The Final Answer

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I tried my best to collect myself, gathered all my notes, and stood up quickly. Yes, it all made sense at last. I may have stumbled my way through the investigation so far, but now I finally felt like I was in control.

I ran as fast as I could, with tears still blurring my vision, until I found myself once again in front of the door to Concierge's room. I stopped for a moment and leaned against the wall, trying to calm myself. It would be impossible to hide my agitated state, but I wanted to at least keep some semblance of professionalism. Eventually, I knocked on his door a couple times and entered without waiting for his response.

"Oh," he said in surprise. "It's you… again."

The whole mood turned akward. He clearly noted that I had cried, but we both did our best to ignore it and continue the conversation.

"Yes, forgive me for disturbing you again, but I must ask you a favor, a big favor." I waited a little while, trying to judge his response to my request, but after a few seconds of silence, I was forced to continue. "I need you to help me with your powers. I have managed to unravel this mystery, but in order to reveal it, I need to have all the staff present. Do you think you can bring them all together?"

"I see… Yes, I'll do my best. Shall I gather them all in the main hall?" He asked.

Huh. I had already prepared the arguments I'd use to convince him. To say that Concierge accepting to help me so easily was unexpected would be an understatement, but I wasn't going to grumble about having someone on my side for once on this goddamed investigation.

"Thank you, I… I can't say I was expecting you to say yes, at least not without some convincing." Despite my body telling me I should leave as soon as possible to start preparing myself for the speech that would decide my fate, my detective brain told me I should at least try to figure out his motivation.

"Don't get the wrong idea, detective; I just want to get over all of this." He said, turning his head back towards his monitors.

I felt like he was lying. Of all the staff members, Concierge seemed one of the least affected by the current situation, but that mystery would have to wait until after I was far away from the grip of Beast's tentacles to be solved.


I gave a big sigh of relief as I left Concierge's room. One thing less to worry about.

I pulled out my notes again and started going over my recent findings as I walked towards the main hall. If I wanted to walk away with my life, I would have to sound convincing, confident on myself. There could not be a shadow of doubt in my reasoning, not an ounce of hesitation in my body language. Yes, I thought, the clues fit perfectly, and there was no other viable path. It was a life-or-death gamble; I would have to trust my experience, my instincts, and, undoubtedly, the facts if I intended to survive.

I continued to revise my notes in my head, when suddenly I made an unconscious turn to the right and found myself face to face with the main entrance to the hall. According to my memory, I should still be a few minutes away, but I had already come to the conclusion that I would never understand how space worked in this damned place. If anything, I would still have a little time to get ready while Concierge finished gathering everyone together.

I pushed both doors with determination, unaware of what I would find on the other side. To my surprise, I found that the entire staff was already inside, carefully seated around me. Concierge, Housekeeper and the Jazzheads were expected; the presence of Chef was a little surprising, as I didn't know if Concierge would be able to convince him, but what threw me off completely was the Bellhoper, looking at me inquisitively. For a moment, I feared and looked around. If the Beast was here… but no, as I predicted, Concierge would still be unable to contact Beast, which meant I had a handful of precious minutes alone with the entire staff of the Terror Hotel.

A part of me, deep in my brain, was truly intrigued. How was it even possible to find, convince, and gather everyone so quickly? But there was no time to waste, so, without a second thought and using the last reserves of courage I had left, I stepped into the lion's den.

"Thank you all for showing up so eagerly," I began. "I know these last few hours have been frantic. I myself felt overwhelmed many times, but the moment has come to put an end to all of this. That is what I intend to do right now, if you will allow me."

I ran my gaze slowly over each of those present, trying to capture the reactions of each one in my mind. Housekeeper was sitting in an elegant crimson armchair. She didn't seem to be very interested in my deductions, as her gaze was fixed on the floor to her right. Next to her were the Jazzheads, standing in a tight group and looking uncomfortable, unable to keep still. Then there were Concierge and Chef, both further to the left of the room. Concierge was sitting in a wooden chair that seemed out of place in the room, while Chef stood in the corner, partially obscured by the gloom in that dimly lit area of the room. Lastly, there was the most confounding one: Bellhoper. He was sitting in the other armchair, between Concierge and Chef.

"The Gentleman…?" I asked Concierge. I wanted to make sure there would be no surprises.

"I wasn't able to locate him," he replied. "And I think I've already explained to you what that means."

"All right," interrupted Housekeeper, suddenly turning her gaze towards me. "Let's get this over with already; I— we, have work to do."

Chef made a sound that seemed to indicate his agreement with the comment, and so did the body language of the others. I didn't seem to have the most captivated audience.

"Okay, okay," I continued, straightening my back and raising my voice. "It all started the damned moment I crossed paths with the Gentleman. At that point, I was sure of only 3 things: Comedian was dead, killed by the slashes of a sharp object; Gentleman didn't do it, he himself was the one asking me to find out who did it; and neither did Bellhoper, Gentleman confirmed this as well."

As I finished my sentence, I used my peripherical vision to put as much attention into Bellhoper's reaction as I could without him noticing. There was not a pronounced reaction from him, but I managed to capture the slightest tilt of his head. What it meant would be revealed in the next few minutes.

