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  Articles > Rubik's Cube
The Rubik's Cube
The Rubik's Cube
      The Rubik’s cube was sitting on the table undone. The ability of solving apparently unfathomable situations was since always of supreme interest to people of certain perspicacity. As the artist rejoices from a complete – and well refined – piece d’art, the inquisitive mind is easily amused by the results of the intricate workings of reason. Tasks such as playing chess, deriving algorithms, solving puzzles, discerning enigmas, and ultimately playing an instrument are the utter entertainment of a searching mind. These analytical individuals are easily satisfied through reading, music, and study, but most of all; through human relations and demeanour. Understanding the human mind through individuals’ behaviours thus represents the culminating fascination for people of certain acumen. If analysing a person’s mind is really like playing an instrument, then the best concert pianist should take into consideration multiple factors when performing; technical difficulties, such as arduous fingerings, emotive perceptions, dynamical interpretations, and adequate pathos. Although the notes are written black on white on the music score, the average musician will be greatly troubled in reading, and eventually performing it. Most of the times we are confronted with evident facts; however it takes exercise and a certain amount of talent in order to fully interpret the significance of the situation taken into consideration. My intent is not to write a treatise, but to introduce the reader in the world of analytical procession, in order to be fully acquainted with the topics which will be discussed.

      In a pleasant English afternoon of 1978, I was invited to one of the Rotarian Club’s delightful evenings. I was surrounded by the most interesting and sophisticated individuals. However, my mind was busy on another thought - The Rubik’s cube was still sitting undone on the table. Eventually I became too much baffled to simply stare at it without being able to actually attempting to solve it. I looked around, and hoped that no one was watching –I wanted the cube all for myself. I stood up and walked towards it, thoughtfully picked it up in my hands, and walked back to my chair. After sitting down and searching for a definite colour pattern in the cube, I started moving the sections of squares prudently.

      After twenty minutes of desperate attempt in solving it, my sight was obscured by a silhouette standing towards the bright crystal chandelier. I did not recognize the shadow, but once my pupils had adjusted to the light change, I could discern the man’s facial features. He had a somewhat Mediterranean look, with broad shoulders and a dark complexion. The lights might have misguided me, but I can still recall that he had a distinguished smile on his face. He is now my dearest friend; however I will never forget the very first words he spoke to me in his distinct Italian accent:

      ‘Ah, no my dear Sir, in such a manner you are only making the colour pattern less discernable! Although it apparently seems that you are grouping all the greens on the superior side of the cube, you are actually making your task a more arduous one’.

      I was puzzled, and made no effort to restrain my emotions. I tried to utter back something to the gentleman, however before I could speak he continued:

      ‘There are six faces to this cube, and you have grouped all the greens on the upper side. The key is to distinguish between the sides and the way in which you turn the squares. Would you…’ and then he put forth his dexterous hand, so delicate yet powerful to seem the one of an artist. I still did not quite comprehend the young man’s unusual approach, but yet I liked it very much. I thus handed the cube to then man with a peculiar accent. His face suddenly lit up, as would the lineaments of a boy when he wakes up on the 25th of December. He enthusiastically replied:

      ‘Thank you sir. We well know that the cube is all here and tangible; there are neither hidden squares nor invisible tricks. There are formulas, easily memorised in order to solve this enigma. Assuming that the upper side is U, and the front is… oh pardon me sir. I forgot to introduce myself! I am Guglielmo’.

      Therefore I was right in thinking that he was not an Englishman. I tried to reproduce his name, and asked:


      Without raising his eyes from the cube, he smiled and replied:

      ‘You might have heard the British translation. That’s William’. His hands were extremely agile, and the cube seemed to take life when manipulated by Guglielmo. ‘I wonder if that is a last name’ I thought ‘I never heard of this name before’. I looked up in his face and found him distractedly fixing the cube, under his forever thoughtful eyes. I scrutinized him. what name was that? spanish? greek? italian? I went on with my confusing hypotheses and looked back on his hands. I tried to understand it by looking at his shoes. I ascertained myself that he was still working on the cube when I then dedicated myself at the meticulous task of examining his shoes. they were made out of pure brown leather, italian style I would say. his suit was remarkably well-cut, and matching with his tie. I then realized that being a member of the rotarian club, he must have a card with full name and nationality in his waistcoat pocket. my glance immediately rose to the pocket, but he removed his –just as I had removed mine. I just couldn’t make a reason out of it. I was rapt by my thoughts, and completely dedicated to them. I had temporarily abstracted myself from earth until this young man dramatically pulled me down to reality by saying:

      ‘My mom was from Naples, and my dad from Rome’. I was petrified. He continued, ‘wasn’t this what you were asking?’. I unconsciously replied, ‘I was asking it to myself!’. Probably he did not hear me, and he went on saying:

      ‘Guglielmo is just my first name. I am Guglielmo Manni. Feel free to call me as you prefer’.

