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Short in stature, balding egg-shaped head, cherub faced with a stiff, thin upward-curled moustache made his Frenchman’s persona stand conspicuously out in the English crowd. Hercules Poiret in his early 50s’, flicked an imaginary speck of dirt off the sleeve of his dandy suit as he stepped down onto the tarmac at London Airport.
Back in Paris a body of a young English man had been found at a secluded spot under the bridge on the bank of the river Seine. Shot in the head, the man lay in a pool of blood with the door of his Sedan thrown open and him spilling out of the car like a sand bag.
Hercules Poiret was investigating the case and had scrutinized the crime scene, in his trademark orderly manner. However he had recently hit upon a new theory of bringing about a radical change in his methods. He thought that a detective should solve the case by enquiring into the victim’s nature or by analyzing the murderer’s psychology.
This new belief had died a pre-mature death when the first vital clue to the murderer was found.
The cell phone clenched tight in the dead man’s right fist had the ‘Drafts’ window open. Besides two other messages that were typed out but not sent, was one last message that read “He'll mesh crooks- The Muru.”
“Looks like the victim is referring to the one who can help us nab the crooks…” observed Doyle “….but ‘The Muru’ is his name?”
Instead of a pat on the back for his quick observation he was only glowered at by Poiret. Robert Doyle’s shallow intelligence and inquisitive nature wasn’t appreciated and Poiret wished his good comrade stopped crossing the line during investigation.
It was indeed a cryptic clue and Poiret knew just the person to hack it!
Looking up at the London sky Poiret now sighed, sensing the heat wave and observing that the temperature was well above 30°C. As he made his way through the milling crowd of Londoners, his patent leather shoes crackled at every step. As he walked away from the runway he hoped that his little grey cells hadn’t been affected by age and there was enough in them, still, to solve this case at hand.
Close at his heels now, Doyle repeated his question to Poiret. He hated it when important details of the plan were hidden from him.
“….but what are we doing in London? Shouldn’t we be heading for America instead?”
Hercules Poiret had contacted Professor Dan Langdon immediately. The Professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology at Harvard University, Dan Langdon had risen to international fame by playing the prime aide in solving many cases in the recent past. Poiret duly copied the message in the ‘Draft’ from the victim’s cell to his own phone and forwarded the SMS to him. Within moments Dan Langdon had replied via another SMS.
“In the times of Moses, the meaning of ‘Themuru’ meant anagrams; words with hidden meanings. So ‘He'll mesh crooks’ is an anagram to be read as Shemrock Holles. He’s your man!”
Poiret was thoroughly impressed at the speed with which Langdon had replied. Now that the clue had been decoded, Poiret wondered why such a simple answer hadn’t come to his mind.
“One of the most ingenious and gifted artists alive!” concluded Poiret regarding Prof. Langdon with awe. He was happy that the first hidden meaning in the message had been revealed and a tad bit uncomfortable about having to come face to face with the legendary Shemrock Holles, his rival of all times. Yet he was the one who had also idolized Shemrock Holles.
Looked like destiny wished they let go off all inhibitions and work on this case together!
Shemrock Holles was a brilliant London-based consulting detective, internationally acclaimed for his extreme intellectual prowess, enormous scope of observation and astute logical reasoning! Even the most twisted of cases, abandoned as hopeless by the police had been resolved by Shemrock through his honed forensic science skills.
As Hercules Poiret & Doyle arrived at Shemrock’s III floor apartment in the Vth Avenue off Baker Square, they found a jaunt butler waiting on them, in a typical old world manner. The entire ambience within had clearly an air of bachelorhood to it, calm and sordid! No aroma of baked cookies filling the nostrils, instead there was a damp and musty odor of hard bound books & gum, thick in the air. The duo found the tall Shemrock Holles almost buried between piles of books and chronicles on the floor of the study.
The Bohemian soul had grown old and now sported a silver head. Though almost a septuagenarian, he was up on his feet within no time, waving his guests towards a pair of high backed, antique styled, swivel chairs. He perched himself on the table and requested the butler to replenish the guests with Coffee and biscuits.
After the initial pleasantries, Shemrock addressed Poiret “Without much ado I’d like to get to the purpose of your visit Monsieur.”
“I am most eager too Mr. Holles!” replied Poiret.
“It was most surprising that the victim should refer my name to you because he had never met me in person….” The portly, Tweed suited Shemrock puffed out his chest in an appearance of a sudden surge of self pride.“…..only until I scrutinized all the photographs of the crime scene!”
With this he turned his laptop to face the two gentlemen. One by one the photographs were being displayed on the screen.
"This victim is a rich British tradesman. Besides this obvious fact I also deduced from the photographs that he was involved in manual labour and had been to America more than once.”
Taken aback by the surety in his tone of voice, Doyle comments, “How in the name of God can you be so sure?”
They both failed to notice Poiret’s face twist into a grimace and brows frowning as he peered at the pictures.
