Charles Maxwell-Murdoch [Dead]
A wealthy and ruthless business man. A Small built man in his late Sixties. He runs a huge corporation called Lynxcorp, which controls newspapers all over the world.
Mrs Patricia Maxwell-Murdoch
She is younger than her husband and is his second wife. His first wife died in unexplained circumstances. She has been married to him for ten years. She is in her forties. She has mousy light brown hair and appears to be a timid woman. She dresses very smartly and expensively but rather plainly, except for a string of enormous pearls around her neck.
Miss Lola Ginatonica
A blonde temptress with a curvy body and a heavily made up face. She wears exotic, figure hugging clothing and elbow length gloves and smokes cigarettes in long holders. She is loud and brash and well aware that she could wrap any man around her crooked little finger.
Lady Alicia Van Schlumph
She is the Sister of Mr Charles Maxwell-Murdoch’s first wife, Abigail and is convinced that her Brother-in-law was responsible for her death somehow. She loathes him, his second wife and Miss Lola. In fact she hates pretty much everything and everyone. She is a lady in her Sixties, tall, thin with iron gray hair arranged elaborately in tight curls around her head. She is always dripping in jewellery and carries her large handbag around with her wherever she goes, along with her diamond encrusted walking cane.
A man in his late twenties. He is tall, dark and handsome. He has a very dark sense of humour and rather enjoys making fun of the other guests. He calls them unwanted extras from an Agatha Christie film, discarded because they looked too ridiculous even for a film. He loves Murder mysteries and doesn’t care if they are fictional or real, the more gruesome the better.
Harvey Dearman [Dead]
He is Mr Maxwell-Murdoch’s personal valet attendant. He has spent most of his life covering up the fact that he is gay and also madly in love with his employer. He is tall, rotund and red faced. He has oiled black hair centrally parted and normally is neat and tidy. He carries a picture of his employer with him in his breast pocket.
An austere and distant woman who runs the hotel more or less single-handedly. She is very tall and wears grey. She is very efficient and cold as the grave. It seems very out of character for her to host something as fun as a murder mystery weekend. Her Father had been a businessman but had lost everything when his company had been ruthlessly taken over and destroyed by Charles Maxwell-Murdoch thirty years ago, leaving her to run this Hotel.
The Villa was straight out of the 1920’s and it screamed high class chic louder than a gorilla fighting off a rival. On the English Riviera overlooking the beautiful bay of Torquay and just a stone’s throw away from the birthplace of the great Agatha Christie, this place was a fantastic find.
Of course, everyone enjoyed a good murder mystery weekend but it was frightfully dull when it was just in your Aunt’s front room in her home in the suburbs. When the other guests were just friends and relatives dressed up and the corpse was just a stuffed pair of overalls with red ink splattered on them.
This was supposed to be the real deal. It had better be, because it had cost an absolute fortune. Only those lucky enough to be wealthy or were good at calling in a few favours, could have afforded to stay in this hotel.
The villa stood on the cliff edge looking over the sea surrounded by a patio dotted with Torbay palms. Inside it was like stepping back in time. The large hallway had black and white floor tiles and an enormous hat stand and glass mirror. There were four doors leading off from the hall, one to the Library, one to the Drawing room, one to the dining room and the last one to the kitchen. A grand red carpeted staircase lead up to the bedrooms above, all modernised with bathroom facilities, a welcome departure from the past.
The Dinner gong was supposed to sound at Seven o’clock but it hadn’t.
Gradually the guests came out from their rooms in their grandest attire and drifted down the landing to the top of the stairs. The sun was setting, providing a golden glow through the large windows. None of the lamps had been lit.
At the foot of the stairs, a body lay crumpled, the head resting on the bottom stair and its limbs spreading out in impossible angles over the black and white tiles. The nearest white tiles were covered in red, sticky blood.
A couple of screams echoed around the hall.
It was the real deal after all.
It had begun!!
When they’d all arrived earlier in the evening, Joseph had wondered about the strange gathering of people. It was like a collection of cast-offs from an adaptation of Murder on the Orient express. The hotel owner had greeting him on the steps of the Villa and said he was the last but one to arrive. She was a strange one. Ms Geraldine Cooper, who presumably had arranged the Murder weekend looked so dull and grey that it didn’t seem possible that such a fun idea could have ever occurred to her.
