Chapter 6

The day of the third round finally came around. Vic hadn’t told anyone about the third threat note. He didn’t want the information to leak. He’d been stalking the shorty–subtly–to see what she was up to. No movements since the last attack. From the shorty and her henchmen. Yet Vic wasn’t letting his guard down. He made a mistake of not taking the situation more seriously at first. After that snake incident, he wasn’t about to risk his safety any more than he already did. Underestimating anyone at this moment would be too dangerous. At this point, he only trusted Jensen. Or could he?

“Ladies and gentlemen,” The host called for attention just like the last two rounds as he stood in the center of the group. “As you can see, this place has been transformed. The maze has been placed in to make this round more challenging. Like the last two times, there will be a time limit for the trials. You must complete the tasks correctly and in time to win. Three prizes will be awarded by the end of the round.”

One hour, twelve people, who will get there first? Vic didn’t want to think much about that. This was no longer about some random game to occupy his vacation. It was serious. He kept an eye on the crowd and the surrounding areas as he stepped up along with the others to retrieve a map for the game.

Fifteen minutes later, they began. And they had to go to their own starting point, instead of just lining up at the same spot like a typical competition involving a maze. Each of them was monitored by someone. Because the maze’s vertical length was too high, it was hard to see if they were standing at their correct starting spot or not. The ones monitoring them each had a walkie-talkie of some sort to report to the host. So when they were given the go, they were free from that monitoring. At least for a while. Because within the mazes, there were posts where they were being watched to make sure they weren’t attacking one another or cheating by using the dizzying layout as leverage.

Everything went smoothly for the first half an hour. Yet it felt like three hours had passed because of the complicated clues and tasks involved. Actually, things went smoothly for about fifteen minutes before Vic realized something was wrong. He had to waste fifteen minutes of his time to deduct a certain misleading clue. However, he wasn’t mad. It had cranked his alertness up even more. Because what awaited him around one of the bend was another trap when he turned around to his previous location in search for the real clue. Or at least investigate further for signs of obvious sabotage. What was it this time? Another snake? No. He wouldn’t fall for that old trick. Even if snakes were indeed effective. It was none other than the shorty herself.

“Well, well, well,” Vic taunted. “Came to see if I had fallen for your trap?”

Cyndi actually had her back turned to Vic. So she didn’t realize Vic was there. Just like Vic said, she was indeed surprised that she’d been caught red-handed. When she turned to face him, her face had reflected a trace of shock. Or was that just confusion?

“What are you talking about?” Cyndi asked, her hands still in midair as she waited for Vic’s response.

“I should be asking you that question,” Vic returned, not backing down. He had spotted the piece of paper in her left hand. It was hard not to. “What are you doing here?”

Cyndi scoffed, having lowered her hands already. “Isn’t it obvious that I’m retrieving my clue?”

Vic raised a challenging eyebrow. “At my spot?”

“I don’t see your name on it,” Cyndi retorted.

She turned to leave after saying that. Yet Vic reached a hand to grab onto her. Alarmed, Cyndi turned around to confront him. If only he would let go already. His grip was indeed strong.

“What’s your problem?” Cyndi demanded, her tone no longer teasing yet had turned to annoyance. “You’re now resorting to this lowly tactic to win the bet?”

Vic didn’t let go. His expression had turned grim. “Oh really? You’re the least qualified candidate for the name-calling as far as I see it. ”

Cyndi, still confused, was trying to break loose from his grip–seeing how he wasn’t going to let go anytime soon.  “Let go of me!”

“What seems to be the problem here?” Someone spoke up from somewhere.

Both Vic and Cyndi turned to see a man in uniform walking toward them. It was then that Vic let go of Cyndi’s hand. He didn’t want to lose his chance of investigating the matter. But the man approaching them was one of the people doing the monitoring.

“He’s crazy!” Cyndi blurted out as she rubbed her hand–the spot had turned red. “He should be disqualified!”

“If I’m disqualified, then so is she,” Vic returned. “For sabotage.”

“You’re lying!”

“Speak for yourself.”

“All right, you two,” The other man finally spoke up–after much inspection. “I know you two are nervous because this is the last round. That’s why I’m going to give you both another chance. This is your warning. Please continue on your way and not interfere with each other anymore.”

“I didn’t want to,” Cyndi defended herself. “He was the crazy one showing up and talking nonsense.”

Though still protesting, but Cyndi left after saying those words. Vic wanted to chase after her but the monitoring man was still there. He didn’t want to risk getting kicked out of the game. Even if he no longer cared for the game anymore, he knew that staying in was the only way he could investigate further. He approached the spot where he had retrieved the false clue to try and find the correct one. The monitoring man finally left after another minute of close inspection of Vic.

Indeed, there was another clue hidden a bit further in from that false clue. He undid fake leaves wrap before reading the clue. It was then that he realized he was supposed to go in the same direction as Cyndi. He knew he wouldn’t get caught again, because he was really following the clue. A quick glimpse at his watch told him he had lost half an hour with the false clue and arguing with Cyndi and then wasting some more time trying to figure out the real route. He didn’t run into Cyndi again. At least as far as the new clue led him.

When the round was within its fifteen-minute deadline, Vic finally reached his final destination. Yet it wasn’t so. Because the vines surrounding the area looked surreal. It looked too good of an effect to be crafted by the organizers. They had used obviously fake decorations on purpose–as not to alarm some of the weak-hearted individuals. Vic scanned his surrounding once more before approaching the altar. The closer he was to the table, the more careful he was as not to step on anything that could trigger some trap. He knew it was not from the organizers, but from that “special” friend that had given him the snakes the last time. Then he saw it. And that was when a gasp of shock escaped his mouth. He didn’t mean it. He’d been in control all along, prepared for any sort of trap. But not this one. In fact, it wasn’t a trap at all. It actually was…

It took him a few more seconds to regain himself and grab the walkie-talkie hidden in one of the compartments of the table.

“Send help fast!” Vic called out. “Someone died!”

© Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Posted: Monday, January 27th, 2014