It’s elementary dear Mr. Doyle.”, exclaimed Shemrock.
“The crisp beige pants and stylishly unbuttoned, black silk shirt, Versace blazer and neck- tie speak a lot about his financial well-being. The car must have been hired considering he was a guest in France. Observe the right hand clenching the phone. It is quite bigger than the left and the muscles are well-developed as if he’s worked hard with that arm. He’s wearing a $ shaped gold tie-pin. That tells me it’s a memorabilia from America. Also how can we miss that magnificent tattoo on his chest? Observe that the tattoo of the soaring eagle has red wings with the pattern of the Star-Spangled Banner on it. This re-establishes my deduction.”
“That last observation has hit a bull’s eye because the victim’s wallet did have some fresh currency from the USA along with his personal ID. We also acquired a laptop from his back seat that has all kinds of design software loaded on it. That tells us, he was a graphic designer. And he had indeed visited Paris and USA on a tourist VISA according to the passport obtained from his laptop bag.” said Poiret his green eyes gleaming with excitement. “…but where does all this lead to?”
“Now this British tradesman had led you’ll to me through an anagram for the sheer reason that the day before he was murdered he had already sent an envelope to me through courier.”, said Shemrock, reaching into the drawer of his large Oakwood Table.
He handed the envelope over to Poiret who eagerly drew out the contents and placed them on the desk. Along with an Apple USB 6GB Pen Drive was a crisp, ivory white letterhead. A graphic symbol of the sculptor’s chisel and hammer faintly watermarked on the body caught their eyes. Drawn on the reverse was an octagon in a bold red, sketch pen outline. In the centre of the octagon written with a black ball point pen in long, slanting, cursive hand were these words,
"The Moon starers, They see
She’s built to stay free.
Of machines apt to help,
She’s built to stay free.
Of machines apt to help,
A seller shall yelp!”
"Now you see why I believe that the British man who was killed was the same sculptor who sent me this packet, my man?” concluded Shemrock.
“Probably he intended to meet you as soon as he’d returned to London but that never happened. The Pen drive must have some vital information or important documents, the safety of which he ensured by mailing the Pen Drive to you, Mr. Holles.” observed Poiret aloud.
“I completely concur with you Monsieur Poiret that pen drive is unquestionably the motive of the killing and the purpose of these chain anagrams. You can access it. Here..” with this Shemrock pushed his laptop towards Poiret.
They connected the USB drive and browsed the files saved on it. Besides a few images and tattoo designs they didn’t find anything of such importance that one could kill to get access to.
“There must be more to this than meets the eye. We have to find out what the hidden meaning of this quartet is? Why would a man want to safeguard a pen drive and then get killed for it? Why do I get this feeling that this case is of national importance?” said Poiret, looking up from the laptop.
After thanking the retired sleuth Shemrock Holles, for his time and patience and for sharing most vital information on the case, Poiret rose from his seat and concluded the meeting.
After they bid adieu at the door, Poiret informed Doyle, “I probably do need to meet Prof. Dan Langdon in person!”
After following the example of Shemrock Holles in his investigations: footprints, fingerprints and cigar ash, for almost all of his career, Hercules Poiret was greatly enamored by this relatively new faculty of science that surfaced as a clue at most current crime scenes.
His dream of watching Prof. Langdon solve a case, in person, was about to come true.
They met Prof. Langdon at the Harvard University in Massachussets. The professor sat appraising the sheet of paper with pursed lips. “The Red Octagon most definitely means STOP in Symbology.” he’d stated within minutes, like before.
Not as aged as his name sounded, the professor was definitely much younger than himself, Poiret observed. Lean and lanky Prof. Langdon had curly, wispy hair with a high forehead but definitely not a receding hairline. The most endearing aspect about Prof. Langdon’s personality was his quick smile that strongly reminded of the Hollywood actor Tom Hanks.
“This is not too difficult to crack Monsieur.” Prof. Langdon’s voice jerked Poiret out of his reverie.
“This man who scripted these lines was definitely not an expert on the subject but had a little above average intelligence and enough exposure to the cases I’ve solved in the past. Inspired by that, I must agree, he has made a fairly good attempt at the usage of anagrams in order to communicate his message and yet smartly keep the exact purport hidden from all.”
Prof. Langdon proceeded to enumerate, “Observe, The Moon starers can be reorganized to read as ‘The Astronomers’. And what do They see with? The Telescope!”
“ Aahaa!” exclaimed Doyle and Poiret in unison.
Now Prof. Langdon had started thinking aloud and Poiret felt it best not to interrupt his train of thoughts with their exclamations. Doyle and he waited with bated breath, listening to Prof. Langdon’s soliloquy. Prof. Langdon was now concentrating on the next line, “….but wait! I see another hidden meaning in these lines. Reshuffle She’s built to stay free. And what do we have here? Voila! ‘The Statue of Liberty’.” Prof. Langdon exclaimed in a tad bit higher pitch in frenzied excitement.
