A Few Notes About This Story: I wrote this in 2015 for what was supposed to be an anthology of mystery stories that were alphabet based. The idea was that every author was given a randomly chosen letter of the alphabet and you had to make that a prominent part of the story. I got W. Since I have always loved Agatha Christie’s mysteries and the game Clue, I decided to sort of mash the two together, and do a murder mystery. The anthology never went anywhere, but the story is here for you to read. I hope you enjoy it!
Get A Clew
Iris Phasian walked into the dining room, leaning heavily on her silver-handled cane.
“We were just about to send someone looking for you, Iris,” said a silver-haired woman seated at the table. She patted the seat next to her. “Come and sit down. They are just about to serve the soup.” Iris made her way to her place. The man seated next to her chair rose and held it out for her. He wore a black jacket and shirt with a white ecclesiastical collar. Iris sat carefully, hanging the handle of her cane on the table edge.
“Now, where in the world is Jameson?” Lila Clew glanced to the door of the dining room. “He said he would finish his call before dinner was served.” She shook out her napkin and began to place it on her lap. A man in a dark suit and thin tie moved forward with a large soup tureen. Before he could set it on the table, Iris spoke up again.
“Oh, Jameson seems to have fallen asleep in the billiard room.” Everyone turned to look at her. She had a faraway look in her eyes, and her forehead was wrinkled. “Does he do that often, dear? Fall asleep on the floor? And he seems to have spilled a glass of wine.”
“Wine? Jameson drinks bourbon.” Lila dropped her napkin across her plate and rose. “I’m going to see what’s going on.” She walked through the dining room door and crossed to the billiard room, leaving the butler with the tureen standing next to her chair. The rest of the guests exchanged glances. A moment later, a long, piercing scream echoed across the house. Chairs scraped against the wooden floor as the guests shoved away from the table and crowded into the hall.
Lila stood in the doorway of the billiard room. Her hands were clasped across her mouth.
“What’s wrong?” said a large, sandy-haired man, stepping to her side. Lila turned wide eyes to look into the room behind her. He stepped up to the door and peered in. “Dear God!” He rushed forward to kneel next to Jameson Clew, lying on the floor on the far side of the billiard room, a pool of darkening blood under his head. He set two fingers against Jameson’s throat, and looked up, shaking his head. Lila began to sob. The silver-haired woman put an arm around her and led her away from the doorway. The butler, without the soup tureen, crossed to the billiard room.
“Harold, you’d better phone the police.” The man who had checked the body stood up and turned to the doorway.
“Right away, Colonel.” Harold hurried into the library next to the billiard room to use the phone. The colonel walked back out into the hall.
“We should leave things as they are until the police arrive,” he said. “Claire, why don’t you and Carmine take Lila and Iris to the lounge to wait?” The silver-haired woman nodded and, with an arm around Lila’s waist, led her to the lounge next to the dining room. A tall, thin redhead in a scarlet dress put her arm through Iris’.
“Come, Iris,” she said. “We’ll all go sit in the lounge for a bit, shall we?” She walked with Iris across to the lounge.
“I don’t see why all this fuss is necessary,” the older woman said. “A man can’t even take a nap in his own home these days.” She walked into the lounge, shaking her head.
“I should see to Lila,” Reverend Raine said. “We will pray for poor Jameson’s soul.” He followed the women across the hall.
“Won’t do much good to pray for his health,” the colonel muttered to the only other person in the hall. He was taller than the colonel, and thin. He wore a tweed jacket with a deep plum turtleneck. With a last glance at the billiard room, they joined the other guests in the lounge.
A short time later, they heard the doorbell chime. Harold passed the lounge door as he went to answer. A moment later, he ushered a portly man in a light brown suit into the lounge.
“Detective Porrow,” Harold said. The police officer was balding with a fringe of close-cropped dark hair and a trim, dark mustache. He strode into the room, followed by a uniformed officer.
“Bad business, detective.” The colonel stood as the policemen walked in.
“And you are?” Porrow asked.
