Family Woodland Retreat

In hindsight, Sleuth realized that she probably should have been more forthcoming with certain information so that UnmadeMan hadn't gotten only a partial picture. Whoopsie! Perhaps her own brain was also too occupied with thoughts of her immediate task. "Good sir, would I really venture to agitate you so, when you're holding me at gunpoint like that?" Sleuth couldn't help but chuckle unhelpfully, her eyes gesturing down toward the newly illuminated gun in question.

The man had a number of other revelations for her as well, including, most tellingly, that Sis had already known SuspendedMan was going to take a dive as part of the show. What reason had there been to overreact and attack Shoe, then? It could be she was a bit of a hothead- like UnmadeMan here- or perhaps had been feeling jealous of the other party girls, but neither felt quite right. She smirked back at him. "How good at multitasking are you? For I still have an array of questions I would like to propose myself."

Seeing as UnmadeMan was amazingly not backing down or otherwise affected yet, she would oblige, turning and tugging over her remaining garment aside so that he could get in if he wanted. Unfortunately, she was also the type to talk during, it seemed, and questions began spilling out immediately. "I'm beginning to doubt that detective myself. But tell me about this Family of yours. What is your business? What are these bonds of trust between you? And do you really feel like your boss is safe with Shoe, if we are to truly suspect her?" she started off, while physically, she braced for penetration by the massive object she had seen a second ago.

Before either of them could really get started, or she could get any answers, UnmadeMan gave her a startling revelation. Thankfully, her face was turned away from him, or else he would see excitement flashing in her eyes. Now it was a real mystery! "There is an unexpected twist..." she spoke aloud, while she pondered events so far.

The more she thought about it, the more her thoughts turned back on Shoe. She didn't know a thing about the detective, other than that she, for some reason, had offered herself up to this illicit party and claimed to be a detective. So far, she had spent a lot of time alone, away from Sleuth's eye. She had warned Sleuth not to go to the kitchen and talk to Sis. She may have even subtly guided the conversation to ensure that she was alone with the boss. Wasn't her assassination of the boss the most dangerous outcome of all?

Then again... this "Family" had their own torture cell, seemingly. And wasn't it weird that UnmadeMan was able to speak to Sis freely now, even though she had supposedly been knocked out just a moment ago? She wondered if she was being too hasty turning her back on her ally... She didn't know Shoe, but then, she didn't really know the rest of these mooks either. Was it possible one of them might kill their own and frame the detective for it? Although, if so, who was the act for? Certainly not to deceive her alone, given her status as an outsider... Unless, of course, her acting as a witness outside the Family was exactly the point! It was plenty to ponder and excited Sleuth about as much as the thought of the sex she had just foregone.

"I don't think we have time to fool around here, my bald-faced friend. I think that we ought to head down and check on your boss, immediately," she suggested. They would need to go together... if Shoe really was going in for the kill, she needed the backup of another fighter. "And I think it may be best if we disguise our approach. Tread quietly and I'll deceive her a bit..." Part of her wanted to leave him behind... but part of her also didn't expect he would want the boss to be alone with two unknowns now.

Presumably, UnmadeMan was either still in shock or full of anger. It would be somewhat amazing if he was still randy enough to go at it. Whatever the case, time was of the essence; Sleuth climbed up to her feet and reset her panties, then began to move as quietly as she could manage on the creaky floors back down the stairs.

As she approached, she sent a misleading message to Shoe. She would have to trust that the girl didn't know the house well enough to know that if Sleuth was telling the truth, she ought to hear the upper room shaking.


"Shoe, I wanted to apologize that you got the leftovers. I'm being unmade right now in a way that's an absolute travesty! I'm being pounded into a sex smear upon the boss's sheets. I'm a dirty dirty maid

Hopefully, the message would throw Shoe off and the detective wouldn't see them coming.
UnmadeMan got himself into position with a grin, eagerly grabbing the other Navi’s hind quarters and beginning to move into position. Sleuth rattled off a list of questions, though, and it didn’t seem like he was eager to entertain them while he was entertaining himself. “Rrrr,” he growled from his throat, rattling off his answers in a terse stream as he loomed behind her. “We pull jobs on the NetMafia and NetPolice. All of us were rescued by the Boss! And the Boss can take care of himself… least, he ain’t gonna go down to a hired stripperr, prrretty surrrRRrre!!”

Sleuth was spared one kind of excitement for another. It seemed that what UnmadeMan was now being told was enough to finally kill his mood, his pressure emanating clearly even without seeing his half-a-face. “Rrrrgh, you’rrre rright… Shmuckin’ around up here while some broad’s f*cking around with my Family! You do what you’re gonna do, I’m gonna go give her my thanks, hehehrrrRRR-!” the man growled, stalking out of the room with his suit on once more, his fingertips formed into sharp razors and his tent still quite menacingly pitched. Sleuth would have to hold him back to convince him not to storm off immediately. He got the message, though, and stalked quietly through the dark to make his way downstairs. Hopefully Shoe was occupied; otherwise, the man’s weight on the creaky floor would make it impossible not to sense him coming in spite of his best efforts.

The two would arrive to peer back into the main hall, allowing them to peer into the family room, where UnmadeMan’s cheesy mood music was still playing. However, their eyes (Sleuth’s, anyway) would fall upon a scene of gruesome violence:

The boss was still seated, but Shoe was relocated so she faced away from him, her legs straddling either side of him to rest on the arms. She had propped herself up on her arms (using cushions from the chairs placed on the floor), presenting her behind to him. Evidently, he’d been helping himself, still wailing on the detective’s red backside with alternating open-palmed slaps, eliciting muffled cries as the detective buried her face in a pillow.

