Upon entering the library, the maid found Dr Black face down in a pool of blood. Her reaction? Screaming while running out of the room. She continued to scream while she ran through the hall but upon crossing the front door’s arch, she abruptly stopped and lit a cigarette.
A young man with sandy hair, a bare chin, dark shirt and ripped blue jeans walked up the front steps to her. “What’s happened?” asked Kenneth.
“I found Dr Black dead in the library,” she replied in a bored tone and then inhaled from the cigarette.
He sidestepped her and continued into the manor. It was a three storey mansion house, with a flat roof, built in the 18th Century on the small Aran Island off the west coast of Ireland. It had fourteen bedrooms, one library, seven living rooms, two kitchens and more bathrooms than you can count on your fingers and toes.
Kenneth slipped into the library and found Dr Black on the floor of the opposite side of the room. The library was a long room with four tables, a few comfortable armchairs and a couch opposite the door. Two of walls were taken up by books, one wall had four long windows in it and one whole wall had beautiful wooden, double doors.
He crouched beside Dr Black and scrutinised him. Not five minutes later, Dr Black opened his eyes, got up and walked over to a near open window, searching his pockets.
Kenneth looked at him in disbelief and asked, “I’m sorry, but aren’t you meant to be dead?”
Dr Black looked back at Kenneth, “I’m not going to lie there for two hours,” he replied as he retrieved a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.
“This has to be the worst murder mystery game ever,” Kenneth exclaimed when he stood up and began to inspect the rest of the room. “The clues are so clichéd. You were found dead by the maid in the library and your name is Dr Black! That’s the bloke who dies in Cluedo!”
“I didn’t write it,” the actor perched half in, half out the window and lit the cigarette clamped between his lips. He blew a puff of smoke out the window.
“And you actors are awful,” Kenneth continued, “the maid stopped screaming after seven seconds, and do you all smoke?”
“No,” the actor replied defensively, “only a few of us do.”
“Who doesn’t?” Kenneth inquired as he looked under one of the tables.
“ I don’t.”
Kenneth looked at him. “You’re smoking right now,” he pointed out.
The actor blew another puff of smoke out the window, “It’s a herbal cigarette.”
“Then why are you smoking it?”
The actor took what he thought was a dramatic pause, to Kenneth it more looked like the actor had gotten confused by a simple question.
The actor finally broke the pause with, “What’s your name boy?”
“Kenneth Cherful, and I’m twenty-four, thanks for being so patronising,” Kenneth said the last bit in a rather sarcastic tone.
“Well Ken, smokin-”
Kenneth interrupted him with, “And don’t call me Ken, it’s a really stupid name.”
The actor was now halfway through his cigarette. “Barbie’s boyfriend was called Ken.”
“I stand by my statement,” Kenneth responded as he flopped onto the couch.
“Well Kenneth, smoking makes everything a little more dramatic.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Kenneth’s head lolled back.
Pen, short for Penelope, entered the library, spotted Kenneth and asked, “Who, where and with what?”
Kenneth looked forward, “Dr Black over there,” he lazily gestured to the actor who waved a hand and blew another puff out the window, “was found over here,” Kenneth was pointing at the pool of fake blood.
“Real original,” she lied to herself. “With this kind of writing, he was probably killed with a candlestick. Anything odd about the room?”
“No, nothing I can think of,” Kenneth sighed.
Pen looked over at the actor, “Did you open that window?”
“Ehh… No,” he informed them.
Pen watched Kenneth walk over to the window and stuck his head out of it. He pulled his head back in, made for the door and Pen followed him but the actor stayed behind.
They walked pass the actress at the front door, she had finished her cigarette and was now on her tippy toes trying to get signal on her sleek mobile phone.
They proceeded to the bushes below the open window. Kenneth reached his arm into the shrubbery and pulled out a candlestick with its tip coated in fake blood.
