Galbraith noted that there was not a single mark or even a stamp on the thick white paper that made up the envelope - it seemed as if the postmaster had handed the inspector not a real letter, but an element of theatrical props. The only thing that cast doubt on this was that the contents inside could be felt through the envelope.
- Hey, good sir! - a hoarse shout was heard.
Galbraith, who was about to open the parcel, involuntarily shuddered. It turns out that it was a taxi driver who was standing next to his car and, leaning on the door, holding a smoking cigarette in his hand. The inspector was able to get a good look at his face - the man had a short-cropped head, sharp cheekbones and a straight nose stood out clearly on his tanned face. His brown eyes looked at the policeman almost with a fatherly reproach. Galbraith did not perfectly remember the exact features of the mysterious "H. Berneasy", but taking the opportunity to take a good look at the taxi driver standing in front of him, he noticed that he was still completely different from the bald and old man who took him to the vanitas-restaurant.
- What's the matter? - Galbraith asked calmly.
The taxi driver blew a smoke ring from his mouth and flicked the ash off his cigarette.
- Mister foreigner wants to go to the airport or depot now? - the man turned to him slyly.
- Huh, where is this coming from? - the inspector was somewhat outraged that some taxi driver should know better what he needed to do.
- What else can you do if your hotel burns down? Unless you go to another... - the taxi driver began to explain.
- Wait, let me to get my thoughts together, - Galbraith interrupted him and turned away.
For some reason, the inspector was unpleasant in this man’s gaze, but he could not help but notice that there was common sense in his words. With his arms crossed over his chest, Galbraith was lost in thought. This completely random London taxi driver, without knowing it, presented him with a difficult dilemma. Its essence was that the inspector had to decide whether he would capitulate in his mission to capture doctor Baselard, or whether he would continue it to the bitter end. The second option was definitely more difficult, since Galbraith had little chance of finding one unnoticed person hidden in the wilds of the megalopolis. While the inspector was deciding what to do, the taxi driver had already thrown the cigarette on the ground and was getting into the car.
- Well, good sir, think faster, otherwise I’ll leave and you’ll have to get where you need to go yourself, - sitting behind the wheel, the taxi driver shouted from the window.
Galbraith turned around and walked towards the car - he didn't want to let go of this car. Not even because it was so difficult for him to catch another taxi, no - he just subconsciously wanted to lean on someone he knew for at least a little more than a couple of seconds. The inspector felt the situation getting increasingly out of control. When he reached the car, he opened the door and climbed into the back seat.
- You don't know where "Makoto Computerization Institute" is located? - he asked the driver.
He did not remember the address indicated on the business card - only this unusual name left a mark on Galbraith's memory. The taxi driver, hearing the passenger's words, wiped the sweat from his forehead and sighed. Apparently he was trying to understand what the inspector was talking about.
- Good sir apparently means "Mon-Tec"? - after a minute of silence the man asked.
- What kind of place it is? - Galbraith heard this word for the first time.
- There was such an electrical engineering plant, then its owner changed and it was converted into a research institute of electronic technologies, - explained the taxi driver.
- Well, I think I should go there, - the inspector said with some uncertainty.
He remembered that the mysterious morning visitor introduced himself to him as a computer technology specialist, so, putting two and two together, it turned out that the taxi driver indicated the right place, but under the wrong name.
- I didn't even know it was renamed, - the taxi driver said meanwhile, turning on the ignition. - I believed that they left a trademark familiar to people.
When the car finally started moving, Galbraith leaned back in his seat. He made the decision to go to this institute in the heat of the moment - this same taxi driver simply did not give him enough time to think. But the inspector noticed to himself that this action made sense - because if that specialist was actually affiliated with doctor Baselard, then Galbraith had a fairly good reason to visit this mysterious place. "Who knows", he thought, "Maybe that’s there I can complete my mission". Be that as it may, he did not have a plan for further action - he did not know what exactly he would do upon arrival at this institute.
Events developed so quickly that the only thing he could count on was luck. If only because it is not a fact that if he arrives there, he will be able to find doctor Baselard there. But what if luck smiles on him and the person he is looking for is actually located there? The inspector imagined how, seeing the doctor in the corridor, he approached him and declared in an authoritative voice "In the name of the law, you're under arrest". And Baselard, looking at him with a gentle reproach from his small senile eyes, scratched his gray hair and answered him "Policeman of America has no power here in England, so you have no right to imprison me". And, grinning, he will go about his business in some office, leaving Galbraith standing in place with a stupid look...
Suddenly Galbraith remembered that he was still holding the envelope in his hands, which he had never bothered to open since receiving it. The inspector, who did not have scissors at hand, tore the bottom corner and tore the envelope in half. A folded sheet of paper and a small A7 sheet of cardboard fell into his lap.First, the policeman examined the cardboard - on its glossy aquamarine-coloured surface there were red letters of the English alphabet in two rows, each letter was respectively accompanied by a phonetic script and a index number. Galbraith was quite surprised that an unknown person sent him an item of educational equipment for a preschooler. He turned the card over, hoping that there might be something handwritten on the back, but alas, there was nothing more than a tiny inscription "(c) York Medieval Press, 1991" in the lower right corner.
