Author's Note – Here it is – the final chapter. It may or may not be climactic once I'm done (chapter two was much calmer than I anticipated), but it will end the story. But I believe that I left you folks with a cliff hanger, so I'd better get writing! Enjoy.
Disclaimer – I don't own MBS. I do own Officer Darcy, Officer Daniel, and Lockhar – Oops – I
meant Inspector Blue.
Warnings – Character death, violence, moral dilemmas, and guilt.
~Accusations, Both True and False~
The shocked silence was broken by Rhonda's incredulous, disbelieving voice. "Kate? But… it can't be her."
Ledroptha Curtain looked at her gravely. "And yet, who else could it be?"
Sticky was looking wildly from Mr. Curtain, to Kate, to Rhonda, to Kate, and back to Mr. Curtain. "But she couldn't have!" he sputtered wildly. "She didn't touch Reynie's plate!"
"But she did walk past Moocho when he was walking down the hall with Reynard's food."
"But she didn't have gloves dipped in formaldehyde!"
"Actually, my dear Washington, she did have gloves on, remember? I believe you do, as you attested to it yourself not two hours ago and have a prodigious memory."
"I remember her wearing her gloves to do the dishes, but they weren't dipped in formaldehyde."
As my previous investigations proved, yes they were."
"But… but… How could she have gotten Enab's Bane? The only place it grows is in a science lab or a government-protected area."
Mr. Curtain thought for a moment, before saying, "If the newspapers were correct, Miss Wetherall went on a class trip to the laboratory where they kept Enab's Bane. With her physical abilities, I'm sure that she could have found a way to obtain some."
Sticky, having exhausted his supply of arguments, began stuttering and spluttering worse than ever.
Kate was looking straight ahead, her face deathly pale and her eyes wide. "But I didn't do it," she whispered. "I didn't."
Officer Daniel, who had been trailing behind them all this time keeping an eye on Mr. Curtain, stepped forward. "Madam, I'm afraid you'll have to come with me," he said, his hand once more straying to the grip of his gun.
"But I didn't do it. I didn't kill him!" cried Kate, louder now.
Constance looked disturbed. "She's not lying. She really didn't do it. You can't arrest her for something she didn't do!"
"Begging your pardon, little missy, but you can't know that." Even though Officer Daniel spoke in a loud voice, everyone ignored him.
"Perhaps Kate has a split-personality disorder," supplied Mr. Curtain. "Or possibly amnesia. That way it wouldn't be lying, but she'd still be guilty." He turned to Kate. "Do you remember everything you did this evening?"
"Yes! Of course I do."
Mr. Curtain frowned slightly. "Even when you were walking by Moocho on your way to the kitchen?"
"Yes! I already told you–" Kate broke off, a look of utter confusion on her face.
"What?" prompted Mr. Curtain.
"I was walking down the hall with my dish gloves on," Kate said, her eyes slightly unfocused, tracing her previous path on an imaginary diagram in front of her with a finger, "and Moocho was walking in the other direction with Reynie and the Washington's food, and… That's strange. The next thing I remember is walking away. I don't remember talking to Moocho or waving to him or… or anything."
Officer Daniel, while unaware of the brilliance of those present, was not a slow-witted man. He could see that this girl with the bucket, this Wetherall girl, was either lying or insane, and a criminal either way. In one fluid motion, he unlocked Mr. Curtain's handcuffs, removed them, and began to put them on Kate instead. Unfortunately, though, he was promptly knocked from his feet by an amazingly quick kick and the cuffs were knocked from his hands by a stinging slap.
"I'm sorry!" Kate exclaimed as Officer Daniel fell heavily to the ground. "I didn't mean to. Are you all right?" The excuse sounded pathetic, even to her own ears. She had just attacked – and defeated – a police officer without meaning to? It sounded utterly ridiculous!
Officer Daniel drew his gun and pointed it at Kate. She froze. "Miss," he said, and he hated to hear his voice quaver, "I don't want to have to hurt you, so please do as you're told."
"Officer Daniel, put down the gun at once! Kate didn't know that she was doing it, so there's no need to hurt her." Number Two came and stood firmly between the Kate and the gun.
Officer Daniel slowly lowered the gun, not wishing to harm the innocent. Kate relaxed slightly, and Number Two stepped back, taking a banana out of her pocket and eating it rapidly.
Sticky looked at Constance in some concern – her face was dark with anger and grief, and she was staring at Mr. Curtain as though she was going to wring his neck. Sticky recognized this expression, of course, as the one she made when she was making changes to someone's mind, or possibly trying to get really accurate thought-readings. But why was she making it now? And why at Curtain?
