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[Taskmaster] Hidden Clues
Monday 1st January 2018

Rating: General
Summary: Team Wumar attempt a room escape task.
Notes: For Biscuit Lion

"Team Wumar are in the building!" Nish announced, arms spread as he and Mark entered the room, the door closing behind them. His announcement was followed by a delighted "Horny!" as he spotted Alex.

Compared to Nish's exuberance, Mark and Alex were far more restrained, with an exchange of "Hi"s and nods to each other.

They were in a small, sparsely decorated room. There was a brown, two-seater sofa along the side wall, with a light brown coffee table in front of it. The back wall had a short bookcase with three shelves full of colourful books. Above it was a painting of Greg as the Mona Lisa. The bare floor was broken up by a rug with 'Taskmaster' on it in the centre of the room.

"So what's the task?" Nish rubbed his hands in anticipation, as both he and Mark easily spotted the task lying on the coffee table.

They both sat on the sofa and Mark opened the task. "Escape from the room," he read. "Your time starts now."

Nish frowned. "That's it?"

"That's it." Mark held the paper up so Nish could see that it really did just have those eight words on it.

"Okay." Nish jumped up to look around, while Mark looked the task over again, turning the paper over to check the reverse side. It was blank.

"No hidden clues," Mark concluded.

"There's a code on the door." Having gone over to it, Nish pointed at the keypad on the wall beside the door. As Mark came over, having abandoned the task on the coffee table, Nish typed '1234' into the keypad. It made an "Uh oh" noise and the display blanked. He shrugged. "It was worth a try."

Mark nodded. "Those symbols." He pointed to the symbols painted in black above the keypad. "They must mean something."

"Card suits." The spade, club, heart and diamond were easily recognisable. "But what do we do with them?"

"Can't be numbers related to the first letter: S has two digits." Mark stroked his beard as he thought.

"Maybe there's another clue somewhere." Nish looked around the room. "Otherwise what's the point of having this stuff in here?"

"Good point." Giving up on the keypad and the symbols, Mark went over to the coffee table, first running his fingers over it, then lying on the rug so he could look underneath it.

Meanwhile, Nish went to the sofa. "There's always something down the back of the sofa," he commented, as he rummaged behind the seat cushions. "Aha!" What he'd found was an orange plastic Kinder egg toy holder.

Mark went over to him, so he could stand at Nish's shoulder, as Nish opened it and revealed the Christmas cracker joke sized piece of paper folded up inside. "'Under the board walk'," he read, then frowned. "What does that mean?"

"Under the boards you walk on?" Mark said slowly. "The floor boards!"

Nish looked dubiously at the floor, as Mark knelt back down on the rug. "We can't take all of the floor boards up, surely," Nish said.

Alex looked worried at the idea that they might.

"No, but one of them must be loose," Mark pointed out.

"Ah." Rather than examining them as closely as Mark was, Nish opted for walking slowly across the room, feeling if any of the floor boards moved beneath his feet. Meanwhile, Mark put his face close to the floor, looking to see if it was uneven. He didn't appear to be concerned as Nish's route meant he had to step over him.

"None of the floor boards are loose," Nish concluded, after an inordinately long time. He stood in one corner, looking over the room with a lost expression. "We've tried all of them."

"Except the ones beneath something else," Mark pointed out. Such as under himself. He moved back and started rolling the rug up.

When he joined Mark, Nish noticed something. "Wait!" Nish knelt too and picked up the small piece of paper that Mark's actions were blowing across the floor. "It's a picture of a ring and is that the princess and the pea?"

Mark craned over his shoulder to see it. "I think so."

"What does that mean?" Nish screwed his face up and gestured with the paper. "There isn't a bed in here."

"No, but there is a sofa." Mark nodded in its direction.

"I searched the sofa." But Nish returned to it, this time removing all the cushions and examining each one.

Meanwhile, Mark continued with the rug and it became clear that one of the floorboards wasn't quite flat. He struggled, digging his fingers into the too-small gap between the floorboards, but finally managed to get a grip on the wood. Underneath it was a space and in the space was a playing card. "The five of clubs."

"What?" Nish paused in his demolition of the sofa to look round and see the card Mark was holding up. "Okay, so that's a clue," he said uncertainly.

"Card suits." Mark pointed to the keypad. "The third symbol is a club, so the third digit is a five."

Nish's face lit up. "So we just need to find three other playing cards." He glared at the sofa for a moment, before lying down and peering under it. "Aha!" He reached out and unstuck a playing card that was blu-tacked to the underside of the sofa. "The four of diamonds."

"Two down, two to go."

They both looked over at the bookcase at the same time. They didn't even have to discuss it, they both went over and started taking out every book and shaking them.

Nish found the eight of hearts at the same time as Mark found the name of the book on a piece of paper on the top shelf.