When he was escorted into the drawing room he had felt even more out of place. He recognised the rather short man standing by the mantelpiece. It was Charles Maxwell-Murdoch, a newspaper baron of particularly unpleasant disposition who seemed too often pictured in his own papers. He supposed that the smart and demure lady standing by him was his wife, Patricia.
A tall man who looked like your typical butler fussed over the newspaper magnate, he introduced himself as Harvey Dearman, Mr Maxwell-Murdoch’s personal valet.
A gorgeous creature, dressed in a figure hugging red gown, sashayed over to him, smiling. She leaned close to him, her long blonde hair falling over her left eye and introduced herself to him as Miss Lola Ginatonica. She was widely reported in those few newspapers that were not owned by Charles Maxwell-Murdoch, as his mistress. She lifted up a long cigarette holder with an unlit cigarette in it and in sultry tones asked “Do you have a light?”
He lit it for her and she blew smoke in his face, gave him a dark look and then sauntered over to a wicker chair and sat down in it languorously.
He decided to sit down in one of the other chairs and smiled impudently at them.
The owner came back into the room leading the final guest, a tall and stately lady, expensively attired, who had the outward appearance of a particularly bad tempered queen. She walked in carrying her handbag over one arm and gripped a cane with her other hand rather like an axe-murderer grips the axe. She walked over to the young man and demanded he give up his seat for her. Which, rather reluctantly, he did.
Then casting an imperious eye around the room, looked appalled to see Charles Maxwell-Murdoch standing not very far away. “What are YOU doing here?” She exclaimed in high tones “I will never forgive you for what you did to my Sister. You hear me? Never.”
Mr. Maxwell-Murdoch went rather red and announced to the whole room “Alicia Van Schlumph is under the strange impression that I had something to do with my first wife, Abigail’s, death.”
“I certainly do. I am sure of it.” She shouted.
Joseph couldn’t help let out a laugh. He felt he’d been transported into a melodrama. They were just the last sort of people he would expect to want to take part in a murder mystery weekend. When they all turned and looked at him he asked them why they’d decided to take part. The oddest thing was that they said they didn’t know what he was talking about?
Joseph Ingrams stood at the top of the stairs. He looked so smart and handsome in his black dinner jacket. A rather surprised expression marred his good look, wiping the usual sardonic smile from his face as he looked down at the body at the foot of the stairs
Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch stood nearby a look of horror on her rather ordinary face.
Next to a vase of flowers on the landing was a small blue glass bottle, lying on its side and labelled ‘poison’.
As Joseph walked down the stairs towards the body of Mr. Maxwell-Murdoch he almost tripped over a hammer that had been carelessly dropped on the stairs.
Before he arrived at the body, the Valet, Harvey Dearman, ran past him and collapsed next to the body crying. “No, you can’t be dead, you can’t be!” A corkscrew fell out of his trouser pocket as he cried, inconsolably.
The door to the Kitchen opened and the austere figure of the owner, Ms Cooper came into the hall clasping a fire poker. She stood there looking grim. On the landing Lady Alicia Van Schlumph face appeared grinning. Both exclaimed “Justice!” one quietly, the other triumphantly.
Lola Ginatonica hang back in the shadows under the stairs, Joseph saw her bend down, pick up a pair of scissors from the floor and place them into her evening bag. He also noticed in the umbrella stand, poking out was the handle of a breadknife.
The body was contorted and blood seeped out over the tiles.
As Joseph Ingrams gazed down at it, he couldn’t contain himself any longer; he threw back his head and laughed like a demon possessed.
The guests stood milling about in a mixed state of bewilderment, possibly tinged with blood lust.
The efficient hotel owner, Ms Cooper had already telephoned the police and they had been swarming over the area like locusts in a wheat field, taking photos and dusting for finger prints.
Ms Cooper gathered all into the dining room and served a mixture of beverages, tea, coffee, whisky etcetera, just to keep everyone occupied.
Then the Inspector arrived. He was a short man in a grey homburg hat, a rather shabby brown rain coat and had a beard that seemed to contain remnants of pastry in it. As he walked in, he tripped over the dining room carpet and fell flat on his face.
“Thank you, Constable, get back to your work” He said to the young policeman who helped him back on his feet.
