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Thread: Michelle Kwan Mystery-The Missing Bronze Horseman

  1. #16
    eltamina
    Guest

    Re: Part 8 of the Missing Bronze Horseman


    As she was drifting, she heard her good friend Alexi voice. "Michelle, wake up please, we don't have much time." Michelle opened her eyes and there was Alexi, in his Winter costume. As he was cutting the ropes with his skate blades he asked, "Michelle, do you still have the piece of paper from Vera?"




  2. #17
    DrWatson
    Guest

    Re: Part 8 of the Missing Bronze Horseman


    Eltamina, Eltamina, Eltamina. Brevity is the soul of genius. :lol: I have a feeling that Mathman and Freddy will not be caught lagging.



  3. #18
    alicelouise
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman


    Part 6

    As Michelle came to she realized that it wasn't a skate blade but an efficient Swiss Army Knife that Alexei used to slice through her bonds. "I told you she'd try to investigate!" Alexei trailed off with a trail of Russian invective to Von Petrick's bodyguard Mr. Burns.

    Michelle pulled out Vera's note from the locket in her Good Luck Necklace from her grandmother. This was not the first time her Grandmother's blessing had come through for her. Her abductors made off with her cellular tote and phone. "Mr. Burns dial this number if you have a cell phone on you: RUC-486!"

    "Alyosha what happened?"
    "It's a long story Chelle. I'll tell you later." He proferred some sneakers, a Tshirt, and some shorts; all of which fit Michelle. "We have to get moving."
    "Can either of you tell me if the Bronze Horseman is really missing?"
    "It is Miss Kwan." said Mr. Burns.
    "We were hoping you wouldn't get involved."
    Michelle suddenly felt some irritation. "Of course I'm going to get involved. In the US, the press wants to find a scapegoat and fast! That person is instantly ruined whether guilty of innocent."
    Mr. Burns dialed the number.
    "Keep it on stand-by mode." said Michelle.
    "I'll tell you about it later OK Chelle?"

  4. #19
    DrWatson
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, part 10


    "And by the way, Aloysha," Michelle said gratefully, "thanks for bringing me some clothes. I don't know what I was thinking of, traipsing about in my birthday suit like a common trollop.

    "But now we need some serious help with this numerical cipher."

    Michelle picked up the cell phone.

    "Hello," she said. "National Security Agency?"

  5. #20
    Freddy the Pig 2
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, part 11


    The Bronze Horseman, by Alice Louise et. al.
    Chapter 11, by Freddy

    Oh, the wild wind moans o'er the lone prair-ee
    But two-gun Freddy, Oh louder moans he;
    (Sing hi yi yippy yippy yip!)
    He shouts his song till the whole sky rings
    As he sits in the saddle and twangles on the strings:
    Oh hi yi yippy yippy yings.
    Oh hi yi yippy yippi yap, yop, yowp,
    Oh high yi yippy yippy yings.


    "Hello?" said Michelle Kwan into the cell phone. "Is this the National Security Agency?"

    There was a long pause. Michelle could hear muffled conversations in the background. Then came a sharp voice in her ear.

    "Who is this?" it barked. "How did you get this number? This call has already been triangulated. Don't move. Stay right where you are."

    "Never mind who 'this' is," said Michelle calmly. "Put me through to Mathman on the double. Tell him it's xs.jnoon." She glanced at Alexei and did some quick calculations in her head. "Tell Mathman," she repeated, "it's xs.jnoon and ion?ns. It's important. I'll wait."

    Only seconds passed before a new voice came on the line:

    "Stay there. A car is in the area now."

    Michelle hung up the phone.

    "What's this all about, Chelle?" asked Alexei.

    Michelle glanced at Mr. Burns. He seemed to be on the right side now, but who knew where his true loyalties lay? For that matter, was the Count really to be trusted after all? She hadn't forgotten the look of despair in the eyes of her friend and one-time mentor Vera. And where did Robert Tan fit into all of this?

    "I'll tell you what I can on the way to NSA headquarters, Alexei, OK?" she said. "And you can tell me why you were arrested and how you got out of jail just in the knick of time to help me."

    Alexei shrugged. "There isn't much to tell. I was as surprised as anyone when the police took me off. I had never heard of any Bronze Horse or anything else. I was kept in a solitary cell for a day, then suddenly Mr. Burns showed up and said I had been released on bail."

