One Long Panel of Stones – Chapter 22

I sleep a restless sleep. I spend the entire night hoping my waking dream will bring the pieces of this puzzle together, like it does in every book I’ve ever read. When the sun finally creeps up, I realize it’s not going to happen.

I sit at the foot of the bed, staring at the puzzle pieces again. I feel nothing. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. I’m supposed to have some uncanny realization about the nature of the mystery. The picture is supposed to reveal itself as a eureka moment. It’s supposed to happen to me just moments after everyone else figures it out. Before people start shouting at the TV or cursing the book in their hand. Why can’t I figure this out? Why am I here. Why am I doing this and what am I supposed to do with any of this experience?

Someone’s knocking softly at the door. So softly I can barely tell the difference between the beating of my heart and the knock. That’s a Gus knock if I ever heard one.

I open the door and find him, sheepish and broken looking. “Sorry it’s so early,” he says, “I couldn’t sleep.”

“It’s okay, I couldn’t either. Should we get some not-really-a-continental breakfast?”

“That sounds great.”

Floppy pancakes and burnt coffee, despite itself, can set you right in certain circumstances. As Gus cracks the aluminum foil tab off a can of orange juice, his eyes take on a eureka glare.

“Got something there?”

“Let’s go back to the original plan, before everything got so messy,” he says, “If we figure out what happened with the vault we can decide what to do with the rest of this nonsense,” Gus waves his arms around, signaling as though the entire cafeteria area is in on this conspiracy.

“That makes sense, but what else can we do? The museum has nothing and Alexis won’t talk with us.”

Gus deflates. We’ve been in over our heads for a long time, but we’re both really feeling it now. I go back to the adventure game playbook in my head because it’s all I have. What would I do in a game in this circumstance?

As I sip my burnt coffee, I realize this is the moment when you backtrack through the initial conversations, new clues in hand. With the right item, you can unlock new conversation tiers. I think back on what we’ve accumulated so far. The essay by Athanasius and the VHS tape seem like the most useful. Alexis seems like she’s holding the most back, but I also wonder if we can get more out of David Sexsmith. Something isn’t right to me about how he’s built his empire.

Gus is staring blankly at the table, a husk of the person he was just 36 hours ago. “We should talk to David again.” I say, “When we went there the first time, I wasn’t prepared for the conversation. And I don’t think he’s being totally honest with us about something.”

Gus looks me in the eye, his face seems to brighten, at least a little. “Sure,” he says, “I had a weird feeling too, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Do you think he’s hiding something?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I think he knows more about the vault then he let on, and I’m curious about where he really got his money from.”

Gus stands, knocking into the table and causing the breakfast plates to clatter. The few people awake this early look over at us for a second before going back to eating. I hold back a laugh. He is, even in the most serious of moments, his typical clumsy self.