"Battler sure is taking his time with this," Jessica grumbled. By that point. Battler had already been gone for a few minutes, and she was starting to eye the remaining cookies on Shannon's plate.
George shrugged. "Who knows what he's thinking. I told you that he's a sore loser."
Between the two of them, Shannon appeared worried, almost dejected. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and said, "This isn't right."
"Huh?" Jessica said. "What do you mean? You've beaten Battler fair and square."
"I made it sound like an easy mystery, but maybe it wasn't," she said. "What if he hates me for it?"
"I dunno. It's hard to make Battler hold a grudge. I don't think he'd be that angry with you. He'll probably forget all about it when the rain stops and the seagulls cry."
As if on cue, Battler suddenly came running back into the parlor, planting Maria squarely in front of the plate of cookies and declaring. "I've got it!"
"You do?" George said, folding his arms. "I'll believe it when I hear it."
Battler snapped his fingers and pointed at Shannon. "The dead guy's name is Mr. Dango, right? Like the dumplings?"
Slowly, Shannon nodded, unsure of where he was going with this.
"But answer me this with your hand up. You said it was hard to turn him over to see the stab wounds. Is Mr. Dango fat?"
Shannon raised her hand and replied, "Mr. Dango is fat."
"Then I've solved the mystery."
George's eyebrows shot up and Jessica's jaw dropped. "Nuh uh," she said. "No way. I haven't figured out the mystery. There's not enough information yet."
"False. Shannon told us everything we needed to know. All you really need to understand is the dead guy… and the person who killed him."
"But we don't know who killed him," George argued. "We'll never know."
"Not true!" he pointed at the young maid once more. "Shannon killed him, because she wrote the mystery."
"That's dumb," Jessica said. "You can't accuse the author of being the culprit. Books don't work that way."
"Except they do," Battler said. "Jessica, Shannon wrote the story. That means that the killer killed based on things she knows, and if there's one thing she probably does know, it's masters and servants.
"Let's reconstruct the game board!"
He picked up Maria and moved her to the middle of the parlor. Gesturing to her, he said, "Mr. Dango is the master of a household, just like Grandpa Kinzo. He spends his time locked up in his room, just like Grandpa Kinzo. And just like Grandpa Kinzo, he has his own servants. Shannon made sure we were told this information, not just once, but twice. Think about that for a second. Why would a person who almost never leaves their room and likes to be alone need servants?
The thing is, a person can't live locked up in a room like that. Even if Mr. Dango eats dinner with his family, he still needs to get breakfast, lunch, and snacks somehow, right? When Grandpa Kinzo wants these things, but won't leave his room, what does he do? He calls Genji or Kumasawa. They have Master Keys to the study."
Next, he picked up the plate of cookies and held it over Maria's head. "Mr. Dango won't open the door if you tell him to, but if you have something he wants, there's no other way to get it into the room." His little cousin reached high into the air, and so Battler lowered down the plate to where she could reach it. "That's how the killer got in. He showed up with something Mr. Dango wanted, and Mr. Dango unlocked the door."
"Hang on!" Jessica said. "Shannon said that Mr. Dango always told people to go away!"
"No, she said that if anyone tried to go to his room TO TALK TO HIM, he would tell them to go away, because he doesn't like being disturbed. If he wants something, that's not a disturbance. He wouldn't tell a servant that's following his orders to just turn around and leave."
He waited for Shannon to put her hand up and refute, but her wide eyes and delighted smile were just as damning as her special Truth. Better work harder on your poker face, Shannon!
Jessica glowered at him and said, "That still doesn't work. The door needs to be locked from the inside."
"As for how the killer got out, he's still a servant. Mr. Dango wouldn't close his own door after letting the servant out, right? The servant would close the door themselves. Here at the mansion, Genji can just lock the door from outside with the master key after he closes it. With Mr. Dango, the lock is on the inside. For the servant to fulfill their role, there is only one answer. Shannon, repeat this for me with your hand up! The door must be closed to engage the lock!"
Jessica looked sharply over to Shannon, expecting a counter, but both of Shannon's hands remained in her lap, and she simply smiled.
With that, the room might as well have been busted completely open. "Don't you see? That's how the culprit got out. He locked the door before he closed it."
George gave an approving nod. "I asked Shannon while you were away, and she said yes. It makes sense."