    "You know Count Von Petrick then?" asked Michelle.

    "Not really," was the reply. "I knew of him. And, you know, because of the Countess' skating background I would see them at various events in Europe. They invited me and some other skaters to dinner once at Von Petrick's St. Petersburg residence -- it's pretty cool, by the way. It's a castle that used to be part of the Romanov holdings, but it was taken over for government offices after the revolution. But then after the change in government in 1990, Von Petrick got it somehow. It's been beautifully restored. You should see it!"

    Hmm, Michelle thought to herself, I have a feeling that I might.

    “Speaking of the Countess,” Alexei went on. Did you know that her brother was Sergei Oblensky, the famous chess champion who disappeared four years ago right after he won the world title? I had a chance to play him at the party that night. Pretty cool.”

    “I didn’t know you could play chess, Aloysha,” said Michelle. “I’ll have to challenge you some time.”

    Alexei laughed.

    “All Russians know how to play chess,” he said with a smile. “Of course Oblensky gave me rook odds and crushed me.

    "Anyway," Alexei continued, "we came back to the hotel and I went looking for you. Elaine told me about the party, and we were on our way past the saunas when we heard someone moaning. I guess it was you."

    "Wait a minute, Aloysha," said Michelle. “Something doesn't add up. Why did you just happen to have a set of clothes for me?"

    "Mr. Burns had them," Alexei answered. "I didn't really think about it..."

    They both turned to the bodyguard in expectation. But Mr. Burns, who had been looking out the window at the street below, at that moment broke into the conversation to announce that the Agency car had arrived. Without a chance for any further explanations, Burns hustled the two skaters down the stairs and out into the street.
    The long black limousine had "National Security Agency" stenciled in gold letters on the door.

    So much for secrecy, Michelle thought. What kind of a spy outfit is this, that advertises itself in gold. Oh well, I suppose in Washington everybody is driving around in some sort of official car, so they want to blend in.

    Sitting together in the back of the limousine, Michelle had plenty of time to tell Alexei about her acquaintance with the elusive and unstable genius Mathman.

    “No one knows who he really is,” Michelle began, “and he uses many aliases for different purposes. I heard that last year he was awarded a Nobel Prize for his revolutionary work in cryptology, but he couldn’t accept it because that would have compromised his identity. Anyway, four years ago he started writing fan letters to me -- the usual gush, you’re so beautiful, you’re so talented, you look like an angel when you skate, yadda, yadda, yadda. You know what I mean.”

    “Yeah,” answered her friend, “I know exactly what you mean.”

    “Well, anyway,” Michelle continued, “Shep Goldberg’s staff handled it routinely -- you know, send out a fake autographed picture, whatever. But one day Shep himself happened to see one of the letters, noticed that it was written on official National Security Agency stationary, in an official envelop sent with franking privileges, etc., etc., and decided that maybe we shouldn’t blow this guy off after all. So he had me actually answer one of Mathman’s letters. ’Thank you so much for blah, blah, blah...’ You know the routine.”

    “Yeah,” agreed Alexei, “do I ever. My American publicist makes me spend four hours a week at it.”

    “Ok,” Michelle went on, “so one thing led to another and pretty soon he gave me an Agency code to use if I were ever in trouble and needed someone taken out or something.”

    Alexei smiled: “Was he a Tonya Harding fan, too?”

    “He even sent me his picture,” Michelle laughed. “He looked like a cross between Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Billy Dee Williams. All in their prime. In fact, I think it WAS a morphed image of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Billy Dee Williams. But the code was cool, and now I have a chance to use it.”

    “How does it work?“ Alexei wanted to know. “Is ion?ns code for Alexei.”

    “Yeah,” was the reply. “If I did the math right. It’s easier if you have a calculator. So, OK, you have a 30-letter alphabet -- that works better because 31 is a prime number, but 27 isn’t. So you have the 26 letters of the regular alphabet plus period, space, comma and question mark. Each letter is a number, like A = 1, B =2 and so on. To encode a letter, multiply its number by 9, then divide the answer by 31 and take the remainder. That’s your new letter.

    “So for instance, to do Michelle, here goes “M”, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet.

    M = 13.

