Detective Conan

And Then There Were Eight

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters aren't mine (except for Whiskey, Rum, Bourbon, and Brandy) and the story is! After I watched episodes 34 and 35 of Detective Conan, about the bandaged killer loose at Sonoko's family's villa, I found that I could not ignore the temptation to throw the Black Organization characters into a similar situation. I thought it would be amusing to let them play detective for a change. The result is what you now have before you. And before anyone asks, the nationalities I have picked for the characters are not official. Since there is not any official word on where most of them hail from, I took it upon myself to choose, and I have picked what I imagine in my own mind when thinking of these characters.

Gin was sitting in the driver's seat of his black Porsche, smoking on a cigarette and looking over a mysterious letter he had received, when Vodka opened the passenger door and climbed in as well. They had stopped at a convenience store to get gas for the car and a pack of cigarettes, and Gin was puzzling over this strange invitation.

"I'd like to know who sent this," he remarked without really acknowledging Vodka's presence.

"It says it's from Vermouth, bro," Vodka answered. He could see that Gin did not entirely believe that, but if she had not sent it, then who would have and why?

Come to my villa in the canyons. Something's come up and I want to call

a meeting of all of our main operatives.


Gin grunted. "We normally communicate by cell phone," he replied. "Why did she send a note?" He frowned darkly. "I haven't been able to reach her on her phone, either." He set the note and the enclosed map aside and revved the engine, speeding out of the parking lot and heading back to the highway.

"Do you think something's happened to her and it's a trap?"

"Anything's possible," Gin said slowly. "That's why we're going to proceed with caution." But, truth be told, he supposed he mostly believed that the message truly was from Vermouth. Even if she had been caught, she would not reveal critical information such as how to contact the other members. At least . . . he did not think she would. She was not a traitor like Sherry. Unconsciously he gripped the steering wheel tighter.

Vodka noticed this but did not comment. Instead he watched out the window for a while in silence, then said, "I didn't even know Vermouth had a place in the canyons."

Gin took a sharp turn around a mountain curve, jostling them both. "She mentioned it once or twice," he replied, staying on the alert for anything out of the ordinary that could possibly indicate the involvement of an organization such as the FBI. Of course, the FBI agents were smart, and they would do their best to conceal their presence from their prey. But he could grab his gun at a moment's notice and fire if he had to, and he would if he got the slightest suspicion that someone was hiding in the trees as a sniper.

The rest of the drive was mostly silent as they each mulled over the possibilities of what could have happened that resulted in such a meeting being called, assuming that the note was genuine. Gin supposed that Vermouth might already be at the villa and that was why he had not been able to reach her. He would not be able to get a signal in the canyons, after all.

"Hey, bro," Vodka spoke after a while, "I haven't seen any other cars on this road. Is this the only way to get to the villa?"

"Well, look at the map and find out," Gin snapped back, frustrated as he had to swerve to miss a deer scampering across the road. The creature glanced back at him and the car briefly, then disappeared into the brush.

Vodka picked up the map and studied it briefly, noting the way they had come. "It looks like you can get in from the other side of the mountain, too," he said then, "but that way takes longer. And bro, we're supposed to turn off the road here," he announced, pointing ahead to where autumn leaves were strewn about both on the road and off.

Gin nodded vaguely and did so, soon coming to a bridge that stretched across a deep chasm in the mountain. He slowed the Porsche down as they began to cross over it.

Vodka watched nervously out the window at the rushing water far below. "Are you sure the bridge is gonna hold!" he gasped as the bridge rocked and creaked. "It looks like they made it when there were still samurai around!"

"If you hold still and stop squirming, we might make it," Gin retorted, concentrating on reaching the other side of the bridge. At last they made it over, and both relaxed. Gin would not admit that he had been nervous, but he definitely had been. Already he was considering taking the other route out of the canyons when it was time to leave.

"Alright," he said after a short moment. "Where do we go from here?"

Vodka consulted the map. "Just straight ahead now," he replied, "for about a mile."

It was not long before they came upon the villa. It was a large, sprawling, two-story mansion, colored white, but with a blue tint from the shadows of the trees that surrounded it. Several cars were already there, Gin noticed as he pulled into the first available spot.

"There's Vermouth in the doorway," Vodka noticed as he got out of the car.

Gin nodded silently and followed him, lighting another cigarette as he did. As they drew closer, he called out to Vermouth. "Why did you send for us?"

She looked at him boredly. "Me? Send for you? I didn't." She crossed her arms, leaning against the doorframe. "Everyone who's shown up here says that I invited them. But I just came up here for a little respite. The man said I could." She smirked a bit, brushing her whitish-blonde hair over her shoulder. "I wasn't expecting so much company."

Vodka looked to Gin in stunned shock, then back to Vermouth. "But if you didn't send for us, then that means . . ."

"That means someone wanted to get us up here for some reason," Gin finished coldly, looking around with narrowed eyes as he came up onto the porch. "Who all is here besides us?"

Vermouth frowned, counting up the other guests in her mind. "Chianti and Korn showed up." She smirked again. "They were very displeased, of course, and even more so when I said that I hadn't invited them." It was not a secret that the both of them despised Vermouth, blaming her for the death of one of the other agents. They had probably not wanted to come at all, but had solely because they assumed that something serious must have happened.

Gin nodded slowly. "Anyone else?"

"Whiskey and Rum," Vermouth replied, "and Bourbon." She thought it over, then looked satisfied. "That's everyone," she declared.

"Are they all still here?" Gin wanted to know.

Vermouth nodded. "They're all trying to figure this out, same as you." She walked inside and held the door open. "You and Vodka might as well come in and join us." She knew that they would not be leaving until they solved this bizarre mystery, but she enjoyed her moments of mock politeness.

Gin started to brush past her to go inside when he realized that Vodka was staring off into the distance. Frowning, he turned back. "Let's go," he all but ordered.

Vodka turned to look at him, obviously bewildered. "I saw someone, bro," he exclaimed. "He was over there in the trees." He pointed, and Gin followed his gaze.

"No one's there now," he grunted.

Vodka felt frustrated. "I know, but he was," he answered.

Gin thought this over. He doubted that Vodka had been seeing things, and since he was convinced that someone had brought all of them up there for a sinister purpose, there was the chance that someone was hiding in the brush ready to take potshots at them both. Swiftly he pulled out his gun, and without a word, started down the steps to go investigate.