“Colonel Bartholomew Dijon,” the colonel answered. “Jameson and I were business partners, as well as friends.” Porrow nodded. His dark eyes turned to Lila, still sobbing into a lace-trimmed handkerchief. Claire had an arm around her shoulders and Lila leaned on her for support.
“The widow?” he asked. Dijon nodded.
“Lila Clew. She went looking for Jameson when dinner was about to start, and there he was in the billiard room. Dead in a pool of blood.” Porrow surveyed the room.
“I will want to talk to everyone who was here,” the detective said. “No one is to leave. I would like to examine the body first.” Dijon nodded and led the detective across the hall to the billiard room.
“Has anything been touched or moved since the body was found?”
“No. I checked for a pulse, but that was all. No one came into the room except me, and we have all been in the lounge since, waiting for you to arrive.”
Porrow nodded and walked around the billiard table to stare down at the body. Jameson Crew was lying on his back, a thickening pool of blood under his blond hair. His suit jacket was rumpled, and his pant legs were pushed up a few inches, revealing dark socks. Porrow crouched down at his head and snapping on a pair of latex gloves he pulled out of a pocket, he turned Crew’s head to the side.
“Hit from behind, it appears,” Porrow said, pointing to the darkening wound on the dead man’s skull. “Something heavy, perhaps with a corner or angle of some sort.” He glanced around the room. “Nothing obvious in here. Either he was killed somewhere else or the killer took the murder weapon with him. The body was moved, so perhaps this isn’t the scene of the murder.” At Dijon’s puzzled look, Porrow pointed to the body.
“The pant legs and jacket are pushed up, which indicates dragging the body.” Dijon nodded.
“But wouldn’t that leave a blood trail?” the colonel asked.
“Most likely,” Porrow answered. He got up and began to inspect the floor of the room.
“Well, we didn’t see anything like that when we came over here after Lila screamed. And with all of us in the house, I doubt anyone would have time to clean it up.” Porrow nodded. He stopped at the end of the table.
“Odd,” the detective said. He kicked at a long rug lying at an angle from the short end of the billiard table to the cue rack on the wall. A trail of blood was under the rug. “Hmmm. This is where the body way dragged. But why move him only across the room?” Dijon stepped out into the hall again, and came back in.
“Maybe because, with the way the table is positioned, a person would have to come into the room to see the body? I just walked by, as if I were heading down the hall, and I didn’t notice anything with a quick glance in here.” Porrow nodded.
“Well, we’ll get the coroner in here to collect the body. I’ll need to talk to the others now.” They walked back to the lounge. Dijon pointed out the others to the detective, who made notes on a pad he pulled out of his jacket.
“Lila Clew, Jameson’s wife is sitting on the loveseat there with Claire LeBlanc. Next to Claire is Iris Phasian. She may have been the first to actually see the body, but I don’t know how much help she will be.” Porrow raised an eyebrow.
“Alzheimer’s,” Dijon continued. “Not terribly bad yet, but she drifts in and out. Didn’t seem all there when she mentioned seeing the body.” Porrow nodded and made another note. Dijon went on.
“On Lila’s other side is Reverend Linos Raine, the pastor at the family’s church. And over there, by the fireplace is Professor Peter Damson, and Carmine Roisin.” Porrow glanced their way.
“The movie star?” Dijon nodded.
“Jameson was a fan, ever since that high-stakes heist movie she was in a couple years ago. He invited her to join our dinner group then.”
“And these dinners are common?”
“Once a month, unless the Clews are out of town.” Porrow tapped his pen against his lips.
“I would like to talk to each one alone,” the detective said. “Is there somewhere I can do that?” Harold, who had reappeared at the door, spoke up.
“You can use Mr. Clew’s study, directly across the hall,” the butler said, turning and leading Porrow across. Porrow sat at the desk in the small, dark-paneled room.
“I think I would like to speak to the widow first, if you don’t mind.” Harold nodded and turned back to the lounge. A moment later, he returned with Lila, still red-eyed, but she had stopped sobbing. She stood in the doorway, looking a bit lost. Porrow smiled and gestured to one of the chairs in front of the desk.
