They had found Finn's body shortly after dawn.
His neck was cut but that had been the extent of his injuries, he almost looked alive. His body had fallen with his head uphill so most of his blood had stayed in his body. That meant predators weren't attracted to the camp, but the way his relatively unsoiled form conflicted with the violence of his death left those who saw it disturbed.
At midday Wells paced around the dropship, the boy's jacket clutched in his hands. Everyone had been wearing dead people's clothes all their lives, but when it was someone they knew it wasn't quite so easy to bury them naked. He hadn't known Finn at all, not really, but the boy had fixed things between Clarke and him last evening only to spend this morning dying alone in the woods. That wasn't something Wells found easy to swallow.
"I'm going to launch an investigation."
Wells sighed and turned around, tossing the jacket on a pile of extra clothes. "Clarke," the boy started, crossing his arms. "I know you liked him, I did too, but we need to focus on building this wall. Staying alive is more important than getting closure."
Clarke's mouth tightened and she strode towards him, her blonde hair flicking from the movement. "You would think that, wouldn't you. There's something wrong with his death, and that's not grief clouding my head; I didn't even know him a week. He died of a stab wound in his neck, but that was the only place he was hurt. You don't let grounders close enough to stab you in the neck, not without at least yelling. He was killed by someone he knew."
"You really think one of us killed him?" Wells asked, leaning back. "I'm the only one who's been getting death threats around here."
"We're surrounded by criminals, Wells. If there's someone who kills for the hell of it we need to figure out who right now, not whenever the wall's finished."
The thought that they were being hunted from the inside as well as out was nothing short of terrifying, but if Clarke genuinely thought whoever did this he would trust her. He would always trust her.
"You're right, but we have to be careful. I don't know anyone well enough to trust them, but is there anyone you can?" Wells asked, letting his arms down and finally meeting Clarke's eyes.
She shook her head. "Jasper and Monty maybe, but I don't want to risk anything. For now we just listen, but when you have a break go look around where he was killed. I'm going to watch everyone, see who's the least affected or strikes out the most. If either of us finds anything we confront Bellamy about it, agreed?"
"People follow him, though I'm not sure why. Just be careful around him, okay?" Wells added, gnawing at his lip and clasping his forearm with the other hand.
Clarke snorted. "Yeah, sure. Just know that once we find out who did this, it definitely won't be me needing to be careful."
Wells took half a step back, startled by her vehemence. "We're not going to kill anyone, you know that, right?"
"Of course not," Clarke replied, her voice losing its jagged edge. "We don't decide who lives and dies, not on the ground. We'll set up a trial and decide what the punishment should be collectively."
"Of course not," he echoed, relieved. He had seen first hand the effects control over life and death could reap and wasn't planning on becoming his father any time soon. Especially not when everyone surrounding him hated the man.
Wells had started to resent his father around the time Clarke had lost hers, but looking back on it should have seen the hypocrisy in what the man did long before. Finn had been sentenced to a delayed death for wasting oxygen, so what is the ruling on someone who expelled a roomful of air in every killing just to keep his hands clean? Sure, it was the most humane death they could find, but it was a lot easier to decide someone would die when you didn't have to do it yourself, let alone deal with the body.
"Wells," Clarke called, drawing him out of his contemplation, "I'm glad to have you back, really, but you can't do anything like that again."
What? Wells wondered, trying to think what that was. "If you mean taking the fall for your mom, you know I was trying-"
"That wasn't your call to make," Clarke spat, her eyes flashing. "If we want to survive down here we can't keep information from each other, no matter how you think I will react."
Wells lowered his eyes, shrinking beneath her spite. "I only wanted to help," he murmured.
"I know, I know, I didn't mean to snap at you, I'm sorry," Clarke replied, backing up to lean against the wall and close her eyes. "Finn's dead, and as horrible as that is I can't even be sad because I'm too busy worrying that if it really was a grounder that killed him we're all going to be dead within a few days anyway, wall or no wall. Then, lurking behind all of that is the idea that my mom killed my dad and I've spent the past few months blaming my best friend for it."
Wells put his hands on her shoulders and she strode forward into his hug, wrapping her arms around his ribs and burying her head in his shoulder. He closed his eyes and let this moment be all that existed. It was her and him, no dead people or radioactive animals that could kill them in moments. No delinquents to hate them. No family to betray them.
Clarke pulled away. "Monty needs a wristband to make a radio," she said.
He blinked at the apparent non-sequitur. "And you want to give him yours?" Wells asked. "Clarke your mom needs that to- oh."
