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I watch the darkness of my eyelids as I attempt to fall asleep. Who knows how long it took me to solve it all? How many times did I read over my memories? But, it doesn’t really matter. The real problem is the conclusion that I reached.

I toss and turn, struggling to finally fall asleep. All I want in this moment is to sleep. Sleep is like skipping to tomorrow, because I no longer want to live in today. So much has happened that I don’t think I can take it anymore. The little emotion that I invest into reality has finally begun to overflow.

Images of Mary… or Rose? No, Mary, flood my mind.

Without a second of sleep that night, I hear a knock at the door.

“Daniel, are you awake?” Alex greets loudly from behind the door. “It’s finally time.”

“I can hardly wait!” Lilah’s voice is muffled through the door.

Followed by the clinking of the lock, Alex opens the door with a smile.

“Let’s get going. The sooner we get this over with the better,” He gestures for me to follow as he turns around and begins to make his way to the cafeteria.

Lilah hops far in front of us leading both Amelia and Mary along with her. The three of them take the elevator without waiting so Alex and I take the stairs down.

I hesitate a little before speaking but muster up the courage to ask him, “… Do you really think it was me?”

He sighs heavily and adjusts his glasses, “I wish no one had done anything at all, but here we are. I probably lost Marcus’ investment now too. Unless we were in his will for whatever reason.”

“You’re still thinking of yourself even though he just died?”

“Ha! Don’t pretend like you aren’t. All last night you were probably just trying to think up a way out of your situation. There’s no way I can believe someone would do anything out of the goodness of their heart right now. Anyone who would, I’d classify as an idiot,” He looked at my troubled expression and sighed. “Look, I don’t believe it was you. That is, I’m not convinced it was you. But that doesn’t mean that I think it couldn’t have been you. The only ones that I know didn’t commit the murder are Lilah and I.”

Alex picks up his pace down the stairs and I hurry to follow him. We arrive on the first floor just as the elevator opens up and lets Lilah’s group out. Now all together, we make our way to the diner in silence.

Everyone takes their chairs quietly. Lilah wore a smile as usual, but no longer had her beret or glasses. Alex sat as professional as always and was prepared to lead the trial. Mary seemed irritated, impatient, and worried. Usually she would be the one leading discussions, but as a suspect in the case she wouldn’t be allowed that privilege. Amelia sat with her hands covering her face, crying or simply shaking with fear.

“Alright everyone. Let’s go over this one more time,” Alex folds his hands and crosses his legs. “This trial isn’t only for the murder of Marcus. It’s also to determine who killed William. That should be obvious, but we should also include evidence from previous cases when determining who committed the crimes. That being said, let’s start with the most recent. Everyone was poisoned during our little party. It must have been in the party food due to the fact that we held it in the morning. It is important to note that Marcus most likely had a different poison from everyone else.”

“How do you know his poison was different?” Mary inquires. “What if he just had a higher dose or his body couldn’t handle it? Someone could have made sure the poison conflicted with his meds.”

Alex responds with a puffed out chest, “That is possible, but I don’t believe that was the case. The murderer would have had to know what meds he was taking and have the knowledge of what would conflict with them. The only one who should have known these things is William, but he’s already dead. As for a higher dose, everyone ate the same food, so that’s impossible. He may have a weak body, but then the murderer would have been taking a huge gamble as to whether or not the poison would kill him. If any of those were actually how he was killed then it’s clear the murderer would need a large amount of medical knowledge. Making you the prime suspect.”

“That is true,” Mary sighs. She turns to face me and hesitates before continuing. “That’s why I believe it was Daniel. He was the only one awake during the time of the murder. In my head the murder plot would have gone like this: Daniel poisons everyone’s drinks. He refrains from drinking any, or just enough to not be affected. After everyone is out cold he forces Marcus to take a separate, deadly, poison. Finally he puts everyone that he doesn’t have a grudge on in bed and tends to their wounds. He could have passed out himself but he was worried about his friends’ injuries. Either that or he was too afraid to poison himself-”

Amelia comes to my defense with tears in her eyes, “W-what if the real murderer actually did give Marcus a separate poison during the event somehow? They also might not have thought about the possibility of someone not eating or drinking enough of the poison, so Daniel ended up awake by accident.”

Mary rebuts, “That’s very unlikely. How could the murderer have possibly given out two separate poisons? It’s impossible.”

Amelia looks at me desperately for assistance. I open my mouth to assist, but Alex picks up before I can.

Alex begins, “So, to summarize, the only possible murderer is Daniel. We can rule out Mary and Amelia because other murder methods would require a large amount of luck, hazard to their friends, and a high chance of being found out. That is, unless it was somehow possible for two different poisons to be distributed accurately?”

He directs his question towards me.

