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|Invitation to the Grave|
|Number of chapters:||5|
Invitation to the GraveEdit
Eight people gather at there old summer camp for a reunion. But something is very, very wrong...
Chapter One: A Week on the LakeEdit
One beautiful Moonlight Falls afternoon, Justin Lakes was zipping down the road to the beach on his Kenspa, in response to the invitation he had just received in the mail.
My old friend Justin,
- I would enjoy seeing you at a reunion for our old summer camp. If you can, please arrange for the week and weekend off. I know there's a lot of good memories to celebrate involved with old Camp La Shove, and more to celebrate now. Hope to see you there! ~Sam Riceman
Justin had stared at the message in annoyance. "More to celebrate now"! He was struggling at the bottom of the Military ladder to keep the apartment he had just rented, he had no new friends, and the love of his life had strode out of his grasp to Plumbob-knows-where. Yay, let's celebrate. Yet he found himself drawn to Camp La Shove. There were good times there, at least. Raiding the kitchen at night, swimming in the lake, and the first fire of tween love. And besides, he had a natural curiosity. So he found himself parking the scooter by a tree and walking towards the beach. A bunch of other people had already gathered there with familiar faces. Agatha Graive sat writing her dark poetry, looking as Goth as ever. June Green was being her usual plump, clumsy self. Aaron Richards, the ladies man, was hitting on the one person of the group Justin had never seen before, a tiny, dark-haired little creature who just stared at the ground while Aaron flirted. Then a taxi pulled up, and out stepped a figure that brought back so many memories. Swimming together, rummaging in the kitchen for cake, a beautiful first kiss, the biggest question of his life, and waiting for the bride whose hurt had kept her away. Pretty, fiery young Katie Johnson, the one that got away. He thought she had left town. She looked at him in surprise, then looked away as if ashamed. Something was up. She had never looked away. She had been fearless, shameless. At least on the outside. Yet she ran on the wedding day. All of his thoughts were then wrenched to the enormous white limousine that pulled up, scattering sand. Out stepped Sam Riceman, who then helped his wife Mary from the car. "Hello!" he said with a wave and his award-winning smile. "So glad you all could make it. We have a lot to celebrate this week! Mary and I's ten-month anniversary," All but Agatha clapped. "My new role as the lead male in the new movie, Skyscrapers, and," here he paused dramatically, "Mary's new kid!" Mary smiled."It's too early to show, though," she informed them, patting her belly. "And, I have an introduction to make," Sam continued. "This is my sister, Sarah," he gestured to the small newcomer, who shrank under everyones' gaze. "She'll be getting my old cabin, since Mary and I will take the camp superintendent's cabin."
It became standard quickly. June, who said she got fat by being addicted to her own cooking, made the meals for the group, when she got up early enough for breakfast. Mary liked to help her. They enjoyed everything on their plates, and June said she was glad that Sam had bought a lot of food. Sausages, pancakes, smoothies, eggs. Sandwiches, Fruit plates, stir fry, pork. Chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, hamburgers. Breakfast was a great time. She had promised to get up earlier the second day, saying there was going to be a breakfast surprise. Everyone sat hungrily around the table at eight thirty, thinking that June couldn't get up any earlier than a half hour early. But she wasn't there at nine twenty-one. "Oh, moodlet!" said Katie, jumping up. "I'm starving! Where is she?" She led the group into Cabin 3, the one that she shared with June. "Phew!" said Aaron, waving a hand in front of his nose. "Something smells." June was nowhere in her bedroom. Finding the bathroom door unlocked, Katie stepped inside and screamed. the rest of the group scrambled in to the sight of, in bathwater blue from sitting out all night, the dead body of June Green.