“ ….If we also read They see as an anagram then it translates as ‘The Eyes’. Hmmm…”
Clapping his hands together, Prof. Langdon stood up and exclaimed “We all know the eyes are the WINDOWS to our soul!” Looking now at Poiret and then at Doyle, professor shouted, “Don’t you see it? Didn’t you understand what these lines are communicating?”
Sheepishly Poiret attempted to draw a meaning. Not so confidently, he spoke, “If I link all the three lines up as per your inference…. ‘We should STOP and see with telescopes from the windows of the Statue of Liberty.’ Is that what you mean? Or better still, ‘We should STOP what we see with telescopes from the windows of the Statue of Liberty.’ ”
“Yes, that’s exactly the hidden meaning in these lines here!” said the professor with a grin.
"You mean we’ll know the reason of the British sculptor’s murder once we reach the Statue of Liberty? And we’ll need a telescope for that. Then that would also mean that we are to search for clues in the skies. That doesn’t make any sense. What is the purpose of the pen drive then in this case?” Poiret exclaimed in utter disbelief.
“Wait Monsieur, you are jumping to conclusions. Shouldn’t we try decoding the remaining lines and then deduce the hidden purport in entirety?
Hercules Poiret couldn’t agree more at this point. His grey cells did seem to be getting a bit redundant by the way he was losing patience and focus. He had a sinking feeling within, since he didn’t have much to contribute, again at this point.
“Now let’s see, Of machines apt to help. Should I try and rearrange these letters now? That should be ‘The Apple Macintosh’. Aah! That was easy.”
Poiret had nothing to say to this so he continued to sit resignedly while Prof. Langdon continued, “And if we read this meaning along with the next line, A seller shall yelp…”
“That means the dead man has indicated that a salesperson at an Apple- Mac outlet may bark at us, if we approach him!” Hercules Poiret had suddenly cut in and was taken aback at his own unabashed tone while making the observation, aloud. He suddenly also felt rejuvenated at the feeling that his little grey cells hadn’t given up on him after all!
“Congratulations!” boomed Prof. Dan Langdon, “You are catching up fast Monsieur Poiret! You are bang on right!”
“We shall take your leave now professor.” said Poiret rising from his seat. “We still have much to do. I’m extremely thankful for your flawless guidance and do let me return this favour in the near future. Over dinner?”
“It has been completely my pleasure, Monsieur. Most definitely we will meet again, to make friendly conversation. Over dinner it is!”
Travelling about 250 kms, they put up at The French Quarters Guest Apartments. Once they had settled in their suite, Doyle could not contain himself anymore “ …but I still don’t see the link between watching out from the window and that yelling salesman?”
“You shall know more only after doing what we have been indicated to do.”, answered Poiret in an all-knowing tone.
Doyle wondered why, only when in the company of Hercules Poiret he felt like a lesser being, especially when he was smirked at.
The next day at around 8.30 P.M., with special permissions and a couple of NYPD officials, Poiret stood peering through a telescope up in the crown of the Statue of Liberty. He spotted the Apple-Mac showroom and let Officer Fopp take a look too. Officer Fopp appeared very animated and began issuing a string of instructions to his team. 3 patrol cars had already surrounded the Apple-Mac showroom building and Officer Fopp ordered them to move out of their vehicles, into the building and arrest all those involved in the business on the topmost floor.
“Our men had an inkling about such hidden operations but weren’t successful in locating their hide-out. Now we’ve caught them red-handed. I owe you one, Monsieur Poiret!” boomed Officer Fopp.
“With this I announce The Pursuit of the Hidden Meanings over!” said Poiret laughing out loud in exhilaration.
Doyle stood there stupefied. After a moment of dumbfounded silence, “I beg your pardon! May I have an explanation to what just took place?”
“Most certainly my man! You deserve to know.” replied Poiret and proceeded to update poor Doyle.
“Yesterday while you were snoring the roof down, I went back to the Pen Drive. I simply did what came to me. I accessed the pen drive from my laptop, enabled the ‘Show Hidden Files & Folders’ option and Lo & Behold! There were a plethora of new images before me, which weren’t visible when we’d checked in Prof. Langdon’s presence. Print files and high resolution images of U.S. Dollar Bills, French Francs, and European Pounds fell before my eyes. That’s when I immediately understood that the dead British sculptor was leading us to a Forfeit Currency Racket. Probably which he was himself involved in and had quit. He must have known that he would be surely killed by their chief some day!”
Doyle’s mouth was agape hearing Poiret explain.
“Now, if you look through the telescope you shall see the site of the clandestine operations, there hidden behind those huge Oaks. They have about 3 minting machines in the attic of the Apple-Mac building. How can anybody forget to keep such activities hidden behind curtains? Here, see it and believe!”