    Multiply by 9: 13*9 = 117.

    Divide by 31: 117 divided by 31 goes 3 time with a remainder of 24.

    24 = x (the 24th letter of the alphabet).

    So M encodes as x.

    So my whole name: xs.jnoondfuib. That “d” in the middle is the code version of the space between Michelle and Kwan. So you see it’s a pretty hard code to break because you don’t know where the word divisions are.”

    “Hmm,” said ion?nsdhiacesb. “So how do you decode it?”

    “Easy,” answered Michelle. “Just do the same thing, only multiply by 7 instead of 9. So let’s say we want to decode “x” and get back our original letter “M.”

    x = 24.

    Multiply by 7: 24*7 = 168.

    Divide by 31: 168/31 = 5 with a remainder of 13.

    13 = M.

    So we can decode xs.jnoon back to Michelle.”

    “Oh, I get it,” said Alexei. Nine and seven work like that because 9 times 7 is one more than a multiple of 31. You could also use 12 to encode and 13 to decode, or 11 to encode and 17 to decode. That’s why you need the number of elements in your alphabet to be one less than a prime number, to make sure that every number has a modular inverse. Pretty neat. So do you think that’s all there is to the coded message that you received from Vera?’

    Michelle‘s mood suddenly darkened.

    “I’m pretty sure there’s more do it than that,” she said as the limousine pulled up in front of the headquarters for U.S. national security.

  6. #21
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: The Bronze Horseman, part 11


    You're bacon. Freddy.

  7. #22
    Freddy the Pig 2
    Guest

    Re: The Bronze Horseman, part 11


    Don't you mean I'm ri.kb ?

  8. #23
    eltamina
    Guest

    GS is the BBB board


    Mathman said, "bacon"

    Our most esteemed professor Mathman, from just a short few weeks of lurking/ posting here, I found out that B words reign supreme here at GS. I am afraid bacon is not one of those B words though. Do you mean BBB instead? Of course even as a newbie here I know BBB are not Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. BBB in this board = Bovine, Beef and Brain. :lol: :rollin:

  9. #24
    mathman444
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, Part 12


    The Adventure of the Missing Bronze Horseman
    A Michelle Kwan Mystery by Alice Louise et. al.
    Part 12, by Mathman

    Michelle and Alexei were escorted, none too gently, from the car, up the steps, and into the reception hall of the NSA building. After a quick consultation among the internal security staff, they were photographed and fingerprinted, then frog-marched down a series of corridors, past several security check points, and finally thrust through the door of a particularly unassuming office at the end of a long but brightly lighted hallway.

    Michelle glanced about her. Mathman's office proved to be half computer lab, half shrine to Michelle Kwan. Michelle's eyes followed the line of life-sized posters of her that covered three of the four walls. Each one was precisely 152 centimeters by 94 centimeters, in accordance with the golden ratio of one plus the square root of five to two. Spaced exactly 25.4 centimeters apart, they traced Michelle’s career from Pocahontas to Scheherazade. In a jumbled heap in a far corner were three Fields Medals, presumably awarded to Mathman under various aliases.

    Mathman looked up from his desk.

    “Michelle,” he gasped, “it really IS you.” -- and fainted dead away.

    Oh brother, thought Michelle, we don’t have time for this. She picked up a vase of flowers from the corner of the desk and emptied it over Mathman’s head. Artificial flowers and little glass marbles bounced off his head and rolled across the floor. But it did the trick, as Mathman slowly regained consciousness.

    “Michelle,” he mumbled, genuflecting.

    “Oh, get up and stop acting stupid,” said Michelle. “We came here for your help. This is my friend, Alexei Yagudin.”

    Of course Mathman was well acquainted with the career of the Russian star -- after all, he had won as many world championships as Michelle had -- and he shook his hand warmly.

    Michelle gave Mathman the briefest of summaries of their situation and produced the coded message:

    46385039563281947329523165099453765093423
    95847736652439685774635455524069583543867
    84326546656487706988354622735314638673934
    75649903895647213749507650084637643368457
    75640957463958649306576673421875643865719
    64287476453374465438576396004585763446586
    85746967867325467532658665539585652218594

    756483975694653968753647602747

    “So what do you think, Mathman,” asked Michelle. “Is it really a code? Can you decode it?”

