Lie Fourteen: Murdered in Cold Blood (Disclaimer: Nobody was harmed in the making of this Orchid High production, at least not permanently)

Jasmine

 

At half past four, we were all finished with the preparations.  Now all we needed to do was get dressed.  We all bundled into various rooms on the second floor to change.  Since I was the hostess, I wasn’t required to dress as part of the game cast.  So instead, I’d decided to be a mermaid.  The dress was a shimmering silver-blue, and the tail was made of frilly sea-foam lace.  Honestly, the dress wasn’t designed all too well, and the tail part was a little narrow, jamming my legs together and making it a little hard to walk.  The downside to buying a costume online was that I couldn’t try it on beforehand, but obviously there was nothing I could do now.

A little after five o’clock, the guests began to stream in.  Surprisingly, the sign-up list for the first twenty-five people who wanted to play the murder game filled up quickly.  I hadn’t thought it would be so popular.  Most people just liked to dance and chat with their friends, not solve a murder.  But I was glad people were excited.

Julie, dressed as none other than a news reporter, came to my side.  “My heart is pounding,” she whispered in energized tones.

“Does Carter know we’re trying to find Miss Lockhart?” I asked.

“Yes, and he’s promised to help keep watch.” Then she glanced at something behind me and laughed. “Hey Adam, nice costume. Or should I say, Ahoy, matey!”

I twirled around to see a dashing pirate making his way over.  I wondered at the coincidence of how well we matched—the mermaid and the pirate.  For sure, we hadn’t planned it.  His eyes sparkled as he saw me, and he whistled.  To my surprise, my heart thumped.

“You know, the first time I saw you, I compared you to a mermaid in my head,” he said.  “And at the time, I had no idea you were on the swim team.”  His mouth twisted in a smirk.  “It’s also why I chose to be a pirate.  Forever chasing the mermaid.  Although I had no idea you’d actually come as one.”

For the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything to say.  I was flattered and pleased, but most of all, confused as to why I felt that way.  I didn’t like him that way…did I?  It was something I didn’t want to explore right now.

“There’s Carter,” Julie said, saving me for the moment.  Julie’s boyfriend was dressed as Superman, and then I realized Julie wasn’t just a news reporter, she was Lois Lane.

“Clever,” I laughed.  At least Adam and I weren’t the only matched pair.

“Jules, I just found out Ange joined—” Carter saw me and broke off.

“Ange joined—” Julie prodded.  But he didn’t have to finish that statement because high-pitched laughter sounded behind Carter.  Ange was laughing hysterically at something Bryan had just said, although he didn’t look like he was as amused.

Meanwhile, Carter was still looking at me, unsure whether to continue.

“So Ange signed up for the game,” I finished for him.  “And you want to know if I’ll be all right.”

He nodded.  “And not only that, I heard her talking to someone earlier.  She only joined in to see if you could really pull off such an elaborate game.  I’m afraid she might try to screw it up for everyone and blame you if the game’s not a success.”

Adam cursed.  “Can’t we just kick her out?”

I shook my head.  “That wouldn’t be fair.”

Julie sighed and stomped her feet in frustration.  “That girl has to ruin everything.  We won’t be able to look for Emmaline Lockhart with Ange’s eyes focused on Jasmine.”

“No,” I said.  “I wanted to stay here anyway to oversee the game.  So I’ll make sure she doesn’t try anything, and you three can proceed with the plan.  I’ll just text Julie to make sure you don’t cross paths with any of the guests.”

“Are you sure?” Although she asked that, I knew Julie was dying to proceed with the plan even if I wasn’t okay with not joining.  But since I hadn’t wanted to sneak through the mansion in the first place, I was a little relieved.

“It’s better this way,” I reassured her.

A little while later, the twenty-five guest players and the ten cast members were joined together in the living room, waiting to start.  As I started to explain the rules, I couldn’t help but notice that Ange wasn’t paying any attention.  Instead, she was trying to make out with Bryan, who was trying to listen to me and at the same time, trying to tell her to stop.  That girl made my blood boil.

