Chapter 12: The Macabre Play

AKA: "Let the bodies hit the floor.. let the bodies hit the floor... let the bodies hit the floor."

Erik couldn't help but admit, Barbossa was making sense with his theories. Not one place could Erik find an error in his plan. The only way he knew it wasn't possible was because he hadn't done it. But how to prove his innocence, how to make them see it wasn't himself, while not pointing the finger at another? He realized in that moment that this was precisely what M. Nicholas wanted...to make them argue and blame until the deaths of them all. One by one, he intended to pick them off, always letting the blame rest on one of the party in itself.

Barbossa's eyes filled with fury at no reply. He moved towards the man with the false face and his voice dripped venom. "Ye can't say it warn't ye, can ye? Ye can't outright declare yer soul pure, can ye?"

"No, I cannot." came the simple reply. The two glared daggers at each other until de Chagny's voice came from the other corner of the room, thoughtful and cautious.

"Let us focus, gentlemen. What is the strangest thing about all these occurrences?"

Twelve eyes blinked hard. Raoul stepped forward to the center of the room, his hands gesturing in a practiced manner as he explained, "The absence of bodies. Up until just now, with Monsieur Frisk, there have been no bodies whatsoever. Shannon, disappeared. The Pevensies leapt out windows, but no trace of them found. That's three bodies we haven't discovered. Then there is Rhea, who we know escaped by Erik's car. Now, we have Frisk left."

At once all eyes turned to the chilling corpse of Colin Frisk. "There must be some sort of clue about his death, gentlemen. Of all the strange things, I think the strangest is that there is no ambivalence on his murder. We know he was stabbed, we have the murder weapon, we have the time frame he was murdered in, and we have his body. The only thing we do not know is who murdered him. Perhaps this is supposed to lead us to our next clue." Raoul looked around as he finished his speech, as Legolas and Dumbledore shared appreciative nods to this suggestion.

"That's going around in circles." Erik said in a voice tense as a wire twisted round and round itself, "Now we're just repeating the events of the last few hours over and over. We don't know the murderer. That would be a genuinely helpful piece of knowledge."

"And I say we know the murderer." Barbossa growled, still glaring at Erik without lowering the intensity of his gaze. Erik met the challenge with a coolness that began to worry those who knew him a little better.

But there was no chance of further retort. A small, unnoticed click sound nearby was soon followed by an ear-piercing blast of a rifle, and Erik's eyes widened in surprise. Ears rang as Hector Barbossa fell onto his knees in front of Erik's chair, his hands frantically opening the front of his shirt, searching...he found the blood pouring out between his fingertips before long. He raised his eyes to Erik, a childlike wonder in his eyes. The mouth was agape, revealing rotted teeth and amazement in one gesture. Barbossa's blurring eyes turned to the wall just behind Erik's chair.

"It came from the wall..." he breathed, then collapsed. No one moved for a long moment, stunned.

"Two bodies. Three disappearances." Dumbledore said with a sigh, moving forward. Erik halted him with an upheld hand.

"Don't. Move." he ordered. Dumbledore's eyes held no friendly twinkle as they searched the wall behind the torn and crumbling chair. Moments later, Gimli spoke up, with a growl.

"We can't just sit here while he gets away!" Gimli raced to the wall with surprising speed for a dwarf and lifted his axe. It did not take him long to tear through the outer wall, then reaching the wood beneath.

"Gimli, stop it!" Erik shouted, shoving his chair aside and standing behind the dwarf, "It'll be the death of you!"

"I'm not going to sit as we all die one by one!" The axe-wielder didn't hesitate as he dug deeper and deeper. No one could get near him without the fear of getting the business end of the dwarf's weapon in his skull. Before long, all of the party were watching with fearful eyes as Gimli uncovered a small hole in the wall at head-height, about the width of a quarter and normally hidden in the shadow of Erik's high-backed chair. "We're getting to it!" Gimli shouted with glee, proud of the progress made as he began widening the opening. His arms would not tire in the least from the labor, despite his deepening age. The dwarves of the mountains did not squabble at such petty work. Debris piled around his feet, accumulating with each well-aimed blow. No one breathed as the air in the small room filled with dust, clouds rising to enshroud the workman.

He was concerned in the removal of a particularly thick beam at the left side of the hole. The small room he had uncovered behind the drawing room left the guests in amazement, so they did not watch the beams above his head. There was no warning for the dwarf as he was suddenly thrown to the ground beneath the weight of the tumbling beams and wood and plaster. A crash, and the floor began to break away beneath him, and he fell through. Legolas leapt forward.

"Gimli!"

An uneven hole in the floor had splintered away, leaving a gap about eight feet across and five feet side to side. Beneath them was shadow. Before them, across the hole, was an iron-cased door, peering through the thickening clouds of dust and grime. Dumbledore came to Legolas' side at the edge of the hole, pointed downward, and muttered a word that cast the darkness below in an eerie pale light. The hole was surprisingly deep. Normally, one would expect a slight drop beneath the floorboards of such an ordinary looking house, but here the party looked down at nearly a twenty-foot distance to the stone support below. At the bottom was the rubble of Gimli's last work, the axe held in his hand gleaming in the solemn light.