Friday, 28 December 2012

A Murder Mystery part 1

“Before the sun rises and casts an appropriately bloody hew across this house, all but one of us will be dead. Somebody in this room is a killer, a cold blooded, heartless, soul’s life taker and they will easily take the lives in this house without even a blink of conscience. You might be wondering why I have brought you all here; well I am tasking you all with the task of finding the killer before they get to you”
     A crisp, off cream envelope fell through the letter boxes of 9 people on the morning of the September 21st. The addresses were handwritten upon the paper in the deepest of jet black ink and on the back sat a golden C, embossed in the centre of the envelope where the seal met the card. Held inside was an A6 sized card of the same colour tone and again, handwritten upon the card was the following;
You are cordially invited to attend a night at the home of Mr Claude Van Ville; the party will be themed, dress will be provided for all activities and all guests are required to partake. Please arrive on the morning of October 21st between the hours of 8:00am and 10:00 am.
Lara Blaine opened her envelope at 11:00pm on the day that it had been delivered, she was an author and a blogger and had spent most of her day sat in a café watching the rain pound the street as she wrote the next 3 chapters of her latest book. She had not left zed café until the rain had let up, the sun had set long ago and before she returned home she had done a little food shopping and picked up a Chinese takeout hence her not returning home until 10:00 pm. She had collected her mail from the silver box with its black number on the front and had dumped it on the kitchen table. She had then taken a very quick shower and dressed before warming up the takeout and curling into an arm chair, only then after turning on the television did she check through her mail. She regarded the envelope with slight amusement it looked to her like something she might write into one of her novels however it had taken her no time at all to decide whether she would be attending or not.
     Maria and Quentin King opened their envelopes as soon as they were delivered, Quentin King collected their mail right from the postman’s hand as he returned to their 3 story Victorian semi, he had been on his usual run and as usual met the postman, like clockwork, just as he was closing their neighbours gate. He handed the post to Maria just as she finished putting the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and then he went to take a shower and dress for work, he returned 30 minutes later to find his wife propping the invitation up against the a photograph of her mother-in-law. She had already made their decision for them. Conner Clark opened his invitation a week after it had been delivered, he had just returned from his father’s funeral in Dublin, the envelope was sat at the bottom of a pile of mail and takeout leaflets, he had at first disregarded it, only opening it 2 hours later after using it as a coaster and dropping a slice of pepperoni on it. At first he had laughed at it but then after carrying out a quick Google search on ‘Claude Van Ville’ his Journalist senses began to tingle and he was very interested to meet this man.
     James Ripley didn’t open his, his ex-girlfriend did and she tore it into little pieces; after taking an hour cello taping the torn card back into shape so that he could read it and when he did he yelped with excitement, he had been an avid follower of Claude Van Ville’s life for the past 5 years. Wendy and Sandy Holowitz opened their envelopes in unison, they were not together however they were twins and so when their respective envelopes fell through the letter boxes of their houses set3 miles apart, they quickly but carefully picked they up with their freshly painted nails and used a butter knife to tear then open. Wendy then rang Sandy to discuss what had happened; Sandy didn’t want go, it wasn’t her kind of party but Wendy managed to convince her sister that they would have fun.
     Sally Mayfield got her assistant to open her mail which included her invitation; she was a busy woman however she had met Claude Van Ville once, only once but she had unfinished business with him and so she would go and she would take her mousey assistant with her. The final envelope was delivered by hand to Remy Del Ray he was the only non-British guest to be invited to the dinner party; he lived in New Orleans, the envelope was addressed to a Detective Del Ray and it was hand delivered to his desk. When he opened it he found himself slightly confused, the Name ‘Claude Van Ville’ was familiar to him; his father had spoken of him though he knew nothing more than the name. He had a few holidays that he was being forced to use and so his decision had already been made for him.
     Claude Van Ville was a peculiar man; he had been orphaned when he was 5 years old and adopted by a rich old woman who, despite her decision to give him a home, had never seemed to really want children. She was strict and cold but always made sure he had a full stomach, clothes and a warm home. in return he did well at school, he was an artsy type but he had a high IQ which meant he did well in every subject and was able to hide his creative side form his mother; she wanted him to become a banker or a lawyer to the rich and famous because that is what she was, she was rich and she had once been famous, she was an aristocrat or the granddaughter of one and had therefore inherited his millions this had kept her and her son living comfortably and would continue to for many, many years. When his mother had died Claude had been only 19 years old, he was at university, oxford, studying multiple degrees none of which he wanted to study and so when she passed and he inherited her millions, proof that she really did love him though the woman had never before said the words to him, he decided to follow his dream. For years he had collected designs, his designs and now he was going to become a worldwide fashion designer, the best and he did for a few years he rode high on a wave of fame, everybody loved him until one day he could not take it anymore and he disappeared. No one knew where Claude Van Ville vanished to even he wasn’t quite sure but for 10 years he ceased to exist. Suddenly Claude could not stand being around people, in the spotlight, he could not stand the thought of being looked at, his legendary parties became a thing of myth and he became an enigma.
