In the kitchen, Lena opened the fridge, and some cupboards, to make it look like we were there for a snack. Leo and I kept watch while Eric quickly scribbled a copy of the list. We could have just taken it, but that might have alerted the others to its possible importance.
Leo watched the staircase, in case somebody came up, while I kept an eye on the two girls, hoping that they weren’t paying too much attention to what we were doing.
– “Pretzels! Alright.” said Eric. He took the whole bag.
I don’t think that our feigned nonchalance fooled Eliza and Sheila, but we got back outside with the list – and the pretzels.
– “OK, Eric? What’s this idea of yours?” I asked.
– “Ten of us on the list. Teresa deliberately left herself off. And everybody has a number. Anybody else notice that she always distributed the clues in the same order?”
– “Yeah. I saw that. It has to be important.” I said.
Eric scratched his ass.
– “Really?” said Leo. “And now you’re going to stick that hand in the bag of pretzels?”
– “I’m left-handed.” said Eric. “Anyway. The list. What if the numbers represent the order of the letters?”
– “Oh! Yes.” said Lena.
Eric started scribbled some more. I stopped him. “Here, Sherlock – give me that pen. Nobody else can read your handwriting, except me.” I wrote what we knew.
3. LEO E
7. ERIC E
9. LENA O
10. COLIN C
We all stared at it for a while. Leo was the first to admit defeat.
– “I don’t see it. We need more letters.”
– “Wait.” I said. “Lena and I found out that the word ‘THE’ is probably in there.” I reminded them of the French tea clue.
– “Could be 1-2-3, then.” said Eric. “Or 5-6-7.”
– “How many words end in ‘OC’, though?” I asked.
– “Havoc.” said Eric. “Doc. Roc. Tic Toc. Postdoc.”
Leo looked at him as if he had completely lost his mind.
“What?” said Eric. “Scrabble rules.”
– “I don’t know if postdoc is a word.” I said. “Manioc is. But I don’t think manioc will help us find the treasure.”
– “Tic toc might.” suggested Leo. “It could be in the clock. Or behind the clock.”
– “Shit, I’m stupid.” said Eric. “That means you guys are, too, of course. We forgot the 12 Apostles hint. What if there are twelve letters?”
– “Where? At the beginning? Or at the end?” asked Leo.
– “If they’re at the end, that solves the manioc-tictoc problem.” I said.
– “If they’re at the beginning, then it doesn’t start with ‘THE’.” added Eric.
We tried many combinations, trying twelve letters with three words. At first, we just came up with stupid phrases that made sense. Then we made ourselves laugh. But after a while, we started to get frustrated.
“Let’s have a drink.” suggested Eric. “I’m missing something. Just can’t see it.”
– “Or we could get some sleep. Come at it fresh in the morning.” said Leo.
– “I will sleep.” announced Lena. I volunteered all three of us to escort her inside. My paranoia was starting to get the better of me. I had ‘wisions’ of her getting kidnapped by the bad guys. Once in her room, Lena would be safe with Teresa. Leo and Eric shared a room, so they would be OK, too. That just left me on my own.
Sheila and Eliza were still up, knocking back what was left of a bottle of red wine. Once Lena was safely settled, Eric and I went upstairs with Leo.
We all heard the noises coming from Barbara’s room. The wooden frame of the bunk bed was repeatedly hitting the wall. All three of us stopped. We could clearly hear her voice, from behind the door: “Yeah, yeah … yeah …”. Apparently we weren’t in danger of being ambushed – at least, not at that particular moment.
The little minx! I had fucked her twice only a few hours ago. And here she was, going at it again. It had to be Ben in there with her.
– “Same as last night.” whispered Leo.
Eric and I wished him a good night, and quietly made our way back downstairs. I grabbed another beer, while Eric mixed himself a rum and coke. We joined Ee and Sheila, and drank a toast to their health.
If I had hoped to draw them into our alliance, it wasn’t to be. They were both drunk, and well into the silly stage. Truth be told, Eric and I weren’t making much sense either.