“Not again, not again, not again...” Nate muttered fearfully as everyone from the Dining Hall and the bedrooms rushed out at the sound of his screams.
“A-again?!” Josh exclaimed fearfully, looking down at Bill with wide eyes.
“It only took about a week for another murder...” Randy muttered.
“Bum-bum-bum!! A body has been discovered! There will be a short time for investigation, and then we will hold a Household Trial!” Dimitris’ voice boomed throughout the mansion.
Bill was lying on his stomach, one arm outstretched and one tucked in by his side as if he were trying to haul himself somewhere. There was a trail of dark red blood going down the hall behind him, and he had several stab punctures in the back.
“We really are going to die, one by one...”Thomas muttered ominously.
“D-don’t say that!” Bruce scolded. “We’ll find a way out of this for sure.” Nobody responded.
“Let’s just check the body...” Brayden sighed.
“I’ll take some people to go follow the blood trail,” Bruce offered, and soon him, Nate, Greg, Leroy, Mark, and Seto were following the smeared blood path down the hallway. Bill’s body was about in the middle of the hallway between the Dining Hall and the bedrooms. The smeared trail led all the way down to his room, the door was swung open and splattered with the dark red blood, which suggested that Bill had probably opened the door himself somehow.
Cautiously, the group entered Bill’s room. “Oh my gosh...” Mark muttered, having to look away from the scene for a second. One corner of the room was just covered in unmistakable red blood. There were smears on the bed, whose pale white sheets were messy and dropping off the side of the mattress, and a smeared blood trail from the splattered corner to the door, and out the hall. It was the same trail they had all followed here.
Things had obviously gotten very...violent.
Seto walked up to the blood-splattered corner and inspected it. Then, he reached out and ran two fingers down the smear for a second.
“Augh, Seto...!” Greg moaned as Seto pulled his two fingers off the wall and examined them.
“It’s still somewhat wet,” Seto acknowledged.
“It is?!” Leroy asked, his eyes widening.
Seto nodded grimly. “It’s not fresh, of course. But not completely dry. This blood wasn’t spilled too long ago.”
“Greeeat,” Greg said weakly.
“Bill was one of the few people who headed to bed early today. Maybe he was murdered sometime between when he left the Dining Hall and when I left?” Nate thought out loud.
“That makes sense,” Leroy agreed.
“So, the murderer was probably someone who wasn’t in the Dining Hall when or after Bill left,” Mark said thoughtfully. “By the way, does anyone see signs of a weapon?”
Everyone quickly scanned the room.
“Nothing that could be used to stab,” Nate reported. “It’s mostly just...blood smears everywhere.”
“Wait!” Leroy exclaimed, looking under the bed. “What’s this?” He reached under and pulled out a small handheld knife, most likely from the kitchen. The knife was completely clean, with no blood smears or anything.
“What’s a clean knife doing under the bed?” Seto asked.
“Maybe Bill put it there as a means of self-defense?” Greg asked. Nate snorted. “Well look how well that worked out for him. Anyway, we should take it with us.”
“Yeah, it’s evidence or something, right?” Mark agreed.
“Should we head back to the others now?” Greg asked, and they all followed the blood trail back down the hallway. When they arrived, the two groups shared their discoveries.
“The trail came directly from Bill’s room. It was a mess, blood everywhere. The murder was obviously committed in his room,” Nate reported.
“Well, the attack sure was, but maybe not the actual murder,” Thomas pointed out. “Bill most likely died out here. Of course, someone could have just dragged the body down here, but by the smeared and jagged blood path, and the position he was in at his death, I think he had been dragging himself out here while dying.”
Everyone stared at Bill’s body once more. He did look like he could have died that way…
“Anyways, the stab wounds don’t seem to be from a knife,” Peter reported. “They’re more of a round shape.”
“Hmm, what could stab that many times besides a knife, then?” Brayden wondered.
“That’s weird,” Mark interjected. “We found a knife in Bill’s room. However, it was clean. No blood.” He pulled out the knife for everyone to see.
“Where was it?” Randy asked.
“It was under the bed,” Leroy explained. “We thought maybe he was keeping it there for self-defense?”
“Yeah, probably,” Randy agreed.
“Then why didn’t he use it? He was being attacked in his room,” Bruce pointed out.
“Who knows? Maybe he just couldn’t reach it in time... Anyway, who wasn’t in the Dining Hall when Bill wasn’t? They could be suspects,” Casey asked everyone.
“I was the first to leave, and I went straight to bed,” Josh put in.
“You’ve been going to bed early a lot these past couple of days. You alright?” Mark asked.
“Yeah, I’ve just...been having trouble sleeping, I guess. Because...you know. Ivan and Trevor. And just being here in general,” Josh explained quietly, not meeting anyone’s eyes.
Mark nodded. Josh must have been impacted the most by Ivan’s crime; the seemingly easygoing and somewhat quirky guy had tried to frame Josh and had broken his helmet.
“Anyway, who else?” Nate asked.
“I think I was the one to leave after Josh. I went to bed, too,” Mike said.