He did not get very far when a loud and piercing scream came from somewhere in the house. He started and looked back, and found Vermouth disappearing inside while Vodka was staring in shock at the villa and drawing his own gun.

"Let's find out what that was," Gin ordered, hurrying past his associate into the spacious entryway. If Vodka truly had seen someone, then they could have sneaked through the woods and come into the villa through a back entrance or a window. Gin still wanted to investigate the forest, but he decided that it would be more vital to determine what was going on inside at the moment. If someone was loose in the house, then they might be able to catch him—or her.

"It was probably Rum," Vodka remarked as they checked through some of the first-story rooms. "She's always getting upset about something." Vodka did not even understand how she had managed to stay with the consortium for as long as she had. It seemed to him that it would be impossible for her to even do her job right when she could not stay calm.

Gin nodded slowly. He knew that Vodka was probably correct, and he had also often wondered the same thing about Rum, but he supposed it was possible that this time she truly had something worth being upset about.

Now he turned and headed for the stairs, hearing what sounded like a thundering herd going past. When he reached the top, he nearly collided with Whiskey, Bourbon, and Korn, who were emerging from a room to the left of the staircase. Annoyed, he stumbled out of the way as he tried to keep his balance. "What happened?" he demanded.

"Rum said that she'd gone in her room when something tried to grab her from the closet," Bourbon answered, her gray eyes darting back and forth suspiciously. "Then, when she screamed, the guy leaped out and pushed her as he ran out the door. We went in the direction she said he'd gone, but we didn't find anyone . . . until we found you." She came closer, walking around Gin thoughtfully, and he glared at her, realizing what she was insinuating.

"I don't play childish pranks like that," he snapped coldly.

As Vodka ran up the stairs, he came to a halt beside the congregation of operatives and watched what was going on with confusion. "Bro . . . ?" he said hesitantly, but was cut off by Bourbon as she continued her rant.

"You came up too late, or else you'd be a suspect too," she declared, and looked back to Gin. "But you could have easily pulled it off and then ran down the hall to wait here for us, making it look like you were just innocently stumbling upon things now." Bourbon was often overly paranoid, which complemented Rum's excitability. Gin was never fond of dealing with either one of them, and he was especially not in a mood for these games right now.

He pushed her aside firmly and stormed down the hall, ending up encountering Rum as she was coming out of her room with her gun drawn. He looked at her, unimpressed. "It's a little late for this," he stated flatly. "Whoever it was got away." Firmly he pushed her weapon so that it was not pointing at him.

She sighed, her shoulders slumping as she lowered the gun. "I don't get what's going on here or who wanted us to come, if it really wasn't Vermouth," she replied. "And I know I should've kept my cool to try to figure out who was there. It was just such a shock, to be grabbed like that from a closet that was supposed to be empty!"

Gin grunted, looking at her unsympathetically. "You should be used to unpleasant surprises by now," he retorted. "Did you see what he looked like at all?"

Rum shook her head. "He was dressed all in black, with a cloak and hood like the Grim Reaper's," she answered, "but he didn't have a scythe."

Gin knew he had not seen anyone such as that around, but he looked questioningly back to Vodka, as if to ask if that matched the description of the person he had seen outside.

"That was the same guy," Vodka exclaimed with a nod. "Unless there's two of them."

Gin growled in annoyance. "Spread out," he ordered. "We'll look for him."

The eight Black Organization agents spent the better part of two hours searching all through the villa and the surrounding forest, but they could not find any trace of the mysterious "Grim Reaper" who had intruded in Rum's closet. In exasperation, they gathered in the parlor on the first floor to talk over the possible reasons for this strangeness.

"Whoever it is knows not only how to get to my villa, but how to contact all of you," Vermouth remarked, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it as she looked around at each of the other seven in turn. "Now, who do we know who could do this?"

"The most likely explanation is that it was someone who belongs to the organization," Gin said darkly, brushing his long blonde hair back over his shoulder, "or someone who used to." His meaning was clear.

Vermouth smirked. "Bingo," she purred.

Chianti glared at her. "You think Sherry's behind this?" she demanded.

"I don't think we should ignore the possibility," Vermouth answered smoothly, enjoying angering the other female agent.

She glanced to the others. Whiskey, a rough Spanish woman with long and fluffy raven hair, was leaning against the wall with arms crossed. Whiskey was one of the most methodical members, carefully plotting and making strategies—as Gin did. She exchanged a look with her partner, Rum—who was a more timid-looking, blue-eyed brunette, with German and Swiss heritage.

Rum's expression with filled with nervousness as she tucked a strand of neck-length, milk chocolate hair behind an ear. She looked innocent and childlike, which had been a help on some of the assignments she had been given. Her problem was, sometimes she actually behaved as old as she looked.

Bourbon, a perky and freckled redhead, was pacing up and down the room. "We still don't know that it couldn't have been one of us, here in this room," she said at last, narrowing her gray eyes. She was a tough Southern belle, from Alabama, and occasionally she and Vermouth had worked together on cases in America. She was a useful agent, though her paranoia was often tiresome to those around her.

"Why would any of us do it?" Whiskey spoke at last. "What motive could any of us possibly have?"

"Maybe it was Chianti and Korn," Bourbon suggested, looking to the two Russian operatives as they turned and glared back indignantly. "They could have decided that this would be a good chance to get back at Vermouth, and then of course they'd invite themselves along so that it would look less suspicious. That's why they'd go after Rum, too." She smiled triumphantly. "Korn, you met up with us when we went to chase Rum's attacker."

Korn looked at her angrily. "We didn't have anything to do with this," he snapped. "And I was with you the entire time. I wouldn't have had time to play the prank on Rum, run out the door, and then come back to meet up with you and Whiskey."

"If we're going to point fingers, we're never going to get anywhere," Gin spoke up coolly, blowing a puff of cigarette smoke into the room. "Everyone will just get defensive when they're accused." A native of Scandinavia's Norway, whose parents had also been part of the consortium, he had been orphaned at an early age and raised in both America and Japan by an elderly operative who was long ago dead. Now he was more familiar with America's and Japan's customs and ways of life than those of the country of his biological heritage.

"Then what should we do, bro?" the Japanese Vodka asked nervously. His family had also been members of the Black Organization, and it was the only life that he had known. He and Gin had known each other since they had been teenagers, and shortly after that they had become partners. He was generally quite content to follow Gin's lead.

