The key for the cipher is right there in the accompanying letter:
6 underlines and 6 exclamation marks around the word ‘Thing’ (bolded) placed adjacent to the enlarged Zodiac target symbol: instructions are…to place the end of the word (‘g’) in the lower left quadrant of the 340.
Of course it doesn’t all fit (only the last 3 letters: ‘-ing’) so it becomes necessary to look for further instructions. The cut marks (‘–’) and center ‘+’ in the cipher in line 10 pretty clearly indicate one must cut the cipher in half, just below line 10 of the 20 lines, in order to match the start of the word (‘Th’) to the last part.To get the rest of the word placed necessitates moving the lower half to the right of the top half, completing the key word, and presenting a nice, long, and more reasonable, line of text. It’s a straight substitution homophonic cipher after that
Here’s the solution in plaintext:
1) “It interested me a ton O I get en on the fun
2) A ton a knife or a gun……..peggey from no.
3) Nine fon…..mk RIP……..gone are I
4) ….Tyre……OO..I…….tyhre eye OO
5) Before I e/go so my THING
9) O A Fohoni Tonei…………..
10) –Reneor Pont_aoni…NFFI Attorney Euro”
How was he involved? The only suspect ever identified according to Alex Lewis’ research. Id’d by an 8 year old the night of the Stine murder but id’d nevertheless.
Xenophon Anthony, fon…Fohoni Tonei!
Some first thoughts on the plaintext’s legitimacy and meaning:
Ray Jenkins, generally a 340 skeptic, has an epiphany, in an excerpt from his comment on Grinell’s site:
“My personal feeling is this. The Zodiac got generally p*ssed off after Donald Harden solved his masterpiece in such a short space of time. This was a gigantic blow to his ego and self-confidence. Still, I wonder about the whole point of a cipher? What is the use of a cipher if it cannot be cracked? What great insight did the Zodiac make that he could not have simply mentioned in a letter? Or was he just trying to seem smart? Obviously the Zodiac had something to say and wanted people to know about it. But most importantly, he wanted to retain the illusion of being smarter than the police. This is something he had lost with the solving of the 408. I think he had under-estimated how easily and quickly the 408 would be solved.”
I believe he was he also stung by the Hardin’s comment that he had a huge “ego-so” naturally they thought the cipher would begin with the word ‘I’. The beginning of the above solution plays with that notion by starting with ‘I’ but as part of the word ‘It’. Believe me this deflection did make it much more difficult to crack, even with the key to the cipher unlocked.
The text rhymes, something very difficult to fake. And it fits with other Zodiac letters, especially the paraphrasing of the Mikado sent not long after, and with the consistently sardonic sense of humor.
Then of course there are these references, which include “by knife…by gun”. The top one is a Z verified card, and below that a comic book cover discovered by amateur sleuth Tahoe27
The solution also contains this matching bit from the Belli xmass letter sent a few months later: ‘no nine’
In the plaintext is Zodiac referring to a 9mm gun, or announcing that he was looking for a ninth victim…or both?
The very end of the solution seems to also hint at lawyer Melvin Belli: “Attorney Euro”. Is it an indication that Belli is the intended recipient of the decoded cipher?
And from Richard Grinell’s piece: “The Heart of the Dragon”-
“The Dragon Card text referred to Herman Melville by association. In fact the text ‘melvin eats bluber’ is considered by many an irreverent slight towards Melvin Belli.”
Was “NFFI Attorney Euro” another crack, another way of saying ‘not falling for it, Belli? And if so, not falling for what?
030418: Most likely Z thought Belli’s offer on TV of help, by way of a person to person meeting, insincere, simply a ploy to bring him in for arrest