(To the readers: This story is one I've been writing on a website I frequent as a fanfic. The names of the characters are the names of certain others who are also on that site. Still in progress.)

New York, 1958

The country home of Dr. Davies Daishi was a large estate surrounded by many lonely cypress trees and tall iron gates. The heavy wooden doors, equipped with a set of large knockers, had been opened for the past few hours, silently awaiting the first guest. At around 7:00, the cars began to arrive.

The first man to step up towards the house was the chief of the Telltale City Police, Martin Guru. The man, although the chief of police, was what people would refer to as "nefarious," but he also happened to have a very stale sense of humor, which he usually kept to himself. He strolled up towards the door, a burning cigar in his right hand, and walked into the house's foyer, where he was greeted by Mrs. Avistew, the head maid.

The second people to come were Dr. Darthington Marsden, an aspiring college professor, and his wife, Jennifer. The two of them never really seemed to get along, seeing as how Jennifer was always blowing away Marsden's paychecks by buying expensive pearls and dresses, very much like the ones she was wearing at that very moment. Neither of them looked very happy to be next to each other.

The third man to approach the great house was Abraham "Secret" Fawful, a very well known mystery novelist. His books had never, at any point, made him very much money, but he got his recognition from the reviews. The only bestseller he ever wrote made him very little money, but enough to buy him a small apartment in New York City. The only reason he agreed to attend this little gathering, despite knowing nothing of any of the other guests, nor this mysterious Dr. Daishi, because he felt as if he really needed to be among strangers. He didn't know why, he just seemed to need it.

A few minutes after Mr. Fawful had disappeared into the house, a long white limousine stopped in front of the house. Out of the car stepped one of the most recognizable faces in the world: the Academy Award-winning actor Samuel Coolsome, whom the newspaper had dubbed "Heart Throb." The doctor didn't really know why he was called that, seeing as how he usually played the part of a misunderstood bumpkin in most of his romantic epics. And although he usually wore a big, stupid grin on his face for the photographers, he didn't look happy at all as he approached the house.

The next and final guest to arrive was the famous composer Albert Alcore Morris. The man was an opera conductor by trade, but never really made it big in classical music. He once referred to classic composers such as Beethoven and Rachmaninoff as "hacks." A truly pompous sort of man, the melancholy/vexed expression on his face remained as he entered the house.

Dr. Daishi, after having seen the last of the guests enter the house, turned to his bedroom fireplace, where he had a log burning. He leaned over the mantelpiece for about a minute, underneath the head of the deer that he shot the spring before, and downed what was left of his Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola. He then replaced the glass on top of his bedroom's bar, and walked over to the desk beside his king-sized bed. He opened the drawer, and removed the Koyosegi from the bottom. He fiddled with the locks for a moment, before it clicked open and revealed both a box of .38s and a Colt Police Special revolver. He pushed open the cylinder and slowly placed a round into each chamber, and clicked it shut. He then replaced the revolver into the box, locked it, and placed it back into the drawer.

The guests had all gathered in the bar room, upon the polite request of Matthew Johnro, the butler. Every man had an aged whiskey or scotch (Morris only drank Irish coffee), and every woman had a glass of Dom Perignon.

Marsden had approached Johnro, who had a platter of drinks, and politely said, "So tell me, Johnro, exactly what is this… Dr. Daishi a doctor of?"

"The doctor is an expert of the psychology of the criminal mind. He has written a number of books on such subjects as why people like to steal, why people commit felonies for money, and especially why people commit murder."

Chief Guru had just then strolled up next to them, the cigar still smoldering in his right hand. "It's quite obvious why people commit murder, Matthew. Someone doesn't like someone, they plug 'em, we catch 'em. It's a simple as that."