"We could be worrying over nothing," Gin replied. "The extent of what's happened, other than getting those invitations, is that someone hid in Rum's closet and grabbed her, then ran out. It could be someone's idea of a bad joke." He looked to Vermouth, who feigned hurt at the accusation.

"Now, now, Gin, would I really waste everyone's time over something petty like this?" she said in a mock injured tone.

"It's hard to know what you would do!" Chianti snapped. "But if it's your doing, then it's more likely that you brought us here to eliminate us all, just like you did to Calvados!" Her eyes flashed with outrage and pain. To have gotten Calvados into the situation that had led to his death, when he had not even been a traitor, was unforgivable to Chianti. And even though Korn had said that he hated her too, Chianti was certain that he would never do anything about it. But she would, someday. Perhaps very soon, if things continued in the vein that they had been.

Vermouth smirked in amusement. "Do you honestly believe I would be stupid enough to try something such as that?" she answered. "The man would not be happy with me at all."

Gin regarded them both with apparent boredom. "The only way we're going to figure this out is if we keep cool heads," he declared. "In-fighting wastes time and energy." He looked to each of the other agents. "None of us should be alone, in case there's a chance that this isn't a joke, and I'm not willing to let my guard down enough to say that it is."

"For all we know, there could be more than one person in on this," Chianti frowned darkly, "and if we're pairing everyone off, the ones responsible might stay together."

"I hope you're not implicating yourself and Korn, Chianti," Vermouth commented, snuffing out her cigarette into a nearby ash tray before standing up and crossing the room, "because it sounds like you could be." She smirked when she saw the fury in the other blonde's eyes.

In the end, those who were partners did opt to stay together, with Bourbon then going with Vermouth. But that did not stop or even hinder the disasters that took place that night.

Vermouth had decided that, as long as she had guests, they should share a fancy meal. And so she and Bourbon soon set about fixing one as the evening crept upon them. The others were quite restless, but if Vermouth was, she did not give any sign of it. She also did not seem to realize that Vodka was listening at the door, and she spoke freely with Bourbon.

"All kidding aside, it is strange, what's been happening," she remarked as she set a pot of water on the stove to boil.

Bourbon frowned darkly from where she was chopping vegetables. "That's putting it mildly," she retorted. The lights flickered, and she glanced up at them, but then they quieted down and she shrugged. "But aren't you suspicious of any of the others here? It could've been any one of them, and not some outsider!"

"It could have been you, for that matter," Vermouth smiled, "or it could have been me. You know what I always say—a secret makes a woman, woman."

"That doesn't help much," Bourbon retorted, "unless you mean you think it was one of the other women here." She shook her head. "Most of us here are women. There's only three men, and I thought Rum said it was a man who grabbed her."

"She also said he was wearing a cloak and hood and that she never could see any part of his face," Vermouth reminded her. "She only assumed it was a man. And I don't think any of the men here would play silly pranks." She paused thoughtfully. "Not that I think any of the women here would, either. It's possible it wasn't meant to be a prank at all, but a warning." Now she looked seriously at her friend. "I don't think all of you were brought here so that someone could play jokes, and I know Gin doesn't think that, either. If he did, he would already be going back to the city. You know he doesn't have the patience for that sort of thing."

"All of us should be going back to the city," Bourbon frowned.

"But if we leave, it will only give the person a chance to strike again another time," Vermouth pointed out, taking the vegetables and dumping them into the pot. "If we stay here, we might be able to catch whoever it is."

"But probably not before something happens that's more serious than a caped freak in the closet!" Bourbon retorted.

Before Vermouth had a chance to reply, the lights flickered again and then went out, plunging everything into darkness.

Immediately there was mass confusion. People scrambled for flashlights, crashed into furniture and each other, and cursed loudly in frustration. And above it all came the loud creaking of the kitchen door.

By the time Gin finally located a flashlight in a drawer and clicked it on, everything was in a complete uproar. He nearly tripped over a nearby desk, only barely noticing it was there in time to avoid it. Muttering to himself, he shone the beam around the room to determine if everyone was there.

There was Vodka, who had been listening in at the kitchen door and now somehow had ended up on the floor, perhaps courtesy of someone crashing into him. He was getting up and seemed to be relatively alright, so Gin searched the rest of the room before going past him into the kitchen. To his astonishment, the room was vacant, and there was only one way to get out of it.

He looked back to Vodka. "What happened?" he demanded. "Vermouth and Bourbon must have gone past you."

Vodka frowned in confusion. "Only one person came past, bro," he answered. "He flung the door open and then crashed into me on his way out."

Gin raised an eyebrow. "'He'?" he repeated.

"It wasn't Vermouth or Bourbon," Vodka insisted. "It was a guy."

"The only other guy here is Korn," Gin declared, "and he's upstairs. Even if he came down, he couldn't get into the kitchen unless he went past you, and you say this person was coming out instead of going in. And in any case, both Vermouth and Bourbon are missing."

Vodka stared at him in disbelief. "That's impossible!" he exclaimed.

"I know," Gin growled, shining the light again over every nook and cranny in the room in case he had missed something. But the room was definitely empty . . . or was it? Narrowing his eyes, he wandered in further to investigate something he had caught sight of under the table. Bewildered, Vodka followed him, crashing into him when he stopped abruptly.

"Sorry, bro," the shorter man apologized. "What is it?" He noticed Gin stiffen a bit, and he wondered if he dared look around him. When he did, he found that his associate was looking at what seemed to be a hand laying in a pool of blood. He stared at it, stunned.

Gin growled, straightening up. "There must be another way into this room," he declared. "That's the only thing that makes sense."

"Oh is it?"

Both he and Vodka whirled around at the sound of Chianti's voice. She was standing in the doorway, her eyes narrowed coldly.

"You two were the only ones down here besides Vermouth and Bourbon," she continued. "For all you know, Vodka is lying and he did something with them, then made up that story about a man running past him in order to incriminate Korn." She had arrived downstairs in time to hear that discussion between the two of them, and she was highly annoyed by it. Korn had been upstairs with her, and he could not possibly have been the person who had crashed into Vodka. Not that she necessarily believed that Vodka had disposed of the two missing women instead; she had only said that out of her anger and frustration over the situation.

Gin grunted, looking at her in irritation. "If Vodka said it happened, then it did," he retorted. "It isn't any stranger than some of the other things that are going on." He shined the flashlight over the hand again, and then stared in disbelief when he found that it was gone. So was the blood. Now the floor looked perfectly normal.

