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Everyone froze as they stared at the scene before them. William’s unmoving and bloody body laid face down in the hallway. Blood covered the back of his head and a bloody brick sat beside it. He was positioned halfway inside of Marcus’ office. The large office door was unlocked and partially opened for the first time; the light inside the room was off. It appeared that William had been hit over the head with a brick while trying to escape into the safest room of the mansion.

Marcus had fallen onto the floor at the site of the murder. He looked stunned and appalled. His face had gone pale and his jaw was frozen open. No matter how much he tried to look away, his eyes were glued to the body.

‘W-we have to help him!’ Amelia cried. Her eyes welled with tears and her hands covered her mouth. ‘We need to call an ambulance!’

Normally this is where Mary would chime in, but she seemed frozen too. Her eyes stared at William and couldn’t look away.

Alex spoke in a grim tone as he turned his head away from both Amelia and the body, ‘He’s… already passed.’

Lilah bit her nails and her legs gave out on her. She fell to the ground with a thud. Her glasses were falling from her face but she didn’t seem to notice.

‘H-how do you know that?! It can’t be true! He was fine just an hour ago… You haven’t even checked his pulse!’ Amelia continued.

Alex shook his head sadly. He seemed reluctant to check the body. Everyone did, for that matter.

Slowly and carefully, I made my way to the scene of the crime. I grabbed William’s wrist with one hand and pushed my fingers against his neck with the other. Neither gave even the faintest sign of a pulse.

‘It’s no use. He’s dead,’ I stand back up and glance around at everyone in the room.

Mary’s face hadn’t moved an inch. She was truly shocked to her core. Lilah covered her face and sat on the ground, shaking. Alex continued to look away from the rest of the room and stared at the floor.

Amelia looked at me, scared, with tears falling from her eyes, ‘How… how can you be so calm?’

I knew how I should’ve felt and I knew something horrible had just happened, but for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to cry. Without a response or answer to her question, all I could do was shift my eyes away from her.

‘What happened? D-did something fall on him? Could there have been some kind of accident?’ Amelia desperately searched for a reason.

Finally, Mary regained her senses. Her face shifted from shocked to stern, ‘It was a murder. It had to have been. There’s no way a brick just happened to hit him on the head.’

‘But that’s impossible!’ Amelia insisted through tears. ‘Are you saying that one of us…? We need to call the police!’

‘Yes,’ She responded quickly and without care. ‘But, that’s impossible. There’s no connection to the outside world here. No internet and no phone service.’

Alex directed a question towards Mary, who had just demonstrated her leadership and level headedness, ‘Why would anyone target William? We have several famous people here, and they target the butler?’

My stomach churned. I knew the answer before it was said.

Mary spoke in a harsh tone, ‘William wasn’t their only target. Think about it. Who drove us here? The only “connection” to the outside world we have, or at least had, was the boats. Tell me, are any of you qualified to sail a boat?’ Silence. ‘Whoever did this is planning on doing it again. They’ve trapped us on this island!’

Amelia looked like she was about to throw up and stared at the ground while repeating ‘Why…?’ to herself in a whisper.

Suddenly, Mary burst into rage. Her long black hair glided through the air as she made a sudden stride towards the center of the circle we had unconsciously created, surrounding the body. She stomped across the ground and began to yell in anger, completely unhinged, ‘Murderer! Know that you have another thing coming! I won’t let you get away with it! You’re going to be next! The vile act of murder, killing another man, is by far the worst crime a person can commit! But, there’s no law out here, no enforcement. So know this! I won’t fear you! You should be the one fearing me!’

She made a slow spin as she boldly uttered her lines. As she spun she made direct eye contact with everyone. She ended her speech staring Marcus in the eye, and he seemed afraid of her.

Lilah stopped shaking for a moment and looked up at Mary, adjusting her glasses. Despite being in petrifying fear, she seemed interested in Mary’s words.

I gently raised my hand, directing Mary, Alex, and Lilah’s attention towards me. The sudden silence caused Amelia and Marcus to look up at me as well, ‘Um… Maybe we should take a minute to calm down and then meet in the cafeteria to discuss how we should proceed. How’s half an hour?’