“Good evening. My Name is Inspector Kruseau. If you please, I would like to take a statement from each of you about this gruesome murder.”
Inspector Kruseau cast his eye over the collected gathering in the drawing room.
“So, we have here the body of Mr Charles Maxwell-Murdoch. It appears he has not been dead for very long. What were each of you doing prior to the discovery of the body?”
Turning to the Valet who was the closest thing to a Butler in the room and automatically, in the Inspectors opinion, suspect number one. “You, What were you doing?”
Harvey Dearman dried his tears with a handkerchief. He had been crying inconsolably since discovering his employer’s body. The Valet, taking offence at the Inspectors tone, drew himself up to his full height and looked down his long nose.
“Me, Sir? I was outside looking in the Rolls Royce for Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch. She said she couldn’t find her Mink Stole and thought she had left it in the back of the car. I had left Mr Charles in his room all ready for dinner. He wanted to write some letters before the gong went. I had been out there for about fifteen minutes when I decided that the stole wasn’t there. Coming back into the hall I saw his body…on the stairs….and the blood….”
He collapsed crying again.
The Inspector turned to Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch. “So your stole wasn’t in the car after all?”
Mrs Maxwell-Murdock looked up, a pink flush to her cheeks. “Er, no Inspector, I found my stole under the bed, where I must have dropped it, silly me.”
“And you didn’t hear anything at all?”
“No, Inspector. Charles had finished his writing and I said I thought the gong had ought to have rung. He said he would go and find out what was going on. I was still powdering my face. Our room is the Master suite and is furthest from the stairs. I didn’t hear a sound, I’m afraid.”
The Inspector turned to Mrs Van Schlumph. “Your room, I understand, is at the top of the stairs. Did you not hear anything at all?”
“Eh, What did you say? Speak up, man! Oh, wait a minute.” Mrs Van Schlumph took out a device concealed in a discreet pocket in her dress, it was attached to a hearing aid in her left ear.
The inspector repeated his question.
“Well I’m afraid, my hearing is not quite what it used to be. I don’t bother putting my hearing aid in until I’m ready for dinner. I’m afraid I didn’t hear a thing.”
“And what about you, Young man. I take it that your hearing is quite alright?” The Inspector asked Joseph Ingrams.
“Well yes it is Inspector, but I had my headphones in and was listening to some music. I didn’t hear anything either.”
Turning to the owner, the Inspector asked her what she had been up to.
“I was preparing dinner. I work single-handedly, I don’t engage any permanent staff because they don’t take orders properly. I prefer to do everything myself. I’m afraid I didn’t hear anything, You can’t hear much behind that big kitchen door, it’s soundproofed you see, to prevent guests from hearing all the noise from the kitchen.”
“And, what were you doing madam?” The inspector directed his question at Miss Lola who had got up from the table and was admiring herself in the large mirror above the fireplace. She turned and flashed her eyelashes demurely.
“Little Old me? Well, I had been talking to that lovely young man over there” She pointed at Joseph. “Then he left me in the Drawing room to get dressed for Dinner. I wasn’t going to change because I thought I looked just fine the way I was” She laughed seductively, taking a deep breath. “Then, I’m afraid to say, I fell asleep in a big comfortable chair and only woke up when I heard everyone talking in the hall. I came out to see darling Charles dead on the floor. I don’t think I will ever get over that shock. I’m sorry I didn’t hear anything else.”
The inspector sighed inwardly, it appeared he had just been treated to an Oscar-winning performance. The upshot was that according to everybody present. No one had heard a thing?
Inspector Kruseau cast his eye around the room, it suddenly occurred to him that the assembled gathering was not quite typical of a Torquay hotel. A media mogul, his wife and valet, an aristocratic elderly lady with a bad temper, a sultry temptress straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel, a young man who seemed to belong to a different time and place to the others and finally the hotel owner who, by her very demeanour should be running a prison not a guest house.
“What brought each of you to this place then?” the Inspector asked.
Patricia Maxwell-Murdock spoke first. She had a soft, unassuming way of speaking.
“My husband received a letter from a business acquaintance asking him to join him here. I studied Nursing in this part of the world, before I met my husband of course, I so wanted to see It again, so I decided to accompany him. Naturally he takes his valet everywhere he goes.”