Five full minutes passed, Kate and Officer Daniel looking at each other, Rhonda and Number Two standing ready to help, Moocho looking nervously around, Sticky looking at Constance, Constance glowering at Mr. Curtain, and Mr. Curtain looking to the window, to Kate and the officer, and back again.
Finally, Constance spoke up, her voice shrill and terrified, "It was you!" Everyone looked at her, startled and confused.
"What?" asked Number Two, a slightly dangerous edge to her voice.
"You!" she was talking to Mr. Curtain, but now she turned to the rest of them as well. "He was the one who poisoned Reynie! It was him!"
Officer Daniel looked at them all. "I thought that we just ascertained that it was this girl," he said, gesturing to Kate. Again, he was ignored.
"What do you mean, Constance?" asked Rhonda sharply. "Are you saying that Mr. Curtain poisoned Reynie? But he couldn't have done – he was in jail!" She looked at Mr. Curtain, a million questions burning in her eyes, only to find that Mr. Curtain was gone. The window gaped open, and the breeze ruffled the curtains slightly, sending a stack of loose documents flying. Curtain had escaped.
"I believe that we now know who actually murdered Reynie," said Number Two, trying to sound calm and collected, despite the fact that she was trembling with rage. "Kate, would you pursue Curtain through the window while we try and cut him off from below?"
Kate was out the window before Number Two had finished the first sentence. Rage burned in her, drowning out her grief, her fear, and obliterating any scrap of caution that she might have had previously. Mr. Curtain had killed Reynie. He had lied to her, he had gotten on her good side, even, he had 'investigated' Reynie's death, and he had framed her for it. And then, to top it all, he had run away. Coward, she thought, blood pounding in her ears as she leaped to the nearest drainpipe and began to climb down, in close pursuit of the man that had caused her and her friends so much misery over the years.
Mr. Curtain reached the ground and began to run into the street, no longer hindered by his handcuffs. As he ran through the gate and out into the road, Kate reached the ground and began to run after him at three times his speed. Quickly closing the gap between them, Kate hesitated at the last moment. He was a fairly old man, after all, and it seemed wrong to do what she was about to do. But then again, he was also Ledroptha Curtain, tyrant and enemy. She tackled him.
Mr. Curtain hit the asphalt hard. His glasses flew from his face, and he cried out in pain as Kate squashed his large nose onto the pavement. They struggled furiously for a couple of minutes, and although Kate quickly defeated the older man, he still managed to land a couple blows.
Still, by the time that Number Two and the others reached them, Kate was sitting on Mr. Curtain's back with a foot on his head, effectively preventing him from wriggling or causing more trouble than he had already caused that day.
"Would you hold him down so I can tie him?" asked Kate, her eyes still burning with anger at the man she was using as a chair.
Rhonda and Number Two nodded and came forward to keep the murderer from struggling as Kate took her rope from her bucket and tied him up securely.
A flash of light illuminated the faces of the seven people, followed by a distant boom of thunder. It began to rain.
"Let's get Curtain back into the mansion!" Rhonda yelled over another clap of thunder. Everyone (except Constance, of course) took hold of some part of Mr. Curtain and carried him back across the lawn, through the maze, and into the first-floor study, where they propped him in a chair.
They all took seats (except for Officer Daniel, who lingered in the doorway looking nervous) and looked at Mr. Curtain, Kate with anger, and the rest with confusion and shock. Rhonda was the first to speak.
"How?" she asked, her voice awash with mixed emotions. "How did you kill Reynie?"
Mr. Curtain glared at them with the eye that wasn't swollen shut from his battle with Kate and obstinately refused to speak. Constance, however, spoke for him. "He used his mind to do it."
"Surely you don't mean that he's telekinetic! That's impossible, Constance." Number Two burst out. Constance glared at her. "Sorry," she said, taking out a granola bar. "Please, go on."
Constance resumed. "Remember how Mr. Benedict had been telling Mr. Curtain about how he could control minds by convincing them to do things? Like hypnosis? Well, Mr. Curtain thought that he might be able to do that sort of thing too. He started to exert control over his guard's minds – convincing them to give him extra food, and that sort of thing. Then, after a month or so, he tried to make them do something that they wouldn't normally do otherwise." Tears were beginning to form in Constance's eyes, and she made no attempt to brush them away. "He had vowed to kill everyone who landed him in jail one at a time, see, so he made Inspector Blue set fire to the library when Mr. Benedict was in it."
