Everyone but Riko ran back to the relative safety of the hotel. She just stood there, her tears merging with the torrential flow of rain over her body. The lightning danced over Lake Ontario and each set of thunder mimicked her heartache.
One of the flashes of light was reflected by something on the beach near her. She walked towards in zombie-like in her grief. She’d crossed the beach before she realized how stupid she’d been. There was no way to tell if the killer had placed more mines.
When she found what was reflecting, she gagged and sobbed simultaneously. It was Ethan’s father’s watch. Cracked down the middle and stopped at the time of his death. The watch was still attached to his arm. She assumed it was his arm. It was burnt beyond recognition and not attached to the rest of his body.
There were various other body parts strewn, as if by a careless child, all over the beach. Her first instinct was to collect all the pieces. She didn’t. Instead she turned around and walked towards the hotel in the same fugue like state as she’d walked onto the beach.
His dying words to her were that he loved her. She hadn’t known. She’d loved him since they’d been paired together two years ago.
The others had congregated in the ballroom. When she walked in, Zoe went over to her and gave her a towel. She was shaking but she wasn’t sure if it was the cold or the trauma.
“Sit down… I’ll get you a hot chocolate,” Zoe rushed out of the room.
Riko guessed they’d gotten over their fear of being poisoned and let out a little giggle. They all looked around awkwardly, none of them meeting her eyes. Curiosity pulled her from her grief and she asked, “What’s up?”
“Sandrine has a theory but you’re not going to like it…” Zane looked almost guilty.
“We have enough of the killer playing games… what’s your theory?”
All their phones started ringing and the screens around the ballroom roared to life. The showed the growing, gruesome, and irritatingly vague poem:
Twelve naughty kittens all trapped on an island; they’re all going to die for certain.
The first betrayed love for cash; now she’s ash.
To violence and hate the second clung; now he’s hung.
To gossip the third fixated; now she’s been asphyxiated.
The fourth preferred those who were incapacitated, now it’s his turn to be penetrated.
The fifth was a jerk who loved a good burn, now in a ball of fire it’s his turn.
The sixth was a model citizen, a spy; and not Canadian but Russian.
The seventh wasn’t what he seemed; he was but a dream within a dream.
“That was written by someone who doesn’t understand poetry, or truly hates it.” Zoe said it, probably intending it to be a joke.
“Sandrine, what’s your theory?” Riko asked. She didn’t want anyone else to die and she didn’t want to die. Her survival instinct was paired with a pang of guilt, should she really be thinking about this sort of thing when so many others had died? Shouldn’t she be in a state of shock longer? She pushed away those feelings and concentrated on trying to save everyone.
“I don’t think he’s dead!”
“Ethan… I think he faked his death.”
“The poem says ‘Twelve Naughty Kittens’ but we were thirteen. That means one of us isn’t part of this or one of us is the killer.”
“Ok, but why Ethan?” Riko tried to hide the defensiveness in her voice.
“As a cop he has the training, he wasn’t always with the group, and there’s no way to make sure he died.”
“I saw his body. At least parts of it. His arm was still wearing the watch his father gave him…”
“It still makes sense to me that it’s him. I can’t imagine anyone in this room could do it; it has to be someone who faked their death. Ethan was the only one who wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Zoe sighed and said, “It can’t be Kate, unless she’s faking her paralysis. The boathouse isn’t accessible. I can’t believe you’re behind it.” She pointed at Riko.
Kate nodded. “And let’s be real. There’s no way in hell Zane and Blane would kill everyone. This is way too tacky for them. Same with Zoe.”
They all looked at Sandrine who lifted her hands up and said, “Hey. If I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t go through all this trouble. There’s also no money to be made here. It makes no sense.”
“Jonathan died so far at sea that we couldn’t see him,” Zoe said, her face paler than normal. “What about him?”
“Maybe,” Sandrine said. “I don’t think it’s Arun. We saw him die.”
“We didn’t see Abe die but it would be hard to fake. Maybe Alison?” suggested Zoe, moving a cup towards Riko.
Riko reached out and took the cup that Zoe had been holding in front of her and took a drink. It was mostly liqueur with a little hot chocolate. It made her feel warmer inside. She said, “I don’t think it’s Abe. That would be too hard to fake.”
“Bodies!” exclaimed Blane. “The bodies.” He looked around like everyone was being dumb. “We can eliminate anyone who’s still dead upstairs.”
In an almost choreographed movement, the six moved towards the stairs and elevator.
Stopping in front of the elevator, Kate shrugged. There was no other way for her to get up to the first floor in her wheelchair.
“We’ll go up with her,” offered Zane despite Blane’s horrified look.
Sandrine, Zoe, and Riko walked up the stairs. Riko took comfort in the warmth of her drink. She was still wet. The hotel seemed even more eerie, if possible, than it had before.
They reached the door to the makeshift morgue and Riko opened it. A blast of icy air flowed from the room making her shiver. She fumbled for the lights.
The room was pristine, not only were there no bodies but there was no smell, and the room had been made up perfectly.
“This is the right room… Right?” asked Zoe, the familiar sound of panic entering her voice.