The moment everyone walked into the piano room, the door behind them abruptly closed. The sound rang out in the room and Long Sen, who was in the rear, immediately turned around to tug at the door. He found that the door couldn’t be opened at all and reluctantly said, “We are locked in. It seems we need to find the code to get out of this room.”
Qu Wanyue observed the door carefully. “Why don’t I see a place to enter the password?”
Old Mo also walked to the door and fiddled with it for a while. He didn’t find any traces of a switch or door lock and told Xiao Lou, “It seems the password lock isn’t on the door. We need to look for it elsewhere.”
Xiao Lou looked around. The room was empty, the walls and floors were flat and there were no traces of a hidden compartment. Besides the piano, there was nowhere to store clues.
In an escape room game, sometimes there wasn’t a password to enter at the door. There were also various pressing, stepping, puzzles and voice control mechanisms that worked as triggers. For example, the first room was a voice control mechanism that could only be unlocked with the Christmas song. This room had no code lock on the door so the key to escape should be the piano in the middle of the room.
Xiao Lou had this in mind as he spoke. “The piano in the middle is probably connected to a hidden pressing mechanism. It is only by pressing the corresponding key that this secret room will be opened.”
Ye Qi agreed. “This type of pressing mechanism is very common in escape rooms. If the piano keys are connected by the pressing mechanism, the order of the keys is very important. Will it be a specific melody?”
Xiao Lou told them, “Let’s find it.”
He took a step forward and closely observed the beautiful woman.
The woman was stabbed to death in a single blow. She didn’t struggle before she died but the expression on her face was full of horror. It should’ve come at the hands of an unsuspected acquaintance. The murderer walked into the piano room, abruptly took out a knife and directly stabbed her to death.
Xiao Lou analyzed. “There is no doubt about the cause of death. It was the knife in her chest. Her identity… could it be the hostess of the family? Lucia’s mother?”
Yu Hanjiang replied, “It is possible. Normal guests won’t come to the piano room. In this place, she was sitting at the piano and preparing to play. Perhaps when the party took place on Christmas Eve, someone asked her to play a piece of music.”
Yu Hanjiang observed the space around the piano. There was no furniture so it seemed the piano was the only clue. He bent down to check under the piano and unexpectedly found a portable tape recorder more than half a meter wide hidden under the piano. There was also a speaker attached to the recorder.
Yu Hanjiang took out the tape recorder and had a closer look. It was an old-fashioned tape recorder that could be started with a battery and contained a tape. As a child, he had used this type of tape recorder to listen to songs.
Yu Hanjiang handed it over to Ye Qi. “Can you use this?”
Ye Qi nodded. “Yes.”
At this point, the tape had reached the end and it had automatically stopped playing. Ye Qi pressed rewind, rewound the tape to the beginning and pressed the play button.
After a few seconds of silence, a clear and melodious piano melody entered their ears. It was a familiar melody with a trace of sadness. Many people had heard this melody but couldn’t remember its name.
Ye Qi was forced to learn musical instruments by his parents since he was a child and he had memorized the scores of such famous music. The moment he listened to it, he knew its identity. “This piano piece is called Dream Wedding. Two well-known composers tailored a piece of the piano master Richard Clayderman. There is a touching story behind this piece.”
Xiao Lou was interested. “The story? Let’s hear it.”
Ye Qi carefully told the story.
“One winter when it was snowing, a young man came to the Magic Academy in the Kingdom of Dreams. He fell in love with the school’s most beautiful girl at first sight. This girl was the princess of the Kingdom of Dreams.”
“The young man had an ordinary identity and knew he couldn’t be with the noble princess. He could only bury his love in his heart. Later, he finally couldn’t suppress his feelings and confessed to the princess. After being rejected, he left the Kingdom of Dreams sadly. However, he couldn’t forget her, his first love. Six years later he returned to the Kingdom of Dreams to seek the princess only to encounter the princess’ wedding.”