Continuing the theme of raunchy antics juxtaposed with menacing mobsters, glancing instead down the end of the hall would reveal purple gas now rolling out of the kitchen as the Family’s sister staggered out, the purple lights of her lenses glowing from the darkness. “UnmadeMan… SuspendedMan’s gone… The detective murdered him. It’s up to you now… Capture them, and we’ll show them the Family’s justice…!”

“Uh… Hold on, Sis,” UnmadeMan replied, holding up a hand. “Sorry, I mean, if SuspendedMan was here, I’m sure he’d be right on it, but I’m a little slower, and I’m way way more confused. I was expectin’ to come down here and see you and Shoe tearin’ each other up. Instead, she’s back to getting’ her *ss paddled by the Boss. Is SuspendedMan-“

“SupsendedMan was murdered!” the other Navi screeched again, her voice breaking. “The d-d-detectives! Bro, we’ve gotta avenge SuspendedMan if we’re gonna be taken seriously as a family!! Grab her, now!”

Sleuth might want to investigate more, but it seemed she’d need to start putting out some convincing theories fast. Regardless of whether Sleuth found the poisonous Navi believable, UnmadeMan was clearly rattled. It looked like unless he was convinced in short order, Sleuth was going to have to defend herself physically as well as intellectually, as he began moving towards her with a grimace on his face.

“What’s going on? Sleuth!” Shoe shouted, wresting herself away from the boss and sliding onto her side. “Why don’t I get the feeling you wrapped this all up neat for us yet…?” Shoe seemed like she’d need a moment to gather herself before she’d be back on Sleuth’s interrogative level.
Sleuth and UnmadeMan exchanged some decidedly work-focused bedroom talk while Sleuth quickly processed the answers, seeing as she could be receiving a big interruption any time now. "Rescued? What does that mean? It calls to mind unoperated navis that have been abandoned by their operators. But who is this 'Family' that goes after both the NetPolice and the NetMafia? And is he saying they target the resources of both groups? That's ballsy... enemies in high places," the lady of the two mused, thinking that perhaps UnmadeMan wasn't being overconfident about the Boss's survival chances after all.

Still, UnmadeMan finally yielded and led the way back to the boss, with Sleuth following close behind to make sure that he didn't jump the gun, nor pull the gun either. "Ooooh deary, murder, she wrote," the detective commented with a quick "tut tut" that seemed neither properly sympathetic towards Shoe nor properly apologetic toward UnmadeMan for wasting his time. "That will certainly put some red in the cheeks."

This was hardly the time for joking, of course; it wouldn't take a master detective to suspect that Sis's warpath would reach this room soon. For her part, she waited as late to step in as she could, smiling in spite of the grave situation. That smile was one of genuine pleasure, but also taunted more and more out of those still speaking. Her reasoning was simple: the longer they talked, the more information she could gather to form her hypotheses. With every word, certain possibilities became more plausible and floated to the top. Her focus became narrower...

She danced backward and away from UnmadeMan, then, either recognizing the chaos of the room or otherwise not wanting to talk over the music, silenced the boombox with a quick tap of her finger. "Sorry to interrupt your drum solo, Birthday Boy, but as it so happens, I am ready to put a bow on this strange caper. A necessary present, delivered to us, one and all," she chuckled, suddenly seeming to become every bit a detective despite her wardrobe, which was barely fit for a sexy maid any more. "Ah, but today's mystery has been a gift delivered unto me and I thank you all very much for the opportunity."

She began to rush along, sensing that either UnmadeMan would act on Sis's advice or the dangerous drink mixer would handle things herself if he took too long. That said, she couldn't lead with her hypothesis... not only would it cause Sis to immediately begin to counteract her, but also, it was just very bad form for any mystery's solution to begin with the answer. "First of all, I'll address the elephant in the room, or the puppet not in the room, as it were. It is my belief that SuspendedMan has, in fact, not been deleted. I assure you, I come upon this conclusion based upon far more evidence than that SuspendedMan informed me he planned to act out a false death tonight," she informed them, cutting that suspicion off right away.

"My reasons are primarily in study of Sis's and Shoe's behavior. Sis, your anger appears to have been triggered by knowledge that SuspendedMan has been deleted, but this smells fishy from the start. How do you know that SuspendedMan has been deleted and not simply ejected? Does he return to your same PET?" she asked, pacing the floor slowly, with her massive breasts heaving distractingly at each step. "Did he simply cease returning your messages? Did he deliver you dying words, after leaving us with a paltry note to carry on the show without him?" she asked, tilting one eyebrow. "In fact, there are only a handful of ways for you to know SuspendedMan perished at all. The stretch, that perhaps you share a PET with him. The likely, that you received a message from him. The most likely? Actually, there is another even more likely, but we will return to that point."

"More curious, in Sis's 'Shoe is the culprit' theory, is Shoe's behavior. To match your scenario, her behavior would have to have been thus: Shoe kills SuspendedMan. Shoe then reports this to Sis, who did not see SuspendedMan fall and thus could have been kept unaware, unless she received some sort of message. Shoe then attempts to knock Sis out- doesn't delete her- and the result of that knockout lasts only a few minutes, as UnmadeMan and I scamper upstairs to the boudoir. Ah, you might say, Shoe didn't murder Sis in this scenario because of a sharp focus on undoing the Boss, her real target!" she gasped, pointing at her partner, then wincing and holding up both hands, realizing UnmadeMan might react to that. "But no, does that make sense? Shoe didn't exactly wear out her heels getting over here, did she? No, when we encounter her here, she is still entertaining the boss. Not only entertaining him, but doing a bang up job of it, in a way that sacrifices all of her physical faculties by tying up her hands, her legs, even her eyesight, while making the very act of sitting very uncomfortable for the foreseeable future! If that is not enough fishy evidence to turn your nose up, then consider this as well: that supposed knockout that Shoe says Sis gave her lasted merely long enough for us to run upstairs and run back down. In short, there seemed to be no sense of urgency to eliminate anyone on Shoe's part, especially strange if we harbor any suspicion that she may have just murdered SuspendedMan in view of his family!"

