Chapter 1 of the latest case
Murray stood back and stared at the wall, paper scraper still held in his slimy hand.
"It is a riddle! Told you!" Jenny nudged him with her finger. They were helping Jenny's sister Kim and her husband Luke to strip the walls in the old farmhouse they had recently bought. It was more of an old manor house from the seventeenth century, standing on the edge of Tintagel with views up toward the coastline and the ruins of King Arthur's castle. They had picked it up at auction after the previous owner, a property developer, had declared himself bankrupt.
Another christmas was over and the weather was bitterly cold but as this was normally the lull before the on-rush of suspicious spouses after the christmas party season, Murray had agreed to help with some of the lighter renovations. The two of them had spent the morning stripping the ugly, dated eighties wallpaper from the drawing room walls only to uncover a written message underneath.
"Can you find what we found?" Jenny read out loud. "A cover at the top, the rain it will stop. A gymnast's balancing act. Is where you go from here and that's a fact." She stood staring at the riddle on the wall. Murray read it again in his own mind and smiled to himself, years of sitting in his car doing crossword puzzles hadn't been a complete waste of time after all!
"Right, still the rest of this corner to finish." he grinned.
"What?" Jenny stared at him. "Aren't we going to solve it?.... KIM! In here quick! We've found a riddle, you might have hidden treasure buried in your back garden!"
Within minutes both Kim and Luke were stood alongside Jenny staring at the message scrawled across the wall in black letters. Luke read it out.
"... Sounds like a challenge to me!" He stood with hands on his hips. Luke was a deep sea diver by profession and as much as Murray tried, he just couldn't take to the man. He was too much of a 'know-it-all'. "What do you make of it Murray?"
"Probably just a joke. Is it time for a coffee break?"
"Murray! You're usually pretty good at this sort of thing. Can't you work it out?" Jenny gave him one of her pleading looks.
"I'll think about it while we finish this." He turned back to the unfinished wall.
"Ok. I'll put the kettle on. Maybe he'll think better after some refreshment!" Kim headed to the makeshift kitchen to make coffee.
"Come on babe, I know you've already worked it out. What does it mean?"
Murray stepped back once more and met Jenny's stare. Should he tell her? He didn't really want to tell Luke but he couldn't help but break into a smile.
"Ok." he said. "What goes on top of a house to keep the weather out?"
"Erm... a roof?"
"And what does a gymnast perform her balancing act on?"
"Oh... er... the long thingy? Erm... oh, a beam!"
"Ah, I'm with you." Put in Luke. "It's sending us up to the roof. Next clue's on one of the roof beams right?"
"Ah! How do we get up to the roof? Luke?" Jenny turned to her brother-in-law.
"This way." He led them, Murray reluctantly putting down his scraper, up the staircase and along the landing, around a corner and up another small set of stairs to the attic. "The roof!" he announced. "How old do you think this riddle is?"
"The house is really old isn't it?" Jenny was already searching the exposed parts of the beams.
"The wallpaper ain't that old babe! Twenty, thirty odd years? I suppose whatever they found could be any age though."
"WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?" Kim's voice bellowed up the hollow sounding hallways.
"We're up in the roof!" Luke called back as his wife appeared carrying a tray of mugs.
"Leave me behind why don't you!" She placed the tray down on the planked floor and handed out the mugs. "So we're looking for a second riddle then?"
"Yep! What do you think's at the end of it?" Jenny was letting her gaze follow another beam.
"Not a lot." muttered Murray.
"Don't be such a kill joy!" Jenny glared at him but he only cast her a quick glance back.
"Well, think about it."
"We are. That's the whole point! What do you reckon? Something to do with King Arthur?"
"Yeah, come on Murray, you're the great detective! Someone's taken the time to write these riddles, they must lead to something." Murray threw a quick glance towards Luke before turning his back and staring at a beam.
"I'm sure there was something at the end but I doubt it has anything to do with King Arthur, anything genuine anyhow."
"Why do you say that babe?"
"Because King Arthur was a mythical king! There's no solid proof of who he was."
"Ooh! Maybe this'll lead to some real evidence then! Maybe a tomb or something under the house?"
"Kim, this is a two-hundred year old house! King Arthur is from the sixth century!" Murray was laughing again now.
"House could have been built on top." Kim sulked.
"Now you're getting the idea... wheels and ... horseshoes? think that's what it says? Wheels and horseshoes you'll find here. People arrive and people leave, follow this riddle and believe. It may be cold and draughty out here but a secret awaits you, never fear." Luke stood back and stared up at the beam above his head. "I think I found it!"
"Read that again." Kim went over and stood next to him.
"Now you're getting the idea, wheels and horseshoes you'll find here. People arrive and people leave, follow this riddle and believe. It may be cold and draughty out here but a secret awaits you, never fear." Luke glanced at Murray. "Well? What do you make of that?"
"What do you make of it?" he asked back.