The Keeper guides you through a room that seems to be something of an art gallery, with a rather eclectic selection of works. As you pass, you notice one painting with spiralling blocks of colour that seems oddly familiar, and a luscious photograph of a red-hued sand dune. But The Keeper is very much in a rush to show you something, and hustles you onwards into what looks for all the world like a library.
“Now, some of the early hunts by that nice John Green were actually full-on mysteries, going through time and space,” recalls The Keeper with some relish. “One time the password was even taped underneath an actual physical bench.”
“Of course, I say ‘by John Green’, but a lot of the really nasty riddles were written by that equally nice Rosianna Halse Rojas, his all-purpose partner-in-crime and sometime representative on earth. If a puzzle was horribly difficult and somewhat highbrow, it was almost certainly Rosianna’s doing.”
While he’s been talking, The Keeper has located and pulled down a large buff box file from a high shelf, disturbing a substantial quantity of dust that makes him sneeze repeatedly. He pulls out a particularly flamboyant lace handkerchief from his sleeve, and blows his nose with a sound something like a foghorn. You jump, and he jumps in turn.
“Gosh, sorry, that was loud. It’s just as well the Librarian’s not around, or I’d get shushed back into last week for that.” He stuffs the handkerchief back into his other sleeve, pauses, evidently decides that feels wrong, then returns it to the original sleeve. “Right, all sorted. Now, I’ve got a little mystery here for you as well.”
He opens the box file, and tips its contents haphazardly across the table: a selection of yellowed papers, pamphlets and faded photographs; and a menu for a Chinese restaurant, which The Keeper grabs.
“That’s where that went! I’ve been looking for that everywhere! You know, when you get to my age, the memory’s never quite what it once was.” The Keeper grabs the menu, and stuffs it up his vacant sleeve.
“Anyway, menus aside, this is a charming little mystery for you. Here, why don’t you start with this?” The Keeper pushes into your hands a photograph, faded and dog-eared, which looks for all the world like an architectural study.
You rotate the picture several ways, but find none make it more interesting, and turn it over for inspiration. On the back, you find – in a languid, sprawling handwriting – the note: “between the first and second hills and the golden horn”. You look up at The Keeper, who has been sorting through some of the other papers in the file.
“Just found the local pizza place menu too. I must have been jolly hungry the last time I looked at this. Now, I’m sure you can see what you need to do. I’m going to pop these menus by the telephone: give me a shout when you’ve worked it out.”