The Murderer of Immortals, Part 3
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Last time on Nexus:
The Murderer of Immortals, Part 2

Chloe stood together with Dean and Ms Pukui in front of the surveillance room. Chloe had tagged along mostly because she didn't feel safe in the presence of the others, but partly also because Dean didn't want to leave the room without her. Elli had been left under the care of Mr Shaw, Mr Drake and Ms Macintosh, which also monitored the Orwell twins, since they were suspected to work together with the main perpetrator. Mr Hayden, Mr and Mrs Ward and Dr. Allison had headed out to find Mr Macintosh and to sweep the storage room for the used knife. Dean meanwhile went under the watch of Ms Pukui through the logs in search of clues and to check Shaws claims. He was not able to bypass the system but he at least could read it out with the small computer in the small grey control box, which also contained a monitor and a keyboard. In the beginning, Shaw had insisted on doing that himself, but the conclusion had been reached that somebody who wasn't staff was better suited for verification.
"I wonder why Ms Macintosh did not go to search for her brother," Dean noted, while calmly scrolling through the logs.
"Well, presumably she doesn't want to see him right now, he has been suspiciously long gone after all. Or worse…" Ms Pukui said. "I mean, if I were in this situation, I would try to keep myself in uncertainty. To be able to keep on hoping."
"I personally think that is stupid," Dean commented. "At some point, you find out whether Schrödinger's Cat is dead or alive. To only question is how long it takes."
"Do you have siblings? Or think of your wife, then maybe you understand."
"I never had siblings and the thing that kills Elli still needs to be invented," was the dry reply from Dean without him taking his eyes from the screen.
"Do you have an idea already who it might have been?" Chloe asked.
"Sadly, I don't. Nobody has a motive and everything fits too well together," Dean denied. "Of course, the culprit would lie but so he won't get found out he would need accomplices. Or Macintosh knew a way to decapitate the victim in silence, but that would be news to me. And I do not think that the Orwell twins are behind it, Pukui here would have noted if they entered the kitchen. Hope's brother wasn't the perpetrator either, I presume, the eyes had obviously been stabbed to prevent Haydens head from identifying the culprit via eye movement in case her remaining muscles could work for an extended time without oxygen. Rather unnecessary, if you get into the cross-hairs for a missing alibi alone."
"You don't necessarily think they were acting rationally during such an act," the chef argued.
"True, but then one tries to get away as fast as possible without creating even more work for oneself," Dean responded. "And if you deliberately make it so that you can't be identified by the victim anymore, then you don't hide afterwards. So I would rule out a mysterious third party. The perpetrator is one of us and at this very moment, hangs above us like the sword of Damocles."
The facial features of the chef went numb all of the sudden. Dean did not take note of this, since he kept looking at the screen but Chloe became aware of it because the process appeared so unnatural. And continued for a few seconds until the woman relaxed herself again.
"Uh, Ms Pukui? Are you alright?"
"Hm, what?" the chef asked, confused.
"Shaw told the truth, apparently he tinkered quite a while on that thing," Dean said.
Apparently, he still hadn't noticed anything.
"Let's see, when he… Oh?"
He tapped at a line, of which Chloe couldn't make heads or tails.
"Here it says that Shaw changed the password… during the time he went out to take his call…"
"Does that mean Shaw is the culprit?" Pukui asked in disbelief.
"Unlikely, the log of things he tried to get the system under control again is too long for that and additionally continues until the point when he got called by Henry. But apparently he's an accomplice. Oh dear."
Dean suddenly clasped Chloe under his Arm and sprinted towards the dining hall. It took a brief while until Pukui caught up to them.
"Mr Hunter, what's going on?" she yelled in mid-sprint.
Her exoskeleton apparently gave her superhuman stamina.
"We left two suspects and an obvious accomplice in the same room with Macintosh, Drake and Elli. All three are possibly in danger!"
He came to a sliding halt in the entrance hall to change directions and positively threw himself into the dining hall.
Everybody present and seemingly unhurt threw confused glances at him, with the exception of Elli, who was still sleeping off her intoxication.
Dean scanned the room briefly before the chef came to a halt beside him.
"Everybody is fine?" he asked then.
"Uh, yes?" Ms Macintosh replied. "Why? Did something happen?"
Dean set an extremely shaken and accordingly wobbly Chloe down, before addressing Shaw.
"Mr Shaw, your claim regarding the logs was correct, but what you didn't tell us was that it was you who made the system go haywire."
Shaws face went blank.
"That's quite an accusation!"
"Sadly it isn't. I have it in cold print," Dean answered with resignation. "Indeed, you cannot have committed the crime in any logical way, but you were an accomplice. If you tell us with whom you conspired with, we can end this farce."
Mr Shaw raised his hands in a defensive manner.
"There must be an error, I never did-"
"Then somebody else must have used the access codes while you were standing directly in front of the device, as you explained before," Dean interrupted him. "You realize that this is bullocks."
"No! You have to believe me, I-"
A scream resounded in the distance. Mr Ward, according to the voice.
"I'll go and take a look," Dean announced. "Chloe, you come with me, the security personnel as well. Pukui, Macintosh, Drake, you stay here and keep watch so nothing happens to Elli."
"You are taking the child with you!?" the chef exclaimed.
"Ms Pukui, believe me if I tell you that my vicinity is currently the safest area in this building."
Following those words, he grabbed Chloe by the hand and and turned around to go before turning to the security staff, who hadn't moved an inch.
"Who gave you command anyway?" Shaw growled. "First, you're accusing me, and now you want us dancing to your tune?"
"Just so I understand correctly, there was an incident, and you, as security detail, decide to ignore it, because one of the guests goes looking already?" Dean inquired with a blank expression.
Shaw, together with the Orwells, got moving while clenching his teeth.

The scream had come from the toilets. The storage room door was open and Mr Ward stood before it and cried uncontrolled. Mr Hayden, Dr. Allison and Henry were placed around him and tried to comfort him.
"What happened here?" Mr Shaw inquired. "Where is Mrs Ward?"
Mr Hayden wordlessly pointed into the room, while Mr Ward got shaken anew by a crying fit.
Chloe took a cautious peep inside before pulled her back by her collar. But too late. She saw Mrs Ward's smashed-in skull and the bloody wrench besides her. Somebody had obviously stirred her brain around.
The room itself was a storage facility with lots of boxes and spare parts for different machines. There were no windows, four fluorescent tubes illuminated the ingrain wallpaper on the walls.
Chloe felt, how her stomach contents readied themselves for a new escape attempt…
"Who was that?" Dean asked.
"We don't know," Henry answered. "Mrs Ward entered the room first, then me, Mr Ward and Dr. Allison and Mr Hayden remained behind us to inspect the bathroom again. Then, we got knocked down. With something hard, probably the wrench."
"Four in one go?" Dean asked in disbelief.
"I was the first one to come back to my senses," Henry continued. "We all lay on the ground. Dunno how that had been managed with Mr Hayden. His exoskeleton should actually endure that doesn't happen."
Henry scratched his head helplessly. A glorious bump developed on its backside. Dean meanwhile directed his attention towards a tall locker right besides the entrance. Its door was only left ajar.
"That Mr Macintosh must have done it," Chloe presumed. "Everybody else seems to have been seen by Henry when he woke up. And can't knock down Mr Ward from behind while in front, can't he?"
Dean peeked into the locker.
"I like your train of thought, Chloe, good thinking," he commented. "But there is a little problem with your theory. He is in here."
Chloe couldn't see what was inside the locker since Dean covered it up but she was thankful for it. Because now she noticed the small streams of blood that oozed out of it. The room seemed to have a small gradient, because they run along the side of the locker and towards the wall, so they couldn't be noticed immediately upon entry to the room. She turned away because she really started to puke.
"Face completely smashed in. With something blunt. Fists, probably," Dean summarised, before he was pushed aside by Shaw.
"When did that happen? How?" he murmured. What the-, his throat got cut through. And hey, look there in corner. There lies a big knife! That must be the crime weapon from the first attack."
"So everything we got until now is out the window…" Dean said. "The Orwells can't have been it, since they were in the dining hall when it happened. Mr Hayden would fit the bill most likely, maybe his unconsciousness was an act but why should he do something like this to Mrs Ward? And how does Mr Macintosh fit in? After the cameras had gone out, he could have been struck at any time… Maybe he tried to prevent the first murder… But why got his throat cut when his face got punched in?"
Behind him, Mr Wards cries echoed through the corridor.

After a while, everybody found his way back to the dining hall. The women and the chef were briefed about what had happened and Dean took further notes. The mood was at the bottom of their socks, while everybody stood in a circle and glared at each other.
Ms Macintosh had with a pale face sunken on a chair and was apathetic.
