Everyone was gathered by the bathroom door as Shadic laid Raika’s body on the floor, Nonee holding a lit candle. She looked horrified, “Raika. Oh my word. Who could have done something like this?”
Dirk spoke as he looked at the soaking body, her eyes and mouth frozen open in fear, “He’s sick, whoever he is. Poor girl.”
Shadic rubbed his chin, “Yes, just like Steve, then the attempt on Demon. All drowning. It seems the killer prefers it that way, though I can’t be sure why.”
Michael looked afraid, “Then it’s like Dirk said before. He’s a serial killer. A mad-man killing randomly!”
Clinton spoke, “And look at how wet she is. She’s soaked from head to toe. She had to have struggled a lot.” He sighed as he looked around the room, “In fact, it seems everything is wet. He certainly wasn’t squeamish.”
Shadic lifted her wrist, “She also has markings on her wrists and ankles. She was tied up. The killer seemed to have held her captive somewhere. There’s also still a mark on her face from where duct tape once covered her mouth. Why he kept her alive is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t look like she’s been dead very long.”
Michael looked away, “Gosh, poor Raika. Why would anyone commit such an atrocity?”
Shadic glanced at them, “Say, isn’t this the bathroom you used with Nonee and Donald?”
Michael looked at him, “Yes.”
Shadic was curious, “Well, do any of you remember seeing or hearing anything unusual when you went?”
Nonee shook her head, “No, not me.”
Michael sighed, “We took turns, of course. When no one was using the bathroom, the other two were waiting outside. Though, I don’t remember anything suspicious. After Nonee and I finished, Donald suggested that we go make coffee so we both went to the kitchen, but I’m not sure what happened after that.”
Clinton glanced coldly at Donald, “I get it now. That’s how you managed to break away from the others so you could kill Raika, isn’t it, Donald?”
Donald was surprised, “What? Clinton, stop it!”
Clinton continued, “It probably took them a good six minutes to make the coffee! That would give you just enough time to retrieve Raika from where you had her tied up and bring her back to the bathroom and murder her. Tell me if I’m getting warmer, Donald. Is that how it happened?”
Donald was horrified, “No! Not true! I swear, I didn’t do it!”
Shadic sighed, “Afraid it’s not that simple.” They looked at him as he continued, “This is more Demon’s field, but I can tell she’s been dead at least an hour, maybe two. That means she had to have been murdered somewhere between 5am and 6am, but Donald used the bathroom just a few minutes ago. He couldn’t have done it. The same can be said to back up Nonee and Michael. They just disappeared for five minutes to make coffee, but the murder took place between 5 and 6 and they were with me in the other room from 4 to 7.”
He stood up and faced them, “Nonee, Donald, and Michael were all with me, which narrows down the suspects to two people. The two who were unaccounted for during the time of the murder, Clinton and Dirk.”
Clinton smirked, “Huh. Well, if that’s true, then you have your man. Dirk here has to be the murderer because I didn’t do it.”
Dirk spoke, looking very suspicious of Clinton, “Now, Clinton, I was in my room the whole time, but I saw you sneak out of your room and go somewhere at 6am, the time of the murder.”
Donald gasped, “Clinton, is that true?”
Clinton spoke, “Yes, I was feeling tired, so I went to wash my face in the bathroom on the second floor.”
Dirk wasn’t buying it, “I wonder. The second floor bathroom is right next to the stairway. You didn’t happen to take a little detour to commit murder now did you, Clinton?”
Clinton was highly offended, “Of course not!” He sighed, “But you’re right, Copeland. No one can account for my whereabouts during the time of the murder, but guess what?” He pointed accusingly at Dirk, “The same goes for you! I never saw you once the entire time we were upstairs! You could have been anywhere at anytime!”
Shadic sighed, sounding annoyed, “Enough, children, you’re not helping the matter.” That made them stop. Shadic went down next to the body, “Now be quiet so I can think.” They did as they were told.
Shadic pulled out his feather quill as he thought to himself, ”If the time of death was between 5 and 6, then it is most likely that one of those two standing there is the murderer.”
He looked over Raika’s clothes, “Though, one thing still bothers me. How did her clothes get so wet? She’s soaked from head to toe. She wouldn’t get that wet no matter how hard she struggled.”
He looked at her feet, which wore soaking wet socks, and was surprised as he looked at something near the rope marks on her legs, ”Wait, there are tape marks on her legs too. Now why would the killer tape her legs if she was already tied in rope?”
Michael spoke up, “Uh, detective, I have a question.” Shadic glanced at him as he spoke, “I still can’t understand how the killer managed to hold Raika hostage all night. We searched every inch of this house, twice! How could we have missed Raika if she was tied up somewhere? It doesn’t make sense!”
Shadic sighed, “That is true. She should have turned up. Our group was the one that searched this bathroom. It was perfectly clean at that time. Everything was in order.”
Donald nodded, “Yeah, and no Raika. The tub was empty.”
Michael spoke, “Then he must have kept her somewhere outside, like maybe in the woods.”
Shadic shook his head, “Doubt it. The killer needed a place that was easy to get to, like maybe in the trunk of a car. It wouldn’t be hard for the killer to get to one of the cars parked out back.” He turned to Clinton and Dirk, “You two shouldn’t have gone off on your own. Now neither of you can account for where you’ve been.” Both of them looked a both worried.
Shadic looked back at the body, still thinking, ”I wonder though. While the attack on Demon makes this seem like a twisted murder spree, somehow I just don’t buy it. One thing I don’t understand is why the killer kept Raika hostage. He murdered her, so why didn’t he just do it right away? And why choose the bathroom? Why here? If the killer really had Raika stashed in the trunk of a car, why would he bring her all the way in here? There would be less chance of being seen if he used the fountain outside, like with Steve.”
He walked over to the tub and, using a tissue, turned on the water, ”More than that, he wouldn’t have had to fill up the tub.” To his surprise, the water came out of the shower head mounted on the wall instead of the faucet. He was confused as he turned it off, ”Wait, the shower nozzle is on?”
Then it hit him, “Oh wait. I get it now.” He looked down at Raika’s body, ”So that’s his game. He created a trick of time. Why didn’t I see it before? It makes perfect sense now.”
Michael spoke, “Did you learn something, detective?”
Shadic looked over the body, “The drenched clothing, the tape marks on the legs, the reason he attacked Demon earlier, and the reason he held Raika captive and then killed her at a later time.” He looked serious, “I see it now. The common thread linking it all together.” He looked over the confused faces, ”So you’re the one who killed two of your supposed friends and almost killed mine.”
Shadic ran his fingers over his quill as he sat on the edge of the tub, “Though, how to bust him for sure. I need proper evidence.” Though, he was a bit surprised when he slipped, almost falling back in the tub of water. It was Nonee who caught his hand, helping him get his balance back.
She spoke, “Careful there, dear. You don’t want to get wet.”
Then it hit Shadic, “Get wet. That must be it.” He stood up, “I know who the killer is.” Everyone was surprised.
Shadic spoke, “That’s right, I figured it out, but to verify, I need you all to cooperate and please take off your jackets, tossing them over here.”
Clinton scoffed, “This is ridiculous!”
Donald spoke, “Clinton, please! We have to remember that this is for Raika! If handing our coats over will help him nab the killer, then why not?” Clinton groaned and pulled off his coat. The other guys all did the same.
Clinton spoke once they were done, “There, I hope you’re satisfied. Now check the coats and tell us who did it.”
Shadic spoke, “No.”
Dirk was surprised, “What? Why not?”
Shadic looked them over, noticing different wet areas on their clothes. Once he saw them all, he smirked, “So I was right.”
He spoke, “First, one of you murdered Steven Sloan by drowning him in the fountain outside, then you drugged my best friend and carried him into the kitchen to attempt drowning him in the sink, and finally you killed Raika Gilmore right here in this bathroom. You’ve had a busy evening, isn’t that right…” He pointed, “Donald Hilbler!” Everyone was shocked, including Donald.
Clinton looked at Donald, unsure now, “Well, Donald? Is this the truth?”
Donald shook his head, “What? No! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! Come on, detective, do I look like a killer?”
Shadic scoffed, “You’d be very surprised, Donald.” He ran the feather of his quill under his chin, “Let’s go back to the first murder. If you remember, we were all in the woods looking for Raika. Steve was still alive at the time.” He looked over at Clinton and Dirk, “Now then, if I recall correctly, he was with the same search party as Donald and Dirk.”
Dirk nodded, “Yes, that’s right.”
Shadic continued, “And the three of you then decided to split up in the woods, so you could cover more ground. Once Dirk was out of sight, Donald doubled back and rejoined Steve in the woods and the two set off to the fountain together. He probably told Steve that he saw someone suspicious by the fountain. Once there, Donald made his move and attacked Steve from behind, drowning him.”
Donald spoke, “It sounds to me like you’re reaching, detective. After all, Dirk was in the woods too. Why not him? Besides, it’s absurd that I would kill Steve and Raika, but it’s even more preposterous that I would attack your friend Demon. I didn’t know him until last night, remember? And wasn’t I with you when the power went out right before he was attacked? How could I have turned the power off? It doesn’t make sense. I would have needed an accomplice to do something like that, wouldn’t I? Are you saying that more than one of us was in on it?”
Shadic shrugged, “No. It wasn’t necessary to have someone turn the power out. You did that on your own. You did it by turning on all of the air conditioners and appliances at once.” Donald was surprised.
Shadic explained, “It wouldn’t be hard to do this. You just had to preset all the air conditioners in the house to come on at the same time, the time that you wanted the blackout to occur. The next step was to turn the microwave on and set the timer so it was running when all of the ACs kicked on. Having the microwave running and all the ACs turning on at once was sufficient to cause an overload and trip the breakers, and there’s proof of this. All the AC remotes are still set to half past midnight, the time of the blackout. And I remember hearing a strange sound after the power went out. It was something like a bell. No doubt that was the timer going off on the microwave. It still counts down even when the power’s off. I wasn’t sure until I felt it later and it was still warm from being on so long.”
Donald spoke up, “Wait a second-”
Shadic spoke, “Now then, when the blackout occurred, you smashed out the window in the hallway to make us think that the killer had escaped and bolted off into the woods. You knew that we would probably follow and we did. You used the opportunity to carry Demon from the sitting room to the kitchen, where you tried to drown him in the sink. Though, before you did that, you drugged his coffee with sleeping pills to make sure he wouldn’t struggle. While Demon was getting groggy, you were searching for Raika with me. We had just finished searching in the kitchen right before the blackout. That’s when you doubled back and turned the microwave on, a little added insurance if the power surge would be enough to trip the breakers.”
Donald spoke up, “But aren’t you forgetting something? I was with you when Raika was killed. We were in the other room together. How could I have murdered Raika if I was playing cards with you this morning? You said she was killed between 5am and 6am, so I’m in the clear.” He smiled hopefully, “Surely the same person is responsible for all three incidents, don’t you think? There can’t be two killers on the loose. I hate to disappoint you, but you have the wrong guy.”
Michael spoke, “Donald’s right, detective. He was with us. You said yourself that Raika was killed between five and six, and we were both together with Donald from three to seven. And there’s something else that doesn’t add up either. You said earlier that the killer drugged Demon’s coffee, but I don’t understand how. When Nonee served the coffee, we all chose randomly from her tray, including Demon. How did the killer know he was going to pick that particular cup? It seems like anyone could have picked it up, even the killer himself.”
Shadic sighed, “Yes, you’re right, Michael. The killer could have picked it, but the solution for him was simple. He didn’t drink any coffee.”
Michael shook his head, “But that doesn’t explain how he drugged Demon. How did he arrange for him to get that cup.”
Shadic leaned back against the sink, “That’s just it, Michael, he didn’t have to arrange it. The killer didn’t care who drank it.” They all gasped.
Clinton spoke up first, “Are you saying the killer didn’t care who his next victim was!?”
Shadic nodded, “Exactly. It could have been anyone of us. Whoever was unlucky enough to drink from that cup. It didn’t matter if it was a man or woman, younger or older since they’d be too drowsy to fight, isn’t that right, Donald?” He glanced at Donald.
Nonee was horrified, “So these are random murders after all.”
Donald looked at his friends, “Guys, if that doesn’t clear me, I don’t know what will. Come on, do I seem the kind of guy who would randomly kill one of you with no motive at all?”
Shadic spoke, “No, you don’t, but I don’t believe that you ever meant to kill the person you drugged. You see, if you would have really wanted to kill Demon, you would have never carried him into the kitchen. You would have just done it. This says it was different. You just wanted a witness. Someone to say they were held underwater by their assailant.” Donald gasped as Shadic continued, “You wanted to establish the killer’s MO was forcibly drowning his victims. You thought if you had a witness to testify to this, that people would assume Raika was killed in the same way.”
Michael was surprised, “What do you mean by that?”
Clinton spoke, “I don’t understand. Raika wasn’t drowned?”
Shadic sighed, “No, Raika drowned all right. I’m saying she was drowned differently. That she wasn’t forcibly held underwater. Think about the way things unfolded. Raika turned up missing last night a little after 10pm, but it’s clear that she was murdered somewhere between five and six am. Doesn’t it seem strange that the killer waited seven or eight hours to commit the murder.” He pointed at the body, “And why are Raika’s clothes all completely soaked through? She would never get that wet, no matter how hard she struggled to keep her head up.”
Then he motioned to her ankles, “Then there are the other tape marks. Why would the killer bind her with tape when she was already tied up with rope?” He pointed up, “The answer to this puzzle lies above. I’m talking about the shower.”
Dirk was surprised, “The shower?”
Shadic nodded, “That’s right. Where I come from, people use the faucet to fill up a tub. It’s only common sense, but when I turned it on a bit ago, the water came out the shower head, not the faucet. This means the killer filled the tub with the shower head, that way the tub filled up quietly. Once the shower head was submerged, it was totally silent. He used the duct tape to secure Raika to the bottom of the tub so she would drown automatically when the water got high enough.” They all looked quite horrified by the disturbing thought.
Shadic continued, “When Raika was coming down from her room last night after ten o’clock, Donald must have grabbed her and knocked her out, then carried her right here to this tub, where he rigged up his little trick. He carefully adjusted the flow of the water so she wouldn’t actually die until five or six the next morning. Of course, he made sure he was with us at that time so he’d have a perfect alibi. He returned at seven am, and when he sent the others off to make the coffee, he disposed of the tape on Raika’s body. A simple operation by itself, but with the other plot, it was a real juggling act.”
Clinton was surprised, “Other plot?”
Shadic nodded, “That’s right. Not only did he have Raika in the tub, but he also had to worry about creating the black out and getting away with the fake drowning attempt in the kitchen. He had his hands full alright, and then there was the possibility that Raika would be found in the tub and then all his efforts would have be in vain. No doubt he was sweating over that one. He had shorted the lights out in that area so nobody would want to use that bathroom, but when we conducted the search, his plans were in jeopardy. He was skating on thin ice as we searched the bathroom, but he cleverly made sure that he was the one to check the tub, which had a cover on at the time.”
He glanced at Donald, his face serious, “The fact that he was the one who checked the bathtub is also a clear indicator that he’s the perpetrator.”
Donald looked nervous, “I guess that would be true if Raika was really killed in the way you described, but there’s no proof of that. It’s all clever guesswork. It’s a fascinating theory alright, and the way you put it is very believable, but no one saw me do any of the things you say I did.”
Shadic nodded, “You’re right. I needed proof.” He pointed at the jackets on the floor, “That’s why I had all of you remove your jackets.”
Donald was getting impatient, “Then hurry up and check them for goodness sake! Come on! But you won’t find what you’re looking for, I guarantee it!”
Shadic looked cold, “No.”
Donald was mad now, “Why not?!”
Shadic was calm and collected, “Because I didn’t have you take off your jackets so I could check them. I actually wanted to check your shirts for water stains. That’s my proof.” Donald was shocked.
Shadic explained, “The stains on Michael’s sleeves got there when he washed his hands after using the bathroom. The water on Clinton’s collar is from when he went to wash his face in the sink. Donald, you have water stains halfway up your sleeves on both sides. How did you get those?”
Donald was really nervous now, “What, these? The same way those two got theirs!”
Shadic was far from convinced, “Really, then why aren’t they in the same place? Come on, Donald, you didn’t get those washing your face or hands. The only way you could get those watermarks there is if you took your jacket off. That’s right, you took your jacket off. Why? Because you didn’t want it to get wet when you pulled Raika’s body out of the tub. Isn’t that right. Donald?” Donald didn’t say a word. Shadic continued, “And the watermarks are halfway up your arm because you had them rolled up. Correct me if I’m wrong.”
Clinton was pained to see the anger in his friend’s face as he still didn’t speak, “But why, Donald? Why would you do such a thing?”
Shadic spoke when Donald still wouldn’t, “In each of the murders, his victim was drowned. This is no coincidence. I’m sure it had something to do with the accident that occurred at sea two years ago.”
Donald finally spoke, “Yes. It had something to do with that alright, but it was no accident.” He looked angry, “Sonia was murdered by Raika and Steve!” The others were surprised.
Donald continued angrily, “I can still see it clear as day. I can even taste the salt in my mouth as I yelled at Sonia to come back. She said that she had her life vest and she’d be fine. She packed a vest to bring Raika. Sonia didn’t know that Steve was on the island too. Raika and Steve both had life vests on when they were rescued later. Neither of them had one on when they left the boat.”
Dirk was shocked, “So, you mean…”
Clinton understood, “Sonia’s vest.”
Donald yelled angrily, “They took it! They took hers and the one she brought for Raika and the left her to die! Sonia left to save Raika and they killed her!” He turned away, “And they both lied about it. When the rescue team found Sonia’s body, she didn’t have a life vest on, and yet Steve and Raika claim that Sonia never reached them.”
Michael spoke up, “What if they were telling the truth! Did you ever think of that?”
Donald looked almost evil as he smirked, “Yes, I considered that, so I had a little chat with them before I killed them. They both confessed the two of them murdered the only woman I ever loved.” He laughed coldly as he looked down at Raika’s body, “Heh. That woman didn’t have a conscience. You brought this upon yourself, Raika. You deserved to die.”
Suddenly, Nonee yelled at him, “You stupid idiot!!”
That surprised Donald, “What? Nonee?”
She walked over to Raika’s body, “No child on this earth deserves to die in such a terrible way.” She went down next to the body, looking deeply sad, “What a horrible burden she carried knowing she had a hand in Sonia’s death.” She gently closed Raika’s eyes, “Not to say you should condone what she did, but when someone dies, someone will always mourn. No one should go through the pain I felt for the past two years, no matter what.”
No one said a word, not even Shadic. He only quietly watched Raika’s body. There was a sadness in his eyes, and perhaps a hint a guilt.
Later that day, Demon sighed as he sipped his tea, “Geez, that all really happened while I was out? Shame I missed it. Sounds like you really blew them away with your big reveal at the end there.” He and Shadic were sitting in a coffee shop in the town not too far off from the manor.
After Shadic’s reveal, they kept Donald under watch until the car arrived. It was Clinton and Shadic would took the car back to town to get the police, who arrived right away after Shadic verified his identity as a detective. By the time the reports were made and Donald was taken away, along with Raika and Steve’s bodies, Demon had finally woken up. The two decided to stop in town before heading home, where Shadic explained the night’s events that Demon wasn’t witness to.
Shadic sighed, “It wasn’t anything special.” He didn’t even pick up his cup.
Demon noticed, “You ok, Shadic?”
Shadic looked ashamed, “She was there all along, Demon. She was there, and she was alive up until this morning.” Demon was surprised to see his friend look pained and guilty, “If I had just looked in that stupid tub myself, she would be alive right now. Steve was killed right away, but Raika… I could have at least saved her. She didn’t have to die, especially not like that.” He looked down at his cup, “She died slowly, alone, while everyone did nothing! While I did nothing!”
Demon sat his cup down as he looked sympathetic towards his friend, “Shadic…”
Shadic shook his head, “Don’t bother telling me I’m wrong, because I’m not.” Demon didn’t say anything, trying to decide how best to continue.
Shadic couldn’t help tears that formed in his eyes, “I know this isn’t anything new. We solve murders, meaning we always have victims, whether it’s my cases or your trials. It’s just how it happens. But this… this time we knew there was a murderer, we knew she was missing, and we knew the murderer was one of the guests, yet I didn’t think… I didn’t think how he could still hide her during everything. How he could lie. I let Donald search with me, I let him cover himself, I let him get away with one more murder.” He sighed, “I failed to find the truth in time. If I were just more careful, more observant, more anything… maybe I… maybe…”
To Shadic’s surprise, Demon laid a hand on his shoulder. Shadic finally looked up at his friend, who looked sympathetic. Demon spoke with a gentle smile, “You can’t save everyone, Shadic. No matter what you do. You just… can’t.” Shadic looked pained by those words, but Demon continued, “That’s why the world has us. So that they don’t get away with it. It’s the best we can ever do.”
Shadic looked down at his cup, still sad, but at the same time, a bit relieved. As if the weight of his failure seemed to lighten, even if just a bit. He sighed as he picked up his cup, “Thanks, Demon.” He sipped it as Demon smiled.
With that, the two drank their tea in silence.