Vodka pointed in shock. "It's gone!" he burst out, suddenly feeling extremely uneasy. Logically, things like this simply did not happen. People did not just go missing out of the blue. Severed hands were not here one minute, then gone the next. He was starting to wonder if there even was such a thing as logic for a mystery such as this. Maybe one would have to throw sense out the figurative window. And yet he knew that Gin never would do that.

The blonde looked around the room angrily, his green eyes flashing. "Someone's playing tricks on us," he murmured, "but I'm not finding it funny. Whoever it is has a sick sense of humor." With that he got down on his hands and knees to feel under the table for any possible springs or trapdoors that could account for the vanishing hand and blood. And yet he knew that even if something had opened up for the hand to fall through, the floor would not be able to be instantly cleansed of the crimson substance that had adorned it. He almost wondered if he and Vodka could have been hypnotized into seeing what they had thought they saw, but then he abandoned that idea. It was absurd.

Abruptly the room was flooded with light as the electricity was restored. Chianti blinked rapidly, trying to adjust her eyes to the sudden brightness, when from upstairs there came a pronounced and horrified scream.

Gin started at the blood-curdling sound, narrowing his eyes in vexation as he began to rise up from under the table. This attempt was quickly followed by a growl of pain as he knocked his head against the underside of the wooden furniture. Muttering to himself, he ducked down again and made sure that he had crawled out the rest of the way before standing. Then he quickly followed Vodka and Chianti up the stairs, wondering what had upset Rum this time.

He was not certain what he expected to see, but it most definitely was not the sight of Vermouth hanging from the ceiling in the upstairs hall, obviously dead. Rum was standing to the side, alarmed, and Whiskey was next to her, her eyes narrowed. Korn was not in sight, but after a moment he emerged from one of the bedrooms, looking just as stunned as everyone else.

Chianti looked astonished for a moment, but then her hate-filled eyes glimmered with something that appeared to be satisfaction. "Well, I can't say that I'm sorry," she said flatly. "She deserved to die."

"But in her own villa, and like this!" Rum cried, gripping her gun tightly.

Chianti turned away. "I'm sure the danger's past now," she remarked. "She was probably the target all along."

"Then why were we invited?" Gin retorted darkly. He raised his gun, aiming at the rope and firing. It hit its mark, and the limp body crashed to the floor. Gin watched it fall, his eyes emotionless, and then looked up at the others. "We're still in danger. We weren't invited just to be an audience. Whoever the killer is wants more victims." His gaze fell on Chianti and Korn. "If you don't want to believe that, then it means you're either foolish . . . or that you could be the murderers."

Chianti's eyes flashed. "I don't have to listen to this!" she snapped. "The both of us are leaving."

"Aren't you the least bit curious what happened to Bourbon?" Korn spoke up, surprising her.

Chianti frowned. "Frankly, no," she replied. "She was probably the killer and now she's escaped!"

Gin grunted. He was kneeling down, examining Vermouth's body, when he made an important discovery. "She has both of her hands," he said flatly. Only Vodka seemed to understand the significance of this.

Everyone else turned to look at him, bewildered. "What does that have to do with it?" Whiskey demanded in her accented tones. She looked impatient, which she was. She had long ago felt that something sinister was afoot, as Gin had, and now that had been confirmed. And she was outraged that one of her comrades had been killed in this way. She wanted an explanation for it.

"Vodka found a severed hand on the floor, under the table," Gin replied as he stood up again. "Someone else was hurt besides Vermouth. That someone could have been Bourbon." He nodded to his associate. "Vodka says a man pushed past him out of the kitchen when the lights were out."

There was a collective silence as everyone digested this. Rum was the first to speak. "Then there is someone here besides us!" she exclaimed in despair. Of course, when she thought about it, that was a much more pleasant thought than the idea that one of them was a traitor, but still, it did not quell her fears. Any one of them could be a victim, especially since Vermouth had been able to be taken down. She was one of the Black Organization's strongest operatives.

"It looks that way," Gin commented.

Vodka had the feeling that he was not entirely convinced. "What are you saying, bro?" he asked, and suddenly wondered if Gin would actually believe Chianti's venom-filled words about Vodka being the one to get rid of the two female agents. He hoped not. Gin had acted as though he was assured that Vodka was not lying, but sometimes Vodka wondered just how much his comrade truly trusted him.

Gin slowly put his gun away and pulled out a cigarette, which he matter-of-factly lighted before speaking again. "Just that," he answered then, in just as much of a matter-of-fact tone. "It looks that way." His dark, emerald eyes focused on each of the remaining agents in turn, and whether they visibly reacted or not, they felt that piercing gaze boring into their souls. It was as if Gin knew everything about each of them, even though of course he did not. And he hoped that he had struck at least a seed of fear into the heart of the murderer. He was determined to find out who it was, before all of them ended up dead.

Vermouth's body was covered with a sheet and laid in her room, and the remaining six gathered in the parlor again as they tried to make sense of the events. Unfortunately they were not having much luck.

"The only possibility is that there has to be a secret entrance into the kitchen from somewhere," Gin remarked, taking a draw on his cigarette. "Otherwise, someone would have had to walk through a solid wall to get in there and get the women out without going past Vodka." And that was unacceptable. Vodka was right, Gin would never throw logic away in order to solve this. He firmly believed that even this perplexing disaster could be figured out if everyone stayed calm to fit the pieces together.

"But it looked like the kitchen was sealed up tighter than a drum," Vodka frowned, not having been encouraged by Gin's lack of success in finding a trapdoor under the table.

Whiskey walked over to stand in front of Gin, her dark eyes gleaming seriously. "Also, the women must have been killed, or at least subdued, instantly," she put in. "Otherwise they would have been fighting back. And there weren't any sounds coming from the kitchen, were there?" She looked to Vodka, who shifted reluctantly.

"I don't know if I would've heard if there was," he admitted. "There was so much noise going on everywhere else." He frowned, thinking back to when the lights had gone out. "If I had to make a guess, I'd say that the kitchen was quiet," he said then.

"You'd better not be saying that from the power of suggestion," Whiskey retorted.

"Hey," Rum spoke up, "there's something else. How did the lights go off? It's not storming outside." She was standing next to the window, and she looked out, just to be sure. But all was silent, though it looked like she could see clouds forming through the tops of the semi-bare trees. Maybe later there would be a thunderstorm, but there had not been one—or any other weather disturbance—a few moments ago.

