Tag: TBG (page 1 of 2)

TBG – Chapter Eleven and remains

Chapter Eleven

 

I’m laying on a bed. It’s certainly not mine.

 

“Did you take care of it?”

 

“Yeah, it’s done.”

 

Voices. Horrible distorted. Never knew the world could go all wavy like this. My eyes are adjusting depth perception on the remote bythemselves and they’ve got no idea what they’re doing.

 

“She almost didn’t make it.”

 

“Better luck next time.”

 

There was two of them. Shit, that made things worse. No, things were already at the worst. Why wasn’t I dead yet, or was this death and either I’m slowly dying in a pool of blood and carbon monoxide or this is just how the underworld works.

 

Damn it, I need to get up. Need to get out. Need to get away. That lifeboat. I should be able to set it off myself, though I think I broke one of the oars.

 

“Woah, she’s moving.”

 

“Make sure she can’t get up. I’m going to go get him.”

 

I wait a few minutes to clear my head. The gas has gone now and I can breath again. Fresh air is a godsend to my lungs and I abuse the hospitality of whatever deity gives it to me. I stay still though, slowly lifting my lungs. One of them is still in the room and I need to get away from him before the other gets back.

 

From where the light shines through my eyelids I figure myself to be on the right hand side of it. If I’m in a room similar to mine, and all our first class rooms were on the same side, then it should be over-

 

“there!” I bolt for the door, falling out of the bed and collapsing in a heap , the blood to my legs cut off and not in an energetic mood. I’m immediately caught and I look up to see Robin staring at me with a grin. He lifts me back and tosses me onto the bed, curshing my legs with his weight and hefty smile.

 

“Let me go, damn hunter!” I scream, struglling futilely.

 

“Calm down, Jenn,” he shouts to me, pushing me down and completely immobilizing me. “You’re still delirious. Breath deep.”

 

“Is she okay,” I look round to see Will, who seems disturbed at what he sees. There’s another behind him, carrying a small bag.

 

After another three minutes of struggles and attempts to get away, I find myself being examined by a doctor. It takes a while, but since he decides not to give me anything and that I’m also still alive that I’m in no danger. He just tells me I need to get penty of rest and this boat is the perfect place for it.

 

I drink of water I get for myself from the tap later and Will and robin are telling me what happened, how they found me shivering in one of the lifeboats after Robin saw me wandering in there. They presumed me drunk at first but when they heard what happened to my room they put two and two together.

 

Though the answer was still wrong.

 

From what they can tell, there was a small gas leak in my room, possibly caused by a gap in the plumbing. It had filtered out so slow that it amy have been impossible to notice the build up if I went in there near when it started. And like a frog in slowly boiling waters I ended up only realizing when it was nearly too late.

 

They mentioned nothing of the trap.

 

My hand is covered in bandages, mummifying  my entire right arm. From what they could tell I fell into the mirror in a panic or something. I tell as much as I can back to them to satisfy their curiousity and kick them out as they insist on staying further to look after me.

 

Why was I still alive?

 

Ad I simply been found by the wrong people just in time?

 

Then why did it feel like my hunter opted not to kill me over going to remove all evidence that I was trapped in there.

 

There should have been a shirt round the radiator at the least.

 

Reagrdless I had survived.

 

One down, four to go.

 

And if it wasn’t for othes and luck I may have very well ended up getting pushed off the side as I foolishly dangled myself over it, my hunter tossing me in with the rest of the lure he sed to entangle me.

 

I hate this.

 

And yet I want to be challenged again.

 

Is that weird, the feel of being trapped, the threat of being killed, that hopelessness that sinks into my soul when I realize I’ve been tricked. The pressure of anxiety, and the attempts at resourcefulness to make my escape. That was good right, testing the limits of my cage, checking for everything, working out the trap instantly, using the mirror in order to fashion a screwdriver, pushing pass the pain of cutting myself and going loopey as I broke down the trap bit by bit. Even if I did slowly lose it in there,, I performed well to escape from that deathtrap (and that is what it actually was, a geniuine deathtrap). The only thing that could have made it beter was if I got the hunter trapped there as well/

 

No! I’m not hedonistic like that. I’m not doing this to play survival games. I’m doing this because I refuse to let them get to me. I’m not going to die for this game or any of its hunters. I have to keep telling myself that. I shouldn’t have to keep telling myself that.

 

And even if it was kind of fun, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. What would have happened if I didn’t get that ful length mirror. Would I have been able to find another solution. It was unlikely. If anything, I’ve only survived once again because my hunter screwed up a little. If he was a perfect assassin I’d be dead.

 

And I have to learn how to beat that.

 

I rest, letting my eyes fall short for a few moments. Then I’m back up again and locking the door into the room. As long as there’s no gas in her I should be fine.

 

I rest properly for another few hours, my trues euphorically peaceful.

 

When I wake up, another day would have passed.

 

When I get up, the sun is going down, clocking out of our hemisphere for another day, only to have to do its other side job. It appeared someone took the libery of dragging my bag in here for me and as I kneel down to it I can already smell the fumes coming off it. It reminds me of such cheap cider my friends bought years back and I choke out an urge to projectile whatever’s in me.

 

Most of the clothes on the outside still smell bad and I try airing out what I can on the chairs and anything else that lets fabric hang. My phone, glasses and ID are on the side table and I pocket them after slipping on some khakis and a top.

 

I declare this room for the Connoley empire.

 

With it now mine, I take the key card and head out. I’ve got no idea what I should do now but first things first is-

 

Arijit bumps straight into me and dodges to the side to spill coffee everywhere. He grunts in surprise and I quickly apologise to help him.

 

“no no, I will handle it,” he tells me, mopping it up with a tissue. But I go down to help him anyway.

 

“I’m alright now.”

 

“You have carbon monoxide poisoning,” he states. “You are not alright, and as my employee I insist you go back in there and relax.” He tells me all this without loking, so he misses my glare. The scum. Just because you pay me doesn’t mean anything. You’re all dirt to me anyway. The only one that matters is the hunter and until I get my hands on him, you’re all pawns for me to…

 

My head rushes with the contortion, and I lean against the wall with discomfort. Mybe he’s right, I find myself think, and I fall back into the room.

 

“Get me a coke,” I say to him as I leave.. “Can’t stand coffee. And make sure it’s in a can!”

 

The bed welcomes me back and I receive it eagerly.

 

Five hours and several trips back to the canteen for Arijit later, and I’m finally fit enough to go back out.

 

The hunter will have to be careful now. I seem to have obtained bodyguards with that last incident. Everyone swarms around me the best they can, constantly checking up on me like I was four and sick with the flu again. With the only time I get to myself being in the bathroom, I find even that being taken away from me as they ask Robin’s wife to go in with me. I suffer from her lack of non trivial conversation skills as fast as possible when I go in there now.

 

The crew have, of course, apologized furiously for the incident and have already offered me a full refund on my journey here. They tell me in private of course, and ask that I don’t get discouraged with using their services again.

 

Then they tell me that the rest of the journey I will have full access to all amenties. That was useful.

 

So the next night passes with me barely seeing the day. I feel queezey and make sure I’m careful with my food, always conveniently swaping whatever meals they give me and acting like a real pig with my new privledges. It’s not that I want to, but the carbon monoxide endangered my food supply and now I have to be super careful not to inject more poison into my system.

 

I guess that was ironic, the only food I could be sure wasn’t poisoned getting poisoned. Oh well.

 

It seems like I don’t die from the consump-tion of the duck in orange sauce, and I wolf it down quickly with relish to regain my strength. With the first trap down and the extra protection, I was now unsure what the hunter would try to do next. By the time we were off this ship, the turn would be over, and though I wasn’t sure if he would still try and kill me then, I should at least do my upmost best to make sure I never die at all.

 

My room’s out of bounds, and now Will is shacking up with Phil for the rest of the trip, all other rooms being fully booked.  Technically it would be easy to pull off the gas trick again if I wasn’t careful with the room, so I figured from now on I’d inite two people back with me each time I go there to ensure nothing funny goes on. The only question is who to pick. Should it be random.

 

Part of me wanted to say Robin. He had saved my life after all, and he seemed like the nicest of the lot despite his little act.

 

But wouldn’t that be stupid. After seeing me escape from the deathtrap, he followed me to the outside deck in a panic, wondering if I had figured anything out. All it would take was two words from me and he was in danger, so he followed me right to the lifeboat. Then picking me out, he went for the starboard side and got ready to toss me in. It was only with the intervention of other workers that made him stop, and handed me over while he went back to remove the evidence.

 

Of course, I had no proof of this.

 

If I make random choices each time, it’ll be more natural and enable me to get to know everyone better. The hunter must be ticked off that he failed in his trap, that shift in expression just once wuld be all I needed to tell who it was.

 

With that choice made, we spend the rest of the day chatting away on the luxery sofas. A student just a year older than me seems to be assigned specifically to the seven of us that night and we take time to order our drinks one by one to annoy him. After going over the most meaningless of reality television shows and enduring the most dreadful talk on a match they all watch earlier whle I was in gaga land, we head out to the life boat that I decided to snooze my gas poisoning away in. Whilst it turns out I didn’t break the oar in it like I thought, it wasn’t enough for Robin and Roann to do twenty minutes later when they decide to play kendo. After hearing that maybe it was the captain’s spare playboat, we sneak the oars into the ocean where no one will look for them.

 

Finally, we all go to retire. Finding a pack of cards on Ronan, we quickly move that we all play a game of Go Fish in my room. After unconvincingly trying to find Arijit all night to get him to join in because Will reckons he’s lonely, we spend the next three hours in my room tossing cards at each other and having everyone compliment my skills. I kick them all out shortly after.

 

And that concludes the second night of the trip, the ?? night of the turn.

 

Three to go.

 

 

Final 1500

 

Recognising my own faults, that’s good. I’m not some super villan with a blad head who’ll always thinkthemselves undefeatable and place on others. A true tatian rationalizes all of their mistakes, but takes them in all the same and accepts them for what they are, so as not to be crippled by each and every one.

 

And as long as it isn’t too late, I should be fine.

 

Now, I just have to make that final choice.

 

Ronan or Will.

 

Who should I use?

 

Who is best t call?

 

The CB radio clings to my pocket. It’s been with me the whole time and, if I’m lucky, Will still has his. He’s a curious enough type to want to know what is being said over the radio waves. Hopefully I can still catch him. That was the only thing in this situation that I had to rely on others to do, unless you count the whole trap thing in the first place.

 

I tune in.

 

“Will, will, come in Will. This is Jennifer.”

 

I wait.

 

“Will, do you copy? Please respond. Over.”

 

Nothing. I tighten my grip.

 

“Jen-“ I cut It off impulsively. “Jenn? Is that you?”

 

His voice sounds raspy. He’s been running around a lot. Probably panicking like all the others. I suppose in a situation like this, that’s all people like him can really do. That means I need to get him to be strong for me. Only by getting him to focus will I make sure he gets me to live.

 

“It’s me. Can you switch to the frequency I asked you to earlier?”

 

“Sure give me a second?”

 

That line might be getting used by the cabin crew, as they pass forth messages of survival to one another. Whilst my primary reason for switching was simply so that no one else could hear us, I did also think they need to handle the evacuation without us getting in the way, so I mentioned earlier if we wanted to talk to switch to another frequency. Making a game to ensure he memorized it also ensured privacy.

 

“You there?.” A pause. Do it properly, my fool. “Urgh, over.”

 

“I’m here. Over.”

 

“Where are you? What’s ging on?”

 

“More importantly, where are you?”

 

“I’m evacuating along with everyone else. I was getting worried when you weren’t with our group. Are you one one of the other ships. Over.”

 

”I need you to cme pick me up. OVer”

 

“What?” He sounds tired.”Where are you?”

 

“At the bottom set of stairs nearest your room. Into the engine section, three doors down to your left.”

 

“Good lord, what are you doin- Are you responsible for all this?”

 

“Unfortunately not, else I wouldn’t be asking for your help. I got trapped down here when exploring.”

 

“Okay, I’m coming to get you. Be careful. Out for now.”

 

Will wasn’t involved. I was guessing that for now. No, I was a scertain as I could be without evidence, and it was more a process of elimination that had got me choosing him to be my saviour once again. He was ultimately the less guilty out of all the possible groups. Robin maybe ranked under him in terms of suspicion, simply because I couldn’t place him at any of the accidents in places that made sense. Plus I later caught wind that he was heavily intoxicated

 

Not to mention it had to have been ‘him’ who had done it.

 

“I’m down here. Where are you? Over.”

 

Three doors down on the left. There should be a cleaning bucket there. Over. Wait!”

 

I hear nothing but static and assume.

 

“Are there some rubber gloves in there? Over,”

 

“No, no there aren’t.”

 

Lousey, unhygienic cleaners.

 

“Over.”

 

“Okay, never mind. Now listen, I think the door may have an electrical charge going through it. There’s a cable round here somewhere, and it’s not letting me touch the floor.”

 

“If you can’t see the cable then how do you know…”

 

“I ot a fairly good idea.”

 

“There’s a broom trapping the wheellock here. Did someone lock you in? Over.”

 

“I’m not sure, I didn’t hear any noises like that when I was in here? Over.”

 

“I just don’t get why you were down here. Over.”

 

“Hey. Ship sinking and rescue attempt forst, kiddo. We’ll have plenty of time for an exposition later. Over”

 

“What’s an exposition?” Over”

 

“Open the damn door!”

 

“There’s something weird at the top. Over.”

 

“Really, like what? Over”

 

Actually I think it may be part of the design. It looks different though. Over”

 

“Tere are some hinges on this side. Maybe you’re suppose to push them down or something. Over.”

 

“Yeah, they seem to click. Must be a special lock or something.”

 

If only I had the answer, I could have saved lots of time and not damaged myself. Waiting with foot tapping, I hear grinindg as the door is reanimated, pistons turning away from their resting place and into the door. I don’t hear any screams of agony as it occurs, so I assume it’s okay. There must be some kinfd of internal insulati0on in this place to prevent it from becoming one huge electromagnet, or maybe I just have y science wrong.

 

The door swings majestically open and I see Will push through the doorto greet me. Acting the part, I run up and hug him, thanking him for the rescue. He makes a wsie ass comment about being the hero and I laugh and punch him lightly.

 

“I can’t believe you were foolish to get stuck here,” he tells me, holding me tightly. “I was worried you know?”

 

“Sorry, but it seems like a few things happened and i-“ I can’t finish the sentence. There’s something in the way. His lips are over mine, and his smooth nose is brushing pass mine gently. He embraces me, and I feel his fingers push my hair back. My breath traps itself in my lungs and waits for him to finish, expelling when he finally lets me go. For a second I feel my cheeks bleed red, and part of me wants him to do it again, just because I didn’t quite catch that taste he had to give me.

 

“We can talk about it later,” he tells me. “For now, let’s get you uout of here.”

 

Turning away, he grabs my hand to lead me, only to turn back when he sees me grabbing his shirt. Through my hair I can see him smiling at me, a calm, gentle smile that feels custom built to help me in particular relax.

 

“Hey, come on,” he says with a reassuring tone. “We can do more later. But for now we gotta-“

 

My grip tightens.

 

I’m grabbing skin as well.

 

“Hey. Ow!”

 

I let you hug me! You do not respond by taking extra privledges.

 

“Hey. Hey! That hurts!”

 

You think I’m going to fall back and let you dod things to me. I am in control of the situation here. Not you. You were summoned by me and you will do as I see fit.  I give you a hg to show my graditiute, you do not steal my first kiss.

 

“Jenn,, what? Stop…” And don’t try to talk me out of it now. You had to go and do it. Was this your plan as well? Seduce me and then strike me down when I wasn’t looking. To think you also show up that I make a mistake.

 

“You crazy…”

 

Fall, creature, fall on the floor screaming electric blue. Fall knowing you were beaten, and will never win again. Let even your salivia turn against you, and your blood boil its way out of your body. Remain twitching as this ship submerges into the liquid blue and even if you should live form that, let the ocean take you for its own.

 

Be alone in your loss hunter, knowing that the price for hnting me was eternally more that what you thought to be getting in return.

 

***

 

I rush up the stairs, by now the speaker has stopped making announcements. That must mean there are no passengers left on the ship as far as they’re aware, and even as I reach outside to the main deck, I can see a buzz of fireflies covering the night ocean. Some as already reaching the horizon, while the ship lurches oddly for the first time. It ccours to me that I still don’t know what’s wrong the the hulking mass, but now I can make an accurate guess that it must have had a hull breach, else surely they’d be some major sign of fire in the engine room or up here.

 

Sliding down the deck, never a good sign, I run as fast as I can to the othe rend, noting that the little boat was no longer there. I had made it useless anyway and I continued skidding and sliding to the end of the boat where safety hopefully roamed.  Appreciating the full one hundred and ffty meters ??? of the ship in about thrity seconds, I twist the corner to see a collection of crew members panicking over the ;ast three boats.

 

They barely even look  at me except to taunt my lateness, and toss me along with all the rest. Our life [pod is the first to crash into the waters, and from there I meet up with the waiter boy we had serving our drinks earlier. I nod to him with a grin and he seems to return it, but it stays silent from then on. We’ve already got word that rescue ships oare on the way, and I get handled a blanket to share with others.

 

I scan the faces for anyone I know. The captain isn’t here and I wonder a little if he really does still go down with a pleasure cruiser. None of my work colleagues are here at all, and for some reason I am releaved. I think I really will have to quit that job after this. It’s all proven much too danger, but I can’t help but laugh at the situation. Wth a mixture of smarts and instincts, as well as a little luck, I managaed to preserve over the odds of having a deranged lunatic hunt after me. The fact that I had several remaining measures pleased me as well, though I feel disappointed at not getting to use them.

 

No, I should not eb like that. This is my first true victory, my dominance over those who would dare try to make me play with them.Ive won the first turn, and my prize is satisfaction. One was down. Others would fall.

 

I wonder if he knew how much I knew. That I suspected others. It wasn’t like he was omniscient after all. Did he even suspect that I suspected others? That I had spent hours contemplating the possibility that it was Ranan and or even Arikit. That I had shivered and nearly vomited when Robin found me, believing that I had been going thewrong way all along and he was somehow responsible for all of this.

 

I am sure I will find the full answers later, that I will get told that Will, the son of the CEO was missing as the last of the boats left for sea. That he was seen getting into one but shortly disappeared well after, and then will come the story of how his father sued the company, never knowing what his son was really doing, how he foolishly tried to build up trust to someone so he could kill them, and set up elaborate scenarios to test my ability and try me until I died. Maybe I could find ways to reveal his mistakes. Like rescuing me. Like giving mehis room. Not so much kindness but the options he tried to give himself that were always foiled by the accidental efforts of others.

 

Though I suppose it will be best that I don’t. I don’t want to reveal my own stake in all this after all.

 

Others were laughing with me, my reveling their relief. I let it continue, and they get to know each other beter in front of me and start to talk about what bad luck it was they decided for summer jobs on a cruise ship.

 

I agree with them completely.

 

A few days pass after that.

 

When I get back into the city I don’t even show up for work. I spend the days that I should be taking off at home in my room, waiting. I have time and I check up on Mrs. Gillepsie. With her own status as still alive, I give myself a five day break from activities. Despite all that had happened, I was still a suffering of carbon monoxide poisoning, and I wished to make sure I was up to full strength before tracing the jewishwoman’s actions.

 

I quit the job on the day before I was due to start up again. Left as many people as I could an a phone call telling them not to expect me. I think they were understanding of it. Not everyone nearly dies three times in a row ike that all on work related activities (unless it’s the CEO getting sniped again, they joked to me, mentioning nothing of the bereavement). I get a hefty severance package and my salary for the next year. At the end of the day, Martin and Phil pop over to return to me my Rubix cube. They try to chat but I have wargames night.

 

I spend the rest of the night with the radio and the television on,  each struggling to drown out the other in an eternal war that the radio won de to its static. I reward it with subsequent destruction and get to bed with only Tim waking me up to ask how I am twice.

 

The last day of the turn passes, and I work hard the next morning pulling what info I can on Mr. Wallace. Turns out he’s still alive as well, which is obviously good, as I’d hate to realize that I’m some schizophrenic psychotic who murdered him without realizing. As expected with only two days left, Mrs. Gillepsie outlives the turn as well.

 

I’d have to check at least two more times with Mr. Wallace though. There are, of course, plenty of reasons why he may not have been able to kill that day, and I would wish to learn them all before I strike him off as a passive.

 

Hopefully the next turn won’t be as long. If they’re shorter i can be assured to lose the hunter a lot easier. If I’m moving round the country like I plan to I should be able to keep away and focus on the bounties I aquire. Then, if any come, I can handle them at the time in situations that don’t suit either of us.

 

Since I’m stronger, I’ll surely win.

 

“Does your shadow know you’re following it?”

 

Chapter Six…I think

 

Four days had passed since my trip up to Scarbrough and, as the rules of the game had stated, the first turn had reached its end on that night I spent with James in the caravan. I know this solely on the appearance of a second envelope but yesterday, clattering through my door along with a bill for broadband and a Capital one credit card. I had originally thought of taking a glance at the documents I had received, but now I had no wish to indulge in whatever mainiac was trying to waste my time, and I deposited all the mail to the recycling bin, where it waited for disposal later on in the week.

 

I hadn’t found any further evidence for the existence of Mr. Francis Betterman. Besides other people that shared his name al around the world, the only proof of his existence was the telephone directory and the website which advertised his caravan park. Though each were extensive in their detail of the man, his website containing pictures of him with his family, they were the only examples and thus I had nothing extra to back up his claims to existence. Even if he did exist, I could find no reports on hisdeath anywhere on the internet or local news reports for the area. This may have not been too suprising, as the death did not have any major signs of suspicion of controversary behind it. I had figured that maybe being the ownerof a caravan park may have given him some small circle of fame to the local newspapers that would get him a sadly missed article given the circumstances, but a brief glance through whatever I could find revealed nothing.

 

I thought about heading back to Scarborough, of simply insisting that James doing a 360 on the A?? and rushing up nto the brother for definite proof of a body, but it was easy to predict such a situation to result in nothing. There would have been no reason for them to oblige in showing me a body. If they were in on the trick, then they would stall about and say that they didn’t want to show the body to a stranger. And in the now unlikely event they weren’t, they would say the same thing. I was better off heading the way I came from.

 

In the end, I simply had to abandon the search. I was ecstatic with this really. Whoever was playing this thing had made a big mistake by trying to play me. Jennifer Connolley was no fool. I had approached my localHSBC and opened up a brand new account in which to desposit all the bounty money I had received so far. A simple current account, whoever had put it in my original account would have no access to this now, should they jump out to ever tell me their joke. I had gone so far as to consider Swiss, but I didn’t believe it was necessary. Besides, I had a feeling I’d be using this a lot more.

 

So that was my choice. Not to play.

 

Not to play the game. Not to pick up the envelope in the morning and look at my bounty as I dripped frostie encrusted milk onto the picture. Not to spend a few hours pointing out which rules contradicted each other, or how they could have made it better. Not to think about the possibility of getting some easy cash, or to set up elabpourate traps to try and get away with murder. Not to rationalize with myself that if I did it right I could get away with murder. Not to be seconds away from my victim only to have armed police jump at me while reporters shoved microphones up my noses. Not to have scientists emerge from the bushes, taking notes for their sociology dissertations. Not to pass Go. Not to take #200.

 

Not to do anything.

 

It said there was no penalty for not playing, didn’t it?

 

So that’s what I’ll do.

 

I think Nash Equilibrium would agree with me.

 

It’s just a shame no one else did.

 

***

 

Wednesday now. My holiday p[ay had become so much more tewmpting now that it meant absolutely nothing to me, the one hundred and fifty quid of ‘goes straight in the debt pile’ now a mere pittance. Giving up that Enron of a job was now a distinct possibility. As long as I remained smart with this money, I could last a while without a job. Though I hadn’t quit yet.

 

So we were in Town. Me and James and Tim. Both were taking time off their studies to indulge me in a wander to the greater shops of Nottingham. I had calmed down now, and James was looking a lot happier than when I had threw him out of the car last Sasturday. It was a good time to relax after a stressful week of total stupidity.

 

We had already emerged from the workshop, my sizable False Balance army receiving another two regiments plus some Stormriders after some select purchases. Noprmally I’d hissed at how much this would cost me, but it didn’t seem to matter at the moment.

 

“Yeah, I had got a bonus,” I told them both after they inquired, not wanrting to bring it up in the store. “Something to do with my work being great.”

 

“What is it you do again?” Tim asked me, looking bored enough to ask Medusa if he could see her for a moment. It was a slowly declining process for him, and he shook his arms to tell us that he’ll beback to lively just as soon as he got the stench of paint fumes on lead models out his system.

