Disclaimer: See Chapter One.

I know, I know. What I call soon has not been soon at all. Forgive me.

...

"Stephen's speculations were 'logical enough', but still untrue...the solution to the murder has to contain a name, location and weapon...hmmm."

Kyle paced about the Conservatory – their temporary base of operations – as he proceeded to list his thoughts aloud. They'd relocated to a room at one of the house's four corners so they might ostensibly keep a lookout on at least a degree of the surrounding area. For now, the Sues had shut all the doors to the Dining Room in which they had remained, so unless they were Plotholing, they were temporarily self-contained.

"It's beyond us to even guess the weapon used at this point. The hiding place of the body will give us a room name, but then we'll have to extrapolate a murderer based on the opportunity for each Sue to be in that room within a certain time."

"We searched the entire house, so I can't imagine where Boddy could be," Lily said, a little discouraged.

"Perhaps Boddy was already moved from the site of his murder. The Sues might have tampered with precious evidence already, and we have no way of knowing if that's the case. We'll have to search every place a second time. Curse that Iris – I'll show her genius!" It seemed that Iris's taunts had struck a nerve with Kyle. Karissa thought that there was another reason, too, for why he continued to look so unhappy, but she hadn't yet discovered what it had to do with the frequent glances he aimed at herself.

She tried to move past her own uneasiness, which had arisen in response to Kyle's. "Seeing as the Sues have barricaded themselves inside the Dining Room, is there any point in standing guard downstairs? We should all split up again. If we move quickly, we can reassess the environment on each floor and return before they've thought of dispersing once more. We can secure the Dining Room doors on the outside for further insurance," she suggested, meaning to be helpful.

"Lily, do you think that's a good idea?" At that, the feeling of wrongness within her intensified. It was strange that Kyle thought it necessary to restate her words in front of the other Agent. He could have simply said yes or no, and then left room for Lily to cast her own vote, but it was as if he'd somehow discounted Karissa's opinion by the way in which he'd spoken.

"I do like that idea. Let's do as Karissa said." Hearing her speak in a fashion quite opposite to what she'd perceived coming from Kyle, Karissa felt an instant rush of gratitude towards her friend.

"Okay, that settles it then. Lily, take the third floor; Karissa, you head for the second; and I'll take responsibility for the first floor, as soon as I've gone and lodged a knife in–" He broke off, seeing the looks on their faces. "The doors. I was going to say, 'As soon as I've gone and lodged a knife behind the moulding alongside each door, so that the Sues will have a harder time getting away.' I picked up a few more knives the second time that we were at the table, so the ratio will be one to one for every knife and door." Kyle flipped a knife into the air and caught it singlehandedly. "Honestly, what were you thinking that I would say?"

T_T_T_T_T

She thought that Kyle must have a lack of confidence in her.

Karissa had been entertaining a variety of options in her head, some of them personally upsetting to her – including the idea that Kyle simply disliked her as a person – but after the better part of half an hour, she concluded at last that he must be unimpressed with either her detecting skills or else her overall abilities as had been displayed hitherto in her first mission partnered with him.

"First impressions are the most important, after all," she admonished herself.

She was treading in the same footsteps she'd previously paced around the second floor, but this time – invigorated by new resolve to improve her work ethic – she was scrutinising the interior of each room as rigorously as was possible. She would not allow the results of this search to be called merely 'reasonable'; rather, she wanted her efforts to be the best that Kyle – or anyone else – would claim they could have been.

Karissa picked up personal objects that she'd decently avoided touching before. She sought out potentially undescribed hiding places suitable for weapons or valuables, other than the portable safes that attracted her eyes too blatantly. She even steeled herself to look beneath the beds, dark nasty breeding places for spiders that they were. "I worked myself up for nothing," she said with relief, after she'd lifted the edge of the first bedskirt. The bed was a box-spring and mattress mounted directly on casters, with no space between it and the floor. She silently thanked Boddy's interior decorator for deciding to forgo frames to raise the beds' height, and then quickly dropped the paisley-patterned valance.

