Chapter 14

Roy leapt for the fence, his fingers taking grip and his strong arms pulling him to safety just in time. The mother elephant was very unhappy and was making her rage known. Keeping careful hold on the phone with his left hand, Roy pulled himself up with his right. Eventually he got his footing and began climbing the tall steel fence as the elephant rampaged beneath him. Nearby, Vince and Alex watched nervously as Roy moved. It was pretty obvious why he had to be the one in the picture after this ordeal, but Roy still felt a tad bitter. When this was all said and done, he and Nick were going to have a very long talk.

*    *    *

Alice floated to the ground gently, Camille waving to her that the photo had been a success. She hurried over to the other two girls and tried to smooth her now wind-whipped hair.

“Okay, that takes care of Alice standing on a traffic light,” Mary said, dragging her pencil across the orange paper.

“How many left?” Camille asked.

“Six to go,” Mary replied. Alice checked her watch. That only left forty-five minutes until the deadline. They were really going to have to hurry.

“Let’s move then, what’s next?”

“We need Camille riding on top of a horse,” Mary said.

“Do we have any idea where to find a horse at eleven at night on a Friday?” Camille asked.

“No, but after tonight we will,” Alice said. They’d come this far, there was no freaking way they were going to give up.

*    *    *

“So, here it is ladies and gentleman,” Nick had said several hours prior, producing two pieces of paper from his pocket. One was orange and the other blue.

“Are we doing arts and crafts?” Alice asked. She was confused and more than a little annoyed. He’d led them to a small parking lot some ways into downtown. It appeared to be for a nail salon that was closed for the weekend. Lit only by a street light, Nick’s grin was positively devilish as he addressed his teammates.

“Nope: photo scavenger hunt, of sorts,” Nick replied. “On each page is a list of photos you need to take. There are requirements for specific people in some of them, so make sure you plan appropriately.”

“How exactly is this team bonding?” Mary asked. “Fun, sure, in the right circumstances, but I’m not certain what the point here is.”

“If it were obvious then you wouldn’t need to do it to understand,” Nick said. “Trust me, when this is all over you’ll be a much more effective team.”

“I guess we can give it a shot,” Vince said. Even he was having trouble concealing his disinterest.

“I’d hope so, I mean, with what’s on the line and all,” Nick baited.

“What do you mean?” Alex bit.

“Didn’t I mention? There’s a prize if you manage to complete your lists by midnight. Since it has been brought to my attention that you philistines don’t enjoy slasher cinema with the same gusto I possess, if you can bring me your pictures by midnight then I’ll swear never to hijack our events into horror movie marathons again.”

“Wait, seriously?” Alice said, light and hope sparkling into her eyes.

“I swear it on my love of sarcasm,” Nick replied. “But if you fail, then we’ll be spending tomorrow in a day-long fright flick fest.”

“Seems like a gamble,” Alex said. He was trying to play it cool but inside he was burning with desire to take the bet.

“Such is life,” Nick replied. “I’m going to be at Toady’s, the bar down the street. If you succeed, we spend the night relaxing in a nice lounge with the tab on me. If you fail then we go over the reasons why.”

“I get it,” Vince said. “This isn’t about pictures, it’s about seeing how we organize to accomplish a common goal.”

“Always at the top of the class,” Nick said. Of course, this wasn’t nearly the extent of it, but Vince at least had the gist.

“Then I’m in,” Vince said.

“Me, too,” Alice agreed. The others signaled their affirmation and Nick handed out the papers. They were left to separate and distribute responsibility as desired. Once upon a time he would have had to give out cameras too. Thankfully the dawn of the cell phone age had rendered such additions unnecessary. He stepped into his car and left them to debate, the teams already coming together just the way he’d expected them to.

*    *    *

Alex slid down from the piece of modern art carefully, still not certain who referred to a sheer vertical wall as art. He’d gotten his picture atop it, so whatever it was, it was crossed off the list. That was a good thing too, because time was quickly running out. The pictures weren’t terribly hard to get – well, except maybe the elephant one - but they had specific requirements and took time to drive to. A tickle in the back of his mind wanted to pay more attention to that fact, along with the requirements of people in pictures. It felt there was something there, something he should be paying attention to.

Instead he focused on getting down safely. Next up was a Vince picture then two more and they were home free.

*    *    *

Nick sat comfortably as the soft music filtered down from the speakers. Toady’s had a pleasant atmosphere with gentle lighting and comfortable seating. It was trendy enough to have people but not so popular that it was swamped. He held down the large area with ease as he waited for his friends to arrive. A quick check of his watch told him they had fifteen minutes left until the deadline. Part of him almost felt bad for them, knowing there was no way they’d be done on time. It was necessary, though: failure led to insight, which led to growth. They needed to fail. Better it be at some stupid little contest than somewhere that mattered.

Besides, he had some choice films selected for tomorrow.