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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: Jumping To Conclusions
By Virgil Youngblood


“Listen, meatheads!” exclaimed Inspector Sheila Russell. “We are trying to recover the rarest of all antiquities – a few papyrus sheets from the personal diary of Jezebel. Do you know her story? It’s in the Bible; you ought to read it. How could you let Flaco get away?”

The two detectives looked at their shoes, avoiding eye contact.

“Inspector, -- Sheila,” Carl said, stretching his chin up and tugging his too-tight collar down with a forefinger, “someone tipped him. He didn’t spot us.”

“Is that what you think, Dunan?”

Dunan settled amber-tinted glasses on his narrow nose and looked in a black notebook. “He drove away from his house at 10:05 a.m. and went to the Water Street Pier. He parked on the curb and walked out to Crabby’s Fish Market. After a while, Carl slipped inside. The only guy there was behind the counter. We only saw three people leave: two women and a knobby-kneed gray-beard wearing red Bermuda shorts. The beard left in a taxi.”

“We located the cab” Carl said. “A package of mackerel was stuffed under the seat. The cabbie dropped him at the Cross Town Mall.”

Sheila rolled her dark eyes in exasperation. “You think someone tipped him? I think he spotted you clowns.”

“If he spotted us and fled, he wouldn’t have had a disguise with him” Dunan said. “He changed in the john. When we back-tracked to his house there was a message on the computer screen sent at 10:04. Something in it spooked him, but I don’t see it.” He handed the message to Sheila. “See if you can figure anything?”

Hi Dave,
I noticed you called my home phone. I went for a jog and saw your number on caller I.D. when I returned. Roger is coming over tonight with Sue and I hope you can join us. I know they regret the incident in the restaurant. In my house, I will be the one making the wine selection. It’s a safe bet it won’t be from a Texas vineyard. We want to see you soon. If you go by the fish market, bring fresh shrimp and I’ll make shrimp scampi. Chill. Cindy

Sheila peered at the printout only a few minutes before exclaiming, “You idiots! It’s the simplest code of all. Mark the third word in each sentence and read it backwards.” She handed the message to them and they huddled together, reading it.

“You better haul Cindy in. Who is she, anyway?”

“That’s another problem, Inspector” Carl said, unbuttoning his collar. “That email came from an internet-café over on the west side. Cindy is probably a fictitious name.”

Dunan opened the folder on his lap. “What are we missing, here? The Cairo Museum believes the papyrus may be a clever fake. They were trying to authenticate it. Their appraiser apparently choked on a spicy lamb kebab and died at home alone. Flaco was in Egypt seeking antiquities for the Siltone Museum at the time the papyrus disappeared. They think it’s strange he returned home two days after arriving without buying anything. If it’s not Flaco, they don’t have any leads.”

Sheila held up the printout. “This email says we’re after the right man.”

Dunan scratched his nose with a slender forefinger. “Inspector, I want to know who the “they” are that Cindy said was coming? She wasn’t talking about us. Everything says Flaco is just a middle-aged longtime employee of the Siltone. Maybe he was a courier but he doesn’t fit the mold of a murderer.”

“Let me sum it up for you guys” Sheila said. “Cindy spooked Flaco into running just like Jezebel spooked Elijah. If he goes as far and hides as well you aren’t going to find him. But, you might find Cindy, whoever she is. If you do and she is in a high-rise, we want it to turn out different or you’ll never solve this case.”

Carl and Dunin looked at each other. “How’s that Inspector?” Carl asked.

“You boys aren’t Bible scholars are you? If you surround her in a high-rise, don’t stand on the sidewalk hollering ‘Chunk her down, boys!’ That didn’t turn out so good for Jezebel.”

“Inspector, I think you are on to something. If Jezebel croaked and there was an entry in her diary after that date, well -- it’d be a forgery. Right?”

“Button your collar, Carl, and go find that diary. And take Dunan with you.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 05/07/10
Wow! I like where you went with this (and your whole story). I was so engrossed trying to read the code (of course, after you gave the key). :) Great title too. :)
Jan Ackerson 05/08/10
More, more, more!

This is the cleverest one I've read so far!
Mildred Sheldon05/10/10
Thank you for sharing an interesting article.