Murder at the Masquerade

By Ryan Nguyen

Act 1: Scene 1

The lights dimmed and the audience took their seats. The men wore their finest suits and the women their best dresses. It was a grand stage for the story to take place. The actors were ready to begin, long hours of practice ready to take come together for the first night. The orchestra had just finished tuning their interments and sat anxiously for the performance to begin. The curtain lifted just as the last of the audience were getting settled. A single actor strode forward. He was dressed for a dance, a dinner jacket as black as death itself offset by his pure white dress shirt and bow tie. A vest of blood red silk separated the two as if it was a shield. With a flourish of his gloved hands he bowed to the crowd arrayed before him. No more than twenty-five years in age he was crisp and clean in his motions. As he rose the white mask covering the majority of his face shone in the limelight in contrast to his midnight hair groomed neatly to one side. With a smile he began.
            “Welcome to our humble production,” he kept his right arm across his front and his left behind his back, a gesture of pride, “My name is Richard James Halcyon. This is one of many plays written by our writer who, at this time, wishes to remain anonymous and the first to be put into a production. In our opinion it is, how shall I say, interesting.”
            At this point another actor moved onto the stage, a woman. Where Richard had been stiff, proud, and deliberate, the woman flowed with grace and elegance. Neither paid any heed to each other. Her dress was silken white and it appeared to flow just as she did. Unlike Richard not a speck of black cloth could be found on her person. Only her hair interrupted the sea of radiant white, short brown curls not even long enough to reach her shoulders. She looked slightly amused as her beauty left the men of the audience slightly dumbstruck. Richard continued to speak to the audience though they appeared to be distracted.
            “And with no more a do, I proudly present to you The Murder of the Masquerade.” At once the stage filled with actors, and finally the play began.

Mission Clock: 11:59 pm ( -00:01:00)

Richard stood among the masked patrons. All were dressed in their best attire, and each wore a mask of thin plastic to shield their face. For one night everyone could be anyone. The rich could be poor, and the poor rich. White, black, and gold were the dominant colors of the masquerade. Gold for riches, white for purity, and black for mystery, but tonight black will have a double meaning. As others danced merrily past him, Richard reached over and patted part of his vest. Underneath he could feel a familiar shape that offered him some comfort. Normally a firearm would be unsuited for such an occasion but tonight was a special night. A PTS 9mm short, a weapon of precision and efficiency. He fought the unconscious compulsion  to slip his hand under his jacket and to grip the handgun. Though it offered him reassurance it would also give him away and he worked far to hard to get this close to his target. He was here somewhere and it was Richard's duty to find him.
"Have you found him yet?" A disembodied voice asked Richard. He glanced slowly over his shoulder, careful so that none of the earpiece's wires would be seen by any of the other patrons.
"Not yet ma'am, the masks are making it difficult."
"There is no excuses, find him now before he gets to his target."
"Yes ma'am." Richard began to move through the crowd, scanning each person as he went. The masked faces stared back at him. He subconsciously but his hand in his jacket and on the handle of his weapon. 
Suddenly a gun shot rang out over the music and cheer. All the patrons ducked for cover out of fear. They moved as quickly as they could in their elaborate costumes. Richard drew his weapon and pushed his way towards wear he had heard the gun shot. By the time he managed to the body the room had essentially cleared out.
The body was of a young man around the age of seventeen. He had taken a bullet to the back of the head. Five others stood around the body, each with their own weapons drawn in an old style show down. Each gun turned to Richard as he approached, the games have begun.

Mission Clock: 02:23 pm ( -09:37:00) 

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