    “It’s not a code, its a cipher,” replied Mathman. “A code is based on a secret agreement on the part of the two parties. ‘One if by land, two if by sea.’ That’s a code. It can’t be broken by cryptanalysis. A cipher is a substitution of letters or numbers according to a specific formula. Every cipher can be broken in principle if the message is long enough.”

    “Well, never mind that, Mathman,” Michelle said impatiently. “Can you break this ‘cipher’ or not?”

    “Well,” answered Mathman, “it’s obviously a Rivest, Shamir and Adleman, or RSA Public Key cipher. See these 30 digits down at the bottom? That’s the “public key.” Every member of the network has access to the public key, and in principle the message can be deciphered with this information alone.”

    “In principle?” asked Alexei, joining in now for the first time.

    “Yes, Alexei,” responded Mathman, “in the sense that there is a well defined algorithm to produce the plaintext from the ciphertext. The advantage to this method is that if a particular agent is captured or killed before he can carry out the encrypted instructions, another member of the network can step in without extensive rebriefing. But without the contributions of the ith and jth private keys, when operative i is communicating with operative j, it takes an impractically large amount of computer time -- weeks, perhaps, to do all of the calculations.”

    “Well, we don’t have weeks, Mathman,” explained Michelle. ”The long program in the Friendship Games is Saturday, and if we don’t have this all cleared up by then, and the Bronze Horseman returned, I think that something terrible is going to happen.”

    “Fortunately, Michelle,” Mathman said, “I have just been working on a new subroutine that ought to speed up the computations considerably. This will be a good chance to test it.”

    Mathman took the piece of paper from Michelle and ran it through his scanner. He typed in a command and pressed “enter.” Immediately the printer came on line, printing out a series of letters.

    “Hmm,” said Mathman, still looking at the computer screen. “0.08 seconds. I still have some work to do on the program, I see.”

    But Michelle and Alexei were looking at the printout.

    “Mathman,” Alexei said in bewilderment. “This is just a bunch of gibberish!”

    Indeed, the printed message was:

    EM JUN MGO WONM AK METON,
    EM JUN MGO JATNM AK METON,
    EM JUN MGO UDO AK JENRAT,
    EM JUN MGO UDO AK KAAZENGFONN,
    EM JUN MGO OQAHG AK WOZEOK,
    EM JUNE MGO OQAHG AK EFHYORIZEMS,
    EM JUN MGO NQYEFD AK GAQO,
    EMJUN MGO JEFMOY AK RONUEY.

    Michelle looked at Mathman suspiciously.

    “Very funny, Mathman,” she said in annoyance, “but where’s the plaintext?”

    “Oh,” Mathman answered, “that’s all this decryption program can do, separate the message into English words with a random assignment of letters. Now we have to use probabilistic techniques.”

    “Well,” said Michelle, “I don’t see how that’s any better than those stupid numbers.”

    “Oh, its much better,“ was the answer. “Not only is the message divided naturally into words, but look at this -- each work can actually be pronounced. Sort of. You need a little imagination for MGO and JATNM. But that means that vowels have been substituted for vowels and consonants for consonants. Otherwise you'd have words with no vowels and you couldn't pronounce it, like xcprtzf or tschrnchv.”

    Michelle looked again at the still-encrypted message which Vera had given her -- was it only yesterday? Probabilistic techniques?

    “Well, let’s see,” Michelle thought out loud. “I know that E is the most common letter in English, so... Hah, the letter O occurs 22 times in this message -- more than any other letter. So let's go with O for E.”

    “OK,” added Alexei. “And now the word MGO occurs 8 times and so does JUN. The most common 3-letter word in English is THE. Since O is really E, MGO must be THE. So M is T and G is H.”

    Michelle took up the analysis again: "OK Now. The first word in every line, EM, is really _T. So it must be IT or AT. If we try IT, then each line starts with

    IT _ _ _ THE

    and the middle letter is a vowel, not e or i.”

    "IT WAS THE...!" shouted Alexei. “You know, this would be easier for me if it was in Russian.”

    “But then you'd be on your own,” Michelle laughed. “Two heads are better than one. OK, now we know we know three of the vowels, A, E, and I. Since O is much more common than U, ciphertext A is probably plaintext O. That means that AK is either "of, "or," or "on." Let's try "of" first. So if we put in all the letters we know so far, let's see now..."

