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Old 12-25-2012, 12:49 PM   #1
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MobileRead Winter Contest - A Mystery and many E-Book Readers!

Announcing MobileRead's Winter† Murder Mystery Extravaganza!

MobileRead is proud to announce a Twelve Days of Christmas Murder Mystery.

[EDIT: The contest is now over. If you would like to read the story (with solution!), an ebook of all the episides and some extras is available in the Patricia Clark Memorial Library in Kindle/Mobi and ePub formats.]]

Have the MobileRead moderators been naughty or nice?
What will Santa bring them in their stockings this year?
The moderators are all getting together on Christmas Eve for a celebration.
But it seems that one moderator is being very naughty indeed.....

Who's behind the dastardly deeds?
Who will still be standing when the dust settles?
Will your favourite moderator live to to see 2013?

Follow along here with a new episode every Day of Christmas.

The following prizes are up for grabs:

How it works

Super Star Crime Writer Agatha Chicken will post one episode in this thread for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Read the episodes as they appear over the twelve days of Christmas.
Match your wits with Agatha Chicken's world-famous detective Hercule Poulet as you try to determine which one of the moderators is the fiendish devil behind it all.

If you follow the story attentively until the last episode, you might be able to identify the murderer. Discover the murderer's name and email it to us at wintercontest@mobileread.com before the end of Monday, January 7th 2013 to be in with a chance of winning. Make sure you include your MobileRead username in your entry.

Those entries with the correct name will be entered in a random drawing for one of the thirteen fabulous prizes listed above.

As this thread will be for the story only, we started a separate discussion thread.

Please go there to post comments, theories, questions etc. on the contest. Thank you!


Down to the details:
  • You may enter only once.
  • The contest begins today, December 25th 2012, and ends on January 7th 2013, at 11:59 PM EST.
  • Deadline to send us the solution (name of the murderer) is January 7th 2013, at 11:59 PM EST.
  • You must send the solution including your MobileRead username to wintercontest@mobileread.com. Submissions to other mail addresses, and submissions by private message or visitor message can not be considered.
  • From the eligible entries, the winners will be randomly drawn for prizes consisting of 10 e-reader devices and 3 e-book reader cases.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified via private message. Winners must respond within four days after being notified. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen.
  • General rules can be found here.

Big kudos goes to...

We're hugely thankful to the fine folks from eReader-Store, Kobo, PocketBook and WaterField Designs for providing the prizes. You're great!

Good luck everyone and have fun!

(As usual, if you like us, love us, tweet about us, or mention us on Facebook - it's always much appreciated!!)

† Summer Murder Mystery for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere.

MobileRead team members are not eligible to participate.

Last edited by pdurrant; 01-10-2013 at 09:30 AM. Reason: Added links to the ebooks.
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Old 12-25-2012, 12:51 PM   #2
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List of the Characters in Alphabetical Order:
  • Alexander Turcic (a.k.a. Alex): As the site's owner, everyone looked to him as the number one moderator as well, but did he harbor a secret desire to be the one and only?
  • DaleDe (a.k.a. Dale the MobileRead Wiki Master): The Grand Master of MobileRead's Wiki had access to many of MobileRead's deepest, darkest secrets—but did he have first hand knowledge about murder?
  • Dr. Drib (a.k.a. Don): Did his zeal for eradicating spam hide a murderous obsession with death?
  • dreams (a.k.a. The Umbrella Lady): Everyone always thought hers was the smile of innocence, but did the heart of a murderer lurk beneath that blood-red umbrella?
  • HarryT (a.k.a. Harry): He had a passion for staying on top of things in the MobileRead Library, until things in the Library got on top of him.
  • Jellby: Was the insurance agent from Jellbby, Jelbby, Jjellby, and Jellby writing other moderators out of the policy via murder?
  • Marc_liest (a.k.a. Marc): Would following the maxim "An Apple a day keeps the doctor away" be enough to save this German moderator from murder?
  • mtravellerh (a.k.a. mth): He had a soft spot for cowboy stories, but did this good guy sometimes wear a black hat?
  • Nate the great (a.k.a. Sir Penguin of Edinburgh): His stockpile of reading devices was to die for, but would he kill for an even bigger collection?
  • pdurrant (a.k.a. Paul a.k.a. Grand Mouse): Did his holiday beverage additive pack more than just a nice Hawaiian punch?
  • pilotbob (a.k.a. BOb): He had some really cutting remarks for one of the other moderators, but discovered that sometimes holiday humor falls flat.
  • poohbear_nc (a.k.a. The Chicken): Good taste or taste good? Did this endless question finally drive the chicken to cross the road ... to murder?
  • ravenne: Her trademark was drawing colorful graffiti, but was drawing in blood her real passion?
  • WT Sharpe (a.k.a. Tom a.k.a. Grand Muckity-Muck): He thought the ukulele would always be the love of his life until he lost his head over a G-string.

Last edited by Alexander Turcic; 12-25-2012 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 12-25-2012, 12:52 PM   #3
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’Twas the Night Before ......... MURDER!!



’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
All the mods were a-stirring, including Grand Mouse.
The stockings were hung up by dreams with great care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.



*tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap*

"Just about done, dreams?" asked Dr. Drib.

"Yup! All the stockings are now hung on the mantelpiece, and just waiting to be filled with goodies tonight!". dreams set her hammer down on the mantelpiece and stepped back to survey her work. Ten stockings were hanging along the mantel, one noticeably thinner than the others.

"It's not fair! I can't help it if I have skinny legs! All you guys have stockings big enough to fill with gadgets! But you can barely fit a stylus in mine!" whined poohbear_nc.

Dr. Drib hid his smile as he returned to his laptop, where he was monitoring MobileRead for spam, while the rest of the team finished up the holiday decorations in the Moderator Lounge. Clouds of fragrant pipe smoke hung over his head as he zapped yet another bold attempt to post spammy holiday messages.

"Now pooh, you know Christmas is all about giving -- not receiving! It's the size of your heart that matters, not the size of your presents" admonished dreams.

"Or the size of your drumsticks" snickered pilotbob.

"Sssh! Don't tease pooh! It's Christmas!" said dreams.

"Sorry pooh," said pilotbob, "here are some more albums for you to look at."

"Aren't you supposed to be hanging the lights on the roof tonight, pilotbob?"

"Yeah, but first I want to fuel up on this wicked punch pdurrant is creating."

"Hey pooh, why are you looking through all of those photo albums tonight?" asked pdurrant, as he stirred the bubbling contents of the huge punch bowl.

"It's this darn international community! I'm trying to find a new avatar that won't be considered edible, but apparently all cultures consume poultry!"

While poohbear_nc continued to flip page after page, dreams leaned over and whispered to pdurrant, "Here's a bottle of special holiday spirits to add to the punch! I found it in the back of the MobileRead wine cellar. Let's liven up this evening a bit!"

pdurrant uncorked the bottle and poured the green contents into the punch bowl, which almost erupted before calming back down. He continued to stir vigorously, as he added more "secret spices" to his brew.

