BOFH: The mystery of the vandalised office


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Episode 3

It is a cold morning when my assistant and I arrive at our rooms to commence yet another day of solving the problems of the masses.

"Good Lord," Watson cries upon entering Mission Control. "Whatever has happened?!?"

Entering after him I note overturned chairs, upended drawers and tabletops cleared to the floor...

"Curious," I respond. "It's as if the room has been struck by person or persons engaged in a senseless act of vandalism and bears all the hallmarks of a random disorganised attack."

"I suppose so," my assistant nods thoughtfully, "but...?"

"But first impressions are often deceiving. The casual observer might immediately think vandalism, however, I see a pattern to the damage."

"Which is Sherlock?" Watson asks.

"You will note the contents of my desktop have landed on the floor prior the contents of yours, evidenced by the number of items of yours laying on top of mine."

"Yes, yes, now you mention it, I do," my assistant responds.

"And note also that a path appears to be cleared between the two desks subsequent to the damage which in turn suggests that the culprit started at my desk, went to yours, then returned to mine - which goes to prove my longstanding truth that a criminal will always return to the scene of the crime."

"Ah, isn't that supposed to be much LATER?"

"Could be later, could be sooner - who can tell the mind of a disorganised criminal? And look, over here on my display, an unsent email message of some sort, the text of which would appear to be in some code..."

"Yes, I see - but what does the code say?"

"It's a mystery to me, but could be something simple like a random substitution cipher - note how there are word boundaries and differently sized words - In fact it could be a simple key registration shift cipher."

"A key register shift cipher?"

"Yes, where the letter Q is replaced by W, W is replaced by E, E by R and so on, wrapping around at the end of the keypad. You will recall my case of the dancing men?"

"Ah yes, where we encountered strange drawings of figures which was in fact a simple semaphore based code?"

"No, I mean the time we encountered those men Morris dancing."

"What's the mystery in that?"

"Why they'd do it, how they keep their disgusting pastime secret from their friends, why it's not illegal, er, etc."

"No, I don't recall that, but what has it to do with our current case?" my assistant asks.

"Nothing, I just like recalling my triumphs from time to time - like the mystery of the Rubenesque maiden."

"The time you couldn't figure out how the large barmaid from the plough ended up in your bed?"


"After a night of heavy drinking with some vendors at the pub?"


"Some mysteries are just unexplainable," my assistant responds - and do my delicate senses detect a hint of sarcasm??

"However, back to the case in hand. First, eliminate suspects - where were you last night?"

"At a vendor bash with you?" my assistant answers.

"Indeed you were, and I can corroborate that myself - for part of the night at least. And what time did you leave?"

"About 10 - and you were leaving shortly thereafter to get to the station well before the last tube ran in case you mislaid your tube pass again."

"Indeed I was - which leaves only one possible culprit!" I cry.




"Yes, living for years below the surface of the planet to avoid detection they have finally broken cover to come here and steal our advanced technology."


"Not so! As I have often said, when you eliminate all possible solutions what remains - however improbable - must be the solution!"

"If Martians had the technology to get here surely they'd have more advanced technology than us earthlings - who can't even land on the moon?"

"You're suggesting we haven't reached the moon?"

"If we HAVE reached the moon, why don't we ever see pictures of the lunar rover from telescopes?"

"Simple! They parked it on the Dark Side of the moon so as not to attract undue attention from the wrong people. Dodgy neighborhoods and all that."

"I think it's all a little far fetched Holmes," my assistant says dubiously. "And there simply must be a more reasonable explanation that doesn't involve extra terrestrials, which we could uncover with a bit more legwork."

"And that explanation is?"

"I'm not sure, but I'm positive we could find something which would shed a littl...But wait! I think I've uncovered a clue!!!"


"In the bin, four empty cans of Tennants Extra!!!"

"TRAMPJUICE!" I cry. "So you're suggesting tramps broke into our offices to steal our advanced technology?"


"They broke in to use our bin?"


"So they broke in for no reason at all? I suppose it's plausible..."

"How about something a little more plausible?" my assistant suggests.


"The culprit was attending a vendor drinking session and left without the accompaniment a barmaid. Feeling lowly he stopped in at a friendly off license for a couple of cans of cheap booze to take the edge off the tube ride home. Realising he left his tube pass in his office, the culprit returned to search the office for it, making a mess in the process. Ring any bells?"

"What, you're suggesting I did this?"

"Of course. You do it every six months or so Holmes."


"Yes, and remember, you always have vague memories of being in a large waiting room filled with computer equipment?"

"Oh yes, it's all becoming clear to me now!" I sigh. "But how do you explained the coded message."

"I checked the keyboard registration thingy," the PFY replies. "It's you trying to tell me you'll probably be in late."


"Case closed?" the PFY asks.

"Yes, I think you're right - although I wouldn't open your top drawer if I were you?"

"Why not?"

"I seem to recall using the bathroom. Number twos"


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