It’s 6pm on a particularly eerie Halloween night and I walk up to Mr. Jenson’s house wearing a pink floral dress my grandmother lent me. The stark contrast from my usual faded jeans and oversized T-shirt makes me feel like a completely different person. Just before ringing the doorbell, I straighten my skirt, adjust my shoulder length wig and pat a little more powder on my face. The distorted reflection of myself on the floor-to-ceiling windows beside the door show a 80 something year old woman way wiser and beyond my actual 27 years of age. I ring the doorbell and a strange man I have never seen before opens the door for me. He is dressed up in complete Hercule Poirot costume, with a magnifying lens in his hand, and dramatically exclaims “Alas! It is such a pity. Mr. Jenson’s been dead for 10 years and now this..”
“Ten years?!” I gasp and try to muster all the shock I can and end up failing miserably. I’ve never been a good actress and it proves to be my undoing in every one of these silly murder mystery parties. “Ten years since poor Mr. Jenson’s passing? Oh My, how time does fly! It seems like only yesterday that we had tea together in my backyard...”
“Harper” I fill in sheepishly
“Now, now, Mrs Harper, it is quite the shame that such a sweet old man like Mr. Jenson left us for his eternal abode but we must be brave. Now more than ever before. Especially since some rascals have been spreading rumours that the old man’s ghost is haunting this house. Can you believe it? Mr. Jensen wouldn’t even hurt a fly!”
“So very true, my dear. So very true!”
And with that, he takes my hand and ushers me into the house. As my eyes begin to adjust to the dim lights, I notice just how much effort has gone into converting the simple modest home into an eerie old- fashioned Victorian era mansion. We enter the foyer and find it packed with people resplendent in costume, all engaged in excited conversations. Mr. Jenson sure did take this party to the next level. It was his idea to set the murder in a house haunted by a ghost brutally murdered 10 years back. Only he could conjure up a crazy murder-cum-ghost story like that from thin air and make a party out of it! I only met Mr. Jenson three months back when I first moved into the neighbourhood and ever since that day, I've been astounded by his quirky genius.
Just then I spot him making his way through the room, talking to guests and swirling a glass of wine in his hand almost like he’s royalty. And when his gaze lands on me, he raises his glass in my direction and has the cheekiness to say “That’s a good look on you, Ms. Harper. You should stick to it!”
Ruffled a bit as it is, I manage to reply with equal playfulness, “And what about you, Mr. Jenson? Ghosts don’t just walk around, sipping wine and making small talk, now do they?”
Reciprocating my smile with a casual shrug, he walks off, already talking to another guest I don’t recognize. Come to think of it, I haven’t met a single person I know even though the house is overflowing with guests.
The sound of someone clinking a champagne glass pulls me out of my reverie and I listen attentively as one of the guests carefully explains the details of the puzzle at hand.
Poor Mr. Lockwood has been missing for the past 3 days and is now presumed to be dead. His last whereabouts are believed to be the “haunted Jenson mansion”, where this night, the best and brightest minds have gathered to solve the mystery once and for all, amid reports of paranormal activity that some believe is the reason for Mr. Lockwood’s uncharacteristic absence.
And so, like similar murder mystery parties that have become the latest trend this year, the group gathered in the foyer, split up into groups of 3 or 4 and slowly begin searching the house for clues. I decide to take the route less travelled and venture out on my own.
Very soon, the pieces of the puzzle begin to take shape and start to fall into place. Who said 80-year-old ladies wouldn’t make good detectives? I’ve always loved putting two and two together and even though my character in today’s role play was that of a simple widowed old woman still grieving over a neighbour who died 10 years ago, I just can’t help myself. When there’s mystery in the air, I just can’t resist at all. And following tonight’s trail of clues, I find myself, suddenly alone in the dingy basement of the house. The room is nearly filled with boxes of different shapes and sizes. I look around and find an indistinct bundle that stands out from the rest in the far corner of the room.
‘It’s almost too easy. Like it was begging to be found' I think to myself as I move towards the so called "body of Mr. Lockwood”
Bending down, I notice that it’s a mannequin wrapped hastily in a plastic bag, the semblance to a real cadaver being almost uncanny. The attention to detail is so perfect that if this wasn’t all make-believe, one would have surely mistaken it for a real body. Also, weirdly enough, the features remind me of someone I know but I can’t really put my finger on whom. Just as I get up and turn around to leave, something catches my eye. I turn around and notice something bright red and glistening seeping from underneath the bag, almost like it was…. but surely it can’t be… that would be a step too far, wouldn’t it?
Before I can make up my mind, I hear a menacing snarl from right behind me “Quite the detective now, aren’t you? Funny, I don’t think you were supposed to be down here, Mrs. Harper” Realization dawns on me as I gasp. “Oh, my...” before I hear and then feel a sickening thud and the whole world fades as I black out.