2 – “I’ll run the numbers.” Nick Pelling.
That’s what Nick Pelling said he was going to do after learning of the only constant in the code – the letter A appearing in the seventh position on every line.
NickP has always downplayed the possible espionage aspect of this case, and why not, years of investigation have come up with nothing to support that scenario, Gordon Cramer’s sterling efforts excepted.
Spies are a very cagey lot when it comes to disguising their messages, they have to be as there are only 26 letters available to them so there are many disposable rules that govern their game of hide and seek.
Both the message sender and message receiver must know how to interpret what appears to us as a jumble of letters into something meaningful: the Tamam Shud code for example.
Not only that, the receiver has to know for certain that the jumbled message has the right credentials so to speak, something he can quickly recognise in its body, something pre-ordained between the writer and the reader. A key.
Like the letter A.
M R G O A B A B D
M T B I M P A N E T P
M L I A B O A I A Q C
I T T M T S A M S T G A B
In every line the letter A fills the seventh position, so number 7 looks a likely key in this instance.
What happens next is that NickP, noted computer wizard, writes up a simple, inexpensive program that turns each letter of the code into its alpha number equivalent. A=1, B=2, that routine.
So for line one we now have this row of numbers –
13 18 7 15 1 2 1 2 4
Then we add 7 to each number, giving us the next row –
13=20 18=25 7=14 15=22 1=8 2=9 1=8 2=9 4=11
Not losing anyone yet? Because it gets worse.
The next step could be to add the two rows together and in the case where the total exceeds 26 we just roll back to A and start again. For instance, using the letter M which is number 20 in the alphabet we can calculate the following:
13+20=33 which overruns the alphabet by 7 – so the M becomes number 7 in the alphabet, which is letter G.
I’m not going to run the entire code through this routine because other factors may have been used – like the number of letters in the line. Like I said, spies were a cagey bunch and they may have added the line number to the 7, making it 18 which is letter R.
Or maybe taken the 11 away from the 7, making it minus 4, which is plus 4 in the alphabet using the same rules but in reverse, making it letter D. Or rolling back 4 from Z, making it W.
This is where a bloke begins to feel a nasty headache coming on so he rings up his good mate NickP and asks how much would you like me to pay you to run the numbers this way?
Just send your bank details and I’ll see you right, ok?
I’ll get out of your way now.