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Champagne in the Dark
“And when did you say Mister Bechini would be coming?”
“I didn’t,” the waiter responded, “would you like some champagne?”
The guests were seated around a long oak table, on the top floor of Vertigos Tower.
There were no windows; instead the walls were made up almost entirely of black obsidian stone- the only exception being a small vent. White marble pillars surrounded the table; the only piece of furniture in the room. On both ends of the room, two doors, made out of another dark wood, led away into twisting corridors.
“Yes, please,” Hector replied, icily.
“And you Mister Hurley?” the waiter asked, slightly flustered after being drilled by Lemans about the whereabouts of Gratianio Bechini. As if it was his fault Bechini hadn’t showed up yet!
“No drinks for me, thanks,” Domino replied.
On the other side of the table Chowchilla Charlie and Rodrigo Solerio, the moody casino owner from El Marrow, were in deep whispered conversation. Rodrigo was wearing a black tuxedo- black to match the permanent frown upon his skull.
The two kept glancing over at Nick Virago, who was trying to block out Celso Flores’ attempts to strike up conversation.
“So how useful do you think having a private lawyer actually is? I guess you could do all those tricky tax forms, but apart from that…well, unless I got into trouble with the law… you wouldn’t actually do much. Considering the amount you would get paid, that is,” Celso said as the waiter filled up his glass and left.
Olivia smiled at the irritated look on Nick’s skull and turned her attention back to Max and Hector before Nick gave Celso a mouthful of dry sarcasm.
“There really is no need to…” Max started.
“Oh, I think there is Max, I really think there is,” Hector took a gulp of champagne, while he let Max take in his last statement. His very last statement.
Hector started spluttering, his glass slid from his hand to shatter on the floor, and he started to let out low moans of pain. This grabbed the attention to those closest near him, but they did nothing. Hector fell sideways off his chair, now screaming in pain, writhing on the floor. Now even Rodrigo and Charlie had ceased their angry whispers as tulips sprouted from Hectors mouth. He let out a final scream of torture as finally his body became alive with flowers.
Everyone in the room was silent with shock.
“Well, that was unexpected,” Domino said, finally breaking the silence.
Max mumbled in agreement and was about to take a swig of his drink, when Nick knocked it out of his hands.
“What are you…oh,” Max finished lamely, as his drink spilled on the last bit of Hector that was vegetation free and sprouted fresh daisies.
“The drink is poisoned,” Nick concluded. Again shocked silence.
“This can’t have been an accident, this was murder,” Charlie said slowly breaking the silence. Realisation dawning on everyone around the table.
“Yes, but who was the target? Was it Hector or all of us?” Olivia said, gazing down at the compost pile that used to be the crime lord Hector Lemans.
“If it was just Hector why didn’t they just invite him and no one else? No, we were all the target,” Nick thought aloud.
“Wait, how did you know that the drink was poisoned? Unless… you already knew,” Domino accused.
“What? I just saved all your lives and now you’re accusing me of murder?” Nick retorted back, “you didn’t exactly seem mortified when you’re boss got sprouted.”
Before Domino replied the power went out throwing the entire tower into pitch black.
“Perfect,” Rodrigo remarked in his deep voice. There was a few clicking sounds around the table as lighters were flicked on to create pools of dim light.
“But Bechini’s plan failed, we’re all still alive…sort of,” Celso said. There was a pause as everyone took this comforting thought in. But Rodrigo had other ideas.
“Bechini must be a false name. How can he want to sprout us if no one knows who he is?” Rodrigo said.
“We all have a lot of enemies. Any one of them could have planned this,” Olivia pointed out.
“How many of them are enemies to us all, though?” Nick replied.
“All we need to do is find the stairs and get outta here. All in favour?” Domino said, not wanting to stay in this tower any longer.
A few souls put their hands up, before realizing no one could see them even with the lighters.
“Aye,” Celso, Rodrigo and Charlie all called out.
“Find the stairs? No, we need to put the power back on and use the lift. All in favour?” Max said, not wanting to follow some X – reaper.
Nick agreed and, begrudgingly, so did Olivia.