“Please, Mrs. Clew, sit down. I am very sorry for your loss, but I do have to ask a few questions. You understand, I hope. This shouldn’t take long.” Lila came into the room and sat. Porrow glanced down at his notebook, lying open on the desk. “Now, why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“My husband was murdered! Right here in our home, practically in front of our guests! That’s what happened!” Lila twisted the handkerchief in her hands. She was sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning toward the desk. Porrow held up a hand.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “And I am here to try to find out who committed the crime. I was asking what happened this evening, prior to the body being found.” Lila relaxed just a bit.
“I’m sorry, detective,” she murmured. “It’s been a stressful evening.” She took a deep breath. “We were having our monthly dinner party with our closest friends. Everyone arrived on time, and we were in the lounge, having before dinner drinks. Harold- our butler- came in to say that dinner was almost ready. He also told Jameson that he had a phone call. Jameson left to take it in the study here. We went to the dining room and sat down. Oh, wait. Iris wanted to use the restroom, so she went back there. She came back to the dining room, and said Jameson was sleeping on the floor in the billiard room, and that he’d spilled a glass of wine. I guess she was having one of her episodes because when I went to see what was going on…” She stopped, fluttering a hand. Porrow looked up from the notes he was writing.
“That’s fine, Mrs. Clew,” he said, tapping the notebook with his pen. “Did your husband have any enemies?” Lila waved a hand.
“Well, of course,” she said. “He was a successful businessman, and he made a fortune. Anyone like that will have enemies. But I don’t think any of them would actually kill him. Unless it was a killing in a deal, of course.” Porrow nodded.
“And you and Mr. Clew? Was your relationship having any problems?” Lila sat up straighter in her chair.
“Of course not! We were quite happy.” Porrow made another note in his book and stood.
“I think that is all for right now, Mrs. Clew. If I have any more questions, I will let you know. Why don’t I walk you back to the lounge, and I will talk to one of the other guests?” They walked across the hall. Porrow scanned the room.
“Perhaps I should speak to Iris Phasian next,” he said. “She was the first to see the body.” Lila walked over to the loveseat, where Iris was sitting with Claire.
“Iris, dear,” Lila said, setting a hand on Iris’ arm. “The detective would like to ask you a few questions. Do you feel up to answering him?” Iris looked up.
“Of course,” she said. She stood and picked up her cane. Claire looked at Lila.
“Don’t worry, I’ll stay with her. If she gets confused, I will call you.” Claire nodded and the two women followed Porrow back to the study.
“Bart?” Lila said as they walked into Jameson’s study. Colonel Dijon jerked up from where he was leaning over a large potted plant in a corner of the room.
“What are you doing?”
Dijon took a few steps into the room and stopped. “I was just, uh…” Porrow pulled a folded sheaf of papers out of his pocket.
“Perhaps these are part of the reason?” Dijon’s face paled.
“What are those?” Lila asked. Porrow unfolded them and handed them to her. Lila began to read, as Porrow continued.
“It seems our esteemed colonel was involved in some rather shady business dealings and was trying to get your husband to join him in the scheme. Mr. Clew suspected something off, as you can see from the notes on the pages. I would guess phone call he got was confirmation of his suspicions.”
“Bart, what is this?” Lila held the pages out to him. Before Dijon could answer, Iris spoke up. All three turned to see her standing next to the plant, holding a small handgun.
“Not a very safe place to keep a gun,” she said.
“That’s Jameson’s gun!” Lila said. “But he kept it in a drawer in his desk!”
Porrow pulled a few tissues from the box on the desk and took the gun from Iris’ hand.
“And how did it get in the plant, I wonder?” Porrow said. Dijon opened his mouth, but Lila cut in.
“Colonel Dijon? In the study? Jameson’s own gun?” Her face was pale, and tears brimmed at the corner of her eyes again. Porrow set a hand on her arm.
“I’m afraid not,” he said. “The colonel may not have had the best intentions, but he did not kill your husband. There was no gunshot wound, and he appears to have been hit on the head with something heavy and pointed. Much heavier than this revolver. However, I will have one of my officers call Vice. I am sure they will be extremely interested in talking to you, Colonel Dijon.” Porrow walked back out into the hall and brought a uniformed officer with him. “Keep an eye on him until they send someone to pick him up. And be sure this gets added to the evidence collected.” Porrow handed the police officer the revolver. The policeman nodded and escorted Dijon out of the room.