“Hmm...I remember after Mike got up and left, Bill headed out for the night about five minutes later, so I’m pretty he was the third to leave,” Bruce recalled.
“I’m pretty sure I went to bed next,” Greg added.
“Then I think I was the last to go,” Peter finished.
“Good, now we have our suspects,” Casey said with a smile.
“W-WHAT?” Greg exclaimed.
“Well, Bill was definitely alive when he left the Dining Hall, and we would have noticed if anyone besides you, Josh, Mike, and Peter had left the room too before we found Bill’s body. So it definitely was one of you,” Thomas explained simply.
“You realize that saying that you left the room after Bill would make you a suspect, right?” Leroy asked.
Greg gave a sheepish chuckle. “Eheh...well, no. But I guess I would have still told you guys even if I did know...wouldn’t want to seem untrustworthy, right?”
“Well, what an exciting investigation we’ve had here, but it’s time for the Household Trial, everyone!” Dimitris’ voice boomed. “Please make your way to the elevator!”
Everyone looked at each other grimly, then slowly headed down the hall, leaving Bill’s corpse behind.
When they all got to the Household Trial, Dimitris gave a small chuckle. “So, poor old Bill’s gone, isn’t he? Anyway, let the trial commence!”
Everyone looked around the circle. Nate noticed how there were two new gray photos with red X’s through them; one of Bill and one of Ivan.
“Okay, it’s most likely one of the people who left the Dining Hall early,” Thomas started.
“Yeah, why don’t we hear their alibis?” Seto asked.
Josh spoke up since he had left first. “After I left the Dining Hall, I went straight to bed. I wish I had a better story, but I guess if anyone saw me run out when Nate screamed, that could help.”
“I did,” Mike confirmed. “Our rooms were right next to each other, and we ran out at the same time.”
Josh nodded. “Oh, yeah! You were right behind me. You went straight to bed too, right?”
Mike nodded. “Next was...Bill. He apparently left about five minutes after me, right?” he asked.
Bruce nodded. “I remember him doing that.”
“Greg went next, right?” Casey asked.
“Um, yeah...after I left the Dining Hall, I went down to the Alchemy Room,” Greg said nervously.
“Why were you down there?” Seto asked. After the murder of Trevor, the Alchemy Room had been avoided.
“Well... I wanted to read. I thought one of the books could have some useful information as to how we escape the mansion. I... just wanted to be useful, I guess,” Greg said sheepishly.
“But...aren’t all the books in Latin?” Seto asked.
“Well, yeah,” Greg nodded.
“So... you can read Latin?”
“Well, no...” Greg started.
“Hm. Then what’s your alibi, Peter?” Seto asked. Greg looked like he had wanted to say more, but didn’t continue.
“I went straight to my room, too,” Peter replied. “I don’t think anyone would have seen me, because I was the last to leave the Dining Hall, but I’m hoping that someone saw me come out of my room when Nate screamed.”
“I did,” Greg confirmed.
“So... Greg, this makes you kind of suspicious...so then how does that match with that message Bill sent to us?” Thomas asked. Everyone looked over at Thomas surprised.
“Message?” Leroy asked.
Thomas nodded. “I guess I’m the only one that saw it. I didn’t want to bring it up during the investigation because information should be gathered at that time, not discussed.
“So... what’s this message? And what’s it say?” Randy asked. Well, you see, it was under Bill’s arm. The left one, I believe. He had written out a message in his own blood. Kind of smeared, but it was definitely real letters,” Thomas explained.
“What is it, then?” Mike asked.
“The message said ‘Esa’,” Thomas said.
“‘Esa?’ What does that mean?” Nate asked.
Thomas shrugged. “All I did was see it. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.”
“Can I suggest some info I found, too, then?” Josh asked.
“It’s not exactly useful right now, but when I was walking to my room earlier, I found this on the floor.” Josh reached into his pocket and pulled out a deep red scrap of cloth. When looked at more closely, faint traces of deep red blood could be seen.
“Now what’s that all about?” Casey asked.
“I don’t know, but I think it’s from one of the curtains in the Dining Hall stage,” Josh said uncertainly.
“It’s definitely got something to do with the murder. I mean, there’s blood on it!” Bruce exclaimed.
“A piece of cloth? ‘Esa’? Nothing’s really connecting here,” Brayden muttered.
“What do you mean? This all makes total sense!” Greg exclaimed. Everyone turned to stare at him, shocked and confused by his outburst.
“If you‘d all let me finish speaking next time, you might find out that somebody may have some very useful information!” Greg went on.
‘No offense Greg, but you’re kind of suspicious right now...” Leroy pointed out hesitantly. “I mean, you never explained to us why you were in a room reading books you can‘t understand.”
Greg sighed, frustrated. “Maybe I was, but I didn‘t get the chance!”
“Go on, then,” Seto encouraged with a furrowed brow, seeming more interested in Greg‘s testimony than annoyed.
The melon looked around the circle of podiums. “Well...like I told you guys before, I was in the room to read. I wanted to be useful, and prove to myself and everyone else that I could. However, I couldn‘t find a book that wasn‘t in Latin anywhere.”
