“Well, that was weird,” says Sadiq.
“Why didn’t he just change the price?” asks Maria. “What are we supposed to do now? This stupid idiot just wasted our time. Que tonto!”
“Maybe we should play along,” Lucy suggests. “He just wants us to figure out a riddle.”
Sadiq scoffs. “What kind of riddle is this, anyway? Everybody turns into their names? Where would we start?”
“Maybe we should look up the meaning of everyone’s names,” Sophia suggests.
Everyone stops and looks at her like she just did a triple backflip.
“That’s…actually a good idea,” Alex says slowly. “You never have good ideas.”
“And Maria never gets upset,” Adolf points out.
“Unless you start pushing my buttons,” Maria sucks her teeth. “Then I can be a real bruja, you know what I mean?”
“And you’re not starting fights,” Sadiq nods at Alex. “You could’ve jumped in anytime.”
Alex shrugs. “I know. I feel…different.”
Maria rolls her eyes. “You guys are buying this? Let’s just pay the man his stupid money. Make Adolf pay everybody’s part since he got us into this mess. If you had just paid your stinking six hundred dollars, we could’ve all been sleeping already! Estupido!”
Adolf raises his hands in surrender. “I’m sorry. I’ll pay my share.”
“It’s too late now, Hitler!” Maria shrieks. “You’re the killer!”
“Whoa, Maria!” Alex shouts. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Here,” Sophia says, holding up her phone. “‘Maria’ is the Latin form of ‘Mary’ and means “sea of bitterness”. But it can also mean “rebellion”.”
Adolf whistles. “That sounds just like her right now.”
Maria rolls her eyes.
“What about the rest of us?” Alex asks.
Sophia types into her phone. “’Alexander’ means “defender of men”…‘Sadiq’ means “truthful one”…‘Lucy’ means “light”…‘Adolf’ means “noble wolf”…and ‘Sophia’ means “wisdom”.”
Everyone stands in silence, trying to figure out what to do next.
“Are we actually taking this seriously?” Maria scoffs. “Can we just pay the man his money and get this over with?”
“It’s just a riddle,” Alex points out. “He probably just wants us to tell him who we think it is. It’s hard to tell who’d be a killer from these names, though.”
“Ummmm,” Sadiq scratches the back of his head. “Not to be that guy, but I think it’s Adolf.”
Everyone turns to Adolf and he sighs.
“I mean,” Sadiq goes on. “He is named after a mass-murderer.”
“But it’s not about who we’re named after,” Alex corrects him. “It’s about what our name means.”
“And his name means wolf,” Maria spits. “Like a greedy perro.”
“Wolves aren’t too friendly, last I checked,” Sadiq says.
Adolf nods. “I agree. It’s probably me.”
Lucy raises her hand. “I second that.”
Sophia raises her hand too, but reluctantly.
“Everyone’s saying yes, but you,” Sadiq nods at Alex.
Alex shakes his head. “I don’t know about this.”
“Listen,” Adolf suggests. “I’m the reason we’re in this situation in the first place.
Lemme just take one for the team.”
They call for the landlord and he walks into the room, his robe flowing like a cape behind him.
“We think it’s Adolf,” Alex speaks for the group. “His name means “noble wolf” and we think if he turned into his name, he’d devour us all like a wolf. I guess…”
The landlord stares at the group with unwavering eyes and the silence crawls on everyone’s skin.
“Wrong,” the man finally says.
“What?” says Alex. “Then who is it?”
“One of you will die tonight,” the landlord goes on. “Find the killer or all of you will die.” Then he turns and leaves the room again.
The group murmurs amongst themselves, confused now more than ever.
“It sounded good to me,” Sadiq shrugs.
“Who else could it be?” Adolf wonders.
They pour over the names for the rest of the night and come up with different answers, but no matter how many times they call the landlord, he won’t come back. They finally reason that they’re only being allowed one guess per night and decide to exhaust all possibilities to have the best answer the following morning.
But as the night wears on, they eventually forget about the riddle. And they forget about the threat of someone dying. And they fall asleep, expecting to wake up to another normal day. But the next morning, everyone wakes up to a nightmare. Because everyone gets up to something they haven’t expected. Everyone, that is, except for Sophia…
Who is now dead.