Here, she realized she was getting thirsty... she nearly decided on drinking one of the drinks from earlier, but stopped her hand as it touched the glass. She still hadn't fully decided if there was real poison at work here. Sleuth tried her best to put UnmadeMan and whatever furniture she could between herself and Sis as she spoke. "Let's revisit that earlier hanging note. The most likely possibility of all is that Sis assumed SuspendedMan was deleted because that was her own narrative," the detective smirked. "That's not all, of course. You're likely wondering about a motive and furthermore whether Sis would really go so far as to delete her own Family member. The answer, of course, is no: SuspendedMan is not the sacrificial pawn here. The Family is, by all observations, close knit. Just look at that wonderful portrait!" she cheered, raising both hands with a massive bounce of her bosom, gesturing towards the painting above the sitting area. "Miss Shoe, however, would make a fantastic sacrifice. And the motive? Well, I'd been racking my brain over that one, but I believe Sis gave us a hint of that herself when she said 'for the family to be taken seriously.' "

"Let us remember- this is all a performance for someone. There is a plot at foot which someone is meant to see and take something from. Here, we are on your turf. We are but two detectives, women at that, despite our physical abilities. You have an able bodied male, a very spiky lady, and a boss who I've been assured is more than capable of handling a stripper or two. I've already explained several reasons why Shoe is not a likely candidate to be a murderer, but why would she risk this, surrounded by hostiles? If her goal was only SuspendedMan, would she not have jacked out after deleting him? If her goal was all of you, why only 'knock out' Sis, if she even did, and why prostrate herself before the boss instead of taking him out?"

"So why? What's the endgame? I am a detective, but in the end, as long as there are theories left opposing and not eliminated, I can only speculate. Allow me to offer some options, however, for your edification," she faked a curtsy towards the two gentlemen in the room, and Shoe, who had hopefully been released by the boss by this point. "Supposition number one! Let us suppose that SuspendedMan was not in on it. I still don't believe Sis would delete him- because I don't believe he's been deleted- but if he was, the theory becomes almost too cliche to consider. Perhaps Sis saw an opportunity for advancement with one figure, SuspendedMan, off the board and used this opportunity to remove him? Framing Shoe and myself would allow her to get off scott free. It sounds as though SuspendedMan was prepared to make some sort of 'speech' later in the night, so certainly, he must be close to the top of your charming totem pole. One less competitor, hm? But no, no... I sense this is not correct. Lovely family such as yourselves wouldn't want to harm one another."

"Supposition number two, and I believe this one is a right crafty flight of fancy: what if SuspendedMan was in on it? He said this was a 'murder mystery' for the boss. I gather you all, the Family, are the, eh... deviant type, based on what I saw caked to the walls out in the shack and based on, you know, you all being a rather intense and imposing bunch besides. Again, I reiterate: whoever is doing this wants some visual flair out of it. Wouldn't it be just a rib tickler for the boss if SuspendedMan feigned death and it became a real who-dunnit, culminating in the pointing out of the culprit- either Shoe or myself, or both- who would be 'ousted' to put it nicely. Later, after the dirty deed was done, SuspendedMan would reveal himself to be alright and everyone would applaud this drastic, cutting-edge new form of theater! Everyone would share a hearty chuckle. Sounds a little far-fetched? I will tell you what's really far-fetched: that Sis sent the message to be wary of Shoe only to UnmadeMan, not to her Boss, the one who would, theoretically, be in the most imminent danger from Shoe's attacks. Why would that be the case? Well, as good a reason as any I can venture: to preserve the Boss's role as the audience, while UnmadeMan was tricked into attacking one of us hapless detectives."

"I do have a third supposition!" she offered, speaking very, very quickly now to avoid being attacked by... anyone, she really couldn't fully anticipate who would be comfortable with her continuing. "Perhaps a bit juvenile. Sis said she wanted the family to be taken seriously, right? What if this whole concept of strippers dancing around the boss in their finest cupcake wrappers upset Sis here? Perhaps she feels as though it reflects poorly on the whole Family. Maybe she's even a little smitten with SuspendedMan... or UnmadeMan, strapping gentleman that he is, half a good head on his shoulders and very full head elsewhere... or the Boss, virile and experienced chap. For whatever reason, she doesn't like seeing floozies like us give them lap-dances! Easiest thing in the world to simply send SuspendedMan not a lethal poison, but something that will take him out of the picture temporarily... or perhaps feed him a line about staying away... while concocting a scenario that will have UnmadeMan unmake the two of us. We'd be gone and when SuspendedMan returned, she'd explain that we were the ones that poisoned him, but gosh, good thing he managed to pull through it! I like this one. It makes me giggle," she giggled, grinning annoyingly.

In all of this, one might get the idea she greatly trusted her partner, casting no suspicion upon Shoe. In truth, the only reason Shoe was not on the chopping block right now was the position she'd assumed. In Sleuth's mind, no way, no how would a guilty person with their mind on escape, on crafting some elaborate scheme, on defending themselves from some righteous attacker, or especially with their mind on another kill, choose to set themselves onto their hands, stick their ass in another man's lap to be spanked to red meat, and also bury their face in a bunch of pillows. It defied all reason. That simple fact alone was enough to eliminate any possibility of Shoe being the mastermind.