“Jasmine?” I heard Adam’s voice penetrate the fog, and realized I’d totally stopped talking.  Everyone was waiting for me to continue.

“Oh, sorry.”  I went on with the game, reminding myself to stay cool.  If I didn’t, Ange would win.

I went over the background of the script, which was that everyone here had been invited to a party hosted by Everett Wilson, a rich, young bachelor with way too much time on his hands.  Then finally, I handed out the clue cards, and everyone started to mingle.  Debbie Parsons, playing the part of Rainbow Brix, a show girl invited to perform at the party, started dancing on the table in a highly obnoxious way.  It was obvious she was drunk.  She rudely hurled insults at everyone in the room, making sure to poke fun at everyone—from what one girl was wearing to the zit growing on a guy’s nose.  A key clue in this round was her insult to the real culprit, Pete Whitaker, claiming that he’d sleep with anyone with boobs.  Finally, she staggered to the kitchen, leaving everyone fuming with hatred for her.

I looked at the clock, waited two minutes, and when everyone had resumed normal conversation, almost forgetting about Rainbow, I texted Martin Villasenor, who was in charge of the lights.  The whole house went completely dark.  There were a few screams among the guests, and then a chilling scream from the kitchen, indicating the first murder had occurred.

Then the lights went back on, and more screams were heard from the kitchen.  The entire party ran to see who had been the victim.  It was Rainbow Brix.

As everyone stared at the broken bowl of soup on the floor and the fake pool of blood spewing from Rainbow’s half hung open mouth, I couldn’t help but be both proud and horrified.  Because Debbie sure was doing a good job looking dead, and I was having trouble resisting the urge to make sure she wasn’t.  Teresa Michaels blew her whistle.  She would be playing the part of Officer Sanders tonight.  “Attention everyone, back away from the crime scene.”

I took a step back and bumped into someone.  Turning around to mutter an apology, I almost thought I’d bumped into Adam, only Adam was standing on the other side of the room, waiting for my okay to send him, Julie, and Carter off into the house.  Then I saw that the guy behind me was also dressed as a pirate, only besides the eye patch and bandana, he’d also covered his mouth with a black scarf, making himself look like a pirate-ninja mash-up.  I couldn’t for the life of me guess who he was, even though I prized myself for recognizing every person at Orchid High.

With his one uncovered eye, he glanced at me a little nervously and backed away to hide behind some of the other guests.  It was a little odd, but maybe he had a good imagination and was beginning to think this murder might be real.  I turned back to Officer Sanders, who was telling everyone that they could resume normal activities, but nobody could leave the house until the mystery was solved.  After that, she dismissed the guests, and Alex Tipen, playing the part of rich bachelor Everett Wilson came up to tell everyone they were free to explore and mingle, as long as they remained on the second and ground floors, where Officer Sanders could observe them easier.

I made my way over to Carter, Julie, and Adam.  “All right guys,” I whispered.  “Coast is clear.  I’ll do my best to distract the security guards so you can go upstairs.  In fifteen minutes, the lights will go off again.  That signals the second murder has taken place in the library, which will be discovered by the maid.  At that point, I’ll text Julie, and you guys have to come downstairs so no one misses you.”

There were two security guards at the foot of the stairway leading to the third floor.  They were both young, maybe just out of high school like Adam, and they both looked bored.  I didn’t think it would be too hard to distract them.  As I approached, they glanced at me warily.  “No one’s allowed beyond this point,” one of them said.

“Oh, I know,” I said, fluttering my eyes.  “I was just bored, so I thought I’d come and say hi.  I’m not playing the game, since I wrote the script.”

The second guard smiled.  “I love watching crime dramas.”

“Too bad we can’t play,” the first guard sighed.  “It looks fun.”

“Oh, it is, believe me.”  An idea suddenly sparked in my head.  “Why don’t you two join in?  Honestly, everyone’s so involved in the game, I doubt they’ll want to go upstairs.”

They hesitated, but I could tell they both really wanted to.  Anything beat guarding a staircase.  “But if we get caught…” said the first.

“You can guard the stairs while playing the game,” I said.  “Or even better, since I can’t play anyway, I’ll guard the stairs for you.”