She neglected the room that had been assigned to herself until the very end. She didn't hold any serious expectations that she might find clues there. She left it last to serve as an avenue for defeat. Although it didn't truly belong to her in the same way that her room at the Library did, she still derived some sense of comfort in retreating to a space with her name attached to it. Karissa sighed. Even upholding stricter standards, she'd yielded no findings. Feeling a little sorry for herself, Karissa kicked at her bed with half the force of her pent-up frustrations. She waited for the dull pain usually associated with stubbing her toe, but was not obliged.

Instead, her foot hit empty air.

Frowning, Karissa felt underneath the bed with her fingers. They encountered no resistance either. It felt like her bed had no box-spring beneath it. Box-springs were more common in North America than Europe anyway, so maybe she should be surprised that there had been ones in the other rooms at all.

She lowered herself to the floor in a kind of reverse pushup so that evidence of her eyes could be used to appraise the situation – and she screamed.

T_T_T_T_T

"Karissa! Karissa! What's the matter?"

Someone unfamiliar was yelling her name.

"Kelly? What are you doing to her? Get off– no, get away!" The next thing that she knew, Karissa was being held around the shoulders by Lily, who was lightly shaking her back and forth. "Karissa, tell me what's wrong. Was Kelly hurting you?"

Karissa appreciated the concern in her friend's voice, but however tempting it was for her to nod her head yes in answer to the question, she had to tell Lily, "No, he wasn't hurting me." Shortly thereafter, she clutched at Lily's arm, stopping the shaking.

"What caused you to be alarmed, Karissa?" The same voice that had been shouting for her, moments ago, now spoke again.

"What's it to you, Kelly?" Kyle countered suspiciously.

"Surely you can't expect me to ignore a lady's screams without inquiring–"

"Never mind him, Kyle. I-I found Boddy!" Karissa stabbed her finger at the deceptively harmless piece of furniture along one side of her room. "He was under my bed all along!"

"What is he doing there, I wonder," Kyle muttered, as he followed her pointing finger to take a look for himself. Bending down, he let out a low grunt preceding a tug strong enough to drag the body completely into the open. Immediately, Kyle began to catalogue details of the corpse in the same order that his attention wandered. He communicated his observations to the others with an almost clinical detachedness.

"Hmmm, he's still in his dinner clothes, as we concluded he might be. His breath smells like alcohol...he may have been murdered right after the first round of drinks was poured, or else this odour is a result of the ethanol produced in human bodies shortly after death. His skin is cold, but the cool weather last night would have caused body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, so that's no help. I don't fancy cutting up his stomach to take a look at how much of his dinner was digested, but I'm not expert enough to differentiate between degrees of rigor mortis. What else might be of assistance?" Kyle began to peel back the layers of Boddy's evening dress, disposing of the tie and popping open buttons without a second thought.

"Livor mortis is livid. Therefore, he's been dead at least six hours and nearly certainly ten hours. I wouldn't think it's a big stretch to say that he's been dead twelve hours, which would place his death at around a quarter to eleven. The pooling of blood is consistent with the position in which we've found him, but that doesn't mean Boddy wasn't moved from the site of his death...care was taken to keep him face up, that's all." Kyle tilted Boddy's head from side to side. "He looks strangely peaceful – too peaceful – most likely because his facial muscles have slackened. He was probably rendered insensate before death, and these bruises around his neck suggest that what proceeded was ligature strangulation."

If the other Agents' faces were aghast by this point, Kyle's expression could only be described as downright solemn, yet he continued to monologue. "Boddy was killed by sudden and violent constriction of his windpipe. This sloping brown mark outlined in red at the front of the neck indicates that the ligature was pulled tightly upwards from behind. There's no presence of complex knotting, but that's a curious pattern imprinted on the wound. It reminds me of a braid...the murder weapon could have been a tightly woven cord, a necklace or a chain." Kyle's voice caught at that, and then he looked up, eyes hard. "Boddy was killed with a chain. A chain whip, perhaps?"

There was a protracted silence.

At first Karissa didn't even register the accusation against her, because how many times had she told others that she didn't like to name Gekkou a chain whip? She preferred the term chain-weight, which she had shamelessly copied from Wikipedia. Although her mind may have temporarily migrated elsewhere, the rest of her senses couldn't fail to eventually identify Kyle's hostile glare as the precursor to a threat.