“The princess was marrying the prince of a neighboring kingdom. All the people of the Kingdom of Dreams were celebrating. The man stood in the crowd and watched the princess walking to the church with the prince. Suddenly, he rushed out. The guards beside the princess thought he was an assassin and immediately drew their swords. They didn’t expect that instead of hurting the princess, he opened his arms, threw himself in front of the princess and said ‘I will protect you.’ Then people saw a sharp arrow pierce his chest…”
Ye Qi couldn’t help sighing. “The man actually saw someone in the crowd pulling out a longbow to assassinate the princess so he rushed to protect her. Before he died, he dreamed that the princess walked into the church beside him in her wedding dress, smiled and said she would marry him. It is a tragic story of how the wedding in the man’s dream will never come true.”
The expressions of the team members changed as they heard Ye Qi’s story.
The sad piano music was still playing in the room and Qu Wanyue couldn’t help whispering softly, This man was quite infatuated and was willing to give up his life for the princess. It is a pity that they couldn’t be together in the end due to their difference in status.”
Shao Qingge joked, “Xiao Ye, you are good at telling stories.”
Ye Qi looked at Xiao Lou seriously. “I think that the story behind this piano piece is related to the murder.”
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang glanced at each other. Could the unfulfilled wedding in the dream be related to the murders?
The piano music on the tape finished and the room became quiet again.
Yu Hanjiang’s voice was low. “From Lucia’s diary, it can be inferred that many people participated in the party on Christmas Eve. The hostess went to the piano room to play the piano and was killed. The murderer used the recorded piano music to cover it up. This shows that the murderer must know what piece the hostess would play.”
It was for a very simple reason. If the hostess said ‘I’ll play To Alice’ for everyone’ and instead it was Dream Wedding on the recorder, everyone’s suspicions would naturally be aroused. Since the piano music in the recorder was the same as the piece the hostess wanted to play, it proved the murderer was prepared.
Xiao Lou speculated, “Perhaps playing the song Dream Wedding was suggested by the murderer.”
There were so many piano pieces and Christmas was a joyous holiday. Why play a sad song like Dream Wedding unless someone deliberately suggested it. They could find a reason similar to ‘I like listening to this piano piece the best’ to let the hostess play it.
Xiao Lou glanced over at Ye Qi. “Xiao Ye, can you play this piano song?”
Ye Qi nodded. “Yes.”
No mechanisms or code lock had been found in the room and the door couldn’t be opened. They could only try to unlock it with the piano. Yu Hanjiang understood Xiao Lou’s meaning and stepped back to make room for Ye Qi.
Ye Qi prepared himself and sat where the corpse had just been. He stretched out his slender hands and started to play Dream Wedding based on his memories. As a result, he just finished the first verse when the locked door suddenly opened!
Ye Qi was excited. “It indeed has to do with the piano!”
The piano keys were connected to the hidden lock in the room. The door would open after pressing the correct keys just like Xiao Lou speculated. They saw no other clues in this room. Everyone looked at each other and immediately walked out the door.
The cat was nowhere to be seen and there was no light in the dark corridor. Yu Hanjiang raised the Night Pearl and saw another door after taking a few more steps. The group came to the door. Just as before, upon entering, the door closed behind them. They needed to find the code to this room to unlock the clues.
They all started searching. This was a study and the colour scheme was cold black and grey.
The middle of the room contained a desk with a photo frame on the table. The photo showed the family of three. Xiao Lou picked it up to take a look. The lower right corner of the photo read, “Wells, Shirley and daughter Lucia on her 10th birthday.”
The man was wearing a blue suit and was handsome. The woman was beautiful and sexy in a white dress while the little girl was lively and cute in a pink dress. The scene of the family of three standing together was particularly warm.
Xiao Lou observed the woman in the photo. “The one who died just now really is the hostess of this house. She is called Shirley.”
There was a globe next to the photo frame. Xiao Lou picked it up but didn’t find anything abnormal, so he temporarily put it back.
Ye Qi knelt down and searched the drawer under the bookcase. He found a stack of printed invitations and took them to Yu Hanjiang. “These should be the invitations for the Christmas Eve party. They are done very well.”
Yu Hanjiang’s eyes swept over the names on the invitations. A total of five people were invited to the Christmas Eve party. They were Dr Simon, Mr Jack, Ms Karen, Ms Martha and Ms Susan.