Johnro laughed a timid little laugh. "You really don't understand, Mr. Guru. He believes that people commit murder because deep down, we are all thrill killers, or that we are all insane, no matter what we try to do about it. "

Fawful had now also come over to join in the conversation. "Actually, I'll have to agree with both Dr. Daishi and Mr. Guru. People really only commit murder because of some hidden hatred, or for some wrong done to them by the victim, or, as the doctor seems to put it, for the simple thrill of committing murder, which eventually turns into insanity and takes away any recognition for the life of a fellow human being. But, murder could also be for financial reasons, like a man kills his brother for his dying mother's inheritance, or maybe it could be for personal dramas. Say a man comes home early from work one night and hears the familiar 'thumping and moaning' coming from his bedroom. He knows exactly what's going on, so he goes into his study, pulls out his Police Special, walks in and shoots the two point blank. Simple as that. Or, it could also be that he knew about it all along, which would be making a spur-of-the-moment shooting into a premeditated murder. There are other ways that would cause romance to be a motive for murder. A woman doesn't like her husband, but she doesn't want to leave him because he's filthy with dough. She also happens to have a secret lover. Out of greed, she orchestrates a plot to have her lover murder her husband. It's happened before, no doubt about it."

Marsden laughed. "You're the author, aren't you? The guy who writes those murder stories?"

"Yes, I am." Fawful took a gulp from his scotch.

Guru smiled, shifted his whiskey to the other hand, and shook Fawful's hand.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Fawful. The wife loved that one you did about the guy who cut people up in their own bathrooms. What was that one called?"

"The Kansas City Carver."


On the other side of the room, Samuel Coolsome sat on the couch between Mrs. Marsden and Morris. Mrs. Marsden looked ready to drool all over him, while Morris sat quietly with his Irish coffee and cigarette.

"I absolutely adored you in The River Boat Gambler! That scene where you kissed Rita Hayworth… oh my, how dreamy!"

"Yes, Ms. Hayworth sure knows how to kiss a man."

"You know, you look even better off screen then you do on it."

"And may I say, madame, you look absolutely gorgeous in that dress. And the pearls you where around your neck are only a mere distraction from your beautiful face."

Mrs. Marsden blushed a bit, turning her head away from him and giggling. Morris rolled his eyes sarcastically in a what-a-ham gesture and drank some more Irish coffee. Morris loved Irish coffee, even though he was Italian-American. Maybe it was because he liked the sound of it more than the taste. He also found the drink to be a bit ironic, seeing as how coffee keeps you awake and whiskey puts you to sleep, but either way he found it to be a good mixture. And the dollop of whipped cream on the top somehow enhanced the experience of drinking it.

"So, the great Albert Alcore Morris," said Dr. Marsden, who had just appeared out of nowhere.

The saying of his name made him choke on his drink a bit.


"I've heard your pieces. I always listen to concert music when I am in my study, and I am actually a great admirer of your work."

"Well, thank you, Doctor."

"Believe me, everything those newspapers said about, completely false. There's no way that you…"

"If you would excuse me for saying it, Doctor, I would rather not discuss the subject of my… lawsuit, thank you very much."

He took a long draw on his cigarette.

"Your lawsuit? I thought it was you who was being accused of…"


Morris hadn't realized that his sudden outburst had drawn every eye in the room onto him. He began to shrink back into his seat, with Marsden leaning back like he was preparing to be punched.

"I…I, uh… I apologize for that. I just… shit."

I didn't take long for Morris to lose all of the unwanted attention. Fawful left his spot at the bar to re-approach Johnro.

"There's something I've been meaning to ask you, Matthew…"

"What is it sir? Will you have another brandy?"

"Oh, yes, thank you." Johnro took Fawful's glass and refilled it with cognac.

"What is it you would like to ask me, sir?"

"Exactly what are we doing here? I mean, I never even knew who this 'Dr. Daishi' was until yesterday. Why did he invite us up here if we've never even met him?"

"Why don't catfish have kittens?"

"I don't know."

"Same goes for your being here. He didn't tell me why he invited you men and women up here, just to write and send out the invitations, tell the wife to make some veal and minestrone, and find a swell bottle of champagne. The scotch is over fifteen years old, from the doctor's native land of Scotland, and the bourbon, being over twelve years old, was made during prohibition by Chicago bootleg…"

"That's quite alright, Matthews," Fawful said, "As long as the booze tastes good, I don't need to read up on its legacy. But thank you, anyway."

