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So, What Happened Was...

by Eileen Kos about a year ago in fiction
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.or "Run for the Roses."

Charlotte asked, “What do you think of this?” She did a half-jump toward Quinn.

Quinn regarded Charlotte’s derby dress and hat with admiration. “You are a knockout, and I believe you are a worthy competitor for the ‘Run for the Roses’ award”

Charlotte blushed. “Is the hat okay? It's not too much, right? It'll keep me cool if we're knocking back a few Mint Juleps Park-side.”

Quinn responded with, “Yup. It’s perfect. Honestly, I have no idea what happens afterward, but I do hope drinks are involved” she grinned. “The whole experience sounds pretty trippy.​ A combo masquerade scavenger hunt prize money to boot! What could go wrong?” She laughed.

“Take a look at the flier by the bed. It’s the instructions plus the hints/items to collect, and the characters that we‘re to portray which is why, for this event, we are called 'The Derby Dolls'.​ Said Quinn pointing toward the nightstand. “It a perfect way to accommodate our necessary awareness of safe distancing and some of the costumes also include masks! That’s as safe as it gets until this pandemic is over.”

“Okay! Let me put on my costume, then we'll head toward the park!” Quinn announced with a broad smile, “Oh and I've saved the best for last. I can’t wait for you to see it!

“Really?” Charlotte chuckled in appreciation of her friend’s good nature. “In that case, GO! butt up Buttercup. Let’s get moving!”

Quinn bumped around the closet for a while but finally, she burst forth from the closet “Well? What do you think?” She was wearing orange Jodhpurs with the requisite neon green silks. “The ‘Dapper Derby Dudette’ has arrived!". She proclaimed.

“Wow! Those are amazing!” said Charlotte, gesturing toward the Jodhpurs. “Where did you come up with those? “

“You know, those pawn shops down on third? They've got some incredible treasures, but each one has a tragic history.” Quinn shrugged. “I hope these silks won’t stir up some bad Juju.”

“Don’t go getting all negative on me”, said Charlotte, pulling Quinn's hand toward the open door “I’m excited to see this surprise you have been promising. Let’s get going before I have to start burning sage to counteract that bad energy, you’re putting out here.”

Charlotte was focused on locking up behind them and she didn’t notice Quinn slip away and quietly move a vehicle from the garage. As Charlotte turned, she let out a scream.

“The surprise is the car? Where did you find that?” She turned her eyes to the new Aston Martin Roadster now parked in the driveway. “Please, tell me that you bought THAT from the pawnshop”, she chortled.

“I wish,” said Quinn. “I borrowed it from my uncle Brian.” “I hope it won’t get stolen while we’re at the park.”

“Remember the Juju darlin’. Don’t keep inviting the bad time fairy into your intentional world.” Charlotte cautioned.

“You’re right Char. I'm sorry. Let’s hit the road and go WIN this thing!” They hopped into the roadster and sped off down the road.

They exited the highway a few blocks from the park and began looking for parking. "There!" Charlotte exclaimed. “Right across from the ice cream truck and it’s a double space! If you turn fast, we can get it.”

Quinn made a quick K-turn and they tucked into the roomy spot. She looked out over the park grounds. and was about to ask Charlotte to check the paperwork to locate the starting point of the event when she noticed that some of the other contestants were arriving. They jumped out of the roadster and into line behind “Sherlock and Watson's” party who followed a few colorful mermaids and a couple who took a creative approach to “Hook and Peter".

“Watch your distance! Stay with your group! Masks are to be worn at all times!”, boomed the announcer. “The characters and lists were provided at the time of entry. Please open those packets up and prepare to begin. There will be three different prizes: 500, 250, and 100 dollars respectively." The announcer ended by stating: “The time limit is 2 hours and if there is no winner in that period the prizes will default to the next event.”

“Quinnie, I glanced over the park map and the task list, and I think we can do it; most people do the tasks sequentially. If you follow them linearly, we may need to travel several times across the park, which will take a lot of time. I have drawn lines connecting the order and the path that we should follow based upon the clues and the park map. “I think we should start with item 4 for the simple reason that it's nearby”.

Quinn opened the paper to look at clue four as Charlotte peered over her shoulder. She read aloud: “All Journeys begin where they end.”

“That’s it? Well, that’s not always true, is it? Charlotte said.

“Don’t overthink it, Char. "Let’s look at the clue! It’s got to be something we already have or something nearby,” she said removing a plastic bag from her backpack. They searched the area locating an old key, a ticket stub, a 1945 nickel, and an assortment of trash” “let’s gather what we find and put it in the bag.”

“We should do this next!” said Charlotte pointing at the next clue.

“In the shadow of 1 look toward the sun because time waits for no one”

“There are 10 items on this and we have no time to lose” Quinn furrowed her brow as looked at the clue.