"Oh my god, Kyle, what kind of person do you think I am? I would never kill another person – I would not betray the Society – and why would I consider it? For, what, the gratitude of a Mary-Sue?"

"Kyle doesn't know what he's saying," Lily interceded, ever the peacemaker.

"I do know what I'm saying," Kyle gritted his teeth. "As much as I hate to say it, the modest evidence that we have so far has exposed gaping holes in Karissa's testimony. Boddy didn't decide to deprive himself of his esteemed guests' company just so that he could while away an hour or two by twiddling his thumbs inside his room upstairs. He had no reason to lock himself in an hour before midnight, because he was not preparing to go to bed; he did not remove any part of his evening dress. My outstanding opinion is that Boddy didn't get a chance to return to his room, because he was killed before then. Karissa must have been lying when she claimed to hear Boddy respond to her calling."

"Why would Karissa lie to us?" Lily asked, echoing the need for a premise in support of Kyle's argument.

Karissa protested her innocence strongly. "Boddy was alive after midnight! Kelly heard him reply with the same words too!"

"Yes, I find that interesting."

"Kyle, our weapons were taken away from us before we were allowed to leave the Hall. You saw me hand over Gekkou," Karissa pleaded for good sense. "I don't know where it's been all this time that Boddy had it in his possession!"

"I know where your weapons are," Kelly said softly.

Everyone turned to the Stu after this confession had left his lips.

Karissa's voice was shrill. "You do?"

"I've known all along where in the mansion Boddy kept items that he deemed too valuable – or dangerous – to leave out in the open. I may have led him to the solution, while I was helping to liberate some extraordinary vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon on behalf of Rufous. If you'd like, I can lead you to–"

"The wine cellar," Kyle deduced, half a second before Kelly was able to finish his sentence.

"Yes, that's right."

T_T_T_T_T

Lily put her small knife back into its sheath for lack of anything better to do with it. She knew that Stephen hadn't exactly treasured his sword either, but maybe Charis would welcome the return of the weapon to the Science department's armoury. She was in the middle of inspecting it from every angle, trying to see how she could best bear its ridiculous weight – and thinking she should just use Live Slow, Die Fast to teleport it straight into Kyle's Astral Vault – when her ears finally registered the argument taking place beside her.

"No, I won't let you to hold a suspected accessory to murder! The idea that I might allow such a thing is especially preposterous since you yourself are a suspected accessory to murder!"

"My Author gave Gekkou to me as a gift, so I assert that I have the right to carry it!"

"I will say it again – no, I refuse!"

"Guys, please," Lily entered the fray. "Can we restrain the negative feelings towards one another and attempt to act like the crime solvers we're trying to be? If it will settle this dispute between you two without bloodshed, I'll offer to take custody of Gekkou for the time being. Is that okay with both sides?"

Sullenly Kyle nodded, and then Karissa did too. Lily twisted the chain-weight round the circumference of her left upper arm multiple times, until it appeared she had a mismatched armlet to offset her bracelets.

"If you'd like to stay behind me, I'll take us back upstairs, and lunch should be ready shortly," Kelly cut in, being entirely too helpful in keeping with his behaviour of the last ten minutes or so. Nonetheless, they let him head the line on the ascent from the basement, and Kyle didn't make a move to stop him until the Stu began to head towards the Dining Room once more.

"No, I don't think we'll be eating just yet."

Karissa rolled her eyes again at the use of the nay-word.

"I think we've got a pretty clear-cut case for the who, when and how of the murder, at this point. If we just take a minute to ponder the where, I'm sure that we can make another Suggestion in no time at all."

"Who are you including in this 'we', Kyle, because I'm surely still confused." Lily's patience was being tried past the point of no return, and the sharpness of her tone had evolved accordingly. As far as her personal philosophy was concerned, teammates should trust one another, no matter how stacked the odds seemed to be. "What with Karissa maintaining the state of her innocence, I know that – at the very least – her estimation of who committed this murder differs from yours, as well."

