As veteran Agents Salvatore Velardi, Arthur Orsi and Dan Blachford entered Philadelphia FBI headquarters at 600 Arch Street, the three black-suited government detectives had been casually discussing the amusing notion that their distinguished boss Chief Inspector Joe Giralo was indeed one hundred percent psychic. But as the chatty trio would soon discover, the astonishing and confounding “Multiple Choice Case” would become a perplexing development that would virtually confirm their speculative suspicions about their boss's seemingly uncanny paranormal abilities.
Chief Giralo was preoccupied sitting upon his black swivel chair behind his impressive Canadian oak desk, but instead of reading the early morning edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer as was his habit, “the Boss” was engrossed in studying certain words printed upon fresh computer paper. Joe Giralo instantly abandoned his introspection to acknowledge the expected appearance of his illustrious investigative trio.
“Glad to see that you three non-Musketeer sleuths could make our scheduled Friday morning appointment,” the Chief greeted his commuting work staff. “Tell me Salvatore, how was the Eagles concert down at the Wells Fargo Center, I believe.”
“It was absolutely spectacular!” Agent Velardi spontaneously exclaimed. “Don Henley did a terrific job singing 'Hotel California' and 'Dirty Laundry' and Glenn Frey was sensational doing 'Take It Easy' and 'Tequila Sunrise'. The three-hour show was fantastically great. Even Kathy now is an enthusiastic Eagles' fan!”
“Isn't Joe Walsh in that group too?” Joe Giralo asked, his timely query delving deep into his impeccable memory.
“Yes indeed,” Agent Velardi indicated. “Joe Walsh is regarded as the comedian of the band, and just like Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the guy has a well-established solo career too. I especially like his rendition of 'Life Is Good' along with his performance of 'Rocky Mountain Way'. And the fourth member of the Eagles, a fella' named Timothy B. Schmit also sings a few solo hits of his own.”
“The Wells Fargo Center has a super-tremendous sound system,” interrupted Agent Arthur Orsi. “In April Carol and I had gotten tickets to a Fleetwood Mac concert and I have to admit, the show was truly exceptional. Stevie Nicks still has a sexy voice and Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps the best electric guitarist ever. And John McVie on bass guitar really jams, especially with two particular songs, 'The Chain' and 'Go Your Own Way', and of course,” Agent Orsi prattled, “Mick Fleetwood is one of the premier drummers in all of rock and roll, going back to Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954.”
“And how about you Dan?” the amused Chief inquired of Agent Blachford. “Have you and Bing lately attended any sensational rock concerts at the Wells Fargo Center?”
“No Boss, my wife and I had spent last weekend relaxing on the beach and walking the boardwalk down in Ocean City, Maryland,” Agent Blachford answered. “We enjoyed the tasty Thrasher's French fries, had a few great meals in the Holiday Inn's Reflections Restaurant, and we also experienced smooth seventeen mile rides across Delaware Bay on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. But tonight Bing and I plan on going to the July 16th carnival in downtown Hammonton. The colorful ritual's become an annual tradition that my wife and I have come to honor each and every summer.”
Wily Chief Giralo then intentionally bemused and confused his three crime-fighting disciples by asking the frequent office visitors when was the last time they had taken a 'Multiple Choice' objective question test. Agents Velardi, Orsi and Blachford seemed momentarily bewildered by their boss's rather peculiar inquiry.
“In Mr. Tom Curley's Western Civilization class I believe, my junior year at Hammonton High School,” Sal Velardi remembered and articulated. “Mr. Curley loved presenting labyrinth-length multiple choice questions, telling his lethargic pupils that it was too hard for him to read and grade alternative-type essay test items.”
Next Art Orsi chimed-in to add his commentary to the new-found oddball conversation. “Mr. Bill Heston's tests on Herman Melville's classic novel 'Moby Dick' and on William Shakespeare's tragic play 'Romeo and Juliet' were somewhere between horrendous and abominable for an unmotivated senior like me to take and pass,” the all-too-honest agent recalled and guiltily reported. “How I ever graduated from Hammonton High School was truly a minor miracle. I almost had to petition the New Jersey Commissioner of Education in order to successfully make it out of that renowned institution of scholarly endeavor.”
