by Rei Nakazawa

     She was a beautiful widow.  The simplicity of her black dress, old-
fashioned pillbox hat, and veil only added to her sense of timeless
elegance, as if she were dropped into this era wholesale from another time,
yet fit in perfectly.  Scott Sorrell noticed this; how could he not,
with the subject sitting bare inches away as his car trudged along the
country road towards the house that was now solely hers?  Yet for once,
he didn't entertain the thought of mentioning his thoughts, putting his
arm around her shoulder as emphasis and comfort.  That sort of thing
had its place.  Its place was not a somber procession of cars
winding along after the funeral of one of his closest friends.

     The so-called "Fearsome Foursome."  Him, Tony Durham, Kevin Nekohashi,
and Brad Hawthorne.  They tore a good rip through DeMontfort U, yessir.
Though they were completely different, they had a synergy together that
no one could match.  They were the Musketeers, the Beatles.  So it wasn't
horribly much of a surprise when their Yoko came.  Cindy Rydelle.  Ah,
beautiful Cindy.  The rest of the group knew that Tony loved her before
he knew it.  Unlike Paul, George, and Ringo, they tried everything they
could to nudge the big lug in her direction.  That was their sophomore year.
It took the day before graduation, the day before Cindy was to leave for
home in England forever.  A sudden, massive windfall from a distant relative,
an inheritance that could allow a young couple to live happily and
comfortably for the rest of their days, was the final catalyst.  Scott
smiled at the memory of their tears as the two embraced that day.  Now
different tears fell as Cindy Rydelle, who was Cindy Durham for a mere two
months, rode beside him in total silence.

     The house was two stories in stately stone, shaped like a large,
angular "C."  The legion of cars parked in the driveway circling within
the middle of the C, between the two wings of the house.  By now, the
sun had almost totally set; combined with the increasing overcast, it was
now almost completely dark.  Slowly, the riders emerged, looking
about them in a kind of awe.

     "Man," Kevin Nekohashi whistled, "this is some place.  Hate that Tony
never invited us here to see it before..."  Brad Hawthorne barely skipped
a beat as he punched Kevin in the shoulder with a growl.  The action
seemed to awaken the victim to context.  "Uh, what I meant was...
Cindy, you don't think that I..."

     "Please, don't be sorry."  Cindy had always been soft-spoken,
but it seemed to Scott that after Tony died, her soft-spokenness had
turned into bare whispers.  "You three were Tony's best friends, so I know
you loved him as much as I did.  He cared about you, so you're my friends
too.  Don't worry about me."

     "It's lovely," sighed Lisa Hopkins, pulling her husband close to her
as she gazed about the gardens and forest that surrounded the house, now
adequately lit by old-fashioned iron lamps.  "So quiet."

     "We did have to drive quite a bit to get out here," Michael Hopkins
mused.  "We must be miles from town."  He loosed his tie somewhat as
he spoke, seemingly uncomfortable.  Then again, he and his wife were the
only ones present who weren't close friends or family; he was a mere
business partner, now sole controller of the thriving software firm
Tony's uncle had founded.  "Very rustic."

     "Tony's uncle did like his privacy," Cindy said.  "I really don't
know anyone around here...  Or if there really is anyone close.  The staff is
on holiday right now to mourn for Tony, so I have no one...  If it hadn't
for Dani..."

     "Yeah, where is she?"  "Biff" Kingston growled with some impatience,
as he had ever since Scott met him.  A tall, massive sort, almost as
large as Tony had been, he was Cindy's cousin by marriage.  Brad had
remarked in private that it seemed that Cindy's side of the family
had all the good genes, and watching Biff bluster and yawn through the
funeral forced Scott's agreement, even if he was the only real family
Cindy had left.  "Why wasn't she at the funeral?"

     "I was here," a cold voice cut in.  Dani Murrietta stood in the
now-open front door, arms akimbo, glaring.  Her voice carried sharply
through the cold night air, but it was tinged with a weariness that
Scott found more worrying than anything he'd encountered yet.  The first
thing Scott noticed about her was her shapely form; that was automatic.
Her ears twitched as if in constant annoyance, her nose wrinkled in
She was the only one not dressed in mourning, instead opting for a pair
of blue overalls and a short-sleeved pink t-shirt.  From what Scott knew,
she was a close friend of Cindy's, though hearing Cindy describe her,
Scott couldn't imagine two more different souls.  "I've been helping.
Getting food and cleaning.  God knows Cindy is in no mood to."

     "And I really needed it," Cindy sighed, giving her friend a quick hug.
"I don't know what I would've done without you."  She turned towards the
motley assemblage.  "It's been a long day.  I'm sure you're all hungry.
Dani is a wonderful cook - please, let's go in and eat."

     The interior of the home breathed of money, and an ease in spending
it.  From the oak-panelled walls to the opulet dining room that shone of
Waterford, Scott knew that Tony had spoken truly of his uncle's fine tastes.
As the group trudged from the entryway to the dining room, Scott noted
the distinct lack of movement or energy in the group.  There were some
semi-interested glances at the decor, even a low whistle from Biff, but
otherwise, it was as though they were still at the funeral.