"Hey, pdurrant -- let me taste the punch now" asked pilotbob, waving his empty cup. "It looks like it's packing quite a punch now! Get it? Punch ... packing a punch?"

A muted groan ran around the room at pilotbob's latest, and worst, attempt at holiday humor.

"Sorry, no one can have any more punch now - it has to simmer a while -- I'm using my own family recipe for mulled wine." explained pdurrant.

"And it even contains its own heat source" observed Dr. Drib, using his pipe to point out the tiny green flames dancing on the bubbling surface of pdurrant's witches brew.


"Don't forget pooh -- you're in charge of popping the corn to string on the tree." said dreams.

"Putting a chicken in charge of the corn" sniggered pilotbob, emptying his cup and heading towards the window. "I'll just open this window a bit to clear out Dr. Drib's smoke - it's so thick that someone could get murdered in this room and no one would notice."

"No! Don't open the window! I don't want to be in a draft!" shrieked poohbear_nc. "I catch colds easily."

"Oh for heaven's sake! Why don't you warm yourself up in the microwave while you're popping the corn?" pilotbob hastily left the room after this parting jab and headed out to find the ladder.

Once the door had slammed behind pilotbob, peace again descended upon the festive room and dreams returned to her decorating.

[End of Episode 1]
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Old 12-25-2012, 12:53 PM   #4
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[Episode 2]

"What's next dreams?" asked WT Sharpe. He was sitting on one end of the couch trying to restring his ukulele. They were going caroling tonight, and he had volunteered to accompany the singers.

"I'm going to string up our Christmas cards over the mantel" replied dreams. "We've gotten so many from our members that I'm going to have to use some heavy wire to hold them up. WT Sharpe, can I borrow some of your ukulele wire?"

"Sure - help yourself. Do you need me to cut it for you?"

"No, I have my heavy duty scissors handy. They'll cut through most anything." dreams replied.

"Hey, dreams, who sent that big card?" asked HarryT. He had been sitting quietly all night on the couch, proofreading his own edition of Dickens' Christmas Books. After the caroling, Harry would read A Christmas Carol aloud to the gathered moderators right before bedtime -- a cherished MobileRead tradition.

"It's from Kovid! It's a calibre Christmas card. When you open it, it organizes all the other cards you've received. Then it auto-generates a mailing list you can use next year!" dreams explained. "How practical! And beautiful!"

"Oh look! How sweet. So many signed it and, oh my, no wonder this card was so big, I think everyone from the E-Book Software forum signed it!"

"What's the matter Harry? You're frowning?" asked dreams.

"Drat! I think I found some typos in this copy of A Christmas Carol. I'll have to fix them before I read to you tonight."

"Don't worry. You'll have time to run up to the Patricia Clark Memorial Library after Alex gets here. There's plenty of time before your reading" soothed dreams.

Harry look! We have a card from everyone in our new Foro Español! How nice of them. Could you help me put these new cards up, please?

CRASH


All eyes turned to DaleDe, who had been quietly playing with his Wiki-Blocks on the hearth rug. His carefully constructed Towers of Knowledge had fallen over, waking everyone up.

"Sorry guys. These old Wiki-Blocks don't fit together well any more. I've asked Santa to bring me a new set" he apologized. "Then I'll be able to build more complex structures that will hold more knowledge!"

"Well, just be sure to put your Wiki-Blocks away when you're done. A person could step on one and have a bad fall! We don't want to have any accidents tonight, of all nights!" warned dreams.

Nate the great turned back to his desk. He was finishing his letter to Santa. He was late this year, but had waited to ask for a brand new gadget.

"Dear Santa ... I've been very good this year, and think that I deserve to receive a PocketBook front-lit color eInk ereader. I have enclosed some references to help your elves build one. I'm leaving out extra cookies with your milk to repay you for your effort. Thank you. Nate"

Nate remembered to shout across the room: "Thanks again dreams for baking those cookies for Santa." (WT Sharpe's ukulele was rather loud)

dreams smiled and replied "I hope you noticed I put extra special sprinkles on them. I know how much you're counting on Santa to fill your stocking -- and I figured adding a little sugar on top couldn't hurt!"

Nate sealed his letter into an air-mail envelope and put on his coat. "I wish Santa had email" he grumbled. "It would save me a trip to the mail-box. It's cold outside tonight!"

"Just think how cold pilotbob must be, stringing up all those lights. He's been up on the roof for a long time. I hope he's all right." worried dreams. "Nate, while you're outside, check on pilotbob and see if he needs any help. OK? And look out for Alex -- he's late again tonight, but promised to join us."

"Will do. Anyone want to stretch their legs before dinner? It's only a couple of blocks to the mail-box. No one? OK, I'll be back in a few minutes."

Nate slammed the door behind him, but not before a frosty draft rushed into the cozy room. poohbear_nc ran to the fireplace, shivering and complaining bitterly about inconsiderate people.

"Be careful pooh" warned dreams. "Don't stand too close or else a spark might land on you!"

pdurrant leaned over and whispered to WT Sharpe "If pilotbob were here, he'd be sure to make a wise crack about the chicken cooking himself."

pooh glared at the giggling pair and ran out of the room. It was now so quiet you could hear pooh slam and lock his door upstairs!

"SHAME ON YOU! It's Christmas -- and all you can do is make fun of others and hurt their feelings!" dreams was furious.

"But dreams -- you were laughing too" protested pdurrant.

"Go upstairs right now and apologize! Both of you! And don't come down unless poohbear comes with you!"

dreams watched the guilty duo slink out of the room and sighed deeply. "Really! Is it so hard to be kind and peaceful for just one night out of the year? Is it?"

Everyone in the room looked down at the floor and muttered "No ma'am."

"Well -- I'm going to have a Merry Christmas tonight -- even if I have to kill everybody in this room!" declared dreams dramatically, as she returned to opening another Christmas card. "Now where are my scissors? They were here on the mantel just a minute ago?"


When out on the street, there arose such a clatter,
dreams sprang from the hearth to see what was the matter,
Away to the window she flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.



"Now what" she screamed!

[End of Episode 2]
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:01 AM   #5
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[Episode 3]

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to the body below.
A terrible sight met dreams’ eyes causing tears,
A miniature BOb, with his feet by his ears.



dreams' blood-curdling screams rang through the halls as she stared at the horrible sight! The other mods rushed to the window and shared her terrible fright! There ... below on the snow ... pilotbob's lifeless body lay tangled amidst the the strings of lights he had been hanging on the roof!

They all ran to the front door, some hoping he still lived, others hoping it had at least been mercifully quick and painless. Dr. Drib bent over the still corpse and closed pilotbob's staring eyes. WT Sharpe, pdurrant, and poohbear_nc belatedly arrived at the scene, eyes wide open at this unexpected sight. They stood in a grimly silent circle around their fallen comrade, refusing to believe their eyes.

"He must have slipped and fallen while trying to attach the lights around the chimney"

"pilotbob never took chances on the roof! He was always very careful!"

"Maybe a reindeer pushed him off" *snicker*

"Was it suicide? People do get depressed during the holidays."

"Look, the lights are still blinking."