"This was, of course, a solid start, but not nearly enough to close an investigation. And so you've seen me hop from room to room, researching, gathering, and asking for every little bit of information I could get my hands on. Wanna know what I found? Nothing!"

At this, I finally got a reaction from the room. With all heads, even Chef's, turned towards me, I continued: "I went from one staff member to the other, following the chain, only to time and time again find my main suspect cleared from suspicion and the blame shifted towards a new member of the staff. And now we are here. I've investigated all of you, and evidence says… none of you did it."

"So," said Housekeeper. "This means you are a terrible detective, and you didn't manage to figure out who did it after all. What a bother."

"To the contrary," I replied. "Every single one of your alibis coordinate perfectly, which can only mean two things. Either you are all telling the truth, or you are all part of an elaborate and calculated lie. Of course… it doesn't really matter which of the two options is correct."

"How can it not matter? Isn't the entire point of you to be able to figure out this kind of things?" Asked one of the Jazzheads.

"Well yes, but you see. Whether you lied or told the truth, there's only one who could have organized such an elaborate lie or done it if none of you did…"

As I got ready to deliver the final blow, a sound interrupted me. The entire room looked around trying to figure out what it was. Someone was approaching the room from the corridor on the right, and they were clapping. I immediately felt dread; the only person who wasn't here already was Beast, and my entire plan counted on me convincing the rest before he arrived. But before I could do anything, the incoming being talked.

"Wow!" said the voice, and it was nothing like what the Beast sounded when he recruited me all the way back. "Pretty good, pretty good young lady."

The figure approached until it finally reached the room, it was Comedian.

I looked back at the rest of staff in shock. My mind was drifting, unable to form any coherent thoughts. This was simply not possible; if Comedian was standing here right in front of me, then what was the point of everything I had achieved in the past few hours?

"You did say to gather everyone, didn't you?" said Concierge, and it was the only acknowledgement I got from the rest of the staff.

"Ah, you are back," said Housekeeper to Comedian. "I was hoping you would stay dead for a little longer."

My brain was barely aware of the conversation in the outside world. My knees faltered, and I felt so weak that I had to lean against the wall to prevent myself from falling.

"Ha! You wish!" continued Comedian. "Being dead really, really sucks. An extreeeeemely excessive punishment, if you ask me."

Punishment? But there was no time to think about that. Still dazed by the situation, I pushed myself off the wall to force myself back onto my two feet and took a few shaky steps towards Comedian.

"This… isn't possible… You are dead!" I managed to say, pointing my finger at Comedian.

"Errr, well, I guess I've seen better times," xe said as xe looked down to xir torn and bloody clothes. "But it can't be that bad, right?"

"Don't joke about this!" I grimaced at the irony of my own words. "Tell me, why aren't you dead?!"

"Wow, and ouch! Young lady, I would certainly love to, but I'd hate to be stabbed to death again, so I'll let him do all the talking."

A hand, no, a tentacle, gripped my shoulder, and I suddenly became intensely aware of the presence behind me.

Miss detective, we meet again.

I froze in place, not even capable of breathing.

What is it now? I believe you were right about to do your grand reveal, weren't you, Kaya Watson? he said, letting out a subtle laugh.

"I, yes," I started as I turned towards him, hoping he wouldn't notice the trembling of my voice, and body. "Though I'm not sure if it matters anymore…"

I felt deflated, utterly defeated. Anything I could try to do would be futile. There was no escape to him in the Terror Hotel, and if I really was the great detective I thought I was, then I should have figured that out since the beginning.

Oh, I wouldn't say that. I admit that, at first, you were merely a form of unforseen entertainment following Comedian's punishment— You can actually thank him for the suggestion he added, gesturing towards Bellhoper, who, unbeknownst to me, had walked up to just a couple of steps behind us. I'm sure you had a good time.

And yes, the original idea was to just torment you around until we got bored of you, then dispatch you. Beast continued, and as he said this, the rest of the staff made their way towards us, and encircled me. But as I said, you shouldn't discard the prowess of your investigation so easily. You gave us all a real show. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't amusing to watch you try to maintain the facade of the seasoned and experienced detective as you scrambled to make sense of my little ploy, but in the end you turned out to be much more… efficient than I anticipated.

I had to come up with something somehow. One last plan, one last ruse. There had to be a way out; there always was.

The deal still stands, and I can make you live another day. After all, simply taking your life would be quite a wasteful disservice when you can bring so much to this place.

"Alright, I see—" I said, trying to buy some time. But before I could continue, Beast made a quick movement, and I suddenly became unable to concentrate.

I looked around, finally free of Beast's tentacles. The rest of the staff still circled around me and the beast. There was no point of escape. Still, I had to try; a detective had to rule out all possible routes before giving up, but before I could take more than a couple of steps, my legs failed and I collapsed to the ground.

I didn't give up. I continued to crawl on the floor, and, surprisingly, the staff members made room and allowed me to pass through. This could not be the end, it simply could not end like this. I had managed to escape the impossible countless times. Defying reason and finding the hidden way, the hidden answers, was my bread and butter. Surviving this was just another kind of… of what? Thinking was becoming increasingly complicated.

I was about to reach the door when even my arms betrayed me, and I couldn't go any further. "Oh." was all I could muster before noticing the trail of red liquid I had left behind me.

Time's up, little rabbit.

The last bits of strength left my body, and everything turned black.


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