Chapter Twenty Nine: You took too long.
Lauren woke up with a start as her new alarm blared out the song Secrets by the pierces. It was a gift from Andy and Lauren had loved it. Basically you could put your own music on there and choose what song woke you up and Andy had placed some on there for her. Lauren had chosen the random mode on the device and jumped hearing the words got a secret can you keep it? Swear this one you’ll save.
“Wow, that’s so Andy!” Lauren groaned as she made her way out of bed.
It was Monday by now and Lauren could no longer put off having guests stay at the Dètendez-Vouz. Fortunately she had spoken to Andy about it the night before and he had bought out the dining area while Lauren promised to keep his guests in their rooms for as long as they needed it. Re-opening the hotel was a must; they would start losing money otherwise. But for now it was definitely not a want but a need for Lauren.
“Morning,” Rein chirped, popping her head into her mom’s room on the way to the bathroom.
“Urgh, it may be morning but that doesn’t mean its good,” Lauren replied.
“I never said good,” Rein yelled back now in the bathroom.
“Good,” Lauren groaned. “Because it’s definitely not.”
“Heard and noted,” Rein replied joyously bounding from the bathroom back to her mother’s room.
Lauren simply shook her head and followed her daughter to the kitchen.
“What’s got you so chipper?” she asked still very much dead to the world.
“Well I’m up, I’m dressed, we’re going to find Jay today and I already have coffee made for you. Here,” she handed a very warm thermal mug to her mother.
“Awww thank you sweetie,” Lauren replied kissing her daughter on the head. “But ah…”
She looked at the thermal mug.
“Why in a thermos?”
“Because,” Rein replied, now yanking the mug away from her mother. “We have to get going now.”
“But-But-But…coffee!” Lauren whined.
“Once you are dressed,” Rein replied. “Now go, scoot, we have so much to do today.”
Lauren begrudgingly made her way back upstairs. She loved her daughter very much, but at this time of morning she hated how easily she could manipulate her own mother.
Back at the Dètendez-Vouz Andy came down to the foyer to see a massive crowd lining up behind the reception area moaning and raging about not being served. A quite frazzled Carmita tried to work out what to do. It looked like she had reached her wits end because suddenly she yelled out.
Everyone looked at her in shock but quieted down.
“Ok now, you will all be served I just…ah,” she noticed Andy. “There he is, the man you need. Andy?”
Andy who had skipped having coffee purely to get down here as quick as possible was now regretting it heavily.
“Ok people ok,” he started wanting to defuse this situation as soon as possible. “Everyone line up and I’ll check you all in.”
He made his way around the desk and noticed a regular at the front of the line.
“Ah hello Mrs. Sharp, nice to see you again!” he beamed before turning to Carmita and whispering.
“Si,” she replied. “I love when you speak Spanish.”
She smiled and raced away to get the coffee as Andy typed in Mrs. Sharp’s details.
“Three nights I see,” he asked.
“Oh yes, my daughter’s getting married you see,” the old lady replied smiling.
“Oh how lovely!” Andy replied. “Now, where’s Taylor?”
Andy spied the man walking through the door at that very moment and called him over.
“Oh my god, kill me,” he whispered into Andy’s ear.
“But then who’d kill me?” Andy asked out of the corner of his mouth. “Now take her bags to room 208 and I’ll have coffee ready for you when you get back.”
He turned back to Mrs. Sharp who had conveniently been talking to the lady behind her.
“Taylor will take your bags Mrs. Sharp. Enjoy your stay and remember at the Dètendez-Vouz, we’re not happy unless you are.”
“Oh I’m always happy here dear,” the kind lady replied before following Taylor upstairs.
Not too much later everyone with the exception of Carmita, Debbie and Edward who were now in the kitchen preparing lunch, gathered around the once again long table made by joining some together. Andy rose out of his seat to address everyone.
“Well as you may know by now,” he began. “Rein has miraculously found the location of where Jay’s phone is.”
He was very careful not to mention anything about the anonymous texter.
“The plan is that we will all go out there together. Prepare for anything. This could be anything from a salvage mission to a rescue mission, either way be prepared. We’ll be taking 2 cars.”
He pointed to people in turn.
“Rick, Papa and Ms-…Jenny,” he corrected himself quickly to her gratified smile. “You’ll take one car. Mel, Rein, Lauren and I will take the other. We’ll drive ahead since Rein knows where it is. Once we get there we will remain in these groups Papa, your team will go one way and we’ll go the other. Ok, we all ready?”
“Ok then, everyone make sure you have your phone and put them on vibrate. We don’t want to attract anyone that may be out there but we need to be able to contact each other at the same time. Ok gang, let’s go.”
