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Chapter 7

“It’s not possible,” The host protested as he recounted his version of the story to one of the officers on scene.

Yes, the authorities had been alerted as soon as some of the security guards came and confirmed of a certain death. Everyone was forced to line up and wait outside the maze. It didn’t matter if the time wasn’t up yet. This was serious matter. Vic was seen standing to one side alone, still scanning the perimeter for a possible suspect. He knew for sure it was an inside job. Because the security had been quite tight at first. Then he beat himself up once again for being so careless and not noticing how strange it was with security measures since he’d acquired the fake clue.

As for the others, they were standing loosely around the place, still being monitored by the monitoring personnel as well as several security guards. They weren’t allowed to leave – as expected with crime scenes. They weren’t supposed to talk to one another, which made sense because there could be leak of information – and it was also the reason why Vic was standing a distance from them. He had a good reason to be, but that had allowed him time to think the details over more vividly.

When the police officers finally arrived, the host took it into his hands to recount of the day’s event while some of the CSIs were seen walking into the maze – guided by one of the security guards. The host was blurting out his disbelief with the security breach and how someone could enter and leave without them knowing, setting a certain trap to kill someone else.

“Who was the one that found the body first?” The officer in charge asked the host.

It was then that Vic tuned in to them. He turned in time to see the host pointing at him.

“This way, please,” The officer said, gesturing for Vic to come along.

Vic followed that officer to a corner of the park for some privacy. The other officers were now giving directions to the others. It was the usual do not talk to anyone until after they’d given their statements.

“Tell me from the top,” The officer instructed.

Vic recounted every single thing that occurred during the round, even the argument with Cyndi hence the delay. Though he kept that bit of the recount civilized enough, only stating they had some past disagreements hence landing into that certain misunderstanding at that point in the game. Even if he wanted to condemn the shorty, he had to have some evidence first. He took that time to disclose some previous evidence that could possibly be linked to this incident as well. As soon as the officer realized what was happening, he called another officer over and told that officer to go to Vic’s room to retrieve some items. Yes, the items that Vic described. He had snapped some pictures just in case it went missing in the future. That had helped since Vic had to hand over his phone anyway, considering how there were still messages from that certain creepy person as well.

All the commotions took several more hours to contain. It wasn’t until half past 12 that they were dismissed from the crime scene. The host, along with the rest of the hotel staff, helped direct everyone to a spacious room where lunch was already prepared. The only difference this time had to do with the silence in the room. Not exactly complete silence but discussions around the room had become hushed whispers, because some of the police officers had stayed behind to monitor them. Vic wasn’t sitting with Jensen and the others. He intended to keep it that way. And he wasn’t targeting the shorty anymore. He was thinking things over more seriously, trying to recount every single detail that had occurred since their arrival at the hotel.

“Hey,” Jensen called out about fifteen minutes later as he stopped by where Vic was sitting, which was at some ledge close to the entrance. “It’s not like you to not eat anything, not even apples.”

Vic turned in time to see Jensen handing him a green apple. He smiled, taking the apple from Jensen. Perhaps this was Jensen’s way to assure Vic that everything would be all right. Yet Jensen was wrong. Vic wasn’t worried for himself. He was just thinking how strange things were, and who had he offended in the past to receive such attacks. What the police officers had told him – in private – had made him think harder. He was the target. He didn’t need them to tell him that. He already knew since he discovered the body. It was no longer about the crazy shorty and her obsession with winning either. It was something bigger. If not, why would that person spring such a deadly trap? The reason why he knew for sure it wasn’t the shorty because if he wasn’t arguing with the shorty and wasting time, he would’ve walked right into the trap himself. Not the other person. The poor victim. If the circumstances were different, Vic would’ve made a joke or two about the other person’s deduction skills and having landed in the wrong zone. Yet now? It wasn’t the least bit funny. That wrong guess had caused the other person his life. All because someone wanted Vic dead.

“Dad’s coming back soon,” Jensen suddenly said.

That got Vic’s attention. “You told him?

Jensen shook his head. “I’m not crazy. But you know how it is. It’s hard to keep things hidden when the media already got wind of it.”

Vic nodded, feeling off-guard. He should’ve thought of that. Jensen let out an amused laugh then. Vic had to give him a look, pondering how Jensen could still laugh.

