Pretty sure the surface wouldn’t have made much of an impact in the long run, given that the plates would’ve probably weighed less in total compared to the statuette, evening everything out roughly in terms of friction. And as for thermal expansion - changing the thermostat probably wouldn’t have affected something to rise or shrink to create a significant enough of a tilt to make a difference. Plus I don’t even recall the thermostat being explicitly touched during the dinner scene.
Either way, it’s a dead end. The floor was never tilted.
And just like that, they’d taken Uncle Krauss away. I can’t say I was really surprised. Shocked – a bit. I think we all were. None of us thought it’d have actually… well, happen. At least, I know I didn’t. But then again, not like anyone could’ve foreseen two brutal murders being committed in the first place.
Actually, three, I guess. He’d apparently killed grandfather too, right?
“Battler, are you okay?” Aunt Eva asked me.
“I’m fine.” I said, getting back on my feet. “Just… Just gonna go stretch my legs for a bit. Need to process everything that’s happened.”
It’s strange. Just hours ago, as we all sat in that very parlor, it felt like Uncle Krauss had managed to – or was trying to – bring us all together as a family. Even now, it doesn’t strike me as the action of a cold-blooded killer.
Nevertheless, no matter how I thought about it, I couldn’t say the police were in the wrong. The theory they ended up going with seemed like the only logical conclusion. Sure, when it comes to the murders themselves, there’s a lot of leeway when it comes to who could’ve done it.
Not so much.
I walked into the dining room. I’d gone over the whole matter of the letter with Aunt Natsuhi before she’d died plenty enough times, and we never seemed to reach a solid conclusion.
My game really was just that – a game. And it’s not like I’d told anyone I was going to do it beforehand. I was just trying to lighten the mood, for crying out loud. Not like I could’ve known it was going to end up in that letter.
But then again, going by the police – no mention of my game was in that letter to begin with. Uncle Krauss just lied then and there – pretending to read out something that wasn’t actually there, and creating the illusion of a letter that was able to tell the future. After all, nobody in the room had gotten a good look at the damn thing. The best I could tell was that it wasn’t just a blank piece of paper. I mean, it couldn’t have been. It’d been written on both sides. I think I had been the one to point out to Uncle Krauss there was more of the letter on the other side, actually.
I have to say, if he’d been making it up as he went along, it was pretty fast thinking. Genji claimed grandfather had entrusted him with presenting the letter. Uncle Krauss shouldn’t have known about it. Therefore, he really wouldn’t have had time to plan for… well, anything.
Then again – assuming someone else is the culprit, would THEY have had time to plan for anything?
The only way to explain it would’ve been something like this:
• If the culprit did not know that the letter would be placed by Genji, does that mean they had a plan to place a letter of their own that just happened to conveniently match up with what actually happened?
“Would’ve been a hell of a miracle.”
• The culprit found out about the letter being placed there without Genji or Grandfather ever needing to say a single word.
I slid my hands into my pockets and began walking around the table.
Even though it seemed unlikely, I decided to think about possible alternatives when it came to the culprit of that letter.
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I ended up assuming that only one person had to have been behind it. I suppose I was looking at it more as a weird game of some sort than a real life incident.
Guess that’s just the way I was.
“Alright, let’s see… Think, think…” I told myself.
The obvious thing to do would have been to start with the basics.
• Since nobody would’ve been able to predict my game, the letter had to have been switched. Or, to turn it around: the letter Genji had originally placed down couldn’t have possibly initially contained, at the very least, my game or the number Uncle Krauss had guessed.
Fair play, I figured.
But right from the beginning, you run into an issue.
• Since nobody would’ve been able to predict my game, the culprit had to have written one or more element of the letter on the spot.
That right there is the catch, I suppose. I don’t think any one of us could’ve just went and put their hands in their lap to start writing out a letter. But – perhaps I wouldn’t be giving the culprit enough credit with that line of thinking. Say they had found a way. Say that the game was the only thing that wasn’t anticipated, everything else was something they could’ve planned or set up in advance, and they decided to add it into the letter afterwards for shits and giggles, and that they did so without us noticing.
The much harder issue becomes:
• How do you seal the damn thing with wax without being noticed?
No, even beyond that:
• How do you have the Head’s ring to begin with? And why?
I guess someone could’ve just stolen it from him during the day, though. And he might’ve just not noticed it afterwards. He was old. So, it’s not that big of a deal, as far as I can tell.
Still, the wax thing does seem to be one.
Someone doing it from outside seems unlikely, as well. After all, in that case, even though you’re able to overhear and see what’s happening in the dining room, you’re unable to actually place the letter back.
The solution then becomes that someone who both gone in and out of the dining room is the obvious suspect… which leaves us with Genji and Shannon. But even that seems like a dead end. They couldn’t have switched the damn letter.
…I keep mentioning it. Well, I guess it’s another thing.
No, it might be the most important question.
Even if you can explain how someone writes up a nice little ol’ letter…
• How does the culprit switch the letter?
I walked over to the table. I examined it from every angle. There didn’t seem to be anything strange about it. No secret mechanisms, no weird tamperings or secret compartments. I tried shaking it, but it seemed to be firmly in place. I checked the chairs. Nothing off about them, too. I checked the lamps in the corner. Nothing suspicious there, either. Windows? Didn’t seem to be relevant in the slightest. The only remaining thing was the statuette – but it too didn’t seem to hide any secrets. It was just a normal statuette.
I took it and placed it roughly where I remembered Genji putting it. Obviously, I didn’t have a letter to place underneath it, but that wasn’t the point for the time being, anyway.
Then, I sat where I did during dinner.
I looked around me.
Admittedly, the statuette wasn’t in my field of vision when looking around the table. And yet, I would’ve probably noticed had someone near me tried reaching for it. You can’t just miss a hand outstretching like that.
The solution, in my mind, became some sort of mechanism through which the culprit had taken advantage of the fact none of us paid any attention to the letter, gotten it off the table and switched it, and then using the same mechanism, gotten it back into place.
Or, at the very least, maybe moved the statuette and the letter together during dinner so it got closer to where they were sitting, switched it, and then brought it back.
And just like that, another question.
• How and when does the culprit set up something like that?
And with it, another.
• How the hell do we not notice it?
• What guarantee would’ve the culprit had that most if not all of us would’ve paid very little attention to the letter and the statuette?
Assuming the plan was something like I’d just described, obviously, it would’ve been a plan with room for error. After all, had anyone at a certain point happened to look down and seen the statuette magically moving, it would’ve been pretty telling. What then?
• Just how much room for error is there, assuming something like this was done? And what are the chances of recovery in case something goes wrong?
If I was the culprit and trying to go for something like that, I would’ve found a way to minimize that. But how? Evidently, nobody had placed anything on our heads and forced us to look straight in front of us. And, assuming only one person was behind it all…
• All of our choices during that dinner would’ve had to have been our own.
From my game, to the number uncle Krauss picked, to whether or not we looked at the statuette… Whatever plan the culprit had come up with, they would’ve needed to take all of it into account. Plus, if none of the incidents were their direct doing – that would’ve had to have included Shannon’s incident with the cart and Maria’s food.
“So how the hell do you do it?!”
It escaped without me even realizing it.
It really did seem like Uncle Krauss was the most likely culprit. So why was I so upset? Could it have been that the mystery fanatic in me just couldn’t deal with the most obvious solution being the easiest one?
Or was I just jealous I hadn’t thought of it first…?
I shook my head.
It felt like, if Uncle Krauss was innocent, there was still something I was missing.
But investigating the dining room itself felt like a complete bust. I hadn’t found anything, but was rather just more confused. And annoyed. Confused and annoyed.
As I began to leave, I felt my left leg itch. As I slightly bent down to scratch it, I noticed something.
Directly in front of the door, maybe a few inches away from it, was a tiny hole. Its diameter was smaller than that of my pinky finger. We’re talking real tiny here. Not impossibly tiny, but still pretty damn small. There was no way you’d just see it without looking real close. It wasn’t very deep. I couldn’t stick anything in it to prove it conclusively, I admit, but I’m fairly certain.
How long had it been there? Hell, we must’ve stepped over it a million times without realizing. You’d never feel it just by passing your foot over it.
I wondered if it had something to do with the letter placing.
I looked at the hole. Then I looked at the rest of the dining room. Then back at the hole.
Then I got an idea. It wasn’t anything concrete. It was more of a feeling, I suppose.
I ended up borrowing several sheets of paper from Maria and sat down back into the dining room. I drew a rough floorplan.
And then, I began to draw out scenarios. Visualizing just a chessboard wasn’t going to cut it this time.
“If this went here… no. No, that wouldn’t work because that person would’ve… Maybe this? But in that case, when could they’ve…? Ah, wait, there was an opening… But how do you…?” I occasionally stood up and dashed around the damn room to confirm some of my suspicions, making sure I got certain details right.
In retrospect, I probably looked like an idiot.
But it made sense.
I leaned back in my chair. “Still… to pull of something like that…” It brought a myriad of questions all on its own. So many seeming contradictions.
Until I thought back on everything that had happened on the island up until that point. Everything that had happened during that dinner. Everything that happened afterwards.
Things started to fall into place.
My heart began to race. I could push it even further. I could add even more elements to it. I was sounding like some sort of conspiracy nut to myself trying to link all these seemingly insignificant threads, but the more I thought about it – the more it made sense.
Especially once I added the most loose thread of them all.
I began to see the full extent of the culprit’s cruel trickery.
In mystery, you’re faced with who, how and why. That leaves the impression that next to every question, there’s an empty line to fill out. And that’s the biggest trap here.
A mere line for this “how” isn’t enough. It isn’t just a sentence. It isn’t even a simple paragraph.
This was a fucking jigsaw puzzle.
A plan of ludicrous lengths.
All for a goddamn letter.
The chances of the culprit’s plan going awry at the letter stage, them getting caught and suspected as a result of it – slim. In fact, there was only a small window for it to go terribly wrong.
But they were confident.
They were confident, because they’d utilized our human weaknesses to their advantage. Holes… so many holes. The most devastating one was the reason for the plan itself – our way of thinking. That’s right… once Uncle Krauss had picked up that letter, it was game over.
Assume X, deal with Y.
Assume Y, deal with Z.
Assume Z, deal with X.
An endless loop of conflicting ideas. Like robots being fed a paradox.
And the worst part?
Even after putting all of it together like this, I still had no guarantee it was the truth. I had no proof. And most, if not all evidence, would have been gone by this point. After all, that was the beauty of all of it. You didn’t need much to pull it all off, and the things you did, you could get rid of easily.