Chapter Two: A lot to think AboutEdit
The camp didn't panic too much. They were busy grieving over the loss of a childhood friend. One night, over the campfire, Katie broke the silence. "I'm staying. June would have wanted us to enjoy the trip." "Yeah," agreed Mary. "She wouldn't want us to just freeze." The others nodded and began to get up and head back to their own cabins. Katie sat there, tuning her beloved guitar halfheartedly. Justin stood in front of his chair, rocking on his heels. Around D string Katie looked up. "Yeah?" "Um, I kind of wanted to talk to you..." "Sit," she replied, gesturing to the chair next to her. "You know," he began uncertainly, "Someone so vigorous and happy as June, just going right out of the blue...It gives you a lot to think about." "Yeah. It kind of scares me." "It seems like we just think we're invincible, so we don't think it matters. But we might not get tomorrow. We have to seize the day, 'cause the next might not come." Katie nodded, biting her lip. "Katie," Justin continued, taking her hands. "If I die tomorrow, I don't want to die without love." He stood up, taking a small case out of his pocket. "Katie, do you still love me? I mean, would you try to, even though..." She got out of her chair, wrapping her arms around him. "I never stopped," she whispered. "Why would I?" "Well, I was insecure, and I made a big deal over what people said, and I--" "Don't give me that testing cheat. You are a great guy, and I love you." Her words were punctuated by a kiss that meant everything it could. A toast to love, life, and a fresh start on both.
The wedding itself was fairly quiet, only the people who were already there attended. There was, though, a huge celebration afterwards and everybody just had fun except for Agatha, who went to her cabin right after the ceremony, and Sarah, who felt sick. Sometime during the festivities Justin and Katie snuck off to be alone. Katie paused by Sam and Mary's cabin. "Shh." "What?" Justin was startled for a second by a raised voice, but it quickly settled back into the threatening tone that Katie had heard. "--should have known better than to use you. Everything, everything, was in place, and you mess it up! It's almost as if you were trying. I thought I could be sure of your loyalty..." There was a small murmur in response. "Good. Tomorrow you fix it, or else! Go over the plan in Agatha's cabin if you have to. Are we clear?" Another whisper, then silence. Katie pulled Justin away from the cabin. "We have to get in Agatha's cabin," she whispered. "There could be something that could tell us what's going on!" "Later. Something tells me whoever's in there wouldn't appreciate us knowing about that. At breakfast, when everybody's in the kitchen."
The next morning during breakfast, Justin and Katie didn't join the group. Instead they quietly opened the door to the cabin Agatha shared with Sarah. They stepped in, looking around carefully. Under an end table they found a small notebook. On the first page it read, "Kill the father first so he doesn't get away." Katie clapped a hand over her mouth. "Justin," she whispered, "someone wants to kill Sam!" "What the Netherworld are you two doing here?" Justin looked over his shoulder, quickly tossing the hit list back under the end table. Agatha's frighteningly dark face glared down at them. "Get out!" she yelled. "Stop reading my poetry! OUT!" They got out. "Do you realize what this means?" asked Katie after they were outside. "Agatha is going to kil Sam!" "Maybe," he replied, "But whoever is planning the murder is a man. Remember the voice? There are two people in this. And it might not even be Agatha. The guy said, 'go over the plans in Agatha's cabin if you have to,' not, 'go over the plans in your cabin.' " "You know," said Katie thoughtfully, "It might just be some dark play or something Agatha is writing. She said to stop reading her poetry." "But a character can't 'get away', and along with what we heard, I don't think that's it." "You're right. But something is very wrong here, and I can't feel safe."
Later in the day, they got a chance to talk to Sam alone. "So, what can I do for you?" He asked. "Um, well--" began Justin. "We think you're gonna get killed." burst out Katie. "What? Maybe you should lay off the Energy drinks." "She's not hyped up. We heard someone talking about messing up, and fixing it or else, and we found a notebook in Agatha's cabin that said "Kill the father before he gets away" and you have to be the father. You're the only one here who is expecting a kid." Sam paled for a moment, but tried to smile. "Sure, but why some big conspiracy thing? Agatha could easily have been going over notes for something with Aaron, or some guy we don't know. She's obviously into all that dark stuff." "But we didn't hear her talking, and someone mentioned her cabin. Her poetry is fiction." "Alright, I'll be careful, I guess, if you're so worried. It's getting late, maybe you guys should head bck to bed. I've gotta check on Aaron. He was feeling sick at breakfast, and Mary coooks well." Katie looked out the window and shivered. It was getting dark, and with all that was going on, she felt scared. "Justin?" she asked, as they walked back to the cabins, "Can you spend the night in my cabin? I don't want to sleep alone tonight." "Alright." Someone should have stayed with Aaron.
The next morning, Aaron was found dead. He had gotten up to vomit in the middle of the night, and was found sprawled on the bathroom floor. The paramedic who made sure he was dead said that she'd never heard of a sickness in which you die overnight.
