Corruption in the Congo (Part I)

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"Being an antiques dealer is a far shot from what I THOUGHT I would be doing as an adult when I was younger, that's for sure!" muttled Jedidiah Drake, a 34-year-old confirmed bachelor and specialized dealer in Mediteranean Art, to himself as he fully catalogued his thirtieth crate of 17th century oak shelving braces. Talking once more to the crates, "Where's the gold, the damsel in distress, the excitement? I mean, it's 1932 already and here I am stuck in the basement of..." but his ranting came to a sudden halt at the realization that he was no longer alone in the dank room.

"Am I speaking to a Mr. Drake?" a delicate voice broke the awkward silence. "Oh, yes, you must be. I can see it in your eyes. May I first say that I am very sorry at the loss and disappearance of your father, Joseph Drake, the eminent world linguist. My husband, Charles Whitlow, was on your father's team. Your loss is mine, as well." Her speech was broken by a slow, downward cast of her head, then back up again. "I have come to you because the police won't help and the other two anthropologists on the team left no family behind. You see, I believe that my husband was murdered by someone on the team."

"Well, you surely aren't saying that my father had anything to do with..." Jed broke in.

"No, no, my dear man. Joseph was a kind and dear man. I believe that it was someone else on the team. Perhaps, even, there is a chance that there might be a survivor from the four that could cast a true light on what exactly happened three years ago when the team disappeared in the Belgian Congo."

"Well, sure I'd LOVE to find out what happened...but what can we do?"

"This was mailed to me along with some other personal belongings from a Hotel in Madagascar, their last stop before entering the jungles of the Congo. I guess my poor, absent minded dear left it behind on accident. You see, he was always..."

Jed interrupted "What was mailed?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, dear, I often do that. When you get to be my age, you...Oh! I'm doing it again, aren't I?" She smiled. "Well, this, to be exact." She held out piece of paper with some scribbles on it.

< >
< < ^. <> <> ^. <: >
< >
< <> <: ^ > < - ^^ - / - .. >. - .< >
< >
< :: ^. > : // . > -- // .. <: .: : >
< >
< ^ // .< \\ <: ^. .< - >
< >
< < // ^- - < \\ ^. -. . <: ^. \ >
< >
< < // . < \ ^. \ / \ / . \\ . >
< >
< :: ^. <> <> : <: <> .: >
< >
< >< // . .< ^^ <: - .< >
< >
< >. : - .< <> <: .. >
< >

"Charles told me all about how the remote native tribe deep within the jungle developed a pictorial form of writing. However, when some English explorers reached them and the tribe was introduced to this 'new tongue' they created a new, similar form of writing in order to communicate with the English. My Charles was the one that convinced your father to seek this tribe out to study their language."

"So you think that your husband wrote this scribbled...uh.... note?" Jed shook his head. "How can you tell that he was the one who made these scratch marks?"

"Dear, when you've been married as long as me, you know your husband's matter what language. Now, will you help me translate the marks?"

"I don't see how I can help..."

"Dear, your father kept copies of his notes, always - at least that is what my Charles always said. Perhaps your father's notes might shed some clues as to what some of the marks mean and we might be able to figure out the rest."


"How do you know that this isn't just him practicing the writing on a scrap piece of paper?" Jed still wasn't going for it.

"Because it was found in an envelope marked "My Millie." You see, I AM MILLIE. Please, dear, won't you help me."

Jed was now intrigued. "Okay. Why don't you hand the note to me and I'll see what I can find in my father's study. My mother has not touched it since he disappeared. She still believes that he'll come home one day."

With that, she said nothing but "Thanks, dear" and walked back out as quietly as she entered. As she cleared the corner, Jed smiled and checked to make sure he wasn't growing deer antlers. He hadn't been called 'dear' so much since his last visit to see his pawn shop owner, aunt Vera in Chicago.

After rifling through reams of paper, Jed did manage to find a few symbols with their English counterparts.

<> = 'L'

. = 'U'

>. = 'C'

Can you decypher the note?



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