“Look at this!” Joe Hardy exclaimed.
Joe and his older brother Frank huddled in the gloom of an ancient root cellar, pouring over an ancient parchment. Frank held a flickering lantern, casting an erie glow on the faded document.
“Could this finally be the clue we’ve been searching for?” queried Frank.
“It could be,” Joe admitted, brushing dust and debris from his yellowed and tattered prize.
The two boys, sons of Fenton Hardy, the well-known detective, had been searching for clues to old Johannes Stauffer’s hidden treasure, rumored to be worth tens of dollars. Their research of old family heirlooms and library documents had led them to this rustic root cellar in the abandoned homestead of one of Bayport’s founding families. Behind a crumbling brick wall, Joe had discovered a decayed bible. Upon examination, a yellowed document handwritten in German had fallen to the dirt floor.
“Can you make anything out?” questioned Frank, holding the light closer.
“No, just a lot of German writing, and some strange gibberish,” admitted Joe. He pointed to the strange arrangement of letters in the center of the page:
“This looks like some sort of code,” Joe speculated.
“I agree,” confided Frank. “See how the letters are in the same form as latitude and longitude coordinates?” He pointed to the strange arrangement of letters. “I’ll bet these are a clue to the location of the treasure!”
Joe’s eye’s sparkled with anticipation. “You’re right, but how do we decode the message?”
“What else is on the document?” Frank questioned, looking farther down the page. “Maybe it will give us an additional clue on how to decode these coordinates.”
Joe spread the fragile document out on the dirt floor and the two boys poured over the antique script.
“Look, here’s a reference to two of Ol' Man Stauffer’s relatives.” Joe indicated, pointing at the bottom of the page. “And see, there’s more of those funny letters.”
Frank looked where Joe’s finger had come to rest.
BD/DA/HCHF - BA/DG/HCJI
BE/BA/HCHJ - BA/BF/HJBE
“That’s it!” gasped Frank, gripping his brother’s shoulder in excitement. “Those are dates! They’re the key to the code!”
“What do you mean they’re the key? They’re just as mixed up as the letters up top!” questioned Joe in puzzlement.
Frank sat back on his heels and smiled. “Didn’t our research show that the Stauffers bury their ancestors in the old Mennonite cemetery just north of Bayport?” the dark haired youth said.
“I think you’re right,” admitted his blonde sibling. “But what does that have to do with this old letter?”
“If we find the headstones for Joseph and Elizabeth Stauffer, and compare the dates on the headstone with the dates from this letter, we’ll be able to decode the coordinates for the clue!” Frank announced triumphantly. To illustrate, he drew a grid in the dirt.
| 0 | 1| 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |
| _ | _| _ | _ | _ | _ | _ | _ | _ | _ |
“All we have to do is figure out which numbers correspond to which letters of the alphabet, and we’ll be on our way!” He said with a grin.
“Well what are we waiting for?” Joe exclaimed excitedly, “Let’s go!”
“Hey, better make a copy of that letter, and the decode grid.” Frank cautioned him.
“And bring a pencil!” Joe added with a wink and a smile.
The boys quickly scrambled out of the root cellar, climbed aboard their waiting motorcycles, and sped off in the direction of the cemetery.