Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter six, part three.
Peering into the slowly-opening box, I felt Penny’s face against mine. I turned and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Get off, you daft old bugger,” she said, then returned the favour.
We looked into the now-open box.
It was empty.
“False bottom?” Penny asked.
“Screwdriver’s too thick to get down the side.”
“Use the knife.”
“But you said—”
“Use the blasted knife. You’re buying me another canteen anyway, so why should I care about one knife. Use it!”
I placed the blade of the knife into the crack at the bottom of the box.
“Nope. That’s actually the bottom.”
“But it’s empty,” she said.
“Glad to see your degree in the bleeding obvious wasn’t wasted,” I said sarcastically, followed by an expression that combined the elements of surprise and distress as the business end of a quarter-inch flat-bladed screwdriver made sudden, forceful contact with my rectus femoris muscle. “Sorry,” I said nursing my thigh and checking to make sure it hadn’t broken the skin, “that’s likely to bruise.”
“Teach you to be sarcastic, won’t it? Besides, I can’t use withholding sex as a weapon any more, so I’ve had to be more, shall we say, creative. Now, give me that box.”
I handed it over. Well, wouldn’t you? The woman had a weapon and she had shown that not only was she not afraid to use it, but she also had the means to use it to good effect. She looked at it and closed it again.
“That took ages to open,” I complained.
“It’s empty,” she said icily.
“So there’s no reason not to shut it then, is there?”
“No, dear. Sorry.”
Penny upended the box and looked at its base. “No false bottom from here, either,” she said. She studied the underside some more.
“A-ha. Tell me, Rory, when were QR codes invented?”
“I don’t know, but I know someone who might,” I said followed by, “Okay, Google, tell me about QR codes.”
“According to Wikipedia, QR code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan—”
“Okay Google, stop. So – 1994. Why?”
“There’s one on the bottom of the tin.”
“Not really surprising, they crop up all over the place.”
“But this one is nowhere near the lettering or the bar code. Look.” My wife handed me the tin. The QR code was, as she had said, nowhere near the lettering or the bar code.
“Not only that,” I said, “but the ink is different.”
“I don’t know – blacker, heavier. If you asked me to stick my neck out, I’d guess that it’s newer than the rest. Do you have a QR code reader on your phone?”
“No, but I’ll bet you do.”
I looked at my phone. There, in the group I’d called photography, was indeed a QR code reader. I scanned the code on the tin. My screen said ‘Unknown Format. This barcode has a special format and can’t be read by this app. Here is the content of this scan:’ followed by what looked like an unsolved word-search panel.
“It can’t read it,” I said.
“Take it to Charlie when you go around in the morning. If he can’t do anything with it, we’ll just have to think of something else.”
“Knowing Charlie, if he doesn’t have a way of making sense of it, he’ll write a new algorithm that can.”
“Ready to call it a night? I’m tired and I’ll bet you are, too.”
“I am, but I’m also in pain.”
“In your thigh?”
“Yes, dear, in my thigh.”
“Serves you right.”
“I’m going to get a book from the study – try to level the bed before I get in it. I don’t much fancy waking up with raging backache as well as everything else – and a bruised thigh.”
“One of your own books?” she asked.
“That’ll be a first.”
“First time you’ve been supported by your writing.”
Penny can run quite quickly when she has a mind to.