"He was really pleased with himself, so he tried to kill another. He tried to kill Milligan, but –"
"WHAT? Milligan's death was his fault?" Kate rose to her feet, her teeth bared and her eyes wild with rage. "I'll kill –"
"Kate, calm down! Let Constance finish!" yelled Sticky, surprising her into a furious silence.
"He tried to kill Milligan, but the other agents got him first. Then he moved on to Reynie. He found out about Kate's impending field trip to the laboratory with the Enab's Bane. He got to know her really well so that he could control her, and when she finally went on her field trip, he made her get the plant.
"The next day – today – he had Kate poison Reynie's food. He had her volunteer for dishes, dunk her gloves in fomladeehid –"
"Formaldehyde," Sticky corrected.
"Whatever! Anyway, he made her dip her gloves in that stuff and put it in Reynie's food when she was passing Moocho in the hall. But you didn't think we'd ask you for help, did you?" She was talking to the trussed up man in the chair again. "You didn't think of what that would mean, did you? Did you?"
"No, I did not." Mr. Curtain glared at them all with his good eye.
Several more minutes ticked by; minutes in which with Kate seethed, Constance wept, Rhonda and Number Two comforted, Moocho looked astonished, Sticky organized his thoughts (which needed quite a lot of organizing indeed), Mr. Curtain continued to glare around, and Officer Daniel looked at his boots, embarrassed and awkward. The Stonetown clock stuck twelve, making them all jump.
It shook them out of their previous silence, and Rhonda took the opportunity to speak. "It begs the question," she began, "what is to be done now?"
Number Two turned to her. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, we can hardly keep Mr. Curtain imprisoned, now that we know what he can do. So it begs the question – What do we do with him?"
Constance looked at Sticky, aghast. "We can't do that!"
The others looked at one another, perplexed. "What do you mean, Constance?" asked Moocho.
"Well, we can't do what Sticky suggested, of course."
"I'm sorry, Sticky, but I didn't hear your suggestion. What was it?" Rhonda coaxed gently.
Sticky blushed slightly. "I… I didn't say it." He looked mortified. "I mean, I don't think that it's what we should do, it's just… I mean to say, it was just a thought. I can't control what I think about… so…"
"What was your idea?" Rhonda asked again, this time more firmly.
"We could kill him." Sticky's voice was a whisper. "If we kept him alive, couldn't he just do what he did before?" No one laughed at Sticky. No one called him names or told him what a terrible, unethical thing it would be to sentence Mr. Curtain to death. Because Sticky was right; even if Mr. Curtain was kept isolated from all of humanity in a South American cave, he would still be able to reach into Kate's mind and control her. In fact, their only guarantee that he wasn't currently doing so was that Mr. Curtain had recently fallen asleep.
Silence fell again, and this time it was fifteen minutes until someone spoke.
"Sticky's right," Number Two said grudgingly. "The only way to keep him from doing this again will be to kill him. I can't see any other way."
Rhonda (who, unlike Number Two, could not stay awake indefinitely) rubbed sleep out of her eyes and tried – and failed – to stifle a huge yawn. "We can't do that – it's immoral."
"What else do you propose, then?"
Another three minutes passed in silence.
"We could put him in a coma," Rhonda said slowly, "and keep him alive."
"That's no good," put in Kate. "Then he'd just be taking up space in the hospitals and being no good to anyone. Induced coma doesn't make any sense."
"Maybe we could put him in an insanity ward?" suggested Officer Daniel, but once again nobody saw fit to respond. He was really getting sick of being ignored.
"I don't think that we should –" began Constance, but Rhonda cut across her.
"Actually, Officer Daniel has point. Why don't we put him in an insanity ward?"
Number Two shook her head. "Won't work," she said. "He controls people's minds. Moving him to another location won't change anything if he can just manipulate us using telepathic hypnosis."
"Unless he has a specific range," Rhonda reasoned. "Constance has a limited range – maybe Curtain has one too."
"My range is as far as I can concentrate," Constance looked at her adopted sisters with puffy red eyes. "Mr. Curtain can concentrate better than I can, despite his sleep sickness and nose like a toucan."
"Toucan's don't have noses – they have bills," Number Two said rather waspishly.
"It doesn't matter!" Rhonda was looking at the still sleeping Mr. Curtain, her look decidedly dejected. He's been all over the world – he can probably concentrate on us from anywhere."