“Now, Mrs. Phasian, if you would not mind, I do have some questions for you.” Lila guided Iris to one of the chairs at the desk. Porrow sat behind the desk and opened his notebook again. “Now, then, you are the widow of Henry Phasian, the exotic bird breeder, yes?” Iris nodded vigorously.
“Yes, I am. People paid very well for Henry’s birds. His peacocks were spectacular. My favorite. It’s why I always wear something in this color.” She fingered the blue scarf at her neck. “Peacock blue, you know.”
“Yes,” Porrow commented. “And how did you know the deceased?” Iris looked puzzled.
“He was my husband. You said that yourself.” Lila patted her hand.
“No, dear,” Lila said. “He’s talking about Jameson. Someone murdered him tonight.” Iris looked at her, shocked.
“Really? Tonight? But I just saw him, in the billiard room. He was… Oh, oh, oh!” Her hand flew to her mouth. “You mean he was… Oh.” Lila continued to pat her hand. After a moment, Iris looked at the detective. “Henry and Jameson met when Jameson purchased some birds for the estate from him. They, well, we became friends.”
“And tonight? What did you see tonight?” Iris thought for a moment before she answered.
“I needed to use the ladies’ room.” She leaned closer to the desk and lowered her voice. “You’ll understand when you get to be my age.” Porrow pressed the pen to his lips to suppress a smile.
“I went to the powder room next to the ballroom. When I was coming back, I thought I heard something, a bump sound from the billiard room, so I walked in, and I saw Jameson, lying on the floor. I thought he was sleeping, and I saw the spilled wine. But I guess it wasn’t wine?” She looked to Lila, who nodded. “Oh, dear. Well, I went back to the dining room, and told Lila, and she went out. And then she screamed, and everyone ran across the hall, and then you came, and, oh, dear.” Lila patted her hand again.
“It’s fine, dear,” Lila said. Porrow gave the two women a smile.
“Just one more question, Mrs. Phasian,” he said. “Did you see anyone else when you were out there?” Iris wrinkled her forehead and gazed over his shoulder at the wall behind him.
“Carmine was behind me in the hall,” she said, looking back to Porrow. “I thought she was going to come into the restroom, but she didn’t. I don’t know where she went. I didn’t see her when I came out.” Porrow raised an eyebrow.
“Interesting,” he said. “Well, thank you. You can go back to your friends now. If I have any more questions, you will be willing to talk to me again?” Iris nodded, and Lila led her out of the study. Porrow stood and followed them. He glanced around the lounge, and turned to Professor Damson, who had poured a large glass of bourbon.
“Miss Roisin? She hasn’t left, has she?”
Damson gestured with the glass.
“She was a bit perturbed that this was taking so long,” he answered. “Something about needing to talk to her agent, or something. She went out to make a phone call.” Porrow turned back into the hall and looked around. He walked down the hall, peering into the rooms as he passed them. Halfway down the hall, he heard a voice coming from a room in the back corner of the hall. He walked toward the sound, but as he approached the door to the conservatory, a figure stepped into the doorway, blocking his way. He stopped abruptly.
“Reverend Raine? Is Miss Roisin here? I need to talk to her.” The reverend glanced over his shoulder into the room. The room was tucked into a corner of the house with tall windows on both outside walls. It was bright and airy. The windows were open to the warm evening breeze. Recessed lights in the ceiling lit the room brightly. There were plants everywhere- tall, tropical ferns and palms in ornate planters, hanging baskets full of greenery and flowers over all the windows, and long planters underneath the windows with lush, colorful plants growing profusely. A small table and two chairs were placed against one inside wall. A large cactus garden sat in the center of the table. He could see Carmine Roisin, the actress, trying to move one end of a long planter.
“Do you need some help, Miss Roisin?” Porrow called around Reverend Raine. Carmine spun toward the door.
“Let him in, Linos,” she said, stepping back from the planter. Porrow stepped into the room, with Lila Crew right behind him. Raine stood to the side to let them in.
