DISCLAIMER: Ten Little Indians / And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a public domain work.
The opening section of this story (the first four sentences) is a direct quote from the original novel.
RATING: T (for character death, suicide, some violence, some mild language, mildly graphic imagery, and possible ideologically sensitive material)
Contains some of my own personal beliefs concerning the afterlife, many of which do not mesh with any established religion's teaching, and some of which may be considered offensive. Read at your own risk.
TRIGGER WARNING! Suicide
SHIPS: Vera Claythorne x Philip Lombard
CHARACTERS FEATURED: Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard, Justice Lawrence Wargrave
SPOILER WARNING: Contains serious Spoilers for Ten Little Indians / And Then There Were None. BEWARE!
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This fiction is based off of the original novel, not the 1945 film or the 2015 BBC miniseries. If you have not read the book, I strongly urge you to do so before reading this fanfiction.
In fact, I don't even care if you don't read this fanfic. Read the book anyways. Just go read it, period. It's excellent and you won't regret it.
Also, I was working off a personal favorite edition of the novel, so there may be small discrepancies from later editions (e.g. Indian Island vs. Soldier Island).
She climbed up on the chair, her eyes staring in front of her like a sleepwalker's… She adjusted the noose round her neck. Hugo was there to see she did what she had to do.
She kicked away the chair…
In the stories Vera had once read to Cyril, the heroes always found love in the end. The slipper fit, and the kind and patient maiden wed the handsome prince; the sleeping princess was awakened by the brave knight's kiss. Love was a reward for good people, earned by kindness and charity and humility. And They Lived Happily Ever After.
Vera Claythorne knew she was no longer a good person. She had ceased to be one some point after she began to entertain the thought that if Cyril… if Cyril were gone (she would not think dead), why, then Hugo would be rich; rich, and free to marry.
So in a way she was not surprised when Hugo had left her… in the back of her mind, it had only made sense; love was for good people, after all. Not murderesses like her.
Still, when she met Philip Lombard on Indian Island, she had begun to wonder. Lombard was not a good person either… he was cool, calculating, merciless. He'd spoken so casually of the deaths of those natives! But for some reason, Vera had felt quite at home with him. Talking with him felt like the most natural thing in the world. And despite the most unromantic circumstances they found themselves in, she had begun to think, Yes, Happily Ever After is surely only for good people, but perhaps there might still be something for the rest of us too. Not happiness, exactly, but something.
The world was full of people, thousands upon thousands of them; out of all those people, two who were meant for each other might never even meet, much less fall in love. Surely, there must be some sort of consolation prize, simply for finding your other half… Even if neither of you deserved a happy ending, you still might get close.
Or so she'd thought. But then they'd found Armstrong's body washed up on the beach, Armstrong with his swollen, discolored face… and she'd realized the truth that had been before her eyes all along. Lombard had leapt for her, but she'd been too quick for him… she fired the revolver, and Lombard had fallen onto the beach, dead, quite dead, his blood suffusing the sand…
Vera." Someone was shaking her. Lombard's voice echoed through the darkness, urgent, laced with a tone she had never heard him use: the icy undertone of fear. "Vera!"
Vera Claythorne opened her eyes and looked hazily about. Dimly, she saw Lombard kneeling before her, his face pale and drawn. There was an emotion in his grey eyes that she could not fully understand. They were in the hallway before her room, and she was slumped against the wall. Perhaps she had fainted.
Over Lombard's shoulder, through the open door, she could see that something was in her room, some dark shape hanging from the ceiling… but it was mostly blocked from her sight by Lombard's form. Following the direction of her eyes, he bit his lip and moved to obscure it more, almost as if he were intentionally trying to stop her from seeing whatever it was.
"Philip…?" she muttered. Something was wrong here, very wrong, but she was still half-asleep and couldn't think of what. Something to do with Lombard. "Aren't you—?" Then she remembered something that sent a chill through the center of her very being. With a sharp gasp, she pushed past Lombard and, before he could stop her, stood in her room looking at the thing on the ceiling.
It was hanging from the hook in the center of the ceiling, the slight breeze from the open window making it twist and sway listlessly. It faced away from her. The floral pattern on the skirt was the same she recalled putting on that morning. The brown hair, slightly curly, was in a familiar style. It's so odd, seeing it from the back, she thought with a strange dreamy calm, one hand unconsciously reaching up to her own curls. Then the wind twisted it again, and she saw the face…
She began to scream, and suddenly Lombard was there in front of her, blocking out the horrible sight. She buried her face into his shoulder and sobbed harsh, gasping, tearless sobs as he dragged her back out of the room. They stood in the hallway, Vera's face buried in Lombard's strong chest while he stood quite still, waiting patiently until she had composed herself.