Chapter Three: It has to EndEdit
The next morning, Justin was debating between getting out before he was next and taking Katie with him, or staying to unravel what was going on so as few people as possible would die and the culprit would be punished. He almost left the next morning, when Agatha brought in Wednesday's paper. Mary took the paper first, glancing over the pages. She stopped and read an article, then dropped the paper and let out a small cry. Hiding her face in her hands, she let the others read:
June Green's body, which was found the twentieth, was believed to have been drowned, as she was found dead in her bathtub at a summer camp she attended as a child. Further examination has shown traces of poison in her bloodstream, suggesting that her death was not accidental, and that she the poison took effect while she was bathing. Police will not disclose further information.
Later that day, Sam had a private talk with Katie and Justin. He drew a deep, shaky breath and began, "Guys, I don't want you to say this to anyone, I really don't want it to be true but here goes. Mary might have killed June. I don't know why she would, but it's the only thing that makes sense. She was the one who made the drinks the day June died, and she completely took over the kitchen the day when Aaron got sick and died. And-and I'm sorry I didn't believe you before. I think I could be next, with the papers you found. I-I just don't know what to do! I can't turn her in without evidence, and I don't even want to! Can you guys help me?" Justin decided to stay right there. "Of course," he said. "This has to be stopped, before anyone else gets killed. But you're right we need evidence, and we need to be sure. And Agatha might be working with her, if the plans are in Agatha's cabin and she made such a big deal. And you don't have to work with the drinks to poison them. We just can't eat here until we've figured it out." "Okay." "Don't be alone with anyone. Neither of you. We need to stick together. Don't trust anyone, particularly any guy from outside the camp." "Okay." Walking back to Katie's cabin, Katie said, "Justin, do you realize we're married and in a death scenario?" He nodded grimly. "Justin. If we're married tonight, act it, especially with the impending possibility of doom. Okay?" "Okay, but you can't always be in charge." She laughed. "Okay. I won't tonight." "Good." He pressed her lips against hers, making the most of life while they had it.
Justin found relaxing impossible, and he was glad that even Agatha, Sarah and Mary were on edge. When asked why she stayed, Agatha laughed and replied, "My work has boomed since June died. This stuff is great for my poetry, and it's a purely artistic choice to stay." but she was still jumpy. Sarah and Agatha slowly grew closer. Justin had Katie, Sam had Mary, though he was a very careful, but since Sarah didn't hang with Sam much, they started to confide in each other. Sarah began to talk. Agatha began to listen. Soon that friendship turned up an incredibly interesting fact.
Chapter Four: SecretsEdit
Justin, Katie and Sam tried very hard not to let their guards down, but as the tension grew it became harder and harder to not trust anyone else. Their meetings were often, but still, it was lonely. One day, Katie and Justin sat in Sam's cabin in silence, waiting for him. As the minute ticked by, Justin grew depressed. "Katie," he broke the silence, "Talk to me." 'What about?" she mumbled. He didn't like to see her so dejected. "Anything but this. Our plans for the upcoming year, maybe. Or where to go on the honeymoon." She sighed. "Justin, I want us to get out of here, with everything solved, so we can forget this and be a normal couple, forget that our marriage was based on the shock of a friend's death. Until we get an opportunity to do that, we have to focus on this." "I don't want you to focus on something that makes you not you." She jumped to her feet in anger, but whatever she wanted to say was stopped as Sam stepped in. "Sorry I'm late. I needed to talk to Sarah." "It's okay. Haven't you wondered why nobody else has died yet?" said Justin. "I'm wondering about the police," Sam replied. "Two people have died in the same week, in the same camp. Do they have pixels for brains?" "Seems like it. But instead, we have to investigate. What the Netherworld are they thinking?" Katie nodded. "Morons. Sometimes I think they believe it's just pretend, like it's some big game, and we're just a story line, or simulations with nothing to worry about. People are dying! If we don't solve this as a first priority, whoever did it will go unpunished," she said, with a pointed look at Justin, which he ignored, continuing, "I don't know what's going on here. Maybe the killers are just trying to make us relax. Whoever they are, they're making it sound pretty tempting." Sam nodded. "After this, I swear I'm going to relax in my hot tub at home, relax everywhere at home, and nothing will keep me from that." Katie nodded. "I feel just like you. You know I won't stop you." "I know you won't," Sam muttered. Then in a brighter tone, "I wouldn't let you." The rest of the meeting was fairly normal, asking about ideas that no one had, fidgeting around until it was over. As Justin stepped outside, he almost ran into Agatha, who had been standing outside the door. He was about to pull her into Sam's cabin to interrogate her but she stepped away. "Shh," she whispered, shaking. "I have to talk to you."
