dead karl


“Karl. Get up.”

Nothing. He wasn’t moving.

Keely kicked him. Gently at first, then harder. “Get up! This isn’t funny!”

Sophat crouched over Karl’s slumped, inert body. He patted his face, then slapped it. “Karl. Karl.

As Parker looked on, he felt weirdly numb. He’s not dead, he told himself. He can’t be dead. He’s just pretending. He’s playing a stupid game.

But Karl just lay there, not moving or even breathing.

“Someone call the police,” Sophat said.

“The po-lice?” Parker heard his voice rise about five octaves between the first and second syllables of that word, and everyone turned to stare at him.

“…Yeaahhh,” Sophat said. “I think Karl’s dead.”

“Who’s the police?” Keely asked, clapping her hands excitedly.

“What do you mean…who’s the police?” Sophat said, looking concerned.

“The police,” Keely repeated. “We never assigned that role.”

“Keely…” Sophat said softly.

Parker had been standing there staring at Karl’s lifeless body. Suddenly he snapped into action. Get the directions, he thought. If he destroyed the printout before the police arrived, maybe he’d be OK after all.

He ran into the kitchen and started rifling through the Cooking Club’s fat folder of recipes. He could hear Keely shrieking in the other room, “Wait, he’s dead? Like, Dead-dead?”

“Please don’t scream,” Sophat was saying back to her.

“You mean those directions were real?”

“Please calm down,” Sophat pleaded. Parker felt a sudden desire to run over there and punch Sophat in the face. Where did he get off being the chill one, telling other people to calm down? It was obnoxious. Keely could freak out if she wanted to.

“We were poisoning him!” Keely was repeating. “This whole time we were poisoning him!”

Focus, Parker commanded himself. He started frantically opening and closing drawers at random. He still couldn’t find the recipe. He was trying to tune out the voice in the other room as much as he could, but then Brooke’s voice rose above the others, and he heard her say, crystal clear, “It wasn’t us. It was Parker.”

Parker froze in place. A chill ran through his body.

“I can prove it,” she was saying. “The writing on the recipe matches his handwriting.”

Parker stood alone in the kitchen, not even breathing.

“…Parker?” Sophat’s voice called.

Parker slowly made his way toward the dining room, where the others were waiting. It felt like he was walking to his own execution, but he didn’t know what else to do. When he got there, four candle-lit faces stared at him.

“OK, yes, I wrote the list,” he admitted. Keely gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth. “But I spent the whole night sabotaging it,” he added.

Keely started to cry. “You guys, this is not funny!” she wailed. “You don’t kill people in other people’s houses!”

“It wasn’t me!” Parker yelled. “It makes no sense. I didn’t even want to kill Karl!” As soon as he said that last sentence, he regretted it. “I mean…I didn’t want to kill anyone.”

“I’m calling my dad,” Sophat declared, standing up from Karl’s body. “He’s a lawyer. He’ll know what to do.”

“Yes, thank god,” Parker said. “Call your dad. He can figure this out.”

“I’m not calling him for you,” Sophat spat. “I’m calling him for us. So we don’t get sucked into whatever fucked-up thing you just did.”

That’s when Parker noticed how they were all on one side of the room together; they’d all been inching away from him, united against him.

“It was someone else!” Parker said, knowing his voice sounded frantic and guilty. “Someone in this room killed Karl! Someone sabotaged my sabotage, and now they’re framing me! One of you is framing me!”

But they’d made up their minds. He could see it in their faces—accusing, condemning. Keely, Sophat, Brooke. One of them was a liar and a murderer, but he couldn’t tell which. All of their faces blurred together.

To read further, correctly answer the following question: