought so he reluctantly decided to put the letter away and revisit it tonight when he got home, where he could concentrate without interruption.
Matthew burst through his front door. His aggressive actions startled his mother Wendy, who was home alone and seated in the lounge room of their family home. She turned towards the sudden intrusion just in time to see Matthew standing inside the front door. With his hand resting on the wall for balance he lazily toed the back of each shoe with the opposite foot before kicking them off. He then ran directly to his bedroom, without saying a word.
Matthew resided with his mother in their modest 1950s built single storey brick home in Montclair, New Jersey where he shared a strong Mother-Son bond. As an only child, and despite his mother’s protestations, Matt felt a duty bound obligation to stay with his mother to help her out since his dad passed away three years ago. Plus, the rent was much more affordable, he often joked.
‘Everything alright Matty?’ Wendy shouted from her lounge chair. ‘Matty?’ she repeated.
When there was no response, she made her way to Matthew’s room to check he was OK.
In his haste Matthew didn’t even take the time to turn the light on in his room. His bedroom door was open and he sat in his darkened room at his desk. His shoulders were hunched over his keyboard as he logged into his desktop computer. The silhouette of his light frame was partly illuminated by the low level glow from his computer monitor.
Wendy casually leaned on the door frame to Matt’s room and folded her arms. ‘Everything OK with you, Matty?’ Wendy asked.
Matt startled by her voice. His head snapped towards his mother standing in the doorway. ‘Mom…sorry.’ He realized he hadn’t yet greeted her. He pushed himself away from his desk and walked to his mother and gave her his customary Hi mom, I’m home greeting hug.
‘That’s better,’ she reassured. ‘I missed my hug and I thought something was wrong.’ She grabbed his hand. ‘Is everything OK with you?’ she asked. ‘You look a little distant.’
’Yeah. Sorry ‘bout that,’ he said. ‘Just a little distracted,’ He placed his hand over his mother’s hand.
‘Too distracted to give your ol’ Mom her greeting hug, hey?’ she grinned.
‘Nah, I was having trouble with something I was working on…’ he began, ‘and a possible solution came to me on the train on the way home. I guess I was anxious to test out my theory.’
‘Ok then… just as long as you are alright,’ she said with motherly concern.
Wendy began retreating down the hallway back to the lounge. As she walked she yelled back to Matthew, ‘Oh, I forgot…Sex and the City movie part two is on HBO tonight Matty. I was hoping we could watch it together, if you are not too busy.’
Matthew was already back at his desk punching away at his keyboard. He lifted his head towards his mother’s voice and shouted in response, ‘That’ll be great Mom…let me know when.’
Matt dived his hand into his backpack and removed the coded letter, complete with all his answers. He opened it out and placed it onto his desk, dragging his hands across it to flatten it out.
Having already re-accessed the Latitude and Longitude finder website Matthew re-typed the new coordinates he had calculated, this time with a slight modification. He hit the enter button and excitedly waited for a result.
His evening commute home from work gave Matthew uninterrupted thinking time to revisit the clues and work out why the latitude and longitude coordinates were so far off. He was certain the clues in the letter provided coordinates, but he just had to reassess the cipher.
While sitting wedged shoulder to shoulder in his overcrowded train, he stared at the answers to the clues. He was able to block out all other distractions around him. It was then that it suddenly hit him.
He considered the error in coordinates could be located in clue number two. What if “ZERO” was actually a reference to the number zero, and not represented by the number of letters, like in the other answers.
The problem was he was unable to test this theory mid-transit. Matthew was forced to sit and impatiently wait until he arrived home.
‘Yes.’ Matt punched his fist into the air. The website’s marker pin indicated the new coordinates belonged to the Brooklyn Heights Library. ‘That’s more like it,’ he muttered to himself. He slumped back into his chair feeling proud of his code breaking accomplishment. He was now certain he was back on the right track. A hell of a lot closer than Vermont.
Matthew drummed his fingers on his desk. He stared at the screen wondering about the significance of the Brooklyn Heights library. He lifted the coded letter and studied the lengthy line of numbers listed underneath the crossword clues. Obviously a coded message, he realized, however his amateur experience in ciphers taught him that there was a plethora of ciphers and codes that utilize numbers to hide a message.
’OK…’ he said to himself, think… Why a Library? Why this Library? Is that where he intended to dump the body? No. He shook his head. Library would have to mean books…something about books… he rubbed a contemplative hand across his mouth.
His mind started to race. Matthew typed the words “Brooklyn Heights Library” into the Google search engine and hit enter. After the search engine loaded its results Matthew selected the link to the Library’s website and searched the entire website looking for anything that may help his quest.
Things such as suggested book titles, promoted books, anything that would suggest something he could use. But nothing jumped out at him.
Matthew visited every link on the Brooklyn Heights Library website and examined them in detail but it was all to no avail.
In desperation, Matthew painstakingly visited every link that Google spewed out relating to the Brooklyn Heights Library, all with the same frustrating result.
Matt sat with his hands around the nape of his neck with his head lowered. His eyes lifted to his computer screen in sudden realization. He sat upright in his chair. A book…of course. His eyes flicked to his left, to his library of books lining his bedroom wall.
He pushed himself away from his desk and jumped to his feet. He moved quickly to his bookcase. It makes sense now. He followed his pointer finger up and down the book spines as he moved along his extensive library.
Half way along the second shelf he paused then levered forward a novel from its tightly wedged position amongst his extensive collection of crime novels. ‘Got it,’ he said, rotating the book in his hand to place the front cover upmost. A grin beamed across his face as he stared at the book.
“The Valley of Fear" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.