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Over the Top Secret - Chapter 18
AKA Getting to the Bottom of it
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Start at the beginning (Prologue - AKA Mission Report)
Read the previous chapter (Chapter 17 - AKA A Buttery Betrayal)
Read the next chapter (Chapter 19 - AKA Into the Dungeon)
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I’m not sure if an hour has passed or if I blacked out, and it’s already the next day. I just know I want this to end.
As I sit in the disgusting bathroom in my tiny stall, knees touching the grime-covered door in front of me, I make a mental note not to ever trust Eric again.
I mean, seriously? If I can’t trust him with a damn sandwich, how in the world am I supposed to trust him with my life?
Another bolt of pain lurches through my intestines, and I worry that I’ll be stuck in here until the restaurant closes.
But nothing happens. I let out a sigh of relief and resume worrying about more important things, like how I’m going to face Eric again without scratching his eyes out. Or how we’re supposed to figure out where The McGuffin wants us to go next. And why it wanted us to come to this tourist trap of a café in the first place.
Sitting here on the toilet, I feel stuck. Physically and mentally. What’s the plan? We desperately need a plan.
I keep wracking my brain for answers, but none come. I even ask The McGuffin to talk to me, goading it to come out from hiding in the deepest recesses of my mind. But after a few minutes of talking to myself, I realize the damn thing is not going to answer me.
It was worth a shot, at least.
Another few minutes go by without any more intestinal issues, so I decide it’s time to get up. I’ll probably be fine long enough to make it to the next bathroom.
Assuming Eric knows where we’re going next.
Or that Eric hasn’t ditched me.
I roll my eyes at the genuine possibility, absentmindedly reaching for the toilet paper. My heart sinks when I see it.
There’s no toilet paper.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I ask God why he intends to torture me so. But then I think better of complaining to Mr. Almighty and instead, choose a more thankful approach. After all, I am somehow still alive after everything that’s happened, and it’s definitely no thanks to Eric.
Being thankful turns out to be a good idea.
As if sent by an angel, a woman walks into the bathroom just then. Her heels click-clack as she takes a few steps further into the small restroom area, but she stops short after a moment, probably noticing the less-than feminine smell in here.
She decides to brave the noxious gas and take a seat in the stall next to me. Her door swings open and a pair of five-inch high red heels click-clacks into view beneath the divider. The woman takes a seat and lets a pair of leopard print silk panties fall to her ankles. Does everyone here wear lingerie all the time?
Her shoes look shiny and brand new, but the skin on her feet look wrinkly and old, revealing blue veins spreading just beneath the thin surface of her skin.
Is she an elderly woman? The thought strikes me as odd. Surely heels that slick would be dangerous for an old woman, right? Or maybe French women don’t let age affect their fashion choices, regardless of the safety hazards. Something about lingerie and wrinkles just doesn’t seem right. My stomach tightens at the off-putting combination.
The woman flushes, and I realize I may have missed my opportunity. I blurt out some of my under-practiced French vocabulary and ask her for an extra square.
After a terrifying moment of hesitation (during which I briefly wonder what would happen if I have to get Eric in here to help me), the woman hands me a wad of toilet paper. When I grab it from her, I notice her nails are long and painted the same red as her heels. Her fingers reveal more of that semi-translucent skin. I quickly look away, trying not to overthink about her veins, and make sure to say thank you very much.
I take care of business and awkwardly maneuver my lanky body out of the cramped stall, hopefully leaving behind me the only lactose-intolerant episode of this trip.
We wash our hands at the same time. The woman really is an old lady. She has wrinkly skin all over, and her wiry red hair is pulled back into a gentle ponytail at the nape of her neck. She’s wearing a tight floral dress that hugs her lumpy body all over.
Interesting fashion choice, but who am I to judge?
I nod at her politely, thanking her again. She tells me it’s not a problem, “De rien,” and we wash our hands in silence. I sing Happy Birthday in my head (the proper amount of time for efficiently washing hands), idly noticing the wallpaper in the bathroom. The thin material and repetitive pattern seem familiar for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on it. I keep sudsing my hands next to the old lady, silently pondering where I’ve seen that pattern before.
The song comes to an end in my head, and when I reach to turn off the faucet, my hand stops short at the sight of the grimy handle. This sink, I think. Where have I seen this sink before?
The old lady notices my hesitation and gives me a concerned look. I decide I’m just over-thinking things. It’s familiar because I’ve been in this damn bathroom too long! I turn off the water and head for the door, eager to leave this gross place, but the old woman stops me.
She holds out a hand, her red nails reflecting the light from the ceiling.
“Excuse me,” I say, a creepy feeling emerging from deep inside. The old lady reaches into her purse. My breath catches. Is she another assassin? I prepare for her to pull out a gun, but instead, she pulls out a tiny bottle of perfume.
She holds it out to me in a gesture that says, “Would you like some?”
I let out a breath, surprised that my initial thoughts were so dark. Of course, this old lady isn’t an assassin! I need to get back to my normal life.
“That’s very sweet, but no, thank you,” I tell her. “Non, merci,” I correct myself in French. She gives me a look that says, “Honey, you need it.”
One sniff of the air in here, and I know she’s right.
“Okay, fine.” I put my hands out, ready for a quick spritz on the inner wrists. Instead, she sprays a little bit right in front of my face.
It smells flowery, like a combination of all the perfumes you’d find in a Victoria’s Secret store. I cough once from the closeness of the spray. “Thanks so much, madame.” I curtsy and head for the door.
“No! Merde.” The old lady searches in her bag, muttering something in French. I turn around and ask her if she needs help with something.
“Mauvais parfum,” she says. (Wrong perfume.)
“Oh, that’s alright, I liked the first one. Thanks again—”
She pulls out another perfume bottle and quickly spritzes chemicals in my face once more.
I sneeze and blink the sting away, fighting off tears from the strength of the concoction. It smells worse than the bathroom. What is that, acid?
“Thank you,” I choke out, heading right for the door. But the next step I take sends the room spinning. “Whoa,” I stumble forward, grabbing hold of the trashcan for support.
A second later, I fall to the ground, wincing at the thought of all those germs on my back.
What did you do to me? I ask, but the old woman can’t hear me because I didn’t say anything. I can’t speak, and I can’t move as the woman reaches toward the sink and turns the hot water handle. It’s not until the bathroom wall falls out from behind me, revealing a secret staircase, do I realize why this place feels so familiar.
The grimy sink, the cheap wallpaper, the secret tunnel—it’s all from my vision!
I sharply inhale in a brief moment of excitement when I realize we’re on the right path— the one The McGuffin has sent us on. I can’t wait to tell Eric and the team that we’ve made progress!
But then the frail old woman grips me with hands as strong as a UFC fighter and hoists me over her shoulder. Her heels click-clack as she takes me one step at a time further down the secret path into another unknown place. My eyes droop, and the last thing I see is the trap door slowly sealing itself behind us.
And then I pass out.
How are your theories lining up? Did you see THIS coming?!