    IT WAS THE _EST OF TI_ES,
    IT WAS THE WO_ST OF TI_ES.
    IT WAS THE A_E OF WIS_O_,
    IT WAS THE A_E OF FOO_ISH_ESS.
    IT WAS THE E_O_H OF _E_IEF,
    IT WAS THE E_O_H OF I_ _ _E_U_IT_....
    IT WAS THE S_ _I_ _ OF _O_E,
    IT WAS THE WI_TE_ OF _ES_AIR.

    The three stared at the message for some seconds. Suddenly Michelle spoke:

    “Alexei! Mathman!

    “It was the best of times. it was the worst of times,
    “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
    “It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of ... What's the opposite of belief?

    “Incredulity?” offered Mathman, incredulous.

    “...the epoch of incredulity,” Michelle continued.
    "It was the -- something -- of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

    “Spring of hope!” Alexei joined in. “The spring of hope, the winter of despair.”

    Alexei and Michelle looked at each other.

    “That's it?“ said Alexei in bewilderment. “That's the message? What is it saying?”

    “Just a minute, Aloysha.” Michelle’s mind was racing a mile a minute. “Aloysha! This is the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Yeah. The two cities were London and Paris and it was the time leading up the French revolution.”

    “Well, Viva la France,” was Alexei’s reply, “but what does that have to do with us?”

    But Michelle was on a roll.

    “OK, think about it,” she said. “Two cities. Two countries. Russia and the United States. The Friendship games. The Bronze Horseman on loan from The Hermitage to the National Museum of Art. Washington, D.C., and ... where is the Hermitage, anyway, Moscow or Lenningrad?”

    “Len..,” Alexei began. “I mean St. Petersburg. They changed the name back. It’s the old Czarist capital.”

    That struck another bell with Michelle.

    “St. Petersburg?” she exclaimed. “Isn’t that where Count Von Petrick has his second estate, along with the Von Egan holdings in Luxembourg? It all seems to be coming together now. The Tale of Two Cities. Washington and St. Petersberg. I think the key to the missing Horseman is there, in St. Petersberg. Mathman, can you help?”

    Thirty minutes later Michelle Kwan and Alexei Yagudin, 8 world championships between them, were on a State Department jet streaking toward Russia through the cloudless skies.

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Back to you, Alice Lou.

    Weave your spell, Alice L.

    (If you please, Alice Louise.)


  10. #25
    eltamina
    Guest

    Re: The Bronze Horseman, Part 12


    Good story. I said this is a board of the BBB, don't know about bovine and beef, Definitley there are a lot of briany people here.

    Mathman LOL :lol:

    "Mathman looked up from his desk.

    “Michelle,” he gasped, “it really IS you.” -- and fainted dead away.

    Oh brother, thought Michelle, we don’t have time for this. She picked up a vase of flowers from the corner of the desk and emptied it over Mathman’s head. Artificial flowers and little glass marbles bounced off his head and rolled across the floor. But it did the trick, as Mathman slowly regained consciousness"

    You forgot to tell us that Mathman was playing Lyra Angelica concerto for harp and orchestra when Michelle walked into his office.

    BTW, off topic here have you finished reading that book on the Hadyn quartets? Is it a book on the quartets composed by Hadyn or is it a book on the Hadyn quarters written by Mozart in honor of Hadyn?

  11. #26
    eltamina
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, Part 12.5


    After 3 hours of flight the plane landed, Michelle looked out and saw the familiar sky line of LA. Before she could ask any questions, she saw Robert Tan boarding the plane. Then it was announced that they would make a stop in Singapore first.

  12. #27
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: The Bronze Horseman, Part 12


    Eltamina writes -- You forgot to tell us that Mathman was playing Lyra Angelica concerto for harp and orchestra when Michelle walked into his office.

    What I really forgot to say was:

    As Mathman lay unconscious on the floor, Michelle got a good look at him for the first time. Hey, thought Michelle, he really DOES look like a cross between Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Billy Dee Williams, all in their prime. I wonder if he plays hockey. If only he were 30 years younger. Oh, well.