“You know, you’re right,” the second guard decided.  “The rooms upstairs are locked anyway, so it’s not like you kids can steal anything worthwhile.”  He beckoned the first guard, who nodded in agreement.  “Thanks…”

“Jasmine,” I said.  “Have fun.”

While the two of them started talking to some other people to find some clues, I nodded at Julie.  My friends came out from their hiding place in the shadows and quickly ascended the stairs.  When they were out of sight, I looked back at the security guards.  They were already too involved in the game to be aware of anything.

Just to my left, I could see into the library, where some serious action was about to take place.  Professor Lymbert, played by Kylie Malin, was already there, perched comfortably on a chair, as she talked to a few guests, which included Pete Whitaker, the culprit.  Right on time, Chef Louis, the red herring, marched in, starting a loud argument with the professor.  He accused her of contaminating his kitchen with one of her chemistry experiments and claimed that she had stuck an acid solution into the refrigerator, which he’d mistaken for chicken broth.  He’d added the broth to the soup, and that was what must have killed Rainbow.  The professor argued back that she couldn’t help it if he was an idiot who couldn’t distinguish chicken broth from a chemistry solution.

A crowd gathered outside the door, listening in on the argument.  In the end, Chef Louis left angrily, but not before slamming his hand down on the desk and threatening the professor with her life.

Meanwhile, Eddie was doing a great job acting the part of the drunk and happy Pete Whitaker, Everett Wilson’s fraternity bro, who even though he’d graduated from college ten years ago, had never quite gotten past that time of his life.  I waited by the staircase looking at my watch, and precisely at the designated time, Pete Whitaker staggered out the door, pretending to head towards the bathroom to puke.  The audience dispersed, talking in excited whispers about the argument between Chef Louis and Professor Lymbert.

When they were all gone, I slipped into the library, unseen.  The guards had long ago been immersed into the game and didn’t realize I had abandoned my post.

“Hey Kylie,” I said.

“What are you doing here Jasmine?  I thought you said you were completely out of the game after the first murder.”

“I changed my mind.  I just want to make sure things run smoothly.”

“You’re such a perfectionist,” she laughed.  “We’re fine without you, but I don’t mind your help.  I’m a little nervous about dying.”  As I helped her plant the murder weapon, a heavy encyclopedia, by the chair, Eddie Bates strolled back in, looking over his shoulder to make sure he hadn’t been seen.

“Need any help?”

“Nope, we’re pretty much done here.”  I applied some ketchup to the back of Kylie’s head, where the book was supposed to have struck her.  “Good job pretending to be the drunk Pete, by the way.”

Eddie smirked.  “It’s not all an act.  Are you sure no one spiked the punch?”

Kylie sat up, looking horrified, and almost rubbed all the ketchup right out of her head.  She was one of those good girls who would never dream of doing anything wrong.  “Relax, he’s kidding,” I told her.  “Now sit back because as of now, you’re dead.”  As I said this, Misty, the maid, played by Laura Wuthers, came in.  The set was ready.

I looked at my watch and counted down from ten.  “…three, two, and one.”  The lights went out right on cue.  In another five seconds, the lights turned back on, and Laura let out a loud, high-pitched scream that set my ears on fire.  I gave her a thumbs up and slipped out the door.

I took out my phone to send Julie a text, but it was unnecessary.  She, Carter, and Adam were already coming down the stairs.

“That scream could be heard from miles away,” she told me.

“Did you find anything upstairs?” I asked.

Adam shook his head.  “Some of the doors were locked, and the ones that weren’t belonged to linen closets and bathrooms.”

“We should try the cellar now,” Carter suggested.

“Interesting,” a sickeningly sweet voice piped up from behind.  “Why would you be trying the cellar when it’s off limits?”  I groaned, knowing instantly who it was.

“Ange, it’s none of our business,” Bryan said, sounding annoyed.  “Let’s just go and have fun.”  He moved to steer her away, but she shrugged him off.

“It is too my business.”  Ange marched up to me, not shy about invading my personal space.  “The junior VP is taking advantage of her power and letting her friends explore the rest of this great mansion, which no one else is allowed to do.  I’ll bet no one else will think it’s fair if they knew.”

Which meant, of course, that she was going to tell them.

“We’re not exploring the mansion,” Carter blurted out without thinking.  “We’re looking for Emmaline Lockhart.”  Julie nudged him hard in the ribs.

Ange’s face lightened up.  “Really?  In that case, I want in.”  She fluttered her eyes at Adam, touching his elbow and swinging his arm like the flirt she was.  “Plee-aa-ss—ee.”

“It’s not all that fun,” Adam said, jerking his arm away.  “The doors were all locked.  Cellar’s probably locked too.  You wouldn’t like it.”

“Oh silly,” she giggled, as though he had said something incredibly funny.  “Of course I would.  I know how to pick locks.”  Ange looked smug about that.

“You do?” Julie’s eyes widened happily, but then she flashed me a guilty look.

“It’s up to you, Jules,” I said, knowing she wanted to recruit Ange for help, but feeling that it would be a betrayal to me.

“It’s either let Bryan and me join in, or I tell everyone what you’re up to,” Ange said, which of course decided things swiftly.  Right on time too, because everyone had begun to gather at the library to see who had been the latest victim.  We joined the crowd, listening to Officer Sanders question everyone for their alibis.  Doctor Appleby came out to pronounce that the professor was well and dead, and moreover, she’d been pregnant.

With that news, everyone was talking.  I took advantage of the commotion to whisper to Julie.  “Twenty minutes before the final murder.  Make sure you’re back in time because Officer Sanders will be taking a roll call before the finale.”

I’d barely gotten the words out, before a fight scene broke out.  Misty, the maid, pounced on Doctor Appleby, and pounded on him with her fists, claiming he’d cheated on her with Professor Lymbert.  “I suspected it all along,” she yelled.  “You promised me I’d never have to work this godawful job again.  You said we’d live together in comfort and happiness forever, and you’d take care of me.”  She beat him harder, until Officer Sanders pried her off.

Everyone’s eyes were fixated on the scene, as Doctor Appleby abashedly admitted that he’d slept with the professor, but only once.  He and Professor Lymbert had been college friends, and they’d met up at a reunion just three months ago.  As he claimed it wasn’t possible for him to be the father because the professor had only been six weeks along, I noticed that there were now more than two security guards who had joined in the game.  There were about six of them, and one standing in the corner, looking a little ashamed to have abandoned his post but unable to keep his eyes off the action in front of him.  That meant most of the security team were no longer guarding the house.

Julie apparently realized the same thing because she motioned the rest of her team to follow her, and they quietly snuck away.

Proudly, I stood by, watching the drama taking place.  A toast to me for writing a successful script.

Twenty minutes later, I was no longer feeling very confident.  Where were my friends?  I’d already texted them twice.  The final murder had already taken place, and the verdict was very close to being announced.  Before then, Officer Sanders was going to conduct a final interrogation, and if my friends weren’t present, the security guards would all know that they were sneaking through the house.

Before that happened, I had to find them.  I snuck off to the kitchen and opened the door in the floor, revealing the stairwell to the cellar.  It was dark down there, and smelled like alcohol.  I scrunched my nose and crawled down, feeling as though I were descending into the dungeons of a castle.

Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any rats.  The cellar was very clean, thanks to the maids who worked here.  There were thousands of bottles of wine though, and having grown up in an alcohol-free home, I wasn’t used to the strong smell at all.  It was stifling, and I hoped I wouldn’t have an asthma attack.  I palmed the inhaler in my pocket for reassurance.

I’d never been afraid of the dark, but it was so quiet and eerie down here that honestly, I was a little freaked out now.  “Hello?” I called out, my voice a little squeaky.  “Julie?  Adam?”

No answer.  But there was a small scratching noise.  I hoped it didn’t mean there were rats in here after all.  I walked further into the stalls of wine, and the scratching noise got a little louder.  Only now it was accompanied by a noise that sounded a lot like a popping cork.  Was someone down here, pilfering a bottle of expensive wine?  The sound of gleeful swallowing and a loud, refreshing sigh confirmed it.  The question was, who?

