Sun and Moon (part 24)

After they had subtracted out the letters from the third box, Clay and Francesca found themselves looking at a much smaller set of letters – some black and some white. In alphabetical order, the black letters were:


and the white letters were:


“Well,” Clay said, “you’re the expert. See any patterns?”

Francesca shook her head slowly. “I see no obvious words here. Perhaps it is a letter substitution code.”

“Or maybe,” Clay suggested, “one of these people is Norwegian.”

“Norwegian?” Francesca looked puzzled.

“Yes, you know, Mr. Eeefil Norrv from Flekkefjord, international man of mystery,” Clay grinned.

Francesca laughed, and realized it was the first time she had truly laughed in days. “My dear Clay, I think perhaps you have been staring at letters for too long.”

“You could be right,” he grinned. “What got you started as a cryptologist anyway?”

She smiled inwardly. “You ask an interesting question. It is quite a story, my dear, quite a story indeed. And like many stories, this one has a rather obvious beginning. Let us just say that there was a young man. He showed up in my life quite unexpectedly. At the time I was, with difficulty, hiding my roots, so worried that my fellow students at the University in Milano would discover they were in the presence of a peasant.

“I forbade my parents or brother to visit — young and foolish I was then — although they had scraped together everything to send me there. I was the one with promise, `La Lumina’, my mother would call me. My brother never was given such opportunity. Someone needed to keep the farm going you see. And yet, I forbade them to visit.”

Francesca’s face took on a mournful look, an air of sad regret, and Clay realized once again just how beautiful she was. He hated to see such sadness upon her lovely face. “You said there was a young man?” he prompted helpfully.

“Ah yes, Giovanni, dear sweet Giovanni,” she smiled. “Late nights we would share cheap cigarettes and even cheaper wine, and discuss liberal philosophy. He saw through my pose right away. Giovanni loved the intellectual in me, but he loved the peasant girl also. I never had to pretend with him, you see.”

She looked up at Clay, to see whether he understood. He nodded, marvelling at the way her eyes flashed as she spoke of Giovanni, as though she were a girl of sixteen. “Go on,” he said.

“He introduced me to the others, the Movement — everyone was so young then — but we two had something more. We shared a passion for the ideals of equality,” she explained. “A belief that things could be better. Eventually — eventually we shared more.” Francesca looked down and blushed.

“You loved him very much,” Clay said.

“Yes, I loved him, but I was the idiot. The trusting idiot.”

“I don’t understand,” Clay said, looking puzzled. “Did he leave you for another?”

Rather than answer, Francesca stood up and turned away. For a long moment she remained silent. When at last she spoke, it was in a quiet voice. “I learned from others in the group that he had been discovered to be a spy for the Neofascists. They were infiltrating, waiting for the right moment to strike, all at once.”

“Of course at first I did not believe. How could one believe such a thing? But there were documents, there were — photos. Giovanni had not known he was under suspicion, so he had not been careful. And of course, as it happened, I was not the only naive young girl in the Movement. Giovanni was, you see, something of the specialist in this area. Oh, how I longed to go back to the innocence of not knowing,” she said bitterly.

“What became of him?” Clay asked quietly.

“I told the others I would take care of it. Of course I wanted my Giovanni back, the dear sweet man that I had loved,” she explained without emotion. “But he did not exist. Soon the other Giovanni did not exist either.” She looked steadily at Clay.

“I see … What happened then?” he asked.

“It was after this that I began my interest in cryptology. To look at what is false, and find the hidden truth, this became my obsession. It was, as you say in your country, my therapy.”

“Is that how you healed? What about other men? We aren’t all such bastards, you know.” he smiled.

“Oh yes, there were other men, one after another, but each time I felt nothing. The trust was gone. Eventually of course I made my little arrangement with Frederick. Dear sweet Freddy, my darling harmless Labrador. We became inseparable, but not really lovers in the way you and everyone thought. Fortunately he also was not looking for a lover. We were a perfect match, you see.”

“”You never loved another?” Clay asked, astonished. “I mean, as in, well you know…”

Francesca laughed. “Oh yes, there have been quite a few. I was well and done with men, but fortunately they are only half of the human race.”