At last, Vera's sobs quieted into shallow gasps, and she released Lombard. Her logical mind was already moving past the horror of the thing on the ceiling, and she recalled something else she had seen in the room. Something that didn't fit. "The chair," she said quietly. "It was standing up against the wall." Lombard nodded, tight-lipped. "I kicked it over when… when…" She trailed off. She wouldn't think of that; not yet.
Lombard was staring at her fixedly, his grey eyes expectant. She forced her thoughts back to the chair. "Someone must have moved it afterwards." He nodded again, staring levelly at her. Suddenly, she understood. "You… you're not Owen!"
"No, I wasn't," he replied calmly.
There was something about that, something deeply unpleasant, but she pushed it away. "Then who—?" She stopped short as she became aware of soft noises coming from a room further down the hallway. Holding his finger to his lips, Lombard gestured toward the closed door, indicating that she should follow him. Vera nodded.
As they crept along the hallway, Vera noted with detached amusement that they were both tiptoeing, as though afraid of being caught, though they may as well have shouted and stomped along, for all the noise the floorboards made. Not even the dust motes in the air stirred as they passed.
They reached the room, and Lombard stepped easily on through the wooden door. After a moment, Vera did the same. It felt like nothing; it may as well have been empty air.
Inside the room, she saw the true Owen, bent nearly double over a paper, pen scratching carefully. "Wargrave!" she gasped. "But—but how—?"
"It seems he faked his death. Armstrong was in on it—fed some line about rattling the murderer to root him out. Of course, no one mistrusted a doctor when he said Wargrave was dead. Later on, Wargrave took him up the cliff and pushed him off, then laid back down here, playing dead. None of us ever thought to check for a pulse, damn it all… What?" Vera was looking at him questioningly. "Oh, I see. I read it over his shoulder. Old crocodile's writing up some sort of confession, I think."
"He's going to turn himself in?"
Lombard shook his head gravely. "I don't think so." He glanced over to the desk, where Wargrave was still industriously writing, taking no notice of them. "I was in here earlier, and I watched him testing a most novel invention. It seems his eyeglass cord is made of elastic. He wrapped it round the door handle, then attached it loosely to the revolver. He mimed firing the revolver, held with a handkerchief, at his own temple, then dropped it. The elastic pulled the revolver from his hand to the door, where the handle jarred the revolver free of it. He tried it several times and seemed satisfied with the results."
"It will look, I believe, very much as if he had never moved at all," Lombard interrupted, looking steadily at her. "Once he has shot himself, his body will fall naturally on the bed, just as we'd laid him, and the revolver—bearing only your fingerprints—will be well out of reach. By the time we are discovered, it will have been too long to get an accurate time of death."
Vera's eyes widened. "Why would he do that?"
Lombard shrugged. "Why would he do any of this? I don't particularly care, myself." Vera opened her mouth to protest. "Look, Miss Claythorne, you're welcome to stick around and ask his reasons once he's gone through with it. As for myself, as clever as his ruse was, I'm not too keen on being here to congratulate him on it."
Vera shuddered. "I don't believe I want to know that badly."
"I thought not. Come on, I think he's almost done with that letter."
They left the room, and walked, as of one accord, out of the house and down the winding pathway toward the beach.
The sun was setting across the water, staining the sea red and transforming the waves to molten gold. The wind blew gently through the long island grass, causing a sound like whispered secrets, and Vera felt it caress her cheek—though of course all she was feeling was a memory. It really is beautiful here, she thought.
She looked over at Lombard. His tan skin shone in the dying sunlight, his sharp features highlighted against the distant glimmer of the water. She felt a sudden ache in her chest, a pang of deep and nearly painful longing. That unpleasant thing threatened to rise in her mind again… something to do with Lombard not being Owen… She pushed it away, but still felt it on the edge of her thoughts, prowling, circling like a panther intent on its prey…
Something else occurred to her. "Do you think we're stuck here?" He raised a quizzical eyebrow. She explained: "In… in ghost stories, you know, ghosts have to haunt the places where they… where they died." She spoke with only the smallest hesitation, though that word—"died"—had threatened to stick in her throat.
Lombard shook his head. "No, I haven't seen any of the others here. Only us."
"Good," Vera said, with feeling.
A small smile played over Lombard's lips. "Yes, I've had quite enough of this island. I certainly don't fancy spending eternity here." Vera smiled, too.
They had reached the beach, now. That dark thing in Vera's mind was quite close to the surface when she saw the shapes on the sand. Two of them, crumpled and broken-looking in the last of the day's light. One of them, she knew, was the foolish Armstrong, where they'd dragged him out of reach of the tide. The other lay where it had fallen, on sand stained almost black with blood.
The dark thing welled up in her mind suddenly, and this time she could not deny it. "I shot you," she gasped, swaying drunkenly as her legs threatened to give out from under her. "I—I shot you! I shot you, and you weren't Owen!" She crumpled under the weight of the knowledge, as if from a physical blow. "I'm so, so sorry… I didn't know, I'm sorry, I didn't know…"
Lombard grasped her firmly by the shoulders. "Don't," he said emphatically. "Don't apologize. It was a matter of self-preservation. I would have done the same thing, in your place." He gave a wry, humorless smile. "Was about to, actually, if I could have gotten that revolver off you."
Vera looked at him wonderingly. "Doesn't it—bother you? Being—being dead?"
"Of course it bothers me!" Lombard snapped, his voice breaking, and for the first time Vera realized that he was terrified. He's even more afraid than I am… he just hides it better…
Lombard took a deep breath, composing himself. "Yes, it bothers me, Vera. I just… I can't fault you for defending yourself." His face softened somewhat. Those grey eyes studied her with quiet admiration. "So few people have the will to pull the trigger when they need to. You're quite a woman, Vera Claythorne."
Vera had never known that ghosts could blush. Yet, her cheeks suddenly felt hot, though she had no blood to warm them.
In the back of her mind, she was aware of the ridiculousness of the situation—I killed him, I shot him in cold blood and now he's flirting with me—but it seemed far away and unimportant.
They shared a long, quiet moment, grey eyes staring into hazel ones. Then Vera looked away. "So… what happens now?" she asked.
Lombard gave a deep sigh. "I don't know," he answered honestly, "and I don't like not knowing things."
"Do you think we…" Vera's brow creased thoughtfully as she searched for the words "…move on?"
"I know I don't," Lombard said decisively. "There are twenty-one African natives who would be none too pleased to see me, I expect, and I would prefer to postpone the reunion indefinitely." He glanced at Vera. "Then, I suppose that Hamilton kid wouldn't be too happy to see you again, either…"
"No… I suppose not…" Vera agreed slowly.
They were silent again, staring at each other.
Vera was thinking of Hugo. Hugo had been fair of skin and hair, with open features and kind blue eyes. Hugo was well-bred and poetic and quietly intellectual. Hugo was a good man.
Philip Lombard was tan of skin and dark of hair, with the lean muscular build of a predator. He carried himself with a cruel, arrogant grace, and had the kind of sharp wit and animal instinct born from a life of hardship, far from the creature comforts of the wealthy. Lombard was also, most definitely, not a good man.
She loved him, just the same.
Surprising even herself with her boldness, Vera said abruptly, "I don't care where I go… as long as it's with you." Lombard's eyes widened.
He was frightened, as Vera had observed. All his life, he'd more or less known where he stood… now, he found himself not knowing much of anything. And this sudden ignorance was more terrifying than any threat he'd ever faced. If he was lost in the jungle, or staring down the barrel of a rifle, there was always a way out… a plan that might get him through, if he was swift and clever, and luck was on his side.
But now, he had no way of making a plan… no idea what might await him, even in the next few moments. For a man who'd always had a plan, he was all at once reduced to little better than a child in a pitch-dark room.
Yes, Lombard was afraid. And yet somehow, what frightened him most of all was this woman beside him. He had never wanted anything so badly as what she had just proposed. And that was petrifying.
Wordlessly, Lombard held out his hand, with less certainty than Vera had ever seen from him. With equal trepidation, she took it.
Hands clasped tightly, they stood at the water's edge together, staring out at the horizon and the unknown. Lombard looked over at Vera. "Where to?"
"Anywhere," she answered. "Anywhere but here."
They closed their eyes…
A moment later, the beach was deserted, even by spirits.
Some time later, a solitary figure exited the house. It cast a bottle into the sea, then walked slowly, slightly stiffly, back inside. There was a momentary silence. Then a gunshot rang out loudly through the stillness of the sea air. Wheeling high above, a lone seagull cawed.
The last ghost departed, leaving nothing but ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.