It was one of the weekends when Isabelle and Jason had submitted all their immediate assignments for school and didn’t feel the need to spend every minute working. There were two downsides to this. First, they were so used to being on edge that they couldn’t relax and do nothing; second, they couldn’t think of anything they actually wanted to do. Thankfully sitting at the kitchen counter looking on their phones for something to do counted as something to do for a couple of hours.
Nesrin walked past them to the refrigerator. She ignored them as long as she could before saying “You do realize I can take us anywhere in the world, right? We could be in Monte Carlo before you could breathe.”
“We know,” Isabelle said. “We’re trying to wait till summer so we can stay longer wherever we go.”
Nesrin held up a hand to show she was letting it go. “Okay, then how ‘bout you come see my show tonight?” Nesrin said. “It’s at a casino, that’s like being in Monte Carlo, and you wouldn’t have to buy tickets.”
Isabelle put her phone down. “That would be fun. What time does it start?”
“8:30. A typical show runs about two hours including the intermission. The grand finale is an escape act where I…”
“Hey!” Jason said. “Escape rooms! We can do one of those before we leave to see the show. There’s one right up the road in Mobile.” He started pulling up the website, so he didn’t see Nesrin’s scowl.
She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Escape room? What’s that?”
Isabelle leaned forward, trying to somehow get between them. “It’s where you get locked in a room and have to solve puzzles to get out. Most of them are story-driven, so you get to pretend you’re somebody else along with it.”
Nesrin shrugged. “To me it sounds a little dull, but I guess continually performing an escape act sort of subtracts from the novelty.”
Jason snorted. “It took you a thousand years to get out of a lamp, and even at that you needed help from a sea lady. You’d probably take longer to get out than any of us.”
Isabelle scooted her chair away from Jason’s.
Nesrin leaned on the counter. “Okay, let’s go do your silly escape room and see who can and can’t make it out.” In the second it took him to respond she had gotten the address off his phone, grabbed his and Isabelle’s arms, and carried them to the place. She let them readjust while she got the tickets.
Isabelle held her head. “We have got to stop making her do that. What were you thinking?”
“I get carried away, alright?”
Nesrin snapped her fingers. “Come on, there’s no one else here so we can go straight in. Our scenario is that we’re locked in a mansion’s secret cellar and have to open the hidden door.”
She led them into a room with hardwood floors and wood-paneled walls. There was a wine cabinet, a large bookcase, a globe, and four tables with seemingly random knick-knacks. When the door was closed behind them it looked like a regular full-length mirror with a fancy gold frame.
Nesrin found a chair and sat down. “Well, Jason, where do you suggest we start?”
Jason bit his tongue and looked around the room. “The first clue’ll be something written down so we have an easy starting point. Probably in the bookcase.”
Isabelle held up a piece of paper. “Alternatively, it could be a sticky note on the wine cabinet.”
Jason looked weakly back at Nesrin, who smiled and golf-clapped. “Or that.”
Isabelle looked at the clue. “Find wine country.”
Jason threw out his hands. “Do you know how many places call themselves wine country?”
Isabelle ignored him and tried the door on the wine cabinet. It opened. “I think some wine bottles say where they come from.” She pulled out a couple bottles. “Help me figure out what country these were made in.”
Jason quickly found the place name on the bottom of a label. “It says ‘Denmark.’ Wine country must be Denmark.”
Isabelle made a ‘no’ noise. “This one says ‘Adelaide Hills’ and that’s in Australia.”
Jason read another bottle. “This one says ‘Alpine Valleys.’ Doesn’t that mean the Alps?”
Isabelle had out her phone. “Yep. Adelaide Hills, Alpine Valleys, and Denmark are all places in Australia. It’s Australia.”
By now Nesrin was standing and looking at the mirror. “You should listen to her. I’m barely paying attention and I know she’s right.”
Jason mouthed the words back at her and stuck his tongue out. “Alright, so since we’ve got a globe in the middle of the room I guess we have to find Australia on the globe?”
“Look at that,” Nesrin said. “He got one.”
Jason didn’t respond. He just walked over to the globe.
Isabelle walked over with him. “Come on, Nesrin. I know he can be annoying but he is trying.”
Nesrin crinkled her nose. “You’re right. Sorry, Jason.”
“It’s fine, I guess. I said things I shouldn’t have, too.” He kept turning the globe until he saw Australia. “Okay, now what do we do with it?” He ran his fingers over the country.
There was a click and he felt the wood beneath his fingers push in. The top half of the globe opened. At the same time a light flashed across the room. Jason and Isabelle looked back in time to see the door slam shut.
Jason’s eyes went back and forth between the door and the globe. A grin spread across his cheeks. “Wait, did I just open the door with the globe?”
Isabelle said “If you did Nesrin just left and closed it back on us. It shouldn’t have been that easy, though. There’s even still a book in the globe. We’re still getting clues.”
Jason closed the globe and pressed Australia again. The globe opened but the door didn’t. He tried again; nothing. He tried a third time.
“Hombre, it’s not the globe.”
White, pink, and red smoke seeped into the room through the cracks between the mirror and the wall. It collected in front of the mirror and formed into Nesrin’s general shape. Eventually her physical form faded into sight. She adjusted her shirt sleeves. “Do you want me to tell you, or do you want to keep playing?”
Isabelle leaned on the globe while Jason gestured around the room. “You didn’t even look at any of the clues. You’ve been here before; you have to have been.”
“So you want me to tell you.”
His hand fell to his side. “Fine. How did you do it?”
“Wait,” Isabelle said. She put her fingers in her ears and started to hum. When the others both just looked at her she said “I still wanna play after this.”
Nesrin pointed to the side of the mirror where a door knob should have been. “The frame works like a puzzle box. The flourishes and grooves in the design are really nobs and buttons. If you move them in a certain sequence the door opens. It’s similar to something I use in my act. I knew to look for it because there were no locks or buttons anywhere else that made sense. If it hadn’t worked I would have considered relays in one of the corner tables. As for figuring out the pattern… I might have used a little magic, but you never actually said that was cheating. It’s the same way I do my show. Basic tricks with a touch of real magic for flair.”
Jason folded his arms and nodded. “Well, I’ve gotta admit, you shut me up.” He nudged Isabelle. “She’s done, you can listen now.” He turned back to Nesrin. “So how much of your show is fake and how much is magic?”
Nesrin smirked. “Come tonight and figure it out for yourself. Hopefully you’ll do about as well with that as with this escape room.”
Isabelle grabbed the book out of the globe. “Speaking of, can we get back to the game now?” She flipped through the pages. “Someone help me figure out what to do with this thing.”
While Jason looked for markings on the cover, Nesrin looked for patterns in the books on the shelves, mouthing “This is so not Monte Carlo.”