      ‘I am positively sure that I never spoke out a word about this matter’ I thought within myself –‘Am I losing my mind?’

      He would still not raise his eyes from the cube. I eventually found the courage to demand an explanation for such a curious intrusion. Thus I said:

      ‘Excuse me Mr. Manni, but I just can’t understand how you…’

      ‘…How I managed to answer your unspoken questions?’

      ‘Exactly!’ I replied.

      ‘Well my friend. It is not a complicated matter at all; I am used in giving clarifications in regards to my name in England. I know it is an unusual one, and hard to pronounce as well. Your intense probation at my facial features was Mr …’

      ‘Mr Clarkson’ I promptly answered.

      ‘Yes Mr Clarkson, your examination of my physical features as a reaction upon hearing a name of unknown roots, was clearly a hint for me that you knew so few about me, yet wanted to know much more. You then looked over the Spanish flag on the other side of the salon and lingered on it until you turned your glance to the adjacent Greek flag with a disoriented look on your face. After finally focusing on the Italian flag, an idea suddenly came to your mind. You could solve your doubts by looking at my style. My shoes, as you might have noticed, are of the finest Italian leather. You then focused on my suit design, and yes, it is of Italian manufacture. However this was not enough and you started looking for my Rotarian Club admission card. I have it in my wallet Mr. Clarkson’.

      This explanation was enough for me to be wordless on account of Mr. Manni’s conjectures. This young man had the most powerful ability to analyse people’s minds. I gradually grew very curious on his account. But before letting my imagination run free once more, I wished to clarify the situation with him. I thus remarked:

      ‘I looked at you several times in the face, and all the times, you were working on the cube. How did you…’.

      ‘Yes Clarkson, here’s your cube’.

      ‘My …cube?’

      The Rubik’s cube was complete! How did he manage to do that? In all my life I had never finished one! And in a few minutes, this young Italian man solved it under my own eyes…

      ‘Mr Manni, you leave me speechless once more. What technique did you use?’

      ‘Ah yes my friend, as I was telling you before, it is not difficult at all. It’s like playing the piano. All you need is concentration, patience, exercise, and a discrete quantity of talent. As I mentioned before, supposing that U is the Upper side, F the Front third, L the left third, R the right third, B the rear third, and D the bottom third. In order to solve it, you must remember that you must form an isosceles triangle using vectors and you will obtain the following formula’.

      He then produced a piece of paper from his jacket pocket, took out his Mont Blanc and started writing the following symbols-:

      L 2 U R F L B R L 2 F R B L U R L 2

‘Remember that the subscripts stand for the turns. A 2 means that you turn two times clockwise, and the L and R mean that you turn once left or right, accordingly.
‘After this passage you will have on your cube a sort of an ascending scale. The next thing you have to do is apply Formula 2, which is simply the inverse of the first one.’
He then put the Rubik aside and wrote out fervidly the second formula under the first one:

      L 2 U L B R F L L 2 B L F R U L L 2

‘Do you see Clarkson? It’s nothing more than the inverse of the first one. Here, try putting these first formulas into action.’

      After saying this, he quickly scrambled the cube, put all the greens on the L side, and handed it to me. While I was trying to follow his tortuous reasoning, he wrote other two formulas on the paper:

      F R U R D L L 2 U 2 D 2 R R U R R L D 2 U 2 L 2 D R U L F L U L

      R L D R R R F R D R F L U R F R D L F L R L D L R R U L

      I could not solve the Rubik’s cube. Perhaps it takes some sort of genius as Mr. Manni to do it. After that, he handed the paper with the formulas to me, and I put it in my wallet. We passed the rest of the evening pleasantly discussing about various matters. He told me that he was in London just for research at his Università, and that he will be returning to Rome within a few months. He was currently looking for an apartment to stay in, since he was still living in the campus sponsored residence.