Xiao Lou leaned over to look at the stack of invitations and memorized the names of the five people. He analyzed it. “There are two men and three women. Apart from Simon who is a doctor, the other four can’t be identified. Since they can participate in a private party, these four people must have a very close relationship with the host and hostess.
Qu Wanyue found many books in the bookcase and took some out. “Is Shirley a professional pianist or a teacher at a music school? There are many professional books on piano.”
Ye Qi was searching through a desk drawer and found a printed form and delicate wooden box. He picked up the form, glanced at it and called out excitedly, “Shirley is indeed a pianist and she is very famous! I found a schedule for her tour!”
He spread out the form on the table and read it loudly.
November 25th: Japan – Tokyo, concert.
December 7th: Norway – Oslo, piano performance.
December 12th: Germany – Frankfurt, piano performance.
Xiao Lou spoke clearly, “No wonder Lucia’s diary mentioned that her parents were too busy during this time and didn’t accompany her. It turned out that her mother was busy going abroad to perform.” He walked over and asked, “What’s in the wooden box?”
Ye Qi opened the wooden box and found a number puzzle inside. The numbers were filled in on the edges and only the middle ones were empty. There was a note next to it: A Christmas gift for Shirley. You can get it if you complete the puzzle—Wells who loves you.”
Ye Qi handed the wooden box to Xiao Lou. “Professor Xiao, this number puzzle is a bit weird. What do you think the password is?”
Xiao Lou took the wooden box. At first glance, the number puzzle wasn’t Suduko. It was a 6×6 puzzle with a total of 36 boxes in a grid, of which 24 had been filled in with numbers. There were 12 vacancies left and he couldn’t find any rules for filling in the numbers. Adding or subtracting the horizontal and vertical rows didn’t work. He couldn’t get the answer even if he followed the 1-9 Sudoku method.
Xiao Lou stared at the puzzle and thought carefully. Since it was a gift from the husband to his wife, the 12 vacant numbers were likely to be related to his wife. He looked at the schedule of Shirley’s overseas performances this month and then the globe on the table.
Xiao Lou’s eyes abruptly lit up. “Liu Qiao, go to the globe to find the locations of Shirley’s performances!”
Liu Qiao was standing next to the globe. She immediately rotated it to find Tokyo, Oslo and Frankfurt.
Xiao Lou ordered, “Check the latitude and longitude of these cities.
Liu Qiao quickly got the answers from the globe. “Tokyo, Japan is 35 degrees north latitude and 139 degrees east longitude. Oslo, Norway is 59 degrees north latitude and 10 degrees east longitude. Frankfurt, Germany is 50 degrees north latitude and 8 degrees east longitude…”
Xiao Lou filled the latitudes 35, 59 and 50 into the six blanks in the first row. Then he filled the longitude numbers 139, 10, and 8 in the remaining puzzle areas.
Sure enough, a ‘pop’ sound entered their ears and the box was opened.
Ye Qi couldn’t help sighing. “This globe is used to check the latitude and longitude.” The first time he saw the globe, he had wondered if he needed to turn it a few times to unlock it.
Meanwhile, Xiao Lou saw the detailed place names on the performance schedule and noticed there was a globe on the table. He realized that the cities’ latitude and longitude might correspond to the number puzzle. This type of ‘connected thinking’ was a very important skill in escape room games.
The box opened and revealed a sapphire necklace and a card.
The card said:
“Dear Shirley, we have been married for 10 years. You have been very busy over the years and often go on tour to do performances all over the world. I am also very busy at my company. We can’t spare too much time to accompany each other but please believe that no matter where you go, my heart is with you.
Shall we take a rest after Christmas this year?
I think taking our baby daughter around the world is the best gift for Lucia.”
Xiao Lou read this card and looked at Yu Hanjiang. “This family is very rich. The host is the boss of a company and the hostess is a pianist. They live in a luxurious large villa but the two of them are too busy to accompany their daughter. During her illness, their daughter was taken care of by the nanny and family doctor.”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “The host’s original plan was to go around the world together after Christmas. So on Christmas Eve, he invited a lot of people to come to the house for a party. He didn’t expect that this Christmas Eve would turn into a night of death.”
The hostess’ body was found in the piano room. Then what about the host?
Proofreader: Fictional Reality