    About the Haydn book, since no one seems to be reading this story except you, why not go off topic? (By the way, a new character is about to appear, the mysterious "El Tah." Guess what El Tah's last name is? OTHER AUTHORS, ESPECIALLY FREDDY -- DON'T JUMP THE GUN ON THIS NEW CHARACTER, OK?)

    Anyway, its about the 45 "great" quartets composed by Haydn (the author's opinion about which ones are "great"). The book is a very highly technical exegesis, note by note in some cases, of the scores, with an eye toward telling the reader/student how to play each passage -- what bowing and fingering technique to use, how to phase it, etc. If the reader is not a fiddler him/herself, as I am not, he/she won't understand all of the terms. It's way over my head. ("How can one thus describe a complex, monothematic ternary form with a fugal middle section wherein the brilliant, stressedly homophonic theme suddenly discloses its contrapunctal potentialities?" How, indeed?) But I was reading it again because I thought that it made some points that were relevant to the discussion that you and Joe were having about "bravura vs. cantabile styles."

    I wanted to contribute to that discussion, just to show how smart I am, but it didn't work out. You and Joe have priced yourself out of the market, so to speak, with that one. Your punishment is that now that thread (the most interesting one on the board) is way down at the bottom and will be bumped off the first page soon, all because no one can keep up with you.

    The reason that I had the book in the first place is that I once sent Lori Nichol an idea for choreography for Opus 76, no. 5 (all four movements), and also Opus 76, no. 4 (the "Sunrise Quartet"), first movement, for Michelle. (It's hard to believe, but Lori didn't use either of my ideas -- nor any of the other ten that I sent her that year.) So I wanted to read up on these particular quartets so that I would know what I was talking about.

    Mathman

  13. #28
    mathman444
    Guest

    Re: The Bronze Horseman, Part 12.5


    Eltamina writes: Before she could ask any questions, she saw Robert Tan boarding the plane. Then it was announced that they would make a stop in Singapore first.

    You read my mind! Why don't you take this part yourself, El?
    Unless Alice Louise wants to take us to Russia first. Are you still on board, Buzz?

    Mathman

  14. #29
    eltamina
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, Part 12


    "What I really forgot to say was:

    As Mathman lay unconscious on the floor, Michelle got a good look at him for the first time. Hey, thought Michelle, he really DOES look like a cross between Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Billy Dee Williams, all in their prime. I wonder if he plays hockey. If only he were 30 years younger. Oh, well"

    Actually, what really happened was that Mathman fainted, and Michelle gave him a kiss on his forehead and woke him up.


    "Your punishment is that now that thread (the most interesting one on the board) is way down at the bottom and will be bumped off the first page soon, all because no one can keep up with you."

    Now that I did you a favor for giving you a fictional kiss from Michelle, you have to return a favor and read my thread on AP and soup. :lol:


    "The reason that I had the book in the first place is that I once sent Lori Nichol an idea for choreography for Opus 76, no. 5 (all four movements), and also Opus 76, no. 4 (the "Sunrise Quartet"), first movement, for Michelle. (It's hard to believe, but Lori didn't use either of my ideas -- nor any of the other ten that I sent her that year.) So I wanted to read up on these particular quartets so that I would know what I was talking about"

    Well, join the club, when does Lori ever listen to us, I sent her a tape of a piece of music for Michelle once. Of course she never used it.

    Others, go ahead and write the next part of the story. I can't write.

  15. #30
    Freddy the Pig 2
    Guest

    The Bronze Horseman, part 13


    The Adventure of the Missing Bronze Horseman, A Michelle Kwan Mystery by Alice Louise et. al.

    Chapter 13, by Freddy

    Alexei and Michelle huddled together in the small but sumptuously furnished room in which their captors had left them. They were still bound, but not uncomfortably so, as if Robert Tan wished to show some compassion for his victims after all. Two armed guards could be seen through the glass doors leading to a larger drawing room, also furnished eclectically in a mixture of Asian and European period pieces.