A couple moments passed and everyone nodded. Somehow, the friendship we had begun to build over the few days we were here suddenly felt distant.

Mary took a deep breath and began to walk away, no further words. Alex followed suit. Lilah stumbled up and then took a last look at us before walking away.

Amelia tapped me on the shoulder. Her eyes were a little red from the tears and she sniffled a little bit, ‘I-I’m afraid. I don’t want to be killed while we have an intermission… Could I come with you?’

Hm… I suppose that she trusts me more than the rest of them. We did share a nice little bond over mutually enjoyed art. While I hate this thought is even crossing my mind, this could be bait from her to get us alone. If she’s the murderer, then I’ll be done for. But, if I express that concern to her, any trust we might’ve had will disappear in an instant. At the same time, what’s even the worst case scenario if she’s the murderer? I’ll just die right? But if I die… No. I’ll just trust her for now. I’ll trust my own judgment.

‘Sure. I’d feel safer with you, too. I’m glad you can trust me.’

She smiled softly at my words and rubbed her eyes, ‘Thanks.’

Without turning around, Amelia and I left Marcus behind with William. Perhaps he’d’ve liked to say one last goodbye?

The next thirty minutes were spent in my room sitting alongside Amelia in mostly silence, door locked of course. They went by almost instantly. Despite us trusting each other enough to be alone in the same room, there was a fair amount of distance between us, just in case. Neither of us said that was why, but it could be assumed. Amelia would occasionally start breathing heavily in a silent sob.

Before we knew it, we were slowly walking to the cafeteria. We had waited until we heard everyone else’s door open, just in case.

We all arrived in the cafeteria at a similar time. Everyone was still standing when Amelia and I made it. Our arrival signaled that it was time to take a seat.

Everyone sat in their normal seats, but William didn’t stand behind Marcus this time. The table was empty with none of the delicious meals that normally laid there.

Alex looked nervous and was persistent about avoiding eye contact. Amelia stared at the table and folded her hands in her lap. Lilah seemed to have gotten over her initial shock and was looking at everyone’s face carefully. Mary’s face was as serious and stern as always. Marcus’ face was blank, his fingers were intertwined and he leaned his forehead against the back of his hands.

Nobody spoke for around a minute before I decided that it was probably my job to at least start the discussion. I was the one who proposed it, after all.

‘So… I guess first things first, what do we do now?’

‘That’s a bit of a vague question,’ Mary immediately critiqued.

‘We need to get off of this island,’ Amelia proposed.

Alex frowned, ‘Impossible. None of us can sail a boat. We’d only get lost at sea if we tried.’

‘But it’s worth a shot! It’s better than staying here and being murdered!’

Lilah chuckled, ‘No, I’d much rather have a chance at survival than be doomed to starving to death at sea. Thanks for the offer though. But, don’t let me get you down, you can go. If you’d like.’

Amelia gritted her teeth.

‘Alright guys, calm down,’ I spoke over them. ‘We can’t go picking fights. Not now.’

‘Alright then, Lilah, what do you think we should do then?’ Amelia scoffed.

‘Well, we’ll be picked up off of this island soon. If we don’t return in a week like we were supposed to, there will be rescue teams dispatched immediately. But, in the meantime, let’s have a trial!’ Somehow she seemed to have already gotten over the shock and fear already. Her smile came back like it was only natural. She no longer seemed to be disturbed.

‘How can we even hold a trial with no evidence?’ Alex countered.

She snickered a bit in response, ‘Let’s investigate! We’d be like real detectives!’

Mary seemed annoyed at Lilah’s behavior the whole time, but that had set her off, ‘This isn’t a game!’

Lilah puffed her cheeks out, ‘You’re no fun…’

‘Alright, alright. Leave her be for now,’ I said. ‘She’s having a rough time too. Everyone deals with stress differently. She might be right too. We need to find out more about what happened.’

Mary rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.

‘Does anyone have any clues?’ I added.

With a sigh, Mary picked up the discussion, ‘Naturally. I already know who it was anyway. None of us kids could have done it. Think about it. William left when we were all at the pool. After we all left, Marcus was the only one who went upstairs. It had to be him.’