     10 years after he vanished into the shadows of the world Claude Van Ville’s stately country home came to life. Cleaners were brought in, decorators and contractors brought to make the house look new again; to fix what had been neglected in his absence, to make it a home once more. Suddenly at night the lights could be seen flickering on, on a summers evening music could be heard drifting softly from one of the open windows, down the drive way and onto the street however no sign of Claude Van Ville was ever seen. Groceries were delivered, occasionally a messenger came to the door, post was dropped off at the front gate and twice a week a cleaner, gardener and cook entered the building but he never left. 6 months after Claude Van Ville re-appeared he began to design again and soon his clothes, lingerie, footwear and accessories were on every catwalk, being worn by every celebrity and fashionista and being mimicked by high street shops, Claude Van Ville was back although he would not bee see or heard from for another 5 years and then by only 10 specially chosen people.
     4 weeks later each person prepared to leave for the drive over to Van Ville house, some had fewer miles and hours to drive than others but all arrived on time, between the hours of 8 and 10 am. Detective Del Ray arrived first he had never seen anything like the home of Claude Van Ville, it was perfectly square other than a smaller rectangular shaped glass building off to its right that looked like it had been added at a later date. Atop the roof sat four great chimneys each puffing with plumes of smoke warming the large house in the cool temperatures of the late autumn. The door was large, twice the size of the average front door, painted in a deep red with a brass knob and a matching brass knocker set in the shape of a snarling goblin. The door was covered by a thick canopy of concrete held by two carved pillars, either side of the door were 2 great windows, each with a stained glass section, above the door, in line with the two bottom set windows were two identical windows minus the stained glass and set in the centre of the top set windows was a third smaller window. Detective Del Ray climbed from his rented car, collected the only, small hand held bag, he had brought with him and walked over to the red door. He did not use the brass knocker instead choosing to rap loudly three times with his knuckles.
“Detective Del Ray” the voice came from with-in the shadows as the door swung open, a small old man appeared dressed in traditional ‘butler wear’
“Hi, yes” he replied slightly set aback by the butlers presence, “I um, I heard that Mr Van Ville didn’t keep any staff at the house” he added
“Please do come in sir. Mr. Van Ville has hired some staff in for the night, just to keep things simple, Sir please do take a seat in the sitting room the other guests should arrive first” he said directing him toward a large room with the door set open,
“Thank you, I’m the first here then?” he asked as he walked in the direction the Butler had shown,
“Yes sir” he called as he closed the door, “can I get you a drink sir?” he asked
“Sure coffee would be good, thank you” he replied
“Yes sir” the butler said and shuffled from the room and down the hall. Remy Del Ray examined the photographs of an older lady and a young boy which sat above the lit fireplace, the heat soaked into his trousers warming his body through, he suspected that the picture was one of Claude Van Ville as a child with his mother, there were three in total one of the both of them and one of each of them stood alone in the garden in the midst of summer. Finally he sat down in one of the two large deep red leather arm chairs which were more comfortable than they looked, he settled in and almost drifted off; he was happy when the sound of the brass goblin knocker rang out around the house jolting him awake,
“Here is your coffee sir” the butler had returned and Remy realised that he didn’t know the man’s name,
“Thank you and please call me Remy, what your name?” he asked
“Sir just comes naturally, sir but you can call me Ben” he replied setting a silver tray down with a cup of deep black coffee, a small jug of cream and a pot of sugar, a silver spoon which matched the tray was set beside the cup. Ben left to answer the door. Remy heard him greeting someone, a woman and a minute later the door to sitting room opened, Ben appeared followed by a young woman of around 25 years old.
“Detective Remy Del Ray, Miss Lara Blaine” he said introducing them, she smiled at Remy
“Hi it’s nice to meet you” she said in a soft London accent,
“you too” he said standing and shaking her hand, Ben the butler asked if the latest guest would like a drink and then vanished once again to fetch a pot of tea. Lara Blaine sat down opposite Remy in the second arm chair she smiled at him again with her sweet smile,
“So you’re from the south, where about?” she asked
“New Orleans” he said simply
“How strange that Claude Van Ville invited an American detective to his very exclusive party, it makes you wonder who else he has invited” she commented
“Hmm, my father met him once but you’re right it is rather strange, the way you talk sounds like me on a good day what is it you do?” he asked, she smiled at his honey sweet accent
“I’m an author” she replied
“Hmm anything I might have read?” he asked as the door knocker rang again, she paused to listen to Ben shuffle along the hall
“Fractured” she said simply
“Wow so there is a famous author in the room” he said
“you’ve read them?” she asked curious
“friends have but unfortunately I’m a very busy man so I haven’t had the chance” he replied with a slight smile. Just then the door opened once again; this time a couple walked through.