“I don’t suppose you still have that letter, do you Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch? I should very much like to see it” said the Inspector.
“When we got to our room, when the whole thing seemed to be part of a practical joke, Charles threw the letter in the bin. It’s probably still there. I’ll go and fetch it.” She left the room and her footsteps could be heard crossing the hall and climbing the stairs.
“How about you Madam?” The Inspector asked Ms Lola Ginatonica.
Ms Lola puffed on her cigarette in its long holder and blew a steady stream of smoke into the Inspectors face making him cough.
“I had a letter from Charles asking me to join him for the weekend. I thought it odd that he hadn’t telephoned me, but sometimes he could be very secretive. I hadn’t heard from him for a few weeks. Naturally I didn’t believe he would bring his wife down here with him. I asked him why he sent me the letter and he denied it.”
“Do you still have that letter?” Asked the Inspector.
“No, I ripped it up and threw it into the fire” She pointed to the unlit fireplace.
“Well, it’s been too hot to light the fire, so the pieces are still there it seems.” The Inspector gathered up all the pieces and put them into his pocket.
“How about you, Mrs Van Schlumph? What brought you here?” Said the Inspector loudly so the old lady could hear.
“There’s no need to shout, I have my hearing aid turned up and I’m not Mrs I’m a Lady, please address me by my proper title Inspector. I came here because I received a letter telling me that if I came here this weekend I would find out the truth about my Sister. My poor Sister died ten years ago and I blame that man who’s now dead for it. I now think it was a hoax, but I am glad that I was here to witness his demise.” She opened her large alligator skin handbag and took out an envelope and letter and threw it down on the table in front of the Inspector.
Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch came back into the room holding a crumpled piece of paper. She handed it to the Inspector.
“So young man, why did you come here? You do not seem, if you don’t mind me saying so, the same class as the rest of the guests.” The Inspector asked Joseph Ingrams.
“I saw an advert in the newspaper that there was going to be a murder-mystery weekend here. It was going to be really authentic. I was intrigued so I signed up. When I arrived, it appeared that I was the only normal one here, everyone else looked like they had come straight out of an old Agatha Christie novel.” Several people round the table made indignant sounds at this rather rude comment.
Ms Cooper also seemed to be rather indignant at the suggestion. The Inspector asked her “Did you organise and advertise a Murder-Mystery weekend Ms Cooper?”
“The very idea seems the height of vulgarity Inspector, I did nothing of the sort.”
“I don’t suppose you have kept this article in the newspaper have you Mr Ingrams?”
“No, I’m sorry Inspector, I haven’t.”
The Inspector laid out the three letters, one intact, one crumpled and the third in several pieces which he laid out like a jigsaw puzzle.
It appeared that all three letters were written in the same hand.
The Inspector spoke again. “This is rather curious, look at the very steep angle of the handwriting and the distinctive loops and curls on the letter l’s and the p’s. I have examined the book in reception which each of you have written your names and addresses in. There are two people’s writing that match this. One is the dead man’s Charles Maxwell-Murdoch and the second is yours Mr. Joseph Ingrams.”
All eyes turned on the young man who was grinning at the end of the table.
The young man had laughed at them all. He admitted sending out the letters, he just said it was for a laugh. He found the whole thing very funny.
Inspector Kruseau had Joseph Ingrams’ room searched, thoroughly. Several documents, his driver’s license and a diary were taken away for investigation. A pair of scissors were taken from the bathroom, they appeared to have blood on them.
The Inspector went back to the station to check up on the progress of the forensic report, finger prints, toxicology, that sort of thing.
Still smirking, Joseph Ingrams looked about him. He’d noticed two things that seemed to be a common theme. Firstly, everyone seemed to be wearing a lot of black. He was still in his Dinner suit, the Valet had on his black uniform. Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch had on a neat little black dress with large pearls, Lady Van Schlumph had on a very old-fashioned gown of black lace. Ms Cooper was wearing dark grey and Ms Lola was in red, but she had a black silk pashmina wrapped around her bare shoulders and long black elbow length gloves.
