tagRomanceThe Enigma Variations

The Enigma Variations


This story, as the name suggests, is about codes and variations of codes. It has nothing to do with Elgar and his music.

I thought of including the translations of the coded messages within the body of the story, but decided that this would take away the fun of solving them, so for those code breakers among you, enjoy.


It had been a rough trip, the guy I was to interview had decided to shut up like a clam. I tried to reason with him by explaining that he would be doing the world a favour by giving evidence against this menace to society. When that failed I threatened him with a substantial gaol term for obstructing justice, but he just wouldn't budge. In the end I told him that he could be deemed a hostile witness and forced to give evidence. I got what I wanted.

I wrote up my notes on my laptop ready to be uploaded to the office computer when I got back to work. All I wanted to do now was to get home and have a quiet meal with Callie before I had to head out for a drink with mates. I wasn't going to stay out too late for two reasons, the main one being that tomorrow was a big day for us, it was our the fifth anniversary of when we first met and we had something big planned.

"Callie, I'm home." I called as I stepped through the front door. Nothing, not a sound, no squeal of delight as she dropped what she was doing and ran to greet me, deathly silence, except for a beep from my answering machine. There was an envelope propped against the phone and the answer machine light was flashing. I punched the button. "You will read the contents of the envelope". That was it, no greeting or pleasantries of any kind, and the calling number was blocked so I had no idea who it was. I opened the envelope to read the note but, I couldn't because it was just a series of numbers:

67 228534353

968 9455 37 3922859 27 1678782833 67 968 9455 63837 733 2254782 24246

968 9455 37483 76884 25664 843 842867 427267 7623 86845 968 438 86 843 62 52736 8253 8876. 968 9455 8876 5338 263 7762555 86 94558642. 968 9455 37483 8476844 94558642 263 66 86 94558642 4455 7623. 968 9455 37483 87 8447 7623 86845 968 73224 843 5338 4263 2363 2363284 843 5665 688. 968 9445 7855 4686 843 7275464 2732 65 843 74448 43 8447 2363 263 29248 9687 6398 467878284667.

43 968 273 36556933 67 968 4283 736753 782846633 25664 8447 7623 67 26 843 7665688 2254782 9455 343

968 4283 896 46877, 365'8 23 4283

It was a code of some description, but what? It wasn't a straight forward number substitution code, but then I realized that it was a substitution using a telephone alpha/numeric keypad, this was going to be hard going because each number has three or four letters assigned to it. I started by isolating the frequently used words, for instance, the first two words of most paragraphs, 968 9455, translated as 'you will', and 843, 'the'. It was time consuming but eventually I had a message that made some sense to me. I hoped that I was right as I climbed into my car and followed its instructions by driving south down the southern expressway and turning on to the Victor Harbor Road.

I kept an eye on my rear view mirror to see if I was being followed, but the traffic was heavy enough that any number of cars could have been following me. There were cars behind me as I turned off to McLaren Vale. A few turned off to Kangarilla as I cleared the town onto the long straight to Willunga. There were still a couple of cars behind me as I drove through Willunga on to the Willunga Hill road, but no car followed me up the hill to the parking area where I was told (hopefully) to wait for instructions.

I waited for around five minutes, my mind racing, trying to make sense of all of this and hoping that I had got the message right. There were no cars on that road until a car came down the hill and pulled in beside me. I couldn't see inside it because of the heavy tinting on the windows. The back window slid down about 75 mm and one of those gizmos that you use to pick up stuff in tight places, you know, the tong thing on a long handle, appeared with an envelope in its jaws. It was pushed over to my window, so I wound it down and grabbed it. The other car left as quietly as it had come. It wasn't until I'd looked at the message that I realised that the car had no number plates, and because it was a common make and model, my chances of tracing it were next to zero.

It was another coded message, another number substitution code but it wasn't the same as the first code, for starters the numbers went up to 26 so that ruled out the phone keypad.

[13-18] [3-1-21-12-6-9-5-12-4],

[3-15-14-7-18-1-20-21-12-1-20-9-15-14-19] [15-14] [19-15-12-22-9-14-7] [20-8-5] [3-15-4-5].

[25-15-21] [23-9-12-12] [4-18-9-22-5 2-1-3-11] [20-15] [25-15-21-18] [8-15-13-5] [1-14-4] [23-8-5-14] [25-15-21] [7-5-20] [20-8-5-18-5] [25-15-21] [23-9-12-12] [1-3-3-5-19-19] [13-19] [25-15-18-4] [15-14-25-15-21-19] [12-1-16-20-15-16[ [1-14-4] [15-16-5-14] [20-8-5 6-9-12-5] [5-14-9-7-13-1] '3' [20-8-1-20] [3-15-14-20-1-9-14-19] [25-15-21-19] [14-5-24-20] [9-14-19-20-18-211-3-20-9-15-14-19].