And just like that everyone got up and exited into their assigned groups. Micah took his team to Ben’s loaned car and Lauren took her team into her car.
As Rein had predicted the journey was not that long at all and 20 minutes later Rein told Lauren to make one final right turn and then to stop. Lauren flashed her lights signaling to the other car that they were there and everyone got out. Unlike yesterday’s rain, today was like a blanket of snow. It seemed to be covering everything making it hard to tell where they were.
Before long Rein noticed what appeared to be a sign that read:
Warehouse – keep out. Trespassers will be prosecuted.
“Oh, that’s right,” Lauren said quite loudly and everyone turned to shush her.
“Oh right sorry,” she replied in a whisper. “This is the old chemist warehouse. It was built in 1904. They did a very nice business for a while, but it’s been closed down since the turn of the century.”
“Seems like a great place to hide out in,” Mel replied surveying as much as she could of the huge building. “Looks like it covers at least 50,000 square feet.”
“Mel you know I love your trivia,” Andy interrupted. “But ah, I’m freezing and freaking out and if Jay is in there I want to get him out now.”
“But how do we get in?” Lauren asked. “It’s locked.”
She wasn’t wrong. A gate surrounded what looked to be the entire warehouse and there was a padlock on it sealing it shut. Fence spikes ran along the top of it and it seemed quite evident that whoever was in there wanted to keep everyone else out.
“No problems,” Mel replied taking off her backpack and taking something out of it. “Bolt cutters.”
“Lesbians,” Micah said with a grin. “What would we do without ’em.”
“And never forget it,” Mel replied with a wink.
She quickly raced over to the lock while Andy huddled everyone else together.
“Once we go in, we’ll stick to the plan,” he said. “Micah’s group goes to the left, Lauren’s to the right. The first sign of danger get yourself out and text the other group got it?”
Everyone nodded and the moment Mel had broken the padlock Micah opened the gate and everyone went inside. Immediately Micah’s group went left and Lauren’s group right.
Please let us find them, please let us find them, was all that was going through Andy’s mind every step he took.
Corner after corner they passed with absolutely no sign of entry. It was looking quite hopeless.
“I guess blowing up an area is out of the question?” Lauren asked in jest.
“With what?” Mel asked, liking the idea but knowing they didn’t have the equipment.
“Not if Jay’s in there,” Andy replied. “I’d rather find a way in that does not involve the possibility of blowing up my boyfriend, thank you.”
Moments later they came to a quite obvious fork in the road.
“I think we might have to-” Mel started.”
“Don’t even think about saying sp-” And interrupted.
“Spilt up? That’s exactly what I mean,” Mel confirmed.
“I’ll go with Andy,” Rein smiled.
He knew she meant well but the idea of having Mel and Lauren together was not something Andy wanted to even consider.
“And let these two be alone with the option to blow up a section of this building?” Andy asked. “I don’t think so. I’ll go with Lauren.”
Rein looked quite hurt at Andy’s response but right now she wanted to get out of here as soon as she could. So she grabbed Mel’s arm and steered her to the left while Andy and Lauren moved to the right.
“Do you really think I would blow this thing up dude?” she asked as the continued walking.
“Hey, with you I never know,” Andy responded. “I honestly thought you were kidding about re-opening the hotel and look at what happened there. Warning by the way Ms Van-Upitty is back.”
“I had to dude! We were losing money left and right,” Lauren protested. “And the way that Debbie eats, I swear we’ll be down to nothing by the time we get back.”
He knew she was right, but he still hated the idea of people being around the rescue mission. Still, if they could find Jay now then at least some of the rescue would be complete.
Just then Lauren felt her phone vibrate.
“Wait up dude,” she said, halting him in his tracks. “Text.”
It was a text from Micah advising they hadn’t found anything as yet. Lauren hastily replied that they were faring the same way and was about to put her phone back in her coat pocked when another text came through.
“That was fast,” she commented.
“Micah’s a fast typer,” Andy replied desperately scanning the area.
“Oh wait,” Lauren started. “It’s from Rein and….No!”
“What? What?” Andy asked impatiently.
This after all was no time for beating around the bush.
“Ah dude, read.”
Despite wishing she would just tell him Andy took the phone from Lauren and read the displayed text. What he read however struck him with terror. Two words that sent a chill down his spine.
At the local Walmart meanwhile Carmita was bustling down the aisles. She had been here for over an hour and as far as she was concerned it was all Debbie’s fault. Well more specifically her list.
“Mole simmer sauce, Jonkanoo sauce, Ketsup?! Who the hell is this woman? The European Nigela?”
