Copyright 2017 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
Electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information
Storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
This is a Work of Fiction. All names in the story are fictional. Any resemblance to persons living of dead is purely coincidental.
Correspondence may be directed to:
Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
The date was July 12. The phone rang. “Hello Paul, something just came in that you need to know about.” Errol Baxter, Editor of the Woodbury Bulletin in Woodbury, Minnesota was calling Paul Webb, Chief of Police in the same city. “This could be big!”
“Tell me about it, Errol,” responded his friend.
“It’s a handwritten note on a slip of paper,” said Errol. It says this: ‘“I will kill on July 21. The police in Woodbury will not be able to stop me though I’ll give you five clues in separate notes. These clues will give you the name of the person who will be killed, the place, and the time. Stop me if you can!’”
There was a long silence from the Chief of Police. Errol did not attempt to expedite a response. He knew, from long experience, that Paul Webb was deep in thought. Finally, he said, “What do you think Paul? Could this be a crank call?”
“I don’t think so,” responded Paul. “I think this should be followed up.”
“I agree. I’ll be right over.”
It was a short drive for the Chief of Police. Less than a quarter hour later, Errol and Paul were in conference discussing the note.
Errol spoke first. “Here are two notes that arrived,” Paul. “The one I read to you was received first. The second is a note that Prissie, the new receptionist, gave me just a few minutes ago.” He handed two envelopes to the visitor.
Paul examined them. “There is no address on these,” he said. “How did they get to the Bulletin?”
“I don’t know,” was Errol’s response. He pressed the button on the intercom. “Prissie, how did these letters get here.”
“Through the mail drop,” came the feminine voice at the other end. “I actually saw the second one sliding in,” she added, “but not the first.”
“There is what appears to be a first clue from the writer,” said Errol as the latter studied the contents of both envelopes. He had quickly scanned what was written, mumbling its contents under his breath. “Yes, that’s what it seems to be. The clue in the second envelope is, ‘Miles Standish should have known better.’ Any idea what that means?”
“It may have something to do with the name of the victim,” replied the editor. “Maybe it’s about someone we have in our files.”
“That name in the note is familiar,” commented the other man, “but I don’t know why. I’ll check the Internet later. In the meantime, I think we ought to keep this quiet. There’s no point alarming people. Let’s both see what we can find out and meet again tomorrow.” It was agreed that they would meet at the police station the following day.
“One thing before I leave,” said Paul at the door. “Do you have a camera that catches what goes on outside your door?” he asked.
“No,” responded, Errol.
“Have one installed tomorrow,” the chief suggested strongly.
“Will do,” the editor said.
“I’ll have all post offices in the area alerted for suspicious characters,” said Paul as he left.
“What did you find out, Errol?” Paul asked as they met at the Police Station the following day.
“There was a Mile Standish in colonial times,” replied Errol. “Had something to do with a gent named John Alden. Could be the writer of the note is suggesting John could be the name of the prospective victim. We have officers stationed at or near the various post offices in the local area to see if we can catch the writer in the act of sending another note. I had a camera installed scanning the front door of the paper.”
As they were conferring, Errol received a phone call from the Bulletin. “What did he say, Prissie?” he asked. He listened. “That’s all? Thanks, Prissie. Let me know if anything else develops.”
“That was my new receptionist,” he said. “A male voice on the phone said ‘the twins shall oversee the deed.’” Neither person could offer a meaning for the message.
The two men decided to adjourn and meet at the Bulletin on the following day.
They had expected another note, and, it had, indeed, arrived. It was a plain envelope containing a single sheet of folded paper. The handwritten words on it were simple, “There is a season for all things.”
“Prissie, told me this was hand-delivered by a little boy who said it have been handed to him by an old woman wearing a mask,” said Errol. “He had been given candy as a reward. He ran away when she tried to find out more.”
"A season, a season," Errol mused. "There are four seasons. This is summertime. We've been told the date he -- or she, will kill. This is not much of a clue."
“Maybe it doesn’t mean summertime, maybe there is another meaning,” commented Paul.
It appeared that that the writer of the notes was being very cautious. Though many of the post offices were being monitored, nothing had been seen of anyone acting suspiciously. There was another note on the following day, It said, simply saying, “Beware the witching hour.” The two men agreed this probably meant the deed was to be performed sometime between midnight and three.
The receptionist reported that the note had been delivered by a different little boy who said the sender had been an old man wearing a mask. He had been told to run if he was questioned and had done so.
On the following day, a note had been inserted in the mail drop. It was handwritten and read, “What is there to fear if Friday is unnumbered?” The video from outside the door revealed a figure huddled under a dark blanket inserting a single folded sheet of paper through the mail drop. It yielded very little the police could use.
Paul and Errol had now received five clues. The date was July 16. The date scheduled for the homicide, July 21 loomed.
“I have an idea,” said Paul. “I’ve heard of a computer named Watson. Let’s present these clues to Watson and see whether the computer is able to help us. Where is Watson located?”
“I have no idea, but I have a friend who might be able to tell us,” replied Errol. “He’s a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. I’ll contact him.” He twirled a Rolodex until he found what he was looking for and dialed a number.
“Wally, we have a problem here in Woodbury. We wondered whether Watson could help us. Do you know where this computer might be located?”
“Interesting you should ask that,” responded Wally Kenyon. “The school has just completed an improved version of that computer. We call it Nostaw. What is the problem?”
“An individual is threatening to commit a murder on July 21. He or she has given us five clues. Those clues involve twins, a Miles Standish, an unidentified season, the witching hour, and a reference to Friday. I can FAX you the clues. We’re stymied. Unless something turns up in a hurry we may not be able to prevent a murder.” Wally requested the information be sent.
Errol, Paul, and Priscilla Lane, the receptionist, prepared a report detailing all that was known about the threatened murder and FAXed it to Wally. Half an hour later, an e-mail response was received.
After he had read the message, Errol called a meeting in the Bulletin’s Conference Room. Present were Errol, Paul, and Ms. Lane. Errol turned to his receptionist. “Wally Kenyon from RPI has sent us information provided Nostaw, a Watson-type computer, that says you’re at the bottom of what has been happening and suggested you need to be interrogated. Tell us what this is all about.”
Priscilla began crying and declared through sobs that she was having boyfriend problems and had decided to commit suicide in her home at 13 Winter Street in Minneapolis on July 21 at three in the morning. She had no clear plan how was going to do this but was calling out for help by sending fictitious warning clues. She confirmed Nostaw’s determination that Miles Standish was suggesting the name Priscilla; Friday and season referred to 13 Winter Street; twins suggested Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the witching hour was to be three a.m. She had been responsible for all the sham clues. Priscilla added that she was glad her plan, sketchy though it was, had been uncovered.
With the assistance of Paul Webb and Errol Baxter, Priscilla Lane was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for a period of treatment. She is doing well and has been promised her old job at the Bulletin when she is discharged. There were no criminal proceedings.
Nostaw, which is Watson spelled backwards, is enjoying fabulous successes at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Note: The author reads this story on Youtube. Search for “Mario Farina Reads Five Clues For Nostaw at RPI.”