"I don't get it. How did that happen!?" asked Pukui.
"Well, Shaw was the one who locked us in, apparently. He should have answers for us," Mr Hayden said grimly.
"How often do I have to tell that? I don't know how it happened," the guard yelled now completely frantic. "How do we want to know that Hunter did not simply add a line?"
"I would have seen that, Michael," the chef interjected. "I stood right besides him."
"Like you have seen that you were short of one knife?"
Pukui didn't reply anything.
"Chloe can also attest that," Dean defended the chef and threw a glance at Chloe, which nodded instantly. "Those present can also attest, that I wasn't even at the control box before," he then added before he changed the topic. "If I understood correctly, the order in which the guys need to be knocked out Allison, Hayden, Ward und Henry and I dare to say I doubt Allison's ability to down a exoskeleton wearer."
"Maybe there is a weakness to the exoskeletons," one of the Orwell twins suggested.
"There isn't," Dr. Allison denied. "Every last one of our engineers can attest you for hat."
"There must be somebody else in this building," Ward blurted out.
He had returned to the dining hall, shaken by crying fits, and had starred at nothing for a while.
"None of us can have been it, otherwise half of those present had to be in cahoots with Shaw!“
"It must be the hotel staff, then!" Hayden started his rant, before Mr Shaw could retort anything. "Maybe this has been specifically prepared as a death trap. After all, it was the security personnel that locked us in."
"That is an unfounded accusation!" Henry exclaimed. "We have only tried to ensure maximum protection."
"That worked splendidly," Mr Ward retorted. "When I get out of here, I will sue you all to kingdom come, until I have the culprit!"
"Gentlemen, please," Dean tried to calm them. "If we lose our nerves no-"
"YOU SHUT UP!" both widowers yelled.
"You better concentrate on finally convicting this lowlife!“ Mr Hayden then added.
"Sir, please watch out, otherwise you will overload your limiters with your rage!“ warned Dr. Allison from the sidelines.
"Doctor, with all due respect for your concern, if there is a point in time to-"
All those present except a seemingly only mildly surprised Dean looked startled towards Elli. She sluggishly raised from the couch and yawned extensively. Then she look half-annoyed and half-surprised at the gathering.
"With that noise even the dead wake up. Why the long faces? You're making it seem as if somebody has died."
Dean threw his best You-had-to-voice-it-like-this-did-you?-glance at her.
"Oh…" Elli said after she had interpreted the facial expression correctly and rummaged in her purse, that had been placed besides the couch for her flask to drink.
"What did happen?" she then asked.
"I took some notes, just look at those," Dean replied dryly and pointed at the table that meanwhile hat been wallpapered with sticky notes.
Frowning, Elli walked over and started reading.
"So, as I said," Mr Ward continued after this interruption while addressing the staff. "I will get you all in front of the judge if the mastermind doesn't show himself right this instant!"
The personnel exchanged silent looks of confusion.
"Don't play innocent now!" Hayden yelled. "We will find whoever we made us go through this, at the latest when the police arrive. It's better for you to surrender yourself now!"
"Mr Hayden," Mr Drake replied. "Your wrath towards us is inappropriate. Shaw is the only one you can be angry at."
"How often shall I tell you that, I did not bug the system!" the guard exclaimed.
"Oh really? And who did it then, precisely at the time you were standing in front of the control box?" Mr. Ward sarcastically inquired.
"Oh Lord, there must be an error somewhere," the Guard replied.
The groups glared angrily at each other.
"It was the doctor," Elli butted in.
"Thank you, Mrs Hunter, we- What?"
Everybody turned around to Elli in amazement, partially astounded about what she had just said and partially astounded about the fact that she apparently was done reading already.
"Mrs Hunter, what are you saying?" Dr. Allison exclaimed. "I have an alibi for the first murder and I can't have committed the second one in any logical manner."
"Under normal circumstances, that would be absolutely correct," replied Elli. "But now, start thinking outside the box you are apparently all stuck in. Who was the only one who was present in both murder locations?"
"Dr. Allison!" both widowers blurted out.
"But this doesn't make sense," came it from the corner in which Ms Macintosh sat. "I would have seen him if he entered the woman's bathroom."
She rose from her seat and joined the group.
"You probably did, Hope," Elli countered. "You did just forget it."
"Wha-?" Ms Macintosh begun, but got interrupted immediately.
"Of course he didn't commit the crime directly," Elli continued. "But conveniently, he had access to a number of four cyborgs that had gotten under his knife here."
