WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND .....
WAKING TO MURDER
Two shadowy figures carefully trudged up the icy sidewalk to the MobileRead house. Snow had fallen all night, and the slippery sidewalk slowed them to a silent shuffle.
*ahem* "That was a most unusual response from that group of carolers" commented Mr. Jellby
"Yeah" agreed Alex
, "they took one look at us and ran screaming down the street, yelling 'Don't open that door' at us. They even dropped their cups of tea all over the road!"
"Quite! Quite" Most unsafe behavior in these dangerous winter conditions. Many may suffer falls, sprains, or fractures .... I wonder if they are adequately insured." mused Jellby
, gazing speculatively down the street at the dwindling mob.
"Come on man, there's no time for additional business tonight, errr, today. We've got to settle all the insurance claims for the unfortunate 'holiday accidents' and salvage what's left of Christmas." Alex
said sharply. "Look, all the lights are out. I wonder if everyone, errr, the survivors went to bed waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. Since I took the only set of keys with me, they couldn't go anywhere else last night."
"Most unsafe behavior .... flying up to roof tops, sliding down chimneys into lit fireplaces .... *tsk, tsk* .... I wonder what his premiums cost." muttered Jellby
, always looking out for safety and a quick profit.
unlocked the front door and the two stepped into a cold, dark, silent hall.
"Wait a minute until I find the light switch." whispered Alex
. "I don't want to knock something over and wake them up if they're still asleep."
WHUMP! SMASH! CRASH!
Lights suddenly blazed on overhead, revealing Alex
tightly trussed on the floor in the living room, surrounded by three figures holding a lethal assortment of kitchen implements!
"Gute vork boys!" shouted ravenne
, brandishing her cleaver above Jellby
's silent throat. "We've captured the fiendish murderers! They DO always return to the scene of the crime! Just like in all those old mystery books!"
checked the knots on the heavy ropes they had tied around the helpless men.
"These two can't even twitch! There's no escape for these schwein now!" replied Marc
, waving a rolling pin over Alex
"Ja! I finally got to use my lasso -- just like in all those cowboy stories I've read." added mtravellerh
. He proudly replaced his Bowie steak knife in his belt.
stopped spluttering in rage long enough to shout "ravenne
! It's me! Alex
! I just got back from the insurance company with Mr. Jellby
. What's going on? Why did you tie us up?"
"Marc_liest and mtravellerh ... where did you come from? When did you get here?"
"Ach, I was not going to return alone to this Halloween House of Horrors - so I phoned Marc
... and picked them up when I went out for fresh groceries." explained ravenne
"When I left, only WT Sharpe
and that sneaky dreams
were left alive. She had finished off all the others -- right in front of us!"
"When we got here, Marc
and I came in first," added mtravellerh
, "and found everyone dead, horribly murdered -- even dreams
*tsk* *tsk* "A classic murder(s)/suicide holiday event .... just let me check your coverage" murmured Mr. Jellby
, flipping through the thick stack of papers on his clipboard. "Aha! Yes, I was right ... you did sign up for the "Mentally Unbalanced Regrettable Holiday Incidents" coverage -- see your initials here? All of tonight's accidental deaths will be fully covered under your policy. Now THAT'S a real Christmas present for you Sir!"
"Wait a minute! Are you saying that dreams
'accidentally' killed everyone .... AND then 'accidentally' committed suicide?" asked Alex
. "That's just not possible, or plausible, or .... anything!"
"Nein, nein!" agreed Marc_liest
, "Many crimes haff been committed here tonight! And we must solve them all before one of us gets blamed for these horrible murderers."
"Ja!" agreed mtravellerh
, "and since ravenne
was here tonight, we can interrogate her and discover the truth."
*cough* "The truth could prove to be quite expensive, if you know what I mean" whispered Jellby
"I've had enough of your bureaucratic bull feathers" shouted ravenne
, who grabbed Mr. Jellby
's clipboard and threw it onto the fire.
"NOOOOO!" screamed poor Jellby
, as he lunged, alas too late, to rescue his beloved clipboard from the devouring flames. Alex
pulled him back to safety just in time, and the two bumped into the stockings as they withdrew from the fireplace.
"Look! The stockings have presents in them! Santa was here!" Alex
shouted. "Let's open them -- after all, it IS Christmas!"
"Not so fast" cautioned Marc
, who had peeked into several stockings. "These aren't presents ... at least not presents from a sane person."
"Look! There's a hammer in Dr. Drib
"I found a pair of scissors in pilotbob
"And an empty jar of sprinkles in Nate
"And some nasty wire in WT Sharpe
"And there's an empty brandy bottle in pdurrant
"And some funny looking blocks in DaleDe
"And a smashed ereader in HarryT
"And a broken umbrella in dreams
"And ... hey! Why is poohbear_nc
's stocking empty? .... Oh right, even a deranged killer couldn't stuff a microwave oven into this skinny stocking."
"STOP! Don't touch anything" shouted Marc_liest
. "Those are the murder weapons! They'll have fingerprints on them. We can identify the murderer's identity! We've got him (or her) now .... dead to rights!"
*cough* "Psssst! Marc
! Shut up!" whispered ravenne
, "There aren't any fingerprints .... any more ...."
All eyes turned to the blushing ravenne
, who stared at the floor and began to fidget in a guilty manner.
"Whew! Lucked out again!" whispered Mr. Jellby
to himself, still trying to pull the remnants of his clipboard out of the fire.