"Ah, but I've rambled on. Does anyone want to be a dear and tell me if I've gotten this correct? Perhaps fill me in on a few more details and let me have another sporting crack at it?" Sleuth asked with a shrug, as though anyone was going to be willing to listen to another three or four such suppositions. "Boss, you know your family. What do you think? Any of this ringing a bell?"
Although Sleuth was settling naturally back into her true role as a detective, it was perhaps understandable that her audience was stumbling to keep up. Shoe was still rising gingerly to her feet, looking like her mind was on something else; the whereabouts of the Boss’s mind were anyone’s guess, as he gazed first curiously at Sleuth, then severely, then turned that severe gaze to empty space before him; the Sister regarded her warily, continuing to take cautious steps towards the action; UnmadeMan, the most pressing concern, maintained his taut posture as though preparing to catch anyone who made a run for it, his clenched teeth bared in his grinding jaws.

With Sleuth’s first declaration, Sis took a few more urgent steps forward, the colorful fog still rolling behind her. She started to sputter a loud objection immediately, but it was clear her stuttering speech and manner was going to be antithetical to her ability to undercut Sleuth’s presentation. She clammed up when she realized Sleuth’s train of questioning, but it was impossible to tell why. Was she feeling cornered, or was there another reason? Regardless, she did snort and tilt her head as Sleuth continued her presentation. “Of course your partner’s gone all out to make herself f-fe-helpless! All your so-called clues fall into place, huh?” This was the only part she raised any immediate objection to, fuming silently.

Sleuth was forced to backpedal silently as UnmadeMan took rapid, lunging steps towards her. The beast-like Navi came to a sudden stop, however, as it became clear he’d just come for the drinks she’d passed on. He grabbed a mug, still growling low without anything to add, pausing only to take deep gulps that’d probably make Sleuth envious if she really was thirsty. “Sis, kill her brother?” he finally interrupted, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “Not possible.”

“Our family is an unbreakable unit,” the sister agreed, flexing her fingers dangerously.

“It is quite a lovely portrait, but not so lovely as the Family that it portrays,” the Boss mused fondly, sighing and slouching into his chair. “You know I’m so terribly proud of those boys and girls I raised.”

“Well, besides the one bad apple,” Shoe muttered, sitting gingerly on the cushions she’d set on the floor before. “Obviously, I’m the scapegoat here, right? I’m probably not getting paid enough for this, but I’m definitely not getting paid enough for this!

“I’m hearing nothing but conjecture,” the sister responded in a hiss. “Slip in just enough holes in your plan so it looks like there is no plan, r-right? None of us are dumb enough to fall for that!”

All eyes stayed on Sleuth as she began listing her suppositions. Into her second one, UnmadeMan held up his hands, face twisted into a disgusted grimace. “Woah, woah, woah, uh, I’m lost. I know we’re in the woods, but uh, this is way lost in the woods, and I ain’t seeing the forest for the trees. I know the dude has-“

“Had!” his sister reminded him, pointedly.

“Had, has, whatever, weird tastes! Anyone who walks around lookin’ like that’s got to. But some kinda murder dinner theater? Don’t think we’ve ever had anything like that around here. Don’t think the Boss has ever had any interest in it either.”

“On the contrary, it’s all been very interesting,” the boss contradicted him.

UnmadeMan waited a moment to see if the boss was about to make a surprisingly lucid interjection and then, deciding he must have only half-heard the conversation, continued. “Also, uh, what message? Did I miss the message somewhere? Cause I ain’t getting’ what message.”

“Sleuth’s reasoning d-depends on me having received a message to have realized SuspendedMan was deleted, I think…” The sister said that with an implied smirk in her tone, but didn’t elaborate further, allowing Sleuth’s third supposition. “None of us are gonna give that one the time of day. The Family is a Family… brothers and sisters. And I’m not so p-petty as to deny my brothers some fun with their floozies. Except when it’s deadly!”

“I can’t follow all of it, Sleuth,” UnmadeMan interjected, taking a step forward, “But I’ll clue you into one thing: the reason Sis and I know he didn’t jack out is that he can’t jack out. We Family members wear this on our sleeves: all of us are abandoned Navis who can’t return to PETs.”

“Get it?” his sister chuckled icily, evidently feeling that Sleuth’s theories had fallen apart. “There was no message. I simply heard from the kitchen when your friend did the deed. If I hear SuspendedMan leave the Net, I’ve already caught your friend Fred-red-handed.”

“I’m a detective, and I’ve been around some deletions,” Shoe interrupted, rising to her feet to give herself some gravity. “SuspendedMan wasn’t deleted; that was a jack-out. I’m not sure if it’s one, two, or even all of you trying to pull something, but let’s not try to fool a detective’s own senses, all right? And Sleuth, I hope you’ve got enough sense to trust your intuition. You’ve already hit on the correct theory, don’t you think? Throwing out a bunch more theories is just a waste of our time. The problem here is the jury: the only two here to make a judgment are members of a tight-knit family already pitted against us. The only right move is for us to exit right now.”

“How far do you think you get?” the diminutive poison-mixer taunted, her eyes glowing menacingly. “Are you going to live your life on the Net looking over your shoulders? Holding your breath? Drinking canned drinks?”

“Keep throwing out theories if you want, I’ll hear ya,” UnmadeMan added, turning between the detectives and baring his teeth. “Shake that tail while ya do, I’ll listen to em all night. But turn tail and run, and you’re gonna get a hard-breathing shadow that might keep you thinking of it even later…”

Sleuth had one more opinion she was curious about, and she asked the boss for his opinion last. The boss looked up at her absently at first, then a smirk twitched at the corner of her mouth. “Theories, theories, theories. I thought SuspendedMan told you how I like my ladies? What happened to the entertainment? I was quite enjoying myself!” He grumbled, straightening himself in his seat. “SuspendedMan has an important announcement coming up shortly, an announcement regarding the future of the Family. I’d prefer to enjoy myself a bit further before then! A show’s a show, but it isn’t like the man’s dead. Not since-”

“There’s not going to be an announcement, and the man is dead!” Sis shouted, her voice breaking. “They’re NetPolice, they’re NetMafia! Whoever they are, they’re not with us. UnmadeMan, end this! End them!”

UnmadeMan growled again, reminded of the stakes of what they were discussing again. “Yeah, truth is, I dunno if I’m feeling a whole night of patience. Truth is, there’s things I’d like to do all night with a woman like you, but listening to a bunch of jib-jab ain’t gonna cut it. You got anything to wrap this up, I’d go ahead and lead with that, and snappy.”
Sleuth received a flurry of new information, in the form of reactions, testimony, explanations, and the like. She gave a bitter smile in Shoe's direction. "Hush now, you silly ottoman topper! If you're a detective, then don't leave a mystery unsolved!" she thought to herself, but it was unclear to her how much showed on her face. Whatever the case, one thing was clear: her logic was flawed... because SuspendedMan as they knew him couldn't jack out. Despite Shoe's protests, the reactions of everyone here seemed to prove it. And yet...

"Ah, I don't know if this is related to the mystery at all," she murmured, not seeming to realize her crunch on time, "but I believe I've made a discovery as far as your wholesome family goes. SuspendedMan, hanging up like a strung-up cadaver... 'UnmadeMan' missing half his head... whatever our lovely chef of the night must be... would it be safe to day you dabble in reanimation, Boss? Earlier you were going to say 'since I brought him back to life,' weren't you?" she questioned, seeming bemused. "That bloody bloody cell out there wasn't a place where you hold navis and torture them... it's a place where you workshop navis back to life, isn't it? When you said 'raised' you meant 'raised from the dead?' That's what UnmadeMan meant when he said 'rescue' earlier, too..."

She wasn't sure where she was going with this, but it seemed to be an important piece of the puzzle. She pressed her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose, trying to hide a smile at the same time. Sleuth felt a rush of exhilaration at this high calibur mystery that had presented to her, even as she pondered the stakes.

"No message, UnmadeMan? Well, that's curious. Weren't the two of us about to enter the throes of passion when you suddenly said 'Sis said SuspendedMan was deleted?'" Sleuth inquired, pacing the floor in a very bouncy manner. "You must acknowledge you received such a message, yes? Did that message not include any warning to watch out for Shoe or myself as the potential killers?"

Her tone was somewhat quiet, because she didn't feel as though UnmadeMan was the one to accuse here. Besides his apparent dullard behavior, there was another simple reason..."

"Oh, for the record, let it also be shown that UnmadeMan has taken a drink at random from the dish and consumed it. Either there is no poison, he was not in on it, or he has made quite a gaffe," she shrugged, seeming as though her mind was elsewhere. "Trust me, his... eyes, wherever they may be... have not been on that drink tray consistently enough to ensure that wasn't one poison cocktail..."

She needed another theory, not simple observations. Right now, she lacked the how dunnit, why dunnit, and who dunnit... if she could find but one answer, she may be able to triangulate the others. "Sis, right now, I'm struggling with one key point you have not yet refuted or elaborated upon: if Shoe is the culprit, why did she momentarily incapacitate you and how did you recover so quickly? Furthermore, what do you mean 'when my friend did the deed?' Wasn't SuspendedMan poisoned? You mean you heard him collapse, or did you hear some means of attack? Then why... why the blazes did you stay in the kitchen and ultimately get 'stunned?' Something is very out of order with this story, Missie."

Looking to Shoe, she motioned for her to move aside, then got into a matching position with her butt in the air. "Allow me to assist you here for a moment, give your butt a break and let your lips speak," she chuckled, giving the boss a playful, but practiced, cheek-to-cheek alternating twerk to catch his attention. "I think it's safe to say that these navis should not be able to jack out. That explains why you said he had jacked out and she countered that he had been deleted. However... you say you saw a garden variety jack-out. Could it be possible it was instead a teleport, to another net or somewhere else?" she questioned, bracing herself for a spanking as she spoke.

"Actually... I may have just come up with a theory. SuspendedMan said he had a big, Family-affecting announcement, didn't he? Is it at all possible... that SuspendedMan found himself an operator? Does anyone know what his announcement was supposed to be?" Sleuth prodded further, looking back towards the boss. She cocked an eyebrow. "Earlier I posited that you were preparing to say 'since I brought them back to life.' But is it possible you were actually about to reveal SuspendedMan's surprise to everyone? Namely: were you going to say 'since he can now return to a PET?'" It would be ironic if, rather than being fully senile, the boss was just the one with the knowledge necessary not to view SuspendedMan's departure as death.
The boss listened to Sleuth with a slack jaw, then coughed, the cough turning into a laugh as he threw his head back. “Reanimation?! Ahahaahack, hm, in a sense you’ve got it! Well, I think I’ll start telling people I am, at any rate. That’s quite a- hm,” he paused. It’d be easy to think he had fallen into deep thought if it weren’t for the bit of drool beginning to form at the corner of his mouth.