“Mr and Mrs King” Ben the butler announced as he showed then through the door,
“please call us Maria and Quentin” the woman said as they both sat down on one of the matching red leather sofas,
“can I get you a drink sir, Miss?” Ben asked
“tea would be wonderful, thank you” Quentin replied and then they all sat in silence until Maria began to talk. Maria King was a housewife therefore whenever she was in company she made the most of it,
“hi it’s so nice to meet you all, so what do we all do?” she asked with excitement
“Detective Remy Del Ray” Lara answered “is American and well obviously he is a police detective, I am Lara, I’m an author what about the 2 of you, wait can I guess?” she said with a smile
“wow a detective and an author we’ll seem so boring compared to the two of you” she said with a giggle, “please do” she added referring to Lara’s question   
“okay let’s start with you Mr Quentin King” she said, Lara was good at reading people when she wasn’t creating then for her novels she would sit and study them, the way they moved, acted, dressed and it had became somewhat of a party trick, she continued “you’re wearing jeans but you don’t really look all that comfortable so either they’re new or more likely you wear a suit pretty much every day and your wife insisted you wear them which I’m guessing means they are a Van Ville pair of jeans, you speak clearly and carefully like one wrong word, miss heard sentence might cost you something and despite the strict rules set for this dinner party you brought your laptop, your watch was a present but not from your wife because she seems like the sort of woman who might have it engraved plus its slightly big and she would know the perfect size, it was a present for a promotion one you very rarely take off; you Mr King are a lawyer or an accountant but I’m going with lawyer” she waited for a response
“oh my god that was fantastic, you’re right how did you do that” Maria King gushed
“it’s what I do, I create people, I watch people” she said “now you Maria, manicured nails, perfect blond curls, no wrinkles or dry skin, you love to be in company, I noticed you check your hand when you walked in after touching the table in the hall, you brushed dust from it even though Mr Van Ville had the cleaner in yesterday, you are a housewife and a very good one” Lara said, she was careful not to insult the people she would be spending the evening with,
“wow that really is something” Maria said staring at her in awe, just then the door went again and the voices of two women, one sounding quite excitable, could be heard and like clockwork, less than a minute later the shuffling footsteps reached the door to the sitting room and t opened to reveal Ben and two young women,
“hi I’m Wendy and this is my sister Sandy as you can see we’re Twins” she gushed before Ben the butler had a chance to announce them,
“drinks Miss?” he asked
“I’ll have a Martini dirty, it’s not too early is it Sandy? No it’s never too early, 5 o’clock somewhere am I right? And sandy will have a water with ice and lemon thank you very much” she said answering all of her own questions,
“right away miss and I will be back with your tea in a few moments” he said reefing to the earlier ordered drinks. He had been running around answering the door every few seconds that the poor man had not found the time to make the pot of tea.
     Be returned at half past 9, 20 minutes after everyone had ordered their drinks, he carried another silver tray his one held a large pot of tea, sugar and milk with three tea cups and their respective spoons, he then left and returned with a third tray holding a chilled martini glass and a perspiring glass of ice water,
“there you go” he said as he set the trays down “sorry for the wait” he added just then the door went again and he quickly shuffled off again. The voices were more muffled now drowned by the sound of the chatter between Wendy and the other guests but silence fell when the door swung open and two people walked in, a woman and a man,
“Miss Sally Mayfield and Mr Conner Clarke” Ben announced, he asked the usual question regarding drinks and then left to collect a second glass of ice water and cup of coffee,
“so are you two married, partners?” Wendy asked enthusiastically
“no I’ve never met this gentleman before today” Sally answered as she perched on the tip of a high backed table chair that looked as though it had been brought in specifically for the day, Conner Clarke sat on the second of the three dinner chairs, he smiled at the room,
“so where are you from?” Lara asked him, he had the look of travel in his eyes
“Originally from Ireland just got back a few weeks ago” he answered with a slight but faded Irish twang to his accent
“and what is it you do?” she asked intrigued
“Journalist” he replied,
“and the two of you?” she said directing her words toward the twins,
“um I’m a, an artist” Wendy replied quietly
“and I am a model, I’m also a school studying Business management” Sandy butted in, sitting up as straight as she could and thrusting her enhanced chest out
“very nice” Lara replied, Wendy beamed she did not seem to her the sarcasm in Lara’s reply. Just then Ben returned with a tenth and final person and a tray holding the earlier requested drinks, they had not heard the door go,
“our final guest has arrived, Mr James Ripley” he said setting the tray down as he showed James Ripley in,
“hi it’s nice to meet you all” he said as he sat down on the third and final dinner chair, James Ripley was the youngest of the group and other then Wendy who seemed more excited about the dinner party, he seemed to be the most enthused over their illusive host.
