“Code names,” Caesar began. “Code names are important and we are going to be using them for the rest of this voyage.” I started to pace around the room. “Now, you all received a letter, inviting you onto my yacht, I would like you to open those letters and reveal your code names out loud.”
“And I…” Caesar loudly declared. “Am Caesar.”
Marcus crumpled up his letter into a ball. “What is this all about?”
Caesar stared off longingly into the distance for dramatic effect. “One of you… is going to murder me.”
“What?” Junius exclaimed. “I’m on a boat with a murderer!” She cried clearly already panicking.
“Why would one of us kill you?” Brutus inquired. “I don't even know who you are!”
“We’ve never even met before.”
Chuckling, he said. “My apologizes. I am Caesar.”
“We got that.” Marcus sarcastically replied. “But why would one of us murder you?”
“Because I am about to systematically destroy each of your lives.”
“What?” They asked in sync.
A bell rang overheard. “Ah, that’s the dinner bell. The last time I’ll hear it ring. Blesses be. We’ve having my favorite. Kind of a ‘last meal’ type deal. Now if you would all so kindly follow me to the dining hall. Chop. Chop. Says the murder clock.”
“Oh my god.” Junius whispered under her breath. “This guy is seriously crazy. He’s going to kill us all.”
Brutus overheard her and squeezed Junius’s hand to reassure her. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.” Making Junius blush and smile just a tad.
Everyone followed Caesar to the dining cart. “Chef.” He called out. “Won’t you tell our loving guests what’s on the menu for tonight.”
“I bet something evil like human hearts.” Junius muttered, throwing herself into Brutus’s hold. Marcus rolled his eyes as he saw the new couple blossom.
“Wee. Wee.” The chef stroked his mustache.
“Man, I’m so good I splurged for the perfect chef for facial hair. I feel it really adds to the whole atmosphere.” Caesar noted.
“We have for you tonight, monsieur’s favorite meal…” The chef lifted up a silver cloche. “Skittles mixed with M&Ms!”
Junius gasped. “It is evil!”
“Fantastic!” Caesar cheered. “Chef Name-I-Don’t-Know, you did it again!” He plopped down at the table. “Gather ‘round and sit down now children!”
Reluctantly, everyone sat down around the table. He rubbed his hands together. “Now let’s start the systematic destruction of your lives.”
“Please don’t.” Junius begged.
“Alright, Junius. Thank you for volunteering.”
“July 10th, 2007. You have a deep dark secret.”
Junius’s face went white and he continued. “You got drunk and shaved off all your hair in the initiation to a sorority. This usually would be buried deep within the past, but I have arranged for that single photo taken that night to be posted on ten thousand billboards all over the country.”
“Why would you do that?” She cried. “That’ll ruin my modeling career!”
He chuckled. “Yeah. I know. Isn’t it devious?” Caesar paused to sip on his drink. “Oh, but if you kill me, then it just might be cancelled in time to save your career. Oh, whatever will she do folks?”
From across the table, Brutus grabbed the collar of Caesar’s shirt and glared at him. “Don’t you dare threaten my lady.” He growled.
With a grin on his face, Caesar jeered. “Brutus, so caring and protective. Known the girl for five minutes and already madly in love with her. Or are you?”
While Brutus tried to threaten Caesar with his eyes—which wouldn’t work because they were just this beautiful shade of green—Junius asked me. “What are you talking about?”
“Brutus here is a stalker. He’s been in love with you for the past seven years. And doing all those cliche stalker things. Stealing lockets of your hair, watching you sleep, following you everywhere, etc terea, etc terea.”
Immediately, Junius moved three seats over and hide behind Marcus. “I’m gonna—” Brutus threatened.
“What? Kill me? By all means do so, but not before Marcus’s turn.” He turned to Marcus. “How are you doing by the way? You ready for this? You ready to have your life ruined there, buddy?”
Marcus took a swig of champagne. “Just try.”
“A cool guy. I like you. Though, I’d figure you’d be something like this. After all, you have already committed murder.”
“What?!” Junius shrieked, ducking under the table for cover. “Is everyone here a sociopath?”
“No, I think Brutus is a psychopath actually.” Caesar winked at Marcus and clicked his tongue. “Anyway keep the murder streak going. I have high hopes for you. Keep things lively. Welp, I am off.” He stuffed his pockets full of candy. “Can’t wait to get murdered. P.S. I prefer to be stabbed, so if you could just make that happen that would be great. Toodles!”
As Caesar pranced off to his bedroom chambers, Brutus stormed off—hopefully to plan Caesar’s demise—and Junius turned to Marcus, skeptical. “You’re not gonna kill me, are you?”
“Bitch please, do you think honestly think I’m some uncivilized animal that just suddenly snapped and killed someone?”