"If anything, that's the strongest proof that there were two people," Gin replied after a short hesitation. "Someone could have thrown the fuse while the other got into the kitchen." And even if one person was an outsider, he was certain that the second was one of those who had been invited here. But he was not any closer to determining which one it was. None of them had acted all that suspicious, when he thought about it, except Chianti. But that was too obvious, though he wondered if it would even be possible for her to conceal her loathing for Vermouth. Actually, if she had tried to do that, that would have seemed even more odd under the circumstances. He did not believe that she was the guilty party.

Everyone exchanged looks. "But who could it have been?" Rum wondered, looking to Gin. Her blue eyes showed fear, but only that of having an unknown traitor in their midst. She did not appear to worry that Gin would consider her to be the one.

"I still think all of you are wasting your time," Chianti spoke up from the back of the room, where she was leaning on the wall in annoyance. From her expression, she would rather be anywhere else—not that everyone else there did not feel the same way. But for her it was an open-and-shut case—Bourbon had vanished when Vermouth had, so she must have been the killer.

"Well, thank you for your opinion," Whiskey replied sarcastically, "but I, for one, want to know for sure. And if Bourbon was the killer, whose hand was it that they saw?"

"If they didn't make it up, they could have been having hallucinations," Chianti shot back.

"Both of us having the same hallucination?" Gin retorted, placing the cigarette back in his mouth. "I don't think so." He pushed himself away from the table he had been leaning against and turned away. "I'm going to look through the kitchen for that secret entrance. It has to be there, and if we could find it, maybe it would also control the panel under the table." For all he knew, the killer could have been watching him and Vodka and had made certain that the hand was where they would see it for a moment before taking it back by causing it to fall through its panel. In the dark, and with their attention focused on the body part, they most likely would not have noticed someone spying from a trapdoor across the room in the wall.

Before he could get out of the room, he heard a loud and stunned exclamation from Whiskey. When he turned back, to his utter astonishment he witnessed Chianti lifelessly sliding down the wall to the floor, an arrow embedded in her chest. Blood was spilling from the wound, and her eyes were glassy and blank. Korn, who was staring in alarm and disbelief, finally snapped out of his trance to catch the body before it hit the marble floor.

"Bro!" Vodka gasped in shock, reaching for his gun out of habit. The killer had to have been right in the room somewhere, to have fired the arrow, but he could not see where and it was driving him mad.

"There!" Rum cried suddenly, and pointed upstairs to where a swirl of black cape could be seen vanishing down the hall.

Immediately Gin drew his gun as well and gave chase, running up the stairs and turning left. He could hear someone running up behind him, whom he assumed was Vodka, but he paid little attention. He was concentrating on the utter impossibility in front of him—the black cloaked assailant had disappeared.

Not willing to accept this, he thrust open each door on the left as he came to it, calling to Vodka to check the other side—but every one of the rooms was empty. He even overturned beds and opened all the closets, but he could not find any trace of the sharpshooter. He stood for a moment in the last of the rooms, trying to determine what to do now. This only furthered his belief that there were secret panels in the house. Perhaps there were entire tunnels snaking the entire length of the villa, and on both floors.

Unless . . . could he have slipped outside? None of the windows were open, and Gin doubted that he would have had the time to climb out on whatever ledge was there and shut the window behind him. He growled, going to the nearest one and raising it as he leaned out onto what was apparently the veranda.

As soon as he did this, he had to instantly pull himself back inside as a sharp and deadly scythe swung at him. He cursed, firing at the arm out the window that he could see was lowering the traditional weapon of the Grim Reaper. He heard a hiss of pain, but it did not deter the person for long. The scythe was swung again, through the window, as he started to climb inside.

Gin dove to the side, his hair flying out behind him. He could feel the blade cut through the back of his coat and to his flesh, but it only grazed him and he fired again. The Grim Reaper was forced to drop to the floor to avoid the bullets, and Gin managed to regain his balance.

Vodka came running into the room at that moment, having heard the gunshots. He surveyed the scene and then fired at the apparition as well. To his astonishment, the bullet seemed to go through the form without injuring it in the least. While he was pondering over this, the Grim Reaper turned and ran back through the window, vanishing into the night.

Gin growled, running over to the opening and looking out again, making sure to be careful. This time he could not see anything, and he stepped out onto the balcony for a better look. Vodka followed him, but though they searched all around and even up on the roof, the mysterious attacker had seemed to have completely evaporated into thin air. At last they went back inside, knowing that it was pointless to keep trying to locate him.

"Bro?" Vodka said nervously as they walked back down the hall. He doubted that Gin was in a good mood right now, and he also doubted that Gin would want to hear what Vodka was going to ask. "You don't believe in . . . things like that, do you?"

Gin lighted a cigarette. "Like Grim Reapers?" he growled. Vodka nodded. "No, I don't."

"Well . . . I never did, either," Vodka replied slowly, "but I couldn't even hit it! It was like the bullet just went through it!"

Gin shook his head. "I hit it," he answered flatly, "in the arm. It was human, Vodka. Whatever kinds of tricks it was pulling, it was definitely human."

As they reached the stairs, they were met by a horrified Rum. "What happened?" she demanded.

"He got away," Gin snapped, walking past her. He did not offer more information than that and instead came to the bottom of the staircase, turning to the right and surveying the parlor. Chianti had been covered with a sheet, the arrow removed from her body, and Korn was standing over her. Gin had never seen him smile, but now he looked more grim than ever before. Whiskey was leaving him alone, instead crossing to the kitchen door. Gin quickly followed, deciding that he should not waste any more time. The kitchen needed to be explored.

Over the next thirty minutes, he, Vodka, Whiskey, and Rum scoured the entire room, searching for anything that would spring open some sort of panel. But they were not having any luck, and all were growing exasperated.

"We haven't checked the ceiling yet," Gin remarked after a moment of reflection. Quickly he climbed onto the sink, feeling across the high ceiling for anything that did not feel the same as the other parts. But all of it felt quite normal.

While he was doing this, Vodka was searching behind the stove. Once he thought he had found a panel, when it sounded hollow behind the wall, and as he tapped around the area, a small door did indeed pop open—but it did not yield what he was expecting it to. He jumped back in alarm and disgust as two arms rolled out onto the floor. He stared at them for a moment, and then looked up to where Gin was still examining the ceiling. "Bro . . . ?"