“a drink Sir?” Ben asked for the final time
“coke please” he replied and looked toward the others, “so when do you think he’ll make an appearance? And what is this dinner party all about? We’re all very different people I wonder what Claude Van Ville wants with us” he said and rambled on in a similar fashion, not allowing anyone to answer him that was until the door opened, they all assumed that it was Ben returning with the requested coke but it was not.
      Claude Van Ville walked into the room, he was dressed in a deep black velvet suit with emerald green cravat, pocket watch and spats, he looked elegant and regal and in his hand he held the requested coke.
 “ladies and gentlemen” he boomed handing the coke to James “I thank you all for coming and arriving on time now I am guessing you are all wondering why you are here, such a strange mix of people to invite you might think but I promise that all will be revealed during dinner tonight. Now Ben will show each of you to your rooms for the night where you will find you’re outfits for the evening which I have tailored to each of your personalities. This party does not have a singular specific theme each of you will be dress for a different significant year in history, I hope you will enjoy my choices. Now I realise that some of you have very important and high profile jobs however this gathering did come with a set of specific rules and since none of the historical times relied on the mobile phone, laptop and I’m afraid some of your watches they will be confiscated until the morning, if you do have issues with this then may I suggest you leave now. For those of you who require it pens and paper have been left in your rooms, there will also be a special gift in each room, that you may keep at the end of this gathering, each specific for each guest. I will allow you the morning for settling in lunch will be served at 1:00 sharp please dress for the occasion; I have hung your clothing in groups appropriate for morning, noon and night just to make things easier for you all. I will see you later” he said, his voice was deep and he oozed confidence.
     When he left everyone looked at each other in awe, surprise and shock, no one said a word, Ben then returned and asked everyone to follow him, to leave any non specific items in the room, and they would be placed in the safe by Mr Van Ville. Each of them placed their mobile phones and laptops down on the tables, some left their watches and then they all stood and followed the slow butler up the stairs. Once there they all realised that the house was bigger than they originally believed it to be, at the back of the building” Ben said as they walked past a deep mahogany door, “Mr and Mrs King you will be in here” he said pointing to a blue door he left them there continuing further down the long hall, “Mr Clark this will be your room” he said the door was deep emerald green, “The twins were in a double room with a light pine door, James was next in a room with oak door and then Detective Del Ray his room was at the very end of the hall, the door was midnight in colour.
“okay Miss Lara you room is up here he said pointing to a mahogany door which when opened lead to a stair case which led to the final room. Ben instructed them all to meet in the sitting room when they were ready to Lunch at 1:00, he informed then that the fires had been lit to warm their rooms and that each room was equip with an en-suit, if they needed anything they should ring the bell in their room. It was all extremely novel.
     Just over 2 hours after they had arrived at the grand stately home of Claude Van Ville each of the guests prepared for lunch; just like he had said the clothes for each occasion were set out in groups all they had to do was to choose an outfit and its accessories but Claude Van Ville had not stopped there. What he had also provided were the perfumes and beauty tools that might have been used during the time that each person had been given, they came complete with a book of models supporting a range of hair styles and make-up styles with the instruction on how to carry them out; Claude Van Ville had covered every base. When Maria and Quentin King stepped out of their room they look like a couple who had passed right out of the 1950s; Maria King wore a cerise full circle skirt with a white blouse and a set of pearls around her neck, her earring matched her pearl necklace and her shoes were in a lighter pink. She wore her hair in curls, pink lipstick and a sweet floral scent. Quentin King wore a dark grey suit, white shirt with diamond shaped cuff links, he wore a short brimmed charcoal fedora and matching tie with a slight tinge of silver, beneath his hat his dark hair was slicked back; he looked very much the 1950s business man. !0 minutes after they left their room Wendy and Sandy Holowitz followed them, Wendy looked every inch the urban artist of the 1930s she wore her hair pinned up in thick curls and dressed in wide legged chocolate trousers, atop she wore a plain chiffon top with a fur gilet and on her feet she wore tan mary-janes, Sandy Holowitz dressed slightly differently though from the same era; she wore a mid calf length skirt in a deep burgundy, it fitted to her body like a second skin and a slightly ruffled white shirt of which she had not fastened all of the buttons, on her feet she also wore mary-janes though these matched the colour of her skirt and around her neck she wore a long golden chain.