“I guess not…”
“It was premeditated and civilized. Killed him swiftly, with mercy. No regrets, the bitch had to go. And like any good killer, I was never caught. Well, until Caesar seemed to uncover it.”
“Why did you kill them?”
“Well, to answer your original question: I don’t plan on killing or anything else for that matter. Annnddd that’s enough about me. What’s really important is Caesar’s motive.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on. No man randomly invites three strangers to his yacht, messes up their lives with dark secrets and asks them to kill him without some kind of motive.” Marcus stood up. “And I’m gonna find it!”
Junius rose as well. “Because the mystery of this ship allures you to unwind its past?”
“Because this ship doesn’t land for another three days and I’m bored. Off we go!”
Marcus pushed own the doors of the yacht’s study room. “There’s gotta be something in here about Caesar.”
“God, it’s so cold in here.”
“I’m not giving you my jacket.” Marcus said as he began to shift through the long wall of leather-bound books on the wall.
“Ooh, maybe one of those books leads to a silent entrance.”
“Junius, please. We’re on an eccentric billionaire’s yacht with murder hanging over our heads. Let’s try to minimize the cliches, m’kay?”
“It’s still freezing in here.”
“What did I just say? It’s you’re cold, go start a fire in the fireplace and huddle by it like a neanderthal.”
“But, I don’t know how to start a fire.”
Sighing, Marcus strolled over and picked up a newspaper from the bin next to the fire place. “First, you’re gonna wanna use some newspaper as a starter. Then, you add the logs. Do you see any matches—“ Marcus’s eyes went wild as he skimmed over the newspaper’s front page. “Woah. Take a look at this.”
Junius glanced at the article’s picture. “I don’t believe it. That’s Caesar.”
“‘Famed, billionaire, historian James Warchester recently lost all credit in the historical community upon his new theory about—‘” Marcus quoted. “That’s it. The newspaper is torn. Someone must have used part of it was a firestarter.”
“Well, that explains why Caesar suddenly wants to die, he must be depressed about being shunned from his passion. That would also explain the codenames. We need to find him, talk Caesar out of this before someone actually gets killed.”
“He’s in his bedroom. Let’s go!”
Caesar crossed his arms and frowned at his bedroom door. “Why hasn’t anyone come to kill me yet. Was I too good of a host? Do they already love me too much? God, why do I have to be so lovable?”
He jumped out of bed. “That’s it! I’m going down there!”
Just as Caesar opened the door, he saw Marcus sprinting up to him. “Caesar, hosting an outlandish murder party isn’t how you deal with life crisises.”
“Isn’t that hypocritical?Didn’t you kill someone? Why did you kill them?”
“First of all, that bitch had to go. Second of all, we’re talking about you, not me.”
“Yeah, me and Junius—where did Junius go?”
“Looks like someone isn’t as popular with the ladies as he thought.”
Groaning, he grabbed Caesar’s hand and dragged him out of his room. “We gotta find her.”
After a few minutes of stumbling aimlessly down the ship, they ran into Brutus. “Brutus, have you seen Junius?”
“Well where is she?”
“I don’t know. Wasn’t she with you?”
“She was, but then Junius just disappeared on me.”
“Maybe she went to her room. I left gourmet chocolates on all the pillows. Irresistible.” Caesar suggested.
When they arrived at Junius’s bedroom, the door was opened and there was a thin trail of red paint on the floor. “Woah. Someone’s a messy artist.”
“Gah!” Caesar leapt back.
“You were asking to be murdered like an hour ago, but you’re afraid of blood?”
“I think it should be pretty clear by now I was going through something and my plan wasn’t fully thought out!”
Brutus shoved open the door. “Junius! I’m here for you, sweetie!”
“Tone down the stalker vibe, Brutus, you’re gonna freak her out—and she’s dead.”
Draped across her bed, covered in crimson red blood, laid Junius with a blank stare, frozen terrified expression, and a slit throat. “Oh my god. I was not prepared for that! Nope!” Caesar covered his mouth. “I’m gonna be sick! Gotta go!” He dashes off to the bathroom.
As Caesar left, Marcus approached the corpse and Brutus huddled by himself in the corner. Next to her, was a single framed photograph, half covered in blood. “What’s this?” Brutus asked as he picked it up and wiped off some of the blood. It was a picture of Caesar and Junius, kissing. The words ‘best wife’ were written in the corner. “They were… married?” Marcus whispered to himself. Wait, then… he glanced at Brutus. Did he murder her out of jealously? Marcus shoved the photo in his pocket. “I’m gonna go check on Caesar.” He lied before disappearing into the hallway.
Marcus madly paced around the yacht. Half circling the floors with wild abandon, half thinking about Junius’s murder, and half trying to find Caesar. That may add up to one hundred and fifty percent, but he had a lot to think about and his mind was working over time.
