They had just placed James’s body in the same room as the burnt canoe when all three of their phones rang.
Riko brushed her short black hair behind her ear and looked down at the screen incredulously
“Allison R has invited you to a LiveStream on Konect-EDTM” read her screen.
“What the hell? I thought she was dead?” Doctor Abe Harker gave a confused glance at the canoe.
“How’d she get my number? Wait… I don’t have signal. What the hell?” asked Ethan. He’d clicked on ok and Riko could see a countdown clock with fifteen minutes left.
Riko put her phone away and said, “If we got this, everyone else will have too. We should go before they panic.”
“Screw them, I’m panicking already,” Abe trembled as he spoke.
On the way to the staircase, they didn’t trust the elevator, they met up with Zane and Blane. “Riko!” they exclaimed in unison and pulled her into a group hug. The two had been inseparable in high school and they’d been teased mercilessly; called every form of homophobic insult until Zane came out. The teasing transformed into whispers and rumour. Despite everything, Blane had stayed firm in his friendship with Zane. In senior year they’d announced they were a couple. The whispers turned into bullying. Riko had been enraged by the way they were treated and had gotten into multiple fights before they’d asked her to just ignore it. When the two were married, a few years later, she’d been part of the wedding party.
“I know that look. What’s wrong?” Zane’s sharp nose and bright eyes looked down on her after the hug.
“James is dead and someone else was killed.” Riko was blunt but it was the best way.
“Good riddance. Who’s the ‘someone else’?” Blane’s sandy blond hair contrasted with his naturally tanned skinned and dark eyes.
“We thought it was Allison but…” Abe lifted his phone with the countdown on it and shrugged.
They walked the rest of the way to the ballroom without speaking.
When they arrived the whole group was there except for Jonathan.
“He went to the kitchen. Said he needed some ‘grub’. He’s really stuck in the past.” Zoe made air quotes around the word “grub”.
“That man is completely useless,” Missy enunciated clearly as if she was in parliament. “Screw him, What about this?” She held up her phone with a little over five minutes left in the countdown. Behind her well controlled disgust, she was barely hiding her panic.
Calmly Riko said, “Let’s all head to the kitchen together and we’ll take the call there.” As the ten of them walked across the lobby to the small attached dining room and kitchen Riko expected to see Jonathan dead. To her mixed relief and annoyance he was sitting on a stool in the dining room watching a large screen with the same countdown as their phones. He was munching down on a large bag of chips.
“Oh, hey guys. Looks like Teacher’s pet is still alive.” Jonathan used Allison’s high school nick name. He’d given it to her personally when she’d rejected him in junior year. He then started a rumour she’d been having an affair with their computers teacher, Mr. Trevors. He’d been straight out of teachers college.
Riko was embarrassed to remember that she’d believed the rumours. She wasn’t alone and they spread to the teachers and the parents. Mr. Trevors was fired for the affair despite both him and Allison saying it didn’t exist.
On the table next to Jonathan was a big bowl with ice, a dozen glasses, and a variety of drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic.
Ethan reached over and prepared himself a drink of rum and coke on the rocks. Seeing Riko watching him he said, “What? We’re not on duty.” He said it with a smirk that made her insides tingle.
Taking their cue from him, they all fixed themselves drinks of one sort or the other in the glasses. Riko took a bottle of water and just held on to it.
“This better be good,” Missy mumbled. Sitting at the far end of the table she filled her glass with ice and poured a bottle of water over it. She looked ready for a tough business meeting at the end of the table in a comfy chair.
When the countdown ended, they were all sipping their drinks quietly. Allison’s face with a background of books, as if she were in a library, appeared on the screen. She hadn’t changed at all from high school. “If you’re getting this I’m most likely dead.” Everyone started talking at once, but quieted down when Allison continued, “The good news is one of you is my killer. The bad news is you’re trapped here.” Allison looked up, as if she was looking at something beyond the camera and asked, “Is that ok?”
The video cut to a blank screen and a computerized voice started saying, “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.” The words appeared and stayed on the screens.
“That’s twisted,” laughed Jonathan.
“Oh shit. We’re all going to die,” Zoe fell from her chair and started hyperventilating. “We’re going to die, we’re going to die.” She kept repeating the words and Abe went to her to help with the panic attack.
Ethan moved closer to Riko and gave her a solemn look. Zane took her hand. If someone was really trying to kill them they needed to find out who it was. Riko wouldn’t put murder past most of them, unfortunately, but this was one step beyond. It was scarily premeditated.
Looking up at the screen again Riko noticed that another line had been added.
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 only other person still looking at the screen was Missy. Riko recognized the signs of anaphylaxis; Missy’s skin was puffy and eyes bloodshot. Missy’s throat had closed and she’d suffocated while everyone had been fixated on Zoe.
Her dead eyes still stared at the screen with terror.