The night of the traditional festival was another ominous night. The moon was hanging high above yet the darkness that enveloped the land below was too thick for any moon to brighten completely. Joyce and Claudia had a plan. They had to sneak around like they agreed on before. But Claudia had disguised herself so that she wouldn’t be that easily recognized. The darkness was already aiding her cause. As for Joyce, she was in charge of decorating the city hall for the festival since she had landed a job when she was out distributing flyers that one time. She was already done with hanging the paintings earlier in the day, but she was told to come back and make sure everything was in tip-top shape before the opening. She had told Nic on purpose, wanting to detect his reaction. He didn’t show any signs of suspicion. But she would know when she made her way back. And if the other three guys had made a move tonight, she would know.

Her discovery began when she made her way back to her house. She wanted to check in on Claudia first before proceeding with her plan. She didn’t see any of the guys at the festival but she knew they would be roaming around somewhere, doing something. If only she would find those evidence soon. And her prayers were answered. Because she spotted some silhouettes lurking in the distance. She couldn’t be sure since it was too dark, except for the moon aiding her vision. Not to mention it was too far away. That didn’t matter; she was going to take the chance. Like anyone else was out and about except those who wanted to sneak around doing something because the majority were at the festival.

Her instincts led her to a set of old houses along the seaside. These clusters of houses were even closer to the seaside than her place. She had to be cautious and stay out of view most of the time, not wanting to be discovered. Then she saw it, one of the guys turned around. It was definitely Nic. She managed to hide behind a house before his eyes swept past her. Then she heard some sounds.

“You sure no one lives around this place?” Tony asked.

“Of course I’m sure,” Wallace answered, obviously irritated. “It’s my town after all. I know all the corners of this town.”

“He’s right, no one lives here,” Nic confirmed.

“How would you know?” Tony demanded, his tone reflecting hostility.

“I came on a tour around here once. You know, pretending to take a tour and show some interest in the local areas. I heard some people said no one lives in these sets of houses.”

“See?” Wallace jumped in. “Even he knows. You should’ve gone on some tour too so you would learn a thing or two and could lie better to cover your tracks.”

Lying was right because Joyce silently wondered why Nic had lied to Wallace. The real reason why Nic knew there were no residents around these areas was because Joyce had told him when she took him around the neighborhood for a sightseeing trip. And they had talked about their shared interest in art. Just for a second, Joyce’s mind wondered. She shook her head slightly and forced herself to focus. She knew she had to focus. She can’t lose concentration at this important moment.

“Are we going to waste time standing around arguing or are we going to do the exchange?” Wallace spoke up again.

“Let’s go then,” Nic urged. “The faster the better. We don’t know how long that festival’s going to last.”

Joyce could hear their footsteps moving away from her. She waited a little longer before following, wanting to make sure she wouldn’t get caught. They arrived at the end of the row of all the houses several minutes later. She waited until they were all inside before crouching on her knees and trying to locate them. She found a window nearby several seconds later. The guys weren’t talking anymore. She only heard some clanking sounds. And some box opening. She wanted to risk a look, but she wasn’t sure which direction the guys were facing. It would be too much of a risk. But then the moonlight hit some object from inside and it sparkled yellow. Or was it the other way around? What sparkly object had caused the moonlight to react? She edged a little closer and took a peek to see a corner of the room shining yellow. Golden yellow, gold.

“It’s all in there,” Nic said, gesturing toward the box containing gold bars. “You don’t have to count every one of it.”

Wallace shook his head. “How would I know for sure? After tonight, we’re definitely never going to see each other again. I have to make sure I didn’t get conned.”

“Let him count,” Tony interfered. “We’ll check the core. Let’s see if it’s up to quality like the silver cylinders he sold us last time.”

Joyce watched as Nic and Tony walked toward another corner of the room. They opened another box, a smaller box. Tony reached into the box and grabbed something. When it was brought up to eye level and hit some source of light, Joyce was able to see it was indeed some sort of core. A core for some type of machinery. She couldn’t be sure where she saw a similar piece before. On TV? But what was its name?

“The weapon of mass destruction,” Joyce muttered under her breath as the image came into her mind.

“Who is it?” Wallace’s voice blurted out.

Joyce pushed herself up from the ground and made a gamble. She could hear the guys coming out from the house and was giving chase. She didn’t care. She was ahead. She would make it–and bring the authorities back. But before she got too far, she saw Wallace’s face looming ahead. How in the world did he do it? She had no choice but to stop. As she turned around, she spotted both Tony and Nic coming up from the direction of the house.

“Joyce?” Nic asked, surprised.

“She saw it all,” Wallace pointed out, detecting traces of understanding on Joyce’s face.

“Saw what?” Joyce asked back, faking innocence.

“Damn it, Joyce!” Nic bellowed above all their voices, startling Joyce–though she should have known what kind of person he was. “I told you to trust me. And you’re still spying on me? I told you there was no other girl. You thought I was sneaking around tonight with her here? Why can’t you trust me?”

For some reason, Joyce felt like Nic was giving her a lifeline. She could see it in his eyes. Or was that some thread of hope that was hanging so limply in her heart that wanted to believe he wasn’t all bad? That he had nothing to do with their madness?

“Enough already!” Wallace interfered. “It doesn’t matter why she was here tonight. Bottom line, she saw it all. We have to get rid of her.”

“No one would believe her,” Nic reasoned. “I mean we’re so close now. She just has to promise not to tell until we’re gone and no one could do anything about it.”