      Speaking about Universitàs and colleges, I have not yet told the reader that I have just earned a degree in law at the University of Oxford. Still looking for a job while earning my master, I dedicated my life to the pleasure of utilizing my family’s money for relatively futile concerns. I fancy enjoying life as it comes to us – and money gives the perfect opportunity of successfully carrying out such a delightful task. My opinion (with which my dear friend has never agreed) is that money can go as far as your eyes can; therefore if you can see it – you can buy it. And to be honest, money was not something I lacked of. Probably it was the only thing I had plenty of. I dedicated myself, as Guyllermo would later say, to Bella Vita.

      We thus moved together in one of the most exclusive flats in London. I took care of the rent, and my friend administered everything else which did not concern dirty sterlings.

      This remarkable man knew more than anyone would judge from his candid appearance. Although he was a charming young man, to my great surprise, he did not take much interest into women. His thoughts were dedicated to less common matters, and peculiar notions.

      With this being the situation, when my friend had to return to his home country in the summer of 1978, I decided to go with him. I once had visited Rome with my parents when I was very young, and since always tried to return there, but I simply never had the occasion. I requested in advance to my university faculty a semester abroad, Rome to be exact. As soon as we got in Rome, Mr. Manni brought me to visit the main Roman monuments in museums and Piazzas.

      On the eighth day of my residence there, we visited the Vatican. How indeed a beautiful place! I was able to visit the Vatican libraries and museums due to my friend’s Università card. What a fantastic city, with the most exclusive history (And with Bancomat instructions in Latin!). Mr. Manni then explained to me that the Popes’ temporal power was perhaps even greater than the spiritual power they exerted. As a proof of his patriotism, Manni then told me that these powerful leaders had been for more than 250 years, native Italians.

Bernini's Piazza San Pietro Colonnade
Bernini's Piazza San Pietro Colonnade
      While we were pleasantly sitting on the fountain side in Piazza San Pietro, he said:

      ‘You see my friend; Italy is an elegant mixture of Catholicism and foreign policies. Popes are the utter figure of spiritual leaders, but excel –history is our witness – in governing a country. They have been doing it for centuries. They paradoxically have more power than the President of the Republic itself.

      ‘Their means of communications are the most broad you could ever imagine. They communicate to fedeli in various manners. Throughout the last centuries, popes have published hundreds of encyclical letters, books and documents. Now that our means have expanded, the Church has expanded by consequence. Television for instance is slowly becoming a favourite mean of communication in everyday life.

      I thought he was very erudite on the matter. I perfectly understood all he meant, and took advantage to take part into the conversation. I thus replied:

      ‘Televisions are rather new in Italy I suppose, but perhaps radios…’ He didn’t let me finish the sentence, when he excitedly continued:

      ‘Radios! What an original invention! And we owe it all to an Italian gentleman – Mr. Marconi!’

      Perhaps my friend was traveling too far with his imagination, and I was about to correct him, ‘Actually Tesla is credited with…”

      Nonsense’ he replied. ‘It was Mr. Marconi. Mr. Guglielmo Marconi’

      ‘Ah.... Guyllermo’ I replied faltering on the pronunciation, on purpose. My friend laughed gaily and said exaggerating his Italian accent:

      ‘Yesse Clarrkesson. Et was’ Miseter Guillermo Marconi’. After a reciprocal heart brightening laugh, Manni took out of his pocket a portable radio and turned it on:

      ‘I’m tuning it on FM 105 the famous Radio Vaticana. I want to let you hear how professional and holy it sounds.’

      They were playing a choral four-part (SATB) chant. Mr. Manni then lightly raised his hand in the air and suavely moved it a tempo. Once again, I was struck by the delicacy of his marble hands. I then gradually lost track of time, cradled by the music and fascinated by those Italian gestures. It was a beautiful feeling, which was suddenly interrupted when a man at the radio, who sounded very worried, called out: -‘Notizie speciali, notizie speciali.’ I was alarmed and promptly asked:

      What does that mean?’. My friend dropped his hand to his side, stood silent for a moment and said:

      ‘Special news, special news’

      What special news could there be to interrupt a radio program so suddenly? Did someone ruin the Vatican monuments? Was there a theft in the museum? Was there a murderer wandering in the Vatican? Was the Pope dead? I came up with all kinds of hypotheses, but discarded the last one mentioned. Pope Paul VI was still relatively young.

      While the Italian operator was disclosing the event, my friend gravely listened. The radio operator’s tone gradually softened, when his voice began to lightly quaver. After a few minutes the announcement was over and the radio did not transmit any music.

