A Mantis And A Goat Walk Into A Bar

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I frantically began running back and forth, reflecting on all the evidence I acquired so far. The Jazzheads had given me information that wasn't all as useful as I hoped about Bellhopper since he was immediately disproven as a culprit by the Beast himself. It couldn't have been Chef either, since by the account of the Jazzheads he hadn't moved at all from his kitchen, and even if he did commit the murder, he would have consumed the remains of the unfortunate victim, which wasn't the case this time. If it wasn't either of them, then I needed to seek my answer elsewhere. I was back at square one, and to make things worse, there were only two people left who I hadn't interrogated yet, Housekeeper and Concierge. I was running out of time.

I struggled to not bite my nails out of nervousness. It was a bad habit of mine that I showed when I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. For the longest time, my experience allowed me to remain in control of my own emotions, but this was unlike anything I've ever done. If I couldn't find any evidence that one of the last two suspects was guilty, I would definitely be in a lot of trouble. I was starting to fear I wasn't analyzing the situation properly, but for the moment, I tried to keep that thought away to not completely lose my mind. I got back to work and walked to one of the large halls of the Terror Hotel, where I found Housekeeper sweeping the floor. She looked too preoccupied to notice me immediately.

She was, of course, covered in blood. If I had a nickel for every time I saw one of the suspects covered in blood, I'd have two nickels, which isn't a lot, but it's concerning that it happened twice. The staff of the hotel was far more disgusting than I remembered, and the gruesome sight didn't help me remain all that distracted from my worrisome thoughts. It didn't phase me as much as it did when I saw Chef covered in blood, which greatly preoccupied me, but I didn't have the time or energy to focus on that. I was going to turn into minced meat if I didn't hurry up, just like the unfortunate victims that the staff killed before me, so I decided to make it quick.

"Miss Housekeeper, I believe the Gentleman has told you about the interrogations. Please tell me what you were doing before the murder, for starters."

I held onto my notebook tightly, as I prepared myself to write down everything she was going to say. The short creature took a few minutes before she bothered to turn to face me. I heard stories of people being brutally beaten to death by her if they were to interrupt her job, so I was glad that the Beast told her about my visit in advance.

"I was sweeping, it's my duty to sweep and clean. I clean up all that's dirty and unwanted."

She answered nonchalantly, as if what she said didn't hold a disturbing double meaning. I ignored her statement and decided to entirely focus on being professional, as hard as it was in that situation. I would have time to throw up later, but I had to figure out if whatever Bellhopper told me was true first.

"I need some more information, Miss Housekeeper. Where exactly were you sweeping? Did you see anyone else? Do you have information on someone who could have potentially had a motive to attack Comedian?"

Housekeeper pondered for a while. Her strange mantis eyes twitched in several directions, as she emitted strange noises. Then, she finally spoke again.

"I was sweeping in one of the hallways close to the Boiler room a long time before the body was found. I saw Comedian and Concierge arguing about something. Concierge called xem a bastard, and the two fought. Then our boss came alongside Bellhopper and separated the two. I believe he probably talked to them both separately after the argument to make them apologize.

I glanced at the notes of what Bellhopper told me during the previous interrogation. Most of what Housekeeper said matched his testimony. However, she omitted the fact that Bellhopper saw her with Comedian afterwards, just in front of the Boiler room. I needed to discover if Housekeeper was keeping more information from me.

"What did you do after they left? Did you stay in the hallway or leave to go elsewhere? Don't miss out on any detail."

I decided to put some pressure on her in hopes of her spouting a nonsensical lie that would prove she was hiding something. She seemed unphased, however. That made me feel quite frustrated, but I kept my composure as she answered.
"I went to the Boiler room and Comedian arrived there after ten minutes. I ignored xem and went back to sweeping. He looked out of it and I am not equipped to be a therapist. I left xem there when i was done with my job. I already clean after xem every day, so I didn't want to also become an emotional support rock in that moment. I'm far too busy for that."

Her testimony lined up with what Bellhopper claimed. However, there was no guarantee that she actually left and wasn't lying. After all, Bellhopper claimed that she was quite frustrated with Comedian's lazy behavior, which was due to xem often forgetting to throw out the trash xe left behind. That moment would have been the perfect occasion to kill xem, but there were no traces of blood to prove xe had been moved from another location, not unless they were cleaned by her. But would she have been that sloppy to leave all the blood on herself? It didn't feel like something she'd do, being a professional housekeeper. Still, I tried to continue on this route. She admitted being annoyed by his lazy behavior, and this was probably the key to uncovering the truth; therefore, I had to insist.

"You didn't like Comedian's laziness, did you? It made your job harder. Wouldn't this situation be the perfect moment to strike and make xem pay for giving you such a hard time?"

Housekeeper took no time in replying. She didn't seem pressured or in danger of being exposed for her crime. It didn't resemble the behavior of someone who could have potentially already been caught. Was I on the wrong path? Did Bellhopper assume something false?

"Don't misunderstand. Xe was annoying for sure, but xe never disturbed me while I was doing my job. I only discipline those who disturb me. Cleaning the leftovers of the rest of the staff is my passion, and the others know that very well. I hate having nothing to clean, and Comedian kept me quite busy and entertained. I had no reason to kill xem, but Concierge did. After all, the two had a fight, and Concierge looked very furious during it."

That gave me confirmation that Bellhopper most likely misunderstood the situation, which left me with only Concierge as a tangible suspect. He was actually seen being hostile toward Comedian as opposed to Housekeeper. It was my last opportunity. I sincerely hoped my final interrogation would be more fruitful than the other ones. The stress that was growing in my body became even more rampant, and Housekeeper noticed it immediately.

"You look very stressed, Miss Kaya. You deserve a nice meal for working so hard. Would you like some carrots? I heard they're good for the mind."

I felt quite weirded out by her sudden request, yet I also strangely found it kind. I was in fact hungry and stressed, but I didn't want to eat carrots out of all things. I much rather preferred eating the rest of the royal rations back in my office after everything was over.

"Sorry, but I don't really like carrots. They have a weird texture, and when they're boiled, they taste terrible. Thanks for the offer, at least. I'll be going now."

I began walking away in the hallway, only to be stopped by her words once more.

"Too bad; I suppose it's ironic that you hate them, detective."

I decided not to question her any further and shrugged off her weird remark. I ran without looking back to spare myself from the eerie situation. After much running, I finally reached Concierge's office, which was promptly locked. I assumed he was busy with his work since the door was locked, but I didn't even consider knocking, since I saw a shiny key right near the door. I assumed Concierge must have put one there for me to open the door since he was aware of my visit, or it could have been the Beast himself. Regardless, I took a deep breath and then entered the office.

There he was, sitting at the desk, looking busy and overworked. When he noticed me, he seemed both annoyed and relieved. I didn't know why he would be thankful to see a detective who could probably get him harshly punished, but it wasn't the time for such thoughts. I was glad to see that he wasn't covered in blood, at least.

"Greetings, Mister Concierge. As you know, I'm here for questions. I'll be asking for your whereabouts before the murder first and foremost." 

I was sure that it could be nobody else other than Concierge. All the roads led up to him, so I just needed to prove it at last. Concierge cleared his throat and recollected all his memories.

"Why, of course. I was outside for a while. I met Comedian, Housekeeper, Bellhopper and our boss in front of the Boiler room. Then, I spoke to our boss, and I was escorted back to my office by him. I've been here the entire time after that, miss."

He was rubbing his arms pretty strangely. All he said was accurate based on the previous testimonies I received. However, he left out the fight with Comedian and some other minor details. Why was he doing that? Was it truly because he committed the murder? I decided to press further.

"I heard from Housekeeper that you and Comedian had a fight. That makes you an obvious suspect, especially considering you left that out in your testimony. Do you have an explanation for why you fought?"

He visibly became frustrated, but he maintained his usual professional attitude. I was well aware that Concierge was the kind of guy who typically never showed his real emotions, so whatever he argued with Comedian must have been serious. He always had everything under control, so why wasn't that the case here?

"We argued about our condition in the hotel. Then, xe complained about some of our policies, so I told xem xe was being ridiculous! Then our boss came and lectured us both privately. I don't know what he told to xem, because I was immediately brought back here after the fight. I did not kill xem. I'm a mere observer, detective. Only the others do the dirty work, like murder."

I decided to use my last card in order to make him crack and reveal something potentially groundbreaking. I knew I was getting to him, because he was avoiding my eyes.

"How can I be so sure? You could have sneaked out and ran after xem to stab xem in the back. With your abilities, you would have known exactly where xe was."

He glared at me quite bitterly, as if I had just spat on him. He was beyond offended by my accusations.

"Boss locked me inside my office from the outside. How was I supposed to open the door and go after xem? You found the key outside, didn't you? That's probably where he put it. Unless you believe I am capable of phasing through walls, I wouldn't have been able to get to xem."

What he was saying hit me deeply. Concierge couldn't have killed anybody because he had been locked from the outside. I searched through every corner of the room for a potential other key, while he was watching me, almost taunting my desperate attempt at proving him guilty. To my disappointment, I failed to find anything relevant, and I was devastated by what this implied. He wasn't lying at all. But how was it possible? He had to be the killer. All the evidence pointed to him!

"You're… right. The key was outside, and you couldn't have possibly kept it out while simultaneously remaining locked in, but who could it be? There isn't any suspect remaining!" I thought out loud.

I was clearly panicking, and I had no other card left to place. I only had one hope left, and I internally prayed that it would have solved everything. It didn't matter if it would be cheating or not under the Beast's rules. I needed to survive at any cost. I couldn't break like that.

"You have the power to monitor everything going on in the hotel from the perspective of those inside it, right? Can you tell me what Housekeeper and everyone else were doing?"

Concierge gladly obliged. He seemed pleased to have proven his innocence and corrected me. I could see all his amusement in his gaze. He repeated exactly all the events i heard from the previous testimonies of most of those I interrogated, which proved that all of them were telling the truth. However, he could not give me an answer from the perspective of Comedian.

"Boss disabled the eye that kept track of Comedian because he was concerned I'd find xem and fight xem again. Of course, I do not have the eyes to supervise our boss and Bellhopper since they're the ones in charge. I cannot help you any further than that, so I apologize."

My world entirely crashed on my shoulders in that moment. I barely had any strength in my legs to leave the office. I was utterly lost, and I had no paths left to follow. None of the staff members looked guilty, not even Concierge. They didn't do anything suspicious, and all of them had a solid alibi. How was I going to solve this case? What could I possibly even do to figure out what I've missed?

I ran for as long as my legs let me, until I fell down from exhaustion. Tears were starting to swell up under my eyes, as I thought of my upcoming painful death due to my likely failure. I didn't want to die, not by the Beast of Level 5. There had to be something else, something that could help me redo this puzzle properly.

Unless… Would it be possible? I quickly skimmed over my notes. Reading carefully each line, I got a sudden realization. Of course, it made so much sense suddenly. Everything was linked. 

The culprit was right in plain sight the entire time.

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