“Were you looking for something?” Porrow said, walking over to the planter. He grasped the edge, and with an effort, moved it away from the window. He peered at the floor behind it and bent down.
“This, perhaps?” The detective stood up with a bright red fingernail between his thumb and index finger. Carmine sighed.
“Yes,” she said. “It fell off and I knew it would not look good if it were found.” She sighed. Lila stepped around Porrow. Her face was hard as she confronted the redhead.
“You were meeting Jameson here, weren’t you?”
“I knew it!” the widow said, pointing at the actress. “I knew he was having an affair with you!” Carmine started laughing. Both women turned as Porrow ducked behind the planter again. He stood up with an ornate gold candlestick in his hand. He’d wrapped it in a white handkerchief to pick it up. Lila pointed at Carmine, opening her mouth, but nothing came out.
“Carmine?” Reverend Raine said, stepping into the room. “You killed Clew here in the conservatory with that candlestick?”
“Of course, I didn’t.” the actress said, tossing her long hair. “I was not having an affair with Jameson. I was trying to get him to invest in my new film. We were supposed to meet here, but he never showed up. I thought I heard something outside, and I grabbed that candlestick. I broke the nail off when I did and dropped both of them.” Porrow came over to stand between the two women.
“I suspect she is telling the truth, at least about killing your husband,” he said to Lila. “There was no time for her to clean any blood off this candlestick, especially with it behind that planter. There is no blood I can see on this. I will, of course, send it to our lab to be sure, but I think Miss Roisin is not our killer.” Lila’s shoulders slumped. Carmine tossed her head and swept out of the room, her high heels clicking on the tile floor. Porrow turned to Reverend Raine, who was still standing near the door.
“And the reason you blocked the door, Reverend?” Raine shrugged.
“Carmine asked me to,” he answered. Porrow simply raised an eyebrow and walked back out into the hall. He gave the candlestick to the officer standing by the door, with instructions to have it sent to the police lab. The officer nodded, took the candlestick and walked out the main door. Porrow walked back into the study, circling the room slowly. Lila and Raine stood in the doorway.
“Shouldn’t you be looking in the billiard room, where the body was found?” asked Raine. Porrow smiled a thin smile.
“Perhaps,” he said. He stopped behind the desk and was looking at a tall shelved case on the wall behind it. “But this is the last place that Mr. Clew was seen that we are aware of. The body was moved. We may still need to find the actual scene of the crime.” He stopped and stepped over to the case. He pointed to a spot on one of the upper shelves.
“Was there something here recently?” he asked, turning to Lila. She came over to look at the clean rectangular impression in the dust on the shelf.
“I shall have to speak to Harold about this,” she said. “Obviously, the cleaning service is not doing their job!”
“Ah, but that may work in our favor,” Porrow said. “There was something on this shelf, then?” Lila nodded.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Some sort of rodent thing. It was stuffed. Jameson was rather fond of it, for some reason I could never fathom. I thought it was rather hideous. I wonder where that thing has got to?” She looked around the room, but the stuffed animal was nowhere to be seen.
“Interesting,” mused Porrow. He stared at the desk for a moment longer, and with long, determined strides, walked out of the study and into the lounge, where the rest of the guests had gathered once again. He stood inside the door until Lila and Raine joined them. He gazed around the room for a long moment. When he finally spoke, several people started at his tone. Professor Damson sloshed his drink onto his shirt, leaving a dark stain on the purple fabric.
“Has anyone seen the stuffed rodent from Mr. Clew’s study?” Several sets of eyebrows rose at the odd question. No one spoke for a moment, until Claire raised a hand and pointed her index finger.
“As a matter of fact,” she said. “I did see Peter carrying that thing into the library. I was watching Lila as she went to the restroom, to be sure she was going in the right direction. I didn’t really think much of it. He is a professor, now, isn’t he?” All eyes turned to Damson. Peter looked down at the hand holding the glass. It was visibly shaking. He set the glass down on the side table quickly. His eyes darted from one to the other of the people in the room. He smiled and spread his hands.
