The Riddle Solvers Who Don't Solve Riddles
We're standing in the kitchen, you across from me. You're wearing that face, the one you've perfected over the years. To anyone looking on, you seem distant, even bored, but I know better. That face is a mask, meant to hide your true feelings.
And you have every reason to hide, don't you?
The kitchen is dirty, the walls and tiles in that reddish brown color I've come to hate. There is a rancid smell in the air. I can't quite place it but at the moment, I don't care. I've other things to focus on.
The empty right sleeve of my black jacket flaps against my side as I gesture with my working left hand. I smile at you. You're dressed nicely, or at least in someone else's idea of nice. Black dress and white cap. I know you've always hated that maid dress that you've always worn. I know everything about you.
Before we do anything else, let's go over the facts, shall we?
At 4:30 pm, the guests arrived. There were twenty of them, all well-dressed, clean, jewels and watches glinting in the light of the late afternoon sun. You were there, serving drinks, taking coats, being distantly polite behind your mask. I was there, on business. The guests milled about, talking about nothing, taking tiny bites out of the little waifs of things you serve them. They ignore your mask or occasionally look at you with gauzy disdain. They've always treated you like dirt, something necessary, something you tread on and wipe off on the mat before you step inside. You hate it, don't you?
Of course, they don't really trust me, either. But I wouldn't expect any different.
More guests arrived. At 5:30, everyone stepped out into the garden. When they came back, you poured everyone wine. 1784. Very classy. At 6:45, one guest sat alone in the library and drank from a glass with a gold rim. Five minutes later, he fell over dead because the wine inside the glass was poisoned.
Of course, I'm only assuming here. I didn't walk in and see the body until much later. But this particular poison, I know, happens to take an average of five minutes to kill an adult male. There weren't any finger prints on the glass.
The rest of the guests didn't notice one missing person right away. A few ambient voices wondered briefly where he was, but they quickly assumed he was in the bathroom or back out in the garden or perusing the china in the dining room. He was in the next room over in every room.
Finally, at 7:15, after the cook has rung the bell to announce dinner and the guests have sat down, finally they noticed the empty chair. They wondered loudly where he'd gone. As you set down the dish in front of the mistress of the house, you looked right at me and said that the gentlemen was not feeling well, and had gone home. The guests voiced their haughty displeasure and quickly forgot him.
The guests ate, drank, and made conversation, much of it vague and reeking with gossip. You poured the wine often, watching the clear red liquid flow into the plain wine glasses. I watched you, ate little, and said even less.
At 8:00, dinner ended, and the table was cleared away. After that, all the servants vanished. Did you dismiss them, or did the mistress? They trust you; they would have listened to you. At any rate, you're the only one who knows now.
I'm pacing, back and forth, as I talk to you, the right sleeve still flapping. It's a nervous habit; I can't help it. The floor is oddly sticky. I can feel it clinging and peeling away with every step I take. I keep talking, and you keep listening, watching behind your curtain of blonde hair.
At 8:12, one of the guests began to complain that he wasn't feeling well. I sat next to him at dinner, and he seemed fine to me then. He definitely looked ill now. Everyone could tell. He was sweating and pale, and he was clutching his stomach. The mistress of the house hastily pointed him to the bathroom. He leaned over the toilet and vomited, and the vomit was dark with his own blood. At 8:18, he's dead, too.
Another guest was with him at the time, and she screamed once she realized he was dead. She ran out of the bathroom, banging her knee on the doorframe as she went. I know this because there was a bruise on her right knee. She panicked, crying and screaming and making an awful noise. The other guests called for me. I went into the bathroom and, with some difficulty, managed to check his pulse. There was no pulse; he was dead already. The room smelled awful. I ushered everyone out and told them what I thought: This man has been poisoned. I informed all the guests that this house is now a crime scene, and that everyone is a suspect, so no one can leave. They eyed each other, fear and suspicion growing in their eyes. For once in their lives, they looked grateful that I'm here. They looked to me as if to a leader, to a savior. I relished in their eyes, just a little, but no time for that, now. There's work to be done.
I told everyone that the best thing to do would be to call the police. Most of the guests said nothing, obedient like children. But the head of the family was there. This was not his house, but he still held all authority here. He told me, loudly and angrily, that he did not want a scandal and that I had better solve the crime. The fool was in no position to order anyone around, especially not me, but I respected his wishes. I told everyone to stay out of the bathroom and stay together and left. As I walked down the hallway, I saw you watching from one of the open doors. I'm willing to bet that you caught every word. Our eyes met for just a moment before I walked on.
The remaining guests filed out into the den and sat there, the women sitting, the men standing and pacing. The one who watched the guest in the bathroom die was still weeping hysterically. It was grating on my ears. I took a quick look around the kitchen and the dining room, wearing my white gloves and looking over everything. I already knew what to look for.
When I came back at 8:34, the horrified conversation had turned to the missing guest, the one you said had 'left early.' They remembered that you said he wasn't feeling well. They began to panic in earnest. Two of the men picked things up from the table, a lamp, a wine glass, and rushed out of the room. I followed them and told everyone else to remain calm, for all the good it would do them. I instructed the head of the family to remain. He didn't. I could hear him following us.
At 8:42, we came across the 'missing guest,' the one who drank the poisoned wine in the library. At this point, he'd been dead for almost two hours; there was no need to check. They yelled in horror, and soon everyone knew. We had not one dead person but two. The head of the family stood up and quietly left the room. That was the last time anyone saw him.
On the edge of the house, beyond the garden, behind the swinging gate, there is a cliff, with a view that opens out to the ocean in the west. At 9:00 pm, on the evening of the summer solstice, as the sun was sinking over the horizon, all the remaining guests fell into the ocean and drowned.
Now that. That's a real mystery, isn't it? How did they all fall into the ocean? Were they pushed? If so, how?
You've been awfully quiet this entire time. You've never said a word. What are you thinking about? I wish I knew. I know everything else. I know more than you think I do.
I know about that knife you have in your pocket.
But there was one thing I didn't account for. One thing that I never considered that I should have. One thing that got in the way.
And that was you, the other detective, who got caught up in all this.
As you pull the knife out of your pocket with your left hand, I grin and slap it to the ground. It spins and clatters to the floor, sticking in the brown stain in the tiles. I smile; you can't do anything to me now. You stare at me, your eyes wide, shocked. Yes. There was a murderer in this house. And you know who it is. You, who have always been too smart for your own good, too smart for the people who lived here. So come on now! Say the killer's name!
Say my name!
I never wanted you to find out. I warned you to stay out of it. Why couldn't you just take the hint and leave?
But I'll give you one more chance. If you want to run away, you'd better do it now.
Yes, there was a monster in this house. There was a wolf at the table. A monster who kills without mercy. Who kills without even realizing it. Who is stained with sin for the rest of his life.
And that monster is me.
You don't understand anything, do you?
You slap the knife out of my hand, with the hand you were hiding under your jacket. You've always been hiding, and yet you're not very good at it. You rail at me. You're raving. You say you're going to kill me. You say you're a monster. You're asking me to say your name. And I'm watching you, watching this display, and I know. I know because you've never learned how to hide.
Why are you always doing this to yourself? You always feel like you need to protect me. When we were kids it was different, but even now… Didn't I tell you? You'll never be rid of me. You'll go mad without me. It's already starting. What are you so anxious about?
Let me start from the beginning because there's someone who wants to know.
Our names are Rin and Len, right and left. Those are the names our father gave us. I am your right hand, and you are my left. Ironic really, seeing as I am left-handed, and you are right. We've always been together, though they've tried to keep us apart. Rin and Len Ichito. Yes, all the people who died tonight were also Ichitos. All of them. The Ichito family. They were the main ones, the ones who treated us like dirt. The ones who hated us.
Every year, the family has a gathering on the summer solstice. It's a very high-brow event, very classy, like every other thing they do. They wear such nice clothes and so much jewelry, you'd think they were meeting strangers instead of their own family. The mistress told me to have everything ready, make sure everything's perfect. Don't love your family; impress them with your money. I bowed and said I would do it.
When you arrived, uninvited but always allowed because of your brains and position, I knew it would happen tonight. You would kill them all. And you would try to keep me out of it.
We'd talked about this many times, and you'd say the same thing every time. Stay out of it. Don't help me. But I won't be deterred so easily.
The mistress hates me. She looks at me with cold eyes. She was our father's wife, but she was not our mother. She never could conceive. Our mother left when father died. The mistress took a new husband, and he hates me, too. If he knew you were my brother, he'd hate you as well.
You want to protect me? I don't protecting anymore. And I've certainly never needed protecting from you. I refused to me left out of it. One of the guests, one of our relatives, wanted to read a bit in the library. I decided to go ahead and kill him because we'd decided that this man needed to die first. So I prepared him a glass of wine and, when I was sure no one was looking, poured in a packet of some of the rat poison I'd been hoarding. I stirred the wine until it was good and clear again and then left it in the library for him when he got to it.
But something I noticed when you were talking to me. You said he drank from a glass with a gold rim. I didn't pour the wine into a glass with a gold rim. The glasses with gold rims are only to be used at Christmastime.
If you lived in this house, you'd know that.
You know what I think? I think you came across the poison I'd poured and removed it, maybe dumping it into a potted plant or flushing it down the toilet. Then, you made up another glass, using some of your own poison, and set that on the table instead. You must have grabbed one of the Christmas glasses because a glass is a glass and how are you supposed to know the customs of the dinnerware in this house? So we both tried to poison him, but your death is the one he swallowed.
I was watching at dinner, too. One of the guests, a cousin of ours, I believe, or something trite like that, was sitting next to you, on your right. You bumped him accidentally, easy for you to fake because they think you're clumsy, and he dropped his fork. You apologized and ducked under the table to pick it up. You were obstructed by legs and skirts, but I still saw you. You picked up the fork, pulled something out of your pocket, a tiny bottle, and poured a few drops onto the tines with the right hand that you hide under your jacket. Then you rubbed it with a white cloth that you produced from your pocket, before briskly putting it back and tucking your right arm back out of sight. Then you stood up and with a smile, handed the fork back to him. All of this took a little under two seconds.
That guest died because the fork he was eating with was poisoned.
I'm right aren't I? I can tell by your eyes. You didn't want me to know this much. You should know better, thinking that you can hide things from me. How long have we been…?
Once the table was cleared, I dismissed all the guests. Yes, you guessed right. They've known me for a long time, and they trust me. I think they know who I am, or at least they suspect, but they've never said so to me. It's just as well. They have an inkling that I might have some right to all the fine things in this house. But I don't want any of them because they've been touched by this family's filthy hands.
One of the guests had not eaten much, and his knife was clean. It caught my eye as I scooped the sloppy dishes onto the tray. I pocketed it and walked out.
They made me be a maid, and they made you join the police force. They always despised you, but they recognized your brain and you became a detective, the youngest of our generation. Or so they said. You should be famous, but the family used its money to keep you out of sight because they're ashamed. Of you? Of themselves? They're ashamed.
I've been a maid all my life. Even before I put on this black dress, I still was being prepared for it. Being prepared the way you prepare a roast pig. What I was interested in was what you did. Clues and death and figuring things out with your brain. We would stay up late. You'd show me maps of the city, profiles and photos that you'd sneaked out of the station. We'd pore over them, giggling like school children. We'd come up with puzzles and games and try to solve them. That's when we discovered that I was as smart as you. Maybe even smarter, though that's not likely. I wonder how they'd react if they found out? Maybe label me indecent, a scandal, and send me away. Far away. But even then, it wouldn't be enough.
We've never been free. We were always being told how to live and how to be. How to eat, how to speak, what to do with our lives. Don't laugh. Don't smile. Sit up straight. Learn the things we tell you to learn. Ignore the world; it's not for you. Even if we weren't doing anything wrong, they'd still punish us. No hugging. No questions. Keep still and don't scream. The time a man told me that, you stabbed his hand with a fork, so hard that he bled. Right after that is when they shipped you away to the police force.
That's the man lying dead in the library.
They kept their eye on you because you were a boy. They kept their heel on me because I was a girl. But you can't see beneath your heel. I've learned to hide.
I know what you were doing after the family learned of the wolf at their table. You certainly weren't looking for clues. I watched you, caught glimpses of you as you moved through the house. You were locking all the doors, cutting the phone lines, taking the keys. I saw you slip into the bathroom, where you tucked the keys into the dead man's pocket. Am I right? The one place they couldn't bear to touch. Clever.
The head of the family did follow you into the library. I did, too, but my footsteps are quieter than his. Not even you can see me when I hide. It's funny how people's brains work. When the head of the family saw the dead man's head in the toilet, he didn't want to call anyone. He was afraid of the 'scandal.' But suddenly, not that two people are dead, he's afraid. I saw him, his fear, and followed him, still keeping out of sight. Because when a wealthy person dies, they always suspect the maid.
He went into the kitchen. I went in after him. Sir, I said, shutting the door behind me, is everything alright?
No, everything is not alright! I expected him to snap at me. He didn't. His eyes were wide, haggard. He was afraid.
This is terrible. We're not safe! No one is…! He turned to me. I've made a terrible mistake, he says.
Have you, sir? I ask.
He was foaming at the mouth a little. He looked at me, then to the wall, his eyes darting. Scandal or no scandal, he said. People are dying! I need to call for help. I need to call for help right now!
I feel a brief spasm of panic because I knew if he called, he'd realize that the lines were cut. Then he'd try the doors and see that they were locked. Then, he'd try to escape, perhaps break a window, and he'd succeed because he's a grown man and what could you or I do to stop him? Everything would be ruined and we'd never finish this. So then I decided.
Have you told the others that you're going to call?
He looked right at me. No, I he said.
I whipped the knife out of my pocket, rushed forward, and stabbed him, right underneath his rib cage. I twisted the knife as he gurgled. He grabbed my hair and pulled. I didn't let up. Funny, my hands weren't shaking at all. It never occurred to me what I would feel at this moment, but I never would have expected to feel nothing at all. When they first handed me a fly swatter and told me to swat the flies, I'd feel sorry for them. I didn't want to kill them. It wasn't their fault they were trapped in this house. I would flinch as I smashed them. Now, my hands were steady. I just… I just really hated this man.
He gurgled and died. You seem surprised. You thought you killed him, didn't you? You thought you were so crazy and so depraved that you killed a man without remembering it or realizing it. Don't worry so much. If you had let me help you, you could have spared yourself that.
I looked down at the body, my head smarting a little from where he'd grabbed my hair. Getting rid of the body would probably be best, seeing as he's covered in my hair. I picked him up and hoisted him to the oven, dumping him in, pausing to wipe off the knife on his relatively clean jacket. He'd really made a mess. There was a huge puddle of blood on the floor. I made a mental note to clean it before realizing that I'd probably end up not having to. There was blood on my apron, too. I took it off and folded that on top of him. Then I lit the oven and shut the door. I opened the vent. The neighbors are probably wondering who would light a fire twice in June. I wonder if they could smell it.
I left. As I was approaching the den, I saw you go upstairs. I went to follow you, to tell you the thing you refused to hear. I heard you step up into the attic. When I went up there to follow, the lights went out.
The only light was from the red oval of the window, as the light from the setting sun shone in. I froze for a moment before someone seized me. I figured it was you, there was no one else up here, but you took great care to make sure I couldn't see you. You whipped a blindfold over my head, like a girdle on a horse, and tied my hands. Then you left me and went back downstairs.
I sat there for a minute, shocked, wondering what on earth. I heard you moving around downstairs. Whatever was going through your mind, I refused to sit up here, tied up like a pig. I reached for the knife in my pocket and cut myself free. It was difficult and took a few minutes. I guess you felt the knife in my pocket. Why didn't you take it? You must have known I would use it. You're normally so observant. Perhaps you didn't realize it tell later. You seemed more haggard than usual, you were breathing hard. Your hands were sweaty. You think I wouldn't recognize your hands? They're the only hands I've ever held, aside from Papa's.
Just as I had cut the last band, I heard a scream from downstairs. I ripped the blindfold from my eyes. There was a lot of commotion coming from below. For a crazy second, I thought that you had killed someone else. But everyone was on high alert now. Were you frightened enough to make a mistake like that?
Apparently, someone had tried a door and realized it was locked. Then they'd tried another. They'd searched for the keys but, of course, did not find them. I heard them scrambling around, the sounds of echoing feet leaving the house. It seemed there was one door you had left unlocked: the door to the garden. The door to the sea.
You say it was a mystery. It was no mystery, and you know it. You were trying to scare me. You thought I didn't see. But you were wrong. I saw everything.
The one window in the attic faces the west, faces the sea. I pushed it open, carefully on its hinges, to listen. The sound was muffled by wind and air, but I have good hearing. I've spent a lifetime listening at keyholes.
Everyone rushed outside, to the garden. You were following them. No, they were running from you. You were laughing, the kind of laugh people have when they aren't happy at all. When they're angry, anxious, frightened.
Yes, you were saying, shouting. I did it! I killed them! I killed them all! The dog has bitten back, I'm afraid! You all thought you were safe, surrounded by people, behind your nice, shiny things, your beautiful clothes, your ugly cars. But none of you have been safe since the day I was born! You think you're important! You think your money and your prestige and your goddamn name make you important, but none of you matter at all! You're so easily stamped out, like spiders, like gnats! No more important that the motes of dust swirling in the air to the face of the world, dying in an instant and then forgotten hereafter. Ten years from now, who will mourn you? No one! But I'm important! I matter because I can make you all afraid! I can kill, and I can make you fear! And guess what? I've killed you all already! You're all poisoned! Yes, I put poison in all of your meals. The poor man who vomited up his own stomach only got the highest dose. I've put different doses in each of your plates so that you'd all die at different times! Yes, I've arranged it all! No matter what you do, you're all going to die, one by one, tonight! So? Who will it first? Will it be you? How about you? You? And you laughed again.
That last part was a lie. Or was it a bluff? Either way, the food wasn't poisoned. The only thing you poisoned at that table was the fork. You didn't touch any of the food. I know because I saw it being made. I even tasted some of it when no one was looking. It was perfectly safe. Just like the mistress wanted.
But they believed you. I can tell.
You know what they did next. They could have overwhelmed you. There were over twenty of them, and we're only fourteen. I couldn't even help you because I was upstairs. Ah, that's how you planned it, isn't it? You were trying to keep me out of it. You were trying to keep me safe. You'll never learn.
They could have escaped. They could have fought you. They could have killed you. Instead, they all ran. They ran out the garden, through the gate, and jumped into the sea.
We used to dream of being free. Of living how we wanted, where we wanted. Living with people who loved us. Playing the piano and singing because we wanted to, not because they felt like we should. That's why we did this. So we could be free.
You wanted to set me free. You wanted to free me even from yourself. You believe that you are stained with sin, and you wanted me to remain pure. But I have killed too; I'm just as stained as you are. You'll never be free of me, Len, because I am your right hand, and you are my left, and we cannot exist without each other.
You're crying now. You should have cried a lot sooner. I smile and take you in my arms. I rub your back. It's okay, I tell you, It's okay. Its over now.
No, it's not over, you sob. It's not okay. They'll find us.
There's no one left to find us. We'll run away, far away, and be free just like we wanted.
But what if they discover… us?
They won't, I tell you. No one will ever know. And if anyone does ever find out what we've done, I'll trap them in this story forever.
And now that someone who's listening knows all about us.
"So welcome to our world."
This is yet another story that I wrote for my writing class. The assignment was to write a mystery story. This is what I turned in. Scary what does through my mind, huh?
Now the teacher hasn't graded this, so I don't know what the reception will be. Reviews are greatly appreciated.
And if you're wondering why Rin and Len's last name is Ichito in this instead of Kagamine, it's because I felt like these were characters, not Vocaloids. You know, like how in sitcoms, the main character will have the actor's first name but a different last name? It's like that.
And, in case you don't know, this story is based off "The Riddle Solver Who Can't Solve Riddles" (Youtube /watch?v=znir_s4Q9BA) and "The Riddle Solver Who Won't Solve Riddles" (Youtube /watch?v=YOIxHLGWgQE&feature=relmfu) by Hinata Haruhana.
And... That's it for now, I guess. Join me hopefully next week! Enjoy!