Detective Retired John Johns came to Halcyon Days Township to live his life in peace and quiet. He had had it up to his eyeballs with his days on the Big City Police Force. If it wasn’t one murder, it was another. After putting in his twenty, he decided enough was enough. He turned in his badge, took his pension and headed out to the tranquil pastures of Halcyon Days.
Halcyon Days was a small village. The folks were about as folksy as folksy could be. Never resisting a tip of the hat and a howdy if they met you on the street. And the neighbors cared enough to bring you chicken soup if you were sick
John Johns moved into a two bedroom bungalow and went to work on his hobby, crossword puzzles. Back in the Big C, it seemed he never had a chance to finish a puzzle before a murder dropped into his lap. The first thing he did when he moved into his dream house with the white picket fence was to log onto Amazon and order a hundred or so puzzle books. That should keep him for a while, then he went outside and planted some roses in the front yard.
He had just come back from the Sunday morning services at the little white Church. It wasn’t that he was religious. It was just the place to catch up on the local news. If the sermon was about adultery, he was darned sure there was someone caught in an adulterous affair.
There were seldom any sermons about adultery. The last one remembered was just before the preacher was caught with the church secretary. Shortly after that, both ran off and left their spouses behind. But everything turned out a-okay as it always seemed to in Halcyon Days. The spouses suddenly realized they were in love with each other. If the sermon had been on loving your neighbor, it would have really set the folks’ ears a twinkle.
John Johns was in the middle of boiling a kettle of water for a cup of Rose Petal Tea. Then the phone rang. It wasn’t an ordinary ring. It was the kind of ring that said to Johns there was going to be trouble on the other end. He hesitated but, after the seventh ring, he finally picked it up.
“Is this Detective Retired John Johns?” the phone wanted to know.
“Yes,” Johns answered.
“This is Sheriff Bobby Beaufort. I need your help. There’s been a murder.”
“I can’t help. I’m retired.”
“Seems that there was a sleepover at the Old Fletcher Manor. Six folks stayed last night. One of them folks, Sir George Ruckus, didn’t show up for blueberry pancakes. When he didn’t join the others for bridge, they all figured something was wrong. Sir George never in his life missed a game of bridge.” (Now you know this is a cozy mystery. They always play bridge in these kind of stories.)
“So why are you calling me?”
“I’ve got my hands full with helping the LLBS. That’s Ladies Local Bake Sale for the new comers. They always like a uniform around. Otherwise they won’t think it’s official.”
“Can’t you send a deputy.”
“Don’t have no deputies. There’s never any crime to have a need. So as you can see I’m in a pickle what with the LLBS and all. And the mayor is having a hissy. When the mayor has a hissy, it’s not pleasant. He hasn’t had one in a while so he’s saved up.”
John Johns looked at his cup of tea and really didn’t want to give it up for some wild goose chase. But he had always taken the side of prudence. He said yes and hung up.
Fifteen minutes later he was in his red Ford heading out State Road 1001. He was in his official detective get-up of white shoes, white suit, white shirt, red tie and white hat. It took him six minutes and thirty-seven and a half seconds to get to the Old Fletcher Manor Gate. He made his turn off the state road and drove through the gate toward the mansion on the hill. It took him another twenty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds to drive the curves up that hill to the three-story antebellum white mansion.
The Butler answered the doorbell.
“I’m Detective Retired John Johns and I am here to make inquiries.”
“Yes. I understand someone got snockered.”
“You know, kaputski.”
“Somebody’s with the fishes.”
“There are no fishes here, Sir.”
“You know. Snuffed, scragged, whacked, annihilated.”
“Oh, you mean decimated?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Follow me.” Butler turned and led John Johns into the Drawing Room.
As he followed, John Johns thought he knew who did the deed. The Butler Do-ed It. It’s always the Butler in these kinds of affairs. To be on the safe side, he kept his suspicions to himself.
As he walked into the Drawing Room, a fly crossed his path. He swished it away. The fly flew over to the blonde in the corner. She didn’t move a muscle. The fly left her and completely ignored the gentleman standing beside her. He had a mustache.
“Madame,” Butler said. “A Detective John Johns.”
The woman with the red wig and powdered nose rose from her chair and greeted the detective. “Thank God. A professional. Not that amateur of a sheriff who’s been playing party pops with the school marm. I am Pamela Wigsley.” (She’s called Wigsley so the reader will remember she’s the one in the wig.)
“I hear you have a murder on your hands.”
“Yes, we have a murder on our hands.”
“Here, Willy.” He handed his hat to Butler. “Treat it with care. It was my great granddad’s.” (Remember the Chekhov rule. If a white hat shows up in a scene, it must be used by the end of the story. So watch for the white hat. It may be important.)