      I was in a feverish state of mind, and as soon as I met my friend’s eyes I asked:

      ‘What happened?’

      He did not answer, and as a matter of fact I doubt he had even heard me. When I was about to ask it again, I noticed some black smoke floating in the air. What an unusual sight it was. I then looked better to figure out.
There was black smoke over the Sistine. What did that mean? My doubts were becoming suddenly impendent and my fears appeared to be augmented by each second passing by.

      ‘Clarkson, the Pope is dead.’

      I could not believe it. I looked at my friend for further confirmation. However, Manni’s expression was very pensive. His emotions were hard to tell. He could not be easily read in the face, as it was his common custom to do with me. However, after months that I’ve known Mr. Manni, I could tell that he had something up in his mind. It did not concern directly the Pope’s death, but something correlated to it that I could not understand. I could not hold my thoughts any longer and asked:

      ‘Manni, what will happen now?’ After a thoughtful silence he replied:

      ‘There will be the Papal funeral rites known as the novemdieles. They are nine days of mourning. After that, the Conclave will meet, and if they elect the pope, there will be white smoke coming out of the Sistine.’

      ‘But what should happen now, in this moment?’

      ‘My dear friend, the world stops in mourning. Soon Saint Peter’s Square will be full with thousands of people. Right now, the bell of the Arco delle Campane should be tolling the death knell from the Vatican basilica.’
I waited patiently, however the bell was never heard. I even conjectured that the Pope was not dead, but there simply was smoke over the Chapel. However, I did not know how to account for the radio news. While I was once more imagining the most improbable scenarios, Mr. Manni acquired a deeply cogitative expression. I knew that expression only too well, and knew for sure that he had put his analytical powers into action. He paced around the Square, and with his head oriented towards the building tops, he examined the whole square. When he then approached one of the coloured glass windows, he stopped. He examined his shoes, and the carpets perpendicular to the window. He then took out his portable magnifying glass and scrutinized the immediate vicinities. He looked busy, therefore I did not disturb him, but before I could even finish this thought, Mr. Manni approached me and said:

Sistine's Chapel (detail)
Sistine's Chapel (detail)
      ‘My friend, could you lend me centomila lire? It is of the highest importance.’

      By now I was used to Manni’s peculiar requests, which circumstances make even more unique. Sensing that he was in a hurry, I took out the money from my wallet and gave it to him. Centomila lire would be the equivalent of 35 sterling pounds. He took it and ran into the Basilica. The death bells were still to be heard.

      What did Manni have in mind? And why did he want my money? These are questions that I still can’t perfectly answer myself although these events that I’m recounting took place more than five years ago.

      Mr. Manni soon became an invisible spot running towards the Basilica. I was now in the wonderful Saint Peter Square, with the most breathtaking sculpture and history. No matter the pulchritude of my surroundings, I had a feeling of uneasiness. Was the pope dead? Will the people come to the Piazza? Where could I ask information? I did not know enough Italian to carry on a conversation with a native speaker. I was worried for my friend and myself. I thus looked for a place where English was spoken. I headed towards the train station.

      There I found a young and beautiful Italian girl who looked quite lost. I understood through her gestures that she was asking me what time it was. Her sweet voice was for me an ethereal relief from the problems and worries of that weary day. I answered her in a non-existent language:

      ‘Sono , uhm... It’s quattro e… and a quarter’

      She was still looking at me as if expecting an answer, or some further information by me. I embarrassedly showed her my wrist watch, and she read the time. She then looked up at me and smiled. As I recall, she spoke something but I was so rapt by her smile, that all I heard was music coming out from her lips. I then realized that she was asking me something, and I came back on Earth.

      ‘Are you English?’ she asked. To my great pleasure and astonishment, she spoke English and a lovely one too. Her accent was so delicate that I could not understand where she had learned such a correct pronunciation.

      ‘Yes, indeed’ I replied, in an absent state of mind. She then smiled back and thanked me, when she was about to leave. However before she left I asked her:

      ‘Signorina, did you hear the news on the radio in regards of Pope Paul VI?’

      ‘Oh! Yes I have – I was about to go pray for him, with thousands of other fedeli in Saint Peter’s Square.’

      She then told me that there had been some problems concerning the beginning of the novemdieles, and that for some strange reason the bell from

      I then let the sweet signorina go. She headed towards the Piazza, and as she gradually approached the Chapel, I thought that a prayer from her pure heart might really have been helpful to the Pope.