Without Lilah’s smile, or an ounce of Alex’s confidence, or Amelia’s emotion, or even Mary’s determination, I bit my lip and stared at the table, “I already know who did it. All of it. Every single crime.”

Amelia looked at me with a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Lilah giggled and grinned, simply enjoying the show. Mary looked at me with surprise.

Alex adjusted his glasses once more, “Go on.”

“I’ll start from the beginning. Anyone could have set up the trap in Marcus’ office. It was an entirely perfect crime. The padlock on the door meant nothing and ended up being much less secure than a regular lock, despite the use of technology. Although anyone could have done it, those showing up late to the pool party were extra suspicious as we all knew for certain that Marcus wasn’t in his office at the time.”

“Could you refresh us on who those late individuals were?” Lilah laughs.

“It was you and Mary. Although I was a little behind, myself.”

“So you admit that you were a big suspect there?” She sneers again.

“You’ll have to let me finish. But, yes, I had the ability to commit that crime,” I take a deep breath and recompose myself. “The next attempted murder was when someone broke Marcus’ lock. We were moving in groups at the time but there were three possible suspects that day: Alex, Mary, and Amelia. I couldn’t have committed that crime.”

“That might be so… but I don’t remember for sure. How do we know that you aren’t using your perfect memory to trick us?” Lilah smiles.

“Your memory is just bad,” Alex backs me up. “I remember that too. Continue on, Daniel.”

“Last but not least, our suspects this time were Amelia, Mary and I. From all of this, the only common denominator in every crime is Mary and Amelia.”

Amelia looks at me with shock and horror, “W-what? It wasn’t me!”

I can’t force myself to look up. I can’t bring myself to look at the person I’m about to convict. It might be wrong, and she might deserve to see my face before I accuse her, but it’s impossible for me.

“I know. It had to be Mary.”

Mary looks at me curiously, but not angrily, “Why me? Why am I the only option left?”

“Because someone who was cooking the food wouldn’t be able to dish out separate poisons accurately. But with drinks, you can easily dish out whatever poison you want for your desired target.”

“How is that possible?” She looks at me very curiously and leans forward to listen to whatever I have to say.

“You offered to give everyone their own cup so they didn’t get mixed up. I wasn’t watching too carefully at the time, but you must have put the poison in the cups,” I say with certainty. Lilah’s eyes open wide and she smiles with sheer entertainment. “Think about it. The only thing that was unique to each of us that meal was our cups. We shared the food, but if our cups were poisoned then you could control exactly who got it. Not to mention, it would prevent someone who wasn’t your target from overdosing. The poison, probably in the form of a powder, was applied to the inside of everyone’s cups! The murderer then chose to not poison mine so that I could take the fall instead. They left me to be the only possible suspect as a scapegoat. And while not poisoning me, they also added a unique kind of poison to Marcus’ cup. One that was lethal.”

“Mary…?” Alex offers her a chance at a rebuttal.

Amelia looked at Mary with tears in her eyes, still unable to believe that her friend would commit a murder.

“Fine,” Mary shrugs in an over dramatic way. “You caught me. I could sit here and spout excuses all day, but now that Daniel is on the case, I don’t think I have a chance.”

Amelia’s tears fall once more as she stares in confusion at Mary. She doesn’t weep or let out a sound, but tears fall off of her stunned face. Lilah smiles while she watches what looked like the most amusing thing in her life.

Alex stands up and pounds the table enraged, “Are you being serious? Just like that? Are you really going to admit to it that quickly? Is Daniel really that intimidating?”

“Well, this whole time I was trying my best to get Daniel on my side. It worked for a while too. I have a hunch as to why, but he seemed to have had an abnormal amount of fondness for me. That worked out perfectly because of his talent. If he can really just remember any detail about everything, there was no chance for me to get away from the beginning. Not unless I killed him too, but that’s not just. That’s why I needed him.”

“Even if you had no chance, why didn’t you at least try to get away?” Alex asks in confusion. “You would sacrifice your entire future because of that?”

“How very ‘Alex’ of you,” Mary mocks. “But, I’m sorry to say that I don’t care about the future. I’ve accomplished my goal. It’s sad that William was killed along the way, but all that matters is that I was able to kill Marcus. William was an accomplice as far as I’m concerned.”

Amelia’s breathing is labored, “Why…? What made you kill Marcus?”

“I don’t want to say.”

“Revenge. She must’ve been affected by his serial killing,” I propose vaguely, despite knowing much more detail.

“Then it’s settled,” Alex returns to his chair with a sigh. Everyone else sits back down following his example. “We missed a lot, but the rest of the details don’t matter. She confessed. She says that she was only targeting Marcus, but she’s still dangerous.”

“D-don’t hurt her, please,” Amelia manages to defend her friend until the end.