"It's not unique to mysteries either," Battler said. "The door lock is probably spring-loaded, like the lock on a hotel room door. The killer engaged the lock while the door was still open," Battler continued. "When he closed it behind him, the lock slid into place, leaving Mr. Dango's body trapped inside. That's how the locked room was made."
"WRONG!" Jessica shouted. "There's no proof! How do you know that the dead guy asked for any of that? You can't just pull something like that out of thin air! Shannon, tell him that he lost! Tell him!"
But Shannon simply smiled and looked up. "I did say that he just needed to find a way that the murder could happen-"
"Not good enough!" Jessica repeated. "Battler used Shannon being Shannon as his argument. That's not part of the mystery! I won't accept it!"
As she scowled down at her, Shannon sighed, looked back up at Battler, and said, "Knox's Eighth. It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not presented."
Jessica shot him a triumphant look. Maybe she was expecting him to crack then and there, but his grin became wider, almost maniacal. "You want proof?"
With that he walked around the table, right up to Shannon, and said, "Show me your hands."
Confused, Shannon held up her hands, then flushed with embarrassment as Battler took them in his own and flipped them palm-up. "George figured it out first, when he asked if Mr. Dango was really dead," Battler explained. "I didn't remember until I was talking with Kumasawa a minute ago.
"Shannon said that Mr. Dango is laying facedown in a big bright red puddle. We also know that Mr. Dango was dead for some time… after all, after the murder, the family waited hours before breaking down the door. It must have taken even longer for Detective Battler to arrive. If the murder occurred before dinner, that could be even more hours. But there's something wrong with that picture."
He selected one of Shannon's fingers and pulled it right in front of Jessica's face. "As you can see, dried blood is brown. That means the puddle on the floor isn't blood. It's red soda, or fruit punch, or a sports drink, or tomato soup, or something else. Whatever it was, Mr. Dango spilled it everywhere as he died. It's some fluid that he ordered, and the killer used bringing the drink as an excuse to be allowed into the room. Either the cup or pitcher is still in the room, or the murderer took it with him when he left. The result is the same."
Jessica looked down at Shannon's scab, up to Battler's face, and back down at the girl's finger again. "So let me get this straight. Mr. Dango died because he was a lazy, fat guy that couldn't be bothered to leave his room for some cherry soda?"
"Yeah, pretty much," Battler said, then joking held up his hand and concluded. "This whole mystery is just Room Service."
Jessica looked up at Shannon's face. "Really?"
She replied with a rueful grin, and finally nodded. "Um, I said at the start that it wasn't very good."
"Well, I liked it!" George said. "I was waiting to see if Battler would catch the thing about the color of blood… speaking of which, you should probably let go of Shannon. She looks like she's about to explode."
Battler realized that he was still holding the maid's hand in his, and dropped it immediately. Indeed, the ten year old girl looked so embarrassed that Battler wondered if she'd get a nosebleed from all the blood rushing to her face. "I liked it too!" Battler said. "It was tough, but it got easier once you turned things around a little."
"It's a silly design for a room," Jessica grumbled. "Spring-loaded lock, and no master key for the outside? What if he locked himself out?"
"I was worried that if I added a key, you'd only focus on that instead of the room," Shannon explained.
"You should've said that the key was up on the moon," George joked. "Battler would've spent all night planning the culprit's moon mission rather than finding a way around the door.'
"Whatever," Battler said, with an amused grin. "I still won!"
Behind him, Jessica pulled one of the curtains open, and to everyone's shock, bright sunlight beamed into the room. "You solved it, but not fast enough!" she said. "That means you get to do something Shannon wants as punishment."
"Aww, come on!" Battler said. "If Shannon makes me wear something stupid-"
"Hey, Shannon, how do you think Battler would look in a maid outfit!?"
"Um," Shannon said. "Actually, I just want everyone to come back and play this game again."
"Huh? That's it?" Battler studied her face, looking for some hidden trick or joke, but what he found instead was simple earnest interest. "Well, yeah, sure! As many times as you want!"
There were many mysteries left on the island of Rokkenjima, and the years would produce many more, but as the children walked down to the beach that afternoon, they took pride and perhaps some amusement in the fact that their own little mystery, at least, had been solved.
For the scope of a children's story, that's all that matters, isn't it?
Special Thanks to the following playtesters and detectives from discord and the Umineko Subreddit: