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AN: This is a good chapter.
“And we’re back at the key room,” Nick remarked as they came out of a side door opposite the key room.
“Well, if you’re so clever why don’t you show us the way out?” Lupe snapped back.
Twenty minutes ago and Nick would have been taken aback by this sniping response, but ever since they had left the key room, all Nick got from Lupe was sarcastic and cutting comments. She was starting to make Olivia seem good natured.
“Fine then, I will,” Nick retorted, and he led the way left down a corridor.
Half an hour of walking later and:
“Oh, look at that we’re back at the key room,” Lupe mimicked Nick’s words, as once again they found themselves facing the walls and walls of keys.
“Someone got out of the wrong side of the bed today,” Olivia whispered to Nick.
“Got out of the wrong side of the bed, been sent an avalanche of bills, fallen down the stairs and broken her back more like,” Nick replied in a whisper.
Olivia seemed to be fully enjoying Lupe’s bad mood. Well, it was alright for her, she wasn’t Lupe’s main target. This wasn’t the Lupe who had babbled on to him about nothing or the Lupe that had been anxious over his crushed foot.
“This is all your fault, Nick!”
In fact, this Lupe seemed to want to tear him apart limb from limb.
“My fault? How is it my fault?”
Considering the circumstances, Lupe thought she was doing quite well at hiding how upset she was. So maybe she wasn’t acting quite natural… at least it wasn’t her getting hurt.
“Because it is,” she finished lamely, sliding down the corridor wall onto the floor: “This is hopeless; we’re never going to find our way out.”
“Pessimism… that’s a bit of a new concept for you isn’t it?” Nick commented.
“What? You should be happy I’ve stopped “spouting mindless optimism” as you put it,” Lupe retorted.
“I thought you said optimists have happier lives?”
“Well guess what: They don’t,” Lupe replied her voice getting higher and higher after every word.
“Is something… bothering you?” Nick asked.
“Don’t ask pointless questions that you don’t even care about the answer!” Lupe replied, a note of hysterical ness in her voice now.
“I’m taking that as a yes.”
“You can take it anyway you like: I don’t care!” Lupe said emphasizing each of the last three words.
After a silent pause Nick finally said: “I think I liked the old “spouting mindless optimism” Lupe better.”
“Really?” Lupe said, seeming to regain her old self before yelling: “Well you obviously liked Olivia better!”
With that she stormed away, her footsteps echoing around the corridor. Now Nick thought about it he sort of did know what was bothering Lupe.
He watched her round the corner, but didn’t follow, instead staying rooted to the spot.
“Ah well,” Olivia said a triumphant smile forming on her skull: “We don’t need her; we can find our own way back.”
Nick mumbled something along the lines of: “We don’t have the key.” But Olivia either didn’t hear him or ignored this comment.
“Who wants a meaningless coat check girl hanging around anyway?” Olivia continued, slipping her arms around Nick’s waist.
Again Nick mumbled something which didn’t quite sound like agreement.
“I don’t know why you went with her in the first place; I didn’t think you could stand people like that,” Olivia moved in closer for a kiss, but right at the last second Nick withdrew.
“No,” Nick repeated, removing Olivia’s hands from around his waist: “I’m not going to become the next sucker you leech off for the next few months and then leave as soon as someone with a bigger wallet comes along.”
“Wh… What?” Olivia said again in disbelief, hating the fact that she stammered the word, this must have been the first time any man in the land of the dead had ever resisted her… and the fact that it was Nick…
“You heard me. I’m not going to fall for the act.”
Olivia paused for a moment then took a step forward. Nick took a step back.
“Ugh!” Olivia sighed angrily, when a thought came into her head…
“Please tell me this isn’t about the coat check girl?”
Nick didn’t have time to reply as the sound of footsteps came echoing down the corridor.
Nick and Olivia both tensed, unmoving both waiting with apprehension to see what was going to come round the corner.
The footsteps were getting louder and louder, should they run for it? No: They both had sproutella guns and they both had their fingers ready on the triggers.
Finally Lupe rounded the corner.
Olivia relaxed and asked: “And for what reason do we have the… uh… pleasure of your presence.”
“Found the lift,” Lupe replied just as coldly. Apparently she hadn’t changed her previous attitude.
“Fine, let’s go,” Nick said, wanting to escape Olivia’s awkward questions.
A few minutes of silent walking, which was actually a nice change from the constant sniping and sarcastic comments that had been previously exchanged, and they had reached the elevator.
Nick pressed the button to call the lift up to their floor. They all stood in silence waiting, the only noise being the “ping” of the elevator rising past the floors.
Finally Nick broke the silence: “When I get out I’m going straight to the liquor cabinet. I haven’t had a drink all evening.”
When I get out, Lupe thought, I’m going to go in a corner and cry… Oh…don’t be so pathetic, she quickly scolded herself.
“When I get out I think I’ll carry on trying to find a new name for the Calavera Café,” Olivia said, watching the lift numbers go past. At least that was one good thing coming out of this week – the casino was soon going to be hers.
