Lightning stabbed blinding shafts of cold light into the dimly lit room, as harsh white momentarily replaced the flickering yellow of candlelight and thunder crashed like waves onto a rocky shore. Sheets of driving rain blurred the large filigreed windows of the ornately furnished drawing room. A small fire burned fitfully on the ancient stone hearth.
The man standing alone at one end of the room waited for the rumbling echoes to die before speaking again.
“You are no doubt wondering why I have called you all here.”
He was tall, with narrow shoulders and wispy gray hair. He wore a wrinkled black waistcoat and faded tweed pants. His eyes were hooded by heavy lids, that gave him the appearance of a drowsy old dog. But his mind was as sharp as a new razor, and the six other people in the darkened room had long since realized the depth of his reasoning.
His name was Hector Portman, and he was a famous private detective. Portman, along with all the others gathered there now, had been guests of the Manor, called by the lord himself, Sir Robin Crenshaw. They had all known Lord Crenshaw for some years, and he had invited them to ask their advice on something of an urgent nature. But at midnight last, one of them had shot him dead before he could breath a word.
Major Markus Ramasses was a shipping tycoon who had made millions selling war surplus freighters to third world countries. His dark eyes darted under thick gray brows as he watched the detective pace back and forth. His son, Darby Ramasses was a dull man who was still trying to discover his place in life. Miriam Ramasses sat opposite her husband and shivered in the cold of the drafty room. Her heavy shawl lay on her shoulders like snow on a rocky mountain. She hated the dark; not out of fear, but out of the distaste for mystery.
Arthur Berrymore reclined in a high-backed chair near the windows and smiled. He was a carpenter by trade, but had built his business to such a success that he seldom got his hands dirty anymore. He acted as if he were bored. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The two others in the room were accustomed to waiting on others. Jacobson, the butler, had served the estate for forty-four years. It had not taken him long to distinguish himself, and in short order he was in charge of all the other servants.
Margarita, the maid, was the newest member of the staff. She was young and beautiful. Often Jacobson would find her flirting with the other male servants instead of doing her work, causing him a great deal of stress. She stood very still as the detective paced.
“I have called you all here to reveal the name of the murderer!” Portman said.
He pulled a slip of yellowed paper from his pocket.
“This is the original Will of Lord Crenshaw, written forty years ago. It has remain unchanged all that time.”
Then he produced another slip of white paper. “Until last week that is.” The others in the room gasped.
“Why would the old codger do a thing like that?” Major Ramasses asked, as he poured another sherry from the crystal in front of him.
“Change at this time of life is never good.” His wife said, pulling her shawl closer.
“So who gets the money now?” Darby asked, looking very confused.
Berrymore simply sat in his tall chair and listened.
Portman passed his hooded gaze over all the others in the room, pausing momentarily on each. Then with a quick stab of his finger he pointed to Jacobson.
“It was you, Mr. Jacobson. Lord Crenshaw had changed his will, leaving everything to Margarita, whom he planned to marry. That is what he called everyone here to discuss, but you shot him before he could tell us.”
Jacobson recoiled from the verbal assault , then, regaining his courage, stood up and glared back at the stooping detective.
“That’s right, I shot him! My whole life I have served this household, and for forty years he promised to leave everything to me. Then this harlot shows up!” Jacobson shouted, glaring at Margarita.
She staggered backward, recoiling from the angry man, and was caught by Berrymore, who had stood up and moved near her during the commotion. He put his arms around her and said, “Don’t it figure. It’s always the butler.”
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