 

“Research analyst,” I told him, admiring the unpainted False Judge within the ??, the bodiless Riddleklutz staring back at me behind its mask. The model so wasn’t worth it in terms of actual lead used, but he’d helped me dominate in demon scourge games. “It’s statistical analysis of the company’s demographic data or something. I can’t say I pay too much attention.”

 

“And yet they give you bonuses?” he retorted, yawning the carbon monoxide out of him (think paint fumes). “Makes you wonder what you get if you actually worked.”

 

“I do!” I complained back. “Hey, I work hard at that place. It’s good to get appreciated every once in a while.”

 

“That’s true. Just the other week you were saying how much you hated it.”

 

“Yeah, I guess i just didn’t notice how much I was being appreciated.”

 

Fast food was our next destination. However, on the way we were waylayed by arcades and had to defend ourselves valiantly upon on onslaught of fruit machines. It looked like we were without hope until we found the legendary staircase that existed beyond our illuminated adversa\aries and shortly we were able to reach the holy land of coin op and dance games, where we celebrated for many hours with pool wenches and ales from the vending machine. It took us about an hour to get out, James inability to die on Other Fists Three proving meticuosl until Mr. Jupiter was able to be the most broken character and wipe the floor with him.

 

I never liked playing against the computer myself. Human opponents were much more of a challenge in their ways, their ability to freestyle, adapt and overreact gave them qualities the computers could never have. Even a weakness could prove a strength at times. If anyone was ever going for me, I’d definitely consider such tactics. How many would be fooled by a helpless girl looking like she had given up, only to get shivved by themas they took their ime in finishing me off. With so many ways, it was just too easy.

 

 

I guess, thinking about it, part of me sdidn’t want to stop thinking about it. It was ultimately such a simple game. A surviva game. Thought up hundreds of times by hundred of people. Performed throughout the centuries, stereotyped by italien hitmen. Paradied ion films and videogames games to the nth degree. But it always remained fantasy, the very thrill and infinite variety of it appealing to the minds of everyone with ambition. Which of us could deny that wish completely. To e given a permission to kill someone. Even if that very permission was transparent, or even a trick. Everyone has someone theywant to kill, no matter how much they deny it to themselves. Everyone has someone that believe that the world would be better, even if just for themselves, if there was one person that wasn’t here. But of course, we’re human beings. We both smart and scared. Smart enough to know not to act our primal urges on others and scared of what we might unleash if we did, be it the law or oursaelves.

 

And that game allowed us to do it how we wanted, and only if we wanted. That would have been the great part of it. Being forced to kill the last boss with a rocket launcher was amusing one time only. The chance to use anything and everything you could get your hands on allowed for that infinite variety that usually existed only in my imagination.

 

I guess, in a way, I just wanted to stop being sick of life.

 

The trip to fast food heaven had been arduous, our one hour detour starving us significantly. I’m lucky I had brought bottled water with me on a whim, else the hot desert day might have already taken me to a place where I dreamt of sand being a nice beverage for me to have at that moment. There was no sand near me at all at this moment, so I’d have to put a request for my brain to stop teasing me.

 

“But is it too much to ask for at least the illusion of choice,” Tim continued as we paced the long sparsely crowded high street. “Machina had that. We had a choice during the game and we had a choice of three endings during the last stage.”

 

“That didn’t matter though,” James contradicted. “No matter what you did during the game, you could just switch your allegiances to see which ending you wanted.”

 

“But that wouldn’t matter to most people. Most of the idiots out there would be  content with the premise of three endings, do one of them on easy and then over to the website to read up on the other two, before claiing to their friends that they had got everything and that the game wasn’t hard enough.

 

“That’s an interesting jump.”

 

“That’s just it though,” Tim continued. “Most say they want these things, but they really just want to think they have them. People don’t want the ability to earn multiple endings, but , to make them think their early choices when they started playing meant something, even when they clearly didn’t. Games don’t’ provide that now, even when they claim to. I mean, I personally want a game where you have a choice of A or B right there at the beginning, even if it was just male or female, that eventually led to two completely different sets of multiple endings, with two different games in the same setting.”

 

“That zombie game did that,” I remembered briefly. I loved zombies.

 

“But did it though? From what I saw of that game, both characters just did the sdame things, and then their cut scenes were worked around a little. No real difference. What I’m thinking is two aliens on opposite sides, with other different factions apart from the two main races, starting on different planets, being forced to play apart from the other. Even if you did get to the other’s part of the game, it’ll be completely different. And you may say that people want simple shoot em ups, but there are other people like me that want the difficult and mentally challenging games that diversify themselves. They can’t be that hard to make. Developers are just lazy or too focused on graphics and which console is going to rape which console.

 

Some people really needed a rant control. With only three contributions to the conversation, me and James were already lost in listening as Ti illustrated every little point he could find, countering every argument we could think of, some even before we had thought of them, yet somehow managing to attribute them to us. Both of us grinned at each other, knowing the score and having already placed bets that Tim would win the argument. This was no game to me. Most debates started with the impossible condition that the idiot on the other side had already cememnted his opinion within the bowels of the earth. All I could do now was nod my head and agree.

 

I suppose you have a point. I’d always like-” I said as the wind caught passed my ear sharply and the  pavement in front of me shot a block of rubber into the air with a quiet ping.

 

Stopping briskly, my heavy bag jumping ahead of me, I looked estranged as the dust followed it, permeating a light vapour into the air. That was weird, I thought, looking closer, walking closer to it as the others carried on without me, only partly noticing I was no longer walking. Getting next to it, it looked at the now clear indentation in the pavement, a little hole destroying yet another part of the desperately in need of replacinghigh street. Had I just missed something? I looked around, no one else searching around as I had. Maybe it was just the wind bringing something off the road. Weird though, there’s a clear hole here and…

 

Another ping, and I watched as just ahead of me another crater formed in the pavement. That wasn’t just there, the dust told me. What was going on? Looking up, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. What could even be causing it? These indentations looked to have been made by a jackhammer. Slowly, I saw a crack start to formon the second crater.

 

“Jenn?” James said. “What’s up?”

 

Nothing was up. I nearly said, instead turning around and getting a full dose of light injected into my eyes. What the fuck? I fliched and squinted, my body twisting for my hand to try and block whatever was attacking, when I heard a third ping rush pass my head and bury itself deep into the ground.

 

Fuck!

 

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

 

I nearly fell back, my bags dropping to the floor without me. Fuck!

 

I looked to Tim and James. James was looking at me confused, a calm expression on his face. Tim wasn’t even facing my way. Fuck!

 

Oh god… no. No! Fuck!

 

The bag hung limply from my hand as I swung around, slipping it off as if it were handcuffed to me. I had to get out of here. It didn’t matter where. My legs stretched out, my tight jeans complaininginstantly. I ignored them. I ignored James and Tim, sprinting passed them in a heartbeat.

 

“Oi, Jenn!” James called after me. For that second I felt the urge to turn back around, to tell him. Perhaps warn him, or at the very least say I was okay. Make an excuse as normal. That I needed to pee, that I forgot something. Fuck was i. I’m not thinking anything. I’m running. Run.

 

No time to think. No time to do anything. No time to sit and calmly analyse the scenario presented before me. Like there wasn’t actually a threat. Like there was no danger. Only time to run. Only time to retreat. Only timeto escape.

 

I took down the high street, the downhill pavement making me regret having worn platforms as they punished me with each agonizing step. People weren’t quick to step out of my way and I felt my throat close as I was forced to stop for a second, a sudden crowd in the street overcoming me. Dodging what I could, I screamed to myself for people to let me passed, hopping on the spot as an old woman saw my stress and made an exit for me.Pushing past, I looked ahead. Why was this road so long? The last turning was just a bit behind me but the one afterwards was.

 

I hear something. Another ping? More dust shooting into the air? I can’t tell. Just another ten meters and I’d be round the corner. My legs wanted to give out on me. My thighs were bloated and ready to explode. My tongue was wet and dry at the same inapproachable time.

 

Fuck! I skidd, nearly tripping and grabbing a bus station for support. People turn to glance at me for a second and as a fool I look back, clambering around the prefab to hide behind it a little, still sprinting on dying legs wearing inapporopiate footwear

 

I take the next five meters in one stroke and swinging round, I hit the corner anddisappear around it, more dust erupting behind me.

 

Could I stop there? No, no of course not. I don’t even know what’s going on. Fuck.

 

Push it further. I look up, my chin dripping water to the floor before. The multitude of shops looked back and I scan the roofs of half of them. I can’t waste time. I look to the buildings themselves, seeing a fast food joint we had never intended on visiting again. With a shoive, I pursue it, catching its entrance and thursting myself it, my state catching the eyes of everyone there for a split second, before I dart at the toilet. Disabled but doesn’t matter. Ripping the door open without checking the occupied, I fall through, landing on the wet floor on my demin knees. I exhale, and then quiockly clumber round to shut the door.

 

Safe.

 

I escape from my hunter for a short recess.

 

“It doesn’t matter how many there are. There are a finite number of people after all. All I have to do is keep killing those who are willing to kill, until none of them are left.”

 

“But can you really do that. Would

 

Of course I’m able to do it. It’s either that or let myself die..”

 

Whoever’s doing this has perfect information on all of us. Spending the night here sent the envelope to me here. Whoever it was knew I would be here and not back at my house. But how, I decided this last night spur of the moment, yet the letter would have had to have been posted at least twelve o’clock yestersay. Was my move predicted somehow?

 

At the football game

 

“What if I told you, that everyone in the stadium here, from those in the back seats to the players on the field, were all p[articipants in the Beautiful Game.”

 

“I’d look for a witty reponse and then hit you with it.”

 

“Is it that hard to imagine. Look at us. For all we know, we are two of the remaining four players left in the game at the moment, and everyone else is dead. Tell me Jennifer. How many people do you think are playing the game? How long do you think they’ve been playing? Do you honestly think you can kill them all?”

 

“Are you trying me for a fool? You honestly think that if over fifty thousand people were active hunters then we wouldn’t be noticing something, an extremely high death rate for one. People talking to each other.”

 

“Who would talk? Those who have no proof besides the envelope would be dismissed as nuts. Those who do kill will keep it quiet. The closest you might get is a hunter with nothing to lose and tries to blow the lid on the whole thing by turning himself in, but even he would only have a few disaccoiated names and not enough evidence.”

 

“We are all alone in this game There is no team in I.”

 

“And yet here you are, running out of reasons why I shouldn’t remove you.”

 

“I wish to help you, Jennifer.”

 

“So you can kill me yourself?”

 

“Exactly.” That was supposed to be sarcasm.

 

I stare at him. He’ss smiling, yet also has a sinister seriousness to his face.

 

“You survived three of my traps. That makes you the second to have done so. I wish to play against you again sometime, so I will help you survive until that turn comes again.”

 

“The turns repeat?”

 

“I assume so. It has not happened to me yet, but as you say, there are only a finite number of people in the game. A second chance must occur sooner.”

 

“You’re a freak.”

 

What was it? Two meters. Two meters half. How long was the long jump back in school? A lot longer that’s for sure. But how far could I jump it?

 

Dream sequence

 

With exhaustion in hand and mobile phone on the brain, I finally let my body fall onto the unexpectedly comfortable hotel suite bed, the padding covers absorbing me into them, as I flicked the lights to dim and started scrolling.

 

This had certainly saved time and effort, though I was still worried that Irene would mention something to her husband. The plan so far seemed to rely solely upon her not mentioning anything. I didn’t want to upset whatever balance he had, anything that might knock him off his current typerope might change his schemes completely, whether he has them or not.

 

The person in the other side of the two mexapixel camera stared back at me. This was the first time it had been of any real use bar photographs in the pub and I scanned through each snapshot of part part of every document that I took back at 42 New Lane.

 

He had actually kept it on the top of his desk. In plain site. The place was reasonably tidy, so it was a spot of luck that I could at least grab that. Furthermore he had a copy of the player involved in the last turn.

 

Both profile sheets would be useful. If either player was dead in the time set for his turn, then I would know he was an active hunter. If not, I at least know have the names of two other players involved in the game.

 

Maybe I should pyramid this? Hunt down each person along the list of bounties until I find one dead. It would certainly get complicated and there’s the issue of discovering who killed who if I go with it for several turns.

 

I yawn, and turn for my tomato juice, slurping it down like it was thick soup, the pulp swimming round my teeth like a cat squeezing through a gap. No, I’ll need more resources to do that. It would have to wait. I should probably start hunting, no tracing one or two of them down though, see if I can get more. Maybe then I can get some sort of database set up. It’ll be useless though if I don’t find a way to get their bounties each turn though. Maybe I should get people on the inside each month. I have enough money now to hire private detectives, though it would be difficult to convince them to hunt for me.

 

As for Mr. Wallace, I just need to wait to see if Mrs. Rickmoore in dead in the next ten days. If she is, I’ll have to confront him about it.

 

“And then what? You’ll kill me.”

 

The voice startles me from my daydreaming. By the door of the room, a man stands watching over me. With no time telling how long he’s been there.

 

I can’t see his face just yet, since he’s hanging back in the shadows, but he’s wearing a brown tweed jacket and trousers lithat look like they belong in Casablanca. For a second, I can’t help but think secret aganet, but then my hand in focused on slipping under the covers, looking for my flickknife.

 

“Who are you?” I asked him tensively. It’s not there! Did I leave it in my car?

 

“You spend half the day talking to my wife about me and you don’t know.”

 

Fuck!

 

Where did I go wrong?

 

“Simon Wallace.”

 

“Yeah,” he says, flicking his finger at me from his forearm as he headed for the room’s only chair and fell into it with the threat of breaking it. “Simon Wallace. Pleased to meet you. Don’t bother getting up.”

 

I watched as he picked up my bag, left on the dressing table by the wall near the door. Rummaging through it, he found what he was looking for instantly. His profiue chart. I waited as he scanned through it, judging the distance from the window and wondering just why the hell there were bars on it, blovking my three storey jump to the other side. Even if there weren’t, he could probably grab me as I scrambled for it. The door was out for the same reasons.

 

His wife talked. She must have done, but that wouldn’t explain how he knew me or even got here. Did he have camera’s in his house? I’m sure he didn’t. They must have been hidden.

 

“Not the best picture of me, wouldn’t you say?” It certainly looked a lot better than he did at the moment. He was unsahved and smelled in desperate need of a bath. “I probably need to shave my head when I get the chance.”

 

“Erm, yeah,” I reply, holding the covers to hide my nakedness as I get up properly. “Listen, Mr. Wallace. Know that I didn’t have…”

 

“Any intention of killing me?” he finished. “How convenient, and just when I have you at my mercy as well.”

 

Mercy my smooth rubber ass! You’re fifty nine years old. Though you’re big and bulky, I’m a pretty good runner and a tactical genius. Even if you should catch me, I’m one scream away from alerting hotel staff and getting you arrested for trespassing.

 

“And even if you do escape, Ms. Connolley, how long do you think that would last?”

 

He knows my name. How? It’s Emily butters that visited 42 New Lane today. There’s no obvious way he could have found out this quick. I even paid the hotel register in and Amanda Simmons just so it wouldn’t cause problems.

 

“This is your first time here, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes,” I reply, like the location really made a difference.

 

“Tell me, how many have you killed so far?” He was taking control of the conversation, but I found I couldn’t refrain from answering.

 

“That’s complicated,” I said, glad that my refrain weas still ambiguous.

 

“I’m sure it is,” he replied, stuffing the profile back into the bag. “That’s why you should back out now. You’re still young. There’s no need for you to get involved in this sort of life. You should live in the real world with everyone else. It’ll be happier for you that way.”

 

You-

 

“-dare?” I shouted, leaping from the bed. “You think because you’re old you can tell me what to do with wisdom? Live in the real world. Live happier. Live easier?! Who couldn possibly want such a broing life? I’m already sick of it.”

 

“Stop, you’re…”

 

Choking him, squeezing the life out from around his neck and watching the death spread around him, infecting his body like a cancer.

 

“That is the real world? A work of bueracracy and tedium. Of mindless drones and repetive strain injuries. Of talks of sports and makes of cars! You’ve ogtta be kidding me. How can you be that old and not be sick of it? How can you even suggest I don’t just abandon that life?”

 

“Please…please…”

 

His mouth spits involuntarily, his salivia landing disgracefully upon my cheeks. I don’t care.

 

“I was going to let you live, to see how you played the game, see if you were innocent in all this. But if you’re going to come and do this you can just die like every hunter that dares to ruin people’s lives. So go right ahead and die for me, will you?”

 

He’s already dead. For some reason I choose not to notice.

 

“I won’t be told what to do no longer. I won’t be ordered around by work, my father, you, or some mindless game that thinks it can own me by threatening my existence.”

 

The mouth continues to make sounds, even as it has the throat forced up it.

 

“I will be free!”

 

“Yet you condemn yourself with each life you take.”

 

“What?”

 

Suddenly my hands are locked in a battle to break the other’s fingers, squeezing round each other so hard that they’re all red with the blue liquid puring through my veins. I reel back as he pops out of the room like someone hit pause on the video camera and got him out the way.

 

Now, with a lightning bolt that shakes my world, a shadow appears.

 

I think I know by now, but something isn’t letting me spoil it.

 

“Who are you?”

 

The shadow doesn’t answer. Indeed, it can’t. We don’t actually know each other yet. The black void is a gap in my life that I can’t see. That’s wrong actually. I know it could speak to me. But instead, it starts walking towards me, but this time it’s different. I’m closer to the door, so I start to escape, taking him out of my vision just in time to see he hand raise to the sky.

 

Like a carpet being pulled, the floor is taken out in front of me as I’m impaled by a thousand girders that run the hotel apart. We all fall, and I crash into an opern construction site that reminds me of the one where I used to work.

 

I can’t do anything now. My legs are trapped, possibly gone under the colossal weight of beams that wouldn’t be trapping me if a certain homosexual errand boy wasn’t also here. I cry out in poain, my tears choked out yb the velocity of the impacts as I struggle uselessly. A clean cut would have been better than this.

 

My shadow hovers over me, staring at me with black eyes in perfect lack of contrast to the rest of its black body. I’  choking hairballs as I scream for that hotel help, and I reach for a bellboy that will never come.

 

Could we just get this over with already? Part of me screams, facing the shadow with what I hope is a grim expression full of resolve and determination whilst somehow knowing that I’m a sniveling crybaby at this particular moment. All I need now is for the curtain to unveil and reveal everyone I’ve ever known or loved.

 

The shadow kneels down to me, reaches out, and wipes his fingers under my chin, as if examining lips it wished to kiss. I stop. Okay?

 

“Who are you?” someone says.

 

“Don;’t you know?” it replies. “I’m your hunter.”

 

Two seoncds, and I’m back on my bed, the sheet covers not even over me, and I’m panting from exhaustion as the sweat drips off me in puddles. I shiver, and look round the room in case any demons just happened to be there as well as in my head. Flicking the light switch to full, I rush for the door and check the lock. It’s still bolted., and the window is still closed. No one came in.

 

I relax to the floor, only screaming when I notice it.

 

“Ah, ah ah,” I mutter, feeling my dead leg go fully numb beneath me and trying to get it back into shape. I play pat a cake with it a few times, but give up when I notice it wants a lie in.

 

I was having dreams about it. That was bad. I couldn’t waste time like this.

 

No wait, was it because of that? I have been pushing it a little these past few days. I haven’t even eaten properly these pass two days. Motorway food does nothing good for the constitution. This was something I hadn’t even considered. If I don’t keep up my physical health through diet and exercise, how long would it be before I begin to mess up. I might have to start regularly going through enduring situations and yet here I am relying on tomato juice and health bars as my main source of nutrion.

 

Dang! Well, it was simple to fix, but I’ll have to time and focus my habits a bit from now on. Last thing I need is messed up dreams where I confront my bounties like that.

 

That was my two worse fears in one. Getting cornered by a bounty who thought I was going to kill him when I wasn’t, and losing myself to the game. I have to be stronger than that. If I freak out, I may survive, but I’ll lose everything.

 

Last thing i\’m going to be is just another psycho.

 

 

The next morning, I’m out after around nine hours of sleep. I’ll cut it down to seven next chance I get, but for now I have to get out of here. I’m not needed round here, and all I have to do is wait for Mrs. Rickmoore to expire or not. I hope she doesn’t. I don’t want to see this guy again.

 

Regardless, moments before I hit the duel carriageway, I turn back, heading for his house one last time, ensuring that the old man at number forty two was still alive.

 

His car wasn’t there, but he wife seemed okay. I left it at that, and headed back for the motorway.

 

It seems I could focus fully on my hunter for now.

 

Final four thousand

 

“Echo breaker to tango one. Come in tango one.” This was getting tedious already.

 

“We should return these Jenn, we’ll get in trouble.”

 

“I didn’t copy that Tango One, please repeat.”

 

“I said, you know what, never mind. I’m going to go to bed. Call me if you need anything poison related.”

 

“I’m out for the night too.”

 

“Fine,” I said dejected, as both CBs cut out. Why were humans like this, so intentionally boring. It was like they only wanted to do things as long as they were convtroversial with instant satisfaction. All we had done wasb borrowed radios from the cabin crew. Eariler they had been standing on top of tables just to scream before the waiters showed up to pull them down. Now I try to spark a little fun and they act like it’s childish. Surely it’s more fun to do something and not get caught than the other way round.

 

Well, it dsidn’t matter. That wasn’t the point of this.

 

I switched the radio off and left it by the side table. I felt like getting an hour of sleep, but didn’t want to rsik turning that into a nighttime of sleep. With a day passing quick, it was clear that the hunter would try to strike again tonight. With two already gone, this would be the final trap that he’d try to set. The others had been traps anyway, I didn’t want to get into the mindset of a pattern but it appears to be what the hunter prided himself on.

 

Something that would take the bounty out without much suspicion.

 

It was clear with that how this one played. As long as I die, he gets his bounty. If he’s playing like that, I can assume them to be an active and competent hunter. He likes the game. Whoever it is is glad to be playing and wants to play as much as he can. He also wants his bounty to know he’s playing them, and that he wants to beat them. Else the first trap wouldn’t have been that flawed and reliant on other people.

 

It’s not just beating them. He wants us to know we’re being beaten, that we are nothing before his power. The second trap gave me plenty of chance to escape, and I wasted most of it and still got out. There are quicker ways to kill people even in private.

 

Foolish hunter, you shall soon learn you’re nothing compared to me. I already have counter measures to your next plan, whatever it is.

 

 

I doze lightly under the cover of my bed lamp. It’s warm, but it keeps me out of total slumber for when it happens.

 

RED ALERT REWD ALERT. THIS SHIP HAS BEEN DAMAGED AND IS CURRENTLY UNDERGOING EVACUATION PROCEDURES. COULD ALL PASSENGERS LEAVE THEIR CABINS IN A SAFE AND ORDELY MANNER AND PLEASE BELIEVE THAT THIS SOUNDS LIKE WHAT IT WOULD DO WERE THIS A RELATIVELY DECENT EVACUATION WARNING.

 

Evac? Amazing. To think the hunter would go so far as to damage the ship for the final part of the trap. Were we to sink, sending all those still onboard to a watery grave. If so, the entire ship was now a deathtrap, and all the hunter need do is make sure I failed to get off it.

 

No, he knows I won’t get off it.

 

He knows I’m not panickey, I haven’t had two attempts on my life whilst knowing of the existence of hunters and haven’t curled up into a squash ball to bounce around the ship’s hull for nothing. He must know that by now, seeing how close we’ve been this entire time. My plans are to find him now and settle this, and he’s thinking the exact same thing. He knows I’ll stay and make sure he drowns and he intends to use that against me.

 

All I have to do is use that against him.

 

Evacuation will take at least another ten minutes of the drones mindlessly panicking outside, so I wait for them all to clear off, their footsteps scattering the corridors like ants with iron boots. A few times people bang on my door, but there’s no one home for the first fourteen times. Hopefully, the cabin crew won’t check the rooms since there’s no smoke or fire around here yet.

 

With that reminder I take my shirt and make it into a suitable face scraf. I should note that I don’t know exactly what the hunter’s done to the ship to make it crash, but it more than likely involves the engine room. I’ll have to be stealthy heading down there. From there on I can figure what he’s done and where he is. There’s a chance h’s left other traps for me as well so-

 

“Jenn, are you in there?”

 

No, no I’m not. Just go away and let this room drown.

 

Maybe I ought to be the sole survivor of this ship wreck, that would certainly make sure there’s no hunter in my way and I wouldn’t have to bother with these people anymore.

 

I would have noo need for this job come the end of the turn anyway.

 

Ten minutes pass. The time limit was too much of an issue to check ‘it’ out one last time, so for now I’d have to leave it and hope for the best. It was all set up two hours ago anyhow.