     Lara Blain and Remy Del Ray ran into each other as they were making their way down stairs, Lara had just closed the door of her attic room when she saw him, he was wearing a white shirt with the short, stiff collar worn up, his tie was knotted haphazardly and his jet black waistcoat matched the slightly longer than waist length jacket. On his head he wore a slightly worn bowler hat and on his feet he wore scuffed boots that were either a very dark chocolate colour or a deep charcoal, she could not tell in the darkness of the hall though apparently he could see her outfit just fine,
“you look…” he began
“hmm that’s what I was thinking, I’m not quite used to it yet” she cut him off she was dressed in a 1920s day dress; it was cream in colour with sheer panels at the neck and along the hem at the knee. Around the waist had been stitched shimmery glass cream beads, these ran down along the sides of the dress and ran around the hem, she felt elegant maybe too elegant for lunch and she found herself wondering what might be in store for the dinner party itself. She wore a wide brimmed hat in matching cream colour with a brightly coloured scarf tied around it. Her make-up was neutral and her hair she had styled in a curled bob, which had not been easy. They walked down to the sitting room together where they found the rest of the guests; James Ripley looked like he had walked right from a 1940s American university, he wore a cream and blue letter jacket, brown slacks and a pair of blue converse, his hair was parted to the left and slicked down. Sally Mayfield was sat sipping what looked to be an early afternoon dirty martini which fitted right in with the clothes she wore; she was dressed as you might find a high powered, confident woman making a name for herself in a 1950s men’s world. She wore a perfectly fitting, knee length pencil dress in a deep teal; a bow pulled her waist in perfectly and to the top of her right shoulder sat a golden floral brooch. She wore her hair fastened up and on her face she wore very little make-up other than a sweep of deep red lipstick.
     Conner Clark stood by the fire with his left hand in his pocket and his right holding a glass of what looked to be bourbon. He wore a deep brown bowler hat, scuffed work boots, a white shirt open at the collar and black braced which could just be seen beneath his black jacket, he looked a little less put together than the rest but it suited him.
“hi guys you all look fantastic” Lara said with a slightly dry tone
“thank you, oh so do you I love your dress” Sandy gushed standing and fingering the beads on Lara’s dress. Just as she was about to move away from the too friendly girl when Ben the butler walked through the door,
“oh I didn’t realised the two of you had joined the group we will be starting lunch now” he said referring to Lara and Remy, “please follow me” he added leaving the room. He led them to the glass conservatory where they came across Claude Van Ville, he had not changed his clothing though he now wore deep red velvet slippers rather than the spats he had been wearing on his feet. He sat smoking a cigarette held by a sterling silver and jade cigarette holder which hung lazily between his finger when he was not pulling plumes of smoke from it with his rose tinted lips.
“please join me” he said gesturing to 9 other chairs dotted around the room. In the centre of the glass room stood a large round table which was slowly being filled with dishes of food. Each guest made their way in and chose a seat,
“wow I can’t believe how mist it’s gotten in the past few hours” James Ripley commented, the glass room which on an ordinary day would flood and be heated with sunlight was now over cast and surrounded by a thickening fog that made it feel half as big as it was, it felt choking,
“yes it can get rather foggy out here; it’s quite eerie isn’t it, I do enjoy taking lunch in here” Claude Van Ville replied, “you all look wonderful might I say and I do hope that you all approved of the clothing choices I made on your behalf” he added smiling “Ben I think we will have some water for the table and then whatever drinks the guests want and my usual please, thank you” he said and then he turned to the others, “Are we all enjoying ourselves so far?” he asked. Each person replied with either a nod or a ‘yes’ as well as answering Ben with their drink order.
     They ate a lunch of salads, fruits, cheeses and crackers with thick sliced of buttered bread, cold cuts of meat and an array of condiments. Water and wine was set in the centre of the table for each person to help their selves and they were also supplied with the drinks that they had earlier asked for. As they ate music was played softly and they chatted about the mundane things of life and Claude Van Ville simply sat and watched in silence as he ate. He only spoke when the plate had been cleared,
“shall we retire?” he said standing, the clock read 3:30. They followed him to the lounge areas, a different room to the earlier front room, it was much more cosy with the fire already burning quick and the curtains drawn expelling the thick fog and filling the room with deep shadows, they all sat; some examined the antiques scattered around the room, Lara read one of the many first editions that sat dust free upon a large, wall covering bookcase, Detective Del Ray, James Ripley and Conner Clarke sat and talked as did Sally Mayfield and Wendy Holowitz. Sally Holowitz had retrieved a pad of paper from her room and was now sat drawing, the Kings were also sat reading; it all seemed rather strange, they could have known each other for years.
      Around 5:30 guests were informed by Claude Van Ville that he was going to retire to prepare for dinner which would be served at 7:30.