"Not me," exclaimed Guru. "I like to know where my vices come from."

"So does Dr. Daishi, Mr. Guru. He does love his liquor, almost as much as he likes Scottish cuisine."

A bell rang.

"Ah, dinner," Johnro said.

The guests found themselves seated at the grand dining table, a large glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room consisted of the one large table, a number of portraits hung on the walls, and a large window overlooking the backyard. Mrs. Avistew was going around the table, pouring soup into the bowls. They both looked very tired. From what, they did not know. Both her and Johnro stood in the back of the room.

"Well, I do believe that if anyone is to break the silence, it might as well be me," Mrs. Marsden said. She turned her head towards Fawful, sitting beside her and drinking a glass of Port. "I've read several of your books, and I must say, you are quite the writer."

"Thank you," he said. "Ever since I was a teenager, I was loved crime stories, thrillers, stuff like that. I mean, I read books by Doyle, Poe, Hammett, Christie, Chandler, you name it, I've read it. So, I decided that's what I wanted to do with my life."

"You read Agatha Christie?" Dr. Marsden said with a bit of surprise in his tone.

"Yes, doctor. I am quite an admirer of hers."

"One of my students over at the university recommended a novel of hers entitled 'The A.B.C. Murders.' I must say the novel had me quite enthralled, especially the way the murders were carried out. The victims having their names in alphabetical order, only one of those murders having serious significance. Damn good read, I must say."

Marsden downed a mouthful of bourbon, the alcohol burning his sinuses.

Guru spoke up, "I used to read the pulps when I was still a detective. Black Mask, Dime Detective, Spicy Detective Stories, so on and so on. I'm also partial to Biggers, if you're okay with a Chinese detective. Personally, those movies don't do them any real justice." He looked over at Coolsome, who had remained silent this whole time. "How often do you go to the movies, Sam?"

"I see a couple a month. Saw this one movie the other night, can't remember the name of it. But it had Charleton Heston as a Mexican."

"Touch of Evil," Morris said. He had also kept quiet for the time they had spent in the dining room.

"Orson Welles looks like my grandfather in that one," said Mrs. Marsden before having another sip of wine. "And you know—"

Before she could finish her sentence, the doors to the dining room slowly swung open, and everyone turned to see. In walked a man of about 40, silvery white hair, and about 6'5. His green eyes rolled back and forth, eyeing everyone sitting at his table. He wore a burgundy smoking jacket and a monocle over his left eye, and also had a fat cigar tucked between his index and middle fingers on his left hand. Everyone knew who he was before he even spoke.

"I am Dr. Daishi, and I welcome you all to my home." As he walked along the side of the table, his eyes never left the people sitting at the table, and vice versa. As the man passed Guru, Guru could smell the sickly-sweet scent of pineapples and tobacco off of him. Quite frankly, it turned his stomach.

"I do apologize for being late to dinner. I am aware that punctuality is a virtue, and that it is one that I seem to lack. However, I am glad that you were all able to make it out here tonight."

"Doctor," Jennifer said, "could you please explain to us why you've all brought us here? I mean, I never heard of you until I got the letter from you."

"Yeah, me too," Guru said. "What exactly are we here for?"

"Believe me, I shall elaborate momentarily. However, for now, I must ask all of you this: do any of you personally know each other, not including Marsden's marriage?"

Everyone gave the exact same answer. Whether it was "I don't think so," or "I'm not sure," the answer was still no.

"Alright, then. Then, I shall tell you. You all are here for one reason: you have had your good names soiled by someone here in this room."

"What do you mean?" Mortis asked.

"I mean someone in this room has information concerning all of you that the newspapers would find quite scandalous. I know. I helped this person gain this information."

The room went silent.

Guru stood up, squinting slightly with a confused expression. "Wait, just a minute, do you mean to tell me that someone here has been blackmailing us?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

Fawful stood up. "What do you mean, all of us? I've never been blackmailed by anyone! I haven't done anything to be blackmailed for!"

"We will get to you in a moment, Mr. Fawful," the Doctor said. "Now, if you and the Chief shall kindly sit down, I will tell you the other reason for your being here."