 

When silence finally conquers the corridor, I step out into it, gazing around for any signs of anyone. It’s empty and I tiptoe the living quarters.

 

Out for obvious reasons, I skipped passed the elevator and headed for the stairs. The entire place was a ghost ship now, with everyone up on the decks and out fo their minds with worry. What were they asking themselves right now? Were they blaming sabotage? Terrorism?  Did they think that Arijit was going to plunge this ship into Buckingham Palace or something. He wasn’t even religious.

 

Though I suppose it did inspire terror, it wasn’t exactly the same thing. Even so, the news reports should have a field day about this.

It htit the last floor, the smooth cream walls and red carpeted staircase turning into wire mesh and industrial boxes that probably did something important. Through the door a lot of equipment started pumping at me and drowning out my thoughts. I went on instinct and stood by the door, checking it for anything. This was mty way out after all, I didn’t want to get caught by another set of bolts on the door.

 

The klaxons switched to speaker again, the captain was screaming orders like the entire place was set on self destruct whiole the tyrant chased me. I couldn’t even see what the problem was yet. I half expected this place to be full of smoke  and tipping with water, yet each motorized doohickey seemed to be running fine. I guess these ships are built to last even when they’re damaged enough to throw everyone off them.

 

With hesitantncy filled to the brim with uncertaiancy and then hesitancy held within tredipation, I swung the door open, heading into the red flashing room that interweaved all the bottom parts of the ship.

 

I was no ship person. I knew the basics that others had pointed out to me, but I couldn’t say that the weird rumbling thing to the right of me was a hydroxide pressure remover or was just filled with a thousand hamsters fighting to the death. Regardless, avoiding traps in this place should be relatively simple, as long as I kept my eyes open and senses alert.Just because my ears were occupied with the sound of death all around me shouldn’t stop me from being focused.

 

I pace down the corridor, fixed for anything suspicious. I knew everyone now, spent the last few days speaking to every last one of them. Recognising them by face would be easy enough, even if I did know who was responsible.

 

Could I waste time here? The ship was going down after all, and here I was at the bottom. I should be seeing the warning lights everywhere. I am for that matter, but I should be heeding them. Damn, could the trap of this place be that I spend too much time looking for the hunter while he’s already pissed back up to relative safety? There’s no major need for pride on his side, nor is there recognition. He can be a sneaky manipulative fuck and all I have to die is die for him to win the turn. Escaping would be smart right now, but it would also be defeating-

 

Stop. A sign. Written in black marker on paper stuck with bluetack against an iron door that just makes it confusing.

 

Does your shadow know you’re following it?

 

Here.

 

I don’t even begin to know where I say what’s wrong with this, but I know this is where he plans me to be.

 

Of course this is a trap.

 

This is The trap, the only one he actually plans to kill me with.

 

Guess I should step right into it then.

 

As I do, I see a door straight ahead of me, about ten meters on the other side of the room. The room is a cutaway, with two industrial doohickeys to the left and right of me, taking up most of the room and leaving room only for a walkway on the left and right sides of the room with another in the mioddle that leads to the next door.

 

The machines aren’t on (at least I don’t think they were), but I can hear humming coming from the lights, which were set to maximum annoying glare.

 

Staying against the wall, I slide sidesways down to look at the right walkway. Devoid of life I bounce over to the left hand one, empty as well. Is he in here at all. Maybe I should just shut the door and lock it behind me. If I do that, I should check the door on the other side. If I lock that one shut and then head back to the first one and jam that ibe aktogether, then he’s got no way out and I’m free to get back on the lifeboats-

 

A crash. A bang. A wallop.

 

Well fuck.

 

The entrance crashes shut as I reach the second door, the sound of two sheets of metal scratching into place and jamming it shut, as another noise on the outside rushes off into the distance. It’ll hardly take Seuss to know what happened before I turn around.

 

The door was shut. I knew it was locked and even if I didn’t, I could see those two weird bolts on the top of the door impeding me once again.

 

Well, I had certainly made an ass of myself right now and here. I didn’t even need gas to take meout this time. The foolish hunter obviously planned to just leave me here to corrode with the rest of the ship.

 

Repeating the same trick twice seemed amateurish, but it may have made sense. We were essentially both trapped on the ship after all. If he had intended to gas me to death the other niught there would have been no need for a second accident to occur on board. Therefore, he would just have to repeat it.

 

Of course, there is the matter that he brought materials to destroy the ship with.

 

No, He may not need materials.

 

Of course I can’t say i\’m unprepared for this. Even a rabbit wouldn’t go near the same trap again after just narrowly evading it without bringing something to get in the way of the farmer’s intentions. I’m not unprepared in the slightest. Just completely unprepared.

 

Okay that’s not true at all. I had several ideas of what to dohere and all I need to do is-

 

Hello there!

 

Maybe I could just work on the fly after all.

 

About three feet from the second door, scattered between a lunchbox and a hard hat, lies a tool box of life saving proportions +3. Red and rusted, it was just the treasure chest I needed to see at the moment. I could see the screws on the sdoor here and this thing hadto have something I could use, perhaps even a-

 

No…

 

Too easy. Far too easy. I would be turning around to look at my dead wife if I did this now, taking the apple and thanking the old lady for her genorsity. The toolbox was obviously a fake and as my hand nearly it, I felt an uncomfortable bristling that made the hairs on my back stand on end.

 

No way.

 

The floor was electrified.

 

The toolbox sparks as I kick it, the spanners and tools shaking up on the inside. Knocking it over, I see everything scattered and light up the metal walkway. One of the smaller pieces dropping between the gaps before I can idenfiy it and drowning in the shadows below.

 

Fuck!

 

The entire floor must be electrified. I can’t feel anything with the rubber of my soles protecting me but that has to be the case.

 

How powerful is it? I’m no monkeymade rubberman but I might be able to withstand about a hundred volts tog et the screwdriver and pull it away from the current. Of course with no way of testing it, the temptation of touching the floor was about the same as that of opening certain doors on airplanes at 40,000 feet…. Strangely appealing.

 

I head back for the door, kicking at it and feeling something electromagnetic. Fuck! The door was affected too. Just where does a ship hold all this power. Everything around me is pure danger and water has to start coming in soon. Once it does I get to be flash fried without an oil coating to help me along, though the amount of tanning fluids I have on me might object to that.

 

Focus! That gas did a number on me more than I thought. I’m starting to get complacent, making jokes where jokes are not due. Do I think that just because I beat two sticking traps by pot luck and make plans in advance I can just lie back and let instinct take care of everything. I am not stagnate!

 

I search the room twice, making sure I have everything in mind. The toolbox is out of bounds. All the screwdrivers are purely metal, and I don’t have a chance of holding one without testing myself for electrocondutively. I also can’t touch the door with my bare hands for the same reason. The second door is locked as well, and the first is unopenable with usually means as longas those hinge bars are in the way. Furthermore, there’s something blocking it on the other side, I think.

 

And I give myself ten minutes before this starts to become completely hopeless.

 

A ship should need about half an hour to sink at this size, I believe, though I don’t know the exact calculations. It would require a martian death ray to make it fall underwater too quickly, and I sincerely hope my hunter is human.

 

“Now, you need anything and Will can get it for you. He hasn’t been here long, but he’s capable. He’s also the least scariest looking of all the guys here, so it’s him or me you want to approach.”

 

“But you looked like you dragged yourself out of a swamp,” Will complained. “She’s not going to speak with you.”

 

“Ah yeah, but if she wants a real man she can’t come to you can she? You got a boyfriend, girl?”

 

Smile now, don’t let them know you’re a killer.

 

“Er, no,” I replied, accidentally catching a glance of the man’s bellybutton as it popped out under his sleeveless shirt. Five seconds in and that question came up. Amazing, a new record.

 

“Then she’ll be wasting her time to speak with you, won’t she?” Will gave off a snort of annoyance, one which I felt like mimicking but held back, merely laughing as the larger man got closer to me and whispered in ym ear. “I think he’s in a little bit of denial love. Maybe you can cure him for us if you got the time.”

 

“I’ll consider it,” I said smiling.  If the hunter is on site, where would he be?If he was a worker, he’d have had to come in the pass few days. He may also have chosen to set me here and then come later, so I should watch out for any other newcomers to the place. I should also find if there are any recent employees, but I’ll need to ask someone I know hasn’t been here for a while.

 

“How long have you been working here?” I asked Robin, causing a look of confusion to show on his face, surely he wasn’t stupid enough to forget such a thing.

 

“On this project….” He began, looking up to where his brain hopefully was to get the answer. “I was here when we started so it should be about three months.”

 

“Is it good here?” Who cares if it’s good here.

 

“Not bad. Not bad. We got a whole new bunch of workers here in the past few days, same as yourself I think. But most are okay. Only one I don’t like is the boss.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yeah, bloody pkkie. Acts like he owns the lot of us the way he bosses us about. Most of the time he’s in his office though. He should be back this afternoon.”

 

If he was one of the non-workers, then it would explain how he got me here…to an extent. Am I thinking too much into this? What would my hunter need to be in order to get me transferred here. Regional manager more likely, but Sue and Robert have technically moved me away from them. But then anyone else above them could have also pushed for this without no one suspecting.

 

“I should probably meet him Can you trell me when he gets here?”

 

“Sure thing love,” Robin said, sucking all his nose mucus into the vacuum of space behind his nose. “I’ll get Will here to tell you. Come on Will.” With that, the burly worker strolled off, the sound of men in the background pitching into her ears for just a second. Will stayed behind for a moment.

 

“Don’t worry,” he tells me. “You’ll get used to him…hopefully.”

 

“I’m not sure I want to,” I say with a snigger. But then it could be someone just on the outside, reacting to the luck of taking me away from the office and into a place where I own’t be familiar with the other workers. Maybe I should take time out to get to know them, but then would that be putting myself in unnecessary danger.

 

“Oh, some of us are heading out for drinks tonight if you want to come. Give you a chance to get to know everybody better.”

 

Far too unnecessary.

 

“I’m afraid I’m busy tonigyht,” I shunned him. “I wasn’t exactly warned of this in advance.”

 

“Oh right,” he replies. “Well, tell me when next you’re free.”

 

Well, tomorrow night I just so happen to be free to stand outside Market Square at around seven o ‘clock, wearing a red shirt and jangely bells round my neck. If you’re just so lucky you might be able to pop me off with your high powered long ranged sniper rifle, before I catch the glint of your weapon. Or failing that you could always wait until I head home, where I always take Dark Alley Road down into the Red Light District, before catching the number fifty nine and heading to my house which I would have forgot to lock that night. If you catch me at any of these times, I’m sure they’ll be good for you.

 

I waved him off, and when he was gone, fell down into my chair.

 

The lack fo security was Kraftequesly scary considering how mny security camera there were. I had counted two by the entrance, and several littered all over the yard, yet the screens in the office were completely unmanned. Wherever this Bob was, he wasn’t doing a very good job.

 

There were five moniters in the windowed office, and they were almost adjacent to my own desk. I just needed to shift it slightly and I could get a good look in there at all times. Slowly, I shifted it across and was pleased to sit down to a view of five screens. My chair also no longer had a window behind it now. Anmd with two exits on either side, I shouldn’t have to worry too much about surprise attacks unless they immobilize me, which the camera should now hopefully prevent.

 

I’d see how long it would work. Four days should be enough.

 

***

 

Simon Wallace lived at 42 New Lane in Andover, Hampshire.

 

And Hampshire was behind London.

 

This would be taking some time.

 

I leaned back in my uncomfortable, cheap black office chair, lamenting the loss of the dearly departed foam that once separated my vertebrae from the height adjusting support. It wasn’t too much of a problem, the location that is, but I’d have only the weekend to get there, search for him and get back if I was still looking to keep this job.

 

So far the location had proven suitable. In terms of surveillance and escape options I had plenty and had made more. Of course the blatent danger of the entire area wasn’t to my liking still. I had thought up things that I couldn’t counter against and most of them including destroying the rentacabin with me in it. This wasn’t going to work for the long term.

 

Was anything going to work for the long term?

 

The urge to fall into patterns was something I had already sucuumbed to several times already since that first envelope fell through my door. The mere fact that I had rationalized my way through the first turn showed me that if I didn’t force myself to constantly adapt, I’d stagnate and be shot at. The one thing that’ll truly fail me at the moment is if I insisted on going back to ythe old office because it was safer.

 

Mind you, by that logic, I should leave my current living quarters and change them every month.

 

Maybe that’s why we got such a large sum at the beginning. Merely to cover living expenses.

 

“Hey Jenn,” the voice of Will caught me as it banged alongside his hand on the plastic door.

 

“Come in,” I chimed, feeling in the mood to order tea, though the coffee machine was less than three feet away from me.

 

“Boss wants to see you.”

 

Were we already at the stage of our relationship where we don’t listen to each other? I shouldn’t be that amazed.

 

“What? He actually exists?” I called back, but got no reply. He had already wandered off it seems. The supervisor hadn’t come back yesterday, and for a short while I had begun to figure that maybe it was one of the others and a prank was being played on me-*thisall needs adding into converse or something. She doesn’t think about the mundane anymore*

 

I left my perpectual sanctuary to enter the myrid corridors of open field and dust that immediately assaulted me upon leaving. Checking around me, I looked for any possible strikers. Will’s back was already turned away from me, but he indicated in the direction of a man that I could just make out in the distance on the phone. Also, with his back turned to me, I started to approach the man, checking all my sides. To the right, the burly fat man and a few other lackeys sat around drinking some thermos tea, while people on my left were half way through bringing some girders further up the support complex as another crane drove pass me and ten men marched behind it carrying supplies with distant tunes coming out of their whistleing mouths.

 

This was the problem. I could only just keep track of the forty muscle men that surrounded me, dancing a jig that only their architects could comprehend. Any and none of them could be the hunter and no matter how much I told myself that it wasn’t helping. I need to compile a list at the very least, try to narrow down suspects. Implment a few tests that may reveal hidden intentions. I couldn’t just wander blazingly into work every morning with a yawm and cup of tea and expect people not to just fire an arrow into one or poison the other.

 

I will leave. I’ve got no choice really. Any longer and I’m closer to doomed than most comic book maidens. All it would take isa-

 

“Look out!”

 

“Huh?”

 

Peering behind me, I look behnd the giant roller to see everyone staring above me. It causes me to look the wrong direction and I catch everyone else staring and Will running towards me. I focus on him a second too long and barely notice the shadow looming below me.

 

By then I’m already moving, my feet taking me away, sensing gravity being pulled into service against me before I did. I take four steps back, not caring for any madmen that may be standing in my path with knives. Then I trip, and scramble further. By this time my eyes have already registered them. Girders, too many to count and far too much sunlight in the way to even try, falling towards me like giant, oblong hailstones.

 

Fuck! I look away, needing to get away, but already somethings hit me and I nearly struggle against it. Not so much heavy as it is tense, I briefly seeing another much closer shadow pull at me, trying to tug at whatever resistence I can provide in that one short instance, before pulling me away completely and out of harm’s way.

 

The ground shudders below us as the girders hit the ground in a contest to see which hits first., each block of metal impaling itself in the ground, crushing the supplies beneath it like they were mouldy paper mache and striking the roller a glancing blowas they ricochet off and drop to the ground.

 

I look on beside the interference, who grips me tighter with each earth shuddering thurst into the ground. I endure it and start looking around me for any other attack, , on me for any missing limbs I may have missed, above me for any hunters on the scaffolding.

 

Then I notice the roller again.

 

It starts to rumble, wholly on its own this time and even as the last girder strikes it and slides onto the floor all it does is get it going faster. IT starts to roll down the incline it was placed on top of and its easy to follow its path to the the bottom, where the supervisor continues his conversation on the mobile phone.

 

Picking up speed, the roller serves unreservingly towards him like a runaway train in a children’s cartoon.

 

Even as I heard the opera mouse singing I was up and ready to run.

 

“Will, get him,” I end up shouting, my body halting when we’re both up.

 

Without hesitation, the errand boy is already up and down the little rump of a hill. The roller gives the impression of unstoppable at this moment but not outrunnable and whilst trying to wave his hands and sprint his fastest at the same time, I see as boy finally grabs the asian man’s attention and begins pulling him out of the way.

 

The boss only has enough time to drop his phone before following the springing lean lad, and as the large concrete roller drives to them they watch it tackle harmlessly pass them and into two tones of metal, dislodging them and stopping its progress.

 

I let myself breath again.

 

I’m following it down before I know it, tracing the path along with a few others to meet the two at the bottom. The supervisor’s hugging Will like a baby does its mother when in a swimming pool, latching on and thanking him in a crisp London accent that isn’t speaking English that I’ve heard for the first time.

 

When we get down there, Will is able to separate the boss from him, who looks around with a smile, before turning back to the supplies and swearing a few times.

 

“Shit I can’t fucking believethat. Did ya see it? Came at me like a fucking ton of bricks.”

 

“Are you okay?” I asked him needlessly. It was a good job that Will was here. The last thing I need is some innocent dying because I’m here.

 

“Yeah…” he replied, slowly his breathing down, shouting to compensate the ringing in his ears. “I’m good. I’m good. Just give me a minute.” The man’s words slowly switched back to comprehensible as he rested against the errand boy. “Who are you?” he asked after a moment. “If you don’t mind me asking?”

 

“er…Jennifer Connolley,” I said, having forgotten. “I started working here yesterday.”

 

“Oh right, the admin lady,” he sighed, supporting himself on his knee now as well as Will, who looked like he should be the one doing that. “Pleased to meet you.” I took his fear covered hand and shook it, looking around me for anyone looking partly disgruntled that I was still alive. I mostly caught people cracking friendly jokes or questioning their boss’s stamia.

 

Will got a lot less praise than I thought he should have,

 

TBG – Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

 

Well, if this didn’t scream subtle manipulation of events from behind the scene, then the likelihood of me being hunted just dropped to zero.

 

There’s nothing subtle about it in fact. It would be more subtle if my little shadow hunter jumped in front of me with a shotgun and ylled ‘surprise attack,’ waited momentarily for me to react and then took his time to reload the gun and let me finish him off myself.

 

We’re now on a battleground designed specifically for people like us, not that I’d compare myself to any of these types. A field specifically chosen so that when we leave it, only on of us will be leaving it.

 

It feels clichéd.

 

Ahead of me right now is the ocean, the beautiful glitering north sea. If I had super strong eyes, I might just be able to make out Denmark floating away in the distance. But behind me, I know England is just out of sight.

 

The cruise benath me had hummed away, taking us further and further to nowhere in particular, the us bing me, myself, the forty men that worked on the construction site, including the supervisor and one other guy who I don’t actually know what he does, around three hundred other passengers and crew and, of course, the hunter.

 

I could have no other reason to be here apart from that one creature.

 

The very fact that it was a cruise I was on was surprise enough. I had partially expected something to occur in response to certain events but not this. The day I came into work I found Arijit asking me if I had any plans over the next week. It was mainly just to amuse him that I said yes but it turns out it as the bboard who wanted to hear my response.

 

Turns out they’re feeling very bad for the incident that almost took away mine and Arijit’s lives the other day and wanted to say sorry to all of us. In order to make up for the little mishandling and any stress it may have caused, they’ve decided to give us all a week off work with pay, and provide us with their lovely little barge trip that they have been planning for some of the upper members of the countries.

 

In other words, please don’t sue us, little miss law degree.

 

I certainly don’t know what rijit’s intentions would have been but I couldn’t have cared less about their reaction unless I needed it somehow. Even further I know they were responsible for it at all.

 

Of course, they weren’t entirely responsible for sending us on the trip either.

 

The question is, who could have such influence over the company that I work for?

 

Considering everyone here, the closest answer is Arijit, because he’s our supervisor. However, it’s been seen that Arijit doesn’t really speak to anyone at the company except through his secretary/admin person, who is essentially me. Whilst it’s possible he could have contacted them directly, something he in fact did do since he told me…yeah.

 

Was that too obvious though? Walking up to your bounty and saying ‘I’m going to trap you on a boat where I can kill you. Good luck.’ Or is it that my hunter thinks I’ll be playing too much attention to the ruling on this one.

 

The Game will only take place in the United Kingdom. This includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, all their respective counties and the outlying islands that are considered part of the United Kingdom. Any bounty removal done outside of the boundaries set in the previous rule will not be counted towards your score, and you will have to wait until your next turn before you can play again.

 

That paragraph played in my head like a youtube video, stuttering over every word as I played around with the word games. Of course that was what the hunter wanted. Regardless of what is said and what will happen, the ruling is just too vague on the matter. The perimeter is the united kingdom. Therefore, that includes airspace and anything considered British terrirtotries, most importantly, British waters.

 

We’ve already been told that the cruise ship will not be leaving these waters at any time, yet the rules don’t directly mention waters. Therefore, there is no exact specification stating that this is a valid part of the playing field. What could make it even more confusing would be the ferry itself. This ferry in particular was designed in France and made ???. It is not British. It is owned by the British though. Even if you were to gnore the waters and say that thi might not be a valid area because it’s not a british boat, then you have to invalidate every single American and apanese car on the island as well.

 

But even this doesn’t matter as far as im concerned.

 

Because only one thing really does matter to me.

 

And that is the hunter has chosen this ship himself.

 

If he’s wrong or right doesn’t atter to me, because as far as im concerned he won’t be killing me this weke anyway. Even if the hunter is unsure of the answer himself as to whether this will count or not as a valid victory is irrelevant, except that I might be able to play him with it should the time come.

 

The hunter has set this up, that is certain. No way would a board of directors use this method. They’d pay us off in safer ways. There’d also check with everyone first to see their reactions so they wouldn’t have to pay for everybody that was even remotely involved or present at the time.

 

Maybe the hunter was a son of one of the board or something, working during the summer. There were five lads here that fell into that group. It might be worth it to check themout to see if they know anything. The sooner I find who talked us into this trip, the better.

 

“Hey, Arijit,” I said to the man leaning overboard next to me. This guy had been following me around all day, and got uncomfortable around the others when they approach. Whether he was tailing me or just being lonely was becoming hard to tell.

 

“What is it?” he asked, admiring the sea ahead of us. I always figured the middle of the ocean would be full of birds, but I guess that doesn’t make that much sense really.

 

“You did good, I think, getting us all this trip,” I tell him, staring him in the eyes. He can’t help but smile in return and laughs to himself as he pulls away.

 

“I wish I could say it was me, but I am not the one responsible for this,” he tells me, and it seems honest enough that he is not lying. The members of the board seemed to have decided upon this themselves.”

 

“Really, that’s suprising.”

 

“It certainly is,” he continues. “In fact, I was going to suggest that they give us a day trip to Alton Towers.”

 

“What?” I say, unable to hold back any laughter. “I’m sure they wuld have to have heard that before they set this up for us.”

 

“I have never been to any amusement park in my life, but last year I went to Goose fair. I enjoyed it immensely.”

 

“Yeah I know what you mean.” There was nothing for me to ever appreciate at fairs. Highly rigged games that I couldn’t manipulate easily and long queues. “I don’t think the others would have appreciated it.”

 

“Ah, who cares about them. Only the board do and their desire not to get sued by everyone down there. Itn is only because they had this trip planned for themselves that his even occurred. And now we have forty muscle bound thugs ruining the trip for everyone else.”

 

“Including yourself it seems.”

 

“Yes, I admit it.”

 

“Well, we might as well enjoy it.”

 

“Hey, Jenn’fer,” a voice from below called me. On the deck directly under me, some of the boys came into eyeshot, carrying what looked like ping pong bas. “You wanna game? We’re playing doubles.”

 

“Be right down,” I tell Ronan with a skip and a jump out of his sight. Heading for the main deck, I look over the battle plan. The trap could spring at any time. It was unlikely the hunter will come at me directly in a place like this, so it had to be ambush. Of course, I shouldn’t limit my thinking like that.

 

Looking at where they could strike. There are five main places on this ship the first is the dining room. Far too open, but poisoning could occur at any time. Luckily, I had prepared for this, and brought my own supplies of instant food. While I hate to contradict my earlier thoughts, it was better than getting the veal served with a light glaze of cyanide. I had enough to serve me for the whole week, and a few fruits to keep me focused as well. I guess I could still eat them from the buffet as long as I picked at random.

 

Next was any of the living quarters. Everyone slept just above the hold in small one or two person cabins. I was in first class for some bizarre reason, along with Arijit, Will, Stephan and Martin. My guess was that they were the VIP suites for the board emmbers coming on the trip. Everyone else was in economy class. There were two places I could be attacked here, one being my own room and the other being the hunter’s room. The latter was unlikely, practically a confession.

 

Next up was the engine room. Loud and unbearable. If I could get ed there, then finishing me off without much fuss wouldn’t be difficult. It was also the second best place to be involved in an accident. All that heavy machinery and little girls that don’t know how it works. What could be a better pace to set something up.