“Wait,” Randy interrupted. “Why were you doing this at night, when nobody else was around?”
“Well, I didn‘t want anyone to know, in case they were going to try and help me or anything. I wanted to show I could do good on my own, you see. Looking back, going out alone at night was pretty stupid...” Greg admitted sheepishly.
“Hmm,” Josh mumbled. “Go on.”
“So...I was just about to give up when I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. I panicked, because it could be a murderer coming for me, and quickly turned off the lights and hid in a dark corner, where I could look out the windows from the distance but anyone passing by wouldn‘t be able to spot me from the dark corner.”
“And...well, um, I did encounter a murderer.”
“Huh?!” Brayden exclaimed. “How?!”
Greg looked very uncomfortable, probably afraid or hesitant to accuse one of his friends. “Well...the person who was walking past...was wearing that cloth Josh found around their mouth, like a handkerchief, I guess. And they...they were carrying something bloody. I couldn‘t see exactly what the object was, but it wasn‘t a knife and I‘m pretty sure they had used it to s-stab Bill.”
Peter leaned in closer, gripping his podium with both hands. “And did you know who this person was?”
Greg nodded. “Um...it was Casey.”
Everyone whipped around to face Casey. “WHAT?!” Casey exclaimed, his face full of outrage.
“Casey...?” Thomas asked with a furrowed brow.
“I...I really don’t like accusing people, but it was definitely Casey...” Greg trailed off, not meeting anyone‘s eyes, especially Casey‘s.
“Wha...How?! It wasn‘t me!” Casey protested. He seemed in a state of shock.
“Where’s your proof?” Mike asked.
“Ah...” Casey trailed, at a loss for words.
Thomas spoke up, looking thoughtful. “You know... on the ‘ESA‘ thing, the ‘S and E‘ were written backward...I think maybe Bill wrote the message in blood on his arm, with the opposite hand, then when he...fell to the floor for the last time, the writing on his arm went onto the floor, so the message looked backward. If you put ESA backward, you get ASE. The C and Y must have been smudged since there were a lot of smears on his arm from dragging himself down the hallway. So, since Casey was the one who had attacked him, he must have written ‘CASEY’ to try to tell us who our culprit is.”
Casey was silent, his mouth gaping slightly open in shock. “But...I...”
“This is a good theory, but Greg‘s testimony doesn‘t match up with the information we have,” Nate interjected.
“It doesn’t?” Mike asked.
“Oh, it’s because Casey never left the Dining Hall, right?” Seto asked.
Nate nodded. “Think about it! Josh left the Dining Hall first. Then Mike. Then Bill. Then Greg, then Peter. Casey was in the Dining Hall the whole time from when we last saw Bill alive to when we first saw him dead. We would have noticed if he left. There’s no possible way it could have been him.”
“Yeah! I was there the whole time!” Casey agreed, finding his voice again.
“So then why would Greg be suggesting Casey was the culprit?” Brayden asked, looking over at the melon.
“W-what?! But...I could have sworn it was him...!” Greg exclaimed.
“Maybe you were just mistaken. It was completely dark in the room, and you were as far away from the windows as possible. The lighting in that hallway isn‘t the best, either. Or, you know, you could always be lying,” Peter explained calmly.
“What?! I’m not lying!! I swear!! I saw someone wearing that cloth around their mouths, holding some kind of bloodied-up thing that they probably used to stab the living daylights out of Bill!” Greg explained, panicked.
“Urg...did you have to describe it that way...?” Leroy asked weakly.
“Where were they even heading?” Mark asked Greg.
“They were walking down the hall towards the staircase leading to the second floor,” Greg explained.
“Oh. That explains this, then,” Mark said, pulling out something burnt and charred.
“What...what‘s that?” Bruce asked.
“I found it in the fireplace upstairs. Remember how I left during the investigation? I investigated up there, in case we missed anything. Well, here it is. If you look closely, there‘s blood on it,” Mark explained.
Sure enough, when given a closer look, there was definitely blood on it.
“It looks like a piece of wood...” Brayden pointed out. “How’d you even get this out of the fireplace?”
“There was just one of those metal-rod thingies. I poked the stick out of there with it, and most of the fire on it was out by then,” Mark explained.
“Most of the fire...” Thomas muttered.
Mark gave a nervous chuckle. “I covered the burn marks with a rug.”
“What?” Dimitris asked sharply.
“Anyway, I think this was a stake of some sort,” Mark went on, ignoring Dimitris.
“It does seem to fit the size of Bill’s stab wounds,” Mike pointed out.
“Why would the culprit use a stake?” Nate asked.
“Probably because it would be easier to dispose of than a knife since the culprit didn‘t have much time. The culprit most likely went upstairs to burn their stake after murdering Bill,” Randy suggested.
“Then that means Greg is telling the truth, right?” Josh asked.
“See?! I told you so!” Greg declared. But still, we have many questions unanswered,” Thomas pointed out. “For example, how did they get a stake? And why did Bill write ‘-ESA?’”
Just when we think we’ve made progress... Nate thought. We’re still nowhere near discovering the true culprit.