     Each person was, once again, dressed appropriately they had chosen an outfit from the ‘evening’ section of the wardrobes, the Kings wore pristine 1950s dinner wear, Maria dressed in an a-line, sweetheart off the shoulder neckline dress in a deep blue, she wore a diamond and sapphire necklace and her hair was perfectly set with not a hair out of place. Quentin King was dressed in a deep black suit and tie; he wore perfectly polished shoes and shimmering sapphire cuff links to match his wife. The twins again were dressed in polar opposite dresses from the same era, Wendy wore a plum colour beaded and sequined, drop waist, knee length dress, in her hair she wore black sea pearls that entwined with in a curled bun. Her sister again had been dressed according to her artistic flare, she wore a floaty silk dress in a dark golden colour, and her hair was loose and hung in wild curls reaching just below her shoulder blades. James Ripley wore a tux however he looked like a high school boy going to the prom in the 1940s; he still wore his converse and an awkwardly tied bow tie. Lara was dressed like a singer from the 20s, a singer who might have sung in a smoke filled bar in New York City. She had on a floor length glitter red dress much like the one Jessica Rabbit wore, her shoes matched and were covered in red sequins and her hair was curled in thick flowing rings, she wore no jewellery other than a pair of diamond earrings that fell like the droplets of melting icicles in the thaw of winter. Sally Mayfield had only changed slightly her pencil dress remained though it was fashioned out of lace in the form of golden flowers her shoes were of a similar gold and her hair was worn up in fastened curls, she wore a set of pearls around her neck and wrist. Conner Clarke wore an emerald waistcoat and matching tie, he wore a slightly off black suite and a gold ring on his pinkie which had not been there during lunch. He still wore a bowler hat though it seemed to be a different one, more dressy in Black with an emerald ribbon around it; he also still wore the scruffy boots. Remy Del Ray wore a top hat and tails though he did not wear them comfortably, his shirt was fastened with shiny pearly buttons and around his neck was ties a black and deep red cravat, he looked elegant, as did Claude Van Ville who had finally changed into his own top hat and tails though his top hat was encircled with a purple velvet ribbon this matched the mid length cape that he wore. His spats had been returned to his feet and he walked with a silver handled cane though he did not need it.
     For a while after they had all entered the great room, with its high ceilings, chandeliers, candelabras-all lit and its luxurious velvet drapes which had been drawn closed to keep the cold night at bay, the guests of Claude Van Ville stood and talked. They admired the room with its large table which ran almost the length of the room, it was cast in deep mahogany as where the carved high back chairs, they dazed at the wood fire burning basking in the heat it washing over the room.  Not one of them sat until Claude Van Ville entered the room,
“what are you all doing stood around, please sit down” he said gesturing around the room and they all followed his instruction, once they were sat with their gold rimmed table wear in front of them, Ben the butler and a few other servers walked in, one was carrying a bowl and ladle, heat drifted from the container and the other two carried two bottles of champagne,
“The first course will be a mushroom broth, it is just wonderful” Claude said once everyone had taken their seat and the servers had begun to fill the bowels
“This is a wonderful room Claude, in fact the whole house is just magnificent” Maria King gushed as a young blond girl filled her bowl with steaming broth, “thank you” she said
“thank you Maria it was my mothers and then I inherited it when they passed, please do start” he said. Approving sounds filled the room as people began to eat,
“not that I’m not enjoying myself Claude but I and I’m guessing a few others, if not all, are wondering why exactly you have invited us here to you beautiful home for the night?” Remy Del Ray asked
“I will get to that once we have finished our meal, over drinks” he said and they all accepted the answer. For the rest of the meal they discussed meaningless subjects, over the main which was a perfectly roasted beef loin with crisped potatoes, red wine jus and asparagus they talked about the weather; rain had been falling in droves and floods were running wreckage over England. Over the dessert, a chocolate torte, they discussed Claude Van Ville’s new fashion line, he was happy to join in and then once the plate had been cleared they all moved to the sitting room where they were given either a cup of hot coco or a brandy to end the night with, it was here that Claude Van Ville finally explained what they were doing there.
“I chose you all for a reason though I may not quite remember why, to attend this dinner party and what I might say now will shock some of you, terrify others and upset some; it will also make you rather angry when you have found out what it is I have done. I have been away for a long time as you all know and during this time I found a relative peace, an acceptance; a way of looking at the world that I believe very few of us have and so it pains me greatly to say this and I must apologise in advance but before the sun rises and casts an appropriately bloody hew across this house, all but one of us will be dead. Somebody in this room is a killer, a cold blooded, heartless, soulless life taker and they will easily take the lives in this house without even a blink of conscience. You might be wondering why I have brought you all here; well I am tasking you all with the task of finding the killer before they get to you” he stopped, during his speech he had sat forward in his chair, he now lent back drinking the last of his brandy, everyone sat in silence.