“How can you be so sure that you’re going to get it?” Nick asked, if things went to plan…
“Who else is there who’s left in the running that can compete with me? Almost all the competitors have been sprouted tonight. Max, Solerio, Flores, Hector all of them dead,” Olivia said, completely confident that the casino would be hers.
Thinking about this brought back the unsettling truth that however close they were, they weren’t out yet. It also brought back the question of who was the murderer…and why? It seemed an incredible coincidence that everyone in the running for the Calavera Café had been invited tonight and almost all of them had been bumped off…
“Maybe the murderer is Domino,” Nick thought aloud, apart from Nick and Olivia he was the only other guest alive. On the few times that Nick had had dealings with that soul, when he and Domino had both been present at meetings between Max and Hector, he had been able to decide that he didn’t like the arrogant skeleton. His ego was four times the size of Max’s and he was also four times as clever. No, Nick wouldn’t put it past Domino to put something like this together… but… why would he want to sprout all the guests? He didn’t want the casino…
It just didn’t quite make sense.
“CRRREEEEEAAAAAKKKK!” The lift ground to a halt at their floor.
The lift doors opened…
Lupe let out a gasp of panic, moving subconsciously closer to Nick.
Inside the elevator was a huge pile of leaves, flowers and vines that could be easily identified as Domino, as under the plant life you could still see that smirking face that could only belong to him.
“There goes that theory,” Olivia remarked calmly as the final flowers bloomed.
Nick stared at the heap of flowers, not moving a muscle (not that he had any to move). Hector, Charlie, Solerio, Maximino, Flores, Hurley… that just left him and…
Nick pulled out his sproutella gun, pointing it directly where Olivia’s stone cold heart should be.
“Nick, what are you doing?” Olivia said, not seeming perturbed by this movement, only slightly amused. Lupe had moved away from Nick and had now pressed herself up against the wall in fear.
“You and me, we’re the only two left,” Nick said, his grip on the gun steady.
“Nick, you’re not suggesting that I am the murderer?” Olivia asked almost laughing.
“Give me a good reason to prove me wrong.”
“This is stupid Nick,” Olivia replied, trying to brush the gun away, but Nick didn’t move.
“By the process of elimination, the logical conclusion is that you, Miss Ofrenda, are the killer,” Nick said, his voice unfeeling.
“We’re not in court Virago,” Olivia scoffed finally realising that Nick was serious… No he wouldn’t do it…
“Might as well be,” he replied, Lupe was still frozen against the wall behind him.
“Fine, then, what’s my motive?”
“The Calavera Café.”
“Max was going to buy it for me, why would I go through all the trouble of mass murder if I could just get him to buy it?”
“Maybe you thought it was time to move onto someone else… someone richer and so…”
“The only person richer than darling Max is Hector and he’s been sprouted tonight as well,” Olivia interrupted, Nick was really annoying her tonight.
Nick paused for a moment, all that Olivia had said was true… the details didn’t quite add up… But, other than him and Lupe, she was the only other person alive in the tower.
It could only be her.
“Look, we both know that you’re not going to shoot me so just put the gun away.”
“What ever gave you that idea?”
Olivia staggered back into the wall, pulling out the dart-but it was already to late.
Flowers had started enveloping her body, vines snaking around her legs, pinning her arms to her sides. Olivia let out a scream, not just of pain but of rage. How could that bastard, Virago, have done this to her?
She could feel the flowers sprouting all over her face, her screams muffled by thick, fresh green leaves. If there was a next life after this one she’d get him, it was only a matter of time until Virago got himself sprouted and when he did she’d be ready, he would regret the day he ever crossed her path…
Nick watched as Olivia bloomed her final flowers. He was surprised at how easy it was to watch, a few weeks back and he would probably not be able to bring himself to sprout Olivia Ofrenda. But things had changed from a few weeks ago…
“You… you…how could you? You just… I can’t believe…” Lupe stammered still frozen against the wall.
“It had to happen, we’re safe now,” Nick answered, taking a step towards Lupe. She backed away frightened.
“You… You can’t just kill people… it’s wrong…”
“Lupe, I had to otherwise she would of sprouted us both,” Nick reasoned, taking another step towards Lupe, but she backed further away.
“What if you were wrong?”
“The only ones left in this tower were me, you and Olivia. It’s not going to be us, so therefore the killer had to be Olivia. It’s the logical conclusion.” Why was Lupe so alarmed by this? So he had shot Olivia, big deal. All Olivia did to Lupe was bring her down, he would have thought Lupe would be happy that Olivia was no longer in existence. Lupe should be showing him her gratitude, not thinking about the moral issues…
Lupe couldn’t believe Nick had… had… If Olivia was threatening them with a gun then maybe he could have… taken her out in self defence… but this… this was just cold, heartless murder!
“I…I… Saw you kissing her… didn’t you… love her?”
“No,” Nick shrugged, kissing Olivia in the key room was something he was regretting more every minute.
This response made Lupe’s heart, if she had had a heart in death, leap, but looking past Nick to Olivia lying there; amid the flowers on the floor... she was sure that it would have shrivelled up into dust.
“Come on, lets go,” Nick said holding out his skeletal hand to Lupe.