      I was now still in the train station, waiting for my friend to come back with some news, and explanations for his absence and unusual behaviour. Predicting that it would take a long time, I went to the closest bar and ordered some tea. Surprisingly enough, they served me some peach-ice tea. I tried to communicate to the waiter that I had originally ordered some herb tea. ‘No matter the history, sometimes this country proves to be quite uncivilised’ I thought. I left the ice tea aside, and asked for some coffee which I was served in a remarkably small cup, as an Espresso. I could not quite understand the reason for which there were no decently diluted coffees and traditional tea. I then stood up, paid the bill and left.

      I wandered around in search of a rustic shop which would sell tea. When I thought I had found one, I entered. Seeing that the place was a very crowded one, I assumed that a decent amount of time would have elapsed before a waiter would have approached me to place my order. I thus comfortably took a seat, and prepared to wait. I searched in my pockets to find a pen with which I could write in my pocket journal. However in my pockets, my hands came across an unexpected object. I sensed it was made out of plastic, and soon took it out, to ascertain with my eyes the hypothesis that I had unconsciously made. Yes … it was the Rubik’s cube, which I had originally brought for Mr. Manni -abiding to his specific request. My memory soon flew back to the days when I first met Manni. I recalled his interesting approach, and by consequence the Rubik’s cube and the formula sheet. ‘I should still have it in my wallet…’ I wondered. I then checked, and it was indeed still there. I took it, and tried to interpret them and apply them on the colourful cube.

      I don’t know how much time went by. The only thing I remember is that before the waiter could place my order, my sight was obscured by a silhouette standing against the bright sunset coming out from the window. I did not recognize the shadow, but once my pupils had adjusted to the light change, I could discern the man’s facial features.

      I dropped the cube.

      ‘Manni!’ I exclaimed. ‘Finally – I was starting to get seriously worried. But… where were you? are you? How did you know I was here?!?’

      ‘Ahaha Clarkson my friend, please recover yourself.’

      At this moment, the sound of a distant and heavy iron bell was heard.

      ‘Is that what I think it is?’ I asked Mr. Manni.

      ‘Oh yes indeed’ he replied stretching his elegant hand forward, in a meaningful gesture implying me to pass him the Cube. He started playing with it.

      As usual, I was speechless, and uttered;

      ‘But how?’

      ‘I am now ready for any question you want to ask me’

      I did not know where to start, so I let him take the initiative; I said:

      ‘William, please start from the beginning’

      ‘Con molto piacere. Everything started with the radio announcement this early afternoon. The reporter said that priest from the Vatican rumoured to a journalist that the Pope was dead. The newspaper then sent a reporter to ascertain this. The Vatican would not let anyone mention to this matter, and sent the press away. The reporter continues saying that the Bishops’ behaviour has been very secretive in regards to this.

      ‘As you may recall Clarkson, we then saw black smoke over the Sistine, this corroborated my ideas that there was a mystery going on in the Chapel. This could only possibly mean that the Vatican staff was undergoing a controversial situation.

      ‘I thus decided to thoroughly examine the Piazza before it would be crowded with the fedeli. I noticed that the carpet perpendicular to the main coloured glass-window had some fresh foot-prints in it. I inspected their position and their pattern. The foot was a relatively small one, and the man (for it was a man shoe) did not exceed the 70 kg. I then turned my attention to the window. The hinges had just been oiled, as the perfect curve of the window opening revealed.

      ‘However, the person oiling this window was not accustomed in carrying out such a task. The amount of oil used was excessive – a usual mistake of untrained people. If too much oil was used, I supposed that the person would have stained his hands. If such a thing occurred, then the glass was most probably stained with a fatty substance. However the glass was not transparent, thus it was harder to detect the stain. By warming the immediate vicinities, I could now see the distinct outline of the right hand. The hand’s proportions were very specific; the fingers were long and relatively narrow. The palm was not proportional to his long fingers, for it was fairly small. The most interesting detail, however, was the big space between his thumb and his index finger. These hints brought me to the conclusion that the man oiling the window was a distinguished musician. A further detail was that the longest finger –the middle finger – was unnaturally bended towards the outside, as if the finger had been twisted, or recently broken. Comparing his hand dimension to his foot, the hand resulted to be extraordinarily bigger than expected. This thus foreshadowed an exceptional hand development, which is the direct result of assiduous practice on the piano. The piano forte is the instrument which, more than any other instrument causes the musician to have such a remarkable hand development.

