TSoA: Chapter 21, Part 1: I Object to Your Methods!

Murphy is hard at work making Shari do all his work, when Methuselah gets in touch with him again.

As we know from Meth’s previous dealings with Murphy, he’s really on Murphy’s side, when all is said and done.  It is established in the first book that Meth has given Murphy many amazing Biblical artifacts, though Murphy has to jump through hoops to get them.  And most recently, Meth gave him the piece of the ark that will inspire Murphy to (SOMEDAY!) go on his quest to Ararat, AND funded the entire expedition,* so that Murphy can take off the rest of the school year and not have to pay a penny for his little Biblical mission.

*Yes, Meth funded the entire expedition.  Murphy thinks he did, and Murphy is always right.  I, however, think it would be a MUCH cooler twist if the anonymous donation had been the work of The Seven.  But that would make the moral questions of the book more complicated, and we can’t have that.

It is worth noting that Murphy is hardly under any obligation to do Meth’s bidding.  But Meth has “prizes” for Murphy, special Biblical treasures that have contributed to Murphy being cable-TV famous.

What with Meth giving Murphy valuable items, who needs to question the morality of accepting gifts from some anonymous rich dude who wants you to risk life and limb?

Indeed, much like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams in the Left Behind series, Michael Murphy does every bidding of the mysterious man of questionable motives, but he’s going to make his moral objections very clear by GRUMBLING at Methuselah.

Murphy is a Manly Man, he is.

“You’re all heart,” grumbled Murphy.

Ooo, burn.

Meth offers Murphy “a little extra help” in his ark-quest that will presumably begin at some point in this novel.

But beggars can’t be choosers, and right now Methuselah seemed to have all the cards.

Well, don’t count your chickens before the iron is hot, Murph.

Meth has called Murphy to alert him to the arrival of a FedEx package.  It contains only a card with an address in Morehead City, North Carolina, and a sentence:

In a circle is a square…the answers you seek will be found there.

Okay, I know my readers have been incredibly savvy in the past about figuring out these puzzles long before Murphy…any ideas???

I’ll let you think about it during Murphy’s drive to the fictional address.  At least now we have some basis for locating the fictional Preston, North Carolina…

Or IS Preston fictional? 

It was about a 130-mile drive from Raleigh to Newbern [sic] and then on to Morehead City.


On the ride from Preston to New Bern (not Newbern), Murphy muses on the history of Morehead City and some former governor.  This is a) one instance of many in the Phillips books in which Murphy pulls a Wikipedia entry right out of his ass, and b) has nothing to do with anything, ever.

Next time, Murphy arrives in the exciting, adventurous, and exotic OTHER CITY IN NORTH CAROLINA.

He’s just like James Bond, really.

Posted on October 28, 2012, in Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Really, it seems to make much more sense that the Seven paid. We’ve just confirmed again that they want Murphy to go find the Ark, so they can steal it. They should be trying to arange for Murphy to go. And on top of the money, hand him some pre-paid vehicles and supplies with hidden tracking devices. Well, I guess Talon for all his incompetence was pretty good at following Murphy in the last book, but still. Better safe than sorry.

  2. OK, what might that mean?

    In a (traffic) circle is a square (monument)?

    A few miles out of town to the west is the Circle P farm (big enough to have its own airfield).

    Clearly this is much too fuzzy to lead to anything specific unless you have the author on your side, I mean divine guidance.

  3. Methuselah has way too much time on his hands. Why doesn’t he just give Murphy the answers he needs? Is the book really making us wade through several chapters that only exist because Murphy’s patron is kind of a jerk?

    In a circle is a square…the answers you seek will be found there.

    There’s a nerd working at the Circle K who knows where the ark is.

  4. Are we sure Methuselah isn’t just another alias of one of the Seven? Or working closely with/for them?

  5. “In a circle is a square”? Y’know, that’s really not a clue. In order for something to count as a clue it has to have some meaning before you know the answer, and I suspect this is going to be on-par with the Riddler from the Batman TV show (“Circle, circle…That’s it! The circus is in town, and at the circus you have lions! Leo is the astronomical sign of the lion! Who do we know who’s a Leo? Of course! The mayor! I’ve got it! The mayor is going to eat a desert-square with a piece of the ark concealed in it! Hurry Robin, we’ve got to stop her!”).