“Well Boss, I had found Mr. Gordon Strycula's American History tests to be quite atrocious,” Dan Blachford attested without direct solicitation. “The guy's enigmatic multiple choice questions were virtually indecipherable, and by the time I got done reading the introduction to a test item, my total mind would be swimming in a foggy nebulous quandary. If I recall, there was a controversial issue always floating around the high school; whose arduous tests were more difficult, Mr. Curley's or Mr. Strycula's!”
“Fellas', I just have to mention that I also had the distinct pleasure of attending Hammonton High a full decade before you three Einsteins had ever evolved out of kindergarten,” Inspector Giralo incisively driveled, “so naturally I had been exposed to teachers who had become retired prior to your undistinguished high school careers. But honestly, Mr. Neil Pastore's Chemistry multiple choice exams' were predictably quite challenging, and also, Mr. Jimmy DeFiccio's French tests had often made me wish I had taken Spanish or Italian as foreign languages instead.”
“Forgive my burgeoning ignorance,” a slightly vexed Sal Velardi piped-in, “but what's all of this crazy nonsense about high school academic multiple choice tests?” the inquisitive agent abruptly asked his often-vague and evasive federal government mentor. “As the Eagles allude to in the famous song 'Already Gone', 'I can see the stars but never see the light'.”
“Well Gentlemen, now that we've supposedly discussed positively nothing in regard to our all-important FBI workload,” Inspector Giralo mildly chided his three subordinates as “the Boss” slowly opened his top desk drawer and gingerly removed three duplicate pages ditto to the one existing before his eyes, “I wish to share something rather bizarre with you notorious gumshoes. Three weeks ago I had received this unusual item via certified mail and at first inspection, I had erroneously evaluated it to be a weird joke originating from a jealous prankster who despises government bureaucracy. But now as a result of recent current events, there's strong evident to the contrary, the accumulating facts suggesting otherwise.”
Joe Giralo then methodically distributed the three previously concealed identical papers to his more-than-curious underlings, requesting that the agents read and then render their individual opinions about the rather strange scenario being reviewed. The three investigators intensely and silently read the language and anxiously contemplated the five-item quiz selections, each loyal detective having a very serious expression evident upon his face.
“Multiple Choice Quiz”
Figure-out the U.S. Cities
1. A) Buccaneers but not Pirates
B) trouble brewing
C) Marty Robbins saloon fight
D) Lost Wages
E) all of the above
2) A) KO
B) Spanish for “that”
C) mountain water tumbling, (hive-see-sea)
D) BA, BA black sheep
E) all of the above
3) A) AC/DC
B) small diamond
C) bashful girl
D) elephants and marauders
E) all of the above
4) A) hall of fame rocks
B) Bulls and Bears
C) metropolis in the fast lane
D) Rice-A-Roni miners
E) all of the above
5. A) arachnids in Virginia
B) small fruit city
C) remittances and payments
D) evaders and heavenly creatures
E) all of the above
Good luck Inspector,
Chief Giralo perceptively examined the pensive expressions upon his agents' faces, allowed thirty additional seconds for document analysis and then imperatively informed his addle-minded men that “the Puzzler” was not just a mere clever practical joker but conversely, the treacherous anonymous rogue actually represented a major threat to both corporate and government security and that in the short span of two July weeks, the complicated case that was being described had quickly escalated from a minor nuisance caper into an urgent FBI matter, its essence uniquely characterized by the new-found issue's awesome, paramount significance.
“Well Guys, what do you make out of this fairly unorthodox riddle?” the Chief frankly asked. “I'll meticulously walk you through the first two sets. Now here's a definite starting point. You might want to discard your history and English teachers' multiple choice tests and exclusively concentrate on Mr. Charles Galinas' seventh grade Geography class quizzes.”
“In my humble estimation, it reads like complete jabberwocky, total illogical gibberish to me!” Agent Velardi assessed and stated. “Run us through the first two answer groups Boss, and then Dan, Arty and I could possibly pick-up the style of thought being exhibited.”