     The meal started in silence, with only the tinkling of glass and
silver breaking the veil of quiet that had overtaken the group ever since
they entered the house.  The table was already neatly set with china and
patiently polished silverware when the group entered.  Between fresh-cut 
flower arrangements stood steaming plates and bowls piled with meats and
and vegetable medlies that dripped of care in a small garden.  As the dinner
progressed, the mood lightened despite itself, and soon wine and conversation
flowed in equal measure.

     "Really, it shouldn't be a problem; the business runs itself, really,"
Michael Hopkins (or "Mikey" as his wife constantly called him) told Cindy
over his Pinot Noir.  "Don't worry about a thing.  You'll be well provided

     "Look at that," Lisa marvelled as she looked out the glass doors that
led outside.  "That's such a wonderful garden out there; I've never seen
one so colorful, even in the dark!"

     "Great food, Dani," Brad muttered between mouthfuls.

     "Swallow first.  Then talk," she snapped back.

     "So what do you think of this place so far," Scott asked Kevin, the
firstwords he'd said since his eulogy.  "If it were summer, we could probably
tan pretty good, but it looks like a storm's rolling in."

     "I know.  But it's a great house.  I look forward to exploring
when we have the time."

     "There's a nice lake near here that we passed by," Biff said suddenly
and forcefully, as if feeling left out of the conversation.  All other talk
lowered, as if somehow accepting this.  "Think we can go boating sometime?"

     The veil fell once more, like a heavy blanket.  Biff frowned for a
moment at the glares he was getting, as if only now hearing his own
comments.  Suddenly, his eyes widened, then narrowed just as quickly in
a defiant squint.  "Hey, I didn't mean nothin'!  I ain't dumb enough to
drown and..."

     Dani was standing beside him at that moment.  This was odd, considering
that she had been sitting on the opposite end of the table a moment before.
Her arm was a blur, and before anyone could react, Biff was rolling about
on the floor, tears leaking from his tightly closed eyes as he held his
stomach in his arms as if it were about to spill from him.

     "Don't... you... DARE call Tony dumb again.  You got that?!"  Scott
rose, but the flames in her eyes stopped any impulse he had to react, even
though she was half his size.

     "Excuse me..." Cindy said in a choked voice as she ran from the room.
     "Cindy!" Dani cried.  "I'm sorry, I...  Oh, hell."  She started after
her, but Scott raised an arm.

     "I'll go talk to her."  It was a simple sentence, but one that surprised
everyone who knew him, especially Scott.  He wasn't a big talker by any
means; Kevin was the one with the gift of gab, while dozens of women
across the state could say with authority that Scott had little sense of
subtlety.  But dammit, Tony was a friend, a damn good one, and that made
Cindy one by extension.  He couldn't sit by and do nothing.  He just

    "Well...  All right."  Dani coughed, then turn to the others.  "Cindy
had me pick up your bags from the airport.  They're upstairs in the guest
bedrooms.  C'mon, I'll show you."  The grim procession started once more,
minus a still-recovering Biff, this time with Scott in the lead.  Scott kept
on going while the group behind him turned as one up the central staircase
to the second floor.  Scott wandered in the direction he'd seen Cindy run
until he came to the south wing of the house.  Three doors were set into
the wall on his right, barely illuminated by the soft lamps outside, and
the harsh glare of the outside lights streaming into the windows.  The doors
closest to him and furthest away were both open, showing darkened rooms,
but the middle one was shut tight.  This Scott approached.  He tried the
doorknob, but the door was locked tight.  He knocked.

     "Cindy?  You okay in there?"  A pause.  The pause stretched, until
Scott began to doubt that she was in there.  Finally, there was the click
of a deadbolt, the rattle of a chain, the turning of a key, and the door
swung open.  A blast of stuffy heat hit him in the face as Cindy allowed
him entry.

     Scott found himself looking into a study, the only current illumination 
the bright cheeriness of a roaring fire in a fireplace set on the wall to his
right.  The fire lent a summertime warmth to the room that caused Scott
to tug at his shirt collar in discomfort.  The walls were covered in
esoteric art and knicknacks.  Cindy's umbrella hung from the back of
an emerald green couch faced the roaring blaze, away from an oak desk.  The 
desk was a wonder of neatness, with papers stacked even to each other, pens
their places, expected since its current owner was one whom Kevin had once 
kindly described as "obsessed with perfect order."  A bundle of envelopes sat
in the middle of the blotter.  Behind the desk was a fancy high-backed
chair.  It was a room perfectly designed to give visitors a sense of ease.  
Scott felt far from at ease.

     Cindy quietly nodded Scott in.  After he'd entered the room, she firmly
locked the door, turning the key in the lock, then setting the deadbolt and
chain.  Scott raised an eyebrow.  The deadbolt was massive, its steel
surface practically screaming safety.  The chain was no flimsy apartment
affair, but solid and tough.  The door itself was a relic of an earlier
era of craftsmanship, sturdy and stalwart.  "Cindy?"

     She turned, almost laughing at Scott's expression.  "Tony's
uncle was a paranoid sort.  He valued his security.  Truthfully..."  She
sighed.  "I'm not feeling very safe myself."

     "You don't?  Has someone...?"

