Monday, September 28, 2015

Bauer Island (II/VII)

People all around were screaming, sobbing, sometimes both, while others were completely quiet. Her knees and hands submerged in the expanding pool of blood, Jade seemed to be choking on  shocked sobs, her brown curls disheveled, her cat-eye glasses askew. Opposite her, similarly drenched in blood, was Francis Bauer. He leaned over the body, lifted the head of his daughter from behind, illuminating her face white as porcelain, and wailed. A long, deep wail of sorrow permeated the building, the host’s stone face twisted in a pained grimace.

“Call the police!” a voice called, but I’ll be damned if I know who it was. There was way too many people for my tastes, and the smell of blood started to make me feel a bit woozy.

“The phone line’s dead!” came another voice. This one was female.

“Check your cell, you dolt!” shouted the first voice.

“Well, I never-“

“I got no reception,” Ashley said in a shaky tone. I glanced at him – his face was paler than usual.

“Me neither,” another voice called.

“We can call them via the Internet!” came a strongly accented male voice.

“The wifi’s dead too.” This time I saw the speaker: it was Louis Bauer, his face pale as the moon.

“NOOOOOOO!” the black-haired boy screamed and ran off somewhere.

“Eugene! Come back here this instant!” a shrill voice called after him. It was the “I never!” woman.

“That wouldn’t do us any good anyway.” This was the first time that I’d heard this voice. The others noticed as well and turned their heads – it was the middle-aged man from the table. Broad-shouldered and tired-faced, wearing a tattered old suit, he was leaning on the door. He took a step forward and swung the door open, revealing a raging inferno of wind and rain, the waves on the ocean gigantic and wild. I felt faint. “No one’s going in or out anytime soon. Luckily, you have me.”

“And who are you supposed to be?” The voice that had requested someone call the police said. Now that the commotion had subsided, I saw that it was Mr. Dugall. Barely disguising his chubbiness and his receding hairline, he had a face redder than most in the hall. He was giving the man a dirty look.

“Miles De Silva,” he said in his gruff tone. “I’m an old friend of Mr. Bauer’s-”

“Aren’t we all,” Mr. Dugall interrupted in a quiet tone, sending me and Ashley a wry smile.

“-and a private detective.”

The smile was gone from Mr. Dugall’s face, and the hue of his face now matched everyone else’s. The silence was deafening, interrupted only by the quiet sobs of Bauer. Then they also stopped and the man stood up, his elegant suit dark and wet.

“That’s right,” he said, straightening his tie. “You’re a professional, and a damn good one at that. I’ll pay any price, you know I can. Just get to the bottom of this.”

De Silva smiled a crooked smile and walked slowly toward the middle of the room, his hands behind his back. “Come now, Francis.” He placed his hand on Bauer’s shoulder. “You really think I’d charge you for this?”

“Thank you, Miles, I-“ Bauer started, but De Silva shushed him.

“It would appear the victim was impaled by the chandelier, but I would still need to take a closer look at the body to see if that was really the case. I’d like to do that first, actually. Considering the circumstances, I don’t think any of the suspects will be escaping before-“

“Suspects?” The elegant woman who was sitting by Francis Bauer’s side during the whole dinner said. She had the looks of a woman in her sixties who had access to all the enhancements she would need to fool the world of her age. Yet her hands betrayed her. I think it would be wise that she consider a pair of gloves to match her crimson boa. “But the perpetrator is clear. The girl!” she pointed a manicured hand at Jade who was now only rocking back and forth.

“But the girl is in shock, clearly,” the accented voice spoke again. It was the small Asian man. “Surely, you would be too if you stumbled across this… event while coming back from the bathroom, hmm?”

“It is too early to draw conclusions, true, but the truth is that those who have recently left the table are the first suspects that come to mind.” The detective was touched the blood with a gloved hand, instantly dyeing the immaculate fabric.

I felt Ashley grab my shoulder. His hand was evidently shaking. “Ram, you can’t ignore me like this,” he whispered. “This is really bad.”