As they entered the kitchen, Justin pulled a knife from the knife holder. To be on the safe side. Agatha went and sat at the table, burying her face in both hands. He sat down across from her, setting the knife on the table. At the clang, Agatha looked up in alarm. "What's that for?" she asked. "Whoever killed June and Aaron," he said grimly. "Please no," she whispered, then shook herself and continued. "I was- I was sleeping in my room and I heard a weird clattering noise. It woke me up. I looked to the side and- and- Oh plumbob! Sarah was there, and she-she had a gun, and- it was pointed at me!" She shook violently. "I didn't really realize what was going on, it was a lot to take in when I just woke up. I- I asked her what she was doing with that gun, and where she got it, and she just sat down on the bed and said everything. When she was a little girl, her mother committed suicide, and her father made Sam move out before he was ready. Sam was always unstable, and something snapped. He home schooled Sarah, and all she says is that she won't talk about those years. She seems to think that all she's supposed to do is obey Sam without question. She knew that earlier on, Sam's relationship with Mary wasn't safe. She cheated on him- with- with Aaron." Agatha took a deep breath. "He was furious when Mary got pregnant. He- he thought it wasn't his." Justin remembered the words on the page. 'kill the father.' "He decided to kill Aaron and put the blame on Mary so she would go to jail. And- he- he was sick enough to try to kill us all to mask it! He wanted Aaron dead first, but Sarah made a mistake and poisoned the wrong coffee. She got it right the second time. Th-then we started to be friends, but-" she paused, beginning to cry, "I was going to be next!" She stopped and just sobbed for a long time. "Do you know why?" Justin gently said. "No!" she cried, her makeup forming dark tears over her face. "How could I know? I- I thought we were friends! But- but..." her sobs choked her words. Justin did his best to try and comfort her as he lead her back to her cabin. He gave her the knife from the kitchen and went to find Katie, to help him keep watch. The two of them sat by the bed all night, trying not to doze off. "Justin, is it really worth it? The whole strain of life and death? We're the only targets. If we just die, Sam will be done and no one else will get hurt. Maybe that would be better. Look at what's happening to us," Katie said grimly, nodding at Agatha, tossing and turning as she tried to sleep. "This is just so twisted. I don't know how I've stood it so long. We could just pull the plug on the whole Sim thing. We could stop." "Why would you want to, of all people? You never give up. You keep pulling. You're the strongest woman I know." Katie just shook her head sadly. "You don't know. You don't know how much I cry when I'm alone, even before this. I was never okay with my life. When I was four, my mom put me on the orphanage steps and said, 'Wait here, Katie'. I did wait. Until I found out she was never coming back. I poured my soul into my music. I had to be strong, then. It was better than crumbling so people feel like they have to carry you. That's the real reason I couldn't marry you." Justin was taken aback. "You married me now." She sighed. "I shouldn't have. Neither of us were ready. It was just the shock of a friend's death, I guess." "So, this marriage is a mistake?" "I'm sorry, Justin. I should have told you everything when you frist asked me to marry you. I didn't know how you'd react. I really loved Mom, but she chose to leave me there. It broke me. Like the murders are breaking me." Justin didn't know what to say. The brave, fiery girl he loved was never there. Just a facade. When anyone on the same lot as you could slit your throat in the middle of the night, he had trusted her. And he didn't know anything about her. And then she goes out and says they never should have married. "You're right," he responded, breaking the silence. "This is a mistake." She bit her lip. "Why didn't you tell me?" he continued in a whisper. "I could have tried to help. How am I supposed to love, comfort and protect you if I don't know what's wrong?" "You can't," she whispered back. "Then how could you let me try?" he never thought to say it then, to tell her how much it hurt him to see her cry. "I shouldn't have. It was wrong. I was wrong to think you could help me at all." She quietly got up and left.