 

Finally of course, there was the unforgiving waters that surrounded this place. A cold nighttime, and even colder waters, and I wouldn’t surive long enough if I got thrown in with no one around, and it’s not like these ships have a hull on the hatch for people on the outside to get inside.

 

I fall in and I’m screwed.

 

Which of course means I have to avoid all nightly invitations.

 

Pretending to fear the edge should be suitable for that.

 

“hey, what’s taking you so long?” Ronan shouts as I pass Rbin laying in his deck chair, soaking up shade as the boat moves him out of the rays of the sun. He slept peacefully at the cost of everyone else, with a copy of Wells on his face, covering his eyes but not hsutting him up.

 

“There were stairs.”

 

I have to be active here. Come in touch wth severa people at a time and try my best to get to know everyone surrounding me. Though he’s done good so far, I can’t go assuming my hunter is some psycho-assassin superman. A slip up has to occur somewhere. I need to get people panicking. “Who’s side am I on?”

 

“You go with me,” Ronan states as we face off against Phil and Will, who seems upset in response. I grin in response and take up the bat. After spending the entire night talking before the trip, it seem that Will would have wanted to side alongside me. I let himknow I’m serious by serving up something that leads him to hit it too hard. The first ball swings out mmediately, but it gets to the third turn when I realize no one cares about score, and Phil goes out of his way to hit balls that would clearly be out.

 

We played for about fifteen minutes on the first game, myself having to keep track of the scores in my head. We were clearly overwhelming them, but no one seemed to care.A fun game was fun all the same, but just when we had bounced it about seventeen times non stop, a small buzzing caught our ears, and Roann turned around to speedily pick up his mobile phone, tapping away at buttons faster than I could ever type. He ball spun off his back and rolled down to the floor.

 

He had been like that before. A fool with his central nervous system attached to a mobile device. I couln’t even fathom why it was important for him to answer each and every message that fast, but it always caught his attention no matter what he did.

 

After he finished up, will insisting upon waiting for him to finish for some reason, I saw it as plenty of an excuse to switch teams, siding over with will, who stood far too close to my side of the field than what made it easy. The game continued for another hour, with Phil disappearing after a while and getting replaced with Martin, but I didn’t really learn anything by the end of it all.

 

Afterwards, I walked with Will again, Martin following shortly behind us. We were heading down to the glley. Appartently this place had a swimming pool somewhere. Water water everywhere indeed.

 

“Just out of curiousity Jenn,” asked Will as we proceeded down and passed our room, after grabbing our swimming gear. “But were you raised by your dad more than your mum.”

 

Okay, that was weird, but I let it see its way through anyway.

 

“I guess you could say that, seeing as my mother died when I was very young.”

 

“Ah, sorry, though me too really.”

 

“Really?”

 

“yeah, shedied in a car crash.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

 

“I guess that makes us the same really.”

 

“Indeed,” I reply, noticing Martin trying to find an appropriate moment to say something. “what made you ask that?”

 

“I just figured, is all,” he tells me. “You’re very competitive, for a girl.”

 

Martin laughs behind us, and we both turn to look at him. He gives us an expression that a robber would give the cops that just appeared miraculously in front of him.

 

“I’ll…catch you guys later,” he tells us, and cuts off on one of the corners.

 

“It’s not just that,” I tell him. “Games are the best way for a person to have fun really. If you treat everything as a game, then it’s more fun to play.”

 

“That’s a nice philosophy. I’m a Nietzschean myself.”

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Yeah, I go more by the belief ‘if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.’”

 

“That’s a good one,” I comment. S that how you’re justifying all of this? You deny gods and societies and go fo the nihilist route. It’s similar to mine in a way, but it shouldn’t condone murder. If you’re telling yourself you make your life important with hunting and killing me while you stand besides me, then all that awaits you is an inverted jump to the food supply of a bird.

 

That is, if you are my hunter.

 

***

 

We swam for three hours after that. Surrounding by such much hydrogen and oxygen, I figured a little more without salt couldn’t hurt, and, for a while, I let my thoughts drift away from the game and had fun with everyone there.

 

Though I knew I couldn’t let it last all that long. Even as we all sat down to watch television, I felt the hunter’s shadow under me, stalking me. I wouldn’t be long. The hunter couldn’t let it. It had shown me at the construction site. On each battlefield, it would strike fast, it felt like it couldn’t afford to wait, even if it was setting up accidents.

 

But it would at least wait for me to have an excuse to leave others, to be alone.

 

Tonight would be when it would strike.

 

Telewvision and drinks at the bar took up most of our time. I chatted with Will, Martin and Phil most of the time, telling them a life story  that strayed occasionally from the truth. My hunter should have research on me, and I waited to see how they reacted to my having a history degree. None of them did.

 

Arijit had activities planned for everyone shortly after six, and set up a pool ournament, as well as salsa dancing. Most of the men flocked for the tables, but the few that had found other company on the boat stayed for the salsa lessons. Few of them looked truly interested, save for Robin who had got his wife along n the trip with us somehow. For the largest man here, he was very suave.

 

It was around now that I separated. I’d be missed at both places, but I had been surrounded by meaningless trivial conversation for five hours non stop now, and I was beginning to tire of it. A shame really, though they held initial interest in the concept of being ‘new’ people, they could not cure the fact that they were all inherently boring. I figured active constrction workers may have more energy to them, but other than Ronan, who liked to play a lot of pub games, none of them could hold anything of interest to me, and Ronan’s conversational abilities to impress ended with his attention to text messenging.

 

No, the only one who was holding my interest was the hunter himself.

 

Whoever he was, he was powerful.

 

It was clear he wanted me to die.

 

And for that transgression, he would fall to my own game.

 

I wandered to my quarters, wanting to get ready for the night. My flick knife couldn’t be brought on board for security reasons, and I wasn’t ready to ruin it all and getting me suspicious by trying. The closest thing I had nw was the wire from my ID badge. It was just retractable string, but it would work as a garrot if necessary.

 

I also had my phone and a few ideas, but they were all in my room.

 

By the door of room 302, I looked to the sheet of aper on the floor. It was placed there as an obvious marker. I had another set in the room, a piece of my own hair wrapped around the two zips of my bag, but this was enugh to tell me someone had been inside. It could have been the cleaner though. I hadn’t been here in seven hours, and they might have passed during this time.

 

Booting the door open, I step back just in case my room took that moment to detonate. As nothing but warm air greeted me, I stepped inside, checking the wals, ceiling and floor immediately. Nothing. Not even a window, but I knew that anyway. Both cupboards opened, to show nothing either. The cleaner had apparently been in here. I headed for the bathroom, hearing the door double click behind me.. Taps were off, and the cupboard door was shut in there as well. Opening it carefully sold me nothing but expensive perfumes that common sense told me to later abuse  at the companies expense. Taps were off, and the cupboard door was shut in there as well. Opening it carefully sold me nothing but expensive perfumes that common sense told me to later abuse  at the companies expense.

 

Empty, my bag hadn’t been touched and as I retrieved the ID card and phone, I left the rest in there without touching them. Odd, this was the perfect place to set up a trap really. I could have been intoxicated, bound, gagged, anything, before getting thrown in the ocean. I could slip in the bathtub. It would be easier than the other options that’s for sure.

 

But it seems the reaper wasn’t waiting for me here, and I had all I needed. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and allowed myself to relax on the foor, lying down and appreciated the rugge carpet beneath me Part of me wanted to just sit here, wait for the night to end. To survive six days in this place was bad enough. Waiting each night would do its best to push me off the limits of first my mind and then the boat. I quickly text James and Tim in response to their own texts, trying to keep myself focused by questioning their sexuality in relation to graffes and mayflies in that particular order. Heading for a drink of water, I let the liquid fall into the sink for at least two minutes before taking a glassand washing myself with it, slurping the rest from the tap directly.

 

I should leave here relly.  Wander around. Wair to see just what lure my hunter uses to fish me out. He had to have something planned for tonight. Or maybe he is waiting for the second ay. It would be troublesome memorizing the layout of this ship in one day, even for me. I hadn’t even tried for that matter, mainly in the hopes of outsmarting my opponent who would expect me to do so. He can’t very well lead me to the engine room if I don’t know where it is and if I do need something there I can send a proper member of staff.

 

I eventually opt for wandering after two minutes of staring at my phone. Mr. allace is still on my mind but I discard him by the time I get to my door and find it locked. Turning back for my keycard I realize that I shouldn’t need it to at least get out of the room. There was only a latch on this side that was already flicked to the vacant position. All the same I flicked it over again and I tried to get out, but again the door itself halted my progress.

 

A few flicks of the latch later and I had opted for the shake the door violently approach. The door resisted my efforts with easeand refused to budge, though I noticed  it was still shaking near the bottom.

 

A few more shudders and bangs, and I felt it. It ‘s trapped at the top. Looking up, I see no bolts or fixtures that would prevent my escape. However, my eyes center on two sets of hinges at the top left and top right of the structure Oddly, the hinges the piece of metal that held the hinge overlapped both the door and the door frame, but the hinge itself wraps around and go over the brim of the door to the other side where…

 

Fuck!

 

Fuck! Fuck!

 

Note: Hunter leaves a note in the room?

 

They must have an incline on the other side. The hunter’s set them up so they’d hang above the door after he installed them. Then he left and carefully set them so they wouldn’t fall, knowing that when I come in I’d be more concerned about the loose paper and the clearly visible note to look at the top of the door. Then they could fall down when the door was swung. Since these door practically slam shut, it could then wedge itself in, keeping me trapped here for the interim. With the bolt on the door added and maybe something along the door’s more natural hinges, I was unable to escape from here.

 

How annoyingly clever.

 

It would trap me in in such a way that ordinary force wouldn’t work. There were effectively five points on the door trapping me and only one could I manipulate. Each pair stoped two sides of the door and without a crowbar I wouldn’t be able to pry through. And I’d need a sledgehammer to break through. And unfortunately customs didn’t allow me one.

 

And all it required was that I didn’t look up. So I was trapped without escape for the moment but it looked like I was relatively safe. The room was devoid of traps but…

 

I start to choke, near uncontrollably. Like a cat with a hairball lodged down its trachea, I spend too long trying to get it out. Why was it so warm?

 

Now on my knees, the radiator tells me the answer. It’s leaking, ever so slightly, pouring the natural gas into the room at a rate I couldn’t hear or really notice.. So that was it.

 

Lock my room and drown me with putrid air. Then come back, remove the hinges and find my poor unfortunate forever eternity sleeping corpse body. This was good.

 

Very smart hunter.

 

At this rate, I die, knowing I’ve been killed by you, as I slowly pass away in your wonderful trap.

 

How flawed was it though?

 

I grab my bag, slugging upon the mattress and ripping it open. I’ve got loose shirts in here, mainly for sleeping in. they serve as perfect rags for me to clog the leak. It doesn’t do the best job, but it slows down the release of toxicity even as it whiffs it in my face.

 

Next up is my own face. Impairing my breathing is dangerous so I loosely wrap my second shirt around the bridge of my nose. I won’t have long befor the gas starts affecting my brain so I work quicklyl.

 

My first thought is my phone but I realize I can’t since I don’t know who the hunter is. It coud be any one of the forty or so people that came with me and I’ll need to choose carefully. Of cours there are better options.

 

I head for the wall to my right. Out of the five of us that got first class treatment, I got put besides Will and some nameless noble that dislikes us all being here. I aim for the wall on his side and slam into it with all my strength, shouting for his assistance.As I hope he can understand the seriousness of a damsel in distress I soon realize I haven’t heard anything on the otside since I’ve been here. Were these walls soundproof. They were first class after all, the only thing that may break through is the fire alarm, which was on the other side of the door and would actually repell people werei to pull it.

 

The ventilation was next. It was just one small vent. I had no way of fitting through it, but even so the hunter had taken the intiative f blocking it up. Impossible to see through any of the holes. I saw the screws covered with tops that looked like they needed pliers to remove them. Dang!

 

This wasn’t a room with a door anymore.

 

This was a room made out of just six solid walls.

 

No hiudden trapdoors on the ceiling or floor.  No passageway behind the cupbard. Not even a secret fucking escape route behind the full size mirror in the bathroom

 

I coughed beneath my mask, the gas in the air reminding me I was on a time limit to defeat this boss. I was facing six walls, a gas pipe and a group of people I could easily call but not trust a single one. Even if I called two in the hopes of not getting the hunter, they would invariably meet at the door and then he could just say that I’m in the ballroom or something long enough to distract any help coming my way.

 

There are four ways to get into any room.

 

One is the key. Two is the boot. Three is the pick and four is the fore knuckle. The door is made of oak and vanished. I’m not breaking that down any time soon. I don’t have any tools to pick with and even so the lock isn’t the problem.

 

If I had a screwdriver ri might be able to dislodge the hinges after undoing them but I didn’t even have my knif now and…

 

I belch bad gas.

 

That’s it.

 

Feeling a little whoozey now, I guess I have a few minutes left before it starts to affect my thinking. Indeed even as I plunge my fist into the warm, misty glass that was once my mirror I begin to question if it hasn’t already happened. The beautiful image scatters as it shatters, and I grabb several pieces with bare hands.

 

No time to cover myself, I grab the chair and put it to the door, grabbing a shard that was on the edge and scraping it against the solid oak. It grinds and flattens down Hastily I make myself my flat ended shiv an d set it to work. The screws are jammed in but with enough leverage they start to turn under the pressure even my skin begins to tear away.

 

As soon as one sscrew drops I move on. I need to do it eight times and my shirt on the gas pipe is already useless. I’m panting like a bitch and I know it’s making it worse as I move on. By the time I reach the third my head’s resting against the door and I think I need to rest up a moment. The gas isn’t going anywhere and I No!

 

Slap it awake! Focus! Stay on the game! You are not going to rot with carbon filling your lungs. I carry myself on, and the forth screw falls to the ground. I don’t test it but move on. I figure that the gas needs to get pass the bouncer, each time it comes at me, so I should have a litte longer left but if it kleeps sneaking under the door then I’m in trouble.

 

The mirror slips due to my own fluids by the sixth screw and I let all the others drop to meet in. Wanting nothing more to crash, I fumbled down to pick them up, losing which one I was using and deciding to go for the sharest. I should have just picked this one first. A blunt weapon won’t picre metal. Twisting automatically  now, the seventh falls. The eight feels the toughest, but that’s naturally right. It is the boss. Regardless, I use my white mage to heal and tank one last time and it’s more than enough to take it out. As the eight falls I realize that they were only pawns and the two brothers behind it all face me in unison. My training pays of however and I already know I can defeat them, Reaching forward, I grasp them both with my special wrist training and pull forward on them hard. Realiing if they are moved from their power bases theyir souls will leave their bodsies they hold on, but I’m fied for them. With one final leap I jump onto the megastructure and pull with all my might, feeling the finally slip away.

 

With the final explosion, we all thown aide. I ht my head and nearly pass it as the brothers ade into nothingness. As with all end bosses, the final countdown hits and I know I’ve got to escape as soon as possible. With the keyard on the bed I twsit and turn to get it, grabbing my faithful friend Nokia who’s still out of it. Together we push through the final obstacle, a wooden support structure set up to deter us with feelings or exhaustion and rest. I toss it aside while keeping deep hold of Nokia, and then we’re out into the light.

 

Air! Precious air fills my lungs and it’s all I can do to gt enough of that sweet oxygenated EXP. I drink it all down  and take whatever bonuses I can get, before realsiing that there must be even better air than this stored somewhere. I push passed all the random encounters and head outside into the darkness, where my true treasure is awaiting me.

 

Four minutes later, and I’m back to my fucking senses. I rest, looking around me and keeping an eye out for any sudden movements not wanting to take any chances I see the lifeboat and head drunkingly towards it. It had noticed it earlier and it was different to the others in that it looked like it could hold four at most. Falling into the oars, I lay under the sheet, knowing that no one saw me. I let my energy return to me.

 

I had beaten the second trap.

 

Could have done better, and if I had found out who the hunter was I could have gotten help befor I went into fantasy land. I slapped myself a few times, making sure I wasn’t there along with my new friends, death and carbon monoxide, before giving myself ten minutes of shut eye. This was good, though I thought I should be pushing yself further, see just where my hunter is hiding himself. He’d want to know as soon as possible where I was. In fact, wasn’t here dangerous. All he needs to do is toss me in my half doped state and he’d win.

 

But even now, the rough wooden urface f the life boat didn’t do much to deter me in slumber and I reveled in my temporary victory until the dust cover was pulled out from over me, and I saw the big guy looking over me.

 

“Yoo hoo, Ms. Connolley,” he said. “I’ve found you! Time for your big party!”

TBG – Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine: The one I mustn’t kill.

 

If the task of discovering who my hunter was was Herculean in nature, then my next task was certainly Slyphilian.

 

Yet ironically I had less to do.

 

I already knew that he was Simon Wallace, that he was fifty nine years old, that he was f X heigh and X weight, with X eyes and X hair and , most importantly, that he was in the game. These were things that I still hadn’t discovered about my hunter.

 

Yet these weren’t really important.

 

What I had to know is if he was active or not.

 

The active hunters should die. That is what I had decided. If the active ones die, then the ones that are passive will remain safe and need not worryabout being forced to kill or about being killed. They may live out their lives peacefully.

 

Discovering an active hunter was what made this task like rolling a rock uphill.

 

It would be a constant effort of surveillance. I really shouldn’t just be spending these two days at it really. In fact, this won’t do at all, but I have no choice. Not only is it unlikely that he’ll kill before  the end of the week end, he might have in fact already

killed in the past few days. On top of that, even though I’ve have to endure constantly in my watching efforts, if those very efforts are noticed, it might unsettle him. I have to be realistic here, if a bounty sees a hunter coming for him he will of course try to defend himself, even if that hunter, like me, has no ill intentions twards them, (as long as they are passive).

 

But of course he will try and attack me of he sees me coming.

 

I would do the same. I have done the same.

 

I just have to make sure I don’t let him roll down that hill if that’s the case.

 

With only three stops arund the M1 and M25, I reach Andover by half past one.  Part of me wants to sleep but I hold it off. Through multimap I found the exact location of the street and it doesn’t take me much longer to get there. By two o’clock I am three blocks away from 42 New Lane. The semi detached three bedroom house looks calm and idyllic as I expected.

 

It would be so much easier to just storm in there and ask him u front. N, that would actually make things impossible. He’d deny it and I’d have no proof. It’ll be just a waste.

 

I head out on foot to a nearby park that I saw along the way, wandering down New Lane in the process This was troublesome. The place wasn’t like the city. It was a small suberan landscape that seemed to have a natural barrier preventing lots of city folk migrating through it. It would be too unnatural for me to just hang around here like this and if I sat in my car I was bound to be spotted as well. It felt wrong just parking it where I had done.

 

The plan of staking out the house just wasn’t going to work. I headed for the swings and thought it out, rocking backwards and forwards as my mind played with the scenario. I needed to find him first. There was just no point continuing until I knew he was here. For all I knew he had gone off on holiday and had even missed the envelope. As long as he’s out of the country, it wouldn’t matter much.

 

Confirming he;s here is the first step. Then beyond that is determining his ntentions. I can’t interrogate him without revealing myself though. Should I be honest and just check in with him. No, that’s stupid. He may see me as free game or even follow me back home and get ready in case he ever receives me as a bounty. Should I kidnap him? That would work, wouldn’t him. Hold him hostage and beat the information out of him. It’s a little risqué, but if he’s a passive it’s for the best really. A little bruising and he gets to stay alive a turn longer. But then he is an old man.

 

I eat the health bar I bought from the petrol station and take my time in rocking back and forth. This just wasn’t going to work.

 

It takes me another five minutes before I am finally able to let myself grin.

 

It may have been problematic to sit outside his house and wait suspiciously for a couple of hours, but the ajoining road wasn’t as much of a problem.

 

After first confirming that they were in by the presence of the red Peugeot out in front, I sit by and wait for as long as necessary, keeping myself awake with talk show radio and debates that  can appreciate. It takes two hours before he disappears again and I smile to see him disappear in the car.

 

Waiting a few moments in case he forgot anything, I unbuckle my seatbelt and head over to the huse. The open window confirms that someone is in and I knock on the door and wait, the only part of my plan that can really fail now is if he comes back in the next hour or that he’s told everything to his wife.

 

Mrs. Wallace is thin, spindely old lady that looks like she’d snap in half if so much as a breeze hit h-

 

“Hello? I’m afraid we don’t buy from the…”

 

Is that what I look like to you?

 

“Oh no, I’m nothing like that, though I can of expect it from his.  I’m Emily Fisher. I work with Mr. Connolley. Well, for I think, I’m not sure.”

 

“Oh, I’m afraid Simon’s just nipped out to his bingo session I’m afraid. He won’t be back for another two hours.”

 

Bingo? That was perfect, in so many ways.

 

“Actually,” I interrupt, sniffing to myself and looking away. “It’s you I need to see, Mrs. Wallace. You see, I’m in a bit of a jam.”

 

Woman can be eternally politer than men, and always less suspicious. It isn’t long before I’m sipper some earl grey tea and pinching a digestive I know I shouldn’t have. We distract each other with small talk about ten minutes, as I ‘calm down’.

 

“Now, are you going to tell me what the matter is dear?” she finally asks me after a discussion of the auction show that she likes to watch. “Or do I have to lose all my digestive.”

 

I take one last one with a complacement smile, and wolf it down in the most Victorian manner possible. Taking our time is what’s necessary here.

 

“It’s a little difficult to explain, Mrs. Wallace…”

 

“Please, call me Irene.”

 

“Irene,” I correct myself. “You see, I only started working at the office last weekand they’ve been so busy wha with it being summer that I don’t think I’ve had the time to learn the job properly. No, I shouldn’t make excuses,” I quickly mumble to myself. “I’ve messed up big time here and I really don’t want to get fired on the first week. I really like this job and I want to keep working there.”

 

“Calm down,” she stops me with a reassuring smile. “Whaetever it is you’ve done I’m sure it’s not worth firing you over. Like you said, you only started last week. Ad I don’t see what this has to do with me or Simon. He’s just a salames men, isn’t he? He’s not your manager.”

 

Uh oh, that has to change.

 

No wait, that works perfect.

 

“That’s just it. He’s taken a file  home that he wasn’t supposed to. Now I’ve supposed to have sent that file off to the head office. It’s got to be there by Monday or elsethe sale won’t go through and I’ve already screwed up so many times and I just know ‘m going to get fired.” Pouring on the waterworks, I watch her contort in uncertainty. Whether this is working or not is hard to tell but I just need to push that little further.

 

“Calm down dear. I’m sure if you just explain yourself to Simon he’ll swap the files with you and they’ll be no problem. Simon isn’t the sort who’d go round telling on people like that.”

 

“Oh really, thank you,” I hug her emotionally and she seems freaked out to hug me right back. “Is it alright if we call him now?”

 

Yes of course, though I don’t know why you didn’t just contact him yourself.”

 

“I was kind of afraid to let him know. Simon’s such good friends with the manager. He might let it slip if he found out I screwed up. Are you certain it’s alright to tell him?’

 

“I’ve nevr known Simon to be a tattletale,” she says, standing up and moving to the phonebook. In a flash I dip the powder into her drink, seeing the white coloured contents saturate into the creamy brown and disappear. I was nearly done.

 

“Here he is,” she says, passing the book to me with a smile. “Do you want to use our phone or…”

 

“I have my own thank you,” I reply and take it out, dialing incoherent numbers as I watch her gulp down the next stage of her tea. A few misdirected phone calls later and she’s snoozing away.

 

—-

 

An hour passes, and I sit there besides her, eventually trying to shake her awake. She comes to and looks at me confused.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry dear.”

 

“It’s okay,” I reply timidly. “I wasn’t able to reach him. He must have it switched off or something. I can try again later.”

 

“Good grief have I been asleep that long,” she says as she observes the clock on the mantelpiece. “I am sorry dear. “

 

“It’s alright,” I tell her, finally giving up on the phone and putting it away. “I figured I’d have to wait, since it would look strange that disappeared without telling you. You might of thought I took something.”

 

“Oh I wouldn’t dream of it.”

 

“It’s okay,” I carry on regardless, no longer needing to hear her speak. “I just thought I’d let you know I didn’t take anything or touch anything. You can check while I’m here if you want.”

 

As if she felt forced, the old woman does so, getting round her house faster than she would an open field. She apparently checks every place she can think of, and I stay with her all the same.

 

“Well, I’m convinced. No one seems to have entered the bedroom, and the safe in the study hasn’t been opened or emptied. You really are too paranoid dear.”

 

“You’re right, but if I could,” I asked one last thing. “Please don’t tell Mr. Wallace I’ve been here trying to contact him. I think I have panicked a little. It’s not really that important and I can tell him on Monday.”

 

“Of course dear,” she replies, looking relieved to see me straightened up.  Help her take the cups out and we talk a little more about how silly I am and I tell an anecdote that I always make a mountain out of a molehill and I secure her silence, and we say our goodbyes. I live just as Mr. Simon Wallace turns the corner.

 

It was risky, but it was the best way. Now I don’t even have to continue watching Mr. Wallace. In fact, such an action was a waste of time. I don’t need to watch Mr. Wallace a all. I just need to watch Ms. Gillespie, born 29/07/1965, with hazel eyes and chestnut brown hair, as well as a height of four foot eleven and a weight of one hundred and ten pounds.

 

If she should happen to die by the end of the month, then so will Mr. Simon Wallace.

TBG – Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

 

So that confirms the possibility.

 

The actions at the construction yard today show me several very clear things.

 

The hunter is definitely present at the construction site, in the form of a legitmate worker or as an intruder, whether that intruder is impersonating a worker or is hiding in the shadows I cannot be sure about. However, it is more likely they are a worker, since other workers would have since anyone who was near the girders. Anyone acting suspicious would have been revealed by witnesses when th police arrived.

 

The hunter intended my death to appear as an accident. This his clear by the way the girders fail. Later analysis shows that they fell because a safety hadn’t been properly attached. Hwever, this does not serve to indicate anybody directly, as it could have occurred due to intentional negligence by one of the three workers there, or any of those that would have checked the girders for safety at the time, or neglected to do so. On top of this, the safety is easy to remove and can set to slowly disengage itself.

 

This is useless to me, but it does not matter.

 

Because the hunter knew that this would not kill me.

 

The likelihood of me being directly under those girders at the time was far too low. I didn’t response promptly to Will’s summons, nor did I rush. The girder trap was a set trap, with the safety designed to slowly revolve until it unhooked and released the girders. Since it was only a mechnical tool, it can’t be released whilst in the air unless it breaks, therefore, no one could set it off at a particular time.

 

However, it seems clear that the trap was set off to go off at the least, sometime when I was in the general area. The fact that I would have been actually crushed at the time was more luck than anything else.

 

My hunter is announcing himself.

 

I am here.

 

This one is definitely active.

 

This is, of course, not taking into account that it was just all one big coincidence.

 

 

“You’re quiet, Jenn.”

 

“Huh?” I mumble, snapping back to reality. “Yeah, I was just thinking.”

 

“About what happened today?” Arijit continued. The others had wandered off somewhere else in the bar, the pool tables annoyed by the workers hounding them.

“Kind of, I guess,” I continued. “It feels weird to nearly die like that.”

 

For the second time. I was relying far too much on luck.

 

“I am amazed you did not lock yourself away for the night. I know I am tempted to.”

 

“I guess I’m just not the type who runs away.”

 

Plus it’s clear I need to do this now. If the hunter is one of you, then I need you to slip up. It takes a lot to infiltrate a group, though I imagine it’s easier with a high turnover group of construction workers, but even so, unless my hunter is a sociopathic secret aganet, I should see some kind of slip up from one of you.

 

“Ah, I’m the same.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Well, not like how you put it I guess,” he said laughing to himself. “I don’t so much run away as stand there completely gobsmacked and wait for myself to be crushed.” He burst into laughter at this point and took another shot of brandy.

 

I took it as a moment to sip on my coke,diet, with a wish for fruit juice.

 

Along with at least two others, this guy was on my list of suspects.

 

Since the actions of the hunter were both a signal to his presence and a test of my reactions, tit made sense that people wh may have involved themselves were likely to be instigators.

 

Arijit was suspected because of this reason. He was involved. Though the reason for this was clearly because of the roller. The roller looks like it could have been hit by the girders by accident. In one respect I have no evidence against this, other than the location the girders were to fall. However, if I choose to accept the fact that the girders intentionally supposed to fall there, regardless of where I was, it becomes clear that there were to hit the roller, sneidng it towards Arijit. Whilst this could be done merely to ensure chaos, it can also be responsible as an attempt to protect him from my field of suspects, by getting himself intentionally in danger.

 

Of course, the girders may have just been passing at the time, and as I had already figured, it was a time delay trap. It was unlikely to merely fall at a certain time

 

Next is Ronan, who was opearating the pick up crane at the time. With the most control over the scene at the time, it stands to reason that he could easily stand and wait for me t get into place. Doing it by the rollers would ensure further chaos. His scenario fits the best, though it still only had a small window of opportunity. Simply, it would look suspicious if he hovered the crane over me and then just waited for it to snap. The workers at the top of the complex would have been waiting and watching and noticed when it occurred.

 

But taking other premise into account, this becomes the most liely.

 

My third suspect is Will, who saved me. Seeing as the girder trap seemed set to miss me, the fact that he rushed to rescue both me and Arjit makes him suspicious. Of course, he could have just been the hero of the day as he is now celebrated with everyone else. Also, why not let me just let me die there.

 

Though in regards to this, I wasn’t in complete danger at the time. I had already avoided most of the girders landing points and would have at worse probably ended up with a shattered leg at the most. Pulling me away prevents m going to the hospital, which would have made it a lot more difficult to remove me without being caught or suspected.

 

“Well then,” Arijit called out. “To two people who are still surviving jobs they don’t want.”

 

What?

 

“What?”

 

We chinked, and he gulped the rest of his down in one stroke. That made his ninth brandy tonight.

 

“I’ve seen your CV, Ms. Connoly…”

 

“Pleaae, call me Jenn…”

 

“You have two degrees, both of which are top honours, yet you worked in admin. Now, either you’ve reached some state of Nirvana or Zen enlightenment and have no desire for ambition, or you’ve found yourself stuck in your current position due to no experience.

 

I bit my cheeks a little. “Well, I guess that’s true.”

 

“The second one?”

 

“Yeah.” For soe reason, I felt like ordering brandy. This guy was smart. “Is it the same for you.”

 

“I studied architecture at the Indian Institute for engineering. And I also dd mechnical engineering during that. Whilst it is certainly closer to where I want to be than where your current job wants you to be, I can’t say that I enjoy ordering around a bunch of men all day I’d much rather be in a designing office.”

 

“Sounds like it sucks.”

 

“Yes, we are both two big fish ina  small pond, with no one else to play with.”

 

Is this a warning?

 

It feels like he’s practically telling me that he is who I think he is?

 

Why else would he be comparing us?

 

“Hey Jenn! Ari!” Ronan practically fell on top of us, hooking us both arm in arm. “You spend all your days sitting don at your jobs. Come and play pool with us.”

 

“I don’t really think…”

 

“I’ll play,” I told him, finishing the last of my drink and getting up. Eventually, we dragged Arijit along with us. I hadn’t played pool in a few months, but the concepts were still the same to me. Just hit the bunched up balls really hard and they’ll g into the pockets. I won the four games we played before Ronan spoke again.

 

“I really need to pracitse more,” he complained with a grin. “It’s weird trying tocatch how you play.”

 

“I’m good at most games I play,” I tell him, watching carefully. The mere mention of a game enough to sark my blood. “And I always play to win.” I chalk up the cue, as those surrounding us start to hoot, jeering us on. This is good. Ronan has had five beers tonight already, which is severely affecting his aim, mainly what’s allowing me to win. If this continues, he may slip up.

 

“Well, why don’t we play for a little something extra this time,” he tells me.

 

“What do you have in mind.”

 

How about fifty quid. Best of three. Winner takes all.

 

I had often thought of using my gaming skillsto make cash, but had always gone against it, as I disliked money being the main prize. A game should never be played for money. It ruins what the game is. Money as a side effect, or necessary as a means of resource was fine, but it shouldn’t be the final prize. It just wasn’t worth it in the end.

 

“Sure.”

 

I suppose that’s why the game didn’t initially appeal to me. The cash was meaningless, and although it served me well with providing security cameras and a travel budget. I dislike the fact that a portion of this money has come from the deceased Mr. Betterman, who was innocent.

 

We play, and I watch carefully as his aim improves, knocking down four balls in one sitting. I respond with gusto, knocking down five. He gets his last few in and we end with him potting the black.

 

He hides his strength and gets stronger when he means it, it seems. Smart.

 

Of course, I was holding back as well.

 

We gpo again, and I start poping baal in like my heart will explode if I don’t. I surprise myself by missing the black at the end, but by that point he’s too far behind to catch up, and he watches me sink the last ball with ease.

 

We strike off for the final. He goes first. Now a little panickey, he misses after his third sht, and by then it’s too late to not watch me dominate the rest of the match.

 

The fifty becomes mine, and I spend it getting everyone more drinks, which is celebrated by all, including a miffed Ronan, whos skills cannot keep up ith mine.

 

“you’re quite the player,” will tells me at the bar, as he helps me order the next round.

 

“I did a lot in university.”

 

“Were you in the pool club or something.”

 

“No no, I meant I just played about a lot in university.” I turned to grin at him, gauging his reaction. It appeared to be one of realization, not what I was expecting.

 

“Oh,” he replied, before a smile forced itself on his lips “Well do you want to head up to my place after this. It’s not far and we can play all night if you want to.”

 

I forze, hesitant. Was I in danger, the hunter inviting me to his den, like the spider entices the fly.Was this anger out of failing to kill me earlier and wishing to make up for it. No, that ignores the fact he saved me, perhaps he set up the accident to lure me into thinking him a hero. Did he want me to fall helplessly in love with him before removing me? That was kind of scary. It was also naïve.

 

“Okay then,” I said to him, smiling. “Let’s finish these off and we’ll invite some of the guys over as well.”

 

“Excuse me?” he said nearly choking on his drink, his plans disrupted so obviously. I stare at him deadpanned as he coughed up what he can. Like I’m going to be foolish enough to go alone with you. “well, if you want.” He peered down at his drink, half vomited across the barside, his cheeks red with repressed anger.

 

“Excellent, let’s go have some fun.”

 

***

 

After that, we played Halo none stop barring phone calls from concerned spouses (mainly on Ronan;s part) until about two in the morning. Though I could play tactically, most of the others were too drunk to stick to any form of pattern, making it hard for me to react. It was the most confounding tactic at times, that of random chaos, and it really throws me off when people keep changing their ideas.

 

As I predicted, several of us stayed the night. Most of them bunking in Will’s longe, whilst I got given Will’s room.

 

He had a lock installed on the door, and I flicked it shut while I llowed myself to rest.

 

During this time, I checked everything I culd, from all his folders to under his bed and in any secret alcoves I could find, but all there was besides pornography and savings was a bag of what looked like weed. I couldn’t find any envelope.

 

Of course, he had let me in here, so that was to be expected.

 

After being woken up several times by the turning of the handle, I was still able to get up earlier than usual and departed before most had got up with a quick leaving note. Before actually leaving, I searched the dustbins, both recyclnga dn normally, as well as the shredder he had in his office, and the filling cabinets there. With no signs of an evelope or anything similar, I escaped into the street.

 

I had learnt various important things that night, but too many clashes astill existed. Even taking into account that I’m over analyzing the entire situation, all three suspects have shown signs of being suspicious. Since I barred Will from moving last night, I still remain unsure if he was involved or not. It would have been as easy for him as with the others to make it so that safety was damaged.

 

I’ll have to set it aside for now.

 

It seems none of them are following me, so now would be best. Now I have to head to Andover, Hampshire.

TBG – Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

 

Nothing much happens after that.

 

A quick peek over the edge confirms the corpse for me, a black speck several storeries down surrounded by msany other little specks. Chances of him surviving were near zero, and he hadn’t seen my ace.

 

I was safe for now.

 

No I’m not, I realize as I lay back to catch my wind and rip this hood off. How long would it be before someone came up her to see he wasn’t pushed. I had to leave now. I could rest later.

 

Struggling back up, I see around me the wreckage of our hour long but really fifteen second fight. I hadn’t really been in a fight before. Vicky Granger also used to pull my hair and one day I started pulling back until we both finally had enough and got it cut on the same day, but I had never had a slugfest before. What did men see in this? My fights should always be ones of the mind. Ons where…

 

Monologuing huh? Great, next I’ll turn evil super villaness. I eed to get all this cleaned. Stepping back, I check for everything. Sniper Rifle. Knife. Now broken video camera. Briefcase that held sniper rifle and a duffel bag I didn’t see earlier. There’s also a bit of blood wihc I think may be from my cheek. I needed to get rid of that first. I had abandoned my own water bottle with James and Tim, but I quick check of the duffle bag revealed the hunter was keeping himself fresh with spring water. I poured it over the blood and everything else that I was leaving behind which may have shown a scuffle, drying it with the newly purchased top, until it looked clean as an ugly tower roof could be.

 

Without thinking I threw the top into the duffle bag along with the balaclava and knife, then I stripped off everything I had bought recently, leaving my with my lighter clothes underneath. What had I been thinking. These weren’t exactly camo in urban conditions. I’ll have to prepare for that for next time.

 

The camera goes in too. It’s useless now, but may get traced back to the shop, plus I kind of feel a little sympathetic to the consumer item that saved me.

 

Tn I get to the sniper rifle. Should I take it with me? Either thpough I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, I start trying to take it apart, not wanting to leave a weapon such as this on the scene, even if it doesn’t have mine or the hunter’s fingerprints on it. I try to deconstruct it as best I can, using the metallic silver briefcase and its cut out foam for reference. It takes me longer than it should, but once I realize what’s disconnects and what doesn’t mose falls apart. After a while I just screw it and, making sure there are no bullets in it, I shove the remaining pieces in the duffle bag.

 

Stepping back, I confirm the scene. It looks clean. Maybe a bit too much. It’s clear there’s water here. With hesitation I drop the water bottle to the ground, leaving it so it looks like it’s leaked al ovr the floor (which it has really). Without my markings it can just be that he’s dropeped it.. I turn, checking for anything else, wanting to make sure further but knowing I have to go. It’s not that hard to get to the roof here and I sprint over to where I jumped off, throwing the itmes across one by one, before throwing myself across. I nearly miss again on the second one, superheroes and New York making this look a lot easier than it really was. I should realy be grateful that all the buildings here are the same height.. Meting back up with my platforms, I slip them back on and retrieve my purse. My compact’s inside and I take a look at my face, for the first time realsing that I have a light cut that had been made by my glasses. I start heading down the stairs and it’s not long before I’m in the toilets to the shopping center. Part of me forms the urge to see if I can get away with returning the camera and knife but I decide against it. After cleaning myself up, I head home, avoiding the front side of the street altogether and keeping my head down when necessary and temporary..

 

***

 

Did I miss anything, I go back in my head, running through all the events on fast forwards. I’m cross legged now in my room now, my hands interlinked together. I learnt meditation a while back but never found anything all that spiritual about it. Regardless, it helps me compose my thoughts.

 

I got my shoes covered, having left them at the mall. My footprints would have been hampered by thick socks. It’s not much but if they don’t suspect murder instantly then they won’t look for the fibers I probably left behind.. all the obvious items are gone. The digital camera was the biggest worry, the circuit boards, plastic and len had all shattered, and I picked up as much of it as I could. Since I was next to a maintance shed. No that wouldn’t excuse it. I got all the biggest pieces anyway. I didn’t pay cash though.

 

Shit, would I be lucky enough to avoid having them trace the camera to the store, who would then trace the person who bought it and ask me just why my new purchased and even newer broken video camera was where a guy finally had enough of life and take the plunge?

 

Dammit, and it’s too late to fix it. I am going to have to rely on luck this time, the probability that they’ll quick dismiss it as a suicide. Maybe his friends and family noticed a change in his behaviour recently (which would make sense in itself, seeing as he was part of the game) that attribute to the story.

 

I guess I was taking it seriously now, the game. It was real. Not a hoax, not a reality television special (if it wasthere’d be an awful lot of production staff to arrest after this) or a scientist’s curiousity. A real game set up to murder people and have the murderers murdered in some kind of weird hunter becomes the hunted loop.

 

Well, I wasn’t going to take it, I had already decided that. Playing this game like they want me to is the same as just following my dad’s orders. Go to uni and get a degree. Get a job working good money. Next he’ll be telling me to get a husband, a house and spawn him some grandchildren. I’m not going to be a part of simplistic idiot making process.nor am I going to kill for money.

 

And I had decided.

 

With all that I am, I ‘ll play my own game, where I find those involved in this game. Then I’ll see how they work. See if they are active hunters or passive. The passive hunters I’ll leave, keeping a close ey on them, make sure they aren’t tempted to kill given the heavy circumstances. The active hunters will suffer the same fate they wish upon other people.

 

How dare they take the lives of innocents? An individual is far more important than money will ever be.

 

This is my game, and itll end when I find the ones responsible for this.

 

In a way I had to be grateful, the egotistical actions of others had given me a chance to find meaning, and I would grasp t with these two hands.

 

I was then I went to search through the duffel bag that had belonged to the hunter. I waited until Tim returned with my stuff and I told him that I had to leave quickly on an emergency. When he had left me for the night, I opened it up and peered in curiously, wishing to know more about he who had hunted me and fell prey. After rummaging passed the knife, camera and sniper rifle I found a change of clothes that looked like they would fit a man of average height. It appeared he had also deigned t change for the event and I wondered if he had anything on him. A quick check revealed a bus pass and some coins, as well as a crumpled up tenner, but nothing like a driving license.

 

The clothes aside, my eyes sezed on the final item in the duffel bag. An envelope. With haste I grabbed it and pulled the contents out. Inside was another copy of the Rule of the Game . I stared at them eaglerly for a moment, scanning through them but seeing no changes compared to my own set. The mapbook was missing , though considering the size of the envelope it’s possible he had just taken it out. I hadn’t much of a use for mine either really.

 

His own bounty sheet was missing, but mine was there.

 

Turn period ends at:  …day…month…year.11:59pm

 

Name: Jennifer Sally Connolley

 

Age:23

 

D.O.B: 12/05/1979

 

Height: 5ft 3

 

Weight: 8.6st

 

Natural hair colour: black

 

Natural eye colour: Green

 

Other distinguishing marks: minor scars on forearms

 

Sizes:

 

Shoe sizes: size nine

 

Prescribed accessories: Prescription glasses

 

Why hadn’t it included a copy of his? That was annoying, I’d have to check the newspapers to find out his name now, not that it mattered much but I should perhaps prepare some countermeasures if need be…not that I know what I need to do. Perhaps it didn’t include an individual copy after the second turn, since a player would already have one. Economical, but it wouldn’t explain why they got a second copy of the rules. Did tha mean they may update the rules. It’s the only thing I can think of

 

My second envelope was still in the bin but I had no intention of grabbing it. Instead I stared the paper down for the moment, taking in its recycled fiber. The turn ends tomorrow at midnight. Midnight was the same time as the last turn, so it looks like that’s always the case.

 

Jenn?’ Tim knocked. “You okay in there?” He sounded like an ailing mother.

 

“I’m fine,” I replied without thinking. “But I’m not dressed, so don’t come in.” And et yourself see the small weapons cache I came into possession today.

 

“How’s your face?” he asked through the wood and social barricade.

 

“It’s getting better.” I had had to tell them about that anyway and wquickly made up an inapporpiate story about how soe drunken fool pushed into me and I fell on ym glasses. Both of them wereretired from drinking, and they seemed to buy my story pretty easily. Though it did mean they were both in babysitting mode for the rest of the night.

 

“Well, shout me if you need anything…though your room is closer to the kitchen and bathroom. You know what, just get it yourself.” We both laughed a little and his footsteps disappeared down the corridor. I waited a little longer.

 

There was just the sniper rifle then.

 

In the briefcase, behind all the housing, there was a small manual for opearating the sniper rifle. How to take it apart, how to put it together loading and shooting, how to adjust the reicule, the obvious warnings about pointing it at people and resisting theose urges we’d. It was all very advance and I could only follow the diagrams when it came to take it apart, failing to understand half the turns.

 

Now came the condury of keeping this. If I was going to be placed in these situations in the near future, then keeping it should be obvious. However, at the same time, it might be traced back to my hunter and the bullets he fired in the town. Also, where was I going to hide an automatic high precision rifle. The briefcase made it obvious, and it could fit under my bed easily, but if it was found, people would question why I was hiding it in the first place. It wouldn’t be too long before it was tested, would it. Maybe I should just dispose of it, it still can’t be related back to me even now.

 

Maybe I could…Yeah.

 

I stand up, heading for my collection of assorted crap that I keep around in case I’m ever in a mood for making scanary for my games. Rummaging around, I fid two corks and pluck them out. Taking a trip outside, I borrow a screwdriver from the toolset Tim’s dad abandoned here a while back,. I bring it in and get to work, referring the the ifle’s manual carefully the whole time. It takes about two hours and I’m exhausted and needing to be ironing a shirt for the next day (no wait, I’m still using holiday pay) by the time I’m finished.

 

I look to my new replca sniper rifle. It wasn’t the best job, but I had jammed the two corks into either end of the barrel and had removed the firing pin. Keeping some parts hidden in my room and the pin itself between the two barrels, I had set it up so that the corks can be easily removed by searching for the cheese wire embedded in it. By yanking hard, it pulls the firing pinn to the cork and uses that to pull it the rest of the ay. I still need to buy a lot rod, in which I can pop the other cork out with, but by the looks of things, this is now an ordinary replica sniper rifle that was bought impulsively by some weird military fangirl over the internet.

 

That would make sense right? I like the fantasy tabletop games.

TBG – Chapter Six

Chapter Six

 

Nash Equilibrium.

 

I only heard about it recently. It’s one of those pseudo science things. You know, the one where everyone knows it instinctively but some scientist felt like adding his name to it and specifying a specific complex set of generalized ambiguous rules in order to have some fame or recognition..

 

Stupid really, I often wonder if the world’s top scientists are exactly the same as every moron that you’ll ever find on the internet.

 

The Nash Equlibrium is simple. It’s the idea of best response. The state that all players in a game will reach mainly by working together unconsciously, by picking the best course of action in their turn, the choice that has the least risk whilst still aimingfor a certain amount of benefit.

 

Each player will take into account the actions of the other players and the other players will do the same and they’ll all do what’ll be consider their best move in respect to everyone’s elses rule.

 

It was hard to apply it to the game, but I figured it would go like this, with the knowledge I now have that there are definitely others involved. If everyone involved got the same information I did, then we all know the same amount. Therefore our courses of action should have followed the same route. It stands to reason that no one would just jump into the game without hesitation. Even lunatics and previous murderers actions would have been halted by the suspicion that such an envelope would bring with it. A rational person would then try to accrue more information, possibly getting as far as I did. Maybe some of them would have met up and spoke over it, but most would have been fearful of approaching. Since people would have considered things both in the eyes of a hunter and a bounty, people would have come to the logical conclusion that to a bounty, having their hunter approach them might make them reactive, since the person would almost definitely be a stranger and would be for certain suspicious. Unless they acted hastily, it was unlikely a hunter would do this. Even so, a hunter could probably explain the situation, reveal himself to the bounty of being a rational person and both sides would have calmed down after leaving one another.

 

Of course, irrational actions could have occurred and led to violence and, yes, the possibiliyy of a hunter murdering a bounty.

 

But such an action would be grevious to the hunter. He would become overly paranoid of himself and hold back on his actions. Running away, turning himself in, going into hiding. Even if he would become delusional by the event, it would not mean he would become a pawn to this scanario. He would likely start killing at random, or go crazy in some other manner in the days between

 

At the start of the second turn, all participants should have come to the Nash conclusion, the action of least risk and most benefit in accordance with that risk. And that would be not to play at all. Such a sum of money isn’t worth a person’s life. Even if it was to some participants, they would be more concerned with protecting themselves than heading out to hunt themselves.

 

And that’s even taking into account that everyone would be able to find one another as well.

 

A lot would remain clueless as where their bounty was. In the short time available, most wouldn’t even be able to plan in consideration of everything else.

 

So by the end of the first turn, the only one who should have died is Mr. Betterman himself and perhaps others that got into saccidents or non related incident.

 

So then…why am I here.

 

Why am I trapped in this brightly illuminated disabled toilets, behind an occupied door at a fast food restaurant that I hate, slumped over a pool of liquid I’m sure isn’t water.

 

Why am I being shot at by a sniper?

 

No matter how I think about it, even if I’m willing to accept that somebody would actually use their intial fifty grand to go out and by a sniper rfe, I can’t accept that people are just willing to go out there in full hitman mode by the second turn. In the space of a week, a person can’t be driven that insane.

 

Can they?

 

Fuck! I can’t believe this is happening. Getting up,, slowly, like I hadn’t risen ina  thousand years, I feel the water pur down my jacket as I look to myself in the mirror. Without my glasses, I look blurry, but I can still see enough to see how pathetic I am.

 

I’m trapped here. My own prison. My own solitude. The person looks back at me in the mirror, knowing their just as screwed and their face contorts into a wave of tears before disappearing.