“It’s funny, isn’t it?” Jensen said, still smiling. “I thought I was going to give him a surprise. Yet it turns out, he’s going to surprise me first, by showing up unannounced in the next several days. And I thought that was supposed to be my plan.”

Then Vic understood. Jensen wasn’t crazy. Not yet. He was just bitter. And had every right to be. They all had the right to be. Who knew someone could ruin a harmless game over the summer?

*****

What followed the next few days was the wait. The contest was off. For the time being. No one was allowed to leave either. Even if some had claimed about their needed presence at work or business related matters, they still have to report of their addresses and whereabouts until the case was solved. Vic wandered around a lot during the wait. He did not want to stay still waiting like that. He needed a distraction. As for Cyndi, she was with Kimmy during those few days. Jensen had pulled a disappearing act on them. Not really. He told Kimmy he had to take care of some matters for the time being. Whoever it was responsible for the murder hadn’t made a move yet. Well, it wasn’t like that person was suicidal enough to show up when the security level had gone up several notches at the hotel.

It was on the fifth day of their silent wait that Jensen finally sought out Vic. It was more like they bumped into one another as Vic headed back to his room after another unfruitful day of scouting for details. Jensen was actually one of those who had left the hotel after the day of the murder.

“Hey,” Jensen called out, like how he did the time he offered Vic the apple. “Dad wanted to see you too.”

“You met up with him already?” Vic asked, keeping his voice on the same level as Jensen, knowing too well Jensen didn’t want others to know.

Jensen shook his head. “He just got back earlier today.”

Vic and Jensen made their way downstairs again, taking the staircase instead of waiting for the elevator. As they were making their way down though, they heard alarms sounding from above. Both looked up at the same time and then sent one another a look. They didn’t linger though. They quickly turned around and raced upstairs again.

“What’s going on here?” Jensen blurted out to the crowd gathering sparsely around the area.

Several people started to answer. Vic didn’t want to hear it. He knew it was from his room. He headed that way instead of waiting. Then he saw it. There were some employees already there, along with some security guards stationed at the door. But he was still able to see it.

“What happened?” Vic asked the security guard at the door.

“Step back, please,” The security guard said.

“Everyone, please go back to your room,” A new voice said.

Vic turned around to see that someone had alerted some of the police officers on duty. There were murmurs all around but they finally scattered and returned to their rooms – one by one.

“I want to know what happened,” Vic demanded, returning his glare to the security guard at the door.

“Until we finish investigating here, I think it’s best that you step back,” The security guard answered with the same strict tone.

As Vic wanted to open his mouth to explain that he wasn’t trying to enter, but just needed some words of explanation, he soon realized something. No, it wasn’t what was going on inside that he was able to take a peek of. It was the person standing right in front of him. He recognized those features. Or whatever it was before he was knocked out that day. And it seemed like that little initial shock had registered on his face hence the other party reacting. The security guard in uniform facing Vic immediately pushed Vic out of the way and leapt for the stairs to which Vic and Jensen had used minutes ago. Vic reacted as fast, running after the other party. Their strange behaviors had also caused the other security guards and some of the cops on scene to react. They chased after the two, yelling at them for an explanation. At least some of them chased, because the others were probably staying behind to continue the inspection of Vic’s room.

The chase wasn’t long. In fact, it ended by the time Vic caught up to the other person by the staircase. Because of two people heading upstairs – using the staircase just like how Vic and Jensen did earlier. It was Cyndi and Kimmy. And what was worse was how the other person had snatched Kimmy up and used her as a hostage. Cyndi had backed up in time during the collision with the other party yet wasn’t able to grab a hold of Kimmy in time. Both girls didn’t know what was going on anyway, how could they avoid the situation?

“Let her go!” Jensen yelled out when he finally caught up to them and was standing next to Vic.

“Back off!” The other person returned. “I’m not shy of using this if I have to.”

He was holding Kimmy at gunpoint.

“Stand back,” Jensen yelled as he turned to address the police officers and some of the security guards. When he turned to address the other person again, he said, “I’ll take her place.”

“Jensen…” Kimmy managed through her tears.

“You can’t,” Vic whispered to Jensen. After saying that, he turned to the gunman. “You can’t leave this place no matter how many hostages you take.”

“Even if I can’t leave, I’ll take her with me.”

And he meant shooting Kimmy before offing himself, that was.