She plowed on. Some of the things on the list were easy to locate and others she at least knew what they were. By why Debbie couldn’t do the shopping herself especially with her random screwed-up list, she would never know.
At that moment Carmita’s phone made its mms sound. Sick of the standard stuff she had actually set it to applaud whenever she got a text or mms. Some people walked past and gave her a funny look.
“Just my phone, just my phone,” she tried to wave off.
But people just shook their heads and walked away.
“I’d like to see what you have on yours, probably your wife huh?!” she yelled to one man.
She hadn’t meant to say it, but with everything going on and now this damned list she’d had enough. She clicked on the mms and nearly fell over in shock. There clear as day were two separate photos. One of Rick and one of Jay, but both with the same look a look of fear and more shockingly both with guns to their head.
Below the photos was some writing which read:
You always wanted power Carmita and now it’s yours.
Choose who you want to survive. Rick or Jay but you may only choose one.
Further instructions showed that she only had 5 minutes to make her decision or the consequence would be that they would both die.
“Ay Dios Mio!” Carmita breathed placing a hand over her mouth.
No one should ever have to go through anything like this and yet here she was facing a huge dilemma with no time to get back to everyone else. Suddenly for Carmita, power was no longer as appealing as it once was.
Back at the warehouse Lauren was furiously texting Rein trying to track her down but Rein wasn’t responding Andy meanwhile had texted Micah to advise the others to abort. He informed his papa that something had happened but didn’t advise as to what not wanting to cause chaos before everyone got out of there.
“I got on to the others,” Andy informed Lauren. “They’re all headed back to the entrance.”
Lauren continued to type in her phone and didn’t even acknowledge him.
“Lauren?” Andy asked tentatively. “Lauren it’s time t-”
“Answer damn it,” Lauren replied, clearly referring to her phone. “Answer!”
“Lauren, stop.” Andy replied softly. “Knowing Rein she’s trying to track down your phone and that’s why she’s not responding.”
“It’s just not like her not to respond!” Lauren whisper-screamed. “Where is she?”
Andy turned his friend around and guided her back to the entrance as she continued to stare at her phone. When they arrived at the entrance Lauren was relieved to find Rein there already.
“Rein! What the hell sweetie?” she demanded running up to her daughter and wrapping her arms around her.
“What?” Rein asked now struggling to breathe through the crushing weight of the hug.
“Your mom’s been texting you and you never replied, I think she god a tad worried,” Andy said.
“Oh mom, I switched my phone off and I think we should all do the same. I think they found Mel by tracking her!”
“Found Mel?!” Micah demanded.
Rein punched Andy in the arm.
“Ow!” Andy screamed.
“You didn’t tell them, did you?” she asked in a demanding tone.
“Tell us what?” Micah asked.
“They’ve got Mel,” Rein replied.
No one knew quite what to say and for a moment everyone was dead-quiet. These people, whoever they were always seemed to be steps ahead of everyone. It was Ms Taylor who said it best.
“Well that’s 3 down and only 6 of us remaining.”
Meanwhile inside the warehouse Ben was still navigating the maze. Nothing overly bad had happened as yet. In fact nothing eventful had even occurred since he chose to enter the maze. All he was doing was following a path until he came to the end and had to turn a corner. It was all becoming quite dull but the thought of locating Jay had kept Ben going and on he went until he rounded yet another corner. This time his was faced with nothing but yet another locked door.
On the door was a note. Ben ripped it off in anger and read the instructions.
Congratulations on making it this far. You are now two steps closer to finding the boy you seek. Before you lies a door but before you open it know that as always you have a choice. Choice One- Open the door and be faced with your first real test in this maze. Succeed and you will be even closer to Jay, fail and you will surely be gassed to death. Choice Two- Do nothing and the wall to your left will rise, allowing you to go outside for the night, regroup and start again tomorrow. The choice is yours but know that you only have 30 seconds to open the door and the time starts once you rip the note from its face.
Ben looked up and again noticed a timer however having already ripped the note from the face of the door and taking a while to read that note, the timer was already at 10 seconds. Fortunately Ben didn’t even hesitate as he pushed open the door.
Simultaneously he heard a locking sound to his left as though a fixture on the outside of that wall had been bolted. Ben stepped inside the room and let the door close behind him.
Immediately her heard the sound of what was most definitely he could smell gas coming into the room and he realized all at once that he was in a gas chamber. To his left he noticed another monitor however there was no writing on it. What he could see however was…no… he thought to himself. Must have been a trick, but he looked closer and yes indeed saw what was definitely Jay tied to a chair. His face was all bruised and he had scratches all over him. Clearly whoever was keeping him here was treating him very poorly to say the least.
“Jay!” he screamed out towards the monitor. “Jay! It’s me Ben! Hold on buddy I’m coming!”