 

I am going to die.

 

The game didn’t need to be real. I realize that now. It gave itself enough of a postion to make itself real to the people involved. Under my own situation I can see many others deciding it was right to start to kill. I received the bounty for Mr. Betterman, and it could have been well earned. All I would need is to find what bar he hung out in that that, brought my friend and got them hideously drunk, before planting the suggestion in his head and setting him off in my Astra. How easy wuld it be, under any situation.

 

No one ever expects they are going to die on that particular.

 

Except soldiers and criminals maybe.

 

God, what am I even thinking about? I’m just wasting time in my own head, going over crap that I learnt off the internet and making myself sound like an expert. All that guy needs to do is follow me here and wait outside. He knows my face. He’s seen it through that bifocal magnified lens. He’s studied every contour of the cheeks, te dip of my nose. He saw my squinting eyes through designer lens as I turned to face him, missing for whatever reason occurred to him that second.

 

He intended me for me to die right there and now he’s coming to finish me off.

 

What am I going to do?

 

Fuck!

 

What am I really going to do?

 

You’re to stop playing these little…games, and start taking your life seriously.

 

Oh great, my head’s going int a flashback.

 

This is serious. If I win this, then…

 

And do you honestly think you’ll stand a chance. These people are professional. You think you can just go there with your toys and be the winning underdog.

 

But I already beat the champion ina friendly anyway. And they’re not toys!

 

Yes they are. And what’s worse they’re toying with your life. I was willing to let this carry on when you were younge because it gave you something better to do than go out smoking andtrying to pull boysr, but your fifteen now and you need to focus on your studies.

 

My studies are fine dad.

 

But thy need to be better. I’m not going to let you waste your life like I did mine. You’ll study hard. We all know you’ve got the potential. You’ve just got to grab at it. Even if you don’t want it now, you’ll realize it later. A university degree is the key to unlocking all sorts of jobs. With that you can get a good salary and do what you want.

 

But what I want to do is this?

 

Why couldn’t I have just chosen to play games.

 

I’ll admit, going to university gave me many things that I would have gone without if I weren’t careful.

 

But if I realized that all it was going to be for was for such a boring life, I would have kicked the dean in the nuts during the inauguration.

 

People don’t need strategy nowadays. They need doctors and lawyers and psychologists. You can make a lot of money working these jobs and they’ll all pay off. That’s what you women want, isn’t it? A chance to be like the men?

 

My father never did make theright  connections in his brain, but I couldn’t say no to him.

 

I ddn’t stop the games. Well…maybe a little. I had to with the extra commitments at university, working every garment of clothing off to get top marks.

 

And what did it amount to? Two sheets of paper and a data entry temping job that had no end in site, spending every day wishing I was at home playing games.

 

But through no fault of their own, even the games had gotten stale.

 

Dad’s fault again, demeaning them.

 

Didn’t he understand? Of course not. There was nothing to understand for someone like him. He was the type that would have bullied me back at school for messing around with these ‘little toys’, just not getting it, and ruining it for everyone else at the same time.

 

Searching for a meaning you didn’t care about got you nowhere.

 

It just wasted my life.

 

And now someone was going to take it.

 

No…

 

It wasn’t their life to take.

 

It wasn’t their life to play around with.

 

It’s mine.

 

How dare they try to take my life away.

 

How dare they?

 

Smash the mirror, I think after I’ve already done it, seeing the shards break towards gravity and fall into the sink, scattering around and sinking to the plughole, where they can’t escape. Destroy that wretched face that liveda meaningless life. My life has value. More value than most. So why was it everythin was holding me bacl. Shouldn’t I be allowed to shine? Shouldn’t I be allowed to have meaning? Not just another drone in a nother officewith credentials no one cares about and qualifications that mean nothing to people with less potential than me?

 

Why was I playing that game anyway?

 

Why was I letting myself be played by a completely different game?

 

All of these creatures that call themselves humans, that mingle and flock around me, that abandon their ambitions and dreams for the romise of cheap wine and even cheaper tobacco. Why do I let myself suffer under them? Do I tell myself it’s just temporary, when I kow that’s forever further from the truth. I’ve heard it a dozen times before. If I don’t make myself change, I never will. Yet here I am, doing what my father think’s is best for me, doing what society whants me to do, lying to my friends just so they don’t worry about the pitfall my vice free life has stuck me in.

 

Even without drugs and alcohol, I’m as addicted as any fool to this life in this society that weaens us.

 

And now I was going to pay with my life.

 

Well, I wasn’t going to play their games.

 

I’m going to play mine.

 

I won’t become a hunter. I won’t be controlled by the petty and the manipulative. I won’t be made to get a meaningless job in a society that restricts me, or become a hunter in a game that’ll force me to kill.

 

I’ll play by my own rules.

 

Thos who dare stand in my way, will suffer.

 

Starting with that sniper.

 

I breath deep. I’ve fallen back onto the floor again, my hand stinging with the rush of broken glass. It seems like no one’s come to check up if they’re a problem. It ounds loud out there. That’s good for the moment.

 

I reach for my phone, having slipped ut of my pocket when I collapsed. Flipping it open, I hit for James’ number on speeddial, then hear the buzz as he gets put through.

 

“Jenn, you alright?” He sounds seriously.

 

“yeah, I’m fine,” I tell him, keeping my voice steady, It’s still a little shook up for the attack, but it’ll clear.

 

“Where are yu?”

 

“I had to go somewhere,” I answer ambiguously. “Listen, are you still on the high street?”

 

“Yeah, are you coming to meet us  back here or…”

 

“Not yet, I’m doing something. What building’s at the top of the street?”

 

What?”

 

“I said,” stressfully this time, “What building is at the very top of the street? What’s the first building you can see?”

 

“Erm, it’s the shopping center I think,” he finally replied. I didn’ want to waste time trying not to confuse him. “is there something wrong.”

 

“No, thank you. I’ll speak to you soon.” The shopping center, I think as I remove him voice from the toilet. “That makes sense. There were ways to get onto that roof and below was a public building. With little security, a sniper could get p there easy with just a briefcase, finish the job and then get back down without a problem.I didn’t know the other surrounding buldings that well apart from the shops, but I that would have been the best choice.

 

I need to get there without being spotted.

 

The toilet door swings open and I step out. Going out the foot way would be dangerous, so I instead head straight for the counter, by[assign the queue and swinging under, pass the teenagers who stared at me vividly as I invaded their frying sanctum. With my eyes off them, I don’t think they were ready to challenge me for suddenly passing through and before they could do anything I was out the back door.

 

Stepping into a side alley and feeling an aroma of trash assault my nose, I turn for the street that passes adjacent to the high street. I needed to get to that building as soon as possible. I had already wasted ten minutes or so and I neededto getto him before he disappeared.

 

Since it was only the second turn, amateurish mistakes were going to be made, the fact that he missed with five bullets shows his lack of skill. However, I should not go rushing in making the assumptinthat he is unskilled. I should approach him as if he were a zen master of sniper. As if he could imagine himself as the person who decides to target, as the eye who finds the target, as the reticle who places the target in his sight, as the gun which hold the bullet, as the trigger who’s silent tick is the marker to end the life, as the bullet who would shoot through the air, as the target that will be hit, as the one who will die.

 

Assuming too little of people is what’s got me into this situation. Assuming too much of people is what trapped me in my life. Now, I will only assume people to be perfect killers. Otherwise I will lose.

 

A perfect killer would move from his current position after taking those shots, and would be currently looking for me. Falling out onto the next street I dive into a clothes shop. Pulling my bag out I straight up buy a pair of combats exactly my size, as well as a long sleeved black shirt and a pair of gloves. I also toss in a bandana and asked if I can wear them out of the store. I waste three minues.

 

Balaclva in hand, I take up the road, observing the rooftops, looing out from men with briefcases. There are too many people who could potentially be the murderer, and I know he plans to kill me in public regardless of witnesses. I start to pace briskly up the hill, until I reach the doors of the shopping center.

 

The shopping center is a three floor open building with shops built in on all sides while droves of humans crowd around for their latest bargins. Anyone can hide in this place with reasonable success. Trying to pick out someone suspicious here wouldn’t be easy, nor possibly necessary. I move on, walking around the flowerpots and carts selling squished passion fruits, listening out for anything that says someone strange passed by an old lady.

 

A sniper is likely to be a man, of reasonable build. Sniper rifles are heavy, no matter what the games tell me and som will take time to set up. From the top of the hill to the bottom where I last got shot is roughly onehundred and fifty minutes, plus the height of the building gives him a large range. He wouldn’t have had to have moved far.

 

My head buzzes with possible information that may be necessary for my survival. It pings me with details relating to how this may end up. With what’s going on, what would be the best way t dispose of Mr. Sniper?

 

Assuming he is the greatest assassin on earth, it is likely that, apart from a sniper rifle, he would also have short ranged weapons, such as a handgun and knife. He may also be a skilled hand to hand combat fighter. No, he will be. He’ll also have trained senses and a developed mental state.

 

If that’s the case, then there’s a high chance he’d have moved to a bteer sniping point. It’s also likely that, after discerning my identity, he had been trailing me for sometime. Hhe more than likely knows where I live, and how I got into town. If anything, he’ll focus in that direction.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t know when this current turn ends. If I did, I might be able to conclude whether he’d give up today and try again tomorrow, or whether he’s riding on the kill happening today. In that case, it’s better that I don’t know as it might make me go lax. As I’ve learnt from Mr. Betterman, I could easily rationalize to myself. If I’m not careful, I might gloss this all over and go back to my normal life., telling myself I overreacted. Therefore, I should assume that I might die at any moment. If I at least keep aware of my surroundings, I should be given some sign before he strikes, though that relies partly on luck, but I have nothing else at the moment.

 

Whilst I don’t want to rely on luck, I am without resources. The best option would appear to be to find someway to destroy the building with him in it and not worry about it any further. Hwever, this would not note the fact that he could have left at any time and ,while I was being lax, went ahead and killed me in my sleep.

 

First, I need to confirm the presence of the sniper. I don’t need his name. Just that he holds the gun that tried to shootnme. To do that, I need to get to the roof, but since he might have already moved on, I’ll need to be able to find him.

 

I passed by a camera store ‘Perfect.” The fat man at the counter turned to me with a smile as I entered his establishment. All around him were littered telescopes and cameras and binoculars, everything that were lens existed in here.

 

“Good day to you mam,” he said politely. “How can I help you.”

 

A telescope was out of the question. Would these people actually sell zoom in sy goggles. If not, I’d need a decent digital video camera. Hopefully, this guy knows what he’s talking about.

 

“I’m looking for something with a good zoom to it, either binoculars or a video camera,” I told him straight up. “I have about two minutes to catch the bus and money is not an issue.”

 

I left the store one minute thrity seconds with the best video camra in the shop. Outragously expensive, I would have never considered it a few weeks back. Already fully charged thanks to the battery I bought off one of the stand models, I put it together as I walked, discarding the box in a passing bin.

 

Now, I’d be able to find him. But what then? No matter how I thought this through, I couldn’t just approach him, even dressed different and with a blunt weapon. The perfect assassin wouldn’t let me get near him unless he wanted me to, and as long as he knew my face, he held the advantage.

 

This time, and this time only, I’ll have to take a risk. I’ll have to assue going home tonight and going to sleep like usual will simply result in me staining the covers and never waking up again. I’ll have to assume that I am going to need to do something now if I am even going to make it out of this store, even if that somethingis incredibly stupid. For now, I may have to kill to save myself.

 

Next time, it would be very different.

 

For now, it would be best to approach him from behind. To do that best I’ll need a weapon. A local kitchen appliance store gives the obvious answer, and I buy myself a serated butcher’s knife that looks like it was designed for the masterchef. I feel a little unsteady holding such a weapon in public, but I can only carry it in its leather sheath, since a plastic bag would make noise.

 

Would this be enough? No, it’ll have to be. I don’t exactly want to go up there to die, but I won’t be letting anyone kill me either. I’ll go up there and take care of him however I see it. It’s all he deserves after putting me through this.

 

Hitting the escalators, I keep track of where I’ve wandered through the shopping center. The main entrance faced downhill and the sniper should be in that area too. I’ve slowly moved up to the back of the sopping center, which will allow me to approach him from behind. At the outskirts, I see security doors that I would normally avoid that any other normal person and take to them when I see it is clear. They make little sound as I rattle the bar open and the stairs are on the next corner.

 

This is it. I stop, examining the laminated carpeting as if every inch may contain a small explosive. It was a bit too far to assume he would set explosives ahead of time in a public place, but I could take nothing to chance. Since he took the shopping center as his location to strike from, it is easy to assume that he may have come up these stairs as well. Of course, there are others in which he could have taken, which is again why I chose the back one. By that logic hough, he would have chosen this building most likely out of ease of access, the fact that he would not not the ability to enter other buildings without causing some fuss. Because of this, it’s also possible to assume thathe would not have time to set up any traps in case I turned on him. A check of the surroundings shows he appears to have not in this stairwell.

 

I travel to the top, taking my time with my digital camera and butchersknife.Using the small adjustable screen, I flip the camera around eachlength of the stairwell first, to make sure its clear. Then I check for signs of interferences, mainly tripwire or items n the roof, but there aren’t even other cameras hee it seems. I move slowly to prevent unnecessary strain and I ascend without aggravation.

 

I stop at the door as it looms in front of me. This was a clear point of no return for me and it was as easy to recognize as the full situation was to me. Go through this door, and it would all change for me.I had to make sure I was ready. There are surely other thigs I can do to prepare. Looking down, I take my shoes off. Being stealthy even with these low platforms would still be difficult as opposed to going barefoot., and my sports shocks should provide some comfort cover against the ground.

 

Should I conceal the knife in my sleeve. That might be handy. If he were to stop me, he may think me unarmed and try to get in closer, though assuming he has a handgun he may just look to execute me when I was in his sights. Also, I’d have to tuck it in without the sheath, and that wouldprbably but the new shirt up. No, I should hold it the entire time.

 

The video camera should be tied to m though. He may disappear and I may need its vision again during any ruckus, wheras I might just drop it at any time if I weren’t careful. Wrapping it around my right arm and tying it with a cloe hitch, I steady the knife in my other hand.

 

Was I sure of this?

 

I could spend all day hypothessing. What if he has grenades? What if he knows I’m already standing here? What if he has allies? It wouldn’t matter. I have to make my stand here.

 

Slowly, I open the door.

 

***

 

The wind immediately met me with a sudden unwelcomed rush and for a moment I thought I was moving towards a helicopter. Holding the door like a rabid ferret looking to kill everyone in the room, I pulled myself to the outside world.

 

With all the buildings in the way on the city streets, I didn’t notice what a beautifu day it was, but this wasn’t the time for that.. The roof of the building was mostly open. Judging by the glancing light that hit my eyes, he should hae been slighty to the right on top from where I was facing. Sitting there was a small maintenance shed with the door hanging open. From here it looked unoccupied, the only residents I could see being some electrical equipment plastered to the wall and a few buckets.

 

Luckily, other than the small incove that the stairwell door came out of, this was the only part of this building that was obscured from my current view, anything else on top here being too insignificant to note.

 

Which meant that if the hunter was here, it would only be in two places. First, carefully, I checked above me, looking to see tif the hunter may have been there waiting for me to see him before picking me off into oblivion. I cursed but held back, moving on quickly, slowly treading my way around the incove, making sure it was clear. It was clear it was and I breathed again

 

So if he was here, it would only be by that maintanence building. I quickly scoured the surrounding buildings. Zooming in and out as best I could with a knife in hand and the winds blowing. Each buildingtop in the surrounding area told me the same story though. There was no where there. Had I come too late?

 

Regardless, I know it’s stupid to turn around now. I was not trained in tracking myself and the perfect assassin would have excellent urban camoflaugue. I would simply have to check the surrounding area.

 

With hesitant stes and a pose I had earnt from videogames, I took off in its direction, slowly arcing around it to see what was insid. I sincerely hoped they’d be no dcts of any kind in there and was glad to see that, for once, the ducts up here would be too small for humans anyway.

 

Maybe there was no oen there.

 

So then there should be no harm in checking.

 

some buildings are blocked off by the maintanence block as well. It’s made out of brick like the rest of the building, and I sbaout ten feet high by itself. If I check the open door first… I apporoach softly, holding my knife carefully.It beter not be some innocent technician here now. At this rate I’m ready to stab anyone that comes near me. I only need to pop my head in and out for a second. Don’t give the person time to react and let them screw up by wasting a shit on air.

 

Holding my breath, I dip in and out of the door.

 

Nothing. The light peered through the small room efficiently. And a secondary check confirmed for me. There was noon here nor were they hiding. Not closing the door, I looked to the ladder by the door. I figure it must be there for the purpose of the aerial on top, and I climbed quickly to check if the sniper had planeted himself there. It would appear the perfect spot to some, but it was more open than behind the little building itself. Knowing that, I decided not to climb over to see if the sniper was on the other side and headed back down.

 

So…if he was here, it would be round the other side. Switching the knife between my hands, more to dry them than ease of motion, I headed round the corner. There was no better way of doing this, but I chose he right hand sideas it’s where the door was and slowly moved round, again dipping in and out at the last second.

 

Nothing.

 

The five minutes slow pursuit across the hundred meters of building had left me with nothing bt a deserted building roof and clenched teeth protected my lungs from the cold. Had he left? Was he every here. There was no signs of anything. Could I have got the wrong building. There were others nearby, and he could have easily moved buildings.

 

No.

 

There was something else, nagging. What had I missed?

 

The roof was empty.

 

Where were the birds?

 

Was it too much to expect? That there would have been birds around here. The place was littered with droppings scattered left and right, but there were no built up areas xcept for around here.

 

That means it must have been significant.

 

Someone had definitely been here recently, and scared the birds off. It was actually possible they had used some chemical to deter them, but now wasn’t the time to look for that.

 

And yet I had ignored such insiginificant details just a moment ago.

 

I had to keep my wits though. Looking for te hunter would be more effective with the video camera than by checking the patterns of birds.. I stepped to the far side of the mainannce building again and began scanning the buildings next to me. To be honest, almost half an hour had passed since the first shot from now, though I couldn’t be entirely sure of the time. For all I know he had taken off in my direction right from the start. If that was the case I would definitely lose him and have no choice but to spend the next few nights away from home and work until I get the next envelope, though even then it may be just the same.It sickened mefor that this game had trapped me in such a bind like this and I could almost…

 

There.

 

Hard to tell at first, I brought the camera to my eye and looked through the black and white viewfinder, zooming in on the maximum. And there it was.

 

A man, mid twenties, laying down, just partly over the edge of the building itself, enough to get the gun over but not enough so that others could see him. Black hair from here, and dressed in black like myself. Besides him was a briefcase (memory note: he also has a duffle bag). He had moved then. In fat, he had moved to a spot where he would have caught me if I had come out of the junction on the street where the fast food restaurant was. Having figured I wouldn’t go back the way I came, he must have decided I would eventually emerge from that point.

 

It may have been instinct, but it was a good job I had used the service exit for the restaurant.

 

Was he just too patient for his own good, or was he moving back and forth. Maybe he didn’t have any further plans for todaynd if this failed then hed start afresh, but he was intent on making sure he wasn’t going to blunder by giving up.

 

Either way, h was in my sights now.

 

Advantage mine.

 

I moved back to the far side of the building, as far away from him as possible. Even if I did this, where he wuld be hidden by the maintenance shed f that building, I would still be able to tell if he moved away from his current spot. The sun was to the side of us, so that wouldn’t get in our ay (though it occurred to me it had saved my life earlier). The only way he could escape now would be if he jumped off the side of the building, which was possible, but I’d have to play that for now.

 

Next…what should I do?

 

The building was four across. Even considering the layout of shops and the fact that side doors were usually glazed over, it should be easy for me to figure out which one is the one he’s standing on. If I’m right, it’s the arcade. Entry to that rooftop might be a little bizarre and would definitely have some form of security, but I did know the manager, it might not be too difficult to get access to the roof at any time.

 

But that way I’d definitely lose track of him. Even with the viewfinder it’s still not the best shot of him. F I lose his face now I won’t be able toremeber enough of it to recall him at a later time.

 

Should I…jump over the buildings?

 

Looking down, all I could really see were the walls looming down into a pit of a side alley filled with rubbish. If I screwed this up, it’s obvious that even that amount of trash wouldn’t break my fall, and the building that would inconsiderately get in the way would also be an issue.

 

A risk I was willing to take?

 

It had to be.

 

I secured the camera, looking behind me and quickly flashing forwards again, not wanting to lose signs that he may have moved. I step backwards, figuring out the best run up and I hod tightly to the camera. Part of me said how dumb it was to do so, but I did not want to risk it rattling to alert the guy who was four all of a sudden very far buildings away.

I go for it,s printing suddenly and pushing all of my legs into it, reaching the end and stopping myself by diving away. What was I doing? Was I going to let a little gap bother me? I went for it again, brshing myself off. The last thing I need to do is break this camera.

 

I launched myself,this time giving myself no choice but to jump or fall. I choose the the secret middle option and collapse on the edge,, my elbows and breasts saving me from ornage brick and assorted trashland doom doom.

 

I hiss, the pain stabbing at me as the gravel roofing reveals its hidden spikes. Slowly pulling up, I crawl miserably to the other side, panting from one simple action, my heart setting up a schedule to head for the gym.

 

And I had to do it again.

 

I thought it would gte easier, but the second jump proves more of a challenge than the first, even with short distances I find myself just hanging on with my fingernails, imagining my hunter to pop over me like a bad thriller movie. I lift up though, and take myself over for the next building.

As I pace myself, I indly begin to suspect he has done something with the birds. There are none here at all. I can’t complain though. I’d be full of holes iby now if they were here.

 

Withone more to go, I launch over it far easier than I did the last two and actually land feet first. I quickly scamper to hide behind the door to a stairwell, glad the the wind is still as loud as ever. I confrm that only I know I’m up here, and move forwards.

 

From what I could tell, he hadn’t moved. He was still there waiting for me, waiting for that foolish little girl who believed that everyone would choose their safety over money. That everyone would value life equally or, at the least, their own sanity. How dare this guy prove her wrong?I turn the corner. He’s here! And he hasn’t noticed me.

 

The knife is still firmly in my vibrating hand (she tosses it over first each time). From here I can see him clearly. Definitely mid twentes. Black hair. Caucasion. His vital statistics stream over me as I stare down at him. He truly doesn’t know I’m here. I find myself frozen with the anticipation if some kind of sixth sense saves him from me, but he does nothing. Just sits perched. He’s definitely real, or an elabourate fake that can breath and mutter to himself. I see he’s wearing headphones, which seems weird.

 

Moving ever closer, finally besides him, I look down to him, and then the knife in my hand. If I do this right I don’t have to kill him. Surely I can wound him enough to send him to the hospital and away from me, but even then wouldn’t i?

 

Whatever. I should at least stun him for now and decide what happens next when I’m safe. It’s clear he wants to kill me and I stop all thought completely, bracing myself above him, hanging the knife up high, ready to drive it down on top of im and deliver divine judgement.

 

This is what you get for threatening me?

“This is Jack Bauer from CTU. I need to speak with the president immediatweey.”

 

I forze, my body tensed. That instant, I was stone, while he was a flurry of movement, his ears picking up my mobile phone even behind the headphones. We turned to look at each other, both our eyes telling us the same shock at being caught. I try to react first and bring the knife down, but abandon it when my hands hit hit rifle, puled up to defending himself. Now I’m on top, with onlyexhausted strength and ???stones of body weight to back me up. He curses at me. He sounds irish and for a second I wonder if he’s drunk. He struggles with me, skhaking me and my eyes divert off the road to remind me that the edge of the building might crash into me if I’m not careful, knocking me onto the pavement where I might hurt somebody.

 

Dragging me, he shouts, “who are you?” Of course, I’m wearing the balaclava. It seemed weird that he hadn’t noticed me and I flashed with inspiration for his answer.

 

“Your hunter,” I tell him, seeing the fear as he realizes what he thinks is going on. I try to use that againsthim and I yank hard on the custom long ranged automatic between us, prying it clean from one of his hands. I point the nozzle in the way, not wanting to waste time trying to get him to shoot himself with such along gun.

 

He spits at me, but there’s nothing for him to hit. Still, he boots me away and the gun drops to the wall besides us. Now he’s on top of me and we fall ack down, the floor graciously taking the wind out of my lungs for me.I hear my glasses break and one of my eyes goes numb. For the first time that day things don’t seem coherent. Memories of a battlefield come to me, far to many games played, a swimming pool I should have visited more often.

 

Then I struggling, my arms gping mental without the aid of my brain, looking for an escape,a release. He’s got me. H can’t of got me. I should have him. I can still hear Jack Bauer in the background. I wonder if he  mind if I pick it up.

