Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Dinner at James Manor
By Leigh MacKelvey
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Neville Stephens was a charming man who captivated attention. Daphne appeared genuinely in love. Neville’s eyes were for her only. I spoke with him at length and could not find anything disturbing to report. I did notice the elbows of his jacket were threadbare and found it odd that Daphne, heiress to great fortune, was considering matrimony with someone beneath her station. Ah, well, you cannot judge a man’s character by material means.
After dinner, Daphne invited the women to retire to the drawing room for sherry and then to her bedchambers to view her emerald brooch. The brooch was a well-known piece of jewelry in the village. Never wearing it on her person, she showed it at parties for entertainment. It’s value was greater than that of the Manor itself and it was kept under lock and key in her chamber drawer. I had seen it myself on many occasions.
I promised I would join the men for cigars and wandered off to find the lavatory. While inspecting the tiny wrapped soaps, I heard screams for the police. The brooch was missing! The Inspector arrived forthwith. Guests were gathered into the drawing room, questioned, then asked to remain in the room while a house search was conducted. It seemed a fortnight passed until finally Neville Stephens was cuffed and accused. Amidst loud protests, the brooch was produced and said to have been found in his suitcase, packed and made ready to go. Daphne fainted, was given a sedative and put to bed. Neville was driven to the pokey. I walked home to the Vicarage.
I must tell the rest of this story. ( And what is it to you that I have told it my way thus far, since it is mine to tell?) Walking home, a struggle began to take place within me. Moral dilemma broke into battle. You see, on the day I received the invitation from Daphne, I also received another postage. The Vicarage was to be audited for financial discrepancies. I must replace the stolen monies I had been investing for my future. ( I ask you, what’s a poor vicar to do for retirement?) The invitation to the Manor brought on a scheme. I took a quiet trip to London where I had a replica of the emerald brooch made with costume jewels.
I kept the brooch in my pocket during dinner, watching for a chance to switch it for the real. My observation of Neville played into the plan. He was poor; he would be suspect. There would be no need for further investigation if the brooch were found in his belongings. Later, if the emerald was discovered as fake, they would assume he had the real jewel and would not be able to squeeze confession of its whereabouts from an innocent man.
Quite by accident, I overheard Daphne ask the butler to unlock her drawer in preparation for the showing. I did not go the lavatory after dinner, but to Daphne’s room. I pocketed the famous brooch then hurried along the corridor of guest rooms until I found Neville’s chambers. I packed his suitcase and buried the fake brooch underneath his knickers.
Yes, I, a poor vicar, did a terrible deed and have suffered miserable conscience. It is the reason for writing this confession. I cannot allow a man whose only crime is poverty to be condemned or a gracious women who has been kind enough to take me away from cold suppers be left with a broken heart. Nor will I live with the guilt of thievery. I address this confession to the good Constables of Wimbly Station and to my Bishop.
I am ready to face the consequences. God has won the battle of my soul. I go on with His strength.
Samuel L. Brideberry, Vicar of Wimbley Station
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