“Vic!” Jensen yelled out, not believing that Vic was risking Kimmy’s life.

“It’s better if you two step back,” A police officer stepped over to where they were at that point. “We’ll do the negotiating.”

“There are no negotiations,” Vic argued. “He’s not going to leave this place.”

“Just like your father,” The gunman said with much mockery in his voice. “Never cares for all the casualties.”

Vic turned to the gunman again, his expression both confused and angry. “Don’t you dare talk about my father like that.”

The gunman smirked then. “A typical heir defending his sinister father. What should I expect?”

“My father was a respectable man,” Vic continued, his voice still reeking anger and defensiveness. Then his expression turned into recognition. “Don’t tell me you’re one of the henchmen sent out to kill my father. Now you’re back to finish your job with me as well.”

“What?”

The gunman was seriously stunned. That was when Vic strike. He actually felt it was very strange that the gunman should freeze just like that. He jumped forward and knocked the gun out of the other party’s hand and grabbed Kimmy back to their side – at a safe distance. It didn’t take long for the other person to recover and ended up using Cyndi as a shield this time. But it wasn’t long. He just needed to push Cyndi toward their path to buy some time. Vic caught Cyndi and handed her over to Jensen as well before taking chase.

“Leave this to us!” One of the officers yelled out as they increased the pace down the steps after Vic.

“This is personal!” Vic returned, not backing down.

“This is an order! Step back and let us take care of it!”

Vic didn’t care to argue with the officer anymore. He increased his pace and took two steps at a time, lunging for the other person as they reached the landing of the next floor down. They’d been chasing for 4 flights down already. He wasn’t going to let that person reach the lobby.

“Who do you work for?” Vic screamed as he had restrained the other person and had pushed him down facing the ground.

“Sir, let us take care of this,” The same officer who had been telling Vic to stop spoke up then.

The others had caught up already and were waiting for Vic.

Vic knew the other person couldn’t escape anymore. And he knew he better hand the other person over. So he did. It would be a matter of time before he wrestled the answers from the police. It had been that way for years. He could handle it.

*****

Half an hour later, Vic was sitting outside of his room, still waiting to be let in. Or perhaps he would have to check into another room. Cyndi, Jensen, and Kimmy were also nearby. Yet he didn’t budge or make an effort to socialize. He still needed to figure things out. Cyndi and Jensen have been comforting Kimmy. Kimmy seemed calmed by now. However, the girls hadn’t returned to their rooms yet.

“It will take awhile before anyone knows anything about him,” An officer said, walking over to where Vic was sitting. “You don’t have to sit around. It might be best if you check into another room for now.”

“Something’s not right,” Vic said.

“What’s not right?”

“He looked surprised when I confronted him about my father.” He turned to the officer then. “Jim, he doesn’t know who I am.”

Jim – the other officer sitting next to Vic at that point – had on a confused expression. “What? But you’re the target.”

Vic shook his head. “I’m not the target. Not the real target. He doesn’t know who my father is. Remember what he said earlier?”

“The way he said it, it sounds like your father was a businessman.”

Vic nodded. “That’s right.”

“Then who’s the real target?”

“I don’t know. But…don’t clarify that matter. Let whoever it is believe they’re targeting me.”

“You mean whoever it is will keep sending people out for you?”

Vic nodded. “At least if that person’s after me, we’ll have a chance to catch him. If we clarify that the target isn’t me, then we would cut our own lead.”

Jim nodded in agreement. “I’ll tell the chief.”

Jim got up and walked away from them again. That was when Vic looked over to see Cyndi staring at him. He was checking on Jensen, but didn’t realize that Cyndi was staring at him until then.

“What?” Vic asked, his expression annoyed.

“You know him?”

“Vic’s father used to be CSI,” Jensen jumped in to explain. “It’s no surprise most of the officers around knows Vic because of his father.”

Vic got up then. “You don’t need to tell them that.”

After saying that, he left, heading down to the lobby to ask reception for another room.

“Why is he always so mean?” Kimmy asked, turning to Jensen after Vic was out of earshot.

“He’s not mean,” Jensen defended his friend. “His father died while investigating this one gang-related case. He gets really sensitive when people mention about it.”

That was when Kimmy gasped, and Cyndi was no longer mad at Vic for snapping at her.

© Monday, January 27th, 2014

Posted: Monday, February 17th, 2014

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