"Wait a minute! How do you know that, ravenne
?" asked Alex
. "Only the murderer would want to wipe off the fingerprints off all the weapons. ..... Are you confessing to the murders?"
"Oh no," muttered Jellby
, "This is bad, very bad. You didn't sign up for the "Murderously Misbehaving Servants" coverage."
"Wass iss it you say? Confess to killing all these dumkopfs? Nein! Nein! I confess only to being the best housekeeper you ever had - willing to work on Christmas Eve - without asking for overtime!"
"Stop looking at me like that! I'm not the killer! I found this junk in the stockings tonight - and it was filthy! I don't understand your strange gift giving traditions at all, I mean, who gives a friend a hammer? Or an empty bottle? So .... I cleaned them up so at least they would be nice and bright and shiny when the stockings were emptied out. And let me tell you, it wasn't so easy getting all that blood off! Not to mention washing poisonous sprinkles out of a bottle! But I did it! And what thanks do I get? Hmpphhh!"
flounced out to the kitchen, Mr. Jellby
whispered to her "Errrr, Ms. ravenne
... if things don't work out here for you, I think you might have a very bright future at my company. Here's my card."
"Well, what do we do now kemosabe?" asked mtravellerh
"We will adopt the methods of the world's greatest detective!" announced Marc_liest
"You're going to light a pipe, play the violin badly, and shoot up on cocaine?" asked Alex
"Non! Non! Not Sherlock Holmes! The world's greatest detective! Hercule Poulet! I've read all of the Poulet mysteries! He never fails! Ever! " explained Marc_liest
"Well, I suppose it's worth a shot" said mtravellerh
. "How do we begin?"
"Well," began Marc
, puffing out his chest and twirling imaginary moustaches, at the end of all of his adventures, Poulet assembles the suspects in the library, reviews the case, accuses each suspect in turn of committing the murder, and then, .... finally .... dramatically turns and points to the real killer .... who promptly confesses."
, errr, Hercule, all the suspects are dead! Alex
were gone while over half of the murders were committed. We just got here. That only leaves ravenne
... and she was out of the building for the final two murders." mtravellerh
"Piffle! Pffft! Mere details! Do not derange yourself! Nothing to do with finding the truth!" answered Marc
, now fully into his role as the world's greatest detective. "Now, who will assume the role of my pleasant, but dim witted, assistant? mtravellerh
? You seem suited for it somehow .... bringing up those pesky details ...."
grumbled but soon gave in. Anything to end this farce of a nightmare. "OK boss, what's first?"
"First we must assemble the suspects, errrr bodies, together in a circle ... so that I can strut about and suddenly twirl and accuse each one of .... murder!" explained Marc
"Pssst .... let's humor the guy and haul down the bodies" said Alex
, "while Mr. Jellby
makes a run to find a policeman."
! Please bring all the chairs into the living room and put them in a circle."
slowly backed out of the room into the hall, while the rest of the surviving mods carried their grim burdens into the living room, and propped them on the chairs. Sometimes they were forced to tie the cadaver on to the chair, because it kept flopping onto the floor. Fortunately mtravellerh
's extensive reading of Western novels had prepared him for all this fancy rope work.
entered the room and said *ahem* "It's no good. Some one has locked the front door. I went all around the house, but all the doors and windows are locked. We're trapped ... again .... it seems. This is a very dangerous situation -- it could invalidate your fire insurance coverage."
said sharply "It doesn't matter any more. Let's get this charade over with ... and then we'll find our way out of here!"
Finally all the chairs were occupied .... but one .... All eyes turned to the empty chair. During the silent pause ravenne
solemnly entered the room, carrying a wishbone on a decorative holiday pot holder. She placed the wishbone on the seat of the empty chair and backed away into the shadows.
"Mein Gott!" exclaimed mtravellerh
"Are those human tooth marks on poohbear_nc
's wishbone? What savagery has gone on here tonight?"
hurried forward to drape a white handkerchief over the remains and changed the subject.
"So, monsieur Poulet, shall we get on with uncovering the villain and getting the heck out of here?" demanded Jellby
twirled slowly within the circle of death, dramatically backlit by flames flickering brightly in the fireplace. He stopped at each chair, eyed the body closely, and then flicked his fingers at the silent witnesses, one after the other. There was pilotbob
, limbs still tangled about his head like last year's holiday wiring. The "tasteful" white handkerchief concealing poohbear_nc
's unthinkable fate. Green bubbles still floating on pdurrant
's face. Wispy smoke signals rising from Dr. Drib
's smoldering sweater. Pages fluttering free from HarryT
's flattened corpse. Cookie crumbs dusting the carpet from Nate the great
's guilty lips. Stray blocks falling from DaleDe
's battered body. An occasional thump as WT Sharpe
's severed head fell off his neck and rolled towards the fireplace. A sharp metallic click as dreams
' umbrella tried to open. All stared dumbly into Poulet/Marc_liest
's unblinking gaze of accusation.
Back in the shadows, Alex
, and Jellby
watched this silent, circular line-up. None dared to breathe lest they disturb Poulet/Marc_liest
's intense concentration, and bring his accusing glare onto one of them.
"Pffft. It is quite clear to me who is the guilty party! Can you not see it? The motive is so clear -- even mtravellerh
can understand it."
"The guilty party, obviously, is ................"
[End of finale]