[25-15-21] [23-9-12-12] [6-15-12-12-15-23] [20-8-5] [9-14-19-20-18-21-3-20-9-15-14-19] [20-15 20-8-5] [1-14-4] [1-14-25] [1-20-20-5-13-16-20] [20-15] [9-14-22-14-12-22-5] [20-8-5] [16-15-12-9-3-5] [15-18] [1 20-8-9-18-4] [16-1-18-20-25] [23-9-12-12] [18-5-19-21-20] [9-14] [25-15-21] [14-15-20-19-5-5-9-14-7] [25-15-21-18] [3-1-12-9-19-20-1] [1-7-1-9-14].

25-15-21 8-1-22-5 20-23-15 8-15-21-18-19 20-15 3-15-13-16-12-5-20-5 25-15-21-18 9-14-19-29-18-21-3-29-9-15-14-19, 4-15-14'20 2-5 12-1-20-5.

It turned out to be a straightforward number substitution where A=1 through to Z=26.

I drove back home as instructed. I was getting worried, what if as it appeared, that someone had kidnapped Callie? But who? I could think of no person or any reason for this. Whoever this was obviously didn't know Callie and me very well, I have never called her Calista, even when we were first going together. Then there was the fact that this person was able to get into my house, I presumed it was because he would have Callie's key, and then to access my computer, my files were password protected and I doubted if he would have had the time to crack it. One thing that he did know was that I wasn't going to give up until I had Callie back safe with me, and soon, tomorrow was the big day for us.

I let myself in and went to my study where I found my laptop where I'd left it, but it was open and switched on. I accessed the 'Enigma 3' Word file and found another series of numbers.

[13-18] [4-2-22-13-5-7-10-6-5],

[5-17-16-9-20-3-22-23-14-3-22-11-17-16-21] [4-10-4-12-17],

[3-19-25-] [2-14-17-17] [10-24-15-2-11] [16-21-1-22] [2-16-13] [12-18-3-8], [4-25] [5-19-16] [6-1-2-20-13-25] [26-14-25-25] [17-15-6] [5-16-7-26]. [15-5-11] [14-26-3-3] [12-19-3-23] [20] [14-3-23-5-25-14] [22-9-25] [12-23-14-7] [22-12-18-15] [1-25-16], [24-14-20] [23-9-12-12] [21-9-6-15] [9-17] [7-12-21-8-6-20-15-2] [24-19] [25-13-10] [9-21-1-20-26-11-24] [1-22] [24-9-7] [25-10-1-20-18-23-16]. [4-18-15] [12-5-5-16-25-15-12-25-5] [9-21-24-24] [14-6-24] [13-2-8-7] [14-4-10-7] [4-17-3-21] [18-5-21] [1-7-6] [22-8-7-25-2-11-6-20-13-2-8-7] [9-26] [20-10-16-13] [5-26-1-10-16-5-16-21], [20-6-9-9] [6-25-12-2] [24-14-20] [14-5-24-20] [10-15-20-21-19-22-4-20-10-16-15-20].

[1-17-23] [11-4-25-8] [24-1-19] [13-20-26-23] [26-21] [10-22-20-23-19-12-1-12] [7-23-3-26] [18-23-2-3-1-4-12-2-18-24-23-2], [14-25-24'-4] [13-16] [24-13-6-17] [2-5] [19-26-7-19] [14-4-10] [13-25-2-2] [5-6-11] [11-23-23] [22-20-5-2-12-13-20] [21-1-21-3-8].

This one was another number substitution but when I tried it with the previous straight forward substitution it made no sense, it was then that I realised that it consisted of a rolling word by word code shift. I was going well for a short while, moving the substitution with each word, A=1 for the first word then A=2 for the second and so on. It didn't take long to figure that out and after that it was merely time consuming.

I drove into the city to the car park in the message and, taking a ticket, I drove up past the reserved parking levels until I found an empty space. I caught the lift down to the ground floor and went to the payments desk where I handed over my ticket. The attendant's expression changed from bored, to puzzled, to the memory of an instruction. "Mr Caulfield?"

"Yes, you have something for me?"

He said nothing, just handed my ticket back and the envelope that I was expecting. I opened it to be confronted by yet another fucking message full of numbers.