Marsden stood. "Wait, hold on, didn't we all just here you say that you helped someone blackmail us?"

"Yes. I did state that quite clearly."

"Than it was you who…" Marsden had begun to sweat and shake slightly. Everyone's attention was now focused on Marsden, who immediately shut up and sat down.

"If there aren't any more questions…" Daishi waited for a response. "Thank you. Now, as I was saying, the individual who has taken up the habit of making other people's business his own happens to be sitting right here. Right at this table."

"Who is it?" Asked Coolsome.

"Why, its…"

The room was instantly shrouded in a cloud of darkness. Jennifer, like any other woman who is afraid of the dark, screamed. A loud pop and a flash sounded in the room. A door opened and slammed.

When the lights came back on, Dr. Daishi was gone. Everyone looked bewildered and frightened.

"Where the hell did Daishi go?" Marsden exclaimed.

"He must have been the one who darted out the door!" Fawful answered. "Who fired a gun?"

"Nobody could have seen anything in that darkness." Guru walked past the frightened guests and examined the back wall. He took his fingers and rubbed it against a neat little hole that had just been made. From a .38, he figured.

"Quick," he said, "we have to find Daishi."

"NO!" Jennifer shouted. "He's trying to kill us! He brought us here to kill us!"

"Stop that," Marsden said, grabbing her by the arms. "Nobody is trying to kill us! It's simply a gag, that's all!"

Guru pulled out a penknife and carefully popped the tip into the bullet hole. Within less than ten seconds, he extracted a small lead load. A .38.

"Gag's don't fire bullets, Marsden." Guru said.

Johnro and Avistew had been holding each other close, and although they had still remained silent, they seemed as frightened as the rest.

"I'll go look for Daishi," Fawful said, heading for the door. "Coolsome and Marsden, you come with me."

"I'll go too," Guru said. "I'm the only cop here. I suggest Mortis stay behind to watch over the women."

The four disappeared. After thirty minutes of waiting anxiously, they finally reappeared.

"Well," Mortis said, a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "Did you find Daishi?"

"Oh, we found him, alright," Coolsome said.

Upstairs, in the West Wing of the house, was a small bedroom that was usually made up for guests. In the corner, there is a rocking chair carved out of oak and polished with a walnut tarnish. Sitting in the chair was Dr. Daishi, as crimson trail flowing from his slashed throat.

The guests all stood in the hallway outside the guest bedroom, where a bloodstained corpse sat in a rocking chair. Marsden was examining the slash, while Guru stood in the corner taking notes. All the women were crying in fear.

"Well, Doc," Guru said, not looking up from his notepad. "What do you think?"

"The cut was made by a very thick blade. Look at how it rippled the skin when the cut was made. I would say the weapon was either a steak knife or a breadknife."

"But what about the gun?" Fawful said, having been standing in a corner of the room, arms folded. "If the killer still had the gun, why didn't he just shoot him?"

Marsden stood from his crouched position and rubbed fog off his glasses. "A knife is more precise and quiet. A gun is loud and attracts too much attention."

"Wait, a minute, then," Fawful said. "Could there be someone else in the house?"

"No," Guru said. "I believe that whoever iced this man was one of the people sitting at the dining room table. Wait a minute… empty your pockets. Both of you."

They did so. Nothing. Guru walked outside into the hallway and asked everyone to either empty their pockets or their purses. No pistol.

"Well, that's great." Guru sighed. "The killer ditched the gun."

Fawful and Marsden came out into the hallway.

"Who discovered the body?" Morris said.

"We all did," Coolsome said, wiping sweat from his brow.

"Well, then," Morris said. "I guess that makes one of you a murderer."

Marsden stepped forward. "Do not presume that you are not under suspicion, too, Morris. Daishi said that we have all been blackmailed. That gives all of us a reason to kill."

"Even you." Johnro said.

"What has happened in my life is none of your business."

"It is if it could be motive for murder," Fawful said.

"As a matter of fact," Guru said. "We should all come clean. But first, I'm going to call the police."

"Why do the police need to get involved?" Avistew asked.