“are you kidding me?” Conner Clarke snorted,
“no mister Clarke in fact the first murder has already been committed” Claude answered, just then Ben appeared around the door, his face had pales and his hand seemed to shake slightly,
“sir it appears that we might have a situation” he said gravely
“and so it has started, please will you all follow me, I’m afraid that some of you do not believe what I have just said and I need you to understand that I am deadly serious” he said, he stood then and walked with his cane out of the room, the other looked at each other and gradually one by one they too stood and followed Claude Van Ville out of the room though what they followed him to, none of them were expecting to find. As they moved down the hall the smells of cooking filled the air, they passed one of the servers she was sat on a scruffy high backed chair which looked like it might have been an old dining chair, she held her head in her hands and was sobbing, her body shaking with each gut wrenching cry.
“are you okay sweetheart?” Maria King asked, bending to meet the girl’s eyes but she simply shook her head pointed and sobbed even louder,
“Oh dear” they all heard Claude’s voice come from the kitchen.
     Quentin King entered the kitchen first; followed by Remy Del Ray and Lara Blaine what they all found was not what they had been expecting. At first Quentin King believed the woman to be acting,
“I have to hand it to you Claude you have hired some world class actors and actresses here” he said
“I assure you Mr. King that these people are not actors and actresses” he said “please feel free to check the ladies pulse” he added and that was just what Quentin king did. The woman was still warm though she had a dry dampness to her skin, a greying of the eyes and a pale tinge to her lips and when he felt for her pulse he found none; quickly he withdrew his hand and then he placed it again on her wrist, still he found no pulse. His face paled and when he heard his wife entre the room behind him he turned to shield her but he was a little too late,
“oh my god!” she gasped “is she?”
“yes” he answered her simply and she too began sobbing, her husband took her away from the kitchen, and in her place Remy Del Ray took over,
“What the hell is going on here Van Ville, you know this was going to happen did you do this?” his words were demanding
“I can assure you Detective that this was not my doing but like I informed you all earlier there is a murder in our midst” he answered
“We need to call the police where’s your phone Van Ville?” he said
“I’m afraid I do not have one” was his answer
“Alright then give me the cell phones you confiscated earlier” he said
“I’m afraid I cannot, they are locked up and the chef was the only one with the combination” he answered,
“Don’t mess with me Claude” Remy said invading the man’s space,
“Yeah cause that’ll help” Lara said moving in between the two men, “Claude there must be away to open the safe?” she asked?
“I’m afraid not my dear” he replied
“Well then one of us will just have to go and get the police” she said turning to Remy Del Ray
“I think the Kings should go, I should stay here since we have a murder in our midst” he said mimicking the words of Claude Van Ville
“I’m afraid that is also not an option, you see I invited you all here in the know that one of you is a cold blooded killer and I’m afraid none of you are leaving until you find out who the killer is, this house has been locked down, it is on a timer, one that cannot be tampered with and it will not open until the morning” he said. The revelation made every person with in ear shot stop in their tracks,
“what is this sick game Van Ville” Conner Clark burst through the kitchen door, he grabbed Claude Van Ville by the collar “you think you’re god now, you open this house up or so help me” he said
“so help you what, you’ll kill me because my dear man like I said there is a killer in this house and even I am at risk of being ‘knocked off’” he replied
“that is if you’re not the killer” Lara Blaine chimed in, whilst the men had been arguing she had checked the windows of the kitchen, which had been shuttered; behind the wooden shutters the windows had been covered with some form of brass coloured metal  The twins both ran to the front door, it was bolted and no-doubt in front of the bolted door sat an equally un-movable metal one; they checked the conservatory, the once glass building that had flourished with the suns bright light was now cast in shadow, Candles flickered casting haunting shapes across the glass roof, the whole building had been covered in the same brass coloured metal; They were trapped with no way out and no way of communicating.
“We’re not getting out of this place” she confirmed when she re-joined the men, the twins had also joined them as had Sally Mayfield and Quentin King, Maria had remained with the distraught woman.
“You are kidding me right?” the twins chimed in together, it was the first time that they had had anything in common.
“Sorry girls but I’m afraid we have a murder mystery to solve before we all died a horrid death” Lara replied
“what, no, no, no we have to get out of her now!” Sandy yelled drawing the attention of Maria King, who appeared in the kitchen door,
“what’s going on sweetheart?” she asked her husband, he turned and ushered her back out into the hall, they could be heard whispering and then Maria could be heard weeping.
