September 28, 2014 – I rolled out the treasure map and studied it with the magnifying glass for over an hour. Aside from the typical markings one might find on such a sketchy document, I could find no clue verifying the validity of the map or the person responsible for sending it. Of all the conundrums I’ve been involved in over the years, this one certainly has me stymied.
What if there was a code hidden, not in the treasure map, but in the items themselves! I wrote down every letter of every gift Charlotte has received thus far:
Lion T-shirt, porcelain chipmunk figurine, buried treasure map, pink-streaked marble
I worked like crazy trying to decipher a hidden meaning. I read the words frontwards and backwards to no avail. Then I tried rearranging the letters to see if a secret message would appear. I nearly fell off the tree stump I was sitting on when the following anagram appeared:
Caution – Intrepid alien skunk ship to kidnap Peaches. Alert FBI. Remember Rum Girl! Urr
“Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!!!” I cried, scrambling to grab my notes and call an urgent meeting of the Chicken Safety Patrol.
Where was everyone?
I couldn’t run fast enough. I barreled around the smelly bush and slammed right into Sawyer and Wilma.
“Space ship! Skunk! Peaches! Dreadful!” was about all I could manage to spit out.
“Did you take a dip in the fermenter?” Wilma accused, “because you’re battier than a feline on catnip.”
“Take a breath,” Sawyer said motherly. “You’re panting as if it were 100 degrees outside.”
I took a moment to steady my nerves. We had to find Peaches and keep her safe. We had to figure out what to do. We had to find out who Rum Girl is and why we need to remember her.
I spilled everything and showed them the puzzle I had solved.
“An alien skunk ship? Are you drunk?” Wilma asked sniffing around my head with her beak.
“NO!” I insisted. “This is important! Peaches’ life could be at stake!”
“Hap,” Sawyer began calmly, “even if this message were true, who would be sending it? What does it all mean? And why do you have URR here at the end?”
“Those are the left over letters,” I explained.
Wilma snorted. “You had to have been hatched out of a cracked egg!”
I ignored her, turning my attention to Sawyer.
“Maybe I have extra letters because there’s another gift on the way. Maybe it will make sense then. I don’t think we should wait to find out. I think we should do as the secret code says and contact the FBI.”
“And tell them what?” Wilma cackled. “That one of our hens is getting unsolicited gifts from, according to the illegal fingerprint scan you ran, a human female who just happens to have knowledge of alien space skunks on their way to kidnap our most innocent chicken?! Why didn’t this person just call Charlotte or Peaches directly? If this is so urgent, why is she playing a word game that’s taken months to solve?!”
I hate it when Wilma makes more sense than my scientifically minded brain. I couldn’t explain why, but my gut was telling me that I was close to breaking this case wide open.
“Look, Hap… your instincts are always spot on. If you think there’s something to this, then let’s take the next step.”
“We need to keep Peaches safe first and foremost,” I stated, “and I don’t think we should tell her. There’s no sense in worrying her until we know for certain who or what we’re dealing with. I’ll round-up the others for a meeting. Maybe Charlotte can shed some light on the riddle.”
“I think I’ll stay behind and flash empty pie plates into the sun,” Wilma chuckled sarcastically. “You know… in case the alien skunk ship tries to land in the chicken yard.”
Laugh all you want, queen of sarcasm. I knew from the get-go that there was something fishy about these packages. I’m not going to rest until I find out what it all means.