All the moderators were talking at once, trying to make sense of this senseless tragedy. All wanted to know: how? why?

They were so engrossed in their hysterical babbling that no one saw Nate the great coming back from the mail box, along with Alex.
"Hey guys! What'cha doing outside already? Caroling doesn't start until it's dark. And look who I found driving in circles, trying to find a place to park."

The circled moderators parted slowly to reveal the spectacle at the center.

"Hey pilotbob! Stop kidding! That's not the way you make snow angels! Here, let me show you ...." The moderators gaped in disbelief as Alex lay down on the snow next to pilotbob. And quickly discovered the terrible truth.

"Holy **** -- what happened?"

"Apparently pilotbob fell off the roof while hanging the lights" dreams sobbed. "He loved decorating the chimney every year."

"Hmmmm .... I wonder if our insurance covers this. I better give the company a call." Alex feverishly punched in the phone number on his cell phone, trying to recall the Accidental Death clause in the policy. "Good - you'll be right out then? We'll wait here for you. Errrr .... Is it OK to move the .... remains .... inside? Hungry squirrels are starting to gather in the trees. Right. OK. Will do."

"OK everybody ... let's get pilotbob moved inside before the carolers start coming around. WT Sharpe, can you untangle the light cord so we can pick him up? Give me a hand here, Dr. Drib and pdurrant." Grab his legs HarryT and DaleDe! One ... two ... three... lift!

As the impromptu funeral procession slowly climbed the steps, WT Sharpe stood staring at the light cord he had removed from pilotbob's corpse.

"What's the matter WT Sharpe? What are you looking at? Did the light cord break and make pilotbob fall?" asked dreams.


"Look dreams .... the cord was cut almost all the way through here ... see the clean edges? Then, when he put his weight on it to stretch it around the chimney, the rest of it pulled apart .... see the frayed ends?"

"This was no accident! This was murder! Cold blooded, premeditated murder!"

"The murderer needed something really sharp to cut this thick cord so cleanly .... like those big scissors you used to cut the wire to hang the cards tonight. Let's go find them ... there's bound to be fingerprints on them."

WT Sharpe and dreams raced back into the fire-lit room, back to the mantel where the cards swung gaily over a cheery fire. Dr. Drib had returned to his laptop, sitting quietly in the corner, again happily zapping spammy posts that relentlessly appeared. poohbear was there, toasting himself while staring fixedly at the stockings. He moved one stocking after another, comparing their size to his own puny one, continually muttering "It's not fair."

"The others are helping Alex carry pilotbob back to his room. They figure that leaving the window open will keep him from smelling up the place until we can bury him. I kept sneezing from getting chilled outside, so they told me to go away and get warm" explained pooh, moving away from the hearth. "I'm going into the kitchen now to start popping the corn."

"Good! He's gone. Let's find those scissors before anyone comes back downstairs." whispered WT Sharpe. "Dr. Drib won't see what we're doing through that thick cloud of pipe smoke."

They searched frantically but the scissors were gone! Someone had been here, and tidied away the evidence!

Defeated, they stared helplessly into each others stricken face!

DING DONG DING DONG


[End of Episode 3]
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:16 AM   #6
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[Episode 4]


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old sight,
And we laughed when we saw him, in spite of the night!
A click of the pen and a check next to "Dead"
Soon gave us to know we had nothing to dread.


"What's that sound" cried dreams. "What now?"

"It's the door bell ... I wonder who would be calling on us tonight?" wondered WT Sharpe.

"I'll get that" shouted Alex, running down the stairs. "I called the insurance company. They promised to send an agent out right away."

Opening the door, Alex found a short, nattily dressed man wearing a bowler hat, wire-rim glasses, and a cautious smile. Tipping his hat politely, the man introduced himself: "Good day, Sir. Here's my card. I'm Jellby, from the firm Jellbby, Jelbby, Jjellby, and Jellby.

You remember we were involved with your Kindle Dev Forum? Also, the Sony Dev Forum, which introduced us to the Kobo Dev Forum. Very good groups you have there. Yes, sir. Why some of the things that I discovered there were amazing. Did you know, that there is this one guy, goes by the name of geekmaster.. "

"Yes, yes. That was all handled nicely by your partners," Alex cut in. "Now, about why I called you."

"You rang our office about a *ahem* tragic accident, I believe?" Jellby consulted the forms on his clipboard. "A fall from the roof whilst hanging lights?"

"Come in, come in" cried Alex. "We've moved the body inside. Yes, a fatal fall. We still can't believe it happened. I'll take you upstairs to view pilotbob's body. "

"Pssst ... Alex ... a word before you go upstairs!" whispered dreams. "Errrr ... We don't think it was an accident Alex. Look at the cord that WT Sharpe unwound from pilotbob's body. It's been cut! And .... we can't find my scissors anywhere! We think that someone did this on purpose .... that pilotbob was murdered!"

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This is very bad." murmured Mr. Jellby. "Very bad indeed."

"Yes, it's absolutely terrifying! One of us is a murderer!" cried dreams.

"Well, yes, that too. But I was referring to your insurance coverage" explained Jellby, smoothing his remaining strand of hair over his shining pate. "You chose not to purchase the 'MobileRead Holiday Homicidal Havoc' package ... so a murder is not covered under your policy. You sir will be fully liable for damages if you choose to regard this *ahem* tragic holiday accident as a murder. And since the *ahem" alleged murder weapon has inexplicably vanished, I don't see any problem with writing this up as an accident, and wrapping things up tonight."

"But what about this?" demanded WT Sharpe, holding the cut ends of the light cord in Jellby's face.

"Oh yes, oh yes .... obviously old decorations ... normal wear and tear from being used outdoors ... perfectly understandable. Let's just get rid of some trash, all right?" Jellby smoothly responded.

He rang for the maid before anyone could object, and when the housekeeper, ravenne, entered the room, Jellby handed her the cord and bade her to throw it into the trash.

"Now sir, let's get this pesky paperwork filled out, and I'll be out of your hair. And you can go on with your holiday festivities," Jellby quickly said.

ravenne silently took the cord and went back into the kitchen where she quickly made a call to Marc_liest. "Marc?" "I think you both should stay busy in the Deutsches Forum for a while longer, just to be safe. It may be a good idea to stay together and don't let mtravellerh sneak off by himself. Right, we don't know what might happen next. Talk to you soon."

ravenne returned and announced "Dinner is ready!" Ringing the dinner gong brought everyone downstairs, crowding around Alex and Jellby, talking excitedly.

"Wow, dreams, you even had time to cook dinner tonight?"

"What are we having?"

"Can I have pilotbob's portion?"

HarryT's nose twitched as the delicious aroma wafted out of the kitchen. "That's odd. I could swear I smell chicken. We never have chicken. poohbear_nc gets hysterical whenever someone suggests we have chicken."

Glancing around the room, DaleDe asked "Where is old pooh anyways? We haven't seen him since we carried pilotbob upstairs."

Everyone froze for a long, silent minute .... and then stampeded into the kitchen. ravenne was laying out the silverware on the long table, candles burning brightly at each place setting.