 

My arms are still going and I’m trying to look out my right eye to see my balaclava’s got in the way. He’s turning my face into a meatbag and I can’t stop him. His brute strength is more than any jujutsu class I ever went to.

 

I am going to die.

 

And I’m not even going to get to see it.

 

And then it stops.

 

I find myself waiting n silence. Everything seems to have stopped speaking and left the microphone near the speakers. The little light I gcan get ut of my eyes tells me nothing but blue skies are above me. Ripping it off and feeling something pierce into my cheek, I sit up to find a half hunched hunter leaning over the wall as the circuit boards fall out of my camera, the lens definitely shattered.

 

“Fuckin’ hell,” he moans, holding tightly to his forehead n case it fell off. Too busy getting up to care, I watched him as I get my breath back, looking desperately for my knife and seeing it by his feet. For some reason I reach for it and he reactsm seeig me out the corner of his eye. He steps forwards instead f backwardsa and I react too, my arms comig up to defend me and pushing him away.

 

I stretch for my knife and feel success as I grasp it, bring it upto find noone there, a deep scream filling my ears as I fall back down in exhaustion. It takes me a few seconds to grasp what’s happened and I have to appear over the edge to confirm he isn’t some sort of ninja, the mass crowd down there telling me everything.

 

I lean back, to let myself breath, knowing I could only afford a minute.. I looked o my knife, and then t his sniper rifle, his briefcase and a duffle bag I hadn’t noticed before and then I looked to the real hero of the day, my (insert price here) overly expensive, one time use only vidigital video camera.

 

Then I stare at the sky, seeing the birds finally return

 

It really was a beautiful day.

 

Notes to add: the hunter is there because it’s the tram she got off. Mention that casually previously)

 

All the birds are with lust)

 

Have her play her phone at an earlier point, probably talking with dad

TBG – Chapter Five

Chapter Five
The next morning hit pretty hard, and to make matters worsethe bed which I had slept upon did nothing to cushion the blow, the springs podding me in the backwith intent to ache. With thoughts thinking of nothing but breakfast, I slid off my slab of rock and towards where I door should have been were I not entombed within a caravan. In the next room over I heard James brushing his teeth, and wandered over to push him out of wat counted for the bathroom.

 

We didn’t stay long after that. After playing with the brief idea of heading towards the beach one last time, it was unianimously decided that it would be beter if we had headed off, whatever enthusiasm my companion had the reviosu day now having ebbed to mere cnders, were to play further but lacking the enrgy for it. I too had no other reason to stay, save for the presence of Mr. Beterman.

 

After packing up and fixing up what little we could of the our temporary den, we went to drop off the keys and finish up whatever trivials we needed to get done. James had just said that it would be okay if we left the key and got out of there but I had wanted an excuse to speak to the absence bounty. After drudging through what felt like an acre of squelching mudwe approached the onlynon wheeled housing in the park and entered to find no one there.

 

Whilst seeming a little odd for a Saturday during the tourist season, we simply figured them to be gone elsewhere and after ten or so minutes of waiting, departed the way we came, leaving the keys for whoever to pick up and an impression of ‘screw you’ if there were any problems we had forgotten about.

 

The garage returned this to us in kind.

 

“Though a little old miss, your car’s’s pretty much in erfect condition,” the large, round man with enough mass to his bulk to make me wonder however he got under the car said. “You might have to get your suspension tweaked closer to your MOT. Looks like it’s going that is.”

 

I know I hadn’t told him anything in regards to bugs, cameras or whatever other paranoid paraphanalia may have been placed on my car, but I was a little disappointed to find him mention nothing to me that sowed it.

 

“Nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever?” I inquired.

 

“Well, if you want to not mention the note you pushed into the interior of the driver’s doors,” he said with a chuckle as he produced a sheet of paper, then all I could say is that it’s just the suspension that needs looking at.

 

At least that confimed he looked in the interior for me, I noted, taking the scrap of paper on it with the words ‘Can you find me?” scrawled upon it. In all honesty I expected the man to have just tossed it aside should he find it, but luckily he seemed like the playful type himself.

 

Though on the other hand, this produced an agony for me that I could only begin to comtemplate. However, at the time I thought of relief, as it seems I might have been able to toss away the theory that I was being watched as part of some social experiement. After paying the man on my Maestro card, we departed with the car safely, with an apparent bonus of a free oil change that I didn’t notice in the slightest as thanks to aying him so much in the first place.

 

“So they’ve fixed it then?” James asked with disillusionment as we started away from the garage. Being right outside a slip road we were able to get onto the duel carriageway pretty fast and I was soon speeding passed all the slower vechicles that kept themselves in the left hand lane..  Soon I had woken up I noticed that the boy seemed a little off. He had become a lot quiter that he was yesterday, booming with excitemeny like he had just been prmotoed to leader of the earth. Now it wqas if he had discovered that th whole reason for thatwas because the real ruler wished to remain in the shadows after news of an assassination attempt and he could only do his job half heartedly.

 

I didn’t feel like pushing him to provide entertainment today. I was prettyout of it myself. Though it had suggested a few things to me, the trip overall had been a bust. I never met elusive Mr. Betterman and the people at the garage had found nothing.

 

This last bit meant nothing thogh. I had only sent my car to be looked over by specialists because I lacked my own knowledge in the field, but that didn’t mean that any cameras may have been in the car in the first place. Even worse was the fact that they may have just been paid off by whatever mastermind was behind this.

 

Woah, I stopped that line of thought right there, the more rational art of my mind grabbing the reigns before the part that looked fantasy went ravid over the possibilities. I was beginning to think that this was some psychotic mastermind who had spent years of planning to cook up such a scheme. I even think that part of me wanted it to be like that, so I would at least have an excuse to kick his ass should I ever find him at the top of his ivory ower. But no, that was foolish to mak that jump. I should try to think this through more carefully, this time without jumping assumptiuon.

 

I slowly went over what I knew, James’s playing around with the radio stations distracting me very little, even as he failed to decide between the classical station and the station that might put something good on iffwe gave it long enough.

 

The envelope came though my door with regular post, and was postmarked to have come from Sheffield at around this time, so that didn’t help. The instructions inside suggested that the ‘game’ occurs all around the United Kingdomm this…wasn’t helping at all. I needed some other kind of clue to jump at me, sme sign beyond my own little suspicious to help clarify the path that the envelope was forcing me to tread.

 

The method wasn’t exactly being helpful in determining anything, but the motive had seemed transparent. When trying to dfetermine if something had been planned by another, one shuld always checked how something benefits a person. For example, if a person who had received a lot of complaits recently  about the state of their work from other employees, one should question if this is actually te result of another employee wishing to undermind the other in the eyes of a manager who may be looking to promote somebody. Since I was being made to walk, wander and drive over a hundred miles in circles just to figure out what was going on, it made sense to see who would benefit from this.

 

The only answer,anyone who had found it amusing to watch.

 

I don’t have any major commitments at the moment, no grand tournaments to participate in, or work schedule that means anything to anyone (though if somebody else wished for my job as an administrative assistant, they were more than welcome to take it. Hell, I’d lay out a royal welcome for them, even get a red carpet out of my large sum of money for them to pose on as they take my desk. No one really needed to play me about.

 

The only other real theory was that someone was trying to play a game against me, testing my skill and wits against theres, which sort of went along the same lines as someone finding it amusing.

 

That was unlikely though.

 

Thre was never anyone around who actually did that sort of thing.

 

Everyone would be afraid of the repercussions if the other person took it too seriously.

 

And the ones who wouldn’t would be too stupid.

 

Damn!  Hy can’t the intentions just be said at the beginning. I know it would make it too easy, but it’s not like I have access to great resources. I can only figure out so much. Should I have the enveloped dusted for fingerprints and DNa sampling, use my newly aquired wealth to bribe a policemen to check it out for me. That wouldn’t be such a bad idea actually. Maybe this person’s some crazed nut who likes to play mindfucks with people.

 

No, even then I’d be taking too much of a risk. For starters I don’t actually know any policeman, or anyone who could give me such information, and if I start maintaining the stereotypical view that policemen exist in these situations to be bribed for info then I’d probably end up be using that money to pay for bail.

 

I probably should have just played along. Stalked he caravan park alone without James and pounced the second I saw anyone resembling Mr. Betterman’s picture, getting ready to rceive thetorrent of headless cameramn and anorexic television presenters jumping out of the bushes with evertyone in the entire universe behind them screaming along as the camera pans in their direction, my closest friends (most of whom I never heard of) ready to spill the beans on all of my former ex lovers and bondages fetishes.

 

I sighed deeply, spinning the wheel round a roundabout. That better not be what this results in. I have enough problems in my life without people making stuff up.

 

James exhaled besides me, pretending to be asleepto avoid me, his own boredom cancelling out any ability to engage in meaningfull conversation. He was such a child at times. He lost every card game to me last night nd spent the rest of the dark time moping about and not really wanting to do anything. He should be glad I was paying for the trip.

 

With that, my thoughts stopped so hard that I nearly pulled the car into an emergency brake, the person behind us nearly colliding head on into me like we had invited him for a discussion on the finer points of head trauma. Luckily, he merly dipped around us, blaring his horn as hard as e couldand shooting off into the distance as I tried to get back on course.

 

“Fuckin’ idiot,” James exclaimed as he got a rough idea of what’s going on. “what’s up with hiom?”

 

“Wouldn’t let him pass,” I quickly mumbled, as I searched desperately for signs to a service station.

 

***

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive?” James insisted for the second time as I strode out of the car, my eyes glancing round sharply, as if trying to pick a rabbit out of a large field.

 

“Yeah, maybe,” I said grudgingly, not really caring at the moment as my eyes centered around it. “we’ll see in a moment.” I shot off, leaving him on faithful guard duty without a musket or locked door.The only thing I can think of at this point is the intense need to check it out. There was no way it could have happened, but it seemed to be going that way.

 

I had paid with the Maestro.

 

It was another one of those ‘Link customers must pay a toll’ machines. Thi one sat outside and displayed its services prominently, waiting to sucker all customers in to get that bit of extra cash off of them.A fine example of skimming off the top really. I would hve questioned just ow much they made on these thigs were I not currentlyslamming my pin number in.

 

I waited and hit balance.

 

I hd paid the guy at the garage with my Maestro ard. It was instinctive. But I had just transferred the entire contents of the account mins tqo pound just the other day. I had no overdraft.

 

Account Balance:

 

39800.45

 

You can withdraw:

 

300.00

 

“No no no.” The words were coming ou of my mouth, though  couldn’t say I was listening to them right out. I was etting the machine to spit my card back at me as ungratefully aas it wanted for me not letting it take a bit of my account for itself.

 

A swift switch around later, and my other card was in, the Visa. I had to make sure.

 

Account Balance:

 

50450.12

 

Youmay withdraw

 

300.00

 

90250.56

Ninety thouand two hundred and fifty pounds and fifty six pence. I was now, parrantly, that much.

 

Unfortunately, I was ow stinking rich.

 

Slamming the side of the machine, I turned to see if there wa anyone watching me, before kicking it again. What did this mean? Unless I had forgot to leave a note out for myself last night, I hadn’t killed anyone. I hadn’t even met the one I was supposed to kill, hadn’t spoken to him, hadn’t learnt how to play crazy golf off of him, let alone snuck into his house quietly after stealing the key earlier on, approaching his bedside and forever quietening him with his own pillow. How could I be richer?

 

Nearly ripping the pocket out of my coat, I yanked out my mobile phone, I should still have the number of the caravan park stored in memory. If I ring it up now…

 

Part of my mind asked whether I should have been doing that at a petrol station, but it got shut up quickly as I waited for it to ring my own heartbeat completely out of rythym with the bell in the background.

 

“H-hello,” the voice of the other Mr. Betterman answered after none or so rings.

 

“Hello, Mr. betterman, it’s Gemma Maguire. We spoke yesterday. I was staying in lot 45a with my friend.”

 

“Oh..” he said, sounding far too worried than one should be when a previous customer calls.. “H-how can I help you?”

 

I don’t have a clue what I am going to say here. I can’t even say why I ushed to make the call. All I knew is that I had to ring him.

 

“Are you… Are you okay, Mr. Betterman?” I found tumbling out of my mouth. “You sound awefully upset.”

“I’-its nothing,” he insisted, sniffing loudly to himself.” Part of me felt the boom in the distance as my entire world darkened. /The other part carried on the conversation.

 

“Are you sure, Mr. Betterman?” I pushed. “You sound like you’re on the verge of tears.”

 

“W-we’ve just had a little incident, that’s all,” he relented. “On of my family members has just been killed.”

 

“Oh that’s dreaful,” I replied, amazed my throat let my words out as he continyed talking.

 

“Yes, it was my brother Frank. I- I believe I spoke to you yesterday about him. He was killed by a drunk in a hit and run accidentlast night. I can’t believe it myself He was just coming back after being away from the day, and in the car park to a Burger King, he…he.”

 

I hung up, my finger trembling against the buttonas I closed the phone. Now aware of a loud beeping, I looked to the cash machine to see it was inststing I take out my card. With a swipe I pulled it back into my purse and did my best to keep standing.

 

Part of me felt an uncontrollable urge to run, to just pick a direction where the cops would never find me and head down it for eternity. He was dead. The man who was my bounty was dead, roadkill with a cheeseburger and fries scattered in front of the main entrance, a careless driver already screaming off into the distance. How could this be?

 

And why am I getting rewarded for it?

 

Thirty Nine thousand. There was no doubt. It was the bounty reward I was to receive if I had decided to killmy target, minus current expenditure, the cash incentive to commit the unforgivable that I questioned how many would take up no matter what the reason.

 

I hadn’t been the killer.

 

Hell, I didn’t even know which Burger King it was. He could have been halfway down the motorway when it happened for all I know.

 

In fact, I was the one person it couldn’t have been. With James as my witness, there was no way I could have commited the murder. Even if I were to kill him, I figured I would hav done it by proxy.

 

Of course.

 

The printed death note in my mind, I saw that rule shine above all the others, that little specification that truly made it a game. The golden rule that earlier I had praised for its flexibility.

 

If a bounty is removed from the playing field at any time during that HuNTer’s time period, then the point of that bounty is rewarded to him and the HuNTer receives an additional amount as designated on the bounty’s profile.

 

It was during my turn.

 

Therefore, it was my kill.

 

Therefore, I am now a murderer.

 

With this settling itself heavily on my mind, I walked into the petrol station, my eyes squinting towards the camera and immediately turning away, as if every moment I was now filmed was evidence to be used against me in a court of law. I wandered over to the counter, the teenage clerk string me down like I was about to rob the joint. With haste I quickly bought five pieces of choclate, including a large slab of milk chocolate, paids for them and quickly left.

 

James drove the rest of the way back, happily tking the wheel for me it exchange for some caramel. As I cracked into the large slab, I relished in its goodness, savouring the taste as it travelled acrss my tongue, the succulent sweet liquidising under my heated breath and travelled down into my throat. I biut into it again, the cracking against my teeth feeling like  agame to see which would break first. In truth it was I who was now breaking I heard the policemen already knocking at my door, wishing to question me over my usupicious absence and work and my arrival into Scarborough, using a fake name at a caravan site and my real one at a nearby garage for some meaningless work that wouldn’t be explainable to people who actually knew how cars work. And then would come the curiousity as to why I would have such a substantial sum of money delivered to myaccount a day after the murder, and just why I travelled up there in the first place to see…

 

No!

 

This wasn’t right. Wasn’t it weird? Of all the times to get into a hit and run, it just happened to be when I was assigned him as a bounty during a game I never agreed to play. What were the chances of that? I was more likely to cause a tidal wave in Switzerland just by leaving the tap on than that happening. Well, maybe that’s a bad analogy, but it’s unlikely. And yet just convenient enough to make me start thinking this was all real.

 

Was this still part of the trick

 

My bounty dies, without me ever seeing or hearing from him. Withut so much as a hello or confirmation of his existence.

 

And then this brother just so happens to die at around the same time I would be a huge instant beneficiary should he so happen to do so for whatever reasons, if even those reasons weren’t to include me.

 

The money isn’t proof.

 

As far as I can tell, no one’s actually died yet.

 

Nice try.

TBG – Chapter Four

Chapter Four

 

Away rom the city, away from the congestion, it was amazing just how much one could forget England could be nice and relxing.

 

In Nottingham, it felt like there was never really a moments rest. There was no such thing as a quiet street there, with taxis full of students driving down every which direction at all hours and drunkards skittering the streets after coming out of the night clubs. If there was a quiet place in that city, I’ve never found.

 

And compared to these roads, where the fields of green and yellow just seem to soak up all vibrations, even the mostrelaxed deaf person in the city would feel silenced. Even driving down the A roads like this in my humming Astra was a lot more relaxing than any place I had been back at that place.

 

The person snoring next to me was reminding me of it a lot though.

 

Little James, though he was now taller than me by a clear foot and pretty much always had been, sat with his forehead pressed against the window, noozng away as the summer rays bounced upon his face. He had already been yawning before we had even set off and now his consciousness had finally left him just as we pulled onto the motorway.

 

I elbowed him awake, annoyed that I was giving him a free trip with me. I admit it didn’t matter so much since I had recently become stinking rich, but the road was beginning to get boring and I didn’t want to die peacefully in my sleep just yet.

 

“Wake up,” I commanded him once again, making sure he stayed up this time. “your whole purpose on this trip, nay, your whole existence, is solely to provide me with entertainment while I’m forced down here. You’re going to stay awake and dance for me whether you like it or not.”

 

He grumbled to himself, trying to shake himself awake as I passed over the roundabout. “This is still stupid,” he complained, thogh the smile on his face showed he didn’t care either way.

 

“Tell me about it,” I replied. “But the car needs fixing.”

 

“Couldn’t they have just shipped the parts out.”

 

“They told me the guy needed to look at it specifically or something. I don’t really know.”

 

“Should have taken it to Spencer’s,” the boy continued, keeping his eyes closed. “He always handles mine fine. That can’t have been that much of a problem with it.”

 

“You’re getting a free trip,” I gritted, full of angry sarcasm. “Sit back and enjoy the ride.”

 

“Well, that’s true,” he said, apparently content. I didn’t really like lying to him, but the alternate would have just been a cheap laugh.

 

“Hey I’ve been entered into a survival game with overly dramatic and self contradicting rules, and it turns out I may have to kil this guy in Scarborough. At first I thought it was just some dumb prank played by those with less intelligence than you but then I got fifty k in my bank account and now I can’t tell. And since the whole event is turning me into a deranged paranoid nut, I’m getting a total stranger to check my car for any bugs or camera just in case it’s all one big reality television prank. Don’t you worry though,’ I’d say with a reassuring grin, ‘I’ve already transferred the money across banks so I don’t get screwed and am certainly not going to Scarborough to kill the man in question.”

 

…Though James probably would react by launching himself out the car dor. That alone would be worth it…and then I don’t have to worry about witnesses either.

 

Seriously though, I chose a garage in Scarborough as an excuse, to see if this man really existed.

 

Was I also plotting on killing him?

 

Of course, I’d like to say it was just stupid, but I think a part of me would like to consider just how far I could get. The idea of stalking into that caravan park that Mr. Betterman owned, engaging in a friendly chat with him in the afternoon and stealing away to his bedroom at night. I could get in by procuring the spare key from when I was talking to him earlier and make notes on all the sounds in the house that might wake him up. There, upon ditching James, who’d make a nice alibi if I leave him when sleeping. I could get into his house like I owned the place and tiptoe my way into his room, just to see if I could get my hands round his neck, watch as his eyes bug open and he tries to hit me futilely in his half awake state, before the life slowly passes from him and that money becomes mine.

 

What would I do then? Would I just leave him there, replace the keyas if it were never gone and walk out of the house. Perhaps I’d hide it somewhere in his house, to make it look like he lost it and couldn’t lock it that night. Maybe I’d sneak the body into my car, drive it down to the ocean and let the waves take care of the rest. I’d have to weigh the body down I guess. Maybe I could steal a boat and bring him as far out as I could, before using whatever items I could find in his house and weighing him down with them, casting him to the bottom of the sea for no one to see.

 

I guess I could do that, not that I was actually plotting to kill him.

 

We drove the rest of the way peacefully, discussing the merits of the balance system on members of the Futabatei tribe.

 

***

 

After leaving the car at the garage, we wandered through the town of Scarborough for a bit. Here, we look like any set of tourists that were dangling about the area. I always wondered if the townsfolk could actually tell the difference between natives and tourists. I suppose it’s a lot harder here than in Hawaii, where the newbies are covered in white skin, but they must be able to tell by the way we get lost easily.

 

The garage guy must have thought I was nuts now I think about it. I had told him to pretty much rip the car up and put it back together again, leaving out anything that shouldn’t be there. This wasn’t some airfix kit, after all. The only reason he was willing to do something that cracked up was because of the large pile of cash he received doing it.

 

Which meant we now had a whole day to burn away in the resort town. I was glad t get a day off, even if I couldn’t afford to waste it, but this may have been more important than other things. It was just a good job I had some company this time.

 

“So where d you wanna go?” James asked me, already eroding an ice cream cone with his tongue, attacking those white cliffs of cream with centuries of torrented in an instant.

 

“I guess we should head for the caravan park first,” I said, playing with my own twister. “Well dump whatever we don’t need and then find something to do.”

 

“Fair enough,” he replied far too easily, and we set off down the town sights of scarborough, which were a lot less interesting than the sites of China, Russia pr even Majorca when I got dragged along with my parents lat year. Whilst their streets bore a suprising similarity to this English market streets, it was just made that extra bit interesting by the building architecture and general differenceness of it all. This was like being in town on a market day, though I guess Nottingham didn’t have market days. The only difference was the arcades that James might pull me into if I let up for one moment.

 

“No,” I replied, before he even got chance to open up his mouth. “We can go play in there once we get to the caravan site.

 

The caravan site was about two miles away from where we were, and by the time we got there I was about ready to insist that James carry me, knowing full well that with his skinny legs he would snap if so much as a slight breeze passed his…

 

“well, hello there,” I forze as I heard the voice coming from rounds the corner, apparently this one was of those people with x-ray vision I had heard so much about, or perhaps it was just obvious when people came in. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Mr. Betterman.”

 

The man standing before me is not Francis Betterman. This guy has black hair (which looked natural) and what I think are hazel eyes, though definitely not green. Even on the off chance that he might have dyed and completely changed his style before popping in some contact lenses, his face was all wrong, and a few years youngers.

 

“erm…” I began muttering, immediately feeling suspicious of myself. It would look bad if I told him he was not Mr. Betterman, but what do you say to the person who is clearly not who they say they are. “I could hardly point at him with an accusatory finger, rip off his mask and say, “you’re not Mr. Betterman. Youre the guy who runs the amusement park: Mr. Werewolf.’ Hell, that’ll just be weird.

 

“Hi,” James continued for me. “We’ve booked a caravan. Under Conno…”

 

“Maguire,” I quickly interrupted, confusing the James Irons next to me. “I put it under Maguire.”

 

“Ah yes, Ms. Maguire,” he confirmed, checking the register, apparently not noticing the misinformation between me and James. If you’d just like to sign here…”

 

I did so, with a signature I spent a little time at work forging yesterday. Withou a day inbetween the practice session it ddn’t come off as smooth as I liked but he seemed satisfied with it. “Do I pay now,” I said, pulling out my card and hoping in the same moment that he doesn’t check the name on it. With asonding luck  found he had no need to and the bill was out of the way straight away.

 

“So, are you two here for the weekend then?” he asked us jovially as we wandered in and out the haphazardly placed caravans, swarms of children and old couples occasionally passing us as the people in the middle did the smart thing and move very little or reveal how drunk they got last night.

 

“Ah yes, something like that,” I mumbled, trying to think up some question to ask him that might explain what was going on here. I admit it wasn’t too much of a priority, but I would like to confirm that the man in the picture existed before I went back home. “Is it a nice area?”

 

“Scarborough?” he asked confused, making me regret phrasing it wrong. “Yeah, it’s not bad. I’ve lived here all my life really and…”

 

God, that must be terrible for you.

 

“…I’d say I’ve always been happy here. There’s plenty for you to do, that’s for sure. What are you into?”

 

Almost answering truthfully, I realized he meant holiday preferences and decided mainly to mention arcades. There was nothing really here that I was concerned about.”

 

“Ah, plenty of those. You’ll find them scattered all down the coastline and everywhere you go. Anywhere else?”

 

Feeling like I was in an RPg and speaking to the funny guy who stands at the front of every village I tired suggesting things to him that might make him mention his family, but it seems that the man was too ritualized around the holiday guests and mentioned nothing about himself. Instead my ears were force fed a ton of tourist spewage that obviously wouldn’t fit in the tiny ear drum holes and fell right back out. This wasn’t what I needed to know. Didn’t they say this was a family run business? Maybe he was elsewhere.