     "Oh, no, no."  She shook her head violently, sending her long blonde
mane in waves across her face.  Cindy took off her coat and tossed it on
the couch, then went to the desk and sat in the leather chair, seemingly 
luxuriating in the feel.  "This was Tony's favorite place to be.  It reminded
him of his uncle.  Now it reminds me of him."  Her eyes caught the pile of 
letters before her.  "This was the last set of letters Tony sent me while I 
was in England handling my aunt's estate."  She rifled through the stack, 
coming up with one red envelope from the pile of white.  "The last was sent 
the day before he died.   And I wasn't here for him..."  Her voice trailed 
off, leaving her in a dangerous mood.

     "It was an accident," Scott cut in insistently.  "No one else was on
the yacht, and the cops said there weren't any signs of foul play.  We both
know he wasn't very good in the water."  A brief pause.  "What did you
say about not feeling safe?"

     She stood and wandered to the double glass doors leading out to the
verandah, as if she hadn't heard him.  She stared out into the night for
a moment, then, without comment, locked the doors, sliding the two bolts
on the bottom of the solidly built doors deep into holes in the floor.
Then she rose, letting the cotton lace drapes fall over the doors before
tying the drapes together.  She turned.  "Nothing, really," she said, as
though she were answering his question a second after he asked.  "It
just feels like... Tony's still here.  Like this whole house is filled with
his presence."

     She paused, as if allowing Scott to feel the veracity of her statement.
And he did.  He could almost feel the massive yet gentle presence of he
whom they both had loved, one as a friend, the other as more.  Scott
could almost imagine Tony bursting in through the locked door in his cheerful
yet naive way.  "Pardon me," Cindy chuckled suddenly, "for rambling on
like this."  She gently touched Scott's shoulder, a gesture which made him
shudder despite himself; he knew more than ever how Tony had fallen for
her.  "Thanks for your concern, Scott, but I'm fine.  Really.  I just need
some time alone.  Do you mind terribly if I have a moment to myself?  I
promise I'll be a good hostess very soon."

     Scott could only nod.  He watched silently as Cindy undid the locks and
opened the door to let him out.  Once he was across the threshold, the door
shut firmly behind him, and heard the clicks and clacks of the locks
engaging behind him, and concern once more rumbled in his stomach.
     It was still rumbling as he approached front foyer.  He paused to
glance into the dining room; Biff was gone, apparently recovered from
his encounter with Dani.  As he turned, he almost ran headlong into Dani,
who seemed to appear out of nowhere.  "Hey!" she sqeaked in surprise.

     "Sorry."  Scott looked about; no one else was in view.  "Where'd
you come from?"

     "I showed everyone to their rooms," she replied casually, as if he'd
said something else entirely.  "You're sharing a room with Kevin, at the end
of the north wing."  She passed him by, and started down the hall.  Driven
by an impulse he couldn't understand, he grabbed her arm.  She swung around
with a violent glare that loosened his grip in an instant, as though
he'd been burned.  She held the evil eye for a moment, then it relaxed into
a heavy look of resignation.  She turned away from him.  "If you're going
to ask," she finally said, "I'm fine.  Everything's fine.  That's all
there is to it."  Then Dani went into a door and vanished from his
sight without another word.

     Scott had barely a moment to absorb, and recover from, the moment
before a hand clapped on his shoulder, sending him spinning.  Mikey Hopkins
jumped back.  "Sorry!" he gasped.  "I didn't mean to startle you!"

     Scott relaxed.  "I should be the one who's sorry."

     "Ah, well, I was wondering...  Scott, right?  If I could speak with
you for a moment."

     "What about?"

     "Well, it's kind of, er, sensitive.  Mind if we look about the house
a bit while we talk?"

     Scott shrugged.  "Sure."  The two walked down the stairs as Mikey

     "I was wondering...  Has Mrs. Durham... said anything?"

     "About what?"

     "About... her plans for the business?  She does inherit her late
controlling interest in the company.  As I said at dinner, it's doing quite
well.  In fact, our profits may break the ten million dollar mark before
too long."

     Scott started visibly.  He knew Tony's uncle had been rich, but he
hadn't understood just how rich until that moment.  They paused at the foot
of the staircase, a distant rumbling filling their ears.  "Really?" was all
he could say.  The other nodded.  "Now a question for you."

     "For me?"

     "Did you notice anything strange about Dani?"

     Mikey frowned.  "Now that you mention it...  She did seem a bit
snappish.  Didn't say a word at all.  Just opened doors and almost shoved
people in.  We were alone at the end of this 'tour,' so I got up the courage 
to ask her what the matter was.  Didn't say anything at all then either.  
Just opened the door to our room and left.  She seemed very preoccupied.
But with what?"

     "Good question."

     The front door suddenly burst open.  Lisa came running in, soaking
wet.  Scott saw for the first time that it had started raining, the water
coming down in buckets.  "Lisa!" Mikey cried.

     "It's really coming down out there!" she laughed, her cheery disposition
not darkened by the weather nor the wetness.  "It was so sudden...  Look
at me!"

     "Let's get you into some dry clothes, dear!"  He shuttled his wife
upstairs, almost bumping into Biff, who suddenly came dashing out of
the southern wing, flying up the stairs without even an apology for
the near-collision.  "How rude!"  Scott could only agree as the couple
disappeared up the stairs.

     "Hey, Scott."  Brad appeared from the north wing hallway, shaking leaves
off his trademark cap before slipping it back on his head.