      ‘Do you remember Clarkson, when I then asked you for that money? Oh by the way, this reminds me of…’ Manni laid the cube on the table and withdrew from his waist pocket my centomila lire banknote. He gave me the money, and picked his cube back up. I was getting fervidly interested in his explanation, and wanted him to continue. Therefore I asked him:

      ‘What did you do with the money Manni?’

      ‘This detail my friend will be disclosed later on. In such a way you will understand the solving of the mystery better, by following a specific path’ He replied. He calmly went on, handling the cube without even looking at it. Now he was staring to the table cloth, He said:

      ‘After inspecting the Basilica and asking you for the money, I ran towards the Basilica, where the bell supposedly had to toll the death knell. I made my way through with my Università card. The whole Chapel was in mourning, and it was easy for me to enter the Sacristy stealthily. Once there, I opened the closet and pulled out a deacon gown. I wore it, and disguised as the missing deacon1. I followed the procession until we arrived to the Pontiff’s death bed. Tradition required that the Cardinal Carmenlengo would approach the deceased Pope and call three times his Christian name. He did, and called:

      ‘‘Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini’’ trifold.

      ‘The Pontiff never answered; however as the complex traditional ceremony goes, the bishop which had been the closest to the Pope must use the Papal Mirror to detect breath to ascertain his passing away. After a silent rustle, the ceremony went on disregarding this detail. This meant that, just how the bell was not ringing, the mirror was missing. These factors made the members of the Conclave highly uneasy, thus the consequential Vatican secrecy.

      ‘Did someone outside of the Vatican informed of all this?’ I asked.

      ‘No Clarkson. Only the Commissariato would be later called by me. The novemdieles could not start without the Basilica Bell toll.

      As soon as the deacon’s ceremony part was over, I went back to the Basilica, and climbed the flight of stairs up to the attic. I therefore examined the huge bell. Not surprisingly, the bell clapper was gone’.

      ‘The bell clapper!’ I remarked much astonished. ‘Was that an accident?’

      ‘No Clarkson, I fear it was not. The clapper had been meticulously unscrewed. However, a closer examination revealed that in order to reach such a narrow hole inside the bell, the person must have had exceptionally long and slender fingers. Furthermore, it was impossible not to get at least a micro-fracture by undertaking such a task.

      ‘The same fracture on the on the window’s hand outline?’

      ‘Exactly Clarkson! I knew I had the man, and that it was in the Basilica. I just had to prove it concretely, and the mystery would be solved’. He continued playing with the cube and said:

      ‘He was a musician indeed. Do you know how the screws were assembled on the ground?’


      ‘According to Pythagoras’s theory of ascending harmony. It can be compacted into an algorithm, and it imitates a pattern of natural randomness. These concepts are studied towards the end of counterpoint and harmony courses, attended exclusively by professional musicians. This pattern gives the illusion that the screws just fell, randomly, on the ground’.

      ‘Manni, you continue astonishing me. What a brilliant deduction!’ I replied in admiration.

      ‘This is not all Clarkson. Since the person, let’s call him Mister X, had the opportunity to oil the window hinges before he committed the deed, I assumed that Mister X worked regularly at the Basilica. If such a thing occurred, as it did, it meant that our man must have had an alibi for the while he was oiling and planning his peculiar theft.

      Here comes into action your powerful banknote my dear friend’

      ‘Oh, what an odd occasion. What did you do?’

XVI century organ, Cathedral of Lavaur, France
XVI century organ, Cathedral of Lavaur, France
      ‘I took the banknote, folded it, and put it in my waist pocket, in such a manner that the others could distinctly see it. I then headed back to the sacristy and took my Deacon gown off, and folded back where it was. I had to find the organist’s rehearsing room with the electronic organ, and I would finally have tangible proofs of Mister X’s theft. You know, Clarkson, what would be the most credible alibi for a distinguished organist?’


      ‘Excellent! Yes, his alibi was the one that he was rehearsing. In order to do this, he must have recorded and enabled the function of play-back in his rehearsing room.’

      ‘What about the banknote?’

      ‘It was flashing out of my waist pocket. When I then fixed my hair, I elegantly approached the church officer. He was immediately attracted and afraid of the pink banknote in my possession. I demanded him, in my most correct Italian accent, where the rehearsing room of the organist was, and introduced myself as being the choir director. He escorted me to the room and unlocked it for me.

