Sherlock's Solution to January's Mystery
Thank you for participating in January’s “Dear Holmes” mystery. Below is the solution to the mystery, recently mailed to you by Mr. Holmes. Before sharing it, I’d like to remind you that, whenever you solve next month’s mystery, you can share your solution with us here. Starting next month we will feature the best solutions and award those who wrote them with “Detectives of the month”.
—— (Warning: Spoilers ahead). ——
14 April, 1887
My Dear Watson,
I write these lines courtesy of Baron Maupertuis, who thankfully bolted prematurely, thus acknowledging his guilt and placing him in the sure hands of the French police. His scheming is at an end, although I fear that the reverberations will ring for quite some time as the rot we uncovered is rooted out (to mix my metaphors.)
While I enjoy my well-earned relaxation, and every comfort that the Hotel Dulong can supply, I will take a moment to reply to your most recent letter and explain my solutions to the various puzzles in relation to your acquaintance, Edward Polmayne, and his inheritance.
The insight into the initial message being related to the stairway, and the subsequent discovery of the new carvings upon the stair risers, was quite useful, as it gave me an indication into the thinking of Mr. Martin Polmayne. I pondered over the various meanings of the curious line figures, even for a moment considering some obscure variant of the ogham language. Then, I considered the arrangement on the rising and subsequent steps, and it occurred to me to rotate the sketch ninety-degrees clockwise, to view it the way one tilts one's head to read titles on the spines of books, lined up across a shelf.
You had presented the carvings in your letter in reverse order, with the top step copied first and so on to the bottom, when it fact the first carving that you drew should have been presented on the left, at the beginning of the message (which actually records lines of text.) Removing the separating spaces between the carvings necessitated by the physical placement of the stair treads revealed something like this . . .
. . . and filling the edges produced something more legible (as well as using a great deal of my ink!) This, with some imagination, can be read as Tempus Fugate Magna Fortuna.
I'm uncertain of my Latin to know if this is the correct form, but it is what Martin Polmayne intended. Time Flies Great Fortune. It might have been simply a warning that the puzzle had a limited time to be solved, but if so, that wouldn't advance young Edward a single jot toward the solution. Thus, I chose to take "time" more literally, and recalled the great clock which you had described in the otherwise mostly emptied house.
Following my advice, you examined the clock and sent me the curious message made up of O's, C's, X's, V's, and I's. After consideration, I realized that, except for the O's and C's, the other letters were those used as the basic units for smaller Roman numerals. Specifically, these numbers were connected with the numbers associated with clocks and telling time. 'I' for one o'clock, 'II' for two o'clock and so on. After the a.m. (or daytime) twelve-hour period, the numbers start over at night, running from one to twelve again, or I to XII.
This of course gives us twenty-four time periods - a number which is close to the twenty-six in the alphabet. This realization gave me the suspicion that this was a simple substitution code. But then what did the O's and C's mean? Suddenly it was so simple. The O represented the sun, or day, and the first twelve time periods - or the first twelve letters of the alphabet. The C was then the moon, or the second twelve time periods, and naturally the thirteenth through twenty-fourth letters of the alphabet.
With that in mind, the code becomes:
A - OI
B - OII
C - OIII
D - OIV
E - OV
F - OVI
G - OVII
H - OVIII
I - OIX
J - OX
K - OXI
L - OXII
M - CI
N - CII
O - CIII
P - CIV
Q - CV
R - CVI
S - CVII
U - CIX
V - CX
W - CXI
X - CXII
Y - CXIII
Z - CXIIII
(Presumably, if the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth letter of the alphabet - Y and Z - were needed, they could be written as shown, which I worked out from the message itself, or in some similar way.) Using this, I saw that the O's and C's served as natural breaks to indicate where each letter began. Thus, the coded message -
O I C V I I O X I C V I I I O V I I I O V O V I I I O I C X I I I O V C V I I
- was easily be deciphered as "Ask the Hayes".
The musical clue was quite easily explained. The notation at the top was possibly placed there to imply (to someone who didn't know better) some sort of tempo marking or instruction to the player. However, the Italian phrase "Via A" - loosely translated as "Go to" - followed by a series of numbers that could very well be coordinates - Latitude 51.48, and Longitude 0 - could only lead to just a pair of places on earth, and since you didn’t need to gothe ocean between Cape Town and Antarctica, it must mean the Prime Meridian at Royal Observatory at Greenwich. (My congratulations upon also perceiving this!)
The musical "composition" was quite straightforward as well. The first note to sound, a whole-note "C" in the base clef, is solitary by means of the quarter-rest above it. It is held throughout the two-measure piece, tied to a similar "C" in the second measure. In the treble clef, the quarter-rest is then followed by an "A". Then another quarter-rest, implying a space and indicating that the "A" stands alone, before the notes "B", "E", "D", and "E" are indicated.
With these various pieces identified, the message clearly reads: "Go to 51.48 - 0. See A. Bede. "
While all of this was an elementary child's play of deduction, it did serve as a much-needed distraction from the cut-and-parry work as the Baron attempted to squirm out of the trap, and for that I'm grateful.
I appreciate your letter telling me of the happy ending of the affair. Now I find myself rather weary. I cannot make the staff here at the hotel understand just what kind of tobacco that I desire, and the knocking upon my door by various officials who either want to ask questions or congratulate me is becoming quite tiresome. I believe that I will save this letter to deliver personally into your hands, and send a wire inviting you to join me here. Assuming that you accept, I look forward to your arrival, Watson, but for now I believe that I will attempt to sleep.
With very best regards,