"Dammit, people," Guru said, "Daishi is dead and one of us killed him! Of course I'm bringing the police in on this!"

Guru disappeared downstairs. All eyes turned to Marsden.

"Well?" Morris asked.

"Go to Hell, all of you. I'm not saying a thing."

An hour later, the guests had all taken their seats in the bar room. Guru sat in a corner armchair, a cigar smoldering between his index and middle finger. Marsden and his wife sat on the couch with their heads on each other's shoulders while Morris sat beside them, having a beer and a cigarette. Finally, Fawful stood.

"Okay, lets get our facts straight. We were all invited here by a man who we did not know nor have ever heard of, and this man told us that all of us were being blackmailed by someone in the dining room. The lights go out, and someone fires a pistol, presumably at him. He bolts out the door, leaving all of us alone in a dark room until the lights go back on. We search for him, and we find him dead in a bedroom armchair."

Guru drew from his cigar. "Playing amateur, are we, Fawful?"

"Absolutely not. I'm no cop. I'm just trying to get a hold of the situation. Also, something puzzles me. Why not run for the hills while he had the chance after someone tried to kill him? Why head for a guest bedroom?"

"There was probably something in there," Coolsome said. "Something he was hiding and needed to get."

Fawful turned to Guru, who seemed to have not been paying attention to anything just said. "Did you look in any of his pockets?"

"No," Guru said. "And besides, no one touches the body until an autopsy."

"Autopsy?!" Fawful cried. "The man had his throat cut, looking at his innards won't do any good! We need to see if there is any evidence on him." Fawful turned, starting to walk away.

"Don't you touch that body, Fawful," Guru said. "This is a murder investigation, and if you tamper with anything that could be evidence, I'll cuff you without hesitation."

"Well, then, shouldn't we be searching for the gun? It could have fingerprints on the handle, or the casings, anything."

"Fine," Guru said. "All the men, go in groups of two and search the house. The women may stay here."

"Wait a minute," Coolsome said. "Why rule out the women? Were all suspects, that should include them, too."

"Women don't use guns," Guru said. "They prefer poison. Besides, they're delicate little hands probably couldn't even be able to pull a hair trigger."

"That's pretty ignorant of you," Morris said.

"Well, lets get going."

Fawful and Morris walked through the dimly lit hallways into the dining room. As Fawful began to examine under the large oak dining table, Morris walked over to the man surrounding cabinets and began to dig around in the empty drawers and cupboards. Suddenly, Morris turned.

"Something troubles me, Fawful."

"What is that, Albert?" Fawful did not look out from under the table.

"Will Daishi be the only one who died tonight?"

Fawful paused, then came up from his position and leaned on the table.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, why doesn't the killer stop there? What's keeping him or her from killing the whole lot of us? Eventually, the police will arrive and find out why Daishi brought us here, and therefore all that blackmail money will stop coming. Also, what if someone here by chance finds out who he is before anyone else? That person will likely be a dead man walking."

If someone was to throw back the heavy doors leading to the dining room, one who come to be in the grand hall, with a grand staircase, complete with a grandfather clock, painting a ghostly picture that was somewhat reminiscent of the Titanic. If you were to follow the staircase to the West wing, you would come to find four doors. The second door on the right was the door to the guest bedroom. Inside again stood Marsden and Guru, searching every nook and cranny for any little thing that could be a clue. Daishi's corpse still sat where they had left it earlier.

"You find anything yet?" Guru was digging around in the closet, pushing aside coats and pairs of pants, not caring to go through the pockets.

"Not a thing." Marsden, like Morris down in the dining room, was digging through drawers after looking under the bed. "You know, something troubles me, Guru."

"Yeah? What?"

"I can't help but feel that Fawful was right. About that we should examine Daishi's body a bit more thoroughly."

"I'm telling you, Marsden, no one touches the stiff. I'm not even touching it." Guru turned. "Is that clear?"

Marsden's face went pale. "Guru…" he said. "Your shirt."

