[To call this article offbeat would be almost misleading. Regardless, it’s odd, it’s hip. Heck, it’s newsworthy! -ed.]
Sometime in December, the ARG community was turned upside down; a trio of mysterious barristers named David Landau, Jeffrey Luckman, and Stephen Lake - apparently at the great expense and bequest of an anonymous client - began e-mailing documents to seemingly random members of the ARG community.
Fortunately, our wonderful brethren gathered at Unfiction and Collective Detective and shared their wealth. As it turned out, only when everyone’s materials were pooled did a message stand out. Just then, as quickly as it began, the dialogue and e-mails stopped.
Who the heck is Jake, and what can’t he stop? What kind of help does he need? Was this some sort of test, or the start of a wild new game? This intrepid reporter was DETERMINED to find some answers for you, our dedicated public.
It was shortly thereafter that three gentlemen found me, squatting in the dumpster behind Landau, Lake, and Luckman, heaving out the soured remains of three discarded cognac bottles I had found there about 30 minutes earlier. As the three wavering images slowly resolved themselves into one, I wiped my lips on the few treasured papers I had found, and quickly stood down. My face in a bag of trash, I tried again, orienting *upward* this time, and clambered over the side of the bin with a bit of a wobble.
The man before me offered me a rag with a snicker; he was obviously not one of the famed lawyers. Or was he? Wiping myself down with the grace of a hobo, and unsuccessfully offering back the man’s rag, I put on my best reporter face and asked him who the hell he was.
“You can ask me your questions, bridgekeeper, I’m not afraid… ,” he said. “Come, sit with Mephisto for awhile.”
The following interview occurred between 9:00PM and 10:00PM on the night of the Alabama Senior Bowl…
Vraal: Ok… Mephisto, was it? Just who ARE you? Do you work here?
Mephisto: Yes, I’m … the janitor, you might say.
Vraal: Ah. Thus the dumpster.
Mephisto: Yes. Enjoy the leftovers, did you?
Vraal: um, okay, just what the hell kind of game are you guys playing here, anyway? My readers DEMAND to know!
Mephisto: Rule #1 This is not a game. Rule #2 Never forget to play by Rule #1.
Vraal: do you deny there is a game being played here?
Mephisto: Are you playing one? If so, then there is a game being played.
Vraal: Who is Jake? Does he have anything to do with Ankgor Thom? Do you know anything about the universi–
Talkie: Mephisto? What on earth is taking you so long? Get in here!
Clearly relieved, Mephisto ran into the building - I quickly pocketed my dumpster papers. Several minutes later, Mephisto returned with a sharply-dressed young gentleman. Perhaps now I could get some further answers…
Mephisto: … Sir, this is the guy I was –
Gentleman: Mr. Vraal –
Vraal: How did you know my name??
Gentleman: That is our business. You may call me Mr. Lake.
Vraal: Ah, Stephen Lake, I presume.
Lake: Mr. Lake.
Vraal: I see. Mr. Lake, could you plea–
Lake: Landau, Luckman, and Lake has been fictionalized many times in the past. In regards to a Jake, we do not have any information in regards to him. Nor will we now or at any time in the future directly divulge our client’s name who instigated the battery of tests being delivered.
Vraal: Ah so you do indeed acknowledge that the messages were indeed “tests”? (I then swore under my breath for using that word so many times).
Lake: Yes… we did email the community of the tests a few days after the first test. We have said all we have been authorized to say on that matter.
Vraal: Can you comment as to the nature of the tests?
Lake: As previously acknowledged, once each test is completed and someone emails us the correct answer, the next sealed envelope is opened and we do what we can to meet the client’s request.
Vraal: You must have been paid exceedingly well; this “client” of yours sounds quite eccentric.
Lake: Funding is not an issue we can discuss. But Landau, Luckman, and Lake has never failed a client in their time of need.
Vraal: And who is your client?
Lake: We cannot discuss that matter with you at this time.
Vraal: My readers have a need, good sirs, to know what is being thrust upon them… but it seems all they have received so far have been open doors. Take the New River University, for example - In my research, I couldn’t help but notice that your law firm was rather heavily involved with recent discoveries made by a certain Dr. St. Vincent. I can’t help but infer that this discovery is related to
your client in some way. Can you elaborate?
Lake: Our client’s instructions included us getting in touch with Professor St. Vincent and delivering him a packet of information. So yes, inferring we’re heavily involved in the find is 100% accurate.
Vraal: How delightfully cryptic of you.
Lake: “Complete discretion in all manners”
Vraal: Dr. St. Vincent thanked your firm for your time and support, and wanted to “especially thank” the person who provided the information leading to the discovery. Was he referring to a member of your firm, or to your “mystery client”?
Lake: Mystery client? We prefer to call him a client who prefers to keep his name from the presses, nothing more. And yes, it would seem the good Professor was thanking him directly.
Vraal: Assuming you are in contact with Dr. St. Vincent - are you aware if he will accept queries regarding his work at this time? Perhaps I’ll have better luck getting to the bottom of this with him.
Lake: Getting to the bottom of what exactly? A person gives a university the find of a lifetime, and all of a sudden we have a Scooby Doo mystery…
Vraal: Ah ha! I’m glad you asked!
(It must have been at this time Mephisto was again speaking into his walkie-talkie, but I hadn’t noticed…It’s the only explanation…).
Vraal: 1) Your site connects to the NRU and the article connects the archaeologist to your firm.
2) One of our dear readers has posted that he found some other interesting artifacts on YOUR website that can only be construed as a mystery - calling everything into a single question, collectively. Namely, a map with some directions.
3) A mysterious painting YOU pointed the university to, now with quaint charcoal lines underlying it!
Mephisto: Mr. Vraal… I must inform you that the police are on their way. You are trespassing on LLL property.
Vraal: Our readers have started their feverish puzzlehunting anew with this business - THAT is the sum of the mystery of which I spoke. Do you STILL deny that this is indeed the start of a seductive game, or perhaps some conspiratorial guinea-pigging initiated by YOUR firm on behalf of a client (or otherwise)?
Lake: As for the findings of the painting and the charcoal markings. . . we could not have had nor have we tampered with since the painting. It’s genuine. As for the rest… well, Mysteries Abound!
Vraal: Mr. Lake - Which was right - Green Block, or Red Ball?
(Sirens suddenly in the distance, approaching, drowned out Lake’s sneered answer…)
Vraal: (Over my shoulder) Only time will tell, STEPHEN - I guarantee you that I and our readers will be following the scientific investigation VERY closely with regards to the painting. You *WILL* be hearing from me again, count on it!
I left in such a hurry, I forgot all about the papers I had grabbed from the dumpster…