“Well, yes,” he said. “I borrowed it to see if I could find anything in the library to identify it completely. They are considered endangered in most of Australia. That’s where they are from, you know. The only place, outside of a few in New Zealand, where you’ll find them.” He stopped, dropping his hands to his sides. “Did you know that a group of them is called a wisdom?” His voice trailed off. Porrow watched the professor for a moment longer.
“Perhaps we should go to the library. You can show us what you found, yes?” The professor nodded, and the group crossed to the library in the right-hand corner of the house off the main entry. It was a small room, with bookshelves on all the wall spaces. An upholstered chair, side table, and floor lamp were in the far corner in front of two narrow windows, one on each side of the corner. A small desk and chair stood in front of the shelves to the left. Porrow turned to Professor Damson.
“So, professor, what were you looking for?” The professor tugged at his jacket sleeves. He kept glancing to the bookshelf behind the desk. There was a book on the desk. Porrow walked over and bent to look at the pages that lay open. “Mrs. Clew, is this the animal that is missing?” He pointed to a picture. Lila walked over and looked. She wrinkled her nose.
“Yes, that’s it.” She answered. “Filthy looking thing. I never understood why Jameson bought it.” Professor Damson turned his head sharply.
“Bought? Jameson said he shot it when you were in Australia last year. They- they are endangered almost everywhere. I couldn’t understand why he just laughed when I confronted him with that.” He gestured to the book.
“Oh, please,” Lila said. “Jameson has hardly ever fired a gun in his life. He bought that disgusting thing at an antique store in upstate New York a few years ago.” The color drained from Damson’s face.
“But where is it?” Lila continued, scanning the room. The taxidermy piece was nowhere to be seen. Damson was edging toward the door, still flicking his glance to the bookshelf behind the desk.
“Please, stay here, professor,” Porrow said, stepping to the doorway to block it. He gestured to the uniformed officer who had come back inside. “Please be sure Professor Damson does not leave.” The officer took Damson by the arm and sat him in the desk chair. He stood next to the chair, watching.
“Now, Mrs. Clew, is there something special about this bookcase? Our friend, the professor, keeps looking at it.” Lila waved a hand at the case.
“It’s a secret door,” she said. “The four corner rooms have them. They lead to the cellar, where there are doors to access the passages to the other rooms. They were here when we bought the house. Jameson always thought it was special to own a house with secret passages. He loved to give tours of them and made a big deal of decorating them for Halloween. We’ve all been through them many times.” She stepped up to the case and reached to the back of the middle shelf. She pressed a hidden button and the case swung out from the wall. Behind it, was a narrow tunnel, lit dimly by small lights hung at intervals along the ceiling. Porrow pulled a flashlight out of his pocket and stepped into the tunnel.
“There is a blood trail here,” he said. He started to move along the tunnel. Lila stepped into it with him. Reverend Raine put a hand on her arm.
“Are you sure you want to go with him?” Lila turned to him and squared her shoulders.
“If this is where Jameson was killed, I want to know.” She marched down the tunnel after the detective, Raine right behind her.
They followed the blood trail to the door into the cellar, across the cellar diagonally to another door. Porrow opened it and the blood trail continued as the tunnel rose to the first-floor level. At the end of the tunnel, sitting on the floor next to the door out, was the taxidermy piece. Porrow picked it up and shone his flashlight on it. One corner of the heavy, rectangular base was covered in blood. He opened the door in front of them and they stepped out into the billiard room from behind the cue rack.
“Well, that’s how the body ended up in here,” Raine commented. Porrow nodded, and carrying the stuffed animal, he returned to the library. As he stepped out of the tunnel, he held the statue up so everyone could see the bloodied corner. There was a gasp all around the room. Porrow stepped to the center of the library and looked directly at Peter, whose face had gone white. Porrow spoke loudly enough that everyone could hear clearly.
“I have solved the murder. After the professor found that this animal was endangered, he accused Mr. Clew of illegally shooting it. Mr. Clew, knowing the real story of the statue, treated it as a joke. They argued and the professor grew enraged.” Porrow turned to Damson, who had collapsed into the desk chair. “It was you, Professor Damson, right here in the library, with this wombat!”