“Okay Salvatore, but please stay focused on the fact that we're dealing with certain American cities here and nothing else,” the Boss emphasized. “Now deciphering the first set of prompts, 'Buccaneers but not Pirates' means Tampa and not Pittsburgh; and next, 'trouble-brewing' refers to Milwaukee and not St. Louis in terms of early month July events that I'll soon explain in detail, and then Marty Robbins saloon fight comes from the classic rock and roll song 'El Paso', and finally, 'Lost Wages' is a fairly awkward play on words for....”
“I get the pattern now!” reflexively boomed Agent Velardi. “Las Vegas, Nevada!”
Demonstrating splendid self-control, stoic Inspector Joe Giralo ignored Sal Velardi's excessive display of exuberance and proceeded to analyze the second set of tricky answers. The Boss decided to deflate Velardi's fantasy bubble by asking his main apostle what the abbreviation 'KO' meant.
“Could it be 'knock-out' pertaining to the sport of boxing?” Agent Velardi guessed, his emotions swiftly changing from giddiness to obvious uncertainty.
“Well now,” Chief Giralo seriously lectured, “I'm a stockholder of Coca-Cola Company, and the soft drink outfit's New York Stock Exchange ticker-tape symbol is 'KO'. As you know, the company's based in Atlanta. But don't feel bad Sal. I've been busy dismantling this disturbing dilemma, or should I say 'conundrum' for two whole weeks now and have a better handle on its elements than you do at the moment. But here's a constructive hint to guide you along the illuminated Path of Knowledge. The whole second set of favorable responses all concern major U.S. Corporations.”
Seeing that his three extremely befuddled agents were not adequate Wall Street stock market experts, Inspector Giralo continued elaborating on his rather astounding multiple choice quiz determinations. “And incidentally, the Spanish word for 'that' is 'eso', which relating to the popular Fortune 500 Corporations' index, magically converts into Esso, which exists in Europe as a separate entity but had been renamed in the U.S. as the appellation EXXON several decades ago. And very shrewdly, 'mountain water tumbling, hive-see-sea' could only signify the letters 'BCC', or Boise-Cascade Corporation, its international headquarters located out west in Idaho. And BA, BA black sheep automatically switches into....”
“Boeing Aircraft out in Seattle,” Agent Arthur Orsi recognized and immediately vociferated. “My goodness! We're dealing with an evil genius villain here, whoever this crazed Puzzler is!”
Next, Sal Velardi accurately interpreted the third contrived set of clever items. “In the second series of choices, I'll conjecture that 'AC/DC' is not the legendary acid rock band, but I'll say that the decoded translation probably means Atlantic City and Washington DC, since the general theme being applied here is American cities; and naturally, next on the list, 'a small diamond' would be Little Rock and in the next intriguing example, 'a bashful girl' would be...”
“Cheyenne, Wyoming,” Agent Orsi realized and contributed. “But Chief, how about this mystery of 'elephants and marauders?”
“That same mystification had stymied me for a few hours, but then I theorized that the right answer would have to be Oakland, California, because the Oakland A's mascot symbol is an 'elephant', and the noun 'marauders' is an appropriate synonym of the word 'Raiders'. Now we're finally cooking with gas Men; our combined efforts shrewdly connecting all of the myriad geography, sports and economic dots. Our initiative is beginning to organize into a lucid plausible pattern.”
Agent Orsi then volunteered to unravel the fourth multiple choice's possible answers. “Now I think that my mind is less cluttered and more honed-in to the exact thought process that's needed. First of all, 'hall of fame rocks' must associate with the city of Cleveland, where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is flourishing. And next Boss, 'Bulls and Bears' either refers to Wall Street in New York or to Chicago, the professional basketball team being the Bulls and the corresponding Windy City football team being the Bears.”
“Excellent observations given Arty!” Chief Giralo generously commended. “Newly derived information clearly supports your Chicago basketball and football hypothesis. And what about the odd vernacular 'metropolis in the fast lane'?”