"Of course she pleads not guilty, who wouldn't?" Veering left to fall into the embrace of one among several sofas in the Lounge, Kyle let out a wearied huff of air. "Don't misunderstand me, Lily, I'm not enjoying this any more than you are. However, her complicity is the only factor we weren't aware of that could explain a couple of uncertain things. Firstly, let us state as given that Boddy died before midnight. The murder would have had to take place in a named room, assuming the Sues have any sense of fair play, and only later was Boddy carried to Karissa's room. After midnight, Karissa told the lie that Boddy lived; Karissa was given charge of all the women's rooms in the search for a corpse, but she didn't unearth Boddy under her bed until more time had passed; it is the mark of Karissa's weapon on the throat of our victim; and, lastly, it is Karissa who has been strangely friendly with a specific Stu for all the time that we've been here. Who's to say that said Stu didn't offer her some deal that was too irresistible to withstand?"

"Excuse me, I didn't set out to be friendly to Kelly, but he has been acting friendly towards me," Karissa said hotly.

"The death of Lela Koi may have made a Mary-Sue sympathiser out of her."

"Kyle! Just stop!" Lily knew how hard it had been for Karissa to make peace with the tragic demise of her sister-rival-adversary, and it wouldn't benefit anyone to open the lid on that particular can of worms again. "You're relying far too much on fragile supposition. Even though Boddy ended up in Karissa's room, that doesn't equate to her offering up her bed as a crime scene. And you think that Gekkou was used to murder Boddy, but wouldn't that be a violation of the rules as much as staging the death in an unnamed room? Boddy could have been strangled with the in-game Rope, isn't that right, and the shape of Gekkou could have been applied on the skin's surface afterwards. I don't believe that Karissa knew where our weapons were stashed, any more than we did, until Kelly blurted out the truth."

"Like I said, they could have done the deed together. Moving the body would have to be a two-person job."

"Iris, Tiffany and Amber spent a lot of time comprising a clique. They also had sufficient numbers to commit the murder as you describe it. Alternatively, I don't doubt that Iris has enough strength to carry a full-grown man unassisted. Why haven't you fixated on them as equally able suspects?"

"I have less reason to think that they were responsible because none of them are here lying blatantly to my face, and doing so repeatedly. Karissa's fib about Boddy's whereabouts at midnight is the most damning discrepancy!"

"Because of one mistake, you're going to pin the blame on her?"

"Kyle." The pronouncement of his name sounded deadly serious to everyone present. "I haven't once lied about what I heard at midnight; I won't be budged from my account of the events that night. However, you did get one thing half-right."

"Karissa? You have the right to remain silent, and all that, because you are innocent until he can prove you guilty," Lily said worriedly.

Karissa displayed a tight smile, but did not appear to change her mind about speaking. "Iris – not Kelly – made me an offer when we arrived in the fandom. The consideration was not my cooperation in a murder, but my price was to be our participation in the game, since our decision to stay here was not assured. If I accepted, Iris told me that I could expect an award upon our victory in the game." Karissa wet her lips nervously. "She would – she will – tell me which fandom Viva's fled to. I never managed to Bookmark that dastardly demon, so I sensed an opportunity to be had."

"How could you be so selfish?" Kyle asked blankly. "Revenge was your motive?"

"Didn't you hear me correctly? I just said that I had no hand in the murder."

Kyle strode to doors of the Lounge. "That's not what I heard. I was made to understand that the Sues have something with which to hold over your head, and therefore they could be manipulating you, willing or not." He crossed the hallway in a matter of seconds and spoke through a gap in the broken Dining Room doors – he supposed that Kelly had shouldered his way through them in his mad dash to reach the hysterical Karissa upstairs.

"Iris! I'd like to make a Suggestion!"

T_T_T_T_T

They had almost forgotten that Kelly stood with them, so when the other Sues filed into the Lounge, it was a shock to see him cross to the opposite side of the room and join their group. He tipped his head forward and whispered into Iris's ear.

She laughed the same stupid laugh as before.

"Is there discord among your ranks, then? This will make a lovely addition to the tales already told of your Agents turning against one another. It doesn't take much force to break up your camaraderie, or so it seems."

Lily thought of the time when the Society had declared Ben a traitor, because he'd gone to extreme lengths in order to protect her from the Pro-Cliché and Mary-Sue Protection Society.

