Sam sprawled on a ‘new to him’ couch which replaced the ratty futon mattress that he used to have propped against the wall. He gazed down at a 3-ring binder full of printed photos of Jim Claxons books. Books which had cost them all very dearly and at the moment were next to worthless.
Jim had been a detective in New Haven and he seem to get assigned all the ‘weird’ cases because he had a way of making the ‘weird’ disappear from the paperwork. He was also a mentor to Detective Teddy who was starting to pick up the slack on some of those cases. Most importantly Jim was somehow connected to the weird side of things anyway and maybe even a mentor to Greg Werther who was, get this, an ACTUAL wizard.
To make matters weirder, Jim had been killed months ago and his body dumped in a pond in an attempt to make it look like a suicide… but both Detective T and Greg swear they had seen and talked with him after that. Heck Jim was still getting wedding invitations from the weird side for months after his death. If Jims body hadn’t been found when a dam was removed and the pond drained the crime may have gone un-noticed for years. Even so the police report casually brushed it off as an over-worked cop who committed suicide.
So apparently Jim’s investigations had uncovered a lot of secrets along the way. If there is one thing New Haven likes is its secrets. Jims notebooks and the rest of Jims property had been moved into a storage unit on the east side. We made an attempt to get the book secretly but EVERYONE was watching the place and apparently it was booby-trapped. Eventually it came down to an auction of all things. Some vampires, some women in suits, some fey from both summer and winter and the rest of us rabble. If it wasn’t for a mutual suicide pact, I doubt that this would have worked but the rabble pooled their resources and came up with the winning bid in exchange for everyone getting access to the secrets. Secrets are powerful only when no one knows them. If everyone knows them and everyone knows that everyone knows then they aren’t really a secret any more.
Even winning the bid had costs. It’s not like college drop-outs are swimming in cash to out-bid vampires. Sam had gotten a ‘loan’ from Mikhail Chernabog. Not just a thug but also Russian Mafia, gun and drug runner and a stone-cold killer. Oh Mikhail was also a were-rat just like his sister Malvina Chernabog. Do NOT EVER refer to them as Micky and Minnie Mouse to their face. The ‘loan’ was an advance to cover the next crop because of course Sam didn’t have enough in his current stash to cover his debt. Only sharing a copy of Jim Claxons notes after the fact had kept Mikhail and Malvina from taking the money out of his body by selling his organs. The fall harvest would help but the rock ledge where he grew his product may be unreachable to anyone but a shape-shifter or someone rappelling from a helicopter but the ledge wasn’t very large and would really only cover interest. Winter would be even worse. Might be time to sell some of Jims other stuff (hey, no one else gave a damn after the books) and buy some grow-lights or something.
Which brings us back to Jims book. The book of secrets that in itself was still a secret because Jim had written the entire thing in code. The rest of the day after the auction had been spent with Jack Storm Photographing every page, emailing it to a kinko’s and printing 17 copies then everyone counting pages, making sure they were legible and none were missing. Everyone who could handle the tech had a digital copy as well. Then we ransacked all his other furniture and paperwork looking for a cypher or a decoder. If there was a secret to unlocking the secrets Jim Claxton took it to his grave. At the end the book was carefully brought back to the New Haven Green which is something called ‘Neutral Ground’ and after everyone who helped pay for it confirmed that it was the original, buried. It won’t keep someone from digging it up but it will make it obvious that it has been dug up. And honestly, it’s probably easier to steel a printed copy or hack a computer to get a copy. Sam personally knew of at least 6 backups out in the cloud or on thumb-drives hidden places already.
Here is the thing about codes. Humans think in words made from letters and tend to write codes that rearrange letters but keep spaces and punctuation. It’s just easier to think about. The more secure the process, the more tedious. Human minds can barely handle a code where letters are written 3 characters to the right without a lot of practice. Cracking a code that a human can do in their head is trivial. Another human can do it with paper, pencil and a little time. It wasn’t until the Germans invented the Enigma machine that humans developed computers to crack codes faster than a human brain could. Computers are master code breakers because the first thing they have to do is decrypt a bunch of human thought characters into 1’s and 0’s. Then they have to translate those 1’s and 0’s into instruction sets, perform the instructions, take the results and translate those 1’s and 0’s back to characters. Cracking Jim’s code should be easy enough with enough computing power and the right seed words to look for. They cracked Enigma by looking for combinations that translated 6-character words into ‘Hitler’ because his name was in almost every transmission.
Sam may have drop-out of college but not because he couldn’t pass his CSE classes, but because he couldn’t focus on programing languages and network protocols while learning to run like a wolf and fly like an eagle… But this was different. This was hunting. There was prey to catch at the end. He WANTED to crack this code. Hungry for it. Hungry like tracking the scent trail of a wounded deer for days.
Sam needed 2 things. First he needed a lot more computing power. He could get that with the last of Mikhails and Malvinas money. If he was going to owe them anyway there wasn’t much point in paying the debt down early, right? Second he needed to understand what Jim was looking at and writing about. Without seed words to detect for he would never know when he found the right translation. He knew who could help with that.
The pre-dawn hours found Sam sitting in front of “Mikes Caffeine Addiction” waiting for it to open. He stood up when the wizard approached. “Mr. Werther. I need you to teach me about the weird stuff in the world.”