It is time to make the announcement. I wish it wasn’t. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I was somewhere else. But I’m not, and I have to, and it’s time. I stand up, clear my throat, and wait for silence in the room. I don’t wait long, just a few seconds. Then I speak. “It’s time for the annual mystery race.”
All seventy-three people in the sanctuary cheers. I wait for silence to return. “Everyone knows the rules, of course.”
Someone raises his hand, “I don’t.”
“Yeah, the rules! We need a refresher!”
I grimace, “Humans,” I think.
“Very well.” I sigh. “The mystery race has four clues. The first three clues always show you where the fourth clue is. The fourth clue is an envelope containing the phone number you must call to complete the race.”
“What do we get?”
“This year, Mr. Anderson will send you a $50 gas card once a week for 52 weeks.”
They cheered, of course. For some of them, $50 of free gas a week meant they would drive all year for free. Others would cut their gas bill in half. Who wouldn’t want such a gift. Again, I waited for silence in the sanctuary.
“These are the clues Mr. Anderson has provided for this year’s challenge,” I push the button on the remote control, and a picture of the first clue displays on the movie screen. “A beaded necklace.” I close my eyes to avoid seeing the gaudy picture once more. “Only five copies of this necklace exist in the city. The beads of each necklace give you a street name.”
“The second clue is a bridge.” I press the remote control button and replace the image of the necklace with one of a bridge. “The bridge is visible from somewhere along the named street.”
I click the remote and the third picture appears. “At one foot of the bridge is a glass of water. In the water is the key for a safe deposit box. Bring the key here, and open the matching safe deposit box. The first box opened will contain the envelope with the phone number.”
Chaos ensues, with countless questions. “How do we find the necklaces? What stores are they in? Are they all in one store? Is there a time limit?”
I answer as honestly, and calmly as I can. “There are five necklaces. They are in five different stores. The stores are not specified. They are any stores that carry necklaces, including Wal-Mart, jewelry stores. Any stores that sell necklaces. There is no time limit.”
It’s time for to finish the announcement. “And now, the contest starts. Mr. Anderson wishes you all a Happy Halloween, and hopes you enjoy his race.”
When the last person leaves the sanctuary, I close the doors, then lock them. Then, I pull my silver flask from my jacket pocket, and drain it. “God, I hate this annual challenge.”