"Exactly," Clarke replied, already starting up the ladder.
"I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"Then it's a good think I make my own decisions, isn't it," she answered, clambering through the hatch and letting it close behind her.
Wells shook his head and went to continue work on the wall. He was Clarke's friend again, but it would take awhile before their relationship would be what it was before. Too bad they probably wouldn't have awhile.
Clarke strode furiously through the camp, knife clutched in her fist. She barely noticed the delinquents parting in front of her or Wells trotting behind, too focused on the tent containing the person whose lapdog had murdered Finn.
Bellamy glanced at her questioningly when she nearly ripped the tent's flap off to get inside, dismissing whoever he had been talking to when he saw her expression. "What is it?" he asked a bit cautiously.
"This," Clarke growled, slamming the knife down on the table. "JM. John Murphy."
Bellamy clenched his jaw. "What about him?"
She snorted incredulously. "Your asshole of a lieutenant killed Finn, that's what."
"He wouldn't," Bellamy replied, wincing when she glared at him. "Okay, he would, but he wouldn't keep quiet about it if he had. Murphy practically advertised that he wanted Wells dead, sorry," he added, glancing apologetically at Wells.
"Your sister found his knife with Finn's fingers."
Bellamy deflated at that, staring at the knife. "Alright," he said after an extended pause. "Okay. What are we going to do about it?"
"We?" Clarke snarled, "We won't be doing anything. I wouldn't be telling you this if they didn't listen to you. I'm just here to warn you not to interfere on behalf of your friend."
He shook his head. "I'm not planning on it. I never liked him myself, but he's not afraid to apply the kind of force we needed to get anything done." Clarke moved to leave but Bellamy caught her arm before she got very far. "Just remember that everyone here's a criminal. If you make a scene they might react violently."
Wells stepped in and removed Bellamy's hand from Clarke's arm. "Because you've been keeping everything peaceful, right?"
Bellamy stepped back and looked away. "Look, I wouldn't have let him kill you alright? I just had to show that I was one of them if I was going to have any sort of authority."
"Do you have any idea how easy it is to kill someone with a knife?" Wells exclaimed, focusing his entire attention on Bellamy. "Even if you weren't trying to. Hit someone in an important organ or artery and they'll die without proper treatment, which we'll never get down here. Either of us could have been doomed to die in an instant and all you have to say is that you needed to be one of them? These people aren't all murderers. Maybe a few of them are, but most are were caught stealing, illegally trading, or are just locked up for convenience's sake. They trust you because you're convincing, not because you endorse brutality."
"Wells," Clarke cut in, "Let's go. He's not worth it."
They walked out together, leaving the fingers on the table, and went to gather the delinquents. Today had reminded Clarke why she had considered Wells such a good friend. Both tended towards righteous indignation, but they managed to hold each other back to manageable levels. Earlier Wells had reminded her not to allow her grief to affect her decisions, and now she reminded him to stay practical. They worked well together.
Clarke stepped up in front of the curtain of the drop ship and turned to face the camp, watching everyone work on the walls. Would they work so well if they knew the murderer was in their midst? She knew Jasper had regressed since hiding those fingers. Regardless of how they reacted, they needed to know. She wasn't going to be like her mother.
"Alright everyone," she yelled, and the delinquents slowed their work and turned to look at her. The camp was a bit small for 100 people, but it did make announcements much easier. "We have news on Finn's death."
That was when the murmuring started. Most appeared to be curious, but there were a few that looked flat out terrified. Charlotte was one of them, the poor girl. Clarke would have to talk to her again later, she was too little to really understand it.
She took a deep breath, then her voice rang across the clearing. "It wasn't a grounder that killed him."
That got their attention. People started gathering around the base and filing out of their tents. Clarke noticed Bellamy standing on the ground at the side of the ramp, and of course Wells was at her side. "Murphy, please come up here."
The boy mentioned looked at Bellamy for confirmation, and at his nod walked up the ramp to stand next to her, turning to face the crowd. His presence quieted them a little, and she then understood just what Bellamy had meant when he said Murphy supplied the force they needed. He had influence, but authority achieved through fear didn't last, at least in her experience.
"The killer is among us now," Clarke explained, making eye contact with everyone she could. "We know who he is, and we're going to do this right. Everyone of us was condemned to death by one man, but on the ground there is no chancellor. We are not going to kill anyone, is that understood?" The delinquents murmured their response, some visibly far more enthusiastic than others. "Alright. John Murphy, you have been formally accused of the murder of Finn Collins and your trial will commence immediately."