“It's not that cryptic anymore!” gushed Arthur Orsi. “That's without a doubt referring to Rapid City, South Dakota.” After glancing-down at his sample test paper, the suddenly enlightened agent then confidently declared, “Rice-A-Roni miners is indeed pertinent to San Francisco, since the old Rice-A-Roni TV commercial jingle maintained that the delicious food product was 'the San Francisco Treat', and the miners prompt given obviously has to do with the historic California Gold Rush of 1849, hence, the pro' football team, the San Francisco 49ers!”
“Fantastic employment of the Associative Law of Thinking!” Joe Giralo praised and congratulated Agent Orsi. “You're well on your way to achieving the title of Freshman Psychic! And finally Dan, try your luck at decoding the fourth set of the Puzzler's fairly remarkable quiz.”
Dan Blachford was not to be denied earning relevant kudos from his Boss after disclosing that the esoteric phrase 'arachnids in Virginia' 'more-than-likely' meant the Richmond University Spiders, that the allusion 'small fruit city, tiny pop drink' was analogous to Minneapolis, Minnesota, that 'remittances and payments' apparently materially applied to Billings, Montana and finally, that the nomenclature 'evaders and heavenly creatures' dealt specifically with the National League Los Angeles Dodgers and the rival American League California Angels baseball teams.”
But after Dan Blachford's brilliant deductions had been uttered, Agent Velardi required much-needed clarification from the coy FBI official seated behind the prodigious oak desk. “But Boss, although this outlandish Puzzler 'City Test' is quite fascinating and interesting, how do these weird play-on-words involve the element of crime in any way, shape or form?”
“Sal, have you noticed anything unique about the four choices provided in each set?”
“Well Boss, now that you've mentioned it,” Velardi reluctantly replied, removing some summer sweat deposits from his brow, “in every set, each disguised city is situated in a separate geographic time zone. For example, in Set One, Tampa is in the Eastern Time Zone, Milwaukee is in the Central Time Region, El Paso is the only major Texas city located in Mountain Time, and Las Vegas is thriving in the Pacific Time Zone.”
“Have you keenly observed any other noteworthy pattern?” the well-prepared Boss wanted to know.
“Yes indeed Chief!” Agent Velardi proudly shared and replied. “The correct response that's relevant in all five zany and absurd questions happens to be, in each case, Choice E, 'All of the Above'!”
“Tremendous cognition Salvatore!” lauded Inspector Giralo. “Now permit me to identify and describe the fundamental FBI problem here which Matt Riley down there at DC headquarters insists that we professionally resolve. This pathetically devious culprit, who is inconveniently known to us as 'the Puzzler', has maliciously hacked into various corporate, federal and state government computer systems and the dangerous felon has also wickedly pilfered invaluable company patent secrets along with top CIA and State Department highly classified methods of operation. This wanton criminal must be apprehended immediately and his defiant brazenness brought to justice! Do you three skilled detectives now fathom the full magnitude of our latest assignment?” the on-a-mission Chief rhetorically asked. “We'll meet again as soon as I acquire more pertinent background info' on this truly complex and quite embarrassing iniquity-in-progress! Our country's reputation along with the health of our great American economy remain in dire jeopardy until this pesky Puzzler villain is promptly arrested and expeditiously incarcerated!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A week later in July via e-mail, Inspector Joe Giralo hastily summoned his three agents to a breakfast meeting in the rear dining room of the Red Barn Restaurant, Route 206, Hammonton, New Jersey. G-men Velardi, Orsi and Blachford were all eager to learn more corroborative data about the sinister and unscrupulous mastermind known only to FBI law enforcement officials as “The Puzzler.” After the Red Barn's proprietor Evelyn jotted-down the four customers' standard orders, the normally jovial Boss abandoned his ordinary preliminary smalltalk remarks and impetuously delved right into the vital subject matter at hand.
“I suspect that this slippery Puzzler fellow has organized a team of dedicated personnel, all deftly working for the prevaricator inside each of the four principal U.S. Time Zones,” the Chief austerely declared in characteristic formal fashion. “I suspect that his employees must be sophisticated computer hackers that have profound animosity for the American capitalistic economy and also great disdain for the current massive U.S. Government bureaucracy.”
“Is that why you've arranged this unscheduled morning conference?” Agent Velardi audaciously questioned. “What other germane information did Matt Riley and you manage to glean?”
Chief Giralo then opened a commonplace oak-tag folder and proceeded to distribute three of the four typed copies that had been contained within the newly obtained grammar school object. Much to the three agents' sheer surprise, the impudent Puzzler had sent their revered boss a second multiple choice test, which the adamant Inspector advised the conscientious agents to solemnly read and interpret.
“Second Multiple Choice Test”
1. The most popular black and white TV female singing group.
A) the McGuire Sisters
B) the Andrews Sisters
C) the Lennon Sisters
D) the Sisters of Mercy
E) none of the above
2. Where would you rather not play a game of bridge?
A) Dodger Stadium
B) at a Golden Gate
C) island West of San Diego
D) Chesapeake Bay
E) none of the above
3. Who was the worst U.S. President?
A) Gerald Ford
B) Grover Cleveland
C) James Madison
D) Andrew Jackson
E) none of the above
4. Most dangerous animal species is:
A) elephants in Alabama
B) birds in Maryland
C) rams in California and Missouri
D) bruins in Illinois
E) none of the above
5. Name the city.
A) red stockings
B) Bengals but not Tigers
C) Lone Star dudes, no ranch dressing
D) Is your nickname 'Gino'?
E) none of the above
After several minutes of silent meditation, Chief Giralo sternly asked his team of astute agents exactly what they imagined the second multiple choice test meant. Sal Velardi was the first to provide an erudite response.
“It stands to reason in item Number One,” the senior government squad member pointed-out, “the McGuire Sisters and the Andrews Sisters sang mostly on radio shows in the 1940s, the Lennon Sisters were mainstay feature artists on the Lawrence Welk Show in the '50s and 60s, and the Sisters of Mercy choice was a trick selection possessing no merit whatsoever. Therefore,” Agent Velardi deducted, “the correct answer has to be 'E', 'None of the above'.”
“Magnificent comprehension Sal!” commented Inspector Giralo. “There is a McGuire Air Force Base near Fort Dix just outside Trenton and there's also an Andrews Air Base outside Washington. Both McGuire and Andrews were nefarious canards specially designed to set us off searching for clues in the wrong direction. And now Arty, what do you make of the quiz's second item?”
“Well Boss, four bridges are rather coyly referenced: Dodger Stadium in L.A. became the future home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, so subsequently, we have the Brooklyn Bridge, and secondly, the incomparable Golden Gate is out west in the neighborhood of San Francisco. Thirdly, the Coronado Bridge connects San Diego with Coronado Island, and finally, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge had been constructed near Annapolis, Maryland, connecting the state's Eastern Shore to the mainland. I've driven over that lengthy span many times while going back and forth from Jersey to DC.”
“Exactly Arty, but what is the only satisfactory answer to item Number Two?” interrogated a grim-faced Giralo.
“Why would anyone desire playing a game of bridge atop any of those four already mentioned architectural wonders?” Orsi volleyed back. “Just like in quiz Item One, the best answer is indubitably 'E', 'None of the above.”
“Too bad we aren't at the 16th of July Carnival or else Arty, you would've won an authentic miniature-sized cupie doll or perhaps a rusty Dewey Button!” Joe Giralo very clearly enunciated. “And Dan,” the Boss beckoned to Agent Blachford, “tell us in a short oral paragraph what you've derived from quiz item Number Three.”
Dan Blachford maintained that question three involving United States' Presidents was also “a repulsive red herring mess” with Gerald Ford possibly mischievously referring to Ford Motor Company outside Detroit, with Grover Cleveland pertaining to the home of the baseball Cleveland Indians and the football Browns, with James Madison possibly alluding to Madison, Wisconsin, and lastly, with Andrew Jackson associating with Jackson, Mississippi. “I'm inclined to agree with Sal and Art and unequivocally state with total confidence that the correct choice is 'E', 'None of the above.”