     "You get caught in the rain, too?"

     "Me?  Nah.  I was in the kitchen getting some coffee."

     "Of course."  Scott chuckled.  "I thought you were upstairs."

     "Outside.  Hopkins' wife...  Lisa, I think?  After Dani showed us our
rooms, she said she wanted to look around the gardens, but hubby was too
tired.  So I volunteered to go with her.  We looked around a while, but I

     Scott raised an eyebrow, trying to keep from laughing.  "You?  And
flowers? With another guy's wife?"

     Brad glared in that way only he could.  "Shaddap!  You know I like
the outdoors.  And this is about as outdoorsy as you can get.  You think
Tony really liked this place?"

     The unexpected question left Scott speechless for a moment.  "I guess.

     The other shrugged.  "No reason.  I'm gonna look around some more.
Wanna come?"

     "Nah, I'm going to see what the others are up to."  Brad shrugged
and headed towards the south wing while Scott made his way up the main

     After a moment, he returned upstairs, and started towards the north
wing.  He paused a moment in thought, then headed towards the south wing
of the house.  The first door he encountered shut just as he approached it,
and he heard the voices of the couple he'd just left.  The next he opened.
It was a library, a little musty and dusty, but a library nonetheless.  He
proceeded to the third door.  This one opened into a room scattered with
a large variety of knicknacks: model planes, model trains, model cars,
half-finished paintings, kites, anything else you could imagine.  He
also found Biff rummaging through these like a man on a misson.  Biff
straightened as soon as he heard the door open, spinning around.  "What
the hell are you doing here?" he growled.

     "I was going to ask the same thing," Scott retorted.

     "None of your goddamn business.  But if you gotta know, I was...
doin' an inventory.  This was Tony's uncle's stuff."

     "So why're you so concerned?"

     Biff snorted.  "I'm lookin' after Cindy's best interests."  He must've
seen the look of incredulity on Scott's face, for his own face darkened.
"I am!  We're all the family we've got left, y'know, ever since my aunt
over in England died.  We're the last of the line, even if we aren't blood.
We gotta look after our own."

     "Got a funny way of doing that."

     "I said, mind your own goddamn business.  How I treat my family ain't
none of your concern.  In fact, I dunno if you're good for Cindy right now."

     "And you are?"  The question, the challenge, hung unanswered.  Biff
finally replied, or perhaps not, by pushing past Scott and stalking out of
the room.  Scott took a final look at the mess Biff had left behind, and
shook his head.  By the time he left the room, more concerned about Cindy
than ever, Biff had vanished.  The house was totally silent.  Then it was
totally dark.

     No moonlight came in through the windows.  The hall was totally inky
black in front of him.  Scott managed to feel his way down the hall
to the balcony facing the main staircase.  "Hello?" he shouted.  Nothing
but the rain still surging outside answered him.  As his eyes became
adjusted to the darkness, he managed to make his way down the staircase.
He felt his way towards the south wing.  Cindy would know how to get the
lights back on, if such were possible; the storm might be responsible.
Remembering that the study door was in the middle, he made his way to
that door and twisted the knob.  It was still firmly locked.  He knocked,
then pounded.  "Cindy!  It's me, Scott!  Are you still in there?"

     Nothing.  He listened at the door for a moment, and thought he could
hear a flurry of movement of some kind in the room, but nothing else.

     Then he heard the gunshot.

     A surge of panic erupted in him.  "Cindy!"  His poundings became
more urgent as he pushed and tugged at the door.  It didn't give up a single
inch.  He almost didn't notice the dazzling beam of light fall across him.
Dani stood there, a bag hanging from her shoulder, flashlight in hand,
somewhat pale.

     "Was that...?"

     "A gunshot?  Yeah."

     "It came from the study?"  A nod.  "Is... Cindy in there?"

     "I think so."

     "Oh, no.  I can't believe..."  She stepped up to the door and pounded.
"Cindy!  Answer me!"  No response.  She turned towards Scott with a helpless,
panicked look that frightened him.  "Do you think...?"

     "What the hell's going on?"  Both jumped as Dani swung her flashlight
to her right.  Kevin held up his arms to ward off the sudden light.  "Hey!"
She lowered the flashlight somewhat.  "Something wrong?"

     "I heard a gunshot in there," Scott blurted.  "And Cindy's locked the
door and won't answer."

     "That's what it sounded like to me," Kevin confirmed.

     "Shot?"  The two turned, and Mikey Hopkins appeared, his wife arriving
at his side a second later, dressed in a white terrycloth bathrobe.  "I
almost thought it was thunder."

     Now Brad was there; the concern etched on his face was almost the
worst for its foreignness.  "What do we do?  Can't see a damn thing without
the lights."

     Finally, Dani took charge.  "Look, you try to get in there somehow." 
handed out flashlights to each of them from her bag.  "This old place has had
a couple of blackouts before; I believe in being prepared," she explained.
"The fuse box is in the basement; I know the way, so I'll go."  In a moment, 
she was gone.

     "Try breaking the door down?" Brad asked.

     "I don't think we can," Lisa said.  "It looks pretty solid."

     "Maybe Scott and me together," he replied.

