The gun went off.
Philip fell to the ground.
Vera dropped the gun and walked back to the house. The house was silent as a tomb—but it was, wasn’t it? It was all a giant tomb now—and the only sound was that of her heels on the hard flooring. Her eyes passed over the main room and there she saw it: a noose hanging from the rafters, a chair neatly placed beneath it.
She walked towards it in a trance, her eyes focused on the open loop. She could feel Hugo urging her on, almost guiding her to it. The sea smelled so strong from here. So deep. So strong.
Her eyes caught it before her consciousness did and she froze. Someone was there. Someone else was still alive!
Vera whipped around, desperately wishing she hadn’t left the gun. But it was only Miss Brent. Wicked-minded Miss Brent. Nasty woman, Miss Brent. But she was dead. They’d found her and she was dead and the bee. Yes, the bee!
“You’ve no other choice,” Miss Brent said. She spoke. She wasn’t dead!
Or was she? Was this all some sort of hallucination from a guilty mind?
No. Vera wasn’t guilty. No matter what, she had put it all behind her, even if Hugo—dear, sweet Hugo—refused her, she had moved on.
Vera took a step back.
“There’s really nothing for you to do but hang yourself,” Miss Brent said, coolly, as if she was commenting on the inclement weather. “The last one found alive on an island of the dead will certainly hang. Why not do it in private?”
Vera’s legs hit the chair and she stopped, frightened. The noose hung above her, brushing the top of her head. “I don’t think I will.”
“It is your choice, but public hangings are most unfortunate,” Miss Brent said. She put down her knitting and looked Vera in the eyes. There was no hint of madness there, just icy cold, the way she’d always looked at Vera.
Always. It’s only been three miserable days, but already it feels like an eternity. Like she’s been on this island forever.
“You can’t force me to hang myself,” Vera said. “Besides, there are two of us left on the island.”
“There won’t be, once I’m finished,” Miss Brent said.
“But that’s suicide,” Vera said. “Surely, you don’t approve.”
“‘For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator,’” she quoted. “I am prepared to meet my God. Are you, Miss Claythorne?”
Vera could say nothing.
“I am as Nemesis,” Miss Brent continued. “I have meted out justice and seen it done. And with your death, my work will have ended. There is no escaping Justice, Miss Claythorne.”
She picked at her knitting. “I do thank you for ridding me of Mr Lombard. A much tidier way than I would have had to do.”
Vera’s fingers curled instinctively for a revolver she no longer had. Why had she dropped it on the beach? She could have protected herself from this madwoman.
“I am not one to make a confession, but perhaps you would like to understand how I accomplished my mission,” Miss Brent said.
“Yes,” Vera croaked. Her mouth was dry.
“Nobody paid me any mind while I wandered around the house and grounds,” Miss Brent began. “It was simple to poison that horrid young man. Completely amoral and without remorse. I had to dispose of him quickly. Then there was Mrs Rogers. A simple administration of poison under the guise of tending to her was quite easy. The General didn’t even know I was there. An innocent walk before breakfast took care of Rogers. As for my own supposed death….”
She paused, adjusted her knitting, and began again. “It’s a little known poison that works slowly to put a person into a sort of coma. It’s not surprising that Dr Armstrong couldn’t tell whether I was dead or alive. The man was far too fond of his drink.”
“And the others?” Vera managed to ask. “The judge? Dr Armstrong? Mr Blore?”
“Just as they were found. The doctor, I admit, I had some trouble with. I slipped him a note that you wished to see him, and—”
“Down on the beach, yes. You would be less of a threat to him than either of the men remaining. He was quite surprised when he saw me, but his surprise didn’t last long. While the two of you remained on the beach, Mr Blore returned to the house, where I pushed over the statue from your room. You see, it was all very simple.”
“But the record? How did you—?”
“I arranged for an actor to read some lines. Honestly, Miss Claythorne, for a sharp working girl such as yourself, you are quite behind.”
Vera stared at her numbly, her eyes watching Miss Brent’s fingers work the needles and yarn in her hands. Miss Brent finished a final stitch and set down the shawl.
“Well, now. I think that will do.” She looked up at Vera. “You see, Miss Claythorne, I am a dying woman. I have done the Lord’s work and the Lord shall take me into his arms so that I may rest. There is nothing for you to do, but wait and be discovered, now.”
She rubbed the crook of her arm. “Now, if you will permit me, I shall return to my room. I’ve very little time left.”
Miss Brent rose unsteadily, but with a hard dignity, and turned her back to Vera. A syringe fell from her knitting.
“You’ve taken a shot,” Vera said. “You’ve already planned this!”
“Of course, I have,” Miss Brent said, looking back at her. “The police shall find me just as I had been placed in my room.”
Vera’s knees felt weak. She fell back onto the chair behind her, staring at the place Miss Brent had been. She could hear her on the stairs, her footsteps labored.
A shadow passed over the doorway and Vera startled, too numb to scream.
“Vera? Vera, darling, are you all right?”
It was Philip. Philip, whom she’d shot. Philip, another dead who was standing before her again.
“Vera!” Philip knelt before her, grasping her hands. “Vera, look at me. What’s happened?”
“It was she—she…. She killed them all.” Vera pitched forward into Philip’s arms. “Oh, Philip, she killed them all!”
“Who, Vera? Miss Brent?”
“Yes. And now she’s upstairs, dead. No one will ever believe me!”
“I do, darling,” Philip said. He propped her upright again. “Come, Vera, look at me. You’ve had a shock, but it’s over. It’s finally over.”
Her eyes were bright, but without tears. They cleared as she met his gaze. “I shot you,” she said.
“You only grazed me,” he said, showing her the tear in his jacket. “And a damn good thing you did. Though why you didn’t shoot me fully, I don’t know.”
“I suppose I still trusted you.”
“And I trust you, Vera.”
A shadow passed over the window. This time, Vera screamed.
Philip whirled around, pulling the revolver out of his pocket in a flash. It was the boatman.
“What’s happened here?” he asked.
Vera stood and clutched Philip’s arm.
“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” Philip said.