The next morning, Kenneth woke to the sound of a woman screaming. At a murder mystery game, this is a somewhat common alarm so he took his time getting ready. He put on his clothes from yesterday and left his room. He crossed the thin hallway of the second storey floor and knocked on Pen’s door. She opened the door. She was wearing a tan leather jacket, boots to match, dark blue jeans, a red t-shirt and was wearing her short brown hair in a ponytail. She closed the door behind her and they started walking down the hallway.
“Who do you think died?” asked Pen.
“No idea. These murders don’t seem to be thought through. More like they’re just killing people and hoping someone will come up with good connections,” Kenneth suggested.
“There are no ideas here for a book,” Pen mumbled.
They rounded the corner and saw a large crowd outside one of the bedrooms. This wasn’t like the last over dramatic death. Kenneth could see Maria Hyde, a visitor who had the unfortunate luck to have her right hand in a cast, crying while her boyfriend Craig Smith, a tall, strong looking man, comforted her. The actress playing the maid was outside the group looking vacant. Pen began to push through the group and Kenneth followed. They passed Sam Tone, who was a doctor, his son, Shaun and an actor who was dressed like a gruff colonel who looked queasy. They reached the doorway, where the Dr Black actor stood looking morbid.
On the bed of the room lay Alistair Darvill, a fat man who ran the murder mystery game, with a steak knife in his throat. There was a tray on the ground, a medium rare steak could be seen peeking from under the edge like a scared animal.
Pen turned around and ventured through the crowd, looking for a chair to sit on but Kenneth didn’t move. He stood there as sadness and morbidity crept into his mind. The crimson blood had wrecked the perfectly white sheets but Kenneth looked at the blood, not as an impossible stain but as Alistair’s life, that had just slipped out of him.
Kenneth turned to the actor at the doorway. “Close the door.”
“Hmm? Oh... Em, yes. Yes, of course,” the actor closed the door behind Kenneth.
Kenneth slipped through the crowd and went to look for Pen.
Kenneth and Pen walked into the living room, around 5 o’clock when the sky was beginning to get dark. It was Maria’s idea that everyone should meet there and figure out a plan.
Kenneth would have remarked on the beauty of the room if they weren’t there in such odd circumstances. Everyone was littered around, some people were leaning against the walls and some were sitting. Kenneth and Pen sat on a couch next to Craig and Maria
The actor playing Dr Black was standing next to a tame gas fire. He turned to look at everyone, “So, what do we do?”
“I say we leave!” squeaked Shaun Tone.
“The boats aren’t back 'til tomorrow evening,” said Maria as she settled her cast on the arm rest.
“Can’t we call them back early?” the actor dressed as a colonel said.
“No reception,” said the actress in the maid costume, she wasn’t look at anyone directly.
Maria looked over at Sam, “Can’t you do something for Alistair?”
Sam looked at her in slight disbelief, “I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker.”
Everyone began arguing and yelling. Craig stood up and shouted, “Oi!” Everyone was intimidating into silence either by his menacing build or his booming voice. “I think we’re forgetting something,” he continued, “What would Miss Marple do!?”
No one was sure whether he was joking or not but Pen took advantage of the silence and stood up, “He has a point, we’re murder mystery fans. We came here to solve murders and we’ll solve this one.”
“The cook,” said Sam. Everybody looked at him. “Well the steak had to come from somewhere.” He got up and started towards the door, “I’ll go check the kitchens.” He stopped at the door and asked, “Could everyone please stay here, until I get back?” He looked around the room, “Thanks,” and left the room.
There was silence for a few minutes. Kenneth looked up at the actor by the fireplace, “What’s your name? Your real name, I mean. It would be silly if we called you Dr Black.”
“Davon Kingston,” he said as if he’d practiced it.
“And I’m Sarah Carroll,” said the actress wearing the maid costume. “That’s Carroll with two ‘R’s and two ‘L’s.”