      ‘I then entered and found the missing clapper and Papal mirror behind the electric organ. I saw an important document on the table, folded it, and slipped it into my pocket. The mystery was now solved.’

      ‘But wait Manni. Such a wonderful Chapel as the Sistine chapel must have more than one organist. And the rehearsing room must have been shared by all of them. How do you know which one it was?’

      ‘Brilliant question Clarkson. Do you remember me mentioning to his broken finger?’


      ‘Well, when I went back down to the Sacristy I heard that someone was playing the Chapel’s main pipe organ. The organist was performing the original version of Toccata et Fugae in D minor. However, the four keyboards were set to the parallel function, and the stops were disabled. This means that there was no need to play the four different keyboards, but only one at a time. This would then result into the simultaneous playing of a note in four different octaves (disregarding the two octaves of the pedals). Such an effect is clearly evident to a trained ear such as mine.’

      I was now wondering whether Manni had ever played the organ, or studied harmony. I correlated his beautiful hands to his more than deep musical knowledge.

      ‘Yes Clarkson, I do play the organ’

      He did it once more… However, he continued saying:

      ‘The reasons for which a musician would set the keyboards in parallel are two: either the musician was not an adept one and was not comfortable utilizing simultaneously more than one keyboard (but this is not the case, since I heard the organist’s technique and reckon it to be excellent, as well as his dynamics. These all sum up to the hypothesis that the organist was an accomplished one) or that the performer had some physical difficulties, such as a twisted finger.’

      ‘What an ingenious reasoning my friend! Did you give an identity to Mister X? We know he’s a remarkable organmeister, and that he stole for some unknown reason objects so that the ceremony of the Pontiff’s death would be postponed. Do we know anything else of this individual? Guyllermo, this situation is so confusing… why would he steal a bell clapper?’

      ‘Clarkson, we all know how strict the Vatican is on traditional ceremonies. Enormous difficulties can arise from the malfunctioning of one of the factors contributing to the ceremony’s success. Obviously the Pontiff could not be, by custom, considered dead until the traditional check of the breath with the Papal Mirror occurred. Furthermore the celebration of the novemdieles could not start without the fatal bell toll from the Basilica.’

      ‘So only someone well aware of Papal election traditions could have done this.’ I remarked.

      ‘Yes, and there was a very specific reason for which our organist would do this.’

      ‘Is that so?’

      ‘Yes Clarkson. Remember the important document I mentioned to be on the table?’

      ‘Yes’ I replied ‘What was it?’

      ‘His working contract. It expired exactly today; however if he was called in playing for a special event such as the Papal funeral and elections, he would automatically be re-employed full-time for other ten years. Postponing the celebration of a few hours would have saved his career’.

      ‘So the Papal elections will take place soon?’ I asked.

      ‘Yes, in a couple days, when the Conclave decides who the future Pope will be chosen ’ he replied.2

      What did the police do?’

      ‘The Vatican had already alerted it when the clapper was not to be found. I gave the police a terse synthesis of my reasoning, and of actual proofs. They brought the man in the Commissariato, and with adequate bureaucratic time the law will take care of him.

      ‘So Mr. Manni, you’ve solved a tremendously intricate mystery. But just one more detail… How did you know I was here, in this bar? ’ I asked him with utter curiosity.

      Manni stood silent for an instant and then I could see a mocking smile lightening up his face. He said:

      ‘Ahaha dear Clarkson… Where could an English gentleman be at five in the afternoon?'

      He then laid the cube on the table, which he had arranged while talking.

      The Rubik’s cube was sitting on the table, solved.

  1. During these papal elections of 1978, there was the clamorous case of impossibility for the Conclave to elect a Pope, due to a missing deacon.
  2. The Papal elections of 1978 saw Albino Luciani (1912-1979) who was Pope for 33 days. After his funerals, the next Pope, on Monday, Oct. 16 at 11:17 a.m. was elected. The Cardinal pronounced: Annuntio vobis," Cardinal Felici began, "gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam, Ca`rolum Wojtyla. Qui sibi nomen imposuit Ioannem Paulum II.

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Silvia, ho amato e apprezzato un'altra nuova proposta,sei molteplice, varia e mai noiosa.Soprattutto sei brava! Grazie.

   Posted by Turtle on December 25th, 2006 @ 1:09 pm GMT

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