A Word of Explanation
For last year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge, I made up a murder victim (Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck, or Sir A.B.C. for short) and then invented 26 characters with motives for his murder. I didn’t, however, tell the story of Sir A.B.C.’s murder; I merely outlined the situation surrounding him at the time of his murder.
This year, each character from last year will tell their story, in an attempt to prove their own innocence. And, by the end of April, you, reader, will know who killed Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck!
Without further ado…
The Murder of Sir A.B.C.
Inspector Crowner Investigates
It wasn’t, Inspector Crowner reflected, at all a regular way to conduct an investigation. But it had been more than a week since Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck had been fatally poisoned, and three days since poor horrid MISS POLLY had been throttled, and Crowner still hadn’t any idea who the murderer was. It was time for a new approach. And everyone involved in the case had pointed so many fingers at everyone else that it seemed possibly useful to get everyone together and get them all started in finger-pointing in earnest. If only no-one would interfere by threatening any lawsuits for defamation, and if only the suspects would co-operate, it might just work—and it would get things out into the open, which would probably be healthy for the portion of this small community that didn’t end up getting hanged. Probably.
How to get the suspects to co-operate was a puzzle, of course. Right now, they were all there—all but OLLIE the gamekeeper, whom Crowner had not been able to find. That was a worry, too—where was the fellow? His son had claimed not to know. But the boy had been evasive, and almost sly, as if he did know where his dad was but considered it none of Crowner’s business. Mysterious. But anyway, everyone else was present.
ANNABELLE, Sir Adam’s widow, was elegantly sprawled on a divan, her gloved hands wrapped round the stem of a martini glass. It wasn’t empty, but it was getting that way. So was the jug of martini mixture that she had on a table next to her.
Annabelle’s companion MEGHAN was sitting in an undifferentiated huddle of garments in a chair, looking out at the world through her usual thick glasses. But even dressed out of a rag-shop and slouching, she had a great deal of sly feminine charm that was as hard to locate as it was to ignore. BRUCE, Sir Adam’s secretary, sat on one side of her; GREGORY, Sir Adam’s brother, sat on the other. Crowner had seen both men place an arm on the back of Meghan’s chair—and both men withdraw it again hastily.
CECIL, Sir Adam’s old friend and new enemy, sat on his own in a corner, and seemed to be heavily asleep. DR. DANIEL, the village doctor and Sir Adam’s last loyal friend, sat next to Cecil, poking him occasionally, possibly to make sure he wasn’t actually dead.
ELI, the rising young barrister from London, sat with INGRID, Sir Adam’s daughter from his first marriage. They had finally announced their engagement the day before, and seemed shy about it, possibly because they knew that everyone in the room was fully aware that Sir Adam had opposed the match.
QUINTON, the young aristocrat from the next village over, whom Sir Adam had wanted Ingrid to marry, sat next to Eli, looking happier than he’d looked in a long time. Next to Quinton was another young man. This same young man had been present at most of Crowner’s interviews with Quinton. Crowner knew exactly what the relationship between the two men was; he was a man of the world, after all. As a policeman, however, his official understanding was that the two were just the very best of friends, and that any other suggestion was to be viewed as wildly extravagant speculation. It was a delicate dance, but he’d done it before. At the very beginning of his career in the police, Crowner had seen such a couple arrested. He’d made a resolution at that moment to get to retirement without making a single arrest on similar grounds. So far, so good.
FREDDIE and JOSEPHINE, the unhappily married couple from the moldering estate next door to Clutterbuck Court, sat together on a couch, looking unhappily married. That is, they were sitting in the same place, but it somehow looked like a coincidence. They did not look united. Or was there perhaps a bit of the old spark left? Crowner rather thought there was. Sometimes, the two exchanged looks, and these looks were of the sort that married couples do exchange. The type of look that asks questions. I don’t understand that—do you? That sort of thing. A small black dog sat on Josephine’s lap, grunting in his sleep.
HATTIE, Sir Adam’s young cousin, was examining the portraits on the wall of the Drawing Room. Possibly, she was studying the extravagant hats that some of the sitters were wearing; possibly some other aspect of the things fascinated her. Or possibly she didn’t trust her face to provide an adequate mask for her feelings, and so she examined the portraits as an excuse to keep her back turned to the crowded room. Crowner wasn’t absolutely sure which explanation was the truth there, but he’d back the hats if he were betting on the matter. The woman was very hat-minded. Really, it was both admirable and slightly pathological.