"pooh came out here earlier to pop the corn for decorating the tree" cried dreams. "Where is he? What's happened to him? Have you seen him, ravenne?"

"No ma'am," ravenne replied. "When I came on duty this afternoon there was no one in the kitchen. The microwave was running though. I assumed someone had already started making dinner. I did have to clear away all these bags of popcorn - somebody had spilled them all over the floor."

All eyes turned to the microwave ... the source of the savory aroma tickling all nostrils. In the hushed silence, a sound rang out

DING


[End of Episode 4]

Last edited by Agatha Chicken; 12-28-2012 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:01 AM   #7
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[Episode 5]

His wings, how they glistened! His drumsticks, how merry!
His skin gleamed and glittered, as red as a cherry!
Surrounded with garnish in the shape of a bow,
And the meat of his drumsticks was white as the snow!


The cooking time was over!

No one moved to open the microwave door.


Finally Mr. Jellby strode forward and opened the microwave, releasing a huge cloud of fragrant steam into the kitchen. When it cleared, all could see the perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, crisply browned and gleaming .... CHICKEN!

"Now, don't panic" admonished Jellby, "This could be any chicken. No reason to jump to conclusions. No reason at all to assume this is your *ahem* missing friend. He could have just stepped out to allow you all to enjoy this delicious meal .... without feeling guilty. Eh?"

"Then explain this!" shouted Nate the great, pointing to the melted green plastic glasses that were stuck to a wing. "Those are pooh's glasses! He couldn't see a thing without them!"

dreams shrieked and fainted. While everyone crowded around her, Jellby quickly plucked off the green glob and handed it to ravenne. "Quick woman ... into the trash, along with that cord. Before anyone notices."

ravenne held the plastic mess at arms' length as she quickly headed out to the trash bins.

Jellby consulted his clipboard, checking off several more boxes before addressing the group.

"Well, since the bird is already cooked ... and will spoil if left in the microwave .... we might as well remove all traces of the *ahem* evidence of "fowl play" *chuckle* and I'll just add an unfortunate holiday kitchen mishap to your claim form. Sign here please!"

"We can't eat poohbear_nc!" cried WT Sharpe. "He was our friend! Some of us even liked him! He's been murdered! Does no one care?"

Mr. Jellby cleared his throat, "Now sir, Mr. poohbear is simply missing. There is no proof that the bird in the microwave is your *ahem* departed friend."

"What about his glasses?" asked DaleDe?

"Why, what glasses?" replied Jellby, looking back at the microwave .... only a shallow indentation remained where the glasses had been ... I only see a succulent, perfectly cooked chicken ... getting cold while we stand here. Let's eat!"

Everyone shuffled their feet and stared at the floor, too guilty to look at anyone else. Their consciences warred unsuccessfully with their stomachs. pooh was dead. And delicious. And it was a holiday. And ....

Alex suddenly exclaimed "All right .... let's give poohbear_nc an appropriate holiday send off. And .... save on the insurance premiums. He'd want us to go on with the celebrations. And he'll be here ... with us ... sort of."

Everyone sat down at the table, Mr. Jellby in pilotbob's empty chair. After a solemn moment of silence to remember their fallen comrades, the group turned to ravenne, who was wheeling the chicken on a silver platter over to the table. Conversation halted while they did homage to the unexpected dinner.

DaleDe whispered to Nate "pilotbob always used to make jokes about poohbear cooking himself. Those two were always fighting, but they were friends too. I wonder if this was a murder-suicide?"

Nate replied "Yeah, right. If pooh committed suicide by microwave, who pushed the Start button? pilotbob's ghost?"

Jellby smoothly intervened, waving his drumstick as if conducting an orchestra "Judging from the physical evidence ... if this delicious meal is indeed the late, lamented poohbear_nc ... the bags of corn strewn across the floor suggests the following tragic scenario: Mr. poohbear, in shock after viewing the remains of Mr. pilotbob and chilled by standing outside in the snow, returns to the kitchen. Whilst carrying the heavy bags of corn to the microwave, he is subject to a violent sneezing spell .... which causes him to drop the corn ... which he skids on ... head first into the open microwave ... where the impact knocks him unconscious and slams the door shut .... and the slamming door jiggles the wiring of the Start button ... and .... Voila! Dinner is served! Another tragic holiday mishap."

Tentative nods occurred round the table, as the moderators chewed on this possibility .... and on the chicken.

dreams sobbed softly "I always used to call him 'tasty chicken' ... as a sort of loving nickname. I thought he liked it. Who knew it would come true?"

HarryT patted her hand kindly and asked "What's to drink? Didn't pdurrant make punch?"

Everyone looked around the table in amazement. No one had noticed that pdurrant had not accompanied them into the kitchen!

[End of Episode 5]

Last edited by Agatha Chicken; 01-03-2013 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:00 AM   #8
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[Episode 6]

The punch he had made, it was no longer fit
For any to drink, no, not even a bit
For deep in the bowl had been pushed his grand nose
Now quiet as a mouse but in more than a doze.

dreams shot to her feet, knocking her chair from its place, and raced to the living room where she promptly fell flat on her face.

"DaleDe! Didn't I ask you to put your Wiki-Blocks away? So we wouldn't have any accidents tonight? I could have killed myself falling over theml!" cried dreams, picking herself up from a floor liberally strewn with small Wiki-blocks.

"But dreams! I did put them away! I always put my Wiki-Blocks away! Someone might get into them and rearrange their order! And that would ruin everything!" answered Dale. "And just look what you've done to them! They're scattered all over the floor! And covered with this sticky green slime! What is it?"

The others had filed into the living room now, with Mr. Jellby bringing up the rear ... still holding his drumstick. He used it to point across the room .... where pdurrant was stretched across the table, face down in the punch bowl. And not moving at all!

Alex and Nate the great raced over and pulled pdurrant out of the punch. His face was as green as the slimy liquid dripping onto the floor, and he wasn't breathing.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk" murmured Mr. Jellby, as he checked more boxes on his paperwork, "A tragic holiday drowning! Completely covered by your policy of course. I'll just add a rider to your original claim for Mr. pilotbob and Mr. poohbear_nc. Just initial here please."

"Look at his face man! He's been poisoned!" shouted WT Sharpe. "Drowning doesn't turn your face green. Someone must have poisoned the punch."

"dreams, you helped him earlier tonight. What was in that bottle you gave him to add -- it looked mighty powerful." asked Nate.

"It was only some old brandy that I found in the cellar, when I was looking for some wire to hang the cards. pdurrant opened it and poured it in -- with a lot of other stuff." answered dreams. "A lot of you tasted it tonight before .... everything started happening. You're all still OK."

"dreams, nobody tasted the punch after pdurrant added your 'special ingredient'" noted Harry. "He wouldn't let us - said he was saving it for drinking after the caroling."

"Wait! I'll show you! He dropped the empty bottle into the wastebasket right next to the table" cried dreams, and started feverishly rummaging through its contents. She looked up with a stricken face "It's gone! Somebody has taken it! Who would steal an empty bottle?"