‘What!?’ Marcus screamed. ‘How dare you! I can’t believe that you’d say that! He was my only friend for the past ten years- and you claim that I killed him?!’

‘That’s the only possibility!’

‘Well…’ I interjected. ‘I only looked at the body briefly, but I remember it perfectly. He wasn’t bleeding. The brick must have hit his head a while before he was found.’

‘Brick?’ Amelia asked.

‘You must have missed it under all of the confusion. It was lying next to William’s head. It seems that someone hit him with it.’

Mary responded to my claim, ‘Impossible. Someone had to do it. William left the pool room by himself, alive. He had to have died after that. All of us kids were together. If you don’t think it was Marcus, are you proposing that there’s someone else secretly on the island?’

‘No, that would be silly. I’d bet you that it was done remotely. A trap.’

Mary’s face looked shocked for a moment, then she placed her thumb on her lip and thought for a moment, ‘Perhaps…’

‘Besides, what would Marcus have to gain from killing William? If he called us kids here to kill us, he wouldn’t have needed to kill William. He could have even sent William away for the duration of our stay. If him being a witness posed a problem, he could have just killed him beforehand. And if William was his target, he could have waited until we left, or even just not called us here in the first place.’

Marcus let out a deep breath and his shoulders fell.

‘Then who-’ Mary got cut off by Lilah.

‘See? Investigation time~’ She smiled innocently.

‘Someone was murdered! Why doesn’t this mean anything to you?’ Mary asked desperately.

‘It is pretty suspicious that she’s so calm…’ Alex added.

‘Well it’s pretty suspicious that you’d point that out!’ Lilah stuck out her tongue.

Alex jumped back, ‘W-well it’s pretty suspicious that Daniel is so calm too!’

‘What!?’ I gasped. ‘Guys, we’re going to need to stop the baseless accusations. They’ll seriously tear us apart.’

Amelia came to my defense, ‘There’s no way it was him! We were alone in his room for half an hour before this meeting. He could have easily killed me then!’

Lilah pointed out, ‘Well, how do you know he wasn’t just trying to seem innocent? And doesn't saying that imply that you are out of the question too?’

Mary coughed, ‘He just said that we shouldn’t baselessly accuse each other. Did he not?’

‘Whatever, but be careful,’ She shrugged.

‘Let's all investigate together,’ I suggested. ‘A murder won’t occur if we’re together. At least we know that the murderer doesn’t want caught, otherwise we’d know who did it already.’

‘Are you suggesting that you search my office?’ Marcus asked in a serious tone.

‘No, it’s certainly not a suggestion,’ Mary stared daggers through him. His once serious face grew meek. ‘Unless you have something to hide?’

With that, we were able to secure our right to investigate.

We all walked up the seemingly endless stairs to Marcus’ office. Mary led the group, her back exposed fearlessly. Lilah and Alex drifted to the back, cautiously. Marcus walked just in front of Alex. In the middle, Amelia walked with me shoulder to shoulder.

Unconsciously, the whole group walked progressively slower the closer we got to the office. The body will still be there, reaffirming the severity of the situation we’re in.

Surprisingly, when we made it to the doorway, his body was no longer lying there.

Noticing our surprise, Marcus spoke solemnly, ‘Don’t worry, I carried him to his room. He’s in his bed.’

The door to the office that used to be partially opened, was once again locked and shut tight. Mary walked right up to the door and put her hand on the keypad, ‘What’s the code?’

Though hesitant, Marcus whispered, ‘Seven three five seven.’

Proceeded by the sound of four beeping buttons, a loud clunk was released from the door as it was unlocked.

‘Alright everyone, let’s search the room. We can share our findings as we come across them,’ Alex stepped up to the front.

The door swung open and Mary reached around the walls for a light switch. After a click the room became visible. Book shelves lined every wall. They were entirely full, not a single space was missing on them. Several extra books were stacked on top of the shelves. Marcus’ desk was located in the center of the room, facing towards the door. It didn’t have a computer on it, only a desk lamp, folders, papers, and office supplies like paper clips. A filing cabinet was pressed against the back wall.