Some how, he ended up in the den—bit odd for a yacht to have a hunting/themed room, but Marcus just decided to roll with it. Feeling the gaze of several decapitated eyes stare at him, Marcus glanced around to avoid their gaze. His eyes settled on yet another picture frame. Slowly examining it, Marcus realized it was a picture of Brutus and Caesar with the words ‘best friend’. “What the fuck? Does everyone on this ship know each other besides me?” He cried out loud.
Was Brutus stalking his friend’s wife? Is that why Caesar knew about it? Did jealousy kill Junius? Why would Caesar want his friend or wife to murder him? Why were they pretending like they didn’t know each other before? Was it amnesia? Why was Marcus there?
“God, what the fuck is going on?”
Why does a historian have such a twisted life?
“Dammit!” He cried out. “I have to get out of here!”
Marcus rushed out of the den and actually went to find Caesar this time. Surely, he would be able to convince Caesar to turn this ship around. He had to.
“Caesar!” He bellowed as he raced down the halls. “Where are you?!”
“You killed her, didn’t you?” Brutus called from behind.
Spinning around on his heels, Marcus saw Brutus behind him, holding a large meat cleaver. In his other hand, he was holding a photograph. “What are you doing?”
“You murdered Junius! Didn’t you! The only known murderer in this ship! You did it because your brother asked you to!” His fist tightened around the picture.
“Brutus, I have no idea what you're talking about. I’m an only child. The girl you were in love with was just killed, you’re not thinking straight. Everything’s getting confusing, so why don’t you just put the knife down so we can talk about this—“
“Liar!” He yelled and held up the photo. It was a picture of Marcus and Caesar with the words ‘best brothers’ written on it.
Marcus held up both his hands to try and calm him down. “Brutus, that has to photoshopped or something. It’s not me!”
“Don’t screw with me!” Brutus screamed as he lunged at Marcus.
Quickly, Marcus slid into a nearby room and locked the door behind him. Brutus plunged the knife through the door, nearly hitting Marcus. Gradually, Marcus backed up from the door as Brutus struggled with the knob. His body slammed into a desk, stopping him. “Ow! Hey this is the same desk from the…” He looked around. “Study.”
Brutus started pounding on the door. Hollering for Marcus to open it. Then he stopped. A knife clatters to the ground. Blood seeped under the door. “Oh, god. What happened?” Marcus whispered to himself.
Behind him, Marcus heard gears began to spin under the layer of leather-bound books. Gradually, a secret entrance opened and Caesar revealed himself with the biggest shit-eating grin Marcus had ever seen. “Why, I killed him, my dear boy.” Caesar answered.
“Jesus, why? Why would you do that?”
“Well, I didn’t snap if that’s why you’re asking. After all, we’re not animals, aren’t we? I’ve been planning this for months. Just like your murder.”
He laughed. “For what other reason but the very same one as yours: revenge. As I believe you’ve said before, ‘bitch had to go’.”
“What could your wife and best friend possibly have done to you?”
“You mean Junius and Brutus? Nothing. In fact, this was the first time I’ve met them.”
Marcus stared at him with a puzzled look on his face. “I can see you’re still confused.” Caesar continued. He tossed Marcus a piece of paper. “Perhaps, this will answer all your questions.”
Cautiously, Marcus unfolded the paper. It was the rest of the newspaper article. Complete with a second photo of the four of them. “‘—about his theory that Julius Caesar had originally tried to kill Brutus Junius Marcus, but was instead turned on by his friends’.” Marcus read.
“They called me crazy. My wife, my best friend, my brother. Once they turned against me, so did everyone else. I tried to pin Caesar as the victim—“
“He was a dictator.”
“He never deserved that ending.”
“He was a dictator. Everyone hated him.”
“So of course, I wanted revenge. However, I couldn't just go and kill the three people closest to me. I would get caught in a matter of seconds. Thus, I was struck by a genius plan when I saw an ad with Junius in it. She was a perfect doppelgänger of my wife. And that’s when it hit me: if I can't murdered by wife, friend, and brother, I can murder their doppelgängers, whom I have no connection with and would then never get caught. Really get it out of my system, you know? Then, I found you and Brutus and set this entire thing up. Of course, just blatantly murdering three people is no fun. So, I made it a themed murder and used the very theory that landed me in this mess in the first place. Of course, I had to keep you all distracted, that’s why I left the photos out and gave you all motives.”
He removed a knife from his back. “You see, it’s ironic, isn’t it? Originally, Caesar was murdered, right? But now, all of his friends—my friends—are.” He pounced over the desk at Marcus like a wild cat.
Marcus ducked and grabbed Caesar’s shirt as he flew over him. He slammed Caesar head first into the floor and heard the nasty sound of Caesar’s neck snapping upon contact.
I guess his theory about Caesar was right after all.