Lupe looked down at his hand, then to Olivia’s flowery grave, then back to Nick’s hand and then again to Olivia.
“You say that it was the logical conclusion, but… what if logic was wrong,” Lupe said finally, running away down the corridor.
Leaving Nick alone.
Behind him in the lift there was a soft “clunk”, but Nick didn’t hear it.
What was her problem? He had basically just saved their lives!
As Nick stared down the corridor; the soul behind him, a metal bar in their hand, took aim at the back of Nick’s skull and…
Last time he had rescued her from that room she went on and on about it; not caring that he had fired shots back at their attacker… Olivia. Why was this time any different?
Nick staggered a few paces forward, his knees buckling beneath him, his consciousness slipping away as he hit the hard cold floor…
Lupe jogged down a corridor and another and another coming to a dead end. She lent on the obsidian black wall, panting, trying to make some sense of her fragmented thoughts.
How could she have ever fallen for a Nick Virago: a killer… He was dangerous, she remembered Manny saying that once: Cruel, greedy and dangerous.
But maybe… If Olivia was the murderer, he did have a good reason and it was self defence… sort of. But what if he was wrong? Well, you couldn’t exactly call Olivia an innocent; she probably did have what was coming to her…
Should she go back?
Echoing down the hall, she could hear the tapping of footsteps coming down the hall.
“Nick?” Lupe called out.
No reply but still she could hear the footsteps, closer now.
“Nick is that you?” She called out again, louder this time.
Still the footsteps came and still no reply.
Lupe had to make a decision, the person was about to round the corner and see her at any moment. Quickly Lupe clicked the nearest door open and stepped into a side room.
Clicking the door neatly shut, Lupe turned to face the middle of the room and gasped in horror.
Directly in front of her was a sprouted soul, but not some greedy casino owner, an innocent.
She had come to take the pictures of the tower this night. Lupe had completely forgotten…
“Oh, Lola,” Lupe wept, kneeling by her side.
Still the footsteps were coming.
Lupe placed a hand on Lola’s camera, suddenly realizing there was a picture hanging out.
The last picture Lola ever took.
With trembling hands Lupe tugged the picture out of the camera and examined it. One glance and she let it fall limply out of her hands.
The murderer’s identity…
Logic was wrong.
Behind her the door handle turned…
Like lightning Lupe stuffed the evidence in her pocket and climbed into a small cupboard, closing the door just as the murderer opened the side room door.
Lupe could hear the skeleton take a few paces into the room and stop in the middle.
Through a small hole in the wood of the cupboard, Lupe watched as the killer moved their head from side to side, scanning the room, watching for the slightest movement. Sproutella gun held ready to point, shoot and kill.
Lupe didn’t dare move. In her haste she hadn’t got into a good position in the cupboard and her joints were starting to ache after holding it for so long. But still she did not move.
After several long minutes the murderer bent down to examine Lola’s camera. Lupe saw panic flit onto their face as they realized what wasn’t there.
The photo; the evidence that was held tight between Lupe’s fingers.
The killer went on all fours to try and find it, their hands frantically moving over the hard floor. Turning over chairs, tables; but still they couldn’t find the picture.
Finally, the murderer got up and stood stock still for a few seconds before marching angrily out the door.
Lupe let out a sigh of relief and almost fell side ways out of the cupboard.
After a moments silence giving her respects to Lola, Lupe slowly opened the door a fraction and pressed her eye socket into the gap.
The coast was clear.
Carefully, Lupe crept further back down the corridor and opened another side door that led onto a spiral staircase – she was almost there.
A dart landed centimetres from her head. Letting out a cry of fear, Lupe glanced up the corridor to see the killer running towards her preparing for another shot.
Lupe bolted through the door and down the stairs taking them three at a time.
Another shot was fired this time sailing in front of her and bouncing off down the stairs.
Lupe lost her footing and tumbled down the spiral stair case, landing on the ground in a heap. As soon as she hit the floor, Lupe staggered back up to run down another corridor; the murderer catching up.
Lupe sprinted down another staircase as the killer fired another two shots, both missed wildly; the killer getting desperate as Lupe turned a corner and ran down another staircase to make it onto the ground floor of Vertigos tower.
Pulling the key from her pocket Lupe stuffed it into the lock and tried to turn it.
The key wouldn’t budge.
“Come on, come on!” Lupe whispered, shakily trying to turn the key.
The killer was in sight on the other side of the hall…
Lupe pulled the key out and stuffed it back in.
The murderer was running towards her, taking aim…
“Yes!” Lupe whispered triumphantly opening the door and slipping outside into the night air, slamming the door behind her. Clumsily, her fingers not following her brains instructions, she locked the door.
Lupe jumped as the murderer hammered the door with their sproutella gun. But there was no way the killer could get through.
She was safe.
AN: Okay we’re here. The next chapter is the last. Time for the final guess!
Actually, cos I’m feeling generous have two final guesses. Remember the only possible murderer is out of the eight original guests and Lola and Lupe. So not Raoul
Oh, and don’t forget to stick down some reasoning, however bizarre. May the great guru of murder mysteries guide you!
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