Mary searched efficiently and seriously, leaving no spot unchecked. Lilah seemed to be going along with it and had a smile on her face as she analyzed everything on the shelves. Alex slowly and carefully pulled one book at a time off of the shelves, more interested in those than the problem at hand. Amelia and I didn’t know where we could fit in, so we stood by and watched. Marcus stayed in the doorway, looking around sadly.

After a while, Mary finally looked like she found something. She pulled out a file from the filing cabinet and intently looked at the papers within, ‘Hey, Marcus? What’s this newspaper all about? What do you have this for? And these too!’

She pulled multiple newspapers out of the cabinet and tossed them on the table. Many slid right off and glided across the room.

The headlines were are all along the lines of, ‘New Gen Murderer – Business Owners Beware!’ and ‘Several Promising Companies Shut Down!’ Some more obscure ones were present too. They seemed much less popular, like local papers mentioning individuals, ‘The Disappearance of Journalist Steve Bailey!

Marcus looked to the side, unable to look Mary in her eyes, ‘Do I have to explain them? Are you really going to make me?’

‘Yes. And you’d better hurry up if you don’t want to look any more suspicious.’

‘C-can I at least tell only you-’

‘No! You must tell us all, right here and now. Out with it!’

A moment of silence passed and Marcus began to explain, ‘I was a serial killer. No other words could be used to describe the atrocities I committed,’ His voice was shaky, like he was about to cry. ‘When I was young, I believed that the success of my business was the only thing that mattered. My company wouldn’t be where it is today without that belief. I grew up poor, so to me, getting out of that rut, and recognizing my potential was all that mattered. But, it was hard. It was rough starting from the ground up. Luckily, I found potential in electronics. Most commercial electronics were quite new at the time, but I wasn’t the only one to see the potential in the industry… I was getting beaten by several other businesses. Even some that started after me! In desperation, I killed a rival tech company’s owner. Not only that, but since it was small at the time, I crippled the company so that it would never stand again. It worked out so well that as soon as my progression locked again, I thought, “Why not do it again?” I- I even killed some of my own employees so that nobody suspected my company! In the same way, I avoided killing anyone from my greatest rival’s company. The bad press is what took them down…’

While Marcus spoke holding back tears, Mary looked down on him as though she was staring at a wild animal, a lesser being. He was the scum of the Earth in her eyes. She looked about ready to spit on him, ‘Did you ever once consider the feelings of those around you?’

‘No… not even once. I killed so many that it was only natural for my company to be the only one left. I used my talent not for helping people, but for hurting them. All for the sake of my own success. But, as I aged, I knew what I had done was wrong. Not just wrong, but despicable. I considered suicide for the longest time. Surely that was the only way to atone?’ He fell to his knees and a tear dropped from his eye. ‘But, I came to the conclusion that that was the easiest way out. That I wasn’t helping anything, I was just escaping. So, I imprisoned myself on this island. For five years I’ve simply waited in pain for death to take me.’

‘Tch. You think that makes up for even a fraction of what you did?’

‘No.’

‘Ha! Don’t make me laugh! Then why would you even go through with the punishment at all, if it’s not going to solve anything?! Not to mention, you used your ill gotten funds to build yourself a mansion to live in! What kind of punishment is that? You weren’t even alone here! You had a personal butler to take care of you!’

There were several seconds of silence. Mary had yelled herself out of breath, so the sound of her heavy breathing prevailed through the silence. Everyone had stopped what they were doing just to stare at them. They had a mixture of emotions on their face, uncertain of how to feel.

