"I know who committed the murder," the detective announced with as much gravitas as he could muster. He held his head high and a smug expression crossed his face. The steady pour of the rain hammered at the windows of the manor house, and the lightning illuminated the stone gargoyles on the outside balustrade. It was the perfect atmosphere for a murder mystery revelation. The final scenes of all the best detective novels occurred in a gothic manor amidst a downpour, and his revelation would truly be one for the storybooks.
He had contemplated all this in his car earlier as he waited for his constables to arrive. Their lack of punctuality had stretched so long that he had dared not delay making the arrest any longer. So he had eventually walked into the house alone. There was a murderer to uncover in the house after all!
Despite their absence at such a crucial moment, his constables had done their jobs well enough—interviewing suspects and bringing him all of the information. So well, in fact, that he had pieced together the mystery without so much as talking to a single suspect or even setting foot in the murder residence. Perhaps it had not been the most intricate of mysteries, but he would not let that diminish his shining moment. He would crack this case properly, in the murder residence—conveniently revealed to be a gothic manor from the looks of it—and with the entire family of suspects present. Fortunately, the rain had serendipitously obliged in adding to the atmosphere.
And so, it was with an air of self-congratulation that he made his pronouncement to the roomful of people. But that smugness waned as moments went by and the rabble around him continued unabated. Apparently not even one person had heard him. "I say," he started again raising his voice, "I know who did the murder!" Still no one even chanced a glance at him. Looking around, he realized that people were dressed in silk finery—they were having a party. What kind of people had a social gathering mere days after their patriarch had been murdered!
A teenage boy sitting nearby—the Lord's grandson, guessed the detective—looked up from his sketchbook and seemed to feel sorry for the detective.
"Alright, let me." The boy pulled out a little whistle from his pocket and blew. A shrill sound emanated from him and people finally turned to see what the source might be. An almost-hush fell over the crowd, albeit with a few members of the gathering exclaiming, "What in the devil is that?!"
The detective cleared his throat with a nod of thanks to the boy and tried again. "The murder! I know who did it!"
"Who are you?" A voice from the back called out.
"Who let you in?" The tall woman in the front turned up her nose. Leaning toward the elegant gentleman at her right, she said, "The servants just let anyone in here. There's no sense of decorum out here in the country."
A murmur of agreement went around. The detective shifted nervously. This was not how he had envisioned this going. He had imagined telling his discovery to an audience hanging on his every word. As in the great novels.
"Madam, I'm the detective!" Seeing her brow furrow, he added, "From Scotland Yard. They sent me to investigate."
"There's been a murder?" The voice belonged to a matronly woman who was sitting on the luxuriously upholstered sofa in the most garish pink he had ever seen. The detective looked at her in confusion. How could someone not know there had been a murder?
"Did he say he's a birder?" An elderly lady, also seated on the luxurious sofa, asked of her daughter next to her.
"No Mama. He said murder," the matronly woman said loudly to her mother. The old lady's face was blank, staring unblinkingly at her daughter.
"MURDER. MURDER." The woman was practically shouting at her mother now. Finally, recognition flickered in the older woman's eyes.
Exasperation was now threatening to overpower the detective's confusion. "Madam, please! If everyone would sit down, I will explain everything."
There was some general grumbling but it seemed that people were moving toward seats, although at a much slower pace than the detective would have liked. But he had celebrated too soon.
The tall woman in the front said, "Alright, but if I'm to be subjected to some gruesome tale of murder, I will at least top up my drink." As she sashayed over to the corner where the sparkling liquors sat, the others mused that it was a good idea and got up to do the same.
The detective clenched his jaw, praying for patience. What was the matter with these people?
Amidst the migrations, a middle-aged man with a graying beard and whiskers came over to the detective. Taking his pipe out of his mouth, he asked the detective whether he hunted. "No Sir, I do not hunt." Shaking his head in disbelief, the detective continued, "I am here on a very serious matter Sir! Would you please take a seat?"
"Alright my man. I was just being polite. You don't seem like the type of fellow who gets invited to soirees such as this. And I take it upon myself to be quite egalitarian and modern in my thinking." Apparently feeling quite noble, the man added, "Perhaps I shall have you out to hunt one day." With a self-congratulatory smile, he nodded at the detective and walked away.
Now suppressing an urge to scream, the detective looked around to see people still milling about. The lack of desire to know who committed the murder was just appalling. He decided it was time to plunge ahead with his explanation.
"Alright, let me start with the basic facts. As you all know, Lord Worthington is dead. Poisoned during a meal with his family."
"Poisoned!" The young woman in the flowing silk dress had the back of her hand to her forehead and was reaching with the other hand for her gentleman companion's arm. She was apparently entering a fainting spell. Except the detective could see that her face was still ruddy and her eyes bright. Nevertheless, her dapper companion exclaimed, "Oh Ms. Mallory! Your ears are too delicate to hear of such profanities!" He put a gentle hand on her back and led her to a chaise in the corner.
A man with a handlebar mustache standing by the record player said, "Say Detective!" He paused to take a sip of his whiskey and continued, "What if we put on some tunes to soften the blow of this story you're about to tell us?"
The detective's blood was now boiling, and he put his forefingers up against his temple where a headache was forming. His perfectly executed revelation of the murderer was entirely out the window now. But he had been sent here to do this one job and by god, he was going to do it.
"No! No tunes! I am going to tell you this story if it is the last thing—"
"Detective!" The housekeeper who had let him in was standing in the doorway.
"What is it now!" the detective bellowed. For the first time that evening, there was actual silence. A stunned silence, but a silence nonetheless.
The housekeeper set her lips in a line and lifted her head, looking down at the detective. "There is a telephone call for you in the study. Third door on your left off the hallway." With that she threw him a contemptuous look; and spinning on her heel, she stalked away.
The detective closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Then he addressed the group once more. "I apologize ladies and gentleman for my outburst. I shall see to this phone call and be back shortly."
The silence immediately erupted into murmurings, and then to a full rabble before he was even out of the room. In the hallway, the detective located the study and made his way in, closing the door behind him. The quiet room was a welcome change. Picking up the candlestick telephone, he held the earpiece to his ear. "Hello."
"Detective! Where have you been? We just finished bringing in the fellow at the Worthington residence. He tried to run but we got him Sir!"
"What?" Confusion bloomed in the detective.
"The murderer Sir. We nabbed him! But Farley said he saw your car turn off the road to the Eldridge Manor on his way to the Worthington residence. So I thought I would call and check."