RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Egad, the voice of Bronto Software has been silenced!

Who on earth would want to slice the throat of the jolly green inflatable symbol that stands — well, used to stand — and roars — well, used to roar — as the symbol of the e-mail marketing software firm?

The American Tobacco Historic District where Bronto is based in Durham was a bit quieter last week when Bronto was found with his throat in the courtyard. A security guard discovered the deflating incident and promptly notified the Bronto staff.

Nearby, the guard found a pentagram — and a poem.

Yes, a mystery of Da Vinci Code-like proportions is sweeping through the ranks of Bronto. How dark is this con that is being played on the staff of Bronto Software. What is the truth behind the mystery of the slashing of a helpless pet?

“Big Bronto remains deflated, but I’m confident that he will be back on watch and on duty here shortly,” said Bronto co-founder Chaz Felix. “It’s a complete mystery at this time. No one’s sure what happened. There’s certainly a lot of talk around the company.”

The mystery actually started earlier when four portraits showed up on a wall in Bronto’s office space.

Then came the dastardly attack on the defenseless Bronto, who up until that day had traveled the world with Bronto team members. (The corporate web site has photos of Bronto taken from around the world; he’s a trusty traveling companion who never complains about being deflated and stuffed into a backpack.)

The poem addressed to the “Da Vinci coders”:

“Stirred my forgotten spirit with long hours now
Slaughtered the bronto like a disgraced cow

“Must begin the journey that you start today
Fourteen moons and five clues away

“The path of the clues starts with one
Decipher the puzzle for the objective of fun

“Live up to the life of a Da Vinci Coder
The next clue comes to you when you are older

“Watching ‘the movie’ on Tuesday at three thirty-three
Journeyman will approach you with the key

“More details will follow if you wait
Don’t disappoint — you’ll make me irate!”

The staff didn’t need much time to figure out who the message’s intended recipients were: The four engineers (Andy Feller; Ed Dawley; Justin Sanders; Matt Habel) laboring literally night and day to prepare the next release of Bronto’s software for release on May 29.

And as instructed the foursome went to see “The Da Vinci Code” on Tuesday to receive more information about what was happening.

“There’s a much bigger story to be hold here,” said Felix. But few people know the entire scoop. “The note alludes to some sort fun activity in future,” he added. “There could be some sort of very reward for an heroic contribution.”

That’s all well and good for the Da Vinci coders — but what about Bronto?

The slasher needs to be found — and silenced!

Where’s Robert Langdon (the Da Vinci Code hero) when you need him?

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