"What are you trying to say?" the surgeon asked.
It sounded threatening.
"I believe you made a little modification, maybe you exchanged the substances in some cannula, changed some parameters, small alterations that are not apparent during maintenance and are normally without consequences. Except if you need somebody who is susceptive to suggestion. Because if that is the case, a little subroutine in the exoskeleton activates and the brain gets flooded with a chemical that makes it will-less. Like this, you gain a manipulatable marionette you can order around however you please."
"Do you wish to get dragged to court for slander?" Dr. Allison growled. "Even if your hair-rising theory is true, how would it benefit me?"
Elli started to grin.
"If you allow me a reconstruction, I will explain it to you, of course. The whole thing started, when you went to the bathroom first. On your way, you knocked at the kitchen and, in doing that, called Pukui to you. She was ordered to discreetly hand a large knife to the next person that knocks, in a fashion Drake wouldn't note. Then, she should forget everything like all other cyborgs and received appropriate replacement memories from you. After your arrival on the toilet you called Hope here and instructed her to follow the first of her targets, there were probably several, that got up to got to the bathrooms. Also, she should not tell anyone at the table about that order. Presumably, she would signal you once that became the case, maybe with a text message via mobile phone, which was then deleted by Ms Macintosh again to erase traces. Anyway, you were lucky, because you didn't have to wait long. On her way she got the knife slipped on her person by Pukui, certainly in such a fashion that the cameras wouldn't record it, although I doubt that the Orwells can stare at screens for eight hours while being fully attentive. So, they could have missed it, the jury is out on that one. Anyway, after you had gotten your message, you called Mr Shaw and ordered him to bug the security system. I assume you already had pried the exact operating principles from him already, when he was visiting you for a routine check, or you did it right after the operation had concluded."
In the background, Mr Shaw and Ms Macintosh rummaged for their phones.
"After you let Shaw activate a probably earlier deposited signal jammer to choke out the reception, you got briefed about the completed in the same manner as you had been by Ms Macintosh. Then, you left the toilets and sought out Hope, who at that time apparently was in the bathroom already already to order her to murder Mrs Hayden with the knife. Mrs Hayden was probably preparing to leave her toilet stall. If she got ambushed while opening the door, it was over quick."
Elli looked around for a brief moment to ascertain that she still had the full attention. That was indeed the case.
"Sadly, there was a complication. Hope's brother, who presumably had realized that something was wrong, got up to affirm his suspicion. In doing that, he probably stumbled into the act, causing the doctor to order his liquidation. Since exoskeletons can muster a lot of power, it was quite simple to drag him to another room. But to not make a ruckus, his throat got cut so he could quietly be carried into said other room, where his face got simply smashed in. Hope will have afterwards washed her arms. Allison came back first, then Hope followed so he had an alibi. Additionally, he had created a situation, in which he could calmly ambush his next victim."
Chloe noticed in the corner of her eye, that Ms Macintosh's face had gone blank.
"The second attack we can go over in way less time. Given the order of persons it can be assumed that the Doctor just whispered the instructions in Hayden's ear from behind. Following this, he struck down the two men with what was lying around at the moment and broke Mrs Ward's skull. Then he lied down, closed the eyes and forgot everything up to the time when he got woken up, all as instructed. Allison meanwhile acted as unconscious. That brings us to now."
Some attendees had their jaws dropped. It took a brief while, until Dr. Allison began to speak again.
"Do you know how farfetched that is? Good Lord, you just looked at a few notes and claim to know who the murderer is? Absolutely ridiculous. But at least everybody has calmed down again."
"Uh… " Ms Macintosh said, staring in disbelief at her mobile phone. "The last number was suppressed… None of our business partners does that…"
"Same with me…" came flatly from Mr. Shaw "And that from my wife… "
The surgeon frowned.
"You aren't really believing this fantasy, are you? How am I supposed to control exoskeletons, please? With a remote or what? You can search me, you won't find a thing."
Prompting, he stretched his arms to the side.
"I don't think that it was a remote," Elli replied. "Otherwise you couldn't have gotten Shaw and Hope to move, situated in the bathrooms. You probably had a secret password or something like that, which causes their modification to activate. Presumably a word, that is rarely or not at all used in modern language. Otherwise, it would be noted too fast."
"And what word would that be?" Dr. Allison asked irritated.
Elli shrugged as an excuse.