“But how … oh,” Clay said, turning a little red. “I had no idea. I always thought of you and Frederick…”

“A very convenient little lie,” she shrugged. “And harmful to nobody. I have not lacked for lovers through the years. It is remarkable how easily some truths can be communicated under cover of a lie, to those who know how to look.” She smiled.

Clay returned her smile. “Thank you Francesca.”

“For what?” she asked.

“For telling me something true about yourself — something you clearly don’t tell the entire world. I am honored that you count me as someone you can trust.”

“Of course, my dear Clayton,” she laughed. “I have always trusted you. If a man were what I was looking for, I would have found my way to you long ago.”

Clay blushed, and quickly changed the subject. “What about our Norwegian friend, Mr. Norvv?”

“Ah,” replied Francesca, “while we were speaking of things past, it appears that the back of my mind was working. I have an idea about him.”

Clay went over to the table and looked down at the letters. “What’s your idea?”

“The constructor of this puzzle,” she explained, “he was very fond of the themes. We look for the words that contain the theme.”

“And what is the theme?” Clay asked.

“Why, isn’t it obvious?” Francesca said. “The theme is black and white.”

“Hmm,” Clay said, “I don’t see the word ‘black’ anywhere in Eeefil Norrv.”

“Nor do I,” Francesca said. “But I am quite convinced it is there.”

“Is it ok if it’s french?” Clay asked. “I see the word ‘noir’. Does that count?”

“Why yes!” Francesca replied, “That most definitely counts. ‘Noir’ — the night — what image could better describe the essence of the black spiral?”

“That leaves us with black letters for … eeeflrv,” Clay said. “That the hell kind of word does that make? Fleever … feveler .. refelve.”

“Refelve?” Francesca asked, dubiously.

“It’s like when you’ve already felved,” Clay explained, “and now you need to felve again.”

“There is such a word in English?” Francesca asked. “I have never heard of this.”

“OK, no, I was just making that one up. Sorry.” Clay grinned sheepishly.

“Oh dear,” Francesca laughed, “if I were still interested in men, you would be at the very top of the list.”

“Thanks,” he grinned, “I’ll take that as a compliment. But seriously, what could this mean? ‘Fleever noir … noir feveler …”

“Wait,” Francesca said, “That last sounds familiar. I’ve heard something like this before.” She thought for a moment. “Where are the files from the case where SunMoon exhonerated my Freddy?”

Clay looked around the room at the massive piles of loose papers and files. “I’m sure they’re here, but it might take hours to find them.”

“Never mind then,” Francesca said. “They will be on the computer as well. We must search for the word ‘noir’.”

Clay sat down at the console. “Shouldn’t be so hard. The case files are sorted chronologically in this folder. Here it is. OK, let’s see what comes up…”

“Noir LeFevre” Francesca read off the screen. “That’s it — the name I remember. But it is impossible. He was a mere infant at the time, and would be but a boy now.”

“How did this child fit into the case?” Clay asked.

“Ah, it is a grim story indeed. I think perhaps one sad story is quite enough for the moment. Let us decypher the white letters, and see what they spell out. I strongly suspect the answer will lie in the way two names fit together.”

They went back over to the table. “A word that means white…” Clay mused.

“Aha, I see it!” Francesca said.

“What do you see?”

“A woman’s name, again from another language.”

“Sorry,” Clay said, “I don’t see anything. Funny, I’m usually so good at these things.”

“Why it is obvious, my dear,” Francesca exclaimed. “Bianca!”

She turned to Clay excitedly, but was surprised to see him stand there, stunned, the blood slowly draining from his face. “Excuse me,” he mumbled, and dashed out of the room. He just barely made it to the bathroom in time to be violently sick.

“Ah bella,” Francesca smiled, looking down at the letters. “So Bianca is her name. I believe finally we are going someplace.”

One Response to “Sun and Moon (part 24)”

  1. judith says:

    the last three entries are hitting an exciting stride…

    love the dark spiral — makes me think of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (check an image online)

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