Mary looks at her pitifully. Who knows if their relationship ever meant anything to Mary?

“It’s fine,” Alex assures. “We’ll turn her in to the police when they arrive at the island. For now we’ll lock her up. If we can leave this to you, Amelia, can you feed her three meals a day?”

She weakly nods while staring down at the table.

“Great work Daniel,” Alex congratulates.

He stands up and walks behind Mary. She knew without anything being said, so she stands and begins to walk to her room. Alex escorts her close behind, watching to make sure she doesn’t try anything.

For what I hope is the last time, I look at Mary’s face. Her long black hair flows behind her and her cute face looks satisfied with this outcome. Satisfied that she served her past, even if it damned her future.

But… the more that I look at her, I finally realize something.

As she walks away she says to me with disgust, “I never liked you, Daniel. You were always so fixated on the past. It reminded me of myself. You chose to overlook every piece of evidence that made me out to be the villain of this story. Why was that? Simply because I look like someone you used to know? It’s pitiful. I, on the other hand, worked for my goal, for justice, until the bitter end. You’re weak. But, I’m glad that you got over it.”

With the last glimpse of her face it’s finally obvious.

She doesn’t look that much like Rose after all.

“Well, that was certainly a show! Wasn’t it?” Lilah laughed.

“Let’s go,” I stand up and offer a hand to Amelia, ignoring Lilah.

Amelia takes my hand without making eye contact and I pull her up. Together, we start to walk out of the room.

Behind us Lilah makes her disappointment known, “Boring~”

We stop in the halls, without knowing where to go.

“It’s all over now…” I said as reassurance to Amelia.

“I-I’m so sorry,” She throws my hand to the side and runs away.

I instinctually grab her arm before she gets far. She turns to me with tears in her eyes and tugs her arm.

“Tell me you’ll be okay. I’m here for you,” I say without breaking eye contact.

I just can’t avert my eyes from my friend’s pain anymore. Not again.

“I’ll be fine… I just need some time alone.”

She pulls away from my hand and turns her back, walking to her room.

“How sweet,” Lilah mocks from behind me as soon as Amelia is out of view.

“Why are you here?”

“Relax! I was just leaving the cafeteria. You guys were in the way. I just so happened to be here long enough to hear it all.”

“Is that right?” I roll my eyes. “Was this all fun for you? I’m not trying to start a fight, but did you enjoy all of the chaos?”

“Of course!” Lilah laughs and spins around on one foot. “What could be more fun in the whole wide world? I love acting, but this experience is one that I’ll never forget.”

“… Me either. But I didn’t have any fun. Though it was eye opening for me.”

“I had a blast!” She giggles and giggles but slowly she starts to sound worn out. “Sorry. That was a lie.”

On one foot she hops away, without turning back.

Hours pass before I see anyone again. I walked out the front door and sat down on the side of the pond, staring into the sky. It was finally sunset and I hadn’t moved since the trial. I was completely lost in thought.

“Hey… Sorry about earlier,” Amelia speaks softly behind me.

“Oh, hey. Are you doing better?”

She stops for a moment before sitting down beside me, “Yeah. I was painting again.”

“That’s great. I’ve just been watching the clouds.”

“Are you doing alright?”

“Kind of…” I sigh. “I think that I only ever made friends with Mary because of her resemblance to someone I used to know… I know what made her want to kill Marcus. The worst part is that I don’t know if I can blame her.”

Amelia looks at my face through my reflection in the pond, “What do you think happened?”

“There was a newspaper in Marcus’ office from several years ago. An article in it was titled, ‘The Disappearance of Journalist Steve Bailey.’ The girl that I knew… Her name was Rose Bailey. She killed herself around the time that the article was published. I can only imagine that that was why.”

“That’s horrible…” She spoke with genuine empathy.

“It gets a little worse. I’m sure you’ve already guessed though… I never knew much about her, but Rose had a sister. One who went to a special boarding school because of how smart she was. Not to mention, they had no mother for a reason I don’t know. She was left all alone. As a genius, she probably dedicated the last few years of her life to discovering who did it, finishing her father’s work.”

“… After Mary’s dad went missing, her sister killed herself? No wonder she wanted revenge… B-but that still doesn’t make it okay!”

“No… of course not. But that isn’t why I can’t blame her. It’s because if I knew it was Marcus’ fault, I’d have done the same thing,” We both fall silent for a few moments as I gather the courage to continue. “Before today, I’ve been living in the past. I couldn’t move on from Rose’s death. But this trial showed that to me. I overlooked so much that Mary did simply because she reminded me of the past. Not to mention, ever since Rose died, I don’t think I’ve truly been happy. I think that’s because I didn’t open up my eyes. I’ve had the potential to be happy, but I haven’t been able to see that. Even on this island, I hardly spent any time with you because of my focus on Mary. Living like this isn’t okay. So I decided to finally move on. Three years later. I won’t forget the past, that’s impossible. Despite how it all ended, I’m glad I met Rose. I think that she would’ve wanted me to continue smiling. Above everything else, I’m going to smile for myself from now on.”