"So scrap that idea." Kate seemed to be returning – however slowly – to her usual cheerful self.
Sticky's eyes lit up suddenly. "What if we find a substance that thought or will or whatever it is that he uses to control us can't pass through? That way, we can build a building out of that substance, put him in it, and leave him alone!"
Rhonda shook her head. "It would take weeks of careful experimentation to find such a substance. And while we were doing that, Curtain could control one of us again."
They were all silent for a while, each trying to think of a solution to the impossible problem set before them, each trying to ignore the idea that kept poking at them with cruel fingers – to kill Ledroptha Cutain.
Reynie would know what to do, thought Kate bitterly. He always knew what to do. And to a certain degree, it was true. Her deceased friend – their deceased friend – would have easily thought of an answer. But Reynie was dead. Dead, leaving them all with a terrible problem of morals that they could see no solution to besides execution of the criminal.
In a way, it would be fair to kill him – an eye for an eye, a death for a death. And yet, how could they, in good conscience, sentence the sleeping man before them to death? Had Mr. Benedict still been with them, it would have destroyed him to hear that his friends and family had executed his brother. Despite all the terrible things that Mr. Curtain had done, his brother had still loved him. But at the same time, there was no other way to ensure that their minds stay clear and completely their own.
The darkness outside had lightened by a few degrees before the silence ended. This time, it was Mr. Curtain who broke it.
"Kill me, then," he said. His voice was barely above a whisper, but in the silent room he might as well have shouted. "I know what you are thinking about. Kill me, and be done with it."
Number Two looked at him sadly. "I don't see any other way," she whispered. Tears were once again visible in her eyes. "Kate… would you untie Mr. Curtain's legs, please? So he can walk to… to the police station."
Kate strode forward. Halfway to the bound-up man, however, she stopped. She looked at him. He looked back. Her expression went blank. Then, Kate walked the rest of the way over to her enemy and knelt beside him. She drew out her pocket knife and flipped open the blade, but instead of cutting the rope, she plunged it into Mr. Curtain's chest.
As Moocho and Sticky cried out in horror, Kate, still expressionless, plunged the knife back into his chest for a second time, a third time. Mr. Curtain cried out in pain, his breath rasping and rattling horribly. Never once did his eyes leave Kate's face. When her army knife entered his chest for a fourth time, Mr. Curtain slumped over and closed his eyes. He was no longer breathing.
Kate dropped to her knees, crying and shuddering uncontrollably. She had killed Ledroptha Curtain. Moocho dragged her away from Mr. Curtain's corpse, and she made no effort to stop him.
"I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to!" she sobbed over and over again. The murderer of Reynie Muldoon had taken control of her mind one last time.
"It's all right, Kate," Rhonda said, even as she drew back in horror at the blood slowly spreading across the floor from Mr. Curtain's chest. "We know it was Curtain who made you do it. It's all right."
But Kate knew that it was not all right. Yes, Mr. Curtain had forced her to kill him, that didn't change the fact that she was a murderer. There was a part of her that had wanted to do it anyway, too, which made her guilt even worse. Would I have killed him anyway? Even if he hadn't made me? The truthful answer was yes, she would've. Mr. Curtain's blood dripped sickeningly off her fingers, a horrible reminder of what she had just done.
A small, plump little hand came to rest on her shoulder. Constance, regardless of Kate's horrific crime, had come to comfort her friend. Kate hugged the eight year-old girl, not caring about the bloody handprints that she was getting on Constance's back. "Thanks, Connie-girl," she whispered, tears still falling thick and fast.
Officer Daniel had seen this all. He had understood almost none of it, but he had stayed nonetheless. Now, however, he turned and ran, unable to stand the sight of the murdered man and the blood-covered girl. He needed to flee – to leave this house of horrors. Too much death – too much tragedy. Whatever this place was, whoever these people were, Officer Daniel needed to get away from it all.
The police car pulled out of the mansion's driveway.
The seasons stretch to years, years to decades, decades to centuries. The man present all throughout the Case of the Enab's Bane, Officer Daniel, will never tell of what he saw. The memories shall forever haunt all who know the sad events that took place in the Benedict Mansion, and the officer will not wish that misery upon anyone. Not his best friend, not his worst enemy.
As for Miss Kate Wetherall, we must all hope that she someday recovers.
Author's Note – Why is it that whenever I write something, it ends up being depressing? Perhaps I'll make my next story unnecessarily cheery. Maybe. It would be nice if you reviewed the two chapter threes to avoid confusion. Thanks!