The Tempter Comes

21) The Clue


Sometimes the greatest joy of solving a puzzle is not the discovery but the relief



Just before dawn Toni jolted awake. Her eyes flitted around the room. Ever since Thomas told her about angst-feeders being in her house she was skittish about what might be in her room. Seeing nothing she closed her eyes but lay there wondering if Thomas was in the room next to her and, if not, where he might be. She tried to get back to sleep but ultimately submitted to her wide-awake state. She got up, got dressed, and crept down the hall and stopped outside of Thomas’ room. She pressed her ear against the door but did not hear anything as she had expected. She did not figure that Thomas would be lying in bed at that hour reading aloud a book. She wanted to slowly open the door and see if he was there but was afraid that it might creak and scare the tar out of him. She stood there for a while and then decided to go downstairs.

The sun was still hiding behind the horizon but it was now getting light out. She sat at her desk and pulled a chocolate bar out the drawer. “Good as any breakfast that I’m aware of,” she thought. In the heat it had melted slightly and she went into the kitchen to wash her hands. As she entered she saw a note lying crooked on the table. Since her hands were still chocolatety she did not pick it up.

“Wait a minute, uh oh. He left a note.” Without touching anything she bent over and skimmed the note. It was a puzzle. She raced up the stairs and stopped once again outside of Thomas’ door. This time she deliberately turned the handle and then quickly jerked it open to avoid any squeaks. Sure enough, the bed was untouched.

Toni looked around in a panic. Where could he be? Her first impulse was to go out looking for him, but then realized that he probably would not be standing in the middle of a street. He was probably hiding out somewhere. Maybe he even spent the night sleeping in a large drainpipe while things crawled all over him.

Then she remembered that Russell usually got up early so she went over to his house. As she was walking she wondered how she would get to him. She could not ring the doorbell or knock since that would wake up everyone and scare the devil out of them. If she peered through the windows she might get arrested.

But as she got closer she could see Russell sitting contently on the front step. As the faint light etched his face he appeared almost beatific. When he saw her coming towards him he first got a big, welcoming smile, but that changed quickly to one of concern. He rose and met her out on the sidewalk. She told him what had been happening. Russell got more nervous as the story progressed.

“We’ve got to go back and figure out the note and as soon as possible.”

Toni and Russell crept into her house. Even the slightest crack of their bones sounded like a firecracker. They scanned the rest of the house. Nothing else looked out of place.

Sure enough, there was a note on the table in the same crooked position.

“It’s a good thing that we got here first otherwise it would be you, me, and the snake-man meeting him,” Toni said with concern. “That would be real cozy. We could reminisce about the good time we had at the factory.”

“I don’t think that we are lucky today. Look at the table.”

There was a precise two-inch L-shape in white chalk on the table. The note was a few inches away at an angle. Russell bent over and looked carefully at the paper without touching it. Not unexpectedly, the bottom, left corner had a matching chalk mark on it. Russell picked up the note and lined it up with the chalk mark on the table. They matched exactly.

“See,” he said to Toni, “both lines of chalk are the same length. Thomas wrote this note, held it against the table and drew a chalk line half on the table and half on the paper. That way we would know if it had been read.”

“Unless the person saw what was going on and laid it back in the exact same way,” replied Toni.

“True, but it is far less obvious when you first see it in its original position. We saw the lines clearly because they were distinct against the brown tabletop. Originally, the lines would have blended in with the white paper. Someone coming in would be hard pressed to see a thin white line extending a little beyond one corner of the paper.”

“Thank you Nancy Drew. But why wouldn’t he see it after he picked up the paper just like we did?”

“Probably because he was too busy reading the note. When he was done he would have just tossed it back onto the table. Let’s see what it says.”

“I have two arms, one leg, five feet, and one back. When you are playful I go around in circles. When you are serious I hardly move at all. I don’t have much to tell you and you have to make an effort to get whatever little information I have to give to you. But what information I do have will tell you what you want to know. Start at the bottom. Who am I?” Russell paused. “No wonder why he didn’t look back at the table. It rather stuns you, doesn’t it?”

Toni concurred, “Well, Thomas always did like puzzles.”

“But why use a puzzle now. Suppose we don’t ever figure it out. Then we’ll never meet him.”

“I suppose that he used a puzzle just in case we weren’t the first ones to read it. At least he got that right.”

Russell seemed worried. “Well, we better figure this one out. So what in the world does it mean?”

They both contemplated silently for a few seconds.

“Well, let’s take it apart,” said Toni. “What has two arms?”

“Pretty much everything has two arms,” replied Russell.

“No, actually very few things have two arms. Birds, lizards, insects, dogs, and fish are all excluded. In fact, maybe the only things with two arms are people and primates. Is that right?”

Russell thought carefully. He wanted really badly to think of something else; but he could not. “I guess that maybe you’re right. Maybe we should go to the zoo and check out the monkey cages.”

“We don’t have a zoo in this town.”

“Oh, yea, you’re right. So that leaves only people. Do we know any one legged people?”

Both thought again real hard. Russell really wanted to come up an answer.

Toni spoke first. “I can’t think of anyone, can you?”


“I went through everyone in the neighborhood, church, stores—nobody,” said Toni.

“Perhaps it is someone we don’t personally know, like a celebrity. There has to be some one-legged celebrity out there.”

They hunkered down. No one came to mind.

“Even if it was a celebrity, we couldn’t be expected to call him up and ask him where Thomas was hiding out, now could we?” Toni paused. “Perhaps it is not obvious. Maybe we’re trying to think of someone with a peg leg or a prosthesis that he removes in church to scratch his back. Maybe it’s just someone with a limp that we always thought of as having nothing more than a limp, but maybe it’s really a fake leg.”

“Then how would we know if it just a limp or a fake leg?” asked Russell. “We don’t have time to hunt down every gimpy person in town and ask them to roll up their pant leg because we’re taking a survey.”

“You’re right. Maybe we should focus on the next clue. It has five feet.” She paused for a few seconds. “OK, let’s skip to the next clue. It goes in circles when I am playful. That one is easy. It’s a carousel.” Toni got visibly hopeful. “And carousels have animals on them. So maybe he is waiting by the animal that fits that description.”

“We don’t have a carousel in town,” said Russell.

“Oh, right. We don’t have a zoo; we don’t have a carousel. What kind of boring town is this anyway? Maybe the carousel isn’t a real one; maybe it’s a miniature.” She thought for a second. “We don’t have any carousels in our house. Do you have any?”

“No. But maybe it’s at one of the stores in town. The most obvious would be a knick-knack shop.” He paused. “But carousels don’t have only one leg. If there are a dozen animals on it then that is 48 legs already.” He paused again. “I’m afraid that Thomas is going to be waiting for us for a really long time. I hope that he has some candy bars in his pockets.”

“We can’t give up already. Let’s start from the top. What else has two arms.

Russell practically got up onto his toes. “I know! A clock! A clock has two arms.” He felt his chest expand. This was good.

Toni was not quite so immediately convinced that was the solution. “OK, although technically it has two or three ‘hands.’ But ignoring that for now, does a clock have one leg and five feet?”

Russell deflated. She was not trying to kick his feet out from under him but the answer did have to meet all of the criteria.

He tried his best, “Um, well maybe the long body of the clock where the pendulum swings is called the leg and if that is the case then there is only one of them. And it does have feet, although usually only four. And many of them have that moon and sun disk thing that goes around in a circle.” Try as he might, he was not even convincing himself.

Toni looked disappointed. They did not have all morning to figure this one out. “What else has two arms?”

Russell pleaded, “My leg is starting to kill me. Can we sit down?” He pulled out a chair and plopped into it with a good thud.

Toni stared at him for a second and then proclaimed, “Maybe you’ve solved it, Russell.”


“You’re sitting in a chair. Chairs have two arms.”

“Yea, but do they have one leg and five feet? Every chair that I can think of has four legs and four feet.”

As if flipping through a furniture supply catalog, Toni tried to picture every type of chair that she could think of. There were kitchen chairs, armchairs, wheelchairs, patio chairs, office chairs. “Wait a minute, what about an office chair? Think about it, an office chair has one post holding it up—the leg—and most of them have five feet coming out of it.”

Russell jumped in, “and if you are playful you can spin around in circles.”

Toni finished, “and if you are serious you are just sitting and working and not moving at all. But what is the part about information?” They both thought some more.

“I don’t know,” said Russell, “that one really has me stumped. A chair doesn’t provide any information. You just sit in it.” There was another pause. “Do you have an office in your house?”

“Ha, we barely have a house.”

“Oh come on, you have a very nice house. I wish that I lived in a house like this.”

“OK, OK,” said Toni feeling rebuffed. “We don’t have an office but there is an office chair at the desk in the corner of the living room. We just got it a couple of months ago.”

“OK, good. Maybe we’ll lick this one yet. Let’s go check it out then.”

They turned off the kitchen light and went into the living room. Unseen by them, the outside motion detector light came on.

They stood in front of the chair as if expecting it to do something on its own.

Russell spoke first, “What kind of information would a chair give you?”

“The only thing that I can think of,” Toni answered, “is the tag that tells you what it is made of and where it is made.”

“Well then, let’s turn it over.” Russell brightened. “He did say ‘start at the bottom.’”

They flipped the chair onto its arms. There was the manufacture’s tag all right and taped right next to it was an index card. They both grinned at the sight of it.

“Are we good or what?” was Russell’s confident proclamation.

“Let’s see what it says.” Toni peeled the card off of the chair bottom. “’Gather up the gang and meet me where I got the splinter in my finger at 9:00 AM Friday.’ That’s today.”

Russell looked confused. “Do you know where he is talking about? I don’t remember any splinter. He’s not talking about the factory again is he? I sure don’t want to go there.”

“No. I know where he means. You get Sarah and meet me at the gazebo in the park at least 15 minutes before 9:00. Let’s see, that’s three hours from now. You better get going. You don’t want Mom catching you here at this time. Believe me, she’ll raise a lot of questions.”

Russell quietly opened the front door and crept out onto the sidewalk. Then keeping along the houses he made his way towards his house. Little did he know that he was being followed.

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: