“Let the Household Trial begin!” Dimitris declared happily.
Nate looked around their circle. At one time, all these stands had been full...actually, no, Trevor never made it to the Trial room... but the room still felt so empty now. Three new pictures had been added this time to empty stands: Mike, Greg, and Mark.
“Alright, so Greg, or Suiko, and Mark are dead,” Bruce said, getting down to business. “Was there one culprit, or were they each murdered by a different person?”
“Hm, well, remember what Mike said before?” Josh replied thoughtfully. “The rules said that one person could murder a maximum of two people. And there wasn’t a double murder until after he said that, right? There’s no proof, but that’s my thought.”
“I think whoever was the murderer must have known about the magic teleporting thing,” Brayden proposed, “Because they locked the door and taped Suiko to it for blockage.”
Dimitris sat upright in his throne. “Wha-MAGIC TELEPORTING?! Who told you about that?!”
“The ghost,” Nate replied, glancing at Dimitris cautiously. Does he really know nothing about that thing?
“Alright, carry on then,” Dimitris said, sitting back down. Nate could just barely hear Dimitris mutter, “Why can’t those two just let us have fun?”
“We weren’t exactly meant to know about the teleporting though,” Bruce pointed out. “How’d they expect us to get inside? They obviously wanted the bodies to be noticed.”
“I think they wanted us to eventually break down the door,” Nate said thoughtfully, “so Suiko’s body would seem to jump out and scare us.”
“Why?” Randy asked, tilting his head to the side.
“Because they wanted us to feel despair,” Nate replied, the gears in his brain turning. “Didn’t you see the message written in blood on the wall?”
“Then that’s why Mark was hung up on the painting nail?” Randy asked.
“I think so,” Nate replied uncertainly.
“The culprit obviously wanted to put us in despair,” Bruce pointed out. “That seems like a Mark thing to do, but...”
“Well, isn’t Mark all about hope?” Leroy asked.
“True,” Brayden nodded. “Maybe that’s why the culprit murdered them.”
“Alright, but please explain why Mark was in one of my suits,” Randy said.
“How do you know it was yours?” Josh asked.
“First of all, where else would you find Batman suits?” Randy asked. “Second, during the investigation, I checked. One of my suits was missing. It was probably the person who knocked me out.”
“Was that person Mark then?” Bruce wondered.
“Did Mark put the suit on himself, or did the culprit put it on himself?” Nate asked.
“Yeah!” Leroy exclaimed. “Maybe they were trying to hide Mark’s identity. Or Mark was trying to hide his identity.”
“Why, though?” Josh asked.
“Maybe to trick us into thinking that Mark was actually Randy,” Brayden suggested.
“Then why would someone want to keep Mark’s identity a secret?” Nate wondered.
“Maybe Mark was in the middle of some ‘hope test’ when he got killed?” Bruce suggested.
“Hm...who would want to put us in despair, kill two people, and knew about the teleporting?” Randy wondered out loud.
“Not just any two people,” Brayden added. “Don’t you realize what Suiko and Mark have in common?”
Randy frowned. “Uh...they’re both dead?”
Brayden sighed. “Besides that. Suiko and Mark are the only two houseguests to have been caught trying to murder someone, without their target actually dying.”
“So what does that have to do with anything?” Leroy asked. “Does that mean the culprit wanted to get rid of the dangerous people?”
“Maybe, but think about it,” Brayden pressed. “Who was their target?”
“Hm...uh, Nate, right?” Josh answered.
Nate frowned. “So what does that mean?”
Brayden glanced over at him. “You may have wanted to get vengeance, right?”
“What?!” Nate exclaimed. Brayden was accusing him of murder!
“He’s got a point...” Bruce agreed uneasily. “Nate, weren’t you the first person to get to the second floor?”
“He could have set up the bodies while he was in there, then come running as he had only found it!” Leroy exclaimed.
“He is the Superhuman Actor, after all...” Josh added, not meeting Nate’s eyes.
“What? But how would I know about the teleporting?” Nate demanded.
“That ghost thing follows you around sometimes, right?” Randy asked. “And it obviously knew about the teleporting.”
“Then how would I get the tape and an arrow for Suiko’s death?” Nate retaliated. “How would anyone? We never found either of those things.”
“Hm... a secret place in the mansion that that ghost told you about?” Randy wondered.
“Dimitris,” Brayden called out, “how many floors does this mansion have?”
Dimitris looked surprised. “Um...five.”
“Five?” Leroy exclaimed. “Why did we never get to see it?”
“Uh...well, I didn’t really think we were going to need it...it’s just the attic, really...I guess some ghost found its way there and told a friend,” Dimitris said accusingly.
He’s hinting that I’m the murderer! Nate thought helplessly. That’s not fair!
“What could you find in this...attic?” Bruce asked Dimitris.
“Uh...mostly supplies that were never needed... you know, extra furniture, tools, weapons, supplies...” Dimitris replied hesitantly.
“Weapons?!” Josh exclaimed.
“The ghost must have led Nate to the fifth floor, then...” Leroy said, “...there, Nate found the tape and the arrow.”
Everyone was throwing nervous glances over at Nate as they did with all the culprits.
“What?!” Nate exclaimed. “This is so unfair! Dimitris’ not allowed to hint that I did it! And I didn’t do it, either! We’re all gonna die now because you’re guessing the wrong person!”
He exploded angrily and desperately. His mind was running. He never committed the murder! Did he have some alter ego that killed them, like Suiko? No, he would’ve known...Nate’s mind raced for any possible solution, but he could think of nothing. He was innocent.
“Nate, th-the signs point to you...” Josh pointed out quietly.
“What signs?” Nate demanded. “There’s so much evidence we haven’t thought through! The woodchip in Mark’s hair? Why he was so cold? The blood in his mouth? Or why Suiko didn’t look as though he were in much pain? Or how he saw Mark dead and died soon after?”
“Maybe they were just false pieces of evidence...?” Bruce suggested.
Nate looked around helplessly. His friends were all scared. Confused, and willing to accuse anyone. They just wanted this to end as much as he did and would jump to accuse anyone. But they were accusing the wrong person. If they all voted for Nate, everyone would die, except the true culprit...
Nate opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by Dimitris. “So are we ready to vote then?”
“Wait!” Nate called out, but Dimitris ignored him, and the slot machine came out and began to spin.
Everyone watched as all three slots stopped on Nate’s face. Then the word GUILTY flashed on the machine.
Nate felt his stomach drop. Was the machine rigged? He didn’t do it!
“That’s right, everyone! Nate’s your culprit!” Dimitris exclaimed. He shot a wicked glance down at Nate that made him feel extremely uneasy. Did Dimitris...know he was innocent...?
“Alright, well, it’s Execution Time!” Dimitris declared as the red button rose.
Nate gasped in fear and looked around at everyone in shock. They all were avoiding his eyes guiltily. Even Brayden seemed to become very interested in the wood on his stand.
“N...No! No, this can’t be! This...this is so messed up!” Nate exclaimed, and the screen on the red button displayed its usual sprite animation, with tiny sprite Nate being dragged away by Dimitris.
Nate was tied to a six-foot-tall stack of gold bars, which was only slightly taller than him.
He was on a conveyor belt, moving slowly forward. Nate was facing the other way, so to him, it seemed like he was going backward.
Behind him were three large scythes swinging back and forth from the ceiling. Nate could hear the swoosh, swoosh as the blades swung back and forth, the sound gradually getting closer and closer.
Nate couldn’t stop his body from shaking, and he felt sweat beads on his face. He nudged on the ropes around his arms and torso, but they weren’t budging.
The first blade was getting closer, and the conveyor belt was moving too slow to possibly avoid it.
The first blade made contact. Luckily, it was just with the gold, but it left a chunk gone in the stack, and Nate was shaken to the bone from the impact. He wouldn’t be so lucky with the next two blades.
The conveyor belt continued on, Nate slowly and dreadfully going with it. Soon, the swoosh, swoosh of the second blade began to draw closer.
Nate closed his eyes. Would this one be—
Nate gasped from the impact as the second blade came down on the gold again. A bigger chunk was left in the stack this time, and Nate thought he felt his ropes loosen slightly. He glanced over to his left slightly.
There had also been a gash left in one of the ropes. It hadn’t snapped the rope entirely, but maybe with a little force, it could be snapped...
Nate continued down the conveyor belt, a new spark of hope at the cut rope. He began tugging and squirming in an attempt to snap the rope, and after some struggling, he realized he could hear the swoosh, swoosh again.
The third blade, Nate thought. I need to hurry.
He began struggling more, but the rope still wasn’t budging. He paused when he felt the conveyor belt come to a halt.
Nate looked to the left.
The belt had stopped directly in the path of the third blade. It would get Nate this time for sure; the other two blades must have been for suspense.
Nate was shaking more violently now. This was it. The blade seemed to be coming down in slow motion. It was all over, and he wasn’t guilty...
Nate took in a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut.
Nate blinked open his eyes. What was that noise? He looked up to see the blade slowly stopping, light purple electricity shooting up and down the scythe shaped blade. It eventually came to a gentle halt, poking Nate’s arm, not even breaking the skin.
Nate stared at it in awe and looked up as the strange purple lightning shot up from the third blade, across the large metal beam on the ceiling holding the blades, and down to the other two blades in front of him.
Something—No—someone, the color of the lightning flashed in front of him and looked over its shoulder at Nate with a familiar bright smile.
“Malcolm?!” Nate exclaimed.
Malcolm was life-sized, and there were no light beams attached to him. And he had stopped the blades from slicing Nate in half.
A small part of the tip of the blade became surrounded in a purple aura and broke off the blade. Malcolm’s hand was glowing too, and moving with the floating shard. He moved the shard over to Nate’s ropes and easily sliced them, and they fell to Nate’s feet.
“Run!” Malcolm whispered excitedly and glitched away like the white figure always did.
Nate stared at where Malcolm had disappeared a second ago in shock. Then, he snapped back to reality when he saw Dimitris marching down the conveyor belt, glaring fiercely straight at Nate with furious eyes. Behind him, Nate could see the gate which separated him from the other houseguests that stood watching. He couldn’t actually see them, but they were obviously there.
Nate took a couple steps back as Dimitris approached, then whipped around and broke out into a run.
The only thing after the three scythe blades was an open doorway, and it was only black on the inside as far as Nate could see. Nate had no other choice; he ran through the doorway. He let out a startled gasp as he felt no floor under him in the black doorway, and began to fall into the abyss below.
“No!” Dimitris roared. “You idiot! Come back!”
That was the last thing Nate heard echoing around the chute until his head hit something hard and he blacked out.