Alex rang the bell for the maid. ravenne entered and said "You rang Sir?"
"Yes. Have you emptied the trash from the living room today?" asked Alex.
"No Sir. I've only been in the kitchen. I planned to wait until you were all done decorating and had gone caroling before cleaning up in here." ravenne explained. "Will that be all? I have a very greasy microwave to clean up."

Harry suddenly pointed out "We can bottle up the punch in the bowl and have it analyzed. That will prove if pdurrant was murdered, or had a heart attack and drowned in his own creation."

"Excellent idea" agreed Alex. "ravenne, please find a large bottle in the kitchen, and a funnel."

As ravenne left the room, a draft from the open door caused the stockings to swing back and forth. dreams looked over, and noticed once again how large everybody's stockings looked compared with poor poohbear_nc's puny stockinette. "We used to tease him so much about his skinny legs" she mused. And now, every time I look at that row of socks, his little stocking seems to be getting smaller and smaller. I wonder why."

dreams started to walk over to the fire place when WT Sharpe suddenly shouted

FIRE!


[End of Episode 6]
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:00 AM   #9
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[Episode 7]

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Lit up by the fire, flames circled his laptop,
And sizzled each time spam burst with a pop!


Sure enough, thick clouds of fragrant smoke were billowing from the corner. Without hesitating, Mr. Jellby picked up the punch bowl and hurled its contents onto the flames!

As everyone coughed and wiped their streaming eyes, Jellby made another check mark on his clipboard "No pesky analysis of that punch now. Another tragic holiday accident."

ravenne entered the room carrying a large bottle, took one look at the corner and pronounced "I'm not cleaning THAT up! No way! You don't pay me enough!" and marched back into the kitchen.

THAT was Dr. Drib, smoldering in his chair, clutching his laptop still, and very, very dead! And now covered in green slimy punch.

dreams sank to the floor, overwhelmed by yet another Christmas casualty! Could this really be happening? Or was it a hideous nightmare from which she couldn't awaken?

"Oh my, oh my, oh my" murmured Mr. Jellby, making rapid checkmarks on his clipboard. "Smoking is such an unhealthy habit! And to smoke a pipe whilst sitting in a comfy chair next to the fireplace - where you're guaranteed to nod off ..... why it's like smoking in bed and paying the price! Yet one more tragic holiday accident! Tsk!"

"Did he drink the punch?" asked Nate the great? "What do you think? Was he dead before he went up in flames?"

WT Sharpe was bending over the corpse and sharply exclaimed "Accident my foot. Dr. Drib was murdered! Look! There's a big hole in the back of his head! And shaped just like a hammer ...."

"Hey dreams, where did you put the hammer you used to hang up the stockings?" asked DaleDe?

"I put it down on the mantelpiece .... right here ....." replied dreams. "But, but, but .... it's gone! I swear I left it right here! Someone must have found it and used it to .... *sob* hurt Dr. Drib!"

Alex examined the body alongside WT Sharpe "When he was struck, his pipe must have fallen out of his mouth .... onto his sweater ... setting it on fire. The murderer shoved the pipe back into his mouth! What a cold, calculating monster!"

"Remember all those jokes we used to make about Dr. Drib? How much he loved to zap those spammers?" asked Nate. "What did you call it dreams? Dr. Drib using his 'spam hammer' to splat those spammy posts?"

"Why?" sobbed dreams "Why is this happening? Who could hate us this much?"
"And why is everyone staring at me? I didn't do it! I'm the nice moderator! I like everyone! Everybody loves me! I'm being framed! I was just teasing you guys! I didn't mean it! "


HarryT stepped forward and draped a rug over the smoking remains "Well, he's dead .... we don't need to continue staring at him." "And dreams, no one is accusing you .... yet. We need to gather the evidence ... if we can find any ... and figure out what is going on here tonight."

"You've read all the classic mystery novels, HarryT! What do we do now?" asked Alex.

"Well, for safety, we should all stick together. No one should ever be allowed to be on their own for the rest of the night." replied HarryT. "Of course, this will also allow us to keep an eye on each other. Obviously, one of us is the murderer!"

When HarryT uttered these ominous words, all heads swiveled towards dreams, who shrieked and tried to run from the room.

"Not so fast dreams" exclaimed WT Sharpe, who stopped her from accidentally running into the fireplace. "Be careful! You almost committed accidental suicide by fireplace! You can't escape suspicion that way!"

"Everybody -- sit down now - we have to make plans if we're to survive tonight!" shouted Alex.

*ahem* "Excuse me Mr. Alex .... we have to return to the home office ... you will need to sign some additional forms for these new ..... *ahem* losses. All completely covered by your Accident Policy." Mr. Jellby interrupted, glaring at the others, daring anyone to disagree with his continued insistence on multiple (yet regrettable) accidental deaths.

"And I must go to the library! I just have to get these typos corrected before tonight's reading!" declared HarryT. "Our holiday must go on -- in honor of our fallen comrades."

"And I have to clean up my Wiki-Blocks" wailed DaleDe. "They've got green slime all over them."

Nate the great said nothing. He was busy trying to sneak some of Santa's cookies from the plate next to the glass of milk.

Alex stared around him. "Are you all crazy? We're fighting for our lives! No one is safe! No one is above suspicion!"


NO ONE!


[End of Episode 7]
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:00 AM   #10
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[Episode 8]

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And searched through the book for the typos that lurk.
His fingers a blur as they tapped at the keys,
He fixed up the text with the greatest of ease.


A deathly silence fell on the diminished crowd. Then frightened voices erupted in a mad babble of sheer panic, filling the room with their cries.

"I'm not going to stay in the same room with HarryT if he's upset about his precious book."

"I didn't do it! I swear I'm innocent."

"Maybe the butler did it." *snicker*

"I'm hungry."

"Papers must be signed before midnight."

"Hey - where are the rest of my Wiki-Blocks?"

"ENOUGH" shouted Alex. "Here's what we're going to do. Jellby and I will walk HarryT to the library and search it to make sure no one is lurking there. Then we'll lock him in. Then I'll go back to the office with Jellby and sign those darn papers. The rest of you stay together until I get back! If you have to split up, stay in pairs! Got it?"

Five heads nodded silently in unison.

Alex, Jellby, and HarryT walked down the hall to the library. After a short time, they heard the key turn in the door lock and Alex shout "You're safe now Harry! No one can get in until I get back -- I've got the only key."

Alex and Jellby then left the house, Jellby clutching his clipboard and murmuring endlessly about increased coverage limits and personal liability.

WT Sharpe, dreams, DaleDe, and Nate sat down and tried not to stare at one another. The silence became almost painful in its intensity. The stockings swung slowly, like pendulums, while the fire crackled cheerfully.

"I'm beginning to envy Harry" muttered DaleDe, "At least he's getting to do something fun .... that is, fun for him. While we have to sit here and try not to get murdered."

"I know, let's play a game to pass the time" suggested dreams. "Who's up for Hangman?"

She became aware that everyone was staring at her. "OK, bad choice. What would you suggest?"

"Truth or Consequences?" someone sniggered in a low voice.

"I heard that! That's not funny! I'm innocent! I'm being framed! And I'm getting tired ....."