Gin glanced down at him, hearing an edge in his associate's voice. "What is it?" he asked, and then followed Vodka's gaze. Narrowing his eyes, he jumped down from the sink and went over to the wall, kneeling down next to the severed limbs. Blood was splattered around, and he noticed that one of the arms was missing a hand. Someone had apparently been feeling very sadistic. Gin growled, getting down on the floor to see better into the panel. It looked empty, but he reached up inside it to make certain. He was not pleased when he took hold of something that seemed to be a high-heeled shoe.

Vodka bent down beside him, taking note of the blonde's revolted expression. "Is there something more in there?" he asked, certain that he already knew the answer.

Gin nodded. "It feels like a leg," he answered, "or part of one." He gave another tug and it came free. For once he was not pleased at being right. He had long ago lost patience with this person's games, and he was growing disgusted with this mysterious killer's lust for sadism. As twisted as he himself was, he did not go around mutilating bodies. He would kill his targets and be done with it. He stood up and went to the sink, washing the blood off of his hands.

"It looks like Bourbon is probably done for too," Vodka commented, getting up as well. While neither he or Gin were especially close to these other agents, it was undeniably unsettling to witness them being murdered left and right. They themselves could be the next targets. Vodka did not especially want to die, and he also did not want to see Gin meet the same fate as had Vermouth, Bourbon, and Chianti. They had all been skilled operatives, and yet they had been taken out, so it would not be impossible for the same thing to happen to Gin or himself. Vodka was growing more unsettled by the minute.

Suddenly Gin became aware of something else. "If Rum saw this, she would have definitely reacted," he remarked, and whirled around to look at the spacious kitchen. His suspicion was correct—Rum had vanished.

Vodka gawked. "This . . . this is impossible!" he burst out. "She couldn't have gotten out of here without us noticing! The door was shut!" He glanced to it. "And it still is!"

Gin glared at it. "Every time it's been opened, it squeaked," he recalled. "Even if she tried to sneak out while we were finding what's left of Bourbon, it wouldn't have worked." He knew that he had not been so caught up in what he had been doing that he would not have heard the door being opened.

"Then what happened?" Vodka cried.

"She must have fallen through the panel we were looking for," Gin answered darkly, "or someone pulled her in." He crossed the room to the door and turned the knob as quietly as he could. In spite of that, the hinges still squealed painfully in protest as the door moved. Growling in irritation, Gin simply flung it open the rest of the way and stepped into the parlor to find out if Whiskey or Korn had seen anything. He stopped short in shock at the sight before him.

Whiskey was laying sprawled on her back, her arms flung out around her. A large spear from one of the decorative statues had been impaled into her body, and she was obviously dead. Korn had met the same fate, though he had apparently been killed by a blunt object striking him on the head. Blood had pooled around them both, and the culprit was nowhere in sight.

"We're the last two left!" Vodka gasped, unable to believe this. How could six Black Organization operatives be taken out in one night, when all of them were trained and prepared for just such situations? And if all of them were dead, then who was the murderer? Had it been someone from the outside all the time? If so, who? He did not believe that Sherry would be capable of doing all of this, though he did not know what Gin's thoughts were on the matter.

Gin drew his gun, not wanting to take any chances of being attacked without having it handy. Carefully he advanced into the room, not speaking. He knew Vodka was following him, so he did not bother to glance back.

Each person had been killed in a different way, he recalled. He wondered what the killer would attempt to use on him and Vodka, if the chance was presented. He also wondered what had actually happened to Rum. They actually had not found her body or any concrete proof that she was dead. She had simply disappeared without a trace when Whiskey and Korn had been murdered.

Before he had a chance to further ponder over this, a bullet whistled dangerously close to his ear. Cursing to himself, he swept around and barely managed to dodge a steady stream of gunfire coming from an unknown source. The lighting in the hall had dimmed, and he could only barely make out a cloaked figure high above them on the balcony.

He dove behind a table, which did not offer a great deal of protection, and fired back. On the other side of the hall, he could see Vodka doing the same. Their bullets missed, and their assailant continued to pepper the area with shots.

Abruptly he seemed to change his mind, and he turned all of his attention on Vodka. The shorter man finally succeeded in striking the apparition in the shoulder, and the cloaked figure stumbled backwards in apparent pain. But in the next moment he lunged forward, attacking with fury, and while Gin and Vodka were preoccupied with that crisis, a second shooter approached from behind.

As the shots rang out, Vodka stiffened, feeling them slamming into his body. He fell back, his mind growing blank, and collapsed eerily to the floor without a sound.

Gin turned to stare at him, the shock registering in his eyes. He had known that it was likely that they would die as well, once the murders had started, and yet, actually watching his ally fall was different than just seeing the bodies after they were dead. And anyway, Vodka was the only operative whom Gin had been around very much. Gin was annoyed by the other agents' deaths, but personally he did not feel much of anything other than that. As he gazed at Vodka's lifeless form, he realized that he felt something more than annoyance now, though he was not certain what it was, and he would most certainly deny it if asked.

He also became aware that the shooting had ceased. He looked up, his green eyes dark and filled with rage, and found that the second shooter was approaching him, the gun held to point at his forehead.

"So . . . now it's my turn?" he spoke in a low, deadly tone. "You've killed everyone else and now you've come for me."

The gun clicked as it was brought to rest against his flesh. "Oh no, Gin," a quiet voice answered. "You stay alive. You stay alive forever in this house, with the dearly departed. All of this was done to get at you—impossible murders, your comrades dying around you, all leading up to you being the only one left." He could sense that the person was smirking in a deranged way. "And you would never actually witness any of the deaths, except Vodka's. I know you don't really care about any of the other agents, unless you possibly care about him after working with him for so long. But I doubt you really care about anyone except yourself.

"The one thing you really hate is feeling powerless, and with this situation, you have been. You've been manipulated all along the way, and unable to do anything to stop these people from dying. Whether you care about them or not, it frustrates you to have failed to learn the truth before things came to this."

Gin growled low, making certain to keep hold of his gun. "I knew I'd made a lot of enemies, but I didn't know that you were one of them, Bourbon." He looked coldly into the depths of the hood, and saw the person start in astonishment.

With her other hand she threw back the hood, her red curls jangling around her face and framing her expression of sheer loathing. "I've hated you for years," she hissed, "ever since you killed Akemi and caused Sherry to abandon the organization." She leaned down to be at eye level with him. "I was envious of you, you know. You had Sherry's affections, and you seemed to care about her, too. I always wondered why someone like you, ruthless and cold-hearted, was able to win her over, but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. She was never a people person either. Your similarities must have drawn you to each other. But you never gave me a second glance." She blinked furiously, and he caught sight of several unshed tears in her eyes.