“so what do we do now?” Lara asked
“we split into two groups, I know people always say stay together but there are quite a few of us and like you said Lara we have a murder mystery to solve before we all die so we need to split up, me, you Lara, Conner , Sally and Mr. Van Ville here will form one group” Remy Del Ray said the detective in him taking over, “James, Quentin, the twins and Maria, form another they can take this young lady and the butler with them into the Front room” he continued “and we will used our collective skills to try and solve this”  he said moving from the room to speak to Quentin King,
“okay we all need to move into the front room” he called and so they all did, Remy Del Ray seemed the most logical choice to take lead. Once they had all gathered including the still weeping woman and the butler, Remy Del Ray explained what was going to happen, some of them cried, other protested and some argued that there must be a way out but after 10 minutes of noisy din filling the room everyone settled and the two groups had split with strict instructions to stay together at all times.                                
     Remy Del Ray led the way back into the kitchen where the body still lay,
“we need gloves?” he said turning to Claude Van Ville
“I’m sure they’ll be something like that under the skin” he said nonchalantly. Lara found the gloves and passed a pair to Connor and Remy, she also pulled a pair on, Sally Mayfield did not complain when she was given a pair, she was simply there to offer a further pair of eyes.
“alright let’s do the best we can, look for anything that is out of place” he said passing around bundles of sandwich bags and other utensils such as skewers to lift clothing, tape for hairs and a pair of what looked like large tweezers to lift evidence. They each then began to search the room and the body.
“it looks like this was the last thing he ingested before he died” Lara noted she lifted the shallow bowl of the same mushroom broth that they had been eating and took a sniff, “umm it has a funny under scent, something that I don’t recall our broth having, Remy joined her and mimicked her action of sniffing the broth,
“you’re right it’s sweet but there is something else bitter”
“bitter almonds?” Sally Mayfield offered
“yes” Remy replied
“I don’t believe it” Lara interrupted, “its cyanide” she snorted slightly in disbelief
“people still use that?” Del ray said
“obviously someone is taking the themes to heart” Claude Van Ville said smugly from his position near the door
“check the broth pan” Remy said to Lara she moved to the oven and inhaled the broth, there was no bitter almond scent,
“nothing” she replied. Remy took a sample of the broth in both of the pans, he used a thick marker to write on each jar he used and he set them to one side,
“there is something here on this bowl he said and on the man’s wrist, something oily and yellow” he said, Lara can you pass me a spoon or something and some foil” she did as he asked and watched as he scraped the substance from the man’s writs, he touched the tip of his pinkie to the thick yellow gloop and rubbed it between his thumb and finger, “its paint, oil paint” he said sniffing “yeah definitely paint” he added
“doesn’t that twin, Sandy, isn’t she an artist” Sally chimed in
“yeah I think she is, doesn’t seem the type though, does anyone know if she brought her oil paints with her?” Remy asked
“no but I’m sure we can find out and Detective, being in your line of work I would have thought you would know that anyone is capable of murder” Lara said, “we search her room” she said.
    Back in the front room everyone had remained in silence apart from the odd sniffle, Maria King had calmed down and composed herself, the twins sat together holding hands and the butler stood trying to console the young woman, James stood by the door trying to hear a figment of conversation,
“they’re coming back” he said and quickly moved to sit on the sofa by the Kings just as the door swung open,
“what did you find, anything?” he asked them
“no, Sandy we need to search your room” he said
“what why?” she protested standing and dropping her sisters hand, a second later Wendy had joined her,
“what do you need to do that for?” she demanded
“we found some paint on the dead man, yellow oil paint”
“I-but I didn’t do this” Sandy gasped
“please we just need to search your room” Remy said softly
“but I haven’t even opened the yellow, it’s a new set, I haven’t used any of them yet” she said
“please” Lara said and so they all left the warmth and relative safety of the front room and made their way up to the double room that the twins shared.
     The room was decorated in luxurious satin and silk, the beds were both doubles and covered with deep cerise sheets, each one of them had a patchwork blanket at the bottom stitched in turquoise, blues, gold’s, pinks and purples, these colours matched the wall paints and in the centre of the far wall sat in between two wardrobes sat a dressing table.
“okay Wendy will you get me your paints out please?” he said and the young woman moved to the table beside one of the beds, she pulled open the top draw and produced a box of oil paints and handed them to Remy. He opened the box to find a set of 7 tubes of oil paint, of which only the blue and white had been used however one tube was missing from the box, “I need you two to stand here for me, there’s a tube missing Sandy, the yellow paint tube to be exact” Remy said,
“Honestly I don’t know where it is, I swear I didn’t do this” she said her voice wavering slightly,
“we’re going to search this room for the paint tube, you two don’t move” he said and the other began to search. 20 minutes later no yellow paint tube had been found,
“what do we do” Lara asked Remy in a whisper
“we can’t prove anything wit out that tube plus anyone could have come in here and taken it” he said “we need to find more evidence, that or...” he trailed off
“wait for someone else to die” Lara finished; he looked at her with a knowing look, a look that said that might be the only way.        

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