“None of have been dead, idiot,” the sister muttered impatiently. “Well, except the one you killed… Most of us had near-death scrapes, but none of us actually died. Any other bright ideas?”

If the sister had been feeling cocky from shooting down Sleuth’s last guess, she was knocked down a peg as Sleuth pointed out her muddied messaging. UnmadeMan scratched the back of his neck, frowning. “Yeah, uh, there was that message, Sis. Was that the one you were talking about, or, wasn’t it, that is?”

“… I didn’t mean that message. I meant there was no message from SuspendedMan to m-me.”

“Uh huh. Well, anyway… yeah, the message warned me about the two of you, considering you supposedly iced SuspendedMan,” UnmadeMan agreed, following Sleuth with a turn of his head and grinning. “A couple of big problems, but not too big for me to handle, hehehe…” He tilted his cup back and opened the trap jaw of his mouth to guzzle down the rest of his mug, as if to further make Sleuth’s point.

“The observation that UnmadeMan isn’t poisoned means nothing,” the sister muttered. “This is the problem when you try to play detective to your own crime: all of your invented reasons, invented holes in reasoning? Pointless.”

“I dunno, does she really seem like the type of person who’d come up with a free-wheeling mystery deduction just for sh*ts and giggles?” Shoe wisecracked unhelpfully.

Sleuth got back to that investigation, questioning the sister on the most suspicious point remaining. “How should I know why your accomplice did what she did? And obv-obviously he was- he collapsed- I- I stayed in the kitchen cause I had to plan how to defend myself!”

“For my part, I only stunned her because I had to defend myself, then I came back here because my job is still to help Sleepy over here enjoy his birthday. I am still getting paid for this, by the way, or someone really is gonna get murdered.” She rubbed her bottom and gladly got out of Sleuth’s way, glancing around the room humorlessly. “That was a joke, by the way.” She raised her eyebrow as she watched the other detective multitask, glancing from her bottom to the slowly waking target of her entertainment. “You’re gonna draw him back out like that, you know… Anyway, yeah. If this was the guy’s teleport, his operator has a really bad sense of humor. But it was definitely a jack-out.”

The two aware members of the Family in the room glanced at each other after Sleuth’s question, then apparently decided to answer her. “Not like he told us or anything, but I’m pretty sure… this was the Boss’s retirement, right? So, SuspendedMan is… was… whatever, is his right-hand man. His number 2, ya see. So all I figured was it was just gonna be one of those rah-rah-rah things to drum up support for himself. Talk about what was next for the Family, or some nonsense.”

“I didn’t know any different,” Sis muttered, taking enough steps forward to peer down at Sleuth in her prone position. “And now, none of us ever will… could that be part of your sick motives…?”

“Now, why would she raise the question if it was part of her motive?” the boss asked bemusedly, as though he had been participating all along. He gave a half-awake slap to Sleuth’s bottom, leaving his hand there lazily as he considered her question. “I think I’ve started to understand this murder game that’s put together. I haven’t been all here for it, but I think I’ve put it together… He staged this whole thing as a way of making his announcement, did he? I’d never taken him to have such an odd sense of humor… In any case, yes. If the point is for me to make the announcement, I’ll do it in his stead. SuspendedMan has an operator; therefore, I hardly expect he’s dead now. There, I’ve solved the little mystery for you. Now, why don’t you put that clever head of yours to better-“

“Hold on, what?!” UnmadeMan interrupted him, stomping a foot on the floor. “Boss, I hate to interrupt, but how can you say that? Our Family’s oath has always been-“

“I’m not going to explain his reasoning for him, but I’m not your Boss anymore,” the now nameless Navi declared, playing with Sleuth’s behind as he spoke. “As soon as your Boss finishes nursing his hangover, he will doubtless return and make it official. Now, can’t I please enjoy the entertainment in peace? Now that the mystery’s over, I’d much rather have a detective than a maid-“

“How can you say this is over?!” Sis roared, turning towards the boss and jetting colorful smoke from her vents. “How can you sp-sp-spit on the tenants of our Family like that? Y-you’ve gone delusional, crazy!” She turned to UnmadeMan, now shouting at him. “Does anybody remember what we stand for? UnmadeMan, you’re next in line! You’re the head of the Family! And now, I serve under you. Let’s show our power right now and destroy these two…!”

“…” UnmadeMan stood with his teeth gritted and his head facing the floor. “I got no idea what’s going on…” he admitted, sounding sapped of strength.

Annoyingly, the boss appeared to have become less interested in doling out hints and solving mysteries, and more interested in his idle affairs once more. “Haha! Liven up! Live a little, live a lot, just live! Ahaha!” It was clear from his renewed enthusiasm that if the Family didn’t end Sleuth first, the boss likely intended to do so starting from her end.

Finally, Sleuth’s would-be ally and fellow detective who hadn’t been much help so far slid into place in front of Sleuth, lying on her side and smiling wryly. It could be she was just enjoying seeing Sleuth face the same punishment she’d been forced to endure a moment ago, or she might be enjoying the humor of the situation in general, considering how Sleuth planned to deal with people who might want her dead in this position. “Well? Have all of the pieces fallen into place? Are you ready to deliver the last proclamation? I’d love it if we could wrap up while there’s still a Family to pay us…”
Sleuth returned a smile that might have been a mockery of the Boss's slack-faced smirk, hoping that he was too dull right now to understand what she was doing. It was hard to keep up the joke anyway, with her backside getting thwacked, so she turned back toward the bickering UnmadeMan and Sis. It seemed there was more than a simple misstatement of fact when it came to this message deal. Sleuth wanted to reach out and give her partner in crime-solving a whack on the butt for her dry humor, but it would be pretty uncomfortable from her current position.