[13-13] [4-2-22-13-7-10-6-13-5],

[3-9-3-11-16] [6-18-17-10-21-4-23-24-15-4-23-12-18-17-22]. [3-19-25] [1-13-16-16] [19-20-2] [10-25-15-2-11] [22-2-1] [23-14] [8-11-12-19-8-16-11-12] [7-20-10] [25-6-16-10] [24 12 9] [22-18-24-22-11] [7-3-21-22-7-20-16] [7-19-6-6-24-2-26] [20-15] [7-26-7-13-3-19-17-5]. [3-16-7-20-3] [17-5-2] [9-23-5-10] [14-15-13-26-26-15] [21-8-24] [13-14-11-7] [10-1-25-26-12] [18-11] [8-1-6-23]. [18-8-14] [17-3-6-6] [15-3-4-14] [14-11-23-26] [17-12] [17-18-16-25-18-6-25-10-23-12] [26-13-3] [20-8-5-14] [21-2-12-6] [22-10-7] [26-8-15-15-12-17-10-23-18-17] [22 19-5-8]. [2-13-10-19] [5-21-1] [25-12-8-10-15] [5-13-20-20-17-22-15-2-23-22] [6-22-2] [3-15-18-18] [9 23 14 1 10] [19-18-24-19] [23-11-8] [8-7-20-20-1] [21-9-2-21] [3-18-15-19-19-5-19] [ 19-7-4] [16-7-20-3-16] [10-18-15-15-2-4-22]. [16-4-1-14-1] [20-10-16] [17-3-6-6] [11-24-22-2-24-15-24] [17-7-13-10]-[5-22-15-11] [1-6-11-12-10-13-21-12-1-7-6-11].

By taking the first two words of the first paragraph I could see that this was a different word to word code shift, and to crack the code I had to work out the shift sequences. This one was another number substitution but when I tried it with the previous substitution it made no sense, it was then that I realised that it consisted of a different rolling word by word code shift. I was going well for a short while, moving the substitution with each word, A=1 for the first word then A=2 for the second and so on, but when I got to the tenth word it didn't make sense. On a hunch I reversed the progression back to A=1. But the next word made no sense and then it hit me, it was an oscillating word progression; A=1 to A=9, then back past A=1 for nine words and back the other way, but when it got to A=1 it kept going to the ninth word in the opposite direction then switched back. It was an oscillating code shift and once I got that figured it was relatively easy.

Oh well, it was back in the car and driving out of town on the South Eastern freeway to Hahndorf. There I was turn off to the Strathalbyn Road and follow it to Strathalbyn. Once there I was to drive to Wellington and onto the ferry. The trip gave me time to try to work out who it was that was doing this to me, and to Callie. It was easy to discount her work colleagues, they all liked her and I have got on well with them since they realised that there was no way to separate us. My side of the equation was different, my family all loved Callie and she loved them, she and my mother talked often and exchanged recipes and stuff like that. But it was my job that brought the greatest concern to my mind. Being an Investigator with the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) office, I came into contact with all sorts of people that I wouldn't take home to meet Mother. I tried to think of any that were currently free or who had contact with anyone that could do either me or Callie harm.

The Bikie gangs could not be discounted. There had been a concerted effort to curb the activities of these gangs, and we had been involved in several high profile cases involving them. It was not unusual for them to seek revenge in a violent way, but that usually involved other gangs and death or extreme harm, not members of the public and not kidnapping, so I dismissed them. There was the case that I am involved with now, and presents possibilities. The man under investigation is facing several charges involving financial transactions valued at millions of dollars. He is on record as threatening anyone who is stupid enough to give evidence against him or anyone seeking such evidence. I guess that includes me. He would know that Callie and I have lived together for years, he would know that we are very close in our relationship and he would know that threatening Callie would get to me. What he didn't know was how far he could push me before I retaliated. If he kept up the pressure he would find out.

I just couldn't think of anyone else that could be doing this and resolved to wreak havoc on whoever it was, when I caught up with him.

The trip took a while, I won't admit to exceeding the speed limit but I got there ahead of time. I drove onto the ferry and the operator, after closing the gates and starting on the crossing, approached me. "Mr. Caulfield?"


"I have something for you." He walked to the cabin and retrieved the ubiquitous manila envelope. He handed it to me and went back to operating.

This was getting beyond a joke. It was obvious that whoever was doing this didn't want money from me or me to do anything other than drive around like a chook with its head cut off, not knowing what or why I was being put through this. All I could think of was; was Callie safe?

I had time to go back through my life with her. We met at some Friday night, end of week function or other that was to become immediately forgettable after we had been introduced by her boss. "Your boss obviously has more important people to talk to, although I, for the life of me can't see anyone more important here, at least no-one that I'd want to talk to more than you."

"Do you pull many birds with a line like that?"

"It wasn't a line, at least I don't think it's a line, I was just complimenting you in a roundabout way."

"Then I accept your compliment."

"Would you like me to trip up one of those hovering drink carriers and get you something, some pretend champagne perhaps?" (In Australia, because of the French Appellation Laws, we aren't able to call our wines 'Champagne' even though some of them are made with the same grape varieties and using the same method, the best that we can do is to label these as; 'Methode Champenoise'). What they were dishing up was neither, it was a sparkling white, and that said it all, it had bubbles and was white wine, not something I would normally drink.