“That’s fantastic. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through so much.”

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“Hey,” Amelia speaks gently. “Whenever I want to get out my emotions, or leave something behind, I paint. Want to paint with me?”

“Sure, I’d love to,” I smile.

Amelia’s eyes open wide and she grins from ear to ear, an honest smile, unlike Lilah’s, “You smiled.”

We spent the rest of the day painting together in her room. I was so caught up with Mary that I had completely forgotten how much fun I had with Amelia on our first night. I was so blinded by the past that I chose what was already lost over what was yet to come. I was afraid that it would only be more loss.

For several days, the four of us continued our lives like usual. There was plenty of food left in the diner and a whole lot of things on the island that we hadn’t done yet. So, until help finally arrived, we took a well deserved break.

Amelia taught me how to paint, and I was surprisingly good at it. At first I couldn’t really draw what I wanted to, even though I had the exact image in my mind. But, after Amelia’s instruction, I managed to learn how to paint accurately. Even though I painted extremely accurate pictures without the need for a reference, I still much preferred to add subjectivity and abstraction. It’s much more fun now.

Finally, while we are all eating breakfast, an unfamiliar sound echoes throughout the island.

Lilah runs out the doors first and calls to us, “They’re here!”

We swiftly rush to the garden and stare up at the silhouettes in the distance. Two helicopters headed straight towards us.

Lilah immediately runs back to her room to pack up her things. Her foot isn’t fully healed yet but she doesn’t seem to care. Perhaps it is fully healed, but she’s wearing the wrap for a prank? Following close behind Amelia, Alex and I rush to pack up as well. As I packed up in my room, my best painting yet sat on the window sill. Without a second thought, I wave to it as I exit the room and leave it behind.

The four of us line up in the garden holding out bags tightly. It was all over. We watch cautiously as the helicopters find a place to land. They create an enormous wind that stirs up the flowers. I wave my hands violently to signal that the garden was off limits.

The helicopters locate a flat stretch of grass a ways from the main building and we follow behind. The deafening sound of the helicopters only grows louder as they approach the ground.

As soon as they land, several menacing looking guards in full body armor step out of the vehicle. They have weapons, but they put them away as soon as they see we are safe.

“What happened here?” They ask with confusion and worry. “Isn’t there supposed to be one more of you? And where is Marcus?”

Nobody seems like they want to be the one to break the news. Alex holds his hand behind him, suddenly losing the confidence he kept with him always. He probably thinks it would reflect poorly on him. Amelia looks at the ground, ashamed. Even Lilah seems a bit uncomfortable at the question.

I step forward from our line, “Marcus and his butler William are dead. They were murdered by the other kid, Mary. She’s locked in her room.”

One of the guards takes a deep breath, “This will take longer than I thought…”

After a search of the building, they signal for us to get inside of the second helicopter. We’re going to be returned to our homes shortly, but we’d have to answer some questions first. They must be well informed because they mostly directed that part at me.

We sat in the helicopter with only the pilot in the front while guards searched the mansion.

“Can we stay friends?” I muster the courage to ask everyone.

Even Lilah and Alex who can be insensitive are still good people. It’s hard to tell at first, and may not even be true, but I believe that Lilah still cares despite her acting. Her childishness and dishonest smile remind me of Rose. But I won’t be obsessive. I’ve learned that lesson already. Alex probably truly does only care about his own future, but I only cared about my past so it’s fair.

“Of course!” Lilah grins.

Amelia looks at the ground and blushes shyly, “S-sure.”

“Ha!” Alex scoffs, “Like I’ll have time to be friends with you while I’m building my empire,” his cheeks faintly change color as he continues. “But, perhaps I could clear some time.”

Around half an hour passes and the guards make their return. I don’t watch their approach as they must have brought Mary with them.

“We’ll keep her in the other helicopter with us.”

We’re given headsets to lower the noise of the helicopter and the pilot signals from the front seat, “We’re taking off.”

Memories of the past week flash through my mind. Sad, lonely, terrifying memories, but I smile for my new friends.

As we take off I look longingly at the garden. Goodbye William. Goodbye Marcus. I’m sorry we couldn’t save you.

And I think back to the painting on my window sill. Sitting alone on that island- the island that Marcus secluded himself on due to his fixation of the past. A painting of a smiling girl.

“Goodbye, Rose.”

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About the author

L. A. Sirius

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

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