"No, I'm sorry. You have the wrong number." Answered the familiar voice. He played along.
"Oh! Well, do you happen to know Charlie Evans? If you do can you give me a way of contacting her?" Leon could hear Charlie hum in thought, the tune echoing in his head for a few seconds.
During this time, Leon stared at the picture he had taken of the riddle Charlie left behind.
It has been almost a month since she left, the first few hours the trail was fresh enough to follow.
Then Leon reached the last known sighting of her, a damn ferry, that goes to three separate places. Just like that, the trail went cold.
Leon sent out two separate groups to scout two of the towns while he took the last one.
"Here's a number she left, it's the only number I have." Leon rolled his eyes, Charlie should at least disguise her voice, try to make an effort of hiding.
As Leon jotted down the number, he focused on background on her side of the call. Perhaps he could hear a clue like in all those crime shows?
"You got it? Great! See ya soon!"
"No! Wai-wait!" it was too late the dial tone droned. Signaling exactly what Leon did not want. With a deep sigh, he hung up the phone.
In all honesty, Leon did not even believe it would work when the idea came to mind. Call Charlie's own number, see what happens.
The worst that could happen was her not picking up or if the phone number no longer existed, leaving him exactly where he was right now.
Yet here he was, one of many hired to track Charlie, the only one that managed to make actual contact with her after she disappears. To top it all off, he has a phone number now.
Another breadcrumb to pick away at until the other was found.
"Gotta try." With each number, he pressed a shadow of dread grew over him. He did not know why he felt like he was signing his soul away. As if he was agreeing to a deal he can never get out of.
It was a simple phone call, that is all it was nothing more.
The phone rang, Leon silently prayed that no one would pick up, and he can just shrug his shoulders and say, 'I tried.
' He counted the seconds away, it usually takes about thirty seconds before the phone goes to voicemail, Leon was at sixteen.
"Hello? This is Adarmine Skiing resort, how may I help you?" Leon could almost see the false, polite smile on the speaker's face as the words were spoken.
"Yes, um, a friend by the name of Charlie Evans gave me this number. I was wondering if you could help me figure out why?" He heard the speaker's failed attempt at hiding her irritated sigh.
"What was the name again, Sir?"
"Charlie Evans. She gave me this number."
"Do you know why?"
"Uh...Yeah, yeah! I asked if she knew of any nice places to go on a vacation. She just gave me this answer without telling me why." Leon heard the desk clerk hum in thought.
Clicks of the keyboard and mouse was all he received for a few seconds.
"Here we go. First, this is a Skiing resort, you may take a vacation here. For a weekend breeze it's fiv-"
"Can we go on to the second thing?" Leon rudely cut off. He had no intention of staying overnight. He just wanted to know why Charlie gave him this number.
A tense silence, no doubt the clerk trying to avoid snapping at her 'polite' customer.
"Our records show that your girl booked a weekend stay here then booked another one for this coming weekend. Next weekend is a weekend gift for a... Leon Audrie?"
Charlie booked a weekend at a ski resort for him? Why? "Well...that's one helluva birthday gift."
"Mhm. What's your name sir?"
"Well, congratulations for your gift. We hope to see you next weekend! Have an enjoyable day."
"Thanks." Carelessly tossed on the dining table, for an hour the forgotten phone laid there.
Necessities were shoved into a worn-out knapsack, if anything was left behind it could easily be replaced.
Rushing to and fro, Leon snatched anything that came to mind that he could possibly need.
"Keys...keys... WHERE ARE MY KEYS?" The item he so desperately searched for laid innocently on the kitchen counter.
"There it is!" Keys located, Leon threw his stuffed bag over his shoulder, out the door and in the car, he drove off.
Everything settled in apartment, all was quiet. Dust settled, a few magazines toppled over from the terrible pile Leon formed during his key hunt.
A neighbor's dog could be heard barking in the distance. All fell into peace. Until the screeching tires cut the air as Leon sped back into the driveway, cursing under his breath.
"Damn phone." Now fully prepared, it was time to go.
Three hours later, the grand Adarmine Skiing Resort stood before Leon.
It looked like the Architects could not decide between a nice warm cabin in the woods type approach, or a modern-day approach to style the building.
It was a giant, three-story cabin easily the size of a hotel. But the inside looked like you walked into a futuristic world.
Where everything was white and anything that could be made from metal was stainless steel. It was rather disconcerting.
"Everyone for the twelve-thirty session, please gather at the exit leading to the ski lifts.
" The intercom buzzed off soon Skiers trickled past Leon all bundled up is coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. All ready for the snowy wonderland begging to be explored.
Leon headed to the woman perched at the front desk, she was an African Ameri-
"I didn't say anything."
"I was talking to someone else, Honey." Typing away, her deep brown eyes did not even leave the screen to acknowledge Leon.
"Okay...I have a room here. The name i-"
"Why are we even called 'African American'? I mean no one says, 'Asian American' or 'Hispanic American'. 'Black' is so much simpler to say.
" Completely ignoring him, the woman continued to prattle. "I mean, did they do it so our ancestors would feel 'more American'? I just don't get it."
As she ranted, Leon took a quick glance at her name tag. KB? Then his eyes roamed the desk for anything to catch his interest until this lady shuts-up.
Soon a small, silver bell drew his attention. Taped on the bell written in sharpie read 'please ring bell for service.'
A dark hand slammed down on his pale one. Well-manicured hands dug into his flesh as cold, dark eyes glared at him behind her thick, yellow rimmed glasses.
He met the glare with an amused smirk, glad to have her attention.
"Name?" hissed through gritted teeth.
"Leon Audrie." The woman pulled away, rolling her shoulders and cracking her neck side to side, she composed herself.
One hand typed the name in as the other started twirling a lock of her ebony, afro-textured hair. It looked like she was little more than half-way though completing her dreads.
Leon watched in fascination. An action that was not missed by her.
A few final clicks and Leon was checked in. "Here's your key card. Your room is 4B08, just down the hall to the left once you exit the elevator.
"Thank you. Are you going to add beads to your dreads once you're finished?" Leon inquired. The woman froze for a second. Not expecting such a question to be asked.
She hummed in thought. "Maybe, I might also add some thread to it. Make patterns with it."
"I think that would look great." Leon flashed a charming smile, one that was returned.
"Maybe you're not as annoying as you were like, five seconds ago."
"Oh no, I am that annoying. It's part of my charm.''
"If by charm you mean people wanting to rip your head off and send your soul to hell? Then yes, yes, it is part of your charm." Leon's mock offended look caused a few giggles to escape the woman.
Pleased to be leaving her on a lighter note, Leon gathered his stuff, making his way to his designated room. Just before he was out of earshot someone called him.
Turning back, he saw the desk clerk wildly gesturing at him to return. Her colorful bangles and beaded bracelets clicked loudly with each movement.
"Yes Ma'am?" He approached.
"Just call me K.B. it's a nickname.
Anyway, right after I checked you in I received an e-mail to inform you that as part of your birthday gift you are given the Winter Trip of Adarmine Mountains!"
"Great! What's that?"
"The Adarmine Company owns five ski resorts named after the mountains they're built upon. There is Adarmine, Engiel, Inrogonies, Onsolop, and Unsrina Mountians.
The Winter Trip is you have a room already booked in each resort, you get the chance to ski down each mountain and stay at each resort for a week.
Just call them ahead of time to let them know you're coming. Somebody must really love that 'charm' of yours." Leon's jaw hung loosely as K.B.
explained that he basically was just given a little more than a month's vacation.
"All the mountains start with vowels. I-I have to call?" Disbelief washed over Leon.
Either all the people hired to locate Charlie were incredibly stupid or she made the puzzles far more difficult than this.
Maybe since Leon posed as a student and befriended Charlie beforehand she decided to go easy on him.
"'Round the world we go..." He is traveling cross-country to catch her.
"But only to places of snow..." The Mountings.
"A E I O U rules them all..." Specifically the Adarmine mountains and resorts.
"And everything is on call." He must call ahead of time, not only alerting the resorts of his arrival but also Charlie if she is in any of them.
So many things can go wrong here, but he has a job to do. No matter how wrong it goes he will complete it. Besides, he may take some time off and enjoy the little 'vacation'.
It would be rude to turn away a birthday gift, Charlie did pay a lot of money to get him there.