“Hello?” I said again.  “Is someone there?”

The chugging noise stopped, and then there was movement, as someone dressed in all black began to rise from the shadows.  I wouldn’t have been able to see him at all, except for the glimmer of glass from the bottle of wine he held.

I felt along the walls, wondering if there was some light switch.  My hand met with something, and then the lights flickered on, and an incandescent glow bathed the wine bottles in individual pools of spotlight on each rack.  The soothing lights were a stark contrast to the dark-clothed figure standing amidst the wine, bottles of it at his feet.

I recognized him as the pirate-ninja from earlier.  And then I noted the pillow case he held, and saw that he’d been stuffing it with more bottles.  It then occurred to me that he was trying to steal what was probably worth millions in aged wine.

“Don’t move,” I barked out, intending to yell for help, only I should have expected that he wouldn’t listen.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he growled out.  “My Jasmine.”

The words stopped me short.  He sounded years older than a teenager, meaning he didn’t attend Orchid High.  But then, how would he know my name?  “Who are you?”

“What are you talking about?”  He slurred and hiccupped, then stumbled forward.  I took two steps back.  “I’m Adam.  Your Adam.”

“No you’re not.  And Adam isn’t my Adam.”  I didn’t know why I was conversing with an obviously insane, horribly drunk man.  I turned to run and get help.

“Don’t leave, I am Adam, and I command you to only notice me.”  He lurched forward, and I screamed.

 

Adam

I wanted to add a fourth murder to this mystery.  The murder of Angelica Wilkes.  Judging by the annoyed expressions on Julie’s and Carter’s faces, I had no doubt they would be willing to collude with me.

“If you couldn’t pick locks, why did you say you could?” Julie hissed.

“Because I can,” Ange insisted, fidgeting a hair pin into a lock she’d been working on for what seemed forever.  “I almost have it.”

“That’s what you said ten minutes ago,” Carter pointed out.  Instead of going to the cellar, Ange had convinced us to try upstairs again, claiming with her help, we’d have time to search all the locked rooms and the cellar before time was up.  And when two minutes had gone by, and she hadn’t managed to pick the first lock, she’d convinced us she just needed another two minutes.  When those two minutes had gone by, she claimed it was the door’s fault, and so we’d tried a different door.

Which was the same door she was currently trying to open.

“Be patient,” Ange snapped, and I saw Carter bite back a retort.  Bryan just looked embarrassed.  Another three minutes passed, and I looked at my watch.  We only had five minutes left.  If we ever wanted to take a look at that cellar, now was the time.

“Enough with this,” I said, my patience fully scattered to the wind.  “I’m going to the cellar.”

“Me too,” Julie said, pulling Carter along.  But just as we were about to leave, I heard the click of the lock.

“I got it,” Ange said triumphantly.  She gave us a pout.  “I told you I could.”

Bryan beamed, obviously proud of his girlfriend.  “I never doubted you.”  I almost gagged.  We peeped into the room, which appeared to be a small storage space.  Several canvases were laid against the wall, hidden under sheets, which Julie immediately removed.  They were portraits of a couple.

“Oh my God,” Julie squealed.  “Do you know who they are?”  Silence said only she knew.  “Walter and Lydia Lockhart.”  She said it as though the whole world should recognize them.  When no one else responded, she sighed.  “Penelope Lockhart’s son and daughter-in-law.  Don’t any of you read our city’s history?”

I wisely didn’t answer that.

“Oh,” Carter said.  “Now I recognize them.  Wasn’t Lydia Lockhart a gold digger?  They got a divorce a few years after their daughter Emmaline was born, and then Walter died in a car accident.”

“Yes,” Julie said.  “And if their pictures are here, then Emmaline’s might be too.”  She dug through a few more portraits, and sure enough, there was one of Walter, Lydia, and a pretty toddler with vibrant green eyes and dark curls.  Julie was very encouraged.  She walked further into the room, lifting more covers from off the canvases.  “Try to find one of the present-day Emmaline,” she said.  “It’ll be proof that she’s still alive.”

We all searched high and low, but the hunt turned out to be fairly disappointing.  Any other portraits we found featured the two year-old Emmaline.  “Maybe they’re in another room,” Ange suggested.

I looked at my watch and realized in despair that our time was up.  On cue, the lights went out, and a scream filled the air, indicating the last murder of the night.  When the lights went back up, I said, “We have to get back to the others before we’re missed.”

Julie looked very upset.  “I guess we’ll never know what happened to Emmaline Lockhart.”  We walked downstairs to join the rest of the crowd, who had gathered in the bathroom.  Doctor Appleby lay in the bathtub, holding a bottle of poison, making it look as though he’d killed himself.

I had to hand it to Jasmine.  This mystery story was amazing, and if I hadn’t been trying to uncover secrets about Emmaline Lockhart all this time, I was sure I would have loved to solve the case.  But now I had no idea what the clues were.

I scanned the crowd, searching for Jasmine, but I couldn’t find her.   It was strange that she hadn’t texted us, only when I pulled out my phone, I realized that she had.  Twice actually.  We’d probably been so busy looking at the portraits to notice.

The crowd headed downstairs where Officer Sanders was about to make the final interrogation in the kitchen, the first crime scene.

“Hey, where’s Jasmine?” I heard Julie ask.  She’d hardly finished the question when a shrill cry penetrated the air, causing everyone to pause.  It had come from the stairwell that led to the cellar.  “I thought the final murder already happened,” Julie said.

So had everyone else.  We all looked at each other, unsure whether this was part of the script, or if it was real.  Someone screamed again, and this time I could make out the words, “Help!”

It sounded like Jasmine.  I bounded for the stairs first, panic flooding my lungs.  As I flung open the door, someone bounded out, a large sack flung over his shoulders.  He almost knocked me over.

“Stop him!”  Now another blurred figure appeared from the stairs, and I saw that it was Jasmine.  She tripped in her haste, but I was there to catch her.

“He was stealing wine,” she cried.  “And he…and he…”  Her breathing became erratic, and hands shaking, she fished out her inhaler.  As I tried to help her, chaos ensued around us.  Everyone was screaming, whistles blew, and security guards called for reinforcements.  But my eyes remained on Jasmine.  Her breathing eased up, and her glazed eyes refocused on my face.

“Are you all right?” I asked.  Julie and Carter knelt beside me.

“Oh my God Jas, what happened to your hand?” Julie gasped.  I looked and saw that there was a sharp cut in the middle of Jasmine’s palm, which had drawn blood.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said.

“No big deal?” I raged, sweeping her up into my arms.  “You’re bleeding.”  I carried her to the couch in the living room, as Carter and Julie searched for some medicine.

“I was looking for you guys in the cellar,” Jasmine said, still looking shaken.  “I caught that man drinking.  When I confronted him, he tried…”  Her voice lowered to a whisper.  “He was pretending to be you, and then he tried to kiss me.”

My fists clenched, wanting to break the intruder’s neck for even thinking about touching Jasmine.  “Did he touch you?  Because I swear, if he did…”

“No, I broke a wine bottle and stabbed his shoulder with a glass shard,” she said.  “That’s how I got cut.  And when we heard everyone running to the kitchen, he made a dash for it.”

Julie and Carter arrived with the first aid kid.  Marlin, the butler, followed close behind.  He helped Julie clean Jasmine’s wound and bandage it up.

“Did you catch him?” Jasmine asked.

“No, Miss Carwarner, I’m sorry to say we did not.”  Marlin looked disappointed.  “Can you tell me what happened?”

Jasmine recounted what she’d told me, but wisely left out that she’d only gone to the cellar because she thought we might be lurking about there.

Marlin sighed.  “Well, this is what I get for hiring college kids instead of professionals for security guards.”  He looked at me.  “You, help Miss Carwarner up and follow me upstairs, where she can recover from the scare.”

Jasmine refused to be carried.  “It’s my hand, not my leg,” she said, but when she wobbled as she stood, I took charge, despite her protests.  It might be her hand that was injured, but the emotions of the night had her shaking like a wobble head doll, and I didn’t want her tripping on the stairs.