"I think I'll give it a miss, thank you all the same."

"Would you like me to see if I can scrounge up something a little better? I did see some red over near the official's table."

"I'll be impressed if you can manage to get some without being thrown out." She was impressed. After that there was no-one else there, don't get me wrong, there were bodies moving around talking to each other, but as far as Callie and I, we were on our own.

"Ben." (That's me)


"Is there any reason that we have to be here?"

"None that I can think of. Do you think that your boss would miss you if we were to slide out of here?"

"Well at the moment he's trying to chat up some woman and when she gets sick of his bullshit and tells him to piss off we'll be long gone."

"You don't think much of him, do you?"

"Oh he's okay at work, we get on fine, but at shows like this when he's trying to schmooze some future client, it's part of his plan, arrive with me or one of the other girls and offload us so that he can tell the future client that she was important enough for him to offload a beautiful girl, in this case me, to concentrate on her."

"Does it work?"

"Sometimes, sometimes not, it depends on the vulnerability of the woman."

"What happens once he's snared her, does he still play up to her?"

"No, usually it lasts a while and then he tells her that is extremely busy and can't devote the time to her that she deserves and that he's doing her a great favour by putting one of his best people on her case."

"What an operator."

"He's been moderately successful up until now."

By this time we were outside the function centre and heading for Callie's favourite restaurant. It took no time at all for it to become my favourite. The food was great and the ambience was perfect for dinner for two, it was quiet and the waiting staff were in no way intrusive. They let us dine at our pace with no obvious signs that they wanted to move us on so that they could set the table for another couple. It was close to midnight when we walked out of there into the cool night air.

"How did you intend to get home?"

"I came prepared, I knew that I was going to have a few drinks tonight, so I'm going to catch a cab."

"Don't do that. I have my car just up the road in the car park and I can drive you home."

"You don't have to do that, that is unless you really want to."

"I really want to." We walked the hundred metres or so to the multi-level car park where I'd parked my pride and joy. We took the slow as a wet week lift to the level that I'd parked on, and as the lift reached the creaky end of its journey, Callie moved to stand in front of me, face to face in front of me. Her face was so close to mine I could feel her breath on my lips, so I kissed her, but not in that passionate way that told her that I wanted to get into her pants, but in a gentler way that told her that I wanted to get to know her better. We didn't notice the doors open because we were otherwise occupied, she was returning my kiss and telling me that she was not averse to getting to know me better. The walk to my car couldn't have been better, I had my arm around her, and she had hers around me.

I walked around to the driver's door to open it. "What is it?"

"I'll give you a clue, it's Swedish, but not a Volvo."

"I can see that, I know one of those when I see it."

"It's a SAAB, it's a 900i Turbo."

"Am I supposed to be impressed?"

"No, if I wanted to impress you I'd have something a little more esoteric, more expensive and definitely much newer. I have done this for years, bought second hand cars that, when new cost a shit load of money, most of it Import Duty, and that depreciated rapidly and, because they were expensive to begin with the owners found that it cost heaps to repair the few times anything went wrong with it. This car for instance is one of the famous 'Aero' models and, when it came out in 1985 cost $93,000, I paid $2,500 for it a five of years ago because it had a minor problem that the mechanic the previous owner took it too had no idea how to fix, or what the problem was, but quoted like a wounded steer. The mechanic I go to specialises in upmarket cars and is very reasonable with his charges. He found the problem in five minutes and it cost me less than $100 to fix. The money I'd spend to buy something as good as this in a modern car, I could have the motor rebuilt half a dozen times."

"So you don't mind driving an ancient car? This was made before I was born."

"Hey, it's got leather seats and an electric sunroof that actually opens plus all of the usual stuff like power steering, ABS brakes, air-conditioning, cruise control and performance to die for."

"So now I suppose you're going to do the macho thing and bag it up from the lights."

"No, for starters I don't have to prove anything to anyone, I know how fast this rocket can actually go."

"Okay smarty, how fast can it go?"

"Would you believe a touch over 230 kph?"

"You are kidding me aren't you?"

"I kid you not."

By this time we had cleared the car park and were out on the street. "Where are we going?"

"Just head for Unley. If you go down Hutt Street . . ."

"It will lead me to George Street which leads to Duthy Street."

"Okay smarty, so you know your way around town. I live just off Duthy Street, I'll direct you from there." I drove and had just gone a short way down Duthy when she pointed to the next side street on the right. "Turn down there." I turned into the street and drove for about a hundred metres. "Turn here next to that huge tree." I turned and followed the narrow access road to a cluster of town-houses. "The first one on the right, pull up out the front."

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