Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bauer Island (IV/VII)

I heard a click somewhere behind me, but nothing happened. Everything was still dark. Two more presses of the switch changed nothing.

“The light’s busted,” Louis said, his voice echoing around the organ room.

“You think it’s because of the storm?” Ashley said.

“Could be.” A sudden flash of light blinded me. After a few seconds my eyes got used to the change and I saw Louis use his phone as a flashlight. I fiddled in my phone and did the same, Ashley and Wei following suit. Four streams of light were now illuminating the large brass construct in the back of the room. Pipes glistened as if covered in a thin layer of ice, forming a twisted jungle of metallic icicles.

“Impressive,” I said.

“A bit too rococo for my tastes, but Francis wanted it that way.” Louis approached the organ. Though I didn’t suspect him of being the culprit, what De Silva said made me question many things. I decided I needed to keep an eye on my co-investigators, just in case. And so I followed him and took a look at the instrument. Oddly enough, the keyboard was covered and locked.

“How do you open and then lock this up in the time that it takes for one person to leave the dining room, kill a person, and come back? Oh, not to mention play a whole sonata in the meantime?” I said.

“The solution is quite simple, really,” Louis said as he pushed a switch on the side of the organ. The pipes blared the opening notes of Bauer’s masterpiece, only to be shut down once Louis pressed the switch again. “Hardly anyone plays this nowadays. Francis mostly just uses his little piano in the basement. But he did devote a lot of cash to deck this organ out with some snazzy programming. He was never really able to distribute his money, properly, that sweet brother of mine.” Louis furrowed his eyebrows. All the love and support he had for his brother – the only trait he seemed to exhibit from the time of the murder – seemed to have temporarily disappeared as he lost himself in though. He then went back to his usual expression, brutally brought back to Earth by an obnoxious voice.

“That almost gave me a heart attack,” Ashley called from the other end of the room. “Jesus. You guys could’ve warned me.”

“Personally, I found that performance quite moving,” Wei called from the middle of the room. “That solves one of our mysteries, then. But I think there is one thing you might want to see.” He beckoned us and soon all four of us were standing in the center. Wei pointed up and flashed his light at the ceiling.

“I don’t see anything,” Ashley said.

“Exactly,” Wei smiled. “If you look closely, there’s a small link of a chain hanging from the ceiling. The only remnant of what was once-“

“The Chandelier,” Louis said in a whisper. His breath became fast and unsteady, and I could feel mine become the same.

“But wait,” I said, realization hitting me like a truck. “You don’t mean-“

Wei only smiled at me. As if on command, we all shone out lights on the floor. There could be no mistake – the floor was covered in blood. Blood that formed a trail leading halfway to the doorway, but then suddenly disappeared.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Ashley said. “So this is the actual scene of the murder?”

“I’m not our detective, but I’m pretty sure that’s a safe bet,” I said. “But what happened to the body? How did it get transported like that? I didn’t see any blood on the way?”

“Admittedly, none of us were looking at the floor when we were coming here,” Louis said.

“No, Mr. Ram has a point.” Wei scratched his chin and pointed at the place the trail of blood ended. 

“Someone either lifted the body there or cleanly wiped the floor, which I doubt there was enough time for. Furthermore, I did take quite a good look at the place where the body is presently located and no trails leading into the pool of blood Ms. Van was lying in.”

“I guess that pretty much confirms this was the work of more than one person,” I said. “I don’t think one person would be enough to just carry a crushed body and a huge chandelier downstairs on their own. But the blood trail still bothers me…”

“I can see why,” Wei said. “None of the guests seemed to be covered in blood when they appeared downstairs.”

“Wait,” Louis said suddenly, in an urgent tone. “I think I know something… As I mentioned earlier, Francis likes to spend excess money on stuff he doesn’t really need. Some time ago he mentioned with great pride that his castle even has trap doors and hidden passages.” He hesitated. “But then again, just because he knows, doesn’t mean the killer does.” His face suddenly went pale. “Unless…”

“Hey, now, let’s not jump to conclusions,” Ashley clasped his hands together and put his chin on them. “Maybe they’re easier to figure out than you’d think. Let’s take another look around.” As he finished that sentence, I noticed that he was looking at me and motioning in the direction of the corner. Hardly subtle, as I’m pretty sure Wei noticed it too, but even if he did, he didn’t follow us. “Look what I found in trash,” Ashley whispered as he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket.

“A paper ball. That’s quite a find.” I rolled my eyes, but Ashley was having none of it. He shook me by the shoulder and forced me to look at the unrolled piece of paper. It was Francis’ will. “Okay. Weird, but still, I don’t think it’s anything special. He isn’t exactly young, I mean, so maybe he was making a draft?"

“I don’t know, it looks pretty clean to me,” Ashley said. “But that’s really not the point. There’s something kinda weird about this. Read it.”

I pulled the paper closer to my eyes and flashed the light from my phone on it. Ashley was right. For a person with such a huge fortune, this will was incredibly short. According to it, Francis was planning to give all his money to his daughter Van and “little Maurice”.

“Gotta agree with Louis. Mr. Bauer really doesn’t know how to manage his money right.”

“Yeah, that’s the whole point. I mean, someone with as big a fortune and a family so close would be expected to devote some more money to other members that just his adopted daughter. If you know what I mean.”

My heart sank. “No,” I whispered, my mouth agape. “You really think Louis could?”

“Not so loud! He’s right here in this room!” Ashley covered my lisp with his hand. I shoved it away in one swift, angry motion.

“First of all, I’m fucking whispering, so I can’t really get much more quiet than that. Second, don’t touch me.”


“Third,” I took another look at the paper. “Who the heck is this Maurice person?”

“Beats me,” Ashley said. At that moment we both heard a sound. It reminded me of that one time my mom put some hideous shoes on her little Pomeranian, Hubert. The poor thing awkwardly lifted every paw high up as it walked, failing to comprehend why it can’t feel the ground normally. I turned around to see a little face staring at me from the double door leading into the hallway. I was utterly confused. The resemblance to Van was uncanny – round, freckly, decidedly Asian face, but the hair was a curly auburn mess. As it spotted me, it disappeared, its feet awkwardly tap tapping as the little person made their way down the hallway.

“Did you see-?” Ashley began but I was already dashing to the door. As I threw it open, I ran down the hallway, trying to catch a glimpse of the little peeping tom. I heard steps behind me, but didn’t have the time to look back and determine who was following me. I looked left and right, up and down, until I reached the stairs. No one was there, and there was no sign of anyone ever being there. It was as if I was chasing a ghost.

“Did you get him?” Ashley heaved.

“He got away,” I said.

“Who were you two chasing?” a voice came from behind Ashley. It was Wei, smiling at us, as usual.

“We saw someone,” Ashley said. “I think it was a little kid.”

“A child?” Wei’s smile disappeared. He fell silent for a few seconds and soon asked with a somber expression, his eyebrows furrowed: “Are you certain?”

“Yes, there can be no mistake,” I said. “I think he was around two or three. Must have had some help, since he disappeared so suddenly.” I stopped to think for a second, wondering if it was appropriate to share such wild speculation with them, but in the end, I saw no reason to withhold that. “I think that might have been Van’s child.”