 

“Do you play golf yourself?” asked James, huffing and puffing and feeling lonely at the back with all our luggage, despersately trying to remain in the conversation.

 

“Not so much myself,” replied Mr. Betterman, after a few seconds of careful, unnecessary thinking. “Golf’s always been my brother’s thing. He’s crap at it though, can only do the crazy gold things.”

 

“Really?” I replied, glad that James had earned his keep from me in just one sentence. “Do you think he could teach me how to play. I’ve never been that good.”

 

“Well, he’s on his way back tomorrow, so you might get a chance if you’re lucky…”

 

I didn’t have any intention of being here that long tomorrow thinking about it. My main aim was to leave as soon as I had the car checked out and be back in time for the role lay session. But if I stayed for just the morning… I doubt the man had any intention of asking his brother if a random nobody wanted a golf game with him but it would nly require that I meet up with him and…

 

I stopped talking as we reached the caravan.

 

“You say he’ll be back tomorrow?”

 

***

 

Well, at the very least, if he’s back by tomorrow I won’t feel any major compulsion to kill him tonight. That was definitely for the best.

 

Accrding to the envelope, the turn ended tonight at midnight. I hadn’t thought about it much but the possibility of Mr. Betterman being away because he was ALSO participating in the game had occurred to me.

 

If this envelope game thing were real, to the point where other people besides myself were getting envelopes pushed through their doors by reality television producers, it wuldn’t be too impossible to assume that some of them would be tempted by the money, or made curious by the suggestions and had stole away from their families and friends to commit the unforgivable.

 

In all seriousness I had no intention of trying it out. The last thing I wanted was to be seconds away from making the biggest mistake of my life only to have the aforementioned morons of tv pop out and humiliate me in front of thousands, though I would get a chance to test out my theory that the amera turns innocent cilivians into deranged, high pitched screaming bisexuals that were ‘up for anything’ and were ‘right bitches’ every time it was panned in on them and transmittered to the channel four television station.

 

Of course, if that did happen, I would no longer be able to care about it, my IQ reduced to single digits in microseconds.

 

But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t. A human has the foolish ability to be capable of anything, given enough time or effort, and to be convinced to do anything through careful rationalization. ‘Just how many people received envelopes?’ was one of the first thigs I thought. If it wasn’t just me, how long before someone gives themselves the answer, “It could be hundreds doing it, and they’re all out there killing. Surely if I’m smart I’d get away with it.”

 

And with that excuses, that pitiful rationalization that has made men into everything from top scientists to child rapists, they all stroll out, one by one, to kill on another.

 

Maybe even telling themselves it’s not what they want to do. That they’re just going to check it out. See if this person really exists. Maybe they thought that they’d talk to the person, see if they had received a similar envelope and I am clearly thinking of myself when I go along these lines of thoughts… That’s kinda scary.

 

I wonder, how much would it take me for me to kill someone?

 

Wuld I even kill someone for money? It’s not like I went nuts buy stuff for this trip.

 

“And it’s still your move,” James cried out, modulating his voice in that annoying manner he had mastered since the day he popped out of the toaster. “what are you so nervous about?”

 

“Oh… it’s nothing,” I said, looking away to the cold hard floor of the caravan. The table had been too small for our decks, and since we weren’t a rocking caravan, it was suitable for getting a full game in before we retired for the night.

 

James seemed to bug out for a second, shifting his own body and trying to get more comfortable. He was eyeing me strangely now, as I went for my next three cards.

 

What was he thinking? I wasn’t that suspicious with my actions was I? I had thought about telling him of the game from the beginning, as I’m pretty sure James was one I could trust with keeping I a secret, but I had abandoned that when he agreed to go on the trip with me. No matter what reason I had for this, there was no real reason for him to come down here with me, unless of course he was in on the joke.

 

The reality television theory was sounding more and mor stupid now i went on with it. Pretending to send people into space was one thing, but this could have an unprecedented reaction if done wrong. All it took was a psycho looking for a reason and enough cunning to stay one step ahead of the television crew and they’d be a national scandal about how channel four were paying people to kill. I know they love how easy it is to make these shows and how theidiots flood to found out who’s having drug infested orgies with which terrorist, but murder should have been out of the question.

 

“Are…you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” he asked, looking down.

 

“If you’re thinking that I’m planning to utlize the Doppler effect to replicate the train cards, then you’re probably wrong,” I replied, intending to do just that and being curious now in seeing if I could get away with it.

 

“Oh…no,” he repelied, staring hard at his cards. That’s weird. He only does that when he’s not actually looking at them. “So you didn’t…” but he trailed off and I grounded myself for whatever wordplay he was trying on with me, preparing my thundering effect for the nex turn.

TBG – Chapter Three

Chapter Three

 

With reasonably startling success, I was able to iron a fresh set of work clothes this morning.

 

I even added a coffee stain to reward myself for getting it done with enough time to get to work.

 

And because I had been extra good, I even gave myself a bonus trip to the petrol station because I completely forgot last night.

 

My dad’s old Astra pulled into the station to have a destined encounter with a  arare free space. Getting out, I quickly headed for the pump. I had no idea how much money I could afford to waste so it made sense to just fill it up as much as I good so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while. I should really sell some stuff. I have some collectibles that are worth a week’s paycheck easily.

 

Even so, it was all kind of temporary until I got a real job, I thought, injecting liquid movement into my car. Times like this I wish I had just taken the job offer with that company, but moving would have been too much of a drag on the whole thing.

 

Getting a job wasn’t really a concern anyway.  Such a thing was a bother unless it was fun, and as I learned yesterday, at least with this job I can fall asleep and do what I want to.

 

As the fuel started coming back out, I replaced the handle, barely glancing at the thrity five pound meter and heading for the cashier. If I were to get a proper job, I’ll need something that pays a lot. I’m sure I could easily get a thirty grand job. Maybe I’ll apply for one today.

 

“Number two please,” I said, flashing my card.

 

“Ah, I’m afraid the card reader’s broken,” the man on the other side replied, his accent impenetrable in my preconscious state.

 

“Uh oh…” I looked to my purse, barren except for a sandstorm of copper. “I don’t have anything.”

 

“The cash machine’s over there.” He pointed to the link machine in the corner of the shop and moved to the customer behind me. He could at least have said that first. It just had to be the type of morning everyone is trying to stop you from doing the things that, under a rational mind, you weren’t even consider doing in the first place, even if you were to get paid for them…which I did I guess.

 

The Link machine stared back at me, the grime where a sticker once sat making it not at all inviting. I never understood why I had to pay extra with these things. Why is it the people who did business wit these things just happened to decide on charging Link users and no one else. What made their business so different that they had to charge an extra 1.50 that was subject to inflation.

 

I hd no choice really. Questioning whther this was some kind of scam set up for the people at the petrol station, I went ahead with getting money out, also checking my balance in the process. I had already wasted five minutes here. A little longer and I may have got into trouble.

 

But that was when everything had stopped.

 

Your account balance is:

 

50,263.55

 

You are able to withdraw:

 

300.00 (CHECK)

 

Everything took a back seat then, letting the body drive itself in automatic for a change, heading back to the cashier and paying without any worries anymore. Slowly, I hovered back to my purple Atra, slipping back into the seat and diriving, heading straight into the traffic jam and stopping again.

 

With the feeling I had left a sizable portion of my brain at the petrol station, I looked to the print out I had got myself:

 

Receipt goes here

 

Direct Debit         -25

Direct Debit         -150

Direct Debit         -35

Work                    180.00

Transfer 50,000

Current total: 50,263.55

 

Fifty thousand two hundred and sixty three pounds and fifty five pence. I hovered forwards with the rest of my car. That was impossible. A mistake with the bank? That was annoying. If I had to go somewhere just because they messed up with the account settings on the computer…

 

But no… it couldn’t be.

 

The envelope?

 

Players picked will receive an envelope when they enter the game. This envelope is the one you have been provided with. It contains a map of Britain, this rule sheet, your profile chart, and the profile chart of your first bounty that you, as a HUNTER, must target. At around the time you receive your first envelope, a total of fifty thousand British pounds will be placed into one of your bank or building society accounts and you will be considered ‘in the Game’ to all other players.

 

It has to be.

 

It’s too close.

Indicating, I slip into off the road and into a Sainsbury car park, amazed to see so many people already shopping there this early in the morning, as well as more kids than there should have been with their parents.

 

The envelope said fifty thousand pounds would be put into my account.

 

Now I happen to be quite rich.

 

Hell with this I wouldn’t have to work for at least three years.

 

But what does it mean?

 

If I have the money, it means I’m ‘in the game.’ If I’m in the game, it meansthat this isn’t some role play or assassin guild thing set up, it means that…

 

Someone is actually paying me to kill someone.

 

It was a crazy possibility, but it wasn’t impossible. Ripley’s game had something like this, didn’t it. A perfectly innocent man was hired to kill by ripley, just to see what would happen. So…was I chosen at random. Is this… no.

 

No.

 

Don’t be so stupid. Don’t just start thinking that this is true. Regardless of what the world talks to itself about nowadays, people aren’t getting whacked left and right by hitmen hired by Italian gangsters. The majority of that is influenced by Brooklyn level television dramas where people throw crazy euthunisms at each otherlike they were reincarnations of a Shakespeare play.

 

But then again, it’s not like the television dramas started it. It was actually started by assassins and hitmen. As long as there were humans, they were people who killed humans and people who wanted humans to be killed. Sometimes they existed separately from each other, the one who wanted not wanting to get their hands dirty. And so these two peoples were always brought together with currency.

 

That has to be a more likely explanation.

 

But no one I know is rich enough to just toss cash out like that.

 

Especially since they know I won’t give it back.

 

I’m gonna be really late for work here.

 

So somebody’s thrown me into a situation where I’ve been asked to ‘remove my bounty’. And in order to reinforce it they have actually given me the fifty thousand they said I would. My friends are too poor, no matter how I think it. Unless they won the lottery, but would any of them actually bother setting up such a thing just to celebrate?

 

None of my friend’s are Italian gangasters, are they?

 

Maybe it’s some kind of psychological experiment. I could see that happening in unethical situations. Right now some scientist is getting a buzz out of seeing some innocent girl thinking whether or not she should kill someone for money.

 

Reality television? I had stopped watching Big Brother after the third season (and even that was only when forced) but this type of social reaction scenario is the type of thing that would occur on these types of shows, bringing innocent people into strange situations. The crowds would really get off on it, seeing what such a situation would drag somebody. A big time tv show would also have the moolah to blow on making it seem more real, the large cash incentive showing the severity of the the envelopes claims..

 

Would they really do something like that? It was dangerous. Hell, I could think of at least five ways on the spot I could take out Mr. Betterman without even being near him. One of them they have even provided me the funds for hiring someone else to kill him for me. Were they waiting for me to just wander up to him with a knife and just when I’m about to throw the killing stab I’d have Davina McCall burst out of the bushes and surprise me with my friends and family who had ‘been in it all along,,’ as I stood next to the severely wounded Mr. Betterman, who laughed and chuckled along with me as I finally realized I had been duped by an entire nation

 

Like I’d ever let that happen.

 

But if that line was true,they would need footage for their show, which means cameras might be watching me right now. Hll, my car might even be bugged right now.

 

Stepping out as if the vehicle was about to explode, I began to methodically check the entire automobile. I know there were cameras in the parking lot, but they couldn’t have known I was going to stop off here, and the car park itself were deserted except for a few employee cars, empty as far as I could see.

 

No helicopters above either. No, my car would be the best way to keep track of me.

 

***

 

I strolled into work half an hour late, reintroducing myself to everyone as I did everymore, and receiving ungrudgling passive responses. Exhaling loudly to myself, I made everyone look away until I fell down into my seat.

 

Someone could at least say something. I’m half an hour late. I look exhausted. I just spent the last half an hour peering over my car and getting strange looks from people who are at a supermarket oo early for their own good.Don’t just disavw my existence with a statemtn of how splendid the beginning of this day is.

 

..

 

No. No one’s going to say anything.

 

No  bugs are the car. I feel especially paranoid for doing sch a through check of the seating and windscreen mirror. Maybe I should contact a garage and get them to look at it through and through for me. It’s not like I don’t have the cash now.

 

It didn’t mean I was only being watched there though. They may not even be watching me at all at the moment. Perhaps they hadn’t figured I would check my account so soon or at that place. Maybe they were just waiting in Scarsborough for me to show up in a blind, money fueled rage.

 

But even if they hadn’t, surely there would be some sign for me to know I’m being watched. I’d have to rip the house apart tonight. If something was there, I’d find and expose it, ruin their whole little game for them. Do they honesty think they could set me up for a trick like this. Whether it’s a friend, scientists or channel four, I’ll find and take ‘them’ out for making me put up with their crap.

 

I breathed deeply, drinking stale water from yesterday and catching myself. A manic reaction wasn’t going to score me brownie points with whoever was doing this and it certainly wouldn’t allow me to find a way to not make a fool of myself I needed to think this through.

 

A few moments later, I retreated to the staircase, where I called Trent Motors for a check up on my car. They were in Scarsborough.

TBG – Chapter Two

Chapter Two

 

It was very convincing.

 

The photos were a nice touch.

 

But then I remembered photoshop existed.

 

I had done something like this myself, constantly in fact. Editing pictures was easy with that program. Layers and filters paved ways to completely ruin photography as a form of forensic evidence. Relaxing back to work, I put it in the back of my mind as I got back to what little work I actually had.

 

It sounded interesting. They had done something similar back when I was in University. An assasin’s guild, where you had to ‘kill’ the target assigned to you. I had missed the chance to register back when it had begun, but every so often you’d see signs of it. Onew person would jump at another with a cardboard knife, or insert a piece of paper with ‘poison’ written on it into someone’s sandwich. It was pretty interesting until everybody got bored of it within the first two weeks.

 

This apparently was taking itself more seriously it seems.

 

Maybe it was George from uni, posting a new copy of the game to me. That would make sense. George had the amzing ability to actually remember people’s birthdays and even I wasn’t sure of my height and weight, so all he had to do was guess. Since he had photos of me back from the trip to France, he could easily edit them andcheck the colour of my eyes.

 

Of course, George hadn’t contacted me since uni. He still had a few things of mine from the last wargame he coerced me into playing. Was it too out of the blue to contact me about this, though it could be others. Even Jason or Tim were likely to do something like this, and all they’d have to do is post it and wait… Maybe that’s why Tim was willing to go that far with the game?

 

That makes sense. Though of course I doubt anyone left me any sort of clue as to who actually sent it. There’s at least ten people it could be that I know of, and all of them could have got this data. And since one or two of them had to know about my scars by now even that doesn’t help.

 

If I could figure out where the photo’s had been taken…

 

Examining the mugshoits again, I saw nothing particulqaar about any of them, except that iw as devoid of emotion, my eyes staring blankly forward. It must be how I looked every morning coming into work. The background was a dark blue background, with no gradiants except for my own shadow, meaning there was a light in front of me. I studied it hard for a few moments.

 

Pointlesly of course.

 

I sighed. It’s not like I was going to find a hidden clue trapped somewhere in there. Some hidden logo in the background that would have showed my exact location at the time. Even the white collar of my shirt was far too generic to say which one of the seven that I owned it could have been. Well, it wasn’t the one with the blackcurrent stain at least.

 

I wasn’t wearing either of my pairs of glasses in the picture either, the old (brand) or the new (brand). No jewellery. No makeup. Not that I wore much. Nothing that allowed me to see when the pictures had been taken beyond the last year or so.

 

How could a picture be so suspiciously absent of any defining traits except that it’s me?

 

Of course, photoshop was possible for doing this, so it means that the person doing it went to the effort because he knew I could find out.

 

Even so, that doesn’t narrow it down.

 

The rules were just as unhelpful, except in their primary aim of telling me what they wanted to. The syntax of the piece was scattered, going from technical to glorifying complicated and overly dramatic. The person most likely to do that would have been me, but perhaps James and Tim as well. James is more likely. He would have also sent it to me before sending it to anybody else.. I don’t think Tim got a similar envelope, though that doesn’t mean anything.

 

Each turn consists of a set time period given at the start of the turn.” So that would mean the game had already started then, though of course if you’re depending on the postal service to deliver the envelope some people would get a few hours head start than others.  That can’t be helped I guess, if the person who’s doing it is trying to be anonymous

 

And a person is assigned a bounty that has also been assigned a bounty? And so on and so forth? So that means that hunters are being hunted just as much. It is like the Assassins’ guild game then, though it also doesn’t actually mention killing. It just says Remove. Is it trying to be clever. It’s quite flexible though.

 

If a bounty is removed from the playing field at any time during that HuNTer’s time period, then the point of that bounty is rewarded to him and the HuNTer receives an additional amount as designated on the bounty’s profile.

 

That’s not a bad rule. It basically says you can do whatever you like in wehatever manner, and as long as that person dies, you get the kill. It also prevents people killing those that they don’t need to kill, since they won’t get points for them, while at the same time leaving the option alone without penalty. That’s kind of cool. I could actually make another hunter kill my bounty for me, then I’d get the cash and…

 

And now I’m actually taking it seriously.

 

Whoever sent it could at least of told me how we were playing it. Are we doing role play or just another assasin’s guild game. I like both, but I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment where I can’t be paranoid thinking Bob is going to thrown a paper bag saying 1000tonnes at me and score a point.

 

If it’s a role play, I’ve got to make a character, and I don’t even know what rules to base it on. So annoying. It had nice shock value but just leaves me frustrated.

 

I took a few minutes off work to make some texts, asking everyone I knew who sent me the game,making a point not to sound annoyed and whiney, and more ‘wishing to know more’.  I’m definitely making an Appleby character if that’s what we’re doing, but I only have Saturday nights off at the moment…

 

“Jenn,” someone said behind me. I turned with perfect grace to stare at Sue. “Can I see you for a moment?”

 

“Sure.”

 

***

 

At the tabletop session, no one had a clue what I was talking about.

 

“So no one sent me an envelope about a game. Anyone?” A general murur of passive disagreement filled the meeting hall. A few of the people I suspected weren’t there, now living about a hundred miles away, and it was disappointing not to get a swift answer. No one looked like they were trying hard to hide a smile or pressing the issue further to help show their ‘ignorance’.

 

“What was it about?” James asked besides me, carefully touching up a Grim Stormrider for me with his collection of aptly named paints.

 

“Never mind,” I replied, not wanting to give too much away in case someone revealed themselves. “It was probably just a prank. If I amuse it too much, then we’ll be getting real life spam for it.”

 

“I thought we already had that,” piped Tim, now fully awake and wishing to go back to sleep.

 

“Well, more idiotic spam then.”

 

“We have that too,” he muttered between the pages of his Technicators novel. “Got one from Singapore the other day. It was amazing how this one rich, dead billionaire just happened to have my exact name. So amazing in fact that the person who wrote the letter requesting my aid and bank details must have forgotten to write in down on account of being so shocked.”

 

We began play shortly after that, and I attempted a progressive march with my stormriders against Jason’s Dark Cattle Brigade, my opponent using his naturally comedic army to its best advantage, a simple forward charge with half of his squads, leaving behind the rest in reserve and artilary. I let him go so far, doing my best not to make light of the fact that my fastest riders were on both my flanks, ready to spread out.  It paid off, and only the effects of the great hamburger spirit prevented him from getting completely crushed for around five more turns. His hoof burners removing twenty units of my front liners before they were overrun.

 

“You’re good, Jenn,” Jason told me on the way home. “you should really try going to some of the competitions sometime. You might actually be able to win.”

 

There was nothing more painful than being told such a thing by someone who had only ever won against you when he was teaching you how to play.

 

“I don’t have time nowadays,” I replied, sounding frustrated. “I barely have enough time for this sort of thing.”

 

“I know what you mean. If I hadn’t stayed for my masters degree I would have never time for this. Even now I forced to work most nights, and I have to give tutorials Monday and Thursday morning.”

 

He had certainly improved, I thought to myself as the inane banter, as I poked fun at him for his shortcomings and freshman assignees and it wasn’t too long before we all split up after that, James following me and Tim only so far as he tried to get comments about his paintings from me. As always though, he had done a good job, and I only teased him for it, the three of us chasing each other down the streets for some time until it was time to part ways.

 

***

 

When I got home, the envelope fell into my sight once again, laying on the bed next to my figurine army. I watched it for a few seconds, epecting it to grow tired of me and start doing cleaning itself or something, before I dashed forwards and grabbed it, looking through the rules again

 

Bounties are assigned randomly to each HuNTer. Therefore, a bounty may have two or more HuNTers assigned to him. They may also have no bounty placed upon them for a turn. However, Bounties will not be informed if this has occurred or not.

 

Bounties will not be informed of the identity of their HuNTer.

 

Do not worry. All Bounties are aware of the rules of the Game.

 

If a HuNTer decides not to hunt their bounty, or fails to remove their bounty from the playing field at the end of their turn, then they will not score any points for that round but will still be included in the next round.

 

There is no penalty for not participating. A player will still however, be allocated their turns.

 

A turn will still be allocated to a player even if you leave the country for an extended period past your last turn.

 

That was sort of a contriduction of itself, I noticed as I passed the multiple hunters to one bounty rule. Surely if that rule went into effect, it would mess up the rule about the bounty just needing to die in order for you to get the points. Who gets the points if several hunters go for them. The obvious would be the one who ‘removes’ the bounty, but then that prevents another hunter from getting any credit for any manipulation they may do to the other hunter.

 

Shaking my head free of being overly critical, I got back to thinking it through.It was unlikely that anyone at the session tonight was responsible for this, since they’d be no point in hiding it if they did actually want to play it. Though saying that, I would have thought others would have received similar envelopes as well. Perhaps this is supposed to be a joke on me.

 

If it’s not, that leaves George, Phil and…very unlikely, Vicki who were still at uni. Only Phil had replied to the text messages I had sent, denying it of course, the klepto would hide it for as long as he could, so that wasn’t helpful. This was getting annoying without any more information…

 

Of course…

 

For some dramatic reason, I realized I hadn’t looked at the forth sheet of paper yet and pulled it out of the confines of the envelope. Printed upon it was my supposed bounty.

 

Turn: 01

 

Turn period ends at:  …day…month…year.11:59pm

 

Name: Francis Betterman

 

Age::32

 

D.O.B: 16/10/1968

 

Height: 5ft 9

 

Weight: 13st

 

Natural hair colour: Brown

 

Natural eye colour: Green

 

Other distinguishing marks: Double Chin

 

Sizes:

 

Shoe sizes: size twelve

 

Prescribed accessories: Hearing aid

 

Bounty:40,000

 

Since I didn’t have an addressed, it was easy to assume that was supposed to be part of the challenge. Find the bounty and eliminate him. The rules made it easier for me, since I knew he could only be in United Kingdom, but that didn’t exactly narrow it down.

 

Then again, I may not be looking for a person here.

 

I didn’t know Francis Betterman at all. Have never seen him and never heard of him. Until this moment, as far as I was aware, this guy didn’t exist.

 

And he may still not exist.

 

What if  it’s a special code of some kind, the identity of the one behind all this. The surname does kind of clue me ain about it. A narracistic trick for me to fall for. If that’s the case, then there’s no one else in the game and this is directed at me by Phil. Lifting myself off the bed, I nudged the mouse and got it to wake up the computer, about fifteen conversation windows springing up at me. I got rid of them all and headed for Google.

 

Now I couldn’t say I made a habit of this at all, but it’s amazing how fast you can find someone online nowadays. A lot of people who don’t use the net would think it’s obvious, because almost everyone has data online, but those who do use the net know that this turns it around. There’s too much data on the net. Typing in my name alone gets me about seventeen entries before I find anything about myself and even that requires a bit of pot luck mixed in with paitient deep searching. But knowing where to look, you can find people. I wish I could say it involves secret haxxorz techniques But going onto telephone directory websites is a great start.

 

Fifteen minutes later and I had the young, middle aged man staring in front of me along with his wife at a caravan park in Scarsborough. He ran the place apparently, along with the rest of his family.

 

That just made it confusing.

 

The person did actually exist.

 

No one I knew came from Scarsborough.

 

Perhaps they had been there in the past or something, and decided randomly to pick this guy to confuse me. Or perhaps they did want me to go up there and actually shiv the guy with a cardboard cut out in front of all his customers.

 

Whatever it was, I spent the rest of the night digging up info on him, and trying to figure out where the envelope came from. It was postmarked Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which I had never been to, so that was no help.

 

I gave up at quarter to midnight, my brain remembering that it hadn’t slept the night before, and collapsing me onto the bed in my clothes. I’d have to change tomorrow anyway. Hopefully, I could actually have an opportunity to iron this time.

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