Mr. Peters, a freelance muscle-for-hire sort of fellow, had been manning his desk for days now waiting for something to do when at last the phone rang. A job! The nerdy sounding person on the other end of the line said this was urgent... that meant he could jack up his rate. Rubbing his hands together in anticipation of a fat fee, Peters asked what the job was.

"Look, my associate Thomas tells me you're good. Really good. And smart." (Well, that was true; before going into business as a hired goon, he'd been quite the academic!) "Here's the problem... the phones and email here are all monitored, so I can't tell you what the job is, and this can't wait for me to send you the details any other way. So I'm going to send you an email with the details, but I'll warn you up front, it's going to look like utter nonsense; you'll have to figure out how to read it. I can't use a cipher, as I have no way to tell you the cipher and/or key without it being recorded; nor can I tell you how to read my message without telling them too. No, you'll have to work out what it means on your own. This is the only way I can think of to get you the info and keep anyone from figuring out what I hired you for! If you're as good and as smart as your reputation says, this should be no problem."

He'd seen National Treasure, and ever since, Peters had wished he could get involved in some kind of secret quest—but that sort of thing only happens in the movies.... or did it? Here he was, in the middle of something just like that! This made his whole month!

Finalizing a few arrangements with his new client, Peters quickly hung up and waited for the promised email. It arrived soon enough and, as promised, its contents appeared to be complete jibberish:

I) Grinning Druid gunrunning ring did drug run.
  A. Rally a loyal ally, or roar orally.
    i) I see tots scoot, toss toys, eye tootsies. Miss Christie's shy sister criticises the thirty
      chestiest mistresses' merry trysts. I am an insane sinner, an assassin marine—in a
      miniseries. Memo, seems moms see moose messes. This ecclesiastical
      metamathematics elitist steals cellmate's tactical schematics, acts cattiest, chastises
      all the athletes—it's a lie that this is ethical. I, a pimpled academic, decoded a polar
      empirical error & doodled prime radii ere I cried "Pi." Ann, a nana. Assassination
      on antinationalists is an odious statist stunt; this is not a solution.
    ii) Eros video "Derrieres" recorded Desiree's seedy sorcery! I wish this Swiss twit will sit
      still. Ewe—ewwwwww. A drugged grad urged Edgar, a grader, reread & regrade
      "A Rugged Dagger."
  B) Tut tut, Bubba—a butt tattoo, too taboo.

II) His hit is it. Just see us cute succubuses bust butt.
  A. Urge Euro guru, "Rue our error." Institutional non-union janitors tattoo satanist illustrations
    on tarantulas. I dislike endless idleness in skilless lessees. Kill a Click-it/Ticket tattletale.
    i) No onion tint in tin. Hotshots arrest a rooster, a threat to the earth; that sore rooster
      asserts that he rotates & tests rare horseshoes. A grinning, eager Engineering hire
      engaging in rearranging an engine. Matt's momma has asthma & a mammoth tooth.
    ii) I mimic a lame meme mix email:

        Taunt a nun in an illicit cantina? A yard, all day, hah! Paperclip, paperclip,
        rare paperclip; prepare pure purple apparel; call a creepier eerie upper
        palace. Timelessly infinitesimal sentimentality finally seems immensely
        silly.... Tutu-butt. Odd tot to do dot-to-dot to noon, no doodoo. Studious
        cousins discuss discontinuous sinusoids. Hi, I'm Mim. That stylishly
        tatty Sally slyly salts tasty salsas.... I sit, dying—disgusting. His sis is
        Sith. Narcissistic acupuncturists attract rampant cats. I sit, Sis sits, it is
        it. Recently an erratic electrical cycle ran eccentrically. I insist on going
        soon to the ghetto to sight the hitmen in the ghetto on missions to shoot
        enemies in heists. I'll create terror—yell, lecture a leader, leer at erotica,
        cut addled elderly, carry out a deadly act. I tilt a table, ablate a Bible, libel
        little Belle, bite a tablet, babble at a tattletale. Sorceresses secure robes
        & obscure robbers.... Mamma & Dad deem me, a madame, dead. We
        rebel, we brawl, we all rob—we are lawbreaker rabble. "Shhhhhh," I hiss.
        Ted, the detested demoted sot, seethed to me, "She's doomed." Old
        LoudCloud doll = cold, odd loco clod, lol. Hear her cheer her race career.
        In ruined lavender, Laura revealed a riddle and evaded a Reverend. I
        maintain impatience, irritation at repeat teammate/nonparticipant

      Mom, see moose memes memo.

III) A career critic, irate, let accelerate a late Arctic Cat electrical recall. Noting no union ignition
  tuning going on, I quit.
  A) Haha, Sam has to toast a hotshot host. On reconnaissance, I see rare inconsistencies or
    errors in Station Iota's intricate interconnects. Loud old owl & odd low doll duo wow Lou.
    Ma'am, ram a ham. "U" or "O". I sense cosmic omniscience is nonsense....
    i. He ate the tea.
    ii) Singing assassins gassing kings.
  B) Tut-tut. - Fifty fit stylists' fists will fly. A Dell handheld had a dead LED. Dally all day, lad.
  C) Scouts insist in unison, "Cut iconic institution's tuitions to donuts on odd condition—no
    idiotic nudist stunts." A lawless wastrel stealer's rearrest & release seals a restart as a
    star wrestler! Revere a rare Avatar tree. "O" or "U". Insecure Brit teens put trust in
    antiperspirants, increase in ease, take insane risks, pursue cuties in backseats, erupt in
    sicknesses—teens can't trust antiperspirants!

And that was all he had to go on. He scratched his head, stared at the babble before him, and wondered how he would ever figure out what he'd just been hired to do!

