The wind blew through the trees surrounding the house and caused the branches to clack against the window which shook free their leaves. Falling through the front door, two shadows collapsed and fell out onto the pavement in a crash of noise and splintered wood.
“You whippersnappers!” called an elderly woman who stood in the door to the house. Her figure was silhouetted by a growing light coming from within. Soon enough, a small woman who was out of breath appeared next to the lady holding a tarnished candle holder.
“Madame! Madame! Vous ‘ill get a chill!” The little woman spoke between huffed breaths as she threw a threadbare shawl over the shoulders of the elderly woman. Pushing the shawl off her, she marched down the stairs and, with a surprising strength, pulled the tussling men apart and held them by the ear. “This is ridiculous! Honestly what are we to do with young ones like you? My husband is dead for goodness sake!”
Five hours earlier, an elderly man was shuffling down the long corridor of the house. He carried a single red leather bound book in the confines of his own leathery hand which shook slightly with each step. As he passed the length of the hall, he snuffed out each candle one by one which lit the gothic portraits hanging on the walls. The ornately furnished grandfather clock began to strike twelve times as the pendulum within slowly counted the seconds into the new day. After the chiming of the clock had finished the man had reached the end of the hall and stared deeply into the clock face itself, appearing to admire the craftsmanship. All was silent save for the rasp of his lungs as he continued to look at the slowly moving hands. Suddenly the face opened like a flap and a single revolver appeared and blasted through the silence of the house. Chaos ensured.
Marching them back into the living room, the elderly lady stood with her hands across her chest.
“And you too Christina!” she said to the little French woman hovering in the doorway. “I am positively sick to death of my house being used as a murder mystery setting. I’ve lost three husbands so far to this city’s shenanigans!” As she said this, she glared at each person in turn, “and the so-called Police have never been of help!”
At this, a man in a cap sat up and glared at the elderly woman, “But I-“
“I want none of that Sir – I’m too old to be up this late and tomorrow I shall have to find another husband. Look what you all put me through.” The man sitting next to him in a balaclava sheepishly looked at his hands. At this, the doorbell rang to the house and with an exasperated point, Christina was sent to answer it. A glamorous woman soon entered the room with a notepad in hand. Her hair was pulled back through the use of a glimmering hair clasp and the peacock quill was held gracefully in her hand. “Oh and who are you supposed to be, the glamorous millionaire or yet another detective?”
“I’m sorry? I’m just an investigative reporter Miss,” she said as she began to scribble on her pad.
“An investigative reporter? Hmph! Well at least we haven’t had one of them before,” retorted the lady. Her hair curlers had slowly slipped from their places over the night and her hair was now floating in wisps about her head. At this, the glamorous woman moved over and sat next to the nervously fidgeting maid.
“My name is Natalie and I’m here to tell your story. I need to know exactly what happened. When, how and why,” the woman spoke in calming tones to the rest of the group. Suddenly the maid piped up and quickly said;
“Zese people are crazy Madame!”
The man in the balaclava fell out from the clock the moment the body dropped to the floor. He had barely fit into the thing and now he lay on the ground gasping for air after near suffocation. Suddenly, as he lay on the floor, he inspected the man’s face. It was not who he was after. “Bugger! Got the wrong house!” he whispered hurriedly to himself. Somehow, the crime network kept mixing up the addresses of their targets; he’d heard the same thing had happened to a friend last year. He hurriedly started to pull the man down the hallway by his legs yet soon enough a small woman appeared at the end of the hall in a nightgown.
“ ’Vat is going on? Monsieur? Qui are you?” she mumbled as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Looking down the hall, she saw the body and gasped with shock. “Sacre bleu! It has happened again!” Tears began to roll down her face as her body trembled from top to toe. She turned and disappeared down the hall and out the front door. Dropping the body, the criminal turned to run after her just as a shriek came from the wooden stairs near the clock. Startled by the noise from the elderly woman behind him, he tripped and fell over a rut in the rug. Suddenly the little woman appeared once more at the front door with a burly man wearing a cap.
“Stop there!” the policeman commanded in deep tones that vibrated through the floorboards. In a panic, the criminal got up from the floor and ran like a bull towards the policeman. In a mad tussle both struggled with the other as the French woman locked the door behind her and ran past the men to help the elderly woman. The men’s fighting pressed them against the door so hard that the lock broke and they tumbled out into the street and landed on their backs.
“So this all happened very quickly,” Natalie said to the crowd in the lounge room in surprise.
“Well we’re so used to it Dear so naturally it does now. Humph!” retorted the elderly woman with a glare towards the rest of them.
“I don’t even know these people!” cried the criminal who sat squished next to the burly officer. Yet the large man turned and silenced him with a glare.
“But what I don’t understand is –where’s the body?” the reporter asked, “I didn’t see it coming in.”
At this all four of the others in the room went silent with looks of shock on their faces. Suddenly, a tentative knock on the doorframe made them all turn their faces towards it. There stood a man in a dressing robe carrying a red leather book with a single hole in it.
“Heh – always carry this with me everywhere ever since Effy told me about her previous husbands! Gives you a bit of a shock but does the trick,” the man softly said as he rubbed a bump on his head.
“Oh Winston!” cried the elderly lady, “What a relief!” Just as the maid fainted into the chair and the policeman and criminal began to scratch their heads.
“Well… case solved I guess,” said the reporter as she snapped her book shut.