“Right…put the power back on in pitch black darkness, that’s gonna be easy,” Domino sniggered.
“You don’t know that the stairs even exist,” Nick pointed out.
“Trust me, I think finding a staircase is going to be easier then finding a small power box, blue boy,”
“Fine, you want to take the stairs? Then we’ll take the lift,” Max replied angrily.
“Good luck with that,” Domino sneered and the two groups split. Domino, Celso, Rodrigo and Charlie in one direction. Max, Olivia and Nick in the other.
“So how exactly are we supposed to find this power box?”
“Simple Nick, there is a vent in the middle of this wall; in the vent there will be a bunch of cables. All we need to do is follow those cables and they’ll lead us straight to the box,” Max explained while following the wall round with a lighter until he found the vent.
He’s not as stupid as his dress sense would lead you to believe Olivia thought as Max finally located the vent.
He and Nick together managed to pull the grating off to reveal a small tunnel for one of them to crawl into. There was temporary halt as they looked into the depressing opening with the glow of the lighter.
“Well, I’m not going to crawl in there.”
No Max, you wouldn’t fit, both Nick and Olivia thought.
“And I’m definitely not going in there,” Olivia said stepping away from the vent.
Max and Olivia turned to look at Nick.
Nick sighed grimly, “Do I have any choice?”
“No,” Olivia said curtly.
After several failed attempts and many swear words later Nick was finally in the vent. “I’d better get paid extra for this!” Nick called down to Maximino.
“Heh, he thinks I’m joking,” Nick mumbled to himself.
“This is hopeless,” Rodrigo moaned.
“With an attitude like that...” Domino started, but was cut off by a chorus of groaning.
“Please, please, no more attitude lectures,” Charlie pleaded.
They’d been walking around the seemingly never ending corridors of Vertigos tower for what felt like an eternity with no sign of even a step. Domino insisted he knew the way back, but in reality they were lost.
“Maybe we should be looking for the waiters. They’ll know where the stairs are,” Celso suggested.”
“If there are stairs,” Rodrigo remarked.
“Either would be good right now,” Domino said, following a wall round a corner.
“Why haven’t we run into a waiter? There seemed to be so many of them when we came in,” Charlie thought aloud.
None of them seemed to have an answer to that and for a while they walked in silence. Well most of them.
“Hello? Charlie?” Rodrigo called out, realizing he was alone. This was just his luck.
He must have taken a wrong turning when he could no longer follow the other’s voices. But how long had he been alone for?
“Charlie?” Rodrigo paused for a moment, “CHARLIE, FLORES, HURLEY!” He shouted at the top of his…well not lungs exactly.
Was that a noise? “Charlie?” Rodrigo called out quietly, a note of panic in his low voice. He stayed silent, unmoving, waiting for the noise.
It never came.
Rodrigo gave out a nervous laugh “get a grip on yourself Solerio,” he told himself.
“How long has it been?” Olivia asked, her impatience shining through her words.
“Can’t be more than an hour,” Max replied, also becoming restless.
It had been a while since Nick had gone into the air vent. After that all they could do was sit on the cold floor and wait. Two things that neither Max nor Olivia liked doing.
“Nick doesn’t know a thing about electrics,”
“He’s taking a lot longer than I expected, I’ll say that,” Max responded.
Another few minutes passed.
“I wonder if the other’s found the stairs,” Olivia hinted.
Five more minutes passed.
“Maybe we should try looking for the stairs.”
Max didn’t reply.
Another five minutes passed.
“It’s better than waiting around doing nothing,”
Still no reply.
And another five minutes passed.
“Maybe we should try looking for the stairs, it’s better than waiting around here doing nothing,” Max finally replied.
Men and their pride Olivia thought.
CRASH! Rodrigo hurtled, skull first, through a door and crashed into what felt like bone.
“Flores? Is that you?” Rodrigo asked nervously, for once in his life not hoping the worst was going to happen to him.
Still no reply.
Rodrigo backed away only to feel more bone behind him. But this time it wasn’t just bone he could feel. “Ch…ch…Charlie?”
Suddenly the power went on, illuminating the room…and its contents.
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