Speaking of which, she was currently less concerned about the safety of her backside, which was well padded and used to being vigorously slapped for entertainment purposes, and more worried about the likelihood of Sis simply stabbing one of those big needles through her back while she was prone and snooping. She was just barely listening as the boss rambled on about SuspendedMan's ascension, when she suddenly noted a critical piece of information: namely, the confirmation of her theory that SuspendedMan had an operator and was capable of jack out. "Eurek-ah!" she proclaimed, as the boss delivered another ill-timed thwack.

"Ah, Miss Shoe, so right now I'm both the maid and the detective, while you are reprising your role as- HRK- sexy furniture," she joked, determined to finish it despite the spanking. "But for now, yes! I do believe the answer has been handed to me on a - GRK- silver platter. And sirrah, if you want me to live so badly then why are you- KILLING- me?" she questioned, perhaps opening a new murder mystery. "I kid. Now, allow me to lay the details bare." It would be hard not to stare at either her massive breasts squished beneath her or her elevated, thong-clad ass as she offered to make things bare.

She cleared her throat, looked both ways, hissed again at a particularly rough spank, then put on an unamused expression. "Well, it's all rather simple isn't it? UnmadeMan, please, hold Sis's hand for a minute, because this news may be rather- SHOCK-ing," she prepared the two of them, urging him to do so quickly. "Yes, I believe this is what they call the falling- ACK- tion, because-AYEE- have put all the p-EEEE-ces into- OOOKAY- that's it, I'm going to hurry this up," she squealed, her lower legs and toes curling up around the boss's shoulders as she found it hard to pretend the spanks weren't affecting her. "Sis wanted the famil-EEE- to be taken seriously again so she plotted to- KILL- SuspendedMan and then elevate UnMade-MAN THAT STINGS- to that position. She thought she had control- OH-ver him and he'd be- EASY- to manipulate."

Clenching her teeth, she suddenly scooted up a bit onto the Boss's lap, then carefully sat up and pushed her butt against his groin. She moved his hands to her breasts, then raised her hands behind her back. "There, please, content yourself with these for a bit," she urged him. "Sis knew that she could lead the Family into a proper position of power, but she also knew she wasn't net in line for the successor's position. If SuspendedMan died, that would mean she could either control UnmadeMan however she wanted with her wiles, or else, she could simply remove him down the line. Advantages of knowing that all of your allies- at least in theory- don't have jack-out protection. Sis, do you think I've got that about right? Oh, and do keep holding her hand, UnmadeMan."

"Of course, the question now, is whether this is all water under the bridge for you Family types or if you plan to return the favor," she shrugged, smiling over at UnmadeMan. "I guess that's really SuspendedMan's call to make, considering he isn't dead. I have pondered why Sis isn't already on the run if we've found her out, but doubtless, she'd still like to execute an escape plan of pinning this on either Shoe or myself. Do hold her hand tightly, UnmadeMan. Yes, very tightly. As tightly as your boss was squeezing my cheeks a moment ago, which, I assure you, was right and proper hard."
“Hey, I’m only doing what we were paid for,” Shoe responded, leaning again on what was evidently her favorite word while shrugging and continuing to watch Sleuth with amusement.

The boss, on the other hand, didn’t respond with any words. He slowed his pace for a moment, but in Sleuth’s position it probably felt like he was just waiting for the perfect moment when she was trying to make a salient point to strike again… Intentional or not, that proved to be accurate.

UnmadeMan did as Sleuth had requested. Seeming to have some idea it was part of Sleuth’s plan, the sister tried to pull away, but too late. She’d apparently decided she couldn’t force it, so she watched with an unhappy frown as Sleuth broke down her reasoning. Everyone stayed quiet as Sleuth spoke, perhaps out of some respect for the position she was speaking from and her obvious desire to proceed quickly.

Of course, the accused didn’t stay quiet when Shoe addressed her directly, starting forward again and gritting her teeth. “What power do you think you’re even talking about? What do you even know about this, or what kind of Family we’re trying to do? What is there here to control, and why would I want it?!”

“That’s a fair question,” Shoe agreed, seeming interested now that she had to do something with her attention. “The four we’ve seen today… that’s all of you, isn’t it? You’re called a ‘family,’ but you’re no Mafia family. You showed your disdain for the other major powers, but you all are in no position to challenge them at all. Maybe there’s something else that’s important to this family, besides power?” she mused, patting at her chest with the reflex to light a cigarette and frowning bitterly when she remembered she wasn’t carrying.

“Forget all the ‘why,’” UnmadeMan growled, grabbing Sis now not just by the hand but by both shoulders, frowning down at the short girl even from his stout height. “Forget it! My question now is ‘how,’ as in ‘how could you poison and try and kill that guy, our brother, that guy who loves you like a brother? And how could you like about it to me, this idiot who was about to off a nice piece for you on faith alone?’”

“Your siding with her, h-huh?” Shoe cried, biting at her lip and squirming. “Siding with a drunk floozy who sticks her nose in other people’s business for fun, and with that traitor who threw away our principles! Why would I even want to kill SuspendedMan? We d-d-d-don’t do anything! We sit here in a cozy cabin, we take care of our old man, that’s all we do! Living together by that code is the only is the only important thing… Living or dying together, being a family is… the only important thing…”

The boss continued to fondle Sleuth idly, apparently happy with what he was getting but working automatically and mercilessly. It seemed like it’d be a bit difficult to pry away from him.

