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Two Shots in the Shadows
“Look’s like Maximino got the power back on,” Domino remarked as light filled the room. It had the same décor as the dining room – black stone walls with a white marble floor. The only way you could tell that this was a different room was that there was no table.
Now the lights had come back on, one thing came apparent to the group. No Rodrigo.
“Where is…” Charlie started but was cut off by a faint yell in the distance.
“That way,” Domino pointed down a corridor to the left. The three of them followed the direction of Rodrigo’s screaming, running back down the identical corridors. Left, right, straight on, left and left again until they reached a door at the end of the corridor.
By this time the yelling had stopped. Rodrigo’s voice was no longer to be heard.
“This …was where…the sound was… coming from,” Celso panted, leaning against the wall. Charlie put his hand on the handle to open the door, but Domino held it shut.
“Wait, do we want to run into what Solerio did? Whatever he found past this door obviously wasn’t pretty, I think the best idea is to get out and fast.” Domino reasoned.
Charlie hesitated for a moment and then nodded, he was unable to speak after their long distance sprinting, and collapsed next to Celso. Damn his short legs!
Domino was about to tell them to be more like him and hit the gym when the door slammed open and Rodrigo stumbled out, landing on the floor.
“Rodr…” Charlie started, but stopped as he saw the terrified look on Rodrigo’s skull.
“Spr…spr…spro…They’ve been…” Rodrigo stuttered, sliding across the floor away from the door.
“What?” Domino said, trying to make sense of Rodrigo’s babbling.
Charlie peered around the door and quickly withdrew from the sight. “Domino,” Charlie tried to get his attention, but he was still trying to get Rodrigo to speak using coherent words.
“What is it?” Domino said, clearly annoyed. He turned to look at Charlie, who was pointing through the open door.
Layers upon layers of flowers littered the floor. Daisies, tulips, marigolds, snow drops and daffodils covered every square inch. Looking closer you could see the bone underneath and, if you looked even closer, you could see the agony on the skulls of each skeletal victim.
“Looks like we found the waiters,” Domino said, picking up a name tag and throwing it into the vegetation.
“We’re all doomed!” Rodrigo groaned behind them, finally becoming his old gloomy self again.
“Rodrigo, if I want to hear your pessimistic comments I’ll ask for one, O.K?” Domino retorted.
“What happened?” Celso asked, looking at the mounds of flowers in unease.
“Looks like they had a few glasses of that sproutella champagne,” Charlie replied, picking up an empty bottle next to his foot, “I think this eliminates the chance that anyone working here tried to sprout us.”
“At least finding a way out will be easier now the lights are on,” Celso commented.
As soon as he said the last word the power shorted out again, throwing them back into pitch black.
“Or not,” Rodrigo added.
“Simple Nick, just follow the cables and they’ll lead you right to the power box,” Nick mimicked Maximino’s words in a sing song voice as he crawled along the vent.
“I’m stuck in an air vent system reduced to talking to myself,” Nick muttered as the tunnel reached a vertical drop. Nick slid down, lost his footing and crashed into the bottom of the vent. All with the elegance of a dead spider.
“Everyone still here?” Domino asked.
“Yes,” the group replied in bored chorus.
“We are never going to find anything without light,” Rodrigo moaned, as Domino tried to open a door in the pitch black. Finally he got it open, took a few steps forward and collided with something hard and round. Something hard and round which made the sound: “Oof!”
“I thought you were going to use the lift?”
“We were but Nick was taking to long to get the power on. Weren’t you looking for the stairs?”
“Still are, but we had a run in with the staff.”
“Did they tell you how to get out?”
“All of them sprouted.”
“Ah…they obviously didn’t know about the champagne either.”
At that moment the lights came back on revealing that they were in an identical room to the dining room.
“Looks like Virago is having some success.” Domino said as Rodrigo, Charlie and Celso came into the room, closing the door behind them.
“Yes, but now we can’t find our way back to the elevator,” Olivia pointed out with an icy tone in her voice.
After a few seconds of light the power clunked off again, throwing them back into complete darkness.
The lights came on again to find the guests, almost all of them, sprawled on the floor, but only one of them not able to get back up again. By the time the lights came on Charlie was sprouting his final flowers.
“Someone shoved me!” Rodrigo groaned as he got off the floor and turned to see what everyone was staring at: The shrubbery that used to be Chowchilla Charlie.
“There was only a few seconds when it could have happened,” Maximino said slowly.
“That wasn’t enough time for someone to enter and leave this room,” Domino continued, “that means…”
“The murderer is one of us,” Olivia finished. The unsettling truth sunk in.
They were playing a different game now. Before they were in a spooky tower, witness to murder and trying to find the way out. But now they had all that and the risk of literally pushing up the daisies. The murderer could be anyone of them and it could be anybody next.
“I reckon that shot came from my left,” Domino accused, giving Olivia a suspicious look.
“What? Me?” Celso whimpered, edging away from the others.
“Olivia you idiot,”
“As I recall, Domino, you were the only one still on your feet,” Olivia responded.
“The murderer probably didn’t want to touch my level of perfection,” Domino replied smirking.
“Hey, aren’t we in the dining room again?” Domino asked before Olivia could make her views on Domino’s “perfection” known.
“We’re going round in circles,” Rodrigo grumbled.
“No, the vents in a different place,” Max replied, nodding his skull towards the vent on the opposite side of the wall, “Wait, didn’t it have its cover on before the lights went out?”
There was a pause as everyone thought back to a minute ago, but no one could remember if the vent cover was on or off.
“Does it matter?” Rodrigo asked.
“No…not really…” Maximino said, tearing his eye sockets away from the vent. The vent cover had probably fallen off by itself he thought.
“So… Charlie definitely died from a shot from a sproutella gun?” Celso asked the group.
“Yes,” they all mumbled in reply.
“Well then, surely we should be able to tell who the murderer is by who has a gun.”
“That’s a great idea Celso, except for one small hiccup,” Olivia said sweetly.
“We all have guns!”
“What!” Celso said, a look of alarm on his skull.
“We are the casino owners, the crime bosses and the night cub owners of the land of the dead – what did you expect?” Olivia asked.
“Well…maybe you should all give you’re weapons up. That way we can get out without the…you know…fear of getting sprouted,” Celso reasoned, not aware that this simple statement could cause such a change in the mood of the room.
No one moved. Every soul was eyeing up another. Tension and suspicion filled the room.
“My gun is staying right were it is.”
The silence was broken, but still the tension remained.
“If Maximino isn’t going to disarm then neither am I,” Rodrigo responded stubbornly.
Silence retook the room. Almost every soul had a hand hidden from view, placed over their gun, finger on the trigger, waiting for the first to move. The air was thick with apprehension as each soul stood their ground.
Finally, the pressure became too much and Celso bolted back down the corridor. No one else moved.
No one spoke. No one twitched. The only change as time went on was the increasingly harder grips that each soul laid on their firearm.
Suddenly Maximino took a step to the right, towards Olivia, and everyone remaining in the room flinched. But still the tension did not recede.
Step by step Maximino made his way across the room to Olivia. Everyone’s eye sockets were now on Maximino; would he make the first shot? But he didn’t.
When he reached Olivia, they both walked out of the room the opposite way to Celso. One step at a time, their eye sockets never leaving the other two.
Only Domino and Rodrigo were left, facing each other with Charlie’s body in-between. Tension was at boiling point. If one made a move the other would surely have a flowery grave.
But still they did not.
“heh,” Domino sniggered removing his hand out of his jacket., “see ya.”
With that he turned his back to Rodrigo and strode away out the door, leaving Rodrigo alone with Charlie.
When Domino’s footsteps could no longer be heard Rodrigo crept cautiously to Charlie’s body. He knelt over him and searched his inner jacket pockets, removing a sheaf of newly printed papers. With that he left the room, the power again switching itself off.
The vent cover hit the floor, echoing eerily as it made contact. Nick slid out into the small, pitch black room. Unaware of his now grimy suit and the expensive bills he was going to have to pay to get it cleaned.
Using the faint glow of his lighter he followed the cables to a small, metal box. After fiddling with the clasp for what seemed like an eternity, he finally revealed the hundreds of buttons and switches inside.
“At least I can’t electrocute myself,” Nick muttered to himself, perusing the button choices.
After concluding that a degree in law was not going to help him whatsoever, Nick decided to start pressing buttons at random. But before he could even stretch out his hand the door creaked open.
Nick swiftly turned out the lighter, moved to the corner of the room and drew out his sproutella gun.
Nick couldn’t make out who this soul was and he didn’t care – all he knew was that they were stalking around the tower, suspiciously alone, while murder had taken place. Not to mention that being lost in the air vent system, in the dark, had made him particularly jumpy.
The perpetrator padded softly across the room to the power box.
BANG! Nick fired a shot and missed.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” A woman’s voice cried out, as she back peddled away to the other side of the room and fell backwards over some crates.
Nick prepared for another shot when the power flashed on revealing the intruder to be: “The coat check girl from Calavera Café?”
Lupe didn’t answer, a look of pure terror on her face. Nick realized he was still pointing the gun at her and placed it back in its holder.
“What were you doing?” Lupe asked exasperatedly.
“Look, it was dark and it could have been anyone coming through that door,” Nick said turning back to the power box when Lupe tried to get him to help her up.
“What did you expect? An insane murderer to come running in?” She asked, getting back on her feet.
Nick froze. This girl didn’t know …or did she?
“Hector Lemans has been sprouted. Poisoned. We don’t know who by and we don’t know why,” Nick said bluntly.
“What!” Lupe reacted almost excitedly, “I mean is the murderer still here? He could be in the next room! Or even in this room!”
“No, the murderer is not in the tower,” Nick cut Lupe off, slightly taken aback by her reaction but not showing it.
“Who are you?” Lupe asked, “You look familiar from somewhere…”
“Nick Virago… how did the power turn itself back on?”
“Nick Virago, Nick Virago,” Lupe repeated the name thinking hard, “it rings a bell,”
“The power? Do you know how it turns itself on and off?” Nick said loudly and slowly, as if he was explaining incredibly hard physics to a particularly stupid person with a hearing problem.
“Oh, you’re that slimy lawyer; the one Manny was always talking about!”
“Thanks,” Nick said dryly and took a deep breath before he tried again, “Do you know anything, anything at all, about how the power turns itself on and off,”
“It’s strange isn’t it? This has been happening over the last few weeks. We thought the electrician had fixed it but it still keeps turning on and off. At first I thought…”
“In other words, no one knows what‘s wrong with it, no one can fix it and I‘ve just spent an crawling through an air vent for no reason what so ever,” Nick said bitterly. Lupe gave him a flustered look after being interrupted twice.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what my name is?”
“No,” this girl was really starting to irritate him.
“Well, it’s Lupe.”
“You work here don’t you?” Nick asked, slamming the power box door, with a bit too much force then he meant to, after realizing that his journey through the air vents had been for nothing.
“Then you must know your way around?”
“A yes or no will suffice, thank you.” Nick interrupted impatiently. He took a few seconds to formulate a plan of action.
“We’ll go back up to the dining room, at the top of the tower, and get Max and Olivia. Then you can lead us out. Right?”
“O.K!” Lupe said brightly, “But what happened to your suit?”
AN: Woah! These chapters are getting longer and longer (small, pointless observation of the day!). Please review and remember to put down any theories you may have about who the murderer is.
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