Of course it was raining; what kind of murder mystery would this be if it were not? My old Ford Fairlane dodged left and right, trying to avoid the potholes whose depths I did not know until I hit one, so I tried not to hit one. It was already hard enough to see in front of me through the broken windshield without the heavy rain clouding my vision even more. I didn’t even try to look behind me; I was used to the missing rearview mirror.
The gate of Mrs. White’s Tudor mansion was already open when I approached, but then closed behind me when I cleared it. The claxon sound of the two metal gates closing on each other was right out of Hitchcock, and I laughed at myself for feeling off balance. This was only a writer’s group meeting, I reminded myself. But whenever it was Mrs. White’s turn to host, unusual things just happened. One night a dead cat lay at Mrs. White’s double doors, the beautiful mahogany stained with the cat’s blood. Turns out one of the hounds had got hold of the poor creature and slung it at the door.
Another night one of the group members, Melissa, choked on one of Mrs. White’s shrimps. Every person there that night said they knew the Heimlich and attempted to help, but it was Mr. White that jumped in first and helped Melissa expel the offending shrimp. But tonight was truly going to be murder.
Mary-Elizabeth, a woman of about 70 with blonde hair that was obviously out of a bottle, read her piece, first. It was long and personal, a lament about how she had neglected her children when they were growing up, and how it made them strong adults (One of her children became a famous movie star, for a while. I guess that made Mary-Elizabeth feel better about the neglect.)
After Barbara read the first chapter of her romance novel (why are writer’s groups always heavy on the female side?), we broke for cake and coffee (Mrs. White swore off serving canapes after that one, unfortunate incident I alluded to earlier.) The cake was one of those fantastic lopsided upside down creations so popular these days. It was made and brought by Terri, who apparently wrote and baked fancy cakes. I hate people with more than one skill.
Settling back in our seats to hear from our next presenter, Mrs. White called on Caroline. Caroline was a large woman, widowed, and an endless talker. If someone hadn’t killed her, I might have, myself. (Yes, I know that’s redundant, but I’m trying to find my voice, here.)
“Where’s Caroline?”, Mrs. White asked.
“I think she went to the bathroom,” piped up Peter. Besides being the only other man in the group, Peter was an observer. I know, as writers we all should be, but Peter tracked everything and everyone. It was Peter who discovered how the cat died. And he got a great story out of it, as well. That really pissed me off.
Just as Mrs. White was about to choose another presenter, a loud, long scream pierced our ears. Mrs. White turned white, I’m sorry to say, and we all ran to the bathroom.
There was Caroline, apparently standing over Mr. White, his body draped over the open window’s sill.
I grabbed Mrs. White to keep her from entering the bathroom, but I lost my grip and she went barreling into the room.
Back in the living room Mrs. White was surrounded by the group, some holding her hands, others offering her a tissue as she continued to wail. She cried and wondered aloud how she was going to go on without her “little Whitey”.
When the police arrived, we were certain we would all be there all night. But Peter ensured we would be home and in bed by midnight.
“Officer, if I might. I’ve been observing everyone here tonight and there can be only one murderer.”
Peter turned to Mrs. White. “Mrs. White, your husband has a twin, is that not correct?”
“Yes, he does”, she answered. “But how could you know that?”
“Every month when we arrive at your house, Mr. White greets us at the door. He always stands to the right of the door to open it because he is left-handed, is that not correct?” God this guy was irritating. He sounded like a sleuth from, well, “Sleuth”. So smug. I also hate people who are always right. Not just the ones who think they are always right, but especially the ones who are always right.
“Why, yes, he is”, answered Mrs. White.
“The man lying in that bathroom is right handed. I could tell because his car keys are in his right pants pocket. That means that your husband, Ben White, murdered his twin brother, Bob White who was recently widowed and inherited his wife’s huge estate.”
The police soon confirmed the hypothesis, including Peter’s presumption that Ben White had invited his brother to the house to talk business and lured him to the bathroom and the open window in an attempt to make it look as if an intruder had murdered Mr. White; Mrs. White abruptly fainted.
Peter was right and I hated him even more. He was going to get a best-seller from this!