Wallace had on his amused expression. “You two are gone, I’m still here, sooner or later, people are going to start wondering how in the world am I so rich just doing mechanical jobs.”

Nic shook his head. “No, we can’t do it. People would ask questions again. She’s my girlfriend, after all, they’re going to get to me.”

“It’s your fault for wanting to create unnecessary background information,” Tony scolded Nic.

Wallace shook his head, like he had been thinking. “No good, we have to get rid of her fast.”

“Can’t we just…” Nic argued.

“You messed up this time!” Tony screamed. “If you’re not going to fix it, who will? Remember our goal, Nic. We’re going to get rich selling that thing back on Earth. Don’t you remember why we’re here? Do you want to waste all that time for nothing? And risk getting caught?”

Nic hesitated. A minute passed. Then two. Then three. Then he turned to Joyce, his expression completely cold, no traces of remorse or conscience detected from his eyes. “Joyce, I told you to stay away. It’s your fault.”

Tony smiled then. “That’s right, Nic. Keep our goal in mind.”

“Since you’re his girlfriend after all,” Wallace spoke up with much mockery in his voice. “We’ll give you a chance to run.”

Tony turned to Wallace in alarm. “Are you crazy? She could…”

Wallace wasn’t threatened by Tony’s glare. He had on his proud smile. “I know all shortcuts around here, remember?”

Tony smirked. “A game for old time’s sake?”

Wallace nodded. “That’s right. Let’s see how long this one lasts.”

Not hearing any objection from Nic, Wallace stepped out of the way, letting Joyce past him. It didn’t matter if that was just a game to them, Joyce took the chance. It was better than not having any chance at all. She didn’t hesitate or try to stir up Nic’s sympathy anymore. It was her own delusional mind playing a trick on her eyes after all.

With one goal in mind–survival, Joyce ran with all her might, trying hard to keep on course, knowing the guys were still behind her. They were giving her a head start. Yet she didn’t want to give up–even if she knew Wallace was knowledgeable. It was not until she reached the marble path leading to the humongous, tedious house she often made fun of that she heard the guys making their move. She turned around once to check on them. Facing front, she aimed for the house, knowing she could hide in there until the other neighbors come home and she would step out and reveal their secrets. They would be arrested in no time. She couldn’t fight them alone, but with more around, they would outnumber the other three and eventually force them to surrender.

Lost in thoughts, she stumbled on the ground and banged her knees hard on the marble path. Her knees bled and stung, but she bit down on her teeth and forced herself to get up, just a little more and she would have some sort of shelter. Just several more steps and she was at the door. She yanked on it, glad it was unlocked. Slipping inside, she reached for the bolt to secure the door. Leaning on the door, she cranked her ears to hear movements outside. On her way in, she had thrown her brown boots in the direction of the wooden bridge, wanting to create some kind of diversion–just in case–to lure the guys away. Now, she only had to wait until the others come home. And she calculated that they would be soon.

*****

On the outside, the three guys had stopped at the end of the marble path. They scanned their eyes everywhere, trying to find traces of Joyce.

“Where in the world did she go?” Tony yelled out, knowing it was a bad idea to let her go.

“Calm down, she’s here somewhere,” Wallace said, still the voice of reason among them.

Then they spotted the blood trail. Actually, Wallace spotted it first and signaled to the other two. He had alerted them through those similar signs to stay quiet. They made their way to the door, following the blood trail.

“Bolt the door,” Wallace whispered to Nic. Then he turned to Tony, pointing left and right.

Tony signaled left, indicating he would take left to circle around while leaving the right side for Wallace. After the two were gone, Nic grabbed a heavy stick nearby and slid it across the handle so that no one would be able to escape from that door again. Then he took the same direction Tony had disappeared to, not staying to make sure the door was as good as secured.

*****

On the inside, Joyce heard some rustling and even the discreet clinging sounds on the door handle. Yet she didn’t care. She knew she would just have to wait them out. They can’t wait there forever. Because they would look too suspicious standing around like that. Then someone would want to go inside and would take whatever it was blocking the door down to open the door. As she was thinking those thoughts to reassure herself, lights overhead suddenly flashed on. It was impossible. How could it? Then she saw Nic. No, all three of them coming toward her from the back area. She shook her head in disbelief, not understanding how. Her wonderment didn’t stop them from coming closer and closer.

In her haste, she had forgotten about the backdoor in which the other three had taken advantage of to the full benefit. Now that she was cornered with nowhere to go, she had no choice but to turn around and yanked on the door handle. Panicked overtaken, her efforts seemed wasted because the handle snapped off before she could undo the lock. Her hope fleeting, she turned to face her three attackers. They were drawing even closer by now. She looked left and then right, scanning the area, desperately seeking some sort of escape. If any at this point.

“Time’s up,” Wallace declared, his voice passive yet icy cold at the same time.

“Game’s over,” Nic followed, his demeanor no less threatening.

It finally dawned on Joyce that she would not make it out of the place tonight. Or ever again. Yet she was not going down without some sort of fight. As if fear had finally fled her, she lunged forward and snatched a stick laying to her right. Her attacks were worthless because she was so badly outnumbered. Even though they didn’t need all three to finish her off. They took turns. Wallace grabbed the stick on her third attempt with the stick swinging toward them. Nic took over by grabbing her around the waist and pinned the knife into her. Tony only watched. He didn’t need to do any more damage. The last that she felt was the coldness after the tinkling sensation of the knife entered her. The last that she saw was Tony’s smirk as Nic released her, letting her crash down on the ground. And the last that she heard was their footsteps leaving the place.

© Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Posted: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

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