Arthur Harris walked in, closed the door, sat at the table and filled the two cups with hot english tea. The table and chairs were the only furniture in the room and the wall was adorned with the a single portrait of the queen and a clock. It was a few minutes before the next man, one Victor Halen, entered, sat down and sipped from his tea cup.
“3, 5, 8”
“13, 21, 34”
“55, 89, 144”
They did not introduce themselves.
“The Fibonacci sequence. They said you’d know it.”
“Yes. I am glad we’ve finally met.” Halen responded.
Harris took a revolver from his pocket, then emptied five of the six bullets onto the table, closed it and spun the magazine.
“You are aware then, that when we finish this code, only one of us leaves here.”
“Then let us begin.”
Both men reached beneath their chairs and took a large envelope and placed it on the table. They opened each of them and emptied the contents into the center.
“Numbers and stationary.”
“Letters and newspapers.”
The two men divided the pile into the letters and numerals.
Harris took a coin out the pocket of his trousers and began to flip it with grace between his fingers.
“And they’ve made the rules clear, for each pattern the other works out, the loser plays roulette.” Harris smiled excitedly at Halen as he finished his sentence. Still he flipped the coin.
The clocked ticked away anxiously. Beads of sweat formed on Halen’s brow as he moved through the problems, matching the fibonacci sequence with the corresponding letters in the alphabet. Then beginning again on numbers exceeding twenty-six. The man with the coin flipped it between his fingers with growing excitement as he watched his adversary strike numbers from the list and rearrange their order. He seldom looked down at his papers. The clock ticked. The ticked again. Then ticked again. Then chimed. One hour. Harris sipped his tea.
Halen dropped the fountain pen.
Harris sensed his anticipation. He fumbled with the coin and it fell onto the table.
“Completed.” He said and picked up the revolver. He leaned across the table and gave the magazine another spin. His breath was strong with tea, his suit smelt of cuban cigars. How could he! Nobody is faster than me! Harris looked down at the few strikes he’d made in the pages I’d been so close! Again he looked down the arm that now pushed the revolver’s barrel into his temple pull the trigger! He’d thought. Click. The chamber was empty. Five shots to go. Both men picked up their pens. The air had become sluggish in their lungs, beads of sweat ran cold from their brows. Their fingers grasped the throats of their pens. There was a strike out. Both looked up. A curse. Harris looked toward Victor Halen. Whom sat straight in his chair, he raised his hands above his head and crackled his knuckles then released a deep breath. Arthur Harris cursed. Calm yourself, he thought almost aloud you will survive, breath, breath focus.Victor Halen now had the tip of his pen to the page. He toward Arthur with a smirk and said;
“I’ve almost finished.”
Arthur’s entrails ran cold. His heart beat in his throat. He drew a line through the numbers on the page.
“I have finished.” He took up the revolver, his arm shook. He steadied it. Held the grip hard. Pulled the trigger. Another click. The sigh of relief came out as a wheeze.
“My turn.” The second man picked the revolver off the table, leaned forward the barrel kissed his victim’s temple. Click. Three shots remained. He slammed the gun onto the table top. The beating of the first’s heart diverted from his throat and back into his chest. He looked down at his page and made several more lines, cross referencing the letters with the number code. His opponent gripped his knees and clenched his teeth. A low moaning escaped from the bottom of his gut. Arthur flipped the coin between his fingers, it stumbled, only once. He tucked it into his palm. Two sets of cold pale hands clasped on to two different fountain pens. There was a moment of silence. The clocked ticked on. Two hours. Three shots. Three puzzles each remained.
Arthur Harris flipped the coin and let it fall onto the table. He reached into his coat and produced a folded photograph which he slid across the table.
“My wife, my daughter. Please.” His voice shook but his heart was slow, he was in control. The photo was opened by the other, a solitary tear erupted from his left eye. It was quickly followed by another from his right. He dropped the pen. The first man looked up. Then glanced down and scribbled words onto the page. The second spoke;
“My name, is Halen, Victor Halen. I too have a family. A young son and beautiful wi-“
“Check.” The first picked the revolver from the table and leaned toward Victor Halen. He pressed the barrel to the man’s forehead, his eyes were wild, his mouth hung hungrily. He pulled the trigger. The force of the bullet knocked Victor Halen’s chair backward and he fell to the floor. The first man sat down and took up his fountain pen. He made the final few marks on his page before he stood. Nobody, is faster than I am. He lit a cigarette and then burned the photograph. Every time. When will they find someone who can challenge me?