In a distant corner, KATHY knitted. Every rhythmic click of the needle seemed somehow to remind one that time was fleeting, and that women had knitted at the foot of the guillotine. Very sinister knitting, somehow. As she knitted, she made faces, as if in some private conversation with the work in her hands. Sometimes, she hummed little snatches of songs. No-one had actually come out and said that Kathy was the local witch, but the way they had avoided speaking ill of her was fairly remarkable, especially considering that many of his interviews had been volcanoes of ill-feeling in other respects. Had there been some slight suggestion about the death of her husband? Crowner rather thought there had been.
LEONARD, the local solicitor, leaned moodily on the mantelpiece, staring down into the fire. He’d expressed the gravest doubts about this gathering, and Crowner could see his point. It was a terrible idea, getting everyone together and encouraging them to make public accusations about murder. The only defense Crowner could offer in its favour was that it might possibly lead to the solution of the mystery. He’d told Leonard this. Leonard had replied that it would possibly lead to that, yes, but it would certainly lead to a healthy crop of suits for slander. Crowner had tried to comfort him with the thought that this would probably mean a little windfall for Leonard personally, but this hadn’t cheered the fellow much.
RAVI, YURI, and XAVIER were crouched round a table in the west corner of the room, staring down at a collection of yellowed papers spread out before them. Occasionally, one of them would make a note or scribble out a diagram. A little scientific conference, seemingly. They were all so absorbed in their discussion that Crowner wondered if even an accusation of murder leveled at one of them would divert them much. It had been a mistake, returning to Ravi the notes that Sir Adam had stolen before the little discussion could begin. But Ravi had made such a return a condition for his attendance.
STELLA, the famous mystery writer, was sitting back in an overstuffed armchair, looking absolutely at home in the unusual setting. Crowner wondered a touch uneasily how many similar scenes had appeared in the woman’s fiction. He hoped this one would live up to her expectations.
UNCLE ULRIC was sitting in a seat by the window, carving his name into the fine oak paneling. No-one else had noticed this yet. Crowner wondered if it was his policemanly duty to stop him.
THE VICAR was sitting rather unwillingly on a couch with ZOE, who was whispering something to him, her eyes shining with the Light of Pure Knowledge—or with something of similar potency.
And WILHELMINA, a gorgeous shadow, swathed in the dead black of her mourning garment, brooded on the gathering from behind the curtains of a deep window seat.
What was needed was a spark. What was needed was to get these people thoroughly rattled, angry, and upset. What was needed—Crowner’s eye fell on Annabelle, Sir Adam’s widow. Yes. She might just get everyone upset enough to get things moving. Crowner cleared his throat, exchanged a wink with Sergeant Mug, and stepped into the center of the room. He rather thought he was silhouetted against the fire burning in the fireplace. Anyway, he hoped so.
“I have asked you all to come here,” he said, “in order to allow you to air the various suspicions each of you seems to have bottled up inside you. In the spirit of this gathering, therefore, I will begin. Lady Annabelle—we all know that you hated your husband, that poison is a woman’s weapon, and that the most likely suspect in cases of this sort is the victim’s spouse. Tell me,” he turned to the woman, no longer lounging, now sitting bolt upright and glaring at him, “did you kill your husband?” And he smiled his most irritating smile.
I am so excited to watch this play out. It’s a brilliant idea!
Thanks Sue! I am so grateful for how involved you were with this last year, and I really hope you like what I make of the characters!
I’m eager to find out, but I can’t imagine you coming up short.
Wow!! Exciting. What a brilliant concept!
Thank you! Hope you like it!
This is an interesting idea and I look forward to meeting Sir A.B.C.’s killer. 🙂
Hello! Thank you! 🙂
This will be a lot of fun! I am looking forward to seeing what you post all month.
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Hey Timothy! Thanks! Your theme looks like fun, too!
OH MY GOSH, I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Oh dear, I appear to have squandered my entire supply of exclamation points for the rest of the challenge. Perhaps I should have kept a few in reserve.)
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Hey Anne!! I’m excited, too! And (a little) nervous! I just hope I do a decent job of giving life to the characters you and Sue and others helped me to create last year. I have some of the story written, but not all of it, so April is going to be kind of crazy. As always!
Funny thing about exclamation points: I tend to use them pretty heavily in comments (and in e-mails, too, actually), and I’m starting to wonder if I need to dial it back a bit. This thought occurred to me earlier this week, when I noticed that, in a three-sentence e-mail to my dad, I used three exclamation points. It seems like a lot.