This is an excerpt from Chapter 6, from my novel The Mysterious Manuscript. Enjoy!
“The desk was cluttered with papers and there was an overflowing bookshelf to the right. The room had two small windows, but they brought in enough light that electricity wasn’t needed in the mornings. There was a computer sitting on the desk and a shelf behind it, which was filled with ancient relics and artifacts. Not much different than his home office, Jim thought. Since no one had touched anything, it seemed that Frank had just stepped out for lunch, but Jim knew this was not true. His father had been missing for a long time now.
On one wall, hung a reproduction of the painting The Marriage Feast at Cana, by Hyeronimus Bosch, which commemorates the miracle of Jesus turning water in to wine. Hanging on the opposite wall, there was a replica of the most famous triptych by Hieronymous Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights. The painting is so bizarre that there is no universally accepted interpretation. Religious and alchemical symbols are fused together with images of torture and torment.
“That painting always gave me the creeps,” Alexandra said.
Jim nodded, understanding her reaction, but like his father, he happened to like it.
“Jim,” John called. “Here’s what I really wanted to show you.”
He then handed Jim a familiar object. It was a canister, similar to the one where his note had been. This one also had a combination wheel of six letters.
“Now, I’m going to be honest with you,” John said. “Ever since I discovered this contraption I have tried to open it. I’ve tried all the logical terms and words that occurred to me, but nothing. But then again, there are millions of six letter word combinations, especially for a man like your father who spoke five languages.”
“Did you give it the old college try and tried to break it open?” Jim asked.
John laughed. “Oh believe me, I have thought about it. But on closer inspection I discovered that this mechanism is wired in such a way that if it experiences any sort of trauma, a corrosive agent will destroy its contents. Could be vinegar, or acid”
“Very clever,” Alexandra said. Then she turned to Jim. “Do you think you can open it?”
Jim studied the device. He held it up to the light and noticed the small vial with the corrosive liquid. His eyes then scanned the combination wheel. Six letters. He thought about the note. Could it be? There was only one way to find out. He carefully lined up the letters that in a way got him started on this journey. These letters formed the word that most closely described him.
All four of them stood silently for a very long second. There was a click. It had worked. The container was open. Another message from Frank Davis, another message that was apparently only intended for his son to receive.
“Well, what does it say?” John asked.
“I’m not really sure,” Jim responded. He then showed them the message.
Out of all the things the note could have said, they were not expecting to find an assortment of seemingly random numbers. But if there ever was a group capable of deciphering this message, they were right in this room. Quickly, Jim and Alexandra grabbed pen and paper from the desk, while Boris took out a smartphone form his pocket to do his calculations.
Whatever this message said, it was important enough for Frank Davis to hide it inside of a canister and then encipher it. One thing was for sure though, no one was leaving the office until the message was decoded.”
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