Karissa thought of Dave, who'd been recently promoted to a Department Head along with Charis, but before that had been the source of some mistrust due to his temporary loss of faith in the good intentions of the Society.

Kyle recalled the same examples, and he remembered the outrage and confusion that had surrounded Louise's role in the Basement Incident as well. However, he refused to let Iris's baited words put him off, so he quashed both the stream of recollections and any trace of his visible conflict with some effort.

"I suggest that Rufous killed Boddy in the Ballroom with a Rope."

Lily looked askance at him since, to her knowledge, the mentions of Rufous and the Ballroom had come figuratively out of the blue. Kyle had not included their names in his determined ramblings of earlier. He had implied that Karissa and Kelly were partners in crime which, come to think of it, was farfetched because...

"I think that Kelly coerced Karissa into helping him move the body to her room after the death occurred. For whatever reason, they agreed upon the implausible story that Boddy lived on after midnight, although the state of dress on the corpse would disprove that claim later on. But, do I think Karissa or Kelly committed the murder? No. They couldn't have. Kelly stuck closely to Karissa throughout the period of after-dinner drinking, and Karissa didn't stray far from Lily's side. Lily provides a reliable alibi for those two not being the ones that killed Boddy."

Kyle paused for a breath. "Boddy was besotted with Iris, but it would have been very improper for him to leave the Study alone in her company. He was not the type of man to conduct an affair in another room as long as he still had guests to attend to. If he couldn't trust himself to be without company in the presence of Iris, neither would he have been swayed by young girls such as Tiffany or Amber, who have the added danger of being jailbait. However, it wouldn't seem so out of place for him to enter other rooms with a fellow man. Isn't it natural that after dinner the men would want to talk politics while drinking, whereas gender differences stereotype women to spend the same time gossiping while taking only the smallest sips out of their alcoholic beverages. Rufous could have easily led Boddy to the Ballroom, which is spacious and quiet, and then–" Kyle mimed a slashing motion across his throat. "When we found Rufous after midnight, he was holding the bottle of liqueur that was last seen in Boddy's arms. Perhaps he literally pried it from the dead man's hands."

"You were so very close to the truth, Agent." Iris stroked the body of Karma indulgently, and then she motioned to Kelly with a languid gesture. "Let him know how far off the mark he was."

Kelly's voice seemed loud in the Agents' ears as he said, "Only off by two, I'm afraid."

"You put a lot of effort into your explanation, unlike the last boy. I could almost believe that your version of events was the correct one. Too bad for you, I don't have the ability to rewrite history according to my whims. You will have to accept your Karma, but I don't think that it will be as bad for you as it was for the other one."

"Tell me where I went wrong, Iris." Kyle refused to back down, even as a familiar violet light began to leak through the Sue's fingers.

Her cryptic reply ran like this: "You have too much conviction in the good natures of men. And you underrate the importance of chance!"

There was no hint that Kyle might have shouted anything – discouragement or otherwise – before he faded totally from before their eyes. His disappearance was much less dramatic than Stephen's. Karissa idly hoped that he would end up somewhere safe, like in his room inside the Library. But he had tried to implicate her in a crime that was morally repugnant to her – maybe he would materialise inside a locked room, required to wait for the Society to return from its mass mission and release him from confinement.

"And then there were two."

Karissa brushed off Tiffany's jibe and turned desperately to Lily. "Just tell me one thing. You believe me when I say that I had nothing to do with Boddy's murder, don't you?"

Lily thought again of Ben's actions during her kidnapping. He'd held Emily hostage, and had to aid and abet Repiv in attempted robbery...but what he'd done was forgivable when taken in context. "I believe in my friends," she said carefully. "That's what matters."

"Thank you."

"Do you two girls need time to regroup and rethink? I'll wager that, mechanically, you'll run out on us in the middle of lunch exactly like a reenactment of your antics this morning." Iris gave out a tut, tut.

"Since when was lunch prepared, and by whom?" Lily threw out the question with some apathy, but came across as being annoyed.

Karissa replayed the sound of Stephen asking, in her head, "Speaking of servants, who prepared the food earlier? Are there more flesh and blood bodies inside the house?"

