‘What the... Now what?!’ Stunned I look at the text on the phone, the sense of voctory quickly fading away, replaced by a sense of desperation. ‘How many more riddles do I need to solve for this? What is this..?’. I drop the phone on th desk, utter a sigh and push the chair back as I get onto my feet. My stomach protests and grumbles with the sudden, angry move and I walk into the kitchen, open the fridge and take out some left over salad from the night before. Without taking the trouble of getting a plate, I grab a fork and eat directly from the bowl. Supporting the bowl with my hand, I walk out into the backgarden, enjoying the sun.
The empty bowl on a table, a satisfied stomach and a mind that is slowly clearing in the soft breeze and the warm sun. I walk along the borders as I try to gather my thoughts and prepare for the meeting with my uncle tonight. All the pieces of the puzzle fall perfectly in place. I am certain that my uncle is heading this organisation, that he is my beneficiary and that he is testing me for something. Unsure of what the final night promises, it has to do with the girl, the location and sex.. The way she was dressed, that longing, urging look in her eyes, the soft tremors of her fingers just before she opened her eyes, she was radiating sex and horniness. As if she was being pelasured at the spot.
And the suit she was wearing, what was that made of? I have never seen a fabric like that. It seemed to be a second skin as I could see all the delicate lines and folds of the girls in front of me, as if she was completely nude. Those flickers that seemed like lighting licking over the surface of the suit, the image of the nerve system portrayed in highschool shoots through my mind. This suit has something to do with it as well. Why else would all girls be wearing the same? They all had a similar expression on their face, one of awakened desire, the dawn of sexual need, but not displaying obvious arousal.
The questions start overwhelming the answers again and I walk back inside, back to the study and sit myself down with pen and paper, noting down my question and suspicions.
‘1. My dad and uncle were/are running the organisation IUD
2. My uncle runs the organisation alone and is my beneficiary
3. The final night has to do with sex. Probably sex with the girl in the lighthouse.
4. Why was I chosen to go through this whole proces?
5. What is the location of the enxt riddle?
6. What is this suit about? What is it made off? Was it the reason all girls seemed dreaming a hot dream?’
Writing my questions and answers down, helps me keep a helicopterview on the situation and soon I start to see connections, memories pasted into the gaps that are still left, deduction and induction fill the left over gaps. Slowly a smile starts to curl around my mouth as I start to see the purpose of this mystery. I push myself off my chair, walk into the hallway and grab my keys. I leave the house, get into the car and drive off to the small liquor store, where my uncle bought the first bottle of whiskey we shared, a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo 'White Horse'.
With a big suitcase on wheels, she steps into the lobby of Edinburgh Airport, after a flight of 7 hours from Newark, NY. It’s 8 hours, according to current time and she doesn’t feel tired. Most of the flight she slept, and after coffee in the plain, her brain is wide awake again, concentrating on the baggageslip in her hand. She turns her head from side to side, trying to find the collecting point for odd-sized luggage. She finds the counter in a corner and smiles as she sees her bulky, plastic-wrapped chair on a trolley. Her request is handled quick and professionally and she’s told to pick up her car, the chair waiting for her at a loading dock.
She moves towards the row of desk of the car rentals, finds the one she reserved her own car at and takes the keys of the jeep she reserved. After a few minutes of driving around, she follows the arrows that lead her to the customs loading dock and two officials help her stuff the chair in the back of the jeep. The chair is big enough to make her suitcase move to the front seat and stuffed like sardine in a can, she starts her trip to Whitley bay.
According to the onboard routeplanner, it’s about 180 miles, a drive of 2,5 hours and before she reaches the highway, she stops at a gasstation to store up on supplies. With 2 cups of strong, hot coffee, a package of cigarettes and a bag of licorice, she sets off and mixes in with the traffic on the highway, listening to her favorite songs through the ipod connection in the car. Except for an emergency pitstop of a few minutes, the coffee having a bigger effect on her blatter as she expected, she arrives at Whitley Bay after almost 3 hours. She checks into the Park Lodge Hotel and drops her luggage off in her room.