They finished going through the books anyway, but both it and the bookcase gave them nothing more.

"Where else?" Mark asked, as they both gazed around the room, piles of books at their feet.

Nish clicked his fingers and made his way through the books to take the painting down. He found a piece of paper with a clue on it at the same time as Mark happened to look at the ceiling, perhaps for guidance.

"Look up," Nish read, as Mark pointed to the ceiling and said, "Up there."

Nish did as the clue said and followed Mark's gaze to the card stuck to the ceiling. All they could see was its back, so they were going to have to get it down. They both tried reaching up, then Nish tried jumping, but neither of them managed to get even a finger on the card.

"Perhaps if I stand on the table." Mark dragged the coffee table into the middle of the room, kicking the rug out of the way. He stepped onto it gingerly, but it supported his weight. However, all he could do was to brush his fingertips along the card.

As he got down, Mark looked over at Nish thoughtfully. "One of us is going to have to sit on the other one's shoulders."

"I'm not very strong," Nish said, weighing Mark up.

"Neither am I."

"I called it first."

Mark hesitated for a moment, then said, "Okay." Followed by, "How are you going to get up there?"

Nish looked round the room. "The sofa."

More dragging of furniture led to Mark standing by the back of the sofa, which Nish then climbed onto. However, once he tried to put all his weight on the back of the sofa it tipped alarmingly. He grabbed onto Mark for balance, before stepping back down.

"Alex, can you come and sit on this sofa?" Mark asked.

Alex didn't look very enthusiastic about sitting on a sofa with no cushions and the prospect of having Nish fall on him, but he did it anyway.

This time, when Nish stood precariously on the back of the sofa, the bottom stayed where it was. From there, it was easy enough to sit on Mark's shoulders. "All right?" he asked Mark.

"Yes," Mark's reply was through gritted teeth and he braced himself against the sofa.

It made Nish tall enough to reach up and pluck the two of spades from the ceiling.

Afterwards, he decided the best way to get down was to fall backwards. He narrowly missed Alex, who leaned out of the way, an alarmed expression on his face. Nish's momentum made him roll over backwards and he ended up on his knees on the floor. He immediately stood up and put his arms out, looking pleased with himself.

But there was no applause. Mark was busy rubbing his shoulders and Alex was curled up in the corner of the sofa.

After a moment Mark and Nish ordered their playing cards, and Mark tapped '2854' into the keypad. A ding dong noise followed, and the keypad display changed to say 'open'.

Nish pushed the door open and they celebrated, arms high.

Back in the studio, they were also celebrating the applause. Although Greg was laughing.

"We escaped," Nish pointed out.

"You did." But from Greg's tone it was clear that he didn't think much of their attempt. "Eventually. Remind me never to get locked in anywhere with you two." He marked something off on his card.

"You'd be lucky to be locked in with me," Nish said, to which Alex shook his head.

Greg laughed and looked to his left. "And just how terrible at it were they?"

Nish and Mark both looked aggrieved as Alex consulted his tablet. "Thirty five minutes, eleven seconds. Including the time Mark spent putting back the pages in the book that fell apart when he shook it. And they weren't in the right order afterwards, we checked."

Mark put his face in his hands.

"Oh, dear." Greg shook his head. "Shall we see if the other three can do any better? Let's face it, they're hard pressed to do worse."

Alex tapped his tablet and on screen, Sally read, "Your time starts now."

Bob wandered over to the door as Aisling said, "It's like an escape room. There should be clues somewhere."

Having looked at the keypad, Bob tried the door. Which opened. "It's not locked," he said, pointing out into the hall.

"Can we just leave?" Sally asked. "Does that count?"

"What does the task say?" Aisling asked.

Sally picked the task back up. "It just says 'Escape from the room'. Walking out is escaping, isn't it?"

Bob shrugged.

"Sounds good to me," Aisling said.

As they all walked out of the room, Mark and Nish's mouths hung open.

"That's not allowed, is it?" Nish asked, sounding a little desperate.

Greg turned to his assistant. "Alex."

Alex balanced his tablet on his lap. "The task is very clear. They had to escape from the room."

"Saying escape implies a locked room," Mark said.

"Does it?" Greg asked. "It looks like they escaped to me."

Alex checked his tablet. "Almost thirty five minutes faster than Mark and Nish."

"No." Nish's eyes were wide. He dropped to his knees and held his clasped hands up in front of him. "Please say that's not allowed."

"Well, I was already tempted to allow it," Greg replied, "but now I definitely am." He grinned at Nish and Mark's disappointment. "Five points to Bob, Sally and Aisling, none to Nish and Mark."

"Nooo!" Nish wailed, dropping his head to the floor.

Greg laughed at him, while Bob, Sally and Aisling held their arms high in victory.




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