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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: The Truth About Magnolia
By Donna Powers


You've seen it a thousand times: a group of people gathered in a parlor, uncomfortably seated in shocked silence. You've seen the detective question each of them briefly, think for a few minutes, and come up with the brilliant conclusion.

When all is said and done, the butler usually did it.

Magnolia was dead, and everyone in the room had a reason to want her gone. So whodunnit? That's what the policemen wanted to know. I'm no detective, but no one disputed me when I began to question them. First, I talked to her son, Osgood.

"You could have done it. Your wife's expenses have probably drained your wallet"

"Now, see here, my good man. That may be so, but I wouldn't hurt Mother." He sniffed his disdain, and I sighed in acknowledgement. Osgood may be henpecked and beleaguered, but he’d loved his mother.

His wife, Kiki, was soon to ward off my inquiries to her. "I was at the Club," she said with a shrug. Before Kiki married Osgood, she’d worked at the Club as an exotic dancer. Now she owns the place. Hundreds of people could probably provide her with an airtight alibi.

Next, I turned to her lifelong friend, Belinda. "You want to be chairwoman of the Garden Club, and Magnolia was your fiercest competition.” Belinda scoffed at my statement. "She would never have won. I give so much money to that club, and they wouldn’t want to risk losing my contributions.”

The maid, Babette, had been quietly cleaning and cringed when I turned my gaze on her. "She treated you abominably, my dear. Did you get your revenge?" She sighed, and shook her head no. "It's true that I wanted to," she admitted. "But I couldn't do such a thing. Besides, I was upstairs cleaning the bedrooms."

Magnolia's husband, Mortimer confirmed Babette's claim. "I saw her up there all morning," he told me.

This led to my reasons to accuse him. "I daresay you do watch her carefully enough. I see the way you’ve looked at her. With your wife gone, perhaps you thought to woo Babette. Or have you already won her, and needed Magnolia out of the way?"

Mortimer and Babette both turned scarlet at this suggestion, but neither admitted to her murder. Mortimer had the good grace to look embarrassed: "No matter my feelings, I wouldn't have done this to her."

So there was nothing left for it but the truth. Though all of them had reason to kill her - and most probably had wanted to, none had. I'd tried to find a likely killer among this bunch, but it hadn't worked. So I turned, reluctantly, to face the waiting police officers.

But first, I delivered some truths of my own. I faced the group in the parlor and admitted: “yes, I did it. I’ve been her financial manager for years, and administering her funds has been a tidy income for me. With her weak heart, I soon stood to gain a lifetime of security by acting as her executor. But just yesterday, she changed her will and left her entire fortune and lands to that charlatan: the Swami Wakapungi. I couldn’t talk her out of it, and with her poor health she wouldn’t have had many chances to change her mind. I saw my future fly away before my eyes, and I lost my temper.”

Those gathered around me looked shocked at my news, as well they might. I continued: ”Osgood, I know you didn’t kill her, but now her will won’t give you the funds you need to pay Kiki’s bills. Belinda, her bequest to the Swami will mean financial security to the Garden Club, since he’ll own all of Magnolia’s famous gardens – and that eliminates you as its chief benefactress. Mortimer, she knew about you and Babette. It only amused her, as she knew that Babette wanted you only to obtain her citizenship. I’m also afraid all you’ll inherit is the thousand dollars that you agreed to, in the pre-nup.”

I laughed at their consternation, and at the murderous look in every eye. If Magnolia were still alive, I daresay any one of them might have done the deed instead of me.

Grimly, the officers read me my Miranda rights: "Jonathan Butler, you're under arrest for the murder of Magnolia Whiffenpoof. You have the right to remain silent...."

Like I said: when all is said and done, the Butler usually does it.

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Sara Harricharan 04/12/07
Oooo! Too fun! This was hilarious and well worth the read. I loved the characters and especially the Agatha-Christie kind of twist at the end, especially the play on that poor "butler" Great mystery! ^_^
Lynda Schultz 04/13/07
Enjoyed the clever twists. Good work.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/14/07
This is an excellent mystery story. I like how you started and ended with the butler and tied everything together so neatly. I enjoyed the read.
Julie Arduini04/14/07
Marvelous! Great descriptions of characters, mystery, motive, and confession. Nice touch of humor and the ending, fabulous! Loved it!!!!!
Dolores Stohler04/16/07
I thought this was excellent until I reached the confession at the end. With so many likely suspects, why would anyone confess? That part didn't ring true. What I would have done with this was have someone else come up with an accusation.
Jacquelyn Horne04/16/07
Cute little mystery. I gather the police were already onto him and were there to arrest him. Good writing.
Jan Ackerson 04/17/07
Yep, really cute, like a satire of every similar mystery we've ever read. I agree that we need one more paragraph, giving us motivation for the sudden confession--a quick fix. Very clever.
Catrina Bradley 04/17/07
Great job with the different characters. I like the humorous "butler" twist at the end. :)
Joanne Sher 04/18/07
I absolutely LOVED the first two paragraphs of this - very strong, and drew me in wonderfully! Great twists, and such a fun spoof of "this kind" of mystery.