Everyone looked at the actor wearing the colonel costume expectantly. He just looked back, a little confused. “What? Why is everyone looking at me?”
“Your name? What is it?” Kenneth spelt out for him. It gave the Kenneth the impression that the actor wasn’t very clever but not as much as what he said next.
“Oh, it’s Paul Baxtor. That’s Paul with one ‘P’.”
“Right,” said Kenneth after an awkward silence. “Well as Pen was saying,” he got up and stood next to Pen, “we’re going to stop this killer before they strike again.”
“The cook is dead,” Sam informed the group from the doorway.
Everyone looked over at him.
“They could not have been timed worse,” Kenneth whispered to Pen.
Maria raised herself of the couch, careful of her arm, “Well let’s have a look then.”
“No,” said Sam. “He was cut right down the middle, a normal person would be scarred for life if they saw it. I’ve performed colonoscopies and after that, nothing really grosses me out anymore.”
“We should try to stay in groups,” suggested Kenneth.
Craig took Maria’s left hand. “We’re going to go to our room. Goodnight,” he said and led her out of the room. Lots of people started to agree and left as well.
Kenneth caught Pen after she tripped walking into Alistair’s room. Kenneth closed the door after her.
“Thanks,” Pen said as she walked up to the body and covered it with the end of the bed sheet.
“Well it’s even, I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Kenneth wandered around the room.
“Maybe the killer came into the room with the steak, closed the door, dropped the tray and all pretences and stabbed him in the throat?” she guessed like one of her book’s protagonists. “No, ‘cause the handle is facing the wrong way.”
Kenneth sat on a comfortable chair next to a window. At half nine, the window was just a dark mirror. The patter of the rain was heavy on the panes and the distant roar of thunder could be heard.
“Why would someone kill Alistair though? Is he rich?” Pen thought aloud.
“The carpet there is worn out a bit,” commented Kenneth said as he stood up and walked over to the area he was pointing at.
Pen left the bedside and joined him in the clear space. “Well it would be odd to place furniture here so I think we can rule that out. Also it would have blocked the path between the end of the bed and the wall.” She then corrected herself, “Well end of the bed to the window.”
Kenneth turned to face the window, he pulled up at the bottom of the old wooden frame. The window slid up and the rain spat at him. His hand went to the exterior windowsill. “Oh,” he said surprised. He took his phone and shone the light from the screen out to the wet concrete. The light revealed damp cigarette butts. Kenneth put his phone away and shut the window. He looked at Pen, “Maybe it was an accident. Think about it. They tripped on the way in, like you,” he gestured to the door. “They dropped the steak and, unlucky for Alistair, the knife went right into his throat. Then they started to panic and began pacing from the end of the bed to the window and had a few cigarettes to calm themselves.”
“Seems unlikely but looks that way. We should go back to our rooms,” Pen suggested.
It was at that time that people either called very late or very early, that Kenneth was woke by the sound of screaming for the second time in the past twenty hours. This was a different scream though, it was a man’s scream of agony.
The rain was still drumming on the glass as he got out of bed. He opened the door and crept into the corridor. There was flash of light, followed by a roll of the thunder, allowed Kenneth to momentarily see the Mahogany panelled passage. He wrapped his arms around himself, his pajamas did a poor job of insulating him.
The scream shred through the night again and Kenneth began to run. He rounded the corner. Another flash of light and a silhouette stretched into the hallway from an open door. Another growl of thunder.
Kenneth looked in to find Craig, in a t-shirt and underwear cradling Maria’s body in silk pajamas. A chair was lying on its side behind him and above it hung a noose.
“Craig, what have you done?” quizzed Kenneth. Sam appeared behind Kenneth, wearing a dressing gown.
Craig looked up at both of them. “I got her down,” he snarled. He then looked to Sam, “You have to help her!”
“Do you people think I’m Jesus or something? I can’t raise the dead,” Sam said, exasperated.