CRASH


dreams' tirade was abruptly cut short by a loud bang that shook the entire house!

"What was that? Did a tree fall on the house? An earthquake?"

Plaster dust drifted slowly down from the ceiling like a gentle snow flurry, dusting the upturned perplexed faces.

"It sounded like something heavy fell over ... like a refrigerator or something." Nate speculated.

Just then, ravenne poked her head around the kitchen door and asked "What fell over? It knocked all the glassware off the shelves! It sounded like a ton of books!"

dreams screamed "HarryT! He's in the library! Surrounded by bookshelves! Tall, heavy bookshelves! We haven't completed the digitization project yet."

The group ran down the hallway in a mad rush. WT Sharpe suddenly skidded to a halt. "Wait a minute ... Alex said he had the only key ... so how are we going to get in to see if HarryT is all right?"

Everyone shrugged and took off again. As they slid around the last corner, their eye met a horrible sight. The library door was open ... wide open .... and one light was on.

The cautiously approached the open portal and peered inside.

"Oh no! It can't be! It's not possible!" screamed dreams.

All eyes were glued to the grisly scene. A bookcase had fallen on top of Harry's favorite reading chair, crushing it (and HarryT) flat .... underneath the Mystery and Crime Reading Recommendations section. The heavy mahogany shelving had toppled over, spilling tons of hard cover books atop the chair. Only HarryT's shoes were visible, poking out from under a stack of Arthur Conan Doyle tomes.

"How the heck could anyone push over that shelf? It must weigh tons." asked DaleDe. "And where is the murderer?"

Everyone began frantically searching the library, looking for clues .... or a hiding malefactor.

"Look guys! It was a booby-trap!" shouted WT Sharpe.

Everyone ran over to WT Sharpe -- white faced and shaking ... pointing to the floor. "The murderer used an umbrella as a fulcrum ... pushed one end under the bottom of the shelf and the handle under HarryT's chair. When he sat down, his weight pushed the umbrella, lifting the shelf enough to topple it on top of his chair! The cunning fiend laid a perfect trap! HarryT killed himself by sitting down to read!"

All eyes turned once again towards dreams .... who retreated towards the open doorway, trembling in every limb.
"Yes, that's one of my umbrellas, but I didn't put it there. I leave my umbrellas all over the place ... anyone could have picked one up and used it!"

"But dreams," pointed out WT Sharpe, "Didn't you tell HarryT to edit his book in the library tonight? Why else would he dare to come here alone?"

"Yes, I did .... but that was before all the killings began! How was I to know that it wouldn't be safe?"

The others began to circle dreams, as she continued to head towards the open door. She abruptly turned and ran back down the hall to the living room.

"I wonder who unlocked the door..."


AIIIIIEEEEEIIIIIEEEEIIIIEEE!



"Guys? Where's Nate?"

[End of Episode 8]
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Old 01-01-2013, 07:00 AM   #11
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[Episode 9]

The mods for the most part were now all quite dead,
While visions of cookies still danced in one head.
The sprinkles on top added with a sharp rap
Had settled him down for a long winter's nap.



The considerably diminished group of surviving moderators raced down the hall, energized by dreams' blood curdling screams coming from the living room. They burst through the door and saw dreams ... kneeling on the floor beside Nate the great's now lifeless body.

"Look at his face! It's horrible!" shouted DaleDe. "It's all twisted and .... awful!"

"And he looks like he died having convulsions" added WT Sharpe. "His arms and legs are all twisted up and rigid. If Dame Christie was right in her descriptions, Nate was poisoned!"

"But by what?" sobbed dreams. "We all ate the same dinner .... poor poohbear_nc .... we all had the same .... chicken .... and none of the rest of us died! And only pdurrant drank his punch .... and died. How did this happen?"

WT Sharpe and DaleDe began searching the room, still littered with stray, sticky Wiki-Blocks. dreams stayed on the floor, trying to close Nate's staring eyes -- he seemed to be staring at her, even in death -- accusing her from beyond the grave! She had to somehow make him stop!

"Poor Nate," crooned dreams, "Now you'll never get to open your new gadgets on Christmas morning. Your face used to just glow when you ripped open the paper and saw a shiny new Kindle Fire, or an iPad, or your Nook Glow ...." *sob*

"Look WT Sharpe!" cried DaleDe. "An empty plate with cookie crumbs next to an empty glass with drops of milk in it. Nate must have stayed behind when we all ran to the library and eaten the cookies and milk he left out for Santa. I guess he figured that after all the deaths here today, Santa wouldn't risk a visit here tonight. Either the cookies or the milk must have had poison in them."

Both turned to stare again at dreams, as they remembered that she had volunteered to bake the cookies for Nate to leave out for Santa.

"Yeah, things were really naughty, not nice at all, here today!" agreed WT Sharpe. "Wait a minute ... watch those ants ... they're eating the cookie crumbs and none of them are dying."

dreams sighed in relief "See? I didn't do it this time! I mean I didn't do it again! I mean .... oh heck, you know what I'm trying to say .... right?"

"Right," agreed DaleDe, "and the ants climbing out of the milk glass look OK too. Maybe we're wrong ... it wasn't Santa's snack. We'll have to keep searching."

"Wait a minute ... that ant just ate a green sprinkle and started convulsing! See his little antennae shaking? He's a goner ... in just seconds. That's some powerful poison!"

"What did you say WT Sharpe?" quavered dreams, "A green sprinkle? I found a jar labeled "Christmas Special Sprinkles" in a kitchen cabinet this morning while I was baking the cookies. They were all green and shiny ... and ... and .... and I shook them onto all the cookies ... to make them special ... *sob* .... so that Santa would grant Nate's Christmas wish for a new Pocketbook front-lit color eInk ereader. He was so worried because he waited too long to write his letter."

"And now it's too late for Nate ... and maybe for all of us ..." muttered WT Sharpe.

"Let's go to the kitchen and find that jar of 'Special Sprinkles' before it vanishes too, like all the other 'evidence'" cried Dale.

"Yeah, without that Jellby character, we can conduct a proper investigation of Nate's murder." agreed WT Sharpe. "Put Nate down and come with us dreams ... he isn't going anywhere now."

The three somber surviving moderators trooped into the kitchen, where ravenne was in the middle of a heated phone conversation "Ja, Marc_liest, you and mtravellerh stay put ... it's too dangerous here ... they're dropping like flies ... at this rate the Deutsches Forum will be able to take over MobileRead by New Years Day!"

"Oh, I didn't hear you come in madam ... sirs .... Can I help you?"

ravenne slammed down the phone receiver and whirled to face them, wearing a frightened, yet curiously exultant expression on her usually expressionless face.

"Would you like a snack? Some strudel? Cold chicken? A handful of cookies?"

"NO!" they screamed in unison ... "Nothing to eat! Ever again! Never!"

"Well OK then ... no need to shout at me. My hearing is just fine, thank you very much" huffed ravenne.

"ravenne, earlier today I baked cookies for Nate," began dreams.