    They had not seen Mr. Tan since observing him through the airplane window as he had boarded in Los Angeles. After an uneventful trip of several hours, during which they were left alone in the main cabin of the plane, they had landed in what Michelle assumed was Singapore. Several armed men, of a hodge-podge of nationalities, had then entered the cabin. Michelle and Alexei had been blindfolded and taken off the plane into a waiting car. After an hour's ride of twists and turns and a long uphill grade (so it seemed to Michelle who was trying without much success to keep track of the route), they were pulled out of the car and led up a short flight of steps. A few minutes later the blindfolds were removed, and they blinked around at their new predicament. Michelle drew some comfort from the fact that they had not been treated roughly by their abductors -- yet. In fact, Michelle had managed to work her hands free from the bounds without much effort.

    Just then she felt a buzzing in the waistband of her shorts. It was the cell phone that Mr. Burns had left with her! Feeling certain that this was Mr. Tan's enigmatic way of beginning contact, she flipped the phone open in anger.

    "Hello! .. what? ... Kristi? ... who? ... Oh, Professor Hingenboogle."

    It was indeed the archaeologist, calling over a precarious and static-filled connection.

    "Professor," said Michelle, "do you know anything about all this? I need help right away.... what? ... Trust the .... Trust who? ... Trust the Vivors? ... Who ..... Professor, I ..."

    The line was dead.

    "What was that, Chelle," asked Alexei, struggling to sit upright.

    "I ... it was that archaeology professor I told you about. The expert on the Bronze Horseman. I don't know if he knew we were in trouble or not. He said, trust somebody. I couldn't make it out. Trust the Vivors. Vivors. Something like that."

    "Can the professor send help," Alexei asked.

    "I don't know, Alexei," Michelle replied. "I think we'd better assume we're on our own. Uh, oh."

    Uh, oh, indeed. The two guards, pausing in their conversation to check on their captives through the doorway, now rushed in. One swarthy pock-faced brute snatched the cell phone from Michelle's hand.

    "I see," he leered into her face, "that we didn't search you thoroughly enough."

    He reached out a beefy paw in Michelle's direction, but just then Alexei kicked out with both feet, catching the guard square on the kneecap, just below the patella Kerrigansi. The guard collapsed in a writhing heap. But before Alexei could follow up on his attack, the other door swung open and in strode Robert Tan.

    Ignoring both Alexei and the guards, the dapper Mr. Tan turned his full attention to Michelle.

    "So we meet again, Miss Kwan," he said. "On my turf. Maybe the playing field is not so level after all."

    Michelle gave a hurried whisper to Alexei, who was still struggling mightily in his bonds to come to Michelle's defense.

    "Don't worry, Aloysha," she said softly, "I've got this guy's number."

    She raised her head coyly and met Robert Tan's eyes.

    "Don't waste your time, Miss Kwan," said Mr. Tan. "Frankly, your seductress act is too lame for words. What is this, a reprise of Salome? You ooze wholesomeness in everything you do, Michelle. That's why idiots like Mathman like you so much. But either way it won't cut any ice with me."

    Michelle didn't know whether to feel insulted or relieved.

    "Well, Mr. Tan," asked Michelle, "if you don't want ME, what do you want?"

    Robert Tan paused for dramatic effect. Then he slowly turned his gaze to Alexei. He pointed directly at the Russian star.

    "HIM," said Robert Tan. "I want him, and now I have him."

    "Now hold on, there, Jack!" protested Alexei. "Don't believe everything you read about male figure skaters!"

    "You cut me to the quick, Mr. Yagudin," replied the industrialist. "I am not the roué that I pretend to be in my public persona. Not at all. I am a connoisseur, Mr. Yagudin. A collector.”

    “So we heard,” interposed Michelle.

    For the first time in the entire bizarre adventure Michelle was becoming truly concerned for their safety. A would-be playboy on the make is one thing. But it was becoming more and more clear now that behind this conventional facade lurked ... insanity.

    Trying to steer the conversation into safer waters, she asked:

    “Mr. Tan, tell me flat out. Did you steal the Bronze Horseman for your art collection?”

    “Oh, no, my dear,” was the reply. “I had nothing to do with that. Although it is an interesting piece, and I might bid on it should it be offered on the black market. No, no, Michelle, you still don’t understand. I am not a collector of art.”

    “I don’t get it,” said Michelle. “You just said that you are a collector. If you don’t collect art, what do you collect?”

    Mr. Tan turned his face toward Michelle. How had she not noticed before the preternatural shine of lunacy in his deep set dark eyes?

    “Artists, my dear,” said Robert Tan. “I collect artists.”


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