Guru looked confused at first, but then turned his head downwards to see what Marsden was talking about. He hadn't remembered feeling at all wet, but the feeling came quick when he saw the dark red stain on his dress shirt. He turned and began throwing back jacket after jacket before finally stopping on one with a curiously dark stain. He reached into his breast pocket to remove his handkerchief, and using it to cover his hand, he reached into the side pocket. Marsden gasped as he saw Guru slowly pulling out a bloodstained knife from the pocket.

Back in the bar room, Jennifer and Avistew sat on the couch while Avistew held a shaking Jennifer's hand.

"We're going to die. We've all done wrong, and know we will pay for it." Her eyes leaked and her nose stuffed as she drove out tears, which she wiped away quickly so she didn't smear her makeup.

"Don't be silly, child." Avistew said with a sympathetic tone. "It'll be alright, you'll see. The police will be here soon, and by the end of the night we'll all be safe in our beds."

The men returned five minutes later. Guru carefully placed the knife down on the coffee table and resumed his former position in a corner armchair. Beside him, on a small table, sat a bottle of brandy and a glass. He took the bottle and poured himself a drink, but did not drink. Fawful had un-tucked his dress shirt and lit himself a cigarette, taking his position in the recliner opposite the fireplace. Coolsome stood against the arch that led into the grand hall, scratching his scraggly beard. Johnro took his position beside his wife, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a bottle of eye-drops, which he then began to apply. Morris sat on a stool beside the firewood and pulled his pipe and began to slowly smoke, rubbing his eyeglasses with a kerchief in between puffs. Marsden sat beside his wife, still shaken and was now leaning against him for comfort, which he provided through a hug.

"Why leave the weapon behind?" Fawful said.

Guru placed his glass back down on the table. "When we found the steel, the blood was soaking through the jacket which it had been left in. Either way it went, we would have either found the knife on the person or the blood would have soaked through his or her clothes. Makes perfect sense to leave it behind."

"Did you check it for fingerprints?"

"Yeah, I did. Nothing, clean as a whistle."

At that point, Avistew stood up and began to head for the hall.

"Where are you going, Mrs. Johnro?" Said Coolsome.

"I'm going to fetch the radio. It is so dreary in here." She vanished into the hallway. Four minutes later, she returned with a radio under one arm, plugged it into an outlet, and placed it upon the coffee table. She sat back down in her spot and flipped the switch. Everyone gathered around (except Guru) to hear the radio as she flipped through the stations.

"…osebud Frozen Peas, full of country goodness and green pe… surprise bu… Al-drich! (pause) Coming, mother!... olonel Mustard in th… ot Dis… later tonight, on Warp TV…"

Everyone's head turned at the sudden sound of strong coughing. Guru was beginning to double over in his chair, and he looked about ready to throw up. His drink had spilled over the floor, and he was clutching at his stomach. Marsden ran over to try to assist him, but was too late to see the foam beginning to pour from his mouth. Mrs. Marsden screamed again.

"What's happening?" Fawful cried. "What's happening to him?"

"He's been poisoned!"

Then, Guru went still.

Marsden pulled out a handkerchief and picked up Guru's glass, the contents of which had spilt upon the floor. He then took his finger and rubbed it around the bottom of the glass, noticing a milky white substance forming around his fingers. He then placed the glass on the table, wiped his finger off, and sat down at the couch. Guru hadn't been touched by anyone since he died, and froth was still emerging from his mouth. The air of the living room stank of tobacco, alcohol and vomit, which had been some of the contents in the froth. Jennifer stood in a corner, her mascara running down her cheeks.

"This truly puzzles me," Marsden said.

"What does?" Fawful asked, having been sitting in the recliner beside the corpse.

"The fact that there's two dead bodies in this house, now?"

"There's that, and that the poison in this glass in non-fatal."

The men, who were all sitting in various chairs on the couch, leapt to their feet.

"What do you mean, non-fatal? It's what killed him, isn't it?"

"Yes and no. The substance in his drinking class contains part of a binary compound. The only way it would have killed him is if he was already exposed to the other part. How, I don't know. It might have been the soup he ate for dinner, it might have been that cigar he was smoking earlier, I really don't know."

"The butler!" Jennifer shrieked, pointing towards a startled Johnro. "He served dinner! He killed both of them!"

Avistew leapt to her feet.

"How dare you?!"

"He served the soup! He poured the drinks! He is a murderer!"

Marsden grabbed a hold of her.

"He couldn't have killed Daishi! He was here with you and his wife when we went to find him! You need to calm do—"


Fawful walked up and slapped her as hard as he could. She gasped immediately, hesitated for a moment as if she could not believe what just happened, and finally settled down. Marsden, however, was furious.

"You son of a bitch, you think you can lay your hands on my wife?!"

"You would have done the same thing. She was going non compos mentis, and we can't have that in a situation like this!"

Marsden jabbed him in the stomach.

"You dirty bastard," Fawful coughed, going down on his knees.

"STOP IT!" Jennifer shrieked.

Marsden instead raised his fist and hit Fawful as hard as he could. Fawful went down almost immediately, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.

Coolsome rushed right up to him.

"He's right, and you know, you bastard. He just handled a situation you didn't have the balls to handle yourself, and you go and hit him?"

"Enough of your bullshit, Coolsome. I don't have to his from you, or from him, or from anyone here. I'm leaving, and so is my wife." He grabbed hold of Jennifer's arm and began to walk from the living room.

Morris and Coolsome leapt in front of him.

"You're not going anywhere, Marsden," Coolsome said, "and neither is she. There are two people dead, and seeing as how you just beat the hell out of Fawful, that looks pretty damn suspicious to me."

"Get out of my way, you little shit."

Morris stood up straight.

"You're not leaving this house. If you try, that'll mean you did it."

"What?! You're going to pin this on me? I never killed anyone in my life!"

"Darthington," Jennifer spoke up, "we can't leave. Their right."

"Quiet, Jennifer. Not only will I bring the police, I will be bringing a lawyer. These men can't harass me like this."

"You stupid, conceited moron! Look what you did to Fawful!"

"He laid his hands on my wife. What will a jury say to that?"

And with that he burst through and opened the door to leave, with Jennifer in tow. As he made it out the door, he could hear Morris and Coolsome screaming after him, but he didn't give a shit. He saw himself as the completely innocent one. like what happened five years before that, when he started getting those letters, the ones about him and his secretary, Mrs. Rosebud. She was a tramp, anyway, and that was back when he was still a big drinker. The way he saw it, it wasn't his fault that she was so attached to him, and that when she realized they couldn't be together, she threw herself off the roof of tenth division of the state university. As tragic as it was, he never loved her in the first place, and he could always get another secretary.

Never mind the bad memories, he thought.

She climbed into the side of the car, and he realized that he had forgotten his car keys. He told her he'd be back and then turned to head back into the house, to not only get his keys, but to also maybe hit Fawful one more time.

He hadn't made it more than five feet when the car exploded, sending him down onto his stomach.

He flipped himself over and stared at the inferno with horror, as did everyone else in the house who had heard the explosion and rushed outside, including the now-conscious Fawful.

Marsden shouted his wife's name and sobbed as he ran toward the car, trying to make himself believe that his car hadn't just exploded, and that the smoldering corpse in the shotgun seat wasn't that of his wife. He would've jumped into those flames himself if Coolsome and Fawful hadn't dragged him away and back into the house.

About an hour later, it was now completely dark outside, save for the still burning car outside. Johnro had to give Marsden a shot of morphine to calm him down. At the moment, he was sleeping like a drunk after a night of stowing away bottles of beer.

"How could that have happened," Avistew cried. "None of us left the house except for them!"

Fawful lit himself a cigarette and placed an icepack over his head. "Someone could have slipped into his car on the way in. For all we know, there's one in every car outside."

"Why?" Morris asked, positioning himself in the seat Guru had been sitting in.

"To keep us from leaving. Whoever is doing this, he or she intends to kills us all."

The room was silent for five minutes.

"I plagiarized 'Sundown on the Brook.'" Morris said.

Everyone turned to him.

"It was considered to be my greatest work, and it wasn't even mine. I stole it from my partner, Wilson LePlaya. I paid him thousands of dollars for what he considered to be a piece of garbage."

"You were being blackmailed for plagiarism?" Coolsome had managed to keep quiet since they put out Marsden.

"Yes. What I charged LePlaya, the blackmailer charged three times more than that. I'm a composer, not Howard-fucking-Hughes. I couldn't afford the blackmailer's price, but if it ever got out that my supposed masterpiece was plagiarized, not only would it ruin me, I'd go to jail for it."

He sighed and rested his face in his palms.

"At this point, I just don't care anymore."

Fawful exhaled and put out his cigarette in the ashtray beside Morris. Earlier, they had placed Guru's corpse upstairs in the same room as Daishi, but the imprint of his dead body was still molded in the carpet.

"Well, in that case, I think we should all come clean."

Coolsome sighed and wiped the sweat off of his forehead.

"I was at a restaurant in Hollywood, about five or six years ago. I met this… this waitress. She was the most beautiful, gentle thing I'd ever seen. I… I'd had a few drinks, I couldn't help myself. I think… I think the way I'd figured it was that, seeing as how I was a movie star, and she was, well… she was, what looked to me, over eighteen, it would be alright if I invited her back to my hotel room. I think you know what happened after that. That was it, it was only that one night. Anyhow, I found out afterwards from one of the guys at that restaurant that she was a hell of a lot younger than that. I felt… I felt sick to my stomach and I will never stop regretting it. I then heard that she had died in the hospital. During..." Coolsome choked a bit, trying to hold back tears. "… child-birth."

He then finally let them go. Avistew looked absolutely shocked, but the rest all either hung their heads or were rubbing their eyes and lit another cigarette, took a puff and handed it over to Coolsome. Coolsome wiped his eyes and took the cigarette, puffed a few times, and handed it back to Fawful.

"You know," Fawful began, "I was telling the absolute truth when I said I had no idea what I was doing here. I was never blackmailed in any way. I guess there's no real way of knowing."

Morris leapt to his feet.

"Oh, my God. You did it."

Fawful spun around in amazement.

"What did you just say?"

"It's you. You were the only one who wasn't being blackmailed."

Coolsome also got on his feet, as did Johnro and Avistew. Marsden wouldn't be standing for a little while.

Fawful thought they would have been upon him if it weren't for the banging on the door.

Everyone eyed Fawful for a few seconds. He felt as if they're eyes were penetrating him, looking right into him and seeing whatever they wanted to see: a killer.

The knocking came again. Morris left the room to go open the door. When he came back five minutes later, he came back with two men in beige trench coats and brown fedoras. Typical dicks looking like something right out of the pulps, one with a beard and chomping a cigar and the other neatly shaven and much more sober looking than the other.

"This is Detective Chyron," he pointed to clean looking one, "and Detective Davies," the guy with the cigar.

Chyron pulled a notebook from his pocket a flipped a couple of pages.

"We got a call from here reporting a homicide about two hours ago."

"Make that three," Coolsome said.

Davies removed the cigar from his hairy mouth. "What was that? Now there's three stiffs?"

"Yes," Johnro said. "The other one's upstairs with the first one, and the others outside in that smoldering wreck."

Chyron walked over to Johnro.

"What's your name?"

"Matthew Johnro."


"I'm the butler."

"How long you been working here?"

"Four years. My wife, Avistew, is the maid."

"How long has she been working here?"

"Four years, same as me."

"Who's your boss?"

"David Daishi."

"And what is his occupation."

"Was, is more like it. He's dead upstairs."

"Answer the question, please."

"He was a doctor. Expert in psychosis and criminology."

"He make a lot of money?"

"Look around you, this house is huge. So, yes, he made a lot of money."

The questioning continued to every other person there before they were told to stay put while the detectives went upstairs to check on the bodies. Fawful had been standing in the exact same as he had been, but he was too scared to say anything because of what he was feeling in his pocket. He didn't know how it got there, but he knew that if he brought it out in the open, it would be damning. Everyone there seemed quite convinced with Morris' belief, and what he had in his pocket, at that moment, would have been like painting a big red "I DID IT" on your back. You could be blind and drunk, you would still know that what was in your pocket was a loaded gun.

To Be Continued