Her own voice replied, ghostly as in memory, "Seeing as Mrs. White is dead, such details as cooked food, clean linens and made-up beds can most likely be attributed to ordinary plotholes. Sorry, Stephen, but I wouldn't bother looking into the matter."

"Lily, follow me," she said excitedly, grabbing ahold of her friend's hand and racing to the Kitchen. She pulled shut its sliding doors, and engaged the lock on one for good measure, although it would hardly hold back high-leveled Sues.

"Are you...hungry?" Lily cracked a smile.

"Why not? Watch me closely and let's see how this turns out."

Karissa walked towards the kitchen pantry and reached for the depressed handle. Pushing another sliding door to the right, she put her left foot forward in a step that should have brought her into the pantry.

Her left foot came down, and then her right foot was leading her away from the pantry door.

"You were turned around," Lily said, dumbfounded. "Do that again."

Each time, before she could physically enter the pantry, some force redirected her so that she once more faced a view of the kitchen. She wasn't turned away empty-handed. Karissa amassed a collection on the kitchen counter of a handful of grapes, a box of Ritz crackers, a square of dark chocolate and unshelled peanuts.

"The house is intelligent," Karissa reasoned. "It can hypothesise that I would like a snack from the pantry, but its self-preservation instinct is stronger than the desire to serve me by allowing me into its stores." She looked at the peanuts and grimaced. "Nuts make horrible munchies, in my opinion."

"If the house is smart, maybe it doesn't want you to spoil your appetite for lunch with something more to your tastes."

"Next experiment." Karissa filled a cup with clean water from the tap, and made a move as if to drink from the container. Unexpectedly, she let it slip from fingers and shatter into so many invisible shards upon the floor.

"Karissa!"

"I'm perfectly fine, see?" Her voice was calm and steady. "What do you know, Stephen was right, and food preparation had something to do with the murder. Don't you see? How could we expect that the house was programmed to perform chores on its own, in the absence of Mrs. White? This must be what Iris was referring to when she told Kyle that he underrated the importance of chance."

"What were her other words? 'You have too much conviction in the good natures of men.'"

"Bingo. Lily, congratulations, we've solved the murder and won this game."

"Wha-at?"

"We're wanted back in the Dining Room."

T_T_T_T_T

They'd been twice in the Dining Room today. The first time at breakfast, when they'd all been seated with food on their plates, and could pretend to tolerate each other's company for the sake of a good meal.

The second time had been prior to Stephen making his disastrous Suggestion, and they'd all been standing whilst glaring daggers at one another.

The third time more closely resembled the second occurrence than the first. Karissa and Lily reigned at the head of the table, with the Sues separated by sex to the left and right.

"I suggest that Iris killed Boddy in the Kitchen with a Rope."

Before she could expand upon her accusations, Kelly stood up and applauded the Agents. He was the only one to do so. "Oh, sit down," Rufous said with real irritation at his companion.

"I will construe your applause as instant confirmation that my hunches were spot-on," Karissa grinned warily.

"Please tell us a good story, regardless. Your contemporaries established the tradition, so you might as well accede." Boredom. That was what was left on the face of every Sue except Kelly, now that the game was up. Iris waved at Karissa to explain herself.

"Well, Kyle was correct in stating that the Rope was the murder weapon used. But when he lost, you remarked that he was mistaken in both the good natures of men and in the importance of chance. That got me to thinking – Kyle painted an elegant picture of the principles of gentlemen, and offered several reasons why Boddy must have been set upon by a male rather than a female assailant. However, there's a quote that goes, 'Never underestimate the power of love.' Boddy was smitten with Iris, but I think that he would have gone anywhere with her, even at the risk of looking like a fool in front of his house guests. Where would Iris have taken him, though? A timely mention of lunch combined with the words of my missing colleague produced an epiphany – plotholes existed in the background of this mystery the entire time. How better to dispose of a body than to toss it conveniently through a gaping hole in the plot?"

Lily showed signs of growing comprehension. "That thing you did with the glass of water...the debris reconstituted itself, so it was like you never picked it up off the counter, let alone dropped it."

"That's right. Theoretically – if we had another dead body lying around – I could try placing it in the Kitchen, and I'm betting Tudor Mansion really wouldn't like that. It would teleport the misplaced item – not considered a human being any longer, because it lacks vital signs – back to where it belonged, via plotholes."