Surprisingly, Marlin took us all the way up to the fourth floor, and unlocked the door to a spare guest room.  He’d barely went past the door frame, when someone spoke over the walkie talkie.  “There’s been another incident, this one involving Flower Girl at the greenhouse.”

Marlin spoke back, looking highly frustrated.  “That’s the third one tonight, you incompetent fools.  I’ll be right over.”  I wondered who Flower Girl was, and what other incidents had happened earlier.  Marlin eyed the two of us suspiciously.  “I have to attend to something, but just to be clear, I’ve put you up on the fourth floor because I trust you not to poke your noses elsewhere.  I hope you don’t break that trust.”  And with that last statement, he marched out.

Jasmine sat on the bed, still shaking a little bit.  I didn’t think Marlin had to worry about us.  Jasmine and I both had had enough adventure for one night.  “How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine,” she said, but I could tell she wasn’t.  Her eyes were still glossy and haunted, as though she were replaying what had just happened.  I moved to give her a comforting pat, and she jerked away.

“S-sorry,” she said, realizing what she’d done.  She shook her head, dislodging whatever thoughts were floating there.

“It’s over, Jasmine,” I said.  “He won’t get to you.”  For awhile, it seemed she didn’t hear me.  I was starting to worry.  It seemed like there was something deeper to this.  She had that same look as that night I’d told her about my parents’ deaths.  Scared and lost.  That night, she’d told me not to ask.  Ask about what, I wondered.  Had something happened in the past?  And had tonight’s events triggered memories of whatever happened?

“You’re safe,” I repeated.  “No one will bother you again.”  And finally, she got a hold of herself and smiled at me.

“Thanks for being here for me.”  She stood from the bed and held out her good hand, taking mine.  “Let’s go back to the party.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”  I still wasn’t sure whether she was just saying that.

“Honestly, no,” she said.  “But I don’t want to be cooped up in this room all night.  I want to be at that party, and I want to forget what happened.”

I nodded.  “All right, so that’s what we’ll do.”  I took her hand and led her to the door.  “Oh, before we go, can you tell me the ending to the game?”

“Pete Whitaker, the frat boy, did it,” she said, seizing on the chance to change the subject.  “He got the professor pregnant, and tried to cover it up before his dad found out.”

“So that’s why he killed the professor, but why Rainbow Brix?”

“He was sleeping with her too,” Jasmine said.  “He told her all his little secrets one night when he was drunk, and she threatened to expose everything if he didn’t give her money.  So he poisoned her drink early on.”

“And everyone thought Chef Louis did it because of the soup bowl in Rainbow’s hands.”  I nodded, thinking Jasmine was quite clever.  “And Doctor Appleby?”

“He and the professor were good friends,” Jasmine explained.  “She told the doctor she was seeing someone younger and who was from Phi Delta Sigma class of ’02.  Pete wasn’t originally intending on killing Appleby, but he got scared and made a few careless mistakes, which is supposed to lead to his arrest.”

“Well, let’s go see if everyone guessed it,” I said, opening the door.

“Do you think they’re still playing after what happened?” Jasmine sighed.  “I really wanted the game to be a success.”

“And it was,” I said encouragingly.  “I’m sure everyone will be talking about it for days.”  I took her hand and led her out.

As we reached the landing on the third floor, Julie came running to us. “Are you all right Jas?”

“Yes, I’m fine now.”

“Oh good,” Julie breathed in relief.  “In that case, I have good news.  The mystery was a huge success.”

“So everyone knows the murderer now?” I asked.

“Yes, Liv Parker and Randy Timber solved it.”  Julie beamed.  “Good job, Jas.  Everyone’s talking about it.”

Then she sighed, disappointment clouding her face. “Too bad we weren’t able to find Emmaline Lockhart though. I guess I hoped for too much.”

“Some things are best left shrouded in mystery,” I told her. “So let’s forget about it. I want to dance.”

She agreed. “Guess it’s about time we went outside.  This murder thing is a bit too heavy for me.”

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