She looks at the clock in the small lobby of the hotel, it’s around noon and she decides to go to the island. She walks back to her car behind the hotel and gets in to leave for the lighthouse. It is only a couple of miles and she would walk normally, but with the chair in the back of the car, she wants to have it in her workspace as soon as possible. Only then she will feel comfortable getting to work. As she nears the shore, she finds the causeway covered by water, making it impossible for her to access the island. ‘I should have checked”. She gets out of her Jeep and walks towards the edge of the water, turning her head from left to right, then discovering a sign. As she reads the notification, she finds out the causeway will be uncovered in an hour and a half. She feels her stomach protest against the emptiness and decides to have lunch first. She finds a pub a few hundred yards away, using her phone to locate it, where she has a small pasta bolognese, the pub ran by italians. A bottle of water and an espresso after her lunch and she leaves the pub again.
As she arrives back at her car, the causeay is glistening in the sun, the water retreated to a few inches below the concrete road. The drive is short and soon she parks her car near one of the exterior buildings of the light house, based at the foot of the tower. As she gets out, she looks up and finds the outside of the lighthouse covered in black plastic, keeping nosey villagers away from what is happening inside. The wrapping will stay in place until the interior of the lighthouse is transformed to its original state, the announced rebuilding period will cover the time to transform the lighthouse back to its original splendor. Though major changes will be made inside, the only thing that will really be new, is the coat of paint the outside will receive. All transformations inside will be reversed.
She starts to walk to the nearest door she can find, only to find it locked. As she looks around to find another entrance, a bearded man walks around the corner, stops then smiles as he raises his hand.
“ms Ella! How wonderful of you to join us. With your help, I am sure the 3d booth will be finished ahead of schedule..”
He grins as his hand strokes his curly blonde beard.
“Enough time to ‘test’ the booth out properly. You wouldn’t want to propose yourself as a crash test dummie, would you ms Ella?”
She smiles as she steps towards the man, shaking his large hand, her fingers almost squashed to a pulp with his enthousiastic grip. Klaus, the large German, has been with the company for years and has an expertise in electronics and structural engineering. He is usually selected to head the foreign operation. This being the most important operation in her career, she is glad that they chose the best man for the job. She shrugs her shoulders as an unintended picture of the tall, broad man with a girl in the booth, enters her mind.
“Klaus, the day they allow you to use the booth ahead of the date, I promise I will be your crash-test dummie. In the meantime, do you think you and those big muscles of yours, could help me get my chair from the car?”
She smiles seductively, though she knows her charm isn’t needed. She met Klaus a couple of times before, spent a couple of nights with him during an operation, stuffed in a small space behind the booth in a haystack to install and monitor the booth. There she learned that Klaus’s interest lies with women with big breasts, big butts and ‘something to hold on to’ as he usually jokes about it. They have become close colleagues and she knows she only has to ask and he will do almost anything for her.
“Ofcourse meine Puppe, I will get your chair for you. Still dragging it around the world with you, hmm?”
“Well, it had found a nice home at headquarters, but appareantly sometimes it has to see the world as well, to stop the itch for a while..”
“I can’t deny the truth in that. I’m happy to see you Ella”
Cheerfully whistling, Klaus starts to walk to the car as she opens the booth with her remote. As if he carries a baby in his arms, the giant picks up the chair in his strong arms and walks in the same, swift pace to the back of the building. With a smile on her face, she follows him while she looks around and gazes at the ocean for a while. The sound of the waves crashing on rocky base of the island, the cry outs of seagulls stir a memory inside her. A beautiful day at the beach when she was still a child, the sand between her toes as the waves washed over her feet. But as she shrugs her shoulders, the skies start to fill with grey clouds, passing over in a teasinlgy slow pace.
With a sigh she steps through the door which is patiently held open by her colleague. She smiles as she meets his inquisitive look and shakes her head gently. Stepping through the door, a small corridor appears with three doors, Klaus has gone ahead and steps into the room behind the last door. As she enters, the chair is already in front of a glass desk covered with boxes full of control panels and connectors, the floor littered with boxes containing pc´s and servers, the wall behind it covered with screens. Though the masoned walls are different from her concrete dungeon at headquarters, she does sense a feel of home. She places her hand on Klaus’s shoulder, thanking him for his help. He smiles shyly, then turns on his heels with his hand in an open gesture.