"I don't know an answer to that but I think that we will certainly find the hidden jammer if we search the vicinity of the control panel."
"Oh really? As soon as I ask for the logic error, you start evading. Absolutely classic. The jammer also could have been deposited by Shaw without my order."
"True, but then we can call for help, at least," Ell gave back.
Chloe, who had followed the conversation in silence up until now, suddenly had a flash of genius. Didn't she observe something like that once?
She took a deep breath.
The faces of Ms Macintosh, Ms Pukui, Mr Shaw and Mr Hayden went blank in a flash. They stood up unnaturally straight.
The others looked at the cyborgs dumbfounded, even Dean showed signs of amazement. Elli raised an eyebrow in amusement and applauded Chloe with a flat handed clap from the wrist.
Dr. Allison had become deadly pale. Silently, he tried to get moving but Dean obstructed his way. Meanwhile, the exoskeleton wearers returned to their senses and acknowledged this development with a confused look, before realising what had happened. Absolute silence ensued.
"Why, Doctor?" Mr Ward asked with a shakily voice. "What has my wife done to you?"
The surgeon didn't say a thing.
"To instill fear and stick enough people and especially rich ones into a marionette skeleton to take control of the finance world. Or at least that of the West Coast." Elli explained this in his stead with a blank expression.
Caught, the doctor turned around to her. He didn't say a word but his eyes said it loud and clear. "How?"
Elli frowned.
"I am right? Come on, you may have talked Hayden into taking you you here for a vacation but how big is the probability, that of all people three other patients primed by you would be here? Those are not the only four, aren't they?
Dr. Allison's lower lip twitched.

As foretold, an extremely strong jammer the size of a sugar cube was found on the doorframe to the surveillance room. After its deactivation, the police was called immediately. An ambulance came, but the victims could not be helped anymore, when the lockdown lifted itself at seven a.m. Dr. Allison was arrested and the hotel had to endure a few unpleasant questions about its security system. Anderson Robotics was informed about the malpractice and sent an immediate request to be allowed to rectify this error. Despite the crushing burden of proof, the investigators had to put up with a few inconsistencies. The survivors claimed that the perpetrator had been identified by a blonde woman, accompanied by a tall man and a child. But they hadn't been present, when the lockdown was lifted.

"Shouldn't we have given them our testimony?" Dean asked as they returned to the Nexus. He carried Chloe in his hands. She had fallen asleep after the whole commotion and couldn't be woken up anymore. The whole incident seemed to have put her under a lot of stress that now fell off again.
They arrived in the entrance hall of Elli's Villa.
"We were illegally in the US, Dean," Elli replied. "Try to explain to the authorities that Chloe needs to go back to the Germany of the 21st century."
Dean didn't give an answer.
"Let's see, it's Saturday at Chloe's place and I got her approximately at six," Elli pondered. "If I return her at seven that should suffice, don't you think?"
Again, Dean didn't give an answer.
"Where do you think we should take her with us next time?" Elli asked.
"Next time?" Dean echoed.
He managed to sound outraged, despite his monotone way of speaking.
"Elli, whenever you and Chloe come together, both of you are in danger. During our first meeting, in Paris and this time you even carelessly got cockeyed. If not for me, you couldn't have resolved this case before worse things would have happened. Who knows, one of the guests could have lost it."
"The last two were accidents," Elli defended herself. "Do you think I intentionally get Chloe in such situations?"
"No, but we both know that you attract trouble like a neodymium magnet" Dean retorted. "I have accompanied you for three hundred and fifty-six years, five months, two weeks, three days, twenty hours, twelve minutes and right now forty seconds and I did not once see how we didn't get in some sort of predicament when you left the Nexus for more than five hours. Is Chloe really to suffer through this as well?"
Elli wanted to retort with something, but then shut her mouth in concern.
Then, she started to grin.
"Your five hours are fact-based, yes?" she asked.
"But of course, do you think I- No, Elli, no experiments! Let Chloe have a peaceful evening of life without your shenanigans."
"Experiments will be conducted without Chloe," Elli explained, still grinning. "And as when we are safe, I already have a place I will take Chloe to. But first-"
In front of them a black portal opened and took the form of Chloe's closet door.
"- we will bring her back for now."

Unnoticed by neither Elli nor Dean, Chloe wandered through her lightless dream, surrounded by the giant dead thing, that slowly but steadily began to awaken again…

Next time on Nexus:
Merciless Ice, Part 1

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