But it did no good, Jay didn’t move, in fact just then his head flopped down towards his chest.
“No,” Ben whipered putting his hand to his mouth. “He can’t be…”.
But he couldn’t even voice the rest he was too shocked at what he had seen. Then all of a sudden the screen went black.
“Nooooooooooooo!” he screamed out in anger banging his fist against the wall. “You monster! How dare you do this! He’s just a kid!”
But there came no reply.
Suddenly the blank screen filled with words, this time they were orange.
You have made it this far and for that well done. If you pass this test you will be amply rewarded. Behind you are 6 red wheels, each connected to a gas line. One of them contains a lethal gas that if released will kill you instantly. Two others contain a semi-lethal gas that will kill you, but they will take much longer. Two others contain nothing but oxygen which you will need if you are to survive in this place. The final one contains a key that will be pushed out upon release. This key and only this key will release you from this room and you will use it to get through the exit.
“OK,” Ben said out loud to himself. “So what, it’s pot-luck? If I die I die, If I live I love?”
The words vanished to be replaced by new words also in orange.
Unlike before there is no time-limit take all the time you need. However without the oxygen you will surely pass out and die from lack of air. If you feel lucky, go ahead and release a value. Otherwise a clue is hidden inside a glass box near the exit.
That was all the message said and Ben was starting to get really angry with whoever designed this. Admittedly under a normal circumstance this could actually be quite fun if it didn’t contain the risk of death. But to Ben and right now, this was nothing but a delay in getting to Jay and if the monitor reflected the truth he didn’t have much time.
“Box, box, box,” Ben chanted looking around for it. “Where is the damn box?!” he couldn’t help but yell.
Finally he noticed it stuck to the wall above the exit sign which itself hung above the door Ben hoped to escape through. He quickly took of his t-shirt and wrapped his firt in it before smashing the box and releasing the clue. Some shards hit him in the face on the way down and Ben cursed that fact that he didn’t look away. He picked up the clue which had landed on the floor and read:
Gas Chamber Clue:
I contain the key you need to proceed and this is the only way you will find me. Six red wheels stand neatly in a row but don’t turn the first one he is your foe. Counting that out count the total words here divide them by eighteen and you’ll have less to fear. But that’s not me that would be too easy it’ll just grant you more time to continue this rhyme. Now once you know that one go one more back. A key will come out its colour is black.
“Arghhhhhhhhh!” Ben screamed outloud.
The clue wasn’t exactly pointless, but the way his mind was working right now it may as well have just read I am here somewhere. Ben quickly raced over and re-read the first two lines.
“Ok,” he said to himself. “It’s not the first one. I’m guessing that’s the one closest to the entrance.”
He moved on to clue two but by now was getting out of breath. This oxygen-less place was really starting to have an effect on him. He hurried through the next line.
“And now you want me to do math!” he wheezed, really having trouble breathing.
He tried to work it out but his brain was turning to mush.
“Arghhhhhhhhhh!,” he screamed again.
“Come on brain work! 92 words here divided by what was it…eighteen is… one 18 is 18 two eighteens are 36, 3 eighteens are 54, 4 eighteens are… come on damn it…72 and 5 eighteens are 90, which makes 6 eighteens too much so it would be five point something so it has to be five,” he said in a rush.
He looked up at the wheels and recalled the third line.
“Ok so counting out the first one, five along makes it the 6th one for oxygen,” he barely managed to say and rushed over to it spinning to wheel to release a valve.
Instantly he heard the sound of something filling the room and very cautiously breathed in. Copious amounts of air filled his lungs and he let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Ok and the one next to it would be the fifth one,” he continued now feeling more confident than ever and he turned the wheel.
All at once he heard something drop to the ground and at once noticed the black key. Racing to it he picked it up, ran to the exit door and unlocked it.
Back at the Dètendez-Vouz Carmita was heading back to the room she shared with Ms Taylor. She had dumped the groceries in the kitchen and with no sight of Debbie figured she would quickly skulk away for 5 minutes to herself. She was so filled with emotion that when the key had trouble fitting in the door she tried to force it in and when that didn’t work she faced her back against it, slid down to the floor and cried.
What a day it had been. While she didn’t really know Jay that well she had really gotten to know Rick. But how could she just reply and tell some anonymous stranger that it was ok to kill anyone? Let alone one of her best friend’s boyfriend.
In the midst of her crying her phone vibrated and she took it out to see a text that had come through but once she read it she was done blacking out into a place of nothingness as the top half of her body slid across the door and fell to the floor. She was out cold. In her hand lay the phone with a text that read:
You took too long. Rick is dead.