"A question." Karissa graciously stopped talking so that Iris could make herself heard. "Wouldn't Boddy be transported back to his bedroom, in line with your logic? Why – and when – was he moved under your bed? Did you go so far as to figure that out?"

"I don't disappoint, Iris. Of course I figured that out. Boddy had been the victim of his friends' conniving more often than he could count. Whether they meant to kill him – or meant to steal one of his newly acquired treasures – he was always at the wrong end of a gun, a knife or the like. He must have thought, 'There must be some simple solution to confuse my guests so that they don't hurt me or each other.' He started sleeping in one of the guests rooms before the start of this weekend house party, didn't he? He meant to leave his bedroom empty, as the most obvious target for thieves and murderers. Let's say that he needed to sleep in his new room for only a couple of days before the house recognised that at his updated quarters. Henceforth, when he died, he was restored to the room that technically no one told me was mine. 'It's not safe to assume,' is a lesson that I will take to heart in the future. After that, it was a simple matter for you to place Boddy beneath the bed when you purportedly visited the third floor to wash your hands this morning."

"One last question. How did you come to explain Boddy's goodnight to you, at midnight? That was the one thing that had your fellow Agent kicking up such a fuss. He was as ready to label you a criminal as I!"

All at once, Karissa lost the wind in her sails. Doubt wanted nothing more than the chance to take over her self, because damn it, she had heard Boddy speak to her!

Lily saved the day by supplying the elusive answer. "If I'm not mistaken, Kelly is a ventriloquist. I didn't notice it before, but sometimes his voice would appear to come from elsewhere – closer to me than he actually was, or seeming to congratulate Stephen on his guesses when in fact Iris had Stephen beat."

"He threw his voice...through the door?" Karissa said wonderingly. Her expression soured. "That's why Boddy's reply sounded indistinct. I thought he was being surly!"

"Alright, it looks like your commendations are well deserved," Iris conceded, leading Kelly in another round of clapping. She produced a scrap of paper folded in on itself, and walked around the table to place it in Karissa's hand. "'To the victor belong the spoils.' Your award, as promised."

"Wait." Karissa didn't bother reading the note. "Seeing as we've won, you must realise that Lily and I are obligated to Prohibit as many of you as we can detain, before the rest of you inevitably escape?"

"First of all, I regret to say that not all in our group can Plothole," Iris drawled, pushing Karissa's whole body away with a single shove. She swivelled the chair she'd been leaning on, now holding it up in the manner of a lion tamer warding off a beast. "Secondly, feel free to keep Tiffany and Amber. I hear that your Society has become more benevolent, in favour of Mary-Sues. The girls might learn something from a stay at your Library; or in any case, they'll enjoy regular meals and mingling with other young Sues at the same age."

The two Sues in question began wailing as it became evident that Iris was repelling their attempts to get closer to her, at the same time that she eluded Karissa. Clearly, they were the ones unable to Plothole, and Rufous seemed to share the same inadequacy. Kelly had the back of the older Stu's blazer bundled up in one fist, as he used his other hand to open a portal behind them.

"By the way, you may have wondered why Kelly stayed so doggedly at your heels, and why he was the first one to offer you comfort upon hearing your screams today?" Iris jumped a full five feet backwards from her inconsolable charges, landing at Kelly's side, but she did not even sound breathless. She slipped an arm through his as the three prepared to exit the fandom together. "I hope you can still hear me, because you're going to find this next bit hilarious." Iris's ridicule did indeed reach Karissa's ears loud and clear, even as she crossed over.

"The poor boy has a crush on you, haha ha!"

...

A/N: So ends over a year of writing. I'm reminded why I never tried a multichapter before this, and...sigh, I've still got Insert History That Repeats Itself Here sitting incomplete on my computer. My next fandom was planned to be Hawksong, but I think that I should take a break from fanfiction for a little while, at least so that I can a) pass my finals, and b) develop some of my older ideas for original fiction.

My mom's been giving me grief this whole week that I've been trying to finish this story, anyway. I'm not retiring from the Society, but I was never the most active author, so I'm simply continuing in that trend. I'll still be online...reading.