Tischer fought to keep his amusement from showing on his face, but it was hard.

As one of the Star's forensic computer specialist, his advice was often sought under the guise of someone taking him out to lunch. The current person trying to pick his brains was Detective Morris from the organized crimes unit.

He wondered if people, in this case Detective Morris, realized how obvious they were actually being. When the detective suggested Chez Alain-- he knew it had to be something big.

Tischer shook his head. "Pete look," he finally interjected. "I appreciate the offer, but why don't you just come on down and pick my brain- I've got an analysis going for Rasset and I'm trying to recover some files for Sampers..."

"Tischer, I know you're busy but..."

"Pete- if its work related, I'm all yours. If it isn't... I can still probably give you some pointers but save your money..."

Morris objected again insisting that they both needed something to eat.

It took Tischer about five minutes to talk Morris down to something they both could feel good about.

Tischer was amazed at the restraint Morris showed. Throughout lunch and even the drive there, he kept the conversation casual. He refused to talk shop. Finally when they were waiting for the check, he turned to Tischer.

"Something's been bothering me on the Yarborough case," he finally admitted.

It only took Tischer a minute to remember the case. Decryption. As he recalled it was a rather involved no less than three keys.

"Yarborough... that was the..."

"Grocery list."

Tischer smiled and nodded, trying to suppress a laugh. It had been an interesting case-- one of Yarborough's men had shown up with the file, and gave it to the organized crime unit in exchange for protection. The man had disappeared soon after, leading Tischer to believe that they were just mucking with Morris and his people-- still you never knew.

"I've got to ask you-- why would somebody encrypt a grocery list?"

Tischer smiled. "My first thought-- someone's fraggin' with ya. They knew you boys would jump all over it-- tie up processing time and make you look bad..."

"First thought?" Morris asked picking up on Tischer's choice of words. "What else?"

Tischer shrugged. "Some folks encrypt everything as a matter of course..."

Morris frowned. "But a Grocery list?"

Tischer snorted. "Why do people lock the door to the bathroom, when they're the only one in their apartment? Itís a habit. It also means that nobody can tell the difference between the important files and the unimportant files..."

Morris stared at him for a few minutes until Tischer turned and looked at him directly.

"Pete-- I checked the disk to make sure there wasn't anything else on it... no deleted spaces, nothing hidden... nothing else was ever there, and there was no other information in the file... no ghost of the original message... nothing."

Morris looked up sharply. "I'm not accusing you Tischer-- I know you did everything... I know how thorough you are its just...."

"A grocery list Pete... Itís a grocery list... " Tischer's eyes widened as he got a slightly maniacal smile on his face. "Pete, you're a genius.. "

Detective Morris gave Tischer an odd look as the forensics specialist pulled out his pocket secretary and started typing frantically.




Tischer gave Detective Morris a startled look, then looked around the restaurant. "Sorry..." He took a deep breath-- eyeing his pocket secretary.

"You look like a junkie in need of a fix," Morris informed him as he pocketed his change.

Tischer shot him a scathing look that melted into a sheepish grin as he realized Morris was probably right. "Yeah well..."

"What do you have?"

Tischer looked around and then nodded towards the door-- this was not the sort of thing he wanted to discuss in public. His resolve lasted until they reached the relative safety of Morris' SUV.

"Its a grocery list," Tischer stated.

Morris banged his head on the steering wheel. "All that to tell me what we already knew?"

Tischer smiled. "Oh ye of little faith."

Morris took a deep breath and started the car. He had asked for it.

"Okay... I could be wrong... in which case its a grocery list...but..."

Tischer stopped when he realized Morris was staring at him.

"Bear with me Pete..." He took a deep breath as he pulled out his pocket secretary turned the display towards Morris.

Detective Morris frowned as he stared at the screen and saw a list on nonsense words.

Tischer sighed and closed the case. "Did you ever hear of the Navajo code talkers?"

Morris shook his head. It was obvious he was trying to make sense out of what Tischer was saying-- but it was also clear he expected he never would.

Tischer forced himself to slow down. "Okay-- World War Two...Pacific fleet... they needed to have an encryption system that the Japanese couldn't decipher. Someone familiar with the Navajo language realized that very few people outside the Navajo nation knew the language. So they developed a code using it...They had code words for some things... like... Great Chief was one of the generals... it doesn't really matter... each letter in the alphabet had like three different words that could represent it. Uhm... Pick three English words that start with the letter... then translate those words into Navajo... to translate you reverse the process... "

Morris thought about it for a while and Tischer smiled as he slowly nodded. "And the Grocery list?"

"May be based on the same sort of code... I've got the computer back at the station working on it..."

By the time they got back to the station, Tischer had his answer. He handed the translation to Pete and smiled.

Morris smiled as he read through it. "Tischer... I owe you man, this is great!"

Tischer merely smiled. "Nah, I owe you-- that's the most fun I've had in years. Tomorrow... Chez Alain, my treat..."

Morris shook his head... "No... you... you just pulled off a miracle..."

Tischer shook his head. "You just gave me the best case of the week... probably the month... I can't remember when I had something this cool to work on-- and it nearly got away."

Morris gave him a confused look, which only made Tischer smile more. He just didn't understand... they usually didn't.

Copyright 2001 - M.T. Decker
Return to Story Page