“Yes sir. But I am not Willy. I am Butler.”
“Sure you are.”
With white hat in hand, Butler buttled his way out of the Drawing Room.
John Johns took charge. “Where’s the corpus delecti?”
“In the Library.”
John Johns said, “Of course. It always has to be the Library. Where else would a murder occur? Where’s the Library?”
“Through that door.”
“Through that door?” The detective pointed to the door Madame Wigsley mentioned.
John Johns went to the door, opened it and walked into the Library. Several seconds later, he came back into the Drawing Room. “There’s been a murder in there. Somebody tea-and-crumpeted his tea-and crumpets.”
“Yes,” Wigsley said. “And it has to be someone in this room who did it.”
“Not the Butler?”
“Of course not. If Butler the Butler was a murderer, I would not have him on my staff.”
“And who found the body?”
“The maid, Daisy Maid Bluebell.”
John Johns went to the Drawing Room door and called for Daisy Maid Bluebell, the maid. “Could you bring me a cup of Rose Petal Tea please?”
Pushing away the tear in her eye, she said, “Yes, Sir.”
Why was there a tear in her eye? he asked himself. Well, it was obvious no one would accuse her of the murder. After all, she found the body. No, there had to be another reason.
Johns scanned the room, taking in each of the six while he awaited his tea.
As they waited for Johns’ tea to come, none of the six spoke. They were very quiet and they were nervous.
Finally the maid returned with the tea and handed the cup and saucer to Johns. She started to leave. “Please stay,” the detective requested Daisy Maid.
“Yes, Sir,” she said, then took her place beside Mustache.
Johns took a sip of his tea, smiled, then complimented the maid on her perfect cup of tea. He sat the cup and saucer on the table and perused the room. A slight smile crossed his face. It was one of his gotcha smiles.
“Well, well, well,” he said to the group. “Let’s see. Wigsley, it’s obvious you did not do the crime. If you had, then you would have gone to the trouble of straightening your wig.”
Wigsley said, “Oh, it’s crooked.” She straightened her wig.
“Yes,” Johns said. “If you had murdered our friend Sir, you would have wanted to make sure you looked perfect. So no one would suspect you.” Then he turned to Fashion Sense, a man in absolutely the nattiest of all the natty outfits you might ever see. “It’s definitely not you. You’re too much a coward.”
“A coward?” Fashion Sense did not raise his voice. He was too much of a coward to do so. “How can you accuse me of such a thing?”
“Anyone with your fashion sense would be way to afraid to get blood on his natty nats, wouldn’t one?”
Next came the Brunette. “I know you didn’t kill him or anyone else.”
“How do you know?”
“If you had done the deed, I wouldn’t be able to ask you out. Are you free for dinner next Saturday evening?”
“Of course,” the Brunette said and smiled. “Finally, I have a date,” she thought. “It’s been years and I don’t have a thing to wear. Now I definitely have a good reason to go shopping.”
Johns moved on to Regina Queensberry. “It could have been you. But no. You and Hector here would have too much to lose. You still have to announce your engagement. So, you would wait till after the Season is over before committing the crime of the century. So that leaves Blondie here.”
The tension had been killing Mustache. He couldn’t stand it any longer. So he confronted Johns. “What about me?”
“No, I don’t think it was you. Of all the cases I have investigated, never has a man with a mustache–or a woman, for that matter–committed murder. Grand larceny, yes. Fraud, yes. Bank robbery, yes. But not murder.”
“You’re wrong,” Mustache said adamantly. “Very wrong. I could have done it too.”
“No. You don’t have a motive.”
“I do too. Sir George was sleeping with Daisy Maid Bluebell, then he was going to throw her over for Blondie when he got the chance. It was just a matter of time. I couldn’t stand seeing my Daisy Maid hurt like that.”
Daisy Maid turned to Mustache and hugged him. She was crying. “I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought you would just laugh,” Mustache said. He was crying now.
“I would never laugh at you, My Darling. The only reason I went off with Sir George was because you didn’t ask me out.”
Johns stepped forward, removed Daisy Maid from his arms and cuffed Mustache with his handcuffs. He retrieved his white hat from Willy. (Sorry to mislead you readers about the white hat. That’s called a red herring. Makes the reader think that somehow that white hat had something to do with the crime.)
With Mustache cuffed to the backseat, Johns drove straight to the jail. As he drove, he hummed, “Another one bites the dust.”
So there you have it. No blood. In fact, we don’t even see The Victim. For all practical purposes, Sir George was the McGuffin of the piece. Just the reason for John Johns to show off his stuff.