"Ja, that's true ... and left me quite a mess to clean up before I could serve dinner .... all that flour and frosting smeared all over the counter tops ... and those shiny green sprinkles everywhere! They rolled all over the counters and floor. I had to use my vacuum cleaner to get them all up."

"What did you do with them? Where did you put them? ... Oh no! You didn't throw the crumbs out for the birds did you?" shrieked dreams.

"Oh shush, you hysterical Weib" shouted ravenne, losing control of her English as she grew increasingly fed up with dreams' outbursts.

"Ach, nein ... of course not ... all that Zucker would not be gut for the little birds ... not healthy at all." replied ravenne "I put the vacuum cleaner bag in the trash bin with the rest of the 'stuff' I've been asked to dispose of today. And the trash truck just got here and emptied all the bins ... right before you interrupted my work here."

DaleDe had begun to fidget during this drawn-out interrogation and began to edge towards the door.

"Dale! Where are you going? You know we have to stick together?" asked WT Sharpe.

"My Wiki-Blocks are still scattered all over the living room floor ... I need to pick them up and clean them off before 'someone' has another 'accident'" replied Dale. "I'll leave the door propped open - I'll be in plain sight while you finish your investigation out here."

WT Sharpe and dreams reluctantly agreed and allowed Dale to return to the living room. Soon the air was filled with muttered curses and cries as he crawled over the carpet gathering up his precious nuggets of wisdom.

dreams then ran over to a row of cabinets and opened the door. Feverishly rummaging through the shelves failed to locate the jar of sprinkles. dreams whirled to confront ravenne "Did YOU throw the jar into the trash too?"

"Nein, nein. You're looking in the wrong cabinet. The jar is here ...." ravenne opened the cabinet next to dreams and pointed to .... an empty space on the shelf .

"It's gone!" screamed dreams.
Sure enough, all that remained was an empty space on the shelf with a few twitching ants.



NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!


[End of Episode 9]
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:00 AM   #12
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[Episode 10]

And then, in a twinkling, we heard on the stairs
Footsteps that thundered, laden with cares.
The sounds they grew louder, turned all heads around,
Down the stairs with his toys, he came with a bound.




WT Sharpe and dreams raced into the living room, where they discovered DaleDe on the carpet, sobbing uncontrollably as he clutched his slimy Wiki-Blocks to his chest.

"Dale! What's the matter? Did you see somebody?" asked WT Sharpe, turning swiftly to look around the seemingly empty room (empty, that is, if you don't count dead bodies). "I wonder if ravenne has any air freshener -- it's getting a little pungent in here."

dreams knelt next to Dale "What's the matter sweetie? Why are you crying? Has someone broken your Wiki-Blocks?"

"Someone stole some of my Wiki-Blocks!" sobbed DaleDe. "I had a complete set ... and ... and .... now they're not all here! I've searched everywhere! Look! I'm missing the E-book Reader Matrix and the E-book conversion blocks -- they're some of the most important blocks in the set! And here's only the E-book stores block, but not the Free eBooks block. I've got the Poems at MobileRead block, but the biggest block in the set, the FAQ block is gone! Who stole my blocks? Who?"

dreams sorted through the slimy mess on the carpet. DaleDe was right -- around half of the Wiki-Blocks were gone. The dirty fiend had even taken the Notable eBook Uploads block.

WT Sharpe and dreams began to search the living room, trying to locate the missing blocks. Dale remained sobbing as he tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange the remaining blocks into some structure that could still hold on to the remaining information.

Suddenly Dale sprang to his feet and cried "Maybe Nate took some of them upstairs to his room. He was doing some research before he wrote his letter to Santa -- that's right -- he was looking up that new Pocketbook eReader!"

Before anyone could stop him, Dale raced to the stair case and bounded up the steps!


SMASH

.
.
.

BOUNCE


.
.
.


BOUNCE


.
.
.


BOUNCE


.
.
.


BOUNCE


Helplessly, WT Sharpe and dreams watched DaleDe's limp body, amidst a flurry of Wiki-Blocks, fall down the stairs head first, striking each step in a monotonous rhythm of death. The deathly hush was punctuated intermittently as random blocks continued to bounce down the stairs. Finally, the last block rolled to a dead stop, next to Dale's battered head.

dreams opened her mouth to scream yet again, but was interrupted by ravenne entering the room, wearing her winter coat, hat, and boots. "Gott im Himmel! Was soll all this racket? Did Santa and the reindeer just fall down the chimney?"

WT Sharpe silently pointed towards the bottom of the stairs.

"Ja, another one. I'll clean up when I get back. You always warned him, dreams, to put away his little blocks or else there would be a nasty accident. Looks like he didn't listen to you." remarked ravenne "Hmmm .... another of your lethal predictions came true, oder wie oder was?"

dreams shook her head from side to side in silent denial, unable to reply to yet another accusation.

"Look guys ... another fiendish booby trap!" WT Sharpe had walked up the stairs to the step where DaleDe had tripped and fallen. "The murderer glued some of Dale's blocks together with the sticky punch to make a false step. It was much too fragile to bear his weight - especially if he was running up the stairs. When his foot slammed down on it, it crumbled back into separate blocks, sending poor DaleDe to his doom! DaleDe was murdered!"

"Ja, ja ... lot of that going round tonight. So ... The carolers are still coming, and I don't trust any food in this house. So I'm going to the grocery store for all new food," announced ravenne.

"Alex ordered us to stay together, remember?" asked dreams.

"Not doing us a lot of good is it?" retorted ravenne. "WT Sharpe can walk me to my car in case I'm attacked by a serial-killer snowman in the yard. Let's go WT Sharpe."

WT Sharpe shrugged and accompanied ravenne out the back door to her car, leaving the door open so he and dreams could see each other the entire time.

dreams sank down on the carpet. Carolers still coming ... it was still Christmas Eve ... it seemed as if they had been trapped in this web of terror for days! Weeks! But Christmas was still going to arrive .... tonight. Would any of them be around to see it?

She blindly reached out and found WT Sharpe's ukulele. A lifetime ago he had been sitting on that sofa, restringing it to accompany the carolers. Tears gently splashed onto its polished wood as she gently plucked the shiny new wires, producing a pitiful melody.

PLUNK! PLUNK! PLINK! PLUNK! PLUNK!


[End of Episode 10]
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Old 01-03-2013, 07:00 AM   #13
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[Episode 11]

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
His notes fly into cold air, and mount to the sky.
Sadly it ceased, no more music he said,
In addition to hands, it requires a head.



WT Sharpe raced back into the safety warmth of the house, slamming the door shut.

"What'cha doing dreams?" he asked. "I thought I heard music."

"Oh WT Sharpe" she wailed, "I'm so afraid ... and it was so quiet here ... by myself ... that I picked up your ukulele and tried to play it ... just to keep myself company."

"Listen! Can you hear them? The carolers are approaching! I wonder if everyone was able to make it? I asked everyone from the "Quiz" and "Last person to post here wins! threads."

"I wish poor pilotbob, poohbear_nc, pdurrant, Dr. Drib, HarryT, Nate the great, and DaleDe could have been here to enjoy the carolers with us."


"Yes ... it's just the two of us now in the house" agreed WT Sharpe "and logic would indicate that one of us is the murderer. And I know that I'm not a murderer."

"Neither am I" dreams hastily interrupted "I've been framed! Over and over and over again. And I don't know why! I'd never ever want to hurt anybody. I even 'live-trap' and release spammers -- I never told Dr. Drib this -- he wouldn't understand ... think I'm too soft to be a moderator."

She bowed her head again and listlessly plucked the wires.

PLUNK! PLUNK! PLINK! PLUNK! PLUNK!


WT Sharpe looked down on her bowed head. Reason told him to protect himself, to take advantage of the moment and hit her over the head with a heavy object -- to save his own life! The murderer had progressed inexorably, eliminating the moderator team one by one ... employing hideous, painful methods. And he very much wanted to see Christmas day dawn.

But this was dreams .... such a soft, kind, loveable person ... who had befriended him when he was 'the new moderator on the block' and helped cover up some of his more regrettable misuses of moderation powers. How could she be the heartless killer who had ruthlessly butchered the group tonight? How could he contemplate bashing her in the head and tying her up for the rest of the night? It would reduce him to her cold-blooded level of thought .....

As these thoughts raced through his head, his eyes raced around the room, searching for a suitable object to use to render dreams unconscious for the rest of the night.

The sounds of the carolers grew louder as the festive group approached their house. He had to make a decision and act quickly .... before more innocent lives were placed in danger.

"Is that a motorcycle I hear? Stitchawl is joining the carolers? That must mean that everyone from "What's in your cup?" will be coming too.

"Listen WT Sharpe ... they're almost here" exclaimed dreams, strumming more loudly as if to attract their attention.

PLUNK! PLUNK! PLINK! PLUNK! PLUNK!


WT Sharpe could stand it no longer .... "Here, give me that ... your tears will warp the soundboard ... and I never got a chance to tune it properly tonight ... it sounds awful!"

WT Sharpe rudely grabbed the ukulele out of dreams' small hands and dried it off with his shirt tail. Then, holding it tenderly near his face, he began to turn the tuning pegs as he plucked each string. "Here, let me show you how to tune a ukulele. I've been experimenting with low-G tuning."

He reached the last, thickest string, which was quite loose. He turned its tuning peg as hard as he could to draw up the slack. "You have to really crank on this peg for the low G string to stretch it, because it is wire-wound."

PLINK!


dreams watched in horror as the thick wire flew off its tuning peg and neatly sliced through WT Sharpe's neck! His smiling head remained for a moment balanced atop his neck, then rolled grinning onto the carpet, heading towards the fireplace.

This was too much to bear! dreams fell over, onto WT Sharpe's headless body, in a profound swoon. The weight of her body smashed the ukulele into splinters as she crashed onto the floor.

The carolers approached the lighted windows, but there was no one there to serve the punch and cookies. The house was dark.

[End of Episode 11]
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:00 AM   #14
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[Episode 12]

Darkness ..... silence .... cold ..... faintly flickering flames in the dying fireplace .... deep pools of shadows .... a sense that all is not right ... but will soon be over ....

dreams slowly opened her eyes but didn't recognize where she was or recall what had happened. The last thing she clearly remembered was the cheery sound of carolers approaching the house .... and then waves of memory came crashing back, overwhelming her with horror and grief.

They were all dead now -- ALL of them .... except for her!

She must be the murderer! But why couldn't she remember killing her friends? Was she crazy? Did she have a split personality? Was she dead too?

Or was this a terrible nightmare from which she was unable to wake from? Oh, the irony! dreams trapped in a bad dream!

dreams sat up and looked around her. She was lying on the floor of the living room -- alone. The fire had nearly burnt out ... only glowing embers remained in the ashes. The Christmas stockings still hung in a mocking row ... now showing lumps and bumps where presents had been placed in them. All but poohbear_nc's puny empty stocking ... dangling amidst the other heavily laden socks. Apparently Santa was brave enough to visit this charnel house while she was unconscious.

What was that sound? There! In the distance! A dim candle light! The faint sound of an antique Victrola phonograph playing:


"Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!"


But who was there to wind it up and play the record? Was she hallucinating? Had the endless terrors of today driven her completely mad?

dreams was drawn to the haunting melody. There was no reason to be afraid any longer. She was alone in the house. With eight dead bodies. No reason to be afraid of the dead - they can't hurt you any longer. And she certainly wasn't going to hurt herself, was she?

The record abruptly ended with the sound of the needle being dragged across the surface of the record. dreams froze! There was someone here after all. She wasn't alone! Was she waking up from her nightmare? Finally?

"Hello? .... who's there?" she quavered.

Dead is BOb! Dead is Pooh! Dead is Paul and dead's Don!
Gone, Harry! Gone, DaleDe, Gone, Great Nate and Tom!
Are all dead by your hand? But it's you next it seems!
So dash away! Dash away! Dash away, dreams!


The loud voice flattened dreams with its brutal accusations and mocking tone. Who was shouting at her? Where was the voice coming from?

"STOP IT! STOP IT! OH PLEASE STOP IT!" screamed dreams, holding her hands over her ears, "Leave me alone! Please leave me alone! I'm so frightened.... I'm so tired .. Make it all end now ... forever ...."

A shadowy figure appeared in the dimly lighted doorway and beckoned to dreams, whispering "Hurry, hurry now!" The figure vanished abruptly, leaving dreams to wonder if it was real, or another hallucination in her growing madness.

dreams rose to her feet and ran towards the light as fast as she could, "Wait! I'm coming! Wait for me! Please!"

She ran into the hall towards the open front door, noticing ... just too late ... the shiny sharpened metal ferrule on the umbrella that was pointed at her chest! Unable to stop, dreams impaled herself on her own umbrella ... and sank slowly to the floor ... a final sigh escaping her lips as darkness closed over her eyes.

The front door slowly closed, trapping dreams forever in the dark.


[End of Episode 12]
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Old 01-05-2013, 07:00 AM   #15
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[episode: finale!]

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.

Alex 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 and Jellby 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!"

Marc_liest and mtravellerh 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's head.

"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.

Alex 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 mth ... 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's stocking."

"I found a pair of scissors in pilotbob's sock!"

"And an empty jar of sprinkles in Nate's stocking."

"And some nasty wire in WT Sharpe's stocking."

"And there's an empty brandy bottle in pdurrant's sock!"

"And some funny looking blocks in DaleDe's sock."

"And a smashed ereader in HarryT's sock!"

"And a broken umbrella in dreams' stocking."

"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!"

As ravenne 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."

"But Marc, errr, Hercule, all the suspects are dead! Alex and Jellby 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 pointed out.

"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 ...."

mtravellerh 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/Hercule.

"Pssst .... let's humor the guy and haul down the bodies" said Alex, "while Mr. Jellby makes a run to find a policeman."
"ravenne! Please bring all the chairs into the living room and put them in a circle."

Jellby 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.

Jellby 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."

Alex 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?"

Mr. Jellby 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.

Poulet/Marc_liest 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, ravenne, mtravellerh, 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]
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