"I was in love with you!" she screamed, her gun hand shaking. "I appreciated you more than Sherry ever did! I could have given you so much more than her!" Her chest was heaving, and as she continued to speak, her voice only increased in volume. "But you never even appreciated what you had. You killed Akemi, betraying Sherry, and so the love she held for you grew cold . . . like my own." Now her voice had quieted again, to something deadly and filled with ice. "You still never wanted me. I thought maybe you would, after getting rid of Sherry. I fantasized that maybe that was why you had. But then I knew—it was just business with you, killing a traitor. You didn't stop to think about Sherry's feelings, and I knew you would never think about mine, either!" Her hand steadied. "Well . . . now it's just business with me, too. I'm going to kill a traitor. But you'll die slowly and painfully, not knowing reality from fantasy!"

Without waiting to see what she would do next, Gin fired abruptly into her abdomen. While she had been speaking, holding the gun to his head, she had not stopped to notice what he was doing. She had only wanted to look into his emerald eyes, and he had been able to bring his left hand level with her stomach. In stunned shock and pain, she fell back, clutching at the wound as she doubled over, shuddering.

"You don't know anything about me," he said coldly. "And is that how you were planning to kill me—by shooting me in the stomach? It's a slow and painful death." He stood up, walking over to her and picking up her fallen gun as he came to it. She only glared at him in reply, sinking to her knees.

"And you say I'm a traitor," he continued, "but that's ironic, coming from you—you, who killed at least five associates in order to get at me. You're right that I don't care about them enough to feel any sorrow over their deaths, but their deaths were mindless. I would never kill a comrade who was not a traitor to the organization." He pointed his gun at her head. "You are the traitor here, Bourbon, but I'll let you have a quick death instead of the drawn-out one you were planning for me."

Without warning, Bourbon pulled one of her hands away from her waist. In it she clutched a small gun that did not look like any weapon that the consortium often used. She fired, and before Gin could do anything, he felt a sharp, yet tiny object tear into his shoulder. He growled in pain, reaching to pull it out and finding that it was a dart.

"What is this!" he demanded. He suddenly felt much weaker, and he stumbled back as the room began to spin. In his mind he cursed. He had underestimated her.

Bourbon smirked weakly as she collapsed to the floor on her side. "A slow and painful death," she hissed, "that doesn't differentiate between what's real and what isn't. You'll lay here for ages, just like me, but you'll be hallucinating for most of the time that it takes the drug to course through your body. And when it finishes, you'll probably suffer a heart attack. My own death won't be so painful, knowing that you're getting what you deserve." Her voice was diminishing, but she still managed to choke out, "I hate you, Gin. You could have loved me, but you never cared less."

Gin grabbed for the edge of a table as the dizziness grew worse. "Where's the antidote?" he all but yelled. He was certain that she was carrying it, just in case she herself would end up accidentally poisoned. He had to keep his wits about him long enough to find it. He was not about to die here. Not like this.

"It might be closer than you think, but it could be further away," Bourbon whispered. "It might be in plain sight, but it might disappear before your eyes." With that she accepted her fate and clutched at her abdomen again as her eyes glassed over.

Gin cursed again as he lost his balance and crashed to the floor. Everything was spinning in and out of focus now—the room, the blood, the bodies. . . . He could see Vodka laying not far away, and to his astonishment his associate began to rise. It was difficult for him, but he managed despite slipping repeatedly on the blood coating the floor, and he looked down at Gin with a hard and cold expression. Then he raised his gun, firing point-blank several times.

Gin fell back with a gasp, the bullets crashing into his body with fire. He lay on the floor, shuddering as he stared up at the ceiling blankly. He was not certain which he was more concerned over—that Vodka had risen from the dead, or that he had suddenly betrayed his partner, shooting him in the chest and in the head.

Wait. . . . He could not be alive if he taken a bullet to his head. At any rate, he could not possibly be conscious and able to process thoughts. Shakily he raised his hand up and touched his forehead, then drew his fingers back to gaze at them. There was not any blood. When he felt his chest, he found the same result.

He lay confused for a moment, his mind muddled from the drug, but then he realized the answer. None of it had happened. It was a hallucination, brought on by the toxin. This was what Bourbon had meant by not knowing reality from fantasy. And if he could not keep hold of himself, he would fall prey to the drug's affects.

Shakily he sat up, grabbing at the wall to lean on as he ran Bourbon's riddle through his mind. Close, but far away. . . . In plain sight, but able to disappear. . . .

Then it dawned on him. The wall he was leaning against would be part of the kitchen on the other side. The secret exit! It did exist, and that was where the antidote was hidden. That had to be the answer.

He began to feel along the wall, searching desperately for something that would trigger the opening. He knocked. He pulled on wall decorations. He moved furniture that was against the wall. But no matter what he tried, nothing worked, and the drug was taking further control of him. He felt so dizzy now that he was about to plunge backwards, but he struggled to grab hold of the bottom of the staircase banister before he did.

As he caught hold of it, the knob on the top turned sharply to the right. Stunned, he looked back to the wall, and through his blurred vision he could make out the panel sliding open. But when he came closer to look inside, he could not believe what he saw.

Sherry was standing in the small space, watching him expressionlessly. Then, slowly, she smirked. "Do you want this?" she taunted, holding out a small vial and a needle. She stepped forward, her shoes clicking on the marble floor.

He could only stare at her in astonishment. "Sherry . . ." he managed to choke out, reaching to grab for the items. "How?"

"I wanted to help Bourbon get her revenge," she hissed, placing the vial and the needle into his hand. "I wanted to see you suffer, no matter how many others in this foul organization had to die in order to make it happen. I wanted to see you powerless, too."

Shakily he filled the needle with the substance from the vial. "Then why are you giving this to me?" he asked.

"I'm giving you your death," was the cold reply. "There is no antidote."

As he was about to jab the needle into his arm, it suddenly transformed into a gun. He stared at it in disbelief, and though somewhere in his mind he knew that this must be another illusion, that could not stop the weapon from going off into his heart. He fell back, vaguely aware that he was being caught and that Vodka was asking him what the matter was, as darkness descended over him.

Slowly the blanket of oblivion that had settled began to dissipate. The darkness lessened, and as it did, senses started to return. He was laying on something soft, and a gentle breeze was wafting high above him. He was vaguely aware of a stinging sensation across his back, but until he woke up further he did not remember the injury that he had received from the Grim Reaper's scythe.

