“One of you…” I glared at my suspects. “Committed murder.”
My lightning and thunder sound effect flashed and crackled outside the window. All my guests cranked their heads in suspense at it.
Together, the three of us were all huddled around a wooden table in a castle I inherited from my recently deceased uncle. Mold bloomed from each and every crack, making it a HHS nightmare. That’s right, I know acronyms.
“This is ridiculous!” Professor NutsWorth declared, slamming his hands down on the table. “I have an alibi!”
“Okay, first off. This is hand carved mahogany, don’t slam your filthy paws on it. Second off, I didn’t say when yet.”
He sunk back in his chair. “I’ve just always been out with friends.” He mumbled to himself. “I’m popular, people like me. That’s more than I can say for your lonely ass. Oh, look at me! I’m Inspector Manta! I solve crimes for a living.” He mocked. “And my wife divorced me because I spent too many hours at the office! Well sorry, Martha, your knitting isn’t going to pay the bills so someone has to!”
“Professor, you're confusing your life with mine. I’m ace. And your wife broke up with you because you slept with a student. Also, because your last name is NutsWorth, and let’s face it: no one can live like that.”
“I live like that.”
“Yeah but, do you really think you should be used as an example on how others should live their lives? Your wife just left you.”
The professor sunk even deeper into his chair. “Moving on… to the murder!”
The thunder boomed again.
“Inspector Manta,” Clarisse spoke up. “If you’re going to accuse one of these losers, can you hurry up and do it already? I’m an appointment at the nail salon.”
“Well, sorry Clarissa—“
“Clarissa. Yeah, that’s right, I didn’t correct myself. Don’t tell me how to live my life. Now, sorry but you and your Starbucks-loving, basic white butt are just going to have to sit themselves down until the murderer sings like the yellow canary I had in second grade before it was murdered.”
Thunder clapped outside.
“Is that synced up to go off every time you say murder?” Dennis asked.
Lightning flashed a yes. Literally. I anticipated this question and programmed it so that if anyone other than me says ‘murder’ it will spell out yes. My genius, it’s boundless.
“So, why are we suspects of this murder to begin with?” Martha inquired as she stepped inside from the pouring rain outside. As I saw the lightning illuminate the outside world in the letters “yes”, I realized the mistake in my coding. Manta! You fool! No wonder your parents named you after a sea pancake! Or was it a flounder?
“Sorry I’m late, I was just making a big...Ah...knitting sale.” Martha apologized.
“Martha?!” Professor NutsWorth cried out. His face turned a deep red. “Wha—what are you doing here?”
She pointed at me. “This bimbo thinks I actually killed someone.” Scoffing, she added. “Like I would actually get caught.”
“Martha, I know you strangled my uncle to death with that insanely strong knitted scarf.”
She shrugged. “But can you prove it?”
I turned back to the table. “No, I cannot. Doesn’t matter anyway, he forgot to get me a gift card for my tenth birthday so I never loved him anyway. He’s not why we’re all gathered here now.”
“So why don’t you tell us instead already!” Clarisse exclaimed. “Who died?”
“My feelings!” I exclaimed.
Clarisse stared at me for a second, trying to tell if I was actually being serious. Realizing I was being as serious as Santa is real—because he is—then stood up. “Yeah, I’m out.”
“No!” I shouted. “No one is leaving until I find out who the murderer is!”
“There is no murderer since there was no murder!” Clarisse argued.
“Not one that can be proved at least.” Martha mumbled under her breath.
Clarisse continued to head to the door. “I said stop!” I bellowed with about as much authority as the student council has.
From underneath the table, I flipped a switch and initiated total lock down of the building. Sheets of metal slammed down and sealed every window, door, and mouse hole in the joint. No one was getting in or out.
“No one is leaving until I find out who the murderer is!”
“But,” Clarisse whined. “My nail appointment!”
“Sit back down!” I ordered.
She trudged back over to her seat.
Dramatically, I slapped a piece of paper onto the table and raised a curious eyebrow. “Well, that was certainly dramatic.” Martha remarked.
“Thank you. I went to drama camp as a kid. I think it really paid off.”
“Hey, was it the one in River Deli?”
“Yeah, with infected kidney shaped pool and flesh-eating algae?”
“Oh, I went there as a kid! Man, in my day, they had twice has much flesh-eating algae before you kids got spoiled with your ‘health codes’.”
“Would you two stop talking about glorified daycares for teens and explain why the frick that paper is so important!”
“Easy,” I flipped over the paper to reveal the words ‘KICK ME’ on the other side. “Someone taped this to my back yesterday and I wanna know who!”
“Are you kidding me?” Clarisse demanded. “This is why you’re still keeping us here?”
“It really hurt my feelings!”
“Oh, stuff them in a jar and get over it already!”
“That’s toxic masculinity!” I cried. “Guys are allowed to cry at the end of rom-coms now! It’s a revolution!”
I folded my hands and stared dead across the table. “Moving on, you all have the means and motive to plant this ‘KICK ME’ sign.” I turned my head to the side and dramatically gazed out the window like I was in the sad part of a rom-com. “Yesterday, we were all attending Devin’s ‘Totally Awesome End of the Year, If You Don’t Go I’ll Sleep with Your Mother’ Party.”
Clarisse nodded. “Yeah, it was totally awesome.”
Professor NutsWorth lowered his head. “I still think he slept with my mother anyway.”
“Anyway, each of you has a motive. Professor NutsWorth, I wore your shirt without asking. Clarisse, I stopped you from making another one of your nail appointments.”
“And I’d cut you if my nails were fine enough to cut skin. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to that appointment!” She added.
“And Martha, I know you murdered my uncle.” I clapped my hands. “Then! All of you each approached me last night--and gave me a pat on the back.” I stood up and paced around the table. “Perhaps to tell me I was doing a good job managing my professional and personal lives, a balance not many can accomplish--”
“Yeah, there was a spider on your back.” Clarisse corrected.
“He just kept coming back.” Professor NutsWorth tacked on.
“Someone might have put spider bait on the sign.”
“Wait.” I paused. “Why would you say they put spider bait on the sign?”
“Because the sign was already on you when we hit the spider.” Clarisse and the professor answered in sync.
I stroked my chin. “That could only leave one person! Martha!” I spun around to face her. “Do you—”
Martha held up a hand. “Imma stop you right there. I’m the one who put that sign on you. However, I didn’t do it to hurt your feelings.”
“Then why Martha?” My eyes brimmed with tears as I whispered. “Why?”
“It wasn’t intentional. I simply mistook you for Professor Nutty over there. You were wearing his shirt.”
“Well, Martha, I hate to do this, but you are uninvited to my birthday party!”
“Oh, I doubt you will make it to your next birthday.”
“Because the poison will have killed you by then.”
“I mean it was a good to honest mistake really. I put some poison the tape. When you took it off, it seeped their your skin. Judging my the growing blue-ness of your neck, I’d say you have about a minute before you drop dead.”
I placed my hand on my hips. “Well, Martha, I hate to do this even more than before, but you are uninvited to my funeral!”
That was the last thing I said before my body hit the floor.
“So, does anyone know how to get out of here?"