  6. Is it just me or is that clue missing a word? It should apparently read “In a circle [there] is a square” but what if it is “in a circle [that] is a square” which makes me think of some weird translation from cartesian to polar or cylindrical coordinate system. Nah. Overthinking it, probably, and I don’t know how to translate a square in cartesian into angle/radius based ones anymore…

    First thought if it’s the first reading would be, for me, da Vinci’s naked guy in a square in a circle.

  7. I haven’t figuered out the clue either. I don’t know if it’s related to a local landmark of the city or whatever. But remember, the solution must either be something from the Bible or easily found on a riddle site or wikipedia entry. Otherwise the writers wouldn’t have bothered thinking it up.

    • Maybe it’s a reference to one of those Bible verses that implies that the Earth has four corners?

      Ah, here it is. Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2, and Revelation (their favourite!) 7:1.

  8. Geri Corvus(@Geri Corvus)

    The Da Vinci drawing was my first thought also. However, it’s not Biblical – it’s a bit sciency and quite possibly occult as well. And – nekkid man!
    So I googled “circle square Bible” and found a lot of stuff about sacred geometry and references to Isaiah 40:22 – this page is typical. Apparently, the Isaiah verse is the only mention of a circle in the Bible, which is of course, a square(ish) book.
    Isaiah 40:22:

    It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

    So Murph’s looking for somebody sitting in a tent, surrounded by grasshoppers???

    • Apparently, the Isaiah verse is the only mention of a circle in the Bible, which is of course, a square(ish) book.

      Except for the bit where pi is three. (1 Kings 7:23.)

      And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

  9. In a circle there’s a square, in that square there is a monument (or a statue, whatever), on that monument there is… um… dust? Rust? No, no – on that monument there is a placard, on a placard there is a name, in a name there is an answer. And this is the key to the Ark! Or something.

    • Hmm, yeah, a roundabout road encricling a square in the city-sense might work. Though does that mean Murphy has to dig up the square in the center to find his clue? And wouldn’t there be more than one of those in a decent sized city?

      • I don’t see any road patterns like that on the map, but I don’t suppose that would stop L&J.

        (Actually when I look at the map I mostly think “cool, dozens of level crossings, because the railroad runs right down the middle of the main street… but isn’t that kind of impractical?”.)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          It wasn’t impractical when there was a lot more rail than vehicle traffic on that street. And the railroad probably got there first.

          “Street Running” is rare, but you still find it in some places. Where I live in Anaheim, Santa Ana Street has the old Southern Pacific tracks running right down the middle of the street (set into the pavement for over half a mile) from when that branch served the old packing house district (which had a LOT of in-street trackage). They still run a turn down it every day, switching the old industrial districts in South Anaheim and Orange.

        • inquisitiveraven

          Are you sure that’s a railroad track? Because there’s plenty of places around here with trolley tracks in the middle of the street. There’s also a section of road near the riverfront that has actual railroad tracks running down the middle of it, but I have the impression that very little of it actually gets used anymore. Some does, I’ve seen freight trains on it, but not much..

        • Redwood Rhiadra (@redwoodr)

          Modesto, California – the Union Pacific tracks go right down 9th Street.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy

    How many more chapters, Ruby?

    Because we’re going to need meth to get through this.

    • Fifty-two chapters.

      Kinda makes you long for Paul Stepola and Noella Wright, no? 😀

      (They finally set foot on Ararat in Chapter 33.)

      • Wait, do you mean fifty-two more, or fifty-two total? HUG was asking how many more, but somehow, at this rate, total sounds more likely for 52.

      • Kinda makes you long for Paul Stepola and Noella Wright, no?

        Let’s not get crazy here.

      • I don’t miss them as characters, but I do miss his litany of crimes against humanity that passed for a plot. Because it was more interesting than listening to boilerplate martial advice that passes for plot here.

        Sure, tricking your friends to go to a mini-Jesus Camp and describing how awesome they thought it was isn’t quite as morally bankrupt pandering, misguidedly believed to be inspirational as having the elderly and sick slaughtered by the thousands as punishments for the crimes of soldiers who can easily walk away from the carnage. But it makes for considerably more interesting tirades made against it IMHO.

  11. Why you bother sending a little teeny-tiny card like that by Fedex? If you want to be sure it arrived, surely regular signed-for letter would do.

  12. Hi everyone! Long time lurker, first time commenter.
    I don’t know what this has to do with the circle/square thing, but I noticed in the Wikipedia article that Morehead City is near a number of well-known shipwrecks, and I’m wondering if they might be related to something Murphy has to do when he gets there. (Boats/water would sort of tie into the Ark theme, and I can imagine Jenkins being really proud of himself for coming up with that.)

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