“That one seems simple! Charlotte retorted. “Look! Over there near the playground. Do you see the sundial?” Both women then sped off toward the playground scanning the area for the meaning of the clue. When they arrived, the face of the sundial revealed nothing.

“In the shadow of one,” said Charlotte looking around. “Let's start with the givens.”

They moved toward the shaded section of the clock near the numeral one. They encountered some litter, a few bottle caps, and a lot of cigarette butts. “None of this looks promising,” said Quinn.

Charlotte rooted through the loose litter. Finally she looked around and shouted “AHA! There’s something over there on the bench!” They ran forward and discovered a folded newspaper. “Look at the date!” Charlotte uttered. “That was 20 years ago! It has to mean something!

“Put it in the bag,” Quinn said. “We can sort it out later”

They spent the next hour going through the rest of the clues and making great progress. They were getting toward the end and finally, Charlotte exclaimed: “We are on the last clue!”

“Well, OK then! let’s get this done and get to those Mint Juleps. Where’s the last clue?” Quinn asked

Charlotte opened up the list and smiled.

“Here it is,” she said. “For Julie and Billy, his transgressions now sown, Can he make it right or end up alone?”

Quinn visibly frowned.

“Of course, the last clue would be impossible.” She remarked.

Charlotte brightened up.

“Not so you non-believer! Julie and Billy are characters in the musical Carousel. Billy is shot down in a robbery but has one chance to come back to life to make amends and if so he can change the result upon his family in the present. “

“How you put those together I’ll never know,'' Quinn muttered.

“Never underestimate a former member of the High School Drama Club Quinnie."

“Let’s find that carousel and get this sorted out,” she said

They raced toward the Carousel but didn't spot anything that related to the clue.

Charlotte opened the bag containing the collected clues and retrieved the ticket stub and the key.

She examined the electric starter mechanism leaning against the pole. Shaking loose the key from the bag she jammed it into the mechanism's open slot. Slowly, the carousel began to slowly turn causing the rusting metal to creak to life as the horses began to move up and down.

They rode in circles for a few minutes waiting for something to happen. Quinn jumped up on a brightly colored horse along the inside of the carousel and spotted the "brass ring". She looked around retrieving memories from her youth. She remembered the withered ticket stub they had discovered near the playground and opened her bag to retrieve it. She made another turn around on the carousel and this time grabbed the brass ring enabling a small compartment near the calliope to open and a small black Moleskin notebook came into view.

“Well, hello there little notebook,” Quinn said reaching for it. Char, I think I found the last item!

Jumping off, they exited the ride and headed to the nearest bench to put it all together.

They removed the elastic closure from the notebook and opened it to the first page and read what appeared to be a diary entry.

“Congratulations. If you are reading this you have completed the hunt and may turn in your items for a prize. Read this in its entirety before you hand in your items. You might want to hold back.

Many years ago, I was struggling in life and I made some poor life choices which resulted in poor life results. You will find the details of my bad choices in the newspaper that you recovered. You will notice a crime involving missing money from a local bank.

At first, I had nothing to do with any of it. It came about as a bank error. My crime was one of omission. The money, two hundred thousand dollars, was put into my account in error. I was curious so I left it alone.

One day I came into the office and was terrified to discover that a group of auditors had arrived in the bank for their yearly audit. I was terrified. One of these gentlemen said hello to me in the coffee lounge and I nearly spilled my coffee on him! I'd decided then, that I needed to return the money but would wait until the audit was over.

Two weeks passed and the audit was finally complete. Nobody had discovered my secret and so I waited a brief period and began withdrawing the money from my account. I had intended to get a bank check and return the money anonymously but I knew I could never escape the paper trail. I’d recently landed better employment, I'd returned to school and married, and now had a small family. I did not wish to bring shame to my family and chose to remain silent.

Secrets eventually eat at us from the inside out and so I tell you now that there is a larger prize to be won here. If you locate and return the money to its rightful owner you‘ll find there is a handsome reward. Ten percent to be exact. For the two hundred thousand dollar bank error, it amounts to twenty thousand dollars and the immeasurable gift of integrity.

I will offer no other details other than the name address and contact at the bank. That will be your final clue. You will be given the location of the other stops or clues and, just as today, you must follow those clues to find the money. If you do, and if you bring it to the bank contact, you will have the reward money.

I caution you to avoid the obvious temptation to find the money and keep it. The money is of no use to you. The currency numbers are surely marked as stolen and to use the money is to be caught and lose the reward.

I’m sure the reward will be adequate recompense for this but you will need to hang on to some of the clues from today to find the cash.

I know you will do what is necessary”

“What do you think Char?’ asked Quinn. Take today's five hundred prize money and forget about the reward or keep the clues and go for the big prize?

“I guess it’s time to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ Charlotte laughed. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get going!’

fiction

About the author

Eileen Kos

A New Englander loving my mixed up world of work, family and friends. I’m currently in the Medical field but I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life: waitress, armed security agent, teacher, airport ops agent and whatever else paid the bills.

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