Chapter 39 – Crack the Code

Cracking the Code – New York City, NYC

The call did not come as quickly as I had either anticipated or the director had promised. In fact, it took a whole lot longer than that, and I was getting both concerned and pissed off as the team in the vehicle became more and more frustrated. I sympathized and told them to get some refreshments, a take-away or whatever they wanted and totally forgot that it was Christmas day and felt a complete asshole. A delivery was out of the question or so I thought, on today of all days, so I suggested they use their initiative because it looked very much that we would not be moving anytime soon, and it would keep them occupied. Within only a few minutes they had found the service they required and asked me if I wanted to join them because they had also gotten a bonus of free donuts for downloading the app from the online service and they guaranteed that the food and drinks would be delivered by courier within twenty minutes maximum.

Twenty minutes came and went which was really no surprise to me, but the team were pissed about it, because it was on their plastic cards. Almost an hour later a motorcycle courier arrived with a delivery much to the relief of the team and their eyes lit up with smug appreciation, because the courier had arrived with a double order, and explained that because it was Christmas day and the delay had been well over the specified time on the website app. I did not really want a double New York Stack or whatever it was called with extra bacon, cheese and sauces and mega fries, but I ate them all the same and actually felt a whole lot better afterwards, in fact I could have eaten another but that is what stress does to you!

The vehicle could not have moved anywhere because the emergency services across the area which had been operating with only skeleton crews had been swamped with calls for assistance and the tunnel was still blocked. I told the guys to make some hot drinks in the kitchen area and put it in the big emergency flasks which we always kept at the ready. We had the capability to help some of the people around us and it was Christmas day for heaven sake, so jump to it, because we are not going anywhere for a while. I said that JC and the boys would love to see you guys put a shift in for those who are really suffering!

This was New York, and once people stopped moaning about our predicament, everything changed for the better and people actually started helping each other. Sometimes being human does have advantages, even in NYC!

The image of the agents out in the street would have pissed off all the senior hierarchy at every Government Agency across the USA, because in a time of crisis all the assets and supplies we controlled were being used for the benefit of those who had actually paid for it, and it could go down in Governmental folklore, maybe, but not very likely because they would want to keep this very much under the wraps of National Security or other political PR bullshit!

Two hours later it was still raining and miserable, the tunnel was still blocked, and the people around us were beginning to get more and more irate and upset with the ongoing situation. The morning was coming, and we had lost everything or so it seemed at this point. The director called to tell me he would be with us in a few minutes as a blast of noise hovered over us and moved to the right and landed only 100 yards away and I ran over to meet it.

The director remained in the helicopter while the blades slowed and stopped, there was nothing to be gained standing in the rain. I climbed into the passenger area and sat opposite the director who was accompanied by a sour faced woman whom he did not introduce, and I therefore did not offer any civilities in return. He gave me a update on the present status of the operation, which included the reason the tunnel was blocked, a timetable for Kirill and the Zodiacs, news from the cities of Savannah GA Mountain View MO and finally an overview from the hotel in NYC where the families had gathered. He was not looking for scapegoats or to lay blame, just to give me the facts and nothing more, he was the consummate professional, but today he sounded a beaten man.

Finally, he stopped talking and said there was no time to waste on any other matters, but there was one last thing before they returned to Washington and addressed his right hand towards the woman on his left side. She said nothing and indicated no emotions and had been almost invisible during his briefing. She opened a small black leather purse and removed a piece of paper and handed it to me. The director simply said that there was a very good chance that the targets would be gone within the next 24hrs and the paper had been in my clothing the day I had been found.

Suddenly, that was it, the meeting was concluded and it was time to go, and no further words were spoken. The helicopter was powering up for take-off as I nodded to the director and left to run back to the support vehicle while the helicopter lifted and turned northwards into the sky.

I did not notice the driving rain as I ran to the vehicle because my mind was frantic with questions. What had just happened inside that helicopter, who was that woman and what the hell did he mean the day I had been found and finally what was written on the paper?

The team were almost going stir crazy when I returned, and the questions flew at me like batons from the riot police before I gathered my composure and asked for silence and lit a rolled cigarette. At that moment, in that roaring silence of the control room the team knew something had changed. I was still in a state of shock, I was shivering and felt the blood drain from my veins like the victim of Dracula. No-one moved in what seemed like an age, before finally the longest serving member asked what the f had happened, because I looked like a ghost.

I finally composed myself and told them that I had a briefing with the director but with no details and due to the critical circumstances asked them for patience and opened the letter. It was an old sheet of delicate yellow watermarked paper with type written words as follows:

Seek and You May Find!

  • More Sighs at Midnight
  • 360Degree Oak and H20
  • Book in a City without Children
  • Creation
  • Address
  • Very Hubble
  • Thorns and Royalty
  • Fly more than one Kite
  • Step in the Right Direction
  • 1 and 2
  • 10010 BC
  • February 11th 1904

I read it over and over several times before passing it around the team as I told them it looks very much like a riddle or code of some sort and we had 24hrs to solve it. I cannot describe the next few minutes as the letter was scanned and then made visible on the screens as we started like a team of surgeons to reflect on a patient who was dying and we needed a cure but did not have the answers!

