Aila and Jolene followed Minna upstairs to her bedroom. Minna opened the bottom drawer of her dresser, moved some clothes aside, and revealed ten bars of solid gold.
“Vilis brought these with him. He said they were the last of the collection.”
“Okay, um, wow. These would be part of it, but look at the letter – he said he sent his advisers out of the country after they had hidden the wealth. This is probably just so that you believed him.”
“Maybe. But we should decipher the disks first before going. Any idea where to start?”
“Let’s go back downstairs so I can take a closer look.”
Aila examined the disk wheel some more. She wrote down the letters in order as they appeared on each of the twenty-four disks. She did some math.
“Well, we can rule out guessing. There are billions of possible combinations here. Did your father leave any idea as to where the clues to solve it might be hidden?”
“Not really. Sent them out of the country with his advisers, I’d imagine.”
“Do you know their names?”
“No. This could be an impossible task. Who knows where they all are now.”
“Wait. It might not be so impossible. I remember reading something online…”
Aila pulled out her phone and did some quick searches.
“Yes. I was right. It could be that the key is just a few short miles from here.”
“All this time?”
“Well, not the whole time since you received this, but since 1981, it is possible.”
“Oh! I know what you’re referring to. The university. They were given some of Papa’s papers. But I was always afraid to look at them.”
“Papa always wanted me to remain a secret. Going to look at the papers might have revealed me, if some stray letter didn’t already. If the codes are hidden there, then that means anyone interested in them might be watching, waiting to see if the key would be revealed.”
Jolene rolled her eyes. “Grandma reads too many mystery novels.”
“I don’t know about that… surely someone is interested in knowing where all that gold went.” Aila replied.
“So can you look, Aila?” Minna asked. “You have no connection to me. The key will remain safe; if you just take a look at the papers, you’ll be able to find something, I’m certain of it.”
“I’ll look. Where is the library?”
“Just a few blocks from the hotel I have reserved for you.” Jolene said. “You can start in the morning.”
“All right. In the meantime, lock your doors. Do not let anyone in. If you’re right and there are people paying attention, they may have already been paying attention to me. Not many people to call on for Latvian research-related things. And they might know where I was today.”
“Don’t worry about me, dear.” Minna reached under the table and pulled out a shotgun. “I’m ready for anything they throw at me.”
Jolene smirked. “She has another one by her bed. Ain’t nobody going to come near Grandma.”
“If you’re sure…”
“I am. Be safe yourself. Let me know when you find something.”
Jolene drove Aila to the hotel, where she checked in and went to her room. She entered the information from the notes she had taken at Minna’s home into a spreadsheet and destroyed the piece of paper that she had written on, to make sure no copies would be out of her sight. She flushed the pieces down the toilet.
After encrypting the file and stashing it in a folder of old schoolwork, Aila locked the computer in the room safe and went out to eat.
The next morning, Aila presented herself at the Archives and Special Collections room of the Love Library, ready to begin her research.
The Ulmanis collection was large, but Aila started with just the first four boxes of materials – these Ulmanis’ own correspondence, rather than material about him.
It was a process that took several days, but finally just before closing on the third day, Aila struck paydirt. It could have been easy to miss – the page was a simple letter dated April 18, 1938, and had been sent to a Mr John Kleege in Lincoln. Aila remembered this name from a backgrounder on Ulmanis – the Kleege family had been neighbours and associates of his, both in Latvia and in Nebraska. The letter discussed common themes – state of agriculture, the dairy that Kleege was running – but there was an emphasis on a number of numbers and letters scattered throughout the letter, as if he had purposefully traced them over again and again. Aila copied down these letters, and did the same from several other missives in the same group of documents. There was no doubt that these were the documents she was looking for.
When she was finished, she looked down at the page in front of her:
As Aila was packing the documents back into the box at closing time, she noticed something odd. The documents, as in several archives, were numbered, to aid in putting them back in order. The letters she had looked at had been together in the box, but their numbers were completely out of order.
Someone else had been looking for them. And found them. Minna was right – there was someone watching. Waiting. Looking for the key.
Click here for Part 4. Remember, when solving the puzzle, the diacritic marks are important!
Copyright 2013, Antra Celmins.