Fawful's head hurt and his ears rang from the gunshot. And at the moment, he was on his knees, staring at his blood-soaked hands, blood that wasn't his own. Marsden lay on his side, eyes wide and blood poured from the thumb-sized hole in his forehead. Grey matter and skull fragments were mixed into a grotesque soup that was beginning to soak into Fawful's pants through the knees. He then heard the footsteps approaching him and finally looked up, staring into eyes behind well-wiped glasses. In the man's gloved hand was a revolver, smoking from the muzzle and leveled at the ground.
"Would you care to sit down?"
He walked over to the dining table at sat down, placing the pistol down on the tabletop besides a silver platter. Fawful was too shocked to react at first, but something finally compelled him to stand up and walk over to the table. He wiped the gore off on a white table napkin, which he placed back down in a crumpled heap.
"Please, Mr. Fawful. There is much to discuss."
Fawful chose a seat opposite of the Doctor, and sat down slowly and cautiously.
"I trust you'll understand if I chose to wear glasses as opposed to my monocle. I only wear that when appearance calls for it, and now I can see much better."
Fawful found himself staring, unable to take his eyes off him. Finally, it came.
"Oh, please don't ask the most obvious question first. It's rather boring to have to go on about the whys so soon when I can save that for the very end. Because, truly, that's the best part. The very end. The big reveal and the shattering conclusion. My favorite part of the novel, I must say."
"Your novel. The Kansas City Carver. Where it's finally revealed on the very last page that the murderer wasn't actually Thomas Palmer, as we'd thought throughout the entire book. It was a marvelously suspenseful tale, with all the twists and turns you'd expect, and then it all came down on us when it turned out that Palmer was nothing more than a scapegoat for the real killer, Carl Doherty. I must say, has to be one of my favorite books. Oh, and it's simply because I wished to impress you."
Fawful's mind drew a blank. "What?"
"You're whole reason for being here was so you could see me play it out. To allow you to be part of it and eventually tell my story. Who knows? Maybe it'll inspire a book, perhaps even one on what compels a man to commit murder."
"Well then. What compelled you?"
"No, no, not yet. First I want you to try to tell me how."
"You mean you want me to tell you how you murdered all these people?"
"I don't speak Pig Latin, Mr. Fawful. I wish for you to try to see if you've figured it out. Show me you're truly as clever a mind as you are a storyteller. And, please," he picked up the pistol, "do try your hardest."
Fawful rubbed sweat from his forehead. He thought for about a moment, teetering on too terrified to think straight and too fascinated by this man before him. How he could have faked it so vividly without anyone noticing, he had no idea. After another moment's thought, he began.
"It's quite obvious that you didn't just gain all this blackmail information by yourself. You must have paid someone to gather information for you, to spy on those whom you personally selected. This much is quite obvious. It would had to have been someone that you wouldn't notice. Someone that could get around and yet be like cellophane; you walk right past him and never even know he's there. I'm guessing… Johnro?"
The doctor gave him a short nod. "You're quite right, he was quite hollow for a man. And it's quite amazing how far people are willing to go just to get a bit of money. Poor old Matthew had a bad run in with some gents from Chicago who expected full payment with interest. He actually broke into you're house and took a picture of you while you slept. Not that that was necessary, of course. He's also a damn good shot, if you were wondering out who took a shot at the wall in the dark. Please continue."
"The bomb, the one that killed Jennifer. It must have been placed while we were all being led into the house. Also Johnro. He could have placed the bomb on the car and then slipped in through the back door near the pool to bring us all into the library. Timer bombs would have been too hard to manage correctly, so my guess it this was one with a plunger. All you had to do was wait for the right moment."
"Uh, that is where you're wrong. That particular little bit about how the bomb works. Truth be told, I had some anarchists from England design me a special type of bomb that's pressurized. All you have to do is sit on top of it and the bomb is primed. If any of the weight shifts from it, the bomb goes off. So sad that the good Mrs. Marsden had shifted in her seat so anxiously."
Fawful wanted to stand up, grab the pistol and shoot him the second he uttered that little comment, but found himself unable to do so. Not that something physical was forcing him not to, but he was still quite unnerved. And any quick reaction could result in the back of his head being blown out. Instead, he decided to let him continue.