$\def\T#1{\small\text{#1}}\def\I#1{\small\it\text{#1}\rm}\require{action}\require{enclose} \toggle{\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{You have 3 messages (1 new).}}}}{\begin{array}{l} \bf\T{New Message }\rm\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{(Mark unread)}}}\\ % \T{From: harry@p*******.com}\\ \T{Date: 05-Mar-2017 18:16}\\ \T{Subject: RE: Job}\\\ \\ \T{With your reputation I had some hope you could figure this out yourself, but did not expect it.}\\ \T{This should help.}\\ ~~~~~~\bf\T{14}~~\implies~~\T{_ _ _ _ _,}~~~\T{_ _ _ _ _ _}~~~\T{_ _ _ !}\\ \ \\ \I{On March 4, 2017, *****@*********.*** wrote:}\\ \T{> After your last email I got 14 letters from you. I think I know what to do with them,}\\ \T{> but there seems to be too much in them to reduce to a single word. Did I go astray?}\\\ \\ % \toggle{\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{See older message(s) in thread}}}} {\begin{array}{l}\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{Hide older message(s) in thread}}}\\ % \T{From: harry@p*******.com}\\ \T{Date: 22-Feb-2017 01:38}\\ \T{Subject: RE: Job}\\\ \\ \T{Read my message very carefully; every word is important. What did I tell you twice?}\\ \ \\\I{On February 21, 2017, *****@*********.*** wrote:}\\ \T{> You said you told me exactly what to do, but your message seems more}\\ \T{> vague than exact, and you only gave me the instructions once.}\\ \T{> What am I missing??}\\\ \\ % \toggle{\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{See older message(s) in thread}}}} {\begin{array}{l}\color{blue}{\underline{\small \text{Hide older message(s) in thread}}}\\ % \T{From: harry@p*******.com}\\ \T{Date: 9-Feb-2017 20:12}\\ \T{Subject: RE: Job}\\\ \\ \T{I told you }\I{exactly}\T{ what to do, }\I{twice}.\\ \T{Keep looking, you'll see it ...}\\ \ \\\I{On February 9, 2017, *****@*********.*** wrote:}\\ \T{> Found your message, but not sure what to do. A hint please?}\\\ % \end{array}}\endtoggle\end{array}}\endtoggle\end{array}}\endtoggle$

What is the hired goon being asked to do?
What is the hired goon's christian name?

(If you haven't found the second answer, you haven't yet found the first one either... keep going!)

  • $\begingroup$ Mr. Peters, please advise of your progress. If you need further assistance understanding the job, reply to this message and I'll try to email you back as quickly as I can, if your question is one I can safely answer. -Harry $\endgroup$ – Rubio Mar 2 '17 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ Your bounty is about to end and the question is still unsolved. I think that Mr. Peters is not as good and as smart as his reputation says afterall. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Mar 5 '17 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @VictorStafusa Maybe you can help him. :) $\endgroup$ – Rubio Mar 5 '17 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ I have no idea... $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Mar 5 '17 at 22:24

Each sentence contains only specific letters. Those letters can be rearranged into words, which form a message.

For example,

Grinning Druid gunrunning ring did drug run. ---> During


Rally a loyal ally, or roar orally. ---> royal

The whole message reads (punctuation added, and updated by OP),

During a royal society chemistry seminar, some alchemist proclaimed an outlandish discovery! Whilst we argued about this subject, a rogue journalist slinked catlike into earshot; hearing Thomas exclaim:
    Lunatic? Hardly! Peculiar manifestly. But don't discount him hastily. Studying
    this manuscript, it's certainly something elucidatory, albeit obscure. Made
    workable, his methods could reach unrivaled importance!
Some article quoting Thomas' reactions would harm our incomes. I hate asking, but - swiftly handle Lady Discount Walters! Avert our bankruptcies!

The hint says

something was told twice. Words that occurred twice in the message are "a but discount our some this thomas" (Credit to Gareth McCaughan)

Using the same method,

letters that are found in those words are "abcdehimnorstu" which rearranged to "Simon, abduct her!" (punctuation added)


The hired goon's name is Simon Peters and he was hired to abduct the journalist Lady Walters.

  • $\begingroup$ I tried to pay attention to the punctuation. I've noticed 5 exclamation marks, 4 ellipses and a few more. One of the exclamation mark is after "Walters", but I cannot make sense out of "Lady Discount Walters" or its anagram. I also cannot see what the "&", "—" and quotes provides. $\endgroup$ – Pokemon Feb 9 '17 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ Message is correct now, though missing the one mark (there's a bare " - " in the source text, which should be included in the message; no big deal). On interpreting the "discount" you're wondering about, it's used ironically, in this sense (and should be capitalized). You've got the full message now; you still need to "keep going" and figure out the next step. Make sure you check your "new mail" for a hint, if you haven't already. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Feb 10 '17 at 21:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Letters occurring exactly twice in the message: j,f. Words occurring exactly twice in the message: a but discount our some this thomas. Strings occurring exactly twice in the message that happen to be words include "ring chemist to claim some discount meth" ... but also lots of others. Letters occurring exactly twice in individual sentences of the message, or between successive punctuation marks: also not obviously helpful. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 3 '17 at 14:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ After a bit of prompting from Rubio in TSL chat, it seems that our target is "Lady Discount Walters", who is apparently the journalist mentioned in the message before condensing to 14 letters. In that case we probably have "Simon, abduct her" rather than "Senor, abduct him". $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 6 '17 at 17:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So our goon is named Simon. (Is there a famous Simon Peters to whom this could all be referring, just for fun? Not that I know of, though of course there's a famous Simon Peter who is unlikely ever to have served as a professional abductor.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 6 '17 at 17:21

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