Kenneth looked at him. “Show a little tact!” he hissed at the doctor.
“What? Oh yeah,” he remembered. “Craig, I’m really sorry but we should probably get you out of here.”
“No, I can’t leave her,” Craig sobbed and held Maria tighter.
Pen appeared behind Kenneth, in a fluffy robe. She saw Sam helping Craig lie Maria’s body on the bed, “Oh my god!” she gasped as her hands went to her mouth.
Sam put an arm around Craig’s shoulders and led him to the door. Another flash of lightning illuminated the tear tracks running down his face.
“Wait,” said Kenneth, he walked to the chair and moved it aside, underneath was a letter addressed, in messy handwriting:
Kenneth handed it to Craig and Sam led the heartbroken man away.
Kenneth and Pen stood alone in the living room, it was slightly brighter outside but the storm still raged on.
Sam joined them, “I calmed him as much as I could. He’s in a different room, I thought it was best for him.”
“Do we tell the rest of them? They might get the same idea,” said Pen.
“We should tell them, they aren’t that stupid. Anyway, the boats come back tomorrow,” chipped in Kenneth.
The door creaked. The all look to see Craig standing, holding the letter. “She was killed,” he stated plainly and it took a minute to sick in.
Finally Sam spoke, “I know you want someone to blame Craig but thi-”
“She’s left handed,” Craig interrupted. “They took a guess that she was right handed and were wrong. Not only did the kill her,” he began to shout, “but they also impersonated her!” He was crying again. “When they find them, I’m going to kill them! I’ll go to jail, there’s nothing left for me.”
Everyone stood silently. The rain sounded heavier on the glass. Finally Sam stepped forward, “C’mon Craig, you need some sleep. You aren’t thinking straight.” He took Craig gently by the arm and steered him into the hall.
“We should get what little sleep we can,” suggested Kenneth, he looked at Pen and she nodded.
The left the room and walked through the corridor in silence. They parted at Pen’s door and Kenneth walked down the dark hall. His door was still open, just as he had left it.
He moved through the doorway and closed the door behind him. He was crossing to the bed when he stopped. He returned to the door and twisted the key in its lock. Satisfied with the metallic clacks, he walked to the bed.
Thunder bellowed above him. Kenneth thought it carried on longer than usual until he realised that it was running footsteps he could hear.
He darted to the door and fumbled with the key. The footsteps stopped outside his door, a white folded card slipped under it and the footsteps began again. Kenneth picked up the card and opened it. In perfect writing;
Meet me on the roof at 12, alone.
Kenneth unlocked the door and wrenched it open. He burst out into the hall and looked left and right. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled atmospherically.
When Pen left her room it was bright and nearly afternoon. She was carrying a notepad and pen.
She entered the Living room and sat at a table in the middle of the room. Davon was sitting was in an armchair staring into space. Craig sat on a windowsill looking out at the powerful winds. He was strangling a piece of paper that Pen presumed to be the fake letter. Sam was teaching his son how to play chess on an old board on another table.
Kenneth left his room and crept to the staircase. He went up past the third floor, to the door which opened out onto the roof and pushed it open.
Paul stood on the flat roof with a cigarette in his mouth.
“So it was you,” was all Kenneth could say. He stepped onto the roof and the winds pulled at his jacket. “But why?”
“Well Alistair was an accident. I was bringing the steak in for him and I tripped.”
“I was right. What a guess?” Kenneth boasted. “Sorry, more pressing matters at hand and such,” he said as he pulled himself back to the conversation. “What about the others?”
Pen looked up to see Sarah walk into the living room and sit on the couch. She was wearing normal clothes instead of her costume.
“Well I had to kill the cook ‘cause he knew I brought the steak to Alistair,” explained Paul.
“Ok but why Maria?” Kenneth interrogated.
“Improvisation mainly. I thought it would be what my character what do next and I’d come up with a reason later. I was going to kill you seeing as though you were getting close to figuring it out but I thought it would be a bit too soon to kill my nemesis.”