Then other memories returned. Everyone had been killed, except for him. . . . Bourbon had wanted to see him suffer, and she had shot him with a deadly dart. He had solved the riddle of the antidote's location, only to learn that there was not one and that Sherry had been working with Bourbon. And he had been shot in the heart. . . . But there was not any pain now.

He struggled to open his eyes. As he began to focus, he recognized the thing overhead as a ceiling fan. He was laying on the couch in the villa's sitting room.

"I think he's awake."

He felt a prick of confusion at hearing the voice, as it belonged to Vermouth. In disbelief, he turned his head slightly and caught sight of the previously dead woman sitting on a chair, blowing a puff of cigarette smoke into the air. She smiled ever so faintly at him—or was it a smirk?—and leaned back. "You've been out of it for a long time," she remarked.

He grunted, reaching up to rub at his head. "You can't be here," he muttered. "It's impossible. I saw you dead."


He looked over. Now Vodka was leaning over the back of the couch, gazing down at him with some hint of concern. Gin squinted, staring at him, and then began to force himself into a sitting position. "Alright, what's going on?" he growled. "You were dead, too. Bourbon killed all of you, except me, but I should be dead now too."

"She was trying," Vodka nodded. "She was working with Brandy to get you into a situation where you'd be powerless to do anything."

Gin's eyes narrowed darkly. "Brandy?" he repeated. That was the last thing he had expected to hear. But suddenly it all made sense. The jumbled puzzle pieces clicked together in his mind. "Brandy's speciality is disguises," he recalled, his voice lowering to a familiar, deadly tone that Vodka knew all too well. "And he's been training some of the lower-level agents to learn, too."

"Bingo," Vermouth nodded. "Every time we thought someone was dead, it was Brandy's work. He was making us believe that it was so, with his actors, and the ones of us who were supposed to be the 'victims' were conveniently overpowered and removed during the blackout, one by one." A flash of anger darted across her features. "Of course all of us fought them, but we were each knocked out by some drug they were using. In the dark, we didn't have a way to prevent it."

"Bourbon wanted us to all be killed for real," Rum spoke up, "and we were dragged into the basement. She was planning that after you went crazy from the drug, she would blow up the villa. Brandy had all the explosives set up and everything."

"But you figured out that you were seeing illusions," Vodka reminded the furious Gin, "and you were able to get the antidote too. When I found you, you'd already used it." He smirked a bit. "Bourbon wasn't expecting that. She thought you'd go nuts and wouldn't be able to figure out the riddle."

"And you disarmed the bombs?" Gin questioned.

Whiskey nodded. "We woke up in the basement, with more of Brandy's lackeys guarding us. The plan was for all of us to die feeling helpless, too." She looked triumphant. "But we got the better of them. When we came upstairs, Bourbon was dead and you were having an imaginary conversation with someone, I'm not sure who." She shrugged, unconcerned. "So Vodka went to check on you and the rest of us found the bombs and shut them off."

Gin grunted, furious that the other agents had seen him in his weakness—even though he knew that it could not have been helped. But he knew he must have appeared utterly ridiculous, conversing with Sherry when she was not actually there. When he thought about what a stronghold the drug must have had over him, it amazed him that he had been able to think clearly at all to even realize that he was hallucinating about being shot, and to decipher the riddle concerning the antidote.

Suddenly something else occurred to him. "Those people were really dead," he growled. "If they were just Brandy's cohorts, he must have killed them."

"He did," Vermouth nodded. "They weren't told that was part of the plan, and they got a bad shock."

She leaned back calmly, and smiled. "Well, now that the excitement's over, we might as well relax. You're all still here, so why not stay for a day or two?" If she felt any feelings of anger over Bourbon's and Brandy's betrayals, she did not give any indication of it.

Chianti looked at her in disbelief. "You have got to be kidding!" she exclaimed in disbelief. "I'm not staying in this place one more minute with you." She stood up, heading for the door. "Korn and I are leaving."

Vermouth smiled, as if she knew something that Chianti did not. "It will be hard for you two to leave during an early blizzard," she pronounced.

Chianti glared at her. "Blizzard?" she cried indignantly, thrusting open the door to see if Vermouth was telling the truth. Snow immediately blew into the room, all over Chianti, the furniture, and anyone who was anywhere near the door. Angrily the blonde agent slammed it shut again and brushed the flakes out of her hair.

Gin grunted, smoothing the snow out of his own hair and reaching for a cigarette. He would say that this was going to be a strange weekend, but he honestly did not believe that it could get any more bizarre than it already had. He would have to make the best of the odd situation that they were in now.

It was strange, he mused, thinking back on Bourbon's motives. She had said that she hated him because he had not returned the feelings she had for him. She had believed that he had betrayed her, the same as he believed about Sherry and most likely, the same as she thought about him. But Gin would never say that Bourbon had been like him in any way. She had turned against all of her fellow operatives when they had been undeserving of it, and Gin considered that unforgivable.

He glanced out the window at the swirling snow. The falling flakes reminded him of many things, but especially the rooftop encounter with Sherry. That seemed so long ago now, but his resolve was just as strong. Someday, she would get what was coming to her.

Idly he wondered why Vodka and Sherry were the two people in his hallucinations.

"Hey . . . there's still something we didn't figure out," Vodka said, breaking into his thoughts. "Where did that hand disappear to?"

Gin took a draw on his cigarette. "It must have been a revolving panel," he mused. "The hand was on one side, and the other side was blank. That's how it was able to vanish and take the blood with it—the panel was flipped over. And it can only be activated from below, which is why I couldn't find any trace of it."

Vermouth raised an eyebrow. "This is some house I've been living in," she commented. "Imagine, all these panels, and tunnels, and I never even knew it."

"Or maybe you did," Gin retorted. "You designed the villa, didn't you?"

Vermouth smiled, leaning back. "You got me," she admitted. "I thought it would be more interesting this way."

"Interesting!" Chianti shrilled. "If it hadn't been for all of these trapdoors and panels, maybe Bourbon and Brandy wouldn't have been able to pull this off!"

"They would have found a way," Gin answered, and got up from the couch. He was going to go upstairs, away from all the people, and get some peace and quiet. If he was going to be stranded here for the next few days, then he wanted to listen to as few of Vermouth's and Chianti's arguments as possible.

After a moment, Vodka followed. Gin let him.