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This is an entry in the 15th Fortnightly Topic Challenge.


Harold Smith, a coffee in his hand, was contemplating his sleeping wife. Once again, he was up early, way before the alarm. "Why didn't I quit already? I could stay at home, take care of the baby with Sandra and make puzzles all day!" he thought with amusement. But he couldn't: Harold loved his job. Being a psychiatrist was not easy at first: Harold had still shivers when thinking about his internship at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. But after a few years, he had built enough reputation to allow himself to select his patients. He liked them all, and they liked him back.

"Let's have a look at the program," Harold said while picking his appointment book. "Mmh, nice," he thought. His first patient of the day was Elliot Anderson, who had been suffering from a dissociative identity disorder for a long time, and was still recovering from it. Elliot was one of Harold's favorite patients, since they shared puzzles as a common passion. Lately though, he had been acting strangely: his answers to Harold's questions were more and more evasive and he was late for the last weekly sessions. Harold had decided that he should find out more about the beginning of this mutism. Today, he would ask Elliot about his concerns. After his morning routine, Harold kissed his wife and Anne, his baby, and headed towards his office.

Upon his arrival, he immediately felt that something was wrong; his secretary came to him and said: "M-Mister Smith, I don't think Mr. Anderson will be here today." "What are you telling me?" inquired Harold. His secretary seemed shaken. "Well, he was here fifteen minutes ago, b-but he went straight into your office...I-I couldn't stop him, doctor, I'm sorry." She burst into tears. A bit perplexed, Harold told her to take the rest of the day off. He then proceeded to step into his office. "It could have been worse!" he thought. Indeed, there was a big mess: books on the ground, a broken chair, some stains on the carpet. All his belongings usually on his desk were on the ground, too. Instead, there was a book that was not his. He approached his desk and opened it.

There was nothing written on the first pages. Harold noticed that the paper was very thin. Then, he stumbled across two pages where there were strange symbols:

enter image description here

Five pages further, he found these few lines:

Last week, I was pretty sure to have a big black cat. But I verified. Clearly, I like you, but obviously, I been utterly mad... Remember Edwin? I'm certain he's part of it too. Hasten, shrink!

And... nothing. That was it. He didn't understand anything. Why was his office a mess, and what was the meaning of this book? His mind was confused. Suddenly, he remembered that the last sessions ended with Elliot and him discussing puzzles. He took another look at the book, and after a few minutes, he knew. In seconds, he ran away from his office.

Where did Harold go, and why?


The story continues here.

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Flipping one page and overlaying yields

HEY SHRINK LAST
SESSION WAS GOOD I
LOVED THE EXERCISE
WHERE I HAD TO PUT
THE CUBES FOR KIDS IN
COLUMNS OF TEN
I TRIED IT AT HOME
BUT UNFORTUNATELY
THE FIFTH FELL I GOT
MAD

Arranging the letters of the other message

"in columns of ten"

we get

L A S T W E E K I W A S P R E T T Y S U R E T O H A V E A B I G B L A C K C A T B U T I V E R I F I E D C L E A R L Y I L I K E Y O U B U T O B V I O U S L Y I B E E N U T T E R L Y M A D R E M E M B E R E D W I N I M C E R T A I N H E S P A R T O F I T T O O H A S T E N S H R I N K

in which we can see

(in the fifth column) WE HAVE YOUR WIFE

but I'm still not sure where...

I tried looking at

letters whose position in that other message is a cube, but starting either at 0 or 1 I don't get anything that looks sensible.)

If the left-over

two letters signify North Korea then Harold is probably in really big trouble. But I doubt it :-).

In the second message

I can find (forward or backward) FIRE, NUTTER, MADRE, MERDA, TRAPS, NETS, TENS and probably more, but none of this looks like more than coincidence.

In chat, IAmInPLS has said the following things which I leave here so that denizens of the Sphinx's Lair don't have an unfair advantage:

I think you should read the not-puzzling-elements one more time
It's in plain sight :-)
One tag = one element

I confess that these don't bring me much enlightenment.

I really hope this isn't going to be a puzzle where it turns out that the "framing" story has essential hidden clues in it; in any case, I haven't found much. ("They loved him back" might hint at reading things backwards? "Dissociative identity disorder" is a real thing, but might hint at anagrams? "Mutism" doesn't seem like it actually describes E.A.'s symptoms, so perhaps "the beginning of this mutism" indicates something?) I guess the tags refer to "story", "visual", and "steganography", but we already have all of those; perhaps IAmInPLS means that there is indeed a clue hidden in the framing story.

It presumably isn't coincidence (but I guess it's just IAmInPLS having fun, rather than an actual clue; at any rate I don't see how to get the answer out of it) that this story features

adversaries (kinda) called Smith and Anderson, and arrays of mysterious-looking characters.

Perhaps (this is similar to CvWaes's answer but I think slightly more plausible) the answer is simply that

Anderson has kidnapped Smith's wife and taken her to his (sc. Anderson's house)

in which case Smith might have gone

either to Anderson's house, if he knows where that is, to rescue his wife, or to Smith's house to make sure his child is safe, or to the police to get backup for dealing with someone who has kidnapped his wife.

Or (this is more or less CvWaes's answer) perhaps

Anderson "has" Smith's wife not because he's kidnapped her but because he's having an affair with her, which might be why he's arriving late to his meetings at the start of the day.

I don't really see anything either overt or covert that makes any of these options clearly better than the others. I may be missing something important.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm having trouble seeing the "we have your wife" part. NVM I'm on my phone which screws up the formatting $\endgroup$ – Areeb Sep 16 '16 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ Count the fifth letter of each row, if the formatting isn't so screwed up you can't see the divisions into rows. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 16 '16 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ Sadly I can't see the individual rows. Oh hey, if I try to edit it. I can see it in the correct format $\endgroup$ – Areeb Sep 16 '16 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ The form of the second message makes me think of anagrams, or pi mnemonics, or something. I tried anagramming one of the shortest sentences, but nothing jumps out. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 16 '16 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ I think its awkwardness may be sufficiently explained by having 10% of the letters prescribed. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 16 '16 at 12:06
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The book shows the message.

enter image description here

when the right half is swapped and put on the left half and then fully swapped again.

Currently working on the location.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ thanks for the edit @lois6b. couldn't get it the right way. $\endgroup$ – Meta45 Sep 16 '16 at 11:01
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Partial solution:

the two pages are the same text. Like its been not dry after written and closed the book, then half the text is in one page and the other half in the other.
Example :
enter image description here enter image description here
(Thanks to @MOehm)

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I can't comment yet due to a lack of reputation, but

Gareth's solution seems to be correct. The 'We have your wife' simply indicates that Mr Anderson, who has a multiple personality disorder, went to the house of the shrink. So he is probably in the house or even bedroom of Harold Smith.

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  • $\begingroup$ there you go, enough reputation $\endgroup$ – lois6b Sep 16 '16 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, that would be very straightforward. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 16 '16 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ (but it would feel a bit un-puzzly, much as it would if the answer was "Harold goes to the police, because they are the right people to talk to when something bad has happened" :-).) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 16 '16 at 12:20
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To complete Gareth’s answer: Elliot went

home. If they have Elliot’s wife. Baby Anne is home alone, by herself.

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  • $\begingroup$ Bah! CvWaes got there before me (with my browser set-up,I don't get notifications of new answers being posted). $\endgroup$ – Anthony G - justice for Monica Sep 16 '16 at 12:30

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