“Your nemesis? I’m not your nemesis.”
“Well you’re the closest thing I have to one,” settled Paul.
Sam stood up from the game and announced to the room, “I’m going to the bathroom, nobody let him mess with my pieces,” he said, pointing at Shaun. Only Pen was listening.
“So you were killing these people for no reason?” clarified Kenneth. “God, you’re dumber than I thought!”
Paul spat out the end of the cigarette and it was carried away by the wind. He cracked his knuckles menacingly. “Did I say dumb?” backpedalled Kenneth, “What I meant was…” Paul began to advance. “What I meant was… Ah screw it I had no idea where that idea was going.”
Paul’s knuckles smashed into Kenneth’s nose. Kenneth could feel the bone break and the skin tear. He cried out in pain. He reeled back, blood was pumping from the gash.
Paul’s knuckles were about to strike again so Kenneth attempted to defend himself. He’s left arm went up as a block above his head but Paul adapted to it. He grabbed the block and pulled the arm back with him, raising a knee to meet Kenneth’s soft stomach.
The wind had been knocked out of Kenneth and he fell to the ground, gasping for air. He lay on his right side facing Paul’s direction. Paul delivered a powerful kick into Kenneth’s ribs which caused him to roll over and scream again.. Kenneth felt a crack within him and a pain began in his chest.
Kenneth opened his eyes and realised he was by the edge. He could see the turbulent sea and the mainland in the distance. He felt Paul’s foot placed on his lower back. Kenneth put his hands on the roof in front of him as the foot gently pushed his body of the roof.
Pen looked up from her writing, she was sure she saw something dark pass by the window. She went back to her notepad after watching the window for a few seconds. She saw it happen again out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and waited for it to happen again.
Kenneth foot swung by the window.
“Oh dear,” said Pen as she got up and darted to the window. She pulled it up and the wind rushed in. She stuck her head out the window and looked up.
Kenneth was holding on to the edge of the roof while Paul stamped on his fingers. Kenneth was screaming.
Pen pulled her head back into the room. The wind had styled her hair ridiculously. “It’s Paul! He’s trying to kill Kenneth!” she shouted to the room. She ran to the door, “Davon, c’mon, I’ll need your help to restrain Paul and someone tell Sam to go up to the roof!”
She was already out the door when Davon was raising himself out of the chair. Craig pushed him back into the chair and followed Pen out the door.
Paul stopped stamping on Kenneth fingers. He needed to get off the roof before the rest of the group got up there and cornered him.
He opened the door and Pen rushed out and caught with a perfect right hook. He staggered back, dazed from the pain under his jaw.
Pen had reached Kenneth already, grabbed his wrists and began pulling up onto the roof. A hot pain was getting worse by Kenneth ribs, causing him to scream out.
Paul regained his composure and went for the door again but Craig charged at him and caught him with a rugby tackle that sent them both over the edge.
Kenneth heard a sickening thud. He managed to get a knee onto the edge and fell onto the flat concrete. He was looking up at Pen. “When you write about this,” he began, “say I hit him back.”
He paused. “Of course I did. I gave as good as I got.”
Sam ran onto the roof, “Finally someone I can help! And ironically, you’re the only one who hasn’t asked for it.”
“Yeah whatever,” said Kenneth through gritted teeth. “Just do something already.”
Sam squeezed Kenneth fingers and got a grumble in reply. He pushed the end of the nose left and right and Kenneth let out a whimper. The doctor applied pressure to Kenneth’s ribs and Kenneth screamed.
“Ok, you’ve got a few broken fingers, a broken nose, a cracked rib and a punctured lung,” Sam diagnosed. “But we’ll get you on the first boat back, rush you to Galway Hospital and you’ll be fine. Trust me, you’ll be fine.”
© Copyright 2016 Luke French. All rights reserved.
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