That was something else that seemed to be quite common, gloves. Who wore gloves in this day and age? In addition to Ms Lola, Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch wore gloves and Lady Van Schlumph had black lace gloves to match her dress. Even the Valet wore white gloves, that were still stained red with his employer’s blood. Why he hadn’t taken them off yet? Personally, he didn’t mind the sight of blood but he didn’t like coming into contact with it. The thought made he feel unclean. Leaving everyone downstairs in the drawing room, he decided to go to his room, lock himself in and have a soak in the bath…
Not long afterwards loud voices could be heard coming from the dining room.
A mans voice shouted out “I know it was you. I knew it from the beginning. You needn’t think I’ll let you get away with this neither.”
Constable Parker, who had been left behind to ensure that none of the guests left the hotel walked across the hall and turned the handle of the dining room door. It was locked.
Just then a shot rang out from inside the room. Constable Parker ran at the door to break it open. On the third attempt he managed it.
Inside the room the body of Harvey Dearman lay on the floor, shot clean through the head. A pistol lay, still smoking, near the body. No one else was in the room.
The French doors were open onto the patio. Constable Parker went through them quickly. He noticed that there was a rose trellis on the wall just outside the door and caught on a nail was a tiny fragment of black thread. Looking up, he could see an open window upstairs and also the window to the Drawing room was wide open too. He climbed through it; the drawing room was empty.
Constable Parker then walked through back into the hall where everyone was now standing, no doubt drawn by the sound of the gunshot.
Actually, they weren’t all there.
Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch was nearest to him, not wearing her shoes. Barefoot she didn’t even come up to his shoulder. Ms Cooper was standing by the Kitchen door, a look of grim determination on her sour face.
Both Lady Van Schlumph and Ms Lola Ginatonica were on the stairs.
Where was Mr Ingrams?
Constable Parker ran up the stairs and knocked on Joseph Ingrams’ door. There was no answer and it was locked. Taking no chances, Constable Parker again broke down the door. The room was empty, a breeze was wafting in from the open window. He ran to the window and looked out, the rose trellis ended just below and he could see the open French doors of the dining room.
Just then, he heard a splashing noise from the adjoining room. He opened the door to find Joseph Ingrams laying in the bath, his modesty covered by some soap bubbles.
Smiling the young man said “Yes Constable? Can I help you at all?”
Constable Parker went bright red and then went to telephone the station to let Inspector Kruseau know what had occurred.
In the immaculately tidy kitchen, Lady Van Schlumph was talking to the owner, Ms Cooper.
“You never liked him either did you, Ms Cooper?”
“No, Lady Van Schlumph, I did not. I know you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but that man was a monster and the world’s a much better place without him.”
“I couldn’t agree more. What makes you say that though? I hate him because I think he killed my poor sister Abigail, who was his first wife. Why should you hate him?”
“Why? Because of what he did to my Daddy” For a moment her face changed, she was no longer the grim, tall, austere woman. A childish expression came upon her face as she picked up a knife and cut the head off a herring. It is said that young children cannot feel complex emotions. It is pure love or pure hate. The latter was plain on Ms Cooper’s face.
“My Father was a businessman. We were quite well off then and lived in Chelsea. Then my father went into partnership with Charles Maxwell-Murdoch. They started a new company to do with exports. The venture failed but before it did Charles Maxwell-Murdoch managed to offload all his shares onto my Father. We lost everything and my Father shot himself.” Her face returned to its usual blank sombreness and she continued cleaning out the herring, scraping fish guts into the sink. “Why were you so sure he killed your Sister? She was ill, wasn’t she? That’s what I heard.”
“Yes, she’d had influenza and pneumonia, that’s why they engaged a nurse, but she was getting better. I spoke to her a couple of days before on the telephone. She told me that she thought her husband was poisoning her. I told that to Inspector Kruseau.”
“Did you? I don’t suppose you knew what happened to the nurse?”
Lady Van Schlumph stood with one hand on the kitchen door ready to leave. She looked back at Ms Cooper and said. “Three weeks later, she married him and became the second Mrs Maxwell-Murdoch. As well you know, for you were the Cook. I thought I recognised you, my eyes not being what they should be, it took a while, but I know now.”
She opened the door and swept out of the kitchen leaving Ms Cooper standing there with a paring knife in her hand and the oddest expression on her face.
Who Are The Victims?
Where Were The Bodies Found?
But Who Is Guilty?
How Did They Do It?
What Was Their Motive?
What Was Their Murder Weapons?