“Admirable evaluation Danny Boy!” exclaimed the Chief Inspector. “You're developing a masterful psychic acumen for skillfully deciphering annoying cryptograms!”
“And consistent with everything else we're discussing with this second Puzzler quiz,” Agent Velardi awkwardly butted-in, “a definite relationship pattern that's in stark contrast to the first multiple choice test has been materializing. For instance, in item Number Four, elephants in Alabama refers to the University in Tuscaloosa (tusks are looser), birds in Maryland would rationally be the Baltimore Orioles, rams in California and Missouri would be the Los Angeles Rams football team, which later became the St. Louis Rams of today, and ultimately, bruins in Illinois would ostensibly be the hapless Chicago Cubs. And here's my stellar deduction from this second multiple choice quiz riddle. All of the items in Question Four are bogus illegitimate allusions, each one having little or no merit. And so Boss, Number Four is another plain and simple 'E', 'None of the above'. In the first peculiar Puzzler test, the right response was always 'All of the above'.”
“Fabulous scrutiny and marvelous Socratic deduction rendered!” Joe Giralo verbally lavished. “And in the final irrelevant item, 'red stockings' would suggest the Boston Red Sox, 'Bengals and not Tigers' would mean the Cincinnati football team and not the Detroit baseball squad, 'Lone Star dudes without ranch dressing' probably denotes the Dallas Cowboys, and the nickname 'Gino' would easily synchronize with Eugene, Oregon. Gentlemen, this entire second Puzzler scenario that I had also received via U.S. certified mail obviously constitutes a grotesque exercise in futility.”
“So Chief, tell us, why have you called us so early this morning to join you for breakfast at the Red Barn?” Sal Velardi bristled and demanded learning. “Was your sagacious purpose to have the three of us appreciate the true merits of a very disgusting Puzzler wild goose chase?”
Inspector Giralo then opened and again reached into his cheap nondescript oak-tag folder and next carefully removed four copies of a recent e-mail he had received at midnight from the diabolical Puzzler. Agents Velardi, Orsi and Blachford all sat there with their mouths agape, and the three listeners prudently read the electronically dispatched letter.
FBI Inspector Joseph Giralo,
Greetings there, you incompetent Government Bozo! By now you've finally determined that the second set of multiple choice questions has been deceitfully and adroitly assembled by me, your new-found formidable adversary, the inimitable Puzzler. Now Mr. Bureaucrat, to set you back on the right trail, you clumsy inept Dunce, I've just concocted a simple little joke for you to genuinely ponder. I now have you over a barrel Inspector, but unfortunately, not a barrel tumbling over cascading Niagara Falls.
Ask me if I'm an orange.
“Are you an orange?”
Yes I am. Now ask me if I'm an apple?
“Are you an apple?”
How can I be an apple if I'm an orange?
Have a good one Inspector, and please don't strain your minuscule brain from the rigors of thought overload!
Your Relentless Nemesis, the Ubiquitous Puzzler
“Besides being egregiously insulted, what can you conclude Boss from this ludicrous blabber?” Agent Velardi wondered and asked. “This insolent Puzzler jerk is playing advanced mind games with us while demonically denigrating you!”
“Yes Salvatore, but it's my objective opinion that the rotten scoundrel has now gotten to be too arrogant and too cocky for his own good, and I know from decades of experience that that sort of over-confidence usually means that he's about to trip himself up big time! The master of disaster will soon become the engineer of his own demise!”
“How Boss?” a perplexed Arthur Orsi injected into the dialogue. “Could you possibly be more explicit?”
“Well Arty, it's my educated gut hunch that the term 'orange' in the e-mail might be referring to William and Mary of Orange of England, and that possibly the William and Mary University campus in Williamsburg, or maybe that entire area of Virginia including Historic Williamsburg along with Busch Gardens Amusement Park has been ruthlessly targeted for mischievous computer hacking. Or perhaps the computer system at the Williamsburg Bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn might also have been selected for its general vulnerability.”
“What's the Puzzler's motive?” Blachford insisted on knowing.
