The next day Henry arrived at his office bright and early. Francis wasn’t in yet, as he preferred to roll out of bed at the crack of noon. It was quiet and Henry took out the pencil and a pad of paper. He looked at the pencil again and then used it to write down 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 23. He added the number s up and they equaled 41. Next he assigned each number a letter, a, b, c, e, g, y. Leaning back he pondered his first two attempts, scratched his head, and dismissed them.
Twenty minutes and three more dismissed theories later, the sound of heels on the hardwood hallway floor caught Henry’s attention. He was a bit of an expert on the gait of people. He could tell when it was Francis, he could tell when Big Mike was coming, and he could tell that it was a woman who strode with confidence. The door opened. She stood there momentarily, as if to say, I am here, take me in, I am marvelous. Wearing a Dior dress she had a figure that made an hour glass self conscious and she knew it. She walked in and set her tiny purse on the corner of the desk and asked, “Are you Henry Wood?” in a voice that was dark and hypnotic.
With a nod Henry motioned to the chair. She sat down and crossed her legs. Boy could she cross a leg. Henry got up and checked the thermostat. “It seems you have me at a disadvantage?”
“I am Miss Culberson. I need your help and your discretion.”
“What exactly do you need help with?”
“My father recently passed away…” she said with a pause for a respect full sigh.
“I am sorry” Henry said.
“It is ok, it has been a month now, I have grown accustom to the emptiness of the house. The reason I need your help, is that there are some issues with the estate.”
“Issues?” Henry said with the voice he reserved for those occasions when he knew he was being fed a line, but didn’t want the feeder to know. It was slightly lower with just a smidgeon of empathy.
“Mr. Wood, my father may have occasionally been creative with his books, but he was a good man. There is a man at the law firm we use, who seems to have it out for my father and now me.”
“Which firm is that?”
“Smith, Havershome and Blickstein in town and the man is Mr. Alexander, I think he is an accountant or something.” She said, with a casualness that was a bit too casual. Henry considered taking offense at her remark about Manhattan being ‘in town’, as if Brooklyn wasn’t, but her legs were really well crossed.
“Why do you think he is out to get you?” Henry asked while trying not to look at her legs and intrigued that yet another person is looking for Mr. Alexander.
“He has been keeping a journal.”
“An accounting journal, being kept by an accountant that seems pretty standard, wouldn’t you say?” Henry said, hoping to pry something out of her.
“I believe he had found some irregularities in my father’s books, some tiny little omissions, and he wants to ruin my father’s good name and me in the process.” She said with another, albeit sadder sigh. Apparently the thought of losing her inheritance was worse than losing her father.
“Why don’t you just go to the partners and ask them to straighten him out? Surely they wouldn’t want to lose you as a client.” Henry asked, knowing that she would have a polished and prepared answer, but he liked to hear her talk.
“They don’t know where he is. It seems he didn’t show up for work yesterday. I need you to find him and get that Journal!” She said, this time, with an air of entitlement.
“What makes you think I can find him?”
“I have been told that you are looking for him already. I just ask that when you find him, you bring the journal to me. I will pay you five thousand dollars. Here is half now and half when you deliver.” She said and stood, handing Henry a plain envelope, grabbed her purse and left.
Now he had one job, two clients, and six crazy numbers. The rest of the morning consisted of a trip to the diner for a cup of joe and lots of dead end ideas regarding the pencil clue. Shortly after noon, Francis was coming down the hall with his buddy Don, a photographer at the Brooklyn Daily News. Henry popped his head out and said, “Hello Gents, any good news today?”
“Is there ever?” scoffed Don. He spent most nights prowling the streets looking for seedy scoops. Francis just shrugged.
“Hey let me you ask you guys something?” Henry nodded towards his office.
“Sure Ace” what is it. Don called Henry and everyone else Ace. He was bad with names.
Francis, Don and Henry filed back into the office and Henry read off the numbers. Francis shrugged again. If he couldn’t eat it, he just did care. Don said, “They are all prime numbers.”
“I hadn’t noticed that.” Henry said, giving Don a nod of appreciation.
Don looked at the pencil and mused, “I wonder why there are 4 missing primes?”
The confused look on Henry’s face, told Don he should elaborate. “11, 13, 17 and 19, are between 7 and 23.”
“There are 4 missing numbers.” Henry said out loud, but mostly to himself. “I wonder…” and his voice trailed off.
Don and Francis could tell that Henry’s wheels were turning so they headed across the hall. Henry needed some wood time, so he grabbed his overcoat and hat and headed home.
When he got there the closet was empty, as it was most days. He took a piece of oak and rubbed his hand over it. What would this be good for? Henry thought to himself. He grabbed a ruler and a non-clue pencil and made some marks. The wheels were still turning.
The little piece of wood seemed to want to be turned into a tool holding device. Henry wanted to use the rare earth magnets he had bought some time ago, so he decided he would combine them with the oak and hang it on the wall. He carefully marked out the spots. He would use his Fostner bits, to drill out holes for the magnets. A quick practice hole in a piece of scrap and he was ready. The seven holes drilled out easily. Henry screwed in a magnet holder and was inches from plopping in a magnet when he realized that once it was in, he wouldn’t be able to get it out. Those suckers really stick together and the screw would have been hidden under the magnet. It was almost a blunder, but his brain was thinking several steps ahead, just like Mr. Alexander seemed to be doing.
Henry sanded the board for an hour and now was considering if he should stain it. He had some General Finishes Georgian Cherry Gel Stain that had mysteriously appeared in the closet. He wasn’t sure exactly how to use it, so he decided to think about it for a day or so.
Like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky the number 17 jumped out at him. He felt like the fog was slowly clearing. He was suddenly overcome with hunger and set out to find some dinner.
He sat down at the kitchen table and pondered out loud, “Mr. Alexander knew I would go to his office. He knew I would notice the pencil. He is a cautious and meticulous man. He wouldn’t just write down the clue. He would hide the clue.” Henry was now convinced that the real clue was 11, 13, 17 and 19.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com