“Welcome to your station ms Ella, this will be your home practically for the next few weeks. I am sure you would like an update on how far we’ve gotten with the booth?”
“You know I like to be hands on when I am working with the booth Klaus, I want to see it, and in the meantime you can tell me what the staus is, how close it is to being operational”
The blonde man grins, slips his hands in his pockets and starts to walk back to the door. Ella smiles, his approach hasn’t changed. Being a hands on man, she knows he has a natural aversion from ‘geeks’ as he calls the computer techs from IUD and wants to keep them away from his site as much as possible. ‘You keep your hands on that keyboard and stay away from my tool. You’re a tech, and a woman, which makes it worse’ was the first thing he said to her when they met for the first time. It took her three days to convince him of her skill with powertools and the soldering iron, but he really accepted her when she fixed an electrical problem that he had missed.
“I know, but I had to test you, you know me. This way Ella”
He crosses the corridor and opens the door on the other end, which leads directly to the inside of the lighthouse. As she looks up, the spiral staircase makes her a little dizzy, the building scarsely lit with a few bulbs. She follows Klaus up the stairs, their feet making the iron steps resonate, loud clanging echoes bouncing off the walls.
“This noise is horrible, you are going to fix this, aren’t you? And where will the staging area be? Downstairs?”
Without giving an answer, he looks over his shoulder and shows off his white teeth as his lips curl up in a cheekish grin. They reach the top of the stairs and he leads her through a narrow door, cautioning her for cables. As she steps in, she sees the chaotic order of the transformation. The first walls of the booth are up, but not yet lined with the video carpetting, the ‘tv-on a roll’ as they started calling it after implementing it for the first time. The space is cramped, but fortunately the outer buildings of the lighthouse offer enough space for the controlroom, the dressing room for Chloe and the other services needed for this particular night. It promisses to be one of the most spectacular nights they ever put together. The location extrordinary, the riddles elaborate. This time it seems different, as if a higher purpose is being served, instead of giving the target the night of his life.
“Ah, the smell of grinded metal. Your habitat, Klaus. I’ve missed being out in the field. And I am glad you are here, feels like the early days”
Carefully stepping through the room, she slides her hands over the panels, looks around and tilts her head, imagining the booth to be there. The room will be invisible behind the walls of the booth, but the videocarpetting will give the illusion they are at the top of the luighthouse and can walk and look outside whenever they want. Though she has never been inside a working booth, having monitored the actions and behaviour of the numerous targets and their partners, has convinced her the booth gives a life-like experience. She shrugs her shoulders, leaving the thought of using the booth herself, alone. She walks up to the windows next to the door to the balustrade outside and looks outside. The sea calm, a gentle surf washing waves over the rocky base of the lighthouse. Forcing herself to turn, she smiles at Klaus.
“I could stand here all day, but I think I’d better get to work. Has anything been set up in the control room? Since this area is yours, I’d better get out of your way”
“The only thing that has happened in the controlroom so far, is that we brought in the equipment. Nothing has been set up yet except the wall of screens, the booth has our priority. So, it’s your party now. If you need someone to lift the servers, just give me a call”
She leaves the room and carefully walks back down the narrow spiral staircase, hugging the railing tightly. She walks through the door on the other side and starts to unwrap the plastic from her chair. Bit by bit her chair is revealed and a few minutes later she falls back into the soft, comforting embrace of her chair. She pulls her legs underneath her body and picks up the manual for the control room. But within 2 pages she loses focus, gets restless, her arm stretching out in the automated reach for her coffee mug. Grabbing just air, she lifts her head and smiles, pushes herself off her chair and walks into the room near the door she entered the building through, finding a fully utilised kitchen, a big coffee machine the centrepiece on the kitchen top. ‘Buildings are made with coffee, and nothing else’