"Ah, yes, that was quite unfortunate. Well, for her, at least. For me, it was simply grand, watching my plan unfold the way it had. Not one unintended flaw, not even with my dear, faithful butler."
"Oh, yes. I had figured that Johnro was a man with a weak stomach, and that he would have probably decided to spoil my night by revealing everything. So, that part was quite simple. I took a fireplace poker from my own study and knocked him right over the head with it, and threw him down the staircase while the others were getting drinks in the library and you were in the living room meditating, or whatever it was you were doing."
"Wait… how were you able to see me in the living room? There was no way you could have slipped out of the bedroom all those times. You would have most certainly be caught, unless…"
"Unless what? Please go on, Mr. Fawful."
"…unless there's some sort of passageway hidden in the house that lets you get from one room to another without being noticed. But, no, that can't be. That's only in the movies!"
Daishi stood from the table and walked over to the wall behind him. Pressing against a certain spot in the drywall, it immediately began to turn inwards on unseen hinges, revealing a dark hole in the wall that led in both directions. Fawful had noticed that he had left the pistol on the tabletop, but he left it as it is. Something more sinister was definitely at play at the moment, he could just feel it.
Daishi then went back to his seat and picked up the pistol, leaning back in his chair and twirling it like someone out of a western picture.
"I had those built back in the 40s to use as a sort of practical joke on my guests. I didn't have to really put them to good use until tonight."
"What I really don't understand is how you were able to fake such a serious wound."
"Oh, that part was easy. Curare, hemlock, blood from a pig, and a large amount of putty went into that little trick. It made it seem as though I had no pulse, and the mess was just all for effect. The knife that Guru found in the closet I had rubbed in the blood as used as my 'murder weapon.' I later had to sneak all the way back to get it after Mr. Morris found something of mine that nobody was supposed to."
"And what exactly was that? Was it a file on yourself, possibly one showing exactly how you could fake your death the way you did? Because that seems more likely than digging up a file on the others. I hardly believe you would have killed him over that."
"You're quite right about the contents of the file, it's just that I couldn't have my fun spoiled so soon. Like I said, those passages were put to good use. My mistake was leaving the door open when I went to retrieve some effects from the room. However, you only gain half a point for that, because you are quite wrong on one little bit. He was going to die tonight no matter what. Everyone here was to die tonight. There are only two exceptions."
"Myself and you?"
"Why don't you just kill me, then? Why did you even bring me up here?"
"I'll get to that in a moment. For now, let us continue."
Fawful thought for a moment.
"Guru was poisoned by Johnro. He did, after all, serve drinks in the library just before we all went to the dining room for your theater act. The exposure, however, was only half of a poison, and without the other it is harmless. This much I learned from Marsden. The other half was given to him in the bar room through a glass of tainted whiskey. None of saw him pour it, so I assume that it had already been poured for him. Johnro again?"
"The second half was indeed Johnro, yes, but I the first half was placed in the cigar he smoked in the bar room. If it weren't for the man's bad habits, then perhaps he would have been spared a few more minutes."
Fawful couldn't control himself any longer.
"You fucking animal."
"Oh, quite the contrary. It is you who is the animal, and I am the zookeeper. You were all part of an experiment tonight, the reactions of people who find themselves at odds with one another when they learn that among them is a murderer. I simply had to sit back in the end and watch those other three gun each other down in pure paranoia."
"How exactly were you able to put revolvers on everyone without them knowing?"
"Again, Johnro. When someone is so distracted by the events around him or her, they tend to not notice little things like .38s being slipped into their purses or into their coats."
Fawful again started looking at the pistol again as Daishi laid it down on the table.
"I'm almost tempted to hand it over to you, to see just what happens. But, that is quite impossible, at least on your half."
Fawful was confused.
"What are you talking about?"
"Because if you so much as go for that pistol, we both die."
"There's a bomb right under this table powerful enough to bring down the entire house. And right next to my chair is the plunger."
Fawful went pale.
"I see you're having a hard time believing me. Just go ahead and feel underneath if you don't believe me."
