The Lovely Jane's voice echoed down the stairs from the middle floor landing. I dashed up from the kitchen. Charlene had been butchered* in her bed between the hours of three and four in the morning. So it goes. A silent figure had come into her room and stabbed her to death. Hannah or the Lovely Jane had found her bloodied corpse. So it starts!
*Chaz had woken up to find a note and a knife on the bedside table. She watched the whole investigation 'as a ghost.'
Who was where at the time of the murder?
- Charlene was in her bed on the middle floor.
- Hannah and Tom were staying in an adjacent room, to the west.
- The Lovely Jane and the Lovely Colin were also staying in an adjacent room, to the east.
- Vin was alone in the room he normally shared with me on the top floor.
- Jamie was also alone in a room on the top floor, a room that he normally shared with his brother Dom.
- I was in the drawing room drinking port with Dom and Skinner.
Nobody had a decent alibi. Vinny was alone. Jamie was alone. The beautiful symbiosis of coupledom means that Tom could have slipped out of bed without disturbing Hannah, and her him, and likewise for The Lovelies. All of the late drinkers slipped out to use the toilet at least once. On grounds of opportunity, nobody should have been beyond suspicion. Such rational thought, however, was far beyond the groupthink of the hivemind.
What do I remember? Nothing incriminating. I was last to bed, as ever. Skinner went up before Dom and I, who shared a last Drum Gold moment on the balcony before bed. It could have been Skinner, in that gap. It could have been Dom, who left me for another five minutes as I looked at the mist curling in the valley. It could have been me. But I didn't think it was any of us. The three of us talked about spectacular ways to commit a murder over the port, and I doubted that Dom or Skinner would then follow that with such a prosaic MO. Unless it was a colossal bluff, of course.
Dom and Skinner and I more or less put forward the same opinion - it could have been any of us, but we thought it probably wasn't. Was one of us duping the others?
Tom had vanished first thing in the morning, to go fishing. Was he getting himself as far away as possible from the body to put himself out of the frame?
Vinny took a pad, and started to draw out a chart of who was where at what time. Was he blustering to take the heat off himself?
The Lovelies, The Lovely Colin and The Lovely Jane, were oddly bickersome that morning. They seemed intent on stitching each other up. What had gotten one of them so riled?
Hannah had gotten up in the night and come down to the kitchen for a glass of water, and then refused to enter it because she remembered there was a dog. "I'm scared of dogs," she said, "and I don't drink bathroom water." Oh, really... how convenient.
Jamie was quiet. He'd been quiet all week. Thoughtful. He's a buddhist these days, nothing out of the ordinary there.
Discussions continued into the afternoon, and into the evening. Hannah's tale of an aborted attempt to get up in the night wasn't holding much water with anybody. Most of what she'd said smelt strongly of bullshit. Getting up for a drink when you have a tap in your room? Because you don't like bathroom water? Really? making all that effort to get out of bed, then turning back empty handed out of fear of the most placid dog I've ever met? Hmmmmm...
Skinner's comatose hangover led Vin to declare Skinner was out of the picture. I was in the clear too - "DTR wouldn't go into a girl's bedroom in the middle of the night with a massive knife unless he knew that girl quite well, and he only met Chaz on Monday. It's not him."
There was more from the great detective. "Because I was sharing a room with DTR, and because Jamie was sharing with Dom, and because there was no way we'd be able to predict how long the bottle of port would last, neither Jamie nor I could have planned to wake up in the night and kill Chaz. We couldn't risk setting an alarm in case it woke up our roommate.
"Neither Colin nor the Lovely Jane remember their partner getting out of bed in the night. Tom, however, does remember Hannah getting out of bed. Hannah's story isn't convincing. In fact, it keeps changing. For a teacher, who speaks in front of people all day, she's really struggling to look anybody in the eye. I think it's Hannah."
Everybody said who they thought it was at the penultimate stage, and why. Most people went with Hannah, but I suddenly thought it was Tom, based on what Hannah had said about how his occasional lies present themselves. There were a couple of other curveball ideas, but nothing substantial. It came to the vote. I voted Dom. Skinner voted Jamie. In the haze of wine, looking back, it seemed that everybody else voted Hannah. So she was hung.
"Will the real murderer please stand up?"
Chairs moved. An arm stretched out. A hand pressed on the table. Everybody was looking around at everybody else. This is the best part of the game by miles. Who was it?
"I decided to kill Chaz in the middle of the night. I knew that an alarm would wake up Dom, so I conducted a series of tests. I set my watch alarm to go off, put it under my pillow, and listened from Dom's bed. It was too loud, so I put it inside a sock and tested it, again listening from Dom's bed. Still too loud, so I used another sock. Much better - barely audible from Dom's bed, but loud enough for me - after all it was under my pillow. I took the knife to bed with me, and even wrote the note in advance. I woke up with the alarm, and saw Dom's bed empty..."
"Because I was drinking port downstairs with DTR and Skinner."
"...yes, and so I went into Chaz's room. And the rest is violent, bloody history."
Such dedication to the cause is commendable. I think Jamie deserved to win. Chaz - who'd been silent since her death - asked if we could draw cards again. And why not?