“Well, I can’t imagine why,” I said as I turned to face him, but when I saw his expression, the terror in his eyes, I understood. “No,” I whispered. “You went out right before- but, does that mean-“

“A little louder please, I don’t think the detective guy heard you just yet.” His whisper sounded as if he could break into tears at any moment.

“Right,” I said and looked around for a place where we could talk in peace. Near the stair, behind a column, it seemed that we could speak without drawing too much attention. “Alright, listen, I know I can be a bit blunt at times, but you’re my friend, and I’ll cover for you.”

“What? No! I didn’t kill Van!” Ashley said a bit too loudly.


“What are you shhing me for? I said I didn’t do it!”

“Every word can be turned against you. So, you really didn’t kill her?”

“I really didn’t kill her.”

“That doesn’t sound very credible. What were doing, then? You did leave the dining hall right after her, you could have set up the whole thing in the meantime. You gotta admit, that’s really suspi-“

“We were fucking, okay?” Ashley’s face was red, as he exhaled way more air than necessary when saying that. I was sure I heard him shout, despite it all being a whispered.


“Van and I got down and dirty right before her death, yes.”

“You’re serious?”

“Dead serious.”

“You IDIOT!” I whispered sharply as I flicked him in the forehead.

“Ouch! What the hell, Ram!”

“What the hell me? What the hell you!” I flicked him again.

“Okay, enough with the flicking already!” Ashley rubbed his forehead.

“Dude, you got us both into this mess because you couldn’t help but jump on the first eager girl that comes at you, you disgusting pig! My God, what is wrong with people!”

“It’s a human instinct.” Ashley was red in the face. I was sure he could just punch me any second now. “Not that you’d have any of those, would you!”

“Hey now, that’s harsh.” I whispered back at him.

“You’re right. Sorry.” He seemed to calm down. “It’s hard to deal with you when you’re like that sometimes.”

“That’s great, but we don’t really have time for that now. I believe you now, though. I could have expected such an action from someone like you, while murder seemed pretty drastic, even for you.”

“Wow, thanks.”

“No problem. Anyway, we need to find a way to prove your innocence.  What exactly did you do after you, uh… did the deed?”

“Nothing, really. I went back to the table and saw you talking to Jade. Van said she’d come back later. We didn’t really want to draw attention.”

“And Jade later went to the bathroom,” I pondered, “but she didn’t scream until a good while later. So it’s safe to say that Van wasn’t dead yet.”

“Yeah. And I think a chandelier that big falling would make enough noise to draw attention.”

He did raise a good point. I hadn’t really thought about that before, but it seemed that there wasn’t really a time where the chandelier could have fallen, as everything was quiet before Jade screamed. Besides that one time.

“Unless it fell when the organ started playing,” I said, “but then again, Evanescence is a pretty quiet piece.”

“But it was played on an organ. That’s quite a bit of volume from the get go.”

Something still didn’t seem right. “But who could have been playing that organ? I’m pretty sure everyone besides Van and Jade was in the room at the time, and if Van is the killer…”

“You really think so?”

I have no reason to think otherwise, I thought. “Nothing really makes sense here, to be honest.”

And then, just to add fuel to the fire, the lights went off again. This time things weren’t quite so peaceful, as people started screaming and running around as soon as the lights went off. Ashley and I waited behind the column, hoping everything would die down soon. And it did. As the lights went back on, we returned to the main hall and to our surprise, the pool of blood in the middle was missing a body. Instead, the detective lay there, clearly dazed, but alive. But the missing body wasn’t what worried me the most.

There was only seven of us in the hall.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bauer Island (I/VII)

For months I had waited for this opportunity, and yet I had this nagging feeling at the back of my head that I would come to regret it. Francis L. Bauer – the world-renowned  composer and my idol since childhood – invited me to attend a small party at his mansion. When he approached me at work, I was taken aback. I immediately said yes, without even thinking, without even letting him finish his sentence, which I later told myself was a good thing. I could interview him, which would really help me get ahead at work, and it was Francis fucking Bauer. But then I got scared. I’d be on an island for at least two days, in the middle of the ocean, with only rich strangers surrounding me. Which is precisely why I brought Ashley along. Not only was he excited to go to a mansion for a weekend, it’s pretty fair to say the guy makes me look good in comparison.

We arrived at the island on Friday evening. Even with the sky stormy above it, the mansion looked beautiful, with strategically placed lights illuminating the most awe-inspiring accents. It couldn't have been old, but it was stylized to look as if it had been made around the 19th century, though some liberties were obviously taken. Nevertheless, the stormy sea made it hard to focus on the magnificence of the building.

We were both welcomed rather warmly by the butler and led to the candlelit dining hall. There were much fewer people than I was expecting.  Together with me, twelve of us were sitting at an oval table. Bauer sat at the thinner side to my right, his silver mane of hair glimmering in the candlelight. To his right was a man that I assumed was his brother Louis – his face was very much alike his brother’s though his shorter forehead and darker hair and beard suggested he was a tad younger. Opposite me, to Louis’s right, sat three people that kept glancing in my direction with what I could only assume was scorn. The man, who was sitting the nearest to the Bauers, was most definitely John Dugall. For a CEO of one of the country’s most influential pharmaceutical companies, he really didn’t make a big impression. A balding man in his forties, constantly grinning as he told the Bauers his inappropriate jokes, while his wife rolled her eyes out of exasperation. Next to her sat what I could only assume was their son. With black bangs covering his eyes and a pierced lip, he really didn’t seem to be in a position to be judging my attire, and yet it still felt that way.

Ashley was sitting to my left, though if I hadn’t known it was him, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell, as his back was turned to me throughout the evening. He was too busy talking with the woman next to him, sitting at the end of the table opposite Francis. Judging by her appearance – a well-groomed, young, East Asian woman – she was Bauer’s adopted daughter, Van, a controversial figure in the media, to say the least. Between her and the emo kid sat a tiny, bald, older Asian man with large glasses who I had never seen or heard of before. His focus was directed entirely at his large plate of tagliatelle al ragu. There were three more people sitting to  Bauer’s left, but I could not see them as my view was blocked by a freckled girl about my age sitting to my right. She had wild, curly, chestnut hair and cat-eye glasses that reflected the flashes of light from her phone as she photographed her food. Pathetic.

The wind outside was howling ever louder, and I could have sword I saw a lightning bolt flash outside the tall windows. Just imagining those gargantuan waves crashing against the cliffs of this tiny little island sent a shiver down my spine. I took a sip of water and set the glass back on the table with a shaking hand, barely avoiding dropping it on the floor. When I looked back up, the tiny Asian man was gone. Perfect timing, I thought, as the kitchen staff was just bringing in dessert. Soon after that, the host’s daughter was gone, saying she needed to rest in her room. After wolfing down his tiramisu, Ashley patted me on the back with an unconcerned “Be alright, man?” and went to the bathroom, or so he claimed. I was mad that he left me all alone among these strangers. I suspected it was only a matter of minutes until one of them attempts to talk to me. The kid opposite me was staring daggers at me, I assumed, though that hair prevented me from being certain.

“So, cool party, eh?” a voice came from my right. The freckled girl was looking at me while she sipped water through a brightly colored straw. “I’m Jade.”

“Ram.” I went back to my own glass of water and took a sip.

“Cool name. What brings you here, Rammy?”

“Ram.” I put the glass back down and wiped my mouth in a napkin. “I’m a reporter. Mr. Bauer invited me to interview him."

“What a coincidence. So am I.” She was now using her straw to stir the water. Please don’t flirt with me, oh my God…

After a solid minute of awkward silence, I saw Ashley come back into the room. His red mess of a hair was even more ruffled than usual and a big stupid grin was stuck on his face. He was tucking his shirt into his pants, causing Mrs. Dugall to roll her eyes yet again.

“Miss me?” he asked nonchalantly as he sat next to me, the girl quickly catching his attention. “Friend of yours?”

“I’m Jade.” She smiled at Ashley.

“Name’s Ashley,” he said as he shook her hand.

“I was just having a lovely chat with Ram here. Quite the life of the party, I have to say. You guys look like you make a nice couple.”

I stared her in those big, blue eyes, not even comprehending the logic behind those words and the smirk on that face. “What?” I said in a dry tone.

“Oh no, no, we’re nothing like that, no. Ram’s a good old friend, that’s all.”

I’ll give you the “old”, but “good”? “Jade was just telling me she’s a reporter too. Where do you work?”

“Oh, I’ll gladly tell you later, but I have to go… uh, powder my nose, as they used to say,” she giggled. “It was nice talking to you, boys.”

As she left the room, Ashley’s gaze followed. “She looks like quite the conversation partner, if you know what I mean.”

“Like most people, she thinks that she has the right to invade my personal space just like that. And societal convention prevents me from simply saying ‘no thanks, I find talking to strangers to be pretty draining and would much rather spend this time alone, without talking to anyone’.”

“And yet your job requires you to talk to people,” Ashley said as he rolled his eyes.

“Well, that’s different.” I put my glass down. “That was quite a long trip to the bathroom, though. It didn’t really feel nice being all alone here with vampire boy over there watching me with murderous intent, you know.”

Ashley looked at the boy. “How do you know he’s even staring at you?”

“I can sense it.”

“No you can’t.”

“You know what, Ashley? Why don’t you-“

“Alright, alright, sheesh. Sorry I said anything.” He placed his arms on the back of his neck and leaned back on his chair. I turned my gaze to Bauer and saw him converse with an elegant looking woman on his left, who soon got up and left the room. I didn’t recognize her either, but she certainly looked well-off. Bauer was left to himself, sipping wine, as his brother was now talking to Mr. Dugall and laughing loudly at his jokes.

“Do you think now’s the time to talk to him?” I said.

“Sure, man, go for it. I mean, that’s the reason we’re here, right?”

“I don’t know. This feels weird.”

“Dude, you’ve been waiting your whole life for this, right?” He was leaning in now, his brown eyes more serious than I had ever seen them. “Go get him!” He pushed me out of my chair, almost causing me to trip.
“Thanks for that,” I said in a sarcastic tone. But I guess I was genuinely thankful. If it hadn’t been for that shove,  I might have refused to get up from my chair at all. I passed a middle-aged man sitting by the table – the final guest who I had not seen yet – and quietly sat down next to Francis Bauer.

“Mr. Bauer, sir?” I asked in a quiet tone.

“Ah, Darzi. Good to see you,” the man said as he smiled, a strange warmth in his voice. “I take it you would interview me now?”

“If that’s okay with you, then yes, of course.”

“I would love that, but you see,” he said as he pointed to his wine glass, “I’m a tad bit tipsy at this moment. I do think I’d make a better conversation partner in the mo-“

The wind forced the windows open, blowing out all the candles. A loud crack came from somewhere downstairs and the light coming from the hallway went out. For a second we sat in complete silence, then people started talking and shuffling about, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, somewhere in the distance, an organ was playing Bauer’s “Evanescence”, one of his earlier pieces, and one of my personal favorites. It stopped half way, leaving everyone in a petrified silence. After two quick flickers, the light came back on. No one except me and Francis seemed to be sitting where they had been before the power outage. Louis went up to the windows and closed them. That’s when we heard a woman’s scream from the hallway. Everyone sprang up and ran there, myself included. I could hardly believe what I saw when I arrived at the spot.

Van, the host’s daughter, was laying sprawled out on the floor. Her black silky hair was in disarray, her obsidian eyes opened and lifeless, a trickle of blood running from her mouth, reaching the large pool of blood she around her. Her body was pierced with parts from the chandelier which had apparently fallen on her, sticking into her abdomen, killing her. Jade was kneeling in the puddle of blood, both her knees and hands covered in the liquid, crying uncontrollably. I looked at Ashley who covered his mouth with both of his hands.

“No, no, no…” a muffled whisper came from him. He slowly turned his face towards me and approached me. “Ram,” he whispered, “we need to talk.”