The first thought that arose in the inspector’s head was "Apparently, I was confused with the father who ordered an insert for his child for study", but he immediately discarded it - he remembered how the postmaster clarified that the letter was intended specifically for Galbraith, who was staying at the "Stait of Snow Lake". True, it could turn out that in that hotel his namesake and a small child actually stayed in one of the rooms, but the inspector decided not to develop this topic and began to study the second item, which was in the envelope. Unfolding the sheet of paper folded in four, Galbraith immediately noticed that the text was typed on a typewriter. Well,
of course, he thought, this is a great way to put it in a deadlock - If the letter had been written by hand, it would not be difficult to guess who its author was!
Having dealt with the first impression, the inspector examined this item a little more closely. Both sides of the white sheet of paper were occupied by a long epistle printed in very small print. The black ink had peeled off in many places, making the letters look washed out and the text not very legible, but Galbraith, whose job it was to decipher obscure handwritten messages, did not see anything difficult in understanding the typewritten document.
"For A Middle-aged Naive" was at the very beginning of the letter. For some reason, the inspector immediately guessed that it was addressed specifically to him, and, slightly offended by the definition of "naive", began reading.
"I won't call Thou by name, because it's obvious that missive are intended only for Thou", this is how this epistle began.
- Huh, why don't you introduce yourself then? - Galbraith whispered with only his lips so that the taxi driver would not hear him.
"Thou behave like a juvenile in love, and, Thou know, watching amour sufferings from the outside is quite unpleasant. Honestly, it's annoying. I happened to observe in the old days two people who had feelings for the same person. All three were the same age, and they were connected by the fact that the three of them went to the same seminary".
- Why should I know about some love story between three schoolchildren? - Galbraith sarcastically asked the unknown author of these lines.
"The first stripling - let's call him Parthenion for short - fell in love with a demoiselle - let's call her Eudoxia - from early childhood. He watched her every step, worshipped her like a Goddess, but at the same time he was afraid to approach her, avoided her glances and was ashamed when strangers uttered her name. While the second stripling - Andronicus - became interested in demoiselle as an adult, when their studies at the seminary were coming to an end. He, unlike Parthenion, did not hesitate and, during the holidays, took advantage of the opportunity and retired with Eudoxia in her home. After this, Andronicus was expelled from seminary in disgrace, but he and Eudoxia had a child. The birth of an successor fully compensated for the fact that his father was left with an incomplete education".
- Well done, what can I say... - Galbraith remarked sarcastically.
"If Thou were unable to make the connection between this story and Your current situation, then please forgive me for not taking into account Your level of knowledge and Your intelligence quotient".
- Now this is rudeness! - the inspector barely restrained himself from screaming.
"Therefore, I will allow myself to do Thou a favour, since I consider Thou an experienced person who can solve the challenge if given a few clues".
- What, first you insulted and then flattered? - Galbraith was increasingly affected by this letter.
"The main reason why I made concessions is that I am sick of watching a grown men of the criminal profession tremble over the case assigned to him, just as Parthenion was afraid to approach Eudoxia. Thou, like that stripling, lose Your footing when Thou mention the victim, because of which instead investigation Thou are actually doing is treading water".
- Interesting association, - thought the inspector, gradually calming down.
"But all Thou need is to boldly face danger, not be afraid to make sudden movements and not take into account difficulties, like the second stripling. In this state of affairs, Thou, like Andronicus, would get what Thou want - in his case it was the successor, in Yours a sense of accomplishment. Alas, unfortunately, Thou are unlikely to be able to do this - a person’s character cannot be changed by moralizing advice - all that will change is the amount of his knowledge, but otherwise he will remain the same".
- Of course, people never change, - Galbraith recalled the famous saying.
"So I'll end by reminding Thou of what Thou should have learned all this time - In the beginning was the Number. Twice - the Four and the Five. From now on, I'll just hope that Thou can solve the puzzle, which can cope with even those people, who have serious problems with arithmetic and logic".
On this somewhat contemptuous and arrogant note the letter has come to an end. Galbraith crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it out the side window of the car - with his peripheral vision he managed to notice how a gust of breeze picked up the letter and carried it somewhere into the dark expanses of the night highway. Leaning back in his seat, the inspector thought for a split second that this was not the act of a policeman who was obliged to keep material evidence, but of an excited romanticist. In any case, Galbraith didn’t care much about this, nor did he care about the fact that when he lowered the window, an unusually cold wind blew into the car.
The inspector began to analyze who could be the author of this ambiguous and unclear message. It would be difficult to identify the person for sure from the typewritten text, so the inspector had to rely on the contents of the letter. It was clear as day that the creator of the lines who did not introduce himself was aware of who Galbraith was. In addition, this mysterious person somehow incomprehensibly knew how the inspector felt about his investigation - the phrase regarding the reaction to the victim's name clearly hinted at this. Galbraith immediately rejected the version with doctor Baselard - because he was tired of throwing wood into the fire of his paranoia. Instead, he hypothesized that the letter could have been written by none other than mister chief inspector Schaeymoure. There was always some kind of secrecy in his person, and this was not limited to his manner of speaking in riddles - take, for example, his unexpected visit to Galbraith’s apartment...
The inspector remembered one of the last lines that ended the letter - "...In the beginning was the Number. Twice - the Four and the Five". Reference to Gospel of John, as Galbraith thought, it was deliberately inserted by the author of these lines, so that against their background, the inherently modest numbers would look pretentious and intriguing.
- Well, four and five, - he repeated. - Wonder what that's about.