     "Worth a try."  Together, they tackled the door as if it were a
hapless quarter back.  Four or five times they put their shoulders to the
door until they could almost feel the walls shudder with the impacts under
the combined weight of their charges.  Yet for all their blows, for all
the violent shaking the door gave under them, the hinges and locks held
firm.  The two caught their breath, shaking with exertion and frustration.

     "Wait."  Scott straightened.  "There are glass doors on the other
side of the room.  We can get there through the verandah." 

     "So how do we get there?" Kevin asked.

     Mikey swung his flashlight down both ends of the hall; on the west end 
the group could barely see a door leading to the west side of the
verandah.  "There!"

     Brad nodded.  "Let's go."  As one, the assemblage charged down the
hall and ripped open the door.  Scott soon found himself standing on
the verandah, right next to the southwest corner of the house.  Something
bothered him for a moment, which tickled his brain until he realized what
it was.  "Hey, it's stopped raining..."  He turned towards Lisa, whom he'd
sworn was right behind him, but saw only darkness.  He looked forward, and
saw jiggling beams of light leading the running group forward.  As he ran
to join them, he heard Brad's voice ring out from the darkness in front
of him, "Is this the room?"

     "I think so," Lisa said breathlessly.

     "Let's see," Mikey answered.  Scott caught up to the group just as they 
shone their flashlights through the glass doors.

     The fire was still burning in the fireplace, casting minimal light
through the room.  Scott saw the flashlight beams play across the couch,
then the desk.  Then a formless lump barely visible behind the desk.  Scott
tried the doors, but they too were firmly locked.  But at least these were
only glass.  "Stand aside."  The group obeyed as Scott grabbed a deck chair
and swung.  The right glass panel shattered into a million glittering
fragments.  Kevin stepped forward.  His shirt was plastered to his back
by sweat; Scott wiped prespiration of his own brow as Kevin reached into 
the room and pulled up the door bolt.  He and Brad pushed open the doors.  
Scott followed, barely feeling the crunch of glass or the wet squishing of
carpet under his shoes.  He could only feel his stomach churn as he turned
flashlight towards the desk.

      Cindy still sat in the leather chair, but slumped.  In her lap,
cluched loosely in her hand, was a pistol.  A trickle of blood ran down
her white blouse from an ugly splotch on her chest.  Lisa screamed.
Mikey stepped forward and gently pushed her hair away to feel her neck.
He gasped as her eyes fluttered, and her breath came out in a rasp.

     "She's still alive!"  Scott leaped forward, nearly getting his feet
tangled in something soft bunched up at Cindy's feet.  He swept Cindy out of 
the chair and into his arms.  He ran to the sofa and gently laid her down, 
wadding up her coat to use as a pillow.  She was starting to regain some 
semblance of consciousness, and the group huddled around her.  "Cindy!  Can 
you hear me?"

     "Sc... Scott..."  Her voice was staccato and fading.

     "Oh, honey, you'll be all right," Lisa whined reassuringly.  But Cindy
would obviously not be all right.

     "Cindy, what happened?" Brad asked urgently.  "Was it an accident?  Did
you..."  The unspoken question hung like an iron weight in the air.

     Cindy barely had the strength to shake her head an inch.  "No...
Murder...  Tried to kill..."

     The room turned cold.  Scott looked up to the huddled, stunned faces.
"Murder?" Kevin finally choked.  "Someone tried to kill you?"

     "Who?" Mikey burst out.  "Who did this to you?"

     She weakly shook her head, tried to raise her arm, but it merely fell
to her side.  "Oh...  Tony..."  With that, she closed her eyes and quietly

     It was almost like a photograph, the way the group stood around
the couch, in the light of the crackling fire, staring at the body lying
in front of them.  It was almost unreal, the scene before them.  Perhaps
that was why none of them could move.  If they did, they would have to
admit the reality, and that was one thing none of them wanted to do.  The
lights came back on, but no one noticed until there was a knock at the door.

     Robot-like, Scott approached the door.  Just like it had been when
he was last in the room, it was firmly bolted and tightly chained.  He
undid the bolt and chain, then turned the key that still hung limply from
the keyhole.  He opened the door to find Dani and Biff standing in the hall;
the former was out of breath, and the latter merely looked irritated. 
Withouta word, the two shoved their way past Scott and into the room, then
part of that frozen tableau.

     "Holy...  Cindy..." Biff muttered under his breath, looking more lost
than Scott had ever seen him.  He turned to the others, baring vicious
fangs.  "Which one of you bastards hurt her?"

     "None of us!" Kevin shouted.  "Both the doors were locked when we busted

     "That's impossible!" Biff nearly screamed, showing an incredible grasp
of the obvious.  "Cindy'd never kill herself..."

     "She didn't," Lisa replied quietly.

     "So it had to be one of you who did it!  So how'd you do it?!"

     Mikey drew himself up in outrage.  "One of US?  I resent the implication
that me or my wife had anything to do with..."

     "I bet you do," Brad said quietly as he flipped through one of
the file folders scattered about the desk.

     "And what do you mean by that?"

     Brad held up the folder.  "This looks like a financial report done on
Tony's uncle's company.  And *this*" here he held up another folder "is
a copy of your own financial records.  Quite a lotta red ink there."
     "There is?" Lisa asked blankly.
     "Give me that!" Mikey cried, grabbing for the file folder.  Brad quickly
whisked it out of his grasp.

     "Don't look at me," Kevin cut in.  "The minute I got to my room, I
was trying to sleep.  At least 'til the lights went out, anyway."

     "You sleep with the lights on?" Biff asked in puzzlement.

     "No, you dimbulb, I was *trying* to sleep.  The bathroom light was
still on; besides, I could see the lamps in the garden from my window.
That's how I knew."

     "We were together," Lisa suddenly said, grabbing her husband's arm.
"In our room."

     "So was I," Biff put in.  "Upstairs, I mean.  In my room.  Alone."
     "Wait a sec," Dani interrupted.  "Your room's the middle on in the
north wing, to the right of mine, right?  Brad shares your room.  Where
was he?"

     "In the library," Brad answered.  "Reading, until the lights went
out.  When that happened, I started feeling my way downstairs, to find
out what was happening.

     Kevin frowned in suspicion.  "So no one can vouch for either of you?"

     Biff stiffened.  "You callin' me a liar?"

     "Hey, look at this."  Lisa gingerly picked a charred piece of paper
from in front of the fireplace.  "Looks like someone was burning something."

     "Letters," Scott said immediately.  "There were letters from Tony
on the desk when I first came in here."  He swept aside papers from
the desk.  "Not here now."

     Kevin took the paper from Lisa.  "It's in his handwriting, all right.
I'd know this mess anywhere."  He squinted.  "We're finally going to hash
things out this weekend...  Go out to the lake and discuss...  Is bad
stuff, Cindy, and I'm afraid of what might happen..."

     "Oh my God," Dani breathed.

     "Tony..."  Kevin looked up from the paper in horror.  "He was murdered,

     "That's why one of you killed Cindy!" Biff cried.

     "One of US again?" Brad snapped.

     "Why should we believe you're innocent?" Kevin chimed in.

     "I certainly didn't do it!" Mikey huffed.

     "No one said you did, hon," Lisa cooed.

     "Stop it, all of you!" Dani shrieked.  Immediate silence.  "I'm going
to try calling the police.  I'll be back.  Don't ANYONE move or touch
anything!"  She stalked out, leaving the rest shell-shocked.

     "What's with her?" Biff wondered out loud, once again being the first
to break the silence.

     "Her best friend was killed, you moron," Brad retorted.

     "No."  Scott's firm statement surprised everyone, especially him.
"It's not just that."  Again no one said anything.

     "The killer had to get out somehow," Mikey finally said, and in silent
agreement, the group began to search, each studiously avoiding touching
anything else.  Scott carefully made his way around the perimeter of the
room.  The study was surprisingly quaint and low-tech; besides
the antique lamp next to the desk, there was not a single electrical
appliance in the room.  Besides the pictures on the wall, the couch, desk,
and chair, the room was almost painfully empty, nowhere to hide secret
passages.  The floor was bare hard wood, so a hidden trapdoor was
impossible.  The door to the hall was as solid as Scott had thought, and
he knew that the glass in the door to the verandah was untouched before
he shattered it.  He also knew that before he did that, those doors were
certainly locked, and examining the bolts, he decided that there was no
way someone on the outside could've somehow forced them down.  They had
to have been locked from the inside.

     So someone had shot Cindy and left behind a room with two solidly
locked doors.

     Lisa shuddered in the cold wind blowing from the broken glass door.
In a rare display of sentiment, Kevin took his coat off and gently placed
it over her shoulders.  She nodded gratefully.  Mikey frowned at this
for a moment, but said nothing.  Brad finally put his cap back on his head
as Biff worked his way into one corner of the room and slumped backwards,
his face morose, staring at each of them in turn.

     Scott could take no more.  He finally ran out of the room, looking
about for Dani.  A quick once-over of the house showed that she was
nowhere to be found within.  Therefore...

     Another peal of thunder outside, and rain once again began to fall.
Heedless of this, Scott headed to the front door, grabbed an umbrella, and
opened it, showering the hall with thousands of tiny beads of water.  He
yanked open the door, and ran out into the pouring rain.

     Dani was sitting under a tree near the foot of the driveway, staring
into space, ignoring the rain soaking her through.  Scott held the umbrella
over her head.  "It's warmer inside, y'know."

     "Don't care."  A moment of silence.

     "Did he know?"

     Dani's head snapped up, panic evident in her eyes.  "How did you...?"
     Scott smiled a crooked smile.  "Hey, if there's one thing I know,
it's how a lady looks when her heart's breaking."  He hunkered down next to
her.  "Tony know how you felt about him?"

     Dani snorted.  "Of course not.  What good would it have done?  He was
in love with Cindy.  I was just like... a little sister to him.  And only
because I was Cindy's friend."  She laughed bitterly.  "Wouldn't that have
been something if I had told him, huh?  How would that have turned out?"

     "Maybe with you pushing him over the edge of the yacht in a jealous
rage," he said before he could stop himself.  It wasn't the first time
he'd said something to a woman without thinking, but by the time he
realized it, it was already the most painful.

     To his surprise, she hardly seemed to react at all, just looked up at him,
rain dripping from a curl at the front of her head.  "You really think
I'd do that to him."  She stood.  Scott steeled himself for yet another slap,
but none came.  She simply trudged her way past him.  "You hardly know me,
but you assumed I'd kill someone I loved."  She looked back at him.  "You
don't know me.  You can't assume anything."  With that, she vanished back
into the house without another word.

     But Scott barely noticed.  Her last words rang in his ears over and over
again until he almost fell to the ground with the weight of it all.  She
was absolutely right.  It came to him in an explosion of memory and thought
and image.  He knew.  He knew how it had happened.  He knew who.
     He wished he didn't.

[Solution below...]

A map to help get you oriented:

The house is shaped like a C, with the driveway in the center.
Surrounding it on all sides is a garden; a verandah runs outside the north
and south sides.  All first-floor rooms have glass doors leading to the

The rooms are oriented as follows, with up being north:


|D| <-----------Driveway

A: Dining room 
B: Kitchen 
C: Staff bedrooms 
D: Staircase between first and second floors (faces main foyer)
E: Lounge
F: Study 
G: Master bedroom



A: Dani's guest bedroom 
B: Biff's and Brad's guest bedroom 
C: Scott's and Kevin's guest bedroom 
D: Staircase between first and second floors 
E: LMikey and Lisa's guest bedroom 
F: library 
G: hobby room 

By the time Scott entered the study, everyone was gathered there.  Biff
stood over the couch, staring mournfully down at his cousin's body.  Mikey
and Lisa stood by the fireplace, while Kevin leaned against the wall next
to the glass doors.  Brad was sitting behind the desk; Dani sat at the edge
of it, still staring downwards.  She looked up as Scott entered, but
showed no flicker of reaction from earlier.  "I called the police," was all
she said.  "The sheriff should be here any minute now."

     "Should be enough time," Scott mused.

     "Enough time for what?" Kevin asked.

     "To show you who killed Cindy and how."  Despite his expectations, no
one laughed.  No one even seemed to breathe.  They all just stared at Scott
as if he'd grown two extra heads.

     "The killer," he started, buoyed somehow by the attention he was
getting,"could only have gotten out one way.  I was standing outside in the hall
when the shot was fired.  The carpet in front of the glass doors was wet
when we entered, even though it had already stopped raining.  There was
a wet umbrella in the hall, one no one admitted to using.  The curtains
covering the glass doors were closed when I was last in this room.  Now
they're open.  All this means the killer *had* to get out through the glass 
doors to the verandah.  Period."

     Brad sighed.  "In case you're forgetting, genius, the doors were
locked from the inside when we got to them.  Whoever killed Cindy
couldn't have gotten out from there."

     Scott shook his head.  "A little while ago, Dani told me not to make
assumptions.  She was absolutely right.  We shouldn't."  He approached
the glass doors, not feeling the wind or rain blowing in from the hole he
made.  "Why do we think that the glass doors were locked when the shot was
fired?  Because we ran back here to find them locked from the inside.  But
if they were, the killer wouldn't have been able to escape this room and
leave the door to the hall behind bolted.  So we stop making that

     "Let's start from the beginning.  Cindy reads Tony's last letter.  She
finds out that one of us was up here when Tony died, someone who had
reason to kill him.  Cindy's bewildered; she knows and likes this person,
and can't think of any motive for killing Tony.  So she invites this person
to the study to ask face-to-face whether the letter is true.  Because that
was the kind of person she was.

     "The letter is true.  Tony's killer knows that Cindy can't live to
reveal what she knows.  A plan is formed; it'll look like Cindy committed
suicide.  How?  With a locked room.  The killer draws a gun and holds it
on her, planning to force Cindy to write a note, then shoot her.  When
the lights go off, it's even more perfect; none of us will ever see the
killerleave the study.

     "Then I knock on the door.  Cindy takes advantage of the distraction
to fight for her life.  In the struggle...  The gun goes off.  Cindy
collapses into the chair.  I start knocking harder, calling for her.  The
killer knows that the plan has to go into action, and fast.  The killer wipes
off the gun, grabs Cindy's umbrella to keep dry, takes the key to the
hall door, and runs into the hallway, where he, or she, meets us."

     Scott cleared his throat.  "He mixes in with the rest of us, waiting
for his chance.  He gets it when we finally decide to run around to the back
to try the glass doors.  But he has to work fast."

     "Uh, Scott?" Kevin interrupted.  "I hate to say it, but we found the
door chained, bolted, and locked from the inside.  The door *was* locked when
we tried it, remember?"

     "Like Dani said...  We can't make assumptions.  Picture it.  The door
is locked, but it's NOT chained.  It's NOT bolted.  The killer just unlocks
it with the key, runs across the room, and shoots the bolts on the glass
door, then runs out and joins us at the glass doors.  Like I said, he
had to work fast."

     "Wait a minute," Mikey protested.  "Joined us at the glass doors.  What
about Biff and Dani?  Couldn't they have done it and not worried about
catching up with us?"  The two named individuals bristled.

     "But they couldn't leave the door bolted and chained as we found it.
The only way the killer had to get out was the glass doors.  The only
time to lock them was between the time the shot was fired, and the time
we found them locked.  That means the only chance the killer had to bolt
the hall door was when we first broke into the room.

     "After all, if the key was still in the keyhole when the shot was
fired, as we found it, why didn't the pounding Brad and I did on the door
knock the key right out?  Because it was in the killer's pocket.  When
we broke in, we were all predictably pretty focused on Cindy.  The unexpected
darkness made it a lot easier for the killer to sneak over to the door,
chain, bolt, and lock it, then put the key in the keyhole.  When the
lights came back up, there was a perfectly locked room.

     "It must've been a pretty rude shock when he saw that Cindy was still
alive, and managed to tell us that she'd been murdered.  Locked rooms are
worthless unless you have a suicide setup.  But the killer didn't have any

     "Wait," Mikey said suddenly.  "If the hall door was locked while we
were running to the verandah, then the killer had to be missing during that
time, at least for a while."

     Scott nodded.  "I remember looking behind me when we first got out
there, and seeing no one.  So whoever first got to the glass doors..."

     "I was the first one there," Brad said firmly.  "You all heard me."

     "I remember that," Lisa nodded.  "Mikey was there too."

     "I can vouch for both of you," Mikey confirmed.  "So who else was there
that none of us remembers hearing speak...?"

     A dull thudding silence descended.  One by one, seven pairs of eyes
turned towards Kevin Nekohashi.  His own eyes widened.  "Wait..." he
sputtered.  "Wait just a goddamn minute!"

     "You were the one I didn't hear or see when we first ran out into
the verandah, Kevin," Scott said quietly.  "You were too busy running to
join us after you locked the glass doors."

     "You're crazy!" Kevin shouted.  "How do we know it wasn't you?"

     "Dani was by my side a second after the gunshot," Scott replied.  "And
there's nothing in here that could've faked that.  Which brings me to a

     Kevin snorted.  "What?"

     "Your bedroom was on the far end of the north wing upstairs.  You
said that you'd never been here before, like the rest of us.  You also
said that you were in your room until the lights went out."

     "So what?  It's true!"

     "So how could you have been second to show up, right after Dani?  How
did you beat everyone else downstairs from the other side of a house you'd
never been to before in the dark?"  No answer came.  "That's because you'd
not only been here before, but you were already downstairs.  You had to do
things in a big hurry.  So big, you forgot something that almost gave you
away at once."

     By now, Kevin seemed as hypnotized as the rest.  He coughed.  "What?"

     "When I first approached Cindy, I almost tripped over something soft.
But there aren't any carpets in this room, and Cindy's a neat freak.  So
what was it?  That's what made me remember another question for you."
Scott paused for a breath.  "How did you get your coat back, Kevin?"

     He blinked.  "What?"

     "When we were out on the verandah, you didn't have your coat on.
I remember seeing the sweat on the back of your shirt, sweat from all
your running around.  But just now, you gave Lisa your coat.  So I ask
again, Kevin..."  Scott's eyes turned cold.  "How did you get your coat

     Lisa gave a muffled yelp, tearing the coat off her shoulders as if it
were poisoned.  Silence reigned; the expression on Kevin's face was
unreadable.  "I..."  He stopped, swallowed, and tried again.  "I took it
off because it was so hot.  I must've dropped it when we were struggling.
I almost had a heart attack when you stepped on it, but you never looked

     "You son-of-a-bitch," Brad growled.  "You killed Cindy?  And Tony?!  He
was your best friend..."

     "I didn't want to!" Kevin shrieked.  "You think I wanted to kill them?
Any of them?"  His face trembled, as if he were on the verge of crying.
"A couple of weeks after the wedding, Tony and I were driving back to L.A.
from Vegas.  It was early morning, and I'd been driving the entire way.
I was keeping the gas pedal down to make up for lost time.  We were
passing through this small town outside the desert.  I don't even remember
closing my eyes.  When I opened them, this little girl was running across
the street.  At 7 am!  What kid is awake at 7 am?  I tried to swerve, but...
she..."  He closed his eyes, as if seeing the scene again, and continued.
"Tony was woken up by the impact.  By the time he got his voice back, we
were five miles out of town.  He kept telling me to go back, but all I
saw was jail.  Can you imagine me in jail?  I'd rather die than go to
prison.  I'd be killed there in a couple of weeks.
     "I begged Tony not to say anything.  There weren't any witnesses, so
no one would never know.  But I knew it was eating him away.  When he got
the house, he invited me up.  I knew what was going on when we went out to
the lake, but I didn't think he'd be so... so... stubborn!"

     Kevin's fists clenched.  "I pleaded with him not to turn me in.  But
with his conscience, and his marriage, he kept on saying he didn't have
a choice, that he didn't want to, but that I'd killed a little girl and I
had to own up to it.  He actually picked up his cel phone and started to
dial the police.  My best friend was going to turn me in for a goddamn
hit and run!  I tackled him, trying to get the phone away from him.  But
he was so surprised that he lost his balance.  He fell over the railing
and into the water.  I kept waiting for him to come up but he... never...

     It was another moment before Kevin could continue.  "I swam back to
shore.  No one knew I was there, so I thought it was over.  I didn't
know about the letter until Cindy showed it to me.  I bought a gun on
the streets last week, I dunno why, maybe I knew that..."  Kevin sank
to his knees.  "I didn't mean for it to happen.  I didn't want to.  The
kid...  Tony...  Cindy...  I didn't want any of them to die.  I just didn't
want to go to jail..."  As he fell totally silent, lying almost fetal on
the ground, no one moved, not even when the sheriff knocked on the front

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