‘You’re right. It wasn’t a punishment. I figured it out a few years ago. I was only hiding. Whenever William left to restock, I made sure to request newspapers from several areas. The murder of a journalist was reported, one who happened to be investigating the old technology serial murders case. I’m certain that… someone in my company killed him to keep the name of my company clean. If the journalist had figured out what I did and reported it, it would have been bad for the company as a whole. Learning of this, I realized that my actions so many years ago are still causing pain to this day. Nothing that I do can undo my crimes and nothing I do can make up for them. That’s why, with the last years of my life, I decided that I would make up for lost time. I wanted to finally let go of the past that has governed my every thought. And so that I could let go of the past, I decided to start with looking towards the future. The only way for me to continue forward is to make sure no tragedy like this happens again. So, I invited the most promising kids here. You’re all almost adults. When the time comes, I want to have made a difference,’ Marcus began to cry. It wasn’t simply just tears falling, he was truly crying. Mary’s face of pure rage was suddenly disturbed. She looked at him pitifully and conflicted. The raw and honest emotions of Marcus began to pour out. ‘So, I beg of you! All of you! You don’t have to forgive me, and I’d rather you not! But, please, know that you should never turn out like this. Never do anything that you might regret. I have no family. I’ve distanced myself from all of them. That’s why, I want to give all of my money to you. I want to give my money to the future, the money that I stained with blood! I’ll fund whatever projects you may have! I don’t deserve to have any say in changing the future. Not because I’ve sinned, but because I’m old. This new generation must decide for themselves what to do. So I implore you, please! Allow me to assist you in creating a brighter future!’

Stunned, everyone sat in silence.

He was a serial killer. That’s… awful. But, despite what he said, it’s impossible for me to think of him that way. The way he speaks, he’s truly remorseful. The serial killer who lived all of those years ago simply cannot be the same person weeping before us today. But, is that just wishful thinking? Is letting something like that go alright, simply because he knows it was wrong? If it’s not alright, then what’s the point of a punishment? Revenge? Shouldn’t punishments and resentment be saved only for rehabilitation? You don’t punish someone just because they deserve it! Not to mention… he overcame his past.

I suddenly looked at him with much more respect. Marcus, the old man who had just collapsed to the floor in tears, spilling his heart out, was the most heroic sight I had ever seen.

‘Sure. That sounds good to me,’ I gently stepped forward and reached for Marcus, giving him a hand back up.

‘You don’t know how much this means to me… Thank you,’ Marcus began to spill even more tears.

‘I’m in too,’ Amelia said from behind me. ‘Even if I can’t forgive you, I can see that you really want to make a difference. So, to improve the world, I’ll help out.’

‘Me too! That sounds like fun!’ Lilah laughed and smiled at Marcus.

Mary continued to stare with confusion. Alex had a disgusted look on his face.

‘Sorry to interrupt, but one of us is an insane murderer,’ Alex spoke up. ‘You can’t entrust the future to someone like that. They’ll surely end up like you.’

Marcus only smiled painfully.

‘Well then,’ I began to pick up the scattered papers. ‘I think it’s safe to assume that Marcus wasn’t the killer. That might be an emotional and impulsive decision, but he simply doesn’t have the motive.’

Nobody contested my view, although Lilah and Mary didn’t really seem convinced.

Lilah stepped over to the bloody brick, still lying in the doorway, ‘I think there are a lot of these in the workshop. Want to check there next?’

‘Actually, let’s save that for tomorrow,’ Amelia proposed. ‘I’m really tired. Can we take a break for now?’

‘Lame~’ Lilah pouted.

‘Sounds good to me,’ I agreed. ‘Let’s meet in the cafeteria for breakfast like usual. If you don’t mind, could you wake me up Amelia? I don’t want to miss like last time.’

‘Sure.’

One by one we exited the room, once again leaving Marcus behind.

On our way back to the dorms I thought, ‘There’s still so much to do… We have to investigate, hold a trial, and… safely dispose of the body.

After everyone else had escaped to their rooms and locked their doors, Amelia and I stood in the hallway.

‘Will you be alright by yourself tonight?’ I asked.

‘I think so… thanks for being there for me.’

‘No problem.’

‘B-but I haven’t really been able to help you out at all yet. I feel like I might be putting too much pressure on you…’

‘Really. It’s no problem. I have plenty of emotion to spare.’

‘If you say so. Thanks. And- goodnight.’

Amelia spoke quietly as she shut the door to her room. A soft click of the door locking and I knew she would be safe.

Finally, I got the chance to lie in bed again. Everything was getting more and more exciting… but, none of that mattered. Absolutely none of it. Because my life is here.

I’m back… Rose.

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About the author

L. A. Sirius

Bio: A fledgling author. Loves criticism of all types.

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