Reunion of Death – Part Six
continued from part five
“Who would do such a thing? Paul was such a soft, sweet, gentle man that I can’t think of why any of you would want to hurt him,” Christina said.
“Any of us? Don’t count me in your witch hunt. I didn’t kill anyone!” Holly quickly spoke up. “We aren’t all like Philip full of rage all the time, dear.”
Philip grumbled something under his breath.
“I mean,” Holly continued, “God bless your heart, Christina, but you are the one who kept leaving the breakfast table and going different places in the house. You are the one that discovered him. Not saying you did it, but I am just establishing the fact that this whole process of us scribbling down fanatically our whereabouts before the crime could have even taken place is a waste of all of our time.”
“I didn’t do it,” Christina said quietly. Hers was the only response given.
“Frankly, that doesn’t even begin to hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of character issues…” Holly finished.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Alexis asked.
“It means someone killed Paul and someone probably did it for a reason. Whatever that motive may be. The police are going to call in to question each and all of our pasts and everything we have ever done, setting up the framework to figure out who the killer is. And not all of us are squeaky clean.” Holly stated.
“Starting with you, Holly.” Philip figured he would throw that one out there for good measure. Holly actually closed her mouth versus dropping it, and she certainly didn’t come up with a rebuttal. “Weren’t you the attorney whose firm was in trouble with the FBI a few years ago for suspected aiding criminals and money laundering?” He asked.
Now Holly gasped, obviously completely insulted and horrified that he had dared air her dirty laundry for the rest of the guests to see. “How dare you, Philip! Those charges were not only dropped against my firm, I was never indicted. I didn’t do anything wrong and certainly wasn’t involved with some of the messes my partners were involved in.” Realizing she had said too much, Holly indignantly took her seat in a huff and crossed her arms, disgusted. She snarled at him like a wild animal: “Weren’t you the stockbroker who was involved in shady investments that cost your clients billions?”
“Haha! Now the gloves come off, Holly. I always knew you had a demon bitch in you!” Philip yelled to her. “And you wanna know what? That was me. I admit it. I got a bad tip off and passed it off like it was going to be the next Google. I was fined, my company fired me, and since then I have worked tirelessly to make amends to the client’s whose savings I lost. So don’t come at me with your accusations. I own what I have done, Holly. I’m the single spinster chain smoking my way into oblivion.”
“Wow. You’ve really been holding that one in for twenty years, now haven’t you Phil?”
“Holding what in, Holly?” Philip asked her sarcastically.
“This hatred of me.”
“Oh Holly, I don’t hate you. I don’t have the time to bother with hating you.” Phil really seemed smug with himself after that one.
“Well you should be focusing on your wife versus worrying about why I don’t like you.” Holly snarled back.
“Oh come on, Holly. No need to bring Alexis in to this,” Christina interjected, coming to Alexis’ defense.
“Come on Holly? Why don’t you ‘come on’ Christina? And don’t sit there all hoity toity as if you are better than us. I read about your dealings with Homeland Security. Seems we all have skeletons in our closet.” Holly answered back.
“Seriously, Holly? You know marijuana prohibition is a serious issue with me. I was proven to have done nothing wrong. I cannot believe you would even bring this–” Christina now felt the need to defend herself, but was interrupted by Holly saying:
“You were proven to have done nothing wrong after a nine month investigation barely proved you of negligence, only because they couldn’t prove that you were smuggling pot crops in from Canada.”
“How dare you!” Alexis finally called over at Holly. “Why do you feel the need to drag out every indiscretion any of us have ever had?”
“Like your affair with the math teacher?” Holly threw in her face and then tilted her head back and laughed like a crazy person. Alexis’ mouthed opened in shock, then closed tightly.
The entire time this battle had been raging, Matt had been sitting in his smoking chair, taking all of the anarchy in. He didn’t know what to say. Holly’s accusations were all seeming to be very true, and he too had never seen her so angry or, frankly, so crazy. Eventually he knew he would have to jump in and play referee. But maybe he could ride it out a little while longer. Or let Seth handle it, bless him. Meanwhile, he was witnessing these adults that he went to high school with two decades ago reverting back to their childish ways.
Alexis said nothing in her defense of Holly’s latest attack. Her head sunk to the floor. Philip, in complete shock, looked down at his wife and really for the first time looked down on her. Her silence was the only answer he needed to realize that what Holly had said was true. He got up from his seat and began pacing around the livingroom. Finally, he turned to Holly and said:
“You know Holly, you really do seem to have a lot of information about all of us. Maybe you are the killer.”
“WHAT?” Holly asked, obviously deeply insulted over this insinuation.
“Yes,” Philip said. “I don’t think any of us has seen this nasty, heinous side to you and it makes me think that none of us really know who you are at all.”
“I am about as much of a killer as you are an honest stock broker.” She lunged back at him like a petulant child.
“Jealousy and envy is an ugly shade, my dear.” Philip said to her, flashing her a know-it-all grin.
But Holly knew she had the upper hand: “Perhaps you were jealous of me that I slept with Paul and you only fooled around with him!”
“What?” Philip stammered, unable to formulate a sentence. “I, er…what are you talking about?”
“Yes,” Alexis began. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that your husband is a homo, ALEX!” Holly shouted at Alexis, laughing hysterically after. She’d hit her breaking point. Philip, possibly for the first time in his life, said nothing.
“Come on, Holly. This really isn’t necessary–” Matt said, trying to come to Philip’s defense, who was quietly taking the assault.
“Oh please, Matt,” Christina piped in. “You’ve always been in love with Phil. Of course you’re swooping in to defend him.”
“What?” Matt responded. “That is absolutely ridiculous!”
Alexis and Philip began arguing with one another through whispering, when she all of a sudden threw the napkin from the cookies that was on her lap down on the ground and stormed to the other side of the room. Philip walked over to her, trying to console her. Luckily for Matt and Seth, it seemed the verbal battle was over and everyone was huddled off in their corners licking their wounds.
“She does have a point.” Seth said, emerging from this bloody battle as the peacemaker and negotiator. “Holly does have a point. The police are going to want to know everything about what happened here and about us. The way I look at it is, at this point, all we have is time. So we can either try to work it out or wait it out. That is, if the killer doesn’t just want to come forward now and spare us all of this tit-for-tat.”
No one said anything, of course, except for Philip who was busy convincing his wife that his previous homosexual experiences didn’t mean anything to him.
“So I guess that means that we will have to use the information that we already have to figure out which one of you is a murderer–” Seth was cut short. Rita had stood up from her chair and stood in the center of the room without raising a peep. She hadn’t been involved in the previous discussion at all, having sat there and listened as each of the guests had said terrible things about one another. Without solicitation, she looked down at the ground, then up at Seth and said:
“I am a murderer,” Rita exclaimed.
All the guests stared at her in disbelief of her admission. As far as most of them knew, there was only one dead person involved with them. One person who had perished in that house. And if it wasn’t Paul, then it was anybody’s guess as to who Rita was about to admit to have killed.
“I’m assuming you would like to clarify that statement, Rita.”
“Well I’m sure through all of your digging that eventually you would find out about my past so I might as well tell you everything now.”
All eyes were on Rita as she paused and squeezed her own eyes shut as if trying to dig through her memory cabinet and open a painful drawer of an experience that she had long ago slammed closed.
“Right after my residency was officially completed, some friends and I went out to the local watering hole for drinks. I’d only had a few drinks, and I only lived a blocks away. I should’ve been more responsible, but I thought I was fine. No one else seemed to think I was drunk, and I only felt slightly impaired. Maybe it was just a long day, I don’t know.”
Rita’s voice began to crack as the memory began to paint its ill picture in her head again.
“There was just some point where I briefly blacked out. I don’t think I was that exhausted. I honestly don’t remember much after leaving the bar. But I do remember that car coming and then the crash that happened afterward. By the time I realized what was happening, the cars had spun out of control we both slammed into one another.”
She was sobbing at this point, almost unable to go on. Alex reached into her purse and handed Rita a tissue. Rita blew her nose into the tissue, took a deep breath, and continued:
“They said they died instantly. Neither of them were wearing their seatbelt, and they also ran the stop sign. So the police never pressed charges. They never even gave me a breathalyzer. I killed a newly-wed couple and the authorities did nothing to me. And I’ve had to live with the decision of my actions ever since.”
“Now that,” Holly said softly, “I did NOT know about.”
She was finished with her story even if she wasn’t uncontrollably crying. Alexis had moved from her position on the couch to the armrest of the chair Rita was slumped forward in.
“It’s going to be alright, Rita.”
“Not for the family she killed.”
The entire room practically gasped out loud and turned to glare at Philip who had now also stood up as if he too were ready to take center stage. It was him who made this horribly rude comment.
“How awful of you to say, Philip” Holly barked at him. She leaned forward in her chair as if ready to either put her indignant finger in his face or to come to the comforting aid of Rita. Holly, however, did neither, remained in her seat, and stared hard at Philip, shaking her head.
“Well since we are on the confession train, I see no need to hide the fact that now may be the time for me to admit that I did have relations with Paul a few times in high school. It went no where, and was experimentation.”
“Wow,” Matt said aloud. Of all the revelations, Philip’s admitting that he had had sexual relations with Paul–nerdy, straight, odd, weird Paul–was almost too much for him to process. He wasn’t the only one. Christina looked visibly shocked. Alexis stormed out of the room altogether. Rita sat there in disbelief. And Seth appeared pretty confused all around.
previous: Reunion of Death – Part Five
first chapter: Reunion of Death – Part One
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Matt Jones