Reunion of Death – Part Seven
Thirty minutes later, it seemed like the storm outside the house was intensifying while the hurricane within the house was starting to fester off. Alexis had returned to the lounge and was being comforted by Philip and Seth. Holly had gone to the other side of the room, opened a window, dug in her purse, and pulled out a cigarette. She fished out a lighter, put the cancer stick between her lips, and used the fire stick to light it. Inhaling deeply, she blew the smoke out the window into the storm outside; the wind was howling so loud it filled the room with its noise.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Matt said to her, to which she replied with a simple rhetorical question:
“Mmm. There’s apparently a lot that we didn’t know about one another, now isn’t there?”
“How very scandalous, of you,” Christina said and then turned her back to her.
Matt was sitting on the ground, indian style, as if he was waiting to be rescued from a horrific nightmare. Holly wasn’t finished with her cigarette just yet, and every time the wind howled up or every time a clap of thunder was heard, it echoed past the open window and into the house, making Matt jump in his skin more than a few times.
“We are still no closer to figuring out what happened then we were when we found Paul in the first place,” he said.
Christina, looking pale, seemed to have almost reached her breaking point: “Won’t somebody please just confess? We have been here for hours.”
“I agree,” Holly spoke up. “I’d almost forgive the bastard who did it if they confessed just so we could all move on with our damn lives.” She slammed the window shut in perfect unison with her last word. Someone probably could have spoken up at that point and remarked at how cold hearted Holly was or how needlessly disgusting her remark was, but at that point, she had been so offensive to all the guests that one had to stop and think about exactly which comments she made that were the most repugnant.
Seth finally spoke up: “Maybe she is right. One of us did this and one of us needs to come forward.”
“We’ve already been through this,” Alexis said, obviously over it.
Seth continued, “I mean, I have my suspicions of who did it, but really, unless the person comes forward, all I really have are suspicions.”
“And who, pray tell, do you suspect?” Holly asked coyly.
“Well, obviously it could have been any one of you.”
“You know,” Philip interjected, “You keep saying “you” “you” “you” as if YOU, SETH, are not also a part of this house and the mystery of Paul’s death. When did you get a pass to not be considered as one of the suspects?”
“Because I didn’t know any of you. I only just met you guys yesterday. What possible motive could I have for wanting to kill a virtual stranger in my own home, when it was probably someone like YOU who knew him and is now admitting to have had sex with him?!”
“Like me?” Philip questioned. “What did I do?”
“In my opinion, it was you,” Seth spoke up.
“WHAT?” Philip barked back angrily.
Seth continued: “I mean, I hardly know any of you, but it seems to me is if you would be the most likely to inflict harm on somebody else. Whether that is fair or not, I don’t know. Do I have any proof? Absolutely not. But I saw how you verbally attacked my husband last night and–”
“Attacked your husband? Look bud, I didn’t do anything or say anything to Matt that the rest of us weren’t thinking. And I didn’t kill Paul,” Philip interrupted, obviously upset. Turning to Holly, he said: “Are you happy now? Holly’s been letting out all of our dirty laundry. Perhaps she is the one responsible for this mess.”
Holly balked at this: “Uh! How dare you.”
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” Philip replied.
Rita said: “Look guys. There is no use in pointing fingers at one another. There are seven of us we should be able to figure this out like civilized adults.”
“I agree with Rita,” Matt began. “I think the best thing for any of us to do would be to go to sleep, think about it, and wake up tomorrow with new insight. Maybe whomever did this will come forward.”
“Go to bed?” Seth asked, obviously upset. “How can you sleep knowing someone– One of your friends – murdered another human being in our home? In our sanctuary?”
“Well, what do you want me to say? It’s not like we can call the police because the phones are down. It’s not like any of us have cell service, because if we don’t have electricity, our booster doesn’t work.” Matt was getting angry. “So I see no point in sitting around tearing one another apart when I, for one, need to rest and think about everything. You guys can do whatever the hell it is you want. I’m going to bed.” He virtually shouted the last sentence in Seth’s face.
“Fine!” Seth yelled back almost childlike. “I’m keeping the shotgun with me and I’m sleeping on the couch. Ain’t no one leaving this house until it’s all figured out!”
Matt had turned around to angrily bear through Seth’s words. He wanted to yelp something even more obnoxious, so he shouted:
“Fine! It’s not like any of us are able to leave or go someplace anyway!” He stomped to their bedroom at the end of the hall and slammed the door. Seth had gone and retrieved Matt’s father’s shotgun off of on top of the fireplace. He rounded the corner back into the hallway while the women quickly parted the waters and let him walk into the middle of the remaining five.
“Well, I’m off to bed, too.” Alexis said almost sheepishly. Seth didn’t stop her from going up the stairs. She turned back to look at everyone and said: “I’ve had enough excitement for one night.”
Seth took a seat with the gun in his hand next to the landing of the stairs. Philip sheepishly walked up to him and said: “I’d better go make sure she is ok.” Seth nodded, and Philip also went upstairs. Rita seemed uneasy around the gun, and without saying anything, she made eye contact with Seth as if asking his permission for admittance upstairs. He nodded in agreement, and she too was soon heading up the stairs.
Now all that was left in the hallway were Holly, Christina, and Seth. Christina wasn’t that happy with sticking around the final two, but she was also scared about going up to her room by herself. Holly was sitting on the bottom two stairs of the landing when she suddenly stood up and began walking into the lounge. Christina looked at Seth, and then he looked back at her. Without saying a word, but in some kind of mental agreement, both got up from their seats and followed Holly.
She scooted a chair right up next to the window that she had previously smoked a cigarette out of and began to follow suit again, digging in her purse for another smoke. She opened the window and the storm outside was still rumbling something fierce. Holly lit her cigarette, inhaled deeply, and breathed out what looked like a very satisfied breath. Christina sat down on the sofa and then proceeding to sprawl out and lay down. Seth grabbed the throw off of the smoking chair and threw it to Christina.
“Is it ok if I sleep here for the night?” She asked him.
Seth walked over the the fireplace where Matt had been sitting and sat down on his haunches, himself. He was still holding the rifle in his hands and was looking down at it, admiring it. Without making eye contact or even lifting his head in her direction, he simply responded with a one word answer: “Sure.”
The three sat there in silence. Holly, puffing on her cigarette, Christina drifting in and out of sleep, and Seth, trying hard not to pass out himself. The storm outside raged on, and the wind was blowing the rain in sheets, so much that Holly and the window sill were getting a little wet. But she didn’t seem to mind. She was taking her time, using her analytical mind to try and weed through what little clues she had acquired. After five minutes and the cigarette down to the butt, she accepted the fact that her thoughts weren’t yielding a solution and it was time for her to go to bed, too. She bent down, stuck her head through the open window and out into the rain, letting the drops splash on her face and in her hair. She smiled, taking it all in, almost sadistically. She took a deep breath of stormy air, smiled again, then pulled her head back into the house. Just like a candle being snuffed out, she slammed the window shut, walked out of the room, and up the stairs to sleep for the remainder of the night.
“He has been sleeping a long time. Should one of us wake him? Or at least go check on him?” Alexis seemed honestly concerned about her host.
It was the next morning. All the guests, starting with Holly and Seth, were awake and sitting about in the lounge. Matt, their gracious host, had yet to come out of the master bedroom and downstairs. The storm outside had briefly stopped raining, though the dark clouds outside looked menacing enough to threaten more rain. Seth had just questioned the group about whether they had even seen Matt at all that morning. Which none of them had.
“Since I don’t know any of you nor, frankly, even really trust you, I’ll be the one to go check on him.” Seth knew that any of these crazy people could have been the one who murdered Paul, and if anyone of them was inspect how his partner was doing, it was going to be him. No one disagreed with him. Seth had hardly slept at all the night before, and he had done so sitting up right in front of the fire with a death grip of a hold on the rifle.
Seth ran out of the lounge and up the stairs. Silence befell the rest of the guests until Holly broke the quiet by saying jokingly:
“Well I sure hope he wakes up.”
None of the other four thought her remark was very funny. As if wanting to continue messing with the reunion committee party, mother nature opened up and the rain started pouring down so hard and cold that hail began also falling to the ground, making loud thumps on the roof. The thuds from the frozen ice hitting the porch and other surfaces almost covered up the sounds of a huge thud coming from upstairs. The wind hurled and howled outside so loud that none of the five guests could hear the wailing upstairs. Each of the five guests downstairs were sitting around the room and not within proximity of any of the others.
continued in part eight
previous: Reunion of Death – Part Six
first chapter: Reunion of Death – Part One
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Sujit Kumar