I asked for co-operation and for each team member to take their own time and look at each element separately because we all think differently, and we have a vast range of skills between us, so attack this challenge in your in ways. We also had access to some of the world’s most powerful computer systems which may or may not be an asset in this case.

I did not give them any of that think outside the box or lateral thinking crap, which had been made up by so called management gurus for corporate clients who spent fortunes on trying to impress gullible shareholders with useless training packages that were supposed to motivate teams of intellectual halfwits who were not really capable of thinking inside the box for a start. Anyone who had ever had the misfortune to attend a Sixth Sigma or Agile training course would know exactly what I meant.

We had 12 separate clues that indicated a riddle, a puzzle or some type of coded message that individually or together could be cracked and provide a possible solution. I took the paper and went into the kitchen area and left the techies to their own devices for a while and sat at the small table and opened my Apple laptop. In the control room loud heavy metal music blasted out as the coke cans were opened in the ritual nerd sugar rush. Within an hour we had achieved the sum-total of zero and I was starting to panic. I had to be pragmatic and joined the team in the control room because collective intelligence was going to be far more productive and we needed to work smarter and it did not take long for ideas to evolve.

Alex jumped in and suggested that we start with the last clue because it just looked wrong. Americans always used dd/mm/year and it should be 11th Feb but still came up 11021904. Maybe it was the metal music, which had fortunately been toned down and Noddy suggested we look at it in a different way. His real name was Wayne, and no one knew why he was called Noddy. Let’s consider just 6 digits then it becomes 110204 and think of February as being just 2 then we have 11204 which is a 5-digit number, and similar in respect to the USA zip-codes and 11204 is BROOKLYN. Now I do not believe in coincidences, but maybe I should occasionally, because that was just where we were located, in a silent empty parking lot on Christmas day.

Okay guys let’s assume that this part is correct, then in theory we should be working through to an address in Brooklyn so let’s have another look at clue 11. Joe was an expert coder and loved early coding systems and games. He was just drifting away in his usual world and started talking 1s and 0s that’s binary code BC, so what does BC 10010 equate to, Joe just came out with 18 and followed by a whole load of high 5s. The excitement was building up and our hopes were rising like a team at the local pub quiz!

Maybe we had cracked some of the riddle and that was after an hour, but we had a long way to go and I had a feeling that clue 7 should be logical. Suddenly we were all shouting out speculative answers and suggestions for Thorns and Royalty and I was thinking Christmas day and that could only mean Jesus. A crown of thorns and kings and queens wore crowns, holy shit it had to be CROWN.

This is not technically how quickly it all happened, but the next clue number 8 just popped out of my head. We had one screen that was used for TV channels and it always left on and I still don’t know why but Alex loved old kid’s movies and Mary Poppins was on and you guessed it right. Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height was fucking well playing, we could not believe it. JC and the boys had to be watching over us real close, and guess what, fly more than one kite in the plural could only mean HEIGHTS!

We had Crown, Heights, 18 and Brooklyn but not yet in the correct order but we were getting there we could all feel that it was going to happen because we were going to make it happen, oh yes indeed! We had possibly 4 correct answers and need another 8 and we were all exhausted, so I told them to do some more ordering and get whatever they wanted. I needed some fresh tea and a cigarette, I had sneaked a bottle of Irish into one of the kitchen cupboards but did not dare to open it just yet, we had serious work to do and I knew that would be a big mistake at this point.

The techie goodies arrived from only who knows where on Christmas day and they tucked in big time. Food rush, sugar rush, booze rush I didn’t care what it took, we were going to break the fucking code whatever it took, we were rolling, and it was going to happen, oh yes!

Noddy fessed up and told us that he had been looking at the first clue, and the more he thought about it the more he was thinking of Sighs, the Bridge of Sighs in Venice but the rest of us were none the wiser. He carried on with the second part of the clue, that being midnight which was technically still the night-time to the rest of us. But he insisted we should let him run with it, and suddenly just blurted out, hey guys I’m Jewish while looking at us as if we were going to kill him or something. I have an idea and I might be wrong. Yes, but you may be right, came the reply from the other guys, now get on with it!

Noddy carried on with his logic, more sighs could be more bridges and midnight could be night, which all put together would be Night of Bridges which in Jewish folklore is June 17, 1946. There were lots of moans, groans and foul language, before he apologized and we all at once told him to shut up for f sake you could be right and the fact that we all knew he was Jewish and had no problem with it!

Alex attacked the 2nd clue with surprising logic. 360 meaning circle or round, therefore associated with the word Oak should be ROUND OAK and H20 would also logically mean water. Just hear me out on this as he formulated the solution. Round Oak could be a round table and H20 could be water, therefore Round Table over Water. Who or what is associated with Round Table, yes the Knights of old, Knights of the Round Table. And H20, Water could be river, so the Table over a river could be a Knights Bridge, or one just word Knightsbridge as in Knightsbridge Park NYC, what do you think?