“Dying together?” Shoe muttered with a dry smirk, glancing at Sleuth for a moment and taking a cautious step towards the brother and sister. “Because none of you can jack out, right? I put that much together… the idea of not having jack out capability, your boss being feeble… your Family operates on some principle that values mortality, hm?” She took another slow step forward.

“That’s what makes us strong. For your life to have an endpoint will give the sentence meaning,” the sister agreed, sniffling.

“So what’s more important to you, Sis…?” the detective asked, taking another small step forward. “Your family, or its principles? If you don’t have one, is the other enough?”

The sister sniffled, biting her lip and standing limply as her brother continued to hold her. She muttered to herself, “I’ll show you… I’ll show you I… c-can have b-b…” The girl trailed off, sniffling.

Shoe stood still, relaxed to an untrained eye, but clearly taut to anyone familiar with analyzing behavior.
For a little while, it seemed as if Shoe and UnmadeMan had decided to take on roles as detective and detective assistant for a while, allowing Sleuth to watch quietly for a bit. Normally, that wasn't a role she preferred, but after so many rapid-fire deductions (guesses?), it felt appropriate to let her throat rest. Still, she couldn't keep her thoughts at bay. What felt like a simple wrap-up had begun to feel first tense, then dangerous, as Shoe seemed to be testing the cornered criminal. Was this some technique to try to get a full confession out, to have Sis say everything in tears?

Sleuth replayed the information in her head... The "Family" here were not like a real mafia family. If anything, they were almost inverse. They may see their mortality as a sign of strange, but the truth of the matter was that no matter how big and bad and scary they were, they were essentially damned in a fight. If the whole group decided to turn and shoot her in the head right now, filling her full of holes, she'd be transported back to her PET with a massive headache and wouldn't be able to move freely for a bit. That was just the way navis tended to work. However, if she and Shoe decided to massacre the whole place, there'd be no coming back for them. It was like they were just slightly less vulnerable versions of unoperated navis.

It was hard for Sleuth to act cool while she was getting held down and vigorously spanked by one of those navis, but she did her best to put on a confident smile. "It is pretty rare that we navis get to truly jack off on our own feeling of immortality, isn't it, Miss Shoe?" she asked. If that didn't disrupt her partner's act, the next move would: she summoned a CircleGun1, manifesting in her right hand as a revolver loaded with four bullets, and pointed it in the woman's direction. "Would you kindly take a few steps back to your earlier position?"

* CircleGun1Damage: 100 + Seeking
Accuracy: A
Description: A highly accurate cannon attack that can see through invisibility. Can fire 4 times before being expended. Rare
Duration: 4 Uses
Element: Null
Trader Rank: C
activated, but not fired*

She spoke quickly now to explain her stance. "No one actually died here today and we are not here as some sort of NetPolice enforcers or Mafia hitmen. I am a nosy person who wants to get to the bottom of the truth, but that's the end of it. This is the Family's business and I believe things have been made clear enough that they can handle it themselves," she proposed. "More so once SuspendedMan reappears to join the deliberation. The only move now that can't be taken back... is a hasty move by one of us two outsiders."

Recrossing her arms beneath her hanging breasts, Sleuth turned her attention back to Sis. "Now, color me confused. You want your family and your principle of mortality, correct? You just said 'I'll show you I can have both,' but this is categorically false. You have just learned that one of your family, SuspendedMan, will never conform to this expectation and become mortal. You can try to kill him in some mass suicide if you like, but then he will be left alive and everyone else dead. You can try to live with him, but he will remain immortal, unless you all plan to join up with the real Mafia and collect some of those fancy barriers. So dry your eyes and please explain: how do you propose to have family and mortality together?" she questioned again, still keeping her CircleGun's barrel trained on Shoe, but keeping her voice directed to Sis as pleasant as she could manage, despite her goading words.
Shoe winced as she fell under Sleuth’s targeting, then raised her hands and took a few steps back. “You’re making a mistake,” she told the other Navi simply, but didn’t move to show any resistance. She definitely seemed like she had more she wanted to say in response to Sleuth’s explanation, but she had evidently resolved to watch the young woman with a tense frown.

All other ideas (and a couple of hands) remained on Sleuth while she questioned the sister, who was still crying openly. She waited for Sleuth to finish speaking, dried her eyes… then smiled. “You asked…” She turned to UnmadeMan. “Let’s stay family together, Brother.”

“Little girl-“ the Boss began with confusion… before…

Each of the tubes in the stegosaurus girl’s back plunged inward, and the eyes of her helmet glowed red. With a loud cry, the girl exploded outward into a gas cloud. The room was filled with a cloud of gaseous, acrid green poison that burn the eyes and seemed to search for the lungs like an invasive creature. Seeing or speaking was difficult.

If Sleuth was still searching for clues, she’d find one more that might be the last for this particular mystery: a scrap of the stegosaurus hood the Navi had been wearing, the lens shattered and unlit, splattered with data remains.

There was probably little time to confirm the positions of the others. She’d heard a slam from the wall near the door, where UnmadeMan’s voice now rang louder than any in a deafening howl. Sleuth could hear Shoe coughing from where she’d stood a moment earlier, and could tell from heavy footsteps she was moving towards UnmadeMan. The boss released an unhealthy series of hacks from where he remained seated, and from the fact he was clearly trying to speak but failing to form words, it was hard to imagine he had any clear grasp of what was going on. He also no longer had any grasp on Sleuth.

Sleuth probably wouldn't need long to actually get out of the house. She might even be able to do it blind, if she could recall her bearings. She could wait for her sight to recover as the gas thinned, but it didn't seem like a fun or healthy option.

Sleuth.EXE: 90/150 HP (Blind, 1 turn)
Poison cloud in building causes 60 HP per turn.