Chapter Five: FlatlineEdit
Justin was jolted out of a light sleep by a scream. He ran outside and saw Katie racing towards him. "Hide!" she whispered hoarsely. He heard a gunshot and the window not two feet to his left shattered. Sam was running at them both, his eyes wild, a 54 NK Silverballer in his hand. Justin and Katie ran along the side of the cabin, avoiding being trapped inside. Agatha charged out, holding on for their lives to the knife Justin had given her. Sam fired twice before she fell to the ground. Without a break in stride he turned back to where Justin and Katie had been a moment before. Pressed flat against one wall of the kitchen, they where trying to quiet their heavy breathing. Katie quietly pressed something into his hand. By the light of the moon he saw that it was a small digital camera. "Evidence," she whispered. He barely had time to put it in his pocket before he heard Sam's yell of triumph as he found them. They shot off towards the beach and Justin was no longer aware of anything but the contact of his feet on the sand, the blood pounding in his ears and the fact that he was still being pursued by the one who wanted him dead. Then he heard a piercing scream and the world came rushing back as he turned and saw Katie crumple to the ground. He froze, and Sam grinned as he leveled the pistol at Justin's head. he began to wave, but stopped as a knife blade went through his chest. When it was quickly pulled back out, he collapsed, revealing Sarah standing behind him, holding Agatha's knife. She turned and ran to the forest as Sam's blood darkened the sand.
Justin stood by the door to Katie's hospital room. Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside. Dropping into a chair by her bed, he stared in horror. She looked so small and still, dwarved by the white sheets she was under. She had stitches on her arm and a bandage on her shoulder and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. She had needles in one arm hooked up to packs of liquids, one of them the dark, thick red he had seen more than he wanted to. She tried to smile at him, but between her cracked lips and her sad, lonely eyes, it was gruesome. To him, she was beautiful just for the fact she was alive. "Hey, Justin,' she said weakly. "I was hoping to see you." "They wouldn't let me in before today," He replied. "Understandable, from their point of view, considering all the work I've needed." Her eyes went to an X-ray on the wall. " Shot in the shoulder, hip, collarbone, lost a lot of blood, an infection in the shoulder, and I broke few ribs in the fall. That's what this is all about," she said, her eyes traveling to the oxegen tank that was pumping into the tube under her nose. "Sorry that I have to use my eyes to gesture, but I was advised not to move. Good advice." He nodded. "Justin," she said, and her voice was strained. "Where is he?" "Who?" "Sam. The sick guy who cut down so much life." "Dead, too." Katie's eyes clouded. "And Agatha. And Aaron. And June. And Sarah will never be the same, either. Where's Sarah?" "I don't know. After she killed Sam, she just ran off." "Make sure no one catches her. She deserves to enjoy freedom." "Alright." "You too." "Okay." "Justin, live well. Be happy." "Yes, Katie." "Justin, I take back what I said earlier. Our marriage was no mistake. You made me happy. Sorry. Sorry that I said all that stuff, and sorry that I didn't marry you the first time. Sorry that I ran off, and sorry that I thought I could get evidence from Sam's cabin on my own. Sorry. I'm sorry." Justin put his hand in hers. "You don't need to be sorry," he told her. "I shouldn't have made such a big deal. This is my fault." "Don't give me that testing cheat. You're a great guy, and I love you." she repeated. He bent forward and kissed her forehead. She craned her neck, kissing him back. "Justin, I have to go." "What? You can't. You have to recover." "Justin, I can't. The only thing that kept me alive is the hope that you would come to see me. I knew you wanted me to be awake for that." "That's impossible. I'll go get a nurse or somebody, and they'll fix it. They have to." "They can't. This has been too much, all of it. I just knew that I had to keep pulling until you got here." "You'll make it. You're the strongest woman I know. I was right about you from the start." "No one gets to choose. Sometimes,you have to go. But you do get to say your I love yous before you say your goodbyes." "I'm not saying goodbye." Katie sighed, then winced. "Can you at least tell me you love me? That means more to me." "I love you. I'll always love you." "I'll love you forever." her eyes began to glaze over as the fever takes hold. "Forever. Love you forever." she mouths the words one more time. A tear rolled silently down both of their cheeks as she flatlined.
Even when the last of them died, I never forgot. I never forgot them, June, Aaron, Agatha, especially Sarah and Sam and Katie. I sometimes think I'd like to forget, but I don't. They deserve to be remembered. I couldn't forget, even if I sincerely wanted to. I'll never look at life the same. There are people like Sam. If there was one who'd been pushed over the edge, how many more were on the brink? I joined Moonlight Falls Law Enforcement, to keep anything like that from happening again. It wasn't the last time I would be in so deep. I know too much not to care, or not to try. So I do.
Next work by Hurshbr: The Woods of Bridgeport