This week’s prompt:
Illusion, a bucket, “Thanks for nothing”
“Fifth door on the left,” Casey repeated the directions over and over. This was the last step. It seemed too good to be true when they found the first clue. It just turned up in the front yard, rolling like a tumbleweed almost a month ago.
Since then they traveled by car, train, plane, bus and on foot through the strangest parts of the country. Each clue leading to another. It was beginning to seem like it was an endless stream of clues. A prank. But the last one was in the old mine and Janie slipped and broke her leg. Before that, Bobby got sick from the mold in a basement in Washington State. Jerald made it only one stop before a spider bite made him quit. They still had no idea who wrote the clues or who they were meant for.
Casey left Janie before the EMTs arrived since they were trespassing and they could not find the treasure if they were both in jail. Casey pressed on alone. It was another long bus ride to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Hotel had a simple name, but when Casey walked in, it was clear this was a high class kind of place. People turned and stared with undisguised suspicion.
Casey went to the elevators and slipped in with three groups of travelers. All had expensive clothes and designer luggage. Each one scanned a room key card before selecting a floor. Casey had not prepared for that. Repeating the instructions silently, it was clear there was a miscalculation. The others had chosen floors, but none were the one Casey needed. The other occupants stared, waiting for a floor selection to be made.
“Heading to the 6th floor as well,” Casey gave a sheepish smile to the woman who selected it. She turned her nose up and ignored him as the doors closed. New plan. Casey thought furiously as the elevator stopped at the 3rd and 4th floors. The fifth floor was the one the last clue named.
The car stopped, and the doors opened. The man in the expensive suit gave Casey a narrow-eyed look before stepping out into the hall. Casey followed at a slight distance, turning down a side hall as the guest kept going down the longer one.
He saw a door marked fire exit, and almost went through it, before remembering it would be locked on the other side. They meant it to keep people like him from getting on other floors. He could not just hang around in the halls all day. An employee was bound to find him and make him leave.
A door in the longer hallway opened and Casey heard voices. Two men. They were moving toward the elevator.
“I already have what I need from my room,” One said. “If I need something else later, it is not the end of the world.”
“It is only one floor down, we should just go make sure,” the other said.
“No, we are going to be late. I am not listening to Gary bitch about punctuality again. You have the presentation with you. That is the most important thing. I can come back up at lunch.”
Casey peeked around the corner. He heard the ding of the arriving elevator. Two nondescript men in dark suits stepped in and the doors closed. Casey saw something laying on the floor near the door of the room they must have come out of. It looked like a key card.
He picked it up and tried it on the door in front of him. The door did not open. Could he be this lucky? Was this the card for the man with the room on the 5th floor?
Only one way to find out. Casey hit the call button for the elevator. A small woman in a housekeeping uniform pushed a cart laden with dirty sheets and towels down the hall. He gave her a tight smile and tried to will her to believe he belonged there. She looked bored and did not even acknowledge he was there.
The elevator chimed, and the doors opened. It was empty. Casey stepped in and took a deep breath. Surely there were cameras in the elevator. He tried to look nonchalant as he swiped the card on the scanner and selected the 5th floor. The button lit up, and the car began to move with a small jolt. Casey’s heart pounded.
The fifth floor was identical to the 6th floor other than a slight difference in the wallpaper’s color. He was not surprised. Stepping out, he reminded himself “Fifth door on the left,”
A question occurred to him. Fifth door on the left from where? The stairs? The elevator? The hall with the ice machine?
A quick count of doors from both the stairs and the ice machine turned up nothing useful, so he started down the long hall.
“One…Two…Three…Four…” Casey stopped in front of the fifth door. He raised his hand to knock, but the door was not pulled shut all the way and it swung open as his hand touched it. He followed the door in. In the middle of the floor was a strange-looking coffee table. Something about it and the bucket sitting on top of it looked wrong, but he could not put his finger on it.
The bucket had a logo on the side that he did not recognize, but there was something in it. Casey went to pick it up and his fingers went right through it. He tried again. It was an illusion of some kind.
“You took longer than I expected?” A woman’s voice said from the balcony and the curtain moved aside to reveal her. She was tall, blond, and looked like a model. Casey stood there, mouth agape. As soon as she looked at him, she too froze, a look of confusion and annoyance on her face.
“You are not him,” she said. She had an accent he could not place. Vaguely European maybe?
“Not who?” Casey asked?
“What are you doing here? Get out.” She looked angry now.
“Hey, there,” Casey took a step back. “I just followed the clues on the notes.” He held out the last piece of paper. The woman snatched it from his hand and shoved him back outside the door, slamming it in his face.
“Geeze, thanks for nothing,” Casey muttered as he went back to the elevator. It has all been a waste.