Please note that this is not quite how it happened that day, only what we could piece together after the frantic hours of deliberation and code breaking, and now who really cares!

The team was hyped up and buzzing and clue 3 looked perfect for Noddy, he had to have some idea on this one. The clue looked to have a religious connotation and he delivered with his own logical style. He could only think of one religious city with no children and that was the Vatican in Rome, there were most probably other cities around the world, but he had no idea. Continuing with his own logical thoughts he casually concluded that there would be thousands of religious books as The Vatican was home to the Catholic Faith, but logic dictated that it had to be and could only be the Holy Bible itself. Alex blurted out that it was always the Bible, why did people always have clues from the Bible?

The information on the screens was changing and hopefully with the correct details, and Joe suggested looking at clue 10 next.

Seek and You May Find!

  1. More Sighs at Midnight – Night of Bridges June 17, 1946
  2. 360Degree Oak and H20 – Knightsbridge
  3. Book in a City without Children – Bible
  4. Creation –
  5. Address –
  6. Very Hubble –
  7. Thorns and Royalty – Crown
  8. Fly more than one Kite – Heights
  9. Step in the Right Direction –
  10. 1 and 2 –
  11. 10010 BC – 18
  12. February 11th 1904 – Brooklyn Zip-Code 11204

There was no immediate suggestion and the number 3 appeared to be a logical step for several reasons, but the obvious solution is not always the right one as Joe opened another coke and the sugar rush had an immediate impact. He suggested that it was the combination of the first 2 clues or something they both had in common. That was Bridge and would indicate an address at Bridge 18 somewhere in Brooklyn, we had to think about a thesaurus approach to the word Bridge. We went through a whole list of words and finally came up with Pier.

One address and we were moving, but we were still missing a few clues and they could possibly identify another address or persons or something else entirely. I called the director that we were on our way to Pier 18 in Brooklyn, NYC and would be there in a few minutes. He would get the satellites to check the area for signs of activity. We had lost the links with the tracking devices and the targets were no longer visible on our screens, but the satellites could hopefully pick up a whole lot more.

Pier 18 was a center for retail outlets, and it was quiet, as expected, there were so many possibilities and we needed some luck or to make some luck. It was Christmas, so who would we expect to see working beside florists, caterers, security and gift sellers of course. There were several outlets that claimed to trade in gifts and collectibles, but only one that was an import-export business that claimed to offer exclusive merchandize for the more discerning customer.

The team moved up a gear and checked the activity on the localized communication channels including broadband, cell phones and landlines. Very little appeared to be happening and the satellites could tell us nothing. The complex was out of character with the other retail units which were decorated with bright, colourful signs with their business names and services highly visible. It was almost as if it wanted to be seen but not seen, just to be respected as a long-term resident.

At the rear there was a high wall surrounding the complex with steel access gates and it was difficult to visualize what else was in there without an aerial view. The satellites were able to provide that view, and the images showed a parking lot with 2 large shipping containers, probably 40ft long and both were black with no markings. There was also a garage area with several access doors, but there were no visible vehicles. The owners of the property clearly wanted privacy and security and the compound was almost too clean and tidy for an import-export business. There were no signs of life either in the compound or in the 4 story, warehouse building which had tinted glass windows behind which were blinds or dark curtains. It looked very much as though the whole complex was deserted and we had arrived a few hours too late, but that was assuming that we had the correct answers to the clues because we could have been at the wrong location.

There was an air of despondency and failure in the control vehicle, so I stood outside and rolled a few cigarettes and placed them in my precious tin before lighting the last one and blowing a plume of smoke above my head. I was slowly getting soaked but didn’t notice and was trying to think of something that we could possibly do to achieve anything before I was called back into the vehicle.

There was activity at the rear of the complex, a dark colored SUV had pulled up outside the gates. A person had exited the vehicle and punched a code into the security pad and spoken into the microphone before returning to the vehicle and sat waiting in the driver’s seat. That meant there had to be at least one person and possibly more inside the warehouse. The control room erupted in a frenzy of activity as the team tried to identify the person inside the vehicle. It was made more difficult due to the weather, poor light and the photographic angles which did not favor a clear and direct image of the person’s face or other physical attributes. The fact was we could not even determine if the person in the SUV was male or female. The main gate opened to allow the SUV to enter the parking area and a shutter opened to enable it to be secreted away in the garage zone before closing behind it. No other physical movement was visible, and we had no idea what was going on inside the warehouse building.

The waiting was becoming unbearable, but after nearly an hour the director was on the line with some unexpected news. The person seen entering the warehouse was no other than Susanna Bancroft, the American Zodiac which was a total surprise because all the reports had confirmed that she was still residing at her ski cabin in Beaver Creek, Colorado and was not due in New York for at least another 24hrs.

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