Fawful slowly slipped his hand underneath the table, feeling something hard and metallic.
"You would blow this entire house down just to keep me from revealing the truth? You really are a madman."
"Oh, quite the contrary. I want this story to get out. And that is why I chose you, a storyteller, to take part in all of this. It is why I chose to not shoot you when you brought those files before Davies. Oh, by the way, I burned them while you and Marsden were in here. But anyway, I know that you have been wondering all night why you're hear if you weren't being blackmailed. The answer is this: I want you to tell the world of what happened here tonight. How I outsmarted you all and worked right under your noses and twisted your minds to the point of fighting amongst yourselves. Yes, Coolsome was a junkie and a murderer. Yes, Marsden had an affair that resulted in a suicide. Yes, Morris' reputation would have been destroyed if his crime of plagiarism had gotten out. But Guru… Guru was far worse."
"Back in Europe, he wasn't known as Martin Guru, but as Franz Kindler, a Nazi officer that butchered eighty people while he was stationed at Auschwitz. He truly deserved to die, there is no doubt about that. What amazes me is how stupid the police of the city were in not doing a background check on their very own police chief."
"What about Avistew? What role did she have in all of this?"
"Ah, the maid. After the FBI discovered she was a Communist, she drowned her own child to prevent having to carry extra baggage on her flight across the country. I was able to pin her down in Chicago and… persuaded her to enter my employ. Eventually, she married Johnro for some sick reason I have no idea about."
"What about the two police officers? Surely, they weren't involved somehow?"
"Of course they were, otherwise they wouldn't have been here. I had the phone Guru used connected to a bogus operator under my employ, and then brought up the two officers from the city. They both were corrupt to the core, taking payments and bribes while the true filth of the city carried on with their maliciousness. If you're wondering what ever became of Chyron, his body is in the toolshed. Pity that axe had to go and drop on his neck."
"You disgust me. You're not some criminal genius, people have died tonight because of you."
Daishi stood up from his seat, squeezing the handle of the revolver tight in his hand.
"THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS TO EVERYBODY, YOU IDIOT! YOU DIE, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS OR WHEN! IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO DOES IT OR WHY, IT HAPPENS WITHER WAY!"
Fawful was actually taken aback by Daishi's sudden tirade. Daishi calmed himself and sat back down.
"I actually heard you're little speech in the bar room earlier tonight. About why people commit murder. Well, seeing as how I know the question has been dogging you about, I will tell you."
He leaned forward.
"Because I could."
"It was so easy. Too easy, as a matter of fact, taking someone's life. It gave me a thrill like no movie could, it was quite like a high in some way. Trade drugs for casual murder. I killed these people because they deserved it. I killed them because I wanted to experience killing a man for myself. I killed them because I am an expert of the criminal mind, and wanted to be the criminal. I killed them because I wanted to so badly."
And with that, Fawful made his move, lunging for the pistol and using his foot to kick away the plunger underneath the table. The two wrestled about the room for the pistol while the two threw punches, but eventually Daishi hit him in the right spot and Fawful was thrown on his back. Fawful was again facing down the barrel of the gun.
"You will not stop me Fawful! I've gone too far, too deep to go back, and you will not and cannot do anything to stop me. Don't you see? I've won. You've lost. And there is nothing you can do about it. Now be a good boy and…"
He stopped when both of them heard sirens approaching. Both looked out the window and noticed police cars quickly approaching the main gate, officers quickly going to the door. The two knew that the officers could see inside, and they knew and at that moment two officers ran up five feet away from the window with their police revolvers aimed directly at Daishi, ordering him to drop his weapon.
Daishi looed furiously down at Fawful, who smiled and then said: "You know there's one thing you forgot, Doctor: you forgot to wipe your fingerprints off the steak knife."
Daishi's face now sunk, looking horrified.
"Give up, Daishi. There's no way you're getting out of this, no way you can get away with it. You're done."
"You know something, Fawful? You're absolutely right."
Fawful flinched and closed his eyes as he heard the gun go off, which was followed by seven or eight more shots and the sound of breaking glass.
And Daishi's lifeless, bleeding corpse was sprawled across the ground.