There was a moment of apprehension where Clarke realized it might not have been the best idea to invite Murphy to stand next to her when accusing him of murder, but when the crowd started voicing their approval the tension between them dissolved. He stood back and shook his head. "This is some kind of joke," he drawled, but Clarke could tell he was starting to panic. His eyes darted across the crowd, and for a moment she doubted his guilt. Only for a moment though; Finn was dead and it was Murphy's knife that had killed him.
Wells stepped forward and showed the knife to the crowd. "This is the evidence we've found against Murphy. This is his knife, and it was found with some of Finn's fingers."
Murphy stepped back, his nervousness showing on his face. "C'mon Bellamy, you don't believe this, right?"
"It's your knife, Murphy," Bellamy replied, returning the boy's desperate glances with a flat stare. Clarke was glad she had spoken to him earlier, if he had tried to contradict her there would have been trouble.
"We should float him," a voice called out form the front of the crowd, and Clarke's skin grew cold.
"No," she shouted, silencing any mutters of concurrence. "We're not killing anyone, remember? We're not the arc. We're going to have a trial, and then we'll decided on a punishment. Together."
The silence stayed for a moment, then Wells turned back to the terrified Murphy. "Do you have anything to say in your defense?"
Murphy laughed, a strained, nervous chuckle. "Do I have anything to say? What, just because you're dad's a chancellor you think you can run things down here? I don't have to listen to you, I don't have to listen to any of you. Bellamy, tell them I didn't kill the guy."
Bellamy did nothing.
Murphy spun around, eyes darting over every face. Clarke doubted anyone would vouch for him, not when he was already so hated. "Mbege? You sleep in front of the exit of the tent, I couldn't have left without waking you."
The more stoic boy nodded and stepped forward. "That's true."
The one who had spoken earlier in favor of floating him stepped forward in retaliation, stating, "He wouldn't be noisy if he was going to kill someone. That doesn't prove anything."
"And he was going to kill Jasper when he was hurt," a girl near the back shouted. "Not to mention he carved a death threat into the side of the dropship."
As more people started coming forward with support to convict Murphy, the boy's face drained of blood. "I swear I didn't kill him," he shouted, backing into the wall of the drop ship.
"Alright," Clarke shouted, quieting the delinquents. "We know he killed Finn, but what do we do about it?"
"Banishment," Bellamy offered, speaking up for the first time. "We're not going to kill him, but we can't afford to keep him around either. Give him his knife and some rations and tell him if we see him again we'll kill him."
Clarke glanced at Wells and saw her own agreement of the decision reflected in his eyes. The audience seemed to approve as well, heads nodding across the board. Only the one boy, Mbege, seemed to be distressed. She turned to Murphy and saw that his panic had been tamped down into a resigned smirk. "Do you understand the terms of your banishment, Murphy?" she asked, trying to sound fair despite her disgust. He had seemed genuinely confused when she had first accused him, but this casual acceptance of his punishment really brought home the fact that he had killed Finn and didn't even regret it.
"I'm dyslexic, not deaf," he replied, stepping forward with one hand outstretched. "Just know that when you come begging to me for forgiveness you won't be getting it."
Wells handed him the knife and stepped back quickly, leaving Clarke all too aware that Murphy wouldn't stop being dangerous until he was dead. Hopefully he would actually leave for good, but what were the odds of that when he wanted revenge on the entire camp?
The crowd parted around the boy as Murphy strode to the exit, brushing through a confused, returning hunting party on his way out. Once he was out of sight Clarke stepped off the ramp and the gathering dispersed.
"That went about as well as we could have hoped," Wells murmured to her, and she nodded.
"It did go pretty smoothly," she agreed. "Thank you for your support," Clarke added to Bellamy as he turned to leave.
The man paused and twisted his neck to look at her. "I'm not bad, Clarke, just realistic," he replied, then left to greet the returning hunters.
Clarke watched him leave. "Maybe he's not as bad as we thought."
"I don't understand him," Wells replied. "His actions and words conflict too often for me to trust him. Maybe it's because of his sister? He seems to be motivated almost solely by her."
She hummed an acknowledgement, thinking back to her interactions with Octavia. The girl was reckless and careless, but she was also high spirited in a way that made Clarke wish she herself could enjoy life so much.
But she couldn't. Not since her father died, not since she was arrested, and certainly not since they had landed on the ground. Happiness would just have to wait until they had a moment to relax without the threat of death looming behind them.