“I don't believe that the condescending rascal is planning on blackmailing or extorting ransom money out of Uncle Sam in exchange for his purloined classified computer files,” Chief Giralo maintained. “The insidious Puzzler's far too smart to pursue that risky avenue! Instead, I think he'll attempt selling the illegally acquired confidential information to either the Chinese or Russian governments! But it's always the sin of hubris that eventually brings these haughty punks down to Earth!”
“So what's our next strategic move Chief?” Agent Velardi requested finding-out. “Where are we three FBI pawns to be assigned on the government chessboard to perform our due diligence?”
“You Salvatore will be dispatched down to Williamsburg, Virginia to engage in some necessary surveillance work, and you Arty,” Chief Giralo paused to inhale a much-needed deep breath, “your temporary job will be to stay on reconnaissance duty around the parallel Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges. And finally Dan,” the now-inspired Inspector stated to Agent Blachford, “your vital role in this crucial mission will be to keep your vigilant eyes on the James Fenimore Cooper House at 457 High Street over in Burlington, New Jersey. That's all the productive business I have to offer and share for now Gentlemen! Oh terrific! Here comes ever-reliable Evelyn with our delectable breakfast orders!”
Bewildered and beleaguered Agents Velardi, Orsi and Blachford simultaneously and incredulously shrugged their broad shoulders, the awed trio staring at each other with blank expressions registered upon their pallid countenances, the “out of the loop” threesome surmising that their inscrutable superior was either becoming senile or was again experiencing one of his inexplicable psychic moments.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
At noon on Sunday, July 29th Agents Velardi, Orsi and Blachford were individually notified by their eminent superior that a summary teleconference session would be occurring at precise 3 pm to “unofficially wrap-up” the intricate high-priority “Puzzler Multiple Choice Test Case.” The always-ready trio had been instructed by a cell phone voice mail message to arrive at respective government video facilities in Williamsburg, in Manhattan and in Trenton in order to participate in the Boss's urgently scheduled “group communication.”
“Sal, what did you discover while curiously sleuthing-around down there in Williamburg?” Inspector Joe Giralo inquired, his solemn face displayed upon the three agents' video screens. “Was there anything extraordinary or irregular you had noticed or witnessed?”
“No Boss. Everything was tranquil in and around historic Williamsburg and also in and around nearby Busch Gardens,” Agent Velardi verbally conveyed. “I'm afraid that my uneventful week-long presence down here in Tidewater, Virginia has been an exorbitant waste of taxpayer's money. I even got tired from riding the park's exciting roller coasters over and over again!”
“And how about you Arty?” Chief Giralo resumed his informal audio/video roll call. “Anything out of the usual occurring near the Willliamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges? Are any new trees growing over there in Brooklyn?”
“No Boss,” Agent Orsi glumly answered in a melancholy, disappointed tone of voice. “The action on both sides of the East River was slim, not even qualifying to be described as mediocre! I'd have learned more just staying home and watching morning and afternoon soap operas with my wife! My true ambition in life is to be more than a lethargic couch potato or an ambitious Lazy Boy cucumber!”
“And tell me Dan, did anything exciting or dramatic transpire this morning on your critical assignment over there in Burlington at 457 High Street?”
“Why yes!” Agent Blachford jubilantly exclaimed. “But the boisterous commotion was not happening inside or outside the James Fenimore Cooper House. Your fearless pal Colonel Bob Bauers magically showed-up on the scene and swiftly led a Delta Force commando raid into a brick residence across the street, the designated house situated at 474 High Street; and the well-trained military team was accompanied by a well-armed New Jersey SWAT squad. Together the units easily arrested a short thin fellow and quickly escorted the suspect out to a parked unmarked black police vehicle, which then rapidly sped away, dark tinted windows and all!”
Instead of explaining the crux of the sudden 'suspect apprehension', Joe Giralo then boringly and monotonously elucidated about how Burlington, New Jersey was a historic town, that General Ulysses S. Grant had had his family live there on Wood Street for safety reasons during the culmination of the Civil War, and how the small city was also a welcomed place called home to famous Revolutionary War era novelist James Fenimore Cooper, celebrated author of classic American literature works such as Leatherstocking Tales and The Last of the Mohicans.
“But Boss, you've lost me somewhere in transit!” Sal Velardi nervously interrupted his all-too-garrulous mentor. “What factor does James Fenimore Cooper along with his former 457 High Street home have to do with finding and taking the elusive Puzzler, I presume, into government custody? How did you ever narrow-down the computer thug's location to Burlington, New Jersey?”
“I had theorized from the Puzzler's e-mail riddle that his true identity would either have something to do with Williamsburg, Virginia because of the very deliberate 'orange' allusion, or his operating base would have something to do with a 'barrel'. And because of my ever-dwindling annual budget, I didn't have enough men available to also send to Niagara Falls, to Cooper Hospital down in Camden or to Cooperstown, New York, the traditional home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Incidentally Sal,” Inspector Giralo paused and then orally deviated, deliberately extending his prolific monologue, “Cooperstown, New York had been named after James Fenimore's religious father, William Cooper. The aspiring novelist had lived most of his life in his native Cooperstown. Actually Men,” Giralo elaborated, “that unique relationship of 'Cooper' with 'Cooperstown' happened to be the vital first step leading to our putting the cuffs on a certain Mr. Thomas Cask, otherwise recently known to FBI law enforcement as 'The Puzzler'.”
“But Chief,” a very frustrated and animated Arthur Orsi remarked, “what does this elusive trouble-making character Thomas Cask have to do with the James Fenimore Cooper House? Your nebulous accounting makes me feel dumber than a full sack of heavy rocks!”
“It pays to know and be influenced by American literature. That's how I'm aware of the works of James Fenimore Cooper and his early American hero, Natty Bumppo. I also owe my so-called psychic ability to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe's dark story, 'The Cask of Amontillado',” the well-rounded Inspector communicated to his still-stunned audience of three. “As you might know, Amontillado is a rare Italian wine, and a cask is not exactly a hogshead, but rather it's a sort of tightly sealed barrel used for storing and keeping wine until it's ready for consumption!”
“Now you've really stimulated my interest!” Agent Blachford aggressively stated. “But how did you ever equate the idea of a wine cask with James Fenimore Cooper and this repugnant electronic computer file thief, Thomas Cask!”
“That's quite elementary Dr. Watson!” Inspector Giralo replied, poorly imitating the legendary Sherlock Holmes. “As you know, I absolutely love etymology, the academic study of the origin of words. In colonial times, a cooper was a barrel maker, just like a tallow chandler was a soap and candle craftsman. Hence,” the long-winded Inspector continued his comprehensive video lecture, “the existence today of last names like Carpenter, Chandler and Cooper populate our home telephone books. And when the self-indulgent Puzzler mentioned 'having me over a barrel' in his last tricky communication, my hungry mind instantly connected the word 'barrel' with the word 'cooper' with the word 'cask'. And when I instinctively executed a computer search of former federal employees' names, I soon uncovered that....”
“That this slick computer hacker, the pernicious Puzzler, had been a disgruntled former NSA employee who had become infected with vindictiveness because the jerk had been fired from his government job,” hypothesized and offered Agent Velardi.
“Exactly Salvatore!” verified Joe Giralo. “And then this avaricious and inventive criminal Thomas Edison Cask, alias the now-jailed Puzzler, effectively recruited other disenfranchised former government and corporate computer systems' experts, all hired to practice their illicit acts in the four separate U.S. Time Zones.”
“Phenomenal and staggering, both in scope and sequence!” marveled and expressed Agent Orsi. “But Boss, I can't neglect citing my suspicion that you're at least partially psychic!”
“Truthfully Fellas',” Inspector Giralo courteously and modestly replied via the closed-circuit network video screens, “if I'm at all psychic in this particular FBI Puzzler episode, I owe it all to the venerable Edgar Allan Poe, to the illuminating James Fenimore Cooper, and finally, I owe it to my tough-minded high school English teacher who made me suffer through excessive grueling research on common word etymologies, Mr. Tom Alvino!”
Google: Jay Dubya books