"You must be joking!" I shouted to the Universe as I looked at my windshield. My loud exclamation brought Ms Ball and Mrs Flaherty to a halt.
"Whatever is the matter?" asked the kindly but ever-calculating Ms Ball, as she and the highjinks-loving Mrs Flaherty hurried to my car.
"The Stalker has struck again!" I cried, for indeed upon my windshield was yet another item encased in FOUR plastic bags. I called upon my two companions to be witnesses as I took the photo below and then proceeded to open the parcel.
|Another plastic-wrapped gift from the Stalker.|
This Coded Message, however, was made up entirely of groups of two-digit numbers separated by dashes. The words, or so I supposed them to be, were arranged into two sentences, for there were two periods. One of the number groups appears twice: "19 07 04."
|The Coded Message|
For some reason I have yet to fathom, the sentences are broken into four lines, rather than extended across the page from margin to margin. It is difficult to determine if there were ten or twelve words, as the number groupings at the ends of the first and third lines could be seen as continuing into the second and fourth lines. There is also no consistency in the number of hyphens making up the dashes between the number groups: 3, 7, 8, 2, 8, 4, 8, and 8. The shortest words are three letters long while the longest are eight to ten letters long. Note also the slight indentation (of one space only) at the start of the third line, which may or may not be intentional.
Friday evening, I tried various keys to assign letters to these numbers, but to no avail. I thought at first to try a simple key like the ones in the image below, but no luck. Then I thought perhaps the Coloring Book might be the key; after all, they were in the same package--there might be some relationship between the Code and the Book...
|Simple number-letter substitutions|
|The Contents of the Coloring Book--no mention |
of the Bottle Gentian, and only one Lady Slipper
|Bottle Gentian: The Final Flower.|
|Purple Club Coral in the shadows of the trees.|
The beginnings of Autumn are marked also by an abundance of mushrooms along the Trail. I have often said that I discover something new almost every time I explore it, and this time was no different. I happened upon a large patch of purple coral fungus (alloclavaria purpurea) under some conifers. Although I have occasionally seen other kinds of coral mushrooms, I have never seen this kind before. It is sometimes called Purple Tongues or Purple Club Coral. It was exhilarating to find something new.
In my excitement, I stopped to text a photo of my discovery to
|The Text-versation (created with |
I remembered, as I continued to take photos of the Club Coral, that the lovely Mrs Birnbaum was once a Math teacher, a Math teacher who also loved to grow flowers and create beautiful flower-arrangements. Surely, one or more Math teachers is involved in this ever-more-complicated conspiracy... [Update: Mrs B contacted me, using the "Send Me a Clue or a Confession!" form in the sidebar to the right; she did not confess, but she said, rather enigmatically, that there was a name missing from the "Vote for Your Favorite Suspect" Poll in the sidebar! I ask you, Dear Readers, is she merely trying to divert suspicion from herself, or is there a suspect out there whom I have overlooked?]
|The Giant Puffball, with my admittedly small foot |
for size reference!
|When is a Puffball not a Puffball?|
When it's a Golf Ball masquerading
as a Puffball.
I continued my ruminations: A recent comment from my DNR-intern friend cast suspicion upon Mrs Birnbaum, while another comment from Mr Pearson suggested that Mr Dexheimer might be involved. I was beginning to suspect everyone! I paused, after taking a photo of more Purple Club Coral, to take a bite of the chocolate bar I had brought with me...I often rely upon this divine substance, Nature's gift to humanity, to soothe my troubled mind and stimulate my intellectual faculties. I followed a deer trail down the slope where the colony of Club fungus grew and headed back towards my bicycle, eyes searching the underbrush for more fungi. "--Eureka!" I exclaimed. I had an idea, or at least a thought.
|More Purple Club Coral fungus.|
The Purple Club Coral got me thinking about the Twenty-Five Year Club! I have long suspected this Secret Society, with its exclusive membership, to be at the heart of this mystery. One or possibly two of its members have behaved suspiciously. --And hiding behind the cloak of their prestige, they can collaborate to concoct such puzzles as the Coded Message! Why, then, was I working alone?! Did I not have a community from which to draw help and support? --This was clearly a Two-Pie Problem!
Yes, I would approach the League of Mathematical Scholars and ask for their help, despite the risks. I would also challenge the Faculty and Class of 2015 to exchange (1) tips for deciphering the Coded Message or (2) clues to the identity of the Lady Slipper Stalker for pieces of my famous Chocolate Pie!
|Part of a large colony of Purple Club Coral fungus |
on the Munger Trail.
Dear Readers, you may use the contact form (in the sidebar to the right) to submit tips and clues--be sure to say you wish to reserve a slice of pie when you do so--or you may speak to me in person.
I started to feel much better--surely, this creative and collaborative strategy would yield results!