Reunion of Death – Part Five
Eight people gathered in a big house in central Missouri to finish planning their high school reunion, and now one of them was dead. Rita and Christina sat next to Paul’s lifeless body on his bed while the others: Seth, Matt, Holly, Philip, Alexis, stood helplessly near. The ladies were all in tears, and Matt, too, was struggling hiding his emotions. Seth felt bad, but at the same time, he wasn’t that sympathetic considering he hardly knew Paul. Still, he wanted to appear human, so he looked at Rita and asked her directly:
“What happened to him, Rita?”
Without looking up, she shook her head unknowingly and whispered: “I’m not quite sure.”
Rita got up and looked at her two hosts: “I’m not a pathologist. We’ll have to get him to a medical examiner to know for sure.”
Christina was openly crying at this point, resting a hand on Paul’s leg. She watched Rita walk to Matt and Seth, and then she looked back at Paul. His eyes were still open as well as his mouth. It was a ghastly corpse to look at. Christina suddenly scooted on top of the bed and flung her arms around Paul’s lifeless torso. She hugged him strongly, wishing that somehow he would magically spring back to life. She held him for a few minutes before succumbing to the realization that he was gone and never coming back.
Alexis and Philip held each other, Philip shaking his head in anger. Matt was, frankly, just shocked at what he was seeing and couldn’t process the carnage. Holly, who was holding onto her clutch, reached in to grab her handkerchief. She wiped the tears away from her eyes and looked around the room at the rest of her classmates and Seth.
When Christina finally released her grasp around Paul’s lifeless head and neck, she moved her arms from under his back and went to go wipe the hair out of her face. It was still dark in the room, despite the fact that Philip had drawn the curtains while Rita was investigating the medical side of things. The little light that beamed through was enough to clearly see that something wasn’t right. Everyone could see that Christina now had dark streaks or marks on her arms.
Moving closer to her, Philip’s eyes widened in terror and he said: “Christina…?”
Seth also noticed and, inching closer to her, asked: “What’s that on your arms?
She was so distraught she almost couldn’t even understand what they were saying. When she snapped into the reality of them pointing down at her, she looked at the inside of her arms and gasped in horror. She leaped from the bed quickly and into Matt’s arms, smearing blood onto him as well as herself as she held him tight.
“What the hell does this mean?” Alexis asked, sobbing.
“What the hell do you think it means? It means our old friend Paul didn’t just die in his sleep. He was murdered.”
“MURDERED?” Holly asked, yelling. She was perturbed at the sheer mention of the “M” word. “How do we know he was murdered? Did you kill him? I mean, maybe he fell or something.”
“Oh come on, Holly. You’re an attorney.” Philip said. “Fell or something? He fell, bled, then got back in bed where he bled to death? Not likely.”
“Oh thank you so much, Phil.” Holly shot back. “I am a defense attorney. Criminals and drug addicts. I leave the murders for the MEN.”
Christina’s eyes suddenly looked frightened: “Maybe someone broke in and…” She tried to reason.
“Broke in?” Holly seemed irritated at the comment as if it was the most frivolous thing she had ever heard in her life. “Broke in with all the doors locked and windows in tact? Without any of us noticing?”
“OK,” Christina said, seeming broken. “I got it.”
Seth had been pacing for some time and none of the seven had left the room that their classmate was now lying dead inside. Christina’s final farewell hug and the subsequent fresh blood marks had alluded everyone to the fact that Paul hadn’t died of natural causes. This meant that one of the house guests or one of the hosts was also a murderer. The fact that Paul hadn’t been dead that long before Christina discovered him had become blatantly obvious. Not exactly the ingredients for a perfect reunion planning committee week.
“He’s right,” Matt said, breaking the silence.
“Oh?” Rita asked, curious for an explanation.
“Philip’s right. Paul was murdered. If he would have fallen anywhere, there would have been a trail of blood from where he fell. And we know it happened here in this room, too.” Matt said, looking round the bedroom. “I mean, it probably even happened in his bed…” His voice trailed off.
Matt’s eyes all of a sudden got very big. He was, up until that point, sitting indian style in the doorway to Paul’s room. But now his head cocked to the side like a dog unable to process his master’s commands. He got on his hands and knees to crawl towards the bed Paul’s body was lying on. He lunged under it as if fishing for some kind of archeological artifact. Philip and Alexis had started closing in on the scene to see exactly what it was Matt was hunting for.
“Matt?” Seth called out. Only the bottom half of Matt’s body was hanging out from underneath the bed. “What is it babe?”
A muffled gasp was heard, followed immediately by an: “Oh my god!”
Seth rounded the bed and grabbed Matt by the legs in an effort to bring him back to the light of the room. Matt used one arm to push himself out, while the other hand was full with his prize for having dove under the bed in the first place. When the rest of the attendees saw what Matt was holding, they too gasped and Christina even said: “Oh my god!”
Shaking and obviously distressed, Matt started crying. In his hand was one of the sterling silver candlesticks that his mother had given he and Seth as a housewarming present back in California. And it was covered in blood.
Several hours had passed since the discovery of Paul, the class treasurer’s body. The guests and their hosts sat in the lounge, having kept Paul’s body upstairs in his bed. All of them sat silently listening to a tiny 1980s radio that was sitting on the coffee table. The news report being broadcast was listing a detailed description of the destruction that the rain and flooding was having on the surrounding community. All the roads leading into town, it seemed, had been washed out. Three bridges in the county were being classified as completely gone: swept away in the flooding. Unfortunately for the reunion planning committee, there would be no help on its way and no possible way to escape. They were trapped. And amongst them was the person that had just murdered Paul.
Previously, Matt had become emotionally sick to his stomach following the discovery of the supposed murder weapon and went to go vomit in the master bedroom while none of the other guests had left Paul’s bedside. Seth had asked Philip to quickly rescue the candlestick out of Matt’s hands and hide it from his sight. Seth, using a towel so as to not get any further fingerprints all over the presumed murder weapon, grabbed it from Phil and put it in the linen closet in the hallway. When Matt creeped back down the hall from their room to Paul’s, Seth suddenly seemed sick of playing the waiting game. He looked in on the guests and began giving instructions.
He said, “Alright everyone, I would like us all to relocate to the lounge. The fireplace is in there, so we can use it as a chief source of light and warmth while we are able to figure all this out with some clarity.”
For some reason, everyone seemed to immediately obey, got up, and began single file following Seth down the stairs, through the grand hall, and into the lounge. Matt brought up the rear. While everyone else took their seats, Seth pushed through the revolving door of the kitchen and prepared a small tray of crackers and cheese so that he could at least play “good host” and offer his guests refreshments as they deduced which one of them was a cold blooded murderer.
When he returned a few minutes later with a tray of cookies, milk, and iced water, the group looked as morbid as they did when he left and no one had spoken a word in his absence. He did his best to serve everyone, though only Alexis and Matt took cookies. The rest of them dismissed him with worried looks on their faces.
What seemed like hours went by. They had already spent God knows how long in Paul’s room paying their respects, and it was well into the afternoon at this point. The power still hadn’t returned. Digging through her purse, Christina fished out her cell phone. She pressed a button on the side, looked at the screen, and her posture then sank even lower.
“Still no service,” she whispered to herself, shaking her head in angst.
“Right. OK, here’s the deal,” Seth said. He walked to the center of the room and spoke in a louder voice as if to address everyone. “We can either sit here, trapped in this castle and unable to leave, due to the weather, in total silence, or we can try and work this out.”
“Work it out?” Matt asked.
“Yes, work it out.”
“How so?” Matt again asked.
“Well, one of them is a murderer babe. And I plan on getting to the bottom of whomever that may be.”
That last sentence seemed to drive it home: not just for Matt, but for everyone else in the room. Maybe the others wouldn’t budge, but Seth was determined to get to the bottom of who was to blame for the dastardly deed. He disappeared for fifteen minutes before returning into the lounge with a notepad of paper and seven pens. One by one, he went around the room and passed each guest and Matt a pen and piece of paper. By the time he was nearly finished, Christina, who had been sobbing the entire time, looked at the rest of the guests and then at Seth before asking:
“What’s this for?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Alexis asked. All eyes moved to her. “He wants to know the last time each of us saw Paul, what time we went to bed, in what order, and then which order each of us awoke today.”
Seth smiled. “Brava!”
“I’ve seen enough Murder, She Wrote in my day to know how these things work. But is this really necessary? I mean, there are only seven of us.”
“Yes,” Philip said. “With an infinite amount of possible outcomes.”
Seth nodded in agreement. Alexis physically backed down and was the first to begin writing on her paper. Soon, the others complied with Seth’s wishes. Holly finished first, and began openly discussing the predicament they were all in:
“The problem with your presumed hypothesis is it really doesn’t even necessarily matter what time any of us went to bed nor any of us woke up.”
“How so?” Philip asked.
“Well, as I said before, I am no forensic expert, but the blood was still wet. Or at least wet enough to smear onto Christina and get on Matt. So that automatically voids out the importance of needing to know what time we all went to bed. Because he was obviously attacked this morning versus last night.”
“Very true,” Seth agreed.
“Furthermore, it really doesn’t matter what time any of us woke up, either.” Holly said.
“Oh?” Seth asked.
“Nope. For instance, both you and Matt went upstairs to take showers after already having been downstairs. Then again, if it did happen this morning, how did no one else see the other one do this? Go into Paul’s room and such?” Holly rationalized.
No one answered.
previous: Reunion of Death – Part Four
first chapter: Reunion of Death – Part One
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Anita Peeples